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Stiles and the Eight Groupons

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Something warm and wet dripped down on his face rousing him. He felt the dripping again and his eyes fluttered open. Darkness concealed the source but the wetness spread down his cheek. It was just a few drops. Had he been crying? Hastily Stiles threw his sheet off, sat up and reached for his lamp. A drop of something warm trickled down his back. Stiles craned his neck upward then jumped off the bed. His father was hanging from the ceiling, his throat slit, uniform stained with blood, blood that was now dripping onto Stiles’s blue sheets. The Sheriff’s own handcuffs gleamed in the dim light as he swung gently from his wrists. “DAD!” he screamed, “Oh God no! DAD!” Panicking he jumped up onto the bed and shook his father. Managing to just get his arms around his legs he pulled and droplets of blood rained down onto the bed and in his hair. “Dad,” Stiles choked, “please. Please.” His body was shaking from the effort of pulling, he could feel the body bloating and stiffening under his fingers. He wasn’t thinking straight. Of course he couldn’t pull him down. He needed a ladder and the keys, or at least something to pick the lock. Stiles fell to his knees looking up at his father’s swaying body. “Dad, I’m going to get you down,” he sobbed. The Sheriff’s eyes snapped open and he tried to say something but all that came out was a gurgled groan and more blood seeping from the wound in his neck. His eyes bulged as he looked at his son, “Stilesssssss.” “Dad?” he asked in a shaking voice. “Stiles, wake up!”

***

Hands were holding him down. “STILES! CALM DOWN!” He opened his eyes and saw his father looming over him gripping his shoulders. The worry and concern shone in his dad’s gaze as he gave his son a cursory glance. “Stiles? I’m going to let go now okay?” Stiles nodded and bolted upright grabbing his father into a crushing hug. The Sheriff rubbed his back, “Another bad dream?” Stiles nodded still not trusting himself to speak, not wanting to let go of his father quite yet. “Breathe, Stiles.” He knew he was on the verge of a panic attack. Stiles concentrated on his breathing, in and out, nice and slow. Count to three on the inhale, count to three on the exhale. After a few minutes he loosened his grip.

His father pulled away slowly. “You okay?”

Stiles ran his hands through his hair and looked back at his father, “Yeah.”

“I’ve got to get to the station. You going to be all right? You want to come with?”

Stiles shook his head and rolled his shoulders back, “I’m fine.”

When he heard the cruiser pull out of the driveway Stiles reached for his phone and flopped back on his bed. The glow from his phone illuminated his face and in the pallid dawn hour his fingers swished across the screen taping rapidly, Can you come over? He received a reply a few minutes later. Stiles didn’t bother getting dressed and lay on his bed trying to analyze his dream. When he heard the doorbell ring about half an hour later he roused himself and lumbered down the stairs. Scott stood on the porch with a steaming cup of coffee. Stiles gratefully took it from him and started chugging the warm brew down. He led the way to the kitchen and Scott settled into a chair around the small kitchen table.

When he came up for air Scott asked, “Dreams again?”

“Yeah.”

“You?”

“Yeah.”

“Same one?”

“No, not this time. But my dad was still dead and I couldn’t save him.”

Scott scratched his neck, “I sort of wish mine was.”

“That much fun around the McCall house lately huh?”

Stiles started pacing in front of the fridge as Scott continued, “I don’t even know why my mom lets him in. She knows I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Maybe she is just being nice.”

Scott laughed, “Yeah sure,” he paused, “I think it’s getting to her though.”

“Your dad being back in town?”

“Yeah, all of it. She knows something is off with me. She can tell I haven’t been sleeping well.” Scott went to the fridge and poured himself a glass of orange juice. “I mean I don’t wake up screaming as much as you do,” he said taking a sip settling back down at the table, “but I know she can sense it.”

“Deaton said it will be a while, that there will be an adjustment period.”

“I tried to explain that to her but how can I explain something that I don’t even understand myself?”

“I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that we are on break now.”

“What do you mean?”

“At least school was a distraction.”

“Stiles you are almost always distracted,” Scott grinned.

“Yeah, yeah. Psycho alphas on the loose? Check. Evil Darach druid thing? Check. Creepy Uncle Peter being his creepy self? Check. Derek losing his alphaness and boning out. Check. I’m not distracted Scott there are a lot of balls in the air.”

Scott laughed and Stiles gave him a look. “Ugh balls are not funny right now Scott. Too much evil witchy crap going on.”

“Yeah well for me, also normal boring crap. Like what to do about my dad. And what am I going to get my mom for Christmas?”

Stiles rolled his eyes, “Dude. Ignore him and scarf,” he gestured between them, “Bigger fish to fry here! Have you talked to Allison?”

He could see Scott deflate a bit. “No. Have you?”

“I’ve had a few texts. I think we should have a meeting and compare notes.”

“Notes?”

“Yes. Maybe she is having the weird dream thing too.” Stiles pulled out his phone and started tapping away. “Okay, let’s go,” he said grabbing his keys off the counter.

“Where?”

“To see Allison.”

Scott reached over and took the keys from him, “You maybe want to put some real clothes on first?”

***

They took the jeep and met Allison at an abandoned warehouse downtown that had become a sort of de facto training center for Hunters. An arrow sailed across the room and embedded itself in the doorframe where Scott stood in front of Stiles.

“What the hell Allison?!” Stiles squawked from behind Scott clutching his chest.

“Sorry, you can never be too sure.”

“It’s the middle of the day and you agreed to meet us!” Stiles adamantly reminded her.

Lydia sat on a couch across the room and wrinkled her nose. “Will you all just kiss and makeup so we can get this going?”

Stiles flushed. He still remembered what it felt like. Her soft lips moving slowly and softly against his. He had dreamed of that moment for years. He was pretty damn sure that kissing someone is not the way to stop a panic attack, he googled it like a million times, so her excuse was flimsy. But to his surprise it hadn’t felt the way he had imagined it. It was nice but, maybe it was the panic rising in his chest, the imminent sense of doom and despair, worry about his dad, but he hadn’t felt it. That spark that he was told about, that he used to dream about. He saw how Scott had been draw to Allison immediately. They had definitely sparked. Maybe he had built it up too much. But she hadn’t called or texted him after the whole I’ve been kind of been dead for hours thing. Stiles knew Lydia was sort of with Aiden and that she was still in contact with Jackson. He hadn’t really expected anything but it felt that maybe his crush on her was finally fading away. Maybe it was the near death experience. Maybe they just would have never worked, but somehow Stiles felt his attachment to her lessening. Again, he couldn’t really tell what it was though, especially with Deaton’s ominous warning that they would all have a kind of darkness around their hearts. Stiles shook his head and refocused himself.

The three of them walked across the room to join Lydia at the couch. Stiles sank down next to her, “Okay gang. Time for show and tell,” he said rubbing his hands together. Lydia rolled her eyes.

“Dreams?”

Lydia interrupted him, “She’s been having them. Mostly nightmares. She wakes up screaming every other night,” she finished sweetly.

“Lydia!” Allison cried her arms folded across her chest.

“What? It’s all cards on the table time if we are going to try to figure something out.”

“Scott and I have been having them as well.” Stiles looked at Lydia, “Have you?”

“No, I mean no more so than my usual dreams, but then again I wasn’t dead for 16 hours.”

Stiles turned to Allison, “What are the dreams about? What happens?”

“My dad is dead. Sometimes my mom and dad are both dying. Mostly it’s just my dad,” she said softly.

“Me too,” he said quietly, “I can never save him.”

Scott looked down to the floor, “It’s my mom in mine.”

Allison looked across their little gathered circle at Lydia, “Well she’s been having dreams about Peter.”

“Creepy Uncle Peter?!” Stiles stuttered, “No more than your usual dreams?”

Lydia turned a bit pink.

“What kind of dreams?” Scott asked.

Lydia narrowed her eyes at Allison.

Stiles continued, “He’s already been resurrected thanks to you. What now?”

“It’s a younger version of himself,” she started but then shook her head deciding better of continuing.

“What happened to all cards on the table?” Allison mocked.

Stiles looked between Allison and Lydia, “What kind of dreams? Dreams in which he is dead and disemboweled I hope.”

“They are personal.”

“Personal? Personal?! All dreams are personal! How personal? Naked personal?”

Lydia shot Allison a death glare. Allison gave her a tight smile and tried to change the subject. “Let’s just stick with personal,” she recommended.

“I don’t like that Peter is still around. Especially with Derek gone,” Scott chimed in.

Lydia shivered, “Me either but I’m going away for a while so hopefully he won’t be here when I get back or he’ll be back in the ground.”

“Family vacation?” Scott asked.

Lydia gave a bitter laugh, “Hardly. I’m going to London to visit Jackson for the break.”

“Because of Peter?”

“Because of a lot of things. Besides Allison is going to France. We’re flying to London together, I’ll be with the Argents, and then they will continue onto France.”

“You’re leaving?” Scott asked in a sad tone.

Allison looked up at Scott, “My dad thinks it will be better for me to regroup and retrain in the motherland. Says that they have some herbs or something, a coven of witches in Provence that could help with the um, aftereffects.”

“Plus while I’m in the UK I can do some druid research,” Lydia said.

“I guess the more information we have the better. Deaton only knows so much and he hasn’t exactly been that forthcoming with what he does know,” Scott admitted.

“I think we are in uncharted territory here,” Stiles said.

***

They drove back to Stiles’s place and played Call of Duty on his X-box for a while. Nothing like pretend killing things to mitigate things actually trying to kill you.

After a few hours of mindless playing Stiles got up to stretch. He craned his neck around to look at the clock, “I’m going to start dinner. You want to stay?”

“Can’t have to pick up my mom.” He followed Stiles into the kitchen.

Out came an onion, garlic, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, a jar of capers and lemons. As Stiles sliced and diced the kitchen filled with the warm delicious smell of a home cooked meal. He sautéed the onions first, then added the garlic and carrots.

“Dude how did you learn to make this? Are you following a recipe?” Scott was always appreciative of anyone who could make food in any capacity.

“No, it’s just something I’ve thrown together before. Once you learn a few basics it’s pretty simple.” He added the chopped broccoli and asparagus before going over to the fridge to pull out a bottle of white wine. Stiles poured a bit over the mixture and listened to the sizzle. Then he added the capers and the juice. “You want to help?”

Scott looked frightened. “Can you cut that lemon in half?” Getting up from the kitchen table he went to the cutting board and carefully sliced the lemon in half vertically. Stiles raised his eyebrows when Scott asked him, “Now what?”

He looked down at the lemon and then back at Scott, “Seriously? That is how you cut a lemon?” Confusion bloomed across Scott’s face. “Nevermind. Just squeeze it over the pan, don’t let the seeds inside.”

Scott stood at the stove and squeezed one half then the next. Stiles meanwhile added some butter and olive oil to the mix. He stirred the mixture and then shut off the heat moving the pan to another burner.

“Please don’t tell me you’ve never boiled water before.”

“Ha, ha.”

Stiles pulled out a big pot and Scott filled it with water setting it on a burner while Stiles prepped a salad.

“Make sure you salt the water.”

The sound of the front door opening filtered back into the kitchen, “Stiles, I’m home,” his father called.

“Hey dad, we’re back here.” Sheriff Stilinski entered into the kitchen looking a bit weary. “Dinner is almost ready,” Stiles said taking a package of quinoa pasta from the cupboard and dumping in into the boiling water.

The Sheriff eyed the box and recognized that it was some sort of healthy pasta, “Great,” he said suspiciously.

“You’ll love it,” Stiles countered sensing his hesitation.

“Scott you staying for dinner?”

“No, actually I’m going to pick up my mom.”

“I’ll walk you out.”

The Sheriff pulled Scott up short as he walked to his motorcycle. “He’s been screaming almost every night,” the Sheriff said in a hushed tone. “What the hell happened to you guys?”

Scott looked guiltily back at the Sheriff, “Deaton said there would be consequences.”

“Consequences?”

“Stiles barely sleeps as it is! You know how his brain is always going. And now he,” the Sheriff paused, “And now this. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help him. Do you?”

Scott thought back on his own nightmares and shook his head. “No.”

“Look I know I’m new to the inner circle or whatever, but we need some answers, we have to do something.” The Sheriff took in the darkness under Scott’s eyes and narrowed his gaze. “The same thing is happening to you isn’t it?” Scott looked away and nodded weakly. Sheriff Stinlinski pulled out his mobile phone, “Melissa? We need to have a little chat.”

***

The Sheriff went back into the kitchen as Stiles was laying down plates of salad on the table. “Got to get some greens in you. Green things are good for you!” Stiles saw his dad sit down and pick up a fork. He emptied the pasta from the water and mixed it into the sauce before joining his father at the table. “So how was work?” he asked unfolding his napkin.

“It’s been fairly quiet lately so we are working on some backlogged case files.”

Stiles munched down his salad. “That sounds a bit less stressful.” They ate for a few minutes in silence then Stiles went to the stove to dish out the pasta.

The Sheriff looked skeptically at the dish before taking a forkful, “This is pretty good.”

Stiles beamed, “Thanks.”

“Stiles,” he started, “You’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping,”

“I’ve always had trouble sleeping,” Stiles interrupted.

“This isn’t about bedtimes anymore.” The Sheriff put down his fork and looked at his son, “Will you please tell me what is going on?”

Shoving pasta in his mouth so he couldn’t talk Stiles merely chewed at his father, but he knew that he wasn’t going to avoid his questions for long. He swallowed slowly watching his father’s patience wearing thin, “I told you, I haven’t been sleeping well.”

“What are the nightmares about?”

“Who said I’m having nightmares?”

“Stiles you’ve been waking up screaming almost every morning and on the verge of a panic attack.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle,” he said evasively.

The Sheriff slammed his hand down on the table causing his plate to jump up, “Damn it Stiles! I’m worried about you. You’ve told me about all this werewolf crap. What is it that you can’t tell me now?”

How about that I was technically dead for about 16 hours? He didn’t want to lie to his father but he also didn’t want him to worry about something that no one had any control over, least of all his dad. “When we were trying to locate you, Ms. McCall and Mr. Argent, there were complications.”

“What sort of complications?”

“Deaton knew of a way to locate you, a sort of spell or ritual, but it had a price.”

“What price?”

Stiles scratched his head, “Well, that is actually what we aren’t so sure about it.”

“We? Who took part in this ritual or whatever it was?”

“Well Deaton, Lydia, Isaac and Allison, me and Scott. But the three of us were affected most.”

“You, Scott and Allison?”

“Yes.”

“And now you think these nightmares are some sort of what? Consequence?”

“That’s about it.”

The Sheriff picked up his fork again and started to finish his pasta, “Is that everything?”

“It’s about all we know right now.” They went back to eating in silence.

“I’ll be around tomorrow, I’m working the graveyard shift tomorrow night.”

“Great,” Stiles said trying to be enthusiastic, “Maybe we could go for a jog?” His father groaned.

***

Stiles walked up to the nematon feeling the power pulsing from it, drawing him closer and closer. Something slid underneath his feet as he walked. He walked and walked yet still wasn’t closer to the thing and the ground kept feeling softer and more slippery. When he almost slipped Stiles looked down. Viscera and blood made a sort of macabre yellow brick road leading to the strange pulsating object of power. He stepped on an eyeball feeling it squish between his toes. Another one lay further ahead. Bending down to examine the thing it looked vaguely familiar to him. Stiles continued down the path and tripped over what he assumed what a small intestine. He felt a sense of longing; he needed to get to the nematon. As he continued down the path his foot hit something hard and Stiles tripped landing on his left hip. Slowly he turned around to see what he had tripped over. It was a head, the back of a head to be precise. A growing sense of unease shot through him, the hair looked familiar. He crawled on the ground toward the head, his skin feeling slick and wet with blood and gore. Gently he picked up the head and turned it around in his hands. His father’s empty sockets stared blankly back at him. Stiles felt the scream start in the back of his throat and tear through him.

***

He was being shaken, violently and was screaming. As the awareness of warm hands came to focus Stiles stopped screaming and opened his eyes. His father was looming over him. “Dad,” he whispered his breathing shallow. He sat up quickly noticing how his father’s arms hadn’t left him. The Sheriff looked at his terrified son. Stiles didn’t blink for a whole minute. “Stiles, it’s okay. You’re safe,” he said softly. Stiles shook his head and blinked slowly. The Sheriff got up and went into the bathroom. Running water sounded. He pulled Stiles up and pushed him toward the bathroom. “Take a shower, it will relax you.” “Coffee?” Stiles asked weakly. His father nodded and left him.

***

Melissa McCall was just getting off a graveyard shift as the cruiser pulled outside of the hospital. She walked round to the passenger’s side and got in. The Sheriff was also just getting off so he figured this would be a good time to talk to Melissa and also sneak in a breakfast at the diner. She yawned as they pulled up to Polly’s Pancakes.

“Long day?”

Melissa shot him a glare, “I have a feeling it’s about to be longer.”

The Sheriff held the door open for her and they settled into a booth. The place was almost empty except for Joe Stello nursing a cup of coffee at the counter. Sue came around with two mugs.

“Decaf,” they both said at the same time.

She mixed in two sugars and added some half and half and took a sip. Melissa smiled a weary smile at him from across the table. The coffee helped ease the burden of the morning.

“Thanks for meeting with me on such short notice,” the Sheriff started, “I thought since you and I were both working late this would be easiest.”

“Yeah well I know that we both just want to crawl into bed right now,” she noticed the Sheriff turning a bit red, it crept up from his neck and into his cheeks, “but wolf emergencies wait for no one.”

“Right,” he said gruffly. He cleared his throat, “I wanted to ask you about Scott. How has he been doing since, well you know.” He took a sip of his own coffee.

Melissa played with her spoon. “I’m not entirely sure but I know that it isn’t good. His appetite is affected, I see evidence of disturbed sleep.”

“Stiles is barely sleeping and when he does he wakes up screaming.” Sheriff Stilinski shook his head, “It’s almost every night.”

Sue came back with her order pad in hand, “What will it be?”

“Two plus two plus two plus two, please.” “Scrambled? With bacon, sausage, white toast and a short stake?”

“Yes, please Sue.” Melissa gave him a look, “Um, better back that a two plus two plus two. Scrambled, bacon and wheat toast.”

“And for you?” she asked turning to Melissa. “I’ll have two eggs sunnyside up, sausage and the short stack.”

“Thanks hun,” Sue said turning away from them.

They nursed their coffee while waiting for their breakfast. Melissa frowned, “I wonder if the sleep issue is happening to all of them then.”

“Have you talked to Chris?”

Melissa couldn’t help but catch something in his voice, “No.”

“Have you?”

“No,” he took a sip of coffee and sighed, “Maybe we should loop him in on this as well.”

“The more information we have the better,” she agreed.

The Sheriff ran a hand through his short hair, Melissa smiled thinking of Stiles. “You know Stiles has problems with anxiety,” he said quietly.

Melissa nodded.

“Every morning it’s like he’s fighting off a panic attack.”

She could see the worry in his eyes. Melissa mirrored his concern. Sue arrived a moment later with their food. They tucked in Melissa buttering up her pancakes and setting them aside, going for her eggs and sausage, the Sheriff buttering his toast.

Sue returned a moment later with a carafe of coffee, “Top up hun?” she asked Melissa.

“Sure.”

She moved toward the Sheriff who nodded his head. Sue topped off his mug and walked back behind the counter. They ate for a few moments in silence. The warm food settling just right. She couldn’t wait to get to sleep. When she finished with her eggs she moved a pancake off the stack and onto her plate. “What are the dreams about?”

“I don’t know, he won’t tell me.”

“Scott is the same. He just says that they are the after effects of whatever it is they did that night to help locate us.”

“I asked him about that, he doesn’t seem to know much about it or when it will stop.”

Melissa shifted the pancake plate over to the Sheriff. He looked across at her and she nodded, “I won’t tell.”

The Sheriff doused them in syrup and began to devour them in earnest.

“Scott has been sort of distant and moody. Well, more so than usual anyway. He was worse after he and Allison broke up. Sometimes I try to talk to him and it feels like he’s a million miles away.”

“It’s the opposite with Stiles, he is always hyperaware, now it seems even more so.”

“Things with his father are strained.”

The Sheriff did not know what to say, he couldn’t possibly imagine being estranged from his son. Stiles was everything to him.

“I’m thinking of taking him away.”

“Away?”

“Something to take his mind off things. A little vacation. Something that will look good on the resume for college. I’m thinking Habitat for Humanity in Haiti.”

Sheriff Stilinski rubbed his face. “I wish I could have time off to take Stiles somewhere.”

Melissa could see the guilt etched in his face. Reaching out she laid her hand on top of his looking him in the eyes, “You are a good father. You are doing everything you can for him.”

“I worry that he’s scared, but he won’t tell me what he is afraid of. Doesn’t being part of this,” he lowered his voice, “wolf thing, mean that we get to know about all the things that go bump in the night? I just wish he would talk to me. After those kids beat him up last year I almost had a heart attack. And now who knows what we’re facing.”

“Don’t joke about that,” she admonished. Melissa was well aware that Stiles constantly worried about his father’s heart and his blood pressure, hence always harping him about his diet.

“He needs an outlet. Something to take his mind off things. You know boys. They have to wear themselves out to get any peace of mind. Has he been exercising?”

The Sheriff felt a flash of guilt, they were supposed to go on a run together the yesterday but he had put the kibosh on that one. “I don’t think so.”

“Exercise is important, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, it releases endorphins. Helps keep things in balance.”

“Maybe I should sign him up for a class? Or are they too old for that now?” he asked sheepishly second guessing himself.

“Well it’s not like you can sign him up for little league. And there isn’t any lacrosse training right now.” Melissa looked thoughtful, “What about something like a self defense class? There are all these websites online now, these companies have daily and weekly deals they promote, everything from fitness classes to flying lessons to discounted spa treatments. Maybe you could look for something on one of those sites.”

“Maybe,” he said unsure of himself.

“It could be like a gift.”

***

Melissa’s suggestion seemed like a good idea. Stiles needed to get out a bit. Move. Go be with normal people. As the Sheriff pulled open his covers and got into bed he couldn’t help but think of his wife. The holidays were always her favorite time of year. The shopping, the look of surprise on someone’s face as they opened a gift. She was the best gift giver. Each one was something unique to the person it was intended for, none of this gift card crap. She delighted in surprising Stiles. Her smile, etched in his memories, soothed him as he fell asleep at last.

***

The Sheriff woke around 2 p.m. Stiles wasn’t in his room. He was probably out with Scott. The Sheriff padded down into the kitchen heating up one of the pop tarts Stiles kept hidden in the pantry. When the toaster dinged he grabbed the hot pseudo pastry and walked into his home office. Bringing up a search for Groupon, he soon was creating an account. Wow, Melissa was right. They had everything on here. There were so many activities and restaurants offering deals and discounted goods. Too many things really. Which was when it hit him. Chanukah. That was it. He was going to bring back Chanukah. He looked up when it started. They hadn’t celebrated in years. But why not? Two days from now. Perfect timing. It would be just what they needed, a little extra holiday cheer. He started clicking away.
The whir of the printer started up as he printed out each one. Pulling open a drawer he found envelopes and sealed each one into a separate envelope. Well they certainly made shopping easier these days now that everything was online. This would be much better than the iTunes gift card he picked up for Stiles last Christmas. On his way to work he stopped at a CVS and bought some Chankuah candles. He wasn’t sure if they still had any left and it would be hard enough to find the menorah. He called Stiles from the car, making sure to use the bluetooth option.

“I want you to be home for dinner tomorrow night.”

“Okay. Why?”

The Sheriff stalled not wanted to ruin the surprise, “I want to have a talk, spend some family time together.” He could hear his son groaning from the other end of the line.

“Dad, we talked already.”

“Tomorrow night Stiles. No excuses.”

“Fine.”

***

Stiles flopped back onto Scott’s bed.

“What’s up?”

“My dad wants to have another ‘talk’,” Stiles muttered.

“Dude, he’s just worried. He talked to my mom about everything.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I think she helped calm him down.”

“Good, nothing like a little wisdom from Ms. McCall.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it will be fine.”

“I told him part of what happened.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well I told him that we did some spell or ritual thing to locate them, and that it had consequences. Which is about as much as we know at this point.” Stiles popped up and started pacing.

Scott threw a lacrosse ball up in the air and caught it as it came back down. “You didn’t tell him about the tubs did you?”

“Of course not. What was I suppose to say? ‘Oh by the way, we were also sort of maybe dead for 16 hours, no biggie?’”

“Yeah, I guess not,” he paused to throw the ball up again. “So Allison is leaving.”

“That’s what she said. It won’t be long now. I’m sure you guys will be back to making secret googly eyes at each other soon enough.”

“What if she meets someone over there?”

“Dude, it’s only a few weeks,” Stiles rolled his eyes, “besides you and she are destined, like the whole Romeo and Juliet thing.”

“I’ve seen the way she has been looking at Isaac,” Scott mumbled.

“Dude, snap out of it. Isaac is like a sad puppy dog that you want to pet, not bone.” Scott threw the lacrosse ball at Stiles and it bounced off his shoulder.

“Ouch! Take it easy!”

“Sorry.”

“I thought you and Isaac were cool?”

“We are. But I’ve seen the way he’s being looking at her, and the whole anchor thing…”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“What about you and Lydia?”

Stiles shrugged, “What about it?”

“Well you know, you’ve been into her forever. I thought maybe it was a sign.”

Stiles shook his head, “Naw. That ship has long past.”

Scott looked skeptically back at his best friend, “Since when?”

“Since we had that awkward kiss when I was having a panic attack. After that, the bubble sort of burst. Plus she clearly has a type and I’m not it. One hundred percent human,” he shoved his thumbs back at himself, “And I plan to stay that way. Relax about Allison. She will be training in France, getting even more badass like in some sort of awesome Angelina Jolie movie, she won’t have time to think about guys.”

“I guess so. My mom started to have the college talk with me.”

Stiles brightened up. “Oh yeah? How did that go?” He knew it was not one of Scott’s favorite subjects.

“She is happy that I improved my grades but she threw a curveball at me.”

“What do you mean?”

“She doesn’t think I have enough extracurriculars.”

Stiles spazzed out, “What?! You are captain of the lacrosse team!”

“She meant like volunteering.” “You volunteer at the animal clinic!”

“I think she meant helping people.”

“Like saving Beacon Hills on a regular basis doesn’t count as helping people?” he paused, “I guess I see her point though, can’t exactly write, ‘Stopped killer Darach from murdering more people’ on your brag sheet.”

“She wants us to go do Habitat for Humanity in Haiti.”

“What?! Dude that’s so random, but awesome.”

“We are leaving on Saturday.”

“Wow. You are actually going? Isn’t this kind of sudden?”

“I thought so too.”

“Wait. What is going to happen to Isaac while you are gone?”

“She wants him to come with us.”

“Really?”

“I think she has taken a liking to him. He is very polite. We’ll be gone for three weeks.”

“Too bad you can’t take Allison with you. She could put her French to some good use.”

***

The next evening the delicious smell of something frying hit him as he opened the front door. Stiles walked back to the kitchen noticing the table in the dining room was set for two.

“Dad what is going on? Are you cooking? Are you frying something?!”

Once in the kitchen he took in his father over a frying pan.

The Sheriff turned around, “Happy Chanukah!”

Stiles stepped up next to his father and saw the latkes frying in the pan and the words dried up in his throat.

“They are just from a mix. Applesauce and sour cream are in the fridge. I bought some brisket too.”

Chanukah? Tears welled up and he wiped his eyes quickly, “Dad. Why did you do this?” he cleared his throat realizing he may have sounded a bit rude, “I mean what brought this on?”

“I thought we could use an extra dose of holiday cheer this year,” he saw that Stiles looked upset.

“Hey,” he said putting the spatula down and putting a hand on his son’s shoulder, “I know it’s been a while. But we have to remember the good stuff too.”
Stiles nodded and cleared his throat, “Just give me a minute.”

Stiles went upstairs into his bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face. They hadn’t celebrated Chanukah in years. Not since his mom was still alive. She was sick their last Chanukah together but still managed to get Stiles all his presents and each night was a fun surprise. He thought back to how thin she was getting and the grayish hue to her skin. His breathing became shallow. When his breath hitched Stiles realized what was happening. Running his fingers through his hair he tried to breathe steadily. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing. Though he tried to control his thoughts he kept thinking of her. The hospital. That night. Mrs. McCall sitting with him, wrapping her arms around him as he cried. Calling his father. STOP IT! It wasn’t always like that.

He thought back to previous years, when everything was simple. She was young and healthy and loved to play with him, no matter how much energy he had. She always helped him with his homework. He remembered her smile as she watched him open his presents. That was what he wanted to remember. How she made the best hot cocoa in the world and on Christmas morning she always had a cup ready and waiting for him before he tore into his presents under the tree. How she taught him how to light the candles each night and told him the story of how the oil lasted for eight nights. He remembered watching that Adam Sandler movie, “Eight Crazy Nights” and listening to the “Chanukah Rap” with her singing along. He blinked at himself in the mirror and noticed his breath was back to normal. He wiped his face on a towel and walked slowly back down the stairs.

The Sheriff was just setting down their plates.

“Looks good.”

“Don’t get too excited, I bought the brisket, the latkes are out of a box and the applesauce out of a jar.”

“I always liked the ones from the box,” he sat down across from his father, “Really dad, everything looks great.”

His father smiled at him and sat down, “Well tuck in.”
He took a few bites. It wasn’t bad. Nothing like homemade though. “So, surprise Chanukah huh?”

“Yeah.”

“You could have warned me.”

“It was sort of a recent idea.”

“Well I think it’s good,” he said slowly, “It’s a nice way to honor mom.”

“Her favorite part about the holidays was seeing you smile.”

“Well my favorite part was the presents and lighting the candles.”

They finished their meal and Stiles stood up to clear the plates. When he walked back into the dining room his father had set up their old menorah with two candles in it. He handed Stiles some matches.

“You go ahead.”

Stiles light the candle in the center and then used that candle to light the remaining one in the branch. They were silent for a moment.

“She would have loved this.”

His father laughed, “No, she would have made everything from scratch and had a ton of presents wrapped since September for you,” he shook his head, “but I do have this,” he handed Stiles a plain white envelope. “Go on, open it.”

Stiles stuck a finger under the flap of the sealed envelope and pulled out a piece of paper. Stiles looked at his dad confused.

“I got you a Groupon.”

“For what?”

“A defense class.”

“Defense?”

“It’s pretty seriously stuff Stiles, it’s what the Israeli Defense Force uses.”

Stiles read over the print out in his hands, “Krav Maga?”

“Yeah, I think that’s what it’s called. The Groupon is good until February but I thought it would be a good idea for you to use over the break. Get out of the house a bit. Get some exercise.”

Stiles did a double take. “Who are you and what have you done with my father?”

“Ha, ha,” he replied sarcastically. “It’s good for two so you can take a friend.”

“A friend?”

“It says the lesson is good for two people. See?” He pointed to the print out. “This is a private lesson for two,” he read aloud. “You can take Scott.”

“Scott is leaving for Haiti soon.

“Oh so Melissa decided to do it huh?”

“Yes. She told him that she wanted him to have something good to put on his brag sheet for college.”

“Well that is true. He doesn’t have the grades that you do. Well, what about Allison?”

“She is in France with her father.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize Chris was taking off for the holiday,” he paused, “What about that girl you like?”

“I like all my friends dad,” Stiles emphasized, “And she is in London. Visiting her sort of on-again-off-again boyfriend. And also hopefully doing some research on druids.”

They were silent for a few moments. The Sheriff ran a hand through his hair, “What about that kid, Greenberg?”

“No way!”

“Well I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

***

The Sheriff had really screwed up. Damn it, he thought to himself. Chaunkah was here and he thought it would be a great idea to get Stiles a bunch of activities to do over the holidays. He had not anticipated that all of his friends would be gone. He bought eight Groupons for each night of Chanukah. They didn’t usually celebrate except the vague “Happy Chanukah,” to each other. They barely managed to pull it together for Christmas some years. But after Claudia died, he just didn’t have the heart to do it. It was always her thing. Wrapping a ton of presents to spoil Stiles rotten. Letting him light the candles each night. He could still picture her face glowing in the candle light. And now here he had gone and decided to bring some extra holiday cheer to the Stilinski home this year, revive Chanukah. Now all of his gifts were going to be sort of useless. He supposed Stiles could enjoy them on his own. But once the Sheriff had discovered the ways of Groupon and Living Social he had gone a little wild. Thinking that he could help Stiles woo that girl he had gone on about for years, he bought some fun things for him to do with her. Now that was a bit presumptuous on his part, he admitted that now, but there was something about clicking all those buttons on the site. And there were so many fun things to do! Okay, okay, he could admit it now, he had gone a little overboard. Well it was certainly going to be an interesting holiday time. Maybe Stiles would make some new friends. New, non-supernatural friends. Not that he had anything against supernaturals per se, but the kid could use a bit of normalcy in his life.

Chapter Text

Derek knew Cora was angry with him.

“This isn’t fair,” she said for the hundred thousandth time.

“Tell me about it. I just got you back.”

She sulked against the window of the airplane and put in her earbuds turning the volume up.

Derek knew she could still hear him. “You need to have a normal life for a while. I need to know that you will stay away until this mess is handled.”

“Stop treating me like a child!”

“You are still a child!”

“Not legally.”

“Yeah, well legally, I control your trust until you are 25.”

“Don’t pull that crap on me Derek! You think I give a damn about the money?”

He growled at her frustrated, “No, of course not.”

The person across the aisle turned her head toward Derek clearly trying to eavesdrop but quickly looked away when she met his eyes accidentally. She pulled out a New Yorker and shielded herself.

He took a few deep breaths and lowered his voice, “Cora you will love NYU. You have a few weeks to get to know the city, explore a bit. It will be fun.”

Cora skulked, “I don’t know anyone there.”

“I know. I’m going to fix that.”

“How?”

“We are meeting with the Alpha of Brooklyn tomorrow. I know you won’t remember any of them but they are good people. You used to play with his daughter Elise. She will be able to show you around.”

A flight attendant passed them, “Please turn off all electronic devices.”

Cora gave her a tight smile in response and removed her earbuds. She noticed the woman with the New Yorker not so subtly checking out her brother. “Looks like you have an admirer,” she whispered. Derek grimaced and looked over at the woman peeking up over the cover of her magazine. Upon seeing his scowl she pulled out a sleep mask and turned her head toward the person sitting next to her.

“Real lady killer.”

“Shut up.”

***

Cora watched two movies and Derek tried to sleep. For most of the flight his thoughts turned back to Beacon Hills. He would only few gone for a week. Hopefully what was left of his pack wouldn’t get into too much trouble. Then again it seemed like they could get into trouble in the blink of an eye. He had no idea where Peter was, but maybe he would stay out of all of it. Peter. He didn’t know whether to curse his uncle or thank him. Peter helped him save Cora, but to what end? Peter never did anything that wasn’t for his own benefit. Derek knew that. He just needed to figure out Peter’s game. His thoughts were interrupted by the feeling of being stared at. Derek cracked one eye open and saw Cora watching some generic thriller.

He was glad to be getting her away from all of this, away from Peter, away from Beacon Hills. She needed to have some time to adjust to and live in the real world. She needed rules and structure which he couldn’t give her right now. He worried about his sister turning into one of those trust fund kids. It was a dangerous combination, no parents and lots of cash to burn. She would be comfortable for the rest of her life, but that didn’t mean she should stop learning. He never had the chance to finish college, to get a normal job, live a normal life. Even if Cora chose to not work and become a recluse at least it would be her choice. She needed to have options even if she couldn’t see that right away. The feeling that he was being watched continued to ebb at his consciousness stopping him from sleeping. He opened his eyes meeting two blue ones which widened at being caught. The woman across the aisle looked away quickly, embarrassed. “Sorry,” she muttered. Derek made a noncommittal sound and shut his eyes once again.

***

JFK was the nightmare he remembered and Derek was glad they had carried on their bags. Anything else Cora needed she could buy. He decided a hotel near Times Square would be perfect. It was one of those tourtisty things that you only do once. Cora folded herself into one of the plush arm chairs in the lobby and Derek continued up to the front desk.

“Reservation under Hale.”

“Are you in town for business or pleasure?”

Derek grimaced, “I guess you could say a bit of both.”

The guy behind the desk was a tall blonde, about 30 with a slight accent. Swedish maybe? He taped away on his computer.

“Nothing like Christmas in the city,” he remarked casually.

“I won’t be here that long.” Derek looked back at Cora feeling another flash of guilt. Maybe he should have stayed a few weeks. He turned back to the man behind the desk.

“Just one key?”

“Two.”

“Two double beds or a king?”

“Doubles. I’m with my sister.”

The man smiled at him, “Almost done Mr. Hale. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No thank you.”

Derek was anxious to get into the room and settle in. The man was taking too long. He put the keycards in a small envelope and paused taking out a pen. He wrote down something on the envelope and then slid the keycards toward Derek.

“If you think of anything that is my mobile.”

Derek cocked an eyebrow.

“Maybe if your sister is out with friends?”

“Thanks,” he murmured feeling himself turn slightly pink. Slipping the keys in his pocket he turned away from the desk and walked back toward Cora.

***

“So this is Times Square?”

“I didn’t think you would remember it.”

Cora shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket and squared her shoulders. It was bright, loud, colorful and full of tourists snapping pictures. Certainly different from Beacon Hills. The noise was a little much for her sensitive wolf ears. She wondered how Derek could stand it. Maybe he could tune it all out. They passed a street vendor selling fresh hot candied nuts.

“Wow, people really do things like that?” she asked sarcastically. The man wore a big down jacket, ski cap and gloves. Cora felt grateful that the cold didn’t affect her as much. The vendor stood warming himself against his cart.

“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

Derek walked over to the man and paid for a bag popping a few nuts in his mouth. He held the bag out to her. Reluctantly she took a few nuts.

“Well?”

They were warm and delicious. Both sweet and salty.

“Pretty good,” she admitted taking the bag from him. They continued walking around the square.

“New York is a walking city. No cars. We’ll take the subway tomorrow out to Brooklyn. It’s easy to get around once you get used to it.”

They had dinner at the Times Square Brewery. The food wasn’t anything special but it had a good view and a decent slice of cheesecake. They both ordered burgers. It was hard to screw up a burger.

“Would you like cheese?” the waitress, an older woman with a Russian accent, asked.

“Cheddar,” he replied.

“And for you darlink?“

“I’ll have the burger too. With American cheese.”

“Fries?”

“Sure.”

“Seasoned or curly?”

Derek ordered seasoned and Cora ordered curly, that way they could have both. They ate quickly.

“It still feels so early.”

“That’s because you are still on west coast time. You’ll adjust.”

Their waitress returned to check in on them. “Do you want to see a dessert menu?”

“We’ll have a slice of cheesecake.” Derek knew he could eat the whole thing but he realized he didn’t even know if Cora liked dessert let alone cheesecake. She didn’t say anything. They could always order another slice.

“I didn’t know you liked cheesecake,” she said after a minute.

“Yup.”

“Me too.”

The waitress placed the large slice in the middle of them and laid down two forks. He pushed the plate toward Cora. She picked up the fork and cut into the slice. He watched as she took her first bite. She looked thoughtful before she swallowed. Cora took another stab at the cheesecake and slid the plate toward Derek. He took a bigger bite than she did and greedily chewed. It was just like he remembered. Cora pulled the plate back to her side of the table, “We are going to need another slice.”

***

The next day they took the subway out to Brooklyn. He mapped directions on his phone and they walked to the Williamsburg address. Derek and Cora stood on the doorstep of a beat up looking brownstone.

“We’re here.” He pressed the buzzer for number 203.

A feminine muffled voice asked, “Who is it?”

“It‘s Derek and Cora Hale, we’re here to see Steven.”

The front door buzzed and he wretched it open. Cora followed him up the steps and they stood in front of the door marked 203. Derek took a breath and knocked. A moment later a tall, well muscled, older man with salt and pepper hair opened the door. He looked at them for a moment and then stepped aside. They followed the man back to a cramped living room.

“Steven, it’s great to see you,” Derek said holding out his hand.

Steven, shook his hand, gripping it hard, “Been a long time, Hale.”

“Yes, sir.” Derek hated that he was no longer an Alpha but he would have done it all again to save Cora. Steven could sense his lack of status and therefore they were no longer really on first name basis.

“Please take a seat,” he said indicating the small faded couch in front of him.

“I appreciate you meeting with us. My sister is going to be starting school after the new year,” he started.

“You mentioned that over the phone. Why are you here?”

“I wanted her to get acquainted with the city.”

“Long way from California.”

“Yes, I thought she should get a taste of the East Coast.”

Steven narrowed his eyes, “Anything we should know about?”

You mean like the killer Alpha pack that tried to force me to kill my pack? How I couldn’t protect two of my own? Or how I slept with an evil Druid who was sacrificing citizens of Beacon Hills?

“Nothing important,” he replied keeping his heart rate steady and knowing the Alpha would be listening.

The Alpha studied them for a moment and then called out, “Elise!”

A thin girl with long red hair came into the small living room.

“Well as I said she is welcome to stay with us,” he turned toward his daughter, “This is Cora Hale and her brother Derek. Cora is going to be going to NYU next term. She will stay in Ellen’s room.”

“Really?” the scrawny girl squeaked her eyes widening.

She looked like she still had a My Little Pony collection. Cora shot daggers at Derek. Live with them?!

“I don’t know if you remember me,” Cora started, “Apparently we used to play together when we were kids.”

“We were hoping you could show Cora around. Any dos and don’ts, places to stay away from, that sort of thing,” Derek said.

“I remember you!” Elise said drawing upon some long dormant memory.

“Why don’t you come to my room? We can talk! I go to Barnard. Then I’ll show you your room.”

“My room?”

“You are going to love the city!” she said dragging her down a short hallway.

***

After visiting with Steven and Elise in their apartment Steven suggested that take a walk around the neighborhood. Derek took in the skinny kids with piercings and old timey mustaches.

"Not like you remember it huh?”

“Not really.”

At twenty-four he felt old. He knew that his memories of the city were selective and glossed over with nostalgia. But he had read up, he knew crime rates had been falling. Besides it wasn’t some mugger that he was worried about when it came to Cora. Anything human she could handle. Sensing his discomfort Steven said, “I will look after her like she is my own.” Derek looked to Elise and Cora walking ahead of him and nodded. He thought he was doing the right thing but he still felt guilty about it. What is right and what is easy are not always the same thing. He had read that somewhere back in high school. Cora was sulking a bit even though he could tell she was interested in the new environment. A long line snaked out of a tiny hole in the wall bakery and curled around the block. As they passed the crowd of people a small sign in cursive script proclaimed “Cronuts” in the window.

“What the hell is a cronut?” he asked bewildered.

Elise laughed, “It’s the latest thing, duh. It’s a doughnut made out of croissant dough. Everyone in the city is dying to get their hands on one but most places usually sell out by noon.”

Steven walked into the shop skipping the line and came out with a bag. He offered the bag to Elise who insisted Cora take the first specimen.

“Go on,” she encouraged, “You’ll love it.”

Cora reached her hand into the bag and pulled out the strange hybrid pastry. Elise followed her lead handing the bag back to her father. Brushing crumbs off her lips Cora swallowed her first bite. Elise had practically inhaled her cronut and was looking longingly back at the bakery as they continued to walk. Steven passed the bag over to Derek, “Being the Alpha of Brooklyn has its perks.” He wasn’t quite sure how much it actually resembled a doughnut except maybe in shape and that it appeared to be fried but it was delicious.

By the time they finished walking around the city and having dinner with Steven and Elise it was late. They took the subway back to Times Square. Cora went straight up to the room. Derek paced in the lobby. Things had gone well today. Steven was pleasant and accommodating. He hoped that Cora liked Elise. She seemed like a sweet kid. A bit naïve, but he would bet there was more going on under the surface than she let on. You don’t grow up with your father as Alpha without learning a few things. But his thoughts were soon interrupted.

“Long day?”

Derek blinked up at a tall blonde man. The one from behind the counter. Derek could see his name tag. Lars.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to get a drink? I’m just getting off.”

He smiled at Derek and Derek could hear the man’s heart rate tick up just a bit. He was lying, or he was nervous. Either way he hid it well. Derek hesitated. He should get back up to Cora, or try to call Scott and check in on him. On the other hand Cora was probably asleep and it was only 9pm on the west coast. It couldn’t hurt to have one drink.

They went to the bar next to the lobby. It was crowded and noisy. Derek forgot that last call was a lot later in New York City.

“What do you want?” Lars asked loudly.

“Whiskey neat.”

Lars nodded and slipped through the crowd. A few moments later he appeared next to Derek with two tumblers. They found their way to small cramped table in the corner of the bar. They were sitting very close to each other. Too close. Derek could feel the other man’s leg against his. This was a bad idea. But one drink turned into two. As soon as he drained his glass Lars popped up and returned a moment later with another. He was handsome enough and Derek but he couldn’t concentrate on anything. His thoughts floated back to Beacon Hills. Scott and Stiles and Isaac. He should have called Scott not be having a drink with a stranger. Besides, anyone he became involved with inevitably turned out to be evil and Derek just couldn’t shake the suspicion that this guy would not be worth it. Plus, he didn’t want some fling in a stairwell of a hotel .

He thought of Cora upstairs hopefully asleep. He felt a hand on his thigh jerking his thoughts back to where they were. Lars was respectful. He didn’t slide it up or create any additional movement. It was as if he was just letting Derek know that he was there and waiting. Little did he know that Derek could break his hand and send him flying across the room in less than a minute. But most built guys could do the same. With Derek it would just be less effort.

“So where are you from?” He could feel Lars lips close to his ear.

Derek turned his mouth toward him, “California.” It was easier just to stick to California. He didn’t feel like explaining how he had spent time in New York. Derek didn’t want to make small talk but felt obligated to ask him something, “You?”

“Norway.” Derek didn’t know what else to say. This was definitely a bad idea.

“You seem tense,” Lars noted.

That was an understatement.

“Things not going as planned?”

“They never do,” Derek mumbled. He finished up his drink, “I should go.”

Lars leaned closer to him looking disappointed, “Are you sure? It’s still early.”

Derek nodded, “Early start tomorrow.”

Lars removed his hand, “Maybe tomorrow then?”

Derek looked at the man, patient but eager, “Thanks for the drinks,” and walked back toward the elevator bank.

***

The next morning they had a leisurely breakfast at a diner.

“You were up late last night,” Cora observed.

“I had a drink at the bar.”

It was the truth but Cora felt there was more too it. From what she had seen so far of her brother he wasn’t the type to pull up a seat and go have a drink in a bar. But then again minibar prices were outrageous. Derek paid for breakfast and they set off to wander the city. She sensed that would be the end of that discussion topic.

Cora tried a different tack from her own agenda, “I want my own apartment.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Are you kidding me?! Why can’t I live on my own?”

“First of all, I don’t want you to be alone in a new place. Secondly, I know we have been through tough times, but the New York real estate scene is a war zone.”

She scowled at him, “What about a dorm?”

“No. You are going to stay with Steven and Elise.”

“I can’t guarantee that I won’t kill her by the end of the year.”

“That bad huh?”

“She wanted to braid my hair.”

Derek laughed. “It won’t be so bad. Better than being on the run.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’m going to give you my version of a tour.”

“Oh joy.”

“Shut up. You’ll like.”

***

“You still haven’t told me where we are going.”

He figured out that she wasn’t a museum person. And he wasn’t a museum person either so he figured the best place to start would be Central Park.

“To one of the most important places in the whole city.”

She groaned, “That’s not an answer.”

“Just a few more blocks.”

They walked to Central Park.

“This is where you’ll be able to run.”

“On two legs or four?”

“Both. There isn’t too much greenery around the city so this will have to do.”

They walked around for a few minutes in silence.

“There are so many people,” Cora observed.

“There are more isolated areas in the park, it’s a big space.”

Derek had a destination in mind as he led her further inside the park.

“Okay, I get it. Big park. Can we go now?”

“Just a little bit more.”

Cora watched the new parents with strollers, business people checking their blackberries, and the joggers go by as they continued onward. Derek halted in front of a bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland seated on a giant mushroom. Despite herself Cora smiled. Alice in Wonderland was her favorite book when she was little. Sometimes she could still pull up a memory of their mother and father reading to her before bedtime. She loved the voices their father did for each character, but especially that of the caterpillar.

“Nice,” she said.

“I know that it’s not like the woods back home but at least it’s something.”

She nodded, but frankly Cora had been in far worse circumstances than only having a park to run around in. Maybe Elise would know the more isolated areas of the park. She could ask if she could get a word in edgewise.

“Are you hungry?”

“I could eat.”

“One of the best things about New York is the pizza.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“This is some of the best. I’m sure you will discover many of your own places, but this is my favorite.”

They walked up to a red and white awning which read “Famous Original Ray’s Pizza”. Derek opened the door and ushered her inside. The first thing that hit Cora was the smell. It overwhelmed her and she felt her stomach rumble. The wafting aroma of freshly baked pizza filled her senses. Maybe her brother did know what he was talking about. While Cora looked at the menu Derek ordered a whole pizza, half pepperoni and half cheese and two cokes.

“Hey! What if I wanted to try something else?” she asked as they sat down at a table with red plastic booth seats.

“You can come back another time, but I would stick with the classics.”

Cora got up to fill their cokes and get paper plates. When the pizza arrived her mouth watered. She was silent as chewed savoring the perfectly balanced slice; the portion of cheese to sauce balanced with the thin crisp crust. It was like a little triangle of heaven.

“I told you it was good.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

Derek reached for another slice of pepperoni having inhaled his first, “You didn’t have to. You should try the pepperoni,” he suggested shaking some parmesan cheese onto his slice. He folded the slice in half lengthwise and started on the end. In another minute it was gone. Derek knew he could have finished the entire pizza but figured maybe he better save some room for something else. He sipped on his coke to slow himself down.

Cora reached for a slice of pepperoni. The slices were huge which was definitely a good thing for anyone with the appetite of a werewolf. Maybe New York would grow on her after all.

***

“It’s cold,” she complained.

“You know you can survive a lot worse.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Derek laced up his skates tightly. They hadn’t been skating since they were little. But as much as Derek didn’t want to do it he knew that Cora would enjoy it. At least he hoped she still would. She loved it when she was a little girl. Now he didn’t have to worry about her getting hurt. Werewolves were graceful. Well, most of the time. And luckily fast healers. The same couldn’t be said for the rest of the skating public. The first few strides on the ice had him doubting himself but he regained his balance soon and found himself enjoying the sensation. The almost frictionless surface felt calm to him even though the other skaters on the ice were clumsy and taking up too much space in his opinion. He grabbed Cora’s hand and pulled her up along beside him. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center. It was another one of these fairly corny touristy things but it was a classic nonetheless.

“This is stupid,” Cora complained.

“Remember when mom used to take us skating?”

“Not really,” she replied distracted.

“Well she did and you used to love it.”

Cora had a mischievous look in her eyes as she spotted something. Gripping his hand more tightly she started to skate faster until they were very close to the people in front of them; they had to swerve to avoid colliding into them. She let go of his hand and started to speed ahead, “Catch me if you can,” she called back to him. Quickly, Cora wove in and out of the sea of people on the ice. Derek increased his speed but he was not as graceful as his sister. It was much harder for him to weave in and out of the crowd. Soon he lost sight of her. He tried to speed up again but worried he would crash into an unsuspecting patron so he kept his speed to a safe level. The crowd on the ice became thicker and Derek found himself squeezed in between people. Something was creating a bottleneck in the crowd. Derek craned his neck forward to try to see what the holdup was when he felt someone grab his ass. He whipped his head around sneering but there were two young girls directly behind him and their parents. He growled to himself. No one touched him without his permission. No one. And if anyone touched Cora he would kill them.

Suddenly the traffic jam dissipated and people spread out again. He searched for Cora around the rink but came up empty when suddenly he heard her voice, “Let’s see how well you can keep your balance.” Cora smashed into his left side sending him careening to the right. He didn’t fall, but collided into a man. The momentum of the crash stopped only when they hit the wall of the rink. Derek was pressed up against the man’s backside. He heard a familiar laugh whiz by. “Sorry,” he muttered and pushed himself away from the wall. “You’re going to pay for that!” He sped up looking for her but she came up from behind him again. This time she bumped him on the right but he was too fast for her. His hand shot out and he gripped her arm as she went by swinging her back around and sent her smacking into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, “Caught you.”

After ricocheting off several more unsuspecting patrons thanks to Cora he decided they should take a break from the ice. They popped off the rink and wandered over to a nearby drinks cart for something warm. Derek ordered an apple cider for himself and a hot chocolate for Cora. They ventured back toward the rink to watch the swarm of people still skating on the ice.

“We are having dinner with Steven and Elise again tonight.”

She groaned.

“It’s to get to know them better.”

Cora was distracted following the skaters around the rink.

“What did you think of Elise and Steven?”

“They are okay. Can’t really tell yet.”

“They are good people,” he tried to reassure her.

“Come on,” she said drinking the last of her hot chocolate, “Time to get back out there.”

“You go ahead, I’ll be along in a few.”

He watched his sister enter the gate and slide onto the ice. She looked amused. “You are doing the right thing,” he muttered to himself he wasn’t sure if he was convinced. He felt someone standing very close next to him.

“You are like a human heater.”

He turned to the man next to him to see familiar blonde hair.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Lars replied silkily.

“Is this business or pleasure,” he asked nodding toward the rink.

“Pleasure.”

“You don’t look too pleased.”

“I’ve got a lot on my mind.” He looked back over the ice. “This your day off?” he asked casually.

“I’m working a shift later.”

“Are you going to skate?”

Lars looked down at Derek’s feet. “I usually just come to watch the tourists.”

“See anything interesting?”

“I thought I did, but he is hard to read.”

Derek sipped his cider. “You should come on the ice.”

Lars nodded and went to get a pair of skates.

Derek watched Cora whiz by. “Are you coming or what?”

“Soon.”

He noticed Lars slide onto the rink. His movements were graceful and strong. For a brief moment he wondered how Stiles would be on the ice. He could picture him flailing around and falling. He smiled to himself. Derek hoped they were all staying safe. He felt a tightness in his chest and an uneasiness that he couldn’t explain. They would call if anything went wrong. Derek drained the last of his cider crushing the paper cup in his hand before tossing it into a nearby trash can. He stepped out onto the ice. Once again he looked for Cora and found her talking to a guy who looked about her age with short black hair wearing a puffy red down vest.

A booming voice announced, “Couples skate!” The music changed from some Christmas song to something vaguely romantic. The boy grabbed Cora’s hand and they zoomed off. Lars skated up next to him, “May I?” he asked extending his hand. Derek nodded and took the man’s gloved hand into his own. Lars leaned closer to Derek, “It really is amazing how warm you feel. What kind of jacket is that?” “I don’t know. I just run warm.” They skated together in silence for three songs. Lars gently squeezed his hand, “Maybe you could warm me up later.” With that he left Derek and skated off.

Cora caught up with him in a few minutes. He didn’t ask who she had been talking to nor did she say anything if she had seen him with Lars. After another half an hour Derek realized they should move on. “We should go back to the hotel for a bit before we go to Brooklyn.” They turned in their skates and walked back.

***

When they arrived at the brownstone once again it was dark out. Steven ushered them inside. Elise quickly grabbed Cora and started prattling on about something. Derek tried to focus on his conversation with Steven but he felt distracted. At first he thought of the rest of his pack back in Beacon Hills. But then his thoughts drifted to Lars. It was hard to explain why he was always so warm to humans. Werewolves were not affected by the cold in the same way obviously. When they got back to their hotel it was still early. He and Cora watched a movie but Cora started to fall asleep toward the end. “You should go to bed.” She nodded rubbing her eyes and got up to brush her teeth and change. “I’m going to make a few phone calls.” He walked down to the elevators. He was going to call Scott this time. He was. He got down to the lobby and sat in one of the big comfy chairs. Derek was reaching into his pocket for his phone when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Drink? I just finished my shift.” Lars came around the chair to face him.

Derek pulled out his phone and looked at the time. Shit. He hadn’t meant to be down here right as Lars was getting off. He stood up next to the blonde phone in hand. “I need to make a call.”

“To California?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s still early there.”

He was right. It was only 8 p.m. Derek shoved the phone back in his pocket but didn’t move forward.

“Come on, whiskey neat right?” Lars started off to the bar and Derek followed.

They settled down in a booth and Lars returned with drinks, “Did you have a good skate?”

Derek felt himself flush just the tiniest bit. “I hadn’t been in a long time.”

“You skate well.”

“Thanks,” he muttered into his glass before taking another sip.

“Did you skate back in Norway?”

“All the time.”

“How did you stand the cold?”

“It’s not so bad if you have someone to keep you warm.”

Derek shivered. The Scandinavian was giving him the look. He scooted closer to him and put a hand on his thigh, “And you feel very warm.” Lars leaned toward Derek and softly kissed him. Derek threaded his hand through the back of his hair and pulled him closer. He hadn’t kissed anyone since Jennifer. Lars’s mouth was warm and wet but as much as Derek tried to forget himself, enjoy himself, his thoughts drifted. Jennifer. Dead bodies. Boyd. Erica.

Lars pulled back and looked at him, “It seems I’m not enough to hold your attention.”

Derek swallowed and leaned back in the booth, “I have a lot on my mind at the moment.”

Lars looked at him with pity, “Well if that changes you know where I am.” With that he got up and left.

***

“It’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be.” The boat rocked a bit as they grew closer to the massive statue. The wind on the water was brutal but Derek didn’t mind. He turned to Cora as she faced the national landmark with unabashed awe. This was actually something he had wanted to do ever since he was little. They never had made that family trip out to see Lady Liberty. In some ways it felt a little bit like a school trip. Mostly because of all the kids and families around. Cora huddled closer to him. He could tell she was anxious to get off the boat. The boat docked and they lined up near the gangway to disembark. “I always thought that she was more of a blue than a green color,” Cora remarked as they descended. Derek looked up at the massive statue. For some reason he thought of Stiles making some crack about Lady Liberty not being too attractive. Of course it was an unpatriotic thing to say but nevertheless he would have had a point. She isn’t supposed to be attractive, she is supposed to be dignified he thought. Of course Stiles would argue that she should aim for both. He rubbed his eyes and turned to follow Cora on the island.

“A little more to the left.”

Derek reluctantly moved over.

“No too much, now to the right.”

He stepped back about an inch.

“Stop! Okay smile.”

Derek looked at Cora with a tight smile.

“Come on! You can do better than that!”

He shook his head, “Come on. Just take the damn picture already!”

Cora lowered her phone, “Don’t be grouchy. I’m the only one who is allowed to be grouchy.”

Derek sighed and tried his best to smile as Cora took a few more photos of him in front of the statue. Then they switched. He was happy to see her smiling about something. She raised her arm up and held an imaginary torch in imitation. They walked around Liberty Island seeing the statue from all sides. The view from the island was fantastic. “We’re lucky, it’s so clear.” They could see Manhattan the island bustling with activity and people. They sat down on the grass and watched the other tourists. “There is no place like New York for people watching.” After a few hours they made their way back.

***

“I’m starving.”

As they approached the little hole in the wall restaurant Cora gave him a skeptical look.

“Trust me. This is the best dim sum in the city.”

They were seated quickly at a small table in the middle of the restaurant. Surely the place violated building capacity codes, it was packed. Cora looked around at all the people munching their lunches. “Smells good,” she said watching with fascination as carts and carts of different items whizzed by. A waitress pulled up next to Derek. When Cora looked back at him their table was covered with dishes.

“Whoa.”

“Dig in.”

Cora carefully unwrapped her chopsticks and loaded a few items on her plate.

“What are all these?”

“I don’t know and it doesn’t matter,” he said helping himself, “It’s all good.”

Cora shrugged and took a bite. There was an explosion of flavor in her mouth, “Wow,” she said, her mouth still full.

“I’ve missed this,” he admitted sinking his teeth into another dumpling.

The waiters and waitresses flew by in the cramped little restaurant. Derek raised his chopsticks flagging down one of the harried staff members. The man quickly picked up the cloches on the trolley. Derek pointed to another plate of steamed pork buns. The waiter put them on the table and scurried off in a hurry.

***

For their last day together Derek wanted to Cora to have some fun. Real fun. They had breakfast again at the diner nearby before heading out for the day. Derek had noticed Lars was absent when they got back last night. Not that he wanted to see him. He refocused himself leading Cora up the boardwalk.

“This is Coney Island.”

“An amusement park?”

“It’s fun. Try to have fun.”

They rode the infamous Cyclone.

“This is the most famous roller coaster on the boardwalk,” he told her as they waited their turn in line.

Despite herself Cora screamed on some of the drops. “That wasn’t so bad.”

“How about we play some games?”

“All of these games are rigged.”

“So? You and I can beat the system.”

Derek stepped up to a strength competition.

“Come test your strength! Try to hit the bell at the top. Ladies and gentlemen we have a taker. Hello sir, care to take a swing?”

Derek nodded.

“Five dollars per try.”

He handed him the money and the worker handed him a giant mallet.

“Step right up! Let’s see what you can get.”

“What do I win if I hit the bell?”

The teenager pointed to a giant bear as big as Cora. He smiled at his sister.

“Ready sir?” Several people had gathered around to see the stranger test his strength.

“Yes.”

“Then take your swing!”

Derek swung the mallet down hard on the bottom and the bell pealed noisily. The crowd cheered. The teenager looked dumbfounded.

“What color do you want Cora?” he called over his shoulder.

“Purple!” she shouted back.

“The lady would like the purple bear.”

The teenager had to call a coworker to help him get the giant bear down. He and his colleague were in awe.

“What do you mean he hit it? No one ever hits it!”

“I know,” he replied to his coworker as they struggled to get down the giant stuffed animal, “But he did! The whole crowd saw and heard it.”

Derek took the bear from the two and tried to hold it under his arm.

“And for lunch? Nathan’s hot dogs.”

“You say that like it means something.”

“Their hot dogs are world famous. And they sponsor a hot dog eating contest every year.”

“Is that the one where the Japanese guy won for all those years?”

“Takeru Kobayashi,” Derek informed her, “Yeah he was champion for quite a few years. Really big on the competitive eating circuit.”

Cora looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you an expert on professional eating competitions now?”

“Stiles has mentioned him before.”

She laughed, “Now it all makes sense.”

***

“Are you going to be okay?” He tried to pack as much in as possible with her.

She nodded at him. “Thanks,” she muttered.

“What was that?”

She rolled her eyes, “I said thanks. For showing me around New York. The city is fun. You were right.”

He smirked at his sister, “I was right huh?”

“Yeah, yeah. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all.”

“Steven is a good guy. They will look out for you.”

“I know.”

“Sorry we won’t be spending Christmas together.”

“You owe me!”

“I know.”

“Hopefully you can come back for spring break. Maybe things will have settled by then.”

Cora laughed, “Things are never settled when it comes to the Hales.”

He gave her a sad smile and pulled her in for a hug. “Call me if you need anything.”

He felt guilty leaving Cora but Derek couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that he needed to get back to Beacon Hills. His pack needed him. Or did they? He rubbed his eyes feeling tired. Were they technically even his pack anymore? Maybe it was Scott’s pack now. Either way Scott was just a young kid who didn’t know what he was doing. He would need help. And they all needed protection. He hefted his bag over his shoulder and continued to his gate.

Chapter Text

Stiles set his alarm clock and the alarm on his phone and placed one on each side of his head. He took out a notebook and wrote down: Experiment One. Subject will sleep for twenty minutes. It was the middle of the day and Stiles decided it was time to try to fix his sleep problem. He lay down on his bed and set each alarm. His eyes felt heavy as his head hit the pillow. He had had no caffeine today and had gone for a jog after his latest nightmare. He drifted into that twilight phase where he wasn’t quite sure if he was awake or asleep but still felt conscious. Thoughts drifted to Scott and his mom in Haiti, Isaac looming in the background of some beach looking miserable. He pictured Derek’s massive eyebrows and wondered where he and Cora had gone. Derek with his stupid perfectly symmetrical face and crazy ripped body. As Stiles relaxed further his thoughts went to Derek’s scowl. The guy wouldn’t smile if he were covered in a pile of puppies. Stiles smiled, Derek covered in puppies would be adorable. Too cute for even the Sourwolf to handle. Stiles could hear the puppies whining wanting Derek’s attention. The whining grew louder and then turned shrill. His phone alarm went off next to his left ear followed by a beeping to his right.

Stiles rubbed his eyes and sat up on his bed. He wrote down some notes. So far no nightmares but he wasn’t sure he was quite fully asleep. Tonight when he went to sleep he would test himself again. For the moment he felt slightly refreshed. He yawned getting up and stretching his arms above his head. His stomach gurgled. Taking the stairs slowly, he went down to the kitchen and made himself a sandwich. His dad would be off in a few hours. They were supposed to watch the basketball game on tonight. Stiles briefly wondered if Danny was still in town. He checked his email on his phone as he ate. He had a message from Lydia. She was enjoying London. Could she be any more vague? More like enjoying Jackson he bet. He shouldn’t think of that, he could lose his appetite. He went back to his sandwich.

Later that evening his father called up to him.

“Hi,” he greeted his dad taking the stairs a few at a time, “How was work?”

“Fine. I’m starving,” he said walking into the kitchen. The Sheriff walked over to the fridge and took out the leftover brisket. He frowned, “Not too much left of this.”

Stiles opened the fridge and pulled out a bag of green beans, “Good thing we have these as well.”

He pulled out a saucepan and started to boil some water. After they finished their significantly healthier version of last night’s dinner Stiles coaxed his dad into lighting one of the candles. They stood in front of the candles watching them glow for several minutes. Stiles heard some rustling and looked over at his father. The Sheriff looked sheepishly back at him having been caught and pulled out a folded envelope from his back pocket.

“Another one?”

“Go on. This one you’ll like.”

Stiles ripped open the envelope and his eyes scanned quickly over the page, “Sky diving?!”

“This one is good for a year. I know you have wanted to go for a long time but you have to be over eighteen. I figured you can go after your birthday next year. Maybe during spring break.”

He gave his father a crushing hug, “Dad this is awesome!”

***

The Sheriff couldn’t be home for them to celebrate Chanukah together every night but each night Stiles found an envelope waiting for him on the dining room table propped up against the menorah. The third night of Chanukah brought Stiles a pottery class. The fourth night of Chanukah brought him tickets to a dinner theater. During the days Stiles did more research on sleep and sleep disorders. He was looking at the National Institute of Health website when he came across a study that used meditation to alleviate insomnia. Meditation. That was something he hadn’t thought of. He read through a quick description in the methods section of the paper. Subjects were asked to close their eyes and visualize that they were floating on a river. A memory surfaced suddenly. He remembered his mother trying to get him to think about water when he was over excited. She would tell him to close his eyes and think of a pond. To picture some ducks on the pond. Swimming gently in the water. Then how it would feel if he were floating in the water with the ducks. His mom had been trying to get him to meditate! This was before he had gone on Adderall. He had started using the medication after she died. Had his mom been into meditation?

The sound of the cruiser pulling up had Stiles bounding down the stairs. “Hi dad.” “Hi.” He and his father didn’t usually talk about his mom, but since the whole Chanukah thing this year maybe that would change. Stiles was sure it hadn’t been intentional for her to become a taboo topic in the Stilinski household but somehow that was what had happened. He waited until they were almost done with dinner to mention anything.

“Dad, did mom ever do any meditation?”

The Sheriff looked surprised, “Yes,” he paused, “She actually used to lead a meditation group in town. Why do you ask?”

“I was reading some stuff about meditation today and then I remembered her trying to get me to visualize different things sometimes. Like when I was upset.”

His dad ran a hand through his hair. “Some of her old books are still in the garage. She had lots of books. No one really was doing the whole internet thing back then.”

Stiles nodded. “Maybe I could take a look at them.”

It was the fifth night of Chanukah. They lit the candles together and the Sheriff handed Stiles another envelope. “Dad, I’m starting to feel guilty. You should have warned me.”

His father brushed him off, “No, it’s fine. Go on.”

Stiles opened the envelope. The fifth night of Chanukah had brought him a trapeze class.

“Thanks dad.”

The Sheriff looked embarrassed. “I thought it was something different. It’s good to try new things.”

Stiles nodded back at him in agreement, “Sure.”

They walked into the garage together and his dad flipped on the light. He puttered around for a few minutes before calling out for Stiles. “I think this should be it.” He went over to his tool bench and picked up a box cutter. He sliced through the tape and opened the box. The Sheriff pulled out a book on Zen Buddhism. “Yep. This is the box.” He and Stiles carried it back into the living room. “You should look through these, maybe there is something that can help.” He was glad to see that even though Stiles wasn’t opening up to him he was trying to look for a solution. Claudia was always so good with Stiles she knew just how to calm him down. After she died he could barely function; he knew that he had to pull it together for Stiles. But Stiles started to act out and then the panic attacks started and he didn’t know what to do. So after lots of doctors and tests they determined that medication would be the best approach. And it did help him in school. His teachers said he was better. He still had the panic attacks on occasion though. He wondered if things would have been different if Claudia were still around, but shook the thought from his head. It was a dangerous path to go down. The “what could have beens”. Better to stay focused on the now.

***

Stiles spent the next day researching meditation. There were many forms of it. The hardest form of meditation is to think of nothing, to keep the mind blank. This was anchorless meditation. Other forms used mantras or positive affirmations to clear the mind. Still other forms used visualization techniques. Something to anchor the mind to a calm state. For the first time in several weeks Stiles felt like he might be on to something.

The sixth night of Chanukah brought him a dance lesson. It was certainly an eclectic collection of gifts. He had to give his dad some credit though, this was definitely not some generic giftcard. What could have possessed him to buy all of these random things? Maybe it was like when older people first started using email and forwarded what were in essence chain letters to all of their friends. Or forwarding “funny” jokes. Clearly he had discovered these bargain sites, maybe this was him going a little overboard.

***

Stiles was going out of his mind. Or something like that. Scott was leaving and he didn’t want to fall asleep. He really couldn’t take another dream right now. So he decided to go on a research bender. He chugged a few cokes and tried to stop his eyes from glazing over as he read article after article about Druid magic. When he found his attention drifting he popped two Adderall. He had to keep his brain busy. Maybe if he kept himself occupied he wouldn’t dream. Rereading the same sentence about Celtic knots over and over again Stiles decided to switch to Haiti.

It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Stiles already knew that. It was a good thing Scott was doing. Helping other people. Plus the weather should be good, that is if they don’t get hit by a tropical storm or hurricane. Wiki pages flashed across his screen. Storm warnings, weather reports, the after effects of the tsunamis. His vision started to blur. This was not Stiles’s first battle with the Sandman. He rubbed his eyes and looked away from the screen for a moment. He had clothes strewn about and coke cans littered his floor. Change of plans. He stepped away from his computer and stretched, craning his neck from side to side. He picked up a tee shirt and sniffed it. Blech. He threw it in the hamper. Stiles smell tested the rest of the items on his floor and bed. He made one pile to fold and then looked up J. Crew training videos on how to properly fold merchandise. By the time he got three shirts folded perfectly the sky was starting to lighten. Stiles finished folding all his clothes and put them in his dresser. He felt a sense of achievement. Not only had he outwitted his own brain but now his room was clean. Well, cleaner. He padded downstairs to make breakfast for his dad.

The first thing Stiles did upon entering the kitchen was start a fresh pot of coffee. He yawned as he took out the bag. The whirring sound of the grinder helped wake him up, as did the aroma of the Arabica beans. He measured out the grounds and placed them in the coffee maker pressing a few buttons. It was 5:30 a.m. His dad usually got up around 6:00 a.m. Pouring a fresh cup, Stiles put a heaping teaspoon of sugar in and a bit of milk. The taste flowed over his tongue waking him up. Breakfast. Hmm. He decided to make pancakes. Sort of healthy pancakes. Stiles took out his phone and found a recipe for flaxseed and blueberry pancakes. Nosing his way through the pantry Stiles pulled out flour, baking soda, baking powder and flaxseeds. He reached for a bowl and some measuring cups. Carefully measuring out the dry ingredients he set them aside into a bowl. This recipe used coconut oil instead of butter or corn oil. Interesting. Opening the fridge he took out the milk and some eggs and started to whisk away.

The Sheriff stumbled downstairs drawn by the scent of coffee. “Morning!” Stiles greeted him in a voice that was still a little too loud for this early in the morning. The Sheriff took in the mess in the kitchen and looked at the short stack waiting for him. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.

“Pancakes?”

“Yup. Healthy, delicious pancakes.”

The Sheriff looked skeptically down at his plate.

“They have blueberries in them.” Stiles turned back to the stove, “Maple syrup is on the counter,” he said while flipping another pancake.

His dad ambled over to the shove. “You feeling okay?”

“Yup.”

He grabbed the syrup and poured a good amount over the pancakes. They were pretty good.

***

Once his dad left for work Stiles drove over to Scott’s. He had offered to take them to the airport. It was only 7 a.m and he figured Scott was still asleep. Their flight was at noon but they should be at the airport at 10 a.m. Ms. McCall greeted him at the door.

“Thanks for taking us Stiles.”

“No problem.”

“You want some coffee?”

It would be his fourth cup this morning.

“Sure.” He sat down at their kitchen table while she poured him a mug. He needed to keep his sugar and caffeine levels up or he would crash.

“Sugar is on the table,” she said sensing his need.

“You doing okay?”

“Sure.”

Melissa gave him a look.

“Okay as I can be,” he amended.

She nodded. It was the most she could expect out of him. “Are you sleeping any better?”

“Not really,” he admitted.

“You need to tire yourself out.”

“Maybe.” He changed the subject, “Looking forward to your trip?”

“Yes. I think the boys think this is going to be some sort of beach vacation,” she laughed, “And while they do have beautiful beaches, they are going to be doing a lot of heavy lifting not surfing.”

“Aww manual labor, nothing quite like it,” Stiles smiled.

“Any plans for the holidays?”

“Just the usual,” he paused, “but I guess we are celebrating Chanukah this year.”

Melissa paused at the counter. She knew they hadn’t done anything like that since Claudia passed.

“Your dad’s idea?”

“Yeah.”

“Stiles are you okay?”

He took a sip of coffee, “I’m okay. It’s nice that he’s thinking about her. We don’t talk about her much.”

“You must have some fun memories of the holidays with her.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

“What did you get for the first night?” she asked trying to lighten the mood.

“My dad got me a Krav Maga lesson.”

“Isn’t that?”

“Yeah, it’s like Israeli karate or something. It’s supposed to be a lesson for two, he thought maybe Scott could go with me. It doesn’t expire until February so I’ll probably wait until he gets back.”

“You shouldn’t wait Stiles.”

“Well not much point in going alone.”

“You should go and do it. Try something new. Get out of the house for a bit.”

He wondered why she was being so persistent about going to the class. He finished his coffee.

“I should wake up Scott and Isaac.”

“I’ll do it.”

Stiles raced up the stairs and into Scott’s room. His best friend was sprawled out diagonally on his bed his sheets a mess down by his feet. Stiles threw a pillow at him. He didn’t stir. Hmm. He shook Scott’s shoulder to no effect. He noticed his breathing was shallow.

“Scott? Wake up.” He shook him harder, “Wake up dude.” Then he bend down and whispered, “Scott, Allison is here,” and Scott bolted upright his head whipping around the room.

He fell back against his pillows, “You asshole.”

“What?” he said smiling, “Isn’t it better to wake up thinking of Allison than whatever it was you were thinking about?”

Scott groaned and threw a tee shirt at Stiles. It hit him in the chest and dropped to the floor.

“You all packed?”

Scott shook his head.

“Up and at ‘em big guy.”

Reluctantly Scott tottered into his bathroom. The sound of running water filtered into the room. Scott was out in a few minutes. He got dressed and made his bed. Stiles sat on the chair at his computer desk.

“Does Isaac even have a passport?”

Isaac popped his head into Scott’s room. Speak of the devil.

“I didn’t, we had to rush one,” he said a little sheepishly entering the room.

Stiles bet Isaac had never been outside the country. He and his dad had only been to Mexico and Canada, so North America was it for him. But still some traveling is better than none.

“First time outside the good ol’ US of A?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sure it will be great. Haiti is supposed to be beautiful man.”

Scott nodded like an eager puppy, “Can’t wait to hit the beach!”

Stiles smiled thinking of what Ms. McCall had said earlier.

Of course Scott and Isaac hadn’t packed yet. Stiles paced while his friend haphazardly threw things into a duffle bag. Isaac slinked off to his room.

“Dude, stop pacing. You are driving me nuts.”

“Fine,” he huffed and flopped down on Scott’s bed.

“You sleep okay last night?”

“I didn’t sleep.”

“What?”

“I didn’t sleep last night. I was doing research. Druids. Haiti. Hurricanes. That sort of thing.”

Scott looked worried.

“Don’t worry man, you wolves can survive anything. Wolves can swim right?”

“Ha, ha. Very funny.”

“Seriously though we should have a werewolf swim team. I mean we already have a majority werewolf Lacrosse team. It would be like that terribly awesome movie, that one that had all the male witches on the swim team.”

Scott started to drone on about Allison and what she would be doing in France. “French accents dude. Everyone has a thing for those accents.”

And without meaning to Stiles drifted off.

Stiles was sitting at the dining room table with the menorah in front of him with six candles unlit. “I’ll light the candles sweetheart,” his mom said taking the matches from his hands. Stiles turned and looked at his mother. She smiled at him and then got up and crossed to the other side of the table. His dad came in from the kitchen and stood next to her. “Almost forgot!” she said putting down the matches. She pulled out a small oil lamp from the buffet behind her. It looked like the one from Aladdin. “We can’t forget the oil.” She took the lamp and smiled up at her husband and then tipped the lamp pouring oil over his head. She laughed as it dripped down his face and onto his shirt. She ran a hand along her husband’s cheek. He took the lamp from her and poured the oil over her head next. Stiles was confused. He didn’t remember this part of Chaunkah. “What about me?” he asked. “Wait your turn sweetheart.” “Here, you can hold the lamp.” He felt the slick metal object in his hands, heated from their touch. “Now pay close attention Stiles,” she smiled at him from across the table and picked up the matches. She struck a match and held it over her husband’s head. “Mom no!” His father’s hair and face burned but he maintained a grin as the smell of burnt hair filled the room. Stiles started to cough as the room filled with smoke. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe. His mother leaned over the table towards him and Stiles coughed holding the lamp tightly against his chest. “You’re next sweetheart.” Stiles felt something dripping on his head, getting into his eyes. “NOOOOO!” he screamed.

The weight on his chest grew unbearable, his lungs burned, and he couldn’t breathe. He was going to burn. They were all going to burn. He felt himself shaking and suddenly he broke into a sweat. The fire. It was so hot.

“Come on sweetheart. You can do it.”

No. He didn’t want to burn. He held his breath, he would rather suffocate.

“Sweetheart can you hear me? Wake up.”

Stiles gasped and opened his eyes to Melissa McCall leaning over him. Sensations flooded over him all at once. He was so hot and then suddenly he was dripping wet and freezing.

“Stiles,” she put a hand on his neck. His pulse hammered. “I want you to stay with me. You are in Scott’s room. You fell asleep. You are safe.”

His eyes darted back and forth taking in his surroundings.

“Nod if you understand me.”

Stiles nodded once staying down. His shirt was soaked with some combination of sweat and water.

“Good,” Ms. McCall said gently, “I’m going to help you sit up okay?”

She reached between his damp shirt and the bed putting an arm around his back pulling him toward her, “There we go. Scott give me some water.” She handled Stiles a glass, “Drink.” Stiles started to gulp the water, he felt parched. “Slow down.”

He slowed his pace but drained the glass. Stiles looked from Ms. McCall to Scott standing next to her, they both looked worried. Stiles registered Isaac lurking in a corner. Stiles cleared his throat, “May I have some more water?” Isaac appeared next to Scott and took the glass away. Ms. McCall still had her arm around him. Stiles started to shiver. “Let’s get you out of this shirt,” she suggested. She grabbed the bottom and helped Stiles peel it off. Scott handed Stiles another shirt which was too big for him but at least it was dry. Isaac returned with a full glass and wordlessly handed it to Stiles. He sipped it slowly and Ms. McCall draped a blanket loosely around his shoulders. Isaac disappeared from the room. Scott sat down on the other side of Stiles. “You okay?” Stiles clutched at the glass in his hand and took several deep breaths, “Yeah.”

When he regained some of his strength Ms. McCall insisted he eat something. “I already had some pancakes. Really I’m fine.” They walked down to the kitchen together. Scott and Isaac were already eating. She made Stiles a piece of toast and watched as he slowly munched on it. Stiles didn’t like being watched like this but he felt the love and concern from her. Unfortunately, it reminded him of his own mother which was not something he wanted to think about at the moment. She placed a glass of orange juice in front of him, “And absolutely no more caffeine.” Scott snickered. Stiles giving up caffeine was like the Pope giving up Catholicism.

“I’m going to call a cab. Scott can drive your car back to your house and we can go from there.”

“No way. I’m fine. I’ll take you guys. It was nothing really, just…” he trailed off at the stern look she gave him.

“Don’t give me that Stiles. If you insist on coming with us to the airport we can take your car but I will drive. You should be okay to drive back.”

“I’m okay now,” he insisted.

“Maybe I should call your father.”

“No!” he said quickly, “Okay. You can drive. No more caffeine for today.”

***

The ride to the airport was fairly quiet. Melissa insisted that Stiles sit up front with her so she could keep an eye on him. She wondered if she should call his father. He mentioned that Stiles woke up screaming from what were clearly nightmares so really this wasn’t anything knew. She had just never seen it for herself. She didn’t know what he had been dealing with. As a nurse Melissa had seen a lot people suffering. Scott was suffering in his own way after whatever happened that night. She could see it in his appetite and in his eyes. But what was happening to Stiles, she was frightened for him. When Scott called for her earlier she heard the urgency in his voice. He couldn’t wake Stiles. Scott did the right thing. His breathing had become so erratic, his heart rate spiked, he broke out into a sweat. Melissa was surprised that even the water she splashed on him didn’t cause him to wake. She felt terribly for the Sheriff. It was a lot to deal with.

“Stiles,” she said quietly, “have you thought about exercising? It can help with troubled sleep. It can settle the mind.”

Scott was talking to Isaac about surfing in the back seat. Isaac had never been surfing before.

“No, I haven’t. Nothing really ever settles my mind.”

She was silent for a moment, “What about masturbating?”

Stiles started to choke on his own saliva.

Melissa gave him a few slaps on the back and spoke in a low voice, “Sorry to startle you,” she apologized, “I know you don’t have anyone you are seeing right now so...Anyway it might help relax you.”

Stiles turned bright red. Whether it was from embarrassment or the choking she couldn’t say. He cleared his windpipe and his coughs died down.

“If I were you I would try it,” she suggested gently but firmly. He looked at her with wide incredulous eyes, “Exercising,” she added quickly seeing how uncomfortable she had made him, “Exercising. Maybe jogging? Also trying new activities. It exercises the brain in different ways. You aren’t in school right now and there is no Lacrosse training. Go to a new restaurant. Research Brazilian food. I don’t know. But the more actively engaged you keep the body, the more it should ease your mind. Maybe ease off the Druid research and try a salsa class.”

When they pulled up curbside Stiles popped out of the car. Ms. McCall gave him a big hug.

“Take care of yourself Stiles.”

Isaac unloaded their bags onto the curbside.

When she released him Scott pulled him in for a bear hug, “See you in a few weeks.”

“Yeah. Hey, did you talk to Derek about the trip?”

Scott blinked at him, “No. I’ll send him a text.”

Isaac also gave Stiles an awkward hug, “Happy holidays,” he muttered.

Scott swung his backpack on and lifted his mother’s bag then his own and the group turned toward the sliding glass doors.

“Have fun,” Stiles waved as they entered the terminal.

He couldn’t help but feel a little deflated when he got back into his Jeep and drove home. As he entered Beacon Hills he felt tired. Maybe staying up all night was not the best idea. Maybe he should try the catnapping again. Stiles started to think of more experiments. Maybe if he only let himself sleep for small increments he wouldn’t have time to go into the REM phase of sleep and maybe wouldn’t dream? As soon as he got home he poured over literature about sleep disturbances, sleep cycles and various sleep studies. He was well into a sleep deprivation study when he heard the front door open. He walked downstairs to find his dad in the kitchen, “Did Melissa and Scott get to the airport okay?” Stiles wondered if this was a test, if Ms. McCall had actually called him. Stiles decided to play it safe, “They got there on time.” “Good, good.” The seventh night brought him a fancy dinner at that new local organic restaurant that had just opened up.

***

For the last night of Chanukah they were able to celebrate together. There was no more brisket; they had run out after the second night. Stiles busied himself throughout the day by making a lasagna. It wasn’t traditional but they weren’t trying to be, plus his dad had been really good this week, at least for breakfasts. So Stiles went to the market and bought lasagna noodles, mozzarella, ricotta, 80% lean ground beef, basil and tomato sauce. He spent the afternoon taking his time chopping onions and mincing garlic, sautéing them in a bit of olive oil. Then he added the grounded beef. The kitchen smelled delicious. Stiles took out a box grater and grated two carrots. Hidden vegetables. Sometimes his father was like a child. But the more veggies Stiles could cram into the sauce the better. He added the carrots into the sauté pan and let the mixture cook for a minute before adding the tomato sauce. Next he carefully cut up a zucchini into matchsticks. He piled them carefully on the cutting board to make more space. Turning to the fridge, he pulled out a big handful of basil and ran it under some water. As he patted the basil dry, he thought of how his mother loved to cook. She was always whipping up something fun in the kitchen. Cooking felt like a nice way to honor her. Giving the basil a quick chop he added both it and the zucchini to the sauce. He lowered the heat on the stove and covered the pot leaving the sauce to simmer.

He took this time to write an email to Lydia. Stiles reminder her that any new Druid information would be helpful and hoped she was having a good time in England. Finally, he decided it was better to keep things short and sweet. He knew he could ramble on and she would get bored and likely ignore or not read most of what he would have taken the time to write. When he returned to the kitchen he started to create an assembly line. He took out a mixing bowl and cracked a few eggs inside whisking them until they were a uniform color. Then he mixed in the ricotta cheese. He opened up a package of parmesan and set it aside. All he needed to do now was grate the cheese. After grating all the cheese his arm was feeling a bit stiff and sore. Maybe Ms. McCall was right he did need to work out more. Pulling out a pyrex baking dish Stiles ladled some sauce on the bottom of the dish and then placed the noodles on top followed by a smearing of the ricotta mixture, then a generous handful of mozzarella, a sprinkling of some parmesan, then more sauce. He repeated the layers covering the final layer with a thick coating of mozzarella and parmesan. Stiles wrapped the whole dish tightly in foil and preheated the oven. Stiles checked his email on his phone. No response yet from Lydia. She was probably asleep given the eight hour time difference. Stiles wasn’t sure that Scott would have internet access in Haiti so he didn’t bother sending him anything. The oven dinged signaling it was done preheating and Stiles slipped the lasagna in setting the timer for fifty minutes. When his dad came home he would be in for a treat.

As Stiles took the foil off the lasagna and slipped it back in the oven he heard the cruiser pull up. Perfect timing. He got out a medium sized mixing bowl and started a small salad. He was slowly wearing his father down when it came to salads.

“Smells great,” he said stepping into the kitchen.

“Last night of Chankuah, thought I would make one of mom’s specialties.”

The Sheriff smiled at him and set out the dishes and silverware, “That’s a nice thought. What are we having?”

“Lasagna. But first, some salad.”

He dished a half of the bowl onto his father’s plate and sat down next to him adding some to his own plate. They sat down and ate their salad. The timer went off and Stiles pulled the lasagna from the oven. The sound of cheese bubbling and hissing filled the kitchen. His father whistled, “Wow. That is a beautiful sight.” By the time they finished their salad the lasagna was cool enough to cut into. Stiles gave his father a hefty portion and then cut a piece for himself. He cut into his slice. It was still really, really hot. His father was already digging in, it was like he had no heat sensitivity on his tongue. Stiles blew on his bite to cool it down. The first forkful was delicious. Slowly they ate while talking about their days. The Sheriff was still catching up on paperwork. His father loaded the dishes into the dishwasher when they finished and they moved into the dining room.

“Last night,” Stiles said filling the menorah with all nine candles.

“Until next year,” his father added.

They took turns lighting the candles. His dad handed him another white envelope.

“Last one,” he said.

“Until next year,” Stiles echoed his father and grinned.

He eagerly opened the last envelope. “A helicopter ride across the city? Wow,” he paused, “Isn’t that a little, um, much?”

The Sheriff rubbed his neck, “I thought maybe you could take Lydia,” he admitted.

Stiles laughed, “No it’s cool. It sounds like it would be really fun.”

***

He sat at the table cutting through his steak. The meat was really tough. As Stiles tried a bit there was something strange tasting about it. A gaminess he couldn’t quite place. It was dry and stringy and the flavor was just not there. “Dad,” he called back to the kitchen, “What is this?” He was met with silence. “I think you should maybe leave the cooking to the professionals.” Stiles tried another bite and it felt as though it wriggled down his throat. He swallowed quickly and drank some water. “I know you tried, and A for Effort, but I don’t know if I can eat this.” He put his fork and knife and wiped his lips. As he pulled back his napkin he saw it was smeared with blood. He looked back at the steak which now looked almost raw, not over cooked. “Dad? I’m sorry. Maybe with some steak sauce?” Stiles headed back toward the kitchen when he heard a tinkling laugh. He opened the door and found someone in a white and pink apron bending over something on the kitchen table. “Dad?” The figure turned around, the blood splattered apron hugging her body tightly. Jennifer cackled, her grotesque, marred face flickering back and forth with her regular one. Stiles looked down at the table and saw an array of carving tools and knives next to a body. “Did he need more cayenne?” Stiles felt like vomiting. He gripped his stomach and said weakly, “He?” Jennifer stepped back and Stiles saw the Sheriff’s body splayed out. His stomach rebelled and he started to wretch. “I think I may have over cooked him. What is the rule? Three minutes per pound?” His father’s chest was torn open and one of his legs was gone. “I thought the thigh meat would be good. You like dark meat right Stiles? Oh but you haven’t had the gravy yet! I wasn’t finished.” She shoved a pot in front of Stiles. He looked down seeing a heart, kidneys and entrails. She stuck a spoon in and stirred raising it up to his lips. “Want a taste?”

***

Stiles woke up screaming. When he finally stopped he felt his stomach lurch and ran to the bathroom. He just made it to the toilet. As he retched over the porcelain bowl his head spun. When he felt wrung out he rested his cheek against the cool tile of the bathroom floor and lay there trying to recover himself. Eventually he got up off the floor and into the shower. He felt better after the shower but still couldn’t stomach the idea of eating anything. He made himself some coffee and sat at the kitchen table. His envelopes were neatly stacked on his end of the table. Flipping through them Stiles looked over the details for his Krav Maga lesson. Maybe Ms. McCall was right. He needed to get out of the house. Stiles fished his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed the number listed, “Hi, I’d like to schedule a lesson. Tomorrow at 4 p.m.? Yeah that works. Okay thanks. Bye.”

Chapter Text

Derek tipped the cab driver and made his way into his apartment. His flight had been delayed by an hour and a half and he was tired. The industrial elevator opened into what he used as his living room. It felt empty without Cora or Isaac. Derek felt a little guilty about throwing Isaac out, but he had seen the way he was looking at Cora, and he was in a better environment with Ms. McCall. The kid really needed some parenting and as much as he tried, Derek was not the one to do it. He dropped his duffle bag on the floor. It was only about nine o’clock but the jetlag was setting in. Walking into his room, he pulled open his dresser and found some sweat pants. As he pulled his jeans off something in his pocket stuck out. Derek fumbled reaching into his pocket for his phone. He placed it on his nightstand and finished changing. He yawned entering the bathroom to brush his teeth. His bed was calling him. Derek pulled the covers open and lay down. He would check in with Scott in the morning.

Derek woke up around ten. He was more tired than he would have guessed. But whether it was from all the sightseeing with Cora, the traveling, or something more emotional he couldn’t say, nor did he want to think about it. He padded into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He still had a few eggs left and some orange juice but he was going to need to go to the market. Derek made sunnyside up eggs and toasted the heel, all that was left, of a loaf of wheat bread. He poured himself a big glass of orange juice and sat down to breakfast. After he finished cleaning up he hopped in the shower. He felt much more refreshed with some food in him and after a hot shower. He got dressed slipping his phone into his pocket. As he drove to the Safeway he wondered if he should have made a list. Basically he needed everything. Shit. He forgot his bags. When he pulled into the parking lot some asshole swerved in front of him swooping up his parking space. He gripped the steering wheel and tried to calm himself. When he did park he remembered he had started keeping some bags in the trunk. Derek found out two reusable grocery bags and locked his car. He pulled a cart from the row by the entrance and made his way inside.

In the dairy aisle Derek put a gallon of whole milk in his cart. “Excuse me?” Derek looked down at an elderly woman in front of him. “Do you have the time?” He pulled out his phone. It was dark. Either it was dead or he had forgotten to turn his phone back on after his flight yesterday. He pressed the on button and the phone’s screen brightened. “It’s 12:45pm.” “Thank you dear.” She slowly pushed her cart forward. Derek put his phone back in his pocket but a few moments later he started suddenly feeling vibrations in his pants. No one ever called or texted him. Derek fished it out and saw he had a text message from Scott from yesterday afternoon: Going to Haiti with my mom. Taking Isaac too. It was true that Scott didn’t need to ask permission or really even check in with him but he appreciated common courtesy. A little bit more information would have been nice. Derek tried to call Scott but his voicemail picked up after the first ring. He scrolled through his contacts and found Isaac. The phone rang briefly and then went to voicemail. Damn it. When were they going to Haiti? Derek was pissed. He didn’t feel that he should leave any of his pack members alone. Not after he did such a poor job of protecting them in the first place. Boyd’s death hit him hardest. Now Scott and Isaac were going to be away. How long would they be gone?

He busied himself with the rest of his shopping. Derek grabbed a carton of eggs and some cheese then snagged a box of Golden Crisps from the cereal aisle. As he made his way into the bakery section he tossed in a loaf of nine grain whole wheat bread and a small rosemary oil olive loaf. He pulled a ticket from the dispenser at the deli counter and waited his turn. While he waited he couldn’t help but fume. Scott was being rude and disrespectful. Shit. Cora. He felt so guilty about leaving her and now maybe it had all been for nothing. “Number thirty-three? Number thirty-three!” a clerk behind the deli counter called. Derek stepped up and ordered two pounds of cracked pepper turkey and a pound of roast beef. Then he pushed his cart into the produce section and loaded up on lettuce, tomatoes, apples and bananas. He was making his way to check out only to realize he had forgotten to get more orange juice. When he got home he unpacked his groceries and paced. Scott and Isaac were gone. Where were Lydia and Allison? There was one person who was sure to know everything. Derek palmed the keys to his Camaro and drove.

***

Stiles wasn’t sure what to wear for his class but figured something loose fitting would be best. He took off his jeans and tossed on some sweats instead. “This is stupid,” he muttered to himself. But he had already made the appointment. Stiles grabbed his red hoodie and went downstairs. His keys were on the dining room table. He took a bottle of water out of the fridge, scooped up his keys and walked out to the Jeep. Exercise is good for you, he reminded himself.

***

Derek pulled up in front of the Stilinski house and sat in his car for a moment. He was pissed. And when he was pissed he, for some reason, tended to take it out on Stiles. He could hardly control himself around him sometimes; the guy just knew how to push his buttons. Derek drew in a deep breath trying to calm himself. How could Scott leave with no notice? Or barely any. He had driven to Scott’s first and found no one home. It was possible they were all out but Derek sensed no one had been in the house for twenty four hours. Stiles would know when he and Isaac had left and for how long they would be gone. When he felt slightly calmer he opened the car door and started toward the house. He opted for window, because why not? And he could admit that he enjoyed seeing the startled look on Stiles’s face. Derek slid through the window into the darkened room and waited. He strained his ears but heard nothing. No heartbeats in the house. It hadn’t occurred to him that Stiles could be gone. Had he left town as well? Derek sniffed around. No. Stiles had been here very recently, within the last ten or fifteen minutes. He walked down the stairs and out of the house using the front door. He sniffed the air again, Stiles had gone into town. But where? Derek got into his car and followed his nose.

***

“Shit,” he said passing the Krav Maga place. There was no parking lot that Stiles could see so he ended up having to park several blocks away. Clutching his water bottle in his left hand he locked the car. He had only walked about three feet when he shuddered.

“Stiles.”

He dropped his water bottle and swore. “Jesus Derek!” He bent down to pick up the bottle at Derek’s feet, “We need to put a god damn bell on you!”

“You weren’t at home.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Stiles continued to walk, “I’m on my way to a class. Wait. How did you know I wasn’t at home? How did you find me?”

Derek looked at him as if he were an idiot, “I went to your house.”

“You couldn’t have texted me?”

Derek didn’t have a good retort. He honestly just hadn’t thought about it. He walked along side Stiles. “I needed to talk to you in person. Why are Scott and Isaac in Haiti?”

Stiles looked over at Derek, he looked angry. Really angry. “I don’t have time for this right now. I’m going to be late for my class.”

“What class?” They had walked up to the store front. Derek looked up, “Krav Maga?”

Stiles pushed open the door and Derek followed him inside. He walked up to the front desk, “Hi. I’m here for my lesson. Four o’clock?”

“Yes, is he joining you? You’ll need to change,” the young woman said to Derek.

“No, it’s just me,” Stiles said handing her the Groupon.

She shook her head, “This is a private lesson for two people.”

“Well can I exchange it for something else?”

“No exchanges, no refunds.”

“Can you make an exception? A private lesson for one?”

“You need someone to spar with.”

Derek’s eyes lit up, “I can join you.”

“Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.”

“Come on Stiles, it will be fun,” he grinned.

Derek looked as if Christmas had come early.

“You’ll need to change.”

Derek turned toward the receptionist, “I’m afraid I didn’t bring anything else. Do you think you could you help me out?” He smiled at her trying to look helpless.

She took in his tight black jeans and leather jacket, “I think I can find something. Hold on a minute,” and she disappeared into a back room.

Stiles flailed and turned to Derek, “Are you kidding me?”

“What?”

“You trying to charm the pants off of her so that you can flatten me into the ground?”

Derek smirked, “I don’t need to go through all the trouble.”

“I’m serious, I haven’t endured enough? And now you want to what? Comically learn Krav Maga with me?”

“The lesson is for two. I happen to be here. I need information that you won’t give me right now. I don’t see how this is a problem.”

The woman came back with a pair of black sweatpants for Derek. “You can change in there,” she said pointing toward a locker room.

He gave her a grateful smile, “Thank you so much.”

***

They walked into a room with a padded floor and a wall of mirror. Derek cracked his neck as a man came into the room and introduced himself.

“I’m Youssef. I will be your instructor this afternoon. Your names?”

“Stiles.”

“Derek.”

“Nice to meet you both. In order to be at our most efficient it is best to stretch. Let’s start with some torso twists for thirty seconds.”

He demonstrated and Stiles and Derek followed along.

“Now we’ll loosen up the shoulders. Cross the arms back and forth across your chest. Good. Next some lunges.”

Youssef demonstrated first with his right leg, then his left. Stiles followed his example. Then he had them run a few laps.

“It is important to stretch the hamstrings. You want the body to be limber,” he said as they jogged around the room.

Derek jogged at a lazy pace. This was ridiculous. He knew that Derek could beat that guy unconscious in less than six seconds. Youssef stopped them after three laps around the room.

“Next we do some squats. Clasps your hands together out in front of you, arms fully extended. Now bend your knees. We need the pelvis to be agile. Most of our force comes from the pelvic joint. We want to be able to pivot easily later on.”

Stiles wanted so badly to laugh and it took all his willpower to restrain himself.

“Next raise your arms over head, now lower your arms so that they are parallel with your shoulders.” He adjusted Stiles a bit, “Good. Now lunge forward with your right foot. Good lean back slightly and stretch out your chest. By stretching the upper back and chest we are ensuring that the spine is flexible.”

Stiles looked over at Derek. His shirt had ridden up and Stiles could just make out a trail of dark hair leading down into his sweats. Youssef adjusted Derek’s arms lowering the shirt. “You need to loosen up, your stance is too tight.” He put his hands on either side of Derek’s hips and gently pushed them forward. Stiles felt a bit warm. He looked forward again.

“Better. Now switch sides. Krav Maga is a defense system intended to prepare you to deal with real life violent or dangerous situations.”

“What if what you are fighting is a preternatural creature?” Stiles muttered.

“What was that?” Youssef asked.

Stiles shook his head and looked over at Derek who looked as if he was trying hard to suppress a small smile.

“This system is different from other defense techniques in that we try to prepare you to stay calm, use objects in your environment to defend yourself and other tactical techniques to get safety out of a violent or dangerous situation. Unlike other forms of fighting or defense such as boxing, karate, MMA or other championship fighting styles, you don’t know your opponent. You probably haven’t seen a video of your attacker, or know their height, weight or fighting style. This technique is to help you improvise in a dangerous encounter. The goals of Krav Maga are to inflict maximum damage on your assailant and in some cases to incapacitate or even kill them depending on the situation. Your safety should be your number one priority.”

“First you will learn a straight punch combination. Let’s make a fist.”

Stiles thought of the last time he asked Derek to make a fist. His hand had hurt for two days after that little demonstration. And obviously that was Derek holding back. Otherwise Derek could have punched him into the ground. The guy could punch through concrete for fuck's sake!

“Use your left hands first. You want to rotate your punch on impact, not before. This is a more efficient use of your energy and will create maximum damage. As you extend your hand forward, before your arm is fully extended start to curl your fingers inward then rotate the hand down, thumb toward the center of the body horizontally, not vertically as it was before. Your right hand draws back staying close to your face in a defensive position. Let’s practice this slowly.”

Youssef demonstrated the punch a few more times slowly. Stiles tried to follow along.

“Your stance is wrong,” he corrected Derek, “Put your right foot back. Better. Now it is easier to pivot into the punch.”

He came up behind Stiles and showed him more closely. Then he put his hands on Stiles’s hips, “The power is going to come from here," he said rotating his hips slightly, “When you pivot you are channeling that energy up your left side through your arm and into your fist. You need rotation of the hips because when you are in a fighting stance one of your arms is at a disadvantage because it is not as long. The rotation helps us to create length again for the other side.”

Stiles went through the motions again.

“Better.”

He looked over at Derek, “I can see you take excellent care of your body and you are clearly very strong. But this is not about strength, it is about technique, not brute force. Anyone can successfully defend themselves with Krav Maga. From a woman being attacked by a mugger to a policeman fighting off a junkie.” He adjusted Derek again. “Now on impact make sure you use just your two knuckles to strike. This is focused, precise.” He stood in front of them and watched them going through the motions. “Good. Now we go faster. One. Hut! One. Hut!” he called out. Stiles was starting to get into it. “Now switch sides.”

***

“When we are attacked from behind we can try to disengage from our attacker by surprising them. Elbow, elbow, hammer. Turn your whole body on the hammer,” he demonstrated. “Derek, will you allow me to demonstrate?”

Derek stepped forward.

“Come behind me. Now watch Stiles. As soon as you become aware of his presence, throw the right elbow back,” he said hitting Derek what looked like not too gently in the abs, “Then you throw your left elbow back. Now while you are doing this, you prepare your right hand again and you use a hammer like motion swinging your right hand up.” He did these steps again more slowly. “Now Derek you try.”

He stepped behind Derek. Derek looked annoyed but Youssef couldn’t see his expression. He tossed his left elbow back haphazardly and then the right one finally bringing up the left one in the hammer position.

“Focus all of your energy,” Youssef admonished. Derek did it with a bit more force this time but Stiles could see he was holding himself way back. “Good job,” he praised after Derek repeated the motions for a third time.

“Another common occurrence during an attack is someone grabbing you. Let’s say your attacker has you in a headlock. Grab their arms, and drop down to one knee. Use the momentum of your motion downward to throw them off balance then strike with your elbow,” he said thrusting his elbow backward. “You can easily break your opponent’s nose this way. Rotate down, spring back up. Keep your elbow strong. Stiles you help me now.”

Stiles stepped forward and Youssef went behind him putting an arm around his neck.

“Now remember. Drop, pull, elbow.”

Stiles put his hands on the arms around his neck and dropped, then pulled down.

“No. Pull hard as you drop down. Use gravity’s help.”

He tried again.

“Good. Then the last step.”

Stiles dropped and pulled then sprang back up thrusting his elbow near where he imagined Youssef’s face was. He looked back at Derek who was trying to hide his amusement.

“Again!” Youssef demanded. “Now you Derek.” Derek traded places with Stiles. They went through the motions for a minute before Youssef moved on.

“Another variation. If someone has you in a choke hold, what do you do?” He turned to Stiles, “Will you help me demonstrate?”

Stiles stepped forward.

“Come up behind me. Good. Now put your arm around my neck. Yes. Tighter.”

Stiles drew his arm in a bit.

“Good. Now I drop down.”

Stiles moved awkwardly struggling under his weight.

“I give you an elbow to the left, an elbow to the right.”

He felt Youssef’s elbow taping him in his stomach.

“Then as I spring back up using power from my hips, elbow straight up and back.”

Stiles barely avoided an elbow to his face.

“The object is to create space between yourself and an attacker. Thank you Stiles.”

Stiles stepped back.

“Now you try.”

Youssef stepped behind him and held him in a headlock, choking him slightly. He instructed, “Drop. Right, left, left with the elbows. Use the hips to create force behind your hits.”

Stiles bent his knees and pulled up his elbows forward. He pulled back the right one tapping Youssef, then the left one, and with a burst of energy popped up and threw his elbow back.

“The last form we will go through is if your attacker is coming at you head on. In this situation most people freeze. You must remain calm but ready to defend yourself. Most attackers will expect you to run. You must meet them head on.”

He stepped forward to meet an imaginary opponent, “Grab their neck pull down, up comes your knee into the solar plexus, then the other knee, then uppercut, uppercut.” He demonstrated to the empty air again, “As your knee comes up you lean back slightly. Then you push into your opponent with your fists.” He led them through the motions and he and Derek defended against their imaginary foes.

“We have been starting from the right side. Now we lead with the left side.” They switched and he watched their forms, “You want to constantly be moving forward toward your opponent. They won’t expect it. They expect the average person to struggle to get away. The idea behind many of these combinations is to produce continuous motion. You don’t want a gap in between the motions. This is why as you prepare to punch with your left hand you prepare your right hand to continue after you have landed the blow. You want an onslaught of motion.”

Youssef stopped them and came at Derek slowly. Derek clasped his hands down on Youssef’s neck and pulled downward slowly bringing his right knee up, then his left. Stiles watched fascinated, Derek wasn’t as efficient as he thought he would be, but then again he was learning something new. Also he needed to restrain himself from actually breaking the instructor’s neck. Derek transitioned into the punching part of the sequence and then stepped back.

“Stiles you try now,” Youssef said waving him forward. Stiles tried to imitate what he had seen Derek do but did it more slowly. “Good,” Youssef encouraged, “Again.” Stiles grew more confident each time he completed the form. Youssef stepped away from him, “Good, now you and Derek can practice. Let’s start with the first form we learned. Take him from behind.” Stiles felt himself flush. Oh my god. Why? He wanted to ask Derek to be gentle but he knew it would sound wrong, so wrong coming from his lips. He simply nodded and stepped behind Derek hoping to still have all of his limbs attached by the end of this practice.

***

Derek could hear Stiles’s heart rate increase as he walked behind him.

“Okay, Stiles is an attacker coming from behind.”

Derek could hear him shuffling on his feet. Maybe he was nervous. He felt Stiles move closer and Derek pushed his right elbow out quickly hitting Stiles in his gut. “Ooof,” he heard as the first elbow connected. Then he threw back his left elbow trying to make the impact a little softer before raising his right hand like a hammer managing to hit Stiles’s shoulder. He turned around waiting for more instructions. Stiles looked down at the floor rubbing his shoulder.

“Again, but this time try for more impact,” Youssef encouraged, “You are fighting for your life!”

Stiles’s eyes widened and Derek noticed his Adam’s apple bob up and down. Derek nodded. They tried it again and this time as his second elbow connected Stiles flew to the floor landing on his ass.

Youssef observed them, “I think maybe we need some pads.” The instructor went to the corner of the room opening a closet and pulled out what looked like a thicker version of a Kevlar vest. “Here,” he said strapping the thing onto Stiles, “This should help.”

Derek was glad, it was much safer for Stiles this way. Stiles looked embarrassed for a moment but then rolled his shoulders back and tried to stretch his neck getting a feel for the new gear.

“Is this bullet proof?” he asked.

“No, it is for demonstration purposes only. Okay, again.”

The padding would help but he also was trying to be more gentle as they moved through the form. He may feel like beating Stiles into pulp sometimes but it wasn’t like he actually wanted to hurt him. Stiles was starting to predict Derek’s movements and became especially adept at dodging his fist at the end of the sequence.

“Good, now switch.”

Stiles grinned, glad to have a reprieve from receiving werewolf elbows to his solar plexus. He knew he didn’t need to hold back against Derek at all. The guy could fight Alphas, an elbow from Stiles wouldn’t do much to him. Stiles could feel warmth radiating from Derek as he stepped up behind him. “And go!” Youssef instructed. He threw his elbow back hard and damn it! It hurt. It was like smashing into a wall. A wall of supernatural muscle, but it felt like a wall nonetheless. As he threw back the second elbow and it connected again. Ow! Shit! He gritted his teeth. Why couldn’t Derek be an ordinary squishy human? As his fist flew up he grazed Derek’s shoulder. “You need to move faster Stiles. Again.” He went through the motions again and afterward stopped and rubbed his elbow. “The force should not come all from your arms when you throw your elbows back, but from your hips,” he reminded Stiles. “Yeah, yeah,” Stiles muttered, “from the hips.” “Again.” He did it three more times before Youssef declared it time to move to the next form.

***

“Let's stay limber. Run in place and try to kick yourself. Lift the legs high,” he demonstrated, “keep it up for one minute.” He walked out of the room.

This was ridiculous. Stiles could push and pull for days and Derek wouldn’t have budged. “You are ruining my lesson,” he complained under his breath, “Stupid werewolf strength.”

Derek glowered at him, “What do you want me to do? Crumple to the floor each time you try to hit me?”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “You could try to fake being human a little better is all I’m saying.”

Youssef returned, “Okay, that's enough. Now, someone is grabbing you from behind. Remember: drop, pull, use your elbow. Stiles attack Derek. Hold the arms loosely around the neck. You aren’t choking him yet.”

Stiles placed his hands around Derek’s neck resting his elbows on his shoulders. He clasped his hands together.

“Okay Derek, now drop, pull and use your elbow.”

Derek dropped down and Stiles fell into his back. He should have expected it, but it threw him completely off balance so that when Derek pulled down on his arms Stiles flipped over Derek’s shoulder and landed painfully on his back. Stiles sat up on the padded floor stunned.

Instead of admonishing Derek though Youssef laughed, “You didn’t even need the elbow! Stiles stay focused. You need to provide a counterbalance.”

Stiles flailed his hands looking incredulous. He got up slowly rubbing his lower back. God damn it. He moved back behind Derek and whispered harshly to him, “Are you trying to kill me?” He could feel a chuckle reverberate through the werewolf’s chest.

“Again,” Youssef instructed.

This time Stiles was ready as he dropped and Derek didn’t pull so hard. His elbow came up and hit Stiles in his padding.

“Good.”

When it came time to switch Stiles was relieved. Derek’s arms felt heavy on his shoulders. He was briefly worried that Derek wouldn’t budge when he tried to pull down on his arms. Derek complied but the weight on Stiles felt crushing. He threw his elbow back weakly.

“Stiles, I need more energy from you. Remember! You are fighting for your life! Focus.”

He pulled as hard as he could on Derek’s arms. Stiles started to sweat. There was no way he would ever be able to flip Derek. He shoved his elbow back hard making contact with Derek’s abs. His elbows were really getting a workout.

***

Stiles was grateful for the padding but the extra layer was hot and damn Derek was like a heater. At the next break Stiles wiped his face down.

“Good. Now we will keep warm by practicing our straight punch combination.” He went back to the closet and grabbed a pad. “One partner will hold while the other practices.”

Stiles held up the black thick pad as Youssef watched Derek’s form. He corrected him a few times, “Remember we want the impact of only the two knuckles,” he said and then had him continue.

Stiles tried his best to hold onto the padding but Derek’s punches were slowly pushing him across the room. It was difficult to hold his ground again the impact of the onslaught.

“Your turn Stiles.”

They switched places and Stiles slowly punched the pad.

“Good form Stiles. Now go faster.” Youssef left the room, “Keep going,” he called as he entered the lobby.

Imagining Derek’s face briefly, he increased his speed and smiled.

“What are you so happy about?” Derek asked.

Stiles smile widened, “Oh nothing.”

Youssef returned. “Now the last sequence. Stiles attack Derek from the front.”

Stiles hesitantly stepped in front of Derek. As Derek’s fingers touched his neck he felt as though the temperature in the room rose ten degrees. Get a grip. Derek felt Stiles’s pulse race under his fingertips. Stiles didn’t really think Derek would hurt him did he? He gently but firmly pulled down on Stiles’s neck and brought his right knee up into the padding he wore followed by his left. He lazily punched the pads with each fist and then stepped back. Stiles looked relieved. Youssef was watching him closely.

“Try again. This time with more force.”

Stiles looked slightly panicked as Derek stepped toward him.

“Relax,” he muttered as he put his hands on Stiles’s neck again. Syrupy brown eyes met his own and Stiles nodded. Derek went through the motions again but it felt as if Stiles was moving with him rather than against him. He practiced three more times and then it was time to switch.

He knew that he was the one sweating, but Jesus Christ, Derek’s skin felt so hot. He didn’t look like he had been bothered at all through the whole class and Stiles could tell he hadn’t broken a sweat. As he wrapped his fingers around the back of his neck he felt his pulse increase. He tried to calm himself. This is weird. I’m touching Derek. I’m supposed to try to disable a werewolf. At least Derek hadn’t crushed his neck during the previous exercise. He started to pull on Derek and he didn’t budge. Stiles locked eyes with him. He brought his right knee up into Derek’s abs again feeling like he was hitting a solid wall. He brought his left knee up with more strength but that only hurt his knee. Stiles wound up his right fist and brought it up into Derek. Ouch. Then weakly his left. They broke apart and Stiles shook his hands out.

“Remember to try to make impact with only your two knuckles,” Youssef chimed in, “Go again.”

Stiles gave it his all this time and came away with aching knees and sore hands.

“Maybe I should wear some padding,” Derek suggested.

Stiles gave him the evil eye. He could break his hand trying to slap Derek and he wouldn’t even get a scratch.

“I don’t think that will be necessary. We are almost finished. Go again Stiles.”

Stiles eased up on the pressure the next two times before Youssef told him to stop. It was absolutely pointless. He wasn’t going to be able to take Derek down and he was getting really tired.

“For our warm down you will do some conditioning. You can remove the padding now.”

Stiles released the Velcro straps and put the pad on the ground. His tee shirt was soaked with perspiration and clung to his chest and back. Youssef set them to doing push ups. Stiles felt his arms quaking underneath him after about twenty. “Keep going,” Youssef encouraged but after another minute he couldn’t take anymore and gave up. Stiles lay on the padded ground trying to catch his breath. He didn’t know what he had expected, but this had been more of a workout than he had bargained for.

Probably noticing that one of his students was no longer moving, Youssef called for them to stop. Stiles peeled himself off the floor to face their instructor. “This concludes your lesson. Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoyed the class and will continue to discover and benefit from the techniques.”

***

Stiles followed Youssef out of the room and Derek trailed behind him. Stiles reached into his pocket for his keys.

Derek stepped in front of him, “We need to talk.”

Stiles was sweaty, already feeling sore, tired and hungry. “Dude, not here,” he said his eyes indicating the girl behind the counter and Youssef standing nearby. “I’m sweaty, tired and hungry.”

Derek looked as if he didn’t understand the words coming out of his mouth.

“I’m going home. You can come by if you want. We can talk there. My dad is working tonight.”

Derek nodded.

Stiles walked back to his Jeep and twisted his neck around trying to relieve some of the tension in his shoulders. The Jeep roared to life and Stiles started back home. He pulled up outside his house and opened the door leaving it unlocked. Slowly, he ascended the stairs and dragged himself into the bathroom. He stripped off his sweaty clothes leaving them in a pile on the floor and stepped into the hot shower. The hot water felt really good on his tense muscles. He soaped up and then rinsed. Turning the water off, Stiles grabbed a towel and rubbed it over his head quickly then wrapped it around his waist stepping back into his room. Derek was leaning against his window. “Jesus dude!” he started. Stiles noticed that Derek was back in his black jeans and leather jacket. His eyes raked down his leaning figure and he realized he should probably put some clothes on.

***

Stiles was still dripping from his shower. Derek could smell the scent of his soap coming off his skin. Something like cucumbers and cardamom. He was more muscular than Derek had expected, not that Derek had expected anything. It shouldn’t surprise him really. Stiles did play Lacrosse. That must be it. He tried to turn his thoughts away to more pressing matters. Stiles pulled out a tee shirt with a picture of a double helix on it and something written underneath that Derek couldn’t quite catch. He also pulled out a pair of boxers and sweats. He walked back into the bathroom and came back with his sweats on.

“So when did you get back?”

“Last night.”

“Where are Scott and Isaac?”

“I told him to text you!” he said exasperatedly, “Did he not tell you?”

“He sent me a text saying that he and Isaac are in Haiti.”

Stiles clapped his hands together, “Well there you go.”

Derek glared at him, “Why are they in Haiti?”

“Because they’re charitable souls?” Stiles offered.

Derek was not amused.

Stiles rushed on, “They are doing Habitat for Humanity there. You know rebuilding homes.”

Derek cocked his head at Stiles and then pushed off from the wall walking toward him.

“It was sort of a last minute thing,” Stiles said fishing out a pair of socks from his drawer.

“Last minute? They decided to go to Haiti on a whim?”

Stiles sighed putting on his socks, “Ms. McCall decided it would be a good idea to get Scott away for a bit.”

“Away from what?”

Stiles rubbed a hand across his face. He stood up from his bed and started down stairs. “You hungry?” he called behind him.

Derek followed him down.

“Why are they really in Haiti?”

Stiles pulled out the leftover lasagna from the fridge. “Lasagna?”

He didn’t wait for an answer but set out two plates. He put a big slice of lasagna on each plate microwaving Derek’s plate first. He could feel Derek glaring at him as he removed the plate and set it down on the kitchen table.

“Stiles,” he started in an ‘I’m losing my patience’ kind of voice.

Stiles put his own plate in the microwave and got out two forks. Suddenly he felt exhausted, “Will you just give me a minute?”

The microwave dinged and he sat down catty-corner from an angry looking Derek. Stiles picked up his fork and took a bite. The warm food was exactly what he needed. He took another forkful before speaking. Derek hasn’t touched his food.

“It’s not laced with wolfsbane,” he said nodding his head at the plate.

Derek said nothing but continued to stare him down.

“Since you left, well since the ritual really, we have been um, well experiencing the consequences.”

“What consequences?”

“You know, Deaton said that there would be a price for that location spell or whatever,” he said nonchalantly taking another bite.

Derek reluctantly picked up his fork and took a bite. It was delicious. “What does that have to do with Scott and Isaac being gone?”

Stiles pushed some fallen bits of meat and zucchini around with his fork. “Allison, Scott and I, well we are all experiencing after effects. His mom thought it would be good for him to get away from everything for a while. Help him to recover. And they took Isaac along too.”

Derek watched Stiles carefully. “And Isaac?”

“As far as I know he isn’t experiencing anything too unusual. He’s his normal moody, emo self. But Ms. McCall didn’t want to leave him alone. Also she thought this would look good on Scott’s college apps.”

“What about Allison?”

“Argent took her back to France. She said something about going to see some witch in Provence but I couldn’t tell if she was being serious.”

Derek thought about it, if there were Druids and Hunters why not French witches? “And the banshee?”

“Lydia went to London to visit Jackson.”

Derek was surprised at this, “Wasn’t she seeing that twin? Where are they?”

“I don’t know where Tweedledee and Tweedledum are, hopefully far away from here.”

“So you are the only one still in Beacon Hills?”

Stiles hung his head over his plate and raised his fork.

God damn it. Why had everyone left? What was the point of coming back here if everyone had made other plans. He looked carefully at Stiles eating his food slowly, he looked exhausted. “What exactly are you experiencing?”

“Let’s just say the three of us haven’t been sleeping well.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Stiles needed to fill it, “So where is Cora?”

“She is with some family friends.”

“In town?”

“No.”

The silence filled the kitchen again.

“Why were you taking that lesson?” Derek asked him.

“My dad got it for me as a gift. Thought I should get out of the house more, try something new.”

“It was for two?”

“He didn’t realize Scott was going to be gone.”

“You didn’t want to wait until he got back?”

“I didn’t think they would give me such a hard time about it.”

Derek looked contemplative, “I thought it was pretty good.”

“Glad you enjoyed throwing me around like a ragdoll,” Stiles replied sarcastically.

“So you think you’ll do another lesson?”

“I think my bat and I do just fine.”

“It was pretty good stuff.”

Stiles shrugged and then started to laugh to himself, “You should develop a werewolf training course and include Krav Maga lessons if you thought it was so helpful,” Stiles teased. That would be the day. Derek as some sort of Werewolf Sensei. Derek scowled at him. He noticed that Derek’s plate was clean.

“Liked my lasagna huh?”

“What? Oh yeah.”

“You want more?”

Derek just looked at him as if he were unsure how to answer.

“Relax dude. It’s just lasagna. I’m going to take that as a yes.” He cut another piece from the casserole dish and prepped him a smaller plate. He put the hot plate in front of Derek, “You should be buying me dinner after the beating I took.”

“Sorry,” Derek muttered into his plate.

“There was no way that was ever going to be a fair fight,” Stiles said folding himself down into the chair. “Your crazy werewolf strength against, well, me. I’m the brains, not the brawn of this pack.”

“You held your own,” Derek offered, “You can be pretty quick.”

Stiles rolled his eyes and rose to take the dishes to the sink. He rinsed them off and put them in the dishwasher turning back around.

Derek stood next to the table, “Thanks for dinner.”

“Yeah.”

There was silence. Derek knew he should probably leave. They didn’t really have anything else to talk about.

***

Pack. Stiles was still pack. Derek still felt conflicted and annoyed at coming back to Beacon Hills with almost all of his pack gone, but Stiles was still pack. And it seemed that maybe he was going to need help. Stiles had been vague as to what was actually going with him. It was his duty to make sure he was okay. Derek pulled up to his apartment. It was dark as he entered the cavernous living room. The empty feeling would go away eventually. Maybe he would talk to Isaac, he could move back in, if he wanted. Derek felt shitty about throwing him out like that. He vaguely wondered where Stiles learned to cook. Maybe it was something that he had just picked up. But as much as he didn’t want to think too much about Stiles, the savory lasagna sat well with him. He hadn’t had a home cooked meal in a long time. Steven and Elise had ordered take out when they had dinner together in New York. Derek felt a little guilty about crashing Stiles’s class. Of course it wasn’t a fair match up, but then again it never was against a werewolf.

Chapter Text

When he woke the next day Stiles was sore as hell. He groaned as he rolled over in bed mentally cataloguing where everything hurt on his body. His abs hurt, his lower back felt tender and he didn’t want to move. He felt like he had played human punching bag yesterday, which was actually a pretty accurate description of his lesson, but something was different. Something was off. He lay in bed staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t place it but something was nagging at the back of his mind.

As he entered his bathroom to brush his teeth he really felt his hamstrings. Stiles looked in the mirror and saw that his elbows were black and blue. As he brushed his teeth he looked at himself in the mirror. Good thing none of Derek’s elbows had connected with his face or he would probably look like a raisin right now. Ha! That was a terrifying thought. Wait a second. He spit out his toothpaste onto the mirror. Terrifying thought. That was it! He hadn’t woken up screaming. He hadn’t had a nightmare. At least not one that he remembered anyway. He pumped his fist into the air before trying to wipe down the mirror haphazardly with the back of his hand. His mind raced. But why?

He looked at himself through the now streaky and spotted mirror. What had he done differently? Could it have really been the class? Maybe Ms. McCall was right and he did just need to tire himself out. He was exhausted by the time he went to bed yesterday. He needed to write this down in his notebook. Stiles rinsed his mouth and went over to his desk. He moved around articles and papers he had been reading but his notebook wasn’t there. He looked under his desk, under his bed, and on the floor of his closet. No dice. Stiles started to worry. He thought he had had it in his room yesterday. Stiles bounded down the stairs. The notebook lay on the dining room table open. He felt immediate relief.

He brought the notebook back up to his room and sat at his desk making notes. After writing for a while he went on his computer and time flew by. By the time Stiles checked it was almost 4 p.m. He told Ms. McCall that he would get their mail and water their plants for them. He grabbed his keys and Scott’s, he really didn’t want to hit any rush hour traffic. He dashed out of the house whistling to himself. This had been a good day.

***

Derek swung into Stiles’s room from the window disappointed to find an empty room. He wanted to check in on him. As he walked around the room he could tell Stiles had been there recently. Briefly he considered waiting for him, but who knows when he would be back, or the Sheriff for that matter. Derek walked by the messy desk. A notebook was sitting open. He couldn’t help but take a peak. It was the thing that smelled most recently of Stiles. Maybe it would give him a clue as to where he was. Also, Stiles hadn’t been too forthcoming about what was going on and so if he found himself a bit more clued in Derek would be grateful. He flipped through the pages casually at first. Mostly it was just Stiles’s notes about a variety of supernatural things: kanima, werewolves, druids, leylines and now it seemed that he was studying sleep deprivation. He had scribbled little notes on about setting alarms and sleeping periods. Apparently he was experimenting on himself. Derek also noted the little doodles throughout the notebooks of wolves. One in particular had thicker eyebrows and was referred to as “Sourwolf” sometimes. Derek didn’t know what to make of that but found himself smiling. It was an amusing picture.

He felt a little guilty reading some of the notes. Stiles described waking up screaming night after night after having terrible nightmares. He didn’t go into details about the dreams but made very short descriptive statements about his state after each night: “Couldn’t breathe. Almost had a panic attack. Screamed for less than a minute. Dad said he had to shake me harder to get me to wake up.” The notes were painful to read. He flipped to the back of the notebook and saw a chart Stiles was making. He had broken down the symptoms roughly into heart rate, breathing, muscle soreness, temperature, vocalizations, re-entry. In the far left column were dates. The other columns listed the variables and then Stiles had started to score each variable on a one to five scale. Fuck. This had been happening for more than two weeks. Were things really this bad? He decided he needed to see for himself. If Stiles was in trouble it was Derek’s duty to help him. Stiles was pack and if he was suffering Derek knew that he wouldn’t feel right until he had tried to help.

***

Stiles went out for a jog. His feet pounded against the pavement as he made his way around the neighborhood. Soft bits of fluff fell down upon his shoulders and head as he continued around the corner. Was it snowing? He didn’t feel cold. The sky started to cloud over turning a mauve color. The bits fell lazily from the sky looking like dirty snow. When Stiles rubbed his bare forearm the stuff streaked across his skin. He continued running until he found himself approaching his house. Slowing down he decided to check the mail. As his fingers touched the cool metal, opening the flap of the mailbox, it suddenly turned soft and downy. The metal disintegrated into a pile at his feet. Dust flew up into his eyes and Stiles coughed. It was getting harder to breathe. Up the steps he went and noticed the front door was wide open.

“Dad?” he called out suddenly nervous.

“In here,” came his father’s reply. Stiles walked into the kitchen and saw his father sitting at the table reading the newspaper.

“Have you noticed anything strange? The weather is really weird right now. I think it might be snowing.”

His father’s face was obscured by the paper, “It is December Stiles. Contrary to what people may think, it does snow in California.”

“I know,” he said, “But this was different.” He walked toward his father. “Dad? Are you listening to me?” Stiles grabbed the paper and it too disintegrated into a small pile. Ash. It was ash. He looked at his father.

The Sheriff looked annoyed. “I was reading that Stiles,” he said wearily getting up. He walked over to the fridge and poured himself a glass of milk.

Stiles looked down at the pile and then back to his father.

“It’s okay Stiles, everything is going to be all right.” He felt his father’s arms wrap around him, his grip tight but then quickly starting to loosen.

Stiles pulled back. His father’s arms were turning to ash. They fell to the floor in a puff of dust and the rest of his torso started to turn gray. “Dad!” Stiles screamed. The Sheriff looked down in surprise and opened his mouth but when he did the only thing to come out was ash.

Stiles screamed and started to cough violently. It was everywhere, getting in his eyes, his mouth, down into his lungs. He opened his eyes despite the stinging sensation and watched as his father disappeared in front of him. “Noooooo!” he screamed sucking in ash. The coughing grew more violent and Stiles sank to his knees.

***

He woke with a start gasping for breath. Desperately trying to orient himself he stared at his dresser. He was in bed. After a few minutes of deep breathing he got up and looked out the window. The cruiser was in the driveway and it was most definitely not snowing. Stiles flew down the stairs to find his father sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.

He looked up hearing Stiles. “You okay?”

Stiles nodded.

He took in Stiles wild eyes and got up walking slowly towards him. “Stiles?”

He flinched as his father lay a hand on his shoulder and pulled back looking scared. His father looked at him with eyes full of concern. Then he launched himself at his dad hugging him tightly.

“Easy, does it,” the Sheriff said.

He let the relief wash over him. He was awake. It was just a dream. Just another dream. He let go of his dad and busied himself pouring a cup of coffee.

After a few minutes of silence the Sheriff asked, “Another dream?” He didn’t like to use the word nightmare.

Stiles nodded sipping down his sugary coffee.

“No screaming this time though.”

“Really?” Stiles asked a bit curiously.

“I didn’t hear anything.”

Stiles thought about this, it was different. “That’s progress I guess.”

“Maybe whatever is it is wearing off.”

“I didn’t have a dream two nights ago.”

His father looked hopeful. “You didn’t?”

“Not one that I can remember anyway. You were already at work when I woke up. I just woke up. Like normal.”

“Maybe that class did you some good.”

Stiles lifted his shoulders and tried to stretch his neck, “Maybe.” He still felt a bit sore and his elbows hurt.

***

Derek called Cora a few times and she seemed to be as okay as she could be. Derek’s thoughts went back to Stiles. He had been vague about not being able to sleep well. He wondered if Stiles was sleeping now. Before he really knew what he was doing he found himself a few blocks from the Stilinski house. Derek got out of his car and walked toward the home noting that the Sheriff’s cruiser was gone. All the lights in the house were off. As he neared the house he wondered if he should just leave. Clearly he was asleep. But then Derek heard Stiles’s heart rate spike.

He quickly jumped up and slid in through Stiles’s bedroom window. He could hear that Stiles’s breathing had become erratic. What the hell was going on? It looked as though he were on the verge on having some sort of fit. Derek crept over the bed. Stiles was just in a pair of boxers, his covers were knotted around his feet and his exposed torso was twisting around. Stiles flailed in his sleep. Derek stepped closer and gently put a hand on Stiles’s forehead. He could feel an icy cold and pain. The cold seemed to emanate from his sleeping body. Derek slowly sapped the pain away from Stiles until his breathing grew calmer. He stopped moving around and lay still but shivered every once in a while. Derek let go of his forehead and bend down to retrieve the blankets. He draped them back over Stiles and felt his head again. He was going to have a talk with Deaton. What the hell was going on? He had never felt anything like that before. He knew what pain felt like, but this was something else, it felt somehow more sinister.

***

Stiles didn’t wake up screaming again but felt terrible. His sleep had been restless but maybe he was making progress. The whole wearing himself out thing. But maybe he needed to continue. He felt frustrated not being in control of his own mind even more so than usual. He took a hot shower trying to wring out the last of the muscle soreness he was experiencing from the other day. Stiles padded down stairs and poured himself a bowl of Lucky Charms plucking out a few of the marshmallows and setting them aside. He fixed himself a cup of coffee and dropped in the spare marshmallows. Activities. Activities. He needed to do something other than reading. Or at least have something to look forward to. Stiles thumbed through the envelopes his father gave him. Which one should he do next? Something that will give him some sort of adrenaline rush. He wished he was eighteen already so that he could go skydiving. But he should really wait for Scott to do that. It would be an epic spring break.

He picked up a meditation book from the box they had taken in from the garage. He worried about how little he remembered about his mom sometimes. Sitting at the dining room table Stiles read through the book and made notes. He cleared off the table before his father got home and they had dinner together. His dad wanted to watch a college football game but if Stanford wasn’t paying Stiles wasn’t interested. Dragging himself up the stairs he took his book and flopped onto his bed to read some more before going to sleep. After about twenty minutes Derek popped in through his window.

“Do you ever use the front door?”

“Your dad is down there.”

“So? He knows who you are.”

Derek mumbled something that he didn’t catch.

“You just love to scare me.”

Derek raised his eyebrows at him.

“How are you feeling?” Derek asked him after a few moments of silence.

“Just peachy keen.”

“Stiles,” he warned in that voice that indicated he didn’t find Stiles the least bit amusing.

“I’m still not great,” he admitted, “I need to keep myself occupied.”

Then Stiles had a crazy idea. “Will you come to a class with me?”

“You’re going to another one?” Derek asked surprised. Clearly he was thrown off.

“This is a different one. New place.”

Derek stared at him for a few seconds, “Okay.”

“Great!” Stiles said cheerfully, “Same drill I think, wear something comfortable. No jeans.”

“When?”

“Thursday at 2 p.m. I can pick you up,” Stiles offered.

Derek cocked his head at him and looked suspicious.

“What? No sense in both of us driving. Fine. You pick me up. One thirty?”

Derek scowled but then nodded once, “Fine.”

***

Within seconds of Derek pulling up in his Camaro Stiles came bounding down the stairs. He opened the passenger door and sat down without speaking. He couldn’t hear the noise over the engine but he could see Stiles’s knees were bouncing up and down.

Derek looked over at him and Stiles smiled back, “Ready?” He seemed very eager.

“Calm down,” he commanded.

Stiles stopped his knees. Derek worked hard to stop his grin; it was always satisfying when someone obeyed a direct command. He shook his head to stop his train of thought. “Where is this place?”

Stiles smirked, “It’s off of Broadway and 20th downtown.”

They drove in silence for a few minutes. Stiles reached for the radio and Derek smacked his hand down.

“Come on!”

Derek looked over at him briefly giving him a stern look, “My car, my rules.”

“Okay, Mr. Sourwolf. What do you want to listen to?”

“Silence.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. After a few minutes he drummed his fingers on the dash tapping out a song that Derek couldn’t quite place. He ignored Stiles and focused on the road. They pulled up about twenty minutes later to what looked like a converted warehouse.

***

“This is not a Krav Maga class,” he eked out through clenched teeth. What the hell was Stiles playing at? Derek looked around the massive indoor space.

“I never said it was another Krav Maga class.”

“What is this?”

“Trapeze.”

“Are you planning to join the circus?” he asked trying to keep his anger in check.

“Ha, ha. It’s supposed to be an adrenaline rush. Plus you have to be very strong and flexible to do it. So, in my book that counts as a workout.”

“It‘s high,” he murmured to himself.

“Not afraid of heights are you?”

Derek felt his pulse quicken. He wasn’t afraid of heights. He just wasn’t particularly fond of them. He had jumped from many high places before. It was that jumping from high places was automatically associated with danger. Whether running for his life or potentially having to end a life. Either way nothing good had come from being so up high.

“Relax dude, they have a safety net. Plus it’s not like you won’t heal.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about.”

Stiles colored a bit. “I’ll be fine.”

***

A tall guy with short black hair came toward them, “Welcome to Travis’s Trapeze! I’m Travis the owner and your instructor for this afternoon.” He looked like he was in his thirties.

Stiles noticed that Derek looked a bit nervous. “Hi I’m Stiles,” he said reaching out his hand, “and this is Miguel.”

Derek looked at him incredulously. His expression read: Not this again. Stiles smiled widely as Travis turned to Derek to shake his hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Travis continued. He walked toward a giant apparatus. “This is where you guys will be today, up on Big Bertha.”

Stiles laughed, “What?”

“That’s what we call the swinging apparatus, Ol’ Big B.”

This was going to be excellent.

“Can’t wait to test her out,” Stiles said enthusiastically.

Travis looked over at Derek who looked somewhat horrified. “Don’t worry, she’s real gentle,” Travis said patting Derek on the back.

Derek looked like he wanted to break the man’s hand. Travis drew back his hand and gave Stiles an unsure look.

“He’s just shy,” Stiles winked at Travis.

“Anyway trapeze, as you will soon find out, combines grace and athleticism. It is a lot harder than it looks and as is the case with so many other things, the trick is making it look like easy. First we’ll have a demonstration. Ashley!”

A small blond girl waved from up top the platform.

“Ashley and Adam are going to demonstrate a hand off.”

Stiles craned his neck up to watch. Adam was standing on the opposite platform.

“Go!”

The girl took the handle in her arms and swung out and off of the small platform. She quickly somehow was then hanging upside down by her knees and facing the opposite direction, her hands stretching out in back of her. Suddenly her hands were gripped by Adam’s and she released off the bar. He swung her up and she somersaulted midair before he grasped her hands again. She launched into the air yet again, did another somersault and then landed gracefully in the safety netting below.

“Holy shit,” Stiles muttered.

“Now don’t get too worried. They are professionals. We don’t expect you to be able to do releases today, but that is what we are going to work toward. Thank you Ashley and Adam,” he called out to them.

The girl waved to them with a big smile on her face and began to work her way off the net. He looked over at Derek who was shaking his head back and forth and sighing.

Stiles slapped a hand on his shoulder, “Cheer up Miguel. I’m sure a big strong guy like you can pull that off.”

Derek gave him a death glare but Stiles just grinned. This was going to be fun.

***

Stiles decided that he would go first.

“We are going to start off with just some basic moves,” Travis said as he strapped Stiles into a safety harness. The thickly padded harness went around his waist.

“Now I want you to jump up and grab the bar.”

Stiles gripped the bar and hung.

“That’s good, you need a lot of upper body strength as we trapeze artists tend to spend a lot of time hanging around.” He smiled at Derek as if waiting for him to understand his pun. “Anyway,” he said moving on, “What you want to do now is start swinging your legs back and forth to gain some momentum.”

Travis put his hand on Stiles’s low back and started to push him forward helping him to swing back and forth. “Now the trick is to get your knees up, tuck them under and try to get your lower legs over the bar.”

Stiles continued to swing from the bar and Travis put his hand on his back again to guide him, “Now tuck your knees!”

Stiles tried to make it but couldn’t get his legs around the bar.

“Let’s try again. Curl your knees toward your body like you are doing a sit up and then get those legs over the bar.”

It took Stiles three more tries but finally he got his legs over and bar and was swinging upside down.

“Just like a little monkey!” Travis said proudly, “Now reach your arms forward. That’s it.”

Stiles practiced the move three more times, arching his back and reaching his hands forward.

Derek watched Stiles’s back arch backward and tried to focus. The next thing he knew Travis was unstrapping Stiles and turning toward him.

“Your turn Miguel.”

He reluctantly stepped forward and helped Travis finish tightening the harness.

“You saw what we just did, we are going to do the same thing with you. Hang, swing then get the legs over the bar and reach forward. Got it?”

Derek nodded and reached up for the bar. He had no problem swinging from the bar but getting his legs up was harder than it looked.

“It is a bit cumbersome to do especially for someone so well built,” he said admiring Derek’s form, “but we’ll get there. Stiles, you are thinner and more lanky, makes for an easier time of it, but Miguel here is going to have the advantage of having a lot of upper body strength, which you are lacking. Why don’t we change your stance,” he suggested when Derek tried again and failed to get his legs up, “I think you need a wider stance. Put your arms further apart on the bar, that way you will have more room to work with.”

Derek started to swing from the bar and this time got his legs up and over hanging upside down. His shirt crept up past his midriff.

“Don’t forget the arms!” Travis reminded him.

Stiles was having fun watching Derek struggle to get his knees over the bar but when he did it successfully in three tries he had a whole other view to appreciate. Derek’s shirt rode up and he could see his abs and a trail of hair leading down into his pants. Dear god. Why am I staring at him like that? Stiles turned away for a moment feeling his cheeks flush. He turned back taking a few deep breaths but watching Derek’s muscles flex was turning into some sort of trigger. His arms grasped the bar and he gracefully turned himself upside down and stretched toward Stiles. He looked very flexible. Stiles wondered how flexible he actually was. Must think PG thoughts, PG! He shook his head again and tried to listen to Travis.

“Now that we have that part down we can work on some releases. We want to reverse what we just did. You want to untuck your legs and come back to swinging down like a pendulum.”

Derek tried and failed on the first attempt.

“You need more momentum, swing the body back and reach up to grab the bar, unhook your legs and swing down.”

Frustrated Derek reached out his arms and then quickly brought them back in gripping the bar once again and trying to get his legs off the bar. It took him two more tries before he got it.

“Very good! Excellent work! Now Stiles, you’ve seen how it is done in combination, do you think you can give it a try?”

“You bet!”

Travis put his hand on Derek’s back to steady him. He unstrapped him and put Stiles back inside the harness.

“Now you were watching Miguel. Remember what he did.”

Stiles nodded and hung from the bar, swung forward, curled in and got his legs over the bar. Then he reached forward but didn’t have enough momentum to help him swing back the other way and swung upside down lamely.

“This is where the upper body strength is really an advantage,” Travis said looking back at him with a wink. “Good try!” he encouraged Stiles.

Derek watched as Stiles grew more frustrated. Finally he was able to grab the bar again but still struggled to get his legs back underneath him.

“You’re almost there.”

Stiles's shirt kept falling up and Derek couldn’t help but look at his exposed stomach. He was so pale. He followed the trail of dark hair as it snaked its way down his lower stomach disappearing into his sweats. A triumphant cry broke Derek from his staring. Finally Stiles managed to complete the routine and get back to a vertical position.

“Very good! Now try it again. We want the transition to look as smooth as possible.”

Derek looked back at Stiles and noticed how smooth his skin looked. Stop it. Instead he stretched out his arms and tried to loosen his shoulders. This was going to be a very long lesson.

***

They climbed up the tall ladder to a very narrow platform with Derek behind him and Travis in front. Fuck this is high. Very, very high. Stiles tried to calm himself. These people were professionals. They did this for a living. People had these lessons all the time. Nothing would go wrong. He thought back to the liability waiver that he had signed and briefly considered crossing himself. He looked back at Derek who scowled unhappily and like he was concentrating really hard on looking down. That was weird. Don’t they tell you specifically not to look down when you are up high? When they reached the platform Travis helped haul him up. He went back to give Derek a hand but he did fine on his own.

“Well here we are. Now this is just like we practiced on the ground. Same thing,” he stressed.

“Don’t look down. You are just going to grab the bar and do what you did before. Got it?” Stiles nodded.

“I’ll show you first.”

Travis chalked up his hands, gripped the bar and swung out, in about three seconds he was upside down and Adam was coming to meet him from the other side. Their hands connected and Adam swung Travis up onto the opposite platform.

“Ready?” he called from the other side.

“Stiles you go first.”

It looked easy. Stiles swallowed thickly and shook out his shoulders trying to psych himself up.

“Just like on the ground,” Travis reminded him.

Stiles nodded and stepped forward. He chalked up his hands and brushed them together to get rid of the excess dust.

“Derek grab the bar!”

Derek held the bar in front of him steadying it. Stiles gripped it.

“Bend your knees a bit.”

Stiles bent them a bit and looked forward at Travis across the way.

“I’m right here. You can do this!”

Stiles took a deep breath and then launched himself off the platform.

What a rush! He sailed through the air gripping the bar tightly. Stiles swung forward and back twice and was on his third swing when Travis yelled “Legs!” Stiles tried to curl his legs in and get them over the bar but failed. God damn, this was a lot harder than it looked. He struggled to swing out again to build momentum and clung to the bar for dear life. He tried to lift his legs again but his body felt like dead weight and his arms were trembling. He was losing momentum. Eventually he was still hanging in mid air. Stiles felt his cheeks burn.

“That’s okay. It was only the first run. You’ll get it. Just drop!” Travis yelled when Stiles had stopped swaying.

Stiles gripped the bar as if his life depended on it.

“It’s okay, just let go. The net will catch you! Really it’s no big deal.”

Stiles looked down and immediately regretted it. It was a long way down. His vision started to blur a bit and his arms were quaking.

Derek could hear his heart rate spike. “Stiles let go!” Derek called out.

Stiles took a deep breath, closed his eyes and let go. He fell into the net and bounced a few times. It really goes against all your natural instincts to just let go when you are three stories high. He lay there for a moment when he was finally still. Then he started to crawl toward the edge of the net feeling his legs and arms shaking. Whether it was due to the force of the exertion or the adrenaline he couldn’t say.

***

Derek saw Travis climb down and help unhook Stiles from the harness.

“You’ll get it next time,” he encouraged.

He directed Stiles back to the ladder and up they climbed to join Derek.

“Okay, Miguel your turn.”

Travis held the bar out in front of him. Derek looked over at Stiles who was still recovering from his first go. Derek gripped the bar and bent his knees.

“Okay, go!” Travis shouted.

Derek jumped off the platform and swung back and forth.

“Legs up!” Travis cried.

Derek pulled his legs up and in placing them over the bar.

“Great job!” Hold it!”

Derek swung back and forth.

“Arms!”

He reached his arms forward and arched his back.

“Now grab the bar again!”

He curled himself inward and grabbed the bar, swinging back and forth once more.

“Now legs reversed!”

He unhooked his legs until he was vertical again.

“Fantastic! Now drop right onto your butt!”

Derek formed a ninety degree angle with his legs out in front of him and bounced down onto the net.

“Perfect!” Travis cried from up above.

“Did you see that Stiles? Perfect form!”

Stiles had to admit it looked impressive. Stupid werewolf strength and agility. Derek was climbing up the ladder back to the platform.

“Did you see what Miguel did? You just need to try again Stiles,” Travis encouraged. He turned to Derek as he joined them on the platform, “Great job!”

“Yeah good job,” Stiles muttered.

“Okay, Stiles here we go.” Travis held the bar in front of him. “Remember swing your legs up on the back swing, use the momentum.”

Stiles shook out his arms and dipped his hands into the chalk dust. He grabbed the bar and took a few deep breaths.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Travis said.

Stiles saw that Derek looked a bit worried. He readied himself and then flung forward into the air. His arms hurt from holding his weight, as he swung forward and back he heard Travis shout, “Legs!”

Stiles concentrated on his abs and tried to curl himself up but missed it again. He swung his legs wildly desperately trying to gain momentum.

“It’s okay, try again. Come down.”

Stiles dropped down into the safety net. It wasn’t as scary the second time. He found his footing on the ground once again feeling shaky.

He watched Derek go again executing the sequence with precision. Damn it. He looked strong and graceful flying through the air. Stiles watched his muscles working and his shirt falling down exposing his perfect abs once again. Derek arched his back reaching his hands forward and then on the back swing gripped the bar once again uncurling himself from being upside down. He dropped down into the net and joined Stiles on the ground. “Stupid werewolf strength,” he muttered again knowing Derek could hear him. Derek gave him a small grin as Travis praised him from above. “Wonderful! Just wonderful Miguel!” “After you,” he said leading Stiles back to the ladder.

On his third try Stiles managed to get his legs up on the bar and get upside down but he couldn’t get himself back to vertical again until the fifth time.

“YES!!!” he cried as he landed in the net. He pumped his fist when he was back on the ground.

“Well done Stiles! I knew you could do it,” Travis beamed down at him.

Derek continued to sail through the air with ease. When Stiles was able to do the sequence twice more without problems they moved on.

“Next we are going to do a catch and release. The first part of the sequence is to prepare you for the catch. Adam over there,” he pointed to the other platform, “is going to join us now. He will time his swing with yours. He is going to catch you, grab your hands and then you release your legs from the bar. Then he will swing you back and forth, building momentum for you to do a somersault and then land. We will demonstrate.”

He grabbed the bar, “Ready Adam?”

“Ready!” the other man called back.

“Watch closely now.”

Travis leapt off the platform and quickly pulled himself into an upside down position, he reached forward swinging once and then Adam gripped his arms. Travis released his legs from the bar and was swung back and forth. Then he and Adam released their hands and Travis spun in the air before landing on his feet in the net, bouncing twice, and walking over to the edge to get back down to the floor.

Travis climbed back up to join them. “I’ll be leading you from up here. Miguel, why don’t you go first this time?”

Derek stepped to the edge of the platform. The apparatus was daunting to look at but he felt confident. He had done well with the previous sequences. He gripped the bar and readied himself.

“Go!”

He bent his knees and launched himself forward. He flew through the air and soon found himself reaching toward the other man. When his hands met his, he felt a strong, reassuring grip.

“Release!” Adam cried as soon as their hands met.

Derek lifted his legs and let the bar go, his body swinging down. Adam gave a grunt as he swung Derek’s weight. He was surprised the other man could hold him but this was what he did for a living. He swung Derek forcefully backward and then they swung forward again.

“I’m going to let you go,” Adam said struggling and released his hands.

Derek tried to do a flip which was only partially successful and landed on his back bouncing into the net. He climbed down from the net and stretched his arms out, pulling one across his chest underneath one of his elbows and then the other. Derek rolled his shoulders back and forth and then climbed back up to the platform. Travis was giving Stiles a pep talk. He put had his hands on Stiles shoulders and was facing him, “You can do this. You just need to focus your strength.” He rubbed Stiles shoulders and Derek felt himself getting uncomfortable. “Ready?” Stiles nodded determinedly at him. Travis held the bar for him. Derek nodded at Stiles in a form of silent encouragement. Stiles looked determined. He turned and faced the air. “Adam will get you. You just need to meet him halfway.” He bent his knees and jumped.

Stiles flew through the air and focused on getting upside as quickly as possible. He stretched his hands out and arched his back to give himself more extension. He felt rough hands grip his and heard a shout of, “Let go!” He pulled his legs off the bar and felt himself swing through the air. He looked up at Adam who smiled at him, “Good job! I’m going to release you on the next swing. Ready?” “Okay,” he said reluctantly and felt Adam let go on the next backswing. Stiles sailed backwards and turned in the air landing on his back in the net. His heart was hammering in his chest. What a rush! “Woo!!!” he cried still bouncing up and down. He could hear Travis give a jubilant cry, “You did it!”

Stiles looked up at the platform and saw Derek and Travis staring down at him. Even Derek was smiling. Stiles crawled off the safety net and watched Derek go again. This time he somersaulted perfectly upon release. Stiles clapped him on the back, “You’re really good at this!” Derek started walking toward the ladder again and Stiles followed. After three more leaps Stiles was tired. His arms already ached. So he sat on a mat on the floor and watched Derek over and over again. He still couldn’t get over how graceful and strong he looked. I mean Derek always looked strong, it was hard to ignore all those muscles, but graceful wasn’t an adjective that Stiles would have otherwise associated with the werewolf.

He realized he was enjoying his peaks at Derek’s exposed body a little bit too much when he heard Travis next to him, “Mmm. Break me off a piece of that. Right?”

Stiles felt himself flush.

“What was that?” Derek asked coming off the net.

Stiles coughed, “Kit Kats!” he replied a little too quickly, “We were talking about Kit Kats.”

He felt his pulse increase and hoped Derek didn’t know he was lying. He simply gave them a funny look and climbed back up the platform.

“Alright my little bird, time to finish up.”

Derek completed a final round with Adam and then joined them back on the ground.

“You were excellent students. I hope you had a good time.”

“Thanks Travis! We had a great time,” Stiles beamed.

“You were both fantastic! Hope to see you back here. Bye Miguel! Bye Stiles! Don’t be strangers.”

***

It was cool when they stepped out of the warehouse. They walked back to the car and Stiles felt tired and achy. Derek drove them back towards the Stilinski house.

“I’m starving,” Stiles said attempting to sneakily turn on the radio.

“I could eat,” Derek replied stopping Stiles’s hand in its tracks.

He put his hand down sheepishly. Derek drove them to Rico’s Pizza.

“I don’t think I’ve eaten at this place before.”

“This is as close to New York pizza that you can get in Beacon Hills,” he said walking up to the place. He held the door open for Stiles.

“Did you eat a ton of pizza when you were in New York?”

“I wish I had eaten more.”

Derek didn’t ask Stiles what he wanted just ordered a large pepperoni and two sodas. He handed Stiles the cups.

“Coke?” he asked Derek.

“Sprite. Easy on the ice.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, “Yes your majesty,” and headed toward the soda machine. He filled up Derek’s cup a third of the way with ice and then filled it with Sprite, filling his own cup halfway full with ice and opting for root beer. He walked over to a booth and joined Derek. Stiles fiddled with the plastic number on the end of their table. A server came over a few minutes later with a hot pizza and two paper plates. Stiles moaned after swallowing his first bite, “This is so good.”

Derek felt a tingling sensation down his spine and shivered. He took a sip of his Sprite and continued to chew in silence. Stiles slurped noisily on his straw. Derek watched the dark liquid travel up the straw and into Stiles’s eager mouth. He looked down at his pizza determined not to stare at Stiles. “I would be eating non-stop if I went to New York,” Stiles commented. Derek just grunted and finished his slice and reaching for another. Stiles peppered him with questions about his trip in between bites.

“Did Cora like it?”

“I think so.”

“Did she remember any of it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why were you so weird about telling me where you guys went?”

Derek narrowed his eyes at Stiles.

“Right, right. Safety reasons. I wouldn’t tell anyone you know.”

“I know,” he admitted reluctantly, “but you can never be too careful.”

“So where did you go?”

“We went to Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, you know, some touristy stuff.”

Stiles laughed, “I can’t picture you doing the whole tourist thing.”

Derek shrugged.

Stiles reached for another slice, “Seriously, this is good stuff. Good choice man.”

When they finished dinner Derek drove them back to Stiles’s house. “My dad isn’t home,” Stiles said automatically. He wasn’t sure why but it seemed to reassure Derek. They got out of the car and went inside. There was no real reason Derek needed to come inside but he didn’t want to leave Stiles just yet. They went up to his room and he showed Derek some of the books he had taken out from the library on druid magic and human sacrifice. Then Stiles sat on his bed. Derek sat at his desk facing him.

“That was nice work today, Robin,” he said smiling.

“Huh?”

“You know, Robin, as in Batman and…”

Derek looked confused. Stiles rolled his eyes and explained, “Robin, aka Dick Grayson, was a circus performer before becoming Batman’s side kick. He could sail through the air like bird. That’s why they called him Robin. So now, you are Robin.”

Derek looked at him skeptically, “Fine. Then who does that make you?”

Stiles lowered his voice and spoke in a husky tone, “I’m Batman!” he said bringing up his baseball bat.

Derek couldn’t help but laugh.

Chapter Text

The next morning Stiles couldn’t believe how much his body hurt. It was as if his cells were rebelling. His stomach and abs were killing him. Gingerly, he walked into his bathroom and liberated two Advil liquid gels from their bottle. He continued down the stairs, each step a struggle. He took the two Advil with his orange juice and winced as he sat down at the table. Deciding to go the easy route for breakfast Stiles poured himself some cereal. His arms were super sore as well. As he ate some cereal and looked briefly at the newspaper something nagged at him. It wasn’t just the soreness. Maybe it would be better if he were lying down. He walked briefly into the dining and then made his way into the living room splaying himself out on the couch. Stiles watched some tv and then when he got bored he went back upstairs. He tried to read but it hurt his arms to hold anything up and sitting up wasn’t very comfortable. He spent most of the day lying on his back listening to podcasts. Stiles laughed as Chris Hardwick made a joke and then immediately regretted it. His abs hurt. It hurt to laugh. Maybe he should stick with NPR.

***

Even Derek felt sore the next day. If he was still feeling the effects of yesterday Stiles must really be feeling it. He made himself a sandwich and checked his email. Steven had emailed him just to check in. He shot off a quick reply and thanked him again. Derek took out his keys and left the apartment. He should get his car washed. He hadn’t done it since he returned from New York. Derek decided to run some other errands first stopping at an ATM to get some cash and then picking up some more orange juice at the grocery store.

***

When his dad got home Stiles greeted him downstairs. He was ready to pop some more Advil. Immediately he noticed Stiles was in pain.

“What happened to you?”

“My whole body hurts.”

“From how you slept?”

“No, I slept fine.”

“You did?” his father surprised.

Stiles realized what he had just said. Excitement bloomed in chest, “Yeah! I did!” he said excitedly.

“That’s great,” his father said in a hopeful tone, “But why are you in pain?”

“I went and did that trapeze lesson you bought me.”

“You did?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said trying to crack his neck.

“How was the trapeze?”

“It was great, but man does it require a ton of muscles. My whole body is killing me today. I’m sore everywhere.”

“Who did you go with?”

“Derek.”

“Hale?” his father asked curiously.

“Yes, Derek Hale.”

“Huh.”

“What? Not like anyone else is around.”

“How in the world did you get him to do that?”

“I may not have mentioned it was a trapeze class,” Stiles admitted.

The Sheriff laughed. He could just picture his son tricking the Alpha werewolf. “I bet he wasn’t too happy about that.”

Stiles smiled, “Not exactly. But he was good. Super strength and agility. You know how it goes.”

The Sheriff rolled his eyes, “Well, I do now thanks to you.”

***

Derek couldn’t help himself. He was outside of the Stilinksi house before he realized what he had done. He couldn’t keep coming over here every night. It was creepy. Well, Stiles would probably think it was creepy if he knew. He entered Stiles’s room through the window and watching his sleeping form. It was 1:30 a.m. but he couldn’t shake the feeling that Stiles needed him. He watched his chest move up and down under the thin sheet. After about fifteen minutes his breathing pattern changed. Stiles almost whimpered in his sleep. When he started to thrash around Derek went over to his bed and put his hands on his head. He felt the intense cold again and worked on easing his pain. Within a few minutes he was calm once again. Deaton had been less than helpful when he had called. As he watched him settle down he noticed the curve of his lips, slightly parted, and the thick eyelashes against his pale skin. Derek moved his right hand down from above Stiles’s right ear and slowly caressed his cheek. His skin was so soft. He didn’t realize he was stroking his face until Stiles’s eyelids started to flutter open. Derek froze his hand still on Stiles’s face. Stiles mumbled something that sounded like “warm” and settled back down. Gently he released his hold on Stiles and replaced his comforter before slipping back out into the night.

***

The next day Stiles woke up thinking about Derek. He groaned as he rolled onto his back. Why was he thinking of Derek first thing in the morning? Stiles looked down and noticed his erection. He didn’t remember his dream but was slightly mortified that it may have been about Derek. He still felt sore as he walked into the bathroom. The truth was it wouldn’t be the first time he had dreamt of Derek but it had been awhile and he always chalked it up to his confused sexual identity and the Alpha’s crazy hot body. He still fantasized about Lydia but that was more out of habit. Mostly he didn’t let his mind wander into Derekland because he worried about himself turning redder than a tomato around him for no apparent reason. But Stiles was more or less convinced that he could control himself. The hot shower, followed by a nice cold spray certainly helped.

Stiles had breakfast and read an article about insomnia but he was growing bored of reading and wanted to get out. He found himself driving over to Derek’s. When the elevator opened Stiles found Derek at his breakfast bar.

“We need to do something that will result in me not being sore in the morning.”

Derek started to choke on his orange juice. Stiles slapped him on that back.

“Are you okay?”

Derek quickly wiped his mouth and used his napkin to sop up the spilled orange juice on his counter. He coughed a few more times. “What are you doing here?” he said staring at Stiles as he walked over to a cabinet to get a glass.

“Don’t act like you didn’t hear me coming with your wolfy hearing,” Stiles admonished from the fridge.

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

Stiles poured himself some orange juice, “I’m bored.”

“So you decided to come here?”

“Pretty much,” Stiles said pulling up a seat next to Derek, “Look, I have no one to hang out with, you have no one to hang out with and or maul at the moment. I have a ton of Groupons to do random things. Let’s hang out. You have nothing better to do.”

Derek was silent for moment then asked quietly, “What is a Groupon?”

Stiles laughed putting his glass down, “Jesus dude! What are you like 100?”

Derek narrowed his eyes.

“It’s an online deal site where you can buy all sorts of things but they mostly have things like different activities or deals on restaurants.”

“How many of these things do you have?” he asked suspiciously.

“Eight.”

“Eight?” Derek asked incredulously.

“One for each night of Chanukah,” Stiles explained grinning. “Well, technically I had eight, but we’ve used two now and one I want to do with Scott over spring break, so that leaves us with five.”

Stiles took another sip of juice and Derek stared down into his glass.

“Come on! What’s the worst that could happen? You are better than me at every activity we do?”

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “Fine."

“How about something low key. I was thinking a pottery class.”

Derek looked at him as if he were insane, "A what?

“A pottery class,” Stiles said more slowly, “You know, you like paint a mug or figurines or something. It’s supposed to be relaxing.”

***

A young girl in her twenties with long brown hair, bangs and thick black framed hipster glasses greeted them in the studio, “Hi, I’m Wendy! Welcome to the Wonderful World of Clay!”

Stiles took in her smock and the potter’s wheels behind her.

“I thought we’d just be painting some cups or something like at Color Me Mine. I had no idea we’d be making the cups.”

She laughed nervously as Derek scowled at him.

Whoops. My bad. Well, we’re always interested in learning something new Wendy!” he said hurriedly seeing her worried expression, “I’m Stiles and this is Derek.”

She shook both of their hands. “Oooh firm grip you’ve got there,” she said released Derek’s hand. She coughed, “Well, welcome. Let’s get you two into some smocks. Don’t want clay on anyone’s clothes.”

She handed Stiles a plastic smock and he tied it on. Derek looked ridiculous as he tied his around his waist.

“First we’ll start with a demonstration. Follow me.” She led them back further into the studio to a big bucket. Wendy peeled off the lid and picked up a gray chunk of clay. She took the lump over to a table and kneaded it into a lumpy ball. “You want to warm up the clay with your hands. That way it will be more pliable once you really get going with it.” When she was satisfied with her lump she moved over to a potter’s wheel. “Okay once you have your clay in more or less a ball shape we can put it on the wheel.”

“Today we are going to be doing basics cups or bowls, your choice.” She sat down on a stool in front of the wheel, “First thing you want to do is get in the right position. Ideally, you want your elbows to have leverage so placing them on your thighs or as high as you can get to your waist will give you better support.”

They watched as she bent over almost like a taco. Stiles wondered how good this was going to be for his back and if he would wind up feeling sore no matter what activity they did together.

“The first step is to center the clay. First, we are going to use a sponge to wet it.” She reached into bucket that was slightly to her right and pulled out a small square yellow sponge. She squeezed the sponge over the clay and turned on the wheel watching it spin. Then she continued to dribble down water on the lump. “You don’t want it too wet, just enough to get it slick and moist.”

Stiles felt himself flush. Must think about clay. Clay. He blinked rapidly and tried to follow along.

“Some potters like to play with their clay by pulling it up,” she pulled up on the mound, “and then pushing it back down,” she continued mushing the clay back down from the column she had been forming.

This was a lot more sexual than Stiles had imagined when he heard the word pottery. But maybe it was just his dirty mind.

***

Derek swallowed thickly as Wendy mentioned slickening up the clay and then proceeded to manipulate it into a phallic shape. Holy hell. This was supposed to be painting tea cups not making sex toys. He watched Wendy carefully.

“Once you’ve centered the clay you want to make a hole.” She dug her thumbs in the wet mass, “Then when your fingers are inside you want to pull to stretch it out, widen it to the width of your choice.”

Derek felt himself flush and he heard Stiles sound like he was choking and then it turned into a series of coughs.

“Are you okay?” Wendy asked.

Derek slapped him on the back.

“Fine,” he choked out.

She looked at them in a confused way and then continued her demonstration. “Gently pull the clay apart, apply even pressure.”

Derek clenched his jaw.

“Next if we are making a vase or a bowl you may want a lip. To make a lip you pinch the side.”

Stiles bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

Wendy continued to form the clay until a basic shallow bowl was in front of them. “If you want to add height pull from the top.” They watched the bowl rise. “Now you have a vase.” She widened the lip and finished the wet form. “Remember you have absolute control over the clay. You manipulate it, mold it, create with it. The possibilities are endless.”

Stiles clapped politely. Derek looked at Stiles like he had grown another set of arms. “Thank you,” she said meekly, “Now, let’s get you two set up.” Wendy led them to two wheels that were directly across from each other. “First grab some clay.”

Stiles dug into the bucket and pulled out a fistful of the gray mushy stuff followed by Derek. They followed Wendy over to dirty, clay smeared surface as she instructed them to knead their clay. Stiles looked over at Derek. His hands were shorter but wider than Stiles. He looked as though he was pulverizing his lump. Wendy watched him knead as well and looked a bit worried. She turned back to Stiles.

“You have great hands, good fingers.”

Stiles smiled back at her, “Thanks.”

“Okay, settle down in front of your wheel. Now we need to center the clay.”

Stiles patted his vaguely trapezoid shaped lump on what he thought was the center of the wheel. Wendy walked over to Derek’s side.

“The pedal near your right foot will turn on your wheels. Remember to wet your clay. You want it nice and slick.”

Stiles stifled a snicker as he reached into the bucket for his sponge. Drizzling water across his lump, Stiles attempted to smooth it down as he started his wheel. The wet clay felt strange under his hands. He remembered playing with silly putty as a kid and even Play-Doh, but nothing compared to the consistency of wet clay. He wrapped his hand around the base of his clay and pulled up. A cylinder started to form. This was fun. “Is this right?” he asked Wendy. He caught eyes with Derek as she came around and moved his hand up and down the cylinder. Derek’s eyes widened for a millisecond and then he looked back down to his own lump. “Yes, now push it back down.” Stiles pressed the back of his right hand over the mass and watched in fascination as it flattened back out.

***

Pottery. How could something that sounds so benign, boring even, be causing him to grow so increasing uncomfortable? He spread his hand on his wet mound and tried to shape it into an even semi-circle. He watched his hands as they were smeared in clay. “Now make your holes.” Derek pushed his thumbs into the shapeless wet mass. “Gently pull it apart.” He swallowed thickly and stared at the clay determined not to look at Stiles. “You can use your sponge not only to keep your clay wet but also to help shape your piece.” Derek dipped his hands in the water bucket near him and pulled out his sponge. He held it on the side of the clay watching as the surface became smooth. He threw it back in the bucket and tried to manipulate the clay just with his hands. But it just wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. He gripped the clay more tightly and it started to deform becoming oblong and rippled.

“Remember to apply a steady even pressure. You want to keep your hands wet, don’t be shy about giving them a dip.” Derek was struggling with the hunk of clay in front of him. This is so stupid. How did I agree to do this? He looked over at Stiles who was concentrating deeply on his piece. Stiles reached his hands into the water next bowl in front of him and then put his hands back on the clay.

“You are very good with your hands,” Wendy remarked.

Stiles beamed back at her. “I’m always telling him that,” he winked at Wendy.

She smiled back at him. Derek looked like he wanted to murder him. She sat down behind Stiles, reached her hands forward and placed her hands over his on the clay.

“You want to apply pressure here,” she instructed.

Derek gripped his clay hard.

“Like this?” he asked. Stiles turned to look at Derek and noticed that he looked uncomfortable and was turning a bit pink. Stiles coughed, “I think I got it.”

She eased off him and turned her sights to Derek.

“And how are we doing over here?”

Derek’s mangled mess of clay spun round and round on the wheel.

“Oh my,” she said in a worried tone. “The clay is a great way to express our feelings, but it is also a great way to channel them, channel them into a creation. It can be very freeing.”

Stiles bit his lip to keep from laughing.

Wendy bent over Derek’s clay and helped him mold it back into a workable form once again.

***

In the end Derek made a bowl and Stiles made a mug. Wendy helped him form the handle.

“Once we finish molding a piece then it has to dry out before it can be fired in the kiln. I can paint them for you. What color glaze would you like?”

Stiles choose green. Derek decided to go with black.

“They will be ready by the end of the week. I hope you enjoyed your introduction to pottery. We have other classes available for beginners and novices.”

“Thanks Wendy.”

“Thank you,” Derek said tersely.

He wanted a cold shower after those escapades and couldn’t wait to be out of the studio.

“I’ll call you when your pieces are all done,” she said to Stiles.

“Great. See you soon.”

Derek walked quickly to his car impatient for Stiles to hurry up. Stiles leisurely got into the passenger’s seat and fastened his seatbelt.

“Well, that was fun. Although I’m not sure my back liked that position.”

Derek couldn’t take any innuendo right now. He gritted his teeth and promptly turned on the radio.

“No silence this time?” Stiles asked over the music.

Derek shook his head and pulled out of the parking lot. He drove quickly back to Stiles’s place. Stiles undid his seatbelt and then turned to Derek who had not shut off the car.

“You should go,” Derek prompted.

“Do you want to-”

He cut Stiles off, “Can’t.”

Stiles wondered where this weird mood was coming from. “Okay.” He opened the door, “See you around.” He got out of the car and could feel Derek’s eyes on him as he walked up to his front door. “Sourwolf,” he said under his breath. Stiles heard the car leave as soon as he shut the door.

***

Derek was lying in bed determined not to think about Stiles. How Stiles was probably lying in bed right now, possibly suffering some sort of unspecified psychological torture and there was nothing that Derek could do to stop it. Of course that wasn’t exactly true. He could try to take his pain away again. But he couldn’t spend every night in Stiles’s bedroom. For one thing, if his father found out he’d be a dead werewolf. No, he wouldn’t go tonight. Instead he watched tv and wrote Cora an email. He knew she wasn’t one of those girls who checked her phone obsessively but Derek wanted her to know that he was here for her. His thoughts roamed back to their day together. Stiles’s hands all slippery and wet, grasping at his clay. He groaned and got up from his computer. Who knew pottery could be so erotic? All that gentle pulling and pushing. He was amazed he made it through the class. He knew that Stiles was on the verge of laughing several times. Derek tried to find the situation comical but instead he was just worried. Worried about how quickly his thoughts had turned to Stiles and lingered there.

***

“What did you do yesterday?”

Stiles sleepily rubbed his eyes at the breakfast table, “Huh?”

“You were really knocked out.”

“I just went to a pottery class.”

“Really?” His father handed him a bowl of cereal.

“Yeah. I made a mug.”

The Sheriff took in his son. The purple smudges that had become a permanent feature on his face were wearing away. “You’re making progress.”

“It really wasn’t that hard.”

“Not as a potter. I mean with the, well, whatever it is that is going on,” he gestured to his son’s head, “You know with your head. You’ve been sleeping better. No screaming this morning.”

“That’s true.”

“Melissa was right. You needed some activities to take your mind off things.”

Stiles choked on his cereal.

He slapped his son on the back, “You okay?”

“Ms. McCall told you that?”

“What?”

“About the activities?” he squeaked.

“Yes, she suggested you get out and do some activities to help take your mind off things.”

Stiles finished coughing and took a sip of water to try to clear his throat, “Oh those activities. Right.”

“Why?” he asked suspiciously.

“No reason. Nothing. I just didn’t know you guys had been talking so much.”

Stiles was still trying to clear his throat when his father sat down with his coffee. He had been thinking about Ms. McCall’s other, more personal, suggested activity when he choked. Stiles was happy to distract his father though. He needed the distraction. Stiles almost didn’t make it through that pottery class. All those suggestive instructions. Stiles thoughts had immediately been going down another road, and it didn’t end with a mug in his hands. He knew it was juvenile, but the way Wendy spoke had been so ridiculous. Maybe all potters speak like that, who knows? He remembered that he was going to need to pick up their pieces later during the week. He was actually excited to see how his mug turned out.

***

The next night Derek climbed in through the window and stood over Stiles’s sleeping form again. He had given it a day. He rationalized that he needed to check up with him every other day. That wasn’t unreasonable. The last time he had gotten too close though. He had almost been caught, but luckily Stiles hadn’t woken up. He watched Stiles sleep. He seemed peaceful but then his breathing changed and his breath became shallow. When he was practically gasping for air Derek put his hands on both sides of his head. He concentrated on relieving his pain. Again he felt an iciness in Stiles. His teeth started to chatter. “Cold.”

Derek let go of Stiles and pulled his blankets around him tucking him in. Then he put his hands back on either side of his head and focused. He looked down and saw the black veining appearing up his forearms. It didn’t matter. Derek could hardly feel the pain let alone the cold. He was always warm. Then a thought occurred to him. He pictured warmth and heat and tried to imagine it flowing into Stiles and the cold flowing out. Derek felt colder suddenly. It was working. He transferred some of his heat to Stiles and he stopped shivering. After a few minutes he lay still once again but Derek kept his hands on his head. He had initially placed his hands on his head because he assumed that was where his pain was but now Derek wasn’t so sure. He was hesitant to touch Stiles anywhere else though. Things needed to stay G-rated. Derek slowly removed his hands and watched Stiles sleep. He watched for several minutes to make sure he was at peace and then slipped back out his window into the night. Back at his apartment he wondered how long he would keep doing this and if he should tell Stiles.

***

He’s seventeen. Almost eighteen, he reminds himself. Oh god. Derek can’t be having thoughts about someone who is almost eighteen. It wasn’t right. Yet the more time they spent together the more Derek started to feel something. What exactly, he wasn’t quite sure. Initially he thought it was that protective feeling he felt over anyone in his pack. His duty, his responsibility. But the more time alone they spent together, the more he watched him sleep at night, or noticed how he wolfed down French fries faster than Derek, the more he felt a sort of fluttering sensation. He didn’t think he would feel those again. He hadn’t felt any flutters since Paige or Kate and never before for a man. He had been attracted to men before but this was different and it worried him. Derek sighed and rubbed his hand across his face. Stiles wasn’t a man. He was a boy. Okay, not a boy. A teenager. He wasn’t an adult. And yet the more time around him he spent, the protective instinct he felt grew into something more. Something else.

***

Stiles saw an unrecognized number on his phone. He debated letting it go to voicemail but he was bored and maybe harassing a telemarketer would be fun. “Hello?”

“Hi, may I please speak with Stiles?”

“Speaking.”

“Um, this is Wendy. From the Wonderful World of Clay?”

“Oh, hey.”

“I just wanted to let you know that your pieces are ready. You can pick them up anytime.”

“Oh, okay, great. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Stiles finished reading a comic and then drove to the Wonderful World of Clay. Wendy handed him a bag, “Here you go. Come again soon,” she said hopefully.

“Thanks,” he replied and walked back to his car. He knew exactly where he wanted to drop these bad boys.

***

“I come bearing gifts,” he announced as the elevator opened.

Derek was seated as his breakfast bar reading something.

“You can’t keep coming in here unannounced,” Derek said from across the room.

“Unlike you?” Stiles replied sarcastically.

“I do have a phone you know.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles blew him off.

“Don’t you want to see your wonderful creation?” Stiles sat down next to him on a stool and placed the bag in front of him. “Go on, open it.”

Derek raised his eyebrows.

“Fine. I’ll start.”

Stiles reached into the bag and pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper. He started to unwrap the item revealing a mug in hunter green. “Pretty good right? Go on,” he encouraged.

Derek rolled his eyes and reached into the bag pulling out another lump covered in tissue. He unwrapped a slightly oblong black bowl.

Stiles set his mug next to it. “Well look at that! If we go back we can make a whole set of china.” Derek did not look amused.

It was hard for him to admit, but he didn’t mind having Stiles around. In fact, he liked it a little too much. Derek tried to convince himself it was because Cora was gone and he was alone.

“Don’t you have anywhere to be?”

“Yeah, they need me down at the station to catalog evidence, but I’ve been reprimanded one too many times for mixing up the cocaine and the anthrax. Whoops.” Stiles replied sarcastically.

“At least then you know who’s been dipping into the evidence baggies right?” he said laughing at his own joke. He got up and wandered around. He could tell Stiles was getting restless. Then his eyes widened, “Dude you have an Xbox?”

“Yeah. Cora and Isaac liked to play.”

“Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

Soon they were playing Grand Theft Auto 5.

“They make stealing cars and running from the mob so simple. I wish that were all we were dealing with,” Stiles commented.

Derek made a noncommittal noise.

After an hour Stiles got up and stretched. He walked in to Derek’s kitchen and opened the fridge and started to take out sandwich ingredients. “You want a sandwich?”

Derek was mildly annoyed that Stiles seemed to immerse himself so quickly into his space. “Fine.”

Stiles proceeded to make turkey sandwiches. “Rosemary olive oil, nice!” he commented. He was actually surprised to find this bread at Derek’s. “Didn’t peg you for a rosemary olive oil loaf kind of guy.”

“What kind of guy did you peg me for?” Derek said directly behind him.

Stiles jumped and dropped a tomato. “Damn it! You have got to stop sneaking up on me like that!”

Derek smirked at him as he bent down to retrieve the tomato and brought it over to the sink to rinse.

Stiles opened up the fridge and looked inside again, “Do you have any pickles? Maybe Dill or Gerkins?” Derek looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language.

“Every household should have pickles dude.”

Derek folded his arms across his chest and simply watched Stiles flit about his kitchen. Stiles spread some mayo on the bread he had sliced and then started to pile on the turkey before adding lettuce and tomato. He set a sandwich before Derek.

“Thanks.”

He sat himself down and picked up the sandwich. They ate in silence for a few minutes.

“So I have tickets to dinner theater,” Stiles mentioned casually.

“Dinner theater?”

“Yes. They give you dinner then you watch a show. It expires in a few days. Will you come?” He gave his best hopeful look.

Derek saw those pleading eyes. He shouldn’t be spending so much time with Stiles. Dinner theatre? Really? It sounded terrible.

“Come on! It’s a free dinner. How bad could it be?”

“Fine,” he muttered thinking there is no such thing as a free dinner.

“Great. Should I pick you up?”

“When is it and what time?”

“Thursday at 7 p.m.”

“Where is it?”

“Some little place downtown.”

“What kind of food is it?”

Stiles laughed, “You didn’t strike me as the picky type. I’m not sure. It’s at a place called Milo’s. Sounds Italian maybe?”

“I’ll pick you up at 6:15.”

“Cool. I’ll see you in a few days then.”

As he watched Stiles leave his apartment Derek wondered what he was getting himself into.

Chapter Text

A spade full of dirt hit him in the face. Stiles closed his eyes quickly and spit out what got into his mouth. Then another one fell, the majority of it landing on his stomach. He opened his eyes. It was dark everywhere and hard to move. He brushed the dirt of his stomach and realized he was surrounded it. He looked up and saw he was in a deep hole. A tinkling voice laughed from above as another shovel full of dirt rained down on him. He struggled to sit up, digging through the dirt that had started to pile on top of his body. Stiles reached around him and found a wall of earth, searching for a foothold. He started to climb but as he looked up it seemed that the top was getting further and further away. Finally, he hauled himself over the ledge and tumbled onto the ground lying on his back. He could see a few stars in the sky and felt grateful for the sight. He sat up and tried to find who had been burying him but he was alone. He turned around and noticed the headstone behind him. It was blank but the one to the left caught his eye: Claudia Stilinksi. Beloved Wife and Mother. Stiles scrambled over to the headstone reaching out to trace the lettering.

“Now, now, don’t get ahead of yourself,” a voice said from behind.

He turned around and saw Jennifer in front of the open grave from which he had crawled. “It’s not your turn yet.”

Stiles looked back at the headstone and then back at her.

“It’s his.”

“Stiles run!” his father yelled coming up behind Jennifer.

She reached out and grabbed him around the neck choking off his words. Stiles got up and started toward them, “Let him go.”

She took out a knife and pressed it against the Sheriff’s neck. Stiles felt paralyzed.

“Please,” he begged, “Just let him go.”

She smiled broadly, “Okay,” she said pushing the Sheriff forward hard. The knife sliced through his neck like warm butter and she was left holding his father’s head as the body landed with a noisy thump in the freshly dug grave. A look of surprise was all that was left on his father’s face as Jennifer held his head and cackled. Stiles felt a sob rip from his throat as he dropped to his knees. “Don’t cry,” she said softly dropping his father’s head into the hole, “Now, it’s your turn.”

***

Stiles woke with his whole body shaking. He sat up and let the sobs out. He couldn’t help it. Gut wrenching full body sobs poured from him as tears flooded down his face. He wrapped his arms around his knees and rocked himself back and forth. He heard noisy footsteps and his door burst open. His father cautiously approached the bed and sat down next to him. His movements unsure he reached for Stiles who flinched back toward his headboard. His dad sat and waited for him to calm down, but this particular episode was going on for longer than usual. Maybe it was because he hadn’t had one in a while.

“Stiles, I’m going to come closer okay?” Stiles nodded and then he scooted closer to his son pulling him into a hug. “It’s okay,” he said holding him tightly. Stiles held on to him and just shook his head back and forth. The Sheriff thought about what Claudia would have done and asked gently, “What can I do?” Stiles just continued to shake his head back and forth. “Can you please tell me what it was about?”

Stiles was silent for a moment before a new wave of sobs erupted from him, “You were dead,” he cried, then gasped for breath, “You’re always dead.” His body was quaking and his breathing was dangerously shallow almost to the point of hyperventilating. His dad rubbed his back, “I’m here. I’m okay. I’m fine. You’re okay. We’re okay,” he said holding him more securely. “Take deep breaths Stiles. Deep breaths. That’s it,” he encouraged. “It was just a dream.” He continued to rub his back. “It was just a dream,” he repeated more forcefully. He pulled back and looked into his son’s haunted wet eyes, “It was just a dream.”

***

Stiles felt exhausted. When his father left for work he went up to his room to retrieve his notebook and then sat down at the dining room table to record what he could remember. As he wrote down the date he tried to remember that morning: “Woke up sobbing. Hard to breathe. Dad said it was twenty minutes before my breathing was back to normal. Felt exhausted and weak.” Stiles then flipped back to the chart he was working on and read over the list of symptoms he had compiled. He wrote a five in the heart rate column. He hadn’t woken up gasping for air so he rated his breathing at four, muscle soreness he gave a three, temperature he gave a two, vocalization he wrote down one because he hadn’t screamed and for re-entry a four because he had immediately been wracked with loud sobs. He sighed and scanned the chart. He had been having some good days. What had changed? He pulled up his calendar on his phone. The night he went to the Krav Maga class he slept okay. The night of the trapeze class was the same. The night of the pottery class fine. But it couldn’t just be the activities. Because there were other nights were he hadn’t done anything where he slept fine. What did he do those days?

After finishing his notes he heated up some leftover soup from the night before and had lunch. But eating lunch reminded him of dinner. Stiles had never been to a dinner theater before. He reached for his phone. According to Yelp, Milo’s was, in fact, an Italian place. It had four stars and mostly positive reviews. He scrolled down. Apparently people liked the bruschetta. A lot of people loved the butternut squash ravioli. He and his father didn’t go out to eat downtown that frequently. Mostly his dad lived off of Subway sandwiches and fast food, which Stiles had adamantly been trying to change for years with varying degrees of success. He had only recently convinced his dad that Subway was healthier than Mickey D’s. The only Italian food he ate was what he made for himself. He thought of his mom’s lasagna. The last Italian meal he had had was pizza with Derek and he wasn’t entirely sure pizza counted. He clicked a link to the menu. The food sounded good. Clicking through the pictures his mouth started to water. It looked good too. The shots of the restaurant were impressive. It actually looked kind of nice. Not a jeans and tee shirt kind of place. Well, maybe jeans, if they were the expensive ones. But definitely no tee shirts. He sent Derek a text: No tshirts 2night.

***

Derek felt a buzzing in his pocket. He was back at the market getting groceries. He grabbed a new loaf of rosemary olive oil bread, stupid Stiles eating all of his bread, while digging his phone out. He dropped the loaf when he saw the message. An image of Stiles with his towel wrapped around his waist popped into his head. Derek rubbed a hand over his face and shook his head. No shirts? What the hell did that mean? He picked up the loaf from the floor and put it back in his cart. He sent Stiles simply a question mark. He replied back a moment later: Wear a button down. He ground his teeth. No tee shirts. Wear a button down shirt. Ah. He slipped the phone back into his pocket. Maybe he should cancel. If one text had him thinking about shirtless Stiles what would happen during dinner? Nothing. Nothing would happen because Derek was perfectly capable of controlling himself. Stiles is pack, he reminded himself. They were just hanging out. He was doing Stiles a favor. They would eat. Then sit and watch some stupid show. Then the night would be over. No big deal.

***

Why Derek always insisted on driving he didn’t know. Stiles bet he was obsessed with his car. Also he was probably a control freak. The truth was he had never really spent that much time with Derek until now. He was hard to read at the best of times. He always seemed so tightly wound. Stiles was determined to see him loosen up a bit. Derek was quiet and serious and Stiles wanted so badly to see him crack a smile. He wondered why Derek was suddenly so amenable to hanging out him now. He honestly had expected more resistance when he mentioned the dinner theater thing. It did sound lame. Was it because there was no one else around? Was it possible that he actually liked spending time with him?

***

Derek pulled up in front of the Stilinksi house right at 6:15 p.m. He didn’t exactly know where this place was so he wanted to leave plenty of time to get there. Derek had put on a blue button down shirt and wore his leather jacket. He opened his door and got out of the car. Maybe he should just text Stiles that he was here. Stiles opened the door and beckoned him inside. Derek walked up the steps and into the dining room.

Stiles was in his socks, “I just need to grab my shoes. And my jacket. Be back in a sec.”

He wondered where the Sheriff was, the cruiser was in the driveway.

“Derek,” he heard behind him.

He turned around slowly to see the Sheriff walking into the living room.

“Sheriff Stilinski,” he said in greeting.

“You guys going to dinner?”

Derek shifted his feet and tried to take a more relaxed stance.

“Yes.”

“Good. It’s good for him to get out of the house. He needs it.”

Derek simply nodded. He felt awkward standing there with the Sheriff. He didn’t know what to say.

“Did he tell you about this morning?”

Derek shook his head.

The Sheriff looked like he was about to say something but then Stiles’s voice rang out from the dining room, “Come on! We’re going to be late.”

They walked back toward the front door together. Stiles was wearing a green shirt and sports jacket.

“You look nice,” his father commented.

“Thanks,” he quickly replied, “See you later.”

Stiles opened the door and walked outside. Derek followed him out feeling the Sheriff’s gaze on him as he walked to the Camaro.

***

“Welcome to Mina’s,” the hostess greeted them.

Stiles was confused, “I thought this was Milo’s?”

“Not tonight,” she winked.

Stiles looked over at Derek and shrugged.

“Reservation under Stilinksi.”

“Right this way.”

The place was packed. As they followed the hostess they overheard a couple intensely fighting.

“It’s our anniversary! You promised!” the woman screeched.

“Keep your voice down,” the man hissed.

“It’s just work, I’m telling you.”

“Don’t lie to me! I know it’s that whore Linda.”

Stiles felt himself growing uncomfortable. Yikes. He looked around the room and saw two waiters by the kitchen door locked in an intense kiss. Holy shit. He felt himself heat up. He looked over at Derek who was staring at them with wide eyes. “Doesn’t seem too sanitary does it?” Stiles commented. The hostess led them down a short flight of stairs to the bottom floor of the restaurant. They sat down at a small table in a corner.

“I don’t see a stage.” Derek looked around.

“No, I don’t either.”

“Maybe it’s in another room? Or maybe they clear out the center tables and perform in the middle when dinner is over. Like rearrange things?”

They were seated close to a family with twin girls.

“Reminds me of the Shining,” Stiles remarked nodding to the next table.

Derek did not look amused.

“Your server will be right with you.”

***

Derek surveyed the room. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

“I looked up the menu. The food should be good.” Stiles craned his neck around, “It does seem pretty crowded. But maybe it was a really good deal,” he offered.

Derek felt a lot of tension in the room. A young blonde woman came to their table, “Hi, I’m Linda, I’ll be your server this evening.” She dropped menus down on the table and looked distracted. Her eyes searched the room and then widened. “Uh, I’ll be back for your drink orders in a minute,” she said and scurried off.

“I didn’t really read about the service, just the food.” Stiles cracked open his menu. Derek picked his own off the table and looked it over. The steak sounded good.

“I’m thinking we get the bruschetta to start. People really seemed to like it.”

Derek looked around the room but didn’t see anyone with any appetizers.

“Let me guess you want mozzarella sticks?”

“What?”

“Appetizers. Hello?”

Derek looked back at Stiles.

“You can order anything you want,” Stiles said, “Don’t be a cheap date.”

Derek felt himself color and looked back at the menu.

“I could really use some water,” Stiles said looking around the room. The two waiters by the kitchen were still making out. Stiles put down his menu. Derek surveyed the room. Something was definitely going on. The twin girls were whispering to each other and pointing at the couple that had been fighting earlier. They waited for the waitress to return. Minutes went by.

“Don’t you think it’s strange she hasn’t come back yet?”

“Not really,” Derek replied. “The service here isn’t great.”

“Well, I don’t think tip is included in this thing, so she should keep that in mind.”

***

“Charles! What a surprise.”

The couple who had been fighting earlier were speaking to the family at the table next to them.

“Raymond,” the man sitting near them acknowledged, “Nice to see you and Melanie.”

“The girls are looking well,” Melanie commented. The woman seemed to have calmed down.

“Yes they just got out.”

She smiled kindly at them.

“Hello, Becky. Sarah.”

“Jesus, could they talk any louder?” Stiles said to Derek, “The acoustics in this place are terrible.”

“Well don’t let us keep you. I hope you enjoy your dinner.”

“You as well.”

The couple went back to their own table.

Their waitress finally returned. “Are you ready to order?”

“No, we’d love some water though.”

She nodded and dashed off.

“Some bread also,” Stiles called out after her. “I don’t think she heard me,” he confessed. “I’m thinking of the butternut squash ravioli. What about you?”

“Steak.”

“Which one? The marsala? I think I read that people liked it.”

Their waitress returned with water. She seemed very distracted.

“I think we’re ready to order now.”

She turned to Derek.

“I’ll have the peppercorn steak please.”

“And for you?” she turned to Stiles.

“I’ll have the butternut squash ravioli.”

“Anything to start?”

“Which one did you want?” he asked Derek. Stiles smiled at the waitress, “We’ll do the bruschetta,” he replied seeing that Derek wasn’t paying attention. “I figured that since she didn’t bring us any bread we should get the bruschetta. It has avocado in it. You like avocado right? I mean who doesn’t like avocados?”

Derek noticed the two waiters, who had been engaging in less than professional activity, were now serving patrons but they kept looking at each other. He could sense lust in their eyes.

“If those two don’t stop eye fucking each other I’m going to be distracted the whole night.”

Derek almost knocked over his water turning back toward Stiles.

“Oh look he can hear! Is that what you were thinking?”

He raised his eyebrows at Stiles.

“I know right? Come on! You’re at work! Save something for later? Right?”

Derek took a sip of water and Stiles laughed.

“Lighten up dude.”

***

Stiles searched the room for the waitress, “God where is our bruschetta? I’m starving.”

Derek noticed that a few of the other tables now had appetizers, “I’m sure it’s coming.” He took another sip of water, “I don’t see any other doors besides the one to the kitchen and one to the restrooms.”

Stiles turned around in his seat, “Yeah,” he agreed, “Oh finally!” Stiles spotted the waitress coming out of the kitchen. She held the plate of bruschetta as far away from herself as humanly possible and then coughed into her left elbow. She tried to clear her throat, “This is the house bruschetta with tomato, garlic, basil and avocado.” She placed the plate in the middle of the table and then started to cough more violently almost knocking into the water glasses. Then she wrapped her arms around her waist and huddled down.

Well, this is really awkward, thought Stiles. He addressed the crouching waitress, “Are you okay?”

She looked up at him and said, “I feel,” and then she fell into a heap on the floor.

Stiles looked at Derek with eyes full of surprise. He shot up out of his chair, “What the hell is going on?” He looked over at Derek who was frowning down at the scene in front of them.

One of the waiters rushed over and started to shake her, “Linda?! Linda!!!” He turned around, “Is there a doctor in here? Is anyone a medical doctor?”

An older brunette woman seated close to the entrance of the restaurant stood up, “I am!”

“Please! Hurry! I don’t think she’s breathing.”

The woman started down the stairs to the bottom of the restaurant, “Make way! Make way!”

Stiles caught Derek’s eye. Derek bent down toward the woman. Her breathing seemed normal to him. He looked back at Stiles who seemed both horrified and fascinated.

“Oh god! Please help her! Please!” the waiter cried.

“Derek,” Stiles said quietly looking at him, his eyes went from the waitress on the floor and then back to Derek, “Do something,” he murmured.

Derek raised his shoulders. What could he do? “What do you want me to do?”

Maybe she was having an allergic reaction? Maybe she had just fainted. Being a server is stressful.

“Out of the way!” the doctor called and bent down toward the waiter and waitress. “Give me some space.”

Derek sat back down.

The doctor checked her pulse and lifted her eyelids. She looked at the frantic waiter still gripping the waitress’s hand and spoke loudly and firmly, “I’m afraid she’s dead.”

The lights went out in the entire restaurant and several people screamed.

***

Derek heard Stiles’s heart racing. Then the lights came back on, dimmer, and muzak started to play. A loud crash sounded and a man in tweed jacket came forth from the front of the restaurant. As the lights grew brighter he made his way down to their table. After an exaggerated display of checking the body of the waitress he said dramatically, “Not only is this woman dead, but I believe she has been murdered!”

The music grew louder. Stiles looked down to the scene before them, then back at Derek, then back at the scene before he covered his mouth. Derek noticed his shoulders shaking. Was he having a panic attack? Derek looked bewildered. He reached across the table unsure of what to do. Then the man in tweed spoke again, “The killer must be among us! In this very room!” Stiles put his head down on the table and turned away from the man, the doctor, the waiter and the waitress. “After your appetizers we will discover who has murdered this young girl and justice will be served.” The lights cut out again but Derek could see just fine in the dark. All four of them got up and made their way back to the kitchen. When the lights came back on Stiles was sitting up again with both hands covering the bottom half of his face. “Are you okay?” Derek asked.

Stiles couldn’t stop himself from laughing. He laughed and laughed and then laughed even harder seeing the confused expression on Derek’s face. He tried to calm himself down, “That was the cheesiest thing I have ever seen,” he managed between bouts of laughter.

Derek narrowed his eyes.

“I guess the play isn’t after dinner. It’s during,” Stiles said reaching for a piece of bruschetta.

“What?”

“I think the play has started.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Yep,” he agreed leaning over his plate, bringing the slice of bread closer to his mouth. He took a bite. Yum. “They were right. The bruschetta is good.”

Derek picked up a slice and put it on his plate.

Stiles took another bite, “We need a new waitress.”

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched up. This was going to be an interesting evening.

***

“Hi, I’m Roy. I’ll be taking over as your server. Your order was tragically lost,” he deadpanned, “ So I will take your selections.”

“Roy, thank god you’re here. I hope you are in good health man, our last server dropped like a fly.”

Roy smiled tightly at him and looked as if he would rather be watching paint dry than taking Stiles’s order. “What can I get for you?”

“I’m debating between several things. How is the butternut squash ravioli? Also, I was thinking maybe the Bolognese? The chicken marsala sounds good too. Which is your favorite?”

“I’d go with the Bolognese.”

“Hmm. Take his order first,” he said turning back to his menu.

Roy looked to Derek, “And for you?”

“The peppercorn steak.”

“How would you like that?”

Stiles looked up from the menu and caught Derek’s eye as he spoke, “Rare.”

Roy turned back to Stiles, “Have you come to a decision?”

“I’ll stick with my original order, the butternut squash ravioli.”

Roy scribbled down the order on a small notepad and shuffled off.

“Well isn’t he charming?”

Derek relaxed after that. The bruschetta was pretty good. And now they knew that there was no show afterward. No wonder he had felt a lot of tension in the room. Actors practically radiate it.

Stiles continued to talk on and on, “It’s interactive theater!”

“I did not sign up for this,” Derek said dryly.

“I mean what are the odds of that? Our waitress is the one who gets whacked!” he said with excitement.

“I would think you would have had enough of the murders,” Derek said pointedly.

“Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more fun when they are fake.”

Derek glared at him.

“What? Also easier to figure out. I know who did it.”

“How could you know that already?”

“It’s the husband. It’s always the husband.”

“We don’t even know if she was married.”

“Okay fine, the lover, whatever.”

“What are you basing this on?”

“Um, every crime show I’ve ever seen and several actual case files.”

Derek took a long drink of water. His own history did nothing to disprove Stiles’s theory. After Kate and then Jennifer... Stiles was probably right. He felt suddenly nauseous. He pushed the bruschetta away from him.

Stiles saw Derek shut down. He had actually seemed a little bit relaxed and then the drawbridge had popped back up. Stiles thought back on what he had said. Lovers and murderers. He cursed himself. Oh shit. Derek’s family had basically been murdered by his psycho Hunter girlfriend Kate Argent. Shit. Shit. He tried to keep the conversation going. Stiles couldn’t stand awkward pauses.

“Maybe I’m wrong,” he said backtracking. “Maybe it’s the twins. They look creepy as hell.”

He saw Derek turn to look at the twins who were quietly whispering to each other and playing with their breadsticks.

“Them?” he asked skeptically.

“Yep. Totally evil. I bet they have voodoo dolls or something.”

The man in the tweed stood up and introduced himself, “I’m Professor Badcock, a criminology professor at the local university.”

Stiles tried to stifle his laugh. Professor Badcock? Seriously? Seriously? He looked over to Derek who was trying to hide a small smile.

“Linda used to be my student. I just happened to be dining in this fine establishment tonight. And now I will find the murderer of my former pupil.”

Stiles leaned closer to Derek, “His accent is terrible.”

Derek shrugged and continued to follow the professor as he walked around the room.

“Mark my words, tonight, I will uncover how the unfortunate demise of Linda Spool unfolded and see the guilty party, or parties, brought to justice.”

***

It turned out that the couple they heard arguing earlier, Raymond and Melanie, were married and Raymond had been having an affair with Linda, the now deceased waitress. According to Professor Badcock, the man with the twin girls next to them was Charles. And Charles was Linda’s father. The whole thing was pretty convoluted. Becky and Sarah, the twins, were also Charles’s daughters who, apparently, he just picked up from a two year stint in a mental institution. Lovely. “I told you!” Stiles hissed at Derek. Derek gave him a stern look.

The Professor continued, “They witnessed something,” he paused dramatically, “terrible. So terrible, their young minds could not process it and they became,” he paused again, “disturbed.” The girls looked up at him nonchalantly. “Of course there is Raymond. Maybe Linda was threatening to expose their affair to Melanie. And he couldn’t have that coming out now could he? Not when he was having an affair with his boss’s daughter!” Several women gasped.

“Holy shit!” Stiles said looking over at Raymond, “That guy is a like a pedo?”

“He means Linda,” Derek whispered furiously at him.

“But what about Charles? Your daughters aren’t really your daughters, are they Charles?”

Charles narrowed his eyes at the Professor.

“No, they are actually your granddaughters. You and your wife raised them when your only daughter, Linda, found out she was pregnant. And not only with child, but with twins no less!”

“How dare you!”

“Perhaps you resented your daughter for saddling you with this lot. Perhaps, like your granddaughters, you snapped. They are the reason you lost your wife!”

“Stop it! Stop it!” Charles cried put his hand over his face.

“Yes. The girls had to go to dance class and Mary drove them. If she hadn’t taken them to class she never would have had that accident. Is that what you thought Charles? And now Linda should pay for her sins? Her mistakes that have cost you so much?!” The Professor wiped his brow. “I grow weary. Perhaps some nourishment will help me continue in my search for the truth!” The lights dimmed.

When they came back up the Professor was gone.

“That was crazy!” Stiles said with excitement.

Derek spotted Roy coming towards them with plates. “The steak,” he said putting down Derek’s meal, “And the ravioli. Enjoy.”

“This is some twisted stuff,” Stiles said reaching for his fork, “Now who do you suspect?”

“We haven’t heard all of his theories yet,” he said picking up his knife and fork.

“That’s true, there are bound to be more suspects.”

Cutting himself a piece of steak, he swiped the bite in some sauce before putting it in his mouth. It was good. Very tender. Stiles moaned. Derek looked up sharply and noticed his full cheeks.

“This ravioli is delicious! The Yelp reviews were right. You’ve got to try some of this,” he said cutting Derek a piece. “Hand me your plate.”

“That’s okay,” Derek said, but Stiles was already pushing his fork toward Derek.

“Fine. Try this,” he said holding out his fork. Derek reluctantly took the fork from him and briefly debated whether or not he should slide the bite off of Stiles’s fork and onto his plate.

“Just pop it in your mouth,” Stiles said.

Derek sighed and opened his mouth for the bite. The pasta was perfectly chewy and the butternut squash tasted like fall. It was very good. He handed Stiles back his fork.

“Well?”

“Yeah. It’s good.”

Stiles smiled and looked back down at his plate. “Seriously though, who do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. It’s a play. Aren’t you supposed to sit back and just watch?”

“This is interactive! Maybe our participation determines the outcome.”

***

When they finished their entrees Roy came back around to clear their plates. “I’ll be back with the dessert menus.” He returned in a minute and gave each of them a small menu.

Stiles scanned the list, “What about crème brûlée? Oh blackout cake! That sounds good. Hmm, this is hard.”

“Tiramisu,” Derek said tersely, “You can’t go wrong with tiramisu.”

Roy came back pad in hand, “What will it be?”

“I’ll do the crème brûlée.”

He turned to Derek.

“Tiramisu.”

“Good choices.”

Professor Badcock took the floor once again going on about his hypothesis. “And then there are Rick and Jeff.”

The two waiters from earlier stepped forward. They were actors. Well that explained it.

“At the company Christmas party last year Rick caught Linda and Jeff, what is that American expression? Getting hot and heavy? Yes! That’s it! Getting hot and heavy in the supply closet!” he accused.

Jeff looked embarrassed. “We were drunk. It didn’t mean anything.” He looked guilty at Rick.

“And Rick. Rick Anderson is $120,000 in debt.”

Jeff’s eyes grew wide. “What!?”

“Student loans,” Rick replied.

“You were desperate for money. You were scorned by your lover. You had motive.”

“This is ridiculous!” he cried, “I didn’t have anything to do with this!”

“Then why are there several calls from Melanie’s phone to yours?” the Professor cried. He turned to Jeff, “You were one of my top criminology students, you connect the dots!” Some people in the restaurant gasped. “Yes! Jeff and Linda knew each other previously. Perhaps they knew each other more intimately than either led you to believe Rick!”

Rick looked hurt. He turned to Jeff, “Is it true? We’re you two together?”

“It was before I came out,” he explained, “None of that matters.”

“You thought that Linda, in fact your lover's former lover, was trying to steal your current lover. So, when a desperate woman approached you with an offer, a scorned woman, you couldn’t resist.”

“How dare you,” Melanie said, “I would never hurt anyone.”

The professor continued to speak to Rick, “You knew that you could easily pin this on Melanie. She had plenty of motives to get Linda out of the picture. If Raymond divorced her she would be left with nothing!”

“Not true, each party gets fifty-fifty in California,” Stiles whispered.

Derek shushed him.

The Professor turned to Raymond and Melanie. “Melanie you needed to find someone close to Linda, someone that she trusted. Wouldn’t suspect. If Raymond left you, you would be a ruined woman. Your pre-nuptial agreement was airtight. You wouldn’t get a penny of the Pendleton fortune.” The Professor began to circle the table. Raymond looked increasingly suspicious of his wife. “How did you find out about your husband’s affair?”

Melanie folded her hands on the table. “I looked through his phone and saw text messages,” she admitted, “Then I realized it wasn’t some dalliance.”

Dalliance?” Stiles whispered, “Who says that?”

“It had been going on for years! I was a fool to think you loved me!”

Raymond slammed his hand down on the table shaking the china, “I did love you!” he cried.

Melanie broke down in an exaggerated fake sob, “Oh Raymond, how could you do this to me?”

The Professor tucked a fist under his chin and looked thoughtful, “And now I will examine all the evidence once again. We shall reconvene shortly.” The lights faded out. The chatter in the restaurant rose dramatically.

When the lights came back up the wait staff began serving dessert.

“I didn’t do anything. The old man is crazy. He should have retired years ago!” Stiles heard Jeff say to one table.

“I thought I knew him,” said Rick to another table looking frightened and worried as he set down bowls of ice cream.

Melanie sniffling, wiped her eyes with her napkin. She and Raymond were whispering to each other.

“I bet Roy can give us a clue.” Stiles looked around the room for their waiter. “You think he’ll spill?”

Derek looked skeptically at him, “Wouldn’t that ruin the surprise?”

Roy settled down a big piece of tiramisu in front of Derek, “Tiramisu and crème brûlée,” announced setting a ramekin down for Stiles. “Enjoy.” He turned to leave.

“Roy, who do you think killed Linda?” Stiles asked but he just kept walking as though he hadn’t heard anything.

“What is with that guy?” Stiles asked picking up a spoon.

Derek lifted his fork and took a bite of the tiramisu. The flavors rolled pleasantly on his tongue. He watched Stiles as he cracked through his crème brûlée.

“This is so good,” he said after a big bite.

“You just like it because it’s pure sugar.”

“Not true,” Stiles argued, “the part underneath is good. Not too eggy. I hate it when it’s too eggy.”

Derek put his fork down, “Isn’t it made with eggs? How can something be too eggy?”

“I don’t know. Maybe if the proportions are off? Or they overcook it? It’s a custard. It’s supposed to just taste creamy and like vanilla.”

He noticed Stiles eyeing his plate.

“Is that good?”

“Yup,” he said taking another big bite.

“How good?”

“Fairly good.” Derek pulled his plate closer subtly. He knew it would piss off Stiles.

Stiles looked back to his own much smaller portion. “So, who do you think did it?”

“Raymond did it,” he admitted. He noticed Stiles hand creeping across the table.

“Why do you think that?”

Derek raised his shoulder, “Like you said. It’s always the lover.”

“Want to bet?”

“What?”

“Let’s make a bet.”

“But you said it’s always the husband.”

“I changed my mind. I’m sticking with the twins.”

He swatted Stiles hand back.

“What? You can’t be serious.”

“If I win I get the rest of your dessert.”

“And if I win?”

“I release you from your last Groupon duties.”

Derek rubbed his beard thoughtfully. He should be spending less time with Stiles. Especially considering the direction his thoughts had taken recently. But, despite himself, he was having fun. “If I win, you stop calling me Sourwolf.”

Stiles colored a little.

“That’s it?”

Derek took a moment to consider, “And stop trying to play with the radio in my car.” He took another bite of tiramisu.

Stiles scraped out what was left in the ramekin. He licked his spoon, “What if both of us are wrong?” Stiles sat back pushing the empty ramekin away. Derek took another big bite.

“Hey! Stop eating that!”

He rolled his eyes and then put his fork down. There was only about a third of it left. Derek ran a hand through his hair.

“If we’re both wrong then we’ll give Roy over there a big tip,” Stiles suggested.

Derek agreed, “Fine.”

“Fine.”

The background music grew louder and a hush fell over the restaurant.

“Now we shall resume our investigation. I will reveal the identity of the murderer, or murderers, as the case may turn out.” He turned to the table with Charles and the twins. “You both spent the day with Linda didn’t you girls?” They nodded in unison. “Charles you called Linda to tell her you were picking them up today and would be passing through town.”

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”

“All will be revealed!” the Professor cried. “Linda wanted to see them didn’t she? And you couldn’t say no to your daughter’s request to see her own children, just for one day. What would be the harm? So the four of you spent the day together and would end the evening with dinner at Linda’s restaurant before taking the girls back home. But what you didn’t count on was the girls’ finding out that Mary wasn’t their mother at all, but, it was their older sister, Linda. Linda who had abandoned them. Linda who never came to visit them. Linda who had never loved them. So when Linda declined any candy today at the candy shop and Linda explained she had a nut allergy they took advantage. They picked out the peanuts from their candies and squirreled them away. They said they were thirsty and when Linda gave them her canteen they unscrewed the top and dropped the nuts inside her water bottle. Of course oil and water don’t mix and the peanut oil began to separate, slowly collecting, the longer the day went on the more oil seeped out. Unsuspecting and only seeking to hydrate herself, Linda was slowly drinking in her demise.”

“That is absurd!” Charles cried.

“Oh is it?” Professor Badcock replied. He went into the kitchen and came back with a colorful canteen.

“That’s Linda’s canteen!” cried Rick.

The other staff all nodded.

“That’s Linda’s alright.”

“This was from Linda’s locker.”

Dramatically the Professor unscrewed the top and overturned the canteen onto Charles’s table. Water and peanuts covered the surface of the table cloth. The audience gave a collective gasp.

“Yes!” Stiles cried and reached over the table dragging the tiramisu toward himself.

“What the hell?” Derek muttered, “Peanut allergy? Peanut allergy? Come on.”

Stiles grinned as he took a mouthful of the tiramisu. “Anaphylactic shock is no joke.”

Derek rolled his eyes.

The actors/servers all gathered in the center of the room to take their bow. A rousing applause met them and Stiles clapped enthusiastically along.

“This was ridiculous.”

“Come on, you have to give it up for the talent.”

Derek clapped for a few seconds and looked back at his now empty plate. When they got back into the car Derek was silent.

“Okay, okay. That wasn’t what I expected,” Stiles offered.

Derek scowled at him.

“What? I’ve never been to a murder mystery dinner before. You have to admit it was fun.”

Derek remained silent.

“Come on! You had fun. I did not see that twist coming. It felt like we were in a corny radio play from the ‘20s.”

“Peanut allergy? That came out of nowhere.”

“It’s like an Agatha Christie novel. They are the hardest to solve because the twist comes out of nowhere.”

Derek shrugged and drove on, “Whatever.”

Chapter Text

It had been three days since the dinner theater evening. Was it weird that it felt like a long time since he had seen Derek? Yes. Possibly. He hadn’t called or texted or popped through his window to almost give him a heart attack. Maybe he had pushed it too much with the last Groupon. It was pretty ridiculous, but he thought that Derek had enjoyed himself. Three days was not a long time. Stiles ran a hand over his face. Was he being clingy? I’m not being clingy. We aren’t dating. Just hanging out. But the more he thought about it the more strange it seemed. Why was Derek hanging out with him now? He stared down at his notebook. It had been three days without a nightmare. He was getting better. What could it be? Maybe it was one of those things that just takes time. Whatever it was, he didn’t care, but he had been trying to exercise a bit more regularly since Ms. McCall brought it up.

“Dad! Let’s go for a jog.” He walked into his father’s bedroom to find it empty. The cruiser was still in the driveway. “Dad?” Stiles felt his heart beat faster. Was this a dream? He walked downstairs and into the kitchen to find his father sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. “Dad?”

“Yeah?”

Stiles was cautious. This could still be a nightmare. “Do you want to go for a jog?”

The Sheriff shrugged his shoulders, “Do we have to?”

This was the least resistance Stiles had ever encountered from his father. He looked at him suspiciously, “Yes. Let’s go.”

He watched as his father sighed and heaved himself up, “Only twenty minutes.”

“Forty,” Stiles countered. He began to relax; if his dad was negotiating it was probably really him.

“Half an hour.”

“Deal.”

***

Derek crept into the familiar room and perched himself at the end of Stiles bed. He didn’t want to get too close unless it was absolutely necessary. This was becoming dangerous. Familiar scents wafted around him and he breathed in Stiles. Derek noticed that he felt safe here. Almost like he had back home before it had all burnt to the ground. He sensed it before it began. Derek moved quickly up the bed and placed his hands on his head as his breathing hitched. The cold began to ebb away and Stiles shuddered before calming back down. Derek ran his thumbs over the apple of Stiles’s cheeks. His skin was soft. He bet he never shaved. Derek shook his head and concentrated on taking away the deep cold that had set itself within Stiles. He shivered feeling goosebumps rise on his arms. Slowly, he grew used to the sensation and leached as much out of Stiles as he could.

***

The next day Stiles gave in and drove over to Derek’s. He had a plan. They were going to do something exciting. Something awesome. There was no way he was going to say no. Not that he had said no yet. Actually, Stiles was finding that it wasn’t very hard to get Derek to agree to come out with him. He grinned to himself, he was wearing him down. He walked into the loft to find Derek at the breakfast bar.

“Have you ever been in a helicopter?”

Derek didn’t look up from the newspaper, “No.”

“Neither have I. This is going to be fun.”

“What?” Derek asked distractedly.

“Our next Groupon adventure.”

Derek put down the paper upon hearing the word Groupon. Stiles dropped his backpack by the couch.

Derek sighed, “What is it now?”

“We are going on a helicopter tour of the city.”

Derek admitted his curiosity was peaked, “Really?”

“Yup. Friday at 3:30 p.m.”

“Where is this?”

“We have to go out to a private airport near San Jose.”

He picked up his paper again, “Fine.”

Stiles wandered through the living room making for the Xbox. “Bet I can beat you in World of Warcraft,” he said pulling the game from his backpack.

“What is that?”

“You’ll see.” Stiles picked up a controller and threw it at Derek who caught it easily with his left hand without looking up from his paper.

“Show off.”

Hours later Derek was getting the hang of it and well on his way to conquering Azeroth. Stiles paused the game. “Dude, you are unstoppable.”

Derek grinned and shrugged his shoulders, “I tend to be very competitive.”

“Well, I’m tending toward hungry.”

Derek pulled out his phone ordered Chinese. He didn’t ask Stiles what he wanted. “Happy?” he said picking up his controller once again.

Stiles scratched the back of his head, “Sure.” Stiles sent a text off to his father: Over at Derek’s. Staying for dinner.

When the door bell rang Derek went to answer the door. Stiles cracked his knuckles and shook out his hands. He stood up stretching his arms overhead trying to unknot a kink in his shoulder.

Derek watched a thin strip of skin appear as Stiles’s shirt rode up. He forced his eyes down and made his way back to the couch setting the food down on the coffee table. Stiles opened the bag eagerly throwing a pair of chopsticks at Derek. He dug into the chicken lo mein. Unwrapping his chopsticks Derek reached into the bag to pull out a carton of beef and broccoli. Stiles sat back down on the couch tucking his feet underneath him. His mouth puckered as he slurped the noodles into his mouth. Derek could feel himself warming. He grabbed the carton from Stiles and shoved the beef and broccoli at him.

“Hey! I was eating that!”

“Yeah, I know. I wanted to get some before you ate it all.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, “All you had to do was ask.” Stiles gave him a weird look and then turned his attention to the contents of the carton Derek had shoved at him. “Mmm, this is good.”

***

Derek picked him up, as was becoming the norm now, and they drove out to the airport. Walking to the small building Stiles could barely contain his excitement. They met the pilot who was going to be taking them on the tour in the pilot’s lounge. He shook Stiles’s hand firmly. “I’m Troy, I’ll be your captain today. Either of you ever been up in one these birds before?”

“Nope.”

Derek simply shook his head.

“Well, they are perfectly safe. I used to fly for KQED doing their traffic reports so I have lots of flying time under my belt.” He handed them each a pair of headsets. “You are going to need these.” They walked out to the tarmac. “This is Helen.”

Stiles laughed and Troy smiled at him. “Helen? Helen of Troy?” he explained to Derek.

Derek did not look impressed.

Troy helped them both into the backseat of the helicopter and demonstrated how to work the seat belts. Then he got into the front, “Clap on your cans gentleman.”

“What?”

The pilot pointed to his headset. Stiles put them over his ears and heard the captain speaking to them. Are they called captains on helicopters? He figured it was probably the same as a plane in terms of the lingo.

“If you have any questions I’ll be able to hear you through the microphone and headset you have on.”

Stiles fiddled with the headset adjusting it so that it didn’t pinch his head too much.

“If you want to chat privately you can change the channel to number three,” he said tapping the right side of the head set.

Stiles reached up and felt a dial.

“Otherwise I’m here on number two. Number one is air traffic control. It’s pretty boring stuff, but you are welcome to listen in, just don’t say anything.”

The captain continued to speak to them through the headsets. Damn, it was noisy flying in one of these things. “First I’ll take us up and then we’ll head out over the bay.”

Stiles leaned forward watching him switch on various lights. He felt the rumble of the giant machine all around them.

“Make sure you have your seat belts fastened. Safety first.”

They lifted off and Stiles stared out of the window. It was like being on a plane except a lot noisier and bumpier. He watched as they flew higher and higher.

“Helicopters can’t fly as high as airplanes. Sky rules of the road, if you like,” the pilot explained, “So don’t worry, we won’t be running into any jumbo jets. You okay there big guy?” he asked Derek.

Stiles turned to face him he looked like his usual scowley self.

“Yes.”

“Alrighty then.”

***

Derek noticed as the trees and the buildings grew smaller and smaller. The helicopter was so noisy. He knew he was bound to get a headache. Sometimes having super sensitive hearing was a curse. He could hear nothing but the whir of the blades as the helicopter rose higher and higher. He folded his arms and looked out the window trying to concentrate on the scenery.

“Here we have downtown San Jose.”

They flew over a small cluster of buildings.

“Anyone a hockey fan? On the right you have the SAP Center where the Sharks play.” They flew a bit higher and the pilot continued his tour, “We’re flying over Mountain View, home to Google and many other giant tech companies.”

Derek stared down at the buildings with little interest.

“I hear they have volleyball courts and slides and segways to ride around,” Stiles said enthusiastically.

“It’s all true. Next, we have Palo Alto home of Stanford.”

Stiles looked down at the campus. His dream school.

“Any Cardinal fans?”

“Yes!” Stiles shouted in the microphone.

Derek grabbed his head.

“No need to shout son, we can here you just fine.”

“Sorry,” he said quietly. Then they flew over the water. It was beautiful. Stiles pasted himself to the window. The water churned beneath them. It was so clear out.

“Here we are coming up on San Francisco.”

Derek looked down at the water and tried to clear his head. The view really was stunning. The surrounding areas were very green.

“Here we are coming up on downtown. We’re going to fly over FiDi.”

“Fye-dye?”

“The financial district.”

Downtown San Francisco looked great. Neat and clean.

“This is Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embarcadero. This year the America’s Cup sailing competition was played in San Francisco bay and the American Team won.”

“Yeah, thanks to Larry Ellison,” Stiles replied.

“He did have quite a lot to do with that yes. Hard team to beat, Oracle. Anyway, part of his development deal with the city was that he was able to build more waterfront property.”

Derek looked down at the piers and what looked like huge bleachers over the water. “What are those seats for?” he asked. “Those were for the spectators in the America’s Cup.”

***

“We are coming up on the Bay Bridge now which connects San Francisco to the East Bay.”

They followed along the bridge over the choppy water.

“Is that Alcatraz?” Stiles asked.

“No, that is Treasure Island. Used to be a military base during World War II. Still is a military base, but people have been trying to develop the island for years.” They flew closer to the island.

“What the hell is that?” Stiles asked looking down. He saw what appeared to be a giant mesh statue of a naked woman.

“That’s the Dancing Lady. She was made by local artist Marco Cochrane for Burning Man a few years ago and now has a permanent home on the island. She’s made of metal mesh and has lights inside her than can be controlled from an app at night.”

Whoa. The sculpture was enormous. And beautiful and sensuous. “Who knew metal could be so sexy?” Stiles commented.

He looked over at Derek who seemed particularly grumpy.

“Not an art fan?” he asked.

Derek looked over at him and shrugged.

“Burning Man isn’t your thing?” Stiles guessed.

Derek rolled his eyes.

“What? Getting high out in the desert and making art doesn’t sound like a good time?”

Derek looked back out his window. They flew over and water and followed the bridge.

“Now we’re coming into Oakland. Home of the Oakland A’s. There is the Oracle Arena and the O.Co Coliseum where they play along with the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors.”

Then they flew north.

“Now we are flying over Berkeley. For any foodies amongst us? We’re passing the Gourmet Ghetto where the famous Chez Panisse is located.”

“Oh nice!” Stiles said with enthusiasm.

Derek looked at Stiles with mild interest and confusion.

“I like Alice Waters,” Stiles explained into his mike.

“Who is Alice Waters?’ Derek asked.

Stiles rolled his eyes, “She is one of the proponents of the Slow Food movement.” Stiles could see his eyes glazing over, “Nevermind.” Addressing the pilot he asked, “Have you ever eaten there?”

“No, haven’t had the chance yet. We are close to Cal. Any Bears fans?”

“Yes,” Derek said.

Stiles looked at him surprised.

“Well we are flying over the Campanile, one of the landmarks of the campus.”

***

The flight continued.

“Now we’re flying over point Richmond and here is the Richmond Bridge which connects the East Bay to Marin County. Marin County is of course famous for being the home of George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and Industrial Light and Magic. George recently commissioned a park in San Anselmo which has a statue of Yoda and Indiana Jones.”

Stiles pressed himself against the window wishing they could set down to visit.

“Good gelato in San Anselmo too,” the captain commented.

The area was very lush and green. Lots of woods.

“And now we’re coming up to the Golden Gate Bridge which connects Marin and San Francisco.”

“Is that one Alcatraz?” Stiles asked about an Island coming up.

“No, that is Angel Island which has a pretty sad history. It was used as an Immigration and Detention Station for Chinese immigrants from 1910-1940 and then as Japanese internment camp during World War II.”

“Well, that’s depressing.”

There is Alcatraz.”

That’s it?” It’s so small.”

“Yeah. Just a little rock out there. Anyway, about the Golden Gate, once they finish painting one end, they immediately start again. It is now the first bridge in California to collect all its tolls electronically. No more toll booth operators.”

“How does that work?” Stiles asked.

“They snap a picture of your license plate and send you a bill in the mail if you don’t have a FasTrak pass.”

The light was fading.

“Looks like we’re going to have a hell of a sunset. No fog at the moment.”

The helicopter hovered over the bay. Stiles saw the sky bleed from a deep blue to light blue, to a slight pale green fading into yellow, then orange and then pink. He watched the giant orb sink lower on the horizon.

“Now this is a sunset,” he said into his microphone.

“Yep. You boys got lucky.”

Derek watched the sun slowly disappear and then turned to see lights blinking on all over the bay.

“Wow.” Stiles said.

Derek’s headache was persistent but he had to admit the view was spectacular. They watched the iconic orange bridge as the sun settled below the horizon. When the sun had disappeared they started to fly south again.

“As a part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge they installed a light installation on one side. We can see it now that it’s dark. There are 25,000 LED lights on the bridge and it is considered the world’s largest light sculpture spanning 1.8 miles and 500 feet high. The lights are programmed with an algorithm by artist Leo Villaral to create never repeating light displays. Each display is unique.”

Stiles stared at the pulsating lights. “You could have a rave up here,” he said and started to bounce in his seat.

Derek rolled his eyes although it was too dark for Stiles to see. The only light was coming from the control panel in front of the pilot. His head was pounding and the light show wasn’t helping.

***

Once they were back down on the ground Derek’s mood lifted a bit. At least his ears could have a rest now.

“Wasn’t that awesome?” Stiles said as they got into his car.

“Shh,” he groaned, “Quiet. Quiet is good.”

“You didn’t like it?” Stiles asked confused. “Come on! All the sights! I know it was a bit touristy and whatever, but-”

“It was fine,” Derek interrupted in a low voice, “It was a lot of noise though.”

“Noise? Oh,” Stiles’s eyes widened, “Oh. Oh shit! Sorry,” he clasped his hands over his mouth and then whispered, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Derek glared at him, “What could I say? We were up in the air.”

“So typical. Derek Hale suffering in silence. I could have given you some Advil or something. I dunno maybe the captain had extra ear plugs.”

Derek cracked his neck. “I’m feeling better now.”

“You know what can cure anything?”

“What?”

“In-N-Out.”

Derek grumbled.

“I know for a fact a burger will cure what ails you.”

“Fine.”

Stiles pumped his fist in victory. They pulled up at In-N-Out and parked the car. Derek walked toward the two crossed palm trees in the front without waiting for Stiles to catch up. Stiles scrambled out of the car after Derek and was about three steps behind when he entered the restaurant. Luckily, it was still early, so the line was very short. He knew from experience that late night at In-N-Out could be a nightmare. Derek ordered a triple-triple, fries and a lemonade. Stiles came next to him and ordered a double-double animal style, fries extra crispy and a Neapolitan shake.

“You should try it animal style dude. It’s the best.”

Derek looked at him strangely.

Stiles spoke to the cashier, “Make them both animal style,” he said handing the cashier a twenty. The guy, whose nametag read Chris, gave him his change and a receipt. They sat in a hard red plastic booth and waited for their number to be called. “Seriously, you won’t regret it.” Stiles popped up and went to the ketchup pump. They should really use bigger cups, these small paper things were the size of a thimble. He returned with eight little cups four precariously held in each hand. Derek stared down at the cups and raised his eyebrow. “What?” Stiles replied defensively, “I like ketchup.”

“Order number 52!”

Stiles grabbed the receipt and went to go get the food. He placed the giant burger in front of Derek and then tucked into his own. Derek picked it up skeptically, but then again, how badly could anyone screw up a burger? Derek felt so much better biting into that burger that after his first bite he actually moaned.

“See? I told you, you wouldn’t regret it. I love the grilled onions.” Stiles dug into his fries with abandon.

***

He felt hands on the side of his head. He debated whether he should open his eyes and decided to keep them closed. A feeling of warmth flowed through him, blanketing his insides. Feelings of protection, strength and something else. Something Stiles couldn’t quite place. He felt like he was being healed. Healed. He rolled the word over in his mind. And slowly a thought began to form. Werewolves could heal people, well, at least take their pain away. He was hurt or damaged or something after that ritual. Now he was feeling better. He had been getting better since Derek got back into town. But it didn’t quite add up in Stiles half-asleep mind. That would mean that Derek had been healing him? He didn’t know what Stiles was going through. He hadn’t told Derek. Had he? As he relaxed into the sensation he drifted off again wondering if he was imagining those strong hands on his head.

***

Maybe he was being totally paranoid. I mean he wasn’t living out some perverted Twilight fantasy. Derek was probably not coming into his room every night and watching him sleep. That would just be creepy. But over the next few days he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was happening so he finally set up his webcam on his desk and pointed it toward the bed. Tonight he would find out what was really going on.

***

Cora picked up on the second ring.

“Hi.”

“Hey.”

“What have you been up to this week? Have you learned to crochet yet?”

Derek laughed. “No, nothing like that.”

“So your adventures with Stiles have come to an end?”

“Not exactly. We went on a helicopter tour.”

What?” she asked incredulous, “A helicopter? You got to ride in a helicopter?”

“Yup, over the bay. You know, see some of the bridges and islands, flew over downtown San Francisco. That sort of thing.”

“That is so freaking random.”

“I know.”

“Well, was it fun?”

“Yeah, I guess. I mean the views were great, it was really clear but my ears were killing me and I had a headache for most of the time. So I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind if someone offers to take me on a helicopter tour of New York,” she deadpanned. “That must have cost a pretty penny.”

“I have no idea.”

“You didn’t pay?”

“No, he did. It was one of those Groupon things.”

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with him.”

“More than he knows.”

“Derek! Have you still not told him?!”

Derek winced to himself, “Not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” she asked skeptically.

“Okay, no.”

“Why? He knows about what you did for me. He’s seen Scott heal dogs, why not just tell him?”

“He wasn’t exactly forthcoming with what was going on.”

“So?” she pressed.

“So, I read his notebook to find out what was going on with him.”

“So you completely invaded his privacy and don’t want him to know about it.”

“Sort of.”

“Why do you care?”

“Huh?”

“Why do you care if he’s pissed or knows that you read his notebook? Did he confess his massive crush on you in there? Declare his undying love?”

“Ha, ha, Cora. No.”

“Why do you care what he thinks? It’s for his own good. You are doing him a favor. He should know.”

It was a good question, and one that he hadn’t asked himself. Why did he care what Stiles thought? He wasn’t sure. He just did.

“I don’t want him to feel obligated or like he owes me.”

He got off the phone with Cora after hearing about how Elise had dragged her to the Met and explained the importance of the stairs and their place in social order of privileged high school girls. Derek debated going over to Stiles’s but at this point it was more of a losing argument than a debate. He rarely talked himself out of going these nights. He would stop soon. Stiles was getting better. It was taking less and less time to heal him now. He would continue as long at Stiles needed him.

***

Stiles woke up feeling well rested. He forgot about the webcam until later in the afternoon. Making himself a sandwich he brought his lunch upstairs and checked his computer. He watched back over the recording forwarding through about two hours when he saw something come in through the window. Holy shit. No way. No fucking way. He watched as Derek came over to his bed and sat down beside him. At first it looked like he was just watching Stiles. It was weird watching all of this in night vision like he was watching some secret raid. Derek looked tired and worried and slightly guilty. Then Stiles noticed he became alert. Stiles could hear himself gasping for breath. Derek placed his hands on either side of his head and closed his eyes.

Stiles eyes widened as he watched the footage. They stayed like that for about half an hour before Derek let go of him and pulled his blankets back over his sleeping form. He paused the video. He knew he should be freaked out. He was freaked out. But he couldn’t help but be a little turned on. Is that weird? Yes, that’s weird, he decided. Someone creepily watching me sleep is a weird kink. Maybe Bella was on to something. Stiles shook his head and rubbed his eyes. He needed to get a grip. He pulled up his calendar forming a hypothesis. The nights that he had nightmares Derek hadn’t come over to do his werewolf healy thing. That explained the pattern. An unknown variable was thrown into the mix. That’s why he couldn’t figure out the pattern. But now it was clear. He was getting better not because of the activities, it was Derek.

***

As he vigorously brushed his teeth Stiles thought over the situation. This was weird. Clearly, it was weird. How long had this been going on? How many times had he come over? This time Stiles was determined to stay awake. To confront him. He didn’t know how exactly he felt about the whole situation. Derek coming over unannounced and uninvited was nothing unusual, but how could he not tell Stiles that he was helping him? Wasn’t that the sort of thing a person ought to know? Shouldn’t he have asked Stiles’s permission? Anger flashed for a moment but it quickly faded. Derek was protecting him. Watching over him. Healing him. It was hard to be angry about that. But he wasn’t going to let Derek get away with it. Stiles was going to confront him.

***

Derek paced quietly at the end of Stiles’s bed watching his still form. Stiles was sprawled out but seemed to be having an agitated sleep. It wasn’t the same sort of thing he had seen before though. His breathing was fine and he wasn’t sweating or shaking. He sat on the edge of the bed and carded a hand through his hair. His conversation with Cora replayed in his mind. Why did he care what Stiles thought? He was an “act now and think later” type of person. But somehow, the thought of Stiles being angry with him or hurt by him was something he didn’t want to think about. He enjoyed spending time with him. He could admit that now. This tentative friendship they had was fragile. If Stiles thought that Derek had betrayed his trust it could ruin everything that had been carefully built up over the past few weeks. Friendship. Was that what he wanted? Healing someone was intimate. It was sharing yourself with another. He didn’t want to freak Stiles out. Derek looked down at Stiles noticing his thick eyelashes and the curve of his mouth. Yes, he was attracted to him. But he wouldn’t act on it. None of it mattered. Derek was pretty sure that Stiles was still hung up on Lydia. He didn’t think Stiles had mentioned being attracted to guys before. Besides, it was safer if things remained like this. The people he tended to get involved with had a way of dying.

***

Stiles woke with a start the next morning. Damn it! How had this happened? He fell asleep again? He rubbed his hands over his head. He didn’t remember anything but he woke up and was feeling pretty good so Derek must have come. Stiles got dressed in a hurry and went for a run. He needed to clear his head. As he was running he tried to think of a way to approach Derek. There were two issues really. Derek had been spending a lot of time with him lately and Stiles had sort of hoped that it was because he wanted to hang out with him. He tried not to think about it, but he thought he felt something when he was with Derek. Something sparky. They had always clashed but it seemed that things were a bit mellower between them now and Stiles had hoped that meant maybe moving toward something else.

He started to run faster feeling his frustration. He didn’t even know if Derek liked dudes. Hell, he didn’t even know if he really liked dudes himself. But there was just something about the werewolf. He felt foolish for allowing himself to think like that, even for a moment. Now that he realized Derek was healing him, was the first thought really even a possibility? Maybe he was mistaking Derek healing him for some sort of affection. The second issue was Derek not telling him about any of this or asking his permission. It wasn’t right. He hadn’t asked for Derek’s help. Stiles ran for another twenty minutes before heading back home. He took a shower and then got dressed. Stiles stared at his notebook and then at his phone debating. He sighed, picking up his phone.

***

Derek picked up after one ring.

“Stiles.”

“Hey.”

Silence.

“What are you doing?”

“Why?” Derek asked suspiciously.

“Jesus, trying to have a conversation with you is impossible.”

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose and took a breath, “I’m making some lunch.”

“Nice. I already ate.”

Why was Stiles calling? He felt an awkwardness that seemed more than their usual tension. Did he know?

“Do you want to get dinner?” Stiles asked casually.

“Tonight?” he blurted out surprised.

“No, tomorrow night.”

He gripped the phone tightly, “This isn’t another one of those murder mystery dinners is it?”

He could hear Stiles laugh through the phone, “No, but it is one of those Groupon’s my dad got me.”

“What’s the catch then?”

“No catch. Just dinner.”

“Just dinner?” he asked suspiciously.

“Dude, just say no if you don’t want to go.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay, we can go,” Derek clarified.

“Cool. I’ll make an 8:00 p.m. reservation. Wear something nice.”

Chapter Text

Derek arrived at 7:15 p.m. in a suit. He hated wearing suits; they reminded him of funerals and job interviews. He walked up to the door and rang the bell. Someone pounded down the stairs. Stiles opened the door quickly and then ran back upstairs. Derek followed him up to his room where he found Stiles sitting on his bed putting his socks and shoes on. He could see steam in the bathroom. Stiles must have just gotten out of the shower. Derek hovered in the doorway unsure of what to do.

“I’ll be ready in a minute,” Stiles said walking back into the bathroom. He returned shortly picking up a black suit jacket on the back of his chair. He wore dark grey slacks and a white button down. Stiles looked back at Derek as he left his room, “Coming?”

Derek followed him out to the Camaro.

“Good thing I’m bringing someone with a big appetite,” Stiles said settling into the passenger seat.

“Is this a buffet?”

“No, it’s a five course meal though.”

“Where?”

“Some new local organic blah, blah, blah place downtown. I think the chef was a contestant on Top Chef one season.” He saw no recognition in Derek’s eyes. “Nevermind. Anyway, it’s supposed to be good. We don’t get too many choices but the tasting menu looks interesting.”

“What is this place called?” Derek asked as they drove.

“Spirulina.”

“Isn’t that a sugar substitute?”

“No, I think it’s a vegetable.” Stiles pulled out his phone. “Hmm, we were both wrong, apparently it’s a cynobacteria. Well, that doesn’t sound good.”

Derek frowned.

“Wait! Wait! Apparently it’s a superfood!”

“What the hell is a superfood?”

“They are supposed to be good for you, they have higher concentrations of antioxidants or vitamins or something. Spirulina has vitamins B and K. Anyway, I don’t think we’ll actually be eating any of it, it’s just the name.”

“Is this the type of place that gives you three leaves of lettuce and a garbanzo bean and calls it a salad?”

“Possibly,” Stiles admitted.

They walked into the restaurant. The din of a busy dinner crowd hit him as he opened the door. The hostess was a harassed looking brunette with long straight hair. “Hi, reservation for Stilinksi.” She smiled at Stiles and gathered up menus, “Right this way.” The restaurant was in dark brown and gold. Rich leather covered the booths and chairs. She seated them at a table in the center of the restaurant. Stiles looked around the room noting the patrons mostly looked older or very hipster.

Their waitress seemed to materialized out of nowhere with a basket of bread.

“Hi, I’m Serena, I’ll be your server this evening. If you have any questions let me know. Would you like still or sparkling water?”

“Still,” Derek said.

She turned to Stiles who was looking at the menu. When he realized she was waiting for him to answer he looked up quickly, “Still is fine.”

“I’ll be right back.”

They perused the menu in silence. Finally, Stiles spoke, “Everything on here sounds delicious. This is a different menu from the one I saw online.”

Serena returned with a carafe of water and filled their glasses. “Do you have any questions so far?”

“Yes,” Stiles started, “Are there any specials?”

“The tasting menu is the special, it changes every few days.”

“Also, it says with wine pairings but they aren’t listed.”

“Oh yes. As for the wine pairings,” she started.

“Yes?” Stiles interrupted eagerly.

“We have a Sauvignon Blanc to start, then a Rose for the second course. For your entrée we have a Chateauneuf de Pape that pairs with the filet, a Cabernet Sauvignon with the short ribs, a Syrah with the lamb. Moving on we have a Malbec or Grenache for the fourth course and then to finish off Moscato or Reisling for dessert.”

“Excellent.”

“Of course if you want a different selection we can substitute another wine for a fee.”

“No, that sounds perfect. Thank you.”

Derek growled at him, “Stiles.”

“What?” he shrugged, “You’re the one driving. Not me.”

Stiles turned back to Serena, “I think we need another minute.”

The waitress melted away.

“You can’t drink.”

“Why not?”

“What do you mean why not? You aren’t old enough.”

“What are you going to do? Narc on me?”

Derek raised one of his eyebrows.

The waitress returned to their table. “Have you made your selections?”

Stiles placed his menu at the edge of the table. “Yes, I’d like the duck confit salad to start.”

“And for your next course?”

“The sweet potato soup.”

“And your entrée?”

“The short ribs and polenta.”

“Very good and for your fourth course?” “I’ll go with the mushroom risotto.”

She turned to Derek, “And for you sir?”

“Warm spinach salad and then the Ahi tuna.”

“And for your entrée?”

“The lamb and filet.”

“And how would you like that cooked?”

“Rare.”

She reached for Derek’s menu, “I’ll have your salads shortly.”

“Sounds great.”

The waitress turned away from their table.

“Don’t they ask for ID in these places?”

“Not in a place this expensive,” Stiles said looking around the room, “Plus, you look old enough for both of us.”

Derek rolled his eyes.

She returned a moment later with two wine glasses, “The Sauvignon Blanc,” she announced.

Stiles raised his glass, “To werewolf metabolism and designated drivers.” He held his glass out toward Derek who narrowed his eyes picking up his own glass reluctantly clinking Stiles’s glass.

Derek buttered himself a roll. It was warm and soft and so flavorful he wondered how much butter was already in it. If the bread tasted this good that was probably a good sign of things to come.

***

The meal was absolutely delicious. By the time the waitress came back to discuss dessert options Derek was finally feeling relaxed. He didn’t metabolize alcohol the same way a human did, but he was feeling nice and warm and full. The food really was excellent. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was having a good time.

“For dessert we have bourbon vanilla Madagascar crème brûlée with seasonal berries, an espresso kahlua cheesecake, a deconstructed sundae with homemade cardamom vanilla, chocolate peanut butter and bourbon peach ice creams topped with our whipped cream, hot fudge and sea salt caramel.”

Stiles looked like his tongue was going to fall out of his head.

“And our chocolate trio includes a flourless dark chocolate molten cake, chocolate butterscotch mousse and a chocolate and grey sea salt cookie.”

“Wow. Tough choices.”

“Which would you recommend?” Derek asked.

“My personal favorite is the sundae.”

“I’ll go with that then.”

She turned to Stiles who looked like he was in agony, “For you?”

“This is hard,” he said clutching at his chest, “But I’m going to go with the chocolate trio. No! Wait the crème brûlée. No! I just had crème brûlée recently. Okay, the chocolate.”

“Final answer?”

“Final,” he said picking up his wine glass.

“Good choices.”

When she set down the desserts Stiles eye grew wide. “Wow.”

“Enjoy,” she said and walked to another table.

Stiles took in his own dessert and then looked at Derek’s plate. “That isn’t any ordinary ice cream.”

Derek took a spoonful, “No. I don’t think it is.” The flavors went together perfectly. Each one crested on his palate and the caramel seemed to heighten all the flavors. Derek licked his lips, “I’ve never had ice cream this good.”

Stiles took in the plate in front of him and then Derek’s and pitched himself forward with his spoon scooping up some of the sundae. He put the spoon in his mouth and Derek saw his eyes flutter shut. Stiles groaned, “This must be better than sex.”

Derek felt himself heat at the comment. He cleared his throat.

Stiles cheeks were flushed and his eyes slightly glassy. He knew he shouldn’t have let Stiles drink this much but he didn’t want to be the bad guy. Besides, he was sure Stiles must have a fake ID. Stiles tucked into his own dessert nibbling at the cookie. He continued to make almost obscene groaning sounds.

“This is the best cookie I’ve ever had.”

Derek looked back down to his own plate knowing he should eat his ice cream before it melted. He tried to focus on his dessert and not the guy sitting across from him. Stiles was looking at him strangely. As their meal had progressed he had sensed something was up.

“You want another bite?” he asked.

Stiles nodded but did not hand over his spoon. Derek fixed a bite for him and handed him the spoon. Instead of taking it from him though Stiles leaned forward and took the spoon into his mouth. Derek watched as his lips dragged against the metal as he slowly pulled back. Stiles tongue flicked out to catch a drizzle of caramel on his bottom lip which he then sucked on. Derek dropped the spoon. The sound of it clattering on the table broke him out of his fixation and he sat back. He kept his eyes on his plate but looked up again when a spoon came into his line of sight.

Stiles handed him the spoon and grinned, “I think you dropped this.”

They continued eating their desserts. Stiles looked at Derek over his trio of half eaten chocolate desserts, “Chocolate isn’t good for dogs.”

Derek chuckled and reached over with his fork swiping some of the mousse, “I think I’ll live.” It was really rich and creamy.

“I know what you’ve been doing,” he said.

“What’s that?” he asked, “Putting up with you for the past two weeks?”

“No.”

“Stealing your dessert?”

“No.” Stiles lazily picked up his fork with a bite of oozing chocolate cake and brought it toward his lips, “I know you’ve been coming into my room while I’m asleep.”

Derek froze.

Stiles chewed and then continued, “Almost every night.”

He just looked at Stiles, unsure what to say.

The waitress came up to their table, “Everything okay?”

“Yep,” Stiles said.

She scurried away.

“I’ve been debating whether or not I should tell you that I know,” Stiles continued taking a sip of his Reisling.

Derek reached over and took the glass from him, “I think you’ve had enough of that.”

Stiles pouted, “Don’t be a dick because I figured out your secret,” he said reaching for the glass.

Derek picked it up and swallowed the contents of the glass placing it back in front of Stiles.

“No fair.”

Derek caught the eye of the waitress and she hurried over. “Can we have the check please?”

“Yes, right away.”

“I don’t want to go. I’m not finished with my dessert.”

“I think it’s time to get you home. If your father finds out about this he’s going to kill me.”

Stiles took a spoonful of mousse. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

Stiles rubbed his eyes sleepily, “That you were coming over. I would have left out a dog biscuit or steak.”

Serena returned with the bill. The Groupon had covered almost everything. Derek paid the tax and tip.

***

Stiles grew quiet and got into the car. The silence was painful. “I need to know why you did it.”

He looked over at Stiles who was looking straight ahead. “Why I did what?”

“Why have you been spending time with me? Why have you been coming into my room at night? Why have you been healing me?”

Derek pulled the car over abruptly and Stiles slammed forward against his seatbelt. He gripped the steering wheel tightly as he spoke, “You’re hurt. I’m trying to help.”

“Not good enough. I want answers.” Stiles unclicked his seatbelt and turned to face him. “Why?”

“Why am I helping you? Because you’re pack.”

“I’m part of Scott’s pack,” Stiles clarified.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Derek really didn’t have a very good answer for this one.

“Why have you been spending time with me? Pity?”

“No,” he said quickly, “I, I, wanted to make sure you were safe.” He ran a hand through his hair, “I came back to Beacon Hills for you and Scott and Isaac. Your father mentioned that you weren’t doing great, but you wouldn’t talk to him about it and you didn’t exactly tell me what was going on, so I wanted to see for myself. That was how it started,” he explained. “I saw you almost stopped breathing one night, I didn’t know what was going on or how to help so I just tried to,” he paused, “My instinct was to give you some of my strength. To take away your pain.”

Stiles was pissed, “It wasn’t yours to take!”

“What did you want? For me to let you suffer?” Derek asked incredulously.

“No, but asking permission would have been a first step.”

“Why didn’t you ask? Why didn’t you tell me what you were doing?”

“Because I read your notebook,” he admitted.

Stiles eyes widened, “You what?

“I was in your room, it was there. I wanted to know what was going on with you.”

Derek at least had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed.

“You went through my things?”

“No,” he said quickly, “It was an accident. It was lying out. Then after I saw it, I wanted to see for myself, to try to understand some of the things you had written.”

Stiles was silent for several moments then he spoke quietly, “So this is just a pack thing? You just wanted to protect me?”

“I didn’t want you to be in pain.”

Stiles leaned closer to look into Derek’s eyes in the dark car. “Why?”

“Because I know what it’s like,” he said softly, “I came back for you,” Derek said, “All of you.”

“All of us? But why spend time with me? Because I was the only one left?”

“Because I wanted to make sure you were safe.”

“Since when do you care?”

Derek put a hand on his neck and drew him closer looking at him directly, “I’ve always cared.”

Stiles eyes searched his face and then looked down at his lips. His gaze darted back to Derek’s eyes and then he grabbed his lapels and pulled him forward crushing his lips to the former Alpha’s. His lips moved against his hungrily and Stiles sucked his bottom lip eliciting a small groan from Derek. Stiles's hands wound their way up to Derek’s neck and he used one hand to pull him closer, the other hand wandering up into his hair. Derek’s lips began to move against his own and he felt Derek begin to take control of the kiss. Stiles’s heart slammed up against his ribcage as Derek pulled him closer.

They broke the kiss and Stiles gasped for breath resting his forehead on Derek’s shoulder. Every nerve fiber in his body felt like it was tingling. He placed small kisses up Derek’s neck and smiled when he heard him groan.

“We can’t.”

Stiles lifted his head and looked Derek in the eye, “We just did.”

“You’re drunk!”

“So?”

“You’re seventeen!”

“So?”

“Stiles,” he said roughly holding his shoulders and pushing him back, “I need to get you home.”

***

Light filtered in through the window and Stiles woke up with his head pounding. Slowly blinking his eyes open he quickly shut them again. The light felt like needles stabbing into his eyeballs. He groaned turning over on his stomach and looked at his alarm clock. It was 11:07 a.m. Gingerly he rubbed his eyes and then noticed a big glass of water and two Advil next to his clock. Stiles slowly sat up and started to drink the water swallowing both pills in one go. What had happened last night? He remembered going to dinner with Derek, drinking a lot of wine, eating a lot of really good food. Then it came back to him, he had confronted him. They were in the car and arguing and then. And then. Stiles ghosted his fingers over his lips. Holy Shit! Did that really happen?

***

Derek paced in the loft. After he got Stiles into bed last night he hadn’t stuck around. Would he remember what had happened? It would be best for him to stay away for a couple of days. Let things cool down. He sat down on his couch and placed his head in his hands. How could he do this? He had kissed Stiles. Technically, Stiles had kissed him first, but that hardly mattered. He allowed it to happen and had returned it. Stiles was drunk. He shouldn’t have done anything. Maybe he wouldn’t remember. The more he tried to talk himself into staying away the more he argued with himself. Was it right to leave Stiles to suffer because of his mistake? He could control himself. He would control himself. Stiles will be asleep. Nothing will happen.

***

“You slept late,” the Sheriff remarked when Stiles finally went downstairs at 12:30 p.m.

He was starving. “Yeah,” Stiles muttered noncommittally.

“You want to go for a jog?”

Stiles groaned as he poured himself some coffee.

His dad looked him over, “Are you hung over?!”

Stiles wiped a hand across his face and took a sip of his coffee, “Maybe?”

“I’m going to kill that Hale kid.”

“Dad it wasn’t his fault. Teenagers drink. You know it, I know it, the whole world knows it. I wasn’t driving. He made sure I was okay.”

The Sheriff narrowed his eyes at his son, “Did he buy you alcohol?”

Technically, it was his father would had bought the dinner, “No. No, of course not.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“I’ll be fine. Have you had lunch?”

“No, I was just about to rustle something up.”

“How about we go to the diner?”

“The diner?”

“Yeah, I can get breakfast and you can get lunch.”

He knew his dad wouldn’t resist the opportunity to eat French fries.

“Okay.”

***

Stiles eyes were used to the dark by now. He had been staring intently at his window for the past thirty minutes. He would come. At least he was 70% sure he would come. He had been thinking about Derek all day and the temptation to call him or send him a text was overwhelming but he fought it. Derek would come to him when he was ready to talk. The window slid open a minute later and Derek hoisted himself through. Stiles flicked on his lamp. The light hurt his eyes and apparently Derek’s.

He winced and looked away from the lamp to Stiles sitting up in his bed, “You’re awake.”

“I’m awake.”

Derek hesitated, “We should talk.”

“No good ever comes from a conversation that starts, ‘We should talk.’ But fine. How about let’s start with apologies?”

“Apologies?”

“Yes. I’ll go first. I’m sorry for drinking so much last night. I should have held back.”

Derek nodded at him.

“Your turn.”

Silence.

“Nothing to say? How about starting with, ‘I’m sorry I’ve been coming in here and not telling you?’ Or how about, ‘I’m sorry I’ve been healing you without your permission?’ Or, ‘I’m sorry that I read your notebook?’ Or, ‘I’m sorry for not telling you I cared about you earlier so we could avoid all this weirdness?’ Those would be good places to start.”

Derek gritted his teeth, “I’m not sorry for healing you.” He ran a hand through his hair and started to pace in front of the bed. “I am sorry for reading your notebook without your permission,” he relented, “And I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you that I’ve been coming over.” He looked back at Stiles who was watching him intently.

Derek stopped pacing and sat down next to Stiles. “What do you remember from last night?”

He heard Stiles heartbeat speed up.

Stiles looked from Derek’s concerned eyes to his mouth, “I remember this,” he said kissing Derek softly.

His lips were so soft. He let himself go and enjoyed the sweet chaste kiss raising his hand to Stiles’s cheek. Stiles gently pulled away, those milk chocolate and honey eyes looking back at him.

“I do care about you,” he said with a quiet intensity, “I didn’t tell you because,”

“Because what?”

He paused dropping his hand and spoke softly, “Because I ruin people. I ruin people Stiles. Kate and Jennifer. They were,”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on,” Stiles held up a hand and shook his head, “You don’t ruin people Derek. You’ve been betrayed. And that is not your fault. They made their own choices, terrible choices,” he added quickly, “But that is on them. Not you.”

“The people I care about tend to die,” he pulled away from the bed, “It’s better for you if I stay away.”

Stiles reached out grabbing his hand and yanked him back down, “That’s not for you to decide. I care about you too. I always thought you were way out of my league and it just wasn’t realistic.”

“It’s not.”

“Why not?”

“You’re seventeen!”

“So? What is that in wolf years? Practically ancient right?”

“Stiles,” he growled.

“Come on. That’s bullshit. So what if you’re a few years older than me? It doesn’t matter.” He placed Derek’s hand on his sternum, “I know you can hear this. You know I’m telling the truth. None of that matters.”

“What does matter?”

“Us.”

“No, what matters is keeping you safe.”

“I’m the one with a ‘darkness around my heart’ now. Maybe I’m the poisoned one.”

“You’re almost healed. You’ve been getting better and better every night. Need less time I mean.”

“Can you show me?”

“Are you asking me to heal you?”

“Yes.”

Derek still had his hand against Stiles chest. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He could feel Stiles watching him closely. Stiles felt a shock of bitter cold and shivered. It was the first time that he had consciously felt the effects of the ritual. He watched the black veining appear on Derek’s hand and bleed up into his forearm. Fascinated Stiles traced his fingers along the black lines. “Close your eyes.” Stiles looked back up to Derek and then reluctantly closed them. “What do you feel?” Stiles felt like the cold was being leached out of him but then he felt something else. A warmth, that felt like sunshine and puppies and clothes right out of the dryer. It was coming from Derek. “I feel you.” Who knew Mr. Dark and Brooding was a ray of sunshine on the inside?

When Stiles blinked his eyes open Derek was looking at him intensely.

How do you feel?”

“Good. Warm.”

After a moment he spoke, “I should go.” He didn’t move though.

“Take off your shoes.”

“What?”

“Take off your shoes.”

Derek stepped back and toed off his shoes. Stiles scooted over to the left side of the bed and threw open the covers, “I think you should stay.” Stiles would have laughed at the shock on Derek’s face if he didn’t think it would scare him away so he patted the space next to him instead.

“Stiles,” he looked from the bed to Stiles, who looked oh so warm and inviting, “I shouldn’t. We can’t. Your father,” he said craning his neck toward the closed door.

“My dad is on the late shift tonight he won’t be back until 6 a.m.” Stiles could tell the Derek was debating whether or not to split, “Just sleeping.”

“Just sleeping?” Derek asked skeptically.

Stiles held up three fingers, “Scout’s honor.”

Reluctantly Derek slid into the bed. They lay side by side without touching. Stiles tried to stifle a giggle, he couldn’t help but think of Arrested Development and the security guards yelling “No touching!” every time someone tried to touch George Bluth or he inevitably tried to strangle someone.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing.”

Stiles turned to face Derek. This was stupid. Stiles inched his way closer to Derek feeling warmth radiating from him. He threw his leg over Derek’s and laid his head on his chest just below his right shoulder. He was like a big warm wall of muscle.

“You’re warm.”

“Yeah. Werewolf thing.”

“I like it. I may have to snuggle up to Scott more often.”

“Shut up.”

He felt Derek’s arm slide around his back and fell asleep listening to the steady beat of his heart.

***

Stiles rolled over to find that he was alone in bed. Of course he was. He glanced at his alarm clock. 9 a.m. His dad should be in bed by now. Stiles yawned and blinked up at his ceiling. He couldn’t remember a time when he had slept so well. He couldn’t remember any of his dreams which was how he preferred it. His mind was busy enough as it was when he was awake. Stiles sat up to stretch. He propped himself up on some pillows and folded his hands in his lap. If only he could keep these feelings of calm, peace and rest stoppered up in a bottle to use when he was feeling a panic attack coming. He closed his eyes and focused on the sensation of Derek’s warmth and strength surrounding him. He felt so relaxed. Then he realized he was almost in a meditative state. That was it. When he had tried other forms of meditation none of the anchors he tried worked well, the mantras or affirmations. He did better with the visualizations. He concentrated on that feeling of peace trying to memorize it and be able to call upon it once again. When he opened his eyes again it was 9:30 a.m. Rubbing his eyes and made his way into the bathroom and into the shower.

***

Derek snuck out before the Sheriff came home. It was almost torture getting out of the warm soft bed with Stiles draped all over him like a throw, but he definitely did not want to rile up the Sheriff. They had had their differences in the past. And he didn’t know exactly what this thing with him and Stiles was, but he definitely didn’t want to piss off his father. He sat down on his bed and pulled out his phone.

“Cora.”

“Hey.”

“Hey. How’s the weather?” He felt stupid asking but she was getting used to a new environment.

“Almost cold enough to snow.”

“That’s good. Snow is good,” he said thinking of making snowmen and snowangels, not the dirty wet slush it would inevitably become.

“Derek are you okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You sound different.”

“Different? Different how?”

“You sound happy. Did something happen? Did Stiles drag you out to another stupid class?”

He laughed, he had told her about all the things they had been doing together. After hearing about the pottery class and she had laughed her head off. “No, we just went to dinner.”

“Dinner? No murder?”

“Yeah, it was just dinner. Some five course dinner thing. He found out about the healing. He confronted me.”

“How did that go?”

Derek thought back to the kiss and cleared his throat, “Better than I expected. I’m glad he knows now.” He needed to change the subject, “Stiles drank too much.”

“You let him drink?” she asked suspiciously.

“I didn’t stop him.”

“So what did he do? Confess his undying love for you?”

“What?!”

Cora laughed over the line. “Oh come on. You knew he was into you.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“All these activities you’ve been doing together? It’s calling dating Derek. He’s been wooing you.”

“We’ve just been hanging out!” he insisted.

“By going to trapeze class and fancy dinners?”

“I’m not really sure what is happening,” Derek confessed.

“Do you like him?”

Derek paused.

Cora tried again, “Do you find him more charming than annoying?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll tell you what’s been going on. He’s taken you on six dates. It’s time to return the favor.”

Derek swallowed.

***

When Derek showed up Stiles was waiting for him.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Do you want to watch a movie? I can make popcorn.”

“A movie?”

Stiles walked to his desk and grabbed a dvd, “Yes, a movie. Did you see Iron Man 3? I just got it.”

“No. I don’t go to many movies.”

“Oh? Yeah I kinda figured. I love going to the movies.”

Was that a hint?

“So popcorn?”

“Sure.”

He watched as Stiles left the room. Derek turned back to the desk. It was messy but he spotted the closed notebook. Deciding that he didn’t want to be caught snooping he pulled the chair away from the desk and set it next to the bed. Was Cora right? Had they been dating? What do people do on dates? It had been so long. Watching a movie seemed like a date activity but it was also just something that friends did. He ran a hand through his hair. This hanging out thing had started because he was trying to protect Stiles. People didn’t go to activities together to protect one another. Well maybe the Krav Maga class could be in that category. He hadn’t been intentionally leading him on. He just didn’t realize how his actions were being perceived. Is that what Stiles thought? That they were dating? Or that they had just been hanging out? How long had Stiles had feelings for him? He tried to think back to when he first noticed his attraction to Stiles. He had never intended to act on it. This was probably not a good idea. He should leave and come back when Stiles was sleeping. Things were far less complicated when he was unconscious. He stood up and walked toward the window when Stiles stepped back in shutting the door quietly.

“What are you doing?”

Derek paused, “I was just shutting the window. It’s cold out.” Damn it. That wasn’t what he meant to say.

Stiles handed Derek the bowl of popcorn and walked over to his desk grabbing his laptop. He walked back to his bed got into it and placed the laptop on his lap and put in the dvd. Derek looked back to the window and then the bed. Stiles looked so small.

“What are you waiting for?”

“Huh?”

“Get in here.” Derek kicked off his shoes and went over to the right side of the bed putting the bowl down on his nightstand. He sat down on top of the bedding.

“You are going to have to come closer to see the screen,” Stiles said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Derek scooted closer so that their shoulders were touching. He reached over and put the popcorn in his lap. Stiles started the movie and reached over to get a handful of popcorn. He gave a brief backstory of Iron Man for Derek’s sake. About halfway through the movie Stiles fell asleep with his head on Derek’s shoulder. As the movie progressed he slid further down so that his head was resting on Derek’s chest and by the end of the movie Stiles had thrown an arm around Derek’s middle. When the movie finished Derek shut the laptop and put it on the nightstand along with what was left of the popcorn. He yawned and rubbed his eyes. He would just close them for a minute and then get up.

Chapter Text

The Sheriff was just coming off of another late night shift. He yawned as he walked up the stairs and headed toward his son’s room. He opened the door a few inches just to make sure he was okay. Sheriff Stilinski blinked several times confused by the sight before him. There was someone else in the bed. No. Not in the bed. On the bed. He cracked the door open a few more inches trying to be as quiet as possible. Derek Hale was lying on his son’s bed on top of the comforter and had an arm wrapped around his son. Stiles was curled up on his side under the blankets with his head on Derek’s chest and an arm splayed across Derek’s stomach. They both seemed to be sound asleep. The Sheriff gently shut the door and crept back to his room. He quickly undressed and crawled into bed. Maybe he better have a talk with his son about sleepovers.

***

“So,” the Sheriff asked casually during dinner, “Am I ever going to see Derek?”

Stiles head shot up, “What do you mean?”

“You’re always going out with him or over to his place. Why don’t you guys hang out over here?”

“We do sometimes.” Stiles rolled some peas onto his fork.

The Sheriff cleared his throat, “Isn’t he a little old to be hanging out with?”

Stiles rolled his eyes, “There is no age requirement in Werewolf Fight Club.” Stiles stabbed a piece of his pork chop, “He’s really not a bad guy dad.”

“So you’ve said.”

“The Argents killed most of his family when he was a little younger than me. Cut the guy some slack.” Stiles chewed slowly and put his fork down. Was this getting weird?

“You should invite him over for dinner.”

Yup. Things were definitely getting weird. Stiles ran a hand through his hair thinking it over. “Yeah?”

“Sure,” the Sheriff replied evenly.

Stiles mulled the idea over, “Yeah. Okay. Why not?”

***

“You know you don’t have to keep coming in through the window. The front door is fine.”

Derek straightened up near the window.

Stiles was at his desk writing in his notebook. He stopped, put his pen down and looked across the room at him, “Also you can come over earlier. I mean, if you aren’t busy.” He looked back down at his notebook and continued to scribble something.

“What about your dad?”

“What about him?”

“What did you tell him?”

“I haven’t told him anything other than we are hanging out. I’m allowed to have people over.”

Derek looked confused.

“You are people. A person.”

Derek gave him a hard look.

“My dad is the Sheriff. He’s not stupid. He knows we’ve been spending a lot of time together.”

“Did he say something?” Derek asked worried.

“Not really. He just wondered why he never sees you around. He knows we’ve been hanging out.”

Derek wasn’t sure how he felt about this new development. He looked down at the notebook and noticed more drawings and doodles of wolves.

Stiles shut his notebook, “Come over for dinner.”

“Dinner?”

“Yes. You know, the common evening activity in which food is placed in your mouth? We’ve done it many times.”

“Dinner with you and your father?” he inquired somewhat surprised.

“Yes. Don’t be weird.”

Derek rubbed the back of his neck, “When?”

“Tomorrow night.”

“Okay.”

Stiles opened his laptop and pulled up his Netflix queue. “What should we watch?”

Derek shrugged and came closer to look at the screen over his shoulder.

“Have you seen the new season of Arrested Development?” Stiles turned his head looking at Derek over his left shoulder. He saw a carefully neutral expression on Derek’s face. “You have no idea what Arrested Development is, do you?”

Derek shook his head no.

Stiles slapped a hand on his forehead and wiped it down his face, “You are killing me dude.”

“I told you I don’t watch a lot of tv or movies.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles replied and pulled up the first episode.

“Lucky for you I’m an expert.”

He unplugged his laptop and walked over to his bed. They sat up next to each other on top of the covers their shoulders barely touching. He could feel the warmth coming from Derek and inched a little closer. No sense in letting all that heat go to waste. Derek felt tense as their arms touched. Stiles started the pilot episode.

When George Michael and Maeby kissed Derek finally spoke, “This is weird.”

“Yup,” Stiles replied his eyes glued to the screen.

Despite himself Derek did laugh quite a few times. He felt himself relaxing next to Stiles and eventually his arm slipped around his shoulders during the second episode. These were short. The next episode started shortly after and before he knew it they had watched five of them. He looked over at Stiles who was asleep. He closed the laptop with his right hand and put it on the bedside table. As he tried to ease his left arm up from around Stiles, Stiles slid down the bed rolling over onto his side and threw an arm across Derek’s torso.

Derek tried to gently pry off Stiles’s arm when he heard him speak, “What are you doing?” Derek whispered back to him, “I’m trying to get you under your blankets.” He peeled Stiles arms off him and crept off the bed opening the covers. Stiles lay still on the bed. “Stiles get under.” He didn’t move. Derek sighed and walked over to the left side of the bed and slide one arm under Stiles’s knees and the other under his shoulders carrying him back to the right side of the bed. He covered Stiles in his blankets and as he was about to pull away a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, “Stay.” The grip slackened as Stiles nodded back off to sleep. Derek knew he shouldn’t. He had already fallen asleep one time and crept off in the morning. He was lucky he wasn’t caught and that the Sheriff hadn’t noticed anything. He couldn’t risk doing that again. Especially not with this dinner plan tomorrow. He ran his hand through Stiles’s hair and bent down, “Another time,” he whispered before disappearing out the window.

***

Derek was nervous about dinner. Maybe that wasn’t the right way to phrase it. Wary. He was wary about dinner. Which was stupid. It was just dinner. Was he supposed to bring something? Didn’t people usually bring wine to dinners? He remembered when his parents used to entertain people brought over wine or flowers. But if he brought over wine would the Sheriff think that he was condoning underage drinking? Hadn’t Scott mentioned that the Sheriff eased off the alcohol after his wife’s death? He paced in his living room. Okay so flowers then. But was it weird to bring flowers to a household of just men? Was it considered romantic to bring over flowers? Why was this so complicated? Finally he decided to bring over a bottle of sparkling apple cider. No one could possibly be offended by that.

He rang the doorbell. It was a strange act. He almost never came through the front door. He waited for a moment on the porch when the door opened to reveal Sheriff Stilinski.

“Derek,” he said formally and stepped aside.

Derek took that as a sign and stepped inside. “Sheriff,” he greeted trying to sound polite.

The Sheriff shut the door behind him, “We’re just in the kitchen,” he said leading the way back.

Derek gripped the bottle he brought more tightly and followed. The kitchen smelled good, like meat and broccoli.

“Derek is here,” the Sheriff announced.

Stiles was checking something in the oven, “Hey. What’s that?” he said looking down at Derek’s left hand.

He handed the bottle to Stiles and watched the Sheriff carefully.

“Apple cider?”

“Yeah.”

“Stiles loves apple cider,” the Sheriff added.

“Thanks,” Stiles said settling the bottle on the table.

“Dad why don’t you grab an opener?”

“I could just?” Derek offered.

The Sheriff handed the bottle back to Derek and watched him unwrap the top and then push his thumb against the top bottle cap which popped off easily.

Stiles took out some glasses and his father poured them each some cider. He took a sip feeling the sweet bubbles tickle his mouth. “Yum.” His father set the bottle on the table Stiles went back to stirring mashed potatoes on the stove, “Dinner is almost ready.” Stiles threw the broccoli into some boiling water. He noticed Derek standing there awkwardly looking around the kitchen.

“Hey, you want to grab the salad and bring it to the table?”

Then he took his meatloaf out of the oven. It needed to sit for about five minutes.

“Hope you like meatloaf,” he said setting it on the cutting board.

“Dad you can toss the salad.”

His father tossed and then dished it out while Stiles drained the broccoli and set it aside. He seated himself at the table with his father at the head and he and Derek sitting across from each other. His father craned his head over toward the wafting scent of meatloaf, “Smells good Stiles.” He picked up his fork and took a bite of lettuce. Derek followed. His father took a forkful of salad and then chewed thoughtfully, “So Derek, tell me about this whole werewolf thing.”

Derek politely answered the Sheriff’s questions but they just kept coming.

“Okay enough with the supernatural talk. Can’t we just talk about something normal?”

The Sheriff laughed uneasily, “Sure.” He turned to Derek, “You like basketball?”

Stiles let out a sigh of relief as his father and Derek talked about the Golden State Warriors for the next few minutes. This isn’t weird, he kept telling himself. Everything is fine. For some reason he really wanted his dad to like Derek. Derek who was surly, defensive and prone to violent outbursts. He wiped a hand over his face and watched the two talking. They looked deceptively casual but Stiles couldn’t help but feel that they were silently sizing each other up. He cleared his throat. “Isn’t there a game on tonight?” “It’s the Suns and the Lakers,” Derek replied. They spent the rest of the evening watching the game.

***

The next morning the Stiles contemplated the evening over his cereal. It had gone fairly well. No arguments or maulings. He didn’t even really know why it mattered to him that it had gone well, but it just did. His father was at the station and soon Stiles found himself getting bored. He washed his bowl and got dressed. It was just a few days until Christmas and he hadn’t done any shopping yet. He supposed he was off the hook for Scott this year but he still needed something for his father. He picked up his keys and headed out to the Jeep. Stiles knew exactly what to get his father for Christmas. He drove to the Beacon Hills Mall and made his way into the Apple Store. He bought his father an iPod so that he could listen to music while they jogged. After making his purchase he wandered the mall and found himself in Brookstone. His thoughts drifted to Derek and how ridiculous he would find most of these items. He sent him a quick text: I’m coming over.

He walked into the loft with his bag from the Apple Store, “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Christmas shopping?”

“Yep.”

Derek stood in the kitchen, “You hungry?”

“Yeah.”

Derek made Stiles a sandwich and set it on the breakfast bar.

“You should see all the crazy things they have out right now.”

Derek scrunched up his face, “No thanks. I avoid malls when at all possible.”

Stiles bit into his sandwich. It was turkey, tomato, and avocado. “This is good.”

He stood there as Stiles ate.

“Did you get Cora anything?”

Derek rolled his shoulders back, “I didn’t really know what to get her,” he confessed, “So I got her a giftcard.”

“What kind?”

“iTunes.”

Stiles nodded his head, “Everyone likes music right?”

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Derek said confidently. He cleared Stiles’s plate as Stiles picked up the last bite of his sandwich.

“You want to play more World of Warcraft?” he asked casually washing the plate.

“Sure.”

They sat down on the couch and played for about an hour. Derek paused the game and got up from the couch.

“You want anything to drink?” he called from the kitchen.

“I’m okay.”

He rummaged around the fridge looking for a bottle of coke.

“Are we dating?”

Derek froze, his hand around the bottle, and then turned around slowly. Stiles was sitting on the couch looking at the frozen screen the controller still in his hands. Derek forced himself back to the living room. Stiles turned looking over at Derek, who was half way back to the couch, waiting for an answer.

“I haven’t dated anyone in a long time,” Derek started.

“Well, I haven’t dated anyone ever so…”

Derek closed the distance and sat next to him on the couch. He was trying to think of what to say. “You like me?” he asked hesitantly.

Stiles rolled his eyes, “I think we’ve established that.”

“When did you know?”

“Know?”

“That you, you know…”

“That I thought you were hot?” Stiles smirked, but Derek could tell he was nervous, his hands still gripping the controller. “I mean, I guess since we first saw you, but you had that creepy, serial killer vibe that was sort of a mood killer.” Stiles thought back to the occasional dreams he had had about Derek and colored a bit. He coughed and scratched the side of his neck. Derek heard his heartbeat tick up. “But I also like that you are fiercely loyal and unafraid of anything. I think you can be as sarcastic as me but don’t show it. You do the whole ‘Mr. Tall, Dark, and Brooding’ thing. I get it. Mysterious. Serious. But I like it when you laugh. You have a great smile.” Stiles looked down at the controller in his hands and laid it on the couch. “But I didn’t even know if you were into dudes. I mean, I didn’t even really know if I was into them. I still don’t know if you are into them.” Cautiously he looked up at Derek.

Derek felt his own heart speed up. Those lashes would be the end of him. He looked into his big warm eyes. “I’m into you. I like how confident you are. And how smart. Sometimes too smart for your own good. You see patterns other people don’t. You are also fiercely loyal. Almost to a fault.” Stiles smiled. “And that grin.” Derek raised his hand slowly and ran his thumb across Stiles’s bottom lip. He could hear his heart rate spike. He leaned in closer. “And those lips,” he said as he leaned into close the distance between them. He kissed him softly and then deepened the kiss tasting Stiles. That wonderful, unique warmth. His scent was everywhere and Derek let himself go. The controller toppled to the floor as Derek lowered Stiles onto the couch trying to keep his full weight off him. He couldn’t get enough of him. Stiles wrapped his hands around his neck and pulled him down. When he pulled himself away to kiss down Stiles’s neck he could feel him gasping for air. He held himself up on one elbow and looked down at Stiles. His lips were flushed and he was breathing hard. Derek ran a hair through Stiles’s hair, “So to answer your question, yes, we’re dating.” Stiles ran his fingers through the hair above Derek’s neck and pulled himself up crushing his lips to Derek’s.

***

At dinner that night his father brought up Derek again. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Derek Hale.”

“Yeah.”

“Is he alone for the holidays?”

“Yes, he took his sister to New York a few weeks ago. She is going to be starting school there in January. So he’s alone.”

“It’s been nice of you to keep him company.”

“Well, he keeps me company too.”

“You should invite him over for Christmas.”

He looked skeptically at his father, “Really?”

“Yeah, why not? The more the merrier. Plus, I wouldn’t mind getting to know him a bit better.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re spending so much time with him.”

He couldn’t tell if his father was being purposefully cryptic.

***

“You should come over for Christmas Eve. We do a big dinner. Well, by we, I mean me. Just my dad and me. Well, usually Ms. McCall and Scott come but well, you know. They are spending Christmas in the Caribbean.”

Derek didn’t say anything.

“Come on, don’t tell me you want to spend Christmas Eve alone or with your creepy uncle.”

Derek sighed. He could remember the last happy Christmas he had before the fire. After that each one was miserable. Some people loved the holidays. He was not one of those people. To him they represented loss. Echoes of a family that no longer existed. “Christmas Eve?”

“Yes, it’s only two days from now.”

“Okay.”

And so Derek found himself at the Stilinski house for Christmas Eve. Stiles was wearing a soft red sweater and with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows when he opened the door.

“Hi,” he said eagerly stepping back.

Derek entered the house and handed him another bottle of apple cider. He held onto the small red poinsettia plant and followed Stiles into the kitchen.

The Sheriff rose to greet him, “Merry Christmas, Derek,” he said holding out his hand.

Derek shook it, “Merry Christmas, sir,” and handed him the plant.

The Sheriff looked surprised and put the plant on the kitchen table, “Thank you.”

He helped Stiles set the table. Dinner was honey glazed ham, roasted root vegetables and cheesy polenta.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had polenta before,” he commented during dinner.

“Have you ever had grits?” Stiles asked him.

“Yeah, a few times.”

“Then you’ve had polenta. Polenta just sounds fancier. It’s basically the same thing,” he said reaching for the apple cider.

The evening was winding down. They had all stuffed themselves and were now in front of the tv in the living room picking through a box of See’s candy and sipping on eggnog. Derek and Stiles were sitting on opposite ends of the couch and the Sheriff was in his chair.

“Derek why don’t you stay over? It’s late.”

“That’s okay. I’m fine.”

“No, no. I insist.”

Stiles looked at his dad confused. He wanted Derek to stay for Christmas?

“You can borrow a pair of sweats. I don’t think you’ll fit into anything Stiles has.”

Derek didn’t think he could refuse at this point, “Thanks.”

“Stiles makes a mean breakfast,” he said climbing the stairs. He came back down with a pair of blue sweats and a Beacon Hills Sheriff Dept. tee shirt. “Here you go.”

“You can stay in the guest room.” He walked toward the kitchen, “I think I’ll have one last glass of eggnog.”

Derek looked at Stiles and then toward the kitchen.

The Sheriff sauntered out with a mug, “Good night you two.”

***

“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

The whole evening felt a bit surreal. Derek in his kitchen doing dishes, talking with his father over dinner. Stiles stood in the doorway of the kitchen and leaned against the doorframe. The kitchen was mostly cleaned up Derek was putting the last of the dishes into the sink. Derek dried his hands on a towel and came to the doorway, “I know.”

He sniffed and then stilled. Derek’s head shot up to spot the mistletoe hanging above them.

“I know, I know, it’s deadly to you or whatever. Relax. No one is eating any. My dad puts it up every year.”

“Every year huh?”

“Yup,” he could feel his heart rate increase, “Do you know why people kiss under mistletoe?”

Derek looked down from the noxious plant and shook his head.

“It’s from a Norse legend. The god Baldur, grandson of Thor, was like super paranoid that everything was going to kill him. So his mom and wife made all the plants and animals swear an oath not to hurt him. But he was shot with an arrow of mistletoe, which his mother had overlooked because it was so small and innocent, and died,” he babbled. “Instead of being vengeful, his mother and wife decided that people should kiss to remember the love they had for him. And to remember not to overlook mistletoe.” He felt Derek’s hand on his face and looked into his eyes, “It’s also considered sacred by,” but was cut off by Derek’s lips. He dragged Derek upstairs to his bedroom and quietly shut the door behind him.

Christmas morning Stiles woke to fingers threading through his hair. He blinked his eyes open slowly relaxing into the sensation. Stiles craned his neck up and looked at Derek, “Hi.”

“Hi.”

“You stayed,” he said lowering his head back to Derek’s chest.

“I did.”

They stayed quiet for a few moments.

“I should get back to the guest room,” he said in a light slightly strained voice.

“I guess so.”

As Stiles peeled himself off Derek he realized why. His erection had been right against Derek’s hip. He sat up quickly and cleared his throat before looking over at Derek. He was already up and out of the bed. Derek looked funny in his father’s old clothes. “I’ll see you downstairs,” he said pulling his covers back around himself. Derek nodded and walked out of the room. Stiles groaned and flopped back onto the bed before finally pulling himself up and into the shower.

Stiles smelled clean and fresh when he met him downstairs. Derek didn’t want to shower, he had Stiles's scent all over him and it made him feel calm. Stiles broke out the waffle maker. His father looked thrilled.

“Who wants Eggnog waffles?” Stiles started to make waffle batter. “Derek can you grab the bacon from the fridge?”

After a big breakfast he watched the Stilinskis open gifts. The Sheriff looked down at the cube in his hands.

“It’s an iPod dad. You can listen to music while you run and there is even a pedometer on there.”

“Great.”

He watched them both open up new pairs of socks and pajamas.

Finally, Stiles handed Derek a package, “This is for you.”

He was surprised. Slowly he opened the gift to reveal a set of headphones.

“They are Bose noise cancelling headphones.”

Stiles turned to his father to explain, “He has very sensitive hearing.”

The Sheriff nodded and sipped his coffee.

“Thanks, Stiles.”

He helped Stiles bring his new pajamas and socks upstairs and sat down on the bed.

“I got you a present.” Derek held out an envelope.

Stiles looked at him puzzled putting the pajamas in a drawer.

“Open it.” He opened the flap and pulled out a piece of paper. “What is this?”

“You said you wanted to learn how to crochet.”

“What?! No, I didn’t.”

“I’m just kidding. It’s a Groupon for another trapeze lesson.”

“Oh, thanks.”

“There’s more.”

“More?”

He handed Stiles another envelope.

“An origami lesson?”

Derek rubbed his neck. “You said it was good to learn something new right?” Stiles sat down next to him on the bed and Derek handed over another envelope. Stiles looked at him suspiciously. “What is this?”

“You’ll see.”

“White-water rafting?”

Derek pulled out a stack of envelopes and Stiles eyes widened. “What did you do?”

He gave Stiles another envelope. “Ice skating?”

Derek nodded.

“I haven’t been ice skating in ages,” Stiles said surprised. “I used to go with my mom when I was little.”

“Here open this one.” Stiles ripped open the envelope. It was for a stay at a resort in Lake Tahoe.

“I know you said you wanted to spend spring break with Scott skydiving but I thought that maybe we could get away for a few days.”

“Pending any supernatural catastrophies?”

“Right,” he said leaning closer to Stiles, “So think of it as a Christmas slash early birthday present.”

“What else is in here?”

“Well, I know you need to keep busy.” Stiles thumbed through the sheets of paper and grinned back at him.

***

Epilogue

Four Months Later

He paced anxiously on the ground. Derek couldn’t believe Stiles’s father was letting him do this. Then again Stiles was eighteen now. No way he could really stop him. He brought his head up and searched the sky again. In the distance he could just barely make something out. It must be them. He watched as the two specks grew larger and larger floating through the air. His heart hammered in his chest. How did the Sheriff not have a heart attack every time Stiles did something stupid? It was a testament to his strength. Either that or he had no idea all the stupid, dangerous things that his son did. Including dating a werewolf. But Sheriff Stilinski certainly knew about that one.

He had had the “talk” from the Sheriff and it was one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life. Stiles had been very casual about the whole thing. “My dad wants to talk to you.” Derek had been suspicious but didn’t think there was anything he could do to avoid it. He wanted to be respectful. He admired the Sheriff. So when Stiles went upstairs to finish up some homework after dinner one night Derek stayed and sat down with his father. He could tell the older man felt about as awkward as he did but he was determined to say his piece.

“You and Stiles have been spending a lot of time together the last few months.”

Derek bristled.

“I think it’s been good for him,” the Sheriff admitted, “He’s been calmer. Certainly has been sleeping better now thank god.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I’m not trying to be old fashioned. I accept your relationship with my son, but if you do anything to hurt him,” he paused and looked meaningfully at Derek, “I will not be happy.”

Derek nodded.

“I am trusting you to be respectful to my son. I know that people don’t wait anymore to get married, but I hope you are both being safe.”

Derek turned red and sputtered, “We haven’t. We’re not,” he took a deep breath, “Sheriff Stilinski, I understand your concern but Stiles isn’t eighteen and I,” he wasn’t sure how to finish that sentence.

“Oh,” the Sheriff replied surprised, “I see.” He rubbed the back of his neck also looking a bit red. “Well, I’m glad we understand each other.”

“Yes, sir,” Derek replied. He took another deep breath and rubbed a hand over his face. “I care about your son. I would never do anything to hurt him.”

The Sheriff looked him over. “Okay then, carry on.”

He stood up and placed his hand out. Derek shook his hand mindful of his grip. The Sheriff left the kitchen and went into the living room leaving Derek somewhat stunned in the kitchen. He walked upstairs and went into Stiles’s room.

“Well, that went well.” Stiles said from his desk.

“You heard that?”

“Of course I did.”

Derek groaned and sat down on Stiles’s bed.

“Seriously though, I think it went well,” he smiled coming to sit down next to Derek.

He felt Stiles rest his head on his shoulder and Derek put a hand on his thigh.

Now here he was, in the middle of a field, waiting for Scott and Stiles to drop down from the sky. He grinned thinking of the days ahead. The Jeep was packed with their suitcases. As soon as the skydiving adventure was over he was taking Stiles to Lake Tahoe for a little alone time. He felt a warmth pool in his lower abdomen. His eyes searched the sky again trying to distract himself from the feeling of anticipation. He heard a faint yelling and looked around to spot two colorful dots floating down to the ground. His heart quickened. Derek ran as he followed the floating figures until they landed close to a vineyard, a heap of fabric amidst the grass.

The instructor was trying to detach the parachute and release Stiles who was flailing about. Scott was released much more quickly and sprang to his feet running in circles around his instructor and Stiles. “That was awesome! Awesome! Your dad is the best!” Scott cried. The instructor finally released Stiles who pitched forward trying to walk and promptly fell to his knees. His put his hands on the ground and tried to catch his breath before attempting to get up.

Stiles felt Derek’s hand on his back, “You okay?”

Stiles nodded and sat back on his knees looking up at his boyfriend. He ran a shaking hand through his hair and smiled up at him before Derek helped him up.

“Hey,” he said trying to act casually. His heart was thudding in his chest and adrenaline was coursing through him fast and furious. He knew Derek could hear his heart pounding.

“Hey,” Derek quirked his mouth up at him.

Scott joined them, “Dude! That may have been the best thing we’ve ever done.”

“Derek you should try it! It was amazing.”

“I can see that,” he replied nonchalantly. He put his hand on the back of Stiles’s neck. It was a casual but possessive move.

“I can’t wait to do this with Allison. She’ll love it.”

They heard a laugh and turned to find Allison with a video camera, “You think so huh?”

Scott grabbed Allison around the waist and swung her around. She squealed as he turned her round and round, “Scott the camera!”

He set her down and kissed her then pulled back to nip at her neck, “You’ll love it!” he insisted. Allison, still gripping the camera, zoomed in on Stiles and Derek. Stiles had his legs wrapped around Derek’s hips and was furiously kissing him. Scott put an arm around Allison, “Hey you two! Get a room!” he shouted walking with Allison back to her car and smiling.