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1.

It isn't that Stiles is absent for the first half of his sophomore year—it's that he's got a lot on his mind. Guilt, for one. He's the reason Scott was even in the woods to begin with, chasing after dead bodies. And then there's the week Scott spends in the hospital, like Stiles was going to let him go through that alone.

He goes to school, and he occasionally goes home, but his dad's working double shifts left and right to figure out the mountain lion situation, so that first week: he spends a lot of time slumped over the side of Scott's hospital bed, either sleeping or helping them both keep up with homework.

It'd been his asthma first, running from whatever was chasing them through the preserve, and then bees—"bees, Scott, how can you not know you're allergic to bees!"—and then anaphylactic shock and complications and hospital acquired pneumonia, when Scott's lungs didn't feel like working full time yet.

So Stiles is stressed all through fall and into the winter months. He's got a lot on his plate and, frankly, finding out that Peter Hale was some kind of psychopathic murderer after the fact is kind of relieving.

"He murdered his niece!" Scott says, batting Stiles's hands away as he tries to help him down out of the Jeep. "I'm fine, dude, stop babying me."

"I'll stop babying you when I'm dead, pal. Need I remind you that I had to use superhuman mom strength to carry you out of the woods?" Stiles moves a respectable two feet away, though, and resists the urge to shove his shoulder up under Scott's arm for support as they walk across the parking lot.

"I'm just saying," Scott says, hooking thumbs under the straps of his backpack. "He killed his niece, and those two other ladies, and my mom said someone shot him with an arrow and set him on fire."

"Somehow I doubt your mom told you that." Stiles would be more concerned about people setting other people on fire if he wasn't concentrating on Scott, and the way his breath gets kind of heavy as he starts up the front steps of the school.

Scott grins at him, wide and goofy, oblivious to his labored breathing. "Overhearing it just means it's true."

"That—" Stiles stumbles as Jackson cuts in between them by the doors. 

"Watch it, Stilinski," Jackson says, throwing Stiles a sneer.

"I missed your stupid face, too, Jackson," Stiles says. "Have a fun winter break? Did Santa bring you everything you asked for?"

Jackson looks momentarily thrown, then hunches his shoulders and growls, "Whatever, Stilinski," as he steps inside the school.

"Is it just me, or does he seem even more of a douchecanoe than usual?"  Stiles grabs the door handle and holds it open for Scott.

Scott sighs wistfully and says, "D'you think Finstock will let me back on the team?"

"First of all," Stiles holds up a finger in the dim hallway, "no. Second of all, hell no."

"But practices for next year don't even start until after spring!" Scott says on a whine.

"Look, talk to me when you don't get winded getting ready for bed, dude, okay?" Stiles has sympathy for him, he really does, but Stiles also snuck out of his house to sleep under Scott's window for three days before Mrs. McCall caught him at it and made him sleep inside, so.

"Whoa," Scott says, stopping so suddenly in the middle of the hall that Stiles bumps into his back.

"What?" he says, and then, "Whoa," when he sees Isaac Lahey strutting down the line of lockers like he's on a catwalk, with a tailored leather jacket snug over his shoulders and maybe the softest looking gray scarf wrapped around his neck—Stiles's fingers twitch; he wants to touch it.

Stiles says, "What the hell happened to him?" at the same time Scott says, "Who is she?" in this breathy voice that makes Stiles mildly panicky for five or so seconds before realizing the heart eyes Scott's sporting for Allison Argent.

"New girl," Stiles says. He vaguely remembers her starting school right around the time Scott almost died. "Allison."

"Allison," Scott echoes, smiling dreamily off in her direction.

Allison sends him a bare flash of a grin back, slightly confused expression on her face.

"Lydia snapped her up, dude," Stiles says, but he's nothing if not a supportive best friend. He clasps Scott's shoulder and says, "We're all in chemistry together. You should say hi."

*

The only explanation Stiles can get about Isaac is that his father died. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn't make sense, but Stiles's dad has been trying to get Isaac out of that house for at least a year, so the sudden fuck you, I'm fabulous thing Lahey has going on right now is not the weirdest thing that could've happened.

This Lydia situation might be, though.

"Excuse me?" Stiles says, because he couldn't have heard that right.

Lydia shakes her carton of orange juice and says, "Friday. We're bowling. Allison's curious about Scott, and honestly I could use a break from…" She trails off, an adorable v wrinkling the skin between her perfect eyebrows.

Stiles opens his mouth to say, "What?" only to be interrupted by Scott dropping his tray onto the lunch table and wheezing, "She said yes."

Stiles automatically digs into the front of Scott's bag and hands him his inhaler.

Scott grins around it like a huge dork.

Lydia's expression, to her credit, doesn't change. She's still got this mildly pained, sick of shit look to her face.

She says, "Stay away from Jackson." She flicks her gaze over Stiles's shoulder, and it takes everything he has not to turn and look, too. "And Isaac Lahey."

And then Allison appears, in all her dimpled, adorable glory, and Lydia tugs her down into the seat next to her, and this is how Stiles ends up eating lunch with Lydia Martin, girl of his dreams, practically on the regular.

He'd probably enjoy it more if it wasn't so damn bizarre.

 

2.

Erica Reyes isn't the kind of person you really notice. If Stiles thinks about her at all, he feels bad for her, maybe a little concerned, but he doesn't normally think about her. That probably makes him an asshole, but he also hasn't been fully committed to his high school experience this year.

It takes her nearly falling off the climbing wall in gym for him to really see—she looks more worn down than usual. Skinny as hell, bluish smudges under her eyes, skin this washed out, sickly pale.

He helps her down, feels the hard press of her ribs under his hands, and says, "Are you okay?"

"Fine," she bites out. The flash of fire, slash of determination on her mouth, are kind of alarming. And then she shrugs his grip off and goes right back to start climbing again.

Stiles admires her gumption in that instant, but he also freaks the fuck out when she's barely two feet off the ground and starts convulsing.

He knows she has seizures, but he didn't know it.

He's always so busy worrying about Scott.

Stiles holds her hand as they load her up into the gurney, jogs down the hall to keep up, and only lets go when they won't let him in the back of the ambulance.

It's weird as hell, feeling responsible for someone other than his dad and Scott. He doesn't need another worry in his life, but it looks like he's got one anyway.

Lahey sidles up next to him. They're both still in their gym uniforms, short-shorts, maroon tee—Isaac has long legs and knobby knees that remind Stiles of all the ways he's still vulnerable under all the leather and swag. Goddamn it.

They watch the ambulance pull away.

Lahey says, "Do you think she'll be okay?"

Stiles clenches his hands into fists. "I hope so."

*

"Look," Stiles says, bending down to tie his bowling shoes. "I'm just saying it's fishy." This is the third time they've been out with Lydia and Allison this month. It's exciting, sure, but he's well aware that the only reason this is happening is because Allison has decided Scott is cute.

"It's just new medicine," Scott says. "New medicine can help."

Stiles wrinkles his nose and says, "Right," because it sucks that new medicine hasn't been helping Scott. He's better, because he's no longer running laps and doing suicide drills, but he's still almost as bad as when he was little. This whole pneumonia thing has been a major setback.

"Hey!" Allison says, bouncing down into their lane with a huge grin. "You guys ready to get your butts kicked?"

"What do you think is going on with Erica?" Stiles says, getting to his feet.

Allison makes an adorable huh? face, and Scott makes a sound like a happy puppy.

Stiles says, "She's out of school for, what, three weeks? And is all…" He whirls his hands around, because she came back all vamped up, with meat on her bones, shiny hair, and more confidence than Stiles knows what to do with—she'd chucked him under the chin this morning and called him sunshine. He'd barely avoided staring at her ample bosom. He hadn't known what to do with his hands.

Allison frowns a little and says, "She looks fantastic. I think it's great."

"Well, yeah," Stiles says. It's wonderful, Stiles can check off 'worry about Erica' on his list of responsibilities, but also he can't, because he can't get rid of the niggling feeling that something is terribly wrong.

Allison starts searching for a ball while Scott hovers, and Stiles tries to telepathically tell him to cut it out with the aborted attempts to touch her hair.

Then, for the first time in a month, Lydia shows up with a sullen Jackson in tow.

Lydia steps down into their lane and says, "Jackson is going to behave himself," just before Jackson bares his teeth at Stiles like a rabid dog.

"Jesus," Stiles says, flinching backward. What the hell is up with everyone? Spring fever?

Scowling, Lydia snaps her fingers and says, "Sit."

Jackson glares at her for three point two seconds before complying.

There's a commotion at the door, a hush of oooohs and an explosion of whispers: and then the crowd spreads open and Lahey and Erica are standing there. All that's missing is a slow-mo cam and a wind machine blowing their hair back and they'd look like actors from a CW show about vampires. Leather pants can't be that comfortable.

Behind them is an older dude with dark hair, a five o'clock shadow and the cheekbones of a god.

"Who the hell is that? Their pimp?" Stiles says, and the older dude scowls, narrows totally unreal green eyes at him, even though he couldn't possibly have heard him.

Lydia slaps the back of Stiles's head.

"Ow," Stiles says, jerking away. "What was that for?"

She buffs her nails on the collar of her fuzzy cream sweater and says, "It's rude to stare."

Erica approaches them with a swing to her hips that makes Stiles's throat dry. She says, "Hey, Bambi, mind if we join you?"

"I don't know," Stiles says, "are you bringing the narc?"

Jackson snorts.

Erica bites her lip around a smile.

Isaac lights up like a Christmas tree.

The older dude clenches his jaw and swings his jacket off to reveal biceps the size of Stiles's head. Holy god.

"Stiles," Allison says, in a voice that tells Stiles she's extremely close to laughing, "this is Derek Hale."

*

"Dude," Stiles says under his breath, hand curled into the front of Scott's shirt. They're hovering by the bathrooms, the ding of arcade games behind them. "Didn't you say Peter Hale killed all those people in the preserve?"

Scott scrunches his face up. "Yeah?"

Stiles will be the first to admit that Derek is smoking hot, but he also looks like a serial killer, and don't those things run in families? "What the hell is he doing hanging out with Isaac and Erica?"

"I'm sure he's ok," Scott says earnestly. "Allison's fine with it. Did you know she could've been an Olympic archer?"

Stiles sighs. Scott's gone full Allison mode for the night, he's useless to him now. He says, "All right, buddy. Let's get back to it."

He's going to keep an eye on Derek, though. It's not just fishy, it stinks.

 

3.

"I like Boyd," Scott says, slamming the passenger door shut.

Stiles gives him a weird look. "Uh, yeah, dude. Who doesn't?" Boyd's kind of abnormally quiet for the amount of space he takes up, but no one actively dislikes Boyd. "Where's this coming from?"

"I'm just saying." Scott shrugs. "Before you get all weird about it, I think it's cool he's hanging out with Erica and Isaac."

Stiles shoves a hand through his hair. "You've got to be shitting me." It's like… Stiles knows there's something going on here, something seriously shady, but no one will cooperate with him and tell him exactly what.

He jams the key in the ignition and starts the jeep. He says, "Boyd works at the ice rink after school, right?"

"Um, yeah, but—"

"Cool." Stiles jerks the jeep into reverse, ignores Jackson leaning on his horn, and then peels out of the parking lot with a screech of tires.

The ice rink isn't a super popular place around town. There's a small hockey league, and an open skate on weekends, and then two or three figure skaters training at any given time. At three in the afternoon, the parking lot is sparsely filled, and Stiles parks near the back doors.

"Is this really necessary?" Scott asks, scrambling out of the Jeep after him. "Stiles, wait!"

Stiles leans into the metal doors with his back. "C'mon, Scotty! Maybe Boyd's not fully corrupted yet. Maybe he'll tell us what the hell is going on."

"Wait, Stiles, wait," Scott says, reaching for him, and the only reason Stiles really does wait is because of the underlying rasp in Scott's voice—Stiles doesn't want to make him work for this.

"Slow it down, dude," Stiles says, pushing his hands into Scott's shoulders so he's more upright, ribcage more open.

"I'm—"

"Breathe a little first, Scotty. Do you need your inhaler?"

Scott shakes his head. "M'fine. But, okay, I just want you to." He winces. "Don't be mad."

Stiles squints his eyes and tilts his head. "Why would I be mad?" he says slowly.

Scott looks resigned and constipated. "Derek Hale talked to me."

"Why would…" Stiles scratches at his chest, heaves a breath. "Derek talked to you…. why?"

"Because of my," he waves a hand around his chest area, "problem."

"You're getting better!" Stiles says, because he is, even though he's not getting as better as all the doctors and Stiles and Scott's mom would like. "Also, what the hell would Derek know about asthma?"

Scott makes another face. "Um."

"Does this have something to do with Erica's new medicine?" Stiles's mind quickly flicks through what he knew, what he knows, whatever the heck is going on with Boyd, why Derek would think anything about Scott—either Derek's some kind of mad scientist experimenting on people, or they're dealing with—

"…werewolves," Scott says.

"I'm sorry, what." Stiles blinks at him.

"Werewolves?" Scott says again in a very small voice. He grimaces. "Derek says if he bites me, I'll be fixed."

"Fixed, as in—nope," Stiles covers his eyes, "not going there. Oh my god." So Derek and Isaac and Erica and Boyd are all werewolves now, or they're all having mass delusions. Fun. "I think we need to go home."

Stiles starts back toward the Jeep and Scott trips after him.

"Oh, but what about Boy—"

"Boyd can take care of himself. He's not my problem," Stiles says, then jabs a finger at Scott. "You, on the other hand. We need a strategy."

"Right," Scott says gamely. Then, "For what exactly?"

"For how you're going to tell Derek no."

*

The truth of it is: Stiles doesn't actually know what's going on yet. He makes sure Scott gets home safe, and then he holes up in his bedroom with his laptop and tries and fails many times to find reputable sources on werewolf lore. It's, unsurprisingly, super hard.

He's also still not convinced everyone hasn't just lost their minds.

He thinks: does this explain Jackson? But does anything really explain Jackson?

He scrubs his hands over his face and groans, slumping down low in his desk chair.  He one hundred percent does not want to do this, but at this point he's got no other choice.

"If I were a possible homeless delusional psychopath, where would I be?" he says to himself.

The only thing he knows about Derek Hale, besides his murdering uncle and shaky werewolf status, is that all the Hales used to live out in the preserve before a house fire six years previous that tragically killed almost the entire family. Derek can't possibly be camped out at the burned out shell of his family home, right?

That would just be… exactly what he probably would do. From the hour and a half spent in his company this past Friday, Stiles would say Derek's best skills are lurking, brooding, glaring, growling—he is a werewolf!—and the ashy husk of the Hale house probably mirrors the blackness of his soul. Crap.

Stiles ignores the screaming in the back of his head and pushes away from his desk, grabbing a plaid over-shirt off his bed on his way to the door. He thunders down the steps, thankful that his dad is on shift and can't stop him from making this terrible mistake. He'd call Scott—hell, he'd bring Scott, if he thought this wasn't going to end in his painful messy death. Scott's had enough scares these past couple months, he definitely doesn't need to go trouncing into the deep dark woods with him to get slaughtered by Derek Hale.

It's twilight, so by the time the Jeep pulls into the dirt and gravel parking on the public side of the preserve, Stiles has to get a flashlight out of the trunk. He's not exactly sure where the house is. Somewhere off to the right. Probably.

It's not the best strategy, but as the beam from his flashlight bounces off trees and brush, the rough deer trail leading away from the parking lot, he yells, "Derek! Yo, Derek Hale, we need to have a talk, dude. Come out, Come out, wherever you are."

"There's something wrong with you," a voice says behind him, and Stiles whirls around wildly.

"Hey!"

Derek's scowling at him from fifteen or twenty feet back down the trail. "Lower your fucking light, you moron. What do you want?"

Stiles drops the beam off Derek's face and walks closer, then turns it all the way off. Like an idiot. "First, I kind of want to know why you're living in the woods like a hobo."

"I don't live here, Stiles," Derek says.

There's a break in the trees above them, moonlight spilling through, layering everything in navy, limning the reflective surface of leaves, Derek's leather jacket, the casing of Stiles flashlight in white. Stiles is close enough to see flecks of gold in Derek's eyes.

"So you just… hang out sometimes… in the dark." Stiles bobs his head a lot. "Cool, cool. Nothing weird or off-putting about that at all. Cool."

Derek's shoulders tense up. "Did you actually want something? Or did you just decide to yell my name around the woods for the thrill of it all." His grin is all teeth, and makes his eyes look mean.

"Did I…?" Stiles flails both his hands. "What do you think, Derek? You approach my best friend like a shady as fuck drug dealer after god knows what happened with your uncle, and you ask me if I want something?" He stumbles back when Derek takes a step toward him, but still says, "Tell me, did you offer Isaac, Erica and Boyd 'the bite,' too?" He's not proud of the air quotes he uses, but it's too late to rethink them now—Derek lunges at him with a growl and Stiles trips over his own feet and falls on his ass on the rocky ground. "What the fuck, Derek?"

"You don't know what you're talking about," Derek says. He crouches over Stiles, insanely thick thighs bracketing Stiles's raised knees. His eyes flash red.

Stiles sucks in a breath, heart beating high and terrified in his throat. He barely has enough breath to rasp, "What the fuck?" again.

There's a growl low in Derek's chest. He says, "You can tell Scott that if he shows up with you, the deal's off."

Stiles's body jerks back into action. He scrambles to curl his legs up under himself, pushes up into Derek's space, his wide chest and spread knees, so Derek either has to stand or let their noses nearly touch.

Derek doesn't move.

Stiles swallows hard but rallies; says, "What deal? The one where he becomes your ravening hell beast minion?" He almost risks poking Derek in the sternum, but aborts the movement at the last moment, curling his fingers into a fist to help prop him up on the damp leaves and sharp rocks.

Derek clenches his jaw, bites out, "The one where he doesn't accidentally die the next time his lungs stop working."

Cold fear spreads out from Stiles's heart, steals into his limbs. Not fear of Derek, not really. Just the truth of his words. Stiles's voice shakes a little when he says, softly, "You can fix that. Really?"

Stiles's jeans are wet at the knees and ass. His knuckles hurt where they're still pressed into the uneven ground. Derek's breath is warm across his mouth when he leans into Stiles even further. Their cheeks scrape together, Stiles's unfairly still baby smooth against Derek's burgeoning scruff.

Derek inhales, almost like he can't help himself, and then whispers into Stiles's ear, "Yes."

 

4.

Stiles, despite the initial flair of excitement and hope, is not completely sold. He goes immediately home and falls into a research spiral that still yields pathetic results, mostly due to the fact that googling werewolves is dicey, and ultimately all Stiles learns is that there's an intense debate on whether or not they have knots on their dicks. Stiles sticks a pin in that thought and calls Lydia.

Lydia does not hang up on him.

She says, "Yes, Stiles?" after he says hi, and this is Stiles, and please don't hang up.

"Ok, so," Stiles makes a face at his ceiling, "I just wanted to know your opinion on werewolves."

"Werewolves," Lydia says, slow and careful. "Do you mean as mythological creatures?"

Stiles hears the unspoken or and runs with it: "You warned me away from Isaac! Do you know about Boyd yet? Is Jackson a werewolf? Did you know that Derek Hale is walking around biting people?"

"Shit," Lydia says, and then she hangs up.

Twenty minutes later, Stiles is morosely digging through a bag of peanut butter cups, wallowing at his kitchen table, when Lydia shows up at his front door.

His dad leads her in with both eyebrows raised and a hopeful expression. Stiles aborts a shake of his head with palms scrubbing the back of his neck and a squint. Lydia just looks at them both like she's over everything, and Stiles still thinks she's fantastic.

Stiles's dad says, "I'll just, uh, leave you two to it," like an enormous dork—Stiles comes by it honestly—and then Lydia digs a sharp nail into Stiles's shoulder and says, "Tell me you didn't say yes."

"To…" Stiles leans in and lowers his voice, "Derek? I mean, I can't really answer for him, but I can certainly advise Scott, and there was that one time I got him to eat wax fruit even though we both clearly knew it wasn't edible—"

"Stiles," Lydia says, pulling the chair out next to him and sitting down. "Are you saying Derek didn't ask you?"

"Uh, yeah? I mean, he didn't." Stiles nods. Why would Derek ask him? He clearly doesn't have the cheekbones for it.

Lydia stares at him, red mouth parted slightly, and finally says, "Huh," and then, with a sigh, "Well, I wouldn't want Scott to make any uninformed decisions."

"So you do know stuff," Stiles says.

Lydia smiles, confident and sharp. "Oh, I know everything."

*

"You could die," Stiles says as soon as the door opens, and then gapes as Mrs. McCall arches an eyebrow at him.

"Hello to you, too," she says, and then her expression melts into something more sympathetic. She squeezes his arm and says, "We're all worried, Stiles. We just have to be careful, right? No running around at all hours of the night anymore."

"Yes, no, right," Stiles says, nodding. "Is Scott home?"

She sighs. "Upstairs."

Stiles skirts by her and takes the steps two at a time.

She yells up after him, "No running around, Stiles. I mean it!"

He waves his hand without looking back. She knows he's not going to risk Scott's health, geez, what else has he been doing for months but completely coddling him?

He bursts into Scott's room without knocking and shouts, "You could die!"

Scott yelps and snaps his laptop shut. "What the hell, Stiles!"

Stiles wrinkles his nose but Scott's pants are all the way on. He has no idea what he's so twitchy about.

Scott's phone starts buzzing. He scrambles to grab it off his bedside table and says, "Hi!" in a raspy sort of panic that has Stiles immediately grabbing the spare inhaler off his desk, along with a slightly dusty glass of water.

Scott glares at him and says, "No, sorry, I didn't mean to! Okay, okay, yeah. Stiles is here. I'll call you later. No, you. You." His glare morphs into a goofy grin. "I know. Me too. Bye." He drops the phone with a dreamy sigh.

"Allison?" Stiles says.

"Yes," Scott says, still super dreamy.

Ugh. It's so gross and yet hopelessly endearing.

Stiles drops down onto the end of Scott's bed and says, "Did Derek tell you that the bite could kill you? Like puking up black goo kill you dead? Did he say he's collecting young nubile werewolves to help fight a pack of other werewolves? Alphas, which are apparently stronger than normal, teenage werewolves. None of this is comforting, Scott! None!" He throws his hands up in the air and flops back onto the mattress. "Why are our lives so hard?"

Scott's silence has a guilty, suspect weight to it.

Stiles turns his head and squints up at him. "What?"

"I mean," Scott makes a face, "that was kind of part of his whole… spiel?"

"Possible death and turf wars," Stiles says flatly. Of course it was. He leverages up onto his elbows. "And that wasn't an immediate turn off for you?"

Scott rubs a hand over the top of his chest, like it's aching, and Stiles clenches and unclenches his hands around nothing, because nothing will help.

Scott says, voice small, "I don't know. Is it better than being this scared all the time?"

Stiles sits all the way up, hooks a hand around Scott's wrist. "Scott."

Scott shrugs a little. "It hurts all the time, Stiles, and I keep thinking… what if I'm alone? What if my mom finds me?"

"You're not going to be alone. Nothing will happen, Scotty, I won't let it."

Scott's smile is watery and wrong. "I know, buddy," he says. "I'm just being stupid, right?"

"No." Stiles shifts and pulls Scott into a hug. "You're really not. I am. We'll do whatever you want."

Scott buries his head in Stiles's shoulder, words muffled on, "It's probably too much of a risk."

"Maybe," Stiles says, eyes stinging. "But, like, dude. I'm 100 percent behind you. Okay?"

What are the odds that Scott would die, right, when everyone else has been fine? Well, apparently Jackson hadn't been all the way fine at first, which absolutely doesn't surprise Stiles at all.

He sniffs and says, "Did you know that Jackson was a lizard for two months?" because that will never stop being kind of tragically hilarious.

 

5.

Being around Erica is awkward and terrifying. On the one hand, she's hot, wears deep v necks, tight pants and likes smiling at him. On the other, probably the only reason she hasn't done something unspeakable to his junk is because he was nice to her that one time.

Ha ha, no, not really, sure, but there are a certain number of basketball jocks who keep a wide berth around her. So, like, rumors. Stiles always slides his book bag down in front of his crotch as surreptitiously as he can when they talk in the halls.

Although talk is generous. Mostly it's Erica biting her lip and flashing sharp nails, chatting up the Wolf Club to him and Scott while Isaac looks willowy and gorgeous in the background.

"Where's Boyd?" Stiles says, because it's been two weeks and apparently he still has 'the flu.'

Erica shrugs. "Training. He should be back," she twirls a finger around, "soon."

"You're making this sound so cool," Stiles deadpans. "Doesn't this sound cool, Scott?"

"Uh, what? Yeah?" Scott tears his gaze away from where Allison's standing at her locker halfway down the hall just in time to blink bemusedly at Erica and Isaac. "Do you guys want to sit with us at lunch?"

"Oh, honey," Erica says, scuffing a hand through Scott's shaggy hair. "We really do."

When Allison finally reaches them, math book hugged to her chest, she says, mostly to Erica and Isaac, "We have to talk. Tell Derek my grandfather," she makes a face, "is here."

Scott says, "Do I get to meet him?" bouncing on the balls of his feet like an excited puppy.

"Read the room, Scotty boy," Stiles says, patting him on the shoulder.

Allison still has her nose wrinkled up.

Erica's confident stance droops a little; it's both weird and familiar. She says, "I don't know exactly who Allison's grandfather is, but I know we really don't want to meet him."

"Okay," Scott says gamely. "But why?"

Allison sighs and curls her hand over Scott's arm. "I'll tell you later. Walk me to class?"

Scott falls all over himself to says, "Sure," and take her books and then he walks off without even saying bye to Stiles.

If Stiles wasn't such an awesome friend, he'd be offended.

Stiles hefts his bag over his shoulder with a sigh, then catches Erica staring speculatively at him. "What?"

"Nothing." She taps a long, scary fingernail on her bottom lip as her mouth curves up into a slow, dangerous grin.

"Great," he says. Stiles longs for a time when all he had to worry about was falling asleep at his desk in chem after spending the night listening to Scott breathe.

Isaac straightens from his slouch against the lockers on the other side of the hallway, and Erica wiggles her fingers at him.  "See you at lunch," she says, and Stiles says, "Great," again.

Fantastic. His life.

*

After a harrowing day at school—avoiding teenage werewolves is exhausting—Stiles gets home to an empty house and a twenty on the counter for pizza.

He sighs, calls in an order, and then drags himself upstairs to get changed and start on homework.

He's halfway to his desk when a voice says, "You're making a mistake."

Stiles nearly jumps out of his skin, trips over his book bag and hits the corner of his mattress with an elbow, grasping at his blankets and pulling most of them onto the floor with him. "Holy shit, dude! What the fuck!"

The corner of his room is obviously too fucking dark, but Stiles can make out the unmistakable lurking shape of one Derek Hale.

Derek takes a menacing step forward, and Stiles would scramble out of the way if he wasn't so completely tangled up in bedding.

Derek says, "You shouldn't have convinced Scott to say no."

"Look," Stiles says, shoving a hand under his bed and blindly grasping for his baseball bat, "first of all, he didn't really need any convincing, and second of all, not really regretting that decision due to the fact that you broke into my house, waited in my room for god knows how long, and look like you're getting ready to murder me."

Stiles still isn't sure saying no was the best choice, but he's certainly not going to say that to Derek's face. Derek's a jerk. A hot jerk, maybe, with frankly stunning arm muscles, wow, but who the hell lurks in dark corners of teenagers' bedrooms, waiting to scare the crap out of them? Jerk predators, that's who.

Derek glares down at him. He says, "I'm not going to murder you."

"Super convincing there, big guy." Stiles finally manages to kick free of the blankets and scrambles to his feet.

"What…" Derek's gaze drops to his hands. "Are you planning on hitting me with that?"

"Uh." Stiles hefts the bat in his hand. "Defensively?"

Derek rolls his shoulders and his gaze goes weirdly soft, like he's amused, and Stiles will totally hit him across the face with this bat if he has to—totally.

"I'm not going to—" Derek starts, only to cut himself off at the ring of the doorbell. He does this sniff-the-air thing which is not adorable at all. "Pizza?"

Stiles wants to say, no way, and, I'm not feeding you, but he's sort of stumped about the logistics of kicking an actual alpha werewolf out of his house; Derek's probably an immovable force of hot muscle when he wants to be.

Instead, he says, "You're paying," and points with his bat out his bedroom door.

*

Dinner is totally not awkward. Just him and Derek and a large peperoni pizza and The Amazing World of Gumball. Yep. Super normal.

Stiles watches Derek take a casual sip of coke from the corner of his eye and hopes Derek's werewolf senses can't tell he's screaming on the inside.

What is happening?

After an hour, Stiles finally starts to relax a little. He graciously lets Derek eat the last slice, since he doesn't want to get his hand bitten off.

He fidgets with this fingers in his lap, then bites at his thumbnail, jiggles his leg, and then does a full body flinch when he realizes Derek's glaring at him.

"What?" he says, straightening up on the couch.

Derek still has his leather jacket on. He looks ridiculous. And hot. The cuffs flap down over his hands, like the sleeves are too long for him, and if he didn't have a murder face, it'd probably make him look vulnerable.

Derek says, "I'm not saying I don't have my own agenda—"

"Exactly," Stiles says, balling his hand into a fist on his knee to stop himself from poking it toward Derek and Derek's werewolf teeth.

"Alphas are only as strong as their betas," Derek says. He leans forward, elbows on his knees, tilts his head to look over at Stiles. "I can't protect this town if I can't even protect myself."

"Wait, hold up. You need to protect this town?" From what, Stiles thinks, and should he be worried about his dad? "From that merry band of alphas Lydia told me about?"

Derek slowly shakes his head. "I don't know what they want, but it can't be anything good."

It's super weird, all this sharing. Stiles's shoulders feel tight, there's an uncomfortable squeeze to his chest region. He rubs at his mouth and thinks about telling Derek to go screw himself. The only reason there's trouble in town is because of the motherfucking werewolves. The problem is that the Hales have been a part of Beacon Hills for generations, so he admittedly has no business being mad about that now. Not to mention the fact that Derek lost his whole family here—which is weird, right, because werewolves. How could a house full of them get burned to death, wouldn't their supernatural senses save at least some of them? Other than crazy Uncle Peter? There's a time and place for that kind of detective work, though, and he's not about to bring that up to Derek now.

They've just started getting along. Kind of.

Stiles says, "Do I need to be worried about my dad?"

Derek looks like he's in physical pain when he says, "I don't know."

 

6.

Allison's dad is an intense, incredibly handsome older gentleman. On the few occasions that they've met, Stiles has appreciated the protective vibe he's got going on, as well as the distinguished wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.

Allison's grandfather is an ugly piece of speciest shit that has a voice like a rusty gate hinge and a mean right hook.

"Holy shit," Stiles says, spitting blood onto the cold, concrete floor. "Dude."

He's not exactly sure how they got into this situation, but honestly: Stiles is a hundred and forty pounds of fragile skin and bones, and Scott has the lung capacity of a ninety year old right now. They got shoved into a van after someone, he suspects now, shot one of the jeep's tires out.

He can hear Scott's raspy breathing and tries not to panic.

He looks up at old man Argent and says, "You're kidnapping kids for your murder basement? Does Allison know you're psycho?"

Fucking alphas he was worried about. Not geriatric assholes.

Argent aims a boot at his ribs, and Stiles tries and fails to curl away from it. Pain sparks through his chest and he clenches his teeth, a tiny, pathetic whimper seeping out.

Argent says, "My granddaughter doesn't know she's dating a mongrel."

Scott makes a squawking sound, but when Stiles looks over at him, he's just sitting sprawled on his butt, looking up at Argent with big eyes.

Stiles says, "Who? Scott?" He doesn't have to ask what Argent means by mongrel. What the fuck. He lets out a rough, low laugh. "You think Scott's a werewolf?"

Argent backhands him, which is somehow more painful than the punch, and Stiles doesn't understand why he's the one getting beat to a bloody pulp when Argent thinks Scott's the one with advanced healing abilities, but he's thankful for it anyway.

"My dad's gonna kill you," Stiles says, panting, blinking back involuntary tears. Stiles's dad may be the sheriff, but if he finds Stiles here he's going to shoot Argent right between the eyes, Stiles has absolutely no doubts about that.

"No," Argent says, hunkering down in front of him and jerking Stiles's head back with a hand under his chin. "No, what's going to happen here is that I'm gonna give McCall something that'll make him go rabid and rip you apart. Be real messy. Noisy. You boys aren't the endgame here." He grins, teeth yellow and gross. "You're bait."

"Bait," Stiles says, trying to shake off Argent's grip. "For who?" He already knows, though. He doesn't know why, but he knows.

Argent just grins wider, unhinged.

Scott says, voice unnervingly raspy, "It won't work. You can't—" He sucks in a shaky breath. "We're both human."

Letting go of Stiles, Argent gets to his feet, walks over to where Scott's bound, sitting up against the wall.

Stiles says, "No."

There's a card table off to the right, and Argent skims a hand over it, fingers wiggling. He idly picks up a gun, tips it back and forth in his hands, as if he's inspecting it. A ball of cold terror forms in the pit of Stiles's stomach. He says, "No," again.

Argent flicks off the safety. "See," he says, "some strains of wolfsbane won't kill you. At least, not right away. No, first it heats up your brain. Makes you see things. Flares up under your skin. Makes you feel angry. Invincible. Tell me, Scott."

He pauses, Stiles can hear Scott's breath hitch in panic, feels it echo in his own chest.

Argent says, "Do you think you'll howl for your alpha before you tear open young Stiles here? I certainly hope so."

"Please," Scott says, voice small, pressing himself up against the wall, eyes wide and terrified.

Stiles yells, "We're both fucking human, you bastard!" as he lurches forward and, shit, shit, he can't think, and Argent is aiming that fucking gun at Scott. Stiles throws himself at Scott, just full body tackles him sideways. The gunshot is loud, and the pain in Stiles's side is excruciating and he pants into Scott's face, "Fuck, fuck, he shot me. I've been fucking shot."

Scott's, "Stiles," is so soft he can barely hear it, either because he can't fucking breathe or because Stiles's brain is slowly going offline. They're going to die there in that murder basement, and Stiles hopes to god his dad isn't the one who finds them.

Stiles clutches at Scott's shoulder and tilts their heads together. He hopes Argent burns in hell.

*

He's not sure if he completely loses consciousness, but the next thing he knows he's in the back of an SUV with Chris Argent looming over him like a rugged backwoods angel. A silver fox.

He feels floaty and also in extreme pain and also like he wants to throw up. Mr. Argent's hand is cool on the side of his face. If Stiles could move he'd bite at his strong, calloused fingers.

"Please stop talking about my dad," Allison says from his other side, hey. She's pink-cheeked, and Stiles pats her hand and says, "Don't worry, he can't hear inside my head."

"You've been poisoned," Mr. Argent says dryly, "and shot."

Stiles squints up at him. His beard is glorious and his skin is swarthy. Like a pirate. "Awesome. Is that why I feel like my insides are dying? But I'm also kind of happy about it?" He should be worried about something else. Right?

"Probably," Mr. Argent says.

If Stiles was Snow White, Mr. Argent would be the woodsman. Sexy, ruthless, unable to cut out Stiles's heart, because he's way too beautiful to be dead. "I'm not going to die, right?"

Allison is hiding her face for some reason. Her shoulders are shaking.

Stiles hopes she's not crying. If she's crying, Stiles is definitely going to die.

Allison swipes at her cheeks, though, and her face is red but she's got a soft, watery grin. She says, "Your dad is meeting us at the hospital, okay? You're going to be fine."

Fine. He's going to be fine. Fine is a terrible word, so forgive him if he doesn't believe them. And also: "Scott!"

Mr. Argent flattens his palm on Stiles's chest to keep him still, and Allison squeezes his hand.

She says, "Shhhh," and, "Calm down, Stiles," and also, "He's with Derek," which is not reassuring at all.

"What?" Stiles says.

She grimaces. "I know. But it's. It's gonna be okay. This is his decision."

"Why are you here?" Stiles says. His side is burning up, pain rolling over him in throbs, matching the beat of his heart, but he knows where Allison should be, and it's not here.

 "He wouldn't." Allison shakes her head. "He couldn't breathe, Stiles. And he wouldn't let Derek bite him until I left with you."

Stiles should be there. He sucks in a deep breath and then it feels like his lungs are caving in, his vision whites out—he feels his hand slip out of Allison's and then everything goes black.

*

Stiles wakes up briefly halfway through the hospital lobby, cradled in Chris Argent's arms. He lolls his head on his shoulder and sees Allison and her mom cleave a pathway through a surprisingly crowded ER, and then Mrs. McCall is hovering in front of them.

She says, "Oh, sweetheart, crap," and rather than try and get Mr. Argent to let go, she leads them down a hallway to an empty bed.

Mr. Argent jostles him on his way down, and Stiles can't stop coughing.

Stiles wakes up and it's dim-dark in the room. The monitor he's attached to beeps methodically. The hunched figure of his dad is half in shadows, the chair pulled up close to the side of his bed. Shoes squeak in the hallway as someone rushes past. His mouth feels funny. He's tired. His eyelids feel like they weigh five hundred pounds.

He wakes up and the morning light is gray and weak, and they're pulling an enormous tube out of his throat. He flails a hand up in panic, clips the nurse along his jaw.

He wakes up and Scott's plowing through his tray of food. He looks only mildly guilty when he sees Stiles staring at him.

He says, "It's cold. I think they mainly brought it in for your dad."

Stiles licks his lips. His throat feels raw when he tries to talk.

Scott makes a face. "Yeah, you had a tube shoved down your throat, dude. Here." He leaves the tray of food long enough to offer Stiles a cup of water with a straw.

Sweet.

"Thanks," Stiles says. "How long?"

Scott shrugs. "You've been in and out of it for a couple days. I'm not actually supposed to be here?"

Stiles stares at him, trying to spot any differences. Less gaunt, maybe. A little more color in his cheeks. The important thing, though, is that he didn't die. That neither of them did. "Derek?"

"Standing guard so I don't go bonkers and kill you." He rolls his eyes. "Like that would ever happen."

Stiles swallows hard. "Are you okay?" Because the last thing they talked about was Scott not wanting the bite, and now apparently he's a fully-fledged rage monster.

"Yeah, man," Scott says, smile only a little wonky. "I mean, I'm not dead. Gerard is though." He wrinkles his nose. "It wasn't me. Or Derek. I think, uh…. So Allison's mom is a little scary?"

“Totally,” Stiles says, managing a weak grin.

The door creaks open and suddenly Derek is standing there, looking way too angry, Stiles thinks, than this situation warrants. He says, "Scott."

Scott stands with a sigh. "I'll come back tomorrow," he says, ignoring Derek's, "No, you won't," to fist-bump Stiles's limp hand curled over the covers.

Derek narrows his eyes at Scott as he slips past him and out of the room. He huffs out a breath, and then looks back over at Stiles.

In the heavy silence, Stiles says, "Thanks."

Derek blinks, visibly startled, and his mouth relaxes a fraction. "What."

"For Scott," Stiles says. He doesn't have the energy for this conversation. It's a weird feeling. He yawns and says, "You, too."

"What," Derek says again, like he's broken.

"Tomorrow," Stiles says. "You come back tomorrow, too."

 

7.

Stiles in no way wants to be a werewolf. He really doesn't. It may seem cool to be super strong and fast and charismatic, to have enhanced senses and speed healing and a leather fetish, but really, with Stiles's luck, he'd probably accidentally try to kill his dad.

That part doesn't really bother him. The part where he's not a werewolf.

On the other hand, though, now that he's really had time to absorb what the fuck actually happened: Derek apparently had a choice. Stiles absolutely doesn't begrudge Scott not having to worry about his asthma and damaged lungs anymore, but Stiles had been shot. With an actual gun. After getting the shit beat out of him. If anyone was in immediate danger of dying that night, it was Stiles.

But, big shocker here, Stiles isn't worthy of being in the Wolf Club.

He's not going to let it make him bitter.

The school year ends with a fizzle, with the summer yawning out ahead of him—a sea of sunshine and working part time at the station and boredom. Normally, that would sound awesome. Normally, there wouldn't be werewolves involved. Normally, he wouldn't have been recently shot and still walking like an old man.

"It's like summer camp," Scott says brightly two weeks into summer break, "only Derek throws us around a lot and tries to get us to control our anger."

"Sure," Stiles says. That sounds fun.

Scott nudges him with an elbow. "You should come. Sometimes Allison shows up after she's done work! Derek cooks us burgers on Wednesdays and Saturdays." He gives Stiles a smile full of teeth, eyes pleading.

What the hell, right. All Stiles has been doing with his free time is eating ice cream and watching Mrs. Lambert's granddaughter plant azalea bushes across the street.

"It's your fault if Derek eats me," Stiles says.

Scott makes a face. "Derek likes you."

"Uh, are we talking about the same Derek here? Broody and surly? Kind of an asshole? Flashes fangs at me whenever I get in touching distance?" Fear boners are a thing that Stiles never thought would be an issue for him, but he was apparently very wrong.

"Derek doesn't mind you," Scott says. "Like," he wrinkles his nose up, "he'll be okay with you hanging around."

Begrudging tolerance, the one thing Stiles strives for with all his inadvisable crushes. Ugh. "Well, with that ringing endorsement…" He heaves himself to his feet and carefully stretches out all his sore spots. He says, "I'm taking pain meds, so you're driving," and tosses a delighted Scott his keys.

*

When they get to Derek's loft, both Lydia and Allison are there, so Stiles feels marginally less out of place with all the wolves.

Derek glares at him but doesn't tell him to get out. He even smirks a little, the bastard, when Stiles trips over the pile of shoes at the door. Derek's wearing practically nothing over his upper body, okay, just a scrap of sweaty gray fabric masquerading as a tank top, Stiles's sudden lack of peripheral vision is not his fault.

The loft is large, light and airy. A single leather couch is along one wall, and the rest of the room is bare, for maximum sparring space, with an open kitchen on the other end. They don't even have any mats on the floor, just cold gray concrete, broken by suspicious reddish brown splatter stains. Erica has Boyd pinned by the throat, a knee digging into his stomach, while Derek looms over them and says, "Try it again, only this time use your claws."

Jesus.

Lydia and Allison have taken up most of the couch, so Stiles gingerly makes his way around the fighting wolves and takes a seat at the kitchen island, swiveling his stool around to split his time between watching them 'train' and playing games on his phone. It's loud and hot and Stiles still feels left out, like he would've been better off watching Sandra dig holes in her short-shorts all day and eating his weight in chocolate chip cookies.

It isinteresting, though. Derek makes sure none of the puppies get too involved, no one ever gets fully eviscerated, and generally they seem to be having fun. Isaac laughs a lot. Scott crows every time he throws Jackson on his ass. When they break for food, Stiles watches as they all touch—brush hands, bump shoulders. Boyd and Erica are practically on top of each other at all times. It's pretty darn cute.

Stiles rubs a palm over his injured side and tries not to think about how all the wolves curve away from him when they pile into the kitchen to get plates.

Even Scott does it, and that's the only reason Stiles figures out it's on purpose—the barely there rumble from Derek, and the way Scott aborts a hand to his shoulder with an almost surprised look on his face.

Stiles looks from Derek to Scott and back again, but can't figure out the play here.

He says, "O…kay," and just accepts a slice of pizza.

*

It becomes a thing. Sometimes they meet at the loft, and sometimes they meet by the old Hale house in the preserve, and Stiles blusters his way through any awkwardness. Occasionally Derek even smiles at him. A barely there flash of a grin, like maybe he briefly forgets all the ways Stiles annoys the crap out of him.

A month into summer vacation Stiles can finally move like a sixteen-year-old again, for the most part, and his dad has him working every morning at the station.

Scott shows up nearly every afternoon and gives him puppy eyes until he drives him to wherever the pack is hanging out that day.

They have movie nights.

Stiles doesn't always go, but when he does, it's super weird.

"It's a Friday," Stiles says, slumping down onto Derek's couch with a bowl of popcorn. They've added a couple beanbag chairs and a truly horrendous and huge squishy recliner that Stiles is dying to sit in. It even makes Derek look small, Stiles could climb in there and curl up next to him and snuggle and it'll never happen, of course, but Stiles can dream. He bets Derek smells amazing.

Derek arches an eyebrow at him. "Your point?"

"He doesn't have one," Lydia says, staring down Jackson until he begrudgingly moves and lets her have one of the beanbags all to herself.

They're going to watch Die Hard, because it's Christmas in July, and Stiles is both thrilled and surprised that was a thing Derek could get behind, too, and this is the weirdest part: around town, Derek either ignores him, acts like an aloof asshole that obviously thinks Stiles is annoying, or does this smirk and flirt thing, where Stiles can almost see fang but Derek's eyes are smiling at him over the tops of his sunglasses.

It's confusing. Stiles's whole body gets confused.

"My point," Stiles says, "is don't we have better things to do than sit around watching a movie in our thirty-year-old alpha's apartment?" He realizes three seconds too late that he's said our alpha and tries to regulate his breathing without passing out. Crap.

Derek growls and says, "I'm not—"

"My alpha, right, no, I know." Stiles's voice is way too high, how did that happen?

"I’m not thirty," Derek says, and then stomps to his feet, reaches over, and grabs the popcorn bowl out of Stiles's hands.

Thank god Erica isn't there yet. She'd probably laugh at whatever Stiles's face is doing. As it is, Lydia is giving him an arched eyebrow of 'you're a dumbass.'

Scott, bless him, can't take five minutes to look anywhere but at Allison.

And then Erica slams open the door and yells, "Chinese food!" and Stiles keeps his mouth shut as much as he can for the rest of the night and hopes everyone else just forgets.

*

The thing is, even though Scott has his werewolf buddies and Allison and is preoccupied ninety percent of the time, he still wants to hang out with Stiles. He just wants to hang out with Stiles while he's doing other shit. He brings over wrapped plates of his mom's empanadas or brownies that he made with Allison and appeals to Stiles's needy side and uses puppy-eyes and somehow manages to get Stiles to agree to go to wolf camp nine times out of ten.

"You know at some point that isn't going to work," Stiles says, turning on the jeep a mere week after what Stiles thinks of as the Alpha Incident, where Derek kept eying him sulkily for the whole night, like the problem there was that Stiles thought Derek was old.

He doesn’t think Derek is old.

"What else were you going to do?" Scott says.

Stiles says, "Probably nothing," because he's pathetic.

When Stiles parks the jeep at the preserve, Isaac is already throwing Jackson into a tree. It's playful, and they're practically giggling at each other, and Stiles refuses to find that endearing.

Derek, standing straight-backed with his legs apart, shouting encouragement at them, ignores him when he stumbles out of the jeep. He jerks his head for Scott to join the rest of the puppies—Erica and Boyd are… wrestling, Stiles dearly hopes, and Stiles stuffs his hands into his pockets and starts off toward the dilapidated porch, whistling under his breath.

He stops midway across the clearing when he spots Lydia off to the side of the house, studiously watching Allison shoot at stuff with her bow and arrow. The show's impressive; Stiles honestly can't be blamed for the fact that Jackson and Isaac pretty much flatten him in a wolf tumble.

He yelps going down. "Motherfucker," he says, mouth full of dirt and leaves. He's fine, though. Mostly. He's totally okay, even if it kind of felt like his ribs collapsed, and he's been fully healed for weeks, this is not a big deal.

Isaac says, "Sorry, sorry," and starts patting him down.

Stiles rolls over onto his back with a groan. "I'm okay," he says, but even Jackson looks a little concerned, hovering over Isaac.

He says, "Watch yourself, Stilinski."

"I—"

Strong hands suddenly wrap around Stiles's arms from behind and heft him back up to his feet. He scrambles to stay upright with a, "Hey!" and doesn't realize the hands on him are Derek's until he looks up and they're nearly nose to nose. Stiles jerks back and says, "Hey," again, only much less smooth. Geez.

Derek's eyes are this green-gray almost blue that seems impossiblelike sea grass on a wet spring day. For a long moment they're the most expressive things on his face—bright and worried—and then Stiles presses his palms onto his firm, chiseled chest, Jesus, and they blank out as Stiles pushes him away.

"Back off," Stiles says. "I'm good." He's not a delicate flower. He can handle a couple hundred pounds of werewolf landing on him. He winces a little as he straightens all the way up, a sharp pang in his side, but he's totally okay.

"Why are you even here?" Derek says, gaze darting from Stiles's side to his face, frowning as he crosses his arms over his chest.

"Uh… " Stiles squints one eye up, feeling stupid.

Derek frowns harder. "Go home, Stiles, you're just getting in the way."

Stiles rolls his shoulders and huffs. He told Scott this was going to happen. Or, like, heavily implied it. Derek doesn't want him around, and toleration can only go on so long. He ignores the weird squeezing around his heart and says, "Fine."

Derek's eyes widen a little. "Stiles—"

"No, you're right." He's not a part of Wolf Camp. He's not pack. He doesn't have to be there, watching them all get the shit kicked out of them for fun. He's got plenty of other friends besides Scott that he could spend his summer with. Sure.

His face stings and his neck feels hot with embarrassment.  Ducking his head, he avoids Derek's freaky stare and turns toward his jeep.

"Stiles, wait!" Scott calls out, but when Stiles glances over at him, he's got Isaac in a headlock and Erica's creeping up on him in the shadows, and Stiles absolutely doesn't belong here.

He gives a little wave and says, "Call me later. When you're… done," knowing full well that he probably won't, because his evenings are always full of Allison.

Stiles likes that Scott is so happy right now, but it still totally sucks balls for Stiles.

*

Later that night, Stiles flails awake from his sprawl in his chair when his window screeches open. He catches himself on the edge of his desk, says, "Whu…?" and then blinks bleary eyes up at Derek as he drops one long leg over the window ledge, and then the other.

Stiles digs his palms into his eyes and stands up. "Um."

Derek is scowling, like Stiles is the one that broke into his home and interrupted his beauty sleep. He strides purposely across the room. Stiles has a split second to think Derek’s actually there to kill him, and his bat is all the way under the bed again, when Derek says, "I didn't think you'd actually leave."

"Huh?"

Derek is breathing like a bull, nostrils flaring, it's totally not attractive at all. "Today." He tips his head back to look at the ceiling, and Stiles is momentarily distracted by the length of his throat.

Stiles swallows hard and says, "You told me to leave."

Derek nods stiffly, like it's physically paining him to have this conversation. "Yes." His jaw flexes. "I did."

"But you…" Stiles rallies, shuffles a little closer. "Didn't think I'd listen to you."

"That's what I said." Derek drops his gaze to Stiles again, but he's not giving anything away. Nothing on his face is showing what he's thinking, why he's actually there.

Stiles lifts a hand and bites at his thumbnail, then his pointer finger, trying to figure out what this all means. "Why haven't you offered me the bite?" Stiles finally asks.

Derek's eyebrows shoot up. "Well," he says slowly, "I guess after you stalked me down in the preserve and yelled at me about Scott, I thought you weren't really interested. Was I wrong?"

"Yes! I mean, no!" Stiles scrubs his hands over his head and says, marginally more calm, "No, you weren't wrong."

"So what's the problem here?" Derek says, cocking his head.

"I don't have a problem. You have a problem." He slips past Derek and stalks to the bed, then over to his bookshelf, then the window and back to the middle of the room to look at Derek again. He's antsy. And nervous.

Derek shifts and leans up against his desk, watching him carefully. "Okay," he says, a challenge. "What's my problem?"

Ugh. He's right. Derek doesn't have a problem, this is totally Stiles. Stiles is the one who's miffed about not getting magically saved, deep down in Gerard Argent's murder basement. This is what it all comes back to. He's so sad.

Derek frowns some, but it's soft. "Stiles?"

Stiles licks his lips and looks anywhere but at Derek's face. "This is going to sound terrible, okay? And I'm going to preface it with the fact that I wish nothing bad to ever happen to Scott again ever." He waves his hands. "Let's get that right out there. This has nothing to do with how Scott is now magically cured of all ills. Okay?"

"Sure," Derek says, but he sounds cautious.

Stiles forces himself to meet his eyes. "I'm not mad about that. I know I… I know you think I talked Scott out of the bite, but I'm not mad about you giving it to him."

Derek nods.

"I’m just." There's really no way to say this without sounding like an asshole. He just has to know. "Why didn't you save me?"

Derek's gaze travels the length of Stiles's body, from his toes back up to his head, and there's a tiny smirking quirk to the side of his mouth, because yeah. Stiles gets that he's still here and all. Asshole.

Stiles flicks out his fingers. "I was beaten up, shot, losing blood. I was unconscious and, according to Allison, wildly hallucinating," we'll call it that, Stiles thinks, unable to stop his face from heating, and knows he can never look her dad in the face again, "and you stay and give Scottthe bite. And that was awesome, Derek, I get it, I love that, but why not… you know… both of us? Why would—"

"Stiles." The dark, intimidating v of Derek's eyebrows has gotten progressively deeper the longer Stiles rambles. "Are you serious?"

"I'm—" He cuts himself off, this time, when Derek straightens up out of his lean and stalks toward him. "Uh."

"You were shot," Derek says. The clenched jaw is back, along with narrowed eyes and—yep, great, hands fisted up into Stiles's shirt, tugging him in for maximum intimidation.

Stiles breath whooshes out and he tries not to find this a turn on. God.

Derek shakes him a little and growls. "You were shot with wolfsbane, you idiot. The bite would have just killed you faster."

Stiles's mouth gapes open for a long, embarrassing moment before he slams it shut with an audible click. "Oh. Fuck."

Derek shakes him again. "Yeah."

"I'm." His mouth is suddenly super dry. "Thanks for not… doing that… then."

"You're." Derek drops him like he's burning. "Have you been thinking that? This whole time?"

Stiles tries to smile. "Maybe?"

"You're an idiot." The weird thing is that Derek looks like he's trying not to smile.

What is happening?

“So for the record,” Stiles says, and they’re still standing way too close, but he has no idea what to do about it, “you don’t want me to not come to Wolf Camp?”

Derek says, “Please don’t call it that.”

“But you don’t not want me there.”

“I feel like that made sense to you,” Derek says, but he’s walking away now, toward the window, like a creeper.

“You’re not denying it,” Stiles says.

Perched there on the windowsill, half in and half out, Derek flashes him a brief, inexplicably brilliant smile and says, “No, I’m not.”

 

8.

Wolf Camp is marginally more fun now that Stiles knows that Derek actually wants him there. That he expects him there, even if it's just so he can hurl insults at Jackson, or get chased through the woods during hide and seek, or go out and pick up the pizza, when everyone else is a bloody, beaten mess.

It's still weird, because the no touching thing doesn't stop. The way Scott straightens up so their shoulders don't glance off each other's when they get to the door of the loft. The way Isaac always looks like he wants to hug him, but backs off at the last second with a pout. It's weird, but Stiles isn't going to complain. He's never had this many friends in his entire life.

"That's pathetic, right?" Stiles says, dropping plastic cups into a garbage bag and picking up empty pizza boxes. "I mean, I'm pretty sure Lydia didn't even know my name at the beginning of last year."

Derek snorts, but doesn't look up from where he's got the water running at the kitchen sink.

Everyone else has gone home, and Stiles is doing his best not to make this awkward. He should've left with Scott, but Scott left with Allison, and just… no.

Also Stiles is sixteen, and Derek's shirt is wet. When Derek finally kicks him out, he's probably going to go home and watch porn and jerk off and try his best not to think about Derek while he does it. Ugh.

He places the empty boxes on the kitchen island and hitches himself up onto a stool. Derek's back is mesmerizing, the way the muscles bunch and shift, and Stiles's face flushes as Derek's shoulders expand on a noisy inhale. Werewolves can smell this shit, right?

"I should, uh…" Die?

"Stiles," Derek says, voice just hoarse enough to make Stiles's skin shiver.

Stiles normally has no shame, but his, "Sorry," is quiet anyway.

"No, I." Derek shakes his head, grips the edge of the counter so hard it creaks. "You drive me crazy."

"Sorry," Stiles says again, twisting his fingers together. He drives a lot of people crazy; he tells himself it's part of his charm.

Derek sighs. "It's not your problem." He glances over his shoulder at him. "It's late. You should get home."

"No, yeah," Stiles bobs his head, "yeah."

So there it is, the giant pink elephant in the room. Stiles is getting his feelings all over Derek, and instead of being the asshole he so clearly usually is, he's being nice about it.

That just makes Stiles feel worse.

Stiles slaps his hand down on the countertop as he gets to his feet.  "Okay, well. Later."

Derek just flicks him a tight smile and nods.

*

Stiles never tells anyone about the nightmares. It's stupid to still be scared of a dead old man.  It's been almost three months, he should be over it already.

It doesn’t matter, though. Three nights out of five, he wakes up with a shout, a phantom throb in his side, shaking hands clenched into fists.

His bedside clock reads four am. He lies there, trying to regulate his breathing, staring up at his ceiling until he hears faint noises coming from downstairs. It's not like he's going back to sleep anyway.

His dad says, "What are you doing up?" but not like he's really surprised about it.

They sit at the round kitchen table and drink coffee and don't talk about the matching tired bruises under their eyes.

His dad's been run ragged. Mountain lions have given way to full murders, Stiles knows, and he'd be more interested in all of that if he didn't have werewolves.

"Breakfast?" Stiles says, even though it's not even five.

His dad shakes his head. He says, "I'm gonna fall face first onto my mattress in about fifteen minutes," then gets a weird look on his face. "Stiles," he says. "Do I have to worry about Derek Hale?"

"Uh. What?" The short answer is yes, but probably not for whatever his dad is thinking about. "No?"

His dad arches an eyebrow. "You don’t sound very sure about that."

"Dad, c'mon—"

"I'm not saying he's a bad guy, okay?" he says, holding up a hand. "I'm not judging him for his uncle, or whatever the hell is mutilating animals—"

"Mutilating—what the hell, Dad?" What the fuck is going on in Beacon Hills? Besides all the werewolves, that is.

"—but I'm pretty sure he's at least twenty-one, and you're sixteen."

"Oh my god." Stiles covers his face, it's too early in the morning to have this conversation. Also, Stiles's interest does not equal Derek's interest, so his dad really has nothing to worry about here. "We're not fu—dating, Dad."

At his dad's heavy silence, Stiles peeks up and sees him staring at him with wide eyes and a tight jaw.

He says, "You don't sound very convincing, Stiles." He gets to his feet, digs a hand through his hair. "And also I was talking about him buying you alcohol, Jesus, Stiles, since when do you date older men?"

"Um." Oops. "I was talking about alcohol, too?"

His dad sighs, noisy and pained. After a long moment he jabs a finger at him and says, "I'm going to bed. When I wake up, you better have some better answers."

*

Stiles is not exactly sure what kind of better answers he can come up with for his dad—he wasn't lying. He's not in any kind of relationship with Derek Hale outside of, like, unofficial beta werewolf wrangler. It’s not his fault if his dad doesn't believe him. He figures he should warn Derek anyway, even if it'll be excruciatingly embarrassing.

He's still on the fence about whether getting kidnapped on his way to Derek's loft is a curse or a blessing.

His head hurts, because he'd crashed his jeep and then he's pretty sure he got punched in the back of the head, so… he blinks his eyes open to see two identical guys standing over him. He thinks. He could just be having double vision.

Concrete is cold on his back, through his thin t-shirt, and the room all around him is dark and dim and gross, like a damp cellar. It smells like mold and shit.

Stiles groans and one of the matching goons nudges him in the face with the side of his boot.

"He's awake," he says, like a dumbass.

Jesus, who are these guys? Stiles got beaten up by a grandpa, he should be more terrified than he actually is, but the way his year has been going, why not this? He's mostly just really fucking annoyed.

"Perfect," some older weirdo says, stepping into Stiles's line of vision.

"You guys aren't hunters, are you?" Stiles says.

"Oh, no." The dude's eyes flash red. "We're much worse."

*

The rest of that first day, he's left mainly alone. There's a small rectangular window, barred, placed at the very top of the far wall. When it gets dark, he slumps into a corner of the room and closes his eyes. He doesn't sleep. His head throbs, and his back aches, and his mouth is too dry. By the time weak gray morning light trickles in, his eyes are gritty and he keeps nodding off, head flopping back against the hard wall, hissing and jolting upright when the lump on his head hits it.

The second day, he tries standing under the window and yelling. All he can see are trees, though, and he's willing to bet a pack of alpha werewolves didn't place him in downtown suburbia with an open window.

At some point, the twin goons bring him a bottle of water and a ham sandwich.

The third day, a lady with claws on her feet struts in and says, "Maybe you're just not being loud enough." She lifts him up with one hand twisted into his t-shirt, baring fangs before using her other hand to punch him in the gut.

Fear finally spangles out around the pain—she's holding back, she has to be, she could punch through his entire body and not break a sweat. Somehow that makes Stiles even more scared.

She drops him into a heap on the floor, lightly places a foot on top of his sternum. "Are you going to scream for your alpha?"

"I don't have—" Stiles words expand on a wail as her claws strip down the center of his torso, digging in so hard he's pretty sure she's gonna eviscerate him.

She steps back and Stiles curls into a pained ball, clutching frantically at his bleeding stomach.

"Hmmm," she says, and he barely hears the scritch-rustle of her feet claws as she walks away.

The door closes with an echoing clang, and Stiles presses the flat of his hands over his wounds. They're not gushing. They burn like hell, but he doesn't think it's going to kill him. Yet.

"Fuck, fuck," he pants, rolling his forehead on the cold, grimy floor, thinking about infections, and how his dad's gonna find him dead and bloody and he shouts, "Fuck!" louder, and, "Jesus, fuck, get me the fuck out of here!" back arching off the ground in an effort to be as fucking loud as possible. Maybe someone will hear him.

*

The fourth day, they send in a big guy. Mean mouth, ugly face.  Stiles screams every time he breaks a finger, and it's only when he gets to the third one that he realizes that's exactly what they want him to do.

The open window.

He huffs a tearful laugh when Big Ugly gives him a small respite. Steps back to watch him breathe. Stiles says, "You think Derek's coming for me?"

Creepy older dude steps out of the shadows, and Stiles is too tired to even flinch at his sudden appearance. He says, "You think he won't?" He moves closer with deliberate, careful steps, and tips Stiles's head back with the tip of his cane. "You think you aren't Derek Hale's greatest weakness?"

Stiles licks his lips. He doesn't feel much above the pain—the throbbing in his fingers and wrist, the burning marks on his chest, bruises on his head and back—but a tiny fluttering of unease expands at the bottom of his stomach. "What? No."

The cane digs in harder, making Stiles's neck arch and ache. He feels the worn pad of a finger trail down one side of his throat, thumb pressing in on the other side of his adam's apple. He swallows hard.

The guy makes a sound low in his chest, speculative, then says, "Don't kill him yet, Ennis. Make him scream louder."

Later, one of the twin goons props him up to give him water, and Stiles doesn't complain. He's surprisingly sympathetic, for an asshole alpha, and says, voice low, "When Hale comes, they'll let you go," and while Stiles doesn't believe that, he kind of gets the impression that maybe this idiot does.

He snorts, regrets it immediately, and says, "Sure," voice hoarse and throat raw.

"We're going to trade the lives of his betas for you," he says, like he's trying to convince Stiles, face actually serious, like that would ever happen.

"Are you… are you kidding me?" Stiles rasps out. "You think he'd trade five betas for me?"

"Five?" For the first time, Twin Goon looks worried.

"Five." This dude is seriously ill-informed, delusional, if he thinks Derek would trade his entire pack for him.

"Ethan." Feet-claw lady moves into view.

Ethan looks up at her from his crouch, frowning. "Kali. Hale's pack may be strong—"

A roar cuts him off, loud and angry. Wood splintering, howls layering on howls. Several heavy thumps shake the floor above them. It sounds like wild animals ripping each other apart, like someone is furious and larger and more powerful than these yahoos were apparently ready for.

Oh, Stiles thinks, slumping back onto the ground as Ethan's grip on him goes suddenly limp.

He stares up at the dust motes failing from the ceiling and says, "You might want to deal with that."

Derek might not trade for him, but it sounds like he's going to try to tear down this godforsaken tomb to get him back.

 

9.

Stiles wakes up in the hospital again. He wakes up to Derek's hovering face, schooled in some semblance of a concerned expression, five o'clock shadow bordering on beard country. He aches all over, half the fingers of his left hand are taped together and his mouth feels ashy.

He says, "You didn't bite me."

The sudden round panic of Derek's eyes and his dad's pointed throat clearing from the other side of his bed make his face hot.

He says, "I am on a lot of drugs."

Derek's eyebrows dip into a frown. "Right."

"We're gonna go back to that later," Stiles's dad says, taking hold of Stiles's good hand from where it's laying limply on the blankets. His eyes are a little watery, but mostly he looks pissed. "We're gonna go over a lot of things, like why you keep ending up in the hospital, and why I got called out in the middle of the night by the town vet to a little house in the woods where it looks like a bunch of wild animals decided to have a gang war, and I got to arrest three people for kidnapping you."

"Uh." How to explain this without werewolves? "I'm on a lot of drugs."

His dad pinches his nose with a sigh, then says, "I’m going to get coffee." His face softens a lot and he squeezes Stiles's hand and says, "I'll be right back. You're gonna be okay."

It's not a question, but Stiles says, "Sure," anyway.

When his dad leaves the room, Stiles says, "Three?" He's pretty sure there were at least five of them, if the twin goons were really two separate people.

There's a tick in Derek's jaw. He says, "We were angry," heavily implying that whoever else was there for Stiles's kidnapping, whoever wasn't arrested, was most likely a casualty of the animal gang war.

Stiles tries to feel bad about that, but can't.

"Everyone else okay?" Stiles asks.

Derek says, "Minor injuries. Some taking longer to heal, but nothing bad. Scott's okay."

Stiles lets out a long breath, doesn't even realize he'd been tense until his whole body relaxes against the mattress. "Good."

Derek settles into the chair next to Stiles's bed, which is only surprising because Stiles fully expected him to flee while his dad was gone. They're quiet. Stiles isn't sure how to say thanks for taking down an entire alpha pack for me without getting into the whole greatest weakness thing, which Stiles definitely still thinks is baloney.

The silence isn't exactly awkward, but his dad's taking an awful long time getting coffee.

Finally, Derek says, "You don't want me to bite you."

"Well, not like that," Stiles says before he can stop himself. He presses his eyes closed and counts to ten. He says, "I’m on a lot of drugs."

"You're really not," Derek says. He sounds wrecked.

Stiles turns his head toward him. Derek looks wrecked.

He says, "Jesus, Stiles. You almost died. Again."

"I’m not doing it on purpose," Stiles says softly.

Derek reaches out, smoothes a palm over Stiles's wrist, right above the bandages. "That's not the point."

Stiles says, "I know." They're having a moment, Stiles thinks. Derek looks like he wants to say more, but doesn't know how to make his mouth work.

"So," his dad says from the doorway, "I don't know about you, but I'm definitely not ready to talk about that," he looks at Derek's hand still on Stiles's arm, "right now. I think it's time for Derek to go home."

Derek slips his hand off slowly and stands. "Yes, sir."

"See you later?" Stiles says, not entirely hopeful that he will, but Derek just quirks a small smile at him and nods.

*

In a totally unfair move, the second Stiles gets settled in his bed at home, fresh painkillers washed down with a glass of milk, his dad hems him in by sitting on his blankets and says, "Were you ever planning on telling me about all the damn werewolves?"

Stiles's chest expands on a huge inhale and then instantly feels like it's collapsing in rising panic, so his, "What? No!" is embarrassingly wheezy. "I mean," he flails a hand, "what werewolves? I just—"

His dad just arches an eyebrow.

Stiles groans and covers his face with the crook of his elbow, whole body broken out in a cold sweat. "Who told you? Derek?"

"Chris Argent, actually. Came down to the station to help incarcerate a few of them."

Stiles groans harder. Chris Argent is a dick. A sexy, DILF dick that Stiles occasionally still has inappropriate dreams about. How dare he tell his dad about possible life-threatening supernatural creatures that have invaded this town? Of which he is the law. God. God. That sounds so bad. Stiles probably-definitely should have told him months ago. He's the worst.

"Sorry," he says. He huffs an unfunny laugh. "I thought, you know… I don't know what I thought."

"Stiles."

"No." Stiles shakes his head a little, pressed back against the pillows. "It was stupid. Werewolf business is apparently a lot," he gestures down himself, "more dangerous than I originally figured."

"Really?" his dad says dryly.

"To be fair, the guy who shot me was just a regular old human werewolf hunter psycho." He wrinkles his nose. That actually doesn't sound any better. Ugh.

"Stiles." His dad sounds deeply tired, and heavily concerned. "I need to be able to protect you, okay? And I can't do that if you're hiding monsters."

"Not monsters, Dad. Evil werewolves, sure, but Derek and his pack aren't monsters." It seems really important for his dad to realize this, and he'd say he doesn't know why, but he does.

"You're gonna give me an ulcer, kid," his dad says.

"Not if we watch your diet."

His dad ignores him. "We're gonna keep open lines of communication here. For the rest of your natural born life. No more secret werewolf shenanigans."

Stiles picks at the fuzz on his blanket. "But unsecret werewolf shenanigans are okay?"

All at once, Stiles's dad just looks old. Uniform shirt open at the collar, white undershirt dingy and stained. Dark hollows under his eyes. The dim light in the bedroom makes the lines around his mouth more pronounced, the furrows on his forehead deeper. Stiles feels terrible that there's nothing he can say here to make them go away.

Stiles's dad tries for a smile, though, even if his eyes are rimmed red, and says, "We'll negotiate."

*

Despite the late hour, Stiles is awake when his window eases up with a barely there wiggle and squeak. His chest still stings and his fingers hurt and there's a low-level pervasive ache at the back of his head. He's probably due for some painkillers, but his body doesn’t want to get out of bed to grab them.

He sighs and says, "Are you here to watch me sleep like a creeper?"

Ringing silence is his answer. He carefully shifts his head to look over at Derek, frozen in a square of moonlight. Stiles can't read his expression, but his tense posture reads guilty.

"You are," Stiles says, somehow more delighted than scandalized. "Oh my god, tell me you do this all the time."

"I don't," Derek says gruffly.

Stiles is completely unconvinced. "If you get me a glass of water and my meds, I won't tell my dad." He won't tell his dad anyway, his dad would have a fit, after all of this happening, but Derek doesn't need to know that.

Stiles carefully scoots up into a sitting position, then gingerly takes the water from Derek with his good hand after dry-swallowing his pills.

Derek says, "You drive me crazy."

Stiles squints first one eye shut, then the other. "You've told me that before." The meaning is kind of ambiguous. Stiles is an acquired taste.

"I have." Derek sits on the edge of the bed, plucks the glass out of Stiles's hand and sets it on his bedside table. He shifts up, leaning over Stiles so his hands are on either side of his hips.

"Um." Stiles's throat is dry.

Derek says, "What did they say to you?"

"Who? The alphas?" Stiles says faintly. He licks his lips, and his breath hitches as he watches the sweep of Derek's eyelashes, his gaze dipping briefly to Stiles's mouth. "They said they wanted you to trade your betas for me. Which is… s-stupid."

"It's dangerous," Derek growls. "Fuck." He balls his hands into fists, clenching the blanket so hard it pulls down low on Stiles's lap. "I might have done it. If we weren't strong enough."

Stiles scoffs. "No way. No," he says, when Derek goes to shake his head. "You might think that, big guy, but there's no way in hell. You would have gone down fighting, anyway. We all would've died, maybe. But you wouldn't've just given up." He shrugs a little. "And it doesn't matter, because it didn't happen. Right?"

"You really believe that." It's not a question. Derek stares at him. Eyes narrow, mouth slightly parted. Stiles is sad to discover that his adorable bunny teeth only add to his appeal. Heat pools down into his belly, he can't help himself, and Derek's eyes somehow get narrower.

Stiles tries to shift his legs, but he's effectively pinned. There is absolutely no way he can hide his boner. It only gets worse when Derek's nose flares, and his fangs drop, just a tiny bit.

Christ.

Stiles isn't ready for it at all when Derek leans over to brush their mouths together; feather light, more breath than lips. He's gaping like an idiot. He's hot all over. He's cold.

Derek is maybe twenty-one, with the full-grown scruff of a gentleman and the sculpted muscular body of an immortal werewolf. Stiles looks like he's twelve on a good day.

This is not going to work.

"My dad will straight up murder you."

Eyes still worryingly dark, Derek's face morphs into charming douchebag mode, complete with an aw-shucks tilt of his head. He says, "Are you sure?"

"Oh yeah," Stiles says, good hand fluttering up to cup Derek's fuzzy cheek. "Murder."

Derek's smile goes so light it nearly disappears, and he kisses Stiles again—deeper, a hand careful in his hair now, teeth scraping along his lower lip. 

Afterwards, after another kiss, and then another, mouth warm on Stiles's jawline, Derek says, "I'm willing to risk it if you are."