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There’s No Escape for the Potato Man

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[Unknown Number]
ok ive cut everything up into manageable pieces you gonna come help me bury everything now?

Stiles Stilinski almost spat water out of his mouth at the sight of the words on his small screen. He hastily whipped around, checking his surroundings somewhat nervously, as if whoever had sent the text was nearby and plotting his murder.

Though considering the words on his screen, probably not plotting his murder so much as getting rid of evidence related to a murder he had already committed.

Clearly.

Or maybe she. He shouldn’t discriminate, women could kill people, too. Women could be serial killers, too!

Setting his water bottle back down on the table, he felt very exposed being out in the middle of the empty library, sitting alone at one of the large tables with not another soul in sight. Maybe he shouldn’t have sequestered himself in the stacks in the basement, but no one ever went down there! It was cold, and somewhat gloomy, and the ceiling lights buzzed loud enough to annoy even the most patient of people.

Stiles could tolerate all of that more easily than most people, so he always tended to have the place to himself. Now he was starting to feel like he should go upstairs and be around other people.

Then again, he didn’t know how many people there would be at almost eleven at night on a Friday. Most people had social lives and went out to party and get drunk, like his best friend and roommate.

Not Stiles though! No, Stiles had to procrastinate a project to the last second and was now rushing to get it done before his midnight deadline like a super smart awesome person who definitely had all his priorities straight, yessiree!

And was also, apparently, going to get arrested by his own father for being an accessory to the very evident murder he was being asked to assist in the burial of. How did one tell someone who’d just sent a text about burying pieces of a dead body that they had the wrong number?

“Lol, wrong number bruh, good luck though!”? Stiles was definitely not going to be typing that because he had common sense and top-tier survival skills and he was not going to let himself get murdered by a serial killer who texted the wrong number, not after all the blood, sweat and tears he’d had to go through to get admitted to this damn university!

University was expensive! Scott’s dad had footed the bill for him, but Stiles’ dad didn’t have that kind of cash. Stiles had got in on his own! Worked his ass off and everything to earn that scholarship!

Of course, he recognized the irony of having worked hard to get in, only to be half-assing a project an hour before the deadline, but details! That was irrelevant to the current situation of a fucking murderer texting him for help disposing of a body!

Evidently, said murderer did not appreciate being kept waiting, because Stiles’ phone buzzed again with a new message, which he read apprehensively.

[Unknown Number]
come ON erica you fucking promised youd help me out
[Unknown Number]
if you make me do this alone this wont be the only thing buried in my yard

“Oh my God!” Stiles almost hurled his phone across the library, but it was new and expensive and he couldn’t manage to get his hand to uncurl from around it.

This was a disaster! A fucking travesty! He was about to get this poor Erica person killed because of a wrong number text!

Bringing the phone back to his face, he hastily closed out of his messages and scrolled through his contacts until he stopped on his best friend’s name, hitting the call button and putting the phone to his ear.

“Hey, you done your project?”

“Someone just asked me to help them bury a body!” he blurted out without preamble, hoping no one was around to hear him since that would be suspicious as fuck! “Some rando texted to ask for help burying a body, what do I do?!”

Scott McCall was silent on the other end of the line, the sounds of partying and drunken tomfoolery happening in the background of the call. Stiles had a few seconds to wonder if he was too drunk to fully comprehend what he’d just said, but eventually his friend spoke.

“What?”

“Someone texted me!” Stiles insisted, flailing one arm almost violently. “About having cut a body up into pieces and asking for help burying it!”

“Why are you helping someone bury a body, Stiles?!”

“I thought it’d be a fun extra-curricular activity, see if maybe I can get into horticulture, what the fuck do you think, Scott?! It was a wrong number!” He raked his free hand through his already dishevelled hair, making it stick up even more than usual. “What should I do? Should I call my dad? I should call my dad.”

Sure, his dad was in Beacon Hills and he was in New York City, but still! His dad was a sheriff! He could probably trace the number, and then call the NYPD and they could go arrest whoever the fuck was attempting to destroy evidence of their heinous crime!

When Scott replied, his voice was cutting in and out, a beep sounding down the line, and Stiles realized he was getting another call. Pulling the phone away from his ear, his stomach bottomed out when he saw the unknown number on the other line.

Stiles leapt to his feet, flailing his free arm wildly. “Scotty! Scott! He’s calling me! What do I do?!”

“Call the cops! Don’t answer!”

“No shit, Sherlock!” Stiles paused, free hand tugging at his hair, and thoughts screeching to a halt. “I’m gonna answer.”

“Wha—Stiles, I said don’t answ—”

Pulling the phone away from his ear, Stiles switched to the other line, took a deep breath, then placed the phone back to his ear before speaking so quickly his words ran over each other.

“I called the cops and they’ll be there any second so you might as well give up now and just turn yourself in!”

“What?” a horrendously confused voice demanded gruffly on the other end.

“Don’t ‘what’ me, asshole! You killed someone!” Stiles practically screamed into the phone. A girl who’d been coming down the stairs towards the stacks paused on the bottom step, casting him a somewhat nervous look, and then turned to hurry back upstairs.

Great. He was now going to be known as the dude who knew a serial killer. They’d probably ban him from the library.

“Who is this? Where’s Erica?”

“Wrong number, asshole!”

“Stop calling me an asshole,” the man on the other end snapped aggressively.

Stiles could understand. He’d be pretty aggressive too if he’d murdered someone and texted a wrong number to ask for help burying the body. This guy obviously failed How To Be a Serial Killer 101.

“What kind of idiot thinks I murdered someone?”

“The kind of idiot who got your text messages, you fucking dumbass!” he retorted hotly. “Maybe double check your contacts before sending a random stranger details on your nefarious plans to dispose of a freshly cut up body!”

“What?!” the guy on the other end demanded, crossed between horrendously confused and livid. Stiles was kind of impressed he had the ability to fit both emotions into one word, that was talent, he’d have to visit the guy in jail to learn how to do that. “I didn’t—what even are you talking about?!” 

“Look man, don’t make this harder for yourself, all right? Just fess up, get a good lawyer, and maybe you’ll be out in fifteen to twenty depending on why the person you murdered got murdered. Self-defence is a thing, but I mean, that’s dependent on why you murdered whoever you murdered. And why am I trying to help you build a case right now?” Stiles shook his head roughly, hand still raking almost obsessively through his hair. “Don’t make this harder on yourself.”

“Stop talking,” the angry voice on the other end growled. “Who the fuck is this?”

“Well, which is it?” Stiles demanded. “Stop talking, or answer your question?!”

“I swear to God, if this is a joke, I’m going to kill Erica.”

“Don’t talk to me about the next murder you’re planning!” Stiles insisted. “I will not be an accomplice!” He stabbed angrily at the air with one finger, despite Mr. Serial Killer not being able to see him. “I am an innocent wrong number! Don’t drag me into this!”

“Before I decide to reach through the phoneline and strangle you, why the fuck do you think I murdered someone?”

“You texted me about cutting a body up into pieces and burying said pieces in your yard!”

“Pretty sure I didn’t.”

“Pretty sure you did, you murdering fuck!”

He heard a deep inhale on the other end, like the guy was trying to find patience. Stiles had to wonder if this was how the first person had died. They’d pissed him off so much he’d just... lost control and grabbed a fork to stab in the person’s eye.

Now he was picturing that and it was disturbing and disgusting and also made him want to re-watch Saw II with the eye horror. He had no idea why, he’d blame it on the trauma of this entire evening.

“I was talking about potatoes.”

Stiles’ brain screeched to a halt. “What?”

“Potatoes,” the guy said, enunciating each syllable as if Stiles were the most idiotic person he’d ever met. “I cut up potatoes and cleared out a part of my yard to grow some. You need to bury potatoes. Or so I’ve been told by Erica, who is supposed to be helping me. There are no dead bodies, buried or otherwise, on my property. Unless you count Erica, who will be a dead body when she finally resurfaces.”

Stiles was silent for all of two seconds before blurting out, “It’s eleven o’clock at night! You really think I’m going to believe that?!”

“I don’t care whether you believe me or not, you’re the one who’s gonna look like an idiot if the police show up at my door!”

“You mean when,” Stiles insisted hotly.

“You really called the police?” the man asked dryly, sounding like he was one-hundred and fifty percent positive that Stiles had not, in fact, called the police. “Then by all means, I’ll wait on the phone with you until they arrive.”

“No way! I’m not staying on the phone with a serial killer!”

“Not a serial killer, unless massacring potatoes counts as murder,” the man growled.

Stiles blurted out, “I’m hanging up now, enjoy prison!” before promptly hanging up. He saw a few worried texts from Scott, but just opened his messages to reassure him he was fine.

Why Scott thought he wasn’t fine when it was just a phonecall, he had no idea, but it was nice to know he cared. Though now Stiles wasn’t sure what to do.

A part of him felt like he should be calling the cops, because he couldn’t be entirely sure that the guy had been talking about potatoes! But on the other hand, if he did call the cops and found out that it was just potatoes... well, his dad would have a few choice words for him, he was sure.

He went back to his text messages with the unknown number, trying to determine if he could have been talking about potatoes, but it was way too vague. It really sounded like cutting up a body and burying it in the yard, but at the same time, the guy had sounded confused—and frustrated. Not to mention his comment to his friend Erica about how she’d promised to help him sounded a little whiny.

He was still squinting at the texts uncertainly, oscillating between calling the cops and letting it go when another text came in and he almost dropped his phone. It was from the same unknown number, and was just a picture of a part of a yard with the soil dug up into neat little trenches. Another picture followed soon afterwards of an entire box of cut potatoes. Some of them seemed to still be whole, but those ones were relatively small compared to the cut ones.

To be fair, that was a lot of potatoes. And while Stiles knew it could’ve been a trick and the guy just happened to have a bunch of potatoes lying around to take a picture of for Stiles, he couldn’t have cut them up so fast. And there was no way he’d have managed to get those trenches built in the yard this quickly.

The pictures suggested someone who’d been working on this for a few hours, at least. Though why he’d done all this work, only to text someone asking them to come over to bury the potatoes, Stiles had no idea. Or maybe he didn’t know how to do it right? And he’d started with the understanding that once all the heavy lifting was done, so to speak, this Erica person would show up to tell him how to finish up?

[Unknown Number]
not a serial killer
[Unknown Number]
liteally just growing potatoes

“But how do I know that for sure?” Stiles demanded, shaking his phone. He didn’t have time for this, his project was due in under forty minutes and he wasn’t done yet! He didn’t have time to have a moral dilemma right now, his education was on the line!

Staring at the short message for a long while, Stiles did what any normal person would do.

He print-screened it, sent it to his dad, and told the adult to figure it out. Not in so many words, since his literal text to his father consisted of, “Did this dude kill someone or is he actually growing potatoes at eleven o’clock at night?”

Shoving his phone back into his pocket, he was determined not to think about it until after midnight. He had more important things to worry about than having a potential serial killer knowing his number.

After all, his GPA was at stake!


[Unknown Number]
i cant believe you actually called the fucking cops!

This was the text message Stiles woke up to first thing in the morning on Saturday, scratching at the sleep lines on his face, ignoring the dried drool on his cheek, and his eyes barely open since he’d only grabbed his phone to check the time.

Seeing that message waiting for him woke him up faster than the ‘14:27’ staring back at him. He’d royally fucked up his sleep schedule, but at least he’d gotten his piece in right before the deadline. And it wasn’t even half bad, considering his last minute attempt to finish it all the while dealing with a potential serial killer.

He stared at the text for a long while, debating on answering or not. On the one hand, he didn’t want to be friends with a serial killer. On the other hand, if what he said was true, then evidently he hadn’t murdered someone last night—or he’d hidden the body really well—otherwise the cops would’ve taken him in.

Ho-humming about it for a while, sitting cross-legged in the middle of his bed and ignoring the fact that Scott’s was empty across from him, he chewed at the inside of his cheek for a few seconds before finally tapping out a response.

[Stiles]
To be fair, I wasn’t the one who called the cops
[Stiles]
My dad was

And it was true, too. Stiles had sent the text to his father, the best sheriff in all of California—in his personal opinion, anyway—and had then let the pieces fall where they may. He’d submitted his project and packed up for the night well before checking his phone for a reply, trudging out of the library with the item clutched in one hand and waving goodbye to the guy behind the counter. Poor schmuck was stuck working until one on a Friday, but the good news was that it meant Stiles hadn’t been worried about being kicked out before his deadline.

Once he got outside, he’d checked his messages where his dad had sent back a series of question marks, and then had asked Stiles a few questions. Evidently he’d grown concerned or impatient waiting on a reply, and since the number was at the top of the print-screen he’d sent him, his father had obviously just traced it and then called someone at the NYPD to check it out.

So really, in Stiles’ defence, he had nothing to do with the cops showing up at Potato Man’s house.

Stiles was brushing his teeth in the communal bathroom, still trying to wake himself up, by the time he got a response from his new murderous friend.

[Unknown Number]
great i accidentally texted a ten year old

“What?!” Stiles demanded, foam sliding down his chin. He hastily spat it out, rinsed out his mouth, then set his toothbrush down with the bristle side over the edge of the sink so he could type back a response.

[Stiles]
I am a VERY mature 19 I will have you know
[Stiles]
My dad just happens to be a cop
[Stiles]
Your own fault for murdering someone

The response was almost instantaneous this time.

[Unknown Number]
JFC I DIDNT KILL ANYONE!!!

[Stiles]
And now the police know that
[Stiles]
Win-win :)

[Unknown Number]
i fucking hate you

[Stiles]
I get that a lot

He waited to see if he’d get a response, but when nothing else came through, he figured his new friend didn’t have anything else to say. Stiles debated deleting the guy’s messages, but he was kind of curious. Who was Mr. Potato Man? Why was he attempting to grow potatoes in his yard? Who in New York could even afford a yard?

And it was a big yard, too. Stiles had only gotten a snapshot of it, but even that had evidenced it was only one small portion of the guy’s backyard. That meant it was twice, if not three times as big as the picture he’d been sent.

That was a lot of yard for New York. Stiles lived in a fucking shoebox with Scott and it was costing his dad more than their mortgage. Sure, it was a dorm room and university was always ridiculously expensive because capitalism, but not the point! The point was, Mr. Potato Man was definitely loaded or he’d really lucked out.

Maybe he got rich growing potatoes. Then again, he’d been waiting for a friend to come and help him with that, so probably not. Also Stiles doubted a man could live off potatoes in New York. Though fries...

His stomach growled at the thought of both potatoes and fries and he headed back to his room so he could drop off his toiletries and hunt down some nourishment. Dropping his stuff down on the shelf by the door, he shoved his phone into the very questionable pocket of his sweats—questionable because they were old and frayed and really shouldn’t be seen out in public but YOLO—pulled on a hoodie, and then shoved his feet into sneakers.

Heading out, he locked his door before nodding to two of the other guys on his floor who were going in the opposite direction back towards their room. One of them patted his back on their way by and he turned to walk backwards for a second.

“Hey, you guys seen Scott?”

“Last I saw him, he was sucking face with this girl at the party last night,” one of them called back. “Probably scored and is sleeping off his hangover.”

Ah, university. Where the drinking age meant nothing and even the scum of the earth could still get laid. Not that Scott was the scum of the earth, considering the adorable puppy-dog eyes, the scruffy hair, and the general all-encompassing resemblance to the most adorable animal on the planet. But, he and Stiles had been in the losers club in high school. It was a highly coveted, exclusive club, with a president and a vice-president, and no one else.

Stiles was president. Scott was too adorable to earn the honour.

To be fair, that hadn’t been their entire high school life. Just the first two years, really.

And while he knew he should’ve felt bitter about Scott getting laid almost every other week now that they were in university, but really, good for Scott. Guy deserved it after the colossally awful break-up with his high school sweetheart—despite them still being friends, which probably hurt Scott even more. Stiles was just happy to see him getting back out there, playing the field, swimming through the ocean to find a new fish, and all that.

Stiles needed to stop procrastinating his homework so he could actually go out every now and then. He always seemed to have something due on nights of the big parties, and he was really beginning to question the whole ‘university life’ thing because so far, he hadn’t really had one.

The most exciting thing to happen to him in the almost two months he’d been there so far was a potato-growing man sending him a questionable text that sounded like he was a serial killer. University was ruined on Stiles, at this point. He might as well be living under a rock.

Pulling his phone out once he was outside and walking slowly towards the commons block, he texted Scott to ask him where he was, and was rewarded moments later with a picture of his friend beside a gorgeous Asian girl, the two of them sitting on the same side of a booth at what looked like the diner just off campus.

[Scottie McTottie]
borrowed roscoe
[Scottie McTottie]
hope that’s ok

Stiles let out a loud sound of indignation, ignoring the looks that earned him when he stopped in the middle of the path, texting Scott back furiously. He would be lucky to get his Jeep back in one piece with Scott behind the wheel of it.

[Stiles]
SCOTT!
[Stiles]
HOW COULD YOU?!
[Stiles]
Roscoe is still RECOVERING from her drive up from California!

[Scottie McTottie]
made it just fine to the diner

[Stiles]
Uncool man
[Stiles]
Can’t believe you stole my keys!

[Scottie McTottie]
don’t leave them lying around next time

[Stiles]
If she comes back with even a SCRATCH on her
[Stiles]
You’re DEAD to me!

[Scottie McTottie]
like you’d notice a new scratch on that piece of junk

Another loud sound of indignation left his mouth and his thumbs actually hurt from how hard he was pressing down on the screen.

[Stiles]
THAT PIECE OF JUNK GOT YOU OUT HERE!
[Stiles]
AND to the DINER!
[Stiles]
You don’t DESERVE Roscoe!

[Scottie McTottie]
you clearly haven’t had coffee yet if you’re this cranky
[Scottie McTottie]
get caffeinated, we’ll talk later

Stiles let out another loud sound of anger, flailed briefly on the spot, and resisted the urge to throw a tantrum. In Scott’s defence, Stiles did desperately need coffee. He felt like he was only half a person right now, so coffee was a must. Thankfully the cafeteria had coffee all day, because it recognized that some people, like Stiles, didn’t wake up at the ass-crack of dawn.

Wandering into the commons block, he pushed through the door leading to a set of stairs and headed up them into the cafeteria. His stomach growled again as soon as the scent of food invaded his olfactory system and he inhaled deeply while looking around.

It always tended to be steady all throughout the day on weekends, given everyone came around in staggered groups, but he seemed to have hit more of a lull than usual. All the breakfast items had long ago been replaced, but he knew there would still be some muffins and other pastries in the bread section so he shuffled in that direction and stood in front of the display, eyes raking over all the options.

There was still a pain au chocolat left, but he was studying it intently, wondering why it was still left. Those were always the first to go, so if there was one left, something was obviously wrong with it. Like someone had dropped it on the floor and then put it back hoping no one had noticed. If no one else had grabbed it, Stiles wasn’t going to be the idiot to do so.

He settled on a chocolate chip banana muffin instead, then headed towards the sandwich bar. The guy behind the bar was cheerful, and he and Stiles chit-chatted while he made him a wrap, ending with a pun that would’ve had Stiles howling with laughter if he weren’t so coffee-deprived. As it was, he managed a small laugh, bid the guy a good day, and went to hunt down the coffee.

He got two cups, because one just wouldn’t be enough, then grabbed a few wrapped cookies, a Rice Krispie square, and four cracker packets before heading to the checkout. The weekend staff were always a little colder than the ones that were around during the week, so while Stiles tried to smile and be polite, the woman’s cold glare and gruff tone while she barked at him to swipe his ID card so she could input his total had him feeling exhausted by the time she rang him through.

Once the meal was charged to his meal plan on his student ID card, he headed out into the seating area and fell into the first chair he saw, not caring that he was sitting alone at a six-person table.

“Sweet, sweet coffee,” he said reverently while picking up one of the cups on his tray. He drank almost half of it down in one go and let out a content sigh once the liquid had made its way down his throat.

He knew it was psychosomatic, but he was positive the dull throb behind his eyes was dissipating instantly from that one large swallow alone. Coffee was his life’s blood, he could survive an entire lifetime on coffee alone.

Sitting there sipping his coffee for a while, he let the caffeine seep into his veins and overtake his blood with its bitter goodness, wishing—not for the first time—that coffee IVs were a thing. Probably deadly, but still. So useful.

He got started on his wrap once he was done with his first cup of coffee, looking around the relatively empty cafeteria. He supposed it made sense, considering it was almost three, and it was a gorgeous day outside. Most people had probably been up for a few hours, and the lunch crowd would’ve come and gone before two. The only people Stiles saw looked in about the same shape as him.

Pyjamas, dark circles under their eyes, zero fucks given about anything but coffee. One of the guys across the cafeteria was actually in Stiles’ course so he figured he’d also been up until the ass-crack of dawn trying to get his project finalized and submitted.

Stiles really hoped he hadn’t fucked up his GPA on procrastinating so late, he had to keep it up to qualify for the scholarship. He was confident he’d get a good grade, despite how last minute it was, but still. Probably best he not make a habit of submitting something worth half his grade minutes before the deadline after having only just started it a few hours prior.

Not his finest hour, but at least he’d finished it!

He grew bored of his surroundings relatively quickly and pulled his phone out. He texted with some people from back home, but they were all spread out across the world so he wasn’t expecting any replies. His dad was either working or sleeping, depending on his work schedule, and Scott was too busy insulting his Jeep to remember Stiles had called him in a panic last night about a serial killer.

His eyes lingered on the message with Mr. Apparently-Not-A-Serial-Killer, debating again about whether or not to delete the text message and pretend this had never happened.

But...

He was curious.

Setting his wrap down, he used both hands to type up a new message, sending it off before grabbing his food again and taking a bite. He’d just opened a tab in safari, confident he wouldn’t get a reply any time soon—if at all—but surprisingly the browser was still opening when a new message cascaded down from the top of his screen. He clicked on it before it could disappear and it opened the message.

[Stiles]
How did you ACCIDENTALLY text a wrong number, anyway?

[Unknown Number]
why are you still texting me?

[Stiles]
Why not?

[Unknown Number]
you thought i was a murderer
[Unknown Number]
and called the cops to come to my house
[Unknown Number]
were not friends

[Stiles]
I mean
[Stiles]
You have to admit
[Stiles]
Your text messages were sketchy as fuck
[Stiles]
And who’s planting POTATOES at eleven o’clock at night on a Friday?
[Stiles]
You, apparently.

[Unknown Number]
it was the only free time i had!
[Unknown Number]
and i had all those fucking potatoes!

[Stiles]
Couldn’t have waited until right now?
[Stiles]
Given you’re texting me, you’re obviously not busy

[Unknown Number]
im not home smartass

[Stiles]
Where are you?

[Unknown Number]
did you miss the part where were not friends?

[Stiles]
Must’ve :)
[Stiles]
So where are you?

[Unknown Number]
i liked you better when you thought i had killed someone

[Stiles]
I’m not gonna leave you alone until you tell me where you are

[Unknown Number]
WORKING

[Stiles]
Clearly you are working extremely hard right now
[Stiles]
What with all the texting

He didn’t get a response to that one right away, but Stiles couldn’t help the small, mischievous smirk that teased his lips. Mr. Potato Man was actually a little amusing. Very angry, for sure, he clearly had some issues in the anger management department, but still amusing. While he was sure they wouldn’t keep this up for too long, he figured keeping him around for a couple days couldn’t hurt.

Tapping the corner of the message, he hit the ‘save to contacts’ button and then stared down at the ‘name’ section. He didn’t know what to call him. He had many colourful names in his head, but Mr. Potato Man just wouldn’t tickle him anymore if he saw it constantly on the screen. Not that he was anticipating this friendship to extend well beyond a few days, but still.

He thought about it all the way up until the next text response came around, and finally settled on just naming him Bob. Everyone knew a Bob, didn’t they? The guy felt like a Bob.

[Bob]
i can text while im working
[Bob]
i own this place

[Stiles]
Oooooh~ Business man, huh? Do tell.

[Bob]
dont you have anything better to do than bother me?

[Stiles]
Don’t YOU have anything better to do than reply?

[Bob]
tons actually
[Bob]
getting back to it

[Stiles]
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? Hey man, don’t leave me hanging!
[Stiles]
Come on!
[Stiles]
How did you accidentally text me?
[Stiles]
Hello?
[Stiles]
Bob?

Stiles figured the conversation was over. He liked to think that maybe the guy had actually gone back to work and wasn’t just flat-out ignoring him, but to be fair, the chances of him not having deleted Stiles’ texts were slim. After all, Stiles was a wrong number, and had gotten the cops to show up at his house in the middle of the night.

In his defence, it really did sound like Bob had hacked up a body to bury in his backyard so really, he couldn’t be blamed for wanting to be absolutely sure someone wasn’t being used as fertilizer. He was just being a good Samaritan!

Sighing when nothing else came through, Stiles followed through on his earlier opening of safari and browsed reddit for a few minutes while he slowly but surely ate everything on his tray.

When he left fifteen minutes later, he had a stomach ache, and Scott texted to say Roscoe wouldn’t start and Stiles had to head down to the diner to work his freaky Jeep magic.

He should’ve stayed in bed.


[Stiles]
So seriously, how did you accidentally text a wrong number?

To be fair, it had been two days since Stiles had bothered Bob. He’d been disappointed at not hearing back from him after their last conversation, but was determined to rekindle their dying flame of friendship. Bob just needed a little nudge, that was all.

And Stiles’ mandatory Shakespearean Literature class was the perfect opportunity for him to give his new buddy a little poke. A small, gentle reminder that Stiles was still there for him, and wanted to make this friendship work.

After all, how devastating for their budding friendship to crash and burn so soon after its creation. It was tragic, really. More tragic than the butchering of Hamlet that was going on right now at the front of the class.

Why the professor hadn’t let him be Hamlet, Stiles would never know, because he would’ve made the reading epic instead of flat and devoid of any joy whatsoever. Hamlet was in the process of murdering his uncle, why was the moron reading his lines like he’d just run over his dog?

Stiles was scrolling absently through Tumblr on his phone after having sent the message, the drone of the other student’s voice slowly but surely putting him to sleep. And he wasn’t the only one. Scott was nodding off beside him too, his head jerking up every now and then before slowly lowering once more, eyes sliding up. Usually just before his chin hit his chest his head would jerk back up again.

Who knew anyone could make murder so boring?

He was in the middle of reblogging a rather interesting post about some killer lake when a message cascaded down from the top of his screen and he grinned, tapping it open in time for another one to follow.

[Bob]
FFS
[Bob]
why are you still texting me?

The real question was: why was Bob replying? Stiles didn’t know, but he was thrilled to see his name on his screen after two days of silence. This really could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Seriously, how entertaining would it be to introduce Bob down the line to other friends? “Hey guys, this is Bob. We became friends because I thought he murdered someone!”

[Stiles]
Why not?
[Stiles]
If you really didn’t like it, you’d stop replying

[Bob]
you seem like the kind of person whod text constantly if i DIDNT

Stiles smirked at that response, ignoring Scott’s head leaning dangerously close to his shoulder. Scott was welcome to pass out on his shoulder if he wanted to, as long as he didn’t drool on him.

[Stiles]
Aww, look at you
[Stiles]
We’re so close already, you know me so well
[Stiles]
Also, apostrophes are your friend, my dude

[Bob]
im not taking grammar lessons from a child

[Stiles]
19, remember?

[Bob]
like i said
[Bob]
child

Stiles rolled his eyes, determined to find out how old Bob was. He hadn’t sounded old on the phone during their brief conversation, but to be fair, Scott sounded like a guy in his fifties so it was hard to tell.

[Stiles]
What does that make you?
[Stiles]
Ancient?
[Stiles]
Are you old?
[Stiles]
You didn’t SOUND old
[Stiles]
ARE you old?

[Bob]
i will literally pay you to stop texting me

[Stiles]
Just tell me how you accidentally texted me instead of your friend!
[Stiles]
I’m not asking for your first born here
[Stiles]
Come on, I’m boooooooooooooooored

[Bob]
dont you have other friends to bother in your boredom?

[Stiles]
They’re all in class or sleeping
[Stiles]
And my best friend is LITERALLY passed out beside me
[Stiles]
I think he’s starting to drool on my shirt

Stiles turned his head to glance suspiciously at Scott, trying to determine if the weird feeling beneath his shoulder was drool or just his mind playing tricks on him because he knew Scott drooled. He decided to go with the latter, Scott hadn’t been sleeping long enough to be drooling.

He hoped they both still had their notes on Hamlet from high school, they could just use those to study for the midterm and final instead of having to rely on the notes neither of them were actually taking right now.

[Stiles]
Well?
[Stiles]
I’m waiting

[Bob]
are you always this annoying?

[Stiles]
One of my many, MANY talents :)

[Bob]
if i tell you
[Bob]
will you stop texting me?

[Stiles]
For the rest of today, at least

The response back seemed to take a while, the class nearing its end before Bob finally sent him a reply, as if he’d been pondering Stiles’ answer. And Stiles would honour it, too! Once Bob told him the reason he’d accidentally texted Stiles instead of this Erica friend he had, he’d leave him alone for the rest of the day.

He couldn’t guarantee he’d leave him alone tomorrow, but well, that hadn’t been part of their agreement, so Bob couldn’t fault him on that.

[Bob]
good enough
[Bob]
i got a new phone that day
[Bob]
made a typo when i was inputting my friends number
[Bob]
put a 4 instead of a 5 as the last digit
[Bob]
ended up wiht you
[Bob]
happy now?

[Stiles]
Yes :)
[Stiles]
Silence commencing now!
[Stiles]
Have a good day!

Predictably, Bob didn’t reply, but Stiles shoved his phone back into his pocket and thought about what he’d said. He could see that happening. They both had New York numbers, so it made sense that while copying numbers over to a new phone, he’d probably typo’d. Then again, it made Stiles wonder why he hadn’t just used the same SIM card. Maybe he’d bought a new plan? Or maybe he’d switched phones entirely, like he’d gone from an Android to an Iphone.

Either way, it made sense.

The guy was weird though. Not in an unpleasant way, but Stiles felt like he might’ve been lonely and didn’t want to admit it. After all, he was responding to Stiles even while insisting Stiles should stop texting him. A normal person would either ignore the texts, or block the number. But Bob wasn’t doing either of those things.

Not yet, anyway. Still, considering the cops had shown up at his place, the fact that he was texting Stiles at all was strange. A normal person would’ve immediately texted profanities back and then forgotten about the person entirely. The fact that Bob hadn’t done that made Stiles somewhat determined to figure out his story.

Maybe he was some kind of recluse? Maybe he’d been burned one too many times and now didn’t want to ever see anyone ever again? Though that made no sense, considering his friend Erica who was supposed to be helping him bury potatoes at eleven o’clock at night.

Seriously. Who did that at eleven at night?! Bob, apparently. So fucking weird.

Stiles wondered if maybe he just didn’t like people. Something had obviously happened to make him how he was, and while he had friends, they were obviously not around as much as he’d like, otherwise he wouldn’t be texting him back.

His mind was going around in circles, and he actually jumped when the buzzer went off outside, announcing the end of class—thank God! Scott jerked upright as well, eyes bleary and one hand coming up to wipe at his mouth before he sluggishly began putting his books away. Stiles did the same, feeling wetness on his shoulder, then turning to look at it.

He should’ve trusted his gut about Scott.

He’d drooled.


[Everybody’s Type]
hey loser where tf are you?
[Everybody’s Type]
i’ve been waiting for half an hour

[Stiles]
You most assuredly have NOT been waiting for half an hour
[Stiles]
Because your flight only landed fifteen minutes ago
[Stiles]
I’m almost there, calm your tits

[Everybody’s Type]
i stg if your dumb car broke down again
[Everybody’s Type]
i’m gonna destroy it and FORCE you to buy a new one

[Stiles]
I cannot afford a new one!
[Stiles]
Stay away from Roscoe or you’ll regret it!

Stiles hastily lowered his phone when a cop on a motorcycle eased to a stop beside him. He knew better than to text and drive, but he was at a red light. It wasn’t like he was risking anyone’s life texting while at a red light! The worst he could do was not shoot forward when the light turned green, but considering the row of cars waiting to turn left, he knew even when it did change, he’d have to wait a few seconds for them to complete their turns.

When the light changed and he was safe to move forward, he did so without hitting the gas too hard, not wanting to give the cop a reason to notice him. The guy seemed in a hurry anyway, speeding off and changing lanes so he was in front of Stiles before continuing on his way. With a sigh of relief, Stiles just drove the last stretch to the airport to pick up his biggest pain in the ass.

Honestly, he didn’t even know how he and Jackson Whittemore had become friends. They’d grown up together, same as Stiles and Scott had, but Jackson had been the popular kid. The bully. The person who made Stiles and Scott both want to kick puppies because he was such a dick.

Then Jackson’s best friend had disappeared in sophomore year of high school. It was still an unsolved case, nobody knew what had happened to him, and Jackson... well, he hadn’t taken it well. The guy who disappeared was well-liked by all, and he was deeply missed, but Jackson hadn’t been able to handle it.

He’d started drinking, doing drugs, getting into fights. It had been bad. Stiles had happened upon him by accident one night close to midnight, sobbing on the side of the road with an empty bottle of vodka in one hand. He was on the bad side of town, too close to the Preserve with its cougars and bears, so Stiles had stopped, dragged Jackson into his Jeep, and taken him back to his place.

It wasn’t an overnight friendship. Jackson had been furious when he’d woken up hung over, had yelled at Stiles to mind his own business, and left the house. But as much of a dick as he’d always been to Stiles, he couldn’t help thinking about how Jackson hadn’t had the easiest life. Sure, his family was rich, but Jackson was adopted because his parents had died in a hit and run when he was five. His adoptive parents may have been nice, but they were rich because they were always working. He’d basically grown up on his own, his new parents throwing toys and money, and later cars at him to make him stop whining about being lonely.

Jackson’s only highlight in life was his girlfriend, Lydia Martin, and his best friend, Danny Mahealani. His girlfriend had dumped him in freshman year because he’d been stupid enough—and pressured enough—to follow through on a dare that had irreparably shattered her trust in him, and then Danny had gone missing in sophomore year. Everyone that meant anything to Jackson had disappeared and he had no one left.

Stiles was stubborn in that he couldn’t leave well enough alone, so whenever he saw Jackson go out and do something stupid, Stiles was there to pick up the pieces. Slowly but surely, Jackson started letting Stiles help him. He started leaning on him a bit more. Stiles helped him kick his drug habit, helped him with his drinking, helped him get his grades back up. He fixed Lydia and Jackson’s broken relationship so that they could at least be friends, and Jackson wouldn’t feel so alone. He pulled him into their little group, with Scott and him, Scott’s then-girlfriend Allison Argent, and eventually also Lydia.

In senior year, he’d come out to Stiles. Danny had been the only one to know, and some part of Jackson had been too scared to even tell Stiles in case he went missing, too. He didn’t, but it explained a lot about why Jackson had always been the way he was growing up.

Angry. Resentful. Hateful.

Danny had been helping him through everything, and then he was gone. Stiles himself was bi-sexual, which Jackson hadn’t known because it wasn’t something Stiles necessarily advertized, but it seemed to help with his fear of coming out to Stiles as gay.

He spent a majority of senior year at Stiles’ place, mostly to avoid his parents, because he didn’t think they’d understand and they were never around, anyway. They got closer, and by the time university was looming, Jackson almost gave up the chance to go to Cambridge in the UK because Stiles wouldn’t be going with him.

Stiles and Lydia had been forced to sit him down and insist he could do it, he would make it. For all his bravado, Jackson wasn’t as fearless as he pretended to be. He hadn’t wanted to leave the safety net Stiles had built for him, and it had taken far too long to convince him not to let this opportunity pass him by.

The only reason he’d finally relented was because Lydia was going to Oxford and their universities were only a little under two hours apart. If anything happened, he’d have Lydia, and Stiles was only a phonecall away.

So he’d gone, and they’d all headed off in different directions—for the most part, anyway, since Allison ended up going to university in Australia. But Jackson visited Stiles as often as humanly possible. For someone with money, it was an easy feat, and Stiles often found himself driving to the airport on Friday mornings after his one and only Friday class to pick Jackson up for the weekend. Jackson had classes from Monday to Thursday, so every now and then after his last class of the day on Thursday, he’d grab a flight back to the US to spend the weekend with Stiles.

Ah, to have money. Must be nice.

Stiles didn’t bother parking, since Jackson was obviously already waiting for him outside the arrivals. That was the advantage of only having a carry-on instead of real luggage, he could just walk right off the plane and out the door. Though Stiles imagined Customs must be a bitch to do constantly. He wondered if the Customs agents all knew him by now, and wondered about this nineteen year old college student who flew home as often as other people drove out to the store for groceries.

They probably figured he was a mama’s boy. Stiles didn’t want to be known as Jackson’s mama, that was depressing.

He pulled up to the curb when he spotted Jackson waiting for him, and grinned when he stomped his way over with a scowl, pulling open the passenger side door.

“How much for one night?” Stiles asked him as Jackson climbed in.

“Fuck you, Stilinski.”

“That’s literally what I just asked, how much?” He winked at him, and then laughed when that earned him a hard punch to the arm. It stung, but he deserved it. He couldn’t help teasing Jackson whenever they were together because Jackson had once admitted he thought Stiles was attractive.

They’d never be an item though, they were much too close for that. And besides, Jackson had a boyfriend back at Cambridge. A guy named Ethan, who had an identical twin brother going to Oxford. Stiles had almost laughed himself unconscious when Lydia had sent him a picture of her new boyfriend Aiden, because apparently Jackson and Lydia were dating one of the twins each, which was definitely the highlight of Stiles’ year so far.

Well, that and Bob. Bob was moving up in the ranks.

As if reading his mind, Jackson held out one hand and Stiles obediently unlocked his phone with his thumb while easing back onto the main road heading away from the airport and passed it over. Jackson went to his text messages, and then scrolled through the texts between Stiles and Bob since the previous week.

Stiles had told Jackson about his new potato-growing buddy, because he was still texting Stiles back. He’d always start the conversation asking why Stiles was texting him since they weren’t friends, but he kept replying all the same. Bob was a funny guy that way.

And it only reinforced Stiles’ belief that Bob was lonely and didn’t even know it himself. Maybe he didn’t realize it? After all, it was possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. It happened to actors all the time, or so Stiles had read. So maybe that was how Bob felt. Surrounded by people, but lonely, which was why he always replied to some weirdo university kid he’d accidentally texted while trying to grow potatoes in the middle of the night.

“Seems weird,” Jackson concluded once he’d caught up to Stiles’ slew of morning texts with Bob. Apparently Bob was working today, and he still hadn’t told Stiles what he did for a living, so Stiles felt inclined to believe he was a slacker.

“He was trying to plant potatoes at eleven o’clock at night on a Friday, he’s totally weird,” Stiles insisted with a grin, taking his phone back and setting it on his lap since he wouldn’t be able to get it back into his pocket right now. “Right up my alley.”

“Yeah, you were made for each other,” Jackson said dryly. “He could be a serial killer.”

“Cops went to his house.”

“He could’ve lied.”

“Nope. Dad confirmed he had some officers head over.”

“He could be really charismatic. Like Ted Bundy. Maybe they thought he was innocent and just left and he threw the chopped up bits of body into those trenches he told you about.”

Stiles turned to give him a look at that, because anyone reading the texts had to know Bob was anything but charismatic.

“Isn’t it too cold for potatoes anyway?” Jackson demanded, Stiles arching an eyebrow at him. “Does he know anything about horticulture?”

“Do you?” Stiles asked, surprised.

“Ethan’s majoring in Agroecology,” he muttered, as if hating having to admit he was dating a nerd. “This isn’t the right time of year for potatoes.”

“Well, Bob didn’t know what to do after digging the trenches and cutting up the potatoes, so it’s entirely likely he knows nothing about when is and isn’t a good time for potato growing.” Stiles turned to offer a small, fond smile at Jackson. “How are things going with Ethan, anyway?”

“Fine,” Jackson said gruffly. Stiles had to poke and prod at him for a bit longer, almost back to campus by the time Jackson started opening up a bit more about it. He was still mostly uncomfortable talking about his relationship with Ethan because it was his first one with a guy, but Stiles was happy for him. He and Ethan seemed to be really good for one another.

The only bump in their relationship was actually Stiles, because Ethan sometimes got a little annoyed that Jackson would drop everything and hop on a plane to see him whenever he felt the need to. Stiles had been forced to send Ethan an email explaining his and Jackson’s unique relationship without telling him everything. It wasn’t his to tell, it was Jackson’s, and he would when he was ready but Stiles wanted him to make it that far. Ethan wouldn’t stick around if he thought Jackson was lying to him and that he and Stiles were actually in a relationship.

It had been a bit rough, trying to explain everything to Ethan, but he was a nice guy and he’d seemed to believe Stiles when he said he and Jackson weren’t like that, and would never be like that. He was sure Ethan still had his doubts every now and then, but Jackson would open up to him eventually. They’d only been together for two months, it was hard to expect too much from him so soon into their relationship.

When they reached the dorms, Stiles parked the Jeep in its usual spot and double-checked it was locked three times before finally walking away from it. His Jeep was old and looked like an easy steal, so he always worried about it. So far so good, but his luck always had the potential to change.

Once they were in the room, Jackson dumped his bag on the floor by Stiles’ bed, then fell onto it with a groan, closing his eyes and settling in for sleep.

“You know, your sleep schedule wouldn’t get fucked up all the time if you’d just call me instead of flying back across the world every chance you get,” Stiles reminded him, sitting down at his desk and turning his chair so he was facing his bed.

“Shut up, Stilinski, you love it when I visit.”

“I mean, you spend most of your time here sleeping,” he argued. “Time differences are a bitch.”

“You should visit me,” Jackson said, opening his eyes and rolling onto his stomach so he could prop himself up on his elbows. “Come out to the UK.”

Stiles just held up one hand and rubbed his fingers together. Not everyone was made of money like the Whittemores.

Jackson scowled at that. “I’ll pay for your ticket.”

Stiles let out a deep sigh. “Jack—”

“It’s not charity,” he said bitterly. “I want you to come out. We never spend any time together unless I fly out there. It’d be nice if you’d make the effort.”

“You know it’s not that simple,” Stiles insisted with a sigh, raking a hand through his hair.

He’d love to visit Jackson out in Europe, it’d be a fucking phenomenal experience. But he didn’t have much money, and everything he did have was reserved for school. Books, and food, and occasionally new clothes when he really, really needed them.

“Reading week,” Jackson said. “I’ll talk to your dad.”

“Jack—”

“Reading week,” he said again, more aggressively, then turned onto his back and flopped down once more, clearly interested in sleeping.

Stiles just let out a sigh, threw his hands in the air in defeat, and turned back to his desk. He had one of his assignments open on his laptop so he pulled it out of sleep-mode and went back to work on it, knowing Jackson would be napping for at least four hours. He’d wake up again around dinner time and by then, Scott would be back from class and maybe they could go out to that amazing pizza place off-campus that Jackson seemed particularly fond of.

He was finding it hard to focus on his assignment, thinking about what Jackson had said. It wasn’t that Stiles didn’t want to go, and he didn’t like that Jackson assumed that was the reason he hadn’t visited. But plane tickets were expensive, and he didn’t feel comfortable having Jackson’s family pay to fly him out there. And he didn’t know how expensive it would be to visit him for an entire week.

On top of that, how was Ethan going to react? He and Jackson shared his bed here, because there was nowhere else for him to sleep and they were comfortable enough with one another to do that kind of thing, but it wasn’t like they could do that in Jackson’s dorm. Ethan would be there and would probably freak. Maybe they could rent a hotel room while Stiles was out there, and if Ethan came along, then it’d be better. Ethan and Jackson could share one bed, Stiles could grab the other. But then it meant spending more money that Stiles didn’t have.

He tried to ignore the anxiety of it all, money always having been a sore topic between him and Jackson. Someone who grew up with money didn’t understand what it was like not to have any. It was the same reason Stiles got frustrated with Scott sometimes. Not that Scott was rolling in money, but his dad was well-off and had argued with Scott’s mother about being the one to foot the bill for his university education. Scott could literally fail all his courses and be fine, but Stiles was there on a scholarship. If he failed, it wasn’t a matter of just brushing it off and trying again next year, he would literally get kicked out.

Pulling his phone from his pocket, he opened up his messages with Bob, because he didn’t really know who else to text.

[Stiles]
Do you ever feel like sometimes your friends don’t understand you?

He stared down at his phone for a moment, knowing the chances of Bob replying instantly were slim, but Bob always seemed to surprise him with how fast he responded.

This time was no different, because before Stiles set his phone down after a few additional seconds of staring, he could see that Bob was typing back a reply, so he waited.

[Bob]
yes
[Bob]
all the time

[Stiles]
How do you deal with it?

[Bob]
i dont
[Bob]
they dont understand
[Bob]
i just dont worry about it
[Bob]
i dont need them to

Stiles stared at the message, tapping his fingers absently on the back of his phone. That only reaffirmed his previous thoughts about Bob being lonely. He was admitting his friends didn’t understand him, but instead of trying to make them understand, or finding some kind of middle ground, he just tolerated it. He felt like his friends didn’t need to understand him, and that seemed... very lonely.

[Stiles]
Doesn’t it bother you that they don’t understand?

[Bob]
sure
[Bob]
but i cant change it
[Bob]
so i ignore it

[Stiles]
That sounds a little lonely

[Bob]
i dont mind
[Bob]
i have my dog
[Bob]
thats enough for me

“Huh.” Stiles stared down at the message, a little surprised. Bob had offered something up about himself without prompting, that was a first. So he had a dog? That was cool. Stiles loved dogs.

[Stiles]
You have a dog?
[Stiles]
What breed?

[Bob]
yeah
[Bob]
hes a husky wolf mix
[Bob]
giant thing
[Bob]
got him from a shelter two years ago
[Bob]
they were gonna put him down
[Bob]
said he was too aggressive
[Bob]
so i took him
[Bob]
not aggressive to me
[Bob]
and hes good with kids

Stiles wondered if that meant Bob had kids. He wasn’t about to ask that, because that was way too personal, but he kind of liked that Bob was opening up a little bit. A husky-wolf breed sounded like a gorgeous animal, and he loved dogs in general. They were good companions, and they were a lot more snuggly and perceptive to their owners’ emotions than other animals were.

[Stiles]
Do you have a picture?

He didn’t expect Bob to comply, but maybe their conversations the past two weeks had made him a little more receptive to Stiles’ incessant inquiries because the next thing that came through was a picture. He clicked on it, and could see a man lying on his stomach on the grass in what was clearly the same backyard as the picture of the potato trenches. There was a dog lying on his back, almost covering him entirely.

He couldn’t see the man’s face, but he assumed it was Bob. He looked ripped, and didn’t seem bothered at all that a huge animal was using him as a mattress.

“Aw,” Stiles said without entirely meaning to, smiling a little and enlarging the picture, loving the clear happiness on the dog’s face, tongue out and lolling while he panted. It looked like the picture had been taken during the summer, and the dog’s coat looked thick. It seemed to have been cut recently though, because it wasn’t as full as he knew dog’s coats usually were, so he assumed Bob had gotten it cut to help him survive the summer heat.

[Stiles]
He’s gorgeous
[Stiles]
I love dogs

[Bob]
yeah hes a good boy
[Bob]
who is humping another dog as we speak
[Bob]
gtg

[Stiles]
LOL bye!

Stiles couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him at those words. He wondered how old the dog was, and re-opened the photo to see if he could figure it out with the help of his best friend Google. Husky-wolf mixes were difficult to age, because Stiles would look at one picture and see the dog was only a year old, and then look at another identical picture and find out that one was eleven.

He supposed he could ask Bob the next time they chatted, when his dog wasn’t busy humping another dog.

Smiling to himself, he put his phone down, somehow feeling a little bit better, and was able to focus on his assignment until Jackson woke up from his nap, grumpy and annoyed that his hair had flattened on one side and going to the bathroom to fix it up.

It wasn’t until later, when Stiles pulled his phone out to text Scott about their dinner plans, that it occurred to him this was the first time since he’d started texting Bob that Bob didn’t ask why he was still texting him.


[Stiles]
So what do you do, anyway?
[Stiles]
You said you owned your own shop
[Stiles]
So what is it?
[Stiles]
Bakery?
[Stiles]
Bookstore?
[Stiles]
Apothecary?
[Stiles]
... Taxidermy?

[Bob]
why are you obsessed with thinking i am involved with the dead somehow?

[Stiles]
If you own a funeral home, there’s nothing wrong with that
[Stiles]
I mean, it’s a business that will NEVER go out of business!

[Bob]
youre hilarious

[Stiles]
I know, I’m in school to be a comedian :3

[Bob]
maybe consider a career change

[Stiles]
OUCH!
[Stiles]
HARSH!
[Stiles]
You hurt me so deep
[Stiles]
Right down to my core
[Stiles]
You wounded my very SOUL

[Bob]
and yet youre still talking to me

[Stiles]
Well it would be RUDE of me to leave you mid-conversation

[Bob]
i promise not to be offended

Stiles snorted and rolled his eyes, leaning back in his seat and slouching slightly. He was almost tempted to put his feet up on the table, but after the fiasco last week with dropping a bottle of water all over the table and ruining two library books, he wasn’t eager to piss off the librarian. Besides, he worried they’d ban him from the stacks if he didn’t behave, and it was literally the only place in the whole school where he got any work done.

His texting Bob right now didn’t count, he was on a brain break before said brain oozed out of his ears. Midterms were coming up in just over a week, and while he was confident about his knowledge in his courses, two of them were a little daunting and he kept having horrible nightmares of flunking out and disappointing his dad.

Lydia insisted it was all due to stress, and that he’d been getting good grades in all his assignments thus far—which he was, even the last minute assignment he’d handed in—but he couldn’t help panicking a little bit. She just kept telling him he’d end up going through university not having enjoyed it, but he couldn’t help it! He wanted to go out and have fun, and it wasn’t like he didn’t, but less than Scott did. He just... didn’t want to disappoint his dad. And he’d worked hard for that scholarship, he wasn’t going to put all his hard work to waste.

[Stiles]
My parents taught me better than that
[Stiles]
MANNERS maketh man

[Bob]
are your parents harry hart?

“Holy shit!” Stiles blurted out, laughing and typing back quickly.

[Stiles]
OMG YOU’VE SEEN KINGSMAN?!

[Bob]
why do you always sound surprised that i have a life?

[Stiles]
I mean... watching movies is kind of the OPPOSITE of having a life, but sure
[Stiles]
Sweet
[Stiles]
So what’s your job, then?

[Bob]
you remember were not friends right?

[Stiles]
I mean, we kind of are
[Stiles]
Look at us!
[Stiles]
Texting daily for almost a month now!

[Bob]
because you wont leave me alone

[Stiles]
You keep replying
[Stiles]
If you REALLY wanted me to leave you alone
[Stiles]
You’d stop texting back

[Bob]
like i said
[Bob]
you seem like the kind of person whod just keep texting

[Stiles]
IRRELEVANT
[Stiles]
Come ooooooooooon Boooooooooooooooooob
[Stiles]
What do you do?

[Bob]
my name isnt bob

[Stiles]
Well, I don’t know your name, so you’re Bob to me.
[Stiles]
Unless you wanna share your name? ;)

Stiles held his breath, wondering if he’d actually find out Bob’s real name. Not that it was a problem that he always called him Bob, but he’d prefer to call his new friend by his real name. He wondered what it was. He’d kind of sounded like an Adam, for some reason. Stiles didn’t know why, he just had a very Adam voice.

He let out a sigh when Bob replied. And yes, he was still Bob, given his answer.

[Bob]
no

[Stiles]
Bob it is, then!

He tried not to be disappointed, but they’d only just barely moved out of the “why are you still texting me?” phase. They were still in the “we’re not friends” phase so until Stiles managed to ease them out of that one too, then he’d have to settle with calling his new buddy ‘Bob.’

And Bob wasn’t a bad name, in his opinion. It was like one of those staple names. When you didn’t know someone’s name, the instinct was to call them Bob, because it was familiar. He liked Bob, he just felt like he’d prefer Bob’s real name, was all.

[Stiles]
Sooooooooooo??

[Bob]
so?

[Stiles]
What do you do?

[Bob]
if i tell you
[Bob]
do i get another day of silence?

Stiles checked the time on his phone. It was past four in the afternoon and he still had some studying to do, not to mention dinner and proof-reading one of his papers before submission tomorrow, so he figured this would be his last Bob-related break of the day.

[Stiles]
Yes
[Stiles]
So, what do you do?

Bob seemed to take a long time to reply, like he was seriously weighing the pros and cons of admitting his job to Stiles. Maybe it would be too easy for Stiles to figure out who he was. Realistically, he knew he could call his dad and ask him, considering he’d evidently had the number traced when the NYPD had shown up at Bob’s house, but that felt like cheating. And considering Stiles kept calling him ‘Bob,’ he felt like Bob knew he hadn’t gone behind his back to find out information about him.

To be fair, his dad shouldn’t be telling him anything about Bob, considering he was an officer of the law and Stiles had no reason to know any information about Bob, but Bob didn’t know his dad was an honourable man. He was just trusting that he was.

Just when Stiles was about to type back that it looked like he’d be hearing from him for the rest of the night, more in a teasing way than a literal way, he saw Bob typing and waited.

[Bob]
i own a doggy daycare

Stiles was insanely glad that no one else hung out in the stacks, because his hyena impression would’ve terrified everyone in the vicinity. He laughed so hard he started crying, and he just could not believe this grumpy, sour, constantly frustrated about everything hulk of a man was the owner of a fucking doggy daycare!

[Bob]
i can hear you laughing from here

[Stiles]
DUDE!
[Stiles]
Have you HEARD your own voice?!
[Stiles]
Or spoken to yourself?
[Stiles]
I’m sorry
[Stiles]
The idea of you owning a doggy daycare is just...
[Stiles]
I’m sorry
[Stiles]
I literally can’t stop laughing

[Bob]
dogs dont judge you
[Bob]
they dont care who you are or what youve done
[Bob]
theyre just happy that you care about them
[Bob]
and that makes them care about you in return

Those words sobered Stiles up fairly quickly, and he wiped at his face with one hand to get rid of the tears that had made their way down his cheeks. He cleared his throat, re-reading what Bob had said, trying not to feel too guilty.

[Stiles]
Sorry, you’re right
[Stiles]
You’re just...
[Stiles]
You’re not the kind of person I thought would own a doggy daycare, is all
[Stiles]
Guessing you bring your dog along when you go to work?

[Bob]
yeah
[Bob]
he keeps the bullies in line

[Stiles]
That’s adorable :P
[Stiles]
Explains why you can text while at work
[Stiles]
Your dog does all the heavy lifting!

[Bob]
he loves it

[Stiles]
Fair enough
[Stiles]
Well, as promised, I shall bid you adieu
[Stiles]
Sorry I laughed

[Bob]
im used to it

That just made Stiles feel worse, and he sighed, hesitating typing something else, but figuring nothing he said would take it back. Not to mention he’d promised he’d shut up and leave him be if he admitted where he worked, so he just sighed, figured he’d make it up to Bob somehow tomorrow, and then shoved his phone back into his pocket, picking up his highlighter to get back to work.


[Bob]
are you ok?
[Bob]
can you please confirm youre ok?

Stiles was staring bleary-eyed at the text message, Jackson half on top of him and snoring almost right in his ear, and Scott mumbling nonsensically in his sleep on the other side of the room. It was almost three in the morning on Friday night/Saturday morning. He and Scott had just finished their last midterm and had wanted to go out to party.

It was hard partying while under-age, but campuses were not as strict as bars were, even if campus security was usually out in droves. As long as they could find a frat house, or even a dorm where people were over the age of twenty-one, they could score some booze and get hammered before the parties got broken up.

Jackson had come down because he’d felt like it, and having him around had only made their likelihood of finding alcohol sky-rocket, given he’d paid a few people to get them alcohol and Scott and Stiles now had a pretty impressive stash of booze buried in their closet. They needed to keep it hidden in case the Resident Advisors came by unexpectedly, given both he and Scott were only nineteen. Well below the drinking age in New York.

Well below the drinking age in all of the US, really. Sometimes, Stiles hated living in the USA, it impeded on his ability to get drunk. Not as much of a problem now, considering his evening.

He was pretty sure he was still kind of drunk, because he didn’t understand why he had a text message from Bob. Bob never texted him first. It was also the middle of the night, so it was strange that Bob was choosing right now to text him to ask if he was okay.

And also, why was he asking if he was okay? Why wouldn’t he be? Had he drunk-dialled him or something?

Stiles checked his outgoing calls, but didn’t see anything suggesting a drunk-dial to Bob, so instead of thinking on it too much and causing his already pounding head more problems, he just texted back one-handed, the words coming slowly both due to his blurry vision, sleepy-and-drunk state, and only using one hand.

[Stiles]
okay yes
[Stiles]
sleeping
[Stiles]
maybe still drunk
[Stiles]
why?

[Bob]
are you sure youre ok??
[Bob]
why are you typing like that?

[Stiles]
???
[Stiles]
like what?

[Bob]
usually you tpye in full sentences
[Bob]
with capitals and periods and everything
[Bob]
are you okay?
[Bob]
you said you were drunk
[Bob]
arent you only 19??
[Bob]
are you safe?
[Bob]
where are you rn?

Stiles couldn’t help the small smile on his face, only managing to avoid fist-pumping because his other arm was trapped under the bulk of Jackson’s body. He allowed himself a brief moment of triumph though, because Bob’s texts suggested that he’d been worried. That he was still worried.

[Stiles]
awwwww were you worried aboit me bob?
[Stiles]
i’m fine
[Stiles]
just a little drunk like i said
[Stiles]
i’m in my dorm room with my roommate and another friend
[Stiles]
texting onehanded because my one friend is lying on my other arm

[Bob]
youre sure youre ok?
[Bob]
youre actually in YOUE room right?
[Bob]
not someone elses?

[Stiles]
yes in my room
[Stiles]
and ok
[Stiles]
cross my heart
[Stiles]
were you worried?

He honestly didn’t think Bob was going to reply, and the little dots denoting he was typing seemed to be there for almost an eternity, like he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. Eventually, the message came through, and Stiles grinned.

[Bob]
yeah
[Bob]
its just
[Bob]
you havent texted me in two days
[Bob]
and it was weird not hearing from you
[Bob]
i thought something happened

Or that I got bored of you, Stiles supplied quietly, knowing that was also what Bob was thinking. Considering the weird conversations they’d had, he could imagine Bob sitting on the other end, worried something had happened to Stiles, but also wondering if maybe Stiles had gotten tired of him. He was abrasive, and borderline rude, and just seemed to be grumpy all the time.

But Stiles had grown up with Jackson, and was now friends with Jackson. They weren’t the same by any stretch, but he was used to assholes, so Bob didn’t bother him in the slightest. He felt kind of bad now, that Bob thought he’d grown tired of him.

[Stiles]
sorry
[Stiles]
midterm season
[Stiles]
brunch time
[Stiles]
*crunch
[Stiles]
i’m here on a scholarship so i can’t slack off
[Stiles]
i was just studying a lot for my two hardest ones
[Stiles]
today was my last one
[Stiles]
so my roomie and I went out drinking with my one other friend
[Stiles]
and you were gonna hear from me tomorrow whining about being hungover :P

[Bob]
arent you only 19?

[Stiles]
SHHHHHHHHH
[Stiles]
don’t tell my dad!!!

[Bob]
youre an idiot

[Stiles]
and you still haven’t learned the importance of apostrophes
[Stiles]
how does your phone not auto-correct that shit?

[Bob]
i have autocorrect turned off

[Stiles]
yeah sounds about right :P
[Stiles]
you seem like someone who wouldn’t want the phone telling you what to do

[Bob]
youre hilarious

[Stiles]
comedian remember?

[Bob]
shut up and go back to sleep

[Stiles]
what youre just gonna wake me up and then not take responsibility for your actions???
[Stiles]
ruuuuuude!

[Bob]
just making sure you werent drowning in your own vomit

[Stiles]
okay first off gross
[Stiles]
second you didn’t know i was drunk yet

[Bob]
you type pretty coherently for a drunk person

[Stiles]
yeah might not be totally drunk anymore
[Stiles]
not feeling too hungover either

[Bob]
thatll come in the morning
[Bob]
go back to sleep
[Bob]
sorry i woke you

[Stiles]
that’s okay :D
[Stiles]
we really ARE friends now
[Stiles]
YOU texted ME for once
[Stiles]
i’m feeling the love!

[Bob]
please just go back to sleep

[Stiles]
fiiiiiiiine
[Stiles]
night bob!

[Bob]
still not my name

[Stiles]
forever bob to me :D
[Stiles]
thanks for being worried :)

[Bob]
yeah sure

[Stiles]
i’ll text you tomorrow

[Bob]
ill try to contain my excitement

[Stiles]
you know you love hearing from me ;)

Bob didn’t respond to that, but Stiles still smiled before putting his phone back down. He shifted slightly to try and get comfortable, but couldn’t because he realized he had to go to the bathroom. Pulling himself free of Jackson was almost more trouble than it was worth, but he managed it somehow, falling out of bed and whining while lying on the floor for a few seconds.

Trudging down the corridor in his boxers and sleep shirt, he disappeared into the bathroom and paused when he found a dude passed out in one of the stalls hugging the toilet. He’d probably been drinking as well and then thought he was going to puke, then fallen asleep in the bathroom.

Deciding to do his business first, Stiles relieved himself and washed his hands, then went to shake his dormmate awake. The guy was super disoriented and kept calling Stiles ‘Brad,’ like he thought Stiles was someone else. He managed to get a room number out of him and practically dragged his dumb ass down the corridor.

He had to knock for a solid minute before the guy’s angry roommate finally opened the door. Now he wasn’t drunk, as was evident by his general appearance and pissed off expression. Stiles just dumped the idiot on the bed that wasn’t rumpled and then left the room, ignoring the slam in his wake.

Rude. Stiles was just being a nice dormmate. If that sober guy ever got drunk and passed out somewhere, Stiles was not going to help him.

Except he totally was because Stiles was a good person. He’d just be really, really annoyed about it.

He went back into his room and had to shove at Jackson to make room for himself on his bed once more. Jackson rolled back over to crush him almost immediately, wrapping one arm around Stiles’ middle and nuzzling into the back of his neck, muttering Ethan’s name.

Great, if drunk Jackson started rutting against him in his sleep thinking he was his boyfriend, Stiles was going to sleep with Scott. At least all Scott did was spoon with him and murmur Allison’s name into his skin.

And drool. Man did Scott drool.

Stiles fell asleep eventually, waking up only when a loud shout from the corridor startled him awake—along with Scott and Jackson. The sun was streaming in through the window, and when Stiles grabbed his phone to check the time, he saw it was a little past noon.

He also saw he had a text message, time-stamped for a few minutes after his last message to Bob.

[Bob]
im glad youre ok

Stiles smiled.


[Stiles]
I’m freaking out
[Stiles]
Bob, I am majorly freaking out

[Bob]
??
[Bob]
why?

[Stiles]
I fucked up
[Stiles]
I fucked up so fucking bad
[Stiles]
Shit

[Bob]
calm down
[Bob]
tell me whats wrong

Stiles raked his hand through his hair for the millionth time, right leg jerking up and down while he sat outside one of his TA’s offices. He resisted the urge to stand and start pacing again, because he’d already been snapped at by one of the other people waiting for another TA to stop.

But he couldn’t sit still. He’d already texted Scott and Jackson and Lydia to death, and they all kept insisting he was fine, but he just—he wasn’t. He wasn’t fine. He’d messed up, he’d totally fucking messed up.

The last assignment for one of his courses was due in two days, and Stiles had completed it. He’d done all the research, and he’d written the whole thing out—even gotten Scott to proof it to ensure he didn’t go off-topic as he was wont to do—and it was gold. It was a fucking masterpiece of a paper, he was actually super proud of it.

And then last night, while playing video games with Scott, he’d fucking spilled coffee on his laptop. And now it wouldn’t turn on. He’d brought it to the computer experts on campus that morning, and while they’d said the computer itself was beyond saving, they could probably get his hard drive out and retrieve some of his work, but they couldn’t make any promises.

They said it would take them at least a day, so he’d find out by tomorrow afternoon at the latest if he was royally fucked or not. And normally it wouldn’t be such a huge deal, except he’d heard this professor was an asshole and didn’t accept excuses for late papers. Not to mention this class literally had only three ways to earn the grade. One midterm, worth twenty-five percent, one final, worth fifty percent, and one paper, worth twenty-five percent.

Stiles had done really well on the midterm, and he was sure he could do great on the final, but if he got anything below a ninety, it was going to pull down his GPA if he got a zero on the paper because of this mishap. And lowering his GPA was grounds for his scholarship to be reviewed, and he was freaking out because he needed to maintain his fucking grades to stay in school and this was the worst!

He explained all of this to Bob, though much less loquaciously, and couldn’t help standing up to begin pacing again, despite the stink-eye he got from the other student.

[Bob]
listen to me
[Bob]
i know it seems bad right now
[Bob]
but dont panic until you speak to the TA
[Bob]
while the prof might not like late papers
[Bob]
it probably depends on the reason for it
[Bob]
did you get a service number from the computer people?

[Stiles]
Yeah? So what?

[Bob]
thats good
[Bob]
because you can prove that your computer got fried

[Stiles]
But it doesn’t prove I had the completed paper on it!

[Bob]
did you take books out?

[Stiles]
What?

[Bob]
from the library
[Bob]
for the paper
[Bob]
did you take books out?

[Stiles]
Some, yeah

[Bob]
how long ago?

[Stiles]
I don’t know
[Stiles]
Like
[Stiles]
A month ago?
[Stiles]
When I first started the paper?

[Bob]
thats another point in your favour
[Bob]
you can prove how long ago you started working on the paper
[Bob]
maybe you cant prove it was FINISHED
[Bob]
but you can prove you were working on it a month ago
[Bob]
and you can prove your computer died
[Bob]
its gonna be okay
[Bob]
just breathe

“Just breathe,” Stiles whispered, lowering his phone and rubbing one hand over his face, still pacing. “Just breathe, just breathe. It’s gonna be okay.”

He knew that even if he ended up getting a fail on this paper, he still had a chance with the final. But it was a lot of pressure needing to get ninety or above to secure his GPA. Getting the paper in meant he could have as low as seventy-five on the final and still get an A in the course overall. He didn’t want to feel the pressure for one exam like this, he already had so many others that he needed to worry about without focussing all his attention on one!

[Bob]
what can i do?
[Bob]
can i do anything?

[Stiles]
Are you a magic computer fairy?

[Bob]
unfortunately not
[Bob]
what about this?

Stiles waited for Bob to send his next message through, and when he did, he saw it was a picture. He clicked on it and let out a slow breath, smiling a little at the most ridiculous picture he’d ever seen. It was of the same husky-wolf dog, evidently Bob’s, leaping in the air trying to catch what looked like a tennis ball, except he’d missed and the photographer had caught the picture at the exact right moment so that the dog’s eyes were wide and staring at the ball flying past its face, its mouth starting to shut around air instead of what it had been aiming for.

[Bob]
wolf is not very good at catching balls
[Bob]
but at least he finds it fun to try

Stiles blinked down at the last message, positive he was misreading it, but nope. Not misreading it. Definitely what it said.

[Stiles]
...
[Stiles]
You have a giant half-wolf dog...
[Stiles]
And you named it...
[Stiles]
Wolf?

[Bob]
???
[Bob]
so?

“What do you mean, ‘so’?” Stiles demanded, shaking his phone once and beginning to text back, standing in the middle of the corridor since he’d paused mid-pace.

[Stiles]
I can’t see your text through my tears of agony for your poor dog!!

[Bob]
what?
[Bob]
wolfs a fine name

[Stiles]
Dude
[Stiles]
You basically called your dog DOG

[Bob]
his name is wolf
[Bob]
not dog

“Oh my God.” Stiles covered his face with one hand again, shaking his head. Poor, poor Bob. He was seriously so damn clueless about all things fun. Naming a pet was supposed to be fun, not boring. Who named their half-wolf dog Wolf?! Bob, apparently.

Man Bob was weird.

[Bob]
i dont see the problem with that
[Bob]
better than other dog names
[Bob]
i know a dog named gertrude
[Bob]
just
[Bob]
why?

Stiles almost choked on his own saliva at that.

“No way!” he blurted out, typing quickly and ignoring the huff of annoyance from the other student still waiting with him.

[Stiles]
No you don’t!

[Bob]
sadly i do

[Stiles]
What?!
[Stiles]
No way!
[Stiles]
OMG!!
[Stiles]
That’s hilarious!

[Bob]
ive heard them all
[Bob]
oreo is popular for black and white
[Bob]
spot for brown and white
[Bob]
also have like four bud and eight buddy who come to my work

Stiles almost forgot how panicked he was reading Bob’s texts because what?! He couldn’t stop laughing. People were so predictable! This was hilarious, he couldn’t believe it!

[Stiles]
Shut up!
[Stiles]
No one names their dog BUDDY!!!!!!

[Bob]
i assure you
[Bob]
they do
[Bob]
my friend had a beast of a dog a few years back
[Bob]
bigger than wolf
[Bob]
which is saying something
[Bob]
he named his dog bear
[Bob]
because he was so fucking huge
[Bob]
and he kind of looked like one

[Stiles]
All of you lack imagination
[Stiles]
It’s kind of tragic :(

[Bob]
oh yeah?
[Bob]
what would YOUR dogs name be then?

That was easy. Stiles had picked out names for pets since he was a child, and even though he’d never had the chance to use them, he was going to one day when he got himself a pet! Didn’t matter if it was a dog or a cat, or even a goldfish, though he had different names depending on the animal he’d get. So far, his favourite name was for a turtle, but he kind of wanted something more huggable than a turtle, so probably a cat or a dog.

He chose one of his more preferred names for a dog.

[Stiles]
Sir Reginald McFlooferton Von Schmidt the Third

Bob’s response came entirely too slowly, and Stiles grinned at the thought that maybe he’d made him laugh. Bob didn’t seem like the kind of person who laughed very much, so if he managed to make him do so, it felt good. Really good.

Especially since Bob was making him calm down the way Scott, Jackson and Lydia hadn’t managed to do.

[Bob]
the third huh?

[Stiles]
Yes, the Third
[Stiles]
Third of his name
[Stiles]
And the goodest of boys

[Bob]
NOW who needs a grammar lesson?

[Stiles]
The GOODEST of BOYS!

“Mr. Stilinski?”

Stiles turned from where he was standing in the middle of the corridor, seeing a student heading the other way towards the lifts, and his TA looking out at him, waiting for him to confirm who he was.

“That’s me, yeah.”

“Come on in.” He motioned him into the office.

Stiles moved back to the chair to grab his messenger bag, and quickly typed out a response to Bob.

[Stiles]
Going in now

[Bob]
good luck

Stiles shoved his phone back into his pocket, let out a slow breath, and walked into the room, shutting the door behind himself.

The TA seemed like a pretty okay guy, and when Stiles sat across from him, he actually asked if he wanted any water or anything. Stiles declined, though he could feel his anxiety beginning to sky-rocket again. He forced himself to picture the ridiculous look on Wolf’s face in an attempt to calm his nerves, and then began explaining the situation to his TA.

The man said nothing while he listened, hands folded in front of himself and giving Stiles his full attention. Stiles had brought along some of his books with notes about his paper, along with some photocopied pages from books in the library. He hadn’t thought about the service number with the computer techs or the books he’d taken out last month, but he mentioned those items as well, bringing up the email he had with his service number and also insisting he could get a copy of his book list from the library if they wanted to see it.

He knew he was repeating himself by the end of it all, and he insisted that if his hard drive was recoverable, he would have his paper tomorrow, but he just knew that if they couldn’t salvage it, there was no way in hell he could re-write the whole thing in one afternoon to be handed in the following morning.

Stiles was scared to stop speaking, because he didn’t want to hear the TA’s, “too bad, so sad” spiel, but after talking himself in circles for a while, he forced himself to take a breath and shut his mouth, giving the man an opportunity to get his own words out.

He turned to the computer when Stiles finally stopped speaking, typing something into it that Stiles couldn’t see before asking, “What was your full name?”

“Stiles Stilinski. Well, Mieczyslaw is what you’ll see on my student records, but I go by Stiles.”

He was squeezing his hands together so hard they were actually starting to hurt, but he couldn’t stop himself or loosen his grip. He shifted uneasily in his chair while the TA typed a bit more, then grabbed the mouse and started clicking around.

After what felt like an eternity but was probably only about two minutes, he nodded once, then turned back to Stiles.

“You’ve come to every class this semester. I know this, because I see you there every time, and you ask good questions. You got a terrific grade on the midterm, and with everything you’ve shown me, I think it’s pretty clear that you’ve done the work for the paper. So here’s what we’re gonna do,” he said, grabbing a piece of paper and writing something down on it. “Here’s the professor’s email, and mine. Tomorrow, when you get the results back, if the paper was salvaged then you can hand it in on the due date as expected. If, however, it couldn’t be saved, please email the professor and cc me.” He folded the page up and handed it over to Stiles. “Please explain the situation to him and I’ll speak on your behalf. He isn’t unreasonable, he just doesn’t like people abusing the system. If the paper can’t be saved, I’ll recommend that he give you an extension. It might not be much of one, a week at most, but it’s better than nothing.”

“I have enough notes I could probably crank a lesser version of it out in a week,” Stiles agreed, nodding emphatically and taking the folded page. “I can totally do it if only I had some time. I can start tonight.”

“Wait until tomorrow,” the TA insisted. “No point in stressing yourself out if it ends up not being needed.”

“I’m anticipating bad news tomorrow,” he said miserably. “I’d love to believe the stars will align and my paper will be saved, but I’m sure it won’t.”

“Well, the choice is yours, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Let me know the outcome tomorrow once you hear back, even if it’s good news.” He offered him a small smile. “Good luck.”

“Thank you.” Stiles stood. “Thank you so much. I really—thank you. I’ll let you know.”

He left the office feeling a lot better than he had when he walked in. He was serious about starting the paper, too. He was done classes for the day, so he was just going to go to the coffeeshop up the road, and then head straight for the library to work on the paper. He’d have to use one of the communal computers available there, since he was now sans-laptop, but that wasn’t a big deal. Just meant he couldn’t hide out in the stacks.

Though now he had to buy a new computer. Great. More money his dad didn’t have that he’d have to spend. Stiles was going to work his ass off over the summer when he got home to get as much money saved up as he could for next year. He knew his dad would manage to pay for a new laptop, but Stiles hated doing that to him.

Pulling his phone out while waiting for the elevator, he smiled a little when he saw Bob had messaged him back.

[Bob]
let me know when youre out

[Stiles]
I’m out

The reply was instantaneous, like Bob was waiting for him.

[Bob]
and?
[Bob]
howd it go?

[Stiles]
He said to wait and see what happens tomorrow
[Stiles]
And that if the paper can’t be saved, he’s on my side to ask the prof for an extension

[Bob]
thats great!
[Bob]
hopefully the paper can be saved though

[Stiles]
Yeah, hopefully
[Stiles]
Heading to the library now to start it again in case it CAN’T be saved

[Bob]
wouldnt you rather wait and see?

[Stiles]
Nope
[Stiles]
I’d rather be ahead
[Stiles]
If I get bad news tomorrow
[Stiles]
And the TA can’t convince the prof to give me an extension
[Stiles]
I’d rather hand SOMETHING in than nothing at all

[Bob]
fair
[Bob]
well im working
[Bob]
so if you need someone to talk to
[Bob]
im here

Stiles smiled.

[Stiles]
Thanks Bob :)
[Stiles]
I really appreciate it
[Stiles]
And thanks for helping me calm down

[Bob]
anytime
[Bob]
youll be ok

Stiles sent back a thumbs up and then put his phone away, letting out a slow breath while stepping into the elevator. It was funny to realize that almost two months had passed since he and Bob started speaking. He had no idea how this had gone on for so long, but he kind of loved it.

He really liked talking to Bob, and ever since Bob had started to just accept that he and Stiles were friends, things had been really good. They got along really well, and Stiles was actually kind of thankful to have Bob in his life.

When he went to the computer desk the next morning, after having stayed entirely too long at the library the night before, the first person he texted when he got the results back was Bob.

[Stiles]
Paper was saved!!!!!!!
[Stiles]
Thank you for last night!!

[Bob]
anytime :)


[Stiles]
What’s my name in your phone?

Stiles was bored, slouched in his seat in one of the uncomfortable airport chairs, waiting for his flight to board. Scott was sleeping beside him, mouth hanging open and head tilted back, but at least not drooling on anyone.

He was kind of snoring, though. Not that Stiles cared, they were roommates and had been best friends since forever, he was used to all of the ways Scott slept. Besides, they would both be sleeping on the plane anyway, considering the hour.

They were both heading home for the winter holidays, Scott having had his last exam that morning, which was why they were on the red-eye home. Jackson, Lydia and Allison were also heading back to Beacon Hills—or already there—so it would be nice to see them all again and hang out. Not that he didn’t see Jackson all the time, but it was always a different dynamic when the whole group was there together, even though the Scott/Allison thing could be a bit awkward sometimes.

He was really excited to see his dad, too. Even though he was nervous about his grades, since he’d only gotten two of his five back, he was confident he’d done well. He’d worked really hard, so he was sure that he would at least get the middle ground of the higher end of a final grade. So maybe like, ninety overall for the semester, which kept him in line with the GPA he had to maintain for his scholarship.

He also hadn’t told his dad about the laptop yet. He’d managed to get through the rest of the semester using the computers at the library, as well as Scott’s, but he really needed a new one. He just wasn’t sure how to bring it up with his dad, so he’d procrastinated doing it.

His phone buzzed in his hand, and he smiled a little when he saw who was texting him. He honestly hadn’t been sure Bob would still be awake, given the time, but he didn’t seem to sleep much. Or at all, really.

Stiles wondered if he was an insomniac or something.

[Bob]
i thought you were getting on a plane
[Bob]
i was looking forward to the peace and quiet

Stiles just grinned, knowing that Bob didn’t mean it. He put up a front a lot, but it was more teasing now than it used to be. And after the three months of back and forth texting they’d been doing about everything and nothing, it was clear that Bob enjoyed speaking to him. He even texted Stiles first sometimes!

Those times were few and far between, but they happened! And Stiles always cheered internally when they did, because it showed that Bob was coming out of his shell a little bit.

[Stiles]
At the airport
[Stiles]
Bored
[Stiles]
My roommate’s passed out beside me
[Stiles]
So I need entertainment
[Stiles]
Entertain me O_O

[Bob]
is your roommate going home with you?
[Bob]
you guys must be close

“Oh, right.” Stiles often forgot what they did and didn’t speak about, so reading that meant he’d never actually told Bob about Scott and who he was. They’d been texting for so long it was actually a little strange to remember that they didn’t actually know each other.

Stiles had met Bob because he’d accidentally texted him while trying to grow potatoes at eleven o’clock at night on a Friday. It seemed ridiculous when he thought about it now, how far they’d come, but there was still so much they didn’t know about each other.

[Stiles]
Oh, my roommate is actually my best friend from back home
[Stiles]
We both got accepted into the same university
[Stiles]
And we’ve been attached at the hip since forever
[Stiles]
So we figured it was meant to be
[Stiles]
We lucked out getting each other as roommates
[Stiles]
Since apparently the school doesn’t always honour those request
[Stiles]
They want people to ‘make new friends’ and all that
[Stiles]
But yeah no, he’s my best bro, so he’s heading home with me
[Stiles]
But not, you know
[Stiles]
WITH me
[Stiles]
To his own home
[Stiles]
Though he and I spend a lot of time at each other’s places
[Stiles]
His mom is like my second mom

The second he sent the last message, he really hoped Bob wouldn’t ask about it. They definitely hadn’t moved into the realm of family, and while Bob knew Stiles’ dad was a cop, Stiles wasn’t exactly interested in discussing the fact that his mother had passed away when he was nine. It still stung, even ten years later, and while he and Bob were close, they weren’t that close.

Yet, anyway.

Thankfully, when Bob replied, he didn’t ask about Stiles’ second mom comment. He supposed it made sense, since people could say they had second moms while still having their mothers. Stiles just happened not to, was all.

In some ways, the sheriff was like Scott’s second dad, since his deadbeat asshole of a dad had walked out on him and was now trying to buy his forgiveness with a university education. Joke was on him though, Scott hated his dad, but he wasn’t going to turn down a free university ride, especially since it would help his mom.

[Bob]
thats really lucky you guys got to stay together
[Bob]
i didnt have any friends who came WITH me to uni
[Bob]
and the ones I made while there got split up after first year
[Bob]
so after second year we rented out a huge house
[Bob]
and then we kind of just...
[Bob]
stuck around

“Huh,” Stiles said, interested. He still didn’t know how old Bob was, but it was kind of cool to realize that he and some university friends had rented a house and still lived there together. Stiles wondered if that would be a possibility for him and his own friends. He hadn’t made any lifelong friends at university yet, just mostly a few people he knew here and there from classes and in the dorms.

But living with Scott, Jackson, Lydia and Allison? Being in one huge house together? That would be amazing. Insane, considering, but also amazing. He doubted that’d work out given Jackson and Lydia both had boyfriends, and Allison apparently had some news for him when he got back about a guy she’d been seeing the last few weeks of the semester.

Scott himself was getting pretty serious with the Asian girl he’d met at the house party the same night Stiles had first met Bob. Her name was Kira Yukimura, and she was a fucking angel. Scott didn’t deserve her, and he told him so to his face.

Really, the only one who’d probably be interested in sharing a house with everyone else was Stiles, but that was evidently because he was the only single person in their group. A depressing thought, really, but he was happy all of his friends were doing well in the bow-chica-bow-wow area.

Who knew, maybe next semester was going to be his time! Maybe he’d finally click with someone and get laid! Or even just snuggle, he wasn’t picky.

[Stiles]
Oh, so you live in the house together still?

[Bob]
yeah
[Bob]
me and two of my friends
[Bob]
we have a spare room for when other people crash or family visits
[Bob]
though my one friend is dating that girl I thought you were

[Stiles]
Erica

[Bob]
yeah
[Bob]
we met her in fourth year
[Bob]
she and my buddy have been dating since then
[Bob]
so shes here all the time
[Bob]
my other friend and I want to start charging her rent
[Bob]
but it’s mostly in jest

[Stiles]
Could she not move in with you?

[Bob]
were still discussing it

“Ugh, you’re killing me, dude!” Stiles whined, shaking his phone slightly. Seriously, Bob and his allergy to apostrophes. He’d never met anyone who didn’t type ‘we’re’ properly. He wished turning off auto-correct didn’t turn off apostrophes. When it was words like ‘don’t’ or ‘didn’t’ it was fine, because he could tell what they were, but when it was ‘we’re’ or even ‘I’ll’ it always took his brain a few seconds to figure out if he was saying we’re or were, and I’ll or ill. They were both words! And it drove him crazy!

[Bob]
she says if she did
[Bob]
shed just share the room with the guy shes dating
[Bob]
he has the biggest room and an en suite
[Bob]
so she could
[Bob]
and were not opposed to it
[Bob]
we just dont want her to feel uncomfortable

Stiles cocked an eyebrow, wondering about that. Maybe she didn’t want to get woken up at eleven at night to plant potatoes.

He snorted to himself, smiling a little, and Scott let out a startled snort himself before settling once more and continuing to snore. He was adorable, Stiles loved his stupid face.

[Stiles]
Why would she feel uncomfortable?

[Bob]
well
[Bob]
house full of guys
[Bob]
shes a spitfire
[Bob]
she wouldnt take crap from any of us
[Bob]
and i know she can handle herself
[Bob]
but i guess were just worried
[Bob]
if something went wrong

Stiles supposed that was fair. It wasn’t necessarily a slam towards her, or the guys living in the house, but it was just one of those things that was legitimately a concern sometimes. Things could potentially go wrong, and if the group of guys invited friends over and they all got drunk, well, bad things could happen.

He was sure that the guys had all discussed it at length, possibly even with this Erica girl, but he supposed he could understand where Bob was coming from.

He looked back down at his phone when Bob sent another message.

[Bob]
and she has a cat

[Stiles]
Would that be a problem?
[Stiles]
With Wolf, I mean.

[Bob]
not really
[Bob]
wolf doesnt mind cats
[Bob]
but cats dont usually like him
[Bob]
and i dont want anything to happen
[Bob]
idk
[Bob]
i like having her around
[Bob]
and i know my one friend wants her around
[Bob]
well see i guess

It took much too long for Stiles to realize he meant ‘we’ll’ instead of ‘well’ and he let out a frustrated sound, shaking his phone again, before beginning to type.

[Stiles]
Can I ask you for a Christmas present?

[Bob]
no

[Stiles]
Gonna anyway!!!!
[Stiles]
:P
[Stiles]
Can you PLEASE try and use apostrophes?
[Stiles]
Seriously
[Stiles]
Texting you hurts my soul

[Bob]
you could always stop

[Stiles]
You’d miss me too much ;)

[Bob]
you wish

[Stiles]
I know O_O

He waited for a reply, but when he didn’t get one, he figured Bob didn’t know how to respond. That was something he’d learned about him a few weeks back. Sometimes, Bob wanted to keep texting, to continue the conversation, but he didn’t always seem to know how. He was often uncomfortable starting conversations because he worried Stiles wouldn’t be interested.

He hadn’t said so in as many words, but he’d implied it. So Stiles could imagine him sitting there staring at his phone, not knowing what to say, and he took pity on him.

Besides, he hadn’t answered his question.

[Stiles]
So
[Stiles]
Bob
[Stiles]
Don’t think I didn’t notice you dodge the question
[Stiles]
What’s my name in your phone?

As expected, the response was almost instantaneous, suggesting Bob really hadn’t known how to keep the conversation going. Bless him, really, Bob was fucking adorable.

[Bob]
pain in my ass

[Stiles]
Literally?
[Stiles]
I’m down if you are, I’ve never topped ;)

Stiles had no idea what Bob’s sexual orientation was, but if nothing else, he knew he wasn’t homophobic, because every time Stiles made jokes like that, Bob never reacted badly to them. He just pretended to be exasperated, but Stiles knew he was just pretending. They were at that stage in their friendship where he could tell these things.

[Bob]
every time you text me
[Bob]
i hate you more and more

[Stiles]
Oh? ;)
[Stiles]
What percentage am I at?

[Bob]
currently?
[Bob]
367%

Stiles let out a bark of laughter that had Scott snort awake. His friend turned to give him a bleary-eyed glare, then shifted in his seat to get comfortable again, head falling onto Stiles’ shoulder and rubbing against it in an effort to find a good spot before he stilled again.

Stiles was positive he was going to have drool on his shirt by the time they started boarding. Oh well.

[Stiles]
And yet you continue to reply
[Stiles]
Sadist :P
[Stiles]
Seriously
[Stiles]
What’s my name in your phone?

There was a slightly longer pause here, like Bob wasn’t sure he wanted to answer, but eventually the little dots appeared and then his reply came through.

[Bob]
uni kid

[Stiles]
Har har
[Stiles]
Come on
[Stiles]
Seriously

[Bob]
uni kid

A picture came through next, the conversation they were in the middle of having present on his screen. It was a screen-shot of Bob’s phone and, sure enough, the name at the top said ‘Uni Kid.’ Capitalized and everything.

Bob’s phone was also only at thirteen percent, and that was giving Stiles anxiety. How was he not charging his phone right now?!

He chose to ignore that, figuring maybe Bob wasn’t able to charge it right then, or maybe he was looking for the charger as they were speaking to each other. He just focussed on the matter at hand, which was that Bob called him ‘Uni Kid,’ and that was not cool!

[Stiles]
For real?!
[Stiles]
You didn’t even give me a NAME?!
[Stiles]
At least I call you BOB!

[Bob]
still not my name

[Stiles]
What do you call me when you talk to your friends about me???

[Bob]
i dont talk to my friends about you

“Liar!” Stiles hissed. “Filthy, filthy lies!”

And he told Bob so, because Bob so did talk about him to his friends! If Stiles spoke about Bob to his friends, with how often they texted, his own friends had to have asked him who he was always texting!

[Stiles]
Yes you do, don’t lie!
[Stiles]
What do you call me?

When the next reply came, he could practically hear the sigh through the phone, as if Bob hated having to admit that he spoke about Stiles to his friends.

[Bob]
i call you uni kid

[Stiles]
Omg!
[Stiles]
Our friendship is a fucking LIE

[Bob]
not friends

Stiles replied without missing a beat, because as much as Bob said they weren’t friends, they both knew that they were definitely friends.

[Stiles]
FRIENDS!

Stiles was in the middle of typing out a long-winded message about how offended he was, and insulted that Bob dared not to name him. Uni kid? Really? Had he no imagination?!

Well, his dog’s name was Wolf, so Stiles knew the answer to that question, but seriously?! Ugh, he hadn’t even tried! He could’ve named him like, Steve. Or even Chad! Or fucking Wilhelm! Stiles didn’t know, but he couldn’t believe they’d been texting for three months and Bob called him ‘uni kid.’ The nerve!

Before he finished his message though, Bob asked him a question he hadn’t expected, and he paused in his typing, staring at it for a long while before responding.

[Bob]
whats your name then?

[Stiles]
What’s yours?

[Bob]
Bob

[Stiles]
Omg
[Stiles]
You made a joke
[Stiles]
Are you okay over there?
[Stiles]
Did you fall over dead?

[Bob]
unfortunately not
[Bob]
didnt answer my question

[Stiles]
You never answer mine

[Bob]
i literally just did
[Bob]
not dead

[Stiles]
You’re a comedian

[Bob]
dont worry i wont steal your job

Stiles rolled his eyes, imagining that Bob was probably smirking on the other end. Smarmy asshole, what a dick.

When he was silent for too long—or too long by Bob’s standards, anyway—his phone buzzed with a new message.

[Bob]
well?

[Stiles]
Well???

[Bob]
whats your name?

[Stiles]
Should I be concerned you seem genuinely interested?

[Bob]
i dont care that much
[Bob]
though uni kid is long

[Stiles]
It’s only three syllables

[Bob]
and if your name is more than that
[Bob]
youre staying uni kid

Stiles imagined what Bob would say if he found out his real name. Sure, it was also only three syllables, but it was also a bit of a mouthful. Much harder than ‘uni kid,’ at any rate.

He sat staring down at his phone, thumbs hovering over the keys and hesitating. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Bob to know his name. They’d spoken about a lot of other things, more personal things, so it wasn’t like he didn’t trust him.

It was just...

Stiles wasn’t exactly a common name. It was pretty unique, and he was willing to bet nobody else on the planet had that name. If he gave it to Bob, it was entirely possible he’d find some way to hunt Stiles down, figure out who he was. He knew he had a dad in law enforcement, that he was originally from California, that he went to NYU and was in his first year. It wouldn’t exactly be too hard to find him if he had all that and his unique nickname on top of it.

Not that he thought Bob was going to come looking for him, but considering the first text he’d gotten from him had him freaking out that he was a murderer, it felt... weird. To give him his name.

But what was even scarier was how not weird it felt giving him his name. Sure, Bob could try and come find him, but he didn’t think he would. After all, Stiles himself knew a lot about Bob. He was born and raised in New York, he owned a doggy daycare, he had a dog named Wolf, had even sent him pictures of him.

Really, both of them already knew a lot about each other. Not everything, and not some of the important things, like family, but enough. If Bob wanted to find him, he probably could have by now. And besides, he trusted Bob. He was a friend, probably the only person he could genuinely call his friend after four months at school.

It was kind of sad when he thought about all the people he’d met, and yet the one person he considered his friend out of everyone was a dude who texted him by accident because he’d typo’d a friend’s number.

He felt it was enough. They were well past the friendship stage. He felt like he trusted Bob enough, and well, he kind of wanted to stop calling him Bob. He wanted to know his name, and maybe Bob wanted to know his just as much. He’d asked, after all. Bob didn’t often ask questions, and for him to ask this one... It meant something to Stiles. It proved that Bob really did enjoy his company, that he wanted this friendship to continue, that he liked talking to Stiles.

It was just a name. But it wasn’t just a name at the same time. It was so much more than a name.

[Stiles]
My name is Stiles

Stiles let out a long, slow breath, cheeks puffing out while he stared at his sent message. It was there. It was out. He’d told Bob his name.

Bob actually knew his name. It was scary. But not. It was weird. But also not. He wasn’t sure how he felt, but he really hoped he got a name in return.

[Bob]
thats a made up name

“Oh, come on!” Stiles insisted, annoyed. Scott grunted and punched him for being too loud, but Stiles ignored him and just texted Bob back.

[Stiles]
All names are made up
[Stiles]
What’s yours?

[Bob]
you didnt answer my question

[Stiles]
I’m serious
[Stiles]
My name is Stiles
[Stiles]
Technically it’s a nickname, I’ll give you that
[Stiles]
But it’s 100% my name

[Bob]
no its not

Stiles had to try and find his patience, because he could tell that Bob wasn’t being a dick about it because he didn’t want to share his name. He legitimately thought Stiles was making it up which, to be fair, he could understand because who the fuck was called Stiles? But he couldn’t give him his real name, Bob wouldn’t even know what to do with that.

And he went by Stiles anyway. Literally everyone who knew him called him Stiles. Very few people even knew it wasn’t his legal name. Scott and Lydia were actually the only ones, even Jackson thought his legal name was Stiles.

[Stiles]
Do you have any idea how many Stiles’ there are in the world?
[Stiles]
One
[Stiles]
Me
[Stiles]
I had to dig deep to figure out if we’re at that stage in our friendship for you to know my name
[Stiles]
Because it would be SO EASY to find the ONE NYU student with that name
[Stiles]
But I told you
[Stiles]
Because we’re friends
[Stiles]
My name is Stiles
[Stiles]
I’m not making that up

He waited, staring at the screen. He felt his stomach begin to clench the longer he stared and didn’t see any dots appearing. Maybe Bob’s phone had died? It was at thirteen percent a moment ago, after all. Or maybe he was pissed, thought Stiles didn’t trust him, was pulling his leg. Maybe Bob legitimately thought that he was lying and was mad enough he wasn’t going to speak to him again.

When five minutes turned into ten of silence, Stiles legitimately started worrying that Bob had cut him off, and he was about to send another text when the three dots appeared and he let out a small sigh of relief.

He glanced up when the overhead announcement called that their flight was boarding, but he knew he and Scott had time since they always started with business class. He and Scott were near the middle of the plane, so business class and the back portion would board first.

He had time.

He stared at his phone, watching the three dots, and he knew that if Bob believed him and was going to give him his name, he was probably sitting there thinking the same things Stiles had been. Weighing all the pros and cons. Deciding how much he really trusted this annoying, persistent university student on the other end of the phone.

It seemed to take forever for the message to finally send, a name appearing on the screen.

[Bob]
derek

“Yes!” Stiles cheered, thrusting one fist in the air and jolting Scott awake.

There was drool on his shirt. Lovely.

“Stiles, what the hell?” Scott whined, scrubbing his hands over his face.

“They’re boarding us soon anyway,” Stiles insisted, flapping one hand impatiently at Scott. “But look! Look! Bob has a name!”

“Bob always had a name,” Scott muttered, but he obediently turned bleary eyes towards Stiles’ phone and grunted. “Derek. It’s gonna take me forever to reconcile Bob and Derek.”

Stiles grinned, texting back quickly since they’d just called the back of the plane to board, meaning they were coming up soon.

[Stiles]
OMFG is it really?????
[Stiles]
:D :D :D :D :D

[Bob]
why are you so excited?

[Stiles]
BECAUSE!!
[Stiles]
Your name really isn’t Bob!
[Stiles]
Nice to meet you Derek :)

[Bob]
You’re an idiot

Stiles just grinned, glancing up when their part of the plane was called. He nudged Scott to wake him up again, since he’d started snoozing once more, and the two of them stood to head for the line-up, shuffling forward with the other exhausted people who just wanted to get where they needed to go.

[Stiles]
We’re boarding now, so I need to turn off my phone
[Stiles]
Thanks for entertaining me :D

[Bob]
have a safe flight

[Stiles]
Thank you :D

Closing out of his messages with Bob—with Derek—Stiles opened up the one with his dad, knowing he’d see it when he woke up in the morning before heading out to pick him and Scott up.

[Stiles]
Boarding now :) See you in a few hours!
[Stiles]
Love you!

He hit the home screen and was about to power off his phone when a thought occurred to him. Smiling slightly, he went into his contacts, scrolled to Bob’s, then hit ‘edit.’ He changed the name from ‘Bob’ to ‘Derek,’ then saved it, and smiled while staring down at the contact.

When he landed in Sacramento almost six and a half hours later, and powered on his phone to check where his dad was, Stiles couldn’t help the tired smile that formed on his face at the first message that loaded when the phone turned on.

[Derek]
it’s nice to meet you too stiles


[Stiles]
I hate rich people
[Stiles]
Are you rich?
[Stiles]
I hate rich people

[Derek]
im comfortable

[Stiles]
That means you’re rich
[Stiles]
Asshole

He let out a shout when his phone was snatched from his hand, Jackson scowling at him and shoving into his own back pocket, clearly trying to keep it out of his reach.

“You can text your new boyfriend whenever you want, Stilinski, pay attention!”

Stiles rolled his eyes when Jackson turned back towards the associate helping him. He debated reaching out to try and snatch his phone back, but didn’t want to lose his hand. He wouldn’t put it past Jackson to turn around and bite him, the guy was crazy sometimes.

Crossing his arms over his chest, he just moved to the opposite side of the table and leaned back against it, eyes on all the people milling about doing some last minute Christmas shopping. They were standing in one of the large Apple stores, Jackson currently discussing the specs between two different MAC models. Apparently he was growing bored of his old computer, and thus needed to buy a new one. He’d brought his old one into the store so that they could process a transfers right away for him and a few greased palms meant he could have everything done before the mall closed.

Stiles felt his stomach clench at the realization that he still hadn’t spoken to his dad about his laptop. He wondered if he could get away with using the library computers and Scott’s for the rest of the year, but he knew that was a bad idea. The library had hours, and Scott left things to the last minute sometimes. It would be fucking terrible if he ended up needing a computer and had nowhere to turn.

He just didn’t know what he was going to do. He’d mostly agreed to come to the mall with Jackson so that he could look at laptops himself, but all the computers around him in the Apple store were ridiculously expensive. And he was sure the ones they were going to check out at Best Buy across the mall weren’t going to be much better.

Sure, Apple was expensive, but it wasn’t like Windows and Linux-based computers were any cheaper. He contemplated buying himself a tower and monitor instead, but those were apparently more expensive. And on top of that, they’d be hard to bring back across the country. When he’d driven out with Roscoe, no problem, but now that he was flying back and forth, a little bit less of a possibility.

Sighing and reaching for his phone before remembering Jackson had stolen it, he instead focussed on Jackson while he and the associate talked techy shit. Stiles understood more of it than he was sure Jackson did, but eventually his friend seemed satisfied and he pulled out his credit card to buy the computer they’d been discussing.

The guy emailed him his receipt, and then told him to come back in five hours and the transfer would be complete. Then he headed for the genius bar with a box in his arms—Jackson’s new computer—and a laptop bag strapped across his chest—Jackson’s old computer.

“Stop sulking,” Jackson snapped, Stiles turning back to him after watching the guy walk away longingly. He wanted a new computer, too. And he knew he was going to end up getting one, but Christ, at what cost?

“I’m not sulking,” he said, sounding every bit like the bratty child he was at heart. He just led the way out of the store, Jackson following behind him while checking his watch and muttering about how long it was going to take for the guys to finish with his new laptop. Stiles was trying really hard not to be bitter about it.

They walked through the mall towards the Best Buy, Jackson making a face when they entered it and sticking close to Stiles like he was worried he’d catch some kind of poor man’s disease. Well, if that was a thing, he was more likely to catch it from Stiles than anyone else.

He walked through the rows of computers, eying them all and looking at the specs. He couldn’t afford something with the processing power he truly wanted, like his old laptop, but he needed something that would at least keep up with some of his more demanding programs. Everything he saw that met that criteria was over two grand, though. He found a few that were under, but just barely, and they didn’t have what he needed.

Fuck, most of them didn’t look like they could run what he needed.

“Can we go? I’m bored.”

Stiles turned to give Jackson a look, but it was lost on him since he was busy texting. Probably Ethan. Ignoring him, he kept going around in circles, making note of ones that didn’t meet all his criteria, but enough of them that he could get away with it. And he kept an eye on the prices before finally settling on two different models. He’d talk to his dad and see what they could do.

“I need my phone,” he said, holding his hand out.

Evidently now that they were doing something for Stiles instead of Jackson, he didn’t feel the need to stop him from texting other people, because he just reached into his pocket without taking his eyes off his own phone and handed Stiles’ back to him. Taking it, Stiles took a picture of the two laptops, then their information sheets. He’d talk to his dad when he got home, even though the very thought of it made his stomach twist.

He saw he had a reply from Derek, and since Jackson was busy probably sexting Ethan, he checked his messages to see what Derek had to say for himself.

Stiles still loved that he wasn’t Bob anymore. Not that there was anything wrong with Bob, it just... wasn’t his friend’s name. And now he had a name! It was surreal and awesome and he loved it.

[Derek]
why do you hate rich people?
[Derek]
capitalism?

[Stiles]
I mean, yeah
[Stiles]
But no
[Stiles]
I’m just worried
[Stiles]
Money’s tight for me and my dad
[Stiles]
But after the coffee fiasco with my laptop
[Stiles]
I need a new one
[Stiles]
And I’m stressing about the price of it
[Stiles]
Meanwhile my friend drags me out to the mall to buy himself a new MAC because he was getting bored of his old one
[Stiles]
It’s not even a year old and he already wants a new one
[Stiles]
I guess it’s just unfair

He shoved his phone back into his pocket, nudging Jackson to get his attention so they could head out now that he’d narrowed down his choices. They wandered through the mall for a while, chatting about nothing in particular, and were debating grabbing a bite to eat when a kid slammed into Stiles so hard he almost fell over.

“Watch it!” Jackson snapped after the kid, who couldn’t have been any older than eight. He scowled, helping straighten Stiles, but froze when the mother raced past them screaming after her son.

Jackson’s fingers tightened around Stiles’ arms where he was holding him and his face went white.

Stiles’ stomach dropped, because he knew that look, even without hearing the mother screaming, “Danny! Danny, get back here!”

“Jackson—” He knew it was already too late. The deathgrip Jackson had on his arms meant it was past the point where he could stop it before it began.

“Hey,” Stiles brought his hands up to Jackson’s face, palms against his cheeks and trying to get him to focus on him even as his breathing quickened. Shit. “Hey, Jackson, stay with me. Stay with me!”

A few people had already turned to look at them, but he ignored them. He wished they wouldn’t, that they’d just walk around them and pretend they didn’t see it, because having an audience wasn’t going to make this better for Jackson. It had been a long time since anyone had triggered him like this, and Stiles wanted to smack that stupid lady for not having kept a better hold of her kid.

“Jackson, stay with me. Come on, list off all the car brands you know. The expensive ones. Come on, buddy.”

He gave his head a rough shake, trying to get his eyes to focus again. It worked, but only just, and he repeated his command. Someone had come up behind Stiles to ask if everything was okay, but he pretended they weren’t there, keeping all of his attention on Jackson while his breathing slowly but surely began to quicken.

“Is he okay?”

“Can you please just fuck off!” Stiles snapped, shrugging the hand off his shoulder angrily. He was trying to help his friend, and while a small part of his brain acknowledged the people around them were just worried and trying to help, a larger part was insisting they should recognize that Jackson wasn’t okay and to just leave them alone!

Stiles broke eye contact with Jackson only long enough to look around. There was a small corridor leading towards the bathroom about twenty feet to their left, so he looked back at Jackson and gave his head another shake.

“List cars for me, Jackson. Come on. What’s expensive nowadays? Tesla? Lamborghini?”

Jackson managed to let out a harsh exhale and he said, “BMW.”

“Yeah, those rich fuckers, too. You have one of those, don’t you? Your dad, I mean. What else?”

“Porsche.”

“Right, that monstrosity of yours. Seriously, so impractical.”

He was slowly easing them off towards the corridor, keeping Jackson’s focus on him even while his friend slowly but surely cut off circulation in his arms with how hard he was holding onto him. It seemed to take an eternity to reach his destination, but once they were in the more secluded area, despite it not being entirely secluded, he managed to get them both on the floor with Jackson sitting on his ass against the wall and Stiles kneeling in front of him.

He was still gripping his face, Jackson’s hands vice-like around his biceps, but his eyes looked a little clearer, like he was actually focussing on Stiles’ face. On his voice. Like he was coming back instead of being lost in his own mind, back to being a cocky sophomore who woke up one morning to find out his best friend had disappeared.

“You with me?” Stiles asked gently, thumb of his left hand brushing lightly at Jackson’s cheek. “You back with me?”

Jackson nodded unsteadily, his breaths shaky on every exhale, but he loosened his grip on Stiles’ arms and allowed for proper blood flow again. Stiles stayed in front of him for a while longer, letting his thumbs brush gently along his skin, wanting to make sure the episode had truly passed.

It hadn’t been as bad as some of his previous ones, but any panic attack was still a bad panic attack. Especially for someone like Jackson, who honestly wasn’t used to having them. Stiles used to have them all the time after his mother passed away, so he was kind of used to them. Jackson’s came sporadically, and they were few and far between.

When he was sure Jackson was okay, Stiles released his face and sat down next to him, pressed up against his side. Not crowding him, just close enough that he could lean into him for comfort if he needed to. And he seemed to need to, because he pushed hard into Stiles’ side and turned his head to rest his forehead against Stiles’ shoulder. Jackson’s closest hand reached out for Stiles’ thigh, squeezing hard, as if reassuring himself that Stiles was well and truly there.

They didn’t speak for a long while, the two of them sitting there and ignoring the people walking past them. They got a few dirty looks, since the corridor wasn’t huge and they were kind of in the way of people trying to get to and from the bathrooms, but Stiles didn’t care. Jackson was far more important.

“Well that sucked,” Jackson muttered after almost twenty minutes of silence.

Stiles didn’t say anything, because he’d been around for enough of Jackson’s panic attacks, few as they’d been, to know that he was a lot more irritable and angry than usual. So he just let Jackson straighten and then eventually stand, stretching and shaking out his limbs. He turned to stare down at Stiles, giving him his usual condescending look of disapproval for whatever Stiles may be doing—in this case, sitting on a dirty floor. He was still pale, and his skin looked a little clammy, but he was trying to pretend nothing happened and Stiles wasn’t going to be a dick about it.

Jackson would talk about it if he wanted to. And if he didn’t, well, Stiles would be there regardless.

Stiles got to his feet, letting Jackson lead the way back out into the heart of the mall. Neither of them said anything while they walked, but Stiles noticed Jackson flinch whenever people got too close to him. Stiles bumped his side lightly in comfort, a reminder that he was right there, without pushing him.

When they’d walked the length of the mall, Jackson stopped outside Target and turned to Stiles.

“I’m bored, let’s go watch something.”

“Sure.” Stiles didn’t really want to, considering his upcoming purchase, but he knew it was Jackson’s way of hiding for a while, so he just sucked it up.

When they got to the theatre, Jackson bought his ticket for him. Stiles only tried arguing once, and got snapped at so viciously even the teller took a step back. Stiles let it drop and just allowed Jackson to buy his ticket for him. They went into the theatre, moving up to their seats, then Jackson insisted he needed to take a leak before disappearing.

Stiles knew he was just going to take a moment to himself, and he couldn’t really blame him. He wished it was easier for him, but considering Danny’s disappearance was still unsolved, Stiles could understand how hard this was for him. He missed Danny, too. He’d been amazing. He was an incredibly kind and compassionate person, one of the nicest people Stiles had ever met. That this had happened to him, of all people, was unfair.

Then again, Stiles felt that way about his mother, too. Someone as wonderful as her hadn’t deserved to die like she did. Life just had different plans for them all, apparently.

He pulled his phone out when Jackson lingered for too long in the bathroom, knowing better than to hunt him down. He’d only piss him off in the mood he was in, so he settled for waiting. If the movie started and he still wasn’t back, he’d go find him then, consequences be damned.

[Derek]
that seems like a bit of a dick move on your friends part
[Derek]
does he know you need a new laptop?

[Stiles]
Yeah
[Stiles]
And he’s not being a dick
[Stiles]
He just...
[Stiles]
You know
[Stiles]
He’s rich
[Stiles]
If he wants a new toy, he can just go out and buy it
[Stiles]
He’s not doing it to rub it in my face or anything
[Stiles]
He’s a good guy

[Derek]
if you say so
[Derek]
hows the weather out there?

[Stiles]
Ooooooooooh myyyyyyyyyy Gooooooooooood
[Stiles]
So so good
[Stiles]
Don’t get me wrong
[Stiles]
I love New York
[Stiles]
But MAN is it COLD out there
[Stiles]
Can freeze my little Californian ass
[Stiles]
This is MUCH tamer

[Derek]
lol

Stiles let out a startled bark of laughter at seeing those three letters. He’d never made Derek laugh before. Or, he’d never told Stiles he’d laughed, anyway. It was kind of nice to see those letters, like this was someone he was genuinely friends with, no different than a buddy he’d met in one of his classes.

Then again, he felt like he was closer to Derek than to a lot of his classmates. Which was insane, when he really thought about it, because their meeting had been completely by accident. He was glad they’d continued speaking after that initial misunderstanding. He tried to think back on the past few months without Derek and it was... weird.

Almost empty.

He glanced up when he saw Jackson climbing the steps back to their seats, then hastily typed a goodbye to Derek, letting him know he was seeing a movie, and then put his phone away.

Jackson looked better when he sat down, but only just. Stiles didn’t press him, he just whined about the lack of popcorn and acted like everything was normal. Perfectly normal.

He hadn’t been paying attention to what movie they were going to see, but he wasn’t disappointed with Jackson’s choice. Thankfully they were near the back, and it looked like the movie had been out for a while since the theatre was mostly empty. They joked and laughed and by the time the movie was finished, Stiles was relieved to find Jackson mostly back to normal.

They headed back out and Jackson checked the time, saying he wanted to see if his computer was ready yet. It hadn’t been as long as they’d said, but Stiles figured it wouldn’t hurt them to check. Otherwise it was linger for a few more hours and he was kind of done for the day.

He opted to wait outside the store, sitting on the edge of the fountain and texting with his dad about dinner while Jackson went to check on the progress of his new computer. He must’ve gotten good news, because he was gone for a while and by the time he walked out, he had a brand new laptop bag, complete with his new laptop, and was holding his old laptop bag by the handles in his left hand.

Stiles stood to shove his phone in his pocket, starting to lead the way towards the garage when Jackson shoved his old laptop bag at him. Stiles almost dropped it, because he wasn’t expecting it, but managed to catch it at the last second, scowling slightly when Jackson started for the elevators.

“You could’ve just asked me to hold it,” he insisted, catching up to Jackson and pulling the strap over his shoulder.

“Why would I ask you to hold your own shit?”

It took a second for Stiles’ brain to catch up to Jackson’s words and he slammed on the brakes, scowling at Jackson, who continued walking as if not noticing—or caring—that Stiles had stopped. When it became clear Stiles truly wasn’t going to follow, Jackson heaved an exaggerated sigh and paused, turning to look back at Stiles and raising his eyebrows in a clear, “Well? I’m waiting, let’s go.” sort of way.

“What are you talking about?” Stiles demanded, crossing his arms and ignoring the strap sliding down his shoulder.

“I have a new laptop. What am I gonna do with an outdated piece of junk?” Jackson shrugged expansively, like this entire conversation was tiresome.

And just like that, Stiles understood. He understood why Jackson had wanted to buy a new laptop, why he’d invited himself along on Stiles’ outing, why he’d paid the Apple techs to have his harddrive copied over to the new computer immediately. He understood.

Because Jackson hadn’t really been buying a new computer.

He’d been finding an excuse to give Stiles one.

Stiles clenched his jaw, and he wanted to say something. He really did. He wanted to argue with Jackson, to insist he wasn’t his charity case, that he could damn well take care of himself and he didn’t need his pity money.

The only reason he didn’t was because Jackson was still a little on edge about his earlier attack, and on top of that, Stiles knew Jackson wasn’t pitying him. He wanted to do something nice for him, but Jackson wasn’t the kind of person who just did nice things. It was easier to pretend he was doing something for himself—like buying a new laptop—and helping someone else was just an afterthought—giving Stiles his old computer.

Stiles had to breathe a bit to force himself to remain calm, but he finally managed to control his temper and started forward again. Jackson didn’t quite manage to hide his smug smile, but Stiles punched him when he was close enough to him and they headed for the elevators so they could go to the parking garage and leave before the crazy last minute shoppers showed up.

When they were walking through the garage looking for the Porsche, Stiles muttered, “Thanks.”

Jackson pretended not to hear him, but Stiles knew he did.


[Derek]
if i were to text you for help burying a body
[Derek]
like legitimately to help me this time
[Derek]
would you tell your dad again?

[Stiles]
What???
[Stiles]
No way dude!
[Stiles]
We’re friends now :D
[Stiles]
Friends always help other friends commit felonies!

[Derek]
good
[Derek]
when youre back in NY
[Derek]
buy a shovel
[Derek]
weve got some digging to do

[Stiles]
I see
[Stiles]
Who was your latest victim?

[Derek]
my sister
[Derek]
shes trying to get me to wear a santa hat
[Derek]
so she can take pictures for her instagram

[Stiles]
OMG!
[Stiles]
I DEMAND pictures!

[Derek]
the only person in this house who will have a santa hat on their head is wolf

[Stiles]
He’s not a person...

[Derek]
im going to ignore you said that

Stiles grinned, loving that Derek was offended Stiles didn’t consider his dog a person. To be fair, he knew that Derek was kind of anti-social and spent most of his time around animals, so he supposed he could understand the fact that he considered Wolf a ‘person.’

He was still trying to formulate an appropriate response when a picture came through, and he let out a pathetically embarrassing coo. Derek had sent him a picture of Wolf, the large husky-wolf hybrid lying on his stomach with his tongue sticking out and a santa hat flopped on his head. He looked happy, and Stiles honestly couldn’t imagine anyone abandoning this adorable little guy in a shelter.

Not that Wolf was little, he was actually kind of massive, but still! All dogs were puppies! And all puppies were adorable! Thus, Wolf was an adorable puppy!

Stiles wished he could pet him. He looked so cute and soft, he’d love to use him as a pillow. It made him wonder if he’d ever meet Derek in person. Maybe he’d stumble across him by accident one day, wandering around downtown with Scott or Jackson and just—bump into a guy. Look down, see his dog, and realize it was Wolf.

He tried to imagine how that would feel, seeing Derek for the first time because he recognized his dog. It made him wonder, again, how old he was. Derek was always vague in his responses. Stiles didn’t think he was like that on purpose, he figured Derek just wasn’t comfortable speaking to people so he tended to be short and didn’t offer up much about himself. He’d never implied how old he was, even back when Stiles used to throw his age around all the time. He knew Derek was old enough to drink, but that could be anywhere from twenty-one to fifty.

The picture he’d gotten of him lying on his stomach in the grass hadn’t really given him much to go on. Sure, he’d been super buff, but he could be fifty and buff! And even if Derek spoke like someone close to his age, sometimes Stiles’ dad did, too. It was hard to determine someone’s age without outright asking them about it.

Annoying.

[Stiles]
He is the most gorgeous thing ever
[Stiles]
I want to bury my face in his fur

[Derek]
careful or hell just lie down on your face
[Derek]
one of my roommates is adsmant wolf is trying to kill him
[Derek]
he always lies on his face when were lounging in the yard

[Stiles]
OLD MEN SUNBATHING!
[Stiles]
Your poor neighbours!

[Derek]
hilarious
[Derek]
though tbh
[Derek]
we used to hang out in the sun a lot
[Derek]
we stopped when we got new neighbours
[Derek]
they have young girls and they check us out a lot
[Derek]
it was making us uncomfortable
[Derek]
girls that age should be out with their friends
[Derek]
not oogling hot boys

[Stiles]
Oho?
[Stiles]
Are you HOT, Derek?
[Stiles]
Did I score me a heartbreaker? ;P

Derek sent him an eye-rolling emoji and Stiles laughed, but at least this kind of helped him segue into asking about his age. Stiles really, really wanted to know how old Derek was. Considering he may sort of kind of almost a little teeny tiny bit be developing a crush on him, nevermind he had no idea if he was into guys or not, he just wanted to make sure the dude wasn’t like, eighty.

[Derek]
my friends hotter
[Derek]
i have muscle is all

[Stiles]
Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice~
[Stiles]
I like me some muscle on my men ;)

[Derek]
shut uip

[Stiles]
Don’t be shyyyyyyy~
[Stiles]
How much you bench?
[Stiles]
Old man like you probably can’t lift more than eighty pounds

[Derek]
fuck you
[Derek]
260

[Stiles]
LIES!

[Derek]
whats the matter?
[Derek]
embarrassed by your noodle arms?

[Stiles]
Hey!
[Stiles]
I’ll have you know
[Stiles]
I can comfortably bench 175!

[Derek]
im so proud of you

[Stiles]
How does an old man like you bench 260 pounds?

[Derek]
how old exactly do you think i am?

Stiles didn’t know how to respond. He didn’t want to guess, he wanted Derek to just tell him. He kept trying to think back on everything he knew about him, coupled with the picture of him lying in the grass, along with his voice from their first ever conversation. How old did he think Derek was?

He knew how old he hoped he was, in the early twenties range, but with his luck, Derek would be forty-five with kids and alimony. And even if he wasn’t, it wasn’t like Stiles expected Derek to be interested in a spastic weirdo who’d started texting him after getting the cops called on him.

[Stiles]
Idk
[Stiles]
Never really thought about it
[Stiles]
Like 50?

[Derek]
hilarious

[Stiles]
Comedian :P

[Derek]
seriously
[Derek]
how old?

Stiles stared down at his phone, tapping at the edge of his screen absently while he thought about it. It didn’t really matter what he guessed anyway, Derek was going to correct him either way. He figured he’d just go with an age he was hoping for, and he supposed he’d find out one way or another if this was a hopeless endeavour.

[Stiles]
25

[Derek]
close

[Stiles]
30?

[Derek]
wrong way

Stiles’ heart was slamming in his chest, which was idiotic because he shouldn’t be getting excited over nothing. It was just a number. It didn’t mean anything. Sure he had Derek’s name, and he was about to get his age, but that didn’t change anything between them. It didn’t mean anything more than just getting to know each other. He didn’t know why he was reacting like this was good news.

[Stiles]
21?

[Derek]
too low

[Stiles]
Can you just tell me?

[Derek]
wheres the fun in that?

[Stiles]
UGH
[Stiles]
You’re annoying

[Derek]
this coming from YOU???

[Stiles]
You lvoe me :P
[Stiles]
24

[Derek]
so close

[Stiles]
23?

[Derek]
heres your exciting prize

Stiles got another picture of Wolf, this time sitting on someone’s lap on a large, plush-looking couch. He was so big he was pretty much crushing the person he was sitting on, but they didn’t seem to mind, arms wrapped around the dog’s middle, hugging him tightly.

The forearms he could see were tanned and lithe, and seemed a little slender compared to what Stiles assumed someone who could bench-press 260 would look like, so he was guessing it was Derek’s sister. That, or possibly Erica. He just felt like it was a girl’s arms.

[Stiles]
23
[Stiles]
Like I said
[Stiles]
OLDDDDDDDDDDDDD

[Derek]
is someone jealous they cant buy alcohol and have to drink their juice out of a sippy cup?

[Stiles]
You should see the stash in my closer at school :P

[Derek]
isnt your dad a cop?

[Stiles]
What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him ;)

“Stiles?”

Letting out a startled shout, Stiles had to play hot potato with his phone for a second to avoid dropping it, turning to look over at his dad who was standing in the doorway. He hadn’t even heard him come home. He’d also lost track of time, because he’d meant to start the potatoes before his dad got in and now he was going to be late with dinner.

“Sorry, totally got distracted!” He got to his feet and hurried out of his room, slapping his dad in the arm on his way by before heading down the stairs two at a time, making enough noise to wake the dead. He shoved his phone into his pocket while entering the kitchen and moved to turn on the oven, feeling a little guilty that dinner wouldn’t be ready right away for his dad. He’d had a long day at work, and Christmas time was always the worst for law enforcement and medical professionals. He felt bad he couldn’t have dinner on the table for him.

He had everything ready to go already, he just hadn’t started cooking it yet so he got to work on all the other aspects of their dinner, positive his dad was going to whine about their protein being fish today, but Stiles was compromising! He was making potatoes! His dad had to appreciate the good with the bad.

Once the fish was searing in a pan and he’d started the green beans, he checked on the oven before shoving a pan of potatoes into it and hopping up on the counter, swinging his legs slightly and pulling his phone back out to grin at Derek’s response, insisting Stiles should be responsible and that alcohol killed braincells.

[Stiles]
Explains a lot about you

[Derek]
asshole

[Stiles]
You love me ;)

He got another eye-rolling emoji for his efforts and cackled to himself, his dad’s footsteps preceding him into the kitchen. He was rolling up the sleeves of his shirt, eyes on his son for a few seconds before crossing to the table and easing into a chair with a loud groan. Stiles put his phone away to grab his dad a drink, setting the glass of water in front of him before taking the seat opposite.

“You’ve been on your phone a lot,” the sheriff said, sipping at his water and making a face, clearly wishing it were something else. “Jackson?”

“No,” Stiles said. “My friend Derek.”

“Derek, huh?” His dad eyed him over the edge of his glass, as if trying to solve some kind of puzzle. Stiles didn’t know he was a puzzle that needed solving, so it didn’t surprise him when his father set his glass down, still eying him, and asked, “Who’s that? A friend from school?”

Stiles didn’t know how to answer that. Derek didn’t go to his school, so he wasn’t technically a friend from school. But, that being said, he’d met Derek while at school. So wasn’t he kind of a friend from school?

“Kind of,” he offered, because it was the best he could do.

His dad cocked an eyebrow at him, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “Kind of? What does that mean?”

Stiles shrugged. “It means kind of.”

He wasn’t trying to be vague, but it was obvious the sheriff didn’t like his answer, because he narrowed his eyes slightly. “Who is he?” he finally asked.

Stiles just shrugged again. “Oh, you know. Murdering chopy-chopy dude.”

It seemed to take his dad a moment to decipher that, lips moving while he repeated Stiles’ words before his eyebrows shot up. “What? The—” he cut himself off, like he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer, but then continued. “The person who texted you at the beginning of October? The wrong number?”

“Yup,” Stiles said, popping the ‘p’ loudly and drumming his hands on the table in front of him.

His dad was staring at him like he didn’t know what to say which, to be fair, made sense. After all, how many people kept in touch with a wrong number? Stiles was willing to bet not very many.

“You’re still texting?” the sheriff asked uncertainly.

Stiles shifted in his seat, bringing one foot up on the chair so he could rest his chin on his bent knee, one arm wrapping around his leg and the other hand playing with the fork beside his plate, eyes on what he was doing.

“Yup,” he said again.

There was another brief moment of silence. Then, “Why?”

His dad didn’t sound concerned, or angry, or even curious. He just sounded horribly and utterly confused.

“Why not?” Stiles shrugged one shoulder in response. Shrugging was just about the easiest way to answer any and all questions pertaining to his weird relationship with Derek. “I don’t know, he texted me by accident, the cops went to his house, and he sent me an angry text about the fact that I actually called the cops on him. After that, we just kind of... I don’t know.” He let his hand fall away from the table, wrapping his other arm around his folded leg and shifting his cheek onto his knee instead since it was hurting his chin. “I kept texting him, and he kept replying, so we just... became friends.”

The sheriff watched him for a long moment after that explanation, and Stiles was assuming he was about to get a lecture about Stranger Danger! when his dad just shook his head, let out a small chuckle, and reached for his water again.

“Only you could become friends with a wrong number, Stiles.”

“It’s my irresistible charm,” he teased.

His dad’s snort was uncalled for, but Stiles just gave him the most offended look he could muster and hoped he got his message across. Then he watched his dad for a moment, the man continuing to sip at his water, the two of them enjoying a comfortable moment of silence together. It felt like forever since he’d seen his dad, so even sitting with him doing nothing was a comfort.

He could feel his phone buzzing in his pocket, Derek obviously sending him new messages. Or maybe even Scott, Jackson or Lydia texting him about the plans for tomorrow. Apparently Allison couldn’t go, which was a bummer, but they didn’t know how often they’d all get to see one another so they had to take the time they could. Not that Stiles was ever lacking in his Scott and Jackson visits, considering, but still. It was different when Lydia and Allison were around.

Given the brief buzzes, he felt more inclined to believe it was Derek, and a soft smile forced itself onto his face. He knew it was already late for Derek, that he had a long day tomorrow—he’d already bitched at Stiles about how horrible Christmas was for him because of his ‘Christmas Nazi sister’—but he was still awake and texting with Stiles, as if he wasn’t ready to call it a night yet.

The smile slowly slid off his face when he thought about Derek and how much his chest warmed whenever they spoke. Shit, he really was developing a crush on him, and he didn’t really know anything about him!

Sure, he knew things about him, but not... he didn’t know what kind of person Derek was outside of how he was on the phone. What if he was some kind of peeping Tom or something? What if he was a thief? Or even a homewrecker or something?

He could look past a lot of things, but his dad was a cop, and Stiles didn’t want to have a crush and potentially get involved—laughable, but possible!—with someone that his dad wouldn’t approve of.

The oven beeped, letting him know the preheat was finished, but Stiles ignored that since he’d already shoved the potatoes in there. He just shifted his gaze to look at his dad, who was staring across the kitchen at the stove, clearly eager for his golden nuggets.

“Hey dad?”

“Hm?” He didn’t turn back to Stiles, eyes still on the potatoes in the oven, but he tilted his head to show he was listening.

Stiles licked his lips, rubbing his cheek a bit harder against his knee, and avoided looking over at the older man. “I know you can’t tell me anything. About him, I mean. Like, what you found when you looked him up after I sent you that text.”

He saw his dad turn to him in his peripheral, but he kept his eyes on the stove, not wanting to look over at his dad, honestly unsure of what he’d find.

“I know you can’t disclose anything,” he said again, “but just... he’s important to me.” It felt weird, admitting it out loud. But it was true. Derek was important to him in a way he shouldn’t have been. He’d helped Stiles stay calm during his bigger freakouts about his course load, he’d helped cheer him up when he’d been panicking about his fried laptop, he was always awake and around whenever Stiles texted him. Derek had become a staple in his life, someone he expected to just be there, same as Scott or Jackson.

And it was weird to realize that. He knew Derek wouldn’t be as high up the chain as Scott or Jackson, it was impossible given how long he’d known them versus Derek, but it was still surprising to discover that Derek was important to him. He mattered. If Derek stopped texting him tomorrow, Stiles would be...

Well, devastated, actually. He’d be devastated if Derek randomly stopped speaking to him.

“I really like him,” he admitted quietly, almost like saying the words aloud made them more true than they had been when they’d been in his head. “I just... need to know if that’s going to be a problem.” He glanced at his dad then, the other man watching him with his usual stellar poker face. “If there’s something there that’s going to make this a problem for you.”

His dad kept his poker face on for a long while, Stiles almost uncomfortable with how long it stuck around, but eventually it cracked a little and his father smiled, expression softening.

“You really do like this guy, huh?”

Stiles let out a small laugh, sitting up straight and raking one hand through his hair, the other still gripping his bent leg. “Yeah, I do,” he admitted. “He might be taken, I mean, we’ve never talked about that. I only just recently found out he was around my age. And he might even be straight, but I just—I don’t know. I feel like... I can still stop. I feel like where I’m at now, I can still take a step back if I need to. I just don’t want to get into anything, you know, more if you know something I don’t, and you end up vetoing my decision.”

The sheriff nodded slowly, conceding his point, and Stiles tightened his grip around his leg, already bracing for bad news. Maybe the guy liked to kill kittens or something. Maybe he was an arsonist. Maybe he had thousands of dollars in outstanding parking tickets! Who knew?

Well, his dad, which was why he’d asked.

“So...?” he prompted when the silence stretched on for too long.

After a moment longer of silence, the sheriff offered him a small smile. “So I think only you could become friends with a wrong number.”

He knew his dad couldn’t disclose anything he’d found out about Derek. Knew that, even though Stiles was his son, there were some lines he wasn’t allowed to cross as an officer of the law. Privacy breaches were a huge deal, and his dad was an honest man, so he knew he couldn’t expect him to tell him anything.

But those words only reaffirmed what Stiles had been hoping from the beginning. That Derek was a normal, almost boring person who owned a doggy daycare and had no imagination for pet names.

It was actually a huge relief, a weight lifted off Stiles’ shoulders that he hadn’t even realized he was holding. His hand touched his phone briefly through his jeans, and he was glad to know that, even if everything went to shit because Derek was in a relationship or straight or whatever, at least he knew he could pursue this and not worry about ending up in Derek’s drywall.

Death by drywall seemed like a shitty way to go.

“Thanks dad.”

“I didn’t say anything,” he insisted with a small, private smile, picking up his glass of water.

Stiles snorted. “Sure dad.”

“Get back to work before you burn my potatoes.”

“Rude, my potatoes are perfect!”


[Stiles]
I feel like I’m dyyiiiiiiiiiingggggggggg
[Stiles]
So fuuuuuuuuuuulllllllllll

[Derek]
can you die more quietly?
[Derek]
some of us are trying to sleep

Stiles rolled his eyes when he saw the response, his shirt half off and caught at his elbows since he’d been trying to finish taking it off and reaching for the phone at the same time. He determined he could only do one or the other, so he hastily got the shirt the rest of the way off and tossed it into his hamper.

He knew he technically shouldn’t put it in there, and should try and keep it separate from the rest of his clothes since he tended to wear a lot of colour and the shirt was white, but it was so old and faded he wasn’t too worried about any damage to it in the wash. It was basically half in the trash already.

Yanking his pants off next, he hopped on one foot to get his shoe off, since he hadn’t been smart enough to take it off before trying to yank off his pants. The action made his stomach hurt and he groaned, pausing once the shoe was off to settle his stomach.

Melissa had really gone all out this year, and Stiles was nothing if not a lover of all things edible. They always had Christmas with the McCalls, especially since sometimes the sheriff couldn’t get the day off, and sometimes Melissa couldn’t. It wasn’t unusual for Stiles to spend Christmas with Scott and his mother, or for Scott to spend it with Stiles and his dad.

Hell, there had been that one year in high school where Stiles and Scott had spent it together watching TV because both of their parents were working. That was the only downside to having a dad is law enforcement and a mom in the medical field. Crime and injury stopped for no one, so Stiles and Scott had both learned early on to appreciate the Christmases they could spend with their respective parent, and to enjoy the fact that they had a backup if they couldn’t.

This year had been good on both fronts, since both the sheriff and Melissa had been off. Melissa had offered to make the turkey so Stiles and his dad had tried to organize almost everything else. When they’d shown up, Melissa had made enough food to feed a small army, which meant the extra food Stiles and the sheriff had brought was well beyond the amount necessary for four people.

Still, the food was all so good it was worth the stomach ache Stiles now had. And he knew he and his dad would be making some turkey sandwiches tomorrow, not to mention they still had two pies.

He had no idea how they’d ended up with two pies, but he sure wasn’t complaining!

Once he got his roiling stomach under control, and both shoes off, Stiles kicked off his dress pants—since Christmas meant pictures and his dad insisted he had to look nice—and then grabbed his pyjamas to head for the bathroom.

He brought his phone with him, shutting the door and setting his pyjamas on the closed toilet lid. Before doing anything else, he replied to Derek, typing his reply quickly with a small smirk on his face before setting the phone on the counter and grabbing his toothbrush.

[Stiles]
Says the buy who literally replied not even a second after I sent my text :P
[Stiles]
*Guy
[Stiles]
How was your Christmas?
[Stiles]
Survive your Christmas Nazi sister?

[Derek]
somehow
[Derek]
usually my other sister is around to help buffer
[Derek]
but she went back with her boyfriend this year
[Derek]
so it was just me and laura

Stiles spat foam out and rinsed his mouth, eyes on the texts as they came in. He put his toothbrush back where it belonged, hastily dried his hands, then picked his phone back up to reply.

He’d heard Derek talk about his sister before, but he hadn’t realized he had two of them. Just another new thing he was learning about Derek. It was nice. He liked that Derek was opening up a bit more, especially the past week.

Stiles assumed it was because of the incessant texting. Sure, he texted him a lot while at school, but he still had classes and homework and his other friends. Here, if his dad was at work, Stiles literally sat on the couch with a movie playing in the background and spend the whole day texting with Derek. He’d been learning a lot about him in just the past few days.

Like the fact that he had a Christmas Nazi sister from hell. And now apparently that he had two sisters, one of whom had escaped the evil Christmas day that Derek had spent texting him off and on because he was ‘suffering and miserable,’ his own words.

[Stiles]
Was that okay?
[Stiles]
Your other sister skipping out, I mean

[Derek]
yeah
[Derek]
christmas is hard for us
[Derek]
laura gets it
[Derek]
our big family get together is usually thanksgiving
[Derek]
cora came out for that earlier this year

Stiles had relieved himself and was halfway into his pyjamas when he picked his phone back up, ignoring that his shirt was on backwards and his pants were slowly sliding down his hips since he hadn’t tied them off.

Thanksgiving. He remembered it fondly.

[Stiles]
Ah, yes
[Stiles]
I remember
[Stiles]
Your potatoes failed to impress

Derek had been livid because his sister had continuously commented on how she’d been expecting home-grown potatoes, and had instead been treated to regular store-bought potatoes.

The nerve of her brother!

Stiles had been cackling, Derek was so annoyed. Because, as Jackson had said all those months ago, it was the wrong time of year to be growing potatoes. Something Derek had neglected to look into when he’d been digging trenches in his yard and chopping potatoes in his kitchen at eleven o’clock at night.

And then texting a poor, innocent university student about burying chopped up pieces. Ah, the memories.

[Derek]
that was because of erica!
[Derek]
she was in charge of the potatoes!
[Derek]
she should have known october was too late for potatoes!

[Stiles]
Oh sure, blame the girl :P

[Derek]
whose side are you on??

[Stiles]
Erica’s, clearly :P

[Derek]
your funeral

Stiles grinned, finishing up in the bathroom and opening the door. He headed to his dad’s room, knocking on the ajar door before poking his head in. His dad leaned out of his own en suite bathroom, toothbrush in his mouth and already wearing his usual white T-shirt and boxers, ready for bed.

“Night dad. Merry Christmas.”

“Night Stiles,” he said around his toothbrush. “Love you.”

“Love you too, pops.” He moved back out of the room and shut his dad’s door behind him.

He texted Derek slowly while he walked, heading for the stairs to double-check the door was locked. He was sure his dad had checked, but they’d both been a little distracted from sore stomachs and too much sugar when they’d come home, so it was better to be safe than sorry.

[Stiles]
Hardee har
[Stiles]
Was Erica around during Christmas?

[Derek]
yeah for a bit

Stiles moved through the front hall, checked the deadbolt, then turned to head back upstairs, phone buzzing in his hand as Derek continued to text him.

He waited until he was back in his room before checking them, wanting to be able to give Derek his full attention. Shutting off the hall light, he closed his bedroom door, turned off his own light, then headed for his bed, falling onto it with a happy sigh and snuggling into his pillow, phone clutched tightly in one hand.

Man he missed his bed. This was the best of all beds. Probably because it was his, but that was neither here nor there.

Kicking at the covers to get under them, he pulled them up to mid-torso, then shifted onto his back once more and checked his messages, trying to ignore that it was almost midnight, meaning it was well past two in the morning for Derek right now.

And yet, still he texted.

[Derek]
she and my friend went to stay in a hotel
[Derek]
probably both for some privacy
[Derek]
and to escape my psychotic sister

[Stiles]
Fair :)
[Stiles]
You guys talk some more?
[Stiles]
About her moving in, I mean

[Derek]
yeah
[Derek]
we talked about it for a bit earlier in the week
[Derek]
we’ve decided to give it a shot
[Derek]
just waiting on her lease to end and she can move in

It took a few seconds for Stiles to realize why Derek’s text looked different. He was staring at the last few messages exceptionally hard, not sure he knew why his brain was having trouble with the words. It took entirely too long for him to clue in, and once he did, his mouth dropped open and he let out a loud bark of laughter.

[Stiles]
OMG!

[Derek]
??

[Stiles]
You used an APOSTROPHE!
[Stiles]
Who ARE you????

He was grinning from ear to ear, shocked and amazed that Derek had actually written ‘we’ve’ instead of ‘weve,’ as he was more prone to doing. It was like he was speaking to a completely different person! He was so proud, maybe he could convince Derek to capitalize things properly next.

Derek sent him back an eye-rolling emoji, followed by a smiley face.

[Derek]
merry christmas

[Stiles]
Fuck yeah!

[Derek]
now you owe me

“Oh I owe you now, do I?” Stiles asked with a lecherous grin. His mind instantly went somewhere perverted, but before he typed anything out, he forced himself to think that through. It was all fine and dandy in jest, but this was kind of a big deal.

Derek was using apostrophes. Stiles felt like he should be calling Jackson to flail excitedly about it, but he doubted Jackson would be appreciative.

If anything, he’d probably drive over and break Stiles’ phone.

[Stiles]
PFFFFFT!!!!
[Stiles]
I think my attempts at improving your GRAMMAR should be good enough

[Derek]
you owe me
[Derek]
where’s your holiday spirit?

[Stiles]
I’m surprised you have any :P
[Stiles]
Considering your sister :P

Stiles waited for a reply, but when none came, he figured he’d stumped Derek. That, or he’d fallen asleep. It wouldn’t be surprising, given the hour, but he could see dots appearing, like Derek was typing, and then disappearing again.

He figured it was one of those moments where Derek didn’t really know what to say, so he decided to show him mercy and moved the conversation along himself.

Besides, he wasn’t ready to say good night yet, even if that meant he was selfish for keeping Derek awake longer.

[Stiles]
So what do YOU want for Christmas then?

[Derek]
i’ll let you know when i think of it

[Stiles]
Yes sir :P

There was another brief bout of silence, but Stiles could see Derek typing. He didn’t seem to be typing and deleting it, so it looked like he’d written something out and just didn’t know whether or not to send it.

That, or he was writing Stiles a bedtime story.

When he finally got the text, it became clear it was the former.

[Derek]
you should sleep
[Derek]
it’s late
[Derek]
don’t you have plans tomorrow?

[Stiles]
Yup :)
[Stiles]
Another full day with my dad!
[Stiles]
I’m excited
[Stiles]
He works a lot so we don’t spend much time together
[Stiles]
I’m glad he got a few days off while I was home

[Derek]
sounds really nice

It occurred to Stiles that Derek often spoke about his sister, but he never brought up his parents. Even now, with Christmas, he mentioned his one sister being around, and his other being off with her boyfriend.

And during thanksgiving, his two sisters had been around—though he hadn’t realized at the time that it was two of them—but there had been no mention of his parents. He wondered about that, but didn’t think it was the right time to ask.

Not at almost midnight his time and almost three Derek’s time.

[Derek]
think of me fondly while you’re havinf fun
[Derek]
i’ll be at work

[Stiles]
You don’t close for the holidays?

[Derek]
a lot of people tend to go away
[Derek]
it’s leave their dogs in a kennel
[Derek]
or board them with me
[Derek]
since i bring them home with me at the end of the day when they’re boarding
[Derek]
people tend to prefer that

[Stiles]
That’s a lot of dogs.......
[Stiles]
How many do you have with you right now?

[Derek]
only four
[Derek]
five with wolf

Stiles tried to imagine a house with five dogs, and the idea honestly daunted him. Wolf was already huge, and while Derek hadn’t said what kind of dogs the others were, five was still a lot of dogs. Even for him, who loved all animals, he felt like that would be a bit much.

[Stiles]
Your friends don’t mind?

[Derek]
no they both love dogs
[Derek]
and it’s nicer than leaving them locked in a cage for the holidays
[Derek]
but i know tomorrow’s going to be hectic
[Derek]
people always want to hang out and go shopping on boxing day without worrying about their dogs
[Derek]
i’d rather they be at my work playing and having a good time
[Derek]
as opposed to being locked away at home

[Stiles]
That’s fair
[Stiles]
And nice :)
[Stiles]
You’re like the dog santa!
[Stiles]
No wonder your sister wanted you to wear the hat ;)

[Derek]
i hate that hat -.-

[Stiles]
Bet you’d look good in it ;)
[Stiles]
Wanna show me?

Stiles had hesitated before sending his last text, but once it was gone, he bit the inside of his cheek, wondering if maybe he could convince Derek to send him a picture. Sure, Stiles had never offered one up himself, but he was honestly really curious about what he looked like. He knew Derek had dark hair, and that he was buff, but other than that he couldn’t even picture him. Whenever he did in his head, it was always some random actor or even model. He didn’t have a description of him so he had to do the best with what he had.

If that meant thinking of Derek as Chris Hemsworth, well, he could only be so lucky.

Stiles tried not to be disappointed when the response came back. It had taken a while, which meant Derek had been chewing it over, but he wasn’t surprised by the answer.

[Derek]
no

[Stiles]
Spoilsport :P
[Stiles]
How’d you get into it, anyway?

[Derek]
the hat?

[Stiles]
LOL
[Stiles]
The JOB, dude
[Stiles]
How did you wake up and decide you wanted to open a doggy daycare?

[Derek]
i didn’t
[Derek]
i mean not originally
[Derek]
i went to school to be a vet
[Derek]
got through my four years of uni and had vet schools lined up for the fall
[Derek]
but when it came time to choose i kept putting it off
[Derek]
i wanted to work with animals
[Derek]
but i wasn’t really sure i wanted to deal with the heartache of having to give bad news to pet owners
[Derek]
or worse put a pet down
[Derek]
especially considering i had wolf by then
[Derek]
and i didn’t want a job where i’d spend all my time at work
[Derek]
it wasn’t fair to wolf
[Derek]
why have a dog if I wasn’t going to spend time with him?
[Derek]
so i started looking for options
[Derek]
didn’t really find anything
[Derek]
and then our neighbour had an emergency and needed someone to watch her dog for a few days
[Derek]
she knew I had wolf
[Derek]
and we’d chatted a few times
[Derek]
so she asked me if i would do it
[Derek]
i found i really liked it
[Derek]
when i mentioned it to laura in passing one night when we went out to dinner
[Derek]
she kind of put the idea in my head
[Derek]
we had the money for me to get a decent-sized space
[Derek]
and this way i could bring wolf to work with me
[Derek]
so it kind of just... took off
[Derek]
took some courses to get certified
[Derek]
submitted paperwork to incorporate my place of business
[Derek]
and within a year i owned a legal and fully functioning doggy daycare
[Derek]
it was a lot of work
[Derek]
but it was worth every second
[Derek]
and every penny
[Derek]
i love my job

The smile that was taking over his face was unexpected, but welcome. Derek sounded so passionate about what he did, and he seemed like such an amazing guy. He cared so much about his dog, and about making sure other people’s dogs were happy and loved. He honestly seemed like such an amazing person, and Stiles would be lucky to spend even five minutes in his presence.

He had to wonder how much money his family had that he could just opt out of continuing his education and buy a place to set up shop, but he’d already said he was ‘comfortable,’ and Stiles knew that Jackson could afford plane tickets almost twice a month, so it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

And the way Derek spoke, it sounded like business was booming. Which made sense, because anyone who loved and cared about their dog wouldn’t want to keep them locked up at home all day while they were at work. If there was an affordable doggy daycare closeby, owned by a guy who honestly loved dogs and would keep their pet happy during the day while they were busy with work, why wouldn’t they want to drop their dog off there?

It sounded like an amazing place. And an even better job.

Derek literally probably woke up with a smile on his face every morning.

[Stiles]
I feel like I would love that kind og job too
[Stiles]
You basically get to play with dogs all day
[Stiles]
Sounds like the best thing ever

[Derek]
yeah :)
[Derek]
you have any pets?

[Stiles]
Nah
[Stiles]
Always wanted one
[Stiles]
But it wasn’t really doable
[Stiles]
School and extra curriculars and stuff
[Stiles]
And with my dad’s job, it would be hard for anyone to take proper care of a dog
[Stiles]
We talked about getting a cat for a while
[Stiles]
But it fell by the wayside
[Stiles]
When I’m done school, I’ll probably look into it more seriously

[Derek]
what are you in school for?

Had they honestly never talked about that? He supposed not, usually it was just Stiles whining about his assignments, and bitching about having to take English courses. He’d taken English in high school, why the hell did he have to take more in university?

It was ridiculous. Unfair and ridiculous.

[Stiles]
Computer Sciences

[Derek]
like IT?

[Stiles]
Nah, IT is more like, hardware and maintaining networks and stuff
[Stiles]
Computer Sciences is all math, software design, algorithms, digital information, stuff like that
[Stiles]
Trust me
[Stiles]
If I was in IT
[Stiles]
I’d have been able to save my own harddrive back in November

[Derek]
true
[Derek]
sounds like a smart person major
[Derek]
and you’re on a scholarship right?
[Derek]
that’s really impressive

[Stiles]
Don’t be impressed yet!
[Stiles]
Still have to make it through four years of university!

[Derek]
i’m not worried
[Derek]
you’re a smart guy stiles :)

Stiles’ heart did something weird in his chest when he read that, and he suddenly felt like he was getting hot. His face was burning, and he didn’t know what to say to those words. And Derek used smiley faces very sparsely, so having one there... well, it meant something.

He didn’t know what, but it did.

Feeling a little flustered, and trying to ignore the warm, fuzzy feeling in his chest, he checked the time and found it to be the perfect excuse to dodge having to comment on Derek’s words.

[Stiles]
Isn’t it like, stupid late for you right now?

[Derek]
yeah

[Stiles]
You should sleep
[Stiles]
Sorry, I’m keeping you up

[Derek]
i don’t ind
[Derek]
*mind
[Derek]
i like talking to you

That was not helping. It was not helping at all.

[Stiles]
I like talking to you too :)
[Stiles]
But seriously
[Stiles]
You should sleep
[Stiles]
Me too, so I’m not dead on my feet tomorrow with dad

[Derek]
fair enough
[Derek]
good night stiles

[Stiles]
Night Derek!

Stiles waited to see if anything else was forthcoming, but when nothing else happened, he plugged his phone in and set it on his nightstand. Rolling onto his back, one arm thrown over his head and gaze on the darkened ceiling, Stiles tried to ignore the warmth spreading through his chest at Derek’s words.

He was so totally, royally fucked.


[Stiles]
Landed! \o/
[Stiles]
We’re back in the same time zone now :)

[Derek]
tragic
[Derek]
i was getting used to using sleep as an excuse to escape you

[Stiles]
Pretty sure the only person who’s been monitoring your sleep schedule with any real concerns is me.......

Stiles let out a startled exclamation when his arm was grabbed and he was wrenched to the side, narrowly avoiding walking into a partition. He grinned at Scott in thanks, his friend looking miserable and bleary-eyed, but otherwise fine.

They’d been on the last flight out of California, and while it wasn’t as late as the one they’d taken to head home, they’d been going back in time heading home. Now, they had jumped forward in time, and he knew it was going to hit both of them really hard.

Their flight had landed a little after three in the morning, and it was now almost half past. They still had to get their luggage, and catch a cab back to the dorm. By the time they got to bed, it’d be close to five in the morning, even though their internal clocks would be telling them it was only two.

Why were time zones a thing? He hated that they were a thing, it was annoying.

He kept his phone in his pocket at least until they hit baggage claim, Scott grabbing a cart even though they didn’t need one, and Stiles understood why a moment later because he parked it in front of him and then sat down on it. He looked terrible, and Stiles wondered if maybe he hadn’t slept much on the plane.

Stiles himself had been downing coffee almost the whole flight, and he’d literally felt like he was vibrating for a majority of it. Now that he was slowly coming down from his caffeine high, he knew when the drop hit, it would hit hard. He was hoping they were back on campus by then so he could just crash right away.

With Scott snoozing on the cart, Stiles pulled his phone back out while leaning against the handle, making sure it didn’t roll away with his best friend on it. He wouldn’t put it past someone to try and take Scott home as their luggage, his friend was adorable. Like a puppy.

[Derek]
why are you concerned about my sleep schedule?

[Stiles]
UHHHHH Because it’s 3:30am and you’re still awake???

[Derek]
so are you

[Stiles]
I just got off a plane!
[Stiles]
Doesn’t count!
[Stiles]
I would normally be unconscious right now
[Stiles]
Sweet, sweet slumber would be envelopping me in its arms!
[Stiles]
-squints-
[Stiles]
Enveloping?
[Stiles]
Envelopping?
[Stiles]
Does it have one p or two?

[Derek]
why don’t you ask your best friend autocorrect?

Stiles sent him the bird in response to that, then opened an email to type the word out. Apparently his phone hadn’t auto-corrected it, because it looked like it only had one ‘p,’ given the squiggly red line beneath it when he tried putting in two. He chalked his poor spelling up on sleep deprivation. After all, it was extremely late.

Though he did worry about why Derek was still up. A part of him honestly wondered if Derek had been waiting up for him to confirm he’d landed. Stiles had been bemoaning how much he hated flying while at the airport on the other side, and Derek had admitted that it always made him uncomfortable and nervous. He’d only been on a plane a handful of times, but whenever anyone he knew got on one, he got worried.

Stiles had repeated the statistic they’d all heard a million times, about how more people died in car accidents daily than on planes, but Derek had insisted the reason planes were so devastating was because it was hundreds of people at once. Of course car crashes had many fatalities, but it was just one or two people affected in that general time period, even if the number increased as the accidents continued throughout the day. With a plane, it was hundreds of people at once. Just all wiped out in one hit.

To be honest, Stiles had never really considered that before. He’d poked at Derek about being a worrywart, and had teasingly asked him if he needed a confirmation text upon his arrival. Derek had said, “That would be nice.”

Stiles hadn’t really known how to respond to that, so he’d changed the subject. And had promptly texted Derek the moment they were in the airport after landing. He knew he technically could’ve texted from the plane once they were on the tarmac heading for their gate, but he’d heard things about phones and planes so he figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

[Derek]
you headed back to the dorm now?

[Stiles]
Still waiting on our bags
[Stiles]
Scott’s passed out on a cart

[Derek]
roomie and best friend?

[Stiles]
Yup :)
[Stiles]
My Scottie McTottie :D

[Derek]
what?

[Stiles]
Scottie McTottie
[Stiles]
That’s his name in my phone

[Derek]
you’re an idiot

[Stiles]
Awww, don’t be jelly ;)
[Stiles]
I’ll have a nickname for you soon enough!

[Derek]
oh joy

Stiles glanced up when there was a loud beeping sound, the noise jolting Scott awake. He grumbled and tried to settle more comfortably, the cart jostling and inching backwards a bit so that Stiles began to lean a little. He pushed it forward once more so that it was back where it had been, leaning into it once more.

The conveyor belt for the carousel in front of them began to move, a loud grating noise emanating from it likely due to years of use and very little maintenance. Stiles didn’t bother keeping an eye on it, he knew his bag would take a while to show up, and they always started the conveyer long before they actually put any bags on it.

He had time with Derek.

[Derek]
what’s my name in your phone anyway?

[Stiles]
It used to be Bob ;P
[Stiles]
Now it’s Derek

[Derek]
how boring
[Derek]
i’d have expected better from you

[Stiles]
I haven’t figured out a nickname for you yet!
[Stiles]
We don’t have a THING

[Derek]
a thing?

[Stiles]
You know
[Stiles]
A THING O_O
[Stiles]
Like
[Stiles]
Scott is Scottie McTottie because he’s adorable, my best bud, and conveniently has a last name that starts with Mc
[Stiles]
Jackson’s Everybody’s Type because he insisted all through high school that he was exactly that
[Stiles]
My dad is The Sheriff, for obvious reasons
[Stiles]
Lydia is My Queen, because she legitimately IS my queen
[Stiles]
Allison is Badass Alleycat because she is the baddest of asses and I tend to call her Alleycat IRL

[Derek]
lydia your girlfriend?

[Stiles]
Just gotta wait for me to figure one out for you
[Stiles]
Otherwise, if you rush me, you’ll just be Potato Man and that’s boring

“Huh,” Stiles said with a small smile. It was interesting that, of all the things he’d said, the one that Derek had focussed on was Lydia. He tried not to get too excited, because it honestly could’ve just been genuine curiosity, but his heart was already pounding in his chest in anticipation.

This was so bad. Damn Derek and his stupid, adorkably ridiculous texts! Stiles did not fall for people without meeting them, how had this happened?!

[Derek]
i will disown you if you call me potato man

[Stiles]
HEAVENS NO! D:
[Stiles]
Whatever will I DO without my Daddy?
[Stiles]
;) ;) ;)
[Stiles]
Damn, maybe I should call you that
[Stiles]
Daddy Derek ;)
[Stiles]
You gonna spank me if I misbehave?

[Derek]
i’d happily bend you over my knee
[Derek]
if it got you to shut up every now and then

[Stiles]
Kinky ;)

[Derek]
but i doubt your girlfriend would like that

“Huh,” Stiles said again, a bit more emphatically. There was a genuine grin trying to take over his face now, because interesting. Derek was bringing that up again because Stiles hadn’t answered the first time. That was very interesting, and while he didn’t want to get his hopes up, he was willing to take this as a good sign.

He print-screened it and sent it to Jackson, asking for his expert opinion since Scott was too busy being unconscious to offer any insight. Jackson was still flying though so Stiles would have to wait for him to land before he got an answer.

[Stiles]
:O OMG YOU CAN SEE HER TOO?!
[Stiles]
I TOLD Scott she was real!
[Stiles]
He kept insisting I was imagining things
[Stiles]
Like I’m lame enough to have an imaginary girlfriend pffft
[Stiles]
CLEARLY everyone is trying to climb me like a tree

[Derek]
it’s almost four in the morning
[Derek]
maybe tone down on the sarcasm so i can keep up

Stiles looked up when the loud thud of a bag hitting the edge of the carousel met his ears and he looked over to see that the luggage was beginning to come through. It was a good thing, too. As much as he loved speaking to Derek, he was so exhausted he honestly didn’t think he was going to last much longer.

He leaned more heavily on the cart, Scott’s feet planted on the floor the only reason they didn’t roll forward too much. He raised his phone a bit so he could reply while still keeping his line of sight higher up to notice when his bag came out. It was bright red, so he wasn’t exactly going to miss it. Scott’s was generic and looked like everyone else’s so it’d probably go around the track a bazillion times before either of them noticed it.

Not that Scott was noticing anything, considering his Rip Van Winkle impersonation.

[Stiles]
Sorry, too much for your poor brain? :P
[Stiles]
Lydia’s just a friend
[Stiles]
Jackson’s ex-girlfriend, actually
[Stiles]
From before he came out as gay
[Stiles]
He’s got a boyfriend now
[Stiles]
Who is an identical twin
[Stiles]
I almost laughed myself unconscious when Lydia sent me a picture of HER new boyfriend
[Stiles]
Because he looked identical to JACKSON’s boyfriend

[Derek]
really?
[Derek]
small world

[Stiles]
No kidding :)
[Stiles]
Sadly, no girlfriend or boyfriend for me
[Stiles]
I am the forever perpetual fifth wheel
[Stiles]
Scott and Ally ised to date
[Stiles]
Jackson and Lydia used to date
[Stiles]
Fifth wheel
[Stiles]
Everyone broke up
[Stiles]
(Bad terms for Scott and Ally, worse for Jackson and Lydia, but they’re all cool now)
[Stiles]
Now we’re all in uni
[Stiles]
Ally’s got a hot Australian boyfriend
[Stiles]
Jackson and Lydia bagged a set of twins
[Stiles]
Scott’s basicallt dating a girl he met at a party
[Stiles]
(He says they’re only FWB but feelings are developing on both sides so it’s not really just sex anymore)
[Stiles]
And me
[Stiles]
Alone
[Stiles]
Perpetual fifth wheel \o/

[Derek]
i think you’re technically the ninth wheel in this scenario
[Derek]
considering
[Derek]
unless you just really suck at math

[Stiles]
Of fuck you!
[Stiles]
***OH!

He caught red out of the corner of his eye and hastily shoved his phone back into his pocket, moving around the cart to check if it was his bag. He really hoped Scott didn’t just roll away unconscious on that thing.

Stiles had to squeeze between a bunch of people who were taking up residence right up against the carousel like they worried someone would try and steal their bags. He managed to make it through in time for the red bag to pass by, but it wasn’t his. Too dark red, though he did notice a much brighter one coming down the line.

He waited where he was, ignoring the huffing dude behind him who was acting like he could get out of the airport faster if only Stiles would move—nevermind the asshole had to wait for his bag—and when the other red bag approached him, Stiles snatched it up.

Double-checking the tag to be sure it was truly his bag, which it was, he went back to the cart and dropped it behind Scott. The jarring motion jerked him awake again and he turned his bleary-eyed gaze towards Stiles.

Stiles just winked and offered a smile, which earned him a scowl. Scott faced forward again, then leaned back against Stiles’ bag, using it as a back-rest and crossing his arms, clearly ready to go back to sleep. Scott was great company, evidently.

He tried to keep an eye out for Scott’s bag, but every other bag looked exactly like it so he figured he’d wait a bit for the options to dwindle and then try his luck when there were less bags.

And people.

At least he had a Derek for entertainment, given Scott was severely lacking in that department.

[Derek]
we’re the opposite in my house
[Derek]
boyd’s the only one in a relationship
[Derek]
isaac and i are lone wolves

“Nice,” Stiles said with a small smile, but he didn’t type that.

[Stiles]
No one of interest?
[Stiles]
Or are you just not looking right now?

[Derek]
not a priority for me
[Derek]
if it happens it happens
[Derek]
but i’m not going out every friday looking for a hookup

[Stiles]
Nope!
[Stiles]
You’re planting potatoes in your backyard and texting random strangers about hacked up body parts :P

[Derek]
can’t say i’m too disappointed about that mishap

Was it getting hotter in the airport? Stiles felt like he was getting warm, like the air around him was suddenly scalding. He pulled at the front of his coat, trying to get a bit more air, but he knew it wasn’t about the heat of the airport. He wasn’t an idiot, much as he sometimes pretended to be.

He knew he and Derek spoke a lot before the holidays, but he felt like ever since he’d gone home and spent so much more time texting with him, something had shifted. Stiles borderline flirted with him, and Derek flirted back. And even now, he was admitting he wasn’t upset about the fact that he and Stiles were friends.

He really hoped he wasn’t reading into this too much. They hadn’t ever spoken about orientation, or even anything in the realm of relationships until today, but Stiles had admitted no girlfriend or boyfriend, and Derek hadn’t batted an eye. And when Stiles had teased him about the spanking, Derek had gone along with it.

On top of that, Derek had asked not once, but twice if Lydia was his girlfriend. Not so directly the second time, but it was clear that he wanted an answer as to whether or not Stiles was taken. Coupling that with the fact that Derek was only twenty-three, and hot damn Stiles was liking these odds.

[Stiles]
Me too :)
[Stiles]
Lucky for you, I’m pretty stubborn :P

[Derek]
lcuky for you i sometimes get bored at work

[Stiles]
How can you POSSIBLY get bored surrounded by ADORABLENESS?

Derek took a while to reply, but Stiles understood why when the next message came. It was a photo, and it was clear Derek had obviously been struggling to take it for a while. It showed the top of Wolf’s head, and based on where Derek’s arms were, it was very evident that the huge dog was lying on top of Derek, probably crushing him under its weight.

[Derek]
less adorable when it’s trying to suffocate you on a nightly basis

[Stiles]
You must be an AMAZING mattress
[Stiles]
You keep sending me pictures of your dog lying on top of you

Stiles hesitated, then said, “YOLO!” fairly loudly before sending another message.

[Stiles]
Wolf’s a lucky guy

The second the words were on the screen, he panicked and hastily closed his messages, shoving his phone into his pocket. Why had he done that? Sure, they were flirting and joking, but they were going a little far now. And Stiles hadn’t even used an emoticon after it! Derek would know he was, at the very least, semi-serious! Which was terrible because Stiles was completely serious! But he didn’t want Derek to know that!

He managed to wait all of ten seconds before wrenching his phone from his pocket again, checking for a reply. He didn’t have one, and he cursed, shoving it back into his pocket. Maybe he could still send a smiley? No, it was too late, too much time had passed, it’d be weird.

Like if he’d asked someone out and once they’d rejected him, he followed up with, “Just kidding!” Derek wasn’t an idiot, he’d know it was just Stiles trying to backtrack.

“Shit,” he muttered, biting at his thumbnail. “Shit, shit, shit.” He needed to pump the brakes a little. Casual flirting and joking around was fine, but if he started taking things too seriously, he was liable to scare Derek off.

Or worse: ruin what he considered to be an amazing friendship.

Seriously, who in their right mind kept a conversation going with a wrong number for three months? This had to be unprecedented! They were clearly two peas in a pod here.

He tried not to dwell on it, fingers itching to pull his phone back out, but he managed to resist, eyes locked on the suitcases going around in circles. To occupy himself, he moved forward and began checking tags since there were less people, and less bags. Eventually, he hit one with ‘McCall’ on the baggage tag and he pulled it off the carousel, checking the address label and seeing Scott’s name and home address back in Beacon Hills.

Bringing it back to the cart, he kicked at Scott’s closest foot, his friend grunting and peeking open one eye.

“Come on, let’s go before I have to carry you out of here.”

Scott just grunted and got to his feet, stretching with a groan and yawning. Stiles got his suitcase onto the cart and then moved to manoeuvre it towards the exit. Scott shuffled along behind him, the two of them moving slowly given the hour and exhaustion. The taxi lineup was relatively short, which was good because the cold winter air of New York was like a slap in the face, and Stiles felt wide awake all over again.

They waited for about ten minutes, getting colder by the second—and grumpier—until it was finally their turn for the next cab. The guy was nice, exiting quickly to help them haul their bags into the trunk, and once they were in the back seat and relative warmth of the cab, Scott rested his head on Stiles’ shoulder again and tried to go back to sleep, Stiles giving the cabbie their dorm address.

Considering the hour, the driver was actually really chatty. Stiles didn’t mind, it was keeping his mind occupied so he wasn’t obsessively thinking about the text he’d sent. It was only about half an hour from LaGuardia to NYU on a good day, but given the light traffic and fairly good weather conditions for this time of year, they made it back to the dorm in just under twenty.

Stiles had to shove Scott awake again, his friend having drooled on his shoulder. He paid the cabbie while Scott struggled to get out of the car, still mostly asleep so that he forgot to undo his seatbelt and Stiles had to undo it for him. Once they were out and had their bags with them, they thanked the driver and headed for their dorm.

Realistically, the smart thing to do would’ve been for Stiles to look for his keys while he was in the car, but he didn’t think of it so they stood outside for a few seconds while he and Scott both dug in their bags to find their access cards. Stiles found his first and swiped them into their dorm, the two of them trudging tiredly towards their dorm room.

Once the door was open, Scott didn’t even consider brushing his teeth. He just put his bag against the wall on his side of the room, stripped out of his clothes, and fell onto his bed in his boxers, yanking his blankets up around himself and passing out within seconds.

Stiles, at least, managed to get his bag open so he could go to the bathroom to take a leak and brush his teeth. When he got back to his room, he pulled his phone charger out, plugging it back in where he could easily access it from his bed and getting his phone from his pocket to plug it in. He stripped quickly, made a mess of his suitcase finding his pyjamas, and then checked the lock on their door before crawling into bed.

It wasn’t until he turned off the lamp by his bed that his phone screen lit back up, showing messages. He hesitated, worried about what they said, but it’d be a dick move to go to sleep without saying anything to Derek. He’d probably passed out by now, anyway. Stiles had been quiet for a while.

Sighing, and trying not to feel too worried about what he might find, he pulled the phone over and unlocked it, scrolling to his messages.

[Derek]
erica would disagree
[Derek]
she says boyd and i suck as pillows because we’re too hard
[Derek]
she prefers leaning against isaac
[Derek]
he whines about being flabby even thoughhe’s not
[Derek]
he doesn’t hit the gym as often as boyd and i do
[Derek]
but his legs are insane
[Derek]
you make it back to the dorm yet?
[Derek]
did you pass out on me?

Stiles was kind of relieved Derek had taken it in stride, though also mildly disappointed he hadn’t flirted back. Maybe he’d been reading into this too much and it was nothing. Which would suck, but he was just happy having Derek around period. If it was as friends, they already were friends, so he didn’t need anything more.

He hadn’t started their conversations expecting anything out of this. Friendship was already surprising. A relationship was ridiculous. He was being stupid.

[Stiles]
Sorry
[Stiles]
Bags came so we got into a cab and I had to babysit an unconscious Scott
[Stiles]
Back in my room now :)
[Stiles]
All snuggly under my covers
[Stiles]
I forgot how cold it was here :(

[Derek]
welcome to new york
[Derek]
glad you made it back safely

[Stiles]
Thanks :D
[Stiles]
I’m ready to pass out
[Stiles]
You should sleep too

[Derek]
yup
[Derek]
have a good night stiles

[Stiles]
Night Derek!

Stiles waited to see if Derek would say anything else, but when he didn’t, he put his phone back down, rolled onto his side with his back to Scott, and closed his eyes.

He didn’t know how long he slept, but not nearly long enough. But with the holidays coming to an end, the corridor was a flurry of activity with people coming back from vacation and the students who’d stayed behind used to being alone and thus being louder than usual. He woke up a few times throughout the morning, grumbling and rolling over, using his pillow to try and block out some of the noise. Eventually, he gave up trying to sleep and figured he should face the day. He didn’t want to fuck over his schedule too much, anyway.

Sitting up and raking one hand through his hair, he picked up his shoe and tossed it at Scott, the other grunting and batting at nothing, like he thought Stiles was right beside him. He rolled over, using his blankets to cover his head, and Stiles figured it’d take him a while to wake up fully.

Yawning and stretching, he got to his feet, picking up his second shoe and tossing it closer to Scott’s head.

“Get up. Food. Coffee.”

“No,” Scott whined.

“Kira.”

There was silence for a moment, and then grumbling, Scott throwing the covers off himself and glaring over at Stiles. He just smirked in response, since he knew Kira was back from her holidays already and they could go and meet her for breakfast.

Lunch?

He picked up his phone to check the time, but got distracted when he saw a text from Jackson instead, evidently his response to the print-screen he’d sent him. Opening his messages, he read through them, and smiled.

[Stiles]
Thoughts on what this looks like?

[Everybody’s Type]
a disgusting display of flirting
[Everybody’s Type]
congratulations, someone wants to bone you
[Everybody’s Type]
don’t put out unless he’s worth it
[Everybody’s Type]
and if he thinks about touching you without my approval, I’ll break his balls

[Stiles]
Love you too, Jackson <3


[Stiles]
Do you rent out Wolf?
[Stiles]
Like, if I paid you $10 an hour
[Stiles]
Can I have him for an hour?

[Derek]
...
[Derek]
???

[Stiles]
Those aren’t words

[Derek]
why are you trying to steal my dog?

[Stiles]
I literally JUST said I’d pay $10 an hour for him
[Stiles]
Not stealing

[Derek]
why are you trying to pay for an hour with my dog?

[Stiles]
I need something to cuddle with :(
[Stiles]
I am seriously stressing out
[Stiles]
And feel like I need a hug
[Stiles]
Or something super soft and cuddly

To say this semester was harder than the last would be an understatement. Stiles felt like he was barely keeping up with most of his assignments, and he had two midterms coming up on the same day. He was convinced the professors were all out to get him. They wanted him to fail and lose his scholarship because they were assholes, he just knew it!

Scott disagreed, but that was because they weren’t taking any of the same courses barring Old English Literature. He was also still smarting over Scott having cruised through first semester with three B’s and two C’s. Stiles was working his ass off to maintain his GPA, and he felt like he was missing out on the whole university experience because he spent more time in the library than out having fun.

Sure, he had plans to party after this next bout of midterms, but Scott went out almost all the time. It was frustrating, because he didn’t like thinking he was going to live vicariously through Scott for the four years they spent at NYU together. Childish as it was, it wasn’t fair that Scott could barely pass his courses and still stick around, whereas Stiles would get kicked out at even a hint of a B grade.

He knew that wasn’t entirely accurate, considering it was his GPA as a whole that was reviewed, but still! One bad grade could yank down his entire average. And he was really struggling to finish this assignment right now, which wasn’t helped by the fact that he was fucking starving and exhausted.

[Derek]
if you’re just looking to cuddle you can borrow him for free
[Derek]
but i have to warn you
[Derek]
he and his owner are a package deal

[Stiles]
As long as his owner is okay with cuddles

[Derek]
considering his dog uses him as a mattress
[Derek]
i think having a human use him as a mattress for a change would be a step up

Stiles smiled a little at those words, tapping lightly at the edge of his phone, thinking on what to respond with.

The flirting and innuendos had increased over the past month since his return from Beacon Hills. The problem with texting was that it was hard to tell if it was all in jest, or if Derek was serious. Stiles himself was semi-serious most of the time, but he felt like he was pretty open and obvious with how he felt. Derek was harder to read, because sometimes Stiles didn’t know if he brushed something off because he misunderstood, or because he was actively choosing not to acknowledge it.

[Stiles]
I’d probably get more sleep with a human heater and a dog, tbh

[Derek]
heat in your dorm still out?

[Stiles]
UGH
[Stiles]
Yeeeeeeeees :( :( :( :(
[Stiles]
Scott’s beeing staying with Kira in hers
[Stiles]
Leaving me to freeze to death
[Stiles]
My toes were toesicles this morning :(
[Stiles]
And it makes it hard to do homework in the dorm

[Derek]
you’re usually in the library anyway

[Stiles]
When Scott’s in the room, yeah
[Stiles]
But when he’s not, I’d rather be in the room
[Stiles]
I’m also starving

[Derek]
you haven’t eaten??
[Derek]
it’s almost ten!

[Stiles]
Probably explains why my stomach has started eying my spine with interest

[Derek]
go get food!

Stiles let out a loud whine, because going to get food at this hour meant he’d have to trudge through the cold to get to the McDonalds near the edge of campus. Then again, he’d also have to trudge back to the dorm, so it wasn’t like he was going to be able to hole up in the library all night.

Maybe he could head back to the dorm, grab the Jeep, and then go to McDonalds. The heater in the Jeep wasn’t great, but it would keep him relatively warm, and this way he could get food without having to walk twice as far in the cold weather.

And he really did need food. McDonalds wasn’t exactly the most nutritional, but it was the only place he could think of.

The only thing that sucked was that if he left the library to get food, he’d eventually have to come back since he wouldn’t get any work done in his freezer of a room. He didn’t want to leave and come back, he wanted to eat and work on his homework in warmth at the same time.

[Derek]
yur silence better be because you’re backing up to get food!
[Derek]
*packing

[Stiles]
I’m thinking
[Stiles]
Everything’s closed except for McDonalds
[Stiles]
I don’t really want McDonalds...

[Derek]
the ihop is still open

Stiles let out a small gasp. “Oh my God, pancakes for dinner, yes!”

He hadn’t even thought of IHOP! And this late on a Thursday, he felt like it would be relatively deserted. It was too late for regular dinner, and too early for the drunks. He could go, set up his laptop, order food, and keep working on his assignment! Brilliant!

[Stiles]
Fuck yeah pancakes!
[Stiles]
Ugh, but now I have to trudge back to the dorm
[Stiles]
To get my car
[Stiles]
I don’t wannaaaaaaaa

[Derek]
the faster you get bck to the dorm
[Derek]
the sooner you get pancakes

“Evil,” Stiles muttered, and texted as much to Derek before conceding defeat. His stomach was winning in the battle of stubbornness. If he wanted to keep his spine—and other various tasty-looking body parts—he needed to get some food into his belly.

Packing away his things, he pulled his coat back on and whined to himself while heading up the stairs from his usual location in the stacks. When he exited the library, it was just as cold and dark as he remembered, and he let out another pathetic sound before wrapping his coat more tightly around himself.

He moved quickly across campus, dodging a group of students having a random snowball fight despite it being relatively dark. He almost got hit by a stray ball and picked up the pace, not needing the added cold. He was but a fragile Californian! He was not built for this kind of weather! Why had he thought New York was a good idea?!

His teeth were chattering by the time he reached the Jeep, and he climbed into it quickly, shoving his laptop bag onto the passenger seat and then slamming the car door quickly, starting the car and blowing into his hands while he waited for the heater to kick on.

Stiles knew it wouldn’t warm up all the way, given the Jeep was older than he was, but he waited until he could at least feel his fingers again before shifting into drive and backing out of his spot. He idled at the exit of the outdoor lot for a few seconds, checking Google Maps on his phone for the IHOP’s address and then dropping it into the cup holder before turning on his signal and easing onto the road.

There were hardly any cars on campus during usual hours, so he literally saw only one other vehicle the entire drive through campus. The IHOP was barely off campus, on fourteenth street, and he parked in the almost empty lot with a grin. There were only two other cars there, which meant he’d have the whole place almost to himself.

He rushed to the door with his laptop, brushing his hand through his hair since it had started to snow again during his drive and he got flakes all over himself in the mad dash to the front entrance.

A bored-looking waitress greeted him and motioned for him to take his pick, grabbing a menu for him. He headed for one of the closer booths so she wouldn’t have to walk too far back and forth and she set the menu down in front of him, turning the mug right-side up on the table and moving to grab the coffee.

“Did you want anything else to drink?” she asked while pouring his cup, Stiles working on getting the strap off from around his shoulder.

“Can I also grab a water?”

“Sure.”

“Is it okay if I set up my laptop?” He figured it would be polite to ask, but she just shrugged in response, so he took it as an affirmative and pulled it out, setting it up on the far end of the table so that he could sit on one side for food, and slide across to the other side to work.

He got it booted up while shrugging out of his coat, but grabbed the menu before doing anything else, eyes perusing all the options. He knew he definitely wanted pancakes, but he also wanted something kind of salty. Sweet and salty was by far the best combination, and the more he eyed all the different sides, the more things he wanted.

When the waitress came back with his water, he figured he should order before he decided on too much. His eyes were bigger than his stomach, and he didn’t want to get sick. He wouldn’t get any work done if he got sick!

“I’m actually ready to order,” he said when the waitress started to turn away.

She pulled her pad out of her apron, grabbing the pen from her bun and pressing it to the paper. “What’ll it be?” She sounded like she would rather be anywhere but there.

Stiles felt kind of bad, but figured he’d leave her a nice tip. Hopefully it’d make up for the clearly shitty night she was going to have when the drunks started showing up later.

“Can I get the cupcake pancakes with a side of hashbrowns, bacon and turkey sausage patties? It’s two patties, right?”

“Yes sir,” she confirmed, eyes on her pad while she wrote. “Anything else?”

“That’s good for now, thanks. And uh, pretend I have a coffee IV, just keep it coming.”

She actually managed a tiny smile at that. “Will do.”

“Thanks.”

When she headed off with his order, he shifted to the far end of the booth where his computer was, but pulled his phone out before doing anything else, opening his messages with Derek again.

[Stiles]
I am not at IHOP
[Stiles]
*now
[Stiles]
It is warm
[Stiles]
I have coffee
[Stiles]
And I just ordered pancakes for dinner
[Stiles]
I’m living the dream

[Derek]
as long as you get food in you
[Derek]
when did you last eat?

[Stiles]
idk like, 3 this afternoon?

[Derek]
don’t do that
[Derek]
you’re going to make things worse if you starve yourself

[Stiles]
I didn’t really MEAN not to eat
[Stiles]
I lost track of time
[Stiles]
And then I got cold ;~;

[Derek]
well i’m glad you’re getting food

[Stiles]
:D
[Stiles]
Did YOU eat? O_O

[Derek]
hours ago
[Derek]
although

Stiles had started working on his assignment once more while waiting for Derek’s response. When he got ten minutes in with nothing new coming through from Derek, he frowned at his phone and picked it up, wondering if something was wrong with it.

He determined it was fine, which meant Derek had been about to say something, and had promptly changed his mind.

[Stiles]
Although??

[Derek]
nothing

[Stiles]
OOOOOOOOOH NOOOOOOO
[Stiles]
You don’t get to ‘although’ me
[Stiles]
And then say ‘NEVERMIND’!

[Derek]
i didn’t say nevermind
[Derek]
i said nothing

[Stiles]
Don’t be a smartass!
[Stiles]
Although what?
[Stiles]
Tell me!

[Derek]
no

[Stiles]
TELL MEEEEE!
[Stiles]
Tell me tell me tell me
[Stiles]
Derek
[Stiles]
TEEEEELLL MEEEEEEEEEEE
[Stiles]
I am not good with suspense!
[Stiles]
Come onnnnn!
[Stiles]
Please?
[Stiles]
Prettu please?
[Stiles]
Pretty pretty PRETTY please???

[Derek]
you’re annoying
[Derek]
i have no idea why i put up with you

[Stiles]
Because you’re MADLY in love with me
[Stiles]
Clearly ;)

Stiles expected Derek to send an eye-rolling emoji, or to deny it somehow, or to pass it off as a joke, call him annoying, whatever. He’d gone back to his assignment, downing his coffee and smiling in thanks at the waitress when she came to refill it, and ignored his buzzing phone for a few minutes because he was trying to get some work done and Derek was extremely distracting.

Like, always distracting. The best distraction ever. He did wonders for Stiles’ procrastination.

When he was at a good break after a few minutes of working, he picked his phone back up while taking a sip of his coffee, and froze. Not only had Derek not denied Stiles’ statement, but his words had Stiles’ heart pounding in his chest.

[Derek]
i’m not far from the ihop you’re at
[Derek]
i was thinking of heading out there
[Derek]
you know
[Derek]
just because
[Derek]
that’s a dumb idea
[Derek]
forget it
[Derek]
i shouldn’t have said anything
[Derek]
i was just tinkng
[Derek]
doesn’t matter

[Stiles]
NONONONONONONONO
[Stiles]
OMG NO!
[Stiles]
I was working on my assignment!
[Stiles]
DUDE! Come to IHOP!
[Stiles]
For real, come to IHOP!
[Stiles]
You can distract me in person for a change :D
[Stiles]
Do you want something?
[Stiles]
I can order for you!

Stiles ran a hand self-consciously through his hair and looked down at what he was wearing. Not his best outfit, but he was also just a university student. Jeans and graphic tees were kind of the norm, weren’t they? But how old was this shirt?

He tried to subtly get a whiff of himself. He smelled okay, he was pretty sure. Couldn’t tell about his breath, but he was about to eat so maybe the pancakes and other food would mask any halitosis.

Shit, why hadn’t he considered that maybe Derek would want to come by and hang out with him at IHOP?! Probably because the idea seemed fucking insane, but holy shit, he was about to meet Derek!

He was both thrilled and terrified, because he had no idea what to expect. What if Derek wasn’t the same in real life? Oh God, what if he was smoking hot, and got one look at Stiles and turned tail to flee?! Shit, fuck!

Stiles jumped when his phone buzzed in his hand, and he hastily read the message before deflating slightly.

[Derek]
right i forgot you’re still doing homework
[Derek]
probably best i leave you to it
[Derek]
texting is distracting enough
[Derek]
and you’re already stressed

[Stiles]
This isn’t because of my long silence, right? :(
[Stiles]
I swear I was working
[Stiles]
Please please come

[Derek]
sorry
[Derek]
some other time
[Derek]
maybe after your midterms or something
[Derek]
we should meet up eventually anyway
[Derek]
it’d be nice to meet you in person
[Derek]
see what kind of moron thinks i’m burying bodies in my yard

Stiles was supremely disappointed, but he tried not to be too down about it. Derek was right, anyway. If he showed up and sat across from him, Stiles knew he wouldn’t get any work done, because it would be so weird having him right there!

He just really hoped it wasn’t because it had taken him too long to reply to the message, and now he was kicking himself for having let it sit for so long.

[Stiles]
I’m serious
[Stiles]
You know that right?
[Stiles]
I want you to come

[Derek]
i know
[Derek]
but you’re doing homework
[Derek]
after midterms
[Derek]
we’ll grab a coffee or something

[Stiles]
Promise?

[Derek]
are you 5?

[Stiles]
19, so close :P

[Derek]
yes stiles
[Derek]
i promise
[Derek]
when you’re done your midterms
[Derek]
and have a break
[Derek]
we’ll grab a coffee

[Stiles]
I’m holding you to that!

Stiles set his phone aside when the waitress came back with his pancakes, but he didn’t get much homework done that night. Every time his phone buzzed, he checked it immediately to see if Derek had changed his mind and was going to come out to IHOP.

Sadly, he spent the entire evening alone with the waitress, all the way until the drunks started coming in, and then he finally went back to the dorm.


[Derek]
are you awake?

Stiles’ head jerked up off his pillow, eyes open to slits while he fumbled for his phone, pulling it closer and squinting at the bright screen. He frowned when he saw the message, ignoring Scott’s incoherent mumbling in the next bed, and unplugged his phone. Rolling onto his back, he swiped to his messages from the home screen, catching sight of the time—just after four—and then tapped on Derek’s name.

[Stiles]
an biw
[Stiles]
wow
[Stiles]
*am now

[Derek]
sorry
[Derek]
didn’t mean to wake you

[Stiles]
you didn’t

[Derek]
you always text like that when you’re sleepy
[Derek]
or drunk
[Derek]
are you drunk?

[Stiles]
I wish

[Derek]
srry
[Derek]
*sorry
[Derek]
go back to sleep

[Stiles]
nono
[Stiles]
it’s cool
[Stiles]
I’m up now
[Stiles]
what’s going on?

Stiles stared through bleary eyes at the three dots denoting Derek was typing and let out a long, slow breath. Gripping his phone tightly in one hand, he raised both arms over his head and pointed his toes, stretching with a loud groan before settling once more, dropping his phone on his chest, still gripping it tightly in one hand.

He closed his eyes for a few seconds, then forced them back open, because he knew he’d fall right back to sleep. He didn’t mind the wake-up, it was Saturday—well, Sunday, considering the time—so he could sleep in the following morning. And he always bugged Derek at all hours, so it was only fair for Derek to be allowed to do the same.

[Derek]
sorry for waking you
[Derek]
i just wanted to talk
[Derek]
tried going for a walk to clear my head
[Derek]
but it didn’t help any
[Derek]
you were the only person i wanted to talk to right now
[Derek]
should’ve thought about the time
[Derek]
seriously go back to sleep
[Derek]
it’s fine

“Oh no you don’t,” Stiles muttered, groaning and sitting up, twisting on his bed so he was leaning back against the wall, his blankets twisted around his legs and waist. He grabbed his pillow to shove it behind himself, a buffer between him and the cool wall behind him, and then typed back.

[Stiles]
Derek
[Stiles]
It’s fine
[Stiles]
I text you all the time
[Stiles]
And you obviously have something on your mind
[Stiles]
What’s going on?

[Derek]
just wanted to talk
[Derek]
about anyting i guess
[Derek]
how did you do on your assignment?
[Derek]
we didn’t talk about that earlier

[Stiles]
92%

[Derek]
that’s amazing!
[Derek]
you’re really impressive stiles

[Stiles]
Thanks
[Stiles]
You said you went for a walk
[Stiles]
How’s the weather?

[Derek]
still cold
[Derek]
but i grew up here
[Derek]
so it’s fine for me
[Derek]
you’d have whined

[Stiles]
I do whine a lot
[Stiles]
You take Wolf with you?

[Derek]
yeah
[Derek]
he wouldn’t have let me go alone
[Derek]
he was whining while I was putting on my shoes

[Stiles]
Awwww, he loves yoy :3

Derek didn’t say anything to that, and Stiles frowned. Something was obviously bothering him, but Derek so rarely spoke about personal things. Of course, in the past five months he’d really opened up, but this seemed... different. Like something was literally bothering him, and he felt like he couldn’t talk about it.

Maybe he thought Stiles wouldn’t understand. Or that he’d make fun of him for him? He couldn’t think about what that would be. Really, nothing would be worth making fun of Derek, because anything that had him this worked up that he went out for a walk at four in the morning was something he obviously needed to get off his chest.

Stiles hesitated for a long moment before typing again.

[Stiles]
If you’re feeling anxious or panicky
[Stiles]
You shouldn’t go for walks or do anything that’s considered ‘relaxing’
[Stiles]
You should do something that stimulates your brain, makes you think
[Stiles]
Because if you’re thinking about what you’re doing
[Stiles]
You’re not focussing on what’s bothering you

Stiles had read about that a long time ago, back when he was younger and having panic attacks after his mom’s death. He and his dad had been forced to look into ways to calm him down because they would happen sporadically and they used to freak his dad out. After a while, his dad started asking him to list things.

Star Wars characters, all the movies he could think of, actors, food groups, different types of cereal. Forcing Stiles to focus on something that he had to actively think about had helped calm him down from his attacks. And as he grew older, whenever he felt a really bad attack coming on, he would immediately force himself to think of a topic and focus on that. They didn’t happen often anymore, but it was something he’d never forgotten.

He’d heard it was the same for anxiety in general, people could try and do something stimulating like a word puzzle or even something like Candy Crush. Just anything that forced the brain into focussing on something, because it made it harder to think about what was making it feel anxious.

Stiles knew it didn’t work for everyone, and he knew that, even for himself, it wasn’t a guarantee, but going for a walk was the last thing someone should do while anxious or feeling panicky, because walking took literally no effort and allowed the brain to sit and focus on whatever was causing the anxiety or panic to begin with.

[Derek]
i hadn’t thought of that
[Derek]
i should download a word app
[Derek]
or some kind of puzzle game

[Stiles]
Candy Crush apparently helps

[Derek]
no fuck that game
[Derek]
i always get stuckl

Stiles let out a small laugh, trying to imagine Derek sitting in bed playing Candy Crush and raging over not being able to beat a level. Stiles didn’t have that problem, he was very good with puzzles in general. Puzzle games were no different.

[Derek]
i should do that now
[Derek]
download something i mean
[Derek]
let you get back to sleep

Stiles stared down at the message, eyes lingering on the time for a few seconds. Derek was talking like he wasn’t planning on going back to bed. It wasn’t the first time he’d stayed awake this late. And Stiles knew he woke up early for work—or just in general.

Derek didn’t seem to sleep very much. He was always awake. Whenever Stiles was awake, so was he. When Stiles was asleep, Derek was still awake. Even when he’d been back in Beacon Hills, with the time difference, Derek had been awake long past when Stiles was.

He hesitated again, then decided he wanted to address it. He was worried about Derek, nobody could live forever without sleep. So he let out a slow breath, and typed something he’d been thinking about for a long time.

[Stiles]
You don’t seem to sleep very much

Derek’s response was slow, but it eventually came, and Stiles knew he’d hit the nail on the head.

[Derek]
no
[Derek]
i don’t

[Stiles]
Insomnia?

There was another, longer pause this time. Like Derek was debating telling Stiles. It showed he was typing, but nothing came through. Then the dots would disappear. And re-appear. And disappear again.

It was obvious Derek didn’t know if he wanted to share this with Stiles or not. Stiles didn’t push him, he just waited patiently for Derek to respond.

[Derek]
nightmares

Stiles was no stranger to nightmares, either. The jerk-up-in-bed-screaming type of nightmares. The frozen-in-terror type of nightmares. The can’t-sleep-for-days type of nightmares. He’d experienced them all, especially after his mother had died, because he kept reliving losing her over and over.

And sometimes, he woke up screaming and sobbing because he would dream about his dad leaving him, too. The sheriff would be right there, holding him and rocking him back and forth, voice tight with restrained tears while promising he was right there, he was right there, and he wasn’t going anywhere.

Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn’t. It had taken a long time for Stiles to overcome that period of his life. He still had nightmares, of course he did. Everyone had nightmares every now and then. They just weren’t as bad as they used to be.

[Stiles]
I’m really sorry
[Stiles]
Anything in particular?
[Stiles]
Do you want to talk about it?
[Stiles]
I promise I won’t make fun of you
[Stiles]
Trust me, I know first-hand how much night terrors suck

Derek took less time to respond this time, but Stiles still had to wait a good two minutes before he finally did.

[Derek]
it’s memories mostly
[Derek]
just...
[Derek]
something that happened
[Derek]
to me
[Derek]
to my family

[Stiles]
I’m sorry
[Stiles]
You don’t have to talk about it

[Derek]
we’re past that point right?

Stiles frowned, not understanding what Derek meant, but he was still typing, so Stiles just waited for him to finish, and once he did, he smiled slightly.

[Derek]
you and me
[Derek]
we’re friends right?

[Stiles]
Yeah Derek
[Stiles]
We’re friends
[Stiles]
But as your friend
[Stiles]
I mean it when I say you don’t have to talk to me about it
[Stiles]
I get it
[Stiles]
You don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable

[Derek]
if i’m going to tell someone about them
[Derek]
might as well be you

Stiles smiled a bit at that, even though he knew what was coming was likely to be awful. Considering Stiles knew why he had night terrors, he could only imagine why someone like Derek would have night terrors.

And it hadn’t exactly escaped his notice that Derek never spoke about his parents. His sisters, yes, but never his parents.

He was right.

[Derek]
there was a fire
[Derek]
happened in the middle of the night
[Derek]
they’re not entirely sure what the cause was
[Derek]
but they think it might’ve originated in my dad’s study
[Derek]
he was always smoking on the sly
[Derek]
thinking our mom didn’t know
[Derek]
she did
[Derek]
he fell asleep in his study a lot
[Derek]
so it’s possible he had a cigarette and passed out
[Derek]
no idea how likely that is
[Derek]
because wouldn’t he have woken up when the fire started?
[Derek]
couldn’t he have caught on before the smoke filled the room?
[Derek]
anyway
[Derek]
he didn’t make it
[Derek]
my older sister woke the rest of us up
[Derek]
she was closest to the stairs and she smelled the smoke

[Stiles]
What about the fire alarm?

[Derek]
it was too sensitive
[Derek]
my parents disabled it before I was even born
[Derek]
we spent fifteen years of my life in that house without an incident
[Derek]
until there was one
[Derek]
we needed that alarm
[Derek]
lesson learned

[Stiles]
I’m sorry

[Derek]
mom wasn’t the same after it happened
[Derek]
kind of shut down
[Derek]
laura had to take care of us
[Derek]
she was only 18
[Derek]
but she did what she had to
[Derek]
mom died two years later
[Derek]
she kind of just...
[Derek]
gave up
[Derek]
we didn’t know what to do
[Derek]
by the time she died
[Derek]
she wasn’t really our mom anymore

Stiles felt his chest clench at those words, remembering all too well what that felt like. Seeing his mom near the end, he knew it was still her, it was still his mom, but it also wasn’t. Not really. The illness had taken so much out of her that she wasn’t who Stiles remembered her to be. She wasn’t happy and smiling and laughing. She was always drawn and tired and in pain. She could hardly smile by the end, and whenever Stiles visited, she smelled like medication and disinfectant.

She didn’t smell like mom anymore.

So Stiles knew exactly what Derek meant when he said his mom wasn’t his mom anymore. Stiles had lived through the same thing, just in a different way.

[Stiles]
Derek I’m really sorry
[Stiles]
I know those are just words
[Stiles]
But I really am

[Derek]
thanks
[Derek]
it’s okay
[Derek]
it was a long time ago
[Derek]
but some things just stick with you
[Derek]
no matter what
[Derek]
you know what that’s like

Those words had him frowning, because he couldn’t figure out how the hell Derek would know that. How could Derek possibly know that Stiles knew exactly how he felt, because they’d experienced the same thing, just in a different way? Losing a parent was losing a parent, it didn’t matter if it was in a fire, or to an illness.

Once that happened, the recovery was near impossible.

[Stiles]
What does that mean?

[Derek]
sorry
[Derek]
you always talk about your dad
[Derek]
all the time
[Derek]
you barely mention your mom
[Derek]
when you do
[Derek]
it’s in the past tense
[Derek]
and with love and adoration
[Derek]
if it was a divorce
[Derek]
you would have some animosity towards one of them
[Derek]
but you don’t
[Derek]
so i kind of put the pieces together myself

Stiles supposed that made sense. After all, he’d figured out Derek’s parents weren’t in the picture anymore. It stood to reason that if he’d figured that out without Derek spelling it out for him, it made sense Derek could also figure out that Stiles’ mother had passed away.

He didn’t know that he believed he would have animosity towards one of his parents if they were divorced, but he didn’t have anything to go on. Scott did, always being kind of a dick to his dad, but that seemed different. His dad was a drunk and a cheater, and was trying to buy his son’s love back. Stiles felt like he’d kind of hate someone like that, too.

But if he’d been young, and his parents had split on good terms, he thought maybe he wouldn’t harbour any anger or animosity towards either of them. He supposed he must’ve given just enough away that had Derek realize this wasn’t a divorce.

Maybe Derek had read between the lines and recognized Stiles as someone who was like him. A person who’d lost someone so important that it was hard to get out of bed in the morning, but they both did it anyway.

Because it’s what they would’ve wanted.

[Stiles]
Oh
[Stiles]
It was cancer
[Stiles]
I was nine

[Derek]
i’m sorry

[Stiles]
Like you said
[Stiles]
It was a long time ago
[Stiles]
Time heals all wounds

[Derek]
yeah
[Derek]
except the ones it doesn’t

[Stiles]
Yeah

[Derek]
sorry
[Derek]
didn’t mean to make bad memories resurface

[Stiles]
I’m glad you talked to me
[Stiles]
About your family
[Stiles]
Thank you for trusting me with that
[Stiles]
I know it’s not easy
[Stiles]
Trusting another person

[Derek]
you make it feel easy
[Derek]
i like talking to you stiles

[Stiles]
Yeah
[Stiles]
Me too

[Derek]
your midterms coming up soon?

[Stiles]
Yup
[Stiles]
One on Monday
[Stiles]
Two on Thursday
[Stiles]
Why?

[Derek]
i was just thinking
[Derek]
i’m really looing forward to that coffee

Stiles smiled down at his phone.

[Stiles]
Yeah
[Stiles]
Me too


[Stiles]
ifi fet nifed
[Stiles]
pkease tell my dad it was yellow cab
[Stiles]
and to auw3

[Derek]
what?????

Stiles blinked hard, then widened his eyes as if that would help him see better. It really didn’t, because no amount of blinking and widening his eyes was going to stop the world from spinning and his head from pounding.

His ears were ringing as if he was still surrounded by loud bass, and his pants were wet and uncomfortable from the amount of alcohol that had been spilled on him. He knew he shouldn’t have trusted Scott, but he wanted to fucking live a little, so against his better judgement, after his last midterm, he’d gone off campus with him and Kira to a massive house party.

Of course, that meant skipping his one class tomorrow, but it was his English class and he and Scott could figure out what they’d missed without too many problems, he was sure. Partying on a Thursday was something he’d never done before, and he hadn’t thought going off campus to a house party would be a bad thing.

For one, it meant alcohol because nobody carded you at the door, so he had free rein of the keg set up in the backyard. For another, it meant they were less likely to have to deal with a noise complaint since campus security often broke up the larger parties on campus relatively quickly. House parties seemed to be a bit easier to get away with somehow, because after hours of drinking and dancing like an idiot, he hadn’t caught sight of a single cop.

The only downside was that he’d gone to the party with Scott and Kira, who obviously had headed off to do their own thing within minutes of arriving. So Stiles had spent the whole night alone, which was fine, mostly. He’d had a few drinks, danced with random people, chatted drunkenly with a group of girls, jumped into the pool in his underwear. Just random, drunken tomfoolery. It had been fun.

But it was now almost two, he was extremely wasted, and he’d been sitting on the curb down the block from the house party waiting for a cab he’d called to take him back to campus for almost half an hour. He felt like he had to be slowly getting sober again, but was also dangerously close to passing out.

He’d tried texting Jackson to keep himself awake, but he was in class and didn’t usually check his phone when he was in class. Scott was a dead end, he’d tried calling and texting him but no dice. He was scared to text his dad because he’d get a lecture, and it would be even worse if he texted Lydia. Allison hadn’t responded to his messages, so she was either sleeping or in class—he never had the time difference between New York and Melbourne straight—and that meant he either passed out and got knifed, or he texted Derek.

He hadn’t wanted to text Derek, it was fucking embarrassing, but he really needed to stay awake. If he had the mental capacity to use his Uber or Lyft app, he would, but he’d tried three times and nothing was cooperating. It was why he’d called the cab to begin with.

[Derek]
stiles what??
[Derek]
are you okay?
[Derek]
where are you?

[Stiles]
on the sidewlkj
[Stiles]
waitingd for a cvsb
[Stiles]
to go hojme

He blinked down at his phone, vision unfocussed and swimming, waiting for Derek to respond to him. For Derek to distract him, like he always did.

Derek didn’t reply.

Instead, his screen went black, and then his phone buzzed, Derek’s name flashing with a green phone and a red phone beneath it.

Derek was calling him.

Oh fuck, Derek was calling him!

Even drunk, he knew this was going to be a terrible conversation if he answered his phone. They never spoke on the phone, ever. That first time didn’t count, it was before they were friends. Before they were—whatever they were.

But now, Derek was calling him. Stiles’ texts were concerning enough that Derek was actually calling him!

And if he didn’t answer, Derek might panic. He might legitimately panic, wondering if Stiles was okay, where he was, if he was safe. And Stiles... he didn’t want to do that to him. He didn’t want to worry him.

So even though he knew this was the end of him, even though he knew he was killing any and all minuscule chances of ever getting Derek like that by answering his phone right now, while drunk out of his mind...

He answered his phone.

“Hey Derek,” he slurred, falling back onto the sidewalk so he was lying down, his legs splayed out over the curb and onto the street. “You called me. You never call me. Are we super special friends now who call each other?”

“Stiles, where are you?”

And fuck, his voice was hot. Stiles didn’t remember his voice sounding that hot. He didn’t remember feeling things the last time he’d heard that voice. Jesus Christ, this was awful!

“On the sidewalk,” he said, turning his head when he heard laughter. Two girls were stumbling in his direction, clearly having come from the same party as him. He hoped they didn’t trip over him. Or step on his face with their super sharp, pointy shoes.

“Are you drunk?” Derek sounded worried, now.

“Yup,” he said with a small smile, popping the ‘p.’ “Scotty took me to a house party, and then he ditched me, and then I lost him. I tried to get a cab, but it’s not here. Can you sue a cab for not coming? Tell my dad to sue if I get knifed.”

He honestly didn’t know how much of what he was saying made any sense to Derek, because he was slurring so heavily that he didn’t think the words were making it from his brain to his mouth properly. He was trying, though, and that had to count for something.

“I lost my keys,” he said absently with a frown, the girls closer now. Thankfully, they stumbled around him, one of them tripping when her heel got stuck in the grass and falling over. They both laughed loudly behind him, but he ignored them and they eventually got back on their feet and continued on their way. “I can’t find my keys. Why do keys even exist?”

“Stiles, where are you? I can—please, I’ll come and get you. You’re drunk, and you’re not okay right now. What address did you give the cab company?” He could hear movement on the other end of the phone, like Derek was pulling clothes on, getting dressed to come and pick him up.

“No,” Stiles whined. “We’re supposed to meet at coffee on Saturday. You’re not coming to see me while I’m drunk.”

“Stiles, please. I just—you’re nineteen years old. You’re drunk, sitting on the side of the road in an unfamiliar place. Please, just-just let me come and get you. I’ll drive you back to the dorm. Please.”

“So serious,” he said with a small smile. “You’re worried about me.”

“Yes,” Derek admitted, rather loudly. “I am. Stiles, please tell me where you are.”

“Is everything okay?” a tired voice asked, sounding far away.

Stiles had a second to feel a stab of jealousy at the thought that Derek had someone else in his bed with him, but he could hear thumping footsteps like he was descending stairs and his next words made Stiles relax.

“It’s fine, Isaac. Sorry, go back to bed.”

“Isaac,” Stiles said. “Your roommate. Or your friend. Your friendly roommate? Your roomie friend?”

“Stiles!” He heard a car door shut loudly. “Where are you?”

He whined, rolling his head the other way, trying to focus on the street sign he was almost lying under. He managed to read it, giving it to Derek, and then had to sit up to see the cross-street, his stomach rolling horribly at the action.

Groaning, he leaned forward, face pressed against his thighs, feeling his gorge rise and really hoping he didn’t throw up.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He was supposed to meet Derek for coffee. He was supposed to FaceTime with Jackson, choose a nice outfit, brush his teeth and shower. Be fucking sober. He didn’t want to meet Derek right now. Not while he was drunk. He didn’t want this to be Derek’s first impression of him.

“Don’t come,” he insisted into the phone. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”

“Stiles, I’m not leaving you sitting on the side of the fucking road,” Derek snapped, voice tight. “I’ll pick you up and bring you back to the dorm, and we can just pretend this didn’t happen.”

“I lost my keys,” he said again, because even drunk, he knew it was true. “I lost them when I jumped into the pool.”

“When you—Christ. Fuck. Okay, can you just—stay on the phone with me, okay? I’m coming.”

“I’m tired.”

“You can sleep the second I get there, but do not close your eyes until I reach you, understand? Stiles, keep talking.”

Stiles wasn’t positive, but he could only assume something bad had happened to someone close to him while drunk. Derek had reacted similarly the last time Stiles had been drunk, and they hadn’t even been friends yet. He’d immediately asked where Stiles was, if he was okay, if he was somewhere safe, if he was sure he was okay.

And now, he was acting like Stiles was tied to a chair with a knife at his throat. He sounded stressed, and scared, and it really made Stiles wonder if something hadn’t happened.

He knew things like that did. All the time. To both men and women. And as much as he ragged on himself, Stiles knew he wasn’t hideous. He was a good looking guy, and he was currently drunk and half-passing out on the side of the road. Really, anyone could show up and whisk him away to do God knew what.

Which probably explained why Derek’s voice got sharper when Stiles was quiet for too long.

“You can’t judge me,” he insisted. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“We’ll pretend this never happened, okay? This isn’t our first meeting, it’s nothing. I’m just a dude coming to drive you home.” He cursed colourfully then. “Fucking shit. You can’t go home, you lost your keys. Where’s your roommate? Scott?”

“He ditched me, like I said.”

Derek was still muttering and swearing under his breath, but Stiles couldn’t really make out most of it. It was fine, he could sleep on the sidewalk. It wasn’t that uncomfortable, he would survive.

“I’m almost there. I’m only two blocks away.” Silence for a second, a minute, an hour. “I think I see you. Is that you? In the red hoodie?”

Stiles kept his forehead pressed against his thighs, but he raised his free arm and waved it jerkily. “See any other drunk idiots on the side of the road flailing their arm?”

“You’re not an idiot. I’m pulling up.”

That seemed like a redundant statement, because Stiles heard the car coming down the street, and he heard the crunch of gravel, the vehicle easing to a stop right beside him. Before he heard the door open, he reached up with both hands, moving the phone away from his ear, and pulled his hood over his head, yanking it down as low as it could go.

This was the worst. This was the absolute worst! It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

“Wolf!”

Stiles almost fell over sideways when something slammed into him, and he heard loud snuffling against his ear over his hood. Stiles just tightened his grip on it, keeping it low over his face, footsteps racing around the car. The pressure against his side pulled back, and he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Stiles?”

“Nope,” he insisted miserably. “Not Stiles. Just some random kid you’re picking up. You’re not meeting Stiles until coffee.”

Derek let out a harsh breath that Stiles vaguely interpreted as a relieved laugh. The hand on his shoulder tightened, and by God Derek had big hands.

“Come on. Can you stand up?”

“Do I have to?” Stiles asked.

“I can carry you.”

“You could. I don’t weigh more than two-sixty.”

Derek let out another small laugh, and fuck, this was Derek! He was here! They were actually beside each other, speaking to each other, Derek had his hand on Stiles’ shoulder! This was the best. And also the fucking worst.

“Come on, let’s get you up.”

Stiles felt Wolf pressing into his side again when Derek shifted, but he didn’t have time to think on it too much because Derek had his hands under Stiles’ armpits and was hauling him to his feet. Stiles grabbed at Derek’s arm with the same hand holding his phone, the other still clenched in his hood and keeping it pulled down over his face.

He managed to get to his feet, stumbling a bit, but Derek just shifted his hold so he had one arm around his middle while the other reached back to open the passenger-side door. Stiles could see his forearm and hand when he pulled the door open, and fuck. He didn’t have any kinks he was aware of, but hot damn if that wasn’t the hottest God damn forearm he’d ever seen in his life.

“You’re giving me an arm kink.”

“What?” Derek asked around a startled laugh.

“Nothing, that was for my head.”

Derek laughed again, nudged at Wolf slightly with his foot, since he was clearly trying to trip up Stiles, and then helped him into the car. He managed to get into the seat without exposing his face, and Derek helped him get his seatbelt on when Stiles missed the buckle three times. Derek slammed the door, and Stiles shoved his phone into his hoodie pocket as another door opened immediately.

“Wolf.” Derek let out a high-pitched whistle. “In.”

The car rocked, and Stiles jerked when he had a nose in his covered ear again, Wolf’s head sticking out from between the two seats, clearly curious about this strange human with no face smelling like alcohol and probably vomit and other bodily fluids.

God, this sucked. Stupid yellow cab. Stupid Scott.

Stupid fingers texting Derek!

When the car rocked slightly once more and a door slammed, Stiles realized Derek was back behind the wheel. When the car eased away from the curb, he turned his face more towards the window and rested his hood-covered forehead against the glass.

The ride was doing nothing for his stomach, but at least Derek wasn’t speaking to him. It made it easier to forget he was in the car with him, pretending this was just a Lyft or a cab or something. The dog panting in his ear was a bit harder to ignore, but he did his best, closing his eyes while pressing his forehead harder against the glass.

He didn’t mean to fall asleep, but he jerked when he felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him.

“Stiles. Wake up.”

He inhaled deeply, rubbing at his face with both hands, and very nearly turned to who was shaking him before remembering it was Derek and managing to stop himself, turning his face away while his hands still covered it and then rearranging the hood down low over his face.

“Are we home?”

When Derek didn’t reply, it took his fuzzy brain a few seconds to realize he was hesitating, and not that he’d suddenly gone mute.

“You said you lost your keys. I’ve asked you repeatedly what dorm you’re in, and you keep not answering.”

Was Derek asking him questions? He didn’t remember questions.

“We have a spare room. It has a lock on the inside. I know it’s—I know it’s weird, but we’re friends, and I can’t just leave you somewhere. Just come in, stay the night, you can keep the door locked the whole time. I’ll drive you back in the morning when you’ve sobered up.”

“Yeah, okay.”

The noise Derek made then was unkind. “Don’t make it so easy, Stiles. Jesus Christ.”

“What?” he asked, wanting to just fucking sleep. “You’re my friend. You’re not gonna do anything.”

“We’re gonna have to talk about your easy trust when you’re sober,” Derek muttered, opening his door.

Stiles winced when Wolf clambered over the middle, one of his paws digging into Stiles’ thigh in his haste to get through the partition and out the door. Derek slammed it a moment later, and Stiles just lowered his head once more before his own door opened. He felt Derek lean across him to undo his seatbelt, and then he helped ease Stiles out of the car.

“I like your boots,” he said stupidly.

“Thanks,” Derek said dryly while slamming the car door with his foot and locking it up, clearly unimpressed with how easily he was getting Stiles into his house.

To be fair, while he was drunk, Stiles felt like he would’ve been kicking up much more of a fuss if this were anyone else. He would’ve fought back, dragged his feet, maybe shouted a little bit. But this was Derek. He’d been talking to him for months, they were friends. And he’d sounded so stressed while driving out to find him, and even now, he was acting so uncomfortable bringing Stiles into his place, telling him he could lock his door, that it was only for the one night, that he would be safe.

Stiles had no doubt in his mind that he would be safe with Derek.

Provided Wolf didn’t trip him up and make him break his neck.

“Wolf,” Derek insisted, nudging him with his foot. “I know he’s new and exciting, but leave him.”

They climbed a set of weathered porch steps, the light illuminating the front of the house. Derek pulled a set of keys from his pocket, one arm still around Stiles’ waist, pulling him into his side to keep him steady while he unlocked the door.

The hall light was on when they walked in—well, Derek walked, Stiles stumbled, and Wolf shot past the two of them excitedly. It was clear Derek wasn’t expecting the hall light to be on, because he paused in shutting the door, and Stiles could’ve fucking died when he heard footsteps ahead.

“Derek,” the same voice as the phone—Isaac, obviously—said. “Are you okay? Who is this?”

“What’s going on?” another lower, deeper voice asked. That had to be the other friend and roommate, Boyd.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Derek muttered, closing the front door and locking it. “He’s drunk and he was just—he was sitting on the side of the road. He says he lost his keys, and I can’t get him to tell me what dorm he’s in.”

“Dorm?” Isaac asked. “Derek, who is—oh... Oh! Holy shit!”

“Is that Stiles?” Boyd asked, sounding surprised.

Stiles knew Derek talked about him with his friends, the liar.

“Oh man, Erica’s going to be pissed she’s working tonight!” Isaac insisted, voice filled with glee.

“He’s just staying the night to sober up,” Derek muttered, moving forward and pulling Stiles along with him. “I’m putting him in the guest room.” Was it Stiles’ drunk imagination, or did Derek sound embarrassed?

“Why is he hiding his face?” Isaac asked, stopping in front of Stiles. When he bent down to get a better look at him, Stiles instantly turned his face into Derek’s chest and oh. Oh, that was a nice chest. Yes, this was a nice chest to pillow against, yes indeed it was!

“He’s upset,” Derek said, shoving at Isaac with his free hand, if the squawk of indignation was anything to go by. “He didn’t want us to meet like this.”

“Aw, don’t worry little dude, Derek will love you whether you’re drunk or not!”

That comment was followed by a loud smack and a shout, then Stiles was jostled slightly. Boyd’s deep voice said to break it up and then Derek was pulling Stiles again, heading for the stairs.

Stiles wasn’t sure how to react. He didn’t know if Isaac was serious or pulling his leg, and he felt his heart pick up its pace at the idea that Derek liked him. Truly liked him. In that way.

He could only be so lucky...

Derek helped Stiles stumble up the stairs, Wolf squeezing past them excitedly and hovering by the landing, seemingly thrilled to have a new friend in the house.

“Stop trying to trip him,” Derek insisted, using his free hand to shove lightly at Wolf’s face to make him back away. They moved past him and Wolf just got right back in the way, but Derek seemed to have given up.

He led him to a door, Stiles eager to fall onto a bed, but when he walked into the room, he realized it was actually the bathroom.

“Get yourself organized,” Derek said, leaning him against the counter. “I’ll find you some clothes to sleep in.”

“Mkay,” Stiles replied, watching Derek’s boots retreat and the door swing shut.

He locked it once it was closed. Not because he didn’t trust Derek, but because he didn’t want him coming in and seeing his face when he was drunk and gross. This was the worst.

Stumbling to the toilet, he relieved himself, then flushed and washed his hands. He pulled his hood off, staring at his blurry and twisting reflection in the mirror before frowning unhappily and turning the water back on. He splashed some cold water on his face, but didn’t think that was going to help any. All it really did was make a mess, water spilling onto the counter and floor.

He grabbed the toothpaste that was on the counter and squeezed it out onto his fingers, making a bit of a mess since he wasn’t exactly steady on his feet. He was definitely on the edge of sobering up, but still not quite there yet.

Shoving his fingers in his mouth, he tried his best to brush his teeth using only the toothpaste. He wasn’t expecting any kissing, but it would still be better if his breath didn’t smell—and taste—like death.

Spitting the foam out of his mouth, he was washing his hands again when there was a light knock.

“Hey,” Derek said. “I grabbed some clothes for you. I figured you’d want to keep the hoodie on, so you can change in the guest room.”

Stiles spat water out one last time before turning off the faucet, drying his hands, and pulling his hood back up. When he opened the door, Wolf instantly nosed his way into the bathroom, panting happily and walking circles around Stiles.

“Wolf,” Derek insisted with a sigh, reaching out to grab at Stiles’ closest arm. “Sorry. He likes meeting new people.”

“S’fine,” Stiles said, reaching down with his free hand to pet him. His fur was softer than he’d been expecting it to be, and he smiled slightly, burying his fingers in the thick coat. “He’s bigger in person.”

“Yeah.” Derek waited until Stiles seemed to be done petting his dog, and then pulled gently to help lead him down the corridor.

“Good night, Stiles,” he heard Isaac say, a grin evident in his voice. Derek must’ve given him a look because Isaac laughed and shut his bedroom door.

Derek stopped in front of another open door. “This is the guest room. I left the clothes on the bed for you. Are you gonna be okay?”

“Yeah.” He reached up to rub at his face with one hand under his hood. “I’m feeling more human. The nap in the car must’ve helped.”

“Okay. I’ll leave you to it. Good night.”

“Yeah, night.” Stiles waited for Derek to leave, and once he turned to head off to his own room, Wolf trotting along beside him, he said, “Hey Derek?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks. Thanks for, you know...”

“Any time. Good night.”

Stiles didn’t wait for anything else, because he was embarrassed enough. He just walked into the room and shut the door behind him. He didn’t want to lock the door, but felt like he’d get reprimanded if he didn’t so he just flicked the lock and then turned to the bed, pulling his hood down.

He was still relatively unsteady, but he managed to strip out of his clothes without falling over and dumped them on the floor beside the bed. He grabbed at the sweats left out for him, pulling them on and finding them to fit fairly comfortably. The shirt was a little big, but he liked them baggy, so he didn’t mind.

Pulling his phone out of his hoodie pocket, he left it on the small table beside the bed so he could check the time throughout the night and caught sight of a glass of water and a Tylenol bottle. Smiling a bit to himself, he downed two of the pills, then drained the glass, hoping he was sober-ish enough by now that he wouldn’t have a hangover in the morning.

With that done, he crawled under the covers, feeling like this had to be the most comfortable bed in the world, and closed his eyes for sleep.

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


[Everybody’s Type]
mccall says you didn’t head back to the dorm
[Everybody’s Type]
where are you?
[Everybody’s Type]
stiles?
[Everybody’s Type]
stiles where are you?
[Everybody’s Type]
STILINSKI!
[Everybody’s Type]
STILES!
[Everybody’s Type]
FUCKING ANSWER ME!
[Everybody’s Type]
STILES YOU FUCKING ANSWER ME NOW!
[Everybody’s Type]
STILES!
[Everybody’s Type]
stiles I swear to God
[Everybody’s Type]
I will fucking come find you
[Everybody’s Type]
please answer me!
[Everybody’s Type]
STILES!

It was well past eleven in the morning when Stiles peeled open bleary eyes to sunlight streaming into the room, and momentary confusion about where the fuck he was. When he twisted to grab his phone to try and orient himself, his stomach dropped at the forty-seven missed calls and the numerous panicked texts from Jackson, as well as Scott.

He sat bolt upright in bed, the action making his head pound but he ignored it and opened his contacts so he could call Jackson back. When he hit the ‘call’ button, his phone wouldn’t connect, and he realized it was because his battery was at six percent.

Shit, it was too low to call out, and he was soon going to lose the ability to text, too. And he couldn’t leave Jackson panicking like this. Not after Danny. Not when he was across the world, probably freaking out, him and Scott probably on the verge of calling his dad.

“Fuck,” he hissed, quickly opening his texts with Jackson and hastily typing out replies before his phone cut him off.

[Stiles]
im fine battery dying i promise im fine
[Stiles]
sorry
[Stiles]
im so so sorry
[Stiles]
im ok
[Stiles]
i prmise
[Stiles]
battery dying
[Stiles]
tell scott

He was relieved to see all of them were sent, so he knew at least Jackson was aware that he wasn’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

Rubbing one hand across his face, Stiles let out a slow breath, and then froze when the events of the previous night came back to him.

Oh God.

Oh God!

He was at Derek’s! He’d actually met Derek last night! He’d literally been in his presence, Derek practically carrying him. Oh God, he wanted to die!

“I said he was giving me an arm kink, oh God,” Stiles whined, one hand still covering his face and bowing his head. His phone buzzed in his grip, but when he went to check his new—likely angry—message from Jackson, the phone buzzed again with the apple logo and powered off.

Well, at least he’d have a little while before he got yelled at.

Fuck, this was the worst, though. He didn’t want to leave this room. Maybe he could climb out the window or something. Run away, change his number, pretend he’d never heard of Derek.

Sighing and throwing his feet over the side of the bed, he stood shakily, feeling sick and somehow starving at the same time. Grabbing the Tylenol still on the nightstand, he swallowed two pills dry, then started pulling the borrowed clothes off. He didn’t really want to put his own back on, but he was a little low on options.

He was in the process of zipping up his jeans when there was a knock at the door.

Stiles’ eyes shot to it with a sense of dread. They knew he was up. Which made sense, because they could obviously hear him moving around. Fuck, he wasn’t ready to face Derek yet.

“I know you’re awake in there,” a woman’s voice said, the handle jiggling like she was trying to enter. The locked door made that difficult. “You better not be escaping through the window.”

Wincing, since Stiles had been thinking that, he grabbed his shirt off the floor and pulled it back on quickly, grabbing his hoodie and yanking it over his shoulders as well while heading for the bedroom door, shoving his phone into his pocket while he went.

Time to face the music, he thought miserably, letting out a small sigh and then opening the door.

This was the first person in the house who was actually seeing him, and he felt his stomach hit his feet, because fuck was she ever gorgeous. Long, shiny black hair, mischievous hazel eyes, and a smile that was to die for. Fuck.

She was grinning, eyes slowly raking down the length of his body and back up, letting out a small, appreciative hum before locking gazes with him again.

“Hey cutie,” she said with a wink.

Stiles felt hot all over, more embarrassed now that he was sober than he had been back when he’d been drunk. Why had he thought letting Derek pick him up was a good idea? Sober-Stiles needed to have strong words with drunk-Stiles about letting their crushes meet them for the first time by picking them up from the side of the road while completely wasted. That was not a good first impression.

“Let me guess,” he said, pointing a finger at her. “Erica.”

“More than one woman in that man’s life, sweetie,” she insisted with a wink, then held a hand out. “Laura.”

Stiles obediently took it, shaking hands with her while he placed the name. “His sister.”

“One of them,” she agreed, grinning ferally again. “Cora’s in Texas right now and she is pissed she’s missing out on meeting the infamous Stiles.”

He really hoped he wasn’t getting as red as he felt, because man was this embarrassing. He figured Derek spoke about him a lot—which made sense, considering Stiles spoke about Derek a lot, too—but it was still weird to realize how many people knew who he was. Isaac and Boyd, Laura and Cora, probably Erica too considering Isaac’s words the night before.

Embarrassing. Fucking shit. Worst first impression ever.

Before he could say anything, or try and defend himself, or even apologize for intruding, Laura reached forward to slug him in the arm, still smiling at him. It was a little manic, and kind of concerning.

“Come on, hot stuff. I’m taking you back to your dorm.”

Stiles’ stomach hit his feet in a completely different way. “You?” Wow, he’d messed up good. Not even half an hour together, and already Derek wasn’t interested. That had to be a new record. “But... I just thought...” He didn’t know what to say, and now he felt stupid. So fucking stupid. He shouldn’t have texted Derek, this was a fucking mess. God dammit! “I guess Derek...” He didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

“He left,” Laura informed him, still grinning.

That made his chest ache and he winced, rubbing awkwardly at his left arm and hunching in on himself slightly. Well, it wasn’t like he had anything to be surprised about. It wasn’t like he was a catch or anything, and it had been wishful thinking, anyway. Sure, they flirted and whatever, but Derek was probably straight. Probably uninterested in some weirdo he’d accidentally texted about planting potatoes who wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Oh,” Laura suddenly said, looking startled. Then she smiled, this one a little less evil, a little more endearing. Like Stiles was a cute puppy she was falling in love with. “Oh, sweetie, no.” She reached out one hand and punched him lightly in the arm again. “He didn’t want you to be embarrassed, and he figured with how you were acting last night, it might be best if you went home and showered and stuff. Freshened up, so to speak.” She went back to grinning evilly. “You’re coming back for dinner, though. For a proper introduction.”

Stiles’ heart did something weird in his chest, and he tried to stamp down on the hope rising up. “Does he—I mean, I didn’t exactly make the best first impression.” He winced, remembering last night. Seriously, who admitted to someone they were making them have an arm kink?! Stiles, apparently. “Does he even want me to come back?”

Now Laura looked amused. “Considering he was adamant that I not leave your dorm until you were showered and back in my car, pretty sure he’s plotting my murder in case I let him down.” She winked again, then grabbed for his arm, pulling him out of the room and starting to drag him down the corridor. “Trust me, if you don’t come back, you might break his teeny, tiny little heart.”

Stiles’ own heart was beating somewhere up in his throat. “Oh.” It was all he managed to say.

Laura cuffed him lightly in the jaw with her free hand, the other still looped around his arm and pulling, forcing him to walk down the stairs with her.

Stiles noticed a cat dart across the bottom of the stairs, but by the time they reached the base of them, it was long gone. He remembered Derek mentioning something about Erica having a cat, which meant she’d definitely moved in by now.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Laura insisted, dragging him further into the corridor. “He’s like, in love with you. It’s disgusting.”

“I’ll say,” another voice supplied from out of sight, but when the two of them reached the base of the stairs, another guy was walking out of the kitchen, drying his hands on a cloth and eying Stiles with interest.

He kind of looked like a really tall, really toned cherub. It was weird. He had an angelic face, with a mess of blond curls, and light blue eyes. Based on his voice alone, Stiles guessed he had to be Isaac.

“Look at you,” he said, moving up to Stiles and making him feel like a fucking gnat. He was definitely above six foot, and while Stiles wasn’t exactly short, this guy made him feel like he was. “The infamous Stiles.”

“I’m really not that infamous,” he insisted, wishing people would stop saying that.

Isaac just laughed and held out one hand, the other still holding the dish towel. “Isaac. Good to meet you.”

“You too,” Stiles said, shaking his hand and thankful he’d offered the one Laura wasn’t holding hostage. “Sorry about last night.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Isaac waved one hand dismissively. “When you came in here drunk, it made sense why Derek freaked like he did.”

“Yeah, I kind of... figured something happened,” Stiles said uncomfortably, shifting his weight.

“It did.” Isaac shrugged. “To me.”

Stiles hadn’t been expecting that, and his shock must’ve shown on his face because Isaac offered him a small smile, shrugging again.

“First year was a bad year. Lots of booze. Lots of parties. Someone slipped a roofie in one of my drinks. Woke up the next day in a motel off the highway with no idea how I got there. I was pretty freaked out.”

“Shit,” Stiles blurted out before he could stop himself. “I’m sorry.”

Isaac pointed his finger at Stiles. “I’m only telling you because you need to take your safety more seriously. What happened to me sucked, and it took me a long time to get over it, but it’s a good reminder for other people to drink responsibly. Especially when they’re not legal drinking age. Understand?”

Stiles nodded emphatically, and Isaac eyed him for a few seconds before nodding back.

“Get out of here so you can come back more presentable and meet prince charming.”

“You’re the only prince charming in this house, Isaac,” Laura insisted with a saucy wink.

He rolled his eyes, but when he turned away from them, Stiles could see a flush creeping up the back of his neck.

“Come on, cutie. Let’s get going.” Laura practically whipped him around, one arm still looped through his, and led the way to the door. “We can stop for brunch on the way back, get some food in you to help with that hangover.”

“I’m actually not feeling too bad,” Stiles admitted. “Bit of a headache, but I think I was just this side of sober when I went to sleep, so I feel okay.”

“Neat-o.” Laura pulled open the door and they headed out, Stiles looking around the area since he hadn’t really done that the night before. They were in a really nice neighbourhood. Nothing disgustingly expensive, but clean and suburban-looking.

When they reached Laura’s car—a sleek black Mustang—and climbed in, Stiles buckled himself in and looked out the windshield at the house. It looked fairly big from the outside, and it had been really nice inside. Maybe a little dated, but he figured a few of the other houses had been renovated over the years. The owner of this place probably hadn’t bothered since there were tennants.

“So,” Laura said, clapping her hands together and looking at Stiles. “McDonalds?”

“Fuck yes,” Stiles groaned, almost obscenely.

“Away we go!” Laura backed out of the driveway and started down the street. She flipped on the radio, but turned the volume down, something she was using more as background noise than anything else.

They drove in silence for a little bit, Laura humming along to the song that was playing and Stiles staring out the window at the passing scenery. He patted his pockets to double-check he had his phone and wallet, but was annoyed he’d have to pay to replace his room key and access card. Thankfully he’d only brought that, since he usually also had his car keys with him. That would’ve been a disaster, and he’d have to thank Kira for insisting he leave them behind.

His mind began to stray while they sat there in silence, thinking back on what Isaac said and how easily he’d said it. About how panicked Derek was the night before, almost begging Stiles to tell him where he was, that he would come get him, to not be so damn trusting.

“You okay over there, little man?”

Stiles turned to Laura when she spoke, catching her casting glances at him, like she was worried something was wrong.

“Yeah, just... thinking.” He frowned. “Isaac seems pretty okay about what happened to him.”

He jumped, startled, when Laura let out a loud bark of laughter. “Oh honey. No. He was a fucking mess after it happened. Took him almost three years to stop sequestering himself in his dorm room, and he only just started drinking casually again. And he won’t drink unless it’s at home, with my brother and Boyd. He doesn’t feel comfortable out in the world.” She glanced at him briefly, offering a small smile. “He was worried. Him and Boyd both. Last night, when Derek was freaking out and left without explanation. They didn’t understand what was going on, and when he came home with you, drunk, it really hit Isaac how much what happened to him had affected both Derek and Boyd. He seems okay with it, and he tries to be for the most part, but he wanted you to know so that you’d be more careful.
“I mean, you’re not even legal drinking age, and you were wasted. I know it was Derek who went to get you, and I know you guys are friends, but you hadn’t met before last night, and you just blindly got into the car with him, let him bring you to his house, set you up in his guest room. It really freaked Derek out, because he kept saying that anyone could’ve done that to you, you know? That you were just so easy to get into the car, and then into the house. You went without a second’s hesitation, and seeing Derek’s reaction made Isaac want to make sure you took care of yourself going forward.”

“I only went because it was Derek,” he insisted lamely.

Laura gave him a look while easing to a stop behind another car in the McDonald’s drive-thru. “Yeah, and how much do you know about Derek?”

“Enough.”

“You thought he’d murdered someone the first time he texted you.”

“But I was wrong.”

Laura gave him another unimpressed look, then shook her head and sighed. “Either way, you need to be more careful. You were lucky this time, but next time you go out and get drunk, have some kind of buddy system in place. I know everyone thinks ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but it does. It happens to everyone. Male, female, old, young.” She turned back to him, smiling a little. “You’re too cute to let someone steal that spark from you.”

Stiles felt himself getting hot all over again, but he just half-shrugged and turned to look out his window, trying not to get embarrassed. He couldn’t help but think about how stunning Laura was, and if Derek was even half as attractive as his sister, he was doomed.

Out of his league didn’t even begin to describe it.

When they got to the order box, they both got some McMuffin combos, Laura practically driving with her knees since she had the breakfast sandwich in one hand and a coffee in the other. Stiles wasn’t concerned, he’d been in a car with Scott and survived. Anyone could drive better than Scott could, even with their knees.

There was a reason Stiles freaked whenever Scott took his Jeep.

They were both done eating by the time they made it back onto campus, and Laura went to park in one of the visitor’s lots, following after Stiles while they headed for the commons block so he could get a new access card and room key.

The girl at the counter looked way too chipper when he approached, but he just explained his situation and handed over some ID so she could look him up in her system. He had to pay for a new access card and a replacement key, but it wasn’t as much as he’d anticipated—only fifty bucks for both. He’d thought it would be higher.

Once he had everything squared away, he bid her a good day and led the way to his dorm, Laura trailing happily behind him, evidently serious about sticking close until they headed back out. She must’ve either been worried about Derek murdering her, or she was really curious about Stiles.

When they got into the dorm, he motioned the main common area on his floor and told Laura she could hang out as long as she wanted. She still watched him walk down the corridor to enter his room, as if needing reassurances he wasn’t just trying to ditch her and escape.

The second his door opened, a fist was flying at him and he only barely managed to shift out of the way, getting hit in the shoulder hard and stumbling back into the doorframe.

“You absolute dick!” Scott shouted, punching at Stiles’ arm a few more times, since he was trapped between the wall and a shelf. “You fucking asshole! God dammit, we thought you died! We almost called your dad! I called my mom! I didn’t know what else to do! You fucking asshole!” 

Stiles had never seen that expression on Scott’s face before, and he felt insanely guilty for having worried him so much. He knew it probably hadn’t helped that he was in contact with Jackson, because Jackson’s panic and vivid re-living of Danny’s disappearance had probably only helped fuel Scott’s own rising hysteria. He looked half-crazed right then, breathing hard and eyes wide, deep bags beneath them and his hands shaking.

“Scott, I’m okay,” Stiles insisted, grabbing at him and ignoring that Scott tried to punch him again. He hugged him tightly, clenching his hands into the material at the back of Scott’s shirt. “I’m okay, Scott. I’m right here.”

Scott was breathing hard against his neck, gripping him tightly in return. It was crazy to think about how one night had caused so many people to relive horrible experiences. He hadn’t meant for that to happen, and he felt supremely guilty about it, even if it had been by accident.

Derek had been thinking about Isaac, Isaac had probably re-lived his own trauma, and Jackson and Scott had both been reminded of Danny.

Lesson learned. Any parties had to happen on campus, and with a buddy system.

To be fair, Scott was the one who’d ditched him to go neck with Kira, but he was probably regretting that when morning came around and Stiles was nowhere to be found.

When Scott had calmed down enough to release him, sniffing loudly and wiping at his face, he cleared his throat and turned away, moving across the room towards his computer.

“Jackson told me to Skype him once you got back.”

Stiles winced, but obediently moved forward while Scott bent over the back of his chair, opening a window with Jackson on his computer and sending him a video call.

Jackson answered in seconds, looking haggard and exhausted, with deeper bags under his eyes than even Scott, and looking like he’d lost twenty pounds in the space of one night.

“You can’t do that to me!” he shouted the second he saw Stiles beside Scott.

The absolute panic in his expression and rage in his voice made Stiles feel all kinds of terrible. His heart clenched in his chest and he moved around Scott to sit down in his chair, angling the screen a little bit so it was aimed more directly on him, Scott lingering close to his shoulder.

“Jackson,” he said, feeling his throat tighten. “Jackson, I’m sorry.”

“You can’t fucking do that to me!” Jackson bellowed again, stabbing one finger angrily into his chest. “Stiles, you can’t! Not you!” He jabbed his finger emphatically at the screen now. Not you! Fuck! Fuck!”

He raked both hands through his hair, leaning forward slightly so he was partly out of frame. He was breathing hard, his hands shifting from his hair to his face, rubbing it harshly.

Stiles saw movement behind him, and winced slightly when another person came up behind Jackson, arms wrapping around his neck from behind and a cheek pressing against the top of his head.

Ethan. Jackson had probably told him about Danny, considering Ethan wouldn’t have understood Jackson’s absolute panic over Stiles not being reachable.

“Jackson, I’m sorry,” he said again, one of Jackson’s hands leaving his face to grip tightly at one of the forearms around his neck. “I’m sorry. I’m okay, I’m right here. I promise. I’m sorry.”

“Fuck you,” Jackson spat, eyes flashing angrily when he glanced up at the screen. “Just fuck you, Stilinski!”

“I was–I was super drunk,” he insisted, because he needed Jackson to understand this had been an accident. “I was so, so drunk. I left the party and called a cab to get back to the dorm, but it didn’t show up. I was starting to pass out, and I couldn’t reach anyone, so...” He winced. “I uh, I texted Derek. He came to pick me up.”

“What?” Scott asked, startled. Jackson stiffened on the screen, looking ready to tear someone’s face off.

“No, it’s okay,” Stiles insisted quickly, turning to Scott, then back to Jackson, one hand up in a calming fashion. “It’s cool. He just—he picked me up, and I passed out in his car. I lost my keys, and he didn’t know what dorm I was in, so he brought me back to his place.”

“He what?!” Jackson demanded furiously.

“Listen!” Stiles flailed a little, because he didn’t want Jackson to hire a hitman to take Derek out. “I’m not finished! He took me back to his place and actually berated me for being so trusting. He set me up in the guest room and told me to lock the door so I’d feel safe. Which I did, even without the lock. He just didn’t want me to get hurt.” He didn’t mention anything about Isaac. That wasn’t his place, and it wasn’t their business. “I spent the night, and his sister drove me back a couple minutes ago. Nothing happened, he just wanted me to be safe.”

Jackson still looked ten different kinds of pissed, but he must’ve believed him because he didn’t say anything further on the subject. He just spent another ten minutes chewing Stiles out, threatened to implant a tracking chip into his forehead, and then was finally bullied into going to bed by both Ethan and Stiles.

“I’m coming out next weekend,” Jackson informed him darkly before he ended the call. “I’m coming out to kick your ass, and to assess this Derek guy. I will be meeting him next weekend, so you better make sure he’s ready for that.”

“I’ll be sure to let him know so he can buy the appropriate armour,” he said with a small smile.

“Fuck you, Stilinski. If I fail my midterm on Monday, I’m murdering you as soon as I land.”

“Thanks for the warning, I’ll be sure to leave you stranded at LaGuardia.”

Jackson flipped him off, then ended the call.

Stiles leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his face and feeling more exhausted than he had last night. This was turning out to be a super emotionally challenging day, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

When he stood to plug his phone in, since he was sure his dad would start to wonder why it was off if he happened to be calling, Scott shifted to follow him, as if worried to let him out of his sight.

“So, you met Derek?”

Stiles turned to Scott, phone still in his hand, and made a face before setting it down, crossing his arms defensively across his chest and shrugging one shoulder.

“I kind of kept my hood on and my face down. We were meant to meet for coffee tomorrow, and I didn’t want last night to be our first meeting.”

“So you spent the night in his house, but you don’t know what he looks like?” Scott asked, eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

“Nope.” Stiles popped the ‘p’ while moving towards his closet, opening it so he could grab his towel and shower supplies. “But apparently I am ordered back tonight for dinner. His sister is actually waiting in the common room right now, he told her not to leave until I was back in the car with her.”

“I’m coming with you,” Scott blurted out. “I mean, I know it’s too late to stop anything malicious from happening, considering, but I’m not letting you go back there alone.”

Stiles smiled, reaching out to punch Scott lightly in the arm. “Sure, dude. I doubt it’ll be a problem.”

Scott nodded, feeling like the matter was settled, then turned to grab his own shower items, considering he also smelled like a brewery.

When they exited the room, Stiles detoured with Scott to introduce him to Laura, and to inform her he was inviting himself along. She was thrilled, and actually pinched Scott’s cheeks, insisting he looked as adorable as one of the puppies that came by Derek’s doggy daycare. Scott seemed not to know how to react, but he flushed at that before Stiles managed to drag him away from Laura and her pinching fingers, the two of them heading for the showers.

Stiles was going to obsess over what to wear tonight.

This was still a fucking disaster.


[Derek]
i’m heading home soon
[Derek]
i know last night sucked
[Derek]
but i really hope you took me up on dinner
[Derek]
or else laura’s gonna get acquainted with the potato trenches

[Stiles]
Probably not a good idea to threaten murder while I’m sitting in your living room
[Stiles]
I’m nervous enough as it is
[Stiles]
And Erica is terrifying

[Derek]
don’t look her in the eye
[Derek]
she’ll steal your soul

[Stiles]
Too late....

“Give me that!”

Stiles let out a squawk when his phone was wrenched from his hand, Erica moving fluidly across the room like some kind of ethereal dancer before flopping down on Boyd’s lap in the armchair. He let out a small grunt, but didn’t complain, wrapping his arms automatically around her waist.

“Ugh, you two are gross,” Erica insisted, scrolling through his messages. “I can’t handle this sappy shit, where’s the phone sex? Lame.”

When Stiles stood to snatch his phone back, Laura beat him to it and wrenched it out of Erica’s hand, beginning to move around the couch and away from Stiles so she could scroll through it, as well.

“Wow, you guys text a lot,” she commented.

“Give it back,” Stiles insisted, twisting around on the couch and making a grab for it. Erica’s cat was lying on the back of his seat, and impeded his ability to really try and get his phone back. Laura was able to shift out of his grasp, continuing to snoop.

“Oh, who’s this? Everybody’s Type?” She looked up at Stiles, putting on a mock-serious face. “Are you cheating on my brother with this person?”

“I’m not even dating your brother,” Stiles insisted, refusing to be embarrassed.

“Not yet,” she sing-songed, turning the phone to face Stiles. “But seriously, who is this and do I need to murder them?”

“You’re very murder-y in this family,” Stiles commented, moving around the cat so he could lean as far over the couch as he could, and making a grab for the phone. Laura evaded him again, and only Scott grabbing the back of his jeans stopped him from toppling clear over the edge of it.

He was lucky Scott was even paying attention, since he and Isaac had taken one second to realize they were studying the same thing—well, Isaac was continuing his education in grad school and Scott was in the same faculty in University—and they had been speaking non-stop since they’d all sat down.

“That’s Jackson,” Scott informed Laura, helping Stiles settle properly once more before letting him go. “Our friend in England.”

“Oh, I know Jackson,” Erica said while Laura shrugged and turned the phone back around to continue scrolling through it.

Scott turned to her, confused. “You do?”

“Yeah, Stiles talks about people all the time.” She grinned, arms wrapped around Boyd’s neck and head resting on his shoulder. “I snoop on Derek’s phone, it’s a hobby. He keeps trying to change the password on me, but he lacks creativity.”

“So you have nicknames for everyone,” Laura said before Stiles could sputter out a response to Erica’s invasion of privacy. “Except Derek. What’s up with that?”

Stiles’ brain was being torn in two directions, because one half of him wanted to reprimand Erica and tell her not to read his messages with Derek, but the other half wanted to answer Laura. Based on the eye roll from Boyd, Stiles felt like Erica was probably exaggerating about the snooping. He doubted she was actively reading through all of Derek’s texts, especially considering some of the private conversations they’d had, but she’d probably been looking over his shoulder every now and then during the day while they were chatting.

Apparently she liked to go and harass Derek at work, where he couldn’t escape from her. Isaac seemed to find that hilarious.

Deciding Laura was winning, he turned to her and held his phone out in silent demand. She sighed explosively, then obediently put it into his palm, letting him tuck it safely into his pocket where no more people could try and snoop.

“I need to find the right nickname for him. I don’t just choose one at random, it has to fit. It has to be meaningful. All I had for Derek for a long time aside from Bob was ‘Potato Man’ and that’s boring.”

“I still love that you called him Bob,” Isaac grinned. “We made fun of him for that for weeks.”

You made fun of him for that for weeks,” Boyd insisted, one arm still around Erica’s waist and the other rubbing her back gently, almost like he wasn’t aware he was doing it. “I was a good friend and helped him struggle his way through a new friendship.”

“I still can’t believe you didn’t stop texting him.” Laura perched on the arm-rest of the couch right beside Stiles. “Seriously, he’s so grumpy when he’s sleep-deprived, and he doesn’t have a filter when he’s texting. I’m surprised you didn’t get third-degree burns.”

“Pfft.” Stiles waved one hand dismissively. “He wishes his burns were that good.”

Laura smirked, and opened her mouth to say something else, but she paused and tilted her head when they all heard a car pull up, the vehicle stopping in the driveway and the engine turning off. They waited, but heard nothing else, and Stiles could feel his heartrate kick up a notch, palms beginning to sweat.

He knew he’d met Derek yesterday, but he’d been too out of it to really meet him. It hardly counted. Now, though? Now he was sober, showered, dressed relatively nicely. He was about to meet the guy he’d accused of murder five months ago, who’d become his friend, and someone he had a fairly huge crush on.

In some ways, he felt a little gratified knowing Derek seemed just as uneasy, considering he still hadn’t exited his car.

“I’ll get him,” Erica said with a feral grin, but when she went to twist to put her feet on the floor, Boyd tightened his grip on her.

“Nope. No you won’t. Not doing that.”

“Spoilsport,” she insisted with a small pout, but she turned back to Boyd and kissed him lightly before settling again.

After a sufficiently long time, the length of it allowing Stiles’ heart to pound erratically, slow down, and then speed up again, they finally heard a door open. Pounding footsteps boomed up the porch steps before there was scratching at the door, and Stiles ascertained it was Wolf.

He jumped, already frazzled nerves getting even more frazzled, at the unexpected hiss from behind him. The cat leapt off the back of the couch, and Stiles saw it trotting away quickly, clearly uninterested in being anywhere near Wolf when he finally got back into the house.

That meant Derek was right about cats not liking his dog. Cats were dicks, apparently.

The car door slammed outside and then slower footsteps walked up the drive, gravel crunching underfoot. He heard Derek climb the porch steps, much more slowly than his canine counterpart, and then the door opened.

Wolf bounded into the living room and seemed thrilled at having, not one, but two new friends to play with. He leapt at the couch immediately, landing between Stiles and Scott, and then instantly turned to Scott, hitting Stiles in the face with his tail.

He sputtered, shoving the animal’s butt out of his face, and Laura clapped her hands loudly.

“Wolf, down! Down, off the couch! Derek, control your dog!”

“Wolf,” Derek called from out of sight down the corridor. “Treat.”

The large dog was off the couch in seconds, tearing back the way he’d come, sliding on the hardwood floor slightly in his haste to round the corner so he could hurry back to the door.

Stiles twisted his hands uncomfortably in his lap, listening to Derek murmur something softly to Wolf before footsteps headed towards the living room. He could hear Wolf trotting along excitedly behind him, claws clicking loudly against the floor.

Oh God, this is it, Stiles realized, a sense of dread washing over him, but also so much fucking excitement he might vibrate clear off the couch.

He felt like he needed to go to the hospital, because his heart pounding in his throat could not be normal, or good, but he just stared at the entrance to the living room, Wolf bounding back in like he owned the place.

Stiles saw a boot, then a jean-clad leg, and slowly but surely he lifted his gaze upwards as Derek rounded the corner and stepped fully into the room, his eyes sliding easily past Scott to settle directly on Stiles, like he knew without even really knowing which one of them was Stiles.

Holy shit, Stiles was going to laugh hysterically, because no way was this happening to him right now. There was no fucking way that Derek, his Derek, whom he’d been texting for months, who owned a fucking doggy daycare, could possibly be this fucking Adonis standing uncomfortably at the entrance of the living room like an awkward potato.

His hair was just as black as his sister’s, cropped short and styled in an almost natural-esque way. He had a neatly trimmed beard, popping green eyes, and cheekbones that would have male models jealous. Stiles wasn’t even going to touch his lips, because he might get distracted imagining himself biting and sucking on them and oh shit, too late. That was a place his brain was at now.

Just as he’d been able to see in the photos, he was toned, almost breaching the realm of overly buff, but not quite. And fuck, his forearms. Stiles really must have developed an arm kink, because damn. He wouldn’t mind getting carried in those arms, they looked like a comfortable place to be.

It took him a few seconds to realize that Derek was scrutinizing him in the exact same way, and he suddenly felt entirely inadequate. Sure he was cute, but he wasn’t hot by any stretch of the imagination.

Derek, though? Derek was hot. Like, fry an egg on his face hot.

“Hey.”

Stiles started, realizing they’d both just been staring at each other like weirdoes, but at least Derek had had the brilliant thought of actually speaking.

Ironic, considering Stiles was usually the one who couldn’t shut up.

“Hi.” He felt Laura shove at his shoulder, hard, forcing him to his feet. He almost tripped over nothing, stumbling forward a few steps and shoving his hands awkwardly in his pockets, trying to ignore the audience they had. “Hi. Hey.”

Derek was still just staring at him, but he had such a good poker face that Stiles had no idea what he was thinking. Hopefully nothing too negative.

“You’re taller than I thought you’d be,” Derek said suddenly, the words seeming to just come out of his mouth without his consent, considering the look on his face once they’d escaped him.

“Oh.” Stiles looked down at himself, as if that would explain his height. “Yeah. Um, genetics. I guess. But I mean,” he pulled one hand out of his pocket to motion Derek, “you saw me yesterday, so...”

“No I didn’t,” Derek said, and the corner of his mouth twitched, like he was going to smile. “I saw some random kid I was just picking up off the side of the road.”

Stiles let out a small, awkward laugh, using his free hand to rub at the back of his head uncomfortably. “Right. Uh, so, I’m Stiles.” He moved forward a few more steps, holding his hand out.

Derek stared at it for a long moment, then slowly reached out to shake it. Fuck he really did have big hands. And it was so warm, too. He must be an excellent heater, no wonder Wolf always slept on him.

“Derek,” he said in response. “Nice to officially meet you.”

“Boring,” Erica called across the room. “Kiss or something! What’s with the awkward shuffling and uncomfortable, stilted conversation?”

“Erica,” Boyd sighed, clearly defeated.

“What? They both lucked out! Derek’s hot, Stiles is hot, they’re both totally gone for each other, I say take ten minutes to make out like teenagers in Derek’s room and come back down when all this sexual tension’s been resolved.”

Derek let out a sigh, reaching up with his free hand and rubbing his thumb and forefinger into his eyes. “Letting you move in was a mistake.”

“Uh huh, tell me I’m wrong,” she insisted. “Or did neither of you notice you’re still holding hands?”

Stiles’ eyes snapped down from Derek’s face to look at their hands. They were, indeed, still holding onto each other’s hands, though the handshake had clearly ended a while ago. They both immediately let go and took a step back, Derek crossing his arms over his chest and scowling at Erica, and Stiles shoving his hands in his pockets and chewing on the inside of his cheek.

“Jackson is gonna laugh himself unconscious,” Scott said, Stiles shooting him a filthy look.

He almost fell over when Wolf bumped into the back of his legs, clearly interested in him since he recognized him from the night before. Stiles forced himself to pull his hands out of his pockets so he could pet him, feeling a little calmer when his fingers were buried in the dog’s coarse fur.

“Well,” Laura said loudly, clapping her hands together, “I’m starving. Let’s get started on making a dent in all that food Boyd made.”

“Seriously, you’re not feeding an army,” Isaac insisted, getting to his feet and slapping Stiles’ shoulder on his way past him. “Come on, let’s get some food in you. Freshman fifteen is totally letting you down.”

They all began to head out of the living room, chatting amongst themselves while Derek stood exactly where he was and Stiles continued to pet Wolf, looking down at the dog and watching his own hand slide back and forth along the animal’s head.

He glanced up every now and then to look at Derek, and found him staring right back. Every time they made eye contact, they both immediately looked away, Derek rubbing the back of his neck and Stiles chewing harder on the inside of his cheek.

After about five minutes, Laura poked her head back into the room.

“Well? Come on, then. You two can moon over each other across the table, let’s go.”

Stiles obediently pulled his hands away from Wolf and headed out of the living room, Derek falling into step beside him.

Wolf tried to trip him up three times on the way to the kitchen.


[Derek]
why was this easier over the phone?

Stiles jumped when his phone vibrated against his leg, pulling it out to check if it was his dad and finding the text from Derek instead. He’d gone to the bathroom less than a minute ago, but now Stiles was wondering if he hadn’t been trying to escape.

[Stiles]
I guess it didn’t feel real?
[Stiles]
Like
[Stiles]
I wasn’t a REAL person?
[Stiles]
But now that I’m here
[Stiles]
And you can PHYSICALLY see me
[Stiles]
It’s real

[Derek]
maybe
[Derek]
sorry

[Stiles]
For what?

[Derek]
being weird
[Derek]
and awkward
[Derek]
i’m not good with people

[Stiles]
You’re fine to me :)
[Stiles]
It’s weird for both of us
[Stiles]
Not like you expected to make friendly with some university kid
[Stiles]
Who accused you of murdering someone
[Stiles]
And chopping their body into pieces to bury in your backyard

[Derek]
it DOES seem unlikely

[Stiles]
My dad says I’m probably the only person who could make friendly with a wrong number

[Derek]
he’s not wromg

“Derek!”

Stiles jumped, almost dropping his phone and looked up at Laura, who was scowling down the corridor.

“Stop being a pussy and get back out here! You can’t text him forever!”

“I mean, he kind of can,” Stiles insisted.

She pointed her finger at him. “Don’t encourage him, or you’ll never get laid.”

Stiles sputtered, but had no response to that, so he just continued trying to say something and failed miserably before finally shutting his mouth. He glanced back down when his phone buzzed in his hand.

[Derek]
can we go for a walk?
[Derek]
it’s just hard with an audience
[Derek]
i need to take wolf out anyway

[Stiles]
Sure :)

He shoved his phone into his pocket and stood, Laura’s eyes instantly snapping to him and Erica cutting off mid-sentence. He smiled awkwardly at them, motioned over his shoulder with both index fingers, then moved out from around the chair to head for the front entrance.

Derek was already at the door, securing a leash to the collar around Wolf’s neck and then rubbing his head playfully while the animal’s tongue lolled out of his mouth. He turned when Stiles approached, tail thumping excitedly against the ground, but he stayed seated.

“Good boy,” Derek said with a small, fond smile, holding one hand out. He had a treat in his palm, and Wolf gobbled it up eagerly, licking at Derek’s hand long after the treat was gone. Derek just let out a soft laugh and rubbed at Wolf’s neck with the same hand before straightening and turning to Stiles. “Ready?”

“Yup.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and followed Derek outside, moving aside so he could shut the door behind them.

They made their way down the porch steps together, and then down the driveway to the sidewalk, Derek loosening the tight hold he had on the leash so that Wolf could trot ahead a few steps, tail wagging happily and ears swivelling while he led the way down the street.

They went almost a block and a half in silence before Stiles figured one of them had to get the ball rolling. And well, he talked enough for everyone that it might as well be him. Derek needed to know what he was getting into.

“I didn’t really get a chance to say thank you,” he said, looking over at Derek. “For last night, I mean.”

“You did thank me,” Derek insisted, watching Wolf sniff at the base of a tree.

“I did?”

“Yeah, before you went to bed.”

“Oh.” He didn’t remember that. He didn’t remember a lot about last night, to be fair. “Still. Thank you. Sorry you had to do that. And sorry I worried you.”

“It’s fine. Thanks for trusting me enough to take care of you.” Derek turned to give him a look. “Though we really need to talk about that.”

“I know, I know.” Stiles waved one hand at Derek, rolling his eyes. “But I mean, it was you. I wasn’t worried. I knew you weren’t going to do anything.”

“No you didn’t.”

“Yes I did. It was you,” he said again. “If it had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have gotten in the car with them. But it was you. I felt safe with you.”

Derek smiled slightly at that, then turned back to Wolf, tugging lightly at his leash when he started sniffing at someone’s flower bed with a bit too much interest.

“Isaac told me he mentioned what happened to him,” Derek said when they’d walked past two more houses in silence. “Obviously he would’ve given you the edited version, but when I saw those texts, and then you answered the phone... I just didn’t want anything to happen to you. I didn’t mean to panic like I did.”

“It’s cool, I get it. And I appreciate it. No more drinking without a buddy.” He nodded resolutely, then turned to grin at Derek, nudging him lightly with his elbow. “Wanna be my drinking buddy?”

“You’re not twenty-one,” Derek reminded him.

“All the more reason to have a kind, honourable man watch over me while I drink myself unconscious.”

“I like it better when you’re sober,” Derek informed him, offering him a small smile. “Easier to understand your texts when you’re not typoing like a crazy person.”

Stiles laughed, punching him lightly in the arm, and admitted that he’d re-read his texts after his phone had charged and hadn’t been surprised Derek had called him. They were kind of a mess, he barely understood what he’d been trying to say.

The laughter that bubbled up seemed to help ease some of the tension in Derek’s shoulders, and he began to relax a bit more as they walked, the conversation moving away from the previous night and more towards the original coffee date that had been set for the following day.

Derek also admitted that the night Stiles had gone to IHOP, he’d actually gotten into his car to head over, but had just spent the entire time sitting in his car in his driveway texting with Stiles, too chicken to actually follow through. It was kind of adorable, and Stiles was a little bit more in love with him with each passing second.

When they reached a park a few blocks down, Derek unclipped Wolf’s leash and let him race off across the grass, he and Stiles watching him tear back and forth excitedly while they continued to talk.

They didn’t really talk about anything important. They’d already done most of that via text, anyway. They just discussed the little things, like how work was for Derek that day, and what assignments Stiles had coming up, and a movie they were both interested in seeing that was coming out in theatres soon.

Stiles was the one who bit the bullet and asked if Derek would want to go with him to see it, feeling like a loser for asking so bluntly, but it was worth it for the way Derek smiled and said that sounded great.

After Wolf had worn himself out a little bit, Derek stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly, the dog racing back towards them and almost barrelling into Stiles. Derek laughed, having managed to catch him before he lost his balance, and Stiles insisted his dog was out to get him.

Derek argued that Wolf just liked him, probably because he could tell Derek’s brighter mood was thanks to him. That had been followed by a somewhat embarrassed silence on both parts, but when Derek’s hand brushed his a few times on the walk back to the house, Stiles hesitantly curled his pinky around Derek’s, and when he wasn’t shaken off, he actually slid his hand into Derek’s, lacing their fingers together.

It was insanely satisfying to have Derek squeeze back, keeping their hands together while they headed leisurely back to the house, Wolf trotting along happily on Derek’s other side.

When they got back to the house, Derek tugged at their interlocked hands when Stiles went to start climbing the porch, making him turn back.

“I’m not good with people,” Derek said uncomfortably. “But we’re—this. You and me. This is a thing, right?”

Stiles raised his eyebrows, then looked down at their interlocked hands. Derek squeezed it tightly, Stiles looking back up at him.

“I really like you,” Derek admitted. “I like talking to you, and getting to know you. I want to spend more time with you. In person, I mean.”

Stiles smiled. “Me too. I’ve had a crush on you for like, two months.”

“I think mine was longer,” Derek said, a small smile of his own on his face. “I just didn’t think you’d ever be interested.”

“I am so, so interested,” he insisted, taking a step closer and grinning. “Like, so interested. I can’t even begin to express my level of interest.”

Derek snorted, rolling his eyes, but he reached up with the hand still holding Wolf’s leash, brushing his thumb lightly along Stiles’ cheek.

“I’ve been told I snore.”

“I steal the covers, so fair’s fair.”

Stiles wasn’t willing to let Derek chicken out, so before the moron could open his mouth again, Stiles just leaned forward and smashed their lips together. It was a little bit more aggressive than he’d intended, and he lost his balance and almost fell into Derek, but the other man grabbed his shoulder with his free hand to steady him, then pulled his other one from Stiles’ so he could bring it up to cup his face.

Derek’s lips were chapped, and his beard tickled, but it was still the best kiss Stiles had ever had. He twisted one hand in Derek’s belt loop, keeping their bodies pressed together while the other hand gripped at Derek’s forearm, clenching his fingers into the hard muscle.

He did exactly what he’d been imagining earlier in the living room, sucking on Derek’s bottom lip when he started to pull away, and finally breaking the kiss. Derek let out a small laugh, resting his forehead against Stiles’.

“What?” Stiles asked.

“Nothing. Just happy. I honestly wasn’t exactly convinced this was going to work out in my favour.”

“Me neither,” he admitted, then leaned forward to kiss him lightly once more. “Apparently we were both very wrong.”

“You’re often wrong,” Derek teased.

Stiles smacked him, but pulled away, grabbing Derek’s hand again and turning to head up the porch steps. Wolf had been patiently waiting beside them, sitting down while looking around at nothing in particular, panting with his tongue sticking out. When they started up the steps, he stood and followed them, the three of them re-entering the house.

Derek unclipped Wolf’s leash and he took off down the corridor, clambering loudly up the stairs, his loud footsteps echoing overhead.

“He’s probably off to dirty my bed with his muddy paws,” Derek said with a small sigh. “That, or he’s hunting down Erica’s cat so they can ‘play.’”

Stiles just laughed and led the way back to the kitchen, still holding Derek’s hand loosely. He made no move to let it go, so Stiles didn’t, either.

No one said anything when they came back in, the conversation not even halting, but Stiles didn’t miss the wide grin on Laura’s face, the glint in Erica’s eye, the pleased smile on Isaac’s lips. Even Scott looked happy, and Boyd dutifully kept his gaze locked on Laura, who was still speaking, one hand rubbing absently up and down Erica’s back even as a small smile teased the corners of his lips.

When Derek and Stiles sat back down, Stiles noticed a plate of muffins in the middle of the table.

“Oh, muffins.” He grabbed one, pleased when he saw all the chocolate chips, and positively delighted when he bit into it and discovered it was a chocolate chip banana muffin.

“You’re slacking, Boyd,” Derek teased, grabbing his own muffin. “We have guests, and you make muffins for dessert?”

“I didn’t exactly have advance notice,” he said with an unimpressed look. “I went with what I had available.”

“These are delicious,” Stiles insisted. “Muffins are the best.”

“At least someone appreciates me,” Boyd said, giving Derek a meaningful look.

“I appreciate you.” Erica grinned, leaning into his chest and kissing his throat. “I appreciate you every night, constantly, over and over—”

“Come on, we’re eating,” Laura insisted, throwing a piece of muffin at Erica. She just laughed and straightened, picking up the stray piece that was thrown her way and popping it into her mouth.

“Not my fault my boyfriend’s such a stud muffin.” She winked at Laura. “Get it? Stud muffin? Muffins?”

“Yes Erica, you’re very clever,” Derek said, giving Stiles a look and then rolling his eyes.

Stiles grinned, popping another piece of muffin into his mouth, and then promptly choked when the most brilliant thought popped into his head. Isaac had to pound on his back a few times and Scott hastily passed over his water, asking if Stiles was okay.

He drank some of the liquid down, coughing a bit more to clear his airways, and once he was able to breathe properly again, he turned to Derek, eyes wide, and let a mischievous grin cross his features.

“Spud Muffin.”

Derek frowned at him, not understanding at first, but then slowly recognition hit and his eyes widened.

“No,” he said.

“Yes!” Stiles insisted, resisting the urge to cackle.

After all, it fit. Derek was a stud muffin. And he’d met him because he’d been trying to grow potatoes. Spud Muffin was infinitely better than Potato Man.

No,” Derek said emphatically.

Stiles noticed his friends and sister looking between them, obviously confused, but Scott was laughing because he’d known Stiles long enough to clue in instantly and clearly, he thought Stiles was a genius.

Which he was.

He so obviously was.

So much of the yes!”

“You are not calling me Spud Muffin in your phone, Stiles!”

Laura burst out laughing, and Stiles just cackled maniacally, pulling his phone out and swiping at the screen. He had to shift around in his seat to get to his contacts, Derek reaching across the table to try and get at his phone, but Stiles kept his elbows out and ignored his boyfriend’s attempts to stop him.

Boyfriend.

He really liked the sound of that.

Even if said boyfriend was trying to steal his phone, and snapped at Laura to stop laughing.


[Stiles]
Okay
[Stiles]
So
[Stiles]
I’ve cut everything up into smaller, more manageable pieces
[Stiles]
You gonna come help me bury them now?

[Spud Muffin]
????
[Spud Muffin]
what?

[Stiles]
Happy One Year Anniversary of that time some weirdo was planting potatoes in his backyard at eleven o’clock at night :P

[Spud Muffin]
oh is that what today is?
[Spud Muffin]
i remember this more as that one time some IDIOT called the cops on me

[Stiles]
Couldn’t have been too upset
[Stiles]
You kept that idiot around ;)

[Spud Muffin]
he was annoyingly persistent

[Stiles]
*Awesomely Perfect
[Stiles]
It’s okay, I know you have your auto-correct off :)

[Spud Muffin]
why do I put up with you?

[Stiles]
See above ;)
[Stiles]
I’m almost done this assignment from hell
[Stiles]
Wanna grab a bite when I finish? :)

[Spud Muffin]
you coming over after?

[Stiles]
Can’t :(
[Stiles]
I have an early class
[Stiles]
Don’t wanna wake you up super early

[Spud Muffin]
i don’t mind
[Spud Muffin]
you know i don’t sleep as well when you’re not here

[Stiles]
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH
[Stiles]
Twist my arm, why don’t you?
[Stiles]
Let me finish up
[Stiles]
We can meet at IHOP after
[Stiles]
Then I’ll come back to yours
[Stiles]
Do I have any clean clothes lef tthere?

[Spud Muffin]
i did laundry yesterday so you should be set

[Stiles]
Awesome :)
[Stiles]
You’re the best
[Stiles]
I’ll finish uip and text you when I’m on my way to IHOP

[Spud Muffin]
see you soon

[Stiles]
Yup :)
[Stiles]
Hey Derek?

[Spud Muffin]
what?

[Stiles]
I’m really glad you typo’d Erica’s number

[Spud Muffin]
me too :)
[Spud Muffin]
hurry up
[Spud Muffin]
i’m starving

[Stiles]
Working on it
[Stiles]
Looooooooveeeeeeeee youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu~

[Spud Muffin]
sap

[Stiles]
YOUR sap ;)

[Spud Muffin]
get back to worj!
[Spud Muffin]
*work

[Stiles]
Sir yes sir! :P

[Spud Muffin]
stiles?

[Stiles]
Yeah?

[Spud Muffin]
i love you too
[Spud Muffin]
now hnurry up before i die of hunger

Stiles grinned down at his phone, picturing Derek’s face after having sent such a sappy message, and wishing he’d been there to see it.

He sent back a series of hearts and kissy faces, then turned his screen off and set his phone face-down on the table, focussing back on his assignment.

The sooner he finished it, the sooner he got to see Derek.

And even though he’d literally seen him eight hours ago for lunch, it was never enough. Stiles felt like he never saw him enough.

He was so glad Derek had texted a wrong number that day an entire year ago.

And he was also so, so glad he’d texted back.

END.