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Stiles knows better. His dad had been sheriff, for Christ’s sake, he knows he’s supposed to go to the police. But also...his dad had been sheriff. He knows what it means to throw around accusations, how hard it can be on the complainant. Revictimitzation, Sheriff Stilinski had called it many times in an angry rant about the system.

So he keeps it to himself. His dirty little secret, soothing his bruises with aloe vera and hiding behind excuses if his friends notice him wincing. It’s amazing how clumsy his friends believe he is, constantly walking into things hard enough to leave marks.

He’s still on this train of thought when the door opens and shuts, a familiar voice calling out to him.

“In the kitchen!” he calls, grabbing a spatula and cutting through the fresh lasagna he’d just pulled out of the oven. It’s only a few moments before he feels arms snake around his waist and a kiss press into the space where his shoulder meets his neck. He shudders.

“Hey,” Jackson says softly. “Missed you today.”

“Well, sugar lump,” Stiles drawls, “I’m sure this dinner will more than make up for it. Come on, go sit.”

Jackson presses another kiss to his shoulder before moving out of the kitchen and taking his seat at the head of the dining room table. It’s the logical choice, of course, the breadwinner taking the head. The fact that Stiles had been forbidden from finding a job himself didn’t factor in at all.

“You need to focus on school, a job will only distract you,” Jackson had said. Which made sense at the time, but then Stiles graduated and it became, “I make plenty of money, why put that stress on yourself for no reason?” and “Damn it, Stiles, if you bring it up one more time, no one will hire you because you won’t have any teeth.”

In hindsight, that last one should probably have tipped him off.

So Stiles takes his seat on Jackson’s left (it was closer to the kitchen than his right, Stiles tells himself, it didn’t matter that when Jackson brought friends over he said stuff like “right hand man” about anyone but him), sets the lasagna on the table and careful begins serving Jackson first, then himself. 

“How was work?” Stiles asks after they had both taken a few bites.

Jackson shrugs. “The usual. Rich clients trying to wriggle their way out of consequences, which with me as their lawyer they always do.” Oh, yeah, Jackson is a lawyer, a fancy high-powered one at that. Another reason why Stiles feels so wrong pushing the issue; Jackson would probably get away with it even if he tried. “Some desperate pauper--” (Stiles decidedly didn’t flinch) “--tried to get me to take her case pro bono. As if,” he scoffs, taking a drink as if to wash the bitter taste of poor out of his mouth.

“What was the case about?”

“Something about her job skimming from her paychecks pretending it was more taxes, so she couldn’t make rent,” he shrugs and takes another bite of lasagna. “As if that’s my problem.”

“She sounds like she really needs help,” Stiles says nonchalantly. “I mean, could one pro bono case really hurt that much?”

Jackson pauses, directing his eyes on Stiles. He knows that look; he’s pushing it. “Not taking cases for free is the reason we can afford the mortgage on this house, or did you conveniently forget about your own home?”

“Of course not,” Stiles quickly replies, trying to sound as sweet as possible, a gentle but utterly fake smile plastered on his face. “But it’s not like we don’t have plenty of disposable income as it is.” Of course, Stiles isn’t allowed to spend anything more than five or ten dollars without permission, but that’s neither here nor there. “One case can’t really make a difference.”

“Taking a pro bono case means constantly getting badgered to take pro bono cases.” His voice lowers dangerously. Stiles knows he should shut up, but, well, that never was his strong suit.

“So you could make it a thing. Like, you take one pro bono case every few months, and if you reach the quota then you just tell people that.”

Jackson stands in one swift motion, and Stiles is sure that the force would have knocked the chair over if it was made from anything other than the heavy wood it was. Then Stiles is grabbed tightly by the arm and dragged away from the table before being thrown harshly at the wall. He winces.

“Why must you make everything so difficult?” Jackson growls, his fingers digging painfully into Stiles’ upper arms. When Stiles doesn’t answer, he grabs him by the hair to jerk his head up, and Stiles vaguely wonders if you could bleed from having your hair ripped out like this. Instead, he groans. “You think you can sit at home and think about playing hero, well I’ve got some news for you. You’re lucky I keep you here because the world would laugh as it chewed you up and spit out your bones.” The venom in his voice isn’t lost on Stiles, but that doesn’t keep him from glaring right back at the man towering above him. Well, it feels like he’s towering, but Stiles knows that in reality Jackson is an inch shorter than him.

His hair is released and Stiles breathes out in relief. 

He didn’t used to be like this , Stiles tells himself, he changed once, he could easily change again . But deep in his mind, he knows that not a word in that statement is true.

God, when had his life become...this?

*

“Hey batter batter, hey batter batter, suh-wing!”

“Stiles, we’re playing basketball.” Scott rolls his eyes as he dances around Stiles to toss the ball into the basket. He grins as it falls through and bounces back to him. “Six-zip. Care to admit defeat yet?”

“Then it should be all the more distracting! But you know, you only win because of your insane reflexes,” Stiles says, reaching for the ball which is promptly held above Scott’s head.

“Hey, it’s not my fault I have a penchant for sports and you lean toward the smarter side.”

“It is entirely your fault that puberty hit you like a ton of bricks and I turned into this. Now come on, let me beat you at gun-to-gun combat so I can restore a little bit of pride.” He turns on his heel and heads into the house, his friend following close behind.

Jackson is at work, and it was only with a lot of luck that Scott had the day off, and Stiles has to admit, it’s nice not having to worry about how his one and only would react to Scott being there. Sure, Jackson was mostly fine while Scott was around, but when they were alone his distaste for the athletic boy was abundantly clear, usually in the form of Stiles being slammed into the door or a couple punches to the gut.

So, yeah, Stiles is forever grateful for this day of peace. 

“Stiles, are you okay?”

Okay, maybe not too grateful.

“Duh. Why?”

Scott shrugs, looking extremely uncomfortable. Good. “Allison thinks you’re scared of something. She said you’re always kind of twitchy and she doesn’t believe that it’s because of your dad’s death.”

Ah, Allison. Sweet girl, but way too new to the group to be thinking about butting her nose in Stiles’ business.

“Well, you’ve done your part and you can tell her that I am one hundred percent perfect. After I kick your ass in COD.”

Scott seems pleased with the out and turns to the TV screen. It isn’t like Scott doesn’t care about him, they’re best friends after all. But he really doesn’t like prying into Stiles’ shit ever since that time Jackson had been too rough and Stiles couldn’t sit without a visible wince. He’d asked then, and, panicked and annoyed, Stiles had gone into excruciating detail about the hot animal sex he and Jackson had had the night before. Lies, of course, because how could he tell his best friend that his boyfriend had gone in with no prep, practically using the blood from his tearing as lube, all because he thought Stiles was fucking Scott.

No. This is his secret, his cross to bear. But, as the thought of Allison floats through his brain, he can’t help but think that he must be a terrible liar if she noticed anything. And if he was that bad of a liar, what did that say about his oblivious friends?

*

Stiles is in the kitchen, washing dishes and humming softly while Jackson relaxes in front of the TV when the doorbell rings. His brows knit in confusion--Jackson hadn’t told him to expect friends, and Stiles’ friends never showed up unannounced--before drying his hands and heading to the door. And oh, man, is he glad he did, because suddenly there was a Greek god standing in front of him. A god who smiled at Stiles when the door opened.

“Hi,” said god greeted. “My name is Derek Hale, I recently moved in next door.”

It takes Stiles a moment to realize that the man has his hand out, but eventually he grabs it and shakes. “Stiles Stilinski. What can I do for you?”

“Honestly, this is kind of embarrassing, but do you have any coffee?” Derek chuckles. “I’ve got an all-nighter tonight and I ran out and can’t get to the store until tomorrow.” He holds up a black thermos that Stiles hadn’t noticed and Stiles smiles.

“Oh, yeah, sure. Come in--” He jumps when his boyfriend’s voice interrupts him.

“What’s going on?” Jackson asks, walking up to next to Stiles and looking annoyed. Great.

“I was just asking if you guys had any coffee I could use. I’m Derek.”

Jackson ignores the proffered hand, instead snaking his own around the back of Stiles’ neck, protective--no, possessive . He rubs his thumb against his neck and to anyone else it might look loving, but Stiles can feel the threat beneath his boyfriend’s palm and he shudders slightly.

None of it goes unnoticed by Derek.

“Isn’t it a little late for that much caffeine?” Jackson eventually asks.

“I’m working on a case, probably be an all-nighter. This is exactly what caffeine was invented for, detectives trying to solve their cases,” Derek says matter-of-factly, not backing down even a little under Jackson’s glare. So he’s police. That explains why he’s so damn observant.

“We don’t drink coffee,” Jackson lies. Derek’s eyes flit suspiciously between the two and Stiles worries he’ll break out in a nervous sweat. He knows. Oh god, he knows. How on Earth could he know?

“Stiles said--”

“Stiles was wrong.”

They stare each other down for a while, Jackson’s grip on Stiles’ neck tightening. Eventually, Derek tears his eyes away to look at Stiles, who gives the most convincing smile he can muster under the pressure. A few moments more and Derek seems to give in as a sigh escapes his lips and he pulls out his wallet. “If you ever need anything…” He lets the rest of the sentence hang there as he holds out a business card. Jackson snatches it before Stiles can, earning another glare from Derek. “I’m also in the house at your left. Come by sometime.” He gives Stiles another meaningful glance before turning on his heel and heading down the walkway.

It’s only when the man turns onto the sidewalk that Jackson removes his hand and closes (slams) the door. “What,” he starts tensely, staring at the door as if Derek was still there, offending him with his presence, “was that?”

“That was our new neighbor asking for some coffee, which we most certainly have plenty of,” Stiles snaps with a courage he certainly doesn’t feel. He watches as Jackson’s body becomes rigid before turning to him, his eyes alight with fury. And hello consequences of my actions, didn’t see you there . He grabs Stiles tightly by the arms and slams him into the door. Stiles groans as his head hits the wood, but there’s no reprieve before a knee connects with his stomach. He would collapse if not for the death grip on his upper arms, but all he can do now is make pained noises as he tries to catch his breath.

“I saw you making sex eyes at him,” he growls, pulling Stiles forward so he could slam him back again. “Scott not enough for you anymore? How many dicks does your whore ass need, huh?” Stiles stays silent this time, which is apparently the right thing to do because Jackson just continues. “I saw the way he was looking at you, you know. Like a victim. Just what do you think’s gonna happen when you go running into his arms, huh? He’s gonna make a case against me, ditch you, and you’ll have no one. I give you everything , Stiles, and it’s about fucking time you started appreciating it.” Another sharp knee to his stomach, but this time the arms disappear and Stiles crumples to the floor, wrapping his arms around himself as he wills the pain to disappear.

When he finally crawls into bed, Jackson is fast asleep.

*

“To Lydia Martin, may twenty-five bring all the humor Spongebob says it will!” Stiles finishes his birthday speech with a flourish, holding out his beer in celebration before bringing it to his lips and taking a big gulp.

“To Lydia!” the group choruses before taking swigs of their own drinks.

“Spongebob, Stiles, really?” Lydia fixes him with a look as he takes his seat and he merely grins at her.

“The best way to celebrate, didn’t you know?”

He can almost hear Jackson’s eye roll beside him. “It wouldn’t hurt to grow up a bit, Stiles.”

Stiles rolls his eyes back. “If I grew up, what excuse would you have to keep up with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?”

“None. That’s the whole point.”

“Oh, come on. Hey, back me up here, Scott.” At hearing his name, the man looks from his girlfriend to his best friend.

“Sorry, bud, you’re on your own here,” he says apologetically before turning his attention back to Allison. 

“You naysayers are such party poopers,” Stiles grumbles before taking the last sip of his beer and standing up. “Next round?” The group cheers in response and Stiles makes his way to the bar, ordering various drinks as each of his friends have wildly different tastes. He busies himself with a pen, drawing ridiculous things on a napkin left on the bar until someone speaks.

“He always like that?”

Stiles looks next to him, freezing in place as a familiar face fills his vision. He looks away before his face can heat up. “Yeah, Scott’s the worst. He never backs up my viewing choices.” Stiles isn’t stupid enough to think he had meant Scott, but avoidance seems like the best tactic at the moment.

Derek’s eye roll is as loud as Jackson’s. “I meant the other one. Your boyfriend, I’m assuming?”

“Jackson. Is he always like what?” Mean? Upset? Abusive? Yeah, what the fuck are you gonna do about it, he decidedly doesn’t say.

“Dismissive,” Derek states. “Or, if the other night was anything to go by, angry and possessive?”

Stiles flinches. It isn’t as to the point as it could have been, but it is definitely not tactful. “No,” he lies, with the grace of someone who had done it thousands of times before. “He was just in a bad mood.”

“Does he always grab your neck like that when he’s in a bad mood?”

“Jesus, detective, be just a little more obvious, please,” Stiles hisses. He sneaks a glance behind him, but Jackson seems to be focused on his drink (and Lydia, but he’s going to ignore that because Lydia is a good bro and would never betray him like that) so he turns his attention back to Derek. “You know, my dad was a cop. So I know better than to let whatever you think is happening happen.” Lies, lies, lies . Stop lying .

“Sometimes knowing a cop is exactly the reason people are scared to come forward.” Stiles’ drinks were placed in front of him and Derek takes out his wallet to pay his tab, setting another business card on top of the bills. “In case you never got the first one back. Call me sometime, I don’t sleep.”

Stiles hesitates, his brain warring with everything else. What if Jackson found out? How bad would his punishment be? What if he doesn’t take the card? Would Derek keep pushing, keep making it worse? Eventually, he takes the card and slips it in his pocket without any indication as to whether he would ever look at it again before taking the tray of drinks and heading back to his friends.

He can see Jackson’s murderous glare on him the second he turns around and, shit, how long had he been watching ? Studiously ignoring his boyfriend, Stiles places the drinks in front of their respective owners and sits down. He’s barely gotten back into the conversation before he feels a hand on his leg and fingers squeezing hard against his jeans. He hides his wince in a cough; it's going to be a long night.