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Mommy Dearest

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This year, Stiles decided he was going to be first line. So he signed up for weight training – hoping he would bulk up. But the freaking universe has to always conspire against him and that’s how he got stuck in Health. Oh, sure, next semester he’ll be able to transfer over, but by then it will be time for lacrosse; so yeah, it’s no longer helpful. As Stiles walked into the class, posters detailing the joys of abstinence and horrors of STDs waved to him. He slunk down in a desk at the back of the room.

He was early. That was obvious, but it was his first class and he was expecting, well not Health, and got here hurriedly. As the class began to file in, Stiles recognized a majority of the sophomores. Danny, Jackson, Lydia – he felt a secret twinge of hope for her to sit next to him when Danny and Jackson had already paired up – and Allison (who sat next to her). Greenburg. Stiles didn’t know their reasons, except that it probably involved an easy credit. And then in walked Hale.

Derek Hale. Derek-freaking-Hale. The kid who could be lacrosse first line, but hated teams. The kid who was the top of the class, yet refused to tutor anyone. Not that Stiles needed it, no, not even in Biology – which he was totally going to ace. Derek strode into the room, and parked himself in the only available desk – the one next to Stiles.

Great. I get to spend a semester sitting next to Derek-freaking-Hale, the socially inept gorgeous sophomore that already had stubble and an angry twitch to his jaw that goes with it. Stiles thought sarcastically.

“Hey,” Stiles offers up. Derek turns to glare at him, and he attempts to smile all cheery. “You know, usually when someone says hi, the common thing is to say hi back to them. At least, that’s what humans do.”

“Hi.” Derek says stiffly, and turns – equally as stiff – away from him.

O-kay. Guess that’s the end of that conversation. Stiles shakes his leg as he waits for Coach to get here. Sometimes he’s late – and no one can ever tell when that sometimes is going to be. He picks up his pencil to run the eraser across his lip absently while memorizing his new – and not so improved – schedule.

“Morning.” Coach comes in, in a flurry. “I hope you like where you’re sitting because that’s going to be your partner for your out-of-class project.” There are a few groans, especially from some seniors who sat unwittingly next to an all-too-eager freshman.

Coach opens up the door next to his desk and wheels out a cart with a box on it. He slams it down on the first desk, which happens to be Greenburg’s.

Oh shit. Stiles thinks as he pulls out a baby. He glances sideways at Hale – who may or may not be reevaluating where he was sitting. And here I thought I was going to have a good year to move up on the food chain. Instead, I’m going to have Derek-freaking-Hale and a baby on my hands for a semester.

Coach begins tossing them to the desks around Greenburg’s while he shouts out instructions. “These dolls have programs that make them act like a real baby – cry and calm down based off what you do. Each partner will be responsible for the three days of watching the child and both are expected to tolerate each other for one day to spend together with this thing. Now, I’m not saying you have to stay the night at each other’s house – don’t look so eager, Greenburg – but you are to spend at least a few hours of that day together. The thing will be able to recognize when both ‘parents’ are in the same room because of these.” He holds up watches, which he went on to explain only turned on when near the doll, not like Stiles was listening. Instead, he was breaking into a cold sweat.

Stiles, somehow, managed to miss when this project would be over.

Hale easily catches the kid as it comes flying their way, holding it almost gingerly. Maybe he wasn’t too upset at his partner choice. The rest of the class passed with Stiles half-listening, half-waiting for Hale to hand him the baby – which would, undoubtedly be Stiles’ complete responsibility, even when the doll was in Hale’s care. It didn’t happen.

The bell rang, quicker than Stiles expected, too quick. “Um,” He fumbled with words – usually having so many that they slipped out easily.

“I can take care of the baby till Thursday. Sunday can be the day we spend together.” Hale said, avoiding looking at Stiles. Stiles nodded his head anyway.

“Uh, yeah, totally dude.” Stiles scrambled to collect his things and shove them into his book bag. Hale cradled the thing carefully in one arm as he packed up the rest of his books. How embarrassing would it be if our doll was the first to cry, Stiles thought absently as Hale began to exit. “Woah, wait up!”

Stiles half-trotted across the room to where Hale waited at the door, an eyebrow raised. Stiles felt proud that he had only clipped his side on one desk on the way over.

“Don’t you, you know, think we should exchange numbers or something? For like, the baby thing, of course. Not that I want your number.” Stiles mouth ran too fast, too long, too much. He shut up as Hale’s other eyebrow climbed to an equal height as the first. “Not that I wouldn’t mind having it. I don’t mean that I don’t want your number or anything – I’m just saying that I kind of need it and this isn’t like some sad attempt --”

Hale cuts him off, mercifully ending his rapidly humiliating rant. “I know what you mean, Stiles. Give me your phone.” It’s more of a command, but less of a bark than his greeting had been so Stiles fishes out his phone for him. His arm freezes halfway in between them. Hale doesn’t notice, and takes the phone from Stiles.

“You know my name.” Stiles says dumbly, because, of course Hale knows his name – it’s not like they both haven’t lived in the same town since they were born. Hale sighs as if Stiles was the most unendurable thing God could have thrown at him. Maybe I am a small voice in Stiles head whispers. Shut the fuck up, the larger part of Stiles conscience shoots back. “Of course you do. Sorry, go ahead.”

“Text me yours later.” And just like that, Hale is gone.
--
Stiles was attempting to complete homework that same night, unfortunately in Biology – which may have kicked Stiles in the ass rather than the other way around – and trying not to think of when he should send a text to Hale. He didn’t know if Hale wanted him to text him that night or just before Thursday. Later, he says. Text it later, he says. He doesn’t say when later. Stiles was grouchy from trying to decode Hale.

Later.

Stiles convinces himself that since it is, after all, seven that it is late. Meaning that it is also later. He fishes through, and sees the contact under D, rather than where he would have placed it. Which would have been under H. Not that he really thought Hale was hell, but.

Stiles: Hey it’s stiles

He waited anxiously then, cursing himself for not picking Home Ed over Health, and for all socially inept students who were too angry looking and intimidating to make friends with. Cursing the students who wandered into class late and sat next to one Stiles Stilinski.

Then his phone buzzed, moving him to swan dive onto the bed and grab at it so quickly that it fell out of his hands and onto the carpet. Which he totally did not bruise his body by falling gracelessly after it.

Derek Hale: Okay, thanks.

A few seconds later another text comes through.

Derek Hale: I can give you the baby before or after school Thursday. Either is fine.

Stiles stared at his phone for a second, stunned. Was Hale actually being nice to him? Or was this so his grade didn’t suffer – oh God, was Hale a secret nerd? It was obvious he was some sort of smart, with his perfect scores. But nerd? Stiles quickly punched back a reply.

Stiles: Either is fine. I guess its up to you

Derek Hale: I’ll give it to you sometime during the day, then.

Hale sounded almost proper, when he was texting. Like he could actually communicate – even in formal terms. Stiles found this discovery extremely intriguing, and decided to push his luck on seeing how talkative he could get Hale. Maybe he’d even be more talkative when they finally had to actually interact again.

Stiles: Yeah maybe during lunch

Derek Hale: Okay, I can do that. What do you want to do about Sunday?

He can’t be serious; he actually agreed. What is he going to do? Give me the doll and then glare at me as he goes to lurk intimidatingly somewhere?

Stiles: Uh idk it doesnt really matter to me

Derek Hale: Then can we spend the time at my house?

He’s going to murder me at his home. I forced him to interact with me and now he’s going to kill me. Stiles panicked, the only people’s homes he had ever been to were Scott’s and Danny’s – and only Danny’s for Chemistry lab work last year. While Stiles mourns over his unfulfilled and short life, a series of rapid texts are sent to him.

Derek Hale: It just makes more sense.

Derek Hale: I get the baby Monday plus Sunday is the day I usually do homework.

Derek Hale: You can bring your homework as well; I can help.

Stiles almost laughs because it’s so unnatural. Hale, offering to help him. Hale, being considerate. Just Hale not being Hale in general.

Stiles: No dude its cool. We can do it at your house

Derek Hale: Thank you. What time?

Stiles: We could do around one til like five

Derek Hale: Okay. Bring your homework.

It’s more of command, which makes Stiles want to roll his eyes. So he does. And then he realizes that, of course, Hale couldn’t see him. Which made him want to roll his eyes again, but this time he managed to have some sense of control.

Stiles: Ofc

Derek Hale: What does that even mean?

Stiles: Wow do you ever text people? Like at all?

Maybe that’s why he was so bad at over-all conversation – because no one ever talked to him. Stiles frowned for a second, before deciding he was probably wrong.

Every girl and boy at Beacon High had seen Derek Hale of the model status, and if he wanted to talk to people, he’d have plenty of takers.

Derek Hale: If I want to talk to someone, I usually do it face to face.

Well, geez, that doesn’t smart at all. Stiles chooses to ignore it in favor of actually getting to speak to Hale, because no one does that. Because he doesn’t talk – like, ever.

Stiles: It means of course

Derek Hale: Why don’t you just type it out then?

Stiles: Because im texting

Derek Hale: You’re still writing.

Stiles: No, im texting. Why do you write

Derek Hale: I never said I wrote.

Stiles: Dude

Stiles: Ok

Stiles: Why? Do you write?

Derek Hale: Oh. Yes.

Stiles: What do you write

Maybe he wrote drama. Or he’d probably write murder mystery – with him glowering all the time he definitely could pass himself off as a serial killer. Maybe he killed people and then wrote about it and made it all seem like a story when he actual had killed them. Maybe he wrote porn.

Who knew?

Derek Hale: You don’t need to know that. It doesn’t concern you.

Definitely porn.

Stiles: Well im curious

Derek Hale: Curiosity killed the cat.

Derek Hale: I’ll see you Wednesday.

The shutdown was quick and effective. There was no room for discussion so Stiles just texted back a quick okay. So the not-so-infamous Hale liked writing. He had a brief flash of the idea of Hale writing comedy (though it was obvious that what he wrote was erotica porn) and he snorted while bending back over his textbook.

All it would be is cut-throat sarcasm, if it was a comedy. That’s for sure.
--
Wednesday came quicker than Stiles expected. He hadn’t thought of Health, or the conversation with Hale, so he got to Beacon Hill High early. And by he hadn’t thought of it, he meant that he had been carefully walking around that screaming space in his head. So it came as a surprise when he realized he had Health.

Deciding that he didn’t want to idle in his car and destroy the environment, he clambered out and slammed the door behind him. He fully expected to be in the classroom alone for a good twenty minutes.

What he didn’t expect was for Hale to already be there, asleep behind their desk. Stiles nearly jumped out of his skin when he walked in and saw Hale lying on the floor. After regaining his heartbeat, he crept over to Hale, who was cradling the doll to his body. He looked dead beat tired, and since there was a good few minutes before anyone would be coming in, Stiles decided to let him sleep.

And decided that watching him was to make sure that he didn’t actually die.

Hale was stiller in sleep than awake, which Stiles didn’t think was possible. His face looked peaceful, with a slack jaw and smooth forehead. Like he wasn’t the scariest, most intimidating kid in sophomore class. He didn’t snore and the only part of him that ever shifted was the hand holding on to that piece of plastic baby.

After a couple more minutes, Stiles decided it was time for him to rise and shine. He gently hit him on the leg with his foot, expecting Hale to wake up confused. Stiles was caught off guard when Hale’s free hand moved to swipe where his foot had been a second ago.

“Whoa, okay, hey dude class is starting soon.”

Hale looks up at him, breathing hard. He seems almost as surprised as Stiles feels. He stared at Stiles for a minute, and Stiles figured he wasn’t going to get a response. “I mean, I thought you would want to be woken up before people started coming in. At least I thought you did before you tried to take my foot off.”

This appears to get Hale in motion. He rubs his eyes for a second before lumbering up to his feet.

The baby doll stays secure in his grasp the entire time. “Sorry, I’m used to my sisters attempting to prank me.”

Did Hale just apologize?

“You have sisters?” Was the first thing out of Stiles’ mouth, and by the way that Hale looks at him, yeah Stiles is stupid. Stiles knew that he at least had an older sister – Laura Hale, the sweet, social senior. But he thought that was Hale’s only sister. “I mean, plural. Like more than one.”

Hale just rolls his eyes as he sits down in the seat next to Stiles, not bothering to move it away so Stiles could feel his body heat. “Yeah, Laura and Cora. Cora is in middle school and loves to play jokes on everyone. The only people she doesn’t play jokes on is our mom and our Uncle Peter.”

“Oh yeah, you have a huge family, right?”

Hale fixed a strange look on him, like why do you know this? But he answered anyway. “I have a few aunts and my uncle and all of the aunts have kids and we all live together. So I guess you could call it big.” Stiles let that sink in for a moment. “Do you have a big family?” Hale asked a second later. It shocks Stiles, even though it only sounds like a formality from Hale.

“Not really, it’s just me and my dad.”

Hale fully turns to him, interested. The baby is still nestled into the crook of Hale’s arm. “What about your mom?”

Stiles averted his eyes when answering. “She died when I was younger.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Hale didn’t have pity in his voice, but he acted like he was going to reach out and touch Stiles.

Unfortunately, Stiles – who was still scared of him – jerked back. Before he could embarrass himself further, Greenburg and Danny came in. They were usually the earliest into the classroom, and Danny threw both of them a curious look after realizing Hale and Stiles were already there.

Stiles blushed hard and pulled out a sorry through his teeth, humiliated. Hale looked at him for a few more minutes, before repositioning his chair and body to face the front.

“It’s okay.” He said softly.

The next second Lydia and Jackson came in, bickering about something. Jackson had his and Danny’s doll in his hand. He was holding it hazardously – it was tucked more like a football and less than an infant. Danny got up with a small cry which is enough to stop Lydia’s onslaught of why Jackson was wrong.

“Jackson!” Danny reprimanded while taking the doll from him. The jostling was enough to make the doll cry and Danny’s glare grow.

“That thing cries all the time, man.” Jackson whined.

“Well maybe if you showed a little caring towards it, it wouldn’t.” Lydia fired back. Danny just walked away, attempting to get the doll to respond to his gentle rocking. “Alyssa doesn’t cry with Allison and me.”

“Alyssa?” Jackson’s voice was incredulous. Stiles glanced up at the clock; there’s like five more minutes and he just wanted that doll to stop crying.

“Has our thing cried much?” Stiles turned to Hale, hoping for a ‘no’. Because he definitely did not want a noise maker in his home. His dad didn’t get much sleep anyway.

Hale looked at him strangely for a moment, before shaking his head in the negative. “I’m not an idiot.”
Stiles snorted. “Well, don’t we all know that.”

The class begins to file in, with Coach in the back. At least three babies come in crying, and the partners bickering. “I’m surprised we aren’t one of those couples.” Hale says offhandedly.

Couples. Stiles’ brain short-circuited for a moment, which caused him to say a blank, “What?”
Hale rolled his eyes, and his hand came down heavy on the back of Stile’s neck. Stiles attempted to jump off the cold barstool, but was held down at the base of the head. When he finally stilled, Hale moved him slowly to look at one group of partners that were bickering – it appeared to be a senior and freshman. “Those,” Hale explained oh-so-well.

“Oh,” Stiles said feebly as Hale removed his hand, Stiles instantly started to fidget, which was totally not fear induced. He just didn’t take enough Adderall.

“Can you get those stupid things to shut up!” Coach barked at the nearest group. Which just so happens to be Jackson and Danny. Danny was frantically trying to soothe the doll and glare at Jackson subtly. Jackson slinked lower in his seat. “I’m going to need more coffee than this,” Coach muttered, looking down at his mug.

He cleared his throat, and everyone became silent – well, besides the dolls. “Today, since none of you can seem to be good parentals and silence your dolls, I want you to start working on explaining the harmful effects of drugs on people in a presentation. There’s a bucket up here,” Coach gestured to the shiny pale sitting plainly on his desk, “and one from each group will come up and draw. Whatever drug you draw, I expect an in-depth presentation and paper.”

He called up the names of the groups. When he called up Stiles, he practically launched his thin frame up front to get to the bucket. He pulled out a thin slip of paper – “Ecstasy – the love drug.”

“Which did we get?” Hale asked him, when he returned to the desk. Stiles just held up the paper, and Hale snagged his wrist to pull the slip close enough to read. Stiles just kept attempting to stifle his fearful heartbeat.

“I gotcha. Do you want to just get facts we know down about it right now?” Stiles was about to say they could just go to a computer, when he realized that all the computers had been taken. “I know that it affects serotonin.” Hale offered up.

Stiles found himself nodding, racking his brain for the details on the drug. He researched it once, when there was a rumor going around that Lydia did it at parties. It was completely false, because that would mean Lydia slept around, which was the bigger rumor. So, of course, Stiles had to know how the taboo drug worked.
“Yeah, yeah. It also affects like dopamine levels and changes hormones. It can last up to like five or six hours.”

“It also gives the feeling of companionability – people want to be around each other more.” Stiles whipped out some paper, and begin scrawling on it.

“Which often leads to the whole ‘I want to touch–I want to kiss–I want sex’.” Stiles found himself blurting out the obvious facts of the drug, but Hale just nodded.

“That’s right, it’s because of it serving as a stimulant. It makes people more hyperactive and happy feeling. It can also act as a hallucinogen, which sometimes can cause people to have bad trips and stuff. I’m not sure what type of drug it’s filed under, but it's not as addicting as caffeine or coke. A lot of people mix different things in it, which can make the trip seem different each time.”

Stiles found himself staring up at Hale, impressed. He knew that he was intelligent, but the fact that Hale could pull facts out like that made Stiles want to know what else he knew. Oh, God, Stiles wanted to actually talk to Hale. Heaven help him.

“Uh, what?” Hale looked up from his staring contest with the desk to see Stiles still gazing at him. Stiles jerked back with a shock.

“I was just wondering why you knew so much. I mean, I know a lot but I’m super curious about anything and everything and plus there was this rumor about –” Stiles lowered his voice, “Lydia and like apparently she used the stuff so of course –”

Hale cut him off. “Who’s to say I’m not curious about ‘anything and everything’?”

“You think someone with such curiosity would be more social.” Stiles rolled his eyes, all sarcasm.

“Why be social? With who? Jackson?”

Stiles snorted. “Ow, my pride. Really it can’t take it.”

“I’m talking to you now, aren’t I?” Hale challenged.

“Yeah, but –” Hale looked at him, strangely affronted. As if he hadn’t acted like Stiles was a pariah the first day in this class. The bell rang, causing Hale to move in an agitated flurry. Stiles still didn’t even realize what the sudden mood change was for.
--
When Hale walked up and practically shoved the baby at Stiles before stalking off during lunch on Thursday, it was more than tense. Stiles tired not to let a bitter feeling get the better of him. It wasn’t like for some stupid reason he thought they’d sit together and eat and talk about anything. Instead, he only had a baby, which he wasn’t completely aware was going to be – quite metaphorically – hell.

Before the end of the day it was just annoying. Couldn’t Hale have told Stiles how to work the damn thing? It just wouldn’t stop crying.

Stiles ended up calling Scott to come over, and in a feeling of hospitality, he even invited Allison over with her baby. It wasn’t like he was hoping Lydia would come as well. Besides, he needed some motherly advice on children.
Allison walked in a little after Scott put on Three Days to Kill. “Hey, sorry I’m late, my dad was making it hard to leave.”

“Babe! You came!” Scott smiled his signature puppy grin. They had gotten together during ninth grade, and it was still something Stiles couldn’t understand.

“Hey, Allison. What took you so long?” It wasn’t like he didn’t like Ally, he loved her. It’s just that he did not like watching her and his best friend force feed each other their tongues. Allison fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment, after Scott released her. “Ah, Dad didn’t want you going over to a gay boy’s house?” Ally nods. It wasn’t even like he was full gay, just half.

It’s not like Stiles wasn’t aware that Allison’s family was homophobic – it had caused a bump in their relationship during freshman year. It wasn’t really her fault for being ignorant on everything. She literally thought that gays worshipped Satan and were trying to – quite literally – spawn the antichrist through unholy sex. Like geez, her family took the whole homo-hating to a new level.

Still, when she started spouting little things – such as gays do have a choice, or that they’re only gay for a reason and once Stiles figured out why he was gay, what went wrong, he could fix it – Stiles became infuriated. He realized she had his best intentions at heart, and that was the only reason why they got through that rough patch.

Just then, the baby doll decided it wanted to break an awkward moment with a wail. It would be the one and only time Stiles thanked that annoying sound for diverting his attention.

“Ugh, Ally do you know how to shut these things up?” Stiles complained.

“Well, I typically hold it, instead of suffocating it with my clothes.” Allison gestured over to where the baby was placed – caringly – on Stiles’ sheets. Scott looked over to him, sympathy displayed on his open face. Not that his sympathy mattered; Scott got to stay in weight training.

“It’s called swaddling, I looked it up.” Stiles defended himself.
Ally tilted her head back to laugh, exposing a pale throat. Well, Scott was out for the conversation. It was gross to see how desperately he liked her. “You really looked up baby care?”

“Not all people are naturals, Ally. I just want to make sure that Hale doesn’t have any more reason to make fun of me for being incompetent.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re working with Derek.” Allison’s face was enough to show that she, like mostly all girls, fell for the face of the brooding beauty. Enough so that Scott cleared his throat.

“How is working with him?” Scott didn’t do a subject change, at least. He was aware it could very well be one of the things that Stiles needed to vent about.

“It’s different than I expected.” Stiles hedged. Different as in, he didn’t expect to want to talk to him, or to learn more about him, or enjoy their conversations, or care about him. “He’s just as smart as everyone thinks he is, and smart enough to make this,” Stiles picked up the baby, “stop crying.”

“Waa,” Ally teased. “Stiles can’t handle a few baby sounds.”

“I don’t want to have to handle them,” Stiles shot back.

“Yeah, but I still bet he sucks being a partner. Sorry, dude, but you got the most standoffish guy in all of the high school.”

“He isn’t standoffish.” Stiles found himself defending Hale. “He just doesn’t feel the need to talk to lots of people – and who would blame him. I mean, I wouldn’t want to talk to jerks like Jackson. Most high schoolers are jerks.” Stiles found himself holding the doll close, a sure arm rested against its back. It stopped crying easily.

“Oh, he told you this, did he?” Ally’s got her wide eyes on, a smirk playing on her lips.

“Uh, yeah, he did. He is a person. You know, more than a pretty – but angry – face to look at. I mean, he’s got a huge family and a trickster of a little sister, and he likes to do things besides just glare. I know it’s hard to believe, but he actually does activities that do not include lurking or glooming. He has, like, these interesting facts about stuff and he has a super quick reflex, dude.” Stiles realized he was rambling, and he promptly shut the fuck up.

They both stared at him like he had lost his head. Or grown a new one by the name of Derek Hale. Which was totally weird to think about, because then they’d have a joint body. And that body would probably be very sore from Hale trying to keep Stiles from fidgeting, and Stiles attempting to cease Hale’s lurking.

Why was Stiles even thinking of this?

“You like him!” Allison finally squealed, coming to a ridiculous – and completely untrue – answer. Stiles could only sputter in return.

Scott's jaw unhinged, and it seemed like it was never going to re-hinge. “I don’t – I mean, like he’s a cool dude, but it’s not like that. He’s interesting. Once you get past the judging eyebrows and angry jaw twitch, he’s an actual human being.”

“You like him.” Scott deadpanned after Ally. It sounded a lot hollower coming from him, like it was gutted out of him. Stiles understood why he might have a problem with Hale – after all, it was when they were in second grade that Scott and Hale got into an argument on the playground. Which resulted in Scott pushing Hale and getting his ass handed to him. Which, hey, if one good thing came out of it, Stiles and Scott got to bond while they waited on their parents to pick them up (Stiles hadn’t taken Adderall that morning, causing him to pitch a fit when the teacher wouldn’t listen to him try and tell her how pineapples ate people).

“I barely know him.” Stiles floundered, while he caught sight of the man on the screen picking up a bike for his teenage daughter. “Damn, guys this is my favorite part, you’re making me miss my favorite part.” His free arm flailed toward the television.

“You like him.” Allison insisted, not letting the subject drop.

Stiles sighed, fed up. “So what if I do? And I’m not saying I do – I’m just implying a hypothetical situation. He’s straighter than a stripper pole. There’s no chance there, so can we just drop the conversation? I would just really like to watch this guy torture the other guy and then ask advice from him.”

The couple finally seemed to realize that all Stiles wanted was company. Not to have a gay crisis. So they left it be, and they all laughed at the TV at the right moments, Stiles especially losing himself in it.

The only bad thing was, the second Stiles was done defending Hale or himself, the doll started to cry.

Damn.

Chapter Text

Stiles was in a shitty mood Friday, okay. He didn’t get much sleep, and he didn’t really want to deal with Mr. Terse. When he walked in, totally not early again, he was greeted by no one. Well, fine. I’ll sleep.

He placed the doll carefully on his lap – it still being in “sleep mode” – before putting his head down. The cool surface felt nice to his cheek, and he quickly slipped into a half-sleep, mouth agape. He tried to relax his body, because the more he moved, the more likely the thing was to activate itself out of sleep mode. Stiles had discovered the secret around three AM that the doll was set on time intervals and triggered to respond to movement. So, around that time is when he swaddled it onto the floor and put the bracelet on the nightstand.

It was easy to slip between reality and the unconscious. Just like how one moment he imagined his favorite band hitting that note on their single and in the next, heard the door open. But that was a really good note.

A rough shake jolts him to the waking world. “Hnhh! What the—”

In front of a bleary-eyed Stiles sat Hale. Hale watched him warily for a moment before relaxing. “Rough night?” he guessed.

Guess we’re back on speaking terms. “Yeah, I thought you said the baby,” the one which was wailing from Stiles’ death grip from being startled, “didn’t cry much.”

“I said it didn’t cry much, but it is supposed to simulate a baby. Babies cry.” Hale retorts. He shifted around and away, towards his book bag. “Still, I figured it would be as hard for you as it was for me, so I got you some coffee.”

Stiles couldn’t help it; he stared at the cup. Didn’t seem like he could move and take it either. Hale just rolled his eyes and put it in front of Stiles. “Thanks.” Stiles said sheepishly. It appeared he finally regained control over his limbs.

“I didn’t know what you liked so I just left it black.” Hale didn’t seem to be inclined to say anything else about it, shifting uncomfortably.

“Black’s fine.” Stiles drank it black, and only when his dad was doing a morning shift so he didn’t find out. The warm liquid hit his throat at the same time it felt like it hit is blood stream. “This is great.” Stiles complimented, surprised.

“My mom made it. She always makes extra.”

“Well, feel free to give the extra to me.” Stiles said, only half-joking.

“Okay,” Hale responded easily. It almost appeared that a ghost of a smile played on his lips, but Stiles couldn’t quite chase it quick enough to see if there was a live one before. Hale relaxed, and Stiles figured that whatever happened last class was over.

He could only wait so long in the silence, seeing as class started in ten minutes and Danny and Greenburg were still long off. Even the wonderful coffee could only prolong the time before Stiles needed to talk. The actual time was a minute and less than thirty seconds. Not like Stiles had counted.

“Did you know that astronomers believe that in a different galaxy there is a planet that rains glass?”

“What?” Hale wasn’t expecting off-topic Stiles.

“Did you know that astronomers believe that in a different galaxy there is a planet that rains glass?”

“Oh, no I didn’t.” His tone didn’t invite more talking, but it didn’t shut down the conversation either.

“Yeah, and apparently it rains horizontal so it’s like rain coming in the same direction as wind. Also, another galaxy is going to crash into ours in a few billion years.” Hale’s clothes rustle as he leans in, newly interested.

“But I thought galaxies were moving away from each other?” The pale green eyes were locked on Stiles, which gave him a sickening tingle in his stomach.

“Yeah, Hubble expansion, right but there’s like clusters of galaxies in the universe. Like, they stick together because they all have so much gravity but all other clusters are moving away. And in the clusters, the joining galaxies are all technically randomly moving away from the other galaxies but I guess it’s slower so they can sometimes move randomly closer to each other. I think it’s cause it’s pull of gravity or something. But so there’s a certain word for why the Hubble expansion doesn’t work I just can’t–” Stiles had heard the door open a moment ago, but he hadn’t had someone focus on his ranting since…well. He pushes the thought away as a soft tone cuts through.

“Stiles, I’m sure Derek doesn’t care to hear about the nonsense you’re spewing. And it’s called peculiar motion.” Lydia set her gaze on him, and he felt the heat of shame all the way up to his ears.

“Actually, I thought it was really interesting. Too bad he was interrupted.” Hale interjected and whoa because that is literally the first time he’s spoken to anyone on his own accord and whoa he stuck up for Stiles.

Stiles darted a glance up to him, where he just looked back and shrugged. The pull of his shoulders tugged hard on Stiles abdomen. Crap, he’s also a good guy. Lydia looked stunned, and Jackson had to guide the queen bee to her desk. Not that her tap of the heels didn’t cause a tap in Stiles’ heartbeat or she was rendered hideous by her sneer, but it was hard to focus on her with Hale sitting so fucking close.

The class passed with relative peace, Hale and Stiles had both brought their laptops. They had agreed to put together what they found after finding it. Stiles was going to attempt to start conversation, but Hale put his headphones in (which read to Stiles as a no go). So Stiles just pored over his laptop, which was shaking because of being placed on a bouncing leg.
--
Stiles wasn’t expecting the text when he got one.

Derek Hale: Do you know where I live?

Why the hell would I know where he lives?

Stiles: Uh no? Was I supposed to

Derek Hale: I guess I forgot to give you my address for Sunday.

Sunday? Oh. It all came rushing back to Stiles, full force. He was supposed to spend Sunday at the Hale house. Great. Grand. This would be fun, what with his whole newly budded crush.

Derek Hale: XXXX Kalvin Lane, off the XXX Highway. It’s far down the road, and it’s a dirt trail to lead you up to the house.

Stiles: Ok thanks

Stiles bit into his lip. Should he really ask? Probably not, to avoid humiliation but he probably was going to because he was a complete and total destroyer of his life and if he wanted to spend a little more time talking to Hale, that was his own business.

Stiles: What time again?

Derek Hale: Around one. Remember to bring the baby.

Stiles rolled his eyes, a twinge of foolishness bubbling up inside of him. It kind of made him feel sick, but he was used to the feeling and smothered it under the next text laced with certified Stilinski humor.

Stiles: I couldnt forget it. Im not some mother in a superstore I wont turn around and forget where I left the thing

Derek Hale: Tsk. It’s not a thing – it’s a child.

Is Derek-freaking-Hale joking with me?

Stiles: Im aware. Its just everytime I turn around theyre gone im a good parent

Derek Hale: Sure you are.

Stiles: Ha. Totally am dude

Derek Hale: Mom wants to invite you for lunch.

Stiles stared at his phone, hard. His palm was slick, sweat sliding against the phone case. Another text buzzed in.

Derek Hale: She said she’ll make her homemade pizza if you come. We haven’t had that in forever, now you have to show.

If Stiles was an optimist, he would say Hale wanted him to come. But he was a realist on the best day, a pessimist on a normal day and a nihilist on his worst. So he just reasoned that you couldn’t argue with homemade pizza and responded.

Stiles: Are we gonna help make the pizza

Derek Hale: Do you want to?

Stiles: Idk it sounds fun

Derek Hale: Okay, we can but you’ll have to come around eleven then. It takes forever.

Stiles: Do we have to sacrifice a virgin for it, is that why it takes so long

Derek Hale: Yes. Looks like we’ll have to kidnap Cora

Stiles literally fucking laughed out into the open. Because of something Derek-holy-fuck-he’s-more-than-hot-Hale said.

Still, not wanting to seem like some wooed maiden, he responded cautiously.

Stiles: That’s your lil sis right

Derek Hale: Yeah, the youngest girl.

Stiles: Do you have brothers

Derek Hale: Yeah, two. One is named Nick and the other is Jack.

Stiles: Jack as in Jackson or Jack as in Jack

Derek Hale: What does that even mean? His real name was Jack

Stiles: Oh okay

That’s when he realized that Hale had used past tense. As in, no longer present. As in this Jack character was no longer present.

Stiles: Did Jack pass away?

Derek Hale: Yeah. Let’s not talk about it.

Stiles stared at his screen for a moment longer, and then decided it was not worth it to pursue. And also, that would be a dick move. He remembered how much he didn’t want to talk to anyone – even Scott – when his mom passed. But he couldn’t remember a time when Hale had been missing from school, so was Stiles just forgetful or did this happen long ago? Still wasn’t worth it to push the issue.

Stiles: Did you know that at the center of almost all galaxies is a black hole

Derek Hale: Is space what you’re stuck on right now?

Stiles: Yep

And the conversation flowed from there. Well, until Stiles realized he still had three pages of Biology homework and shit did he have to leave the conversation.
--
It was a wonder he didn’t swerve off the road, with the constant twitching that filled his Jeep. In hindsight, he did have to get over once to soothe the doll because of his jerky turns. Pulling up to the Hale house was different than Stiles expectation – in a way that was, he knew that it was a big home for a big family but it wasn’t a house. It was a manor. But he still got out, 11:15 in the morning, walking up to a fucking manor door.

He rapped his knuckles against the smooth wood, attempting to smooth out his nerves. He clutched tighter to the doll, because he was just here to do a project and Hale isn’t going to play a joke on him this isn’t a joke.

The door was flung open to reveal a small girl, lanky and tan. “Hey, I’m Cora.” She said, apparently expecting him. He had to stifle a laugh – a nervous habit – when he realized that she was the terror of Hale. She gestured him inside, with a wide arm that said he should have already got inside.

“Oh, hi, I’m Stiles. I’m here cause I’m doing a project with –” He trailed off, not wanting to call Hale by his last name and offend her but also what else should he call him? Derek?

Yeah and get my head fucking chopped off, Stiles thought.

Good thing that Cora just turned and flounced off. Stiles guessed she wanted him to follow her, so he did with stumbling steps. The aroma of fresh food wrapped around Stiles as they progressed down the hall. He saw multiple rooms, most filled with couches and tables, as they passed by. Cora didn’t seem inclined to talk and Stiles was too busy letting everything sink in to notice her take a jump over a particular part of the hall.

Stiles did notice when he lay sprawled on the floor, the soft carpet tickled his cheek. He faintly heard Cora pull out a wheezing laugh as he struggle to right himself. The baby’s shrill tone was set off, as it lay a few feet in front of Stiles. He picked up, carefully looking to see if he destroyed any pieces. Then he squished it against his chest, molding it to his ribs. “Oh, I didn’t mean that to be for you! I should’ve warned you but wow seeing you starfish was pretty amusing.”

Stiles took that as her apology, and using her hand to pull himself up was his way of accepting it. He huffed out a chuckle as he imagined his form on the floor. The baby was beginning to chill the fuck out, and that was good because Stiles could see himself committing homicide very soon because of that sound. “Who was it for?”

She turned around and rounded a corner before responding. “Oh, it was for my aunt. She’s coming home later today from roller skating with the elementary kids.”

“She’s a teacher?” Thinking of other Hales doing things, not just being ‘The Huge Hale Family’ seemed foreign to Stiles.

“Yeah.”

“Well, why would you do that if she’s going to come back home after a long day?”

“She isn’t even going to skate – she hasn’t since I was, like, seven and I had to literally force her out onto the floor. Then I found out why she doesn’t skate.” Her smile hid a snicker. “She has absolutely no balance – it’s literally hilarious.”

She disappeared through a pushing door and he hesitated. Behind that meant more family, probably, and the chance of backing out decreasing to like zero. He repositioned the baby into a relaxed hold, a blatant try to act nonchalant.

“Hey,” he said as he moved into the kitchen area. Which, yeah, was a mess. There was flour over at least four countertops and three bowls filled with what looked like the remnants of dough piling into one side of the sink. It reminded Stiles of when he and his mother would bake for the entire school on his birthday. Stiles pushed the craving pang away.

The entire scene became all too surreal when Hale turned around, flour coating his face and streaking his hair, holding another bowl of dough. “Oh, hey. I’m just making the bread so we can add the spiced sauce after it bakes a little.”

“You’re baking the bread and then putting the good stuff on top?” Stiles tone was incredulous, but he moved closer to Hale anyway. Cora shifted over to the dishes, starting up hot water.

“Family tradition,” Cora informed him. “Also, sorry about everything being everywhere. Mom has a head cold and is in bed and she usually cleans up while we enjoy making the stuff.”

His question must have been written all over his face, because as Hale shifted the dough out of the bowl and onto the countertop to flatten it, he began to explain. “Our grandma used to make pizza for us a lot, but as she got older, she began to forget things. One time, she thought she had put the stuff on the dough and put it in the oven. Laura went to check on it, after a bit, and discovered Grandma’s mistake but we just took it out, and put the stuff on it, and put it back in. To make her feel better, we all said it was the best pizza we’ve ever had and since then, that’s how it’s made.” So that is the most he’s ever talked to someone from school at once. Stiles tried not to let that fact get the better of him.

“Well, is it the best pizza you’ve ever had?”

“It’s not the worst,” Cora retorts. The easy silence of the kitchen envelopes them, and Stiles finds interest in the rolling muscles of Hale’s back as he shapes the dough. Then he realizes that he’s standing like an idiot in someone else’s kitchen staring at them and not offering to help.

“Is there, uh—do you need help?” Stiles finished lamely.

Cora dried her hands, and Stiles turned to do whatever she was going to gesture to but the movement was too sharp and the doll awoke with a vengeance. “Oh yeah, you brought a baby.” Cora rushed over, task forgotten.

“Told you I’m not a superstore mom,” Stiles challenged to Hale. He snorts, mumbling something that sounded suspiciously of ‘Sure you aren’t.’

“Well, can I hold it? I mean, I’ll probably get it to be quiet unlike you.” Cora seemed eager, like it was a real baby.

Stiles handed it over gratefully. “It won’t shut up for anyone.”

“It shuts up for Derek.” Cora countered.

“Cora.” A fringe of embarrassment hid in the warning of Hale’s voice.

“What? And he didn’t teach me how to take care of it? Unfair, dude, unfair.”

“Oh no, he’s just got that side of him. You could even call him a true mo—” Hale put a hand over her mouth and dragged her to the door.

“And that concludes Cora’s time with us.” He said firmly, before shoving her through.

“Wait, what about the baby?” Stiles was only over here for the baby – Yeah, you’re only over here for the baby, Stiles reminded himself firmly.

“I checked the perimeter for how far the bracelets can be and still be monitored. As long as she stays in the house, we’ll be good. Besides, you can deal with a little time away from the thing, can’t you? Your eyes have as many bags as a grocery store.” Stiles laughed, albeit a little humorously. “Anyway, I’m about to put them into the oven and then you can help me mash up spices.”

“You have spices in your sauce?” It’s the best kind of sauce, but unhealthy for his dad, so he rarely makes it.

“Of course. There’s no other way to make pizza.”

“You are so right, dude.” The only things they added though was basil and garlic. Which Stiles got to crush into powder, and, for someone so jittery, was great. The pizzas came out soon after, the soft dough metamorphosing into actual bread.

Hale looks good in concentration, Stiles decided. His brow furrowed, with a small pout protruding from his bottom lip. It was almost like the pizza sauce had wronged him. Stiles took a little out, with the tip of the spoon and flicked it at him.

It hit his face soundless, but his shriek was loud enough. “What the hell,” he growled. Stiles wasn’t paying attention because he was too busy laughing his ass off.

Then a cool, slick feeling hit his neck, quickly sliding down into his shirt. He cried out, wriggling his torso in, which just sped up the sauces’ movements. His arms gestures out, in a statement of give me something to get it off. Hale just smirked and turned back to the pizza. Stiles waddled over to the sink, where there was a rag. The cool air pebbled his skin when he lifted his shirt to swipe the cloth over himself.

“Serves you right,” Hale said behind him. Stiles had the sudden urge to swipe at him, but refrained from it in favor of keeping his arm.

“Well, the only reason why I flicked any on you was because you were looking so angry at that pizza. I figured I had to save it.”

“Such a hero,” Hale commented dryly.

“I’ll probably have to save your ass one day, so watch it.” Stiles said teasingly. He found his cheeks stretched tight as he grinned over at Hale. He wasn’t exactly smiling back, but he wasn’t frowning. If anything, he was studying Stiles.

Which now that that was what Stiles had focused on, it was a little disconcerting. Hale finished up spreading the sauce and went over to the fridge. As he busied himself there, Stiles busied his own self in an attempt to find appropriate conversation.

“So are you look for a multiple assortment of cheese? Thirteen best cheeses on pizza in there?” Stiles assumed that it would be something fancy and all natural when Hale just pulled out store bought mozzarella.

“No,” Hale said simply. “After this is put in, we wait thirty minutes and then it’ll be done. Did you bring your homework?”

Stiles straightened instinctively for a second, thinking. “Yeah, my book bag is in the Jeep. I’ll just go get it.” Once Stiles was out of the kitchen, he prayed he remembered which place to turn. And it turned out he did, because he was moving out of the house when he found the room that Cora had withdrawn to. It was a sitting room, with soft couches, and lots of knitting laying around. She had the doll curled into her arm, working a soft blue yarn into a hat. Stiles’ heart felt like it was punched, thinking back to his mother.

He realized he left his phone as well, when he saw it sitting on the well-worn seat of his Jeep. He snatched it up after slinging on his book bag. He moved back to the house cautiously while checking his phone, because he saw that Scott had texted him and he needed to check in with his dad.

Scott: Hey, how r things

Scott: Ik ur over at hale’s

Scott: Im calling the cops if u dont answer in twenty min

Shit, what does he think Hale is going to do to me? Stiles knew that Hale had muscles that looked like they could crush bones with just a flex, but sheesh. He wouldn’t be able to help with the baby if he was dead.

Stiles: Dude calm down. Im fine. Ive been making pizza

Afterwards, he stuffed it away and hurried back inside. He was just going to head back to the kitchen, but after the door closed he heard Hale call him into one of the living room area things.

Stiles wandered past a few, wondering where Hale was before spotting the room. Hale glanced up briefly, but ducked his head back down to continue frowning at his work. Stiles dared a glance at what he was working on before plunking his own work at the other end of the old looking coffee table.

When he pulled out biology, it felt like he was pulling out a tooth. He hated the class, Mr. Lennox, the people, it all. He had been steadily staring at his notes “simple” cell organelles – more or less staring at his doodles on the side – when Hale interrupted him. “Hey,” Hale waved his hand, centimeters from skinning under his nose.

“Huh?”

“You’re kind of out of it. I was just going to let you know that the pizza’s done.”

“Awesome.” Stiles jumped up, relieved to be given reprieve from biology. He followed close at Hale’s heels. “Hey, where is everyone else? I just noticed how quiet it is.”

“Oh, my family is really big on the outdoors. They wanted to try a new trail through the woods today.” He shrugged as if it was common for families to go traveling in the forest as a unit. Stiles felt sick at a sudden idea.

“So it’s not because I’m here?” They had made it into the kitchen by then, and Hale swiveled to fix Stiles with a blank stare. It was neither negative nor positive. “Well?” Stiles pressed.

“It’s not because you’re here. It’s because my mom has a head cold.” The pizzas slid out, looking extra-cheesy (compliments of Stiles). “And because the family doesn’t like to overwhelm new guests. All of us can be a lot to handle.” The last bit came from Hale’s turned and tightened form. The fact that Stiles had called it right had bothered him.

“Well, you can tell them that next time I come, they can just be normal. I don’t need an entire family to change its plans because I’m coming over.” Stiles shrugged, feeling an uneasy pull. They don’t even want to meet you.

“They didn’t change their plans. They just didn’t stick around long enough to meet you.” The pizzas had to cool, so Hale started to set up drinks. He grabbed three, so Stiles figured that Cora would be joining them. “Are you okay with juice?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” Stiles didn’t mind juice, but why with pizza? “Out of curiosity, why not soda?”

“We don’t really like the taste of the chemicals. Most of the stuff my family eats is all-natural. Especially meat.”

“That’s cool, I guess. I mean, it’s kind of like that with my dad. I want to keep him around as long as I can, so I don’t let him eat too unhealthy. A lot of steamed vegetables, and baked chicken. Oh, and tofu. Tofu with all the different sauces.” Stiles ate anything that came his way, okay, he was a growing boy.

“You cook a lot at your home?” Hale framed the question carefully, as if it was a fragile subject.

“Yeah, my dad is sheriff and so he has to do a lot of work and doesn’t have a lot of time to do stuff like cook. Speaking of father figures, I need to check to see if he texted me.” While Stiles fished out his phone, Hale went to collect Cora and their baby. There was no text from his dad, but there was one from Scott.

Scott: Makin pizza with hale? That sounds so normal

Why was everyone so surprised that Hale was an actual person that did actual things? Sure, Stiles had trouble believing it at the beginning too, but hell he was in Hale’s house. So the theory that he was a vengeful spirit of a model roaming the halls was definitely off the table.

Stiles: Yeah because hes a normal person

The reply was almost instant.

Scott: No hes a creepy murderer that looks hot

Stiles: You have no proof he killed anyone

Scott: Yet

Scott: Have a good time. Ally says u have to tell her abt it soon

Stiles groaned, sliding in the oak chair to angle his body. He secretly didn’t mind the spilling to Allison. Even if she usually only listened to him blabber about her best friend like that.

Cora and Hale came in a few moments afterwards, bickering about something trivial. “I just think that if you’re going to take care of a kid, you have to know how to make them stuff.”

“Yeah, usually you do that with a real kid. Not with a doll you give back to a teacher after the assignment is up. Speaking of the assignment,” Hale diverted his attention from his sister, in favor of grabbing Stiles’ attention (not like he hadn’t had it to begin with), “do you want to do Week One sheet today?”

“Uh. Sure?” Stiles vaguely remembered Coach saying something about cataloguing when the baby cried, what it needed, and when the parents were around each other. They were weekly journals that was a majority of the real grade for the assignment. The being good parents was more like an A for effort thing. “What was supposed to be in the sheet again?”

“Things like amount of times it cried, how often it woke you up, how well you were at soothing it. It’s all based off high, medium and low. Not actual numbers.” Stiles relaxed some, and Cora came over to him.

“Here’s your doll back. Derek wouldn’t let me finish making it a hat.”

“That’s no fair.” Stiles replied empathically.

“Why let her make a hat that won’t even fit a real baby and the doll won’t be able to keep when we turn it back in?” Hale did have logic on his side.

Cora sauntered over to him, grabbed her pizza, and exited with a Hale-worthy scowl on her face. “After we do the sheet, I can help you with Biology.” Hale said offhandedly, while he brought the food over to Stiles.

“How did you know I was having trouble with Biology?”

“You were staring at the paper as if it hypnotized you. You aren’t going to learn anything like that.”

“Like you would know.” Stiles snorted. “You just want something to work in school, and voila! It works.”

“My aunt is literally a teacher. And my other aunt is a nurse. So they can help me understand basic science curriculum.” Hale had a grimace on his face, like he didn’t enjoy Stiles implying that he wasn’t inclined to do work.

“Lucky.” Stiles bit into the pizza, and had to bite back a moan. “This is great, I mean, not greasy but it still tastes like pizza. I am sincerely happy I came over early today.”

Hale had that blank look back in his eyes again before he nodded, gaze returning to his pizza. “I’m glad you did too.”

Did Derek-fucking-Hale say he enjoys my company?

“What time does your family get home?” Stiles was just digging for a new topic of conversation.

“They should be getting home around dinner time. I think Cora and I are going to make spaghetti – you know, how carbs are supposed to help athletes.”

“Your family are athletes?”

“Not officially. We don’t do sports with other people, but we’re very competitive towards each other.”

“Are you afraid other people are going to infect you?” Stiles was only half-joking. Sometimes Hale acted like humans were a disease.

“More like we’d break them.” He snorted. “We play really rough. My uncle, when he was in college, he accidentally broke a guy’s sternum. The coach had him benched, said he was taking steroids.”

Stiles talked around a mouthful of cheesy goodness. The sauce really helped the slightly too-baked bread. “Was he taking steroids?”

Hale slid his eyes sideways at Stiles, while taking a small bite out of his pizza – and really, he should not look that good doing something like that. Really. “No, he wasn’t into those kinds of drugs.”

“Oh, I gotcha.” Stiles swallowed, before gulping down some juice. Hm. Apple. “Why won’t the adults let the kids play sports, if it was just your uncle?”

“Uncle Peter is the baby of their generation. When he was doing football in college, Laura was already nine. She was on lacrosse, and got a referral for dislocating a girl’s shoulder. So, Mom set us all down and had a lengthy discussion about our unhealthy desire to maul others.”

Stiles laughed a little at the word choice. “You make it sound like you’re dogs.”

“Woof,” Hale said, unimpressed. But his face was enough to send Stiles into hysterics. They ate mostly in silence, with the occasional outburst of shrill laughter or muttering of dogs.

“Give me your plate,” Hale commanded.

“I can help wash dishes.” Stiles offered, deciding he would just put the doll in the chair while he helped.

Hale shook his head. “No, today is the day Cora does dishes. I’m not helping her.” Stiles almost disagreed, but the sooner they left, the sooner he would get help with biology.

“Alright.” Stiles bounded ahead of Hale this time, sure of where he was going. Well, mostly sure. His jostling must have sparked the baby, because almost as soon as he stepped over the living room threshold it started up. “But why would you do this to me?” He muttered, upset.

“You’re holding it wrong.” Hale informed him. He had probably even heard what Stiles had said. Stiles turned to him, expecting him to take the baby. Instead, Hale framed his arm like a tiny cage. “It feels pressure on its…body. Hold it like this.”

Stiles attempted to mimic the arm gestures but it still wouldn’t stop. Hale sighed, and walked behind Stiles – who, holy shit, was not freaking out that Hale was centimeters from him. “Hold it like this.” Hale only touched his arms, but the body heat radiating from his chest gave Stiles a hot flash. Stiles allowed him to shift his arms, attempting to be still otherwise as to not frighten away Hale.

Hale trailed his steady hand from the crook of Stiles’ elbow to his wrist. He pressed there, and it felt like it was literally push on Stiles’ heart, to encourage Stiles to put more pressure on the baby. Stiles gasped quietly, barely realizing the baby had stopped crying, as Hale moved away from him.

“There,” Hale said quietly. He had his back to him, moving back to the books on the table. Stiles stood, like a deer, bewilderedly staring at Hale. Every inch he had touched burned, and the rest of his skin felt like electricity. “Now I can help you study for biology.”

Like hell I’d be able to learn any now.

Chapter Text

No matter how many times Hale had explained the difference between a lysosome and a vesicle, Stiles wasn’t getting it. It may have had something to do with how he gestured with his hands, attempting to relate to Stiles probably, and all Stiles could relate to was how those moving, rough fingers felt on his arms.

He had understood all the other organelles now, thanks to crash course. But really what was the difference? They both carried something, they both were small, and really they were the same thing.

After about the third time, Stiles decided to distract himself by checking his phone. His dad had texted him.

Dad: Hey I’m getting home early. 5:30

Stiles realized it was already 4:00, and if his dad was coming home early, he had to leave soon to make food. He leapt to his feet, causing Hale to look up from his laptop (he was currently looking up different ways to explain biology terminology).

“Dude, my dad texted me. I have to go home to fix dinner.” He was scrambling to get his stuff together, before scooping up the baby and turning to see if Hale was following what he was saying. Hale just nodded and Stiles’ was on his way out.
--
His dad walked in right as Stiles was steaming the broccoli. Stiles knew his dad hated the smell, so he shot an apologetic look his way. His dad moved over to the end of the kitchen, hanging his jacket up before disappearing up the stairs. He was probably going to grab a shower.

The plates had been set up by the time he came back down, in a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt with holes in it. He sat at the end of the table, looking disgruntledly towards the baked chicken. “How was the day at the Hale’s?”

“It was good. The family wasn’t home, apparently they like to run a lot.”

His dad nodded his assent. “That’s true. Parrish says he sometimes does activities with them, when he feels like he needs to shape up.”

“Parrish is friends with them?” Stiles saw the Hales as Hale, who actively chose to have no friends.

“He’s friends with the guy, what’s his name, Paul? Peter? Something like that. Peter, I think.”

Stiles remembered that Hale had mentioned an uncle. “Yeah, Peter sounds about right. When I went over, the only ones home were Cora and his mom. But his mom had a head cold, so I only met Cora.”

“Was she like Derek or is the rest of his family actual normal beings?” Stiles felt a jolt at his dad saying Hale’s first name.

“He is a normal being, Dad. He just doesn’t care to express it to other people. And Cora, she’s a bit mischievous. But besides that, she seemed fine. A middle school kid.” Stiles shrugged.

“Oh, a middle school kid. Heaven help us.” The Sheriff was looking at Stiles with a dry I-can’t-believe-you expression. He obviously remembered how shortly ago Stiles used to be one. He drank some of the soda – Stiles wasn’t cruel when it came to staying healthy – before continuing on. “Are you going back there next Sunday?”

Stiles nodded. “That’s the plan. I’m really relieved – tomorrow is Hale’s day to until Thursday. So I can get some real rest.”

“Yeah, that’s good. That thing is really loud.” The Sheriff pulled a face.

“Has it been keeping you up?” Stiles winced. “Sorry, Dad.”

His father shrugged. “It has been crying less. It’s no more than you cried when you were a baby, maybe even less.” He joked. Stiles smiled, happy that he wasn’t suffering too badly because of his project. “Do you have health tomorrow?”

Stiles frowned, thinking. “No, I’ll have it on Tuesday and Thursday.”

“How are you going to get it to Hale then? Do you guys have any more classes together?”

“No, I think he takes a lot of upperclassmen classes.”

“Okay, I just want to make sure you aren’t doing all the work.” The Sheriff knew Stiles’ obsession with control, and making sure everything was perfect. Aka, doing all the work to ensure it isn’t done wrong. The Stiles syndrome.

“How was work?” Stiles needed a change of conversation.

“It was fine. We’ve been working on a case for a bit, but I can’t seem to find enough information to book the guys for it… I just need them to slip up once.”

“Do you want me to take a look at it?” Stiles said, a little too eagerly.

The Sheriff cut him a look. “No, son. I don’t need my teenage child attempting to crack a police case – I would get in serious trouble if someone knew that I let you even look at the file.”

“Okay, Dad.” Stiles mumbled around some broccoli.
--
Stiles and Hale had decided that Stiles would do like Hale did last week. Come find him during lunch, which wasn’t hard, because he was the only one sitting at a picnic table. “Hey,” Stiles offered up, when he was close enough. Hale looked up from his book, only to close it.

“Hey, I see the baby survived.” Hale nodded towards the doll, which was in perfect condition thank you very much.

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m a good parent? Why would you even think I’m not a good parent?”

Hale gestured him for to sit, which Stiles did not gawk at. “Where to begin?” Hale said humorlessly. However, the corner of his mouth was tilted and holy shit is that how he looks when he’s happy? He should literally be happy all the time, his eyes lighting up and his entire face smooth and perfect and oh God this is where Stiles dies.

“Oh, like the list is so extensive.” Stiles managed to choke out, while throwing himself ungraciously onto the other side of the table.

“Well, you are extremely uncoordinated. So you carrying a baby and not tripping and killing it is hard. And then you are very…expressive with your arms. You may forget you’re holding a baby and oops – it’s on the floor. Which brings me to my next point, you’re very forgetful. It could starve, or dehydrate, and then it’s gone.” Hale shrugged. “You like talking a lot, and sometimes a baby needs quiet. The baby would never get sleep, living in a house with you.”

Stiles laughed at the last remark. “And that, I think is the most I’ve ever heard you say. Which, a baby needs someone to talk to it – so it can learn. You aren’t the most vocal person ever. Towards anyone. So no offense, dude, but do you really think you’d be better parent?”

“Maybe. I mean, that’s what this project is supposed to teach right? How long it takes before we destroy our baby?”

“At least we’re not Greenburg and that senior chick.” Hale at least seemed interested, a bite of apple inches from his lips. That Stiles may or may not be staring at, with their tempting half-part.

“What happened with Greenburg and that senior chick?” Hale prodded.

“Oh, apparently the girl accidentally set their baby on fire. Because of her curling iron.” Stiles said flippantly. And then Hale did something unexpected.

He tilted his head back, and let out a bark of laughter. His mouth stretched into a grin, almost too many teeth, too sharp, but still beautiful. Stiles thought he forgot to breathe for a moment, allowing that short sound that came from Hale’s mouth to wash over him and drag him under. He is too good to be true.

“Well, they aren’t passing.” Hale finally managed out, his wry grin slowly fading. It was light watching a light dim out, before going completely dark. “Some people aren’t good with kids, or just with watching them.”

“What? Are you?” Stiles attempted to push Hale out of his somber mood by bringing back some banter.

“I never said I was.” Hale said, before pushing up and away, leaving Stiles confused and staring after him.

Stiles expected that Hale just had somewhere to be, and tried not to take anything to heart. Like, no, Hale had no grown tired of putting up with Stiles. His resolve on this strengthened when next time he saw Hale – the next day actually, he had the decency to nod at Stiles. And then he headed over to Stiles locker.

“Can I help you?” Stiles quipped, meeting him next to his locker.

“I was coming over here because I was wondering how you wanted to set up our project for ecstasy.”

“That’s due next week, right?” Stiles had all the information he needed, plus some. Plus Hale’s work too; so he wasn’t stressed, he just had a trouble keeping deadlines.

“Yeah, on Wednesday. So I was thinking that Sunday we can put the presentation up.”

“Okay, that’s cool.”

“So do you want to head to class now?” Oh, that’s right. It was Tuesday. Which, in a sick sense, explained why Stiles was here early. He found himself nodding, and following, even with a dead brain.

“Whoa, where’s the baby?” Stiles startled when he realized Hale’s arms were empty. Hale just kept walking, seemingly unconcerned by their lack of a major grade. He grabbed onto one of Hale’s arms, tighter than meaning too. He was whirled into slamming into one of the lockers, Hale’s mouth tightened in defense. Stiles’ feet attempted to scramble backwards, get some give from the lockers. Back away, back away! His mind was screaming at him.

The tense moment passed, and Hale came back from wherever his defense had taken him. “Oh, shit.” He fixed Stiles’ plaid shirt by pulling quick on it once, and then stepped back. Stiles took a moment to quiet his pulse.

“Oh, shit is right.” He wheezed out.

“Sorry, I’m not a person that responds well to conflict.” His hands shot up, apology written on the same palms that pushed him into the lockers, the same ones that traced his forearms, teaching him how to hold a baby.

The baby. Right.

“I wouldn’t say that that wasn’t a good response to most types of conflicts – but not pseudo conflicts. Anyway, where is the baby?”

“It’s wrapped up in my leather jacket, back in the classroom.”

“Why did you leave it?” Stiles wanted to know why Hale would leave their project in a place where everyone needed that project and some had broken theirs.

Hale’s cheeks appeared to tinge slight pink, but it was like, fourth day stubble and it was hard to tell. “I had to go to the bathroom.” He said gruffly, before turning to move away from Stiles.

Stiles followed after, moving quickly with his gangly legs to catch up to Hale’s form. He kept a safe distance though – specifically, an arm’s length away. “You never answered me.” Hale said, while he pushed open the door for the Health class.

“What was I supposed to answer?”

“How you want to set up our project presentation?” Hale reminded him.

“Oh, yeah, that thing. God, do we actually have to present that?” Stiles groaned.

“No, do you think Mr. Finstock is going to sit through our presentations? We just have to put it all together.”

“What about Prezi?” Hale frowned, and Stiles doubted for a second if his suggestion was a good one.

“I don’t know how to set up Prezi.” Hale admitted. He turned away for a moment, so Stiles took the opportunity to park it in his seat. Hale faced him again, this time with a cup of coffee.

He actually brought his extra fucking coffee.

“I can show you how.” Stiles offered up. It was really basic, he was sure that Hale had just never tried before. Hale nodded before taking his seat.
--
When Thursday rolled around, taking the baby was a lot easier, because he now knew how to hold the doll to get it to be quiet, so sleeping became more manageable. He ate lunch with Hale on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. He refrained on Wednesday and Friday because of the looks that Scott was shooting him. Well, maybe Stiles didn’t want to sit at the table watching his best friend lose every shred of dignity he had with puppy eyes. Also, he hated a part of the table. Because Ally and Lydia were friends, they sat together so Jackson had to come – and okay, the douchebaggery could sometimes cause Stiles to lose his appetite. But then there was also Danny, who he could he have a good queer conversation with sometimes (note: Jackson).

So, when it came Saturday, and he got a text from Hale, he was more than surprised.

Derek Hale: Hey, we’re having a barbeque. My mom figures because you didn’t have “her” special pizza, that you should come to this as the apology meal. She guarantees good ribs.

Derek Hale: Also Cora wants to finish making her stupid hat.

Stiles stared at his phone. Well, his dad had the day shift so he was just planning on spending the day on the internet. Hanging over at Hale’s house didn’t sound too bad. Stiles bet the family didn’t even bite.

Stiles: Ok when should I come over

Derek Hale: As soon as you can. Or want to.

And that’s how Stiles found himself pulling on that dirt trail again. The bumps on the road didn’t feel as rocky as his nerves – which probably also had something to do with how he was going slowly to keep the baby quiet. His nerves were shit because it was obvious, what he was going to was a family thing. It was a barbecue and that meant all the family. Stiles knew that he had said that he wouldn’t mind to meet the full Hale family, but he didn’t really mean it. Because, his huge family was fucking terrifying.

Yet, he was pulling himself out of his Jeep and walking up the trail. He figured it was in the back, so at least he was going to get some walking in before meeting everyone. His legs felt twitchy, as if they were so unstable they couldn’t support him. He took his shaking hands and shoved them into his jean pockets. The first thing he saw when he turned the corner was several children, running in the back. He counted seven, but he wasn’t sure how accurate it was. A woman came bustling out with cloth in her arms through the back door, onto the patio. She was tan, with strong arms and dark hair that was cut near her high cheekbones. She looked like a Greek who could win a war.

Stiles was still frozen when two men came out, carrying out a table. One appeared to be Hale’s father – a man with a scruff of a beard, and eyes blue like ice. His gaze, the one time it fell on Stiles in seventh grade (it was science fair, and Stiles was put next to Hale) frightened the mess out of him. It didn’t help that he was a judge, and that got him super low scores.

Not that it seemed like Hale cared.

That was when the other man noticed Stiles, curled up around the baby near the corner of the house. No going back now, Stiles sighed. The man helped set up the table, before gesturing over to him. Thankfully, a voice sounded from inside the house, and Hale’s father and the other man went back inside. The warrior still progressed towards him.

“Hello, you must be Stiles.” She offered a smile, coming near to him. He smiled back, attempting to relax. “My name’s Camilla. The man who just went in with Arthur – Derek’s dad – was my husband. His name is Darvon; he wanted to come over to tell you we won’t eat you alive. You’re safe to come onto our land.” She tilted her head back, to laugh a pitch too high to be comforting, before gesturing him to follow her.

“Derek,” she called out. “Stiles is here.”

The first person out of the house, however, was Cora. She held tight to a child – one that couldn’t be older than one. “Hey, Stiles.” She greets cheerfully.

“Uh, hey, Cora. Who you got there?” She was a pretty baby, with pretty dark ringlets. She had dark eyes too, everything drawing a person in.

“Oh, this is Aubree. She’s the youngest of Aunt Ritsa.” Aubree waved in response, but Stiles’ attention was split, because Hale finally made an appearance. “Steer clear of her right now. She gets intense when she’s cooking, and can become crabby if Uncle Darvon doesn’t grill the meat the way she wants.” Cora added as a side note.

“Mama,” Aubree cooed, reaching for Stiles. He shifted back for a moment, torn between a laugh and a gasp. Camilla was coming out at that moment, and she saw the interaction. Hale managed to smirk a little, standing close to Cora and Aubree.

“Don’t worry, Stiles.” Camilla said. “She only knows a few words, and she’s calling everyone mama.”

Just to spite Camilla it seemed, Aubree leaned over to where Derek was. “Dewek.” She grabbed at him. He grinned, happy that he wasn’t the one being called mama.

A voice came out from the house, sharp and clear. “Cora Jolene, why hasn’t the trash been taken out yet?” Cora’s face lost some color, and she promptly handed off Aubree to Derek.

“I’m sorry, Mom.” Cora hollered while scurrying to do her chore. Hale still had his stupid smirk on his face, so Stiles rolled his eyes at him.

“I’ll get her to call me Stiles, and then I’ll be her favorite so you can wipe that look off your stupid face.” Stiles shot out, without thinking of who he was talking to. The repercussions were definitely not as bad as he was expecting.

“You’re just upset she knows my name and called you mama.” Hale taunted.

“Just stuff it,” Stiles responded grumpily.

“Yes, mommy dearest.” Hale quickly jumped out of his reach, dancing away while steadying Aubree. She laughed loudly at the way he moved her, but he had to pull a quick movement when one of the kids came running close to them.

“Watch out!” he called out, zooming past with a ball. Three others followed close on his heel, lost in the game.

“You watch it, Nick!” Hale called back.

“Oh, that’s your brother?” Stiles attempted to follow the game with renewed interest. There were definitely seven kids now that he was closer to look.

“Yeah, he’s the oldest out there – twelve. The girl, with the pigtails, she’s Grace – that’s Aunt Camilla’s youngest. Next to her, in the stripes, is Bailey and next to him is Colton. They’re both Aunt Ritsa’s, and so is the little girl that is picking flowers over there. Her name is Haleigh, and she will never live it down.” Hale threw in a quick joke, which Stiles had to laugh at. He was trying to keep up with all the names. “The other two are Aunt Camilla’s children – they’re twins – Aiden and Ethan. They’re only a year younger than Nick.”

“Okay, I’ll try to remember that all but I really won’t be able to.” Stiles warned. Just then, the small girl – who must have only been about six – came walking up to them. Hale gestured for him to greet her. “Uh, hi, I’m Stiles. You’re Haleigh, right?” He squatted to be on her level.

She giggled sweetly, her hair moving to cover half her face. She had crazily unkempt hair, and a missing tooth that made her look – to Stiles – as if she was raised in the wild. “I’m Haleigh. Can I play with your baby?”

Stiles looked up to Hale, not wanting to refuse her but not wanting the doll to be destroyed. Hale nodded, looking serious at Haleigh. “If we let you play with it, then you have to promise you’ll take good care of it. You can play with it on the patio and in the house. Not out in the yard.”

Haleigh’s eyes went wide, and she nodded feverishly. Stiles reached out to hand it to her and she clutched it to her chest. “It may start crying, if you don’t treat it just like you would treat Aubree.”

“Hi, baby.” She said softly, before looking back up to Stiles. “What’s her name?”

Stiles blinked back at her. It’s a doll, it doesn’t have a name. But you can’t say that to a little girl. “What do you want it to be named?” Hale saved him.

She studied the doll for a moment, pursing her lips. Stiles could suddenly see the relation – Hale’s concentration face and Haleigh’s concentration face were identical. And he had the urge to pull the baby away from the scrutiny but for God’s sake it’s a doll.

“Poohkey.” She decided, before running off towards the house. She had to duck around a woman heading out. She had her long hair put into a tight ponytail, her broad shoulders out confidently. She headed towards them.

“Hi, I’m Derek’s mom, Talia.” She extended a wiry arm. Stiles shyly took it, but attempted to make a strong shake. She smiled, a familiar way about her. Stiles didn’t even realize he was grinning back until she stepped away. “I’m really glad you could join us because I didn’t get a chance to meet you last week.”

“Hey, son, we might need another table. Come help me,” Arthur poked his head out from the back door. Hale looked between his mom and Stiles before handing Aubree off to Stiles.

“Mama!” she cried, ridiculously happy. Hale laughed again, a short one but full of mirth.

Aubree squirmed for a minute, before Stiles resettled her across his waist. “Sorry,” he apologized to Talia breathlessly, he wasn’t aware something so small could be as strong as she was.

She laughed easily. “You don’t hold babies much?”

“Not alive ones at least.” Stiles joked back.

“She seems to like you.” Talia noted. Her tone suggested that she was going to say something else, and he didn’t know how to respond anyway, so he tried to keep quiet. He settled his nerves by bouncing Aubree. “I think Derek likes you too. He hasn’t really brought any friends over before.”

“It’s just for the project,” Stiles mumbled, embarrassed. He was trying not to get caught up on the ‘I think Derek likes you too.’

“No,” she shook her head. “You could have met at the park, or at your house if it was just for the project. He certainly wouldn’t have invited you over for today if it was just for the project.”

Stiles stared at her. “He said that you invited me over, because you didn’t get to make your special pizza.”

She looked back at him, her eyes going wide. A smirk bloomed into a full out grin, and a belly laugh bubbled from her throat. “Oh, that is rich. I did say he could invite you over, because I was going to make ribs. I never said that I invited you over. No, that was him.” She continued laughing, while Stiles just kept staring.

What?

“You’ll be a good friend to my son, right?” She asked once she regained her composure.

“Uh, yeah, I mean, I can – I don’t—” Stiles began stumbling over his words, what does she mean you’ll be a good friend? Were he and Hale friends? He just decided nodding was the best thing he could do.

“Good. I’m glad he chose to do something that would actually made him happy and it got him a friend.” With that, she seemed to startle. “I left the potatoes in the oven; I need to go check on things. Come on, Stiles, we can see what job you can do.”

Stiles stumbled after her, leaving the laughs of the children to go into the house. The smell of spices and a sharp voice is the first thing that hit his senses. Talia ducked down to explain them both. “Ritsa is the one who makes the sauce, and so she feels like the ribs are her responsibility. But she can’t cook, so she gets Darvon to do it for her, though she complains the entire time that he can’t do it as well as James did.”

“Then why does she let him do it?” Stiles asked foolishly.

Talia paused, just brief enough to place a hand on Stiles shoulder. “James passed away last year. In a car crash. Ritsa was so upset, she almost lost Aubree. She still goes in and out of these periods of sadness, and we make sure that she stays here so nothing happens, but… Can you understand if I asked you to refrain from talking about it?”

Stiles nodded, completely understanding. He wasn’t sure if Hale had said anything about his mom, but he definitely wasn’t going to bring it up. They continued into the kitchen which had a side opening that Stiles hadn’t seen before.

“Hey, Stiles,” Camilla was walking around him, more sheets in his hand. “Coming to help?”

“Uh, yeah,” He smiled easily.

“Good,” Cora brushed past him. “You can help me put up silverware.” So Stiles turned right around to go with her, handing off Aubree to Talia. He smiled gratefully when she seemed to move to put Aubree down in a play pen, which was definitely not there the last week.

They got out there, where Hale and his dad were setting up another table. It was slighter larger than the first, and after the legs were stable, were shooed away by Camilla. Cora dumped a part of the silverware into his hands, a good seven or eight forks and knives (which Stiles didn’t almost stab himself in the hand by trying to grab). “Sorry, I forget that not everyone is great about reflexes.”

“First of all, that was rude,” Stiles struggled after her. “And second, I shouldn’t accept that rude apology; like wow, sorry, I punched you in the face but it was ugly anyway.”

She laughed, even if she didn’t seem to quite understand. “I meant it in a good way. Doctors think my family is some sort of hybrid because we all have superfast reflexes.”

“Trust me, I know.” Stiles thought back to the day that he woke up Hale.

“Hm?” it was merely a sound, but an invitation to continue talking. Cora and he were on the first table, opposite sides and lining up the shining silverware.

“Oh, well, like the first week we worked together in Health, he came in and fell asleep and I woke him up, right? Well, he tried to take my foot off. So yeah, I know how fast his reflexes are.”

“I think that’s my bad. If he wakes up, and feels something touching him, he knows he has to act fast cause it’s probably one of my pranks.” She said my bad, but she didn’t look her bad. She looked smug as hell. Stiles resisted the urge to swat her.

“Yeah, he said something along those lines.”

She sighed, laying the last bit down before responding. “I’m just glad he took the class, even if the baby gives him no sleep. It makes him happy.”

Stiles tried the ‘I’m not really interested tactic’ that Cora had pulled a moment before. “Hm?” It came out too high, too eager, but Stiles hoped she couldn’t tell.

“Didn’t you know that Derek like, loves kids?” She pulled up short, stopping him before he got on the patio. “He wanted to take Health, because he knew about the baby project.”

Stiles was stunned, because aloof Derek Hale had a soft spot for children? It was mind blowing that that angry face could care for literally anything. Though, Stiles did admit, he was beginning to see less and less of an angry face, and more of the Hale underneath it. He followed Cora into the house to get the rest of the forks and knives; and, for the first time in what felt like ages, he was silent with his thoughts.

Chapter Text

Lunch with the Hales was a busy affair, Stiles soon learned. The larger table was for the kids, and funnily enough, Cora had to sit there. Though she was crowned the “queen”, she didn’t appear to be enjoying her kingdom of making sure babies didn’t choke on bones or corn.

Stiles was placed between Ritsa and Hale, one making him uncomfortable, the other making him nervous. It was when Hale was telling him the seating arrangements, while Talia and Camilla ensured that the plates were prepared, that Stiles noticed something.

“Hey, where’s your older sister?” Stiles turned to Hale, who was busy pointing at seats.

Hale pulled a grimace, and a furrow of his brow. “She went to stay with one of her friends for a few days.”

“Why?”

“Her and Mom aren’t on the best speaking terms right now, and everyone is perfectly fine with letting her out so we can all have some space.” Hale shifted restlessly. Stiles realized that almost all of the plates were down, and knew he’d probably on get a few minutes longer to just talk to Hale alone.

“Oh, so like. Let sleeping dogs lie?” Hale just nodded before moving over to his seat. He sat down, and gestured for Stiles to do the same. The second he sat down, a woman came to sit down next to him, Aubree sheltered in her arms. She smelled of smoke, and had sad eyes.

“So, you must be Stiles?” She asked, her voice smoother than what Stiles was expecting. Even if it was quiet.

“Uh, yeah. I’m Stiles. It’s nice to meet you.” She took a slightly plump arm and swung around his shoulder. She squeezed once before letting it go.

“Mama!” Aubree cried out gleefully. Stiles almost groaned, but it made the woman’s – probably Ritsa’s – eyes brighten slightly. Hale did snicker a bit, and Stiles tried to remember that he was a guest at Hale’s house and elbowing his host in the ribs was bad manners.

“I’m Ritsa; one of Derek’s aunts.” She smiled, a little too faded around the edges, but still genuine. He remembered talking to Talia about Ritsa, and how she had recently lost her husband. Stiles was thinking of an appropriate response besides ‘I’m Hale’s Health partner.’ When Camilla’s voice rang out.

“Oh, Ritty, I wish you would’ve took that shirt off and put something else on before we ate.” Camilla plopped down across from Stiles. She shot him a grin, and popped in a bread roll. She then pulled a quick frown, looking around.

“You can be quiet. If I want to eat the food smelling like it, I will damn well do so.” Does she not realize she smells like smoke? Stiles wanted to ask.

“You smell like smoke. Stiles – the poor boy – probably thinks you smoke cigarettes.” She glanced at Stiles. “Honey, we just cook our ribs over an all-natural fire and Ritsa thinks it’s her responsibility to make sure nothing gets messed up.”

“It is my responsibility!” Ritsa replied indignantly, and Stiles understood why Cora and Talia both warned him to avoid her while she cooked – or, oversaw.

“Sure it is.” Darvon came up behind Camilla to plant a soft kiss on her head, before pulling up the chair next to her. She smiled at him, glad he was taking her side.

“I see where you get that from.” Stiles leaned close to Hale and mumbled. Hale shot him a look, but Stiles just grinned back easily.

“Have any of you seen Haleigh?” Camilla seemed to realize her daughter was missing, which hadn’t crossed any of their minds until that present moment. Talia moved over at that point, placing one plate at the end of the table, and the second plate on the other end of the table – along with herself.

“Oh, Arthur went to find her.” Talia said breezily. She then focused on Stiles. “So, tell us a little about yourself while we wait, Stiles.”

Stiles had just drank some juice – mango this time – when she called on him. He promptly choked on it for a minute. Ritsa gave him a good thump on his back, which caused him to gasp like a fish. After he had regained what little dignity he had, coming over clutching a doll and all, he rummaged through his brain. “Uh, I’m a sophomore, and I live with my dad. I’d like to say I’m smart, but I can’t focus so my grades aren’t the best. I’m on the lacrosse team.”

“What do you play?” Darvon leaned forward, interested. Stiles bet that he couldn’t play with others, like the rest of the Hale’s, based off his physique of a giant.

“Right now, I’m benched.” Stiles body started feeling jittery, probably because he was talking about something that upset him. So he shook it out with his leg and began to gesture even more wildly, to rid himself of the feeling. “I mean, I want to be on the field – doing really anything. I was supposed to take weight training to help me this year, but they couldn’t fit it in, and so I was put in Health. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be so far.” He dared a glance over at Hale, who was just listening intently. “I think it would make my dad really happy to see me on the field, but not get mauled on the field. I bruise really easily, and am very clumsy. I was hoping that weight training would allow me to get better at some of that stuff – even if the bruising is medical and genetic so it couldn’t really help me, you know?” He push out a nervous laugh, because they probably didn’t know. They probably were all perfect athletes.

Camilla smiled. “I would suggest letting Derek help you, but I don’t know if he’d be able to play without trying to break you.” There was some laughter, even from the children’s table.

“So, you play rough too?” Stiles turned to Hale, realizing that is probably why he wasn’t on the lacrosse team. And all the time, he thought that Hale just wasn’t a team player – even if that was probably still true.

“I try not to, and I don’t play very often.” Hale blushed, as if the topic embarrassed him, as if he wasn’t good at playing.

“Don’t let him fool you, he’s a natural talent at all sports he puts his hands on. He just prefers fighting.” Darvon explained.

“You fight?!” When Stiles heard fight, he thought gang. He lived with a police officer – the Sheriff, no less. So it made sense, okay?

“He means recreationally. I like to box and wrestle.” Hale didn’t seem inclined to say more, so he didn’t press the issue. He wondered who would box him here, because boxing was usually with thinner guys, so they could be faster and that fit neither Arthur nor Darvon, with their large muscle mass. Actually, it didn’t fit Hale so much either, but his frame was thinner than the both of them.

Arthur came out a few minutes later, a disheveled Haleigh following after. She held the baby in her arms nicely, if a little loosely. “She had fallen asleep in one of the drawing rooms while holding the doll.” Arthur laughed while he took his seat at the head of the table. Stiles was relieved that she hadn’t been trying to hide a broken doll, and was very happy that she did so well.

Camilla looked over at Haleigh, who walked up to Hale and held out the baby. She seemed grumpy about being woke up. He took it, but it was not long before Ethan was speaking up. “Hey, I want to play with the doll!”

“You can’t play with the doll. You’d destroy it.” Aiden retorted back to him. Ethan continued to pout, and then Hale called him over. Stiles was too busy watching the interaction to pay attention to what Camilla and Talia were talking about. He was pretty sure they had moved on from the conversation of him – for now, at least.

“You can hold the doll, but it’s like a real baby. You have to treat it like you would treat Aubree, you know that right?” Ethan looked at him with big eyes, wide and trusting.

“Yeah, I’m eleven. I can do it. Please, please.” Ethan seemed really eager, and Stiles had a sudden flash of younger Hale being the same way and that was why he wanted to take it now.

“Okay, be nice to it, though.” Hale handed it off in the utmost serious fashion, as if it was really Aubree.

“Well, look at you.” Stiles remarked. Hale straightened and focused on Stiles, who was smirking. “Mr. Big and Bad likes kids – and is, gasp, good with them.”

Hale cut him a look, “Stiles, ha. Ha. You’re really observant.” Stiles felt like it was sarcasm, but he still rose to the bait.

“Well, you were soft with Haleigh and Ethan when it came to the doll, and Aubree likes you so I bet under that leather jacket and angry demeanor, you have a big, soft heart.”

“If you don’t stop, your heart will be on the outside.” Hale threatened, which just lacked gusto.

“Huh, I thought the first time you threatened me, I would be afraid. Looks like the Big Bad Wolf isn’t so big or bad.”

Before Hale could respond, Ritsa leaned closer to Stiles. “So, Stiles, why didn’t you decide to spend the Saturday with a nice girl?”

Almost all of the adult faces swung his way, besides Darvon, who had moved to the other table to help Grace. “Uh, I don’t typically spend time with ‘nice girls’ – unless it’s my best friend’s girlfriend, Allison. I mean, she’s pretty nice, but can also be rough around the edges. Not like she’s an acquired taste though, she’s friendly enough that most everyone likes her.” He realized he was rambling, and glanced down to his somewhat eaten plate, flushed. He took some corn and shoved it into his mouth, leaving the ribs for last.

“Why don’t you have a girlfriend or a lady friend?” Camilla asked.

Stiles swallowed as quickly as he could without choking, thankfully. “There’s this one girl who I’ve liked forever but she isn’t – she doesn’t. She doesn’t like me like that.” Yeah, why would she? A nagging voice taunted him.

“Are there any other pretty ladies that have caught your eye?” Arthur asked with a wink.

“No, she’s the only one.” Stiles blushed harder, but he figured if he was going to be hanging with Hale during the semester, they had the right to know. “I typically prefer guys.”

There was beat of silence. Hale shifted next to him, looking slightly uncomfortable. Talia leaned on to the table in an attempt to get closer to Stiles. And now they’re going to say ‘That’s nice’ and tell Hale to stay away. Stiles sighed quietly, bracing himself. “Are there any handsome guys that have caught your eye?” Is all Talia asked.

Stiles just kept being surprised by them. “Um, no, not at the moment.” He beamed back at her easy acceptance and everyone relaxed.

“Well, you should tell that girl she should be grateful that you would like her. Most bisexual men can be extremely caring and understanding.” Ritsa leaned over to say to him, while Darvon and Arthur got into a discussion of work.

“Ritty, you don’t think the boy knows that? I bet all of your exes have told you so.” Camilla seemed miffed.

“I’ve never dated anyone before.” Stiles said honestly, eyes wide. Hale made a sound next to him, stifled by a locked jaw. Stiles chose that moment to divert their attention by grabbing a rib and sinking his teeth into it.

“Ohmy!” Stiles couldn’t help the happy sound that came fluttering from his throat. “This is amazing.” A tinge of honey played around a thick spice, musty and hot on his tongue. It was the perfect hint of sweet under spicy.

Darvon immediately ceased conversation with Arthur to turn and say, “Thank you,” at the same time Ritsa said “Thanks,” which, of course, got them bickering on who really deserved the compliment. It was all playful argument, with no one really upset.

“Told you that the ribs would be good.” Hale said quietly, as if he didn’t want to swing the attention back to Stiles.

“You also told me your mom wanted me over.” Stiles challenged. Hale’s mouth slackened slightly, and his eyes went round. That was as close to a jaw drop as Stiles had seen yet. “Admit it, you wanted me to come over.” Now Stiles was teasing.

“And if I did?” Hale responded softly. His eyes were a little too wide, face a little too open. Stiles couldn’t respond; all he did was stare. He was becoming slightly aware that his breathing was shortening, being pulled in through chapped lips. He swiped his tongue out to give them some relief and Hale’s eyes tracked it. They fucking tracked it. Before Stiles’ heart gave out completely, Hale was looking away. He had his concentration face again.

“So,” Camilla cleared her throat to dispel the slowly raising voices from Darvon and Ritsa. “Derek tells me that you’re having a hard time with Biology too.” Stiles glanced between Hale and Camilla – why would he tell her?

“Yeah, a little. It’s a lot of information.”

“Well, feel free to stop by when I help Derek, I don’t mind it. After all, I do have a bachelor’s in it.”

“Are you a nurse?” Stiles found himself blurting out, because he remembered Hale saying something of one of his aunts being one. She nodded her head, which made Ritsa the teacher. “My best friend, Scott McCall, his mom is a nurse. Do you know her?”

Camilla smiled, but shook her head. “I work around kids and babies that are sick. What part of the hospital does she work in?”

“She’s a nurse that does stuff with the E.R.” Stiles explained as best he could, but that was as far as he knew.

“I’ll keep an eye out for her,” Camilla promised.

“Scott McCall, you said?” Ritsa was suddenly interested.

“Uh, yeah, we’ve been friends since second grade. Do you know him?”

She laughed, “I was his teacher in second grade. Mrs. Irvin? I don’t think I had you, though.” That’s when Stiles remembered that only Talia had the last name Hale, that the other two were married with different names.

“No, I had Mrs. Roxon.” He only paused a second, his brain slowly losing Adderall and telling him it was okay to say things. “Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, what was your maiden last name? I just have always seen the family as the ‘Hales’ and…yeah.” He was quiet because Talia started laughing, with Camilla and Arthur joining. Darvon looked on bemusedly.

“Our maiden name is Hale, Stiles.” Talia said after she could calm down.

“But what about…” Do I address him as Mr. Hale, Mr. Arthur, Arthur?

“My last name was Dick, Stiles. I definitely did not mind changing my last name to Hale instead.”

An idea popped up and flowed out before Stiles could stop it. “Derek Dick.” He muttered, attempting not to giggle. Hale just sighed, albeit angrily, and Ritsa – the only one yet to respond – covered her mouth, a large grin breaking out under her hand.

“Hey, hey,” Cora called from the table a few feet away. Stiles could have sworn he had been quieter – or maybe Cora was just eavesdropping. “I would say he’s kept his claws sheathed today, so no need calling names.” She joked, while the rest of the adults watched Hale with mirth in their eyes.

“I still don’t get it.” Stiles insisted. “Isn’t it tradition for the woman to take the man’s last name?”

“In most families, yes. Our tradition is that the oldest child and the boys get to keep the last name. So, since I’m the oldest, I get the last name and all the responsibility of keeping these –” she gestured at her sisters while explaining. “from separating the rest of the family. And, when my kids grow up, Laura, Derek, and Nick will get to keep the name Hale.”

Cora sighed tragically, “And I will be the only one with the name change.”

“Why don’t you stay at your own table?” Hale answered back. She flushed, but was quickly preoccupied when Bailey dropped his fork. She sighed and picked it up, heading back to the house. Ritsa began to study the other table with vivid interest, probably to make sure that none of the kids did anything while she was gone.

“What if the man you want to marry doesn’t want to change their name?” Stiles couldn’t seem to get over the curiosity of it.

“Well, we’ve never had that problem, because they won’t have a problem if they’re meant to be with you.” Ritsa said easily. Stiles must have still looked confused enough, because she went on to explain. “No one, ever, in the entire family has ever been divorced. We’re extra careful of who we marry, because we believe that partners should be permanent. A literal other half.” The last bit was spoke with overwhelming sorrow. He realized what she was saying – that she had choose her husband as her other half and now he was gone. He didn’t think he could imagine what it would be like to lose someone who was supposed to be forever.

“Have you ever met two people that seemed to complete and compliment each other? Could you imagine them with anyone else?” Camilla asked.

The first couple that flashed through his head was Ally and Scott. But the second was his parents and he felt his throat close up. He had the sudden mental image of his father, for weeks staying away from the station. The hollow look in his eyes for the first few months. The rare laugh that visited the house now. It was much easier to imagine what losing the other half of himself looked like when he remembered his parents.

“No,” he whispered. His head bent down to hide the glassy look in his eyes. He felt Hale touch him for a mere moment, the sheer shock of his finger tips on Stiles’ arm nearly caused him to look up. Then it was gone, leaving a lingering feeling of comfort.
--
Stiles attempted to help clean up, but was practically shoved out of the room by Ritsa and Camilla.

“Are you sure?” He asked, even as Camilla kept a steady hand on his arm, guiding him out.

“Yes, I’m sure. You should go find Talia, see what’s going on.” Stiles wasn’t sure why she wanted him to do that, but it was the least he could do so he cautiously peeked in all of the living room area things he passed. Hale was in the one they were last week, and it appeared he was organizing something in a basket on the fire mantle.

“Dude,” Stiles called out. Hale didn’t jump, but his shoulders tensed for a moment.

“Hey,” he said, turning around. There were sewing things in the basket, and Hale had the baby in his arm that was hidden. “I was just organizing Aunt Camilla’s things, because the kids are coming in.”

“Did Ethan grow tired of the baby?” Stiles was joking, but he was hoping it wasn’t returned to Hale because it had been broken.

“No, it started crying because Aiden was messing with it.” Hale rolled his eyes, and Stiles figured that Aiden was known in the house as the ‘mean twin’. “Grace wants to sleep with it, which would be great because she holds things tight and sleeps through anything so it might only cry once today. Plus how many times it cried with you.” He shot a smirk over at Stiles, which just made Stiles roll his eyes.

“It didn’t cry with me today, besides once, and that was only because I stayed in the shower too long and that made it missed me.” Stiles gave him a smug look. “But, cool, the kids can keep playing with it but it does make it seem like it’s taking the responsibility off of us for a while.”

“Well, yeah, parents let grandparents and aunts and uncles and others watch the kids sometimes so they can relax.” Hale acted like it was obvious.

“Ah, because those children in there very mature aunts and uncles for… Poohkey.” He used the name that Haleigh had given it. He heard a squeal from behind him and he almost fell turning as quickly as he did.

Little Grace was standing the doorway, with a huge smile on her face. Her pigtails had been pulled free to show black hair that appeared to have never been cut in its life. “I thought Haleigh was joking! Her name really is Poohkey?”

“Yep, and you came to get her to lay down with, right?” Hale asked. She nodded eagerly.

“Aunt Tally says that she wants you two to come downstairs to help pick the movie,” she added as she rushed over to get the baby. Hale jumped down from the mantle and put it carefully in her hands.

“Movie?” Stiles asked Hale as she scampered away.

“Yeah, after Saturday lunches we always watch a movie.” Hale shifted away from Stiles. “You don’t have to stay, you know, if you don’t want to.”

“No, I love movies. Just let me text my dad, okay? To let him know I probably won’t be home till late.” Stiles pulled out his phone and there were two texts.

Dad: What time are you going to be home?

Well, that one was easy enough to answer. It was about two thirty, so he texted back around six. So he’d have time to pick up takeout. The other one was from – surprise, surprise – Scott.

Scott: Hey can I come over tonite to play vid games

Stiles: Yeah, Im not home rn but Ill be home around six so you can come over like eight

He knew Scott was going to ask, going to wonder. He’d tell him later because right then he was holding Hale up. “Okay, I let my dad know. Lead the way.” When Hale took them towards the kitchen and then opened a door on the left to a staircase, Stiles was slightly apprehensive. “Uh, why are we going down there?”

“Because it’s one of the few room the entire family could be in, and we renovated it a few years ago to fit a movie screen. And it has a small room on the side where the kids nap. So, if you want to watch a movie, that’s why we’re going down here.”

Stiles nodded, and took a deep breath. The idea of a basement, of being trapped under something where he couldn’t move or leave was fucking terrifying. Talia’s voice floated up the steps. “Boys, come on down, we’ve got a few picked out so we need a decision.” Hale slipped off his shoes before heading down, so Stiles did the same. What a terrible day to not wear socks.

“It’s my turn to pick the movie,” Hale informed him.

When they got down there, a lot of the younger ones were playing around with no shirts on. The family seemed comfortable by it, so Stiles figured it was a regular occurrence. There were a multitude of couches, with a few single chairs. They all looked worn, and more lived on than anything upstairs. Stiles got the feeling that the upstairs was for show, for visitors and he was getting to see something much more…private. He felt mildly unnerved.

The only child that wasn’t playing was Bailey, his Mohawk apparently as ruffled as his feathers were. He was arguing with Ritsa, and before Stiles could catch a snippet of it, he was caught by Camilla. “Stiles, it took you all this time to find the basement, Ritty and I have already put the dishes in the dishwasher and all the things in the container. You’re slow, boy.”

“Sorry, I wasn’t sure where it was. I was trying to find Mrs. Hale upstairs.”

“Ha! ‘Mrs. Hale’! Mrs. Hale is my mother, Stiles keep that in mind.” Talia moved over with three DVDs in her hand. “Okay… Derek. You can pick Escape Plan, Maleficent, or 22 Jump Street.” She leaned closer. “Please don’t pick 22 Jump Street.”

Stiles laughed a little, at her begging tone. He guessed that when Hale had said ‘his choice’, he meant literally any choice he wanted. “Well,” Hale started off. “I’m guessing that Maleficent was Cora’s choice and we should watch that tomorrow after dinner with the little ones. So, it looks like Escape Plan it is.”

Darvon cried out a “Thank God!” from one of the couches where he was laying down. Camilla headed over there, and he lifted up his torso to allow her to sit. After she was comfortable, he placed his head in her lap. The scene was bittersweet in remembrance of his family time.

“Derek, would you be a dear, and explain to Bailey why he can’t stay up.” Ritsa was fed up and she moved over to a recliner, letting Hale handled her child. When she passed Stiles, he caught the mutterings of “James was always better at things like this.” A twinge of empathy went out to her.

“Bailey, come here.” Hale gestured to come near the both of them. Stiles wanted to sit, but it seemed everyone had a spot and he didn’t want to disrupt that, so he stayed put. “First of all, why are you giving your mother a hard time? You know the rules – you aren’t allowed to stay out here until ten.”

“But I’m almost nine, and that’s close to ten so I figured what was the real difference?” Bailey’s voice came out slightly cynical and his vocabulary surprised Stiles. He seemed a lot more eloquent than the eight-year-olds Stiles had met before.

“You’re still eight.”

“Eight and seven months, four days.”

“You’re still eight.” Hale’s voice was resolute, but not harsh. Stiles could pinpoint the moment that the fight went out of Bailey.

“Fine, but I expect full coverage of what happened.” He was looking over at Colton, who bobbed his head.

“Okay, I get it. I’ll try to stay up.” Colton promised. He was sitting in one of the recliners as well. The last recliner was taken up by Nick, who was wrapped in what appeared to be a handmade afghan. Aiden and Ethan were on a small couch, laying opposite sides and allowing their feet to tangle up. Cora lay next to them on a recliner, stretched as horizontal as she could get. Her hair dangled over the next couch, where Talia played with it as she was held secure in her husband’s arms. Stiles realized he was seeing the actual family, not the photo perfect set. Stiles surveyed the remaining seats and felt a pang when he realized that there were only couches left. That he was going to take up an entire couch and Hale was going to take up another one.

Bailey marched off, and Hale went to pick a dark red loveseat as his choice of seat. Stiles went to claim the plaid couch next to it, when Hale snagged his arm, and pulled him into the seat next to him. “Uh, rude.” Stiles struggled to right himself now that Hale had released him.

“All the seats after this one have a terrible glare on them because of the nightlight in the other room coming from the crack of the door. They’re only used on game night.” Hale said. The kids were all moving towards the room; Camilla and Ritsa rising to tuck them in. Grace was taking her time, to go that way, holding the baby lovingly.

“O-kay.” None of the remaining adults seemed concerned about Hale manhandling their guest. Arthur was teasing Talia about having another baby soon, and Cora had moved from her chair to fiddle with a DVD player in a crevice of the wall.

Hale looked at him for a moment. “I have a bad habit of stretching out, because this is usually my couch. So if my moving bothers you, just let me know.”

“No, I don’t think it will. I move around some too, because I like to be comfortable so just be warned.”

“Fair enough.” Camilla was headed back over, but Ritsa remained, whispering sweet words through the doorway. Stiles realized that all she had left of her husband was in those children, and it felt like a cold nail scraping across his heart. Soon enough, she was cracking the door and returning to her recliner, and Stiles was burying his back into the plush of the cushions.

Cora pressed a light on the wall before moving quickly back to place, practically throwing herself into the chair with a sigh of happiness. The movie was good, for one Stiles had seen before. He loved the actors, and the whole idea. But, even before the second woman came to make a deal with Sylvester Stallone, Stiles was feeling the need to lay down.

First, he tried to just lay flat, with his back on the actual cushions of the couch. His neck screamed protest at him, though. He quickly righted himself and tried laying the top of his body on the arm of the loveseat, but now his back was crying. He huffed and Hale slid his attention away from the screen to look at him.

What could it hurt to ask? “Can I stretch my legs out on the couch?” Stiles whispered.

Hale merely raised an eyebrow, and lifted his arms to rest on the back and arm of the couch. Stiles carefully – and slowly – moved his feet up. He draped his legs across Hale, who had returned his attention to the television.

Stiles really tried to concentrate on the movie, he swore. But Hale’s jeans were warm on the back of his calves and he could feel every twitch and stretch that Hale did. About the same time Arnold Schwarzenegger was locked in the box was the same time as Hale put his hands back into his lap.

It wasn’t like he was sure Hale knew his hands were in his lap, on Stiles’ feet, gently rubbing them. It was a mindless process, it looked like. Hale stared at the screen, captivated as his fingers dragged on the side up to the toe and back to the jut of the bone. It felt really nice – a tickling that had Stiles just wanting him to rub his fucking foot. After a few times, Hale’s fingers stilled near the bone. Stiles tensed his foot, unintentionally and Hale finally turned his attention away and down.

Stiles froze, and Hale looked up at him. His face almost appeared apologetic, but then he just looked surprised at Stiles’ expression. He knew that his face was torn between a pout and frustration, with a whole lot of want. Hale averted his eyes, and Stiles released a breath he was holding, prepared to move his feet away. As he began to drag them out of Hale’s lap, he felt a thumb dig purposely into the top part of the sole of his right foot.

Stiles felt his foot instinctually push back as a blush heated up his face. He breathed a hard air out of his nose. Hale pressed again, before doing a small circle. His other hand was holding onto his ankle, anchoring Stiles there. He was paying attention to the screen, or at least had his eyes trained on it. But he kept putting pressure on different parts of Stiles foot. It all felt really nice, and Stiles couldn’t look. He kept his eyes closed, thinking, Derek Hale is not rubbing my feet. I am not watching a movie with Derek Hale’s family while he rubs my feet. Then, Hale dragged his thumb harshly dead center on his sole.

A noise was ripped out of Stiles, but he had a hand over his mouth, so it wasn’t noticeable unless someone was looking for it. His foot spasmed and Hale put a brief pressure on his ankle. He was fucking smirking; he pressed intently on that spot again, rubbing hard. Stiles didn’t cry out, but damn did it feel nice. He was trying so hard, so hard to keep it together. Stiles was aware that every breath he pulled in was thin, every push out hard as he tried to completely control his freak-out. And it wasn’t a bad one, no. There was a warmth spreading through his chest, coiling in his lungs, which could be what was affecting his breathing.

He just didn’t know how to stop the feeling.

Chapter Text

Hale never said anything when the movie was over. He squeezed his ankle once, and then removed Stiles’ feet from his lap. Stiles watched, baffled, as he stretched and then got up, silent. “I got the kids.” He said. Everyone nodded, and Cora leapt to turn on the light and Nick reached over to shake Colton awake. Looked like Bailey was going to be disappointed about the summary.

The waking of the children was slow going, until Grace was woken up, and she started crying. That started Aubree crying and Grace dropped the doll, so its shrill automated cry joined the chorus. “Stiles,” Hale poked his head through the door. “Come get Poohkey, will you?”

Stiles got up, somewhat bemused at Hale using the ridiculous name. He came in, to where Grace was crying. Aubree had gone quiet, an unusual trait in an infant. She was in a crib, a few feet away from a huge bed. The room was lit in a warm color, with the red-orange on the walls reflecting it off nicely. Ritsa came in after a few moments to collect Aubree, and Stiles made some room for her.

The doll lay on the bed, forgotten. Stiles picked it up, caging his arms like Hale had taught him. He realized that Grace was trying to apologize through her tears, and Hale just kept rubbing her back, saying, “It’s okay, it’s alright, you didn’t mean to.”

When she finally calmed down, she said she was going to ask Camilla for a glass of water. Hale nodded before standing back up. Stiles really, really, wanted to ask why he rubbed his feet, but he didn’t want to spoil any mood that Hale was in. Besides, he could jabber about something else. “Now all the crying is done.” Stiles noted. Hale sighed in assent. “You know, you are pretty good with kids.”

“Now I am,” Hale responded. Stiles wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but he felt that that was a conversation he didn’t want at the moment. It was at points like this he felt like he was walking a thin line around Hale.

“Very nurturing, mommy dearest.” Stiles pulled out the phrase Hale had used earlier.

“Ha. No. I would be the dad.” Hale was joking back, something that still shocked Stiles, even if it was becoming a regular occurrence.

“Not enough dad jokes.” Stiles pointed out.

“I would be the dad.” He repeated.

“You’re so the mom,” Stiles laughed. Hale climbed into his space, and Stiles resisted the urge to back up.

“I’m the dad, and you’ll see it soon enough.” He promised.

“We’ll see, I guess.” Stiles shrugged before handing Poohkey to Hale. He had to check his phone, and saw that it was almost five. He also saw the affirmative text his dad had sent back about him staying over later. “I should probably get going.” Stiles said.

Hale nodded, giving the doll back. “Come say bye to everyone,”

Stiles followed him up, where the kids were waking up, and Camilla and Cora were drying off dishes. The other adults were sitting at or near the table, Darvon actually on the floor with Aubree. “Hey, guys, I have to be leaving. I just wanted to say bye, and thanks for having me.”

Ritsa rose up, coming over to him. “I’m glad I got to meet you, Stiles. You remind me of James.” It was the first time that she had spoken a word about her husband, and by the tension in everyone’s shoulders, she didn’t do so often. “Thank you,” She breathed in his ear while hugging him.

Camilla dried her hands on her dish towel. “It was nice to meet you, Stiles. Don’t make yourself a stranger. Here, let me get you some left overs to take home for your family.” She pulled out some plastic containers, big, and began to fill them up.

“I don’t need that much – it’s just me and my dad.” Stiles explained.

She paused for a moment, turning to look at him. She shrugged. “Oh, well, the more for you two.” She did slow the amount she was putting in though. All in all, there were about seven containers, two containing ribs and the others containing things such as corn, beans, and bread. Arthur offered to help him out to his car with it.

“Thank you so much.” Stiles didn’t want to drop any, so he tried to still his hands.

“You’ll be coming over tomorrow, right?” Talia asked before they left the room.

“That’s the plan.” Stiles smiled, realizing he truly enjoyed himself here.

“Bye, Stiles,” A few of the kids said. Bailey was busy pouting about Colton going to sleep during the movie and Ethan was resolutely ignoring him. Aubree couldn’t say anything, and Grace was too busy chugging water. But still, the thought was sweet.

“Bye, guys,” He said softly.

He followed Arthur out to his jeep, placing the containers on the hood. He jiggled out his keys and into the passenger door. Arthur held the baby awkwardly, but hey, it wasn’t crying. He put the stuff in the floor, and then place the baby on his track suit and red hoodie, making a mental note to take them out to wash them. “Thank you,” he turned to Arthur.

“Don’t mention it.” Arthur smiled, but then he straightened out. Stiles waited for him to say his piece. “I just want to let you know how much our family likes you Stiles, and I want…I guess to thank you for getting near my son. He’s not the type to have many friends, and even less come over. He can be kind of,” Arthur just put up a hand shaped like a claw and barred his teeth. He even faked a growl.

Stiles laughed. “I’m glad he starting talking to me. Or else, this project would have been the absolute worst.”

“Are you still going to talk to him after the project?” Arthur seemed eager for the answer, like it was of necessity for some reason. Stiles gave it some thought before he spoke again.

“I guess that depends on him. I’m not the most popular guy at school and hey, I won’t reject a friend.” Stiles shrugged, as honest as he could be. Why would he want to talk to you after this is done? A dark voice whispered to him.

“Well, I hope he does. I haven’t seen him this talkative or happy in a while.” Arthur put a hand on Stiles shoulder, looking at him for a moment longer before nodding. “I’m glad I got to meet you.” He releases him and trudges off.

Stiles was going to say something along the lines of ‘you as well,’ but Arthur moved too fast, and the words died in his throat. Instead, Stiles sighed and got in his jeep.
--
Since he got home early, due to the fact that he didn’t have to pick up some take out, Stiles decided to start a thing of laundry. The doll had been quiet all day, and so Stiles figured that he could risk leaving it swaddled on the couch. Scott had responded, demanding to know why Stiles was over at Hale’s house all day, but Stiles made the conscious decision to ignore that text.

He was pulling out some of his dad’s work shirts out of the laundry when he got home. “Stiles?” The Sheriff called.

“In here, Dad.” Stiles finished with the army fold on the last shirt before he brought himself, with the laundry basket, out to the kitchen. His dad was hanging up his coat, and Stiles ducked out quickly to put the basket in the living room before coming back in.

“How was the Hale’s?” His dad asked, sitting at the table with a sigh. Translation: Today was a rough day at work – don’t talk about it.

“It was good, everyone was there. I mean, besides Laura.”

“So you got to meet the whole family?”

“Yeah, there are a whole bunch of kids, and you would never figure they’re part of the family because of the different names and then you see them all together. It was a lot of fun at the barbecue and – oh, they gave me some leftovers for dinner.” Stiles moved away to start to gather the food out of the fridge.

“Tell them I like them already.” His dad joked. Stiles figured he was grateful they saved him from the tofu Stiles had promised for tonight. “But, yeah, I know there are a lot of kids in that family. Johnson, Irvin, and Hale – and all anyone calls them are Hale. I swear, it’s like that family has been there since before Beacon Hills.”

Stiles shook his head, pulling out the warmed up food. “I don’t know.” He confessed. “We didn’t get on the topic of ancestral lines.”

“Knowing you, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did.” The Sheriff harrumphed. “I have tomorrow off, you know that right?”

“Oh shi – shoot. I mean, I totally forgot. I can text Hale and tell him I can’t do anything tomorrow. Is there anything you want or need to do?” Stiles left thumb began rubbing the inside of his right wrist. He controlled the urge to start rocking, feeling severely inadequate, not even remembering one of the few times his dad was ever off.

The Sheriff held up his hands, a sign of surrender. “You didn’t let me finish, son. I’m going to try and get some rest tomorrow, so I’m completely fine if you go over to Hale’s. Just before you leave and when you get back, check to make sure I’m still alive.”

“Not funny, Dad.” Stiles frowned disapprovingly. His father’s health wasn’t the best, and he’d like to keep him around for as long as he possibly could.

“Sorry.” They ate in silence, besides the occasional compliment from the Sheriff about the food. Stiles wanted to ask about the case his dad was working on, but he could tell by the crease between his brows that it would be a bad idea. Stiles busied himself with texting back Scott finally.

Stiles: You dont even kno I was over there

Scott: Where else would u be

Stiles: Rude. I kno ppl

Scott: Why not answer me

Stiles: Ill tell you when you get over here

It was already seven thirty and he realized he never did tell his dad that Scott was coming over. “Oh, hey, Dad, Scott should be coming over soon.”

His dad looked up from a spoon of corn. “Okay. Is he staying the night or?”

“No, he should just be staying for a bit and then going home. He wants to play video games.”

“Is his mom working the night shift?”

Stiles tried to think back to Melissa’s schedule, but couldn’t remember any of it. “I don’t think so. But you can ask Scott if he knows.”

“I might, I need to go up there to check on a patient later.” The Sheriff said it off-handedly.

“Anyone I know that got hurt?” Stiles was worried it was one of the police, even if he didn’t seem concerned about it.

His dad sighed. “No, it’s someone off the case. A possible player.” That was all his dad said, and Stiles knew not to push it.

For the past two months his dad had been trying to do a drug bust. It was hard, when he couldn’t find the people who were supplying, or even the dealer, and it had his dad frustrated. The only reason it became such a big issue was because of how many people were getting jumped or hurt because of whatever the hell gang was doing it. Stiles had offered his help after two weeks, and then tried to enforce it after another week to get his Jeep taken. So, yeah, Stiles realized to back off this one, even if he really wanted to help.

A knock was the only wake-up from Stiles’ thoughts and was a split second warning before Scott walked in. Sometimes, he regretted giving Scott a key but other times – such as now – he was glad he didn’t have to get up to go to the door. “Stiles?” he called from the foyer.

“Hey, son.” The Sheriff called out. “Stiles and I are in here.”

“Hi, Mr. Stilinski,” Scott said, walking in. “Ooh, ribs!” His attention was easily diverted as he picked up one of the ones off of Stiles’ plate.

“Yeah, they came from the Hale’s.” Stiles said irritably, wanting to get his food back.

“They make good ribs.” Scott grinned around some meat.

“How have you been?” The Sheriff looked up from his plate temporarily.

“Pretty good, I got a job at the vet.” Scott announced. Stiles jumped up, going in for a bro hug.

“Dude! That’s awesome that you got it. Great for you.” Scott nodded, one arm awkwardly around Stiles while the other held on to the half-eaten rib.

“Yeah, I was going to tell you today.” He directed his attention back to the Sheriff. “I’m hoping that I’ll get enough money to get a bike.”

“A motorcycle?” The Sheriff exclaimed. Scott nodded. “Those get in accidents all the time. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Yeah, I would like it a lot and it’s the only type of car thing I’ve thought about. Plus, if I get hurt, I heal really quick so it should be okay.” Stiles thought back to the fourth grade when Scott had fallen out of a tree and had to get his arm in a cast. He got it off two weeks earlier than usual, complaining that his arm had been fixed for at least one more week before that.

“Okay, if you say so. But you do have to be seventeen to get a license for it, and you better be careful.” Stiles’ dad had finished his plate, and rose with his warning to go put it in the sink.

“I will, Mr. Stilinski.” Scott promised.

“Oh, and you guys be quiet, I’m going to head up to bed.”

“Yeah, sure, Dad.” Stiles called after his father’s exiting form. “What do you want to play after you finishing eating your stolen rib?” He asked Scott, while moving to do the dishes.

“What about The Last of Us? Also, you have got to tell me about why you went over to the Hale’s and why they gave you ribs from heaven.”

Stiles laughed. He ran some warm water for the dishes, trying to be quiet as he moved them into the sink. “Okay, but first, do you want to play on Survivor mode or Supply Raid?”

“Supply Raid, dude, I don’t want to have to watch you die and then play for the next thirty minutes carrying our team.” Scott complained.

“Same,” Stiles said playfully.

“I feel like you’re avoiding my question.” Scott pointed out. Stiles knew that his best friend usually wasn’t perceptive about things, but when he was, damn.

“No, I’m not. He told me his mom wanted me over for the barbecue – because last week she didn’t get to make us pizza – and so I went over.” Stiles took a deep breath, willing himself to talk about the rest. He knew he was going to have to when Ally found out that he was over there. “But, his mom told me that she told him that he could invite me over, right? So I asked him about it, and then he just questioned ‘And if I did?’ and it was so strange, dude. And I didn’t get a chance to ask him about it, ‘cause we were with his family – who were super curious about me, by the way, let me tell you – and now I think it would be best if I didn’t ask, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t want him to be like ‘I was just messing with you,’ or ‘I wanted extra points on our project.’” Stiles let out a deep breath, only showing the tip of his worries to Scott.

“Dude,” Scott said empathically. “Let him bring it up, I guess.” He shrugged, looking slightly uncomfortable. “But why did you stay over so long if you just went over for lunch?”

“Oh, that.” Stiles face was heating up, but he stared hard at the soapy bubbles his hands were currently under, and kept his back to Scott. He tried to keep his voice steady. “Well, after they have Saturday lunch, they watch a movie while putting the kids down for a nap. We watched Escape Plan, which is kind of long, and that’s why it took me so long.”

“You watched a movie with them?” Scott sounded astounded.

“Yeah, it was really fun. But they all are super comfortable with each other and it was kind of like seeing a relaxed puppy pile of humans.” Stiles shrugged.

“Did you puppy pile with them?” Scott’s voice was almost betrayed, as if Stiles belonged to him and that he couldn’t be around others in that sense. As if Stiles had offended him because they were a part of the same cult, or gang, or pack, or whatever.

“Not exactly.” Stiles was never good at keeping things in, so he just let it out. “I sat on the same couch with Hale, right. Only because all the other seats were taken and the rest of the seats had a glare because of the kid’s room – which is massive – so I had to sit with him. And anyway, you know how I need to be comfortable to be still during movies?” Stiles had finished piling everything into the black dish holder next to the sink when he turned to face Scott. He was leaning against the doorway, eyes focused on Stiles. He nodded, a serious look on his face.

“Well, I kind of splayed my legs over his lap, because it was really comfortable and everything was fine. But then he put his hands in his lap and long story short, I got a foot massage from Derek Hale.”

Scott’s entire being straightened, a choking sound wrenched from him. He started coughing, which caused him to bend at the shoulders. He clutched his throat with one hand, while waving frantically in Stiles direction. Stiles was beginning to question whether or not he should run upstairs and grab Scott’s extra inhaler when Scott finally pulled in a full wheezy breath.

“You, he, what?” Scott asked a choppy question, but Stiles pieced it together.

“At first, he was just mindless touching my feet, like he would if I was family because he’s used to being down there with family, I guess?” Stiles began to feel the same trapped feeling he felt down there, and paced a small piece of the tiled floor. “And then he stopped, but you know how good it is for someone to rub your feet and excuse me, but I don’t have an Allison, so yeah. When he stopped I accidently made him realized he had been rubbing my foot in the first place and he seemed like he was going to apologize but my face must have said something like ‘Please continue’ because he did. And it was nice, dude, I love foot rubs. Everyone should get one at least once a week.” Stiles recommended.

He decided that he should get the Xbox hooked up while Scott tried to formulate a response, so Stiles pushed past him, into the living room. He began to start everything and change the TV mode, when Scott wandered in to the room.

“But did he tell you why he did it?” was the first thing he asked.

“No, again, we were around his family and I’m not scaring him off – or getting myself killed – by asking him. His family seemed to think that we we’re friends, and maybe he actually thinks of me as his friend. It doesn’t look like his family sees much of his friends – if he had any – anyway so maybe he treats friends like family?” Stiles tossed Scott a controller. He filed over to the couch, placing his controller down in favor of pulling out his phone. Stiles noted Scott’s upset face, complete with the tuck of the lower lip into the upper one and the drag down of the corner of his eyes.

“Is Allison not responding?” Stiles took a shot in the dark, pretty sure he was right.

“How’d you know?”

“Dude, you are so easy to read. Plus, it’s Saturday and you’re here.” The game was starting up and searching for global players. Stiles waited until there were at least eight more, and then would begin the game.

“Yeah. We were going to go bowling, but her dad told her that her aunt is coming to stay for a bit so they have to clean out the spare room.” And that was ten. Stiles hit start and Scott snatched up the controller. “Hey.” He said grouchily.

“Is her aunt like the rest of her family?” Stiles had his eyes focused on the game, but his brain wouldn’t leave the question alone. It had caused to him to die already twice, which totally did not prove Scott right about Stiles always dying before him.

“I don’t know, man. I think so,” Scott shook his head, attention undivided. It was easy playing video games with him. He could talk about something, but not remember what was said until a day or two after. “Are you going back over to Hale’s tomorrow?”

“Yeah, we do have a project together.”

“I mean, doesn’t the time you spent together today – can’t that count for your time? Besides, where is the baby? Does Hale have it?” Stiles just realized how quiet it was, like the baby wasn’t there. He tried to think back to where he last had it.

“Oh, yeah, it’s wrapped up with the laundry on the recliner. Maybe as the time progresses, it’s supposed to cry less. Like a real baby does.” Stiles shrugged. “And besides, I also need to go over so we can work on the drug thing. It’s due on Wednesday.”

“I think Allison told me something about that, about her and Lydia having to make a huge project for a drug.”

“Which drug did they get?” Stiles was just making conversation now; their team having a lot less zombie related deaths, the game became a more-or-less attempt to attract zombies to the opposing players.

“I think meth.” Scott shot a car next to a building where someone from the other team was in. The alarm began to wail.

“Uh huh. Hey, turn it down a bit. I don’t want the baby or Dad to wake up.”

“Okay.” Scott shifted his controller to one hand, staring at the scree while the other hand moved around on the bare coffee table to find the remote. “What drug did you and Hale get?”

“Ecstasy.”

“Ah, that’s kind of funny.” Scott smirked, shifting the volume down to barely hearable.

“What’s funny about that?” Stiles demanded, looking away for a second. He was respawning anyway, after a stupid adventure into some tall grass.

“Just, the drug known for people having sex after taking it. And you have to research it. With your crush.”

“Oh, what a riot.” Stiles said dryly while aiming an elbow at Scott.

“I think it’s funny. It kind of reminds me when I had to do a Chemistry lab with Allison – because you were paired with Danny – and I spilled all of that chemical on me.”

“I bet you thought it was really funny when you also had to get soaked down with the shower.” Stiles remembered Scott lamenting about how stupid he looked in front of Allison for a whole month. Which was, incidentally, the month before they got together.

“Hey, she said that she thought it was cute how dopy I was.” Scott proved his point by the look he was starting to get in his eyes.

“Ugh. You guys sicken me.” Stiles said jokingly.

“Just wait until you get together with someone.” Scott warned. “Speaking of people. Hale.” Stiles groaned, increasing in pitch to shut his friend up.

“Dude! That’s not going to happen.” Stiles lamented.

“I’m not saying it is.” Scott paused the game. “But did you tell them? Like about you being…?” Scott wasn’t uncomfortable with the whole thing, but he still had a hard time phrasing it.

“Yeah.” Stiles turned to face him. Scott’s brows were low and concerned, his head bent slightly forward. Stiles had his undivided attention. “They took it pretty good, no one had any outright problems at least.”

“That’s good.” Scott bobbed his head multiple times. “Good.”

He continued to move his head, turning it this way and that. “Dude.” Stiles called him back to where he had went.

His eyes went a little wide, turning back with a feigned half-smile. “Yeah?”

“What’s with the whole ‘I-know-something-but-I’m-not-going-to-say’?”

“I don’t know anything,” Scott lied.

“No matter how close to the truth that is, Scott, I’m not an idiot. What do you need to say?”

Scott ran a hand over the back of his neck, allowing his head to crane up. “Well, I was talking to Allison, right?”

“When are you not?” Stiles urged him on.

“And we were talking about her aunt, Kate, and how she apparently used to be with Peter Hale.” Scott glanced sideways at him.

“So…” Stiles was piecing together his looks. “You think that because Peter dated this Kate, that they have to both think the same thing about gay people?”

Scott shrugged. “Well, it’s such a big thing for Allison’s family, and so I figured that it would be a big thing for her aunt. And that she wouldn’t date someone cool with things like that. I mean, Peter didn’t seem upset about it?”

Stiles tried to remember back to how Peter responded, or anything about Peter, just to realize in the flurry of things, he didn’t realize Peter wasn’t there. “Huh. He wasn’t there. I don’t know what he’d think about it, but there’s a good chance that if he wasn’t involved in any stuff about the LGBTQs then she wouldn’t care too much. Heterosexuals are weird about stuff like that.” Stiles nudges Scott playfully.

“Okay, okay, I get it dude. I just want to make sure you aren’t going to get treated bad over there.” He un-paused the game and the tension lifted.
--
Before Stiles went to bed, he had to ask about Peter. He had managed to persuade Scott that it didn’t matter while driving him home because his mom did have the night shift, but he didn’t do that to his own mind. He grabbed his phone, realizing it was about to die. Oh well.

Stiles: Hey I have a question

He decided to plug in his phone while he waited and to go grab a shower. Once in the bathroom, he decided to let the warm water fog up the mirror before he pulled off his clothes. It wasn’t like he had a bad self-image but he was aware that he was on the scrawny side – and having milky flesh and one mole too many didn’t help it. He took a quick shower, since he didn’t really need to wash his buzz cut and dried off. Stiles wondered if he could wear his plaid shirt to bed with a pair of sweats or if it was too dirty.

Nothing is too dirty if you can’t see dirt.

He came out with water on still clinging to the sides of his arms to check his phone. Surprisingly, Hale had messaged him.

Derek Hale: I may have an answer.

Not the ‘ask away’ Stiles had wanted but it was better than the ‘no’ he was expecting.

Stiles: Where was your uncle peter

Derek Hale: Oh.

Derek Hale: He’s been away on a trip for a while now. He won’t be back still for a while, so I don’t know when you’ll meet him.

Stiles: So will I meet him

Derek Hale: Yeah, probably.

Stiles stared at his phone, fully expecting it to grow wings and leave him in the world of the normal and natural. Derek Hale had just blatantly said that he, Stiles, was probably going to meet his uncle – who won’t be home for a while. As in, he planned on keeping Stiles around.

Okay, Stiles could live with this. He’ll just fix the overwhelming crush on him and grow past it certainly. Just like his crush over Lydia – which definitely hadn’t been going on for too long. His phone buzzed in his hands as he whirled around in his room, attempting to find a sense of calm.

Derek Hale: Are you still coming over tomorrow?

Stiles: Yeah, Ill be there

Derek Hale: Okay, because I still don’t know how to work Prezi.

Stiles: Dont worry I gotcha and ill read over the paper too

Derek Hale. Okay. Goodnight.

Goodnight. As in, a good night. A night that is good. Stiles was going to trip and fall soon if he hadn’t already. The night was a bad time for a kid who didn’t take a second dose of Adderall.

Chapter Text

Stiles felt like he should start keeping a list of new things he learned of Hale. For instance, the top of the list would be that he likes children. And then there would be that he writes. And maybe after that that Derek Hale was fucking incompetent when it came to technology. It was the umpteenth time that Stiles had explained that Prezi was just an online Power Point that allowed text boxes and shifting for optimal appearance when he just said fuck it.

“You can’t just expect me to get it.” Hale sounded frustrated.

“You are a sophomore in high school. It is literally developed Power Point.” Stiles had moved his computer back to himself in a resolve to do it mainly himself. But first, he was going to call in a friend to back him up.

“Then let me try again. Stiles. Give me back the laptop.”

“I’m not even doing the Prezi right now.” Stiles made a shooing motion in Hale’s direction. “I’m getting a friend that can actually help.”

“Are you going to email them?” Hale sounded confused, and he shifted into Stiles space to see what he was doing. Stiles controlled the urge to move closer or shift away.

“Skype, dude.” Hale’s face was blank, his forehead a little creased in confusion. “It’s like a webcam thing.” He noticed his friend’s icon was online, and smiled when waiting for him to answer the call. “Besides, I think you’ll like him. He’s not much of a talker either.”

Hale scowled, but looked at the computer anyway when the face popped up. “Boyd! Hey!” Stiles greeted.

“Hey, Stiles. What’s up?” Boyd was looking back and forth at them, curious.

“I want you to help me explain Prezi – and how it just is like an online PowerPoint – to my friend here.” Stiles seemed to realize a moment late that he forgot to actually introduce Hale. “Derek Hale, Vernon Boyd. Everyone calls him Boyd.” Stiles leaned over towards Hale, sparing a glance at him.

“Why do you need me for this?” Boyd appeared bored by Stiles’ antics.

“I need you to back me up.” Stiles waved his hands to enunciate his point.

“Why would he be good to back you up?” Hale interjected. Boyd looked at him, head cocked, offended. He closed his eyes for a long second before slowly turning his head back to its regular position. “No offense, but if you’re just one of his friends, then why would I believe both of you if I don’t agree with him?”

“Because,” Stiles drew out the word. “Boyd isn’t just one of my friends. He’s like super smart and already a senior – though he’s my age – because of how well he does with things. There are lots of colleges who want him to be a technical engineer, or a graphic designer or coder because he’s so good at tech.”

“Why haven’t I seen you around before?” Hale scrunched his eyebrows, trying to place Boyd. “Every birthday of Laura’s entails her entire class to be invited onto our property. I would think that I would have at least seen you if you’re a senior.”

“Well, I live in Dover, Florida so no, I don’t think I’ve ever been to your party.” Boyd replied bluntly. Hale turned to look at Stiles, eyebrow already hitched.

“We met on an online gaming site. I had an idea for a game, and he had the skills to encode it. I helped some with the graphic design and he put my story line in to play.” Stiles shrugged, embarrassed.

“So I do know my stuff,” Boyd reinforced.

“I still don’t see how it’s just a Power Point.”

“Okay, you got your back grounds – same thing. You have your slides on the side – only difference is the way it moves. You have your different types of ‘slides’, just like in Power Point.” Stiles movements were pointed and thrown.

“The way it moves is definitely not like Power Point.” Hale scowled. He obviously didn’t like to admit his flaws.

“Think of it as a transition.” Boyd supplied helpfully. Then he glanced at the wall next to him. “You caught me at a bad time Stiles, so if this is still a problem later feel free to call after eight.” Boyd nodded to both of them, and the call was ended.

“Why don’t I do it and you just piece the information into the paper? You can sit next to me so you can watch me make a Prezi and watch how it’s done.” Hale just nodded. His shoulders were tensed and his jaw was clenched. Stiles had a flashback of the first day they had in Health. He attempted to go slow with the Prezi, frequently looking back at the word document with the notes. Stiles didn’t want Hale to look over and be thrown by the too-many differences on the screen. The silence stretched, but the work made it easy for Stiles to be quiet with the steady click of the keyboard and twists of the letters before him.

“You said you had an idea for a game?” Hale asked, eyes trained on his computer. He didn’t glance up, his jaw didn’t loosen, but his fingers did still. He wanted to know.

“Yeah, like the story line.” Stiles responded easily.

“So you do write?”

Stiles shrugged. He wasn’t sure he was comfortable with the idea of writing, because the grounds for criticism on it were extremely high and harsh. “I didn’t think of it as writing. It was more screen writing than plot writing.”

“Oh,” Hale said. “What’s it about?”

He couldn’t help it; Stiles really couldn’t help it. The game was his baby, and damn was he proud of it. “Okay, so it’s kind of revamped Disney almost – well the characters. All of them are female, don’t groan because they are all awesome. They aren’t the big boobed, little clothing, somehow fatal fighting girls but they’re like biologically correct. And of course, I couldn’t call them by their original names so – it’s like – Cinderella is Cinder, Rapunzel is Cab, Jasmine is Jewel, Ariel is Finn – I think you get my point. And so they all play like these women who act all sweet and innocent as entourages for princes into foreign countries and half of them are assassins and the other half is spies and you get to pick which one you play as.” Stiles was pretty much jumping up and down in his seat by the time he was finished, his eyes burning and there was a thin coating of spit on his lower lip.

Hale had become completely absorbed in what Stiles was saying. He traced every path of Stiles hand gestures with his gaze. It took him a moment to refocus and respond. “What about Belle? From Beauty and the Beast? Could you be her?”

“Yeah, her name is ‘The Beaut’ but all the princes know her as B. Because of the abnormity of her name, lots of people play her as an assassin.” Stiles resettled into the cushions, realizing that he had sped up on his Prezi and was half way finished.

“She’s my favorite of the Disney princesses.” Hale admitted, ducking to look back at his laptop.

“Really?” Stiles wondered why.

“Yeah, I guess it’s because it didn’t start out with her wanting a prince, and that this prince wasn’t handsome and that he was a literal beast.” Hale shrugged, his the tendons in his neck loosening up. “It was only because of her caring and patience that he lived.”

“So it’s basically because she turned the beast into a man? What, is someone going to change your technology-incompetent, socially-awkward self?” Stiles teased, instinctively digging his shoulder into Hale’s side. Hale immediately shoved back, a snort building in the back of his throat.

Stiles was caught off-guard by how easy it was to touch Hale, and it made it easier for him to quickly be pushed off and into the cushions beside him. He laughed using his pale arms to right himself. “Something like that,” Hale retorted. His tone implied nonchalance, but his eyes were tight around the edges. His mouth was terse, even if the corner were lifted.

“Well, you certainly are asking for a princess then,” Stiles just continued to joke, finding it easy to ignore the elephant if it meant he got to keep his throat. Hale shifted, and nodded his head absently. He went back to determinedly smashing his keyboard, which he already wasn’t fast at. “Did your family go out again today?” Even Cora wasn’t there today, if the note saying that there was leftovers for them to heat up in the fridge that Stiles saw was any indication.

“Yeah, Mom agreed that if Cora went out on the weekend family outings every week until her ninth grade year that she would let Cora try out for school track. Which is why Cora forced everyone – including me – up at the butt crack of dawn to go run their asses around our acres.”

“Wait, you guys just run around your house?” Stiles tried to stifle his laugh. “And one of you guys are actually going to do school sports?”

“Technically.” Hale stressed the word, with one singular throw of the hand. His hands went back to their steady and still position. “We basically own the entire forest around us, and so we keep it for the family to run on. And because of track being a non-contact sport, yeah.”

“Do others run on it too?” Stiles wanted to know if the Hales were hosting a trail-a-thon or something.

“Uh, no.” Hale looked over, his frown being added to the scrunch of his eyebrows. “We don’t really like other people being on our property without our knowledge. We kind of make sure that people who think it’s okay, um, know it’s not.”

“Territorial much?” Stiles smirked.

“Oh, hush.” Hale shoved Stiles on the shoulder. “You wouldn’t like someone snooping around in your house.”

“The woods are not your house.” Stiles retorted.

“They feel like it.” Hale said softly, in such a tone that invited looks upon a past of Stiles spending the childhood days not outside in the woods, but inside next to a sick mother. A closed window, and a sterile hospital room rather than the bark and leaves of the trees.

“Hey,” Hale signaled for Stiles attention. “Is that how you met your friend? By looking for a techie for your game?”

“Techie sounds way too much like theater. And I was looking for a coder a while ago, but that’s not why we met. There are forums online, and they’re specific for certain things. So I was on a forum where people post up games that they create and others can try out these online versions and rate them.” Stiles swallowed. “I didn’t want to put up anything with faulty coding or easy cheat codes so I was trying to get in touch with commenters who noted on the graphics and pixels and things like that.”

“Is Boyd the first one who responded?” Hale asked. Stiles peeked at his laptop, noticing that he looked like he was pretty much finished.

Stiles crinkled up his nose. “No, the first person I talked to was named Deucalion – or at least that was his gamer tag – but he was a real jerk.”

“What do you mean?”

“I guess he was really angry because his life sucked and he was a lower level gamer. Aka, he wasn’t the best on the score boards and he seemed like a power leech. And he just ended up saying that my idea was stupid and that no one was going to go for it.”

“And then you met Boyd?” Hale cocked his head slightly with his mouth lightly ajar. He almost gave off the appearance of interested puppy. Well, a very muscular puppy with jades for eyes.

“Amongst the throng of terrible, obsessed gamers, yes, I met Boyd. And he really liked the idea and it took us a few good months to get it off the ground.”

“Did you ever post it up on the…?” Hale’s eyebrows dug down. He couldn’t remember the word and Stiles was just trying to convince himself that that look wasn’t as cute as he thought it was.

“Forum? Yeah,” Stiles waited for him to ask, because of course he was going to ask.

“Did it do well?”

“Well, since you asked,” Stiles grinned. “It did do well. There are about seventeen thousand people who play it now, so not as well as games like Halo, but I’m proud of it.”

“You should be.” Hale sounded so sure, as if there wasn’t anything there that could be negative about that. “That’s a lot of people, and it’s only one of the forum things?”

Stiles nodded. “I mean, there could be people that have shared the link other places, but I’ve only posted it on that website. I’ve actually had a few companies ask me about it, but I don’t know what I’ll do with it.”

“Do they want you to sell it?” Hale’s frowned reappeared, and if it was even possible, deepened.

“Some do, some want to market it and make profit off of it. But the creators – Boyd and I – would get to have money for the marketing too. We wanted to wait until we get a really good offer and then we’re going to take it.”

“How long are you going to wait? I wouldn’t sell it, if it’s that popular now.” Hale added the last bit. Before Stiles could answer, there was a slam on the back door. “Hello?” Hale hollered, his legs already tensed to stand. His arms were strained and Stiles didn’t doubt for a minute that he could break bones if the occasion called for it.

“Hey,” a female voice called out. “Where are you?”

“In the blue room,” Hale answered.

While they waited for the other person to come around, Stiles took his chance to respond. “We’re going to take it by the end of the year, because Boyd is going away to college and needs his share. I’ll put my share in a fund, so I can use it for college too.”

“Smart.” Hale nodded, appearing impressed. Stiles tried to stifle his pride at being recognized by his crush.

A knock on the wood had them both turning to the front of the room, where Ritsa stood. “Hey, guys, how’s it coming?”

“Good,” Stiles answered, smiling at the difference in her appearance. Her face held a glow, however dimmed, while she had twigs in her messy pinned up hair, and her running clothes fit her snugly so to show where the dirt had run up the pants and she had brushed against trees. “Though I found out he doesn’t know how to work the computer.”

Ritsa joined in Stiles’ laughter, her trill was shorter and ended with a small sigh though. Her eyes grew smaller, as if they were thinking on the past. “None of us really know how to, because we much prefer to spend time outside than inside. James was good about it though, he actually installed hardware on computers. I used to make him put my grades in for my class.”

There was a stretch of silence, with Stiles not sure what he could say. Hale shifted for a second, angling his body closer to Ritsa. “Stiles has a friend interested in things like that.” She pulled a half-smile, sweet and pure.

“That’s nice.” She breathed in a shuddering breath, bending her head to where her face could no longer be seen. “Well, um, since I’m starved, I’m going to – I’m going to heat up that food. Clean up in here and come join me.” She shuffled out of sight fast, but Stiles could still hear her loud sniffle.

Hale turned to survey Stiles, and Stiles guessed he approved of whatever was written on Stiles’ face because he spoke in the next moment. “Aunt Ritsa just started talking about Uncle James again, and so we don’t want to say anything wrong.”

Stiles nodded, completely understanding. He cleared his throat, “When, uh, when my mom passed away my dad was like that too. I mean, taking a while to talk about her. We don’t really talk about her still, but yeah, I found out that just listening is the best thing for a person. Even if it’s hard for me,” Stiles bent his neck while pulling up his shoulders. He tried to make it a non-defensive pose, or less fetal, but he just ended up needing to move to release the coil of anxiety.

“Why don’t we go get some food?” Hale suggested, which Stiles completely agreed with. They began to pack up the stuff, and the doll, which had been nesting quietly in the corner, was tucked into Hale’s arm.

“Do you think she’s been getting quieter as the time has gone on? I mean, it still wakes me up at least twice a night, and you can’t go a day without it crying three to four times, but still.” Stiles gestured to the doll.

“Yeah, I think that was a surprise Mr. Finstock didn’t tell us about. The dolls get better as time goes on, as long as you treat it right.”

“When do we finish this project again?”

“Ready to be rid of me?” Hale joked, but his eyes were clear. He wanted an answer.

“Ready to be rid of Poohkey.” Stiles avoided the question but it seemed to please Hale either way. He laughed slightly.

“We can turn it during breaks, and then all of our Week Logs are the final for the class. So we turn it in ‘officially’ at the end of the semester.”

Stiles sighed. “Great.” Hale shrugged, leading Stiles out of the room. He had become a lot more vocal than the first day, but there were still plenty of times when he lapsed into silence. Stiles wanted to ask, when Hale couldn’t seem to muster up the strength to respond with words, but he had been there before. The only difference is that Stiles couldn’t muster up the strength to close his mouth.

Oh, wait, he’s still there.

Ritsa was pouring drinks when they walked in. Stiles noted that there were three plates near the edge of the oak table, which wasn’t terribly big, but it could hold a majority of the Hales at dinner time, Stiles was sure. “Is grape juice okay?” Ritsa turned to ask.

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Stiles assured her.

“Sorry, it was Laura’s turn to pick up groceries, but seeing as she isn’t here right now…that chore got neglected.” Ritsa poured the liquid into the three cups, screwing the top on roughly and shoving it back into the fridge. Stiles gathered that it wasn’t a topic for conversation.

“So, why did you come back earlier?” Stiles asked as they sat down. The leftovers was lasagna, which she had put a healthy amount on each plate.

“Oh, the boys convinced everyone that it would be a good idea to play manhunt. I figured I could just come home and I brought Aubree – oh, she’s upstairs sleeping by the way, so if she starts crying and I don’t hear her, let me know.”

“Bailey wanted to play manhunt?” Hale cocked an eyebrow.

Ritsa laughed, and Stiles imagined the well-spoken, reserved child playing manhunt. He couldn’t help but snicker a little at the idea. “No, I should specify. Colton, Aiden, – I don’t know, he might have just been because of Ethan – Ethan, and Nick wanted to play manhunt.”

“Do you guys play manhunt often?” Stiles shoved a middle piece of lasagna into his mouth, keeping it open to filter in some cool air for the second-degree burns that were now on his tongue.

“We play it a lot, among other games. The adults are competitive, the kids like the fun.” Hale responded. “Maybe that’s why we keep raising competitive kids. But anyway, we usually play manhunt during the full moon. That’s when it’s the most fun.” Hale’s grin had a predatory edge that Stiles had to stop himself from shivering at.

“Why the full moon?” Grape juice and lasagna was a bad combo. Really bad. It would have been so much better with apple juice.

“Because it’s night outside, and the shadows factor into how well we can play the game – we know the woods too well for playing during the day to last long enough – and it’s the one night where the sky is lit up. It’s perfect.”

“Who usually wins?”

Ritsa cleared her throat to respond. Stiles straightened in his seat, caught unaware that he was leaning over to Hale. “Typically it’s Cora or Talia. Remember when Cora was about seven and we went out to play manhunt?”

“Are you talking about the time when she hid underwater for six hours?” they laughed.

“Did she win that time?” Stiles couldn’t imagine staying under for six hours, only coming up for air if she didn’t have a reed on hand. If she still didn’t win, he was never going to let them invite him over for manhunt because they would slaughter him.

“Yes, it was her first time winning.” Ritsa swiped at her eyes. “It was also the first time for Colton to be out with us – him just being a toddler. Bailey was just born, and James elected to stay home to watch him. Lucky James too, because we spent a good two hours calling out into the frigid November air for her to show herself.”

Stiles mouth let some grape juice out, and he sucked in quickly trying not to choke. “It was November?”

“If you’re going to play manhunt, you’re going to act like someone is hunting you.” Hale said seriously.

“Well, you guys would be good at hiding from hunters, if it was ever Hale season.” Stiles joked.

“Good thing murder is illegal.” Hale said dryly.

“Ah, yes, the wonderful talk of homicide at my table for Sunday lunch. Just what I wanted.” Ritsa silenced him. “I was meant to pass a message on to Stiles from Camilla.”

Stiles turned to look at her, some lasagna sauce drying at the corner of his lip. She sighed and took the edge of her napkin, licking it and dragging it over the area. “Sorry,” Stiles suddenly felt like he was six again.

“It’s fine.” Ritsa waved her hand. “But Camilla told me to let you know that Tuesday she doesn’t have a shift, and so if you want to come over for help, you can do so after school.”

“That would be nice,” Stiles said quickly. It was also stress-relieving that he wasn’t going to get a C because of his inability to understand biology. “I mean, as long as…” His eyes went wide, looking over to Hale.

“I don’t mind. Maybe Aunt Camilla will stop scolding me if there’s a witness there.”

“Okay, I’ll come over.” Stiles couldn’t help but smile a little with his developing blush. Ritsa snorted.

“Camilla is a natural worrier. She was born on a Wednesday – a natural worrier.” Ritsa waved her hand. “I used to call her chamomile tea, because she could never calm down about anything and would get really stressed and bicker at Talia and me.”

“Is that when she started calling you Ritty?” Stiles couldn’t help but ask. Hale’s wiry grin – which was no more than a flash of teeth and a half-attempt tug upwards of his lips – slid into place. Stiles felt proud that he was beginning to decipher all of his facial expressions, however minuscule the differences.

“Soon after, yes. I think it was just a jab back at me, but I’ve always been more relaxed about things than her.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, except cooking. But that’s because it takes a lot out of me, and because I’m not the best. Who wouldn’t be stressed about doing something they’re not good at?”

Stiles chose to ignore the question that may or may not have been rhetorical. “But why Ritty?”

“She said I was too blunt, and that taking my criticism was like rubbing grit on someone’s skin so I guess she thought it was clever on her part. I don’t care what she thinks, I like the name. And I’m honest – not blunt.” She tilted her head, raising her eyebrows.

“Sure you aren’t.” Hale commented. She went to swat him playfully on the arm, trying to look cross.

“I should have never let you play so much with Darvon when you were younger. It’s ruined you.”

“I thought you said you weren’t blunt.” Hale shot back. He looked at her surprised face, and even Stiles got the urge to laugh. He really liked the easy way of Ritsa, from her expressive gestures to her flowing language.

She merely shrugged, before standing with her empty plate. She went over to the fridge and pulled out some more lasagna. “My motto of life is to eat all I please – well, not deny myself the pleasures of this life, but I shorten it from time to time. I stole it from James.” She laughed a little, the sound dying as she put two large pieces on her plate.

“I understand that.” Stiles said. Why did he have to feel compelled to say something? “My mom used to say that every setback is a setup for a comeback. I’m almost certain she got it from a movie.”

“Sounds like a movie quote.” Hale said softly. His voice felt distant, and faded around Stiles. Stiles really wanted to ask what he was thinking of, but couldn’t find the courage to. Hale turned, probably to go put his sink in the plate or follow Ritsa’s example, but dropped the baby. He fucking dropped the baby. Its shrill was enough to remind Stiles how unforgiving the dolls’ tendencies were. “Sorry, sorry.” He muttered.

Stiles nimble fingers were able to snatch at it quicker, and a flash of pride flowed through him when he managed to get it near his torso without any more body infliction from the kitchen. “I got it.” Stiles shot a quick smile. “Just take my plate too, dude.”

“Okay, thanks,” Hale put it on his plate, focusing too hard on the blue design on the rim of them.

“The lasagna was good. Is it store bought or did you guys make it?” Stiles asked Ritsa.

“We rarely store buy anything we can make – we don’t like chemicals too much.” She shrugged one shoulder.

“Yeah, he told me.” Stiles nodded towards Hale’s back. He was loading up the sink, so Stiles was going to assume that it was his day for washing. “So who made it?”

“Fortunately not me,” Ritsa laughed, tossing her thick hair back. “Cora made it. She’s in Home EC this year, so I think she’s really proud of what she’s learning.”

“She should be.” Stiles said genuinely.

“I’ll give her the compliment, considering that they’re all going to be out there until sunset.”

“Maybe later.” Hale tossed the statement over his shoulder.

“That’s true, the full moon is close.” Ritsa cocked her head like she was thinking. “I have a dang parent meeting on the full moon I think.”

“I didn’t know the elementary school still did those,” Stiles was surprised. He knew high school did them, boy did he know, but he thought it was better in elementary school. Maybe it was just bias – after all, back then was better for him. No Jackson, little homework, his mom was –

He stopped himself right there. “Oh, well we do. But this is an individual meeting for the incarnate of Satan himself and his two always-absent parents.” Ritsa sighed.

“Yet again, I thought you weren’t blunt.” Hale joked.

“Shush you. Or I’ll be blunt about what I think of your poorly-placed sarcasm.” She shot a look towards Hale’s back, full crinkles in the eyes and scrunches in the nose. Her face smoothed out, the eyes going back to the wide size and the rest looking blemish less. “Anyway, I don’t want to do it. I don’t know why the kid keeps acting up, but I’m almost certain it’s because both of the parents are always gone. I think the child needs parents to help them grow.”

“Yeah, I understand. Can you not schedule it for a different time?” Stiles felt actual concern for her, wanting her to not have to deal with this bullshit.

“This was the only time I could work around their plans.” She sighed. “Their plans should be to take care of their son.”

“I don’t get why people have children, and not be there for them. Did they want bragging rights – hey, I made a human?” Stiles was aware he was being a little ADHD, but.

“I think I learned that lesson really well when James passed, because I didn’t realize how precious my children actually were until then.” Stiles knew what she meant – that when someone was gone, it made you appreciate who was there. He just didn’t know how to phrase it. “And sometimes it takes losing someone to realize how precious that person was.”

“Yeah,” Hale dried his hands, all the dishes washed. “Yeah, you’re right.” Stiles still saw the blank slate of his eyes, echoing the flat of his voice.

Chapter Text

“Okay, Stiles, tell me the three types of transport proteins for the cell membrane.” Stiles found himself sitting cross-legged in a warm yellow living room of the Hale house on Tuesday. The lazy sunlight came through the open windows, and he was holding Aubree in his lap while trying to remember the topic Camilla had just discussed with him.

“There’s pumps?” Camilla consulted a battered large binder to check his answer. She had pulled it down from the fourth fucking story of their house which apparently doubled as an attic, when learning what she was going to cover with Stiles. She nodded her assent. “Then transporters and channel proteins.” He allowed his mouth to split a smile when she gave him a thumbs up.

Hale, Camilla and Stiles were all on the floor, opting the carpet – warmed from the daylight – rather than the furniture. It was nice to feel included in a study group and he wasn’t worried about his dad being home because he had elected to go a few counties over to discuss his case. It seemed that the drug problem was escalating over there with no obvious source as well and so his dad opted to visit for a few days.

“What’s their differences?” This was an open-ended question.

“The pumps use ATP to move something in or out against its gradient.” Hale recited to her. Literally, it was almost exactly what she said. “And then the channel proteins allow the molecule to move down its gradient so it doesn’t require energy.”

“And the transporters?” Camilla encouraged. Hale’s eyebrows knitted together. “Derek, don’t do that, honey. Your face is going to get stuck like that and you look angry enough as it is. Really, you should try to look less angry too.”

“Don’t they only move a few molecules at a time?” Stiles floundered, attempting to save Hale. He already been hounded on for his frowns, his sighs, and his quietness. Besides, Stiles remembered them being basically the opposite of channel proteins.

“Yes, good. Why?” While Camilla spoke, Cora had entered the room. She sauntered behind Camilla and began to play with her dark strands. She seemed content to wait for Stiles to respond.

“Um. The transporters take a certain molecule and then change their shape to only let it through. So the shape only fits the molecule and not others,” Stiles finished, his words stumbling out clumsily. Camilla clapped happily.

“I just came in here to say I’m making cupcakes, and that I was wondering if you’re all cool with chocolate?” Cora finally spoke up. No one had any objections. “Also, another thing, Mom said she’d make the icing so could you call Aunt Ritsa in here to keep her out of the kitchen?”

“Of course, honey. But before you go back to the kitchen, go upstairs and put on some other clothes. That’s a nice shirt and you don’t need to get flour on it. Oh, and come take Aubree. I think she’s distracting Stiles, which means he should have already stopped playing with her.” Camilla frowned disapprovingly, and as Cora came to collect Aubree, Stiles regrettably allowed her to. Then Camilla shooed Cora out, all business.

“Hey, Cora,” Hale called out. She stuck her head back into the line of sight. “Could you check on Ethan and Haleigh? They’re playing with Poohkey.” Even though she rolled her eyes at the name, she still nodded.

“Thank you!” Stiles called out. “You have it easy. I have no one to help me take care of her.” He complained to Hale.

“If you’d come over more the kids would love to play with her.” Hale said offhandedly. Almost like it was a very subtle invitation to make Stiles’ visits much more recurring.

“Ritty! Come in here and sit with us for a bit,” She tilted her head back, the strong muscles in her neck stretched as she hollered for her sister.

“Are you staying for dinner?” Hale turned abruptly towards Stiles. Stiles shook his head no.

“I’m supposed to be marathoning Star Trek with Scott tonight because my dad isn’t home and I don’t have the baby and I don’t have biology tomorrow.”

“Well, don’t expect me to carry you through Health if we have something to do.” Hale warned.

“No one has carried me since my mama.” Stiles said haughtily, before his words caught up to him and punched him the gut, ripping the air through his throat and stealing it.

“Did you just quote Pokémon?” Hale asked.

“And if I did?” Stiles challenged, desperately trying to remain calm and appear normal. He threw out a shaky smile that faltered and then fell flat on its face. “Besides, I’ll probably still get some sleep because Scott wants to watch The Voyage Home.” He carried on.

If Hale noticed anything wrong, he did what Stiles wanted and ignored it. “You’re going to sleep through The Voyage Home?” He said incredulously.

“Yeah, it’s just a fun film filler.” Stiles said dismissively.

“No, it’s a great film. Especially if you want to get your friends into Star Trek, you got it wrong.” Hale shook his head.

“Listen, the only reason I’m even letting it in with the rest of the films is because Scott loves it, and he falls asleep during Search for Spock, so. It’s fair.”

There was a laugh from the doorway. Hale and Stiles both swiveled to see Ritsa standing there in an oversized shirt and sweats. “I feel the same as Camilla’s face just looked. Completely lost.”

Stiles flushed, realizing he was monopolizing conversation again. “Sorry, I just love Star Trek.”

“We can tell.” Camilla pulled a smirk.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Scott and Derek got into a fight?” Ritsa came in and sat down close to Stiles.

“I remember that day, but I didn’t get much out of Scott about it. He was like, what, eight? So no, I haven’t heard the full story before.” Stiles straightened up, curious.

Hale groaned next to him. “Aunt Ritty, please don’t.”

“Aunt Ritty, please do.” Stiles mimicked, eager to know why. Hale raised an eyebrow, probably commenting on Stiles use of her familial name. He ignored him.

“Before she does anything, you have one more thing to cover.” Camilla cut in, making it Stiles’ turn to groan. “What type of molecules have to be carried by transport proteins?”

“Amino acids, ions, sugar.” Stiles responded quickly. She pulled back, her eyes large as she took in Stiles.

“See how well you knew that? Honey, if you had a goal for every test – something you wanted right afterwards that could only be got after the test – I think you’d have an A.” Camilla frowned. “But that is bad practice, because then you don’t study. You should study, because if you’re still unsure of what you want to do then you might want to be a doctor and you need to learn this.”

“Why don’t we let the chamomile tea cool down?” Ritsa suggested, her messily-held back hair tickling her cheek.

“Why are you even here right now? Shouldn’t you be at school for aftercare?” Camilla snapped back.

“I took a sick day. My mental health wasn’t good this morning.” She said softly, and Stiles just noticed the red rim of her eyes, and the sad dip of her eyelids. She had done a good job hiding it beforehand. Camilla went quiet, and just leaned over and touched her leg.

Hale coughed. “Isn’t water also something that needs transport proteins?”

Camilla refocused herself on him, the hard look in her eyes losing its edge. “Sometimes. But that’s only if the cell isn’t getting enough quick enough. And that depends on what type of water it is and what solute is in the water. But you’ll learn about that later.”

“Now is it story time?” Stiles found slipping out of his mouth. He was hoping that if he got Ritsa away from whatever was in her mind into a better memory, she would temporarily feel better.

“No, I still have questions.” Hale complained but he didn’t produce any.

“Stop being a spoil sport.” Ritsa hit his shoulder, amused, after some long-distance stretching. “So, I was Scott’s second grade teacher. I think Derek had Mrs. Roxon as well.” Stiles nodded, already knowing. “Scott was a good kid, besides being kind of loud and disruptive. One of the better ones though, because he couldn’t be loud for long. He had bad asthma, and I cut him some slack because of his dad and things.” Stiles nodded sympathetically. Mr. McCall had up and left them a few months before Scott really started school, and it was difficult for him. He and Scott didn’t discuss it often.

“Anyway, the reason why he stuck out to me was because of that one fight with Derek. I didn’t even want the kids to go out that day because it had rained earlier and it was muddy. But no, state rules. So I sent out the class, and came out with Scott’s extra inhaler – just in case. Little known fact about Derek, by the way, is that when he was younger he’d go out and dig places for worms to go back in the soil after it rained.” Hale was resolutely looking away, a twitch in his jaw. Stiles could almost swear he saw a red shade on his neck that was slowly climbing to the chisel of his jaw.

“So you can guess what Derek was doing.” Camilla interjected.

“When I asked Scott, after everything was over, he told me that he came up to Derek asking if he wanted to make mud pies. What little kid wouldn’t think that another kid with dirt in both hands wasn’t making mud pies?”

“I thought he wanted to eat the worms.” Derek sighed, turning his head back to them. His eyebrows were still in cobra stance, mad and ready to fight. Stiles got the mental image of Hale’s eyebrows actually fighting someone which was. Weird. He made a note to take some more Adderall later.

“Of course, Derek had to make a point to tell him how stupid he was, and how he should just leave Derek alone. Which was, rude, if not uncommon for children. Then Scott got really upset and he told him – and it’s something I remember to this day what he said – ‘I don’t want to play with you anyway and your sister’s hair smells weird.’” Ritsa tilted her head back, laughing hard. Camilla seemed to find it humorous too, leaning hard against Derek as her laughter racked her wiry body.

“Was he talking about Cora or Laura?” Stiles was sure there was a joke right under him, but he kept tripping up on the facts.

“Cora.” Hale said shortly. “She was convinced she was going to become a model and had been cleaning her hair with eggs – literal egg yolks – for a month.”

“Holy –” Stiles couldn’t finish his sentence, imagining a kindergarten Cora cracking eggs over her head.

“But, I still had to push him back, on principle for saying something bad about my family.” Hale shrugged, and puffed out a little. It seemed like he was proud that at such a young age he was able to defend his family.

“And that was the day that Mom banned Derek from future contact sports.” Cora announced her presence with a sharp tone. “I just came to tell you guys that the cupcakes are done and when you are finished talking about…unfortunate time periods feel free to come join us.” She flounced out, obviously embarrassed.

“I still can’t believe Scott could be so mean. He’s such a puppy.” Stiles shook his head in attempt to lodge this new information in with what he knew of his friend. Do you actually know your friend? A voice whispered to him. He rationalized that this was before they were friends, and thus it wasn’t super important that he knew. “Speaking of Scott, I should probably text him to see if tonight is still good.”

He pulled out his phone, not expecting a text from his dad, but was still worried when there wasn’t. He sent a quick ‘I love you be safe’ before pulling up Scott’s messages.

Stiles: Hey are we still up for ST tonight

The response was almost immediate.

Scott: no srry dude I meant to txt you

Scott: Allison invited me over to her house. said her aunt wanted to meet me and then mom is home tonite

Stiles wanted to be mad, but just felt understanding and a nagging sense of anxiety. He wasn’t going to text you, he was going to let you think he was coming because he doesn’t care. The voice came back, full force.

“Are you?” Camilla asked curiously.

“No, his mom is going to be home tonight and I understand why he would want to be home. She is a nurse and they don’t have much time together and they’ve only got each other kind of like me and my dad.” Stiles couldn’t keep all of the glum out of his voice.

“Well, are you going to be okay? I heard you tell Derek that you’ll be home alone tonight. And I don’t want you to be alone if you’re not comfortable with it. A lot of problems that happen with teens today is because they don’t face and name their emotions and if it gives you anxiety, we could probably fit you here so –” Camilla’s rant was cut off.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner and you can decide afterwards?” Ritsa suggested.

Stiles eased up, “Yeah, I would like that.”

“Speaking of food,” Ritsa leaned forward playfully, “I am starving. You know what they say, dessert before dinner.” She grabbed onto Stiles shoulder, pushing hard to get to her feet. Hale sprang up and Camilla gestured for him to pull her up as well.

“Derek, why are your nails so short? I mean, a man’s nails don’t have to be long, but you should let them grow a bit. Don’t bite them.” Hale pulled her up dutifully, even if it was with a sigh. “You’ll clean up in here right?”

“Yeah, we got it.” Stiles promised. “Is there a certain place you want your binder?” Stiles knew he wasn’t touching the thing; its tatters were enough of a warning sign for a klutz like him.

“You can just leave it on a table. We’ll need it again next week, no doubt.” Camilla said offhandedly, as if she expected Stiles would be a regular at her tutor sessions. Ritsa ran her hand on Stiles head, brushing against the hair that was slowly growing out before both of the older women exited.

“I think you’re her favorite,” Hale admitted. Stiles had to crane his neck to look up at his face.

“She’s known me for about a week. And she has kids. One of them has to be her favorite.”

Hale pursed his lips, thoughtful. Stiles tried not to let one of the rarer faces daze him, with its soft lips and relaxed eyes. “She probably likes Haleigh the most out of her children, but you’re still her favorite. She’s not one to hand out open affection anymore.”

Stiles decided it was best not to argue, considering Hale could just kick him in the face if he pleased. Instead, he stretched his arms out – the plaid shirt he was wearing slid down near the crook of his elbow – and splayed his fingers up to Hale. “Help me up. I promise not complain about the condition of your cuticles.” Stiles smirked, and no matter how done Hale looked, he still grabbed onto Stiles milky-white forearms.

The transit up was jerky and fast, too fast for Stiles to gain bearings. He landed on his feet after being hoisted too far and he stumbled forward into Hale. The air left him as his hands slammed into Hale’s chest, leaving just enough space for his chest to expand, if it fucking could.

But then there was no room, no room for movement as his arms were folded between him and Hale. And why was this? Because Hale had pulled Stiles in. His hands, in a split second after the stumble, had landed on Stiles’ hips and he had pulled him close. Stiles wanted to turn and look at him, but the spacing made it difficult. He tried to pull in actual breath, rather than the ungraceful gasps he was reeling in. Hale’s chest contracted and expanded easily, his chest firm and burning Stiles’ fingers. Stiles fought the desire to grab at the material of the shirt to keep him there, to breathe in his fragrance that was light and somehow made Stiles feel starved.

“Are you good now?” Hale’s voice ghosted around Stiles’ ear, warm and soft. His hands were steady on Stiles’ back, right below the ribs. Stiles attempted a long breath out, forcing himself to push out his hands and take a step back. He was already playing a dangerous game.

“Yeah, sorry dude.” Stiles took another step. Pushed a smile on his face, light and friendly. Hale studied him for a moment before nodding.

“We should hurry and clean up. If we wait too long, all the cupcakes will be gone. The girls in my family fight like wolves for sweets.” Hale began to shove his papers together, putting them in his binder and placing that on top of his book. Stiles simply shoved his loose pages into his already messy book.

“Which one of your siblings do you think is your mom’s favorite?” Stiles asked as an idle conversation starter as he attempted to push his textbook into his stuffed book bag.

“Definitely not Laura, she’s the kid that was the pretest and you know how that goes. It’s always the worst model.” Stiles mouth dropped, unbelief written on his features. Surely, Hale wasn’t talking of the kind senior who handed out cookies during finals? “I don’t think I’m her favorite – I’m much too quiet for her taste. I think it’s Cora, because Nick is way too rude. She always loved the mischievous quality Cora had – Jack had it too.” The end sharp and it felt like it was pulled out into the air, tearing into the warm yellow setting.

“If she likes it so much, why doesn’t Cora prank her?” Stiles carefully questioned.

Hale let out a bark of laughter. “My mom is one of those people who don’t like something done to her, but love seeing it done to other people. Since she’s the head of the house, she has enough power to enforce that.”

“She’s the head?” Stiles couldn’t imagine Talia, in her easy demeanor, could be in charge of so many people.

“Yeah, I know. In her good mood, it is pretty unbelievable – but she’s good at making decisions and keeping everyone in line so she makes a good leader. Plus, when she wants something, she can be a real hellhound about getting it.” Hale looked around superstitiously, as if she could pop out from behind the Lazy Boy in the corner.

Stiles laughed, “Well, I hope never to see her bad side, or to get on it.”

“Pray for it.” Hale shook his head, and they moved towards the kitchen.

Hale was right about his family loving sweets, seeing as there were only six left and Stiles could spy at least three cupcake pans. Haleigh, Ethan and Aiden were sitting at the table with icing on their fingers. The baby lay precariously on Ethan’s legs, but it didn’t look like it was sliding and it wasn’t crying so Stiles let it be.

“After you finish eating, wash your hands. The flu is going around apparently.” Camilla warned the children. She was near crook of the cabinets in the corner with her sisters and Cora. Bailey came in as she was speaking, from the other door that lead to the back, carrying a water pitcher. He stored it under the sink.

“Good thing all of us have crazy weird immune systems.” He muttered as he snatched up one of the cupcakes. “Also, all of the flowers are watered now.”

“Thank you,” Camilla replied curtly. Stiles assumed that Bailey had been neglecting his chores.

“Hey, where’s Nick?” Stiles felt proud that he had managed to remember the name, what with all the new meeting and everything.

“Colton and him are downstairs playing video games. They’re also keeping an eye on Aubree.” Ritsa informed him. “Now get a cupcake.”

“Before you guys eat the rest.” Hale said sarcastically, but with a smile on his face. He grabbed two, handing one to Stiles. He began to carefully bite into the side, like if there wasn’t company he would be shoving the entire thing in his mouth, but stopped short when Stiles started to eat his.

Stiles never had homemade icing before and had to admit that it was one of the best things he had ever tasted. It was right up there with his mom’s waffles. He always preferred to eat the icing and then the cupcake, so he began to lick off the top. The only reason he stopped was when he looked up to see Hale staring at him, crumbs dusting his lips and an intensity simmering in his eyes. Stiles swallowed thickly while trying to keep from letting his face bring any false hope to Stiles’ already adult crush.

“Sorry, I have terrible table manners.” Stiles apologized. Hale blinked rapidly for a few minutes, before taking a huge chunk out of his cupcake in a furious manner. The hollows of his cheeks filled up and colored.

“First, we’re not at a table.” Hale pointed out. “Second, you have terrible manners, period.”

“I have bad manners?” Stiles entire torso pulled backwards, his eyes going large. “Me? You’re telling me that? The guy who says hi to literally no one at school and scares seniors? I have bad manners? Really, bub?” Stiles started huffing laughs, nodding really fast. Hale just raised an eyebrow, though his eyes did show that he may have slightly felt a little abashed.

Talia cleared her throat hard, and Stiles felt himself immediately straighten, all fight gone. “So, I heard you’re going to be staying for dinner.” She directed conversation at Stiles.

“Uh, yeah, I mean, they asked me to, I don’t –”

“I’m not trying to make you feel like you aren’t welcome.” Talia said hurriedly. “I was just double-checking. Sometimes Camila’s worrying can push people into doing things, and Ritsa just assumes. I’m glad you’re staying; Darvon and Arthur are going to be picking up some food from Roaring Hog tonight.”

“Isn’t that a tavern a town over?” Stiles asked, surprised.

“Yeah, but they get all their meat natural and cook everything with no preservatives so it’s one of the few places we actually eat from.” Talia explained.

“Oh, I understand. But isn’t it a little out of the way?”

“No, Arthur and Darvon own a mechanic shop in Aliso, so they’re right there.”

“They own a mechanic shop?” Stiles was always afraid that his Jeep was going to give out on him, and if he knew a place or people that would help him with a discount well, hey.

“Yeah, Arthur was certified in mechanics and so he’s specialized and Darvon used to work on tanks when he was in the military.” Camilla explained. Cora scooted in between her and Ritsa to go towards the fridge. Stiles hoped they liked milk.

“Wow, he used to be in the military?” Stiles could imagine him in the military, but more of a Steve Rogers fit and less of a mechanic. He felt the door swing open behind him, and he instinctually turned.

First in was Arthur, carrying multiple bags with a screaming, severed pig head on it. Directly after him was Darvon, who smiled at Stiles on the way in. “Hey, it’s good to see you. Camilla told me you’d might be stopping by for a visit.” He brushed against Stiles in an attempt to get by with at least six bags in his hand. “Oh, and to answer your question, I was in the military for the standard four years; I came back when Haleigh was five. I didn’t leave again because I didn’t want to.”

“Cora, go tell the boys that it’s about time to eat.” Stiles turned around to see her halfway through pouring a glass of milk. She set the carton down.

“Okay, Stiles will you finish pouring everyone a glass? There’s another two gallons in the fridge if you need it.” Stiles nodded.

“How do you fit everything in one fridge?” Stiles asked on his way over to the counter.

“We don’t.” Ritsa said. “We have all of our liquids in there, and maybe leftovers if they’re going to be eaten by someone who didn’t know there were leftovers. There’s another fridge in the pantry,” she motioned towards the sliding doors next to the other entrance. “It holds meats and dairy. We also have a mini-fridge downstairs just in case. Like, if the fruit or vegetables need to be cold but we usually use vegetables as soon as we get them and fruits aren’t that important to be chilled.”

Stiles nodded, trying to collect all the information. He pulled on the smooth metal of the dark wood cabinet above him, revealing at least forty cups on four shelves. “How many cups do I need, exactly?”

“Fifteen from us, plus you, so sixteen.” Stiles pulled out the plastic ones first. It only took about three cups to finish the half gallon, so he opened up the fridge. He felt like he was snooping, even though he had been asked to do that. He could pinpoint the moment that Nick and Colton came in, bickering about a win or loss on the game and he heard the flurry of setting everything up. He was pretty sure he could even pick up the part where they carried in an extra table.

He used almost a full gallon of milk, even when he had decreased the amount for the children. There were two rows of cups, and he moved away after being done.

“Come grab your cup!” Talia said, once she noticed Stiles was idling in front of the sink. Hale was helping to bring in chairs.

“Do you do this every time?” Stiles gestured towards the set up. As he spoke, the children began to move away from the taller table. Stiles watched as Ethan carefully held on to it while sliding to stand.

“Sometimes. We prefer to have lots of space in here, and during formal events – when we usually all eat together – we eat in the dining room and not in the kitchen. But it’s so stuffy in there, and the entire place is too fancy for us to feel comfortable with. We sometimes don’t eat together, or will go do a picnic thing, or eat in one of the rooms.” Ritsa smiled, taking a glass and heading over to the table. Stiles grabbed two more and followed suit.

“Where am I sitting?” Stiles asked her.

“Next to me again,” Ritsa instructed. He placed his drink down, and the other one on the opposite side. “Whose is that? Derek’s?” Stiles nodded, realizing what it must have looked like.

“Yeah,” his voice cracked slightly. “I just assumed that since I was sitting next to you, I would be sitting next to him and yeah.” Stiles was sure that he wasn’t this embarrassed around the rest of the population a good twenty-five percent of the time.

Ritsa laughed easily. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll love to sit next to you.” Her tone was mysterious and playful, mirth danced in her eyes. Stiles wanted to ask what she meant right that very moment, he needed it right that very moment, but Aubree began crying in Cora’s arms across the room. “I’ll be back,” she promised.

“Oh-kay…” Stiles voice trailed off, extremely lost. Camilla and Darvon were walking over, debating on something by the looks of it. Stiles stood and waited awkwardly.

“I’m almost a hundred-percent sure that the creek comes after the big hill.” Darvon said frowning. He put his cup down, across from Stiles and set down the two plastic bags he was still holding on to.

“No, and that’s a small mountain. It comes before it, like right before it, and you follow it to get to the foot trail.” Camilla put her cup down as well, if a little forceful. Stiles watched the liquid slosh for a second, teetering from spilling out.

“The creek leads you out of the woods onto the other side. So the ‘mountain’ has to come before it, because the ‘mountain’ is in the woods.” Darvon glanced at Stiles, seeming to realize that he was there. “Have you ever been out in the woods?”

“He wouldn’t have – Talia would have had his tail. She hates strangers being out in the woods.” Camilla smacked him lightly.

“You’re right. So you couldn’t answer my question.” Darvon looked slightly downcast.

“Sorry, but is there anything else I can help with?” Stiles’ eyes darted between them, waiting for a task.

“No, I think Talia and Cora are busy setting up the plates for the kids,” He looked back, where they were pulling containers out of the bag. Ritsa was lifting and lowering her baby, following her with soft words and gentle eyes. “And they’ll bring the food over so don’t worry about it.”

“Am I sitting next to you?” Hale walked over to where they were all standing.

“Yeah, that’s where I put you.” Stiles answered. Hale plopped himself down, groaning. “Are you okay?”

“He’s probably just sore from boxing yesterday.” Darvon grinned slyly. Everyone else followed Hale’s suit and sat down.

“Do you two box?” Stiles glanced between the two. Darvon just didn’t look like a boxer – a wrestler, maybe, but not a boxer.

Camilla laughed. And laughed. Darvon frowned at her, but she just couldn’t stop. Stiles was going to take that as a bruise to Darvon’s pride and a no. Hale leaned over to him. “No, I have a friend that sometimes stops by. Darvon can’t box to save his life. He’s too bulky and so he isn’t fast enough.”

“You’ve got a good frame for boxing.” Arthur commented. He had brought a glass for him and his wife, taking a seat at one end of the table.

“I bruise really easy, though.” Stiles said nervously. He really didn’t want to be put in an enclosed space for fighting with Hale – who still scared him.

“You’d also need some more muscles.” Hale added on. Well, rude.

“And you need less, you hulk.” Cora smacked his head lightly, leaning over his chair to place one of the plastic bags on the table. Stiles was beginning to smell the bread and spices, his mouth involuntarily watering.

“Another reason why he’ll never get to play contact sports.” Talia smiled, bringing over the last of the bags and a handful of plates. “Everyone get what you want. They brought home enough to feed a pack of wolves.”

“When it’s from the Roaring Hog, you eat like them too.” Ritsa sat down with Aubree, who was considerably calmer. She handed Stiles the plate that was placed in front of her. “Could you get me some of the mac n cheese, two biscuits, and a lot of the barbeque pork? My hands aren’t completely free right now.”

“What, are they expensive?” Cora laughed from across the kitchen, handling plates for the kids. She was sitting them all on the other table, where the kids waited patiently, and Ethan had traded off the baby with Grace. Stiles was wondering how they were going to eat while holding that thing, but right now it was in Hale’s care and so if Hale thought they could handle it, he wasn’t going to butt in.

“So expensive they can’t even help you,” Ritsa threw back. “Have fun cleaning by yourself tonight.” She smirked and Cora looked absolutely devastated. Stiles had to fight the urge to jump up and scream ‘Oooh’, and instead just started laughing.

Darvon apparently didn’t have the same problems for he turned around and said, “Oh – told you!” The kids started laughing, and Stiles felt like Darvon would be the dad at a luncheon that would dance awkwardly and embarrass the shit out of his kids.

But eventually everyone settled down, and got some food. After handling Ritsa’s plate, Stiles gave himself around the same portions, plus a good amount of green beans and ham and mashed potatoes and he was a growing boy, okay. He thought that since it was his second time there, the questions wouldn’t be aimed at him.

He was wrong.

“So, Stiles, why is your father out of town?” Talia asked around a bread roll.

“Oh, well he’s working on a case and he had to go out of town because apparently other counties nearby are having the same problems. So it could be connected, you know?”

“What’s the case about?” Darvon leaned forward slightly.

“He’s not really allowed to say, and I can’t even know but I know it’s something to do with drugs and gangs and people getting hurt.” Stiles fidgeted, not knowing if he was allowed to share what little he knew.

“So other towns are also having people be hurt because of gangs?” Talia continued on without an answer. “That’s a shame. I hope he catches them soon.”

“Thanks,” Stiles smiled, not really sure why he was thanking her, but feeling some sort of gratitude.

“Is your friend coming over to stay with you tonight?” Camilla asked anxiously.

“No, his mom is home tonight and since she’s a nurse for the emergency unit she doesn’t get much time off. So he wanted to stay with her tonight, which I understand.” Stiles chomped into the ham, it having the same type of undercurrent flavoring as the meat from that Saturday.

“Are you thinking of staying home alone then?” This was the first time Arthur had spoken, and from his plate, Stiles could see why. It was overflowing mound that looked like it had been half-devoured.

“Yeah,” Stiles took a swig of milk, which – gratefully – went down smooth. “I’ve done it before.”

“I don’t think that’s a wise choice.” Talia announced. “We have a spare room you could stay in for the night.”

The words were framed as a suggestion, but the picture was clear: Talia wanted Stiles to stay the fucking night. No if, ands, or buts about it. The way her clear eyes surveyed him, as if she already knew he’d accept or what the consequence would be if he didn’t, terrified Stiles. “Okay, yeah, sure.” Stiles stumbled over his words, just wanting to get them out.

She smiled, her eyes a soft brown again. “Good, it’s across the way from Derek’s, so when you guys are finished up for the night, he’ll show you up to it.”

Ritsa then asked a question about the mechanic shop, and their new employee to Darvon, which sent their conversation racing. Stiles had a hard time keeping up, and when Darvon reached across the table to take the remaining ham from his plate, he gave up altogether. Now it was just a fight to finish his food before someone else did. Hale noted the moment Stiles started acting like he – and admittedly everyone else – was; his huff of laughter close enough to cause Stiles to imagine the breath, warm and close like before, on him.

How the hell is he going to stand a night across the hall from Hale?

He ate happily, even if it was quick. He made a mental note to message his dad about staying over, but after dinner he just never got around to it. He went into the living room with all the knitting stuff, with Camilla and Ritsa. They were working on a quilt together apparently, and he just came in because Ritsa asked him to hold Aubree. He had her in his lap, her playing with a few toys around his legs. He enjoyed their bickering on the colors, and the warm, moving body on his calf. After some time, Hale, who had opted to help Cora with the dishes tonight, wandered in and came to sit near Stiles on the floor. He handed certain toys to Aubree, smiling as she tried to take them when he held them just out of her reach. Pretty soon, she was crawling out of his lap over to Hale.

Stiles found comfort in just leaning on the arm of the chair, watching Hale. As he played with Aubree, his eyes loosened and an easy pull of his lips into a smile appeared and reappeared. His body leaned towards her, automatically protective and loving. His gaze tracked how she moved, making sure she never stumbled and hurt herself. Stiles felt a heat bloom in his chest, and it would be wonderful if it wasn’t painful. Why did he always chose someone who wouldn’t chose him back?

The night passed with Stiles alternating between awestruck wonder and breathtaking pain while staring at Hale, who probably would have noticed if he hadn’t been so enraptured himself with Aubree. Haleigh came in, with a soaking head. She asked Stiles to braid her hair so she would have curls the next morning, and the activity helped to distract him. Soon after, it was the children’s bed time, and Talia came in, stating it was time for the teens to sleep as well. Ritsa walked up the stairs before Stiles, Hale behind him.

He really did try to not to feel trapped.

Right before he went into the room, the room across from Hale, yeah that room, Ritsa hugged him goodnight. Camilla told them both goodnight, and after Hale shut the door, she turned to Stiles. “Stay in your room, Stiles.” She warned.

“I will,” Stiles promised.

She flashed a grin, an extremely reckless one, and leaned close. “I don’t want to hear you and Derek up, you hear me?”

Stiles turned scarlet, his tongue felt like sandpaper, and there were no fucking words. Her statement was innocent, as if they would stay up to play video games but all he heard was an undertone of something more.

He backed into his room, overheated. There was a large bed, and a dresser. It was all soft blue, and the large bed had a quilt at the end of it. Stiles threw himself on it, the bed molding to him and the cool threads touching his face and neck. He was barely able to struggle out of his pants and flannel over-shirt before he fell back onto the bed, so confused he wanted to think but he was having an Adderall crash and just pulled himself through an extremely exhausting day.

Chapter Text

Having a Nick sitting on top of his chest when he opened his eyes wasn’t how Stiles thought he’d wake up, but here he was. “What time is it?”

“Mom says it’s time to get up.” Well, if it was good enough for them, it’d be good enough for Stiles. He pushed at Nick, who rolled off and away. Stiles sat up, his back feeling slightly sore. He wasn’t used to sleeping on soft beds, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t the best night’s sleep he had gotten in a long time. He saw his pants on the ground and he picked them up, pulling them on without standing. When he finished squirming into them, he sat back up.

Hale was standing in the doorway, which Stiles had only noticed when Nick had ran past him with a “Watch it!”

“You watch it!” Hale called down the hall.

“Hey,” Stiles said sleepily.

“Hey,” Hale surveyed him for a moment. “If you need a shirt, I could lend you one. But I can’t do anything about your pants.”

Stiles blinked, all traces of lethargy gone. “Uh, sure, thanks dude.” Hale turned away, probably expecting for Stiles to follow. He hopped off the bed, nearly stubbing his toe on the end of the bed. The teeter to move away from bed sent him staggering out into the hallway and into a fast-moving Cora.

“Hey, Stiles, I need to get by, so you need to move by,” she pushed past him, and he didn’t have any time to say anything before she was whirling into another room. He vaguely remembered that being the bathroom, and great, now he has to go.

He pulled himself into Hale’s room before he collided with anyone else. The bed spread was black, and the walls were bare. There were multiple mounds of clothes on the floor, and a couple balls for different sports. His dressers were covered with books and pens and headphones. He had his leather jacket thrown over the back of his chair, which seemed to be paired with a desk that had multiple books opened on it. Hale was standing at his closet, meticulously organized compared to his room. He pulled a shirt off its hanger, throwing it to Stiles. It was a black, short-sleeved tee; a typical Hale shirt. “Will that work?”

Stiles fumbled when catching it, bunching it in one hand. “Yeah, I think. Thanks.” Hale continued to stand there, apparently waiting for something. Oh. Stiles realized he wanted him to try it on for Hale.

Stiles pulled his shirt off, in a more-or-less fluid motion. He was about just to throw the other one on when he paused at Hale’s facial expression. His mouth was slightly open, if a little down cast, with a furrowed brow. His eyes were sliding slowly over Stiles’ skinny frame. Stiles stilled completely, unwilling to even breathe. After what felt like an eternity, his eyes snapped back up to meet Stiles’, which may have been a little – okay, a lot – wider than usual. Hale didn’t even look embarrassed. He glanced between Stiles’ eyes and lips before nodding, turning away.

Stiles tried at some deep breaths, struggling into the shirt. It hung lose on him. Hale grabbed another black tee, and moved out of his white undershirt he slept in. The material fit him a lot better, pulling on his muscles but never outlining them. He walked over to his window, pulling up the curtain. Stiles saw the downpour outside and couldn’t help his groan. Hale raised his eyebrows.

“It’s raining.” Stiles explained eloquently.

“I can see that,” Hale said. He still seemed to be waiting for something.

“Rains makes stuff wet,” Stiles threw out his hands, as if that would demonstrate his point. He just wanted to wait until the rain was done before they went to school, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. Stiles was hoping Hale would have an umbrella.

“Yeah, you’re right.” He went back to his closet, rummaging around for something. He pulled out a red hoodie, with the name Hale on the back. He tossed it to Stiles. “This will keep you from getting too wet.”

“Uh, no, I mean, dude that’s nice but do you really want to lend me a jacket?” Translation: do you fucking want people to think things?

“I don’t really care. I’m going to wear the jacket I always wear.” Hale shrugged. “Put it on, don’t put it on. Let’s go downstairs.” He brushed past Stiles, who was still standing staring at him flabbergasted. Hale didn’t appear to be hesitating, so Stiles slipped on the hoodie, thinking what the hell.

It was soft, and there was a lingering of that fragrance that made him so hungry. It felt like it was new, the fuzz not even worn. He tugged on the strings, following Hale out. “Are we just going to be downstairs?” Stiles asked from behind.

“Yeah, to the kitchen.” Hale appeared confused, paused a few steps from the stairs.

“Okay, since Cora’s no longer in here, I’m going to…” Stiles pointed at the bathroom and Hale nodded.

When Stiles wandered downstairs, he heard Camilla before he saw anyone. “Colton, I need you to sit down and eat, you have to leave soon. No, you’re going as soon as your mom gets out of the shower. And Cora, will you take Aubree? Make sure she eats some applesauce. Put on some extra clothes to keep dry, I don’t want anyone getting sick because of the rain.”

Stiles pushed open the door, walking in on chaos. All the kids were in some section of dressing. Talia was fixing Grace’s hair and Camilla was buttering toast. It looked like Cora was juggling Aubree while trying to fix her hair and explain how to tie shoes to Haleigh. Hale was supervising Colton, Nick, and the twins, who were trying to eat and right their shirts at the same time. Every few seconds, Hale would walk over to one of them and tug on the bottom of the shirt or smooth the collar. Bailey appeared to be the only one prepared.

So this is what having a big family feels like.

Stiles watched in wonder, as all of them moved like crashing waves that somehow shifted around each other fluidly without destroying each other. He didn’t want to be a surfer caught in the underflow. Talia looked up when he came in, “Morning, Stiles.” She smiled easily.

“Is there anything –” Stiles gestured out into the general space and she laughed.

“No,” he walked closer to her, so she wouldn’t have to raise her voice. Talia had a voice that if it went too loud, you’d be left wincing in fear. “It’ll be done in a minute. Ritsa was so tired last night, and usually she’s out here to help, but she needed a shower. I can take you to school, if you want me to.”

“That’s alright. I’m sure you have enough driving around to do, and I have my Jeep.” Stiles held up his hands, in a sign of surrender if she chose to deny him. She finished up Grace’s last braid and nodded to herself.

“You’ll take Derek too, right?” Talia questioned.

“Yeah, I can do that.” Stiles dared a glance over at Hale, who was watching the interaction with raised eyebrows. Ritsa came in, her hair already wisping into its natural, mussed look.

“Good morning, everyone.” She called out, while moving over to where Talia was. “Is the coffee ready?”

“Almost,” Talia said. “Stiles, do you still want yours black?”

Stiles blinked, taken by surprised that Hale had told her what he was doing with the extra coffee. “Yeah, thank you.” She busied herself with the coffee maker behind her.

“Since Derek is getting taken by Stiles, will you take Camilla’s van to drop of the younger kids and I can take yours to drop of the others? I need to leave early because I’m supposed to meet with a client at a house around nine.”

“Sure, if it’s okay with Camilla?” Ritsa looked at her older sister. She was handing toast to Cora, hair still slightly wet and stringy looking.

“I don’t have to work until six, so as long as one of you are home by then.”

“If not, you can take my car. Or Arthur’s.”

“You sell houses?” Stiles couldn’t help but ask.

“Yes, I enjoy doing it too. Each house has a story, and every family has one too. I like meeting new people.” Talia smiled, pulling out some cups. She poured the dark liquid into five of them, separating her own.

“You’re slacking on this, Talia.” Ritsa teased, snatching herself a steaming cup too. She carried it over to the fridge, pretending to almost spill it on Camilla. Even Stiles could see the rise she got out of it. “Darvon and Arthur must have been so upset that they didn’t get any this morning.”

“I would have, except I was busy doing someone else’s job.” She shot back, impressively quick.

Cora was busy stuffing her face, and the boys seemed to be finishing up the food. Hale surveyed them once before going over to the counter, where Talia was adding cream and sugar to one of the drinks. He grabbed two and headed over to Stiles, “Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, I just have to grab my bag on the way out, and the baby is…” Stiles moved around, trying to figure out which child it was with.

“In the same room with my bag, which is on the way out too.”

“You left the baby alone to sleep down here?” Stiles accused, while taking the coffee.

“Yes, I left the baby down here all night, where we couldn’t hear it cry or anything. I got Poohkey from Grace this morning, and figured that it could handle an hour out of our sight.” Hale shrugged.

“A real baby wouldn’t be let out of my sight for an hour.” Stiles frowned disapprovingly.

“A real baby can move,” Hale informed him.

“Okay, you get points for that. We should probably head out.” Stiles looked around at the family that seemed to be settling down. “Uhm,” he cleared his throat, not enjoying speaking out to a public. “Thanks for having me last night.”

“I’m glad you could stay.” Talia said sincerely. Stiles turned to leave, but paused when he heard an audible laugh from Talia. He turned to look back, afraid he had done something wrong. She looked at him happily. “It’s nothing; I just didn’t realize what you were wearing.”

“Do – should I take it off?” Stiles worried at the sleeve. The heat was becoming a comfort to him.

“No,” she hurried out, darting a glance over to Hale.

“You can take it off if you don’t want people to know you stayed over here.” Hale forced out, which didn’t make any sense. Stiles had offered to drive him, so it wasn’t like they weren’t going to know.

“I’m fine.” Stiles waved his hand, trying for nonchalance. The scent was warping his brain or something. “But, I do want to get to school early, so can we go?”

“Yeah, let’s leave.” Hale brushed past Stiles, appearing to want to exit even more than he did. Stiles threw a wave again into the busy room with only Bailey returning it.

When they got into the Jeep, Hale threw his stuff into the back and slung himself up to the front. Stiles stared at him for a moment, and he looked back at him. “Drive?” he asked, well, more-or-less commanded.

“Not until you put your seatbelt on. You may look like a superhuman, but I do not want to test that if we crash.” Stiles shot back. Hale sighed, but buckled up anyways. Stiles put the Jeep into drive.

“Are you even legal?” Hale asked abruptly.

“I’m sixteen,” Stiles said defensively.

“Are your six months up?”

“Not technically, but I wanted my Jeep and I don’t mind taking you. We won’t get caught.”

“Do you do this often?” Hale’s eyebrows shot up.

“Sometimes,” Stiles spared a look at him. “Scott is saving up for a motorcycle, and so sometimes I take him to school. When he stays over and stuff.”

“You’re the Sheriff’s kid, though. Won’t it be trouble for you if your dad caught you?”

“He should be asleep right now, and I know the shifts.” Stiles turned a sharp left, the wet gravel shifting the tires. Hale is thrown, awkwardly sliding in the seat. The baby comes to life as Stiles easily rights the Jeep.

“Well, you obviously need to wait a few months because you can’t stay smooth for anything.” Hale wraps himself around the baby, surrounds it, swallows it into his arms and Stiles has a moment where he feels bad.

“It’s raining.” Stiles pointed it out, hoping that Hale’s smothering would soothe Poohkey.

“And? I do better in the rain than you do.”

“If you can drive so well then why am I taking us to school?” Stiles pulled up to a stop sign, a turn down a road and they’d be at the school. He whipped his body to face Hale.

“Because I haven’t turned sixteen yet, and unlike you, I don’t want to break the law.”

“You already look like you do.” Stiles muttered. He felt Hale before he saw him. He swiped at the back of Stiles’ head, slamming into it hard. Stiles’ head lurched forward – almost making contact with the steering wheel. “What was that for?”

He rubbed at the back of his head. Hale had the decency to look slightly abashed, which Stiles read as he didn’t mean to hit him that hard. “You know what that was for.” His tone was gruff.

Stiles stared at him, for a minute, trying to get the back of his eyelids to stop having lights on them. Hale shifted the baby again, with it finally being calmed enough to be quiet, and threw looks from Stiles to the road. “Drive.” He finally ‘suggested’. Despite wanting to glare down Hale into an apology Stiles was sure he wouldn’t get, he had to admit Hale did have a point. He finished the rest of the way in silence.
--
Health passed pretty quickly, with Finstock giving extra time for completing up the project. Stiles just showed the presentation to Hale, explaining how he did each part and where the things came from. He nodded, contemplative, but at least he didn’t complain of how pointless it was.

Stiles didn’t realize how big of a deal it was that he was wearing Hale’s red hoodie until he was on his way to Math. When they had got to school, there weren’t many people there. However, when they split to go to different classes, the hallways were buzzing with bodies. The only thing was that as Stiles passed them, things become eerily quieter. Part of him wished he would have adjusted his straps so that the brand of ‘Hale’ would be covered up. A heat crawled up through the hoodie onto the column of his neck.

Something grabbed onto his bag, yanking him back temporarily. Stiles felt his mouth fall open as he turned to see who had grabbed him. It wasn’t a surprise that it was Scott, who was now inspecting him concernedly. “Why are you wearing Hale’s jacket?”

“Oh, hi to you too, Scott.” Stiles said sarcastically. “I’m good, thanks for asking.” He continued. Scott coughed, hard and pained, before fixing him with a look. Stiles noticed the bottom of his eyes were darker than normal, and his skin looked kind of pale. “Are you okay?”

Scott licked his lips that looked dangerously chapped. “I’m fine. I was caught in the rain last night, after going over to Allison’s house.” It rained last night?

“Why didn’t you let them drive you home?”

“Uh, her aunt is,” he fumbled for a word. Chris Argent didn’t like Stiles, but he would have still offered Scott a ride. “She’s different. She knew I was friends with you, but she didn’t act like it was a problem. I don’t know, I just felt like she was testing me, like I had to get help from them. It bothered me.”

“So you decided you’d walk home in the rain?” Stiles demanded.

“No, it wasn’t raining when I started walking. It’s less than a mile. It’s good for lacrosse.” Scott defended.

“Why didn’t you ask your mom to come pick you up?”

“She didn’t get home until eleven, and I left around nine. I was home before her, dude. I would have let Argent drive me but his sister made me feel like I shouldn’t.” Scott fidgeted. They had arrived to the math room; the conversation had made Stiles momentarily forget the trail of silence he had behind him.

“Was she giving you a hard time?”

“No, she was nice, but weird.” Scott shook his head, his hair long enough to move with it. Stiles knew the look on Scott’s face – however pallid and tired it appeared – and knew he wasn’t going to get any other type of answer out of him. Scott sniffled, pulling up air through his nose.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go home? You look like you’re getting sick.”

“Dude, I’ve got an English quiz and you know how Ms. Blake is about letting us make up things.” Stiles winced in agreement. Ms. Blake was a new teacher, fresh out of college and wanting to do well. She was really strict on all of her policies.

“Are you going to go home after that?”

“I will, if I don’t have to drag myself to lunch to ask you, yet again, why you are wearing Hale’s jacket?”

Stiles caught himself bringing one of the strings up to his mouth, a bad habit with his own hoodies. He stopped himself, blushing. “I stayed over last night.”

After saying that, it was obvious that a few of the kids nearby were eavesdropping. One of them literally stopped to turn around to stare at Stiles. He ducked his head, feeling sorely embarrassed at the look. Scott was also looking at him strangely, probably wondering if he was killed last night and whether or not his ghost was friendly.

A second or two – or thirty – passed before Scott responded. “What? Why?”

“Well, you weren’t coming over, don’t give me that look because I am not blaming you, and so I didn’t have a reason not to stay for dinner. At dinner, his aunt Camilla – she worries like you wouldn’t believe – asked if I had anyone at home. Because I said no, his mom told me I should stay the night. I mean, she suggested it, but if you’ve ever met Talia Hale, you would understand.” Stiles darted a glance at the board, the lesson starting. Scott wouldn’t get to say much.

“Was she mean to you? Did she force you?” Scott tried to whisper, but it grated on his throat. Stiles almost felt the pain Scott was going through by the sounds that mimicked words coming from his mouth.

“No, she’s really cool. Funny and easy to get along with. It’s just she has a way about her, I guess you could say like Lydia, where people just don’t refuse her.” Stiles shrugged, before pulling out some paper for the lesson. He knew that by the end all it would have is some theorems on it and a whole lot of doodles and half-thought of theories and ideas.

Scott nodded, “I’m going to put my head down. I’ll just get the notes from Allison, but I can’t pay attention to this right now.”

Stiles glanced over at him. He was grateful that Scott was getting the notes from Ally, mainly because he understood what he wrote for himself but when he shared with Scott, Scott didn’t. It never failed to make him feel guilty for not being able to pay well enough attention.

At the end of the class, after shaking Scott out of his seat, Stiles managed to persuade him to go home after English. He was glad that Scott was going to get some rest, and tried also not to feel happy that he would be spared the questioning glances during lunch when he chose to sit with Hale. With an uneasy, yet happy feeling, he left Scott to go on to Spanish, where he was guaranteed to learn nothing.
--
Hale looked up from the book he was studying when Stiles wandered over. He usually sat outside, but since it was still pouring, that wasn’t an actual option. He was sitting on the opposite end of a table from a few female juniors. They kept throwing looks over to him, appearing to dare themselves into the action of approaching him. “Hey,” he said, closing the book. Stiles saw the title, something to do Spanish three, which wow Stiles was struggling through the first year.

“Hey,” Stiles put his tray down opposite of Hale. He tried to ignore people’s turning heads at them, and realized that that was why Hale probably sat outside.

“I would have thought you would have sat with your group today.” Hale said offhandedly. It surprised Stiles, and almost made him feel like Hale didn’t want him there.

“Why?”

“Well, you sat with me Monday and Tuesday, and you never sit more than two days in a row with me.”

“You could come sit over there, it’s not like any of them would bite. It’s more likely you’ll bite them.” Stiles shrugged easily, knowing that Hale was making conversation but still feeling worried.

“I don’t think any of them would have anything to say to me.” Hale admitted. “Plus, I didn’t think they’d want me over there. I’m not much of a conversationalist.”

Stiles snorted, finding the truth coming from Hale’s lips to be extremely amusing. “Half of them don’t even want me over there.”

“Then why sit with them?” Hale leaned forward.

“Because it’s where Scott sits and I don’t have many other seating options.”

“You can always sit with me,” Hale was doing that open-eye-and-heart thing again. Stiles could see his defenses fall away, waiting for Stiles to say something. But Stiles was too busy taking in how attractive he looked, appearing to be vulnerable.

“Uh, yeah, I like to.” Stiles finally managed to stammer out, probably after a good minute of silence. Hale straightened some, his regular expression replacing the previous one. “That’s why I do,” Stiles said in a lightly sarcastic tone.

“I thought it was for the vitamin D, because you obviously need the sun.” Hale tilted his head, a small smirk playing at his lips.

“Hey, my skin tone is perfectly normal and I can stay outside with it.” Stiles defended himself.

“It’s perfectly pale.” Hale suddenly blurted out. Stiles flushed, and it seemed like Hale really did not mean to say that. “Well, except for when you go that tomato color.” His voice was strained. Stiles realized he probably thought he had offended Stiles, actually offended him, and was trying to show him he was joking.

“It’s called red, maybe you should relearn the colors.” Stiles shot back, after a moment of cooling his skin down.

“Ever heard of descriptors?”

“No, I’m just in Advanced English.” Stiles made a face.

“Do you not like it?”

“I like the class, it’s just I thought if I took Advanced, I wouldn’t have Ms. Blake. She’s like, super strict and I’m not good at paying complete attention in class. She doesn’t catch on too easily, but it’s still bothersome when she does. I know all the stuff she teaches, or could learn it all on my own, but she put me up front because I can’t focus.” Hale nodded, listening. “And I think that’s wrong, because students learn at their own pace and hey, I’m smart enough to be advanced, let up some, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, but you don’t disrupt the class?”

Stiles laughed. “Scott isn’t in there. I have literally no one, so I don’t talk. I usually draw or something.”

Hale’s eyebrows did a dip down. “You don’t talk to a lot of people?”

“More like a lot of people can’t put up with my constant chatter, and find me annoying. I try to stay away from them.”

“I can see why they wouldn’t be able to put up with all of the talk.” Hale shot a look at him, smirk in place.

“Hey, rude,” Stiles felt a sting, spreading in his chest. He tried to rationalize that Hale was kidding. If he couldn’t put up with Stiles then he wouldn’t.

“But then again, people have always been put off by how I am.” Hale continued. “I mean, I can be really nice, but I don’t like to just act all the time. People say I’m bad at ‘verbalizing things’.”

“You’re not doing too bad right now.” Stiles offered up. Hale didn’t respond with words, but his eyes did grow slightly softer. Stiles tried to continue where he left off. “And then, in middle school, my huge ass crush on Lydia got out, and Jackson was…Jackson. Plus I didn’t have time for many friends, because I take care of my dad a lot.”

“I couldn’t imagine having such a small family.” Hale said.

“It’s quiet.” Stiles was going to have trouble explaining it, he could already tell. “It’s all you have, so you do your best to get along. It’s like… that one person is the most important thing in your life and you’d do anything to protect them and you make sure that they’re happy and everything is really close.”

“Oh.” Hale was quiet for a minute, contemplative. “It’s like that in my family too, but so much louder. You have to keep track of everyone and it’s really busy. I love everyone, but some I avoid.”

“Who do you avoid?” Hale had appeared easy with all the members of the family Stiles had met.

Hale looked at him, and Stiles imagined he was trying to judge how trustful Stiles was. “Laura and I have problems.” He answered.

Stiles nodded, trying to prod him forward, but no such luck. He was hoping to get out more than that and yet it seemed like Hale wasn’t going to say anything else. “Allison and I used to not get along.” Stiles threw him a bone.

“Why?” Hale seemed confused.

“Her family isn’t really okay with the whole ‘bisexual’ thing, and didn’t like her dating the best friend of one.” Stiles shrugged.

“So are they rude to you?”

“I don’t really talk to them, much. Her dad seemed to realize just because Scott is friends with one doesn’t make him one, and her mom, from what I hear, is as intolerant as ever, but Scott is still with her and she still talks to me.”

“Was she like them?” Hale threw a look over to the table she was sitting at, fast, dirty, and angry. Stiles tried to not find it such a nice feature to Hale’s looks, but his eyes darkened a bit and holy fuck it was officially catalogued as one Stiles liked. Just not used on him.

Or his friends for that matter.

“No, dude, she wasn’t. So you don’t need to look like you’re going to murder her first-born. She just didn’t understand. She thought it was a choice.”

“It isn’t.” Hale said harshly, reluctantly returning his gaze to the table.

“She realizes that now.” Stiles said soothingly. He didn’t understand why it bothered Hale so much, but he was understanding that it was another off-limits subject with him. “Hey, you said you write, right?”

Hale was caught off-guard by the question and Stiles took a moment to appreciate that he looked like he could be in college, but still didn’t look like he failed three grades and that’s why he was a sophomore. “Yes. Why?”

“I wasn’t going to ask what about, since you didn’t seem to want to tell me about it last time.” Stiles tossed up his hands, showing he meant no harm. “I was just going to ask, since you probably are a literature nut, what do you like to read?”

Hale considered the question for a minute. “I like a lot of things, like psychological thrillers. I really like Ted Dekker, and his book Three. But I also like humorous books and comic books and action. I read what I read.” Hale shrugged.

“Comic books?” Stiles became much more interested, if that was possible. He loved getting Hale to talk.

“Yeah, I like comic books. Like Marvel.”

“You’d chose Marvel over DC?” Stiles let his nose wrinkle, in almost-real disgust.

“Yeah, it has awesome characters and good plotlines.”

“Oh, but you know, they treat women like walking sex.” Not that Stiles minded looking at it, no, but he had meet very capable women in his life – like his mom, and Lydia.

“And DC doesn’t?” Hale eyebrows went up a few centimeters. Okay, so the new reboot was really bad, and Stiles couldn’t disagree.

“Fair point, but definitely not as bad as Marvel. I mean, Marvel fans have an initiative going on because of how poorly represented women are. And DC women are kick-ass, half the time saving the day instead of being the damsel.”

“Marvel doesn’t have a dick, like Superman. Also, a lot of women in Marvel are strong front-women.”

“But everyone in the world knows that the real main hero of the DC comics is Batman, duh.” Stiles threw out an arm, as if it was the most basic thing to understand.

“I like DC, but I’d still chose Marvel. It has such good characters, and it has Loki, who when played by Tom Hiddleston, is perfect.”

“Okay, but comic book Loki.” Stiles started.

“I’ll admit that he has flaws but he is still just as sarcastic.”
“But comic book Loki.”

“Is still good,” Hale insisted.

“But comic book Loki.” Stiles felt a grin spread across his face, as Hale continued to get more and more riled at what he was repeating. Loki, from the comic book, was still good and by all means was translated on screen well, but he had some flaws. Well, a lot of flaws including rarely being helpful with superheroes and often trying to murder them. A lot more than what the screen would portray.

“Oh, shut up. Superman is an asshole in and out of comics, so it doesn’t matter.” Unfortunately, or fortunately if Stiles was reading Hale’s aggravation right, the bell rang then, signaling the end of lunch. “Hey, do you want me to give you a ride home?” Stiles asked, while standing up to shoulder his bag.

“As nice as riding around with someone who isn’t legal yet sounds, no. Mom is making Laura come home today after school, so she’s going to drive me.” He didn’t seem too happy about the situation, and Stiles half-believed that his original sentence wasn’t sarcasm.

“Okay, then.” Stiles shrugged. “I’ll see you around.” Hale nodded his assent, before gathering his things and leaving in the opposite direction.

Chapter Text

When Stiles got home, he called his dad. He felt guilty because he had forgotten to text him last night that he was staying over at the Hale’s. He didn’t like hiding a lot from his dad. On the third ring, he picked up.

“Hullo?” His voice was croaky, and laced with sleep.

“Did I wake you?” Stiles felt worse, knowing how ruined his dad’s sleep schedule was and how much he appreciated the time he got rest.

“Stiles? No, I’m up, don’t worry. My alarm was going to go off in a few minutes anyway.” Stiles could hear the creak of the bed in the background. He made a mental note to pick up some heating pads later because his dad’s back wasn’t the best.

“Oh, okay. How are things going?” Stiles wasn’t trying to stall, but he didn’t want ‘hey, dad, I slept over at Hale’s’ to be the first thing his father heard.

“They’re about as good as they’ve been. We thought we got someone who was in on it, but the local cops couldn’t get anything out of him in the twenty-four-hour time frame and then he was released.”

“You can still question them right?”

“Well, we could have. Until they turned up dead,” His dad sounded defeated on the other line. Stiles sucked in a breath, astounded. The gang had been rough, bringing serval people to the emergency room – and most were just around a place, not even buying the drugs. But they had never killed before.

“So you think things are escalating?”

“Stiles.” His dad warned him, because Stiles was pushing again. He sighed when Stiles didn’t apologize or say never mind. “Yes, things are. I want you to be careful. Don’t go near anywhere without someone else. This person had come up here for a bit, so we thought that they were coming up to get some drugs to sell, but they were from Beacon Hills.”

“I won’t, Dad, I promise.” Stiles felt worry tug at him. The case was still ongoing, after so much time, and now there was a murder. A murder of a Beacon Hills resident. If the killing began to be a regular thing, people might start to question his dad’s ability to complete cases. “Speaking of places, I went over to Hale’s yesterday.”

“I know, you told me you were.”

“And, well, I don’t know but somehow I got invited to stay over at their house for the night?” Stiles shrunk into his middle.

“Did you forget to text me?” His dad sighed.

“Yeah, I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” His dad conceded. “I hoped you behaved yourself.” His tone implied something more than what he said.

Stiles felt his face color, and his mouth fell open. “Dad – no! It wasn’t – it isn’t, we didn’t. Dad, I stayed in a different room and he is straight.”

“Are you sure about that?” His father’s voice sounded skeptical.

“You haven’t even met him, and yes, I’m sure about it.” Stiles’ eyes rolled so hard he had to close them.

“I actually have met the boy, many years ago when I was only a deputy.” His father corrected him. “Did you ask him?”

“What’s there to ask?”

“If he’s straight?”

Stiles groaned. “I cannot believe we are having this conversation, Dad, really.” He was starting to get a headache.

“Well?” His dad just plowed ahead, which was strange for him. Whenever it came to extremely intimate stuff about one of them, both were awkward.

“No, I haven’t asked him. And I don’t plan on it.” Stiles wasn’t meaning to snap at him, it was just that he was beginning to feel out of place and restless.

“Okay, I know when to step out of it. If that’s really what you think, then fine.” Stiles imagined him holding up one hand in mock defeat.

“Thank you. Are you still coming back on Saturday?” His dad’s trips rarely were more than a week at a time, because the town could only go so long without a sheriff.

“It’s looking more like Sunday, or Monday, son. I have to help them with the report on the body.” His dad sounded exhausted.

“Okay, well I hope things go okay.” Stiles fidgeted, having stood by the counter where the house phone charger was the entire time. He wanted to go lie down himself. His headache was growing worse by the minute.

“Thanks, son. I’ll check in later.”

“Alright, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” The receiver went dead. Stiles, even knowing that he had a history worksheet to do, left his book bag forgotten in the kitchen and opted to drag himself the fuck up the stairs to his bed.
--
The next day, when he woke up, he just wanted to keep his ass in bed. But, he was aware that today was the day he was supposed to get Poohkey and he wasn’t going to slack. Still, he didn’t plan on actually staying but he was going to pick up the baby. When he threw on a pair of sweat pants, still in Hale’s hoodie – which he admittedly kept on through the night, even when he felt like he was sweating out his organs.

His muscles groaned in protest when he pulled himself into his Jeep. He curled over the steering wheel, uncertain if he could actually make it to school. Before he had to put all of his efforts into driving, he fumbled at his phone. The blare of light sent a sharp pain shooting through his skull.

Stiles: Hey can you meet me before school

Derek Hale: Yeah I should be there before 7:40.

Stiles: k

Hale was waiting outside the school when Stiles pulled in. He put it into a parking spot before basically dragging his dying body over to him. Before he could make it up the steps, however, Hale was running down to him.

“Hey, are you okay?” His hands grabbed at Stiles’ shoulders and if they weren’t like flames against his already burning skin, he would be positively delighted.

“I think I caught something from Scott.” His brain-to-mouth filter was notorious for turning off when he was sick. “It’s probably because he walked home in the rain last night because he felt some stupid reason to prove something to Ally’s aunt and didn’t want to wait until his mom picked him up so –”

“Stiles, shut up. Why would you drive to school like this?” Hale kept his hands on Stiles ducking to get a better angle at looking into Stiles’ half-opened eyes.

“To get the baby.” Stiles responded after a dry hacking cough. “I mean, I don’t want you to think I’m slacking. Please don’t think I’m lazy.”

“Hey, I don’t. But you don’t need to be driving like this. I’m going to call my dad, he’ll come take you home. He doesn’t have to go into the shop today so he’s only a drive away. Come on, come sit down on the stairs.” Hale guided him easily to the front of the school, placing him down. The cool concrete felt nice where it touched him. “You don’t have to take the baby, just let me call my dad.”

Hale left Stiles on the stairs, probably to dart back up to his book bag and the baby, to get his phone. Stiles kept talking anyway because that’s what Stiles does apparently. “You’re really nice when I’m sick. You’re usually nice, but this is like vocal nice and worried and maybe being sick is worth it. Well, no because it’s nice to be able to do things and my throat really hurts. Do you have any water? I heard something about orange juice being good for a sore throat but I would doubt you would have orange juice. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if I asked for it and you said yeah, sure I’ll go get you some.” He could vaguely hear Hale talking on the phone, though he was probably on a few feet behind him. “Why are you being so nice? I already figured that you’re a big nerd who wants a good grade on this project – probably to keep up perfect As,” Stiles pushed out a cough. “But that doesn’t mean you have to help me when I’m sick and bring me coffee and invite me over for a movie and help with Biology.”

Hale was right there all of a sudden; Stiles didn’t realize he had let his eyes close. Hale pressed his hand against Stiles forehead, and Stiles could feel bad about how clammy it was when he got better. “Shut up, Stiles.”

“I couldn’t even if I tried.” Stiles tried for the tune of ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, but the rasp of his voice made it sound off and trying to go an octave up destroyed his already raw throat. He was shutting up.

“Is your dad still not home?” Hale was sitting right next to him, incredibly close. Stiles half-way wanted to shift away from the heat.

“No, he was supposed to be home Saturday, but things happened and now it’s looking like late Sunday.”

“Okay, can you make sure you don’t kill yourself while school is in?” Stiles attempted a snort, causing a searing pain to shoot up his throat.

“I’ve been able to before,” He wanted to make a biting remark, but he was in favor of what Hale said about closing his mouth. He’d probably be chattier once he got some more liquid in him.

“Then you’re going to go home when my dad gets here, and you’re going to go to sleep and wait this out. Try calling your dad,” Hale recommended.

“No, I’m not going to worry him with this. I’ll be fine.” Stiles’ mouth felt like a desert, his tongue was the rolling sand caused by the wind blowing out. He heard a car pull up and hoped that it wasn’t Lydia or Jackson. Or both.

“How is he?” The person was walking up, a distinctively older voice. Stiles craned his aching neck up, squinting at the person coming. It was Arthur.

“His fever seems high, and he shouldn’t have been an idiot and tried to come school but I don’t think the hospital is necessary.”

“I’m not going to the hospital,” Stiles squeaked.

“We know,” Arthur bent down to place a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “But I don’t know where you live, so you’re going to have to at least tell me the address.”

“Why?” Stiles remembered Hale saying something about Arthur coming to school to get Stiles but it wasn’t clicking in his brain. He had a strong feeling that he had forgotten to take some Adderall this morning during the fever pain.

“I’m taking you home.” He guided Stiles up by the uppers of his arms, his strong grasp literally just lifting Stiles up like a rag doll. While he was being dragged to the car, he managed to spit out his address. Arthur got in a few seconds later but rolled his window down to speak to his son. “You finish out the school day before you do anything or Talia will have a fit.”

“I will,” Hale promised from beyond the car. Arthur rolled Stiles’ window down as well before he took the car out of park. Stiles soon realized why he rolled down the windows, as the breeze whipped around him and cooled his skin. He was even beginning to feel decently less sweaty by the time Arthur started talking.

“Why did you show up at school today, Stiles?”

And, due to a number of facts like Stiles is sick and Stiles has no medication in him, he answered honestly. “I didn’t want to give Hale a reason to think I was slacking, because I’m not. I won’t be dead weight.”

“Right now you kind of are dead weight, and you can’t help if you’re sick out of your mind.” Arthur paused for a beat. “And…Hale?”

“It’s what I call him, because what else should I call him? ‘Derek’? And get my throat ripped out?” Stiles felt slightly grouchy. He would worry about being disrespectful later.

“You could call him Derek, I’m sure he won’t mind. He’s got quite the soft spot for you.”

“That’s what it seems like.” Stiles suddenly felt like he was talking to Ally about his crushes, which he still hadn’t had a chance to do. “I mean, he does all these nice things but it has to be for the project. He’s normally so…grr… around people, do you know what I mean? And it’s not like he has to be this nice for the project, but he is and does that mean that Hale actually likes me as a person? If he can tolerate me, he can probably be friends with anyone.” Stiles never learned. Every second he spoke, his body committed sabotage.

“You aren’t someone that has to be tolerated, Stiles.” Arthur sounded earnest, like he was convinced of the fact that Stiles wasn’t an acquired taste. “You’re a really good kid and Derek sees that, so I don’t know why he wouldn’t be kind to you.” He parked the car. Stiles hadn’t realized that they had got to his house, but part of him was glad that they did. The other part wanted to know where the conversation would go if Stiles was in his right mind and what he could learn from it.

“Thank you,” Stiles managed out. He pretty much fell out of the car, stumbling part of the way up the driveway. He was very fortunate he had put his keys in the sweatpants’ pockets instead of his book bag like he usually did.

“A word of advice,” Arthur called from the car. Stiles turned his body to show that he was listening, but he couldn’t straighten out without his body protesting painfully. “When you get in there, get some liquid in you and then get in the shower. You don’t even have to clean yourself up, just make sure that you let the water run for a bit. Put on new clothes and go to sleep.”

Stiles nodded, knowing the drill. Before he took a shower, he’d make sure to take plenty of fluids up to his room. When he managed to crawl his way to the bathroom, he seriously considered just getting in with all of his clothes on. But then he might ruin Hale’s hoodie, and he needed to give that back.

At some point in the unseen future.

So he stripped down, Hale’s black shirt coming off with a struggle. It felt nice just to be naked, and the tiles felt good under Stiles’ feet. There was brief consideration of just lying on the floor before he convinced himself that a shower would be better. The spray of the lukewarm water hit him, and it was cool enough for his body to not want to pull away. He pressed up against the wall, letting it support him while he tried his best not to fall asleep.

Stiles got out only after his body had stopped trying to kill him with heat stroke and instead turned to hypothermia. When the chills got bad enough, Stiles shut off the water and moved down the hall. He didn’t bother to bring clothes into the bathroom, and in hindsight, that was stupid. Still, it wasn’t like he put on much – just some boxer shorts and a tee shirt – before he collapsed on his sweet, awesome bed and fell asleep.
--
He was being shaken awake. No, he was being pulled apart. Yep, this wasn’t shaking, this was vicious manhandling. “I’m awake, awake,” He shrieked. His hand, hot and sweaty, flew up to his throat to massage it. So the sleep didn’t heal him.

And that’s when he realized that his dad was away and he was supposed to be home alone.

His eyes snapped open, a searing pain shooting straight through his skull because of the lights, and searched for the intruder. Which…was just Hale, putting the baby on the computer chair near his bed. “What are you doing here?” Oh, yes, perfect first question Stiles, not like you could have gone with ‘How did you get here?’

Hale looked over to him, a new expression on his face. For lack of a better word, and apathy at finding a better one, Stiles called it worry. “You’re sick.” He stated, as if it answered the entirety of Stiles’ question. Which it did not.

But, Stiles was too tired to fight, and too achy to argue. “The house is locked up.” Stiles informed him.

“I know. I came in through your window.” Stiles would have sat up faster and looked over if it hurt less to move, but when he managed to get up, he saw the open window.

“That’s the second story though.” Stiles took a swig of the orange next to his bed. He had drink straight out of the carton when he got home, in too much pain to grab a glass. So now it was his carton of orange juice. “What did you scale the tree outside? You did, didn’t you? That’s really cool, but hey it looks like you could do it. I know I couldn’t. I have about zero upper body strength but it’s obvious you do. I mean, have you seen yourself?” SHUT UP STILES.

“I would think you’d be less talkative with your sickness, and yet you’re not.” Hale moved over to him, placing a hand on Stiles’ head. Stiles didn’t even try to not lean into it, enjoying the smooth, warm hand on his head. When it was moved away, sure, Stiles may have wobbled forward a little, but he didn’t complain. “Have you eaten?”

Stiles’ face twisted into a grimace. “Food would hurt.”

“And yet, you need it to live.” He pushed the chair closer to Stiles bed, placing it right next to Stiles. “Lay back down, I’ll go find you something.” He turned to leave, as if he knew where things were in Stiles’ house. Stiles felt a spark inside his chest, heating it up until Stiles was sure that if he allowed any breath out, it would come out in smoke.

He did it anyway, to call out to Hale. “I could get used to this pampering.” Hale paused at the door, Stiles imagined him turning around and saying ‘Don’t’.

Instead, he turned around to stare at Stiles for a long moment. Stiles, however tired, sick, achy, and clammy, kept his gaze. He could feel coughs in his throat, coughs he trapped so he wouldn’t move under Hale’s eyes. Finally, Hale took a deep breath and spoke. “Okay.”

Stiles didn’t need the fucking heat that attacked his very core. He didn’t need his breath to catch and for his heart to go spastic. He was already sick; for God’s sake, he shouldn’t have to deal with this…feeling. Stiles tried to make the executive decision to avoid it until he was better, which would only work so well but it worked.

Soon after that, Stiles lay down to wait for Hale to find something he would deem suitable, and he feel asleep. His sleep was fever hot, with a lot of waking. Poohkey was in the chair, looking at him when he would snap out of his slumber. He threw off his covers, twisted his body all which ways, all in an attempt to find the perfect road to unconsciousness.

The next time he woke, after flopping himself across the end of his bed, an arm and a leg dangling to the floor, it was because Hale had come back in. He was probably out of the room for only thirty minutes but to Stiles, he felt like the day had passed. Hale was caring a bowl of some type of soup, which didn’t make Stiles feel hungry for a strange reason.

“You had some Chicken Noodle, so I made that.” Hale carefully sat on the edge of the chair, as not to disturb the baby.

“Thank you.” Stiles said. He shuffled up some to take it from Hale, but all Hale offered him was the spoon. He held the bowl firmly in his hands, leaning it carefully towards Stiles. Stiles took the spoon after a moment’s pause, wanting to be allowed to lay back down again soon. He swallowed down the liquid and then opened his mouth in a whine. “It’s hot.”

“That’s because I just made it.”

“It’s too hot to eat,” Stiles lamented. When he was sick, he immediately became like a child. Grouchy and demanding. He fisted his eyes, folding down to where he was laying in front of Hale and still being able to look at his face.

Hale sighed slightly before moving to pick up Stiles’ orange juice container. “Drink some,” He handed it to Stiles – well, placed it next to him.

“But it won’t taste good with the soup,” Stiles could feel his lips start to drag down, but he was too steeped in sickness to care about how he was behaving.

“But it will help your tongue if it got burned. Let’s let the soup cool down.” Hale suggested. Since no one was there to help Stiles plead his case, he grudgingly took some of the orange juice. He had gotten to the point that even swallowing became a task and the acid in the orange juice was starting to hurt the linings of his throat. His posture sunk lower as his chest neared his knees. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m hot. It’s too hot.” Stiles finally seemed to reach the point where he couldn’t talk too much anymore. Sadly, it meant the room was probably going to be quiet, but it also meant that he couldn’t embarrass himself anymore.

“Okay, I’m going to go find the bathroom and bring you back a rag. I want you to try to stay awake, but don’t touch the soup.” Hale straightened out, suddenly very much looming over Stiles. Stiles nodded feebly, letting his muscles relax against the mattress.

He could hear Hale pattering around outside of his room, down the hall. He suddenly realized that whatever was wrong with him was because of Scott. He cursed quietly before crawling away towards his computer table. He was leaning off his bed, over the soup towards his phone – which he had hastily thrown there earlier that day after texting Hale. And this, of course, would be when Hale walked in.

“Stiles!” He barked at him. Stiles winced, grabbing his phone before making a retreat to his covers.

“I had to get my phone.” He defended, lighting up the screen. He was suddenly very glad that the light had been on for the past while because he knew that if it was not for the very present fluorescent lighting, his eyes would have been so wrecked.

“Sure. Don’t touch the soup until it cools down.” Hale came closer, the wet rag draped across his shoulder. He used his hands to push onto Stiles’ chest and guide him until he was lying flat on his back. Stiles tried to stifle the feeling of being exposed when Hale placed the rag on his forehead. Stiles mumbled an appreciation, pulling his phone up to his face by lifting his aching muscles.

He was just going to text Scott, but decided on Ally because if Scott was feeling the way he was feeling, he wouldn’t get a response.

Stiles: Hey is Scott sick

The reply came before he had time to put his arms down.

Allison: Yeah I think it was because of my aunt making him walk home. He’s got the flu I think

“Great,” Stiles groaned. He allowed his arms to fall boneless at his sides as his phone hit the wall and bounced onto his bed.

“What’s the matter?” Hale was suddenly very there, even if Stiles had his eyes closed. He could hear the moment that the chair next to him had creaked, and he could feel the warm shadow lurking over him. Stiles realized that Hale was in the sick area, with a sick person.

“You need to leave,” Stiles said weakly.

“Why?” Hale didn’t sound mad, which was great. Awesome. Stiles was just flat out rude to him and yet he still didn’t stop being nice. Fuck.

“Because I think I have the flu and you can catch that.”

Hale laughed, a small, breathless sound. It had Stiles cracking his eyes to look at him as Hale picked back up Poohkey and sat down. “I knew that. Anybody could tell you were running a fever, which screams contagious. But I’ve got a good immune system so I’ll be fine.”

“Are you –” Stiles started.

“Stiles.” Derek interrupted him. Stiles did his best to be quiet, which was a lot easier when his throat was bleeding pain in every movement. After a few minutes, Hale brought back of the soup and Stiles attempted some feeble sips of it before laying down pitifully again. He squirmed around, trying to keep the silence.

If anything it gives him time to think, with the rag getting warmer every second. Why was Hale here? He figured that Arthur had told him, but he probably didn’t take him over here. Did Laura bring him? Was Laura here? And speaking of Laura, what was with them? Hale didn’t like her, and none of the family’s reaction to her was as positive as people at school. Stiles couldn’t help but wonder if her distance from her family was similar to Peter’s distance. And where Peter was.

“It’s too quiet.” Oh, there’s the whiny, can’t-shut-up Stiles. “Can you put on some music or something if you’re just going to loom? Or a movie? Or a TV show? Or read out loud? Something?

“I think the fever is melting your brain. I’m doing homework.” Hale’s voice sounded close, probably still in the chair.

“It’s hot, everything is hot.” Stiles voice went reedy.

“I’ll re-soak your rag.” Stiles felt the scrape of his fingers against his forehead, lifting up the warm rag. He didn’t mean to, but he tilted his head towards the retreating fingers.

Stiles shifted restless, his head pulsing, in his bed. The sheets felt disgusting and his back felt like it was trapped in a sauna. He could hear Hale banging around for something, and the sound bothered him. He almost wanted to say that that was not what he wanted when he said make some noise, before he realized that Hale was still out of the room. Huh. He must have left the door open.

He tried to pinpoint the moment that Hale walked back in, but he was still as silent as he wanted to be. He touched Stiles’ cheek, eliciting the knee-jerk response of Stiles shifting away in a panic. After a moment’s pause, Stiles moved his head back to where Hale’s hand was before and was surprise that it was still there. “Sorry.” Hale muttered. “You’re fever isn’t going down, and if it isn’t down by tomorrow I’m calling your dad.”

“No, he needs to finish his job,” Stiles didn’t open his eyes, mainly because he felt like he was going to start crying. “You don’t even know his number.”

“I’m sure he’ll call you, but hopefully it will calm down. Roll over,” Hale commanded.

Stiles had a flash of fear, of the idea of moving onto his stomach in front of Hale. But, he was taking care of him, so Stiles reasoned he was safe enough. He carefully moved, groaning at the shifting bones. Once he was on his back, he faced towards the outside of the room where Hale was going to be sitting. Then Hale put the rag carefully on the back of Stiles neck. It instantly cooled his back, and his head cleared some.

“I’m going to put on some music, so you don’t complain of the silence. Try to get some sleep.” Stiles tried to mumble something. Really he did, but right then his muscles were relaxing and Hale put on something classically soft and continuous. It was easy to start slipping into sleep, and when a warm hand pressed against his back, dead center and began to move in small circles, Stiles was gone.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up Friday, at some undetermined time, with the chills. His body rocked on the bed as he scrambled to pull up sheets to wrap himself around. His throat still hurt, but not enough to make him want to turn around and grab something to drink.

His door open quietly and he had a moment of fear that Hale really did call his dad. “Stiles?” Hale’s voice rang out in the dim light of his room and Stiles figured that he slept a lot longer than he originally intended.

“I’m awake,” Stiles forced out through his locked jaw. He didn’t want his teeth to clatter.

“How do you feel?” Stiles could hear him walking over to his bed.

“Cold.”

“Do you need some more blankets? Let me take the rag off of you, it’s still kind of damp.” He felt the cool rag pressing against the part of his neck on the pillow. It had probably fallen off him during the course of the night when he shifted.

“What time is it?” Stiles struggled to move. He wanted to face Hale, but all of his bones were locking up.

“Around ten,” Hale’s voice was still close, as if he hadn’t moved.

“What about school?”

“Aunt Camilla got you a doctor’s note – so you won’t be marked absent. And I got my parents to call me out sick, so I can take care of you.” This last part is spoken too quietly, Stiles’ ears must have been playing tricks on him. But he lay, curled up and waiting, for Hale’s return.

He heard the door click open, and it was like a gunshot to his headache. “Ugh,”

“Sorry, I was trying to be quiet.” Hale actually sounded guilty, but Stiles wasn’t going to crack an eyelid to check out his face. “I brought you some blankets and some crackers. There is also water, from last night, and I brought up some Tylenol. I think you can handle it today.”

“How do you know where our Tylenol is?” Stiles didn’t keep his medication under lock and key and proof was that when he would pack Adderall for him to go places. But, he thought that he kept it in a fairly obscure place.

“I got Aunt Camilla to bring me some last night when she brought me some clothes. And I mean it Stiles, if I can’t get your fever to calm down today I’m calling your dad.”

Stiles groaned, wanting to flip and be a child, but something – a fucking negative temperature in his bones – stopped him from doing so. “But what about if he does call, and my temperature is down?”

“I don’t know. If you’re up to it, I’ll let you talk. Now, it is time to eat so roll closer to me.” Hale got his bossy tone in play, and Stiles was too busy dying to not comply.

He could feel where Hale left the Saltines. He opened them, placed them near Stiles’ face – which is where his wrists also were, tucked under his chin. They were so close, and Stiles knew that Hale wanted him to eat something, but he couldn’t get his fingers to straighten out so he could grab them.

“I’m not hungry,” Stiles said softly. It was the truth – he wasn’t. But he was very thirsty. He swallowed once, twice, attempting to get his own body to soothe his throat. Eventually, it got bad enough that the cold didn’t outweigh it and with a sigh, Stiles pushed the crackers off the bed with an attempt to get at the water on the floor. He pulled in a few mouthfuls of liquid before Hale said anything.

“Stiles, you need to take some Tylenol too. It’ll make you feel better.” The chair creaked as Hale leaned forward. Stiles forced open his eyes to look at him, a dull pain at the back of his head because of the light. Hale was right there, with his face looking worn and tired. He looked like he was on day four of his stubble, a little too dark for Stiles’ liking, but he let it be. Stiles raised his fingers of his other hand, which had moved down to hug at his torso, to drag across Hale’s palm while taking the medicine. He ignored the desire to keep his fingers there, press into the warmth, and let it heat him.

What he did do is take the Tylenol and lay back down on his fucking death bed. Now that the Tylenol was kicking in, thanks to Stiles being Adderall free for at least a good day, he couldn’t take the quiet too much. Stiles really couldn’t do anything about the being immobile part since his body wanted to stage a riot every time he shifted or stayed still.

“Talk,” He finally complained to Hale. Hale was obviously doing something else, and when Stiles reopened his eyes to check he was on his phone.

“Hm?” Hale looked up, sliding his phone back into his jeans.

“Talk,” Stiles repeated. “Say something. Be verbose. Speak.”

Hale sighed, probably at Stiles saying something just in synonyms. “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Family, life, school, college, jobs, clams, why one brand of coffee is better than another, social injustice, what type of straws you like. Anything.” Stiles thought for a moment, knowing he gave Hale too much to choose from. “Tell me a story.”

“A story?”

“Yeah, like a bed time story.” Stiles shifted closer to him, ignoring his body for a moment. He closed his eyes to try and feel more comfortable. His voice was already this side of pleading and he hoped that took away the argument of ‘Bed time stories are for kids.’

“Okay?” Hale sounded slightly-out-of place. Like the time that Stiles accidently walked in on a book club discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. “Once upon a time, there was a little girl who owned a red riding hood. Now, this hood –”

Stiles cut him off. “No, no, no! Not a regular one. Please don’t make it a boring, old one.” Stiles cried.

“I don’t know any ‘new’ bed time stories.” Hale’s tone was best described as strained.

“Just re-make one. Like I did with my game.” Stiles wanted that, no he needed it. The idea of Hale turning something new and sharing it with him made him feel warm inside.

“Give me a second,” Hale warned. Stiles was as patient as possible, attempting to keep from talking. He didn’t want Hale to change his mind. “Okay. Once upon a time, a child was born to the daughter of a witch. The daughter had not been blessed by the moon to have magic, meaning she could walk among the humans. No one knew these two were part of the witch’s family, and they were allowed to live around the village. The mother wanted to protect her child, so she gave them a red hooded cloak she had to bargain with her mother to give to her. It hid and stifled almost all the magic her child could use, but it was worth it if the child could live a peaceful life. As they grew, the other children enjoyed gave the child the nickname of ‘Little Red’.

“Now, the mother bargained something very important with the witch for such a powerful red cloak. She had valuable herbs stored in her home, powerful enough to make the witch young for years. The witch demanded that on the child’s eighteenth birthday, they would bring the herbs to her home. It would be the first face-to-face encounter the witch and her grandchild would have, even if the child already knew of her magic.”

Hale pause here, and Stiles waited, enthralled. He seemed to collect his thoughts, or straighten out the next part of the story for a moment.

“Now, it was a far way from the grandmother’s home, but the child understood why they must do as the mother promised. So, on three days before the eighteenth year of their birth, the child wrapped itself tightly in the red cloak and began their journey. The child knew that they would have to spend the nights alone in the woods. With no magic.

“As the darkness crept across the sky, Little Red decided to make camp. They set up everything perfect, and managed to get the fire started before the temperature dropped too low. The night progressed, and every hour or so, Little Red would hear a howl rip through the black trees. The child attempted not to be afraid, but all the lore they ever read warned against forest wolves.

“Little Red tried to distract their self, hoping to be sleeping like the dead by the time the wolf came near. But there’s no such luck. As the moon rose high, a pair of eyes flickered at the tree-line, circling the edge, stalking Little Red.

“Little Red didn’t want to be afraid, because the mother had warned against how the scent of fear affected wolves. As they steadied their heartbeat, the leaves rustled as the wolf crept closer. Little Red refused to look up, knowing not to look in the eyes. They saw the paws as they settled across the fire. Little Red had to look up, up into the face of a friendly wolf. Their eyes settled on the elegantly narrowed face, the dark fur, as eyes as bright as the moon surveyed Little Red.

“They decided to talk to the wolf, knowing they were all alone without them. ‘Hello, there,’ they started out. ‘Where’s your pack? Are you a friendly wolf?’ Little Red knew there would be no response, but wanted to speak anyway. They were quite the chatterbox, you see.” Hale stopped, smirking at that. Stiles was invested in the story now, he couldn’t just quit.

“Keep going, I’m still awake.” Stiles pressed.

“Alright, alright.” Hale shushed him. “After time passed, and Little Red felt safe in the company of the wolf and told him that they were going to go to sleep. As they settled in, the wolf padded over, placing his head on Little Red’s belly.

“Now, when it was said that the mother had managed to stifle almost all of Little Red’s magic, there was one thing the mother couldn’t suppress. Little Red could communicate through dreams, and as they fell asleep, they fell into a semi-consciousness with the wolf.

“The wolf seemed to wrap around Little Red’s mind, a dominant and yet not suffocating presence. ‘Hello, young one.’

“The words came through sounding like they were underwater, and being out of practice didn’t help Little Red respond. ‘I usually can’t talk to animals.’

“‘I’m not the average animal,’ the wolf replied. ‘I have followed you since we were young. I have grown with you, and have learned how humans act.’

“‘If you have truly followed me, then you would know I’m not a human.’ Little Red wanted to feel fear, but all he gave them was a reassuring feeling.

“‘I am aware, but you pretend to be one. I’m unsure of why, but it does not take away from you. I have waited for you to wander into the woods, so that I may follow closer.’

“‘Why do you follow me?’ Little Red asked.” Hale paused again. Stiles saw a chance, and since he felt less dead, he took it.

“He follows you because he’s a creeperwolf.” Hale made a sound in his throat, disapproving. Stiles attempted to give him a smile, tired as he was.

“Do you want me to continue?”

Stiles’ eyes went a little round, as if he was about to get some candy taken away from him. “Yes, I’ll be quiet.” Hale studied him for a moment, measuring how true that was – and it wasn’t a lie, just a promise that probably couldn’t be kept.

“‘I was a cub when the fire came. The burning of the woods?’ The wolf paused, asking if Little Red knew what he was referring to.

“‘I remember it. The townspeople were hoping it would kill the witch.’ Little Red remembered the fear, the wondering if that night would be the night that the grandmother died and the cloak would begin to lose power.

“‘It killed my pack. You asked of me where my family was, but my mother carried me safely beyond the river before returning to save others. My family was trapped amongst the flames.’

“Little Red felt a sickening rush of empathy for him, suddenly sick again at men’s hatred and cruelness. ‘I’m so sorry.’

“‘Twas not your fault. You have no reason to feel the need to ask for forgiveness.’ The wolf’s articulation was choppy, his understanding of human language slightly off. ‘For a long time, the soot of the fire filled my nostrils, and all I breathed was the smoke. And then, one day, I smelt you. Your scent was the first thing I had smelt…unfiltered since I was young. So I follow you. To protect you and to be near you.’

“‘I haven’t been in the woods before.’ Little Red protested.

“‘You came down this very path before, held betwixt your mother’s arms.’ Little Red couldn’t disagree, because they didn’t know where the mother went while being an infant.”

Stiles hated it, and loved it. The soothing tone that Hale produced, lost in the story, was lulling him to sleep. He tried to warn Hale, waving a hand for him to pause the pair under their moon. “Hey, I want to know what happens, but could you like…summarize? I don’t think I can stay awake for a full story anymore.” Stiles yawned, as if to prove his point.

“I can try.” Stiles didn’t have to force open his drooping eyes to see Hale’s concentration face. “So, for the remainder of the night, Little Red spoke to the wolf, and when day broke across the sky, he accompanied his cloaked companion. Little Red couldn’t talk to the wolf during the day, but he continued to prove his compassion by running ahead and looking for danger and catching game to feed them.

“The next night, they talked of his family, of Little Red’s father dying of an unforeseen illness, of her wishes, and of magic and the woods. The journey seemed more bearable with the wolf, and even as the last night crept upon them, Little Red felt no dread. They allowed that night to be a night of wishes. Of falling in the trap of the wolf’s mind and ensnaring of hearts. Little Red came to a decision of asking the grandmother – the witch – one more favor.

“And so, on the last day, as Little Red came upon the hovel that the witch called home, they steadied their will. The witch opened the door, greeting Little Red gladly, happily even. She had no idea that Little Red was coming upon agenda. But, when Little Red brought it to her attention, the grandmother acted no more the fooled. She asked to see the wolf, and to meet his spirit. Upon this, the wolf crept in, the boards creaking under his heavy paws. The grandmother spent a moment, spirit connected to spirit and came to the conclusion of giving Little Red their desire.

“She took the herbs Little Red delivered, crushing many of them into a fine powder that she circled around the wolf. She instructed them to wait through the night, telling them that the wolf would not be able break through the barrier and if he could survive the night, the next morn he would wake up human. The witch warned that he would have to suffer at least once a month this terrible burden, but would be restored as the sun stole away the darkness.

“As she prepared herself to leave, Little Red couldn’t help but ask. ‘Why would you give him the herbs that would have kept you immortal?’

“The grandmother looked back at Little Red, eyes full of wisdom. ‘I have lived long, loved only one, and knew a child who loved me not. My descendant deserves to live long, with a man who loves them, and know children who will understand the dedication of a wolf’s pack and love. I need no more.’

“Little Red was at a lost, as the mother always warned against the grandmother’s evil. But the grandmother gave her life to ensure happiness and the pieces clicked for Little Red – it is not the nonhumans that are monsters, because a monster lies within each human. The grandmother surveyed all that was around her, taking in the home she had her life in, and all the wondrous creations it bred. Her eyes settled upon the wolf, trapped in his space. ‘Because I have given up something precious to me, never again will it be used to grant immortality. It has been used to protect from the beast, and thus it shall always and only protect from the beast.’

“With her last spell, she departed, leaving them in the hovel. As the night came to past, Little Red kept eyes and ears closed, attempting to drown out the wolf’s suffering. They knew it would not help to tempt Little Red to break the line to comfort him. And as morning lit up the sky, the cracks in the shed filtered in and on a man’s form – Little Red’s wonderful mate. And thus, he began to do as humans do, but they stayed in the woods in the hovel. They repaired it, the wolf deciding to take up occupation as a lumberjack in his human form. They brought in children, often ones discarded for being weak or the family not being able to feed all the mouths. Sometimes, when a child would walk to close to the wolf on a full moon – the night when the beast reappeared – it would be as if the herb line would shift, allowing the wolf to sink its teeth into his children’s flesh. He never killed, and as the children aged, they also took on the appearance of a beast once a month.

“But, all in all, Little Red was happy of their home, their life, and their pack.” Hale finished quietly and Stiles’ gears were turning so slowly that he hadn’t caught it until the end.

“You never said that Little Red was a girl,” Stiles couldn’t open his eyes, the Tylenol helping to relax his muscles. How many did Hale give him again? His voice was barely there, but Hale seemed to have heard him.

“Who said they had to be?”

Stiles enjoyed the rhetorical question, so he raised a literal one. “Who do you think of when you think of Little Red—” he attempted to muffle a yawn, and he was so tired he wasn’t sure if he thought the last part or if he said it. “Riding Hood? Who do you think fits that part – like a name?”

Stiles was drifting off then, his grasp from reality slipping away. “Stiles,” He distantly heard Hale say. Part of him went off like a ringing bell, like there was something he should have realized, and the majority of him just wanted to ask Hale what he wanted before he fell asleep.
--

He woke up again to Hale shaking him. Stiles’ bones ached slightly, but it was more of a dull throb which also traveled into his head. The up side was that he felt no fever and was starving.

“What’s the day? The year?” Stiles asked groggily. Hale looked at him suspiciously before Stiles pulled out a full grin.

“Well, you must be getting better, if you can make jokes.” He landed his ass back into the chair, and Stiles noticed that Poohkey was at the foot of his bed, wrapped up in Hale’s leather. “It’s Saturday, and I was figuring that if you felt up to it, you’d want to call your dad.”

Stiles perked up at the idea, already sliding his shaky and pained bones from the bed. Hale snagged his elbow as Stiles stumbled. “Do you just want me to bring the phone up to you?” He suggested.

Stiles huffed out a breath, rolling his eyes at Hale treating him like a child. “No, I want to go downstairs because if I lay in the bed anymore I’m going to get bedsores. And, downstairs is where the food is at, and I need some like yesterday.” Stiles added.

Hale released him but hovered close as Stiles began to move. “I brought you crackers yesterday, mainly because I didn’t want to clean up puke if you couldn’t hold soup. Do you want me to make something while you call your dad?”

“Yeah, you can,” Stiles said distractedly. He was too busy focusing on ensuring that each foot landed on a step before he put weight on it. “Wait,” He forced a stop, and with Hale right behind him, caused a near collision.

As Stiles surged forward, Hale caught him by the waist and dragged him back and flush against Hale’s back. Which, yeah, maybe the fever is back. He forced himself out of Hale’s arms, but remained as close as he could get to his back. He turned back to look at Hale. “What have you been eating? Was there enough food for you? You haven’t been starving, have you?”

Hale looked at him like he was the most incredulous human he had encountered. Stiles took it as a good sign that his health was going to continue improving. “Ritsa and Camilla have been bringing me things to eat, and clothes.”

Stiles realized he was just wearing another white tank top, which made Stiles flush at the idea that seconds before he was plastered against him. “Oh, okay,” He tried to brush it off, and continued his trek down the stairs.

“You should make grilled cheeses,” Stiles said conversationally as he finally made his way into the kitchen.

“I’ll try to find the stuff,” Hale responded, already pulling out the bread from its box.

Stiles went over to the phone, pulling it off of its charger. He punched in his dad’s number, the only one besides Scott he ever memorized. It had only rang once when his dad answered.

“Hey, Stiles.” He sounded world-worn.

“Hey, Dad,” Stiles said, happy he could keep the rasp out of his voice. “Is everything okay?”

“Not really, but there’s not much I can do about it.” His dad hesitated on the line, and Stiles knew where he could prod a little to gain a leg.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Stiles ventured.

“They took a deputy from Beacon Hills apparently.” His dad exploded. “Deputy Johnson, and the cops over here think it’s because they want to target the police because we’re getting close but I don’t think we are. I don’t know what to think. It’s like every time we get close, they disappear like smoke.”

Stiles felt his heart pound. He had known Deputy Johnson for a good few years, a police officer who was a short and mocha-colored, the woman that often sat at the desk at the station. She would always smile at Stiles, and would sometimes make him cookies. “Is she…do you know if she’s alright?”

His dad sighed on the other end. “She was assigned to watch a block in downtown to ensure everything was okay, and Parrish says he thinks that she was targeted. We haven’t found a body, so we’re hoping they decided they wanted to make a statement and take her. At least, we can get her back and may get a clue who these people are.”

“I hope she’ll be okay.” Stiles let a hand run through his hair, feeling defeated. He wanted his dad to open up the case to him, but that avenue had closed.

“I do too, son. How are things?”

Stiles swallowed superstitiously, as if willing his throat to continue to function. “It’s fine, Dad. I think I’m just going to stay in for today and relax.”

“Alright, son.”

“When are you coming back?” Stiles watched as Hale made a face at their processed cheese. Because it wasn’t like he had used process cheese for pizza a couple of weeks ago.

“I’m thinking Sunday night. Are you planning on going over to the Hale’s?” His tone was light, but Stiles knew where this could conversation could go.

“I might, but nothing’s sure yet.” Stiles made sure that his response was very vague, so Hale couldn’t guess what he was talking about. “I’ll make sure you have dinner, though.”

“Okay. Just let me know what you decide before I get home, okay?”

“I will, Dad.”

“Don’t forget,” The Sheriff warned.

“I won’t,” Stiles rolled his eyes, but he knew that it was a legitimate concern. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Talk to you later. Love you,” He added on, making sure it was known.

“Love you too, Dad. Get some rest.”

He heard his dad huff at his request. “I’m the parent, I should be telling you that.”
--
Hale had managed to get some grilled cheeses made for them even while Stiles practically threw a tantrum for having to wait. They just looked so good and all Stiles had to eat for a day was liquid, which does not count as food.

“Why don’t we watch something while we eat? Get you out of your bed for a bit?” Hale suggested as he flipped the last one up in the air. It landed gracefully back into the pan before Hale sat it on the burner.

Stiles was busy wondering if he could grab one and shove it into his mouth before Hale could swipe at him to let them cool off. “Yeah, sure.” He said distractedly. He focused on Hale, letting the question actually process through his mind. “We have a bunch of old DVRs in the living room that we could pick from.”

“I know,” Hale said off-handedly.

“Have you been snooping?” Even while he was sick, Stiles attempted at jokes nonetheless.

“Where do you think I’ve been sleeping?”

“You’ve been sleeping on the couch?” Stiles let his eyes widen comically, but he did feel actual concern. What if Hale fucked up his back?

“No, I just go home every night.” His jaw twitched, and Stiles could sense the lie. He knew it was meant as sarcasm.

“That’s what I would do,” Stiles said defensively. Hale used the spatula to pick the sandwich up roughly and place it onto the plate with the four other grilled cheeses.

“Come on, you need to pick out a movie and put it on.” Hale said, ignoring Stiles’ response. Stiles followed without complaint, happy to be getting real food. When he managed to get into the living room – aches making Stiles walk slower – he noted the nest that was splayed out on the couch. There were a couple of blankets and one pillow but none of it looked like it came from his house. He hesitated for a moment, wondering if Hale wanted him to move the stuff before he lay all over the couch. Hale just sighed at Stiles’ dilemma, “Just sit, you still be resting.”

Stiles went to picking out the movie, from the couch. He decided on The Lion King – Hale put it in for him – and Stiles was happily munching on his sandwich as the previews of movies already out showed. Hale had left to get them drinks – Stiles had told him that there should have been another gallon of orange juice behind the milk. When Hale came back in, Stiles didn’t swivel from his position of the couch to look at him but he did decide to push forward with their conversation.

“We do have an extra room, you know. You could’ve stayed in there.” He could feel Hale stop but the way the living room was set up was that someone would walk in and see the television, and the couch would be on the same wall as the entry way. So Stiles couldn’t gauge his facial response.

“I didn’t mind staying in here.” Hale walked in front of the screen, as Simba was lifted up, and Stiles made a sound of protest. Hale put the glasses down, twisting to give Stiles a look. “Afraid you’ll miss something?”

“Dude, get out of the way! It doesn’t matter; I want to watch it.” Stiles complained loudly. Hale sat on the couch next to him, taking a step back and falling into it. He pushed himself back up to grab one of the grilled cheeses before resettling. “And I just was trying to be a good host by offering you a real bed.”

Hale tilted his head, allowing Stiles that. “I might take you up on that offer for tonight, if you really want me to.”

He’s planning to stay again?

Based off previous experiences with talking too much, Stiles let the idea of his throat hurting – only in the slightest now – keep him quiet. Stiles continued to watch the movie, because it was one of his favorites, but his thoughts were split. It was now obvious that Stiles wasn’t going to die and Hale wasn’t going to lose his partner, but Hale was still here. He still made Stiles food.

“Why did you take care of me?” Stiles turned to him, because fuck being quiet.

Hale returned his gaze, and surveyed Stiles’ face for a moment. “Because you were sick.”

“And? I’m fine now, and I would have been fine. It was just the flu.” Stiles pointed out.

“But you were sick.” Hale pressed. “And I could help.”

“Oh, okay, that clears that up,” Stiles said sarcastically. He took another sandwich from the tray as he chugged down the orange juice. It seared as it traveled down his throat and he turned his attention back to screen to hide his wince.

“Stiles,” Hale said. He touched Stiles’ shoulder and it was that warm gesture that made Stiles decide that acting like a child wasn’t completely worth it. Stiles let his torso twist under Hale’s grasp. “You looked really bad Thursday, and it was enough to make me worry. Okay? Plus, I want to be a pediatric nurse like Aunt Camilla. Working with such a big baby like you is bound to come in handy.” He gave Stiles’ a playful shove, smirking at Stiles’ indignant expression.

Stiles moved his shoulder to dig in at Hale’s, waiting for the obligatory push back before looking back to the screen. Nala and Simba were going to the Elephant Graveyard and cue the musical number. Hale leaned closer to Stiles, his heat trailing along Stiles’ side. “This is my favorite song.” He confessed.

“Can you just not wait to be king?” Stiles punned.

“Obviously. Though it is always the oldest Hale that is in charge, so Laura will be the ‘the king’.” Hale sighed, deep and heavy. It filled the room as if it had emptied his entire being.

“Speaking of Laura, is it cool if I ask how it is with her back in the house?”

Hale looked at him funnily for a moment, but still responded. “It can be tense, but she still respects everyone. I’m actually pretty content here, since she’s there.”

“Why is she different than everyone?” Stiles couldn’t understand how an entire family that worked so well together would have one member who couldn’t blend.

“She’s not very tolerant of anything she disagrees with,” Hale stated matter-of-factly. Stiles had only heard that a few times before and so he jumped to the first conclusion he knew of.

“She’s a homophobe?” Stiles gasped.

“Among other things, yes.” Hale said tersely.

“But…why?” Stiles couldn’t wrap his mind around it, just like he couldn’t when people started treating him differently after he was out. But he learned well enough as time progressed. Still, she was raised in a home that on the surface didn’t seem to have a problem with it. “I didn’t think anyone in your family cared about stuff like that.”

Hale shook his head. “No one else really does. We keep a mindset that love is love and can be found anywhere with anyone. Soulmates don’t have to be based on sex.”

“You believe in the soulmate thing too?” Stiles tried to keep the skepticism out of his voice.

“Why wouldn’t I? It’s worked well for my entire family.” Hale shrugged.

“But why would she think that way if she didn’t grow up with it?”

“She didn’t get it from the family, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she learned it at a young age.” Hale’s look turned dark, and Stiles made the executive decision to back off the conversation.

Stiles tried to turn his attention back to the television, to stop thinking about Laura and her beliefs but it was hard to focus on either – much less both – as the warmth of Hale’s couch-bed and a full stomach worked magic on Stiles.

He realized when he started leaning on Hale, head drooped and mind cloudy. He tried to jerk back, but a few minutes later he’d be in the same position. Hale didn’t seem to have a problem with it, and if he did, he didn’t voice it. Finally, it got to the point where Stiles was trying to lay his torso on his legs and Hale had to intervene.

“Hey, Stiles,” Hale whispered. Stiles tried to respond, but he only managed a hum. Hale seemed to have heard him. “I’ll move to one side so you can lay down, okay, just help me get your legs up on the couch.”

Stiles tried to pull himself up and his torso fell onto the cushion when Hale stood. Stiles grumbled in protest, but felt much better when his legs were also laying on cushions. They felt cramped though, folded too tight, and Stiles wormed himself up on his stomach until his head was next to the armrest.

He was aware that he was lifted up for a moment, or at least the top part of him was. Then he was being placed on a pillow, slightly elevated and much closer to the back of the couch than he originally thought. Except the couch was warm and breathing and it a jolt went through Stiles when he realized that his head was resting in Hale’s lap. On Hale’s pillow. And that Hale was carding his fingers across his head, slowly pulling at the growing hair. The sensation was a comfort though, and Stiles couldn’t find it in himself to get panicky enough about it.

He did make a side note to stop falling asleep whenever he was with Hale, though.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up with his mouth tasting like shit and his bones in serious need of popping. He felt a warm body stir under him and a hand still resting in his hair. “Stiles?” Hale whispered.

“I’m awake,” Stiles answered, scratchy throat. He swiped his tongue inside his mouth a few times, face slowly becoming more disgusted with his hygiene. “Ugh,” Stiles rolled off of the couch, onto the soft carpet. It just made him feel dirtier.

“Are you okay?” The couch springs protested a slight bit as Hale shifted forward.

“Besides being completely grossed out by myself, yes.” Stiles took the moment to starfish, one leg and arm trapped by the coffee table, the others confined because of the couch.

“How do you feel?”

“Better than I felt before I went to sleep, and a whole lot better than I did yesterday… or the day before, what time is it?” Stiles pulled himself into a sitting position, rubbing gunk from his eyes.

“It’s late Saturday, so I’m glad you’re feeling better. Aunt Camilla said it could be anywhere between three to five days for you to get back to normal.”

“When did she stop by?” Stiles wondered if she came in and saw Stiles asleep in Hale’s lap. Which holy shit that happened, oh fuck, and Hale played with my hair. What the fuck, what the literally fuck.

“When she dropped me off food and clothes. Are you sure you’re okay? You’re breathing pretty hard.” Hale touched his shoulder and Stiles’ head suddenly felt a thousand times more sensitive because Hale had carded his hands through the hair there.

“Yeah, fine, I’m just suffocating under my own filth.” Stiles attempted a joke, wincing at how bad it sounded. “How long was I out?”

“Only a few hours. The Lion King went off a little over two hours ago, but I needed to reply to some e-mails and I could read so I didn’t feel the need to wake you. If you want, you can go upstairs and grab a shower. I can wash the sick out of the clothes you’re wearing.” Hale offered.

“Do you know how to work a washer?” Stiles fake-scoffed.

“We go through clothes like you wouldn’t believe. All of us have to know how to work a washer.” Hale said in a serious tone. Stiles’ lips pulled up into a smile, already split to let a laugh slip out before he realized he was serious.

“Okay, if you want to.” Stiles shrugged. He pulled himself up with minimal protesting from his body. It was like all of his aches had melted away while Hale was there. He trotted over to the stairs but took them one at a time. He felt good, not reckless yet.

“Just leave the clothes outside the door,” Hale called up to him. “I’m going to put the dishes into some water.”

“Alright.” Stiles yelled down. It was easy to do as he wanted, quickly slipping out of the items. The cool air hit him and that helped with feeling like he was drowning in dried sweat. He tossed all of the material out of the bathroom, the cold tiles sending shivers up his legs. Stiles quickly moved over to the shower to fix the heat right before using the toilet as he waited for the water to warm.

It was only after he got in that he realized he forgot to bring in clothes. Great job, Stilinski, he thought sarcastically. You can remember to get naked but you can’t remember to bring something to fix that. He contemplated just staying under the flow until the water eventually shriveled him into an extra-large grape.

But, he didn’t want Hale to have to explain to his dad why Stiles had died in the shower, or why Hale had stayed for days – plural – at their home. So he wrapped himself with a towel and listened outside for sound. When there appeared to be none coming from the top floor, he flung himself out of the bathroom and sprinted across the hall and a door down to get to his room.

All in all, it was a successful plan.

When he got into the room, he noticed that his bed was made nicely and there was a few clothing items at the foot. He briefly wondered where Hale had hidden Poohkey, before deciding that the children had come to steal her or that she was in the recliner and he was too absorbed with being clean to notice. He walked over to the foot of his bed and noted that the first item was a pair of his sweats.

As he picked up the sweats to inspect them, Stiles noticed the next article of clothing. It was a red hoodie – the red hoodie – exclaiming Hale. Immediately the pants were forgotten and tossed back onto his bed. He lifted the hoodie up to his face, breathing in. It had been washed, but Hale must have taken extra care in folding it because his scent still lingered. Fuck it. A large part of his mind said, and he couldn’t agree more.
--
Wandering downstairs was easy for Stiles, keeping from blushing like a fool when Hale did a double take of him in his hoodie was not. Hale managed to save his cool a moment later, so Stiles figured he wasn’t too angry that Stiles hadn’t already given it back. Or he just took pity on the sick.

“Because your fever hasn’t reared its head for a bit, I don’t think I’ll give you some Tylenol.” Hale said after a moment of just looking at Stiles.

“You only gave it to me once, anyway.” Stiles pointed out.

Hale frowned, a slight one on all counts except for the way his eyebrows furrowed. “I gave you Tylenol three times.”

“Did you?” Stiles asked absently. Now that he clean and well, healthy, he suddenly felt the urge to do something. He strode past Hale to the fridge, ignoring how he was staring at Stiles like he was now an exhibit. He looked in, and well the shelves weren’t bare, but they could have more. “I think I need to go to the grocery store to pick up stuff for dinner tomorrow.”

“Stiles –” it seemed like Hale was going to pursue asking him why he didn’t remember the Tylenol but thought better of it. “It’s almost ten at night.”

“The store is still open, though,” Stiles shut the door, and began his search for his keys. They would either be in the living room or his room. Did he take them out of those sweatpants? But Hale washed them so he would know where they were. He’d also know, just like Stiles, that he left his Jeep at the school on Thursday.

Stiles didn’t even make it out of the room before his brain caught up to him. “Well, I’m not sure where my keys are and my Jeep is at the school, so I guess you win. I’ll figure out something else to make.” Stiles slumped his shoulders, even though he didn’t know what he was going to make in the first place. He just knew he needed to go out and get it.

“I have your keys,” Hale shifted guiltily. “I got my mom to pick up your Jeep and bring it here, so if you really want to go…”

“Where did you find my keys?” Stiles bounded forward, happy that he could actually leave the house.

“When I went to get your dirty clothes, they fell out of the sweatpants.” Hale pulled them out of the pocket of his jeans, which Stiles really hoped Camilla had brought him something else to sleep in and that he had just put those on after waking up.

“Okay! Let’s go,” Stiles swiped them out of Hale’s hand, walking to the base of the stairs – where he had a habit of leaving his shoes. Sure enough, a pair of Converse was kicked lazily near it, half ducked behind a plant holder.

“Do you want me to go?” Hale asked, paused in the kitchen doorway. If he walked down the hall a little, he would be in the living room and getting his fucking shoes on.

“Well, I wasn’t planning on leaving you,” Stiles retorted. Then a thought swept through him. “I mean, unless you want to get your stuff together and I can take you home.” Stiles only had one shoe on, and while looking ridiculous by holding the other one, turned to look at Hale.

A look crossed Hale’s face for a moment, disinterest and then horror, before he put his hands up. “No, I’m good. Besides, you aren’t out of the clear yet for being healthy. Your twenty-four hours are not up.”

“Then should I really be going to the grocery store to infect tens, possibly twenties of people?” Stiles joked, bending down to slip his foot into the shoe and hop around to get comfortable with it.

“If I said no, would that stop you?” Hale brushed past him, Stiles currently stomping his foot with his back turned – no it was not a tantrum he was trying to fix his shoe thank you, very much. He felt as Hale moved past him, would have been aware of it anyhow by the small width of the hallway but then he was hypersensitive to the fact that Hale had just been behind him when he brushed his fingers across the small of his back. There was no pressure to it, no shove or pull; it just was and it tingled around to settle inside Stiles’ stomach.

It almost made him sick, how unattainable Hale was. He just had a big family and was probably use to contact from all the kids. It was natural for him and he just didn’t know how it affected Stiles.

After a moment of facing the wall, stock still, Stiles sighed and moved towards the living room himself. The nest still remained, proof of Hale being here, and the person in question was sitting on the couch, slipping on a pair of boots for himself. They looked leather – of course they’re leather – and rose slightly above his ankle.

“Is it raining?” Stiles asked suddenly. It wasn’t like his sickness came from the rain, but the real cause of Stiles getting sick was rain.

“No, it rained a little this morning but I think it’s all dried up. Why?” Hale stood up and slung the leather jacket, which was lying sloppily on the recliner, on.

“You were putting on boots,” Stiles gestured down to his feet.

“Hm?” Hale glanced down as well. “Oh, no. I like boots a lot, and they were the shoes that I wore when I came over so they’re the pair I have to leave in.”

“Alright, let’s go.” The walls were beginning to feel like they were going to close in on Stiles. He enjoyed the feeling of the night when he stepped out to it, the warm summer air held fragilely. It was a thread away from autumn and a breath left of summer, the atmosphere thick with moisture but just underneath, always an inch away, was the brittle air that was coming.

And while Stiles loved the feel of walking to his car, the open world before him, getting into his car was not a fun experience. The immediate closed space felt constricting, wrapping Stiles in a vise like he couldn’t move. He drummed his fingers hard on the steering wheel while Hale got in and buckled up. Hale had opted to walk across the lawn rather than dance across it and thus got to the Jeep a moment later.

“Where’s Poohkey?” Stiles asked when they got going. “Do the kids have her?” He glanced over to Hale, who nodded.

“This morning, before you got up, Aunt Ritsa came by to pick up my clothes and drop me off some more and she somehow convinced me to let her take Poohkey home so the kids could have some time with her. They figured you wouldn’t be over tomorrow, and they weren’t going to see her for the weekend.”

“What about the bracelet? I thought she would start crying if she wasn’t around one of us.” Stiles hated being stopped at red lights, but this was on a whole new level. He twisted his hands this way and that way across the steering wheel while he waited for the light to change. Talking seemed to help keep him calm, but why he was panicking, he had no idea.

Hale reached over to Stiles, who actually didn’t flinch – or feel the need to – and tapped on the back of his bony wrist. Stiles realized that the left wrist no longer held his black band, which he would sometimes pull at absently. Huh. He didn’t even know it was missing.

“Why did you give them mine? When the fuck did you take it off of me?” Stiles eyes skittered back to the road with enough time to keep them from drifting off the road.

“You were asleep and I didn’t want to wake you. You needed time for your body to heal. And I gave them yours because now it looks like you did your time for the week.” Hale stated simply.

“But I didn’t do my time,” Stiles frowned as he pulled into the parking lot. It was pretty empty, so it wasn’t like he would have a hard time finding a spot.

“You were sick. Your grades don’t need to suffer because you have a bad immune system.” Hale’s voice turned playful at the end, sharp and warm.

Stiles rose to the bait as he stopped the car. “Hey, everyone gets sick now and then. It’s not my fault that you just happened to be stuck with me while I was.” Hale made a protesting noise, but Stiles just waved him off. “Come on, let’s go get the food so we can get back to the house.”

When they got in there, Stiles was grateful for the long empty walkways. He grabbed a cart, and began to actually shop. He quickly got the basics – eggs, bread, milk, tofu – and strolled down the aisles, attempting to figure out what he wanted to get his dad for his first day home. When he was in the cans section, steadily filling up the cart, he spotted some gravy. Hale had managed to follow closely behind, sensing that Stiles shouldn’t be spoken too.

Not that Stiles was in a grumpy mood, no. He was just fliting every which way, muttering incoherent things. He was even acting like Hale wasn’t even there, like no one was there. It wasn’t until he hit the meat aisle that he even spoke up. “Is organic cow and grass-fed cow the same thing?”

He turned around to look at Hale, who was glaring violently at the sausages – probably because they’re not free range. Hale glanced over at him, standing there with two packs of meat in his hands, hair a mess, and eyes a little too wild. He quickly came over, but Stiles was trying to figure it out for himself.

He couldn’t help the shaking in his arms as he tried to read which was best on the back. It only stilled when he felt a warm body press behind him. Hale brought his head down, hovering above Stiles’ muscle-locked shoulder. It was like he was a deer in headlights, too afraid to move. Too shocked to run. He let Hale read the differences, attempting to keep his arms still so he could actually see the words. It was a foolish thing to allow, but Stiles didn’t care how long it took him to read because he was right there, right behind him. And it was good.

Until a voice made them jump apart.

“Hello, boys,” Stiles moved forward as he felt Hale jerk away. They both turned to see a blonde haired woman smiling and – hey, look, Allison. Who was looking nervously between Stiles and Hale and oh shit, that her Aunt Kate.

“Kate,” Hale’s voice was tight, colder than Stiles had ever heard it.

“Derek,” she directed her gaze at him, her eyes lingering a little too long, but her smile staying warm and open. “How’s the family?”

Hale moved closer to Stiles but kept his eyes locked on Kate. Stiles could see how hard he was clenching his jaw, his nostrils flared and his eyes screaming hate. “They’re fine, we’re all fine.”

“I heard that…James?...passed away?” Kate cocked her head, and while her face still read as kind, her voice took an edge to it. Stiles couldn’t place it, but it caused goose bumps to rise along his arms.

“Yes,” Hale allowed. He seemed torn on speaking anymore. “We’ve been getting through it better than last time, though.” He stressed last time and Stiles couldn’t think of anyone passing away before Jack, and it was hard to even think about that because his brain was fizzing in and out on him.

“Who’s this?” Kate asked, ignoring Hale’s tension.

“This is Stiles,” Ally interjected, and by the way Kate’s grin tightened and her eyes turned to him, he bet she had already heard of him.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” Stiles swallowed nervously, unsure on why Hale was acting so pent up about her being over here.

“It’s nice to meet you, too. You’re Scott’s friend, right?” Everything about her said happy aunt, innocent aunt, but anything that came out of her mouth sounded like it had a double meaning, a sharp insult just behind her light ambiance.

“Yeah, we’ve been friends for a while now.” Stiles responded. He didn’t know why he felt the need to explain himself, but he kept talking. “I’m really glad he’s got Ally; they work well together. He’s my best friend and I just want him to be happy.” Stiles shrugged, looking away from her inquisitive gaze.

“I’m glad you care so much for him. He didn’t seem like a bad kid, even if he seems a little misguided.” She shrugged delicately.

“Aunt Kate,” Allison sounded like she might get upset, but didn’t want to do it here.

“What do you mean?” Stiles asked.

“He doesn’t have many normal friends, now does he?” The way she spoke it made Stiles feel like a bug, small and insignificant. He felt like a lost child. He wanted to take a step back and run away, but apparently Hale didn’t feel the same.

“Is it really any of your business on who he’s friends with?” Hale tilted up his head, locking eyes with her. She surveyed him for a moment like she was just indulging him.

“I guess you’re right. I need to get some things before I forget, but I’ll see both of you around.” She said it like a promise, like a curse. She strutted off and Ally stayed behind, staring hard at Stiles.

“Hey, Ally, so that was fun.” Stiles said awkwardly after she disappeared around the next aisle. He had the creepy feeling that she could be listening through the frozen pizzas stacked up on the other side.

“Sorry about that,” Ally grimaced. “You are normal Stiles – well, I wouldn’t use normal as the word, but not bad.” Her eyes opened wide and honest.

“Thanks,” Stiles said dryly.

“You look good, but I guess that’s a given. Scott started feeling better today too – so tomorrow he can still come over for dinner.” She smiled, tucking a hair behind her ear. She kept this air of her, when she spoke of Scott, of someone who was understanding and loving and Stiles would always cherish that about her. And hope she would never lose it.

“I bet he’s going to love that,” Stiles ran a hand through his hair. He wasn’t frustrated, or anxious, but his body said he had to burn some energy so he took to pulling at the barely there hair. “Just don’t let him walk home again.”

“Oh, I won’t.” Allison rolled her eyes, the innocent glow from young love fading into her realism. “I tried to tell him not to last time, but he doesn’t listen.” Stiles nodded, agreeing. “What are you two doing here?”

She aimed the question at both of them, not excluding Hale. He took the opportunity to speak. “Stiles was sick, so I took care of him. He decided today, after getting better, he immediately wanted to get back to the world and get some food.”

Allison laughed at Hale’s implications that Stiles would suffer sickness again just for food. Which, if Stiles was honest, didn’t miss the mark too much. “It looks like you are getting a lot, or at least going to try and get a lot.” She gestured to the cart.

Stiles went to move the few spaces behind him, pulling the cart closer to him. “Hey,” he said defensively. “I have a debit card for things like this, which means I am getting a lot.”

She pushed up her hands, and Stiles noticed Hale shifted restless next to him. “Allison?” He asked hesitantly.

Her smiling face softened, as if she knew Hale was about to ask something important. “That would be me.”

“How long is…your aunt staying?” Hale sounded like he wanted to know the answer but at the same time go deaf before he could hear it.

She frowned, but not in a way that Stiles thought was because she was upset at Hale’s question. “I’m not sure because she hasn’t really said anything about it. I know she’s only back because she has to be but I don’t know why she has to be and when she’ll be leaving again. I’m sorry.” Allison did sound like she regretted it and Stiles tried to believe he heard the second side of Allison regretting that she didn’t know when Kate was leaving so Ally could mark it on her calendar.

“It’s okay,” Hale said easily enough. He deflated slightly, but to an onlooker it would have looked like an exhale. Stiles was unsure when he passed from that to reading Hale by simply looking at him. Which wasn’t hard to do.

Look at him, Stiles meant.

“I’ll catch you guys around,” She smiled happily. She went to leave, but caught Stiles’ eye a moment before she did. Her eyes glinted, playful and mischievous. Stiles was so fucked.
--
Stiles was worse by the time they got back to the Jeep. He ran there with the cart, enjoying the speed. He laughed at the not really present control he had on the cart, barely missing one of the few car’s rear ends. He had elected to park them near a street lamp – it deterred thieves – near the back of the parking lot. The night had gotten cool since they entered the store and the air whipped on Stiles’ face.

By the time Hale got to Jeep, Stiles was almost done putting the stuff in the pack. He had a specific way to do it when he bought things, certain areas of the back dedicated to specific types of groceries. “Hey,” Hale said urgently. Stiles nodded to show he was listening, as he closed the hatch.

His nod was apparently not enough to convince Hale that he had his attention. The buggy rolled slightly as Hale moved around it to get closer to Stiles. He grabbed at his wrist, pulling Stiles to face him at the same time Stiles backed into the car. Hale was scrutinizing him quietly and all the need to move swelled up in Stiles and seized his heart. He wasn’t moving if California decided it was due time for another earthquake.

Hale shuffled closer, close enough that Stiles could see the spread of copper that touched his irises and bled out into the majority of cool green. Stiles knew that he was breathing heavily, as if he had just run a race. He could feel every tendril of warmth that Hale gave off, but the only part of him that actually touched Stiles was his hand firmly locked on Stiles’ wrist. He brought it slowly up, until his wrist was at eye level. Hale pressed it against the pane of glass on the hatch and Stiles splayed his hand wide, showing that he meant no harm.

It didn’t feel like a threat though.

“You have to calm down.” Hale said softly. “I noticed in there, you were way too hyped. But you relaxed when I touched you. What’s wrong? Why are you all jumpy?”

“I’m not jumpy, I probably just haven’t had enough –” Stiles stopped in his usual defense, tracking back the days. “Did you ever give me any Adderall?”

Hale’s eyes went wide, and he released Stiles. “Was I supposed to?” He hunched himself in, as if he did something wrong.

“No, no, I didn’t tell you. Shit, I forgot all about it. No wonder I have been so tired and also so awake this time.” Stiles opened the Jeep, getting in the driver’s seat. Hale climbed into the passenger seat, eying Stiles carefully and guilty. Stiles twisted his torso to look into the back, and sure enough, there was his back pack. He pulled it up into his lap and opened the smallest pocket.

“What are you looking for?” Hale asked.

“I usually keep a container of Adderall in my back pack, in case I need some more at school, or if I’ll be going somewhere and not be home to take any in a while.” Stiles shrugged and he felt the pill bottle on the tip of his fingers. He pulled it out, but its contents were empty. “Dang, I’m out. Will you remind me to put some more in when we get back home?”

He looked up at Hale, pausing at his silence. Hale was looking at him like he was crazy, and that Hale was trapped there with him. His body was rigid, leaning away from him. Hale’s lips thinned. “You take more than prescribed? That could lead to an addiction.”

He sounded angry, and scared. Scared. Stiles shook his head, unsure why he felt the need to explain his medical history to Hale. “No, I have one of the worst cases in California. Less than ten percent of teens have ADHD, and they don’t really know how to treat me. Give me too much, and I sleep. Give me too little, and it doesn’t work. The doctors gave me a suggestion, but they said I was old enough to choose how much I needed. I know that if I took too many it could be bad, trust me. I know. I also know that there could be an addiction there, but it’s not an addiction. Why does that worry you so much?”

Hale only appeared slightly comforted. He shifted his torso closer to Stiles. “I know what it’s like for someone to be addicted to something, and it’s unhealthy. It hurts everyone around – and, and I don’t want to be around someone who is actively doing that.” Hale averted his eyes, but the furrow of his brow told Stiles how determined and honest he was being.

Stiles didn’t know who had been an addict around Hale or why. He just could tell how it affected Hale, because of he was responding. Stiles couldn’t help but think of how hard it was to be around someone that you knew and then they just lost it, left their right mind and then they’re gone. He understood. Stiles felt the sudden urge to touch him.

He hesitantly reached out, placing a hand upon Hale’s bicep. Hale’s eyes snapped up to meet Stiles, and he tried to keep his heartbeat under control. He pushed out a smile, “Well, that’s not going to happen with me, so you don’t have to take care of Poohkey by yourself.”

Despite his joke, Stiles knew the seriousness behind his words. He had said the same thing to his father, his doctor, Scott and his mother. But it felt different when he said it to Hale, who responded by pressing his arm harder to Stiles’ flat palm. He leaned closer, careful to keep his arm in a position to where Stiles’ hand lay on it.

“Promise?” He whispered, much too close. He hovered right there, nose inches from Stiles’. The car felt way too hot, pulling all the air away. Stiles could feel the weight of Hale’s hoodie, as it drowned him in more heat. He became hyperaware of the fact that Hale’s name was branded into the back of it because looking at him, right there, right fucking there, it felt like it was being branded into him. That he was no longer tied to Lydia in hopeless attraction and instead was claimed by the whirlwind of affection he felt right here, right now for Hale.

His mouth was too dry. His hands were too slick. Stiles didn’t even think he could force a word out, but he somehow managed. “Yeah,” he said. And since his Adderall-less brain couldn’t catch a clue, he kept talking. “Yeah, I promise. You can trust me, don’t worry. I promise.” Stiles was nodding, feeling drained and overstimulated at the same time.

Hale’s eyes soaked in every inch, every crevice and line that made up his face, lastly looking at his lips. He nodded, pulling away before Stiles could think of something clever to say or do. More than likely it was going to be from the first option, but it wasn’t coming to Stiles. He started the car after tossing his back pack back to where he retrieved it.

“You’re staying over tonight?” Stiles asked as a customary thing, it was already past eleven and he shouldn’t have been driving because of the law and his state of being. He wasn’t going to take Hale home, unless he asked for it.

“Yeah, I was hoping I could.” He seemed to realize that he had been crashing over at Stiles’ house, uninvited, for the past few days.

“Well, I’m not driving you home so looks like you are.” Stiles looked over at him, grinning to show him it was alright. “But you do have to take your stuff and store it into the guest room for tonight.”

Hale rolled his eyes, but Stiles was pretty sure he was going to do it anyway. “So what are you planning on making your dad for when he gets home?”

“Cube steak.” Stiles brightened, thinking of how happy his dad was going to be to be getting home and getting red meat. Even if he was going to have like three sides of greens with it. “You could stay,” Stiles blurted out.

“You mean, like for dinner?” Hale sounded hesitant.

“Yeah, I mean, you don’t have to but I know I’m going to be busy getting the house in order tomorrow and then I can take you home whenever – speaking of which, tomorrow morning we’re storing your stuff into my Jeep pronto – but I just want to make sure I’m there when my dad walks in. So, you could stay for dinner and we could hang out some, and then I’ll take you home; probably after my dad heads to bed, which won’t be long. If anything, it’ll give you more time away from Poohkey.” Stiles joked, suddenly feeling less confident. It wasn’t like Hale and him were Scott and Allison, he couldn’t just invite him over for dinner and expect him to want to come.

“And Laura,” Hale said darkly. Stiles could understand not wanting to be around an intolerant person, but he didn’t understand why it bothered Hale so much. Stiles briefly flashed-backed into the day at the lunch table when Hale had thought that Allison was intolerant and the look he gave her – Stiles remembered the look for sure, as it occupied almost all of his fantasies at some given point. His eyes slid over to Hale, who was looking out to the road in consideration, and he thought back to his father asking him about Hale and didn’t think it would be too ridiculous anymore.

Not that he was going to ask Hale, or anything.

“It sounds good,” Hale said, louder than his last statement. He didn’t make it sound like he was only doing it to avoid people, though, and it made Stiles feel a lot better about Hale wanting to be around him.

When they got back to the house, and finally into the house, Stiles stumbled upstairs to show Hale the guest room. Hale was carrying pretty much all of his things up there with him and proceeded to dump them on the floor next to the closet after they got in. It wasn’t a small room, but it wasn’t huge. There was a large dresser with a mirror on it, a rocking chair and a full bed with a daisy comforter on it and a light blue quilt thrown across the bottom of it. And of course, Hale would focus on the quilt.

He walked over, facing Stiles on the opposite side of the bed. Hale let his hand drop to trace the edge of the plain blue. “Is this handmade?” He looked up Stiles.

It was an innocent question really, and he didn’t know and – he wouldn’t know unless Stiles talked about it. Stiles, despite his wired brain, stilled himself, holding everything at the very edge. He looked back at Hale, and felt the words on the back of his tongue, pushing, pushing. “Yeah,” Stiles said after swallowing. The words were still there, but Hale didn’t realize. “My mom made it.”

Hale had it in his hands as if he was going to lift it up, but paused like a startled deer. Hale looked at him, seemingly afraid to breath. “When she got too bad to go to work, she would like to sit in here and work on it. That was until she couldn’t remember how to stitch. She promised she’d finish it, because I asked for one when I was younger and I was really into handmade things. She said she’d finish it, and she did. I just couldn’t take it out of here. It’s my favorite color,” Stiles said the last part softly and tonelessly. He put his hand on the fabric, touching it for the first time since the last time his mother folded it.

The fabric was cool, but that’s all it was. It was just fabric. It didn’t hurt to touch, it didn’t cause all of Stiles’ barriers to break like he was afraid of. He breathed out, closing his eyes as he dipped his head. He heard a rustle of clothing as Hale moved over to him. He could feel the warmth next to him, quiet and unsure. Stiles wasn’t sure why he was showing Hale the exposed side of him, but he’d like to think it was a combination of falling for him, knowing Hale already did the same for him, and bringing him closer to Stiles.

Then he was enveloped in the heat as Hale wrapped him up from behind. He placed his forehead onto the back of Stiles’ head, and he could feel the warm breath against his skin. He kept time to the breathing, allowing the scent that was barely there on Hale’s hoodie to completely absorb him. Stiles moved slightly away, turning before Hale could completely leave his sphere of space.

He didn’t let himself think of it, he wouldn’t think of the consequences to him by doing this. Stiles reached out, attaching to Hale’s shirt and pulling him in, crowding back into their space in the room. Stiles pressed his face against the curve of Hale’s shoulder, dipping his head so that only his eyes were above the expanse of Hale. Hale hesitantly placed his hands onto Stiles’ back, warm fingers splayed across. He could probably feel the eccentric thrum of Stiles’ pulse, and for a moment it was the only thing that dared to move in the room.

Then Hale slowly released him, until only Stiles held tight to his shirt. He had to reteach his fingers to uncurl and his feet to step back. And he wanted to say something, anything, a justification but there was none. Hale brought his hand up to touch Stiles’ face, the light trace of the tip of his fingers touching his cheek. “Goodnight,” His voice rang with finality.

That night, Stiles counted his blessings as he lay in his bed. One, he didn’t fall asleep around Hale again. Two, he had remembered to take his Adderall. Three, the hoodie was now heavily smelling of Hale and so he could put the hood on and imagine Hale’s hands on his back and him right there.

Chapter Text

The next day was all about catch-up. Hale cleaned up his mess in the room, throwing his things in the back of the Jeep, while Stiles cleaned out the bathroom and washed clothes. He wasn’t too worried about his room because it was usually semi-clean and his dad never expected him to actually keep it clean.

They ordered some pizza for an early lunch or a late breakfast. Stiles wasn’t picky on titles. Afterwards, he had actually convinced Hale to vacuum the living room and got the meat started while the steady sound came through the door. The vacuum stopped while Stiles was making sure that the seasoning he was about to put on the beef wasn’t too spicy.

“Stiles?” Hale sounded to be a few feet behind Stiles, and he imagined Hale lingering in the doorway.

“Hm?” Stiles didn’t bother to look up from the ingredient bottle. He had taken off the hoodie because he did not need those questions from his dad if Hale was going to be staying for dinner.

“Is it cool if I run upstairs and grab a shower?”

Stiles did look up then, briefly wondering if Hale had showered any during the weekend. He dismissed the thought quickly because of course Hale did and then Stiles tried to focus on anything besides the idea of a naked Hale occupying the same space that Stiles often occupied.

Also naked.

God help him. “Yeah,” Stiles pushed out. He said it dismissively, as if it was of no concern to him, and Stiles decided he should start considering a career in acting. “My dad won’t be home for a few hours, at least, so you got time.”

“Kay, thanks.” Stiles dropped his head to stare at the bottle, not even bothering to try and pretend he was reading. He didn’t allow his head to waver from its position until he heard Hale’s feet pounding on the stairs. Stiles briefly wondered what Hale was going to wear when he got out. He knew that the clothes couldn’t have been too dirty, but underwear should be changed out. Then again, Hale probably went commando.

Stiles grabbed his phone, punching Allison’s number in out of habit. She picked up on the third ring. “I was wondering how long it’d take for you to talk to me about it,” She didn’t even bother with a hello, already knowing why Stiles was calling her. He violently turned the meat in the juice with spices. At least it would be soaked in flavor, if a little pummeled.

“He’s upstairs showering.” Stiles groaned. His body was screaming help, along with a lot of other things that Stiles was trying to stop it from doing.

Allison did a wolf-whistle. “Then you are on the phone with me, because?”

“Because I need someone to rant to. I’ve spent the entire weekend with him.” Stiles confessed. He leaned down to get a frying pan out for the food.

“So it wasn’t just last night? Why did he stay over?” Allison’s voice was hushed, like she was the one sharing secrets.

“I was sick – I got it from Scott and he came over to help me.” Stiles hurried a shortened explanation. “But he hasn’t left since Thursday and it’s just – he’s just – it’s so unbelievable.” He had a few moments to kill while the stove heated up, so he paced the floor of the kitchen.

“What? Was the broody Derek Hale actually a wolf in sheep clothing? Did he try to eat you?” She laughed at her innuendo, and Stiles could not, would not think of it. Nope, nope, nope.

Or at least he’d have the decency to store it away for later.

“No, it’s not that Ally.” Stiles hesitated. He didn’t want to make it a big deal, but it was a big deal to him. “He fed me, I’m not sure how many times but I didn’t starve, and he made sure I was comfortable and gave me medicine and…he read me a bed time story?” Stiles remembered the story well, more like folklore than a story for children.

Allison squealed, happy and loud. “Aw, which one was it? Was there anything else that happened? Stiles,” her voice warned him that he was getting her seriously worked up over nothing. It had reminded him of a time when he and Heather had almost became a thing. It worked Ally up more than it did him, the idea of Stiles getting to be happy with someone like she was with Scott. Good thing Stiles was more realistic than she was.

“He did a remake of Little Red Riding Hood, it was really good. And then, let’s see… he convinced his aunt to get us both out for Friday and his family has been taking care of Poohkey. Oh, and we watched The Lion King and I fell asleep with my head in his lap while he played with my hair. Does that count as anything?” Stiles winced into the phone, apprehensive but anxious about what Allison had to say. The shower continued above him and he put the first few pieces of meat on to the pan. The sizzle added to the sounds that were swarming him.

She literally fucking screamed. “Stiles! He totally likes you, oh my God, Derek Hale likes you. You have officially become too high to date anyone – wait until everyone finds out, oh my God.”

Stiles’ eyes shot open, even though she couldn’t see his panic. “No, Ally, don’t do that. He probably doesn’t like me, and is just being nice. I mean, why would he like me?” Stiles felt like shit saying it out loud, but it was what helped him from getting to hopeful. She made a protesting noise, but Stiles plowed on. “He’s never shown interest in anyone and it’s more likely he likes girls and even if he doesn’t, he has a million picks of guy.”

Allison was quiet on the line for a minute. “Maybe he doesn’t want a million picks. Maybe he wants you. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched and just ask him. God, stop using the crutch of ‘he’s straight’ to defend yourself from having the conversation. It could become a problem if you keep stepping around it.” Allison sounded fed up, and that’s why he would go to her for help.

She’d know when he was ducking out because it was impossible and when he’d be ducking out because he thought it was too hard. It was why he had asked Lydia out for freshman homecoming when he found out Jackson and her had another falling out. Even if he thought she might be wrong about this one.

The upstairs fell quiet as the water stopped. Stiles shot a superstitious look to the ceiling. “Personally I’m just a fan of ignoring a problem until eventually it just goes away. Speaking of going away, I’ve got to go,” Stiles declared.

“Okay, but this is not over!” Stiles fake sighed at Allison’s warning and hung up. He laughed to himself, because he would never admit it but he loved having a girl to talk to about things like this.

Stiles was working on the second round of frying the cube steak when Hale made his appearance. “Thanks,” he said offhandedly.

“No problem,” Stiles smiled over his shoulder.

“So… what are we having?” Hale came over to the counter, propping himself up on his elbow.

“Cube steak,” Stiles stretched the words. He distinctively remembered telling Hale this the night before. “I’m also making some greens, like real greens, so you’re going to have to eat those.” Stiles glanced over at him, noting how deep his frown went. “You can stop looking so sad, you carnivore, because it’s not going to change my mind.”

“I’m not looking sad,” Hale tilted his head. Stiles looked at him, shocked.

“Have you never noticed how upset you look? All. The. Time. It’s like it’s your predisposed face. Default face.”

“Do not start calling me that.” Hale warned. Stiles started laughing, enjoying how well Hale knew that part of him. The phone started ringing on the table. “I got it,” Hale pushed himself towards the table.

“Thanks,” Stiles said, trying to turn a piece of meat without splashing its juices on him.

“McCall, Melissa?” Hale read out the caller ID.

“That’s Scott’s mom, give it to me,” Stiles just put his palm out, so used to it being his dad or Scott. He paused, even when Hale slapped it into his hand, wondering when he had started to become as comfortable with Hale as he had his father.

“I’m going to go call my mom as well, let her know I’ll be coming home today.”

“Alright,” Stiles clicked to answer the call. “Hello, Stilinski residence.” He called into the receiver in a singy-song voice.

“Hey, Stiles,” Melissa’s tired voice filtered through the static. “I was just calling to check on you.”

“Thanks, but trust me, I haven’t really been up to anything since my dad left.” He feigned, nodding to himself to make it more believable. It was a tell-tell sign that he was lying but Melissa wasn’t here to see it. He just wouldn’t think about the hours and nights he had spent under the same roof as his incredibly attractive crush.

“I didn’t think so, but Scott was sick and so I figured you were as well.”

“You did?” Stiles squeaked.

“Yeah,” her voice breathed out the word in the same manner someone would say hell yes I did. “And so I decided to stop by and make sure you were alright but when I went to your house, Derek Hale answered the door. Want to tell me about that?”

Stiles was felting like he was sweating. “Uh, well,” He scrambled for an excuse, any excuse in the book. There was none. “He’s my partner in Health and this weekend was supposed to be my turn to watch Poohkey, but when I came to school Thursday I was really sick. He called his dad to pick me up and he came over to help me get better… I didn’t want to call my dad and tell him because he would worry and he’s already got enough on his plate.” Stiles admitted.

“I understand, but you should have at least let an adult know. What if you just got worse?”

“He told me if I got too bad, he was going to call my –”

“Wait, Poohkey?” Melissa’s voice sounded startled.

Stiles felt his face heat up, not realizing he was using the nickname the kids gave the doll. He wondered how they were fairing with the doll, but decided that it was probably well and if not, there were multiple adults there. And Cora. “Oh, it’s what the kids – from the Hale family – decided to call it.”

Melissa’s rare laughter bubbled on the other end, a little worn from all the hard work she’s probably already done today. “That’s cute.” She paused. “Is anything…going on? With you and Derek, I mean?”

Stiles groaned, this conversation already being had with his father. “No, no. he’s just my partner. But I think we’re also friends now.” Stiles paused, considering the words. They were friends; Stiles cared deeply for Hale, and it seemed like he did for Stiles too. “Still, nothing more.” Stiles hastily added.

“Would you tell me, anyway, if there was?” Her caution and seriousness rang through every syllable.

“You’ll definitely be one of the first to know,” Stiles promised. “But if anything like that was to happen, I’d probably be running around talking about it everywhere.”

“You really like him, don’t you?”

Stiles sighed, letting the longing course through his entire body. It wasn’t the fire he felt when Hale touched him, but it was a bone-deep ache of want. “Yeah,” He said. It wasn’t going to do good to lie about, and part of him wished Hale was a jerk so he could lie and have a reason to not be interested.

“Hm,” Melissa’s speculative voice came through the line, and Stiles braced himself for more of the twenty questions thing. It never came. “Okay, Stiles. I’m going to let you off the hook this one time, because you’re good and healthy and we don’t need to stress your father out. I never knew anything.” She declared.

“Thanks,” Stiles said gratefully. They didn’t bother with goodbye, they never did. The line went dead and Stiles, realizing he had almost burned the last bit of meat, quickly pulled it out of the pan. He looked at the clock, realizing it was only a few hours before his dad was getting home, and tried to decide whether or not he should get started on the vegetables.

After putting the corn on, knowing that keeping it on the cob would make it take longer to cook, he realized he should probably text his dad. Hale hadn’t come back in, but Stiles’ didn’t remember him taking any calls while they were together. Talia probably had a lot to talk to him about, like ditching school and flying the coop for a weekend. He was glad that he wasn’t on the receiving end of that call.

Stiles: Hey dad I just wanted to warn you that derek hale is going to be with us for dinner

Stiles: We’re having cube steak tho. With real gravy

He figured having an apology dinner wasn’t a bad start to apologizing for a visitor when his dad got home. Hale walked in a few seconds after Stiles sent the message.

“How did your conversation go?” Stiles asked, genuinely curious.

“It was fine, everyone’s fine.” Hale responded automatically. Stiles could bet that was how he talked when an adult asked how the family was or how his day was.

“How’s Poohkey?” Stiles turned to see him sitting at the table. He headed over to sit down with Hale.

“They say she’s fine, and that we can leave her there for weekends at the time if we want,” Hale smiled slightly.

“Too bad every weekend is mine.”

Hale shrugged. “I don’t mind it, I barely have to watch it either with all of the kids. Plus, if it bothers you that much, you can always take some of my days,” Hale’s teeth flashed for a moment, and Stiles didn’t know what put him in such a good mood but he was grateful for it.

“Let’s not get too crazy,” Stiles joked.

Hale raised an eyebrow. “You? Not get too crazy. Ha.” Stiles reached out to swat at him, their laughter filling up the room. It was easy to be around Hale, who mainly listened to Stiles speak, unless he had something rude or sarcastic to say. It was a good fit, Stiles realized sadly. It was like a perfect fit.
--
His dad never responded to Stiles’ text, but his inquisitive expression was enough to convince Stiles he had read it. “Hey, Dad,” he started, but Hale jumped out of the seat to move towards him before Stiles could continue.

The Sheriff’s hands were empty of his bag, Stiles made a note to get it out of the car later, so when Hale got close he stuck one out. “Hi, Mr. Stilinski, I’m Derek,” Hale shook his hand warmly, stepping back afterwards.

His dad nodded, “You’re working on the Health project with my son, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Hale pulled out a smile Stiles had never seen, one full of charm and innocence.

“Where is the doll?”

Hale looked around for a moment, as if he didn’t realize that they had left Poohkey anywhere. Then his eyes widen for a second, perfect smile sliding back into place. “Sorry, when my aunt dropped me off, Haleigh – she’s my niece – begged us to let her take the doll. Stiles already knew that she was good with it, so we let her.”

“Besides, Dad, would you want a crying baby here on your first night back?” Stiles was fishing he knew, but he hoped his dad wouldn’t hear the lie.

“You’re right. I got your text, are we really having cube steak?” Stiles smiled, nodding. “Okay. Let me get my boots off, and put my gun up – I don’t need my gun, do I?” He glanced wide-eyed between the two of them, casting a warning glance at Hale.

“Dad, no,” Stiles groaned. “I’ll make your plate while you go get settled back in.”

“Thanks, son. I’ll be back down in here, in a minute.” He warned. Stiles stood to get out a few plates, the idea of visitors for dinner foreign to him.

“Is your dad always like that?” Hale asked while Stiles fixed his dad’s plate.

“Like what?” Stiles asked absently. There was no judgment or venom in Hale’s voice, so Stiles felt no need to be defensive.

“The… Sheriff?” Hale let out a soft laugh, and Stiles realized he was nervous. Maybe it was the gun. “I don’t know how to phrase it. Maybe just being really protective?”

“Yeah, that’s him.” Stiles brushed past him, to get to the table. After putting his dad’s stuff down, he turned to face Hale. “Well, we have soda but I doubt you want that so I we also have some milk – because I doubt you want juice with cube steak.”

“Thanks,” Hale shifted foot to foot.

“You can make your plate,” Stiles stated. “Well, unless I’m supposed to do that, I don’t know –” he fumbled his words. “We don’t usually have guests unless it’s Scott and yeah, no manners there, you know.” Stiles dropped his head, flushing.

Hale chuckled, “No, I can get my plate. It’s funny when you get all bothered like that, but I just want to let you know you don’t have to be. Around me, at least.” He moved close to Stiles, lifting a hand and dropping it to comb through Stiles’ minimal hair. The touch scalded across Stiles’ skull, trailing down the back of his neck and permeating inside of his lungs from behind. He was going to have to work on getting used to Hale’s physical contact.

Hale had sauntered over to the fridge, pulling out the milk. He didn’t even need to be told where the cups were kept, which Stiles wanted to say confirmed that he was snooping much more than he should’ve.

They were getting settled when Stiles’ dad wandered back down, this time in a tee and jeans. “Thanks, son,” He beamed, pleased with Stiles’ work. As he ate, he began his interrogation. “So, Derek, are you the oldest?”

Hale peeked up from his food, halfway between berating some green beans while it was in transit from his plate to his mouth. “Uh, no sir, that would be my sister.”

“Out of all the children?” His dad seemed surprised.

“Yes sir, she’s the oldest.” Hale confirmed.

“How many kids are in your family?”

Hale frowned for a moment, as if considering the question. “Twelve.”

The Sheriff whistled low, the number being crazily high in his opinion. “That’s a lot of kids. But uh,” he took a swallow of his soda – because Stiles wasn’t going to let Hale give his dad milk, he’s not a monster. “Back to you, how are things? Like, in school?”

Wow, Dad, you’re great at this question thing. Stiles thought, rather sarcastically.

“I think I do pretty well. I could graduate early, if I keep doing things the way I’m doing them. I don’t think I want to, but it’s a possibility.”

“Why did you take Health if you have so many credits already?” His dad was mystified.

“Because I want to intern at a hospital and they said I could start next year if I finished a list of courses at high school before next year.” Hale reasoned. “Health was on it.”

“What do you want to be?” Stiles was struggling not to butt in right then, not because he wanted to speak for Hale but because he wanted to talk too dammit.

“A pediatric nurse, sir.” Hale stabbed at a piece of meat, eating it viciously quick before continuing on. “I love children.”

“Well, you kind of had to, watching all your nieces and nephews and siblings grow up.” Stiles’ dad joked. Hale ducked his head, a chuff of laughter pushing out for a moment. He didn’t appear to be inclined to speak anymore, so the Sheriff continued on. “So, what were you up to this weekend?”

Stiles could feel his heart stop beating. No matter how intelligent it would have been to have figured out a plan before his dad got here, they hadn’t and now he was here and they were fucked.

“I went out running with my family some. Did a lot of homework, came over here. A normal weekend, I guess.” Hale spoke smoothly, confident in what he was saying.

“What about you, Stiles?” The spotlight was shone on him.

“Uh, you know, Dad,” Stiles flounder, attempting to keep his temperature down. Blushing was a bad sign of a lie. “I just lay around here. Pretty much all weekend because I didn’t feel like doing anything and I didn’t have to.”

His dad nodded to himself and started asking Hale about school, thankfully. Stiles interjected as much as he could as long as he could keep the conversation from turning back to the weekend.
--
“Stiles, we have to go to the cherry farm next weekend,” It was after dinner, and Stiles was elbow-deep in suds when his dad told him. Hale was helping by drying dishes, acting like he didn’t know where the fuck anything went.

“That’s next weekend?” Stiles said vaguely, he knew it was coming up but didn’t know when. He tried to give off the appearance of being nonchalant about the whole thing, but he did spare a glance over to Hale.

“Yeah it is, and I just wanted to let you know if you want Derek to come he can,” The Sheriff announced.

“Oh, okay thanks, Dad,” Stiles meant it. Yes, thank you, for now putting the decision in my hands. Thanks. “You can come, if you want. I mean, you’d be stuck with me and Poohkey all weekend.”

“I’m already stuck with Poohkey most of the week,” Hale replied dryly. “But it seems like it would be interesting.”

“I’ll let Stiles tell you about it, I’m going to head up for a shower and bed. I haven’t had a good sleep for almost a week.”

“At least don’t lay down for another thirty minutes, because it will give you heart burn. Night, Dad,” Stiles turned to see his father rising from his chair slowly. It struck him how much he was aging and had to push down a slight upheave of panic of losing him. It wasn’t going to happen soon.

“Good night, sir.” Hale said respectfully.

“Night, boys. Do you have someone to come get you, Derek?” His dad paused in the door frame, waiting for his response.

“Yes, sir, I do. Thank you,” Hale replied. He waited until the creak of the stairs faded before rounding on Stiles.

“You just made me lie to the Sheriff,” he hissed. “The Sheriff.”

“By you staying over the weekend, I had to lie to him too!” Stiles whispered furiously. He wasn’t insane enough to yell – that would wake up his dad.

“What, did you want me to let suffer it out?”

“That’s what I usually do,” Stiles fumed.

“Well, excuse me for caring about you,” Hale snapped, crossing his arms and looking away from Stiles. Stiles moved his arms out of the water, slowly, and took the towel Hale had deposited on the counter when talking to his dad to wipe off his arms. Hale’s gaze travel back to him, watching helplessly as Stiles stayed silent.

“Look, it was really nice of you to take care of me,” Stiles spoke quietly. “And I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure you got home without having to inconvenience any of your family ‘cause I already feel like I’ve been a huge inconvenience, what with you having to stay here and them bringing you stuff,” Stiles pulled in a deep breath. His words had steadily grown faster, more panicked as he exposed his emotions. He didn’t mean to do that.

“Hey, don’t do that,” Hale whispered. He shifted closer, putting his arms at his side. “It wasn’t your fault you got sick, and I just wanted to make sure you were okay. It’s okay, okay?”

Stiles nodded, not understanding why such simple words made him want to cry. It had been a stressful last few days, and knowing that this was Hale, a kind and considerate person, didn’t help that. It just made it a lot more bittersweet that he couldn’t have him.

“But if I get arrested for lying to the Sheriff, you’re going to jail, not me.” Hale play-shoved him, a breathtaking smile on his face. His eyes softened around the edges, and Stiles felt like he was looking at someone new again, but still him.

Stiles felt his mouth immediately respond, stretching into a smile of its own. “Alright, but if you don’t think I’m going without a fight, you’re fucking wrong.”

“I’m not having sex with anyone,” Hale said with the straightest of faces. Stiles stared at him, unbelieving that he would make such an absurd joke. It took a second, one split second to be exact, before they were both messy piles of laughter.

After he could collect himself, Stiles took a breath to steady himself. “Let’s finish the dishes and then I’ll take you home.”

“Alright,” Hale conceded, a light smile still tracing his features. Stiles felt increasingly better than he did a few moments before, and he knew it was because of him. He couldn’t stop smiling, trying not to glance at Hale, but failing more than winning.

They finished the dishes fairly quickly, both quiet and enjoying the atmosphere of the room. Stiles ran upstairs to grab a jacket – Hale’s hoodie was the first thing in sight, okay? – and to check to make sure his dad was alright and asleep.

It was on the way back to his house that Hale brought the trip next weekend up. “So, why do you need to go to a cherry farm?”

Stiles automatically tensed. He didn’t tried to reason, it was okay to share this with Hale. It was okay. “My mom’s brother owns the farm. We used to spend a weekend out there with their family.”

Hale was silent, and Stiles took it as encouragement to continue. He rarely talked to even Scott about things like this, so it wasn’t like he was used to speaking on it, but he wanted to. It was a need, to show that he trusted Hale.

“The first year, after everything, I didn’t think we were going to. My dad had gotten pretty bad and he was closed off. So I just did what I did every weekend. I went home and I went to sleep that Friday. I didn’t want to do anything and the next morning, he pulled me out of bed, saying we were going anyway. It woke my dad up.” Stiles shrugged, trying to keep the sentiment out of his voice. He just wanted to tell the story, because he was driving and he didn’t want to have a sob fest.

“And now we go every year, and we pick cherries with them, and we eat dinner and stay a day or two. It’s nice, I guess. My cousin, Lane, is only a year younger than me so I can spend the time talking to her.”

“I didn’t know that you had a cousin,” Hale noted.

Stiles spared a glance away from the road to look at Hale. He seemed interested, so Stiles could work from this avenue. “Yeah, she’s their only child and they’re my only other relatives. They come up during Christmas, and since it’s September, the cherries are ready and it’s helpful.”

Stiles almost missed the turn off onto the dirt road, but swerved roughly in the last minute. “Do you always have to turn so sharp?” Hale griped.

“I turn fine; it’s just your road is hard to see. When you can drive, you can drive and we’ll see how well you can turn.”

“I will drive.” Hale stated.

“Fine, drive. But while you can’t, you won’t criticize mine.” Stiles scolded.

“Maybe you need to be criticized to do better.”

“Maybe you need to be thrown from the car, big guy.” Hale shifted his entire torso to face Stiles, raising both eyebrows.

“Really? You’re going to try and throw me from the car?” He looked too confident for Stiles to speak firmly.

“If you can’t stop being an ass, I will.” Stiles managed to get out. Hale let out a bark of laughter.

“No you won’t and we’re here so you can just let me out.” He pulled open the door violently to jump out. Stiles was about to throw the gear shift in and haul ass to get away from him, but Hale stomped over to his side.

Stiles considered and almost did lock the doors before he got over to Stiles’ side. Tonight I die. Stiles flinched as Hale wrenched open the driver’s door and pulled Stiles out. He heard the door slam behind him, as he was slammed up into his Jeep. His muscles locked up, readying for a hit, when he felt Hale wrapped himself around Stiles.

“You infuriate me,” Hale growled into his ear.

“The feeling is pretty mutual.” Stiles wheezed. He was just trying to understand if holding him there was a new way to murder someone as Hale kept him there. After a minute, Stiles moved his arms to slot his hands over Hale’s biceps, trying to keep the desire to thrum his finger there from surfacing.

Hale pushed back as roughly as he shoved forward, but still kept a hand on Stiles’ waist. Which was not totally heating up Stiles’ nether regions and he should really consider moving it before it becomes awkward for both of them. Hale stared at him, not looking slightly abashed. “Thank you,” He drew out the words, like he really meant them and not like they were hard to say.

“Yeah, sure, anytime.” Stiles shifted back, mostly to be released. He nearly turned to the car, to pull himself in and far away as he could probably get because dear god was his fever coming back? But then, Hale’s eyes caught, and Stiles gave pause. He looked stunned, disbelieving, dazed. “Anytime,” Stiles emphasized, knowing how it felt to think someone didn’t really mean it.

Chapter Text

The next time Stiles stops by the Hale house to visit is Thursday. It’s mainly because Friday he had a biology test and not because he knew that Hale himself wouldn’t have been there Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday due to his boxing friend. It definitely wasn’t because he wanted to see more of him outside of school, but he could say that he wanted to see the kids. And that they would be missing Poohkey.

He knocks outside the house, waiting for some to answer when a resounding, “Come in!” comes out. He lets himself in, passing each room in search for Camilla (read: not looking for Hale). Talia and Cora were in the blue room, appearing to be trying to teach Haleigh some type of stitching. They wave at him, Cora making a comment about how he did hear her, and that she really shouldn’t have to get up and get the door. He lets them know he’s here to see Camilla and gives an all-too-eager Haleigh the baby before ducking out. He finds her inside the kitchen, kneading dough with Ritsa.

“Hey,” he meandered closer. The white paste formed easily from both of their hands. Ritsa looked up from her task quicker than Camilla, obviously not as invested. She swiped a hand across her forehead, attempting to pull back the strands of hair that always strayed to there.

“Hey, Stiles, how are you?”

“I’m alright. Just trying to keep up my grades. Where’s…uhm?” he flounders, not wanting to ask the obvious question.

Ritsa cast him a knowing look. “Derek just got in from a jog. He gets home earlier today because of a free period. He decided to take a shower, but he should be down soon.”

“Oh, okay.” Stiles did not deflate. “I wanted to come over to see if Camilla would let me ask her a few questions.”

Camilla glanced up, smiling. “Sure, honey. Do you have a test coming up?”

“Yeah, tomorrow,” Stiles swallowed nervously, remember how Camilla would worry someone into the ground.

“Tomorrow?” Camilla shot him a disapproving look, flipping over the dough to rub the base of her palms into it. “You should have come earlier than that, so you can actually remember the stuff I teach you.”

Ritsa made a noise in the back of her throat, leaning against the counter to look at both. “Well, Camilla, everyone knows that kids don’t actually start caring about learning until they get to college. Speaking of college, I know it’s early, but where do you want to go?”

Stiles shifted, uneasy. He had no idea, he didn’t even know five names of college. Hell, he didn’t even know what he wanted to do yet – though he knew it would make his dad happy if he said he was going to do the police force like him. And it appealed to him, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to see other things, but he hadn’t looked at those other things. “I might just go to the community college here, but I haven’t looked around.”

“You should. And keep your grades up because colleges look at that type of thing and if you ever want to get out of town, you’re going to have to have the grades.” Camilla sounded ominous, like grades were the singular most important thing to lead a happy life. He wondered how the two women in front of him even grew up together, with one being so relaxed and the other finding anything to give her some stress.

“And going away for college gives you the opportunity to meet new people. Find yourself a nice girl,” Ritsa winked. “or guy.” This is dangerous territory, Stiles’ mind reminded him helpfully. He knew no one in the room had a problem with it, but he still kept relatively quiet about it, just in case.

“What’s your type?” Camilla stopped her work to turn like Ritsa, leaning breathlessly towards Stiles. He got the sudden image of her a teenager, a slight frown but listening as her sisters would talk about crushes. Even coming home and talking about a boy, the happier relative of her present expression appearing.

“My type?” Her words caught up to him. “You mean, guys?”

“No, she means gemstone.” Ritsa rolled her eyes, her mouth turning up in a grin full of teeth. “Yes, guy.”

“Oh,” Stiles rubbed the back of his neck, not really expecting the conversation to go down this road. “I’m not sure. Nice?”

“Of course,” Ritsa encouraged.

“I guess taller than me, but not too tall. I would want him to be muscular… funny, like he would know how to joke around with me. Smart.” Stiles could feel the fire that was burning under his cheeks. “Uh, tan.” He was trying to be as vague as possible, even while Hale’s image floated around in his brain, blocking any other type from being his type.

“Tall, dark, lean and mean,” Ritsa sang, seeming to enjoy Stiles’ discomfort. The door swung open behind him, and he turned half-way hoping that it was Hale, and half-way hoping it wasn’t.

It was Laura. The girl that always had a ready-made smile, and a comforting word, and she was looking at Stiles with such disdain. She threw a frustrated look at her aunts, as if they had just interrupted her conversation. “Do you really have to talk about that?”

Camilla was the first to say to get words out. “Laura, stop that. You show respect.”

“What is your problem?” Stiles found slipping out of his mouth, having dealt with one homophobe too many. He was quiet about it, yes, mainly because he didn’t feel as if it was a huge deal but when someone would insult him, he would be ready to defend himself.

“I could ask you the same thing,” she said coldly. The set in her shoulders was familiar, as if it was a practice of hers. Stiles had seen it before, made her person remind him way too much of someone else he certainly didn’t like but he couldn’t place it.

“Nothing is my problem,” Stiles waved his arms out. “I came over here, to get help, which everyone was perfectly fine with and then we got onto the topic of boys. We were having a pleasant conversation, which you interrupted, so I guess I would say that may be my only problem.” He really hoped that he wasn’t crossing lines with Ritsa and Camilla.

“Well, you should get off the topic of it.” She brushed past him, heading towards the fridge. Camilla and Ritsa watched her, astonished as she continued on. “I mean, it’s just so unnatural. I already have to live with a gay brother, but that doesn’t mean I should have to listen to his friends spout it too.”

A gay brother?

“Whaat?” Stiles voice stumbled over itself, shock wrapping around him. What?

“You heard me.” She turned around with a small bottle of apple juice. “I said I don’t want to listen to it.”

“No, I mean, what do you –” the door opened as Stiles’ words fumbled around each other. He didn’t have to look to know it was Hale this time, the anger and intensity literally dancing across Stiles’ skin. He became slightly worried that he was becoming so attuned to everything about Hale, and also that he didn’t appear to happy. Maybe he should have told him he was coming over.

“Laura,” his voice was flat. “I see you’ve met Stiles. Now you can take whatever you’re saying out of this room.” Stiles turned to see him, a murderous look coloring his face. His hair was still wet from the shower, but it did nothing to decrease his level of scary. Stiles had seen Hale upset, sure, but this was different. This was terrifying.

“Derek,” Ritsa said softly, but that was all. He wondered why they didn’t interrupt. Maybe they were one of the families that believed that problems within should only be fixed by the parties involved.

“I’m just saying the truth,” she responded defensively. She raised her chin up, attempting to look taller than Hale and probably to show him that she wasn’t backing down.

“No, you’re putting out your beliefs, forcing them on someone who clearly does not want them. And don’t tell me you weren’t, I could hear you in the hall.” Hale stalked in front of Stiles, placing himself between them.

“They aren’t my beliefs, they’re the natural order. What you’re doing it’s just…” she waved her hand about, “Disgusting.”

“No, you’re disgusting.” He was almost yelling. Stiles took a few steps back, feeling as if it’s all his fault. You ruin everything you touch. “The way you treat people and then the way you act in here, everything everywhere else is just fake! I’m sick of it, I’m sick of you,” he was really roaring now.

Camilla suddenly right there, because Laura had started to advance. She looked between them, with a glare that Stiles’ had never seen the equal of. They both paused, but it didn’t wilt their spirits which still appeared to want blood. “Both of you, stop it right now. I don’t want you to be around each other for the rest of the day. Stop.”

Laura looked between both of them, before shrugging. She sauntered out of the room, making sure to create a wide arc around Stiles. It didn’t matter anyway, he had moved to the side to press against a counter. It felt like it was the only thing holding him; he didn’t do well with confrontation.

“I’m going for a jog.” Hale growled.

“Again?” Ritsa exclaimed.

“Again.” He took off out of the other door, the one Stiles knew lead to the back after a small hallway.

Stiles tried to calm himself, now that both of them were out of the room. But he felt wary because Laura was still in the house and exposed because Hale wasn’t. Plus, he had a lot to think on that wasn’t helping his situation on trying to calm down.

Derek Hale was gay. She said gay. Like, full, I-will-never-desire-a-girl sexually, homosexual.

Camilla turned to him after a moment, eyes full of concern. He felt the need to tell her if she kept worrying so much she’d strain her heart. “Honey, I’m sorry about that. You don’t look so well; do you want to sit down?”

“No, I think I’m just going to go home.” His voice sounded thin, scared. He hated it. Stiles was just trying to keep from shaking apart. Your fault.

Camilla looked like she was going to reach out, attempt some form of comfort, but she withdrew. Stiles was grateful but it probably didn’t show as he fled. He pounded his way out, knowing that he was going to make too much noise and when he did someone was going to come after him but he couldn’t stop.

He couldn’t stop.

He flung himself at his Jeep, thankful he didn’t lock it this time, and climbed inside, trying to steady his breathing. It was pulling at him, his chest on fire. He gripped the steering wheel, attempting to find some ground as tears sprang from his eyes. How long until I pass out?

He closed his eyes. It’s alright, everything is fine, please please please. Breathe, Stiles, just breathe, please breathe, just please.

The mantra just elevated everything, making it so much more to deal with. His muscles painfully locked up, and he took a moment to appreciate the fact that he was probably going to faint inside of his Jeep, in front of the Hale house, where one of them would find him.

As the door was pulled open, and the cooling evening air touched his neck and chilled the tears down his cheeks, he realized that either he had a really quick blackout, or they found him mid-panic attack. Which, considering all which ways his brain was closing in and the constriction in his chest, it was the later.

“No,” he managed to choke out. No don’t see this. I’m not weak, I’m fine. Everything is fine, fine, fine. Please.

He was pulled into a strong chest, one that smelled of gasoline and motor fluid. “Hey, focus on my breathing.” The man encouraged. He pushed out an exaggerated breath, making sure that Stiles could feel it. Stiles tried to copy, but he could only splutter.

“Take a deep breath. You’re okay. You’re doing just fine. Nothing’s going to hurt you.” It was easy to believe, right then, with vises for arms wrapping around him. He could feel himself loosening under the strong touch of the guy. “I don’t know what happened. But it’s over. Just think calm. Listen. Breathe. Okay, breathe again. You’re doing good, Stiles.” The short sentences were easy to follow, with their rhythmic tone and soft voice. He could feel his chest untie. He gasped a little more, pulling in each breath painfully.

When he could finally breathe again, albeit shakily, he pulled away from the man’s chest, unsure of which Hale it belonged to. Darvon. “Thanks.” Stiles pushed out.

“Hey, now, it’s fine.” His chest rumbled, and he smiled – all charm. “Do you want me to give you a few seconds before you come in?”

Stiles thought about it for a moment, trying to reason that he could still go in. But he really didn’t want to, so he found himself shaking his head. “No, I was just leaving.”

Darvon observed him for a moment, and then shrugged. “Sure you were.”

“You and Derek both.” Stiles rolled his eyes and watched Darvon wander into the house before starting the Jeep and driving away. He was over halfway home when he almost swerved off the road, because holy shit, he called Hale Derek.
--
His dad was there when he got home, which was strange because he had thought he had a night shift. So much so that he had done all his homework that he could and then went over to Hale’s house without even bothering on making dinner.

“Hey, Dad, I didn’t know you were going to be home.” Stiles’ allowed his voice to swell and cover the entire house when he entered. Being the good son he is, he decided to get started on actually making him some food. But his dad already had food when he got into the kitchen.

And it was Chinese take-out.

His dad looked up at him sheepishly from his position at the table, everything laid out nicely. “Yeah, I kind of guessed, so I thought – why not pick up something to eat on the way home?”

But Chinese take-out wasn’t something to eat in the Stilinski home. It was apology food, as if something had happened. Still, Stiles wasn’t going to turn up his nose at egg rolls. He sat cautiously. “What happened?”

He saw the moment his dad deflated, like he didn’t realize how easily Stiles would figure it out. “I got a call from Charles.” Charles was his uncle, a man who didn’t smile often and worked too hard, but his uncle all the less.

Stiles slowly worked open a soy packet to spread over some rice. “Yeah?”

“Lane is sick.”

“Like, sick, sick or?” Stiles looked up at his dad, measuring how bad Lane was off by his facial expression.

“Not too sick – she won’t be hospitalized, but she is contagious. They don’t know when the fever’s going to go down, so we decided to postpone going up there. There will still be late bunches of cherries to pick when we get up there, but it’s going to be a bit.”

“That’s alright.” Stiles could deal with that; it wouldn’t be the first time that they had to go late.

“I was wondering…” His dad paused, and Stiles realized that that wasn’t the reason why they had apology food in front of each other. “You and Derek seemed awfully close, when I got home.”

Stiles heart dropped to his stomach, this on top of finding out Hale was gay was enough for him. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, did you finally have that conversation with him? Ask him?”

Stiles could feel his face heating up. “I haven’t asked him, but, I went over there today.” Stiles tried to swallow, drinking some soda to calm his nerves.

“I figured.” His dad encouraged.

“And I met Laura,” Stiles hedged around what he actually wanted to say.

“Oh? She seems like a nice girl.” His dad’s words were vague, as if he wasn’t sure where Stiles’ train of thought was going.

“Yeah, no.” Stiles took a deep breath, knowing he was going to need it. “She was really rude, and I don’t understand. Dad, she like, hates me. And it’s ‘cause I like guys. The rest of the family isn’t like that, so I don’t understand why she would be so hateful.

“And then, when I met her I was talking to the aunts and they asked me about my preference of guy, so she came in on that. And she started complaining about how she had to live with a gay brother, she didn’t want to have to deal with his friends and I don’t understand, because I definitely wasn’t told he was gay.”

His dad sat back to survey him. It looked like he was best deciding how to go around a war ground. “Well, maybe he didn’t feel the need to tell you. Ask him about it, son. As for Laura, I know when she was younger she used to love spending time over at the Argents. Maybe she got it from there, from all those crazies Allison lives with.”

“She used to go over there?” Stiles’ jaw slackened.

“Yeah, all the time.” His dad nodded, as if to emphasize his point. “But are you sure, nothing is going on with Derek?”

“Dad, no. I just found out today, and when I did, he pretty much bailed.”

The Sheriff’s forehead crumpled. “Do you think he’s not comfortable with it?”

“I don’t know why he would be; his family is great.” Stiles shrugged.

“Well, I would ask him.”

“Okay,” Stiles picked up another egg roll. “Oh, and Dad, if something does happen you’ll be the first to know. Promise.” The simple expression put a fond smile on his dad’s face, which was a little older than his actually age, but still his.

That night, Stiles decided it was time to call Allison again. He knew that it was Thursday, and any day of the week was a policy for Scott to be over there, but he really hoped he wasn’t. He waited anxiously as the phone rang, pacing in his room. It was a few hours after dinner, so his dad was sound asleep.

She picked up quick enough, if anything was quick enough for Stiles. Ally didn’t even manage a greeting before Stiles was blurting. “He’s gay.”

There was dead silence on the other end. It continued on, and Stiles began to fret that he had accidently called and her mother or god, forbid her aunt, picked up. Then her voice came through, shocked with an undercurrent of a bigger emotion. “How did you find that out?”

“I didn’t mean to – I don’t even know if he wanted me to know about it. It’s just…Laura, his sister – the senior – she’s a homophobe, Ally. And she was talking to me about she didn’t want to have to put up with me while she was already putting up with her brother.”

“That doesn’t surprise me that she’s a homophobe.” Allison said dismissively. “But what were her exact words?”

“Something like ‘I already have to live with a gay brother’ or ‘I have to put up with a gay brother’ or something like that.” Stiles struggled to remember, the day blurring from all the excitement.

“Have you asked him?”

“No, not yet.” Stiles blushed. “He kind of stormed out after she told me, because they got into a fight. What if he doesn’t even want me to know?” Stiles felt a black hole open inside of him.

Allison pushed out some breath, like she was annoyed that Stiles could be so stupid. “He probably does, but he doesn’t know how to say it. No matter how much you can talk to him, I bet he still has a time talking back.”

Stiles considered it for a moment. “Yeah, he can be a poor conversationalist.”

“So maybe he just hasn’t found a way to say it yet, and then Laura – despite her being an ass – just helped along. Even if that wasn’t her plan.”

“Why did you say that you aren’t surprised she’s a homophobe?”

“Well, because her and my aunt are like super close. She spent some time over at our house – like, staying with my aunt Kate when she first got here. And I know that we’re like two years apart, and Talia would let Laura come over sometimes when Peter came over to see Kate. I guess she thought that Laura was playing with me, but she mostly stuck around my aunt.”

“So you think it’s your aunt’s fault?” Stiles didn’t like her in the first place, but now he definitely didn’t.

“I mean, maybe. She probably helped Laura think that way. She was like a preteen – it wouldn’t have been too hard.”

“I don’t really want to see her again.” Stiles admitted. “Hale and her got into it pretty bad.”

“Don’t you have to go back this weekend?”

“Well, we were supposed to go cherry picking this weekend – I asked Hale to go – but then my cousin got sick. And even though my dad doesn’t know I was sick this weekend he knows how easy I get sick so it’s been postponed. I might try to get him to come over here instead.” Allison suddenly let out a squeal. “What? What happened?” Stiles panicked, unsure if it was a happy squeal or scared or what.

“You can come with us this weekend!”

“Where?” Stiles was wary. Usually, when Ally invited him places, it was without her parents’ knowledge and god forbid they find out he was there. The last time they encountered him at something Ally was doing, they ended up making her and Stiles cry – but that was how Chris Argent was, all force.

“We’re going bowling – don’t worry, I’m inviting Danny too. My parents are going to be out of town, and my aunt should be going shopping and I have a car. I’m older than you,” She reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah I know.”

“Well, I would love for you to come. You should ask Derek,” She added.

“I could…” Stiles wouldn’t mind going, but he didn’t know if Hale would. Still, it would be a fool proof way for getting out of seeing Laura for a week. “I will. Who all is going?”

“Scott, me, Lydia, Jackson,” Stiles stifled a groan. “Danny, my friend Erica, you and Derek.”

“Okay, I’ll see if he’ll be down to go.”

“Aww,” Allison cooed.

“What?”

“It’s just, you guys haven’t even got together yet and you’re already acting like a couple, my heart can’t take it.”

“First off, we’re not getting together.” Stiles squashed that hope in the beginning. “Second off, I have to ask him. We have to spend time with Poohkey together. Speaking of which, are you bringing your doll?”

“Yeah, Lydia and me are bringing Alyssa and Danny is making Jackson bring theirs.”

“Good, I don’t want to be the only one coming with baby. I’m going to text Hale now,” Stiles added. He didn’t want to get off the phone with Allison, but it was getting close to ten and he didn’t know if Hale was even up anymore.

“Oh, also ask him about the whole thing with Laura today.”

“Ally, no.” Stiles felt his face burn. It was so easy to make him blush when it came to Hale.

Allison laughed at his mortification. “Bye, Stiles.”

“Bye, see you soon.” He heard the line go dead and then he pulled it away from his ear. He must’ve stared at the phone for minutes, because his hand was starting to cramp. But he still didn’t make any indication to toss it away or text Hale.

Stop being a fucking pansy.

Stiles unlocked it quickly, going to Hale’s messages and punching keys before he could think about it.

Stiles: Hey question

He knew it was an open greeting, one that could scare Hale away because of the events of the day. He let the screen go black, and was going to go sit on his bed to wait anxiously for a buzz but it came before he got two steps in. it was an almost indecently fast text, as if Hale had been waiting for a question.

Derek Hale: Yeah?

Stiles: Ally invited me to this group bowling thing this weekend. Do you want to come

Derek Hale: When is it?

Stiles: Im pretty sure Sunday but it might be Saturday. I need to ask her that

Derek Hale: Do you want to go?

Stiles paused at this, unsure on how to answer. On one hand, he wanted to go but on the other, he didn’t want to force Hale into anything. And why would he care if Stiles wanted to go or not?

Stiles: Kinda but we dont have to go if you dont want to

Derek Hale: We can go, but only if you do something for me.

It was stupid how fast his blood went down to his groin, a warm sensation building low in his stomach.

Stiles: Sure

Derek Hale: Will you come back to the house? I want to talk to you.

Stiles answer was, of course, yes. Didn’t matter how late it was, he was fucking going.

Chapter Text

Stiles didn’t break any laws by getting there – well, he may have sped, but it was in an area of questionable speed limit anyway. It felt like he still arrived too early and at the same time, too late. The moon was high, the air was crisp, and his heart was pounding. He wasn’t sure what Hale wanted to talk to him about, but he had an idea. As he came closer to the house, his excitement became a steady burn of anxiety.

He knocked on the door, waiting for an answer, a way in. He stood there for a few minutes, letting the air cool his nerves. The temperature was lowering more every night but he had forgotten Hale’s hoodie at home.

There was warm pressure on his back, almost with enough force to push him into the door. Stiles let out a wordless shriek, throwing himself against the house to get away from the touch. Great survival skills.

“Stiles, calm down, it’s me.” Hale’s voice was soft behind him, as if he was trying to not alert anyone of them.

“Why did you scare me like that?” Stiles wheeled around, clutching his chest. “I have a fragile heart.”

“Sorry, I had to go out for a moment, because Aunt Ritsa needed me.” Hale moved a step back. The dark of the porch hid his face, and Stiles could barely make out his silhouette.

“Why is she out?”

“It’s the full moon,” Hale walked off the porch, Stiles following. The moon hung as a perfect circle in the sky.

“So they’re out playing manhunt?” Hale smiled a yes, the moon illuminating his teeth and high cheek bones. It cast his eyes and the hollows of his cheeks into a shadow, however, giving him an almost haunted maniac appearance. “You said you wanted to talk to me?” He tried a different route of questioning.

The grin was gone almost immediately. Stiles would guess that a wary look replaced it, but the half-light made it hard to tell. “Yeah, that’s right. Can we…can we walk while we talk? I never feel good just sitting in on the full moon.”

Stiles nodded, although his stomach began to knot up. He knew it would be something bad, he fucking knew. It hit him while he was driving over, that he was going to get over here and Hale was going to say something about how Stiles’ should’ve never known. How he didn’t want Stiles to know, or get the wrong idea, that he didn’t like him like that.

That he didn’t even like him as a friend.

Hale walked aimlessly towards the side of the house, in the direction of the backyard. Stiles followed, mimicking his steps he took the first time he was over there when the rest of the family was as well.

“I’m sorry about Laura today.” That’s how Hale opened up. He sounded so sincere, like that was really what was bothering him.

Stiles shrugged. “I’m used to it. It didn’t bother me too much, I mean –”

“Liar,” Hale accused. “I know it bothered you. Uncle Darvon and my dad came home yesterday, saying you were in your car. That you looked a mess, and that Uncle Darvon calmed you down. And I know it’s because of what happened, and that shouldn’t have happened. And I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t that.” He hadn’t expected Darvon to keep it a secret, but he still didn’t think he would have told anyone. He felt a little dizzy and decided to say the truth rather than avoid it. “It’s just that I’ve never seen you that angry before – and it scared me. And I figured, if I hadn’t been over here in the first place, then it wouldn’t have happened. That if I didn’t act like you wanted me over there, she would have had nothing to complain about and then you wouldn’t have gotten upset. And everything would be fine.”

“It’s not your fault, none of it’s your fault.” Hale sounded frustrated, angry. Not as angry as he was in the kitchen, but enough to make Stiles’ flinch. “It’s her fault for coming in and starting stuff. My family likes you, Stiles, we want you to be comfortable. I just didn’t want her to say anything to upset you.”

Stiles stopped near the edge of the woods, rounding to look at Hale. His face was indecipherable in the moonlight. “I’m used to it.” He shrugged, attempting not to think about the elephant in Hale’s comment.

“Did she upset you?” Hale shifted uncomfortably.

“No,” Stiles couldn’t think of anything else to say, besides what he wanted to stay.

“Did I upset you?” Hale whispered.

Stiles could feel his uneasiness, as if Stiles could break him by saying yes. “No,” Stiles shook his head. “I just…you didn’t tell me, so I thought you didn’t want me to know and that you were embarrassed. That you were so upset because Laura said something.”

“What do you mean?”

“About you… being gay?” Stiles phrased it as a question, feeling like he was on unsteady ground. Laura did have two brothers, but it would be surprising if Nick already knew.

“I wasn’t upset about that,” Hale threw up his hands. “I don’t mind, is that really what bothered you? Really?” he started to laugh.

“Hey, stop laughing.” Stiles was indignant. He stepped forward, ready to push him when Hale lunged forward and grabbed onto his wrists, pulling Stiles towards him. Stiles stumbled in his chest, feeling as if it was becoming a routine. Slamming into a warm being and being wrapped up.

“I’m okay. It doesn’t bother me.” He seemed to be more open about his emotions when his face couldn’t be seen. He didn’t stop laughing about it.

“That’s good.” Stiles mumbled against his shoulder, the crevice beginning to feel familiar. Hale released him as easily as he had grabbed him, the full body hug seeming to be more-or-less a reminder that they were both there. “So…” Stiles moved back. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You mean that I’m gay?”

“Yeah,” Stiles confirmed.

“Well, Cora doesn’t have to tell people she’s heterosexual, why would I have to tell someone that I’m gay?”

Stiles was about to argue, but his logic caused Stiles’ words to falter and die on his lips. “That…okay, that makes sense.”

“I’m glad you weren’t upset.” His voice dripped with relief.

“I have no reason to be,” Stiles responded immediately. “Why weren’t you playing manhunt tonight? Were you watching Aubree?”

“No, I just was waiting on you. I was anxious.” He admitted. “Dad said he wasn’t feeling too well, so he stayed to watch Aubree.” He moved as if he was going to continue walking in the woods. Stiles hoped he didn’t go far, but he knew he had nothing to fear when he was in Hale’s presence, so he walked with him.

“You didn’t need to be worried. But…” Stiles hesitated for a second, all the doubts come center-stage. Why didn’t Hale tell him? Did he not want him to know? “When I told you about me, why didn’t you say anything then?” They hadn’t moved far, just enough to find a fallen tree, which Hale sat upon.

In the moonlight, Stiles couldn’t tell his non-verbal response. The only good thing was that his verbal responses were starting to fill in their own gaps without body language having to do the rest. “I didn’t think you’d care. I thought you were there to finish up the project, and were too polite to tell me no.”

“Do you still think that?” Stiles was a little shocked, because it was typically Hale that made people feel like he didn’t want to be around them.

“No,” His voice rang clear.

Stiles could feel a smile touch the corners of his lips. “What changed that?”

“You stayed for a movie.” Hale’s voice was soft, and Stiles thought back to the day when he stayed. When Hale massaged his feet, and how strange it was to have his hands on him. It still was strange, but in a different I-fucking-want-you-so-bad strange and it was more comforting now.

“Yeah, I like you,” Stiles let the words fall from his lips, imagining them destroying everything that had been so fragilely built upon. “I mean, I like you and your family, and I like being around here. I like you and I want to be around you.” Stiles clarified everything, attempting to convey nothing but platonic feelings, like Hale did.

“I like you too, Stiles.” Hale’s voice was so sincere, Stiles didn’t know how to respond. The dead silence swallowed them up and Stiles couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable for being at a loss of words. Hale let him sit there until he seemed to realize Stiles really couldn’t say anything. The next comment was laced with urgency. “Stiles, I want you to listen to me.”

Hale grabbed his face, caging it between his broad hands. Stiles wanted to nod, but Hale always had an effect on him to where he couldn’t move. “I’m listening,” Stiles breathed out. And if his pupils were slightly blown for more than just lack of light, it’s not like anyone could tell.

“I care about you. A lot. And, that’s why I got so worried when you got sick. I don’t care for a lot of people. You’re important to me.”

Stiles had closed his eyes at some point, no matter how close he was to Hale, he still couldn’t see his face. Instead, he focused on his words – letting them wash over him and become a new mantra. He even tried to remember them with Hale’s tone.

“I’m important to you,” Stiles repeated back, with a catch at the ending of the statement, framing it as a question.

“Very,” Hale emphasized. No, that wasn’t the right thing to say anymore. He wasn’t bathing in the moonlight with Hale, the aggressive, domineering, standoffish sophomore he had met at the beginning of the year. This was Derek. He was with Derek, a kind boy who could send Stiles’ heart into a frenzy in a minute.

Stiles would have responded – at some point – except his phone chirped in his pocket. Derek moved back, giving Stiles space to recollect his head and answer his phone.

“Stiles, where are you?” Scott’s voice hissed through the speaker.

“Where am I, where are you?” Stiles let an accusatory tone pull into his statement, as if he had reason to be over at Derek’s in the middle of the night.

“At your house – dude, I’ve got big news.”

“If this is something about Allison, I know it’s big news for you – but not really me.” Derek was quiet beside him.

“It has nothing to do with Alli—okay it has something to do with her but it’s not about her! It’s really important. I was expecting you to be home but I’m up in your room and you’re not.”

“I know I’m not.” Stiles sighed. “I should have never got you a key made. And —”

“And, your doll is up here, and if it starts crying I’m throwing it out the window.”

“Oh, shit! I forgot about Poohkey being up there. She’ll be fine – my bracelet is on the dresser and if she cries just hold her. Do not let her wake my dad up, I’m coming right now.” Even as he spoke, the idiocy of letting himself drive all the way out there for Derek pulled him to his feet. Derek also stood, somewhat uncomfortably from what Stiles could make out.

“Where even are you?”

“I was going to tell you before you interrupted me. I’m over at H—the Hales’.” He managed to stop from saying ‘Hale’. He could think Derek, but there was no way in hell it was coming out of his mouth again. It just felt wrong, like he shouldn’t be allowed to say such a sweet word.

“What? Stiles, why?” Scott just sounded exasperated, not even surprised.

“Because I have a car and I can drive,” Stiles explained calmly.

“Shut up, dude, and get over here.” The line went dead, and Stiles began to wonder how long it would be until the baby cried and his dad discovered a Scott instead of his son.

“Sorry, I have to go.” He turned to Derek, sheepish.

“It’s alright, I’m sorry I pulled you out here to talk to you in the middle of the night.” Stiles shook his head.

“Don’t apologize about that. I’m glad you did.” The words stuck in his throat, catching.

“I’ll walk you back towards the house.” Derek offered. It wasn’t a long walk, but Stiles appreciated it. He wanted to ask so much more, but under the soft glow of the moon and the breeze winding through the forest, Stiles couldn’t even bring himself to break the silence.

When they got to his Jeep, Derek kept his distance. Stiles almost expected him to hug him again, disappointed when he didn’t. He was aware that it was nothing special, nothing of consequence, because Derek was that way with his family. “See you later,” Stiles let his voice carry through the night air, soft and hesitant.

“I’ll see you later,” Derek responded. “I’m going to go join my family now; I don’t like missing man hunt.” He brushed past Stiles, turning to jog straight into the tree line. Stiles watched long after he disappeared, wondering how he was going to find his family. Or, not find his family but where they were playing. Did they play throughout the entire woods?

Stiles shook it off, getting into the Jeep. Thinking on Hale dynamics wouldn’t get him any closer to home. He looked into the passenger seat, where he had tossed his keys, having to fish around in the dark to find the press of cool metal. The second the car roared to life, a growl sounded in his ear.

Stiles flat out screamed, throwing his entire body forward and slamming into the horn. The loud sound drowned out his cry for help, and he should have got into the car a second after Derek left because then he’d come and help him.

He felt a warm palm press across his shoulder, pulling him back – back to his certain death that is. “Stiles, shut up!” Cora’s voice filled up the car, dousing his fear-fire.

“Cora! What the—” Stiles took a breath in, breath out, fast and panting. “Why are you in my car? What are you doing?”

She laughed, a high breathy sound. “I saw your car here, and I couldn’t resist. You even left it unlocked and everything, like you wanted me to prank you.”

“Well, I didn’t.” Stiles grouched. His heartbeat was turning back to normal, and he was more than embarrassed that he had screamed because Cora was in his car. “And I thought you were supposed to be playing manhunt.”

“I am, but I was hiding near the house, actually under the porch, and I saw you pull up and Derek come talk to you. I figured why not.” He twisted to look at her, in his backseat. He didn’t see much besides the glare of her teeth. “Actually, how did that go with Derek?”

Stiles sighed, figuring she would hear most of it later anyways. “It was okay. He just thought I was upset because of what Laura said to me.” He refused to go into details about everything, even if she probably knew.

“You weren’t?” She asked confusedly.

Stiles shook his head, wondering if she could see his silhouette as well. “No, I’ve gotten used to it.”

“It’s still pretty crappy on her part.”

“Why…” Stiles hesitated. “Why is she like that? When no one else is?”

“Did you know our Uncle Peter used to date Miss Kate Argent?” Cora asked.

“Yeah, I heard about it.”

“Well, Miss Kate would come over and Laura loved her. She thought she was really pretty and nice and liked to spend time with her. She picked it up from there, and then after Jack died, Mom would let her go over to Miss Kate’s home a lot more. I guess that she was the only woman for Laura to talk to. I mean, I was still young enough to enjoy playing with all the other kids but she was all about cheerleading and makeup and things like that. And the only one old enough for her to enjoy talking to was Derek and…he wasn’t exactly good for a while after Jack passed away. So I guess she just spent too much time there.”

“Do you think it bothered him more than you that your younger brother passed away?” Stiles mused. He didn’t speak a name, hoping that Cora would understand.

“I’m guessing he hasn’t really talked about it yet?” Her voice was soft, but only the fringes of the words held sadness. “I’m going to say yes – but I’m going to let him tell you why.”

“Okay,” Stiles agreed, unsure if he’d ever get that explanation but not wanting to push her.

“Do you think your mom wishes that she didn’t let Laura go over there?”

Cora laughed. “Oh, yeah, as soon as she realized what Miss Kate was, she kicked her out. She absolutely refused to let Laura see her again, but sometimes Uncle Peter would sneak her out.”

“What was Miss Kate?” Stiles would always let his curiosity get the better of him.

The silence stretched, filling up the Jeep with heavy breathing. “I don’t know,” Cora whispered. “I just remember sometimes I would wake up to Mom and Uncle Peter screaming at each other…they got into fights sometimes like that. She would tell him how she would never want her children around someone like that and look what happened to Jack.” Her voice trialed away, and Stiles felt more confused than when the conversation started.

“I think I may have said too much.” She sighed. “Yep. I do that a lot.”

“Perks of being in middle school,” Stiles supplied to her. “Even I talked more than I do now in middle school. It’s a given.” She laughed slightly, encouraging him to continue on. “And, as much as I would love to stay here and listen to you speak more cryptic clues without meaning to, I have to get home. I left Poohkey.”

“Stiles!” He could hear every inch of Camilla in her voice.

He immediately shrunk closer to his door, moving away from her threating frame. “Sorry, sorry. But yeah, I have to get home.”

“Alright, let me out.” She sighed as she shifted forward. Stiles moved to get out, lifting up his seat so she could slide out. “Bye, Stiles,” Cora sang after she was standing on both feet. She leaned forward, throwing herself into a hug. He let it happen, wrapping his arms around her upper back and pulling in her wiry body. Stiles could tell where her strength came from, even if it wasn’t apparent when someone met her.

“See you soon,” She promised.

“See you soon.” He repeated back to her. It was a promise, one as easy as family.
--
He did manage to get home before Poohkey cried, if Scott still pacing anxiously in his room was any indication. “Stiles!” He crowded near him the second Stiles was in the door.

“Whoa, whoa big guy. What’s all the fuss about?”

Scott pulled back, looking offended. Or, as offended as a puppy could be – so, just wounded. “How about you being the most irresponsible parent in the world by leaving your doll home to go visit your boyfriend?” he shot back.

Stiles ears were burning. “He’s not my boyfriend, and Poohkey is fine. Besides, Allison should’ve waited to say anything until she made sure I told you.”

Scott looked confused. “Allison hasn’t told me anything?”

“Oh,” A new day, a new level of embarrassment.

“Wait, is there a chance he could be your boyfriend? Like, he would want to date you? Is that a possibility?”

“Wow, you’re doing great things to my self-esteem, Scottie.” Stiles deadpanned.

“Is he gay?” Scott flat out asked. Stiles peeked up from the floor, after letting his head fall forward out of over-whelming heat. “He’s gay? Oh, wow, he’s gay. That wasn’t something I was expecting.”

Scott sounded pretty stunned. Stiles just barely controlled the urge to manically say ‘Inconceivable!’ and tried to reroute their conversation to why Scott was over there in the first place. “I know it’s big news, but you said you had big news too. So, what is it?”

“I found out why Kate is here,” Scott said excitedly. Why would I be interested in that?

“I’m sorry, I don’t know how this was supposed to be interesting, or relevant.” Stiles stated.

“Well, I knew if I could find out why she was here, we could find out how to get her out of here. The less the Argents, the better.”

“I’m telling Ally you said that.” Stiles teased. But Scott did make a valid point. “Okay, so why is she here?”

Scott’s face clouded for a second, guiltiness intermixing with his smugness. “When I say I know why she’s here, I have a general idea.”

“A general idea is better than nothing.” Stiles encouraged.

“Okay, so I went over for dinner tonight.” Scott paused to ensure that Stiles was really listening. Stiles moved around him to fall into his computer chair, nodding his piece. “And it was all good. I mean, besides her comments that she kept dropping but it wasn’t like I could place them in good or bad and the only one who reacted negatively was Allison. It’s hard to explain.”

“I’ve met her aunt.” Stiles supplied. “I know what you mean.”

“Anyway, we get through the meal. And Mrs. Argent invites me to stay and watch some show with them – it was terrible. And every time a commercial would come on, it would be an antigay ad.”

Stiles couldn’t help his laughter, bubbling out of his throat. He had seen the commercials – and boy, were they bad. “I can believe they would actually watch those.”

“I stayed because Allison begged me to,” Scott grouched. “So, it was me, her, and her mom. I have no idea where Mr. Argent and her aunt is.”

“Okay, so they’ve disappeared.” Stiles reiterated.

“Right. And I ask to go use the bathroom – I wasn’t going to go snoop on them – but—”

“You eavesdropped on an Argent conversation?” Stiles leaned forward, all ears. He couldn’t believe Scott would be so dumb, as everyone knew that what the Argents kept private was always under lock and key.

Scott shifted, looking sorely uncomfortable. “I didn’t mean to,” he defended lamely.

“It doesn’t matter; you weren’t caught right?” Scott shook his head no. “So, is that what they were talking about, why Kate was here?”

“Yeah, they were having a quiet argument. I just meant to go to the bathroom and leave. But what Mr. Argent said made me stop. He was like, ‘You know you have to stay in town. You can’t leave just to go shopping.’”

“So she’s going to be here this weekend? Meaning I can’t go bowling with you guys?” Stiles lamented.

“Dude, you’re missing the point. She can’t leave.”

“You’re right. But does that mean I can’t come?” Stiles found himself staring at Scott, eyes widening and head bowed. It was his classic ‘please’ face, and rarely didn’t get a response.

“You can still come; Danny still is.” Scott rushed out. Stiles felt a rush of relief. “But, she can’t leave.”

“Why do you think?” Stiles wondered out loud.

“That’s what I’m getting to.” Stiles held up his hands in surrender, willing to listen. “He said she can’t leave, and she said she doesn’t even understand why ‘they’re being so hard when she didn’t even commit any crime.’”

“So she’s here on court order?” Stiles felt his mouth fall open, not before he could get the words out but not long after.

“That’s what it sounds like.” Scott agreed.

“We have to find out,” Stiles was on his feet, moving to his bed – where Poohkey lay quiet. He was almost starting to fear that she was losing batteries because of how little she cried.

“What are you doing?” Stiles didn’t respond, too busy moving junk around under his bed. His hands closed around the familiar plastic and he produced a black binder, victorious smile in place.

“Finding my dad’s work schedule.”

“We’re not going to break into the office again!” Scott exclaimed. It had been years since the last time they had – and it was to find out stuff on Scott’s father – but of course Scott remembered. It probably was because he was caught.

But then Stiles revealed himself, so Scott didn’t get in trouble alone and he had no reason to be angry about it still.

“Well, how else are we going to know why she has a court ordered county arrest?” Stiles began to flip aimlessly through the book. His dad’s schedule wasn’t based off the calendar year, but rather days and sections where he would do certain things.

“We don’t even know if she has one.”

“Well, we can find out then, can’t we?”

“Why do you even have a book of your dad’s schedule?” Scott huffed, obviously trying to change the subject.

“For things like when to expect him to come home. It helps with things,” Stiles left it vague, not because he got up to anything bad, per se, but because he needed to focus on the binder. “He should be doing a routine run on Thursday, how about then?”

Stiles looked up from where he was sitting on the floor, craning his neck to look at Scott. Scott did not appear to be a happy camper, with a deep furrow and distinctively locked jaw. Stiles almost felt like he should be lying belly up to show Scott he meant no harm. Almost.

“I’m not, Stiles.” He finally said. Scott and Stiles didn’t often disagree, but anyone would agree that when they did – hell was be had.

“But, dude, she’s creepy and rude and I want her gone. Or to at least know why she’s here.”

“Yeah, so do I but I’m not breaking back into your dad’s office. It’s not important enough.” He said it with such finality that Stiles immediately rose to the bait – blood simmering.

“Yeah, it kind of is, when she’s a grade A low-key jackass.” He cut a glare up at Scott, slamming the book on the bed behind him and rising to his feet.

“Lots of people are jackasses. But we don’t go breaking into Jackson’s criminal record to see his DUIs.”

“It’s important to me, Scott. When you and Ally had to sneak around I did that for you, because it was important for you. Why can’t you just?” Stiles blew air out of nose, not finishing the sentence.

“Is it important to you or is it important because Hale wants it?” Scott demanded.

Stiles fish-mouthed at his accusation. “How dare – of course it’s important to me you asshole, she’s a fucking homophobe.” It was a wonder he wasn’t yelling yet. “Why can’t you understand that?”

“I understand what she is, a lot of people are, but she’ll leave eventually. Just because someone disagrees with me about something doesn’t mean I have to run them out of town. Now, I think she should be taken out of town because she’s terrifying but she will leave and it’s not that important.” Scott’s voice gained an edge to it, sharp and rustic.

“And your reason was?” Stiles said sarcastically. It was a low blow, Stiles knew it. He could see the moment that Scott’s anger dropped away, a lost and hurt look filling up his eyes. “Scott, I’m sorry.” Stiles reached out to him.

Scott took a step back, looking betrayed. “I didn’t mean it, I was just upset.” All the air left Stiles, leaving him cold and sickly. He grabbed onto Scott’s forearm, shuffling forward. “Sorry.” he whispered.

“It’s okay, I just don’t want to do the Sheriff thing. I don’t want to fight about it anymore, but I’m not doing it.” It was the defeated determination in his voice that made Stiles realize that he wasn’t going to shake his resolve.

“Okay.” Stiles nodded, deciding that he had enough fighting for today. “Why not stay the night? I could tell my dad you came in after a late dinner with the Argents.”

“Yeah, sure. I left some sweatpants here the last time, didn’t I?”

“Pretty sure.” Stiles assented.

It was as they were curling up in his bed, big enough for neither of them to feel uncomfortable, that Scott brought back up the Derek thing. “So…” Stiles could hear him burning a hole in the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. “When did you find out that Hale was…?”

Sometimes Stiles couldn’t believe that Scott could have such a hard time saying it. “Gay? Today.”

“How did that happen?” Stiles shifted, rustling the sheets as he propped himself onto his side to look at Scott.

“Well, he didn’t tell me exactly.” Stiles quieted, but Scott was patient and he knew that Stiles was going to need to say it anyway. “Do you know Laura Hale?” Stiles whispered, feeling as if they were once again children sharing secrets.

“You mean Hale’s older sister told you? But she seems too sweet to rat anyone out who wasn’t already out.”

“She is not nice.” Stiles snorted. “She is rude, and hateful and she didn’t mean to tell me but it kind of slipped out.”

“What do you mean she’s mean?” Scott sounded like the world had tilted on its side.

“She was talking about how she didn’t want to have to deal with another queer.”

“Wow,” Scott exaggerated the word.

“Yeah, I know. But it’s probably because she used to hang out with Kate a lot apparently,” Stiles side-stepped that part, not wanting to say anything else about Kate tonight. “And she didn’t mean to say anything about having a gay brother, but she did and the D—Hale came in furious.”

“Was he upset you knew?”

Stiles shook his head, though he was well aware that Scott couldn’t see. “I thought that too, like he was upset at me for knowing about it. Which is why I went over tonight, because he wanted to explain things.”

“How did that go?” Scott yawned a bit, and Stiles resisted making a joke about how his story was putting Scott to sleep and he should just stop.

“It was fine. He thought I was upset because of Laura and I told him that I just thought he wasn’t okay with me knowing about him being gay. He said that he acted so poorly because he didn’t want Laura to hurt me.”

“He cares about you,” there was an edge of wonder in Scott’s voice, as if Derek was incapable of caring for anyone else.

“Yeah, he does.” There was an edge of smugness in Stiles’ tone.

“Are you sure he doesn’t like you like that?”

“If he did, then he should make a move.” Stiles grumbled. “He should know he could have anyone with a flick of a wrist.”

Almost everyone, dude.” Scott warned him.

“Almost,” Stiles amended.

“You two are coming for bowling, right?”

“Yeah, we should be.” Stiles responded, halfway there.

“Maybe he’ll make a move then,” Scott teased.

"Probably not," Stiles yawned. "But thanks for having the hope of a thousand children."

Stiles wasn’t sure if he was already out by then, or if he had managed to speak up before he sank into unconsciousness but the idea of his words stuck with him through the night. Maybe.

Chapter Text

By the time they woke up, Stiles’ dad was already gone. Either he didn’t check Stiles’ room, or didn’t care that Scott was there – probably the latter – because there was no angry note or voicemail. They had to get ready quickly, Scott borrowing a shirt but slipping back into his pants.

Stiles checked the weather, and deciding it was definitely going to be a cool day, he put on Derek’s hoodie. Scott had already gone downstairs, knowing he had to go home and get his book bag before they went to school and trying to expedite the process.

It was almost satisfaction, very-near mortification when Stiles saw Scott’s facial expression at what he was wearing. “You still have that?”

“Shut up, it’s soft.” Stiles defended, fighting the urge to wrap his arms around himself.

“And, let me guess, it smells nice?” Stiles’ color must have been indication to his answer, enough to make Scott laugh. “Oh, you’re such the girl.”

“Well, I have dick so I’m guessing I’m such the boy.” Stiles shot right back at him.

“Dude,” Scott said in fake-disgust, but his mouth still held a grin and his shove was still playful.
--
Stiles decided to he was probably going to sit with Derek, but it seemed that the decision was taken out of his hands when he walked in the lunchroom. There was Derek, sitting at his table, across from Allison and looking sorely uncomfortable.

Stiles had to go save him.

“Hey, guys.” He slid next to Derek, knowing that he was filling out Danny’s usual seat, but Danny could sit across him, next to Scott. He flashed his best smile at the people who were already sitting – Lydia, Allison and Derek.

“Stiles,” Lydia replied coolly. A few months ago and Stiles would have loved that she had acknowledged him, but now it was just that. An acknowledgement.

“Hey, guys.” He flashed a smile, happy. Stiles turned to look at Derek, who wore a hopeful expression. “Did your sister tell you she tried to give me a premature heart attack?”

“No?” Ally was watching them interestedly, as if they were a science fair experiment. Stiles tried not to let it get under his skin, refusing to break his gaze from Derek’s confused face.

“Yeah, when I was leaving, I got into my car and she was hiding in the back seat.” Derek’s mouth pressed thin in an obvious attempt to keep from laughing. Stiles took it as encouragement to keep talking. “And, and she waited until I had started the car to scare me. She could have made me like gas pedal panic into your house.”

“What’s going on?” Scott had approached during Stiles’ story time, looking sorely confused. At least he didn’t pitch a fit about Derek being there.

“Hey,” Derek said before Stiles could get a word in. He looked like he was sitting a little taller, acting a little sharper. Stiles wondered if he knew that Scott had a distaste for him.

“Hey,” Scott replied slowly, slipping into the seat next to Ally. “Why was Stiles going to drive his Jeep into your house?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to actually drive into his house.” Stiles attempted to explain. Derek returned his attention to him. “I got scared – because his sprite of a sister decided it was time to terrorize me.”

“Is it really that hard to scare you though, Stilinski?” Jackson sat across from Lydia, on the opposite side of Allison. Danny came with him, not saying anything as he parked it next to Scott but wouldn’t stop throwing looks at Derek.

Derek, who was shooting a murderous glare across the table at Jackson – one that was intense enough to cause Jackson’s face to pale. “Hey,” Danny cut in between the sure to ensue shit storm.

“Hey, Danny, buddy.” Stiles immediately took the bait. He nudged Derek’s knee, look away from Jackson you ass.

“Hey, Danny.” Derek mimicked obediently.

“You don’t usually sit with people. What’s up?” Danny wasn’t known for being blunt, but he was especially gentle in his proceedings.

It didn’t seem to phase Derek, but everyone else held their breath. What’s his excuse? “I came to sit over here for Stiles.”

The reaction was almost instantaneous. Danny just said a soft, “Ah,” and nodded. Scott, who was currently chewing on his sandwich, promptly choked while Ally attempted to hide her smile and Lydia just pursed her lips. And Stiles?

Stiles was attempting to breathe normally, cage the bird in his chest. He was glancing around, darting eyes everywhere but Derek. He hoped that the breath he was pushing out wasn’t as loud as he thought it was, begging maybe, maybe, maybe.

“How charming.” Jackson was making his fucking bitch face again.

“You know, just ‘cause no one likes you doesn’t give you the excuse to be an ass.” Ally said curtly. It made Stiles and Scott laugh, at least.

“Are we still on for the bowling this weekend?” Lydia tried to steer the conversation away from her boyfriend. It was strange to watch them interact because they were constantly at each other’s throat, but when someone else insulted them, they were ready to defend each other. They acted like they cared about nothing, but everyone knew.

At least Stiles knew.

“Yeah, as long as everyone here is cool with going.” Allison shot a smile over to her best friend.

“Everyone here is going?” Jackson asked incredulously.

“Well, you won’t be if you keep acting the way you’re acting,” Lydia snapped back. Ah, there’s the girl everyone is used to.

They were off, bickering like the wind and the trees. Danny leaned slightly around Scott to continue to ask Allison about the bowling. “Is everything still chill about me still coming?”

Ally nodded, quick. “You and Stiles are still okay to hang out during bowling. My parents won’t be due back from their trip until at least Tuesday.”

“Why would it matter if your parents are here?” This was the first time Derek had spoken up on his own accord to the group. It even managed to shut Jackson and Lydia up, though they continued their silent glaring match. Stiles had a flash of possessiveness, an urge to yell that Derek was his and no one else was allowed to touch or talk to him but the first was a lie and the second was for Derek to decide.

“Because they don’t like me hanging out with Stiles or Danny.” Allison explained. She didn’t divulge about their preference for her to stay away from homosexuals explicitly, but Derek knew Kate and should be able to connect the dots. He’s a smart kid, after all.

“Then how are they okay with you dating Scott?” Derek’s eyebrows furrowed.

Scott shrugged. “It was bad the first year, but they’ve definitely calmed down. I think they realized that even though Stiles is gay, I’m not and I’m not going to catch the gay from Stiles or Danny.”

Derek chortled, obviously amused at his word choice. Stiles was more accustomed to hearing his laugh nowadays, but he had forgotten the others weren’t. They were, by all means, shocked senseless to find out Derek Hale had a laugh. Had a smile. Stiles couldn’t help feeling a little punch drunk. The guy of his dreams was sitting next to him, for him, with his friends and laughing. It was almost too good, but it wasn’t. Because Stiles was aware that no matter what happened, it wasn’t anything more than friendship. But he could hold onto the idea of them, with him so close, and not feel conflicted about it, right?
--
Saturday came, quicker than expected, and Stiles woke up to a text from Derek. Also, by quicker than expected, Stiles still thought it would be Friday when he went to bed the previous night.

Derek Hale: Good morning.

Stiles rubbed his eyes, it was only ten, and they weren’t scheduled to go bowling until four. Why was Derek up so early?

Stiles: it is a morning but a lil early

Derek Hale: Ha. Your humor never stops, does it?

Stiles could hear the dryness, imagine the way the words formed around his lips saying that. He allowed a small laugh out at the facial expression Derek would probably make. Then he sighed, knowing full well how fucking deep he was in. Stiles was so lost on him.

Stiles: its the weekend, dont you sleep?

Derek Hale: It’s called I sleep but I don’t sleep in until noon.

Stiles: its only ten thanks

Derek Hale: Can I call you?

The sudden switch in conversation caught Stiles off guard. He didn’t know why Derek wanted to call him, but he punched in a quick ‘yes’. The hoodie felt a little too warm on him then, but he wasn’t going to take it off – he also wasn’t ever going to tell anyone that he slept in Derek Hale’s hoodie on a regular basis. He hadn’t worn it too many times that week, but he still received the same looks on both counts.

The ringer flashed up, screaming the name ‘Derek Hale’ at him. There was no picture icon in the background, which Stiles had a moment about. He wondered if he could convince Derek to let him have a picture of him for his icon. And if he happened to look at that picture six or seven times a day, that was just an unfortunate consequence.

For a moment, Stiles considered not picking up, just to mess with Derek. But then he wouldn’t get to talk to him and was that really an option? “Hey,” he breathed out, cradling the phone to his ear.

“Hey, Stiles,” His voice sounded different on the phone. No warmer, but an underground emotion thrumming behind it. It was easy.

“What’s up?”

“I just got back from a jog with my dad.”

“How early did you get up?” Stiles groaned. He didn’t even sound winded.

“I got up around six, because we like to run out to this place where you can see the sunrise. It doesn’t take too long to get there, so we didn’t wake up earlier.” Derek responded easily.

“You’re making me feel seriously bad about how little work I do,” Stiles fake-complained. He had no one to blame but himself for his lack of athletic ability. “I’m going to do just as bad this year as last year on the lacrosse team.”

“If you want, maybe next week you can come over and I can help you?” Derek framed it as a question, careful and calculating. Stiles thought back to Talia saying that everyone in the family was a little too competitive, but… it was a chance to see Derek some more. He knew why Derek was giving him a choice – if Stiles got hurt then it would be his fault.

“Are you going to break me?” Stiles teased.

“I’ll try not to.”

“Okay, so when do you want to help? I mean, it’s completely up to you – thanks so much!” Stiles could feel his enthusiasm bubbling over, the idea of getting out on the field and not making a fool of himself causing him to feel giddy.

“Maybe next week, on the same days we have Health. We could just go back to my house after school.”

“Yeah, that sounds great.” Stiles ducked his head, smiling silly at Derek’s stupid help.

“I’m happy to help,” And he sounded like he was, not like it was a bother. Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say on the matter anymore, so he tried to find a safe topic to talk about.

“So why did you call?” It was a grasp at the straws, but it was something. It was better than ‘Hey so you’re a lot nicer than I thought you were and I’m falling for you.’ Or something.

“I was hoping you would give me a ride home after bowling.” Derek’s way of asking wasn’t really asking, but he wasn’t commanding so it was a start.

“Oh, so now you want me to drive? I thought I couldn’t drive.” Stiles was already planning on saying yes, and yet there was nothing wrong with dragging it out a bit to stay on the phone.

“You can’t drive, and I shouldn’t be asking for someone to illegally drive me home – but Laura is supposed to go out today and she can’t bring me home, plus everyone is going out to explore this cave thing near the stream.”

“Of course I’ll drive. But I still want to hear that I drive good, because I do.” Stiles’ voice was hard, as if he was angry, but he really wasn’t. “By the way, do you not want to go look at the cave?”

“No, I don’t really like going down to the creek.” Derek sounded strained.

“Well, good thing we have something to do today, huh? That way you aren’t all alone.” Stiles let a grin slip from his lips, easy as day, even if Derek couldn’t see.

“Yeah, thanks for inviting me.”

“Well, I just wanted to make sure you were coming – you can thank Ally for the invite.” Stiles hesitated for a moment. “I wasn’t, wasn’t going to go unless you came. Like, don’t get me wrong, I love Scott and Ally but they can be a bit much and Danny is always around Jackson and I wouldn’t want to go without someone I could talk to. Or at.”

“I’ve gotten better, but there is no cure for your run-off mouth. One day it’s going to get you in trouble.” Derek warned.

Stiles laughed, the sound crinkling through the receiver. “It already has, trust me.”

“How?”

“Well,” Stiles started. “In about seventh grade, when my crush on Lydia went from ‘she’s got pretty hair’ to puberty,” Stiles didn’t feel the need to elaborate any more than that. “And then she started dating Jackson. Who, despite physical growth, has not changed his mentality in years. The only difference was that in seventh grade he also had an anger issue – and so when I finally smarted off to him, he punched my lights out. And it all because he hadn’t complimented Lydia for dressing up for him, and now that I think about it, that was really stupid.”

“It was, but he shouldn’t have been an ass. God, thanks for telling me that, it’s going to make it so much harder to stand him today.”

“Was that actual sarcasm?” Stiles was astonished.

“No, I was being literal.” His voice even sounded poker.

“Okay, whatever.” Stiles glanced at the clock, knowing he was going to have to get himself ready in a bit and get food. “I’m going to hang up now, because I haven’t been up since the crack of dawn and actually need to get ready.”

“Alright, I’ll see you when I see you.” The receiver went dead, and of course Stiles had to spend a few more moments enjoying the warmth of his bed before he got up to start his day. His dad had the early shift, but he was getting Sunday off – so Stiles needed to tell Derek he was cancelling tomorrow. Stiles wanted to spend the day with his dad, but he’d probably only spend a few hours at their favorite burger joint after he woke up.

It still meant he had to get the house clean today, though. Before he started, he had to check his Skype to make sure he had read all of Boyd’s messages. There was one from a person who followed his game back to his Skype, asking him to read over their story line. Stiles saved that, to look at later and decide. The only thing that Boyd had sent him was a link to another offer, and that was fine with Stiles. They only really did long messages like pen pals when something huge happened.

Afterwards, Stiles set out to start cleaning up the house – and being the procrastinator that Stiles was, of course he found the easiest ways to clean up. It was almost two by the time he finished and he figured it was time for a shower, unless he wanted to come to the bowling alley smelling of bleach and since he was so rushed for time, the thought of Derek barely entered (see: actually left) his mind.

When Stiles got to the bowling alley, he was grateful he wasn’t the first there. Danny was leaning up against the brick of the building, seemingly at ease with waiting for everyone. He watched as Stiles parked the Jeep and ran out to greet him. Well, he started to until he realized that he had left Poohkey in the car. It didn’t matter that she was plastic, she didn’t deserve to have to wait in a hot car for him to have fun. He jogged back to retrieve her.

“Hey, Danny,” Stiles smiled as he neared, in his slightly winded state. Danny was also holding his doll – Stiles vaguely wondered what they named it and how many times Danny had let Jackson hold it. Stiles tried not to wheeze as he slowed to a walk. God, he was going to be so embarrassed when Derek set out to help him.

“Hey,” He returned the smile. He was easily the nicest person of the group.

“So, where’s your evil twin? Jackson?”

Danny made a face at him, completely playful in its scowl. They were both aware that Jackson could be a handful. “He had to go pick up Lydia, and I refused to sit in the backseat with those two in the same car, he just dropped me off on the way.”

“He shouldn’t even have a car.” Stiles muttered. Jackson was super obsessed with his Porsche, but a really inconsiderate driver.

“Well, you get one when you’re one of the oldest in the grade level. You should know that.” Danny pointed out – and it was a fair point. Stiles had never failed a grade, but he had started late and had an early birthday. Things worked out that way. “Besides, I could ask the same of you. Where’s Derek?”

Stiles felt himself color – imagining the situation between Danny and Jackson being vastly different than the relationship between Derek and Stiles. Even if it wasn’t, and it was all imagination. “His sister is bringing him,” Stiles offered up.

“Laura Hale? She seems really nice – maybe I can talk to her about joining the Go Green Club when she drops him off.” Danny was thoughtful.

Stiles immediately held up his hand. “Don’t even bother dude. Class A homophobe.” When Stiles had first come out, Danny had tried to put him under his wing to help. It never developed past friendship – which was okay with both of them – but he did learn some of the lingo Danny liked to use. Such as Class A (outspoken homophobe) and class B (inverted homophobe).

“I don’t believe you.” Danny’s jaw hung open. “I can’t believe, wow, oh wow. Well, there goes that idea.”

“And here comes Allison.” He could see her small car pulling into the parking lot, all grace and practice. She had been held back a grade, which made her older than all of them. But it wasn’t because she was stupid – she just had to move around a lot.

“I bet Scott is with her.” They both shared a knowing smirk. It was really no secret that any chance Scott and Allison got, they would be together.

Sure enough, when she parked, Scott clambered out of the front seat. However, there was a third person shadowed in the back, who, when stepping out, had everyone’s attention. “So I’m guessing that that is Erica.”

That was a walking model, full of confidence by the way she stood tall. She was mostly dressed in black, with a tight shirt under her leather jacket that accentuated her breasts. Erica flipped her hair, pulling out a hungry smile as she surveyed where she was. Ally was the last to get out of the car, carrying on something she was saying to Erica.

“Scott! Guys!” Stiles called out, even though it was likely they already saw them.

They headed over, Erica going to loop her arm through Allison’s before Scott could do anything. Stiles could see the point when she threw a look at him – flirtatious and dangerous and completely daring. Oh, this is going to be fun.

They were going to cross the drive, when a car squealed its way between them. It was a sleek convertible and from the passenger side, out stepped Derek. Who looked furious.

More fun, Stiles thought sarcastically. He almost wanted to start laughing because of what a monumentally bad idea this was on Allison’s part – let’s put the three gays, the couple who can’t keep their hands away from each other, the couple that won’t stop fighting, and a walking-among-the-real succubus and put them together.

Derek stepped away from the car, shutting the door roughly and strode over to Stiles. The car pulled away just as quick as it came, with no hello or goodbye. Stiles felt the first edge of anxiety about today because he didn’t know what to do to calm Derek down. “Hey,” Derek looked at both of them, and he knew it wasn’t supposed to be a dark one but it scared Stiles.

“Hey,” Danny somewhat shrank back into the brick, never being one to take shit but also never being one to start shit.

“Hey, big guy,” Stiles started off tentatively. “Laura?” He thought it was best if he kept his questions short. Allison and the others came over, standing slightly away from Derek. Erica had a sharp glint in her eye while she angled her head to look at him. She tossed her hair back, moving to push out her chest and give a smile. It all screamed for him to look at her, but he kept his gaze focused on Stiles.

Derek closed his eyes and sighed heavily. A hand flew up to pinch at the bridge of his nose. Stiles gently wrapped his fingers around his wrist, to press once, twice and then leave. He had shifted up Poohkey to make sure he wouldn’t fumble her while he didn’t have both hands on her. Derek’s eyes shot open and he gave a grateful smile.

“Everyone, this is Erica.” Allison made the executive decision that it was okay to speak now.

“Hi,” Danny smiled at her easily. She managed to tear her gaze away Derek – finally – to smile back at her. “You can call me Danny. I’m glad you could come.” He was always so much nicer than anyone around.

“Hey, Erica. I’m Stiles.” Stiles pulled a half smile out for her, making it a goal to only look in her eyes.

“Derek,” Was all he said. He only spared a look at her, which she flourished in, before looking back at Stiles. “Where’s Jackson and Lydia?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still at her house bickering.” Danny said.

“Oh, is Lydia your partner for the baby project, Ally?” Erica asked coyly. The attention turned to her, and though she was facing Allison, she managed to throw a simmering look up towards Derek. Stiles was going to get real tired of her, real soon.

“Yeah, she should be bringing Alyssa. We can just wait for them out here, Danny would you text Jackson to see where they’re at?”

“They’re at each other’s throats.” Stiles found slipping out of his mouth. Derek laughed at least, an interested smile slipping onto his face. Stiles couldn’t help the smug look that dominated his features when he say how Erica pouted.

She immediately brightened however, asking in a bright tone, “Oh, you named your baby Alyssa? That’s cute. What did you name your baby, Derek?”

Derek must have been fucking oblivious. He smiled back at her, a polite one that gave off the feeling of approachability. “Stiles and I let one of my nieces name her Poohkey.”

“We haven’t named ours,” Danny was looking at them like they were crazy. Thankfully, before Erica could start in again, Jackson’s Porsche pulled in. Stiles remembered when he got it – how he would say that it was just as pretentious as he was. It was still true, if Jackson’s sunglasses were any indication when they walked over to go in.
--
Lydia and Jackson were competitive as fuck. The group had split into two teams – the couples versus everyone else. Allison and Scott cheered for every score the other got, happy to be there. Derek was the best from their group of course, and Stiles really tried hard not to get jealous of Erica’s blatant attempts to get him to respond to her. He spent a lot of time sitting down, holding the baby, and enjoying Derek and Danny talk about lacrosse and Derek kindly not realize what Erica was up to.

But the dropping point was after the first game. Stiles had gone to get some food for their group, just getting three larges and a liter soda. When he came back, Erica’s lilting voice rose above the others. “Why didn’t you invite your girlfriend, Derek?”

Danny, Jackson and Lydia looked curious, which was easy to understand. It wasn’t like Derek was very open about his personal life and it wasn’t like he couldn’t get a girlfriend. Scott and Allison – both who knew the truth – froze. “I don’t have one.” He answered honestly.

“Do you want one?” She breathed out, lips twitching from the connotations in her question. She leaned forward on the table, breasts pressed against the wood. Erica’s overall tone was one of playfulness though, and if he rejected her she could easily play it off as a joke or curiosity.

When he rejected her, Stiles thought fiercely. He finally moved to put the food down, almost in between them, dropping the pizzas harsher than he intended. “I got the food,” he announced.

“Thanks, dude,” Scott hovered closer to the table, as if he wanted the spat to be over with and for the food to be served.

“Well?” Erica tilted her head, eyes widening as she attempted to tempt Derek.

“I don’t really want one,” He frowned slightly, as if he was confused. Stiles could only hope that he was finally catching on.

“Why not?” Lydia cut in, glancing between them as if they were the most boring textbook material ever.

He fidgeted for a second, and Stiles felt the urge to place a hand on him. It was rare to see Derek uncomfortable – and even rarer for him to express it through needless movement. Stiles couldn’t help but think that maybe Derek wasn’t as cool with everyone knowing as he said he was. He was just going to butt in, tell them that he doesn’t want one because he doesn’t, when Derek opened his mouth.

“Well, because I don’t like girls.” Derek looked her dead in the face, which took some resolve because if it was Stiles he’d be looking for the closest source of comfort to support him. “I’m gay.” He clarified further.

“I would not have taken you that way.” She smiled, somewhat sad, but shifted back. There was no malice in her voice, like it didn’t matter that way or the other and that Derek was just an opportunity lost.

“Really?” Jackson’s eyebrows shot up, looking at Derek in a new light. One thing that Jackson had never done to Stiles after he came out was tease him. It was – what Stiles called – his one good trait. He knew how it was, considering his best friend was gay, and he wasn’t going to act like a douche because of it.

“Yes?” there was an edge to Derek’s voice, as if he thought Jackson didn’t believe him.

“Really.” Stiles shot back. Derek looked up at him then because he apparently hadn’t realized that Stiles was that close. “Now let’s eat pizza before it gets cold.”

The rest of the conversation was absorbed with school, and babies, and lacrosse. Stiles sat next to Derek, who about halfway through the conversation started pressing his knee to Stiles’, and felt oddly smug at the looks Erica gave him. He knew he wouldn’t have Derek, but at least she couldn’t either. There was one more game after that, with the teams playing against each other (and teammates Lydia and Jackson also playing against one another) and it tied with Lydia and Derek. Which Stiles didn’t find ironic at all.

It was already late – close to seven-thirty – when they finished. Stiles made sure to ask Derek before they bailed out of there, but he didn’t seem to have a problem with it either. The sun was gone and the sky was darkening as they made their way to the Jeep.

“Do you mind if I turn on the heat?” Stiles really didn’t fare well with the cold, and even if it was the first steps into fall, he didn’t like it.

Derek cocked an eyebrow in his direction. “It’s not even cold, but it’s your Jeep. Do what you want.”

“Thanks,” He only put it on lightly as he started the Jeep up. It wouldn’t take too long to get to Derek’s house, and then he could crank it full blast. He didn’t want to hear Derek about that though, so he’d suffer through the kind-of-warm that was present. “Can I ask you something?”

“You just did.” Derek said dryly. If Stiles didn’t care about his driving critique, he may’ve taken his hand off the wheel to smack Derek. If he didn’t care.

“A more serious one.” Stiles rolled his eyes, but on the inside he felt nervous. He want to worry at his lips to give him an outlet. And yet, he didn’t want Derek to pick up on his anxiety and say no.

“Sure,” his voice was cautious, on this side of declining, but he still agreed. Stiles steeled himself.

“What were you and Laura fighting about?” He forced himself to keep his eyes on the road, and not stray over to look at Derek. It was probably best not to pressure him more. Let sleeping wolves lie, and all that.

Derek took minutes, literal minutes, to respond. His voice held a quiet and speculative tone to it – as if he was unsure if he could say what he said. “You,” His voice ghosted through Stiles.

It went bone deep, that ghost, straight into his marrow. Stiles wasn’t positive he could move without his adrenaline making him pretzel around one of the many trees on the way to Derek’s house. His palms were beginning to be too slippery to hold on properly to the steering wheel.

Jesus take the wheel, is the next thought that sprang up into his mind, and Stiles couldn’t help but realize he hadn’t responded.

“Me?” He finally forced past his lips.

“Yeah,” Derek seemed at a loss as how to continue, but fortunately for him Stiles never lacked in that area for too long.

“Well, what about me? Why did you get so angry? Why does she even care?” Stiles could feel his astonishment ebb away as his curiosity mounted.

“Just how she didn’t appreciate you being at the house while she was there, but she can get over herself.” Derek’s voice was tight, and Stiles had to reign himself in to make sure he didn’t overstep. He eventually went on. “I got upset because she doesn’t have to right to talk about you – she doesn’t get to talk shit, especially about you, for Christ’s sake.” Something had changed in his tone, an extremely possessive nature coming out. Stiles knew that Derek had the urge to keep him safe, and healthy, but this—this felt different. Stiles pulled in a deep breath, mostly to push down the surfacing hope. It’s just because you’re important to him, or whatever, Stiles thought harshly, really trying not to be bitter at his pessimism.

Derek continued, within a breath this time. “And she kept saying she shouldn’t have to deal with it, that she shouldn’t have to put up with another ‘abomination’ around her, and if she did then Kate should be allowed to come over.”

“She’s still not?” Stiles was surprised.

Derek, however, seemed more surprised. “How did you know she used to be?”

Stiles shook his head, “Sorry it was something Cora told me last time she scared me.”

“Oh, okay.” Derek furrowed his brow. “What else did she tell you?”

“Nothing much, besides that she wasn’t allowed to come over because of who she was, and that your uncle and mom would get into arguments and that your uncle would sometimes sneak Laura over to the Argent’s place so she could be around Kate.”

“All true,” Derek’s preemptive scowl was in place, something that Stiles had seen few and far between after the first few weeks of interaction. “But anyway, Kate still isn’t allowed because she still is a terrible person.”

“Not to be the devil’s advocate, but everyone kind of is.” Stiles glanced over at Derek, who looked like Stiles’ had just cold-blooded murdered his first born. Stiles quickly back tracked. “I mean, she is a special, dark type of terrible, one that ranks higher than most – but we’re all terrible.”

“Yeah, but my family actually likes your terribleness.” Derek emphasized.

“That’s nice,” Stiles said sarcastically. He didn’t know what he was expecting when he said everyone was terrible – but it wasn’t Derek saying that he was terrible.

“I mean it, and so Laura can shut up, because you’re right. It’s none of her business.”

Stiles pulled into the drive for Derek’s house, much smoother than what Derek was probably expecting. “She’s not going to be here, right?”

“No, she said something about shopping today.”

Stiles had managed to get to the house, the windows lit up, and cut the engine. He wasn’t going to go in – he wasn’t ¬– but what Derek said struck a cord with him. “Shopping? Ally said something about her aunt doing that today as well.”

“Why did you ask Allison what Kate was doing?” Derek’s voice was coated in confusion. He didn’t make a move to get out of the car as he waited for Stiles to answer.

“No, it wasn’t like that,” Stiles flushed, thinking about how he had earlier thought about breaking into his dad’s office to learn more about her. Okay, well, was planning on breaking into his dad’s office – and still was slightly on that path. It was obvious Derek was waiting for more than his feeble explanation. “It’s just that – okay, if Kate was there, or if her parents were, I wouldn’t have tried to go. I’m a fan of avoiding those who can cause me pain.”

“They’ve hurt you?” Derek exclaimed.

“Not like that!” Stiles turned to face him, throwing his hands up. He could make out Derek’s features from all the light spilling from the house. “I just mean, if I don’t have to get into an argument or be around someone who I frequently argue with then I don’t.”

“Wow, you have some semblance of common sense.” Derek quipped. Stiles reached out, easily, to smack him, letting his laugh fill up the car.

“Says the one who wouldn’t know how to be polite if his life depended on it.”

“I did well with your dad, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles grumbled. He did have to give him that one. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Derek responded quickly, a softer edge testing his answer.

“Today, it was good. Better than I was expecting, even with Erica constantly trying to throw herself on you.” Stiles chuckled a bit at that.

“She wasn’t trying to throw herself on me?” Derek tried to defend her, and Stiles was right – he was fucking oblivious to people.

“She was!” Stiles immediately went into fight mode, despite his big talk earlier. He had to shake himself out of it, reminding himself that he had to get home and get stuff done and couldn’t afford to waste an hour on how Erica’s boobs were wily enough for her entire body and personality. “But, whatever, I just wanted to say I had fun, and I’m glad you came.”

Derek’s breath caught, as if he was the one confessing here. Stiles wasn’t bad on feelings, per se, but he had a hard time talking to his crush. It was why he would always word vomit around Lydia, after manage to take weeks to get up the courage to talk to her. “I’m glad I did too.”

“You can leave Poohkey in the seat, she’ll be fine.” Derek went to leave the Jeep then, carefully placing the doll on his passenger side. It was like he was putting a breakable item down, old and completely loved. “Thanks.”

“Stiles?” Stiles looked over at him, a hum assenting that he was listening. Derek’s eyes were opened wide, his mouth slack and inviting. He leaned forward, not back into the car, but it was like an invitation. It was like a fucking dare. “Good night.”

He could feel the air draining out of him as Derek pulled away. “Good night,” he managed out weakly, as Derek shut the door and left him alone with their piece of plastic.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up on Tuesday with a text from Derek, a reminder of a promise he had all but forgotten about.

Derek Hale: Bring your lacrosse stuff with you today after school. Including your protective wear.

Well, that wasn’t terrifying when he was already anxious that Derek was going to break him. He shot back a quick ‘ok’ before quickly getting ready. He even thought about avoiding Derek today – as to not make him worry over Stiles. It wasn’t like he had to eat lunch, so he could avoid him that way, seeing as Derek had become a given at the table now.

However, it seemed Stiles’ subconscious realized that it was a Health day – heh – without telling him. He had nearly broken the speed limit on his way over to the school, and what for? When his flailing limbs scrambled into the class, too early for him to feign fear of being late, he remembered.

Because there sat Derek, with their baby, and a coffee for Stiles. He was holding Poohkey languidly, while being preoccupied on his phone. He spared a look up when Stiles’ limbs made his presence known, and allowed a small smile to warm his face. No matter how many times he could get inflection into Derek’s voice, or a quick change in expression to flicker across his face, it was the rare moment when he smiled that Stiles’ insides curled in on themselves.

“Good morning,” Stiles panted out.

“Good morning. Did you try and get in shape before coming to school?” His phone was on the table, forgotten, and he sat motionless. The only thing that moved was his eyes as they tracked Stiles’ trek over to the table. “Maybe attempt to make it easier this afternoon?”

“Likes it going to be any easier,” Stiles grumbled, so accustomed to the drink waiting for him that he didn’t even bother to ask for it. He swiped it over to his side, grateful that it was cooled down as he took a swig. After he had a little of the drink, he cleared his throat. “Besides, maybe I was running from zombies, in which case good for me. I shouldn’t have even come in here, just let them get you.”

Derek snorted. “You couldn’t survive from zombies if your best defense is running from them.”

“What’s that supposed to be mean?” Stiles was indignant, because, hey, he was good a short-distance running.

“You have zero cardio.”

“How do you know that?” Stiles squawked.

“I’ve seen you on the field.”

“No, you haven’t.” Stiles perked up. “I don’t even get on the field.” He sunk the ship just to kill the captain.

“During games,” Derek’s voice dropped to a whisper, as Danny and Greenburg came in, as if they were sharing a delicious secret. “However Finstock easily runs your ass into the ground during practice.”

Stiles looked at him flabbergasted for a second, because Derek had seen him practice? Danny met his eyes, with a slight tilt of his eyebrows indicating curiosity. Stiles decided to ignore him in favor of choking out a response. “You watched during practice?”

“Well, Laura had convinced Mom to let her do one year of cheerleading, and I didn’t want to watch her. I couldn’t play lacrosse, but I could watch the team come together.” Derek shrugged.

“Oh, yeah, because you aren’t allowed to do sports?”

“Unless explicit permission, then no. And lacrosse is high-contact, so…” Derek let his words trail off, but Stiles understood. He had met his mother. Stiles knew that asking Talia for permission after she had said no was something you didn’t do.

“But why watch something you can’t do?” Stiles didn’t mean for it to come out harsh, but it did.

“Mostly because you were entertaining.” Derek admitted.

Stiles wasn’t going to let his cryptic answer disrupt the ever-erratic beat of his heart, nope. Instead, he worked on trying to formulate a half decent response while a good amount of the class filed in. Coach was on the tail end of the line, with Allison in front of him. She shot a look over at Stiles, grinning maybe a little too wide to just be friendly. “I didn’t even think you noticed me until you were forced to.” Stiles tried not to blush.

“Trust me when I say I’ve been aware of you for years.” The way Derek was talking was not okay, because it was making Stiles question everything. And even though that wasn’t new, the filtering of hope through his cracked shield was.

He had so much more to say, but that’s when Coach decided to start talking. “Okay, settle down you runts. Since state regulations force me to actually talk to you to teach you, today’s going to be a lecture. Since apparently you need to learn how to have safe sex, let’s talk about it.” He threw his hands up, obviously as uncomfortable as many of them. “But no questions from you Greenberg.”

That was the last thing Stiles listened to, because he didn’t need to have his head filled with Derek while starting to think about sex. Besides, it wasn’t like anything he could teach Stiles couldn’t learn from the internet.
--
The rest of the day, well, it passed in nervousness. Stiles was now clear that Derek did know how well Stiles did all things athletic, and he still agreed to help him. Help being a subjective word. He even managed to spew out word-vomit during lunch about the differences between cooking chocolate and regular chocolate and how cooking chocolate always had a slightly burnt taste.

By the end of it, Jackson was even throwing him a few concerned looks. Which is why, when the bell rang and Stiles trotted out to his Jeep, he shouldn’t have been surprised to see him leaning against. “What do you want, Jackson?” Stiles yelled out, a good measure still from his Jeep. He had slowed down when he saw who was waiting.

“Just to talk, Stilinski.”

“Wow, the great Jackson wants to talk to moi?” Stiles couldn’t help but pop off the last word.

“Less and less by the minute.” He shot a glare at Stiles, above his sunglasses. “Besides, part of this is to ease Danny’s mind.”

Stiles refrained from speaking on Jackson’s raging man-crush, just because he was curious. Danny was an all-around nice guy but he usually didn’t go out of his way to be kind. “Okay,” Stiles said slowly.

Jackson sighed, as if pushing himself forward by releasing his breath. “What’s going on between you and Derek?” He demanded.

Of all of the things, this. This is what he was asking about – why Jackson was propped up against his baby like he owned her. “He’s my health partner.” Stiles shot back.

“And?”

“And?” Stiles mimicked.

“I don’t even know why I’m doing this,” Jackson muttered to himself, casting looks at the sky as if he was the one being interrogated. “Listen, Stilinski, if Lydia wasn’t so damn curious and Danny wasn’t so damned concerned, I wouldn’t care about it. At all.”

“I knew that you didn’t actually have a soul, that you were just fed pieces of theirs. Which explains why you only care when they do.” Stiles smirked at his joke, knowing that Jackson wouldn’t dare make a retort about how Lydia’s strawberry-blonde hair was just a shade ginger enough for her to not have a soul.

“Shut up,” Jackson growled. “Just.” He pinched at the bride of his nose, his glasses sliding down further. “Just listen. I don’t really care, but, now this is a big if, Derek does something that…hurts you, just let me know. Okay?”

Stiles couldn’t imagine him being able to take on Derek, but hey, it was a thought. And the thought was what counted, right? He felt himself grinning foolishly at Jackson. “Looks like someone actually has a heart,” Stiles joked.

“Don’t get used to it,” Jackson muttered.

“Whatever you say, dude.” Stiles called back cheerily. He no longer felt the need to restlessly wait for Jackson to say his piece, and proceeded to walk around to the driver’s side. “I’ll catch you later, or at least see you later.”

Jackson pushed off his car, not angry but certainly not enjoying his stay. Stiles didn’t care one way or the other – it wasn’t like he was going to start actually liking to be around the ass. And besides, he had to get over to Derek’s.

The warm glow lasted him almost all the way over, but as he took the familiar sharp turn, the twinge in his heart also sharpened. It wasn’t like Derek was going to purposely hurt him. Stiles – despite his best efforts – thought that was the exact opposite of what Derek wanted but he was also very aware of Derek’s physique.

And long story short, he could break Stiles in half – and not the fun way.

He pulled up the house, wondering what was going to happen when he got out. Stiles climbed out, thankful for the half-hearted heat that still clung to the days. He was bad when the sun was glaring up ahead, but at least his bones weren’t frozen so he was actually mobile. He grabbed his duffel bag from the back seat. He figured that Derek didn’t realize he was here and that he had to ask for him to come out and maim Stiles. Fun.

So he began an uncertain stride up to the house, just to trip over his feet when a ball came whizzing past his head and hitting the stairs. “The fuck was that?” Stiles was on his knees, hands on the dirt. He twisted to look behind him, and there was Derek stepping out of the tree lines, smirk in place. He wandered a few steps closer – waiting for Stiles to stand.

“A little warning next time,” Stiles called out hoarsely.

“Maybe.” Derek teased. He seemed to be a lot more carefree than even Stiles was used to seeing. He wasn’t just relaxed; he was at ease as if his bones were fluid and he wasn’t one of the most closed off people Stiles knew. “Put your gear on, and toss me back the ball.”

Stiles moved to obey, pulling the duffel bag closer to him. He took out his stuff, most of it only taking a few minutes to strap on. He used his stick to pull himself back into a standing position, and looked over to Derek. Who was still only wearing a gray tee and some lose jeans. Stiles looked like he was going to fight a monster, and he really hoped that Derek didn’t have the same train of thought or else today might be unbearable.

He shuffled over to the porch, where the ball lay on the third step to scoop it up. He was just going to toss it back to Derek – or in proximity to Derek – when the front door opened. Stiles swiveled his head to see Cora walking out, in a pair of shorts and a hoodie. “I just want to remind you that Mom will be pissed if you dent up the house.” She hollered over to Derek.

He flicked his attention to her, apparently listening. But then his smile slid back into place – a lot easier than most days – and he was calling back to her. “Thanks Cora, I’ll keep that in mind even thought I wasn’t the one who broke the window while playing softball.”

“That was one time, and Mom even admitted that she threw too hard!” She huffed in agitation, and stomped back inside before Stiles even got a hello out.
Stiles glanced down at the heavy stick in his hand, tilting up where the net held the ball. “You know, you might not be terrified of your mother’s fury, but I sure as hell am.” He shouted.

Instead of dignifying him with a response, Derek just started walking towards the back of the house, gesturing for Stiles to do the same. A part of Stiles said that this was his one chance to run. But he didn’t.

Derek guided him towards the tree line, a good twenty or so feet from where the house was. “Different tactic. Since you seemed so scared to throw it back to me –”

“Yeah, ‘cause my Jeep is out front and your house was super close.” Stiles interrupted him.

“Like I was saying,” Derek strained, looking like he wanted to whack Stiles with his stick – which was really nice, sleek, dark metal – and Stiles realized that he was in whacking distance. He promptly shut up. “You don’t seem comfortable with your aim. So, instead of playing simple catch like I was going to get you to do, I want you to try to get the ball past me.”

“Just into the tree line?” Stiles asked dubiously. If he just had to shoot it into the trees, and there were trees everywhere, it seemed a little too easy.

“No, but good job catching on.” Derek complimented. And it was a stupid compliment, one that would typically make him feel like the person thought he had a hard time catching on to things, but it still made him want to blush. Derek turned his back to Stiles, doing a sweep of the trees ahead of him. He paced off about five in each direction, using the end of his stick to mark the dirt. “If you can get in the tree line, past me but in this little square.”

“But that’s tiny.” Stiles whined – and it really wasn’t, the only thing was Stiles wanted to try and not make a fool of himself for the first time. And that space was a concentrated place of foolishly trying to beat Derek.

“It’s about the same size as your goals in lacrosse.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.” Stiles knew the drill after that, which was to line up about twenty feet out and do a little run before trying to toss it past the goalie. Every time, Derek managed to snag it in his net – half the time not even having to move his feet to reach it. He paused after each pass, attempting to make Stiles understand how he was placing his body wrong and feigning too far left or right for it to look real.

It was exhausting for Stiles, mostly because it was lots of quick, fast work he had to do. He was used to having a line of players to wait through for his next turn. But there was no let up here, except for Derek’s critiques. Stiles’ gear started to feel uncomfortable, unused. Why the fuck did he bring them if he wasn’t going to use them? And why the fuck was he wearing them when all they were doing was adding ten extra pounds and messing with his movement?

It was after Stiles got into his athlete haze – just get it done, just finish – that anything good happened. His hair was starting to grow, still nowhere near his eyes but definitely not the airy buzz cut of ninth grade. Sweat dripped from him, trailing its way into his eyes and partially blinding him. He tossed the ball away from him one last time, stumbling to the side as he did so, because his limbs were going to give out. He expected the tell-tale sound of rope being pulled tight, the ball secured in Hale’s net. Instead, there was the dull sound of something hitting a tree.

And damn, Stiles may have near collapsed, but he struggled to wipe the sweat away and see Derek looking confused at the ball that lay two trees behind him. He dropped his stick. “I did it?” Stiles asked breathlessly. “I did it?”

“Yeah, you got it past me,” Stiles grinned foolishly at Derek’s admittance. “Good job.” Derek looked at it for a second, and then back at Stiles who was now laughing happily. Stiles didn’t even have a moment to register anything besides I fucking did it, before Derek was darting out and wrapping Stiles up. Stiles shrieked for a moment, but was too giddy for much of a struggle. He was just going to wrap his arms up around Derek’s neck when—

Derek picked him up. Completely and effortlessly, Stiles was off the ground. Now he actually yelled, mostly because he didn’t want to get fucking dropped. It was Derek’s turn to laugh, as he draped Stiles across his shoulder. He moved fluidly, barely jostling Stiles, as he went towards the house. But Stiles was having none of it.

“Put me down!” He tried not to think of himself as a disgruntled princess. “Why are you holding me? I can walk!”

Derek just continued on, laughing as Stiles gave half-hearted hits to his back. Finally, when Stiles realized they were on the back porch, he gave up. Slumping against Derek, he realized something: His body was long enough so that when Derek pulled this stupid ass move, Stiles would have been lined up with his ass.

He didn’t want to ponder it, he didn’t want to think on it. Stiles just thought, heavy, hoping that his 147 pounds would somehow morph and become enough weight for Derek to put him down.

“Aunt Camilla!” Derek swung open the door, dropping Stiles gracefully back on his feet. The second that Stiles was grounded, he started to fume again.

“You ass,” He hissed as he swiped a hand out to hit Derek hard on his chest. Derek still appeared unapologetic, with a fire in his eyes and a smile on his lips.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Derek said innocently. He isn’t allowed to act cute right now, Stiles’ brain cried.

“I could have walked.” Stiles crossed his arms over his chest, not even moving further into the house.

“Well, now you can. And we can go into the kitchen, before Aunt Camilla comes out to us.” He placed his hands on Stiles, pushing him backwards. It was almost endearing how he was taking waddling steps as if to emphasize how slow Stiles was going. Stiles didn’t realize how exercise relaxed Derek, and made a mental note on it.

“Why’d you call her, if you didn’t want her coming to us?” A guilty look flashed across his face, and Stiles was immediately suspicious. “Why, why, why, why?” Every step he asked. It was like Derek was deaf.

However, Stiles had always been resilient, and by the time they were reaching the kitchen, Derek cracked. Instead of pushing him through the door, he ‘gently’ shoved Stiles onto the wall. “Stop.” He cried uncle.

“Then why?” Stiles parroted. Derek dropped his head with a groan and Stiles couldn’t beat back his grin. He had won, so now he just had to wait until Derek spoke.

“Aunt Camilla and Cora made a bet.”

“Yeah?” Stiles pushed forward. “Why, was it about me?”

“Well, yes.” Derek shifted, his head still leaning forward. He tilted it up enough that he could look Stiles in the eye. Proximity! Stiles’ couldn’t help but feel hot all over. Derek wasn’t doing anything, it just that he was too close, too attractive, too much. Stiles regretted his pestering – but it wasn’t the first time his persistence had screwed him over. “Cora thought you could manage to do well today, but Aunt Camilla didn’t. She didn’t even want me playing with you – saying I was too rough for someone as fragile was you.”

“I’m not fragile.” Stiles couldn’t even find it in himself to be upset. Derek’s hands were still pressed against his shoulders, holding him there, grounding him. And Stiles was so fucked, because his brain couldn’t focus enough to help him and if Derek keeps standing there, so help him God, he’ll make a fool of himself.

“I wouldn’t say that, but you’re not weak either.” Derek shrugged, moving back. He went through the door, leaving Stiles standing. Or slouching against the wall.

“Fuck.” Stiles muttered. He was so fucking fucked. He let his head hit the back of the wall, feeling the cool paint help his heat. Stiles still had to adjust before he followed in. Camilla was standing near the fridge, Derek rummaging around inside of it.

“Stiles!” She smiled at him, but it was obvious what she was doing. Her eyes scoped his body – looking for injury.

“Hey, I’m fine.” He shot a quick smile back.

“You don’t know—” She started to say, but Derek cut her off.

“Really? Aunt Camilla? You, not worried that someone may have been hurt?”

She blushed, blinking at him. She diverted her attention to Derek to swat him. “Oh, be quiet you. It’s just that you have a lot more muscle mass and a lot less training on how to handle people more breakable.” Stiles squawked in indignation, but she turned back to him as if he didn’t. “Are you sure you’re alright, honey? I know you did well, but you didn’t get hurt did you?”

“No, I’m fine.” Stiles responded automatically.

“He actually managed to get a shot past me.” Derek pulled two Gatorades out of the fridge, tossing one to Stiles. Stiles, slow reaction time as always, fumbled with it for a second before it landed on the floor.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a mistake?” Camilla joked, and Stiles tried to not let it injury his pride. “Did you get the goal out?”

Stiles was just about to ask, what goal? He bent down to pick up the Gatorade. “No, I just made markings for the limits.” Derek responded easily.

“Oh okay, because I know you didn’t come ask for the shed key and it was Ethan’s turn to lock it up.”

“You find things for yourself to worry about.” Derek shook his head.

“Wait, you guys have a goal?” Stiles knew they played games together, but he was starting to get a new perspective on how they played the games.

“Yeah, we have a lot of sporting equipment, so that way the kids can get a feel to the stuff.” Camilla responded. She was shooting unhappy looks at Derek, probably because of what he said.

“Also, so we can practice. For what, I don’t know but it makes us better at the sports. Speaking of being good about sports, you lost the bet, Aunt Camilla.”

“Why would you bet that I wouldn’t do well?” Stiles fake pouted at her.

“Oh, honey, it’s just because you’re so bony.” Camilla wasn’t exactly apologizing, but she did sound like she regretted it.

“So, what was the bet?” Stiles wanted to know what Camilla had to do now that she had lost.

“Whoever lost the bet has to make the homemade ice cream.” Derek grinned at him. “We have it twice a month, and no one could remember if it was Camilla’s or Cora’s turn but they made the bet. So, she’s going to make it.”

“With so many people here? I can guess why you took the safe bet.” Stiles laughed, especially as Camilla’s frown deepened.

“Yeah, yeah. I have until Thursday to finish it so at least I have tomorrow off.”

“Which means Stiles will be here to enjoy the fruit of winning as well.”

“I will?” Stiles asked blankly. “Oh! Yeah, I’ll be here on Thursday. For practice, right. Also, you shouldn’t call it winning – I only got one past you, dude.”

“Still got one past me.” Derek noted.

“So you will be here on Thursday?” Camilla asked. Stiles nodded, because that was his plan. “Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?”

“Vanilla.” Stiles hadn’t had homemade ice cream in a while, and yes, he enjoyed it a lot. Derek then ushered him back out, saying that they just came in for a drink and to let her know she lost. The rest of the afternoon was passed by Derek having Stiles toss him the ball as they ran around the back yard. It was fun, and it didn’t push Stiles because he didn’t have to run fast or far. Even if he dropped the ball every two or three times it was passed to him.

Eventually, Talia came home, as did Arthur and Darvon, and they all came out to watch them play. Stiles called a quits after a few more runs, admitting that it made him nervous to know good athletes were watching him. Derek then – helpfully¬ – explained to Stiles that Cora had been watching from her window the entirety of the first exercise.

Not like it made Stiles fidgety or anything.

He knew he should be getting home, the sky purpling as he said hello and goodbye to the adults. Stiles promised to return on Thursday, and then he was on his way home.

Before he got in the car, he shoved all of his gear into the back, muscles sore enough that he didn’t care to stuff it in its duffel bag. Stiles drove home, an ache settling in his bones and just making him more uncomfortable than his stench was. He knew that he had to get home, because his dad had an afternoon shift, so he’d be back in around nine. So, not only did he have to force his body to let him be mobile enough to shower, but he also had to come up with a dinner plan.
--
He decided on stir fry for dinner, with only a little salt and a good portion of vegetables and white rice. It was one of his dad’s favorites, mostly because it still had enough spices not to taste like a health pill. Stiles almost felt guilty for eating before his dad, mostly because he had gotten out of the shower and was starving, half eating as he made the food.

Stiles was working on biology when his dad got home, mostly because they were discussing the difference between G3 and G4 plant types and he was so lost as to what distinguished them besides one was regular and the other was mainly desert plants. “Hey, son.” The Sheriff called out from the front of the house.

“In the kitchen!” Stiles knew he was kind of yelling, but it was an accident.

“What’s for dinner?” His dad came behind him, clamping a hand on Stiles’ shoulder to peer down at what he was working on. It obviously came back as Greek to him too, because he quickly moved away.

“I already ate, but I made some stir fry.” Stiles gestured towards the fridge because he hated leaving food out.

“Thanks.”

“Hey, how was work today?” Stiles was listening, despite how intently he was staring at his notes.

“It was fine. Another deputy came in today, from a different county.” The Sheriff sighed.

“Have you found Deputy Johnson yet?” Stiles knew the answer was probably no. His dad typically told him when they found a missing person, unless they were dead. He hoped that Deputy Johnson wasn’t dead.

“No, but we’re still looking. We’ve managed to bust three separate crack houses, but we still haven’t found the gang or where they’ve been keeping her. It’s why the new deputy was sent in – to help fill in her shift.”

“Do you…?” Stiles let his question trail off, knowing that he asked it so frequently that his dad knew the rest of it.

“I don’t want you involved. The case is something else, we just keep waiting for the next dead body or gang violence victim to pop up and they haven’t yet. It’s got me worried. I don’t want you helping, son.” The Sheriff’s voice ran with finality. Stiles knew why he was the way he was, because it was the same reason why Stiles made such healthy food.

“Okay,” Stiles just tried to leave it at that, really he did. But part of what his dad had said had been nagging at him. “What do you mean the next murder or gang violence victim?”

The Sheriff sighed, his plate in the microwave so he was facing away from Stiles. Stiles couldn’t help but to look up and notice his head hanging low, though. “Since Deputy Johnson has been taken, there hasn’t been any more activity.”

“It’s only been a week or two, though.” Stiles pointed out.

“Yeah, but the way that they were escalating has everyone at the station worried.” It was almost like Stiles could sense the stress in his dad’s heart, and it made him feel a pang for him.

“I’m sure she’ll turn up.” Stiles tried to aim for hopeful. He knew that the longer someone was missing, the less likely they will find that person intact. “Has Uncle Charles called?”

The Sheriff carried his plate over to the table, taking the only seat that still had a placemat not covered with Stiles’ things. “He called and said we can come this weekend.”

“Oh, okay.” Stiles was glad – he still didn’t want a repeat of what happened while he was at the Hale house when Laura was there.

“You should let Derek know, if you still want him to come.” His dad looked up from his rice, eyebrows raised. Stiles knew it was futile to try and say that he didn’t want Derek to come, so he just stuck to nodding. “I told Charles that we may have an addition this year and when I told him it was one of your friends, he was pretty excited. I hope Derek can work, because he is going to put him to it.”

Stiles laughed, knowing how strong Derek was. It would be easy for him to help, and Stiles couldn’t imagine him saying he didn’t want to. He was so ready for everything. “I’m sure he will, but I’ll have to warn him about Uncle Charles to make sure he still wants to go.”

They laughed for a moment in the shared joke. His uncle Charles always pushed for more work to be done, and it could get a little intimidating. The rest of the meal passed in companionable silence, as Stiles finished up what he could of biology and moved on to algebra. His dad was finished way before him, and told him to make sure to clean up before he went to bed. Stiles didn’t blame him for leaving him there, mostly because his dad was working all the time and needed all the rest he could get.

It took him a little longer to finish all he needed to do, mostly because he kept flitting between subjects, and then he washed up and headed up. It was almost eleven thirty, so he didn’t know why he was punching a number into his phone or why he would call it. He certainly wasn’t expecting Derek to actually pick up.

“Hello?” Derek answered after the second ring. “Stiles?”

Stiles paused on the other end, considering to make it just seem like a butt dial. He didn’t really have anything specific he wanted to talk to Derek about, he just wanted to talk but he didn’t know how he would take to just random calling. Stiles moved to his computer chair before responding. He felt a twinge of pain shoot through his back and one of his legs.

“Dude,” He cried into the phone. “I’m sore, everywhere.”

“Is that really why you called?” Stiles could hear muffled laughter in the background, as if Derek had moved the phone away from himself so he wouldn’t laugh into the receiver.

“Yes,” Stiles snapped into the microphone. “Because you don’t know how to take training slow.”

“It was slow,” Derek reasoned.

“Maybe for someone who’s been great at sports since he was a fetus.” Stiles huffed. “But I hurt, because I’m gangly and haven’t exercised since last lacrosse season.”

‘I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I just grew up in a family who liked doing things outside. Oh, and you should stretch tonight and tomorrow morning. It should help with the stiffness in your muscles. We probably should’ve stretched before we practiced…” Derek mused.

“So now you tell me.”

“You didn’t ask before.” Derek was teasing him, a light playful tone. And yet, it didn’t take away the pain in his biceps.

“Who says I asked now?” Stiles challenged. “Also, my uncle called us.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, and he says we can come up this weekend to visit and help with the cherries.” Stiles hesitated for a moment. “You know, just letting you know, in case you want to come.”

“Sure, I would.” Derek’s voice sounded genuine, at least.

“Okay, but we’re going to be working too.” Stiles warned. He didn’t want to throw any surprises at Derek when they got there, considering it was a couple hours’ drive away and it would be rude to trap him there.

“I kind of figured when you said they farmed.”

“Alright,” Stiles didn’t know what to say to that, a flurry of words on his tongue but none of them developing into actual thoughts to talk about.

“Hey, Thursday I’m going to have someone at the house.” Derek switched subjects easily.

Stiles felt his heart sink – no, it was not because he wouldn’t get to see Derek – because he wasn’t going to get ice cream. Homemade, too. “Oh, okay. We can do a different time, then.” Stiles tried not to let himself sound glum. It wasn’t like he was the only person Derek ever talked to.

Close, but no fish.

“No, I meant that someone’s coming over. My boxing friend. He’s going to help us with your ability to play.”

“You mean he’s going to help you coach me?” Stiles felt a few emotions at once: horror, embarrassment, fear, all in undercurrent with excitement of still getting to go over to the Hales on Thursday.

“He’s really fast so I thought he could. He could teach you how to dodge and he’s an extra hand.” Derek explained. “Unless you don’t want that. I can call him and tell him that he can come over at some other time.”

“Hey! No, it’s cool dude. I just didn’t realize.” Stiles wasn’t going to be a jerk and try and monopolize Derek. No, really.

“Okay, well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, see you tomorrow. Because we have school, and that’s where we see each other. Yeah, okay.” Stiles was fumbling his words.

Derek laughed, a quiet sound that barely traveled through the static. “Good night, Stiles.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday had started off easily enough. He was sitting in Spanish, waiting for the teacher to show up. It was one of the few classes he had with Lydia, and she sat near him – which, was still wonderful but less of a thrill now. Allison sat next to her in their set of four and the last seat was empty. Stiles meant it harmlessly, really, when he said it.

He stretched out, feeling his wrists pop. He had done what Derek had told him to do and stretch, so now it was just a slow burn with the occasional strong ache. Which happened to flare up at that moment. “Damn, it hurts.” He hissed out.

“What hurts, Stiles?” Lydia asked curiously. And he didn’t know why, but it sounded like a different question to him.

“I was practicing yesterday.”

“But Scott was at my house, yesterday.” Allison pointed out, helpfully. Lydia smiled then, sweetly, and Stiles realized why he thought she was asking something else. She was about to tear into his relationship with Derek.

“So who helped out?” Lydia smiled, her eyes bright and a tilt to her head. She knew Stiles couldn’t lie to her.

“D—Hale asked me if I wanted help, and well, he’s good so I said yeah.” Stiles shrugged.

“How was it?” Ally joined in to Lydia’s examination. Stiles groaned inwardly, knowing there was no way to escape it.

“Fine. His aunt made a bet that I wouldn’t be able to get a shot past him and since I did, she has to make homemade ice cream.”

“You’ve met his family?” One of Lydia’s eyebrows slid up.

“Yeah, they’re really nice.” Stiles kept it as short as possible, fearing they would read too much into it.

“Are you going to get him to help you again?” Allison asked.

Stiles shifted, unsure on why it was important, but he felt like it was. “I’m supposed to go over on Thursday. He invited a friend over to help out as well.”

“He has other friends?” Lydia monotoned, and Stiles couldn’t hold back the sharp breath of laughter.

“Apparently he boxes with him. But I haven’t heard of any other friends, outside of his family.”

“At least he’s friends with his family.” Allison made a face. Stiles shot a sympathetic look at her, thinking about her aunt.

“And?” Lydia pressed into their moment. Stiles stared at her blankly, attempting not to feel like an idiot for not catching on to what she was asking. “Are you going to make a move?”

Stiles’ mouth slid open, pulling in air like a fish. He knew Lydia to be straightforward, it was on thing he adored about her, but he wasn’t expecting the question. “No, what? What?”

Allison rolled her eyes, leaning over to him. “It’s easy to see he likes you, Stiles.”

“He doesn’t.” Stiles pushed it down, because look at him and then look at Derek. “He’s just got this weird possession, and need to make sure I’m okay.”

“Because he likes you!”

“No, I mean look at him, then look at me. I’m probably not even attractive to gay guys.” Stiles said stubbornly.

“You could always ask Danny,” Allison smiled slyly.

“Trust me, I know I’m not that attractive. Hale is… he’s on a whole other level and you know it.”

“Sweetie,” Lydia never used that word on him. Lydia never used it on anyone. He found himself freezing, looking into her face. She had no sympathy there, but her voice dripped in it. “He does, mainly because you actually look a lot better than you give yourself credit for. And you make him talk a lot more – I’ve seen you guys and he actually smiles around you. So you need to stop thinking that way and you just need to wake up.”

For a few minutes, Stiles couldn’t say anything. And when he could, he managed a very pathetic, “You need to wake up.”
--
Stiles caught up to Danny as he was leaving the school. He had Jackson drive him often, or one of the guys he’d be with that he had met at a club. Today, it was Jackson and Stiles figured he could wait for a minute. “Yo! Danny!”

Stiles didn’t fall down the stairs, in his attempt to get to Danny. He waited at the bottom for Stiles with a curious look in his eyes and a smile on his face. “Hey, Stiles, what’s up?”

“I have a question.”

“Okay.” Danny watched him carefully. Stiles couldn’t blame him; he had asked some pretty weird shit over the years.

“Am I attractive to gay guys?” Stiles pushed out the question, eyes wide and honest.

Danny paused, staring at him before looking off at the tree line. He opened and closed his mouth, several times, and squinted. He looked like he was stuck on a difficult problem. Stiles couldn’t help how his mouth hung open, his torso leaning forward. Danny looked at him again, tilting his head.

“Is this about Derek?” He finally asked.

“Well,” Stiles floundered. “It’s not not about him.”

“I guess it’s about him, then, isn’t it?” Danny smiled, marveling how clever he was for stepping around Stiles’ previous ponderings. He then turned to go over to the Porsche, where Jackson was waiting.

“That wasn’t my question!” Stiles called out. “I want to know if I’m attractive to gay guys, Danny.” He got a few head turns from it, those hurrying away from the building in an attempt to salvage the remaining hours of day. However, Stiles was left standing there, wondering how his day got so focused on his crush. He knew if he let it continue like this, his ability to function around Derek would have dwindled to the same level of his ability to talk to Lydia in ninth grade.
--
Thursday it was hot. Like, middle of June, in the noon, hot. Stiles didn’t bother with the air conditioning in his Jeep when he came over to Derek’s, and instead rolled down all his windows. The air heated his sweat, drying it on his forehead and down his neck. This time, when he expected Derek to come bounding out of the woods, try and catch him by surprise, he didn’t. Stiles cautiously made his way up to the house, muttering “Olly olly oxen free.” The baby was sweaty in his palms, as he clutched at it.

The door swung open before he could knock on it, Cora standing there in a sports bra and a pair of shorts. “Oh, god, get in here.” She pulled him by the arm into the house. The cool air hit him the second he stumbled over the barrier; Cora slammed the door before he was barely in. “It’s too hot for us to idle near the door.”

“Am I still training, or…?” Stiles hoped that the answer was no, but he didn’t think so. He had seen a different car out there, a beat up small car. He would put money on it that that was Derek’s friend.

“I’m guessing so, but I would ask Derek.”

“Where is he?” They hadn’t moved from the door, but the cool wood on Stiles’ back was like a different world than the desert outside.

“Upstairs, in his room. Can I walk up there with you? I don’t want to go back to help Aunt Camilla with the ice cream – I win the bet and I still have to help.” She sighed. “Perks of being a kid, right?” Cora smiled at him. He could feel a sense of déjà vu – remembering how he talked to her in his Jeep.

“Sure, I can’t imagine how much time it takes to make homemade ice cream for, like, twenty people.”

“It’s even worse when the person you’re doing it with is lecturing you on what you’re wearing and how you eat and what you say.” She grimaced. “I swear, she’s lucky she lives in such a healthy home or else she would have already had a heart attack.”

“Darvon is so laid back,” Stiles noted. They began to walk through the hallway, and Stiles didn’t know how they were going to detour the kitchen – he doubted they could – but he knew Cora was going to do her damnedest.

“Yeah, Aunt Ritsa used to joke that he was the yang to her yin. They work really well together, despite what people would think.” Cora had reached the kitchen door, sighing as she paused. “If she asks, you can’t remember where Derek’s room is. Okay?”

“Alright.” Stiles agreed. He didn’t mind it too much, knowing that Camilla could handle it. And considering how much she was home, Stiles doubted that she did double shifts like Scott’s mom did.

They pushed open the door, and Stiles expected it to be like the first time he came in – with things everywhere and the room a complete mess. But it wasn’t, with everything nicely placed on the table and Camilla sitting by it. “Hey, Stiles,” Her hair was pulled up perfect, like always.

“Hey, how’s things going?” He smiled awkwardly, wanting to get upstairs, but wanting to be polite.

“It’s going. It should be done by the time you guys finish practicing. You brought Poohkey – do you want to leave her with us while you play?” She gestured to the baby, where he held it against his chest. “You don’t want to ruin your project; that would just be careless.”

The laugh slipped from his lips, before he could lock his jaw. “There you are. For a second, I thought that you were replaced with someone who could go a minute without a worry.” Cora laughed next to him, and he ducked his head, astonished. He could be hateful, disrespectful to an adult. But those adults typically deserved it.

She blew air out. “I haven’t heard that for a good few years. Ritsa used to say that to me all the time, I must have heard it a thousand times at my wedding.”

“You worried at your wedding?” Stiles’ head shot up.

“No,” Camilla protested at the same time Cora said yes. A guilty look flashed across Camilla’s face. “Okay, so maybe I worried a little. But it was just because the dress wasn’t wearing right and the dance floor didn’t look stable. Darvon calmed me down, though.” A smile flashed across her face, all dreamy. Stiles couldn’t help but think of Allison when it happened.

“I can see that.” Stiles replied softly. He didn’t want to ruin her moment.

She seemed to be snapped out of it though, glancing around as if she hadn’t known where she was. “Oh, honey, just leave Poohkey right here with Cora and me. Derek is upstairs, or he should be.”

“Aunt—Aunt Camilla, Stiles said he couldn’t remember where Derek’s room was so I was going to show him.” Cora stuttered out her words, uncomfortable and hesitant. Stiles could hear the underlying hope in her voice, because if she got upstairs she’d probably go running into her room for as long as she could.

“Okay, but bring Poohkey back.” She waved them through. Cora couldn’t help but dart to the next door, throwing a look back at Stiles. She seemed irritated that he wasn’t walking as fast as he could.

He followed her, looking back at Camilla. She was picking up some container off the table. She was up the stairs before he was out the door. “Come on, Stiles. Gosh – you’re so slow sometimes.”

“Gee, thanks, Cora.” Stiles muttered. He did increase his pace, however.

“Just hand me the doll,” She thrust her hand out as he got closer, sighing as if he was insufferable. He was beginning to see how she was Derek’s sister.

He shrunk back from her, on the first step with a coy smile. “I don’t know. I don’t like Poohkey to be around such angry people.”

“Then why do you let Derek be around her?” Cora smiled. Stiles knew she wasn’t an angry person, but he would be frustrated as well if he had someone constantly on her like Camilla was.

“Derek is her mother,” Stiles fake-gasped.

Her face split open, half jaw-drop, half smile. “I am so telling him you said that.” She shot up the stairs before Stiles could get a word out.

“I don’t care! TELL HIM!” He hollered back up at her, chasing after still. The pounding of his feet up the stairs must have woken Poohkey, because she started crying when he got up to the top. “Oh, shush, baby, I’m sorry.” Stiles stopped to cradle her. The baby had gotten so much better than the first week, and it only took him a moment for her to stop.

Cora stood a few doors down, that Stiles instinctually knew was Derek’s. He resigned himself to her waiting on him and wandered down – slowly. She threw open the door a few steps away. “Stiles is here!” She announced.

“Yeah, I’m here.” He walked in. Derek stood next to his window, the curtain actually opened. A lean boy sprawled in his computer chair, curly hair head tilted arrogantly. But his face didn’t look like he was arrogant – instead, his face was slack as he kept his gaze on Cora. He didn’t seem to notice that Stiles was there, and Stiles was guessing it was Derek’s friend.

Who obviously had a massive crush on Cora, if his staring was any fucking indication.

“And I’ll take Poohkey, now.” She turned to him. Derek was looking at both of them, an open look on his face. “By the way, Derek, apparently you’re her mother.”

A couple of looks passed across the set of boys’ faces. The lean boy began to laugh, ducking his head to glance up from his lashes at Cora; it seemed like he couldn’t take his gaze from her. Derek settled on a scowl.

“Very funny, but he’s delusional. It’s probably the heat.” Derek waved his hand, turning to look back out the window. Cora snorted, before turning around.

“I’m going to go back downstairs, to get scolded.” She sighed dramatically.

“You need it.” Derek tossed to her. This made Stiles laugh, even if the boy’s face got a slightly obnoxious and upset look to it. Just based off his features, Stiles wasn’t sure he was going to like him much.

The door closed before anyone else spoke and then there was quiet. It didn’t seem to bother Derek too much, or maybe he just knew Stiles too well and was waiting for the moment he cracked and started talking. Which wasn’t long.

“So, I’m Stiles.” He directed his line of conversation at the boy sitting in the chair, mainly because he didn’t want to exclude him. And maybe he would be more receptive to Stiles talking.

“Isaac.” He offered up, with a half-smile.

“Are you Derek’s boxing friend?” Wow, blunt much?

He didn’t seem to mind much, just leaned forward. “Derek’s talked about me as well?” His smile filled out easily enough, glancing back at Derek. He didn’t bother to turn around, but Stiles could almost guess that he was tense. And also, Stiles’ brain couldn’t help but note: As well?

“A little,” Stiles admitted.

“And you’re the guy he’s helping with lacrosse?” Isaac asked, but it was more a playful tone. Stiles knew he was just messing with him, that he knew.

“Derek’s talked about me?” Stiles let out a laugh at how high his voice sounded, in an attempt to sound like a wooed lady. The ongoing joke worked because Derek turned around to glare at both of them.

“Oh, yes, a little,” Isaac responded before Derek smacked him up the head.

“Okay, now that you two know each other, let’s talk about practice.” His eyebrows dared either of them to say no, as Isaac curled a little into himself from the hit. It wasn’t like he was scared of Derek, but more like Derek was his superior – which was a strange thing to watch.

“Okay,” Stiles supplied, when it became obvious that Isaac wasn’t going to say anything.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t be averse to playing as Isaac is an opposing team.”

“No, I was obviously wanting to go against you.” Stiles said sarcastically. And hoped to god that Derek realized he was being sarcastic because going up against him was so far off the list that it wasn’t even on there.

“I’m goalie.” He flashed a grin.

“Are we getting the goal out?” Isaac rejoined the conversation excitedly.

Derek seemed to consider it for a moment. “Sure, but you have to help me.” Isaac nodded, eager to be of help. The way they acted around each other was strange, almost like younger and older brother.

“How did you two meet?” Stiles found it slipping out of his mouth before he could stop it. He didn’t want it to come out as accusatory, mostly because it wasn’t.

Isaac blinked for a second, as if confused by his question. He looked up at Derek for a moment, as if asking if it was alright, before responding. “We met when we were a lot younger. I just got out of my house – my dad got pretty angry and violent after my mom died – so I was in and out of foster care homes. I took up fighting and this deputy – Parrish, I think his name is – caught me a few times. The last time he caught me, though, I thought I was going to get locked up but Derek’s uncle was there with him and long story short: he convinced Parrish to let him take me home to hang out with the family. Derek and me have boxed pretty much since then.”

Stiles blinked, wide. He wasn’t expecting the honesty on that level. “Oh, wow.” Rarely, very rarely, was Stiles this much at a loss of words.

Isaac laughed, as if he was used to the reaction. “It’s good – especially since I’m usually close enough in my home to come over. But I’m good at being fast.”

“So I’m screwed at trying to beat him?” Stiles looked back and forth for confirmation. Derek let a predatory smile slide over his face.
--
The heat was too overwhelming after the third run. Stiles’ entire body felt doused in it, but it didn’t deter Isaac. Fortunately, Isaac seemed content to circle Stiles’ stumbling form, allowing him to get close to throwing distance, before pouncing in and swiping the ball away from him. It was exhausting, and terrible, and why did Stiles let Derek talk him into this?

That’s when Stiles got a nosebleed. And Derek flipped his shit.

Stiles was used to having them – when he was younger he would get them all the time. That didn’t stop Derek from parking him on the grass and hovering worriedly as Stiles bleed out. The blood was coming hot and fast and dripping onto his front. Derek took off his shirt – which Stiles would appreciate the moment he was able to stop tilting his head up – and shoved it under Stiles’ nose.

It wasn’t as wet as Stiles’ shirt, but there was still sweat on it. Stiles tried to bunch up the dry part to his nose, thankful he couldn’t smell at that moment. “You keep that there until I get back.” He commanded.

“But it’s sweaty,” Stiles noted, knowing he had more to his argument but not seeming to be able to find his train of thought. He also hated talking during a nosebleed, because the inside of his mouth would start to taste musky and the blood seemed to coat the back of his throat, suffocating him. It was the worst part of a nosebleed.

Derek ran off, not that Stiles saw but rather heard. He could really only see the tops of the trees and the arid sky of a dying summer. He could feel Isaac settle beside him, and didn’t need to know that Derek probably gave him a look like, ‘Watch him while I’m inside.’

“This sucks.” Stiles said thickly. He didn’t want to talk, but he couldn’t stand the aggravating silence.

“Derek will be back in a minute with a rag, I think.” Isaac responded quietly. “Are you okay? You’re not hurt right? Derek would have my head if he thought I hurt you.”

Stiles could hear the undercurrent of nervousness, and worry. “Why?”

Isaac laughed, just a little breath sound but it was there. Stiles could imagine the half-smile on his face again when he did it, tilting his head to look at him. “Because he’s like, super protective of you. He wouldn’t even let me be around you for a bit – not ‘cause he thinks you’re breakable! I think he just cares about you a lot and is scared of you getting hurt because of him.”

Stiles huffed, the blood still coming but weakly. He had ruined Derek’s shirt. “I don’t know why he goes so overboard with it.” Because Isaac was also close to him, and Derek didn’t freak out when Stiles’ accidentally wacked him in the face with his lacrosse stick. Actually Derek couldn’t stop laughing.

“He can get like this sometimes. I think it’s cause of his brother.”

“Nick?” From the little that Stiles had seen of Nick, he seemed strong and sure. A lot like Derek, actually.

“No, Jack.” It wasn’t like Stiles had forgotten about Derek’s deceased brother – no, he couldn’t. He knew what it was like to lose a family member.

“Oh,” Stiles said simply. He didn’t know what else to say – he wasn’t going to ask what happened because it wasn’t Isaac’s place to tell him. Stiles didn’t have to sit very long, the blood crusting on his face as he heard the steady sound of feet.

“Are you okay?” Derek removed the shirt from Stiles’ grasp, weak as it was. He was pretty tired right about then.

“Yeah, just a nosebleed.” His mouth tasted disgusting, but at least the blood had stopped. He closed his eyes, knowing that Derek was going to need to examine him. He felt a cool rag touch his cheek. The cloth was slightly rough, but the touch behind it was gentle. Stiles was grateful for the help, mostly too lethargic to do anything or tell him to stop.

“Aunt Camilla is going to flip when she sees all this blood.”

“Then don’t go in.” Stiles shrugged, a smile pulling at his lips. Derek had finished scrubbing away the blood and the cloth just idly dragged across his cheek.

Isaac spoke up then, and it somewhat startled Stiles – he had forgotten that he was there. “If we stay outside, you might start up again. I think the heat got to you.” Stiles just shrugged again, and accepted Derek’s help up. He liked to sleep when he got nosebleeds.

Stiles could walk pretty well on his own, actually, but he let himself lean on Derek. Derek had his hand fastened onto Stiles’ waist and when Stiles molded himself to him – wow, he was still shirtless.

Hello.

He kept his eyes opened, and was somehow still surprised when they hit the cool air of the back door. It didn’t surprise Stiles though when Camilla set her sights on him. “What happened?” She shrieked, flying over from the kitchen table. Cora’s hands paused on from grabbing a new ingredient, staring at them.

“He had a nosebleed.” Derek explained. “I think it was because of the heat and the exercise.”

“He looks white as a sheet.” Her mouth turned down, and every wrinkle around her lips showed up. Her hands fluttered around his shirt and face, attempting to see how she could help.

“He already looked white as a sheet.” Isaac said conversationally.

“Thanks,” Stiles muttered. “It’s worse than it looks.” He defended himself to Camilla.

“Are you sure, honey?” Stiles nodded, not wanting to say anything else. “Okay,” she sighed. “Well, Talia is going to be getting in soon and Ritsa will be here as well with the kids.”

A thought crossed through Stiles’ head. “Why is Cora here? I thought middle school lets out later.”

“Oh, we do, but my last class should have been gym. Mom talked them into letting me do online so now I come home early when Mom comes to pick me up during her lunch break.” Cora smiled, a little rueful. It didn’t seem to disturb her very much that Stiles had blood all down his front.

“Ah,” Stiles nodded.

“You need to get changed out of that shirt at least, before Talia gets home. Or the kids – they do not need to see all that blood.” Camilla waved them back towards the way they came. Stiles didn’t even know why they had wandered in here when they could have shot upstairs and avoided it. “Heaven knows that Nick and Colton see enough of blood and gore on their video games.”

“Video games are fun.” Stiles protested weakly. Derek was already turning him, Stiles’ feet tripping to follow his lead.

“He’ll be cleaned up before everyone gets here. When is Uncle Darvon and Dad getting in?” Derek paused, his naked torso twisting towards Stiles as he waited for Camilla’s reply.

She was moving back to the table but responded as if it was the only thing on her mind. “Darvon called to check in a while ago. They’ve got two more cars and then they’ll be headed out. Which means you aren’t allowed to eat all the ice cream, Isaac.” She threw out playfully.

It was almost like he was family, and judging by his mock-scowl, he felt like he was. Stiles couldn’t relate on having to leave his dad behind, but he suddenly felt extremely grateful for him. The trio of boys left the kitchen, and this time Stiles actually said he could walk on his own up the stairs but he missed Derek’s warmth.

He was going to be walking out with another one of Derek’s shirts on tonight. Stiles had resigned himself to the fact with the black fabric ghosting over his skin as Camilla called them down. Colton and Nick were running to go to the basement as they passed them, Nick’s obligatory “Watch it!” the only thing Stiles could really catch from them.

“You watch it!” Derek whipped around so fast, not wanting to lose at their game, to see the basement door swing close.

“How long has that been going on?” Stiles couldn’t help but ask.

“Forever.” Isaac responded, waiting until Derek moved to continue walking. “I’m pretty sure that Nick just came out of the womb saying ‘watch it’ and wouldn’t shut up until someone responded. Now Derek’s cursed to forever respond to it.”

Stiles looked over at Derek for confirmation on the ridiculous story – but he gave neither yay nor nay on whether or not it was true. The kitchen, while somewhat messy on the table before, was a complete disaster now. Camilla still set at the table, looking tired but pleased. Ritsa was at the counter, along with Haleigh, Aiden and Ethan. The kids were scouring the cupboards for food and Ritsa just watched. Stiles had a brief flash of getting home from elementary school and starving, but his mother telling him he could only have a little food or he’d ruin his dinner. That didn’t seem to be the case here.

“Isaac!” Haleigh was the first one to notice him, and squealed in delight. He laughed, stooping to hug her as she flew over to him.

“Hey, Isaac.” Aiden waved from where he was examining a packet of crackers. They seemed to pass his inspection because he quickly tore into them.

“Hey Thing One and Thing Two,” Isaac joked. Ethan looked over, exasperated like that was a regular occurrence with him.

Ritsa did as Haleigh did and move over to where they blocked the second door. But she didn’t first lean in for a hug from Isaac, rather taking one from Stiles. She pressed close, soft but strong muscle underneath. “Hi, Stiles, it’s nice to see you again.”

Stiles smiled. “I’m always glad to come over.” He really meant it when he said it too, and it must have been obvious because she seemed overtly pleased. Isaac looked a little glum, like the kid that ate the cookie. It’s only when she didn’t make a move to hug him as well that Stiles realized – Isaac wasn’t used to not being the favorite in the Hale house; though it seemed like everyone was a favorite in the Hale house for someone.

Besides Laura, but she might be her own favorite.

“How was practice, boys?” Ritsa took a step back to examine them, but it was different than how Camilla did it. Camilla looked for injuries; Ritsa looked for improvement.

“It was fine, Mrs. Ritsa,” Isaac responded. “Though Stiles is probably still going to be benched this season too.”

“Hey, I already knew that, but no need to hurt my pride.” Stiles whined.

“He could do goalie shots if he worked really, really hard.” Derek spoke in monotone, as if it made his joke funnier. Stiles pushed against him, mostly with his shoulder because he was very aware he had no upper body strength in his arms.

It just caused everyone to laugh, except for Haleigh, who may have been too young or too focused on finding her food. “Where’s Mom?” Derek changed subject direction before Stiles could get too bent-out-of-shape about anything.

“She went to pick up Grace and Aubree from the daycare, so she’ll be here in a minute.” Derek appeared pleased with the answer, nodding to himself as he went over to the fridge and pulled out three Gatorades. Stiles wondered how he got over the chemicals in that if he couldn’t stand the chemicals in soda.

They waited on the remaining people – besides Darvon and Arthur, who weren’t going to be there until Stiles was gone – at the table. The silence was filled mostly by the kids talking about their day, and Ethan and Haleigh fighting over whose turn it was to hold Poohkey. Stiles kept the conversation going by asking questions when one of the kids got stuck. The older Hales also asked questions, Ritsa being the most vocal, but they seemed to take after Derek in the aspect of not feeling the need to talk if there was quiet.

But Stiles wasn’t like that. And as he continued to talk to the kids, he learned things about them he wasn’t expecting. Like how Haleigh wanted to become a scientist, and work with germs all day. She was apparently applying for a middle school program a town away when she turned nine and all fingers crossed for her getting it.

Aiden enjoyed the idea of being a still life for people to draw, and frequently enjoyed going to the studio in downtown to be a child model. He lit up when he talked about it, no longer the bossy and rude twin but the twin full of passion. Stiles enjoyed talking to him because he smiled a lot and enjoyed questions. He also wanted to learn to play an instrument, but he didn’t like guitar and drums were too loud for Ritsa – this which she vehemently explained that it would keep everyone up, not just her.

And Ethan, well, apparently he wanted to own a motorcycle. Stiles laughed at this, thinking on Scott who was wanting one too. He talked some about Scott to him, and Ethan really wanted to meet him. Stiles promised to bring him over one day if Talia was okay with it. Who came in a little later, and they ate ice cream and it was good. Everything was good, and Stiles could relax because here was wonderful. It wasn’t hard to wonder why Isaac felt at home.

Chapter Text

Friday was a lazy afternoon of Derek piling into the back of the Jeep with Stiles and the Sheriff, who was driving them. It was an uncharacteristic day for Stiles, who just listened as his dad discussed things with Derek. They talked about cars and college and who they thought would do well during football season. And Stiles just set with Poohkey in his lap to be left alone with his thoughts.

Which was a horrendous idea, for anyone who knew Stiles. He could think up world domination if he just sat still enough for long enough. But that wasn’t what preoccupied him at the moment. It was as if he couldn’t help but focus on Derek. The way he leaned forward to speak to his dad, the way his hands were still but his face was expressive. Everything. And how totally fucked Stiles was about it. There was something he was sure of though, and that was that Derek was also on some degree attracted to Stiles. Whether it was the ‘we’re both gay’ thing or something more, Stiles had to find out.

What was a more perfect time when he would be trapped with all of Stiles’ family?

“It’s only a few towns away, but every time we go we want to have plenty of time to get settled in.” His dad explained to Derek. Stiles wasn’t sure why he honed in on this particular part of the conversation, but it was as good as any place to jump in.

“Because they get up way too early to do way too much work.” Stiles complained.

“And yet, you enjoy going every year.”

Derek huffed a little at that, seemingly amused at the Sheriff’s rebuttal. “Because Lane needs me, and if I didn’t go, she would get harvest fever and kill her family.”

“I don’t think harvest fever is real.” Derek noted.

“How would you know? Do you farm?” Stiles shot back.

Derek’s face stretched with his grin. “No, but I’m guessing it isn’t real. You might be getting it confused with hay fever.”

Stiles’ dad watched the interaction in the mirror, waiting for Stiles’ counterattack and probably wondering if he should do damage control before the damage was done. “You might have hay fever for doubting me, dude. I can still throw you out this Jeep.”

“Stiles!” The car jerked a bit, with the force of Stiles’ dad’s yell.

“What?”

“It’s okay, Mr. Stilinski. We know Stiles couldn’t actually throw me from the Jeep.” Derek glanced over at Stiles, widening his eyes for Stiles to try and prove him wrong.

“Whatever,” Stiles crossed his arms glumly. He wasn’t being a pouty child.

“Do you like spaghetti, Derek?” The Sheriff had seen enough to know that there was now no talking to Stiles. “It’s a tradition for us to eat it the first night there.”

“I’ll eat pretty much whatever. I’m not picky.” Derek put on his award-winning smile, and Stiles couldn’t help the eye roll he threw his way. Stop being such the fucking charmer.

They were coming near the farm, and Stiles slouched to stare out at the passing cherry trees. Derek continued to talk to his father, fading back again to an easy hum. The trees were a blur to lock in on as Stiles went back to his previous train of thought. He wasn’t sure how to do it, really. Sure, he had asked Allison how to get him help landing Lydia for freshman homecoming, but it was different than this. Stiles knew that Lydia was going to get back with Jackson, and it was a long shot.

With Derek, here in his car, coming with him to visit his family, it didn’t seem like such the long shot. He didn’t want to go to Scott for help, one because he was terrible at flirting and two Stiles was going to avoid that for as long as he could.

The sun was sinking to the horizon as they found their way up Uncle Charles’ long driveway. Lane came bouncing out of the house, full of curls and a light tan thanks to her mother, Aunt Josephine. She was followed out by the woman in question, dark skin and full frame. She was of sturdy build, quiet voice, and submissive nature and it was all evident as she ducked her head to greet them.

“So you must be Derek?” Lane was much more vocal, unlike her parents. Stiles would like to think it was because she was used to having to fill up the silence.

“Yes?” Derek looked at Stiles, as if to reaffirm that he was actually who she said he was.

“Dad said Stiles was going to bring a friend.” She explained easily. She looked away from him to grin at Stiles, and lean in for a hug. Stiles was never one to turn down a hug, so he grabbed her right back. “Stiles, who still is a pile of limbs and pale skin.”

“Hey, I got taller.” Stiles defended himself. “And you, still a mess of curls and long legs.”

“Tall doesn’t help you.” The Sheriff stepped around her, going over to Stiles’ aunt Josephine and hugging her. They started to pull items out of the Jeep, as the teenagers stood idly, talking amongst each other.

“Doesn’t help you either.” Stiles shot back. Derek snorted, breaking up their small rant.

“I can see how you’re related.” He gestured between both of them.

Lane grinned back, ready to tease. Honestly, Stiles saw her more as he saw Cora. “What do you mean? He’s awkward and fumbles around a lot. Plus, his hair is terrible.”

“I’m growing it out!” Stiles protested. It had begun to thicken at the top, enough for Stiles to sink his fingers in and pull.

“It still makes you look like a Chia plant,” She flipped her long hair back, the curls tangled into a mess of ringlets and waves.

Derek shook his head, throwing out a hand. “I meant that you two bicker like Stiles bickers at me.”

“I do not bicker at you.” Stiles protested. He may have argued, often, but never bickered.

“Sure you don’t.” Derek mimed, keeping a facial expression of a smooth forehead and a light smile. It was Darvon’s resting face, down to the hair.

“Boys, come help us.” Stiles’ dad had seemed to move everything out to the gravel, really only being a few bags and blankets. They eagerly moved over, Stiles continuing to try and convince Derek that he didn’t bicker at him. Lane butted in multiple times, with a twinkle in her chestnut eyes, to say that Stiles was bickering at him right then.

Stiles’ relative’s house wasn’t the manor of the Hales, but it was a nice home. Big enough for a family of three, and a few visitors ever so often. What Stiles had forgotten was that they only had two extra bedrooms. So when Aunt Josephine stopped at the bigger one, Stiles figured that his dad was going to shuffle around them to put his stuff down. But he didn’t.

Instead, Aunt Josephine looked at Stiles and Derek, her curly hair tucked behind her ears, and told them it was theirs.

“What?” Stiles couldn’t help but splutter out the question. “But this was supposed to – I thought my dad was – what?”

“It makes sense because there’s only a twin in the other room. You and Derek can stay in here. It’s only for two nights, I’ll be okay, son.” His dad did move past them then, with a pat on Stiles’ back. It had all the connotations of encouragement but it felt like the prison cell slamming shut because if Stiles’ little plan didn’t work and Derek didn’t actually like him. Well.

Lane left them alone to get their stuff situated, this room being a mini-master’s bedroom so they had an adjacent bathroom to put their stuff in. Lane had to go get Uncle Charles from his work, and Stiles was almost sure that Aunt Josephine was already downstairs hovering over a pot of spaghetti.

“I can sleep on the couch, if it bothers you.” Derek was putting his toiletries in the bathroom when he said it, a slight echo from the tiled area coming into the bedroom.

Stiles shook his head, even though he knew Derek probably couldn’t see it. “No, it’s okay, you’re the guest.”

“Alright, well the bed’s big enough for both of us.” He said it firmly, as if he knew that Stiles would continue on to propose that he would sleep on the couch. “I don’t shift around too much.”

“Scott never said I moved around. So I guess I don’t, for once.” Stiles shrugged, throwing his blankets on the bed. He didn’t need many to sleep with, but he like to have a good many to help him fall asleep.

Derek came into the bed room, watching as Stiles threw his blankets across the entirety of the bed, never complaining. He put an extra pillow on the bed near the middle. It wasn’t like it was needed, considering that the bed already had six but Stiles understood that he wanted a piece of home on it.

They weren’t going to take their clothes out, because they only had packed two outfits and that would be ridiculous. Soon after Stiles claimed the right side, he heard the door open, the familiar creak of a screen door too old from the back and the slamming rattle of it falling back to its frame. They went down the hall to see Uncle Charles.

He wasn’t so much a statue as a silent soul. Stiles suspected that Derek and him would get along wonderfully, with the way they spoke with one singular facial feature – it was just Uncle Charles used inflections on his mouth to describe his feelings. When they rounded into the warm kitchen, he sat at the table with an expectant purse of the lips. Stiles could catch glimpses of his mother inside of her brother at times, the way he would touch Aunt Josephine’s face or the way his eyes, the same color as Stiles and his mother, would light up with pride when Lane talked about her latest accomplishment.

“Hey, Uncle Charles.” Stiles paused just within the doorframe. He wasn’t afraid of his uncle, but a year too many of lifting loads of cherries and transporting them under the fading summer sun had caused his very being to become calloused. And he was an old man, with values such as respect. “This is my friend, uhm.” Stiles gestured to Derek, merely inches behind him. He may have looked like he had forgotten Derek’s name, but it still twisted inside his mouth and got stuck.

Derek seemed to understand what to do, because he took a few steps forward and around the table to present himself to Stiles’ uncle. “Derek,” He stuck out a hand, the picture of respect and strength.

Uncle Charles’ mouth smoothed out, the familiar lines of age etched around it. He lifted up his hand, “Charles.” His voice was a rough one, which Stiles’ suspected was from underuse but his dad assured him that it was always like that. They shook hands and Derek took a step back afterwards.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Derek must have been reading from a script, how easily the words flowed from his lips.

Uncle Charles nodded, satisfied. “I’m glad you came to help us this weekend. This time can get really hectic.”

Derek nodded, his eyebrows slightly raised. “I’ll help the best I can, but I’ve never farmed before.”

“’S not hard.” Uncle Charles shook his head. “I’ll probably get you to help me lift and take the loads to the truck. I typically have to do it by myself, though Stiles’ dad helps as much as he can get away with without Stiles getting upset. Stiles can’t do it – he ain’t got the muscles for it.”

“Hey!” Stiles finally felt the initiative to move into the room, rounding himself to where Derek and Uncle Charles were.

“It’s true, and you know it.” Lane came into the room behind him suddenly, jump scaring Stiles. She seemed slightly too pleased in her work. “Your dad is on the phone right now, but he said to go ahead and make plates.”

Aunt Josephine nodded absently, moving to make the food. “Do you want help?” Derek asked uncertainly.

“No, I’ve got it. Just sit, you’re our guest.” Her voice was warm, if quiet. It carried over to Stiles like the aroma of the spaghetti, it’s there but only so much so. Derek hesitated for another moment before sitting, looking at the table. He probably wasn’t used to the quiet, or the fact that there wasn’t so many to do for that he didn’t have to do.

Stiles joined him, taking the other seat. His dad would sit at the other head, and Aunt Josephine and Lane would sit on the other side. It was a normal placement, except for Derek was sitting in Stiles’ seat and Stiles was sitting in the seat that was always empty. And had been for years.

Lane came over, knowing her mother didn’t need help, but she brought the silverware and placed it around the table. It was easy chit-chat, mostly about how she was liking her first year of high school, Stiles’ dad’s work, Derek’s plan to start early on nursing. It was easy to eat the warm food and let himself sink into comfortable. Stiles didn’t have to help with the dishes, knowing that Aunt Josephine preferred to do them alone or with Lane’s help. As Derek ran up to take a shower, Stiles seized the moment to step out to the back to make a call.

The cherry trees swayed in the easy breeze, rows for as far as Stiles could see. When he was younger, he’d pretend it was an enchanted forest and that he would have to hide from the wolves behind the leaves and would only come out from his safety for the song that his mother’s call would be. He wrapped an arm around his torso as the phone rang, unsure if she’d even pick up.

“Hello?” Lydia’s voice cut through the static, surprised and annoyed.

“Lydia, hey, I wasn’t sure you were going to pick up.” Stiles threw out his arm from him, pacing a few feet with a smile on his face.

“Well, I did.” Lydia paused. “Why did you call me, Stiles?”

“I may…need some help.” Stiles knew she’d be the best to ask, and for it not to get back to Scott yet. He’d have to tell him – if this went anywhere. Ally couldn’t be trusted with the information yet, and Lydia could have any guy with a click of her heels.

Hopefully she was just as good with gay guys.

“With Derek? And your obvious oblivion to each of you liking each other?” She sounded bored, as if this was nothing new to her. Hell, very little ever was.

Stiles huffed out a breath. “Well, yes. But no – no, I need help finding out if he likes me, or a way to get him to see I’m interested. I mean, I just.”

“You want me to tell you how to get him?” Her voice was a little surprised, and Stiles couldn’t help but think of Loki. You must be truly desperate to come to me for help.

And yeah, Stiles was. “Yes, you do it well. I know I don’t have a nice body or a perfect face but could you try to help me?”

“While those compliments were underhandedly nice, you shouldn’t put yourself down like that. It’s not attractive.” Lydia took on the tone of a lecturer, ready to expel information. “When do you see him again?”

Stiles bit his lip. “I see him today. Tomorrow. We’re kind of over at my relative’s house.”

“He came with you to see family?”

“Yeah, but it’s because we have to take care of Poohkey, and I was going to be here all weekend.”

“So you’re staying with your relatives?” Lydia’s questions started to feel like rapid-fire, and Stiles struggled not to get whiplash.

“Yes. We’re staying the weekend because it’s a tradition.” Stiles started to answer the same way he would answer an adult. Direct and quick.

“How far away is Derek’s room from you?”

Stiles’ entire face colored, knowing what she was implying. She wasn’t going to let it go until he answered her, and he was a shit liar that she could always see through. “He’s sharing a room with me.” His mouth felt dry.

“Then easy, wear nothing to bed. See how that goes.”

Stiles tried to say her name, but with the astonishment being coupled with choking on inhaled spit it just came out as a warbled shriek. She sighed, seeming to realize what he was saying. “Okay, fine but that’s the easiest way. Is there any way to try and get him jealous?”

“What do you mean?” Derek had no reason to be jealous of anyone, for Christ’s sake.

“Like, anyone you can flirt with? Do you have someone that you could pretend to be into to see if it bothers him? Guys like him typically are possessive of people they like.”

“Guys like him?” As opposed to what, guys like Stiles?

“Alpha-males.” Lydia said, as if it was a fundamental that Stiles shouldn’t have missed. Excuse him, he had never done this before. “They have this crazy urge to protect, and to work and to claim. If you could get in a place where someone would threaten his claim to you, by flirting, it’ll probably force him to tell you if he likes you.”

“But I’m at my cousin’s house?” Stiles responded blankly.

“And your cousin?” Stiles wasn’t sure what she was asking, but he just told her a little about Lane.

“She’s about a year younger than me, very funny and open.”

“So she’s in high school?” Stiles still wasn’t following.

“Yes…?” He didn’t think she was asking him to try and flirt with her, because that was just wrong but.

Lydia sighed, as if Stiles just told her what he was thinking. “Which means she probably knows where the parties in her area are. It’s Friday, there should be at least one trash party out there. Ask her, invite her to it, and then go.”

“Go to a party?” That was Lydia’s big plan.

“And don’t come home until you have Derek wrapped around your finger or knowing you won’t. I don’t want you to have to go through another several years chasing after someone.” She sounded miffed, but Stiles would bet she was flattered. She had told him once, when she was sick and on drugs and he came to visit. She told him that it flattered her, right before she passed out on him.

Stiles smiled softly. “No, that’s only for you, Lydia.”

“Bye, Stiles.” Her voice was silvery.
--
Of course Stiles waited until the adults went to sleep. When Derek had come out in a black tee and tattered pajama pants, Stiles told him to change into the nice outfit he was going to wear home Sunday. Stiles wouldn’t tell him why, though he asked multiple times.

Lane’s room was right next to her parents, so as he crept across the dark house to her, he tried to be quiet. He wasn’t sure how sound of sleepers they were. Lane was in her room, on a laptop when he opened the door. She glanced up, worry in her face before she realized who it was.

“Stiles! What are you doing up?” She mock-scolded, both of them known for staying up to crazy hours in the past. “And in regular clothes?” Now she did look confused. Stiles shut the door behind him before treading over to her.

“I was wondering something, Lane.” Stiles tried his best serious voice, one that not many had heard before. It worked on her though, with her back straightening slightly. “Do you know if there are any parties around here? Is there one you want to go to?”

Her appearance lit up with excitement, before it flickered out and was replaced with suspicion. “Is this for Derek?” She leaned close.

“Not technically,” Stiles replied. He didn’t want to spill his guts, but who was he kidding, he really did. “I think he likes me. I mean, I like him so it could just be me thinking it, right? So I asked my friend for some help and she said take him to a party and get him jealous.”

Lane tilted her head back, laughing pretty loudly. She didn’t seem concerned about the noise even after she managed to get it under control. Stiles guessed that her parents weren’t light sleepers, then. “Oh, that’ll do it.”

“Why is everyone so sure of that?” And why the hell hadn’t anyone told Stiles before this?

“He just seems the type.” Lane shrugged. She caught a glance of Stiles’ expression and quickly back tracked. “I mean, the kind that wants his toys to himself.”

“I am not a toy!” Stiles raised his voice slightly in indignation. One major flaw that Lane had was her inability to speak in any manner of soft.

“But you are fun to play with.” Her eyes danced with mirth, delighted in getting Stiles so riled up. “I’ll ask Alexis, she usually knows where the party of the week is. While I do, however, you need to leave so I can get ready.” Lane shooed him out, and Stiles realized something.

They were actually going to do this. Stiles was really about to go to a party with all intentions of leaving with Derek. He snuck back to their room, a types of fears sickening him. It was like jumping out of a plane, terrifying with a heady amount of hilarity and a near guarantee that it’ll be fun.

The other near guarantee is that you land flat on the concrete, however.

Derek was lounged across the bed, with his phone in his hand. He was still wearing what Stiles asked him too and when Stiles shut the door behind him, he was faced with a Derek that had curiosity etched into the near-permanent line between his eyebrows.

“We’re going to a party,” Stiles announced, and then winced. He didn’t mean for it to come out so commanding. Are you going to ask him, or are you going to tell him? His brain demanded. He could feel his cheeks become inflamed despite himself. “I mean, Lane and me are going to a party and… Do you want to go?”

Derek blinked a couple of times, full lashes hitting his high cheek bones, and then sat up completely. “Sure,” He said it cautiously, as he moved from the bed. The indents he left rose as slowly as he did. “Where are we going?”

“Lane’s figuring that out.” Stiles waved his hands as if it wasn’t a big thing. As if his heart wasn’t pounding and his stomach was doing the same thing it did the night he took Lydia to homecoming.

“Why are we going?” Derek seemed as suspicious as he looked. Stiles almost wanted to say, ‘We’re going so we can eventually murder you and hide your body but no one will ever suspect,’ because he didn’t want to want to put that in Derek’s head.

“Think of it as a treat before the torture.” Stiles smiled, at least finding amusement in his word choice.

“I doubt it’s going to be as terrible as you’re making it sound.”

“Oh, it’s not going to be terrible for me. I’m not the one lifting heavy-ass baskets.” Stiles’ full laugh filled up the room. He wasn’t sure what was making him feel so wonderful. Maybe it was the thrill of doing what he set out to – maybe it was the fear. It could also just be the adrenaline his body released because he had acted like he was about to die; he made a small, inconsequential, note to check symptoms of an adrenaline junkie.

“I can take care of myself.” Derek dismissed it.

Lane was taking altogether too long to get ready. “Have you ever been to a party?”

“Do Laura’s senior parties count?”

“Were you forced to go?” Stiles paused to give him a moment to respond, but continued when he was met with silence. “Then, no.”

“No. Have you?” Derek challenged. Stiles had been invited to Lydia’s Halloween party last year, but he was almost sure that she did it as a pity invite because she had invited Lydia and Allison.

“I haven’t gone to one.” Stiles clarified. He wasn’t going to go into the spill of how he’d show them that he didn’t need their pity. It smarted, to feel like he wasn’t wanted. Maybe you aren’t, Stiles’ brain supplied. And—

And he hated when it did that, when the darkness that he kept shoved in the back curled it’s tendrils out to touch every thought he had. It happened when he was happy or nervous, or just when he had his guard down. It was like he could never relax, not fully, for fear of it getting in.

“Then this is a first for both of us.” Derek broke him out of his loop.

Stiles was going to ask him how fun he thought it was going to be when a soft, rapid knock at the door. He opened the door to see a Lane he hadn’t met before – one that had her hair pinned up and make up on her face. He could see her underneath it though, when she opened her mouth. “If you want to get there, we’re going to have to move.”
--
The house was large, with people filling up the front of it and spilling out into the lawn like its dim light in the windows. They could hear the music when they pulled in, and when Stiles stepped out onto the gravel, it was like he could feel it. It reverberated into his bones, sinking into his marrow.

Lane leaned close, the feeling of needing to shout to be heard already there, and told him she was going to find Alexis. Her statement was one of innocence, like ‘I just want to see my friend.’ But her tone was of dark amusement.

He’s really going to do this.

She bounced off, leaving Derek and him standing there. “Do you want to go in?” Derek was right behind him, leaning over to talk into his ear. Stiles shivered.

“Are you going to ditch me too?” Stiles responded in a joking tone. He was shaking a little, an impossible thing to stop.

Derek pushed him forward a bit, to prod him to take some steps, before answering. “We’ll see.”

And Stiles was going to have a great rebuttal, really, but they were at the front door and he was looking in to the throng of people in the living room. The very room seemed to pulse with teenage energy and hormones, lighting up the walls and floating in the air. It was overwhelming to Stiles, and he bet Derek could tell because Stiles felt a sure grip on his wrist from behind, one that dragged ahead and pulled him in.

“Are we going to dance?” Stiles laughed, as Derek plunged away from the large group and pressed to the wall.

“I might lose sight of you,” Derek replied simply, but Stiles could feel his fingers contract. They managed to get a small area in the room not crowded, close to a corner, where Stiles watched it all. He wasn’t so sure how to go about the next step – how to find someone to flirt with. On a good day, Stiles was witty and his flailing could be counted as cute among some circles, but on a bad day with pressure on him, his word vomit and fidgetiness guaranteed no one would want to talk to him.

Or so he thought.

They had been standing there, both attempting to get accustomed to what was going on, when Derek said he was going to get a drink, and did Stiles want any?

“As long as you can find one that isn’t spiked,” Stiles had to lean close to shout this at him, their chests brushing in the second it took him to say it. He wasn’t adverse to alcohol, hell, he wanted to know what it was like to get drunk – just not on the night he had to drive back.

And while he left, another boy came over. He had sandy hair, and a pretty smile, and called himself Liam. “I’m Stiles!” Stiles shouted over the speaker, a little overeager to be talking to him.

“That’s a strange name.” He laughed though while he said it, his eyes were a close shade to Derek and they danced with light.

Stiles smiled back, feeling encouraged. “It’s not my real one, but no one can pronounce that one anyway. It’s a family name – so my friends call me Stiles.”

“So I’m your friend?” Liam moved forward a little, smile still in place. When he crowded himself into Stiles’ bubble, Stiles could smell the alcohol. It was already a thick scent of the room, coating everything, but it came from him directly.

Stiles made an attempt to move back, and would’ve, if he hadn’t been pressed against a wall. “Yeah, dude, totally. We can be friends.”

Stiles never trusted people who were drunk, because they did and said things they wouldn’t usually. He didn’t want to judge what type of drunk Liam was, but he was hoping that it would be the kind satisfied with that.

He tilted his head back, exposing a tan throat, and laughed. His hand darted out so quick there was no way Stiles was going to be able to block it. He snared Stiles’ wrist in his hand, much like Derek did, but this time it was confining, suffocating. Stiles tried to pull back but the dude didn’t even seem to notice. He was way too strong.

“Man, you are a riot. There are some people I want you to meet, come on.” He tugged on Stiles’ wrist and Stiles’ traitorous feet took a shaky step.

“I’m waiting on someone.” Stiles shouted, desperate. He hoped Derek was on his way back, fighting through the crowd to get to him.

Liam’s smile slipped off his face, seeming to break. His face darkened up, like a storm cloud with his freckles being the drizzle before the downpour. “What, do you not want to go with me?”

Angry drunk. “No, it’s not that, it’s just—can we wait until he gets back?” Stiles felt panicky, and the hand tightening on his wrist didn’t make it any better.

Liam grabbed him by his shirt, his emotions flashing and his temper going up quick. “Why? Huh, am I not good enough?” Stiles felt it when he slammed him against the wall. It seemed to literally knock the wind out of him. “Am I?”

He released Stiles, who used the wall to move a few feet away before pressing off of it. “Why aren’t you answering me?” He demanded, but it was coming through radio silence. Stiles wasn’t having a panic attack, no, but he wasn’t sure what this was. Maybe it was his body’s defense in preparation to get the shit kicked out of him – which was a suck defense. However, before anything else could go disastrously wrong, Derek was there. ‘Without drinks,’ Stiles mind supplied.

But he was there, and he was pushing Stiles slightly behind him, and Liam, who had been waiting for an answer, suddenly managed a scowl. ”Who are you? The guy he wanted to wait for?”

“Is there a problem?” Derek was yelling, but he sounded oddly quiet. Dangerous.

“Yeah, I try to get him to come with me to meet some people and he won’t go. Am I not good enough?” He stepped up into Derek space, who was standing right in front of Stiles, hand firmly still on his chest.

“No, and you need to get lost. He’s with me.” Derek cut every word clear, making sure Liam could understand it.

Liam registered the words, and his face became even sourer. “Are you the guy he’s waiting for?”

“Yeah, I am.” Derek was confident, and if Stiles wasn’t behind him with Derek in defense mode, Stiles might have made a joke about he could have been waiting for someone else. “He’s mine.”

“Let me guess – he’s your boyfriend, right?” For someone who smelt so drunk, Liam was doing a fine job of keeping up with what was going on.

Derek hesitated on that question, but Stiles knew about people like Liam. His dad had warned him, after all. Liam would say how Derek had no right to not let him take Stiles if they weren’t together – like Stiles had to be willing to go with him if he wasn’t with someone else. “Yes, he’s my boyfriend.” Stiles said firmly, his heart beating a thousand miles a minute. Derek could reject him now. But Stiles couldn’t stop now, and moved from the hand that was on his chest to the full of Derek’s back, and wrapped his arms around his chest. “It was nice to meet you Liam, but I think we’re going to be going now.”

Stiles took a step back, forcing Derek to follow suit. Liam blinked for a moment, his eyes opening as if he had just realized what Stiles had said. “Fuck,” he muttered, looking away from them. “Whatever, man.”

Derek still needed to get out of the place, because Stiles was afraid he was still going to punch Liam. Stiles removed himself, temporarily, and put himself out there by wrapping his hand around Derek’s, slotting their fingers together. Derek looked down, surprised for the moment, before glancing back up at Stiles’ face. Stiles tried to keep a steady gaze, but he was blushing and shaking and hot and felt wonderfully reckless and altogether stupid at the moment. Derek’s face stilled, a frown slipping across his lips before he was in front of Stiles, pulling him out.

Stiles’ legs were wobbly as Derek took them towards the Jeep. He still hadn’t released Stiles’ hand, and Stiles tried desperately to find a topic to talk on that would distract Derek. The tense in his shoulders was starting to worry Stiles, as it should have when Derek pushed him against the Jeep, finally breaking their hands apart.

“Why didn’t you call for me?” Derek demanded, standing way too close. His voice was loud, but it felt quiet after the roar of the house.

“The music, it was loud.” Stiles handed him his flimsy excuse, fully expecting Derek to drop it and demand another.

Derek let out a huge sigh, his arms twitching. He moved away, pacing in front of Stiles. “You shouldn’t have even been talking to him, Stiles. He could have hurt you – probably would have if I wasn’t there. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and you couldn’t stop him, not easily. Why were you being so reckless? Do you want to get hurt? He was drunk, Stiles, he didn’t care about you. Stiles,” Derek seemed to be tipping over the edge, breathing too hard. He stopped in front of Stiles with wild eyes and Stiles realized something.

He was the one who was in there, about to be dragged off by a guy, and Derek was the one freaking out. Stiles felt a little off-balance, but he was okay and Derek – Derek was losing his shit. And Derek seemed to realize it to, as he dragged his eyes up and down Stiles’ face. He stepped closer, eyes locked on Stiles. “You have to be more careful.” He breathed out hoarsely. It was like it was taking everything on his part not to lose it and go break something. He but his arms on the Jeep, leaning close, and gripped Stiles’ face. It hurt a little, like an edge of panic Derek couldn’t stop. “Don’t do that to me.”

Stiles would have agreed to it, would have agreed to anything but Derek didn’t give him a chance. The second after the words left his lips, he chased after them with a hardened kiss. It was stealing the breath out of Stiles, the way that Derek pressed against him. Warm air was pushed harshly out onto Stiles’ cheek, as Derek angled his face to the side. It was perfect – Stiles could feel his stubble and his warm lips and the way his lips were pressed so hard against them he could feel the strength behind it.

It was dizzying, when Derek pulled away. “Don’t.” He reminded Stiles, who could only nod weakly, trapped in Derek’s hands. “I’m going to find Lane.”

He moved away from Stiles, both of them knowing what just happened had to be discussed but neither being willing to yet. The space that Derek occupied felt cold now, strangely empty, and Stiles found himself saying something without realizing it. “Don’t punch Liam in the face if you see him.”

“I’ll try not to.” Derek agreed.

When he came out with Lane, she was sober, thankfully. Stiles felt the burn of a nervous energy at his base – but he guessed that even for him, there was a limit of how much energy he had. He was somewhat afraid he was going to crash on the way home. He was okay to Lane chatter away about the party, and how happy she was to have got to go, and that they were both going to keep it away from the parents, alright?

Stiles wondered if this is how his dad felt when Stiles wouldn’t shut up.

They got home, and Derek told him to go take a warm shower – that it would make him feel better. He didn’t touch Stiles again so as the water washed across Stiles’ skin, refreshing him, a bout of worry came in. Did Derek do that in the heat of the moment?

He took his time to dry off, which was really just time for the worry to eat at him. When he left the bathroom, Derek wasn’t in bed. It was ready, and so was Derek, but he was leaning against the wall. His arms were crossed, and Stiles braced himself.

“I’m sorry.” Derek started. Stiles wasn’t going to cry – he could blame everything on survival. Stiles nodded, shoulders hunched. “I shouldn’t have kissed you.”

“I understand, dude, no need to explain.” Stiles threw up his hand, avoiding eye contact. He tossed his clothes close to his bag and went to crawl in to bed. His ribs felt like they were being pulled out and he didn’t know why he was acting so stupid – it was a fucking kiss.

It was his first.

“Why are you crying?” Derek moved from the wall to hover on the other side of the bed.

“I’m not crying.” Stiles lied. He could feel the moisture pooling in his eyes, catching on his lashes.

Derek, in a blurry rush, climbed up onto the bed and crawled across. “Stiles?” He asked softly. Stiles kept his head down, face turned away. It sucked, it sucked not to be wanted and to be embarrassed further by crying about it. “I wanted to apologize because I didn’t think you actually wanted me to kiss you.”

His hands came up hesitantly to touch Stiles’ face, warming the cooled lines of tears. And, what? Stiles let him lift his head to look at him, blinking away the rest of the tears. “What do you mean?”

“You…didn’t respond. After I kissed you, you didn’t talk. I mean, I thought you wanted me to – you told that guy we were dating, I mean.”

“You wanted to?” Stiles’ brain processor was turned off at the moment because none of the pieces were fitting.

Derek’s eyes trained on each of his, looking for something it seemed. “I wanted to. I want to, to be what you said we were.”

“You want to date me?” Stiles was dumbstruck. Derek nodded slowly, his hands motionlessly splayed across Stiles’ jaw all the way to under his eyes. Stiles squinted at him suspiciously. “This isn’t because I was crying, right?”

“You weren’t crying when I kissed you.” Derek pointed out. Stiles let himself start to smile, the earlier feeling gone. The spinning in his head was a good spinning. He just wanted to fall forward and laugh, because wow, Derek was there and Derek-fucking-Hale was his boyfriend. “Just one thing, okay?”

Stiles looked at him expectantly, fairly certain that he wasn’t going to say April Fools. “You got to start calling me Derek.” Stiles gasped and attempted to stutter out a defense, like, no he totally does call him Derek. Derek shook his head, putting gentle pressure on Stiles’ face from his hands before continuing on. “My dad told me how you would only call me Hale when you were sick.”

Stiles opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again. Derek was sitting right in front of him, holding onto him and smiling the happiest smile ever. Why fight? “Okay.” Stiles flashed a quick smile. “Derek.”

Chapter Text

It was morning and Stiles was sweating. He didn’t keep his blankets on during the night time, preferring to have half of his body covered and the other half exposed. But it wasn’t blanket heat that was pressing against him, hard along his back. And it definitely wasn’t the blankets with a morning wood pressed against his ass.

Derek was wrapped around him. Stiles had slept in the same bed as Derek Hale, who was now cuddling him from behind like the inferno he was. And when Stiles shifted, trying to wiggle away from the vise of Derek’s arms, he kind of pressed into him. Derek woke up almost immediately, a startled gasp falling from his lips. Stiles didn’t mean to do that, but the sound was something new and unheard of by Stiles before. Derek’s arms tightened instinctually, drawing Stiles in. This heat was new and everywhere, but especially in his lower gut area.

Derek is my boyfriend.

“Derek,” Stiles’ brain helpfully reminded him that his family was a few walls over. “It’s way too hot.”

“Sorry,” Derek whispered against his neck, voice thick. He didn’t make an attempt to move and neither did Stiles. “You move around too much in your sleep for me.” They were still, as Stiles made no attempt to get away. Derek was going to have to move back before Stiles risked that again. And he hoped he did it soon, because Stiles’ situation was becoming extremely uncomfortable.

Derek loosened his arms, rolling onto his back. Stiles carefully moved to standing next to the bed, and tried not to look at the bulge that was obviously there. He was doing a good job staring at the ceiling rather than Stiles’ tent as well.

“Was last night real?” Derek asked, before Stiles could run to the bathroom.

“Which part?” Stiles responded. He wasn’t too sure himself.

Derek pushed up, and Stiles had to appreciate how he ignored his body. “Are we together?”

Stiles leaned forward, close to where Derek sat, staring. If he tried to shift forward anymore, he would fall on the bed. “Yeah, we are, Derek.” He said it softly, as a reminder to himself that he was allowed to say it.

It obviously pleased Derek as well. The hollows of his cheeks filled with color and a smile edged its way onto his lips.
--
They had decided not to say anything to the Sheriff – yet. Once they both stumbled out, in some well-worn clothes, they ate Aunt Josephine’s pancakes. Stiles remembered how his mom would be the one to make the pancakes and how the first year he had cried and told his aunt that her pancakes would never be as good as his mom’s. Stiles had locked himself in his room, and his dad had to coax him out. He apologized to Aunt Josephine, knowing that he had hurt her but she never let him see it. Now he’d always thank her for the food.

They went out to the field afterwards, and Uncle Charles explained to Derek that they could only load so much on the truck, where Poohkey was tucked inside on one of the seats. Derek assured Stiles that she would be okay. It was a lazy morning for them, while Lane and Stiles broke off from Aunt Josephine and his dad to pick cherries a few trees over. They had to fill up a basket before it could be taken anywhere.

Everyone in the field knew there was easier ways of doing this, but it was something they enjoyed once a year. Lane and him had a system, both of them on ladders and balancing the basket on the two paint holder hinges in between them. It worked fast enough.

“How did you like the party?” Stiles asked, after they had started.

“I enjoyed it. Alexis was there, and we all were out back dancing. Dad doesn’t like me going to things like that – says it’ll rot my brain.” Lane rolled her eyes, picking a few cherries off roughly. She looked up and smiled at Stiles. “Thanks for taking me.”

“Thanks for letting me know where to go.” Stiles replied.

“Did you get what you went for?” She leaned over, still mindful of being on a ladder. One time they had forgotten, around the time Stiles turned eleven, and she had ended up with a broken wrist. “Or meet any new faces?”

Stiles decided to answer the easier question. “I met a guy named Liam.”

“Liam?” Lane made a face like she knew the one he was talking about – maybe he was the only one at their school. Not likely, but. “I heard that kid got kicked off the lacrosse team for his temper.”

“He did seem pretty fiery when I met him.” Stiles commented dryly. The basket was pretty much full, and they both grabbed at a handle to hold it as they made the treacherous journey down. It was hard for them, because they were trying to keep the cherries from spilling out, and at the same time trying to keep from falling off the ladder. When they managed to get down, they used both of their sets of hands. Stiles was glad she didn’t judge him for being a physical weakling, because, hey, he was working on it.

They hadn’t managed a few feet when Derek was trotting over to them. He took the basket it from them easily, his fingers brushing along Stiles’ as it changed hands. Stiles couldn’t help but blush, feeling like a young kid getting told his crush like liked him.

When they were back up on the ladder, with a different basket, Lane couldn’t stop smiling. Stiles did his best to ignore her, going in on pulling the cherries off. She finally gave up the pretense of anything other than downright gleeful and shook Stiles’ ladder, somewhat too rough. He shrieked, squishing a few cherries in his hand as he grabbed at the ladder.

“What the hell, Lane?” He demanded in a squeaking tone. He was afraid, dammit.

She just continued to smile, a high pitched sound pulling out of her lips. “You did get what you came for!”

Stiles ducked his head, attempting to drown her out as she practically hummed with happiness. It was okay for him to be that happy, but when others were for him it was downright embarrassing. “So tell me, how did it happen?”

“You can thank Liam for that.” Stiles said grudgingly. He wasn’t going to shut her out because she was behaving like a middle school kid.

She gasped, at full attention. Stiles was left to pick berries off by himself as she just stopped. “What did Liam do?”

“He may or may not have tried to get me to go somewhere with him.”

“He’s such a pushy jerk. Wait, did Derek save you?” A light laugh bubbled out of her.

Stiles shook his head, refusing to call it that. “He didn’t – that’s not the right word.”

“He did save you,” She was in hysterics now. “Stiles, Princess Stiles, saved by his knight in shining armor.”

“Shut up,” Stiles swiped across at her, but there was no real heat in it. She didn’t even have to dodge away from his hand.

“Okay, so tell me what actually happened.”

“Well, Derek went to go get drinks,” Stiles began, still marveling how the name fell from his lips. “And while he was gone, Liam came up. I thought, hey he looks like a guy I could flirt with. And I did for a minute, until he leaned close and I could smell alcohol on him. I just don’t mess with people who drink it – not that I don’t want to when I get older, but the kid was obviously a teenage and hadn’t learned how to behave when drinking it.”

“Wait, so how did he respond when you told him you weren’t interested?” Lane’s lips pulled down in worry, and she slowly started reworking the tree. They would have to move their ladders to a new section soon.

“He got pretty upset.” Stiles admitted. “He like grabbed me and put me up against the wall and asked if I didn’t think he was good enough. Then Derek came and broke it up – without breaking any bones, thankfully – and Liam asked if he was the guy I was waiting for. And if we were together.” Stiles paused, knowing it was the big moment. “I told him we were.”

Lane shrieked her joy, high like a crow and loud. A few trees over, Stiles’ dad glanced over, but he seemed satisfied that they weren’t fighting. “How did Derek respond? How did everything go down? You were really quiet on the ride home.”

Stiles shrugged. “Just very surprised, I guess. Derek kissed me.” He said the last bit conversationally, but he knew how Lane would respond.

He just wasn’t expecting her to nearly fall off her ladder. It was only because he could have quick reflexes, as long as he himself didn’t need them that made it where he could grab her forearm and drag her forward again. She looked stunned, with no fear on her face. “He kissed you?”

“You could have just fallen and gotten hurt again.” Stiles pointed out to her, but she seemed to not care as much as she cared about him answering the question. “Yes, he kissed me. I think it was a panic thing, though, because he was scared I was going to get hurt.”

It didn’t bother Stiles that it may have been a panic thing, because he was now officially with Derek, which meant they would be sharing a lot more kisses that weren’t a panic thing. There was no reason to be upset.

“How was it?” She glanced down, and Stiles could tell why she was curious. Derek looked like he would kiss good, kiss great. He just looked great in general, as he stood down there next to Uncle Charles and his truck. His shirt was tight along his biceps and the tan skin somehow managed to look slightly pale next to the dark black.

Stiles couldn’t decide on the right word. It wasn’t necessarily furious, while there was a fierce enough feeling for that. It wasn’t sweet or soft by any regards. “Intense.” Stiles responded. “Definitely not how I was expecting my first kiss to go, but I have no complaints.”

She smiled at him, a real smile that was just happy. It didn’t have any mischievous glee or deranged delight to it. “I wonder what it will be like for me.” Her eyes got a faraway look as she idly pulled the cherries off. They had done this task so much, for so long, that it could slip into being second nature when they needed it.

“Hopefully everything you want.”

She focused back in on him. “Was it for you? Everything you want?”

Stiles glanced back down over to Derek, watching him. He considered it, even as Derek flashed a look up at them. It was obvious he was making sure that they were both okay on their ladder, from the tight knit of his eyebrows. “I would say so.”
--
During lunch time, Derek made Stiles drink two bottles of water. He hovered around him, worrying over him. When Stiles demanded to know why he was acting like a worried mother hen, Derek just told him that he had gotten a nosebleed from work and heat before.

He made Lane and Stiles drink some water every other time they came down from their ladders. Lane made a joke about how he worried like a nurse, which was ironic to Stiles for some reason. Serves him right.

It was going to be one of the last few loads they were going to do, as the heat was beginning to fade from the day as Derek and Uncle Charles just got back from their sixth load. Stiles and Lane were coming down from the ladder again, and they had made a bet to see how far they could go with carrying the basket before Derek rushed over.

It’s just that neither of them were very coordinated, so that’s how they ended up spilling an entire thing of cherries. Stiles and Lane were on their knees trying to put all of the berries back in there, but Derek quickly came over.

“I didn’t see what happened, are you okay?” It was a general question, but he was looking at Stiles. Lane rolled her eyes – Derek couldn’t see because he was facing away.

“Yeah, we were just trying to get to the truck.” Stiles responded. Derek began to pick up groupings of cherries as well, cupping them in his hands to dump into the basket.

“Why? I would have come and gotten it from you.”

“Because we wanted to see how far we could get before you noticed.” Lane said, albeit a little sheepishly.

Derek turned to her, frowning. “That’s a stupid reason to have rushed and spilt the cherries.”

“Oh, shut up.” She swatted at him, and Stiles let his mouth hang open in astonishment. “You can’t tell me you never made a bet with another family member over something.”

Derek’s ears reddened, as if she had caught him at something. Stiles laughed then too, happy that they didn’t get into an argument. Lane had an easy way about her, even if she was too blunt, that made her somewhat agreeable with almost everyone she encountered.

They managed to get it loaded, as the sun was just starting to dip into the horizon, and there was a promise of seeing Derek and Uncle Charles when they got home. The rest of them piled into Aunt Josephine’s van, the sun fading with the rest of their energy. Lane didn’t attempt any more conversation about Derek, for which Stiles was grateful. She seemed to understand that he hadn’t had a chance to tell his dad yet.

When they managed to get back home, Stiles took advantage of having a bathroom connected to the bedroom. And, if he spent a little more time in there than normal, it wasn’t for anyone else to know.

He wandered into the kitchen, where Aunt Josephine was making salad and chicken, to wait for Derek and Uncle Charles. “When do you think they’ll get home?” Stiles asked her, while he slid up a chair to sit. He had been in this kitchen enough times to know she typically preferred to work alone.

“Soon.” She replied, cutting up lettuce. She didn’t talk much, and he didn’t know her before she had met Uncle Charles. He didn’t know if she grew into a quiet spirit or if that was what attracted Uncle Charles.

“Do you like doing this?” Stiles was good at small talk, if small talk dealt with questions about people’s personal lives and problems.

She didn’t sigh like others would, because Aunt Josephine had endless patience. “I like it. It reminds me of working back with my father on our ranch – the sun high and work quiet.”

“What did you do on the ranch?” Stiles had never personally met his aunt’s relatives and he wondered if Lane did, because she never spoke about them.

She turned to give him a soft smile, her steady hand pausing from its continuous chopping. “I would help him move cattle, feed the chickens, peel the corn, things like that.”

“I don’t think I’d like it.” Stiles said honestly. He wasn’t bad when it came to hard work, it’s just that he’d avoid it at all possible costs.

“No, I agree with you. You like to talk too much, the ranch and this farm being a place for quiet. Lane is a lot like you.”

“I don’t know.” Stiles scrunched up his nose, faux disdain on his face. Not like Aunt Josephine could see. “I’m much funnier.”

“I heard my name.” Lane came bouncing in with a large tee-shirt on and sweat pants. Her mass of curls was tied up in a bun, water droplets on the few stray pieces.

Stiles looked over at her, as she leaned against the doorframe and looked worriedly at her mother. Lane didn’t have a hard home life, but Stiles knew – and had experienced firsthand – that things could be stressful for how she looked at life versus her parents. “We were just talking about how you never shut up, you know.” He flashed her a reassuring smile.

She snorted, the tension in her shoulders draining. “You’re one to talk.”

“I am one that talks. Just like you,” Stiles shot back. From the outside, they heard a truck pull up and its loud rumble shut off. “They’re home.” Stiles stood up, a little too eagerly.

Lane snickered, but followed him when he hurried to the living room. When Derek and Uncle Charles came in, he wasn’t expecting what greeted him. Uncle Charles was holding Derek by the shoulders, guiding him in. They both looked inconvenienced, but Stiles couldn’t help but gasp when he got a look at Derek’s hands and forearms. They were puffy and swollen, with a rash broken across the muscular skin.

“It’s okay, I’m going to be okay. I just need to get some ointment on this.”

“What happened?” Lane moved over to her dad, as if she was going to berate him. Stiles winced, knowing that she would be honest and Uncle Charles wouldn’t have her disrespecting him.

“We didn’t realize he was allergic to mistletoe.” Uncle Charles responded, hefting him over to Stiles. It was obvious that Uncle Charles was manhandling out of guilt, considering that Derek seemed to walk just fine.

“And?” Stiles searched his face for pain, but he looked back with slight annoyance and more aggravation than anything.

One of Derek’s puffy hands came to rest on the other arm, and he looked to be fighting to scratch. “Apparently they use the juice from mistletoe berries as part of the insecticides for the cherries.”

“So when you helped us put them back into the basket…?” Stiles asked, horrified. He couldn’t believe he fucked up this bad through a bet.

Derek nodded. “And then I started scratching my arms, which is why they’re also pretty bad. I’ll be fine though, because I bring some ointment with me everywhere. If mistletoe touches me, then the area gets really puffy and swollen but it should go down. It’s in my bag.” He began to shoulder his way to the bedroom, and Stiles let him pass.

He looked over, to see if there was anything wrong with Uncle Charles. He just stared after Derek, worry edged around his frown. Lane shooed him, basically saying to follow Derek which Stiles didn’t need to be told twice. Once they got near the room, Stiles shot ahead to help open the door, and then found the ointment in one of the smaller pockets of Derek’s bag.

“Okay, give it to me.” Derek was lying across the bed, feet hanging off.

“You can barely bend your fingers, I can do it.” Stiles was already unscrewing the cap. It didn’t seem like any of it had been used. “You know, you could have said you had allergies before we came up.”

“I’m only allergic to one thing.” Derek didn’t seem to feel the need to argue with Stiles over if he could do it himself. “And mistletoe isn’t very common except during Christmas.”

Stiles sat down on the bed next to him, and waited until Derek hauled himself up to face him. He offered one of his arms, and Stiles squeezed out the white cream. “Apply it like lotion. I shouldn’t see the cream.”

“I thought it was supposed to be apply generously. What, did you get a special ointment just so it didn’t look bad on you?” Stiles put some where the beginning of the rash was, dragging it down his forearm. Derek’s muscles jumped at the contact of the cool cream and Stiles looked up to see Derek avoiding eye contact. “You did, didn’t you? Wait, you aren’t embarrassed because your skin can break out and get puffy, are you?”

Stiles was getting a lot better at reading Derek, because he just knew. “You do! That’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” Stiles couldn’t believe it, that Derek had something about his body that bothered him. “You know, when I was younger, I used to hate all my freckles and moles. And since I’m so pale, once, I came home and found the white out and started putting it over all of them.” Stiles laughed, remembering how his mother looked when she saw white out all over his face.

“I can’t believe you did that.” Derek shook his head, but he was smiling and responding again.

“I was six, what else was I going to do?” Stiles demanded. “I wasn’t going to go psycho and try and cut them off.”

A knock came to the door, and Lane poked her head in. “How’s your arms, Derek?”

“They’ll survive.” He responded with a smile. It was a real one, full of teeth and life in his eyes.

She chuckled. “So you don’t have to get Stiles to cut your arm off?”

“No, thank God.” Stiles fake-fainted, throwing himself back on the bed.

“Mom says it’s time for dinner.” She ignored Stiles almost completely. “Are you going to be good to use the silverware?”

“I should be fine, as long as none of you mind having my arms out during dinner.” Derek shifted once, and Stiles could tell he was uncomfortable.

“I used to have a friend with really bad eczema and she’d come over and stay. If we’re good around her, I’m pretty sure we can stand a little red on your arms.” Derek visibly relaxed and soon they were headed to the table to eat.

The chicken was spiced nicely, with just enough flavor to make Stiles want to eat it. There was little conversation going on at the table, besides the adults checking to make sure that Derek was okay and Lane and Stiles’ careful banter about things. Derek and Stiles excused themselves after the food to go back into the room so Stiles could reapply the cream.

“It is looking better.” Stiles noted as he rubbed it into his arms. There was no ulterior motive there, nothing remotely triggering Stiles into his usual fit of wanting Derek. Actually, all he wanted was to take care of him. It stayed that way when Stiles let his fingers rub on the inside parts of Derek’s and drag across his palm.

“Can you call my mom for me? She’ll want me to check in and I don’t want to get this gunk on my phone.” It was funny to hear Derek say gunk, but he didn’t tease him for it. Instead, he pulled out his phone and waited for Derek to list off a number.

The phone rang about twice before a voice answered it. There was background noises, like children playing and some people laughing. Stiles realized that it was Saturday, meaning it was movie night for them. He should go back over there for movie night again, that was fun.

“Hello? Excuse me, if you don’t tell me who this is this instance, I’m hanging up.” The voice sounded impatient, and Stiles realized that he hadn’t answered Talia yet.

“Oh, sorry, it’s Stiles.”

“Hey, Stiles.” The switch in her voice was automatic. She had a cold business voice about her, which melded with her strong jaw and dominant features, and then she had her mother and friend voice that went with her smile. “How are things?”

“Things are fine,” Stiles got out hurriedly. He glanced over at Derek, and the rash that was slowly disappearing. “It’s just that I wanted to call you and check in for Derek – he’s kind of going through something.”

“What happened?” She asked, worried. Her voice was distanced from the receiver when she told the people in the room to quiet down some.

“He was helping with lifting the baskets and I accidentally spilt a basket. So, uh, he was helping me pick it up but we didn’t know that for starters he was allergic to anything and that the thing he’s allergic to – mistletoe – would be part of my uncle’s insecticide.”

“Are his hands all puffy?” The voice was muted, but Stiles realized he was on speaker phone. It was Cora, who may or may not have been the distanced laugh he heard.

“Does he have his cream?”

“Yes, Mrs. Talia. He does, and it’s on him. The puffiness went down, but he still has the stuff all over his hands. So I called for him to check in.” Stiles clarified.

“Okay, thank you.” Talia actually sounded pretty relieved. “You get back tomorrow, right? Give Derek our love.”

Stiles was just going to say yes and hang up, before another voice cut through. “Our love is for you, too, Stiles.” It was clear who it was, and he couldn’t help the soft smile that found its way on his lips.

“Thanks, my love to you too.” Derek looked up from that, where he was sitting on the end of the bed. He looked slightly confused, before looking immensely pleased. At least Stiles wouldn’t have to try and win Derek’s family over when they came out about dating. Was that even a real thing, really? Getting the family to like you?

The call went dead, so Stiles went to plug his phone up on the opposite side of the bed, where his charger lay. “Do you think our baby is dead?” Derek asked, while Stiles fished his cord from the ground.

“Why would you say that?” Stiles climbed into the bed, stretching his legs out.

Derek turned to him, crawling over to where Stiles was. Stiles didn’t know what to expect, but he couldn’t help the nervous excitement that was clawing its way into his gut. Derek just put his head into Stiles’ lap, right into his lap, so Stiles took it as an invitation. “It’s just Poohkey hasn’t cried the entire trip.”

“Maybe she’s growing up.” Stiles hesitantly put a hand down into Derek’s hair, not really putting pressure on it. Derek responded by nudging his hand until it was putting pressure on Derek. Stiles allowed himself the pleasure of carding his hands through Derek’s hair, soft and steadily becoming messier.

“She could be running out of batteries.” Derek’s voice didn’t sound normal. It was as if his voice was syrup and he was slowly pouring it out.

“Do we get to turn her in during the break?”

“Think so,” Stiles could feel where Derek yawned, stretching his jaw out on Stiles’ thigh. It was distracting, but Stiles could deal. Yeah, totally. They stayed like that for a good few minutes, with Derek laid out on the bed, and Stiles’ hand in his hair. Stiles’ phone vibrated, a loud sound in the quiet room.

Scott: help me im stuck at allison’s

Scott: her aunt is scary

Stiles huffed out a sigh, and couldn’t help but mutter, “Well, you’re the one who wants to date the niece of an insane bitch.”

“What was that?” Derek asked curiously, and even made an attempt to get up before Stiles scratched straight down from the top of his head to where the fuzz was on his neck. He shifted back onto Stiles’ lap easy enough.

“Scott is texting me about how he’s stuck in a space with Kate.” Stiles could feel Derek’s muscles tense, and he tried to fix it by soothing rubs into his scalp.

“Is it because he’s dating Allison?”

“Yeah,” Scott’s life had become majorly about Allison, and there was little doubt that they were going to end up getting married and having a forever.

“Are they going to make her break up with him because his best friend is with a guy?” The very mention of them dating had Stiles’ skin jumpy in the best way.

He found himself shaking his head, though Derek really couldn’t see him. “No, I don’t think so. But still, it would be nice if Scott would help me and then we could blackmail on Kate, and then they couldn’t make Scott and Ally break up.” Stiles justified his reasons, making them sound a lot nobler than they were.

This did make Derek sit up, causing Stiles to have his hand trail down the majority of his back. “What?” Derek gave him his full attention, eyes zeroed in on Stiles.

“Well, I mean, we don’t think she came back in town just to visit.” Stiles said nervously. He fidgeted underneath Derek’s gaze, and finally broke. “We think she had a court order to come back here, and I was going to get Scott to help me break into my dad’s office to find out what she did.”

“Why do you need Scott?” Derek demanded.

Stiles was about to go on about how Scott was his best friend, his right man and how he just couldn’t do it, not without Scott, when he realized what Derek was offering. He could feel a wicked smile curl on his lips. “Derek, are you doing anything next week?”

Derek’s eyes flashed back, an invitation of the worst kind. “I don’t think I am.”
--
Stiles applied the cream one more time, and afterwards Derek said he was going to take a shower to wash it – and the grime – off of him. Stiles was ready to go to bed, because it was almost midnight and he had worked a long day.

He was almost out, when he heard the water shut off. He struggled to stay awake to tell his boyfriend goodnight, but was still only half-there when Derek came out of the shower. It didn’t take him long to wake up though, when water droplets began to fall onto his face. He blinked his eyes open, wide to see Derek standing above him.

Derek, who happened to still be very much wet from the shower and only wearing a pair of pants. “Hey,” he said softly, not looking bothered at all.

“Hello to yourself.” Stiles was somewhat groggy.

“Did I wake you?”

“No,” Stiles shook his head, not wanting Derek to feel guilty. He was actually enjoying his view, so it wasn’t like that mattered much.

“Good, I just wanted to tell you something.” And Stiles was very much awake, very, very, much so, when Derek leaned forward. His heart was beating so hard, it hurt with every push of breath, and yet Stiles didn’t want it to stop.

“Yeah?” Stiles challenged, refusing to move. Even if how he was laying did give him a disadvantage.

Derek reached out to capture Stiles’ jaw with his index and thumb. “I just wanted to let you know that I like your freckles and moles.” His voice was soft, almost a whisper. He shifted Stiles’ head slightly, before pressing a kiss to a large mole on his cheek. It was the one closest to his mouth, and Stiles could feel the heat from Derek’s lips, almost overlapping onto his mouth. Derek shifted back some, a gentle sigh breaking form his lips. It was a content sound – and as the warm air touched Stiles’ cheek, his heart lit up.

Derek didn’t say anything else, just turned off the light and went to the other side to crawl in bed. Stiles was very aware that he was going to ruin him.

And he was pretty okay with it.

Chapter Text

Sunday they woke up late, Derek’s arms fine. They kept their pajama sweats on, and Stiles forced him to put on a shirt. Sunday was always a lazy day, where the family would watch a movie and then have a cold sandwich lunch and go home.

During the movie, a dark horror, Stiles found Derek’s hand in his. The warmth from his palm was compelling, and it made thrills shoot through Stiles to know how – in a moment’s notice – they could be found out. He really wouldn’t mind, except that it might spoil the mini-vacation. Derek would idly drag his thumb across Stiles’ index finger, the rough pad relaxing Stiles. It was a wonderful feeling and Stiles vehemently renounced his making fun of how needy Scott acted about holding Allison’s hand.

He couldn’t really tell anyone much about the movie, but if they wanted to know about how Derek had a scar on the inside of his middle finger or that his pinkie wasn’t actually smaller than his index, he could tell them that. His hand still felt the imprint of gripping tight to Derek’s, even after he slid away before the lights turned on. The sandwiches were good, the goodbye more of ‘I’ll see you soon,’ and the ride back quiet. Stiles fell asleep, so he figured it would be mostly quiet.

He spent the rest of the day unpacking and cleaning, with his dad running down to the station and Stiles worrying about Poohkey’s silence. His heart would randomly burst into spasms, if he thought too long on Derek. He wondered how he was going to tell their friends.

It was late that night, after a few hours of video chatting with Boyd and checking up on emails, that Stiles pulled out his black binder. He flipped through the pages, trying to catch his bearings on where the schedule was, before landing on the page.

Stiles: Wednesday

He hoped Derek would understand, and that he hadn’t offered it up as a half-whim while being tired and having an allergic reaction. He waited for a few minutes, trying to gain resolve to turn it off and plug it in so he could rest, when it buzzed.

Derek: Okay, thanks for letting me know. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Stiles: alright night

Derek: Good night, Stiles. Sleep well.

Stiles felt his face heat up, and at what? He concluded that this relationship made him way too giddy for his own good. It didn’t matter much though, because by tomorrow morning he’d be tangled up in such a panic. It was good he got to feel the happiness right then.
--
Stiles wore Derek’s sweatshirt, dressing with black pants underneath it. He made it his plan to deal with it when it came up, but until then, he joked with Scott about his night at Allison’s and explain how Derek fucked up his arms.

When he got to lunch, he knew he couldn’t hide anymore. Lydia’s scrutinizing gaze lingered on him as he sat, crawling under the hoodie and into his skin. He was just about to blurt out that Derek Hale was his boyfriend, okay, just take him away from the microscope, when Derek sat down next to him and dragged his arm to rest over the back of Stiles’ chair.

He didn’t think he could combust, but the heat from his face might prove him wrong. Lydia’s face gave one rare and triumphant smile. It cracked the Barbie image she held so perfect and showed a girl who knew she got something right. Scott, who was talking to Danny about something, immediately shut up. He looked in between them, doing his best to piece together what he was obviously missing.

Thankfully, before he could say anything to completely wreck it, Allison slid her hand over his. She smiled at Stiles, sweet but confused. “So, yeah, uhm this happened.” Stiles made a frantic motion between him and Derek. Derek didn’t seem to mind his awkwardness.

“Good for you.” Danny smiled at them, genuinely happy.

“About time.” Was Jackson’s only comment. Scott sat there, in stunned silence for the majority of the lunch. Every time he seemed close to saying something, Allison managed to distract him – which really wasn’t that hard. Allison’s looks towards them, as Derek kept his hand on Stiles’ and talked about how Camilla bit his ear off when he got home, promised that by the next time Stiles saw Scott, it wouldn’t be bad.

It was almost easy to act as if everything was normal, with everyone talking around Derek and Stiles’ bubble. Stiles only remembered that it wasn’t when the bell rang, and Derek pressed his lips to Stiles’ temple as a goodbye. It was like Stiles couldn’t move for a good few minutes and Lydia seemed to get a laugh out of it. The first time he managed to make her laugh, and he couldn’t even enjoy it really.
--
“Okay, so here’s the plan. You go around front and distract whoever is sitting at the desk, and I’m going to sneak in and get into my dad’s office.” It was afterschool on Wednesday, and Stiles knew his dad was doing patrol. He knew his schedule down to the hour – that didn’t mean he could memorize it though. “After I’m in, you can come out and come to the back door. If everything goes well, I should be there to open you. If not, then you leave.”

“Do you have a name for me?” Derek asked, scooting closer. He seemed to understand that if he got caught, it would be worse for him than if Stiles got caught. Stiles was the Sheriff’s kid, which meant that he would always be snooping. Derek was not, and that made it suspicious.

Stiles shook his head. “It’s usually Deputy Johnson, but—” His voice choked off, not sure where to go with that. His dad had told him, on Monday when he woke up, that he had gotten a call about a note concerning Deputy Johnson. Stiles just hoped it would lead to her discovery, but his dad refused to tell him more on the issue.

He wanted to help, dammit.

“That’s helpful.” Derek sighed.

Stiles’ legs started to jitter, the Jeep rocking with him. It was a small movement of nervous energy. He made a reminder to pick up his refill of Adderall tomorrow because he was running low. He knew how to make the pills last, mostly because he knew his schedule. It was only during finals that he ever needed more for a month than what he usually got. “Give me your opening.”

Derek just stared back at him, mouth slightly open and eyes large. Stiles gave him a few seconds, before pushing out a sarcastic half-smile. “Silence. Perfect.”

Derek returned the smile, tilting his head at the challenge. “I got this, let’s just go.”

It was Parrish that was waiting the desk, which was strange. He usually rode with his dad and Stiles had a brief flash of panic, thinking he got his dad’s schedule wrong. Derek walked in before him, looking at the desk. He put on his charming smile, walking up.

“Hey, Mr. Parrish.”

The deputy in question looked up from the work he had splayed at the counter. He returned a grin when he saw it was Derek. Stiles couldn’t help his eye roll, because really? Did Derek have to be so good at being charming? “Hey, Derek. What’s up?”

“I was hoping you’d be here.” He even sounded like he meant it. Stiles remembered him saying something about how his uncle and Parrish were friends, so he could actually be grateful it was Parrish. “I was wondering when the last time you talked to Isaac was?”

A frown appeared on Parrish’s face, as if he couldn’t remember. “I texted him a few days ago, why?”

“Oh, just his birthday was coming up and I’m not sure what to get him.” Derek said flippantly, leaning against the counter as if he had all the time in the world. Parrish pulled out his phone.

“I don’t remember if he said anything about his birthday, but I can check.” Stiles took the opportunity to move past him, as he buried his attention in his phone. All of the desks were empty when Stiles came to the big room for the cops. It was late afternoon, the time when almost every cop was out on patrol.

Stiles could hear Derek thanking Parrish, for what he didn’t know. He opened up his dad’s office, before moving to the back door. He waited a moment, and then pushed it open. It said that it was an emergency door, and that an alarm would sound if it was opened, but the alarm had been broken for years.

Derek came in to view a few seconds later, and jogged over when he saw that Stiles was waiting on him. “So did you get what you needed for Isaac’s birthday?”

“I’ll probably ask my dad to a tune up on his car and get him some new boxing gloves.” Derek didn’t miss a beat. Stiles blinked for a second, before pushing open the door to let Derek in more.

“Nice,” he noted. He led Derek to his dad’s office, which was empty like he knew it would be.

“What are we looking for?” Stiles sat at the Sheriff’s desk, with Derek leaning over him. He turned to respond to Derek, when he realized how close he was. Stiles couldn’t help the smile that fell over his face as he leaned over and brushed his lips across Derek’s cheek. He saw Derek’s lips curl up as he returned his attention to the computer.

Stiles blushed, trying to act as if it was nothing. “I’m going to see if I can pull up Kate’s file.”

His dad always left the database open on his computer, which Stiles had scolded him for before. However, it did come in handy now. He typed in her name, fully expecting something to come up, but nothing did. He sat back from the computer, his brain working furiously on why when Derek spoke again.

“There’s nothing there?” He straightened up behind Stiles.

“It could be somewhere else. Or in paper files.” Stiles thought suddenly.

“Where would I find those?” Stiles gestured over to the cabinet in the corner. He could hear Derek move over there, and try all of the doors.

“Locked,” Derek said sullenly. Stiles wasn’t so surprised, knowing that his dad didn’t get the position because he was getting old but because he was good at what he did. Stiles was typing in different names – Chris Argent, Victoria Argent, he even tried Allison. Derek returned to his original position, looking at different notes that were on Chris and Victoria. They were both known advocates of the anti-gay campaign.

It was strange, because there was literally nothing on Kate. Not a single note, or memo. Stiles was just going to turn to ask Derek about it, when he heard a throat being cleared. Both of them started, looking at the door.

Parrish stood there, leaning against the door frame. “What are you boys doing?”

Stiles choked, immediately trying to come up with a good excuse. Fuck.

“We came to check out why Kate is in town.” Well, Derek was direct. Stiles wasn’t expecting it, and it didn’t seem Parish was either. He blinked slowly, straightening up from his stance.

“Why?”

Stiles didn’t like to go the same route as Derek, but honesty was now his only way out. “Because she’s a terrible person.”

“You aren’t going to find anything on her there.”

Derek moved in front of the chair, causing Stiles to stand up to see behind him. “Can you tell us why not?” Parrish looked caught, as if he was doing something wrong. Derek took another step forward.

“I shouldn’t.” His face closed off.

“But you know why I want to know.” Derek urged on. Stiles wanted to reiterate that they had a very good reason for wanting to find out, but Derek and Parrish acted like they knew each other on a more personal level. The way Parrish looked at him guiltily made Stiles believe that for Derek, at least, it wasn’t just because she was a rude homophobe.

“Her file is expunged, so we can’t reach it.”

“What did she do?”

“Why don’t we sit down?” He gestured out of the office, guiding them to the break room. There were a few chairs there and he sat at one, waiting for them. “And as long as you don’t let anyone know I told you, then I can keep you being here from your dad, Stiles.”

Stiles flushed, forgetting that he shouldn’t be here. Then he grinned, because what kind of cop makes deals like that? “Okay,” He agreed.

“Kate was put on trial a few years ago, for some business she was caught in.” Stiles waited, as patient as he could be. “It was concluded that she was only at the scene, and was unknowing of what was going on. You see, we found her at a crack house. But she was in the living room – and it was made in the basement. Plus, she had nothing in her system.

“I was a young police officer then, and didn’t have much say. Your dad just became Sheriff so he listened to the older officers when they said that there was no case with her. But it always seemed strange to me, how she hung around those people but weren’t a part of those people.”

“How did you find out that she was there?” Stiles asked. He knew the routine of finding a drug house – because the police couldn’t get a warrant without a cause.

Parrish’s head dropped, a pink flushing up his neck. “I—I was convinced to put a wire on Peter.”

Stiles gasped softly, looking sideways at Derek. He had briefly tensed up, staring at Parrish in shock. Stiles remembered the night at the grocery store – Derek panicking about Stiles taking drugs. Was it Peter?

“But she was never convicted, so the people who were five years ago are getting out. And all this stuff happening from a gang, we just asked her to come back. She was living a few towns over – where some other activity was happening – so we wanted to keep an eye on her.”

“But why were her files expunged? Even if she wasn’t connected, it should have still been noted.” Stiles asked. Derek still seemed shock-still next to him, and it hurt Stiles. He reached over and gently squeezed his wrist.

Parrish shook his head. “I don’t know what happened between her and the judge. But she did something, or convinced someone that she deserved to have her file cleaned. Now I can’t even look at her testimonies or anything. And I think those might be helpful now, especially when I think she’s involved in this gang violence.”

Stiles wasn’t finding that hard to believe at the moment, either.

It was maybe an hour after that, while Parrish talked more on young Kate and how big of an activist she was before ushering them out. Derek had been quiet for a majority of the time, but it wasn’t the easy quiet Stiles was accustomed to. It was like his strings were pulled tight and if even thought of opening his mouth, they would snap.

They got back into the Jeep, and Stiles started it. “Do you want me to take you home?” He gently asked.

Derek was looking out the window, but he managed a response. “Yeah.” It was like the softest sigh, a broken note.

Stiles was about halfway there, not wanting to push Derek and thus remaining silent, before Derek spoke again. “Uncle Peter was a drug addict.” It was all he said.

“Okay.” Stiles replied. He couldn’t say anything else, and the okay was to signal that he was willing to talk about it more.

“I think Kate was the one who gave him his stuff. I think that’s why they dated.” He breathed in. “He was always falling on and off again. It was like one day he’d be there, and the next day you didn’t know who you’d be meeting. Mom is so used to solving problems, she thought she could fix him. I never understood why Parrish stayed his friend. Why he didn’t convict him.”

Stiles kept his eyes trained on the road, thinking it would be easier this way for Derek. He sounded like he was struggling, like it was a huge secret. And it seemed like it was, one that only some of the family knew about. Cora had no idea, and that meant no one younger than Derek probably knew.

“He would steal, and connive his way to getting his next high. Mom started locking the pain killers and medication away. When he’d act normal, he’d take Laura with him to see Kate. Laura doesn’t want to admit it, but I think she was just there so Kate could say she was watching a child and didn’t know what Uncle Peter was doing.

“She knew what she was doing. She was doing it to him, giving it to him. And I could never understand why she never got time for dealing it when he got time for taking it – but I guess it’s because she could trick them into thinking she didn’t. Mom told all the kids that Uncle Peter was taking a vacation, to help with his sickness. She didn’t say he was going to jail for being an addict.”

So that’s where he was. Stiles felt his hand tighten on the wheel, turning the sharp turn to Derek’s house. “The only good thing for my uncle was that he got to get out earlier for how many times he’s been warned. Mom got him put in a rehab program, one to get him ready for the real world. That’s where he is now.

“I just… I never knew Parrish was the one who got him sent there.” Derek finished, as they were pulling up to the house. Stiles felt like he had just seen something he had shown no one. The Derek sitting with him gave him an exposed feeling, one of pure vulnerability.

“Would you rather he not have?” Stiles risked asking the question, having been quiet for far longer than he liked to be.

Derek considered it for a moment. “No.” He decided. Stiles expected him to follow it up with an ‘I want my uncle back,’ or an ‘I just hope he’s better’ afterwards, but instead Derek finished with, “I’m glad he’s gone. I don’t want him here.”

Stiles couldn’t say he understood, because he didn’t. He could sympathize with feeling like he didn’t know the person he was living with, but not with wanting them gone. “Oh,” he said, rather feebly.

“Today’s game night. If you want to.” Derek offered, obviously done with their previous conversation. He still seemed a little wound, but nothing like he was before talking.

Stiles shook his head, knowing he had a stack of literature he had to get to. “I would love to, but I’ve left all of my essay answers for Frankenstein until tonight.” Derek winced. “Tell everyone I said hi.”

Derek nodded, “I will.” He looked like he was about to climb out of the Jeep, and go on his way, before leaning closer to Stiles.

Stiles would like to say he saw it coming, but he was just as surprised this time as he was the first. Derek placed a hand on his thigh – which, hello – to help steady himself as he pushed into Stiles’ personal space. The kiss was soft, nothing like the first. He gently pressed his lips onto Stiles’, attempting to elicit a response. Stiles let his entire body push forward in increments, hand coming up to curl at the back of Derek’s head, just below the hair.

It was slow, and building. Stiles could feel his emotions bubble up, wanting him to push harder. It hurt how good this kiss was. Derek broke it, moving just far enough to meet Stiles’ gaze.

His eyes were awestruck, with large pupils and a dance in them. “Bye, Stiles.” When Derek said his name, his lips brushed against Stiles’ again, completely accidental.

Stiles slowly let his hand fall away, fingers dragging against Derek’s neck. “Bye, Derek.” He smiled silly as Derek left the Jeep and wandered up into his house. He waited until the door shut before he pulled away.
--
Scott was there when Stiles got home, which wasn’t surprising. What was that he didn’t look angry, just betrayed. He sat on the porch, waiting for Stiles to pull up. It hurt to see him so downcast, hurt so much Stiles wished he was actually angry.

Stiles moved slowly to where he was, knowing that they were going to have a conversation. As he got closer, Scott opened the front door and went inside. Stiles followed, even if he was unhappy about it. Scott went and sat on the recliner, waiting for Stiles to sit on the couch.

He did, and let his legs move at their how pace as he clasped his hands. Scott was really good about letting Stiles get his twitchiness out. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He finally asked.

Stiles looked up to see Scott looking at him. He just looked hurt, and why didn’t Stiles tell him? “I didn’t think you liked him. So you wouldn’t like us.” Stiles had to swallow a few times to get it past the lump in his throat.

“I just want you to be happy, man. So what if I don’t like the dude? You do, so I’d be happy for you.” Scott shook his head, looking down.

“I’m sorry.” Stiles responded, feeling lost. Him and Scott were supposed to always be through the thick with each other, honest with each other. He had let him down. “I just happened, and I didn’t know how to tell you. I didn’t know how to tell anyone. But I’d like to tell you now.”

Scott took a deep breath, and Stiles could tell in his form that he was going to forgive Stiles for him not trusting Scott. It didn’t make him feel any better for doing it. “Okay.”

“This weekend, we went to a party. And a drunk guy tried to get at me, and Derek helped me. I told the dude we were dating, and after Derek got me out, he kissed me. And I really liked it. I like him.” Stiles couldn’t help the smile, however tiny, that spread across his face while he spoke.

Scott watched the change in character, seeing how Stiles lit up. “And now it’s official.” Stiles was about to say yes, that it was when Scott continued on. “You can no longer complain about me talking about me and Allison.”

Stiles groaned, knowing that it was the stipulation to cheer Scott up. “Really?”

“Really, dude.” Scott flashed his first smile since coming in, the matter resolved easily. If not painlessly. “Did I tell you she started taking lessons in archery?”

“So are you guys going as Robin Hood and her boyfriend for Lydia’s Halloween party?” Stiles said it sarcastically, but he could see the idea take hold with Scott.

“I mean, it’s still like a month away, but maybe we could go shopping during the next break for costumes.” Scott turned to him. “What are you going as?”

Stiles snorted, shifting back onto the couch. “I’m not going as anything. I’m not going.” Stiles reaffirmed to himself.

It was Scott’s turn to laugh, pulling out his phone to check to see if Allison had texted him. It was such second nature that he probably didn’t even know he did it. “Do you really think Lydia is going to let you out of this one, now that you have a boyfriend?”

“She was probably grateful that I didn’t come to the last one.” Stiles answered. “She can live without me bringing my highly attractive boyfriend to this one.”

“She totally wanted you there, dude.” Stiles phone buzzed in his pocket, and he was fishing it out before he could respond to Scott. “Who’s it from?”

“Derek,” Stiles said, only half paying attention. Scott snorted, and Stiles could already hear him mumbling that Stiles was going to be just as bad as him.

Derek Hale: Hey, Sunday, my family is going to go on a hike. Wondering if you wanted to come?

Stiles: am i actually getting invited to a hale woods outing

Stiles: i thought that was just for family

Derek Hale: It usually is.

Derek Hale: But they want to formally meet my boyfriend, and invited him to this.

Stiles felt his body heat up, especially his face. Derek already told his family? Oh, god, he could just hear Cora now…

“What’s wrong with you?” Scott asked. He was also typing away on his phone, so no surprise there. He had just spared a glance up to see Stiles’ face slowly burn off of his bones.

“Derek told his family about us.” Stiles stated. “What do I do now?”

“Meet them?” Scott said, as if it was obvious.

“I already have.” Stiles shot back.

“Are you really that worried?”

“I haven’t done this before, Scott.” Stiles said desperately. “I don’t know how to make them still like me, what if they don’t think I’m good enough for Derek?”

Scott put down his phone, looking Stiles in the eyes. He looked at him like he knew what he was going through. “Stiles. They already like you. You will be okay, it will be okay. You are definitely good enough.” He leaned over to pat Stiles’ knee. “Breathe.”

Stiles could already feel his lungs loosening up; Scott knew how to calm Stiles like no one else did. He smiled back at his friend, as Scott picked back up his phone. Stiles knew he’d be leaving soon, by the way his eyes lit up as his phone pinged.

Stiles: ok. what time

Derek Hale: 8:30.

Stiles groaned, because his boyfriend was unbelievable.

Chapter Text

The morning and Stiles rarely agreed on anything besides the bed was still warm and the shower started cold. But Stiles still got up, put on a pair of sweats and a ratty shirt and went over to the Hale house. They were all dressed in actual outdoors clothes, but didn’t seem to mind Stiles’ improvisation.

Cora couldn’t stop grinning as he slid out of his Jeep and damn, he was hoping that today wouldn’t be too bad. She laughed at everything she said, like “We’re waiting on Derek,” and “He should be coming any minute now.” He’d rather go stand next to Ritsa, but she was nowhere to be found. She probably wanted the day to herself, and Stiles hoped it wasn’t because of his and Derek’s new situation.

Talia was on the phone when he got there, but as soon as she got off she marched over to him. He was expecting a stern lesson, and shrunk back from it, when she pulled him into a hug. “I told him he better be good to you. The same goes for you, Stiles.” She breathed into his ear. It was all that was said.

Derek came out, hair looking a little too messy and eyes a little too tired. Poohkey was cradled in Stiles’ arms, and had only given a feeble attempt to cry today when he hit a pothole. “Ritsa said she was just going to gorge herself on romance movies today, so she can watch the baby.” His eyes showed a tight worry as he took the baby. Even Stiles could tell why it might be a bad idea to let Ritsa stay at home and watch romance.

Pretty soon though, they got going and Stiles was good for the first hour or so. The kids darted around everyone, as Talia walked ahead with Arthur and surveyed the area. Darvon seemed to enjoy chasing the kids around, just as Camilla walked slowly with Aubree in her arms. The pace was doable, until the family veered off from a well-worn trail.

Arthur turned around and grinned towards Stiles and Derek, “We’re going exploring!”

“They do know how to get back, though, right?” Stiles asked nervously.

“We usually don’t have problems with that.” Derek shrugged. “Usually.”

It only took a few minutes for Stiles to get his foot snagged on a root, and then for him to walk into some thorns. Derek didn’t chuckle, but Cora found it funny. She helped pull them off, stopping her game with Nick and Aiden to help. Ethan was nowhere to be seen.

By the fourth time of Stiles being attacked by the wilderness and having to get help to get free, he asked Derek if he would tell them they don’t have to wait up for him. He did so, and after a moment’s pause, Talia shrugged.

“Don’t you boys do anything stupid.” Camilla warned, moving ahead just as surely as everyone else. Aubree peaked from above her shoulder and waved goodbye.

“We won’t.” Stiles called back, trying to get all the cobwebs off of him. Derek helped brush them off his back, and when his hand swatted at Stiles’ ass, Stiles couldn’t help his jump. “So, um, I thought Aubree was too young to go out?”

“She is, at least when we’re all playing a game. But Aunt Camilla is going to carry her until they turn around and then Aubree will be allowed to walk. Aunt Camilla will point out what she can and can’t touch.” Derek shrugged.

“Are you sure you’ve never seen this stretch of the woods before?”

Derek at least took the time to look around, his eyes settling on a small creek that was a little away. “I’ve noted it before, but never explored it.” He offered Stiles his hand. “Come on, there’s something I want to show you.”

Stiles was always eager to touch Derek, excuse or not. A few times, while they walked, Derek had slipped his hand to rest on Stiles back or his hand to encircle his wrist. “Away from the family? Isn’t there like a rule – stay with the pack?”

Derek laughed, “They won’t miss us too much. Everyone likes the outings for different reasons.”

“I thought you said we were going on a hike.” Stiles accused as he stepped over the little creek. The way they were going didn’t show any signs of mountain or hill.

“They are," He gestured towards where his family had vanished. “Or at least, they’re looking for the place they found last time. Said it was nice, but hidden by the trees. Perfect place to spend the afternoon.”

“Where are we going?”

Derek smiled, turning his head to really look at Stiles. “You’ll see.” Stiles could be patient, sometimes. And Derek was acting different than usually, high laughing and smiles. It was nice, but a little disconcerting.

What he had to show Stiles was a tree. A huge tree, yes, but a tree.

He almost asked really, when Derek pulled him forward. After a few more steps into the grove where the tree lived, he could see markings all over the tree. More like…letters. They got right up to it before Stiles realized how many letters were on the tree, spiraling up the tree, etched into it as it aged.

“What is this?” He reached out to trace the letter J and then next to it, I.

“It’s kind of a family relic.” He said sheepishly. Stiles realized he was probably nervous to show Stiles this, because of how Stiles might react.

“Why are there all these letters here?”

“You know how couples would mark their name in a tree, and then put a heart around it?” Derek asked. Stiles nodded, moving to trace the R under the first two letters. “When a family member gets married, or decides to get married, they carve their initials out on the tree with their soulmate.”

Stiles’ hand hovered over the last letter, a hard H. He realized he was tracing Ritsa’s vow in the tree, and pulled his hand back. “How long have you guys been doing this?” He looked up at the behemoth, seeing letters farther up than he thought could be possible.

“Since as long as I can remember. We’ve never checked the first name, and I’m sure someone once knew who it was, but we don’t.” He reached a hand out, stretching up to trace letters above them. “It’s supposed to symbolize permanence.”
--
The day ended well, with them returning to the house before everyone else to find a napping Ritsa and some food in the fridge. They ate a little, talked about how Talia and Arthur met – she was actually selling him a house for him and his fiancée. Stiles had to leave soon, because his dad would be home for dinner and he didn’t want to miss it. Derek led him out to his Jeep.

“Today was good.” He summarized his feelings, but Stiles was grateful he said it anyways.

“Yeah it was.” The Jeep was behind him now, but he still paused, tilting his head up slightly. Derek understood immediately, and cupped his face. Stiles brought one of his hand up to hold onto Derek’s wrist, the other moving to his waist. It felt all too natural, for it being so new.

He waited, knowing that Derek would want to initiate this. He let his eyes flutter to a close, and could feel the warm air ghosting over his lips. He opened his mouth slightly, feeling a little breathless. And Derek hadn’t even kissed him yet – was it going to be like this every time?

Derek was gentle again, all the fullness of his lips touching Stiles’, with none of the force. His hands held Stiles tightly though, keeping him there. As he sank into the kiss, Stiles pushed close to him. He was strength, and kindness, and goodness. He felt like goodness.

Derek shifted back after a moment, dropping his hands down. Stiles blinked his eyes open slowly, letting them get used to everything. Derek looked shy, as if he had asked for something he wasn’t sure he could have. “Bye, Derek.” Stiles smiled, moving his hand away from his waist. It was a freeze-frame kiss, making it to where Stiles could move nothing.

As he was going home, his phone buzzed in his pocket. He wasn’t a stickler for most rules, but he wouldn’t text and drive – his dad would kill him if the text didn’t. He waited until he got home and had the vegetables steaming and the chicken cooking for the soup before he looked at it.

Derek Hale: You forgot something.

Derek Hale: [multimedia file]

Stiles opened it, genuinely curious as to what he could have left. A picture of Poohkey greeted him. “Fuck,” He muttered under his breath.

Stiles: I can come and get her

Derek Hale: No, it’s okay. I get her tomorrow anyway.

Stiles: thank you so much

Derek Hale: It’s no problem, but if you want to make it up to me, you could always say yes to going to the carnival with me this weekend?

Stiles blushed, alone in his kitchen, and did his best not to do anything too silly. It was technically going to be their first date together, or at least the first time they’d go out alone together.

Stiles: yes

He had no time bustling around the kitchen and preparing things then, having all of it finished and ready by the time he heard the front door open. “Hey, Dad,” He called out, a little too cheery.

The Sheriff walked in, eyeing him suspiciously. “Hey, Stiles, what’s for dinner?”

“I made soup.” He sat down at the table, waiting for his dad to join him.

His dad made a face. “Not vegetable soup, right?”

“Well, it’s got vegetables in it.” Stiles teased. “But there’s also some chicken.”

“Thank God,” He sat down heavily, sighing.

Stiles got through the first few bites of his food before he knew something was up. His dad was eating normally, sure, but every few seconds he’d glance up at Stiles. His face held a tight look to it, not like anger but it was there. “Any word at the station about Deputy Johnson?” Stiles ventured out. He figured it had something to do with the case.

The Sheriff sat up as if he had been shocked out of a daze. “No, none yet.” He mumbled. Clearing his throat, he continued speaking. “But there is something about the station I want to talk to you about.” Stiles leaned forward eagerly, hoping he was finally going to get to help with the case. His dad peered at him curiously. “You do know that Parrish and I do talk, and that I keep check on the video cameras.”

Stiles heart stopped beating. He could feel it, as if something had come and swallowed him whole and wow, was he freaking out. “Yeah?” He managed to ask.

“Yeah, so I saw you, and Parrish, and Derek sitting in the break room for a good hour.” What? Did he not check the cameras everywhere else? Did his office not have a camera?

“Oh, uhm, you see,” Stiles fumbled, trying to think of a good reason to have been there. And to have had Derek in tow with him. The Sheriff raised a hand, as if to ask Stiles to be quiet for a moment. Stiles promptly stopped.

“Son, you can’t lie to me. Parrish tells me things.” He said. He bit his lip, and he looked a little hurt. It made Stiles feel terrible, but he couldn’t tell him the truth yet – not until he knew the truth. His dad would flip if he knew what Stiles was looking for. “I’m just saying that I thought I raised you to be able to come to me about your relationships.”

Stiles blinked, confused. He didn’t know what Parrish had told his dad, but it certainly wasn’t anything about Kate. “What?” He asked softly.

His dad cut him a look that said not to play with him. “Parrish told me that you came in yesterday to ask him how to approach me about you being with Derek.”

Stiles jaw dropped. He literally had no words – because he thought they were being careful, and that Parrish didn’t realize. “I’m sorry, Dad.” He blurted, unsure of even what he was apologizing for.

His dad seemed to take it at face value though. “It’s okay, son. Just know that I’m okay with Derek – he’s a good kid. And if anything else happens, tell me next time, okay?”

Stiles nodded vigorously, then paused. Their date was a big deal to him, but he didn’t know how much of a big deal it really was. “There is one more thing,” Stiles started hesitantly. “He invited me to go out to the carnival this weekend.”

The Sheriff looked at him, hard. He was trying to make sure that Stiles was telling the truth so Stiles kept an open expression. He finally nodded, as if consenting.
--
It was Tuesday night, around three o’clock AM, when a phone call woke him up. “Hello?” He asked groggily. He hadn’t even bothered to check the Caller ID.

“Stiles,” Derek’s voice sounded panicky, and like he had been crying. Stiles was immediately up, sitting in his bed with wide eyes. “Aubree’s in the hospital.”

Stiles felt his heart sink, every ounce of anxiety that Derek was breathing out was washing over his skin. “What’s wrong?” He was puling himself out from under the covers, looking around for a pair of sweats to throw on.

“They think that she might have eaten something, or touch something, out in the woods that she wasn’t supposed to.”

“But I thought she was in Camilla’s arms the entire time?” Stiles had his keys in his hand, pulling on the sweats over his boxers as he left his room.

“Not on the way down.” He reminded Stiles. He seemed to be calmer than when Stiles had first answered the phone, though his voice was still shaky.

“Okay, Derek. Tell me what’s going on.” Stiles used his best calm voice, just like he did when Scott and him were kids and Scott broke his arm and both of their parents were out working.

“Aunt Ritsa woke everyone up tonight, because she said we needed to go to the hospital. Aubree had been sick for the past two days, but she was really bad at dinner tonight. We thought it was the flu, and Aunt Camilla gave her some medicine. Her fever hasn’t gone down, and so we brought her here.”

Stiles was driving along, trying to keep steady on the road. The hospital wasn’t too far off, and he could probably get there in ten minutes. Derek continued on with his explanation. “They admitted her to an Emergency stay, and only Aunt Ritsa is back there with her. It’s been about two hours, and I just. What if she’s not okay?”

“She’ll be okay.” Stiles assured him. “She’s a Hale, right? Aren’t you guys made to be indestructible?” Stiles slid into the parking lot, quickly scoping out a spot to put his Jeep into. He was breaking curfew rules, but it was for a good reason.

Derek laughed a little, more of a blow of air than anything, before answering. “Yeah. Thanks, Stiles. I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“It’s okay. I’m supposed to be here for you – it’s what boyfriends do.” Stiles’ voice caught on the word boyfriend.

“Thanks,” Derek repeated, softly this time. “I’ll let you get some sleep now.”

Stiles walked into the waiting area, immediately spotting them. Almost all of the kids were asleep, sprawled out on the couches and chairs. Everyone was doing their own respective things, such as Talia with a laptop, and Cora and Camilla had some knitting. They had obviously gone home to get pastimes before returning, but the pastimes were done jerkily, with each of them looking like varying degrees of worry.

Derek was sitting against the wall, not even bothering with a chair. Stiles lowered his phone and raised his voice slightly. “I don’t think I’m going back to sleep.”

Derek’s head snapped up, seeing Stiles. His eyes looked slightly bloodshot and watery, but he managed a weak smile. “You came.”

“Yeah, Aubree’s sick.” Stiles waved hi when Cora looked over, but still kept his path toward Derek. He slid down to sit on the tiles with him, the cold stone numbing his ass. “And you were worried. So I came.”

Derek shifted when Stiles sat, pushing his head onto Stiles’ shoulder, “Thanks. It means a lot.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine.” Stiles murmured gently into Derek’s hair. He liked their position, with him laying his face on Derek’s hair. Derek pulled Stiles’ hands apart from their entwined state and push his fingers up against Stiles’.

It was comfortable for them to sit there, to let Stiles drag the pad of his thumb across Derek’s index finger and soothe him. He was breathing, and Stiles could fall asleep here. Not comfortably, but he could.

Around five, Laura came running in. She was a mess, a worried looking mess. Derek hadn’t seen her yet because he was in the bathroom and Stiles had taken the chance to move them to actual chairs. Talia rose to greet Laura, placing a soothing hand on her and quietly explaining the situation.

Stiles could see the tension start to ease out of her, and Talia soon returned to her spot next to Arthur. Both of the men were asleep. Laura instead went over to the receptionist for a conversation. The way they interacted led Stiles to believe that they knew each other. After a few minutes of laughter and banter, Laura turned to join her family and spotted Stiles.

She frowned at him. He was hoping that she didn’t try to pull a scene or cause him or Derek to. The only consolation was that Talia was there and she could break it up. Laura stopped a few feet in front of him. “Why are you here?”

“Aubree’s sick. I was worried. I came.” Stiles tried to use short sentences to avoid bringing up unnecessary topics.

“But why were you worried?”

“I like Aubree, she’s a cute baby. And Ritsa, I like her too. I want to make sure that everything’s okay. I mean, I can’t imagine if Ritsa…” How could someone respond to losing a baby and a husband in less than three years?

Laura shook her head. “No, I mean. They aren’t Derek. I thought you wouldn’t care because they aren’t Derek.”

“Derek’s worried too, and I’m here to comfort him as well.” Stiles shrugged.

“But you’re gay.” She threw a look around the room. Stiles realized her reputation meant more to her than a fight. “I thought that meant you wouldn’t care unless it was something to do about your boyfriend.”

“Are your boyfriends like that?” Stiles challenged. He realized that this is one of the few times that he’d probably get to explain to her what was actually happening and try and convince her that nothing was wrong with him.

“No,” She blinked, confused.

“You do realize that just because I’m in a gay relationship doesn’t mean that much changes, right? I still want your family to like me, I still want to go out on cute dates, and hang out with my friends. The only difference between you and a guy dating and me and Derek dating is sex.”

She didn’t know what to say at that it seemed. Laura moved away, not even bothering to have a response. He hoped that she thought on it. Derek came back, sinking into his chair. “When did she get here?” He whispered to Stiles.

“A few minutes ago. Why didn’t she come with you guys?”

“She was staying over at a friend’s house. It’s going to be time for school soon.” Derek changed the subject, easily diverting his attention.

“I know.” Stiles yawned. “I’m not going today, I guess.”

Derek looked at him sideways, but Stiles settled back into the chair, determined. He shot a quick text to his dad, explaining the situation. He should be getting up soon and Stiles didn’t want him to worry.

Ritsa came out after a few more minutes, and everyone struggled to their feet. Her hair was everywhere, her cheeks were blotchy, and she seemed to be vibrating. It took her a moment to look around and find them, and then she was hurrying over.

“How is she?” Talia was at her first, touching her arms and face and making sure she was okay.

Ritsa pulled out a shaky breath. “She’s good. They say she might have put some moss in her mouth, and that it thankfully wasn’t lethal. They gave her some stuff to help her wash out her body. They told me that I should go home, get some stuff, so that I’ll be able to stay when she wakes up.”

Camilla was trying to fix her hair from behind, “I can take you home. I brought the truck.” Ritsa was nodding, willing to go. Stiles was on the edges of family, leaning into Derek. He didn’t notice someone calling for him, he was too tired, until Melissa was right up at him.

“Stiles?” She looked between Derek and him.

“Hey, Mrs. Melissa.” He smiled at her to show her that he wasn’t here for him. “This is Derek and his family.”

A few of the kids that were up looked at the woman in scrubs, and Talia turned to see her as well. “Hi.” She let her eyes soak them in. “I just came over because Julia said that you had been here since about three and I was worried.”

Cora spoke up, uninvited but not seeming to realize so. “No, our baby cousin – Aubree – was sick and he came to sit with Derek.”

Melissa nodded. Stiles looked over at Ritsa, who had paused from leaving with Camilla. She was staring at Melissa, and pulled away from Camilla’s grasp. “You,” She breathed out.

Melissa looked up, unsure of herself. She had probably seen enough cases to realize that Ritsa was the mother and that was why she looked so defeated. “Ma’am?”

“You were one of the nurses that worked on James.” She was staring at Melissa like she was a lifeline, like she was an oasis. Camilla, who had previously been tugging on her sister’s arm, released her. “Do you remember?” She whispered.

Melissa’s face became sorrowful. Stiles thought she was going to say no, and braced himself for how Ritsa was going to respond to the answer. “I’m sorry we couldn’t save him.” Ritsa’s face crumpled, like it was the first time she had heard it. Stiles knew that she had bad days, days when she couldn’t do things because of what had happened, but he had never fully seen one. “Do you want to talk about him?” Melissa offered kindly.

Ritsa seemed unsure for a moment, looking between her family and Melissa. She nodded, shuffling towards Melissa, who opened her arms up and guided her to one of the couches that the kids weren’t on. She gestured something to the receptionist on the way over, probably saying to push back her shift.

Derek was slightly behind Stiles, and leaned in to whisper something to him. “I think Aunt Camilla is still going to leave. Do you want to go with her?”

It didn’t take a second thought for Stiles to nod his head, and hurry towards her. She waited, seeing them, until they got at the door with her. “Are you boys coming?”

“Yeah, we wanted to.” Derek responded.

“Okay, but it looks like Talia is trying to wake up Nick and Bailey to come with us too.” Camilla stayed still. “I think she’s going to shuffle the kids back to the house in intervals.”

True enough, Nick and Bailey came with them, pushing Stiles in the back with them on the ride. Bailey fell back asleep, on Stiles, on the way home. He seemed irritable the entirety of his awake moments, snapping at everyone. He’d probably have already made good excuses to why he did.

Stiles was exhausted himself, if he was honest. His phone had died around five-thirty, and he had to call his dad using Derek’s phone. The Sheriff didn’t have a problem with Stiles being there, as long as he didn’t fall behind in school and he told Stiles to let them know that he was hoping Aubree got better too.

They managed to get into the house, everyone stumbling into the blue room. Nick threw himself onto the ground, where sure, the carpet was thick enough to sleep on. Bailey, who had been mostly supported by Stiles on their walk in, managed to get to the Lazy Boy recliner, where he curled up clumsily in the seat.

Camilla claimed the couch, muttering about how Talia had texted her to let her know that Ritsa wouldn’t be needing stuff for a few hours and that they could all rest for a bit. It didn’t take five minutes before she was asleep, and Derek and Stiles were left to groggily try and figure out where to sleep. The carpet was sounding good to Stiles, but Derek tugged him out of the room.

He didn’t even have the energy, really, to argue. He had probably gotten more sleep than Derek or Camilla, but he hadn’t gone to bed until twelve, so it was a marginal amount more of sleep. Derek pulled him a little up the hallway, and into the room with all of the sewing. There was a quilt being patched that had thrown over the couch. Derek lifted it cautiously before placing it onto the table.

He then stretched out on the couch, and Stiles was about to go find him his own room, when he cracked back open an eye. “What are you waiting for?” Derek asked. “An invitation?”

So Stiles laid down hesitantly, trying not to trap Derek too much or take up all the space. It all went to pieces though when Derek curled his arm around Stiles and drew him in. “Where does the other arm go?” Stiles asked sleepily. The lack of Adderall was starting to affect him, because he should have taken it around six, and it was going on eight last time he looked at the clock. “Where do you put it?”

“Around me.” Derek knew he wouldn’t stop asking, so he gave him a concise answer. “Now go to sleep.”

“I am, what do you think I’m doing?” He scooted in closer to Derek, molding his body to him. Derek gave up a content sound, caught between a hum and groan. “Derek?”

“Yes?” He was going to push Stiles off of the couch, wasn’t he?

“Aubree’s going to be okay.” Stiles didn’t phrase it as a question, but he hoped it got across to Derek.

There was a stifled yawn. “Yeah.”
--
And she was okay, because by Friday she went home. Stiles and Derek had turned in Poohkey that day, and they were going to enjoy the break. They managed to find out that she was lacking in batteries, and they would get her back fully charged. It was a bittersweet announcement.

When Aubree came home, Stiles decided to go and buy a cake. He bought one of the bigger sheet cakes and drove over to their house. He didn’t think he could carry it in without stumbling or something, so he called Derek.

“Hello?” Derek picked up after the second ring.

“Hey, it’s me.” Stiles responded.

“Hey, Stiles, what’s up?”

Stiles drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to change. “Is Aubree back yet?”

“No, they haven’t gotten home. Why?”

“I bought a cake to celebrate, but I don’t think I’m good to carry it in.” Stiles admitted. “Help?”

Derek laughed. “Sure, I will. How far away are you from home?”

The way he said it, as if Stiles had a home at the Hales, made Stiles’ breath catch. “I would say about ten minutes or less.”

“Just because you’re coming over today doesn’t mean you’re cancelling our date for tomorrow night, does it?”

Stiles had completely forgotten about the date with everything happening with Aubree. He smiled, thinking about how Derek still wanted him. “No, I still want to go. By the way, I’m about to do your devil turn on the way to the house.”

“Okay, I’ll be out there.” Derek knew which turn Stiles was talking about.

“See you when I get there.”

Stiles nearly dropped his phone with Derek’s reply. “Bye, babe. See you in a minute.”

Chapter Text

The air was crisp tonight, as Stiles tucked a scarf around his neck. He was going to pick up Derek for their date, for their date. Ally and Scott were also going to the carnival but he didn’t want to spend the entire time with them.

The sun had already dipped below the trees, hiding amongst the weeds of the forest. He had to get special permission from his dad to do this, so he wouldn’t break curfew – if his dad had to know about it, then Stiles would make sure to ask.

He pulled up the Hale house and as he approached the steps, he could hear a game of sorts in the back. The kind that a mother would have to call her children back in from, or else they would spend the night on it. He rapped on the wood, still as unsure as ever, and waited. No yell came from the inside that he was free to come in but soon enough Derek stepped out.

He looked very clean – not to say that he wasn’t on most days. He wore a long-sleeved, cream colored shirt that hung to his arms and yet only hinted at the strong torso. He smiled at Stiles, eyes landing on the scarf. “It’s a nice touch.” He said after a minute, stepping out of the doorway and closer to Stiles.

Stiles realized he hadn’t said anything yet, had just been staring, which, okay, was embarrassing. “Thanks, winter’s coming and all.”

Derek laughed a little at that, somehow managing to look confident and nervous at the same time. “It’s not that cold. Laura and I, when we were younger, had to spend a month up in New York with Aunt Camilla – and that was during the winter.”

“Dang, why did you guys stay up there so long?” Stiles started walking to the Jeep, delighted that Derek had managed to start an easy flow of conversation. If it was left up to Stiles, there would probably be many stopping and starting of sentences, with stuttering and forgetting words guaranteed.

“Uncle Darvon was coming back for about a week or so from working with the military and she wanted to make sure that she caught him. Laura and I went up with her because we said we wanted to see snow.”

“Was it worth it?” Stiles briefly considering acting like a knight, and opening up Derek’s door. But that would probably only result in a raised eyebrow and nothing more.

Derek shook his head, hopping into the Jeep. “Maybe if we weren’t in the city, but it made traffic even more awful, and it made everything too sharp and we really didn’t pack for actual snow and everything just got wet.”

Stiles joined him in laughing at his misfortune for a moment. They were on the road now, to the carnival. It wasn’t like Stiles had never been to a carnival, but it was the first in a while and it made him feel like a child again. He smiled, glancing over at Derek, who was looking out the windshield. Derek also wore a content expression, the not-so-constant frown relaxed.

“My mom was from Michigan.” Stiles started conversationally. It wasn’t actually a good conversation starter, and it made Stiles fingers turn white on the steering wheel, but it was okay. It hurt, but he could do it. “She would always talk about the snow up there, and stuff. She came down here after Uncle Charles did – he paid for her to go to college here, so she could be close to him. She said the only time she’d ever feel comfortable with the weather here was the dead of winter.”

“So why did she stay? Before she met your dad?” Derek asked. Stiles took a deep breath, not used to talking about her. Scott didn’t ask anymore, and his father couldn’t’ still.

Stiles didn’t glance over, feeling as if it was better that he kept all his physical attention on the road. “Because Uncle Charles wanted her to. She was like that you know – always thinking about how others feel about something, rather than herself.”

His throat closed up then, thinking about her when she was playing slaps with death. He wasn’t angry anymore, but he often times hid the encompassing grief from others. Derek didn’t ask any more questions, but he offered no more conversation either. Stiles just tried to step around his own thoughts for the rest of the time. Carnival, Scott, lacrosse, Poohkey, break, anything.

Stiles felt like he started the evening off shittily.

When they got out of the car, Stiles resolved to fix it. They were walking towards the ticket line with Stiles bounced over to Derek, slipping his hand into Derek’s. “When was the last time you went to a carnival? I haven’t gone in a while, but I’m going to guess that not much has changed.” Stiles blabbered.

Derek smiled, as they waited in line. “It’s been a few years. Bailey wanted to go for his sixth birthday, but that was the year they didn’t come. I think the last time I went was when Colton turned nine.” Derek said decidedly.

“Of course you would have come with your family, how could I forget that.” Stiles snorted, amused at how he somehow managed to forget all of the children that were in Derek’s family.

“I don’t know.” Derek laughed. They were getting close to the front of the line, and Stiles went to pull his wallet out. Derek’s hand tightened on his own, the bones under the skin outlined against Stiles’ in his grasp. “Oh, no. You drove, I pay.”

“I can pay.” Stiles insisted.

“I didn’t say you couldn’t.” Derek reasoned back, trying to soothe Stiles. “I was just saying that it would be fair if I paid, since you’re the one who brought us.” Stiles sighed, feeling uncomfortable with the idea. His Jeep was a good one, that didn’t take up too much gas in his opinion, so giving people lifts was no big deal to him. “How about you pay for the cotton candy and stuff when we get in there?” Derek suggested.

Stiles flashed him a grateful smile, nodding quickly. It all went smoothly from there, even if Stiles had to deal with the ticket booth master trying to flirt with Derek, while he stood right there. It didn’t bother him too much, or not enough for him to say anything. Derek was with him, so what did it really matter?

They did a few games, Stiles mostly failing horribly. Derek enjoyed his efforts and complimented him on everything he possibly could. It made Stiles feel warm, to have such a glowing review from his boyfriend. Stiles forced Derek to try some of the blue cotton candy when he found out that Derek had never eaten it, Stiles insisting there was nothing wrong with it and it tasted almost exactly the same.

Scott and Ally hung with them for a bit, playing with them a bit. Ally went up against Derek at shooting water into balloons, and Stiles would swear that was the first time he ever seen Derek lose. But, Allison was taking lessons to handle a bow, so it was slaughter anyway. Derek took it all with grace, thanking her for giving him a go. Stiles whispered to him that he did excellent against someone with perfect aim.

Everything was wonderful, and they decided to go on the Ferris wheel.

The line wasn’t unbearably long. They were on in about ten minutes, strapped in and ready to go. “You now, these look a lot less tall from far away.” Stiles said nervously. He didn’t have a problem with heights, just breezes and creaky metal taking him forty feet in the air.

“The view from up top is amazing.” Derek reassured him. They were moving, and Stiles’ hand kept a death-grip in Derek’s. Derek was laughing as Stiles continued to act like a startled cat until the Ferris wheel halted. “You okay?”

“Do I look okay?” Stiles demanded. He wasn’t breath normal anymore – sure, roller coaster he could do, but apparently he couldn’t handle a slow metal death trap.

“You’ll be okay.” At the moment, a breeze made the carriage they were in rock gently. Stiles whimpered, imagining them falling to their deaths. The wind brought a new level of cold.

“It’s freezing.” Stiles complained, deciding he hated everything about Ferris wheels. Derek shifted closer, releasing his hand – which did not cause Stiles to freak out. He wrapped his arms around Stiles, folding him into Derek’s chest as his hands stayed at Stiles’ waist. Maybe Stiles didn’t hate everything about Ferris wheels, if it got him this.

“It’s completely fine. We’re not going to fall, we’re going to see the top and then get off.” Derek whispered to him. Stiles’ muscles still stayed tense, and a coil of dark anxiety remained in his stomach, but his breathing was doing better.

Derek was careful not to shift much as they began to move again. He was probably taking extra care to keep the carriage steady. It took a few more turns before they reached the top, but it was okay because Stiles got to entwine his fingers with Derek’s and let his arm fall heavy against his stomach. His warmth was addicting, when it wasn’t smothering him under the sheets.

“It’s beautiful.” Derek said, a soft hum of contentment in his chest. Stiles had to admit that it was beautiful, the way that the stars seemed to be closer than ever and that if he stepped off of the Ferris wheel, he could probably make the jump to the moon.

“My mom used to love these.” Stiles found slipping from his mouth. “I never went up with her. I used to be too tiny and then I was too scared.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Stiles could feel his throat closing up, but he meant it. It was okay. It would be okay. “You couldn’t have gone back on time and made me get on one. But I get what she said now.”

“What did she say?” Derek prodded.

Stiles let his head fall against Derek’s chest, allowing his body to give up all its weight. “She said she could dance with the stars up here, as if they had invited her to a party. She loved to dance.” Stiles felt a soft smile flicker across his face. “It didn’t matter what she was doing, she was going to be letting her body dance with it. I remember when we’d make pizzas and she’d dance, throwing cheese up in the air. Only half of it would hit the pizza.

“It was such a pain to clean up afterwards, but she’d always laugh at my complaining. She’d say – ‘A little mess is nothing if you had fun making it.’”

The Ferris wheel jerked to moving again, and Stiles didn’t even realize his cheeks were wet. He gasped softly, opening his eyes and brushing them away. “Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to –” He moved to sit up, thoroughly embarrassed for ruining the date.

Derek just flexed his arms, pushing him back against him with his strength. “It’s okay. I’m glad you talked about your mom, and you can whenever want. I want to hear about it.”

Stiles still let the feeling gnaw at him, unsure on how to respond. It felt strange to be so exposed, so there. To let Derek know these things. The rest of the ride passed as Stiles looked at the moisture on his eyelashes, very well giving himself a headache, and Derek rubbed his hand soothingly.

Once they got off, Derek had to take a phone call. He told Stiles he’d be right back, and Stiles faintly heard the “Hey, Mom.” Before he was walking off.

Being all alone and wanting to take his mind off of things was a bad combo for Stiles. He decided he wanted to play another game, and try to win something. So he picked out a bottle game, because that one had prizes. It took about ten bucks before Stiles managed to hit enough bottles to win something. He picked out a small, plush wolf that was as black as the space between the stars.

Derek came back soon after, where Stiles was waiting on a bench. He had a deep set frown, but his face relaxed some when he saw Stiles. Stiles was hiding the plush behind him for Derek, wanting to see his face. “Surprise!” Stiles showed the wolf with a flourish at the same time Derek said, “We need to leave.”

Both blinked, a little shocked at each other. Stiles felt a little hurt, as if Derek didn’t want to stay any longer with him. Derek looked at the wolf, taking a step back. A step away from Stiles’ gift. “Don’t be such a sourwolf,” Stiles lifted it feebly, going for a joke.

Derek’s eyes closed briefly as his face flashed a look of pain across it. “Can we leave?” He asked, politer this time.

“Sure,” Stiles responded, feeling a little cold. Why wouldn’t Derek take the wolf? He moved himself off the bench, awkwardly holding the stuffed animal. Derek rounded away from him, hunching in on himself as he kept a fast pace in front of Stiles. Stiles followed behind slowly. What had Talia said to him on the phone?

They got in the Jeep and Stiles managed to keep quiet for about as long as it took to turn on the car. “Derek? Do you want to talk about it?” He said tentatively.

“Not really.” Derek responded snappishly. He looked out the windshield, anger written in the lines of his face.

“You’re just acting very…”

“I know how I’m acting, Stiles.” He interrupted. “But that doesn’t mean I have to explain it – I just want to go home.”

Derek had never acted like this before, no matter what had bothered him. Stiles kept throwing glances over at him, feeling more and more hurt by his behavior, wondering what caused him to act the way he was. The rest of the ride was passed in silence, a taut one that plucked at Stiles’ heartstrings. They got up to the house, and Talia was waiting outside. The light from the windows outlined her silhouette, and her posture screamed nervousness.

“Great.” Derek muttered.

“What is your problem?” Stiles stopped the car, looking at him. He just felt like he had gotten a slapping on the way over here, and he was kind of sick of it.

Derek looked back at him, face cold and reserved. The only thing that gave away the emotion inside was the crease between his eyebrows. “I don’t have one.”

“Sure you don’t.” Stiles retorted.

“I’m not getting into an argument with you in front of my house.” Derek hissed, trying his best not to rise to Stiles’ bait. He opened the door, moving to jump out.

Stiles took the wolf that was laying in his lap and thrust it towards the passenger side. “Take the fucking wolf, I got it for you.”

Derek ripped it out of his hand, a quick, jerky motion that clawed at Stiles. He didn’t bother to say goodnight as he left the car. Talia did something strange then – she rushed out to greet him, and he pushed past her. Stiles might’ve stayed to find out, if he wasn’t so upset. He pulled out of the drive viciously, almost flipping his car on the sharp turn.

He managed to get home in one piece, even if he yelled and hit his hand on the steering wheel a few times. What gave Derek the right to act like an ass? What could have possibly happened to merit that response from Derek?

Stiles ran up the stairs, forgetting whether or not his dad was home and not really wanting to find out. He thought back to how he responded to Laura, how when they fought he was angry at everyone. It still didn’t give him the fucking right, but it made Stiles feel as if it wasn’t anything he did.

He wiggled out of his jeans and threw himself on his bed, grunting in frustration. It wasn’t fair – they were having such a great time and then Derek was all upset. And Stiles couldn’t help, and Stiles knew he couldn’t help and it felt like the world was swallowing him. He was supposed to be able to help, Derek wasn’t supposed to treat him like that, and everything was skewed. Lying face down on his bed made it feel less like he was crying and more like he was yelling into the mattress.

Soon enough, he had to leave his tear-stain sheets and force himself to take a shower. He spent most of it leaning against the wall, staring as he let worry and guilt fight with empty pain for the special place in his chest.

He wanted to text Derek goodnight, or that he was sorry. Or that Derek should be sorry. Or that he doesn’t have to talk about it but he can. Or anything really.

Stiles turned off his phone instead and crawled into his bed.
--
It was a good thing that it was break, or else someone might notice. Stiles spent the Sunday lying in bed, mostly staring at his phone. He ate a little, mostly feeling too unhappy to get up and get something. Whenever the screen lit up, he would feel his heart squeeze to just see it was an email or Scott.

Monday wasn’t much better, except he got up and made food for his dad and showered. It made him feel more productive, until he thought about texting Derek and telling him about it. It made Stiles feel so broken, and he couldn’t stop the ache from letting the tears out. They spilled onto his cheeks, painting a picture as he fell asleep from the exhaustion of being awake and the headache from crying.

He didn’t even know why it hurt him so – so Derek had bit his head off? What was new? And he had only been talking to him for less than a few months. Why was it bothering him?

Stiles thought about how he took care of him while he was sick, how he brought him coffee in the morning and listened to his ramblings in the afternoon. How Derek would slow down to teach Stiles lacrosse, and then he remembered why it hurt.

Tuesday something had to change.

So Stiles called up Scott, asking if his mom was at home or at the hospital.

“She’s at the hospital, why?” Scott’s voice held a bit of suspicion. He had probably noticed Stiles’ lack of being there during the first bit of break.

Stiles sighed, opting for the truth. “I need a bit of motherly advice.”

“What happened?” Scott was on a date with Allison, he knew, because he sounded like he wanted to know but at the same time wanted to get off the phone.

“Derek and I got into a fight.” Stiles could feel the emotions well up in his throat and stick there. “And that was Saturday, and here’s Tuesday and we still haven’t talked about it.’

What happened?” Scott repeated, shocked.

“I don’t know!” Stiles threw an arm out, wanting to curl back up in his bed. His eyes felt dangerously close to running again but he wanted to believe he had cried all the tears he could cry. “One minute, we were having fun. The next, he wants to go home.”

“Man,” Scott sighed, worry etching itself into his voice. “Okay, I’ll text my mom to let her know to expect you.”

“Thanks.” Stiles responded. He kept on the sweatpants he had put on Monday, when he showered. But he changed shirts, because it was four days old and smelled faintly of salt and mildew.

He got the hospital shortly afterwards, feeling like shit. He didn’t know how he was going to tell Melissa what happened, he didn’t know how he wasn’t going to cry, and if another few days passed, he didn’t know how he was going to continue to hide this from his dad. When Stiles got out of the car, and into the ER unit, he asked the lady behind the counter – Jamie, a large older woman who used to give him cookies when he came in as a kid – if she knew where Melissa is.

She smiled, and shook her head. “No, sorry, but you’re free to look around, Stiles.”

“Thanks, Miss Jamie.” He shot back his best smile he could manage at the moment. Being here made it real – he had a problem with his first –first- boyfriend.

“Just don’t get into trouble, dear.” She warned him. She held up her pudgy finger, wagging it in a faux chastising way.

“I won’t.” Stiles promised. She let her in, where the actual rooms were. On any given day, it could be a madhouse, but most of the disasters were being handled calmly now. There were a few kids in soccer outfits crowded around a bed, looking at another kid and a doctor who was talking to them.

He could move through the area, and did so twice before he saw her. There were very few rooms that were private in the emergency room, and they were reserved for personal injuries. He had ducked his head into a few, not looking at the bed but at the walls around the room.

He couldn’t find Melissa, but he may have missed her in the rooms. So he went back in, actually glancing around. Most of them were asleep in their beds – an old man with a cast around his groin, a woman that looked to be burned almost completely, and then.

Deputy Johnson.

She was sitting up in her bed, her face a mess. One of her eyes were swollen, the skin above and under touching like a child’s pudgy fingers. Her lip was busted and the other side of her face was badly bruised. She turned to see him when he walked in, making a weak sort of sound in her throat to acknowledge him. Her arm was in a sling.

He crept into the room, each footstep making him feel a second away from fleeing. “Deputy Johnson?”

“Stiles?” Her voice sounded shot. He winced, imagining the word hurt her.

“Yes ma’am, it’s me.” Stiles said uncertainly. It wasn’t often he would pull out ‘ma’am’s’ or ‘sir’s’ but Deputy Johnson had that way about conducting respect from those around her. “I didn’t know you were back.”

She smiled for a split second, her full lips pulling tight and the gash in the middle looking like it might burst forth again. “You have a very good dad, Stiles. Unfortunately, I don’t do well on medication and I can’t sleep often. So, I’m back, but I’m very, very sore.”

Every word dragged out of her in a wheezing type of breath. Stiles wanted her to stop talking, so that she could start resting. He didn’t understand why – until he looked at her neck, almost completely tucked out of view, and could see the edges of the mottled purple and blue that probably was wringed around the entire thing. “My dad is very good. He found you?”

She shook her head. “We don’t know where I came from, but they gave him an option. He decided to pay them back for me.”

Stiles felt his gut clench. No matter if they had Deputy Johnson, if she couldn’t remember where she had come from, they were still nowhere near close. He felt the sudden itch to text Derek about all of this, and the cold realization that he couldn’t. Derek was being an ass.

“Do you remember anything?” Stiles asked softly, sinking into the seat next to her. How sad was it that her family didn’t come to see her, if she had one. He had never even stopped to ask.

She looked at him through her good eye, tired as it may be, before responding. “You sure are going to make a good cop one day.” Stiles flushed with pride, even if he was unsure if he wanted that profession. “But, all I remember is them saying it was to teach us – cops – a lesson. To stay out.”

Her heart rate spiked, and Stiles realized how problematic questioning her like this could be. She could be thinking on some pretty bad things right then, terrible things, judging by the picture painted on her body. He slid his hand up the bed, the cool and thin sheets still familiar to his touch, to let his finger rest on her upper arm. There wasn’t much there, so he hoped it wouldn’t hurt her.

It didn’t calm her down though, and soon she was focusing on him with a kind of frenzy. “Stiles, you have to be careful. You, especially. You’re the Sheriff’s son, and if they could have anyone as a bargaining chip I bet it would be you. Be careful.”

She moved her arm in the sling, almost as if she planned to wrap it around his arm and emphasize her message. The movement jolted her, and she cried out in pain. Then, there were two nurses pouring into the room, seeing Stiles and scolding him. They tried to fix Deputy Johnson up as nice as they could, and make sure she was comfortable. Stiles had to leave the room, but she made sure he promised to visit again.

He sat down near the wall, close to a rolling bin of dirty laundry. He hoped that it was enough out of the way as he waited for Melissa to pass him, which would happen eventually. It wasn’t like he had school or work to get to. Stiles let the cool tiles underneath him warm up to his touch, and he tried to sit there patiently. But he was nervous, and felt guilty of some horrendous crime. He wanted to break down and confess that it was his fault, when the court knew differently. He just wanted to be able to get past it.

Stiles couldn’t help the nagging in his head, though. You wouldn’t let it go. He would have come around to telling you, or getting over it but you had to know then. And now he doesn’t want to talk to you.

He was nodding off, trying his best to at least mute the terrible feeling. A body slid down next to him, and he didn’t even bother to open his eyes. “Nice hiding spot, kiddo.” Stiles’ eyes lifted open on their own accord at that. Melissa was sitting next to him, with a pack of crackers and a water bottle. “Cracker?” she offered.

Stiles took one, with a grateful smile. He hadn’t been much in the mood to eat at his house, and even here he wasn’t but that didn’t stop him for being naturally hungry. “Scott called me and told me that you were headed this way.”

“Yeah, I was hoping you could help me.” Stiles ventured.

“Boy troubles?” Melissa guessed. Stiles must have looked surprised, because Beacon Hills was small for Cali towns, and news traveled fast, but he wasn’t guessing that fast. She laughed at his disbelieving expression. “Scott told me about Derek.”

“What about him?” Stiles wanted to know how much she knew so he’d know how much he had to say.

She shrugged, opening the water bottle to drink from. “He’s your boyfriend. You had a fight.”

Stiles sighed, realizing he would have to start from the beginning. “We went out Saturday night, right?” Melissa nodded, her attention on him. “And everything was great. Everything was wonderful. But once we got off the Ferris Wheel, his mom called him and he got really upset, really fast. I tried to talk to him, but he said he didn’t have to explain things to me. I got frustrated and we fought a little before he got out of the car. I want to talk to him, but what if he’s still angry, or unwilling to open up?”

“Maybe he can’t open up?” Melissa guessed. Stiles was going to ask what she meant before she continued. “Maybe it’s a family problem, and he can’t tell you. And that’s why he’s frustrated, and when he responded bad and upset you – he hasn’t texted you since then because he can’t say anything and he thinks you’re still angry.” She pursed her lips.

“Or, it could be something he’s not willing to share with anyone yet. And he wants you to know, but he can’t open up about it.”

“So what do I do?” Both reasons made sense, but they still left Stiles where he was. With an angry Derek, and a messy relationship. Were all fights this exhausting?

“Why don’t you give him some time? Let him know you’re there and then let him come to you.” She said wisely.

And it was a good idea, but it gave Stiles a flighty feeling. “But he’s the one being an ass!” He responded, acting as if he was two and angrily munching on another cracker.

“If you want it to work then sometimes you have to be the bigger person.” Melissa looked at him with sad eyes, like she wished that she had followed her own advice. A strange emotion welled up in him, taking root.

“Okay,” He finally responded. He wanted to fight, but that emotion – caught somewhere between pity and sadness and panic – quieted him.
--
His dad was there with pizza when he got home. Stiles was guessing that one of his teams were playing tonight, and Stiles would do the obligatory sit and watch with him. “Hey, dad,” He called out casually.

His dad looked up from the table, where he was pouring glasses. He smiled an old smile, one that made his eyes look twenty years younger. “Hey, where you been?”

Stiles was going to lie, say at Scott’s, but he promised he would try to be better about talking about his relationships. “I was at the hospital, to see Mrs. McCall.”

His dad perked up his head for a moment longer. “The hospital? Did I tell you about us getting Deputy Johnson? She’s up there.”

“Yeah, I know. I visited with her for a minute.”

“I’m going back up there tomorrow,” His dad responded absently.

“Is there a game on tonight?” Stiles fidgeted, watching his dad move around their kitchen. It was rare that he got things ready rather than the other way around. It was unsettling.

“Not that I know of.” He grabbed a couple of plates and a few slices and set them at the table.

Stiles joined him in sitting, thanking him for getting them food. It was silent for a few uneasy – uneasy for Stiles – moments while they focused on the greasy treat in front of them. Soon enough though, the Sheriff cleared his throat. “So why did you go see Melissa?”

“Oh,” Stiles took a deep breath. He could do this. “Derek and me got into a fight.”

His dad nodded, “I figured as much. Why else would you spend almost half of the break lying around in bed?”

“A lot of teenagers, Dad.” Stiles defended. “Anyway, we haven’t talked since then. And I don’t think it’s my fault, but I definitely could have acted different. So I asked Mrs. McCall for some advice.”

“Just be careful, son. I don’t want you to get hurt. Let me know how things work out, or if I could help any.”

“I don’t need you to shoot him,” Stiles snorted. It caused his food to choke him a little, which was funny to the Sheriff. Both laughed, and as the moment passed, the night was easier. They both enjoyed the rest of the dinner, with Stiles stowing away the pizza and cleaning up the kitchen as his dad trekked upstairs to go to bed for the next day.

Stiles followed soon enough, nervous anxiety eating at him again. He pulled out his phone and stared at the screen, his heart beating wildly. It’s just a fucking text.

Stiles: im here, when youre ready

He went to bed with his fingers clutched around his phone. He was waiting for Derek’s response, which never came.

Chapter Text

Derek didn’t answer over the next day either. Stiles spent the day moving as little as possible, knowing that each movement made his hollow-self feel pain. He didn’t want to get up, and didn’t want to do anything. Every time he checked his phone, it showed no new messages from him. There were texts from Scott, and even one from Allison – who had undoubtedly heard it from Scott that Stiles was having problems.

And since he refused to respond to any, he was left with his thoughts. The two sides battled for his agreement, wearied by his emotional state.

He’s upset because something his mother said. It’s not your fault.

No, it isn’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that he still hasn’t responded.

He may just need some time.

Or maybe he doesn’t want to spend any more time with you.

The other side became silent.

Maybe he doesn’t realized why no one ever dated you before this. Maybe he knows now what a colossal mistake wanting you was. Maybe he hasn’t answered because he doesn’t want to. It’s a way out – and anyone would crawl, run, jump to get out.

Stiles felt like his chest could swallow the rest of him. The logical side – the one who stayed out of the argument – said that he shouldn’t be this upset from a few days of stressed silence. He hadn’t been with him too long, it was nothing to lose him.

But it wasn’t nothing, because Stiles could still remember how he helped him in the same bed. How he told him the story of a wolf and human falling for each other. How he healed him, and how Stiles now wished that Derek was here to heal him again.

The black feeling in him wasn’t cold but it was very painful. The edges were sharp, and the stung as he pulled his phone up to stare at its empty screen again.

He’s not going to answer you.

Stiles let his breathing go, not shallowly attempting a normal breathing routine. It came in gasps and shudders, and he could feel his eyes bead up with tears. There was only one conclusive answer: this break sucked.
--
The next day, despite the pain, Stiles crawled out of bed. Standing up felt like he was lifting and carrying a bag of rocks. He let his body slump to make it easier. Pulling on jeans became an exercise, enough to tire him out and land his ass back on his comforter. He stared at Derek’s hoodie, hanging tauntingly on his computer desk. He put on his own hoodie, afraid someone may call him out on wearing a hoodie that he shouldn’t.

He wouldn’t have done this if he hadn’t had to get Adderall. He leaned against the wall, dragging himself slowly down the stairs. Everything felt like it drained him too much, the hole stealing his breath and energy. It felt huge, gaping, but at the same time it was so concentrated on the center on his chest.

He would have stayed in bed. But they were also lacking on other medicine, like his dad’s heart medicine. And Tylenol.

Getting into the Jeep was a relief, because there he was expected to sit. He let his body sag, sitting his head on the steering wheel. He let his breathing fill his ears because it was easier to do that than think. But the thoughts came anyway.

Why hasn’t he contacted me? Am I really done for? I shouldn’t have fought with him – the battle wasn’t my place.

Eventually, he had to start the Jeep and drive, because his neighbor, Mr. Robinson, came out. He had a pesky way of making sure everything was alright, and probably had a screw or two loose – if judging by things he invented was any indication. He waved over at the man, giving his best to force a smile. It felt more like a grimace.

There weren’t many people at the pharmacy but it didn’t make Stiles feel any better. He just wanted to go home. He pulled out his phone superstitiously, as if he had felt the buzz of a text message. He hadn’t.

There was an abject desire to turn around, instead of slouch in there. He felt like walking a step would break him, exhaust him. He was already so tired and felt so feeble. The only time strength came back to him, flooded into him, was when he would check to see if Derek had messaged him. It all came out of him again with a whoosh when his screen conveyed no messages, leaving Stiles more drained than he was.

Eventually, he pulled himself out of his car, and walked into the pharmacy. The man who knew him by face already had the prescriptions out when Stiles got over there. Marc. Friendly man, with an easy smile on his full cheeks.

“Hey, Stiles, I figured you were coming in soon, so I went ahead and filled them.” He said, pleased with his work.

Stiles let a smile tick at the corner of his mouth, his hand coming out to gently grasp the bags. “Thanks, Marc.” Stiles sighed.

Marc wasn’t used to Stiles not speaking, or he just wasn’t used to Stiles not smiling or fidgeting. Stiles wasn’t sure, but he could see Marc’s face flit to a frown. “Are you okay?”

Stiles forced himself to look him in the eye. “Yeah, I’m good. Might be coming down with something, but besides that good.” No need to worry the everyday pharmacist with heart ache.

Marc’s facial features smoothed out. “What do you think?” He could deal with sickness.

“I think I’ve been getting the chills.” There is a fucking hole in my chest. “Oh, and my bones have been hurting.” It is exhausting and painful to move.

“Well, I haven’t heard about anything like that, but I would maybe get cold medicine. It is getting pretty cold out there.” Marc’s confusion was written plainly on his face. He still tossed Stiles his signature smile, one with a canine too high in place and his lips stretch tight. Stiles said thanks, and that he would pay after he got the store bought medicines.

The Tylenol was easy to find, because Stiles got it frequently. However, the cold medicine was pretty tricky. There was an entire row on a shelf just dedicated to it, seeing as it was common cold season.

He was scanning about the third row, trying to determine the differences, when he bumped into someone. Stiles had managed to get lost amongst the ingredients and facts, forgetting what was going on with him. When he took his eyes off the bottles to apologize, it came rushing back.

Also turning, from the opposite direction, was a middle aged man with a scruff of a beard. He wore a complimentary V-neck, and had a calculating look in his eyes. He was smiling though, a little tight by all means, but the predatory vibe was covered by his body language at the moment. Stiles could still see it, because that’s what he looked like—like a predatory, with his cold blue eyes.

Stiles almost shudder and flinched away, the inside of him already kept together so delicately that this man could probably see his weakness and shatter him, “I’m sorry,” The man started off first. “I don’t typically have eyes in the back of my head.”

His sarcasm wasn’t pointed, so it didn’t strike Stiles as hateful. It seemed much more natural to him. “Well, the ones I have were focused on cold medicine.” Stiles blurted out. The man laughed, a short bark that traveled quickly up his short throat and died even quicker.

“I was looking for some cigarette patches. My sister wants me to quit, says it’s not good for the kids.” He shrugged, acting as if it was no matter whether or not it was good for the kids.

“Young lungs, and all.” Stiles waved his arm, and felt the sudden need to breathe deeper. The simple gesture left him winded.

“I’m Peter.” The man introduced himself, finding Stiles suitable enough to grace him with his name.

Stiles could feel his eyes widening, taking in all the details. Peter, with his strong jaw, and bright eyes. “Hale?” Stiles nearly whispered.

He cocked an eyebrow, probably wondering if Stiles required medical assistance. “Yes, that’s my last name.”

He waited. Stiles continued to stare, because he shouldn’t be here, in no sense of the word should he be here. “I’m Stiles.” It was sheer fundamental politeness that was embedded in Stiles by his mother that he could speak.

Peter cocked an eyebrow, oddly similar to another Hale Stiles knew. His hands itched to touch his phone, feeling the instinct that Peter was what had upset Derek so badly. “Stilinski?”

“Yeah, my dad’s the Sheriff.” Stiles let himself say.

“I remember when he was a deputy, but that was a while ago.” Peter smiled gently, as if he was following Stiles’ train of thought. “I was saying Stilinski because I presume that you know my nephew?” Stiles nodded. “I mean, I didn’t believe there was another Stiles around, but it’s best to be thorough.”

He didn’t even act like a drug addict. But he probably wasn’t – if the time spent away from the family did any good. Why would he be smoking then? Stiles couldn’t help but regard him suspiciously.

“Did you and Derek have a spat of some sort, by the way?” His eyes were clear, crystal and intense. Stiles didn’t respond, because he wouldn’t be able to lie without Peter seeing through him. He continued on. “He’s been awfully upset since I came home, and I guess that that was to be expected.”

Stiles still kept his tongue, rendered mute by the way Peter was staring at him, as if he was a puzzle yet to be solved. Stiles had seen that look a few too many times, from doctors, and teachers, and Lydia, and knew that it was best to let them draw their own picture. He shrugged eventually. “I think that, if you want resolution, it’d be best to confront him head-on. He can be a little thick in the skull, though.” Stiles felt a laugh slip from him. Peter was sarcastic, and if every piece of Stiles did not want to get away, he would probably have enjoyed the conversation.

“Thanks.” Stiles spoke clearly, choosing the bottle of cold medicine in his hands and walking away.

“Oh, and Stiles?” Peter called at him. Stiles let his head turn, eyes locking on the man. “I am truly sorry for whatever stress I caused between you and Derek.”

Stiles didn’t bother to respond and instead went back to where Marc was. He was pacing behind the counter, throwing glances towards Peter. He had probably seen the interaction, considering most of the medicine shelves only went up to the ribs, instead of above the head.

“Oh? You picked this one, good choice, good choice.” Marc scanned it, fingers twitching.

“Are you okay?” Stiles felt a sense of déjà vu, the roles reversed. Marc glanced up, eyes wide. They flickered back over to where Peter was undoubtedly browsing.

“Do you know who you were talking to?” He asked quietly. His full face seemed pale, even with the ever present ruddy red in his cheeks.

“Peter Hale.” Stiles responded. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Well, nothing now. But I remember when I was just an intern here, I would do a lot of stocking at night, because that’s the only time I could work around finishing my college stuff. He used to come in here completely out of his mind.” Marc looked scared, and Stiles took it that he didn’t deal with conflict well.

“I heard he’s better.” Stiles assured him. He wasn’t sure why he was defending Peter, but he was. “It’ll be fine.”

He left with his purchases, three or four people in there besides Peter. Marc should be fine. Stiles still felt winded from it, but his head was dizzy. It wasn’t him that had pushed Derek away, or made him so pissed. No, that was someone else’s fault.

But should he really take Peter’s advice? He had said that Derek was upset, but Stiles already knew that. Was he upset about what happened between them, or couldn’t care less in light of his uncle coming home?

Stiles started the Jeep, hands shaking and stomach feeling sick. He had made up his mind.
--
No one where there when he pulled up to the Hale house. He had knocked twice, and waited. Nothing. It was as if God was giving him a second chance, saying, here! You can still turn back!

Stiles sat heavily on the porch steps, hoping that someone showed up before Derek did. And maybe if God wasn’t on his side, luck was, because Cora came running out of the woods a second later. She was breathing hard, the sweat from her work sticking her hair to her neck and face. She continued to trot towards the house, until she saw Stiles and then she came to a stand-still.

He gave an awkward, half-wave towards her form, hoping she wasn’t going to yell at him. She blinked a few times, before shaking her head. “Thank God, you’re here.”

“Hi to you, too.” Stiles smiled. It felt easy here, so close to where Derek would be. It was a nervous kind of light, one that could crash or burn up in a second. She came over at him, looking at him as a mother might a cut on a child’s arm.

“You look like shit.” She observed.

“Thanks.” Stiles said dryly.

“But I’m glad you’re here, because Derek also looks like shit. And I swear, I haven’t been able to do a single stunt since Saturday because of his mopey self. I tried to take him running today to cheer him up, and that was a no go.”

She shook her head at the shame of it. “So he’s out there, right now?” Stiles asked.

“Yes, and please tell me you’re here to talk to him, or yell at him, or anything.”

“Yeah, I am.” Stiles didn’t specify which, because when it came to him and Scott fighting he would always buckle and there was never a need to yell. The same went for Allison. But he didn’t know about Derek, and that was what made him terrified. She could probably see it in his face, how much he was dreading it.

“Well, he’s out in the woods – I’m figuring you can go back in there. Do you want me to take you to him?” she asked. Stiles nodded, because he was more likely to get lost and die before he found Derek on his own.

She grabbed him by his wrist, dragging him off without another word. He wanted to ask if she wanted some water, or something before they went, but he thought she might be afraid that he would leave. So she kept her hand tight on his wrist, and even as he stumbled she didn’t let up.

He recognized the path after a few minutes, because it was one he had walked before. Or, he might recognize it because it looked like the one he walked before. He was about ninety-five percent sure that it was the one he walked before. Or, mostly, because the woods all looked the same.

His heart was ticking up, making him feel guilty. Derek didn’t want to see him – so why was he bothering? “Are we, uhm, going to the tree?” Stiles could probably ground his feet in and stop and save himself the embarrassment.

But Cora was probably already going to tell Derek that he was there. “He took you to see the tree?” There was undoubtable knowledge in her voice, sure of which tree he was talking about.

“Yeah.” Her grip momentarily tightened.

“You guys just need to work this out, then.” She muttered, before adding, “No, it’s a little past the tree. It’s a place where we used to go and do campfires before forest safety policies came in apparently. So, it’s a place where Mom and them did campfires as kids.”

They passed the tree, true to her word. He wondered if she could feel his heartbeat, pounding as it was. The edges of his chest still felt pretty serrated but he was breathing again, breathing through his mouth to keep the sick feeling only in his gut.

After a bit, she stopped, dropping his wrist. He looked around, as if Derek was where they were and he had just missed him. Stiles opened his mouth to ask, before she cut him off, pointing towards a place with heavy foliage.

Behind there,’ she mouthed. Stiles nodded, expecting her to come with her. When Cora turned and looped off towards the house, he almost ran to catch up with her.

This was supposed to be done alone.

It would be a lie if Stiles didn’t stand there shaking for a few minutes, nervous energy vibrating in every part of his body. He wanted to jump around, to flail, but the leaves on the ground might give him away.

Derek was facing away when he managed to convince himself to push through the next few layers of tall bushes, and why were they here? They looked like they were planted – oh, campfires. Right.

“I told you I’d rather be left alone, Cora.” Derek’s voice was cold, angry. Everything about him looked furious – as if he had pressed restart and went back to default Hale. When Stiles didn’t respond, just staring at the outline of the back and broad shoulders of the seated boy, Derek twisted to tell Cora to fuck off.

Stiles blinked, whispering, “Derek.” Derek looked just as shocked as him, frozen in his seat while staring at Stiles. There were lines on his face, where tears had trailed down his cheeks, marking the dirt that he had probably gathered by running. His eyes were ringed red.

Derek’s eyes were wide, taking in everything about Stiles. His gaze appeared as gluttonous as Stiles’ felt. Did he really miss him?

“Derek.” Stiles tried again, trying hard to swallow against a heavy tongue. He wanted to ask why Derek was crying, why he was here, but that wasn’t why he was here. “I’m sorry.”

Derek’s wet lashes beat against his cheeks as his eyelids fluttered in confusion. It was like he was trying to get something out of his eye to see Stiles better. “For what?”

“I shouldn’t have pushed like that.” Stiles didn’t want to go into gory details. He inched forward, desperate to be sitting next to his boyfriend. He was expecting anger, and justification a few days ago, but now all he wanted to do was comfort Derek. “It was your choice not to tell me.”

Be the mature one, Stiles.

“I shouldn’t have ruined our date.” His voice was glum. Stiles sighed, finally feeling strong enough to move forward.

He sat next to Derek, letting Derek choose if he wanted to touch him. “Given the circumstances, I don’t blame you.” Derek looked confused. “I meet your uncle today.” Stiles added.

Derek’s face washed from color, not looking angry, but looking scared. “Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“My uncle can get a little…intense. Or, he could.” Derek sighed. “I haven’t spoke to him since he got home.”

“Why not?” Stiles knew he had a problem with Peter, but he had gone through rehab. Derek could give him a chance.

“Can we not talk about it now?” Derek finally – finally – leaned over onto Stiles, putting his face into Stiles’ neck. “I would much rather enjoy the fact that my boyfriend wasn’t here to break up with for being a reclusive asshole.”

“You kind of were,” Stiles admitted, causing Derek to muffle a laugh into his neck. “Why’d you go running with Cora if you just were going to ditch her?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” Derek grumbled. “Just sort of happened.”

“Alright.” Stiles slid his fingers into Derek’s, enjoying the feel of his palm. “But one thing?”

“Yeah?” Derek sounded hesitant.

“Next time you have something going on, at least ensure me it’s not about me if you aren’t up for talking about it yet.” Stiles could feel Derek’s stubble rub against him as he moved his head in agreement.
--
That night, it was probably around one, when Derek called him. It didn’t matter much, because now that Stiles felt reasonably better, he also felt reasonably more productive, so he was up. He clicked the answer button before the second ring got out.

“Do you make this a habit? To call at all hours of the night?” Stiles asked playfully, mostly to hide the fact that he was nervous on what was waiting on the other line.

“I want to take you somewhere.” Derek said. No hello, just I want to take you somewhere.

Stiles did his best not to let his heart leap at it, and failed miserably. “It’s pitch black out right now though, so I think you’re timing might be a little off.” Stiles tried to play it off as if he was cool, not really caring if Derek took him somewhere or not.

“Not tonight, Stiles.” Derek sighed, exasperated. Stiles might actually feel offended, if he didn’t know Derek was doing it to poke fun at Stiles.

“Then when?”

“Saturday.” Derek said decisively. “And Sunday.”

“The whole weekend? Where are we going?” Stiles couldn’t hold the excitement out of his voice.

“It’s a place by the beach, a house my family bought. I wanted to take you there.” Derek paused, but his breathing through the receiver indicated that he was working himself up to say the next part. “I want to talk to you there. It’s important to do it there.”

“Okay. Is it a family outing?” Stiles felt the nervous energy thrum through him, a familiar friend that came at any slight indication that it might, maybe, possibly could be wanted.

“No. It would just be us.” Stiles heart did a funny thing, one that almost hurt. “I asked my Mom, and she trusts me. But you should ask your dad.”

“Can I get him to call your mom for reference?” Stiles laughed. He didn’t actually think his dad would say no, but he might be adverse to the idea of Derek and Stiles going alone.

“Sure, I’ll give you her number.” Derek agreed easily. “What are you doing up so late?”

“Oh, I was rereading Much Ado About Nothing. Some people apparently think that Don Jon was trying to break up the marriage for reasons other than hurting his brother.”

“What other reasons?” Derek asked.

“So you know how like everyone is trying to set everyone else up?” Stiles played with the frayed edge of his t-shirt.

“Yeah, I mean I haven’t read it since eighth grade, but I vaguely remember that.”

“Well, theories say that maybe Don Jon was doing the same thing – like, breaking up Hero and Claudio because he knew someone else liked Claudio.” Stiles slid his laptop off his lab, sitting up in his bed. “And you want to know who? Don Pedro.”

“Really?” Derek’s voice shot up an octave, disbelieving. Oh, he didn’t believe now, but he would.

They stayed up until it was around four in the morning, Derek even running up to his attic to find an old copy of the play. It felt nice to be able to hear his voice again, even if the text message still remained unanswered:

im here, when youre ready

Stiles hoped Derek would be ready this weekend, steeling himself to go and for Derek to not be able to.
--
The next morning, he got up and made a breakfast fit for a king. Of course, the milk was skim, the eggs organic, the bread wheat, and the bacon turkey, but it was still huge. Stiles knew it rang with ulterior motive, but his dad just seemed happy when he walked in to it.

“Looks like you’ve gotten yourself out of the slump. Did you talk to Derek?” He sat down at the table with Stiles, who had waited to eat until he came down. Stiles then proceeded to grab the butter and smear it all over his toast.

He nodded, shoving the food in his mouth. It was better to act natural, or just on the edge of anxious than to let it wash over him. He didn’t want to worry his dad. He swallowed, washing it down with the milk. “Yeah, we did. But he didn’t tell me what was bugging him.”

His dad frowned. “Is everything okay then?”

“It’s okay, it will be okay. He does want to tell me, it’s just that, well he wanted to take me somewhere and tell me and it’s a beach house and his mom said okay and it’s this weekend and I know I’m asking a lot but I feel like this is important and it would just be me and him but you can trust me.”

The Sheriff’s eyebrows slowly rose as he continued to speak, waiting for Stiles to stop or slow down or breathe. “I trust you. But did you say alone? I don’t know, Stiles, where even is it?”

“It’s near the beach, apparently. I think it’s important to him.” Stiles took deep breaths, having let everything out. Now he just had to see how it would play out for him.

“When does he want to go?”

Stiles felt a guilty look cross his face. “Tomorrow.” The Sheriff’s frown deepened.

“That doesn’t give much planning time, does it, son?”

Stiles shook his head. “Please, Dad. You can call his mom – make sure that’s where we’re going.”

“I’m not concerned about you lying about where you’re going. But you’re a teenager, son, and he’s your boyfriend. And you guys are going to be alone – I just want you to be not do anything you’ll regret.” His dad gave him a knowing look as Stiles’ face heated up.

“It’s not like that! I don’t think that’s the reason at all – I promise I won’t do anything that may put me in danger or that I don’t want to do or that I would regret. Besides, I don’t really think that going somewhere to have a deep conversation will get me anywhere on that aspect, anyway.” He mused. His dad cut him a look, so Stiles hastily added, “Scout’s honor.”

“You were never a scout.” His dad had eaten most of his plate, and raised his used fork to point over the table at Stiles.

“Come on, can’t a guy dream.” Stiles joked.

The Sheriff sighed, used to Stiles using words – especially humor – to diffuse tense situations. “Give me her number, and I’ll call her on my way to work. But if she’s okay with it, then I guess I am too.”

“Really?” Stiles jumped up, way too excited.

His dad cut him a suspicious look. “Are you going to behave?”

“Of course!” Stiles started cleaning off his side of the table. “I promise, Dad, don’t worry.” Stiles quickly moved to put his stuff into the sink.

“Can’t help it.” His dad called to him as he shot up the stairs.

He shot a text to Derek, letting him know that he was able to go before deciding on who to call. This was going to be two days alone with his boyfriend, who had something important to tell him. How did he even act?

Stiles ended up calling Allison, sitting in his computer chair and wondering if he made the wrong choice as the phone rang. “Hey, sweetie,” she picked up on the fourth ring. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay, Ally.”

“Did you get things worked out with Derek?” she asked the next obvious question, to determine if Stiles was telling the truth or lying.

“Kind of,” He leaned back in the seat, tapping his fingers against his legs.

Her voice came slow. “What do you mean kind of?”

“Like, we’re good, everything is better. But this weekend, he’s going to tell me exactly what was bothering him I think. I mean, I know it’s Peter, but I don’t know why because his uncle has been through rehab and stuff.” Stiles prattled off, unable to stop his words. He just felt so worried asking for help like this.

“Peter Hale is back in town?” She seemed to forget everything else he had said.

“Yeah, he came back a few days ago.” Stiles wasn’t sure about her reaction. “Why?”

“I remember him when I was a kid. Like, he’d bring Laura over to see Aunt Kate, and then bail. I didn’t get to stay and talk to Laura usually because I had karate practice almost every day.”

“You know karate?” Stiles couldn’t help but be impressed.

“Yeah, I know a lot of physical defense. But what I’m saying is, that Peter and Aunt Kate are both back in the same town at the same time?”

“Did they not end on a well note?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t think so. I was only like twelve, but I remember when she came home once, screaming about how he was a traitor.” It was probably the same time period when Parrish had wired him. “But that’s not the point, I just. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him and he’s always given me a vibe that makes me afraid. I don’t know, he just seems so…”

“Wolfish?” Stiles could see it – the way his eyes would never waver from the person he was staring at, how his stance was like that of a ready predatory and how his grin had showed a little too much teeth.

“Yeah.” She paused, and Stiles imagined the face she would get when she was grossed out. She was shudder delicately, closing her eyes and sucking a gasp of breath in. “But, back to you. So, he’s going to tell you this weekend?”

“He wants to take me somewhere.” Stiles blurted out.

“Like, somewhere, somewhere?” As in, somewhere where it would be them, somewhere important.

“We’re planning on spending the weekend at his family’s beach house.”

“So with family?” Allison asked.

Stiles shook his head, forgetting that she couldn’t see him. “No, just us.”

“Are you going?” She was breathless.

“Yeah, my dad said I could. I just wanted to know, you spend so much time with Scott, what do you do?”

Ally laughed. “Are you sure you want to know what we do?”

His face scrunched up in disgust. “Not like that, geez. I mean, like, how do you guys talk? Is there supposed to be silence? What do you do to pass time? How do I spend two days around him without him wanting to kill himself or me wanting to?”

“Just be natural.” She suggested. “Hey, this will be a great trial run to see how you guys are living together.”

“We’re not even in college yet.”

“Still.” She persisted. Allison had a knowing sound in her voice, as if she could just see them still being together then.

“Okay, thanks for all the help.” He went to hang it up as she quickly shouted out things, like to tell her all about it afterwards and to tell Scott before the night was out because that was about how long she was going to wait.

He just sent a text to Scott, after seeing Derek’s response. It made him smile, and made the day a lot better as he decided what he needed for the weekend. It was going to be okay. Maybe.

Derek Hale: Awesome. I can’t wait.

Chapter Text

Stiles was going to let Derek pick the pace of the car ride. If he wanted to talk, then they would talk. If he didn't, then Stiles would do his best just to hum tunelessly under his breath. As they slipped away from Beacon Hills, it looked like it was going to be the latter.

Derek observed the way the trees moved out the window, completely still. Stiles was anything but, spending half his time with his eyes on the road and the other half worriedly on his boyfriend. It stayed that way until the amount of trees was low in count, as they moved closer to the beach.

That was when Derek looked away from the window to catch Stiles staring at him. Stiles shifted his eyes on the road, a blush creeping up his neck. He hasn't felt this awkward around Derek since the first month of school. Derek sighed loudly, a sound that cracked the atmosphere.

“Sorry, babe. I'm just trying to figure out how to talk.” Derek apologized.

The pet name made Stiles settle slightly, because it reminded him that Derek still wanted him. “You're not doing too bad.” He encouraged.

Derek returned his gaze to the window, the line of his profile tense. It took a few minutes for him to speak again, a quiet tone. “We used to go here all the time. It's a really pretty beach house, and it's always good for summer. The kids love it and the way the ocean is. There's not many people around during this time, mostly because we're around other beach houses for other families and not in the condo area.

“We bought it cause it was near to where the family is buried. I don't think anyone that has been born or married in has been buried anywhere else. It's also really pretty. The seashells from the beach are put on the headstones, like flowers.”

Stiles waited for him to continue talking, but Derek didn't seem to want or be able to say anymore. “Is that why we're going?”
Stiles watched him from the corner of his eye, waiting for a nod or a shake of a head.

“Yeah.” He whispered.

He leaned over, to where the nearly unused radio was between them. Derek switched it on, letting the sounds crawl over them and take up with rest of the ride. Derek only started making commentary when Stiles had to learn how to get to the house.

It was a big beach house, built up tall on the sand. Most of it was glass, the beautiful beach even able to see in the house. Stiles followed Derek around, slightly vibrating in his attempt to give Derek the quiet he needed. “You're never this silent.” Derek paused in the hallway, on of the places with no windows.

He looked at Stiles, who blushed in his transparency. “I thought you wanted me to be quiet.” Stiles shifted the book bag strap awkwardly.

“I want you to be you. You're making me restless.”

Stiles snorted, as if Derek even knew the term of restless. “I'm sorry. I'll talk.”

Derek closed his eyes. “I don't want that, I just want you to be comfortable.”

“I am comfortable.” Stiles insisted, even if it was a lie.

Derek raised his eyebrows, as if he could sense that Stiles wasn't telling the truth. “Why don't I show you your room, and then we can get lunch afterwards?”

Stiles smiled. “Oh, are we going to try to Home Ec it up in here?”

“Maybe for dinner.” Derek laughed. It was good to see his shoulders relax for a minute, and Stiles couldn't help but think that it may have been somewhat his fault for switching up the way he was.

Derek opened up to a spacious room, with two beds. “Colton and Bailey usually sleep in here, but it's for right now. I'm going to be down the hall.”
Stiles nodded. “Thanks.”

He wasn't going to put up everything, just look around the room and chose his bed. He liked the far one, mostly cause it was a lime green and had three pillows on it. The window next to it opened up to a rocky area that merged into the ocean. Stiles took a moment to appreciate it before leaving the room, feeling as if he had left his host alone already for too long.

Derek had all the stuff out, them passing an open kitchen area that blended with the living area on the way in. The back wall was nothing but glass, and Derek stood near it, looking out.

“Derek..?” Stiles spoke softly, not wanting to break Derek’s concentration.

He didn't look back to Stiles. “Do you remember my baby brother, Jack?”

“You said a little bit about him.” Stiles froze, because just like it was hard for Stiles to talk about his mom, it must be hard for Derek. And he was doing it, like Stiles did – he was about to talk about Jack.

“This was his favorite place. It was actually pretty funny, mom would ask where everyone would want to go and he'd always say beach house. He was born here, actually. A few weeks ahead of schedule, a water baby…” The last words were spoken through tears.

Stiles couldn't stand where he was anymore, and instead strode over to where Derek was. He wrapped his arm around the tense frame, dipping his head to the back of his boyfriend’s neck. “It's okay. You don't have to say anymore right now. You're doing so good.”

Derek's chest heaved, pulling tight under Stiles’ grasp. He didn't bother to turn around, and Stiles didn't bother trying to get him to respond anymore. After a bit, Derek reached up and pulled one of Stiles’ hands to his mouth to kiss his palm.

“Thank you.”
--
“Uncle Peter, as my dad tells me, was a great guy for most of college.” Derek started talking through a mouthful of tomato, ham and rye. “He was going to be a electrical physician. And then he met a girl, Susie or Susan or something. It doesn't matter. Anyway, she was apparently the first girl he ever brought home – the first girl he had ever shone interest in.

“So, no one was surprised – well, they were surprised that Uncle Peter was this stupid – but no one was actually surprised when Uncle Peter told us she was pregnant.” Derek paused to take a sip of juice, and Stiles briefly wondered if they had a housemaid of some sort that stocked the fridge before they came. He didn't bother to ask, because he was too eager to hear the story.

“And we were all happy for him. They were supposed to get married – Uncle Peter asked and everything. It was only their junior year in college, but they could finish with our family being so big and so willing to take care of the baby while they finished. It was all going to be perfect.

“Then, the girl decided she didn't want to get married. She cut off the engagement with Uncle Peter, and it was all Uncle Peter could do to get her not to abort or send off the baby. She dropped out of school and cut Uncle Peter out of her contacts.”

“So what happened to her?” Stiles wondered if the woman ever finished college, if she took care of the baby, if she ever talked to Peter again.

“Last I heard she was married, but didn't have any other kids.” Derek looked up from his sandwich, as if he was surprised by Stiles’ curiosity.

“What about the baby?”

“She apparently runs wild.” Derek shrugged. “She would never let Uncle Peter be around the baby, anyway. I think it kind of broke him. And then, he came home in junior year and met Kate.”

“Kate Argent?” Stiles reaffirmed. Derek nodded, and took another munch of his sandwich. He worked his jaw muscles vigorously – as if he was trying to get a bad taste out of his mouth or an anger out of his bones.

“Technically, they knew each other in college. She was a junior when he came in as a freshman. But it was the first time they had seen each other off campus, without something to hinder them from talking. And I guess they hit it off.” He shrugged, as if the rest was history. Stiles saw the way his eyes were, alight with the need to say more and the desire not to, and knew he could wait it out. So he just worked on finishing off his sandwich, taking the cue from his boyfriend.

Derek finished off his drink, clearing his throat. “I have something I want to show you today. But it's outside.”

“Is it the ocean?” Stiles perked up, a smile already on his face.
Derek surveyed him for a moment, before shaking his head. Stiles quickly backtracked when he remembered Derek saying something about a graveyard. “Oh okay, well I'm ready when you're ready.”

“I'm ready.” Derek stood up, waiting for Stiles to collect his things to take to the sink.

After they finished up the cleaning, Stiles found his hand slipped into Derek’s, and they were outside. Admittedly, Stiles deflated when he pulled him closer to a well-worn dirt path a few feet away from where the sand began to mix in with the grass. Derek didn't seem in any rush, but Stiles couldn't see anything up on the path.
Maybe to occupy Stiles, or maybe just because he wanted to, he started back up on the story.

“At first, you know when Uncle Peter started dating Kate, she was really nice. Or she seemed to be. I was only eleven and my mom was pregnant with Jack. Kate gave her all these tips, because she had apparently been the midwife for Allison’s mom. They would sit and talk while she played with Cora and helped Laura out with her homework and things.

“Laura seemed really attached to Kate, always wanting to be around her. Kate doted on her. It wasn't like Kate…avoided me. But she definitely didn't spend as much time around me.” The path became slightly steep, with multiple bumps in the dirt. Derek let go of Stiles’ hand and slipped his arm around Stiles’ waist to lift him up and over the worst of it.

“Anyway, sometimes she would take Laura out with her, have her sleep over, even sometimes have things were her and Uncle Peter would take her out. It was okay, because Cora was and is in love with Aunt Ritsa. And me and Uncle Darvon get along pretty well.

“But Kate went on trips pretty often, and if she was angry, she might snap hard. She started taking Uncle Peter with her, but he started acting weird. She didn't come around much anymore, but still kept in contact with Laura – she was thirteen so of course she had a phone.”

 

Derek stopped him, a sharp bend or rather opening a few feet ahead. He looked intensely at Stiles. “It was when Uncle Peter would come stumbling in, drunk or somehow messed up. Sometimes he could play it off. He got so good we couldn't even tell half the time if he was messed up or just himself.

“He started stealing money, he started fighting with everyone and leaving at all times of the night with Kate. Kate was no longer allowed at the house, and I don't think mom would have let Laura see her, if she knew that she wasn't actually going over to the Argent’s to see Allison.”

He stood in front of Stiles, waiting for something it seemed. Stiles watched him carefully, trying to make sure he didn't say or do anything wrong. Stiles put his hand on Derek’s face, palm flat against his stubble. “Hey. It's okay.”

“Yeah?” Derek's eyes looked up, as if he thought Stiles would disagree in a moment.

“You're doing good. I don't know what's going on, but it's okay.”

Derek pulled him into his chest, crushing him for a few moments. It felt desperate, panicked against Stiles. It was only a second before he was pulling away and pulling Stiles toward the bend.

The graveyard was nothing like Stiles had seen before. He had seen large graveyards, he had seen beautiful old graveyards. But it wasn't like this one, with rolling hills and grass with flat slates of marble and bright colored shells peaking out from each. It was something different, and Stiles stood for a moment taking it in.

Derek gently pulled at his wrist, guiding him around certain graves until they reached one with multiple blue and cream shells placed on it. It took Stiles a second to realize that they were stopped at the grave for a reason.

Jack Thompson Hale. Died at age three.

Stiles stared down at it, seeing the name over and over again. Rereading it. Derek's younger brother.

“What happened?” Stiles found slipping out of his mouth.

Derek let his shoulders fall, the tension in them dissolving. He didn't look relieved though, he just seemed to age with the sadness that took hold of his features. “Jack was adventurous, and really smart. He loved going out on trips with the family, especially when it involved the forest.

“He, like Aubree, was allowed to come out on hikes and walks around the age of one but he couldn't do the manhunt until he was six. We'd always have someone to watch him, along with Bailey and Haleigh, while the manhunt happened. Laura was supposed to watch them, and I stayed to help. Haleigh was at a friend’s house, and Bailey was sick so we only had to entertain Jack. He wasn't hard to entertain – very smart, very independent.

“But then, Kate and Uncle Peter came home. Kate, as usual, seemed fine and so did Uncle Peter. Laura and me had been fighting, and Jack was crying. Laura begged me to let her go with Kate and I was only, like thirteen. And Uncle Peter was there, and he was acting fine. And I didn't want to put up with Laura.”

Derek's breath was coming in shallow, as if he was trying to justify whatever came next. Stiles let his hand fall on his arm as an encouragement.

“Anyway, she went off with Kate and then Haleigh called, crying, saying that we needed to pick her up and Uncle Peter left to get her. And I wasn't used to being alone with kids, okay, and I didn't know how much I really had to watch them. I mean, there was an always an adult there to make sure everything was okay.

“There was always someone there with me, so of course I could leave for a few minutes. I had told Laura that my friend, Paige, well, she was going to call that night. Her family moved away and we were trying to stay in touch and I thought – what could be the harm in leaving Jack to watch television for five minutes?” Stiles started to feel sick at his stomach. A kid, left alone and so close to the wooded area never spelt good. He couldn't help but listen aptly, terrified and intrigued at the same time.

Derek started shaking, visibly falling apart. It was like his first time saying it, his first time speaking about it. “And he was, I came back down and he was okay. It was okay, and Uncle Peter was going to be home in a few minutes. We were watching Courage the Cowardly Dog – he used to love cartoons so much.” Derek smiled, a quick flash that would be lost if Stiles wasn't looking so intently. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that for the moment, in the moment of the story, Jack was still okay.

“And Uncle Peter came home, with a crying Haleigh. Let's just say he was never good at consoling people, and seemed at a loss with her. So he told me to take her upstairs, clean her up and things of the sort. He said he'd watch Jack, and I should have said no. He wasn't good or trustworthy.

“But he was an adult and he'd told me to do something. So I did it. She had chocolate all over her dress, and I couldn't get out of her why or what happened. I helped her pick out new pajamas and unpack and calmed her down enough for us to go downstairs.”

“And Uncle Peter said he'd watch – he said,” Derek couldn't breathe, it seemed. He was closing in on himself, looking down and away from Stiles. Stiles knew this habit, had done the same for a few years after his mom passed to Melissa and Scott. He had only done twice to his father, mostly because of how his dad would respond to it. The Sheriff would never pretend to walk on eggshells if he didn't think it was needed, and Stiles quickly understood that he was grieving as well and what Stiles was doing was cruel.

“He said he'd watch him. And he didn't?” Stiles knew sometimes a push was needed for a person to start speaking. Derek looked up at him, lashes wet and cheeks stained. He nodded.

“I couldn't find Jack. Or Uncle Peter. Uncle Peter had apparently went out with a few of his friends, knowing they were going to be coming soon enough. He said he forgot Jack was in the next room, forget his responsibility.

“But it didn't change the fact that we couldn't find him, seeing as I ran out screaming for help. My mom was close, and she came running to find out what was wrong. She called Uncle Peter, actually hoping that Jack had been taken with him – Jack could be the best kid to take anywhere, he could be so well-behaved. Or, he could be sneaky and do as he wished. He was smart enough to know when was the best time for either.

“We didn't find him until the sun came up. Because that's when the water was see-through.” Derek whispered. He wasn't moving, he wasn't running. He seemed immobile. A whisper of himself.

“Hey, now, that's not your fault.” Derek cut him a look, as if he didn't believe him. Stiles sighed. “When my mom passed,” Stiles started, “I was in the room. Dad had told me to check on her every few hours and I did. I did because he was working and she couldn't take care of herself. I did it, even though I was scared to see what had happened to her.

“And she was just in bed, like normal. She never slept well, though, and would have woken up when I opened the door. But she didn't. And feeling your mother go cold, knowing that she would have been alive a few moments before and that I could have seen her – just a few moments earlier if I hadn't been playing a stupid game - it's hard.

“But she was sick and it was just time for her to go. It wasn't your fault Peter messed up.” Stiles kept talking through Derek's horror-struck gasp. “I'm not saying that Jack deserved to go or that he should have gone. But Peter said he'd do something and he didn't.”

“Words are good and fine, but I had a responsibility. I was supposed to watch after him.” Derek's voice is tight. Stiles can tell he is crying, but he doesn't want to risk anymore than the hand that is already on his arm. Stiles wants to hold him, to let his heart beat even out and to make him feel cared for, but he doesn't think that's what Derek wants. So he sticks to a hand on his forearm, like a comforting gesture he can shake off.

“You did, you just trusted others to help you.” Stiles knew he wasn't going to get much head way today, just seeing how Derek refused to even acknowledge his words. He tried a different route. “What happened to Peter because of it?”

“A few months later, they found him in a car crash and he had to get a metal leg put in. It had been a good four months since he had been home, even if Kate still lurked about. Uncle Darvon convinced almost everyone that it was better to accept the family we had – and be grateful not another member died – and tried to help them seek help. Mom started to look at rehab centers after that, I just couldn't talk to him.”

His hands clenched and unclenched. Stiles could tell he didn't put all of the weight on himself, even if he put most of it there. “Maybe he came back different. But it doesn't really matter to me if he didn't. Because you're the same guy that I had met, who made up new bedtime stories on the spot because I was sick.” Stiles was stuck by an idea, one that could maybe help Derek a bit. “What was Jack’s favorite color?”

Derek looked at him, confused. Stiles began to think that what may help Derek a bit would be a nap to lighten the ring of red around his eyes. “Every week may have a different color. He found something interesting with them all. He was really fond of purple and orange, though. He said he wanted a monster truck in those colors, but none of us could understand why.”

“Why don't we go back to the beach and find some shells for him? Maybe paint them so they're orange and purple?” Stiles suggested.

Derek stood still, staring down at his brother’s grave for a few minutes. “How can you be so okay about this?”

“I'm not okay with the fact that a little boy lost his life because he was a little too adventurous. But I do know it's not your fault completely and that you don't need to continue to tear yourself up about it. Healing is healthy.”

“Are you no longer upset about your mother dying?” Derek asked bluntly.

A gust of wind left Stiles’ chest. He wasn't sure how to respond to it, so for a moment he said nothing. “I am upset. Everyday I'm upset. But I've learned that it's not because I didn't check five minutes earlier, but because she was sick. I try my best to honor her.” It felt like something was stuck in Stiles’ throat. It was hard to breathe past, even harder to force words out. “She would want me to live a life that would make her happy.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Derek let out a sigh, one that sounded like it hurt. His entire being seemed stripped away, down to a hurt person that just didn't know where to restart. He couldn't help the tears he shed, just like Stiles couldn't help the way he pulled him close. It was physically causing Stiles to ache – the way Derek was bleeding in front of him – so he did the best he could to help it. Eventually, Derek was breathing well enough to shift away. He hadn't placed his hands on Stiles, not really, not in a hugging way. One had come up to desperately grasp at Stiles’ shirt, but he had mainly just thrown his weight on Stiles.

He pulled completely away, not saying thank you but his eyes said it well enough. It was guilty thank you, one that Stiles had seen before in himself after causing Scott to lose a night of sleep to his panic attacks. Derek managed to lead Stiles back to the beach, where the parted to hunt for seashells.
--
After a few hours, with Stiles’ shirt being used as a basket for multiple large shells and Derek appearing to have done the same, they wandered back towards the home.

“I think Haleigh left some paint here, last time we came. I can check her room.” Derek said, as they wandered toward the kitchen table. This was where they poured out their collecting, both appearing to have sought out large, whole shells rather than tiny ones with cracks for decorations.

Derek came up successful, and brought out a plastic plate for him to squirt the orange and purple in. He lead it back, apologizing about how there were only two brushes. “It's fine,” Stiles waved him off. “One brush for one color.”

They fell into an easy pattern from there, each painting a shell or two before switching. They were almost half-way finished with the work load when Stiles had an idea. The business of his hands had helped to keep his mouth quiet and his body preoccupied. Plus, a few minutes before, he had gone to his room to take another Adderall. He hadn't taken one since the early light of dawn, when he was about to wander off to sleep.

“My mom used to love painting.” He started off with. “But she really liked water pastels.”
He definitely had Derek's attention, if the way the brush stilled in his hand was any indication. Stiles felt like Derek had pushed away a huge rock in their relationship, because before it only felt like Stiles discussed the bad things of his life. Now the playing field felt very much more open.

“You know canvas paper, right? Well, our house used to be loaded in it. She would take the water colors and practically drown the paper in it. But them, she’d hang the paper a certain way and the colors would fall to make it look beautiful. There was no way to make it look bad, and I would know, because I did a few.” Stiles laughed a bit, noting how much paint he had on his fingers.

“My mom used to say it was always effort that counted.” Derek replied. “Until she officially banned sports, and the kids would say it was their effort for their sport is what should be counted, not how many others got hurt.”

“She signed me up for baseball once.” Stiles admitted.

“Really?” Derek's eyebrows rose a few notches.

Stiles’ face twisted into an expression that hoped to convey how rude Derek was being. “It was only for the little kids. And it was only for a year. Even our three girls would make fun of how bad I did.”

Derek winced in sympathy. “Jack… Jack used to say that soccer was much better than baseball, and one day he'd be a great soccer player.”

“Was he good at playing?” Stiles asked dumbly. He quickly fixed his slip-up. “I mean, like for a kid. Did he show promise?”

“I think so. I would play with the kids some. Especially when Kate was over, which was rare after Jack was born but still. He loved all sports, I think though.”

“My mom was a huge fan of lacrosse.” Stiles let his eyes drop to the brightly colored shells surrounding them.

“How’d she meet your dad?” Derek asked, sounding really interested.

“It was actually at a lacrosse game. Not a high school one, but an official one. He was a cop that was there to help with traffic, but she came up all panicked about forgetting her wallet in the bleachers.” Stiles shrugged. “He finished up what he had to, and then helped her search. As a thank you for finding it, she took him out for late night coffee.”

“She took him out for coffee?” Derek asked incredulously.

“Yeah, girls can do that.” Stiles nudged Derek with his knee. “She was like that, didn't think that anything stopped anyone unless they stopped themselves. She loved to cook, and paint, and read, and just love.”

“She sounds wonderful.” Derek complimented. “Jack would love to cook too, so we bought him an Easy Bake oven. I know it says five and up but he was so smart, really. He'd make cupcakes and loved to decorate them. It was always funny to watch him play with the other kids, and when he'd tell them to stop doing what they were doing with his oven, he'd yell ‘If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’”

They both laughed, Stiles laughed because it was a happy thing. Something that was good, which should be celebrated, even if he never knew the boy. “You loved him, dearly.” Stiles prodded, gently.

“Of course.” Derek looked back at him, as if it was the most known thing in the world.

“And he loved you. And would want you to be happy.” Stiles continued on. Derek could probably see where he was going now, but he still ducked his head.

“We should hurry up, so we can put them on the grave today.” Derek responded.

So Stiles let it drop, and finished up the last few shells. They discussed dinner – probably just grilled cheeses – while the shells dried. Afterwards, Derek managed to actually find a pillow case they could carry their load in.

When they got back to the grave, everything was the same but slightly more dismal. The sun was behind some gray clouds, and the grass still blew in the wind, but it was a much more furious pace of wind. Stiles still approached the grave respectfully, letting Derek drop to his knees to put the shells down.

Stiles held the pillow case, and his favorite shell tightly. He let Derek put everything on the Jack’s grave, placing the shells delicately around his name and in the grass surrounding it. There were other shells there too, but they were well worn by rain. Stiles worried that their work would be lost at the upcoming rain, no matter how far off it was. Derek had assured him that the paint could and would survive a shower, that's why they bought it for Haleigh.

He had finished with all the shells, and took a second the trace Jack’s name in the marble. “I love you. I'm sorry.” It could have been a trick on Stiles’ ears, by how quiet the words came. Derek's form was completely exposed, terribly venerable. Stiles felt touched that he would allow him to see him this way.

Stiles bunched up the cloth in his hands, before squatting to put the last shell near the slate of rock. His was certainly the most decorated. He wanted to say something, but really couldn't find anything that he thought would be helpful. Stiles still couldn't help it when his thoughts slipped out as he stood up, though. “I would have never guessed something like this would have happened to someone like you.”

Derek breathed a laugh, completely humorless. “If I kept everyone away then they wouldn't know anything was wrong.”

“So...is it just my charm that happened to win you over?” Stiles slipped his hand into Derek's as they walked away. Somehow, even with the looming gray clouds over them, the day felt lighter.

“Or maybe it was how you wouldn't shut up,” Derek retorted. Stiles didn't let it get to him, knowing that he was just messing with Stiles.
--
Sunday was spent on the beach. It was slightly chilly, so they kept their clothes on and stayed away from the water, but they walked down the beach. The sand felt warm, even with the sun hidden behind the ominous clouds.

Stiles had even noted on the clouds before they left – saying that they should stay in or they would get wet. And, with the house a dot on the horizon, that's exactly what happened. There was a clap of thunder, which caused Stiles to look skywards as the first few drops fell. “We should get back to the house before it really starts coming down.” Stiles advised.

Derek had his palm upturned, catching a few more rain drops. “You're right. It's cold out today, and we don't want you getting sick.”

“Hey, just because you have a stronger immune system doesn't make you super human. You could get sick too.”

They ended up running half way there, because the heavens did open up on them. The waterlogged doing nothing but slowing Stiles down. He was a good ten feet behind Derek by the time they came upon the back stairs. Derek went inside ahead of him, and caught him up in a towel as Stiles stumbled inside.

“Hey!” Derek's hands were moving, carefully drying his hair and face from behind the soft cotton. “What are you doing!?”

“Getting you dry as possible before you change clothes. It'll help.” Derek soothed him.

Normally, Stiles could see it as soothing. But right then, it made him squirm. “You're also soaking wet.”

“Yeah, but I'm not as fragile.”

Hey now. “I'm not fragile, Derek.” Stiles caught the edges, pulling them away from his face to glare at his boyfriend. “Stop acting like I'm a china doll. I'm not a baby.”

“I know.” Derek's lips were pursed, as if he was confused.

“Then why are you still acting as if you don't?”

“I care about you?”

He was still running the towel across Stiles’ arms. “And I care about you, but that doesn't mean I act like you can't take care of yourself.”

Derek looked caught. “I know you can.”

“Then act like it!” Stiles wasn't completely sure where the onslaught of emotion, besides being cold and coddled.

“Stiles, why are you so upset?” Derek let the towel fall away from him. Stiles contained the urge to shiver.

“I just, you act as if I'm not – as if I'm just so easily hurt or caught sick or anything.” Stiles didn't want to cry.

“I love you.” Derek said softly. Stiles’ breath stopped, and the only sound that could be heard was the steady drip of their clothes on the floor. “Okay? I love you. That's why I treat you this way – I want to keep you safe.”

Stiles couldn't help but do anything except stare. Finally, after a prolonged moment, he gently pressed his lips to Derek's, hoping to convey everything there. It hurt his chest, in the most bittersweet way.

Chapter Text

The next weekend brought Stiles back to Derek's house. He was going to be staying for dinner to officially meet Peter. It was alright because he had made sure to pack a meal for two for his dad to take up to the hospital, as he was planning on sitting and eating with Deputy Johnson. Right then, he was content to sit in the floor as Derek quizzed him on photosynthesis and he held a sleepy Aubree.

After a bit, she fell asleep and Derek was convinced that Stiles knew the terms back and forth. Dinner was going to be lasagna, messy and homemade, and the scent of the finishing product was wafting into the blue room. Stiles was on the couch, feet laid out over Derek's thighs and Aubree on his chest.

Ritsa popped her head in, a few seconds after Derek gave up on the cards and went on to his phone. “She asleep?” She whispered.

Stiles nodded, careful not to wake her. They had just gotten Poohkey back, fully recharged, meaning she was taking to crying at least four times a night and three to six times during the day. Cora was with her in the knitting room, with the yellow wallpaper. Neither Derek nor Stiles had any objections to her making Poohkey a hat if she would just take their baby for a few hours.

“I'll take her.” She smiled, moving into the room to come towards Stiles. He lifted his torso a bit, trying to offer up Aubree without waking her. Ritsa seemed just to know how to hold her to keep her asleep, as Aubree was taken weightlessly into her arms. “They threw me out of the kitchen, can you believe that?” She stage whispered, just low enough that Aubree only fidgeted in her arms.

Stiles wasn't sure how to respond, but she wore a silly, half-smile that showed she knew why she was thrown out of the kitchen. Stiles laughed a little then, which seemed to please her. Ritsa reached out and ruffled his hair affectionately, making Stiles feel warm and welcomed inside.

After she left, since Derek was obviously beating a game level of some sort on his phone, Stiles decided to text his dad and make sure that he didn't stop for take out and actually took the healthy meal Stiles had prepared. Or, he was, until he noticed he had two missed calls.

From Lydia.

“Shit!” Stiles shot forward, his feet digging into Derek's calves.

“What's wrong?” Derek asked, startled. Instead of answering, Stiles shoved his phone screen into his boyfriends face before ripping it back to redial her. “So you missed Lydia's call?”

“She never calls, dude. It's important.” Stiles fidgeted as the beep rang out for the first time.

“Stiles?” Lydia's voice whipped through to him.

“Hey, uhm, I just—”

“You made me call you twice. Twice. Do you not keep your vibrate on your phone?” She sounded impatient and disappointed. Stiles winced.

“I'm sorry,” he apologized feebly.

“Not good enough.” She retorted. He could hear her humming to herself, which always worried him. She'd only do that with a pursed lip and a thoughtful face – or the ‘I'm getting my way on this’ face, as Stiles called it. “I was calling you to tell you that I'm having a party in a few weeks, and to make sure you knew to bring your boyfriend but a little birdy told me you weren't planning on coming.

“You make me go out of my way to give you this invitation. I mean, I have things to do. So do you know how you're going to make it up to me?” She paused, and Stiles could see – could fucking see – the wide spread of her lips as she smiled her victory smile. “You are coming to my party. You and Derek. No ifs, no buts, nothing.”

“Lydia, I mean I don't mind going, but—”

“Good, then I'll see you there.” The line went dead.

Derek sat still, observing as Stiles’ scared face slowly crumbled to defeated. “That bad?”

Stiles cut a look at him, mostly because he was joking. “Bad for me but also bad for you.”

Derek's smirk disappeared almost immediately. “What do you mean?”

Stiles pulled himself forward to drag his legs off of him and wrap his arms around his boyfriend. “We've been ordered to a party,” Stiles said dramatically.
--
Peter was the one who came to get them for dinner, walking in on them cuddling. Derek was finishing up a round of a Marvel fighting game on his phone, so Stiles was watching from his comfortable position on his chest.

Peter cleared his throat to get their attention. Stiles couldn't help but wince as he shot up, still apprehensive on Peter’s views on their relationship unknown to him. But he did count small mercies – it could have been Laura who called them, seeing as she was there. Even if she was making herself scarce.

“Dinner’s ready, boys.” Peter smiled cordially.

Derek didn't seem like he was going to say anything, and Stiles would guess he still hadn't spoken to Peter. “Thanks.” Stiles supplied.

“How did the biology reviewing go?” He asked as they made their way towards the kitchen. Peter saw Stiles’ befuddled expression. “My darling sister, Camilla, told me how you had sought her help a few times. By the way, I wasn't so bad at the science in college. If she's not around, and you would like some help, feel free to find me.”

Derek loomed behind them as Peter fell back to brush shoulders with Stiles. Stiles paid it no mind, smiling widely at the offer. “I will.”

Peter seemed to observe him for a moment before opening his mouth to speak. However, they entered into the flurry that was the kitchen before he could talk. Ethan pounced on Stiles, sending him rocketing back. He would have landed on his ass, had it not been for Derek behind him to catch him.

“Stiles! Haleigh won’t share Poohkey.” He complained. His brother looked at him like he was insufferable and adorable at the same time – which reminded Stiles of how Scott would look at him.

Haleigh skipped into the room, from the dining room entrance to pout. “But Cora just gave it to me.” She reasoned.

Stiles looked back at Derek, as if to say ‘Help’ but Derek just shrugged. Peter had moved forward to take a platter of bread from Ritsa, as they were carrying everything into the other room. “Why don't Haleigh keep it during dinner, and afterwards you can play with it?”

Ethan didn't seem happy with the choice, but he respected it. He nodded glumly, before slinking over to where Alden was. He seemed to just be on the wall, in order to stay out of everyone's way. Haleigh smiled at him, “Thank you, Stiles. You guys’s places are already set up in the dining room.” She waved at them to follow her.

Stiles had only been in the room once, and that was just to see it. Derek ducked close to explain. “It's a celebration because Uncle Peter is home again. Everyone has to eat at the table – as a family.”

Stiles caught the edge in his voice, like bitter sarcasm. Haleigh stopped near the middle of the table, long and extravagant as it was. Tonight there’d be no kids table. “Thank you, sweetie.” Stiles said absently.

She smiled big again, before flouncing off with Poohkey in her hands. The fast movement woke up the doll, who started to cry. Derek and Stiles both instinctually turned to follow her to collect their baby but she was already shushing it.

They settled, and sat down. “Wait, did you say everyone?” Stiles rebounded to the topic of why they were using the family table.

“Yeah,” Derek said, picking at his napkin. There was a pan of lasagna in front of them, with four lining the table. Ritsa came and sat down next to Stiles, and Aiden and Ethan came running in to claim the seats next to Derek and closest to Talia. Peter sat in front of Stiles. Everyone was finding a place. “Everyone.”

The subject of the question Stiles was going to ask walked in them, in a pair of shorts and a messy bun. Stiles and her made eye contact, before she dropped her gaze. Stiles didn't think she hated him, just misunderstood. He wasn't going to try and enlighten her though.

“Thank you for joining us, Laura.” Talia said warmly.

She nodded, before sitting next to Uncle Peter. “Hello, sweetheart.” He said to her.

“Hey, Uncle Peter.” She seemed content to sit and pick at the napkin.

“Is this everyone?” Camilla came by, swooping past them to get to the other side. “I think it is!”

“Then let's eat!” Arthur joked, from the other end of the table.

If Stiles thought the first family meal he attended was hectic, this was beyond belief. The adult voices were soon lost in the swarm of children, all demanding attention and responses. Derek was claimed by Aiden and Ethan who wanted to discuss whether or not it was okay for them to do Halloween this year. Ritsa became absorbed in Bailey’s discussion of his latest book and Stiles watched as Laura warmed up her demeanor to actively engage Grace in conversation.

Peter cleared his throat, not to silence anyone but to grab at Stiles’ attention. It worked, because Stiles went from leaning over Ritsa’s shoulder to hear about Maximum Ride’s new adventure to swinging his face – stuffed with garlic bread – to face him. “Hm?”

Peter smiled bemusedly as Stiles forcibly chewed and swallowed away the bread. “I just wanted to ask how the cough medicine worked.”

For a second, Stiles stared back at him blankly until recent events caught up him in his mind. “Oh! It worked good. How's—?” Stiles gestured widely, not wanting to say ‘cigarette patches’.

“If making me irritable enough to challenge Camilla with her snapping, then yes, it's working fine.”

Stiles couldn't help the laughter that bubbled out of him. “I've been told she's always been like this.”

“Insufferable?” Peter asked. Camilla must have heard, through the shrill voices and swell of talking. She sat closer to Arthur, talking to Colton and Haleigh with Arthur and Darvon. After Peter spoke, she looked up and took some bread crust to hit him.

Stiles watched as Peter easily caught it in his napkin, because wow, Camilla had some good aim. He vaguely heard Bailey ask if that meant food fight, which thankfully, Camilla shut down before Ritsa could agree. The lasagna was the best kind for eating but the worst for throwing – super messy and hot.

Peter reclaimed his attention, after eating a bite of the lasagna. “Do you know what you want to do once you get out of high school?”

It was a standard question from an adult, but Stiles surprised himself by responding the way he would if Scott asked. “Make money.”

The answer obviously surprised Peter as well, his eyebrows raising and his lips curling into a tight smile to keep from laughing. “Probably not in Biology, though.”

Stiles really couldn't see why Derek couldn’t give Peter a second chance, mainly because he was making a bang-up new impression on Stiles. He kept it in the back of his mind, though, that Peter had managed to fool his family before. “Probably not.”

The conversation took a turn then, when Aiden leaned around Derek to get Stiles opinion on costumes. Peter joined Laura and Grace in their discussion, about playground areas. He even made sure to look interested in Grace’s detailed description of the preschool playground.

Aiden and Ethan were arguing over which set of twins to go as. Aiden wanted to go as the superhero twins from Teen Titan that spoke Spanish. Ethan argued that he would rather go as the two from Meet the Robinsons, because they couldn't speak Spanish. Derek listened to each, asking questions, and Stiles rested his chin on Derek's shoulder to listen as well. Most of his food was gone anyway.

The only peculiar thing was that when Stiles moved away for a moment, to take a sip from his glass, he caught Laura staring at them. She had a slight crinkle to her nose, as if she had tasted something bad, but overall she just looked confused. Not upset, but very confused.
--
The Sheriff was already in bed by the time Stiles crept in, but there was a note on the kitchen table. It said that Allison had called the house and to make sure to call her back. Stiles decided to take a shower first, mainly because of how Derek had walked him out and pressed him against the Jeep for their goodbye kiss.

He needed some alone time.

But, around eleven, he did end up calling her on his cell. She picked up on the fourth ring, sounding tired. “Hello?”

“Hey, Ally, it's Stiles.”

She yawned. “Hey, I called earlier.”

“I know, my dad told me. I was over at Derek's.” Stiles explained.

“Oh? How was—” the rest of her sentence was drowned out by a minute long yawn.

“Did I wake you up?” Stiles worried, not thinking that some people might want to get rest for the hell that was Monday.

“Yeah, I was taking a nap.” She responded. “’M really tired.”

Stiles nodded sympathetically, even if she couldn't see him do so. “Busy day?”

“Oh, no. Scott came over today. He can really tire me out, you know.”

“Ugh! Allison, I so did not need to know?” Stiles had to hear vague things from Scott, which was manageable, but to hear it from Allison was a different thing entirely.

She laughed at his sudden aversion. “Oh, shut up. You know how it is.” She paused. “You do know how it is, right?”

Stiles’ mouth fell open, completely shocked that Allison – of all people – would be trying to give him the sex talk. “No! I mean, I know the general idea, but – why would you think I know? Derek and I—we haven't—it hasn't been that long!” Stiles tripped over his words, his face inflamed.

“Really?” She whispered through the line. “I mean, I just kind of thought that you and he would—”

“—Why would you even think that?!” Stiles interrupted, practically shrieking. “This is not why you called, is it?”

“Oh, no, Lydia asked me to call.” Allison responded.

“Because of her party?” Stiles guessed.

“Yeah – I figure she's already got a hold of you, then.”

“She did,” Stiles groaned. “She's forcing me to go to the party.”

“With Derek?” Allison asked hopefully. “I mean, he's still very intimidating but he's trying. I can see he's trying.”

“He's been extended the ‘invitation’ as well. When is it?” Stiles was just glad they got off the last topic.

“Two weekends from now. It's the Halloween party.”

“Is Halloween already here?” Stiles asked absently.

Allison laughed. “First semester is almost half-way done.” She agreed.

“Thank God.” Stiles responded. “Thanks, Ally. I'll catch you tomorrow.”

“Night, Stiles.”
--
The two weeks came and went, with many days spent after school at the Hale house. Stiles stopped jumping when Peter would come behind him, leaning over him to inspect a problem that he was helping with. He'd explain the answers in a soft voice, right next to Stiles’ ear. At first, it deeply disturbed Stiles and then he realized that was just Peter. He seemed to only be able to express his feelings in creepy gestures.

Derek still refused to talk to him, but began to grudgingly take his advice on questions. It was progress. It was also progress, that half-way through the first week, Laura brought herself down to work on her homework with them. Camilla and Peter were both in the room at the time, even if Peter usually taught solo. The first day she said nothing to them, but rather just asked questions to the adults.

Stiles was persistent in her knowing that he wasn't some devil-worshipping homosexual. He was kind to her at all turns, sometimes going far enough that even Derek seemed surprised. By the end of the second week, she would greet him and ask him how he was, even if it was just a shade too civil and a shade less friendly.

“You never dote on me like that.” Derek faux complained, one day while they were hiding away at Stiles’ house. Stiles’ dad was there, and they had ordered pizza so it wasn't like they were alone. They just sometimes preferred the quiet.

“You know why I do it.” Stiles whined right back, arching so that his back was off Derek's chest and he could flip his head backwards to look at him upside down. It earned him a peck on the lips.

It was easy and relaxed. Almost too relaxed, Stiles thought. Whenever they went this side of playful, Derek would always lean back. It didn't matter where they were – pressed up against the Jeep, in Stiles’ room, the little hallway from the back yard next to the kitchen door – it all ended with Derek pulling back for both of them to gasp into each other's mouths and for Derek to move away.

Eventually, the weekend came. Stiles didn't bother putting anything special on – preferring to spend his time watching a few movies with his dad on his off day. When nine rolled around, he threw on some jeans and Derek's hoodie and drove over to get him.

It was obvious Derek didn't try either, with wearing his standard black shirt and blue jeans. Seriously, how many black shirts did he have? He climbed into the Jeep, letting Stiles honk to tell the family inside they were going. “So, are you excited for this party?” Stiles asked sarcastically as they pulled away.

“Actually, a little.” Derek answered honestly, which made Stiles feel a bit guilty for the way he phrased his question. “Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go. Just, it's the first party I've been invited to in a while.”

Stiles felt the need to apologize, but Derek's face held no regret. It also didn't show any bitterness at the fact – he knew he had been reclusive and thus didn't get invited places. “Lydia's probably going to maul us for not wearing a costume.”

Derek's brow furrowed. Stiles was doing a good job, splitting his gaze well between the road and his boyfriend. “Do people actually dress up?”

Stiles nodded, laughing. “It's a huge tradition, where everyone goes instead of trick-or-treating.”

“Did you go last year?” Derek asked.

“Yeah.” Stiles paused for a moment. “I went as Wonder Woman. Shaved my legs and everything.”

Stiles felt the urge to stretch his legs out, to put the long, gangly limbs on display for Derek's disbelieving eyes. It was talk for a good week that he showed up in full display of Wonder Woman's newest outfit, even fake boobs that he learned how to put to use from drag queen YouTube tutorials. He was fucking hot that night, and it didn't matter what anyone said.

True to his word, when they got into Lydia's house – already full with various boys in costumes and girls with animal ears – she flew at them. “What are you dressed as?” She demanded.

Stiles threw his hands up in mock defense. Derek must have seen it best to let him handle it, because he shifted slightly behind him. “You should be happy we came, really, Lyd.”

She still stood there, waiting for an explanation. Stiles felt his assurance in her being happy he was there slowly crumble as he searched for something to appease her. Thankfully, before he had to continue a shaky argument, Allison and Scott came up, looking punch drunk.

Ally took one look at Lydia's unfaltering glare before she intervened. “What's wrong?” She leaned close to Lydia, pulling away from Scott to talk to her.

The music was loud and Stiles couldn't quite catch what Lydia said. He knew the gist of it anyway. Ally looked back at Stiles, lips pursed. She must have come up with a good idea, by the way she moved towards him a second later. She grabbed his hood and pushed it over his head.

“Little red riding hood!” She cried happily, showing it off to the other two teens.

Scott laughed, but he didn't laugh as hard as last year. Stiles hoped Lydia didn't try and force him into a skirt because his leg hair had just begun to look really normal again. She didn't say anything, unhappy but well enough satisfied at the moment. Or maybe bored. Lydia sashayed away.

Ally hugged him before her and Scott were dashing away again. Scott waved over his head at Stiles before disappearing among the throng. Stiles started to turn to berate Derek for saving himself and not Stiles.

And it was started to, because Derek grabbed his hips firmly from behind and moved them towards the wall and away from the front entrance. He didn't let up when Stiles knew that they had met up with the wall. He shifted Stiles closer, pressing his back firmly to Derek's front. And, oh, Stiles was officially on fire. His body was a city and it was going down in flames like Rome.

He could feel the way Derek's denim rubbed against his, the way his hands held them steady and mind numbingly close. Stiles’ brain helpfully supplied that it must have been less than a minute, for the small eternity that it claimed in Stiles’ mind. Finally, Derek spoke, pressing his lips to the curve of Stiles’ ear.

“If you're little red riding hood, does that make me the big bad wolf?” He chuckled darkly, the hot puffs of breath shooting straight to Stiles’ groin. “Do you want to dance, little red?”

He didn't give Stiles a chance to respond, which, not like Stiles would if he had the chance. What had gotten into Derek, at the mention of Stiles being little red riding hood, Stiles didn't know, but he wasn't going to jinx it. Derek pulled him roughly into the swarm until Stiles could no longer even identify the faces that went with the sweating bodies around him.

So maybe parties weren't so bad.

Derek let Stiles flail around a bit, raising his arms ridiculously and jumping. Derek stayed with the throng, letting the beat and bodies around him move him. It was closed space that every few minutes Stiles’ arm or chest would brush or bump against Derek. Their faces were inches away, Stiles euphorically smiling. He knew he was gangly and uncoordinated and probably the worst dancer here but his boyfriend was next to him, enjoying the moment with him.

Stiles was going to say something, anything really, opening his mouth to voice it. Before he could get a word out though, Derek grabbed him, halting his jumping and kissed him. It was open-mouthed, wet heat, filthy. Stiles would have stopped all together moving on the dance floor if Derek didn't have his hands around his waist, swaying him to the rhythm.

Stiles brought his hands up to Derek's neck, one tangling in his hair. Derek and he kissed sloppy, more wanting to feel the slick sweet press of each other's lips and tongues more than learning the logistics. Neither kissed well, new to the whole dating scene, but neither cared much, because Stiles had his hand gripping the short strands of Derek's hair as Derek bruised his hips. He was just everywhere, crowding completely into Stiles, it felt like. And Stiles loved it.

Derek pulled away before Stiles, panting harshly against Stiles’ reddened lips. He moved his head back as far as Stiles would allow to marvel at their handiwork. Stiles wanted to whine for more, but he was now starkly aware of where they were and how they had practically mouth-fucked each other. His cheeks darkened, not that Derek could tell very well in the low light. He swooped back, dragging out Stiles’ bottom lip with his teeth before pulling off completely.

It hurt some, the pressure and pull a little too tight. Stiles blinked against the pain, expecting it to put some chill on his heated body. But it excited him, crazily, excited him way too much for the party. And there was no hiding it from Derek, who stepped away a second or two later. Stiles did his best to not deflate, expecting them to go sit down somewhere.

Derek spun him around, Stiles’ feet tripping as Derek turned him. He could feel the vise Derek had on his hips, pulling him back to Derek’s chest. He used his position to get Stiles to move – a sharp roll of the hips that, when moving back, could feel the very outline of Derek.

He was fucking hard too.

Stiles stuttered for a moment, entire body straightening from impact for a moment, before Derek pulled him back into the movement. He let his sweaty palms wrap around Derek's wrists, head dropped low. Every move burned into him, and he was thanking the low light. Derek seemed gone too, mouthing at the back of Stiles’ neck, occasionally murmuring song lyrics into his salty skin.

He let go of time, and of feeling anything but the rough of Derek's jeans. Stiles pressed against him hard, grinding the best he could with Derek's help. Whenever he'd push too much, he was rewarded with bruising hands and a wild gasp behind him. Stiles let the ache, the pulse, the scene flood him. He peeled himself off of Derek to turn around and grab his face.

Derek looked ridiculously wrecked, lips red and skin dark from all that Stiles could see. Stiles kissed at his jaw, little, wet nips along his scruff. “Can we please go somewhere else?” Stiles whispered.

Derek looked over him with hungry eyes before nodding. They stumbled out of the crowd, completely unaware of those around them. They made it outside to the crisp air, which cooled the sweat but nothing else. Before they managed over to the Jeep, Stiles couldn't help but push up to kiss Derek savagely.

He pulled at his shirt, probably ruining it. Derek returned the kiss, just as eagerly as he gave it. It did everything to encourage Stiles and his greedy hands to roam the expanse of Derek's torso. Derek shivered under his touch, a needy sound getting lost between them.

“What the hell is going on here?!” A voice thundered. Stiles would have paid it no mind, except that it's vicinity was startling.

Derek and he pulled apart, trying to control their heartbeats as they identified the speaker. Chris Argent. He was staring at them angrily, jaw working. Stiles had no answer that wasn't hateful or sarcastic. “I come to get my daughter and the first thing I see is two girly boys all over each other! You should be ashamed – acting as if what you do has any place out in the open!”

Stiles opened his mouth to argue back, hating the Argents and hating their way of doing things. Derek beat him to the punch though. “We’re doing nothing wrong. We're teens, who happen to be dating and we aren't acting any different than a heterosexual couple would.” His voice was a respectful calm, right before the storm.

“Well that's the thing – get yourselves girlfriends and maybe no one would complain. But right now, I have every right to complain. It's disgusting, and letting other people see you? You wonder why people know how wrong it is?” His face was twisting into a grimace, cold hate seeping into his eyes.

“You don't have the right to complain!” Stiles shrieked, an anger bubbling up from deep inside. “And yelling at us is just prejudiced harassment, so I think you should just stop!”

Chris laughed at them, a short, angry one. “You're the ones harassing me, with your sexual exploits everywhere.”

“Actually, if you want to complain about them, you'll have to complain about all the teenagers in there.” A voice called out. Stiles swung his attention from Chris's darkened face, to the street. Peter stood under the streetlight, a couple of feet from them. He didn't spare a glance at Derek or Stiles, rather staring at Chris. “That includes your daughter.”

Chris recoiled from Peter, who's voice held a threat but who's face held warm regard. He cast another glance at the couple before pushing past them to the house. Stiles wanted to punch him as he moved.

“I'll take you two home.” Peter advanced toward them, making Stiles falter in his glare at Chris Argent’s back. “Don't think I missed your little show.”

Stiles felt mortified, and handed over his keys without objection. Derek climbed into the back, after brushing Stiles’ arm gently. It was almost like an apology, but Stiles didn't see his need to. He didn't talk as they rode over to the Hale house, and Peter amused himself by humming and checking the mirror with a sly smirk.

They pulled up to the house in silence. There was a beat before Derek climbed out. “Thank you.” He said stiffly, directing it at Peter. Stiles was surprised, but happy. Maybe they could start talking and make tutoring less awkward on the whole.

Stiles didn't count it as hurtful that he didn't kiss or acknowledge Stiles – they were both aware that they had plenty of contact (even if they didn't agree). Stiles waited for Peter to hand him his keys and step out, but Peter started up the car without a pause.

“Are you driving me home?” Stiles asked.

Peter looked over at him, a smile playing at his lips. “I said I would, didn't I?”

“But how will you get home afterwards?”

Peter shrugged, the V-neck tugging on his collar bone. “I was going for a night jog, anyway. I'll get myself home.”

Stiles couldn't help but frown. “Running at night is dangerous.”

Peter took his eyes completely off of the road, a light in them. It made Stiles want to shrink into the seat, a fear in him. “Maybe I like danger.”

He pulled sharply, turning that wicked corner. Stiles didn't have a second to brace himself, and was thrown into the door. He winced. “Are you okay?” Peter’s concerned voice was back. Just an regular uncle, concerned about his nephew’s boyfriend’s wellbeing. “I forgot how sharp that turn is.”

“I'm okay.” Stiles responded, shifting back to normal. He pushed the uneasiness down, instead fiddling with his shirt hem and shake his leg.

“Good.” Peter sighed. “Everything is very different now. It's the same, actually, but I guess I'm different.”

Stiles didn't respond, feeling very jittery. He looked at the clock – it was going on eleven thirty. Peter was lost in nostalgia for a majority of the ride, but when he focused in, he seemed to realize something was wrong. “Are you alright?” He asked again.

Stiles was nodding quickly, without his say-so. “Yeah, I just feel really pent-up, I don't know. I think I need—” Stiles could have hit himself. On good nights he’d go to bed at twelve, and his body had gotten use to a dose of medication at this time now. He twisted to grab his bag from the back and felt Peter swerve a little, adjusting to his new position. “Adderall.” Stiles said satisfactorily, pulling it out from his bag. He swallowed two dry, wincing a bit at the clinical taste.

“You have ADHD?” Peter asked conversationally.

“Yeah, I'm one of the few cases apparently. Since it's so bad, I get the option of scheduling my own medication times.”

Peter frowned disapprovingly. “As long as you have it under control, i guess it's fine. But it could become a problem.” Stiles was going to say, of course, he knew that, when he realized Peter was talking from experience. He promptly kept silent. “Has anyone told you it could be bad to keep medication in your car?”

Stiles thought back to Derek, and smiled wryly. “Yeah, it's been said once or twice.”

They were on his street, and though Peter still didn't look okay with the whole thing, he didn't say anymore on it. They pulled up to the drive, lights all out, thankfully. Stiles didn't want to explain why a Peter Hale was in his car. “Thank you,” Stiles said dutifully.

He rounded the corner of the Jeep to collect his keys, which Peter held delicately. He smiled at Stiles, eyes soft. “Of course.” He took a step closer and pulled up one of Stiles’ arms. Stiles, who were jerk back if the electric blue eyes in front of him weren't so captivating and terrifying. Peter dropped the keys into Stiles’ splayed palm. “Have a nice night.” A single squeeze, and Stiles was released, Peter near halfway down the driveway already.

Stiles stumbled upstairs, all of his emotions too peaked for him to want to do anything but shower. His heart felt out of place when Peter acted that way, as if he wasn't human. It reminded Stiles that Derek had warned how manipulative he could be. If Stiles was completely honest, Peter made him feel like prey.

Chapter Text

Sunday was a lazy day where Derek came over, Poohkey in tow with him because his family had watched it last night. They didn't talk about the night before, no matter how much Stiles itched to. They marathoned bad Scify movies, Stiles curled into Derek's chest and Poohkey curled in his.

Stiles resigned himself back to this pace, with soft caresses and sweet words spoken more than a bruising touch or panting breath. Allison made Stiles promise that they would have a double date before Christmas rolled around, as it could be his present to her. He agreed easily, calm about the whole thing even when Thanksgiving rolled around.

It came up unexpectedly, with Stiles spending most of his time with a baby interrupting his sleep and his boyfriend sitting next to him during his studying. He could only think on so much at once, and break wasn’t as important as it had been before.

“Are you excited for break?” Danny asked him the Monday before, sitting next to Scott, as he usually did.

Stiles looked up from shoving curly fries in his mouth, one falling out of his mouth. “Break?”

Ally looked at him sympathetically. “Next week is break.”

“Really?” Stiles swiveled his head to Derek, to ascertain that it was true. He nodded, smiling a little at Stiles’ puffed out cheeks.

It was the best thing he had heard all day, but there was an anxious flurry in his chest when Derek leaned over and whispered, “Remind me to ask you something later, kay?”

Stiles nodded, doing his best to keep focusing on his food. Derek gently wrapped a hand around his waist, just to give him a reassuring squeeze before letting go. The bell rang shortly after and Stiles fidgeted his way through last period. He was waiting out at the Jeep by the time Derek came through the doors.

“Hey?” Derek slid into the passenger seat, eyeing Stiles.

“Hey,” Stiles threw him a smile to let him know everything was alright on his end. “What did you need to ask me about?”

Derek blinked at him for a second, his face blank. “Oh! Yeah, we wanted to invite you and your dad over for Thanksgiving.”

“Really?” Stiles’ uneasiness slipped away quickly, replaced with excitement.

“Yeah, my mom always cooks too much and we have plenty of space.” Derek took a deep breath. “And I want you there. And your dad there.”

Stiles couldn't help how he leaned over and kissed his boyfriend, soft little pecks with smiles in between until Jackson came by and hit the window to remind them that they were still at school. They pulled away with a start, to see a laughing Jackson walking away. Stiles threw a wiry smile in his direction, because he was a dick, but he was also sometimes funny.
--
His dad showed no problem with going over to the Hale’s, rather surprising Stiles and telling him that Talia had already asked. So, the next Thursday brought the two into the warm and big house. The kids were in high spirits, trying to steal food out from under Camilla’s watchful gaze. The Sheriff went to stand near her, ferrying the little ones into giggles with his police stare.

Laura had some meeting for school, Darvon and Arthur were at work – but closing shop early – and Peter was no where to be found. Stiles didn't want to ask, still feeling a bit jumpy about his last encounter.

Poohkey wasn't allowed to join in the festivities, having been turned in the Friday before. Stiles had had a brief moment of panic when they left the Health classroom, wondering if she was going to be okay and if Coach was going to be gentle with her. Derek just laughed, and reminded him that she wasn't an actual baby.

Around noon, Talia announced they didn't enough potatoes for french fries and mashed potatoes. She had everyone doing things around the kitchen, such as Cora peeling the shells off of boiled eggs and Derek cutting up already peeled potatoes. Stiles had just finished cleaning the fat off of about eight packs of chicken.

“You do french fries on Thanksgiving?” Stiles asked, stealing the faucet from Cora to clean his knife. She bumped him with her hip, but didn't complain.

“Most of the kids don't like mash potatoes.” She explained.

“They taste funny.” Colton responded. He was popping green beans – actual green beans! – with Bailey and Aiden. Bailey nodded, too absorbed in his work to actually talk. Ethan was suppose to be helping Ritsa, but both of them were more covered in flour than the last pack of chicken Stiles gave them.

Talia didn't sigh, just nodded in their direction to say that that helped her case. “Stiles, are you finished with what you're doing?”

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles glanced around all the bowls and plates on the counter next to the fridge to make sure he hadn't missed any packs.

“Will you run and pick up some potatoes?”
Stiles had taken the Jeep, driving his dad instead of the other way around. “I can do that.” He smiled, eager to help out.

“Okay!” Talia moved back to the counter near the stove where there was a notepad. She scribbled some stuff down and rushed out of the room. She came back in with a fifty dollar bill. “That's just a small list, thank you so much.”

In reality it was a small list, and she pressed the fifty in his hand before pushing him out the door. The list said she need potatoes, garlic sauce, five bell peppers and some vegetable oil.

It was pretty easy to get through the grocery store, despite the fact that there were families trying to get the ingredients to the perfect Thanksgiving dinner right then. The whole place looked slightly ransacked, but it had known what was going to happen this year and the employees prepared the store well enough.

The only down side was that the parking lot was so full that Stiles had to park a few stores down, in front of a coffee shop. It looked friendly enough, though Stiles never went. He made a mental note to go check it out at some point.

He stashed his things into the trunk, only about three bags. It's a cold day and he hustles to get into the Jeep. He juggles his keys into the ignition and turns on the heat before looking up. And in front of him, in the windows pane of the coffee shop, sits Peter. Stiles stared in shock, but Peter wasn’t focused on him, but on the woman he was sitting with.

Kate.

She smiles at him, completely absorbed on him. She really could look beautiful. She moves her hand to touch him and Peter frowns. His demeanor is a trapped one, with a closed-off face. But he was still there.

He was there, with the woman who got him hooked on drugs. Stiles didn't know what to do, and just backed out wordlessly, praying that they didn't see him. He drove with a frantic heart, weighing his options.

He could barge in, ruin Thanksgiving and probably upset Derek and Peter. It may even be nothing, he getting coffee and her running into him and sitting down. Maybe she came in and decided to crawl into his space like the creepy bitch she is.

He could keep it quiet, tell his dad. But then his dad would get worried and that was bad for his heart. He already had enough to worry about with the gang drug dealers. They had been quiet for a month, but no one at the station believed they just slipped away and were done. And he might confront Peter, who could be innocent of anything wrong. Besides, it wasn't like Stiles actually saw him swapping drugs with Kate, under all jurisdiction he was okay.

Stiles could just tell Derek, get his opinion. However, in the past few weeks, they had began to form a tenuous relationship and telling Derek would like send that crumbling. And then he would be responsible for the destruction of his own hard work.

Or, the one Stiles decided on, tell no one. Keep it to himself and watch Peter. Prove him guilty or innocent before he did anything else. He resolved to put it to rest for the remainder of the day at least, so that he could enjoy the quality time.

Cora and Haleigh ran out to help him with the groceries, which made him laugh. He gave them each a bag, Haleigh pouting because she said it was the only thing her mom would let her help with. Talia jokingly told Derek to get back to work on the potatoes when Stiles came in, but he was leaning on the counter taking to Stiles’ dad. It was surprising, but both seemed easy and happy in conversation.

Quickly though, Derek returned to his post at the table, over the trashcan. Stiles put the potatoes next to him, kissing the top of his head. “I can take over, if you want to keep talking.” Stiles murmured into his hair.

Derek tilted his face up, making Stiles move back some. He was smiling, which wasn't rare but it wasn't his default face. “I've got it, thanks. I just enjoy talking to your father.”

“Said no boyfriend ever.” Stiles whispered, goofy smile on his face.

“You know, it's good you guys are so happy, but maybe you could help me with the ham, Stiles.” Ritsa was at the counter next to Talia.

Derek shifted back to work and Stiles scurried over to help her. She just wanted help lifting the ham so she could put tin foil down. “Where's the turkey?” Stiles asked curiously.

Talia, who wasn't so much ignoring them, but focusing on the hot pan of meat in looked up from her job. “We don't usually eat it - it's too dry.” She surveyed Stiles’ face, before quickly tacking on, “I can tell Arthur and Darvon to pick up some on the way home, though, if you want it.”

Stiles laughed, “No, I typically don't enjoy it either. I just know it's a Thanksgiving tradition. Plus, I don't like my dad eating too much red meat, but you've got chicken.”

It seemed to satisfy her, and she went back to work. There wasn't much to do after they slid the baked chicken out and the ham into the oven. A few of them made an assembly line for the dishes and quickly knocked it out. Stiles moved over to where Derek was finishing up the last of the potatoes. They cut them up so that they could be fried by Talia in a moment.

“This is going to be huge.” Stiles noted.

“It always is.” Derek responded, focused on his task. If Stiles didn't focus, he was likely to cut himself. “I'm glad you're here, though.”

“So am I.” Stiles was struggling to cut straight down the potato.

“I was worried that you might not, mostly because it's usually a family thing.”

“Well, my dad seems to be enjoying himself.” Stiles said. “And I didn't really think we wouldn't, because neither of us really feel like cooking during today. We'd usually just order pizza.”

“Why?” Derek didn't sound judgmental, but confused.

“My mom would always cook.” Stiles laughed tonelessly. He had let the activity of the day distract him, but now that he was sitting down. “I mean, I would usually be in the kitchen with her, and would watch her but I could never quite figure out how she made her Mac n Cheese so good. It was homemade, and I've tried to do it a few times, but no fish.”

Derek's leg bumped his under the table, a small sympathy instead of his potato-wrinkled hands. It was silent for a few moments between them. There were still the kids playing about, Camilla trying to warn them to be careful, and Ritsa laughing as the water sloshed in the sink, but there was an ocean of quiet between Stiles and Derek.

“Jack would love to help with the dessert decorating.” Derek said. Stiles looked up, and Derek's eyes looked clear. He was going to be able to talk about it. “And he would do the icing so messy, so thick or not there really at all. It's why we got him an EasyBake, actually. But most times he still helped with the sweets in here too. Now, it's the kids’ responsibility to decorate the desserts.”

Stiles smiled, glad he was hearing Derek talk about Jack. “So I should expect lots of sugar?”

Derek laughed at Stiles’ question, a slight reprieve from the sad thoughts. “Or no sugar at all. Depends on how generous they are with the cookie you grab.”

“It's going to be a wreck in here.”

“Not until tonight.” Derek shrugged, as if that solved things. Stiles didn't know if he was going to still be here to watch it happen, but knowing his dad’s sweet tooth, he probably would be. Soon enough, what was left was done and they shifted to the dining room.

Laura had come home when the ham was coming out, just a few minutes before Peter. They both came in looking happy enough, even if Laura’s smile faltered when she saw Stiles. She said hello sweetly enough, however.

Stiles found out that Nick had been absent completely because he was in charge of watching the little ones. He was even forced into a tea party, and acted extremely grateful when Cora went to fetch him.

They were all sitting at the table, Derek on Stiles’ right, for tonight. It was overflowing, swelling with the warmth and hunger. Everyone was waiting patiently for something though, so Stiles took a page from their book. Talia cleared her throat after all was settled and everyone had taken a seat.

“I know Stiles and Sheriff Stilinski haven't been here before, but we have a little tradition.” Stiles felt his heart drop, knowing full well what tradition she was talking about. “We go around and say something we're thankful for. You don't have to participate if you don't want to, though.” She smiled, fully meaning it this time.

She went first, taking a sip from her drink before she started. “I want to say I'm thankful for…family. For new beginnings and restarts.” Stiles couldn't help but glance at Peter, sitting across him again, when she said restarts.

The next was Camilla. “I'm thankful that I have my husband, that I have my children, and that everyone is here.”

The line followed, with Darvon thanking the good business and his wonderful, worrying wife. The kids thanked for cute and funny things, such as Mac n cheese and ballet and motorcycles. It got to Bailey however, and he just said he was thankful for his mother and that he had his father for as long as he had him.

There was a moment of silence after that, Ritsa reaching over to brush his cheek. Haleigh went next and said she was thankful for her friends and for glitter. It got a chuckle from the majority. Then it was the Sheriff’s turn.

He cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably for a second. “I have a happy son, a mostly healthy body and a job. I couldn't ask for much more.”

Arthur nodded to his words. “That is very true.”

Stiles zoned out for the few next, no idea what he was going to say. Derek was before him and everything so he couldn't be all funny and be like, ‘Pretty glad I got a boyfriend.’ He thought back to what Peter said, saying that he was grateful for new friends and fresh starts.

Then it was Derek's turn, and all eyes swung to him. He obviously didn't like the attention, frowning slightly. His eyes flitted around for a moment. “Forgiveness.”

Stiles smiled despite himself, the one word reflecting a lot. Talia accepted is an answer and the attention went to him. Stiles coughed awkwardly. “Uhm, well, I'm grateful for a good year. And my dad’s health and my boyfriend and how my Jeep still works and yeah there's a lot to be grateful for.” Stiles shut up because he was just listing everything now.

Derek laughed a little at his word vomit, as well as a few of the adults. Derek leaned over to him as Ritsa talked about her babies. “I'm grateful for you, too.”

“I know.” Stiles smiled back at him.

The dinner was loud, but whenever Stiles caught a look at his dad, he looked happy. The feeling was happy, it was full. Stiles looked around the room, realizing everyone had lost someone important to them at least once, and that they were all here. He enjoyed the meal, realizing how good it was to be there. Derek ate quickly too, both of them going for fries before the kids could. There were people talking over each other, and hands grabbing at the food, but even Camilla seemed content.

At the end, Derek and he offered to take care of the dishes. As everyone was assembly lining the monstrous amount of dish ware into the kitchen, Laura walked up hesitantly to her mother. “Can I talk to you?”

Stiles couldn't help but watch the interaction, being as he was just done making sure there was no dropped silverware under the table. Talia looked at the exiting body and then back down at her daughter. Laura seemed extremely hesitant, but Talia nodded anyway.

Stiles figured they were going to walk out after everyone, and hurried himself out. Most of the kids had dashed down to the basement, probably, and Camilla was just explaining something to Derek. No one seemed to inclined to stay and help, but Stiles figured that it was fine.

He was going to dry, mostly cause he hated dirty dish water. The first few dishes went by in silence, the steady thrum of working filling up the kitchen. “This is what I was hoping for, to be honest.” Derek said.

Stiles was stretching to put up a particularly high platter. “What do you mean?”

“A big family is good and all, but sometimes I want alone time with you.” Stiles blushed, feeling extremely special. He let a smile cover his face. Stiles finished putting up the few dishes he had on the counter below him before hopping away and towards Derek.

“You do?” Stiles asked happily.

“Yeah,” Derek responded absently. Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek's waist, resting his head just below the nape of his neck. It was warm and comfortable to lean against his boyfriend.

“I'm glad you like me so much.” Stiles whispered. “It's wonderful. You're great. This is great. I'm so happy I have this.” Stiles wasn’t sure why he was going to start crying, but his chest was tight and his breath felt a little too light.

Derek turned around, grabbing the dish towel from Stiles’ shoulder to dry his hands before settling them on Stiles’ back. “So am I. Thank you for coming over today, it made it nearly perfect.”

“Yeah,” Stiles breathed, staring at Derek. “I love you.”

“I love you,” Derek's hands tightened on his back, because it was the first time Stiles had spoken it. Here it was, out there, and it felt like it was just increasing the flitting feeling in his lungs.

Stiles tilted his head to get a kiss, angling in for a soft, short press that turned into three, four, languid kisses. Stiles smiled into them, murmuring, “We should probably do the dishes.”

Derek laughed. “Yeah.” They kissed again.

It was a few moments later, when they were finally deciding to detangle from each other, that Laura stomped in. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot, and when she saw them – when she saw them – she practically shrieked before running through to get out towards the back. Derek froze when she came in, and sighed as she left.

Stiles figured that the talk with Talia hadn't gone well. Laura always seemed the type to have everything at her fingers, and to be denied something or told no, must be a new for her. He bit his lip, distracted as Derek emptied the sink for new water.

“I'm going to talk to her.” Stiles announced.

Derek turned to stare at him incredulously. “Why? She's just going to be rude to you.”

“I don't know. She's been coming around lately.” Stiles fidgeted. “And something's wrong. It's Thanksgiving.” Derek started to shake his head, so Stiles laid a hand on his forearm. “I decided to do it, Derek. Let me?”

He sighed, consenting. Stiles really didn't need the okay, but he knew that the communication would be good for Derek. He squeezed his forearm once, before letting go and dashing out of the room.

Stiles was pretty certain she was outside, and he was right. She was on the outskirts of the woods, looking away. He tried to approach cautiously, but he knew his stealth skills greatly lacked.

“Laura?” He asked timidly.

“What do you want?” She shrilled angrily, still facing away from him. He figured that she was crying.

“I came out in case you wanted to talk to someone.”

Stiles flinched back, the pause becoming so long that he almost turned and went back inside. When she started to speak, her voice was a lot more subdued. “I just don't get it. I've been nice, right? I mean, I thought I was nice to you.”

“Okay?” Stiles wasn't sure where she was going with it.

She sighed, an irritated one that said Stiles knew nothing. “I thought because I was doing so well, she would actually let me invite her over.”

“Kate?”

“Yes!” Her desires weren't complex, and it didn't take much for Stiles to see them. “But then she flat out told me know. I mean, I put up with you and Derek, I'm sure Kate could too.”

Stiles was going to try and act like the way she just spoke wasn't offensive. Mainly because it was accidentally offensive and not as sharp as the first time he met her. “Maybe because Derek and I don't actually dislike anyone? And she does.”

Laura turned to look at him then, confused, with a ring red around her eyes. “No, she doesn't.”

“She doesn't like Derek and me.” Stiles held up a hand. “And before you say anything else, think about how you'd feel if someone said it to you.”

She still blurted it out, without even a pause. Stiles knew what she was going to say. “But that's because you're gay.”

“Well, no one likes you because your skin tone.” She was a nice tan, but one that clearly showed off she was some type of Hispanic. There was no hiding that, unlike on Derek, where he could stay in a few months and look white.

“Why would you say that – that's racist!” She cried out, obviously offended from how he spoke. Stiles knew she would be, mainly because he had heard her talking to Camilla about tricks that would make her skin lighter.

“What you've been saying is pretty homophobic.” Stiles kept his calm, hoping, pleading, that she'd get it.

She didn't have a proper rebuttal for that, not even a rude one. That's because even she knew what she wanted to say was rude. Stiles had left Laura Hale speechless. Stiles sighed. “I'm sorry you're upset, and I hope you feel better but I agree with Talia.”

He gently reached out, and brushed his fingers across her shoulder, moving back before she ripped away. She still seemed stunned at him, so he walked back up to the house to help finish up the dishes. He was in the clear until he got until the small hall, where Peter was leaving.

“Hi, Stiles, did you just finish talking to Laura?” Peter asked cordially. He had been strangely quietly throughout dinner.

“Yeah, she looked pretty upset.” Stiles gestured back, unsure how to interact with the man in front of him. “I thought I might have been able to help.”

“That's very considerate of you.” He didn't appear to want to continue on the conversation, but it wasn't like he was rushing from it.

“Where were you before the meal?” Stiles blurted out. His immediately began to fish mouth, the tell-tale sign he was hunting for an excuse. “I mean, I know Laura was doing a meeting thing but I thought you would want to do the family thing again.”

Peter blinked, as if he was surprised about the new line of their conversation. “I went to the coffee shop, because I like the quiet to apply for jobs.”

“You were applying for jobs?” Stiles didn’t see a laptop, but he figured it could have been in a case.

“Yeah, my laptop has been rusty due to me not using it, so I took it somewhere to get updated. I had to use my phone, do you know how annoying that is?” Peter laughed lightly, shoulders loose.

Stiles didn't trust it.

“Why apply on Thanksgiving?”

“It's about the time they start hiring for Christmas.” Peter shrugged lightly. “And I have a harder time, being a felon.”

Stiles felt bad for bringing it up now, because he was a felon because of Kate. If she would have just stayed in her lane, then he would have been fine – and why would he go back to something like that so quickly? Stiles nodded, averting his eyes.

“It was going well, until Kate walked in.” Stiles’ head snapped up. “She wanted to strike up a conversation, so I humored her for a few minutes before I left.”

“That's what Laura is upset about—Kate.” Stiles’ mouth felt dry. “What did you guys talk about?”

Something flashed in Peter’s eyes, dark and upset. He cleared his throat. “Laura, Derek, you.” He shrugged again, but this time it was more delicate than before.

“Why—because I’m dating Derek right?”

“Yeah, if you’ve ever met her, you know how she is.”

“Yeah…” Stiles trailed off.

Peter shifted slightly, “I'm going to go check on Laura now. Maybe she'll have calmed down and can see reason.”

Stiles nodded, moving out of the way. He let Peter pass, caught between believing him and that look. He wanted to continue questioning, but for the moment, what he knew was good enough.

Chapter Text

A week later and there were two bodies. Stiles was right about it just being a grace period, that the gang wasn't gone, and that there would be more. His dad seemed worn down heavily, often spending the night now spread on the table, a drink close by. Stiles would find himself fidgeting right outside the door way, wanting to burst in and beg his dad to let him help. He didn’t want his dad to have to carry so much.

It got to him really bad, one morning, because he had woken up to his dad asleep at the table, even after he promised he’d get proper rest. Stiles had to whisper and usher his dad up the stairs, where he just collapsed on his mattress.

He had Health that day, unfortunately. The only thing that could have made it worse was if it was his turn with Poohkey, but he came in late alone, with a flushed face. Coach accepted his pass with a stern, “Get to your seat, Balinski.”

Stiles was more than happy to oblige, ducking his head to get towards the back. Derek was waiting there with his coffee, wordlessly handing it to him as he slid into his chair.

Stiles tried to drink some, but his throat felt stopped up. The heat beat into Stiles’ eyes, and across his already hot skin. He put it down with a shaking hand, which is when Derek leaned over. “Are you okay, Stiles?”

He opened his mouth to say yes, of course he's okay, why wouldn't he be, his dad is just working himself into the ground, but everything was fine, everything was perfectly fine. Instead, all that came out was a breathy gasp of a barely mumbled, “Yes.” Stiles fought to keep from shaking as his eyes welled up.

A panic attack.

Stiles had to voice it somehow, explain if he didn’t get out right now he’d fall to pieces. His mouth was working against him though, open to pull in the air noisily. Derek shifted away from him, and Stiles thought that he had gained a small mercy of his boyfriend not scrutinizing him while he fell apart.

Derek got up for a moment, a thought that barely registered with Stiles. He stared wildly at the desk, trailing quickly over the swirls in the wood. He had to calm down, he had to stop worrying, his dad would be fine he would be fine it would be fine. Derek was pulling him up by his arm, whispering something in his ear, pulling him from the room.

“Coach…” Stiles wheezed out, avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone in the room. He just knew that he couldn't just leave like this, and now everyone was staring at him and he probably looked like he was about to cry, dear god.

Derek shushed him, pulling him out of the room. They got a little down the hallway before he made Stiles sit. “Breathe.” It's the first thing he managed to say that got through to Stiles, who just became aware he really wasn't.

Stiles choked in a breath, trying his best to not to sob. He was shaking, falling apart because his dad's under eyes were getting darker and his sighs were getting longer and people were fucking dying. Derek patted at his face, less likely than Stiles to show extensive touching, trying to soothe him. He stroked at Stiles’ cheeks and neck, pressing into him at a rhythm.

Stiles did he best to focus on that, feeling the drag of his rough fingers. He let a few tears slip out as his breathing began to steady, and when Derek was satisfied, he let up. He sat next to Stiles at the locker quietly, until Stiles seemed fully back in control. And yeah, Stiles had stopped shaking but now he felt guilty for how he had acted.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek asked.

Stiles bit his lip. He did, but it could open back up a reason to panic. “It's my dad. His job is really difficult right now.”

“Do you mean because of the bodies from that gang?” Stiles’ head snapped up, surprised he knew about it. His eyes were probably too wide and slightly blood shot still, which is why Derek shifted away a few inches at the probing look. “Uncle Darvon loves the news, and loves to talk about it. It always starts with, ‘You’ll never believe this; it's the craziest thing I've ever heard.’ And then he'll tell us it.”

“It's that.” Stiles whispered. He had never bothered to watch the news, because it usually had incorrect information or made someone look worse than what they actually were. “But I mean, he's working so hard and it just seems so hopeless.”

“You think he's good for his job, right?”

Stiles blinked. “Yeah, why would you ask that?”

“Then he will solve it.” Derek said firmly. “And soon, hopefully, because my boyfriend apparently likes to stress over other’s problems as if they were his own.”

“He's my dad.” Stiles argued angrily.

“And it's his job.” Derek responded gently. He didn't sound like he wanted to step on any feet, but just point out a fact. “If he couldn't do it, he wouldn't be the Sheriff. The best thing that you can do for him is make sure you're okay so he doesn't have to worry about you, and encourage him.”

Stiles wanted to argue, saying he had to make sure his dad was okay as well, but he was beginning to understand Derek's logic for him very well. You can only fix you, so only worry about you. Too bad Derek didn't practice what he preached.

Derek sighed. “Will you do something for me? With me?”

“What?” Stiles asked cautiously.

“This weekend, on Saturday, why don't you come over and we can go on a hike? And we can stay out and camp and I'll show you a place where you can see all the stars and you don't have to worry. Just for that day.” Stiles hesitated in answering Derek. “For me? Please.”

“I guess so.”
--
Stiles, of course, cleared it up with his dad. Or did as well as he could, with his father bent over six Manila folders and dozens of sheets of paper, with a half a glass of whiskey resting next to him.

He didn't really pack much for the camping adventure, instead just wearing his clothes. Sleeping outside was already going to be uncomfortable, he might just make it a living hell for himself. Stiles repeated to himself the positives to help clear his mind as he drove over to the Hale house.

There were no more deaths.

His dad's abilities weren't being questioned.

His dad would catch the culprits soon enough.

He was getting an entire night alone with Derek.

He tried not to feel guilty for leaving this weekend, but his dad had a meeting with the other county’s Sheriffs because of where the bodies were…disposed of. He could do this, though his dad had given him a look of warning. Somehow, Derek had convinced Talia to call and okay it.

Derek was waiting on the porch when he pulled up. He had on a loose white tee, and a pair of running shorts. As Stiles parked, he stood up and slung a black bag over his shoulder. “I figured you weren't going to bring anything, so I brought you some extra clothes too,” Derek called as he strode over.

Stiles jumped out of the Jeep, his gangly legs pulling him around. “Thanks.”

Derek caught him up in a reckless kiss, much more intense than usual. Stiles smiled against his lips, hands crawling up to his neck, body warm in embrace. The day was off to a good start. Derek pulled back, dragging his teeth across Stiles’ bottom lip.

Stiles let out a sound of protest – much more indignant that sexy – as he released him. “Are you ready?”

“Will I ever be ready?” Stiles asked back.

It made Derek laugh, if anything. “The woods are much more fun that you think. Trust me.” He grabbed Stiles’ hand, pulling him towards the foliage. Stiles noted the two water bottles on each side of the bag.

They managed a few feet in before a branch scrapped across Stiles’ leg. “The woods are full of places to get hurt, with wolves and the coyotes and the parasites and the branches.”

Derek laughed, amused by Stiles’ grumbling. “I think you'll change your mind once you get used to it.”

“I've been in here before.” Stiles reminded him. “How well did that go?”

“You came out in one piece.”

Stiles continued to complain, knowing that the trail was very close to where they were and why couldn't they take that instead? Derek just kept insisting the trail didn't go where he wanted it to. At one point, he literally picked Stiles up and started carrying him bridal style.

“Put me down!” Stiles wiggled in his vise, trying to overturn himself.

Derek continued on, and the sad thing was, as soon as he picked up Stiles, Stiles stopped getting scratched and bitten by everything. “If you're going to act like a toddler, I'm going to treat you like one.”

“I'm not acting like—” Stiles started to whine, before pausing. He laughed, realizing how uncooperative he had been. “I'm sorry.” He said, leaning his head, compliant on Derek's shifting bicep.

“I know you're not used to it, but you are really acting like everything out here is trying to grab you or devour you.”

“It is!” Stiles threw out his pale arm, dotted with moles and angry red bumps.

Derek stopped, putting Stiles on his feel before he grabbed at his arm, turning it gingerly to display the damage. “Did you use bug spray?”
The question threw Stiles and he responded accordingly. “What?”

“That's why you've been bitten all over.” Derek said, with a tiny bit of annoyance. He dropped the bag from his shoulders and looked in it. He pulled out a can of spray. “Spread your arms out from you, and hold your breath.”

Stiles scrunched up his face, feeling like a child who has to stand still while his mother lotions them with about ten things to protect from everything. Though he had to admit nothing else bit him.
--
The camp site was really fucking far away, Stiles realized after about three hours. He was sweating under the shirt, and felt like he was going to die. Derek still was ahead of him, walking with an easy gait. Stiles often stumbled, falling into his boyfriend, who just laughed and righted him.

Stiles finally got to the point where he kept his head down, his eyes following Derek's walk. The time seemed to pass quicker that way, with most of Stiles’ focus on the crunch of the dirt and the cry of the animals scattered through the forest. They broke into a semi-clearing, with lots of shrubbery but no trees near the edge.

There was a cliff, and small patches where other towns probably were. Derek stopped, turning to see what Stiles thought. “We aren't going to be sleeping next to the fall off, are we?” Stiles asked dubiously.

Derek flashed a smile, laughing as he ducked his head. “No, we don't have to. We can just sleep around here.”

It looked much more reasonable. Stiles liked the area, and could partially appreciate it without being eaten alive. He still had scratches near his ankle, a bothering itch. Derek strode over to one of the trees, pulling on the branch. A large wrapped package fell to the forest floor.

“You've been here?” Stiles accused.

Derek looked back at him innocently. “Of course. How else would I know where it is?”

“You know what I mean, you ass. You came up here earlier – didn't you?”

“Yeah, I did.” Derek sighed. “I knew it was going to take us awhile and I didn't want to carry a lot of stuff up on the slower round.” Stiles made an offended sound in the back of his throat, but wasn’t really upset. He knew that nature wasn't his friend. Derek turned around with a large packaged bag in his hand. “Besides, I knew you'd appreciate it in the long run.”

He dropped it in a open area of the shrubbery, untying it and revealing the insides. Which…was a kiddie pool. And a lot of blankets.

“I know it's probably for some awesome reason or another, but why did you bring a swimming pool up with you?” Stiles shuffled closer, unsure on how to help.

Derek glanced up from his position on the ground, a half smirk already in place. Stiles almost stumbled back, because while it was innocent, Derek looked comfortable on his knees, neck craned so he could look up at Stiles. It made him feel slightly flushed – which was a typical feeling around Derek.

“It's gonna serve as a bed.” Derek laid it out straight, fishing through the blanket to pull out a air pump. He could probably sense the question floating in Stiles’ head. “I blow it up and we fill it with blankets. It'll keep the bugs out and is pretty soft.”

Stiles understood then, and sat down next to Derek's mess of things. “A luxury…just for me?” He grinned.

“I'm sleeping in it, too.” Derek responded with a huff.

“I hope you don't mind my shifting.”

“I've slept with you before, Stiles.” Derek reminded him. “I don't think it'll be a problem to do it again.”

Stiles smiled at that, knowing how badly Scott would complain about it. At least Derek liked him enough to tolerate it. “I bet the stars look amazing out here.”

“Like you wouldn't believe. The light shines so bright that it filters in between the trees and makes the ground look like something out of a movie.”

“I've been in the woods before.” Stiles said skeptically. “But it's never been like that.”

“That's because you don't know the parts to go to.”

The pool filled up quickly enough, with most of the day gone from traveling up here. The light was still bright, but it held on the edge of the horizon, ready to dip into twilight the moment it called for it. Derek talked a lot while they saw the sun sink. He talked about how Bailey was different than what everyone was expecting and how everyone thought he might have been a bit slow because he never spoke but when Ritsa asked him what his name was, he spoke a full sentence.

Stiles knew of kids like that, which he thought were the best kind of kid. He had no trouble imagining Bailey being that way. Stiles interjected that his first word was ‘wolf’ and thought it was the sound dogs made. He told a few stories of his mom, of her cooking and her sewing and how she'd fall in love with small things.

It was easy to talk while forgetting everything. The light left them, and it got cold so Derek ushered them into the kiddie pool. Stiles listened to tales of Cora and Haleigh and how Ritsa and James met and he slowly found himself actually relaxing.

“See,” Derek murmured. “It's going to be okay, and you just need to stay calm.”

Stiles couldn't disagree with how nice it felt to just lay there. Derek was warm against him, his chest a solid reminder that this was real. Derek laid his palm flat on Stiles’ face. His thumb gently ran along Stiles’ cheekbones, and Stiles let his eyes close to enjoy the feeling. He hummed as Derek traced the side of his face.

His thumb finally ran along Stiles’ lips, and Stiles kissed it. He could feel Derek still next to him, and he opened his eyes.

Sometimes Stiles could forget how beautiful Derek was.

Like right now, as he sat slightly up to stare at Stiles, a soft glow in his eyes. Stiles could feel his own breathing quiet, a shallow movement between them. He realized what could happen, right here, right then. And by how Derek carefully held him, it was Stiles’ choice.

He moved up to meet Derek. The kiss was different than most, with an intent like slow fire behind it. It wasn't going to leave Stiles gasping, but he definitely was feeling a bit breathless. Stiles put his hands on Derek's shoulders, guiding him to lay on top of him. Derek broke the kiss for a second, touching Stiles’ face tenderly. It made Stiles feel as if his heart was being shattered and rebuilt.

Derek removed his hands to put on Stiles knees and spread him so Derek could put his legs between them comfortably. Stiles had the urge to pull his legs back together, feeling so exposed, but he took a few heaving breaths and let it happen.

They went back to slow kissing, Derek rubbing his hands soothingly under Stiles’ shirt. “Off,” Stiles breathed. “Take it off.”

Derek complied, and removed his as well. Stiles couldn't remember why he thought tonight was chilly. Derek had sat up to pull his off and Stiles leaned forward to kiss his abdomen. Derek's hand touched his head, feather light. Stiles kissed as far up as he could get.

“Are you sure?” Derek asked, voice wavering. He could feel both of them, Derek pressed hard against his thigh. But he didn't want it to be a needy, quick fuck. Stiles wanted his first to mean something.

Which is why he looked up at Derek, wide eyes trusting. “Yes.”

He let Derek take off the rest of the clothes, and for a moment they just stared at each other. Stiles felt treasured in Derek's gaze, pale, scrawny chest rising and falling to keep in time with a new heart. Derek was gorgeous, strong muscle and tan skin. Every part of him looked wonderful.

“You're perfect.” Stiles whispered.

Derek dipped down to kiss his lips, and then his collarbone. Stiles was rarely at a loss of words, but it seemed as if now there was nothing that needed to be said. He did raise an eyebrow when Derek pulled lube from an extra blanket. He almost made a joke about how Derek shouldn't have just expected him to give it up.

Derek turned his face, a red tint under the skin. Stiles kissed at his other hand, on the open palm. “Thank you,” he said simply.

It hurt at first, it hurt so bad. Derek kissed his hips and his chest and his lips to soothe him, placing Stiles in his hand and giving firm strokes as a distraction. Every pull was a gasp and every twist was a shudder. Stiles couldn't take his eyes off of Derek, feeling the intensity in his gaze. Derek returned it often, his breath catching as he looked at Stiles.

This didn't feel like a fuck. It felt as if Derek was taking and rewriting Stiles into something different. It felt as if he was etching love into Stiles with his eyes and hand. The intimacy threatened to overwhelm Stiles.

Derek only paused once more, just to check, frozen above Stiles. He positioned himself and looked up into Stiles’ face. The gesture nearly broke Stiles. “Yes.”
--
The birds woke him before the sun did. Stiles twisted slightly, a burn deep in him. He felt sore in the best way. Derek slept on next to him, oblivious to the world. Stiles settled close, enjoying the feel on his strong arms wrapped around him.

It felt so close to how it did the night before, as Derek pulled him up and held him close. He rocked into him, breathing how he loved him. Stiles loved him.

But he needed his medication, and laying still could only happen so long for Stiles. He shifted, turning so he was chest to chest. He tapped on Derek's cheek, the light of the sun creeping over their faces. Derek woke up groggily.

“Stiles?” He asked, confused. Stiles wrinkled his nose at the terrible morning breath his boyfriend had, but he still kissed his nose.

“No, I disappeared into the night.” Stiles whispered back. “This is all an dream.”

Derek chuckled, retracting his arms. “Was last night a dream?” He wondered aloud.

For a second, it actually looked like Derek was afraid it was. Stiles ran a hand up his chest, feeling the steady thud under his palm. “No, it's real. It was all real.”

Derek gazed at him, his face vulnerable. Stiles shifted up to kiss him. “I love you.” He reminded Derek.

“I love you, too.” Derek hesitated. “Was it—was it alright for you?”

Stiles stared at him. “Are you worried about that?” Derek bit his lip. Stiles couldn't help the laugh that escaped him, but quickly swallowed it when Derek looked hurt. “I mean, the whole getting ready part wasn't my favorite, but it was amazing. Because it was with you.”

Derek's face eased up. Stiles groaned then, because damn they sounded like such a stupid chick flick. “What?”

“You made me say something so cheesy.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “Everything you say is cheesy.”

Stiles made an indignant noise, as Derek shifted to get out of the kiddie pool. Stiles would admit it did a good job of being comfortable. His snuggles closer to the covers, before sitting up completely because – Derek didn't have any clothes on still.

The sunlight just made him even more perfect. “Come here,” Stiles demanded.

“I have to pee.” Derek complained, continuing to walk away. Stiles wailed behind him as he walked away.

Admittedly Stiles had to pee too, but the bed was warm and that could wait. Plus, he was afraid of how his body might have changed the night before, and how his hole felt slick. It wasn't the most comfortable feeling.

Derek came back, grabbing his shorts. “No,” Stiles complained.

“You just want to see me naked.” Derek snorted. He put the shorts on anyway, which means Stiles couldn't see—all that—but, he could still see the upper half and it was just as good.

“That's true.” Stiles agreed. He finally was resigning himself on getting up, and maybe sprinting to the tree line, but his feet still weren't accustomed to the forest ground. He ended up doing an awkward waddle, which had Derek laughing.

He put some shorts on too, partially because he felt embarrassed about his body. It was strange, because the night before all he could think about was how well their bodies looked together. And now…he was blushing as he hunted around for a tee shirt. Derek saw what he was doing and grabbed him to kiss him. It made Stiles feel better to be under his gaze, to see that Derek did actually find him attractive.

For the next few hours, everything was easy. It was as if last night had somehow fixed Stiles, who now could focus completely on Derek – well, as much as he was able to in the beginning – and respond with more than half-answers, strained with anxiety. The hours passed with them still in the kiddie pool, Stiles rambling about things like the grass and chemistry.

It was still all too soon for Stiles when Derek pulled him up, telling him they'd never get home if he had his way. Stiles pouted about the whole thing until Derek had finished repackaging everything. He put it back up in the branches, promising Stiles they'd come back soon.

Chapter Text

Stiles was missing Adderal. He didn't pick up on it until the third time, when he was getting his prescription filled, and the pharmacist frowned at him. “Stiles, you usually only come in once a month or twice if finals are coming up.”

Stiles looked up from the pamphlet he was holding – the dangers of not getting the influenza shot – to frown at Marc. “Has it really not been a month yet?” He had been wrapped up in getting things for Christmas – a sunny Christmas in Cali – and watching over Poohkey for the last few months they'd have her and spending all his time with Derek to have been paying attention to much else.

“You came in Sunday, and it's now Saturday.” Marc frowned at him. “I know you've always been good about keeping up with your medication, but you're not doing anything…wrong with it?”

Stiles’ cheeks colored at the implication. “No, no, I don't know. Maybe it's because of how hectic things are right now – and finals are coming up – but I really don't think I've been taking that much. Maybe I've been stuffing it all on my desk again.” When Stiles was about twelve, he'd forget that he'd pour his bottle out to get a few, and then wouldn’t remember where he poured it. Marc wasn't working then.

“Okay,” Marc didn't completely relax, but he wasn't looking at Stiles like he was a drug dealer anymore. “But I'm not giving anymore to you for at least two weeks.”

Stiles nodded his head, understanding. He got out to his Jeep before his brain caught onto something that Marc made him think. A drug dealer.
--
The next time Stiles was visiting the Hale house would be Thursday. He staved off of his pills, only taking one a day. It drove him insane, and upset Derek. He didn't know why Stiles was on the fritz, he only had the repercussion of it, which was Stiles flailing and hitting him a lot (on accident) and a decreasing the amount of make out time Stiles could do without talking. Derek had a limited patience, Stiles knew, and it was longer when Stiles was sick. So Stiles told him that he wasn't feeling well, and Derek only got cross with him twice.

Stiles couldn't help how he was zoning out and chattering within the same heartbeat. But he wasn't going to say it was because he was trying to catch Peter thieving his Adderal.

Thursday finally came around, and Stiles made sure to count his pills. Twenty-four. Cora was baking brownies when he came in, and Peter sat at the table. Aubree and Haleigh were playing near him, while Camilla watched them and Cora nervously.

“Hey, guys,” Stiles greeted casually, his eyes skittering over to Peter.

They all smiled warmly and greeted him, and he hadn't seen Derek in any of the rooms he had passed. He sat in front of Peter at the table. He looked up from his book, a small smile creeping on his face. “Hello, Stiles.”

“Hey. Do you know where Derek is?” Stiles kept his tone light. He hated that he had to suspect that Peter was up to something, had to look at him like he had done something wrong.

“I think he's upstairs showering.”

Stiles nodded, ducking his head. He had so much to say, but all of it would ruin everything. Derek and Peter just started to speak again, their tenuous relationship could be broken if Stiles spoke out of turn.

“Do you think you'll miss it?” Stiles almost asked if Peter was asking about his Adderal and the answer was yes.

Instead, he said, “What?”

“The doll?” Peter gestured to Poohkey.

Stiles forced a smile. “I probably will have to relearn what a full night of sleep is like.” Peter laughed, eyes going back to his book for a few seconds.

“With how many children are in this house, you just grow up never knowing a full night of sleep.” Peter shrugged. “But we all love living here, so I guess we deal with a baby or two crying at a time.”

“I was the only child, so I don't know what it's like to not be the crying baby.” Stiles flushed as Peter smirked, as if Stiles was implying he was still a crying baby. “I mean, I don't know what having another child around is like. My cousin, when she was a baby, I was still a toddler so I don't really know anything about babies and them crying besides other people’s experiences.” Stiles was rambling, hard, his brain failing to catch him before he stumbled onwards.

“Ah, there's the ever expressive Stiles I met.” Peter leaned back, as if he just had a satisfactory victory. Stiles couldn't help how he avoided his eyes, how Peter made him feel suspicious and afraid at the same time. “I was wondering where he went.”

“I've always been here.” Stiles gestured to himself, smile still stuck on his face. He wouldn't let Peter’s sometimes snark and occasional habit to act as a predator intimate him. He couldn't be afraid if he was going to observe him.

There were loud steps descending the stairs, and shortly Derek appeared in the kitchen. His hair was still wet, and he looked around for a moment before his eyes settled on Stiles and he smiled. “Hey, I thought I heard you.”
“Yeah, I am pretty loud and talkative…so it's kind of hard to miss me.” Stiles joked. Derek winced slightly at how bad it was, but he didn't look irritated.

Peter sighed behind him, the wooden chair where he sat scraping across the floor as he stood. “Well, I'd love to stay and chat with the lovebirds, but I have a job interview at the library.”

The book made a lot more sense now.

Stiles nodded his goodbye, hoping he was wrong. Derek came up beside his chair, running his fingers absently through Stiles’ hair. It was longer than Stiles could ever remember it, and he started to style it up.

“We're making tacos tonight. Do you want to help me season the stuff?” Derek asked.

Stiles smiled up at him, happy that he was getting included. Sure, Camilla would scold him for catching the meat he tossed wrong with his hand and throwing it back into the pan, and how he held the knife that he cut the bell peppers with.

Cooking was still fun with Derek anyhow.
--
Stiles got out as the moon made its appearance, saying he forgot about a paper he had to do for literature. Derek never had Ms. Blake, but he had heard enough horror stories.

Truly, Stiles just wanted to get out. Knowing that Peter was out and about and probably selling his medication set an itch under his skin. He hurried to his Jeep, after a quick peck to Derek. He'd have to apologize for how he was neglecting Derek after he sorted everything out.

It was just as he thought. His book bag was skewed slightly in the back, him having left his Jeep unlocked like he always did. Stiles wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't been looking for it.

He quietly opened it, pulling his bag out. Sixteen.

Stiles started his car, ready to find Peter. He wasn't expecting him at the library, and no matter how stupid he knew it was, he was going to where his gut lead him. He was going down into the drug alleys.

He contemplated calling his dad, but he wasn't planning on stopping and he wasn't going back to get out of his Jeep. It wasn't time to blow out of proportion what he could deal with himself.

It was a good forty minutes away, and he knew his dad was pulling a late shift. At least he wouldn't have a suspicious father about him getting home late.

But on the downside, he might be patrolling the drug area, and see his son in it. And think his son was getting into drugs. Which Stiles would carefully explain and get into serious trouble for meddling where he shouldn't and not telling someone sooner.

Oh well.
--
Stiles didn't want to drive slow. He didn't want to drive here at all. He forced himself at a good speed though, hoping the dark would hide his features and no one would guess his identity.

The streetlights were mildly helpful, at best. Most were busted or flickering or dim. Stiles couldn't see most of the people, the silhouettes looking too similar for him to pick out Peter. His Jeep was running close to the edge, tire inches from the curb. Most of the characters stayed towards the building walls, except for the huddles of prostitutes.

The alleys didn't look too inviting either, and Stiles almost resolved to face Peter about it tomorrow. In the daylight, preferably outside his house, away from Derek's ears.

Until a dim streetlight showed an eerily-similar man to Peter dip past it. Stiles was only ten feet behind the light, and screeched to a stop. He hated doing what he was doing, anxiety bubbling in his chest.

He wasn't the type to listen to his emotions though.

Stiles was at least smart enough to kick the Jeep. This time.

He didn't run just to keep from causing a scene. He caught hold of the silhouette, walking with the same predatory step as Peter and strode up behind it. The name was on his lips when a woman stepped through an alley way. Kate.

“Hello, doll.” She greeted him, a sweet edge on her sharp tone. “Did you bring anything for us tonight?”

She stepped forward, sweeping her eyes behind. Stiles' feet froze on the sidewalk. The streetlight glow crept on the edge of his Converses, and for a second he thought her eyes locked on his.

Surely, Peter wasn't giving his Adderall to her?

Kate turned away moving back into the alley next to her. Stiles would bet she had an apartment in one of these decrepit buildings. He could barely catch the next words, though she wasn't attempting to keep her voice down. "Or, could you not find someone who was greedy enough for the next fix?"

Stiles watched as they disappeared into the darkness, hearing her laugh. Peter said nothing, and this was the first time Stiles ever associated the word trapped with him.

He edged closer to the spotlight, not wanting it's glow to show his face, but torn between flashing by it to the alleyway. He should have recorded what he saw. If he did, he would have had enough evidence to show his Dad--or maybe Parrish, so he could prolong the yelling.

But right now he had nothing.

Stiles peeled his skin off his bottom lip, the taste of copper not settling well in his stomach. He was known for not trusting anything. He was the one who took advanced classes, knew how to not get caught, knew what was a good idea and a bad one. He shouldn't make stupid decisions like this.

At least Stiles pulled out his phone and set it to record before he scurried over to the entrance of the alleyway. To an onlooker, he appeared to be a shady guy waiting for an equally shady counterpart. He hoped that he didn't get mugged. People were rare in the passing kind, but each group nearing him from both sides caused his stomach to tighten in discomfort.

"Peter, I know you can sell them super high price, but if you keep going like this, then you'll be stuck here." Kate sounded like she was reprimanding him, but at the same time belittling him. The inflections left Stiles feeling like she found whatever he was doing wrong delightful.

"There is only so much I can take, listen, you've got to understand."

"I don't have to understand anything. You had a deadline, you didn't make it." Her voice was scary innocent.

Peter sounded panicked. "You can't be serious." Stiles couldn't even make out their silhouettes, not wanting to stare back there and raise Kate's suspicions of an eavesdropper. Stiles would still bet the echoing footstep was Peter taking one back.

Was he a drug dealer now? After going through everything and just coming out to immediately do it again? Stiles glanced around, two men under the streetlight chatting, and a group of prostitutes a few cars down. If they were given the chance Peter had, would they do the same thinghe did?

"You haven't given us what we wanted. There's always punishment to that." Stiles felt his blood run cold. Us?

Was Kate a part of the gang that was killing?

Was Peter about to die?

Stiles pulled his phone out with a shaking hand, fumbling with it. He knew he had went headfirst, too quick, too far this time. He didn't know what was going to happen next, but he had to get help - get help for Peter, for himself.

He felt the punch before he saw anyone. He heard the crunch of gravel as the men moved away from the streetlight, assumed they were going to go down to see the women. An elementary mistake if there ever was one.

It was a explosive flash of heat across his face first. Stiles' knees gave way, the ground barely even a register in his mind. The heat turned into a burning ache of pain and ow, ow, ow.

Somewhere distantly he heard Peter cry out his name, and Kate laugh. Right before another crunching blow to the skull.
--
His head was pounding, his mouth was dry. Stiles didn't want to open his eyes, because shifting in the slightest way hurt. It was quiet and damp. Stiles was on the ground, which was cold.

It wasn't pavement though.

Stiles knew that should be important, but he couldn't remember why.
--
There was a tightness in his chest. He couldn't breathe, oh god, he couldn't breathe. He struggled to push himself upright, to let his lungs expand, but his head weighed him down. Everything was slower.

Stiles forced himself to open his eyes, to bat away the liquid that was gathering there. His hands were on the dirty floor, pressed shakingly onto the ground. He looked around in the dim room, knowing it wasn't his.

He had been kidnapped. He remembered that. Peter was there, that he was sure of.

He was having a panic attack.
--
He could hear voices, maybe down the hall. His head still felt like a glass globe, unable to move and too heavy to shift.

"We can't just keep him!" A man said.

"I don't plan on it." This voice was softer, and it hurt to strain his ears toward it. She didn’t sound uncertain, but she definitely sounded meek.

"We could always just give the Sheriff a little scare. Maybe make it to where we can get out and go somewhere new without watching our backs." This voice, high and proud, Stiles knew. But he couldn't place where.

His head felt like a glass globe, too heavy to turn and too delicate to lift. He felt colder than the ground below him, and his mind distantly reminded him that he hadn’t been there too long, if he wasn’t too hungry or didn’t need to urinate. But that part was way detached from him, feeling as if it was separate.

All that was Stiles now was a floating, muted feeling.

Stiles didn’t bother staying up to listen to the rest of the conversation, his body already exhausted again. Part of him thought it could have something to do with his medication, but he wasn’t able to piece together what that part meant. He let his eyes close from the dim light.
--
When he was young, and his panic attacks were as frequent as California heat, his mother would sit on the bathroom floor with him. “Take one breath at a time. That’s how we’ll get through it. One breath.”

Stiles opened his eyes and breathed in.

He sat up cautiously, his head feeling heavy and weightless all at once. He let his eyes swivel around the room, the dark taking up most of the space, and he took nothing in. At least he was looking.

Phone, some part of him whispered.

He didn’t know why he should pay attention to it, but he still dropped his eyes down to his jeans. They were dirty. And empty of phones. His breathing sounded loud to even him, and he wished he could tell how long it had been. It seemed important for some reason.

Stiles was already tired again, but he knew he shouldn’t sleep. As he slept the last time, his brain had realigned the pieces to help him figure out why his body was on the fritz.

One, he had gotten attacked, and was probably suffering some damage.

Two, he was withdrawing.

His eyes adjusted slightly, and his brain began the merest of whirring, trying to place things together. He was probably downstairs somewhere. There wasn’t anything else in the room.

Well, that was wrong. On the very edge of his vision, a water bottle sat. His body didn’t say hunger, but his mind whispered that it could be withdrawing.

And how bad would it be if he died because he didn’t take the water.

Stiles did his best to crawl over to it, but after two drags of his legs he couldn’t move anymore. His head was pounding again. Stiles stretched his arm out, palm touching the cool bottle. There was no moisture on it, so it wasn’t straight from a fridge. They didn’t know he was awake.

He didn’t think he could open it. His thoughts encouraged him, said that he could, that he would live, but his mouth would open so his ears could hear it. Stiles never felt this mute before.

The water bottle eventually turned its cap, Stiles panting from the exertion. He poured it into his mouth, head lolling on the ground. Most of it got on his cheeks and neck. But enough got into his mouth. He swallowed.

Take another breath. That’s how Stiles will get through it.

Stiles went back to sleep.
--
There was shouting. Stiles could hear it and it wasn’t distant and it was right above him. Someone was shouting.

And it sounded like his dad.

He opened his mouth, begging sound to come out. His head was almost normal, but still he had to move it slowly. He struggled, using his thin arms to bring him to sitting. “Dad.” It was a whisper.

Stiles felt like crying, and he wasn’t sure why. He just knew that if his dad didn’t come for him, bad things were going to happen. The detached part of his brain, which was drifting closer with every waking moment he had down there, was saying so.

“Dad.” He choked out. Who knew breathing could tire someone so much? He was forcing himself to sit, not to lie down. He knew he’d be asleep in minutes if he lay back down. “Please.” It was louder this time.

He was huffing out his breath again, too fast to be good. Stiles could see the edges of his vision bleeding black. He hoped that his brain wasn’t going to start pounding again, and he hoped that he could make his dad him hear before he blacked out.

“Dad!” There was a stutter in the shouting. Stiles slouched against the wall, so tired. He was just so tired.

He didn’t even realize he passed out.
--
It smelled of hospital. Stiles hated the hospital. It reminded him of his mom, of death, of forgetfulness and things he didn’t want to remember. He felt tired, but in a different way. It was a floaty way, that told him it could probably be sedatives rather than something worse.

“Stiles?” Was that his dad? But his dad never found the dark room. Stiles traced his thoughts back, in their shadowy and half present state, sluggishly.

“‘M?” Stiles pushed out. Maybe it was a dream.

“Son,” He felt hands on him, real hands. Stiles forced his eyes open, hissing when they met harsh light. His dad’s image swam before him, with tears in his eyes. “Are you alright?”

“What happened?” What was happening?

“You got hurt bad. Some people took you.” His dad explained. Stiles tried to follow his glancing eyes, or soothe his panicked hands but he still didn’t feel alive enough to do it yet. “You’ve got a skull fracture.”

Stiles wanted to force more words out, but his stomach, which never said it was hungy in the past whatever time it had been, made a protest. He felt like he was going to be sick.

He tried to rush his hand to his mouth, to cover it up, but when his throat surged and he heaved, it was dry. His dad backed off for moment, and Stiles couldn’t see anything but his outline. Stiles couldn’t look anywhere but forward.

“I’m going to ask the nurse to give you some more pain medication.” His dad decided. Stiles wanted to tell him no, but he could only sink further into the pillows.
--
The pain medication made him sick. But between his flirting with consciousness and steady stay in sleep, he wasn’t sure he ever made that known to a nurse.

Quite a few times he heard people talking. Once it was his father with Parrish - or so he thought it was Parrish. They were talking about a home, how the moveout of all the materials were going well. Parrish wished Stiles luck on his recovery. Stiles wished he could tell him thank you.

Scott came in a lot, sometimes talking about Allison, sometimes about the finals. Stiles felt a dim feeling that he should be panicked about the finals. But his mind wasn’t giving him a clear idea why. Scott was around so much, Stiles wondered if he left. Maybe he had a cot in this room, with its hospital smell and harsh light.

Stiles heard Derek’s voice once. He came in minutes - maybe it was hours - after the nurse put some more sedative in his drip. Stiles had thought about him a lot, wondering if he was there, if he just wasn’t talking or how he was feeling. It was a detached thought, one that left as often as it came.

“Do you remember when we first started hanging out - when it was just about Poohkey?” Derek sounded tired. Stiles didn’t like it, but he wasn’t there enough to really talk. He let his eyes open a bit though.

He looked tired too.

“When you came over and we made pizza and I was so upset to find you interesting. I didn’t want to have a partner, but at the same time it didn’t bother me that it was you.” He laughed slightly. Stiles wanted to make it sounded less sad. “We got into that stupid sauce fight, which, I still haven’t got the stains out of that shirt, because you said that you had to save the pizza from me.”

Stiles remembered, Stiles remembered the surprise when Derek retaliated. Stiles remembered how he taught him to hold Poohkey. He remembered.

“I joked that you were a hero, and that you were going to save me.” Stiles felt something warm in his chest, and he smiled slightly. He wondered if Derek was watching, too fuzzy between his lashes to tell if he was.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” His voice cracked. “You were going to save me.”

Chapter Text

Stiles was released on a Thursday. It was drizzly outside. He felt tired, but it felt like a real tired, like from how he had spent the last few hours running down the hall to say goodbye to his nurses tired. He was happy to go home, with only one pain medication in his hand.

Derek hadn’t returned since the first time he came.

He tried not to think about that as his dad pulled up in the cruiser, Scott in the passenger seat. Stiles stood up from the wheelchair. “Aw, come on, I have to ride in the back? What am I, a criminal?”

His dad got out to open the door, huffing. “Consider it your punishment for doing the world’s stupidest idea.”

Stiles colored, remembering how lenient his dad had been during his stay in the hospital about harping about his poor decision. “Is that my only punishment?”

“As of right now,” He sighed.

Stiles had someone to thank up there.

Stiles let himself be tucked into the backseat, leaned against the seat as relaxation took him. The hospital always made him uneasy, and after the doctor looked at the last X-ray and said his fracture was healed enough for him to do regular things, he was out.

The Sheriff slid back into the driver’s seat, starting the car. Stiles felt a spark of excitement, ready to go home. He wondered why his dad didn’t just bring the jeep - it wasn’t like he didn’t have a key. “Uh, Dad, where’s the Jeep?”

“It was impounded.” His dad responded, waving off Stiles’ squawking. “For when you were kidnapped - it was evidence. I should be able to pick it up in a few days for you.”

“Okay.” Stiles pouted. He understood that he was in danger, and the Jeep was at the ‘crime’ but he still hated being limited that way.

“In the meantime, you can study.” His dad continued on.

“For what?” Stiles asked, incredulous, before he remembered. He had missed finals. “So, what finals do I have to take? Are there any you’re willing to let me skip?” He would take the C’s, he would rather not do it than fail.

“The school is willing to let you skip most, actually.”

“Really?” Stiles smiled, excited to keep his grades.

“Yeah, dude.” Scott turned around, finally looking at his friend. He had been distracted by his phone since then, probably texting a love note to Allison. Speaking of which… “After they heard about the situation, they said if the grade was good enough, they wouldn’t make you test.”

“That’s awesome. Where’s my phone?”

His dad and Scott shot a look to each other, and Stiles’ anxiety went up a few notches. “It was either taken by the people who took you, or was destroyed.” His dad admitted. “But I have another one coming in from the company, and it should have all your stuff still on it. It’ll be just as good as the old one.”

They were on his street now, pulling slowly by the houses. A few kids played outside, stopping to stare at the police vehicle. They wore bathingsuits with tee-shirts over them, enjoying the cool mist that was out right then. “Speaking of those people, who were they? Is Peter okay? Was he one of them?” Ever since Stiles’ brain had cleared up, only sedatives had stopped him from questioning about what happened. But he always got the same reply.

His dad looked firmly at him through the mirror. “Let’s wait until you’re fully healthy again.”
--
The phone arrived the same day as the Jeep came back to the house. It was the best day since Stiles got home. He quickly got cabin fever, tired of scrolling through Facebook and seeing people talking about him, but not actually saying what happened. He excitedly ripped open the package - his dad at work, so he didn’t have to wait for him to give Stiles a talk.

The phone needed to charge, but as soon as it was ready to turn on, Stiles lit up the screen. And was immediately bombarded by notifications.

Thirteen messages from Allison, and two missed calls. Four texts from Jackson. Seven missed calls from Lydia. Twenty eight texts and nine calls from Scott. Even three texts and a call from Danny.

Nothing from Derek.

Something hit Stiles low in the gut. It felt like ice water, and he couldn’t breathe. His brain tried to rationalize things. Derek and him preferred to hang out. Derek wouldn’t text him unless Stiles texted him, and by the time he found out about Stiles, it was probably over.

That was it. That had to be it. Stiles opened his contact with shaking fingers and pressed the call button. There were a few rings and then it went to voicemail. “Derek?” His voice sounded tiny. “Hey, it’s Stiles. I don’t know if you know but I just got out of the hospital. I was hoping to see you soon, I miss you. I’ve been missing you. Give me a call?”

Stiles waited for three hours before he shot a text.

Stiles: Hey. Call me
--
It was four text messages, two voicemails and six calls later Derek picked up. It had been three days, three days of Stiles studying and anxiously checking his phone. Three days long enough to make his head low-grade throb.

“Stiles.” His voice sounded cold, but Stiles felt relief.

“Derek?” Stiles responded, almost giddy to hear his voice. “Oh, thank god, I thought they transferred the wrong number. Don’t do that to me, you’d make me think something terrible had…” Stiles trailed off, realizing what he said.

“Happened?” Derek guessed. “Like with you? What do you need?”

HIs tone was short, tired, and it made Stiles flinch back for a minute. “I don’t need anything. I just - I wanted to talk to you.”

“Why?” He asked blankly. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Oh,” Stiles said dumbly. “Okay.” The line went dead.
--
Stiles took his finals. Both of them - English and Biology. He played video games with Scott, and went shopping with Allison and even tolerated a chick flick marathon with Lydia.

He didn’t talk about Derek. He kept all the messages.

Second semester rolled around. People started asking, but Stiles just shrugged it off. His friends finally started to get the message. Derek started sitting outside again, avoiding Stiles’ eyes whenever they crossed paths, looking as angry as the first day.

It was rumored that him and Jackson got into a fight one day after school.

Stiles ate the food he made his dad at night. He did his homework. He lay in bed for hours, too cold to fall asleep, too tired to get up. He went to school, or to the movies, or to a party.

He was living, but he didn’t feel alive.
--
March came, bringing spring, and the first time he talked to Derek again. He was just scurrying across the parking lot, trying to get home to do the next task to fill his mind, when he ran into someone.

Their binder spilled things everywhere, papers fluttering in the dry wind. “Sorry,” Stiles muttered, stooping to pick up the pages.

“It’s okay.” And Stiles would know the voice anywhere, and as he clutched multiple AP papers, he looked up.

Derek stared back at him, looking as shocked as he felt. His eyes had a bruising around them, similar to the tired one around Stiles’. His lips were pulled down, his shoulders drooped.

He grabbed at the papers, quickly standing and walking away. Stiles stayed where he was, aware of one thing.

Derek was suffering just like him.
--
“Then just talk to him!” Lydia’s voice cut through the static. Stiles had just spilled to her everything, after keeping it in for so long. She was the one that pried for longest, until Stiles finally screamed at her to leave him alone. Incidentally, this is the first time they talked one-on-one since then.

“He already said he didn’t want to talk to me.” Stiles said glumly.

“How long ago was that?” She demanded. “I don’t give a damn what he said, he obviously lied, so you are going to march yourself up to his house, or so help me I will.”

Stiles knew that tone. He knew the look that accompanied it, the one filled with fire that could light up anyone and get them out of the way. Hellfire. That’s what he called it.

So he loaded his ass into his Jeep, and sat shaking on the road up to Derek’s house. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to force anything from Derek. His head was almost completely healed, but anyone would say what he was doing was stupid.

Stiles pulled up to the house, which looked the same as it did the last time he was there. Only three cars were parked out in the driveway, a black Camaro was a new edition. Stiles did what any strong man would do - start to back up. Until Laura stepped out the porch and waved him down.

Fuck.

“Stiles,” She jogged up to the car, a little breathless. “What are you doing here?”

“Just leaving,” Stiles looked down at his lap, blushing furiously. “It was a bad idea to come up here.”

“I don’t think so.” Laura disagreed. Stiles’ head snapped up, shocked. “I mean, Derek isn’t here right now, but you could wait for him.” She suggested, a blush coloring her cheeks.

“You want me...to wait for Derek?” Stiles asked blankly. “You?”

She sighed. “Get out of the car, Stiles.”

“It’s a Jeep,” Stiles still parked and got out. “So...what’s this about?” Stiles didn’t trust her, mainly because they were on strained, polite terms about four months ago.

“Do you want to come inside?” She responded. There was no answer to his question, but that didn’t surprise him.

“Sure, you want to explain?”

“I will, I will.” She waved him off, stepping toward the house. She kept an awkward distance away from him, slightly too large to be comfortable. Stiles didn’t understand why she was so keen to let him come in anyway.

“Derek went with our mom to go pick up the kids. Aunt Ritsa wasn’t feeling well today.” She informed him, opening the door.

Stiles stepped into the foreign and completely same as before home. He breathed in, forgetting how this place felt like home a few months ago. Now it made him feel hollow at the center.

“Do you know what happened?” Stiles asked suddenly. He knew what he meant - what happened with Derek, why Derek backed off - but she took it differently.

“Yeah, it involved my family too.” She replied, walking into the blue room. Stiles hesitated at the doorway, feeling distinct deja vu. “I didn’t expect Peter to go back to jail.”

What? “What?”

Laura patted the seat next to her on the couch. Stiles remembered playing with Aubree on the floor there, Camilla helping him and Derek learn biology. He took another breath, and stepped over to her.

“You didn’t know that?” She asked.

“No one’s told me anything about what happened. It’s all just really fuzzy to me.” Stiles sighed. “I know I got kidnapped.”

“Why were you following Uncle Peter?” For the first time, Laura’s face darkened towards him.

Stiles held up his hands. “Someone was taking my Adderal.” He paused for a minute, trying to word things right. “Derek...he told me about why Peter wasn’t here and I didn’t want to point the finger, but when I found out he was taking it - I had to know why.”

“Are you satisfied now, then?”

“I don’t even know why yet!” Stiles exclaimed. Everyone kept expecting him to get stuff without actually telling him. It had been four months, and still he knew nothing. He even went online - and all it talked about was the Sheriff’s son, kidnapped by the local group of thugs.

It didn’t even tell him if they caught Kate.

And everytime he tried to bring it up to his dad, even sitting down at the table to have a serious conversation, he skirted around it. Stiles thinks his dad even told his friends not to, which normally wouldn’t stop them, but nothing got leaked to him.

“He was taking your medication to sell.” Laura said slowly. “Because he was in-debt to the gang. Which Kate Argent was a part of.”

“So they finally caught her?”

Laura smiled, sadly. “Yeah, they got Kate. It’s funny, I didn’t think she could even bad. She always just seemed so genuine to me.”

“Just because someone seems good doesn’t mean they are.” Stiles let the words settle, before he spoke again. He put more force behind these words. “Just because you’ve been told someone’s bad doesn’t mean they are.”

They locked eyes, and she seemed to realize what he was saying. “I’m sorry.” She whispered. “I’m trying. I’m sorry.”

Stiles nodded, happy for the step in the right direction. It was no where where they needed to be, but an apology was an apology. “So what happened?”

“Uncle Peter came home that night. He was really badly beaten up, but you know - you know Uncle Peter - he probably didn’t get it as bad as he should have.” Even Laura winced at her choice of words. “Mom was furious, she had no idea what happened. There was a lot of yelling, and then Uncle Peter called the police.”

“Why’d he call the police?” She looked at him like he was stupid. “Oh. He called, for me?”

“You’re probably his favorite, you know.” Laura sighed. “It took a few days, and there was a lot of people around the house. Derek blames himself.”

“What?!” Derek was a complete idiot.

“Come on, you know how Derek is. A cloud in the sky, and it’s his fault.” Laura shook her head. “He got it in his head, that if you didn’t get so close to him, you would have never got involved in the whole thing and broke your head.”

“We both know that my head was always broken.” Stiles blurted out. They both laughed for a moment, before a bit of anger seeped back into Stiles. “What the fuck is wrong with him?”

“Right now, he’s kind of being even more glum than usual. Which is why you’re staying here until he gets home.” Laura said determinedly. “I don’t care if I have to deal with your weird gay shit, I just want him to stop angsting everywhere. Please.”

“I tried talking to him a couple months ago.” Stiles said quietly. “It didn’t work so well.”

“Stiles,” She said softly. “I know you might feel like you’re stepping in where you’re not wanted, but Derek misses you. You were good for him. We all miss you.”

Today, Stiles wasn’t planning on having a heart to heart with Laura, of all people, but here he was. And her words were actually helping him. “Just, stay for a bit. Okay?”

Stiles nodded. He and Derek did need to talk - or more specifically, he needed to yell at him.
--
Derek got home an hour later. An hour and seventeen minutes later. And Stiles would know, because he checked his phone every two minutes. Laura had sat with him for the first thirty minutes or so, as a polite thing to do, and also to make sure he didn’t leave. It still felt a bit strenuous to be around her.

He could hear the kids falling over each other to get in the house, Haleigh’s high laugh and Jack telling her to move. Talia was probably ushering them all in, making sure that none of them hurt each other. Stiles wondered if Derek would just walk past the room, or would notice him.

He wasn’t going to give him a chance to walk by him again, dammit.

The kids ran past, only Bailey noticing Stiles in the doorway. His eyes got big for a second, he opened his mouth, and then - then he closed it. He smiled and darted away. Derek came in a few minutes later, shoulders hunched.

“Derek.” Stiles’ throat was so dry. It took everything to force his name out. But Derek heard, of course he heard.

“Stiles?” He blinked a couple times, acting as if Stiles’ was a mirage. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to talk.” And just like that, the Derek of the past few months was back. His eyes clsoed off, a cold wall blocking his emotions and his arms folding across his chest.

“Did you not get the message the first time?” He said bluntly. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

Stiles winced. Those words still cut him, but it wasn’t real. Derek was fucking lying, the fucker. “Let’s go outside.”

Derek sighed, acting as if Stiles was a nuisance. “I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to,”

“Outside.” Stiles’ voice cut sharp. He was done with this bullshit, done with it today. He pushed close to Derek, grabbing his wrist and tugging. Derek let himself be dragged, not ripping away like he could.

Stiles got them to the treeline before he dropped Derek’s wrist. “Asshole, listen here.” Stiles was done. No, Stiles was sick of Derek’s self-sacrificing, angsting, super-blaming self. “I have let myself believe for the past month that you were upset at me - and over what? But you know what, I’m upset at you.”

Derek looked shocked, taking a step back. He had nothing to say, which was good because Stiles wasn’t done yet. “You don’t get to decide what’s good for me. You don’t get to decide if it was your fault. It was my fault, because I knew where I was going when I went, and I still went. So, you can take that scraificial bull-shit and shove it straight back up your ass.” Stiles took a deep breath in, the warming air filling him. “All that I want is to be happy and for you to be happy. And I think I can make you happy.”

Only the last part of his speech had his voice wavering. The rest he was sure of, but what if this was just the way for Derek to get rid of him. Stiles stood staring at him, and Derek kept quiet. Minutes trickled by, and Stiles’ breathing got louder to his ears by the second.

“I want you to be safe.” Derek finally said, not a hint of lie in his voice.

Stiles felt a laugh bubble out of him, slightly hysteric. “Well, you’re not going to get that. I’m the clumsiest person that I know, I’ve fallen down a stair and broken my wrist. And if it’s not me that’s putting me in danger - I’m the Sheriff’s son. His only kid! So if someone is upset at him, it usually lashes onto me. I’m not going to be safe cause that’s not a possibility.”

Derek opened his mouth, but Stiles threw up his hand. “So you cut me off - cut me out - because you wanted to protect me?”

Derek had the decency to look chastised. Stiles shot him a hard stare, one that should show him just how he was feeling. Derek didn’t speak - which was a good idea - he just nodded. “Well, you can’t do that. I’m not letting you.” Stiles said determinedly.

“What?”

“You can’t cut me out just because you’re scared I might get hurt. Or, that I have been hurt. Do you know what really hurt me?” Stiles paused. “When you dropped me. You want to protect me - keep me safe? Then don’t leave me.”

Stiles didn’t want to cry, he was supposed to be the angry one right now. “I’m sorry.” Derek started.

“No, that’s it.” Stiles interrupted, his voice wobbly. “You don’t say anything after that. There’s not going to be a but.”

Derek sighed.

“Derek?” Stiles was tired of the conversation, was tired of the fight. “If you really don’t want me, don’t want me here, then tell me, and I’ll leave. But if you do - and you’re just trying to be the hero - get your head out of your ass and tell me so.”

Stiles waited, patiently knowing that he could very well be told to leave and never come back. Derek moved towards him, after a tense moment, and Stiles could feel his heart beating out of his chest.

Derek was going to walk past him.

He wasn’t even going to respond.

Stiles was an idiot.

Instead, Derek snagged his wrist. “Thank you,” He breathed, leaning closer to Stiles. It was personally the best kiss Stiles ever got.

Chapter Text

“Just tell me where we’re going, please!” Stiles whined. Derek had him blindfolded, and stumbling around in the woods. And, at the pace that they were going, the two of them might miss graduation.

Their parents would kill them.

“It’s just a little further, trust me,” Derek laughed, a steady hand on Stiles’ waist. Stiles felt his foot hit a root and would have stumbled if it hadn’t been for his boyfriend.

“Easy for you to say,” Stiles grumbled, edging slowly along. “You can see.”

Derek kissed his temple lightly, trying to stop laughing. Stiles bet he looked ridiculous. He wanted to hurry up, because it was hot, and even though Derek made sure he had bug spray on, he was hyper-aware of the insects around them.

It was maybe ten minutes - which felt like thirty to Stiles - when Derek stopped him. Stiles wriggled impatiently, ready for the blindfold to be fucking off. When Derek finally slipped it off, Stiles blinked in confusion.

“Why are we at the family tree?” Stiles glanced over at Derek, away from the tree with all the initials, and saw he was holding somehting.

A pocket-knife.

Derek looked anxiously away, a blush forming on his cheeks. “You don’t have to, I mean - I understand if you think something might happen, it’s just that I thought you might…” Derek let his words trail off.

Stiles remembered the first time he was shown this, how Derek told him about Hale relationships. Stiles remembered it very well.

“Where did you put your name?” Stiles asked quietly. He knew how big of a deal this was to Derek.

Derek went to stand a little closer to the tree, and pointed to a place that was around his navel. Stiles walked over and saw the sharp scratches of the D.H. He gently pulled the knife away from Derek, and set to work. He might have nicked himself three or four times, but it was okay.

Even if Derek fretted like a baby next to him. After Stiles finished, he sat back and enjoyed the messy, poorly done letters right below Derek’s.

“G.S.?” Derek asked.

“My real name.” Stiles explained with a smile. “Not like I’m telling you, though.”

Stiles stood up, and dusted himself off, feeling somewhat lighter, somehow freer. He kissed Derek gently, before pulling him away from the tree. “Come on, we’re going to be late for graduation.”

“Maybe.” Derek said. He was graduating salutatorian, but at least Stiles got to see him up there. “But I think the most important question is, what is it?”

Stiles groaned. “Maybe I’ll tell you when you Skype me from Mercer.”

Derek frowned, his eyebrows digging in. “But I don’t even know how to use that app that you put on my laptop. Why don’t I just call you.”

“It’s the principle of Skype.” Stiles sighed, before smiling brightly. He grabbed Derek’s hand, linking their fingers. “I’ll teach you.” He promised.