Stiles yawned and stretched, her back cracking from the hours of being hunched over her keyboard. Pushing the chair away from her computer, she slumped down, stretched her legs out in front of her and ran her hands through her hair, scratching her head. Her eyes pretty much refused to open and felt all itchy and scratchy - homework never made her feel like this.
She was half tempted to just get up and stumble to her bed without even bothering to open her eyes but she didn’t know which way she was facing and was slightly worried there might be an unfortunate meeting with a wall - it wouldn’t be like it would be the first time. Also, the last time she’d tried to make it from her desk to her bed she had tripped over all the crap on her floor and her dad had rushed in to find her rolling around on the floor, holding her toes, cursing the idiot who had left a pile of books strewn across the middle of the room. He’d laughed.
Reluctantly she opened her eyes. ‘Nuarrrgh! Derek, what the hell are you doing here?’ She took in the way he was lounging on her bed, ankles crossed, hands resting on his stomach and felt her eyes narrow in suspicion. ‘Also, just how long have you been here?’
‘Nearly an hour.’
Stiles felt her eyes widen. An hour? ‘Seriously?’
Derek raised an eyebrow.
‘I - uh - I didn’t say anything...embarrassing did I?’ She played back through the last hour, trying to remember everything she’d muttered out loud to herself, but there had been so much - most of it insulting the mindnumbingly boring homework her teachers set - it was impossible to remember it all.
‘More embarrassing than usual?’
Stiles stuck her tongue out at him.
Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Nothing I haven’t heard before.’
‘That’s not overly comforting,’ she told him, closing down her computer.
Instead of answering her, Derek started his own conversation. ‘You need to stop leaving your window open.’
Stiles glanced over Derek’s shoulder at the window he must have climbed through to get in her room, which, you know, not at all hypocritical there.
‘This? Again?’ Ever since Derek had become the Alpha he’d become stupidly protective – even more stupidly protective than before. While before it had probably been because he needed Scott, now it seemed to be because he considered them, well, his, which could be creepy, Stiles hadn’t decided. The last couple of weeks had been filled with her and Derek arguing about her window being left open.
She stood and stretched again. ‘Does Scott have to close his window?’ she asked, not for the first - or the twentieth - time.
After a seconds pause, Derek spoke. ‘Scott’s a werewolf. He can look after himself.’
She turned to him, hands on hips, and glared. ‘Are you saying I’m not able to look after myself?’
Derek growled. ‘Stiles, there are lots of dangerous things out there and you’re vulnerable.’
‘Vulnerable? Right up until my life took a turn as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was more than capable of looking after myself. And let’s be honest, if something supernatural wants to come into my bedroom and rip my throat out, I don’t think my window being closed is really going to change their mind, do you? Unless it’s a vampire. And as long as the whole needing to be invited in thing is true.’
Derek glared at her.
‘Yeah, that’s what I thought.’
‘Stiles, it’s dangerous.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘You’re like a broken record, you know that, right?’
‘Look,’ she said, kneeling on her bed and leaning on the window sill. ‘Are you really telling me that there is something out there -’ she waved her hand out of the window ‘- more dangerous than you?’ She poked him hard in the shoulder. ‘Because if there is, I don’t want to know about it. You’re plenty scary enough as it is.’
It was only when he turned to look at her that she realised just how close she was sitting to him. Close, like, pressed all along his side, close. She could feel the heat of his thigh and arm seeping through her sweatpants and t-shirt.
For about half a second she considered moving away and putting some distance between them. But she didn’t. Derek didn’t seem bothered by their proximity and she was strangely comfortable being this close to him when he wasn’t manhandling her to save her life.
‘So?’ she prompted him when it seemed like he wasn’t going to answer her. ‘Is there something more dangerous than you out there?’
‘I thought you didn’t want to know.’
She punched his arm. ‘Stop being difficult. My subconscious will totally creep me the fuck out if you don’t tell me. So, come on, dude, tell me, has the new big bad come to town?’
‘No,’ Derek said, despite the fact that he obviously didn’t want to admit it.
She rocked back on her heels and crossed her arms. ‘So, it’s just you trying to be all controlling as usual. I knew it.’
‘No,’ Derek gritted out, ‘It’s me making sure you’re safe.’ His hands were fisted in her sheets and Stiles was slightly surprised his eyes weren’t already ringed with red.
When it came to the whole werewolf thing Stiles was grudgingly prepared to admit that, as both werewolf and Alpha, there were some things that Derek probably knew more about than her. Experience had, annoyingly, borne that out. But on this, he was definitely wrong. Probably.
Stiles sighed. ‘I really don’t want to keep arguing about this. It’s boring now.’ Also - though she’d never admit this to Derek - she didn’t like arguing with him like this.
‘So close your damn window,’ Derek said, his voice rising with each word. There was the distinct possibility that another lot of sheets were going to be sacrificed to this argument. There were only so many times she could tell her dad a stray cat had got into her room and shredded her bed.
‘You don’t yell at anyone else to keep their windows closed,’ Stiles muttered.
‘That’s because no-one else is stupid enough to keep their windows open all the damn time.’
‘And Scott is a werewolf. He can smell if anyone’s in his room or has been there. You can’t.’
She glared at a spot on the wall under the window sill, thinking. And this was what it always came down to: Stiles couldn’t come up with a good answer to that. As a human she didn’t have any super senses and it wasn’t as if she could magically acquire any. That only happened in the movies. She worried her lip between her teeth. She was tired of all the arguing but couldn’t think of a way to end it.
Stiles winced as she realised her legs were going to sleep. Before the pins and needles could truly set in, she twisted her legs out from under her, briefly leaning against Derek’s legs as she did, and settled back down with her legs crossed.
‘Why do you keep refusing?’ Derek asked, the frustration clear in his voice.
Stiles blinked. ‘That’s the first time you’ve asked me that.’
‘Well, you won’t listen to me -’
‘Hey, I do listen to you,’ she protested. ‘It’s just I don’t like what you say.’
‘You won’t listen to me,’ Derek repeated, glaring, ‘so I thought I’d find out why you’re being so stubborn.’
‘That’s incredibly democratic of you. I thought you said Pack was a benevolent dictatorship.’ She wasn’t quite able to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
‘Is that what this is about?’ A look of comprehension flashed across Derek’s face and he seemed to relax slightly, as if he had figured out the answer to a question.
‘Is this what what is about?’ Stiles asked, slightly mystified. She didn’t think she’d said anything particularly enlightening. ‘And, dude, could you stop looking at me like that? It’s kind of creeping me out.’
‘Stiles, if you agree to this, it isn’t a blanket agreement.’
Stiles wrinkled her nose. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Pack isn’t a dictatorship. It’s much more complicated than that.’
‘Stiles, shut up and listen, for once.’
Stiles opened her mouth but Derek leaned forward and slapped a hand over it, making her breath stutter.
‘Listen,’ Derek said, firmly.
Stiles nodded, trying to get her breathing back under control.
Derek looked pointedly at her, as though daring her to say anything else until he had finished whatever it was he wanted to say. Slowly he removed his hand and she resisted the urge to lick her lips. ‘I may be Alpha, but I can’t force you to do anything against your will.’
‘You can force Scott and Jackson.’ Although the one time he’d done that had been completely justified.
‘They’re werewolves. With humans it’s different.’
She regarded him warily. ‘Really?’
Derek nodded. ‘I can’t command you to keep your window closed-’
‘I recall you used the phrase “I command you” quite a lot in the beginning.’
‘Stiles,’ Derek growled.
‘Sorry.’ She wasn’t really, but sometimes saying it, even if Derek knew she didn’t mean it, mollified him. ‘You were saying?’
‘If you’d been pack your whole life you’d obey me because -’
‘Oh, oh, wait. I know this. I’d have grown up obeying the Alpha so it’d be automatic. Instinctual.’ She cringed, remembering she wasn’t supposed to talk even if she was having a minor epiphany about why Derek was being such a dick. If she hadn’t been so pissed off she might have worked it out sooner. ‘Sorry.’
‘Exactly. So when we became Pack I should have realised that things would be different. That you’d be different.’
Resting her chin on her hand, she stared at him. ‘Is this your way of saying you were wrong?’
‘No,’ Derek growled. ‘I’m saying I should have made allowances for you being you.’
‘Still sounds like sorry to me,’ she told him. She reached out and patted his arm. She would never have done that a couple of months ago, but after weeks of yelling at Derek, she’d lost her fear that he was one snap of annoyance away from killing her. If he was going to kill her, it would have been during some of their epic fights - fights that had Scott and Jackson running for the hills - not now. Plus, killing someone you were trying to protect would be really dumb. ‘It’s okay. I accept.’
Derek shook his head and started to get up, as if he were going to leave.
She grabbed his arm. ‘Wait.’
He stilled under her hand but didn’t sit back down.
She swallowed. ‘I... I’m sorry too, okay?’
He didn’t say anything, but he did sit.
I shouldn’t have assumed you were being an ass for the fun of it. I should have asked instead of yelling.’
A flash of surprise crossed Derek’s face and Stiles quirked her lips. Obviously Derek hadn’t been expecting that.
She took a deep breath. ‘So, uh, I was thinking. About my window.’
‘Maybe I could shut it when I’m not in the house and before I go to sleep.’ She bit nervously at her lip as she waited to see if that was going to be enough.
Derek stared at her for moment before he nodded and stood up. ‘Close the window after I’ve gone.’
Stiles frowned. ‘Huh?’
‘You’re going to bed now, right?’
‘Not to sleep though, I’m reading.’
Derek swallowed, almost as if he was biting back a smile. ‘You’re reading?’
She raised her eyebrows at his tone. ‘Okay. First, me reading isn’t such a surprise and if the last couple of months hadn’t mostly involved life-threatening experiences and screaming matches, you’d know that. Two, I have to read this. We’re doing it in English class. Third, if I don’t read it, Scott won’t be able to use me like his own personal cliff notes.’
‘What are you reading?’
‘The Tenderness of Wolves.’
Derek made a choking sound and Stiles burst out laughing. ‘Oh, get that look off your face, you idiot. It’s a murder mystery set in Canada in 1867. Not whatever gutter your mind has fallen into.’
Derek schooled his face back into his usual half scowl and climbed out of her window. ‘Remember-’
‘To close the window when you hit the ground. Yes, I know.’
She watched him push off from her window sill, marvelling at the power in his arms and shoulders. As he straightened his legs he turned and looked at her, an expectant look on his face. She rolled her eyes but she did close the window, clicking the latch in place. She then waved to him and laughed when he shook his head in exasperation.
She flopped back onto her bed and picked up the book, opening it to the right page, unable to get rid of the grin on her face.