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All the Weird Kids (Know How to Take it Slow)

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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?’

‘It’s important.’

‘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.’

‘Scott does.’

‘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.’

‘But-’

‘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.’

‘Yeah?’

‘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.’

‘Good.’

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.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ tray clattered to the table as she dropped her bag on the floor. ‘Hey, doofus, thanks for waiting for me after class.’ She elbowed Scott in the side to get his attention. It was only as he turned to glare at her that she realised that he and Allison were having an actual conversation instead of just staring into each other’s eyes like they usually did at lunch. She winced. ‘Hi, Allison. Sorry.’

Scott continued to glare at her as he took a particularly aggressive bite of his burger. She ignored him though, as it was difficult to maintain any appearance of intimidation when your mouth was full of food.

Allison smiled at her. ‘No, no, you go right ahead. It sounds like you have a legitimate grievance there.’

It was things like that that made it difficult to hate Allison. Which was annoying. It wasn’t like Stiles had any delusions that Scott would suddenly realise he was madly in love with her or anything. It was just. It had been him and her for nearly as long as she could remember. And suddenly Allison was there. And Stiles should hate her, she really should. But she didn’t. And that was just so infuriating.

‘See?’ said Stiles, pointing at Scott with her fork. ‘Even your girlfriend thinks you’re a jerk.’

‘But she hit me in the ribs,’ Scott whined, turning his puppy dog eyes on Allison. Since finding out that he was a werewolf Allison had become significantly more immune to Scott’s sweet and innocent act. Which gave her extra points in Stiles’ book.

‘I’m sure you’ll heal,’ she said dryly.

Scott sighed, obviously realising that he wasn’t going to get any sympathy from her. He turned back to Stiles. ‘What did Miss Sampson want?’ he asked, bumping his shoulder against Stiles’.

‘The usual,’ said Stiles, leaning ever so slightly into him then forcing herself to pull back before Allison noticed. ‘If only I’d apply myself blah blah blah.’

Scott winced. ‘Ah. That.’

‘Yeah, that,’ Stiles agreed.

‘What did you say?’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘The usual.’

Scott laughed. ‘One day all our teachers will learn not to give you that speech.’

‘But today is not that day,’ agreed Stiles, grinning.

‘What’s the usual?’ asked Allison, making Stiles jump. She’d kind of forgotten Allison was sitting there watching them.

‘Oh, nothing that exciting,’ Stiles said.

Scott, though, seemed quite eager to share with his girlfriend. ‘It’s nothing really, but a couple of years ago, one of our teachers - I forget which -’ He glanced questioningly at Stiles, and she forced out a shrug ‘- gave Stiles a dumb lecture about the importance of doing homework. So Stiles told her that the homework had been too boring.’

Stiles turned and stared at Scott as he explained to Allison. It wasn’t so much that he was telling Allison, it was the fact that he hadn’t even glanced at her to check if she minded or not. It was a stupid thing to be pissed off and hurt about but, damn it, it was something between them. Why did he have to explain it to Allison?

‘You told a teacher the homework was boring?’

It was hard to tell if Allison was impressed or appalled so Stiles just shrugged. She was kind of surprised that Allison hadn’t noticed how often she got into trouble in class but then her and Scott had been wrapped up in each other for the last few months. It was only now that they were unfurling enough for Allison to learn a little something about Scott’s friends, by which she meant herself, obviously.

‘The look on her face was priceless,’ said Scott, grinning dopily at Allison.

‘I bet it was,’ said Allison, smiling. She turned to Stiles. ‘So does that happen often?’

‘What?’

‘I mean, do you often get kept behind after class?’

Stiles swapped a look with Scott. ‘On the odd occasion. Every now and again. Once or twice-’

‘- a week,’ interrupted Scott, with a grin.

Stiles shrugged. ‘That’s fair.’

‘But why?’ asked Allison, frowning.

Stiles stared blankly at her. It was a look she’d stolen from Derek because it never failed to unnerve people.

Allison faltered slightly, but she kept smiling at Stiles.

Stiles rolled her eyes at herself as she relented. ‘You might have noticed that I have a tendency to get distracted really easily. The Adderall helps with my concentration, but it doesn’t help make things interesting so sometimes I make them interesting.’

‘Such as?’

Stiles thought for a moment. ‘I once wrote an entire English paper in Latin.’

Allison scrunched up her nose. ‘Why? No, wait. I know this. Because you could.’

Stiles grinned across the table at her.

Scott nudged Stiles, making her nearly spill her drink. ‘Hey, did you do the reading for English?’

‘Yes, I did, because you didn’t.’

Scott gave her an embarrassed half shrug then jumped as Allison reached over and smacked him around the head. ‘Ow. What was that for?’

‘You had homework. You told me last night that you’d finished it all.’

Stiles choked back a laugh, enjoying watching Scott getting taken to task by Allison. But, at the same time, it kind of made Stiles resent Allison - just a little bit - because it meant that there was someone else around who Scott had to look after him and share in-jokes with.

‘But Stiles-’

‘Stiles can’t write your papers or take your exams.’

‘You know, she isn’t wrong,’ said Stiles. ‘I can read the books for you, and I can check your papers, but I can’t be you in exams.’ She popped a couple of fries in her mouth. ‘Not tall enough.’

‘Hey.’ Scott shot her an injured look but his tone was pure exasperation.

‘What?’ Stiles blinked innocently at him.

‘You’re supposed to be on my side,’ he told her, trying to knock her elbow from where it was leaning on the table.

‘I am on your side,’ said Stiles. ‘Of the table.’

Allison laughed and offered Stiles her fist. After a seconds hesitation, Stiles bumped fists with her.

‘I hate you both,’ Scott grumbled, pushing his food about on his plate.

‘Oh, but hey, talking about The Tenderness of Wolves, Derek came by last night.’

Allison laughed as Scott choked as he swallowed his drink wrong. ‘Please,’ he gasped, his eyes watering, ‘please don’t ever mention the words ‘tenderness’ and ‘Derek’ in the same sentence ever again. It’s way too scarring.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Whatever. Do you want to know what happened, or not?’

‘Not really,’ groaned Scott but Stiles didn’t take it personally. Scott just preferred not to talk about Derek.

Allison perked up. ‘Did you and Derek work out your differences?’

Stiles nodded. ‘We did.’

‘And you’re both still alive?’ Scott asked.

‘Well, I am sitting right next to you and I assure you that Derek walked away from mine in one piece. Well, leapt away, but same difference.’

‘Seriously? Derek isn’t buried under your lawn or anything?’

‘I’m strangely touched that you think I’d be capable of killing Derek Hale, our Alpha, but no, there were no attempts made on anyone’s life. We made it out relatively unscathed.’

‘So you guys talked?’ Allison asked.

‘Well, Derek had this revolutionary idea of asking me why I kept refusing to close my window.’ She shrugged. ‘And I decided to tell him.’

‘Is Derek going to let you keep your window open, then?’ Scott’s voice took on that tone he sometimes got when he didn’t approve but was trying to hide it.

‘Umm, uh, no, not exactly,’ Stiles muttered.

‘You’re closing your window, Stiles? Seriously? Whatever happened to ‘damn that jackass. He can’t tell me what to do’? You let Derek tell you what to do once and he’ll just keep ordering you about. You told me that only last week.’

Stiles scowled. ‘I know what I said, thank you very much.’

‘So why are you letting him tell you what to do?’

‘Oh, shut up, Scott. A moment ago you sounded pissed that Derek might be letting me keep my window open, and now you’re pissed that I’m going to close my window sometimes.’

Scott at least had the good sense to look vaguely chastised. ‘But-’

Allison rolled her eyes. ‘Scott, leave it. Just because Stiles and Derek came to an agreement doesn’t mean that she gave in or anything. It just means that they listened to each other. You know, like adults.’

Okay, so now she really did have to like Allison. Dammit.

Scott had that look on his face which said that he wasn’t quite sure what was going on. ‘Yeah, but...’

‘He can’t tell me what to do,’ Stiles told him before he could say anything else boneheaded. ‘Well, yeah, he can tell me what to do, but he can’t make me do it.’

‘But you’re Pack,’ said Scott.

‘Also human.’

‘So?’

‘Can’t use the Alpha voice on me, even if I’m Pack.’

Scott pulled a face. ‘That’s so unfair.’

‘To be fair to Derek, he’s only used the Alpha voice once and that’s because you and Jackson were literally trying to kill each other. Like, seriously, about to kill each other.’

Jackson becoming a werewolf had created a problem or two that Derek somehow hadn’t foreseen. Go figure.

‘They were trying to kill each other?’ Allison’s voice got steadily louder, and other students turned to stare at them. Allison ducked her head and winced. ‘You were trying to kill each other?’ she hissed at Scott, who was looking more than a little terrified. ‘You told me Derek overreacted.’

‘He did overreact,’ Scott protested, shooting an imploring look at Stiles.

Stiles snorted. ‘Yeah, no. Totally didn’t overreact. I was there, remember?’

‘Stiles, shut up,’ Scott hissed, grabbing her wrist under the table and squeezing it tight. Not bone-crunching tight, but still tight.

‘No, Stiles, keep going,’ said Allison, glaring at Scott. ‘Tell me what my boyfriend decided to keep from me.’

‘It’s not a big deal,’ Scott whined.

‘Yes, Scott, it is. You promised that we wouldn’t keep secrets from each other.’

Stiles hunkered down over her food, not quite sure how she was now in the middle of a domestic between Scott and Allison.

‘What happens if it’s something else and my dad finds out and he asks me about it? I’m completely clueless and it looks to him as though you aren’t abiding by the agreement he and Derek came to.’

‘Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry,’ Scott said hastily.

Stiles rolled her eyes. Scott was so whipped.

Allison smiled at Scott. ‘Okay, good.’ Then she turned back to Stiles. ‘So, what really happened?’

‘Ummm, uh, nothing, nothing that bad,’ stammered Stiles. ‘Just, uh, they became a little bit too enthusiastic in the whole hitting each other thing and Derek... Derek got fed up with them.’

Which was, like, the most understated way of saying ‘they tried to rip each other to pieces’ she could think of.

Actually, now she thought about it, that was when she should really have worked out that Derek couldn’t use the Alpha voice on her.

‘It was nothing?’ Allison repeated, a sceptical look on her face. ‘Really?’

‘Real convincing, Stiles,’ hissed Scott, his grip still tight on her wrist.

‘I’m sorry, but you didn’t tell me that you’d lied to her,’ Stiles hissed back, although really, she totally should have guessed.

‘I didn’t lie,’ said Scott, his gaze turning from Stiles to Allison. ‘I didn’t. Really.’

‘Lie,’ said Jackson from behind Scott and Stiles, making them both jump. He sat down next to Allison and picked up his fork, stabbing some salad as he looked from Allison to Scott. He was radiating smugness and how Allison couldn’t see it, Stiles didn’t know. She curled her hand into a fist under the table.

‘What?’ asked Allison, her eyes narrowing as her looked from Scott to Jackson.

Scott was frantically shaking his head at Jackson and his grip on her wrist was bordering on painful.

Jackson, though, pointedly ignored Scott. ‘Whatever McCall is telling you, is a lie. I can smell it a mile away.’

‘Oh, really?’ She smiled sweetly at Jackson. ‘A lie?’

Jackson nodded, shooting a smirk in Scott’s direction.

‘So when he said that Derek overreacted when the two of you got into a fight to the death up at his place just a week or so back, he was lying, was he?’

Jackson froze, his fork-full of salad half way to his mouth. ‘Ummm.’ For a moment he looked nearly contrite but it must have been a trick of the light because he squared his shoulders and shrugged. ‘Whoops.’

Allison raised an eyebrow. ‘Whoops? I’m sure Lydia will be delighted to hear you say that.’

At that Jackson’s eyes widened and he looked around as if expecting Lydia to materialise out of thin air. Stiles could relate; she’d been doing that to Stiles for nearly ten years.

Stiles caught Scott’s eye and snorted into her drink. Jackson shot her a poisonous glare, being sure to include Scott in it before turning imploring eyes on Allison.

‘Uh, maybe we could just not tell Lydia, yeah?’

‘Not tell me what?’

Stiles glanced up and wasn’t surprised to see Lydia standing there looking impatient. She half expected her to start tapping her foot. Jackson was doing his very best not to meet her eyes.

‘I’m so telling Derek that you both let Lydia creep up on us,’ she muttered, knowing that they would hear her.

‘Shut up,’ they both snapped at her. But Scott’s grip on her wrist loosened, so he wasn’t all that annoyed with her. Stiles knew that she should really pull her wrist from his hand, but she didn’t want to. She knew it didn’t mean anything, but it felt good.

‘So, what don’t you want Allison to tell me?’ asked Lydia, as she sat down, totally ignoring Stiles despite being right next to her.

‘It’s nothing,’ said Jackson.

‘It didn’t sound like nothing,’ said Lydia. ‘Now, spill.’

‘This is all your fault,’ snapped Jackson, glaring at Scott.

‘No it isn’t,’ Scott protested. ‘Stiles was the one who told Allison.’

Suddenly Stiles found herself under the pissed off gazes of four people. Realising that she couldn’t possibly get out of this in one piece - Scott and Jackson pissed off that she’d told their girlfriends and their girlfriends pissed off she hadn’t told them sooner - she decided that discretion was the better part of valour.

She stood up quickly, wrenching her arm from Scott’s grip. She stepped back, out of his reach, and sent them all a bright, completely fake smile. ‘I…have to go to the library.’

‘You? The library?’ Scott repeated, doubtfully.

She nodded her head vehemently. ‘Yep.’ And before anyone - werewolf or human - could call her on her obvious lie, she turned on her heel and hurried from the cafeteria, not really knowing where she was going, but knowing it was better than here.

Chapter Text

‘Whittemore! McCall! What the hell are you two playing at?’

Stiles winced as Coach bore down on Scott and Jackson like vengeance from the heavens. Danny was standing between them, a hand on Jackson’s chest, while Scott prowled back and forth, just out of his reach. Stiles honestly wouldn’t be all that surprised if later Danny told her he was growling because it sure looked like he would be growling.

‘Because that sure wasn’t lacrosse.’

Stiles couldn’t exactly disagree with him; that had been pretty close to a barroom brawl again. If Danny hadn’t been there and pulled them apart, it could have turned very bloody, very quickly. ‘Derek is going to kill them,’ she muttered to herself.

‘Agreed,’ said Derek, sitting down next to her.

‘Holy shit, dude, what the hell?’ Her heart was thumping at double time. As far as she could tell he’d appeared out of thin air.

Derek smirked at her.

She punched him in the leg. ‘You just enjoy scaring people, you know that?’

He shrugged, looking out over the field. ‘Why aren’t you out there?’

‘Because I’m a girl and there are rules about things like that.’ She pulled a face. ‘Of course, I think it’s because they know I’ll kick their asses at lacrosse.’

Derek frowned and looked about to say something but his attention was pulled back to Jackson and Scott being yelled at by Coach. By now the entire team was standing around, staring.

Stiles took the opportunity to take a long, hard look at Derek without him glaring back. It had been just under a week since they had come to an accord about her window and this was the first time she was seeing him. She was surprised but relieved that there didn’t seem to be any residual awkwardness between them. ‘Good thing that Danny was there.’

Derek glared at her.

‘Just saying,’ Stiles said, holding her hands up. The whole Danny thing wasn’t exactly something she wanted to bring up with Derek again. ‘Why are they still trying to kill each other?’ asked Stiles, deciding to move Derek’s anger away from her. ‘I thought you sorted all that out the last time.’

Derek shook his head. ‘I...put it on hold.’

Stiles quirked an eyebrow at him. ‘That, like, makes no sense whatsoever.’

‘Yeah, it does.’

‘It really doesn’t,’ Stiles said. Derek had a habit of assuming that anything he said that involved werewolf behaviour would make sense to anyone. Either that or he found their confusion amusing. Actually, now she thought about it, he probably did find it amusing.

‘Both of you run ten laps. In opposite directions.’ Coach pointed them off in different directions and after a second of staring at Jackson’s retreating back, Coach shook his head and turned back to the rest of the team, ordering them back to practice. Before joining the rest of the team, Danny looked over to where she was sitting and shrugged.

‘Scott and Jackson are both betas.’

‘I know that.’

‘No, I mean, they are both...first betas.’

Stiles wrinkled her nose. ‘What? You mean like tiers? First beta, second beta, third beta etcetera.’ Stiles couldn’t decide if that was weird or made perfect sense.

Derek shrugged. ‘Close enough.’

‘So, both Jackson and Scott are first betas?’

Derek nodded.

‘You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you? You can’t just tell me.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

She hit him again, because he totally deserved it. ‘So, this is because Scott was bitten by Peter and you bit Jackson, right?’

Derek turned and stared at her for a moment.

‘What?’ said Stiles, shifting uncomfortably.

‘That’s exactly what the problem is.’

‘Are you surprised I got that right? Oh my god, you are totally surprised I got that right.’ She went to hit him again, but he caught her hand.

‘Stop hitting me.’

‘Then stop being a jerk.’

She stared at her fist enveloped in his hand as he rested it on her knee, and let go.

Giving herself a little shake she frowned at Derek. ‘So, if the problem is different Alphas, how do you solve it?’ Because she didn’t want Jackson trying to kill her best friend at every practice. Well, no more than he usually did, anyway.

‘I decide.’

‘You decide?’ She cocked her head and stared at him for a moment, thinking. ‘Oh, you have to decide which one of them is going to be your first beta?’

Derek nodded. For someone who was talking even less than usual, he was certainly in an informative mood. The last time Derek had been this forthcoming (forthcoming being a relative term when discussing Derek) was in her room when he’d finally admitted he was being a dick about her window. They were moments to savour.

‘How long will it take for you to decide?’

‘I have to get it right,’ he muttered. More to himself than to her.

‘What? Why? Can you get it wrong. How can you get it wrong? It’s your decision.’ She paused. ‘Isn’t it?’

‘It’s my decision,’ he agreed. But like she often did with Derek, Stiles could feel there was more; that there was something he wasn’t telling her.

‘But?’

‘It’s nothing.’

‘It’s your decision but what? What else? I mean I get that you’re taking an age and a half to decide - don’t give me that look. You just said so yourself - but so what? It’s not like you have a deadline.’

Instead of replying, Derek moodily stared out over the field.

‘Okay, wait, what?’ she said. ‘Why do you have a deadline? Who gave you the deadline?’

When he didn’t say anything, she nudged him with her shoulder. ‘Derek,’ she whined.

‘It’s werewolf politics.’ He shrugged. ‘You won’t find it interesting.’

Stiles blinked. ‘Okay, first off, how would you know what I’d find interesting or not? I have a long history of being curious about a random selection of really weird things. Just ask my econ teacher. And, second, did you really just say ‘werewolf politics’? Like, did those words leave your mouth? And you think I wouldn’t be curious. Have you met me?’

The corner of Derek’s mouth seemed to curl, almost involuntarily. He leaned back, resting his elbows on the bleachers behind him and stretching out his legs. Stiles swallowed, her throat suddenly dry, as she couldn’t help but follow the line of his body, mentally kicking herself when she realised what she was doing.

He didn’t seem to have noticed, though, because he started talking. ‘America is divided into Areas, and those areas are further divided into Territories. Each pack has a territory. Some are huge, like Montana. Others are smaller like, NYC, or even smaller like Beacon Hills.’

Stiles opened her mouth to ask, well, probably about a dozen questions. Derek gave her a look and she promptly snapped her mouth shut.

‘If you really want to know about Pack history, I can tell you about it some other time. For now this is what you need to know.’

She didn’t argue because that suggested that Derek would let her ask as many questions as she wanted as long as it wasn’t now and she didn’t want him to change his mind.

She turned, straddling the bench, to give Derek her full attention. She was pretty certain that Derek wouldn’t repeat anything and she didn’t want to get distracted by Scott at a crucial moment.

‘An Alpha from each Area is chosen to join the Council.’

‘I’m sorry? Chosen?’

Derek gritted his teeth. ‘Elected.’

Stiles nearly bit her tongue trying not to laugh. ‘So let me get this right, werewolves are highly territorial beings but you also hold elections?’ This was like the most hilarious thing she’d ever heard. Like, ever.

‘Yes.’

Stiles managed to keep control of the laughter bubbling at the top of her throat. Just. The idea of werewolves voting in elections was all kinds of hilarious. ‘Why?’

‘To stop Packs from attacking each other.’

Which, wow. Slightly less hilarious. ‘How-’

‘Ask later.’

Which, well, duh. ‘I will, you know. Ask later. I’m going to, like, write out questions and stuff.’ She really wanted to know if they had little voting booths and ballot boxes. She had this imagine of a line of werewolves all waiting patiently for hours to go vote.

‘I look forward to it,’ said Derek dryly. ‘But back to this.’

‘Okay.’

‘The council meets and operates out of New York.’

‘Your driver’s license is from New York.’

Derek raised an eyebrow.

God, but she really had to fix her brain to mouth filter one of these days.

‘What?’ She gave him her best wide-eyed innocent look. ‘You gave me your wallet one time to borrow some money. I just happened to see your license, is all.’ And she had made sure to put his wallet in her pocket so that it was covered in her scent and he wouldn’t be able to tell that she’d rifled through it.

Derek just shook his head and looked up into the sky. Stiles and Scott joked that when he did that he was asking why me. But, you know, without the actual joking.

Happened to see my license?’

‘Weird, huh?’

‘Yeah, that’s the word for it.’ Derek shook his head but carried on talking. ‘My father’s closest friend lives in New York and sits on the Council.’ He did that thing where he said something as blankly as possible, as though by doing that it couldn’t hurt him. He did it a lot when either his family, Laura or Kate were mentioned.

‘That’s where you moved to, after..?’ she asked, not really expecting an answer.

And she was right. Derek didn’t answer, he glared down at where Scott and Jackson were still running around the field.

‘Okay, so you have a deadline for choosing which will be the lucky princess. But I don’t get…Oh,’ she said, suddenly realising what the problem most likely was. ‘You can’t decide between them, can you? They’re both such morons that you can’t decide which of them would be, well, the least awful.’

And usually she wouldn’t call Scott a moron - a bit dense on occasion, maybe, but it was endearing - but ever since Jackson had become a werewolf too he’d been so much more of a dumbass. She got that it was a dominance thing between them, but, seriously, did they have to switch off every single brain cell every time they got into an argument?

Derek snorted. ‘That’s one way of putting it.’

Stiles frowned. ‘Why are you telling me this?’

‘Because you’ve known them both longer than I have.’ He was staring right at her, and he didn’t look any different or sound any different, but there was just something about the way he said it and the... ah, she didn’t know... the studied casualness of it that made Stiles think there was more to it than that. But what, she couldn’t even begin to guess.

‘Huh.’ She stared out at the field for a minute, watching Jackson run. If she wasn’t mistaken they were way over the ten lap mark. ‘Well, see. Hey, wait a minute.’ She glanced down at Jackson and Scott. ‘Can’t they hear us? Haven’t they been listening in on everything we’re been talking about?’

‘Do they look like they’ve heard us?’

‘Uh, well, no, I guess not.’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘Why is that exactly? I mean, I know they’ve got their super-senses and all that so why…’

Derek waved in the direction of Scott and Jackson. ‘Look at them; they’re both pissed off and angry, so they aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them. They aren’t even thinking about using their enhanced senses.’

‘Idiots.’

‘Eventually they’ll learn to use them without thinking about it. But not yet.’

‘Huh, well. That makes sense. So, Jackson - and it pains me to admit this, since, you might have noticed, I think he’s a douche - he’d probably be good at whatever it is a first beta does. But, there’s stuff going on with him - I have no idea what, by the way - and I think he’d be so busy lording it over Scott’s head, winding him up, that’s he’d never quite realise what it meant to be chosen.’ As Jackson crossed paths with Scott, her eyes followed him as he ran. ‘But Scott. I love him, you know. He’s my best friend, but... he’d be good, but he still doesn’t quite, you know...’

‘Trust me?’ offered Derek.

‘Yeah. That.’ Which was awkward because for all that she gave him shit and fought him over nearly everything, she did trust Derek. ‘So, he’d question your motivation for everything and generally be a bit of a jerk.’ She shrugged. ‘So, yeah, I don’t know what you’re going to do. Pull names out of a hat? But if you could maybe stop them from wanting to kill each other again for a little while more, that’d be great.’

‘I’ll do that tonight.’

‘Why? What’s tonight?’

‘Pack meeting. My place.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Your place? Really? Because there are so many other venues that we use, that it’s good that you chose to clarify that. We might have gone to the wrong house otherwise.’

‘Tell Scott and Jackson. Eight sharp.’

‘Dude, have you never heard of a cell phone? Because, that? Could have been relayed across a communication device. Saved you driving all the way into town.’

‘I was already in town.’

‘You were?’ Stiles didn’t think she’d ever seen Derek walking around town. She supposed that logically he must do, but she’d only ever seen him up at the Hale house, in her room and her car, the school - huh, okay, maybe Derek didn’t spend all his time up at the creepy house where his family died. And really, when was he going to start fixing that place up? It made sense that home improvement hadn’t exactly been his priority while they were being hunted but it had been a while now and he still hadn’t touched the place.

‘Where were you? The hardware store?’

He frowned at her. ‘Why would I be at the hardware store?’

‘Oh,’ said Stiles, inexplicably disappointed. ‘I thought you might have been thinking about working on the house, is all.’

‘No.’

‘So where were you then?’

‘Grocery shopping.’

‘Okay. Just so you know, the idea of you grocery shopping is weird.’

Derek rolled his eyes and stood up. ‘Eight sharp, Stiles. Remember.’

As Derek walked back to the parking lot, Stiles stared after him. It felt like Derek had stopped by specifically to tell her about his Pack dilemma and ask her advice. But that was stupid, so it couldn’t have been that.

Chapter Text

Stiles shoved at Jackson. Hard.

He stumbled back, knocking into a couple of people behind him, but didn’t stop laughing.

‘Jackass,’ she snarled. Her face was hot and she could feel the prickle of tears at the edge of her eyes. Tears of anger, but tears nonetheless. Trying hard to ignore everyone around her, especially the sympathetic look Allison was sending her - which was just mortifying - Stiles pushed through the sea of bodies, needing to be outside already.

And, okay, so Scott hadn’t heard what Jackson had said, thanks to the obnoxiously loud music. He probably wouldn’t even register that something had been said. For once Stiles was relieved that Scott was so painfully oblivious because it would have been typical for this to be one of those inconvenient times where he had a moment of insight. She ignored the way her stomach cramped at the thought of Scott never knowing how she felt with the ease of someone who’d been doing it for years. Which was to say, with no ease whatsoever.

She hurried down the steps, not wanting to be stopped by anyone. It wasn’t like Jackson being as ass was new, but it was fair to say that thanks to him Allison now definitely knew how Stiles felt about Scott. And it wasn’t like she didn’t think Allison already knew. It’s just. It would be nice if she could keep pretending that she wasn’t pathetically obvious to everyone but Scott.

As soon as she was away from any people, Stiles leaned back against the wall, breathing deeply and hugging herself. She wasn’t going to cry. She wasn’t going to cry. Crying was pointless. It wouldn’t help; it wouldn’t achieve anything and it wouldn’t make Scott magically fall in love with her.

But, God, Scott was so clueless and Jackson was such an ass. A total and complete ass. She couldn’t emphasise that enough. Really. An ass.

Stiles rubbed at her eyes until she saw stars shooting across the sidewalk in front of her. It served no purpose, other than distracting her from the crumminess of her life for a few seconds. Sniffing, she wiped her nose with her sleeve. Okay, so it was disgusting but who was going to see her out here?

A pair of boots appeared in the spot she was staring at, making her groan out loud. Surely with her extensive movie knowledge she knew better than to tempt fate like that?

A part of her wished it was Scott out looking for her but she knew he wasn’t. He hadn’t even noticed her practically running out of the house, he was so wrapped up in Allison. But even if he were somehow out looking for her, he wouldn’t appear silently in front of her like that. Lack of taunting also ruled out Jackson, thank god. Which really left either a serial killer or..? She forced herself to look up.

Derek. ‘Huh.’ Wonderful.

Stiles shifted uncomfortably as Derek kept watching her without saying anything. ‘Uh, were you just hanging round here like a creeper?’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘I was driving home. Saw you come running out of the house.’

‘Oh.’

‘Do you want to leave?’

‘What?’

He glanced up at the house, a vague look of disgust on his face. ‘Do you want to leave?’

Stiles twisted around to look back at the house, knowing that if she went back in there, it was to watch Scott being all besotted with Allison and the thought of that made her chest tighten. She wrapped her arms around herself. ‘Yeah. Actually. Please.’

Derek nodded, turned on his heel and walked back to the Camaro. ‘Come on then.’

Stiles hurried to catch up with him, aware that her balance wasn’t exactly at its best. It was possible she’d had a couple of drinks and it was also possible that those drinks might have something to do with how she had nearly lost her cool back there. She didn’t want to give Derek time to change his mind and drive off, leaving her without a ride. She blinked in surprise as he opened the passenger door and motioned for her to get in, offering her a hand to steady herself with.

He closed her door carefully and Stiles watched Derek walk around the car, leaning her head on the cool of the window. Neither of them spoke as he started the car and pulled away from the curb. But then, Stiles didn’t want to talk so that worked out pretty good. All she wanted was to be as far from that party as possible.

As Stiles watched the houses pass them by, she felt herself relax in degrees. For every mile the car ate up, the tightness in her body lessened, leaving her feeling nearly boneless after a while. She kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up onto the seat, wrapping her arms around her knees and ignoring Derek’s growl. He didn’t mean it anyway; he was just overly protective of his car.

‘I fell in love with Scott when I was eleven.’ She glanced over at Derek and saw his lip curl. ‘Oh, please, don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I’m telling you anything you don’t already know.’ Because if Allison knew she had feelings for Scott, then Derek had to know with all his super senses.

‘I didn’t need to know that it was since you were eleven,’ muttered Derek, slowing down as he approached some traffic lights.

‘It was our first day of junior high. Scott was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt and some of the older boys thought it was too nerdy. So I stepped in and informed them it was geeky, not nerdy because it’s an important distinction to make. And when they laughed at me, I punched one of them and made his nose bleed.’ She grinned at the memory. ‘And then I was suspended from school for three days. It was an auspicious beginning.’

It had been worth it though. Scott had thought she was amazing, plus she’d overheard her parents laughing about it after they’d thought she’d gone to bed.

Derek was looking at her like she was deranged.

‘He thanked me,’ she told him. ‘Scott, that is. Not the boy I made cry. He thanked me for sticking up for him. I think every other boy I knew would have run away and hid if a girl had punched out the school bully for them, but Scott thanked me.’ She shrugged. ‘So I fell in love.’

Derek grip on the steering wheel tightened, his knuckles turning white and Stiles wondered what would happen if he actually broke the wheel. She bet he was regretting letting a kind of drunk sixteen-year-old girl suffering from unrequited love syndrome get in his car.

‘Of course, that hasn’t turned out so well for me, as you can tell. And you know, I’m okay with the fact that Scott isn’t into me.’ She paused for a second, thinking. ‘Well, I’m okay with that now. Wasn’t so okay with it a couple of years ago. But it didn’t matter because Scott didn’t have a girlfriend so it was, you know, a hypothetical. I was his Girl Friday.’ She rubbed her nose. ‘And then Allison turned up.’

Derek didn’t say anything, but it didn’t matter. She just needed someone who was prepared to listen to her ramble. Stiles had never talked to anyone about how she felt about Scott. Her mom had known, but Stiles just hadn’t been ready to talk about it. By the time she had been, her mom had been dead a while. Her dad knew, but that would end up being the most awkward conversation in history of awkward conversations. And Stiles was fairly certain that it was considered bad form to discuss your crush with your crush.

‘You know, sometimes I think that if it wasn’t for the werewolf thing I wouldn’t have seen Scott for dust when Allison told him she was interested. And then I feel bad for thinking that Scott would just desert me like that and then I feel really bad, like, completely terrible and a horrible person for being just the tiniest bit happy that he got bitten and needed my help.’ The guilt was a heavy presence in her chest. ‘And that must make me such a despicable person because what kind of person is happy that her best friend nearly died and then had his entire life turned upside down?’

She hugged her knees tighter, knowing that her voice was being muffled, but since she was offloading to a werewolf it really didn’t matter. A werewolf that so far hadn’t told her to shut the hell up which was curious, just not a priority.

‘I’m not the first person he tells things to anymore and that sucks. I always thought that even if he got a girlfriend I’d still be his best friend and I’d be important. And then I feel so needy because, God, of course Allison is going to be the person he tells everything to, especially now she knows about, well, you know.’ It was rarely a good idea to remind Derek that Allison knew so much about them. ‘But then all he ever talks about is Allison. Allison, Allison, Allison. Like I’m not at school all the time and can’t see them being all lovey dovey. I want to be happy for him, I am happy for him but sometimes I just kind of hate him. And Allison. Like tonight when I just wanted to yell at everyone and make them feel as rotten as I do. And, god, but I hate this. I hate it so much.’

She took a couple of deep breaths and swallowed.

‘I hate feeling like this. I hate being in love with him. I’ve known for five years that he doesn’t feel the same way. Five years. And I haven’t been able to get over it. It’s stupid. But then I think that maybe I’m destined to be in love with someone who will never be in love with me. And then I think how stupid that is, because, really, who believes in destiny?’

She banged her head against her knees. ‘And I really wish I could stop talking because this is just a little bit embarrassing. I always thought that if I had someone to talk to about this, I’d feel better and while I do, maybe, just a little, feel a bit better, I also feel really, really stupid because I’ve spent the last I don’t even know how long talking about a guy who will never, ever be interested in me.’ She looked over at Derek. ‘So can you please shut me up now?’

Derek pointed through the windscreen. ‘We’re here.’

Stiles blinked. ‘Here? Where’s here?’ She looked around and for the first time realised she had no idea where they were. ‘Where are we?’

Well, they were at a diner. That much was obvious because there was a diner in front of them and cars in the parking lot. The weird thing was that she didn’t recognise it. Even with all the driving around that she did, it was completely unfamiliar. It was set back from the road and trees obscured it, so it wasn’t impossible that she might have never realised it was there, but then there was a bright red sign that, well, you’d have to be dead to miss it. That, plus the fact that she didn’t recognise the road they were on at all and Stiles liked to think that she knew most of the roads in and around Beacon Hills. There really weren’t that many.

‘Here, is Sammy’s Diner and it’s where I come when I need to think.’ He opened his door and got out, slamming it behind him as Stiles sat in the car and stared at the building in front of her. This was, like, Derek’s refuge or something. She would have expected it to be a hole in the woods somewhere, seeing as he was a werewolf and all.

He opened her door.

‘You know, that still doesn’t tell me where we are?’ she said, squinting up at him.

‘Come on. Best waffles for miles.’

Stiles perked up. ‘Waffles?’

‘Yeah, waffles.’

‘Awesome.’ She may have no idea where she was, but hey she was with Derek and there were waffles.

Closing the door, Derek stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. ‘One day you’re going to wake up and realise you’re over him. It just takes time.’ He released her and made his way over to the diner door.

Stiles stood there for a moment, rooted to the spot. She had expected Derek to tell her to stop being so melodramatic; not give her advice. This night was turning out very weird.

Opening the door, Derek turned back to her. ‘Come on. The waffles won’t wait forever.’

It was quiet in the diner. There were people dotted here and there, some of them were by themselves, giving Stiles the impression that a lot of people used it as a place to think. Still, there were also the odd couple, so Stiles didn’t feel as though her and Derek weren’t completely out of place.

As they were led to a booth near the back of the diner Stiles realised that Derek was known by most of the waitresses. He really must go there a lot. She bet the waitresses loved getting to fight over who would get to serve him. There were at least two games of rock, paper, scissors that she could see taking place. She doubted they played the lizard, Spock variant, though.

Sliding into the booth, Stiles grabbed a menu and opened it up, suddenly needing a barrier between her and Derek. She hadn’t really planned on telling anyone any of that stuff. Ever. And the fact that she’d ended up spilling all to Derek and, weirder still, that he hadn’t told her to shut her mouth was just too much for her to take in. She needed pancakes and pink lemonade STAT. She was never drinking again.

They didn’t talk as they ordered, although Stiles had to hide her laughter as their waitress flirted outrageously with Derek. Judging by the glare Derek was levelling her way she wasn’t successful.

‘Are you really going to eat all of that?’ Stiles asked as their waitress disappeared.

‘Yes.’

‘Really? Because I think you’ve ordered enough waffles to feed the five thousand at least three times over.’

‘Werewolf metabolism.’

‘Well, yes, obviously. But not even Scott eats that much. Is it an Alpha thing?’

He cocked his head. ‘An Alpha thing?’

‘Yeah, you know, like, you’re more powerful so you use more energy, hence you eat more.’

‘That’s not actually a bad theory, but no. I’ve always eaten this much.’

‘But it’s got to be an energy thing, Alpha related or not. There is no way anyone could eat as much as you’ve ordered and look like you unless they, like, spend all day cycling the Tour de France.’

‘Look like me?’ repeated Derek.

Stiles felt her face go all hot and hoped that she hadn’t turned horribly red. On some girls, blushing was attractive, but she always looked like a tomato ready to explode. ‘Yes, well, you know...’ She gestured in his general direction and he smirked, obviously laughing at her. ‘Oh, shut up.’

Before Derek could say anything else, he was distracted by their food appearing. Thank god.

Stiles’ mouth watered as her pancakes were placed in front of her and she laughed when three plates, all fuller than hers, were placed in front of Derek.

‘Boy, those waitresses really do love you, don’t they?’ she said, grabbing the syrup off the table. ‘Your portions are about twice the size of everyone else’s. And you got three dishes.’

‘If you’re still hungry you can have some,’ said Derek as he eyed his food. He snapped his fingers and gestured for the syrup. Stiles rolled her eyes but handed it over without comment.

Stiles grinned. ‘Thanks, but I think it’s more likely that you’ll be finishing off my leftovers than the other way round, don’t you?’

Derek just shrugged, already attacking his food.

Eating her pancakes, which were delicious, Stiles let her eyes wonder around the diner. The walls were full to brimming of photos of various old day celebrities and Stiles was very proud to say that she recognised the vast majority of them. Though that was more to do with watching old movies with her mom. It was oddly calming having Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Humphrey Bogart staring down at her.

Waiting until Derek had finished half of his first plate, Stiles judged that he was probably in a good enough mood for her to ask some questions. ‘Hey, so, can I ask you something?’

‘You can ask.’

‘Will you answer?’ She poured more syrup on her pancakes.

‘Depends on what you want to know.’

‘What’s it like being Alpha?’ It wasn’t a question she would ever ask if she wasn’t a little drunk, but since she was, might as well take advantage of it.

Derek leaned forward, resting his arms on the table, his food momentarily forgotten. He didn’t seem angered by her question.

‘I mean, you’re still a new Alpha, right? It’s not even been a month yet.’ Derek nodded. ‘And you’re responsible for three teenagers. That...can’t be fun.’

‘Being Alpha isn’t supposed to be fun, Stiles,’ said Derek. ‘And it’s six. Danny, Lydia and Allison may not be pack exactly, but since they know, I’m responsible for them too.’

‘Yeah, about that, Danny, Lydia and Allison? They -’

Derek scrubbed a hand through his hair. ‘They aren’t Pack. Yet. But if they want to be -’ He shrugged.

‘But it must make it so much harder having to put up with all of us as well.’

Derek didn’t smile but his eyes were bright with amusement. ‘No comment.’

‘Do you ever wish that Peter had bitten someone else?’ She stabbed some pancake with her fork. ‘Someone other than Scott so you wouldn’t have to deal with our teenage dramas?’

‘No.’ Derek answered without hesitation and that kind of surprised Stiles. ‘You’re Pack. You never wish Pack away.’

And yeah, okay, asking Derek that might have been a little silly. He had lost his entire pack; of course he wasn’t going to say that he didn’t want them.

He waited for a moment to see if she had any reply to that and when she didn’t say anything he carried on eating.

Stiles pointed her fork at Derek. ‘Okay so, question. You all have elections. Why?’

‘We all who?’

‘Well, I didn’t think it was a good idea to use the W word in front of people,’ Stiles told him, her voice low.

Derek glanced around, evidently making note of everyone there. ‘Relax. No-one is paying us any attention. Just say wolves instead.’

‘Not even the waitresses?’ teased Stiles. They were all gathered at the end of the counter by the kitchen, talking amongst themselves. And Stiles had a pretty good idea who they were giggling about. It certainly wasn’t the old guys with beer guts and dirty overalls sitting by the door.

Derek eyed her, but carried on eating. ‘Your question?’

‘Right.’ She swallowed her food quickly. ‘You said before that elections are held to stop wolves fighting, right?’

‘I did.’

‘I’ve been wondering for, like, days now, what did you mean by that? And I really am interested, before you ask.’ She took sip of her lemonade.

‘It’s boring, Stiles,’ said Derek in between mouthfuls.

‘It might be to you, but it’s not to me.’ He had no idea how hard it was for her to find real, actual information. Surely there had to be a book on this shit.

‘Fine, but let me know when you’re fed up,’ Derek said, dryly.

‘I won’t be,’ Stiles told him confidently. School might send her into a coma but she would quite happily learn this stuff for an age.

‘Okay.’ He sighed. ‘Wolves came over from Europe sometime in the seventeenth century and claimed territory. But there wasn’t any... structure to it. A lot of wolves were killed in the fighting. To the point that we nearly became extinct in North America.’

‘A lot came over then?’ It was like all her Christmases - Supernatural Christmases, anyway - had come at once. She was getting answers to questions she’d been trying to research for weeks.

‘We were being aggressively hunted in Europe.’

‘And let me guess, for as long as there have been wolves there’s also been hunters? Because that seems to be how this shit works.’

Derek nodded. ‘The situation became so dire that some of the most powerful Alphas called a truce and agreed to meet in New York City. Once there - and after all the inevitable double dealings and backstabbing - they ended up agreeing to split the US into Areas and then further into territories.’

‘When did they meet?’

‘Uh, my dad said it was around the same time as, uh, the Louisiana Purchase, I think, so, I dunno, about...’

‘1804,’ supplied Stiles. She tapped her fingers on the table, thinking. ‘How did they decide who would be in charge of Areas and who would get Territory in whose Area?’ Also, Area, Territory? So not creative but she wasn’t going to annoy Derek into not telling her stuff by pointing out that werewolves shouldn’t have naming rights.

‘Well, the Area’s were controlled by the fifteen Alphas that met. Since then more Area’s have been created as America got bigger, so more Alpha’s are members of the council.’

‘So it’s a bit like the House of Representatives,’ she muttered to herself. Why didn’t she have a notebook to jot all this down in? If she forgot something because of the stressful night she’d had, she was going to be so annoyed. Who knew when she’d get Derek in such an accommodating mood again.

Derek looked momentarily baffled. ‘What?’

She waved him off. ‘How many are there now?’

Derek paused for a moment, thinking. ‘Twenty six. No, wait. Twenty seven.’

‘And Territories?’

‘They were decided by who had alliances with who.’

There was a burst of noise as a group of students fell through the door and Stiles jumped at the sudden influx of noise. She ignored Derek’s smirk in favour of asking more questions. ‘And how did they decide on the boundaries? Did they just close their eyes and draw random lines? Did it have to do with population? Resources? What?’

Derek pushed his plate to the side and Stiles smirked to herself when he pulled his second plate of waffles in front of him and dug in. ‘I...don’t know, Stiles.’

‘How can you not-’

‘Laura was the historian in our family.’ A faint look of surprise crossed his face, but Derek covered it well. Stiles only noticed because she was giving him her undivided attention and so she caught the slight intake of breath and the way one of his hands seemed to spasm. ‘She would have loved to have sat down with you. I was never what you would call a captive audience.’

There was a churning feeling in her stomach, making her think she might have eaten a bit too much. Those pancakes were delicious but very filling. ‘You think we would have gotten along, me and Laura?’ she asked quietly.

‘I do.’ There was a slight smile playing across his mouth, although it looked sad. ‘I think you’d both have enjoyed tormenting me.’

‘You think about Laura a lot.’

Derek regarded her warily, as if she were about to ask him to talk about feelings but she really wasn’t that stupid.

‘I think about my mom all the time,’ she told him, just about keeping her voice low and steady. ‘It’s been five years but I don’t want to forget her.’ She shook herself to clear her head. This wasn’t the time to be thinking about such things. ‘Anyways, do the Areas and Territories stay the same, or do they change?’

Derek stared at her for a moment longer before answering. ‘They remain fairly static. The last time there was a major upheaval was about seventy years ago, and no, I don’t remember why.’

Stiles startled as their waitress appeared with refills. She hadn’t even noticed her glass was empty. ‘Oh, uh, thanks.’ She dived back into her pancakes, waiting for the waitress to be out of earshot. ‘So, how does a new Pack go about getting territory?’

‘Normally they have to fight for it.’

‘And that’s allowed?’

‘How else do you prove that your Pack is worthy of surviving?’

‘Umm, uh, okay.’ Stiles didn’t quite know how to process that, so she moved on. ‘But that didn’t happen here. You didn’t have to fight or anything. Why?’

‘Because no-one came and took our territory after my family died. Said it was cursed.’

‘Oh.’ There really wasn’t much Stiles could say to that, and, really she so should have seen that coming. ‘Uh-’

Derek, though took pity on her. Or he didn’t want to talk about it. ‘Next question?’

‘Umm, okay, uh...’ She floundered for a few seconds. ‘Yeah, okay. Are there rules about making new wolves?’ From everything Derek was telling her, werewolves had an extensive rulebook. Surely they had some about making new werewolves which, in turn, made her wonder about Derek turning Jackson.

‘Yeah.’

‘So what do they think about Jackson? Were they okay with that?’

Derek grimaced. ‘Not really.’

‘...okay. I kind of need more than that.’

Derek signed, as if in resignation. ‘If you want to turn someone you have to submit a request.’

Stiles got that what they were talking about was serious, she really did, but come on. ‘Paperwork? You have to fill out paperwork?’

Derek shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his eyes firmly on his glass of coke.

‘This might actually be more hilarious than -’ She lowered her voice ‘- werewolf elections.’

Derek clenched his jaw, growling low in his throat.

‘Oh, please,’ she protested, grinning. ‘This is hilarious. You know that as well as I do.’

‘The structure is what keeps our society safe.’

Stiles sobered up quickly, sitting up straight, crossing her ankles under the seat and resting her elbows on the table. ‘I get that. I do, I swear. It’s just, you know...paperwork.’ She frowned. ‘But, uh, Scott..?’

‘My uncle was crazy,’ he said, voice harsh.

‘So not really thinking about the paperwork.’ She kept her voice light, not wanting Derek to start brooding about Peter and Laura. His mood could get very dark, very quickly.

‘No, not really.’

‘But you didn’t get permission either, did you?’ There was no-one sitting close to them, so no-one could be listening, but she still glanced around just in case. ‘For Jackson.’

Derek slouched back in his seat, scowling and drumming his fingers in an irregular beat on the table. ‘That’s one of the reasons for the review. To make sure I’m not like Peter.’

Stiles snorted. ‘You’re nothing like Peter.’

‘Are you sure?’ he asked quietly, not looking at her.

‘Of course, I’m sure!’ She winced as the low hum of other people’s conversations died and people turned to look at her. Derek had to be deeply distracted because he didn’t even scowl at her for drawing attention to them. As everyone returned to their own conversations, she carried on in a much lower tone of voice. ‘Look, you might have bitten Jackson, but you don’t want him to kill his family and friends. And you would never threaten to kill Lydia to force me to help you -’ Stiles shuddered at the memory of Peter crouching over Lydia’s body, blood smeared across his face, snarling ‘- And anyway, Jackson knew exactly what he was asking you to do. It’s not like you attacked him in the dead of night in the middle of a forest and forced him to become a wolf.’

Derek hardly looked convinced. Awkward, even and Stiles had never seen Derek look like that. God, but Derek had a guilt complex three miles wide and ten miles deep. She didn’t like the idea of him adding something else to it. Especially for something as ridiculous as the notion that he could be anything like Peter. Stiles had been one of the people Peter had wanted Scott to kill - and, God, if Allison hadn’t been there in the school, he would have - but Derek seemed to have just assumed that since Scott was Pack, then so was Stiles. No discussion; it just was. Although that did make Stiles worry that one day Derek might change his mind. To be fair, it did seem to be a groundless worry. Hell, Scott had told her not to freak out about it, but she couldn’t help but think about it.

‘They’ll want to see if I can control my Pack,’ said Derek, just as the silence between them started to become uncomfortable.

Her first impulse was to tease Derek about actually volunteering information but she ignored it. ‘O-kay. And that means?’

‘Ensure that I can stop Scott or Jackson if they lose control.’

‘Oh. Well, that’s easy. You can totally stop them when they start being morons. I’ve seen you quite literally halt them in their tracks. You’re set.’ She looked at Derek as he huffed out a sigh. ‘It’s so not even slightly that simple, is it?’

‘Since they are both bitten wolves, Scott and Jackson also get assessed.’

A couple of tables over a couple of guys were giving their order and flirting outrageously with the waitress. Stiles wished they’d just shut up because this was some important stuff that Derek was telling her and she needed to remember everything.

‘Huh. Okay. I suppose that makes sense. But what about me and Danny? Do we get assessed? What about Allison and Lydia?’

‘You’re Pack. Of course you get assessed. Danny, Allison and Lydia, too.’

As Derek moved onto his final plate of waffles, Stiles rolled her eyes.

‘We do?’ Stiles wasn’t entirely sure she liked the idea of people who didn’t know her deciding if she was good enough to be in Derek’s pack.

Derek nodded. ‘Humans who aren’t related to or born into Pack are unusual.’

‘How unusual?’ Stiles had been wondering about that on and off since Scott had told her that some of Derek’s family had been human, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you could just drop into conversation. Not if you expected to live.

‘Very. So they’ll question you about your loyalty to the Pack. Make sure you aren’t telling everyone you meet about werewolves.’

Stiles froze, fork crammed full of pancake halfway to her mouth. ‘But I told Danny.’

She hadn’t realised that there could be actual consequences to telling Danny, other than Derek being pissed with her. But even that had subsided into irritation when he’d realised she’d made the right call.

‘No, you didn’t.’

She dropped her fork on her plate. ‘But-’

‘No, Stiles. You didn’t.’

‘I...didn’t..?’ she asked slowly.

‘No.’ He held her gaze as he said, ‘I decided to let you tell Danny to balance out Jackson. As Alpha I make that decision.’

‘Okay...but if anyone asks, I should say..?’ If Derek got in trouble or hurt because of a decision she’d made without even talking to him, she’d, well, she’d feel completely awful. She was supposed to be the one who pulled the Pack back from the brink of danger, not send them into it.

‘They won’t,’ said Derek with confidence. ‘They’ll have no reason to.’

‘Okay, but what happens if they decide you aren’t...you know? Aren’t-’ She swallowed around the lump in her throat. ‘If they decide the Pack isn’t working?’

Someone brushed past their table and knocked Stiles’ drink. It was about to fall and totally soak Stiles, when Derek’s hand snatched out and steadied it with his awesome werewolf speed.

‘That’s not going to happen, Stiles.’

‘And you know that how?’ she demanded.

‘Because you’re all learning. Scott and Jackson’s control is improving all the time. By Easter...’

Stiles cocked her head. ‘Why Easter? I’d have thought this would have been done right away.’

‘As long as there are no mysterious deaths in the area, new Packs are given a couple of weeks to sort themselves out.’

‘This is more than a couple weeks,’ Stiles pointed out.

‘I thought it’d be best if we waited until the end of the term so none of you have any distractions. At least for a few weeks.’

‘And also so it would give you more time to chose first beta, get me in line about my window and stuff, right?’

Derek didn’t say anything, just took a long drink of his coke, eyeing her knowingly.

She grinned, tasting the truth of her words. ‘Yeah. That’s what I thought. Hey, hang on, that means that you were able to lie.’

‘Half-truth,’ corrected Derek. ‘Not even a werewolf can detect a lie over the phone.’

‘But you always know when I’m lying,’ she practically whined. ‘Even through text message.’

‘That’s because you’re a terrible liar.’

She couldn’t really argue that one.

‘But what happens if they do decide...’ she trailed off.

‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘Look, it’s obviously something because you’re refusing to tell me,’ she snapped, irritated that for all he was telling her, he was still holding vital information back. ‘And I’m starting to imagine really horrible things here, like them killing you, so just tell me already.’

‘They will.’

‘Will what?’

‘Kill me.’

Stiles could feel all the blood drain from her face. ‘God, you don’t believe in sugarcoating, do you?’ she gasped.

Derek had the gall to look a little annoyed. ‘You told me to tell you.’

‘But I didn’t think you were going to say they would kill you, you idiot,’ hissed Stiles, her head still reeling.

‘What else are they going to do with an Alpha who can’t control his Pack?’ Derek’s voice was completely blank, as though it didn’t bother him, but Stiles knew that wasn’t true. No matter how much he tried to hide it, he totally cared. In a grumpy, I-hate-the-world kind of way.

‘But-’

‘Lone Alphas are dangerous. They wreak havoc in populated areas.’

‘So if...’ She swallowed, really not wanting to ask, but really needing to know, ‘if they killed you, what would happen to all of us?’

Derek stared at her, obviously debating the wisdom of telling her any more.

‘Oh, please,’ she scoffed. ‘If they’ll kill you I can’t imagine that it’ll be all sugar and spice for us.’

‘They’d cage Jackson and Scott. See if they could be controlled by another Alpha.’

She took in a sharp breath. ‘And kill them if they can’t?’

Stiles jumped as she felt Derek’s leg press against hers, but after a moment she got her breathing back under control and glared at him.

‘Stiles, none of this is going to happen.’ Derek’s voice was low and surprisingly gentle. ‘This is all worst case scenario.’

She worried her lip. The Pack was just about recovered from the injuries Peter had inflicted upon them; both mental and physical. She didn’t want anyone else coming along and messing up the precious balance they’d achieved. ‘You promise?’

He nodded, his leg still a comforting presence against hers. ‘I promise.’

‘What would happen to me, Danny and the others?’

‘Nothing. They’d monitor you. Make sure you don’t talk. Maybe threaten your family. But we try not to make a habit of killing humans.’ His tone of voice suggested that he’d meant that to be reassuring, which, yeah, no.

‘Oh, now that’s good to know,’ she said sarcastically. ‘Thanks.’

Derek shrugged, obviously over trying to placate the annoying human.

‘Hey, so, does that mean Scott and Jackson already know all of this? Am I the last one to be told?’ Because that would both suck and be typical of Derek; leaving the useless human till last.

‘They don’t know and they aren’t to know.’

Stiles cocked her head. Or maybe not so typical. ‘But, Derek-’

He locked eyes with her, a bit of red bleeding into them for a few seconds. ‘I forbid you from telling them any of this conversation.’

‘But them knowing could help.’ He didn’t shut her down so she continued. ‘If they know how important it is, then they would, well, might...probably, not get sidetracked by wanting to out-do each other and listen to you and learn from you.’

‘Stiles, they aren’t supposed to obey me because it will save my life. They should obey me because I’m Alpha. If I can’t control them, I don’t deserve to be Alpha.’

And Stiles could understand Derek thinking like that. But, at the same time, this was Scott and Jackson they were talking about. Before she could explain that they were boys and needed these kind of things explained to them and it was no reflection on Derek as an Alpha, she was interrupted by her cell phone beeping. Frowning, she started patting down her pockets before realising that the noise was coming from her bag. Pulling her cell out, she looked at the screen, wondering who was texting her so late. Her dad would have phoned.

She raised an eyebrow when she saw a message from Scott - Where r u? Me and Allison r ready 2 go

‘Now he cares where I am,’ she muttered, completely ignoring the flush of embarrassment as it travelled down her spine. She was totally going to have to come up with an excuse for her running out early.

‘Scott?’

She nodded. ‘Yeah. Wondering if I want a ride home.’

‘Where does he think you’ve been for the last couple of hours?’ An excellent question.

‘I have no idea,’ she said, slightly distracted as she texted Scott back.

Already got a ride home. C u 2moro in school.

It had taken her best friend over two hours to work out that he didn’t know where she was. That…that kind of sucked big time. Thankfully she hadn’t really had time to dwell on it yet.

She rolled her eyes when her cell beeped against almost immediately. ‘What now?’

whod u get a ride with.

She was still working out how to tell Scott it was none of his business without freaking him out when her cell started blaring out Nature Boy. She fumbled with it as she tried to answer. She was categorically ignoring Derek’s smirk. ‘What?’

‘Are you home?’

And, okay, so Derek had said werewolves couldn’t sense lies over the phone, but this was Scott. ‘...No.’

‘Where are you?’ In the background she could hear Allison asking if everything was okay and she scowled.

Derek leaned forward and plucked the phone out of her hand. ‘She’s with me.’

Faintly Stiles could hear Scott. ‘Derek? What the -? Why is Stiles with you?’

She nearly choked when he said, ‘None of your business. She’ll see you in school tomorrow,’ and then hung up.

He handed her back the phone, a challenging look in his eyes. Stiles, though, accepted it without comment. At least she had until tomorrow to work out an answer that wasn’t basically ‘you made me cry’.

‘Are you ready to go?’ Derek asked.

Stiles was about to shake her head, wanting to stay and talk for a while longer, but she was caught on unawares by a huge yawn.

‘I’m going to take that as a yes,’ Derek said, dryly. He gestured for the check to be brought to them and paid it without comment. Stiles rested her arms on the table and laid her head on them. The tired had just snuck up on her.

She started when she felt a hand on her shoulder but relaxed when she realised it was just Derek. ‘Hey.’

‘Come on. You’re about to fall asleep right here.’

‘No I’m not.’ But she pushed herself up anyway.

He moved back slightly to allow Stiles out of the booth and stuck close to her as they walked through the diner. He waved briefly to the waitresses as they left.

‘I can’t believe you actually ate all that food,’ she said as they walked back to the car.

‘I need all the energy I can get to deal with your knuckleheaded best friend and Jackson,’ said Derek as he pulled his keys out of his jacket.

Surprised by another yawn, Stiles stumbled over some uneven ground. Derek saved her, grabbing her and wrapping his arm around her waist. ‘Thanks,’ she mumbled into his shoulder. ‘Falling over would really have sucked.’ His arm was warm and strong around her.

‘Let’s get you home,’ said Derek quietly, opening the door and depositing her gently on the seat.

‘I think that’s a good idea.’

Derek closed the door and Stiles twisted around in her seat so that she was leaning slightly against the door, curling further into the seat, legs crossed at her ankles and arms hugging her knees. Derek glanced over at her as he closed his door and she gave him a small smile. ‘Thank you for...well, not dinner, because this isn’t dinner time, but thank you for the food.’

Derek gave her a small but genuine smile. ‘Thank you for your company.’

Her breath hitched slightly, because, well, he’d just said that he’d like spending time with her. That was so much better than just tolerating her. ‘I like your smile,’ she murmured, her eyes drifting shut of their own accord. ‘You should smile more.’

‘And you should sleep for a while.’

‘I feel like you’re humouring me,’ Stiles told him, forcing her eyes open.

‘I probably am,’ he said, starting the car.

That startled a laugh out of her. ‘Well, okay then.’

As Derek was about to pull out of the parking lot, light from one of the street lights glinted off something in the back of the car. She leaned forward a little to see she could tell what it was. ‘Why do you have a saw and a sledgehammer in the back?’ She bit her tongue to stop herself from making a joke about cutting people up and burying them in the woods.

‘I haven’t turned into a serial killer, if that’s what you’re asking.’

‘I’m not asking. Did I ask? That wouldn’t have been a funny joke,’ she told him, settling back against the seat. ‘I’m just curious.’

‘I started work on the house.’

‘All by yourself?’

‘Yes. Why?’

‘It’s just I assumed that you’d get, I dunno, builders in or something.’

Not to mention the fact that she would have assumed that rebuilding the house your family burned to death in would be too painful. But then, Derek never turned away from anything that would cause him pain.

‘I know what I’m doing.’

‘I-’ She squinted at him. ‘Really? You know how to rebuild an entire house?’ She didn’t really know about these things, but she assumed that was what he was going to have to do. It looked close to falling down any second and anyway, surely the structure was unsound.

‘I do.’

‘How?’

‘Werewolves are good at construction.’

‘Yeah?’ If there was a class in how to answer a question without giving out any information then Derek would surely get an A.

Derek sighed and gave in. ‘I worked for a friend’s company until Laura disappeared.’

‘You worked construction?’ Maybe that, and not just the werewolf thing, accounted for the shoulders and the arms and the abs and, well, Derek.

‘Is that a problem?’

‘No. Why would it be a problem?’

‘You sound surprised.’ And Derek sounded defensive - not that she’d ever mention it to his face.

‘Not that you worked construction. Well, not completely,’ she amended. ‘It’s just, well…’

‘Well?’

‘I think this is the first thing you’ve ever said anything about your life up in New York.’ She shrugged. ‘It’s just…unexpected, is all.’

Derek drove on for a few minutes before he spoke again, Stiles already half asleep. ‘I don’t like talking about New York.’

‘I get that,’ she said quietly, deciding immediately that she wasn’t going to push him on this. ‘So, what are you doing to the house?’

She blinked as Derek started talking, low and intimate.

‘The foundation is good and strangely the first floor is structurally sound. It’s the second floor that needs work.’

‘And by ‘needs work’ you mean ‘the inside of the house needs to be protected from the elements’, right?’

‘It needs walls and a roof,’ Derek agreed. ‘I, uh, I got drawings of what it’ll be like after. Nearly the same as…before but a little different.’

‘Did you draw them?’ she asked before he got lost in any memories.

Derek nodded. Which meant she had something else to add to the list of things she now knew about Derek.

‘That’s pretty cool. So, come on then. What -’ Her eyes closed and she forced them open. ‘-what’s it going to be like?’

She jumped slightly as Derek briefly rested his hand on her arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. ‘Go to sleep, Stiles. It’s fine.’

‘But I want -’

‘How about I tell you about the house later, when you’re not falling asleep?’

‘Promise?’

‘Yeah. Now sleep.’

Stiles let her eyes close and the next thing she knew, Derek was gently shaking her awake. He was kneeling next to her, the passenger door open. Beyond him, she could see her house, though her dad’s car wasn’t there. Thankfully.

She rubbed her eyes and smiled sleepily at him. ‘Hi.’ She fumbled with the seatbelt, her fingers clumsy on the button.

Derek leaned over her, giving her a lovely view of the curve of his neck. She sucked in a breath and was overwhelmed by the fresh, earthy scent of him.

‘You smell nice,’ she told him as he released the belt.

He was already pulling back and paused for a moment, his eyes searching hers. ‘Let’s get you inside,’ he said, softly.

‘Derek-’

‘You’re still drunk.’

‘Am not.’

‘Yeah, because that’s convincing,’ said Derek, offering her his hand and pulling her out, steadying her when she threatened to overbalance and fall into him.

‘I’ve eaten way too much to still be drunk,’ she told him as he walked her slowly to the front door, his arm tight around her waist. ‘I didn’t drink that much at the party.’

‘What did you drink?’ Derek asked.

‘Umm, uh, a couple of beers and a shot of tequila.’

He gave her a look.

‘Fine.’ He was as bad as her dad. ‘Two shots.’

‘You’re not very good at holding your alcohol,’ said Derek.

She stuck her tongue out at him as and nearly walked into the front door. Which, didn’t exactly help her argument much.

‘Where are your keys, Stiles?’

‘In my bag, give me a second.’ Leaning against Derek, because he was more convenient than the wall, she dug to the bottom of the bag until she found them.

He took the keys and opened the door in one swift move, then reached in and flicked on a light, making Stiles blink in surprise. ‘The light, it burns.’

‘Can you get up the stairs by yourself?’

‘Of course I can. I’m seriously not that drunk, you know.’

He frowned. ‘You seem more drunk now than earlier.’

‘I’m tired,’ she explained. ‘Not drunk. Well, I am drunk, yes. But not that drunk, okay?’

‘Go on, then. Go sleep.’

Stiles yawned and nodded. ‘Going to bed. No passing go or collecting two hundred dollars.’

Derek rolled his eyes and began to turn away.

She was about to close the door when, ‘Hey, Derek?’

He turned back around, eyebrows raised.

Stiles closed the small gap between them and threw her arms around Derek’s neck, hugging him tight to her. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered into his neck. She stayed there, pressed against him, for a few seconds, letting go before he could push her away and stepped back into the house.

He stood there, eyes wide and unblinking as he stared at her for several seconds, looking kind of lost. It made her wonder when he’d last been hugged because the way he looked made her think that he’d almost forgotten what one was. Finally he blinked slowly and gave her a confused look before shaking his head and walking away.

‘You know we’re friends, right?’ she called after him.

He didn’t even turn. ‘Inside. Now.’

Stiles laughed but closed the door anyway. She was still drunk enough to take that as a yes.

Chapter Text

Stiles was perfectly happy watching Scott and Jackson do battle on opposite lacrosse training teams, cheering Scott on and ignoring Coach Finstock whenever he glared at her, until a body blocked her view.

Tilting her head and squinting upward, she frowned in confusion. ‘Lydia?’

‘Stand up.’

‘Uh, what?’ She knew they were past the Lydia ignoring her like a boss portion of their friendship, which had only lasted over a decade, but were they really at a point where Lydia approached her? Voluntarily. Generally she regarded Stiles with a look of minor revulsion - quite a lot like the look Lydia was giving her now.

‘Stand up.’ Lydia made an impatient ‘up, up, up’ motion with her hands. ‘Now. You’re coming with me.’

Stiles could hear cheering and whooping coming from the pitch and craned her neck, trying to look around Lydia to see what she’d missed but Lydia moved with her, obstructing the view. Stiles tried a couple more times but Lydia kept moving with her.

‘And where are we going?’ Stiles asked with a sigh, remaining firmly sitting down.

‘The mall.’

‘And why are we going to the mall?’

‘We’re going clothes shopping.’

Stiles frowned. ‘What? Why? Surely I’m the last person that you’d want to take shopping with you.’

‘You are and you’re not. I’m going clothes shopping with you.’

‘Okay, I’m confused.’

‘Apparently, thanks to recent events, not spending time with you is no longer an option so I’d rather not have my eyes bleed whenever I look at you.’

You’re taking me clothes shopping?’ Stiles asked incredulously, choosing to ignore Lydia’s dig about her clothes.

‘Horrifyingly, yes.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. no. I can’t emphasise that enough. No.’ Stiles shuddered in horror. The nine-year-old girl in her was jumping up and down punching the air because the most popular girl in the school was choosing to go shopping with her. The sixteen-year-old part of her was desperately trying to come up with an excuse not to go and coming up empty.

‘Stiles -’ Lydia scowled, hands on her hips. She clearly wanted to frogmarch her to the mall, quashing all protest.

‘No. You look amazing, Lydia, but there is no way I’m dressing like you. That kind of attention to detail would kill me inside of a week.’

‘Well, of course not.’ She swept her hand down herself. ‘Like you could pull this ensemble off. What I’m talking about is buying you clothes that actually fit. Jeans that aren’t baggy and t-shirts that show your body has actual physical form under the hobo costume you usually wear.’

‘Oh. Why?’

Lydia rolled her eyes. ‘Because I say so. Now, stand up.’

Stiles stood before she could persuade her legs to do otherwise, not really sure how to say no to a Lydia who was really determined to get a ‘yes’. Plus, shopping with Lydia Martin.

She had a feeling that ‘I hate the mall’ wouldn’t be considered a valid get out clause.

Lydia looked her up and down, and rolled her eyes. ‘This is going to take hours.’ She turned on her heel, flicking her hair over her shoulders in a way Stiles couldn’t help but envy.

How the hell had her life changed so much that Lydia fucking Martin was demanding they go shopping together?

Lydia turned and raised one sculpted eyebrow. ‘Well, come on then.’

Stiles paused for a moment before grabbing her bag and running to catch up.

Lydia pursed her lips and shook her head. ‘How you can still be dressing like that is beyond me.’

Stiles glanced down at what she was wearing. ‘I don’t see what’s wrong. They’re just jeans and a t-shirt.’ A little baggy, maybe.

‘Well, of course you don’t. You have all the fashion sense of a lunch lady.’

‘Well, thanks,’ Stiles said dryly as they walked into the parking lot. Her pace faltered as she saw Allison leaning against her car door.

‘Excellent,’ said Lydia. ‘I’m going to need all the help I can get with you.’

‘So, I suppose I’m not driving us, then,’ said Stiles, glancing longingly at her jeep. Her escape route if the mall became too torturous had just been cruelly ripped out from under her.

Lydia snorted. ‘As if I was going to travel in your sorry excuse for a vehicle.’

‘You didn’t complain when I drove you to the Winter Formal last term,’ Stiles pointed out, insulted on the behalf of her baby.

‘That’s because I was emotionally compromised. I didn’t know what I was doing.’

‘Emotionally comprom… you mean because Jackson was being an ass? Because, you must know that isn’t an unusual occurrence. In fact, it’s pretty much his SOP.’

Lydia faltered for a moment, a vulnerable look crossing across her face but disappearing quickly. Stiles hadn’t meant to hit a sore spot but obviously Jackson was.

‘Don’t think for one moment that I don’t know what’s going through that head of yours,’ Lydia said, rallying. ‘All escape routes are hereby denied.’

Stiles huffed out a sigh but didn’t argue. Arguing with Lydia was like watching King Canute trying to order the tide to retreat; utterly pointless and made you look stupid.

‘I hear we’re taking you shopping,’ Allison said.

‘You got drafted into this madness, as well, huh?’ She rolled her eyes in Lydia’s direction.

‘I more volunteered,’ Allison admitted with a shrug.

‘You volunteered?’ Stiles repeated. ‘Are you crazy?’

‘It’ll be fun,’ Allison told her, grinning as she opened the driver’s door.

‘I’ll take your word for it.’ Stiles opened the back door and threw her bag across the seat before climbing in. She might as well get this over and done with.

Traffic was hellacious as Allison drove them across town so Stiles stared out the window as Allison and Lydia chatted about clothes. Thankfully neither tried to involve her.

As Allison slowed at another traffic light, Stiles stared blindly across the parking lot of Home Depot. Her eyes snapped back into focus as she recognised Derek’s Camaro. And okay, well, maybe it wasn’t Derek’s Camaro, but there was a Camaro at Home Depot and she knew Derek was working on the house.

Thinking about Derek’s Camaro, though, had the unfortunate effect of forcing her to think about Derek himself, and that led to remembering he’d witnessed her drunken ramblings about Scott the week before. Feeling her face flush, she leaned her head against the cool of the window. It wouldn’t be so bad, if she didn’t also have a very clear memory of telling Derek that she liked his smile and, worse, his smell. She wanted to bang her head against the car window but that would lead to awkward questions from Lydia and Allison and Stiles did not want to have to explain.

God, she’d told him they were friends. She’d hugged him and told him they were friends. She had. Hugged. Him. And survived to tell the tale – not that she was going to, because, duh. But what the hell had possessed her? Aside from the alcohol.

She still didn’t know whether to hit herself repeatedly in the head or give herself a high five. Because he hadn’t disagreed with her, had he? Of course, he’d been convinced that she had been completely off her face drunk and maybe - probably - hadn’t put much stock in it. Had he? And why was she even thinking about this? Fiddling with the strap of her bag, she scowled down at her hands, annoyed that she was still mulling it over. It wasn’t like her and Derek were BFFs. Stiles snorted to herself. Yeah. Right. Her and Derek BFFs.

She startled as Lydia reached into the back of the car and smacked her leg. ‘Hey!’

‘Don’t snort like that. It’s a horrible sound.’

‘Uh. Okay.’ She pursed her lips. ‘Do I care that it’s a horrible sound?’

‘Unlikely. But I do.’

‘And that’s the most important thing, right?’

‘I’m glad we agree. Now, tell me, what were you finding so amusing?’

She shifted uncomfortably, relieved that Lydia wasn’t looking at her. The way Lydia could hone in on stuff you didn’t want to talk about was scary. ‘Who said I found anything funny?’

‘I think the fact that you were laughing gave it away,’ said Allison, giving her a quick smile in the rear-view mirror.

‘Ah, you’re using the old ‘you were laughing so it has to be funny’ trick, huh? Dad’s been using it for years now and I’ve grown wise to it. You won’t be tricking me with your sneaking ways.’

Lydia reached up to adjust the mirror and gave her a withering look. Stiles wondered what would happen if Lydia and Derek ever got into a staring match. Would the world even survive? But that was so not important right this second. Trying to meet Lydia’s eyes as innocently as she could, Stiles found herself shifting in the seat.

Laughing, Allison repositioned the mirror so she could see again. ‘Is it really that important?’

‘She’s hiding something. I want to know what it is.’

Stiles’ stomach flipped over and she turned to stare out of the window, biting her lip.

‘You want to know what it is,’ Allison repeated.

‘I think what you’ve forgotten to take into account is the fact that Lydia likes to know everything that’s going on,’ said Stiles. ‘It’s the only possible way to separate the wheat from the chaff, right?’

‘You’re not usually interested in what Stiles finds funny.’ Allison glanced apologetically at Stiles. ‘No offence.’

‘None taken,’ Stiles assured Allison.

‘Well, I doubt any of it was interesting. This is interesting. I can feel it.’

Stiles really shouldn’t think about Scott or Derek when around Lydia. Her superpower (or at least one of them) was totally being able to ferret out any gossip that she might find interesting or useful.

Stifling a groan as they turned into the mall, she cast a longing glance at the bowling alley across the road. ‘So, uh, how long are we going to be here?’ Stiles asked, hoping, desperately, to divert Lydia’s attention.

‘Don’t think I’ll forget this, Stiles,’ said Lydia, pointing Allison side of the mall she wanted to park. ‘I’ll find out.’

Stiles really, really hoped that Lydia would forget everything and go back to finding Stiles boring and annoying and not worthy of her time. Although with the way Stiles’ life had been going lately, she would never be that lucky. ‘Seriously, how long am I going to be captive here?’

‘At least a couple of hours.’

‘A couple of hours?’ repeated Stiles. She had thought they would be there for an hour. Tops. ‘How can you look at clothes for that long? They’re just clothes.’

Lydia whipped round her head to glare at Stiles. ‘And that’s where you’re wrong, Stilinski. They’re not just clothes.’

Stiles threw up her hands. ‘Ummm, okay.’ She knew better than to argue with Lydia about fashion. Aliens from Mars knew better than to argue with Lydia about fashion.

As Allison pulled into a space, Stiles stared up at the mall, suddenly wondering what had possessed her to think this was a good idea.

It was a recipe for justified homicide if ever she’d seen one.

It was a level of hell she didn’t think Dante had ever known about.

It was somewhere Stiles didn’t want to be right now.

It was possible that she was being a little melodramatic about the whole thing.

‘Hurry up and get out of the car, Stiles,’ said Lydia, sticking her head back in the car and glaring. ‘We have lots to do and so little time to do it in.’

Or maybe she wasn’t being melodramatic enough.

Reluctantly Stiles dragged herself out of the car, hoping that Lydia had vastly overestimated how long they were going to be here. She had Doctor Who in her DVR and important plans to watch it while Beacon Hills was relatively quiet, supernaturally speaking.

As Lydia made a beeline for the entrance, Allison linked arms with Stiles and smiled. ‘I think we’re going to have lots of fun.’

‘Looking at clothes?’ Stiles said doubtfully, trying to ignore how weird it was talking to Allison without Scott hovering around them. In fact, Stiles didn’t think she and Allison had ever hung out together - unless waiting for Scott at the same table at lunch or after practice counted, and Stiles was fairly certain it didn’t.

They were kind of friends, Stiles supposed. Allison spent the majority of her waking hours with Scott which, by default, meant she had to spend at least some time around Stiles. But when Scott wasn’t around to be all gooey-eyed with, Allison was with Lydia or sometimes Jackson - never Stiles - which suited Stiles just fine. She wasn’t sure she wanted to spend more time than she had to with the girl who had proved Stiles was never going to be the kind of girl Scott went for.

And yet, here she was with her arm linked with Allison’s as they went clothes shopping with Lydia Martin. This had to be proof that the universe liked fucking with people.

Allison laughed, shooting her another cheerful smile. ‘I know it’s not your usual thing-’

‘Well, damn it.’ She snapped her fingers in mock consternation. ‘And there I was thinking I was being all subtle and stuff.’

‘Oh, very subtle, Stiles. But I saw through it.’ The teasing smile on her face dropped away as she glanced past Stiles’ shoulder. ‘Shit.’

Confused, Stiles was about to turn to see what had Allison on high alert when a couple of guys pushed past her, nearly making her stumble into the side of a car, and blocked their path to the mall.

‘Rude,’ Stiles muttered. She opened her mouth to say more, but Allison elbowed her in the ribs and gave a minute shake of her head.

It wasn’t exactly difficult to guess who they were.

One was blond and had a scar that ran from his temple to the middle of his cheek, hardly older than them. The other looked like Pinhead’s uglier brother. Which was in no way disturbing.

‘Hi, Allison,’ Pinhead said with a leer. Which, ew.

‘What you doing here?’ Scarface tried to smile, but it ended up being a bearing of teeth. Stiles considered herself something of a connoisseur of creepy and that was possibly the creepiest attempt at a smile she’d seen.

‘Shopping.’

‘Sounds like fun.’

Allison flashed them a truly insincere smile. ‘It is and we have to go.’

Without even looking at Stiles, Pinhead said, ‘Aren’t you going to introduce us to your friend?’

Allison shot Scarface a look that suggested she’d really like to use him for target practice, which Stiles would be more than okay with because this was beginning to hit Peter Hale levels of icky wrongness. ‘No.’

‘That’s a real darn shame, right there.’

Stiles stared flatly at them, biting her tongue to stop all the words that were backing up from spewing out. Allison obviously had this handled and Stiles doubted that anything she could add would do much except piss off Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Allison grabbed hold of Stiles’ hand. ‘Come on, we’re going.’ Her grip was tight as she pulled Stiles along, keeping her body between Stiles and the hunters. She seemed more than a little freaked out so Stiles waited until they were out of earshot before opening her mouth.

‘So, I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are some new hunters in town.’

‘People Dad knows.’ She glanced over her shoulder, and Stiles, unable to help herself, looked too. They were already getting into the kind of big-ass SUV that seemed to be the vehicle of choice for government agencies and hunters alike.

‘Doesn’t look like they’re big shoppers.’

Allison frowned. ‘Dad better not be having me followed. And especially not by those guys.’

‘You think he’s having you followed?’ Stiles didn’t really know how to react to that.

‘I think dad doesn’t know what to do with me right now.’ She sounded sad, and, wow, but Stiles could totally commiserate.

‘Fatherly disappointment is a bitch, isn’t it?’ Stiles said, with a pang.

Allison dropped her hand as they walked into the mall, obviously judging them to be out of danger. ‘It’s just.’ Allison paused and frowned. ‘Talking to him is hard.’

‘Oh, yeah.’ Stiles dodged around a couple who seemed oblivious to the fact that there were other people in the mall. ’Tell me about it.’

‘I bet you never thought you’d be hiding the existence of werewolves from your dad.’

‘I bet you didn’t expect your dad to be telling you about the werewolf thing.’

‘It would have been nice if he’d told me,’ said Allison with a bitter laugh. ‘I just wish I could find out why he called down more hunters.’

‘Freaked out because he witnessed an Alpha being transmogrified?’ Stiles suggested. She hoped Allison knew where Lydia was because Stiles was just following along blindly. ‘Because I think that freaked us all out. I bet that doesn’t happen every day, even to a hunter.’

‘Maybe.’

‘But?’ Stiles prompted, spurred on by Allison’s doubtful tone. This had obviously been bugging her for a while and Stiles wondered if she’d mentioned it to Scott and, if she had, if Scott had thought about asking Derek if he had any ideas.

Allison shrugged. ‘But I get the feeling that Dad expected something to happen after Derek became Alpha and it didn’t, so his “friends” -’ Stiles could totally hear the quotation marks there ‘- are sticking around for a while just in case.’

‘Oh, that’s just peachy,’ Stiles said with a huff. ‘It’s exactly what we don’t need - more hunters sniffing around trying to stir up trouble.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Allison agreed.

‘Any idea what he was expecting to go down?’ Stiles raised her voice so Allison could hear her over a group of teenagers yelling at each other in the atrium.

Allison shook her head.

‘Because if it’s just something like Derek going off the deep end, I think we can all agree that’s not on the cards. But, if say, it’s something to do with werewolves in general or something else that goes bump in the night, it’d be awesome to get a heads up.’

Stiles couldn’t help but wonder if Chris Argent had expected the werewolf inspection team Derek had told her about and had been thrown when they hadn’t immediately materialised. Not that she could put forward that theory to Allison thanks to Derek forbidding her to talk about it.

‘He’s not really saying anything when I’m around.’ Allison sighed in frustration. ‘Everyone kind of clams up when I enter a room. And I can’t really show too much interest.’

‘Would really suck if your family thought you were a double agent or something.’

Allison snorted.

Stiles paused. ‘Home kind of sucks at the moment, then?’

Allison nodded. Just a bit.’ Grabbing Stiles’ hand, she pulled her towards one of the stores. ‘But we’re here to have fun shopping.’

‘Lydia’ll have fun,’ Stiles corrected. ‘She gets to play dress-up with me.’

‘It won’t be all that bad,’ Allison said. ‘Lydia’s just trying to be helpful.’

Stiles raised a sceptical eyebrow. ‘Lydia, help me? Uh, no. Just no.’

‘But-’

‘Lydia doesn’t even like me, why would she help me?’

‘I think she does like you,’ said Allison, her voice low and confiding, despite the fact that Lydia wasn’t there. Stiles dreaded to think what Lydia had already pulled out for her. ‘And this is her way of showing it.’

‘It’s like I’m living in a world without shrimp.’ Off Allison’s stumped expression, Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘How can you be a hunter and have never watched Buffy?’

‘In my defence, I only found out about the whole hunter things a few months ago. I’ve not really had time to do my research.’

‘Well, one day we are going to sit down and go through all of Buffy and Angel. And, once we’re done with them, we’ll move on to Supernatural.’

‘That sounds like a lot television.’

‘It is.’ She flashed a mischievous grin at Allison. ‘But, honestly, where do you think I get most of my ideas from?’

Allison burst out laughing and bumped her shoulder against Stiles’. ‘I can’t decide who’d be more horrified if they knew; my dad or Derek.’

‘Derek. Definitely Derek. I can see his pained expression now.’ Spotting Lydia through the crowd, she groaned and pointed her out to Allison.

‘Oh, well spotted. And it looked like she’s already got some things picked out.’

Looking again, Stiles realised Allison was right. It looked like Lydia was already holding half a dozen items of clothing in her hands. ‘Oh God, this is going to be worse than forty years of torture in the pits of hell.’

‘Cheer up, Stiles,’ Allison said, as they made their way over to Lydia who was waving them forward impatiently. ‘Who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy yourself.’

Stiles snorted.

The next three hours were the most excruciating of Stiles’ life. She was dragged from store to store, shoved into countless dressing rooms, clothes literally overflowing in her arms. Then she was inspected by Lydia’s critical eye and the friendlier eye of Allison. She felt like she’d tried on more clothes in those three hours than she’d worn in her previous sixteen years. She never wanted to go clothes shopping - or any kind of shopping, to be honest - with Lydia ever again. It was like being forced to watch Battleship Earth on repeat for the rest of time.

‘I never want to be prodded and poked like that unless it’s by my doctor,’ Stiles groaned, throwing her bags into the trunk. ‘And, really, not even then if I can help it.’

Lydia rolled her eyes as she carefully placed the few things she’d somehow ended up with in there as well. ‘Stop complaining, Stiles. Being properly measured for a bra is very important.’

Stiles pulled a face but couldn’t actually disagree, since the bra she was now wearing was about a hundred times more comfortable than the one she’d worn to the mall. ‘So, we’re done, right? We can go, get my jeep and I can pretend that this nightmare never happened.’

The sympathetic look Allison gave her as she closed the trunk, made Stiles go cold.

‘Oh, we aren’t even close to done yet,’ said Lydia, sounding genuinely surprised that Stiles didn’t know that. ‘There’s still more to do.’

‘We aren’t? There is?’ She gestured towards the trunk. ‘We got the clothes. What else is there? I thought we’d already agreed I’m not Tai and you’re not Cher, so make-up and shoes are a no-no, so there can’t be anything else, surely?’

Walking round to the driver’s side, Allison briefly rested her hand on Stiles’ shoulder. It was probably meant to be comforting, but all it really did was send her panic up another notch.

‘I have to be positive you actually wear the clothes. I’m not having all my hard work wasted because every morning you look from those things you laughably call clothes, to these and choose to fall back into the familiarity of those abominations.’

‘My clothes aren’t abominations,’ Stiles protested.

‘They really are. So, Allison and I are coming around to prune your wardrobe.’

‘Prune my… what?’

‘We are going to throw out all the clothes that I don’t like and replace them with what we’ve bought.’

‘You’re going to throw out all my clothes?’

‘Not all of them, Stiles,’ Allison assured her. ‘Just…’ She glanced at Lydia. ‘…some of them?’

‘Oh, because that makes me feel a whole lot better. You’re only going to throw out some of my clothes.’ What was even worse, though, was that Stiles wasn’t saying no. At most she was putting up a token fight.

‘It won’t be that bad. It’s not like we can throw out everything you own. We didn’t buy enough clothes for that.’

Lydia snorted – and hey, why did she get to snort and Stiles didn’t – as she ushered Stiles towards the car door. ‘Judging by what she wears to school every day, I’d guess we’ve bought enough to get her through about two weeks.’

Allison squinted disbelievingly at Stiles. ‘Really?’

Stiles shrugged. ‘Maybe even three.’

‘Wow, you really don’t like clothes, do you?’

‘I don’t hate clothes,’ said Stiles as she opened the door and got in. Waiting for Allison to get in, she pulled her seatbelt across. ‘I like clothes. They stop you from walking walking around butt naked. Hate is far too strong of a word. I’m just not interested in clothes. As long as I have some, I really don’t care.’

‘I stand corrected.’

‘But you’ll drop me at my jeep later, right?’ she asked Allison, resigned to the fact that Lydia and Allison were going to invade her room.

‘Of course I will.’

Oh god, Lydia was going to see her room in all its geeky glory. There was no way that could end well. ‘You’re going to hate my room,’ she told Lydia as Allison backed out the parking space.

‘I have no doubt that I will, but I’m prepared to make the sacrifice as long as you actually wear the clothes.’

‘You’re too kind, Lydia. Too kind,’ Stiles muttered.

‘I know,’ Lydia said, airily as she checked her make-up in the mirror.

‘How is this my life?’ Stiles wondered, turning to stare at the bags of clothes Lydia had made her buy. How was she going to cope with Lydia in her house?

Chapter Text

Stiles sat on the porch of Derek’s house, homework open in front of her, enjoying the evening sun. It was weird, but the porch had managed to survive the fire nearly unscathed.

Bizarrely, she found Derek’s house - despite it essentially being a building site at the moment - was a good place for her to do her homework. For starters it didn’t have any of the distractions of home, like the Internet. Or electricity. It only just about had a working bathroom.

Leaning back on her hands, she stared up at the house, smiling as she thought about all the time that Derek had to be putting into re-building it. It looked to her like when he wasn’t training the Pack or creeping in her room, Derek was slaving away on the house. It was the only logical explanation for how the house seemed to be taking shape so quickly with four walls and a roof. It was a vast improvement on the creepy burnt out shell it had been.

If only Derek would just do something with the staircase. That would be awesome as just putting a foot on the bottom stair made her fear for her life. Derek always found something else to do whenever she mentioned it. Stiles was beginning to suspect that Derek was avoiding doing the stairs just because it irritated her and he enjoyed being an asshole.

The quiet of the forest was shattered by voices echoing through the trees. It was only when book fell off her lap and onto the ground as she jumped, that she realised that she’d been lulled into daydreaming by the calming noises of the forest. Giving herself a shake, she scanned the tree line but she couldn’t tell what direction they were coming from. Words were still indistinct, but Stiles could easily recognise Scott and Jackson arguing. To Stiles’ experienced ear, Scott sounded frustrated and annoyed while Jackson sounded like he was whining about something. There was an accompanying growl, which echoed around the clearing, making Stiles shiver. Derek was pissed.

Sitting up, her eyes darted around the clearing and eventually she spied some bushes moving to her right. Derek emerged from through the trees, stalking towards the house, Jackson hot on his heels. Scott was hanging back a little, glaring daggers at the back of Jackson’s head.

‘Oh, come on, you have to admit that it’s unfair,’ Jackson said. ‘It’s like it’s one rule for me and one rule for McCall.’

Derek looked like he wanted to throw Jackson through a tree.

Stiles closed her books as they approached the stairs. All three of them tense and angry, which was a complete contrast to how they’d left. Scott and Jackson had been laughing and joking about with one another. Derek had, in Stiles’ opinion, been scarily close to smiling. Her Spidey-sense told her something had happened.

‘Get in the house,’ Derek growled. He walked past Stiles, his fingers lightly ruffling her hair.

Her scalp tingled where his hand seemed to linger and she blinked, not entirely sure what had happened.

‘But it’s not fair-’

‘If you want to talk about this, you’ll get in the house now,’ Derek snapped, as he pushed the front door open and stomped inside.

Jackson, looking slightly surprised, practically scampered into the house after him.

Scott sighed and collapsed next to Stiles, shoving her books out of the way with his feet.

‘What’s up with him?’ she asked, poking Scott in the thigh with her toe. ‘He looks like he’s eaten a bag of lemons.’

Scott rolled his eyes. ‘He wants to know why you can be part of the Pack and Danny can’t. He’s been complaining pretty much since we left.’

Ah. Okay. That explained everything. This wasn’t the first time Jackson had mentioned the possibility of Danny joining the Pack but it was the first time Stiles knew of where Jackson had brought it up in an actual conversation and not just made snide remarks. She hadn’t realised he was so bothered by it.

‘Derek even cut our run short because Jackson was nagging him so much.’

‘Oh.’ She twisted round to look through the open door. ‘So Jackson thinks the best way to get Derek to agree is to piss him off? That doesn’t sound like a very sound strategy to me.’

Scott snorted. ‘And you would know, wouldn’t you? How long did it take you two to come to an agreement about your window?’

Stiles stuck her tongue out at him. ‘Shut up.’

‘So, come on, how often do you leave your window up?’

Stiles reached across and punched him. ‘Okay, first, why would you ask me that here, where Derek can hear everything I say? Second of all, I never leave my window open when I shouldn’t.’

Scott laughed. ‘Yeah, right.’

‘No, really. I don’t.’

Scott scrunched up his face, as though the idea of Stiles actually obeying an order was strange and bizarre. ‘Seriously?’

Stiles nodded. ‘I wouldn’t, but, well, Derek does spot checks.’

‘Derek checks up on your window?’ He was grinning now, and it was much better than the scowl.

‘Sometimes. It’s like he doesn’t trust me,’ Stiles said, grinning back. ‘I can’t imagine why.’

There was a slight noise behind them and they both jumped and turned as Derek appeared in the doorway, looming out of the shadows.

Stiles kicked out at Scott. ‘Dude, you suck as a werewolf.’

Scott pulled a face at Stiles.

‘Scott,’ Derek growled as Stiles and Scott exchanged a worried look.

‘Coming, coming.’ He stood up hastily, rolled his eyes at Stiles, and hurried into the house.

Stiles paused for a moment before scrambling up off the floor, leaving her books where they were. ‘I’m coming too.’

Derek raised an eyebrow but he didn’t slam the door in her face.

‘I’m Pack, right?’

He nodded.

‘So I should be in there as well.’

‘You should,’ Derek agreed, sounding strangely satisfied considering his bad mood. ‘Living room now.’

She hurried past him as quickly as she could before he changed his mind, careful of the uneven floorboards in the hallway.

Jackson groaned as she entered the room. ‘Oh, great. Here’s McCall’s shadow.’

Scott turned and glared at him. ‘Wow, that’s original, Jackson. How long did it take you to come up with that one?’

‘Why are you here, Stilinski?’ Jackson asked, ignoring Scott completely.

She grinned at him. ‘Because I’m Pack.’

Scott laughed, turning to give her a fist bump. ‘Yeah, you’re Pack.’

‘But-’

‘She gets a say in this, too,’ Derek said, entering the room, his tone of voice brooking no argument.

Jackson, though, scowled. ‘That’s-’

‘Dammit, Jackson. If you have something to say, then say it,’ Derek snapped. ‘Otherwise you can all get the hell out of here.’

Jackson squared his shoulders, standing taller. ‘I want Danny to be a member of the Pack. Like Stiles is.’

‘Like I am?’ Stiles asked, confused.

‘Human,’ Jackson clarified.

‘Oh, right. Okay. So he doesn’t want the bite?’

‘No.’ He sounded perplexed.

‘He can’t just join the pack because he’s your best friend. That’s a stupid reason,’ Scott said.

‘Well, what about Stiles?’

‘What do you mean what about Stiles? Stiles has done loads of things. She researched stuff for me when-’ He glanced uneasily at Derek ‘-well, when we didn’t really like or trust Derek. She helped defeat the Alpha...’

‘So did I,’ Jackson interrupted. ‘I threw one of those cocktails, too, you know.’ He glanced slyly at Stiles. ‘And my aim was true.’

Scott growled in frustration. ‘Look, I like Danny. I like him a hell of a lot more than I like you, but he can’t join the Pack because - hell, I don’t even know why. But he can’t join the Pack.’

Stiles raised an eyebrow. She loved Scott, but it sounded like he was objecting mostly because he knew it would piss off Jackson. Usually she’d consider that a valid reason, but, well, maybe not so much this time.

‘Oh, so you’re the only one who can have their best friend around to talk to?’ Jackson snapped, shoulders stiffening like raised hackles. ‘Is that what you’re saying? That’s so like you, McCall. You always want to be the special one.’

‘Me? I want to be the special one?’ Scott spluttered. ‘Seriously? And anyway, your best friend could have been in this from the moment you saw the Alpha, but you decided not to tell him. That was your stupid idea.’

‘I was freaking out,’ Jackson yelled and Stiles saw Derek tense. She took a step back and towards Derek just in case Scott and Jackson went for each other. Being in the middle of that would probably be detrimental to her health. The closer she was to Derek the more likely it was that she’d live to die another day.

The part of her brain not currently freaking out that she was going to end up in the middle of a werewolf smack down, was wondering why Jackson wasn’t asking about Lydia being Pack as well. It didn’t take a genius to know why Scott wasn’t yet asking for Allison to be Pack, but what was up with Jackson?

‘What? And you think I wasn’t freaking out when I got bitten? I still went and found Stiles. She’s my best friend.’

Stiles ducked her head so no-one would see the silly grin threatening to split her face. Derek was watching her when she looked back up again so she gave him a half smile and shrugged.

Jackson snorted. ‘Yeah, and how many times did you nearly get her killed?’

‘Oh, don’t pretend the reason you didn’t tell Danny was because you wanted to keep him safe,’ Scott scoffed, taking a step towards Jackson.

Right. Enough was enough.

‘Hey, dumbasses,’ Stiles yelled, loud enough to get both of their attention. ‘I think you’re both getting a little bit off topic here. This isn’t about who’s the better best friend, okay? And anyway,’ she huffed, ‘you’ve both had your douchey moments.’

‘Look, it wasn’t like I was the one who told Danny I’m a werewolf,’ Jackson said. ‘But since he knows and he’s okay with it, I don’t see why he can’t be Pack?’

Stiles didn’t even glance at Derek. He may have accepted that her reasoning was sound in the end, but that wasn’t to say that he was happy with her.

‘I didn’t do it for you,’ she heard herself say, because getting into an argument with Jackson was just what her day needed. ‘You should’ve been the one to tell him.’

‘What did you say?’ Jackson demanded, rounding on her.

‘You totally heard me.’ As Jackson’s eyes bled into amber, Stiles took another couple of steps towards Derek. ‘How do you think Danny felt knowing that there was something massive going on in your life but knowing you didn’t trust him enough?’

‘It wasn’t up to you.’

‘Maybe I’m a bit biased, being the best friend of a werewolf,’ she snapped. ‘But he deserved to know.’ Stiles couldn’t imagine how much she’d hate it if there was obviously something worrying Scott but she had no clue what or how to help.

‘So you decided to interfere in something that had nothing to do with you. How typical of you, Stilinski.’

‘It wasn’t my best idea,’ she admitted, finally glancing at Derek, needing to acknowledge that his anger had been justified. ‘I could have - should have - handled it differently, but I stand by why I did it. It was the right thing to do.’

Jackson growled and Stiles felt Derek step up behind her, a warm, solid presence at her back. He didn’t even have to growl for Jackson to back down. His eyes went back to normal and he scowled petulantly at Stiles. ‘It still wasn’t your place,’ he muttered.

‘None of that is important now,’ Scott said. ‘What happens if he slips up and gets hurt? Or gets one of us hurt?’

‘He’s not going to do that,’ Jackson said confidently.

‘And how do you know that? Is one of your werewolf superpowers the ability to see into the future? Because I’m pretty sure it isn’t.’

‘He’s less likely to screw up than Stiles is.’

‘Hey,’ Sties said, indignantly. ‘I resent that.’

‘Look-’

‘Enough,’ Derek ordered, stepping forward to stand next to her, his shoulder brushing against hers. ‘Both of you shut up.’

Scott scowled at the interruption, but didn’t argue. For once.

Derek turned to Stiles. ‘What do you think?’

Ignoring the jolt of surprise at Derek asking her opinion, Stiles glanced nervously over at Scott, knowing that he wasn’t going to like what she was about to say.

‘I think you should think about letting Danny into the Pack,’ she said slowly.

‘What?’ Scott shouted as he whirled around to face her, his mouth slack. ‘Stiles!’

‘What?’ Jackson said, sounding equally shocked.

Only Derek stayed quiet, watching her.

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Listen, Danny’s awesome. We all know that. He doesn’t panic and...and he is Jackson’s best friend. He’s like the Morgan to Jackson’s Chuck. You know, if Chuck was a douche and Morgan was a hot, gay athlete.’

For a moment Scott looked like he’d been about to laugh, but he quickly pulled it back into a scowl.

Before anyone else could say anything, Derek spoke. ‘Okay, this is what I’m going to do. Danny can come to Pack meetings - but if I say it isn’t working out, then it isn’t working out.’

For a moment Jackson looked happy, like he could experience human emotions. He quickly schooled his face back into his usual sneer. Although, this one seemed kind of appreciative. ‘Okay.’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘So I can go and tell Danny?’

Derek sighed. ‘Yes, you can go and tell Danny he can come to the next Pack meeting.’

Jackson then gave Derek an honest-to-god genuine smile and disappeared from the room without insulting either Scott or Stiles. Stiles didn’t think she could be more surprised if Jackson came up and hugged her.

Derek ignored Jackson’s exit, instead keeping his gaze on Scott. ‘Stiles, go outside. I need to have a quiet word with Scott.’

‘Uh-’

‘Now, Stiles.’ He didn’t snap or yell, or even sound exasperated, but Stiles was nearly powerless to ignore his order.

She turned to Scott, but he wasn’t looking at her. Instead he was staring at a newly installed bit of wall. Idiot. She rolled her eyes, offered Derek a small smile since he didn’t seem to be annoyed with her for once, and quickly left the room before that changed.

She closed the front door firmly behind her, for once deciding against trying to listen in on what Derek was saying to Scott. She was just about to pack away her books when she noticed that Jackson’s Porsche was still there, with Jackson leaning against it,looking for all the world like he was waiting for something. Or someone.

‘Hey, Stiles.’ He jogged towards her, actually coming back from his car to talk to her. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looking everywhere but at her.

The silence between them was more than a little awkward.

She eyed him suspiciously. ‘Yeah?’

‘Uh, thanks. For, you know. In there.’

Stiles nodded slowly. Their relationship wasn’t really based on either of them actually being pleasant to the other.

‘Well, uh, okay. I’ll see you later.’ He gave her a nervous wave, like he wasn’t quite sure what was going on either and hurried back to his car.

As he drove off in his Porsche - which Stiles still couldn’t quite believe she’d driven - she gave herself a little shake. ‘Well, that was weird.’ The forest didn’t disagree with her.

She jumped as Scott appeared at her side. ‘Everything okay?’ she asked. ‘What did old sourpatch want?’

‘Nothing,’ Scott said shortly, throwing a glare back over his shoulder.

She knelt to toss her books into her bag. ‘Nothing?’ she repeated sceptically as she stood back up. ‘He wanted a quiet word with you about nothing?’

‘It wasn’t important.’

‘Right, because Derek is really one for small talk,’ she said as they walked back to the jeep. ‘How silly of me not to notice before.’ Scott didn’t say anything. ‘You’re in a mood with me.’

‘I can’t believe you sided with Jackson.’

‘I didn’t side with Jackson,’ Stiles said, unlocking the jeep. ‘Well, not really.’

‘Well, what do you call it?’ Scott demanded. ‘Because it sure felt a lot like you sided with Jackson in there.’ He wrenched the door open with far more force than was necessary.

‘Hey,’ Stiles protested. ‘Watch the car, dude. Why do you always insist on hurting my jeep? What’s she ever done to you? My dad is not going to be happy if I need to get her fixed up again.’

‘Sorry,’ Scott muttered, getting in the car and shutting the door, carefully this time.

‘And maybe I was thinking about what’s best for the Pack?’ Stiles suggested, getting in and slamming her door.

‘And you think I wasn’t?’

‘Scott, you’re my best friend,’ Stiles said, starting the car and putting it into gear. ‘But as your best friend it’s my responsibility to tell you when you’re being a dick. And, back there? You were being a dick.’

‘Hey-’

Stiles started driving down the bridle path towards the main road. ‘Look, I get that Jackson isn’t your favourite person and there’s the whole thing with who’s gonna be the first beta, but don’t you think that Jackson will be easier to be around if we’ve got Danny here keeping him in line? He obeys Derek because Derek is Alpha. He’ll listen to Danny because Danny is his best friend.’

Scott glanced over at her. ‘So what you’re saying is that you thought this through. Like, actually thought this through.’

‘I know. Shocking, right?’ She cocked her head thoughtfully. ‘I think it means I’m growing as a person.’

Scott laughed, mood lightening. ‘You’re an idiot, you know that?’

‘An idiot? Really? Jackson might possibly stop being such a pain in our collective asses, and you’re calling me an idiot? I thought it was genius, personally.’

‘Maybe it was your kind of genius, Stiles,’ Scott said, grinning.

‘My kind of genius,’ Stiles repeated with a grin. ‘I’m totally going to take that as a compliment.’

Scott rolled his eyes.

‘So, what did Derek want?’ It felt safe asking now that they seemed to have got over their mini-argument.

‘How about I tell you over lunch?’

Stopping at the end of the road, Stiles turned to Scott. ‘Lunch? How did you know I was starving?’

‘Lucky guess.’

‘You’re buying, right?’

‘Yeah, Stiles, I’m buying.’

‘Awesome.’

Chapter Text

Raising her eyes from the book she quite obviously wasn’t going to manage to finish before class, Stiles was confused to see Danny slide into the seat opposite her. ‘Danny?’ He didn’t usually seek her out in the cafeteria, happy to sit with her if they were with their friends (who, as far as she knew, were all off doing couple-y things that lunch time), but less enthusiastic if they were alone.

‘Can I ask you something?’ Danny seemed almost agitated, which was weird. He was one of the most unflappable people she knew.

Ignoring the sandwich by her elbow, she picked up a couple of fries and popped them in her mouth. ‘If it’s whether or not I’m in the market for a sassy gay friend, the answer is totally yes.’

Danny quirked his lips. ‘You know what’s going on, don’t you? In the Pack?’

Stiles shrugged philosophically. ‘Says who?’

‘Jackson.’

‘Well, of course, he did,’ Stiles muttered, rolling her eyes. Jackson had an unwanted opinion about everything.

‘He said Derek answers your questions.’ Danny glanced up at her, a slight smile on his face. ‘Even those he doesn’t like.’

Stiles froze for a moment before grabbing another fry. ‘Ummm, I wouldn’t quite go that far.’

‘You wouldn’t?’ Danny sounded surprised.

‘Not really.’

Danny rested his elbows on the table, leaning forward slightly. ‘You really think that?’

Scrunching up her nose, she cocked her head. ‘Uh, yeah. Why?’

‘I don’t think you realise…’

‘Don’t realise what?’ Stiles prompted as Danny trailed off. She hated being kept out of the loop.

‘Nothing.’ Danny shook his head in amusement. ‘Nevermind.’

‘No, really, what..?’

‘What can you tell me about first beta?’ Danny interrupted, impatiently.

What she really wanted to do was ask Danny what he meant about Derek, but it was easy to see that Danny had something on his mind. ‘I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this has something to do with Jackson.’

Danny sighed, sounding tired. ‘Who else?’

‘Dude, do I know that look. I saw it in the mirror every night the month after Scott got bit.’ She swallowed. ‘Hell, I still see it sometimes. There might even have been a couple of times I actually banged my head against the wall. It kinda hurt.’

Danny laughed weakly. ‘So what can you say without getting into trouble?’

‘With who? Our illustrious leader?’ she asked cheerfully. ‘Lots.’

Danny eyed her curiously. ‘Don’t you mean your illustrious leader?’

‘Nope.’ She picked up her Coke and shook it to see if it had become magically full. It was still empty, so she crumpled up it in her fist. ‘Pretty sure I mean ‘our’ illustrious leader now, dude.’

‘He’s your leader. Alpha.’ Danny rolled his eyes. ‘Whatever. Not mine.’

‘Uh, Danny? You’re Pack. It kind of means Derek is your Alpha.’ Stiles wrinkled her nose. ‘How do you not know that?’

‘Jackson didn’t really say anything about Pack, only that I can come to the meetings. How the hell can Derek be my Alpha when I’m not even Pack?’

Stiles sighed, and resisted the urge to bang her head on the table. That shit hurt. ‘The moron managed to forget the part where to come to Pack meetings you have to actually be Pack, didn’t he?’

‘Yeah.’ Danny looked more resigned than anything else.

‘That’s so typical,’ she grumbled. ‘How difficult is it to just tell people what they need to know?’

‘I kind of assumed that there’d be some huge ritual to become a member of the Pack,’ Danny admitted, looking slightly embarrassed.

‘I did too,’ she told him, reaching over and patting his hand sympathetically. ‘But apparently all that’s needed is for Derek to consider you Pack and bam! Pack you are.’ She spread her arms and shrugged.

‘That seems far too easy.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Stiles agreed. ‘I was expecting some really crazy ass ritual with herbs and chanting, possibly some blood and probably involving the moon, but nope. Derek says you’re in and you’re in. Personally, I feel cheated. Like Hollywood lied to me.’

‘Stiles,’ Danny snapped.

‘Oh, right. Sorry. So, no ritual.’ She shrugged. ‘You’re Pack.’

‘Must have slipped Jackson’s mind along with everything else.’ Danny looked pissed, but he shook his head and refocused on Stiles. Danny looked tired as he rubbed a hand over his face. ‘How do you cope with it all?’

‘All what?’

‘I dunno. All this?’ He threw his hands up in the air. ‘It’s all more than a little bit crazy.’

Stiles laughed but it lacked humour. ‘Yeah. You have, like, no idea. Crazy is the biggest understatement in the history of ever. I mean, at least now we aren’t in danger of being torn limb from limb.’ Although that could change at the drop of a hat and Stiles really hoped she hadn’t jinxed them.

‘Uh. What?’

‘Well, you know.’ She waved her hand dismissively. ‘After all that shit with Peter Hale -’

Danny held up a hand. ‘Uh, when you say Peter Hale, do you mean that coma patient who just upped and disappeared into thin air a while ago?’

Breathing in, Stiles spluttered. ‘I - you. What? How can -? Please tell me Jackson has -’

‘No. No, I can safely say Jackson hasn’t told me a thing about Peter Hale. I think I’d remember that.’

Stiles groaned. ‘Seriously? Please tell me you’re punking me right now?’ She was really beginning to question her decision of leaving it to Jackson to fill in the blanks for Danny. Her assumption that it would help them reconnect or some such shit obviously couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead all it meant was Danny still didn’t know what he needed to. She wanted to say typical boys but it was more like typical Jackson.

‘Sorry, Stiles. Looks like it’s been left to you again.’

‘Well, of course it has,’ she grumbled.

‘So, come on then. Give it to me. What the hell happened with Peter Hale?’

Stiles huffed out a breath, resting her chin on her hand. ‘Well, you know that string of murders from a few months back?’ When in doubt, start at the beginning, she supposed.

‘Yeah?’

‘Peter Hale was the killer.’

Confusion spread across Danny’s face. ‘But I thought that was Allison’s aunt. Kate Argent.’

‘Oh. It was, too.’

Confusion turned into bewilderment. ‘How - how does that even work?’

‘Yeah. Well. So. Funny story.’

And who knew trying to condense six weeks of crazy into manageable bite size chunks would be so difficult?

By the time Stiles had finished, Danny had slumped back in his chair, his face slack with shock. ‘You’re kidding, right?’

‘Seriously, dude, I wish I was but I’m so deadly serious, right now it’s not even funny.’

‘That - that all happened?’

‘Yep.’ Stiles could relate to the incredulity: if she hadn’t been there for all of it, there was no way she’d believe even half of what she’d just told Danny.

‘Jackson saw all that?’ Danny sounded stricken, and Stiles really had no idea how Jackson had managed to luck out in the best friend stacks like that. ‘All that happened to him?’

‘Yeah. He did.’

‘That’s why he started acting even stranger than usual?’

‘Uh, I couldn’t really talk to the relative strangeness of Jackson, but, yeah. I’d guess it didn’t help.’

‘And Lydia? That’s why she ended up in the hospital?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Suddenly I’m understanding their rough patch much better.’

‘I couldn’t speak to that, dude.’ But she had been wondering about them because after Lydia had been released from hospital they had appeared to be genuinely happy together. Now, though, it seemed as though things had gone wrong again and while she couldn’t pretend to care about Jackson, she was worried about Lydia. But while Danny was worrying about Jackson, didn’t seem like a good time to ask him about them.

Danny scrubbed his hands through his hair. ‘I - God. I’m going to kill him, the asshole.’

‘I think he was trying to protect you,’ Stiles offered, with a shrug. It wasn’t enough: the only thing you ever kept from your best friend was if you had a major ass crush on him. Otherwise, all other information should be fully disclosed.

‘That’s bullshit.’ Danny’s jaw clenched. ‘He was the first person I told when I thought I might be gay. And he couldn’t even tell me this.’

‘To be fair - and you know how much I hate being fair to Jackson - gay people exist, whereas general wisdom says werewolves don’t.’

‘Yeah. Well, I’m still going to kill him.’

‘Seems fair.’ She took a bite out of her sandwich.

‘So, come on then, what exactly does all this mean?’ Danny waved his hands about vaguely. ‘Being Pack?’

Stiles, assuming that Danny was going to need time to process, had been about to pick up her book to try again. Only twenty minutes until class. She snatched back her hand and looked at Danny. ‘You didn’t ask Derek?’

‘He…didn’t seem open to questions when he came round.’

‘Well, no. He rarely is.’

‘So him being bad-tempered is normal?’ Danny sounded relieved. Stiles could relate. It would have been wonderful if someone had been able to gift her with a Derek Hale handbook.

‘I wouldn’t describe it as bad-tempered,’ Stiles said, thoughtfully. ‘More cranky with a side of taking himself too seriously. Like, way too seriously.’

‘Well, however you describe it, you’re telling me that’s how he usually is?’

Stiles nodded.

‘Well, that’s good to know, I suppose,’ Danny muttered. ‘So, you were saying?’

‘Uh? Oh, right.’ She shrugged. ‘You’re protected by Derek and in return you have to protect and look out for the Pack. But at the moment you’re on what I guess is a kind of probationary period.’

‘Which means?’

‘Neither Derek nor Jackson thought to say anything? Seriously?’

‘Well, Jackson turned up a couple of days ago and said Derek had agreed and then when Derek came around to, I dunno, make it official, I guess, he just said that I was in.’

‘He used those exact words, didn’t he?’ Stiles groaned.

Danny nodded.

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘I swear every guy in this Pack suffers from some form of emotional constipation.’

A smirk crossed Danny face. ‘How does Derek deal with your word vomit?’

‘I think he filters it out.’

‘That’s probably good for your life expectancy.’

Stiles was about to laugh, but as she looked at Danny, she realised that he was being serious. She wanted to explain that Derek would never hurt her, but she had a feeling that Danny would consider such a protest as a confirmation rather than a rebuttal. ‘So basically you can come to all meetings and be bored out of your brain like I so often am.’

‘Is there anything you can tell me without you nearly getting killed again?’

Stiles grinned. ‘In case you’ve forgotten, I nearly got myself killed when I inducted you into the Secret Society of the Wolfman.’

A smile tugged at Danny’s mouth. ‘Does he know you call it that?’

Stiles laughed. ‘Uh, no. I actually value my life, thank you very much.’

‘So, I know there’s stuff going on with first beta..?’

‘Wow. Jackson really didn’t tell you anything.’ And yes, she was aware she was labouring the point somewhat, but would it kill everyone else in the Pack to be a little more forthcoming instead of leaving it all to her?

‘No, he didn’t. You’re lucky, you know, that Scott told you all about it from the beginning.’

Shaking her head, Stiles smiled ruefully. ‘Honestly, I was surprised that he didn’t wake me in the dead of night to tell me. He actually waited till the next day at school.’

‘I would have been fine with Jackson waking me if it meant he talked to me.’ There was a bitter twist to Danny’s mouth and Stiles realised with a start that Danny was jealous of her. Or, to be more precise, jealous of the fact that Scott had confided in her from the get go.

‘He still hasn’t talked to you, even though you know now?’ As much as she wasn’t a fan of Jackson’s, Stiles wished she could hit him upside the head and make him get his shit together. Danny didn’t deserve the crap Jackson was giving him.

‘No.’ Danny looked more miserable than she’d ever seen him.

‘You should punch him in the face and make him talk to you.’

‘Is that how you do it with Scott?’

‘Nope. But I chained him to a radiator once and gave him a dog bowl with his name on it.’

Danny raised an eyebrow. ‘And how did that work out for you?’

‘Not brilliantly but also not terribly.’ Much.

‘Right.’ Danny eyed her dubiously. ‘I think I’ll save that one for later.’

‘So Jackson is being a douche and you decided to ask me instead?’

‘Well, I suspect Scott would be about as useful as Jackson,’ Danny said, dryly. ‘And I know the first rule of Pack is don’t talk about Pack.’

‘Yeah,’ Stiles agreed with a laugh.

‘So that left you.’

Stiles blinked. ‘Well, there’s still always Derek. Wait, what am I even saying? That would be a train wreck. He hates using his words.’

Danny cocked his head to the side. ‘But he’ll use his words for you, won’t he?’

‘Well, uh, I wouldn’t say that,’ said Stiles, feeling vaguely discombobulated. ‘I just bug him until he gives in, is all.’

‘I thought people who bugged him ended up dead?’

She rolled her eyes. ‘Apparently that doesn’t apply once you’re Pack.’

Danny gave her a long, considering look. ‘Okay,’ he said finally, but Stiles was left with the feeling that Danny had come to some conclusion she’d completely missed.

Trying to work out what Danny thought he knew, she took a drink and nearly spilt it down her top. ‘So, first beta, right? That’s the one you wanna know about?’

‘As long as it won’t get you killed, yeah.’

Stiles considered it for a moment. ‘I can tell you plenty before we get to the point where I’m in danger of dying a painful and bloody death,’ she told Danny as reassuringly as she could. New York was what she had to keep her trap shut about.

‘Well, that’s good I suppose,’ Danny said with small smile.

‘Okay. So, basically, both Scott and Jackson both have the potential to be first betas because they were both bitten by an Alpha.’

‘But because they were different Alphas that makes it tricky, yeah?’

‘Yeah, no. Scott was bitten by Derek’s crazy uncle Peter and Jackson was bitten by, well, Derek.’ She stared at him curiously. ‘Seriously, Jackson didn’t even tell you any of this?’

‘He tried. A few days after you inducted me.’ He threw her a quick smirk before continuing. ‘But it made the kind of sense that doesn’t.’

‘Well, that’s just peachy,’ Stiles muttered. ‘So as far as this whole first beta thing goes, because two people got the first bite, Derek has to choose which one he wants.’

‘Choose?’

‘Yep. From what I’ve been able to gather and extrapolate, in the rare event that an Alpha is Packless, the first person they bite should be someone they think would make a good second-in-command. Someone who can help organise the Pack and keep it in running order.’

‘And Derek’s uncle chose Scott?’

‘Yeah,’ Stiles said, slowly. ‘I think he ended up regretting it.’

Danny raised an eyebrow in question.

‘Okay, so I callously ignored his puppy dog eyes and forced the doofus to change his password after this so now it’s just a silly story.’

‘Oh god, his password wasn’t 1234 was it?’

‘No.’ She grinned. ‘It was way worse than that.’

‘Worse than 1234?’ Danny repeated dubiously.

‘Yeah, difficult to comprehend, I know. Both his username and password were Allison.’

Danny stared at her for a moment before he started to laugh. ‘You’re kidding me, right?’

‘No word of a lie, dude. Allison.’

‘That’s. Wow.’

‘I know, right?’ She grinned. ‘Peter really wasn’t that impressed. You should have seen the look on his face. Classic.’

And, Stiles realised, as she laughed with Danny, that this was the first time she’d been able to laugh about anything that had happened that day. As long as she isolated that one moment then it was funny. The before and after, not so much. But that? Yeah, that was pretty funny.

‘And Derek chose Jackson?’

Stiles nodded. ‘At least, I guess. I’ve never really asked how that all went down.’

‘Huh.’

Staring at Danny, Stiles was struck by a thought. ‘You’re angry with Derek, aren’t you?’ It seemed so obvious that she felt like kicking herself for not realising sooner.

‘Uh-‘

‘Very articulate,’ said Stiles dryly. ‘But I get it. I do. Along with the mind-numbing fear that a bloodthirsty insane monster wanted to rip us limb from limb, I was so angry with whoever or whatever had done this to my best friend. I’d be angry with Derek, too.’

‘But Scott had this done to him against his will,’ Danny said, rubbing at his eyes. ‘Jackson asked for it. Several times, by all accounts.’

‘Oh.’ She thought for a moment. ‘So you’re angry with Jackson then?’

‘It’s just.’ Danny shrugged, looking uncomfortable. Which Stiles could understand; werewolf best friends aside, she and Danny didn’t really talk all that much so the idea of talking to her about Jackson probably felt a little odd. ‘Jackson hasn’t been in a good place for a while. I wish he’d just talked to me about it first.’

‘Maybe this’ll help him?’

‘Like a magical cure? Something that’ll make all the problems he had before being turned disappear?’

‘When you put it like that it sounds really stupid.’

‘Yeah,’ Danny agreed. ‘So, what happens if, after he’s decided, Derek thinks he chose wrong?’

‘It’s not like, set in stone or anything, new wolves can join a pack and then the pack structure can be altered. So Derek can change his mind, though I think he’d prefer to get it right the first time.’

‘Looks bad if he gets it wrong?’

‘Yeah. Pretty much.’

Danny glanced at his watch. ‘Damn it, I’ve got to get to class.’ He pushed the book lying forgotten between them towards Stiles. ‘And so do you.’

‘Do I have to?’ she whined. ‘I’ve kinda only read the first twenty pages.’

‘That’s your own dumb fault.’

‘But it’s so boring, you know? Why can’t we read something fun, like, I dunno. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase?’

‘Like what?’

‘Nevermind.’ Reluctantly, she shoved her books back into her bag as Danny started to stand. ‘I’ve just been reading a lot of books with either wolves or werewolves in them. That was one of the more awesome ones.’

Danny paused as he stood up, a wary look on his face. ‘Shit, your next essay isn’t going to be on the representation of wolves in literature, is it?’

‘No, but I like that.’

‘Oh, God. I’m giving you ideas.’

‘Believe me, Danny, I don’t need any help with bad ideas.’

Danny laughed. ‘So, you know when the next full moon is?’ he asked, picking up his bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

‘End of the month.’

He blinked at her. ‘You knew that awfully quick.’

‘Trust me when I say you’ll learn the cycle of the moon real quick. I recommend getting a moon app and programming it to alert you to full moon. It’ll explain so much.’

‘Yeah?’ Danny waited for Stiles to stand and shoulder her bag.

‘At a full moon they’re way more hormonal than I ever am.’

Pushing open the door and letting Stiles walk out in front of him, Danny shuddered. ‘There’s an image I didn’t need.’

She shrugged. ‘I’d say sorry, but you’ll see what I mean.’

‘I guess that’s something to look forward to then.’

Stiles shook her head. ‘Not really. There’s a lot of growling and posturing.’

‘And that’s different from every other day, how?’ Danny asked, grabbing Stiles’ t-shirt and hurrying her along the hallway with him.

Pulling her t-shirt free, Stiles grinned. ‘Point, set and match to Mr Danny Mahealani.’

‘Hurry up, Stiles.’

‘You know,’ she said as they approached the classroom, ‘we should totally set up a support group.’

‘You mean, something like, ‘The Unbitten Friends of the Beacon Hills Pack’?’

‘That’s good,’ Stiles allowed, cocking her head to the side, thinking. ‘But I was thinking more along the lines of Furry Friends.’

‘No,’ Danny said flatly without looking at her.

‘What? Come on, Danny.’ Knocking her shoulder against his, she laughed when he shot her a long-suffering look. ‘That’s an awesome name.’

‘It’s a terrible name.’

‘I like it. It’s got a certain ring to it, don’t you think? Furry Friends.’

‘Derek will definitely kill you if you mention Furry Friends around him.’

Stiles felt a wicked smile spread across her face. ‘He’ll totally and utterly hate it, won’t he?’

Danny shook his head as he pushed open the classroom door. ‘I worry that you aren’t worried by that, Stiles.’

Scott was deep in conversation with Allison, but when he noticed Stiles he grinned and waved at the empty seat next to him. ‘Stiles, here.’

‘What can I say, Danny?’ I’m a bad, mad person.’

Chapter Text

‘Faster. Move faster,’ Derek yelled up the cliff face.

Scott and Jackson were climbing it about as fast as they could, but there didn’t seem to be all that many foot holds. It wasn’t like wall climbing in gym.

The sun was beating down relentlessly but evidently Derek was unconcerned with concepts such as breathing and heat-stroke. It seemed Northern California thought temperatures pushing sixty-five degrees were acceptable for February.

Stiles was pleased with her decision to lounge around on the rocks. She was lying on her stomach, swinging her feet in the air, resting her chin on her arms, watching.

Both were coated in sweat and breathing hard, and Stiles was sure that if they had the breath to spare they’d be cursing Derek out. Sometimes she joined in whatever Derek had Scott and Jackson doing, but not this time. First off, this was punishment and Derek was running them ragged; not Stiles’ idea of fun. Second, with the sun blazing down, she was much happier relaxing in the shade offered by the trees than running around like a crazy person.

‘What if they fall?’ she called across to Derek.

‘Then they better know how to swim.’

Stiles peered out over the pool of water in front of her. ‘Is it deep enough?’ she asked doubtfully. She had swum in it before, so she knew it was deep enough for that, but she didn’t know if it was enough to stop a werewolf from going splat at the bottom.

Derek glanced over at her.

‘Look, I’m not saying they don’t deserve this, they do. They really, really do.’ She ignored Scott twisting around to glare at her. ‘I just don’t want them to drown or anything.’

‘They won’t drown.’

‘Well, okay then. By all means carry on.’

Derek shook his head, then ignored her in favour of yelling at Scott and Jackson some more. Stiles picked up her book again, and opened it to the relevant page, Derek’s yelling fading into the background.

Stiles was shocked out of her chapter by a huge splash and she jumped as the cold spray hit her.

‘Hey!’ She sat up, closing her book.

Scott broke the surface of the pool of water, coughing and spluttering. She glanced away to stop herself from following the water that was running down over his shoulders and chest.

She coughed, her mouth suddenly dry. ‘What happened?’

Scott pointed and she looked up and saw Jackson high above on a rocky ledge, laughing down at Scott.

‘He fell,’ Derek said from where he was leaning against the cliff rock, arms crossed, a truly impressive scowl gracing his face. He couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to glare more at Jackson or Scott.

‘Yeah, I got that,’ Stiles said, realising that she was now lying in the sun. She looked around. ‘Hey, how long have I-’

‘Not long,’ Derek interrupted. ‘I was about to tell you to put on more sun cream when this dumbass fell.’

‘I didn’t fall,’ Scott protested, as he climbed onto the rocks where Stiles was. And now she was totally ignoring the way his shorts rode low on his hips. ‘He pushed me.’ He pointed up at Jackson who was still laughing. This was the first time Stiles had seen him so carefree for ages. Of course it would be at Scott’s expense.

‘So why don’t you get back up there and push him in?’ Stiles suggested, squinting up at Scott.

‘I’m just about to,’ he said, taking a step closer to her, a grin on his face.

‘Oh, no. Don’t you dare,’ Stiles squealed, as she realised what Scott planned to do. But before she could jump up and run away Scott shook his entire body, spraying her with drops of water.

His eyes were shut, so instead of staring at him, Stiles seized the moment. She stepped forward and pushed Scott with all her might. He stumbled backwards, caught completely unawares, and, arms flailing comically, landed back in the water with a loud splash and a yell. Stiles flung her arms up in the air in victory and did a little dance on the spot.

As Scott resurfaced she yelled, ‘Serves you right for getting my book wet.’

Jackson had never stopped laughing at Scott, and even Derek had cracked a smile. In fact...Stiles narrowed her eyes, studying Derek. ‘Are you laughing?’

‘Not funny, dude,’ Scott said, treading water. ‘Not funny at all.’ But he didn’t sound angry anymore. In fact, he sounded about as surprised by Derek’s reaction as she was.

Since Peter and Kate had died, Derek had been smiling more, but it had mostly been half smiles and the occasional chuckle. Full-on smiles were rare and Stiles didn’t think he’d ever full-on laughed.

‘Come on, Scott,’ Derek said, his amusement evident in his voice. ‘Get back up there.’

Scott groaned, but started climbing anyway.

He glanced up at Jackson who was relaxing on the ledge, still grinning. ‘And you, get moving again.’

Jackson groaned theatrically, but didn’t argue.

‘When are you going to let them stop?’

‘When they can hardly move.’

‘Oh boy.’

Derek grinned over at her. His smile, though, faltered as he looked past Stiles. He didn’t snarl or move, so Stiles assumed it wasn’t anything or anyone dangerous. He was just alert.

Stiles turned around to see Allison climbing up onto the rocks Stiles was on. Scott had turned and his face brightened at the sight of Allison, but before he could do much more than smile at her, Derek was already yelling at him to concentrate on what he was doing.

‘It’s beautiful up here,’ Allison said, looking around the creek. The sun and the trees were creating weird and interesting patterns on the water and Stiles had to admit that it was easy to lose time studying them. ‘How come I’ve not been here before?’

‘Derek brings Scott and Jackson up here when they really piss him off,’ Stiles told her. ‘When he wants them to really work and not have fun just running through the woods.’ She glanced at one of the trees where she’d once noticed a wolf carved into the trunk. ‘How did you find it?’

‘Scott pointed the way out to me a couple of weeks ago. After a little while you just have to follow the noise.’

‘Oh. Right. There’s a lot of that,’ Stiles agreed.

Allison glanced over to where Scott was climbing the rock face again. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’

Stiles looked over at Derek; this was a Pack place and she didn’t want to say yes if it wasn’t allowed. But Derek nodded briefly.

‘Sure.’ Stiles sat down on the edge, making sure she was firmly in the shade again, and dangled her feet in the pool, enjoying the cold of it. ‘No Danny or Lydia?’

Allison kicked off her flip-flops. ‘Danny’s on a date.’

‘Of course he is.’ She scratched her head. ‘And Lydia?’

Allison glanced over at Jackson, her eyes crinkled with concern. ‘Lydia was said she was busy.’

‘Riiight. Busy.’ She worried her lip between her teeth. ‘She okay?’

Allison shrugged. ‘I guess. She hasn’t said otherwise. But then -’

‘Lydia isn’t exactly one to share her problems.’

‘No, she’s not.’ She waved a hand in the direction of Scott and Jackson. ‘So, what did they do this time?’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Tried to kill each other.’

‘Again?’ asked Allison.

‘Yeah. They kind of both went a little moon-crazy, what with it being the full moon in a few days.’ Stiles lay back against the rock, shielding her eyes with a hand so she could see Allison. She really needed to buy a pair of sunglasses. ‘They kind of ignored Derek telling them to stop until he Alpha-voiced them. So he marched them straight down here about, oh, about three hours ago.’

Allison raised her eyebrows in understanding. ‘Which is why Scott had to bail on our date.’

‘Oh, wait. It’s your Valentine’s date, isn’t it? I’d totally forgotten or I’d have let you know.’

Allison smiled over at her. ‘It’s not your fault. Sometimes,’ she said, raising her voice so that it definitely carried, ‘Scott has to take responsibility for his actions.’

Stiles laughed as Scott huffed loud enough for them to hear him say, ‘It wasn’t like I planned this.’

‘That’s not a good enough excuse, McCall,’ she yelled. ‘You’re so very making this up to me later.’ Allison glanced over at Stiles. ‘What have you been doing while they’ve been climbing all over the place?’

Stiles reached above her head and felt around for her book. She found it and waved it in the air. ‘Reading.’

They sat at the edge of the pool for a few minutes before Allison turned to Stiles. ‘So when is Derek going to make a decision about who’s going to be his first beta?’

Stiles sat up and stared at her. ‘Did Scott tell you about that?’

‘Uh, yeah. Was he not supposed to?’

She glanced nervously over at Derek. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to them but, well, that seemed to be when Derek was most likely to scare the crap out of you. ‘Well, I suppose it kind of depends on when he told you.’

‘A couple of weeks ago, I guess. After Derek talked to him and Jackson about it.’

‘Well, then, uh, no, not really.’ Although, on the plus side it did prove that Derek hadn’t kept her in the dark while Scott and Jackson had been in the know for ages. A part of her had worried that Derek had been keeping her away from Pack business. But, thinking it through, it sounded like Derek had told her before he’d spoken to Scott and Jackson.

‘He didn’t tell me it was supposed to be a secret,’ Allison said, apologetically.

Stiles sighed. ‘Knowing Scott, he probably hadn’t realised that Derek meant you as well when he said not to talk about to anyone outside of the Pack.’ At least she hoped that Scott hadn’t realised because otherwise that meant he’d disobeyed a direct order from his Alpha. Stiles often bent the rules of what Derek told her to breaking point, but she never actually broke them.

‘So Derek isn’t going to kill him?’ Allison asked, throwing a troubled glance in Derek’s direction.

Stiles looked over at Derek, her eyes lingering on his tattoo. ‘I...don’t think so.’

Thank goodness Scott had no idea that they were expecting what was essentially a werewolf delegation over the Easter break. She had a feeling that Derek would be far more angry with Scott if he had been talking about the way the werewolf world worked with the daughter of a hunter than about who might be chosen as first beta.

‘Okay, that’s good,’ Allison said, the relief evident in her voice. ‘So do you know when Derek is going to choose?’

‘I don’t know.’ She kicked her feet in the water. ‘Whenever they stop being morons, I guess.’ It wasn’t like she was psychic or anything.

‘That’s going to be a while then,’ Allison said, grinning at her.

‘Hey!’ Scott and Jackson shouted from the top of the cliff face, glaring down at both of them.

Derek’s growl reverberated around the creek and both of them disappeared from view.

‘Now who’s afraid of the big bad wolf,’ Stiles murmured, startling a laugh from Allison.

‘Is it wise to say that?’ she asked, looking nervously around them as if Derek was creeping up on them, and not standing by the really lame waterfall on the other side of the creek.

‘What? Oh, Derek.’ She waved off Allison’s concern. ‘He knows I’m just giving Scott and Jackson shit. It’s fine.’

Allison didn’t look all that convinced, but then she always looked a little nervous around Derek. Stiles suspected it had something to do with how she’d shot him with a crossbow. Twice. She wanted to apologise but neither Scott nor Stiles thought it was a good idea to bring that up.

Derek was already wary of Allison. There was no need to stir up memories of her being the daughter of a (more principled than most) hunter and niece to the psycho who had killed his family. They didn’t really spend a lot of time together, and even when they were in the same space they didn’t really talk.

‘So it looks like the work on the house is going well,’ Allison said.

‘Yeah, not only does it have four walls and a roof but every room in the house has walls with no body-shaped holes in them. I’d say it was a Christmas miracle, but, you know -’

‘It’s not Christmas.’

‘Exactly. I said we should have had a party for such a momentous occasion but I was vetoed. Although everyone agreed that we have to have a party when the whole place is finished.’

‘Even Derek?’

‘Well, okay, not Derek, but he totally doesn’t count.’

‘How do I not count if it’s my house?’

Stiles leaned back on her hands and grinned up at Derek who was looming darkly over her. He probably thought that he looked intimidating, frowning down at her, his arms crossed, but he just looked grumpy. And maybe slightly amused. But mostly grumpy. ‘Because you don’t want a party.’

‘I could ban you all from the house,’ Derek said. He sat down next to her, dangling his bare feet in the water. Derek hated wearing shoes unless he really had to. Also shirts. But Stiles was kind of okay with that. Who wouldn’t be okay with Derek wandering about shirtless?

‘You could ban Scott and Jackson,’ she agreed. ‘But you can’t ban me. I’m human.’

‘I knew I should never have told you that.’

‘Ah, well, the beauty of hindsight,’ Stiles teased, leaning into his shoulder and grinning up at him as cheekily as she knew how.

Derek growled and Stiles saw Allison jump out of the corner of her eye. She twisted around, her head still resting on his shoulder. ‘Relax. He’s teasing.’

Allison leaned forward, looking around Stiles at Derek who was frowning out over the water. ‘He growls when he’s teasing you?’ she asked doubtfully.

‘Don’t worry, you’ll eventually learn all of his growls.’

‘All of his growls?’ Allison repeated, looking half alarmed and half amused.

Stiles nodded. ‘He has a few.’

She jumped when Derek’s hand grabbed the base of her neck. Gently, though. ‘I really think you should stop talking.’

Stiles pretended to think about it. ‘Uh- no. I don’t think so.’

Derek glared at her, but it was, in Stiles’ opinion, half-hearted at best.

‘Look, Allison needs to know when you’re being serious and when you’re not.’ She poked him in the shoulder. ‘I’m being helpful here.’

‘I’m always serious.’

Stiles laughed. ‘Ha! If that was true, you’d have killed me ages ago. Hell, you’d have killed me in the second week you knew me. I think it’s time for you to face the fact that I no longer believe that you’re going to kill me every single time that you say you will.’

‘She, uh, she may have a point there, actually,’ Allison said, shrugging apologetically. ‘You do threaten to kill her an awful lot. If you were going to do it, you’d probably have done it by now.’

Derek growled.

Allison looked uncertain for a moment, but then she grinned and looked at Stiles. ‘Teasing?’

‘Teasing,’ Stiles confirmed.

Before Derek could say anything Scott and Jackson stumbled onto the rocks, breathing hard, dripping with sweat. It was kind of icky.

‘I haven’t been this out of breath since I had asthma,’ Scott gasped, hands on his knees.

‘Just as long as it isn’t another panic attack,’ Stiles muttered, grinning at Scott when he glared at her.

Jackson was standing next to him, hands on hips, looking about ready to fall over.

‘They look half dead,’ she said quietly to Derek.

Derek smirked. ‘Good.’

‘No, not good. Not good at all,’ Scott said.

‘Well then, maybe you and Jackson should stop trying to kill each other,’ Allison suggested with a smile that suggested that she and Scott where going to be having words later on.

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ Scott whined, walking over to where Allison was sitting.

Stiles quickly averted her eyes as Allison leaned up for a kiss. She caught Derek’s eye and looked away, feeling embarrassed for no reason she could think of.

Derek waved Scott and Jackson onto the rock. ‘Lie down. Relax for a minute. We’ll go back to the house when the sun sets.’

Scott collapsed next to Allison, stealing another kiss from her, while Jackson just dropped where he stood.

‘I’m really not sure I can move any time soon,’ Jackson groaned. He was lying spread eagle on the rocks and Stiles had the urge to throw stones at him.

‘Good,’ Derek said. ‘That was the idea.’

‘I still don’t know why you blamed me and not McCall,’ Jackson grumbled. ‘It was his fault.’

‘My fault?’ Scott exclaimed, his eyes flashing amber. ‘How was it my fault?’

Derek groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face. ‘Will you two shut. The Hell. Up.’

‘But-’

Before even Derek could say anything, Allison slapped her hand over Scott’s mouth and pointed an accusing finger at Jackson. ‘The pair of you shut up. I bet Derek and Stiles are tired of hearing the two of you arguing.’

‘You have no idea.’ If Derek didn’t choose soon, Stiles was going to hit him so hard it would bruise for at least five seconds.

‘So why don’t you two agree to disagree at the moment,’ Allison suggested. ‘Because if you don’t, I’m sure Derek would be more than happy to make you climb all over this creek a couple hundred more times.’

Derek grunted in agreement.

‘So you two will either talk about something else that you agree on-’

‘So lacrosse then,’ Stiles injected.

‘-or you just don’t talk until you can without arguing.’

‘But-’

‘No,’ Allison said, holding up her hand to shut up Jackson. She pointed threateningly at him. ‘I’ll tell Lydia you want to watch The Notebook again.’

Jackson paled. Actually paled. And mimed zipping his lips. Allison smiled sweetly at him.

Scott snorted in amusement and Allison turned her glare on him. ‘Oh no, you don’t. You are just as bad as he is and don’t think you’re not in all kinds of trouble.’

Scott looked like he wanted to protest, but since Allison had already shut him down, he held his tongue.

‘Now, are you two going to be civil? At least for the rest of today?’

Jackson sent her a long suffering look but settled down and allowed Allison to draw both him and Scott into a conversation about their homework assignment.

Stiles glanced over at Derek to see what he thought of Allison shutting Scott and Jackson down so effectively.

Stiles nudged him with her shoulder. ‘She’s kind of awesome, isn’t she?’ she asked quietly. If Derek could be shown that Allison wasn’t the threat he obviously still kind of believed her to be, then life would be so much easier for Scott. And, by extension, the rest of the Pack.

Derek glanced down at her, looking vaguely confused. ‘The Notebook?’

Stiles snorted. ‘Oh, you see, Lydia is kind of obsessed with it but she’s finally letting him watch other movies.’

‘Is it that bad?’

‘I think it’s that bad if you’re forced to watch it at least twice a week for six months.’

‘Six months?’

‘I know, right? Cruel and unusual punishment. If ever you want to shut Jackson up, I would totally recommend threatening him with repeat viewings of The Notebook. But lock him in the room, don’t sit in there with him.’

‘Will that work with Scott, too?’

‘I don’t think he’s seen it. It’s not his kind of movie, but I don’t think he’d react to it in quite the same way as Jackson does.’

Derek moved slightly closer to Stiles. ‘What would you chose for Scott?’

Stiles thought about it for a moment. ‘Uh, well, Scott is a Star Wars purist so if you put Menace, Clones and Revenge on a loop, that would be very painful to him.’

He glanced over at Scott, who was laughing at something Allison had said. ‘Yeah?’

Stiles nodded. ‘Trust me on this. The prequels cause him actual physical pain. I mean, I don’t like them, but he hates them.’

‘Good to know.’

Stiles glanced up at him in amusement. ‘You’ll have to get electricity, a TV and DVD player if you’re going to do that.’

‘I’ve got electricity,’ Derek protested.

‘What about a TV?’

‘No.’ Derek shrugged. ‘But then I haven’t got any plug sockets either.’

‘You might want to do something about that,’ she suggested, giggling.

‘Maybe.’

Stiles jumped as she felt someone pull on hem of her tee-shirt. Looking around she saw Allison leaning around Scott. ‘Don’t think I haven’t noticed you wearing your new clothes this past week.’

Scott paused in his conversation with Jackson (lacrosse. How shocking) and looked over at her, surprised. ‘You have new clothes? How do you have new clothes? You hate clothes shopping.’

‘I know. Believe me, I know.’ As far as she was concerned she now had enough clothes for the next three years and refused to go anywhere near the mall with Lydia and Allison ever again.

‘Lydia and I, we took Stiles shopping.’ She nudged Scott with her elbow. ‘I told you about that.’

‘You did?’

‘You didn’t notice?’ Allison asked, sounding outraged on Stiles’ behalf. Which was sweet but unnecessary. Stiles hadn’t expected anyone to notice her slight wardrobe change. She had just gone from baggy clothes to not so baggy. It wasn’t like she’d started wearing miniskirts and tank tops.

‘I thought you’d had a boob job,’ said Jackson, staring at her chest thoughtfully.

Derek growled low in his throat.

Scott and Allison gaped at him before Allison reached over and smacked him upside the head. ‘You ass.’

‘What?’ Jackson protested, raising his hands in surrender. ‘It’s not my fault I thought that.’

Stiles laughed awkwardly and tried to persuade herself that it in no way made her want to grab Scott’s discarded t-shirt and pull it on.

‘Shut up, Jackson,’ Scott said, hotly. Allison was holding onto Scott’s hand pretty tightly from the looks of things, otherwise Scott would probably have already punched Jackson.

How was it that after nearly four hours of training slash punishment, Stiles had managed to undo everything Derek had managed in less than five minutes solely by wearing new clothes?

‘What? You didn’t notice either.’

‘I also didn’t think she’d had a boob job, you moron.’

‘Look, she went from having nothing noticeable going on there to having quite the impressive rack,’ Jackson said. 'Was I not supposed to notice?'

This time Derek’s growl was noticed by everyone and made them all freeze.

‘And that,’ said Stiles to Allison, wanting to ignore everything that had just been said, ‘is his ‘one more sound out of you and I’ll tear you limb from limb’ growl. He seems to have bypassed ‘ripping out your throat’.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Jackson asked, obviously baffled.

Scott was trying to hide his grin behind Allison’s shoulder but failing dismally.

‘Before you two stumbled up here I was teaching Allison about Derek’s different growls.’

Jackson gave her a look that suggested that he thought she was crazy. Which was pretty much how Jackson looked at her all the time, so that was okay.

‘You know, everything from ‘shut up, you’re giving me a headache’, to ‘shut up, you’re pissing me off’, to ‘shut up, I just want a moment’s peace’.’

‘You’re certifiable,’ Jackson said.

‘Oh, come on,’ Scott said. ‘You mean you don’t have different names for all the times Derek growls at us?’

Scott launched into describing the various versions of Derek’s growl either he or Stiles had spotted. Allison was trying too hard not to laugh, but failing and Jackson seemed to be coming around to the idea.

Stiles glanced over her shoulder to see whether Derek was thinking of shutting them all up - or, you know, ripping out their throats. But instead of paying any attention to the others, he was watching her.

‘What?’

Derek shook his head.

‘No, really. What?’

‘Nothing.’

‘But-’

‘Stiles, it’s not important.’

She really wanted to keep badgering Derek because whatever it was, it was obviously something but Jackson’s eyes were flicking between them as he talked and Stiles wasn’t all that interested in letting Jackson find out anything about Derek that he didn’t want advertised.

Out of the corner of her eye Stiles could see Scott getting restless. He was leaning in close to Allison, their foreheads nearly touching. In-between staring adoringly into Allison’s eyes, he was sending furtive looks in Derek’s direction. He obviously wanted to scarper, but after an afternoon of pain, he probably didn’t want to risk pissing off Derek again. She wondered how long Scott would be able to wait before he cracked.

‘Hey, so I can go now, right?’ said Scott, looking hopeful.

Stiles shook her head. So. Not long, then. How shocking.

Stiles’ eyes skittered away as Scott tangled his fingers with Allison’s. ‘I mean, I don’t need to be here any longer, do I? There isn’t-’

‘You can go,’ Derek interrupted, the tone of his voice suggesting that he felt he’d had to deal with Scott’s bullshit for long enough today. And really, after running him and Jackson ragged for nearly three hours, it was kind of surprising that Derek had lasted this long.

‘Really?’ The surprise in Scott’s voice made Stiles roll her eyes.

Instead of answering, Derek just glared at Scott and Stiles slapped a hand over her mouth to hide her smile.

Scott obviously decided against questioning Derek’s decision too deeply and he scrambled to his feet, pulling Allison up with him.

‘So if Scott can go, I can too, right?’ Jackson asked, not waiting for an answer and standing up. His eyes darted towards the path leading back to the house.

‘Please do,’ Derek said, dryly.

Jackson didn’t say anything before he disappeared towards the house.

‘He’s such a polite young man,’ Stiles said.

‘Screw you, Stilinski,’ came floating back through the trees and Stiles couldn’t help but laugh.

‘I’ll see you later, okay, Stiles,’ Allison said, digging her heels in slightly as Scott pulled impatiently at her hand.

Stiles nodded, not quite sure what to say so deciding to err on the side of caution and say nothing at all.

Allison shot Scott a slightly frustrated look as she pulled against Scott to slow them down a bit more. ‘Bye, Derek. Uh, thanks for letting me, umm, stay.’

Derek nodded, acknowledging her and Stiles wondered if Mr. Argent had been giving Allison a few pointers on surviving in a Pack because she seemed to understand the dynamics way better than Scott.

‘Bye, Stiles. See you later.’ Scott didn’t even look at her as he yelled back towards the creek.

Stiles didn’t have time to stare after Scott because a pair of jean-clad legs obscured her view. Looking up, she saw Derek extending a hand towards her. ‘Come on.’

Stiles slipped her hand into his and huffed a laugh as he yanked her to her feet, making her nearly fall against him. ‘Jerk.’

As they made their way down the path, Stiles bumped her shoulder against Derek’s arm. ‘So, are you warming to Allison?’

‘What makes you think I don’t already like her?’

‘Really? You’re asking me that?’

‘It’s not that I don’t like her,’ said Derek cautiously.

‘It’s that you don’t trust her?’

‘You’re very annoying.’

‘What? Because I’m being insightful?’

Derek snorted.

‘You think I can’t be insightful?’ She would be insulted - if it was anyone else she would be insulted - but, hey, Derek was still getting to know her and her mad life skills. Scott was never shocked when she came out with any words of wisdom. Well, maybe sometimes.

‘I didn’t say that,’ Derek said, somewhat hesitantly.

Stiles laughed. ‘Just remember that I have hidden depths, okay? I might even rival Gandhi one day.’

‘I don’t even know how to respond to that.’

Stiles jumped as Derek’s hand came to rest at the base of her neck, but she didn’t try to shake him off. Instead she kept walking, kind of liking the warmth from Derek’s hand seeping into her skin.

By the time they arrived back at the house, both Jackson’s Porsche and Allison’s car were long gone.

‘So, where are you going?’

‘Home.’ She checked her watch, surprised that it was still relatively early. ‘Since it’s still early, I’m going to make dinner for Dad. Something that won’t kill him.’

Derek raised an eyebrow in a silent question.

She rolled her eyes. ‘His doctor is worried about his cholesterol so I’m worried about his cholesterol.’

‘And you’re cooking him dinner.’

‘What can I say?’ sad Stiles, spreading her arms. ‘I’m an awesome daughter.’

Can you cook?’ Derek asked, cocking his head.

‘Hey!’ exclaimed Stiles, punching Derek on the shoulder. ‘That’s mean.’

‘I’m just making sure you don’t accidentally poison anyone,’ said Derek, rubbing at his shoulder absently.

‘Really, really mean,’ she repeated.

‘Go home, Stiles.’ But she was fairly sure he was trying not to smile, so she wasn’t going to take him all that seriously.

‘One day, I’m going to cook for you and you’re going to see exactly what culinary delights you’re missing,’ she promised him. Or threatened him. Depending on how you looked at it.

Derek paused for a moment and Stiles watched something slide through his eyes, but it was gone before she could even hope to identify it. ‘Go home, Stiles,’ he repeated but this time his voice was soft and amused.

Chapter Text

Stiles cut the engine and threw the jeep into park, grabbing her cell just in case her dad happened to call and opened the door. She nearly hit Jackson’s Porsche, but decided not to blame the car for its douche-y owner.

Slamming the door, closed, she glanced up at the house, still ever so slightly bemused by how shiny and new it all looked. The last of the scaffolding had finally been taken down and so she could finally see the building in all its glory - it was no longer a decrepit death trap that threatened to fall on their heads at any moment, but instead, well, instead it looked like a house.

But she wasn’t here to admire Derek’s building skills, impressive as they were. She was here to find her Pack. Keeping an eye on the ground for stray roots, rocks or holes, Stiles made her way quickly into the forest. It may have been a clear night but that had never stopped Stiles from falling on her ass before. With all the time she was spending around Derek’s she was getting better at learning the terrain, but she didn’t have the skills that Derek, Jackson and Scott had. The full moon definitely helped, but she got deeper into the forest the light from the moon wouldn’t penetrate the leaves.

Walking towards Pride Rock, Stiles hoped that she’d still be able to find the Pack. Derek moved them around a lot every full moon, although Stiles had never worked out if that was a protective measure or because he was just restless. Probably a little bit of both, knowing Derek. Hopefully because Danny was spending his first full moon with the Pack, Derek would keep them all closer to the house in case they needed to return quickly.

She hummed quietly to herself, following the vague path she was fairly sure went the right way. She ducked under branches, jumped over downed trees and slipped down the odd slope, hoping that with all the noise she was undoubtedly making that Derek or one of the others would come across her soon. She didn’t want to get lost and need to be rescued again. Three times was embarrassing enough and Jackson’s smirk (both in wolf form and human) made her want to throw rocks at him. She was far more adept at reading road signs than she was navigating the forest.

It didn’t take long before Stiles felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickling, like she was being watched. ‘Derek?’ she called out cautiously.

She felt slightly stupid calling out into the black of the forest when she could easily still be alone. Experience, though, told her that Derek would happily keep trailing her - for hours, if need be, she imagined - until she realised he was there. If she didn’t notice him stalking her then he would spring out when she least expected it. Derek kept saying it was to teach her to be constantly aware of her surroundings, but Stiles thought it was because he enjoyed scaring the crap out of her. It was almost as if he acquired a sense of humour as a wolf. Although she wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a good sense of humour.

Just as she became convinced that Derek wasn’t actually there, a large shadow detached itself from the general gloom of the forest and moved towards her. Stiles froze for a second before recognising Derek. In wolf form his eyes remained red and Stiles still hadn’t worked out how he managed to hide himself so successfully when his eyes were like lasers.

‘Hey,’ she said, as he came and stood in front of her. There was a low rumble in his throat that wasn’t quite a growl and Stiles took that to roughly mean ‘what the hell are you doing here?

‘My dad got called out so I decided that I could either stay in and watch my brain dribble out my ears watching reality TV or I could come out here and fall over every tree root ever to exist looking for you guys.’

Derek huffed with exasperation. Derek’s expressions didn’t really change when he was a wolf, but she could recognise his usual ones through sound alone.

Her fingers were itching to reach out and stroke his muzzle; she was always surprised by how soft Derek’s fur was. But she didn’t dare, not until Derek seemed slightly less likely to snap her fingers off.

‘What?’ she demanded. She thought Derek would be happy that she’d decided to come and find the Pack. It was symbolic, or something, right? ‘Look, if you don’t want me here, I can go.’

She turned to walk back up the path she’d come. She didn’t even get to take a step forward before Derek had darted forward and was stood in her way, his paws spread, making himself seem even bigger than he was.

She raised an eyebrow. ‘So am I staying then?’

Derek took a step forward, butting his head gently against her stomach, herding her back in the direction she’d originally been walking.

‘Okay, I get it, I get it,’ she told him, placing a hand on the top of his head so that he wouldn’t overbalance her. ‘I’m walking this way, right?’

She started walking, Derek pressed close to her side and her hand rested on his head to make sure that she didn’t fall or trip.

Biting her lip, Stiles left her hand where it was and waited to see if Derek was going to shake it off as he led her through the forest. When he didn’t she ran her hand down his neck so it was resting lightly between his shoulder blades. As he moved, she could feel Derek’s muscles moving and it made her marvel at the power flowing through him. She couldn’t help but run her fingers through his fur, scratching lightly at the base of his neck.

In human form, Derek’s rather prickly nature tended to discourage others from touching him – or, you know, getting within ten feet of him – but in wolf form it was a different story. Stiles had a theory that when his wolf was in charge it suppressed Derek’s apparent aversion to human contact. That wasn’t to say he was suddenly an over-eager puppy, just that he was less liable to kill anyone. It wasn’t a theory she could exactly share with anyone else and it was one that she hadn’t had the guts to test. Although, Stiles glanced at her hand buried in Derek’s fur, that seemed to be changing.

‘So, did Danny do okay?’ she asked as Derek steered her around a thicket that seemed to have sprung out of nowhere. She swore that the undergrowth multiplied like Gremlins at night. It never seemed like there were as many obstacles to dodge while walking in the forest during the day. ‘He didn’t die a sudden and bloody death, did he?’

Derek’s answering rumble sounded content, which suggested that Danny was fine. Or at least not lying in a pool of blood somewhere in the forest.

‘You didn’t scare him too badly, did you?’

Derek knocked into her, making her stumble slightly. She tightened her grip on his fur in retaliation and glared at the dark shape next to her.

‘You’re hilarious,’ she told him flatly. ‘So, so funny. Really. Abbott and Costello could learn a thing or two from you.’

There was a low rumbling in his throat, making it sound like he was laughing at her.

‘Look, it’s not such a bizarre thing to ask, is it?’ She ignored the entire concept of a laughing werewolf because that was the kind of strange she wasn’t equipped to handle. ‘Considering how Scott went all Night of the Howling Werewolf on me before. You know, most memorable night ever.’

‘Although,’ she added, before Derek could say - well, growl - anything, ‘I’ll admit that that was mostly my fault.’

Or, even, completely her fault. Totally and utterly. Possibly Stiles hadn’t really been that convinced that it would be all that dangerous for her to be around while Derek taught Scott to fully shift. She had, maybe, become just a little relaxed about the whole Scott killing her thing thanks to it happening so often. So she hadn’t really put much stock in Derek’s predictably dire warnings, that Scott would be more dangerous than usual while he learnt to shift.

Which probably explained why she had completely disregarded Derek’s warnings and decided to go up to the house to see how Scott was doing.

After nearly getting her throat ripped out (again), she discovered that Derek had planned to introduce her to wolf!Scott and wolf!Jackson a few weeks later and it would have been very calm and controlled with no added mortal peril. What had actually happened was ten seconds after slamming the door of the jeep shut, Stiles had found herself flat on her back gasping for air, with a snarling wolf standing over her, his teeth making a beeline for her throat.

Only Derek slamming into Scott’s side, sending him sprawling across the dirt had saved her.

Derek had then stood over her, growling ferociously until Jackson had herded Scott away.

Stiles had ended up practically hyperventilating, her hand wrapped tight around one of Derek’s hind legs. Which was kind of humiliating and really was best forgotten about.

All in all, it hadn’t been one of her better ideas.

‘Although, have you noticed how Jackson is way better at not nearly ripping out Danny’s throat?’ She scowled into the night, kind of hoping Scott was hearing this because he totally owed her the entire X-Men back catalogue for all the shit she’d put up with. And only some of it related to being a werewolf. ‘I bet Jackson would never nearly kill Danny.’

Derek didn’t acknowledge her, but it felt like he agreed. Especially as Stiles already knew that Derek had reservations about Scott’s control.

‘But then I guess Danny would never have wandered on up here after being told how dangerous it was,’ Stiles muttered.

Derek made a grumbling noise that sounded suspiciously like he was agreeing with her. Asshole.

And, yeah, okay, he might have a point, but, ‘Hey, it’s hardly my fault that you offer dire warnings on a nearly daily basis. And back then my ability to detect your level of seriousness wasn’t as finally tuned as it is now. I’ve had time to hone my abilities, really learn the difference between you being completely serious and just slightly serious.’

Pushing through the bushes behind Derek, Stiles stopped at the edge of the clearing.

Danny was standing in the middle, with a ball bouncing gently by his feet. Scott and Jackson were bounding around in front of him, eyes glued to the ball, and if Stiles had to guess, she’d say one of them had just dropped it at his feet.

As soon as they saw Derek they were on their bellies in front of him, whining quietly. One day she was going to film the two of them crawling like that and play it back when they were in human form. Their reactions could only be hilarious.

Rolling her eyes at the waves of smugness flowing off Derek as he dwarfed Scott and Jackson, Stiles walked over to Danny and picked up the ball. She threw it up in the air, catching it a couple of times. ‘Were you playing catch with them?’

Danny grinned and nodded. ‘And they were enjoying it.’

‘They always do. It’s like playing with a couple of overgrown puppies. Did Derek play?’

‘Uh, no. He sat at the foot of Pride Rock looking particularly haughty. Then his ears perked up and he took off.’ He smirked at her. ‘I’m guessing that was because you showed up.’

‘Probably.’

‘Your dad let you out?’ he asked as they walked over to where his bag was on the rock.

‘He got called out and didn’t say I couldn’t leave. The whole point of this evening was father daughter time. That’s hard to achieve when the dad isn’t there.’

‘Semantics.’

‘I like semantics. They help with the jumping through loopholes.’

‘I thought you got into as much trouble, semantics or not,’ Danny said, sitting down.

She collapsed on the rock next to Danny and poked him in the arm. ‘Oh ye of little faith. I’d get into so much more trouble without semantics to fall back on.’

Danny was about to say something when a couple of shadows loomed over them. Scott and Jackson were both standing there, stock still but practically vibrating with energy. Their eyes were following the path of the ball that Stiles was still throwing in the air.

‘Oh my god, you’re kidding me, right? How much energy do you both still have?’

Scott nudged the ball out of Stiles’ hands and rolled it over to Danny.

Laughing, Danny picked it up and threw it towards the forest. ‘They really like playing catch,’ Danny said, as Scott and Jackson chased after the ball, nipping at each others legs. ‘I get it, but -’

‘You really wish they’d not been quite such a cliche?’ Stiles rolled her eyes as Jackson body-checked Scott sending him careening in the wrong direction. ‘Hey! That’s cheating.’ Not that anyone listened to her. Plus she was totally certain that both Derek and Danny were rolling their eyes at her. Or wanted to. ‘You know what we should do? Get a ball machine for them. Then they’d be able to run faster.’

‘That’s both a brilliant and a terrible idea,’ Danny told her as Jackson skidded to a stop in front of him and dropped the ball at his feet, his eyes bright. He seemed extra bouncy and it was pretty obvious that it was due to Danny’s presence. She totally owed Scott a ‘told you so’.

Before Danny could grab the ball, Stiles snatched it and stood up. ‘My turn.’

Scott and Jackson stood in front of her. Scott’s tail was wagging and Jackson was eyeing the ball suspiciously, almost as if he didn’t trust her to throw it.

‘What do you think they’d do if I didn’t throw the ball?’

Danny laughed. ‘I wouldn’t try it if I were you.’

‘But it’s tempting, right?’ She glanced over at him, a smile playing on her lips. ‘Right?’

‘If you say so.’ He pointed at Scott and Jackson. ‘I don’t think they agree, though.’

‘What?’

‘I don’t think they’re going to let you get away with not throwing that ball.’

Stiles squealed with laughter as Scott and Jackson twinned around her legs, nearly knocking her on the ground. Flailing her arms around, she managed to stay upright, but only just.

Handing the ball to Danny, just in case, she bent down to give Scott a hug, grinning as he pressed his nose into the crook of her neck. She reached out towards Jackson and ruffled his fur, earning herself a warning growl.

‘Oh, whatever,’ she told him, resting her chin on Scott’s back. ‘You love it really.’

‘I think you’ve forgotten how overprotective Jackson is of his hair,’ Danny said with an easy grin.

‘Whatever,’ she scoffed. ‘All he has to do is tell me he doesn’t like it and I’ll stop.’ She laughed as Jackson snapped at her hand. ‘But he never says anything.’

‘Maybe he really likes it then,’ Danny said, earning himself a growl from Jackson, along with a couple of threatening steps in his direction.

Danny held up his hands, as if in defeat. ‘Just calling it as I see it, buddy.’

Jackson huffed and turned his back on Danny, making Stiles laugh. ‘I swear he’s funnier as a wolf,’ she said, standing up and brushing off her jeans. ‘Like his wolf doesn’t realise that he’s not supposed to have a sense of humour.’

Danny threw the ball up in the air, almost as though he was trying to taunt Jackson.

‘So none of them have tried to kill you yet?’ she asked Danny, taking the ball back from him before Jackson tried to snatch it from the air.

‘Did you think they would?’ Danny asked, eyeing them both dubiously.

‘Not on purpose.’ She rocked back on her heel and threw the ball as far as she could, watching it bounce into the long grass at the edge of the clearing. ‘Although it’s kind of a speciality of theirs. Well, Scott’s.’

‘Have they tried to kill you?’

Hiding her smile behind her hand as Derek turned his back on Scott and Jackson fighting for the ball, she glanced at Danny. ‘Not recently.’

‘That’s… not really all that comforting.’

She laughed. ‘Sorry.’

‘So when, how did they nearly kill you?’

‘Well, the first time. Yeah. That wasn’t so fun, so I’ll tell you about that one later -’ Not to mention how embarrassing it was ‘- but the third time we were out here, well that one’s hilarious. Scott nearly killed me, although,’ she allowed, as Scott took time out from trying to pin Jackson to glare at her, ‘it wasn’t on purpose. He didn’t mean to.’

‘Right,’ Danny said, dryly.

‘No. Really. Not his fault. We’re kind of on Scott twenty seven, Stiles one, on the ‘who’s tried to kill Stiles scale’.’

‘Do I even want to know what happened?’ Danny asked with a sigh.

‘Probably not,’ she admitted. ‘But it’s kind of a funny story.’

‘Funny?’ Danny repeated, looking at her like she was crazy. ‘You nearly dying is funny?’

‘Usually, no, but this time it kind of was.’ She jumped as Derek growled darkly in her ear. As her heart slowed back to something approaching its normal rate she turned to glare at him, doing her best to ignore just how close to her neck his teeth were. ‘How can something as big as you be so damn stealthy?’

Derek just stared steadily at her.

‘Was it seriously necessary to take ten years off me like that?’

Derek bared his rather considerable teeth at her.

‘I think that means yes,’ Danny muttered.

‘Thanks. I hadn’t guessed that.’

‘I don’t think Derek finds your story as funny as you do.’

‘Ignore him. It’s kind of funny.’ Stiles gritted her teeth as Derek knocked his head against her shoulder. He was still growling but it wasn’t as intense. ‘In a rather death-defying kind of a way, admittedly.’

‘I dread to think what you consider death-defyingly funny.’

‘You see that ledge over there?’ She pointed over Danny’s shoulder to a ledge with a very sharp drop. Despite the fact that Pride Rock looked out over the town, Stiles had never really thought about how high it was. Now, she knew.

Danny twisted around and frowned into the night for a moment. ‘Yeah,’ he said after a long moment. ‘What about it?’

‘Did you, by any chance, get told how, under no circumstances were you to go near it under pain of death?’

‘Yeah,’ Danny said slowly. ‘Oh God, Stiles. What did you do?’

Stiles was painfully aware of Derek sitting behind her. Glowering. ‘Well, that’s because Scott and I were playing tag and, uh, he kind of forgot that I can’t see as well as he can in the dark and I hadn’t really been paying attention to where I was running and he chased me over the ledge. So I kind of Wile E Coyoted it for the smallest fraction of a second before Derek grabbed me and pulled me back to solid ground.’

And Stiles still couldn’t quite believe that he’d got her in time. Just as the cold hard truth that she was going to die running off a cliff after surviving freaking werewolves had sunk in, she’d been yanked back against Derek’s solid chest, his arms clamping her to him. After a couple of seconds where everyone processed what had happened - and her heart started beating again - Derek yelled at her and Scott for an age.

After playing it in her head over and over again, she had come to the conclusion that Derek must have realised what was about to happen and already been close enough to grab her as she went over. Because, even with werewolf reaction times, she couldn’t see how he’d have got to her in time if he’d been on the other side of the clearing.

‘And you think that’s funny?’

‘Well, it is now. Not so much at the time, though.’ She cocked her head to side, frowning. ‘Of course, it’s possible my sense of humour has been irrevocably screwed up thanks to all my near death experiences.’

‘No, your sense of humour has been screwed up for years,’ Danny told her with a grin. ‘I remember some very dubious jokes during junior high.’

Stiles punched Danny on the leg. ‘That’s a downright dirty lie. Those jokes were gold.’ She paused for a minute. ‘Well, okay, some of them were terrible, but others were some of the best jokes you’ll ever hear.’

‘Really? You think jokes like ‘what do you call a deer with no eyes’ or ‘what do you call a dinosaur with no eyes’ are the pinnacle of your comedy career?’

‘Oh, come on, Danny,’ Stiles said, unable to stop herself from giggling. ‘Those are still funny.’

‘No they aren’t.’

‘Are too. And you forgot ‘what do you call a dinosaur with no eyes, dog?’

Before Danny could reply, Derek made a noise that sounded like a cross between a whimper and a growl.

‘What the hell was that for?’

‘I don’t think Derek likes your so-called jokes,’ Danny said. ‘I can’t say I blame him.’

‘Please,’ she scoffed. ‘Derek loves my jokes.’

‘I have never seen a werewolf look as pained as Derek does right now,’ he told her, looking at Derek.

And he was right. Derek looked like he was on the verge of clawing his ears off.

She was just about to threaten Derek with a morning filed with her kind of jokes when they all met up for breakfast, when Danny bumped his shoulder against hers. ‘So Derek can’t have been a wolf when it happened?’

‘I know what you’re doing,’ she told him, narrowing her eyes.

Danny shrugged unrepentantly.

‘But, no. He decided not to shift that night. Something about how I always court trouble or something.’ She shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.’

She jumped as a cool nose was pressed up against her neck, having momentarily forgotten Derek was sitting behind her. ‘Stop that,’ she told him, pulling away slightly. ‘Your nose is as cold as Jack Frost’s balls.’

Derek grumbled and Stiles was sure that if wolves could, Derek would be rolling his eyes at her.

‘Hey, Mr ‘not-only-am-I-a-werewolf-and-therefore-my-body-temp-runs-high-anyway-but I-also-have-a-fur-coat-to-keep-me-warm’, as a mere human I can tell you that it’s unseasonably cold tonight and I don’t want to be even colder.’

‘That’s kind of a mouthful,’ Danny said.

‘Yeah, it kind of ran away from me,’ Stiles admitted.

‘Yeah,’ Danny agreed, hunching slightly into his jacket.

‘So, you know, no cold nose,’ she said, turning back to Derek who was staring very intensely at her. ‘I bet you wish you could roll your eyes right now, don’t you?’

Instead of responding, Derek lay down, his flank pressed close against her leg, like a really long hot water bottle. ‘Well, that’s not cold at all,’ she murmured.

The first thought that jumped into her head was that she could curl up quite comfortably between his front and hind legs and be toasty warm. If Danny hadn’t been there and already shooting strange looks between her and Derek, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure she wouldn’t have given in to the impulse and curled into his side. Which was weird. Really weird. Who thought getting even closer to a werewolf was a good idea?

Danny’s frown was pulled away from them by Scott tearing after Jackson. ‘Do you think they even know where the ball is anymore?’

Stiles glanced around the clearing, but she couldn’t see it. ‘I think it’s devolved into their regular game of ‘kill me if you can’.’

‘Which one of them is Leonardo DiCaprio?’

‘Honestly, I think Jackson. Scott’s more the doggedly determined type who always wants to do the right thing.’

Danny jumped as they snapped at each other, the noise echoing around the trees, making it seem more like there was an entire team of werewolves in the woods, not just two.

‘Oh, it’s not serious,’ she assured him. ‘If it was, do you think Derek would be lying here with us?’

Danny leaned forward so he could see Derek around her. ‘He doesn’t look particularly concerned,’ he admitted.

‘He doesn’t look all that concerned when they are trying to kill each other. Only pissed off.’

Derek growled from where he was lying, head resting on his paws.

Stiles bumped him with her hip. ‘Hush, you.’

‘Don’t you have any survival skills?’

‘Huh?’ Because, really, she had awesome survival skills. They just tended to be thwarted by circumstances beyond her control.

‘You just told an Alpha to hush.’ His eyes crinkled and there was a definite upturn to his mouth.

‘So?’

Danny stared at her but before he could say anything Jackson came over and flopped down at his feet, breathing hard. Scott collapsed in front of Stiles a few seconds later, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.

‘Did you lose the ball?’ Danny asked Jackson.

Both Jackson and Scott glanced at each other before they looked away sheepishly.

‘Of course you did,’ Stiles muttered. ‘Why am I not surprised?’

Jackson snapped at her ankles, surprisingly careful not to let his fangs near her skin.

Derek lifted his head, baring his teeth at Jackson in warning.

‘Hey,’ Danny snapped, leaning forward and lightly tapping Jackson on the nose, making him jump. ‘Not cool.’

Stiles made an abortive move to put a calming hand on Derek’s head, ending up putting it on his paw instead.

‘You just smacked a werewolf on the nose and you say I’m crazy for hushing Derek. Really?’

‘That’s completely different,’ Danny protested.

‘Sure it is,’ Stiles said dryly.

Danny smirked.

As Scott started making snuffling noises, Derek heaved himself to his feet and roused both Scott and Jackson from where they were starting to fall asleep. Jackson finally stood after Derek shoved at his side with his muzzle a couple of times. Scott was harder to make stand and didn’t until Stiles kicked out at him, not hurting him but making it impossible for him to ignore her feet digging into his side.

‘Come on,’ she said, nudging Danny. ‘Time to go.’

‘Go?’

‘Back to the house,’ she said, yawning. Maybe she could get to bed before it hit 3am. That would be a new record.

‘I thought we’d stay out until morning.’

‘They do sometimes, but it’s cold tonight. At least for me.’

Danny rubbed his hands together. ‘Yeah. Me too.’

Stiles laughed as Derek shoved at Danny’s knees, making him jump slightly.

‘Was that really necessary?’ he asked, grabbing his bag and following Jackson towards the path that led them back to the house.

Stiles wondered if once the house was finished, if they’d all stay there over night on the full moons, instead of just the werewolves. If they were, she’d have to start thinking about what she was going to tell her dad. There was no way he wouldn’t notice that.

Before Derek could try and corral her, she jumped up off the rock and went to stand next to Scott. ‘I’m going, I’m going,’ she assured him. ‘No need to push me around.’

Derek approached her, glaring and pointedly shoved at her.

‘You’re utterly ridiculous,’ she told him, rolling her eyes at Scott who was still at her side. ‘Are you sure you’re not part sheepdog? Because you sure seem to enjoy herding us places. Oh my god, are you called Babe?’

There was a rumble low in Derek’s throat and she laughed.

‘So is that a no to the whole sheepdog thing then?’

‘If you were anyone else Stiles, you’d be so dead by now,’ Danny called back from the edge of the clearing.

‘What can I say, Danny? It’s my winning personality and charming wit.’

Danny swapped a disbelieving look with Jackson. ‘Yeah, Stiles that’s what it is.’

‘Uh, what does that even mean?’ She looked questioningly at Scott. ‘What are they saying? Does Danny doubt my charm and wit? Because they are legendary. Or, at least, they will be in a few years.’

Scott gave her a wide-eyed look before taking off to run rings around Danny with Jackson as they walked back.

'I’m hurt on so many levels.’

She jumped as Derek nosed at her hand. She smiled at him and scratched between his ears. ‘At least you understand the appeal of my charm and how awesome I am in general.’

Derek bumped into her. ‘I feel like you’re humouring me again,’ she told him as she followed the others back towards the house, Derek walking by her side.

Chapter Text

‘You chose Jackson?’ yelled Stiles, as she stamped up the steps and threw open Derek’s front door, jumping a little as it slammed hard against the wall. ‘Jackson ‘thought you got a boob job’ Whittemore for first beta! Seriously?’

Derek appeared on the landing and loped down the stairs at a sedate pace. ‘Did you say something?’ The smirk on his face merely increased how much she wanted to punch him.

‘Did I...did I say something?’ she seethed, marching up to him as his feet hit the floor and smacking him hard in the chest. ‘You damn well heard what I said. You chose Jackson instead of Scott. Did you catch rabies and go insane?’

Derek grabbed her hand and stared hard, his eyes concentrated completely on her and making her very aware of the fact that she was yelling at her Alpha. But, dammit, he’d chosen Jackson over Scott. That was so not on.

As she glared back at him, Stiles realised that she must have interrupted him fixing up one of the back rooms. He had smudges of dirt on his face and his hair was completely free of any hair product. She curled her fingers into a tight fist to stop herself from reaching out to see if it was as soft as his wolf fur. His wife-beater was even dirtier and had a couple of holes in it. She’d seen Derek shirtless many times before but for some reason those little holes were really appealing. Realising that she was drifting, Stiles gave herself a mental shake and refocused on why she was at the house in the first place.

‘I don’t have to explain my choice to you, Stiles.’

‘Derek, you chose Jackson. Do you have any idea how unbearable he’s going to be? He was a douche before, but now? I can’t even begin to imagine how much he’s going to lord this over Scott and how much he’s going to enjoy bossing me around?’

‘If I can’t boss you around, how will Jackson be able to?’ Derek asked with a put upon sigh.

‘Which is a good point, and one I hadn’t actually thought of, but that’s not important right this minute.’ She could feel the righteous anger that had sustained her during the drive up to the house dampening under Derek’s reasonableness. It was much easier to be angry at him when he was being his usual dickish self.

‘Then what is?’

‘How much do you think he’s going to hate that? That he can’t order me around. He’s going to be even more impossible than normal.’

‘Then come to me.’

‘I’m not going to come running to you every time Jackson’s an ass,’ she scoffed. ‘First off, I’m not that pathetic, thank you very much. Second of all, I’d be calling you up, like, a billion times an hour. And anyway, it’ll only make everything worse. I can deal with Jackson being all Jackson-like. I do it every day. I’d just prefer not to have to deal with it more.’

‘Maybe he’ll surprise you.’

‘Hi, have you met Jackson Whittemore? Professional douchebag and all round moron.’

‘You’re only mad because I didn’t choose Scott,’ Derek said evenly.

‘Do you blame me? Scott would make an awesome first beta.’

Derek shot her a skeptical look. ‘How do you expect to convince me of that, if even you aren’t entirely convinced by what you’re saying?’

‘I’m more convinced with Scott than I am Jackson,’ she muttered with a scowl. ‘At least Scott wants to do the right thing.’

‘Come with me,’ said Derek, turning towards the back of the house and tugging her along with him. It was only then that Stiles realised that Derek hadn’t actually let go of her hand and she felt a cold shiver go down her spine. Slightly confused by the fact that she’d not noticed holding Derek’s hand as she shouted at him, she let Derek pull her back through the kitchen, vaguely noting the tools all over the place, and out the back door. He pointed at one of the garden chairs that had been brought up by Jackson and Danny. ‘Sit.’

Pulling her hand free of his, she sat. Not because he had told her to, but because she was curious.

He grabbed another chair and sat in front of her, their knees touching.

‘You think making Jackson first beta will make him worse.’

She rolled her eyes. ‘Well, duh.’

‘What if this helps him?’

‘You mean, make him less of a douche?’ she asked slowly.

Derek nodded.

Stiles sat there for a moment, trying to imagine a Jackson she could actually like. She shook her head. ‘No, sorry. I just can’t see it.’

Derek leaned forward, pressing his knees against hers and resting his arms across her legs. ‘I started by thinking I was going to choose Scott.’

‘Well then, why did you change your mind then?’

Derek smirked at her. ‘You gave me the idea.’

‘M...me?’ Stiles spluttered. ‘How did I give you this totally mental, crazy ass idea?’

‘You said that you thought Jackson could be a good first beta.’

‘I would never say that,’ Stiles told him flatly. ‘Never.’

Derek smiled and shook his head. ‘You did.’

‘When?’

‘That time I found you watching lacrosse practice.’

Stiles opened her mouth to scoff at him because she hadn’t…oh god, she had said that. ‘And you listened to me? Why would you do that? Nobody listens to me. Don’t you know that yet?’ How did she always manage to screw things up without even meaning to?

‘It made me think.’

It also explained why Derek was actually answering her questions and hadn’t yelled at her to go home and accept his decision because he was the boss. Asshole was obviously enjoying watching her squirm.

‘Oh god, I really need to stop talking so much,’ she groaned, her chin dropping to her chest. ‘Scott is going to kill me.’

Derek gave her an honest to god smile and if she wasn’t so busy freaking out, she’d take the time to enjoy it. Smiles like that from Derek were still way rarer than they should be. ‘Scott isn’t going to kill you.’

‘He should,’ she told him glumly.

‘This is the best thing for the Pack.’

‘But why? Jackson is an ass. I know you know this.’

Derek rubbed a hand over his face. ‘Why can’t you accept what I tell you?’

‘Because a) I’m curious, and b) I think you’re more than a little crazy. Do you not remember how he tried to go all lone wolf on us and how much that didn’t work out? Like even a little bit.’ Derek’s hand wrapped around her knee, making her wince. ‘Just asking the obvious question, dude. No need to get all pissy.’

‘He was confused,’ said Derek shortly. ‘He got over it.’

Stiles shot Derek a curious look. ‘We never did get the story behind that shitstorm.’

‘And unless Jackson decides to tell you, you never will.’

All Stiles and the others knew was that Jackson had got himself into some serious trouble and Derek had got him out of it. For whatever reason, Derek hadn’t killed Jackson for it and he’d forbidden Stiles or Scott from questioning him. It was infuriating.

Stiles snorted. ‘Like Jackson’ll ever tell us.’

‘That’s Jackson’s choice.’

‘So Scott and I are just supposed to accept that Jackson’ll never do it again.’

‘Yes.’

‘That’s just stupid.’

‘That’s how it is.’

‘Well, I don’t trust Jackson.’

‘Yes, you do. You just don’t like him so much.’

‘No, not so much,’ Stiles agreed. ‘I really don’t trust him, either. No matter what you might say and I know you know that.’

Derek growled low in his throat, but it was halfhearted at best. ‘If I tell you, will it shut you up?’

‘For a little while.’

‘What I tell you doesn’t leave this house.’

Stiles nodded, wondering what Derek could possibly be about to tell her about Jackson that she didn’t know already. Douche: tick. Asshole: tick.

‘I was going to chose Scott because he was bitten first.’

Stiles had a joke about first come, first served on the tip of her tongue, but decided against it at the last moment. ‘Okay.’

‘That was my only reason and it’s a poor reason to choose a first beta.’

‘But-‘

‘He still doesn’t want to be one of us.’ Despite his neutral tone, Stiles wondered if it hurt Derek that Scott thought that being a werewolf was a terrible curse. ‘Both his control and his shifting are better, mostly when he’s around Allison, but until he accepts what he is, it’s never going to come easily to him.’

‘He wasn’t given a choice.’ Stiles wanted to be angry at Derek but none of that was his fault and Stiles was over blaming every little thing on Derek just because it was easy.

‘I’m not saying it’s fair, Stiles. Just that it’s the reality of the situation.’

‘And Jackson wanted it and so that’s why he’s so much better than Scott as this stuff,’ she concluded miserably. ‘You know, now he’s done with the ‘lone wolf’ thing.’

‘I need someone I can trust not to lose control and become a danger to those he’s supposed to be protecting.’

‘You don’t trust Scott?’

‘I trust him to a degree,’ Derek corrected, ‘otherwise he wouldn’t be here.’ And Stiles wasn’t going to ask what that meant. ‘But whenever I think he’s improving, he usually attacks you.’

‘The last time was my fault,’ Stiles protested.

‘Maybe, but Jackson didn’t attack you, and he was there, too.’

‘Is that it? Is that your only reason?’

‘You don’t think that’s good enough?’

‘I never said that. I just asked if that was it.’

‘It would also be good for Jackson’s confidence.’

‘Jackson’s confidence?’ spluttered Stiles. ‘Are you blind? Jackson is plenty confident.’

‘No, he isn’t. Jackson needs to belong somewhere. He’s a dick because he feels insecure. By making him first beta I’m showing him that I don’t think he’s disposable.’

‘Huh. O-kay.’ She frowned. ‘Let’s assume that I buy this idea of Jackson being insecure – which I don’t, by the way – then I guess that actually makes a kind of sense.’

‘Thank you,’ said Derek dryly.

‘But you have to realise that this is the Jackson who tripped Scott up on his first day of fourth grade, who pantsed him on photo day, who paint-bombed my locker and who blackmailed Scott and basically begged anyone who he thought might be a werewolf to bite him. He’s hardly my favourite person. It’s difficult to see how he can be anything other than a self-serving jerk.’

‘This will help.’

‘You think giving him power over Scott and me will make him a better person? Are you crazy? Have you never heard the phrase, ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’?’

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

Stiles snapped her mouth shut and blinked. ‘Did...did you just quote uncle Ben at me?’

‘This doesn’t give Jackson more power; it gives him responsibilities.’

And really Stiles just wanted to go back to the notion that Derek liked Spiderman and find out if he’d watched the movies or if he’d ever collected the comics. Then felt a pang deep in her chest when she realised that if he had, they’d all been destroyed in the fire. All of his stuff would have been destroyed in the fire.

‘But Scott will have to obey him, yeah?’

‘Because he’s first beta, yes. Not because Jackson can magically command him to.’

‘So what you’re saying is that you’re the only one with the magic voice.’

Derek rolled his eyes but carried on talking. ‘I’m sure there will be a few bloody muzzles before this is finally settled.’

‘So you don’t expect Scott to lie down and just take this?’

‘I’d be an idiot to. Those two could fight about the colour of the moon.’

There was something smug in his tone and her eyes widened in realisation. ‘Oh my God, you want Scott to challenge Jackson. See how he copes, what he does.’

‘I would never-’

‘That’s so sneaky. And underhand.’ Derek’s plans were usually much more literal. ‘I’m impressed.’

‘Stiles-’

‘Does this mean that Jackson isn’t first beta for the rest of time?’ Even knowing what she’d told Danny, Stiles needed to know that Jackson could still fuck it up.

‘No.’

Stiles grinned. ‘What? Can he be voted out?’ Werewolf elections. Still hilarious. ‘Can me and Scott form a majority and vote him out?’

‘My word is law on this.’

‘See?’ She poked his knee. ‘Totally a benevolent dictatorship.’

Derek growled but she just kept grinning at him. ‘Okay, so you’ve gone temporarily insane and chosen Jackson, but what about Scott? Did you even think about how he’d feel?’

One of Derek’s thumbs was rubbing slowly back and forth on the side of her leg, giving her goosebumps. ‘Scott knows that he’s Pack. He may be pissed with me for a while, but he won’t think that we don’t want him.’

Personally, Stiles was a little more doubtful about how quickly Scott would get over this than Derek was, but he’d made his decision and she was pretty sure nothing was going to change it. But, even so, ‘So this is kind of about making poor, misunderstood Jackson feel better?’ Because, like Danny said, life didn’t really work like that.

‘This is about giving Jackson something other than himself to be responsible for. You said it yourself that he’d be a good first beta.’

‘Eventually, yeah. In, like, a millennium, or something. But...’

‘Give him a chance, Stiles.’

‘Fine.’ She pointed a finger at him. ‘But when all this goes horribly wrong, don’t come crying to me, saying you’ve made a horrible mistake.’

‘It’s going to be fine.’

‘Wow. It’s like you’ve never seen a movie in your life. You’ve totally just asked for things to go horrifically and terribly wrong, you know that, right? And you’ll have no-one to blame but yourself because we all know better.’

‘Stop being melodramatic, Stiles, and go home.’

Which, yeah. Dad would be home soon and she didn’t want him worrying about where she was. Scowling one last time at Derek, she stood up, his hands falling away. When he refused to move his legs, she kicked slightly at his shins until he moved them. It took him a moment, but eventually he pushed his chair back, letting her step away.

‘You just wait,’ she told him, walking backwards. ‘Something’s bound to happen and then I get to say I told you so.’

Derek relaxed back into the chair, his legs stretched out in front of him, and shot her a sharp smile. ‘If you say so.’

Chapter Text

Stiles grabbed her bag from where it was sitting on the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. She was feeling pretty damn pleased with herself. In her hand was the list for the weekly shop, for once not left languishing on the kitchen table. There was a Pack meeting later in the evening and it was the first one since Jackson had been promoted. Scott had, predictably, been in a funk for the last few days and Stiles didn’t want to miss watching Derek trying to deal with the two of them. Derek would kill her if she was late but there was enough time for her to do something awesome for her dad and she was determined to succeed.

Shouldering her bag, she turned and started to walk towards the store, re-reading the list but then a shadow fell across her path, and she came to a rather abrupt halt. Stiles raised her head, and any words she’d been about to yell died in her throat. Standing in front of her, kind of in a semi-circle were three hunters. With the way they were dressed - not to mention the fact that they were totally packing heat - there was no way they were anything other than hunters.

They weren’t that close to her but there were three of them and, she realised, their car was parked behind them at an angle, hiding her - and them - from the store. Which wasn’t at all sinister. Really.

‘Hello, Allison’s friend.’

Stiles starred at the guy talking for a second before recognition slammed into her. Pinhead and Scarface. Shit. ‘Oh. You’re the creepy guys Allison knew at the Mall’ she said, trying to keep her voice casual. ‘I remember you.’

‘Who’s she?’ asked Third Wheel.

‘Someone who wants to get past.’ Stiles tried to step around the one she didn’t recognise but he moved towards her, blocking her path to the store.

‘The Hale Pack bitch.’ Pinhead’s face twisted into a sneer.

Stiles swallowed wrong and started coughing. ‘I’m sorry, I’m the what now?’

Scarface looked her up and down before his eyes widened. ‘It’s you. You -’ He licked his lips ‘- you look different. Totally doable.’

Which, yuck. Realising she was trapped - them in front of her, the jeep at her back - unease started to creep down towards her stomach. ‘Yeah. Last I checked I’m definitely me.’ She wrapped her hand around her bag strap. ‘And you really need to back up about a few billion steps. Maybe don’t stop until you hit the fourth quadrant. I mean, have you even heard of the concept of personal space?’

‘You used to dress like a boy.’

Stiles took a small step away, back towards the jeep. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I used to wear baggy clothes. The two are completely different.’

‘Yeah, well, I think I know why Hale keeps you around now.’

‘It’s my winning personality, right?’ She glanced around the parking lot, trying not to look like she was hoping someone would happen by. The thing she had learnt about hunters was that they were surprisingly skittish when normals were around, even if the concept of subtlety was lost on them.

She gestured towards the store. ‘What about the security cameras?’

‘A place like this don’t have cameras.’

Pinhead grinned. ‘Nice try, though.’

Well, it’d been worth a try. Never underestimate the stupidity of stupid people. ‘Thanks.’

Scarface and Third Wheel both stepped closer to her, while Pinhead stayed nearer the car - probably to act as lookout. Jerkface.

‘Shut your face, you little bitch.’

‘Seriously? Could you be any more of a cliche?’ She glanced around again, wondering where the hell all the people were.

‘Don’t even try to escape. We’ve got you surrounded.’ Third Wheel smiled lecherously at her, making Stiles shudder.

‘So are you going to tell me why you have me surrounded? I’m assuming there’s a reason?’

‘We just want to offer you some friendly advice,’ Pinhead said from the back.

Stiles glanced over at him before quickly turning back to Scarface and Third Wheel. They were closer and therefore more of an immediate threat.

‘Weirdly, I don’t think I’ll be listening to any of your advice. Friendly or not.’ Taking a step back, she banged up against the jeep. ‘Shit,’ she muttered. There really was nowhere for her to go.

All three of them laughed, an ugly sound that grated along Stiles’ nerves.

Why the hell didn’t she have a taser or something in her bag? At least then she’d be armed.

Stiles wasn’t a werewolf but she wasn’t exactly helpless either. She knew some self defence and had been taught how to fire a gun years ago. None of that, though, prepared her for fighting off three guys at once.

‘I think you’ll find it’s in your best interests to listen to us.’

‘Well, I think you’ll find it’s in your best interest to leave me the fuck alone,’ she snapped back.

‘You’ll watch your tone,’ Pinhead snapped, abandoning his place as lookout and moving closer to the other two hunters, boxing Stiles in further.

‘Or you’ll what? Beat me up? Torture me? Kill me?’ Shit, why was she giving them ideas? ‘Because if that’s all you’ve got, then run along because I’ve faced down werewolves. Not a werewolf, but multiple werewolves. So if you think your little ‘back a sixteen-year-old against a car door and menace her’ act is going to work, you’re shit out of luck.’

A werewolf would be able to hear the lie - would know it was a lie before the words even left her mouth - but Stiles glared straight at them, hoping that her bluff would work. It had to work.

She winced as they all laughed. Okay, so it definitely didn’t work.

‘If you know what’s good for you,’ Third Wheel spat, ‘you’ll stay away from the Hale Pack and those monsters.’

A flash of anger shot through her. ‘The only monsters I see are the three standing in front of me.’

‘Humans shouldn’t be with werewolves. It’s unnatural.’

‘No it’s not,’ Stiles snapped. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. They’re people, too. I bet you just like killing things. As far as I can tell, hunters don’t really care about saving people, they just want an excuse to kill and “werewolves are evil” is just what they came up with.’

Mr Argent might well be the exception to the rule, but he still thought it was okay to intimidate sixteen year old school kids, so he wasn’t that much better.

Third Wheel seemed to be nearly foaming at the mouth, which would be hilarious if he weren’t standing less than five feet from Stiles. She felt as though he was going to reach out and grab her any moment.

Scarface growled - or, well, tried to growl.

She couldn’t help the bubble of slightly hysterical laughter that burst out of her mouth. ‘Is that supposed to be intimidating? Dude, I hang with people who actually growl. Professionally. That was pathetic.’

Before either Scarface or Third Wheel could react, Pinhead started talking. ‘Hale’s got to her. She’s been brainwashed. It’s impossible to reason with her.’

‘Brainwashed?’ Stiles repeated, amused despite the fear. ‘You’re kidding, right? Because this wouldn’t count as a ‘reasonable’ discussion in any court in all the land.’ She gestured between them all. ‘This is intimidation.’

‘You shut your mouth.’

She shrugged. ‘Sorry, no can do. Not even crazy werewolves can shut me up, so you’ve got no chance.’

Third Wheel pulled out a knife, smirking as she swallowed audibly and tried to back up even closer to her jeep. ‘Say that again, bitch.’

She stared at the knife, unable to tear her eyes away. It wasn’t, like, Crocodile Dundee big, but it was a knife. And in her - well, not experience, because she hadn’t had a knife brandished in her face before - but she doubted having a knife thrust in her face was a good thing. ‘Uh, what are you going to do with that?’

‘Haven’t quite decided yet. So many options, so little skin.’ The oily smile he flashed made her feel like there were bugs crawling over her body.

Stiles forced herself to stand up straight and take a minute step away from the jeep.

‘Killing me is stupid,’ she told them bluntly. ‘You won’t make it out of town alive.’

‘I’m not scared of no wannabe Alpha and his ragtag Pack,’ Third Wheel said, puffing up his chest.

‘Well, yeah, Derek would eviscerate you, no question, but I wasn’t actually talking about him.’

There was confusion all over their faces.

‘I was talking more about how my dad would hunt you down and shoot you.’

‘We’d care about your brokenhearted dad because?’ Pinhead asked with an ugly laugh.

‘Because he’s the Sheriff, you morons.’ She was gratified to see them shift uneasily and glance around as though expecting the entire Sheriff’s department to descend upon them. ‘Don’t you even know who you’re threatening?’

‘You’re lying,’ Scarface said.

Stiles snorted. ‘If you’re so sure why don’t you phone Chris Argent and ask him who I am. He’ll tell you. He’s met me a couple of times in the past. He can tell you who my dad is if you don’t believe me.’

Third wheel took a couple of steps away from her. ‘Hey, if her old man’s really the sheriff -’

‘Shut up,’ Pinhead snapped. ‘She’s lying.’

‘I’m really not. But if you don’t believe me, that’s okay. I’m sure you totally know everything about all the law enforcement officers working this town and have checked them out, so you would know all about Sheriff Stilinski’s daughter, Stiles. Me.’ She pointed over her shoulder towards her jeep. ‘Because have a look at my books. They all have my name in. Stiles Stilinski.’

‘We can’t rough up the Sheriff’s daughter,’ hissed Third Wheel. ‘It’ll get us too much attention.’

‘I told you, she’s lying,’ Scarface said. ‘She’s trying to buy time for her Alpha to come and save her ass.’

‘I’m not waiting to be saved, I’m waiting for you all to get it through your thick skulls that doing anything to me is dumb because my dad is a cop. If something, anything, happens to me, there is no power in this ‘verse that’ll stop him from hunting down those who hurt me.’

Before any of them could say anything Little Red Riding Hood started blaring into the relative silence of the night.

Stiles had the phone to her ear before the hunters even realised what it was.

‘Derek?’ She hated the slight tremor in her voice. And, seriously, her phone had been in her pocket the whole time. How had she not thought to blind dial someone?

‘Stiles?’

‘Hey, Derek,’ she said, already feeling slightly calmer. ‘How you doing, Alpha?’

Pinhead and Third Wheel both backed off, their faces paling and their eyes darting around, as though expecting Derek to jump out and rip out their spines. Scarface just watched her, head cocked. That hadn’t been the reaction she’d hoped for.

‘Stiles, what’s wrong?’ She knew never referring to Derek as ‘Alpha’ would come in handy one day. ‘Where are you?’

In the background she could hear both Scott and Jackson clamouring to know what was wrong.

‘Down at the store.’

‘We’re on our way.’ Apparently she sounded sufficiently freaked out that Derek wasn’t going to wait around for her to tell him what was going on. ‘Stay on the line.’

‘Well, duh.’

Listening to Derek bark out instructions to Scott (’Call Allison now’) and Jackson (’Approach on Fairfax. I’ll come in from the south.’), Stiles glanced up at the hunters who were all staring at her, mouths hanging open. The tightness in her chest was slowly disappearing. The Pack was coming.

Taking a deep breath, she smiled brightly. ‘It’s not just Derek who’s on his way, you know. It’s like, everyone.’

They all shifted nervously, like maybe they weren’t quite as unafraid of Derek and his Pack as they claimed.

‘Who’s with you?’ Derek demanded tersely.

In the background she could hear Derek gun the engine of the Camaro, the brakes screeching as he pulled away.

‘Some of the new hunters in town decided to stop me in the parking lot of the store to give me some friendly advice. And by friendly advice I totally mean threaten me with a knife.’

Derek growled.

‘Dude, I know, right? I didn’t even get the groceries. Dad’s going to be so pissed.’

‘A knife?’

‘Hey, are you wolfing out right now? You’ll fuck up the upholstery.’

At the long, rolling growl, Stiles grinned and looked at the hunters. They hadn’t gone away, but then they hadn’t moved any closer to her either and she’d like to keep it that way. ‘You should probably get the fuck out of dodge before he arrives. He’s kinda pissed. Like, really, insanely pissed off.’

‘Let’s get out of here.’ The knife was no longer pointed at Stiles. In fact, Stiles doubted Pinhead even knew he was holding a knife at the moment. He was far more interested in looking around as he backed off towards their car.

Third Wheel looked very white all of a sudden. Apparently he actually was afraid of stupid Alphas. These were not the crack team of hunters they’d tried to lead her to believe they were. In fact, Stiles wondered if they could fire a gun between them.

He pulled at Scarface’s sleeve. ‘Come on, Mick. Let’s get out of here before the Alpha and his Pack arrives.’

Stiles started humming Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

‘No.’

Stiles stopped humming.

Third Wheel stared at him like he was crazy. ‘What do you mean, no? There’s an Alpha gunning right for us and we don’t have enough weapons to take him out.’

‘She’s his. She belongs to him. She’s his bitch; his whore.’

Stiles choked. She could hear Derek snarling on the other end of the phone.

‘So?’

‘So I’m going to fuck her up.’ His eyes settled on her boobs. ‘See why the Alpha keeps her around.’

‘Chris Argent,’ she blurted out.

Mick stopped midstep and squinted at her.

‘The Argents have a treaty with the Pack. If you touch me, you render it null and void.’

‘That’s it, Stiles,’ she heard Derek murmur in her ear, his voice low and tight. ‘Keep them talking.’

‘I don’t think you’ll be very popular round these parts if you do that.’

‘Just a few minutes more.’

‘I’m not doing nothing,’ snarled Mick.

Pinhead had stopped retreating to their car and was watching them warily while Third Wheel let his hand drop from Mick’s sleeve. Neither of these developments struck Stiles as good news.

‘Can you get away from them?’

‘Got me surrounded. If I run, they’ll definitely get me,’ she murmured.

‘Fuck. Stiles -’

‘Give me a sec,’ she breathed, a possible idea forming. She looked Mick in the eyes as he seemed to be the greatest threat. ‘Chris Argent called you in for a reason, right? How’s he - not to mention Mrs Argent, who I think we can all agree is fucking terrifying - going to react if you’re the ones to break that treaty?’ She let her bag fall to the ground. ‘You’re going to have the Hale Pack, the Sheriff’s department and the Argents all clamouring for your blood. Do you really want that?’

Mick didn’t say anything, just lunged for her. Stiles, though, had been expecting it. She rocked back on her heel, balled up her fist and swung from her hips, putting all her anger and fear into it. Her fist connected with his jaw and she heard the satisfying sound of bone crunching as he staggered back.

Stiles hugged her hand to her chest, the pain registering as a secondary concern. She had hoped that that Mick and the others would back off, realising that she would fight back, but when Mick looked at her, he just looked more determined to get at her.

‘Fucking bitch,’ he snarled. Snatching the knife from Third Wheel, he started to advance on her. ‘I’m going to cut you.’

Stiles kicked out, hoping to get him in the thigh hard enough to give him a dead leg, but somehow she lucked out and her foot connected with his junk instead. Mick dropped like a sack of potatoes, groaning, his hands pressed against his balls.

Watching him writhe on the floor, Stiles felt a vicious stab of victory but it disappeared about as quickly as it had appeared when she saw Pinhead and Third Wheel start to move towards her - slow and wary-like, but still towards her. Shit.

‘D…do you really want to do this? Piss off an Alpha, my dad and the Argents? Cause I’d really, really prefer it if you found that combination scary enough to leave me the fuck alone.’

‘Stiles, Stiles - God dammit, Stiles. Answer me.’

Hastily, Stiles raised the phone to her ear. She’d totally forgotten he was still on the phone. ‘Derek. I - Derek.’

‘I’m two minutes away.’

It tasted like there was ash in her mouth. ‘I don’t think I -’

Stiles was cut off by a siren. A police siren. She twisted around, relief flooding her body, to see her dad’s cruiser screech to a stop. How he happened to be there, Stiles didn’t know, but she honestly didn’t care right then.

By the time she turned back, Larry, Harry and Mo were already scrambling to get away. She bet they believed her now. Pinhead had grabbed the knife and Third Wheel was dragging Mick - who was still moaning in pain, his hand pressed against his dick - away and bundling him in the back of the car.

Stiles collapsed against the side of the jeep, her legs unable to support her anymore.

‘Stiles!’ Her dad ran up to her, holstering his gun and pulled her towards him.

‘Dad.’ She clung to him, hiding her face in the crook of his neck. Even as she could feel herself shaking, her heartbeat began to slow.

‘What happened?’

Stiles shook her head, not wanting to talk yet.

‘It’s okay, I’m here.’ He rubbed her back, kissed the crown of her head. ‘You’re safe.’

Stiles has no idea how long they stood there as the deputies who turned up a few minutes later worked the scene. The Sheriff’s only daughter getting assaulted was probably a big deal. Especially as most of the deputies knew her. Listening to her dad bark out instructions, report the number plate and describe the SUV, Stiles let his voice soothe her.

Later, she’d probably be all kinds of embarrassed for nearly crying in front of so many people, but for the time being she didn’t care.

Eventually she realised that her phone was cutting into the palm of her hand because of how tightly she was gripping it. Stepping away from her dad, she glanced at her phone screen and was relieved to see Derek was no longer on the line.

‘I need to go talk to Jason. Is that okay?’

Nodding, she wrapped an arm around her stomach.

‘Give me a few, and I’m taking you home.’

‘Okay.’

He kissed her forehead before calling Jason to him and stepping far enough away that Stiles couldn’t easily eavesdrop.

Making sure he didn’t go any further away, Stiles unlocked her phone, firing off a quick test. ~Dad got here in time. They ran like the scaredy cats they are~

She stared at the screen for a few moments, wondering if she’d get a reply. When none were forthcoming she snapped it shut and shoved it back in her pocket, ignoring the hollow feeling in her chest.

The adrenaline that had kept her upright was leaving her body and Stiles felt like her arms and legs were made of noodles.

All she wanted was to be home and curled up in bed. Hiding under the covers for the rest of creation sounded like the perfect plan.

Just as she was about to call out to her dad, he clapped Jason on the shoulder and made his way back to her. ‘Let’s go.’

‘What, but, what about my jeep?’

His sympathetic look made her tense. ‘Evidence.’

‘But they didn’t even touch her,’ Stiles protested.

‘Procedure. It’s just for tonight, kiddo. Relax.’

She was pretty sure he was lying, but instead of calling him on it, she just said, ‘Promise?’

He opened the passenger door for her. ‘Promise.’

‘Fine,’ she grumbled. As her dad walked round the cruiser, she buckled in, knowing that she’d get that look if she didn’t bother.

‘I’ll text Allison and ask her to pick me up tomorrow,’ she told him as they pulled onto the road.

At least Allison would already know what had happened, what with Scott being ordered to call her and all. But, God, the looks she was going to get - be it sympathetic, pitying or whatever - she was already exhausted just thinking about being at school tomorrow. There was no way it’d stay quiet in a town like Beacon Hills. Somebody always knew somebody who had seen something.

Leaning back against the headrest, Stiles closed her eyes and breathing deeply, tried to close down her brain and turn it into white noise, if only for a little while.

‘Hey, Dad?’ She rolled her head to look at him, a thought occurring. ‘How did you know to come in guns blazing?’

‘Clerk recognised the jeep. Called me when he didn’t see you. Good thing your jeep is so recognisable.’

Stiles snorted. ‘Nosey citizens for the win.’ She waved her fist weakly in the air. ‘Yay.’

‘I know this is a stupid question, kiddo, but are you okay?’

Slouching further into the seat, her arms crossed over her stomach, Stiles forced out a laugh. ‘Dad, I’m fine. Really.’

‘Stiles -’

‘No. Dad, seriously.’

‘Okay. But when you change your mind, I’m right here.’

She turned to stare out of the window, watching the houses fly by. ‘I’m fine.’

Chapter Text

Stiles was roused from the half doze she had miraculously managed to fall in to by a knock on her door. She pulled her comforter tighter around her and groaned into her pillow. Maybe they would go away if she pretended to be asleep.

The knock came again. So probably they weren’t going to go away. Dammit.

‘Go away,’ she yelled, not caring who it was. All she wanted to do was curl up in her comforter and forget the day had ever happened. She was fairly certain that she’d earned the right to wallow in self pity for the night.

Instead of going away, the door opened and her dad put his head around the door, his face lined with concern. She didn’t want to be angry with him for being worried about her but she’d already proven that she could look after herself, thank you very much. Stiles was very proud of that punch. ‘Hey Dad.’

‘There’s someone here to see you.’

She kicked the covers away from her legs, sat up and punched the pillow way harder than it deserved. ‘I already told you -’

‘It’s not Scott.’ He frowned. ‘Or Jackson.’

Any other time, Stiles would have laughed at the perplexed look on his face. He was completely baffled by the fact that she now appeared to be friends with the guy she had hated for well over a decade. He was doing so well at not asking, but his ‘What the Fuck’ expression was hilarious.

‘So if it’s not either of them, then who-’

She sucked in a breath when Derek slipped into her room from behind her dad. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit that she’d wondered if he’d show up.

He stayed by the wall, leaning against it, hands in his pockets. To pretty much anyone else he probably looked relaxed but his shoulders were stiff and he was holding himself completely still, like any movement on his part and he’d be unable to restrain himself from demanding to know how she was and checking for himself. His eyes tracked Stiles from head to foot, obviously checking as well as he could in the circumstances that she wasn’t injured. He met her eyes once he’d finished and refused to look away. There was just the tiniest hint of red but she didn’t think he’d be here if he couldn’t control it. And at this moment she was just too weary to worry about Derek’s control.

‘Derek. Uh -’ Derek was kind of the last person she’d expected to see… well, walking through her bedroom door. He was more of a climbing through her window kinda guy. ‘What are you doing here?’ Because her dad didn’t and couldn’t know that Stiles had been on the phone with him.

He glanced at her dad, but didn’t seem bothered by his presence. ‘Just passing.’

Which was just a terrible attempt at casual but Stiles could give him points for trying. He probably already knew he was fooling absolutely no-one.

‘Oh.’ She cocked her head. ‘Okay.’

She saw her dad’s expression as he glanced between her and Derek. He obviously wanted to demand why Derek was there and how she could possibly appear to be friends with him after Scott accused him of murder. She doubted Derek being so much older helped either. Hopefully he’d leave the Spanish Inquisition until later.

As he stepped forward, looking like he was definitely preparing to throw Derek out, Stiles realised she didn’t want that to happen.

‘Ummm, Dad?’

His frown smoothed away as he looked at her.

‘I know you were going to stay here with me but, uh, you don’t need to now.’ She pulled the comforter closer around herself. ‘I know you need to be at work.’

Beacon Hills was a small town and it wasn’t like they had a string of mysterious deaths every month, or even every year, but her dad was still busy with other cases. As much as she wanted him around, he could be helping other people and Derek felt safe.

Which… was unexpected. Like, understatement. And, at this precise moment, something Stiles didn’t want to examine too closely. It was strangely comforting, albeit slightly disconcerting. Something to think about when her brain felt less busy.

Dad, though, shot her a thoroughly unimpressed look that told her just how ridiculous he thought she was being. ‘Stiles, I don’t need to be anywhere other than right here.’

‘But I know there are those armed robberies…’

Her dad raised his eyebrows. ‘And how do you know about them?’

‘Well, you know, I might maybe have seen the files all stacked up on the kitchen table.’

‘When you say ‘saw’?’

‘I probably mean ‘read’,’ she admitted. ‘It’s not like you don’t know I look through the files you bring home.’

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Derek turn his head away and she could swear there was a smile he was trying to hide. Which was a hell of a lot more appealing that the scowl that’d been there since he’d walked in her room.

Her dad shook his head but he seemed more resigned and amused, than angry. ‘My guys can cope without me for one night. If anything important happens they’ll phone.’

‘But-’

‘Stiles-’

‘Okay, okay, you’re staying.’ Her shoulders dropped and the tension bunched at the base of her neck started to bleed away. ‘But, um, Derek can stay, right?’ There was a part of her that knew asking was a stupid idea and would lead to all kinds of questions later down the line but, at that moment, she couldn’t find it in herself to care. ‘He doesn’t have to go does he?’ She looked over at Derek. ‘You don’t have to go, do you?’

‘I can stay,’ Derek said with a quick glance at her dad.

It occurred to Stiles that the disapproval her dad was half-heartedly trying to cover, would be insanely obvious to Derek, thanks to his spidey-senses.

Staring beseechingly at her dad, Stiles bit her lip, hoping to communicate just how much she needed Derek to stay. Yes, she’d asked him to turn away anyone who came to check on her. Even her window was locked and the curtains drawn. But apparently she hadn’t been including Derek when giving instructions.

After what felt like an age, he sighed and rolled his eyes. ‘We’ll be talking about this later.’

Which, well, duh. ‘But not tonight.’

‘Not tonight,’ he agreed. He looked at Derek, who she was fairly certain was trying to appear harmless, but failing miserably, because even if you ignored the whole being an Alpha werewolf thing, you know, he was Derek. ‘No shutting your door.’

Stiles groaned. ‘Dad!’

‘I mean it.’

‘Yes, okay, okay, my door will remain open,’ she said hastily, not wanting to prolong the embarrassment any longer than absolutely necessary. She could feel her face getting hotter and she was quite determinedly not looking at Derek. Because her dad and everyone else knew that she was head over heels for Scott.

‘You yell if you need anything, you hear?’

Stiles nodded, desperately wanting him out of there.

With one last hard glare at Derek and a raised eyebrow at Stiles that told her more than anything that she would be quizzed about, well, everything, just as soon as possible, he walked out, the door left most definitely open.

As dad’s steps faded away, Derek remained a big hulking presence against the wall.

‘Are you going to stand there all night, or are you going to actually move?’

As Derek pushed off the wall she flinched, not expecting him to move quite so suddenly, which was stupid because of course he was going to. But instead of crossing the room he went over to her DVD shelf, the leather of his jacket creaking in the quiet.

Watching Derek, she resisted the urge to pull her comforter up and over her head and hide from the world. Plus, she doubted a comforter would confound Derek. ‘Do you wanna watch a movie?’ she asked, biting her lip. ‘I need to not be thinking about stuff.’

He glanced back at her. ‘Preference?’

Ten Things I Hate About You.’ She was just relieved that he wasn’t saying anything about what her dad had said. Because that would have been a special kind of awkward.

Derek raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he just found the DVD - without insulting her frankly revolutionary filing system for once - and put it in the player before turning on the TV.

Walking over to the end of her bed, Derek’s step faltered and he glanced over at her desk chair, almost as if he was thinking of pulling it over to sit in instead of flopping down on her bed like usual. Which was crazy, because if her ass went numb after a couple of hours of sitting on that thing, then Derek would want to throw it through the window within about five minutes. If that.

‘Oh my god, will you just get over here already?’ she groaned. ‘I’m not going to freak out if you sit on my bed.’

As Derek dropped his jacket at the foot of the bed and sat - further away from her than usual, Stiles noted - she realised that it was true; she wasn’t freaking out.

Grabbing the remote, she wondered why she wasn’t finding Derek’s presence uncomfortable. Because, really, Derek was pretty damn intimidating at the best of times and this was not even close to the best of times.

‘Okay, so why aren’t I freaking out around you? I’d even go as far as to say I’m doing the complete opposite.’

Derek shot her a bemused look. ‘What?’

‘So, I have, like, no desire to be around anyone at the moment.’ She picked at a thread on her sheets. ‘Not just guys, yeah. But people. All the people. I want my room to be my very own Fortress of Solitude.’ At the moment she didn’t even want her dad in the same room as her. She needed him in the house, and, honestly, she’d never have relaxed had he gone to work but she couldn’t be in the same room as him. It made no sense to her, but that was how it was. ‘But I don’t feel any of that with you. Why?’

‘- uh?’

‘Is it an Alpha thing?’ That she could understand; the whole having your Alpha around after a traumatic experience, or something. Although, how could it apply to her? If his Alpha voice didn’t affect her, then surely that kind of thing wouldn’t, either.

Derek snorted. ‘Fairly certain it isn’t.’

‘Okay.’ She wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at him thoughtfully because if it wasn’t the Alpha thing, then it was something else. She, for one, would like to know what made her prefer having Derek here than, say, her best friend of ten years.

‘I can leave.’

Stiles practically dived across the space between them, misjudged how tangled up she was in her comforter, and was saved from facepalming into Derek’s thigh by her elbows, so, you know, win. However, she did manage to grab his arm, which was what she had planned to do in the first place. ‘Are you not listening to me?’ she demanded, glaring up at him from under her hair. ‘You’re the only person I don’t feel uncomfortable around. You can’t go. You’re the only one not making me want to claw my skin off. And…’ She pulled herself up, using Derek’s arm for leverage and settled next to him. ‘…and I need someone here. To, you know, stop my brain wandering off to the places that aren’t fun to be.’

Derek face softened with understanding. ‘Then I stay.’

Stiles let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she’d been holding. ‘You don’t…’

‘I have nowhere I need to be.’

Pulling her comforter back around herself, she settled against the wall, her head just inches from Derek’s shoulder. She hit play because the quiet of her room was too heavy. As the opening credits played she felt significantly more comfortable which was the only reason she was able to say, ‘So, you got to the parking lot, right?’

‘About ninety seconds after your dad.’

‘Did… I mean, what -?’

‘I sent Jackson and Danny home before they got there.’

‘Thanks.’

Derek nodded.

‘I mean, it’s one thing them knowing but it’s another knowing they saw any part of it, you know?’

‘I waited with Scott for you to leave and Argent to turn up. Scott wanted to come see you, but I convinced him to go home.’

‘Is he freaking out?’

‘It’s Scott.’

Which she was going to take as a yes. ‘I should text him,’ she muttered, looking around for her phone.

‘Later. I told him I’d let him know if you weren’t okay.’

Stiles let out a breathe she hadn’t even realised she’d been holding. ‘Thanks.’

Cocking her head, Stiles stared at him for a moment. Derek was far more relaxed than he had been on his arrival, but he was still wound way too tight.

She nudged him with her knee. ‘Hey, you know you saved me, don’t you?’

Derek growled and clenched his fists. ‘I was late.’

‘You What? Dude, you’re an idiot.’

Glaring at the TV, almost like he was avoiding looking at her, Derek clenched his jaw.

‘Like, seriously an idiot,’ Stiles repeated, because it really bore repeating.

‘You could’ve been hurt. Badly.’

‘But I wasn’t.’

‘Because your dad -’

‘Was given enough time to get to me because just having you on the phone scared the shit out of those guys. Derek, seriously my dad… my dad wouldn’t have got there in time if not for you.’

‘I should have been faster.’

‘Okay, like, unless you’re The Flash and just forgot to tell me, there’s no way you could have gotten there quicker than you did.’

‘You could have been hurt,’ he insisted, obviously agitated and throwing Stiles for a bit of a loop. He frowned slightly. ‘I don’t see any injuries on you, though.’

‘When you say ‘see’ you mean ‘smell’, right?’

Derek laughed, quick and sharp.

Stiles frowned up at him. ‘How is that funny?’

Derek shook his head. ‘Reminds me of when your dad arrested me.’

‘How did that remind you of the time my dad threw you in cuffs?’ she asked, baffled. ‘And, more to the point, how was that even a little bit funny?’

‘He dragged you out the car as you were trying to convince me that you weren’t terrified of me -’

‘Okay, so first off, the way you were staring blankly at me was unnerving, but I wasn’t terrified…’ Her mouth quirked slightly. ‘Just appropriately crapping myself.’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Anyway, it reminded me of what you said when your dad asked you what you thought lying meant.’

‘You remember that?’ She remembered Derek’s arrest, because duh, but not so much the conversation after because, well, because they had so many conversations like that.

‘It was a memorable day,’ Derek told her. ‘I got arrested for killing my sister.’

Stiles winced. ‘I’m still really sorry about that.’

‘I think we’re past it,’ said Derek. ‘There are now so many other things I could kill you for.’

‘Yeah, because that’s really comforting,’ muttered Stiles, digging through her comforter and sheets, looking for the TV remote.

‘Looking for this?’ Derek asked, waving the remote under her nose.

‘How do you even do that?’ She’d swear blind that she’d been holding it, like, a minute ago. ‘Are you the Magneto of TV remotes?’

‘That doesn’t even make any sense.’

‘Of course it does,’ Stiles said, shifting slightly so she could see the TV better, putting her head even closer to Derek’s shoulder. ‘You just don’t understand it.’

‘I don’t understand it because it makes no sense.’

Before Stiles could retort, her dad reappeared in the doorway. He shot Derek a distrustful look. ‘Everything alright here?’

Stiles glanced from Derek to the television. ‘Well, Kat’s just been sent to see the guidance counsellor who’s writing about, well, yeah, you really don’t want to know.’

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about but, okay then.’ With a last look at Derek, he said, ‘I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.’

She stared at the door for a long second after he disappeared. ‘He’s not going to stop checking on us.’

‘Yeah.’ Derek quirked his lips. ‘I don’t think he trusts me.’

Oh, so maybe they were going to talk about this a little.

‘If it makes you feel any better, Dad still makes me leave the door open when Scott’s around sometimes.’

‘Yeah. Because I want to be compared to Scott,’ Derek deadpanned.

‘Well, at least I didn’t compare you to Jackson.’

‘Would your dad even let him in your room?’

‘I don’t think he’d let Jackson through the front door.’

Derek grunted, and, unable to tell what he was thinking, Stiles turned her attention back to the movie.

’By the way, his testicle retrieval operation went quite well, in case you’re interested’

‘I still maintain that he kicked himself in the balls.’

Stiles sniggered into her comforter. She rubbed at her mouth, trying to get rid of the smile threatening to appear. Surely it was too early for her to be finding things funny. So many things were crowding in her head, demanding her attention and it seemed weird that something funny would be able to force its way to the front of her brain.

Derek glanced down at her. ‘This was why you wanted to watch the movie?’

‘When I grow up I want to be like Kat Stafford. Although,’ she said thoughtfully, ‘I guess I am a bit like Kat now.’

Derek gave her a slightly bewildered look.

‘I kicked one of the hunters in the balls,’ she explained.

His mouth quirked up slightly. ‘I heard.’

‘Really? You heard that over the phone?’

‘Yep.’

‘I was aiming for his thigh but my foot slipped.’

Derek snorted. ‘Good aim.’

‘More lucky, I think.’

Derek’s eyes were watching the movie, but Stiles could tell that he wasn’t paying it any attention. Which, considering it was 10 Things I Hate About You was a crime, but since he was ignoring it in favour of listening to her, she was prepared to let it slide this once.

‘The clerk in the store called Dad. That’s how he knew. The guy recognised my jeep. I know I sometimes say I hate owning the most recognisable vehicle in town, but I think I’ve changed my mind.’

‘I like the jeep.’

‘That’s because she’s saved your life, like, numerous times.’

‘I don’t think it was the jeep that saved me, Stiles.’

‘So you’re admitting that I saved your life, then, huh?’

Derek rolled his eyes.

‘So, Dad put out an APB on the car and all the deputies are keeping an eye out. But I’m guessing -’

‘I spoke to Argent before he left.’ Derek’s jaw clenched. ‘They’re already on their way out the state.’

Stiles rested her head against the wall and stared at Derek’s shoulder, processing.

‘Stiles -’

‘I don’t know whether to be relieved they’re gone or pissed that Dad doesn’t get to slap cuffs on them.’

‘If they lived that long.’

Stiles blinked at Derek. ‘Umm, what? Isn’t that more than a little over the top?’

‘No.’

‘But -’

‘No.’

‘Uh, okay then.’ Derek would kill someone for hurting her. Derek would - wow. Like, seriously, wow. Pack. She got that she was Pack and Derek would protect his Pack to the ends of the earth. But even so. Wow. That was… that was kind of mind-blowing and not something she was equipped to think about right then. Later. When her head was less screwed up. Maybe.

‘But do you know the worst thing?’

Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘Dad says my jeep’s considered evidence and so she got kidnapped by the sheriff’s department. I think he’s lying - didn’t want me driving after all that. But, either way, she won’t be released until after the weekend so I’m without transportation. I mean, it’s not like I can tell dad that they’ve gone. He’d want to know how I knew that.’

‘You’re not staying home tomorrow?’

Pushing her hair out of her eyes, Stiles shrugged. ‘Dad would let me but I refuse to hide away.’

‘I wouldn’t call taking a day, hiding away,’ Derek said, carefully.

‘Yeah, well, maybe not but I hate moping.’

‘This -’

‘And I hate running things through my head thousands of times. Which is what I’d do until I was crazy.’

He nodded. ‘So you’re definitely going to school?’

‘Major national or supernatural disasters permitting, yeah, I am.’

For a second Stiles was positive Derek was going to tell her she was staying home, but instead he just nodded again. ‘Okay.’

Which, okay, weird. Stiles would have thought that, being Alpha, Derek would be all about telling her what she could and couldn’t do. It was a relief to be wrong.

With Derek staring at the TV again, Stiles carried on talking. ‘You know they didn’t notice me last time.’

‘Last time?’

‘Uh, shopping with Allison and Lydia a while ago. We bumped into them. Well, I think they were following Allison for some reason. But anyway, they didn’t even glance at me.’

Without looking at her, Derek nodded.

‘That’s what gets me the most, you know. I know they stopped me because I’m Pack, but they only paid attention to me because I was wearing a tight t-shirt.’

‘So, you punched one of them.’

Stiles looked away from Michael plummeting down the hillside. She’d kind of been hoping that Derek might find that bit funny, but, nope, nothing. ‘Yep, and don’t forget about kicking him in the nuts.’

‘I didn’t. Did you hurt your hand?’

‘Huh?’

‘Your hand.’ She jumped slightly as Derek gently took her hand in his and watched in surprise as he slowly pried open her fingers which had somehow clenched into a fist. ‘Did you hurt your hand when you punched him?’

Stiles shook her head, staring at the half-crescent indentations on the palm of her hand. ‘Nope. Not even a little bit.’

‘Really?’

She rolled her eyes. ‘Well okay, maybe a little bit. Not a lot, though.’ She nearly grinned as she watched him shift slightly. ‘You’re trying to think of a way to ask how I know how to punch properly without sounding like a douchebag, aren’t you?’

‘A douchebag?’ Derek repeated flatly.

Stiles grinned. ‘So, the summer after my mom died -’ Derek squeezed her hand as a wave of grief flowed through her. She’d been trying so hard not to think about how much she wished her mom was here hugging her and stroking her hair ‘-Scott and his parents went off to visit family and I pretty much haunted the Sheriff’s office. Even sometimes when dad wasn’t working. One of the deputies there decided to teach me how to hit things.’ She shrugged. ‘The first joke dad made after, you know, was about many punchbags the department was going to have to buy if I kept punching as hard as I was. It’s kind of a lame joke, but it’s still the best joke I’ve heard in my life.’

‘That’s not lame, Stiles.’ Derek’s thumb was rubbing gently across her knuckles. ‘Did he also teach you how to kick someone in the balls?’

‘Nope, that was all me.’

Derek huffed a laugh. ‘Did you enjoy it?’

‘What? Kicking that jackass in the balls? Because, yeah, I really enjoyed doing that.’

‘No. Being taught how to punch someone properly.’

Stiles thought about it for a moment. ‘Yeah. Yeah I did.’ In fact, thinking back to that summer, Stiles remembered just how satisfying hitting something could be.

‘Would you like to learn more?’

She blinked, pulled out of her memories. ‘More what?’

‘Ways to fight?’

For a second Stiles was back in the parking lot, wondering which hunter was going to attack her first and what she was going to do. ‘Yeah. Definitely.’

‘I can teach you.’

‘You could?’

‘I’ve done it before, you know. Taught self defence. For some of the kids up in New York.’

Stiles slotted that information away in her ‘Derek in New York’ file. Meaning that Stiles now knew three facts about Derek’s life in New York. Which was three things more than the rest of the Pack.

‘I’m not surprised that you can go all Mr Miyagi - although obviously less with the Chinese old guy thing. Just that you’d teach me.’

‘I should’ve taught you earlier.’

‘Derek -’

‘No, I should. Being a human in the Pack makes you safe, but if anyone ever has a grudge against us, it makes you vulnerable.’

‘You realise that one of those isn’t like the other, yeah?’

‘If you know how to fight, people’ll be far less likely to mess with you.’ He quirked a small smile at her. ‘Not that I think many people will be clamouring to mess with you right now.’

‘Yeah, okay, that makes sense.’ Stiles bite her lip. ‘But, uh, you should see if Allison or Lydia want to learn as well. They could just as easily be used against us too.’

‘Believe me when I say Allison’s father is taking care of all her training.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah.’

‘What -’ Stiles bit her tongue just in time to stop herself from asking a werewolf what werewolf hunters were taught. It wasn’t like she thought he wouldn’t tell her, but that she didn’t want to remind him of his family dying any more than he already had been.

But Stiles did wonder what Allison was learning. Obviously she was already pretty handy with a crossbow, but what else had Mr. Argent taught her in the last few months? Stiles suddenly realised that she really wanted to talk to Allison.

‘And Lydia?’

‘Lydia isn’t at risk as much as you are.’

‘But-’

‘I’ll talk to her.’

‘Promise?’

Something Stiles couldn’t identify flashed through Derek’s eyes at her question, but he merely nodded. ‘Promise.’

‘Thank you.’ She saw movement out of the corner of her eye and looked over to see her dad hovering in the doorway. For a moment her breath caught at the idea that he might have heard them talking but Derek was still relaxed next to her, so if he wasn’t worried then she didn’t need to be either. ‘I’m still okay, Dad.’

He hummed, eyeing them both for a moment, making Stiles realise that she had shifted closer to Derek and was nearly pressed up against him. As he turned and walked away, Stiles didn’t even want to think about what her dad must have been thinking. Or what vibes Derek was getting from him.

‘How do I explain the whole you’re here because you’re my Alpha without, you know, mentioning the Alpha thing?’ She leaned her forehead briefly against his shoulder. ‘I foresee this being an issue in the near future.’ She felt Derek shrug. ‘Well, that’s helpful.’

‘I’ve never had to worry about parents finding out.’

‘Don’t suppose there’s a werewolf equivalent of those memory things that they use in Men in Black, is there?’

‘Sorry, Stiles.’

‘It’s okay. I forgive you for not inventing one of those yet.’

‘Thanks.’

Her attention was pulled back to the movie just in time for one of her favourite lines.

’Hey there, girly. How you doing?’

‘Sweating like a pig, actually. And yourself?’

‘Now there’s a way to get a guys attention, huh?’

‘My mission in life. But obviously I struck your fancy, so you see it worked. The world makes sense again.’

Derek shot her a disbelieving look. ‘Do you know all the words?’

‘Most of them.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I love it and I watch it all the time.’

‘Why would you watch a movie that many times?’

‘Why wouldn’t you? Surely there are films from when you were a kid that you know the words to.’

‘Lines, sure. Entire movies, no.’

‘But sometimes there are movies that are just so awesome you have to know every word.’

Derek blinked and shook his head. ‘Sometimes I forget how strange you are.’

‘Don’t worry, soon you’ll never forget. It doesn’t take all that long for that to ingrain itself on people’s brains.’ She trailed off, staring unseeingly at the TV.

Derek nudged her gently with his elbow. ‘What’s wrong?’

She blinked up at him. ‘Huh?’ She watched, feeling slightly detached as Derek reached over and gently pulled her hands into his.

‘You’ve been rubbing and scratching at your arms all night.’

She stared down at her arms, surprised that there were red marks on her forearms. ‘Oh.’

‘Talk to me.’ His voice was low and coaxing but in no way did she feel like he was commanding her.

She kept her eyes firmly on Derek’s hands holding hers. ‘I feel like he’s touching my skin,’ she confessed.

‘Did he?’ asked Derek.

Stiles shook her head. ‘But I feel like he did.’ She glanced up at him. ‘I still smell like me, yeah? There are no weird scents on me, are there? It’s all me, right?’

‘It’s all you, Stiles.’

‘You sure? I don’t want to smell like him. The idea gives me the heebiejeebies.’

‘What do you want to smell like?’

And any other time, Stiles would totally be cracking up in a conversation about how she smelt, but at that moment it was stupidly comforting. ‘Pack.’

‘I’m Pack.’

‘What? Like the Pharaoh was Egypt?’

‘What does that even mean?’

‘Sorry,’ she said, wincing. ‘Wikipedia is a bit of a rabbit warren.’

‘Stiles.’ His voice was low and gentle. Nothing like Derek’s voice usually was, but oddly reassuring anyway. ‘It’s Pack.’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ she grumbled, closing the last few inches between them and slotting herself under his arm before she could think better of it. She settled against his side, head resting on his shoulder, her brain and body properly quiet for the first time since earlier that evening.

Derek wrapped his arm around her, his hand a warm brand on her side.

‘You know,’ she said, poking him in the side, ‘you’re surprisingly comfy for someone who’s basically all muscle.’

‘Uh, thanks?’

‘S’okay.’ Her eyes closed of their own accord and she really could have drifted off then and there except she felt Derek go completely still. Confused, she forced her eyes open and nearly groaned when she saw her dad hovering in the doorway.

‘Hey, Dad,’ she mumbled, blinking sleepily at him.

‘Kiddo.’ He looked like he was trying to decide whether or not he should pull her away from the older, ex-murder suspect whose lap she was nearly lying in. ‘How you feeling?’

She took a deep breath. ‘Better.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Maybe a bit sleepy.’

‘Sleep’s good.’

‘Traditionally,’ she agreed, relieved when he cracked a smile.

‘Okay, I’ll check back later.’

As he disappeared back out of the doorway, Derek relaxed.

As Cameron and Michael walked into the bar to talk to Patrick, Stiles felt her eyes drift shut again. Derek shifted, pulling her closer to him, anchoring her even more firmly to his side.

‘Hey, if I fall asleep, wake me when Joey gets his comeuppance.’

Derek hummed.

She cracked open an eye. ‘You totally aren’t going to wake me, are you?’

‘I might do.’

‘Sure you will.’ She was too tired to argue so she let her eyes close again.

The last thing she heard was Patrick saying Are you saying I’m not pretty? before everything fell away.

Stiles was pulled awake as the credits started to roll and twisted her back so she could stretch, Derek’s hand slipping down to rest on her hip as she moved. She settled back against his side.

‘You totally didn’t didn’t wake me for when Bianca kneed Joey in the balls,’ she mumbled, rubbing her eyes.

‘You needed the sleep.’

‘But I like that bit,’ she whined.

‘How many times have you seen it?’

‘Do you really want me to answer that?’ Stiles snorted as she felt Derek shake his head. ‘So, did you enjoy the movie?’

‘You like it?’

‘Uh, yeah. I love it.’ She nudged him. ‘Oh, come on, even you must have found the bit where Bianca was forced to wear the pregnancy belly funny.’

‘Hilarious.’

‘Come on, it’s, like, a total classic.’

Derek hummed noncommittally.

She tilted her head to stare up at him. ‘Huh. So, apparently we need to re-tune your sense of what’s awesome.’

‘My sense of awesome doesn’t need to be re-tuned,’ said Derek, a smile ghosting across his face.

‘Oh, please,’ scoffed Stiles, ‘It totally does. I mean, what kind of movies do you like?’

‘Good ones.’

‘Well, that narrows it down. Top five movies. Go.’

Derek stared down at her.

She shoved him in the chest. ‘I said, go.’

‘Top five?’ he repeated.

Not bothering to reply, Stiles made a hurry up motion with her hand.

‘Fine. The Goonies, Indiana Jones -’

‘Which one?’

Ark.’

‘I prefer Last Crusade.’

‘Of course you do. Snatch and Empire Records.’

‘Riiiiight.’

‘What?’ demanded Derek.

‘I thought you said you liked good movies.’

‘Those are good.’

Empire Records? Really? You think that’s good?’

‘Have you seen it?’

‘Well. No. But -’

‘Don’t say it’s bad,’ he warned her.

‘It looks bad.’

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Says you.’

‘You should at least watch it before deciding it’s bad.’

She shrugged. ‘Guess I’ll have to Netflix it then, won’t I?’

‘I bet you like it.’

Stiles shot him a dubious look. ‘Maybe.’

Derek gave her a knowing look.

‘And hey, don’t think I haven’t noticed that you only said four movies there, not five.’

‘I said five.’ He glanced away from her and shifted ever so slightly. Stiles would never have known if she hadn’t been pressed up against him.

The Goonies, Indy, Snatch and Empire Records. That’s four. I believe you have one left.’

Derek glared down at her but since she was curled up against his side, it wasn’t exactly scary. She nudged him. ‘Come on, what’s your last movie, Derek?’

‘None of your business,’ he said shortly.

‘I think now you’ve made it my business. What’s your final movie?’

‘If I tell you, you’ll leave it?’

She smiled brightly and insincerely. ‘Course I will.’

Derek gritted his teeth. ‘Little Mermaid.’

‘Huh.’

Derek raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that all you’re going to say?’

‘It’s not what I was expecting,’ she admitted.

‘Laura had a thing for Le Poissons.’

‘I’m more of a Under the Sea kind of girl myself, but that’s a quality song.’ With every little thing that Derek revealed about Laura, Stiles wished she’d been able to meet her.

‘That’s what she said.’

‘So Laura made you watch it a lot, huh?’

‘More times than you can imagine. Many, many times…’

Trailing off, Derek looked at her door and shifted slightly.

‘You okay?’

‘He glanced over at her door again. ‘I should probably go.’

‘Oh.’ She started to pull away from Derek, halfheartedly trying to dislodge his hand. She rubbed the back of her neck. ‘Uh, I…I guess you’re busy…’

He glanced at the door again. ‘I was thinking more about your dad. He’s pacing at the bottom of the stairs.’

She sat up, resting her arm on his chest, her hand lightly fisted in his t-shirt. ‘I’m sorry, did you just say that my dad makes you uneasy? That you find him scary?’ She felt like laughing.

‘No. What you heard me say was that I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the sheriff when he’s worried about his only daughter and he has a gun.’

‘It’s not like bullets will kill you. Which I’m guessing is, like, so not the point.’

‘Yeah, because that would really make your dad happy.’

‘You think he’d be freaked out if he shot you in the head and you made like Wolverine and walked away?’

‘I’d think that would freak out most people.’

‘So we probably shouldn’t let my dad shoot you then.’

‘That would be good.’

‘So, just to clarify, what you’re saying is that you’re not intimidated by my dad.’

‘Yes.’

‘Except for the fact that you really kind of are.’

‘No I’m not,’ Derek growled.

She felt a smile start to form. ‘Just a little. You can tell me.’

‘I just don’t want him to try and kill me.’

She grinned at his grumpy tone, feeling lighter than she had all night. ‘Whatever you say.’

‘I get no respect from any of you,’ Derek grumbled, his arm tightening around her. And maybe he meant for it to feel threatening but it really, really didn’t.

Shifting restlessly against Derek, she bit her lip. ‘So, uh, since you aren’t finding my dad at all intimidating, does this mean you’ll stay? You know, not forever just-’ She felt her cheeks heat up and she mentally kicked herself in the face several times ‘- just until I go to sleep.’

‘I’ll stay right here.’

‘Okay. Good. That’s…good.’

‘Go to sleep, Stiles.’

‘Yeah, okay,’ she agreed, settling down again. Seriously, how did he have such comfortable shoulders? And was that really something she should be considering at this precise moment?

She was drifting along, more than half asleep when she heard her dad re-enter her room.

‘She’s nearly asleep,’ Derek said softly.

Stiles sighed into Derek’s shoulder as he pulled her closer to him, hoping dimly that her dad hadn’t noticed. She wondered if he pulled her close to protect him from her father or because of his Alpha over-protectiveness.

There was a remarkably awkward silence that Stiles was very relieved she was nearly asleep for before Derek spoke.

‘I’ll leave once she’s sleeping.’

Stiles wanted to protest but was fairly certain that it could only be a bad idea and make things difficult for Derek. But more importantly, really awkward for her when she finally had to have that talk with her dad.

There was another pause where Stiles imagined her dad was fighting the impulse to order Derek away from Stiles immediately. Thankfully he resisted and Derek didn’t move away.

She assumed her dad would leave but instead he spoke to Derek. ‘How is she?’

‘Shaken, but she’s strong.’

‘Yes she is.’ There was another stretch of silence that Stiles was glad she could fake ignoring. ‘I’ll see you before you go,’ he told Derek before backing out of her room.

‘Yes, sir.’

Stiles tried to giggle at Derek calling her dad ‘sir’ but she couldn’t wake up enough to do so. Her eyes were too heavy to open and her brain kept going momentarily offline.

The last thing she remembered was Derek’s arm tightening around her, his heart beating steady and strong beneath her head.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke hugging her pillow. From the tips of her toes to the ends of her hair she felt like one giant bruise. Everything ached. She groaned and pulled the pillow closer as everything from the night before came rushing back into focus. Rubbing at her eyes she forced herself to roll over. Eyes still closed, it occurred to her that she’d fallen asleep sitting up, curled into Derek’s side. Since she’d woken clinging to her pillow, comforter wrapped around her, he must have tucked her in before leaving.

Probably.

Maybe.

Unless dad had been in after their talk to check on her. Which was certainly less mortifying than the alternative and totally what she was going to go with.

‘Oh, holy crap,’ she breathed, eyes snapping open. Dad. And Derek. Talking. Last night. ‘Fuck.’

For a long moment she was tempted to curl up and stay in bed for the rest of the day and pretend nothing bad had happened. That way Derek and dad hadn’t had a conversation. Probably about her. If she pulled the comforter over her head and refused to move then she’d never have to find out what had been said. Or if anyone had died.

Which was stupid and in no way helpful, no matter how tempting. So she let go of the pillow, untangled her legs from her sheets and forced herself to fall out of bed and stumble into the shower, hoping to wash away some of the exhaustion.

Walking back into her room, towel wrapped tightly around her, Stiles felt marginally more human. There was a lingering sense of weariness in her bones but at least her brain felt less fuzzy. Grabbing whatever clothes were closest, Stiles dressed listening to the sounds of her dad moving about the kitchen. From the smell of it, he was cooking breakfast for the first time in forever. Usually by the time Stiles emerged for school he was already at work or sleeping.

Which meant he was waiting for her. But was he checking she was okay or preparing to ambush her about Derek? Or, worse, a cunning combination of the two.

Opening her door, she took a deep breath before grabbing her bag and running downstairs into the kitchen. The queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach started to go away as she watched her dad move around the kitchen.

‘Hey, dad.’ Dropping her bag on the table she kicked out a chair to sit on. Tapping her fingers on the table, she bit her lip, thinking. To mention Derek or not mention Derek, that was the question.

‘Morning, Kiddo.’ He picked up an already poured glass of orange juice and brought over to her. ‘Did you sleep okay?’ he asked, ruffling her hair.

‘Believe it or not, yeah.’ Messing with her hair meant he wasn’t mad, right?

It surprised her that she’d slept so well, not waking once. She’d expected to toss and turn all night, waking every five minutes. Instead, she’d fallen asleep next to Derek and hadn’t woken until the alarm went off. It made her wonder how long Derek had stayed after she’d drifted off.

Dad looked from Stiles to the bag next to her a couple of times. When Stiles didn’t offer any explanation, he shook his head. ‘You’re definitely going to school?’

She shrugged. ‘I guess.’

‘Do you want to?’ he asked carefully, grabbing a couple of plates from the cabinet.

She pulled a face. ‘No, not really, but it’s easier than hiding in my bed all day. Well, not easier, obviously, because staying in bed all day would be awesome but letting my brain go whatever it wants to? Probably less than awesome.’

Putting a plate of lightly buttered toast in front of her, he nodded. ‘Allison still picking you up?’

‘She texted me to say she and Scott would be here,’ she said around a mouthful of toast.

‘Don’t speak with your mouth full,’ he admonished her. ‘Your jeep’ll be home later today, by the way. One of the deputies will drop it off.’

‘Awesome. It’ll be good to have Betty back where she belongs.’

‘So, why isn’t Scott giving you a ride?’

Stiles grinned. ‘Melissa’s in one of her don’t let Scott drive the car moods.’

‘What did he do this time?’

‘He’s not saying but seeing as he goes beetroot red whenever I ask, I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess it probably has something to do with Allison.’

Dad shook his head. ‘Yeah, he’s rather taken with her, isn’t he?’

Stiles snorted into her orange juice. ‘That’s definitely one way of putting it.’

‘And you’re okay with that?’

‘He’s happy,’ she said simply. ‘We’re still BFFs.’

Who would have thought that talking about Scott would one day be a preferable topic of conversation at the Stilinski breakfast table. Certainly not Stiles but it was definitely better than talking about hunters or Derek.

Stiles blinked as her dad carried his plate over and sat down next to her instead of eating it standing up like he usually did.

After a few minutes of watching dad eat a breakfast she’d usually lecture him about eating, she finally cracked. ‘Dad?’

Swallowing a mouthful of egg, he picked up a piece of toast. ‘I know you don’t want me to ask this question, kiddo, but are you okay?’

Pushing her plate of half eaten toast away from her, she rested her arms on the table and propped her chin on her wrists. ‘I’m fine, dad. Honest.’

‘You know you can talk to me about anything, right?’

‘Yeah, but dad, nothing really happened.’

He rested his hand on the table, bacon that she wasn’t going to mention on the end of the fork. ‘Stiles, I know you weren’t physically hurt, but that doesn’t mean that you’re okay.’ His jaw tensed. ‘Those men threatened you.’

‘I really don’t have anything to say right now. I mean, I know I’m not okay. Like, duh. But -’ She shrugged helplessly at him.

‘Stiles,’ her dad said softly, ‘Even in a small town like this I see a lot of girls and women who have gone through varying levels of assault. Far more than I should have and I know that the level of assault doesn’t correlate to how much it affects you.’

She swallowed around the lump in her throat and, unable to speak, she nodded jerkily.

He gave her a tired smile. ‘There’s no right way to deal with this; no rules that say you have to talk about it now - just whenever you’re ready.’

‘Dad, I’ll talk to you. I’ll definitely talk to you.’ She felt it was important that he knew that. With all that she couldn’t tell him about her life, she wanted him to know that.

‘Or Scott.’ He reached over and squeezed her hand. ‘Or whoever you feel comfortable talking to.’

‘Dad -’

‘Even if that person is Derek,’ he continued dryly as he stood up, taking his plate with him.

Stiles bit her lip and scrunched up her nose. ‘Yeah, so uh, about that.’ She leaned back in the chair. ‘What, uh, what did you and Derek talk about?’

She winced as her dad turned around after loading his plate into the dishwasher and leaned against the counter, regarding her seriously. ‘Yes, let’s talk about Derek Hale, shall we?’

Stiles dropped her head and groaned. ‘Dad, really? Do we have to? There’s, like, nothing to talk about.’

‘I think the fact that a former murder suspect turned up on my doorstep last night, asking if he could see my only daughter less than an hour after she’d been attacked is something to talk about.’

‘Ugh.’ Because, well, did she really expect anything less?

He took a breath but paused, looking at her uncertainly. ‘We are having this conversation whether you like it or not-’

‘- not -’

‘But we don’t have to do it now if you’re not up to it.’

‘No. Have at it. I’m kind of dying but also dreading to know what you said to Derek last night.’

‘Well, you can keep on wondering.’

‘Dad,’ she whined. ‘I at least need to know how embarrassed I need to be.’

‘I didn’t know you were spending time with Derek Hale.’

She shrugged. ‘I guess…’ Because she could hardly explain to her dad why she was spending time with Derek or the fact that while they weren’t exactly friends he wasn’t exactly nothing to her either.

‘I’m guessing this isn’t a new development.’

Not quite sure what to say, Stiles shrugged and glanced away.

‘Stiles, look at me. When did you start spending time with Derek Hale?’

‘Couple of months ago, I guess.’

His shoulders slumped and he rubbed a hand over his face. ‘When we were at the hospital and you mentioned that you and Scott were spending time with him I didn’t realise -’

‘No, dad.’ She leaned forward earnestly. ‘It was… it was after that. I still kind of hated him then. But after all that and with Kate and the fire and everything. Well, I guess we started talking. Or, well, I talked, he didn’t tell me to get lost.’

‘You talked?’

‘Yeah.’ It wasn’t like she could say that they were Pack or that after Stiles had actually thought about their six weeks of crazy werewolf capers from Derek’s point of view she’d found it a lot harder to hate him.

‘Stiles, what do you have in common with -’ He sucked in a harsh breath. ‘Your mom.’

Hugging her stomach as it rolled, she nodded. ‘His family. And Laura.’

‘And you became close?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Is there maybe something else you want to tell me?’

‘Something else?’ she repeated, frowning. What else could she - ‘No, I… Oh, no. No, no,’ she said, shaking her head vehemently. ‘I’m not dating Derek. That is what you’re asking, right? If I’m dating Derek?’

His jaw tightened. ‘That’s exactly what I’m asking.’

‘Well, you can dial down the panic level, dad. Just because we found some common ground doesn’t mean I’m dating Derek Hale.’ The idea was laughable. He’d probably prefer to remove his heart with a dull spoon than date her.

‘Because even if you ignore the fact that I arrested him for murder -’

‘Murders Crazy Kate Argent did and tried to frame Derek for,’ Stiles felt compelled to point out.

‘Because even if you ignore all of that, he’s still nearly six years older than you, Stiles.’

Despite knowing that she wasn’t dating Derek, Stiles could feel her entire face flaming with embarrassment, which wouldn’t exactly help convince her dad that there was nothing to know. ‘Dad, I know how much older than me he is.’

‘I know he has the whole mysterious older guy thing going on -’

Stiles covered her face with her hands, glaring at him through her fingers. ‘Really, dad, please stop talking. He’s not that mysterious. I swear. He’s just a bit of an asshole.’

‘Do I really need to remind you of the law here, Stiles?’

Groaning, she banged her head against the table a couple of times. How were they managing to have such different conversations? ‘Dad. Please. No. Not that.’

‘Stiles, tell me what the law says.’

‘Dad -’

‘Now!’

She rolled her eyes. ‘Fine,’ she huffed. ‘Age of consent in the good old State of Cali, is eighteen.’

He looked at her expectantly.

‘I can’t believe you’re making me do this, but, according to the California Penal Code, Section 261.5 any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanour or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year. There.’ She crossed her arms and scowled. ‘Happy?’

‘Yes. Thank you.' Dad smiled. 'You should make sure Derek knows that, too.’

Choking on her orange juice, Stiles glared at him. ‘Seriously, dad, are you trying to kill me here?’

‘I’m just saying.’

‘You’re terrible, you know that?’

‘I thought it might avoid any confusion,’ he said, turning back to the sink.

‘There is no confusion. Zero. None. Did I mention zero?’ When he didn’t answer Stiles looked over at to see him staring out the window, a puzzled look on his face. ‘Dad?’

‘Are you positive that you and Derek aren’t dating?’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, dad, I’m quite sure I’d remember if that happened. Why?’

‘Because his car is idling in our driveway.’

Blinking, Stiles jumped up from the table and joined him at the window, because, really, Derek was there instead of Scott and Allison? Sure enough, the Camaro was right there. ‘Huh.’

‘I distinctly remember you saying that Scott and Allison were picking you up this morning.’

‘Me too,’ said Stiles, frowning. ‘I guess they got outvoted but I’m surprised he’s not fed up with me yet.’

‘Are you okay with that?’ He glanced back out the window looking troubled. ‘I can drop you at school on my way to work, if you’d prefer.’

Stiles leaned in to press a kiss to his cheek. ‘Dad, I spent all of last night watching movies with Derek. I think I’m okay with him driving me to school.’

‘You know we need to talk about this more, don’t you?’

‘Dad I’ve told you everything and I swear nothing is going on.’

‘So why is he picking you up? Why did he come by and check up on you and stay until you fell asleep?’

Stiles cringed. ‘Okay, when you put it like that I can totally see why you might still have some concerns and questions.’ Questions she still had no idea how to answer.

‘Well, at least you know that, I suppose.’

Turning to go and grab her bag and down her orange juice, Stiles paused. ‘Hey uh, you aren’t, like, thinking of forbidding me from hanging out with him, are you?’ Derek could probably hear every word, but she needed to know.

Finally turning away from the window, he shook his head. ‘No. You’ll do what you want and I’d prefer to know where you are and who you’re with instead of you feeling like you have to lie to me.’

‘So I totally get that a thirty minute talk before school isn’t going to have answered all your questions -’ Even if they were the only ones she had without resorting to the truth ‘- but I kinda need to get to school and I doubt my ride’s going to wait forever.’

‘We’re definitely talking later. You’re not getting out of it,’ dad told her with a look that suggested her sudden devotion to her studies hadn’t fooled him.

‘Believe me, I got that.’ Although she was pretty certain that she was going to do all she could to keep them from having said conversation.

She was Pack. Derek was a part of her life now. But since she couldn’t talk about that, what possible story could she come up with that would satisfy her dad? She kept meaning to mention it to Scott because eventually Melissa was going to notice something and a good cover story was everyone’s friend. But he was just never there and even when he was, all he wanted to talk about was Allison and lacrosse.

‘I’ll see you later this evening, okay?’ said Stiles, grabbing her bag and jacket. ‘Remember, no saturated fats, yeah? I’ll know if you cheat.’

‘You aren’t my doctor, you know,’ he grumbled as she darted in to give him a hug.

‘No, but I know what he said and I’m your daughter and you’re going to listen to anything I say.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’ He waved her off with a weary smile. ‘Have a good day at school. Call if you need me.’

She nodded before walking quickly to the door. Closing it behind herself, she took a deep breath and tightened her grip on her jacket. Derek hadn’t actually told her he was in her driveway yet, but he had to be getting impatient.

Concentrating on her breathing she made her way over to the Camaro, her pace slowing the closer she got.

Beacon Hills was a small town and everyone at school was going to know something had happened to the sheriff’s daughter. It was a fact and something she couldn’t control but she really didn’t want to feel everyone’s eyes on her as she walked in. Derek dropping her off was only going to add to the rumours but somehow that didn’t seem so important. And she still had to see her friends and maybe she should have taken the day off school and asked them to come round that evening so she could talk to them before being seen at school.

Pausing with her hand on the car door it belatedly occurred to her that the last time she’d seen Derek, she’d been falling asleep on him. Which, well, that wasn’t even a little awkward. Stiles snorted to herself. Yeah, right.

‘You know,’ she said, opening the door and bending so she could see in the car, ‘I’m fairly certain Allison said she and Scott were picking me up.’

‘Things change. Get in.’

Rolling her eyes, she chucked her bag on the floor and climbed in. ‘You should probably start driving before I change my mind and try to teleport back to my room. My comforter is looking real tempting right about now.’

‘Having second thoughts?’

‘And third and fourth. I think I’m probably going to change my mind about a billion times before we get to school.’

‘So I should drive?’

‘Definitely.’

He ducked his head and glanced up at the house. ‘Stiles, you can -’

‘Don’t tell me I can change my mind,’ she interrupted. ‘I have to do this. I can’t explain it because, yeah, it’d make sense to wait until after the weekend. But I have to do this now.’

‘Put on your seatbelt.’

Stiles raised an eyebrow.

‘Put on your seatbelt,’ he repeated.

‘As you command.’ Reaching over her shoulder, Stiles stared at Derek, frowning. ‘So, it’s not like I’m an expert or anything, but those look exactly like the clothes you were wearing last night.’

Derek grunted.

‘That was a yes, yeah?’

Derek ignored her as he started the engine.

‘Dude, can’t you, like, grunt once for yes and twice for no?’

Stopping at the end of the driveway, Derek glared at her.

‘That’s a yes, isn’t it?’

Pointedly ignoring her, Derek glanced at the road and then pulled out of the driveway.

‘Definitely a yes,’ she told him, with a grin.

Settling back in the seat, Stiles bit her lip and glanced over at Derek. Because that meant that Derek had essentially guarded her house all night. Stiles wasn’t too sure how that made her feel, but if the warmth spreading out from her stomach was any indication, it wasn’t a bad thing.

By the time they reached the end of the road, Stiles decided she couldn’t cope with the silence, regardless of how comfortable it might be. There was just too much for her brain to be freaking about. ‘So, come on, tell me, how did your conversation with my dad go? Did you have to pull any X-Men shenanigans?’

Slowing down slightly, Derek turned and squinted at her. ‘Shenanigans?’

‘Yep.’

‘No, Stiles, there were no shenanigans,’ he said flatly, turning his attention back to the road.

‘That’s almost disappointing,’ she commented with a sigh. Not that she’d wanted Derek to get shot or for her dad to find out, but she’d expected something terrible to happen.

‘Do you think your dad would let me drive you to school if he’d just found out I’m a werewolf?’

Watching the houses pass by, Stiles smiled. ‘Valid point. I’d probably have woken up if my house had turned into the House of the Dead last night.’

‘I wouldn’t put it past you to sleep through that,’ Derek muttered.

‘That’s so - hey! Are you trying to distract me?’

With a glance over at her, he smirked slightly. ‘Distract you from what?’

She narrowed her eyes. ‘You know what. You and dad having a conversation that I’m really hoping didn’t involve him accusing you of being a murderer. Again.’

‘He didn’t accuse me of killing anyone this time.’

‘Well, that’s something, I guess.’

Derek grunted.

‘So, come on then,’ she needled. ‘What did you guys talk about? I’m dying to know over here.’

‘What did your dad say?’

Stiles pulled a face, knowing that trying to convince Derek that her dad had actually said anything was futile. ‘A load of nothing.’

‘So what makes you think I’m going to tell you?’

‘Derek,’ she whined. Reaching over she poked him in the shoulder. ‘Tell me.’

Taking a hand off the wheel, he grabbed her fingers. Wrapping his hand around hers, he lowered them to rest on his thigh. ‘No.’

Breath stuttering slightly, Stiles frowned. ‘But -’

‘No.’

‘You’re mean.’

Derek snorted.

‘You are, you know.’

‘That hurts,’ Derek said, pulling into the school parking lot.

‘Sure it does,’ Stiles scoffed. Before she could say anything more, she spotted her friends gathered together by Jackson’s car, and her breath caught in her throat. Maybe she should have waited; should have seen them all over the weekend when she wouldn’t have been feeling quite so overwhelmed.

Derek squeezed her hand. ‘Breathe.’

‘I wasn’t quite expecting such a welcome committee,’ she admitted quietly, her stomach cramping. Derek didn’t know how lucky he was that she hadn’t finished her morning toast.

Seeing Scott and Allison wait for her wasn’t exactly a surprise, because, until Mr Grumpypants had pulled rank, they were going to pick her up. What she hadn’t really expected was to see Lydia, Danny and Jackson waiting for her as well. Circumstance had pulled them all together and she might suddenly have more in common with them than before but she knew that didn’t really make them friends. Yet, here they all were, and Stiles didn’t quite know what to do with that.

All of them looked to be in the midst of an intense conversation, heads bowed close together, but as Derek’s car crawled closer Scott and Jackson both froze and turned to stare at the car at the same time. Scott looked like he was practically vibrating on the spot and Stiles was fairly certain the only reason he wasn’t stalking towards them was because Allison had her arm wrapped around his waist. Perhaps she should have called him the night before and put his mind at ease.

‘I could send them away,’ Derek offered. ‘All except Scott.’

Stiles huffed out a breath. ‘No, no. Since I thought this was such good idea I… I should probably get this over and done with.’

Braking next to Jackson’s Porsche, Derek revved the engine and Stiles nearly snorted when everyone not already looking at them, started staring. There went any chance she had of a low key entrance.

‘Showoff,’ she muttered.

‘Just remember to breathe,’ he said quietly.

‘That is some excellent advice there, Obi-Wan. I’ll keep it in mind.’

With a deep breath, Stiles reached out to open the door, but paused when she felt Derek tug her back with the hand she’d forgotten he was holding hostage. Twisting her head around she glanced down at their hands and shot him a questioning look.

Instead of dropping her hand, his grip tightened and he gave her a searching look. ‘If it gets too much, call me.’

‘Derek -’

‘Stiles. You call me.’

She nodded, but knew she wouldn’t. It was important she did this bit by herself.

Taking another deep, steadying breath, Stiles reluctantly pulled her hand from Derek’s, already missing the comforting warmth. She fixed a smile on her face and opened the door.

Chapter Text

Stiles rested her elbows on the desk and dug the heels of her hands into her eyes, hoping it would magically kick her out of her funk. After spending the weekend chilling with her dad and forcing Derek to watch some of her favourite movies Stiles really wasn’t in the right frame of mind for homework.

But now she was reading up on the history of democracy for an essay that was due the day after tomorrow and her concentration kept skittering away. Throwing her pen down in frustration, Stiles wondered if maybe she should just give up for a while since she wasn’t getting anywhere. Perhaps, instead, she could turn her hand to deciding on what movie she was going to inflict on Derek that night.

Spinning the chair around to peruse her DVD collection, her heart jumped into her throat and she nearly screamed when she saw someone - not Derek - crouched in the middle of her room.

‘Hey, Stiles.’

‘Scott! What the -’ She had to pause for a couple of seconds to get her breathing under control and allow her heart to stop galloping quite so fast. ‘Dude, what the hell are you doing going all Dawson on me?’

Scott frowned, confused, before his face cleared, dismissing the comment to give her a smile. ‘Just checking up on you.’

‘And you thought the best way to check up on me was to creep into my room -’ Her eyes strayed to her window, mentally hitting herself over the head when she saw it open ‘- and scare the crap out of me? Really?’

Although, with the way Scott had hardly let her out of his sight while at school to even go to the bathroom, she wasn’t particularly surprised. It was like he’d been taking lessons from Derek. But with extra creep.

‘I didn’t mean to scare you,’ Scott said, looking contrite. ‘I was just worried.’

‘Why? You saw me a couple of hours ago at school.’

‘Yeah, but you weren’t answering your texts.’

‘Because I’m doing homework. Or at least trying to,’ she said, gesturing in exasperation at the books spread out across her desk. ‘And I haven’t been looking at my phone. It doesn’t mean I’m being disembowelled by an axeman.’

Scott pushed to his feet and came and to stand in front of her, almost looming. ‘I was still worried.’

Stiles pushed hard against his stomach. ‘Could you like, not tower over me like that.’ When he wouldn’t budge, she rolled the chair back until it hit her desk and slipped out, feeling far more in control now she was standing and Scott wasn’t towering over her.

Scott rubbed the back of his head, giving her a rueful smile. ‘Sorry, I really didn’t mean to freak you out.’

Stiles shook her head, offering him a weak smile. ‘I’m just a bit jumpy, is all.’

Scott nodded. He was obviously still distracted - his eyes darted about her room, lingering on her bed before moving off again. His body was tense, like he was alert and ready for attack. Though quite what he thought was going to attack in her room she didn’t know.

‘So, how long were you there before I noticed?’

Scott was staring at her bed again. Quite what was bothering him she couldn’t even begin to fathom. ‘Uh, what?’

‘How long -’

Scott’s expression cleared. ‘Maybe a minute.’

She let out a sigh of relief, finally able to force her shoulders to drop. ‘Next time you sneak through my window could you, like, make noise or something? I don’t need people creeping up on me at the moment. I think I might need to get you a collar with a bell on it.’

‘I, uh, I didn’t, I meant I will. I -’ He shook his head before frowning and standing a little straighter. ‘Why can I smell Derek all over your room?’

It wasn’t quite a growl but it was close enough to make Stiles warily snap her eyes to Scott. ‘Uh, what?’

‘Derek’s scent is everywhere.’ He turned in the middle of the room. ‘Everywhere.’

‘So?’

‘Why was he here?’

‘You’re kidding me, right? You’ve scented Derek in my room before. What’s the big deal this time?’

‘No reason.’ Scott shifted awkwardly on his feet.

‘Dude, a blind man could see you’re acting all kinds of weird. What is going on in that fluffy head of yours?’

‘Nothing.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Because that’s all kinds of convincing.’

Scott ignored her. ‘It doesn’t smell like your room anymore. I don’t like it.’ And there was definitely more growl that time.

If only her room was bigger. Maybe with a big glass cage in the middle of it for raging werewolves. She held up her hands and met Scott’s eyes. ‘Okay, so first, you need to put a leash on the savage beast because I’m not in the mood to deal with you trying to kill me.’

All the menace fell out of Scott like he’d been popped. He blinked, looking for all intent and purpose like a lost little puppy. ‘I wasn’t going to hurt you.’

‘It didn’t feel like it,’ she told him, moving over to stand next to her bed. If Scott lost it, maybe she’d be able to duck and he’d go sailing out the window. ‘It felt like you were going to shift.’

‘I wasn’t going to hurt -’

‘You’ve said that already,’ she interrupted. ‘That doesn’t explain anything, though.’

‘Derek’s been here.’

‘You said that already. I feel like we’re going round in circles,’ she sighed, rubbing her eyes. ‘Of course he’s been here. I’m like the Pack researcher, in case you’ve forgotten. Of course he’s been in my room.’

‘He might hurt you.’ Scott was watching her, his face twisted with determination, like he really thought Derek was a danger to her. ‘You shouldn’t be alone with him.’

‘I - what? Seriously, what is up with you today? Derek hurt me? He’s our Alpha, or have you forgotten that?’ Crossing her arms she glared at Scott. ‘He’s been checking up on me, which is more than I can say for you.’

‘Your dad -’

‘He sent you away Friday night because school had been just a little overwhelming. That was all. He never said you couldn’t come over the rest of the weekend.’ And while she’d never expect any of the others to check up on her, she’d expected to see Scott.

‘Oh. I -’ He squinted at her. ‘I thought -’

‘Well, you thought wrong. Really, really wrong, dummy.’

‘So Derek was here because..?’

‘He was checking up on me.’ She smacked her hand to her forehead. ‘I just told you that.’

‘But his scent is starting to mingle with yours,’ Scott said, looking around the room with a big scowl.

‘So? And what does that even mean, anyway?’ Most of the time Stiles really didn’t want the bite - she was never going to regret turning down Peter - but there were times when she really wished she knew what they were smelling and what they thought it was telling them.

‘I don’t know what it means.’ He scrubbed his fingers through his hair. ‘But I can smell it happening and I don’t like it. You should stay away from him until we work out if something’s going on.’

Stay away from the only person Stiles felt normal around? ‘Yeah, not happening.’ Especially with Scott acting like a crazy person. ‘Where’s Allison?’ Scott was at least fifty percent less crazy with her around.

‘Training with Mr Argent,’ Scott said glumly.

‘Fun, fun, fun.’ Although it did remind Stiles that she wanted to talk to Allison about what Mr Argent was teaching her.

Scott pulled a face and for half a second Stiles thought they might go back to some form of normality. Instead he started glaring at her bed again. ‘It doesn’t take that long to check on someone. It smells like he’s been sleeping here.’

And, yeah, Stiles wasn’t touching that one. ‘We watched a couple of movies together. Is that okay with you?’

‘Didn’t your dad mind?’

Stiles laughed. ‘Do you think he would’ve been okay with it if he’d known?’

After the sheer awfulness of their previous conversation, there was no way Stiles was going to let her dad jump to even crazier conclusions about Derek.

‘So maybe you should think about all the reasons he wouldn’t be happy if he knew.’

Stiles opened her mouth to tell Scott all about how her dad thought she was dating Derek. If nothing else his face would be a picture and he’d be complaining about mental pictures for the rest of time. But his weird behaviour had her feeling unbalanced and she couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t do something stupid, like try and attack Derek.

‘Uh, mostly because we accused Derek of a heinous crime he didn’t commit and Dad can’t quite get past that. We’re just lucky he didn’t escape from jail and disappear into the Beacon Hills underground, living out the rest of his life as a soldier of fortune.’

Scott didn’t even crack a smile. ‘Stiles, you need to be careful with Derek,’ he said earnestly. ‘He’s dangerous.’

She threw her hands up in the air. ‘Of course he’s dangerous, you idiot, but if he’s dangerous to us, then we’re fucked anyway. I thought you’d quit with the idea of Derek being one bad mood away from ripping out our throats and my throat specifically ages ago.’

‘I don’t think Derek’s going to kill us.’

‘Right,’ she drawled. ‘Do you want to try that again, once more with feeling?’

Scott glowered at the floor.

‘I know I don’t have your finely tuned werewolf superpowers, but after our long and illustrious - some might even say legendary - friendship, I totally know when you’re lying, so maybe you should work on that.’

Scott opened his mouth, probably to protest, but he was cut off by the muffled sound of I fought the Law and the Law Won.

‘Oh, shit. Where’d I leave my cell?’ Stiles looked around, hoping to see the telltale light.

‘It’s in your bag,’ Scott muttered, glaring out the window.

‘Of course it is,’ she muttered. Upending her bag onto the bed, she rummaged through the books, pens and other random crap she was hauling around until her hand closed around it. If she didn’t hurry up and answer, her dad was probably going to flip out and send round a patrol car. ‘Hey, Dad. What’s up?’

‘Why wasn’t your phone with you?’

‘First off, hello to you too. Second of all, my cell was making a bid for Narnia via the bottom of my bag.’

‘Sorry, Kiddo.’ He sighed, sounding tired. ‘Didn’t mean to snap.’

‘It’s okay, and you can relax. I’m good.’

‘Good.’

‘You’re not being a pain, dad.’

‘You’re a terrible liar, but it’s sweet of you to not to tell your old man to butt out.’

‘You’re being ridiculous,’ she told him, smiling.

‘I’ll see you at home in a little bit, okay, kiddo? I won’t be too late.’

‘Cool. I’ll see you then. Bye’

She hung up and instead of dropping her cell onto the bed, she scrolled through to her texts. Staring at the number there, she felt her eyes widen. ‘Seriously, Scott? Thirty four texts? Thirty four?’

Scott rubbed the back of his neck. ‘You weren’t answering,’ he whined plaintively. ‘You should have answered them.’

‘Dude, really, do you have any idea how many texts I’ve sent you some nights that you’ve totally ignored? I haven’t broken into your room to find out why.’

The fact that she might have wanted to, was neither here nor there.

‘I was worried, Stiles. Don’t you get that? What if you’d stopped at the store again?’

‘Then I would have bought food, you doofus. Those dickwad hunters are long gone. I don’t think Allison’s dad would lie about that.’

‘But –‘

‘Thirty four texts, Scott. Why didn’t you just call me?’

‘I thought you might be sleeping and I didn’t want to wake you. I know you’ve not been sleeping all that good.’

‘So you crept into my room, thinking I’d be asleep?’

‘When you put it like that, it sounds really bad. I only wanted to make sure you’re okay.’

And, really, this was everything she’d wanted since Allison had turned up on the scene; Scott worrying about her, wanting to hang out with her and for things to be how they’d been before the insanity of werewolves and girlfriends had taken over. But it didn’t feel right. It felt nothing like before. She could tell that Scott didn’t want to be there.

If Allison was there with him, it would make more sense. But it was just Scott. Being kind of crazy by himself.

‘Do you, uh, want me to stay with you until your dad gets back?’ Scott offered. ‘We could, uh, watch a movie or play Final Fantasy?’

She was so tempted to say yes, but she didn’t think she’d be able to cope with how awkward it felt for much longer. ‘I…I think I’m okay.’

Scott blinked, surprise written across his face. ‘Oh. Uh. I - really?’

‘Yeah.’ She shrugged. ‘Sorry.’ The weight of Scott’s stare made her feel compelled to explain. ‘I mean, thanks, and everything -’

‘Thanks and everything?’ Scott repeated. ‘Seriously, Stiles?’

‘Look, I don’t want to be around people. Everyone at school has been playing Chinese whispers about me and it’s difficult not to run screaming whenever the halls are full. I’m all peopled out for today, okay?’

‘I didn’t think I’d count as ‘people’.’

‘Scott, you know you aren’t ‘people’ and you’re an ass for suggesting that you are. It’s not like I’m ignoring you, or anything. I just -’

‘That’s what it sounded like.’

Stiles scowled. ‘Well, it shouldn’t. I just don’t like people being close to me at the moment, you know.’ She bit her lip for a moment. ‘It’s not the person involved. It’s the physical presence.’ She shrugged helplessly. ‘That’s the only way I can think of to explain it.’

‘I guess I can get that.’

‘Yeah?’

Scott nodded.

‘So, uh, does that mean I can ask a favour?’

‘Anything, Stiles.’

‘Could you possibly not Peter Pan me tomorrow at school? You were kind of close today.’

He threw her a sullen look. ‘I was only trying to stop everyone from bothering you.’

‘I know that, and yeah, it was awesome not having to deal with everyone, but…’

‘But what?’

‘Look, I know you’re worried and don’t want to anything to happen to me, but the thing is –’

‘You don’t want me here. I get the point.’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘I think you’ve forgotten that I can tell when you’re lying. And you’re definitely lying.’

‘I’m not -’

‘Yes, you are,’ he snapped. Scott stomped over to the window, looking like he was ten years old and Melissa had just told him he couldn’t go to the lake with Stiles because they were going for a family meal.

‘That’s not what I said,’ Stiles snapped back, exasperated, but she didn’t stop him from walking to the window.

‘But it’s what you meant.’ He threw a leg out of the window, balancing on the ledge.

‘Oh my god, will you stop putting words in my mouth, already?’

‘You said -’

‘I know what I said, Scott. I said it.’

‘And -’

‘What I said was that I don’t feel like being around people at the moment.’

Scott’s mouth twisted unhappily. ‘Which means me.’

‘Not just you. Everyone. Lydia, Danny, Allison. Jackson.’ She ticked her them off on her fingers. ‘Like, all the people in the known universe and beyond. If Krypton and Vulcan existed I wouldn’t want to hang out there right now either.’

‘Even Derek?’

‘Huh?’

‘You just said that Derek keeps coming over and you don’t send him away. You watch movies with him. So you don’t hate having him around.’

Stiles’ brain stuttered. ‘I - Derek’s different..?’ She cringed at just how lame she sounded.

‘Different?’

‘Yeah.’

‘So you like having him around but not me. Thanks, Stiles. Good to know.’

‘Look, I dunno why I’m okay with Derek but it’s probably just because he’s our Alpha.’

Scott snorted.

‘It’s not like there are rules to how I react to all this shit, you know. So the least you can do as my best friend is be okay with what makes me feel better. Feel safer.’

Scott shook his head. ‘Stiles -’

‘No, really. Stop. Seriously, Scott.’

‘I can’t believe you enjoy being around Derek,’ Scott muttered, his mouth turned down.

‘Hey, wait, are you like jealous or something?’

‘No,’ Scott scoffed. ‘Why would I be jealous of Derek?’

‘I don’t know, but it’s kind of ridiculous.’

‘I’m going then,’ Scott said, his voice sullen.

‘Don’t be like that. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. Really.’

It wasn’t enough to placate him, though. Giving her one last look, Scott disappeared out the window and by the time she leaned out, he was already on the ground, striding angrily away.

‘Well, that went well,’ she muttered.

Stiles remembered to lock the window this time. Turning away, though, Stiles could have sworn she saw a shadow standing in the back yard, hidden by the shadows of the trees. She turned back quickly, but there was nothing and no-one there. Peering closer, Stiles could tell that the yard was definitely empty now, but she was nearly positive that she’d seen Scott standing there.

‘You have an overactive imagination, Stilinski, that’s all,’ she muttered to herself. ‘Completely overactive.’ The combination of Scott being more than a little weird and the trees making strange shadows was just making her jumpy. There wasn’t really anything to be afraid of and she didn’t want to be that girl.

Shaking her head - Scott skulking around her yard would be insane, and just a little creepy – Stiles pulled the curtains closed. Usually she forgot or couldn’t be bothered, but tonight she’d prefer not to be able to see the outside world.

Climbing off her bed, she turned and nearly had her second heart attack in less than an hour. Derek was standing in her doorway, the shadows from the hallway turning him into a hulking, intimidating presence.

‘Jeez, Derek,’ she breathed as he stepped further into the light of her room. ‘Make some noise, would you?’

Closing the door, he threw her a puzzled look. ‘I slammed the front door and made sure I stood on both the stairs that creak.’

‘Which, I would usually have completely and utterly appreciated if I’d, you know, noticed.’

Derek’s eyes flicked to the window behind her. ‘And why didn’t you notice?’

‘Oh. Right. I -’ She glanced back at the window. ‘I guess I was distracted.’

He raised an eyebrow.

‘It’s nothing.’

‘Nothing?’ he repeated flatly.

After five seconds of his stare boring into her, she broke. ‘I thought I saw a shadow in the yard and it freaked me out -’ No need to mention Scott ‘- It’s ridiculous.’

Instead of answering, Derek crossed the room and leaned over the bed, pushing the curtain aside. He stared out into the dark for a few seconds before letting the curtain drop back into place. ‘Nothing there.’

‘I know that.’

‘Never hurts to check.’ He shrugged off his jacket before settling in the middle of the bed, ankles crossed. Glancing around he cocked his head and took a deep breath. ‘Scott was here.’

Realising just how close Derek had come to being there at the same time as Scott, Stiles shrugged. ‘Just checking up on me.’

And she was half tempted to fall into a rant about how she didn’t need to be followed around and protected but she really didn’t want to think about Scott’s weirdness and she didn’t want Derek to overreact when she was appreciating the fact that he wasn’t.

He gave her a brief, searching look that made her think she hadn’t really managed to hide anything from him. ‘Really?’

‘Yeah.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘He texted me a couple of times and when I didn’t answer, he freaked out.’

‘Nothing more?’

Stiles wrinkled her nose. ‘Uh, were you expecting there to be something more?’

Derek shook his head. ‘Not really.’

Stiles ran her fingers along the spines of the DVDs. ‘Hey, not that I’m complaining about you using the stairs, or anything. I mean, it’s progress and all that. But how did you get in the house? I know I locked the front door when I got in tonight.’

‘I found the spare key.’

‘Call me crazy, but I feel like there’s more to that statement than meets the eye.’

‘I got a copy cut when I became Alpha. Just in case.’

‘In case what?’

Derek grimaced and looked away. ‘In case there was an emergency.’

‘For those emergencies where crashing through the window just wouldn’t do?’

A pained expression crossed his face and Derek sighed as he leaned forward and grabbed his jacket. Stiles watched in surprise as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. ‘Here.’

Plucking a DVD off the shelf, Stiles walked over to Derek and took the key out of his hand. She turned it over a couple of times, frowning as she stared at it. With a nod to herself, she handed it back to him, smiling as his brow furrowed in confusion, even as he picked it up. ‘Keep it.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Just in case.’

Derek slipped the key back into the inside pocket of the jacket before throwing it back to the foot of the bed. ‘So what movie are you inflicting upon me tonight?’

Stiles walked over to the DVD player, offered him a toothy grin over her shoulder, already feeling tons better. ‘Oh, you are going to love this one.’

Derek groaned as she bounded back over to the bed to present the case to him with a flourish.

Reluctantly accepting the DVD case, Derek raised an eyebrow. ‘Bring It On.’

‘It’s magical,’ she told him. Throwing herself down on to the bed next to him and grinning up at him, Stiles was determined to ignore everything but enjoying Derek’s pain at watching a movie about cheerleaders.

‘Liar.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Chapter Text

Over the next few days everything had gone back to what could be considered normal. Scott still stood maybe a fraction too close to her as they walked between classes, and possibly he glared a little too menacingly at anyone not pack who got too close or tried to talk to her. But there were no more creepy bedroom visits. Which obviously meant this was the perfect time for Scott to lose his shit.

‘So, do you think Harris’ll flip if we’ve only done half the assignment?’ Cameron asked, leaning against the locker next to Stiles’ as she emptied her bag, looking for her chemistry notes.

Giving up, she slammed her locker closed, laughing. ‘Harris will flip regardless of how much homework I’ve done. Me not finishing the assignment only gives him an excuse.’

‘So we should meet up at lunchtime and finish, huh?’

‘That’s probably -’

Cameron’s eyes drifted over her shoulder then widened, clouding with fear. Stiles was about to turn around when Scott nearly blurred past her, making Stiles yelp in surprise.

‘What the -?’

Stiles’ stomach dropped as she watched Scott grab the front of Cameron’s shirt, lifting him clean off the ground and slamming him into the lockers.

Cameron’s mouth dropped open and Scott altered his grip, pushing Cameron’s shoulders further into the lockers. The whole row was shaking and Stiles was half afraid there was a Cameron-shaped dent forming. The worst part was Scott’s wild expression as he bared his teeth in a loud growl.

Cameron scrabbled uselessly at Scott’s arm, trying to push him away. He appeared completely unaware of the nonsense pouring out of his mouth in apology.

Everyone else in the hallway had frozen, most of them gaping and none of them moving to help. Of course, with Scott quite literally foaming at the mouth, Stiles couldn’t say she blamed them.

‘Where the hell is Jackson when I need him?’ she hissed under her breath, then stepped in close and grabbed Scott’s arm to yank him away, but to no effect.

Shit. Stiles leaned forward and hissed, ‘If you don’t let go of him right now -’ and, God, she couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth - ‘I’m calling Derek and we can see if his Alpha voice is as magical over the phone as bit is in real life.’

It took a second, and Stiles was convinced Scott was going to shove her away, but he finally turned to look at her. Stiles’ stomach dropped. His eyes were ringed with yellow, and she glanced down at his hands, but was relieved to see that they, at least, still looked normal.

Stiles pulled her cell from her pocket and brandished it in Scott’s face. ‘I’ll call him right now,’ she said, knowing that Scott would know just how serious she was.

It only took a moment to pull up Derek’s number, and she paused with her finger over the send button, raising a challenging eyebrow. ‘Well? Shall we call him?’

Scott released Cameron after one final push, and Cameron froze almost before his feet hit the floor, as if expecting Scott to slam back into him.

After a second Cameron collapsed back against the lockers, eyeing Scott warily, pulling huge gulps of air into his lungs. ‘Are you fucking crazy?’

‘Stay away from Stiles,’ Scott growled, sounding almost subhuman.

Stiles glanced around uneasily, noticing for the first time that the hallway had filled up even more and she could see the gleeful whispers starting. It felt like the entire school had played witness and plenty of people were glaring at Stiles, making her feel far too exposed.

Scott was standing completely still, not moving away from Cameron but thankfully not trying to go for him again, either. Stiles had a horrible feeling that if Cameron tried to flee, Scott would be after him like he was a Happy Meal with legs.

‘Quit looking at him like he’s prey,’ she muttered, pushing in closer to Scott, trying to put herself between them. ‘You’re nearly drooling.’ She fisted her hand in Scott’s t-shirt, hoping it would pull his attention to her. ‘Come on, we’ve got to go.’

After a long pause Scott took a minute step backwards, and Stiles felt a sudden rush of relief.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said to Cameron, wishing she could stay and made sure he was okay but needing to yell at Scott more. ‘He’s having a bad day.’

Cameron scowled at her. ‘Just stay the fuck away from me, yeah?’

Before anyone could recover further and say or do anything, like maybe find one of their elusive teachers, Stiles tightened her grip on Scott’s t-shirt; then she dragged him after her. Ignoring the fevered whispers as they increased in volume, Stiles shoved Scott through the open door of one of the classrooms further down the corridor and slammed it shut. Feeling a dark scowl settle on her face, she spun around to glare at him.

‘Oh. My. God. What is your damage? Are you insane? Did someone drop you on your head? You just threw a guy into the lockers. Into the lockers. What happens if Cameron reports you? Or noticed your eyes changing?’

Scott looked stricken. ‘Stiles, I didn’t think –‘

‘Your grades are only just recovering from the werewolf cliff they fell off, and you go and do something so mind meltingly stupid?’

‘I wasn’t thinking about that.’

‘No shit, Sherlock.’

‘But Cameron was -’

‘Was talking to me about homework.’ Stiles bulldozed right on. ‘Homework, Scott. And you slammed him into the lockers. What the hell were you thinking?’

‘He might have, I dunno, done something, could have -’

‘Could have what?’ she demanded, throwing her arms wide. ‘Attacked me in the middle of the busy hallway with his very menacing backpack?’

‘He could have hurt you.’

‘Oh, please,’ Stiles scoffed. ‘Cam couldn’t hurt a fly. Plus, he’s even lower down on the school social scale than I am. Or, well, was. I think it’s fair to say I’ve sunk to new, previously unchartered, depths. So, thanks for that, jackass. And, far more importantly, Cam is a nice guy and didn’t deserve that.’

Scott scrubbed his hands through his hair until it stuck out, looking even more like he just rolled out of bed and come to school. Stiles was far too irritated to find it endearing. ‘I don’t think you understand how serious this is, Stiles.’

Stiles nearly choked on the ball of rage that lodged in her throat. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t understand how serious it is? What the hell are you saying? That I don’t know how to protect myself?’

Scott scowled mulishly. ‘Stiles, that’s not-’

‘Because let me remind you I was the one who saved me from those hunters. Me, myself and my dad. It wasn’t you - or even Derek - coming in on your white horse to save me, so quit acting like it was.’

‘I’m not -!’ Scott protested.

Stiles bit down on her urge to scream. Or to punch someone. The only thing that stayed her hand was knowing that Scott might take it as further proof that she needed his protection.

‘Yes, you are. You may not think you are, but, believe me, Scott, that is totally how you’re acting. And it’s driving me nuts!’

Before Scott could dig himself any deeper, the door slammed open, banging against the wall. Stiles jumped and spun around in time to see Jackson striding in, scowl firmly in place.

‘Well, better late than never, I guess,’ she muttered.

Jackson marched past her and squared off against Scott, who had crossed his arms, scowling.

‘What the hell happened?’ Jackson demanded, his lips set in a thin line. ‘There are crazy rumours flying all around school. Have you had an extra dose of stupid, today?’

Stiles snorted. ‘What happened was that he went all crazycakes and I was left to pull a raging werewolf off of a human. You are the worst backup ever.’

Jackson dismissed her with a roll of his eyes.

‘What the fuck were you thinking, McCall? You do know what a secret is, right?’

‘Because you were such an excellent secret keeper back when you were running around town, begging anyone you saw to make you their bitch,’ Stiles scoffed.

‘Shut it, Stilinski.’

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ Scott protested.

‘Not your fault? Then who the fuck’s fault was it?’

Scott opened his mouth and Stiles stepped forward to punch him in the arm. ‘Don’t you even dare to think about blaming Cameron. This had nothing to do with him. It was all your own crazy.’

‘But -’

‘Shut it, McCall,’ Jackson snapped. ‘Cameron may be a loser, but he doesn’t have the nerve to look you in the eye, let alone attack you. What the hell do you think Derek is going to do when he hears that you went loco again?’

Scott’s face turned extra mulish. ‘Derek should be protec-’

‘I’ll tell you what he’ll do,’ Jackson said. ‘He’ll blame me because you’re a moron.’

Stiles had been ready to defend Cameron’s social status, but as Jackson’s words registered, her mouth dropped open. ‘Seriously? That’s what you’re going with? That the tragedy of today is that Derek might be a bit crabby with you? Not that Cameron nearly became wolf chow or that he could have shone a light on the existence of werewolves for all to see?’

‘Hey, I mentioned the whole ‘we’re secret’ thing,’ he snapped back. ‘And if you were me, you’d be worried about how Derek reacts too.’

‘I’d be worried for the Pack, you ass. Not for myself.’ Jackson snorted, making Stiles narrow her eyes. ‘You know, not everyone is as self-centred as you.’

‘Whatever.’

‘Yeah, whatever,’ she mimicked. ‘Because in case you’ve forgotten, keeping shit like this in check is kind of your job now. I’m pretty sure I remember Derek saying something about that. How’d you manage not to be around the one time you were actually needed?’

‘Shut up.’

Scott was standing between them, wide-eyed. ‘Uh, guys -’

‘Shut up, Scott!’ they both yelled in unison.

‘I dunno why you’re yelling at me!’

‘Because you’re an idiot!’ Jackson said bluntly. ‘You do remember that Derek warned us against something like this happening, don’t you?’

Stiles glanced between the two of them, hoping one of them would elaborate. Something Derek had warned them about? That sounded like something Stiles should know about, but Scott started talking again before she could demand an explanation.

‘I was protecting Stiles.’

Jackson snorted. ‘Against a nobody like Cameron.’

Scott growled and Jackson replied in kind, dropping his bag and kicking it out the way. The tension had racketed up about a hundred knots. Stiles scrambled desperately to grab her cell phone for the second time in less than thirty minutes.

This time she didn’t waste time threatening to call Derek - she just went for the send button and was about to hit it when Scott froze and stopped growling abruptly. Ignoring Jackson and Stiles completely, Scott dashed towards the door, pulling it open. Allison was standing on the other side, hand raised.

‘Oh, thank god.’ Stiles slumped against the desk behind her as Allison pulled Scott into a thoroughly undeserved hug.

Even Jackson looked relieved.

Looking over Scott’s shoulder, Allison offered Stiles and Jackson a concerned smile. ‘There you all are,’ she said, relief obvious. Untangling herself from Scott, she pushed him further into the room, closing the door behind herself. ‘I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Lydia’s checking the other side of the school. Your crazy stunt knocked Erica off the top spot for class psycho.’

‘Already?’ Stiles asked. She didn’t like it when people gossipped about Erica, but she’d been hoping it would take a little longer for the rumours to get some steam. As long as no teachers had overheard anything then they’d been okay. ‘What’s the four-one-one?’

‘That Scott threw Cameron across the hallway,’ said Allison, tangling her fingers with Scott’s and giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. ‘That he went flying through the air and crashed into the lockers, before Scott beat the crap out of him.’

‘True, slight exaggeration and completely false,’ Stiles said, ticking them off on her fingers.

‘What happened, Scott?’ Allison asked, her voice softer and way more concerned than Scott deserved. ‘What did Cameron do?’

‘Why are you trying to find excuses for Scott? He was the one who attacked Cameron,’ Stiles snapped. ‘What makes you think Cameron did anything wrong?’

Allison pointedly looked her up and down. ‘Because you’re shaking, Stiles.’

Stiles glanced down at herself and was surprised to discover that Allison was right. She’d been so angry with Scott and then Jackson that it had completely escaped her notice. She raised her hands, frowning at them and trying to make the shaking stop, but, if anything, they just seemed to shake even more. Her teeth were chattering and she clenched her jaw to keep them still.

Scott and Jackson quit staring daggers at each other and a second later she had one standing either side of her, both of them looking like they wanted to cocoon her in bubble wrap. Since Derek had started training them in earnest, both Scott and Jackson had made a concerted effort to act more normal at school, so having them revert back to their previous bad behaviour was disconcerting. Judging by the startled look on Allison’s face, it had thrown her too.

‘Why are you shaking?’ Jackson demanded.

Scott stepped closer. ‘Did he hurt you?’

The pair of them were acting as though they were straining against invisible bonds that were keeping them from pressing up against her and sniffing.

Stiles gritted her teeth and forced herself to stay exactly where she was. If she moved, they’d just move with her.

Allison, at least, seemed to realise just how antsy they were making Stiles, and she slipped her hand through Scott’s arm to tug him back a couple of steps. Scott threw Allison a confused look but he went with her and it gave Stiles enough space to move a little further from Jackson.

‘You were there, dumbass,’ Stiles said to Scott. ‘You know he didn’t hurt me. He was just offering to hold my bag while I opened my locker. Not exactly the Napoleon of crime.’

Although it did bring up the interesting question of where her bag had ended up in all the chaos.

‘Then why are you shaking?’ Jackson repeated.

‘Adrenalin, maybe? I dunno. The shaking isn’t a big deal.’

‘Shaking means you’re definitely not fine,’ Scott said, looking at Jackson and nodding decisively. ‘The shaking is a big deal.’

Stiles threw up her hands in pure exasperation. ‘Oh my god, will you both can it for a moment? Or longer than a moment, if that’s at all possible. Theoretically you both have brains. Have you considered powering them up recently?’

‘But Allison’s right, you are shaking,’ Scott pointed out, unable to look away from her hands. ‘He did something.’

Jamming her hands deep into her pockets, she rolled her eyes. ‘You don’t think that might be because I just watched my best friend throw another friend into a wall just for talking to me, do you? Because are you really all that shocked that I’m freaked out by that?’

‘Stiles, I told you -’

‘No,’ she snapped. ‘I told you. Stop it. Just. Stop it.’ Jackson had somehow inched closer without her noticing so she shoved at his shoulder, glaring at him when he refused to budge. ‘And you can quit it too, jackass.’

‘We’re not doing anything,’ Jackson protested. ‘Just keeping an eye on you.’

‘And that’s just it,’ she yelled. ‘I don’t need anyone keeping an eye on me. I only need me keeping an eye on me.’

Scott and Jackson, finally united in a common purpose - against her, naturally - glanced knowingly at each other.

‘Stiles -’

‘No. No, no, no. You might say you’re only keeping an eye on me. I say you’re both smothering me and I can hardly breathe.’

Scott turned to Allison. ‘Talk to her,’ he begged. ‘You’ll explain it to her better than I can.’

‘I’m not too sure what I’m supposed to be explaining,’ Allison said carefully.

Scott spluttered incoherently and gave Allison a tragically betrayed look. ‘That we’re looking out for her.’

‘That’s not what you’re doing,’ Allison said.

‘But, Allison -’

Enough was enough. ‘Yeah. No. I’m going,’ Stiles said. She turned, meaning to walk to the door but found Jackson standing in her way. ‘Move. Like now.’

‘One of us needs to go with you.’

‘Like hell you do,’ she said flatly.

Both Scott and Jackson looked outraged and opened their mouths, but Stiles talked over them.

‘If either one of you says a word, I’m going to go and lock myself in the girls bathroom and call Derek.’

Which, now she thought about it, sounded really tempting. It’d be a relief to have someone else deal with Scott, Jackson and their weird bullshit.

‘So, move. Now.’

There had been no plan for if he’d not moved, but Jackson growled low in his throat and took two very deliberate steps to the side.

Allison, thankfully, was hanging onto Scott’s arm. If Scott was going to get away he’d have to shake her off and he wouldn’t do that. ‘Let her go,’ Allison told him. Her voice was soft, but there was steel behind it.

Scott’s face twisted, but he stayed at her side, not quite suppressing his leg from twitching forward ever so slightly.

Flashing Allison a grateful smile, Stiles pulled open the door and stepped out into the hallway. She could feel both Scott and Jackson staring at her back but neither of them moved or said anything.

The door clicked closed behind her, and Stiles let out a deep breath and closed her eyes. Thank God. Setting her shoulders, she opened her eyes and nearly walked straight into Lydia.

Lydia took a look at her and raised an eyebrow. ‘What did those idiots do this time?’ She glanced behind Stiles, at the closed door.

‘You have to have heard the rumours by now. Everyone must have heard them by now.’

‘Strangely, I’ve developed something of an aversion to believing the rumour mill. I much prefer to hear it straight from the werewolf’s mouth.’

Behind her the door creaked open and Stiles’ shoulders drooped when she heard Jackson call her name. Briefly, she closed her eyes. ‘Shit.’

‘Go,’ Lydia told her. Her eyes were hard as she looked at Jackson over Stiles’ shoulder. ‘I’ll deal with this.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

The relief flooding through her made it impossible to feel embarrassed by how much she loved Lydia in that moment.

‘Jackson,’ Lydia said as Stiles hurried down the corridor, hoping that Cameron had dropped her bag by her locker and it hadn’t been moved. ‘We need to talk about boundaries. Again.’

Chapter Text

It wasn’t easy, finding somewhere to hide in school where Scott and Jackson couldn’t find her. So far they’d found her behind the bleachers, in the swimming pool changing rooms, behind the bike shed and in the labs. Now, she was down to her last resort: the roof. It wasn’t the ideal choice, but she was prepared to ignore the queasy feeling in her stomach or how dizzy she felt if it meant she could have a hour to herself.

Most of the roof was inaccessible; especially if you weren’t a werewolf. But, Stiles had been a curious freshman who enjoyed exploring and she’d found there was a part round the back which was flat and had door access. She didn’t go up there often because she’d get a month of detentions which made it seem like the perfect place.

Stiles was resting her elbows on her knees, staring at the tree line beyond the lacrosse field, when the roof door slammed shut, making her jump. Realising it couldn’t be Scott and Jackson she willed her heart to calm down.

‘It took me nearly twenty minutes to find you. That’s twenty minutes I’m never getting back.’

‘Lydia?’ Stiles couldn’t have hidden the incredulity in her voice if she’d tried.

‘Twenty minutes, Stiles,’ Lydia repeated, walking gingerly across the roof. ‘Next time, find somewhere where heels aren’t a liability to hide.’

‘Oh?’ Feeling slightly at sea, Stiles tilted her head back against the wall, using her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. ‘No offence, Lydia but why did you spend twenty precious minutes searching me out? Although, not going to lie, better you than Peter Pan and Wendy.’

Lydia pursed her lips thoughtfully. ‘Which one’s Wendy?’

‘Honestly? I’m not sure.’

‘Me neither. Anyway, the reason I’m here is to tell you that I’m now your lab partner in chem.’

‘You? But Cameron -’

‘Has been trying to palm you off to someone else since Scott introduced him to the lockers.’

Stiles groaned. ‘Really? I’d hoped he be all forgive and forget after a few days.’

‘No. He pretty much hates you now,’ Lydia told her bluntly. ‘I don’t see that changing any time soon.’

‘It wasn’t even my fault,’ she groused. ‘And now I’m a social pariah.’

‘Oh, Stiles, you’re not -’ Lydia paused and shook her head. ‘No, you really are a social pariah.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Just telling you like it is.’

Stiles snorted. Looking up at Lydia, she squinted into the sun. ‘Are you going to sit, or something? I can’t see jack right now.’

‘Sit on the roof?’ The scandalised expression that spread across Lydia’s face was nearly enough to make Stiles burst out laughing. ‘Do you know how filthy my clothes will get? How filthy your clothes are getting?’ Her expression grew pointed. ‘Clothes that we only just bought for you.’

Okay, so Stiles’ butt was kind of numb and the gravel on the roof was digging through her jeans into the back of her legs, but she didn’t care. Leaning forward, she grabbed her jacket from where it was draped over on her bag and thrust it towards Lydia. ‘Here. Sit on this then.’

Lydia wrinkled her nose but accepted it and shook it out before spreading it out on the ground next to Stiles and sitting down. ‘So, trying to avoid another Cameron incident?’

‘Yeah, but I’m running out of places to hide,’ Stiles admitted. A lump of irritation lodged in her throat and she gritted her teeth. ‘They keep Peter Panning me.’

‘You know I’ve never been a fan of Scott’s -’

Stiles snorted. ‘You mean apart from that one time you laid one on him, right?’

‘Yes,’ Lydia said icily. ‘Even including then. That -,’ she paused. ‘That was a bad life choice.’ She glanced over at Stiles and gave a half shrug. ‘Jackson doesn’t like it when people are better than him.’

‘And Scott became magically better than Jackson at just the right time,’ Stiles said knowingly.

‘Exactly.’

‘Because that makes it so much better.’

‘I never said that that makes it better.’ There was a flash of regret that was nearly gone before it arrived. ‘I know I shouldn’t have done it. I apologised to Allison.’

‘And you joined me in going stag to the formal,’ Stiles said, knocking her shoulder lightly against Lydia’s. ‘Which, not gonna lie, was pretty damn cool.’

‘What makes you think that had anything to do with Allison?’

Stiles laughed. ‘Lydia, come on.’

‘Fine,’ Lydia huffed, rolling her eyes. ‘But I had a good time, I suppose. At least until -’

‘Until we stared in our very own horror movie,’ Stiles supplied with a half laugh. ‘Yeah. That sucked pretty damn hard. Possibly wins the award for most suckage in one night.’

Lydia failed at suppressing a shudder and Stiles winced. ‘Sorry.’

Lydia waved her quiet. ‘I should talk about it. Denial will only get me so far. Or, you know, a drug induced haze.’ She shot Stiles a dry look. ‘I still can’t believe I thought you were Jackson.’

Stiles laughed. ‘You and me both. I’m so much prettier.’ She frowned. ‘Also, since when do you remember that?’

‘The first few days after the coma were fuzzy but as I remembered everything on the playing field, I remembered everything.’

‘I’m so sorry. I’m not used to getting mistaken for that douchbag and I kind of panicked.’ Stiles remembered being kind of frozen, not quite wanting to see Lydia so vulnerable but also not wanting to leave her to deal by herself. ‘You were so insistent. I’m just glad you didn’t try to lay one on me. Because you’re hot, but awkward much?’

Before Stiles had a chance to say anything else stupid, Lydia carried on talking with a flick of her hair. ‘Anyway, we seem to have gone off topic. As I was saying, it’s no secret that I’m no fan of Scott’s but he always seemed to be a good friend certainly not the type to act as though you can’t walk anywhere by yourself. There must be a reason for him to act like a resounding asshole.’

‘Just as long as he hasn’t been near any hyenas recently,’ Stiles muttered to herself, only half joking.

Lydia gave her a baffled look and Stiles dropped her head in her hands and groaned. ‘Once I can stand being in the same room as Jackson and Scott, I’m instituting educational evenings of all relevant TV shows and movies.’

Lydia ignored her. ‘Have you spoken to Scott about it?’

‘Not really,’ she admitted. Stiles scrubbed a hand over her head. ‘I mean, what the hell does Scott think he could have done? I was at the store, for crying out loud. The store. It’s like he hears the words but he doesn’t listen to them. Then he goes and does something like attack Cameron.’ She sucked in a deep breath. ‘What the hell was he thinking, Lydia? He could have killed Cameron; an easy to break human. He. Didn’t. Think.’

‘Stiles, you aren’t responsible for what happened to Cameron. I know you know that.’

‘Yeah,’ she sighed. ‘What happens if the next person isn’t so lucky?’ She held up a hand to forestall Lydia’s inevitable protest but Lydia ignored her. Obviously.

‘And this is your problem, how, exactly?’

Stiles jumped to her feet, suddenly full of nervous energy and started pacing. ‘So, like, it’s like Collective Pack Responsibility, you know, or something.’ She kicked at the side of the roof. ‘I don’t want to hide away every lunch time or free period I have, but if Scott keeps goes all American Werewolf on people, then that could put the Pack in danger.’ She threw up her hands. ‘Hell, screw could. It would totally put the Pack in danger and, by extension, every werewolf in all of existence. Which I appreciate sounded melodramatic to the extreme, but really, really isn’t.’

Lydia pursed her lips. ‘Well, I can certainly see how that could be a bad thing.’

‘Yeah,’ Stiles snorted, thinking about the assessment team due imminently. ‘More than you could imagine.’

‘What did Derek say about Scott and Jackson?’

‘Uh -’

Lydia turned and fixed Stiles with a steely glare. ‘Stiles, you have told him, right?’

‘It’s not like it’s Pack business.’

‘Oh, please,’ Lydia scoffed. ‘If you really believed that, you’d have told him already.’

‘I - No, look, I can deal with Scott being a douche just fine by myself. Derek may be my Alpha, but I don’t need him swooping in to save me every time I have a problem.’

‘I understand the sentiment but maybe he’ll know something and you’re being too stubborn to ask him.’

‘It can’t be werewolf related.’

‘Why? It seems the most logical conclusion. Both Scott and Jackson are acting strange and they’re both werewolves.’

‘So one has to follow the other?’

‘No, but Jackson is acting creepily similar to Scott, don’t you think? It’s not as intense, granted, but you can’t deny the similarity.’

Stiles sighed and slumped back against the wall. She’d spent so much time worrying about Scott that she hadn’t even thought about Jackson. Although, thinking about it, the similarity did seem to lead credence to Lydia’s theory. Which was annoying because she really should have seen that coming.

‘Jackson doesn’t even like you,’ Lydia added.

Stiles laughed, genuinely amused for the first time that day. ‘Thanks, Lydia.’

Lydia rolled her eyes. ‘Okay, so he doesn’t hate you.’

‘Are you sure? This is Jackson we’re talking about after all. He’s hated me since forever.’

‘He’s grown as a person in the last few months. He no longer hates you. Instead you just annoy him. And, worse than that, it doesn’t bother you that you annoy him. And he finds that -’

‘Annoying?’ Stiles suggested with a grin.

‘Yes. Now stop trying to dodge my question. Are you going to talk to Derek?’

‘Derek would have told me if it was werewolf related.’ She was nearly positive. ‘I think this would come under the heading of things I need to know, right?’

‘Unlike you, Stiles, I don’t know him. I couldn’t say.’

Stiles had always been surprised that Lydia hadn’t demanded all the answers after recovering from her coma. She’d honestly expected Lydia to go marching up to Derek and demand every explanation under the sun. Or moon.

Yet she hadn’t.

There had been one time Allison and Stiles had been in Lydia’s hospital room, attempting to entertain her, when Derek had materialised to inspect her bite. Both Allison and Jackson had mentioned Derek checking up on her at home a couple of times. Other than that, Stiles didn’t think they’d exchanged a single word. It was more than weird.

Stiles snorted. ‘And you think I do? He’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma with added claws and fangs just for fun.’

‘As true as that may be, you’re still better placed to know what he might be thinking.’

‘Oh my God, fine. Yes, okay. I’ll go talk to him. Happy?’

‘I’ll be happy when we know why Scott and Jackson are acting like lunatics.’ Stiles opened her mouth but Lydia lent forward and slapped a hand over Stiles’ mouth. ‘No lunar jokes.’

Stiles nodded, her agreement muffled.

With a final sharp look, Lydia removed her hand.

Stiles wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand. ‘So, and okay, this could probably be classified as taking my life in my hands and throwing it to the wolves. Pun totally intended - but, ummm, how are things with you and Jackson?’

Lydia glanced at her sharply. ‘What do you mean?’

Stiles spread her hands. ‘It’s just. Everything that’s going on now aside, things haven’t been right between you two for a while. Even before the whole werewolf thing. I could be wrong but -’ She shrugged, trailing off.

‘Spit it out, Stiles’

‘Ordinarily, I wouldn’t pry, but you seem stressed, like I can actually tell -’ Lydia’s smiles - which could be glorious - had been fixed and brittle for a while now and her eyes were blank ‘- and I was wondering if Jackson’s being more of a douche than usual? Which isn’t exactly outside the realm of possibility.’

Lydia sucked in a deep breath. ‘How do you do that?’

‘Do what?’

‘See things I don’t want people to? You appear to have the attention span of a gnat and are forever skipping from one thought to another and yet you never fail to notice details that escape everyone else.’

Stiles shrugged. ‘It’s a gift.’

‘You play it well,’ Lydia said, sounding impressed. ‘The only other person to ask me how I’m doing, was Danny.’

Honestly, Stiles was surprised that Allison hadn’t said anything, seeing as they were supposedly best friends. But then she and Scott were being, well, particularly ScottandAllison.

‘Ordinarily, I’d love to sit here and listen to you tell me how awesome I am, because, honestly, not enough people do that, but -’

Lydia shifted, crossing her ankles. ‘Things with Jackson are… difficult, that’s no lie but what you’re talking about isn’t Jackson. It’s not about Jackson.’

‘As long as I’m in no danger of being horrifically maimed, can I ask what it is?’

Lydia gave her a searching look. ‘What I tell you isn’t for public consumption. You don’t tell Scott. You don’t tell Derek. This is private.’

Stiles nodded. ‘What happens on the roof of Beacon Hills High, stays on the roof of Beacon Hills High.’

‘It’s my parents.’

‘Your parents?’ Stiles frowned, confused. ‘What about them? Are they starting to suspect about the werewolf thing?’

‘They’re -’ Lydia stilled and her face fell blank. ‘- getting a divorce.’

‘I - I… well, shit -’ It wasn’t often that Stiles found herself speechless, but that was so far outside the realm of what she’d been expecting. It was possible that she was way too focused on the whole supernatural thing.

‘You don’t need to say anything. In fact, I’d prefer it if you didn’t. I just - I wanted you to know that Jackson isn’t my only problem. He isn’t even my biggest problem right now.’

‘You’ve ninety-nine problems and Jackson ain’t one.’

Lydia rolled her eyes but she stopped holding her shoulders so stiff.

‘We are so living an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ Stiles sighed. ‘We should so have superpowers.’

Lydia raised an eyebrow in question.

‘You know, our real life shit is way more fucked up than the supernatural crap we’re dealing with.’

‘I’d take werewolves over divorcing parents any day of the week,’ Lydia agreed.

‘Can I ask how long -’

‘Since Christmas.’

‘Oh. Wow. Jesus, Lydia.’

Lydia let out a shaky laugh. ‘Yeah.’

‘Does Jackson know?’

Lydia snorted, which Stiles supposed answered that question. It didn’t surprise her. The surprise would have come if Jackson did know.

‘Guess he was too busy being all woe is my life and begging anyone to gift him the bite.’

Lydia barked out a sharp laugh.

‘Have you told anyone?’

‘No. But Danny might have guessed. I haven’t asked.’

‘Danny’s very all seeing and knowing, isn’t he? Most people find a way to explain away the crazy they see, but not Danny. After I told him about werewolves he just listed all the weird goings on he’d noticed since the night of Scott getting the bite. It’s kind of scary how much we sucked at keeping things on the down low.’

‘You and Scott are two of the least subtle people in Beacon Hills. It doesn’t surprise me at all.’

‘Thanks.’ Glancing at her watch, Stiles sighed. ‘You know, we could just skip class. We’ll only miss that stupid video in geography.’

‘You just don’t want to deal with the terrible two.’

‘Accurate.’

‘You need to find somewhere to hide where they won’t think of,’ Lydia said, standing up, all business again. She brushed off her skirt, even though Stiles couldn’t even see any dirt on her. It would be on Stiles’ jacket.

‘Yeah, but where?’ She looked around, careful not to think too hard about how far off the ground she was and sighed. ‘And while I rarely go into panic attack mode anymore, this isn’t really a good place for me to hide, longterm.’

‘Scott thinks you’re acrophobic.’

‘I kind of am,’ she pointed out.

‘Except you’re not, are you? I’m not saying heights don’t frighten you, because obviously they do, but if you were acrophobic, you couldn’t be up here at all.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Semantics.’

‘Still, he’ll never think of coming up here. And Jackson doesn’t care enough to think harder than Scott.’

‘So where do I go from here, huh? Where would Scott never think to look for me?’ She grabbed her jacket off the ground before pushing to her feet. ‘You know, these are not the problems I was expecting to worry about when I was sixteen.’

‘I don’t think any of us were quite expecting werewolves, Stiles.’

‘How do you know that?’ Stiles shouldered her bag and followed Lydia over to the door. ‘Maybe one of us was sitting around thinking ‘hey, I wonder if werewolves actually exist’ and then BOOM! They existed.’ Stiles took in Lydia’s arched eyebrow and deflated a little. ‘Yeah, that probably isn’t how it happened.’

‘No, probably not,’ Lydia agreed. ‘But back to the question in hand; have you considered the library?’

‘The library?’ Stiles paused thoughtfully, holding the access door open.

‘Yes, the library,’ Lydia said impatiently, making her way down the stairs. ‘Can you imagine either of them thinking to look there?’

Stiles let the door close and ran down the stairs to catch up with Lydia. ‘I’m not even sure Scott knows we have a library. Which, while potentially bad for his grades, can only be considered a bonus for me.’

‘I’d say so.’

‘What about Jackson?’

‘Danny occasionally drags him along but he’ll be more than happy to move their study sessions for a while if I ask.’

‘But all they’d have to do then is follow my scent all the way to the library.’

‘Honestly, Stiles, I thought you were smart.’

‘Not as smart as you, though.’

‘Flattery, Stiles. Really?’

‘No, truth. So are you you going to tell me what genius plan you’ve cracked?’

‘They’ll find it difficult to track you if you make sure your scent is thick throughout the entire school. If there isn’t a stronger trail for them to follow they’ll have to give up.’

Stiles looked at Lydia in awe. ‘Please don’t ever plot against me. I beg you. I always want to be on your side.’

‘It appears to be a sound theory to me,’ Lydia said, sounding pleased. ‘But you’re the one with a working knowledge of how werewolf senses function. Can you think of a reason why it wouldn’t work?’

Stiles paused on the last step. ‘No,’ she said slowly. ‘There’s scent, obviously, but I think we’ve got that covered. Maybe, as the Alpha, Derek would be able to track me by my heartbeat but neither Scott or Jackson are that good yet. They could follow the sound of my dulcet tones but considering the number of people in school, that seems really unlikely. Plus, I’ll be in the library, so I shouldn’t be talking anyway.’

‘Maybe you should invest in some duct tape.’

‘Hey!’ Lydia raised an eyebrow and Stiles sighed. ‘Yeah, okay. You may have a point there.’

‘Regardless, the library should be good for you.’

Stiles nodded. ‘Should be,’ she agreed. ‘Hang on, do you mean -’

‘I mean it in every way possible.’

‘I’m hiding from Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, not trying to be valedictorian.’

‘Stiles, we all know that I’m going to be valedictorian but we could actually make it an impressive one two.’

Pushing the door open, slightly, Stiles peaked out. It would just be typical if she got caught sneaking out of maintenance. Once she was convinced they were alone, she let Lydia walk out in front of her. Slipping out next, Stiles let the door close slowly. No need to let a slamming door get them thrown into detention.

‘At least in the library you won’t have to walk through all here again.’

‘It’s not that bad,’ Stiles said.

‘It’s dark, dank and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if we ended up getting murdered down here.’

‘Lydia, don’t say shit like that. We no longer live in a world where stuff like that can’t happen.’

‘That’s kind of my point. The library will be safer than.’

‘Don’t you dare jinx this for me. Knowing, my luck, harpies will descend upon the library next week and try to kill me and everyone else there.’

Lydia grabbed Stiles’ arm, pulling them to a stop just outside the door leading back through the gym and into the school. ‘Do harpies exist?’

‘I have no fucking clue, but right now I’m not prepared to guess against their existence. I think werewolves have given us enough excitement for a gazillion lifetimes.’ Stiles rested her hand on the door handle. ‘I really don’t need a roaster of supernatural beings marching through our town.’

‘Let’s cross that bridge if we ever come to it,’ Lydia suggested.

‘Yeah.’ Pushing the door open, Stiles was relieved to see the corridor was clear of all people. ‘Come on, let’s get to class.’

Lydia stopped her with a hand to the shoulder. ‘No, you go that way.’ She pointed in the opposite direction to their classroom. ‘I’ll make your excuses.’

‘Oh, right, yeah. Good plan.’

It was only as she walked past the dining hall that Stiles wondered what exactly Lydia would use as an excuse on her behalf.

Chapter Text

Throwing the jeep into neutral and turning off the engine, Stiles leaned forward and rested her head against the steering wheel. Closing her eyes, she took a couple of deep, not especially calming breaths. With the exception of the reprieve she’d had going to the movies with Lydia and Danny a few days ago, this was the first time in a week that she didn’t feel like she was being suffocated. Her shoulders no longer felt like they were being wound tighter and tighter until they snapped. It was kinda nice.

She jumped as the driver’s door opened, relaxing when she saw Derek lean against her door. He didn’t say anything, just stared at her steadily.

She snorted, distracted from her musings by Derek blocking her door, his chest all shiny with sweat, his hair surprisingly flat and plastered across his forehead.

‘You going to stay out here all afternoon or come into the house?’

‘Where’ve you been?’ she asked. ‘You’re all sweaty and shirtless.’

‘Running,’ he said flatly.

‘Isn’t running supposed to, I dunno, make you breathless or something? I’m sure I read that somewhere. Because you look like you went for a run but you don’t sound like you went for a run.’

‘I’m a werewolf, Stiles. It takes a lot to get me out of breath.’

Stiles felt her cheeks flush as her brain went to all kinds of places it really shouldn’t. But Stiles challenged anyone not to think about sex related stuff when Derek was standing there, looking like that and sprouting innuendo laden sentences like that.

Derek cocked an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth twitched and Stiles was positive he was laughing at her. Whatever. ‘Okay, that seems like a legitimate reason.’

‘Glad you approve.’ He gestured towards the house. ‘So, are you coming in or staying here?’

‘In,’ she said, looking around the jeep. ‘Definitely in.’ After a day with Scott and Jackson so far inside her personal space it wasn’t even funny, Derek’s house had been the only place she could think of where she might get some respite.

He motioned her out with an impatient look.

Halfway to grabbing her bag, Stiles paused, her hand hovering, trying to decide whether to take it and answer the inevitable frantic call from Scott or leave it and risk worrying her dad if he couldn’t get hold of her.

Her dilemma must have shown on her face because Derek held out his hand and snapped his fingers. ‘Give me your cell.’

‘Huh?’

‘If your dad calls you can have it back.’

And normally Stiles would scoff and say that she didn’t need protecting or saving, or whatever, but she was so damn exhausted with Scott and Jackson constantly fussing and nagging that she gave it up without a word.

Derek frowned but slipped her cell into his pocket as Stiles slide out of the jeep and shouldered her bag. She followed Derek towards the house, kicking the rocks at her feet. Glancing up, she stopped to stare at the house suddenly taken with how much it looked like an actual home. Instead of following Derek onto the porch, Stiles walked around the back of the house, her eyes taking in all the new details. She’d been so used to thinking of the place like a building site that she hadn’t truly noticed the changes until now.

Derek halted when he realised she had stopped. He turned and raised an eyebrow in question.

‘It’s just. Well. The house looks like, well, a house. Which I know sounds stupid but I like it. It’s less tome like. It’s awesome. Seriously awesome. It looks -’ She waved her hand at the house ‘- like that.’ She smiled at him, suddenly less concerned by her problems with Scott. ‘I kind of can’t believe you did this by yourself.’ The words to tell him how happy and proud his family would be burned her throat but she kept them in check, not sure how welcome they would be. Never let it be said that Stiles hadn’t finally learnt some impulse control.

To her surprise he returned her smile before walking back to stand next to her. With his shoulder pressed against hers he turned back to look at the house. ‘There’s still a lot to do.’

‘Looks good to me.’

‘You haven’t been inside for a while.’

‘Well, no, that’s because you haven’t been letting us inside, dumbass. Something about how we’d probably manage to electrocute ourselves. Sound familiar?’

‘Was I wrong?’

‘Probably not.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Congrats on working out that teenagers and building sites aren’t a winning combination.’

Derek glared at her but it was half-assed at best. He seemed kind of content, so Stiles decided to stay quiet and keep looking at the new facade of the house, taking in the big windows.

‘Why are you out here?’ Derek asked, staring up at the house.

Stiles kicked at the ground, irritated all over again. ‘Did you ever have an asshole of a best friend - wait, no, that’s not what I meant-’

‘Tommy Preston.’

Stiles blinked, momentarily derailed by Derek’s unexpected divulgance of information. ‘Oh. Uh-’

‘His family moved away the summer before the fire.’ Derek was staring very intently at the roof, which, while very impressive for a roof, really didn’t need such consideration.

‘Well, shit.’ She floundered for a moment still not knowing what do say or do when Derek mentioned the fire or his family.

‘So, why are you asking if I had a best friend?’ asked Derek, placing a hand on the small of her back and steering her towards the back door.

‘Oh. Uh. I… I wasn’t,’ stammered Stiles, catching herself leaning ever so slightly into the comfort of his touch. ‘Well, not really. I was asking, have you ever had a best friend you just wanted to punch because they were being so ridiculously dense and annoying?’

Derek sighed. ‘What’s Scott done now?’

Stiles crossed her arms in front of her. ‘Who said Scott’s done anything?’

‘Do you have another moron best friend hidden away that I don’t know about?’

‘You’re hilarious,’ she told him flatly.

Derek opened the door and nudged her inside what looked like the beginnings of a kitchen. He closed the door and leaned against the wall. ‘What’s he done?’

‘He’s being a dick.’

‘You’re going to have to narrow that down for me.’

‘He won’t leave me alone.’

Derek raised an eyebrow at her, making Stiles sigh in exasperation. ‘And yes, I do get how ironic it is that I’m complaining about suddenly being the focus of Scott’s attention. I get that what happened with those hunters freaked him out and he’s worried about me, but I didn’t think he’d be such a dick about it.’

‘In what way is he being a dick?’

‘In every way possible,’ Stiles grumbled, crossing her arms angrily in front of her.

‘Be more specific.’

‘Specific?’ she snapped. ‘You want me to me specific?’

‘Yes,’ Derek bit out.

‘Well, fine then. Let’s see.’ She started pacing the room in front of Derek, careful to avoid tripping over the pipes and other house-like things already installed and waiting for taps and appliances to be added. She started ticking off on her fingers all the reasons Scott was driving her crazy, wondering if she’d even have enough fingers. ‘He follows me around at school, won’t let any guy within a six foot radius of me - which, let me tell you, doesn’t help people forget what happened, which I would like to happen way sooner than later. He growls at people. Actually growls at them. Sooner or later someone is going to call him on how weird that is, which is going to fuck things up for you because Scott can’t really think on his feet like that.’ Stomping closer to Derek this time, she waved a fourth finger in his face. ‘If he thinks people are standing too close, he pulls me away. If he can’t find me over lunch me hunts me down. Literally hunts. Me. Down. Oh, and he slammed my friend Cameron into the lockers so he’s no longer my friend. I’ve seen him like, I dunno, patrolling my neighbourhood and standing in my garden, watching my window. Christ, Derek, he was even creeping around my room a while back.’

Derek looked at her sharply. ‘Say that again.’

‘Which part?’ she asked, throwing her hands up in the air. ‘It’s all crazy.’ It was only now, though, as she recited it all to Derek that she realised just how much crazy she’d been steadfastly and stupidly ignoring.

Derek pushed himself off the wall. ‘The last part.’

Whatever words Stiles was about to say died on her as she looked at Derek. His eyes were ringed with red and she took a quick step back. ‘Dude, quit hulking out on me, would you? It’s so not helping me at the moment.’

Derek closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, breathing harshly through his nose. It took a minute but Derek pulled himself back under control.

‘What was with that?’

‘Stiles, tell me what happened.’

‘Scott was in my room,’ she dismissed with a wave of her hand. ‘Seriously, Derek, why’d you almost shift?’ She had a feeling it was a good thing she hadn’t mentioned how Scott had nearly lost control at the thought of Derek being in her room.

‘That’s not - Stiles.’ He pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘Please, just tell me about Scott.’

And Derek never said please, so it had to be Important - capital letter and all. Feeling uneasy, Stiles relented. ‘I was doing homework and I turned around and he was just sitting there in the middle of my floor. He said he wanted to hang out but he was acting weird all night.’

‘Why didn’t you call me?’

‘Because it’s just Scott.’ She bit at her thumb nail. ‘Should I have called you?’

Going back to leaning on the wall, Derek took a deep breath and briefly closed his eyes.

Her skin was starting to feel itchy and her stomach was rolling like she was sailing the seven seas with Captain Jack Sparrow. Stiles took a couple of steps and grabbed his arm and shook it. ‘Hey, Derek, what aren’t you telling me? Because I’m freaking out here. So tell me, you jackass.’

The pleading tone in her voice must have worked because Derek looked at her and shook his head. ‘It’s not Scott acting strange. It’s his wolf.’

Dropping his arm, she took a step back. ‘Eh?’

‘Scott’s wolf is reacting to a member of his pack being threatened.’

‘Okay,’ Stiles said slowly. ‘And?’

‘And it’s making him act like he is.’

So Lydia had been right. Not really a surprise. ‘Will he stop? Or do I have to put up with a Scott-shadow until the end of days? Because that would be seriously awkward. Not to mention high on the creeping me the fuck out scale.’

‘He has to learn how to control it. There isn’t anything you can do to help.’

‘Well, he’s doing a sucky job of that so far.’

‘Yeah.’ Derek frowned. ‘I told them to see me if this became a problem.’

Stiles blinked up at him. ‘Say what now?’

‘I -’

She glared up at him, anger bubbling away in her chest and for a second it was impossible to talk. ‘You mean you knew Scott could go all crazy weird like this, and you decided to tell him but not me?’

‘I didn’t know it was going to happen and I didn’t want you to worry about a problem that may not have existed.’

‘And I’ve spent over a week trying to avoid my best friend because he’s been crazy weird.’ She punched him on the arm. Hard. It wouldn’t mean anything to him, but it made her feel a bit better. ‘Don’t you think it would have been easier for me if I’d known why he was acting like a lunatic?’

Derek was quiet for a moment, frown firmly in place. ‘Yeah. I should have told you.’

That brought Stiles up short. ‘I. What?’

‘I should have warned you. It was a mistake not to.’

Most of Stiles’ anger bled away. Which was more than a little irritating but it was difficult to hold on to when faced with a Derek who looked regretful and had admitted making a mistake and more or less apologised. What was that even? She eyed Derek suspiciously. ‘Are you a pod person?’

‘It’s information you should have had.’ Her eyes widened as Derek slipped a finger under her chin, lifting her face so he could look her straight in the eye. ‘I made the wrong call not telling you.’

‘Umm, Yeah. Okay.’ She rubbed the back of her neck. ‘So tell me now? Explain it now so I better get why my BFF is going all postal on me.’

Derek nodded, dropping his hand. ‘Of course. I just don’t understand why Jackson didn’t tell me something was wrong. I told him to pay attention.’

‘Uh, maybe he hasn’t said anything because he’s been acting nearly as postal as Scott?’

Derek looked surprised. ‘He has?’

‘Uh, duh, yeah. I mean, not so much with the creeping around my room or playing sentinel in my backyard but all the stuff at school? Yeah, definitely.’

‘I should have seen that coming.’

‘Seen what coming? Exactly? Explain. Now.’

‘Scott’s wolf reacted because not only are you Pack, you’re his best friend so he already feels protective of you.’

‘Like, really? Feelings of protectiveness? You’re comfortable using that?’

‘It’s not because you’re a girl, Stiles.’

She raised an eyebrow.

‘Don’t you ever feel protective of Scott?’

‘Umm… that’s different? No, that’s definitely different. I don’t think he’s weak or anything. Just an awful, awful liar.’

‘Can’t argue with that. But it’s because you’re his best friend, right?’

‘Well, yeah.’

‘It’s the same with him. He’d be the same if you were a guy.’

‘Fine. If you say so. But what about Jackson? He sure as hell doesn’t think of me as a best friend. Or even a friend.’

‘He really doesn’t,’ Derek agreed, a small smirk playing around his mouth. ‘Jackson’s wolf is responding to Scott’s which is why he’s only being strange at school.’ So maybe Pack bonds were stronger than Derek had led them to believe. Something to add to her list of things to think about when she wasn’t freaking out.

‘So can you, like, stop them or something with the Alpha voice? Because that’s a thing you can sometimes do and if this is one of those times, that’s be more than a little awesome.’

‘I could…’ He glanced away from her, the reluctance in his voice obvious.

Stiles felt her stomach drop. ‘But..?’

‘But it won’t work. At least not for long.’

‘You mean like when Scott and Jackson kept fighting?’ She sighed because of course she couldn’t be that lucky.

Derek nodded. ‘They need to work out how to live with their wolf without me ordering them how to behave. Otherwise it’ll become even worse.’

‘Worse? How could it get worse? It already seems pretty bad to me.’

‘If they don’t learn without me ordering them then the next time something bad happens, their reaction will be more extreme.’ He paused for a second, as if debating with himself if he wanted to keep talking. ‘If I could stop them, I would.’

‘Yeah.’

‘But I’ll talk to them both about control, but if it gets worse -’

‘Tell you. Yeah, I got it.’

‘Good.’

Stiles looked around the room again, this time noticing the boxes containing kitchen cabinets stacked up against the back wall. ‘So, this must be the kitchen.’

Derek shot her an amused look. ‘How could you tell?’

‘Well, the stove was a dead giveaway, if you must know.’

Derek snorted.

‘What? I’m bored of talking about Scott, my dad is in the middle of his shift and -’

‘Would you like to see the rest of the house?’

Stiles beamed at him, rocking slightly on her feet. ‘I thought you’d never ask. Of course I want to see the house. You’ve been hiding it away for ages.’

‘You can’t hide a house.’

‘You can refuse to let people inside said house.’

‘Yes, I can.’

‘So, come on then.’ She gestured impatiently towards the door. This was going to be way better than being home alone. ‘Lead on, McDuff.’

Derek rolled his eyes but led her into the corridor without comment.

‘You do know that houses are supposed to have furniture, yeah?’ she asked looking around.

‘No point having furniture until the floor is laid and walls painted.’

‘Okay. That’s actually a good point.’

‘I know.’ He glanced at her, almost uncertainly. ‘I have furniture upstairs.’

‘So you’ve painted upstairs then.’

‘Yeah.’

She trailed her fingers along the walls. ‘Why upstairs and not downstairs?’

‘I thought it would be a good idea to get the guest rooms ready first.’

‘Guest rooms - oh, right. Yeah. Gotcha. Which, along with the fact you have a pack of teenagers, explains the kitchen as well. Do you know when -’ Stiles stuttered to a halt as they turned into the hallway. ‘Holy crap, Derek you’ve finished the staircase!’ Her eyes felt as wide as saucers as she turned to look at him. ‘Hell, when did you start it? It looks amazing. Like, seriously amazing.’ She turned back to stare at it, unable to quite believe it. ‘Did… did you make it yourself? Because I’m no expert, but these frolicking wolves look hand-carved.’

‘They aren’t frolicking.’

‘So not the point right now. Did you make them?’

‘I did.’

She took a step closer and ran her hands reverently over the banisters. ‘Jeez, Derek. Where the hell did you hide it? Down a well? In a cave? It can’t have been anywhere around here because Scott or Jackson would’ve sniffed it out. Or fallen over it.’

‘Somewhere.’

‘Fine,’ she huffed. ‘Be all mysterious if you want.’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Do you want to see upstairs or not?’

She tore her eyes from where she was staring at all the wolves. No matter what Derek said, some of them were definitely frolicking. ‘Well yeah. Of course I do. But first I want to marvel at the idea of walking up stairs without fearing the inevitable crash of rotten wood as I fall through them and am impaled.’

‘It was never that bad.’

‘Yeah, right,’ Stiles scoffed as she walked up a couple of steps. ‘Wow.’ She jumped up and down a couple of times. ‘These are really solid.’

‘They’re stairs, Stiles.’

‘Still, so much better than they were before.’ She grinned at him. ‘Plus, you’re fun to wind up.’

‘You’re not winding me up.’

‘Of course I’m not,’ she said agreeably. Turning on the steps, Stiles walked up the stairs backwards so she could see Derek. ‘You’ll tell me if I’m about to fall down the stairs and die, right?’

Derek’s quirked his lips, but he just kept climbing the stairs.

‘I’m taking that as an ‘of course, Stiles, of course I’ll save you from a gruesome and painful death’, just so you know.’

‘Consider me warned.’

‘Awesome.’

Walking up the stairs - carefully, mind, because while Derek would probably stop her from pitching down the stairs to her grizzly death, she doubted he’d stop her from tripping and falling on her ass - she couldn’t stop staring at the openness of the hall and the high ceiling. It reminded her of how the house had been open to the elements but without the depressing stench of death and burning.

She had assumed that Derek would have invited the Pack up to the house all together to see their new den - and, yes, she’d picked up on Derek calling it a den a couple of times and then tensing as though expecting someone to call him on it - so there was a decided thrill running through her at the thought that she was the first to see inside.

Reaching the top of the staircase Stiles looked left and then right. ‘Mordor, Gandalf. Is it left or right?’

Derek rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. ‘Left.’

Stiles laughed. ‘It totally is. Did you know that?’

‘Yeah. I saw the movie, Stiles.’

‘You did? But that was in the extended version.’ Stiles jumped up the last few stairs. ‘I wouldn’t have thought it’s your kind of movie.’

‘It’s not. But Laura and our older brother, Eric, really didn’t care that I didn’t want to watch it.’ He scowled. ‘Eric sat on me when I tried to escape.’

Stiles stumbled slightly, grabbing on to Derek to stop herself from falling on her ass. ‘Sat on you?’ she asked, half hopeful that Derek might say more about the siblings he never spoke about.

‘Yeah. Makes watching a movie difficult when someone is trying to sit on your face.’

‘It does add a whole new degree of difficulty, doesn’t it?’

‘Yeah.’ Derek’s face was carefully blank, but Stiles got the distinct impression he was forcing himself to stay still and not pull one of his vanishing acts.

‘So, Lord of the Rings not really your kind of film?’

‘No.’ He narrowed his eyes at her. ‘You even think -’

Stiles held up her hands. ‘Relax, White Fang. I won’t force Lord of the Rings on you. We’re good here.’

Derek held her gaze for a few moments before nodding. ‘Good.’

‘So, uh, this is the first bedroom, huh?’ she asked awkwardly. Because, really, how do you go from talking about someone’s dead family to interior design? With great, awkward difficulty.

Derek, though, seemed to relax and he nodded.

Pushing open the door, Stiles shied away, holding up a hand to shield her eyes. ‘The light. It burns. It burns.’

Derek shoved her further into the room and Stiles turned to grin at Derek, unfazed by his distinctly unimpressed glower.

‘What? Oh, come on, dude. You know you’d be saying that if you were a vampire. There’s like, an over abundance of sunlight in this room.’

The sun reflecting off the white walls, almost making them shine. It was the complete opposite to the husk of a house she remembered.

‘There’s no such thing as vampires, Stiles.’

‘Funny, but I’ll keep an open mind, thanks. Once upon a time I didn’t think that werewolves existed and see how that turned out. I’m standing in the newly renovated house of an Alpha.’

‘They still don’t exist.’

‘Why?’ Stiles asked. The bed was in the middle of the wall and she wondered past it, over to the window and stared out at the trees. ‘Because you’ve never seen one?’

‘Because I’ve not seen one, no-one in my family has ever seen one and no werewolf I’ve ever met has seen one.’

‘Well, I guess there’s no way you could be wrong about that, is there?’ Stiles shooed Derek out of where he was leaning in the doorway, surprised when he moved after sending one half-hearted growl her way. ‘No-one you’ve meet has ever seen a vampire. There are millions, billions of people who could say the same about werewolves.’ She poked him in the bicep before pushing open the next door. ‘And yet here you are, completely real.’

‘It doesn’t matter what you say, Stiles, they aren’t real.’

‘One day I’m going to get a lot of satisfaction saying I told you so.’

‘Do you want vampires to exist?’

Poking her head around the next door to see a ridiculously spacious and luxurious bathroom, she shook her head. ‘Nope, not really. Because if they’re traditional vampires, like Nosferatu, they’ll kill me dead and if they sparkle in sunlight I’ll be so busy crying with laughter that they’ll still kill me dead. Or, you know, angst me to death. Either way, I’ll be dead and I don’t want to be one of the undead.’

‘So why are you arguing with me on this?’

‘I think it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for all eventualities. Especially after my best friend turned into a freaking werewolf.’

‘And you’re including vampires in that list?’

‘Fuck, yeah. Vampires, zombies, mummies, killer robots, poltergeists, you name it, I have a plan.’

Derek gave her a look that conveyed just how crazy he thought she was, before shaking his head.

‘You’ll be grateful for my plans once the zombie apocalypse hits.’

Derek laughed, surprising Stiles. ‘I’m sure I will.’

As Stiles walked towards the next door, Derek rested his hand on the base of her neck and moved her past it and the next door. ‘They’re empty.’

Stiles twisted her head to stare at the doors. ‘Uh, why would you leave two rooms empty?’

‘Because I haven’t had time to furnish them yet.’

Her eyes darted to the door further along. ‘Is that all? Are you sure you aren’t hiding something?’

‘Like what?’ Derek asked.

‘I dunno. A meth lab, maybe?’

Derek rolled his eyes but let go of her. ‘Go and see for yourself.’

Pushing open first one door and then the other and seeing painted, empty rooms, Stiles turned back to him, satisfied. ‘No meth labs here.’

Instead of saying anything, Derek gestured for her to open the final door on the corridor.

She slipped past Derek into the room but stopped just inside the door, realising that this room was different from the others. ‘Hey, is this… is this, like, your room?’

He nodded.

‘Okay, so you have no sun. Or bed.’ Stiles felt vaguely uneasy about invading his space, even if he was standing right next to her.

‘It gets sun in the morning.’

‘Uh, okay.’ Stiles had a momentary flash of Derek lying in a bed, the sun shining on him. She gave herself a mental shake and folded her arms across her chest. ‘But what about the bed? Or lack thereof.’ She glared at the ratty old mattress in the middle of the room, idly wondering where Derek had found it. Had it been in the house when he’d arrived? God but that was a depressing thought. Even with the transformation the house was undergoing, Derek was still stuck in the past.

Derek knocked his fingers against the newly plastered wall, next to her head. ‘Needs painting.’

‘Well, yeah. So hurry up and do that because this room deserves a huge, big comfy bed.’ She didn’t add that after nearly six months of living rough in a burnt out house,he deserved a big, comfy bed. ‘And get some stuff as well.’ Because the idea of Derek being in an impersonal, empty room was particularly distressing.

‘I’ll get right on that,’ Derek said, dryly.

‘Good.’

Leaning against the door frame, Derek looked down at her. He opened his mouth, frowned and closed it again. After watching him do it a couple more times, Stiles nudged him. ‘You’re looking at me funny. Why?’

‘I am not.’

‘Oh yeah, you are.’ When he didn’t say anything, Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘So, go on then, spit it out.’

‘How’s school?’

‘How’s school? Seriously? You’ve never asked me that before.’ She rolled her eyes as he stared impassively at her. ‘My God, okay. It’s crappy. Really, really crappy. People still don’t talk to me, but now they whisper about me too.’

‘Oh.’

‘Yeah. It’s all great fun.’ She narrowed her eyes at him. ‘But I get the feeling that’s not what you were really looking to ask me.’

Holding her stare, Derek nodded in agreement. ‘How are you sleeping?’

A bolt of panic hit her stomach, making her skin feel hot for a second and her breathing speed up. ‘Is that a trick question? How do I sleep? I sleep like everyone else does. Get into bed, lie there, wide awake until BOOM! Fast asleep. But there are other times I sleep, I guess and I suppose my process in those instances is a little different -’

‘Stiles, shut up,’ Derek said, his exasperation clear.

‘But you asked -’

Stepping closer to her, he put a hand on her shoulder, his thumb resting against the pulse at the base of her neck. Being touched like that should have made her uncomfortable but instead her breathing slowed and evened out. ‘Stiles.’ The near gentle way he said her name was so kind that it nearly made her hate him. ‘I know what you’re doing.’

‘Answering your question.’

‘Shall I tell you how you’re sleeping?’

‘Please don’t,’ she muttered, glaring at the clothes heaped in the corner of the room.

‘You’re not.’

‘Of course I’m sleeping. If I wasn’t sleeping, well, I’d be all strange and seeing weird shit. And walking in a straight line could be a problem. That’s happened to me before, you know.’

‘You’re not sleeping well.’

Stiles’ flippant comment died on her tongue when she looked up and saw the understanding on Derek’s face.

‘Well, fine,’ she huffed. ‘Okay. I’m not sleeping well. What of it? I’ll get over it.’

There were nightmares. Of course there were nightmares. After her mom had died, Stiles had had all kinds of dreams that made her hate falling asleep. She’d have been an idiot not to expect the nightmares.

‘Next time you have a nightmare, you call me.’

Her eyes snapped to his in surprise. ‘But -’

‘I don’t care what time it is’ His tone brooked no argument.

‘Even if it’s, like, 3am?’

‘Even then, Stiles.’

‘You’d be willing to take a 3am call?’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Isn’t that what I just said?’

Stiles worried her lip between her teeth because it was so tempting to do just that. It would be such a relief to have someone to talk to when she felt like she was about to burst out of her skin. ‘When I had nightmares before and dad wasn’t home’ - because there were many nights after her mom had died that Stiles had crawled into her parent’s bed, crying and needing her dad to hug her - ‘I used to call Scott but that’s more than a little awkward now.’

‘I get that.’ He reached out and pulled her closer to him, his hands warm and reassuring on her shoulders. ‘So you call me.’

‘So I call you,’ Stiles sighed.

‘I can tell you’re lying.’

‘I’m not lying, per se,’ she hedged.

‘Yes, you are.’

‘No, I’m… yes, okay I’m totally lying. But think about it for a moment, would you? Do you really want me waking you up every time I freak out? If you think I talk a lot now, you really don’t want to see me when I’m all freaked out. It’s not pretty.’

‘I don’t care. Call me.’

‘Is this an Alpha thing?’

‘No.’

‘Oh. It isn’t?’

‘No.’

She rubbed the back of her neck, thinking. ‘Then what is it?’

‘A friend thing.’

Her head snapped up. ‘So we are friends then?’

Derek rubbed a hand over his mouth, and Stiles was positive there was a smile there. ‘Get the hell out of my house.’

‘No, no this is big. Huge. Epic.’ She threw her arms wide open to show just how epic. She nearly smacked Derek in the face doing so, but he moved out of her way easily. ‘You just said we’re friends.’

‘And believe me, I’m regretting it already,’ he groaned.

‘Liar. I’m an awesome friend to have and you know it.’

‘What have I done?’

She laughed. Catching sight of Derek’s watch, she sighed. ‘I need to go home. Dad’ll be back and I gotta make sure he doesn’t have fries again for dinner.’

Derek nodded. ‘I’ll walk you to the door.’

Stiles blinked in surprise. Derek never walked anyone out ever. Ever. Walking down the stairs, she was very aware of him following behind her.

‘Seriously, I love these stairs,’ she said, needing to break the heavy silence. ‘It’s such a refreshing feeling, not expecting to die.’

‘You’re being ridiculous,’ Derek said, but Stiles could hear the smile in his voice even if there wasn’t one on his face.

Jumping down the last few stairs, Stiles turned and pointed at him. ‘And you have superpowers, so if it had ever collapsed, you could have jumped clear. I would have been crushed.’

‘Completely ridiculous,’ he muttered, somehow getting in front of her and opening the door. As she walked past him, he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. ‘Remember, Stiles. You call me.’

Stiles pulled her keys out of her pocket. ‘Yeah, okay. I promise,’ she said, resignation setting in. Derek obviously wasn’t going to let this go. ‘Mind-numblingly terrifying nightmares, I call you.’

Derek grabbed her chin, keeping her still as he studied her, obviously working out whether or not she was lying, before nodding and letting her go. ‘Good.’

Stiles was about to walk down the porch when she snapped her fingers. ‘Cell phone. I need my cell phone. It’ll be difficult to call you if I don’t have my cell.’

Derek handed it to her, still warm from being in his pocket, without comment. Stiles could see she had a series of texts and missed calls waiting for her.

She sighed. ‘Wonderful. Scott seems to think I’ve been horrifically murdered or abducted by aliens since I saw him a few hours ago.’

‘Let me see,’ Derek said, reaching for the phone.

Stiles held out her phone, letting Derek see the number of texts and calls from the last couple of hours.

His brow furrowed and his mouth twisted unhappily. ‘I’ll talk to Jackson and Scott before you see them at school tomorrow.’

‘Uh -’ Because it suddenly felt like she’d run to the principal and told tales. ‘Don’t -’

‘Stiles, I’m going to talk to them. I need to talk to them if they can’t control themselves.’

‘Well, when you put it like that...’ The relief in her voice was obvious and she couldn’t bring herself to care. ‘I, uh, thanks. Like, I know you’re not doing it completely for me or anything and they need to get their shit together, but thanks.’

‘Go on home, Stiles. Try and get some sleep and call if you need to.’

Stiles offered him a salute as she jumped off the porch and hopped down the steps. ‘Whatever you say, Alpha- boss.’

‘Don’t call me that,’ Derek called after her.

‘I thought you’d like it better than sourwolf.’

‘Not really.’

With a laugh, Stiles yanked open the jeep door and climbed in. ‘Noted. Alpha-boss out. Sourwolf in.’

It was difficult to tell from where she was sitting, but Stiles was sure his lips twitched. When he rubbed a hand over his mouth, Stiles just knew he was hiding a smile.

Unable to bite back her corresponding smile, Stiles threw the jeep into drive and disappeared back down the track, feeling far more relaxed than when she’d arrived.

Chapter Text

For the rest of the evening Stiles didn’t hear anything from Derek. Instead she pushed everything about Scott and Jackson to the back of her mind and concentrated on enjoying an evening of watching old episodes of CSI with dad. It was always worth it just to hear him grumble about all the details the shows got wrong about proper police procedure.

By the time she kissed him goodnight and got ready for bed, there was still no word from Derek. But then she hadn’t heard anything from Scott or Jackson either. It made her wonder when Derek was planning on talking to either of them and kicked herself for not asking to be kept in the loop.

When she woke the next morning she felt groggy, like she’d tossed and turned through her nightmares, but never actually woken. Dragging herself into the shower was a chore and a part of her was really tempted to stay home and curl up under her comforter, but she knew she couldn’t do that, so she forced herself downstairs.

While eating her cereal, Stiles checked her phone to see if there were any messages and was slightly put out to see there still wasn’t anything. From either Derek or Scott.

Pulling into the parking lot, Stiles spotted Jackson more or less immediately, leaning against his porsche and scowling. The closer she got the deeper his scowl became and, biting her lip against the smile that threatened, Stiles had a sneaking suspicion that visits had been made and words had been had.

By the time she cut the engine, Stiles was feeling far more optimistic about the day and she gave in and smiled as obnoxiously as she knew how at Jackson when he appeared next to the jeep. With a stab of satisfaction she noticed that he was keeping a good couple of feet more between them than usual.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ she asked, sliding out of the jeep and slamming the door shut. ‘You look like someone just declared Gucci a second rate label.’

Jackson’s glare intensified but he still didn’t crowd any closer. ‘I was woken up this morning by Derek banging on my window.’

Stiles snorted. ‘I bet that was hilarious,’ she said, not bothering to hide her amusement. ‘Were you butt naked? Did you have a face mask on? Is that why you’re so cranky? Tell me Derek got a photo. Please.’

Jackson sneered. ‘You had to go running to Derek, didn’t you? Get him to solve your problems for you.’

‘Hey, Jackass.’ Walking past him to get to the main entrance she shoved at his shoulder, but predictably he didn’t budge. ‘You do realise that, after days of telling me that you and Scott are acting normal, you’ve just admitted that there’s a problem, yeah?’

‘That’s not what I meant,' Jackson muttered, walking with her.

‘And I don’t care. I’ve been telling you and Scott to cut back on your creeper act for days. It’s not my fault you don’t listen.’

‘But did you have to tell Derek?’

‘Why?' Stiles gritted her teeth as Jackson kept following. 'Did he scare you? Were you unable to use your super enhanced werewolf senses to, I don’t know, sense him sneaking up on you?’

Jackson glared at her and Stiles took that to mean Derek had either scared the crap out of him and he’d screamed like a three year old or that Derek had caught him jerking off. Which immediately put images she didn’t want to see, ever, in her head. What she really needed was a gallon of industrial strength brain bleach.

‘So, come on then, what wisdom did the almighty alpha impart?’ she asked, running up the front steps.

‘You know, it’s not like I want to care what happens to you,’ Jackson said, notably ignoring her question.

‘Wow, feel the love, dude.’

‘Do you have any idea how much it’s screwing up my life, Stilinski?’

‘I’m sorry, but are you asking me if I know how you stalking me is making your life miserable? No. But I do know how miserable it’s making mine, asshole.’

‘I have far more important things to do that listen to Scott whine on about whether you’re safe or not.’

‘Well, moron, if you want to get back to your regularly scheduled not giving a shit about me thing, then might I suggest actually listening to what Derek’s telling you?' She dodged a couple of freshman not paying attention to where they were walking. 'Revolutionary idea, I know, but maybe try it. The quicker you do that, the better. For all of us.’

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Jackson sneered. ‘How could you? You’re human.’

‘Whereas you’re a paragon of werewolf supremacy,’ Stiles scoffed. ‘Oh, wait. You’re really not.’

Jackson’s eyes flashed yellow and with half a snarl he turned on his heel and stomped away.

‘Oh my god, dramatic much? You have got to be the worst first beta ever.’ Judging by the glare Jackson threw over his shoulder, he definitely heard that, even over all the noise in the corridor.

Shouldering her bag, Stiles rolled her eyes and wondered if Derek regretted choosing Jackson. Though, in all honesty, Scott wasn’t any better. It pained her to admit, but if anything, he was worse.

‘Hey,' Stiles yelled at Jackson’s retreating back. ‘Where’s Sc-’ She trailed off as he turned a corner. ‘Asshole.’

What Derek really needed was a brand new first beta. One who actually knew how to listen and not argue back just for the sake of it. Not that she was one to talk, but she wasn’t a werewolf, so it was a moot point.

Anyway, she didn't really need Jackson to guess where Scott was. If he wasn’t at school yet, and Derek had already visited Jackson, then Stiles supposed it stood to reason that maybe Derek was talking to Scott now.

‘Your shadows are missing,’ Danny said, falling into step next to her.

‘Isn’t it wonderful? I could get used to this, you know.’ Now that she didn’t have Scott or Jackson trailing after her, drawing everyone’s attention to her, there were far fewer people staring or whispering.

‘So, where are they?’ he asked as they stopped in front of Stiles' locker.

‘As of yet Scott is a no-show, but Jackson stormed off a couple of minutes ago after informing me that Derek had been his wake up call this morning.’

‘He didn’t interrupt Jackson’s alone time, did he? Jackson’s very protective of that.’

Stiles laughed. ‘Dude, I didn’t ask. There isn’t enough brain bleach in the world to make those images go away. Anyway, he’s probably gone to find Lydia.’

‘Shit. Lydia really isn’t up for his brand of… whatever this morning. I better go and find him before he gets himself eviscerated.’

At the prospect of Jackson being eviserated, Stiles brightened and Danny snorted.

‘Is Lydia okay?’

Danny shook his head. ‘Not really. She had an argument with her dad last night.’

‘He’s in town?’ Last she'd heard, he was somewhere on the East Coast and Lydia hadn't been all that concerned with when he might return.

‘Nope.’

‘Oh. You know, normally I’d say to leave Jackson, but I don’t think that’d be fair to Lydia if she’s already had to deal with one self-entitled moron.’

‘Yeah. I’d better go. See you in class.’

Watching Danny hurry off, Stiles hoped Lydia was okay. Pushing it from her mind with a sigh, she pulled her phone out of her pocket. Leaning against her locker, she quickly fired off a text to Derek. If she had to suffer through images of Jackson giving himself some love, then so did Derek, since it was kind of his fault that she was thinking about it in the first place.

There was no immediate reply.

Grinning at the thought of Derek’s face when he read the text, Stiles pocketed her phone and turned to open her locker, pushing the books around, looking for her geo textbook. Someone appeared next to her and when she looked up, Allison was there, biting her lip. ‘Hey.’

‘I hate to ask, but do you know where Scott is? He’s not answering his phone.’

‘No. But what I do know is that Derek paid a surprise visit to Jackson this morning. I’m betting he also went to see Scott and is probably still there.’

‘So, you finally took Lydia’s advice and talked to Derek?’

‘I probably should have said something earlier,’ she admitted, pausing in her search, ‘but I was kinda hoping that if I ignored it they’d sort themselves out.’

‘I love Scott,’ Allison said, and to Stiles’ surprise those words didn’t hurt like she’d expected, ‘but he’s stubborn. Especially about you. He was all kinds of freaked about what those hunters did. And he’s not ready to admit that it’s a wolf thing he can’t handle. It probably doesn’t help that the person telling him that is Derek.’

‘You’re very wise,’ Stiles said. ‘Has anyone ever told you that?’

Allison laughed.

Stiles pushed her chemistry textbook out of the way. ‘I don’t suppose you have any words of wisdom about Jackson, do you?’

‘Nothing you don’t know already.’

Stiles pulled a face. ‘That he’s an asshole?’

‘He’s not that bad, Stiles.’

‘Maybe not all that wise then.’

Allison rolled her eyes. ‘If you’re looking for your geo textbook, I think you lent it to Scott.’

‘Dammit, you’re right. I bet he’s going to have left it at home again, as well.’

‘Probably,’ Allison agreed.

‘Mr Davis is going to kill me,’ she sighed, shutting the locker. Hey, have you seen Lydia yet?’

Allison shook her head. ‘No. Why?’

‘Danny said that she spoke to her dad last night and they had an argument.’

‘Shit. I better go and find her. I’ll see you in class, okay?’

‘Yeah.’ Checking her phone again to see if she’d heard from Derek, Stiles shouldered her bag and made her way to class.

She didn’t see Scott until their math class just before lunch. When she walked in he was sitting next to Allison, talking, but as soon as he saw her he trailed off and stood, hesitating when Allison rested her hand on his arm.

It was tempting to take her seat next to Lydia without saying anything, but she couldn’t walk past him looking as hurt and confused as he did.

‘Hey.’ She crossed her arms and gave him a tentative smile. ‘I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you had a visitor this morning?’

‘You knew that was going to happen?’

‘That Derek was going to talk to you? Yeah.’

‘And you couldn’t give me a heads-up?’

'It's not like I knew he was going to do it this morning.'

'But you knew.'

'And you needed to talk to Derek. He would have tracked you down eventually.'

'I don't need to talk to him.'

'No, but you need to listen to him,' she snapped.

‘Miss Stilinski, if you could take your seat,’ Mr Robson said, walking into the room. 'You too, Mr McCall.'

With a last troubled look at Scott, Stiles walked to her desk and sat down heavily. She was so ready for everything to go back to what passed for normal these days.

For the rest of the class Scott kept turning in his seat to frown at her and Stiles did her best to ignore him.

As the last few minutes of the class ticked away, Stiles packed up her stuff, only keeping her textbook out so Mr Robson didn’t call her on it. When the bell rang, Stiles was up and out of her seat, bag slung over her shoulder, and out the door before Scott could even sidestep Allison and corner her. Jackson, she noticed, hadn’t tried to follow her.

Once she was in the library, Stiles let out a sigh of relief. She made her way to one of the back tables that, while hidden from the door, also had a good view of the library floor and dumped her bag on one of the chairs before collapsing into another.

The library was practically deserted and there were a few studious types dotted about the place, none of whom were paying her any attention. It was virtually silent, just the odd scrape of a chair or a book being slammed shut.

Homework didn’t appeal to Stiles and neither did research or reading and she was too wired to catch some sleep. Humming to herself, she stared around the library, hoping for inspiration. Her eyes ended up falling on the shelves of yearbooks opposite her and with a grin she pushed to her feet. How had she never looked up dad before now?

She ran her finger along the spine before she stopped at the beginning of the 70s.

‘What atrocious crimes against fashion am I going to find in here?’ she wondered, pulling the book from the shelf.

Flicking through the pages, Stiles sniggered when she finally came across dad. God, the hair. The shirt. With a grin, she grabbed her phone and took a photo, sending it to him. Sliding the book back in place, her gaze settled on the 2004/5 yearbook.

Derek’s final year in Beacon Hills.

Maybe there were some photos of Derek in there. Or Laura.

Laura was a subject she didn’t know how to bring up without hitting a load of Derek's issues or bringing up more bad - or at least painful - memories. It was probably wrong, but perhaps this was her way to find out something about Laura without doing any of those things.

‘Let’s see what we have here,’ she muttered, opening the book.

Laura had been a senior, so she was in a fair number of photos, even though she and Derek had obviously left before the official yearbook photos had been taken. In every one she seemed to be laughing or grinning and Stiles felt a stab of regret at never knowing her.

Photos of Derek were slightly harder to come by. It wasn’t until she was looking through the sports teams that she had any luck.

She nearly missed Derek, middle of the second row, face turned slightly towards the boy standing next to him. Probably to stop the lens flare, but maybe because he was joking about with the kid next to him.

'Huh. Swim team. Who knew?'

He looked happy and carefree, making Stiles’ chest ache painfully. Even now, when he wasn’t scowling, glowering or glaring he always had an air of sadness about him. Just seeing a photo of him without it made what he’d lost so much more real.

Staring at a carefree Derek was just too depressing, so she turned the page quickly. Wondering if there were any more photos of Derek she kept turning the pages, but she only found ones of Laura and her friends.

Flicking through the final pages, Stiles blew a few strands of hair from her eyes. Remembering the mugshot Dad had shown her, Stiles wondered if all the photos with Derek in had just happened to be wrecked with surprise lens flare. Either that or he had a sixth sense for dodging cameras.

She was about to turn the page when something caught her eye. Frowning, she stared at a photo at the bottom of the page and realised that Derek was in the background.

He was angled away from the camera but it was obviously him. The face of the person – woman – he was with was blurred, but even so she seemed familiar to Stiles. There was something about the posture that had Stiles staring until the blurriness seemed to fall away, taking Stiles’ stomach with it. ‘Oh, fuck.’

The blond women standing next to Derek, canting her hips in his direction, was Kate Argent.

Kate. Fucking. Argent.

Stiles may not have had as much face time with Kate as Scott or Derek but there was no mistaking that it was her.

‘What the fuck..?’ she muttered. Because how did they know each other and why hadn’t Derek told them he knew her? Surely that was something she and Scott should have known?

There was only one possible reason that Stiles could think of for Derek never saying anything and it made her stomach cramp and her hands sweat just to think it.

Had Kate - had she -

Had she seduced Derek to get at his family?

Kate was someone whose death Stiles couldn’t regret because she’d killed Derek’s family, turned his uncle into a crazy, sister-murdering Alpha and then tried to get Allison to kill Scott. It didn’t exactly surprise Stiles that Kate would have done something so fucked up to achieve her objectives.

Everything about Derek’s excessive trust issues suddenly made so much more sense.

‘Please let me be reading too much into this.’

But she knew she wasn’t. Kate had totally Mrs Robinson’d Derek and then gone all psycho arsonist on him. It made all the questions that had been niggling her about the lead up to the fire slot into place for the first time.

Stiles covered the photo with her hand and took a deep breath.

Had Derek been carrying this all by himself for the past six years and how had Derek managed to not kill her when he’d seen her back in Beacon Hills?

The bell went and Stiles ignored all the others packing up their stuff and hurrying out of the library. Instead she kept staring at the photo, unsure of what she was going to do. Really, she should just close the book and put it back on the shelf and pretend that she’d never seen it. But it felt wrong in a way she couldn’t explain to hide it away and pretend she’d never seen it. Especially when there was no way she’d be able to act normal the next time she saw Derek, but that was a problem for another day.

Biting her lip, Stiles glanced around and, spotting the librarian with his back to her, she quietly closed the book and quickly walked back over to the table with her stuff and slipped the yearbook in her bag, throwing everything else on top of it.

Glancing at the clock Stiles realised that she was nearly fifteen minutes late for a stupid history test. Which really didn’t seem all that important, considering.

She pulled another book off the shelf before walking towards the exit. When the alarm went off as she tried to ‘accidentally’ carry it out the door, she pushed her bag past the alarm with her foot while the librarian was busy lecturing her about something to do with proper procedure. Stiles tuned it out.

The yearbook felt heavy in her bag, but she ignored it, slinging her bag back over her shoulder.

Unable to get Derek, his family or the fire out of her head, Stiles made her way slowly to class. At the door she paused for a second, taking a breath before walking in. ‘Sorry I’m late.’

Instead of telling her off, Miss Rosenberg gestured Stiles towards her desk. This was why Miss Rosenberg was her favourite.

‘Sit down, Miss Stilinski. The test began nearly fifteen minutes ago. I’m afraid you don’t get any extra time.’

Stiles nodded and pulled the test towards her, already knowing that she was likely going to fail it.

‘Stiles, where the hell have you been?’ Scott hissed as she rooted around in her bag for a pen, careful not to let the yearbook fall out. Jackson was also watching her from the other side of the classroom, which she expertly ignored.

Danny twisted around in his chair and shot her a worried look so she tried to send him a reassuring smile. By the way his face fell she’d failed dismally.

Stiles drifted through the rest of the afternoon, utterly preoccupied with thoughts of Derek. Everyone kept sending her concerned looks, but there wasn't much she could do except reassure them she was fine whenever they asked.

Physics was the final class of the day and Stiles found herself with Allison sitting on one side, Lydia the other. Danny and Jackson were sitting at the back of the lab, Scott between them. Even so, she could feel Scott's gaze like an itch on her skin. The last thing she wanted to do after school was have to convince Scott that she was okay. She needed to get home so she could think.

Ripping a piece of paper from her notebook, Stiles picked up her pen.

Can you two keep the boys from following me this afternoon

She nudged Lydia and nodded briefly at the note. Allison was already reading it, frowning.

'Are you okay?'

'I'm fine,' she whispered back.

Lydia raised a skeptical eyebrow.' Then why have you been acting weird since lunch?'

'I swear I'm fine. This isn't about me.'

'No-one's been hassling you, have they?' Allison asked.

'No. I promise.'

Allison stared at her steadily. Stiles had no idea what she was looking for, but whatever it was, she must have found it because she nodded. 'Okay.' Her finger tapped the note. 'To both.'

Lydia sighed but nodded her agreement before returning her attention to the teacher.

Stiles gave Allison a grateful smile and tried to ignore the fact that when she got home she was going to have to find a way to tell Derek. Because that's what she was going to do. Tell Derek that she knew.

Chapter Text

Once home, Stiles kicked off her shoes, leaving them by the door and dumped her bag at the bottom of the staircase. She wandered into the kitchen, scratching her stomach absently. Pouring a glass of juice, she walked back towards the stairs and grabbed her bag.

Upstairs she put the half empty glass on the desk and collapsed onto her bed. Burying her face in her pillow she tried to come up with a plan that wouldn’t end with her either dying or upsetting Derek. So far she couldn’t think of a single one. It didn't help that she was distracted because she half expected Scott to burst into her room, despite knowing that Allison and Lydia had promised to keep both him and Jackson occupied somehow.

Hit me with your best shot started blaring out of her phone and with a groan Stiles groped around until her hand closed around it.

She didn’t bother to lift her head to answer, so her voice was muffled when she said, ‘Hey, Allison.’

'How are you, Stiles?'

She grunted noncommittally.

‘Fair enough,’ Allison said, voice sounding amused. ‘I just thought you’d like to know that we’ve taken the boys bowling. This is the first time in ages they've been acting halfway normal, so Derek's talks must have done something right.'

'Yay.'

'Anyway, I thought you'd like to know that they won’t be annoying you tonight.’

Stiles let out a (metaphorical) breath she hadn't even realised she'd been holding. Her entire body felt boneless with relief. ‘You and Lydia are my heroes,' she groaned. 'I love you both.' If she hadn’t found that stupid yearbook, this would be the first stress free night she'd had in ages.

‘Are you sure you’re okay?’

‘I’m fine. Just tired.’

‘As long as you’re sure...’

'I'm sure, Allison. I promise,' Stiles interrupted, trying not to sound like she was snapping.

'That's good, but -'

‘Go, have fun, beat Jackson into the ground and I’ll see you at school.’ She hung up before Allison could ask anything else. Letting the phone slip from her fingers, Stiles sighed.

‘You’re a terrible liar.’

‘Holy crap.’ Stiles flailed over onto her back and sat up. Derek was sitting at her desk, slouched down in the chair, book open in his lap. ‘Jeez, Derek. What the fuck?’

Derek closed his book, slipping a bookmark between the pages. ‘I thought you heard me come in.’

‘You couldn’t have just waved a hand in front of my face to check?’ Her eyes flicked to the bag at his feet, but she quickly looked away.

‘Sorry.’

Stiles slid to the edge of the bed. ‘Hang on a sec. Did you just say sorry? Are you ill? Have you been body snatched? Shit, are you possessed?’

Derek arched an eyebrow and slouched down in the chair. ‘Your brain is a very strange place.’

‘Can’t argue with that.’

‘Speaking of, thanks for that text this morning.’

‘What - oh. That text.’ She bit her lip, trying not to laugh.

Derek grimaced.

‘On a scale of one to ten, how mentally scarred are you?’

Never send me a text like that again.’

'No promises.'

Derek nodded at her phone. ‘You lied to Allison just then. Why?’

‘I'm just not in the mood to talk to anyone.'

‘Why?’

‘Because reasons? Just stuff in my head. It’s no big deal.’

Derek pushed his henley up to his elbows and leaned forward, arms resting on his knees. ‘What didn’t you want to talk about, Stiles?’

Stiles shrugged. ‘There are lots of things that I don’t want to talk about at any given moment.’

He tilted his head. ‘That was true.’

‘No shit.’

He gave her a long, considering look, but didn't push any further. ‘How were Scott and Jackson today?’

‘You mean after you dropped in on them unannounced?’

Derek nodded, a smirk playing across his lips.

‘Better. Well, Jackson was better. I mean, he was a dick about the fact you woke him up -’ Derek snorted. ‘- But it was regular dickish Jackson behaviour, you know.’

‘And Scott?’

Stiles pulled a face and pulled at the sheet bunching by her knee. ‘He didn’t like that I’d spoken to you, but he also left me alone and it sounds like he’s going to stay with Allison and the others and not go all creeper on me. So, there’s that, I guess.’

Derek pursed his lips and nodded.

‘Was that what you expected to happen?’

‘When I spoke to him Jackson tried to act like it wasn’t a problem, but I think he really knew it was.’

'Plus, he really doesn't like that he might be experiencing emotions other than disdain and contempt for me,' Stiles added.

'Are you two ever going to get along?'

'No.'

'Wonderful,' Derek muttered on a sigh. 'But Scott isn't ready to listen to me or believe me.’

‘Understatement of the decade,’ Stiles muttered.

‘I’ll talk to him again,’ Derek said. 'But you still need to be careful around him and call me if he starts to lose control.'

‘Which are all things I know. Ugh. Do we have to keep talking about him?’

Derek shook his head. ‘But if it’s not them, then what are you worrying about?’

‘Huh? Oh, that.’ She opened her mouth to say something but Derek held up his hand and she snapped it shut.

‘Remember I can tell when you lie.’

‘Yeah, because that’s not creepy at all,’ she muttered half-heartedly. ‘Look, can’t you just… I don’t know, ignore it? Decide that you’re not all that interested in the trials and tribulations of a sixteen-year-old girl?’

‘No.’

‘Of course you can’t,’ she sighed. ‘Can I ask why not?’

‘Because you can't stop thinking about it.’

Whatever she’d been expecting him to say, that hadn’t been it. ‘What? Can you like, smell that or something?’

‘Yes.’

‘Of course you can.’ Stiles pinched the bridge of her nose before her curiosity got the better of her. ‘Does this mean you can smell every emotion? Is that a werewolf thing? I mean, I know you can sense lies but can you sense things like happiness, frustration and mild annoyance?’

‘To varying degrees.’

Stiles scowled at him. ‘Do you practice the art of non-information or are you just a natural?’

Derek smirked.

‘Right,’ Stiles muttered. ‘I’m going to go with just a natural. No-one can learn your levels of annoying.’

‘It’s a gift.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘So, how easy is it to sense emotions?’

Derek shrugged. ‘The stronger the emotion the more I can sense it. So, if you’re worried about homework, it doesn’t register. Or, if you’re worried about, say, your dad’s health, it registers. Something like this, it keeps flicking in and out as you keep thinking about it.’

‘Oh.’ There were probably other questions she should be thinking of asking, but all she could think about was the stupid yearbook stuffed in her bag. ‘So, there’s this thing that I discovered and I don’t know what to do about it.’

‘Do I get to know what this thing is?’

‘Yes, but I can’t tell you until you promise not to get mad.’ She paused. ‘With me. Specifically.’

‘Why would I be mad with you?’

‘You mean other than the fact that you spent the first few months we knew each other in a perpetual state of wanting to rip my throat out?’

The corner of Derek's mouth twitched.

Not knowing where to start, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This was going to be like navigating a minefield. Only way more likely to blow up in her face.

‘Stiles, for me to know what I’m not blaming you for, you need to talk.’

‘I know that. I will. Just…’

Derek rolled his eyes.

‘Don’t give me that look,’ she told him. ‘I need to word this right, and, as you may have noticed, I’ve way more experience at saying exactly the wrong thing, rather than the right one.’

Derek leaned back in the chair, arms crossed, his fingers tapping his bicep impatiently.

‘You see my bag there?’

Derek glanced down and nodded.

‘Could you bring it over for me?’

‘Really, Stiles? Fetch?’

‘You’re closer! My god. Just do this for me.’

Derek rolled his eyes again, but he pushed to his feet and snagged her bag. When she tried to grab it, Derek swung it out of her way.

‘Asshole.’

After a few more pathetic attempts at grabbing it, Derek let it swing into her arms and let go.

Before he could go back to the desk, Stiles grabbed his wrist. ‘And, uh, sit down?’

Derek raised an eyebrow, but he sat down without comment and looked at her expectantly.

Stiles shuffled back on the bed so she could cross her legs and face Derek. She hesitated for a moment before opening her bag and pulling out the yearbook.

Stiles took a deep breath and then looked directly at Derek. ‘So, I was in the library keeping out of Scott and Jackson’s way. And I was bored. So I ended up going through some of the yearbooks.’

Derek gave her a blank look.

‘I was looking through the 2005 yearbook -’ She immediately saw Derek tense up. ‘- and, well, here, see.’ She opened the book to the right page and turned it so he could see.

‘What exactly am I looking at?’

Biting her lip, she slowly pointed to the photo. To where Derek and Kate were.

Derek froze. For a moment his face crumbled and he looked nothing more than a frightened sixteen year old kid. It was horrible and Stiles hated herself just a bit for doing that to Derek.

After mom had died she had only felt better when either Dad or Scott hugged her. She didn’t feel brave enough to pull Derek into a hug - didn’t think he’d let her - but she hesitantly put her hand on his arm.

Red eyes snapped to hers and Stiles had less than a second before he tried to jump up off the bed. But it was enough. She already had her hands wrapped around his arm and she would have ended up on the floor if he hadn’t frozen, hunched over and snarling at her. ‘Let go of me, Stiles. NOW.’

‘No.’ She was careful to keep her voice as low and non-threatening as she could. Her voice didn’t waver and she maintained eye contact with him, even if her head was bowed slightly, tilted to bare her throat.

‘I don’t want your pity,’ he growled.

‘Jesus, this isn’t pity, you asshole. This is me multiplying the pain I felt when mom died exponentially and realising I have no idea how I’d feel if that many people I love died and I thought it was my fault.’

Derek leaned in close and snarled again but Stiles refused to let go, even as her heart sped up seeing his fangs so close to her face.

Stiles pulled gently but insistently on his arm until he relented and allowed her to pull him back onto the bed. The fangs were thankfully gone, but his jaw was clenched and he kept staring at her wall, refusing to meet her eyes.

‘I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon –‘ Which was probably a bad thing to admit, but it was out there now ‘- and it’s not your fault. What happened to your family. It’s not your fault.’

Derek whipped his head around to glare at her, growling low in his throat. Before she even knew what she was doing, Stiles reached over and smacked Derek smartly on the nose, cutting him off mid growl.

She froze and felt her heartbeat kick into overdrive. ‘Holy fuck. I – I have no idea what part of my brain thought that was a good idea, but it was obviously the part that somehow forgot that you’re a damn werewolf. But you haven’t ripped my throat out so I’m going to take that as a good sign. Or something. And… and…’ Catching herself before she could enter full babble mode, Stiles took a deep breath. ‘I think we should forget I did that.’

The red had faded from Derek’s eyes and they were back to their usual hazel-green colour and he was staring at her like she was crazy. Which was fair. ‘Don’t ever do that again.’

‘Really not going to, but it worked, you know. You’re no longer three seconds away from full on shifting.’

‘And if you did that to either Scott or Jackson they could just as easily attack you. What the hell were you thinking?’

‘I think we can both agree that I wasn’t thinking. But that doesn’t make what I was saying any less valid; it’s not your fault.’

The anger seemed to drain out of Derek and he lent forward, wrapping an arm across his stomach and rubbing the other over his face. ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about.’

Stiles inched closer. ‘Please don’t kill me for asking this, but, she – Kate, that is. She seduced you, right?'

Derek had no reason to answer, and he was hunched over, refusing to look at her. But he nodded anyway.

Stiles swallowed against the sick feeling settling in her stomach but was unable to do anything about the stale taste refusing to leave the back of her throat.

'You were sixteen?'

He seemed almost smaller when he nodded again.

'She was in her twenties.'

He nodded and Stiles had to fist her hand - the one she hadn’t tried to touch Derek with - in her bed sheets and literally bite her tongue so the ball of anger lodged in her chest didn’t explode out of her.

Stiles wanted to hit something really hard. Preferably Kate. Many, many times over.

'Fucking, fucking bitch.’ Stiles hadn’t known it was possible to feel this much hate. She didn’t even hate Peter this much and the thought of him gave her nightmares nightmares. ‘I'd kill her if she wasn't already dead.’

Derek’s head shot up and his eyes were wide with confusion when they met hers.

Stiles leaned forward urgently, relieved that at least Derek didn’t shy away from her. 'You get what Kate did, right? You didn't give away your family secrets, Derek. No matter what she told you. She knew about your family, seduced you, killed them and then let you blame yourself for six years.'

Stiles knew a little something about loss and guilt. Obviously it was nothing like what Derek had lived through, but she knew about the pain of losing someone you loved suddenly. And it hurt. More than could be put into words. She couldn’t even imagine multiplying the pain so many times over.

'I showed her round our land.' Derek's voice was raw with pain. ‘And how to get to the house.’

‘So? Do you really think that she wouldn’t have set the fire if you hadn’t shown her round a few times? Her plan was to kill your family. It… it would have happened no matter what because that’s what she wanted to do.’

Derek shook his head jerkily.

'How long before the fire did you two get together?' Stiles asked, overriding whatever he’d been about to say.

He was silent for a moment. 'Little more than a month.'

Stiles suppressed a shudder of revulsion at the idea of Kate having her hands all over Derek for that long.

'I read my dad's reports, okay? I’m sure I could get my hands on them if you don’t believe me.’ Although she really didn’t want Derek reading about each death in that level of detail. ‘But there’s a bunch of circumstantial evidence that shows she’d been planning the fire for ages before. Like, by a couple of months.’

Derek made a choking noise and Stiles trailed off until Derek motioned for her to keep talking.

‘I have no clue if you’d always been in the plan or if she added that later, but, you told Scott that the Argents knew about your family before, so it’s not like she found out and then did something horrible. She knew. She didn’t care that your family were good people. She planned to murder them regardless. Her crazy is not on you.'

Derek wasn’t moving and he was staring straight ahead, jaw clenched to the point where Stiles was worried it might shatter.

‘Derek,’ she said quietly, ‘Kate seduced you SO she could fuck you up and make you think it was your fault. You think it was luck that it happened when you weren’t there? She'd have known where you were.'

Derek’s voice was so quiet, she very nearly didn’t hear him when he said, ‘But they still died.’

Stiles’ chest went tight at the hollow look on his face. It made her insides hurt. She rocked up onto her knees, making sure to telegraph her movements so she didn’t startle Derek and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder.

Everything that she’d read about wolves, and gleaned about werewolves, heavily suggested that physical contact would help him, but Derek stayed stiff in the circle of her arms and Stiles started to panic that she’d done exactly the wrong thing. She was about to pull away and pretend it had never happened when all the fight seemed to leave him at once and he kind of sunk into her embrace like he was a puppet whose strings had been cut. He turned and buried his face in the crook of her neck, wrapping his arms tight around her. So, apparently she hadn’t been all that wrong. Good to know.

After a few minutes Stiles realised that Derek was heavy. Like, really heavy. It wasn’t exactly rocket science that a two hundred pound werewolf would be heavy, but fairly soon having him wrapped around her was going to get pretty uncomfortable. However, there was an entire bed behind them.

Derek was surprisingly pliant and let her manoeuvre them so they were lying across the bed at an angle. Neither one of them was in any danger of falling off so she was counting it as a win.

Stiles pressed her cheek to Derek’s temple and started carding a hand through his hair. With the other hand she traced random patterns on the small of his back. He was taking deep, shuddering breaths, but as far as she could tell, he wasn’t crying. She almost wished he would, but she wasn’t naive enough to believe that one evening of her telling him it wasn’t his fault would be enough to allow him to let go and really, properly grieve.

Thankfully dad wasn’t going to be home until late, giving Stiles time to try and work out what she should do next.

She tugged gently on Derek’s hair. ‘Hey,’ she said quietly, ‘did you ever talk to Laura about this?’

Derek turned his head slightly so that it was resting on her shoulder instead of in the crook of her neck, his breath across her skin giving her goosebumps. ‘No.’

‘Laura wouldn’t have hated you,’ she told him. He flinched and Stiles hugged him closer. ‘She would have told you what I’m telling you now. Not. Your. Fault.’

When Derek didn’t answer she just kept rubbing her hand slowly up and down his back, letting him think. Hopefully some of what she was saying would sink in.

‘I should have known,’ he muttered after an undeterminable amount of time.

His words jolted her out of the half dose she’d been in. The room was darker, but it was still light enough for her to see. ‘Huh?’

‘I should have known she was playing me.’

Stiles curled tighter into Derek. ‘But wasn’t she, like, completely crazycakes? I know I didn’t get a meet and greet, but even I knew most of her marbles had escaped over the years. If she even had any to begin with. Which I think is debatable.’

Derek tensed up again but he didn’t seem inclined to move, so Stiles kept on talking, hoping she wasn’t making everything worse. ‘So, maybe you couldn’t smell, like, deception or whatever on her, because in her head there wasn’t any, or if there was, she didn’t care or she enjoyed it. I have zero interest in guessing how her crazy ass mind worked, but wouldn’t that make a difference to what you would be able to scent? I have no idea if what I’m saying makes any sense, but it seems plausible, right?’

There was a long pause. ‘Maybe.’

Stiles let out a breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. ‘Well, okay then.’

He fell quiet again and Stiles bit the inside of her mouth to stop from filling the silence. Stiles would be the first to admit that her brain to mouth filter wasn’t all that developed - her dad and Scott wouldn’t be far behind in agreeing with her - but she totally knew the value of keeping her trap shut sometimes and this was definitely one of those times.

Stiles found herself noticing when Derek shifted, how he pressed closer to her as he relaxed further. It almost terrifying; the notion that Derek trusted her to let her see him completely and utterly emotionally vulnerable.

Derek’s breathing evened out and ghosted across her throat, making her shiver. Slowly he rolled onto his side, pressing his face into her shoulder. She didn’t think Derek had fallen asleep, but his eyes were closed so she kept petting his hair, the other hand resting on his hip, too lazy to keep drawing patterns.

She had no idea how long they lay there, dozing, but it was pitch black outside when Stiles realised they were tangled together and her foot was trapped between Derek’s calves.

She groaned, shifting ever so slightly and felt Derek tense up where they were pressed together.

‘Hey, stop that,’ she murmured, still feeling sleep heavy.

‘Stop what?’

‘I don’t know, but stop it.’ She tried to poke him in the ribs but ended up resting her hand on his chest, Derek’s skin warm through his t-shirt.

‘Your dad’ll be home soon.’

‘His shift finishes at eleven. We’ve ages.’

‘Stiles, it’s fifteen till.’ Even as he said it, though, Derek was relaxing back into the mattress.

‘How do you know that?’ she demanded. ‘You don’t wear a watch. Can you tell the time from the movement of the moon?’

‘It could be that,’ Derek said, dryly. ‘But it was probably the clock on your desk.’

‘Oh. Right. But you can stay, yeah?’ She yawned, stretching at the same time. With a sigh she settled back against Derek, relieved he didn’t push her away.

Derek’s nose nudged under her ear and along her jaw, which she decided to take as a yes.

‘So, I was thinking. About the yearbook.’

Derek tensed behind her and Stiles pressed back against him. ‘No, no. Nothing - I was thinking about all the photos of Laura.’

Derek made a questioning noise.

Stiles cast about for the yearbook and, not finding it, she rolled forward and looked over the edge of the bed and saw it on the floor. She grabbed it before setting back against Derek.

She flipped through until she found the right page. ‘I thought, that photo -’ She pointed at the one of Laura laughing in the sun, head thrown back ‘- you might want a copy?’

Derek didn’t say anything and when Stiles turned to look at him, she realised he was right there, looking over her shoulder at the photo.

‘Derek?’

He didn’t answer. Instead he rested his chin on her shoulder and traced Laura’s face with a finger. ‘I miss her.’

Stiles hummed to show she was listening, unable to think of anything to say that wasn’t completely lame.

‘And yeah, I’d like a copy.’

‘Done.’

Derek closed the book long enough to look at the front cover and raised an eyebrow. ‘Is this from the school library?’

‘Yep.’

‘How the hell did you smuggle it out?’

When Stiles finished explaining, Derek shook his head. ‘New librarian?’

‘Uh, he’s been there as long as I have.’

He nodded. ‘New librarian. There’s no way old Miss Chambers would have fallen for that. I think you’d have found her a worthy opponent.’

Stiles laughed and Derek seemed to relax further, nosing along her jaw to behind her ear.

‘Hey, we could watch a movie if you want?’ she offered. ‘They make nearly everything better. Shut down your brain and stop thinking. I do it all the time.’

‘I’m surprised you need a movie for that.’

Stiles reached back and punched his shoulder. ‘Oh my god. Rude much?’

But she couldn’t pretend to be even a little bit insulted because if Derek was up to teasing her again, then he was definitely feeling more like his usual grumpy self.

‘Well, if you want me to decide on a movie, you’ll need to let me up.’

Derek rolled away, giving her space to move. Stiles nearly whimpered as the cool air rushed in to replace his body heat. Scrambling to the edge of the bed she stood up and made her way over to her DVDs, wondering what they could watch. Stiles would have loved to watch one of Scott’s Disney movies that were still piled up on top of her TV, but looking through the choices, she winced. Horrific parental death was a necessary part of Disney storytelling.

‘Problems deciding?’

Glancing over her shoulder, Stiles saw that Derek had moved back to being curled up in the middle of her bed. She took a moment to appreciate seeing him so relaxed. Someone blinking their eyes like that shouldn’t be so adorable when they were rocking serial killer chic.

She was knocked out of her thoughts by her phone beeping.

Without being asked, Derek cast about until he found the phone under a pillow. ‘It’s from your dad.’

‘Saying?’

‘He’s going to be about another hour.’

‘I bet it’s paperwork. He hates it. Every now and again Tara and Alfie nag him until he caves. I’ve even seen them stand over him, watching as he wades through it.’

‘Isn’t he their boss?’

‘Paperwork bows to no man, Derek.’

‘Evidently.’

‘Can you text him back for me?’

‘Saying?’

‘Okay. If I’m asleep I’ll see you in the morning,’ Stiles dictated, scanning her DVDs for the right movie.

‘Done,’ Derek said a moment later.

‘Thanks,’ she muttered. She ran her fingers along the spines of her DVDs, rejecting title after title.

‘Maybe you’ve got too many.’

Stiles turned slowly and stared at him. ‘That’s a horrible thing to say, you heathen.’

Derek sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand. ‘Wouldn’t having less make it easier to choose?’ Grabbing a pillow, he shoved it behind him and leaned back against the wall. Resting his arms on his knees, he raised an eyebrow at her.

‘No. The fewer DVDs you have, the more likely it is that you won’t have the right movie for your mood.’

‘I can see how that’s working out for you.’

Sticking her tongue out, Stiles turned back to her DVDs and smiled. ‘A-ha! I got it.’ She grabbed the case off the shelf and slipped the disk into the player, remembering to turn on the TV before returning to the bed.

Detouring to grab the remote from where she’d left it on the desk, Stiles fell back onto the bed, bouncing a couple of times as she shuffled back. She jumped slightly when Derek hauled her back between his legs and settled her against his chest, securing her with an arm around her waist.

‘So, what are we watching?’ he asked, rubbing his cheek lightly against her hair. Scent-marking, her brain helpfully supplied and then stuttered to a possible breakdown because that meant things to wolves. To do with pack and family.

‘Stiles?’

For a second Stiles couldn’t speak but she rallied. ‘Uh, The Princess Bride.’ She tried to ignore the way her stomach had become the home of a thousand butterflies. This was so much closer, more intimate, than any cuddling they’d done before, but Stiles couldn’t think of a reason to object. Not when she was already slumping against his chest, feeling content in a way she hadn’t for a long time. ‘You’ve seen it?’ she asked, seeing him frown.

He shook his head. ‘Laura loved it. Always tried to make me watch it.’

‘Well, your sister clearly had excellent taste in movies,’ she told him, resting an arm over his. ‘This is a classic and there should be a law saying that every single person ever should have to see it.’

‘I don’t think those kind of rules exist,’ Derek said, as Stiles hit play.

‘Inconceivable.’ She started giggling to herself, only stopping when she noticed Derek’s blank stare. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find that hilarious in a couple of hours.

Stiles fell asleep before the movie had really got going and the next thing she was aware of was Derek laying her down and pulling the comforter up over her.

She sighed and snuggled into the pillow that now smelt like Derek.

As he started to move away, she grabbed his wrist and stared sleepily up at him. ‘Did you finish the movie?’

Derek crouched down next to the bed and shook his head. ‘I thought I’d wait until you could watch it with me.’

There was a warm feeling spreading through her chest and Stiles was too sleepy to control the goofy smile she could feel. ‘Okay.’

He started to stand, but stopped when Stiles touched his shoulder. ‘Are you okay?’ It was a thoroughly inadequate question, but her head was too fuzzy to find better words.

‘I’m fine, Stiles. Go to sleep.’

‘That doesn’t answer the question,’ she told him. Before he could reply, an idea came to her. ‘You know that whole 3am phone call thing?’

He nodded.

‘That works the other way, too, you know.’

There was a ghost of a smile on his face as he said,’ ‘Thank you.’ He ran a hand lightly through her hair. ‘Now go to sleep.’

Stiles’ eyes closed of their own accord and she went to sleep feeling vaguely unsettled.

Chapter Text

When Stiles woke the next morning the vaguely unsettled feeling she’d fallen asleep with was still there. It stayed with her through all of school, making her drift more than usual. So much so, that she ended up getting detention with Harris.

That night she woke from a blood-filled nightmare, sweating and unable to catch her breath. She grabbed her pillow and hugged it tight, hands shaking as she picked up her phone. Derek didn’t pick up and leaving a message seemed liked a bad idea. She couldn’t fall back asleep and ended up hugging her pillow and gaming until she heard dad moving about.

She tried calling Derek again before she left for school and in between morning classes, but his phone kept going to voicemail. Derek might not always answer his phone immediately, but he’d always call back to check there wasn’t an emergency. The fact that he hadn’t called her back was just wrong.

All evening she kept checking her phone and looking outside to see if he was creeping around. It made her glad that her dad had late shifts that week because there was no way he wouldn’t have noticed how jumpy she was.

At lunch Jackson mentioned that neither he nor Scott had seen Derek for a few days. They didn’t seem to find it strange that their alpha had disappeared without a word and Stiles wanted to slam their heads together in the vain hope of knocking some sense into them. Instead, she gritted her teeth against the barrage of words that kept bubbling up her throat and kept calling Derek’s phone.

By the next day, and another nightmare that this time involved Derek being tortured to death by hunters again and again, Stiles had graduated from unease to near panic. She kept trying Derek’s phone, but he never picked up no matter what time of day she called. Unable to think of anything to say that wasn’t just a variation of sorry for making you relive the worst moments of your life. please don’t leave, she never left a message. If Derek disappeared for good it would be her fault and she didn’t want Derek to go anywhere.

After another day of hearing nothing she was unable to sit around, waiting for Derek to reappear, so she drove up to the house. She doubted he was there, but maybe she’d get lucky.

The Camaro was parked in its usual place, but that didn’t exactly mean anything. Especially not if he’d shifted.

The front door was unlocked and Stiles pushed the heavy door slowly open, half expecting Derek to appear and demand to know why she was in his home uninvited.

Stepping into the foyer, Stiles stood still, wanting to see if Derek materialised from the shadows, like he so often did. It felt wrong being in the house without permission.

‘Derek? You here?’ She waited for a moment, ears straining to hear something. ‘If you’re here howl or something. I’m about to go searching for your sorry ass and I’ll be so very pissed if you were here the entire time.’

She paused, but there was nothing.

‘So very pissed,’ she repeated, just in case there was any doubt.

The silence was almost deafening and a moment later Stiles slipped back out the door, closing it behind her.

Back outside Stiles walked round to the back and stood with her hands on her hips, staring out at the woods.

‘Seriously, if you’re here, I’ll be so pissed,’ she muttered. There still wasn’t any noise from the house so she started walking towards the path that lead towards the creek.

It was already mid-afternoon and the preserve was huge. Stiles was envisioning days of hiking through the preserve when she crested the top of the slope and looked down towards the creek. It took her a second to realise what she was seeing and she had to stop in surprise.

Derek was there.

Only he was in his wolf form, looking ever so slightly bedraggled.

The knot of worry in the centre of her chest unravelled, and she took a couple of deep, calming breaths. Her fingers curled, nails digging into her palms as she forced herself to try and stay calm and not storm down there, yelling. That would only end badly.

When she was sure she wasn’t going to shout she let herself start walking down the path, her eyes never leaving Derek. It was only when she was nearly at the bottom of the path that she wondered why he was in wolf form.

He was lying on the big rock closest to the water, his muzzle resting on his massive front paws. Even though he hadn’t acknowledged her presence his ears were swivelled in her direction and his entire body was tense, like he was readying to flee.

Not yelling had obviously been a solid choice.

Derek eyed her warily as she climbed onto the rocks, but he didn’t seem inclined to make a run for it just yet. This close she could see that his thick fur was all matted with mud, leaves and dirt.

She sat down a few feet from him and wrapped her arms around her legs. Huffing out a breath, she rested her chin on her knees.

Keeping her eyes on the water, she said, ‘So, is there a reason you’re all dirty?’

Derek growled low in his throat and Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Unless you have an otherwise hidden talent in wolf mime, you’re gonna have to use your words. Which means shifting back into human form.’

Derek huffed and obstinately kept looking out over the water.

Stiles narrowed her eyes at him because she still really wanted to yell. It would make her feel better, but she ruthlessly squashed it. It wouldn’t help, only make him feel like he’d done something wrong, and that was the last thing she wanted to do.

‘I didn’t mean to find that photo,’ she told him miserably, eyes fixed on the rock at her feet. ’I wondered about telling you, but I thought that if you found out I knew and hadn’t said, that would be worse. I didn’t mean to make you pull a Houdini on us.’

Out of the corner of her eye Stiles saw Derek stand and pad over to her. With her sitting down, Derek towered over her. He didn’t look angry, though, which was a relief. If anything he felt worried. About her. Which was dumb when he was the one who had disappeared without a trace.

She rested her cheek on her knees and met Derek’s gaze. ‘You disappeared.’

Derek pushed his nose against her shoulder, whining.

Stiles wrapped her arms around Derek’s neck. ‘You have no idea how - ‘ she muttered into his fur.

She pulled back, the taste of dirt on her tongue, and made a face. ‘Shit, Derek, did you roll in a mud pit, or something?’ She ran her fingers lightly over his shoulder and down to his front paw. ‘You’re fucking filthy.’

Derek rubbed his muzzle along the hinge of her jaw and she sighed. ‘I could brush it out for you,’ she offered hesitantly. ‘I only have my fingers, but I could unmat it for you because that’s got to be uncomfortable.’

Derek nosed at her temple, grumbling low in his throat.

‘I’ll take that as a yes.’ She pushed gently at his neck until Derek turned, making his side easier to reach. ‘So, I’m going to start here,’ she said, touching his flank gently.

She worked methodically, careful not to pull his fur too hard, and soon there was a small pile of leaves and twigs next to her. Derek was rumbling contentedly and Stiles was sure that if he were a cat, Derek would be purring up a storm. It was a relief that Derek wasn’t looking at her because she was doing a bad job of hiding a grin.

‘Like, seriously, Derek, what were you even doing?’ she said, carefully untangling a bramble.

Derek leaned into her touch, head resting against her knee, but he didn’t bother responding, which, really, didn’t surprise her at all. She rolled her eyes and kept going.

‘Okay,’ she said, petting his head. ‘Other side, please.’

Derek opened an eye and turned his head slightly, giving no indication of actually moving.

‘I’ve done all I can on this side,’ she told him. ‘So turn around already.’

He stared at her for a long moment, but then he huffed, stood and turned, hitting her in the face with his tail.

She flailed, pushing ineffectually at him. ‘Asshole.’ She poked him in the shoulder. ‘Be nice. I’m the one grooming you here, remember?’

Derek grumbled low in his throat, but he settled back down, muzzle resting on her knee, a huge paw on her thigh.

‘Hey, when I’m done, you should go for a quick dunk in the creek. Get rid of all the stuff I can’t get.’

When she was done, Derek stood and gave himself a slight shake, before settling back down, this time across her lap.

Ignoring the fact that her jeans were probably covered in dirt, Stiles ran her fingers through his fur, slumping forward slightly so she could rest her forehead on his back. ‘You’re a dick for disappearing,’ she muttered, gripping his fur incase he decided to try and run. ‘But I get why you did, so I’ve decided not to yell at you. Yet.’ She half-shrugged. ‘In case you were wondering.’

Derek shuffled closer and licked her elbow.

Stiles kept running her hands through Derek’s fur, enjoying the way he turned boneless and kept rumbling his approval. Eventually she noticed that the sun was low in the sky, light coming through the trees and hitting the water.

She scratched behind his ears, grinning when he flicked them irritably. ‘Go wash off in the creek.’

Derek grumbled in the back of his throat, but he stood and jumped into the creek making her shriek when the cold water splashed her.

‘Asshole,’ she yelled when he broke the surface.

He stayed in the water for a few minutes before climbing out. He padded over to her and it wasn’t until he stopped a few feet from her, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, that Stiles had an inkling of what he was about to do.

‘Don’t you even -’ she started to say, trying to clamber quickly to her feet. But she wasn’t fast enough and she was still crouched down when he shook his fur. A fountain of water erupted from his fur and by the time he was done, she was drenched.

‘You dickbag,’ she yelled, shoving at his massive shoulder, baring her teeth at him when he didn’t even pretend to be moved, instead looking like he was laughing at her.

‘You are nowhere near as funny as you think you are,’ she told him, standing up. She grimaced as she pulled her wet shirt away from her skin, glad she was wearing one of her dad’s old BHPD t-shirts and there was no danger of it going see through. ‘I was going to stay out here and keep you company while you dried, but some douchebag just decided to try and drown me. I know you’re like, ten times the size of a regular wolf, but how does your fur hold that much water?’

Derek darted forward and butted his head against her stomach.

‘So not funny,’ she repeated. ‘I’m going up to the house now.’ Without waiting to see if Derek followed, Stiles climbed down from the rocks.

By the time she hit the path, Derek was by her side, bumping into her.

Stiles settled a hand on the scruff of his neck as he led her back to the house and around to the kitchen door.

Stiles pushed open the screen door and looked around at the shiny countertops and cherry wood cabinets. Derek had been busy since she'd last been there.

‘Oh, hey. It’s nearly finished.’ Derek shoved at her hip and Stiles glared over her shoulder at him. ‘Impatient, much?’

The slanting light highlighted the oil rubbed brass fixtures and moving further into the room she took in the completed floor and tiling above the sink.

Derek held her t-shirt in his jaw and pulled gently. He flashed his eyes at her and then turned and padded out of the room.

‘I’ll just stay here then, shall I?’ she called after him, kicking off her sneakers and pulling off her socks. ‘Ugh.’ Her hoodie was in the jeep and she was very tempted to run and get it. The cool water, along with the breeze that had picked up as they walked back, had made goosebumps appear all over her arms. The house wasn’t much warmer and she was shivering slightly as she rubbed her hands up and down her arms.

Stiles was stomping around the kitchen, wondering if there was actually anything of substance in any the cabinets, when she heard heavy footsteps on the stairs. The kitchen door opened, but before Stiles could start to give Derek a piece of her mind, he walked in shirtless, t-shirt and phone in his hand. It took her a moment to realise that there were more clothes in his other hand.

He was wearing really soft looking sleeping pants. Black, naturally. ‘Do -’ He coughed, voice sounding raspy. ‘Do you need a shower?’ he asked, offering her the clothes.

‘Are those for me?’

Derek nodded.

She made grabby hands for the clothes because they looked comfy and warm. ‘No shower. I’ll just...’

Derek glanced uncomfortably at the door. ‘I should leave.’

‘You don’t have to.’ Her skin flushed hot and Stiles nearly smacked herself in the face. She waved a hand in his direction. ‘Just, you know, turn around.’

With a sharp nod Derek turned to face the wall, leaving Stiles to look at his bare back until she realised she was staring. She yanked her t-shirt up and over her head, letting it drop to the floor with a splat. Thankfully, her bra was only slightly damp so that could stay on. The t-shirt she picked up off the counter was gray and soft and when she brought it up to her face, it smelt like Derek. She hurried to pull it over her head. It was too big, and the v-neck gave a rather plunging view of her cleavage. Stiles ignored that and undid her jeans, pulling them quickly down her legs because they were starting to itch.

Her phone fell to the floor and she picked it up, checking that it was still working. To her relief it was fine and to her surprise no-one had tried to get hold of her all afternoon. She put it to the side and picked up the pants Derek had given her.

Holding them up in front of her, she frowned. ‘These aren’t yours.’

With his t-shirt half on, Derek paused before pulling it down. ‘No.’

She checked the label. ‘They’re mine. Why do you have them?’

‘You left them here after a pack meeting. I forgot to give them back.’

‘Huh.’ She pulled them on quickly because standing half naked in the middle of Derek’s still not finished kitchen felt weird. ‘Okay, I’m decent,’ she said. ‘You can turn around now.’

Derek turned and when he noticed the wet clothes on the floor, he winced.

‘It’s your fault I got wet, so no lectures.’ She glanced around the room. ‘Do you even have a washing machine yet?’

‘It’s being delivered next week.’ He pointed at a third door she’d never really paid attention to before. ‘Laundry room. Eventually.’

‘Then do you have a bag I can take these home in?’

Nodding, Derek opened one of the new cupboards and pulled out a plastic bag, handing it to her.

Picking up her clothes, Stiles wrinkled her nose. She stuffed them in the bag, along with her socks. Her shoes she kept out, with the vague hope that they might be dry by the time she drove home. Tying the handles together, she deposited it next to the door, so she didn’t forget to take it with her. When she turned around Derek was filling the kettle.

‘I checked my phone upstairs. I had a lot of missed calls.’

Stiles winced, glad Derek didn’t say how many equalled a lot. She had kind of lost count somewhere around the twenty mark.

He switched on the kettle and then glanced over at her. ‘But there weren’t any messages.’

Not sure what to do, Stiles stayed by the door and wrapped her arms around her, shifting from foot to foot. ‘I didn’t know where you were.’

Derek frowned, almost as though he could hear all the things she wasn’t telling him. ‘Did you have a nightmare?’ he asked, getting out two mugs.

‘Yes, but that’s not why I called you. Wait, well. It was the first time before I knew you were gone. But it wasn’t why I called you after that.’

He put the mugs next to the kettle. ‘I should have been there,’ Derek said, sounding angry with himself.

She took a couple of steps towards him, not liking that he was blaming himself. ‘Hey, that’s not why I was looking for you once I realised you were missing.’

Derek turned to look at her. ‘Coffee or hot chocolate?’

‘Hot chocolate, duh.’

Watching Derek spoon out the hot chocolate, then the coffee, was strangely soothing so Stiles left the silence that had fallen alone.

Derek glanced at her. ‘You just going to stand there?’

‘I dunno if you’ve noticed or not, but there is a distinct lack of chairs in here.’

Derek rolled his eyes and beckoned her over. Curious, Stiles grabbed her phone on the way over and when she was close he put his hands on her waist and lifted her onto the counter so she was sitting next to where he was working. She shivered slightly when his hands dropped away.

‘You know, could have just said. I’ve been jumping up on kitchen counters for most of my life. Dad can confirm it if you don’t believe me.’

‘Are you still cold?’

‘No. I’m just sitting here shivering for the fun of it.’

Derek humphed. ‘I didn’t mean -’ He stepped in between her legs and before Stiles could ask what he was doing, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. Stiles spared maybe half a second to protesting, but Derek was so warm that she ducked her head and snuggled closer, arms sneaking around his body.

‘Better?’ he asked.

Stiles nodded, resting her forehead on his shoulder, eyes closed. ‘I kind of freaked out when I couldn’t find you,’ she admitted, glad she wasn’t looking at him.

Derek’s hand soothed up and down her back. ‘I had a lot to think about,’ he said eventually.

‘I know. And you should totally take that time. I just didn’t know where you were.’

They stayed there for a while until Derek took a breath. ‘Sometimes when you’re a wolf it can be easier to deal with complicated emotions.’

Stiles rubbed her cheek against Derek’s shoulder.

‘I lost myself in the wolf for a while.’

‘That sounds like it could be dangerous,’ Stiles said, pulling back to look at him.

His hands dropped to rest on her hips. ‘It can be.’

‘No offense to your werewolfy prowess, but that sounds like a really dumb thing to do when you’re feeling all at sea and shit.’

‘I didn’t mean to go for so long.’ Derek sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. ‘I needed to be alone.’

‘That doesn’t really answer the question.’

‘I never forgot who I was,’ he said. ‘I just lost track of time.’

‘Right,’ she said flatly. ‘Because losing time is nothing to worry about.’

She felt him shrug.

‘Uh-huh.’ She poked him in the shoulder. ‘That’s not an answer. That’s a non-answer.’

Derek grabbed her hand and brought it down to rest on her thigh. ‘I didn’t lose time, Stiles.’

She narrowed her eyes at him. The kettle boiled, but neither of them paid it any attention.

‘I holed up, slept and hunted.’

‘Oh my god, does that mean that I was combing blood, guts and gore from your fur along with all the mud and twigs?’

‘Did it look like you were?’

‘I really wasn’t paying that much attention.’

Derek grinned. ‘Then I guess you weren’t.’

‘Ugh. You suck. I’m definitely never going to do that for you again.’

Derek huffed in amusement and Stiles knew he’d decided to ignore the obvious lie.

‘So where did you -’ Stiles slapped a hand over her mouth. ‘Never mind,’ she said through her fingers. ‘Totally none of my business.’

Derek shifted closer. The heat from his body was nearly as reassuring as the fact that he was still confiding in her. ‘I was two counties over before I realised I didn’t have anything with me.’

There were lots of thoughts spinning through her brain as Derek spoke so Stiles fell back on her usual defence in the face of overwhelming emotion. ‘We should get you a little werewolf pouch that you could put your phone in.’

Derek’s eyebrows knitted together and Stiles couldn’t help but laugh. ‘Oh my god, dude. Your face. I was kidding.’

Derek growled but he looked like he was fighting a smile and Stiles laughed into the crook of his neck. ‘Seriously, so kidding.’ She looped her arms around Derek’s neck and grinned at him. ‘But that was hilarious.’

Derek grumbled under his breath, reaching over to switch the kettle on again.

They stayed there, foreheads resting together, until the kettle boiled again. Derek stepped away, detouring briefly to the fridge for milk and another cabinet for a couple of bowls. Which meant Derek had cutlery, utensils and kitchen stuff, which was honestly more than she was expecting.

He slid her hot chocolate over to her. ‘Drink.’

She wrapped her hands around the mug and inhaled deeply.

Derek reached over her head and opened another cupboard. To her surprise it was fully stocked with all kinds of food. Including cereal. He filled a bowl to nearly overflowing and added milk.

Stiles’ stomach grumbled. ‘Sharing is caring, dude.’

‘Don’t call me dude,’ he mumbled, handing her the other bowl. ‘Think you can pour your own?’

‘Nope.’

‘Well, you’re going to have a problem, aren’t you?’

As Stiles poured her own cereal, Derek leant against the counter, his hip pressed against her thigh. They ate in companionable silence and Stiles wasn’t surprised when he had a second bowl.

‘How have Scott and Jackson been?’ Derek asked eventually.

Stiles let her spoon drop into the bowl and groaned. ‘Do we have to talk about them?’

Taking a drink of his coffee, Derek gestured at her phone. ‘There haven’t been any calls or texts while you’ve been here, but I need you to tell me how they’ve been.’

Stiles huffed. ‘Better, I guess.’

Derek glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. ‘Maybe a little bit more information, if it’s not too much trouble.’

‘If you insist.’ He raised an expectant eyebrow and she rolled her eyes. ‘I suppose Jackson has been surprisingly normal.’

‘And by normal, you mean?’

‘An utter dick, obviously.’ She took a sip of her hot chocolate. ‘Believe me, it’s such a relief.’

Derek shook his head. ‘And Scott?’

Stiles snorted.

Derek hummed. ‘No change, then?’

She shrugged.

Derek waved his spoon in a way that strongly suggested that she elaborate.

‘He’s less, I dunno, intense than he was. But I always feel like we’re one step away from him going all Edward Cullen again.’

‘I’ll work it out.’

Idly, Stiles scratched the back of her head. ‘Work what out?’

‘Scott.’

Stiles snorted. ‘Good luck with that.’

Derek’s face fell blank and she felt him tense against her.

‘Hey, no, none of that.’ She put her bowl to the side, slipped an arm around his bicep and rested her chin on his shoulder. ‘Stop with the face. I’m not saying anything bad about your alpha-ing, dumbass. Scott’s stubborn and once he has an idea in his head - no matter how stupid...’ she shrugged.

Derek slumped slightly against the counter, but he was still more closed off than he had been a minute ago and Stiles wanted to kick herself.

‘I kinda wish Melissa knew about the werewolf thing,’ she said quietly. ‘Because I bet she’d find a way to get Scott to stop being such a dick.’

Derek stiffened again.

‘Ugh. I didn’t mean it like that. Just that Melissa is used to Scott’s headstrong ways and she’d be to make him listen to you.’

Derek snorted.

‘Come on, dude. Despite everything he’s still kinda stuck on the idea of you being a bad guy. Melissa could get him past that.’ She thought about all the things Scott blamed Derek for and scrunched up her nose. ‘Maybe. Probably.’

She looked up to see Derek studying her. ‘What?’

‘I’ve been thinking -’

‘Oh, god.’

‘About what you just said.’

‘Scott being stubborn?’ she asked. ‘Because I thought you’d noticed that already.’

‘I had, thanks.’

‘So?’

‘Telling Scott’s mom.’ He hesitated. ‘Your dad.’

Cold fear flashed through her and she immediately shook her head. ‘My… no. Absolutely not.’

‘Stiles -’

‘Never gonna happen.’ She punched Derek’s shoulder. ‘Don’t you even think of going near -’

‘Stiles!’ Derek turned, catching her hand and squeezing it gently. ‘Relax. I’m not going to tell him unless you agree.’

Most of her anger drained away.

‘I just want you to think about it.’

‘Then the answer is no.’

Derek closed his eyes for a moment and gritted his teeth. If they were discussing something different, Stiles would be finding his attempt at being patient hilarious. ‘Hear me out.’

Stiles narrowed her eyes. ‘You’re being way too reasonable and way less growly and foot-stompy than usual.’

‘Foot-stompy?’

‘Metaphorically. But you have to admit that you’re generally more “I am alpha. Hear me roar” than “passing the conchshell around the circle”.’

‘This is important and if I want you to listen, I have to use my words.’ He levelled an unimpressed glare at her. ‘Apparently.’

‘And who says you can’t teach an old wolf new tricks?’

Derek’s eyes flashed. ‘Stiles!’

‘Oh, word away if you must.’

‘I’ve been thinking about it for a while and it’s not something I’d suggest unless I thought it was a good idea. I know you don’t want anything to happen to your dad. But there are a lot of creatures out there that aren’t stopped by bullets.’

‘Do you think I don’t know that, Derek? I keep vying between being convinced he shouldn’t know anything and being bombarded with horrible scenarios where he dies because he doesn’t know. How do I know which is the right decision?’

Derek gave her knee a sympathetic squeeze.

‘I don’t want my dad to die because I made the wrong decision, Derek.’ Her voice broke and she sucked in a breath. That. She hadn’t meant to say that and for a moment she couldn’t think what to say next.

‘Stiles -’

She shook her head, not ready to hear whatever it was Derek was going to say. Instead she managed to choke out, ‘But, uh, the biggest question of them all is, can you tell dad or Melissa without submitting the appropriate paperwork?’

For a second Stiles thought Derek was going to focus on what she’d said, but with one last squeeze to her knee, his hand dropped away and he fixed a poor imitation of his usual scowl on his face. ‘Are you ever going to let that go?’

‘Only when it stops being funny,’ she said, still feeling shaky. ‘Which will be approximately never.’

Derek groaned.

‘No, but seriously. I know I was just being an ass, but would that be a problem?’

Derek shook his head. ‘There’s nearly always a couple of people in each city or town within law enforcement who know about us and the supernatural in general.’

Stiles nodded. ‘Makes sense, I suppose. When things go all Mulder and Scully, you probably don’t want those not in the know running around fucking things up.’

‘Not really,’ Derek said carefully.

Stiles ignored what he quite obviously wasn’t saying. ‘So what happens when they get here?’

‘When who gets here?’

‘It’s not a trick question, Derek. Our friendly neighbourhood review team. What happens? How are we supposed to act? Are there things we should and shouldn’t do or say? How are Scott and Jackson going to react to having unknown werewolves in their territory?’

Derek hummed.

‘I mean, you’ve thought about that, right? You’re not just leaving it all to chance.’

Derek didn’t say anything and Stiles groaned. ‘I so know what that silence means.’

‘Stiles, they can’t know.’

‘I know that, doofus. But they don’t need to know why you’re suddenly going all font of knowledge on them, do they? Just that it’s info that they need.’ Derek didn’t look convinced and Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘We’re talking about Scott and Jackson here, remember? And me. Don’t forget me. If there is a way to insult someone or start a pack war, one of us will find it. And by the look on your face, you know that.’

‘They. Can’t. Know.’

‘And. I. Get that. Jeez. How about you say you’ve decided to move on from purely physical training and they need to know, I dunno. Etiquette, traditions and conventions so if anyone happens to wander into your territory, they know how not to start a war, or anything. They’ll believe that. Plus, it has the bonus of being true. It’s just going to be true quicker than they think.’

Derek cocked his head. ‘That could work.’

‘No shit.’

Derek picked up their empty bowls and took them over to the sink, the spoons clattering as he set them down. ‘Fine. Text everyone. Tell them to come up to the house tomorrow.

Stiles grabbed her phone from where it was sitting next to her and opened a new message. ‘Do I tell them why?’

‘Only that we’ll be training. I’ll explain what we’re really doing when you all get here.’

She paused, thumb hovering over the screen. ‘I have to be there, too?’

Derek’s sardonic look suggested that she was deeply stupid.

‘But why? I already know what’s happening.’

‘No. You know about the review team. What you don’t know is anything else.’

‘Yeah, but -’

‘And as you so kindly pointed out to me a moment ago, if there’s one person I can reliably count on to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, it’s you.’

‘I don’t remember phrasing it quite like that.’

‘Well, I do. Also, the others might find it strange if you’re exempt from something that’s quite obviously a pack thing. So you’ll be there.’

‘Ugh. Fine. But it better not be at some ungodly hour in the morning, is all I’m saying.’

‘Does midday meet with your approval?’

‘I can do that. Oh, but who else needs to be there, because Danny sometimes works Sundays and it’ll be too short notice for him to change it.’

‘Danny should be here if he can make it.’

‘Noted. What about Lydia and Allison?’

Derek shook his head.

‘Any particular reason why?’

‘I don’t want Allison telling her father what we’re doing. At least, not yet.’

‘Why not?’

‘Was ‘why’ your first word?’

‘Nope.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes. Pa, was. But apparently I started asking why before I was one and haven’t stopped since, so I can see why you’d think that. Now quit trying to distract me from the question at hand.’

‘Because I don’t want him to call in more hunters.’

‘You mean like when you became alpha,’ she said. ‘That’s why Chris Argent brought in more hunters before.’

There was a flash of panic at the thought of other hunters, but Derek was suddenly standing in front of her, hands gripping her shoulders, and it was gone almost before it arrived. When she nodded he dropped his hands, but he didn’t move away.

‘I think so, yeah. I don’t know how aware he is of how we do things, but he might have known. Either way he brought in more hunters. And you got hurt. I don’t want that happening again.’

‘It’s not your fault that Chris brought in psycho hunters, you know.’

‘’You still got hurt.’

‘And it’s still not your fault. But I do have a question.’ When Derek didn’t say anything, Stiles kept talking. ‘Doesn’t part of the treaty say that you have to inform the Argents of any visiting werewolves?’

Derek nodded.

‘So -?’

‘I don’t know when they are arriving. Only that they are.’

‘So you don’t have to say anything until they are actually here,’ Stiles said. ‘Nice loophole. How did you swing that?’

Derek shrugged.

‘Or did Chris - or Victoria, I guess - not specify a time limit and you didn’t see a need to point that out?’

When Derek didn’t say anything, instead moving away so he could busy himself tidying up, she laughed. ‘It was so that one, wasn’t it?’

‘Does your dad need to know where you are?’

‘Dude, that’s a terrible change of subject, but no, he doesn’t. But I do need to be going soon. Tara had a family emergency so dad’s taking her shift and I’m playing ride along so we can still have dinner together.’

‘You’re allowed to do that?’

‘Eh. It’s probably something of a grey area, but no-one really minds. I’ve been doing it for years. Ever since mom died. And a few times before that. But you’ve told me why Allison can’t come, but why can’t Lydia?’

‘She’s not pack yet.’

‘Neither’s Allison, but the way you were talking, it sounded like you’d still allow her to come if her parents weren’t crazy hunters.’

‘Allison is still more pack than Lydia is at the moment.’

‘This is a Jackson thing, isn’t it?’ Derek nodded and Stiles threw her hands up in the air. ‘God, he’s such a dick.’

Before she could ask anything else, there were three chimes on her phone, indicating three texts.

‘Okay, so Danny isn’t working so he’ll be here. Jackson said he can probably make the time. Which, you know, how kind of him to fit us into his busy schedule of being a douchebag.’

‘And Scott?’

‘Wants to know why I’m with you.’ She sighed and slumped forward, wishing Derek’s shoulder was still there. ‘And why I’m now your secretary.’

Derek gestured for her to turn the phone around so he could see the screen and reluctantly she did.

Derek’s eyebrows shot up. ‘You’re doing my dirty work now?’

‘I told you he was one step away from going all Edward Cullen again,’ she said, typing out a reply.

Derek grunted.

A few texts later and she’d managed to wrangle a promise from Scott that he would turn up at the appointed time and without Allison in tow. Something he would no doubt bitch about the next time she saw him.

Checking the time on her phone, Stiles slid off the counter. ‘Right, if I don’t go now, I won’t get home in time for dad’s shift.’

Derek nodded. ‘Don’t be late tomorrow.’

‘Relax. I’ll be here.’

‘And remember -’

‘They can’t know about the review team,’ she interrupted. ‘I know this.’

‘Just make sure that’s still the case by the end of the day.’

Stiles shook her head. ‘I’m not going to tell them. Chill.’

Derek fixed her with a sardonic glare.

‘Okay, you chilling is probably asking too much,’ she admitted.

Derek pointed at the door. ‘Go. You’re about to be late.’

‘I choose to believe this is because you care and not because you’ve been looking forward to throwing me out all afternoon.’

‘Stiles, I’m not throwing you out.’

‘Dude, I know that,’ she said with a laugh, grabbing the bag of clothes off the floor. With a grimace she slipped on her shoes. Still wet. She could feel the water squelching as she walked to the door. ‘Oh,’ she said, hand on the door handle. ‘I meant to say.’

Derek was wiping his hands on a dishcloth and he dropped it on the counter, looking at her expectantly.

‘I, uh, that photo I was getting you. The one of Laura?’

Derek flinched, his face falling blank. ‘What about it?’

‘I have it. Not with me,’ she hastened to add, not wanting to get his hopes up. ‘I didn’t know I was going to find you. But it’s in my room.’

Derek seemed to be frozen in place, staring at her.

‘If you want to come and get it, you totally can. But if you’d prefer, I can bring it with me tomorrow?’

‘I thought it would take you longer to get it.’

‘What can I say? I’m just that good.’ It suddenly occurred to her that maybe Derek wasn’t ready to have the photo permanently around. ‘If you like, I can keep it until you have a place for it?’

Derek gave a full body shudder and shook his head. ‘Bring it tomorrow.’

Stiles smiled. ‘Absolutely.’ She bit her lip. ‘You’ll definitely be here tomorrow?’

‘Yes.’ There was no hesitation and he held Stiles’ gaze. ‘No question.’

‘Good. That’s good.’

She was out the door and about to close it when Derek called her name. When she turned around Derek was standing right behind her.

‘Thank you. Uh, for the photo.’

‘Anytime,’ Stiles told him, hoping he knew she was talking about more than the photo.

Derek was watching her, looking vaguely frustrated and it was starting to feel awkward, which it hadn’t for a long time with Derek. Stiles thought she might have an inkling about what he wanted and if she was wrong, well, she was no stranger to crippling embarrassment. Moving slowly, so he could put space between them if he wanted, Stiles stepped in and slipped her arms around him. Derek stiffened for a second, but made no attempt to move away and then he relaxed, hugging her close.

‘Go,’ Derek said, slowly pulling away and giving her an encouraging push out the door. ‘You’ll be late for your dad.’

Later that night, after she and dad had eaten and they were talking through their respective day, Stiles got a text.

Opening it, she grinned, feeling warm and happy all over.

From: Grumpywolf
To: Me
Still here

‘Good news?’ dad asked.

From: Me
To: Grumpywolf
Good

‘The best.’

Dad gave her a knowing look and Stiles wondered how long she had before he wouldn’t allow her to dodge his questions about Derek.

Chapter Text

Stiles was sitting on the porch steps, elbows resting on her knees, waiting impatiently for the others to arrive. The note Derek had left on the front door was in one hand, phone in the other. It was a sad day when, even running stupidly late, she was the first person to arrive for a pack meeting and it was a crying shame that there was no-one around to see the historic moment. After texting Derek, she tried to beat her highest score on Tetris.

It felt like forever, but eventually she heard the rumble of a car engine coming slowly down the track. Danny’s car came around the corner, stopping next to the Camaro. Jackson and Scott spilled out along with Danny, all of them looking various degrees of annoyed already.

‘Oh, this isn’t going to go badly at all,’ she muttered to herself. She backed out of her game and fired off another text to Derek, telling him he was officially the last to arrive and that his pack looked mutinous.

Scott looked particularly sullen, but at least he was here and Allison wasn’t with him. Stiles hadn’t been entirely sure Scott would leave her behind.

Slamming the car door shut, Jackson stomped over and glared down at her, arms crossed. ‘What the hell is going on, Stilinski?’

Stiles leaned back against the stair behind her and offered him her smarmiest smile. ‘‘Well, hello to you too, Jackson. Lovely to see you on this fine, sunny day.’

Jackson’s mouth thinned and there was a low rumble in his throat until Danny elbowed him in the side.

‘Why are we here, Stiles?’ Scott asked, leaning against the handrail and pouting. ‘What’s Derek up to?’

‘Uh, I don’t think he’s up to anything, Scott, but the reason we’re here is for a pack meeting.’

‘But where is he?’ Danny asked, glancing around. ‘Because he’s not here.’

‘Late.’ Stiles rolled her eyes.

‘Did he say where he was going?’ Scott asked. ‘Or when he’s going to be back?’

‘I didn’t see him, dude. There was a note taped to the front door.’

‘But I have a date with Allison,’ Scott whined. ‘I can’t hang around until he decides to get back.’

‘You didn’t think to maybe cancel the date?’ Jackson asked flatly.

‘I don’t know how long this is going to take,’ Scott said, scowling.

‘Probably longer than the five minutes you were hoping it would,’ Danny said.

Ignoring Danny, Scott narrowed his eyes at Stiles. ‘How come you’re already here and why are you delivering messages for Derek?’

Stiles held up a finger. ‘First off, I’m here because I was the first late person to arrive. And believe me, I get the irony inherent in that statement.’ She held up a second finger. ‘Second, I’m not delivering messages. If you’d gotten here first, you’d be delivering the message to all of us, instead of me. So knock it down a notch, yeah?’

Except that Derek must have expected her to be the first there, because he’d addressed it to her. And, boy, was she glad that Scott didn’t know that and that no-one has asked to see the note. She’d half expected Jackson to be a dick and want to read it.

Scott pulled a face. ‘Fine. Whatever. But none of that tells me when I can leave.’

‘Or why we’re here,’ Danny interjected. ‘I think we’d all like to know that.’

Jackson sighed. ‘I tried asking Derek last night -’

‘You came up to the house?’ Stiles asked, surprised. To the best of her knowledge Jackson didn’t spend any extra time at the house, despite being first beta. Certainly Derek hadn’t mentioned anything and she had a feeling he would have.

Jackson shot her a baffled look. ‘No. I called him.’

‘Oh.’

‘What did he say?’ Danny asked.

‘Nothing interesting. Just something stupid about needing to teach us about werewolf customs and shit. He was really vague.’

If asked, Stiles wouldn’t have expected Derek to have told him that much and she tried to keep the surprise off her face. Neither Jackson or Scott were looking at her, but Danny gave her a rather assessing look and Stiles felt her stomach drop.

‘What the hell does that even mean?’ Scott demanded.

‘How the hell should I know, McCall?’ Jackson snapped. ‘He didn’t tell me anything.’

‘He’s up to something,’ Scott said. ‘I just know it.’

Scott’s resentment towards Derek had lessened over the months, but it was now back in full force, and was getting even crazier than ever. Stiles was already fed up with the way he was assigning even more hidden motivations to Derek’s actions.

‘How?’ Danny asked.

‘Because it’s Derek.’

Stiles rolled her eyes and re-opened her game.

‘Come on, Scott, we all know you hate the guy,’ Jackson said. ‘Don’t you have anything better than that?’

‘Since when does he volunteer information like that?’ Scott demanded. ‘He never does. There’s got to be an angle. I’m telling you, something’s going on.’

It was highly ironic that Scott was right; there was something going on. It just wasn’t whatever nefarious theories he had flying around in his head.

‘Or maybe he decided that now there’s less of a danger of either of you losing control he can move on to other things that you need to know,’ Danny suggested dryly.

‘If there’s anyone here who knows, it’ll be Stilinski,’ Jackson said. ‘She was the one who texted us, afterall.’

Stiles’ head snapped up. ‘Wait. What?’

‘Derek tells you stuff,’ Jackson said. ‘Don’t even bother to deny it.’

‘So, come on, Stiles,’ Danny said, nudging her foot with his. ‘What’s going on here?’

‘Uh, we’re all waiting for Derek to turn up and teach us about “werewolf customs”. Which, come on, you’ve got to agree, sounds fascinating.’

Danny pulled a face. ‘Cute.’

‘I try.’

Where the hell was Derek and why wasn’t he responding to her texts? It wasn’t that she was worried that he might have disappeared again or anything. It was that Scott, Jackson and Danny were too curious by half (and how hilarious was it that she was complaining about Scott’s curiosity?) and she was a terrible liar. Sooner or later one of them (probably Danny) was going to ask a question she couldn’t dodge.

‘He has us here on a Sunday, Stiles,’ Danny pointed out. ‘Jackson’s right, that’s not normal. There’s a reason and I’d bet you’ve got a good idea what it is.’

‘I texted you about a pack meeting because he asked me to,’ she said, secure in the knowledge that that, at least, was completely true.

‘Derek’s told you. I know he has,’ Jackson said, eyes flashing yellow. ‘Why would he tell you and not me? I’m first beta, not you.’

Stiles wanted to point out that maybe if Jackson actually spent time with Derek he might be more inclined to tell him stuff, but before she had a chance, Scott crouched down next to her, expression worried.

‘Stiles,’ he said, his voice low and urgent. ‘Is Derek threatening you?’

Danny groaned and Jackson actually stepped up to the porch beam behind Scott and banged his head against it a couple of times.

Scott ignored both of them. ‘Is that why you aren’t telling us anything?’

‘Do I appear scared to you?’ she asked, spreading her arms out in question.

Scott squeezed her arm. ‘Stiles, you don’t have to be scared. We can protect you.’

Before Stiles could remind Scott just how powerful Derek was, Jackson snorted and punched his shoulder. ‘Don’t be an idiot, Scott. Derek wouldn’t hurt Stilinski. I don’t know why you keep trying to convince me that he will. And anyway, I’m more interested in what she knows, why she knows it, and how long she’s known it for.’

Scott scowled at Jackson. ‘You don’t know -’

‘What I do know is that as annoying as she is, Derek hasn’t lost his temper and killed her. Hell, most of the time he seems to enjoy her brand of crazy.’ Stiles thought that was going a bit far. ‘He’s not going to hurt her, so shut up about it.’

Scott huffed and crossed his arms, but he didn’t argue back.

Jackson turned back to Stiles. ‘Now we just need to figure out exactly what it is you know.’ He glanced around. ‘And probably do it before Derek gets back. He may not kill you, but he might kill us.’

‘Pretty sure he’ll kill all of us,’ Stiles muttered. Studying how far she was from the jeep, Stiles wondered if she’d be able to reach it, get in and start the engine all before Scott or Jackson caught her. And that was assuming she could get past them in the first place. It didn’t take long for her to decide that she didn’t stand a chance.

‘He said something about werewolf customs, yeah?’ Danny asked Jackson, taking off his jacket and throwing it over the handrail.

Jackson nodded. ‘But why would we need to know about werewolf customs?’

‘Uh, because you’re werewolves?’ Stiles suggested, unable to help herself. ‘Like, I don’t think you could have asked a dumber question.’

‘That’s not what I meant and you know it, so shut up.’

‘But why does he want you to know now?’ Danny frowned. ‘Something has to have happened that made Derek decide we needed to know now. And it’s got to be kinda urgent, otherwise why insist on telling us today?’

‘All excellent questions,’ Jackson said, giving Stiles a pointed glare.

She shrugged. Maybe she could text Derek without the others noticing. But then, he hadn’t replied to any of her previous texts, so why would he now?

‘Hey,’ Danny said, sounding thoughtful. ‘Do older, established packs visit new packs?’

Stiles felt her heartbeat jump and then sink like a stone as both Jackson and Scott turned to stare at her.

‘Oh, she definitely knows something,’ Jackson said, with a smirk.

‘How -’

‘Her heart went crazy when you said that thing about other packs visiting.’

Danny’s eyes sharpened. ‘Interesting.’

Well, shit.

‘Why won’t you tell us, Stiles?’ Scott asked. ‘Derek forbade you from saying anything to us, didn’t he?’

‘Seriously, Scott, oh my god.’ There was no way she was telling him he was right because he’d only read bad things into it.

‘He’s threatening you, isn’t he?’ Scott demanded.

Jackson and Danny facepalmed at exactly the same time and Stiles laughed at them even as she glared at Scott.

‘What? Don’t be so dumb. I think you’ll agree with me that when Derek threatens you, it’s kinda memorable.’

Scott’s face took on a decidedly mullish look. ‘You’re human. Just because Derek tells you to do something - or not do something - doesn’t mean you actually have to do it. Especially if he’s threatening you.’

‘Seriously, not threatening me. I keep telling you that.’

‘You still don’t need to listen to Derek.’

Scowling, Stiles leaned forward and punched Scott in the arm. ‘You’re a werewolf, for crying out loud. How do you not get this?’

‘Hey!’ Scott twisted his arm away from her, rubbing it. ‘Get what?’

‘That I listen to Derek, or I don’t. There’s no halfway here.’

Scott scowled, but before he could say anything, Danny put a calming hand on his arm. ‘Perhaps we could get back on point,’ he suggested.

‘Finally,’ Jackson said. ‘You two have your little drama when we’re not around. For now I want to know who these werewolves are, when and why they’re visiting and why it’s such a big secret.’

‘And I’m so not telling. Because contrary to what you believe, Derek might actually rip my throat out for telling you any of that.’

‘Why?’ Jackson demanded, hands on hips. ‘We know something’s going on. What’s the harm in us knowing the details?’

Stiles was about to launch into a detailed (but not too detailed) explanation about why, exactly, it was a bad idea, but as she opened her mouth she realised all three of them were looking behind her, varying degrees of horror on their faces.

Scott was glaring defiantly from where he was crouched next to her. Danny looked like he wanted to jump in his car and drive away. Jackson looked like he was torn between pissing his pants and shouting angrily. It made him look more than a little constipated.

She swallowed. ‘He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?’

When none of them answered she took a deep, fortifying breath, and tipped her head back to see Derek standing in the doorway. He was practically looming out of the shadows of the hallway and she scooted further down the porch as he stepped into the light. He looked furious, but he wasn’t shifted and his eyes weren’t even red.

Stomach dropping, she kicked at Scott, since he was the closest and glared at Danny and Jackson. ‘No-one heard him in the house? Seriously? Are you trying to get me killed?'

It wasn't like she'd told them anything she shouldn't have. She didn't think. But when had Derek gotten back and how had he gotten into the house without Jackson or Scott hearing him? And what had he heard to make him so angry?

'What are you doing?'

‘We’re talking about the things that you won’t tell us,’ Scott said, standing. ‘The things that you’re keeping from us.’

'Scott -'

'What does Stiles know that I don't? Who are these werewolves and why are they coming here?'

'Jackson -'

‘No, Derek, I want answers.’ He glanced back at Scott and Danny. ‘We want answers.’

Derek growled, low and dangerous. ‘Jackson, Danny, Scott, leave.’

Jackson stepped forward. ‘But -’

‘We’ll talk tomorrow after school.’

Jackson’s eyes were wide and his fists were clenched, but he didn’t move. ‘Aren’t you at least going to tell us why we were called here?’

Derek growled and it echoed around the trees. ‘No.’

‘You mean you brought us up here for nothing,’ Scott said, his voice raised. ‘Of course you did. Why aren’t I surprised.’

‘We’ll talk about it tomorrow.’

‘Well, I’m not leaving without Stiles, so screw you.’

She heard Danny mutter, ‘Oh, shit,’ as she groaned, but they were both drowned out by Derek’s roar. His fangs dropped and eyes bled red, but he didn’t move from where he was standing in the doorway.

Scott staggered back a few steps and and he started to crouch down, but then his eyes flashed gold and he stood up tall, snarling. ‘I’m not leaving without Stiles.’

‘Don’t involve yourself in matters that don’t concern you,’ Derek growled.

‘I’m not leaving without her. You might kill her. And what did you threaten her with to shut her up? Did you threaten to kill her dad? Me?’

Derek’s shift fell away and it was with baffled human eyes that Derek stared at Scott. ‘What the hell, Scott?’

‘Because I know you’ve been in her room. I’ve smelt you there.’

‘Oh my god, Scott, what the hell?’ Stiles groaned. Danny gave her a knowing look and Stiles found herself, looking away, her skin hot. Scowling, she gave herself a mental shake. There was nothing suspicious about Derek spending time with her.

‘I’m not going to hurt her.’

Scott scoffed. ‘Yeah, right.’

Stiles frowned because while Scott had never liked Derek, his insistence that Derek was suddenly dangerous to her was just plain strange. She didn’t want Scott to do something monumentally stupid, like attack Derek.

‘Jackson, Danny. Get him out of here.’

‘If Stiles stays, I stay.’

‘Jeez, McCall,’ Jackson snapped, stepped forward and grabbed his arm. ‘Let’s go.’

‘Not without -’

‘Yeah, yeah, we know. But Derek’s not going to hurt her and you’re just making it worse.’

Scott was letting Jackson pull him backwards, but he was still glaring at Derek. ‘If you hurt her, I swear to god I’ll kill you.’

Jackson snorted. ‘Stop making threats you’ll never be able to follow through on and let’s go.’

Danny had the back door open and Jackson bundled Scott uncaringly into the backseat, sliding in after him.

Danny hurried to the drivers side. ‘See you in school tomorrow,’ he called.

‘A bloody and painful death notwithstanding,’ she called back.

‘Not funny.’

She held up her thumb and finger about an inch apart. ‘Kinda funny, and who said I was being funny anyway?’

The only answer she got was the car door slamming and she winced, turning back to Derek who didn’t look any less angry now the others were leaving.

Arms crossed, he glared down at her. ‘You told them,’ he said flatly.

Stiles shook her head. ‘No, I -’

‘God dammit, Stiles,’ he yelled, eyes bleeding red. ‘I know what the hell I heard -’

‘Well, obviously you don’t,’ she yelled back, jumping to her feet, anger boiling under her skin, ‘because I didn’t tell them a damn thing.’

‘Oh, so they just guessed, did they?’ he growled.

She poked his bicep. ‘Yeah, asshole, they did.’

‘Like hell they did, Stiles. Not one of them knew enough to come up with that.’

‘Not until you told Jackson that we were going to be learning about werewolf customs today,’ she snapped back. ‘Because, yeah, while Jackson might not be smart enough to think through the implications of that, Danny sure as hell is.’

Derek shifted on his feet and annoyance flitted across his face for a moment. ‘You wanted to tell them.’

‘I know that. It doesn’t mean that I did.’

Derek snorted bitterly. ‘Right. And while Danny and Jackson were talking you didn’t give them a push in the right direction.’

And suddenly Stiles thought she had an inkling of what Derek was really pissed off about. She wanted to be angry with Derek for thinking that she’d betray him, but his trust issues’ issues had issues.

With her head tilted to bare her neck, Stiles stepped right into his space, making sure to hold eye contact. It wouldn’t do to have him think that he was right. ‘Listen to my heartbeat and you tell me.’

Derek blinked a couple of times and Stiles took that to mean that he was going to listen to her.

‘Yes, back when you first told me, I wanted to tell Scott and, okay, so mostly Scott because I hate lying to him, but Jackson too, I guess. Because both of them are idiots. But you said no, so I didn’t say anything to anyone.’

Derek’s arms dropped to his sides and as the tension dropped, Stiles took the opportunity to actually think about what she was going to say next. The anger he’d felt was obviously still there, and she didn’t feel like bringing it out again.

‘Because, look, this is your world and I’m still learning. I’ve fucked up before by assuming I knew things I don’t.’

‘Danny.’

‘Danny,’ she agreed. ‘And you know, pretty much every dumb thing Scott and I did while we tried to search for the alpha. So while I may not understand your reasoning and really wish you’d explain it to me, I’m not exactly a fan of screwing up again. So I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even say anything when they started asking questions while we waited for you.’

‘Nothing?’ Derek asked, sounding skeptical.

‘They were asking questions, but I wasn’t answering. Do you know how hard it is to deflect questions without anyone realising? Especially werewolves and especially when I’m me.’

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched.

‘Asshole. Scott and Jackson were listening to every beat of my heart - and I can’t even begin to tell you how hilarious I find it that they could tell when I was about to be less than truthful, but they couldn’t tell you were back in the house - and they’d have known the second I said anything remotely untrue. But because I wasn’t saying anything they knew I knew something.’

‘Fine. You didn’t tell them anything. So what do they know?’

‘Like I said, Danny guessed that we might have visitors of the wolfy disposition turning up at some point. But they weren’t close to knowing anything else.’

‘That’s good.’

Stiles snorted. ‘I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I think Danny was about to start quizzing me and using Jackson as a lie detector. He’s going to be thinking about this and I wouldn’t be surprised if he works out at least some of what’s going on.’

‘Great,’ Derek muttered, walking back into the house.

‘Is it really so bad that they know?’ she asked, following Derek and closing the front door.

‘They aren’t supposed to know. Do you get that?’

‘What does that even mean? They aren’t supposed to know. Like, who made up that rule?’ She stumbled to a stop in the kitchen doorway. ‘Shit, is it an actual rule?’ When Derek didn’t turn around or say anything, her stomach dropped. ‘Oh fuck, it totally is an actual rule. So, what? It’s part of the review, then? How they react to new wolves being in their territory without being told of their arrival.’

Derek sighed in resignation. ‘More or less.’

Walking into the kitchen Stiles noticed some grocery bags full to bursting behind Derek, and wondered when and how he’d gone shopping without the Camaro, but that seemed less important than the fact that she might have fucked up again. She slumped against the new table in the middle of the room and ran a hand over the wood. Despite being new in the kitchen, the table was old, big and sturdy. Stiles could almost see raucous pack meals happening around it.

‘We had a table like that before the fire,’ Derek said quietly.

‘Oh, wow.’ She stared at the table, imagining the entire Hale family around it. ‘You know, I should have worked out it was a rule ages ago.’ She cocked her head. ‘Hey, was not telling me that it was a test for them, a test for me, too?’

Derek shrugged. ‘Kind of.’

‘Is that a yes or a no? Did I pass? I mean, I can’t have passed. They’ve definitely worked out something’s up. Does that mean I failed? And what happens to me if I fail?’

‘Jesus, Stiles. Calm down. Nothing is going to happen to you.’

‘Still not answering my questions, though.’

‘You didn’t fail.’ He tilted his head. ‘But you didn’t pass, either. As always you manage to do something no-one has done before.’

‘I’m special like that,’ she said, brightly, secretly relieved she hadn’t managed to inadvertently fuck everything up.

‘You’re something alright,’ Derek agreed. But he seemed more amused than angry.

‘And I think I should be angier that you were testing me, too, than I am. But, then, I think that really it would be stupid for me to be angry with you for doing something you were supposed to.’

‘I...’ Derek cocked his head. ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’

‘Shut up, I can be reasonable sometimes.’ She bit her lip. ‘So, will it matter that they know? Or that they know that there’s something to know?’

‘I don’t know. The visits usually happen quickly.’

‘So usually the rest of the pack working anything out isn’t an issue,’ Stiles concluded.

Derek nodded.

‘Wonderful.’ She pulled a face and crossed her arms. ‘So what’s with all the food?’ She gestured at the bags. ‘And you didn’t have your car, so how did you get it all here?’

‘I carried it.’

‘Well, yes, I guessed that, thank you.’

‘I was out for a run and I thought I might as well grab a few things from the store.’

Stiles immediately felt bad because looking at all the crap he’d bought, it had been meant for their meeting that afternoon.

‘It’s a good job you have werewolf strength. But don’t the bags cut into your fingers?’

‘I survived,’ he said dryly.

‘But I do have a question.’

‘About my shopping?’

‘Kinda. I was wondering how you appeared in the doorway without Jackson and Scott noticing?’

Derek grinned. ‘Wouldn’t you like you know?’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Fine, keep your secrets.’ She pushed away from the table. ‘Now, do you want some help putting this all away?’

‘I’m sure you’ve got better things to do,’ he said stiffly.

‘Not really.’ She shrugged. ‘Well, I was supposed to be here all afternoon so I could go home and hang out alone. I could play video games. Alone. Or I could, well, whatever I did, I’d end up doing it alone. Or I could stay here and bug you.’

‘Then knock yourself out.’

She picked up a pack of Oreos. ‘Do you have milk?’

‘After we’ve put all this away.’

‘Awesome.’

Not knowing where anything other than the cereal was kept she spent a lot of time opening cupboards until she found where she thought stuff belonged. Derek was no help, smirking whenever she got annoyed.

‘Hey, so can I ask you something?’ she asked after a while.

‘Could I stop you?’

‘Not really.’ She dumped some tins of soup in the cupboard by the oven and closed the door.

‘Then go ahead.’

Stiles hopped up on the kitchen table and started swinging her legs. ‘So, is it me, or is Scott being even more weird than usual?’

Derek turned, packets of noodles in his hand, and raised an eyebrow.

‘That was hella too vague, right?'

'Yeah.'

'I could unvague it if you like?’

'If it's not too much trouble.'

‘I can do that. I mean mostly in the way that he’s seriously convinced you’re like, going to try and kill me dead. That’s kinda new, right?’

Derek put the noodles away and wiped his hands on his jeans. ‘That.’

‘Yeah. That.’

‘I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve got a theory -’

‘It isn’t a demon, a dancing demon, by any chance?’

Derek threw the bag of chips he was holding at her, hitting her on the side of the head. She caught them as they dropped.

‘What?’ she asked, opening the bag. ‘It’s a valid question. Shit, what if there are dancing demons? Derek, are there dancing demons?’

‘If there are, I’m letting them take you first,’ he said.

‘Dude, I’m sixteen, so that queen thing’s illegal.’

Derek’s mouth twitched. ‘Do you want to hear my theory, or not?’

Stiles laughed. ‘I’m all ears.’

‘I don’t think you’re going to like it,’ he said, turning serious and walking over to stand in front of her.

‘Probably not,’ she agreed, her good mood souring.

‘And maybe try to let me get to the end before interrupting.’

Miming zipping her lips closed, Stiles crossed her arms over her stomach and slumped forward. ‘So?’

‘For lack of a better way of putting it, he’s becoming territorial.’

Stiles snapped up straight. ‘What?’

‘Stiles, let me explain.’

‘I’m not territory, for fucks sake,’ she snapped, a ball of anger burning deep in her chest

‘No, you aren’t,’ Derek agreed, making her relax ever so slightly. ‘Do you remember when I told you that you getting attacked made Scott’s protective instincts kick in?’

Wishing she had sat close to one of the table legs so she could kick it, she scowled. ‘Not something I’m about to forget.’

‘It was made worse because it was only you in danger and not the rest of the pack.’

‘I’m still delighted that it took my virtue being threatened by a couple of guys and not say, Scott or Peter nearly killing me, for it to kick in.’

Derek nudged her knee with his hip. ‘I know, but Scott never really saw himself as a threat to you, so he never considered you to be in danger. Regardless of what the truth of that was.’

‘Yeah, I knew that.’ She shook her head. ‘But not the point right now. So say I understand that, shouldn’t he like that you’re here? You’re an alpha and you protect us, so why is he suddenly convinced you’re a danger to me?’

Derek sighed. ‘He sees me as a threat.’

‘Huh?’

‘Think about why Scott joined my pack. I mean the real reason.’

‘Because he saw what happened to Jackson as an omega.’ One day they might get the whole story of what happened there, but until then, seeing the aftermath had been more than convincing about how much being an omega sucked.

‘Exactly. He didn’t so much change his mind about me as decide I was the least worst option. Which is fine until something happens that convinces Scott that he’s right not to trust me.’

‘And for him it was the hunters?’

‘That started it. You were threatened, he wasn’t there to protect you and he sees how easy it would be for something bad to happen to you. His protective instinct goes into overdrive -’

‘And he decides you’re the thing that I need protecting from? For real?’

‘You’re his best friend and he wants to protect you and that’s gotten all tangled up in his distrust of me. And then he makes you uncomfortable so you hold him at arms length -’

‘I’m not apologising for that,’ she said sharply.

‘Good. You shouldn’t.’

‘So then...’

The tips of Derek’s ears had gone adorably red and his eyes kept darting away. ‘Then he sees you letting me, someone he doesn’t really trust and whose pack he’s in because it’s his only option, close.’

Stiles stared at Derek, mouth open, unable to properly form words. ‘That… that’s...’

It had kind of crossed her mind at the time that Scott wouldn’t like that she felt safer around Derek than anyone else, but she hadn’t really thought about it. Hadn’t really thought Scott would think about it all that much. But even if she had, she’d never have imagined Scott reacting like this.

‘You’re right, you know,’ she said eventually.

‘About?’

‘I really don’t like this. Like, I seriously hate it. It’s so dumb.’

Derek leaned against the table, his shoulder brushing hers. ‘Apparently it’s not uncommon in bitten wolves.’

That was interesting and, despite her anger, Stiles found herself curious. ‘Even ones bitten voluntarily?’

‘Even then. I did some phoning around.’

‘You did?’

Derek nodded.

‘Still dumb.’

‘I know.’

Stiles collapsed against Derek and absently rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. ‘I don’t suppose there’s an easy fix to this, is there?’

Derek snorted. ‘Is there ever?’

‘Well, that’s just great.’

‘It’s not something we can fix. It’s something Scott has to accept and work through himself. Until then -’ He shrugged.

‘And I suppose there’s no timeframe to that, is there?’ She waved her hand vaguely in the air. ‘Just whenever.’

‘Sorry, but yeah.’

‘At least I know now, even if I think it’s kinda dumb. It’s not your fault.’

‘Thanks,’ Derek said dryly.

‘Oh, shut up,’ Stiles said, poking his bicep. ‘Oh, hey, wait. I have something for you in the car.’ She sat up properly and jumped off the table. ‘Wait here.’

‘Where else would I go?’

‘You’re hilarious,’ she yelled as she hurried out to the jeep.

Derek was exactly where she’d left him when she walked back into the kitchen and she just about resisted the urge to tell him he was a good boy. Dog jokes didn’t seem appropriate for the moment.

‘So why am I staying put?’

Stiles halted in front of Derek. ‘So I promised you this.’ She tried to hand the photo of Laura to him.

Derek’s breath caught in his throat and his eyes were fixed on the photo. Holding himself completely still, he reached out slowly and traced a finger along the side of her face. ‘The frame?’

‘I didn’t think you’d have one lying around here, so I got one for you.’

Derek nodded jerkily. His hand curled around the edge of the frame and he gently pulled it from Stiles’ grip.

‘Okay,’ she said softly, not wanting to disturb him. The loss and devastation on Derek’s face felt private, and it felt wrong seeing it. ‘I’m going to go now.’ She stepped away slowly. ‘I’ll text you later.’

She walked quickly and quietly to the front door and her hand was reaching for the latch when fingers wrapped around her upper arm and spun her around. Derek pulled her towards him and she squeaked in surprise as he wrapped his arms tight around her, shuddering minutely.

Stiles immediately brought her arms up around him and hugged him tight. They stayed like that for a few minutes, Stiles resting her head on Derek’s shoulder and Derek breathing into her neck.

Eventually Derek’s grip loosened and he slowly stepped away. 'I'll text everyone about the next meeting. Either tomorrow or Tuesday after school.'

Stiles nodded dumbly and slipped out the front door, feeling slightly dazed. Of all the things to happen when she gave him Laura’s photo, Derek hugging her like… like that hadn’t been on the list.

Derek watched until she started to drive away.

All the way home wondered if she should have stayed and if Derek was going to be okay left alone with his memories of Laura and, probably, knowing him, his family, the fire and Kate. She really shouldn't have left him alone. It was only as she was pulling into the driveway that Stiles remembered that Derek had promised her Oreos and milk and that she’d managed to ignore the perfect opportunity to stay and stop him from retreating into his head.

Angry with herself, Stiles stomped into the house and, clattering around the kitchen to fix herself something to eat, decided that she was going to call Derek later that night, nightmare or no nightmare.

Chapter Text

‘So you’re back up here,’ Lydia said, closing the access door behind her.

Stiles raised her head from where it was resting on her knees, glanced around the roof and offered Lydia a tired smile. ‘Yeah and hi.’

‘I hear Scott and Jackson found you in the library,’ Lydia said, grabbing Stiles’ jacket. She shook it out and laid it on the roof before she sat down next to Stiles. ‘I thought I told you not to go there every day.’

‘You did, I didn’t. I… just got careless, I guess.’

One minute she’d been doing her english homework, the next Scott had been storming up to the table she was sitting at, yelling, Jackson had been trailing behind him, looking remarkably like he just didn’t give a fuck.

It had taken her a moment to realise that she’d been humming under her breath. Derek had been working on improving their super senses, so if either of them had been close to the library it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that they would have heard and recognised her.

‘The rumour mill is making it sound like the library has been reduced to rubble and could well be condemned.’

‘It wasn’t that bad,’ Stiles protested, not even a little surprised that the rumours were flying less than fifteen minutes after it had happened. ‘There was shouting. Yelling. Lots of wild gesturing. Plus, maybe, a broken table.’

That had happened when Scott had slammed his hands down on the table and it had kind of broken in the middle. A regular teenage boy wouldn’t have been able to do that so hopefully either Jackson or Scott would have the presence of mind to blame bad manufacturing.

‘No bookstands crashing to the floor? Tables flying? Books being ripped to shreds?’

‘Not that I noticed.’

‘That’s significantly less exciting than the rumours had me believe,’ Lydia told her.

‘Sorry?’ Stiles hazarded.

Lydia knocked her shoulder against Stiles’. ‘Idiot. I’m glad it wasn’t that bad.’

‘Oh.’ She paused for a second. ‘Me too, obviously. Although I’m guessing that anonymity that I’d been enjoying again has been shot all to hell.’

‘Certainly for the time being,’ Lydia agreed. ‘Coming back to the roof, maybe you aren’t as scared of heights as you think.’

‘No, I’m plenty scared.’ She stared out over the playing fields. ‘But while they were getting marched to the principal's office, it seemed like a good idea to escape to the only place they’ve never found me.’

‘You managed to not get marched in there with them?’

‘Go me, huh? They let me escape because this wasn’t even a little bit my fault.’

‘Have you talked to Derek about them yet?’

Stiles flushed, realising that after talking to Derek she’d never sought out Lydia to tell her what was said. With all the crap Lydia was dealing with, Stiles could have explained some of it and made things easier for her, but she hadn’t. Which made her feel awful.

‘Shit, Lydia. Yeah, I did. I should have told you.’

Lydia waved her off. ‘What did he say?’

‘He can’t do anything about it.’

‘Oh?’ Lydia raise a skeptical eyebrow.

Summing up what Derek had told her, Stiles watched as comprehension smoothed Lydia’s expression. ‘So Jackson’s getting better at not giving a crap about me again,’ Stiles concluded.

‘And Scott?’

Stiles snorted. ‘What do you think? He’s less stalkery than before, but still not back within the recommended daily allowance. It’s galling though,’ she said with a scowl. ‘That they’ll listen to Derek, but not me. Or, well, kind of listen to Derek because I don’t think either of them believed Derek about their wolves leading them by the nose when he warned them.’

‘Because not listening to Derek has worked out so well for them in the past.’ Lydia said dryly.

Stiles threw up her hands. ‘Right?’

‘I assume this is tied into what happened at Derek’s on Sunday,’ Lydia said after a moment of quiet.

‘Yeah. They won’t stop bugging me. Just keep asking me question upon question.’ She had warned Derek that Danny would start figuring things out, and so far he hadn’t disappointed. ‘I’m guessing Jackson told you about that, huh?’

‘Jackson didn’t tell me anything,’ Lydia said briskly. ‘Scott told Allison. So Allison told me. And now I’m talking to you.’

‘Oh.’ Although she should have known Jackson hadn’t said anything. ‘I’m guessing Scott told Allison every little thing.’

‘I think it’s safe to assume that,’ Lydia agreed.

There went Derek’s attempt to keep the hunters out the loop. ‘I don’t suppose you’d happen to know if Allison’s told her parents, would you?’

‘No clue. But I doubt she has. She’s not exactly on great terms with either of them at the moment.’

So maybe Derek didn’t have to worry about extra hunters in his territory any time soon. She’d text him later in class and let him know.

Stiles snorted. ‘Who is, these days?’

‘Scott, apparently.’

‘Yeah,’ Stiles agreed. ‘I dunno how he does it.’

Even when everything had been at the height of werewolf craziness, Melissa and Scott had been fine. Which was more than Stiles could say for her and her dad. Quite how the human had had more parental issues than the newly turned werewolf, Stiles couldn’t say.

‘So. Derek.’

‘I didn’t even mean for it to happen, you know? They just started asking questions and then Jackson went all lie detector on me. Derek wasn’t a happy bunny.’

‘But everything’s alright with him now?’

‘We yelled a bit and then we were fine.’

‘And what was decided during all this yelling?’

‘That even though everyone now knows something is up they still can’t know exactly what it is, and I still can’t talk about it.’

‘So there’s still more they should know?’

‘Well, I neither confirmed nor denied anything and Derek refused to answer questions then or when we finally had the meeting after school on Monday.’ Which had been awkward and full of angry silences, but everyone had at least paid attention. ‘So they know there’s something going on and Danny extrapolated from there, but they didn’t get told anything.’

‘Have you spoken to Derek since then? Or seen him?’

‘I haven’t seen him.’

‘But -?’ Lydia prompted with an impatient wave of her hand.

‘But I had a nightmare last night and I called him.’

As opposed to Sunday night when she’d just needed to know he was alright and had ended up arguing the finer points of The Wire versus Battlestar Galactica for best show ever. Not that she thought either show was the best ever, Stiles being of the opinion that deciding something like Best Show Ever was liable to send you crazy, but arguing with Derek had been fun.

‘You called Derek?’

Lydia’s contemplative look made Stiles flush hot for no good reason and she shifted uncomfortably. ‘Uh, yeah.’

‘He has you call him when you have nightmares?’

‘Uh -’

‘That’s not what I was expecting,’ Lydia said softly.

‘Can I ask what you were expecting?’

‘For him not to care that you have nightmares. Jackson doesn’t have many complimentary things to say about him.’

‘Yeah, but Jackson’s a jackass. Even more so since Derek appointed him first beta. He keeps expecting Derek to do all the work and just trust him implicitly, without giving anything back.’

‘That sounds like Jackson.’

‘He cares, Lydia. Derek, I mean. Not Jackson, obviously. He’s not so great with words, but he does care.’

Lydia took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

After sitting in companionable silence for a few minutes, Stiles shifted. ‘Hey, can I ask a question?’

‘You can certainly ask it,’ Lydia said.

‘Why have you never been to a Pack meeting or just hung out at the house?’

Lydia frowned. ‘I’m not entirely sure why I’d go to a Pack meeting, Stiles, but either way, I’ve never been invited.’

‘What? Like never?’

‘Never,’ Lydia confirmed.

‘Jackson? Allison? Derek?’ She could totally believe Jackson leaving Lydia out, but she kind of thought Derek would have tried to talk to Lydia at least once about it. ‘None of them have asked you to come up? Okay, maybe not Allison because I don’t think Derek would be okay with that, seeing as she’s not quite pack yet.’

Lydia looked interested at that. ‘She isn’t?’

‘I think Derek’s still a little wary after she shot him with a couple of arrows.’

‘She told me about that. About Kate whispering things in her ear and how she wishes she’d never listened.’

‘I know. And he does too. Like, he’s okay with her being around and she’s kinda our go-between with the hunters and she wouldn’t be if Derek thought she’d fuck us over. But that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t believe no-one has asked you up to the house.’

‘Why would they? It’s not like I’m Pack.’

Stiles felt her jaw drop slightly. ‘You could be. You should be after everything. You totally should be.’

‘Stiles, it’s not like I have time to be a member of your little Pack. My life is pretty busy, in case you haven’t noticed.’

‘Lydia -’

‘Stiles, no. I’ve told you, I’m not part of the Pack,’ Lydia snapped, her voice slightly high and panicked.

Stiles cocked her head and frowned, trying to figure out what was going on. The negative reaction was unexpected. But then she thought about Lydia’s surprise that Derek might care about Stiles’ nightmares. ‘Do you not want to be part of the Pack?’ she asked carefully.

‘It’s not a question of want.’

‘Lydia -’

‘Why would I want to be part of that?’

‘Uh -’

‘Because I can’t work out why you want to be part of all that… of all that. You saw what that monster did to me. I was in a coma for three days because of him. And yet you seem to have no problem hanging out with -’

‘Lydia, Lydia. Derek. Derek is nothing like Peter was. He wouldn’t. He’d never do anything like. He wouldn’t threaten you. Or hurt you. He’s nothing like Peter.’

Instead of denying being scared, Lydia surprised her. ‘How can you be sure?’

‘Because he tries to protect people. Back before - with Peter - he tried to keep both me and Scott safe, even though we did things like accuse him of murdering his sister and disregarded a stunning amount of advice he gave us. He threatens - and he might shove you into the odd wall or two - but he’d never, ever hurt someone without cause.’

Lydia was staring at her, mouth slightly open in surprise. ‘You really believe that?’

‘Yes. I’ve only ever seen Derek try and protect people.’ She shrugged. ‘That’s… that’s more what an Alpha should be like. Peter was crazier than a bag of monkeys on meth. He gave Scott the bite without his consent and that’s just not allowed in werewolf society.’ She stopped talking when Lydia started laughing. ‘What’d I say?’

‘Werewolf society?’

Stiles grinned. ‘They also have elections and a frankly unnatural amount of paperwork.’

‘Seriously? There’s a supernatural bureaucracy?’ Lydia shook her head. ‘What am I saying? Of course there is.’

‘Hilarious, right?’

‘How does that even work?’

‘Honestly, I’m still trying to work it out. Derek can be rather evasive.’

‘So, you’re Pack?’

‘Yep.’

‘But doesn’t being Pack mean agreeing to be bitten? Because I don’t -’

‘Lydia, relax,’ Stiles said, placing a hand on her arm. ‘Derek would never bite anyone who didn’t want it. Packs can include humans. It’s not unusual. Packs with humans that aren’t related to the werewolves are more unusual, but actual humans in a Pack? Totally normal.’

Lydia leaned forward, elbows on her knees. ‘Would you ever want to be a werewolf?’

‘Who? Me?’ Stiles shook her head. ‘No, I…I don’t think so anyway.’

‘You don’t think so? How can you not know?’

Stiles turned so she was facing Lydia, leaning the side of her head against the wall. ‘Cause, right, the thing is, I wonder how awesome it’d be to have all those superpowers. I’d no longer be a liability to the Pack. But then I think it’d be horrible.’

‘Why?’ Lydia sounded intrigued, which was way better because Lydia just wasn’t supposed to sound scared and unsure.

Biting her lip, Stiles stared at her hands and took a deep, steadying breath. ‘So, I never told anyone this, but Peter Hale? He offered me the bite. I said no.’

Lydia took a sharp intake of breath. ‘He did?’ She pressed her hands to the ground and leant forward slightly.

‘Yeah. He said I was lying and that I did want it, but I think he was lying. Or, at least, wrong. Scott got all those awesome powers but it also screwed up his life in a truly momentous fashion. We all keep nearly getting killed, he’s always one bad mood away from transforming and killing, well, me mostly. His girlfriend’s entire family would like nothing more than to put a bullet between his eyes. I think on balance I’d prefer to stay, boringly and reliably, human.’

‘Me too,’ Lydia said emphatically. ‘I don’t understand why anyone would want to be a werewolf.’

Stiles inhaled sharply as a thought crystalised in her mind.

‘Oh, I, wow. I should totally have seen that and I’m so sorry for not.’ Because, really, Lydia had been through so much shit and all of them had let her paper over the cracks after she’d been released from hospital. They should have known - all of them should have known - that she wasn’t fine, that she wasn’t over what had happened.

‘Seen what?’

‘I mean. You hate that Jackson chose to be a werewolf, right? That after everything, he still went begging for the bite.’

Thinking back over the last few months, Lydia had no problem being around Scott and Jackson at school, when they were distinctly human. It was after school, when they were all up at the house, that Lydia vanished. Like she didn’t want to be there. Which would totally make sense if the fact that her friends hung around with werewolves, and her boyfriend was one, scared the crap out of her. How had Stiles missed that?

‘Of course I hate it. He saw what happened to me, how I nearly died. He even carried me off the field and yet he still wanted to be this…this thing.’ She spat the word out. ‘Why?’

Stiles couldn’t imagine how Lydia felt: having someone she loved becoming the thing she feared the most. How the hell was Lydia managing to keep it together?

Stiles had nearly fallen apart in the wake of everything with Peter. To the point where if things hadn’t settled down after Derek became Alpha, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure she’d be sane right now. But, thankfully, nothing had happened. She’d had time to process the colossal shitstorm and while she still had to keep things from her dad, it was a hell of a lot simpler than when people had been dropping dead or trying to kill her and her friends.

Especially when she’d had Scott and even Derek to freak out at.

Lydia, though, had no-one - not even Jackson, possibly especially not Jackson - so it was little wonder that she was having problems with Jackson and didn’t like the idea of spending any time around werewolves when her impression of them was less than favourable.

The only experiences with she’d had with werewolves had been traumatic. Both of them with Peter Hale. First she’d seen a giant, demon-like wolf crash through a window after killing a guy and then she’d nearly died. No wonder she found werewolves ten kinds of terrifying. None of them had tried to talk to her about it, happy to believe Lydia’s facade of normalcy.

‘I really don’t know, Lydia. I tried to tell him that becoming a werewolf wasn’t a cure-all to, well, whatever childhood traumas he’s suffering from. But he didn’t want to listen. I hesitate to ask, but have you tried talking to Jackson about it?’

‘No, I’ve just spent the last few months suffering in silence,’ said Lydia, the sarcasm dripping.

‘Okay, stupid question. I get that. You wouldn’t suffer in silence.’

‘If you can believe it, he keeps trying to tell me I could never understand so there’s no point in him trying to explain.’

‘Well, that’s just plain dumb.’ Which summed up Jackson perfectly in her view. ‘Not to mention complete bullshit.’

Lydia snorted. ‘What am I supposed to do about that?’

‘You know, you should come up to the house for the next meeting, see what they’re really like.’

‘I thought I had to be invited by a member of the Pack?’

‘No, but see, I’m inviting you.’ And how had she not thought of this before?

‘You?’ Lydia repeated, sounding skeptical.

‘Yes, me. If Jackson hasn’t asked you, well, I’m Pack. I can invite you.’

Lydia stared at her doubtfully.

‘Don’t give me that look. It won’t get either of us killed or anything. I can check with Derek if it’d make you feel better but it’ll be fine. Honest.’

‘Stiles, I really don’t want -’

‘Seriously, you should talk to Derek. Like, probably before any pack meetings are attended.’ Because Stiles didn’t feel even a little bit qualified to explain the answers to Lydia’s questions. Danny was different because he’d never seen the dangerous side of the whole werewolf thing. Lydia had nearly died because of it. ‘He can tell you everything. Plus, he’s getting way better at the whole using his words thing.’

‘Stiles, I really -’

‘Listen, Lydia, I really think you should - that you need to - talk to Derek. Even if after you decide never to have anything to do with the Pack again.’

‘And why would I want to talk to Derek?’

‘Because I’m not kidding about Derek being different from P-his uncle. So, so very different. And talking to him, I think that’ll show you how different.’

‘What if I don’t want to talk to him?’

Stiles paused, somewhat taken aback. The idea that Lydia might not want to talk to Derek hadn’t really occurred to her, stupid as it sounded.

‘It’s your choice and I’m not saying we should go now, today, or even this week. It would be when you’re ready.’ She shrugged. ‘It’s just, Derek can tell you stuff - hopefully show you that he’s a good guy, Scott and Jackson are okay, that they aren’t, well, monsters…’

‘Can -’ Lydia licked her lips ‘- can I think about it?’

‘Sure. ‘Cause you can. Take as long as you like.’

‘And you’ll talk to Derek?’

‘Do you want me to?’ It wasn’t her aim to force Lydia into doing anything she didn’t want to.

Lydia nodded. ‘I want the option, even if I never use it.’

‘Then yeah. I’ll talk to Derek.’

Lydia slumped back against the wall and Stiles gave her a few minutes to collect herself before changing the subject completely.

‘So, hey, maybe we should do something after school. You, me, Allison and maybe Danny, to get our minds off all things supernatural.’

To Stiles’ relief Lydia perked up and looked interested at the suggestion. ‘Like what?’

‘Honestly, I hadn’t thought that far ahead. All I will say, though, is not shopping. Anything but shopping.’ Stiles put her hands together, like she was begging and Lydia rolled her eyes but she looked grudgingly amused.

‘I think we can find something other than shopping to do,’ Lydia said dryly.

‘You are a goddess.’

Lydia stood. ‘Now, let’s get off this roof and get to class before your final refuge is discovered.’

‘That’s an excellent idea,’ Stiles said, standing and following Lydia to the door, making a mental note to talk to Derek about Lydia as soon as she could.

Chapter Text

Stiles nearly fell out of the jeep as she opened the door and slid out. She leaned against the side for a moment and when she looked up, the front door was open and Derek was leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed.

She gave him a weak wave and pushed off the Jeep, stumbling slightly over the uneven ground when she was blindsided by a yawn. Climbing the steps, she had never been more grateful that Derek had added a handrail, otherwise she would probably be a broken mess on the ground.

‘Jesus, Stiles, what the hell were you doing driving like this?’

‘I’m fine.’ At the top of the steps, she swayed slightly and Derek’s hand shot out to steady her. ‘Or, I was fine until I got here,’ she amended under Derek’s worried glare.

Derek probably didn’t need to know that she’d been blasting the radio to keep herself awake as she drove. She’d only turned it down so Derek wouldn’t hear it and wonder why she was listening to eardrum-burstingly loud music.

‘When was the last time you slept properly?’ he asked, eyebrows knitted together.

So much for him not guessing.

‘Why? Can you smell tired or something?’

‘Or something,’ Derek said dryly. There was dust on his tank top and smudges of dirt on his skin and, in her current state, Stiles was having trouble focusing on much else.

She blinked a couple of times. ‘Huh?’

With a gentle tug on her arm, Derek drew her into the house. ‘The way you walked from the car to the house, you’re either drunk or exhausted. And you aren’t drunk.’

‘How do you know I’m not drunk? You know, apart from the fact that you’d be able to smell it on me, which I suppose answers the question, so never mind. Forget I asked.’

Derek ducked his head so that he could meet her gaze. ‘Did you have a nightmare?’

‘Well, yeah...’ But that wasn’t the only reason she’d come up to see him.

‘You didn’t call.’

‘I didn’t wake up. I wish I had, but I didn’t.’

‘So tell me about it now.’

‘Fine,’ she huffed. Derek would probably just keep badgering her until she spilled anyway. Curling her fingers, she dug her nails into the palm of her hands. ‘It -’ she swallowed hard and shuffled closer to Derek before she could second guess herself ‘-it was about Peter - when he nearly killed you outside school.’ There was a sour taste in the back of her mouth as she remembered the amount of blood. She shook herself and wrapped her arms around her torso. ‘I just needed to be out of the house.’ And away from her sweat-laden bed. She’d pulled off the sheets and shoved them in the washing machine before getting fresh ones from the closet, but even so, her bed was less than appealing. She glanced around. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Installing plug sockets and lighting fixtures,’ he said almost absently.

‘You’ve nearly finished?’

Derek shrugged. ‘Got to fit the basement. Get furniture.’

‘Still lots to do then.’

‘And paint, well, nearly everywhere downstairs.’

‘The pack could help with that.’

‘It would descend into a paint fight.’

‘You say that like it’s a bad thing.’ She groaned as she yawned again, rubbing her eyes. ‘Okay. I need coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.’

Stiles started to pull away from Derek but his hand tightened on her shoulder. ‘No coffee,’ he said, leading her to the stairs. ‘Sleep. You need sleep.’

Stiles blinked, her brain struggling to catch up. She opened her mouth to protest that she was perfectly fine, but Derek’s hand settled in the small of her back and he shook his head. ‘Come on.’

At least with Derek steadying her, she didn’t have to worry about falling down the stairs. When they got to the top of the stairs, Derek led her along the landing to one of the open doors.

Seeing the huge king size bed in the middle of the room, Stiles moaned in appreciation at how deliciously comfy it looked. The pillows looked so much more appealing than coffee.

‘Go. Sleep.’

‘But -’

‘Lie down before you fall down.’

Stiles sighed, defeated, and shuffled over to the bed. ‘That sounds like a plan.’

Derek closed the door as she faceplanted into the pillows and pulled the comforter to her, wrapping her arms around it. She sighed in satisfaction, eyes falling closed.

An indeterminable amount of time later Stiles slowly surfaced, brain fuzzy with sleep, but clear from any fear left over from a nightmare. Pushing her face into the pillow, she was quite happy to float along in a slight doze as she swam back to full consciousness. She had no idea how long she had slept for, but however long it had been, she felt miles better. Stretching, she settled back into the mattress, relishing the heat from the sun as it splashed across the bed.

She could hear Derek, busy working somewhere in the house and she smiled slightly to herself. It was calming in the same way hearing dad move about their house was.

Reluctantly she opened her eyes and struggled to untangle herself from the sheets she’d somehow twisted around her legs while she’d slept. Finally sitting up, she blinked and rubbed her eyes, glancing around the room to try and clear the stars that shot across her vision.

In her exhausted state, Stiles had assumed that Derek had left her in one of the finished guest rooms. But looking around it was obvious that he’d let her sleep in his room. Had she been less zombified she’d have realised, but all she’d seen was the bed.

Biting her lip, she looked around, wondering why Derek had let her sleep in his room. In his bed. Though, it did look about a million times better than the last time she’d seen it. The horrible, ratty mattress had been replaced by, what she could attest to was, the most comfortable bed in the world. There were still no curtains, but it had been painted.

On the bedside table was the photo of Laura that Stiles had given him and Stiles felt her throat close up unexpectedly. There wasn’t one of his entire family and she had a horrible feeling it was because he didn’t have any. Next to the photo was a family of wolves carved in wood. They were small and delicate and looked slightly worn. Her fingers itched to pick them up and look, but she resisted.

There were clothes draped over a chair by the window and Stiles honestly wasn’t surprised Derek didn’t have a wardrobe. It didn’t seem like something Derek would consider a priority.

In the far corner was a massive, antique looking bookcase, already full to the point of collapse. The wood was dark, grainy and looked really smooth. She wouldn’t be surprised if she discovered it was handmade.

Kicking her feet free of the sheets, she padded across the room, burning with curiosity about what books Derek chose to read. Running her fingers along the shelves, the wood definitely felt old. The books on them even older.

Derek obviously hadn’t gone down to their local Barnes and Noble to stock up because looking at the spines, these were unlikely titles to be carried by regular bookshops. These would have been sold by Giles when he owned The Magic Shop. Or stockpiled by Bobby Singer. Were they family books, somehow saved from the fire? Were they books he’d gathered while in New York and had had shipped across country or had he acquired them since returning to Beacon Hills?

Not only were there books on werewolves - which was kind of a given - there were books on Greek, Norse, Indian, Asian, Native American and, well, every kind of myth set out there. Which was probably a good thing because they hid the books he had on herbs and plants, demons, incubus and succubus, sidhe (Shit. They were real?), witches, spirits, to name put a few. He even had a book on basilisks. Basilisks. Nothing on vampires, though.

Stiles was pulled out of her musings when she heard the rumble of a car approaching the house. A few seconds later two doors slammed and Stiles hurried over to the window to see Jackson’s Porsche sitting on the other side of the Jeep Curiosity peaked, because Jackson didn’t come up to the house, she walked over to the bedroom door and opened it just in time to hear Scott yelling Derek’s name.

‘Why the hell is Stiles’ Jeep here? She’s not answering her phone and I’ve been looking for her everywhere.’

Stomach dropping, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and with a silent groan scrolled through all the missed calls and texts from Scott. There were even a few from Jackson.

‘He roped me in,’ Jackson said. ‘Refused to leave until I helped.’

‘What have you done to her?’ Scott’s voice ended on a growl.

Worried there was going to be an out and out brawl in the foyer, Stiles bolted out of the room and hurried towards the stairs.

‘You’re a werewolf, Scott,’ Derek snapped. ‘Use your senses.’

‘Did you kidnap her so you could make me track her?’

‘Don’t be such an idiot,’ Derek said flatly.

‘She’s upstairs,’ Jackson said suddenly.

‘How do you know that?’ Scott demanded.

‘I can hear her heartbeat, dumbass,’ Jackson said. ‘Just listen.’

There was silence for a moment and then Scott was yelling, ‘Stiles. Stiles! Where are you?’

She took a faltering step forward before she stopped just out of sight. After what had happened in the library she hadn’t wanted to spend any time with Scott and apart from classes she’d managed to avoid him for the last few days. Even now, the idea of Scott was exhausting.

‘Stop yelling,’ Derek snapped. ‘And listen to me, she’s here and she’s fine.’

Stiles closed her eyes and slumped against the wall, relieved Derek hadn’t expanded. No-one else knew about the nightmares, not even her dad.

‘I want to see her,’ Scott said.

Which was hilarious because she really didn’t want to see him. A part of her wanted to crawl back into bed, hide from the world, pretend Scott was back to normal and let Derek deal with the reality of everything. It was so tempting that she ached with it. But she couldn’t do that. Couldn’t leave Derek to deal with Scott. Because if she did their pack would fracture and she didn’t want to think how bad that could be. Plus, Scott was her best friend and she loved him. There had to be a way to get through to him and save their friendship. She just had to find it.

‘You can see her if she wants to see you,’ Derek said. ‘But I suggest that you go away and come back when you’ve calmed down.’

‘I’m not going anywhere until I see Stiles. How am I supposed to protect her if I can’t find her?’

‘Scott, listen to me carefully. You aren’t protecting her. You’re smothering her.’

The fact that Derek was taking the time to try and talk some sense into Scott made her feel warm all over and she just wanted to hug the guy.

‘I’m not smothering her,’ Scott said, sounding insulted. ‘I’m protecting her.’

Even if everything he said fell on deaf ears.

‘She doesn’t need your protection. What she needs is her best friend.’

‘But that guy -’

‘Ended up with a cracked jaw and busted balls before he even touched her,’ Derek interrupted. ‘She’s more than capable of looking after herself.’

Derek sounded so certain that it seemed to make Scott falter for a moment before he rallied. ‘I know she can look after herself, but she shouldn’t have to. I’m a werewolf for fuck’s sake. What is the point of being one if I can’t even keep my best friend safe?’

‘Scott, this isn’t about what you want. This is about what Stiles needs. And what she needs right now is for you to listen to me -’

Stiles dropped her chin to her chest and groaned to herself. Derek had been doing okay, but with those three words she knew Scott had completely stopped listening.

‘- and get your wolf under control.’

There was a snarl, a thump, a growl, and Stiles had visions of new holes appearing in the walls. Before she even knew what she was doing she found herself at the top of the stairs, staring down at the others.

Scott was on the floor in the middle of the hall, glaring up at Derek, who was standing a few feet from him. It looked like Scott had tried to get past Derek, and Derek had thrown him across the room.

Jackson was standing to the side of them, his gaze skipping from one to the other, being about as useless as always.

‘Hey!’ she shouted. ‘What the hell, guys?’

‘Stiles!’ Scott started to stand, but Derek’s growl kept him where he was.

‘What the hell are you doing, Scott?’ she demanded.

As he shifted back, Scott’s expression turned befuddled. ‘Looking for you, of course.’

‘Yeah, dude, I got that. But why?’

‘Because you didn’t answer your phone and you weren’t home.’

‘So?’

‘And on Saturdays we go to the movies and then out for a burger.’

Stiles blinked. ‘We haven’t done that in months. Like, since Allison got here. And yeah, okay, there was that whole crazy werewolf trying to painfully murder us thing that put a crimp in any standing plans, but not the point. The point being that we haven’t done that in forever, so why would we do it today?’

Scott half-shrugged. ‘I thought it was time to start it up again.’

She paused as her foot hit the floor. ‘You’re kidding, right?’

‘What’s wrong with that?’

Stiles spread her arms, fingers accidentally brushing Derek’s arm. ‘You mean other than everything? Nothing.’

‘I just want to hang out with my best friend.’

‘Oh, so now you want to play the best friend card?’

Derek rolled his shoulders in a move Stiles recognised as him trying to force himself to relax.

‘Am I not allowed to want to spend time with my best friend?’ Scott demanded.

‘It’s been a long time since you’ve wanted to spend time with me,’ Stiles pointed out, trying not to sound too bitter.

‘But Allison -’

‘I know where you were, moron,’ she snapped. ‘But if you’re with Allison all the time why the hell do you care where I am? It’s not like I sit around in my room all day waiting for you to turn up.’ Although maybe she would be if it wasn’t for Derek.

‘Are -’ Scott frowned. ‘Are you jealous?’

‘Of course I’m fucking jealous,’ she yelled. ‘You’re my best friend and now I hardly ever see you because you’ve got a hot girlfriend.’

Scott gaped up at her, blinking.

‘I don’t see you unless Allison isn’t around.’ Stiles took a deep steadying breath. ‘Look, it’s not like I mind. But you, you do other stuff now and you can’t expect me to just hang around waiting for you, like some loser. How many times have you phoned or texted me to say you’re bailing on me? And how many times have you not even done that until I’ve texted you to ask where you are?’

‘It’s not like I mean to forget,’ Scott whined.

‘I know that, you dumbass. It’s just. If you’re off with Allison, why can’t I hang out with Derek if I want to?’

‘That’s what I don’t get. What you’re doing here. We don’t even like Derek!’

‘I can’t speak for you, but I didn’t like Derek when we thought he was a murderer and trying to kill us,’ she said, exasperated. ‘That was a while ago, you know. I’ve kind of moved on.’

‘But it’s Derek!’ Scott’s eyes widened as something struck him. ‘Is that why your scent is all over this place? Because you’re up here even when there isn’t a pack meeting?’

There were so many words competing to escape her mouth first, that Stiles found herself momentarily speechless.

Scott growled low in his throat and turned to Derek, his eyes flashing yellow. ‘What are you doing with Stiles?’

Derek gave him a flat look. ‘Seriously? This again?’

‘You’re using Stiles to keep me in the pack.’

Stiles gritted her teeth and tried to swallow down the ball of hurt that lodged in her throat. She knew Scott didn’t mean to suggest that she had no worth to Derek or to the pack outside of bringing Scott into the fold, but it still hurt. ‘Nice, Scott. Thanks.’

‘What? I’m not doing anything.’

‘Not doing anything?’ she repeated, the hurt morphing into anger and she pushed past Derek, batting away his hands when he tried to snatch her back. ‘I’m fine,’ she told him.

When Derek stepped back and gave her room, she was so surprised she nearly forgot what she was doing.

She didn’t have time to wonder about Derek, though, instead focusing on Scott. ‘Have I asked you to look out for me? Have I given the impression that I’m incapable of looking after myself? No, I fucking haven’t. So maybe instead of assuming you know what I need, you try listening to me telling you what I need. Like Derek does. And maybe while you’re at it, you could stop acting like I’m a bargaining chip or territory to be fought over.’

‘I’m not… I’m worried about you. You keep letting him tell you what to do.’

Stiles snorted. The allusion to Scott pretending to care about her autonomy would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so fucking insulting. ‘Talking to him, listening to him, especially when he knows shit I don’t, isn’t mindlessly doing as I’m told.’ Stiles was on a roll and she bulldozed over whatever Scott was trying to say. ‘You’re the one who has a giant bug up his ass about Derek. And I get it. You thought he’d bit you and wrecked your life, but we know that isn’t what happened. So you need to get your shit together and stop acting like Derek’s planning some nefarious way to wreck your life. Because he’s not. And he’s not wrecking mine, either.’

‘How do you know that?’ Scott demanded.

‘Because I trust him, doofus. Because he’s my friend. Because he makes me feel safe. Because he’s our goddamn, fucking alpha!’ Her hands were fisted at her sides, and she was breathing hard, nostrils flaring as she glared at Scott.

‘He’s my alpha because he has to be,’ Scott growled, his fangs dropping and hair sprouting on his face. ‘But he’s not your alpha because you’re not a werewolf.’

‘That doesn’t even matter,’ Stiles scoffed. ‘You know as well as I do that humans can be Pack. And that’s me. I’m human. I’m pack. Derek’s my alpha.’

With a snarl, Scott shifted fully into his beta form and rushed forward, though Stiles couldn’t tell if he was going for her or Derek.

Derek appeared in front of Stiles, pushing her behind him. She could feel his claws resting against her skin, but his grip wasn’t hurting. He roared, practically shaking the very foundations of the house and Scott stumbled backwards, tripped over his own feet and landed on his butt. In any other circumstance it would have been hilarious, but as it was Stiles was having trouble getting air into her lungs. She grabbed Derek’s t-shirt and twisted it in her hand, concentrating on the feel of it to help get her breathing back under control.

Derek glanced over his shoulder at her. Even though his mouth was flat with anger, his eyes radiated worry.

‘I’m fine,’ she assured him with a shaky smile. There was no way she was going to succumb to a panic attack because of Scott. ‘All in one piece and not a scratch on me.’

‘What the fuck, Stiles? I’d never hurt you. You know that.’

‘Actually, Scott, I don’t think I do know that anymore,’ she said, throat feeling like sandpaper. ‘I keep ignoring it. I've been ignoring it for months, hoping you'd catch a clue, but that hasn't happened. You keep doing things like this. What about what happened in the library?’

Scott’s entire face dropped. ‘Stiles, that… I’d never hurt you.’

She knew without question that Scott would never plan to hurt her, would never want to hurt her, but there were so many instances since he’d been bitten where she’d be dead if not for her own quick thinking, Derek appearing, or just plain dumb luck. Mostly plain dumb luck.

Derek’s head whipped around. ‘What happened in the library?’

‘Scott, it was pretty fucking scary. You broke a freaking table. A. Table.’

‘I didn't know where you were and I was worried.’

‘And did you really think that breaking a table was going to help? For real? Because you throw people into lockers for talking to me. You turn up in my room. You hang out in my backyard. How is that supposed to make me feel safe around you? Because it doesn’t. It makes me feel like you’re another threat.’

‘Someone,’ Derek growled, ‘is going to tell me what the hell happened. Now!’

‘It wasn’t such a big deal,’ Jackson said. ‘I don’t know why Stilinski is so worked up about it.’

Stiles turned an incredulous look on Jackson. ‘Seriously? He slammed his hands onto the table I was doing homework on so hard that it literally broke in two, just because he couldn’t find me.’

Between one breath and the next Derek had Scott slammed to the floor, knee pushing him down and his clawed hand was tight around his throat.

‘Shit, Derek.’ This was exactly what she hadn’t wanted to happen. ‘Don’t -’

‘You did what?’ Derek growled, ignoring her. ‘Stiles is Pack. She’s your best friend. And she’s m -’ Derek shook his head. ‘You don’t ever do that again.’

‘Uh -’ Scott’s eyes were wide and he looked completely freaked out, which wasn’t a surprise as it was obvious that Derek was holding onto his control by a thread. ‘I… I wasn’t going to hurt her.’

‘Did you shift?’

‘...No.’

Derek glanced over his shoulder at her. ‘Did he shift?’

His fangs had dropped and he was barely holding back his shift. She didn’t think she’d ever seen him so close to losing control. ‘Stiles,’ he barked. ‘Did Scott shift?’

‘I… I don’t know. I don’t think so, but, dude, I was kinda freaking. A herd of undomesticated equines could have stampeded through the library and I wouldn’t have paid them any attention.’

Predictably, her comic genius was ignored. Scott might have found it funny, but Derek was snarling in his face.

‘Jackson.’

‘Yes.’

‘Did he -’

‘That’s my answer,’ Jackson interrupted. Which was either brave or dumb. ‘It wasn’t for long, but he definitely got a little long in the tooth before everyone gathered around and he pulled it back.’

‘You shifted in public,’ Derek said, ‘No matter how brief and you put Stiles in danger.’

‘I wouldn’t have hurt Stiles,’ Scott yelled back, eyes flashing.

‘Well, what were you going to do next?’ Stiles demanded before Derek could say anything. ‘It wasn’t the table that scared me, dumbass. It’s what you were going to do next.’

Scott shoved ineffectually at Derek’s shoulder.

Stiles stepped forward and gently touched Derek’s back. ‘Let him up.’

After a warning growl to Scott, Derek stood. Scott scrambled up after him, eyeing him warily.

‘Well?’ Stiles asked, her arms crossed and tapping her fingers expectantly. ‘What would you have done next?’

‘I...’ Scott started to say, but he trailed off, frowning. ‘I don’t know,’ he finally admitted. ‘But I wouldn’t have hurt you.’

‘You keep saying that,’ Stiles sighed. ‘It’s all you’re saying. Everything is variations of that phrase and after a while it stops meaning anything. It doesn’t mean anything. Not now. You need to do something other than telling me that you aren’t going to hurt me.’

‘What the hell do you want me to do, Stiles?’ Scott yelled. ‘I don’t know what you want from me.’

‘I want you to stop pretending that there’s nothing wrong,’ she yelled back. ‘I want you to listen to Derek when he tries to tell you stuff.’

‘You want me to listen to Derek? Are you serious?’

‘See? This is what I’m talking about. You dismiss what I tell you because you don’t like it.’

‘Because it’s insane.’

Because you don’t like it.’

Scott threw up his hands. ‘So what do I do, Stiles, to make you believe that I don’t want to hurt you?’

‘Listen to Derek.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘Uh, yeah, dumbass. Of course I’m serious.’

‘But why that? Of all things.’

‘Why - is it really so difficult to work out? Derek is a born wolf. He knows stuff. So when he warns you that you should look out for being lead around by your wolf after I’m attacked, you should listen to him. And then when he tells you that’s exactly what’s happening, you listen to him so you can work out how to stop it.’

‘I -’ Scott’s face hardened with determination. He turned to Derek. ‘Okay. What do I do?’

‘Now you go down to the creek,’ Derek ordered. ‘There we’ll talk about you and your wolf.’

Scott clenched his jaw and nodded. ‘Okay.’

Stiles felt almost dizzy with relief and surprise.

‘The sooner we get down to the creek, the better,’ Derek said.

Scott rubbed the back of his neck nervously and nodded. ‘Uh, Stiles -’

‘Dude, we’ll talk later, yeah? For now I think you need to get down to the creek.’

‘Yeah, okay.’ He took a step towards the door before he stopped. ‘I, uh, I still don’t quite understand what you’re doing here, though.’

Derek came and stood next to her. ‘She’s Pack.’ He didn’t call Scott an idiot but it was implied by his tone. ‘She can come up here whenever she wants to.’

‘How come she can but we -’ He gestured between himself and Jackson ‘- can’t?’

Derek rubbed a tired hand over his face. ‘You all can, Scott. You just haven’t.’ Derek pointed out the door. ‘Now I want you both down at the creek running suicides.’

‘Hey! No fair,’ Jackson protested with a frown. ‘I didn’t do anything.’

‘Exactly,’ Derek growled, fixing Jackson with a truly impressive glare that made him shrink away from Derek. ‘Now, get down there.’

Without another word they both disappeared out of the front door, it banging shut behind them. Evidently neither of them wanted to risk Derek’s wrath again.

As the front door closed, Derek turned to her. ‘And when I get back we’re talking about what happened in the library.’

Stiles nodded. ‘That’s fair. I can’t believe - do you think Scott was serious about, well, all of that?’

‘I do.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I think you finally got through to him.’

‘Are you sure about that, because he hasn’t listened to me yet. In case that had escaped your attention.’

'I think he listened this time.'

Stiles snorted bitterly. 'Maybe, but probably not.'

'Stiles -'

'That's incredibly optimistic of you.'

Derek blinked at her. 'I don't think anyone's ever called me optimistic before.'

'First time for everything. Either way, I think Scott's going to be pissed with me for a while and who knows if or when he'll forgive me.'

Derek wrapped a hand around the base of her neck, coaxing her back up the stairs. ‘Do you really believe that?’

She leaned back into Derek’s touch, sighing. ‘No, I guess not. If we can survive an argument about X-Wings and Raptors, I guess we can survive this.’ She grinned up at him. ‘Do you want me to stop with all the pesky pop culture references?’

‘I’ve watched Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.’ He sounded almost smug about it.

Derek’s thumb was rubbing small circles behind her ear and it was had to say if it was that or the fact that Derek had watched Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica that distracted her for a few good seconds. ‘You have?’

‘Of course.’

‘What do you mean, ‘of course’?’ Stiles demanded as Derek pushed open his bedroom door with a foot. ‘You don’t even like Lord of the Rings,’ she reminded him.

‘I like the books,’ he countered, stopping by the bed.

‘You do?’ But she was distracted by the fact that they were both standing next to Derek’s stupid bed. She could feel her face turning hot as she saw how churned up the sheets were and she twisted her fingers in the hem of her t-shirt. ‘So, uh, yeah. I kind of messed up your bed. Sorry about that.’

‘Don’t be,’ Derek said, perching on the edge of the mattress. ‘I told you to sleep here.’

‘But why? I mean, there’s a swing chair on the porch -’

‘You’d have fallen off that.’

‘Valid point, but all the other guest rooms all have beds.’

Derek let out a breath and rubbed his hand over his face. ‘So your scent wouldn’t linger in any of them.’

‘You mean like it’d be an insult to our mysterious guests whenever they actually decide to get here?’

Derek paused. ‘Uh, something like that, yeah.’

‘Well, we’re going to find so many other ways to insult them, it would probably be stupid to start with that.’ She frowned and glanced around the room. ‘But won’t it linger in here, too?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And that won’t annoy you?’

‘You’re Pack, so no.’

‘Huh.’ There was something off about that entire explanation, but her brain was still running on reserve power and she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.

‘You need more sleep and I have to go and talk to Scott.’

‘I think I’m all sleeped out, dude.’ A yawn came out of nowhere and she groaned as Derek raised an eyebrow. 'Crap.'

Derek smirked at her. ‘If you aren’t sleeping, then you’re at least resting.’ He walked over to the bookcase and scanned the shelves. After a moment he grabbed a couple and walked back to Stiles. ‘If you don’t want to sleep, you can read.’

‘I can read downstairs,’ she protested. Not because she didn’t want a chance to curl up in that bed again, but because if she did, she might not leave it. And that would be all around awkward.

‘I still don’t have a sofa.’

‘Oh my god, fine.’ She threw up her hands. ‘When you put it like that I’ll read up here in your ridiculous bed.’ She snatched the books from him before climbing back into the bed. Instead of settling back into the pillows, she scrambled around until she was kneeling at the edge of the bed.

Derek was regarding her with a raised eyebrow, mouth turned up at one corner.

‘Oh, shut up,’ she told him. ‘Not all of us are graced with such poise and balance.’

‘I can tell.’

‘Seriously, shut up. And come here.’ She waved him closer, raising an eyebrow when he didn’t move. ‘Here,’ she emphasised, pointing at the spot in front of her. ‘And that wasn’t a dog joke, fyi.’

Derek snorted and still didn’t move.

‘Look, if you’re going to be all the way over there -’

‘It’s three feet, Stiles.’

‘Yeah, but I’m still going to faceplant on the floor if I try to hug you from here.’

‘Hug?’

‘Yeah. It’s a thing we do now. Sometimes.’ After Derek had been the one to initiate it last time, there was no way she’d let him suggest it wasn’t something they did. Especially when she liked his hugs so much. ‘And that - arguing with Scott - was epically shit and I want a hug.’

Derek stayed where he was, studying her with a slightly confused frown. Before she could say or do anything, Derek stepped to the edge of the bed, not meeting her gaze. ‘From me?’

Stiles paused, her hands resting on Derek’s hips, even if she couldn’t rightly say how they got there. ‘Uh, yeah. From you. Dude, you give great hugs.’

Derek huffed softly under his breath, but he wrapped his arms around her and she relaxed against him.

‘See? Great hugs.’

‘If you say so,’ Derek huffed, but his arms tightened around her and she smiled into his neck.

‘I told you hugging is something we do now,’ she said, voice muffled.

He ran a hand up and down her back. ‘Feel better?’

‘Yeah. A bit.’ She sighed. ‘What are the books about? She asked, pulling back. If she didn’t, Stiles knew she wouldn’t move. So many muscles shouldn’t be that inviting.

Stiles settled back into the mess of sheets as Derek blinked at her and then shook his head. ‘Huh?’

Stiles pulled the books towards her. ‘What are they about?’

‘Uh, early werewolf history.’

A flash of red at the bottom of the pile caught her eyes and she pulled it to the top. ‘Oh, wow. This is about Europe.’

‘I thought you might enjoy it.’

‘Well, duh. This is awesome.’ She grinned up at him. ‘Hey, aren’t the terrible duo going to be wondering where you are?’

‘Probably. They won’t leave until I get there.’ Derek pointed at her. ‘You, rest. I’ll be back in an hour.’

‘Sir, yes sir,’ Stiles said, throwing him a sloppy salute.

Derek rolled his eyes, but, as he walked out the door, Stiles knew he was smiling.

Stiles let herself sink back into the bed covers and opened the book to the first page, but with the way her eyes were already drooping, she didn’t think she was going to get a whole lot of reading done before she succumbed to sleep again.

A while later she stirred and groaned. Stretching, she opened her eyes and saw the books she’d been reading closed and stacked up on the bedside table. There were pieces of paper marking where she’d got to, which was weird, because she hadn’t done that.

Shifting around, she ended up on her back and saw Derek sitting on the other side of the bed, ankles crossed and reading a battered paperback. He must have changed because he was in worn looking sweatpants and a loose t-shirt. Stiles didn’t think she’d ever seen him look so soft and accessible. It was a good look on him and it made her stomach hurt that he let her see him like that. And it made her sad that there weren’t more people he felt safe being himself around.

Stiles rolled over onto her side. ‘Hey.’

Derek smiled and Stiles snuggled into the pillow. ‘How long was I out?’

‘I got back an hour ago. Rescued the book you were reading before you hit yourself with it.’

‘Thanks. So, come on, tell me, how’s Scott?’

‘Subdued,’ Derek said after a moment. ‘I think you saying that he scared you gave him the kick he needed. He didn’t complain once and he asked a lot of questions about him and his wolf.’

‘How do you answer that?’

Derek frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, you’re a born wolf.’

‘I am.’

‘So are you and your wolf as separate as Scott and his wolf are? Like, how does that work? Is it different for born and bitten wolves? Or does it depend on the person?’

Derek bookmarked where he was and put his book on the other bedside table. ‘Where would you like me to start?’ he asked, scooting down the bed and turning on his side, head resting on the other pillow.

It was a big bed, but even so, it felt like there was hardly any space between them. ‘Uh, wherever, I guess.’

‘Well, okay then. To a certain extent it depends on the person. There are some bitten wolves who become so in tune with themselves it was like they’d always been a wolf. My aunt, Peter’s wife, was like that.’

‘Oh.’ Stiles had always been so focused on Peter trying to kill them that she’d never really thought about what he’d lost. Not like she had with Derek.

‘But for most bitten wolves it’s a struggle trying to reconcile the two halves.’

‘That makes sense. Getting used to another set of instincts must throw you for a loop. Especially when you have so many enhanced senses to cope with.’

Derek nodded. ‘Exactly.’

‘But you grew up with that. For you dealing with a greater range is as natural as breathing. Am I right?’

Derek made a noise of agreement.

‘So how do you talk to Scott about something you don’t have any experience feeling?’

‘How did you teach him about control and anchors when he wouldn’t listen to me at all?’

‘Okay, first off, good point. I’m awesome.’ Derek snorted. ‘Second, the reason he didn’t listen to you -’

‘Was because I was a dick. I know.’

‘Actually, I was going to say because you were a dick and because Scott’s a stubborn ass once he gets an idea in his head.’

‘Thanks,’ Derek said dryly.

Stiles beamed at him. ‘Pleasure. My point being, he was so focused on blaming you and trying to work out your angle, he wouldn’t listen to the stuff he needed to know. But he knew my angle was keeping him safe, so he listened to me. Not that I was that good.’

‘You did enough to stop him from killing anyone. You worked out that he needed an anchor and that pain keeps us human and in control.’

‘Maybe -’

‘I was so sure that you weren’t going to be able to work anything out and that Scott would come crawling back to me, begging for my help before he killed someone.’ Derek’s ankle hooked over hers. ‘You have no idea how angry I was when it turned out that despite not knowing anything, you were more than capable of working things out for yourself.’

‘Really?’

Derek nodded.

‘Huh. So what you’re saying is that you’re going to lead by my example?’

Derek rolled his eyes, but he was definitely amused. ‘That’s not even remotely what I meant, and you know that. Now, I got lunch started while you were out. It’ll be ready in about twenty minutes.’

‘Oh, thank god. I feel as though my stomach is about to eat itself.’ Picking up her phone to check she didn’t have any missed calls from her dad, she saw the time. ‘Though, isn’t it a bit late for lunch?’

‘Have you eaten?’ he asked.

‘Well, no. You know I haven’t. I’ve been sleeping most of the day away.’

‘Therefore, it’s still lunch time.’

‘That makes the kind of sense that doesn’t, but I get it, so okay.’

‘Glad you approve.’ Derek shifted closer, his head on the edge of the pillow. ‘You didn’t tell me about the library.’

‘Not true.’ Off Derek’s deepening frown she hurried on. ‘Okay, so, no, I didn’t tell you, but I was going to.’

Derek raised a skeptical eyebrow.

‘It’s why I came here today.’

Derek stared at her for a second. ‘You decided to drive up here when you were in no fit state to be behind the wheel so you could tell me something you could easily have said on the phone or asked me to come to you?’

‘When you put it like that...’

‘Yeah.’

‘You forgot about the nightmares.’

‘No,’ Derek said, quietly. ‘I didn’t.’

‘Oh.’

Derek reached across the small space between them. He hesitated for a second, his fingers flexing, before he placed his hand over her fist. ‘Next time you need to tell me something, call. I don’t want you in a wreck.’

‘Um, yeah.’ Stiles couldn’t focus on much beyond where Derek was touching her. ‘Okay.’

‘You haven’t had nightmares other than the ones you’ve already told me about?’

‘No fair,’ she whined. ‘That’s cheating.’

‘What is?’

‘Asking me questions I won’t want to answer when I’m all warm and snuggly and not able to lie even a little bit.’

‘Stiles, you can’t lie when you’re wide awake and fully functional.’

She humphed. ‘That’s truer than I’d like it to be, but it’s still cheating.’

‘You’re ridiculous,’ he told her, sounding fond. ‘Now, tell me about your nightmares.’

‘I’m really not having all that many.’

‘Because...’ he prompted.

She sighed. ‘You’re really annoying, you know that. I’m not having all that many nightmares because most nights I’m kinda staying up so late that when they do wake me, it’s time for school.’

‘And you call me a cheat,’ Derek groused.

‘I do.’

‘You know what I’m going to tell you, don’t you?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Good.’

Derek squeezed her hand briefly. ‘And are you okay after what happened in the library?’

‘I am. I promise. I know I should have called you straight away, but I wanted to tell you in person.’ Danny had been the one to suggest it and Stiles had thought it prudent. ‘Although I do acknowledge I could have asked you to come around instead of putting Betty at risk.’

‘Yeah, because it’s your heap of junk Jeep that I’m worried about,’ Derek said dryly.

‘Hey, don’t say nasty things about - hang on a second, did you just say you worry about me?’

‘I worry you might kill yourself driving here and that your dad will then kill me.’

The tip of the ear she could see was bright red and Stiles smiled. ‘Don’t front, dude. You were totally having a squishy feeling about me.’

Derek huffed, but he didn’t say anything.

‘Oh my god, you totally care about me.’

‘Of course I do,’ Derek snapped. ‘Friends care about each other.’

‘I know. I do. It’s just.’ She frowned, snagged on a thought. ‘What about, like, before? You must have had friends at school. What about them?’

‘I looked a few people I knew up, but they’d moved on. Graduated college, moved away. The ones still around -’ He half-shrugged. ‘- I had nothing in common with them, if I ever did.’

‘Well, you’ve got me, for what it’s worth. I’m like a limpet. Never letting go.’

It must have been the right thing to say because Derek pulled her to him, hugging her tight. His leg slipped between hers and his nose was buried in the crook of her neck. Her hand drifted up into his hair, forehead resting on Derek’s shoulder as he rumbled in contentment.

They stayed like that until Derek stirred, lifted his head and sniffed before lying back down. ‘Food’s ready.’

Stiles whined and snuggled closer. ‘Don’t wanna move. Comfy.’

Derek huffed softly, breath warm on her neck. His hand was trailing up and down her arm, leaving sparks of warmth in its wake. ‘And soon you’re going to be complaining about how hungry you are.’

Stiles scrunched up her nose. ‘Actually, I don’t think you’ll have to wait too long for that to happen.’

‘Then we eat,’ he said, lifting his hand from her hip.

Grumbling under her breath, Stiles untangled herself from Derek, not liking how cold she felt when Derek wasn’t close. There were goosebumps on her skin, and she rubbed her arms to try and get rid of them. It was ridiculous as it hadn’t exactly been cold out when she’d got in her car. But, a quick glance outside showed her that the wind had picked up and suddenly it wasn’t so surprising that she was cold without Derek right there. Getting to the edge of the bed, she nearly fell over her feet when Derek handed her one of his Henley’s.

‘Wear that,’ he said, dropping it in her hands.

There was no point arguing, so Stiles pulled it over her head and let the sleeves drop down over her hands. It wasn’t huge on her, but it smelled like Derek and she found herself imagining curling up in a big armchair, wearing it.

‘Once we’ve eaten, I’ll drive you back.’

‘I’m not leaving the Jeep here,’ she told him.

‘Who said anything about leaving the Jeep?’ he asked, steering her out of the room. ‘I’ll drive the Jeep and run back.’

‘Oh, really? And how are you going to do that?’ she asked. No-one drove the Jeep apart from her. Except, possibly, dad. And after seeing the way Scott abused the Camaro, he was never getting behind the wheel of her baby. So if Derek thought he was going to -

‘I have the keys.’ He dangled them in her face, yanking them out the way with a smirk when Stiles snatched the air for them.

She was half tempted to jump on his back and retrieve the keys herself, but they were on the stairs and even with Derek there, Stiles didn’t trust that she wouldn’t end up a broken heap on the floor.

‘I’m not even going to ask how,’ she told him. ‘I am going to ask why, though.’

‘I told you, I’m not having you wreck your car near my place and get me in trouble with your dad.’

‘I still can’t believe you’re scared of my dad,’ she muttered.

‘I’m not scared of your dad,’ Derek said with a huff. ‘I respect him and the fact that he worries about you.’

‘Oh.’ In all honesty, Stiles hadn’t expected a response. ‘Okay.’ But even if she had, that wouldn’t have been it.

Walking into the kitchen, Derek glanced at her warily. ‘Okay?’

She nodded and bumped her shoulder against his. ‘Okay.’ She sniffed the air. ‘And wow. What’s that heavenly smell?’

‘Lunch.’

‘I thought you meant you’d got takeout or something. But this isn’t takeout. What the hell is it?’

Derek’s cheeks were pink. ‘It’s my mom’s beef casserole.’

Sure there was more to it than that, Stiles managed to keep quiet.

‘I made it last night, but it always tastes better the next day.’ Derek got the dish out of the oven. ‘Although, this is the first time I’ve made it since… so it might taste terrible.’

When the lid came off, a steam billowed out of it for a second and it smelt about a thousand times better. ‘So what you’re saying is I’m your guineapig?’

‘That’s exactly what I’m saying,’ Derek said with a grin.

‘I can totally live with that. I’ll get the plates.’

Chapter Text

Stiles was late. So very, very late. She’d fallen down a wiki-hole and time had just run away from her and suddenly she was supposed to have been at a pack meeting fifteen minutes ago.

Grabbing her bag she ran out her room, the door slamming behind her. She clattered down the stairs, already working out which route would get her to Derek’s the fastest, when her dad stepped between her and the door, bringing her to a sudden, sliding halt, arms flailing madly to stop herself from colliding with him.

‘Dad, I’m like, really, really late,’ she said, glancing at the kitchen clock, which she could see through the door and wincing. ‘So very late.’

‘Where’s the fire?’

Stiles so nearly said ‘Pack meeting at Derek’s’ but she managed to bite her tongue just in time, wincing in pain. ‘I’m hanging out with Lydia and Allison and Lydia gets super mad if you’re late.’ Which… wasn’t a lie. Lydia did consider tardiness to be a mortal sin.

‘Well, she’s going to have to cope without your sparkling presence tonight, Stiles.’

‘Uh, what? Why? Where am I going to be instead?’

‘You’re staying in tonight.’

‘I am?’ Honestly, Stiles couldn’t remember the last time her dad had stopped her from leaving the house. Although that was probably more because he was often at work and she was usually out of the house before he got home.

‘I’ve hardly seen you all week and you’ve been avoiding me -’

‘No I haven’t,’ Stiles protested. It was just that recently he’d got that look in his eye that said they were going to have a talk and it wasn’t really difficult to guess what he might want to talk about.

‘I’ve made dinner and we’re going to sit down and have a talk.’

Yeah, there it was.

Stiles glanced longingly into the kitchen, seeing the pans on the stove and she’d actually love to sit down with him and talk – as long as he didn’t want to talk about Derek, but – ‘I can’t tonight.’

‘Yes, Stiles. You can.’

‘I can do it tomorrow,’ she offered with a hopeful smile. ‘No interruptions. No nothing. If I can only go out tonight.’

‘Having a sleepover with Lydia Martin and Allison is that important?’

Stiles knew she had been more than a little self-involved recently, but even she noticed the look of hurt that passed across his face. She swallowed her guilt and stopped herself from sighing, knowing that Derek was going to kill her, but unwilling to hurt her dad when it wasn’t a matter of life and death. ‘Not that important.’

He smiled. ‘Go and put your bag back upstairs and then come down. I’ve made your favourite. And no climbing out your window,’ he called up the stairs after her. ‘I’ll be watching.’

Stiles turned and stared down at him. ‘Oh, and now you’ve scuppered my cunning plan to break my legs in about a billion places as I crash to the ground in a sea of pain and agony. Curses.’

‘There is a reason your mom and I bought a house with no trees conveniently planted close to any windows.’

‘Nice forward thinking there, dad,’ she told him. ‘I’m just going to call D... Lydia. I’m going to call Lydia and let her know I can’t make it.’

‘Just hurry up. You don’t want your food to get cold.’

Throwing her bag on the bed with possibly more force than was strictly necessary, she pulled out her cell phone. Waiting for the call to connect she wondered how annoyed Derek was going to be.

When Scott had skipped a meeting for a date with Allison, Derek had been supremely unimpressed. Scott’s face when Derek had gone marching into the restaurant had been, according to Allison, a picture. Even if she hadn’t quite had the courage to take a sneaky photo, much to Stiles’ disappointment. She totally would have risked the photo. He’d even been crankier when Jackson had missed one because he’d been visiting family over a long weekend. At least he hadn’t gone down to Santa Monica to drag Jackson back, funny as it would have been.

Derek picked up on the second ring. ‘You’re late.’

‘And hello to you, too.’ She collapsed on the bed next to her bag and stared up at the ceiling.

‘You’re late,’ he repeated.

‘Yeah.’ Stiles scratched her head. ‘About that.’

‘Stiles.’

‘Look, it’s not my fault, okay? Dad caught me seconds – mere seconds – before I was out the door. He wants father-daughter time, okay, and while I could sneak out the window -‘

‘Don’t sneak out,’ Derek interrupted. ‘Stay.’

She sat up. ‘Really?’

‘Spend the evening with your dad, Stiles.’ His voice was oddly gentle.

She bit her lip. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I think dad wants to talk about Scott.’ Stiles blinked. She really hadn’t meant to tell him that.

‘Yeah?’ And she most certainly hadn’t expected Derek to keep the conversation going when he was about to start a Pack meeting.

‘I, uh, might have been avoiding him for the last few days.’

‘Scott or your dad?’

‘Oh, well, both I guess. But I was talking about dad. I haven’t told him about arguing with Scott and I think he’s been using his detecting skills to work out that something’s up.’

‘Because your poker face is usually so good,’ Derek said dryly. ‘I’m sure it took him a really long minute to work out something was wrong.’

‘Rude. True, but rude. I’d like to point out that he’s never found out about your furry hide, so there.’

‘Talk to him. You’ll feel better.’

Before she could say anything – what she didn’t know, because she had no clue how she was supposed to react to Derek giving her advice about her dad – Derek growled.

‘Scott! Jackson! Shut the hell up.’

In the background she could hear raised voices but not what they were saying or doing.

‘Christ,’ Derek muttered.

‘Don’t throw them through any walls, okay? You’ve only just fixed the place up and it’d be a real shame to break it again.’

‘Right.’

She grinned. ‘If you really can’t help yourself and you just have to throw them through something then at least make sure it’s a window. Much easier to fix.’

‘I’ll keep that in mind,’ Derek said and it sounded like he was trying not to smile so at least he was less likely to use Jackson or Scott as wrecking balls. Probably.

‘Is Danny there?’

‘Yeah.’ The accompanying sigh of relief made her smile harder.

‘Well, that’s good. Maybe your windows will survive intact.’

‘Stiles!’ She jumped as her dad’s voice floated up the stairs. ‘Food.’

‘Coming,’ she yelled back. ‘I gotta go.’ She sat up and rubbed her eyes. ‘Apparently dad’s made my favourite, which, really, is all kinds of ominous.’

‘Go have dinner with your dad, Stiles,’ Derek ordered before hanging up.

Hauling herself off the bed and walking down the stairs, Stiles couldn’t decide if it would be worse for dad to talk about Scott or Derek.

Entering the kitchen, Stiles took a deep breath, appreciating the smells that assaulted her senses and plastered a smile on her face. ‘That smells delicious.’

‘Do you really have to look like I’ve just kicked your puppy, kiddo?’ dad asked, piling food on their plates.

‘I… what… I don’t…’

‘You can survive one night without seeing your friends, surely,’ he said dryly. ‘Now sit down.’

Stiles sat. She picked up her fork as he set the plate down in front of her. ‘Thanks.’

‘Not as good as how your mom used to make it, granted, but I don’t think it’s that bad.’

‘It’ll be delicious, dad.’

After a few minutes of moving her food around her plate, she glanced up to find her dad watching her.

‘Not hungry?’

‘No. Yeah.’ She pushed the plate towards the centre of the table and slouched down in the chair, scowling. ‘Maybe.’

Pushing his nearly empty plate to the side, dad rested his elbows on the table. ‘Is everything okay?’

Stiles shrugged.

‘Because I don’t think everything is okay, Stiles.’

‘Uh.’ Dad raised an eyebrow and Stiles rubbed her nose. ‘Yeah, that was a totally articulate and well developed argument, huh?’

‘I might need more convincing, to be honest, kiddo.’

‘Yeah, I thought you might.’

‘I’ve not seen Scott around here for a while,’ he said carefully.

‘Oh. Yeah. He’s… been busy...’

‘Busy?’

‘Yeah. Busy. You know, with lacrosse, Allison, work. Busy. And he’s been helping Melissa around the house. And stuff.’ She winced. ‘So, you know, busy,’ she finished lamely.

‘What happened?’

‘Huh?’

‘Stiles, you are aware that I’m a trained detective and you aren’t exactly good at hiding things?’

‘Yeah.’ Most of the time she’d didn’t mind that her dad could easily read her so on the odd occasion when she wished for the power to lie convincingly, it didn’t really work.

‘Because I’ve seen you two argue before. You usually don’t survive until the end of the day without making up.’

‘Except for that one time,’ Stiles reminded him.

‘You mean the time I had to drive you around to Scott’s at 6am the next day because neither of you could sleep?’

‘Well, okay, but technically I still made it to the next day.’

‘Technically,’ he agreed dryly. ‘My point is that this is more than your standard arguments about the relative merits of X-Wings versus Raptors. So spill, kiddo. What happened?’

‘Nice call back, dad. I’m so proud.’

‘Quit stalling.’ Dad fixed her with with a look that traditionally made her wilt within seconds. This time was no exception.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Maybe Derek was right; maybe she would feel better after telling dad what was going on. Well, some of what was going on. All werewolf related information would have to be omitted. ‘We had an argument,’ she admitted, slumping down in the chair. ‘A big one.’

‘What was is about?’

‘He’s been impossible to be around ever since -’ She waved her hand in the air ‘- you know.’

Dad nodded, looking grim and Stiles hated herself just a little bit for bringing it up.

‘How’s he being impossible?’

‘In all the ways,’ Stiles huffed. ‘It’s like he doesn’t believe that I can protect myself anymore. And I probably ignored it for longer than I should have.’ She picked up her fork and started fiddling with it. ‘I kept hoping that if I didn’t say anything, it would all sort itself out.’ She glanced up at dad. ‘Stupid, huh?’

‘No. Not stupid, kiddo. Never stupid.’

At his words, Stiles felt some of the tension in her neck and shoulders bleed away. ‘Yeah, okay.’

‘I mean it, Stiles.’

‘I know you do, dad.’

‘So what happened in this argument?’

‘So much.’ She dropped the fork and pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. ‘It went all over the place.’

‘Do you want to be more specific about that?’ It was a genuine question and Stiles loved that she knew that if she said no, dad wouldn’t push for more details, no matter how much he wanted them.

‘He - so he’s been spending a lot of time with Allison, you know?’

Dad nodded. ‘That would make sense, seeing as how they’re dating and all that.’

‘And not so much time with me.’ Which hurt far less to admit than she thought it would. ‘Not that I mind,’ she added hastily. ‘At least, not because of that. I just never saw him, even when we made plans. Which I totally get. He has a hot girlfriend who is totally into him.’

‘That doesn’t make it okay for him to forget to tell you about any change in his plans.’

‘I know. I said I get it, not that it was okay.’

‘But that wasn’t what the argument was about?’

‘Not quite. He came looking for me on Saturday, wanting to hang out like we used to, but I wasn’t where he expected me to be. But he didn’t wanna hang with his BFF. He was using that so he could, I dunno, keep tabs on me and make sure I didn’t get into trouble.’

She didn’t add that Scott didn’t like letting people near her or that he’d slammed Cameron into the lockers or that she was fairly certain he had been checking up on her during the evenings by lurking in the garden. Dad was already looking worried enough as it was.

‘That’s a good reason to be mad,’ dad said.

‘I thought so, too,’ she said, picking up her glass. ‘And then from there it kinda devolved into how he pretty much ditched me for Allison.’

‘Did he say anything when you yelled at him?’

‘He mostly looked confused. Like I was being the unreasonable one.’

‘How have things been since your argument?’

‘Well, honestly, I’ve hardly seen him.’ The pack meeting she was currently missing would have been the first time she’d have seen him outside of class. ‘And then he alternates between ignoring me and staring.’

It was the staring that freaked her out the most. Sometimes he looked like he missed her, other times he looked like he thought she’d betrayed him.

‘And everything feels so weird. Dad, it’s never been this awkward with Scott. I didn’t think I could ever feel awkward around Scott.’

‘Now, this may sound like a stupid question, but do you still feel safe around Scott?’

‘I feel as safe with him as I did before this happened.’

‘Okay, good.’

Stiles felt bad that dad wouldn’t know that that wasn’t as reassuring as he would think it was, but there was no way she could say anything else without explaining all about werewolves. And though she kept finding herself thinking about what Derek had said, she still wasn’t convinced. And anyway, even if she was considering letting the wolf out of the bag, Derek needed to be there, because there was no way dad would believe her without actual, growly proof.

‘Do I need to talk to him?’

Stiles shot him a tired smile. ‘I’m still waiting to see if maybe he gets it now. But if he doesn’t, maybe you could go all sheriff on him.’

Dad nodded. ‘I can do that.’

‘I feel like I’ve lost my best friend.’ She dropped her head onto her arms and after a moment of not talking she lifted her chin and rested it on the back of her hands. ‘I’m super mad with him for not listening to me and thinking he knows what’s best for me, but I miss him, you know? I miss my best friend so much, dad. How do I get things back to how they used to be?’

‘Oh, Stiles.’

‘So I take it that means I can’t.’ Which, while what she’d expected, was still really crappy.

‘No, Stiles, it doesn’t. Only that it gets harder the older you get. Friendships change.’

‘I don’t want things to change. Not that much.’

‘I know you don’t, but sometimes it happens. As you get older, new people enter your life.’

‘Like Allison.’

‘Like Allison,’ dad agreed. ‘You and Scott have to work out between you how to adapt your friendship. If you both think it’s worth it, you’ll work at it. Allison is just the first of many.’

‘Well, that sucks,’ Stiles muttered.

‘It often does,’ dad agreed.

‘Does it get easier?’

‘Not really. Just the situations change. Anyone who tells you growing up is easy, is lying.’

‘Well, that’s gloomy.’

‘But before you two talk about Allison and how to accommodate new people into your friendship, it’s important that you both talk. Honestly and frankly. Don’t just assume that things will go back to how you want them to. Scott has to know that his behaviour was unacceptable and why. Don’t wait for him to come to his senses on this.’

Stiles nodded. ‘Anything else?’

‘Friendships are like any other relationship. They have to be worked at. But sometimes, the best thing you can do is let a friendship go. I’m not saying that’s what should happen with you and Scott,’ he added, when she opened her mouth to protest. ‘I don’t want that to happen. I want you both to be best friends for years to come. But, at the same time, never be afraid to remove someone from your life if they aren’t good for you.’

‘You are all about the good advice, tonight, aren’t you dad?’

‘I’m not just a pretty face, kiddo. I have wisdom to back me up.’

‘Did you have a best friend growing up?’

‘I did. Stevie Barton. But we grew apart when we left school. He went to college, I went to the academy and so we just never saw each other.’

‘Oh.’

‘But your mother, her and your Aunt Sylvie were best friends from the age of four. They even lived together for a while in their twenties.’

‘I didn’t know that.’

‘Next time you’re on the phone with Sylvie ask her. She’s got some great stories to tell.’

Stiles grinned. ‘I’ll do that.’ She picked her phone up from where it had been at her elbow. ‘I guess now is the time to text Allison.’

‘Allison?’

From: Me
To: Hawkeye
Fine. You win. Let me know when and where.

‘She might, possibly, have been trying to get us to talk all last week.’

Although, saying that, Stiles had noticed that Scott had been just as reluctant to talk to her.

From: Hawkeye
To: Me
Yay! I’ll let u know time and place l8er

‘Then listen to her. She sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders.’

‘She does.’ Pulling her plate towards her, Stiles picked up the fork and started eating. ‘This is really good,’ she said around a mouthful of potato. After shovelling more food into her mouth, she glanced up and saw her dad still watching her. ‘Uh, why do I feel like this interrogation has only just begun?’

The smile she got in reply did nothing to reassure her.

‘I was just wondering if that was why you’ve been spending so much time with Derek Hale recently.’

Stiles swallowed wrong and started choking. As her eyes started to water she grabbed her drink and took a gulp. ‘Uh.’ Her brain was running in circles, waving its arms in the air, screaming danger, Will Robinson, danger, danger, but she couldn’t do much more than stare at him.

The only reason she wasn’t making like Road Runner and getting the fuck out of there was because he didn’t look angry. He mostly looked concerned. Stiles hated making dad worry about her like that. She’d thought that was all over after Peter and most of her reasons to lie died.

‘What… how… uh, I really have no idea how to respond,’ she finally admitted.

‘At least you didn’t deny it.’

Stiles blinked. Denying it hadn’t even crossed her mind. ‘Didn’t see much point,’ she said instead. ‘Uh, so… how?’

‘If you really think I don’t notice the Camaro parked a few blocks away whenever I have a late night shift, or the late night calls after your nightmares, or the way your Jeep is often spotted in the general vicinity of the Hale house, then I don’t even know what kind of detective you think I am.’

‘Oh.’ She thought she’d been slightly more subtle than that. ‘What you’re saying is that my life in crime would be tragically short.’

‘Short, yes. Tragically short, no.’

‘You’re really very good at this whole Sheriffing lark.’

‘Years of practice.’

‘That, and I’m an easy mark.’

‘That too,’ he agreed. ‘Is there still nothing you need to tell me about you and Derek?’

With a groan she dropped her face in her hands. ‘What? Oh God, not this again, dad.' She looked at him from between her fingers. 'Please. I beg you not to scar my brain. I swear that Derek and I still aren’t dating. Jeez.’

‘So you’re..?’

‘Friends?’

‘Are you asking me or telling me?’

‘Telling. Definitely telling.’ Although 'friends' didn't really feel like it encompassed even a fraction of what Derek was. Lydia was her friend. So was Allison; even Danny. Scott was her best friend. Derek didn't fit any of those categories, though, and she couldn't find a word to adequately describe him.

‘And you go up there because..?’

‘Is the game of twenty questions really necessary?’ she asked, shifting on the chair.

‘Just answer, Stiles.’

‘Fine. It’s because, because, well, I guess because I like it up there.' She worried her lower lip between her teeth. 'It’s peaceful up there. Which I totally get doesn’t sound like me but I like it. I like not having to worry about other people.’ Hesitating, she shrugged. ‘And I like spending time with Derek.’ Which shouldn't feel like it should be a secret she didn't want to share, but it did. Her time with Derek was hers and she didn't want anything to threaten it.

Dad nodded, looking thoughtful. ‘How often are you up there?’

Stiles didn’t bother lying because experience told her that, werewolves excepted, he already knew the answer and lying just made things worse. ‘It’s not like I keep a running tally, but once or twice a week, I guess.’

‘This doesn’t exactly help convince me that you aren’t dating.’

‘Okay, I can totally see what you mean, but I’m really so not dating Derek. I… I just didn’t want you to forbid me from spending time with him.’ Which was potentially a really bad thing to admit, considering her dad’s suspicions. But the idea of not seeing Derek, of not talking to him all the time made her stomach cramp.

Also the idea that dad might just turn up while werewolfy things were going on made Stiles imagine terrible things involving her dad, Derek, fangs and guns. ‘I know that you only remember arresting him because Scott and I thought he’d killed someone who turned out to be his sister – and honestly if we’d known that we’d never have suggested -'

‘Did I ever tell you that I was up at the Hale house the day it burned down?’

Stiles stuttered to a halt. ‘Uh. No. I’d definitely remember that. Did you… were you the one who had to…’

‘No. Sheriff Peters went over to the school to tell Laura and Derek.’

‘I bet it was horrible.’ She thought back to the yearbook photos and couldn’t stop herself thinking about Derek being all happy and carefree one moment and then being pulled out of class to be told practically his entire family had died the next.

‘Mike said it was the worst one he’d ever had to do in over thirty years.’

Stiles worried at her thumb. ‘I can’t even imagine.’

‘I don’t think he’s a bad person, Stiles. I think he’s had a hard life and I just want you to be careful.’

‘I’m careful,’ she promised. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure what Derek having a hard life and her being careful had to do with one another, but dad didn’t seem to be about to put down his metaphorical foot, so she wasn’t going to question it too closely.

‘Just let me know when you go up there, okay? So I know you’re safe.’

‘Derek won’t hurt me or let me get hurt.’

‘That’s not the point, kiddo. This is for my own peace of mind.’

‘I can do that.’

His mouth curled up wickedly. ‘And if you two do start dating -’

Stiles screwed up her eyes and clamped her hands over her ears and started humming very loudly. After a few moments, she cracked open an eye and glared at dad who was looking entirely too amused.

‘Okay,’ she said brightly. ‘Are we done? We’re done, right? Because I’m going to go up to my room and pretend this portion of the conversation never happened. Because, truly, the stuff about Scott was actually helpful and I feel way better about things. Everything about Derek, not so much.’

‘We’re done,’ he agreed. ‘You go and do your homework and I’ll clear up here.’

Escaping to her room, Stiles took one look at her bag and flung herself onto the bed. After that conversation there was no way she could do her homework. That had been way too traumatic.

Stiles was contemplating escaping into a fluffy movie when Leader of the Pack started blaring into the quiet. ‘Oh my God, what now?’ she groaned, grabbing her cell.

If she didn’t answer Derek would either keep ringing, or, worse, come around to check on her and after the conversation she’d just finished, she didn’t want Derek within five miles of the house. Plus, Derek never called unless it was urgent. Or she was in trouble.

‘I didn’t do it.’ Her voice was muffled by the pillow.

‘Didn’t do what?’ Derek sounded baffled,which was a good sign.

‘Whatever it is you’re phoning about.’ Stiles twisted around so she didn’t get a mouthful of pillow.

‘So if you didn’t do it, why are you bringing it up?’

She stuck her tongue out at the phone.

‘Put your tongue away, Stiles.’

Freezing for a moment, Stiles sat bolt up and stared out of the window, her eyes straining to search the dark. ‘Uh -'

‘I’m not lurking in the garden. Relax.’

‘So what?’ she asked, lying back down. ‘You’re suddenly a psychic werewolf detective?’

‘No. You’re just predictable.’

‘You’re hilarious. I think it’d make a great TV show.’

Even over the phone, Stiles could virtually hear him rolling his eyes. ‘How did dinner with your dad go?’

‘Wait. I’m really not in trouble?’

Should you be in trouble?’

‘No, no, not this time.’

‘This time?’ Derek repeated, amused.

‘Turn of phrase,’ she told him quickly.

‘Uh-huh. Why -’

‘Because you only ever call me when I’ve done something you think I shouldn’t have.’

To her surprise, Derek laughed, low and warm. It made her feel squishy inside.

‘So how did dinner go?’ he asked, sounding like he really, genuinely wanted to know.

‘Surprisingly, not awful.’ Mostly. There was no way she was going to recount the bit about how her dad was convinced they’re dating. That just. Stiles couldn’t see it ending well.

‘Did he want to talk about Scott?’

‘Oh, yeah.’

‘And?’

Stiles rolled onto her side. ‘And I told him about the argument me and Scott had at yours. Though, I didn’t tell him it was at yours. It was at some undisclosed location. I told him how Scott’s been acting since those hunters -’ Derek growled and Stiles couldn’t help but smile. ‘Without, you know, mentioning anything about hunters or werewolves or any of that jazz. But he still gave some pretty good advice.’

‘Dad’s are good at that,’ Derek said softly.

‘Yeah,’ Stiles agreed, trying to keep her voice normal. It reminded her all over again that Derek hadn’t had a dad, or a mom he could go to for advice since he was sixteen and, considering how much he blamed himself, she wondering how often he’d talked to Laura. If at all. ‘He talked about friendship and how it changes as you get older and also that I shouldn’t take any of Scott’s crap about me not being able to protect myself.’

‘That’s sound advice.’

‘He also said something about talking being a good thing. It was quite eye opening.’

‘He’s not wrong.’ Which coming from Derek was all kinds of hilarious.

'Since when do you advocate talking out your problems? You live for ripping the throats out of your problems with your teeth.'

'It's a solid life choice,' Derek said dryly. 'Not talking things through has never ended badly for me.'

'But you talk to me about stuff,' she said softly. 'And I talk to you, so maybe that's a solid life choice.’ Feeling a little raw, she scrubbed a hand through her hair. 'But, you know, Scott and I, we always just got each other. Even the whole werewolf thing was surprisingly easy to navigate. So having to work at it is weird and I don’t like it.’

‘I know.’

‘But, ugh, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore at the moment, so, tell me, how did the meeting go without me?’ Her eyes drifting closed. ‘Were any windows harmed during the production of your Pack meeting?’

‘All windows are still intact.’

‘Well, that’s good to know. Not to mention kind of surprising.’

Derek hummed.

‘Oh, come on, Derek. Tell me. My lips are sealed. Pinky swear.’

He was quiet for a moment and Stiles could hear Derek moving around. She wondered what it was like for him, watching his childhood home, the place his family had died, being built up around him.

‘Scott would have gone through one if Danny hadn’t been here. Jackson got close, too.’

‘Now, that sounds more like the Pack I know and love,’ she said, a smile spreading across her face. She’d have to ask Danny what had happened when she saw him at school tomorrow.

Derek snorted.

‘So apart from Scott nearly taking a swan-dive out of a window, it went okay?’

‘…Yeah.’

Her eyes snapped open. ‘What was the pause for?’

‘What pause?’

‘The one before you answered.’

‘There was no pause.’

Stiles snorted. ‘Sorry dude, but no. There was a definite pause there and I want to know why.’

‘Stiles -‘

‘Derek, I know there’s something. Just tell me.’

‘When does your term end?’

Stiles nearly fell off her bed trying to glance at the calendar hanging by her desk, but she managed to defeat gravity and rolled back into the middle of her bed. ‘Next Thursday.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Jeez, Derek, that’s about as helpful as a marzipan dil – oh my God, it’s the end of term next week.’ The full force of what that meant hit her hard in the chest, making it hard to breathe for moment. ‘Do you know when they’ll be blowing into town?’

‘No.’

‘How about a guestimate?’

‘Sometime in the next week. Probably.’

She swallowed. ‘Did you tell the others? Wait, no. Stupid question retracted. If they weren’t supposed to know about our impending doom, then they certainly shouldn’t know its ETA.’

‘Yeah.’

Her stomach clenched. ‘You know, I am still really, really sorry that I -’

‘Stiles,’ Derek cut in sharply. ‘I’ve told you it’s fine.’

Stiles rubbed at her stomach, wishing she could get rid of the antsy feeling. ‘I know you keep saying that -’

‘If it wasn’t, I’d tell you.’

‘Okay, so you’re not exactly known for your awesome sugarcoating skills or your crappy sugarcoating skills, I’ll give you that, but -’

Derek sighed. ‘Look, Jackson is finally asking the questions I expected from him weeks ago -’

‘What kind of questions?’ she asked, curious, despite herself.

‘Good mostly.’ Derek sounded begrudgingly impressed. Stiles couldn’t imagine being impressed with Jackson. Begrudgingly or otherwise. ‘Some weird ones, too.’

Stiles opened her mouth and then shook her head even though Derek couldn’t see her. ‘No, you know what, I really don’t want to know what kind of weird questions Jackson’s been asking.’

‘Good call,’ Derek grumbled. ‘Scott has finally asked if Allison can come to Pack meetings.’

‘That happened today?’

‘Yeah.’

Stiles snorted. ‘Took him long enough.’

‘Yeah.’

She ran her tongue over her top lip and gave herself a shake. ‘What did you say?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘Well, of course.’ To her surprise she was relieved, even happy, that Scott had asked. ‘What about Lydia? Did Jackson ask about her?’

‘Not yet.’

She punched her pillow a couple of times, wishing it was Jackson. ‘Asshole.'

‘Are you and Jackson ever going to like each other?’ It didn’t sound like Derek was particularly bothered by the idea of two of his Pack hating each other, more amused.

‘Seems unlikely,’ she told him breezily. ‘But really not important right now. Why are you telling me these things?'

‘They shouldn’t have known,’ he said slowly, as though choosing his words carefully. ‘But I can’t deny that they’ve pulled their fingers out since they found out.’

‘Okay, I’m confused. Is that your way of saying you’re glad I can’t keep my heartbeat steady? Because I’ve gotta be honest, that doesn’t sound -’ A long, continuous growl interrupted her. ‘Yeah, see? That’s what I thought,’ she told him, rubbing absently at the goosebumps on her arms.

‘I –‘ Derek huffed impatiently. ‘I just wanted you to know.’

‘Well, okay then,’ Stiles said, feeling as though she was definitely missing something important.

‘I should –‘

‘Oh, before you hang up, can I ask you something?’ she said, rolling off the bed and grabbing her sleeping clothes.

‘Could I stop you even if I wanted to?’

‘You could hang up,’ she pointed out, turning on the speaker while she shimmied out of her jeans and pulled on her sweatpants.

‘Ask your question,’ he sighed.

She shrugged out of her shirt and yanked her t-shirt over her head. ‘Well, you know how Jackson is a giant douche and hasn’t talked to Lydia about, like, anything of a wolfy nature?’ Unclasping her bra, she sighed in relief and rolled her shoulders, throwing it in the general direction of the laundry hamper.

‘Stiles, what are you doing?’

‘Getting changed for bed,’ she told him, slipping her t-shirt over her head and pulling it down. ‘My bra was cutting into my boobs like it’s eighteenth century France.’

Derek made a choking noise before he spoke. ‘What about Lydia?’

‘Well, I was talking to her –‘

‘Oh God.’

‘Shut your face.’ She balled up her jeans and shirts, and threw them, too. ‘You don’t even know Lydia to know if that’s a bad thing or not.’

‘I’ve heard the stories. From you. From Scott, but carry on.’

‘It kind of occurred to me, in the moment, you understand, that Jackson wasn’t the only person who could invite Lydia up to the house, so I kind of, you know. Invited her. To the house. To talk to you.’

There was silence on the other end of the phone.

‘But then I kind of thought that maybe I should have asked you first.’

‘Like hell you thought you should ask permission,’ Derek said, his amusement clear.

Stiles bit at her lip, trying to stop herself from smiling. ‘Okay, so Lydia wanted me to ask you first.’

‘But you decided to jump on in there anyway?’

‘If that’s how you want to phrase it, then sure.’ She flopped back on the bed. ‘I made an executive decision to try and speed this up and Lydia doesn’t believe I can invite her. That it has to be Jackson -’

‘It doesn’t.’

‘Yeah, I know that. Lydia doesn’t and Jackson isn’t exactly jumping to dissuade her of that notion.’

Derek sighed the sigh of the long-suffering. At least it wasn’t directed at her this time.

‘The thing is, Derek, Lydia needs to talk to you. She’ll never really admit it, but she’s about a billion times freaked out by the whole werewolf thing. Because, you know, the only time she’s seen a werewolf has been -’

Derek sighed. ‘Peter.’ His voice was muffled and she could imagine him rubbing a tired hand over his face.

‘Yeah.’ She shuddered. ‘Not exactly the best introduction ever to persons of a furry disposition. He did a number of epic proportions on her. It’s why she’s never around and why she avoids you in particular. And one of the main problems she and Jackson are having. Not that Jackson knows that because he’s being a dick, which isn’t exactly new, but still.’

‘You want me to talk to her?’

‘I know you don’t want to push her, make it worse, but, in this, I think Lydia needs a push. And I think Lydia knows that. I mean, I can tell her the in’s and out’s of the wolfy ways, but only you can show her that you’re different from Peter.’

There was a moment of silence before Derek made a noise of agreement. ‘Derek, what -?’

‘I’ll talk to her, Stiles,’ he said quickly, making her frown. ‘But I think it should wait until after Spring Break. It’s going to be an… uncertain, even unstable couple of weeks.’

Stiles let Derek’s silence slide for the time being. ‘If we waited for things to be normal in our lives, we’d never get anything done. I know we haven’t been exactly overrun with Tales of the Unexplained, but between Scott, Jackson and even me -’ Derek snorted. Stiles ignored him ‘- we’ve managed to keep the drama going.’

Derek huffed in amusement.

‘Plus, I hate to be the one to break it to you, dude, but once Lydia decides she wants to talk to you, she’ll talk to you whether you want to or not.’

There was silence that Stiles interrupted as sceptical.

‘Seriously, Derek, I’m not kidding. It’s probably best to plan on working by Lydia’s time table and not yours.’

‘I’m the Alpha.’ He probably meant for it to sound intimidating and authoritative, but he just sounded kinda petulant.

‘Sure you are, big guy,’ she said, not bothering to hide her amusement. Especially when he huffed in exasperation. ‘And she’s Lydia. No contest.’

‘Whenever she’s ready, Stiles, I’ll talk to her.’

‘Okay, that was easier than I’d imagined. Awesome.’ Which meant she could go back to thinking about Derek’s earlier silence. It wasn’t hard for her to guess where Derek’s thoughts had probably gone to. ‘So don’t kill me - metaphorically, of course, because we’re on the phone - and don’t, you know, come around and kill me after, because that’d be a lot of effort for so little reward -’

‘Stiles, you’re babbling.’

‘You don’t think you’re like Peter, do you?’ she asked in a rush. ‘Because you know that’s so incredibly wrong.’

‘Stiles,’ Derek growled, low and dangerous.

‘No, seriously, you’re going to listen to me on this. Peter scared the shit out of me on every level that exists and then some. You don’t and you never have.’

‘Stiles.’ This time Derek sounded weary and she hated that. If she were with him, she could ensure he knew she was telling him the truth and not convince himself she was lying over the phone, even when he swore he could always tell.

‘I know you don’t believe me, especially not over the phone, but you should remember that I wouldn’t sugarcoat it for you, either.’

‘I dread to think what your version of sugarcoating would be like.’

‘Probably about as pleasant as yours,’ she shot back. ‘But seriously, Derek -’

‘Stiles, just drop it.’

Stiles worried her lip between her teeth. ‘No, I don’t think I will. Don’t get me wrong, your creeper levels are high and you’re a scary guy at times, but you don’t make me want to crawl out of my skin and hide. Peter was a special kind of fucked up crazy and on your worst day you’re not even close to that.’

That he still hadn’t hung up on her gave her hope that he might listen and maybe believe what she was telling him.

‘I don’t know how to believe that,’ he said finally.

‘Then I need you to remember this; how I feel around you is the complete opposite of how I felt around Peter. I feel safe and I trust you.’

‘Stiles.’ On the phone she could hear Derek breathing raggedly. Dad would notice if she tried to sneak out, but maybe she could convince Derek to come see her. ‘I… I need to go for a run. Will you be okay if -’

‘You could come here,’ she interrupted.

‘I know. But I -’

‘Need to think, but need to make it easier. Like it is when you’re a wolf.’

‘Yeah. That’s - there aren’t many people who would understand that.’

‘Well, I’m awesome like that,’ she huffed.

‘You are,’ Derek said quietly and Stiles felt her breath catch in her chest at how intimate it felt. ‘But will you be okay?’

‘I’ll be fine,’ she assured him, trying to sound normal. ‘You go and run. But, and this is key, I see you tomorrow. Not a text. Not a call. But see you. And talk to you. You have to come and find me tomorrow, Derek.’

‘I promise.’

‘You do?’

‘I’ll find you before the end of tomorrow.’ He paused. ‘I’m not disappearing again.’

‘I know that. I didn’t think you would. I just want to see with my own two eyes that you’re okay after.’

‘...oh.’

‘It’s all part of that pesky thing where we’re friends and I care about you,’ she reminded him. ‘So, go. Run. But I see you tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow,’ Derek promised before hanging up.

With a sigh, Stiles fell back onto the bed and was seriously tempted to build a fort with her pillows, comforter and blankets, and just hide away from the world for a while. Downstairs she could hear dad moving around the kitchen and she heaved herself up. Being by herself wasn’t all that appealing right then.

Dad was in his armchair, settling in to watch CSI reruns as she walked in and he raised an eyebrow. He probably hadn’t expected to see her for the rest of the evening.

‘If you promise not to talk about certain people, I’ll watch that with you and let you rant about all the ways the show is wrong.’ She dropped onto the sofa and grabbed a cushion, hugging it to her.

He thought about it for a second. ‘I agree to your terms.’ Stiles had no idea what expression was on her face but he stood and joined her on the sofa, wrapping an arm around her shoulders without comment. ‘But only because these writers obviously didn’t do an hour of research between them.’

Stiles huffed out a laugh and snuggled into his side, head on his shoulder.

Chapter Text

‘Scott should be ready in about ten minutes,’ Allison said, giving Stiles an anxious smile.

When Allison had texted her first thing that morning with the idea for Stiles and Scott to meet after lacrosse, she’d agreed. Nervous, but looking forward to getting her best friend back.

‘Are you sure he wants to do this?’ Stiles asked, slamming her locker shut and hefting her rucksack onto her shoulder. ‘He hasn’t exactly been falling over himself to talk to me.’ If anything, he’d hardly looked at her all day, which made her think he was doing this because Allison wanted him to, rather than because he did.

‘He absolutely wants things to get back to normal between you two,’ Allison said, tucking her hair behind her ear.

‘That doesn’t exactly answer the question,’ Stiles pointed out.

‘He’s dragging his feet because he feels like an idiot and a bit of an ass.’

‘As he should,’ Stiles said, falling in next to Allison as they walked down the virtually empty corridor.

‘Well, yeah. But you’re both miserable and have been for a while.’

‘I know, but it’s not like it’s my fault. I didn’t ask Scott to act like this.’

‘I know you didn’t.’

‘I’m sensing a but, here.’

‘No, no buts,’ Allison said.

‘Are you sure?’ Stiles asked, eyes narrowed. ‘Because you look like you want to say something.’

‘I know. And I’m not apologising for Scott. Though I know it kind of sounds like I am,’ she said with a deprecating smile. ‘No buts, I promise. Only that Scott was worried about you with Derek. It doesn’t excuse how he acted, but -’

‘But it was all to do with Scott and how he felt,’ Stiles interrupted. ‘Not me. I get that he’s your boyfriend, but he was more concerned with the fact that he didn’t like Derek being near me, than the fact that Derek made me feel better.’

‘And I think he’s starting to realise that.’ At the edge of the lacrosse pitch Allison brought Stiles to a halt with a hand on her arm. ‘Stay here. Right here. Don’t leave.’

She looked more anxious than Stiles felt. But then, Stiles had spent most of the day checking her phone, hoping to see a text from Derek and getting more worried as the day went on and she heard nothing. If she hadn’t heard from Derek by the time she finished talking to Scott, she was going to drive up to the house.

‘You know, if he doesn’t turn up, that’s not on you,’ Stiles reassured her.

‘I’ll see you in a few minutes, then.’

‘Isn’t that a tad optimistic?’ she asked.

Allison smiled. ‘Trust me, Stiles. I’ll get him here.’

Stiles didn’t want to harsh on Allison’s powers of persuasion, which she was sure were impressive, but she thought it would take a little longer to convince Scott to come and talk to her. She held her tongue, though, and nodded, not wanting to appear ungrateful when Allison really didn’t need to be doing any of this.

With Allison gone she tried to work out what she was going to say to Scott, except her thoughts kept jumping to Derek and where he might be. Unable to keep still, she started pacing, her mind jumping all over the place. The next five minutes passed at a glacial pace, Stiles checking the time on her phone constantly. Her desire to sort things out with Scott kept smacking up against her need to make sure nothing had happened to Derek.

She checked her phone again and sighed with frustration. It wasn’t that she doubted Allison’s powers as such. But Scott could be stubborn. Stubborn to the point of boneheadedness. The rocky patch that Stiles and Scott were going through was unprecedented and was obviously throwing Scott off balance as much as it was Stiles and she didn’t think Scott was ready to talk it through yet.

After a while, her shoulder started to ache and she dropped her bag on the grass, collapsing next to it and sighing. Raising her hand to shield her eyes from the sun, she brought her phone up and squinted at the screen.

It had been nearly fifteen minutes already and Stiles wondered how the conversation between Allison and Scott was going. Part of her was sorely tempted to sneak off and listen in. But she didn’t know what she might hear and ignorance seemed far more preferable.

The sun was beating down and Stiles pushed herself off the ground long enough to struggle out of her hoodie and tipped her head back further. Two days from Spring Break and the air con in about half the school had gone on the fritz and she’d spent the last half hour sweating her way through a math class. But lying out here, with a light breeze ruffling her hair, it was just plain relaxing.

Stiles had no idea how long she lay in the middle of the field, drifting along, waiting to hear the clatter of Scott moving towards her, but she flailed as a shadow fell over her, cutting off the sun and cooling her immediately. Even with the lack of sun, Stiles had to shield her eyes as she blinked them open. The tall, broad frame towering over her was achingly familiar. As was the scowl gracing his face. It was the best thing she’d seen all day.

‘Hello with the warning noise, Mr. looming and brooding,’ Stiles said, unable to keep the relief from her voice.

‘I made noise,’ Derek huffed.

‘You really didn’t, but screw your noise levels. Are you -’

‘I’m fine, Stiles,’ he interrupted.

She reached out and wrapped a hand around his ankle, squinting up at him. ‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you couldn’t have sent a text saying that?’ she asked, giving his ankle a squeeze before letting go.

Confusion crossed his face. ‘But you said no texts.’

‘No, I said don’t text me - huh. Maybe I did say that. Okay, my bad. I wasn’t clear. What I meant was no lone text or phone call. Those are fine as long as you put in a personal appearance. And that’s especially true if you’re going to wait until the end of the day to come find me.’

There was a small smile on Derek’s lips and he nodded. ‘Duly noted.’

‘So, are you going to sit down or continue to loom like that?’ she asked, trying to block out the sun with a hand, as she squinted up at him.

Derek glanced around, a perplexed look on his face. ‘I’m honestly more curious about why you’re lying in the middle of a field.’

‘Lacrosse pitch.’

Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘I’m lying in the middle of the lacrosse pitch.’

‘It’s still a field.’

Stiles rolled her eyes. ‘Your point?’

‘Fine,’ he snapped, though there was no bite to it. ‘Why are you lying in the middle of the lacrosse pitch?’

‘Sit down and I’ll tell you.’

Derek shrugged out of his jacket letting it drop on the grass before he dropped gracefully onto the ground next to her, his long legs stretched out in front of him.

Stiles glanced away, her face feeling hot, despite the slight breeze.

‘Now I’m sitting. Why are you here?’

She sighed and waved a hand in the direction of the locker room. ‘Waiting for Scott.’

‘Have you two made up?’

Stiles snorted. ‘Not yet. That’s kind of what this is about. Allison is being the best girlfriend ever and running between us. After talking with dad, I gave in. She dragged me down here and now I’m waiting for Scott.’

He nudged her hand with his knee. ‘How long have you been waiting?’

‘Uh, I kind of lost track of time.’

‘It’s fifteen till five.’

‘Oh, wow. I’ve been here for a while.’ Wrinkling her nose, she scowled. ‘Can you at least tell if he’s still here?’

Derek cocked his head. After a moment he nodded. ‘Still here.’

‘Well, I guess that’s something.’

‘You can’t stay here forever,’ Derek pointed out.

‘Yeah, yeah, I know.’ She waved off whatever he was going to say next. ‘I knew it would take Allison a while to convince Scott, but then I kind of, you know…’

‘Fell asleep in the middle of a field,’ Derek supplied, his mouth twisting unhappily.

‘Well, yeah. But, I mean, he doesn’t need to be here, right? Unless he’s waiting me out. Or maybe he and Allison are busy and, God, hello to the imagery.’ She scrubbed at her eyes. ‘Ugh.’

‘Eloquent.’

‘Shut up and distract me.’ Realising how that sounded, Stiles felt her face flame. Scrambling to sit, she hurried to keep talking, words tripping out of her mouth. ‘Uh, by which I mean, tell me about last night’s pack meeting. I should know what I missed out on.’

‘Nothing all that exciting.’

Crossing her legs, Stiles leaned forward, elbows on her knees. Turning to look at Derek she arched an eyebrow. ‘“Nothing all that exciting” is why Scott and Jackson nearly went through windows?’

‘No, they nearly went through a window because they were both being idiots.’

‘What did they do?’

Derek rubbed a hand over his face, almost in resignation. ‘Jackson objected to me telling him to step up and take some responsibility.’

‘He listened to you say all that?’

‘Not really. That’s why I nearly put him through a window.’

Stiles laughed. ‘And Scott?’

Derek groaned and shook his head.

‘That good, huh?’

Derek leaned forward and his arm brushed against hers. ‘He might now believe me about his wolf, but that doesn’t make teaching him any easier.’

‘No, I don’t suppose it does.’

‘Do we have to keep talking about the pack meeting?’ Derek asked plaintively.

‘What would you prefer to talk about, then?’

‘I don’t care. As long as it’s not them.’

Stiles bumped her shoulder against Derek and grinned. ‘So how about you tell me why you’re here. I mean, I know I asked you to find me, but I thought it would be at my place before or after school.’

Derek shrugged. ‘Went to the mall. Had to get a new cell. Decided to stop in on my way back when I saw the Jeep.’

‘Somehow, I don’t think you’re turning into gadget boy, scrambling for the latest tech - that’s totally Jackson, fyi - so what happened?’

‘Old one broke.’

‘Thanks, Einstein, I guessed that. But how did it break? Hell, when did you break it? I was speaking to you last night.’

There was a beat before Derek spoke. ‘Stood on it.’

‘You stood on your cell,’ Stiles repeated slowly, injecting as much skepticism into her voice as she knew how. ‘Seriously? That’s what you’re going with here?’

Derek stared at her steadily, but Stiles got the distinct feeling that he was holding himself very still so he didn’t fidget under her dubious expression.

‘That is so code for threw it against the wall or I crushed it with my bare hands. Don’t think I don’t know that,’ she told him. ‘You’re like a fucking gazelle or a mountain goat. You don’t accidentally stand on anything.’

Derek cocked his head. ‘Did you just call me a gazelle?’

‘Uh?’ The way the Henley was clinging to Derek’s shoulders was entirely too distracting. ‘What?’

‘A gazelle and a mountain goat?’

‘They were compliments,’ she protested, dragging her eyes back up to his stupid face.

‘Really?’

‘Yeah, really. You can leap buildings in a single bound and all that jazz. I’ve never seen you falter. Except when you got shot and a wolfsbane bullet is a good reason to lose a step or two.’ Derek bent his knee, pressing it into her side, right where her t-shirt had ridden up slightly. If she had been about to say anything else, it died in her throat.

‘But a gazelle? You couldn’t have chosen a tiger or even a mountain lion?’

‘Oh my god. Are you seriously in a grump because I compared you to prey and not predators?’

‘They’re prey,’ Derek told her with a scowl.

‘You’re ridiculous,’ she told him, with a grin. For some reason she couldn’t look away from the hollow of Derek’s throat or his collarbone. It took her a second, but she gave herself a mental shake and she glanced away as she said, ‘But I’m right, aren’t I?’

‘About what?’

‘Your phone. Not,’ she added hastily, ‘that you have to tell me.’ After a month of accidentally discovering Derek’s secrets and pushing him to talk about them, maybe she should hold back on something as insignificant as a broken phone.

Momentarily lost in her thoughts ,she startled when Derek touched her wrist. ‘I threw it into the wall,’ he admitted, scowl firmly in place. ‘No windows were broken, but the wall was dented.’

‘Only you could break a wall with your phone.’ She leaned into Derek, resting her cheek on the warmth of Derek’s shoulder. ‘I don’t think Scott’s coming,’ she said with a resigned sigh. ‘He’d be here if he wanted to talk. And as much as I want to sort things out with him, I’m too annoyed to be here right now. And, like, is he even still here?’

Derek didn’t answer and Stiles sat up straighter so she could look at his face properly. ‘Derek?’ When he looked away she reached over and turned his head with a couple of fingers, vaguely surprised that he let her. ‘Derek, tell me.’

‘They left not long after I arrived.’

Stiles raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, that was nice of Allison to tell me,’ she grumbled. Letting her hand fall, Stiles grabbed her phone, unlocking it and sending a line of question marks to Allison. There was no immediate answer so Stiles shrugged and dropped the phone on the ground next to her.

‘Scott didn’t sound happy that I turned up.’

‘Ugh. He’s an idiot.’ She touched his arm. ‘But you know I’m happy you showed up, don’t you?’

A small smile pulled at Derek’s mouth, almost as though he couldn’t stop it. ‘Are you okay that he left?’

‘I’m angry that he stood me up, but… okay.’ She rubbed the back of her neck, turning a thought over in her head a couple of times. ‘Huh.’

Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘Ummm. Well, so. Apparently, I’m over Scott.’

It felt surprisingly good to say. Maybe even a little freeing. Like a weight had been lifted from her and she could breathe properly for the first time in years.

Scott was her best friend and she loved him. Somewhere along the line it had changed and she was no longer in love with him. Somehow, over the last few months, she’d fallen out of love with Scott and not even noticed.

Derek was watching her steadily and Stiles honestly had no idea what he was thinking. Though, if she had to guess, it probably went under the heading of information Derek wasn’t interested in.

‘I was kind of convinced that I was doomed to pine over him for the rest of ever, you know?’ She cocked her head. ‘And boy, that’s nowhere near as appealing as the movies try to make out to be. You were, like, totally right, too.’

‘About?’

‘That I would get over Scott.’ At the time she had thought Derek had been delusional, but she hadn’t known the complete story about Kate or that he was talking from a place of excruciatingly painful experience. ‘I thought I was destined to be Willow Rosenberg forever.’

‘Just like that?’

‘Excuse you, asshole?’ Stiles punched Derek hard on the thigh. When he didn’t even have the decency to pretend to flinch, she stuck out her tongue. ‘There is no “just like that” about it. It’s been anything but. I’ve been in love with Scott for over six years. Six whole years. That’s seventy two months. Three hundred and twenty one weeks. Two thousand one hundred and ninety days. No, wait. I forgot the leap years. Two thousand one hundred and ninety two days. That’s a really long time. Like, nearly half of my life.’

‘That’s a long time,’ Derek conceded.

‘I know. And I know this sounds sudden, but it doesn’t feel sudden.’ She shrugged helplessly. ‘Does that even make sense?’

‘Some.’

‘Cause, looking back, this has been happening for a while. Even if I don’t know why, exactly. It wasn’t him going all gaga over Allison, because I think we all know I could have run with that for years. It’s not the werewolf thing, either. Because I so obviously don’t give a flying fuck about that. I mean, I pretty much ignored him nearly killing me on a weekly basis.’

‘I’ll never understand how you’re okay with Scott nearly killing you all the time,’ Derek sighed.

‘Okay with it,’ she repeated with a disbelieving laugh. ‘I’m so not okay with it. The first time I was honest-to-god convinced I was going to die. And the second. And, well, all of them really.’

‘Then why -’

‘Because I get why it happens. Or, at least, I did until he started Kevin Costner-ing me and ignoring the fact that his wolf was controlling him. If he ignored that, then… And look, you don’t have any of those pesky urges to protect me, so if you manage not to have them, then -’

‘Says who?’

Stiles frowned as her train of thought was derailed. ‘Uh, what?’

‘Who says I don’t have the urge to protect you?’

‘Uh, the fact that somehow you’ve managed to be the least creepy person around me for a while now,’ Stiles said slowly. ‘That’s pretty indicative.’ She groaned. ‘Oh god, do you keep wanting to protect me?’

With a frown, Derek rolled onto his knees and placed his hands on her shoulders, eyebrows knitted together in a serious expression. ‘Stiles, you’re pack and I’m your Alpha. Of course I want to protect you.’

Stiles stared hard at him. ‘But, but you haven’t been doing the whole nine stalker yards thing. No following me places. No hanging around my garden.’

‘Maybe I’m just better at it than Scott,’ Derek suggested. His hand slipped down her arm and circled her wrist, making her shiver slightly.

‘Uh, you haven’t been, have you?’

‘No.’

‘Oh, thank god.’ Stiles nearly slumped against him in relief. ‘I don’t know what I’d do with three creepy werewolves keeping tabs on me. Two at a time is pretty much my limit.’

‘That doesn’t mean that I haven’t wanted to.’ Which Stiles knew should sound way more disturbing than she was finding it.

She cocked her head, curious. ‘So, why didn’t you?’

‘Like I said to Scott, I trust that you can look after yourself.’

She gave him a delighted grin. ‘I am pretty badass.’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘And you’ll be more badass when I start teaching you self defense.’

‘For real?’

With a huff Derek settled on the grass, facing her. ‘I said, didn’t I?’

‘Well, yeah, but.’ Derek’s thigh was an annoyingly distracting heat against hers and she found herself paying attention to how close they were sitting, rather than what she was trying to say.

‘But what?’

‘I didn’t realise you were serious.’

‘You didn’t realise that I was serious about making sure you could defend yourself?’

‘Well, when you put it like that, it sounds really dumb.’

‘That’s because it is.’

‘Okay, shut up. Point made.’

‘This weekend. Sunday afternoon. You come up to the house and we’ll start then.’

‘Uh, sure. Any particular time?’

Derek shook his head. ‘We’ll go up to the creek. Wear clothes that can get dirty.’

Stiles narrowed her eyes in suspicion. ‘Is this so you can push me in whenever I annoy you?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Shoving him, Stiles grinned. ‘Okay, so you think I’m a badass. What else?’ When Derek stared blankly she rolled her eyes. ‘You know, for why else you didn’t go all creeper wolf on me.’

‘I’m not ruled by my wolf instincts as strongly as a newly bitten wolf.’

‘Oh. That actually makes sense.’

‘Also, I haven’t needed to stalk you.’

‘Not that I would want you to, but, uh, why not?’

Derek gave her a pointed look.

‘What - oh, yeah.’ There had been the text messages, phone calls and the near daily visits. Not to mention some impromptu grooming and lots of cuddling. ‘I guess you haven’t. I suppose I should thank you for, well, not acting like I’m a damsel in distress.’

‘If there is one thing you’re not, Stiles, it’s a damsel in distress.’

‘You’re not just saying that to - wait, what am I saying? Of course you wouldn’t say something just to make someone feel better. Which, weirdly, makes me feel better. The fact that you’re being a grump reassures me.’

‘I’m not a grump.’

‘Sure you’re not,’ Stiles snorted. ‘You’re a regular array of sunshine, bunnies and rainbows. My bad.’

‘I like bunnies.’

Stiles laughed hard and loud. She fell against Derek’s shoulder and kept laughing. It took her a little while to stop and she lay there, giggling to herself every so often. When she felt Derek’s hand skim up her back and start stroking her hair, she leaned into it with a sigh.

‘I wasn’t being funny.’

Stiles looped her arms around Derek’s waist and snuggled closer. ‘You like eating bunnies. Don’t even lie.’

‘As I said: I like bunnies.’

Stiles started laughing again.

‘Shut up.’

‘So never going to happen.’

On the ground her phone vibrated and without moving from where she was, she cast around until her hand closed around it.

From: Hawkeye
To: Me
Sorry :-( He just couldn’t...

Stiles sighed.

From: Me
To: Hawkeye
Let me know when he’s ready to talk. I’ll be ready

Before she could hit send, Derek reached over and tilted the phone with a finger, humming non-committedly.

‘It seems better than being all bitchy about it,’ she said, feeling the need to explain. ‘Look, for all the lame high school drama we’re going through at the moment, he’s still my BFF. I want us to have our touching, friendship reaffirming lifetime movie moment sometime in the future.’

Derek tipped his chin towards the phone screen. ‘Got a reply.’

From: Hawkeye
To: Me
I’ll keep working on him

Still leaning on Derek, Stiles shrugged, and dropped the phone on the ground, more than happy to keep not thinking about Scott. She released a deep breath. ‘Okay, we should go now.’

‘Finally.’

Reluctantly, she pulled away from Derek and gathered her bag and hoodie. ‘Quit complaining,’ she told him. ‘You were the one who decided to stay and keep me company.’

Derek pushed gracefully to his feet, once again towering over Stiles, shading her from the sun. ‘You were the one who told me to distract you.’

‘I’m glad you aren’t mocking me even a little bit.’

‘Would I mock you?’ He sounded ridiculously fond as he said it and Stiles ignored the way it made her chest tighten.

‘Would you - of course you’d mock me. You mock me all the time, don’t even try to deny it,’ she said, accepting the hand he offered. ‘You just hope no-one else notices your snark in amongst all the glowering, frowning and looming.’

Derek yanked her to her feet, a steadying hand on her shoulder to stop her from falling into him. ‘Well, it appears as though you’ve got me pegged.’

‘You’re hilarious,’ Stiles said, punching him on the arm.

‘You keep saying that.’

‘I do, don’t I.’ Stiles grinned. ‘Weird, huh?’

‘If you’re not careful I’m going to think you mean it.’

‘Well, this is awkward because I already mean it.’

‘You’re ridiculous,’ Derek muttered, glancing away, but Stiles knew he was pleased because the tips of his ears had turned pink.

Feeling overly satisfied, Stiles let Derek steer her towards the parking lot. ‘Where are we going?’

‘I thought we could go back to the diner. Get some pancakes and waffles.’

‘I liked that place.’

‘I know.’

‘And I still have loads of questions about werewolf politics, you know,’ she said, patting her bag. ‘A notebook full of them. I just happen to have it with me.’

‘Of course you do,’ Derek said dryly, his hand settling in the small of her back. ‘What’s the likelihood of you letting me eat a few waffles before you start quizzing me?’

‘I could be persuaded.’

Derek’s hand slipped from her back and curled over her hip, making Stiles’ heart miss a beat. ‘What will it cost me?’

‘Oh.’ Stiles swayed into his side. ‘Now you mention it -’

‘You already have something?’

‘What can I say? I think fast on my feet.’ Before Derek could retort, Stiles kept talking. ‘So, Lydia spoke to me today.’

‘Is that unusual?’

‘Yes, but less so WBC.’

‘WBC?’

‘Before werewolves.’

‘Ah.’

‘And when I say less so, I mean it never fucking happened.’

Derek gently squeezed her hip. ‘I assume you’re telling me this because it’s something I’ll be interested in.’

‘She asked me to ask you if there was a time she could come up to the house.’

His hand spasmed against her side. ‘Already?’

‘I’m assuming you’d consider that interesting,’ she asked, ignoring the way his knuckles brushed against the skin just above her jeans.

‘Yeah. I wasn’t expecting…’

‘Well, like I told you, when Lydia decides she going to do something, she does it with no added second guessing.’

Sliding his hand up her back - which didn’t make her shiver at all - he settled his hand between her shoulder blades and propelled her once again towards his car. ‘Are you asking when I’m free?’

‘That’s the general idea. So,’ she prompted. ‘When are you free?’

Derek shrugged.

‘Well, that’s not even remotely helpful. Do you have a day, week, month? Year?’

Derek rolled his eyes. ‘Bring her by over the weekend.’

‘You are aware that the weekend still consists of two days, yeah?’

‘Saturday.’

‘That’s better.’ She patted his arm. ‘I knew you could do it.’

Derek glared, but it was rendered null and void by the tops of his ears, which had evolved from pink to red.

‘Was it really that hard? Giving me an actual answer.’

‘Shut up.’

Stiles laughed. ‘So, Saturday? Before you spend a good portion of Sunday throwing me in the creek?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I’ll let Lydia know.’ She paused, phone in hand. ‘Do you think she’d prefer Jackson - well, no, not Jackson because they’re having issues - but someone other than me with her?’

‘No.’

‘Really? Because, honestly, we might have shared some shit-scary life moments, but even so, Lydia? Not my biggest fan.’

‘Stiles, you’re driving her up to my house on Saturday.’ He nodded at the phone. ‘Tell her that.’

‘I get the feeling you’re not giving us a choice about this,’ she said as she typed.

‘You think?’

‘Has anyone ever told you that you have severe control issues?’ she asked, pocketing her phone because she really didn’t expect a reply from Lydia any time soon. She winced as her stomach rumbled.

Derek shot her an amused look as he pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the car. ‘Hungry?’

‘Starving! I fell asleep in the middle of a field in case you’ve forgotten.’

‘So now it’s a field, is it?’ Derek asked, with a smirk as he opened the passenger door to the Camaro.

‘Oh, shut up, you.’

‘I think we need to get you some food. Get your witty repertoire back up to scratch.’

‘You are nowhere near as funny as you think you are.’ She paused, one leg already in the car. ‘But what about my Jeep?’

‘I’ll bring you back here after,’ Derek promised.

Stiles shrugged. ‘Works for me.’ She finished getting into the car and Derek pushed the door shut.

As Derek made his way around the car, Stiles glanced over at the lacrosse field one last time. It was… weird, realising she was no longer in love with Scott. But weird didn’t mean it wasn’t a relief. Watching Derek climb in and close the door, she thought she could get used to it.

Chapter Text

So, back when I finished 'All the Weird Kids...' my BFF said that it was probably a good idea to post a fake chapter telling everyone who has this bookmarked when part 2 is up and running.

I thought that was an excellent idea.

And then promptly forgot.

But I'm remembering now. So, this is just to let anyone who didn't know, that part two, 'Maybe Together We Can Get Somewhere', is now two chapters in. Just use the navigationy stuff to get there, because it's way quicker than me trying to work out how to add a link. Trust me.