People change. Stiles has heard all about it before, but now he believes. Because Stiles has seen.
A prime example of change is glaring at him from less than a foot away, which is not nearly far enough.
Stiles had liked Erica better when he barely knew she existed, and yeah, that, right there, is why he can't begrudge her the drastic personality adjustment, the mouse-to-tiger thing that had gone down. He is in no way compelled to like the new (and improved?) version of Erica, though.
"Stilinski," she all but snarls at him.
Stiles presses himself a little more firmly against the lockers. If anyone asks, he's leaning casually; that's totally what he's doing.
"You're free on Saturday," she says, looking a strange mix of bored and menacing.
It should, by all means, be a question. Erica doesn't know his schedule. (Does she know his schedule? Has she been taking lessons from Derek? In, like, Stalking For The Lycanthropically Advantaged 101?)
"Uh," Stiles says.
"Great," Erica says. Judging by the eye roll that accompanies the statement, she does not actually consider his agreement anything close to great. And hey, when had Stiles communicated any sort of agreement here?
"I'll pick you up at seven," Erica tells him.
With one poke of her apparently steel-enforced forefinger against his sternum — which ow — she storms off.
Stiles first closes his mouth, then goes to find Scott.
"I'm telling you, I don't know! She wasn't even... I mean, she didn't look enthusiastic about it. Shouldn't a girl look enthusiastic when she asks you out? Like she actually wants to go out with you?"
He looks at Scott expectantly. Scott seems surprised to be asked for his opinion this early in the conversation. Stiles can't blame him. History has taught them both a thing or two about Stiles' long-running monologues.
Scott shrugs. "Sure. Anything else would be weird."
"Right?" Stiles says. "On second thought, what if she just wants a study buddy for the chemistry test next week? Maybe I completely misunderstood what was going on? I mean, werewolves, right? We all know their communication skills also go the way of the wolf as soon as they're turned."
When Scott narrows his eyes at him, Stiles hastens to add, "Present company excluded, of course."
Before Scott can comment, Stiles' mind goes off on another tangent. "Maybe that's a prerequisite to deserving the bite — poor interpersonal skills? It's not a bad theory. We have plenty of examples at hand."
Scott doesn't interrupt him, per se, but he's perfected the art of spotting a temporary lull in Stiles' neverending rambles. "Erica asked you to pick her up, right?"
Stiles shakes his head vehemently. "Not even! She's picking me up. Does that count? As a date?"
Scott tilts his head, considering. "It's a date," he says, like he has any in-depth knowledge on the subject. Like Allison wasn't the first girl he's ever been on a date with. Why had Stiles consulted him on this again? He can't recall, but he's got a sneaking suspicion that Scott is still right.
"Fuck my life," he says, and his head drops forward against Jackson's locker.
Ow. That hurt. A lot. And if he got blood on the door, there'd be hell to pay later. Fuck his life twice over.
"You could give it a try?" Scott suggests, like that's in any way a sensible idea.
"With Erica?" Stiles pushes back from the locker and flails his arms. "Are you out of your mind? She's hot, super hot. I'm not denying that. But she's terrifying, okay? She's going to eat me alive! Clothes and shoes and hair and everything! Would you want to go out with her?"
Scott raises his hands, palms out. "Dude, I'm not touching that. Anything I say now, Allison will figure it out later. She has a nose for these things."
"More like you crack and spill as soon as she bats her bambi eyes at you."
"I resent that," Scott says. "Allison and I share a healthy relationship with mutual trust and respect."
It takes Stiles a moment to recognize this as a joke. He snorts. "Have you been reading Cosmo again?"
"It's all Deaton has in the waiting room," Scott says, grinning.
"Sure," Stiles says and laughs.
Saturday night comes far too soon.
The doorbell rings at ten minutes after seven, because new!Erica couldn't be punctual if her life depended on it.
Stiles opens the door wearing ratty jeans and an old Star Wars t-shirt. It's a statement. He had decided not to go to any trouble for this date that he doesn't actually want to go on. It took him a good hour of serious contemplation to come to this decision, and he needed another thirty minutes to decide on clothes that communicated how little effort he put into his appearance. The irony isn't lost on him.
"Hey," Erica says. Her lack of enthusiasm would be noteworthy, if Stiles had any brain capacity left to take note of it. His brain is temporarily otherwise occupied, because Erica's wearing... well. Not a lot.
Stiles feels his eyes go wide. Erica's shirt and skirt cover all the strategically important places, at least, but they're showing off her gorgeous body in a way that's... Well, the phrase "every guy's wet dream" comes to mind. Also, any movie he's ever seen that featured the world's oldest profession.
"Erica?" Stiles hisses. "What the hell? You can't show up here dressed like a..." His brain pulls the emergency brake just in time. "Like that." He gestures.
"Like what?" she asks, eyes narrowed, because she lives to torture him.
His dad, apparently never having heard the story about curiosity and the cat, chooses that moment to step out onto the porch. His eyebrows rise in much the same manner that Stiles' had.
Stiles suppresses a sigh. "Dad, this is Erica, my classmate. Erica, my dad."
She stretches out her hand and says, "Mister Stilinski."
The move is innocent enough and much more polite than Stiles would have expected, but it looks flirty on her. It totally looks like she's flirting. With his dad. Right before going on a date with Stiles. Seriously? Is flirty and inappropriate her default setting now?
His dad seems just as confused as he shakes Erica's hand, and Stiles prays for the earth to swallow him up.
"Uh," Stiles says. "We should..."
"Yes. We should." Erica takes Stiles' hand and smiles brightly at his dad. It's so fake, but his dad doesn't seem to notice. It's a world of unfair, seeing her big fat lies fly under his dad's radar, when even Stiles' half-truths regularly crash and burn.
She tugs him down the driveway towards the car parked behind the Jeep.
"You kids have fun," his dad shouts after them.
"Will do!" Stiles lies. At Erica, he whispers, "Derek let you borrow the Camaro?"
Erica lets go of his hand and mutters something about being owed a lot more than that, and wow, Stiles really doesn't want to ask. Okay, that's bullshit, he totally does, but he doesn't get the opportunity, because Derek chooses that moment to emerge from the bushes across the street with twigs in his hair and fury in his eyes.
"Erica," Derek barks, closing in on them. "What do you think you're doing?"
Stiles stares in utter bewilderment and with no small amount of alarm. "Derek," he says and gestures towards the front door. "You remember my dad?" He lowers his voice to a hiss. "The sheriff? Who arrested you a time or two?"
That makes the unfriendly neighborhood Alpha freeze in his tracks.
"Derek Hale," his dad says, voice without any inflection. Stiles knows this voice. He had learned to fear this voice early in life.
"Sheriff," Derek says, watching as the sheriff descends the steps and approaches them, before turning to Erica. "We're leaving."
"Yeah, why?" Stiles echoes. He doesn't take kindly to other people making decisions for him. Derek should know that. Stiles makes it a point to always let his displeasure show as blatantly as possible. "We can go on a date if we want."
Derek stares at him like he wants to call him on the lie. Except it isn't a lie. All Stiles said was that they could go on a date if they wanted. Complete truth.
"But Derek. You said I should..." Erica starts to say. She sounds petulant, and it's not attractive on her. No, not even in that skirt.
"No," Derek interrupts her hastily. "We're going." He's sporting crazy eyes all of a sudden, and not the red alpha kind. More like the twitchy, this-close-to-bolting type. Why he's suddenly so nervous, Stiles has no idea.
His dad gets this frown on his face that usually precedes boring lectures and/or Stiles getting grounded for long stretches of time and says, "You don't think it should be their decision whether they go out or not?"
"She took the car," Derek says through clenched teeth.
"Borrowed," Erica says, inspecting her nails.
Derek glares at her. "Without permission."
"Well, do you want to press charges?" the sheriff asks pointedly.
Derek thinks for a minute and grits out, "No."
Stiles watches the stand-off with fascination. Derek is totally losing this one. And if he didn't know better, he'd say his dad is enjoying himself. But that would be childish, and surely the Sheriff of Beacon Hills is above such things.
"Okay then," his dad says. "Stiles, Erica, do you want to go on your date now?"
Stiles realizes (late, why so late?) that this is his out. This is his out.
"Um, not even a little bit?" he says, at the same time that Erica says, "Not especially."
His dad looks briefly shocked at Stiles' display of abysmally bad manners, but not all that surprised at the gist of the message. His eyes fall on the mock-pout Erica aims in Stiles' direction, and he shakes his head, like he can't make sense of anything anymore.
He's not the only one.
"Then why did you ask me out in the first place?" Stiles asks, exasperated. He's been stressing out about this for days, frantically searching for ways to let her down easy and keep all his internal organs.
Erica's eyes flick over to Derek. "Derek wanted me to..."
"I didn't mean Stiles! Not Stiles!" There's a hint of a growl in Derek's voice, something not quite human that he better tone down right the fuck now. Stiles tries to communicate this via glare.
"Yeah, I got that," Erica says. She has the nerve to look relieved.
And that's it. That's it. "Not Stiles what?" Stiles asks dangerously.
Erica opens her mouth, then remembers that the sheriff is watching. Stiles can see the exact moment she realizes.
"I, uh, asked Derek for advice on who he thought would be a good guy to date?" Erica says.
Points for effort, major deduction for making it sound like a question. Stiles has no idea what's going on here, but that's definitely not it. The look Derek sends her is positively murderous, so he must be equally unimpressed.
His dad is starting to lose his patience, like he always does when confronted with obvious lies. Stiles can tell by the deepening crease between his eyebrows.
Derek, unfortunately, cannot.
He jumps on Erica's already derailed train. "I didn't mean... It's nothing personal," he says slowly. Obviously at a loss for anything else to explain himself, he stares at Erica. With a put-upon sigh, she comes to his rescue.
"You're totally a good guy, Stiles," she says, sounding bored. "You'll be good for someone else. Not me. Someone else. Who is not me."
"Okay, fine, I get it," Stiles says, rolling his eyes.
"You do?" his dad says skeptically.
Honestly? Stiles doesn't. But he has a feeling he wouldn't like it if he did. And that his dad would like it even less.
After that, everyone makes an effort to look at no one in particular, with the exception of his dad, who is still trying to figure things out with his usual method of staring imploringly at all the people involved.
"So is anyone going to go on a date tonight, or not?" his dad finally asks.
Erica snorts. "Not unless Stiles wants to take Derek."
She's joking, she totally is, but Stiles is floored by this suggestion. Floored, dumbfounded, shocked, intrigued, in this order. Never before has he pondered the possibility. Never has his imagination steered him in this direction. Never ever has he thought about Derek in that way.
Uh, yeah. Liar, liar. His pants would so be on fire right now, if lying to himself counted.
"Um," Stiles says.
Derek jerks his head around to look at Stiles, looking at him with the single-minded intensity he usually only spares for people aiming guns at him, particularly guns loaded with wolfsbane bullets.
It makes Stiles go hot and cold and swallow hard in quick succession.
He stares back into that ridiculously handsome face with its laughably pretty eyes and the ludicrously attractive body that Stiles has of course noticed before. He's not dead. There was simply no reason to entertain any thoughts about it. There were lots of reasons not to. Derek killing him in inventive and violent ways if he ever smelled the slightest whiff of evidence was only one of them.
They stare at each other.
"You've got to be kidding me," Erica says.
"What?" his dad asks.
They're both ignored in favor of more staring. Stiles could stare at Derek all day. It's no hardship, and Derek gives as good as he gets.
"Good god," his dad says at some point. "Stiles, are you serious?"
Stiles blinks and turns. "Dad?"
His dad looks at him, then at Derek, then back at him. "You and Derek?"
Stiles does not wince guiltily. Nothing wince-worthy even happened. Nope. He also doesn't check up on Derek and find that he's wearing his confused face, the one that Stiles hasn't seen nearly enough of and that's maybe a little bit adorable.
"Fine," his dad says. "Be home by eleven. And then we'll sit down and have a talk. All three of us."
Derek blinks in slow motion. Stiles understands where he's coming from, because, wait, did he really just hear that?
"I'm not happy with this. Don't think I'm happy with this," his dad stresses, looking heart-attack levels of serious. "But I'm not kidding myself here. You'd find a way. You've been sneaking around for months already. At least now I know why. And you." He turns to Derek, whose shoulders stiffen in alarm, which is pretty hilarious to watch. "I remember you from before, back when... I remember your family. You weren't a bad person. And I know my son. For all his less than stellar decisions lately, Stiles is usually a good judge of character."
"But we're not..." Derek tries, looking more than a little uncomfortable.
"We're really, really not..." Stiles chimes in, and yes, he's getting desperate here.
"Right," his dad says. "Like I haven't heard enough lies."
That shuts Stiles up so fast he almost bites his tongue.
It shuts Derek up by proxy, like he's tuned into Stiles' comfort level and reacting accordingly. This is new. It's new and all kinds of awesome, and Stiles takes a moment to marvel at this turn of events.
"Eleven," his dad reminds them. "You stay in public, no funny business, and we talk about the rest of the rules when you get back."
With that, the sheriff strides back into the house, leaving his underage son alone with the former murder suspect, because Erica had bailed at some point, clever girl that she is.
Derek looks at Stiles. "I have no idea what just happened," he says.
"Me neither," Stiles says brightly and waits to wake up from this seriously bizarre dream.
A minute or two later, they're still standing around in the driveway, looking at each other.
"One thing I know is: you're totally buying," Stiles says and climbs into the Camaro's passenger seat.
Derek glares at him, but follows.
They go to the movies. Stiles has been reliably informed that's what a lot of people do when they go on a date.
The evening is an exercise in one-sided conversation, because Stiles has never met a silence he couldn't beat into submission. Derek looks entertained, at least. Well, maybe not entertained. He's neither grumpy nor brooding the entire time, which Stiles counts as a win.
Derek gets him home with half an hour to spare, and his dad insists on their Talk. Talk with a huge, terrifying, capital 'T.' It makes Derek look like he wants to impale himself on a wolfsbane-coated stake. Multiple times.
Stiles can sympathize. Any conversation that includes himself and features the discussion of condoms and "sexual activities" should always happen way outside of his father's hearing range.
All in all, it goes better than could be expected. Not that Stiles had expected this conversation to ever take place.
He shows Derek to the door, after.
"So," Stiles says, and wow, these are realms of strange they have never seen before, and they've seen plenty. It's either really great, or so fucking awful he wants to stab himself with... something. That wolfsbane-coated stake of Derek's would do fine.
At least he's is not alone in this. Derek is shifting from one foot to the other on the doorstep, already half-turned and half out the door. He doesn't leave, though. "The movie was okay," he says.
"No. No way," Stiles says, incredulous. "Next time, I get to choose. Your taste in movies is appalling."
Derek raises an eyebrow. "Yeah? That means you're buying, too."
Stiles takes a deep breath, as soon as he remembers it's a thing he needs to do regularly. "Fine," he says.
Derek's eyes widen. He nods minutely, and then he's gone.
It's not a common way to arrange for a second date, but they've bonded over suffering through an extremely awkward display of fatherly concern.
It works for them.
A week later, Stiles forgets the title of whatever well-chosen movie they saw as soon as they leave the theater, but he remembers the moment he got Derek to laugh out loud with a whispered comment.
Plus, there's bonus making out in the Camaro afterwards. Making out. With Derek. Stiles cannot stress this enough.
It happens right after Derek fails to turn the ignition key in the parking lot, eyes on Stiles, eyes always on Stiles, and right before Stiles gets around to asking what's taking him so long, did Erica forget to put gas in the tank after stealing his car again?
Derek must sense the words coming and finds the perfect method to shut Stiles up.
It's warm and strange, then hot and awesome, and on the whole much, much better than Stiles could have imagined. And he'd imagined. A lot.
"What are we doing, exactly?" Stiles asks when he manages to pull away.
Derek tilts his head, frowning. "It's good," he says finally.
Stiles grins, because, Derek. Derek is expressing his feelings. Why had Stiles ever doubted? Changes are fantastic.
He threads his fingers through the hair on the back of Derek's neck. "Are you saying that I'm good for you?"
A glower is the only answer he gets. It's not even tinted with red.
"That's totally what you're saying," Stiles gloats and leans in again.
Derek doesn't protest, and, really, that's enough of an answer.