The one thing Stiles hated about the full moon were the puppy piles after. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the occasional cuddle, but he was still a teenage boy and his body tended to misinterpret things like that no matter how much his brain tried to tell it differently. He was grateful for the fact that, since werewolves didn’t have much privacy due to their enhanced senses, they didn’t comment on some of the things they saw, heard, or smelled. Otherwise Stiles would know way too much about what Boyd and Erica (or Scott and Isaac, god forbid) did in the bedroom, and if that wasn’t a good enough reason to not want to be a werewolf, Stiles didn’t know what was.
The bottom line was, no matter how aroused Stiles got from being surrounded, rubbed against, and petted by a group of cuddly werewolves, no one mentioned it. Until the morning Stiles woke up alone in the big bed and nearly fell out of it when he sat up and saw Derek sitting in a chair he’d pulled up to the end of the bed. Back ramrod straight, arms crossed over his chest, the usual glower directed in Stiles’ direction.
“What’s wrong?” Stiles said. “Did I snore and keep you up?”
Derek’s face did something Stiles couldn’t decipher. “No. Your scent did,” he said baldly.
Stiles felt heat creeping up his neck. “I thought we didn’t talk about that,” he said. “Isn’t the first rule of puppy piles that we don’t talk about what happens during puppy piles?”
Derek’s jaw worked. “It’s distracting.”
“More than everyone else?” Stiles said.
“Yes. The time the pack spends together after the full moon is supposed to be rejuvenating, a time to reconnect. They can’t do that if they’re distracted by your scent.”
Stiles snorted. “So what do you want me to do, skip the puppy piles?”
Derek just stared at him and it hit Stiles like a blow.
“You want me to skip the puppy piles,” Stiles said, his voice empty.
“Yes,” Derek ground out.
Stiles hoped his body wasn’t giving away how much he’d just been gutted by Derek’s request, but he knew the hope was futile. “Fine,” he said, keeping his voice as steady as he could manage.
Stiles pushed the covers back and got out of the bed. He made it to the attached bath without his legs giving out on him. Stiles relieved himself, and washed his hands, and splashed cold water on his face. He tried not to look at himself in the mirror, didn’t want to see the pain writ large across his face. He didn’t have a very good poker face, and even if he was able to fool everyone with a plastered on smile and a shadow of his usual babble, they’d hear it in his heartbeat, smell the hurt on him. There was no way he’d be able to sit through breakfast with them all and not give away everything he was feeling.
Stiles had never been so glad for anything as he was when he stepped back into the bedroom and found it empty. He shoved his legs into his jeans, jammed his feet into his sneakers, and found his jacket underneath the pile of clothing in the corner. Stiles crept down the stairs, making as little noise as possible. Instead of turning towards the kitchen, Stiles continued out the front door, closing it as quietly behind him as he could.
There would be no way he could hide the sound of Betty starting up and pulling down the driveway. Hopefully they’d all be too caught up in demolishing the huge breakfast that always followed the night of the full moon to wonder why Stiles had left without joining them. Maybe they wouldn’t even notice that he wasn’t there.
As if to mock him, Stiles’ phone vibrated in his pocket. Stiles didn’t bother taking it out to read the message. Mainly because he didn’t know what he’d say in reply to explain his early departure. And the fact that Scott would have to get a ride home with someone else now.
Stiles made an aborted motion that mimicked hitting his head against the steering wheel. “Shit.” He’d have to think up a really good excuse and come up with an apology that would be acceptable for abandoning Scott. Not that Scott would mind spending the extra time with Isaac.
When Stiles got home he was too restless to sit still long enough to do his homework, or even to watch a movie. To keep busy, and to keep his mind from dwelling on the fact that Derek had uninvited him from the puppy piles, Stiles did a load of laundry. Then he baked a batch of chocolate jumbles. Then he cleaned the bathroom, which was a chore he hated more than all others.
When he finished folding the last t-shirt, Stiles fell onto the couch and buried his face in the cushion. Behind his closed eyelids Derek’s face appeared, wearing the expression that had greeted Stiles earlier that day when he’d woken in Derek’s . . . in the big bed. Stiles pushed himself back up off the couch. He straightened his dad’s magazines and alphabetized the DVDs.
By the time his dad got home from work, the cookies had been frosted (some sat on a plate for them to eat that evening, and some had been hidden at the back of the freezer for another day, but most had been bagged up to take to school the next day to share with Scott and the others as sort of an apology), and dinner was cooling on top of the stove.
“Wow,” Stiles’ dad said as he took in the counters that had been cleared of junk and wiped down, and the steaming pan of bread that Stiles had stuffed hot dogs into before baking. (Clearly Stiles had been in the mood for comfort food.) “I got time to wash up?”
“Yes,” Stiles said. “The hot dog bread needs to cool a little bit anyway.”
When his dad came back down there was a glassy look in his eyes.
“What?” Stiles said.
“You cleaned the bathroom,” his dad said, as if he still couldn’t believe it even though he’d seen it with his own eyes.
Stiles shrugged. “I was restless. After last night.”
His dad looked worried. “You’re not . . . ?”
“Still fully human,” Stiles said. “And staying that way.”
“Where’d you go?” Scott asked Stiles the next morning.
“I promised my dad I’d do some chores,” Stiles lied.
Non-existent poker face aside, Scott was pretty easy to lie to, even as a werewolf, because he was distracted by yet another pretty face. This time Isaac Lahey’s. They’d both blushed red hot when Stiles had once voiced that thought out loud.
“I forgot to tell you,” Stiles said, ignoring the fact that, rather than paying attention to him, Scott was searching the crowd for a glimpse of the face that went with the heartbeat he’d heard, or the scent that had reached his nose. (Stiles didn’t really want to know. It was supposedly all very romantic, but, whatever.)
That all changed when Stiles produced the bag of cookies from his backpack. “I brought this as an apology.”
Scott stared hard at the bag, as if merely with the intensity of his gaze he could move the cookies from the sealed bag to his mouth. “Those are all for me?”
“If you can keep them away from the others,” Stiles said.
As if to prove his point, Isaac appeared at Scott’s shoulder. “Ooh, cookies!”
“Stiles made them. As an apology for leaving me behind yesterday.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I made sure he had a ride.”
“I thought you might,” Stiles said dryly.
Scott and Isaac blushed and refused to look at each other or Stiles. The awkward moment ended when Stiles opened the bag and they all caught a whiff of the cookies. Scott and Isaac both shoveled a couple cookies into their gullet without pausing to breathe, as if they wanted to devour as many as possible before the others caught wind of them. Literally.
“The only thing that would make this better,” Scott said as he licked frosting off his fingers, “is a cold glass of milk.”
“Oh, I forgot! I don’t know how cold it is,” Stiles said as he produced a plastic drink container he’d filled with milk.
“You are a god,” Scott declared as he twisted off the cover and drank deeply.
“Genius, maybe,” Stiles said.
Isaac gave Stiles a shy smile.
Scott shared the milk with Isaac and they both had another cookie to finish the milk. That was Scott’s story, anyway. Scott hid the rest of the cookies in his locker the entire morning, but broke them out to share at lunch. Boyd and Erica didn’t hesitate to indulge, and even Lydia took one.
Even though Jackson’s parents had moved away from Beacon Hills last summer, taking the love of Lydia’s life with them, she continued to hang out with the pack. Lydia claimed that she only lowered herself to hang with them because she wanted to understand what had been done to her. Stiles thought she was lonely, and that maybe she’d developed a bit of a soft spot for them.
When the next pack night came around, Stiles still hadn’t thought of a good excuse to miss it. Not that he wanted to miss it, he just thought it would be really awkward, what with Derek not wanting him there on full moons anymore. Stiles’ dad and Melissa McCall were having dinner (“As the only parents in Beacon Hills who know about werewolves, sometimes we just need to get together and talk,” Stiles’ dad had told him once.), so Stiles couldn’t use him as an excuse. Nor could he use having an exam to study for because Scott knew he never studied. Besides, he shared most of his classes with one or more of the werewolves, so they’d know he was lying about having an exam in any case.
In the end Stiles went, prepared to plaster on his happy face. He didn’t need it, because he actually managed to have fun. He stuffed himself into the corner of the couch next to Scott so he didn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities. He forgot about his self-consciousness as the others joked around and watched the movies it had been Erica’s turn to choose. (She was a huge Johnny Depp fan, so they had to sit through Chocolat and Cry-Baby. Stiles had thought he might want to slit his wrists, but to his surprise they weren’t bad. Even if there was singing.)
No one acted as if Stiles’ presence was unwanted, or as if he disturbed them in some way. Except for Derek, but that was normal. Derek acted that way towards everyone, even his precious betas. Even Scott, though he’d practically begged (if growling and snarling could be taken as begging) him to join his pack. Right now he sat stiff in a chair he’d dragged in from the kitchen, glowering at the tv screen as if it had done him wrong (probably it had) despite the fact that he’d been the one to institute pack nights, telling them all that they needed to bond.
There were times that Stiles forgot all about being banned from puppy piles, but then he’d glanced at Derek and it would all come back to him in Technicolor detail. He wondered if he smelled as miserable as he felt in those moments, because Scott kept giving him strange looks. He distracted Scott by commenting on the movie, or instigating a game of tossing popcorn towards Lydia’s head. They missed horribly each time. Until the time they didn’t. Lydia turned her head to glare at them, and Stiles and Scott each unrepentantly pointed the finger at the other.
Lydia glanced at the popcorn littering the floor around her, and then turned her gaze back to the movie. “Payback’s a bitch, boys.”
Payback was a bitch. Two days later Stiles and Scott had already forgotten about the incident, and Lydia never brought it up, not even to make them squirm and sweat. Stiles shoould’ve known something was up from that alone. He realized his mistake when he and Scott got out of the shower after lacrosse practice one afternoon to discover that all of their clothes, including their practice uniforms, had been removed from their lockers. Lydia (because it could only be Lydia) had kindly left them each a cheerleader uniform to wear instead. It was that or the skimpy towels the school provided.
Stiles sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”
“They’re all waiting outside,” Scott told him.
They pulled on the little skirts and the sleeveless tops that left both their mid-drifts bare.
“She could’ve at least given us the panties, too,” Stiles complained as he studied his reflection in the mirror to see how much of his ass was sticking out.
Scott just gave him a look.
Eventually they bit the bullet and went out. The hallway was crowded with their friends, and a few teammates who’d stayed to enjoy the show. Isaac wore a guilty expression, which meant he’d been too afraid of Lydia to stop her, or to give them a heads up. (Stiles didn’t blame him.) Erica, on the other hand, wore a huge grin and looked like she was enjoying every moment of their humiliation.
“Nice legs, Stilinski,” Erica said as Lydia recorded the moment for posterity. (Well, Lydia just stood there looking superior; she had someone else doing the actual recording.)
“Was that Greenburg?” Scott asked Stiles.
“I think so.”
“Are we done now?” Scott plaintively asked Lydia.
“Yes,” Lydia chirped happily. “They can have their clothes back now.”
Danny pushed his way through the gathered crowd and dropped Stiles’ and Scott’s clothes at their feet.
“Et tu?” Stiles said.
Danny just shrugged and shot a look at Lydia. Yeah, Stiles got it. No one told Lydia Martin ‘no’. Or got popcorn in her hair, apparently.
Stiles continued to attend pack night each week, and no one appeared to notice that anything was amiss. The night of the full moon arrived and Scott told Stiles he’d see him later at Derek’s. Stiles didn’t correct him.
Stiles’ dad stopped on his way to the shower when he saw that Stiles still sitting in his bedroom. He frowned. “Not going out to Derek’s tonight?”
“No,” Stiles said. “Not tonight. Wanna order pizza and watch a movie?”
His dad looked at him for a moment, then nodded his head. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“I’ll order the pizza,” Stiles said (which meant there would be vegetables on it). “You can choose the movie.”
“I’d rather order the pizza,” Stiles’ dad muttered as he continued on to his bedroom.
“That’s why you’re not,” Stiles shot back.
He ended up ordering a veggie pie with sausage on half.
Stiles got to school late the next morning, arriving just before the first bell rang. He knew the others would probably be running late, but he wanted to make sure they didn’t have time to corner him about last night. His planning was for naught because Scott was waiting for Stiles beside his locker.
“Morning,” Stiles said, ignoring the look Scott was giving him as he threw his books into the locker, holding onto what he needed for first period.
“You weren’t there last night,” Scott said accusingly.
Stiles’ hand shook a little bit, but he kept his voice steady. “No.”
Stiles looked around to make sure that no one was listening in. Not that the precaution mattered with werewolf hearing in the mix. “Derek didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Derek told me he didn’t want me taking part in puppy piles anymore.”
Scott’s face went red with anger. “He what?” Scott said, his voice deceptively soft.
“Don’t make a big deal about it,” Stiles said as he grabbed Scott’s arm. “He said my . . . scent was a distraction to you guys.”
Scott stopped looking like he wanted to hit someone and just looked confused. “He said what?”
“It’s no big deal, okay?” Stiles said, even though it was a very big deal.
“Then why didn’t you tell me?” Scott said, exhibiting a logic he rarely used.
Stiles sighed. “Okay, the truth is, it hurt my feelings when he told me to stay away, but I’d do anything to help you guys, and if you need me to stay away sometimes, I’ll do that, too.”
Scott looked like he wanted to say something, but Stiles went on. “Don’t tell the others, okay?”
“On one condition,” Scott said. “Hug,” he finished when Stiles raised an eyebrow.
Before Stiles could answer, Scott wrapped Stiles up in his arms and copped a sniff. Then he stood back and nodded to himself, as if satisfied with the way Stiles smelled.
“Let’s go,” Scott said, and threw his arm over Stiles’ shoulder for the walk to class.
At lunch Erica eyed Stiles up.
“What?” Stiles said self-consciously.
“We missed you last night.”
“Oh. Well. I missed you guys, too.” Stiles was surprised to discover that it was true. He’d never realized before he had to miss one how much he’d needed the puppy piles, too.
Erica nodded. “Don’t do it again.”
Scott and Isaac sat Stiles between them. They both moved their chairs closer so their legs were pressed against Stiles’, and their arms brushed. Erica stretched out her legs until her feet tangled with Stiles’. A moment later Boyd’s feet joined the mix.
The next month was more of the same. Except for the pixies.
When road signs and street signs were moved around, the Sheriff’s Department at first blamed the incidents on kids pulling pranks. Then traffic lights were tampered with, causing several accidents. Only by luck were there no serious injuries or fatalities. When nothing showed up on the cameras, and they couldn’t find any kind of computer malfunction, Stiles’ dad turned to Derek.
“It’s not that the supernatural is my first thought in cases like these, but I’d like to rule it out before I allocate a lot of manpower into trying to solve this case.”
So Derek went on a sniffing expedition. And discovered that a nest of pixies had moved into the corner of the Beacon Hills Preserve the furthest from Hale land. They had to wait until the night of the full moon to go after them.
“Why?” Stiles asked.
“They’ll be dancing under the full moon,” Derek explained, “so they’ll be distracted. But more to the point, it’s an important ritual, so none will miss it. We can make sure we get them all.”
Thankfully they didn’t have long to wait, and the only other prank the pixies pulled was to somehow affect the telephones, so that if you tried to call for pizza one night, for example, you were instead directed to the local strip club. On the night of the full moon Derek led them to the clearing where the nest of pixies had made their home. There were about a dozen of them, and they were indeed dancing.
“Are they naked?” Scott asked in a horrified whisper.
Even so, the pixies didn’t notice them until they stepped out of the trees and surrounded them. One by one the pixies stopped dancing, the last two having to be elbowed by another before they realized they had company.
One of the pixies stepped forward and bowed. “Alpha Hale. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Stiles had to avert his eyes because they were definitely naked. And unlike the fairies they’d run into once, anatomically correct.
“You’re trespassing on Hale pack territory,” Derek snarled.
“Just one little corner,” the pixie whined.
“You’ve been causing mischief.”
The pixie raised its hands in a ‘what can you do?’ gesture. “It’s our nature.”
“It draws unwanted attention to us,” Derek growled.
“That wasn’t our intention, Alpha Hale,” the pixie said.
“You need to leave Beacon Hills,” Derek commanded.
“But . . . we only just got here,” the pixie said.
“You’ve been here long enough to cause us trouble.”
“Can’t we just eat them and get this over with?” Erica asked, bored and looking for a fight.
“There will be no eating of anyone,” Stiles said. He took a step towards Derek to emphasize that point and fell flat on his face.
The pixies didn’t bother to hide their giggles; the werewolves growled and shifted restlessly.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Stiles said when he saw what had caused his fall. “Eat them all.”
The giggles abruptly cut off. “We’re just having fun,” the spokes-pixie said.
“Your fun is causing us problems,” Derek said. “You need to leave.”
“We’ll be good,” the pixie promised.
“It’s not in your nature,” Stiles muttered as he stood up and brushed himself off after fixing his shoelaces.
“Well, that’s true,” the pixie admitted.
“Look,” Derek said. “We don’t want to hurt you . . . .”
“Speak for yourself,” Erica said as she flexed her claws.
Derek shot her a glare and then continued. “. . . but we will do whatever it takes to protect our territory. Now, what happens next is up to you,” he told the pixies.
“We like it here,” the pixie said, and there was more steel behind his words this time.
“That’s unfortunate,” Derek said.
Stiles didn’t even see the signal before the werewolves shifted and attacked. Derek went for the leader. Scott let one pixie slip past him when it used its nakedness as a weapon. Stiles knocked the pixie to the ground and pinned it with the end of his bat.
“You gonna be okay?” Stiles asked Scott, managing to keep a straight face. Mostly.
“Euww,” Scott said. “Euww!”
“Oh, the big manly werewolf,” the pixie taunted.
Stiles put a foot against its neck and the taunts dried up.
The battle was over quickly. The pixies had been disabled, but not killed, much to Erica’s displeasure. Derek held the talkative pixie in the air, his hand curled around the pixie’s throat. Based on the color of its skin, the pixie was having some trouble breathing.
“As I was saying,” Derek growled. “We would prefer not to kill anyone. But we will if we have to. Starting with you. Is remaining in Beacon Hills worth it?”
The pixie tried to speak.
“I think you might have to . . . .” Stiles gestured towards his own throat.
Derek loosened his grip and the pixie dropped to the ground. It remained on its knees as it filled its lungs with air. Eventually the pixie spoke.
“We apologize for any offense,” the pixie said, its voice rough from the rawness of its throat. “You know, it’s customary to offer a gift in return for a pixie’s agreement to vacate an area,” the pixie added slyly.
“If they weren’t trespassing in the first place,” Derek said. “And if they hadn’t already received the gift of their lives,” he growled. “Which offer might still be rescinded.”
Erica snapped her teeth at the pixie pinned beneath her boot and it squealed.
“No, no,” the pixie said. “That won’t be necessary. We’ll leave.”
“And don’t return,” Derek snarled.
They waited there while the pixies dressed and gathered up their possessions. The pixies stood in a close circle. The pixie that had done all the talking spoke a few words in a language Stiles didn’t recognize, and they all winked out of sight.
“Are they really gone?” Stiles asked.
As one, Derek and the others raised their noses into the air and sniffed. Stiles stifled a giggle.
“They’re gone,” Derek announced.
The others seemed to agree with his pronouncement.
“Well,” Stiles said. He relaxed his stance and loosened his grip on the bat. “That was anti-climactic.”
All eyes turned to Stiles.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m glad they’re gone, I just thought there’d be more of a fight to make it happen.”
“Yeah,” Erica said, her voice full of disappointment.
“They’re pixies,” Derek said. “They do mischief, not battle.”
Derek started walking and everyone else fell into step. Stiles just fell.
“Fucking pixies,” he muttered.
The betas raced through the woods, wresting with each other and chasing game they flushed in an attempt to work off their moon-fueled aggression. Derek kept pace with Stiles and placed a call to the Sheriff to let him know they’d sent the pixies on their way without anyone (or anything) getting hurt or killed.
“But I’ll keep an eye out for their return, just in case,” Derek promised. Stiles’ dad must’ve said something about him because Derek glanced at Stiles before answering. “Stiles is fine,” Derek assured Stiles’ dad. His voice was even, but Stiles thought he could detect the hint of a smirk.
Stiles kicked the ground in aggravation. “Stupid pixies.”
When they reached the Hale house, the others had arrived ahead of them. Erica and Isaac were wrestling on the front lawn. Scott and Boyd shouted encouragement to their respective S.O. (and trashed-talked their opponent) even as they took odds on the outcome. Isaac was wiry and surprisingly strong, but Erica wasn’t above cheating. The match ended with Isaac clutching his nuts (and the other guys present wincing as if they’d been kneed) and declaring herself the winner. No one argued.
“It was winner’s choice, right?” Erica said. Without waiting for anyone to respond, she turned to Stiles and gave him a smile that made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. “I choose Stiles.”
“Whoa, wait, what? I wasn’t even here,” Stiles protested.
Derek growled low in his throat.
“Besides, I was just leaving . . . .”
“You can’t leave,” Erica said. “It’s full moon. Besides, I’ve claimed you as my prize.”
Erica gave Derek a look that clearly said ‘what are you going to do about it?’ and then dragged Stiles towards the house. Stiles threw Derek a look over his shoulder that said ‘do something!’ but Derek didn’t move.
Stiles turned his attention back to Erica. “What exactly does that mean?”
Erica’s grin was all teeth, the effects of the full moon still clinging to her. “Don’t worry,” she drawled. “I won’t hurt you. Much.”
What Erica did was take Stiles upstairs and toss him into the middle of the big bed.
“Shoes off,” she reminded him after the fact.
(For someone who’d once lived in the burnt out shell of his childhood home, Derek was a stickler for ‘no shoes on the furniture’.)
Stiles kicked off his sneakers while Erica toed off her boots and skinned out of the tank top she’d worn for the confrontation with the pixies. She put on a loose t-shirt and skinned out of her leather pants, all without any self-consciousness on her part. Which was fine, because Stiles had enough self-consciousness for both of them. Before things could get awkward, though (more awkward?), the others appeared. The guys stripped down to their boxers and then climbed onto the bed. Stiles was snug between Erica and Scott, with Boyd and Isaac on the outside.
“I should really . . . ,” Stiles tried again.
Erica pressed her fingers to Stiles’ lips. “You’re not going anywhere. Get the lights, will you?” she went on.
Only then did Stiles notice that Derek had entered the room. Derek stared hard at the five of them, though Stiles felt like he was the one on the receiving end of it. Instead of ordering Stiles out, as he’d expected, Derek peeled off his t-shirt. Stiles couldn’t avert his eyes; he watched until Derek had stripped down to his boxer briefs. When Derek turned away to hit the light, Stiles’ eyes drank in the sight of his back, the tattoo between his shoulders.
“Oh god,” Stiles groaned softly, turning his head to muffle the sounds in Erica’s neck.
Erica chuckled, almost in camaraderie, and patted Stiles’ shoulder. Scott snuffled against Stiles’ neck.
“That tickles,” Stiles complained, then, “Scott!” when he felt Scott’s fingers dig into his ribs.
“Not me,” Scott said, showing Stiles his hand.
While fighting off the tickling fingers, Stiles almost missed Derek’s weight settling onto the mattress behind Isaac. Stiles’ body reacted. “Sorry,” he whispered miserably into Erica’s neck.
Erica rubbed Stiles’ arm. “Don’t be sorry. I like it,” she added.
“You like the way I smell?”
Boyd snorted. “Why do you think she dresses the way she does? Gets all the boy’s hormones a raging. Sometimes the school smells like one big orgy.”
Scott and Isaac agreed, with much less pleasure than Erica took in it. “It’s awful,” Scott said.
“Are you complaining?” Erica asked, tipping her head back.
“Not at all, baby,” Boyd said, and did something that made Erica moan.
“Oh god,” Stiles said. “Suddenly I feel really uncomfortable.”
“Only now?” Isaac said, and Erica reached over Stiles and Scott to swat him.
They slapped at each other until Derek snapped at them to settle down. Moments later even breathing surrounded Stiles. He thought he might wait a few minutes to make sure they were really asleep before trying to sneak out. He woke up to the scent of bacon frying.
Stiles grabbed a couple pieces of bacon and a slice of buttered toast, slapping them together for a bacon sandwich, on his way out of the house. He couldn’t stay for breakfast because he had to go home to shower and change his clothes before school.
Erica cornered Stiles after school let out for the day to ask why he’d rushed off that morning. When Stiles told her the reason, she asked why he hadn’t brought a change of clothes so he could shower there, like they normally did.
“Because I wasn’t planning on staying,” Stiles said. He figured there was no sense in keeping it a secret, since they’d all notice when he didn’t show up on any more full moon nights. He’d only been there last night because of the pixies, after all.
“That’s what I thought,” Erica said, her gaze on Stiles as if she was trying to figure something out. “Why not? I know you enjoy it.”
“Apparently a little bit too much,” Stiles muttered. “Derek said my scent was distracting. For you guys.”
Erica frowned. “Derek said that?”
“That your scent was distracting . . . .”
“Yes,” Stiles said. “Do we really need to . . . ?”
“. . . to us?” Erica went on as if Stiles hadn’t interrupted her.
“What are you getting at?”
“Your scent isn’t distracting. Not to me,” Erica said. “I mean, it’s nice, and I enjoy knowing I can, you know . . . .”
Stiles blushed. “Yeah, I really think I do.”
“But you’re not distracting. Well, not in a bad way.” She smirked at him. “Yo, Boyd,” Erica called out. “Does Stiles’ scent distract you?”
“Oh my god, Erica!”
“No,” Isaac said, shooting a confused look at Scott.
“No. Stiles is . . . Stiles.”
“Hmm,” Erica said.
“Well, if your scent doesn’t distract me, or Boyd, or Isaac, or Scott, that leaves only one person it could distract.”
“Who?” Stiles said.
Scott slapped Stiles upside the head. “Even I can figure that one out.”
“Derek?” Stiles said. “But why?”
“I’m going to tell you something you can’t know because you don’t have our sense of smell,” Erica said. “I normally wouldn’t do this, but I think we need to even the playing field here.”
“What playing field?”
Erica ignored the question and said, “You’re not the only one who smells like arousal on full moon nights.”
Stiles looked at each of them in turn. Snuggled up to their S.O.s had to elicit a hard wired response in them. “All of you?” Stiles said.
“Yes,” Erica said. “All of us.”
“Okay,” Stiles said, even more confused now.
“All of us,” Scott repeated.
“Including Derek,” Isaac said when it appeared that Stiles still hadn’t gotten it.
“Oh. But why would Derek . . . ? Is it an Alpha thing?” Stiles asked, excitement about finding out something more about werewolves shoving his confusion over this entire discussion aside for the moment.
“Wow,” Isaac said. “I thought you were supposed to be the smart one.”
“Well, I’m certainly not telling him,” Scott said. “I want no part in encouraging . . . anything.”
Erica rolled her eyes at Scott. “You’d rather have him think we’re bothered by his scent?”
“Well, no,” Scott said. “But can’t we just tell him that without, you know, telling him anything else?” he whined.
“Okay,” Erica said easily. “Then explain to Stiles why Derek lied to him.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said. “Why?”
“Because he’s a coward,” Scott said. “And frankly, so am I, so . . . .” He mimed zipping his lips.
“Fine. Since you’re a coward, and Stiles is a little slow on the uptake here, let me spell it out for you. Derek lied to you, Stiles. He told you that your scent, specifically your arousal . . . .”
Stiles blushed despite the matter-of-fact way Erica said it.
“. . . bothered us. But we’re telling you that it doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t bother us.” She indicated the four of them. “I’ve also told you that Derek smells like arousal the nights you puppy pile with us.”
Derek must love that everyone had started calling them puppy piles at Stiles’ instigation.
“Can you really not add two and two together here?” Erica said, exasperated.
“I can,” Stiles said. “But I’m pretty sure I’m getting five.”
A smirk spread across Erica’s face. “I’m pretty sure you’re not.”
“But . . . that would mean . . . .”
The others looked at him expectantly.
“That’s impossible,” Stiles said.
“We believe six impossible things before breakfast every day,” Erica proudly misquoted.
“Who knew that pixies were real?” Isaac said.
“Or werewolves,” Boyd added wryly.
“Or that your dad would end up actually liking Derek,” Scott said, which got a nod from everyone present.
“Yeah, but this,” Stiles said. “This is . . . .” He couldn’t think a word for most impossiblest thing ever. Sure, Derek was hot, and Stiles’ body might have taken notice on occasion, but surely Stiles would’ve noticed if Derek was noticing him back. Wouldn’t he? Still, Derek had lied to him, and that deserved an explanation.
Stiles chickened out on going to Derek’s that afternoon. He told himself it was because his dad would be expecting him home (he liked to spend the evening after a full moon with Stiles whenever he could), but deep down he knew the truth. He was a . . . .
“Coward!” Boyd said, hiding the word in a fake cough behind his hand.
“What does it even matter to you guys?” Stiles said.
“The arousal you two put off could power a third world country,” Erica said.
Scott nodded his unhappy agreement.
“And Derek’s obviously not going to make a move, so that means it’s up to you,” Erica said, as if it was decided.
“What makes you think I even want . . . . I mean, sure, Derek’s hot, but he’s kind of a jerk.”
Stiles felt a little bit bad at the lie. Telling Stiles to stay away on full moon nights was the jerkiest thing Derek had done in a while. And now that Stiles knew Derek was reacting like he used to (ie, defensively), he could see where it had come from.
“Oh please,” Erica said. “Two words. Sexual. Tension.”
Stiles blushed. “There is no sexual tension.” He looked to Scott for help, but Scott was looking off into the distance as if he wished he was somewhere, anywhere, else. “Help me out here, Scott,” Stiles said. “Tell her.”
“I’m pleading the fifth,” Scott said.
“Wha–? You can’t plead the fifth!”
“You can’t lie to a werewolf,” Erica said.
“I lie to Scott all the time,” Stiles said.
“That means,” Erica said. “When you said there was no sexual tension?”
“Yeah?” Stiles said, dreading the answer.
“Lie,” Isaac said.
Erica shrugged her agreement.
“Oh god,” Stiles groaned. “I hate you all.”
“Another lie,” Erica said smugly.
“So, you lied to me,” Stiles said.
Derek hadn’t stop his push-ups when Stiles approached, and he didn’t stop them now when Stiles spoke, but Stiles did notice the smooth motions stutter before Derek recovered himself.
“I told the others why I missed full moon night that one time. Did you really thing they wouldn’t notice? Weren’t going to wonder? To ask?”
Derek got to his feet and started doing pull-ups, his back to Stiles.
“Apparently my scent doesn’t actually bother them.” Stiles leaned his back against the wall beside the doorway Derek was using for his pull-ups. “That only leaves you. So logic would indicate that my scent bothers you.”
Stiles glanced up at Derek’s face – he stared straight ahead stonily.
“The only question is, why? And I could only think of one reason.”
Derek set his feet on the floor. “I’m going for a run.”
“You mean you’re running away. Is it really so horrible?” Stiles asked. When Derek didn’t respond, he went on. “Do you really not want me around?”
Derek left, the door closing softly behind him.
“Well, I guess that answers that question,” Stiles said to himself.
Stiles skipped the next pack movie night, and when Derek called to ask Stiles to do some research he didn’t bother to ask what was going on. Instead of going over to Derek’s house to deliver the report in person, Stiles called him and gave him a run-down over the phone, and then e-mailed him with everything he’d found.
“Anything weird going on in town?” Stiles asked his dad.
“Not that I know of. Why?”
Stiles shrugged. “I did some research for Derek.”
“He didn’t tell you why?”
“Derek never tells me why,” Stiles said. It wasn’t completely true, but it felt that way now.
“I’m sure you’ll find out when you go over.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said. “I’m sure I will.”
“Isn’t it movie night?” Stiles’ dad asked.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, keeping his eyes on his textbook as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.
“Aren’t you going?”
“No. I’ve got homework.”
His dad was silent for a moment. “You missed the last movie night, too.”
Stiles looked at his dad. “Keeping track?”
“Hard not to notice when you stop hanging out with your friends.”
“I see Scott, Isaac, Erica, and Boyd at school.”
“But not Derek,” Stiles’ dad said. “Did he do something?”
Stiles snorted. “No. Why be proactive when you can just sit and watch life pass you by?”
“Am I supposed to know what that means?”
“No, I guess not.”
“I know Derek likes you a lot,” Stiles’ dad ventured carefully, as if he was stepping onto an iced over pond and wasn’t sure of his footing. Or whether the ice was gonna hold.
“Therein lies the problem,” Stiles said.
“You’re not interested?” Stiles’ dad said with a hint of relief in his voice.
“Oh, I’m interested,” Stiles said. “I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? A rock would be interested. But Derek apparently thinks that being interested in me is a bad idea. Probably second only to dating Kate Argent. It kind of kills the mood, you know?”
“There was mood?” Stiles’ dad said dangerously.
“Did Derek touch you . . . inappropriately?”
Stiles gaped at his dad, and then he started laughing. If there was an edge of hysteria to it, no one had to know.
“There was no touching,” Stiles said when he finally wound down. “We talked. Well, I talked. And Derek walked away, so . . . . That’s that, I guess.”
Stiles’ dad sighed. He sat on the edge of the bed and dropped his head into his hands. “I really don’t want to do this,” he said.
“Can’t possibly get any more uncomfortable in here than it already is,” Stiles said.
“I just hate to see you so upset,” his dad went on as if Stiles hadn’t even spoken. He took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. “Derek has talked to me. About you.”
“He what?” Stiles said.
“He promised me that he wouldn’t touch you until you were eighteen.”
“Say what now?”
“I can only imagine . . . oh god.” Stiles’ dad pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. When he lowered them he looked resolved, but no less uncomfortable. “I can only imagine that he pushed you away because you are making it difficult for him to keep that promise.”
“I’m making it difficult?” Stiles said. “How exactly is this my fault?”
“I think I’ve said enough,” Stiles’ dad said. He stood and walked quickly out the door.
Stiles thought about what his dad had said, what Erica had said, what Derek hadn’t said. “Oh.”
His dad poked his head back into the room. “I would just really appreciate it if you took things slow. I realize you’re a teenage boy, and that’s like asking you not to breathe, but . . . just don’t rush into anything. I’m going to go have a drink now and pretend this conversation never happened.”
“Good idea,” Stiles said, but he was speaking to an empty doorway.
Stiles began attending pack movie nights again. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, just showed up and took his usual spot next to Scott. The others didn’t make a fuss, either. Lydia just gave him a raised eyebrow of welcome. (He thought it was welcome.) Boyd high-fived him. Erica put him in a head lock until he cried uncle – which happened fairly quickly because his face was smooshed into her boobs, and no good could come of that. Ever. Isaac poured Stiles a drink, and Scott shared his bowl of popcorn.
Derek looked suspicious, but Stiles wasn’t sure if it was due to his normally suspicious nature, or specifically Stiles-related.
Stiles wanted to talk to Derek – talking was what Stiles did – but Derek would probably either run away again or stare stone faced at Stiles while Stiles talked at him instead of to him. They (whoever they were) said that actions spoke louder than words, and Derek was more of an action guy than a word guy anyway, so that seemed the best route to take. The only question was, what actions would Derek understand? Besides the obvious, which was sure to send Derek running back to NY with his little werewolf tail between his legs faster than Stiles could say, take me now, you big stud.
So Stiles continued to show up. And he stayed after to help clean up the mess they’d all created. He baked cookies and started taking leftovers to Derek’s house and leaving them in the refrigerator for him to find after Stiles had left. He brought this old bean bag chair out and threw it in a corner of the living room. (It became the most fought over seat on movie nights.) He also brought over a pillow that his mom had embroidered with ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is.’
“What are you doing?” Derek said when he saw Stiles setting the pillow in the corner of the chair Derek liked to sit in.
“Just adding some personal touches,” Stiles said as nonchalantly as he could. Before Derek could question him further, he added, “Oh, and I brought some cookies, too.”
Derek sniffed the air, helpless against Stiles’ cookies. “Snickerdoodle?”
“You said they were your favorites, right?”
Stiles ignored Derek’s glower of confusion (which was a cuter version of his usual glower) and greeted the others when they arrived just in the nick of time.
When it was Stiles’ turn to choose the movie, he picked ‘10 Things I Hate About You.’ Everyone groaned, including Erica, until Stiles reminded her that a young Heath Ledger was in it.
“‘10 Things I Hate About You’?” Derek said later.
Stiles looked up from where he was washing the last bowl to see Derek leaning a shoulder against the doorframe, arms crossed over his chest, a knowing look in his eyes.
Stiles blushed. “Too much?”
“Are you . . . nesting?” Derek asked.
“Nesting?” Stiles said. “I thought of it more as making sure you couldn’t get away from me. And wooing.”
Derek’s face went blank.
“I know you’re not . . . disinterested,” Stiles said. “You lied to me, and,” he said before Derek could interrupt. “My dad told me you’d spoken to him. About me.”
The blood drained out of Derek’s face. “He did what?”
“Whoa, you’re not going to pass out, are you?” Stiles said as he rushed over to help Derek to a chair, leaving wet hand prints on Derek’s t-shirt.
“I’m fine,” Derek said gruffly, even though he sat down.
“I’m not mad,” Stiles said. “Well, I’m a little mad that you talked to my dad instead of me, but . . . .”
Derek rubbed his hands over his face.
“What?” Stiles said.
“I had to talk to your dad,” Derek said.
“Because he’d started giving me the ‘I own a gun and know how to use it’ looks,” Derek said.
“Really?” Stiles said. “But why would he . . . ?”
Derek crossed his arms over his chest and turned his face away from Stiles.
“Oh my god,” Stiles said in wonder. “Did he see you gazing longingly at me?”
The corner of Derek’s jaw worked.
“Wow. He did? That’s . . . . Why didn’t I see it?”
“Because you weren’t looking for it,” Derek mumbled.
“And he was?” Stiles squeaked.
“Parents are always looking for things like that.”
“Huh. Good to know. But the point I’ve been trying to make is that you could, I don’t know, spend time with me without, you know, illegal touching. Here’s a crazy idea, we could talk. Or hold hands. Holding hands would be nice.”
“We’ve been doing that,” Derek growled.
“Holding hands? ‘Cause I think I’d remember . . . .”
“Just . . . hanging out,” Derek said angrily, as if him having any sort of feelings for Stiles was all Stiles’ fault.
“With the rest of the pack,” Stiles said. “We never had any one on one time.”
“Yes we did,” Derek said. “I had you come over so we could go over the Bestiary those times.”
“That was us hanging out?” Stiles said.
Derek tried to stare a hole into Stiles’ forehead, and Stiles had to bite back a grin.
“Of course it was. But then you kicked me out.”
“I did not kick you out,” Derek said. “Not from everything.”
“Just from one of the most important pack nights,” Stiles said.
Derek’s face took on an expression of guilt crossed with determination. “I had to.”
“Why?” Stiles said. “My animal magnetism become too great for you to resist?”
Derek glared at Stiles. But he didn’t deny it.
“It did?” Stiles said.
Derek’s glare grew even more glare-y.
Stiles grinned. “You can’t keep your hands off me,” he said.
“Right now I want to choke you,” Derek said.
“No you don’t,” Stiles said. He waggled his eyebrows. “You want some of this,” he said, sliding his hands over his body suggestively.
“I can’t imagine why,” Derek said dryly.
“I can’t either, actually,” Stiles said with a self-deprecating laugh.
Derek surged out of his chair, pushing Stiles back a step. “Don’t talk about yourself like that.”
“You should leave. Now. It’s getting late.”
“I haven’t finished the dishes,” Stiles said, gesturing towards the sink.
“I’ll finish up,” Derek said as he herded Stiles towards the front door. Derek plucked Stiles’ red hoodie off a hook by the door and shoved it at Stiles. “You left this here.”
“I wondered where I left this,” Stiles said, grinning at Derek to cover the lie.
Stiles wore the hoodie for three days straight, and the next time he was over to Derek’s, left it draped over the back of his favorite chair.
“I’d like to make an announcement,” Stiles said before they started the movie. When he had everyone’s attention, Stiles said, “Derek and I are dating.”
“You are?” Lydia said.
“We are?” Derek said.
The others just looked on with interest.
“Well, not technically,” Stiles said, “because our first date is tomorrow. You’re taking me out for ice cream.”
“Yes, you are. Okay, start the movie.”
Stiles stayed after to help clean up as had become his habit, even though he kept having to wipe the palms of his hands on his jeans, and he couldn’t eat any of the snacks because his throat had closed up.
“Ice cream?” Derek said.
“I like ice cream,” Stiles said without looking at Derek. “And since you won’t eat it off me, out of a cone will have to do.”
Derek growled. “Why do you say things like that?”
This time Stiles did look at him. “Because I can. Because I still can’t really quite believe it.”
Derek crossed the kitchen to Stiles in a blink. He took Stiles’ face in his hands. “One day I’m going to tie you to the bed and eat an entire hot fudge sundae off you. Including the cherry,” Derek added suggestively. And then he walked away and left Stiles standing there.
“Well fuck,” Stiles groaned, as he readjusted himself in his jeans.
Stiles did not get his ice cream cone the next night. What he got was stunned. The pixies had returned, and this time they’d brought some pixie friends. They kidnapped Stiles in an attempt to force Derek to negotiate with them. It didn’t take Derek long to come riding (or running, as it were) to the rescue. Boyd accompanied Derek as his second, but Derek negotiated only as long as it took the rest of the cavalry to arrive.
Stiles’ dad was a bit breathless from the run, but he’d been getting more of a cardio workout since he’d started hanging out with werewolves.
“Been better. They stunned me. I may have pissed my pants.”
“Which one stunned you?”
Stiles pointed out the pixie in question.
“Then he’s the first one I’ll shoot.”
“Thanks, dad,” Stiles said. “That means a lot to me.”
“What’s going on here?” one of the pixies demanded.
“You’re going to return Stiles to us,” Derek said as his betas sheathed and unsheathed their claws. “Or I’m going to kill you all.”
Derek roared to emphasize his point.
“We’re negotiating terms,” the pixie said.
“Those are my terms.”
“You can’t kill us,” one of the pixies said smugly.
Stiles’ dad raised his shotgun, and Stiles saw that all the betas were armed as well. “Iron’ll do the trick, won’t it?”
After their last encounter with the pixies, Stiles had done more research. It turned out that, since the pxies were closely related to fairies, they were also susceptible to iron.
Derek pulled a knife with an iron blade from where it had been tucked into the waistband at his lower back, and brandished it. As one, the pixies swallowed hard, and in a blink they disappeared.
“I really need a shower,” Stiles said.
When Stiles stepped into his bedroom after his shower, he found Derek sitting in his desk chair. “Geeze!” he said as he clutched his chest. “I thought we’d come to an agreement that there would be no more heart attacks.”
Stiles was glad he’d taken a pair of boxers into the bathroom with him. He turned away from Derek, embarrassed that the last time he’d seen Stiles, he’d smelled like urine and fear. (His dad had driven him home in the cruiser with the comment that, “It’d seen worse.”) Stiles hid his face in his drawer as he pulled out a t-shirt and put it on.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Derek said uncomfortably. “I just . . . .” He touched the lid of the plastic dish that sat on Stiles’ desk. “I brought you this.”
“What is it?” Stiles asked, even as he was reaching for it.
“I figured a cone would melt before I could get it here.”
Stiles removed the cover and unveiled a hot fudge sundae. “You brought me ice cream.”
Derek shrugged it off. “Least I could do. Well, you should get some rest.”
Derek was at the window before Stiles could make his tongue work. “You want my cherry?”
Derek froze, and then he slowly turned around. Stiles plucked the cherry off the top of the sundae and offered it to Derek. Derek took one step towards Stiles, and then another. He took the cherry from between Stiles’ fingers and popped it into his mouth, chewed. Stiles was mesmerized by the way Derek’s jaw worked, by the way he licked the whipped cream off his own fingers, and then off Stiles’.
Stiles just stood there after Derek had left. Until his dad poked his head into the room.
“Was Derek here?”
“He brought me ice cream,” Stiles said, still feeling a little bit gobsmacked. He looked down at the hot fudge swimming in melted ice cream.
“Oh. That’s nice.”
“We’re dating,” Stiles blurted out. “Well, tonight was supposed to be our first. Just dating. You know, taking it slow.”
His dad studied Stiles for a moment, and then nodded. “I’m glad.”
“That we’re dating, or that we’re taking it slow?”
The next night Derek picked Stiles up and took him out for burgers and milkshakes to make up for the missed ice cream date. At Stiles’ invitation Derek started coming over for dinner some nights, but only after he’d spoken to Stiles’ dad. Again. They watched movies in Stiles’ living room. They even held hands. And once, Stiles managed to sneak in a goodnight kiss.
The next full moon rolled around once more and Stiles was nervous. Not because he thought Derek still wouldn’t want him there, but because of what he had planned without telling Derek. Scott just gave Stiles a look when he placed himself on the outside of Isaac as they all piled onto the bed. When Derek came in he took note of the new sleeping arrangement, but he didn’t say anything, just stripped down and climbed onto the bed behind Stiles. He lay stiff for a moment, uncertain, until Stiles reached back for Derek’s hand and pulled his arm around himself. It took a few moments for Derek to allow himself to relax.
“Aww,” Erica said.
“Shut it,” Derek said, but there was no heat behind it. He buried his nose in Stiles’ neck and breathed in the scent of him. It made Stiles giggle.
“I can’t help it!” Stiles said when Scott groaned. “It tickles.”
“Sleep,” Derek commanded, as if his Alpha-ness could send them all into the land of nod just because he willed it so. He slid his hand up until it rested over Stiles’ heart. Stiles’ heart beat faster in response. “Sleep,” Derek repeated softly.
Stiles opened his mouth to protest that there was no way he was just going to be able to fall asleep. Especially with Derek lying next to him. Touching him. But Derek pressed his lips to the back of Stiles’ neck and the words dried up in his throat. Stiles laid his hand over top of Derek’s, and Derek spread his fingers so Stiles could fit his between them. Stiles closed his eyes. For a moment, it was as if it was just the two of them.
“Jesus, what did you eat tonight?” Isaac muttered.
Soon after everyone was plugging their noses and groaning.
“How something so vile can come out of someone so pretty, I’ll never know,” Boyd said sorrowfully, ducking a punch from Erica.
Stiles giggled, and pretty soon they were all giggling. Even Derek, though he tried to bury his giggles in Stiles’ neck so no one would know. Except for him and Stiles. Stiles realized then that Derek had always let him see more than he’d shown to anyone else. He lifted Derek’s hand to his mouth so he could kiss the tips of his fingers, and then placed it back over his heart.
Stiles closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to get back to that place where it had just been the two of them. This time Derek ripped one. Not for the first time, Stiles was glad he didn’t have werewolf senses.
“If you’re wondering,” Stiles said, “you’re not smelling like roses right now.”
“He does that every time,” Isaac said.
“You couldn’t have warned me?”
“Would it have mattered?” Scott said.
Stiles thought for a moment. “Probably not.”
“Probably not?” Derek growled.
“Hey, it’s a valid concern. But I’m fairly certain I would’ve been too blinded by the hotness factor for it to have mattered.”
“That’s a ringing endorsement,” Derek muttered. He tried to pull his hand away but Stiles wouldn’t let go.
“Aww, baby, don’t be mad,” Stiles said. “If it’s any consolation, yours didn’t smell as bad as Erica’s.”
“Yes,” Derek said dryly. “That was my biggest concern.”
“Well, now you can rest easy,” Stiles said, getting comfortable under Derek’s arm again.
Everyone fell silent and their breathing evened out, but Derek’s silence weighed the heaviest upon Stiles. He wasn’t entirely sure whether Derek had known he was teasing.
“Are you still awake?” Stiles whispered.
“Yes!” everyone answered.
“Um, I was talking to Derek,” Stiles said, blushing.
“No sweet nothings while we’re puppy piling,” Erica said. “There’s jealousy, and confusion, and pretty soon we’ve got an orgy going on.”
“We do?” Stiles said. She’d never told him that before.
Erica snorted. “No. We just don’t want to hear it.”
“Word,” Scott said.
“Well. I don’t want to hear yours, either. So there,” Stiles said.
“Good one,” Derek said, patting Stiles’ chest.
“I’ll think of a better one later,” Stiles said.
“I know you will,” Derek said.
Which was the same thing he always said when Stiles was doing research and they needed answers they didn’t have and Stiles promised to figure it out. I know you will.
“But for now, go to sleep, Stiles,” Derek growled against Stiles’ neck.
Yeah, like that was going to work, Stiles thought.
Stiles woke up sometime in the night, registered Derek’s hand over his heart, Derek’s breath against his neck. He closed his eyes again.
Puppy piling with Derek had just become his new favorite thing. Maybe next time they watched a movie together he could get Derek to cuddle. A puppy pile for two. Stiles made a mental note to work on that just before he fell asleep.