Stiles examines all the evidence in front of him. He considers all the factors. It’s complex, to be sure. There’s a lot of nuance. He can’t just leap to a decision that way he normally does; everything needs to be carefully examined and weighed.
After several long moments, he says, “Nope, not doing it.”
“Stiles!” Scott protests, employing the puppy eyes. “Come on. I can’t go shopping with Allison, because I don’t want to see her dress ahead of time.”
“Okay, right, I get that,” Stiles says, “but I don’t see why it means I have to go. She’s going with Lydia. I fail to see how my presence would be anything other than an annoying distraction.”
“Come on, don’t be like that. Allison likes you.”
“And I like her,” Stiles says. “She seems like a swell person. But I’m not going to sentence myself to carrying dresses for four hours in Macy’s for her, unless someone can give me an adequate reason.”
“I thought you’d want to go,” Scott says. “I mean. Lydia. Trying on dresses. You would have given your left nut for a chance like that a month ago.”
“Okay, fair,” Stiles says. He’s kind of forgotten about Lydia lately. Is he really that fickle? Or is Derek Hale really that gorgeous? Maybe he’s just been distracted from all the normal high school bullshit because of the far more important werewolf incidents. “Good lookin’ out, buddy. But no.”
“I kind of already told her that you wanted to go, though,” Scott says.
Stiles shrugs. “So I’ll tell her that I changed my mind.”
“No! What if she thinks I don’t want to go to the dance with her?”
“Oh my God!” Stiles says, because Scott is way too worried about this and he has more important things to deal with. But in the end, he says fine, because Scott is his brother and he wants him to be happy, and if for some reason this screwed things up with Allison, he would feel bad. So he agrees to go shopping with Allison and Lydia even though he’s not even planning to go to the stupid dance. Scott has made a variety of horrified noises about that, too, but Stiles hasn’t budged. He can’t think of many things worse than going by himself to a dance and watching Scott and Allison blush at each other for hours.
Lydia treats him like a shopping cart, which to be honest is one of the most civil interactions he’s ever had with Lydia. She seems determined to try on every dress in the store. Allison is a little more discerning, thank God. Stiles, who still isn’t even sure what he’s supposed to be doing, lets her run her own show.
A few minutes later, he hears a familiar voice saying, “That’s not your color.” He cranes his head around so he can see over the racks to see Peter smiling at Allison. “Sorry if that was intrusive, but considering your skin tone, I’d go lighter.”
“Because I’m pale?”
“Fair!” Peter says, still smiling, and now even holding up a dress as a suggestion like he actually cares about this. Well, maybe he does. Stiles supposes he doesn’t know for sure. Maybe Peter Hale honestly just saw a fashion emergency about to happen, and leapt into action. But he finds it far more likely that Peter has nefarious, revenge-oriented purposes, which is definitely not going to happen on his watch. He ditches Lydia’s dresses and scampers over to the customer service desk.
“To the owner of a Blue Mazda – ”
“That’s my car!” Allison practically dumps the dress back into Peter’s arms and runs off.
Stiles breathes a sigh of relief, but the moment is short-lived, because then Peter turns and looks right at him. Stiles freezes, like maybe Peter won’t see him if he doesn’t move. Of course, that doesn’t work at all, and Peter walks over and remarks casually, “Like father, like son, hm? I’m impressed, Stiles.”
“Yeah, well, you can stay away from my father,” Stiles retorts, and adds, “and you can stay away from my friends, too.”
“You deserve better friends, frankly,” Peter says. “So! A dance, hm? That sounds fun.”
“It sounds like one of the circles of Hell,” Stiles mutters.
Peter looks amused. “The second, I would assume. Lust.”
“Well, this conversation got awkward fast!” Stiles says, giving Peter a thumbs-up. “I’m out. If I see you near Allison again, I’m going to pepper spray you. Later!”
He finds Lydia, who excoriates him for leaving her dresses in a pile, and then Allison comes back in confused about how her car definitely wasn’t being towed, and then they try on a bajillion more dresses. Suffice to say, Stiles isn’t in the best of moods when he gets home, and immediately tells his father about how Peter was creeping on Allison at the Macy’s.
Tom is pissed, naturally, and says he’s going to talk with Peter about it later. Stiles doesn’t foresee that getting him very far, but he’s not about to tell his father that. He shakes his head and starts cooking dinner. Derek comes in about an hour later, skulking through the back as he’s taken up the habit of doing. He still often looks ill-at-ease and nervous during the Stilinski family dinners, but at least he’s showing up to them regularly enough. “What are you making?”
“Cottage pie,” Stiles says, and Derek blinks. “Most people think of it as Shepherd’s Pie, but Shepherd’s Pie actually has lamb, not beef. You know, sheep, shepherd – ”
“I know,” Derek says. “I just . . . I don’t think I’d ever actually met anybody else who called it the right thing.”
Tom shakes his head, amused. “You’ve finally met your match when it comes to obscure trivia.”
“We’ll see,” Derek mutters, and Stiles laughs, delighting in the pettiness of that response.
After dinner, Tom takes off, saying he needs to go leave a message for Peter with their go-between. Stiles thinks about asking who that is, but instead settles for waiting for him to leave and then saying to Derek, “So, wanna follow him?”
Derek blinks at him, then frowns. “Why?”
“You wanted to talk to Peter, remember?”
“Yeah, but . . .” Derek’s voice trails off. “I don’t know. I thought about it. Do I really need to ask him why he killed Laura? I know why he did it. He needed an alpha’s power to heal, and he knew that he could take her off guard, that’s all. I don’t think hearing him say that out loud would really make me feel better.”
Stiles nods a little. “What do you want to do, then? About Kate.”
“I don’t know.” Derek looks away. “I just want to not worry about it. Which probably makes me a fucking coward. I want Peter to kill her, and I don’t want to be involved, but I don’t want him to get hurt, either. If he did, it would just be – it would be my fault, just like when Kate killed the rest of them.”
“How was that your fault?” Stiles asks, frowning.
“It just was.” Derek stands up. “I’ve got to go.”
“Derek, wait,” Stiles says, nearly tripping over himself as he follows Derek to the back door. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. I mean, I want to help, but I don’t want to pry. Okay, actually I do, I’m like, an incredibly, irrepressibly nosy person, I’m sorry, it’s a character flaw. But you don’t have to leave. You can just tell me to shut up. It works, I promise.”
“Shut up, Stiles.”
“See, there you go. Besides, it’s your turn to do the dishes.”
Derek gives him a politely incredulous look.
“I cooked, which means that Dad cleans, only now you’re here too, so you and Dad get to take turns cleaning.” Stiles thrusts a dishrag at him. “Have at it.”
Derek takes the rag and looks at it. “Also, are you an idiot?”
“Oh, yeah. Big time. Almost always. Why?”
“Follow your dad? I mean, I assume you want to find out how he’s getting in touch with Peter, but come on. If nothing else, he’d catch you in fifteen seconds and then he’d ground you until Christmas.”
“Maybe then I wouldn’t have to get dragged to this stupid dance,” Stiles says.
Derek starts rinsing off the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. “Why don’t you want to go?”
“Ugh, are you kidding? As a sixteen year old boy, going to a semi-formal dance by myself, playing not just third but fifth wheel when two of the other wheels think of me as some sort of disgusting insect, is really not my idea of a fun evening.”
“Why don’t you ask someone to go with you?”
“Because I like my dignity intact, thank you very much.” Stiles moans and slumps into a chair. “But every time I just say I’m not going to go, Scott looks at me like I murdered his puppy. Why the hell he needs me to be a cheerleader, I could not begin to tell you. He and Allison have been dating for almost a month now and she looks at him like he hung the moon. You’d think he could handle himself by now.”
“So tell him you’re going and then don’t go.”
“I’d hear about it until my ninetieth birthday.” Stiles gives a dramatic sigh. “Nope. I’m just gonna have to knuckle down and suffer.” He springs out of his chair. “Hey, do you like Ho-Hos? My dad thinks I don’t know where he keeps his emergency stash but he is so wrong.”
“Those things are over-processed crap,” Derek says, watching Stiles dig out the package.
“God, you really are a foodie. Oh well, more for me.”
“I didn’t say no,” Derek says, snatching a Ho-Ho out of his hand, and Stiles laughs until his sides hurt.
~ ~ ~ ~
Peter is waiting for Tom at the nurse’s house, which really annoys Tom on general principle. Peter is obviously well aware that Tom is going to be angry at him, and has delivered himself up for the tongue-lashing that he clearly knows is coming. “This is nostalgic,” he says, as Tom gets out of the Cruiser, from where he’s sitting on the hood of the nurse’s car. “It’s just like being twenty again. You know, I never apologized for all the trouble I caused you back then. I just enjoyed getting arrested by you so much, I couldn’t help it.”
“I really do not want to hear another word on that subject,” Tom says, rolling his eyes. “If you regret causing me trouble, maybe you should cut it out.”
“Oh, I didn’t say I regretted it,” Peter says with a smirk. “Just that I never apologized for it. Anyway, that was my old life. Back to the matter at hand. I assume you’re here to tell me to stay away from your son?”
“I’m here to tell you to stay away from Allison Argent,” Tom says. “You don’t have any reason to go after Stiles; he just happened to be there. Allison’s different. She’s the one you were there for.”
“You know, I could point out that you people are all completely overreacting,” Peter says. “For God’s sake, I offered her fashion advice. I didn’t try to abduct her or manhandle her. I didn’t make veiled comments about what it’s like being from a family of murderers. I didn’t threaten her in the slightest. And that dress really was all wrong for her.”
“Well, thank you for that insight, Ralph Lauren,” Tom says. “Are you seriously going to try to convince me that you weren’t going to try something with her?”
“As it happens, I was really just feeling her out. Seeing if she recognized me, if she smelled like silver and gunpowder the way the rest of her family does. If she’s a murderer like they are, I wouldn’t have much remorse about using her against them. But that’s not really the point, is it? Everything I try to do, I have you behind me like Jiminy Cricket, telling me it’s not allowed. I’m not allowed to persuade Derek to help me. I’m not allowed to make more betas. Now I’m not allowed to exploit Kate’s only real weakness. What is it, exactly, that you expect me to do?”
“I seem to recall we had a conversation about that. Something about letting the law handle it?”
“You said you wouldn’t stop me from killing her.”
“And I won’t. But stay away from Allison Argent.”
Peter looks at the sky as if praying for patience. “At this rate, I’m going to have to hit Kate from orbit if I want any chance of surviving.”
“Don’t tell me that you couldn’t find yourself a sniper rifle if you really wanted one. I arrested you for dealing guns out of the back of your car once.”
“For allegedly dealing guns out of the back of my car.” Peter smirks again, but there’s no humor behind his eyes. “You’re technically correct, although I could point out that proficiency with a sniper rifle is not within my skill set, nor is it something one learns as fast or as easily as Hollywood would have you believe. Besides, I don’t want to hit Kate from orbit. I want to look her in the eye first and make sure she understands why she’s being killed.”
“That’s great, Peter.” Tom struggles with his temper. “Why don’t you just clone Allison’s phone the way you cloned mine and Derek’s and lure her out somewhere without involving a teenaged girl?”
“She wouldn’t fall for it. Not her.” Peter sighs and hops off the car. “As I expected, this conversation is going nowhere. I don’t intend to hurt Allison. Maybe tell her a few truths her parents would be happier if she didn’t know, but that’s all. So settle for that – be grateful for that, Tom, because there’s a part of me that would be happy to kill her just to make her father suffer. That’s all you’ll get from me, so take it, and stay out of my way.”
Tom bites back the angry retort that wants to escape. He watches as Peter walks away, around the house and into the forest, before turning around and heading back to his car.
~ ~ ~ ~
Two days later, Tom is listening to his son bitch and moan about the upcoming dance for the nineteenth time while he rinses and chops carrots. Stiles has laid off a bit about Tom never having anything with over a gram of fat in it, but he’s still expected to eat his vegetables.
“Derek’s not here yet?” Stiles asks half an hour later, while he’s draining the potatoes. He’s frowning. “I told him I was making pot roast. He should be here.”
Tom sighs a little. “Look, Stiles, I know that you like Derek a lot. But you have to give him time to adjust to . . . everything. Family dinners are hard for him. Sometimes he’s going to need a break.”
“No, I know that, but . . .” Stiles’ shoulders hunch inwards slightly. “He said he likes pot roast. I thought he’d be here.”
“Oh, boy.” Tom martials himself for the talk he’s been trying to put off having. “Stiles, I’m going to be honest with you, okay? I like Derek. I do. And I’m glad you like him, because he’s been through Hell, and the more people he has to support him, the better. But I’ve watched you moon around over Lydia Martin for the better part of three years and I know the signs. Derek is – there are a lot of reasons why a relationship between the two of you wouldn’t be a good idea right now.”
“I know, I know, he’s too old for me.” Stiles rolls his eyes.
“That’s the big one, yes, and the fact that you’re rolling your eyes at me is only evidence to support it,” Tom says, and Stiles scowls at him. “Because you say ‘he’s too old for me’ in that tone that makes it clear you don’t see why it’s a big deal. And you don’t see that because you’re sixteen. I remember being sixteen, and how mature and adult I felt after getting my driver’s license and having my first date and everything. You think you’re an adult, but you’re not. Derek is. Two, three years from now, you’re going to look back at being sixteen and wonder how you could have ever thought you were an adult at that age.”
“Okay, but Dad – ”
“No buts!” Tom says. “I’m glad you want to be Derek’s friend. I’m glad you’re okay with the fact that I’m trying to take care of him. But that’s as far as it goes, period, end of story.”
Stiles turns back to his potatoes, sulking. Tom sighs. He’s not happy that his son is upset, but at least his position has been made clear. A minute later, Stiles sets the bowl of potatoes down with a thud, and rallies. “He should be here. He said he was going to be here.”
Tom opens his mouth to say something else about Derek’s understandable wariness of a new family, but then thinks better of it. “How about I give him a call to see where he’s at?” he says, and Stiles nods, the tension in his shoulders relaxing a bit. Tom pulls out his phone and dials Derek. It goes straight to voice mail. “Huh.”
“Huh, what?” Stiles asks, trying not to betray his anxiety.
“It’s either not turned on or he’s in a no-service area.” Tom can’t blame Stiles for his uneasiness. He’s starting to feel it too. Derek’s skittish, sure, but he has been turning up at the Stilinski house for dinner more often than not. He’s also been charging his phone there, so it shouldn’t have run out of battery. Either he deliberately turned it off, or he was somewhere on the Preserve that didn’t have coverage.
“He wouldn’t – ” Stiles takes a deep breath. “Okay, yes, I like Derek, and he’s super attractive and none of that is the point because something’s wrong, Dad, Derek wouldn’t say he was going to be here and then not be here and not have his phone turned on and – ”
“Stiles,” Tom says.
“And with all the werewolf shit going on and Peter creeping around and God only knows what the Argents are up to – ”
“Stiles – ”
“You can’t just write this off to me being upset that he’s not here for dinner because I think he’s amazing and I wanna rub my face on his face – ”
“Stiles!” Tom grabs Stiles by the shoulder. “Stop talking, for the love of God. I do not need to hear about you rubbing your face anywhere. I agree that something is wrong, okay? Please shut up.”
“Oh.” Stiles clears his throat. “We’re gonna pretend I never said any of that, right?”
“I’m blocking it out of my mind as of this instant,” Tom says.
Stiles chews on his lower lip and says, “What do you think happened to Derek?”
“I don’t know,” Tom says, “but I bet I know someone who does.”
~ ~ ~ ~