Derek doesn't make the discovery until he's in Kansas.
He can't believe he let himself get so distracted that he didn't notice before then, because, seriously? Not paying attention like that could mean the difference between life and death.
What if it had been one of Kate's hunters in the trunk of his car for the past 18 hours?
Yes, it was just Stiles.
But in its own way, that was just as bad.
"This is not happening," Derek grumbled as he raked a hand through his already dishevled black hair and spun on his heel in disgust and disbelief.
"You've said that, like, six times already. So, no. It is. It really, really is."
Derek closed his eyes and counted to 10. A part of him wanted to wolf out just to impress upon the little twerp the seriousness of the situation, but they were in the parking lot of a truck stop. "Why didn't you do something sooner?"
Stiles shrugged. "I didn't think you were going to drive all the way to ... where are we?"
"Kansas. And, I didn't do something earlier because I didn't want to freak you out and make you mad --"
"I am so beyond mad right now it's not even funny."
"Or startle you and cause you to crash the car."
"Can I go take a piss now?" Stiles asked, jigging from one foot to the other.
Derek dragged his hands over his face. "This is not happening."
"Hey, um ... are you still going to be here when I get done? Because --"
Stiles zoomed towards the main building.
"Y'know, it would serve you right if I did abandon your ass here," Derek growled after him.
"Great," Stiles replied with a wave. "I'll be back in five."
He came back in 15 with some sort of super sized drink and a cup of coffee, black.
Derek sniffed it and scowled. "What makes you think I take it black?"
Stiles gulped his drink. "Dunno. You just look like a black coffee sort of guy."
Derek blew that one out of the water by sending Stiles back for sugar and a fist full of creamer.
"So, where are we headed?" Stiles asked as he clicked his seatbelt into place.
"New York City."
"Oh." Stiles looked a little surprised, almost crestfallen really, for a second. But then, as if somebody had flipped a switch, his brown eyes gleamed and he cracked a 1000 watt smile. "Cool! I've never been."
Under any other circumstances, Derek would've turned the car around, or made Stiles make a phone call, or bought him a bus ticket.
But, (a) Derek's got to get to The Big Apple ASAP, (b) he had to drive there because he couldn't fly at the moment, seeing how he's wanted for questioning ... again, and (c) he was critically low on cash (which was the other reason he didn't fly) and (d) now because of Stiles, he didn't dare use his (almost maxed out) credit card, because it would be used to track him.
So. Road trip. With Stiles.
Derek figured he'd just deal with the fall out, including any possible pending charges after he hit NYC. His lawyers would take care of it.
After all, the reason behind this trip was to speak to them in person and have them take care of some issues related to Laura's
"So ... are we going to be stopping at a hotel soon?" Stiles asked around a yawn.
"Not unless you've got the money."
"Oh." Stiles cocked his head. "So what are we going to do?"
Derek rubbed blearily at his eyes and changed lanes, steering the Camaro on to an offramp. "Pull off the road a little ways, find a quiet looking place, and park there."
Stiles chewed his lip as Derek pulled into a dirt lot not far from the overpass. "I have to pee," he said. "And what about brushing my teeth?"
Derek blew out a long breath. "I need to pee, too," he admitted. He turned off the car, opened the door, and headed towards a large bush.
Stiles joined him a moment later. "So, is this, like, marking the territory?" He asked as he let loose with a fierce stream.
Fuck my life. "No."
"Okay .... But you still haven't answered my question about the toothbrush. Also, I don't have my ADD medication."
"This is going to be a very long trip," Derek muttered in a voice that only a werewolf could hear.
"Did you say something?"
"I said, 'I'm not the one who climbed into somebody else's car as he set off on a cross-country road trip.'"
"How was I supposed to know?" Stiles shrugged.
Derek arched an eyebrow. "The duffel bag in the back seat wasn't hint enough?"
Stiles' voice climbed an octave. "You could've been heading for the gym!"
Derek glared at him. "Since when do I go to the gym?"
He broke down and shared his toothbrush with Stiles. His own morning mouth smelled bad enough. He didn't need to deal with somebody else's.
Later that day at a truck stop, he made Stiles spend the last of his own money on a toothbrush, a razor, and a shower. He was fine with sharing his unscented bodywash, deodorant, and shaving cream, though: (a) he didn't have to worry about strong or just plain obnoxious perfumes irritating the hell out of him and (b) as much as it pained him to admit it ... after several hours spent in close proximity, Derek realized he kind of liked the way Stiles smelled.
After driving through most the night, they arrived in NYC with enough time to book a room at the Y and shower, grab a bite to eat, and then head over to Pearson Hardman.
Stiles couldn't stop humming "YMCA". Really, he seemed to think that staying at one was some kind of treat and not something you did because you were flat broke.
What Derek really wanted was a long nap after all that driving, but something had come up and Harvey, his lawyer, could squeeze them in around 10, so ... Derek slammed down a 5 Hour Energy and chased it with a bagel. Stiles waved off the 5 Hour Energy and opted for OJ instead.
"How do you do it?" Stiles asked around a mouthful of peanut butter and bagel, a few moments after a police car, lights flashing and sirens blaring, blasted past. "How do you not get overwhelmed?"
Derek helped himself to a sip of Stiles' OJ. "Find something and focus on it." Like the way you're still humming YMCA. "Plus, I was born this way. I do it without even thinking most of the time." He washed down the last of his bagel with another swig of OJ -- daring Stiles to protest with a look -- and continued, "Keep in mind, though, there's a reason I don't live in a big city."
Stiles nodded knowingly in time to his humming. By the time Derek paid the tab, he was "chair dancing". Probably a good thing he didn't have that 5 Hour Energy, because the way Derek figured it, the last thing the kid needed was a jolt of caffeine and vitamins. That would have him bouncing off the walls -- literally.
Driving in NYC was always a nightmare, and, parking at the Pearson Hardman offices? Derek winced when he found out how much that was going to cost, but he didn't have a choice.
Meanwhile, Stiles alternated his humming with random questions and observations, such as: "Before today I didn't know you owned any shirts with collars."
Derek glanced down at his dark blue-grey polo shirt. "I'm asking these people for money. I need to look respectable." He flicked his eyes over to Stiles who was swimming in one of his Ts and sighed. At least it was clean. For now.
Stiles hummed YMCA all the way up the elevator, but so softly only a werewolf could hear it. Humans probably only caught faint snatches of random noise. Derek wondered if Stiles was even aware of his humming.
smiled politely tried to smile politely as he approached Donna, the incredibly poised and polished woman who was Harvey's assistant. "Hi, I don't know if you remember me, I'm --"
"Wow, you're pretty!" Stiles blurted from somewhere behind him.
Fuck. My. Life. Derek pointed at an empty couch. "Sit! Stay!" he barked. Stiles blinked at him, visibly taken aback, and then with an incredibly woebegone look on his face, trudged away.
Derek felt his smile morph into something utterly stiff and plastic as he informed Donna that he was Harvey's 10am.
Her smile turned equally brittle. "He's running a little late ...."
Derek flopped onto the couch next to Stiles, picked up a magazine at random from the table, thrust it at him and hissed, "Stop humming that damn song and read."
Time dragged by.
Stiles fell asleep. Derek figured that the manic pace of the past two days and the lack of opportunity to grab a nap at the YMCA must have caught up with him. Peace and quiet -- or at least peace and quiet from Stiles -- at last.
Stiles' head flopped over onto his shoulder. He sighed a little in his sleep.
Derek shrugged violently in an effort to wake Stiles up but it merely had the effect of causing Stiles to flop completely over and end up with his head in Derek's lap.
Of course, at that moment Harvey Specter strode into view. Some small part of Derek hoped against hope that Harvey would pass by without noticing. As. If. Harvey, of course, said nothing; he just smiled in that way of his as he continued into his (new) office ... with some guy who looked like he was fresh out of high school in tow.
FML. Derek groaned inwardly. Harvey was never going to let him live this down. Never. He jiggled his leg hard in an effort to wake Stiles.
"Wha ...?" Stiles at least had the grace to blush like a tomato when he realized what he'd done. He started to babble and sputter, but Derek cut him off with a glare and a "zip it" motion across his lips.
After the longest two minutes of Derek's life, Donna informed him that "Harvey will see you now."
Derek stood,and for .0005 of a second he considered leaving Stiles sitting in the lobby. Then he remembered just
who what Stiles was. "C'mon," he grumbled, grabbing Stiles by the arm.
As soon as they crossed the threshold into Harvey's office (apparently he'd made Senior Partner), Derek pointed to a chair and said in a firm voice, "Sit down and shut up."
Harvey's ... minion ... blinked at that, and Harvey raised one of his (damnibly perfect) eyebrows before he said, "Mike, I'd like you to meet Derek Hale, a client I've known for several years now. Derek, this is Mike Ross, my new associate."
Derek shook Mike's hand, his grip was firm but not too tight, and he met Mike's blue eyes with an intense stare, one designed to rattle him. Mike never blinked, never faltered ... which made Derek rethink him. There was no fear in his eyes, no uneasiness, just polite interest and intrigue. He had more backbone than Derek had initially given him credit for.
"Gentlemen," Derek said as he took his seat, "it's been a really long month, and the last three days have been --"
Harvey discretely cleared his throat and both he and Mike looked intently at Stiles.
Derek sucked in a deep breath. "Like I was saying, the last three days ...." He dragged a hand through his hair. "Guys, meet Stiles Stilinski. I'm probably going to be charged with kidnapping him."
Even a human could've heard a pin drop in the silence that followed.
Harvey smiled a moment later, but his eyes said something completely different. "I think we can get that down to contributing to the delinquency of a minor."
Derek snorted. "Just so you know? The local sheriff is Stiles's father."
"He'll be cool about it," Stiles blurted. "You'll see."
A long pause followed before Mike said, "Why don't you write his contact information down for me, Stiles."
Harvey steepled his fingers and said in a deceptively mild tone, "We can make arrangements for a lawyer barred in California." His eyes flicked over to Mike and he raised an eyebrow. Mike, fair complected to begin with, turned downright pale and swallowed hard.
Derek didn't have time for whatever was going on between Harvey and Mike. He had to get the estate sorted out, and as soon as possible. He didn't think Harvey would be a complete prick about it -- there were reasons Laura had retained him -- even though Harvey was one kind of guy and and Derek another, Harvey had never given Derek a reason not to trust him.
There just wasn't an easy way to say it. Derek decided to be short and to the point. "In case you haven't heard yet, Laura is dead. Murdered."
"Not just murdered," Stiles piped up in the silence that followed, "she was cut in half!" He gestured wildly. "I saw the body, and my best friend, Scott, he even tripped over one of the halves!"
Derek dragged his hand over his face as he shook his head. Just when he thought he'd hit bottom ... . "Stiles," he said, speaking slowly and clearly in the voice that Laura had used on him when she was wicked pissed and trying very hard to keep her temper, "I know Harvey because he used to date my sister. Have you ever heard of the concept of TMI?"
"Aaaannnnd," Mike said, a rictus grin pasted on his face, "Stiles and I should call his father and get that issue taken care of." He opened the door and ushered Stiles through.
"Don't let him out of your sight," Derek cautioned. "I'm serious." When the door shut behind them, he said quietly, "My Uncle Peter is dead, too." The less said about that, the better.
Harvey folded his hands and studied them for a moment. "So, you're the last Hale standing."
Derek nodded. "Not that Peter was in any way, shape, or form, competent to administer the trust, but yeah, I'm it."
Harvey gave him a flat look. "What do you need?"
Derek let out a long sigh. It looked like Harvey was going to be that way with him. "Money. I know I don't come into my full inheritance until 25, but I'm not lying right now when I say all I've got left is the $75 in my pocket."
Harvey's mouth quirked. "What are your plans?"
To deal with the Argents or anybody else who comes into my territory. Yeah, like that would sway Harvey the hardass.
"I'm done with New York -- and school -- for now," he said. "I'm living at my -- I'm living in what's left of my family's house. No water. No power. Just a roof over my head that leaks when it rains. I want to start making repairs. I might need to rent a place for a bit when winter comes.
"I need to get Laura's car retitled to me, and I also need to get a California driver's license." Now, whether I get to do any of that depends on you. Derek sat back and waited.
"Laura would have wanted you to finish school."
And people in Hell want ice water. "We all can't be Harvard grads. Look, I'll get my credits transferred. It's California, it's not like there's no place else offering degrees in Environmental Studies, It's just --" He let out a pent up breath. "At the moment, I've got other priorities. Besides," he couldn't entirely stop a sly grin from flashing across his face. "it's not like I've got the means to go back to school at the moment."
Harvey laughed at that.
And then he got down to the details of how and when Derek's money would be released.
Donna, bless her, got him and Stiles booked into a suite at the Hilton.
More importantly, she got Stiles booked onto a flight that left the next day. Stiles grumbled about that.
Derek smiled at him and said, "Well, you shouldn't have tucked yourself in the trunk of my car. Be glad I'm not sending you back in a crate."
"Whatever." Stiles shrugged and returned to rubbernecking the skyscrapers.
The text arrived after he and Stiles pigged out on room service.
(No, Derek did not want to go and "take a bite out of the Big Apple" which meant that Stiles was staying in. Period.)
The Ramble. 2am
Oddly enough, the two Mountain Dews that he chugged down had the effect of calming Stiles down and he conked out on the bed next to Derek just before midnight. Derek thought about waking him up enough to get him to his room, but in the end figured it was best to let him be.
(Besides, Derek found the sight, and sound, and smell of Stiles oddly soothing. It gave him something familiar to latch on to, something to keep him anchored in a place full of the unfamiliar and unexpected.)
The alarm on his phone chirruped him out of a light doze around 1:30.
God .... He had snuggled into Stiles who was still, mercifully, fast asleep. On the very off chance that Stiles woke up, Derek scrawled a note and left it on the bed: Can't sleep, gone for a run. Don't leave the room. I took both the keys.
"The Ramble?" He arched an eyebrow and leered as soon as Harvey stepped into view.
Harvey snorted at that and stepped off the path and into a thicket.
"Sooooo ..." Derek asked in a voice too soft for anybody else to hear. "Can you actually get enough privacy to shift, or --"
"On a nice evening like this, I wouldn't dare," Harvey replied, a smile in his words. "But on a cold and rainy night? I can guarantee you that I've got the place to myself."
"So, there's a pack?"
Harvey's eyes flickered reddish for a moment. "Let's just say that not many of can handle New York City, and leave it at that."
Yeah, Laura couldn't, in the end, and you were never meant for upstate New York, but California might have worked for you, if you and Laura had lasted that long. Still, this way, you are the Alpha, even if you just have one or two in your pack -- like me.
"That boy with you --?"
"Stiles," Derek supplied the name.
"Stiles. Does he know?" Harvey's eyes turned pure red.
Derek threw his head back and howled with laughter. It sounded more than a little hysterical, even to him. When he got his breath back, he said, "Oh my god. Harvey, it's more like what doesn't he know."
Harvey digested that for a moment. "What don't I know?"
Here we go. Derek drew in a lungful of the cool, leaf scented air, and proceeded to let Harvey know just exactly how screwed up the past three months had been.
Harvey took it in with his usual sangfroid (a word Derek had learned from him) which kind of explained how he managed to cope with living in such a large and crazy city. "So, you're the Alpha now," he said in a voice as flat as a sheet of glass when Derek finished.
"Yeah, if you can call me and Scott a pack." Derek's voice tightened as he continued, "There's ... there might be a third, but I didn't stick around to find out what's up with her.
"There's also a kid named Jackson who's been begging for a bite, and ..." his voice cracked and trailed off.
"So, bite him."
Harvey wore a resigned expression. "Right now he's a loose canon. Bite him --"
"And bring him to heel." Derek nodded. "It won't be easy, though."
Harvey laughed mockingly. "It never is."
Derek shivered to think of what Harvey must have to deal with trying to run a pack in NYC.
"So, what about that kid, Stiles. You going to turn him?"
Derek thought about explaining how Stiles had refused the bite and he didn't want to turn anybody against their will, but then he decided to turn Harvey's game back on him. "What about that Mike of yours? Planning on making him even more your beta?" Harvey did a good job of clamping down on his reaction, but Derek knew what he'd seen. "Well?" he pressed.
Harvey's eyes locked with his, but Derek didn't stand down. "When the time is right," Harvey replied. "When the time is right. But you didn't answer my question."
Derek cocked his head and gave a toothy grin. "What you said." Then he snorted with mirth as he thought about what Stiles would be like as a beta wolf. "But that could be a long time coming."
Derek meant to take the other room when he returned, but by the time he got back at 4am, he was so damn tired, he simply climbed into bed.
He woke up late the next morning spooned around Stiles.
It was a lot less awkward than he feared.
"I don't see why I can't just take a cab to the airport," Stiles muttered disgustedly as Derek guided him towards the car.
Derek simply glared in reply.
"I don't see why we can't just drive back the way we came. It would be cheaper for you."
Derek smiled sweetly. "Because that's the deal we worked out with your dad, and since he's been entirely reasonable about it so far, I'm not going to push it."
"No, that's the deal you guys worked out with my dad." Stiles kicked an empty coffee cup and huffed, "And I didn't even get to stay at the YMCA."
Derek had to laugh at the palpable disappointment in his voice. "Next time." A moment later he added, "Also, I'm not going straight home."
"Nope. After I personally watch you pass through the security gates at the airport, I'm heading out to visit some cousins of mine that I haven't seen in years."
Stiles' eyes glowed with curiosity. "Where?"
"Little town you've never heard of. Mystic Falls, Virginia."