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Divided We Stand

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Derek clutches his phone to himself and tells the front door of the Stilinski house, “I can work with this.” He gets back to his car and gets inside. “I can’t work with this! I have no idea what I’m doing.” He bangs his head against the steering wheel a couple of times and miraculously, an idea is jarred free. He turns the car on and heads to the sheriff’s station.

The secretary is a young woman he’s seen before – maybe at one of the mixers? – who gives him a smile that looks at least mostly genuine. “How can we help you today, Mr. Hale?” she asks, so she knows who he is, although that’s not really that unusual. Most of the people in Beacon Hills pay attention to the werewolf families in the region.

He puts his best polite face on, which mostly means he manages to stop frowning. “I was wondering if the sheriff is available and if I could speak to him?”

“Let me find out.” She picks up the phone. “Sheriff? Derek Hale is here to see you . . . yes? Okay. Uh huh.” She hangs up the phone. “That way, first door on your left.”

Derek nods in thanks and goes down the hall as indicated. He finds the door open and steps inside. Sheriff Stilinski, who was waiting just inside, closes it behind him. Without waiting for Derek to say anything, he folds his arms over his chest and says, “You’ve got some nerve showing your face here after what happened.”

Derek looks down. “I know,” he says, but follows up with, “I’m sorry,” because here’s someone who will listen to his apologies on behalf of the pack, and since this man is part of Stiles’ pack, it’s got to be worth something. “I should have taken Stiles out of the house as soon as my parents started saying such awful things. My mother . . .” He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. On behalf of my pack, I apologize for everything they said that hurt him.”

“Why don’t you try apologizing for your little prank in the first place?” Sheriff Stilinski asks, clearly pissed off and not afraid to show it. “Do you have any idea how much that hurt?”

“Choosing Stiles wasn’t a prank,” Derek says. “It was a miracle. I never would have even seen him if he hadn’t tripped into the wrong room while he was looking for his friend.”

“Right, because he wasn’t on the list, because last year, when he was on the list – ” Stilinski’s tirade stops partway through. “Wait. What?”

“He was on the list last year?” Derek is startled by this. He had gotten the impression that Stiles didn’t really believe in entering the pool.

Sheriff Stilinski is giving him a thoughtful look. Then, in a slow, measured tone, he says, “Yes. He was in the pool last year. Almost everyone enters the pool while they’re in high school. Once they’ve graduated, a lot of them drop out because they go to college or start careers or families with non-weres. Sometimes they’ll enter the pool in whatever college town they move to. But pretty much every high school kid is on that list. In fact, I think Stiles is the only kid in his class who didn’t enter this year.”

Derek shakes his head at the thought of all these people, vying for the wolves’ attention and none of them knowing that half the things they do will drive wolves up the wall, and not in a good way. “I didn’t know he wasn’t on the list until after the words were out of my mouth. It had nothing to do with the lists. I was about to leave when he came in.”

There’s a long silence. Then Sheriff Stilinski lets out a slow sigh and picks up a mug. “Coffee?” he asks, refilling his own mug from a pot sitting on a stand in the corner.

Derek nods. “Thanks.”

Sheriff Stilinski finds another mug and fills it up. He hands it over and says, “Stiles presented this to me as though you had picked him as a joke, obviously, and I didn’t hear a word about your parents having said anything to him. So maybe you should start at the beginning and tell me what actually happened, since Stiles hasn’t been eager to talk about it and I haven’t wanted to push the issue.”

So Derek does, taking occasional sips from his coffee and ending with, “So I’m not exactly speaking to my mother, things are only slightly better with my father, and Stiles has agreed to spend time with me if I ‘stop trying to pretend this is something real’. And I agreed because I’ll take what I can get and I don’t want to upset him again.”

“Uh huh.” Sheriff Stilinski mulls this all over. “Then why did you come here?”

“Because I have no idea what I’m doing! I mean, sometimes these things are awkward, they can’t not be when you meet a complete stranger and say you’re going to be spending the rest of your lives together, but usually everyone is happy to be there, and they trust that we know what’s going on or else we wouldn’t have chosen them. But my parents cocked it up – never tell them I said that – and now Stiles is hurt and he doesn’t trust me. And I suck at making friends on a good day. Help me. Please?”

“So you want my advice on how to woo my sixteen year old son, whose heart you have already broken once this week?” Sheriff Stilinski asks. He sounds skeptical, to put it mildly.

“I didn’t! My parents did!” As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Derek realizes how stupid and childish that sounded. “But I’ll take the blame. I should have gotten him out of the house, like I said. But I need to try to make this right.”

Sheriff Stilinski considers all this. “You know,” he says, “there are a lot of people who view the idea that the werewolves can smell a soulmate as complete and utter bullshit. They think that it’s just an excuse to lay claim to someone, another way of oppressing the inferior species. A way of saying ‘we can come down here and take whoever we want, and you can’t stop us’.”

“There are people who still think the earth is flat. I’m sure my uncle Peter would be happy to argue with both of those camps if you gave him the chance. And it’s more than a scent.”

“Uh huh. And you do realize that Stiles would have already refused you, if not for the fact that it would make him an outcast? That if you hadn’t asked him in a room full of people, he never would have said yes to begin with? At least, not before getting to know you?”

Derek rubs his hands over his face. “I didn’t mean to back him into a corner. I never meant to hurt him in any way. It was an instinctual response. A knee jerk reaction. I was going to leave and he just . . . stumbled into the room, tripping over God knows what, already taking to someone who wasn’t there because he was in the wrong place. He caught himself like it's normal to fall through doors. And where did he get those ridiculous fingers from? Then he just kept right on talking! Mocking everyone, and, and . . . when we find the right person, the world just stops and it sounds like melodramatic crap but it’s true. He kept saying I had time to change my mind, go pick someone else.  Like who would want him. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want him?” Derek stops talking abruptly. He thinks he may have to find a hole to crawl into after that speech.

Sheriff Stilinski rubs one hand over the back of his head and says, “Aw, hell, son. Okay, you’ve convinced me. To be fair, I’ve never shared the skepticism. I felt the same way when I met my wife for the first time, and I don’t even have the excuse of being a werewolf.”

Derek sags with relief, then his eyes narrow a little. “So if you weren’t a skeptic, why’d you say all that stuff?”

“To see how you would defend yourself.” Sheriff Stilinski sips his coffee. “This is my son we’re talking about. My underage son. My only son. I hope you’re not saying I don’t have the right to be protective of him, just because you’ve chosen him to be your mate.”

“No, no. I’m glad you’re protective.” There’s another pause. “What does his being underage have to do with anything?”

Sheriff Stilinski quirks an eyebrow at him. “It has to do with everything,” he says mildly, “because as a sixteen year old, my son cannot legally consent to anything, and therefore any contact you have with him has to be allowed by me.”

“I suppose,” Derek says, not in a tone that indicates he doesn’t understand, but more that he thinks it’s a little excessive. “What do you think we’re going to do? I understand how old he is. And how old I am. And right now he barely wants to see me.”

“True, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves,” Sheriff Stilinski says. “It’s absolutely unnecessary of me to point out that I own wolfsbane bullets and know where the vital points on a werewolf are. I shouldn’t need to say that.”

“I . . . what?” Derek asks. He has no idea what he did wrong this time.

“Exactly,” Sheriff Stilinski says. “Did he give you his number? Good. Texting is the best way to get hold of him. Text him about things that aren’t werewolf mating rituals. Or your family. Text him about a movie you just saw, or a book you’re reading, or how the person in front of you at McDonald’s was a jerk to the cashier. Text him about anything unimportant.”

“I can do that,” Derek says with a nod. He’s clearly making mental notes. “He likes texting better because he kind of babbles, doesn’t he.”

“Depends on how nervous he is. More like, his brain-to-mouth filter only works . . . selectively. If he’s texting, he gets a second chance to think ‘do I really want to say that?’”

“Like walking into a room full of people hoping I’ll choose them and saying ‘is this what I have to look forward to later in life?’” Pretty much everything Stiles had said and done when he walked into that room was burned into Derek’s brain. There’s no disapproval in his tone as he repeats it for the sheriff.

“Oh, God.” Sheriff Stilinski rubs a hand over his face. “Yes, like that. Exactly like that.”

“Good. I was sick of hearing simpering bullshit and fake giggling, anyway.”

“Well, you definitely won’t get either of those things from Stiles.” Sheriff Stilinski shakes his head. “Okay. He’s not going to give you much help, so . . . you like science-fiction?”

Derek nods. “Not obsessively, but yes.”

“Good, because I’m not a fan,” Sheriff Stilinski says. “There’s some movie he’s been talking about wanting to see, what was it . . . started with P, had aliens in it.”

“Prometheus?” Derek suggests.

“That’s it. It’s rated R, so he couldn’t see it in the theater. Not that he doesn’t try to sneak in, but teenagers who are the sheriff’s son don’t have a lot of luck with that sort of thing. But it’s okay for him, I read one of those parental reviews.” Stilinski waves this aside like the idea of him surfing movie blogs for parents isn’t completely adorable. Derek tries to ignore the fact that he’s trying to date someone who can’t see R-rated movies in the theater. “So you’re going to rent that. Or buy it, hell, I don’t care. Don’t get it on Blu-Ray, we don’t have Blu-Ray.”

“Right.” Derek nods. He’s clearly taking this extremely seriously. “Should I be taking notes? I can take notes.” He looks around, then pats down his person, noticing he has neither paper nor a writing utensil. “Wait, no, I can’t.”

“You can if you really feel it’s necessary,” Stilinski says, amused. He fishes around on his desk and pulls out a pad of paper and a pen. “I work the night shift pretty much every Friday. He hates it when I work the night shift. He’ll want the company even if he won’t admit it. So just text him sometime in the afternoon asking if you can come hang out. Five bucks says he’ll agree.”

Derek takes the offered pen and paper and jots down dates and times. He doesn’t actually need to, but it’s something to hold onto. “I can do that.” At first he’s worried that Stiles might find it weird that he picks the day that his father has night shift, but then he realizes that it’s actually pretty normal to do things on Friday nights. Cora goes out all the time on Fridays.

“Bring Chinese food,” Stilinski says. “There, that ought to be enough for starters.” He claps him on the shoulder. “Good luck.”

“What does he like? I mean, I know better than to bring a bunch of his favorites, that would be a little creepy, but I don’t want to bring a bunch of things he hates, either.” Derek doesn’t feel anywhere near prepared enough.

“He’s a sixteen year old boy. If it’s made of food, he’ll eat it. Just make sure you include egg rolls.”

That gets a little quirk of the lips that might be a smile when it grows up. “Just be glad he isn’t a wolf, or it’d be twice as bad.”

“Well, he’s not interested. You should probably know that from the get-go.”

“Okay,” Derek says, with an easy shrug. Then he looks uncomfortable for a few moments. “When . . . if we can make this work, I want you to know that I’m going to ask him. If he wants the bite, I mean. Because I need to hear the answer from him. It’s important to us. Either answer is okay, but I need to ask him and hear it from his mouth.”

“Fine by me,” Stilinski says, “as long as it’s on or after his eighteenth birthday.”

Derek opens his mouth, then thinks better of it. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Sheriff Stilinski’s eyes narrow, but he apparently decides against pushing the point. “Go on, get out of here. I have work to do.”

Derek stands. “Thank you. I just . . . thanks.” He decides to leave it at that, and disappears out the door.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Derek studies his phone what feels like a long time before he finally starts to tap the keys. He’s somewhat familiar with texting, although it’s not something he does often, because Cora texts a lot. She’s already taught him how to turn auto-correct off. So now he texts Stiles. ‘The man in front of me has made the barista remake his drink three times. She looks like she’s going to cry. And it smells gross.’

He sits with baited breath as the seconds tick by and turn into minutes. He’s almost ready to have given up when his phone chimes and he nearly drops it. Stiles’ reply reads thusly: ‘if he ordered anything with 6 or more syllables, he deserved to have it made wrong.’

Derek can’t help but smile. At least Stiles had answered, and hadn’t brushed him off. ‘If the words ‘skinny mocha’ are in it, he shouldn’t be allowed to order at all.’

‘There’s no point in drinking coffee any way but black and bitter,’ Stiles replies. ‘All the sugar and milk in the world won’t make it taste good. Just admit u have a problem and move on.’

Derek notes that of course this is the sort of coffee that Stiles likes. It’s the kind of coffee he smelled at the police station. ‘Is this where I’m shunned if I tell you I don’t like coffee?’

‘I don’t care if u like coffee or not,’ Stiles texts back.

It’s not encouraging, mostly because it doesn’t invite any sort of response from Derek, in addition to giving the impression that Stiles gives no fucks about him or his opinions. Of course, that may be depressingly true. He sits there, sipping his hot chocolate in a morass of indecision. Let the conversation lapse, or try to renew it? He doesn’t care about looking desperate, because both he and Stiles know that he is. Or at least Stiles knows he’s acting that way, even if his motivations are up for debate.

He’s still contemplating when his phone chimes again, and he nearly drops it. ‘if u don’t like coffee why were u at starbucks anyway?’

Derek sort of wants to kiss that message. ‘I have a weakness for hot chocolate but any time I try to keep it at home, it disappears. Can’t figure out which sister is guilty. Maybe both.’

‘Scott said your sister Cora seemed nice.’

‘She’ll appreciate that.’ Which she will. Cora’s like that. ‘She asked about you. I thought she was going to mug me when she first got home.’

There’s a long pause, and he holds his breath, hoping he hasn’t ruined their first real conversation. Then Stiles replies, ‘How’d she even know about me?’

Derek stares at the question for a long moment, remembering how startling and good it had felt to be able to laugh. ‘She heard me laughing. When you said that thing about spawning. Like salmon.’ Even now he can feel himself starting to smile a little at the memory.

He’s not sure what he expects after that, but what he definitely isn’t expecting is what he gets: an image of a salmon jumping directly into a bear’s mouth. It’s subtitled like one of those motivational posters, but instead of something inspirational, it says ‘Ambition: The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.’

At first, Derek just stares, but then he lets out a snort of laughter because he can’t not. Because Stiles. Already he can tell that although Stiles may have a filter, that doesn’t mean he chooses to use it. He quiets after a moment, and contemplates the image beyond the obvious humor. ‘So which one of us is the fish and which one of us is the bear?’

Another long pause before Stiles replies. ‘r u kidding? The bear is ur mother.’

Derek contemplates several replies before he settles for ‘touche’. He can’t figure out how to put the accent over the e. This annoys him.

‘g2g’, Stiles sends a moment later. ‘need 2 finish dinner b4 my dad gets home in 10.’

Derek stares at the message and wonders when they started talking in algebra. After a pause for thought, he sends a message to Cora. ‘What the hell does ‘g2g’ mean? Answer now, mock later.’

‘It’s ‘got to go’,’ Cora replies almost immediately. ‘Mock mock mockity mock. Why do you ask?’

Derek quickly flips back to his conversation with Stiles and offers a simple, ‘ok, bye,’ because there was really nothing else to say, because he wanted to acknowledge that he had gotten the message. Then, to Cora, he says, ‘Because someone said it to me. I figured that would be obvious.’

Surprisingly, Cora’s reply is just, ‘oh, ok.’

Since that’s obviously just a delay of the interrogation that’s sure to follow, Derek mutters, “Oh, Jesus.” But on the whole, he feels pretty good about things. They’d had a conversation. Stiles hadn’t told him to go away and had even been relatively friendly. They could work this out. So he’s in a good mood as he finishes his chocolate and heads home.

Even better, his mother is still at work when she gets there, working late on some case or other. Aaron has decided to bring dinner to her office, but Laura and her husband are home, and Peter is wandering around somewhere. Derek exchanges a polite greeting with his sister – he’s still irritated that she didn’t step in, but at least she wasn’t actively insulting Stiles – and then heads up to his room.

He’s been there less than ten minutes when Cora flounces in. “Sooooooo,” she says, flopping onto his bed.

Derek, who’s sprawled across his bed reading, propped up on his elbows, bounces up and down when Cora lands. He turns his head slowly to look at her, eyebrows hiked up in fake confusion. “Yes?”

“Why the sudden interest in texting slang?” she asks sweetly.

“Because I was the victim of it. I already told you that.” He watches her, curious to see what she’ll do next.

She tilts her head to one side and then says, “You’ve never texted anyone besides me and sometimes Laura. And you smell nice today, happier than you’ve been the last few days, which means you want to tell me all about it.”

Derek collapses down on his book. “I was texting with Stiles, if you must know, which clearly you feel you must.”

Cora squeals happily. “C’mon, let’s see it!”

“Really?” Derek asks, pretending to be exasperated. But he does sort of want to share, at least some of it. Cora has been happy for him from the beginning. So he fishes his phone out of his pocket and shows her the demotivational poster Stiles had sent him.

“Hah, what?” Cora asks, laughing. “Why is he sending you that?”

“Remember when you heard me laughing at the school?” Derek asks, and Cora nods. “It was because he was going off about how picking him was counter-productive to the whole mating thing, and how he wasn’t going to be able to help me spawn. That’s the word he used, spawn. And then he apologized for making us sound like salmon swimming upriver.” He’s studying the image on the phone, but really he’s looking more at Stiles in his memory. “I lost it and started cracking up.”

Cora, who’s more advanced in the ways of phones than Derek, is already scrolling to see Derek’s response. “Awww, you and Stiles are the fish and Mom’s the bear, that’s cute.”

“Cute. Yeah. Okay. And give me my phone back,” he adds, snatching it.

“That’s interesting, though,” Peter says from the doorway, as if he’s been there for the entire conversation. And maybe he had been. Peter is proficient at tricks that Derek hasn’t even thought of yet.

“What is?” he asks, thinking that Cora’s idea of ‘cute’ was interesting, and by interesting he means ‘suspicious’ but it never pays to give Peter direction when he wants an actual answer. His uncle is too easily distracted by other people’s thoughts.

“He could have said you were the bear, or he was,” Peter says. “But instead of making it you versus him, he made it both of you, together, against your mother. He’s putting himself on your side, subconsciously at least.”

“So maybe he doesn’t actually hate me,” Derek says, trying not to sound too hopeful. Then he sobers a little. “Actually, I know he doesn’t hate me. If he did, he would have either ignored me completely or said something truly horrific.”

Peter just rolls his eyes as if Derek completely missed the point. Cora lets out a little giggle. “You’re so smitten!”

“You be quiet,” Derek says, trying to ignore the fact that, factually, he is indeed smitten. To Peter, he asks, “Do you think it’s because he actually likes me, or because he really doesn’t like Mom?”

Peter sighs, and says in that long-suffering tone that means he’s in a lucid mood and sick of dealing with people who are far his intellectual inferiors, “It means that he thinks you and he are on the same side.”

Derek sighs and gives a defeated slump.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“Hey, hey!” Scott catches up with Stiles as he starts to get in the Jeep to head home after school. “Guess what! I asked Allison if she wanted to go out on Saturday and she said yes! We’re going bowling!”

Stiles bites back a grin. “Bowling on your first date? Do you want to be humiliated?”

“I just told her I’d never done it before, she said she’ll teach me,” Scott says. “That means she’ll have to touch me, man. I am totally nailing this.”

Now Stiles does grin. “Good job. Proud of you, bro.”

“I thought you might want to come,” Scott says, and when Stiles opens his mouth to say something about third wheeling, he says, “Ask that friend of yours, Heather. She’s got a huge crush on you, dude. She totally wants you.”

“Yeah, right,” Stiles says, with a snort. He pulls out his phone to dial Heather, but then stops. “I can’t ask anyone on a date. I belong to a werewolf now.”

“Oh, yeah, shit,” Scott says.

Stiles stares at the phone for a long minute, biting his lip. The week and a half since the Searching Ceremony has been awful. Everywhere he goes, he’s followed by whispers and giggles, catcalls and insults. Phantom hands shove him and phantom feet trip him as he’s walking down the hallway. Someone stole all of his homework while he was in gym class and every teacher except one refused to let him turn it in late. He had nearly gotten the shit kicked out of him at lacrosse practice, although fortunately Finstock had intervened. He hasn’t dared go to lacrosse since then.

“Fuck this,” he says. “I’m going to call him and tell him to forget it. This is stupid. If he wants a beard to keep his parents off his back, he can pick someone else.”

He dials Heather first, primarily because he wants to catch her before she makes any other plans for Saturday. They’ve been friends since they were little, and since she goes to a different high school, she blessedly has not witnessed any of his humiliation. “Hey, what’s up?” he greets her. “Listen, Scott and this girl he met, Allison, are going bowling on Saturday and thought we might want to double. You game?”

“Are you asking me on a date?” Heather asks, her voice teasing.

“Uh, yeah?” Stiles says. “I guess?”

“I’d love to,” she says, but then adds awkwardly, “but . . . I don’t think it’s a good idea, Stiles.”

“Look, if this is about the whole thing with Derek, screw it,” Stiles says. “I’m going to refuse. I’ll call him right after I get off the phone with you.”

“Yeah, but, even if you do . . . people will talk. You know? I don’t want to be the girl that you dumped Derek Hale for. Jesus, do you know what people would do to me?”

Stiles does know. He knows in personal, painful detail, because it will be more-or-less identical to what they’ve been doing to him all week. He feels bitter rage build up in his throat, but pushes it back because Heather’s right, and she means more to him than that. “Oh . . . yeah. I guess I didn’t think about it that way.”

“Still friends?” she asks hopefully.

“Yeah, of course,” he says. “What if some other people come along? So it’s just a group of friends, not a double-date. You could invite that friend of yours, uh, Shaniqua?”

“Shameka,” she corrects. “Okay. Sure.”

“Me and Scott will try to make another friend before Saturday,” Stiles says, and Heather laughs and says okay. Stiles hangs up. Scott’s looking at him anxiously, having clearly gotten the gist of what had just happened. “Fuck my life,” Stiles announces.

Scott doesn’t say anything for a minute. Then: “Are you still going to call Derek?”

“No,” Stiles says. “It’s better if I wait for him to dump me, if I don’t have any reason to do it myself, like the possibility of a life.” He tucks his phone away in his pocket. “But I’ll still go. I want to meet this famous, superlative Allison of yours.”

Scott frowns a little.

“ ‘Superlative’ means that she’s amazing,” Stiles tells him, leaving off the connotations that are meant to embarrass Scott.

“Oh, right,” Scott says. “Man, I’ve got to study up for my PSATs. You free Sunday, too?”’

“Yeah, I guess,” Stiles says. He’s about to say something about the excitement of their lives – bowling Saturday, studying Sunday – when someone shouts ‘think fast!’ and he looks up in time to receive a slushie in the face. He yelps despite himself and half turns, one hand up to shield his face from the barrage. A minute later, icy cold is dumped down his back, and he yelps again.

When the attack is over, he and Scott are both soaked with the stuff. “This isn’t Glee, assholes!” Stiles shouts after them. “Fuck, that stings,” he adds. It’s in his eyes.

Scott’s breathing hitches. “Got some – in my windpipe,” he says, and coughs.

“Fuck,” Stiles says again, and helps eases Scott to the pavement. He’s pulling for air, elbows locking in a way that Stiles is painfully familiar with. He grabs Scott’s backpack and goes for the top pocket, which always holds his inhaler. “Here, bite down,” he says, as Scott continues to make whining gasps, and sticks the inhaler in his mouth. Scott wheezes inward as Stiles triggers it. A few minutes later, his breathing has returned to normal.

“Fuck our lives,” Scott agrees.

“C’mon, you can clean up at my place,” Stiles says. “If your mom sees you like that, she’ll go ballistic.”

“Yeah,” Scott agrees, and they head back to the Stilinski house. They get cleaned up and changed. Stiles breaks out the chips and soda and they sit and do their homework together.

It’s been about an hour before Stiles’ phone chirps. He picks it up and groans. The last thing he wants is to text with Derek after the afternoon he had. He’s still not sure what to make of Derek texting him. It seems random, and always about the weirdest things. Some guy at Starbucks is a jerk. He saw a crocus blooming so spring must be close even though it’s only February. His sister Cora likes One Direction and if he hears any more of it he’ll claw his own ears off. This time, it’s ‘do you watch The Walking Dead?’

“Who’s texting you?” Scott asks curiously.

“Derek,” Stiles growls. He’s not in the mood to deal with it, so he just texts back, ‘no’.

“Derek texts you?” Scott asks.

“Yeah, he seems to think that we’re friends or something,” Stiles says.

Scott taps the end of his pencil against his trigonometry homework thoughtfully. “What about?” he asks.

“Currently?” Stiles asks. He’s glaring down at his phone. He had hoped that the terse answer would make Derek shut up, but instead he’s gotten ‘not a zombie fan?’ “About whether or not I watch the Walking Dead. Also about other movies, his family, the weather, whatever. You know.” He texts back, ‘I like zombies ok but TWD is meant for mature audiences so my dad won’t let me watch it’. “Chew on that, asshole,” he says to his phone.

“What’d you say?” Scott asks.

Stiles tells him and then says, “Reminding him of my age will be a real kick in the teeth.”

Scott frowns. “Why?”

“Uh, because I’m implying he’s a pedophile?” Stiles reminds him.

“But I thought the whole point was that he had picked someone who was too young and stuff,” Scott says, and Stiles has to admit that he has a point. If Derek had picked him because of his inappropriateness, rather than in spite of his inappropriateness, the age gap wouldn’t bother him. Yet it clearly does. He knows that because it’s come up once or twice before.

They work in silence until the phone chirps again. Stiles ignores it.

“Look, man,” Scott says, “I don’t want to stick my nose into what isn’t my business, but has it occurred to you that maybe he wasn’t joking? I mean, he tried to tell you he wasn’t, right?”

“Yeah,” Stiles admits. “He swears that his mother just misread the situation.”

“Well . . . maybe she did.”

“It doesn’t matter, Scott,” Stiles says, suddenly feeling tired. “I’m nothing like a werewolf pack would want anyway, even if Derek has some weird attraction to me. Which he doesn’t. Because . . . he just doesn’t, okay? Because I believed for a few minutes that he did, and . . .” He can’t think how to explain that he’s afraid to even think about the possibility Derek is sincere, because of how he’ll feel if it turns out he isn’t. “Just drop it.”

“Okay,” Scott says, lifting his hands in surrender.

Stiles feels guilty enough that he picks up the phone to see what Derek has texted him. To his surprise, it reads, ‘Are you okay? You seem upset.’

A million inappropriate responses come to mind, like ‘how can you tell over text’ or ‘you don’t know me well enough to say that’, but the thing is, Derek apparently does know him well enough to realize that he’s being needlessly cruel because he’s upset about other things. After texting back and forth for a week and a half. That’s actually a little scary, a little annoying, and a little exciting, all at the same time.

After due pause, he texts back, ‘sry. bad day at schl.’

‘Anything I can do?’ Derek texts back.

‘No.’ Stiles thinks about it, then adds, ‘thanks’, because hell, if at least one person is being nice to him, that’s better than nothing, even if it’s the same person who got him into this mess. ‘g2g, hw, ttyl’ he adds, not because he can’t text and do homework at the same, but because he’s just not in the mood to chat. It’ll have to do.

They finish up their homework and Scott heads home. He’s eating dinner with his father when the phone chirps again. ‘Are you busy Friday night?’ Derek asks. ‘Thought we could hang out.’

Stiles sighs at the phone. “Dad, Derek wants to go out Friday night. Is it okay?”’

Sheriff Stilinski eyes his son over a forkful of asparagus. He thinks about asking for details, but then decides against it. “Okay with me,” he says, “if it’s okay with you.”

“I’d rather not,” Stiles mutters, but he knows his father will be working, and he hates spending the nights by himself. Scott always works at the clinic on Friday nights, because Deaton has late hours on Thursday and Friday. So he texts back, ‘sure’.

‘See you at 7?’ Derek asks.

‘ok,’ Stiles texts back, and then turns the alert sound off and puts the phone away.

 

~ ~ ~ ~