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♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “I swear, that guy is not real,” Stiles mumbles to his best friend, Scott, on the bench. It's lacrosse practice on Monday afternoon, and Derek Hale, senior and captain of the team, is trying to slowly explain his moves. He wants everyone to pay attention, because he's trying to improve their plays for the big game on Saturday. However, Derek's “slow” movement is still too fast for Stiles.

            Derek moves faster than anyone he's ever seen before. It's not as though people don't talk about the fact that Derek has “mad skills” (Scott's words, not his), but Stiles is having a hard time believing that his “mad skills” aren't suspicious.

            Derek stops talking to the team, eyeing the junior. Stiles' thoughts are interrupted because he'd gotten used to the way Derek's voice sounds, and the silence had surprised him. His expression is the same as always: not happy. Stiles doesn't shift uncomfortably, even though he is uncomfortable under Derek's stare. He just makes eye contact, and gives Derek his best loopy grin.

            He doesn't need to cross his arms to let everyone know that is not impressed. It's alright though, because Stiles knows his position as bench warmer is secure. Derek asks, “Is there something you would like to say to the team, Stilinski?”

            Derek knows his name? He's been on this team for two whole fucking months and not once did Derek refer to him by name. Actually, Stiles is sure this is the first interaction they've ever actually had, so he's not sure that Derek has ever referred to him by anything before. They'd been in the same space before, years ago, but Stiles knows they never spoke. Not once. Stiles would remember if they had. Derek's not the forgettable type by any means. He just shrugs and tells the captain, “I was wondering if you're even human. You move so quickly. I mean, it's ridiculously fast. No human should be able to move that fast, y'know? It's unfair for us. I mean, it's obvious you work out, and I don't, so that could be why, but like...I was just wondering if you were human, that's all.”

            He watches, his curiousity doubling, as Derek quickly adverts his eyes. He then looks over at Boyd, the big scary lacrosse player who Stiles is terrified of. They share some sort of look that Stiles can't identify. There's a story there, he thinks. Derek says, “Stop talking, Stilinski, or I'll—”

            “Put me on the bench all season?” Stiles asks knowing full well that Derek Hale can't threaten Stiles with shit. Even if he kicked Stiles off the team, he'd still hang around at practices. Someone had to keep Scott company while he goes on this “whole new me” kick. Although it had been two and a half months, and Stiles realizes that Scott is too determined to be somebody people remember. Not that Stiles is complaining. It's added something new to their lives, and Scott isn't changing drastically.

            Some snickers come from the rest of the team. Stiles notices one of their teammates, Isaac Lahey, rubbing his hands together nervously. Derek just sighs, frustrated, as if he can't handle Stiles anymore. Then he continues talking about his new play, while the first liners and Scott listen carefully. Stiles, of course, just watches Derek a little more closely than ever. There's something unusual about how fast he moves. When Derek pretends to dodge a blow from the other team, the movement makes his body seem a little blurry for a split second.

            Yeah, Stiles doesn't think Derek's even human. But that might not just be because he can move. He's practically a god with his grumpy expressions, his sharp looks (the only interaction they'd had before today), and the way his ass looks in his lacrosse pants. Stiles saw Derek smile once, from across the courtyard, and he'd accidentally knocked over two garbage cans. That's how beautiful Derek Hale is. He'd never heard his laugh though, but damn, he could bet that it was a rich, flowing sound. Or maybe it sounds as if Derek had a bad cough because his body had no idea how to make the noise.

            It's not as though Stiles had been stalking Derek, but he knows a lot about him over the years of...casually paying attention to him. Derek Hale hangs out with Boyd, the extremely terrifying dude on the team, Erica, a freakishly sassy blonde girl who was also freakishly hot, and Isaac, a quiet kid who never talked and always kept his head down.

            Then of course, the other Hales. His sisters, Cora and Laura, hang around Derek a lot. He always sees Derek's sisters laughing, and poking him, while Grumpy Pants looks ready to murder one of them. Or both.

            It's obvious, though, when Derek hugs them goodbye, or shoves them away with one hand, that he adores them. Stiles sees it in his face, even if his grumpy expression doesn't change much. Once, some guy had been harassing Cora, and Derek went all caveman on him. The guy had run away. Run. There hadn't been any chance of stopping him either. He'd been terrified. No one bothers the Hale sisters anymore.

            “Stilinski, since you're clearly not paying attention—” Derek starts to say.

            “Oh trust me, I'm paying attention.” It comes out flirtier than he means. Still, Stiles beams up at him with mischief dancing in his eyes. He can't tell a soul how anyone else reacts, because his full attention is on Captain Hale. God, he's sexy. He quickly repeats the play to Derek, and smirks with satisfaction when Derek deflates a little. “But I do have a suggestion.”

            Some people on the team (read: Jackson, the asshole) roll their eyes, others look amused (Boyd, intense dude), and some people's eyes bounce back and forth between the two of them with a deep expression of worry (Isaac, the quiet kid).

            “Oh yeah?” Derek asks. He doesn't look mad or even annoyed. He almost looks hopeful? That's weird. Derek just oozes confidence, so why would he look hopeful that Stiles has a suggestion? Stiles wonders if Derek's bored of being captain and always coming up with plays for the team in Coach's office.

            Speaking of Coach, where the hell is he today?

            Stiles squares his shoulders a little, as he tries to draw his thoughts back in. Maybe Derek is one of those twisted souls that enjoys feedback. Stiles hates hearing people tell him how crappy he's doing, or that he should improve something, because he feels like it's a person attack. Even if it totally isn't.

            “Instead of Boyd, use Scott. The other team will be expecting Boyd. They always put four guys on him.” Stiles grins at Boyd, who only nods in agreement. Whew, he won't be getting punched today. “And you know Scott can catch the ball and run fast. It's his throwing that needs work.”

            “Thanks buddy, but I don't think—” Scott starts to say.

            Derek nods at Stiles. He clearly thinks the idea over in his head for a second, before announcing, “Alright. Let's run through it. I know you've been running regularly, so I—”

            “How do you know we run regularly?” Stiles asks, not caring that he's just interrupted Derek. Most people on this team would have been slapped over the head by another teammate for even considering interrupting Derek, but no one would touch Stiles. Being the Sheriff's son has some perks, even if they're limited. At least, he thinks it's because of that. Then again, he wouldn't put it past Jackson to take a swing at him.

            Running for Scott and Stiles had become part of the New Improved Scott McCall plan. They ran every Tuesday and Thursday night. Sometimes Stiles runs alone on Saturdays and Sundays, or after practices. It'd become a way to blow off steam, a way to escape for Stiles.

            “I live by the forest.” Derek leaves it at that. Stiles thinks, Well duh. Everyone knows where the Hale house is. Derek shouts names and gets people onto the field. He doesn't look at Stiles, leaving him on the bench, and walks over to the team.

            He reiterates exactly what he wants them to do, and blows a whistle. Stiles knows exactly where the Hale house is—and Scott isn't a fan of running by it often.

            Stiles, bored of the bench suddenly despite having enjoyed most of his time on it, gets up and walks to stand beside Derek. They silently watch the team go through the play. Scott catches the ball each time, and runs as fast as he can. Stiles and Scott had been working on his endurance without his inhaler, and surprisingly, it'd helped. But each time the play was over, Stiles would hand Scott his inhaler, and they'd do it again. Each time would be slightly different, per Derek's instructions.

            He watches each player, studying them. Scott's doing a great job, and Derek's been giving him a few more pointers on how to shoot. Boyd is intense as always, but he actually seems to be enjoying himself immensely. Stiles watches Jackson charge towards Isaac, who doesn't run out of the way—just prepares for impact. Jackson skids to a stop before he makes contact, and then scoops up the ball that Isaac had dropped.

            A few minutes later, the team waits for direction from their captain. Isaac and Scott are standing near Stiles, so Stiles holds his hand out for a high-five from his buddy.

            “Again!” Derek bellows.

            Stiles watches as Isaac flinches. It's a subtle movement.

            They work through the play again.

            “This might work, Stilinski,” Derek mutters. Stiles wonders if that's his way of saying he's impressed. Stiles isn't sure though, because the statement had sounded like neither here nor there, just Derek murmuring thoughts aloud.

            “It will,” Stiles says with certainty. “Scott has a lady to impress.”

            Derek turns to give him the most skeptical expression humanly possible. Stiles just snorts in response and says, “We have ten minutes of practice left. They worked hard enough, send them to the showers.”

            “This is my team,” Derek mumbles. But he blows the whistle and waves them inside anyway.

            “Our team,” Stiles corrects. “Dude, there's no "I" in team.”

            Derek gives him a levelled look, and then asks, “Why are you even on the team?”

            Stiles wonders if he should be offended. He's not, and is tempted to act as though he is, but decides against it. He just gives Derek the truth.

            “Because someone's gotta look out for Scott. He could embarrass himself, and what friend lets him do that alone?” Stiles jokes, but the amusement falls flat on Derek. Stiles shrugs, and heads towards the school.

            He debates whether he should call Lydia tonight. Scott will be too happy about playing in this weekend's game to listen to Stiles' ramblings about Derek Hale. And boy, does Stiles have ramblings about Derek freaking Hale.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            When he gets into the parking lot about twenty minutes later, Scott chattering away about the big game, Stiles spots Cora running past them. He follows her with his eyes, or tries to anyway because dammit, she's fast too. Must be a Hale thing. And Stiles finds she's throwing her arms around Derek. He watches as Derek picks her up off the ground, simply by squeezing her and standing up straight, and then drops her onto her feet. Cora punches his shoulder, but then they both laugh.

            Derek Hale just laughed. Laughed. Derek Hale. He says something to Cora, which makes her laugh really hard. Her hands are flying as she speaks, and Derek high-fives her. He high-fives her. Stiles knows he's staring but he doesn't care.

            How is it that he'd been thinking that he'd never heard Derek laugh today and Derek laughs? Of course, Stiles is too far away to hear it and that pisses him off. But he can see for himself that Derek's laugh didn't sound like a dry cough. Plus Cora doesn't seem surprise, so he must laugh more often than Stiles thought.

            Stiles wonders what he has to do to hear that noise. Suddenly, he decides that it's his new life mission. Make Derek Hale laugh that freely. Yeah, it's not a bad plan at all.

            “Dude, are you even listening to me?” Scott whines. He taps on the Jeep to get Stiles' attention.

            “Did you just see that? Derek laughed. And smiled. And I think he made a joke.” Stiles opens up his driver's door and leans over to unlock Scott's door. Stiles isn't sure why he locks the doors to his Jeep. The truth is that his dad, the Sheriff, had drilled a personal book called, How to Be Safe, into his head. Nothing interesting ever happens in Beacon Hills, so Stiles isn't sure why he feels compelled to listen.

            “Who cares what Derek does?” Scott asks. Then he looks suddenly worried. “Think Allison will come to the game?”

            “Lydia will make her go to watch Jackson, so probably.” Stiles' mind is still on Derek as he pulls out of the parking lot. It bewildered Stiles that Derek could look happy, let alone be happy. Stiles supposes he just never thought about it. It's not as if he thinks of Derek often anyway.

            Truly, he doesn't. Except maybe today, because Stiles is an awful bro and doesn't catch a word that Scott says until they pull up into Scott's driveway. “I can't wait. Maybe we can work on your skills this week and get you up to first line quality. I hate to leave you on the bench.”

            Stiles snorts. “Dude, the bench and I are homies now. Don't worry about me. I like the illusion of being on the team. You should ask Isaac to help practice your skills. He's pretty good, and he won't yell at you like the rest of the team probably would.”

            “He doesn't even talk,” Scott says. “It could be weird.”

            “No weirder than you making first line for a play. It's worth a shot. You should call Allison and ask her to come, even though she'll probably be coming anyway.” Stiles gives his best friend his best smile, and Scott beams. “She'll probably be happy to hear from you.”

            “That's a great idea! Thanks so much, buddy. I'll drive myself to school tomorrow. I won't have that big project to bring in.”

            “Sounds good. See you.”

            “See ya!” Scott jumps out of the Jeep, and shuts the door, leaving Stiles to think.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

           

            When Stiles gets home, he realizes that his obsession with Derek Hale is back. Was it ever really gone though? He's positive that he knows nothing about Derek Hale, even though he believes that Derek loves swimming, hates soccer (Derek had ranted about how pointless it was once, which made Stiles laugh because dude, lacrosse isn't any different really), and can go either way on a warm piece of pie. He knows nothing else though, because Derek laughed today, and Stiles hasn't seen that once since he developed his fascination with him seven years ago. What ten year old wouldn't?

            Derek is only a year older, but even at eleven; he'd given off this air of confidence, mixed in with mystery, and a vibe that had made Stiles wonder why he seemed so responsible. Derek had been a very serious child. Stiles had wanted to be like him. To be all tough and surly at eleven. By the time his eleventh birthday had come around, Stiles had forgotten his small fascination with Derek Hale.

            Until he was thirteen that is, and he had joined the swim team (his dad was encouraging sports, especially after his mom had died). Derek Hale had been on the team too, swimming faster than anyone. Sometimes Stiles had watched him with an innocent curiousity that had grown into a full-blown obsession. Derek Hale looked good, even at fourteen, half-naked. Stiles could appreciate it.

            At this point in his life, Stiles had already developed an appreciation for both sexes. Not that he had told Scott until they were sixteen. Scott, of course, had immediately suggested he ask Danny on a date. Stiles had shrugged off the idea, if only because Danny is so far out of his league and interested in a guy named Ethan. Just because Danny is out and proud, doesn't mean that he and Stiles would hit it off. He and Danny had kind of become friends anyway. Kind of. He's not entirely sure Danny likes him much, because Danny's best friend is Jackson, and Jackson hates Stiles.

            Stiles feels creepy, wondering what's beyond the surface of Derek Hale. He's officially seen proof that Derek can laugh and high-five, and now Stiles wants to know everything about him. Last year, Derek had almost lost his family in a fire. Stiles had heard all the details from his dad, who had only told him so that Stiles would quit bitching at how rude Derek Hale is.

            Allison Argent's older sister, Kate, had been dating Derek for a few months. Apparently, she had gone crazy. She had claimed that the Hales were monsters who needed to be "put down" and had tried to set their house on fire. Luckily, Derek's mother, Talia, had caught her in time to call the cops.

            Kate admitted to everything and had been moved to a mental institute for help. She just kept muttering about how the Hales are monsters. The Sheriff said at one point she's screamed it. Stiles' dad explained that Derek could have lost everything, and that was tough for a kid to go through, so Stiles needed to be nice.

            Not that Stiles had ever truly been mean to Derek. That would've required them to talk.  Hell, Stiles knows that they hadn't even talked when they'd been on the swim team together. For two main reasons: one, Derek had been in a completely different level, and two, Stiles had stayed off Derek's radar until today. Or, he supposes, maybe until he signed up for the team with Scott. As captain of the lacrosse team, Stiles figures Derek must have taken time to learn everyone's names.

            It seems like the responsible thing to do. Stiles snorts at the thought. Jesus, Hale.

            “Dad!” Stiles shouts when he realizes that he wants to know if he has information on the Hales. When he doesn't hear a response, he decides to head downstairs. It's only then that he remembers his dad's on the night shift.

            Feeling restless, Stiles decides to go for a run. He won't invite Scott though. Today's Monday, and Scott only ran on days they didn't have practice. Stiles ran because it's one place where he can turn his brain off.

            He parks his Jeep at the side of the road, and makes sure it's locked tight. Not that there's anything worth stealing in his baby, but he knows his dad would lecture him if he found out. He turns on his music, putting his headphones in. Stiles starts off with a slow jog, before he finds a faster pace that suits him.

            All thoughts of Derek, the ones that had been plaguing him since practice today, slip away. It isn't until Stiles turns down a path that's close to the Hale house that he lets his thoughts go down that path.

            He doesn't slow down, but he turns down his music, listening to see if any of the Hales are outside. And scores.

            “Oh my god, Derek, you're so unfair!” Cora's familiar voice comes. Stiles starts to slow down now. “Why did you have to tell Mom that I have a crush?”

            “You know the rules,” Derek. There's a sound of car doors shutting.

            “God, you ruined a great day!”

            Stiles strains to hear anything else, so he slows down into a walk. He's a little out of breath, so it's a perfect time to take a small break.

            Another door, heavier like a house door, slams shut. Stiles tries to glance through the bushes, and in his distraction, doesn't see Derek Hale on the path. So naturally, he crashes into him and stumbles down to the ground.

            When Stiles looks up, all he sees is a grumpy ass Derek Hale glaring at him. “Whoa, dude, should've said something. I didn't see you—”

            "Stilinski," Derek growls. Goddammit, that sounds so nice coming from Derek's lips. Stiles really needs to get over his obsession with the dark, brooding, and don't forget mysterious, Derek Hale. How is that going to happen when he speaks like that? He's suddenly acknowledging Stiles' existence, and Stiles isn't going to pass that up for anything. “What are you doing here? You and Scott run on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

            “And I run on the days we don't, alone.” Stiles shakes his head. “Seriously dude. Do you have no manners? Help me up, would you? You knocked me over.”

            Derek doesn't move, or look very impressed, so Stiles sighs dramatically and scrambles to stand up. He brushes off his ass.

            “It's not safe to run alone past dark, Stilinski.”

            Stiles can't resist. He sticks his tongue out at Derek. “The sun won't set for another forty minutes. I'll make it back to my car by then, Hale.”

            Derek eyes him carefully, as if he doesn't buy Stiles' lie. Truth is that Stiles doesn't give a shit if he's running in the dark. What's the big deal? It's not like there's anything that's going to come out and attack him. Literally nothing happens in Beacon Hills. It's not a bad thought, because it keeps his dad safe. “Good. Be sure to do that.”

            “If you're worried, about poor, little ol' me, you could always join me. Protect me from the dangers of the woods.” Stiles waits to see Derek's reaction. Not one damn thing changes on his face. He doesn't even look the slightest bit amused, and Stiles remembers his goal to make Derek laugh. He gives him his best smile.

            “Just go home, Stiles.” Derek's expression changes slightly, as if he's suddenly tired.

            “God, no one wants me fucking anywhere these days.”

            “I'm sure that you have more private places to fuck.”

            Stiles blinks three to maybe a thousand times before he realizes just what exactly Derek Hale had said to him. He snorts, and that turns into a full laugh. Clapping a hand on Derek's shoulder, and bending forward, he wheezes, “Holy shit that was priceless. Your face. I bet you do excellent at poker.”

            “Never played,” Derek mumbles. But Stiles sees it. He sees that Derek's a little more relaxed, a little more amused.

            “We should sometime,” Stiles suggests. Then he hastily adds, “A lacrosse team bonding experience.”

            Derek cocks his head, intrigued. “Do you think the team needs to bond more?”

            “Duh. At least, bond without Jackson. He's an asshole, and no one likes him but Lydia.” Stiles shrugs, taking his hand off Derek's shoulder. How had he managed to keep it there for longer than a second? “But it might be nice. Make us more team-feeling. Well, the others anyway. Greenberg and I are content to stay on the bench.”

            Derek turns his head suddenly and then looks at Stiles with his grumpy face again. “Go home, Stiles. Don't keep running tonight, alright? You'll wear yourself out for practice tomorrow.”

            And just like that, Derek jogs away from him, through the bushes towards his house. Stiles doesn't entirely know why he listens—maybe because it's Derek freaking Hale and everyone listens to Derek—but he heads back to his car. Now, Stiles wonders how it's possible to have gone seven years without ever saying one word to Derek, to having three separate conversations in one day.

            Wow. He could almost get used to this.

            Derek Hale is a sex god, and Stiles wants to find out just how good he is.

            When he pulls up into his driveway, he finds himself smiling. I'm sure you have more private places to fuck. What a joke. Stiles wouldn't have expected Derek to have in it, but as he realized earlier, he doesn't really know Derek too well.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Is Allison out there yet?” Scott whispers nervously to Stiles, who puts his hand on his shoulder sympathetically. Scott hadn't shut up all week about the game. It's okay though, because Stiles had called Lydia three times this week to gush about how fine Derek Hale's ass is. Stiles hadn't talked to Derek since Monday, but he'd gone to practices and watched Derek's ass when he could. Stiles gets how Scott feels. A little, anyway. Stiles likes to think he has more self-control than Scott.

            He totally doesn't.

            Stiles peeks around the corner, his eyes immediately finding the little ginger he'd had such a big crush on. After Lydia Martin, with her determined look, had told him that he would never, ever have a chance with her, she had said that they could be friends. Stiles is pretty grateful for Lydia's friendship. The girl just knows how to give advice, and cut out all irrationality. She sits on the bleachers, with a brunette at her side. Stiles whips back around the corner to look at Scott. “She's here.”

            “Oh god,” Scott whines. “I need her to think I'm...”

            “Scott, if she doesn't like you for who you are, she's stupid.” Stiles shakes his head. He steers Scott back to the change rooms, giving him a pep talk the entire time. “You told me that your phone call went well, and she's been sitting with us during lunch, so stop worrying. She's clearly into you, and I'm sorry, but your lacrosse skills aren't going to make or break it.”

            “You think?” Scott asks, hope filling his tone.

            Ah, that's the Scott that Stiles knows and love. Scott is the definition of hope. Stiles had been in some rough spots, especially after his mother had passed away, but Scott always brought his mood back up. Scott is hope personified. So, if Scott has hope that he can impress Allison, Stiles is positive his buddy will impress Allison.

            “I know so,” Stiles says, loyally. He gives Scott a beaming smile, before they enter the locker room again. Derek eyes them when they walk in, as though he doesn't trust whatever they had just been up to, and Stiles adds quietly to Scott, “You're going to do great, Scott. And even if you fail, you'll bounce back. You always do.”

            “You're the best, Stiles.” Scott leans into his best friend a little. Stiles glances around, super casually, before he lets his gaze land on Derek. Derek adverts his eyes, but Stiles knows that he was looking at them. He almost feels as though Derek's listening to them, but it's impossible. There's so much noise going on right now, and Derek's on the other side of the room. “I'm glad you joined the team with me.”

            “Anything for you, man. I'm excited to watch you play!”

            “It's only happening because you suggested it to Derek. Have I thanked you for that?”

            “Only thirteen thousand times, Scott. Shut up.”

            Coach gets everyone's attention with a quick yell. Stiles notices Isaac jump. Coach points a finger at Scott. “McCall, I hear that our big game move depends on you. Christ almighty, don't fuck it up or you'll be joining Bilinski on the bench permanently for next year too. God forbid you become another Greenberg. I already have one of those, and—oh, Greenberg, shut up.”

            Stiles ignores the rest of Coach's pep talk, which is from Independence Day, and nothing he hasn't heard before. It isn't long before Coach is shouting at them to get their asses onto the field.

            Stiles runs out beside Scott and Isaac. Scott hadn't taken his suggestion to ask for Isaac's help on improving, so Stiles plans to ask after the game is over. It's not as though Scott will get better with his help, so why not ask Isaac? The kid might not talk much, and maybe Stiles had observed that those reasons are most likely due to the fact that he looks like a scared puppy all the time. Stiles had seen Isaac tug his clothing on once. He'd just gotten a glance, because the movement has caught his eyes. He had still seen the bruises. They aren't bruises from lacrosse, and the thought makes Stiles a little sick to his stomach.

            He'd talked to his dad about it, but without any evidence of it, or Isaac asking for help, there isn't much they can do.

            But maybe if Isaac hung around Scott after school to work on his lacrosse skills, Isaac would have an extra few hours break of being terrified. Not that Stiles could assume that Isaac is terrified. Hell, he can't assume much, except that it's obvious Isaac is miserable. He wonders how hanging out around Derek Hale sometimes helps, because Derek's just as miserable.

            Stiles settles down on the bench. Truth be told, Derek isn't just as miserable. Not after seeing the way he'd laughed the other day.

            Wondering if Derek, who's now on the field and kicking some ass, had thought about Stiles much after their encounters on Monday, Stiles kicks a rock with his shoe. He probably hadn't given Stiles a second thought, but Stiles hadn't stopped thinking about Derek since Monday. He had many unanswered questions. He had been trying hard to not romanticize Derek, but he's not entirely sure he's succeeded.

            He keeps his eyes bouncing between Derek and Scott. At one point, Derek gets the ball and starts to run. He's going seriously fast until he visibly slows down. Stiles watches, his eyes narrowing on Derek. Stiles is positive, absolutely positive, that Derek realized he was running too fast and slowed down to a more normal speed. Stiles cocks his head, wondering what the hell that was about.

            “What—did anyone just—?” Stiles turns to see the only person around him is Greenberg. Greenberg wouldn't have seen shit. He leans forward, focusing on Derek now. Because that isn't normal, and how isn't anyone else reacting?

            It's not the first time it happens either. Stiles catches Derek running too fast, and slowly down with a quick glance around while wearing a guilty expression, three more times. Stiles turns to look for the Hales in the seats. When he spots them, he watches as Cora murmurs something out of the corner of her mouth to her mother, who looks highly displeased even though her son's scored most of the goals tonight.

            Stiles can't figure it out, except he knows that Derek had had to think about slowing his run down. No one else would have picked up on it, because they're not studying Derek as though he's the key answers to every single exam Stiles would ever have to take.

            Wondering why the Hales are ridiculously fast people—he'd seen Cora running the other day, and it's not as though his brain had filed that away—or why Derek's mother looked disapproving of Derek's awesome skills, Stiles considers the fact that maybe Mr. Serious takes steroids. Perhaps Derek's mother knows that, and is disappointed in her son. Coach doesn't do frequent drug tests. Stiles thinks that's mainly because Coach forgets and assumes that he'll be able to tell if his students are on drugs.

            Perhaps it's entirely possible that Derek Hale is on steroids. The thought kind of disappoints Stiles, and he wonders if that's because he'd romanticized him. He really doesn't want to do that.

            Not when Derek starts cheering for Scott to run. Wait, where did the time go? This is their last play. Stiles looks up at the scoreboard. It's counting down from 13 seconds, and Stiles stands up. He starts cheering for Scott, forgetting to feel bad about not realizing that the game is almost over, and pumps a fist in the air.

            “Yeah, buddy!” he shouts, laughing. He grins with pride as Scott shoots and...scores!

            Stiles goes crazy, and runs out onto the field to be the first one to tackle Scott.

            Stiles knocks Scott down in one sweet tackle.

            “You did it!” Stiles shouts into Scott's face, laughing. “You did it!”

            “I know! How cool was that?! And it's all 'cause of you!” Scott throws his arms around Stiles, neither of them giving one shit about what anyone thought of Stiles lying on top of Scott. Stiles eventually rolls off Scott, and helps him up.

            “I am so proud, man! Now, go get your girl!” Stiles tells him. Scott grins, high-fiving other team members as he runs over to the stands.

            Stiles beams, happy. He high-fives some of the guys, and then turns to see Derek watching him carefully. He looks happy though, but unless you saw it in his eyes, you wouldn't know it. Stiles walks over.

            “Scott is going to be talking about this game for years,” Stiles tells Derek, not caring if he gets a response. Sometimes it's just nice to talk to someone without any worries about how they'd react. Stiles figures the worst Derek will do is walk away. Or, Stiles thinks amused at himself, run away. Freakishly fast. “I'm happy you gave him that chance, because what did I tell you? They put four people on Boyd, and none on Scott. He was their unsuspecting villain. Oh man, look at him. Allison's hugging him. He's also going to be writing really bad poetry about that moment for the next two years, at least.”

            “You were right,” Derek states. Stiles cranes his neck to look at him with curiousity. Derek glances at Stiles, before looking towards Boyd. “We won, because you were right.”

            “Aw, Derek, is that your way of saying thank you?” Stiles grins. “If that's the case, then you're welcome, your majesty.”

            Derek shoots him a dirty look. Then he looks back at Boyd, scrunching up his nose slightly. Stiles turns to see Boyd crossing his arms slowly. Realizing that he's missing something, Stiles turns back to Derek to ask what the hell is going on, but Derek sighs first and says, “Boyd wants me to ask if you'll...if you'll help me come up with other plays.”

            Stiles blinks. Once. Twice. Maybe even three times, before he nods with his mouth open. “Yeah, uh, yeah, sure, I guess I could do that. Doesn't Coach help you?”

            “He's giving me more responsibility.”

            “So he's feeling lazy.”

            Derek's lips turn upwards. It's a smile. A smile. Stiles tries not to fall over right there. Derek just smiled for him. Just 'cause he insulted Coach with pure amusement in his tone. No one could hate Coach. The guy might shout everything he says, but at the end of the day, he was there for him when his mother died. Hadn't even known Stiles, but he'd known his mom. Stiles remembers Coach walking up to him at the funeral, and quietly telling Stiles that she'd been a good person, and sometimes bad things happen to good people and the world 'fucking sucks', but he'd pull through. And hey, maybe one day he'd coach him at a team in high school. Not that Stiles had ever told anyone that.

            “We'll meet Monday at lunch.”

            Stiles studies Derek's face. It hasn't quite lost it's smile yet, and his eyes seem to spark with something. Stiles can't put his finger on it. He shifts on a foot though, and then quietly says, “Okay. Sure. I'm not sure I'll have any other brilliant ideas though. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, so don't get your hopes up.”

            Derek's smile lifts again, and he shakes his head. “It better not be a one-time thing, Stilinski.”

            “Or what? You'll stick me on the bench?” Stiles asks.

            “I'll make you the mascot.”

            Stiles tries not to let his amusement show, because he really doesn't want to be stuck in the mascot costume. It's a freaking cyclone, and looks ridiculous. Has a face and everything. Stiles nods once slowly. “Message received loud and clear. I'll study up on lacrosse techniques.”

            Derek rolls his eyes. “You do that, Stilinski.”

            Stiles lifts his hand, to give Derek a thumbs-up, only to knock Derek's gloves out of his hands. He makes a noise of surprise, before bending down to pick them up. That's when he notices the tips have holes in them, as though Derek's fingers had been shoved through them. Only that can't be right. The gloves are pretty thick, and Stiles can't imagine how much force it would take to rip through the material with the tips of the gloves.

            Not to mention how much that would kill one's fingers.

            Stiles awkwardly hands them back to Derek, who shoves them underneath his arm and glares.           

            He knows when he's not wanted, so  he starts to walk away, almost because he's unsure what else to say to Derek. Only Derek's voice makes him pause in his tracks. “Stiles, tell the team we're going out for pizza at the arcade.”

            Stiles turns and asks, “Team bonding?”

            “Yep.”

            Stiles grins. Interesting. He's not sure why Derek's taking any of his suggestions, but he's not stopping him. After all, they are his wonderful ideas. Stiles makes rounds, inviting everyone—including Scott, after another bro hug and congratulations—and then Stiles walks up to Isaac.

            “Did you hear that Hale's taking us out for pizza at the arcade?” Stiles asks.

            “Boyd,” is all Isaac says. Stiles hadn't thought it was possible but Isaac really does speak less than Boyd. He wonders how Isaac, and Boyd, and Derek all hang out. Stiles bets they never keep anyone's parents up, because they're all so fucking quiet. Stiles also finds it interesting that he understands with that one word that Boyd told Isaac.

            “Want a ride?” Stiles asks.

            “I have...” Isaac hesitates. Stiles wonders if he was going to say he has to go home. But Isaac nods. “Thanks.”

            “Great!”

            He decides this is a good time to leave Isaac to process the whole social interaction. Honestly, his dad would be pretty proud of him. He'd wanted Stiles to reach out to Isaac for a while when Stiles had suggested what might be happening at home. He thought maybe if Isaac started hanging around the Sheriff's son, he'd eventually ask for help. Stiles hadn't thought it would help, but he'd caught that look of conflict with some deep fear before Isaac had accepted the ride.

            He'd just kill two birds with one stone—and makes a mental note to learn where that saying came from—by making friendly with Isaac, and then having an opportunity to ask him to help Scott and his skills. While he'd scored the winning goal tonight, Scott would need to work at it. Scott's throwing skills weren't the greatest, but his shooting skills weren't bad.

            “Bilinski, I hear that you convinced Hale to take everyone out for a celebration,” Coach says, or shouts, when Stiles walks into the locker room. A few cheers of excitement from the team occur, and Stiles just shrugs. Coach smiles. “Good, I like that my bench warmers are wanting to bond with my team. But do not take them out to get wasted, you hear?”

            “Loud and clear, Coach.”

            “These guys better be ready for tomorrow's practice.”

            “What?” a few responses come, with loud groans.

            “Just because we won our first game, doesn't mean that we get to slack off!” Coach Finstock heads towards his office, and just before he enters, he shouts, “Greenberg, put that away. No one wants to see that shit.”

            Stiles lets out a small laugh.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Isaac's getting a ride with us,” Stiles tells Scott as they walk towards his Jeep. Isaac is nervously standing beside it already. He never hung around in the locker room longer than necessary.

            “Why?” Scott whispers.

            “Kid needs a ride, Scotty.” Stiles rolls his eyes. “Be nice.”

            “He's just so quiet.”

            Stiles hadn't told Scott about his suspicions. He figured it wasn't his place to talk about. Plus, he'd been worried that Scott would freak Isaac out by how damn nice he would be if he knew. At least this way, Scott's polite but with some caution. Stiles doesn't want to overwhelm the dude.

            “Hey,” Stiles and Scott say in unison when they get close to Isaac and the Jeep.

            Isaac nods, before glancing down at the ground. Scott shoots Stiles a dirty look, but Stiles frowns and gives him a warning look.

            “Congrats on the game,” Isaac whispers when they're in the Jeep, before Stiles has turned it on. Stiles isn't sure he would've heard Isaac if he had had the Jeep on. Scott turns around to see him.

            “Thanks, man! I'm surprised that we're going to the arcade. I heard that the team didn't do anything last year,” Scott says happily. Stiles relaxes. Okay, so Scott would play nice. Did he ever really doubt that? No.

            Stiles sees Isaac shake his head in the rear view mirror as he pulls out of his parking space. Somehow, Scott and Stiles keep up a conversation regarding the lacrosse team for the next fifteen minutes.

            Stiles insults Scott about half a dozen times, before he says to Isaac, “You should see this one. He's so head-over-heels in love with Allison Argent. I'm surprised he's gone this long without talking about how much he'll miss her until Monday.”

            “She's coming to the arcade with Lydia,” Scott admits in a mumble.

            Stiles burst out laughing. “Ah, that's why you're not a lovesick puppy right now. You know, if you want to keep impressing Allison, you're going to have to work on your lacrosse skills. Isaac, you're good. Think you could help him out?”

            Scott shoots a look at Stiles, and then looks at Isaac hopefully—or so Stiles assumes correctly, because he knows his best friend way too well sometimes. Scott smiles, but it's his hopeful puppy expression. “That'd...that'd be really nice.”

            Stiles glances in the mirror to see Isaac nod. “I guess I could.”

            “When works for you?” Scott asks, happy again. “I don't want to interrupt your routine too much or make you go out of your way—”

            “We could hang around after practices,” Isaac suggests.

            “Oh, man, that would be so great!” Scott says, with a laugh. “Thanks, man!”

            Isaac nods, but Stiles glances into the mirror again to catch the smallest hint of a smile. He lets them chat—it's mainly Scott talking, but Isaac's nodding along now, completely enthralled in everything that Scott's saying—and Stiles wonders again just how Isaac, Boyd, and Derek hang out. He wonders if they play video games, or just sit in a circle grunting. Stiles can picture the latter so clearly, he tries not to laugh to himself.

            He also tries not to feel as though he's disappointed in Derek for potentially doing drugs. It doesn't seem like the Derek he knows...at least, the one he's made up in his head, so it bums him out a little more than he'd liked to admit. Stiles wonders if he could casually talk to him about it, and if Derek admits it, he could help him.

            Not that Stiles is even close enough to Derek to help him for something so serious. God, Stiles really needs to stop living inside his head.

            When they get to the arcade, he pulls in beside Derek's car. It's the only remaining spot near the front. It'd be weird if he didn't pull in beside the Camaro. Stiles announces they're here, and gets a bland look from Isaac which clearly states, No shit. He smirks a little, pleased to know the bugger has a little bit of humour.

            When Stiles enters the arcade, he finds an empty seat beside Lydia Martin. He slips into it, happy to see Scott sit across the table with Allison and Isaac. “Hey beautiful.”

            “Ugh, Stiles, stop that.” Lydia's eyes sparkle. She leans forward and whispers, “A little birdy told me that this celebration was your idea.”

            “Not quite. I just mentioned team bonding time,” Stiles whispers back. He glances around, surprised that he doesn't see Derek. He then focuses all his attention on Lydia.

            She used to be the person he worshipped, but now he's too intrigued by Derek to even think twice about his previous crush. Lydia makes a small humming noise.

            “Shut up. I told you about how I mentioned it when I ran into him—” Stiles stops talking. He waves a hand in the air, as though that finishes his thought. Then he adds, “He asked me to lunch on Monday to help him with new plays and stuff for the team.”

            Lydia's eyebrow shoots up. She smirks, almost as though she's pleased with herself. As if she was the one to suggest it, but it was clearly Boyd. Derek had said so. “That sounds lovely, Stiles. What a great way to get to know, Derek.”

            “Ugh, Lydia, it's about the team. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to get to know me...does he?” Stiles' eyes go wide at the thought. Then he remembers it's Derek, and he's positive that he has no interest in getting to know Stiles, so he deflates. He glances around once more, and still no sign of Derek, and then tells Lydia, “I saw something weird today.”

            “What's that?”

            Stiles quietly, so quietly that Lydia asks him to speak up three times, tells her his suspicions of Derek being on steroids. She frowns. “Stiles, there's no way.”

            “Explain that then,” Stiles counters.

            “I refuse to believe it. I think you're overreacting to his athletic abilities because you want him to be different.”

            And well, hell, doesn't that suck? He'd been telling himself to stop romanticizing Derek Hale, and he'd gone and done it anyway. Stiles sits back in his seat, completely deflated now. Lydia pats his hand. It's then that he notices Derek's stepped into the room. He silently takes a seat beside Boyd and Erica at the end of the table. God, it seems like everyone was here with someone—Erica and Boyd, Lydia and Jackson, Scott and Allison, Danny and Ethan—and Stiles feels ridiculously single. It's not an unusual feeling. The truth is that Stiles isn't even sure if he wants a relationship. They all seem so complicated—especially if you look at Lydia and Jackson's.

            They were so on-again/off-again that Stiles has a hard time keeping track. She loves him, he knows, but Stiles has also picked up on some sexual tension between her and Aiden. He's relieved that there had never been sexual tension between them, despite his crush on her, because the whole Jackson-Lydia-Aiden thing kind of worried him. It's a strange dynamic that Stiles never, ever wants to get involved in.

            Stiles doesn't want to speak aloud anymore, so he texts Lydia.

 

STILES: lyd, you're positive that he's not on steroids?

LYDIA: stiles, jackson would probably know if he was, okay?
LYDIA: I know you're obsessed with him, but why?? 

STILES: he's sexy?

LYDIA: ugh, get to know him first or something
LYDIA: stop stalking him, and go talk to him
LYDIA: okay? 

STILES: maybe

 

            Only less than an hour later, Stiles asks the table who challenges him to a racing game. Derek nods, and silently follows him to the game. What is happening? Stiles isn't sure how much more Derek interaction he can handle before his brain explodes with shock.

            When they start playing, and Stiles realizes how good Derek is compared to him, he doesn't worry about winning and decides to take Lydia's advice. “So you gave me credit for team bonding night?”

            “Yep,” Derek says, his focus completely on winning the game.

            Stiles, determined now, tries again. “Why did you do that?”

            “It was a good idea,” Derek says. His eyes never waver from the screen, not even briefly. He turns another corner, before Stiles realizes he's quit driving all together. He starts his car back up, and focuses too. Derek adds, “And no one would've believed me if I told them it was my idea anyway.”

            “Why not?” Stiles asks, surprising himself by almost catching up to Derek's car.

            “I'm not the social type,” Derek deadpans.

            Stiles can't resist. His laughter bubbles out, because Derek's right. It would've sounded unbelievable coming from him. Stiles turns another corner on the screen, and is excited to see Derek's car in his view. “God, you're so not. Why'd you choose the arcade?”

            “Spend a lot of time here,” Derek mutters. He crosses the finish line, and disarms Stiles with a grin. “Kicked your ass.”

            “Who knew you'd be into this shit?” Stiles says, laughing. “Let's play again. This time, no talking. It's distracting.”

            “You were the one—” Derek shakes his head, with an exasperated sigh. It's almost as though he knows Stiles well enough to know that Stiles wouldn't let him win the argument. Stiles counts it as a win, and decides that maybe Derek isn't so grumpy after all. He puts in some more tokens and the game starts up again.

            Stiles watches the screen intensely, making sure that all his concentration is on the game, when someone opens the arcade door and a breeze comes through. The breeze brings the insanely sexy scent of Derek to his nose, and he breaks his concentration to look at him. God, Derek's so damn focused that it's kind of cute. Stiles panics for a second, remembering that he had challenged the sexy beast, and focuses once more on the game.

            Derek, of course, won.

            “C'mon, let's play something else.” Stiles scans the room, and grins. “Air hockey time. Nobody beats me at air hockey.”

            Derek lets out a grunt, but he follows Stiles to the table. They put in their tokens and then prepare to play. Just before Derek drops the plastic puck in the center of the table, he flashes a silent warning to Stiles. He would not be an easy opponent.

            Luckily for Derek, Stiles is up for the challenge.

            When the game is still going, twenty minutes later, and the score is up to 6-6, with the next goal being the winning one, Stiles doesn't realize that they've gained an audience until he hears the glorious clanking of the puck going into Derek's side of the table.

            He lifts his arms, cheering victory, when people start clapping. Stiles grins at Derek, and then turns to share a high-five with Danny. Stiles challenges, “Are we playing another one, or are you afraid to lose again?”

            “I'm not afraid of anything,” Derek counters. He puts in a token, his eyes daring Stiles to do the same. So Stiles does. And then, they're playing again.

            This time it's less intense, so they lose their audience. Stiles is okay with that. He decides they've been silent for too long. “So who'd you have to kill to get your crazy speed?”

            “What?” Derek hisses, hitting the red puck back to Stiles.

            “Dude, you run so fast. Actually, you do a lot of normal things fast.” Stiles shakes his head. “It's kind of ridiculous. Like, maybe try being a normal human being and run at a normal speed, y'know? Give us mere humans a chance.”

            Derek seems to stiffen, but he continues to play. When he doesn't say anything, Stiles wonders if he's managed to hurt Derek's feelings. He'd meant it as a joke, light and easy, to see if he could get Derek to admit to drugs. He's not sure why he thought that it'd work. Derek doesn't really talk to people. After the silence drags out, Stiles says, “Dude, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to insult you. I'm just saying, you can run.”

            Derek just nods, and continues to hit the puck back. They'd fallen into a silent game of passing it back and forth, without the challenge of trying to win. After a moment, Derek says, “Running fast has just been a natural ability.”

            Stiles shrugs. “Whatever, dude. It's pretty awesome. Why aren't you on track?”

            “Too dull,” Derek responds. That's why Stiles isn't on the track team. Alright, he can work with that.

            “Do you run in the woods too?” he asks.

            Derek's eyes widen a little at the question, before he nods. “Yeah, I jog and stuff.”

            Okayyyy, Stiles thinks. He definitely thinks that Derek's on some steroids and feeling weird because he hasn't been running on it, 'cause he hasn't need that boost. Damn. Stiles shakes his head a little. “Do you have a favourite path?”

            “I prefer going off the paths,” Derek responds as he hits the puck back to Stiles. It's a slower game this time, as though both of them wish to drag it out. Stiles hopes so. God, he hopes so.

            “Isn't that dangerous?” Stiles asks, eyeing Derek.

            “I'm not some skinny, defenceless kid.”

            “You're definitely not a kid,” Stiles murmurs. The puck slides back to Derek. He glances up, to see surprise on Derek's face, and the puck clangs into his net. He smirks. “Is that how I beat you? Just shock you with words. Because I can be quite good at that. I mean, if that's what it takes to win...all's fair in love and war, right?”

            Derek just gives him a grunt, placing the puck back onto the table.

            “I have a question. What do you...and like your friends do when you hang out?” Stiles asks, switching tactics.

            Derek tilts his head, before hitting the puck a little harder this time. “We do what most do. We talk, eat, and play video games. Sometimes come here.”

            “Isaac too?” Stiles asks.

            Derek shakes his head. “His father doesn't let him do much.”

            Stiles gets quiet. He glances around to see that Isaac is now playing the racing game, the one Stiles had played with Derek, with Scott. Allison cheered them both on. Clank, and Stiles glances down to see Derek's scored on him.

            Before he places the puck back into play, he asks Derek another question. “Is he...is he safe at home?”

            Derek eyes him suspiciously, as if he has other motives.

            “Dad's the Sheriff, dude.” Stiles rolls his eyes. “I learned from the best, and I notice stuff; it's an annoying habit...”

            Derek shakes his head. “I don't think so, but he refuses to talk about it.”

            Stiles nods. “Okay.”

            He places the puck down.

            The continue to play in silence until Stiles scores on Derek again. This time it's Derek who doesn't put the puck back into play right away. He takes a minute or so before asking, “Why do you run alone, since you're the Sheriff's kid, and have probably heard about the animal attacks?”

            Stiles frowns, but answers anyway. “Dude, they're animals attacking animals. As far as I know, they haven't attacked any humans. It's probably just animals doing their natural shit. I don't know why you're so worried about the woods. They're not that dangerous.”

            Derek nods, but Stiles can tell he isn't buying it. He drops the puck. “You should do the buddy system. What if you get lost?”

            “First off, I know those woods pretty damn well. Secondly, I'm assuming you'll be around lurking somewhere and can help me.” Stiles grins, and Derek raises a single eyebrow in response. Stiles adds, “You could join me, but you never do.”

            “You couldn't keep up,” Derek says. Something about his tone says that he's trying to be funny, and Stiles lets out a small snort.

            “No, not with the way you run. Sometimes it's like a blur dude.”

            Derek scores the final goal and nods. “I should go home. Have a nice night, Stilinski. Boyd—let's go.”

            Stiles hadn't even realized Boyd had started to hang around the table. He frowns, but before he can protest, the two of them are gone.

            Stiles glances over at Scott, Isaac, and Allison who seem to be enjoying themselves. Hell, Isaac is even giving them a shy smile. Happiness, Stiles thinks, is contagious. First Derek had been caught smiling, now Isaac. What is the world coming to?

            Lydia and Aiden are off to god knows where, while Jackson rants about it to Danny and Ethan. He glowers at the twin. There are other players on the team—god, like Greenberg—but Stiles doesn't care to talk to any of them.

            Less than ten minutes after Derek and Boyd had left, Stiles tells Scott he wants to head out. Allison cheerfully says, “Lydia and I can give you guys a ride back home. Danny's taking Jackson out to that gay bar, because he's upset about Lyds.”

            “Perfect!” Scott says, grinning at Stiles. “So I'll see you tomorrow at practice, buddy?”

            “Sure,” Stiles says. He hugs Scott, each patting one another's back. “Have a good night, dude.”

            “You too!”

            Then Scott's back to kicking ass with Isaac and Allison. Stiles pulls out his cellphone when it buzzes before he gets into his Jeep.

 

UNKNOWN NUMBER: meet at my car on Monday. don't be late.

STILES: derek? how did you get my number?

DEREK: captain privilege?

STILES: that's a breach of privacy!

DEREK: it's in a bathroom stall, actually.

STILES: i'mma kill jackson. what a dick.

 

            Stiles drops his phone onto the seat beside him. He hears it buzz, but doesn't look at it until he's safe in his bedroom.

 

DEREK: he's a good player, maybe wait until after the season is over.

STILES: guess I could do that. just for you.

DEREK: how kind of you.

STILES: anything for you babe.

 

            Maybe he's playing with fire. He's not entirely sure he cares. Stiles doesn't receive a response for an hour, and by this time, he's curled up in bed almost asleep. He rolls over to pick up his phone.

 

DEREK: good to know.

 

            Stiles smiles, and for some reason, decides not to respond. Not only had Derek Hale talked to him on multiple occasions this week, asked for Stiles' brainstorming skills regarding the lacrosse team he's captain of, and bugged him on his nightly runs, but he had just texted him. Stiles is grinning as he falls asleep. What's better than your childhood obsession finally paying attention to you? He doesn't know.

            When he wakes up, he finds himself with a new text message.

 

DEREK: don't be late on Monday.

Chapter Text

♚ ♞ ♚ ♞ ♚ ♞

 

            Stiles goes for a run after practice on Sunday. He hadn't tried that hard during practice, and the truth is that he's positive that Derek had been watching him carefully. It'd made Stiles want to do worse, if only to have Derek show him just how it's done. Stiles had wished they could have some cliché movie moment just to feel Derek's hands on him. Not that lacrosse had much room for those kinds of moments, and not that Derek would ever take advantage of the situation for that. At least, Stiles assumes he wouldn't. Too bad.

            It's late in the afternoon, and he comes to a fork in the paths. Of course, he decides to jog past the Hale house. It's not a difficult decision. He just can't resist. Derek's ass had looked extra good today, and if Stiles had been a creep who'd taken a peek while Derek had been changing, that would stay Stiles' secret. He remembers that Danny had done it to Ethan...except Ethan had been doing it right back, so Stiles isn't sure that counts as a decent defense.

            “I thought I told you to quit tiring yourself out for practice,” Derek's voice comes. Stiles isn't that surprised. He'd almost sensed that Derek would show up today, especially after Derek had specifically told Stiles at practice not to run. Stiles is a little pleased that Derek knew he wouldn’t listen.

            Stiles forces Derek to start jogging beside him to keep up, because he doesn't stop. He just tosses out the words, “When you're creepily waiting for me? How could I ever resist?”

            He wonders if Derek understands that he's teasing, and glances over to see. Derek's expression doesn't seem to change in the least, and Stiles decides he's getting sick of seeing that Resting Sad Face. He wants to make Derek smile. He loves his smile.

            Derek doesn't break a sweat as he jogs beside Stiles, but he also hasn't been running around for forty-five minutes getting the nerve to run up to the Hale house. So when Stiles falls into a walk, Derek matches his speed.

            “It's getting late,” Derek warns in a mutter.

            “Yeah I know. You've told me before. What are you so afraid of, Grumpy Pants?” Stiles jokes. He glances around, “And FYI—the sun sets in an hour.”

            “Wolves,” Derek admits quietly. He looks at Stiles. “There are wolves out here. I just need my best bench warmer to be in one piece.”

            “Aw, I'm a better bench warmer than Greenberg? I don't know whether to be flattered or insulted.” Stiles rolls his eyes. After a beat, he adds, “But dude, there aren't any wolves in California. Thanks for the concern though.”

            “I've seen them.”

            Stiles can hear the genuine concern, but he still shakes his head. “I'm telling you, they don't live here anymore. I should know I did my grade three speech on wolves.”

            Derek's interest seems to peak. “Oh yeah?”

            “Yep. They're awesome creatures, and I see why people like and fear them, but they still don't hang around in California anymore.” Stiles puts a hand on Derek's shoulder. “You're going nuts.”

            Stiles gives him his best grin, and watches as Derek shakes his head. It's as though he's frustrated at Stiles for not taking him seriously but wolves aren't in California, so Stiles doesn't see the issue. When Derek doesn't say much, Stiles quietly asks, “Would you ever… would you ever join me on a run? If I met you at your place first?”

            Derek shakes his head. “I hate the woods, Stiles. Let's get you back to your car, okay?”

            “No,” Stiles says, suddenly feeling rejected and annoyed. He stops walking. “You go home, I'll just make my way around this last loop—I know where it leads. Alright? I'll see you tomorrow. And I'll be two minutes late, guaranteed.”

            He doesn't look to see if Derek follows him as he starts running.

Stiles doesn't know how he knows it, call it a gut feeling, but he knows that Derek won't. He comes around the turn and slows down into a walk again.

            No need to run anymore. He no longer feels the motivation to run, because… just...

            Fuck, Derek isn't helping Stiles' obsession. Today at practice, Stiles had tripped and almost smashed his head on the bleachers because Derek had been pulling off his shirt. Thankfully, Scott had caught him to yank him upright again. Stiles still isn't sure where Scott had gotten that fast reaction time, but he's grateful. Stiles had tried not to drool over the memory of Derek shirtless during practice, but it hadn't worked out so well. It doesn't help that he'd spent most of practice anticipating seeing his bare ass in the locker room either.

            Derek hadn't been overly grumpy today, so apparently winning the game had been good for his overall mood. Stiles had seen him briefly after practice, talking to Isaac. He couldn't hear what they'd been talking about, but it'd looked serious. When Isaac had left—his dad had driven up to pick him up—Derek had kicked a garbage can. It'd gone a lot further for a kick than Stiles would've expected for just a kick...but what does he know about muscles and strength? Perhaps Jackson could have kicked it the exact same distance.

            Stiles had wanted to ask Derek about that, but he'd lost his moment. Why had he asked Derek if they could run together? That's the stupidest thing ever. The reason Stiles runs alone is because he enjoys running alone, running without Scott. He could shut off his brain if he wants, and that’s a relief sometimes. Still, he'd asked Derek if they could run together. Is he stupid? Besides, now he's just fucking walking.

            Derek had started chatting about wolves. He'd seen them? Stiles is positive that they're out of California, so why the hell would they be in Beacon Hills of all places?

            It's just when he thinks that that he hears a crunch of a branch behind him. He spins around, and catches a quick moment of an animal stepping off the path, behind a bush. Stiles shakes his head. No, he did not just see a big black dog. That's fucking ridiculous.

            His heart isn't racing, because he's not stupid. He's not freaking out, or convincing himself that he hadn't seen anything. Stiles keeps his cool, up until the moment that he sees a pair of bright yellow eyes peering through the bush.

            Oh no. No, no, no. Derek was not right.

            The eyes disappear, but Stiles knows what he saw. He saw a dog's eyes that looked freakishly similar to a wolf's. He would not admit to Derek that maybe he'd been wrong on the wolf count. He isn't wrong, and he knows that.

            Stiles figures it's like when you learn a new word and suddenly that word seems to show up everywhere. Perhaps he's just more aware and that’s why he only now sees a large dog that lives in the woods that Derek thinks is a freaking wolf. What a dummy.

            “C'mon puppy,” Stiles whispers. His heart might be racing slightly, because Derek's afraid of this dog. And Stiles gets the feeling that not much scares Derek. He steps closer to the bush, only to hear the smallest whine. Eyebrows up in surprise, Stiles carefully walks around the bush.

            He doesn't spot anything, and sighs. “Fuck.”

            That's when he hears it again. The small whine. Stiles looks up, only to just catch the movement of something large and black running over a small hill. He debates running after it, but thinks of Derek's genuine concern. Maybe he'd call it a day.

            Derek's still wrong though. No wolves in California—Stiles proves himself right with a forty-five minute research session. Then he switches to lacrosse team plays. Not fun.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “You're late,” Derek growls when Stiles walks into the cafe. He takes the seat across from Derek, confused as to why there are two drinks sitting on the table. Did Derek...?

            “I told you I would be two minutes late and I’d meet you here.” Stiles rolls his eyes. With a quick survey of the coffee shop, he picks up the coffee in front of him. Derek doesn't blink or look remotely surprised, so Stiles takes a sip. “Thanks for the coffee. Just how I like it: black.”

            “There's cream and—”

            “I drink my coffee black.” Stiles knows that not everyone would be able to get away with interrupting Derek Hale. He's not sure why he thinks that he can get away with it. Call it a hunch. Perhaps it's because he knows that Derek, as scary as he is, wouldn't hurt him. Somewhere under all his gruff and annoyance, Stiles is positive that Derek likes him. Otherwise, he wouldn't keep talking to him. Right? Right. Right? Right...oh god, Stiles doesn't know. He just figures that Derek Hale isn't going to kill his best bench warmer.

            “Oh.”

            Stiles pulls out his notebook. “I did a lot of research on lacrosse techniques, and then common and uncommon plays that coaches tend to use. Then I watched a few video recordings of huge winning games. I made notes on everything, and then wrote who I think would be best to follow through with them. I even found a play that Greenberg will be useful for. It's because he trips over air on a regular basis, but it can provide a nice distraction for this play.”

            Stiles flips through his book as he's talking. He points to a particular one that he called, “DAMMIT GREENBERG” for good measure. Stiles is particularly proud of that play. It'd be a little tricky to pull off, and they wouldn't use it on their main competition. His eyes sparkle as he watches Derek's face change from annoyance to...oh god, dare he think it, impressed. Derek Hale is impressed.

            Derek holds a hand up when Stiles opens his mouth to keep speaking. He flips back to the first page, and then carefully reads Stiles' chicken scratch of writing. “Don't.”

            The command keeps Stiles' lips shut as Derek finishes, and flips to the next page. His eyebrows go up at one point, and Stiles bets he knows which part. The part where Scott's in the net. Derek probably hadn't considered it—Matt had done a fairly decent job at it—but Scott's throwing techniques still needed work. He did excellent at catching, so why wouldn't he be great in the net? Derek nods at something else Stiles had scribbled.

            He pushes page three at Stiles and says, “What does that say?”

            Derek stabs the page with his finger. Stiles leans forward and it takes him a minute to read his own writing. “Oh! That says that Isaac doesn't do well with people running towards him fast, but he's pretty great at being an attacker. And Boyd favours his right hand on the stick a little too far up. It should be one-third of the way up the stick handle, not half, which is usually what he does. And then—”

            “I'll keep reading,” Derek interrupts. Stiles leans back, enjoying the view of Derek reading intensely. He sips some of his coffee, and wonders what Derek thinks of him. So far Stiles hasn't made the best impression, at least not when it comes to Derek. Not that Stiles cares or anything, of course. Derek Hale doesn't like most people.

            Derek flips through to look at the plays that Stiles had scribbled out. Some of them he had written, “DO NOT TRY; TOO COMMON” beneath them. Others he'd given a title of some sort, and wrote down exactly why certain people would be good for certain positions.

            “Jackson needs to keep his left arm a little closer to his body when he catches,” Derek reads. It's one of his scribbled down thoughts on the last play. He glances up. “You pay attention to the team well.”

            Stiles shrugs. “I like researching, studying, and strategic stuff.”

            “Okay, what exactly is The Wolf?” Derek asks, flipping back a few pages and pointing at it.

            Stiles grins. “It's a play I designed. Someone else has probably used it before, but it should solve the Isaac, Boyd, Scott, and Jackson problem. If we follow this, it'll play up everyone's strengths. Basically, you'll be playing a sneaky wolf who circles around here—” Stiles points to the diagram, “—and then Boyd can throw it to you when you get here. That's where Isaac comes in. And then right here, it'll be Danny. He's pretty solid overall, not seriously excelling in any skill over the others, so he's a safe person to put there. Then you'll move here, and then score there.”

            Derek looks up at Stiles, without tipping his head up too far. “You said you thought the Scott thing would be a one-time thing.”

            “Yeah, I know, but after some research, I realized that I have paid attention to how everyone plays.”

            “What's my weakness?” Derek asks, his voice a little hushed.

            Stiles snorts loudly, before he casually sips on his coffee. When he realizes that Derek seems a little worried, Stiles reassures him. “Dude, you don't have any weaknesses. Except when you slow down after you run too fast. Just keep running. No one will catch up to you anyway. That's why you have a direct line here.”

            Derek nods. He doesn't look down at the paper. He just studies Stiles' face, and it makes Stiles wonder if Derek really is on steroids. Maybe that's why he looks a little upset for not having any weaknesses. Stiles flips the page, and then points at DAMMIT GREENBERG. “We need to try this one. If only to see Coach's face when Greenberg trips and knocks over two of the opponent's players.”

            Derek's lips curve slightly. It's barely noticeable, but just noticeable enough for someone who's studying Derek Hale's entire body with passion. Stiles counts it as a win, even though it's not a full smile. “You have Scott in the net a lot.”

            “He's good. He'd make a great goalie. He wouldn't be tired out so fast, because he wouldn't be running. And catching is his strength anyway. Matt would be better chasing people, anyway.” Stiles waves a hand in the air. He flips through his notebook, not embarrassed one bit that it's almost half-full just on lacrosse stuff, and then points to another page that Derek hadn't looked at closely.

            He circles a name on the page and says, “For this play, Scott would work well. You'd be over here, and you'd pass to him, because no one would expect that either. Everyone assumes once you have the ball, it's a given that you'll be the one shooting it. That's why the other teams cover you or Boyd the most.”

            “Okay,” Derek says, with slight hesitation.

            “So if you have the ball, they'll immediately swarm you in an attempt to stop you.”

            “But if I quickly pass to Scott, he'll be free to run—slow or not—to the goalie.” Derek shakes his head. “Why didn't I think of that?”

            “Because you're not brilliant like some people. Me. And besides, you're not wrong in how you've been setting up plays for people's strengths. It just happens that I know my best friend can handle this stuff, and he sucks at throwing to people. Isaac's going to work with him on that, so we can get Scotty in tiptop shape. Soon he'll be your replacement for next year.” Stiles pauses and then adds, “You're not a bad captain.”

            Derek shrugs. “Maybe not, but this is good, Stiles.”

            “I know,” he says, with a smirk. “This stuff is my strength. Lacrosse is not.”

            “But you're on the team so that McCall doesn't embarrass himself. Got it.” Derek frowns. “You said Lahey is helping McCall practice?”

            “Yeah, after practices.” Stiles watches Derek carefully now.

            Derek's eyebrows are ridiculously expressive, and Stiles is learning how to read them lately. He looks concerned—just as he had when he'd been warning Stiles out in the woods—and then he shakes his head in the smallest of movements. “I'm not sure that's a good idea.”

            “It'll keep Isaac out of his house, just for a bit longer.”

            “Yeah, but his dad hates that he's doing lacrosse now as it is.” Derek runs his hands through his hair, and then props his elbows on the table. He leans forward, resting his forehead in his palms. It's a long moment before he looks up at Stiles again. “It could get worse.”

            “So I was right? Isaac is being...” Stiles can't bring himself to voice it aloud. It's strange, how worried he suddenly is about some kid he doesn't know. Perhaps it's the stress he sees on Derek, or maybe it's the fact that he'd liked driving to the arcade with Isaac. Now he just needs to help.

            “Yeah. I think so. He doesn't talk about it—refuses.” Derek looks helpless and a little lost. “I just can't...and he's...and...”

            Stiles doesn't think, he just reaches out and places a hand on Derek's arm. It makes Derek slowly drop his arms to the table, but Stiles keeps on touching him. “Derek, it's not your fault. Until Isaac is ready to talk about it, you can't prove anything, and you can't do anything. Trust me; my dad's tried everything he can think of. Maybe...maybe this will help Isaac realize that he needs help.”

            Derek shakes his head. “I've offered to have him come live with my family, but he swears his dad would just drag him home. I've seen his dad pull up when he comes to get Isaac and yell. It's not like an angry parent, it's an...”

            Abusive one, Stiles silently finishes. He pulls his hand away after a few minutes, and then asks, changing subjects, “Do you and Boyd and Isaac talk? You're all pretty quiet.”

            Derek shakes his head. “Just because you never seem to shut up, and have an answer for everything, doesn't mean we don't talk.”

            Stiles grins a little.

            “Derek!”

            They both turn to see a little blonde in terrifying high heels strutting towards them. She gives him a small wave, and a bright smile. Before either of them can react, Erica Reyes is shoving Derek over in the booth and joining them.

            “What on earth am I interrupting?” Erica asks voice full of mischief and curiosity. She beams a little at Stiles. “Well, well, what do we have here? Is this the Sheriff's kid? Derek, what are you doing with the Sheriff's kid? You know how much trouble you'd get into.”

            “Did I—did I miss something?” Stiles asks, searching Derek's face.

            “No,” Derek says. It's quick but decisive. Stiles isn't sure if it's the truth or a lie, but trusts Derek a little. Derek looks at the blonde beside him. “Erica, what do you want?”

            “What? I can't say hi to my favourite Hale?” Erica rolls her eyes. She smiles at Stiles. “Don't let this one's mood bring you down. He thinks the worst of everyone. We always have another agenda to him.”

            “You do,” Derek accuses. He pouts. Oh my god, Stiles is in love. Derek pouts as though he's a two-year-old child, and Stiles is in love. Does that mean he should be worried? He pushes the thought away, and settles into an amused smile. Of course, he's not actually in love with Derek, but god, he pouts so fucking adorably.

            How is a guy supposed to resist?

            “What's the secret to making Derek smile?” Stiles asks, loving the fact that Erica's face seems to dance with amusement. She lets out a small laugh, and shoves Derek slightly.

            “This one hasn't given up on you yet. Be good to him, Hale. I like this kid.” Erica turns back to Stiles. She leans forward, and in a stage-whisper says, “Make lame jokes. Those are secretly his favourite. He might not laugh, but he'll be a fucking marshmallow. Plus it doesn't help if you're carrying pie.”

            “Pie?” Stiles asks, looking curiously at Derek Hale.

            “He loves pie. Would practically would kill someone for a slice. Any kind of pie will do for Dereky-poo,” Erica drawls.

            “I've seen him give it up before,” Stiles murmurs. Derek cocks his head at him, as though he has no understanding of what he's talking about. Which is fair. It'd been at the swim team's end of season party. Stiles had been chatting to one of his teammates, Danny--now also on the lacrosse team—and had watched as Derek had growled in their direction before slamming his piece of pie back onto the table. He'd stormed out, and they hadn't seen him until the end of the party.

            Stiles had just assumed that Derek hadn't wanted the pie, had picked it up in hopes of it being one kind and discovered it was another.

            “Erica, go away.”

            “No, stay,” Stiles protests. He shoots a look at Derek. “I like her.”

            “He likes me, I like him. It's a match made in heaven,” Erica teases.

            Stiles, being Stiles and unable to resist some harmless flirting, dramatically says, “I have finally found my soul mate. After searching every inch of this earth, I have finally found you at a sourpuss's side. Please, run away with me and forget him. You'll never be happy with him anyway.”

            Erica smirks, and says in a theatre voice, “Oh Stilinski, I will. I'll run away with you. This thing I'm currently with isn't doing it for me...in the bedroom.”

            Stiles snorts. “Okay, even I can't play along knowing that Boyd could pound me into the ground with one punch. But all things considered, I'm sure you'd be happy hanging out with this one.”

            “Oh yeah?” Erica's eyes seem to continue to sparkle with something. Stiles wonders exactly what it is.

            “Yeah. He startled me half-to-death with a joke the other day. But it was so worth it.” Stiles grins at Erica. “Your bestie creeps me on my runs in the woods, and tells me they're too dangerous.”

            He can't miss the look that Erica gives Derek, stripped of amusement, full of worry and concern. She looks back at him, her expression more grave than he'd ever seen. “Stiles, just stay out of the woods, okay? Wolves are back, and they've been attacking a lot of animals, alright. It was nice seeing you, cupcakes. I'm out. See you at school.”

            Erica leaves before either Derek or Stiles have a chance to say goodbye. Stiles frowns. “So you guys really believe that wolves have come back to California?”

            “We know so.” Derek sighs. “Listen, I want to show Coach your notes. Mind if I go back to the school?”

            “No, sure, by all means. Meeting's over with, done. Yeah.”

            “Uh—?”

            “No, really, it's fine. I'll call Lydia. See you at practice tonight—oh, never mind it was cancelled.”

            “Don't run tonight. I'll be a—I won't be home.”

            Just like that, Derek leaves.

            “What the hell?” Stiles mutters to himself.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles goes running, even though he knows Derek won't be home. He had started to drive himself crazy at home. His thoughts had been circling around Derek Hale, of course, because honestly, what had happened to Stiles' life? Only a week ago, he'd been nothing to Derek. Not that he's anything special to Derek now. He's just on Derek's radar, so that Derek can get help making a stronger lacrosse team. That's it. That's the only reason.

            That and this past week, Derek had been strangely obsessed with demanding that Stiles quit running. Why is it so bad that he runs? And even Erica had been weird about it.

            He pushes himself a bit harder, running until he's out of breath. When he starts walking, he hears a growl.

            What.

            No.

            Stiles turns.

            Oh my god.

            Yep.

            He had been wrong. So very wrong. Wolves are in California, and Stiles' grade three speech doesn't seem to deserve the high praise he'd received about it. He doesn't know what to do. Stiles decides to just stand very still. Not that his legs are allowing him to move anyway.

            The grey wolf seems more surprised to see him than he it, if that makes any sense. It's eyes are a bright blue, and as it starts to walk towards him, another wolf—oh my god, is there a pack here? Of course, there's a pack. Why wouldn't there be a pack? Stiles is going to die—steps in front. The grey wolf's ears go back, and then it whimpers as it runs off.

            The big, black wolf—oh my god—turns to look at him. It seems to tilt its head in curiosity. Its eyes are a bright yellow, and Stiles wonders if they're the same ones from yesterday.

            “Hh—hi there,” Stiles stammers. He's crazy. He's crazy for talking to a wolf, for still denying its existence in California even though he has proof before him, and for standing exactly where he is when it starts to walk towards him.

            Stiles doesn't necessarily feel scared of the wolf though. He knows he should. It's a wolf. Derek and Erica had been worried about them. Yet Stiles just feels a strange sense of familiarity. Maybe it's the eyes, maybe it's the way the damn thing is looking at him, or the way he feels the wolf thinking.

            Then the black wolf turns and runs after the one it'd scared off.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles sits down at his computer. He stretches his fingers before typing. In Google, he writes, "Wolves in California" but all the preliminary results state that wolves had left California. He finds himself on the 22nd page and realizes that so far no one's reported seeing wolves in Beacon Hills. It’s strange, because most of the packs that had been in California were being tracked, as they went through each generation.

            Stiles clicks on another link - an old newspaper article. It writes about werewolves, and while Stiles finds it interesting that it had been published in the paper in 1902, he exits the article. The supernatural world doesn't exist, and he's not stupid enough to buy into it. So he searches something else. Anything else that would suggest why wolves have come back to California.

            Stiles learns about their migration patterns, but by all accounts, wolves hadn't headed back this way. It's too rare, too unusual. This somehow gets him to a link about Canadian geese and how the warm beginnings to winter had messed up their migration, how they are slowly adapting to be able to withstand the sharp coldness. While it's interesting, it's unhelpful.

            Stiles decides to go to the library tomorrow. Derek would just have to do without him for practice. He's sure he can handle it. Stiles wonders why Derek's so afraid of the wolves. Maybe one had tried to attack someone in his family? It doesn't make sense though, why they wouldn't report that?

            He supposes that the wolves are responsible for the spike in animal killings,, and wonders if that's why Derek worries. Stiles decides there are too many unanswered questions where Derek's concerned.

            Does Derek enjoy cereal? Why does he seem to get clammy every time Stiles mentions his speed? Does Derek like reading? He seems like the type to enjoy a good book. Maybe they have similar interests. Does Derek still swim? Why had he quit the team so suddenly? How does he know when Stiles is running alone? He always appears to be unsurprised by Stiles' presence.

            And what the hell was that about Derek telling their mother that Cora had a crush? She knew the rules, Derek had said. What rules? Who cares if Cora has a crush? And on that note, did Derek have any crushes? Who would he like? Is he straight or bisexual?

            Stiles knows he had dated Kate Argent. His mind goes back to that. Why had Kate decided the Hales were monsters? Sure they're a little intimidating but they hardly seemed like monsters. Stiles wonders if his dad knows why.

            He curls up into bed, only falling asleep out of exhaustion from his questions.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles ends up going to practice. He can't resist seeing how the plays that Derek is going to have the team run through turn out. He sits on the bench, watching as Derek thinks. He can practically see the wheels turning, and finds himself unable to look away. He also finds himself unable to resist solving Derek's obvious problem. “Yo Derek, you should just split the team in half—tell one half the play, and have the other half to play defense.”

            Derek freezes, the pen he'd been tapping on the notebook going still. He tilts his head slightly, almost as though he wants to get a better look at Stiles, and then nods slowly. Stiles has to say, the fact that Derek is taking Stiles' suggestions seriously is a major ego boost. Or maybe it's because Derek's insecure with his own abilities. Who cares? Stiles wants to hum and preen himself in front of the rest of the team, to silently say, ha-ha, Derek likes my suggestions and never listened to yours. That'd be childish though.

            “Oh...kay,” Derek says carefully. His mind is still working, running through the possibilities. “Okay, sure.”

            Stiles rolls his eyes, but he finds himself smiling a little. “Dude, relax. We can work out the kinks of these plays now. We have two more practices until the game on Saturday. It'll be fine. They went well on Sunday at practice, didn't they?”

            “Yeah, I guess,” Derek mutters. “Okay, fine. Split the team.”

            “Dude, you're captain,” Stiles says, with a small laugh. “Captain away.”

            “Right.” Derek shakes his head, but it's only slightly. As though he's mentally yelling at himself for forgetting that he's the one in charge. Stiles leans back on the bench a little, and watches with amusement.

            God, Derek is amusing. He doesn't know it, but it's how he does everything. He's not like Scott, who would just dive in and shout out orders until he found a pattern (or “play” as everyone else calls it) that would work. Isaac would be quiet as fuck and wouldn't say a word. Greenberg would fuck everything up. Boyd's too scary to argue with, and he definitely wouldn't over-analyze things. He's the kind of guy who makes a decision and sticks with it. Jackson's just an asshole.

            But Derek...Derek cares about the team, and its success. He thinks everything through carefully, accepting help and suggestions without being a dick about it, and for some reason, thinks too much.

            Stiles finds it a little surprising, because he isn't used to being around someone who thinks as much as he does. Scott thinks, but Scott thinks about Allison. Stiles is positive that Derek's a thinker about everything.

            Derek takes charge, and throws Stiles the notebook. He thumbs him out to the other side of the field, and Stiles realizes that Derek just made him his second-in-command by telling him that he's going to go lead the remaining players—which includes Greenberg. Stiles’ heart might skip a couple beats at the thought, but he drags the other half of the team away from their main star players.

            Stiles watches as Coach shouts something at Greenberg, and then jogs over with the rest of the team. As he gets them in a circle, he starts telling them to try their hardest to get a goal before the other half. He gives them one of the plays from his notebook as a suggestion—one of the commonly known ones—and then says, “Use it or don't, but try your hardest. We have to find all the flaws with this play, alright?”

            “Alright,” he hears from the team before him. They chatter some more, and some of the guys try to figure out how this one is going to go. They throw out some predictors, which are all wrong, and then Stiles hears Derek blow the whistle.

            He shouts at people to get in their places, and jogs off the field. Derek's playing this one. The one that Stiles had created just for him, called The Wolf. He wonders if it'll work. Stiles knows he can't sit down, so he stands beside Coach.

            “You two are an odd pairing, but last practice showed great improvements.” Coach glances at Stiles. “How is it working with Hale?”

            “Good, I guess. We're not really working together. I just gave him some plays, and he's just been running through them.” Stiles watches as the game begins. He shifts on his feet, nervous. Derek's circling around now. “It's nice that he's accepting suggestions. Most leaders don't necessarily do that.”

            “Hale is smart. You, apparently, aren't the stupidest thing around. Hale needs a scholarship, so this season is what will make or break it.” Coach shakes his head. “What the hell is going on? They look like a mess.”

            “Just wait,” Stiles whispers with anticipation. The other half of their team looks a little thrown off, and then...and then it happens.

            Score. Within seconds. Stiles throws his hands in the air and cheers. “Yeah team! Woo! That was awesome! Let's do it again!”

            The Coach looks at him, but he just seems impressed. “Alright, Bilinski, you have yourself a job. I've seen enough to decide that you're good at this.”

            “A job?”

            “Yeah. I'm going to pay you to be my assistant coach.” Coach Finstock shakes his head. “Don't screw it up, Bilinski.”

            “Stilinski,” Stiles corrects, because he's watching Coach head across the field.

            “Bilinski or you're fired,” Coach retorts.

            Wait, what just happened? Stiles' life is spinning out of control. He's not entirely sure that he minds. He runs out after Coach, who starts to give the team a little speech about the fact that the other coaches know his usual playbook—but they don't know Bilinski's. Therefore, from now on, Bilinski is covering that, Coach and Derek will cover the practices, and that the team should thank Bilinski for saving the team. With that, he tells Derek and Stiles to run through the play again.

            Scott nudges Stiles. “Dude, you're going to be paid to be the assistant coach?”

            “Those who cannot do, teach,” Jackson says. He wears a smirk.

            Stiles doesn't flinch. His eyes quickly flash to Derek, who had stepped forward, and then Stiles says, “I'm alright with that Jackson. I gotta keep this beautiful face in one piece. And my ass. God, can you imagine if something happened to it? I'd turn out looking like you.”

            Snickers rise in the team from a few people. Boyd lets out a chuckle. Jackson rolls his eyes, in his dramatic way, but doesn't respond with anything but a glare.

            Derek steps away, just slightly. Enough that Stiles knows he'd stepped forward with the intent of protecting Stiles. It's nice, really, but Stiles doesn't need anyone protecting him.

            “Congrats man,” Danny says, clapping him on the shoulder. “Are we running through it again?”

            “Yeah, except this time...I want you to take the place of Boyd. If that's okay, Boyd.”

            “The more people who are familiar with the moves, the better.” Boyd shrugs, and then walks to stand beside Stiles.

            “Thanks, man!” Danny says, with a grin.

            “Do you want me to switch?” Isaac asks. His voice is soft, but not unheard.

            “Nope, you keep doing what you're doing. You're good.” Stiles grins a little. He'd heard that Scott had had so much fun on his first one-on-one with Isaac. Stiles glances at Derek, to see him smiling a little. Huh. He never smiles during practices, or hell, games for that matter. It doesn't matter, because Stiles wants to hear Derek's honest-to-god laugh, and that's his end goal. The smiles aren't awful though, not in the least. Stiles shifts on his feet, trying to get used to the idea of being partially in command.

            Derek gets everyone's attention quickly, and then explains the moves again with everyone there. He walks them through the steps, adding in a comment or two that sound familiar to Stiles, and then he adds, “We can do this. We have two more plays to run through today, so let's get this one down, alright?”

            Some cheers come.

            They do it again, with Stiles nervously standing on the edge of the field. He shouts, “Jackson, when you catch, pull your left arm in just a little more!”

            Jackson shoots him a glare, but Stiles watches him tuck his left arm in just a smidgen more than usual, and the catch is flawless. Stiles jumps up with a cheer. He turns to Coach. “Did you see that? Jackson didn't fumble to keep the ball in his net at all.”

            “Bilinski, Hale better take you out for dinner if you get him that scholarship.” Coach looks amused with himself, and Stiles leans back on his feet. Yeah, he thinks, Derek better take me out to dinner if we win him this scholarship.

            “How much do I get paid?” Stiles asks during the third time they run through it after he'd given them his feedback and Derek had shifted the players again.

            “Minimum wage. I'm not made of money,” Coach says. He pauses before adding, “I'm sorry that I didn't see your strength for this team.”

            “It's okay. Derek did.” But Stiles is touched that the Coach had said that. He glances at him, and then quietly adds, “Besides, I only joined so you could coach me, y'know.”

            “I know, Stiles.” Coach's smile is faint, but there. Stiles can see the emotions pooling in his eyes and reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder. “Your mother would be proud of you.”

            “I just started to help. I could end up being the worst thing to this team. I have a play called DAMMIT GREENBERG.”

            It's the right moment for the joke, because Coach starts to laugh, and the heavy emotions disappear briefly. They come back for a moment when Coach Finstock says, “Come by the office sometime. I have something of your mother's you might like to see.”

            “I...thanks, Coach.”

            “Did you see that?” Scott shouts as he runs over to them. Stiles snaps his attention back to the field, only to see the team looking mighty proud of themselves. Scott throws his arms around Stiles. “Dude, this is the first time we've felt good about playing.”

            Stiles laughs, and casually shoves Scott off. Just enough so that he only has one arm around his shoulders. “Not true. Derek and I have just been telling you what you're good at so that you guys get an ego boost.”

            “Maybe that's all we needed,” Danny says, high-fiving Scott. “But man, this is great. Derek wants to move onto something called The Butterfly?”

            Stiles grins. “This one's gonna be fun.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            This time when Stiles goes running after practice, he doesn't run as quickly. He lets his thoughts wash over him. Of course, more than ninety percent of them are filled with Derek Hale. What can he say? Once an obsession, always an obsession. Stiles isn't even ashamed to admit that it's a bit of an obsession. Scott, Lydia, and Allison are the only ones who know about it. Maybe the Sheriff too.

            Tonight, between practice and running, Stiles had had dinner with his father. He'd asked about the Hales—the almost-Hale fire, Kate Argent’s meaning of 'monster', and how his dad had thought that Derek had handled it all. His dad had eyed him suspiciously, but had answered anyway.

            “Stiles, you know the story. Derek, at sixteen, had started to date Allison's sister, Kate. They had been close, but it didn't last long. A few months, maybe a year? I don't remember now. It was a while ago. Derek was out camping in a trailer in the woods with his sisters—Cora, and what's her name? Laurel, no. Laura, right.” The Sheriff had sighed. “Because there was a family reunion that weekend. Not enough room in the house. Kate showed up once everyone had gone to bed. I think it must have been 3am or maybe closer to four. That's when she did it. She started to pour gasoline around the house.

            “Then what happened?” Stiles had asked.

            “Luckily, Talia can't sleep well with family in the house. I used to get that way. She opened a window, hoping that the fresh air would help her fall asleep. That's when she smelled the gas. When she went out to investigate, she found Kate threatening her with a match.

            “God, she must be so messed up. Kate, I mean.

            “Stiles, do I really have to—?

            “Yes, please.

            “Alright. That's when Derek appeared on the scene. He must have heard the commotion. They weren't too far away from the house. Had moved the trailer closer because Cora was worried about having to use the washroom in the middle of the night. There were tire tracks from them moving it in. So Derek must have heard. He came out, and there's his girlfriend, threatening to kill his entire family.

            “But this is when he lunges at Kate, and knocks her down. He grabs the match box and throws it out of reach.

            “Stiles, if you know this story, why do you want me to tell it to you again?” the Sheriff had given Stiles his best something's up and I'll figure it out expression.

            “Because.

            “Then stop interrupting. Yes. That's when Derek throws the match box out of reach. Kate just started to scream about them being monsters. I figure she'd found out that Derek was planning on breaking up with her or something. Talia was pretty calm for the whole situation, but I don't think much would break her steeliness.

            “I don't remember her much,” Stiles had admitted.

            “Not surprising. She's nice though, so if you ever meet her, you better give her all your respect and be super polite.

            “Right, Dad. But I'm sure I won't meet her.

            Stiles turns a corner in the path, and then reaches the familiar fork. He decides, as usual, to run past Derek Hale's house. Why not? He might be a little miffed that Derek won't go on a planned run with him, but he wouldn't be surprised if Derek shows up to join him. He wonders what it's like to have your significant other attempt to kill your family. It can't be fun. Perhaps that's why Derek's a little more reserved than most people. Although, lately, Stiles isn't sure he'd call Derek reserved. Maybe he's just selective.

            When he comes up close to the Hale house, Stiles slows down into a walk. He glances around, trying to seem casual in case he has an audience, and realizes with disappointment that Derek won't be joining him today. That's just fine.

            Derek had dated once after Kate. Her name was Jennifer. She was a year older than Derek, and had turned out to be a bitch and a half. She'd cheated on him every chance she'd gotten with this guy named, Deucalion. Really, what kind of name is that? Then again, his name is Stiles. Well, it's not actually. But that's what he goes by for good reason. When Derek had discovered that he was being cheated on, he'd skipped school for a week. Upon his return, he'd gotten gloomier and a little bit harsher with the world. It's a wonder he had befriended Isaac to begin with.

            So maybe Derek hasn't had the best love life. Stiles wonders if Derek's even into guys. This could turn out to be awful if he isn't. He hadn't heard otherwise though, so perhaps he has some merit to hope. Stiles comes around the next turn, which will lead him back to his car in a thirty minute walk, when he hears the noise.

            It's very subtle. Just the small padding of some dog's feet. Or, Stiles thinks when he looks around, in this case, a very large black wolf's feet. He spots it immediately, now that he knows to look for it. It watches him, standing a little upward on a small hill. Stiles stops walking, unsure of himself.

            “Hey buddy,” he says, loudly enough that the wolf's ears perk forward, but not loudly enough that anyone nearby would hear him. Stiles watches it for a moment, gives it a silent nod. It trots down the small hill and draws closer to him.

            Clearly the wolf isn't going to attack him—it would've done that by now, or looked remotely threatening in some way—and Stiles glances up, realizing it's going to get dark soon. Derek might not be here to bitch at him, but even Stiles isn't that stupid to be out in the woods alone at night. Not with wolves running around, anyway.

            Stiles hears it whine. It's a concerned whine, a warning whine, a help-me whine.

            Stiles bends down, unsure why he finds himself trusting this wolf completely. It's almost as though he knows the wolf or something, as if the wolf has an expressive face and understands him.

            “Hey there, buddy.” Stiles reaches out, his hand not even trembling.

            His heart pounds fast though.

            The wolf nudges his hand, and whines again. Something about the way it's looking at him, Stiles knows something is wrong. He frowns and strokes the wolf's head in a comforting manner. “What's wrong? Is it one of your wolves?”

            The wolf practically shakes its head. That's when Stiles knows he's gone in the deep end crazy, but he can't find it in himself to care anymore. Life had a way of constantly changing. Within the past two weeks alone, he’d held more conversations with Derek than he had in his lifetime, he had become an asset to his lacrosse team, and he had a job as an assistant coach. Speaking and communicating and bonding with a wolf that isn't supposed to even be in California doesn't seem so crazy anymore.

            “Um...but something is wrong?” Stiles whispers, his voice only shaking slightly. The wolf's eyes say yes. Yeah, he's totally crazy, but now Stiles feels it. The urgency, the worry that this wolf is oozing, and Stiles knows it. “Okay. Is something wrong with one of my friends?”

            It's a stupid question.

            Until the wolf whines, and looks at him in a pleading manner.

            “Something's wrong with one of my friends.” Stiles repeats it as a statement.

            The wolf nudges his hand again.

            “Is it bad? Really bad?”

            The wolf whines louder.

            Stiles whispers. “Who?”

            But the wolf's ears perk at something. Then it's backing away, letting out a small yelp, before it takes off.

            Stiles starts running, and doesn't stop until he's opening his Jeep door. When he gets inside, he pulls out his cell phone and sends a message to a particular someone.

 

STILES: you really should join me on my run sometime

 

            Before he turns his Jeep on, he spots two bright yellow eyes in the dusk lighting. Stiles tilts his head, only to see the wolf turn back around. Had it followed him to his Jeep to make sure he'd gotten in safely? That's exactly what it feels like.

Stiles knows it's ridiculous to base things off pure gut-feelings, but he's starting to get some strong ones.

            Like the fact that the wolf seems harmless and has the ability to think critically. The fact that something about today's practice makes Stiles doubt that Derek's on steroids but he can't say why he feels that way for sure. And...and that something bad is currently happening right now.

            The last one is a feeling he can't shake, even when he pulls into his driveway. He parks beside his dad, and then decides to send out some texts just to make sure before getting out of his Jeep. Maybe it's because of that damn wolf whine that has been echoing in his head since he heard it, or maybe it's just an instinctual feeling. However, Stiles isn't going to be one to ignore a gut feeling, not one about something dark, not one he received from talking to a fucking wolf.

 

STILES: everything okay?

LYDIA: no. aiden is sexy. I think I have a problem...can we talk tomorrow?

 

STILES: hey, how are you? 

ALLISON: great! Scott and I are just about to enter the movies though—talk later?

STILES: yeah, see you tomorrow! enjoy the movie!

 

            On a complete whim, he sends one more text out.

 

STILES: hey man, it's Stiles, just wanted to see how things are.

ISAAC: not great actually...why?

STILES: on my way to pick you up.

 

            How the hell had the wolf known something was wrong? Stiles doesn't care. He just doesn't. His father had taught him much better than that, and it's the fact that you help those who cannot help themselves. Isn't that why his dad does what he does? Stiles pulls up across from Isaac's house, and doesn't bother turning his Jeep off.

            Isaac is rushing down the front lawn. He throws a small backpack into the back of the Jeep when he gets in, and mutters, “Drive.”

            Stiles hits the gas. He doesn't comment on the black eye, bruised cheek, the cut on the side of Isaac's neck, or the fact that Stiles is pretty sure that Isaac might cry. Instead, he says, “You can come home with me. My dad will have questions, and you have to be ready to answer them. Or...or we could go to Derek's.”

            “Your place. I'm done pretending, Stiles.” Isaac's voice cracks, but Stiles can hear the anger. He can hear the fear. He wonders what else he can do, but settles on the fact that Isaac will ask if he needs anything.

            When they pull up into the driveway, Stiles grabs Isaac's bag. He pretends to not notice the way Isaac flinches when Stiles reaches back. Stiles walks up to his house, and waits at the front door for Isaac to make up his mind if he's coming in too or not.

            “Isaac, it's not right.” Stiles keeps his voice low. “You don't deserve it. No one does. Let my dad help.”

            “But there aren't any witnesses,” Isaac mumbles. “I could be lying.”

            “You're not. My dad will help. Trust me. Please?” Stiles waits, and Isaac just looks at him as though he's a hurt puppy. It's not a look that Stiles likes. He holds out his hand, surprised when Isaac takes it a moment later. “We'll take care of you. C'mon, my dad will know what to do.”

            When they walk in, Stiles squeezes Isaac's hand lightly for support, and gets his dad's attention from the living room. “Yeah, son?”

            “Dad, I just picked up Isaac Lahey. He's here...it's not good, dad.”

            The Sheriff drops his newspaper, and looks up from his chair. He stands up instantly and takes a few long strides over. The Sheriff shakes his head as he inspects Isaac's wounds, and then says with an assuring tone, “He won't do this anymore, Isaac. You're safe now. Do you want to press charges?”

            Isaac flinches, looking down. He lifts his free hand and runs it over the cut on his neck. Then he nods. “Yeah, Sheriff, I want to press charges. I—”

            “Alright, son. We can go to the station in the morning. Stiles, why don't you help Isaac settle in the guest bedroom and I'll make a snack or something.” The Sheriff's eyes look heavy with worry.

            Stiles nods. He tugs Isaac's hand, attempting to be gentle, and leads him upstairs. Stiles tries not to think about the fact that he's positive the wolf had sent him to check on Isaac, but he's really, really, really grateful to the damn thing for letting him know. That cut on Isaac's neck doesn't look deep, especially since it's not bleeding anymore, but god knows it wouldn't have had to be much deeper for it to be fatal.

            Stiles sits Isaac down on the closed toilet lid, and then starts to pull out the First Aid kit. He starts chatting. “I'm an expert when it comes to the First Aid stuff. I didn't need to study for my certification because I've been dealing with it ever since I was a kid. I'm always tripping over something, or walking into things. So we'll have you looking good as new. Except...Isaac, I'm so sorry dude, I'm going to have to take photos as evidence. And I know this is probably really awful for you, because we're not even really friends-friends, but dude, I'm the Sheriff's kid. I know how to keep quiet about stuff like this, so you won't have to worry about it getting out or anything. But are you gonna be comfortable with me taking pictures?”

            “Do whatever, Stiles.” Isaac looks worried for a minute before nodding. “Thanks.”

            “Of course, man. This isn't even because you're on my lacrosse team, y'know. I would do this for almost anyone. Jackson might be my exception, but that's just 'cause I like to say he's a heartless asshole. Truth is that when my mom died, he was pretty cool about it. He even came to the funeral and hugged me. I think I almost fainted from shock. Okay, one more photo. Of your neck. I'm going to get a bit close, so don't be weirded out, alright?” Stiles leans forward with his phone, snapping the last photo. He winces when he looks at the cut, but makes sure that he does it out of Isaac's line of sight.

            God, this poor kid.

            “Stiles?” Isaac asks.

            “Yeah?” Stiles says, as he opens the First Aid kit.

            “Don't tell Derek.”

            “I...I don't really talk to Derek, so no worries there,” Stiles tells him. He gives him a nod. “Alright, I'm going to go get you an ice-pack for your eye first. Then I'll work on cleaning any cuts. I'll be right back, okay? Nothing will hurt you here, so please...just don't...will you stay?”

            “I have nowhere else to go,” Isaac mutters.

            “Yeah, but dude, I've seen TV and movies. People always bolt. So please don't. My dad will help. He'll make it better, and he'll make your dad pay. You really, really don't deserve this, alright?”

            “Alright, Stilinski. Go before I pull a Jackson.”

            Stiles can't resist snorting. He lets Isaac see a glimpse of a smile before he runs downstairs. His dad's on the phone, probably talking to someone from the office. He looks grave, and concerned.

            “How is he?” his dad whispers.

            “I took photos, for evidence. I think...I don't know how he is. I think he's scared, and hurt, and angry, and tired.” Stiles runs back up the stairs with a bag of peas in hand. Good, he doesn't really like peas anyway. When he enters the bathroom, he finds Isaac crying. He does it silently, and Stiles knows that people hate when people point out the fact that they're crying, so he says nothing.

            He just bends down to get Isaac's attention, and places the bag of frozen peas into his hand. Stiles then starts to work on making sure that the cut on his neck isn't going to get infected. That could be very, very, very bad. Stiles works quietly, and only says, “You can stay here. I don't need to ask my dad to know that you can stay here. I don't know if you have any other family that you would prefer to live with or—?”

            “No, no other family.”

            “I bet you feel a little alone right now,” Stiles says. His voice drops into a soft tone. “But you're not, okay?”

            “Okay,” Isaac says, almost echoing his voice. “Stiles, I'm not going to fall apart.”

            “No, you aren't, because you've been doing that for a long time, haven't you? You've already fallen.”

            “Yeah.”

            Stiles doesn't say anything after that. He just silently works on the other cuts that he finds on Isaac's arms, and then Isaac lifts up his shirt. Stiles freezes. There's a long gash across his chest, but not too deep or too wide. Stiles takes a photo of it, before he sets to work at making sure it's being treated. He squats in between Isaac's legs, and is grateful that he's obsessed with Derek. Otherwise this position could be awkward.

            “Thank you.”

            He looks up at Isaac's words, and just nods.

            When Stiles finishes with Isaac's wounds, he takes him to the guest room. He empties Isaac's bag, and discovers that the boy doesn't have any pyjamas or much of anything in his backpack. Stiles goes and gets some that his grandmother thought he'd grow into and he never had, and hands them to Isaac. On top of the folded pyjamas is a brand new toothbrush, a new razor, and a book.

            Isaac lifts the book questioningly. “The Adventures of Robin Hood? Really?”

            “It's a good story. In case you can't sleep.” Stiles shrugs. He sets the other stuff onto the bed. “Towels are here. Feel free to use whatever's in the shower. Also, the food in the kitchen is all yours. And the Twinkies in my room are off-limits unless you ask real nice.”

            “Stiles, I can't accept—”

            “You can and you will. The wifi password is written on that notepad there. I noticed you brought your laptop and school work. But no lacrosse uniform or change of clothes. Don't go back to your house. Use my stuff for now. I'll get Coach to get you another uniform—say that I accidentally ruined yours; he'll totally buy it because it's me. When you're ready, I'll go back to your place with you and we can move your stuff over.” Stiles sits down beside Isaac on the bed. “You know, this is so weird for me. If anyone had told me a week ago that you'd be in my guest room now, I wouldn't have believed them. Strange things keep happening to me—the whole assistant coach thing, for one—but I'm glad for this one. I'm glad...that you're going to get out.”

            Isaac nods, and then he lets out a shaky breath. “Everyone's going to—”

            “Worry about you, want to help you, and protect you. They'll be on your side, and anyone who isn't on your side isn't worth your time, okay? Um. If you're telling people you're living here though, you might want to tell Scott why.”

            “Why would I do that?” Isaac asks, looking at Stiles as though he has two heads.

            “Uh, because, well, Scott might get the wrong impression with us, since I'm bisexual, and the kid wants to see me married off by the time we graduate.” Stiles lets out a shaky laugh. “Plus I think that he would like to be your friend. He had a lot of fun with you helping him train the other day, wouldn't shut up about it.”

            “Really?” Isaac looks thoughtful. “Yeah, I guess I could tell Scott.”

            “And Derek. You should probably tell Derek. I know it's not obvious, but he does care. I think.” Stiles shrugs. “I won't tell anyone, but maybe you want to. Derek will just—”

            “—want to adopt me and never let me leave the house in fear that someone else will hurt me. I know. I don't want him to know. He'll go into super protective mode.” Isaac lets out the smallest laugh. Stiles almost misses it. “He's been pretty vocal about the whole situation. His family will freak if they find out, and smother me. Boyd too. Erica the most, actually. She's probably the scariest person I've ever met.”

            Stiles nods. “She's something.”

            “Thanks, Stiles.”

            “Stop thanking me. God, Lahey. Just promise me that you'll fight to make your dad pay for this. That you won't give up or go back.”

            “Promise. I won't go back.”

            With that, Stiles leaves Isaac Lahey to settle into his guest room. He walks downstairs to talk to his father quietly.

            “Did Isaac ask you to pick him up?” his dad asks after Stiles explains that he just went to get Isaac.

            “Yeah. After I asked him how he was. I don't know, Dad, I just got this really, really strong feeling he wasn't okay.” Stiles shakes his head. “It sounds insane, I know. But I just...I thought something bad was happening, and I texted Lydia and Allison who's with Scott, and then Isaac.”

            “I'm glad. I'm proud of you, Stiles. So proud. You did the right thing, bringing him here.” The Sheriff wraps his arms around his son and squeezes. “Will you come with us to the station tomorrow?”

            “Yeah, Dad. I'll come. I told him that he can stay with us.”

            “Good. Why don't you get some sleep?” the Sheriff asks.

            “I will, in a bit. You go on up, and I'll head to bed soon enough. I just have some stuff I want to get out of the Jeep.” Stiles squeezes his dad's arm. “Thanks, Dad, for being you.”

            “Back at you, son. Get some sleep. I love you.”

            “Love you too,” Stiles says. He heads to the door, stepping outside into the fresh air.

            Wow. What has happened to his life? He decides to be done questioning it and just start living it. When he grabs his bag from the back of his Jeep, and shuts the door, he knows he should be startled when he turns to see a big black wolf standing beside the bush. He just isn't, for reasons he can't explain.

            He's done looking for answers. At least, for tonight. He walks over to the porch steps and sits down.

            “Hey buddy. Thanks for letting me know something was wrong. I think Isaac will be alright. He's going to press charges. Tomorrow. That's all for tomorrow.” Stiles lets out a shaky breath. “God, how the hell did you know?”

            The wolf lets out the smallest whine. It doesn't sound desperate anymore, but almost reassuring. It walks over to him, jumps up the stairs, and settles down on the porch beside him. He reaches up, and starts to scratch behind his ear.

            “Derek Hale would kill me right now. He's irrationally afraid of wolves. God, if only he could see me know. I'm positive he'd grab me by my ear and drag me away to give me the longest lecture.” Stiles chuckles lightly at the thought. He looks down at the wolf. “I'm the craziest person on this planet right now, but I'm so exhausted that I can't be bothered to care.”

            The wolf nudges him a little, but he can tell that it's pleased with him.

            “You're right. I should get some sleep. I...uh, I know this is insane, and I know that logically there's no reason for you to understand English or anything I'm saying, but I'm just...thanks for making me worry about Isaac. I think he'll get the help he needs. My dad will help him. My dad will make it better. Hopefully. God, I hope so. That kid laughed the other day, and it was pretty great.”

            The wolf pulls its head away from Stiles.

            “Reminded me of when I saw Derek smile for the first time since the whole Kate and Jennifer thing.” Stiles shakes his head, and lets out a deep breath. “It's just so breathtaking, and you can't look away because you know it's rare to see either of them smile like that, like for a moment their worlds' have stopped hurting.”

            Stiles shakes his head. “I'm crazy. I'm losing it. I need sleep. But thanks, pup. For visiting me.”

            And then Stiles gets up to go crawl into his bed.

            Five minutes later, he receives a text.

 

DEREK: maybe.

STILES: Isaac's gonna be okay. 

DEREK: thank you.

 

            Stiles decides he doesn't care what Derek means by that—as though he'd known, or perhaps assumed, or something—and closes his eyes.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Stiles?” a small voice comes. Stiles rolls over, realizes he’s drooling, and lifts his hand to wipe it away. He opens an eye and sees that his bedroom door is open, some light coming in, with a strange shadow of some guy.

            It takes his brain a bit to catch up. Oh, right. Isaac’s staying here. His voice is muffled when he says, “Yeah, Isaac?”

            “Um, I can't sleep and I know that this is already—”

            Stiles opens both eyes and focuses on the way Isaac’s standing in the doorway. He can’t see Isaac’s expression, but he feels it in the air.

            “Crawl in, bro.” Stiles shuffles over on his bed to make room. Isaac shuts the bedroom door behind him, hesitating. Stiles pulls the covers back. “Dude, it's fine. Scott and I still fall asleep together.”

            “Yeah, he told me so I thought—”

            “Get in, Lahey,” Stiles mumbles. He feels the bed shift as Isaac crawls in. A few minutes, and Isaac's settled in. “I can't be held responsible for my sleeping self.”

            “Yeah, sure. Okay.” But Stiles senses the way Isaac’s breathing evens out, and he passes out again with a small smile on his lips.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            When Stiles wakes up, he's completely sprawled out on top of Isaac. He finds he doesn't even care. He supposes after a night like last night, shit like that bonds you in new ways. He shoves himself off Isaac anyway, because the kid is probably sore as fuck. He glances down, and sees that his bruised eye has only gotten darker. Fuck. This kid really doesn't need to deal with that too.

            Stiles decides to see if his dad's awake, and makes his way downstairs. The Sheriff looks tired, as though he didn't sleep much last night.

            “How's Isaac?”

            “Alright, I guess. He came to my room sometime in the middle of the night, and slept with me.” Stiles sits down at the kitchen table. He looks at his father. “We're not even really friends, y'know, but we have mutual friends. Sort of. I don't know. I just don't want him to be hurt anymore. I guess I don't really know him that well.”

            “I'm proud of you, son, for doing the right thing. Just be careful, okay? We don't want him to get upset and run away.”

            “I already told him he's not allowed to do that,” Stiles says, without much amusement in his tone. He sighs. “When do we go into the station?”

            “When he wakes up. Let him sleep for now.”

            Stiles' phone buzzes and he looks down at it.

 

DEREK: Isaac isn't home today.

 

            Stiles isn't surprised that Derek would go to check up on him.

 

STILES: I told you he's safe.  

DEREK: you said he'd be okay.
DEREK: is he with you? 

STILES: not telling you.
STILES: he says you get over-protective and that's not what he needs, dude.

 

            Stiles winces, but really, he brought this upon himself last night after texting Derek. He had almost assumed that Derek would know on some level that Isaac was with him. Then again, how would he know? There are currently four creatures who know about this: Isaac, Stiles, the Sheriff, and a wolf. It’s not as if the wolf is going to go tell Derek.

 

DEREK: is he with you?  

STILES: yeah, but stay away or I'll have my dad arrest you

DEREK: that's all I needed to know
DEREK: thanks for caring.  

STILES: dude, I wouldn’t have my dad arrest you…
STILES: wow, I'm not that much of a douche  

DEREK: never said you were...will you two be at practice today?

STILES: it's thursday, no practice tonight.

DEREK: right.

STILES: we'll see about tomorrow.

DEREK: keep him safe, alright?

STILES: dude, I'm the sheriff's son—I think I can handle it.

 

            Stiles shakes his head. He isn't sure why he told Derek, exactly. Perhaps it's because they'd almost talked about it, almost talked about Isaac's situation. Stiles and the Sheriff eat their cereal in quiet until a scared Isaac walks into the kitchen.

            He runs his hand through his hair. “Um, morning.”

            “Hey Isaac,” the Sheriff greets. “Why don't I get you something to eat? Is cereal okay? We're more of take-out kind of people. Cooking isn't necessarily our thing.”

            “Cereal's fine,” Isaac says, relaxing a little. “But I can get it for myself. If you tell me where bowls and spoons are.”

            Stiles points out the cupboard and the drawer, and then Isaac sits down at the table with his dishes. He notices that the cut on Isaac's neck looks a little irritated. He frowns, and tells him, “We'll wash your cuts before we leave this morning.”

            “Thanks,” Isaac says, with a nod. He takes his first spoonful of cereal.

            “Do you still want to—?”

            Isaac looks up at the Sheriff. “Yes.”

            “I'll let them know we're coming in,” the Sheriff says. He gets up and picks up the cordless house phone.

            Stiles finishes his bowl of cereal by slurping the last of the milk with the bowl to his lips. When he sets it on the table, he says, “You're doing a really brave thing. If you need anything, just let me know, alright?”

            “Yeah, sure, okay.” Isaac nods. He looks down at his cereal. Then he asks, “Think Scott would come with us?”

            “In a heartbeat. Want me to call him?”

            “Maybe,” Isaac says. Then he nods. “Please. If it's not weird. It could be weird. We don't know each other very well...”

            “Neither do we,” Stiles points out, “but I think we're doing just fine. What about—”

            “No, I'm not ready for Derek yet. With Derek comes Erica and Boyd, and probably the Hales.” Isaac shakes his head. “Too intimidating. Plus, I couldn't live with them. They'd drive me mad.”

            Stiles lets out a small laugh. “I bet. The Hales seem pretty intense.”

            “God yes. But they're good people.”

            “I'll call Scott.”

            Scott picks up on the second ring. “Stiles, buddy, I'm at school already. Where are you?

            “Home,” Stiles tells him quietly. He knows that Isaac can hear him. “I think you should come over.”

            “Why? What's wrong? Is your dad okay?

            Bless Scott, who always worries about his dad too. Stiles supposes that Melissa's a second mom to Stiles, and that the Sheriff is a second dad to Scott. It works out, since they're practically brothers. They're family. “He's fine. Actually, it's Isaac. He spent the night—”

            “Why?”

            Stiles is surprised by the threat Scott's voice holds. He just continues talking. “—because things got bad with his dad last night. We're going to the station so that he can submit a formal statement and press charges.”

            “I'm on my way.

            “Bye.”

            When Stiles hangs up, he looks at Isaac, who just seems disappointed. Isaac shifts back in his chair, before taking another spoonful of cereal. When he's finished, he asks, “Scott isn't coming?”

            “What? No, he's on his way.”

            “Oh.”

            “Why did you think he wouldn't come?” Stiles asks.

            “You told him and then hung up.” Isaac's voice sounds a little younger than it should.

            Stiles sits back down at the table. “Oh, that's just 'cause Scott said he was on his way. Isaac, Scott's the best. He would be there for every single human on earth if it wouldn't kill him. He'll be better at the whole...being there thing than I am. But I can do First Aid well.”

            Isaac nods. “Thanks, Stilinski. I just...I don't really know why you're doing this, but I appreciate it.”

            “Yeah, sure. Stop thanking me though. You're welcome to stay here for the rest of your life if it means you don't have to deal with your dad again. You're also welcome to sleep in my bed with me whenever you can't sleep well. Company helps, I get that.” Stiles shakes his head lightly. “We became friends the night of the arcade, alright? I'm not going to go anywhere. And you'll see that it's impossible to get rid of Scott once he's befriended you. Ask Jackson. He hates us for being friends with Lydia, because he ends up seeing our beautiful faces more than he would like.”

            “Jackson's a piece of work,” Isaac says, with a little amusement. “Scott's fun.”

            “Good. You deserve fun. But with Scott, comes his obsession with Allison.”

            “And with you comes your obsession with Derek,” Isaac points out.

            Stiles holds up a finger, ready to deny it, before he shrugs and drops his hand. “Yeah, whatever. I'll keep your secret from Derek, if you keep mine.”

            “Deal. But uh, Derek talks about you sometimes. He's pretty excited about you being the assistant coach. He thinks you're smart. Scott worries that you don't think you're good enough for Derek, and Scott thinks the world of you. So...”

            “Derek was excited about me being the assistant coach?”

            “Yeah. He also said it means you two will be working on improving the team together,” Isaac tells him with a nod. “You guys should actually become friends or something, instead of mooning all over one another every practice.”

            “We do not moon over each other.” Stiles' defense weakens when he adds, “Okay, he doesn't moon over me. You've see his ass, right?”

            Isaac lets out a small laugh, and shakes his head. “No, I don't really check out Derek's ass.”

            Stiles shrugs. “Missing out, man.”

            “Hey guys,” the Sheriff says when he walks back into the kitchen. He frowns. “Where's Scott?”

            “Just called him. He's on his way.” Stiles loves that his dad just assumes Scott would be here for this, because they're both good people who taught Stiles how to care for others. Stiles glances at Isaac. Yeah, with the three of them in his life, he'll be alright.

            “Alright. When he gets here, we'll head out to the station. Is that okay with you, Isaac?” Stiles' dad asks.

            “Yeah, thanks.” Isaac brings his empty bowl to the sink and fills it with water. Then he turns and asks, “Did you hear Stiles call Scott?”

            “No, but those two are impossible to separate. There's no way my son didn't call Scott. Scott's better at social interaction than Stiles anyway,” the Sheriff teases.

            “Hey, I take offense to that! I'm getting better. Sort of.” Stiles shakes his head in mock annoyance. “Scott's just better at being there for people.”

            “Don't cut yourself short, son,” the Sheriff says.

            “You helped last night,” Isaac admits.

            “Aw, thanks you two. My heart just fluttered.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles sits in the interrogation room with Isaac and Scott. Well he had been sitting. Now he's standing and circling the room. Isaac's silent, writing his statement carefully. Every so often he scratches out a word, but for the most part, Isaac writes without pause. Scott eyes Stiles a couple of times, but his main focus is Isaac.

            The truth is that Scott is better at making people feel better. Within three minutes of him arriving, Isaac had completely relaxed. Scott had simply said how much he supports him, how brave and courageous he’s being, and that Scott wouldn't be going anywhere. Sure, Stiles had said those things, but man, Scott knows exactly how to calm a person down.

            “Isaac, do you want some water?” Stiles asks.

            “I'm fine, thanks.”

            A few minutes later, “Coffee, tea, pop?”

            Isaac looks up. “Stiles, if you're uncomfortable, you don't have to stay in the room with me.”

            “No, no, I'll stay. And be quiet.”

            Within twenty minutes, Stiles had offered to get Isaac Subway twice, before Scott finally kicked him out for being a distraction. Stiles really should be surprised when he walks out and spots Derek. He's not.

            “Dude,” Stiles says, grabbing Derek's arm and pulling him aside. He lowers his voice, but keeps his grip tight on Derek’s arm. “Leave. Isaac has made it clear that you're too protective and he doesn't want that right now.”

            Derek looks like a mix of hurt and confusion. “But—”

            “Listen, I know you want to be a good friend. But sometimes you're too close for a person when they’re dealing with something...something awful. Sometimes that person just needs to rely on people who don't know the whole damn story, sometimes they just need people who care but aren't going to be obsessive about worrying. He's okay, right now anyway. He's—”

            “You smell like him,” Derek mutters.

            “Yeah, he came into my bed last night 'cause he couldn't sleep.” Stiles shifts on his feet. “It's not personal, Derek. Please...just go. He needs space.”

            “But...”

            “Go. I'll keep you updated alright?”

            “What's going on right now?” Derek asks, sounding worried.

            “He's writing his statement. He's pressing charges against his father.”

            “How bad?”

            Stiles looks down at his feet.

            “How bad, Stiles?”

            “Pretty bad. A black eye, a bunch of cuts—one on his neck—and bruises everywhere.” Stiles sighs. “But he'll be okay. I've been taking care of the cuts, so they won't get infected or anything. None of them were bad enough for us to go to the hospital, so there’s some good news.”

            “Thanks,” Derek lets out some air. “God, Stiles, I knew what was happening, but he would never talk about it. Ever. And—”

            “Jesus, Derek. This isn't your fault. Hell, this is Isaac's father's fault. Isaac's alright now though. He's going to get help, and he's moving into my place. Actually, you mind doing me a favour?” Stiles asks, an idea popping into his mind. Derek nods. “Will you go to his dad's and pack up his things? Bring ‘em to my place.”

            “Consider it done. His dad will be at work anyway, if he's not being brought in here right now. I'll do that now.”

            “Thanks.”

            “And Stiles?” Derek asks.

            “Yep?”

            “Thank you, for taking care of him. Thanks for...thanks.”

            Then Derek Hale is leaving the police station. Not that Stiles is surprised, considering he had basically pushed him out the door. But he turns on his heel and decides he needs to be there for Isaac. This is a tough situation, and Stiles had been right. Isaac needs people who didn't know him from the beginning, who aren't attached to him in indescribable ways. He enters the room again.

            Isaac looks up, gives him the hint of a smile, before continuing to write again. Stiles sits beside Scott and doesn't move until it's done.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

 

            “I hear you're living with Stilinski now?” Lydia asks casually over lunch the following day. Stiles shoots her a dirty look, and she doesn't look apologetic in the least. She adds to Isaac, “Make sure to wear earplugs at night, and always knock. You do not want to know what this one does at any given time. It's horrifying.”

            “Lydia,” Stiles hisses. Then he looks at Isaac and frowns. “Yeah, actually, that's not bad advice.”

            Isaac lets out a small laugh. Stiles looks around the table. If he had ever thought that he would be at a table with Isaac, Erica, Boyd, Cora, and Derek, plus his usual crowd—Scott, Allison, Lydia, Jackson, Aiden, Ethan, and Danny—Stiles wouldn't have believed it. Yet here they are, banding together. Isaac had told Erica quietly about what happened, and asked her to tell the rest. She had, and she'd also lectured each person about being a decent human being and giving him a support system.

            It doesn't surprise Stiles that much that everyone had listened. Erica's not scary enough to threaten everyone into submission, but Stiles isn’t sure if the fact that everyone at the table is following her instruction is a testament to her or them. Minus Jackson, of course. Stiles knows that they all had liked Isaac to some degree or another, and he's relieved that they're all here, supporting the kid.

            It's a weird dynamic, and yet, Stiles supposes most of them are used to one another by now since a majority of them are on the team.

            “Great.”

            “I don't even want to know what Stilinski beats off to,” Jackson says from the other end of the table. “Gross.”

            “Maybe it's you, Jackson. You know your ass isn't all that bad,” Stiles says. Jackson's rock solid expression of disgust makes him laugh loudly. Then he adds, “Don't worry—you're not beating off worthy.”

            “Is there a system?” Danny asks, grinning. “To decide who’s worth jerking off to?”

            “No, but there should be. Sometimes people pop into your head that you do not want there and it ruins the mood,” Stiles deadpans. Laughter ensues. Stiles adds, “I think it'll be nice having someone around the house. When my dad's on nights, the house gets a little lonely.”

            “Aren't you used to it by now?” Jackson asks. “I mean, it's not as though you've ever been with someone.”

            “Eh, me neither,” Isaac admits with a shrug. “Nothing wrong with that, asshole.”

            The table falls quiet, and even Jackson doesn't want to say anything mean to Isaac. Not that anyone's necessarily treating him with glove-hands, but Stiles knows that everyone, even Jackson, understands that he's been through enough lately.

            Isaac's dad had been arrested at work yesterday, and when he'd seen Isaac in the station (they weren't supposed to see one another but Isaac and Stiles had come out of the bathroom at the wrong time), he started screaming about how embarrassing it was to be arrested in front of his co-workers, and how Isaac would pay. It was enough that the Sheriff yanked Isaac's dad into another room, maybe making him smack his face against the door frame maybe just a little bit on purpose.

            It's the first time that Stiles had seen any type of physical or verbal abuse (Jackson hardly counts, because Stiles really does care about him in his way) with his own eyes. He doesn't care for it at all. And since the night of the wolf warning, he'd grown a little protective of Isaac.

            “Thank god, someone else said it. Jackson, you're an ass.” Stiles gives Isaac an easy grin. Then he sticks his tongue out at Jackson. “Shut up and eat your pie.”

            “Scott, are you going to go to the dance next week?” Allison asks, deliberately changing topics.

            “Uh, depends if Isaac will come with me.” Scott gives Isaac an encouraging smile. “I forgot about the dance, sorry. Isaac and I made plans for next Friday.”

            Allison turns her attention onto Isaac, with a warm smile. “I would love it if you both could come.”

            “Sure, maybe.” Isaac looks at Stiles. “Are you going?”

            “Probably not. Not my scene, really. But do not let me stop you.” Stiles grins. “Just because you're living with me does not mean that my dad will chain you to me. Promise.”

            Isaac seems to relax. He smiles at Allison. “Yeah, actually, maybe I will go. Do I need to get a suit or something?”

            Jackson grumbles. “Danny and I are going after practice.”

            “Oh,” Isaac frowns.

            “We could skip lacrosse practice, and go with them, because I definitely need something to wear too,” Scott jumps in immediately. Stiles loves the man. He obviously understood Isaac's concern, because there Isaac is, relaxing once more.

            Stiles' eyes move to Derek, who isn't subtle about staring at him. Stiles doesn't keep up with the rest of the conversation, as everyone discusses the dance, and just watches Derek watching him. He gets up from his seat, and forces everyone to shift so that he can sit beside Derek. He pulls out his notebook.

            “I came up with a new play last night.”

            Derek nods, and waits for Stiles to find it. They both tune out the conversations around them, as Stiles walks Derek through his game plan. He explains the strengths of the idea, and the weaknesses. Derek frowns, his eyebrows coming together, and Stiles lets him think it through in silence.

            “What if we put you there?” Derek asks, pointing to where Scott would have been.

            “What? Oh god no, dude, I love my bench. The bench and I are super close now. Bonded and all that. I don't really want to be...” Stiles lets the words trail as Derek's eyes lock his.

            “I'm serious Stiles. With a little work, you could pull this off. You might have to train a bit more. You could join Scott and Isaac,” Derek says. He sounds compelling as he speaks. He picks up Stiles' pen and scribbles some stuff onto the notebook. “If we adjust this, and move Boyd over here, and put me here instead...”

            Stiles looks down at the paper. “I guess I wouldn't have a huge role.”

            “It doesn't matter who scores, because it's a team effort. Didn't you tell me that there's no 'I' in team?” Derek looks at Stiles with interest sparking in his eyes. Interest in the play and how it could work, Stiles admits.

            “Okay, but what if, like, the other team catches on, and like, attacks me? I'm skinny and defenseless.” Stiles grins when he sees the corners of Derek's lip turn upward. He points a finger at Derek's face, waving it in a circle. “You said I'm both. And like, I've seen the bruises Jackson gets. Dude, I'll snap like a twig.”

            “You really are only on the team to make sure that if Scott does something stupid you can join him, aren't you?” Derek asks, amused.

            Stiles lets his hand drop, and nods. “Oh yeah. I mean, it'd be cool to be actually be part of a team, and stuff, but I don't think this bod was made for contact sports.”

            Derek nods, his smile growing a bit more. “No, but swimming worked for you. Why did you quit?”

            Stiles freezes, just a little bit, but he can tell that Derek caught it. He shrugs it off. I most definitely did not quit because you stopped going, nope, not one bit, there was absolutely no relation there, he thinks. Then he gives Derek a dramatic eye roll, and switches directions. “I didn't think you knew I existed back then.”

            “Stiles, on your first day you belly-flopped into the water and ranted about how much it stung for two weeks. Plus you never shut up. Even when you were doing laps, you just kept talking.” Derek lets out the smallest laugh. Stiles immediately leans in forward, hoping to memorize the way it bounces in the air around them. “It's impossible to not notice you. You're everywhere, when you're somewhere.”

            “Damn, Hale, that's possibly the nicest thing you have ever said to me. Actually, that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Well, minus Scott, but he's my best bro so he has to say nice things to me. But dude, like, whoa. You're a bit of a sensitive chap, aren't you?” Stiles rambles. The truth is that his heart is pounding too fast for him to feel comfortable. Not only is that the nicest thing that's been said to him in a long time, he just feels as though that's the first time that anyone has nailed him in a few sentences. He is everywhere when he's anywhere. It's not just the way he walks, or how much he talks, but his brain is zipping through a thousand different thoughts on any given second.

            But the way Derek said it is better.

            “Great, now I've fed the ego.”

            Stiles snorts. “You're funny. Did you know that? I'm sure you did. I have noticed that you're surrounded by people a lot, even though it doesn't seem like you even like people that much. But people like you too. It's not that surprising. I mean, I don't mind being around you. And Jackson likes you, and Jackson hates pretty much everyone who isn't Lydia. He hates me, mostly. But that's because he's an asshole and so am I. I like your jokes though. They're subtle, but great.”

            Derek tilts his head, eyeing Stiles carefully. He knows that Derek not only heard every word he said, but understood it. He's not sure why he thinks that, but Derek proves him right with the smallest, itty-bitty, nod. “If Jackson hated you so much, he wouldn't have threatened me when you joined the team.”

            “What?” Stiles' jaw drops. Not that it's usually closed when he's around Derek, because goddammit, Stiles has a hard time not drooling around him.

            “Told me that I wasn't allowed to be a jerk to you—that was his job—and that under any circumstances, I shouldn't put you on the field because you bruise like a peach.” Derek's amusement draws Stiles in so much that it takes him a second to comprehend what he had just said.

            Stiles whips around in his chair. “Jackson, you like me?”

            Jackson looks up, and the table falls silent. “What? No. I hate you, Stilinski. You know that.”

            “That's not what I hear. Apparently, you were worried about me bruising like a peach when I signed up for the team,” Stiles says, eyebrows wiggling. Derek elbows him gently, but Stiles doesn't acknowledge it.

            Jackson glares at Derek before defending himself with, “Yeah and literally no one wants to hear you bitch about your bruises, Stilinski. I was just saving the team from having to get hearing aids because you whine so damn much.”

            Stiles grins at everyone. “Jackson cares about me. That's rich.”

            “Fuck off, asshole.”

            “It's all good, Jackson. I'm sure if you ended up in the hospital, I'd care about you too.”

            The look that Jackson gives him is priceless. Stiles bursts out laughing, and then the chatter with everyone starts up again as Jackson bitches about Stiles. He turns back to Derek and grins. “Thank you for that. But seriously, Jackson's right. I bruise like a peach.”

            Derek shakes his head, but the smile on his face is breathtaking. Stiles leans forward and points to where Derek had written 'STILES'. He says, “Why don't you put Boyd there, and Isaac there, and then stick in Matt there?”

            After a minute, Derek nods. “Alright, if you're sure you don't want to play.”

            “Positive, dude. Besides, I'm pretty sure I can't play now that I'm technically the Assistant Coach.”

            “I guess. You could've done it though.”

            “Your faith in my skills is awesome, appreciated, and noted.”

            They go back to quietly working on the play. Then Derek flips to a new page, mutters, “What if?” and starts scribbling out something. Stiles watches as he suggests a new tactic, one that includes Greenberg. He points out some flaws, and Derek fixes them.

            Stiles isn't sure how long they sit there, working it out.

            He's not sure if anyone had even bothered trying to get their attention.

            But someone smacks both Derek and Stiles in the back of the head at the same time. Stiles looks up to see Coach there. “Third period is almost over. What have you two idiots been skipping class for?”

            Stiles excitedly shows Coach the plan that Derek and he had been working on. Coach nods, murmuring approval, before he smacks the back of Stiles' head again. “Get to class. There's a time and a place for this shit.”

            “Yes, sir,” Stiles says, hopping up. Derek does the same.

            “Actually, Stilinski, come to my office. Hale, get to class.”

            Stiles follows Coach to his office, trying not to be excited about the fact that Coach had referred to him by his actual last name. When they enter the office, Stiles remembers Coach saying that he had something of his mother's. Stiles' heart starts to race.

            “Coach, I'm not sure that—” Stiles stops talking when Coach Finstock pulls out a thin, long, black box. He hesitates in taking it.

            “Listen here, Stiles. Your mother was the best. She was overall a great person, she made people laugh, she was loyal, and she was smart. Her brain worked very similarly to yours and your father's. When she graduated, she came back every year to check in on me. I loved Claudia. I was only a fresh graduate, acting as an assistant coach, when she joined the team in her junior year.” The Coach's voice catches. “We weren't too far apart in age, but god, that woman was years older than me in maturity.”

            “Coach, I...thanks. I like hearing about my mom. My dad doesn't like talking about her much. It hurts him.”

            Stiles looks down at the box he holds. He opens it. It's a medal. He pulls it out and blinks a couple times. It's a first place medal from his mother's swimming days. Feeling his throat get thick, he glances back up at Coach.

            “Listen, kid. I know I'm hard on you guys, but I really do care. Your mother won that, and she gave it to me a few years later. Claudia wanted me to hold onto her proudest moment, because she said she wouldn't have won if it hadn't been for me.” The Coach's throat is tight like Stiles'. “She was a great woman.”

            “Is that why you quit coaching the swim team?” Stiles asks, quietly.

            “I couldn't...I think you should have it. If she were here, she would want her proudest moment to have it.”

            Stiles looks up, tears in his eyes. “You think she'd be proud?”

            “I know it. I heard what happened with Lahey. You're a great kid, Stiles. You remind me so much of your mother.” Coach Finstock grabs a box of tissues from his drawer, yanks some out, and extends it towards Stiles. Stiles takes some too.

            It's a quiet moment, where they’re both thinking about someone they'd loved and lost, and then Stiles rushes to throw his arms around Coach. He whispers, “Thank you, Coach.”

            “Of course, Stilinski. Now, get your ass to class. Claudia wouldn’t want me to condone you skipping for no damn good reason.” Coach waves him away.

            Clutching the medal box to his chest, Stiles leaves. He doesn't head to his third period class, there's no point. He goes to his locker.

            “Hey, you okay?” Derek asks suddenly.

            Stiles should have jumped, but he doesn't. He nods. “Yeah. I'm fine. Coach is a good man.”

            “Agreed. I'm sorry if you get in trouble for skipping. I didn't hear the bell or notice anyone leave, did you?” Derek asks. He sounds nervous.

            Stiles shakes his head. “Nope. I guess we were just in our own little world.”

            “Yeah. Well. See you at practice.”

            “Sure.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles runs hard through the woods. He had a bad day. It'd been a few weeks since he'd been in the Coach's office, crying. Isaac had settled in quite nicely. The dance hadn't been awful. In fact, Stiles had gone and had fun. He had avoided Derek the entire night though, and still isn't sure why. They haven't been talking as much. Derek just takes Stiles' notebook, copies all of the newest notes and plays and advice, and then hands it back to him.

            Coach is always proud when they kick ass at another game. They've had three since the first once, and won all of them. Stiles knows he should be happy, but he just can't seem to find it in himself today.

            Scott and Allison had officially started to date. Finally, Stiles thinks. Scott had been head-over-heels for her for far too long now. Lydia had broken up with Jackson, because she wanted to explore her feelings for Aiden. Stiles feels a little sorry for Jackson a bit, because the dude seems to not be handling the breakup well. But Stiles has seen the way Lydia crawls over Aiden, and realizes that she had it bad for him. Ethan and Danny are still disgustingly cute.

            It's not as though Stiles is upset because he's single. God no. He's fine. Really, he is. Although being around a billion couples doesn't help. Erica and Boyd are so gone on one another that Stiles wants to ship them to Mars. They probably wouldn't even notice, the way they're in love. It's actually worse than Scott and Allison. How they managed that, Stiles doesn't know, but he can't be annoyed with them. They're too fucking cute.

            Isaac's single, but Isaac has been hanging out with Scott and Allison so much that Stiles figures they're all just dating each other at this point.

            And maybe, just a little tiny maybe, Stiles is annoyed because everyone is dating someone, and he's still single with zero prospects. There had been Caitlin two weeks ago. She had expressed interest in him, but honestly, Stiles hadn't felt anything.

            That might be because his Derek obsession is getting worse. He slows down into a walk after he passes the Hale house and turns the corner. There's his wolf.

            Yeah, okay, so Derek hadn't been creepily hanging around in the woods anymore. He had stopped lecturing Stiles on being in the woods, stopped complimenting him, and just stopped...being friends. For a bit there, Stiles had totally thought they were friends. Guess not.

Stiles pauses beside the big black wolf, and scratches him behind the ear.

            Derek would freak shit if he knew that Stiles had become friends with this wolf. That's what Stiles considers it to be now. Every time Stiles shows up for a run, they meet at this quiet curve of the path, and Stiles walks with him.

            He talks to the wolf. He knows that it's insane, so he doesn't tell a soul what he does. He doesn't even tell Scott that he has a tame wolf hanging out with him. Stiles feels a little lonely, and today sucked.

            Stiles mutters, “I'm so happy that Scott is busy with his girlfriend and boyfriend. I really am, but oh my god, I am so tired of hearing about how much fun they're having. He hasn't invited me to one single fucking hangout. That's so unlike Scott. Then again, it might be because the three of them are doing the naughty together, and as much as I love Scott, we're so not on that level.”

            The wolf makes a noise that Stiles now recognizes as amusement.

            “But seriously, I just feel kind of alone right now. I'm just—oh, thanks buddy,” Stiles says as his wolf walks up to press himself against Stiles, which he interprets to mean that he's not alone. Stiles decides to settle down on a rock for a bit, wrapping his arms around the large animal. Nope, not a single soul would believe this. Least of all, Derek.

            “I don't know what's wrong with Derek.” The wolf pulls his head back to look at him. “I thought we were doing so damn well there, like he was actually talking to me, and I even made him smile a couple of times. Now he's so grumpy and distant. It's not like I'm not used to it, but it was better...it was better before. Ever since Coach caught us in the lunch room after everyone left. It's not like that was my fault. He didn't noticed that everyone left either.”

            The wolf licks his hand, and he tries not to feel tingly at the roughness.

            “It's fine. I'm fine. Today just sucked, y'know? And my dad's been sneaking around, and acting super sketchy, so I'm pretty sure he's dating someone. Which is great, but like, man, my old man can get a date before me? Not fair.”

            A few minutes later and Stiles adds quietly, “I'm pretty lucky, actually. I shouldn't be complaining. I mean, what if I end up dating some psycho like Derek did? God, she almost killed his family.”

            Stiles notices how the wolf seems to stiffen at his words. He tries not to believe it's because of him, but he's positive the wolf didn't just hear a rabbit. So he soothes it by stroking its fur.

            “I don't even want to know how icky he felt afterwards. Not that there's any way he could've known, or that it's his fault. But man, I bet that guy with his responsible complex, and always being so serious, I bet that messes with you a little. My dad said he's a hero though, and I'm not surprised at all. Dude looks like he could face the dangers of the world. Or woods. I wonder why he's afraid of you.”

            The wolf tilts his head to look at Stiles, and that's when something clicked in his mind. Oh.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hey man, are you going to Erica's party tomorrow night?” Scott asks, coming up behind Stiles and putting an arm around his shoulder. Stiles leans into Scott as they walk, more so out of habit and comfort than anything. He shrugs, and Scott pouts. “Aw, c'mon, it's going to be so much fun.”

            “Maybe. But I'll be the fourth wheel to you, Allison, and Isaac.”

            “Exactly! Allison and I are going, so you can—”

            “Scott, man, I love you. I really do, but don't even think about trying to set me up with your boyfriend,” Stiles says, laughing. A knot in his chest seems to loosen, and he's grateful. He pulls away from Scott when he reaches his locker. “I'll probably go. What else am I going to do in this boring ass town?”

            “Awesome! I'm glad. I miss hanging out with you, but you always go to the woods,” Scott tells him. Stiles rolls his eyes, and gives him a pointed look. “Yeah, okay, and I guess I've been spending a lot of time with Allison and Isaac. I'm sorry. But Isaac's doing so much better! He's really grateful to you and your dad.”

            “Good, I'm glad.” Stiles gives Scott an appreciative smile. “Now walk me to History like a good bro and tell me about how much you've made out with Allison.”

            It's the perfect distraction. As they walk towards Stiles' class, he tries to focus on Scott's rave about Allison's making out skills. Stiles loves Scott, he does, but he's not going to lie, it's a bit difficult to not drown out the Allison talk. They turn a corner and Stiles runs smack dab into Derek Hale.

            He loses his balance and falls backwards on his ass. Ow. Stiles looks up. He hadn't even needed to look to know it was Derek. The second he'd collided into his chest, he'd gotten a whiff of him, and had just known. Now that's creepy, so Stiles won't be admitting that out loud.

            “Dude,” Stiles says, frowning. His ass is going to have another bruise. Goddammit. Derek just glares at him, and then looks down at his fallen books. He bends down to pick them, and Stiles leans forward unaware just how weird they look. He's on his ass, knees bent in the air, legs apart, and Derek's bent down in between his feet to grab his books. “You're not going to help me up, are you?”

            Derek's head snaps up to look at Stiles. And whoa, whoa, whoa. Are Derek's eyes yellow? Stiles isn't even surprised. Why isn't Stiles surprised? He should be freaking out. He should be having a panic attack. Isn't that how a normal person would react? And yet, he just gives Derek a scoff and an offended look.

            “Dude, help me up.”

            But then Derek does what Derek does best. He stands up and runs. Stiles sighs. The dude didn't even pick up his fucking stuff.

            “Are you okay?” Scott asks, confused. He had been standing behind Derek, so there's no way he could've seen Derek's eyes. Stiles just shakes his head, and accepts Scott's help up.

            “Yeah, he's just an idiot. Now I have to return his stuff to him. Great.” Stiles bends down to pick up Derek's forgotten items.

He sees an assignment guideline paper, and skims it. Jesus shit, it's due tomorrow. Stiles flips through the paper behind it...and Derek isn't finished it. Fun.

            “Derek's been acting weird lately,” Scott says, frowning. “But usually he's super nice. Remember that time he accidentally bumped Danny? He helped him up. Did you do something to offend him?” Scott asks as they continue down the hall.

            Stiles thinks back to the yellow eyes. “Nawh, I think I scare him.”

            “Huh. Why do you say that?”

            “I don't know. Just have a feeling.”

            Stiles lets Scott distract himself by talking about Allison again. It's not as though Stiles hadn't known, on some insane level, but now he's positive. There was something familiar about those yellow eyes. Too familiar and Stiles has to figure out how to deal with it.

            Truth be told, Stiles actually manages to forget about the Derek incident until the end of the day. His history teacher gave him two essays to write, and then science class had been a disaster since Lydia decided to work with Aiden instead of him. He had almost dropped his dead frog, and it had definitely been an accident when he lost control of the liver that he’d dissected, no matter what his lab partner said.

            When school's done, he goes to Derek's locker. Boyd's locker is a few down from his, so Stiles takes a deep breath and walks over. “Hey Boyd, um, do you know if Derek's been to his locker? He dropped some of his stuff but...”

            Boyd turns, looks down at Stiles and gives him a smile. All tension leaves Stiles. “He went home early. Why did he drop his stuff?”

            “Uh, long story.” Stiles is sure that Derek wouldn't want him talking about how weird he'd gotten. “Will you see him tonight?”

            “No,” Erica's voice comes as she walks up to Boyd. She leans on her tiptoes to give him a long, and rather interesting, kiss. When she pulls away, she says, “It's date night tonight, Stilinski. Are you coming to my party tomorrow?”

            Stiles nods. “Yeah, Scott wants me to. Sounds fun. Um. Thanks guys. I'll see you tomorrow then.”

            “Tell Derek he should come too when you see him,” Erica tells Stiles.

            What. No, but actually, what? How did she know he was going to Derek's place? He just gives her a shaky laugh as he retreats, and then heads towards his Jeep. Man, people are just seriously freaky these days.

            He wonders if he should be afraid of Derek and his eye-colour-changing abilities, before he decides that he's obnoxious enough that if Derek really wanted to hurt him, he would've by now. Newly determined, Stiles sets out for the woods. This time he doesn't park in his usual spot, but drives down the road that leads to the Hale house.

            Stiles could just let Derek not finish the goddamn paper. Really, it was going an extra step to check the due date and his progress. However, if it had happened to Scott, Scott would've brought Derek's homework to him. And Stiles might aspire to be a little bit like Scott.

            The Hale house looks huge. Stiles had really only ever seen it through the path, but driving up to it and seeing it in all its glory is a little intimidating. He knows there are a lot of Hales, and Isaac had mentioned that they had redone their basement to have four empty rooms. Apparently the Hales had family over often. They're just one big, never-ending family.

            Isaac said that the one time he'd managed to get over to the house the Hales had pounced on him. He told Stiles, quietly one night when they were lying in his bed together, that he's sure the Hales had sensed that Isaac was hurting and that they'd backed up.

            Isaac still crawls into bed with Stiles some nights, and Stiles never turns him away. He also hasn't told anyone (except for his dad)—not even Scott. It's not his place, and besides, a warm body in his bed never hurt.

            It's on those nights that Isaac whispers about different things. Usually he talks about Scott, sometimes he talks about Erica and Boyd, but whenever he talks about Derek, it's as though he knows he's feeding Stiles' obsession. It’s as though Isaac wants to give Stiles answers to questions that keep him up at night.

            Stiles gets out of the Jeep, Derek's school shit in hand, and shuts his door carefully. Wow. Isaac wasn't kidding. This place seems intimidating, but Stiles can see the well-kept garden that Laura likes to take care of (Isaac's words), and he can see the swing set at the side of the house. He lets himself relax as he walks up to the porch.

            The door opens before he knocks, and Stiles jumps back a little.

            Derek's little sister, Cora, who is also smoking hot, stands there with a huge grin. “Stiles Stilinski, what has my brother done to you to make you come all the way out here?”

            Stiles cocks his head. “Uh, he just...I have his homework. He left it. With me.”

            Cora raises an eyebrow, and it's a look that he's seen one too many times on Lydia's face. Fuck, what the hell is she thinking right now? She opens the door more, stepping out of the way. “C'mon in, Stiles, I'm sure Derek would love to see you.”

            “I doubt it,” Stiles mutters because he just can't help himself. But when Cora snorts, and shakes her head, he can only stare at her. Then he catches a whiff of something baking. “Aw, man, is someone making pie?”

            Cora lets out a laugh, shutting the door behind them, and Stiles realizes that she plans to take him for a tour of the house. “Follow me. You're gonna want to see this.”

            Stiles kicks his shoes off, because he's a polite guest that way, and follows her with a thousand questions floating in his mind. Stiles can't remember ever talking to Cora, but she acts as though she knows all about him. That would mean that either he'd made it to the school gossip vine, or that Derek talked about him. It definitely has to be the former, because the latter seems more ridiculous than Stiles' wolf friend.

            “What are you—?” Stiles lets the words fall. Cora had just led him to the kitchen, where he sees Derek with a red apron on, flour on his cheek, and various ingredients around him. Stiles lets out a small chuckle. “Oh man! Dude, you bake?”

            Derek is glaring at Cora, but when Stiles speaks, he shifts that glare to him. “What do you want?”

            Stiles holds up Derek's textbook, binder, and small stack of papers. “Your homework. You left it when...when you bumped into me.”

            “You bumped into me. Again,” Derek mutters. He turns his back to Cora and Stiles to check on something in the oven. He just pokes his nose in and then stands up straight again. Turning slowly on his heel, he gives Cora his best death glare. “You. Out. And no eaves-dropping.”

            “Party pooper.” Cora turns to Stiles. “Don't let his sour mood bother you too much. He talks about you all the time. Never shuts up, actually.”

            “Cora,” Derek bellows. Actually bellows. She doesn't look the least bit worried though. She just shoots Stiles a coy look before disappearing from the kitchen. Stiles watches her leave before he looks back at Derek, who looks fucking adorable with flour on his face. Derek points a spatula at him. “Do you like pumpkin pie or apple?”

            Stiles brightens instantly. “Both. Definitely both.”

            Derek points to the stool at the other side of the island he's working on. “Sit and I'll give you a slice of both. You'll start with pumpkin.”

            “I...wow, okay, thanks dude. I didn't know you baked. I mean, okay, I guess that's a stupid thing to say because really, why would I know that? I'm glad you're baking pie though. I always love me a good slice of pie, and this smells heavenly. I didn't eat after school today, just came straight here, and I usually eat when I get home, so this is...nice,” he finishes awkwardly.

            It doesn't seem to faze Derek in the slightest. He looks preoccupied as he concentrates on slicing the pie. When he puts it onto a plate and hands it to Stiles, he says, “The guys know I bake.”

            Stiles' eyebrows furrow together.

            Derek sighs, as though he's exhausted from talking to a two-year-old and explaining the world. “You can't mock me for this. They don't care.”

            “Derek, I don't care. I think it's awesome that you bake. I'm not to be trusted in a kitchen. My dad hates cooking, so we have easy meals a lot. And take out. And Melissa—that's Scott's mom—sends Scott over with food often, and sometimes has us over for dinner. She worries about my dad's health like I do. I take care of him though. He eats a lot of veggie burgers, and he hates me for it.” Stiles is rambling far too much. He can't seem to stop though, because Derek is making fucking pie and looks like a sex god and Stiles just wants to lick him everywhere.

            When Derek doesn't acknowledge anything Stiles says right away, Stiles adds, “Have you been mad at me? You've been keeping your distance, and I just don't really get it. Is it something to do with...did you break some rule or something?”

            Derek continues mixing whatever he's making, and Stiles takes a bite of the pie. And melts. Holy god that is heavenly. With another forkful of pie stuffed into his mouth, he tries to inform Derek that “this is amazing” except it comes out completely muffled.

            “What?”

            “Amazing, heavenly, wonderful, holy shit why don't you open a bakery good. This. Pie, I mean. This pie.” Stiles feels his cheeks reddening. Derek's going to think he's an idiot.

            “I applied to baking school, actually,” Derek tells him.

            The fork does not drop out of Stiles hand. No, because Stiles entire hand falls with it, and it makes a sharp noise on the plate. Derek winces a bit and Stiles can't help but gap at him. It takes him a second to catch up. “That is awesome. I mean, I've only had two bites, but you're going to rock baking school so hard. Coach said something about you needing a scholarship though?”

            Derek shrugs. “There's a school that's going to come look at me for the championship games. They have a baking program, and a lacrosse team. Coach thinks if I work hard enough, I'll get it. My parents can afford for me to go, but they paid for Laura, and they'll have Cora too. So it's just...I don't want them to...”

            Stiles bobs his head. “No, dude, I totally get that. So we should work harder at the new plays, and make them flawless so that that can happen.”

            Derek nods. “Uh, um, thanks.”

            “Jesus fuck,” Stiles whispers after another bite of the pie. He studies Derek for a minute. “God, whoever ends up with you is going to have a hard time staying mad or keeping their hands off you if you feed them this.”

            “Are you...are you still upset with me?” Derek asks. Stiles narrows his eyes in confusion.

            “I was never mad at you. I just...I thought we were kinda being friends there, for a bit, and then you just stopped.”

            “Big brother, I have a problem.” Stiles and Derek turn to see Cora walking back in the room. She gives Derek a look. It's the kind of look that says you're welcome, and Stiles has no idea why. She holds up her cell phone and pouts, “I am dateless to Erica's party.”

            “What? She bailed on you?” Derek asks, frowning. “That sucks. I'm sorry to hear that, Cora.”

            “It's fine, really, but I told Erica and Boyd I'd go with a date. They're having that small dinner beforehand. It's probably better this way.” Cora looks at Stiles. “Our mother's a bit protective of us still, and doesn't think we should bother dating in high school. She's old-fashion that way.”

            “Sucks,” Stiles says because he has absolutely no idea what else to say.

            “Are you free tomorrow?” Cora asks, her eyes lighting up.

            “I'm sure Stiles is busy,” Derek suggests.

            “Free as a bird, dude.” Stiles smiles at Cora, mainly because she scares the living shit out of him. “I guess I could go with you to Erica's early.”

            Cora claps her hands together. “Aw, Stiles, you're so wonderful! Saving me from the embarrassment of not being able to keep a girl interested.”

            “So are you a lesbian?” Stiles asks and hopes that she catches the simple question of clarification.

            “Nawh, I'm bisexual. Just like—”

            “Cora.”

            “—my big brother,” she finishes anyway. Stiles turns to give Derek a curious look.

            “I knew that,” he murmurs.

            “What?” Derek demands.

            “Dude, I'm friends with Danny. He's seen you at Jungle. It's cool. I've snuck in there a couple times myself.” Stiles shrugs. He does not say that he might have begged Danny for months to get him a fake ID so he could get into the gay bar just because Danny made a comment that Derek had been there one night. Nope, that would never be spoken aloud. He'd paid Danny a lot of money to keep his mouth shut too. And then begged Ethan to never tell a word or he'd tell Danny he was into him. It had worked...until Danny had turned out to be into Ethan too. Now they're just nauseatingly cute and had both told Stiles they support his “pursuit of Derek”.

            Derek nods and frowns. “I'll have to talk to Danny.”

            “Nawh, he just told me because he knows we're cool. It's not a big deal. Can I ask how your parents felt about you both coming out as bisexual though? That seems like it wouldn't happen to many families,” Stiles says.

            “They don't care who we're into as long as we're not in anyone, if you get my drift.” Cora pouts. “They're just protective. It doesn't stop any of us, though. Let's be honest.”

            “That must suck. I think my dad would throw a party if I dated someone,” Stiles says with a laugh. “I swear, he probably has a set up ready to go at any minute.”

            The conversation from there flows easy and lightly. Derek finishes his apple pie, and the chocolate chip cookies that he'd been in the middle of making when Stiles had arrived. Stiles finds himself extremely comfortable with Cora, which is good since he's her plus one for tomorrow's dinner date with Erica and Boyd. He feels a little weird, but he's positive that Cora isn't into him...like at all.

            Stiles has no idea he's been there for an hour and a half when Cora and Derek's mother comes home. The front door slams shut, hard. Stiles jumps and Derek looks panicked. Cora gives her brother a concern look.

            “Hello.”

            Stiles jumps up from the stool to hold his hand out to the incredibly gorgeous woman in front of him. “Hello. I'm Stiles Stilinski, the Sheriff's kid, and work with Derek on the lacrosse team. I'm the newly appointed assistant coach.”

            “Talia,” their mother says, eyeing him carefully. “You said you're the Sheriff's kid?”

            “Yes, ma'am.”

            “He's a good man,” she comments, but her eyes narrow on her son. “I wasn't expecting company.”

            “Sorry!” Stiles says immediately. “I accidentally took some of Derek's schoolwork with me after lunch today—got all mixed up in my stuff—and missed him at the end of the day. My best buddy, Scott, was talking to me about Allison and this guy wanted to surprise you with some baked goods. So I showed up unannounced. Totally my fault and I should probably get going.”

            Talia gives Stiles a warm smile. “No, Stiles, please stay for dinner. It'd be our pleasure.”

            “She likes to scare people,” Cora says, but her tone has changed. Stiles glances between mother and daughter and realizes that Cora isn't happy with her mother.

            “I really, really appreciate the offer, but I do have to get home. My dad will get fast food if I'm not home, and he's been doing really good lately!” Stiles smiles apologetically. He turns to Derek. “Let's get together at lunch sometime to go over those new tactics we were talking about. It was great seeing you, Cora. I hope you have a lovely evening. So nice meeting you Mrs. Hale.”

            “Talia,” she corrects, but she's frowning as though she's unsure what to make of Stiles.

            He gives them all a wave and rushes towards the door. Dammit, he has to put his shoes on. He bends down to do so, when he hears Derek's voice low and near him, “I'm sorry. It's just a little complicated around here sometimes.”

            Stiles straightens when he has both shoes on. “Dude, I get it. I don't want you to get in trouble with your mom or anything though, so blame it all on me. I'm the Sheriff's kid. No one stays mad long.”

            Derek's lips tug upwards. “I'll text you.”

            Stiles gives him a nervous laugh. “You don't have to—but if you want, go for it.”

            Derek nods.

            Stiles pulls open the door and tries not to run to his car. Damn, that was so awkward. He tries not to think about Derek's words. I'll text you. And yet they're all he thinks about.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            After dinner with his dad—he had just saved him from going through the drive-thru—Stiles is a bundle of nerves. Derek hadn't texted him yet and Stiles doesn't feel like going for a run. He bugs his dad in the living room.

            “Dad, have you heard anything about wolves coming back to California?” Stiles asks.

            “No, there hasn't been a single reporting of wolves in Beacon Hills. Why?” his father asks.

            “No reason, but I—”

            The front door opens, which means Isaac's home from his date night with Scott and Allison. He looks a little sheepish. “Sorry I missed dinner.”

            “No worries, son. Melissa called me. How are you today?” the Sheriff asks, easy smile on his lips.

            Isaac grins and walks in to join them in the living room. “Great, actually. Is it okay if I go with Stiles to Erica's party tomorrow? I realize I hadn't asked permission and...”

            “Underage drinking?” the Sheriff asks, but his look is pointed at Stiles.

            “Yes.”

            “Underage driving?”

            “Nope. It's at Erica Reyes' house. She lives over on Lake Street, so it's walking distance.” Stiles gives his dad a smile. “I was gonna ask about that, but I just...forgot.”

            “You'll both call me if you need me for anything?” the Sheriff asks.

            “Of course!” Isaac replies. Stiles nods in agreement.

            “Then it's fine. Thanks for asking me, Isaac.”

            “It's in the ground rules, but I would've asked anyway.” Isaac gives him a smile. Stiles likes the fact that Isaac had slowly been coming out of his shell over the past month. With his dad's trial coming up, Stiles knows it won't last too long. “We could go together—what time are you planning to head over?”

            “Actually, I'm going over earlier. Erica's having a small dinner for some people, and I'm Cora Hale's date.” Stiles shrugs. “It's just because her date fell through, so I'm just a replacement.”

            “Since when do you know Cora?” Isaac asks, confused.

            “Oh, I had to drop off some of Derek's books tonight. He forgot them.” Stiles shrugs. “Cora's scary.”

            “Cora, Erica, Lydia, Allison...they're all pretty scary,” Isaac jokes.

            “Good. Those women are the ones that are worth fighting for,” the Sheriff says with a nod. He glances down at his buzzing cell phone. With a frown, he stands up. “Sorry boys, but it looks like I'm being called in. I'm on nights tomorrow, so stay out of trouble, and call if you get into it.”

            “Stay safe,” Stiles says, standing up to hug his dad. “Love you.”

            “Love you too, Stiles.” Then Stiles watches his dad turn to Isaac, who doesn't hesitate in standing up and wrapping his arms around the Sheriff. “You're a good kid, Isaac.”

            “Thanks for everything.”

            The Sheriff tells Isaac to lay off with the thanks before he leaves. Stiles and Isaac decide to play some video games, and Stiles quits when his phone vibrates three hours later and he sees a familiar name on the screen.

            He gives Isaac a shoulder squeeze and tells him to have a good night—but Isaac isn't listening, he's already joining a game with Scott online. Stiles rushes up to his room before he opens the message. When he reads it, his heart beats quickly.

           

DEREK: I should have sent you home with pie.

STILES: yes, you should have.

 

            Stiles strips down to his boxers before he gets the next message.

 

DEREK: sorry...about my mom

STILES: it's all cool dude

DEREK: she just gets a little protective

STILES: totally get it, it's fine
STILES: what's not fine is that I'm not eating your pie  

DEREK: I'll try to save you a piece..

STILES: you'd do that for me? aw, how sweet
STILES: knew you liked me

 

            Stiles settles into his bed, pleased with himself.

 

DEREK: don't confuse an act of kindness for something it's not  

STILES: hahahahaha
STILES: omg did your face even change when you typed that
STILES: it didn't, did it derek?

DEREK: no pie for you  

STILES: kinda missed this..

DEREK: it wasn't on purpose
DEREK: but it also wasn't fair to you
DEREK: sorry stiles  

STILES: all good man
STILES: have a shot with me tomorrow and we'll be even

DEREK: maybe
DEREK: night stiles

 

            He doesn't want to stop texting Derek. Not yet.

 

STILES: hey derek?  

DEREK: yeah

STILES: I had fun today

DEREK: me too
DEREK: but my mom yelled at me so it can't happen again...sorry  

STILES: I'll cling to the memory then

DEREK: dramatic

STILES: that's me
STILES: sleep tight bright eyes  

DEREK: okay

 

            Stiles rolls over, and glances at the time. The clock reads later than he had expected. Apparently, the five, ten, or twenty minutes between each text had made the conversation last longer than he thought. He turns off his lights, and curls up.

            Five minutes later, there's a knock at the door.

            “C'mon in,” Stiles shouts.

            Isaac slips into the bed after a minute. Stiles whispers, “Feel like talking?”

            The boy beside him takes a deep breath and then says, in the most utterly broken voice that Stiles will ever hear, “My dad locked me in a freezer.

            Stiles flips over on the bed and says, “What?”

            Isaac continues to look at the ceiling. He sighs, and then says it again. “My dad locked me in a freezer. It wasn't on, or anything. It broke when I was seven. I guess I spilled water on the cord. That's when...that's when my dad started to.”

            “Isaac,” Stiles says. His voice is thick with emotions he can't describe. He reaches out, finds Isaac's hand, and squeezes. “Isaac, I knew it was bad but...”

            “It's okay, Stiles. You've done more for me than anyone. Do you know my mom left? She couldn't handle the way he abused me, and just...left. She didn't even tell the police.” Isaac turns on his side to face Stiles. His voice is shaking hard now. “She didn't tell the police. I just...I just had a nightmare about the damn freezer and I feel like I'm still in it.”

            “No, no,” Stiles shifts closer, to press his forehead against Isaac's. “You're here, and I'm with you, alright? Nothing's going to happen to you now. You're safe.”

            “You're so weird,” Isaac mutters. “You sound like Scott.”

            “Scott taught me well,” Stiles says. He squeezes Isaac's hand again, because Stiles just repeats Isaac's story back in his head, and his heart breaks all over again. “Dude, listen, I know you won't believe me when I say this, but you're not alone.”

            “I feel like it sometimes.”

            “I know. But you're the center of our little gang. You brought us all together—me, you, Scott, Allison, Lydia, Jackson, Aiden, Danny, Ethan, Erica, Boyd, Derek, and whoever else because I'm sure I missed someone. We all care about you. Do you know how little I knew the others before you? Very little. Now Erica still scares the crap out of me, but I don't mind talking to her. We have inside jokes now.” Stiles sighs heavily. “You're not alone, a'ight?”

            Isaac lets out a shaky laugh. “The only reason we all hang out is because you knew I was in trouble. How did you know?”

            “Gut feeling,” Stiles murmurs. “I don't know. Call it the Sheriff's Son Instinct.”

            Isaac shifts away from Stiles' face, but doesn't let go of his hand. “Thanks.”

            “Stop—”

            “You saved my life, so no.” Isaac shifts so he's lying on his back again. “This is so weird. We barely hang out unless it's at lunch. I guess I've been spending a lot of time with Scott and Allison. I hope you're not mad at me.”

            Stiles scoffs. “Dude, it's not like we were super close and then you just left or something. It's fine. I'm glad they make you happy.”

            “You could join us sometime, if you wanted to. It's just, being around big groups is kind of intimidating.” Isaac snuggles a little closer.

            “It's fine. Derek hasn't kicked me out of the lunch table, so I'm not alone.” Yet Stiles feels alone. God, it's not even like he could talk to Derek at lunch anymore since he'd been avoiding him. Stiles is positive that tonight hadn't changed that. At least Erica and Lydia would talk to him. Hell, Boyd said something to him the other week. It's fine.

            Stiles changes subject to ask, “What's up with Derek and Cora's mom being super protective?”

            Isaac shrugs in the darkness. “I actually don't know. It's weird. Once she found out that I was only a friend, she totally lightened up around me. Talia might be the scariest woman I've ever met. Did you meet her tonight?”

            “Yeah, and let me tell you, being the Sheriff's son didn't work on her. She seemed to hate me more.” Stiles frowns. “It must suck to be them. Is it because of Kate?”

            “Maybe. She's always been pretty protective, but it's gotten bad lately.” Isaac sniffs. “How's your obsession coming with Derek, anyway?”

            Stiles scoffs, but then quietly admits, “I think it's just getting worse. God.”

            Isaac laughs lightly. Stiles smiles. If talking about his obsession with Derek makes Isaac laugh, he'll take it. Isaac’s been much happier since he'd moved in, but still. Stiles knows he hasn't had much to laugh about before. Isaac asks, “How is it possible for it to get worse?”

            “He bakes, Lahey. He bakes pies,” Stiles groans dramatically. This only makes Isaac giggle a little more. Stiles decides that talking to Lydia about Derek's ass isn't enough. This launches him into a little rant. “It was so awful, walking in, and seeing him all gorgeous and delicious and making pies. You know I once saw him turn down pie, but apparently, he never does? I don't know. It was a long time ago, and Derek had given me this really dirty look, as though I'd upset him, but I just assumed that it was because the pie wasn't his kind of pie or something, and then he stormed off. Now I'm thinking it was me, but that's ridiculous. We had literally never, not once, talked before that one day when he called me out for talking to Scott about whether or not he's human to Scott. Then we got kind of close, or so I had thought, and he went right back to ignoring me!”

            Isaac gives him a small sigh. “It might be his mother. She doesn't really allow Derek or Cora to have crushes.”

            “That doesn't make any sense,” Stiles mumbles. “It's not even like...oh, do you mean, do you think that Derek had a crush on me?”

            “Maybe,” Isaac squirms a little, “or maybe his mother thought he did, and that's why. I'm just saying, I doubt Derek started to ignore you by choice. And just how long have you been obsessed with him?”

            “Secretly or openly to Lydia?” Stiles asks.

            “Secretly.”

            “Uh, since, well, since I was like ten.” Stiles shrugs. “I know—”

            “Stilinski, you're pathetic.” Isaac says it with fondness. “I know that his mother's a little protective, but I mean, why don't you go for it?”

            Stiles thinks about the flash of Derek's yellow eyes, and then frowns. He'd always known Derek is different. Lydia had tried to convince him that he was romanticizing Derek, because Stiles wanted Derek to be different, but he knows otherwise. Stiles frowns into the darkness. Finally, he settles on, “I don't think Derek's into me. Besides, there's no risk if I obsess about him from afar.”

            “Stiles,” Isaac says, exasperated. “Derek talks about you too, you know.”

            Stiles scoffs. Derek Hale talk about him? Yeah, okay, what universe are you living in there, Lahey? Then he remembers Cora's words from earlier tonight. He shifts, to sit up and stare at Isaac's outline in the darkness.

            “He was pretty excited that you came up with that idea about Scott,” Isaac continues. Stiles can hear it in his voice: he's worried about crossing some line of trust. Stiles is positive it isn't the trust between them, but rather Isaac and Derek. “He thought it was great, and then Boyd bothered him about asking you to help him again.”

            “Asking for help must be like pulling out a sliver with Derek. I bet he hates it enough to want to leave it in,” Stiles comments.

            Isaac laughs. “Yeah, something like that. It's a big step for him, but he took it. I just...why don't you go after him, Stilinski? Even Jackson notices the way you two moon over each other.”

            “We do not. I may. But oh man, I kind of feel bad for Jackson. Did you see him teary-eyed the other day? He ran into Lydia and Aiden making out. They should really just do what you, Allison, and Scott do.” The words are out of his mouth before he can think to stop them. He feels Isaac still beside him. “I mean, not that you guys—”

            “Scott finally told you?” Isaac asks, his voice low.

            It's Stiles' turn to freeze. “Uh, no, actually, he didn't. I just assumed and I guess I was right?”

            “It's just...I don't know, god Stilinski why are you all about talking about your feelings and stuff? You're making me soft.” But Isaac doesn't let Stiles respond before he says, “We all like each other, and it just seems to work. It sounds crazy.”

            “The only thing that's crazy is that you guys thought I wouldn't notice,” Stiles says. He settles back onto the bed, and then makes a tsk-ing noise at Isaac. “Really, Lahey, you’d think between the three of you, you'd realize I'm the Sheriff's kid and I'm not that stupid.”

            “I guess Scott figured you didn't care about it enough to think about it.”

            “I don't care. Whatever makes you happy. It's not my place to judge. At least y'all are getting some.”

            Their conversation switches around after that. At first they talk about how surprisingly easy it is to be in a relationship with two other people, and how Isaac never thought he'd be the sharing kind of guy. Then Stiles asks Isaac to tell him other things about Derek and his family. Isaac doesn't have much to say, but tells Stiles to just ask Cora tomorrow on their non-date or to approach Erica, because Erica would know more about it.

            That leads to why Isaac doesn't have other information on the Hales: because he was never allowed to be away from the house, or his father would beat him. Stiles gets extra quiet as he listens to Isaac describe the inside of the freezer to the most heartbreaking, smallest details.

            “Never again. We will never allow him to do that to you ever again,” Stiles promises.

            “You haven't told anyone that we do this, do you?” Isaac asks.

            “No, why?”

            “I don't know. It's just...it's nice, man. That you don't think it's weird or gay or whatever that I come into your bedroom to talk and sleep with you,” Isaac tells him. “I don't really know. I just hate being alone sometimes, because my dad and –and that's just all I think about and I hate it.”

            “I know, Isaac.” Stiles shifts though, because he's suddenly uncomfortable. Sometimes he's great at talking emotions, other times he feels like whatever he says will never be enough. “I don't judge you. Mainly because you had the balls to call me out on my obsession about Derek. Not even Scott brings it up.”

            Isaac snorts. “That's because Scott has no idea. Don't ask me how he doesn't, but the whole thing seems to have escaped him. I made a joke about it—don't give me that look—and he just said, 'What are you talking about?'”

            “Then how did you know?”

            “Because you look at him as though he personally hung the moon with his own two hands, or you look at him as though you're going to eat him up for dessert and take your sweet time doing it.” Isaac rolls his eyes. Stiles doesn't need light to know that. “Your mouth is always open and you're always drooling. You're not even subtle about it.”

            Stiles blushes, grateful for the darkness now. “You've seen his ass, right?”

            Isaac starts laughing, and after a minute, quietly says, “Yeah, I've even touched it once or twice.”

            Stiles smacks his arm a couple of times, but Isaac just continues to laugh.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Why do I have to wear this?” Stiles mumbles. Lydia had invited herself over earlier so that she could make sure he looked his best. She just hums to herself, and tugs on the tie. “It's a party, Lyds.”

            “Yeah, and there's a lovely couples' dinner before it. I was talking to Erica. It's a bit fancy. She's super excited about it and you will not disappoint her. Now, look at me.” Lydia takes a step back. She motions with her manicured fingers for him to spin around. He does, slowly, and she nods her approval. “Good, good, Stilinski. Cora asked me to make sure you looked extra good. Now, I have three outfits and I want your approval on the best one. I figure since you had that crush on me, you'll make sure I look extra good.”

            Stiles sighs in defeat, and settles back onto the bed. He closes his eyes while she changes. Maybe sometime in the past few years when he'd thought she was a goddess (don't get him wrong, he still does, but it's in a different way now), he would've tried peeking. However, he respects Lydia as a friend far too much to bother.

            “So you and Aiden are going together?” Stiles asks.

            “For the last time, yes. Jackson and I are over for now. I need some fun, and I don't feel like settling down just yet. I'm too young.”

            “You know more about this dinner than I do. Who else will be there?” Stiles asks, hoping it comes off as a casual query.

            Lydia gives him a pointed look. Stiles doesn't have to be looking at her to know it. “Honestly, Stiles, if this is your subtle way of asking if Derek Hale will be there, then I hate to disappoint you by saying no, he will not be. Cora Hale is your date.”

            “I know that, Lydia. I'll be a respectful and awesome gentleman, okay?”

            “Sit up,” she demands.

            He listens and then lets his jaw drop. “Damn, Lydia, you look gorgeous. You look ready to eat Aiden up.”

            She laughs. “Perfect. I won't bother with the other outfits then. Do you think you can refrain from asking Cora any questions about Derek tonight? I think she really wants Erica and Boyd to think you're on a date. Erica was the one that set her up with that awful girl and Cora doesn't want Erica to think she's upset.”

            “How do you know so much?”

            “Oh, Cora called me after you left the Hale house yesterday,” Lydia tells him with a smirk.

            Stiles sighs. “Women are scary.”

            Lydia just gives him a laugh and then picks up her cell phone to answer a text message that had buzzed ten minutes ago. After she's done, Stiles watches her reapply some of her hot red lipstick.

            “Why couldn't you have fallen madly in love with me? Then I wouldn't be stuck in situations like this.”

            Lydia pauses to glance over at him. “Stiles, you wouldn't have wanted me to fall in love with you. If I didn't break your heart, you would’ve broken mine. And no one breaks Lydia Martin's heart. Not even Jackson.”

            Stiles frowns. “What does that mean, Lyds?”

            Her shoulders drop a little. “He was getting bored of me. I could sense it. So I ended it.”

            “Jackson was getting bored of you?” Stiles says, staring at her as though she has two heads. “Jackson would never dare get bored of you, Lydia. That man thinks you hung the goddamn moon.”

            Damn, Stiles let that little metaphor slip out and tries not to freeze. Isaac had used it to describe how Stiles feels about Derek fucking Hale. This isn't about Derek. For once. He watches as Lydia pouts, before shyly asking, “You really think so?”

            “I know so, Lydia. He's miserable without you. He's even been nicer to me, probably because he thinks I might be able to persuade you to go back to him. Which I'm not doing. But cut the man some slack.” Stiles shrugs. “Look, Aiden also seems really into you, and I've seen how you are with him.”

            “Do not suggest a relationship like Scott, Allison, and Isaac. I've never been good at sharing.” Lydia smiles though. Stiles scoffs, but he's not surprised that Lydia had also figured it out. “Thanks, Stiles. For telling me. That...you know Jackson still cares. I wasn't sure if he did anymore.”

            “He does. But, for tonight, who carest? You look hot, and Aiden's going to have to carry around a bucket.” Lydia's eyebrow shoots up, and Stiles finishes with, “Because of his drool.”

            She shakes her head, but Stiles sees the smallest shift in her demeanour. He wonders why Lydia had been insecure in her relationship with Jackson. Lydia and insecurity do not go together. However, Stiles figures she is only human after all. Even the best have their moments.

            “Aiden's picking me up here. Are you getting Cora?” Lydia asks.

            “Not sure. I'll text her...well I would if I had her number.”

            Lydia scrolls through her phone. “Here.”

 

STILES: hey Cora, it's Stiles
STILES: did you want me to pick you up?  

CORA: your date is just heading out the door, so be on your porch in five

 

            “Uh, I guess Cora's picking me up.”

            Lydia spins around, eyeing him carefully. He can see the wheels turning. She nods. “That's interesting. She must think you're a bad date.”

            Stiles laughs, and says, “Lyds, it makes sense. Erica's house is so close to my place, and the Hales live out in the middle of fuck all.”

            Lydia simply hums.

 

STILES: aw, thank you. I'll be waiting!

CORA: thank me later.

 

            “What does that mean?” Stiles asks, when he repeats Cora's text aloud. Lydia's saved from answering when a knock comes at the door downstairs.

            “See you in ten,” she says with a kiss on his cheek. Then she's gone.

            “Isaac!” Stiles yells down the hall.

            “Yeah buddy?”

            “Do you know if Cora and Lydia are up to something?” Stiles asks.

            There's some shuffling from Isaac's room, and then Isaac pokes his head out from behind the door. He studies Stiles. “No, why?”

            Stiles walks down the hall, showing him the short conversation with Cora and then explaining that Lydia wore that look. “Do you know something I don't?”

            “Nope, I swear, I don’t. But you're probably reading too much into it.”

            A car horn honks from the front of the house. Stiles jumps, and scrambles to rush out. “Thanks, buddy! See you later! And keep your phone with you. I might need back-up.”

            “Have fun, Stilinski!” Isaac calls back.

 

            ♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles gets into the Camaro without thinking much about it, and the first thing out of his mouth is, “Your brother let you have his precious car?”

            He turns to see that no, Cora isn't driving Derek's car, because Derek is driving Derek's car. He blinks. “Whoa, wait, Derek, what are you doing here?”

            “Cora had to cancel. Something came up. She didn't want to leave you...dateless.” The last word is spoken as though Derek would rather poke his eyes with a million and six needles than be here. Stiles frowns.

            “Dude, you didn't have to. I can just hit up Erica's party later.”

            “Erica's pre-ordered food for us. Apparently it would be rude to leave her to foot the bill of food we didn't eat.” Derek hits the gas.

            “Wow. What a pickle. Damn, this isn't going to be weird, right?” Stiles asks, searching Derek's face for anything. His grumpy expression doesn’t change though, and Stiles is forced to fall back in his seat. “I mean, of course, it'll be weird, because you've gone right back to ignoring me at school again. And it's not as though I'm surprised at all. I had thought that the pies bonded us, but it's fine.”

            “In the backseat,” is the only thing Derek says.

            Stiles frowns at Derek, but then turns to look in the backseat. The only thing is a plastic container. He grabs it, and throwing a cautious expression at Derek, proceeds to open it. And there are two slices of pie. His heart stumbles. Wow. What does he—? He doesn't have time to answer the question, because they're pulling up into Erica's driveway.

            “You can leave them here, if you want.” Derek eyes Stiles before turning the car off. “I won't be drinking.”

            “Oh fuck, I forgot my booze. I am an awful party-goer.” Stiles smacks the side of his head, and it seems to draw a smile from Derek.

            “I'll drive you back home when dinner is done.”

            That, of course, is the last thing Derek has to say about any of that. Stiles wants to tell Derek he'll just get Isaac to bring it, but honestly? Any time, even a five minute car ride, spent alone with Derek is too tempting to resist. Stiles follows Derek out of the car.

            “So do we tell Erica that we're not actually on a date?”

            Derek ignores him, and pushes the door open. Oh, okay.

            “Yo, Erica, your favourite person has arrived!” Stiles shouts.

            Erica rushes through the house towards them, and Stiles recognizes the sound of her heels clicking on the floor. She gives him a big smile, sparing Derek only a small curious look, before Erica wraps her arms around Stiles. The action surprises him, but Stiles settles into a hug with her.

            “Stiles, you look wonderful. Cora told me you're her replacement's date. I'm so glad you two could come. I just wanted to have a fun, mature dinner before I get hammered out of my mind. Really, it's an excuse to dress up and look extra good.” Erica turns to Derek, giving him a quick hug. Stiles is dumbfounded to see Derek hug back, with a small squeeze. “Hale, you clean up good.”

            Stiles takes this opportunity to actually look at Derek. His hair had been done up nicely, and Stiles immediately bets that Cora had done it. He wore a little navy blue bow tie, with a sharp light blue dress shirt, and his pants...well, his pants cling in all the right spots. Stiles notices that even Derek's shoes are nice. He smiles. “My date is hotter than yours, Reyes.”

            She scoffs, laughs, and then says, “Pah-lease, Boyd’s more delicious than one of Hale's cupcakes.”

            “Hale's Cupcakes,” Stiles muses quietly to Derek as they follow Erica down the hall. “You should name your bakery that.”

            Derek's eyebrows come together.

            Stiles claps his hands together and says, “Oh! No, I know. You could call it, Hale's Orgasms, because man, that pie was good.”

            If Erica hears, she ignores them. Derek just grunts, “I think I'd just go with Hale's Bakery.”

            “Boring. You want to entice people to come, Derek.” Stiles blatantly checks Derek out again. “Never mind, you only need to stand behind the shop counter and you'll entice people to come.”

            The innuendo isn’t exactly subtle, and Stiles watches as Derek's eyes narrow. He hopes that the concentrated expression means that Derek is thinking of Stiles being enticed to come. Then Stiles trips over part of the rug. Derek's hands jet out, and he catches him from falling.

            “Wow,” Stiles murmurs.

            Derek yanks Stiles back up into standing position.

            “Stiles, this is a mature dinner. No messing around,” Erica says. They walk into her backyard. Stiles admits Erica puts on a party just like Lydia Martin. There are Christmas lights hanging around the backyard to light it up, and it looks gorgeous on the deck. There are decorations here and there, and other sources of lighting. The truth is that Stiles is a little surprised that Erica would go out of her way to make the party look so nice.

            The table on the deck is set up with a white table cloth, some candles, and food already prepared on each plate.

            “Wow, Reyes, you went all out.”

            She holds up a bottle of wine. “Oh yeah.”

            “Looks good,” Stiles says, smiling and giving Lydia and Aiden a small wave. He settles into a seat, and Derek sits down beside him.

            Erica fills each of their glasses with wine, and says, “I felt like being classy tonight.”

            Boyd comes up behind her, kisses her cheek, and then grabs them both glasses of wine. When Erica's finished with Derek's glass, she sets the second empty bottle beside the first, and takes her glass from Boyd. They both raise it in the air, so everyone else follows suit. Boyd smiles at Erica. “You're always classy.”

            Erica leans into him, and looking up with a smile full of happiness, she announces, “I would like to toast to friendship, happiness, and love.”

            “That's sweet,” Aiden mutters.

            Erica and Boyd don't seem to notice. They tap their glasses together, taking a sip while looking at one another, and then sharing a kiss.

            Lydia elbows Aiden, and smiles at the couple. “That is sweet.”

            “It's definitely lovely tonight,” Stiles adds. “Thanks for having us over for dinner.”

            “Thanks for coming,” Boyd says. He smiles into Erica's hair, and pulls her closer to him as though he can’t keep his hands off her.

            Stiles is...wow, he's happy for Erica and Boyd. He's positive that these two will end up married and happy together for the rest of their lives. They have a that couple vibe. Stiles had learned from Lydia that they didn’t think it was smart get engaged young, but it wouldn't surprise him. Stiles watches as they kiss and smile at one another, so completely in love.

            They sit down at the table, and everyone starts to eat.

            Lydia asks about the decorations, and Erica launches into a little spiel about them. It allows everyone else to sit in silence.

            Stiles nudges Derek, who has been suspiciously quiet since they sat down. Derek glances at him, and Stiles notices a strange expression on Derek's face. He's trying to read it, when Derek folds up his napkin and sets it beside his cutlery.

            “Oh no, you don't,” Erica says, pointing her finger at Derek. Stiles watches with a muffled laugh as she goes into Scary Erica mode. “You're not leaving, Derek. We're going to have a nice meal and—”

            Derek stands up suddenly. Stiles thinks he's going to bolt, but Derek just excuses himself to the washroom. When he comes back, he seems more like himself, and even participates in the conversation.

            The dinner falls into an easy flow. Lydia and Erica do most of the talking about potential prom ideas, and Boyd just smiles occasionally. Sometimes Aiden asks a question. Stiles tries to partake in the conversation, but finds himself oddly curious about Derek's silence more. Derek only speaks when he's asked a direct question. Occasionally, Stiles bumps his knee against Derek's—as though to say hi, I'm here—and sometimes Derek bumps his knee back—to say hi, I know, I'm fine.

            When Erica starts to clear the table, Stiles jumps up. “No, no, sit. This is your party. Derek and I will do the dishes.”

            Derek doesn't argue. He might let out a small growl, but Stiles chooses to count it as a win when Derek starts helping him clear up the table. They go into the kitchen to do the dishes, and Stiles speaks in a low voice. “Derek, what's going on with you tonight?”

            “Nothing. Really,” Derek says. “Leave it alone, Stiles.”

            “Two of your best friends just hosted a lovely dinner for you. Why are you so grumpy pants about it? They're fucking happy together. Anyone can look at them and, without even knowing them, say they're gonna make each other happy for the rest of their lives. They're that couple.”

            Derek doesn't say anything, so Stiles falls quiet. Stiles washes the dishes, while Derek dries them and puts them away. He's clearly comfortable in Erica's kitchen.

            When they're almost done, Lydia brings them some more without any apologies. She disappears almost as quickly as she appeared, with just a curious look at Stiles.

            “I thought I was part of that couple,” Derek says when the last dish is handed to him. Stiles is glad that Derek is holding it because he's positive the plate would've crashed to the ground.

            “Kate?” he asks, his voice lower than usual.

            Derek nods. “Yeah, my sister found me our grandmother's ring. Not that I was going to propose...anytime soon, but I had thought about it. Maybe high school graduation.”

            Stiles leans back against the counter. He shakes his head. “Tough break, dude. But Kate wasn't the love of your life.”

            “No?” Derek asks, watching Stiles now as he dries his hands and puts the cloth back around the handle of the stove.

            “No.” It's said with a quiet but decisive tone.

            “How can you say that?” Derek asks. “You didn't know me then. You don't know me now.”

            Stiles forces himself to not be hurt by the words you don't know me now. He shrugs. “You're going to fall in love with many people over many years. Eventually, you might find the one that lasts, the one that sticks. Kate was so not that girl, Derek. Jesus, you really think you're doomed to have the love of your life call your family monsters and try to murder them?”

            Those aren't the words that Stiles means to say. When Derek steps away from him, Stiles knows he's hurt and he's going to run. Stiles reaches out, but Derek growls.

            “Stiles, I suggest you leave me alone for a minute.”

            “I'm not going anywhere. And I'm not sorry. Listen, dude, you're going to find someone who loves you for you, grumpy pants or sunshine. And then you'll see that Kate is just some psychopath bitch.”

            “What if she wasn't?” Derek asks. “What if my family and I are monsters?”

            Stiles snorts. “As if. You're not responsible for Kate's psychotic break, okay?”

            “What if I was?” Derek says it softly now.

            Stiles shakes his head. “It doesn't matter. She wasn't your one true love, and if you think that that's the only shot you get, you're stupid. You're eighteen, Derek. Not everyone meets the love of their life at fifteen.”

            Derek nods, but Stiles can already tell the conversation is over. He wants to leave, but he doesn't. However, his phone vibrating offers him the perfect excuse to distract himself for a minute.

 

ISAAC: dude, your booze is still in the hall

STILES: yeah I realized that I forgot it – derek and I will go back to pick it up

ISAAC: I could bring it?

STILES: DEREK and I will go pick it up later

ISAAC: I won't tell you how lame that is
ISAAC: but that's pretty lame  

STILES: he offered?

ISAAC: less lame, how was dinner?

 

            “Hey, could we pick up my booze before the party gets insane?” Stiles asks quietly.

            Derek nods. “Yeah, of course, but why do you smell different?”

            If Stiles is fazed by the question, he doesn't show it, and shrugs. “I don't know. I showered.”

            “No, you smell like...Isaac.”

            Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Oh yeah, well, don't tell him I told you, but sometimes he sleeps with me.”

            Derek's face goes stone-cold.

            “He gets scared, and I think he has nightmares.” Stiles sighs. “Let's walk back to my place. I think this is something you should know...I told my dad this morning. He's positive that it'll make sure Isaac's dad goes away for a lot longer.”

            Derek nods.

            “I'll just go tell them...yeah, okay.”

 

STILES: dinner was good, we're heading over soon

ISAAC: so I should leave?
ISAAC: can you ask Scott if it's okay if I come over early?  

STILES: sure?

 

            “I forgot my booze. Derek's going to walk over with me to pick it up,” Stiles announces.

            “What about Isaac?” Lydia asks.

            “Left to go to Scott's already,” Stiles explains.

 

STILES: yo can Isaac come over now so I can have the house to myself for a bit?


SCOTT: obviously!!
SCOTT: isn't this a weird time to get off though, dude?

STILES: i'm not getting off scott, hahah.
STILES: derek and I are going to pick up my booze

SCOTT: derek??? Isaac mentioned something about him but I didn't think he was serious!!
SCOTT: why didn't you tell me??

STILES: I will, promise...it's a long story but like
STILES: we're not a thing or anything, okay?

SCOTT: dammit Stiles! I'm your best friend...how did I not know?

STILES: you've been happy with allison and isaac, it's fine bro.
STILES: plus I wasn't really willing to talk about it

SCOTT: love youuu, we'll have a bro date soon

STILES: definitely


STILES: you can go to scott's man, he's excited! 

ISAAC: awesome, thanks

STILES: thanks for leaving

 

            “You ready?” Derek growls after a few minutes. Stiles looks up, puts his phone in his pocket, and ignores it even when it buzzes. “Who were you texting, anyway?”

            “Isaac—to see if he’s home, but he's not. He's at Scott's.” Stiles heads down the hall, and catches a glimpse of Derek's expression. He isn't buying it. Stiles doesn't care. “I just...it's not my secret to tell, so now I'm second-guessing my decision to do so.”

            They enter the fresh air of the outdoors and Derek shuts the door quietly behind them. “I get it, Stiles, but he's my best friend...and I couldn't...I didn't protect him.”

            “He wasn't talking about it with you, Derek. It's not your fault you couldn't do anything,” Stiles reminds him. He stops at Derek's car and opens the back door to grab his pie. He gives Derek a small grin that fades when the door shuts and he goes back to the topic. “Isaac told me that he knows how protective you would've gotten, and that's not what he wanted or needed.”

            “I could've given him space,” Derek growls.

            “No, you couldn't have.” Stiles shakes his head. “Isaac's told me about how fierce you are when it comes to people you care about, Derek. It's easier for Isaac to rely on me because I don't have any expectations. I didn't know him well before...well, before he moved in really. There weren't any expectations of how he should be behaving, because I had nothing to compare it to, and that's what Isaac needed.”

            They turn down a small path that connects Erica's road to Stiles'. Derek sighs with frustration. “I just...I'm his friend, Stiles.”

            “I know.” The words are soft. “I know. And he loves you. Really, he likes talking about you.”

            Maybe that's because Isaac knows about Stiles' obsession, but Derek doesn't need to know that. Ever. Under any circumstances.

            “I hate it.”

            “I know.”

            “I hate it.”

            “His dad used to lock him in a freezer.” The words slip out, because Stiles had been clinging to them ever since last night. He hadn't meant to tell Derek, but after telling his dad, Stiles needed to get it off his chest. It's too heavy for him, too scary, too real and horrific. Derek stops walking. Stiles follows suit, and then adds, “I almost couldn't believe it, but he did. My dad knows, but maybe you should ease up on Isaac on the not-coming-to-you thing. He gets claustrophobic.”

            “How did I not know that?” Derek whispers.

            “It wasn't your secret to know,” Stiles replies. He can see the pure hurt and horror on Derek's face though, and reaches out. This time Derek doesn't step away, and Stiles puts his hand on Derek's forearm. This is not the time to be thinking about how good and hot Derek feels. “Look, Isaac can never ever find out that I told you. I just...you need to understand him a bit more. I can see the guilt and confusion on your face whenever you see him. I saw you at the station. You care, and you're hurt because he didn't come to you.”

            Derek doesn't speak for a minute, just keeps walking so Stiles' arm falls down. Stiles follows after him a few seconds later. When they get to the end of the path, Derek says, “I'm glad it was you. That got him out.”

            “I'm the Sheriff's kid.”

            “No, I'm glad it was you, Stiles. Not the Sheriff's kid.”

            Stiles doesn't entirely understand the difference. He is the Sheriff's kid, but he nods as though he understands and accepts the answer. When they cross the street, and walk up his driveway a few minutes later, Stiles says, “You know Derek, the fate of the world does not rest on your shoulders. You're not responsible for half the shit you think you are.”

            “I...I don't think the fate of the world—”

            “Bull shit!” Stiles calls out, but he gives Derek a shit-eating grin and opens the door to his house. “You are ridiculously responsible and you think it's up to you to make everyone happy. I've been learning. I've been watching you, mister.”

            “I do not,” Derek mutters.

            “Oh yes, you do. Isaac's biggest concern was that you would suffocate him with love. I could see it.” Stiles points a finger at Derek. “You know you feel responsible for everyone.”

            He doesn't give Derek a chance to respond, but runs up the stairs. He grabs his booze, and comes back downstairs. Derek has a hand on the door, ready to leave, when Stiles snorts. He sets the booze down, and picks up his container. “Pie first. C'mon, maybe if you're good, I'll even let you have a bite.”

            Derek rolls his eyes, but follows him into the kitchen.

            “You'll stop being a hurt puppy around Isaac now, yes?” Stiles demands, as he puts the pie on a plate.

            “I'll...I'll try. I guess you're probably right. I would've wanted to know everything and—”

            “He needed someone to tell in his own time.” Stiles puts the pie into the microwave. “It doesn't mean he doesn't need you at all.”

            “Isaac really likes you,” Derek says. “He talks about you a lot.”

            Stiles smiles. “Good, I'm glad. I've grown quite attached to him.”

            He pulls the pies out, grabs two forks, and hands one to Derek who seems surprised. “Stiles, the pies are yours.”

            “Yeah, I know but friends share. God, Hale, didn't your mother teach you any manners at all?” Stiles grins, and stabs a fork into the pumpkin pie. He savours the bite, making sure to lick the fork afterwards, and then moans. “God, the things your pie does to me.”

            Derek's eyes widened, but he takes a bite from the pumpkin pie too. Stiles watches as Derek watches him. He stabs at the apple pie this time. He puts the fork into his mouth slowly, his eyes holding steady with Derek's. His heart pounds like none other, and he's not sure it'll be able to handle this for two pieces of pie. But Stiles is betting death by intense sexual staring over some really fucking delicious pies that might as well be orgasms is not a bad way to go. Especially if you're staring at the world's most delicious sex god himself.

            “Do you want your own bakery?” the words come out as a mere whisper.

            Derek nods slowly, licking his lips for pie crumbs. “Yeah, I think that'd be ideal. I applied to Mama’s Bakery for a job. Hopefully, that pans out. What do you want to do?”

            “Oh, I'll probably follow my dad's footsteps. Be the new Sheriff and all one day,” Stiles says. His eyes flicker down to Derek's lips again. He's trying so damn hard to keep his gaze focused on Derek's eyes, but goddammit. “What will you call your bakery?”

            “Hale's Bakery,” he deadpans.

            Stiles is taken by surprise and lets out a strangled laugh. He shakes his head. “Hale's Orgasms. Motherfuck, you have to call it that.”

            Another slow forkful of pie goes into Stiles' mouth. He lets the flavours rush over his taste buds. Seriously, how did he not know that Derek baked before yesterday?

            “I won't,” Derek tells him honestly. “I bake other things. Pies are a speciality, but my cupcakes are pretty good too.”

            “Cookies?”

            “My cookies are like a real slow fuck,” Derek says instantly. His eyes watch Stiles, who chokes on a piece of the pie he'd been eating. He catches himself, swallows slowly, and makes a small strangled noise.

            “Uh.”

            “When they're warm anyway,” Derek adds. “Or so I've been told.”

            Stiles frowns, because he doesn't really want anyone else to tell Derek that his baking tastes like sex. Not that Stiles has much of a chance with Derek anyway, but still. He wants to feel a little special. Although, now that Stiles thinks about it, he's not entirely sure they're even friends.

            “If you can keep sexual words out of it, I'll let you name the bakery,” Derek tells him idly as though that isn't a huge deal.

            Stiles's mind is already churning though. He goes through a thousand different options in a few minutes, and decides to settle with, “Hale's Cooling Rack.

            Derek raises an eyebrow. He nods. “Alright. Hale's Cooling Rack it is.”

            “Just like that?” Stiles asks, surprised.

            “Just like that.” Derek takes another bite from the pie. They're almost finished. Derek licks crumbs off his lips again, and this time Stiles' heart just stops working. Derek's eyes widened and then Stiles inhales sharply.

            “I like hanging out with you,” Stiles admits quietly.

            “Me too. Too much,” Derek responds.

            Stiles bites his bottom lip before he asks, “Is that why your mom hates me?”

            “She doesn't hate you, but yeah. After...after Kate...”

            “I figured.”

            “She doesn't trust my taste in people,” Derek says.

            Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, because you could've predicted that she would be crazy.”

            “But—”

            “Hell, Allison told Scott about it a few weeks ago. Their entire family had no idea,” Stiles shrugs. “If her family didn't know, how could you have?”

            “I thought the Argents knew,” Derek says.

            “Nope. Allison said that her dad freaked out when he learned that she tried to... He said that Kate had officially gone into the deep end of crazy when she tried to...with the fire. Allison said that she'd never seen her dad look so devastated. Her mom was surprised too, and confused. Allison also heard something weird about how that wasn’t the ‘Argent way’, but none of us know what that means. It seems a bit judgmental on the whole mental-health thing.”

            Derek puts his fork down.

            “Dude, you can have the last bite.”

            “It's yours.”

            Stiles shrugs. “Your loss. Do you bake cheesecakes?”

            “I've tried it once or twice.”

            “And?”

            “I was offered sex by the girl I gave it to,” Derek says, grinning widely. Stiles knows that Derek's mind is still circling around the Argent issue, but he also knows that Derek's done talking about anything serious for the evening. Fine by Stiles.

            Stiles flicks a crumb at Derek. “Oh gross, don't be a pig.”

            “You were just telling me my pie is like an orgasm in your mouth.”

            Stiles rolls his eyes. “God, I was being dramatic. I would never throw myself at you because of food. How easy do you think I am, Hale?”

            Derek laughs, and it's making Stiles' heart race like crazy. Yes, oh my god, yes. Derek always needs to laugh. Stiles stills his movements so that he can truly appreciate the noise, the way that Derek's face lights up, and how big his smile is. “I guess I was hoping you were pretty easy.”

            “Oh yeah?” Stiles says, amusement bouncing around his face. “You wanted a cheap date, get some action, and never call me again.”

            Derek's eyes darken, with an intense heat that makes Stiles' body warm up in anticipation. “Maybe I was hoping that you'd throw yourself at me for other reasons.”

            “Like what? Your body?” Stiles' voice drops to a whisper. His eyes don't leave Derek's, even though he wants desperately to look at Derek's gorgeous fucking body. “Your scruff?”

            Derek reaches up, absentmindedly rubbing his facial hair.

            “Maybe you want me to throw myself at you because of your eyes. No matter what colour they are.” He chooses those words carefully, in hopes that Derek will realize that Stiles knows that Derek isn’t exactly normal, and that he doesn’t care. He notices the way that worry and concern cross Derek's face, and ignores them. Stiles adds quietly, “Maybe it's because you have an ass that would make any given god weep.”

            Derek's lips quirk upward. “You think so?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Uhhhhh,” a familiar voice that does not belong to Derek comes. Stiles' attention snaps towards Isaac.

            “I thought you'd left?” Stiles asks, his voice dangerous.

            Isaac winces. “Sorry, you got back before I got out. I just remembered that I left my keys on the table.”

            Stiles looks down, and sure enough, there are Isaac's keys. He grabs them and shakes his head, laughing a little. “Sorry, dude. You just scared me, that's all.”

            “Sure,” Isaac says. “Hey Derek, how are you?”

            “Good,” Derek says. How is it that his voice doesn't sound like he's sexually frustrated? Then Stiles realizes, maybe Derek isn't. Maybe Isaac was wrong, and maybe, oh god, maybe Derek thought they'd been joking. Maybe Stiles had read the entire situation wrongly. Fuck. “How are you, Isaac?”

            “I'm doing pretty good. I was wondering if we could do lunch sometime this week, actually.”

            Derek nods. “Sure. How about Tuesday?”

            “Perfect,” Isaac says. He glances at Stiles. “Keys?”

            “Right, yeah, sure. Why do you want to do lunch with Derek?” Stiles asks before he throws Isaac the keys.

            “Scott suggested it's time that I talk to Derek about...stuff.” Isaac sighs heavily. His eyes focus on Derek. “Listen, you've been great about not pestering me or anything, and giving me space. Scott helped me realize that maybe you felt neglected though, and you are one of my best friends, so I'm sorry I haven't talked—”

            “You weren't ready,” Derek says, sounding ridiculously too calm. “I get it, Isaac. Stiles explained to me that you'd talk to me when you were ready, so I'm happy he was right.”

            Isaac raises an eyebrow at Stiles. “Talk about me, you two?”

            “Only like all the time,” Stiles says dramatically. He leans forward on the island. “I mean, god, how can we resist you, Lahey? Look at your gorgeous hair. It makes me want to run my hands through it all night long if you catch my drift.”

            “Gross, Stiles. I'll see you both at Erica's party. I'm out!”

            Stiles shouts his goodbye, and with one look at Derek knows that their flirting has officially ended.

            “Let's head back?”

            “Yeah,” Derek says. He doesn't grab his container, and Stiles offers to wash it and return it to him later. Derek simply nods, and they head out after Isaac who's already out of sight.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Are you drunk?” Lydia demands, but it's said without judgement.

            “Yep!” Stiles hiccups as if to prove the point.

            “Dibs on not taking care of you!” Lydia shouts over the music. Then she's gone. Stiles pouts. He really does like being friends with Lydia. He thinks she's right though. They would've been terrible together. Huh, it's strange how he didn’t figured that out until after she set him straight.

            Stiles feels as though he's walking properly, but when he feels Scott's arms around him, he thinks he must have been stumbling more than he'd thought. He claps a hand on Scott's shoulder. “Budddddy!”

            “Hey! I miss you man!” Scott says, leaning forward. Stiles turns his cheek so that Scott's puckered lips hit there instead of Stiles' lips. They'd once gotten drunk together, not long after Stiles had told Scott he's bisexual, and had kissed. It'd been awkward, but obviously neither of them had made a big deal out of it. The truth is that Stiles doesn't want a repeat kiss. Not worth it.

            “Miss you too!” Stiles shouts back. He leans into Scott more than he should have to, and curses himself. Too many shots. Yeah. Too many shots. Oh god, he can't remember the last time he had a shot. Maybe he should do one more. “Bro date soon, yeah?”

            “Yeah!” Scott says laughing. He leans forward and in a very loud stage whisper, says, “I've been having sex with Allison and Isaac.”

            “I know man! That must be so fun!” Stiles beams at his best friend. “God, I'm jealous of your sex life!”

            “Ha! It's so fucking weird but it, like, works, y'know!” Scott pokes Stiles' in the chest harder than he probably meant to. “What about you and Derek?”

            Stiles snorts. “Dude, dude, dude. Derek so does not want up on all this.” Stiles motions to himself. “He's totally not into me. Which is fineee, you know, because like I have to...I just...god, his ass. I might pull a Scott and write poetry about it!”

            “One time!” Scott defends himself, laughing harder now. “I wrote poetry about Allison's smile one time!”

            “Dude, it was really shitty,” Stiles tells him with as much earnestness as he can muster.

            Scott pokes him again, and then sunny Allison is there. She smiles, and Scott starts reciting the god awful poem again. Stiles peels himself off Scott, leaving him to do his thing, and walks over to Erica and Boyd.

            “Great party, Erica!” he shouts.

            She beams at him, and reminds him a bit of Scott. It’s funny how polar opposites could be so similar sometimes. “Thanks, Stilinski. Where's Derek? I haven't seen him in a while and I need him to be my best man!”

            Stiles frowns. “Derek—Derek's...”

            He spins around, Erica and Boyd forgotten. When was the last time he'd seen Derek? Shots. Stiles is sure he'd been doing shots with Jackson, who had been whining about how much he missed Lydia all while trying to tell everyone he doesn't need her. And Derek was there. Stiles stumbles back into the house, and when he doesn't find Derek in the kitchen where shots were still happening, he starts to worry.

            In his drunken haze, he's proud of himself for making it all the way up the stairs once he realized Derek's not in the living room either.

            He stumbles into a bedroom, and apologizes when he catches two people getting naked. He pushes another door open, and finds Derek sitting on a bed alone.

            “Dude, this is pathetic. Why aren't you drinking?” Stiles demands. He shuts the door loudly.

            “Stiles, I just...can you leave?” Derek asks.

            “What? No. Like, we just became friends again, or close enough to friends that I want to call you a friend but I'm not sure how you feel about it, and I'm not going to leave your sober ass alone in a room—is this Erica's room? Oh, I see a vibrator on the desk. Must be—to sulk. What's wrong, big guy?”

            Stiles sits down beside Derek, and if he sits closer than he normally would, well he has the perfect excuse: alcohol.

            Derek doesn't seem to be bothered though. “Nothing. Parties just aren't really my thing.”

            “Dude, you're a jock. By definition, parties should be your thing. Unless...has every teen movie lied to me?” It's said as though it's a personal attack on him. He yawns widely, suddenly tired.

            “Why do you want to be friends with me anyway?” Derek demands.

            “You're...Derek Hale, dude. You have no clue how you affect people, how you affect me.” His voice drops into a softer tone.

            “How do I affect you, Stiles?” he asks, his voice quieter.

            Stiles tries to think of an answer. He takes a big yawn before leaning against Derek a bit. His voice drops into a sleepy tone. “You hung my moon.”

            “What?” Derek asks, but it's pointless.

            Stiles doesn't say anything after that. He doesn't remember anything else, or how he got into his bed when he wakes up in the morning.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Do you remember how I got home?” Stiles asks Isaac the next morning. He rubs one of his eyes and yawns.

            “Derek drove you. Man, how did you get that drunk?” Isaac asks, shaking his head with disbelief and amusement. “He carried you like some big baby.”

            “What?” Stiles drops his head into his hands and groans. “Oh god, that's so fucking embarrassing. He's never going to let me live that down. Ever.”

            “He didn't seem to mind,” Isaac says nonchalantly.

            Stiles' narrows his eyes on his friend. “Explain.”

            Isaac shrugs. “He didn't seem to mind. He let me know he was taking you home, and then he got my help putting you in his car. Derek was pretty careful about not hitting your head off anything. You mumbled some stuff, but it was just gibberish.”

            “Great, wow. Way to make an impression on the love of my life, wow. Oh my god, I am digging myself a hole and never, ever getting out of it.” Stiles hangs his head. “You'll have to drop me off a casket for me.”

            “Stiles, I really don't think Derek minded. He was smiling to himself, as though he knew what you were talking about or something. He seemed to find you...ugh, adorable and stuff.” Isaac gets up to put his dish in the sink. “Look, if you're worried about what you said, just ask him.”

            “I am not doing that.”

            It’s barely twenty minutes later when Stiles' phone buzzes, and Isaac raises an eyebrow in his direction. He scrunches his nose before he picks up his cell phone.

 

DEREK: how are you feeling?

STILES: eh, I'm sure my hangover could be worse.
STILES: Isaac told me what you did for me last night...sorry about that, but thanks 

DEREK: that's what friends do, right?

 

            “Okay, it was worth it.”

            “What was?” Isaac asks, looking up from his homework. Only Isaac would do homework on a Saturday. Then again, Stiles knows that Isaac's dad used to beat him if he didn't keep his marks up so...Stiles wouldn't make fun of him. Some habits are hard to break, especially if one was terrorized into doing them. If the circumstances had been different, Stiles would tease him about being a nerd.

Sometimes Isaac would come home in a panic, apologizing profoundly to Stiles or his dad, and each time one of them would hug him and remind him that it was okay. It's only happened a few times, but Stiles knows that it's not an easy wound to heal.

            “Last night—embarrassing myself—was worth it. Derek officially called us friends.”

            “And that's news?” Isaac asks.

            “For us? Yeah. That's news.”

            Isaac picks up his phone, skimming the screen, and then says, “Scott wants to come over in a half hour to hang out. That cool?”

            “Obviously,” Stiles responds with a grin.

 

STILES: you're learning! how cute!

DEREK: you called me cute a lot last night

STILES: did not, don't buy it

DEREK: did too, but you also called Lydia's fingers cute so I didn’t think it meant anything special

STILES: should've, you are kinda cute
STILES: in a grumpy pants kinda wa 

DEREK: you like my ass, don't you?

STILES: gods would weep for it, I swear it

DEREK: bit much

STILES: but you smiled

DEREK: yeah

 

            “Hey buddy!”

            Stiles looks up from his phone. Scott, the definition of happiness and hope, smiles at him but Stiles knows that Scott's ridiculously hung over. He pats the couch, and isn't surprised when Scott leans in to kiss Isaac before sitting down. “How are you, Scotty?”

            “Eh. My mom told me I deserve it for drinking so much. I don't want to know how Jackson's feeling right now. I couldn't keep up with the dude to save my life,” Scott says. Stiles smiles.

            “I don't remember much after doing shots with Jackson. I remember us talking though!” Stiles says as though it's a huge accomplishment.

            “You have a better memory than me, in that case.” Scott grins. “I do remember Derek Hale dragging your ass home though. And by dragging, I mean carrying.”

            Stiles snorts. “Isaac told me.”

 

STILES: actually though what did I say to you?
STILES: I don’t remember anything after shots with Jackson 

DEREK: said something about me hanging your moon

STILES: are you sure I was talking about us? I told Lydia that Jackson thinks she hung his moon...

 

            Stiles groans. He explains quickly to Scott about the metaphor Isaac had used, and how he had compared Jackson's feelings for Lydia to it as well. Then he holds out his phone for Scott and Isaac to read.

            “Derek must really trust you. He wouldn't even talk to me about something like that,” Isaac murmurs. “And I've known him for years.”

            “Dude, that’s such a cop out! Why are you trying to deny it when it is actually how you feel?” Scott asks, frowning. “Stiles, I really think you should let him know. Oh! You got another text.”

            Stiles snatches his phone away, and before he reads the message, says, “One does not simply tell Derek Hale that they're obsessed with him. It comes off a bit creepy.”

 

DEREK: must have been it
DEREK: I'm glad you're feeling alright. I'll talk to you later.

 

            “Tell him!” Scott says.

            “Dude, you don't even know the full story!” Stiles says. “I've kept it pretty quiet.”

            “I know. That's why I'm here. Isaac and I want to hear it from the beginning,” Scott says, smiling. “I want to hear about you. It's been too long, and it's my fault, and I'm sorry.”

            “No, it's also my fault. It’s not as if I went out of my way to…whatever. But okay, fine, okay. What do I say to him first though?” Stiles whines while holding up his phone.

            “Tell him you want to keep talking,” Isaac suggests.

            “Alright.”

 

STILES: want to keep talking?

 

            “Not what I meant,” Isaac mutters when he sees the text.

            “Alright, start from the beginning,” Scott demands in his soft tone.

            Stiles fiddles with his phone, and then takes a deep breath. “Uhhh, okay, so remember after my mom died?”

            Scott nods. Stiles glances at Isaac and explains, “My dad made me join the swim team. He thought being on some sort of sports team would make me feel...or help distract me from how I was feeling, I guess.”

            “Derek was on the swim team,” Isaac recalls. When Scott looks up at him, he explains, “He has a few photos from being on the team in his house. He doesn't really talk about it—lacrosse is his thing now.”

            “Exactly,” Stiles says. “Back then I was just, I don’t know, intrigued by him, but then it just…progressed into whatever it is now. He's so serious and broody and responsible. It makes you wonder how he got like that. Well, it makes me wonder, anyway.”

 

DEREK: can't, mom's home
DEREK: sorry Stiles..

 

            He frowns.

 

STILES: it's cool dude...see you at practice, I guess. 

DEREK: sure

 

            Stiles pouts. Maybe he's acting a little childish, but he tosses his phone to the other side of the room. It hits the empty chair and falls to the cushion. Scott and Isaac look at him with such curiosity that Stiles sees a little bit of himself in both of them.He decides to continue talking, even though he’d rather mope about Derek not wanting to text—or, rather, not being ‘allowed’ to…whatever that means.

            “I don't know what it is about Derek. I've talked about his ass a lot to Lydia. I think she thinks my obsession is just about his looks,” Stiles admits.

            “It definitely isn't. You like the whole package, or none of it,” Scott says. He looks at Isaac. “He's always been really good at seeing someone's faults, and accepting them if their strengths and personality outweighs them.”

            “I could see that.” Isaac pulls his chair away from the desk where his homework is left forgotten, and sits closer to them. He waves his hand in the air for Stiles to continue.

            Stiles feels weird, actually talking about it aloud in daylight. When it's Isaac and Stiles alone, curled up in bed, with all the lights out, it doesn't seem like a big deal. Now he feels a little like a spotlight is shining in his face.

            “Alright,” he says, flailing his arms around, prepared to push through. “I got obsessed with what Derek's all about. I didn't want to talk about it though, because I hadn't exactly figured out that it meant that I was bisexual yet. I mean, I think I had a clue, but it never seemed super important. So I drooled over Derek from afar. It sounds so...creepy.”

            “You're obsessed, it's only mildly creepy,” Isaac deadpans.

            Stiles waves his hand in the air, as though to shoo away Isaac's words. “I don't know. I've always had a thing for him. We had never, ever, ever spoken until that time at practice when he was all grumpy pants and 'god Stiles, shut up'.”

            “That doesn't sound like Derek at all.” Scott laughs, and lowers his voice into a deep, serious tone, “It's more like, 'Shut. Up.'”

            Stiles shakes his head. “Oh no, Derek is totally whiney.”

            “No, that's you,” Isaac teases. “Derek's too mature than to whine.”

            Stiles rolls his eyes. “Whatever. The point is, that was the first time we talked, so I can't even tell you anything about before, when I was younger. It's not like we've ever had a moment. In fact, I'm positive that Derek's only ever seen me as this annoying kid who shows up randomly.”

            Scott's face lights up. “Oh my god, I remember how you obsessed over the whole Kate thing when it happened. I didn't realize it was because you had a crush. I thought you were kind of into Kate or something, and disappointed, because you talked to her that one time in the hallway a few weeks before it happened!”

            “Actually, that was weird. She told me to stay the hell away from Derek. But like, we had never talked? So it was totally out of the blue. I figured she'd caught onto my crush because I always stared at him. No shame.” Stiles shrugs. “I actually have no idea why she came up to me though, but she was pissed. Then she goes and tries to murder his family! Like what the fuck?”

            Isaac frowns. “Yeah, Derek's been through some shitty relationships. Jennifer was batshit too.”

            “Jennifer?” Scott asks.

            “Don't you remember? She was the girl who got caught giving a blow job in the janitor's closet two years ago. She was suspended for the year. She came back after the Kate thing, and then she and Derek started dating.” Stiles frowns in frustration when Scott doesn't show any sort of recognition. “She cheated on Derek a bunch of times with that weird Deucalion guy.”

            “Oh I remember that now!” Scott grins, happy at remembering, and then frowns. “Oh ew. You want to go out with this guy? His track record isn’t the greatest, you know.”

            “Yeah, and I'll be his best,” Stiles says. Then he quietly adds, “Look, Derek didn't know I existed until the lacrosse team. And that was only, what, two months ago?”

            “But,” Isaac says, holding up a finger, “you guys are friends now. Right?”

            Stiles looks across the room to his phone. “Yeah, I guess. I don't know. We seemed to be getting along, and then he ignored me again, and then we bonded and it seemed like we were friends but...”

            “But what?” Scott asks, sounding defensive. Stiles glances at him. Aw, Scotty's getting all protective over Stiles and it's just so dang cute. “Why wouldn't he want to date you?”

            “His mom.”

            “You're the Sheriff's kid,” Scott says as though it's obvious that every single parent should like him because of that.

            “Yeah, and she still hates me. I guess after Kate and Jennifer, she doesn't really trust Derek to pick normal humans to date. I don't think being the Sheriff's kid will get me out of this one. She's pretty protective over Cora too.” Stiles exhales. “I don't know...and then last night...”

            “What happened last night?” Isaac asks, genuinely curious. “I thought you were supposed to be on a date with Cora?”

            “She bailed, and sent Derek in her place.” Stiles' eyebrows come together.

            “Wait, wait, wait, don't finish this story. I think I might be sick.” Scott rushes away to the bathroom.

            “Want me to hold your hair back?” Stiles shouts, meaning every word despite the fact that Scott's hair wouldn't be an issue. He hears a 'no' and then settles back down onto the couch. God, he needs some Tylenol. Isaac looks in the direction of the bathroom, worried. “He'll be fine. He just doesn't handle alcohol well.”

            “Says the one who was passed out and in his bed at 12:30 last night,” Isaac responds.

            Stiles blinks. “Fuck, I didn't even make it to one? What a cheap date I am.”

            “Do you remember talking to me last night?”

            “Nope,” Stiles says, lips plucking at the 'p'.

            “You told me that you loved me, and just how special I am. I think your exact words, 'Isaac, Isaac, puppy, listen to me. I love you, so much, okay? You're the most special-est creature, okay? No more scary thoughts, 'cause I lurv you.' and you looked like you meant it too.”

            Stiles lets the laugh flow out. He shakes his head. “Oh god, sorry you had to put up with me. But, hey, at least I wasn't lying.”

            Isaac gives him a bright smile. It reminds Stiles of Scott. “Aw, weirdo.”

            “You love me too, so shut up.”

            “Maybe I do,” Isaac counters. He looks back down the hall when Scott turns on the bathroom sink and the toilet flushes. “But you won't hear me confessing to you, drunk.”

            “Sober then?” Stiles asks.

            “Never. I'm a man,” Isaac says. His face softens a little though, and he says, “I do, I guess.”

            “Wow, how romantic,” Stiles smirks. When Scott enters the living room again, he says, “You've got yourself one true romantic here.”

            Scott smiles at Isaac, and Stiles can see the affection all over his face. He grabs Isaac's hand and nods. “I do. Now, why were you on a date with Derek Hale last night?”

            Stiles shrugs. “It wasn't a date-date. I was supposed to be Cora's replacement date, and then she bailed, but Erica still needed two people to eat food, so she sent Derek.”

            “And that doesn't strike you as suspicious at all?” Isaac asks. “Cora was at the party later.”

            “Oh.” Stiles frowns. “She was?”

            “Yeah, she was with her girlfriend or date,” Scott says. “I remember seeing them make out and Lydia told me not to stare. But holy fuck, they're hot.”

            “Super hot,” Isaac murmurs. “But yeah, Stiles, Cora and her date were at the party. So...”

            “Maybe they couldn't make it beforehand.”

            “Or maybe Cora set you up on an actual date with Derek,” Scott suggests. He grins up at Isaac, pleased with this conclusion, before he looks back at his best bro. “You know I kind of got the feeling you were into Derek. I just wasn't entirely sure. But you watch him a lot.”

            “He watches back!” Stiles defends.

            “Exactly our point,” Isaac says, smirking. “I think Cora set you up on a date with her brother. They were eating pie when I left to go to your place last night, Scott.”

            Scott raises an eyebrow. “Dude, that is so a date! Pie is your favourite thing.”

            Stiles' phone chooses this moment to ding. He frowns, because he's sure it was on vibrate only, but realizes it must have switched to noise when he threw it. He gets up to answer it, using the small task as a distraction.

What if they were right and last night had been a date? He got so hammered on his date with Derek that he passed out and had to have Derek carry him home to his bed? How pathetic could he possibly be?

 

DEREK: please don't be mad at me

 

            He reads the text to his boys, who both look at each other. Isaac speaks first, “That doesn't sound like the Derek I know. Derek's texts are usually pretty short. We don't talk much in text actually, so it sounds like he really does want to talk to you.”

            Stiles stares at his phone while Scott says, “Dude, you gotta tell him you're not mad at him. I mean, if his mother's the issue, then that sucks, because you can't exactly tell Derek to tell his mom to suck it.”

            “You could suggest him that he tell his mom that you two are just friends?” Isaac suggests. Then he adds, “Or maybe say you want to hang out with her and—”

            “No way! Derek isn't even into me.” Stiles misses the shared look between Scott and Isaac. He types something. He backspaces it. And then settles on a message.

 

STILES: not mad dude.
STILES: just a little bummed out.

 

            “I am so pathetic.”

            “Just a little,” Scott teases. “Look, you should tell Derek that you like him.”

            “Or tell him that you want his mom to like you. Whatever you're ready for. But why don't you go for it?” Isaac asks. It's not the first time he's asked, and it probably won't be the last. Stiles flops onto the couch.

            “I don't know. I don't want to talk about Derek anymore. Tell me about how great Allison is.”

            Scott jumps on this, only after he gives Stiles a concerned look. Stiles tries hard to listen, and he catches most of it. But then Isaac and Scott start sharing some inside jokes, and Stiles realizes it's no longer necessary for him to partake in the conversation.

 

DEREK: me too, but my mom's protective for obvious reasons 

STILES: wasn't your fault...kate wasn't your fault

DEREK: and Jennifer? she was a mess too

STILES: how THE FUCK is that on you?

DEREK: I trusted her

STILES: uh huh and?

DEREK: I have bad taste in people

STILES: fuck you

DEREK: no thanks

STILES: wow, asshole

DEREK: but you smiled

STILES: yeah
STILES: because you think you're cute 

DEREK: do you know how many times you told me that I was cute last night?
DEREK: my ego is in space at this point 

STILES: shut up, you're lying

DEREK: am I though?

STILES: yeeeep

DEREK: in space, Stiles

 

            “Why are you smiling?” Scott's voice breaks through Stiles' silent world. He jumps a little, and looks up to focus on his friends. Both of them look amused. Scott is holding Isaac's hand, and Isaac is sitting on the arm of the couch with his fingers in Scott's hair. They look cute, Stiles has to admit.

            He waves his phone in the air. “Derek's texting me again.”

            “Well yeah, but what's he saying?” Isaac asks.

            “Oh, apparently I told him last night that he was cute enough times that his ego is in space now,” Stiles says, snorting. “It's weird. When we were eating pie in the kitchen, before you interrupted Isaac, we were totally hitting on each other. Hardcore. And then it just stopped, and we pretended like it didn't happen for the rest of the night. Then I got too drunk to function. But now we're flirting again. At least, I think it's flirting. I really haven't flirted before.”

            Isaac looks surprised, and Scott nods in confirmation.

 

STILES: shut up Derek

DEREK: do you really want me to?

           

            Stiles groans loudly. “Ugh, he's so precious. I can't handle this! I mean, how am I not supposed to like him? Guys! Be useful. Tell me something witty to say.”

            He shows them the last bit of their conversation. Scott grins, proud of his boy, and Isaac scrunches his nose. “You two are nauseating.”

            Stiles high-fives Scott.

            “Tell him that you definitely don't want him to stop talking. Ask him if he'll get food with you!” Scott says, excited. “Oh my god, Stiles, you have to ask him to get food with you!”

            “No way. His mom would never let him. That screams date.”

            “Then invite him over here?” Isaac suggests. “I mean, I am friends with him too.”

            Stiles debates it over in his mind.

            He sends a text, his heart pounding fast.

 

STILES: no. wanna come over? Isaac and Scott are here.

DEREK: uh I can ask

 

            “She's going to say no. You didn't see her the other night. She was so not happy about me being there.” Stiles frowns at his phone, hating that it's going to become a habit.

            “She might not. She likes me.”

 

DEREK: so my mom said yes... 

STILES: cool, see you soon then?

DEREK: see you soon then

 

            “You couldn't have acted a little more excited?” Scott asks, pouting. “I mean, Stiles, I know I'm a little late to this, but c'mon, I'm sure he would've been totally fine with you sending him, like, a smiley face or something.”

 

STILES: :) 

DEREK: :)

 

            “Happy?” Stiles demands, showing him the smiley faces. But when he turns his back to his phone, he can't keep the smile off his face or the butterflies from fluttering around his stomach. Goddamn, Derek Hale had sent him a smiley face. Because Derek Hale is coming over. Stiles' heart stops.

            “Oh my god, Derek Hale is coming over. I look like shit!” Stiles screams.

            He scrambles up off the couch to go look presentable. After all, his crush is coming over today. A quick look in his closet, and he yells down the stairs, “I have nothing to wear!”

 

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hey.”

            Stiles tries to smile, but he can tell it doesn't quite make it. His nerves are too busy making him stare at Derek as though they've never met before. He shakes his head, before opening the door. “Hey! Hi, yeah, uh, c'mon in. Isaac and Scott just went upstairs. They're looking for an old board game in the attic. Scott suggested it 'cause it's...innocent enough, and if you go home and tell your mom we just played board games, well, she can't really hate me for that, right?”

            He's rambling, but fuck, he does not care. He shuts the door behind Derek, and unf, his ass. Jesus fucking christ. Not only that, but the dude's in a tight, black V-neck shirt. The things it’s doing to Stiles’ stomach are not okay. It's making him squirmy.

            Derek glances back at him, an apologetic expression on his face. “That...that's thoughtful. So. They know that my mom hasn't exactly been, uh, supportive of our, um, friendship?”

            “Of course they do. They're my best friends.” Stiles hopes his voice doesn't sound squeaky to Derek. “Do you want something to drink?”

            Derek shakes his head. “No, thank you.”

            “Well, I'm going to get something to drink.” His mouth is dry. Dry, dry, dry, and there's only one reason why. Derek follows Stiles into the kitchen, and he glances around.

            “Are you sure they're looking for the game?” Derek asks, as though he knows that's not the case.

            Stiles shrugs. “They're probably making out, but they'll come down soon enough covered in dust.”

            “Why are your games in the attic?” Derek asks, sitting down on a stool.

            Stiles looks down at his glass of water, takes a small sip, and without looking at Derek, answers him. “We haven't played them since my mom...”

            He lets the words trail.

            “But you're going to pull them out for me?” Derek asks, concerned.

            “No biggie,” Stiles responds.

            “Wrong.” Derek studies Stiles. “I...well, I appreciate that.”

            Stiles gives him a small smile and nods. “No problem, dude. Uh, well, sorry about last night. But um, thanks for like, taking care of me and stuff. Isaac told me that you carried me home.”

            “I carried you to the car, and from the car to your bed. It wasn't a big deal,” Derek says, and Stiles finds it interesting that he's doing the exact same thing Stiles did seconds ago—brushing something off as though it’s nothing when it is something. Clearly they haven't decided to be fully honest with each other yet, which surprises Stiles.

            If someone had asked him, Stiles is sure he would have said that he trusted Derek. But here he is, and he can't even say that he got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach when Scott mentioned board games. He can't tell Derek that Stiles isn't sure how he feels about Scott and Isaac coming downstairs with one of his mother's favourites, can't tell Derek that he’s a little bit terrified because he realized he wants to play a board game with Derek...how is he supposed to say he trusts Derek at all?

            “You probably saved my life, let's face it. I appreciate it, so say, You're welcome, Stiles and be done with it,” Stiles responds.

            Derek nods. “You're welcome, Stiles.”

            “Great, cool.”

            “We found Candy Land, Mouse Trap—but we left that up there, because fuck assembling that—Monopoly, Life, and Sorry.” Scott announces, walking into the kitchen. He has two boxes in his hands, and Isaac carries the others.

            “I'm so kicking all y'all’s asses.”

            “As if, Stilinski,” Isaac retorts.

            The four of them settle into the living room. They decide to play Life first. Isaac groans about how it's a boring game, so Stiles suggests, “Then let's change up the rules.”

            “How?”

            “I know! We can do partners, and see which couple can get the most kids and have the best life. Whatever team ends up with the most money chooses the next game, and losers buy food,” Scott says, proud of himself. His eyes sparkle with mischief and Stiles realizes this forces him to be on a team with Derek.

            Stiles glances at Derek, and gives him his best playful smile. “What do you say, grumpy pants? Wanna meet in college, fall in love, and have two-point-five kids with me?”

            Derek chuckles as they set up the board. “Only if we're rich. I'm not cheap.”

            “Ha! You have to buy your love. But Scott and I don't care how much money we have, as long as we have each other,” Isaac says, Eskimo kissing Scott.

            Stiles rolls his eyes. “Whatever dude. At least my man is hot.”

            “Hey!” Scott says, offended.

            Stiles laughs. “Sorry man, but this is war.”

            Scott pouts, and Isaac pats his hand as Derek counts out some money for each of them.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Another kid!” Stiles says, triumphantly. He high-fives Derek. They now have four kids, whereas Isaac and Scott have one. “Is it a boy or a girl, baby?”

            Derek rolls his eyes, but he's laughing despite himself. “Let's have a girl.”

            “What shall we name her? It's your turn to do the honours,” Stiles reminds him before he protests. So far they have a little baby Boyd, because Stiles thought it'd be nice to honour Derek's friend. They also had an Erica—which had made Isaac pout, because he wanted to name one of his fake babies Erica, but Scott had gotten to name their fake girl and had chosen Allison—and another boy, who they had settled on naming Danny.

            Derek frowns at the tiny plastic pink girl figure.

            Stiles shakes his head. “No, you took too long. Let's call her...Cora.”

            “My sister? Why would I want to birth my sister?” Derek asks.

            Stiles bursts into laughter. “You wouldn't be birthing her. Firstly, you're a male and guys don't get knocked up. Secondly, you are the proud father of Boyd, Erica, and Danny, but you balk at being a father-figure to your own sister? Let's just say that we adopted her.”

            Derek rolls his eyes. “That's nice. Okay, sure, we can adopt my sister. My parents have gone to South Africa and she doesn't want to go with them, so we become her legal guardians.”

            “Duh,” Stiles says, putting 'Cora' into the car. He snorts. “Birthing your sister. Jesus, dude, where do you get this shit?”

            Derek clearly doesn't know how to respond to that, so he doesn't.

           

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “You have to be cheating!” Isaac demands fifteen minutes later when Derek's turn lands them on twins. For someone who said this game was boring, Stiles notes that Isaac is definitely the most into it. He's still upset that he and Scott only have Allison as their child.

            Derek shrugs. “Boy/girl, two boys, or two girls?”

            Stiles thinks about it. “Let's have a girl, name her Lydia, and a boy and call him...”

            “Greenberg and give him to Isaac and Scott to raise,” Derek suggests.

            Stiles laughs, whereas Isaac and Scott both pout.

            “It's our contribution to your family, guys. Hell, let's make it two boys and give them Jackson as well.” Stiles puts two boys into their opponent’s car. “They still count as our kids, but we'll let you raise them because you're so desperate.”

            “Isaac's the desperate one. I'm okay with just having Allison!” Scott says, which earns him a sharp look from Isaac.

            “Do you not want kids some day?” Isaac asks quietly.

            “I don't know, I guess maybe. I'm too young to decide that though,” Scott responds. “Do you want kids some day?”

            Isaac shrugs. “Not if it means I'll be my father.”

            For a minute, no one speaks. Stiles is stunned that it's Derek who reacts first, with a comforting touch and the words, “You'll never be like him.”

            “Even if you tried,” Scott adds.

            “You'd make a great father!” Stiles puts in. “I mean, let's face it, I'm good practice.”

            This gets a smile from Isaac and then he nods. “We'll accept your children.”

            “Dude, way to make a decision without me!” Scott teases.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Of course, Derek and Stiles kick ass. While Scott and Isaac order the pizza, Stiles and Derek settle on playing a game of Monopoly. Stiles secretly hopes that it's because Derek just wants to spend more time with him, which is the only reason Stiles wants to play the long ass game.

            When the pizza is gone, and the game is finally over, Scott and Isaac go upstairs. Derek suggests he should get home, and Stiles walks him to the door.

            “Hey, thanks for coming over. It was fun. I even forgot about my hangover.” Stiles gives him a smile, but it doesn't reach his eyes.

            “Thanks for having me. It was...it was really fun, Stiles.”

            “Yeah, it was,” Stiles agrees.

            The air feels stale in between them.

            “I'll see you at practice.”

            “Sure, Derek.” Stiles adds, “I have two new plays for you to look at.”

            Derek nods. “Sounds great.”

            Derek doesn't move to leave, and Stiles doesn't move to open the door for him.

            “I'm a shitty liar,” Derek says after another moment. “My mom always knows when I'm lying, so when I told her that Scott and Isaac would be here, she knew that I was telling the truth. So when I get home...”

            “She'll ask if they were here the entire time.”

            “I don't want you to...I don't want you to think that I don't like hanging out with you.”

            “I know,” Stiles mumbles. “And I can't exactly ask you to make your relationship with your mother strained just because I like hanging out with you.”

            “No, you can't.” Derek sighs. “I'm sorry, I just...I'm going to have to keep my distance. You know that right?”

            “As long as you know your mother's crazy.”

            “I do.”

            “Then yeah, I get it.” But Stiles doesn't. Not really. If his dad told him to stop seeing Derek, or that he doesn't like Derek, Stiles wouldn't let it stop him. Then again, maybe Talia wouldn't accept that her son back into her house or something. Why he had to obsess over a guy with an awful mother, Stiles isn't sure. Now he opens the door. “I won't take it personally, Derek.”          

            Stiles waits for Derek to move, but he doesn't just yet. Derek frowns at him and mutters, “You'll never know how sorry I am.”

            Stiles doesn't want to watch Derek leave, but he does anyway. Derek only looks back at the house once, and his expression seems more broken than Stiles remembers him ever looking. He shuts the door, and watches through the curtain.

            “Are you alright?” Isaac's gentle voice comes from behind him. Stiles watches as Derek pulls his stupid fucking car out of his driveway.

            “Yeah, just fucking fantastic. Why is it that every time Derek and I have some relaxed fun or like, I don't know, good times together, he has to run away from me because his mother has some weird insecurity about her kids being happy?” Stiles demands. He's still staring out the window even though Derek's car is long gone from sight. Stiles turns slowly, trying not to let how sad and disappointed he is show. “I hate Derek's mom.”

            “She's kind of nice, actually. I don't get why she...look, Stiles, maybe, well, maybe you can just convince—”

            “He should already know,” Stiles snaps. “He should already know that I'm worth fighting for or...or something. And he doesn't, so whatever, this is on him. I'm just going to...sleep or something.”

            Isaac nods, his expression sad, as Stiles passes him on the stairs. He silently follows. It isn't until Stiles is about to close his bedroom door that Isaac says, “For what it's worth, you're right.”

            “About what?” Stiles asks, sounding exhausted.

            “About the fact that Derek should already know. But, Stiles, maybe he's waiting for you to figure out that he's worth fighting for too.”

            Isaac leaves Stiles to his thoughts. He shuts his bedroom door, leaning against it. The idea that maybe Stiles needs to fight for Derek is ridiculous. It's absolutely absurd. Ludicrous. Yet the idea sticks with Stiles late into the night, long after Scott's said goodbye and Isaac brings him some dinner.

            He tosses and turns.

            Sometime around 3:30am, Stiles rolls over with a thought. He had made it a goal to make Derek Hale laugh. Is he really going to give up that easily? He knows how little Derek actually laughs, but he also knows how fucking good it feels to hear Derek's laugh. He can't give that up just yet. Not after all these years of drooling over him, and now, now he's finally had the chance to get to know Derek. Maybe he doesn't know everything about him, but he knows enough to be completely floored by how much Stiles actually cares about the guy.

            He passes out.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hey buddy,” Stiles says after school a few days later. He bends down to scratch the wolf behind the ears. The wolf nudges closer to him, clearly happy to see him. “Sorry I haven't been out in a bit. I had to sort some stuff out.”

            The wolf lets out a small whine. Stiles has learned that this means it's concerned.

            Stiles straightens and starts walking. The wolf isn't further than six inches from his side at any given time on their walks. He falls back into the habit of rambling to the wolf, free from worrying about its judgement. “I had a date with Derek Hale on Friday night.”

            The wolf's head jerks up. Stiles swears it understands everything he says, and somehow, that's comforting instead of incredibly strange. “I know. His sister bailed last minute, I guess, and didn't want to leave me dateless. That's okay though. Derek brought me pie. Ugh, it was so cute. We had fun, y'know. I tried keeping up with Jackson’s drinking at Erica's party though, and that was a mistake. Oh man, I don't remember most of the night. Apparently, Derek took me home to my bed. He texted me Saturday to check on me. That was nice.”

            The wolf exhales, as if to agree.

            “He came over for the day. We played board games—Derek, Scott, Isaac, and I. It was good. Really, really good. But you know, his mom still hates me so—” Stiles stops talking suddenly when his wolf nudges into his side. He spots the rock they've sat on before and heads to it. The wolf curls up on the rock—boulder might be more accurate—and puts his head onto Stiles' lap. He buries his nose into Stiles' leg. “—which fucking sucks, but I mean, I can't ask him to totally betray his mom like that, y'know?”

            The wolf shifts its head, as though to say that it does, in fact, know. Stiles sighs.

            “I don't think I care though.”

            The wolf raises his head, to look at Stiles thoughtfully. The wolf's eyebrows betray all of its emotions.

            Stiles nods. “Yeah, I don't think I care. It might suck, well, actually, I know it's going to suck, but I have to try. I just have to...I have to try. I want to be friends, at the  very least. Isaac thinks I should fight for him, and I'm starting to agree. He ignored me all day Monday. Even at practice, and when I gave him my notebook. But yesterday he handed it back to me, and said, 'Good work, Stiles' with a look that I think means he regrets not being able to be friends-friends with me.”

            The wolf whines a little, and Stiles frowns at him. “Maybe he doesn't. I don't know, but I think I should give it a shot. I'm going to...well, I'm not going to tell a soul what I'm going to do, actually. Not even you, even though you couldn't tell anyone. I just...it's going to be my secret little game plan.”

            Stiles strokes his wolf's head in a rhythmic motion. “Do you think I have a shot with—”

            Stiles stops speaking when the wolf stands up suddenly. He hops off the rock, and starts to nip at Stiles' pants. The wolf gets a hold of them and starts tugging. Stiles frowns at him. “What's wrong?”

            The wolf barks, and it's a sharp bark. Then he does again. After the fourth bark, Stiles hops down. The wolf circles him, forcing him to walk back down the path as though he's a herded sheep. Stiles tries to ask the wolf what's wrong, but he quits because he keeps stumbling over his words in confusion.

            Then he hears it. That loud, sudden crack! of thunder. Stiles winces. Shit, he had known it's going to storm today. The wolf's bark gets a little louder, a little more panicked. Stiles starts to jog, and the wolf seems pleased about this.

            When the rain starts, it comes down in a flash-flood manner. What the hell. Stiles ducks his head as he runs, because it's coming down so fucking hard that it actually stings his skin. The wolf barks when they reach a particular part of the path. It barks again, and then three more times before Stiles finally stops running to try and look at him.

            Then he realizes where they are.

            The fucking Hale house.

            Fuck, fuck, fuck. But if he heads back to his Jeep, there's no telling how bruised he'll be in the morning because this rain is not happy with the world.

            Stiles gives in and runs through a small break in some of the bushes. He doesn't glance back to see if the wolf's followed him, he knows it hasn't. He runs up the stairs of the porch and then knocks in a panicked manner. He doesn't even care now. He's pretty positive it's fucking hailing. What the hell, he thinks to himself.

            Shit. Is no one home?

            He tries one more time, and a few seconds later, the door opens. Cora. Thank god it's not Derek.

            “Oh my god, Stiles, get in here!” She grabs the collar of his shirt and yanks him in. He's taken aback by her strength, and stumbles in. He straightens himself when she lets go of him to shut the door. “Didn't you hear about the storm?”

            “Yeah, but I didn't think it was going to be that bad.”

             “There’s a tornado warning.” Cora shakes her head, and looks him up and down.

            “Hey sis, who was at the door?” Derek's voice comes from upstairs. Stiles glances up to see Derek walking down. Derek freezes when he sees him. “Stiles. I told you to stop fucking running in the woods!”

            Stiles shrugs.

            “Derek, shut up, and get him some towels. He's only human—he could get a cold.” Cora's eyes narrow on her older brother. He nods, and turns around on the stairs. She frowns at Stiles. “Don't mind him. He had a rough weekend, apparently. What was he like on your date—which, sorry for bailing, by the way.”

            “It's fine, we had fun.” Stiles tugs off his sweater, and Cora takes it without hesitating. Stiles makes a face and Cora waves her hand for him to take off his shirt too.

            When Derek comes back down the stairs, with towels and fresh clothes in his hand, and a scowl on his face, Stiles is in his wet boxers. Cora left to put his clothes in the dryer for him. Stiles doesn't beam at his scowl, as he usually does. Instead, he glances down at the floor and blushes. Stiles isn't one to be ashamed of his body, but jesus fuck, this is not how he wanted Derek to see him stripped of clothing.

            “Why didn't she take your boxers?” Derek demands. “You'll never be comfortable. Follow me, I'll show you to the bathroom and you can...change. I brought you a pair of my boxers, I hope that's okay.”

            “Yeah, sure, cool,” Stiles mumbles. Derek opens a door and after Stiles steps into the room, Derek shuts it. He can hear him talking to Cora about something, but can't make out what. So he focuses on changing. He yanks his Batman boxers, which cling to his body, off. Stiles winces when he realizes that Derek probably got a good look at the outline of his soft junk.

            Oh this fucking blows, he thinks. Stiles takes the towel that Derek had given him and starts to dry himself. He wonders how mad Derek is going to be at him. Really, it's the wolf's fault for even suggesting the Hale house. Then again, it would've been a twenty minute run back to the Jeep.

            Stiles rubs the towel against his hair.

            When he pulls on Derek's boxers, he tries to pretend that he doesn't get a hard-on. He pulls Derek's pyjama bottoms on, and then the oversized shirt and sweater. Man, the clothing smells so much like Derek. That does not help his raging hard-on. He considers dealing with his hard-on, decides against it, until he catches his reflection. Nope, there's no hiding it.

            Knowing it'll only take him a few minutes before he finishes, Stiles pulls his cock out. Honestly, he can't go out there with a fucking hard-on. It's because Derek's scent hugs him, and there's just something so ridiculously sexy about it.

            It takes him less time than he had originally thought to finish. He cleans up as quickly as possible, and prays that the Hales have no idea what just happened in their bathroom. He flushes the toilet paper away and then washes his hands.

            When he leaves the bathroom, Derek is staring at him as though he's highly uncomfortable.

            “Cora went up to her room, so...” Derek lets his words trail.

            “Is your mom home?” Stiles whispers, hating how shaky his voice comes.

            Derek shakes his head. “Just Cora and I are home. My Uncle Peter is supposed to come for dinner tonight though...so it'll be...busy.”

            “The rain will let up by then, right?” Stiles asks, hopeful.

            Derek shakes his head. “It's supposed to be like this all night.”

            “Fuck.”

            “I can drive you out to your Jeep. After your clothes are dry. If you want.”

            “Sure,” Stiles agrees. “Should we go hide me in your bedroom so when your mom comes home, she doesn't have to know?”

            Derek gives him a funny look, before slowly saying, “Su...sure.”

            “Lead the way,” Stiles says.

            He follows Derek up the stairs. They go to the last door on the right, and Derek pushes the door open and leads Stiles inside. He glances around. Weird. It doesn't match up with what Stiles had thought Derek's room would look like. It's better than Stiles had pictured though.

            Derek has a bookshelf in the corner, so he clearly reads, and his desk isn't exactly neat but Stiles bets that Derek knows exactly where everything is. It has that organized mess look. There are a few photos hanging on the wall. Stiles walks towards them, without being able to resist. There's some of Derek with his sisters, his parents, two of him at a lacrosse game, and one...

            Stiles stabs the photo with his finger and says, “Derek, that's my mom.”

            He turns around, his entire body trembling. “You knew my mom?”

            Derek frowns, and sits down on his bed. Stiles notes that it's a deep red comforter, where he had totally pictured something blue or black. “Yeah, she came out to some swim meets sometimes to support the team. I don't really remember her—I was, god, what, maybe nine in that photo? But I remember that she was always really kind, and she liked me.”

            “How come you didn't tell me that you knew my mom?” Stiles asks. It's not an accusation, but a simple query.

            “I don't know. It seemed out of place to say.”

            Stiles shakes his head and turns back to the photo. Derek is a cute nine-year-old, but his eyes focus on the woman he loves with his whole heart. God, he misses her. Something seems to stab at his heart, and he realizes why. His mother had shared her passion of swimming with Derek, but hadn't gotten a chance to do that with Stiles. Stiles hadn't liked swimming until afterwards...until it'd become the one thing that he thought could connect him with his mother after she had died. Then he realized that it wouldn't bring her back, wouldn't somehow keep her alive, and she'd never see him at a meet. So he quit.

            Maybe, just maybe, quitting had become easier once Derek had done it too.

            But still.

            “I can't believe you knew my mom,” Stiles whispers. His mom's smiling in the photo, bent down with her arms around Derek. He smiles. “I'm glad she liked you. I'm not surprised, but I'm glad.”

            Derek's shoulders seem to relax. “She was great, Stiles. She would be proud of you.”

            “Coach told me the same thing recently,” Stiles admits. “It's nice to hear. My dad doesn't like talking about my mom too much. Actually, most of our conversations lately revolve around Isaac and how he's doing.”

            “I'm sorry,” Derek says after a few minutes of silence. Stiles had sat down in his chair. He looks up at him. “You and your dad did something a lot of people wouldn't do, but it's not really fair that it affects your relationship with your dad.”

            “Oh no, before we just talked about the shenanigans I got myself into, or argued about his diet,” Stiles says easily. “I'm happy that he cares so much about Isaac.”

            Derek nods. “Me too. He's been my best friend for years, and I just...I couldn't get him out.”

            “How many times do I have to tell you that it’s not your fault?” Stiles immediately asks.

            “I know, I know. How is Isaac doing?”

            Stiles shrugs. “Good, I think. His father's trial is coming up soon though.”

            “Does your father think that he'll be proven guilty?” Derek asks, sounding worried.

            Stiles nods. “Yeah, he thinks that once it finally gets through court, he'll be thrown in jail for years. You know what he told me yesterday? He said that Jackson is testifying for Isaac too. Apparently he's witnessed a few screaming matches, some roughing up...plus they examined the freezer and my dad says there’s pretty solid evidence that Isaac had been locked in it, so...yeah, I don't think that it'll be an issue.”

            “Thank god.”

            Stiles and Derek fall into a silence. It's not entirely uncomfortable, but Stiles doesn't know exactly what to do. So he stands up and starts wandering around Derek's room. He looks at Derek's book collection, approving most of it, and then moves on to stand back in front of the photo of Derek and Stiles' mom, Claudia.

            “She loved you. She talked about you a lot. I remember that,” Derek murmurs.

            Stiles nods. “I...thanks, Derek. At least one of our moms liked us both.”

            “I...well, I don't know what to say to that,” Derek admits. Stiles shrugs and sits down beside him. “It's not personal, you know.”

            “That's what they all say.”

            “Who?” Derek asks.

            Stiles waves his hands in the air. “They, you know, the general population. I get it, okay, Derek? Your mom hates my guts. Can we talk about something else? I'm bored of the subject.”

            “I...sure, okay. What do you want to talk about?”

            He sounds sincerely interested. Stiles lays back on Derek's bed, and tries to think of a topic. He settles with, “I saw a wolf in the woods a few weeks ago.”

            Derek's interest is clear. “What?”

            “You were right. Wolves are hanging around Beacon Hills. I didn't tell my dad though, because you haven't reported them even though you're supposedly terrified of them, so I figure there's a reason for that. So. Yeah, I didn't. Report them, that is.” Stiles shrugs, and Derek settles down beside him.

            “You didn't report them because you feel as though I have a good reason for not doing so even though I'm scared of them?” Derek asks for clarification.

            “Yep, you got it.”

            Derek sighs. “Thanks, Stiles. I...thanks.”

            “The wolf I saw, it was only a glimpse,” lie, lie, lie, “but he was gorgeous.”

            “How do you know it was a he?” Derek asks. Something in his voice sounds concerned.

            “I assumed. Could've been a female, I don't know. I said I got a glimpse.” Stiles turns his head to look at Derek. “Your turn for an interesting topic.”

            “How am I supposed to top that?” Derek asks, with a shaky laugh. After a beat, he says, “I got into three colleges.”

            “Already? Dude, that's awesome. Congratulations!” Stiles gives him a lazy grin. He's honestly happy for Derek, really, but oh my god, the thought of him leaving Beacon Hills scares him. Stiles is getting used to having Derek around, and oh god, if Derek leaves, Stiles is going to be seriously upset. Not that he has any right to be.

            Derek looks bashful. “Thanks. I just...it's so weird. They're all great schools. I'm considering going to Sacramento.”

            Stiles tries to hold back all of his surprise and excitement. Sacramento is only an hour away from Beacon Hills, which means that Derek could potentially be around on weekends sometimes or hell, he could even drive out to see Derek some time. If they were still friends then, Stiles amends. He smiles. “That would be nice.”

            “I think so too.” Derek gives a soft, content sigh. Stiles has heard that sigh before, and cranes his neck to study Derek closely. In fact, he had thought that very sigh was incredibly cute and had filed a detailed description of it away in his mind. Stiles doesn't let on that he knows anything.

            Even though he can’t quite convince himself that categorizing Derek’s sighs doesn’t mean anything, Stiles wants to stay here like this for a while.

            “Will you open Hale's Cooling Rack here or somewhere else?” Stiles hopes he sounds curious and not as though he's dying to know.

            Derek shrugs. “Probably here. My pa...my family, I mean, will be here. I'd like to stay close to them.”

            “I get that. I don't want to go further than Sacramento either because I hate the idea of leaving my dad alone.” Stiles sighs. “He's going to eat so much fast food without me around.”

            “I'm sure he'll be alright.”

            “You say that, but you don't know my dad,” Stiles jokes. “Shit, I should have called him. He's not on nights tonight. I left my phone in my Jeep...could I use your phone?”

            “Of course.” Derek is up and back with a phone in his hand in a few minutes. He hands it to Stiles. “Take as long as you like. I think I'm going to go make some chocolate chip cookies. Sound good for a rainy day?”

            “Sounds great.” Stiles gives him a big smile and watches Derek leave his bedroom. He dials his house. When his dad answers, he says, “Hey, Dad, it's me. I went out for a run in the woods, and got caught in this fuc—freaking crazy storm, and I ran for shelter at the Hales'.”

            “I'm glad you called to let me know,” his dad says. “I was trying to get a hold of you, and just about ready to send out a car...yeah, Isaac, you can have that. Stiles is fine. Yes, he's at the Hales'.”

            Stiles shifts on his feet. Crap. He knows exactly what look Isaac is giving his dad right now. “Derek will drive me out to my Jeep when my clothes are dry.”

            “Derek's a nice boy, but I'm not sure you're coming home tonight, Stiles. There's a tornado warning out, and everyone's been asked to stay inside. Talia has always been a lovely woman, so I'm sure she'll understand my concern about either of you going out in this weather—what's that face for, son?

            Hearing his father refer to Isaac as 'son' takes his breath away for a second. He knows his dad has done it before, as a slip of the tongue, force of a habit, but something inside Stiles warms up. He hopes that his dad looks at Isaac as a son. The kid deserves a father as great as the Sheriff himself. Stiles smiles, and wanders down the hall. He wants to watch Derek bake.

            “I'm sure it'll be fine, if that's what—oh, I think the Hales are getting another call. I'll talk to you later, Dad. Love you!”

            “Love you too!

            Stiles hangs up and rushes into the kitchen. Derek meets him in the archway. “You have a call.”

            Derek answers the phone. “Hey, Mom. What's going—I, oh, it's that bad?” Pause. Stiles sees Derek wince. “Wow, I had no idea. No, no, I'll stay in and make sure that Cora does too. I'm sorry that you're stuck at the office. Is dad with you? Oh that's nice at least. Yeah, I'll call Uncle Peter. Sure. I doubt it.”

            A few minutes later, Derek hangs up.

            “They're asking everyone to stay inside,” Stiles says.

            “Yeah, my mom and dad are stuck at her office. Apparently, they won't let them leave because then they'll be liable if anything happens to them. I have to call my uncle, but uh, Stiles, you might want to plan on staying the night.” Derek dials a number. Stiles slips onto a stool and watches as Derek frowns. His uncle must pick up though because his expression lightens. “Hey Uncle Peter. Yeah, Mom and Dad said—oh, yeah?”

            Stiles leans forward on the island, propping his elbows on the counter top and cupping his face.

            “No, no, that's why I was calling. Sounds great. See you Tuesday. Bye, Peter.”

            “So your parents aren't going to be home tonight.”

            Derek shakes his head.

            “And I have to spend the night because it's too dangerous outside.”

            Derek nods.

            Stiles presses his lips together. Wow. This fucking blows. How the hell is he supposed to spend the entire night with the object of his desire and not fuck it up? Stiles is grateful when Cora comes in a few minutes later.

            “Mom texted me. I'm heading out.”

            “What?” Derek growls. Stiles looks at him, surprised, because he actually growls. “No, you are not. You are staying put.”

            “Actually, I'm not. Erica and I were planning on hanging out today, and she's already almost here, so I'm going to her place. Tell Mom I was already there when the rain started. We'll drive slow. It's fine, Derek. And you know it. Stiles, can you keep my brother company tonight? Whenever he's in the house alone, he gets whiny like a puppy.” Her eyes flicker with amusement.

            “Cora, you're staying in.”

            “Do you wanna bet?” She smirks in response. “You tell that to Erica then.”

            “I could catch a ride with you guys,” Stiles suggests.

            “No, you're all staying put.”

            “Nope. I'm out, big brother. And Stiles? I mean it. Keep him company. His bark is worse than his bite. Thank me later.” Just like that, she walks out. Derek and Stiles rush after her, see her get into Erica's car, and then they're driving away.

            “Why couldn't I have gotten a ride?” Stiles mutters.

            “I'll drive you.”

            “No, I want cookies now. C'mon, let's talk about your bakery's menu.” Stiles shakes his head. It doesn't surprise him that headstrong Erica and Cora would do something as crazy as that, but he's the Sheriff's son and knows not to risk his neck. He glances at Derek. Well, he knows what and who is worth risking his neck for.

            “Why are you so interested in my baking?” Derek asks quietly, back in the kitchen and working on his recipe. “Why do you care about my bakery that I might not open?”

            “No, you have to open it! When I come back to be an officer or a teacher or whatever I end up settling on, I'm going to have to get a daily treat and coffee. I demand it.”

            “You're going to settle back in Beacon Hills when you're done school too?” Derek asks.

            “I told you. My dad's here. I can't leave him. Besides, I kinda like this boring town.” Stiles smiles. “So, what are you going to serve?”

            Derek gives in. Stiles can see he doesn't want to, and that he wants to talk about something else. “I would want to keep things fresh. Maybe serve a different menu every day. Maybe only keep a few popular staples as everyday things. Serve some good coffee, variety of tea, and hot chocolate the way it's meant to be made.”

            “How's that?” Stiles asks, hating the huge part of himself that is completely wrapped up in everything Derek.

            “Hot milk, with real melted milk chocolate.” Derek raises an eyebrow. “You've had that before, right?”

            “No, never.”

            “Well then.” Derek shakes his head. He starts scooping cookie dough onto a sheet. “What's a better day to have real hot chocolate than on a cold, rainy one?”

            “A snowy one?” Stiles suggests with a light smile. Derek rolls his eyes. “No, but actually, that sounds great. I can't believe I'm sitting in your kitchen, eating your baked goods for a second time in less than a week. I must have done something right.”

            Derek snorts. “Actually, you did something incredibly stupid. I told you to stay out of those woods.”

            “You live in them. Besides, they're not dangerous. So let it go.”

            “What if that wolf attacked you?” Derek asks, putting the cookies into the oven.

            Stiles shakes his head. “No way, dude. It didn't look like it wanted to attack me. Plus, I only got a glimpse of it. If it wanted to eat me up like little Red Riding Hood, it would've.”

            Derek rolls his eyes. “It still can.”

            “Let it go, Hale. I'm not afraid of the woods. I figured I could beat today's thunderstorm though.”

            “Clearly not,” Derek deadpans. Stiles lets out a laugh.

            “Yeah, clearly not. I can't believe Cora went out in that weather.”

            “She'll be fine,” Derek grumbles. Stiles wonders if he's secretly concerned. It's not as though Derek's the easiest to read. Derek glances up at Stiles, and gives him a silent nod. As though he knows exactly what he is thinking. Stiles tries his best for a reassuring look, but he's positive he looks confused. “Cora's tough.”

            “And I'm not?”

            “You're...” Derek waves at Stiles.

            “Skinny and defenseless?”

            Derek smiles. “Basically. You've met Cora. She's a force to be reckoned with.”

            “And I'm not? God, I'm offended.” Stiles doesn't feel offended though. He's amused as Derek shakes his head and turns his back to do something. Stiles assumes he's making the hot chocolate and keeps his eyes on Derek's ass. “When I was drunk the other day...what exactly did I say to you?”

            Derek lets out a small laugh. It surprises Stiles, and he realizes that yes, good, he made the right decision the other morning. He wants to fight for Derek's friendship, even if friendship is all he gets. His laugh, even the smallest piece of it, is something that Stiles needs in his life. “Other than calling me cute a billion times, telling me that my ass should be illegal, and that I hung your moon, you also told me that you think it's stupid for me to be single.”

            “Did I give you a reason why?” Stiles asks, curious. He's smiling though, and completely relaxed because he can tell that Derek isn't annoyed or uncomfortable by anything he had said drunk.

            Derek turns to point a finger at Stiles. In his best imitation of Stiles' drunken voice, he says, “Derek you are stupid. Stupid for being single. You could eat people and it'd still be stupid for you to be single. You need to have some fun, get laid.”

            Stiles laughs. “Oh god, I am fully embarrassed. Sorry.”

            Derek shrugs, still smiling. “It was endearing, Stiles. Nothing to be embarrassed about. I appreciate it.”

            “Ugh, no wonder your ego is in fucking space.”

            “I get the feeling you boost everyone's ego. I heard you talking to Isaac about how much you love him,” Derek says, with a shake of his head. “Isaac just kept patting your head as though you were a dog. It was funny.”

            “I'm glad me being a dog is funny to you,” Stiles retorts. But god, the smile on Derek's face might keep Stiles from never, ever feeling sad ever, ever again. How is it that a man could be that sinfully beautiful? Stiles feels like he shouldn't be allowed to be that beautiful. It doesn't matter, because he is, and Stiles is going to memorize it. What if he doesn't know Derek in ten years? He wants to be able to recall with every single fucking detail how Derek smiles, because Stiles is positive his crush on Derek won't disappear in ten years. He's not sure it ever will.

            It's a scary, scary thought.

            “So you'd be a regular at my bakery?” Derek asks, sounding a little nervous.

            Stiles nods. “If what you bake is anything near as good as your pies from the other day, then hell fucking yes. I would even become a partner—granted, if I could afford it—because your pies were that good.”

            Derek turns away from him, so he misses whether or not Derek smiles. “I appreciate that, Stiles. I enjoy baking. It's...it's my quiet place, you know?”

            “Shit, did you want me to shut up?”

            Derek laughs again. He shakes his head, and glances at Stiles over his shoulder. His eyes sparkle. “No, no, I like you being here. Being in my quiet space. I like being friends with you, Stiles.”

            Stiles nods. “Back at you, dude. Although I don't really have a quiet place. I guess running or walking...actually, more or less, the woods are my quiet place. I haven't been running as much. I start off running, and then I finish walking.”

            “Your quiet place has dangerous wolves roaming in it.”

            “I trust them,” Stiles blurts. He ignores Derek's raised eyebrow. “Look, if they were going to attack, they would've. I promise you Derek, I'm safe in those woods.”

            “Alright, I'll let it go for now.”

            “Thank you,” Stiles replies. He looks down at his fingers and then quietly says, “I'm kind of glad I got caught in the storm. I know that your mother will be pissed when she finds out that I was here, but...it's nice.”

            Derek agrees. “I'm sorry, about my mom. She could warm up. If she knew you. Maybe.”

            “Why, why, Derek Hale, are you saying what I think you're saying?” Stiles asks, hope bursting through his skin. “Do you want me to get to know your mother?”

            Derek shrugs. “Maybe.”

            “Wow. Wow, okay. I was actually going to ask you if we could do that, you know?” Stiles says, a shaky laugh coming out. “I was going to see if you would try...”

            “Well, you got your answer. I want my mother to like you,” Derek says.

            Stiles beams. He thinks that he could die right here and now, and it wouldn't matter because Derek wants his mother to warm up to him.

            “Try this,” Derek says, putting a mug down in front of him. “Stir the spoon around first.”

            Stiles does as Derek tells him, stirring the spoon around in the mug. He realizes with delight that he's mixing in melting milk chocolate. When he lifts the cup to his lips, he moans. Holy fucking shit. “Oh my god, Derek, this is so fucking good.”

            “Isn't it? That's the kind of hot chocolate I want to serve in my bakery.”

            “Jesus fuck, this is amazing. You definitely need to reconsider the name Hale's Orgasms.”

            Derek surprises Stiles with another laugh. His toes curl and he feels like he could stay here forever.

            When Derek brushes an eyelash off Stiles’ cheek, his heart beats hard. Stiles whispers, “So much for keeping our distance, huh?”

            “I don’t think we’ve been very good at that,” Derek murmurs. “I’m not complaining. Are you?”

            “No.”

            “I think we might own Life. Feel up to a round?” Derek asks.

            Stiles snorts. “I don’t know, dude. I’m happy with the life we built the other day.”

            Derek’s eyebrows rise in surprise.

            “But god, you’re expensive to keep happy—you made us buy the most high-end houses.”

            “Told you that I’m not cheap, and whatever, we still won so you can’t even complain,” Derek says with a laugh. He suggests, “A movie, then?”

            “A movie sounds great.”

Chapter Text

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles slowly opens his eyes. He's definitely lying on something harder than a bed. He tilts his head back and yep, he's tangled up with Derek. No complaints here though. One of Derek's legs is flung across Stiles', and Derek has two arms wrapped around him. Stiles has a hand on Derek's chest, and the other tucked along the side of Derek. He doesn't feel like moving right away, so he yawns, closes his eyes, and pretends to be asleep.

            It doesn’t have to end just yet.

            He's almost surprised to be waking up with Derek. They had agreed that Stiles would sleep in the guest room down the hall, after they watched that one movie in Derek's bed. Stiles peeks and sees that Derek had turned both his computer and the TV it had been hooked up to off. Apparently, Stiles had fallen asleep and Derek hadn't left. Again, Stiles isn’t complaining at all.

            There’s a sensation of safety and warmth that rushes through Stiles’ body, and Stiles wonders if this has always been here, waiting until he discovered it. He’s unsure of Derek’s feelings for him, and that makes him a little uneasy. Mostly though, Stiles wants to continue to stay right here.

            He’s slept platonically with Scott and Isaac for so long now that he should be used to waking up beside another boy. However, this time his heart is tangled up with the other boy, and Stiles isn’t quite sure he understands how he feels. He knows that when Derek wakes, the spell is going to evaporate.

            They’ll talk, awkwardly bum around, and go to school. Dammit. Stiles wants to pull on Derek’s letterman jacket and brag to anyone who will listen that Derek held him all night long. He knows that will never happen though, so Stiles pushes the thought away.

            Maybe, over time, Derek could grow to develop real feelings for him. For now, Stiles has to make peace with attempting a friendship. It seems so complicated, and yet simple at the same time.

            Stiles wonders if Derek would ever consider Stiles worth fighting for, and knows that he doesn’t want to put Derek in an uncomfortable situation. Derek has dealt with a lot in regards to Kate and Jennifer. Stiles doesn’t want to be like them. He wants to be special; he wants to be good for Derek. While he wishes Talia could see that, Stiles knows that the only person whose opinion matters on the issue is Derek.

            It startles him to realize that Stiles desperately wants Derek to trust him fully, to put his hand into Stiles’ and simply say, “I’m all in.” Stiles knew that his emotions for Derek had started to run deeper than an obsessive crush, but now he’s feeling a little drunk on them. Stiles is starting to think that he might be willing to do just about anything for the boy who’s holding him right now.

            He opens his eyes to look at Derek’s sleeping face. His lips involuntarily curve upwards and he lifts one of his hands to brush his fingertips against Derek’s scruff. Fuck, he knows that this probably won’t end well. Derek’s going to wake up and run. He’s going to run so far, and Stiles is going to be left standing there, watching him go. He’ll tell Stiles that it can’t happen again, that his mother would kill him, and that he’s sorry. Stiles can picture it now. He knows exactly how he’ll feel because it’s happened, how many times now? Derek will come back, maybe, and Stiles will be waiting.

            If Stiles were stronger, he would probably push Derek away first to protect himself from getting hurt. The only thing is, Stiles knows he can’t see straight, let alone willingly give up the opportunity to be around Derek while he can. Stiles’ smile falls.

            “I’ll always be here,” Stiles murmurs despite his worries about Derek waking up to him creepily staring at him. He’s Edward from freaking Twilight now, and that is just over the creepy-line.

            He settles back into Derek’s warmth and closes his eyes. How is he supposed to not feel a little drunk with content when he’s around Derek? The guy is holding him as though his subconscious never wants Stiles to leave. Then again, maybe Derek’s secretly a cuddler despite who is around.

            Derek will push him away again, and Stiles knows that. However, Stiles isn’t going to go anywhere. Not just yet.

            When Derek shifts slightly under him, waking up, Stiles tries not to smile. With a big yawn, a stretch, and one last nuzzle into Derek's chest, Stiles prepares himself for the moment that Derek shoves him away.

            “Mmm,” is the only noise that Derek makes. Stiles can feel Derek's entire body move when he inhales deeply. “Morning, Stiles.”

            “Mor—morning,” Stiles stammers. His voice is still groggy from sleep.

            “Did you sleep well?” Derek murmurs. Derek’s fingers start lazily stroking his back.

            “Yeah,” Stiles whispers. He's afraid to speak louder. It might ruin Derek's obvious good mood. “Did you?”

            “Better than I have in a long, long time.” Then Derek stills. Bingo, he just realized what’s happening. He slowly unwraps his arms from Stiles. “Oh my god, Stiles, I am so sorry. I just...”

            “Dude,” Stiles says, shifting off Derek, but not completely. He keeps his palm on Derek's chest. “It's fine, it's cozy, and nothing I'm not used to. Isaac sometimes crawls in bed with me, when he gets lonely or has a nightmare, and he clings to me too.”

            Derek seems to tense a little, but then he relaxes. “You protect Isaac by sleeping with him and scaring away all the boogie men.”

            Stiles lets out a soft laugh. “Yeah, you could say that, I guess. Sometimes when Scott sleeps over, I wake up to him drooling on my neck. So this isn't unusual for me.”

            Derek nods, and then pulls Stiles back into his arms. He nuzzles Stiles' neck. Well, okay, Derek clearly missed the memo of what is normal because this is not it. Friends don’t nuzzle each other, but Stiles can't be bothered to care. He lets his eyes shut and enjoys the feeling of Derek's hot breath on his neck.

            “You smell so good. Feel so good. I can't seem to resist. I'm...”

            “No apologizes necessary, dude,” Stiles says quickly. Not with the dirty, dirty thoughts that Stiles is having about Derek and Derek's dick right now. Goddammit, why couldn’t they be madly in love with each other? Why couldn’t people be happy for them?

            Derek lets go again. Stiles doesn't move right away, but when he finally untangles himself from Derek, he says, “Sorry that I fell asleep on you during the movie last night.”

            Derek shrugs. “So not a big deal. Do you want me to drop you off at your Jeep?”

            Stiles glances to Derek's clock on the dresser behind him. He curses. “Uh, no. We won't have time. Can I just borrow something of yours for the day? We're going to be late, dude!”

            Derek rushes up at Stiles' words. “Yeah, you can borrow whatever you want. Sorry, I forgot to set an alarm.”

            “Not your fault,” Stiles says.

            Ten minutes later, they're in Derek's Camaro. Derek's clothes hang on Stiles, but he doesn't really care. He had opted for some of Derek's sweatpants, a loose shirt, and Derek's lacrosse sweater. Stiles tries not to read into it that Derek had thrown him his letterman jacket and said, “I don’t want you to get cold.

            Stiles had put toothpaste on his finger and brushed his teeth that way, ignoring Derek's offer to use his brush. Gross. As close as he’d like to be with Derek, they definitely weren’t there yet.

            While they drive to school, they see some major damage done by the storm from the night before. Some huge trees have fallen. Luckily, most of it is off the road. They arrive to school a few minutes before the warning bell rings, and walk into the hallway.

            “Why are people looking at us?” Derek asks quietly.

            Stiles glances around. Derek’s right. People are looking.

            “I have no idea.” Stiles notices some people pointing at him, and then Stiles mutters, “Fuck, I didn't think about what it looks like that we arrived at school together, and I'm wearing your letterman jacket.”

            Lie, lie, lie. Stiles doesn’t look at him. Stiles likes that people think that they spent the night together or something. (Technically, they did, but still).

            Derek lets out a laugh. “If that's it, let them think it. Unless it makes you uncomfortable—then I'll—”

            “I don't care if you don't care,” Stiles murmurs. He tilts his head up. Derek had walked Stiles to his locker, and Stiles knows that Derek's locker is on the other side of the school. “You're going to be late to class.”

            “I know,” Derek says quietly. He leans forward, and hugs Stiles. “Thanks for last night. I haven't had that much fun in a long time.”

            Then Derek's gone, and Stiles is getting the strangest combination of looks from people. Most are confused, awed, or jealous. Some of them are skeptical, some are happy, and then there's Erica Reyes. Stiles freezes when he realizes she's staring at him hard. She's also gunning straight towards him.

            “How could you not tell me?” she hisses when she gets close to him. Erica puts a hand on his arm and shoves him back against the lockers. “Oh my god, Stilinski. Jackson texted me saying you showed up with Derek today.”

            “He’s the biggest gossip,” Stiles mutters.

            “Cora told me you were there last night. The storm let up at ten o'clock. Why did you stay?”

            Stiles shrugs. “We were watching a movie, fell asleep without setting an alarm—it was totally innocent. Erica, what do you think happened? Because you've seen Derek, you know him. Do you really think I could get with a guy like him?”

            Erica smacks him across the side of the head. “Don't be stupid, Stilinski. Of course you could get with a guy like him. Stiles, the whole school will be talking about this, you know.”

            “That's nice,” he responds. “Nothing happened though.”

            “Why not?” Erica asks, frowning.

            “Obvious reasons,” he snaps, annoyed.

            She studies him with her lips pressed tight. When she speaks again, her tone is softer. “You and Derek are two of the few good things I have in my life. I will support you both, but next time, I don’t want to hear from Jackson that you two showed up together, with you wearing Derek’s letterman jacket, okay?”

            Stiles’ annoyance evaporates. He nods. “Don’t worry, Erica. I won’t let Jackson know anything before you. I don’t have my phone—so I couldn’t text you.”

            She seems satisfied with that, and leans forward to hug him. When she pulls back, her nose is scrunched up. “Oh god, you smell like him. Stiles, you be careful. I don't need you breaking Derek's heart, okay?”

            “What about my heart?” Stiles asks. The bell goes off, and Erica's walking away from him. Stiles watches her go, confused as to what the hell just happened. It's starting to be a familiar feeling, so he ignores it and Stiles rushes to class.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “So you and Derek, huh?” Lydia asks, at the beginning of the lunch period. She leans against the locker beside Stiles and smirks. “I told Cora her plan would work.”

            “Cora's...plan?” Stiles asks, eyeing her.

            Lydia rolls her eyes. “You don't mean to tell me you actually thought you were going on a date with Cora the whole time, right?”

            Stiles freezes. He leans back on his heels, closing his locker door slightly, and demands, “What do you mean I didn't actually think I was going on a date with Cora the whole time?

            Lydia sighs, as though it's dreadfully obvious. Stiles glares at her to assure her it is most definitely not. “Stiles, Cora told Erica she couldn't go to the dinner a few weeks before. Erica didn't bother changing the order, figuring she'd just have leftovers, but then Cora suggested that Derek and you go. Seriously, Stiles. How did you not know? Erica talked about her dinner and Cora's cancellation at lunch.”

            Stiles blinks. Fuck. The conversation had probably occurred when Stiles had been watching Derek, and half-listening. “So...Cora's plan was to set me up with Derek the whole time?”

            “Yes,” Lydia's frustrated. “She told me that you came over last night, and apparently you spent the night. Tell me your virtue is not still intact.”

            “It is,” he grumbles.

            “Oh my god, Stiles, that was a perfect opportunity to go for it. You're always talking about his ass, why didn't you just go for it?” Lydia demands. She looks upset now.

            Stiles shrugs. He sees Derek at the end of the hall, and keeping his eyes on Derek, he murmurs, “I'm pretty sure Derek's not into me, Lydia.”

            “Fuck that,” she responds. “You are a moron in the most moronic of ways. I do not want to tell Cora her plan failed, so you better pick up your socks, Stilinski, and get to it.”

            “Get to what.”

            “Get it on with Hale,” she answers. “Now, let's go to lunch where I have to suffer watching you drool over Derek from across the table.”

            “Lydia...” He glances back at Derek, who's in a conversation with Boyd and Isaac, and then follows her towards the cafeteria. He falls in step with her and asks, “Are you still screwing around with Aiden?”

            “Yes.”

            “And Jackson?” he asks.

            She shrugs. “Jackson proved he doesn't care about me, because he went and screwed that stupid librarian helper.”

            “Hey, Heather's a nice girl!” Stiles protests. “She was like one of my closest friends growing up.”

            “Yes, and now she's sleeping with Jackson. I thought you said he wasn't bored of me.”

            “Maybe you were bored with him,” Stiles says quietly.

            Lydia looks over at him, a thoughtful expression on her face. Then she shakes her head. “No, he was definitely getting bored with me.”

            “You do realize you also slept with someone else, and you're not dating so he's free to sleep with whomever, right?” Stiles asks, keeping his voice low.

            Lydia pouts. “Yes, but he knows how I feel about Heather. It just...it sucks, okay?”

            That's when Stiles catches it. He sees how torn up Lydia is. On the way to school this morning, he'd made plans with Derek to see if they could have a pleasant meeting with his mother, but some things are even more important than Stiles' love life. “Hey, Lydia, feel like hanging out tonight?”

            She bites her bottom lip, looks up at him with a hopeful expression. “Yes. I’d like that.”

            “You'll have to drive me to my Jeep though.”

            She nods. “Sure, of course. I'll meet you at your locker.”

            Stiles reaches out, grabs her hand, and squeezes.

            They sit down with their food, and everyone joins them. Surprisingly, so do Scott, Allison, and Isaac. Scott demands to know why Stiles isn't responding to his texts. He explains that his phone is with his Jeep. Isaac assures Stiles that he'd told that to Scott, but Scott wanted to hear it for himself.

            Scott, Isaac, and Allison all ask quietly if Stiles is okay. He says yes. When they ask if he's seeing Derek, he glances down the table, and shakes his head. “No,” he says, “No, we're not that.”

            It's a full table, and Derek has to sit on the opposite end of Stiles. Stiles, who is quiet, watches as his friends talk. Scott and Allison are making Lydia laugh, which is great. Boyd and Isaac are discussing something quietly, but it seems serious. Danny and Ethan are joking around with Aiden—really though, Aiden's mostly watching his brother flirt with his boyfriend.

            Erica is talking to Derek, but Derek's mainly watching Stiles watch everyone else.

            The only one not there is Jackson, but that's because he's sitting at a different table with Heather. Danny and Ethan get up halfway through lunch to join them, since Danny needs to talk to Jackson about something. Stiles jumps on the opportunity to go sit beside Derek.

            He shoots a look at Erica, and she immerses herself into Boyd and Isaac's conversation.

            “What's up?” Derek asks, casually. He lowers his voice. “Have you been harassed because of...?”

            “Because of what?” Stiles asks, caught off guard.

            “Because of coming to school in my car and wearing my letterman jacket.”

            Stiles blinks, waves a hand in the air. “What? No. I just wanted to cancel plans with you tonight.”

            Derek's face falls.

            “Lydia's dealing with some stuff, and well, I need to be a friend so—”

            “Oh, of course!” Now Derek just looks concerned. Stiles admits he loves the guy for how Derek understands protecting and caring for friends.

            Wait, wait, wait, Stiles does not love Derek. Well, he does. He's just not in love. Whew. That's better.

            “Is she okay?” Derek asks, dropping his voice significantly.

            “She will be. She has some Jackson issues to sort out,” Stiles responds. “She's going to drive me to my Jeep.”

            “When you get your phone, will you let me know that you got your Jeep okay? We really should've stopped by so you could get it.”

            “That would've required you to pull over, me to get into it, start it up—which sometimes it doesn't—and then drive. We definitely would've been late.”

            “Yeah, but not that late.”

            Stiles rolls his eyes. “You don't know Harris then.”

            Derek nods. “Harris is an asshole. I didn't realize you had him.”

            “First thing in the morning,” Stiles tells him. “It sucks.”

            “I bet. He liked me though. I think it was because I'm a jock, which I kind of hated.”

            Stiles glances down at the letterman jacket he's still wearing. He tugs the top of it closer, as though he's worried it's going to crawl off him by itself, deeming him unworthy. “I don't hate that you're a jock.”

            Derek smiles. “Good. We'll try dinner with my family sometime soon, though?”

            “How about tomorrow night?” Stiles suggests.

            “I'll talk to my mom.” Derek frowns, pulling his phone out. “Cora hasn't responded to my text yet—about when Uncle Peter is coming over. He's kind of an asshole, but I think you'd like him.”

            “Probably, since I like you,” Stiles teases.

            Derek's head shoots up. “You like me?”

            “Uh, well, yeah, we're friends, right?” Stiles stumbles over his words.

            Derek nods.

            Somehow, Stiles feels as though that's the wrong answer.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Follow me to my place,” Lydia demands when Stiles gets out of her car. He salutes her in response, and she rolls her eyes.

            He gets into his Jeep, and searches for his cell phone. When he finds it, he finds a shit ton of missed messages on his screen. He open's Scott's conversation first. The messages are scattered throughout last night and this morning.

 

SCOTT: stiles, my man, I have a question
SCOTT: stiles you okay?
SCOTT: you usually reply quickly
SCOTT: okay so I texted Isaac and he says you just called
SCOTT: wait, he told me you called from Derek's?!?
SCOTT: why aren't you replying?
SCOTT: oh your dad told Isaac that you said you don't have your phone with you
SCOTT: but seriously, dude, why are you at Derek's?!
SCOTT: I hope you're having fun!
SCOTT: Isaac says you slept over at Derek's!!!!! DETAILS DUDE!

 

            Oh, that explains Scott’s eyebrow wiggles after lunch ended.

 

ISAAC: scott's freaking out, you should text him back
ISAAC: oh, you just called your dad so I explained to Scott what happened
ISAAC: your dad is humming, I think he thinks you and Derek are a thing
ISAAC: speaking of which, are you two a thing yet?!?
ISAAC: I second Scott's notion—we need details!

 

            Stiles smiles, and then wonders how to explain to his dad that he’s not dating Derek Hale. He doubts his dad will believe him though.

 

JACKSON: I know you hate me and whatever but I need a favour
JACKSON: really? You're just going to ignore me Stilinski?
JACKSON: how mature
JACKSON: I just need to know that Lydia is okay, she looked upset at Erica's party
JACKSON: did she find out about Heather and I?
JACKSON: it's a lie, Stilinski. I never slept with her...please tell Lydia that
JACKSON: fuck Stiles I know you hate me but this is fucking torture
JACKSON: oh so you were with Hale last night...no wonder why you were ignoring me, but seriously dude, I need some confirmation that you will tell Lydia the truth...she won't listen to me!

 

            Those were messages that Stiles hadn’t expected. He has to reread Jackson’s texts again. Then he notices that Derek had texted him—weird, they were together and Derek knew that Stiles didn’t have his phone on him…

 

DEREK: you just fell asleep
DEREK: I might be sober but whatever, you're really cute when you sleep
DEREK: you even drool
DEREK: I'm lucky to have met you
DEREK: I don't think I can say this to your face, but thanks for being my friend
DEREK: I know I'm not easy
DEREK: so cute

 

            Stiles is shameless when he pulls his phone in to his chest and attempts to hug it.

 

LYDIA: stiles jackson just told me that he didn't sleep with Heather
LYDIA: why does he keep lying to me?
LYDIA: stiles, why are you ignoring me?
LYDIA: oh cora just told me you’re at her place
LYDIA: don't be stupid, GO FOR IT

 

            Stiles laughs a little and moves onto the next conversation.

 

ERICA: stilinski and hale sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G
ERICA: that was cora, but you better not hold out on me, Stilinski

 

            And that explains Erica being upset this morning. He’d ‘held out’ on her for details without knowing it.

 

DANNY: hey man, can you help me with the trig homework?  

ETHAN: don't help danny, I'm tutoring him and he's trying to cheat!
ETHAN: it's ethan, btw

CORA: hope you had fun with my brother, you can thank me with coffee

 

            Stiles doesn't realize that he's thirty minutes behind Lydia getting to her house. He plugs in his phone, and shows her how many messages he received last night. He lets her read them, especially the ones Jackson sent. He asks her if he can reply to them, and she nods telling him she'll make them some tea.

 

To Scott he says:
STILES: love you bro, what was your question? 

To Isaac:
STILES: I'm with Lydia right now, but I'll try to be home after dinner—invite Scott over?

To Jackson:
STILES: didn't have my phone with me last night, but I told Lydia what you said

JACKSON: what did she say??

STILES: nothing. she's making tea.

To Erica:
STILES: but it looks like you shouldn't have been surprised this morning? 

ERICA: honey, I wasn't expecting you to wear his JACKET..that's so 1950s.
ERICA: when's the wedding?

 

To Danny:
STILES:sorry man, hope you figured out the homework

To Ethan:
STILES: didn't have my phone, couldn't help danny, and haha, I already had your number weirdo

To Cora:
STILES: owe you nothing, you traitor

 

            His phone buzzes again in his hands.

 

SCOTT: ask you after dinner tonight ;)  

JACKSON: if she's making peppermint tea, she's really upset...

 

            “Hey, Lydia, are you making peppermint tea?” Stiles calls out to her kitchen.

            “Yeah!” she responds. He frowns.

 

STILES: peppermint tea

JACKSON: fuck

 

            He ignores his phone, putting it on silent, and slipping it into his pocket when Lydia comes back. She sits down at the table with Stiles and frowns into her steaming mug. “Do you think Jackson's telling the truth? That he didn't actually sleep with Heather?”

            “I don't know. Most of the time Jackson's a dick,” Stiles says. He adds, “But he's testifying against Isaac's dad, so, sometimes he's not all bad.”

            Lydia nods. “It's just...Aiden makes me feel alive. And he does care for me. The sex we have is so hot, Stiles. It wasn't always like that with Jackson.”

            “But?” Stiles prompts after a moment.

            “But,” she says, “I love Jackson. So fucking much that it hurts. I keep telling myself that I made the decision, that it was all on me, but it hurts...no one tells you that it hurts this bad.”

            Stiles pulls his chair closer to her, wrapping a hand around hers. She isn't crying yet, but he knows it's coming. She stares at their hands, and lets out a small laugh. “Who would've guessed that Jackson would be the one to break my heart?”

            “You could get him back in a heartbeat, if that's what you really want,” Stiles tells her in his best Scott-like voice. He tilts his head. “Do you want him back?”

            She shrugs. “I...god, I actually miss him so much. I mean, I guess I thought that he would fight for me, or something. And he just let me go. Just like that. I've watched him at lunch when we're with Aiden. He doesn't even look upset!”

            Stiles hates himself for what he's about to say next. “Lydia, I've heard Jackson talk to Danny in the locker room. He misses you. He threatens Aiden every other day that if he hurts you, he's dead. He's asked me how you're doing. He's upset. I swear it.”

            Lydia searches his face, hoping that he's being honest, looking for signs of him lying. Stiles almost wishes he was because Lydia deserves better than Jackson. Stiles squeezes her hand. She takes a sip of her peppermint tea before saying, “Then why did he let me go?”

            “Probably because he thinks it's what you wanted.” Stiles shrugs. “I don't know. Do you believe that he didn't sleep with Heather?”

            “I want to.” Her voice is soft, and it cracks.

            Stiles pulls out his phone. “I'll ask.”

            “What? No! You can't do that!”

            “I'll be super casual, Lyds.” Stiles brings up Heather's conversation. They haven't texted in almost a year now, but it's fine. Heather's cool. They had grown up together, and had always been fairly close.

 

STILES: yo heather, I know this is a bit out of the blue but Jackson told me that you guys didn't sleep together (there's a rumour, btw), and I have to know whether or not Lydia should believe him

HEATHER: hey stiles! Jackson, sadly, is telling the truth. I tried, but dude's got it bad for Lydia, so my virtue is still intact.
HEATHER: wanna change that? ;) 

STILES: sorry, I've got my eye on someone atm, but thanks :)
STILES: also thanks for being honest, H

HEATHER: no worries Stiles! I hope that helps. we should get coffee sometime so you can tell me about this someone though!

 

            “There you go,” Stiles says, sliding his phone towards Lydia. She reads the conversation, and Stiles watches as her lips tremble. Her eyes, bright with almost tears, look up at him suddenly.

            “He didn't sleep with Heather.”

            “No.”

            “But I've slept with Aiden,” Lydia murmurs.

            “Yeah, but it's Jackson; that boy is whipped like cream.” Stiles smiles. “Lydia, if you want Jackson back, just tell him.”

            She shakes her head. “No. He still didn't fight for me. It's too...it's too late.”

            Before Stiles moves his chair beside hers to hug her, he sends one text message.

 

STILES: I will deny this forever but if you miss Lydia, you have to fight for her dude

 

            Lydia clings onto Stiles' arm, burying her face into his sleeve, and cries softly. She leans into his chest, just slightly, and Stiles strokes her hair. “Lydia, it's going to be okay, I promise you.”

            “It's so stupid. I left him, but I'm the one who's broken up about it!” she says, gasping slightly to catch a breath. She lifts her head. Their eyes meet. Then she glances down to his lips.

            He leans away, and lets out a strangled noise. “Whoa, no way, Martin. These lips are meant for Hale and that's it.”

            She groans, puts her face in her hand, and then mumbles, “I'm so upset that I almost thought kissing you was a good idea. Oh my god, what am I going to do?”

            Stiles doesn't laugh or feel very amused. He just hugs her tighter, and whispers, “It's okay. You're upset, and you're looking for comfort. I just can't be the one to give it to you, alright?”

            She nods. “Thanks, I don't really want to kiss you either.”

            After a few minutes, Lydia pulls away from Stiles. “Your lips are meant for Derek and that's it? Stiles, that's very limiting. I'm concerned your silly crush has—”

            “—gotten incredibly out of control?” Stiles nods gravely. “I know. Hell, we're even kind of friends now. It's only gotten worse as I've gotten to know him better.”

            Lydia shakes her head. He adds, “Wow. What a pathetic pair we are.”

            She straightens and informs Stiles, “I am not pathetic.”

            “No, you're not, but you're allowed to be hurt and upset.” Stiles brushes some wet hair stuck to her cheek away.

            “Oh no you don't, Stilinski!” a surprisingly threatening voice comes.

            They both look up, startled. Jackson's standing in the doorway. Stiles doesn't move away from Lydia, but raises his eyebrows. Lydia jerks away from Stiles. “Jackson? What the hell?”

            “Lydia, this thing told me that I still have a chance with you, if I just fight for you. I'm fighting for you, okay? I need you. You make me a better person, you make me...you make me want to be nice to Stilinski. You make me care. Without you, I'm some stupid rich kid with no parental supervision. But with you, I'm...I'm full. I'm not so fucking empty. I need you because I love you, and I love you because I need you, okay? I want...I want to make you smile. I want to make you feel good, feel safe, and I want to be able to follow you wherever you end up after high school because I want to support you. Always.”

            “You were getting bored,” Lydia says, but she's standing now. Stiles can see her tears are done falling, and she's wiping them away.

            Jackson sputters. Actually sputters. God, part of Stiles is enjoying watching him grovel a little, getting a little soft. “Getting bored? Of you? You are the most exciting thing that will ever happen to me. You are worth waking up to in the morning. Do...do you still have my key?”

            Lydia pulls something out from around her neck, a key hung on a chain that had been hidden behind her dress. “Of course, I do. I was going to plot some revenge...”

            “You still can. But please. If I can't have you back, can we at least be friends?”

            Lydia, seeming to be quite confident now, hums. She glances down at Stiles, who gives her the best innocent expression he can muster, and then she shakes her head to Jackson. “No, we can't be friends. We can't have what we had and go and be friends.”

            “Oh. I...oh.”

            “I guess that means we can go back to being...us.”

            Jackson's face lights up and there are actual tears brimming at his eyes. Stiles can see it. He's not sure he'd ever not been able to see the love that Jackson feels for Lydia. It surprises him to see that Jackson had been more miserable than Stiles had realized. However, it isn't until he sees how happy Jackson is that he draws the comparison. He watches as Lydia launches herself at Jackson, and then they're making out.

            Stiles looks away, picks up his peppermint tea, and starts to drink. By the time he's finished it, Lydia pulls away from Jackson.

            “Stiles, thank you, for always being such a good friend. I—”

            “Call Aiden, tell him it's over, and then thank me later.” Stiles gets up, gives Jackson a clap on the shoulder. “Ever make her doubt your feelings for her again, and I will not help you repair your relationship. Hurt her and I'll send a wolf after you to rip you to shreds, y'hear?”

            “Thanks, Stilinski.”

            “Thanks, Stiles,” Lydia says. She leans forward, kisses his cheek, and then smiles. “You and you-know-who will work out, if you try hard enough.”

            “Hale?” Jackson asks, but it's without his usual disgust.

            Stiles shrugs.

            Jackson nods. “Oh yeah, you'll work out. I hear his mom's scary as shit. But if you get pass that, you'll be fine.”

            Stiles' eyebrows come together, confused, but he nods and lets himself out.

            Well. That was a short visit with Lydia.

 

STILES: cute messages, lydia's back with jackson, you still wanna hang out?

DEREK: um my mom's home...let me ask?
DEREK: that's good to hear btw, jackson is fucking annoying when he talks about lydia 

STILES: tell me about it.

 

            Stiles glances at the clock. Dammit, he'd sent that message twenty minutes ago. Why hasn't Derek responded?

 

DEREK: I just got into a huge argument with my mother
DEREK: there was a lot of yelling and then Cora came to back me up
DEREK: she's just really protective, Stiles 

STILES: yeah, I know Derek...I don't want you to fight about it.

DEREK: it's too late, we've been fighting for weeks Stiles
DEREK: she just gave in. STILES.
DEREK: she said yes! 

STILES: what?!?! what did you say to her, man?

DEREK: that I care about you, and trust you

STILES: wow, I'm honestly touched

DEREK: it's a “trial run” I guess
DEREK: I kinda guilt-tripped her, and told her that if she can't trust anyone outside of our family, how am I supposed to? and how am I supposed to move on or be happy if she won't even let me have new friends? 

STILES: all valid points

DEREK: yes, and apparently, I can be convincing when I want to be
DEREK:  dinner with my mom and sister at six work for you then? 

STILES: weird but yes! see you then!!

DEREK: see you then :)

STILES: :)

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hello Mrs. Hale,” Stiles says cautiously, holding out the potted flowers he'd bought on his way over. Stiles sees where Derek gets his confused expression from, because they look freakishly alike when they wear it. She takes the flowers. He explains, “I figure these are better than cut flowers, because they'll last longer. At least they should. I don't know. My dad and I kill things, but my mom was the green-thumb in our family.”

            She nods slowly, as though she's trying to process all of the words he had just said. Finally, she settles with a cautious, “Thank...thank you, Stiles. That's...thoughtful. Your mother was a lovely woman.”

            “I know,” Stiles responds instantly. “Thanks, Mrs. Hale.”

            “Uh, Talia. Call me Talia. I'm sorry that my husband won't be making it home for dinner tonight,” she adds.

            “Thanks, Talia. And oh, that's okay. It might make it easier for us to get to know each other a bit better. Um.” Stiles doesn't know what else to say.

            She pulls the door open wider, so he can come in. He quickly takes off his shoes and before he can ask about Derek, the guy appears at the bottom of the stairs. He's eyeing his mother, and shooting Stiles a concerned look. “Hey Stiles!”

            “Hey, buddy,” Stiles says, hoping that'll put an emphasize on the fact that they're just friends. Totally, 100% just friends. Fucking dammit. “Sorry that I cancelled and then remade plans last minute.”

            Derek shrugs. “No worries, you had to be there for Lydia. So her and Jackson are back together?”

            Talia takes this as her cue to slip out of the conversation, and does so silently. Stiles' eyes widen with his dude your mom was kinda nice to me expression. Derek smiles nervously. Stiles nods and keeps up with the verbal conversation. “Yeah! I told Jackson to come fight for her, and apparently, he was stalking her house. He was there freakishly fast.”

            Derek shrugs. “Not bad then—as long as Lydia's happy.”

            “She is, I think. I don't know what it is about Jackson, but after hearing his little speech, I'm thinking that Jackson actually has a soul. Don't ever tell anyone I said that though, because I will deny it to my grave.” Stiles follows Derek into the kitchen. He's clearly cooking something, and it smells like heaven. “Jesus, you cook too?”

            “Only one in the house. Everyone else's cooking is crap.”

            “I heard that!” Cora says, strolling in. She smiles at Stiles. “Hello. Here again for a third time this week?”

            “Yep! Hoping that maybe your mom will take pity on me and let me be your brother's best friend.” Stiles gives her a lazy grin. “Think I can be charming enough?”

            Cora glances at her brother, and then gives Stiles a nod. “Hopefully.”

            Stiles asks, “Hey, is your Uncle Peter going to be here tonight?”

            “No, thank god,” Derek says, laughing.

            “I thought you said I’d like him?”

            “You will,” Cora says, nodding. “But Peter’s a shit disturber.”

            “It’s safer if my mother gets to know you without him around,” Derek adds.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Thanks for having me over,” Stiles says for the fourteenth time.

            “It was our pleasure,” Talia tells him. She's smiling at him genuinely now, and he feels as though he's going to burst with excitement. Dinner and dessert had gone very well. Of course, he's not sure that he's been accepted as Derek's friend, but he'd made his mother smile about eight times in the past hour and a half. Stiles is pretty sure that's a win, considering how hard it is to get the Hales to smile. She adds, “You're welcome here anytime, as Derek's friend. Do you understand me?”

            Stiles blinks twice, letting the words sink in. He bobs his head. “Yes, ma'am. Derek and I are on the friendship-track, and nothing else. Nothing. I swear.”

            Talia gives him an expression that clearly states she isn't buying it, but she doesn't take back her words. She nods. “If there's anything else going on, I will find out, and you will not be allowed to see Derek. Have a great night, Stiles, and do tell your father I say hi. He is a wonderful man.”

            Then Talia heads up the stairs.

            A few seconds later, Derek rushes in. “Hey, sorry, went to the washroom.”

            “It's fine,” Stiles says.

            “My mother—”

            “Gave us permission to be friends,” Stiles interrupts. He can't resist it. He's beaming, and he throws his arms around Derek. It takes Derek a second or two to hug him back, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is that Derek does hug him back. “I told you I would charm her.”

            Derek laughs, shaking his head, but Stiles sees how the amusement dances on his face. “You were right. Now, let me be a gentleman and walk you to your car.”

            “Oh I'm just swooning, Hale. What would the boys on the lacrosse team say?” Stiles laughs freely as they leave the house.

            Derek puts a hand on Stiles' lower back, and murmurs quietly, “I'm sure they'd be catcalling and whistling at us.”

            Stiles snorts. “You bet. Now get me off your property before I break your mother's rule.”

            “What's that?” Derek asks. Something in his tone suggests that he already knows.

            “I can't fall madly in love with you,” Stiles tells him, leaning against his Jeep now. He pouts. “Which is just too bad, because Hale, that's some ass you've got.”

            “I've heard it's fit enough to make gods weep.”

            Stiles bursts into laughter, finding himself just happy enough to feel comfortable to throw his arms around Derek and give him a good hug. A bro hug, really. He opens his Jeep door a few seconds later, still giggling like a schoolgirl with her crush. He rolls down the window to say, “You, Mr. Derek Hale, are funny.”

            Derek gives him the biggest, and brightest, grin that Stiles has ever seen on anyone, let alone Derek himself. He leans forward, drops his voice, and says, “Did you ever find a private place for fucking?”

            Before Stiles can even react, Derek's walking away, tapping the hood of Stiles' Jeep, and then heading back up to his house.

            Stiles yells out his window, “You'll never know!

            But damn if Stiles isn't laughing to himself the entire ride home. And maybe he knows he’ll be falling asleep with a smile on his face tonight.

            He hopes that Derek's doing the exact same fucking thing and Stiles rolls over with a small squeal.

 

DEREK: tonight went well

STILES: I know! I’m happy about that

DEREK: thanks for being willing to give it a shot

STILES: anything for you, babe

DEREK: night Stiles

STILES: night Derek

DEREK: btw, lacrosse meeting tomorrow at lunch
DEREK: just us, at the coffee shop

STILES: consider me there  

DEREK: don’t be late or else your coffee will get cold

STILES: guarantee I’ll be six minutes late
STILES: so maybe you should drive me

DEREK: fine, meet me in the parking lot at my car at 12:06pm  

STILES: sounds like a date!
STILES: or rather, sounds like a meeting!  

DEREK: dork
DEREK: g’night

STILES: night cutie pie (get it? ‘cause you make pie!)

DEREK: dorkkkkk

STILES: you love it

DEREK: do I now?

STILES: mhm, night Derek

DEREK: night stiles

 

            He grabs a pillow and squeezes it tightly.

            There’s a knock at his door. “Come in.”

            “Hey, Stiles, I just wanted to see how you are,” Isaac asks quietly in the doorway.

            “I’m great, how are you?”

            “Okay, for once. Um, could I…anyway?”

            “C’mon,” Stiles says, grinning. He pulls the covers back for his best friend. “Let me tell you about my dinner at the Hales tonight.”

            “What?” Isaac freezes. Then he smacks Stiles’ shoulder. “Dude, Scott’s going to be so pissed that you didn’t tell him.”

            “Oh. So will Erica,” Stiles murmurs. He pulls out his phone and shoots them both a quick update. Then he sends one to Lydia as well. “Done. Now let me brag about how I charmed the pants off Mrs. Talia Hale.”

            “God, I hope not literally.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “You don’t understand,” Stiles tells Isaac and Scott earnestly at school a few weeks later. Stiles beams at them. “His mother is okay with me being friends with him, so that’s how I’m going to be happy with our relationship as it stands. No more pressuring me to go for it, because I can’t.”

            Isaac pouts, as they push through the doors to head downstairs. “But I swear Derek feels—”

            Stiles wants to think that the past few weeks has made a difference, but he knows that it’s still too soon.

            “Doesn’t matter! I want to stay in his mom’s good books. Derek called me last night and Talia told him to tell me that she hoped I was having a lovely—”

            Stiles doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead, he lets out a yelp, as his one foot is caught underneath the other.

            He feels his body go airborne for a few seconds. He lets go of his books, so that he can flail his arms around in the air. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s hoping it won’t hurt, but it happens so fast that he’s mainly just stunned when his body crashes.

            Only he doesn’t crash onto the floor as he’d expected.

            “Stiles,” Scott’s voice comes. “Oh my god!”

            Stiles finds himself being crushed against a nice, hard body. He knows who it is immediately, and he briefly wonders if that should worry him. His arms are around Derek Hale’s neck, and his heart is pounding too fast. Derek has his hands on Stiles’ waist, gripping him tightly, as though they’re promising him that he won’t let go.

            “Whoa,” Stiles murmurs.

            “You don’t walk or function like most humans, do you?” Derek asks, with a small chuckle. Stiles pries himself off Derek to stand up straight, but he grips his arm. He does, it partly because uh, Derek’s arm and partly because he’s a little shaky. His entire body had been prepared for a bad landing. Having Derek stop his fall had been almost as much of a shock.

            Stiles gives him a shaky laugh and a nod. He frowns. “Where did you come from?”

            “I was walking up the stairs,” Derek says as though that’s painfully obvious.

            Stiles is sure he didn’t see Derek, because he wouldn’t have been talking about him if he had. In fact, usually Derek would’ve been...it doesn’t matter. Stiles smiles at him. “Thanks.

            “Dude, are you okay?” Scott says, rushing down the stairs. Stiles looks up to see Isaac picking up his books. Scott glances at Derek, frowning, “Where did you even come from?”

            “He was...walking up the stairs,” Stiles mumbles.

            Derek’s shoulders seem to slump in relief. Stiles notices that Scott doesn’t seem to buy it—which is strange, because there isn’t any other explanation, or any reason for Derek to lie about it—and Stiles waves a hand in front of his best bro’s face.

            “Wha—oh, I’m glad you’re okay, buddy!” Scott says, wrapping an arm around Stiles. “That was going to be one shitty landing.”

            Stiles laughs. “You’re not kidding. But I’ve got my own knight in shining armour, I guess.”

            Isaac jogs down the last few stairs, handing Stiles his stuff.

            “Thanks man.”

            “I’m just glad that Derek has quick reflexes. It looked like you would’ve snapped your neck. Seriously.” Isaac smiles at Derek. “Good job.”

            “No big deal,” Derek mumbles.

            “Yes, big deal. C’mon, if you’re real nice, maybe I’ll invite you out to dinner with some of us, my treat.” Stiles doesn’t know why he invites Derek. Actually, he does, but he’s ignoring his crush.

            Derek smiles though, and Stiles knows that he’s so fucking gone it’s beyond impossible to think of Derek as just a friend. “That sounds fun. Text me about it?”

            “Su...sure,” Stiles stammers.

            “Glad you didn’t snap your neck, Stiles.” The words are said quietly. Then Derek’s jogging up the staircase. Stiles rubs the back of his neck, watching him disappear.

            “Wow, the sexual tension is fucking ridiculous. It’s too thick. I can’t breathe,” Isaac whines when they start heading down the rest of the staircase, leaving the death trap landing behind them.

            Stiles jokingly shoves Isaac, before he freezes. He immediately says, “Isaac, man, I am so sorry—”

            Isaac shoves Stiles back. “Lighten up, Stilinski. I’m not going to break.”

            Stiles remembers their conversation in his bathroom, how Isaac had told Stiles that he wasn’t going to fall apart. Stiles had concluded that Isaac had fallen, had been falling apart for a long time, and Isaac had confirmed it. Now the kid is telling him that he won’t break. Something wells up in Stiles’ chest, and all he can say is, “I love you, man.”

            Isaac looks surprised at the sudden declaration, glances at Scott, before saying, “Love you too.”

            “Hey, hey! I love you both the most,” Scott announces, throwing his arms around both of them. “You’re my favourites.”

            “We love you back,” Stiles assures him. “I don’t know where I’d be without you guys.”

            “Aren’t we all so fucking adorable?” Isaac jokes.

            Scott steers them to Stiles’ locker, where Stiles breaks away from them. He shoves his books into his locker, and when he sees Scott and Isaac making out, pulls out his phone.

 

STILES: yo we’re going to the diner by the arcade for dinner, Fancy’s
STILES: at like five o’clock
STILES: you can be my friend-date

 

            A few minutes later, his phone buzzes in his hand.

 

DEREK: I’ll be there, friend-date
DEREK: want me to pick you up?

STILES: nawh it’s cool, I have to bring Allison, Scott, and Isaac

DEREK: who’s all going?

STILES: the threesome, lyds and asswipe, ethan and danny, and berica 

DEREK: berica?

STILES: boyd and erica, get it? 

DEREK: do you have couple names for everyone?

STILES: obviously hale. scallisaac, jydia, dethan, berica

DEREK: huh
DEREK: you and scott? 

STILES: sciles, obviously

DEREK: what are we? detiles?

STILES: dude, sterek is much better
STILES: but couple names are for couples, and we’re not a couple—I have my word to keep to your mother, you know 

DEREK: you’re not allowed to fall in love with me, I know
DEREK: but we could have a friendship name, right?

STILES: yeah, right, we can!
STILES: sterek, the friendship 

DEREK: see you at dinner, stiles
DEREK: can’t text too much—out of character for me 

STILES: see you later dudeeee

 

            “Dude, anytime now.”

            Stiles looks up, and realizes that he’s still sitting in his Jeep with Scott, Isaac, and Allison staring at him. “Hi Allison!”

            She laughs. “Hi, Stiles. We said hello five minutes ago.”

            He blinks. “We did? Oh. Sorry.”

            “You’re obviously texting Derek,” Scott says, with a laugh. “It’s weird. You’re worse than you were with Lydia, but definitely much, much happier.”

            Stiles starts the Jeep. “Well, obviously. Lydia and I were only destined to be friends. I mean, really, when you think about it, my crush on her was just to distract me from Derek Hale anyway. Allison, did they catch you up?”

            “Yeah! So his mom’s totally cool with you two now?” she says, smiling from the backseat.

            Stiles slows down his Jeep as he passes Derek getting into his Camaro. He honks, and Derek lifts a hand to wave. Stiles waves back. “No, but friendship is a great way to start. I’m hoping I can weasel my way into her good books and it won’t be a big deal when I fall madly in love with her son.”

            “When?” Isaac says, scoffing. “Dude. You’re so beyond that point; it’s pathetic that you two aren’t walking down the aisle.”

            “Aw, Isaac, that’s so sweet that you think that Derek and I are going to be serious.” Stiles can’t help himself though.

            He smiles the entire way home.

            Stiles switches topics by saying, “When do you think Erica and Boyd will get married?”

            Allison explains excitedly that all of the girls were talking about weddings, and Erica had asked her and Lydia to be bridesmaids. “I was so surprised! I mean, obviously we said yes. They aren’t even engaged yet, but it was so sweet that she asked! She said that she thinks our groups are going to get even closer and that we’re going to be around each other for a long time.”

            “Oh yeah?” Scott says, as though it’s the first time he’s heard of it.

            “Yep. She confided that she doesn’t have a lot of girl friends, other than Cora, so it would be nice if we could be in her wedding with her.” Allison seems happy about this, and Stiles is happy for her.

            He asks, “Hey, why wasn’t Derek invited to dinner tonight?”

            “He was. He said no though,” Isaac says. “Until you asked him, that is.”

            “Huh.”

            “He didn’t want to be the only single person there, since you said you weren’t going to come,” Scott explains quickly. “You know, because you were going to have dinner with your dad.”

            “Yeah, but I think he’s secretly dating someone behind my back,” Stiles says, with a shrug as he pulls up into his driveway. “He’s clearly not ready to let me know who it is, but I have an idea.”

            “Who?” Isaac asks, sounding nervous.

            “Definitely Scott’s mom,” Stiles answers once he gets out of the car.

            “You know?!” Scott asks, horrified.

            Stiles freezes. “It’s true?”

            Scott shrugs, blushing a little. “Yeah. They were worried about telling you. Your dad wasn’t sure how you’d react since it’s not your...your mom.”

            Stiles throws his arms around Scott. “Dude, we could become actual brothers!”

            “That’s what I said!” Scott says, laughing with Stiles.

            “When did you figure it out?” Isaac asks when they’re in the kitchen. “Your dad swore me to secrecy a few weeks ago.”

            Stiles snorts. “I figured she’s the only woman good enough for my dad.”

            “Hell yes,” Scott concurs. “And back at your dad.”

            “Well I think it’s great that you’re happy for them,” Allison tells them.

            Stiles glances around. “Would you guys be offended if I went for a run? You could have the house to yourself...”

            The threesome shares a look. Isaac speaks first. “We would not be offended if you went for a run.”

            “You guys rock. I’ll be back to pick you up for the diner. If my dad comes home, tell him that I love him and he’s terrible at sneaking around, despite being the freaking Sheriff.” Stiles runs up the stairs to change into comfortable clothing, and puts on a pair of running shoes. He wants to see his wolf tonight.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hey buddy!” Stiles says when he spots his big, black wolf stepping onto the trail. He grins at it. “I have some good news to tell you.”

            The wolf trots over to him, circling him and rubbing against him while he does it. Stiles lets a little laugh of joy out and bends down to gives his wolf a good scratch. “First off, Derek and I are officially friends, Talia approved. How great is that? I get to actually be around him. But you already know that.”

            The wolf nudges up to him, licking his face. Stiles laughs and tries not to wince at the roughness of the canine tongue.

            “I know. It’s fucking fantastic. I mean, I would rather not have to be just...but whatever. I get to hang around with him and his mom won’t make life miserable for him. It’s nice. He actually totally saved my life today. It’s weird though.” Stiles stands up and they start walking. “He was nowhere to be seen, and then swoop, he stops my fall. His hands were totally on my waist for a few minutes. He has nice hands. It was kind of an Edward Cullen move though, except I know how fast Derek’s reflexes are. I think we both know why.”

            The wolf yelps, but it’s more out of excitement than anything.

            Stiles grins. “I should thank you. For barking me into the Hales’ house in that awful storm. It kind of changed a lot, so thanks. I spent the entire evening with him. He’s actually so funny. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting a lot when it comes to Derek though, because I was so wrapped up in my romanticized version of him. He’s actually so much better.”

            They get to the rock. Stiles sits down, and the wolf circles around him before joining with his head in Stiles’ lap as usual.

            “I don’t know. Yesterday, at practice, oh my god, it was wonderful. Derek and I were shouting out suggestions and stuff, and then he told me to take over. Coach told me I’m a great Coach, and that teaching is something I should consider. I kind of like it. Derek got mad at me, because I wasn’t yelling anything about him. Honestly though, that guy is like fucking wonderful. So I just started shouting about how his ass looks good, and his arm muscles were freaking sexy. It was so funny. Even Coach laughed!”

            Stiles shuffles his feet, strokes his wolf, and can’t stop smiling. “Everyone knows about my crush, so whatever. I think Derek thought I was joking, but I don’t even care anymore. I’m just so...ugh, I’m so happy, pup. My dad’s totally dating Momma McCall. I mean, finally. As if I didn’t see that coming from a mile away. I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. It seems too natural to be worried about it. I’m happy that my dad’s happy. Momma McCall is fucking fantastic.”

            He settles into a little silence.

            When he breaks it, he says, “I shoved Isaac today.” His wolf’s head jerks up. Stiles adds, “I almost had a heart attack. But Isaac just told me he wasn’t going to break. I mean...jesus, pup, I think he almost broke me today. I thought for sure he was going to have some sort of awful flashback, and I’m not entirely sure why he didn’t. Maybe he just trusts me, or maybe he knows the difference between abuse and playfulness, because I really was only playing around. He’s come so far, and I’m so, so glad that you warned me.”

            Stiles buries his face into his wolf’s fur, and his wolf seems to make a noise of contentment. “God, what if you hadn’t made me freak out that day and check on him? He could’ve been...and I...I’m so fucking relieved. He was talking the other day about how he wants to open a safe house. A fucking safe house. That guy is going to go and do amazing things, and you gave him that chance.”

            The wolf nudges Stiles’ face now, and Stiles presses his lips to the wolf’s forehead.

            “Lydia and Jackson are back together. I had a little hand in that. She was all smiles today at lunch. Aiden looked upset, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. Ethan was saying how Aiden was trying not to fall too hard for Lydia; he figured she was still hung up on Jackson, y’know?”

            The wolf gives him a little bark. Stiles nods. “Yeah, I know, they’re crazy. I have no idea how they work so well together.”

            His phone vibrates.

 

ERICA: yo stilinski, I hear you changed your mind about dinner tonight?

STILES: yes ma’am

 

            “Erica’s pretty great. She gave me a big hug today at lunch, and told me she’s happy that I’m around. Apparently, she finds me funny.” Stiles strokes his wolf’s head.

 

ERICA: did you invite Derek?

STILES: yeah, he’s coming, why?

ERICA: good, he kept refusing me but he needs to come tonight!

STILES: well he is

ERICA: Cora told me that you stood up to their mom, good for you getting ballsy

STILES: I didn’t stand up to Talia? That was all Derek!
STILES: we just had dinner

ERICA: ever since their mom’s gotten like this, no one’s come back twice after meeting her
ERICA: and Derek hasn’t had anyone worth fighting for
ERICA: so go you!

 

            “Do you believe this?” Stiles mutters to his wolf. “Apparently no one’s gone back to the Hale house after meeting their mom once? She’s scary, but pfft, she’s not that scary.”

 

STILES: I didn’t know that, but idk, it’s Derek, y’know

ERICA: yeah, and I’m really fucking glad that you get that because I don’t think many people get him

STILES: and thank you for asking Allison and Lyds to be in your wedding

ERICA: I like them a lot
ERICA: actually, I really like our group since we’ve kinda joined forces

STILES: agreed, and it’s all ‘cause you wanted Isaac to have a solid support group

ERICA: he’s doing so well! oh my god, I’m proud of him! when’s his dad’s trial?

STILES: two weeks, but yeah he’s doing well!

ERICA: oh boyd is homeee, see you tonight! love youu!

STILES: love you too!

 

          “Erica and I just said our first ‘I love yous’. Wow. All of this awesome stuff keeps happening. How long do you think that’ll last?”

            His wolf whines, as though he’s worried about the exact same thing.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles forgets his worries at dinner. He sits beside Derek, and everyone chats just as they do at lunch. Recently, Scott, Allison, and Isaac had been joining them again at lunch. Apparently, Isaac is ready to deal with a large group again. In fact, from where Stiles is sitting, it appears as though Isaac is excited to be able to handle the large crowd. He’s positive the diner hates them, but whatever. They’re all happy, excited, and passing around food.

            He’s not one to share food, but when Derek asks him to trade his veggies for Stiles’ coleslaw, Stiles can’t resist. He takes Derek’s carrots and celery. He points a carrot at Derek and says, “You know it’s bad of you to not eat your veggies.”

            “I’ll eat one carrot if you feed it to me,” Derek murmurs softly.

            Stiles’ eyes shine and he puts the end of the carrot on Derek’s lips. It’s silly, it’s childish, it’s not even an attractive kind of food, but it twists something inside Stiles’ gut as Derek bites down on it. Stiles feels his dick get a little too inappropriate in public, and takes the rest of the carrot back.

            “Good enough for me,” he says, but his voice cracks, and sounds only slightly like he’s being strangled. Derek taps his knee against Stiles’, and Stiles looks at him wide-eyed.

            Derek does it again. Stiles does it back, but then when Stiles’ knee hits Derek’s again, he doesn’t move it.

            If that’s their silent way of saying, there’s no way in hell we’re just friends, well, Stiles will take it.

            “Stilinski!” Jackson says from the other end of the table. Stiles leans forward. “Do you think that you could form a play where I get the goals sometime?”

            Stiles smiles. “Sure thing, Jackson.”

            “Thanks, man.”

            “Wow, that was highly civil of you,” Derek comments when Stiles leans back in his chair.

            He laughs. “Yeah, since I helped him get back with Lydia, he’s been nothing but sweet to me. It’s weird, but I’ll take it. You should’ve invited Cora tonight.”

            “I did. She had a date with her girlfriend.”

            “Ahhh,” Stiles says, with an understanding look. Cora had told him about that, in some late-night text messages. Apparently, she had to go out of her way to make sure that she could see her girlfriend, who refused to come back to the house after her mother scared her off.

            “Stiles,” Boyd says after silence falls across the table when dessert arrives. Stiles looks up at him. “Erica told me about how, if her and I get married, Allison and Lydia are going to be bride maids. She said I should unofficially ask you too.”

            Stiles blinks a couple times. “Wait, really? I would...wow, I would love to be in your wedding. But do you think that we’ll still...?”

            He glances around. Isaac throws a cherry at Lydia, who laughs, and tosses it towards Scott. Derek has just immersed himself in a conversation with Danny. Ethan and Erica are clearly teasing one another—he catches part of it, something to do with whose partner is better in bed—and Stiles lets his eyes land back on Boyd. He nods. “Yeah, I will most definitely be there. No questions.”

            Somehow, Stiles feels as though this group is going to be just fine, even if they don’t all seem to fit together perfectly.

            “That’s great man,” Boyd says with a nod. He glances between Derek and Stiles. “I hope Erica’s right.”

            “Me too,” Stiles says, smiling lightly. He shoots a glance at Derek. “Me too.”

            “Arcade anyone?” Ethan asks when the night is almost over.

            “Hell yes!” Scott shouts, earning him a dirty look from the waitress.

            Stiles hums in contentment as they pay their bills—Stiles, of course, covers Derek’s, even though he protests—and head across the street to the arcade.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “What the fuck?” Stiles whispers. He stares at Derek Hale as though he has two heads. He doesn’t have two heads. He has fucking claws. Stiles stares down at Derek’s hands, and watches as his claws retract and become normal fingernails. Stiles doesn’t get a chance to say anything else though, because Derek is running out of the arcade.

            They’d been playing an intense game of air hockey, and Stiles had insulted Derek. Apparently, it’d hit a sore spot, and before Stiles had apologized, Derek had gone ape shit. By ape shit, Stiles means that Derek had grown claws.

            Stiles takes off after him, because you don’t just grow claws and then leave without an explanation.

            He pushes the door open, and yells at Derek’s back. “Get your ass back here right now, Hale.”

            Derek just stops walking, so Stiles storms over to him. He points a finger at Derek. “I know what I saw, Derek. So why don’t you just tell me the fucking truth?”

            Derek’s face crumbles, and all Stiles sees is hurt, confusion, worry, and pain. It’s mostly pain, which makes Stiles lose all of his anger.

            “Stiles, I just...I can’t. I’m not...I...please trust me, when I say that I can’t tell you.” Derek’s pleading and Stiles is losing all hope.

            “Derek, you can’t not tell me now, okay? Haven’t I proven myself a friend?” Stiles realizes he hasn’t done much to actually prove it. It doesn’t matter. He reaches out, puts a hand on Derek’s arm, and holds him there, captive. “Please.”

            “I...Stiles, I want to. God, you have no idea, but I...okay, I can’t. Please, forget this happened. Just...let’s just never, please.”

            Stiles nods. He lets Derek rush off into the night, and doesn’t even consider the fact that it’s weird for Derek to not take his car home. Stiles isn’t sure how long he stands out there, in the empty parking lot. It’s not until Isaac and Scott come out and ask him what’s wrong that Stiles realizes he hasn’t moved.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles decides to let it go. It seems to worry Derek, especially when they see each other again. However, Stiles is desperate to know Derek. He’s spent most of his life fantasizing, watching Derek, wondering what the kid was truly like.

            The more he’s gotten to know Derek, the more he wants to know Derek. He refuses to give up the chance. He silently assures Derek that they will go on as though nothing happened.

            It doesn’t matter if Stiles is keeping a mental checklist of strange things regarding Derek in his mind. Derek will never have to know. He laughs, teases, and talks to Derek as though it hadn’t happened.

            He doesn’t stop his casual touches of Derek either. Whenever he has a chance, his hand rests on Derek’s arm or knee. It doesn’t feel out of place. Every so often, Stiles will catch Derek searching his face as though he’s trying to figure Stiles out. He doesn’t tell him not to bother.

           

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Four months pass, and Stiles consistently finds himself bombarded with text messages when he’s not with anyone these days. It’s not that bad though. He really loves Erica—they’ve grown extremely close—and Cora is fun to be around. Isaac crawls into Stiles’ bed less and less now. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t come in occasionally, so they can talk about their days though. It means that he doesn’t always fall asleep there.

            Isaac’s dad’s trial went through, and he’s officially in prison for the next eleven years. While Stiles, and everyone else, completely believe it should be for life, it sadly isn’t. Stiles had cried himself to sleep that night. Isaac hadn’t.

            In eleven years, Stiles vows to be by Isaac’s side because that’s going to be a really shitty day. Isaac seems to be handling everything though. He has to remind Stiles that he’s not going to break. Stiles isn’t sure about it, but he trusts Isaac will come to him if he needs him.

            When Stiles looks at the date today, his entire body stiffens. It’s not as though he hadn’t known it was coming up. He’s never prepared for it.

            He goes to school, marching right up to Derek Hale’s locker. Derek looks at him, giving him a bright smile. “Hey Stiles. How are you...is everything okay?”

            This is too important for him to mess it up, so Stiles straightens his shoulders and drops his voice. “I won’t be at practice today. Coach knows why. But I need you to skip it too. Meet me in the woods.”

            Derek draws his eyebrows together, tilts his head. “Uh.”

            “Please, I know you’re there every single time I’m in the woods. You won’t be there if you’re at practice, and I need you to come today.” Something flickers in Derek’s eyes. Concern and worry.

            “Stiles, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t been in the woods to see you in months.” Derek closes his locker with a bit more force than necessary, his entire body clearly tight. Stiles doesn’t flinch. “I talked to you, what, like twice?”

            He reaches out, grabs Derek’s arm to stop him. His whisper comes out shaking more than he would like, “It’s the anniversary of my mother’s death.”

            Derek lifts his head to look at Stiles. “I’ll be there.”

            He pulls away from Stiles, glancing over at Erica, Boyd, and Isaac. They’re watching them curiously, and then Derek leaves Stiles.

            Stiles doesn’t bother watching him go. He walks the other way, heading straight out of the school. Coach would recognize the date and make sure that Stiles isn’t punished for skipping class. Stiles knows it.

           

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            About twenty minutes later, Stiles is sitting down by his mother’s gravestone. God, he hates seeing her name and the date on it. He wishes she didn’t have a gravestone yet, that she was just late coming back from picking up milk. If only...

            “Hey mom,” he says settling down. “I have so much to tell you. It’s been a really weird, but awesome, year. I’m sorry that I haven’t been by to visit. It’s been busy. I actually have a huge group of friends. You’d really like them. I mean, you know how much you loved Scott? Isaac’s a little similar to him. His dad was awful to him, Mom, so he lives with Dad and I. Dad’s his legal guardian as of right now, and I suggested to him that we look into officially adopting Isaac, even if he’s going to be eighteen soon.”

            Stiles smiles.

            “I think it’d be nice for him to know that we’re never going anywhere, or maybe I want to know that he’s not going anywhere. I really like him. He’s gotten so strong and it’s been so good to see. You’d definitely like him. Definitely.”

            “Lydia and I have become really good friends. It’s crazy. She even checks up on me. She broke up with Jackson for a bit, and I guess I helped get them back together, but even before that. She’s been insanely good to me, Mom. She’s still gorgeous and scary as ever though.”

            “Jackson and I have found some weird common ground where we don’t hate each other, and we’re actually kind of decent to one another. We’re still kind of rude to each other, like I still call him an asshole, but it’s totally different now. I’m not complaining. Jackson’s a good guy to have on your side, y’know?”

            He picks at some grass beside her grave. She’d be all smiles now, maybe in the kitchen working on a good dinner for them. If she was still here, that is.

            “Scott and Isaac are both madly in love with this girl named Allison. Can you believe that Scott finally got the girl? And guy. They’re in this strange little threesome relationship, but it works well for them. Allison’s great. She’s really supportive and funny. I don’t mind when the three of them are hanging around the house. They’re not all relationshipy around me, so it’s fine.”

            “Oh man, but I wish you were here to meet Erica Reyes. I know you probably remember her from when she was a kid. But damn, Mom. She’s all grown up now. She’s a hell raiser. You would love her. She’s all kinds of badass. She’s a little sassy too, but mainly she has a huge heart. I like that she loves me. It’s almost as if it’s an honour to be loved by her.”

            Stiles can picture his mom meeting Erica now. They would be thick as thieves; he has no doubt in his mind.

            “Danny still hangs around us. I mean, I guess he never actually hung around us on purpose, but whatever. He’s dating this guy, Ethan, who seemed kinda sketchy. I mean, Ethan’s great, but man, I so wouldn’t want to end up in a fight with him. You remember how Danny helped me sort out my feelings about my sexuality? Well, I’m grateful for that still. Now, he teases me and throws fries at my face. Who wastes fries?”

            Stiles leans back on his palms.

            “Boyd likes me. He asked me to be in his hypothetical wedding party. Isn’t that sweet? He’s got a heart of gold, Mom. I’m glad he likes me. Derek told me he does, anyway.”

            The smile is instant.

            “Oh god, Derek. Mom, I don’t even know how to describe how I feel about Derek. You know when I used to come here and tell you about my obsession revolving him? Well, we’re friends now, you know. His mom’s warming up to me. It’s pretty nice. I do dinners there every other Thursday. We’re trying to not push our luck. Talia told me that she really liked you. I don’t see why she wouldn’t. I had no idea that you knew Derek. I’m glad you met him. I’m so glad you met him. Isn’t he wonderful, Mom? He’s grown up to be quite the man. I’m proud to know him.”

            Quieter now, he says, “I’m proud to have fallen in love with him. It’s something that Talia is going to have to deal with, because I’m not going anywhere. It might be a you and Dad kind of love. I don’t really know how it happened. I know it happened somewhere in the middle of getting to know him better, but I think I was half in-love with him the first time he said my name.”

            “He’s different though. Special, I guess. He’s not quite the same as you and I. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it. I hate feeling as if I’m Bella Swan, all awkward, and just fumbling all over, while the sexy love of my life saves my ass all the time. I am not Twilight. Except I totally am.” He groans loudly.

            “Aw, Mom, you would be so happy for me right now. I’m kind of coming together, y’know?” He pauses. “Oh! Oh my god, how could I forget this? Coach...Coach gave me your medal. He said that when you gave it to him, you said you wanted him to have your proudest moment. He gave it to me because he thinks I’d be your...I’d be your proudest moment.”

            The tears fall. He can’t hold them back anymore. “Mom, oh god, Mom. It broke my heart. It also makes me want to be someone you can be very proud of. It’s kind of awesome that I can tell you that I’m officially the Assistant Coach! Jackson calls me Ass Coach, but it’s funny so I don’t mind. Coach Finstock lets me do all the coaching now...he says he wants to let me shine. It’s fu—fucking cool. Oh, sorry, I, uh, well, you know, I swear now. I’m old enough to swear.”

            Stiles wipes his eyes.

            “I get paid to do it too! I meet with Derek on Mondays, just us, and we go over new plays and strategies. At least, that’s what we say we’re doing. I have a little routine now! On Mondays, I do that with Derek. And I’m paid for being the Ass Coach. Every game we win, I get a dollar raise. And we’ve only lost one game.”

            “On Wednesdays, I have dinner at our place with Dad, Isaac, Scott, Melissa, and Derek. It must be weird, me talking about Dad and Melissa. Honestly though, Mom, she’s the only other person who can come anywhere close to being good for Dad like you were. And I know you want him to be happy too.”

            He leans forward, brushing his hands together. He props his elbows on his legs and watches as the breeze makes the flowers in front of her grave flutter.

            “Like I said, every other Thursday is spent at the Hales’. On Fridays, our entire group hangs out. Sometimes we go to Lydia’s, Jackson’s, or Erica’s house. We have games on Saturdays. Sundays are spent in bed, mainly.”

            “This part is going to be the craziest part of what I tell you. I have a wolf friend. Not even kidding, Mom. He’s this big black wolf. He would never hurt me. He’s special. I talk to him a lot. Sometimes I bring him cooked meat, or play fetch. Who knew wolves like fetch? I certainly didn’t. I guess you could say this wolf is different from a normal wolf, and I promise I’ve never been in any danger with him. Trust me. It’s fine. He’s just like a big pet dog that I don’t have to take care of, really.”

            He glances around him. The graveyard is usually empty on this day. He’d only ever run into someone once, with his dad, a few years ago.

            “Mom, I really, really miss you. I’m okay. I’m doing okay. I’m happy, even. But I really miss you. Dad misses you too. He doesn’t talk about you much, but that’s not new. I think it hurts him to think about how you’re no longer with us. I get it. I do. But god, it’s so fucking nice to talk about you, to remember you...I talk about you with Derek. He always listens.”

            Stiles rubs his hands together, nervously.

            “I don’t know how to say this, but Mom, I love him so much and I’m scared that I might lose him. I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose him. I lost you and it drove me crazy. I think part of my obsession with Derek stemmed on handling your loss badly. It’s not why I love him though. There are too many reasons to name. He’s going to come to the woods today, because I told him that...it’s your anniversary. He’ll be there for me.”

            “I guess it’s time that I told him that I accept him, for everything he is, and that I need him to accept me. I need him to trust me. I need him to fight for me, because I need to fight for him. Oh man, Mom, his laugh. His laugh is something that could bring me back from the edge of darkness. I swear, the things I would do just to hear him laugh.”

            “I have it bad.”

            His smile falters a little.

            “But I’m happy, Mom. I’m happy. And I miss you, and I love you, and I hope you’re doing okay.”

            Stiles stands up. He tips the watering can on the freshly planted roses beside her gravestone. He leans forward, and kisses the cold stone.

            “I love you, so much. Never, ever forget that.”

            He runs his fingers over her name and then nods. “I’ll come back one day. With Derek. You two can meet again. You’ll love him. Promise.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Hey,” Stiles says when he gets within earshot of Derek, who’s sitting on the rock. Derek lifts his head. Stiles brings his hand up in a half-wave, before letting it drop again. He doesn’t speak until he sits down beside Derek. “So you’re here.”

            Derek tilts his head. He nods, but doesn’t say anything.

            They sit in silence for a long time. Stiles isn’t sure how much time passes, but it feels as though at least forty-minutes of silence has gone by. It’s not uncomfortable because Stiles knows they’ve done this many times before.

            Derek breaks the silence with a small whisper. “When did you figure it out?”

            Stiles glances at him. “The first time I met you.”

            Derek’s eyebrows come together. He tilts his head to study Stiles. It’s a very familiar gesture, and Stiles leans his shoulder against Derek’s. Wanting to explain, Stiles adds, “As a wolf. I think I knew it was you.”

            Derek nods. “Oh.”

            “Boyd knows.”

            “Yeah,” Derek says. “He’s one too.”

            “Same with Erica. You’re werewolves.”

            “Yep,” Derek simply says.

            “And your family?” Stiles asks, looking down at Derek’s hands. He seems nervous.

            “We were born werewolves,” Derek answers.

            “Anyone else?”

            “Isaac, sort of.”

            “Huh,” Stiles says, surprised. “I actually didn’t see that one coming. He hides it much better than you do.”

            Derek presses his lips together and shrugs. “He’s not yet. He’s been talking to my mom the last couple of months. He wants to be able to…well, he would like to protect his family.”

            “My dad and I?” Stiles asks, eyebrows going up.

            “Yeah, and my mom’s considering it. She’d agreed right after he moved in with you, because he didn’t really have anyone. But she considered when she realized he did have people, and then he kept his distance from me,” Derek explains. He lets out a small breath. “Stiles, my mom’s leaning towards giving him the bite.”

            “Isn’t that quite an adjustment? Isn’t that…dangerous or something?”

            “Well, actually, it’s kind of amazing.” Derek can’t seem to keep the excitement off his face. “It’s obvious that you’ve become Isaac’s anchor. He never told me about the abuse—he never wanted to, because I guess he knew…well, anyway, whatever he couldn’t find in our friendship, he found in yours. My mom and dad think that you’d be enough to keep him anchored down, and it’d be easier for him to adjust to the change.”

            Stiles blinks, and whispers, “Wow, this is actually your life.”

            Derek flushes and drops his head.

            “And the wolf you stopped that one day in the woods?” Stiles asks.

            “My Uncle Peter,” Derek answers, “He’s complicated, to say the least. I’ll tell you all about him sometime, if…if that’s what you want.”

            Stiles nods.

            “You threw me off at how surprised you seemed when I showed up at your house during the storm,” Stiles says.

            Derek raises an eyebrow—it’s a familiar expression both his human and wolf selves wear often. “Don’t you think it would’ve been more suspicious if I had just accepted you were at my house randomly?”

            Stiles considers it and then shrugs. “I guess, but I pretty much already knew.”

            “I wasn’t sure of that. You should’ve ran in the other direction and gone far, far away, Stiles. I thought maybe you didn’t have a clue, maybe you just forgot about all the stupid stuff, and…and now I realize how stupid that was.”

            “Derek,” Stiles states quietly. “You’re not that subtle.”

            He frowns. “But…you always told…”

            “Your wolf stuff that I’d already told you?” Stiles finishes. “Well, I could turn that around and say that you always acted as though I didn’t have a clue it was you.”

            “I couldn’t be that obvious,” Derek mumbles. “If I had already known, or acted as though I knew, something that you only told a wolf, don’t you think you would’ve figured it out sooner?”

“Derek.” He turns to face Derek fully. He reaches out without hesitating and grabs Derek’s hands. “Listen, I know that this is crazy, but I couldn’t give less of a shit that you’re a werewolf. I trust you. I talked to your wolf regularly. Did you ever sense I was afraid of you?”

            “No.”

            “Do you sense any fear in me now?”

            Derek waits a moment. Then he shakes his head. His voice is a mere whisper, “No.”

            Stiles smiles. “Good.”

            They fall back into silence. Stiles doesn’t move his hands from Derek’s though. He shifts a little closer so he’s more comfortable, but then he quietly says, “Derek, you realize you’re not very subtle. I mean, you run faster than humanly possible, and you’re strong. Not to mention you kept warning me away from wolves that you were supposedly scared of but you never even bothered reporting them. Your eyes sometimes change to a yellow-gold colour, you saved me out of nowhere from falling and breaking my neck, and you have freaking claws. Your claws tore through your lacrosse gloves—and you revealed them when were at the arcade.”

            Derek lets out a laugh. He lifts one hand to rub the back of his neck. “Okay, so I guess that’s damning evidence.”

            “That and the fact that your wolf made me feel warm and safe like you do. That’s the most convincing. Besides, your wolf showed up when you stopped showing up. Talk about sketchy,” Stiles says, letting a laugh escape his lips.

            Derek nods. “Okay, yeah, and I guess my sister doesn’t help either.”

            “Super hearing, definitely.” Stiles grins at him. It’s a lazy grin, one free of all cares. “I figured it out. That’s why Kate called your family monsters, why your mom’s freakishly protective of you guys.”

            Derek presses his lips together, nods, and then says, “Yep.”

            “Kate was wrong.”

            Derek looks at him, studies him.

            “If Kate had been right, you would’ve eaten me and torn me to shreds. You were a friend, when I was lonely, and even when I wasn’t. You were a friend who listened without judgement, who comforted me, who cared about me. You were a friend who helped me protect Isaac from being killed. Derek, you are not a monster. Maybe you’re not a hero by most standards, but I’m okay with you being a hero by my standards.” Stiles leans into him a bit. “Don’t go and get a huge ego now.”

            “Is there anything in between? That’s where I’m at now. Stiles...I’m not a hero.”

            “To me, you are.”

            “But...”

            “No buts, Derek Hale. We’ve circled around it long enough. You are not a monster, no matter what Kate Argent says. You saved your family, you know. My dad still tells me the story. Mainly ‘cause I make him, but still. You saved your family.” Stiles lets out a small chuckle. “You’re a freaking hero who’s too modest to admit it. But Derek, let me tell you one thing, alright?”

            “Alright,” Derek whispers.

            “I love you just the same.”

            Stiles watches as Derek’s breath catches. He doesn’t know who does it, but one of them leans in, or maybe both of them do. They don’t kiss just yet. Stiles repeats the words. “I love you just the same.”

            “Stiles…”

            “Just the same,” he repeats quietly.

            Derek Hale’s lips are on his before he can say another word. Stiles leans into the kiss, freeing his hands from Derek’s to cup his face. To touch his chest. To touch anywhere, really. He moves with Derek’s lead, and finds himself wanting more. Desperately. Today is not the day. Right now is not the time. He pulls apart.

            “Stiles, I’m so sorry. Our first kiss shouldn’t have been today. Not on the anniversary of your mom’s death.”

            Stiles smiles. “I told my mom I was going to get the guy today. I’m glad it’s today. I hate to break my promises.”

            Derek smiles. “You talked to your mom about me?”

            “Duh,” Stiles whispers. His eyes float down to Derek’s lips again. He looks up at Derek to say, “I’ve really, really liked getting to know you.”

            “Same. You drive me fucking crazy, you know. All up and down the wall. Some nights I can’t sleep until I’ve gotten off to the thought of you four times.” Derek leans forward, pressing his lips softly against Stiles’. He pulls back. “I...Stiles. I’ve wanted this for so long.”

            “I’ve wanted it longer.”

            “Bull shit,” Derek whispers. “I had to quit the swimming team because I couldn’t handle you. We were so young, but my wolf just wanted you so badly. My mom forced me to quit.”

            Stiles laughs. “Wow. Okay, wow dude.”

            “I’ve yelled at my mom a lot over the years. I finally get to prove her wrong. You are different. If you break my heart, well, I should tell you now. It won’t be like when Kate hurt me or Jennifer. You will not just break my heart, but you will crush my soul. I wouldn’t know how to live without you, Stiles. Are you prepared for that?”

            “We’re a bit young,” Stiles murmurs. “But I think I’m like a wolf with the whole mate for life thing.”

            “Go big or go home.”

            Stiles laughs. “Yeah, that’s romantic, Derek.”

            He leans into Stiles and whispers, “I have been waiting to tell you that I can’t imagine my life without you. I will follow you anywhere, and everywhere. But Stiles, there are some things you need to know about wolves. We crave touch, constantly, and we’re protective and possessive. Going to college will be extremely difficult for me if we’re in a relationship and I’ll have to see you at least every weekend.”

            “Good thing you’re only planning on being an hour away, huh?” Stiles murmurs. “Derek, I don’t care about all that stuff. You sound like you’re trying to warn me off, but actually, it sounds really, really good to me right now.”

            “You’ll be part of my family’s pack,” Derek rushes to get out.

            “Okay. We have to break the news to your mom though. I already told mine.”

            Derek nods. “And Scott, and Allison, and Lydia...Jackson, they cannot know I’m a werewolf, Stiles.”

            Stiles snorts. “Derek, they’ll find out eventually, because I figured it out months ago. If some of them haven’t figured it out already, they will. They’re not the kind of people who would abandon you, leave, or think you’re monsters, okay. And it might be nice if you explain to Allison why her sister is locked up.”

            Derek’s closes his eyes. “I wanted to, you know.”

            “Then you will. But not today.”

            “There are rules,” Derek whispers. “That’s why I couldn’t tell you. We have strict rules. My mom, she let me break the rules for Kate...and look how that turned out. We were almost murdered.”

            “I’m not going to—”

            “My mom almost lost our family. The rules...it’s not something she takes lightly,” Derek warns him.

            “I get it. I do. But I’ve known for a while now, and do you see me freaking out?”

            “No.”

            “I didn’t freak out much, y’know. I sorted through it all, and then accepted it.” Stiles leans into Derek. “Nothing changed for me.”

            “Stiles...I...you’re going to have to...”

            “Explain that to your mother? I know.” Stiles looks at Derek carefully. “Well, shall we go tell your mother? Is she home?”

            Derek nods. “Yeah, she’s home.”

            “Alright. C’mon, wolfie, let’s get to it. I want her to know. Sooner she knows, sooner she can accept that I’m not going anywhere,” Stiles tells him. He stands up, and Derek follows. Stiles leans in, kissing him lightly. “I am such a Bella, it’s fucking ridiculous.”

            “Uh, Twilight?” Derek asks.

            “Bingo. I swore I’d never do what she did. Just accept this supernatural world, but damn, Derek. I am not running, because not a single part of me is telling me that I’m secretly in some kind of danger.” Derek grabs Stiles’ hand as he speaks. They walk towards his house. Stiles says, “Are you surprised that I knew?”

            Derek shakes his head. “I’m surprised you talked about me to my wolf.”

            Stiles laughs. “Maybe it’s because I wanted you to know that I cared, that I was into you, and that was my way of avoiding any communication issues.”

            “Smooth, Stilinski.”

            “Please, you liked having the insider’s scoop on my thoughts.”

            “Yeah, I did.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “He knows,” Talia says flatly. She glares at Stiles, a deep frown on her face.

            “I do.” Stiles straightens his shoulders. He is not afraid of Talia Hale.

            “And?” she asks.

            Stiles catches it. Barely, but it’s there. Talia is holding her breath, because she’s hoping that Stiles isn’t going to call them monsters. She’s hoping that Stiles is going to accept her son. She likes Stiles enough to want Derek to be happy. He knows it. He gives her his best grin. “And I love him just the same.”

            Talia lets out her breath. She smiles. “Derek didn’t tell you, did he?”

            Stiles shakes his head. “He didn’t have to. I figured it out. Don’t punish him for it. I’m not going anywhere.”

            “You’re not?” Talia asks.

            “No. I am not. Listen, he’s told me what happened with Kate—that you let him break the rule of not telling humans. She turned out to be a crazy almost-murderer. However, there are a few major differences between her and I.” Stiles squares his shoulders.

            She raises an eyebrow. Funny, he can suddenly see where Derek gets his expressions from. “And they are?”

            “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of Derek, of you, of your family. I’m not. I would’ve been dead by now if there was a reason to be afraid. Or at least injured in some way. And I love your son. I love him.”

            “Stiles—” Talia starts.

            He gets a rush of bravery, lets go of Derek’s hand, and steps forward. He keeps his eyes on hers. “No, Mrs. Hale. You cannot keep me from seeing your son. Not anymore, okay? You know you like me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t come to dinner with your family on Thursdays. I’ll ask Peter to back me up. Do you want to deal with him more than you have to?”

            Her eyebrows come together. “Stiles—”

            “No. You’re not taking Derek away from me. I don’t care that you’re an Alpha. I don’t care that you guys can change into actual wolves. You know what I care about? I care about your son. I care about him so much. Whatever it takes, Mrs. Hale. I’m in. I am all in. You’re not going to get rid of me so fast. I know you have crazy senses, so there’s no point in lying to you. So listen to me carefully. I’m standing here and I’m asking you, do you honestly believe I wish harm onto your son or your family?”

            Talia blinks a couple times, and glances over Stiles’ shoulder to look at her son. Quietly, she says, “Stiles, are you going to let me speak now?”

            “Maybe,” Stiles answers, nerves starting to build up. He paces and adds, “Derek told me on the way over that you’d have concerns about how I might want to stray from him, experience other people, humans. But you have to understand something. It’s always been Derek. It’s always been your son.”

            Stiles stops pacing to turn to Derek. He wears a small smile and he says, “It’s always been you.”

            Derek’s beaming at him. He steps forward to slip his hand back into Stiles’.

            Talia nods, but Stiles sees the hint of a smile. “Stiles Stilinski, the more I get to know you, the more I realize that you’re just what this family needs.”

            “Am I?” he asks, surprised.

            “He is, isn’t he?” Cora says, leaning against the doorframe to the room. “I figured he knew when he dropped that dog-joke a few weeks ago. Clearly, he’s okay with us. And I, for one, am glad. I’m sick of Derek pining over Stiles.”

            “Now I don’t have to pine,” Derek says proudly.

            “Perfect,” Cora says, but she’s smiling. She holds a bun in her hand, and rips off a piece to eat.

            “Stiles, you are the first human in many, many years to be able to stand up to an alpha, that I’ve heard of, anyway. I am proud that you will be dating my son. There will still be ground rules though.”

            “Moooom,” Derek groans.

            Cora snorts.

            Stiles says, “Fire away. I’ll do whatever it takes to be accepted into Derek’s family.”

            Talia nods with acceptance, and if Stiles isn’t mistaken, a little pride. Cora asks, from behind them, “Mom, does this mean I can date now?”

            “Maybe,” she says. Talia turns to Cora. “Or you could just introduce me to your girlfriend at dinner.”

            Cora blushes.

            “Clearly you’re not a very good werewolf if your mom already knows,” Stiles comments.

            The answer he gets is the rest of her bun tossed in his face. He laughs.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “You’re a werewolf.” This comes from Aiden, who reacts first to the news. “So you turn into a wolf and stuff?

            Derek nods. Stiles squeezes his hand for support.

            “Huh,” Ethan says, with a nod. “Cool.”

            “Did Stiles know before you started dating?” Scott demands, as he stands up from his seat, ready to protect Stiles. Stiles leans into Derek, unconcerned.

            “Yes, I knew,” Stiles answers.

            “And you love him?” Lydia asks from her seat on Jackson’s lap.

            Stiles nods. “Just the same.”

            It’s become their catchphrase now. Not that Stiles minds whatsoever. He thinks they’re extremely cute and whenever Derek says it, his eyes sparkles. Stiles could stare at him with a dumb smile on his face for years and never get tired of looking at him.

            “And you feel 100% safe around him?” This question comes from Isaac. Stiles remembers how Isaac’s spent most of his life in fear, and is touched that Isaac doesn’t want him to feel that way.

            Stiles slips his hand into Derek’s. “Yes.”

            “Are you happy?” Allison asks.

            “Yes.”

            “And Derek, are you happy?” Erica asks, with amusement.

            “Obviously.” Derek’s eyebrows come together as if to ask her, how dare you question it?

            “Then I don’t have a problem with it,” Scott says with a shrug. He sits back down, relaxed again. “Does anyone else?”

            No one says anything. Danny shrugs and then eyes Ethan carefully. Stiles snorts because he’s probably considering whether his boyfriend’s a werewolf too. It is the day for crazy revelations.

Erica breaks the silence by saying, “I should probably let you know that Boyd and I are werewolves too.”

            “And Talia said she’d give me the bite next month,” Isaac says, with a hint of a grin.

            Scott waves a hand in the air. “You know, some stuff suddenly makes sense now.”

            “We’ve talked about it,” Allison says, a bright smile on her face. “We didn’t guess werewolf, but we were thinking there was something up with you guys.”

            Isaac laughs. He leans in towards Stiles and Derek, and in a stage whisper, he says, “They knew nothing.”

            “Did you think they were on steroids?” Stiles asks curiously.

            “I totally suggested that!” Scott says, with a grin. He nods earnestly at Allison, who smiles back at him.

            “Stiles came to me with that theory. I told him he was an idiot,” Lydia announces. Stiles laughs because he remembers it a little differently. She didn’t quite use the word idiot.

            Scott excitedly says to Stiles, “I told you that the New and Improved Scott McCall plan would work out in everyone’s favour, dude.”

            He gives him a thumbs-up.

            “So you guys are okay with this news?” Stiles asks.

            Allison nods, and quietly says to Derek, “Sorry about my sister though.”

            Derek shrugs. “She wasn’t exactly wrong.”

            Allison presses her lips together, and she tilts her head to look at Derek carefully. No one speaks before she says, “No, Derek. She was. Not once have you threatened anyone, and I believe that you genuinely care for Stiles. I think my sister was wrong in saying you’re monsters. If you were, you wouldn’t be here, looking as though this is the most painful thing you’ve ever done.”

            Lydia nods. “I agree with that. Relax.”

            Derek leans into Stiles a bit more. “Th…thank you both.”

            “Would your mom consider giving some of us ‘the bite’?” Aiden asks, sounding hopeful.

            Derek winces and then says, “I don’t know. We could talk to her. But it’s not all roses and—”

            Stiles cuts him off by saying, “We can discuss that another time. Let’s just adjust to one thing at a time, okay?”

            Derek seems relieved.

            Jackson stands up, stretches, and then says, “Congrats on finally getting laid, Stilinski. It took you long enough.”

            “Thanks, Jackson.” Stiles looks up at Derek and shakes his head. Friends like theirs don’t come around every day. He’s grateful for that. He wants to keep them all to himself.

            “And I will become a werewolf,” Jackson informs him. “That shit is too cool.”

            “Uh—” Derek starts.

            “Just leave it for now,” Stiles whispers.

            “Can I see your claws?” Lydia asks Erica. Stiles smiles. Yeah, they’re going to be just fine.

            “I can’t believe how well they reacted,” Stiles whispers into Derek’s ear.

            “I can. They’re your friends. They’re just as crazy as you are.”

            “Ours,” Stiles murmurs, his lips close to Derek’s. “They’re our friends.”

           

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Stiles?” Erica says a few days later. He turns to look at her, and she inhales deeply before she continues. “I wanted to say thank you. Our friendship means a lot to me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. When Derek texted me saying you knew…I…”

            He shoves his book into his locker before he wraps his arms around her. Quietly, he reassures her, “You wouldn’t lose me, Erica. You’ll never lose me. We’re pack now.”

            She nods her head against his, but doesn’t let go immediately. “Boyd really likes you too.”

            “I love Boyd. He’s awesome,” Stiles tells her. He squeezes her tightly and she clings to him. “I love you too. And I guess I owe you and Cora a thank you, for playing matchmakers.”

            Erica laughs and pulls away now. She shrugs. “We do what we can. Talia’s relaxed a lot, I noticed. Have you met Cora’s girlfriend yet?”

            “No, we’re doing a double date on Friday. You and Boyd should join us,” Stiles says, smiling. He shuts his locker door to walk with her towards hers. “Cora hasn’t told her girlfriend yet.”

            “I know,” Erica says, nodding. “Boyd and I will totally crash your date though. Can we not do Joe’s Pizza?”

            “No, we’re doing Mama’s Bakery, actually. Just getting a coffee and dessert,” Stiles says.

            “I heard that they finally had an opening and Derek got an interview!” Erica says, smiling brightly.

            “He did. He’s nervous; it’s so cute. He’s a werewolf but an interview is freaking him out,” Stiles says, laughing. He leans against the locker beside Erica’s while she opens it. “I bet he’ll get it. You’ve tasted his goods, right?”

            Erica smirks. “We both know youve tasted his goods.”

            “Damn straight, I have!”

            Erica holds her palm out and he high-fives her. She laughs, shakes her head in amusement, and says, “He deserves that job.”

            “He does,” Stiles agrees. “You know we were talking the other day about how we want to be like you and Boyd.”

            “You do?” Erica flashes him a confident grin. “Of course, you do. That’s nice, Stilinski.”

            “You two are perfect for one another,” Stiles assures her. “Derek and I want to be like that.”

            “I think you couldn’t find two more deserving idiots to be in love with each other if you searched the whole damn world for centuries,” Erica says. Her eyes soften. “C’mon, our boyfriends are probably waiting to drive us home.”

            “Fuck that, I picked Derek up today.”

            Erica laughs. “He must hate your Jeep; he can hear every sound of all the barely functioning parts.”

            “I didn’t think of that,” Stiles says. He snorts. “What an idiot. He probably thinks I’ll be offended if he says he hates my baby.”

            “He definitely loves you, because no wolf ears should have to deal with that torture,” Erica tells him. She bumps his shoulders. “I’m happy for you.”

            Stiles tosses an arm around her. “I’m happy for all of us.”

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            “Glad to see you two shits finally got your acts together,” Coach shouts when Derek and Stiles walk out onto the field holding hands a few days later.

            “Thanks Coach,” Stiles says with a bright grin.

            “No fooling around in the locker room, or I’ll stick one of you in with the girls!” Coach shouts back.

            “You can’t do that!” Stiles says, but he’s laughing and leaning into his boyfriend.

 

♚♞♚♞♚♞

 

            Stiles takes a deep breath, and then gives the world a small smile. It’s ridiculous that he’s nervous, but he is. He squeezes Derek’s hand tightly.

            “Hey, Mom. I want to reintroduce you to Derek Hale. My boyfriend.”

            “It’s nice to meet you again, Mrs. Stilinski.”

            “Claudia,” Stiles whispers. “My mom was never big on formalities.”

            Derek’s lips curl upward. “Claudia. It’s nice to meet you again, Claudia.”

            Stiles leans into Derek. “Is this morbid?”

            “It doesn’t matter,” Derek whispers, “because it’s an honour, it’s important to you, and I love you just the same.”

            “Just the same,” Stiles whispers back. Then he turns to his mom. “You’re going to really like the story Derek and I have to tell you, Mom. You know my wolf friend I told you about? Well, it turns out Derek’s a werewolf who just got hired at Mama’s Bakery and...”