Twelve hours ago, Stiles was having sex with hot but really lazy werewolves, and that was a totally normal start to the day. Look, he’ll be the first to admit that the scale of normality for his life usually starts at ‘X-Files-size conspiracy theory’ and goes up from there, but the sex? Sex is a healthy component of a human life, and hell if he’s going to let a bunch of dead celibate scholars throw shade on something that they decided was so much less important than almost selling out Earth to multiple waves of cosmic horror aliens.
Anyway. Sex in the morning happens, and it’s great…except the lazy thing, that can be a little annoying. Just a little. “I mean, sure, it’s cool that I can stretch you no-handed the first couple hundred times, and it avoids a lot of lube stains on the sheets,” Stiles mutters into Peter’s hair. “But sometimes I—just—feel—kind of—like my dick’s not the appendage here—”
Peter moans, his sweat-shined shoulders working up and down as he abruptly pushes back against the headboard. The globes of his ass press so hard against Stiles’ groin that Stiles nearly loses his grip on Peter’s hips, despite the lack of lube greasing his fingers. And then Peter keeps pressing, driving himself onto Stiles’ cock, the velvet grip of his ass stroking all the nerves along its length like Peter’s developing his own no-hands muscular developments, and—okay, even Stiles has to shut off his brain sometimes, if he doesn’t want to weird himself out of the mood.
And he is in the mood, and then some. He’s just not getting that great a bracing posture against the bed, and his many talents do not include werewolf strength, and while Peter is holding back—they are not buying another bed, damn it, the IKEA delivery guys are starting to recognize them—he’s still pumping hard enough to put them in danger of going over the edge. Stiles bites down on a swear, digging in with his toes, and for a second he thinks he’s got it.
But then Peter has to arch his head back, curls sweated out enough that they swing stinging beads of sweat into Stiles’ face, and move on Stiles’ cock like that, and Stiles loses focus. Too late he pushes his hand up to drag at Peter’s belly, but he’s too off-balance and can’t scratch enough to trigger that instant boneless wobble Peter does. His foot and left shin go off the bed and—
“Watch it, would you,” comes a muffled grunt, and then a hand slaps against Stiles’ thigh, shoving him back onto Peter.
Stiles yelps ungracefully, thumps an elbow against Peter’s ribs, and ends up scrabbling roughly at Peter’s belly just as Peter twists around to growl at Derek. So Peter doesn’t actually finish that growl, and when he’s done shuddering, Stiles has enough balance to pull back and fuck into him again, and they both decide they’d rather finish that up first.
It’s not like they have to worry about Derek going anywhere, after all. In fact, after Stiles and Peter have caught their breath, Derek is still lying in the same spot. He hasn’t even moved his head, so it’s right under Stiles’ knee when Stiles tries to pull out of Peter.
“Shit sorry oh shit I’m sorry,” Stiles hisses, going from yanking his leg away to grabbing Peter around the waist as Peter bucks under him. He thinks very hard about not doing anything in the genital region. “Oops. Um, I mean—”
“Not necessary,” Peter gasps. He’s very, very still for a second, and then he breathes out, slow and long, and goes slack against the bed. He twitches a little around Stiles, then lets out a thoughtful hum. “The apology, I mean. As for the accusation, I think you might be misunderstanding things.”
Stiles lets out a silent huff of relief. Then he takes another look at his boyfriend, and narrows his eyes. “Like…just because I’m not actively participating doesn’t mean I’m just lying there and enjoying all the sex, because I’m actually lying in wait to deploy my counter-attack at the right time?”
Derek makes a noise that Stiles would swear is a snicker, except when Peter suddenly shoots out his hand and bats the blanket off his face, he’s got his usual default scowl on. For the whole second it takes for him to fluff the blanket back over himself.
Peter looks incredulous, then resigned. And then he rolls his eyes and twists around to look at Stiles. Which makes Stiles slip out of him a little, and they both stop and think about that. Then, with a sigh to show how much of a sacrifice this is, Peter pulls himself the rest of the way off and flops over so they’re facing each other. “That’s a very antagonistic view of sex, Stiles. Have you been reading the Derby Diaries again?”
“What—excuse me, are you actually—okay, first of all, like Asenath isn’t the immediate go-to for any undergrad wanting to point out how gender bias has observable detrimental effects on your survival prospects in Cth—” Stiles sputters.
And then Peter kisses him, and rolls them over, and gets a hand down to play with Stiles’ still-sensitive cock, so Stiles bites Peter’s lip. Which was pretty much what Peter was going for, judging from the way he makes low, throaty approving noises and straddles Stiles’ thigh.
“You’re not proving me wrong,” Stiles can’t help muttering.
“Mmm, no, but I’m taking the hint, am I not?” Peter says, licking and sucking his way along the top of Stiles’ shoulder. When he gets to where it starts to flush into Stiles’ neck, he pauses and presses his nose down and sucks in a deep breath. Then resumes what he was doing, only he’s grinning so widely that Stiles can feel the outline of his mouth.
Werewolves and their scent-based kinks. Stiles would roll his eyes, but Peter’s worked far enough up that he has to push onto his knees and the warmth floating off his swaying belly is an invite Stiles can never pass up. Or the way that Peter always shivers when Stiles’ fingers first touch his abs, shivers and rubs into the touch, like a couple more passes and Stiles might be able to pin him just there, just with fingertips around his bellybutton.
“Okay, so not a misunderstanding,” Stiles says. “But I guess if you’re gonna make up for it like this, I can—”
Peter’s phone rings on the nightstand. A twitch of annoyance goes over Peter’s face, and then he sets his shoulders and dips towards Stiles…and his phone rings again.
“Turn it off,” Derek grumbles, blankets tucking more firmly around the lump Stiles assumes is his head.
Derek is not a morning person, and after multiple field tests and one Saturday coding, compiling, and analyzing the data, Stiles has determined that it really isn’t personal. He’s like that no matter what, with everyone, and nothing gets him over it. Not sex, not revenge, not survival (not even breakfast pastries, for the sweet tooth Derek keeps trying to glare people into not noticing). He just hates mornings that much. He doesn’t get violent about it or anything, he just is never in a good mood before ten.
In a weird way, Stiles has to respect that kind of absolutely-no-exceptions attitude. He thinks Peter actually doesn’t mind it too much either, given how Peter never really bothers to do anything about it besides a muttered comment about wasted efforts and being unappreciated (which for Peter is totally phoning it in). True to form, Peter snorts something about Derek owing him for when Derek was a baby and worms over Stiles to reach for his phone. He starts to thumb it off, then stops.
“Oh, he finally called you back?” Stiles says, seeing how Peter’s expression turns from irritated to irritated mixed with chagrin.
Peter glances back, grimaces, and then nods as he answers the call. The mood’s more or less gone anyway, so Stiles shrugs and pushes himself up by the other man to get his own phone and check the time. He does smile as Peter drops a kiss on the side of his jaw, a little too long and hard to just be apologizing, and then absently skates his hand over Peter’s thigh as he gets off the bed.
It’s ten minutes later than he probably should have gotten up, seeing as he’s got to go into San Francisco today and nothing tempts him to break out the malicious use of esoteric non-Euclidean geometry more than San Francisco traffic (if it just was easier to make sure bystanders didn’t accidentally get teleported to Azathoth’s court, Stiles often thinks). But if he just grabs breakfast there instead, he should be able to still make it.
“Yes, I suppose we can speak now,” Peter says grudgingly into the phone. He swings his legs over the side of the bed and then starts to poke around on the nightstand for something. When Stiles hands him his tablet, already unlocked, he smiles a thank-you without taking a break in negotiating terms with his rare-books supplier.
Peter’s been after that volume of Baring-Gould’s private research notes for a couple months now, so Stiles leaves him to it and pops into the shower first. When he comes out, Peter’s still going, which makes Stiles hesitate for a moment, but he doesn’t see any fangs or glowy eyes so it doesn’t look like things are going south.
I've been poking around another installment of this series, but much as I love grumpy morning Derek, I think the running jokes about Stiles' dick are funnier with less information provided. So this scene feels a little awkward to me, kind of veiling things when it should be throwing back the metaphorical sheets.
Chapter 2: Derek/Stiles - Derek Hates Mornings. And Coffeemakers.
The plan had been for Stiles to blitz his morning routine and hit the road early, but he isn’t leaving the house without some kind of caffeine. That would be just asking for a Code Octopus (isolated Deep One hostile action or equivalent) in the middle of rush hour, with the number of Aklo chants Stiles can toss out off the top of his head. And whenever he starts up the coffeemaker, Derek magically appears. Naked. Very naked.
Okay, Stiles is dating him now, but look. Years of studying Cthulhic entities does not make you too cynical for that kind of sight, and it’s a great thing. If terrible for Stiles remembering how to program the coffeemaker without accidentally switching to the extraterrestrial-brews menu he hacked into it.
“Fine,” Derek mutters, ducking back into the bedroom. He emerges a couple seconds later with some pants on. “I’m not distracting now, so can you not turn it yellow?”
Stiles has to think for a second, because he’s a caffeine addict, not suicidal, and yellow is actually a consistent toxin color across multiple non-Earth ecosystems. “Do you mean the turmeric latte mix Peter wanted to try last week? It was supposed to be yellow, that’s the whole point of the turmeric.”
Derek makes a face and starts poking in the fridge. He takes out some milk, then puts it back and takes out a leftover sandwich instead. Then he takes the milk back out, and gets a bowl for it. “Okay, well, I didn’t know with that cult stuff you and Peter were talking about back then.”
“You mean the breach of Miskatonic’s NDA that had my dad calling in Yellow Sign followers on that rogue transfer student?” Stiles says, again needing a second, and it’s not just because he’s pre-coffee. Sometimes Derek is so abstract about communicating that Stiles thinks about trying out linguistic theories on him, to see if the lapses are due to non-human mental structures. “Uh, look, I kind of talked about this before, but I put all these wards on the coffeemaker because I don’t want anybody messing with anybody’s mind via our morning cuppa.”
“No, I know, you said,” Derek mutters, shaking out his cereal.
He looks a little furtive, shoulders hunching slightly. He can be protective of breakfast, and having seen how Laura and Cora operate in the morning, Stiles can understand that (if not Derek’s inexplicable ability to generate one hell of a cut body out of sugar- and artificial-coloring-laden mini corn balls). But neither Peter nor Stiles likes cereal, so Derek shouldn’t be feeling threatened here.
Then again, Derek seems to think the coffeemaker is going to leap off the counter any second, given the way he shifts every single time Stiles moves out from between it and him and—oh. Stiles pauses halfway through getting mugs out of the cupboard, then sighs. He really kind of needs coffee for this, but on the other hand, he and Derek are in a relationship, and people in relationships make accommodations for each other. That’s the theory, anyway.
“I could go over how the wards work again,” Stiles offers.
Bingo. Derek grimaces into his bowl and almost makes Stiles miss the flush whisking over those very fine cheekbones. “I have videos for all of them. Unless you put on a new one—”
“No, I didn’t, I just…you can’t just wait around for me or Peter to start it up all the time, Derek. What happens when we’re both out and you want coffee?” Stiles says, thinking he’s just going to ease into the root issue here and forgetting to disengage his brain from his mouth.
“Starbucks two blocks over,” Derek immediately says.
Stiles looks at him. Derek finishes chewing his current spoonful of cereal and then gives Stiles an odd look back, as if he would honestly give Stiles the same answer whether or not he has coffee in him. The man is a lot more sarcastic than he lets on, and the more Stiles gets to see it, the more he appreciates it, but Derek sarcasm is usually less one-liner-y than Peter sarcasm. And also, when Stiles draws a breath, Derek’s shoulders twitch towards hunching again.
Learning werewolf body language is still a work in progress, partly because Stiles’ dad refuses to let him play with the enhanced-senses implants that the Miskatonic-MIT joint venture is working on, but Stiles is pretty sure that means that under the morning grump, Derek’s still embarrassed at being too freaked out by the coffeemaker to try to use it himself. Even though Stiles spent a lot of time letting Derek film him putting it through its paces to put together a top-line help video, and it’s not even really that complicated, as far as the engineering or the magic goes—Peter wanted a fancier one, but agreed to wait till Derek got used to this one.
“I know how it works,” Derek abruptly says, just as Stiles is swallowing down his irritation and resigning himself to working on simplifying the spells even more. He pokes around in his cereal. “We made a video, I didn’t forget about it. It just is a lot of steps and it takes me a lot longer than either of you, and I just…I’m not that great at waiting in the morning.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” Stiles says. Not meanly, he thinks; Derek’s little confession actually just about wiped out any frustration he has towards the other man.
Just in case, since yeah, known miscommunication issues, he gives Derek the first cup out of the machine. Derek accepts the mug with a grunted thanks and then watches with sort of an unnerving intensity as Stiles pours out another cup, then resets the machine with Peter’s preferred settings.
“I was going to practice. This shoot just has me coming in so late, but after it’s over, I’ll look at the videos again,” Derek offers.
Stiles has at least figured out at this point that Derek doesn’t respond in predictable ways to classic Pavlovian reward systems (you have to pretend the positive feedback isn’t on purpose or else Derek immediately thinks somebody’s trying to lure him into a fake relationship, which, Stiles really needs to settle on one post-death curse for that ex of Derek’s but he knows so many good ones), so he just nods and sips his coffee. “This is the last weekend, right?”
“Yeah. Should have more free time for a while after it’s done,” Derek says, with genuine relief in his voice. He signed up for the shoot before Miskatonic decided to fully bankroll their how-to videos, and for some reason (that “sense of honor” the McCalls brainwashed into him, because God knows he didn’t get it from his family, is how Peter puts it) he still wanted to finish out the contract. “One more zombie crowd scene and then I can stop going to that dump.”
“How’s the nose holding up?” Stiles asks, because when Derek says dump, he means it literally, and not because of his unique Derek way of describing the world. Low-budget horror films might be great for explaining away your great nocturnal eyesight and total lack of fear of the dark, but they’re less friendly towards the nasally-gifted.
Derek makes a face. “Honestly? Sometimes I think about cutting it off, and then sticking it back on when we wrap.”
“Oh, wait, I think that’s a bad—well, look, first, Scott’s mom sent me a graph of waiting times on body parts before werewolf healing’s not gonna do its thing any more, and—”
“I’m kidding,” Derek says. He pauses, dips up more cereal, and eyes Stiles over his spoon. “Kind of. You know that cleaning stuff you made, the one for the—the lich mold? The…it was kind of puke-colored, but had…this red swirl if you tilted it…”
“Oh! Oh, yeah. I know what you mean,” Stiles says, a little hurried. Not because it took him so long to work out what Derek meant so much as, it sounds like Derek might be about to ask him something about Miskatonic-related stuff in a non-pejorative way, and those are moments he wants to cultivate as carefully as a pseudo-Cthulhic Nemeton sapling that’s going to be the centerpiece of his dissertation. “Did that work for you?”
“Yeah. I could use a couple more bottles,” Derek says. He shifts a little, possibly uncomfortably, before diverting his feels and putting a ton of intensity into slurping that leftover milk. Then he mumbles the rest into the hand he’s using to wipe off his mouth. “Worked better than anything else. Actually don’t think I have to burn my clothes this time.”
Nothing makes Stiles happier than dispensing homebrewed University solutions to a receptive audience, and he cheerfully retrieves another bottle of the cleaner out from under the sink for Derek. “Well, here, I don’t think Peter or I are planning to go hang with the ghouls this week, so you can just take this, and this weekend I’ll make some more and…um…so…you need more? Like how much?”
On the other hand, even practical Xenochemistry applications can’t distract Stiles from cold hard reality, which is that the bottle in his hand is quart-sized and that’s enough cleaner to do a whole pack for a month of medium-size lich hole exterminations. And he’s pretty sure he gave Derek a bottle that was the same size, if not bigger.
“A couple bottles,” Derek says. He seems to catch onto something in Stiles’ face, because he’s looking warily back. “I…might have shared it around the crew, and they might have offered me fifty dollars if I brought back more.”
“That’s totally underpricing it, it’s at least fifty for the base components,” Stiles says without thinking. He’s only had a quarter of his coffee, okay?
“I know, I remember your shopping list. I told them fifty each, and there’s seven of them,” Derek says matter-of-factly. “That’d work out to covering materials costs plus give you ten hourly, which isn’t a lot but this isn’t that high-budget of a production.”
Stiles blinks. “No crew discount?”
“They’re lucky I even offered, with the reshoot shit they’ve been pulling. Just because it’s a nonunion shoot doesn’t mean we have to be assholes,” Derek snorts. Then he pushes his bowl aside and drinks some coffee. Starts off strong and then slows down, lowering the cup little by little, till he finally takes it away. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. I mean, that all sounds like a good compromise to me. Expenses covered, a little extra for your trouble, and the knowledge that even your laundry’s better than them,” Stiles’ mouth says, before he catches himself. “Um, look, forget the last couple seconds, okay? I mean sure, I have to make this in five-gallon batches anyway. So like three bott—”
Derek rolls his eyes, and does not look like he’s going to retreat into grunt-language. If anything, he looks amused. “We’re cool, Stiles. I think this would be less awkward if you stopped making a big deal out of it.”
“Well, I—I’m getting mixed reviews here, and I’m trying all the moves I’ve got,” Stiles says, a little exasperated now. He gets that Derek has a lot of stuff to work through, and they’ve made a lot of progress since their trip to the Zamacoma Institute, but honestly, does the effort have to show so much?
“Then maybe you should finish that, so you can come up with something besides eldritch horror trivia and screwing Peter,” Derek suggests, with a chin-jerk at Stiles’ coffee. “I’m just saying it’s not a lot of moves, and I should know.”
Stiles opens his mouth. Then closes it. Then deliberately doesn’t drink more coffee, and instead sets the mug down on the counter so he can deliver a proper baleful glare without any obstructions. “Why do you have to be so sarcastic and then round it off by nailing yourself before I can even, and it’s perfect and my love of witty repartee would be all over it if you weren’t so annoying?”
This is where Peter would smile that creamy smile of his, like a silent suggestion to lick it off, and respond with some observation about Stiles’ words versus Stiles’ hormones, with a healthy dose of pop-culture or literary in-jokes. However, this being Derek and not Peter, Derek looks a little taken aback, like under that leather-coated snarl is a sullen teenager who still hasn’t quite learned the difference between rebellion and cynicism. And then Derek’s expression starts to close down, and Stiles starts kicking himself because Derek is actually right and he should just drink his coffee and let his mouth-brain filter power up properly.
“I guess because I finished mine,” Derek says. Mutters, actually, his eyes dropping like he’s going to stop looking at Stiles. But they never quite make it there, and he’s still keeping a lookout when he shrugs. “Look, I’m not a morning person.”
“Oh, yeah, I know,” Stiles can’t help saying. He grimaces again, then gives himself a shake. “Okay, never mind, we all have our little weird tics. I get overly excited over ancient mind-sucking incidents, Peter likes to collect blackmail he’ll never use, you’re not a morning person. Three bottles, we split the proceeds fifty-fifty, you—”
Derek blinks. “I was going to let you have all of it. I’m already getting paid for this gig.”
“You,” Stiles says after a moment, and then stops himself so he can furiously chug what’s left of his coffee.
“Thanks,” Derek says, watching Stiles a little sideways, like he thinks Stiles might be the scarier one of them (which objectively, is probably true, but werewolves have their pride and Stiles has been the cause of enough changes to Miskatonic’s rules of ethical research to give them that one). He moves a little when Stiles gets coffee down the wrong pipe and starts to choke, then takes back his hand. “For the coffee. I get it’s kind of a pain.”
And there are just…so many things Stiles can say to that, and if it was Peter standing in front of him, the problem would be picking which one would at least make Peter work to make it foreplay. But it’s Derek, and Stiles puts in the effort because in a weird, totally irrational way, he appreciates Derek’s perpetually inadequate context and odd moral code and unspoken but very much present phobias. Peter makes it easy to mesh their lives together; Derek makes it an uphill hike where, even though the terrain’s usually not too bad, there’s always that one pebble in the shoe that won’t shake out. But when they do figure out how to meet in the middle, they do it in a way that Stiles thinks almost nobody else is going to get, and Stiles wouldn’t have majored in Esoteric Folklore if he wasn’t all about the nearly incomprehensible customs.
Stiles chokes down his sputter, not that successfully, and steps forward and wraps one hand over the wrist Derek’s got on the counter, and kisses the other man. Derek was already tilting his head into it, though from the way he’s initially still, Stiles doesn’t think he saw the kiss coming. He’s not resisting either, and when Stiles puts his other hand up on Derek’s shoulder for balance, it’s rolling up. Because Derek is shrugging as he kisses back.
“This has to be the most passive-aggressive ‘I hate Mondays’ shtick ever,” Stiles mumbles.
Derek runs his tongue between Stiles’ teeth and upper lip, hooking Stiles into the kiss for another second, and then backs off. “What?”
“Garfield?” Stiles says, with true despair. And also, hands on his ass. He thinks about it, then puts his exasperation into a hard push against the other man.
Amazingly, it moves the mountain. Derek stumbles back, grunts as his back hits the fridge, and then kisses Stiles with significantly more enthusiasm and less equivocation. “Cat comic, the hell do I care about it?”
“Okay, you know, you can only hide behind the stereotypes so much and—just—do you actually want to?” Stiles says. Putting his hands on Derek’s waist and getting a little space between them, just to make his intentions clear.
Or not really, from the way Derek just cranes around his head and goes right for the spot behind his ear, which is something he picked up from Peter and ugh, but they both do it really well. “Well, I’m not leaving, am I?”
“I’m not a morning person,” Derek says. He pulls back a little, their temples bumping together, and then dips and mouths at Stiles’ jaw. “I just—I’m not. Sex is—I like it, and if I didn’t, you’d know, but—I don’t like getting up early.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, trying to process this. Derek raises his head at the same time, and in order to avoid a collision that doesn’t actually happen, Stiles swings over a couple inches. Still holding onto Derek, so his thumbs drag into Derek’s abs and when Derek gets his head level, his eyes are going dark and he’s biting his lip and Stiles is trained to work via observational methods anyway. So he runs his thumbs along the muscles again and this time, Derek’s throat flexes sharply around the wanting noise it’s caught. “So…sex good, but you’re still gonna be grumpy about the world, but why not? Can’t make it worse.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Derek says, entirely serious, and then he bows himself off the fridge by the hips and presses his full-muscled front against Stiles, and it almost makes total sense. Almost.
Okay, so making sense is not really the point here.
Another fragment from the installment that currently isn't happening. I don't think I've seen much around the idea of Derek having relationship hang-ups that do not revolve around sex, and I think there's some interesting ground there, separating the emotional issues from the physical act. Especially if you pair it with a Stiles who is completely nerve-proof against all sorts of apocalyptic goings-on but who cannot pass up a bug-eyed stare at a naked hot guy.
Also, I need to do more with Derek's freelance gig on low-budget horror. So many jokes that I should be able to but haven't thought of.
Sadly, the greater plot wasn't happening. But I like this little detour into Derek's not-so-hidden dependency issues too much to just let it languish on my hard drive.
(You see how indulgent Peter is being? He agreed to forgo better coffee for Derek!)
Chapter 3: Stiles, Scott, Allison, and Some Squash of Suspicious Provenance
“They’re certified organic by the USDA,” Scott says, sounding slightly alarmed. Not defensive, because Scott doesn’t get worked up about people pointing out that he might be wrong; he just worries that not everybody has gotten a chance to provide input. “And they’re selling these to local restaurants too, so that means the University doesn’t mind, right?”
Stiles makes a face at the suspiciously weighty squash in his hands. “Miskatonic doesn’t mind a lot of stuff that still isn’t exactly approved for mass-market consumption. And you said these are from the ghouls?”
“Yeah, they started a garden as just a showroom for the compost but the vegetables looked so good that people kept asking if they could buy some, so they started a CSA box service,” Scott says. He puts down his gourd and twists around to dig in his bag. “There was a flyer that came with it—they started reviving heirloom strains too, it’s all part of a thing they’re doing with a local nonprofit…”
“It really did come from the ghouls,” Allison chimes in. She leans over to show Stiles her phone, then absentmindedly puts out her other hand to stop a squash rolling off the table. Then, when she realizes what Stiles finds more interesting, she twists the squash around to show him that the tentacles are just from Quint, who’s sniffing curiously around the round globes. “I checked. Dad checked. Mom called your dad and he said it was okay, too.”
“So you’re gonna eat the roasted squash salad, that’s what you’re saying?” Stiles says.
Allison looks at him. He holds up her phone, flashing the beauty shot that tops that recipe page on the ghouls’ blog, and she grimaces. And then they both look down at the huge box overflowing with basketball-sized veg, courtesy of Scott’s buddies from the organic-certified, minority-owned and run, fair-wage Zamacoma ghoul commune. Stiles has to give the ghouls this, they’ve mastered the capitalism angle to human culture in half the time it took Miskatonic’s Linguistics department to figure out the twelfth meep glottal stop.
“It’s…a lot,” Allison mutters. When Stiles glances at her, she’s rubbing at her face and he gets the impression she might not quite realize she’s speaking out loud. “I don’t even really cook—I mean, I can deal with taco night and stuff like that, but I don’t even know how you cut one of these things. Or peel. Do you have to peel them?”
“I thought you cleaned your own game?” Stiles says. He’s not totally unsympathetic; shipping it back to the ghouls isn’t an option, which Allison hasn’t even tried to suggest because she already knows that and he’s actually really happy to not have to explain how declarations of hostility work in ghoul culture. And given how this town is, these things are going to need at least a little processing before they get carted out to the compost heap in the back of the Hale family home, unless they want another darach running around.
“But that’s…game,” Allison says, giving him a confused look. “That’s easy, it has guts and hide. This is—is squash.”
On the other hand, sometimes Stiles thinks his Beacon Hills friends are a tad highly strung. And look, this is him saying that, and he really, truly does appreciate the ability to just rely on them to duck when he yells at them to duck, and not to stare at him or ask if he’s crazy or just scream like somebody who really wants their head bitten off by Shub-Niggurath, but…even he takes time off from the Pnakotic Manuscripts and reads an NY Times bestseller once in a while, is all he’s saying.
“No peel, they actually say you shouldn’t because the peel is really tasty once it’s browned,” Scott jumps in, crumpled flyer in hand. He moves a squash aside so that he can spread it out against the table. “That’s the great part about this type, Caitlin says. It’s really easy to cook. Just slice it up and rub butter and salt over it and shove it in the oven.”
“‘Steak Squash,’” Stiles says, because he’s slightly distracted by the title.
“What?” Allison says.
Stiles points at the flyer. “What it’s called. Because the inside looks and cooks up just like steak, apparently?”
Allison takes a moment with this, as she should, because contrary to first impressions, dating Scott hasn’t totally blinded her to reality. “Okay…”
“It actually kind of smells like it too,” Scott says, trying to be helpful, as always. When they turn and look at him, he offers them a hopeful smile. “Well, we were going to be really tight between your last class and my double shift tonight, so I figured I’d try it in the slow cooker? At least that way, if anyone else shows up, we don’t have to get in a grocery run on top of everything else.”
“Wait, you cooked some already?” Allison says.
“Wait, this is vegan?” hisses Erica from the kitchen doorway.
She’s holding the inner pot from the McCall-Argent slow cooker in one hand, and has tellingly orange smears over the fingertips of her other hand, because sure, eating food off your claws is awesome and cool and nobody ever lectures Wolverine about cross-contamination in the comics (sometimes Stiles sees where Peter and Derek come from in hating on pop culture). The smell rising off of the pot is, admittedly, tasty. Rich and full-bodied, caramelized aromatics sweetening the meaty base.
“Yes?” Scott says. He fumbles around, then grabs the gourd that Quint rolls over to him. “Yeah, no beef, it’s the same chili base but I tried this new squash instead. I thought it came out pretty well—at least, smelled like it. I didn’t actually get to try it yet—”
“Oh, my God, thank you, I really didn’t want to have to call Melissa again this week,” Allison breathes weakly, taking a seat as Scott blinks and gives her a concerned look.
“Huh.” Erica considers the pot again. Then reaches in with her fingers, pulls out something that really does look like beef, right down to the way it’s going stringy at one corner, and pops it into her mouth. Chews a few times, then swallows with a pleased look on her face. “Okay. Well, fine, guess the pack can get on board with Meatless Monday or whatever if you’re gonna be providing the burger substitutes, McCall. Put me down for saving the turtles.”
Allison promptly pushes herself back out of her chair. “Are you—freeloading, honestly, and when Scott already—it’s not even for the turtles! That’s plastic straws!”
“I’ll tell Boyd to bring the pot back on our next patrol!” Erica calls over her shoulder, sashaying back towards the guest bedroom.
“Hey, look, it’s okay,” Scott says, putting his hand on Allison’s arm. “That was a test batch anyway, I’ve got a lot more.”
“Yeah, a lot,” Stiles says. Then he senses the waves of disbelief rolling off Allison and gives the box a prod with his foot.
Maybe overdoing it: one of the squash jiggers off the top and then thumps down on the carpet. Thankfully, it sounds dry, and a second later Quint rushes up to steady the other side so that the gourd doesn’t roll off into the kitchen.
“Oh…yeah. I guess…I guess if she and Boyd like them so much, that takes care of pack potluck this week,” Allison says. She’s still a little sluggish on sounding fully convincing, but when Scott gives her a happy grin, the smile she sends back is thoroughly sincere. “No, it’s great, that’s a great idea. I think we still have cheese slices, we can do grilled-cheese sandwiches for tonight.”
Scott blinks, then twists belatedly after the slow-cooker pot thief. “Hey, Erica, wait, you can’t just take the pot till patrol—at least let me give you some Tupperware—”
“It’s okay, Scott! Scott!” Allison calls after him. Not exactly putting her lungs into it.
Although when she grabs Stiles’ arm, she’s definitely giving her all into pinning him down. “Okay, okay, ease off before I lose circulation, I need that arm for countercasting,” Stiles mutters. “Look, I checked, the squash is okay.”
“Okay,” Allison repeats slowly.
“Well, I mean, it’s not going to turn them into proto-shoggoth servants devoted to reviving the Great Old Ones,” Stiles says, folding over the flyer Scott had handed him. Then he shows her the little shiny hologram in the corner. “This is the University’s PR department’s seal, so they must have reviewed it all.”
“Dormit in pace, that’s going to make me feel better,” Allison says. “I mean, that’s what it says, once you ignore all of the curlicues. And I do actually know Latin.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “It means nothing’s undead here. We’re good. It’s literally just squash. That was grown by ghouls with a top-notch composting facility for the cadavers of the sorcerously-inclined and USDA approval and that cooks up just like beef, complete with the muscle fibers.”
“You’re kind of talking me out of believing you,” Allison points out.
“You’re not going after Erica,” Stiles points out.
Allison looks a little guilty, and then she gives herself a shake. “She complains all the time about Scott leaving her out of the fights, but the last two pack invasions we’ve had, she was out partying,” she mutters. “Long as she recovers, I think I can explain it to Scott’s mom and Laura. Anyway, were you going after her?”
“I was hoping for a nice quiet weekend with Peter and Derek,” Stiles says after a moment’s thought. “She is Laura’s beta. And Laura does kind of try. And does call Peter whenever it doesn’t work, even though they just bicker about leadership styles. And then Derek goes too, just because he’ll never admit it but he gets really worried about his sisters when they don’t listen to Peter.”
“And I’m supposed to be the good Argent now,” Allison says under her breath. She closes her eyes, pinches the bridge of her nose, then opens them. “Fine. I’ll call Laura and Cora and you figure out dinner.”
“Just come over, I’ll sacrifice dinner if I can get no-disaster time for the rest of the weekend,” Stiles sighs. “We’ve got mac and cheese, and it’s guaranteed to be non-tentacle-y since Derek cooked it.”
Dormit in pace is what used to be carved on tombstones before they moved to the well-known R.I.P.
I really want to write a good supernatural squash story. The Great Pumpkin is my entity, to the extent that I have an entity, and I've tried multiple times and have not yet managed to seize it for inspiration the way I think it deserves. This is yet another failed attempt.
The first time Allison sees an email about it, she’s plowing through the zillions of other emails she’s gotten as part of new-student orientation at Miskatonic and she skims just enough of it to realize it’s optional and then skips the rest for later. She never would have ever thought she’d said this, but she kind of wishes she knew less.
(Not really. She’s always going to take knowing more about the dangers out there than less. But Miskatonic just…has so much. In so much detail. She thought the initial psychological screening was a good idea anyway, but now she really understands why it’s there.)
Anyway, once she thinks she has a handle on the materials and knows how to sign up for classes and check on her stipend balance and opt her and Scott and their lineal descendent/ancestors’ data out of as many of Miskatonic’s statistical research databases as she can (Stiles tip), she takes a night off to go patrol and just not think about going back to school. It’ll all be there when she gets back, and she is determined to use Miskatonic and not the other way around. She has a plan, and she’s sticking to it.
So going back through the email a second time in the morning, after she’s punched out a mouthy omega and had Scott thoroughly appreciate her in bed afterward, is completely intentional. Immediately calling Stiles after one look at her inbox is just plain reflex.
“…sorry?” Stiles mumbles, barely audible over the sounds of rustling sheets and creaking bedsprings and distinctly Derek-growling. “Um, you lost me. Your email is floating? Like a hallucination?”
“No, like a—” Allison ducks her head, then hurries into the bathroom before Scott, who’s just stepping through the front door with a bag from their favorite bagel place in hand, can see her “—like one of them keeps floating to the top! By itself! I’m not doing it!”
“Um,” Stiles says.
Allison starts to explain again, then pauses and checks the time. Then sighs. “Can you go get some coffee first?”
“Okay, hang on,” Stiles says, while in the background, Peter complains about presumptuous one-sided demands, like Scott’s mom doesn’t send Stiles home with tons of leftovers every time he comes into Beacon Hills. There’s a gap of a few minutes, which Allison uses to call out to Scott that she’s in the bathroom, and then Stiles comes back on sounding considerably more with it. “Oh! You mean the email in the inbox keeps moving to the top, right? Is it a PMED recruiting email?”
“…are you going to say this is a totally normal Miskatonic thing and my inbox is just possessed now?” Allison asks wearily.
“You say that like you submerged your laptop in holy water,” Stiles says. He makes some slurping noises, then exhales. “Um. Wait. Did you—”
“No. No, not yet, but I was—it’s kind of alarming, you know. If this is new to you,” Allison says. Now she’s starting to feel a little embarrassed, as if she doesn’t have three different exorcism rituals memorized and another four saved to her phone. “Okay, so this is a Miskatonic thing.”
Stiles sighs. “Well, technically no, it’s really more of a public-private partnership…okay, so PMED is harmless, really, they just are sort of overly mission-driven and that’s more of an Arkham thing than a Miskatonic thing. But it’s not possession, it’s just a magical widget, and if you click Unsubscribe, they won’t send you any more emails. They do respect CAN-SPAM.”
“But what is it?” Allison asks. “Is it a school program?”
“It’s a student club. I mean, they’re officially sponsored and they have an actual contract with the Arkham government, but it’s still just—okay, so I’m guessing you didn’t read the email,” Stiles says, moving around again. Derek’s growling comes back in, then stops when there’s a beep and then some sloshy noises. Stiles getting more coffee, Allison assumes. “PMED stands for Post-Mortem Entity Disposal. They’re ghost-hunters, basically.”
“Hey, do you want me to just go ahead and toast your bagel?” Scott calls. “Allison?”
“Aaaaand, I’m judging from the stunned pause that you are wondering, in an entirely sane way, why Arkham would have ghost hunters,” Stiles says cheerfully. It really is amazing how quickly coffee flips his mood around, even in a world with werewolves and mind-eating aliens. “And the answer is, they’re not trying to prove ghosts exist. We know that. PMED’s basically in your family’s line of work, except with ghosts.”
“But this is a student group?” Allison says.
“Yeah, ghosts are pretty basic, you don’t need a license to get rid of them, you just need to submit a report afterward to city hall so they can update their register of haunted buildings. A lot of people do it because you can get free parking credits, and Arkham parking can be pricy,” Stiles explains.
Something clicks at Allison’s feet. She looks down and Quint blinks up at her, then flicks his tentacles at the door. “One second, I’m just finishing up. He can toast it for me,” she says absently, and he nods and sort of rounds a corner that isn’t there, presumably going back to Scott. Which reminds her. “Okay, so…would that be because the parking spaces sometimes are in other dimensions, or something like that?”
“Pretty much, unless you got a green permit. Those are guaranteed to never move. But I don’t know if you can get one—they have a lottery nobody can game and I went three years before I finally snagged one,” Stiles says.
Allison thinks about this. “Yeah, I got a purple one.”
“Oh, well, that’s not bad, that means your space should be there eighty-seven percent of the time and is ninety-two-percent guaranteed to be on campus somewhere,” Stiles says. “Anyway, did you need help with that?”
“No. No, that’s okay, I think I’ve taken up enough of your morning anyway,” Allison says. “Thanks, Stiles.”
So she signs up for PMED. She only has to go to the Arkham campus for a couple weekends each semester, but there is no way she’s going to risk a parking ticket in that town, even if her dad is dating the University’s head of security.
The thing about Lovecraft's original stories are they usually feature some misanthropic character who withdraws from normal society to concentrate on their morbid interests, and so we never get to hear about the student orgs of Miskatonic University. Or all the petty little bureaucratic facets of college life.
Contrary to popular misconception, being admitted to Miskatonic doesn’t mean your life up till then is totally wiped out. They even stopped doing that to the rejected candidates after World War II, when the board of regents wised up to just how many of those people were ending up in the hands of various military covert-ops programs (you can’t not call across the cosmic voids when you use Mi-Go tech, and nobody trusts the Army to know what to do when literal brain-sucking aliens ask to run a joint psych study together). So yeah, of course Stiles remembers what the West Coast is like. He did live here for the first twelve years of his life.
“It’s just funnier to pretend I don’t,” he says, lamely, as Scott politely offers him a thermos. He takes it without looking, gestures over the open top and when he’s confirmed that it smells like coffee because it really is coffee, he takes a good long swig. “Besides, I had homecoming in New England, and they take loyalty super-seriously in those parts. Can’t have them burning plaid flags on my porch whenever I head back to the mother campus.”
“Oh, like they didn’t jump on the bandwagon when grunge made that cool. You all were wearing calico back when New England actually had lumberjacks, and who the hell wants to wear that to a rave?” Erica, lounging on the bleachers on Stiles’ other side, spares a second to push herself up and scream abusive course-corrections at the field. Then she flops back down. “Anyway, Miskatonic’s got team sports, so what are you complaining about? You never had to sit through a high school game even once?”
“Yeah, I did, but this isn’t even the game,” Stiles points out. “This is the pre-game rally, and you’re making me watch a bunch of werewolves act like they’re deeply invested in how much money the cafeteria saved during Vegan Week.”
One of said werewolves turns and frowns at them. Scott sighs and then plasters on a big smile and waves at them, which, given it’s Scott, seems to genuinely reassure the werewolf. Or maybe it’s whatever Stiles’ face does when Erica’s elbow finds its way into his ribcage.
“Stop whining, we all know you aren’t rolling with your big bad boyfriends tonight,” Erica scoffs over Stiles’ pained wheeze. This time, the cheerleader squad’s breakout formations seem to meet her approval and she stays seated. “Serves you right for harshing Scott’s puppies’ big moment.”
“Erica,” Scott mutters, pinching his nose.
“Well, what, even I was impressed. It’s not every day you get to dispose of a baddie in an ecologically responsible way,” she says. “I mean, it even tasted like tofu.”
“It was tofu,” Scott says, more firmly. “Stiles and Alan tested it, and as far as we can tell, it’s tofu, and everybody already ate it and some people really don’t even want their vegetables grown in animal manure so—”
“Okay, fine, we’re watching the game, we’re watching the game,” Stiles says, holding back a sigh. And the urge to text random quotes from the Carter Diaries to Peter; his boyfriends are very busy counterfeiting the paperwork to explain that extra two hundred pounds of soybeans and he shouldn’t interrupt them (just next time, he is going to take learning the local city government’s forms over a blowjob, so he’s not stuck on unexpected post-fight side-effects duty). “I’m just saying, non-Euclidean teleportation’s even cleaner when it comes to getting rid of stuff.”
Erica raises an eyebrow. “But then you have to close the door, and correct me if I’m remembering wrong but doesn’t that mean blood sacrifice and altars and torches? And, um, fire season? I know you don’t have to worry so much about that back East, but even in NorCal we gotta keep an eye out.”
Stiles raises his hand. Then lowers it. “Shit.”
“Point,” Erica says cheerfully. “Now pipe down, I used to run this pyramid and if their timing’s off, I’m gonna let Scarlett know it.”
“I’m on a residency rotation this semester and Allison needed a study partner,” Scott says apologetically, even though Stiles hadn’t looked at him.
Though maybe there’d been a little twitch. And maybe Stiles is just overreacting anyway, when all his best buddy’s trying to do is make him feel better, and also, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if people besides him and Peter and Derek’s video library learn a couple things about the Great Old Ones. Honestly, he should be looking at the day as a win: they’d gotten it all wrapped up before people had even started to show up to set up for the rally. They’d even mopped up all of the unexplainable stains.
Down on the field, the class president gushes about how they’d gotten so many compliments about the meatless option that they’re looking into planting their own soybean patch. Scott straightens up and he and a suddenly grim Erica give each other a look. “Hey,” Erica says.
“No, I definitely checked for residual psychic energy traces,” Stiles says, frowning and pulling up his phone. “The tofu shouldn’t be capable of brainwashing.”
“What? No, that’s not what’s off,” Scott says, blinking. “The plants on the stage look kind of funny, don’t they?”
“I wasn’t looking,” Stiles admits. He is now, but he still isn’t seeing it. They’re green and have leaves. No sickly yellow glow, no alien chanting in barely audible pitches, no tentacles or other animalistic organs. He’s not feeling any creeping edge of madness when he stares at them.
“They’re swaying,” Erica says. “Against the wind.”
Stiles squints. “Oh! Right! Yeah, guess that’s not good. Well, okay, let’s crash this party.”
Loosely inspired by Seanan McGuire's Away Game.
Carter as in Randolph Carter.
For a second, right after Finstock bursts into the gym, Stiles honestly thinks he might have to shoot Derek. They’re covered in blood and other bodily fluids, a large percentage of which are not human-colored, and at least three werewolves are partly-shifted in a well-lit, open space. Derek isn’t shifted, but he is holding a severed head, and is already poised to lunge.
“Wait!” Scott yells, racing across the room.
He’s still got his sneakers on, and the second they hit the huge slick, they go out from under him. Derek and Cora both flinch backwards as Scott, windmilling madly, slides across them, past the corpse, and then finally gets his claws into the floor just before he would’ve taken out Finstock. He jerks himself around, grimaces, and then hurriedly twists up again to—he’s waving his arms ‘no’ at Stiles.
“Wait, wait, no, it’s okay, he isn’t—”
“McCall, I show every one of my captains your game-winning goal from the semis, but I don’t think even that’s going to save you from Haldon’s fit,” Finstock says, staring down. “The basketball team can’t dribble straight when they’ve got painted lines to follow, let alone what this floor’s gonna look like after all this salt damage.”
“Don’t wipe him!” Scott hisses, though the urgency in his voice is getting mixed up with confusion. He’s still trying to wave Stiles back while also looking at Finstock.
“Huh?” Finstock looks up, then squints at the glowing phone in Stiles’ hand. “Oh, hey, you’re Scott’s long-lost buddy, aren’t you? ‘Hallowed be thy octopi,’” he says, and then he hums the Miskatonic fight song.
“Um,” Scott says, finally coming down enough off the adrenaline to realize something else is going on.
“Eh, your mom popped into my office about a month into your sophomore year, Scott. She seemed stressed out so I just said I didn’t care so long as you were still suiting up. Didn’t seem like a great time to mention my dad’s family’s from Newburyport,” Finstock says, with a casual nod to Stiles. “Granddad wasn’t gonna judge the neighbors, he just wasn’t gonna join in, but it got a little too weird after the FBI dropped into the area. But I still have third or whatever cousins up there, and let me tell you, the reflexes that Miskatonic’s squad gets to recruit. Like a catfish after a fly.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s…totally the analogy I would use,” is all Stiles can say.
“Well, anyway, just get them out of here before morning and I’ll see if I can line up somebody to refinish the floor,” Finstock says, taking a step back. He puts his hand on the door, then pauses. “But Scott, if Haldon asks, I’m gonna have to come clean who’s messed up his chances. National championships live forever, but Haldon is an asshole, and unfortunately, he’s in charge of the dance chaperone schedule this semester. Sorry.”
“Oh…don’t worry about it,” Scott says, clearly just on auto-pilot as Stiles is. “We’ll, um, we’ll do it.”
“Great. See you at the game!” Finstock says, and shuts the door.
Something about Finstock hits me as kind of New Englandish, if a few degrees removed. Especially if you think the Boston area. Anyway, Newburyport's mentioned in The Shadow Over Innsmouth.