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Take me back to that dance hall (where you got thrown out)

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Jackson is surprisingly stubborn about improving Stiles’ wardrobe. Because of course he cannot be seen with anyone who wears flannel at whatever VIP room of whatever club they’re going to end up in tonight. Apparently he has standards. And well, judging by some of the models Jax has enticed into his bed… He probably actually does. 

“I have an aesthetic,” Stiles argues, just for argument’s sake. 

“I have standards,” Jackson repeats, rolling his eyes for good measure. “And knowledge of this elusive thing called fashion. Clearly, you know absolutely nothing about it.” 

Oh, Stiles knows way too much about it. Because his roommate is a model who is obsessed with fashion and looking sharp and being visibly, openly queer to show his adoptive parents that it’s no obstacle. That it’s just who he is and they can suck it, and he was never going to be a lawyer like his Dad, even if he hadn’t been born gay. 

Sometimes Stiles is actually kind of proud of the bastard. Just sometimes, though. 

“We can’t all be underwear models,” Stiles huffs. 

“You don’t have the jawline for it,” Jackson enjoys feeling superior about that. “You’re going to have to learn to dress professionally at some point if you ever want to be taken seriously for your research. And you’re going to have to learn to dress like an adult if you ever want to get laid again. It’s been ages since you kicked that asshole to the curb.” 

Three months and twelve days, to be exact. Not that Stiles is still upset about it, no not at all. He’s over Theo. He’s way over Theo, and his lies about having changed since high school and always having a crush on Stiles and just not knowing how to act. How he’d been jealous of Scott, and that was why he’d been trying to get between them. How he didn’t mean to cheat on Stiles with that random girl (Stacy? Tracy?). How it had been an accident. 

Stiles had been smart enough not to believe him, and smart enough to tell Jax a lot of embarrassing details to make sure that his best friend would never let him go back to that piece of shit. The risk of letting Jackson call him out on being pathetic really helps lower the odds of him actually getting that pathetic. 

That and Jackson threatening to file a restraining order against Theo, so Stiles doesn’t even have to see him anymore. That helped. 

“He was cheating on me,” Stiles argues. “I need time to grieve.” 

Wallowing is a thing, a thing that had to happen. Stiles has learned from many a rewatch of the first couple of seasons of Gilmore Girls (the better seasons, with Jess) just how to achieve maximum wallowing with maximum terrible movies and maximum ice cream - eaten in front of Jackson to achieve maximum levels of rubbing his awesome metabolism in his friend’s face. It’s just that Stiles has yet to learn how to move on from being made a fool of like this. Far too many people knew about Tracy and never told Stiles a single thing. 

“I’ve given you plenty of time,” Jax rolls his eyes because he clearly knows nothing of falling in love or any kind of romantic feelings (sorry Danny). “Now go put on the pants I’ve laid out for you. And wear the red shirt. It’s not completely hideous on you.” 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Jackson Whittemore shows his love. By shoving hand-me-down designer clothes at Stiles and forcibly making him wear them to places he doesn’t want to go. Yeah, it sounds really nice, doesn’t it? 

“That was almost a compliment,” Stiles hollers at Jackson. “You’re slipping.” 

He gets dressed anyway, because he knows better than to argue with Jackson at a time like this - the one time he’d been stupid enough to put on his flannel and a slogan tee, Jackson had grabbed a pair of scissors and ruined his favorite shirts. He does not play fair. Never has. 

But Stiles has known him for fucking ever. They may have only become friends after Jackson came out, but they’ve been aware of each other for far longer than that. They had fights in the sandbox and stole each other’s crayons and kicked each other’s shins for years. Stiles had been in love with Jackson’s girlfriend for the longest time - but by the time Lydia and Jackson had broken up, Stiles had mostly gotten over it. 

Besides, he is not the kind of asshole who dates his friend’s ex. A lesson that Scott, unfortunately, never learned. And yeah, that’s not the reason why they’re not as close anymore, but it certainly hasn’t helped. 

Not that Stiles is still in love with Malia - not at all - but if Stiles had ever even looked at Allison or Kira, Scott would have actively murdered him. The double standard is killing him. That and the miles upon miles of distance between them. While Stiles misses one thing, and one thing only, about Beacon Hills (his Dad), Scott is happy to stay there forever. 

(And okay, fine, maybe sometimes Stiles misses Melissa Delgado too, even though it’s weird that she’s technically his stepmom now.)

“Are you dressed yet?” Jackson and patience do not go hand in hand at all. 

“I’m thinking of just going naked,” Stiles shouts in return. 

Messing with Jackson is hilarious, even though they both know that Stiles isn’t an idiot courting a public nudity charge on his mostly spotless record. He just likes making Jackson wait for things, and occasionally not get his way - his best friend’s head does not need to get any bigger than it already is. Stiles is pretty much the only person who says no to him. 

“No one wants to see your freckled ass,” Jackson has seen said freckled ass too many times, or so he says. “Now can you get moving already? There’s fashionably late and then there’s you.” 

Stiles pokes his head out the bedroom door to make sure Jackson is watching before he gives him the finger. 

That’s friendship for you. 

The line in front of the club is not even half as ridiculous as Stiles had been expecting, but everything else is the same. When Jackson gives his name to the bouncer, they are in the club without their ID’s even being checked, and they’re handed a drink before they’re escorted to the VIP area. Stiles is a little dizzy at the speed of it all. 

He really should be used to it by now. 

“You’re here,” a random dude who looks a stupid amount like the bouncer sidles up to Jackson. 

Stiles also should really be used to that by now. There are always admirers inviting Jackson places, and while he really does appreciate that Jax won’t go to any clubs he doesn’t know without Stiles (safety first, bitches), it still kind of sucks being the third wheel. Sure, his best friend makes sure Stiles is safe before he bails to get laid, but Stiles has spent far too many nights awkwardly sitting in the VIP area while Jax has gotten a random guy on his knees in the club bathroom. Maybe Stiles should actually make other friends. 

And yeah, no, that’s not going to happen. 

“Ethan, what the fuck?” An angry interloper intervenes. “Did you even scent him before you invited him here? He’s effectively a Muggle. Honestly, do you just think with your dick? I thought your brother was the only one dumb enough for that?” 

So apparently the random stranger drooling over Jackson is called Ethan. That is something Stiles wanted to know, though he cannot help but think there are better ways of getting introduced to someone than having their boss yell at them in front of an entire club. He’s pretty sure most of the club has noticed, and everyone is awkwardly trying to listen in while still trying to pretend that they have no idea what’s going on. They’re all terrible actors. 

“Excuse me,” Stiles interrupts before Jackson can get involved. 

“No,” is all the response he gets to that. 

The boss - or, well, Stiles is assuming that he’s the boss - is dark-haired and built like a bouncer, with angry murder brows to complete the look. He is staring Ethan down in a way that makes it obvious that he expects to win the fight any second now. Like he’s used to winning - it’s a douchebag look, and Stiles has very limited douchebag tolerance. 

(Barring Jackson, of course.)

“Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?” Jackson is already working himself into a tizzy. 

“I don’t care,” the interloper crosses his arms over his chest. “Ethan, I know you think you can get away with shit because Laura isn’t here, but she put me in charge for a reason. The rules haven’t changed. You wanna hook up? Fine. But you don’t bring them here.” 

Ethan, at this point, has turned into a puppy who’s being chided for peeing on the carpet. There is no fight in him, everything about him is drooping. Guess Jax isn’t getting laid tonight. 

That is definitely going to piss him off, which means that Stiles has to come up with something to distract him from this great suffering (yes, Jackson is that kind of drama queen). And he doesn’t have a lot of bribes to go around these days, because he’s used most of them to extend Jackson’s limited allowance of his wallowing period. He’s all out of roommate coupons and hot single guys to set him up with, and he really does not want to promise a shopping spree again. 

He still has not recovered from the last one. 

“Be prepared to lose a lot of business,” Jackson is really channeling his inner Karen here. “Are you the manager? If not, can I speak to your manager? This is no way of doing business. My name was on the list. Your doorman let me in without a problem.” 

Sometimes it really shows that Jackson was raised as the son of the town lawyer, someone who never really had to deal with any consequences of his actions. This is definitely one of those moments, because while this interloper is acting like a complete asshole, he is probably just enforcing some kind of policy here. They have it for a reason, probably, even though Jackson is halfway to threatening to file a discrimination lawsuit. He does that sometimes. 

“Of course,” the asshole scoffs. “Because this idiot’s twin brother is on the door tonight.” 

That makes sense - of course twins would cover for each other to get laid, even if it goes directly against the weird rules of the club they’re working at. Honestly, Stiles kind of wants to have a look at their rules, just to figure out which of the rules him and Jackson have broken just by coming in here. He’s always been a curious little shit, and since Jackson hadn’t even done anything rude or offensive before the interloper showed up, it has to be something unrelated to them personally. It has to be something else. Something about the way they look, maybe?

Maybe he should have been allowed to wear flannel after all. 

Yeah, no, that would be too easy. And Jackson would never let that happen. 

“Look,” Stiles knows he’s going to have to be the adult here - and he hates doing that. “I understand that we are not welcome here for some reason. I feel like you could have handled this a lot more professionally if you’re technically running this place, even though you’re just… What… Replacing the manager while she’s on leave or on holiday? Something like that?”

Okay, so maybe he actually really sucks at being the adult in any kind of situation, and that is the actual reason why he so rarely does it. But he’s the best they’ve got at the moment, because Jackson is seconds away from throwing another hissy fit, and Stiles would prefer if that happened behind closed doors somewhere. Somehow the idiot is surprisingly recognizable and they do not need more bad press about him throwing a tantrum at a club. 

Of course that has happened before, this is Jackson Whittemore, after all. 

“My sister owns this place,” the interloper is still just glaring at them. 

“Give her my compliments,” Stiles is really trying to bring out the charm here. “We did not mean to offend by our presence, though I would suggest signage to keep out the unwanted Muggles like us. Even though you have yet to tell us why you want to get rid of us.” 

That seems to surprise everyone, which honestly? It really shouldn’t. It makes sense that they’d want to know why they’re basically being unceremoniously removed from this random club just minutes after getting here. And really, it is kind of a random club - it’s not half as fancy or extra as the place Jackson dragged him to last week. There aren’t nearly as many cage dancers (read: none), and the place actually looks like it was built for comfort instead of just for the aesthetic. It kinda looks like a Stiles kind of place instead of a Jackson one. 

Is that the real surprise of the night? Was this Jackson trying to hook up and play nice at the same time? As long as there’s still something in it for him, it’s still realistic for that idiot. 

“That’s what you get for making a scene, Derek,” a tall blond swoops in to pick up the empty glasses, throw a quip at his boss and then get the hell out of here. 

The interloper - Derek, really? - now focuses that lethal glare on the employee who’s just basically run away after giving him lip. Stiles is trying not to show his amusement, which is kind of hard because Derek’s anger is kind of hilarious to him at this point. Sure, he’s never actually been scary, but at this point he’s just all talk and zero follow-through. 

“Derek, is it?” Jackson feels like he has to intervene again. 

“Hey Jax,” Stiles knows to interrupt him before he can do anything stupid. “How about you continue to flirt with Ethan here and let the adults handle the rest?” 

Ethan is trying to keep up with the banter, and so far he does not appear to be having any luck - which is a pretty good sign that he won’t be able to keep up with Jackson longer than a single night anyway. At least he’s not dragging Jackson away from the love of his life - though, honestly, the love of his life is probably still with his family in Hawaii. 

Jackson can never know that Stiles knows that, though. 

“Fuck you, Stiles,” Jackson rolls his eyes before doing as ordered. 

Not because Stiles said it, of course, but because it’s what he wants to be doing anyway. 

“Stiles, I presume,” Derek is not impressed by the name - and who would be, really? 

“Mieczyslaw Genim Stilinski,” Stiles introduced himself with his full name, just to throw Derek off his game with his non-bland, non-American name. “But yes, you can call me Stiles if that’s too hard for you. I know it’s too hard for Jackson here.” 

Apparently Jackson is already too wrapped up in Ethan to rise to that bait, which might be a record, even for him. They may not be making out yet, but their heads are so close together that Stiles is pretty sure that they are not whispering sweet nothings to each other. 

“I can hear that, Ethan,” Derek admonishes him for that too. 

“You can choose not to,” Ethan returns, not moving away from Jackson at all. “Use those special powers and your extraordinary control of your abilities. Show us how much better you are.” 

Wow, Stiles really does not want to be in the middle of that pissing contest, but it looks like Mick Jagger really had a point about not always being able to get what you want. So instead Stiles tries to look anywhere else but at the testosterone bomb he is in the middle of, and waits for Derek to be ready to have a reasonably civilized conversation with him. 

If that ever happens. He’s honestly starting to doubt it. 

“Hey Derek,” Stiles probably has a death wish. “Do you actually run on anger? Do you die if you count to ten and breathe some deep breaths before yelling at people? You’re starting to make me really uncomfortable, dude. And you still haven’t told me anything.” 

Sure, Stiles may not be as gorgeous as Jackson, or half as volatile, but he makes up for it in curiosity and persistence. It’s a lethal combination, according to his Dad, one that might actually get him killed if he does not learn when to back the hell off. And yes, it’s not like Stiles doesn’t know that he’s occasionally courting death with his big mouth. It’s just that he doesn’t know how to stop himself either. His mouth has never had much of a connection with his brain. 

“You are not part of our target audience,” Derek is smug about that declaration. 

“Can you vague that up for me?” Stiles, apparently, thinks this is the right time to start making stupid references to piss Derek off even more than he already has. “You’re being really evasive about the Muggle thing. Why are we Muggles?” 

Derek has the right to withhold that information, technically. He’s allowed to bar people from entering his place of business, and unless that reason is outright discriminatory Stiles can’t really do a damn thing about it. And since Derek seems to enjoy being contrary… 

He does not like their chances of getting to stay here long enough for Jax to get his dick wet. 

“No,” Derek is back to being monosyllabic. 

“Of course,” Stiles sighs. “Can you at least let the horndogs get this out of their system? I promise we won’t come back here when my best friend’s done getting his.” 

Jackson and Ethan are now actually making out, and Stiles is immediately moving away from that - which does bring him closer to Derek, which is kind of unfortunate. The asshole just gives him a look, which at least is a lot more sassy than it is murder-y - so at least Stiles has once again managed to avoid death by big mouth. Maybe he’ll live to see twenty-five. 

“At least go somewhere not so public,” Derek growls - yes, growls - to Ethan. 

It works, because Ethan starts leading Jackson in the direction of the employee area of this place. Which just leaves Stiles and Derek, awkwardly facing off with each other in the so-called VIP area, even though Stiles has won the battle, and Derek the war. 

“Wow, that puppy is well-trained,” Stiles remarks, just to have something to say. 

It makes Derek look even angrier, which is just Stiles’ luck. He’d been enjoying trying to get to know the sassier side of Derek, but now he’s gone back into asshole mode. Not that Stiles is anticipating ever seeing him again, but he doesn’t like leaving people with murderous tendencies towards him. It’s part of the ‘making it to 25’ thing. 

“Alright, you try doing better at small talk,” Stiles is making this Derek’s problem now. 

“Good luck with that,” the tall blond is back, this time to hand Stiles a very pretty cocktail and taking away the drink he hasn’t even gotten to try yet. “Derek isn’t much of a talker. He just likes growling and yelling and doing angry one-armed push-ups while reading Hemingway.” 

Wow, okay, Stiles kind of wants to see that last bit. Because angry one-armed push-ups while reading Hemingway? That is quite the picture he’s getting here. 

“Hemingway is a total hack,” Derek gets fired up again for no reason. “And it’s one-armed pull-ups. Reading while doing push-ups would just be stupid. And uncomfortable.” 

Does he honestly get that fired up about everything? Stiles cannot imagine anyone with that short a fuse being able to live a normal life. Derek really seems to have some kind of anger management problem - Stiles would suggest therapy, but he doesn’t want to die yet. 

Still, he continues not to be scared of Derek. His instincts about people are fucked like that. 

“So what would you read if not Hemingway?” Stiles enjoys needling people too much. 

“Something not so steeped with war porn and misogyny,” Derek rolls his eyes at him.

Once again he is immediately ready to fight Stiles over something so small. It’s like he needs that anger to function - which is a sharp contrast to the literature nerd that is starting to come out of the exceedingly grumpy shell. Stiles might actually like that last guy, if he ever got to see him without Hulk Derek constantly making an appearance. 

Derek seems to always be angry. 

“You are not wrong about that,” Stiles nods along, hoping appeasement might help. 

“Finally, someone with taste,” Derek growls in the direction of the tall blond. “Just because the homoeroticism runs rampant, doesn’t mean he isn’t terrible.” 

Ah yes, Hemingway. In the words of one of Stiles’ personal heroes: an abusive alcoholic misogynist hanging around trying to nail Picasso’s leftovers. And Kat Stratford is not wrong - it’s just not a viewpoint he was expecting from a guy who looks like he came back from a war but left all of his kinder emotions back on the frontlines. 

Would that explain it? Yes. Excuse it? Hell no. 

“I don’t get you, dude,” Stiles finally admits to Derek. 

“Don’t call me dude,” Derek seems to clench up even more at that. 

Where did the interesting guy with the literature opinions go? Sure, the look of frustration and anger never disappeared from his face - and that’s a shame, because Derek would be so much more appealing if he smiled (yes, he’s fully aware of how awful that sounds, thanks) - but he actually seemed interested in something for a second there. And Stiles likes people who are passionate about things - especially when they’re things he’s passionate about as well. 

“He’s trying to say that he doesn’t want to be your Manic Pixie Dream Boy,” the blond always seems to swoop in just in time to make a sassy comment and then leave again. “Derek, here’s your drink. I’m taking my break. You need to have this, and about three more, and a chill pill.” 

And for some reason, Derek actually listens to him. As if this employee dropped some kind of ‘the sun is going down’ phrase that magically calms the Hulk somehow. But he obediently slams the shot and puts it back on the tray like a good boy, and then he lets himself sink down onto the VIP area couch. Stiles follows suit, staying at a careful distance, because Derek probably thinks that Stiles has some kind of cooties. He doesn’t look like the huggable type. 

“They might be a while yet,” Derek motions in the direction of the employee area. 

“Jax is usually all for quick and dirty,” Stiles shrugs, and he hates himself for knowing that. “Unless your boy has supernatural stamina, they should be out in a couple of minutes.” 

Derek pointedly does not react, which makes it very, very obvious that he expects Stiles to be here for quite a while longer. And honestly, how does one find that out about one of their employees? Not in any way that Stiles wants to hear about - or does he? 

“Really?” Stiles is intrigued, even though he really does not want to be. 

“Don’t,” Derek’s voice is still harsh, but he seems a bit less angry now. “Really, there is no privacy in this place. I know far too much about all of them. And what I don’t find out myself, Laura will tell me in excruciating detail. Because she lives to torture me.” 

Clearly Laura’s his sister. Because that sounds like every story he’s ever heard about siblings fighting - not that Stiles would know what it’s like, because even though Scott is technically sort of his brother now, they’ve never really been like that. They were always friends first. 

“Sounds like a great sister,” Stiles grins at Derek, because his pouting is kind of adorable. 

“She’s the worst,” Derek sighs in a way that tells Stiles he means the absolute opposite. 

And this would be the perfect moment for Derek to get a bit soft, to talk about how much he loves his sister and he’s just under a lot of pressure trying to fill her shoes, even for just a few weeks. It would be the perfect time for him to drop some of the anger and act like a human for a moment - but honestly, that might be asking too much of him. 

“But she’s letting you wreak havoc on this place,” Stiles does best with a more joke-y atmosphere, even though Derek is probably going to clam up any second now. 

“She’s on her honeymoon,” Derek reveals, almost slouching to make himself seem smaller. “For two more weeks. Four weeks in Australia. It’s a gift from her in-laws. She couldn’t say no, and she didn’t want to. Not even for her idiot brother, she said.” 

Derek just sounds angry (of course he does) and he just looks lost without her, and that tells Stiles more about him than anything Derek has said or done so far. Because he knows that look, he’s seen it in the mirror too many times for him not to recognize it when someone else wears it. He knows what it’s like to have just one person, one family member who loves you unconditionally (and fuck you Jackson, that’s not a slight against you). 

“It’s just you and her?” Stiles knows all too well what that’s like. 

“Yeah,” Derek looks back at him, clearly recognizing a kindred spirit. 

Oh no . No, just no. He patently refuses. 

He does not want to come out of this weird mess of a night actually liking this guy. He does not want to think that Derek isn’t all that bad, that he’s just posturing because he’s lost without the only anchor he seems to have (other than anger). He does not want to consider that Derek’s actually quite attractive when he’s not yelling at people all the time, and he especially does not want to consider that he’s pretty much just Stiles’ type (with and without the anger). 

“I haven’t seen my Dad since Christmas,” Stiles tries to sound like it’s not that big of a deal, even though it really is. “And we’re not talking about that because I’m not turning into some crying at the club meme, especially not at a club where I’m not even welcome. Honestly, dude, a solid door policy would make this so much easier for you. Just saying.” 

Okay, so maybe Stiles isn’t actually any better at dealing with his emotions than Derek is, and maybe he doesn’t want to be all maudlin and vulnerable with a stranger, while Jackson is probably enjoying the afterglow a few rooms over. 

This entire night is just too weird. 

“They’ll be done soon,” is all Derek has to say. 

It’s like he knows what Stiles is thinking - only Stiles probably told him exactly what he was thinking. Because he keeps looking at the door like he’s expecting Jackson to come out of there any second now, like the pathetic third wheel friend he is. He’s done this before - he knows exactly how this goes, but he usually doesn’t have anyone with him while he waits. There are not a lot of C or D-list celebrities who want to hang out with him when Jackson isn’t there to provide incentive. And honestly, he doesn’t want to hang out with them either. 

“You don’t have to stick around to supervise me,” Stiles is just tired. 

“Do you need supervision?” Derek is actually smug now, and Stiles is into it, for some stupid reason that he doesn’t actually want to contemplate. 

Thank God Jackson shows up at that exact moment. Stiles wants to say that he’s never been happier to see his idiot best friend, but that would probably be a lie. It just feels like right now, that this very moment is even better, because Stiles is at risk of doing some really fucking stupid shit like getting a crush on a mysterious asshole. And that would be bad. 

“Alright, we can go,” Jackson barely even looks disheveled - not fair. 

Because Stiles is a good friend - and so is Jackson - they don’t say anything else, instead making sure they have all of their stuff before they leave this place behind for good. Stiles is pretty damn sure that he’s never coming back here. Even if he did, he wouldn’t be welcome. 

“Promise not to see you around, Derek,” Stiles has to deliver that parting shot. 

He doesn’t even turn around to check if Derek is watching him walk away. Okay, maybe he does once. Or twice. But he certainly doesn’t look back a third time. Even though he really thinks he caught Derek that second time. 

A little over two weeks later, Danny comes to town and Jackson finally pulls his head out of his ass. Yes, of course those two events are related - Danny is finally bringing back the single brain cell that Jackson so desperately needs. Stiles tells Jackson that very thing, and he doesn’t even insult him in return - because he is too busy realizing he has feelings for Danny. 

Fucking finally. 

So because his life is basically a sitcom, Stiles once again finds himself putting on ridiculously tight clothes, only this time he’s not going to be stuck in the VIP area while Jackson gets his dick wet with some random dude. No, this time he’s going to be stuck in the VIP area while Danny and Jackson finally do something about their sexual tension. And that’s progress, supposedly, so Stiles is determined to be happy for his friend, for both his friends. 

Danny’s waiting for them at the subway station, and he and Jackson hug for a really long time before they seem to realize that they’re in public still. Also, that Stiles is there. 

But all is forgotten, because Danny is promising to take them to a place where they can drink for free and they’ll be on the list - all promises they’ve heard before, but Danny knows the owners, apparently, like actually knows them. And he’s promised that he was going to meet up with them the second he was back in town. So well, they don’t have a lot of options. 

Jackson is not going to spend any more time apart from Danny now that he’s figured it out. 

“Fuck no,” Jackson says when they stop in front of a very familiar place. 

“Have you been here before?” Danny’s expressive face shows his surprise very clearly. 

Well, Stiles is almost looking forward to hearing how Jackson is going to explain this one without telling Danny that they’d only gotten into this anti-Muggle establishment because there was a random guy who really wanted to suck Jackson’s dick. 

“The service is terrible,” Jackson is back to being a brat. 

“We got into a little kerfuffle with Derek,” Stiles is trying to be the voice of reason here. “He seemed to think that we did not belong to the target audience of this place. And because we’re upstanding gentlemen, we left without making a big deal. But not until Jackson got his.” 

Look, Jackson may not be very happy with him for that, but Stiles likes Danny. He likes Jackson and Danny together, and he is not going to let their possibly romantic epicness start on a lie - they’d get ruined. And Stiles just really likes embarrassing Jackson. 

Mainly that last bit. 

“You and Derek?” Danny turns to Jackson. 

“Ethan,” Jackson now readily admits. “If anyone did anything to Derek, it was Stiles.” 

Begging his pardon, but Stiles had done absolutely nothing to Derek. They just talked, or mostly Derek was angry and Stiles had a lot of things to say about that. And yes, maybe Stiles found himself reluctantly liking the guy, but that really is not the point here. The point is that he has done nothing to Derek - even though he almost thinks he might want to. 

There’s a different guy on the door this time - definitely not Ethan’s twin, because this guy is tall and broad and dark skinned, and he grins happily when he sees Danny. 

“Danny, you’re back,” he even moves in for the bro hug. 

Jackson totally looks jealous, even though he literally just admitted to having a fling with one of the employees at this very bar just weeks ago. So clearly this is not going to be dramatic at all - honestly, what was he expecting? Jackson’s… Jackson, and he never wastes an opportunity for some ridiculous drama. The terrible acting came with the modeling deal, apparently. 

“Good to see you again, Boyd,” Danny smiles that dimpled smile at the bouncer. “Is Laura back from Down Under yet? She’d kill me if I visited and she wasn’t there.” 

Danny knows Laura? Well yeah, Danny knows the owners and Laura is in charge, so that absolutely makes sense. Stiles is just going to assume that Laura is one of the owners, and maybe her recent husband is another one. He cannot think of anyone else who could qualify as the business partner, because ‘in serious need of an anger management class’ Derek did not seem like the guy who would enjoy meetings with banks and other businesses. 

“She got back two days ago,” Boyd looks at Jackson and Stiles with suspicion in his eyes. “Tan and obnoxiously happy to be back. Derek has actually unclenched. Somewhat.” 

Stiles snorts, because he’s an asshole and he would like anyone who would dare make fun of Derek like that. He usually likes Danny’s friends, so he’s kind of curious to see where Derek fits into it - if he does. Maybe Danny’s just friends with Laura and her husband? Maybe he knows the twins? Heck, maybe he used to be buds with the snarky waiter. 

“About time,” Danny grins. “It’s cool that I’m bringing friends, right?” 

Boyd just gives Danny the nod, and then lets the three of them behind the velvet ropes. Stiles suspects him of grinning - but that would mean he knows. And honestly, he’s really hoping that word hasn’t actually spread that far. 

“Derek is going to kill me,” Stiles groans as they walk back inside the club. 

The tall blond waiter is there, laughing hysterically when he sees Stiles and Jackson. And that probably is not a good thing. It can’t be. This guy is probably anticipating the look on Derek’s face when he sees that his least favorite Muggles have returned. Or he’s just anticipating the imminent bloodshed when Jackson attempts to face off with Derek again. 

Jackson fights dirty in every possible way. Still, Stiles would put money on Derek. 

“Hey Isaac,” Danny pulls the waiter in for a quick hug. “Can you tell Laura I’m here? And maybe try not to kill Derek again? He’s barely recovered from the last time.” 

Noodle incident alert! A noodle incident that he has to get details on, because Stiles is maybe a little bit obsessed with finding more information on Derek and how he became the perpetually angry asshole Stiles met last time around. He thinks Danny might have at least some of the info he needs, but he’s pretty sure Laura will be his best source. If she likes him, that is. 

And honestly, who wouldn’t like Stiles Stilinski? 

“You’re back,” Derek is just as grumpy as last time, probably because his ears were burning. “Danny, I know you’re an exception, but did you have to drag these guys in with you?” 

It’s funny, because Derek seems oddly torn between glaring at Jackson, frowning at Stiles and almost smiling at Danny. At least, Stiles thinks the twitch of his lips is supposed to pass for a smile. And yeah, for Derek that’s probably the closest thing anyone can get. 

“You know you missed me,” Stiles blurts out, because apparently he lives to embarrass himself. 

“Oh, this is a gift,” Danny’s grin just gets wider as he sits down and enjoys the show. “Isaac, could you get me my usual and whatever fancy drinks you can cook up for these guys? Thanks, you’re a peach. I promise there’s a scarf from Paris in it for you.” 

Paris? When was Danny in Paris, and why? Stiles has been assuming that he’d spent much of the past few years in Hawaii with his family - because that’s what Danny told him. He knows Danny’s an excellent liar, because that comes with the hacking career, but he somehow didn’t expect Danny to lie to him. Or to Jackson. That’s the biggest surprise, actually. 

Also, why is he talking to Isaac when Isaac’s standing at the bar, many yards away? 

“Danny boy,” a female Stiles assumes to be Laura practically throws herself at Danny for a long hug. “You look exactly the same. Still ridiculously good-looking. I’d leave Travis for you in a heartbeat, you know that right? Shame you’re not into all of this.” 

She is delightful, and everything Derek isn’t, and Stiles wants to be her (or at least, just like her) when he grows up. Laura is a lot shorter than all of the men, with pin-straight dark hair that she wears down, instead of in a convenient ponytail. Her eyes sparkle with mischief as she lets go of Danny and sets her sights on Jackson, and possibly also on Stiles himself. 

“Is this the errant bff?” Laura motions to Jackson. “He’s only about half as pretty as you said, though Ethan’s talked him up some too. Not sure he’s worthy of you, but I guess I’ll give him some time to prove it. Maybe. If he doesn’t go off into the staff room with any more of my employees. It’s taken us weeks to get the smell out.” 

Oh God, if she weren’t married already Stiles might actually have to marry her himself - this very second. She has almost as little of a brain to mouth filter as Stiles does, and she just doesn’t seem to care if that embarrasses her or anyone else. Also, she’s excellent at taking Jackson down a peg and he just wants to sit here and watch her do it for the rest of his natural life. He also kind of wants to watch her take on Derek, but he figures it’s probably his turn first, so he sends a prayer to whatever Gods might listen that she likes him. 

“Stiles?” Laura turns to him, even more delighted than she was with Jackson. “This is the Stiles, the one who made my little brother experience something that non-robots would call actual emotions? Ones that aren’t anger? You are never paying for a drink here ever again.” 

The full force of Laura’s affection is kind of overwhelming, especially because she pulls him in for a hug and squeezes surprisingly hard for a woman her size. She must work out a lot. 

“Did he really tell you he missed me?” Laura whispers conspiratorially to Stiles. 

“Not in so many words,” Stiles figures he might as well be honest with the most badass women he’s met in ages. “It was strongly implied, though.” 

Derek continues to stand there and glower, even as Danny and Jackson make themself comfortable on the couch, Jackson whispering furiously and Danny just continuing to look like his happy self. Once again Stiles is present for an awkward standoff involving Derek - he’s just not the other party this time. It makes it a lot less tense. 

“You’re the worst,” Derek tells his sister. 

“Lie,” she immediately calls him out on it. “We can all hear it. Well, most of us can, but I’m pretty sure Stiles has a built in lie detector that’s almost as good as mine.” 

It makes Derek look a little panicked, and for some reason Stiles moves closer to him, as if he thinks that will reassure him. It does, though, because Derek’s face loses that panicked look and goes straight back to its usual level of murder brows. It’s almost impressive. 

“I apologize for my sister,” Derek grudgingly directs at Stiles. 

“Never,” Stiles shakes his head vehemently, because he does not want to hear that ever. “She’s my new favorite person. I might actually like her more than I like you.” 

That makes Laura turn to him with wide eyes - though she’s not nearly as surprised as Derek, who is basically just gaping at him like a fish on dry land. Which is weird, because it’s not like Stiles said anything particularly offensive or spectacular. 

“You’re lying,” Derek stammers at him. 

“What?” Stiles has no idea what the hell is going on anymore. 

These people are so fucking weird. And overall that is kind of delightful, but when both siblings are looking at him like he just invented the cure to the common cold, it gets a little less delightful and a lot more fucked up. Honestly, are they reading his mind? Is that why Derek said the whole Muggle thing last time? Is this a club for magic people? Is Hogwarts real? 

Clearly he has to fake them out somehow, and learn how to block his mind, because there are some explicit thoughts in there about Derek losing that angry exterior because Stiles is fucking him so good he’s close to tears - and that is not something Derek ever needs to know, or something that Laura ever needs to hear about her baby brother. It’s not something Stiles wants made public at all, actually. Damn these mind readers. 

Wait, mind reading should not be a reasonable explanation here. There’s nothing reasonable about it, and yet he leaps to a conclusion that almost seems sensible based on the evidence. 

“You like me more than Laura,” Derek thinks that explains something, apparently. 

Stiles huffs, because clearly he has hearing problems. “I do not.” 

He doesn’t actually like Derek more than Laura, does he? Sure, he’s only just met Laura, but he spent most of his first encounter with Derek being so fucking annoyed with him that he was contemplating murder and/or grievous bodily harm. Just contemplating it, of course, because Derek is wider and looks like he could bench-press Stiles without breaking a sweat. 

And Stiles is going to try not to think about how hot he thinks that is. 

“Lie!” Laura excitedly bounces around. “You may not know it yet, but you actually like this idiot more than me. I mean, I’m a bit disappointed in your taste, but I guess I can accept it.” 

Honestly, Laura is still the greatest woman he’s met since Lydia Martin, and that’s honestly saying a lot, but it’s starting to get weird. He’s pretty sure that the supposed mind reading is just a product of his overworked mind, but something else has to be going on here. Stiles is missing some very important puzzle pieces here, and no one seems to want to inform him of what the end result of the puzzle is supposed to be. 

“I have no idea what the hell is going on here,” Stiles raises his hands to the heavens. 

Derek is still surprised, still staring at him - now with a little more awe in there. It is weird, because Stiles kind of wants angry Derek back. Sure, that guy was a total asshole, but at least Stiles felt like he knew what was going on with this guy. He has no idea about this impressed version of Derek, and he doesn’t like not knowing things. 

“Werewolves?” Jackson screeches from the couch. 

Everyone in the entire club turns to look in their direction, but none of them look particularly perturbed by the message. Just by the volume, perhaps, judging as Danny, Laura, and Derek all wince at Jackson’s screech. Though, to be fair, Stiles’ ears are hurting a bit too, mostly because of the pitch of Jackson’s voice. It was really strident. 

So it is to be werewolves, then? Is that it? Is that actually a thing that is happening to him? 

Time for Stiles to connect the dots and complete that puzzle he was missing the center pieces of before. Though he’s not quite sure how he can add up living lie detectors, Muggles, and absurdly good hearing and make that come out to ‘ werewolves are real’. Like, that still makes it sound like there are about a million pieces missing, and like it’s just too ridiculous. 

How can any of this even be real? 

“Surprise,” Laura actually does jazz hands, because apparently she is that kind of person. “I have no idea why Danny didn’t actually tell the two of you before.” 

And Danny has known about this the whole time? How long is the whole time? Since high school? Their whole lives? Just since he left for college, presumably in Hawaii? Is Danny a werewolf as well, or does he just know about it? So many questions, so little answers. 

“Give him a moment,” Derek turns to his sister. “Stiles, are you okay?” 

Is he? At this point, he honestly has no idea what okay even feels like anymore. Though it’s nice that Derek is being all supportive and nice instead of angry and - scent. Derek said that Ethan was supposed to scent them, to make sure they smelled like wolves? Is that actually a thing, or is it a random connection his seriously fried brain has conjured up from the very few crumbs they’ve managed to leave him. Like, there’s intuitive leaps and then there’s this. 

“This is a lot,” Stiles tells him very sincerely. “It makes a weird amount of sense for some reason, even though until about thirty seconds ago I was pretty damn sure that werewolves only existed in shitty young adult novels about sparkly vampires and horror movies.” 

Derek and Laura are werewolves, he’s figured out that much. And Laura runs the… pack? Is that a term that werewolves use? Are any of the others wolves as well? He’s pretty sure Isaac is a werewolf, because no way he could have overheard any of the things he’s overheard without supernatural hearing enhancement. And it would explain his tendency to come in at exactly the right time to interrupt a tense conversation with a sassy quip. 

“Any person who hates on Twilight is alright in my book,” Isaac returns with drinks. 

Case in point. Isaac can’t come by that perfect timing naturally - he just listens in on any conversations going on around him and times his entrance exactly. And he can only do that with supernatural hearing and supernatural speed. Therefore, Isaac is definitely a werewolf. And a dramatic one at that - though Stiles really appreciates his flair for the dramatic. 

“Is everyone except me and Jackson a werewolf?” Stiles turns to Derek for answers. 

Laura is too busy finding the whole thing absolutely hilarious and staring at how Jackson is trying to be subtle about laying into Danny about keeping secrets. Clearly he has not gotten the memo about werewolf hearing yet - though Stiles didn’t get anything as formal as a memo, he’s mostly just figured everything out himself. And he’d like some actual information now. 

“Yes,” Derek at least doesn’t lie to him. “You’re the only Muggles.” 

Once again Stiles actually spots a twitch at the corner of his mouth, meaning that Derek might actually find this conversation less than infuriating - maybe even amusing. 

He tries really hard not to find it adorable - and he fails. 

“How dare you,” Stiles is exaggerating his outrage for the sake of drama. “Just because we don’t wear the male werewolf uniform of leather jackets and henleys bought a couple sizes too tight. Yeah, no, that’s never going to happen. Jackson would rather die.”

Stiles honestly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about fashion, and he suspects Derek doesn’t either, even though he makes the werewolf uniform work for him (though Stiles suspects that Derek can make just about anything work for him). But oh boy, Jackson really does, and Stiles is enjoying messing with him even when he can’t actually hear it because he’s too busy… making up with Danny. Stiles can see tongue, and well, good for them, but honestly? Privacy?

“We should have a uniform,” Laura apparently takes it as a serious suggestion. “Or at least have the staff wear t-shirts with the name of the bar on it. It’s professional, Der-Bear.”

Okay, so not everyone in the club is actually wearing a henley and a leather jacket, but there are a lot of people, male and female, wearing it, either with jeans or a skirt. To the point where anyone who doesn’t just really stands out - like Laura, who’s wearing a slogan tee that high school Stiles would have loved to own. But then again, Laura’s probably worn the thing for that very purpose - to stand out. She doesn’t act like the wallflower type, or look like it. 

“Yes, fashion is what matters here,” Derek apparently is this cranky with everyone. 

“Here at Werewolf Pride,” Stiles mutters, despite knowing everyone but Jackson can hear him. 

The comparison makes sense to him, especially as someone who goes to Pride every year with his asshole best friend. They wear ridiculous amounts of makeup and ripped clothes - because at Pride, that’s fashionable - and they drink too much and dance with strangers until they stumble home in the middle of the night. Minus the makeup that actually sounds a lot like what the werewolves are doing here. A place where they can be themselves without fear of repercussions from anyone who dares to hate on what they do not know. 

“It is,” Laura nods. “It’s our one place to be ourselves and get a little crazy and actually be able to get drunk. That’s not as easy as it sounds, young padawan.”

He wonders why and how she keeps managing to distract him from Derek. Because there’s this prodding from the back of his mind, that there’s something he’s forgetting about due to the whole ‘werewolf reveal’ madness, and that something is related to Derek. That something is related to the lie he’d supposedly told earlier. The lie he didn’t think was a lie until now. 

“Are you okay?” Stiles turns the question around on Derek this time. 

“Why would you ask me that?” Derek is trying so hard to sound angry about it. 

But he isn’t angry - he looks like he’s just been punched in the face by what should be basic human kindness. Or even superhuman kindness, because werewolves have manners too, they can’t all have been raised by wolves. Wow, he can never say that in front of Derek. 

“Because it looks like people don’t ever ask you that,” Stiles is putting those pieces together quite easily. “And because you haven’t been able to stop looking at me since you found out that apparently I like you more than I like Laura. Honestly, I feel like I should not be the first person to tell you that. Yes, that means I’m owning it now. I like you, Derek whatever your last name is.” 

Stiles honestly has no idea why he feels this way, but he’s owning it anyway. He is intrigued by Derek, and it’s not just because he’s apparently a supernatural being. It’s mostly because Stiles wants to figure him out, to find out more about him - to figure out what his smile looks like and what else there is to him but the angry guy in a bar. Because a guy like this? Usually has layers to cover up his layers - like this is Shrek and he’s a damn onion. 

“Hale,” Derek tells him. 

“I like you, Derek Hale,” Stiles smiles at him, grateful for how easy that was. “If you’re not sick of me, and you’d want to spend time with me without being forced to hear my best friend getting it on with someone… I’d like to go on a date with you.” 

Impulsive? Probably, because going on a date with a supernatural being you know very little about is basically the textbook definition of impulsive. But he cannot bring himself to regret it, because he wants to find out why he’s already decided to like Derek far too much. He wants to give himself a million more reasons to make Derek his favorite.

“You’re not wearing that,” Jackson grabs the shirt Stiles was just about to put on and holds it as far away from himself as humanly possible. “You’re going on a date with a solid 9 out of 10, you’re not ruining it by looking like a homeless person. Standards, Stiles!” 

As if Derek is actually going to give a shit about the brand of shirt Stiles ends up wearing to their first date. Derek is not the kind of guy who gives a damn about fashion, though Stiles has made him promise to branch out from his usual werewolf uniform. And honestly, he pretty much cannot wait to see what something else looks like on Derek. 

Because he’s fucking gorgeous, okay?

“Derek is a solid twelve,” Stiles has to argue about some blatant untruths. 

“I’m still hotter than him,” Jackson may or may not be pouting. 

Should he actually attempt to pander to Jackson’s ego, or can he just focus on the amazing guy who will be picking him up from this very apartment in about… five minutes? Fuck. 

“Fine, you’ve got two minutes,” Stiles sighs heavily. 

It would take him at least twelve minutes to get Jackson to give up on his quest to dress Stiles, and he just doesn’t have that kind of time. Like hell is he going to keep Derek waiting just because Jax likes to use him as a dress-up doll. He’s basically been counting down the hours (and the minutes too, at some point), and he’s not going to be late. 

Especially since Derek seems like he’d be the punctual type. It’s fucking adorable. 

“You’re impossible,” Jackson responds from the deepest recesses of his second closet. “How am I supposed to work like this? Do you think you can postpone?” 

Stiles wants to growl at his best friend right about now, because they only have about three and a half minutes before his date starts and he still needs to get dressed and put on shoes and maybe have another look at his hair because it just looks messy and he wants to look his very best. For himself, but also for Derek. So okay, maybe Jackson is onto something with dressing for the thing you want - or the person. Stiles just wants Derek to look at him and be impressed and pleased and want to take him on a dozen more dates. 

Fuck, he barely even knows this guy. Why is he so wound up? 

“Jax, please,” Stiles is trying to calm the mutant butterflies in his stomach. 

“I can’t believe you’re into that asshole,” Jackson huffs and complains. 

Oh, right, like Jackson fucking Whittemore has any kind of business talking about someone being less than kind. Not that Stiles is any better, but at least he is willing to admit that about himself. He is long past pretending to be the nice guy. 

“Birds of a feather,” Stiles teases, and gets a shirt thrown at him for it. 

“Put this on,” Jackson orders, trying to put the closet back in some semblance of order. “If you stain it or let Derek rip it off you with his claws, I will kill you.” 

It’s not that Stiles has never hooked up on the first date, and not that he is ruling it out right away - but he kind of wants to do this properly. Like, get to know Derek before climbing him like a tree. Does it count as climbing him like a tree when someone actually isn’t even that much taller than him? Asking for a friend. Who is definitely not him. 

“Not on the first date,” Stiles is already thinking about the second date. 

“Great,” his best friend throws a nice pair of shoes at him. “Then next time you can wear your own crappy clothes. I won’t care if they get destroyed. In fact, I hope they will be. I’ll get Danny to make sure Derek tears them to pieces. That’s what pack is for, right?”

Right, they are technically part of the pack now. It’s another thing he can talk to Derek about on their date - it’s not just going to be a werewolf interrogation, but he’s still going to ask a ton of questions about Derek’s experience with life as a werewolf - because he’s Stiles Stilinski and he needs to know all the things. All of the things. Not just the dirty bits. 

“You look… passable,” Jackson looks him up and down again. “I guess this is the best that I’m going to get tonight. Not that Derek has enough taste to know better.” 

The shoes will probably complete the ensemble, or whatever it is that Jackson says. Stiles figures he might as well follow orders, even though he’d rather be wearing Converse or something comfortable. Still, he’s not immune to wanting to make an impression. 

“I like him, Jax,” Stiles finishes tying his shoelaces, and then looks up. 

“Ugh, fine,” Jackson sighs heavily. “I guess I’ll make the effort of being cordial with him.” 

At that very moment, the buzzer goes. Stiles looks at the clock - 7.00 on the dot. He was right about Derek being the punctual type, which makes him smile. 

Jackson seems less than amused though, like a worried mother hen who is not ready to have the baby chick leave the nest. Stiles wants to kick himself for emasculating himself so thoroughly in that comparison, but he still recognizes how accurate it is. Since the whole Theo thing basically imploded, Jackson has been his sole source of support - and now that Stiles is opening himself up to something again, there’s a risk for Jax. 

“If he hurts me, I’ll give you free reign,” Stiles knows how to barter. 

“Acceptable,” Jackson nods, before pushing at him. “Now, he’d better appreciate your look. If not, he is not worthy. Even if he is a twelve.” 

Stiles grabs his finest coat, making sure he’s got his wallet and other things before he opens the door. Though… one last thing. 

“I told you,” Stiles shouts at Jackson before turning to the open door. 

Derek looks really nice. Like he too has made an effort, wearing slacks and a button-up shirt under a gray blazer. Not too formal, but still significantly more dressed up than he usually is when working at the bar. He’s smiling. It’s a very good look on him. 

“Hi,” Derek says.