For some reason Isaac Lahey started hanging around a lot more. Maybe it was the loss of half his pack that made him lonely, or maybe it was the fact that he and Scott had some sort of weird wolf connection going on. Scott, too, seemed to revel in his new friend since Allison broke up with him—again. They were awfully chummy for two people who had barely interacted before becoming werewolves.

And it left Stiles in a weird position. He didn't exactly dislike Isaac, but he didn't exactly like him either. The guy was mentally unstable on his best days, for Christ's sake. Stiles honestly did not know why Scott took such a liking to him. Moreover, Stiles honestly did not know how their relationship reached such heights in so short a time that it ended up pushing Stiles right into the shadow's of Scott's life.

And it had happened before Stiles even realized it was happening. One second they were practicing lacrosse on the field, all smiles and "stop using your wolfy powers because it's not fair" expletives and the next Stiles was on the sidelines watching as Scott and Isaac high-five on the field, congratulating each other, and not even bothering to glance his way.

Some part of Stiles knew that it was because Scott shared something with Isaac that he couldn't with Stiles. They were both teenagers living a troubled life with a troubling secret and both trying to manage without killing someone. No matter how much Stiles wanted to be there for Scott, he couldn't match Isaac in actual experience. But these simple truths didn't soften the bitter aftertaste of third wheel. Nor did they cushion him from being sidelined.

Worse yet, it wasn't like Stiles could do something about it. His best friend was happy—who was he to spoil that? Even if he did feel like he was losing his best friend, he didn't have the right to ruin things. But it's not like Stiles didn't want to. It's not like he didn't want to march up and tell that blue-eyed puppy to beat it. He wanted to. But that's not what friends do. And Isaac doesn't deserve that. It might send him down some wolf-psychotic spiral, and Stiles didn't really want to be within clawing range of that mess.

Stiles thought about these things whenever there was a spare minute in his brain between homework, school, practice, and in all the dull moments. Dark feelings of sadness and frustration crept up and pinned him down making him remember all the good times he and Scott had growing up, how they had become like brothers, and how they had always stayed friends no matter what. Stiles wondered if this was the time that everyone always warns about. Eventually people grow apart. Things change.

Well, he didn't want things to change. He wanted them to stay firmly in place. Even when Scott spent all his time with Allison, Stiles always knew that Scott was still his best friend. But why was it different this time? It's not like he was dating Isaac—he was still in love with Allison. Scott was just making a new friend. So why why why was this happening?

Whatever force was behind this, Stiles didn't know. And he ended up spending as much time as possible keeping himself occupied so those dark thoughts didn't creep in and threaten to suck him down. He worked extra long on his homework, checked out piles of books from the library, reread old books, watched all six seasons of Doctor Who on Netflix, caught up on Game of Thrones, beat Skyward Sword, started a blog detailing his pop culture adventures, did a massive Buffy rewatch, and pretty much spent every other second trying not to think too hard about reality. But at night, when he tried to sleep, Stiles felt the loneliness in full force. A deep ache in the center of his chest. He should have tried to make friends other than Scott these past years of his life.

This was probably the reason why Stiles found himself sitting by himself at home on the first day of the winter holidays. Normally, he and Scott would spend the day playing video games in their underwear, but not this day. He hadn't even thought about Scott until the sun went down. And that was when Stiles realized he wasn't just lonely—he was very much alone.

It was strange sensation—not actually having anything resembling a social life. And Stiles wondered if it was partially his fault. Maybe he could have said something or done something to keep himself invested in Scott's life. Maybe he could have tried harder to like Isaac. Because it wasn't entirely Scott's fault, Stiles realized. He let himself drift away. But how could he fix that? He and Scott barely talked anymore and only during school. Would it be too awkward to just call him up and ask to hang out? Scott had to have realized what was happening. Maybe he just wanted to let things go the way they were going. Or maybe he was too busy hanging out with Isaac to remember Stiles. He didn't want to sound needy.

Stiles sipped a glass of water in his kitchen, staring out the window into the cold dusky atmosphere. Sighing, he wrapped himself in his fluffiest knitted sweater and sat in front of the TV. There wasn't anything he could do so he reverted to default state: couch potato. Oh, good, Supernatural marathon. He watched for twenty minutes before a knock at the door shocked him away from Dean and Castiel's intense staring session.

Stiles cracked open the door and narrowed his eyes. "The door? Really? Since when did you start using proper entrances?"

"You weren't upstairs," Derek said.

Stiles raised his brows. "How long were you up there?"

Derek's lip quirked up in a tiny growl. "Long enough."

Stiles broke into a short laugh. "So why didn't you just Fab Five it down the stairs?"

Derek's shoulders tensed before he shook his head. "I don't know what—aren't you going to let me in?"

Stiles licked his lips, trying not to laugh. "The doggy door is upstairs."

Derek growled. "Stiles."

The door flew open and Stiles did a dramatic sweep of his arm. "I hereby grant you entrance into my home—wait you already let yourself in on creeper basis. And…you're not a vampire. And stop growling, jeez. You might be a wolf but that doesn't mean you need to act like we're in a B-movie horro—okay, shutting up." Stiles flashed his teeth, shut the door, and slouched back on the couch, pulling a quilted blanket around his shoulders.

Stiles had realized that Derek wasn't as bad as he tried to make himself out to be. The dude carried his dark torch a little too heavily, but other than that Derek wasn't the killing-creeper-psycho he'd initially thought.

"So what exactly brings you to the unsightly home of a lowly human teenager at an uncharacteristically reasonable hour?"

Derek just stood in the entryway looking a bit out of place in the harsh orange light from the kitchen and the flashing television screen. He glanced around, trying to ease his way in to a strange place. His eyes finally stopped on Stiles and he snorted.

"You look like a burrito."

"I'm cold. And answer the question, sourwolf."

"It's not that cold. Aren't you wearing like six sweaters or something?"

"Maybe not for you! And only two thank you very much. Are you just going to ignore the elephant then? Because if so, let yourself out. There's a marathon and I intend to watch it."

Derek plopped down next to him. "I felt something strange in the air a couple days ago but I ignored it. This morning it happened again and I need to find out what it is."

"I'm assuming you're trying to ask for my help, then."

Derek nodded.

Stiles sighed and stared pointedly at the TV. He hadn't been involved in the supernatural goings-ons for awhile even though he knew that Scott and Co. had dealt with a few mishaps in the past couple months. Something to do with an alpha pack. Stiles wished he could help, he really did. But the dark part in the back of his mind, constantly reminding him that he was just human, kept him from getting involved. In the beginning, he would have jumped at the chance to be a part of something insanely otherworldly, but now he knew too well his limitations. He still remembered the pain sometimes…

"Well I can't."

Derek seemed a little taken aback. "We have to find out what this is, Stiles. It could be dangerous."

Stiles clenched his jaw before chucking the blanket and turning to face Derek with a hard look in his auburn eyes. "Okay. What exactly is it that I'm trying to research?"

"I don't really know."

"What does it look like?"

"I'm not sure it—"

"You're not sure it is a thing? Wow, okay. So all you want me to go on is a strange feeling you've got—probably just the wind mind you. I can just see it now, Derek. Google: What does it mean to get strange feelings in the middle of winter? Also, narrow your results to werewolf related incidents. Of course." Stiles turned back to the TV.

"Scott said that—"

Stiles huffed out a small laugh. "What Scott said doesn't matter because he didn't say it to me."

"He's running with Isaac and Jackson."

"And shouldn't you be there?"

"I've got other things I need to do."

"Like asking me pointless questions."

Derek didn't say anything. It was a moot point. Stiles huffed again and then changed gears. "Besides, when did you and Scott become chummy enough for you to deliver his messages?"

"That's not the word I would use. We have an agreement."

"Which is?" Stiles didn't know why he was grilling Derek so hard. No, he did know. And it was pathetic. He really was desperate for information on Scott's life.

"I'm not his alpha, but we're still pack."

"How does that even work?"

"I have no idea. I'm not even going to try to make sense of it. The logistics could quite possibly give you brain damage."

Stiles laughed and then choked. Derek Hale had made a joke.

"So, okay, what's the real reason why you've come here?"

Derek tipped his head. "Just to ask for some research."

Stiles knew that was it, but it didn't help the cold wave of disappointment that washed over him. He wished it were because Scott had sent Derek to check on him—it would mean that Scott still cared. But it was Derek and Stiles knew that Scott had no power to make him do anything. And who knew if Derek knew anything about their estrangement. He didn't seem like the type to get involved in high school drama.

"Well I have nothing to go on but a strange feeling so…"

Derek shook his head. "I had hoped… But it was a long shot."

Stiles watched as Derek's shoulders sunk down just the tiniest fraction. He bit his lip. "Look, I'll help if you give me something more to go on okay? More than just a strange feeling. Something tangible—Google-able. That's not a word but whatever. Now get out of my house."

Derek hesitated before getting up. "Where's your father?"


Derek narrowed his eyes. There was a question on his tongue but he seemed to think better of asking it so he just left.

Stiles slipped the blanket back over and continued his marathon.