The house was enormous, a crusting throwback to Gothic architecture and long neglect, with knee-high grasses in the back garden and thickly layered dust on the floorboards. Stiles had loved it since the first time they had seen it, could see the potential hidden behind the old crumbling bricks and peeling wallpaper, and although Derek groused about the expense, Stiles could tell he liked the idea of it too. Of renovating, making something new out of something old. It appealed to his fix-the-world disposition.
“Are you going to be alright?” he asked Stiles doubtfully, looking around the kitchen at the stacks of cardboard boxes left by the moving company. They had eaten breakfast at their own rickety wooden table, hauled in amidst the boxes and looking odd in the enormous room, and now Stiles was washing up the ketchup-covered plates at the sink underneath the grimy window.
Stiles grinned at his husband. “Go to work,” he said. “Have a good day. Boss people around. Take your lunch with you.” He adopted a high-pitched falsetto. “I’ll have dinner waiting on the table when you get home, honey.”
“House-husband,” Derek said with a snort. “Never would have thought it would suit you.” Stiles had not been a stay-at-home husband back in Chicago. He’d been a social worker, working with recently released prisoners from the state penitentiary to help them find jobs and homes and get their lives back on track.
They hadn’t been parents then.
“I’ll be fine,” he told Derek. “I love you. See you later.”
Truth be told, there was an odd squirming in his stomach as he watched Derek walk down the broad garden path out the front, weeds springing up between every cracked paving slab. He didn’t know anybody here in Beacon Hills, and as large and full of potential as their new home was, it was also isolated, on the outskirts of town. He didn’t have any immediate neighbours to meet. Back in Chicago, he’d been surrounded by people all the time, in their cosy flat near the prison. Here, there was only the forest, the wide-open spaces between the trees.
He’d asked the movers to put his and Derek’s king-sized bed in one of the downstairs rooms for the time being, but he already knew where their bedroom would eventually be. At the top of the stairs, the master bedroom had a huge bay window, a dressing room and an ensuite bathroom. The windows were south-facing, so that the room was already bathed in light when Stiles made his way upstairs to look at it. The carpet smelled suspect, and the wallpaper was an ugly old-fashioned print that was ripped in places, but he could see how it could look.
It was difficult to know where to start; he had an electrician coming in the afternoon to look at the wiring, but until then he was on his own. He spent the morning ripping up the carpet, creating a space out in the front yard for a bonfire to get rid of the musty fabric. He added the heavy yet cheap-feeling curtains when he was done with the carpet, and spent some time watching them shrivel and burn in the fire.
After a shower – so weak that he would definitely need to get a plumber in – Stiles drove into town to get some lunch. This was partly because he was too exhausted to cook up the pasta and bacon he currently had waiting in the refrigerator, but mostly because Stiles was a social animal at heart. He had spent too much of the day alone; he needed to meet some people now.
Beacon Hills didn’t really seem to have a proper high street; everything was spaced just far enough away from each other that you needed a car to get from one place to another. Stiles pulled up outside a brightly-lit diner with red awning, twitching restlessly as he got out of the Jeep. Being alone didn’t suit him particularly well; his ADHD was flaring, and his fingers tapped agitatedly against the side of his leg as he walked into the diner.
It was very All-American, with a shiny counter all along the far wall with red and white striped stools pushed up against it, and little booths in a neat row in front of the window. Slightly tinny music played from the jukebox off to his left, although rather incongruously it was playing current chart hits rather than the country western or 60s pop that the surroundings felt like they ought to inspire. Stiles felt better already underneath the harsh neon lighting, the smell of bacon grease filling the air.
He sat at the counter, eyes flickering around him. There were about twelve or fourteen people already in the diner, although nobody was really looking his way; Beacon Hills wasn’t so small that everyone knew each other, so it wouldn’t be immediately obvious that he was a newcomer. Most of the other customers were sat at tables, but there was a pretty red-headed girl sitting a few stools down from Stiles, head bent over a book while neatly manicured fingers followed the text.
A waitress in a yellow dress and white apron came to stand in front of him, her blonde hair teased into large 50s rolls. She smiled at him, although the gesture felt just a little empty. “What can I get you?” she asked, her voice a rolling Southern twang.
Stiles ordered a burger and a strawberry milkshake, because that was what you were supposed to eat in diners, and then he tried to engage the waitress in conversation simply because he was lonely. The waitress, it transpired, would not be engaged.
“Sorry, I have to wipe down tables,” she said in a flat voice. The tables looked pretty clean to Stiles, but he figured she probably just didn’t want to talk to him. It usually took people longer than that to get sick of his rambles, but some people just weren’t sociable, he guessed.
After lunch, he headed to the hardware store to pick up some buffing pads for the floorboards in the bedroom, the supermarket to get some food for dinner, and then the library just for the hell of it. He liked libraries; he would need a library card. Beacon Hills library was small and cosy, made out of smooth white-grey stone with glass doors, and all the books were lined neatly on white IKEA shelving. Stiles picked up his card, and then whiled away half an hour wandering through the aisles, tracing the titles printed on the spines of the books with his fingers.
There was a noticeboard near the double doors at the front of the library, where people could put up advertisements for services and goods for sale; Stiles pulled off a ticket with the phone number for a local plumbing service, shoving the scrap of paper into his pocket.
“I wouldn’t,” said a cool female voice from behind him. Stiles turned around.
It was the red-haired girl from the diner. She looked even more attractive up close, with strawberry curls hanging just past her shoulders and bright red lipstick on her mouth. Stiles said, too loudly: “What?”
She nodded toward the noticeboard. “Emerson & Sons Plumbing,” she said. “They’re terrible. Everyone in town knows it.” She tipped her pretty head to one side. “You must be new.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, feeling unaccountably awkward. “I just moved here with my husband.” He hesitated. “Do you have any recommendations…?”
“Lydia,” she filled in for him. “Try Jessops Waterworks.”
Stiles fished his cell out of his pocket, putting the name into his notes so he wouldn’t forget it. “Thanks,” he said. “Lydia,” he added.
“No problem,” Lydia replied, tossing her head. “I’ll see you around, Stiles.”
She strode confidently away, almost certainly well aware that Stiles was watching her go with his mouth slightly ajar; he might be happily married to Derek, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still be completely captivated by someone so self-assuredly beautiful. She was the type of girl, he thought, that were he not as in love with Derek as he was, he could quite easily become totally stupid over.
It was probably a good thing he was married.
He got home – and wasn’t that odd to think, that this new house was his home now? – in time to walk the electrician through the house and haggle him down from his frankly obscene quote for the work to be done; then he made a casserole and put it in the oven in preparation for Derek’s return from work, which made him feel like way more of a housewife than he really liked.
He’d never not worked before, but they’d discussed it before moving, and it made the most sense. Derek made more as a police deputy than Stiles had doing social work, and when the baby was born neither of them wanted a stranger looking after their child. That was still another four months away, of course, but there was no point in Stiles getting a job for so short a time now that they had moved, and besides, somebody needed to get the house in order, and there was no way that was going to be Derek with his shocking lack of DIY skills.
Stiles was on the phone with Erica when Derek got home; he liked to check in with her every couple of days and see how the baby was doing, how she was doing. She always grumbled about his frequent calls, but he knew she liked the attention. She didn’t have very many people checking up on her wellbeing; her parents had kicked her out when they found out she was pregnant, even when she told them she was giving the baby up for adoption. She and Stiles had become pretty good friends over the last few months.
“How’s Erica?” Derek asked when he hung up the phone. Stiles didn’t answer for a few minutes, because Derek looked freaking hot as hell in his deputy’s uniform, and kind of needed to be aggressively made out with before any conversation could be possible.
They were both red-faced and panting when they pulled apart; Stiles smiled goofily at his fucking gorgeous husband, pressing a sloppy kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“She’s good,” he said. “Tired, she says, but the morning sickness is easing up, and she only ate one and a half jars of pickles today, so.”
“Turn-up,” Derek agreed solemnly. “How was your day?”
“How was yours?” Stiles countered. “You’re the one who started the new job, dude.”
“Don’t call me dude,” Derek said, more out of habit than anything else at this stage.
Stiles grinned, but ignored this interlude. “What’s the job like?” he asked.
Derek shrugged. “I think it’s going to be good,” he said, sliding his arm around Stiles’ waist and into the back pocket of his jeans. “The Sheriff has the same name as you, it’s funny.”
Stiles tugged Derek over to the squashy maroon couch underneath the window, snuggling into his side as they both sit down. This – just talking, catching up on each other’s days after work – was his favourite time of day. “What, Stiles?” he says, oddly chagrined. He kind of liked being unique in the name department.
“No,” Derek said, sounding amused, undoubtedly because he knew what Stiles was thinking. “Stilinski. It’s not a particularly common name, is it?”
“I don’t think so,” Stiles said, as though he actually had any idea. “With my extensive knowledge of Polish heritage—”
Derek snorted. “You don’t even know if your name is Polish.”
“Shut up,” Stiles said with dignity. “I guess you’ll never forget your boss’ name.”
“Yeah,” Derek said thoughtfully. “He was a nice guy. He seemed…” Stiles waited while Derek considered; when they’d first got together, he’d found Derek’s habit of really thinking about what he wanted to say super annoying, but now he liked waiting for the end result. “…lonely,” Derek finished. “He seemed lonely, I guess.”
“Well, maybe you guys will be friends,” Stiles said. “You should invite him round when I’ve done the kitchen.”
“Yeah,” Derek agreed. He smiled, pressing his mouth to Stiles’ forehead. “Tell me about your day.”
Stiles leaned up to kiss him, feeling Derek’s lips warm and soft underneath his own. “I met a girl,” he teased. “At the library.”
“The library, huh,” Derek said, the words tailing off into a gasp as Stiles licked the sensitive spot just underneath his jawline. “I guess that’s me screwed.”
“Yeah,” Stiles panted. “She was fucking gorgeous, too.”
“Tell me more,” Derek said. He nipped Stiles’ earlobe, his teeth scraping down the line of Stiles’ neck; Stiles shuddered in anticipated pleasure.
“She approached me,” Stiles said, swinging to straddle Derek’s lap. “She definitely wanted me. No question about it.” Derek’s answering chuckle rumbled through his torso.
“Who wouldn’t?” he said, and then there was no more talking for a while. There was only the scramble for the buttons of Derek’s beige shirt, the slide of the zipper on Stiles’ favourite red hoodie, the press of skin together. Derek’s fingers tightened in Stiles’ hair, blunt nails scraping across his scalp, and Stiles held Derek’s angular face in his hands, kissing him hard, again and again.
Derek’s skin was hot, or maybe it just felt that way, like Stiles was being filled up with heat, like it was bubbling up inside him as he ran his hands over Derek’s chest, fingertips sliding beneath the waistband of his pants. His own face felt flushed, as though he was sick, overheated with his own lust, desperate to get as close as he possibly could to his husband.
Being with Derek always felt like this. There was an urgency to their love-making, like they might lose each other if they didn’t hold on tight enough, like there was electricity pouring through them, like they could set the world on fire if anyone else were stupid enough to touch them. Even when he was as wrapped up in Derek as he could possibly be, their legs squeezed together, Derek’s strong thighs flexing around Stiles’ waist, their chests pressed against each other, Stiles’ cock plunging deep inside Derek’s ass, he still wanted more. Still felt like they needed to be closer, needed to be melded more tightly together, even more deeply inside each other.
His head was tucked underneath Derek’s, sweaty cheeks sticking to each other, so that his deep groans were muffled against Derek’s chest while Derek gasped and panted into his hair. He didn’t want to move, didn’t want to peel apart even for a moment, wanted to squeeze tight into Derek and hold on forever – but he had to move, he had to, because his cock was inside his husband and it was so sensitive that he felt like he was dying. He needed the release, needed the friction, and so they moved together, bodies sliding sweatily against each other so that it built and built, and finally—
It was like seeing stars, except stars weren’t big enough, weren’t bright enough, to encompass everything that was rushing through him. It was more like an explosion of stars, like the Big Bang, with all those constellations and galaxies pouring out of this single moment, speeding away to form new empires, a single second stretching into an eternity, and then – then – he was close enough, he was deep enough inside Derek, they weren’t two separate people anymore but one, a single entity gasping together and coming together in an endless stream of feeling and movement—
Then it was over, the pulsating waves of sensation slowly ebbing away, and it was just Derek and Stiles again, lying lopsidedly on the couch with their arms and bodies wrapped around each other. Stiles was shaking in the come-down, and Derek was breathing heavily, one hand thrown up over his face.
“I love you,” Stiles said. Derek smiled, reaching up to touch his cheek, his thumb tracing Stiles’ jaw.
“I love you too,” he said softly.
They ate their casserole naked at the kitchen table, because why the hell not? They could do it for another four months – be naked without anyone to judge or even know it was happening. Derek grinned at Stiles over a mouthful of steaming pork.
“She must have been some girl,” he said, raising one thick eyebrow.
Stiles laughed. “Yeah,” he said. He recalled the way her hair had swung so silkily over her shoulder as she’d turned to walk away on spindly heels, the cool bold confidence in her voice. I’ll see you around, Stiles. She had sounded so sure that it was true; Stiles found himself hoping that she was right.
Later that night, he curled into Derek’s side as he slept. Derek always found it easier to drift off than Stiles did, although tonight he seemed restless in slumber, shuffling and tossing in bed. Stiles stroked his chest soothingly, drawing in Derek’s body heat as he prepared to fall asleep himself.
Sleep did not seem to be coming easily. Stiles, oddly enough, had never been a particularly restless sleeper; he just lay perfectly peaceful and perfectly alert, unable to relax enough to actually so much as doze. Derek wasn’t helping matters, still shifting agitatedly and occasionally muttering under his breath.
“Shh,” Stiles murmured to his husband. Derek growled at him, which was so amusing that Stiles had to choke back a laugh. He’d have to remember to tease Derek about that in the morning. It wasn’t like him to make noises in his sleep.
It had to be gone two in the morning; Stiles rolled onto his back, looking up at the dark ceiling. It was higher than he was used to; the flat they had lived in in Chicago had had small, low-ceilinged rooms. He tried to distract himself from the odd snuffling noises Derek was making by thinking about the things he needed to do the next day; he had to start working on the bedroom floor with the buffing pads he had bought from the hardware store, as well as calling the plumber.
Thinking about the plumber made him start thinking about Lydia again, although he was starting to feel a little guilty about how much she was playing on his mind. There was something about her that seemed oddly familiar, as though he’d dreamt about her before, although that was probably the dim early morning shadows playing tricks on his mind. He thought about her pale, curved face, her wide bright eyes, the slight dimple beside her mouth. That voice, so cool, so self-assured. I’ll see you around, Stiles. As though… as though she was telling him something, or trying to. More than just a casual piece of small talk.
I’ll see you around, Stiles. But how would she? He didn’t even know her last name. She didn’t know where he lived, or who he was, or—
Stiles sat up abruptly, making Derek shiver in his sleep as the covers were tugged off his bare chest.
I’ll see you around, Stiles.
He hadn’t told her his name.
She’d introduced herself to him, given him something to call her in that crisp voice like a sheet of glass, but he hadn’t returned the favour. He hadn’t told her his name.
He was sure of it. He would have remembered. People always questioned his nickname, always, and she didn’t. She had already known it.
How the hell had she known his name?