Kate's World // Kate Argent
Is He Really As Tame As He Claims?
Did you watch 4 for 60 yesterday? You missed some primetime entertainment. I knew I couldn't miss this week's show when they announced they were going to do a whole show on equal rights, and I really couldn't miss it when everybody's favorite werewolf, Derek Hale, confirmed his participation. Usually 4 for 60 is not my poison of choice—Morrell has a habit of inviting the same liberal spokespeople again and again, and their stance on gun control is ridiculous, especially given how werewolves are clamoring for more rights and equal treatment. A wolfsbane gun has saved a lot of people's lives, that’s all that I'm saying.
Yesterday you were shown in high definition and surround sound just why werewolves cannot be trusted. Hale, a werewolf right activist, was the token non-human in the round and did not like it. "Equal rights mean equal representation," he said right at the beginning, all smiles, but that was soon to change.
Don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with werewolves per se. It's just their superstrength and sharp teeth and instant healing ability that make me hesitate because one wrong look and you're done in. Hale can pretend all he wants that werewolves are not any more dangerous than human beings, but he himself proved that werewolves are volatile and easily angered when Araya Cavalera pointed out recent upticks in assault featuring werewolves. And this is the guy campaigning for abolishing mandated anger management courses for werewolves. Seriously? Look in the mirror, honey. You'd do well with some anger management yourself.
"Fucking Kate," Derek says and slams the newspaper down on the table. It rips a little, giving him a quick boost of vicious satisfaction, but it doesn't last long. The thing is, she's right. Derek was an absolute ass on 4 for 60 and it'll take him weeks, if not months, to repair all the damage he caused when he let Araya goad him into a heated argument about whether or not being a werewolf constituted being a weapon just by existing. It's an old argument, one he's had countless times before, in school, with friends, but especially since that day in undergrad, when he first got involved with equal rights activists. He knows better, but yesterday he hadn't had the mental wherewithal to just let it pass.
He was late to the studio, everyone else already almost done in the make-up chair, because the dry-cleaners had lost the jacket to the suit he'd wanted to wear and in all the chaos he'd forgotten to bring a tie and had had to double back. On top of it, Uganda had executed another werewolf for "being unnatural" and Texas had upheld a law that allowed companies to prefer humans over werewolves when hiring, if there was no need for the physical advantages of a werewolf.
Derek's still brooding when Laura comes into his office.
"I knew I should've confiscated the paper," she says and wrangles the abused paper away from him. "I don't get why you're still reading her drivel, she's just got it out for you, you know."
"A severe case of masochism," Derek replies.
Laura grins. "I always knew." Then she grows serious. This bodes ill, Derek thinks. Nothing good has ever come out of Laura looking at him like that.
"What was up yesterday?" she asks. "You almost went for her throat. If Morrell hadn't put her hand on your arm to interrupt you..."
Derek closes his eyes and sighs. "I just have a lot going on," he says. There's the new campaign they'll have to start soon and he's promised his undergrad prof that he'd come and present in one session of his seminar. He's invited for a keynote next month and only has a vague idea what he'll even talk about. In a few weeks there's a hearing at the senate concerning marriage and adoption laws for werewolves, abolishing the ruling that werewolves could only adopt other werewolves and thus were prevented from adopting their human partner's human kids. And worst of all, he has no idea when he's supposed to organize his travel or find ten minutes to discuss the speech he wants to give at the hearing at the senate with Erica so that she can write it. Isaac wants to update his social media strategy. His mom's threatening that if he misses another Sunday meal without good reason, they'll have Sunday dinner at Derek's house. A lot going on is putting it charitably. Derek's fucking lost, entirely overwhelmed by everything.
Laura pokes him in the ribs. "I know what you need," she says. "You have to get a PA."
"I don't need a PA," Derek says. When Laura gives him the eye, he mumbles, "I don't want one." In his mind he has an image of a perky blonde, always on the phone and bringing his careful order into disarray. Besides, who even has a PA these days?
"Derek." He marvels a moment at the way Laura says his name—it means business, stop messing around, listen to me now or else. She's always had a knack for getting Mom’s tone exactly right. Between the two of them, Derek's never in want of being put in his place.
But then Laura falters, her face becomes soft. She steps behind Derek's chair, putting her hands on his shoulders. "You're way too stressed, baby bro," she says softly. "You work too much and—"
"Someone has to," Derek says. "Someone has to do the work so that society can change and—"
"I get it," she says. "I get why you do, why Mom did it and still keeps doing it. You're both really great at it, too. But would it be too much to let someone else pick up your dry-cleaning? Worry about which flight to take to D.C. and back? To let them field all those phone calls? So that you can go and work on what's really important."
"That ... actually makes sense," Derek has to admit.
Laura huffs. "I'm always right."
"I'll let you keep your delusions," Derek says.
"So it's a deal? I'll have Boyd put up the ad."
Derek knows when he's beat. "It's a deal."
He guesses the worst that can come out of this is that he'll be able to give another poor werewolf student a good reference. Scholarships are difficult for werewolves—they're barred from most sports, and many merit-based scholarships have quotas for werewolves.
"Please repeat that," he tells Erica. "Because I think I misheard. You hired a human as my personal assistant."
Erica just grins. "He's cute, you'll like him."
Derek frowns. "I left you detailed instructions," he says. "I specifically did not want—"
"Yeah, boss, I know," Erica interrupts him. "But you also know that you've been getting a lot of flak from the Humans Are Better Beings front because you're known to favor hiring werewolves. Makes your own campaign on discrimination not look good."
Derek takes a deep breath and pinches the bridge of his nose. He opens his mouth to answer, but then the door to their offices opens and the heavenly smell of coffee fills the room. A young man comes inside, or rather, he sort of falls inside when the door unlocks, only preventing a fall by more luck than grace. Derek's curious who he is—the guy's holding a tray of coffee cups, a large bags of what smells to be croissants, apparently from the new hipster bakery down the street, a code card and his cell. Wait, that's one of their code cards.
Erica turns to him with an absolutely evil grin on her face. "Derek, please meet your new PA. Stiles, this is your new boss. Now, which one's my coffee, Batman?"
The guy (what sort of name is Stiles, anyway?) just grins and turns the coffee tray. There's a cup with CATWOMAN written on it. Erica laughs and blows Stiles a kiss.
Derek has enough self-confidence to admit that he doesn't have a fucking clue what the hell's going on.
Laura comes out of her office and her face lights up when she sees Stiles. Whatever plans Derek might have had to take Stiles aside later and tell him quietly that it's not working out, sorry, go down the drain. Erica, Derek could take on. He's still her boss. But Laura actually hugs Stiles, gets a coffee of her own and takes the bag of croissants "to put in the break room" and Derek's heart sinks.
"I'm sure Derek will be nice to you on your first day," Laura says loudly and, oh, she's looking at Derek. He knows that look, it's her or else look, the one that she used to give kids she was babysitting.
Laura was the best babysitter in town. Derek is doomed.
Stiles turns to face Derek. "Hi boss," he says, grinning. "Or should I rather call you Derek? My dad's the sheriff, so everyone in the department just calls him Sheriff, I figured—"
"Derek is okay," Derek interrupts him. He knows it's rude, but Stiles doesn't even seem bothered. He just nods.
"I'll show you where you sit and make sure you have access to Derek's calendar," Erica says. "Come on."
Stiles smiles sheepishly at Derek and lets Erica drag him away,to the desk right in front of Derek's office.
Derek stares after them, feeling a bit forlorn. He startles when Laura suddenly appears and thwaps his arm. "Behave yourself," she says sternly.
"I can still fire him, if he's fucking things up," Derek says and walks away past Erica and Stiles, who must have heard him, but fuck, Derek doesn't care.
It's only when the door falls closed behind him that he feels a bit ashamed. Even more so when, half an hour later, Stiles knocks and brings him a coffee (with a drop of milk and three sugars, just the ay Derek likes it) and a croissant.
"Uh, Erica said that you need to forward your phone to mine, so I can start screening your calls," Stiles says. "And she mentioned something about a special system for sorting your mail?"
Derek grudgingly explains everything, although he thinks it's in vain—even Laura calls Derek's system convoluted and senseless. He doesn't expect Stiles to get it.
He still answers all of Stiles's questions. He's pretty sure that he can find one reason to get rid of Stiles by tonight and he'll do the next interviews himself, he'll find the time somewhere.
Except Stiles doesn't mess up. He sorts Derek's mail perfectly, cleans up Derek's inbox so that Stiles can take care of most things and the folder with mails that Derek has to deal with himself or at least look at is so small that Derek feels a sense of relief so keen he almost wants to weep. Instead of hundreds of unread e-mails and thousands of items he hasn't had a chance to move into their respective folders or delete yet, he's looking at 23.
The only bone of contention is that Stiles lets Peter's call pass. "But you said to let family through!" Stiles protests, his face full of rightful indignation, hands on his hips. Erica cackles behind him and Laura openly laughs.
"Everyone but Peter," Derek growls.
"Noted," Stiles says. "Now about those interview requests..."
By the end of the day Derek feels like he's been put through the ringer. Twice. At lunch Laura took him aside, making him leave the office and not work through break, just eating a sandwich at his desk, because "Stiles can handle the calls."
"But he's new," Derek said, "he doesn't know—"
"He's smart, thinks fast on his feet and Erica's still there," Laura said. "Trust him to do the job you hired him for, Derek. He'll be fine."
And now Derek's looking at a list of interview requests waiting for his approval.
"Oprah wants you on that date, which works because you're still in Chicago that day, you only leave for the conference the next day. And those guys," Stiles points out three items at the bottom of the list, "I'm still waiting for their lists of questions to vet."
Derek stares at the list. "You cross-checked all the dates?"
Stiles pauses for a moment. "Yeah," he says. "Because, y'know, it would be stupid to make a date without being sure you'd actually be available, dude."
"Don't call me dude," Derek says. He suddenly feels very, very tired.
Stiles sits down in the chair in front of Derek's desk, legs stretched out and a thoughtful expression on his face. "I don't think you're gonna fire me."
"Uh?" Derek blinks. "What are you talking about?"
Stiles makes a wide circular motion which seems to encompass Derek and his ... everything. "If you were gonna fire me, you wouldn't sit there all defeated," he says. "You'd be crowing and enjoying your triumph."
Well, at least Derek can clear that up. "I'm not firing you," he says.
"Then why the long face?" Stiles hunches forward, suddenly small. "It's not—my best friend is a werewolf, I know that sometimes things are just a bit weird. But Erica said you'd be fine with me and—"
"It's just been a long day," Derek says. In truth, it's not even over yet because he still has to read a few articles.
"Okay," Stiles says. His heartbeat is steady, but his face screams disbelief. Derek wishes he had the words to explain that it's not Stiles's fault, but Derek's—the usual "it's not you, it's me" spiel. Derek doesn't trust people, it takes him months and years to warm up to someone. He's used to wolves, to people who can read his mood without him having to say anything.
He also doesn't know how to tell Stiles that he doesn't trust him to do his job well, except, well, that's sort of the thing. Derek is so used to doing everything himself, it's difficult to hand huge parts of his life over to someone he barely knows and just trust them to do it right.
But today Derek got done a lot more than usual. Because Stiles fielded off all the interview requests, did the usual back and forth about dates and questions and whatnot, because he replied to the routine e-mails and notified Derek of anything important, because he looked up flights to London for that one conference, because of Stiles doing all these things Derek had a few uninterrupted hours to work out ideas for his keynote (although Erica will rip through his rough draft and rewrite it completely) and actually reply to people he should've gotten back to weeks ago.
Stiles seems to decide that he won't get another word out of Derek today and gets up. "I'll see you tomorrow then," he says.
Derek just nods. He is so fucked, he thinks. This actually might work out.
Nobody pays him any attention. It only irritates Derek more. He grabs his notebook and goes back into his office, slamming the door behind him. He's completely aware of how childish that is, but it's either slamming the doors or open violence and given how he's trying to prove to the public in general and the Argents specifically that werewolves aren't mindless killing machines, violence of any kind is out. Sadly.
It's only three days to the American Symposium on Human-Werewolf Intercultural Communication and Derek feels ill-prepared. Why did he have to accept the keynote for the biggest conference on werewolf-human interaction? If it wouldn't generate a lot of bad press, he'd cancel right now and go to his parents' estate in Northern California where he could hide in the forest for the rest of his life. Yes, that sounds like a good choice.
When the door to his office bangs open, Derek jumps up, but it's only Stiles wandering.
"I guess we're announcing our exits and intros now," Stiles says. Derek is still staring at the door where it smacked against the wall, leaving the tiniest of imprints.
Before he can ask what the fuck is going on right now, Stiles puts down a cup of coffee. Derek can tell that it's a breve mocha with whip and what smells to be at least a pound of sugar.
Derek shouldn't ever have sent Stiles out on that late-night desperate coffee run the day when he was supposed to submit the final version of the chapter for the compendium on contrastive analysis between human-human and human-supernatural discrimination. Now that Stiles knows about Derek's sweet tooth, he's bringing him pastries and sugary drinks whenever Derek's being a "sour wolf". It's very annoying because then Derek has to run an extra five miles.
Stiles puts a bakery bag down next to the huge cup of coffee. It smells like an eclair. "Now about the charity dinner next month—"
"Stiles, I don't have time to talk about the charity dinner," Derek says.
"Oh, you do," Stiles says. He ignores Derek, opening his calendar to the next month, and closes the window with all of Derek's to do items until the symposium.
"Hey," Derek protests.
Stiles sighs, long and definitely put-upon. Derek wonders why he puts up with Stiles at all—Stiles insists on listening to music while he works, which both Erica and Isaac encourage. He interrupts Derek to make him answer stupid questions like "do you want to fly coach or business?" He did understand Derek's sorting system and then invented a few categories of his own. Okay, that's not bad, but Derek's grumpy because it wasn't his idea.
Then Derek looks at the cup of coffee and bag of eclair right in front of him. On the other hand, Stiles remembers his secret guilty pleasure coffee order and his favorite type of pastry, he runs interference between Derek and his family, and he's completely on top of Derek's inbox. It hasn't ever looked that great, but now everything's carefully filed away and labelled and Derek can actually use the task view of Outlook after Stiles gave him a thorough, if somewhat haphazard tutorial when he saw that Derek simply flagged everything and then never did anything with it.
Right now Stiles is stepping behind Derek, pulling him to sit upright and, fuck, digs his thumbs right into the tight knots in Derek's shoulders.
"Relax," Stiles says. "We've got this under control. Erica is writing the most beautiful keynote for you—seriously, she read a bit to us earlier and I was almost weeping, it's that good. And Isaac says that people are pretty psyched that you'll be there and that you got the keynote instead of Deucalion. Twitter's all aflutter with support for you, you even got your own hashtag. I'm gonna pick up your favorite shirt and suit this afternoon from the dry-cleaners."
Derek lets his head fall forward and Stiles work on his neck and shoulders. Those fingers are magic, he swears. Not that he spends a lot of time thinking about Stiles's hand—except when he is.
"So much to do," Derek mumbles.
"Then let us help," Stiles says. "Instead of stressing yourself out and barking at everything."
At some point Derek will have to take Stiles aside and tell him not to make any more dog jokes. But right now is not that time.
Derek sighs, as Stiles works on a particularly stubborn knot. "ASHWIC is big," Derek says. "If this goes well, it'll open a lot of doors for the foundation." What will happen if Derek messes up, he doesn't dare to say. He's been barely able to think properly since he realized that this might either make him or break him. Everyone's been so proud and believes in him, but Derek currently can't find that sort of confidence in himself.
"It will be great," Stiles says. "You know why?" Derek shakes his head. "Because you're you. People are coming to listen to you because you care about what you're doing, and it shows in everything you do, especially your speeches. Dude, you’re infectious when you speak. Even if you went up there and went completely off-script, you'd still be able to carry everyone away. Stop worrying so much."
Derek nods. "Thank you," he says quietly.
Stiles stills. "What for?"
"For believing in me," Derek says.
Stiles pats Derek's shoulder and steps away. Derek misses the warmth of his hands acutely. "Drink your coffee and eat your eclair," he says. "I'll come by later with Erica's draft. In the meantime think about if you need a new shirt for the charity dinner."
The thing is, Stiles is the most annoying person Derek's ever met, but he's also the most competent assistant Derek's ever had, so Derek's gotten into the confusing habit of simply obeying Stiles. He's pretty sure it should be the other way round.
It does work out well, though. Erica's rough draft is almost perfect and after an hour discussing potential changes she comes back the next day with the final draft. Stiles does bring him his dry-cleaning (and several more mochas). Boyd picks Derek up from his apartment and drives him to the convention center, making sure that Derek's on time.
The speech goes, for lack of a better word, great. Derek's pretty sure he saw several people tear up, which he hadn't thought possible for a keynote that dealt heavily with the problems of having an interspecies relationship. As Stiles would put it, it's a complete win.
Derek is busy for the entirety of the symposium. It's a relief to have both Boyd and Stiles there, taking care of things like bringing Derek sandwiches when he gets lost in conversation with a Colombian researcher or reminding Derek of that panel which he absolutely has to go to.
It's a good conference, though, with lots of interesting talks. Derek's keynote is mentioned time and again as one of the best talks of the symposium, and Derek can't help blushing whenever someone comes to him and gushes about it.
By the end of the symposium Derek's dead on his feet, but also strangely exhilarated. So when Erica is talking pointedly about a Friday Night Out, Derek says, "Let's go to dinner."
The evening is fun, because for the first time in weeks, Derek feels like he can relax again. He has a pocket full of business cards, more offers for collaborations and invited talks than he expected, and the feeling of job well done. For now, he's perfectly content listening to his staff ribbing on each other.
"No, tell me, what's up with the scarf?" Stiles asks Isaac. "It's summer."
It's an ongoing thing between them, but it's amusing to listen Isaac defend his sartorial choices while Erica croons, "He's being a hipster, hipster is as hipster does," while Boyd pretends not to know any of them.
"It's a purity thing," Erica says, and Derek snorts. He's been clubbing with Isaac, on a few misguided occasions, and there's nothing pure or innocent about Isaac. He just looks like a cherubic angel.
Stiles laughs loudly and Derek gets sidetracked for a moment by looking at the long line of his throat, his adam's apple bopping up and the way the muscles under his skin shift when Stiles tilts his head to squint at Isaac. "I can't see you saving yourself for anyone."
Erica grins. "He's waiting for Cora to come back from—"
Isaac slaps his hand over Erica's mouth. He's blushing furiously and glances at Derek. Derek wishes that Isaac's crush on his baby sister actually was a secret to him, but Isaac has the subtlety of a gnat and all of Derek's family, including Cora, know that Isaac thinks she's the best thing since sliced bread.
"The infamous Cora who's away for a semester in Argentina?" Stiles asks.
"Right, you haven't met the family yet," Erica says.
"I'm going to," Stiles says, grinning. "Laura promised me dirt on Derek."
Derek freezes. "I will keep you away from her," he says. There are naked baby pictures of Derek's somewhere in his mom's house. Laura claims to know where they are. Their mother refuses to destroy any embarrassing pictures of her children on the grounds that she needs blackmail material to get them to come home at least once in a while. Laura is the spitting image of their mom and sadly is not above using blackmail herself.
In fact, Laura and Stiles teaming up together against Derek is the stuff Derek's nightmares are made of.
Everyone at the table laughs and Stiles winks at him. "You'll never catch up."
The conversation turns to other topics—movies they've just seen, upcoming concerts, which books they should read next.
Derek realizes with a start that Boyd, Erica and Stiles are concert buddies, and that Isaac goes to the movies with Stiles and his best friend Scott quite often. Boyd's given Stiles some medieval crime books to read, while Stiles is trading comics with Erica.
Stiles is an integral part of their group, and Derek cannot recall how it was before Stiles. Stiles has only worked for him for six short weeks, and that's a tiny bit frightening. Mostly, it just makes Derek feel happy, although he chooses not to dwell on that for too long. Stiles has become part of his pack, but nothing more. That's it.
And if Stiles's laughter sends little shivers of pleasure through Derek, well, that's entirely Derek's problem to deal with. It's not Stiles's fault that his collarbones are driving Derek to distraction—the bar is hot, so it was only natural of Stiles to unbutton the top buttons of his shirt.
Except every time Stiles moves and his collar flares open, Derek has to look and wonder what Stiles's sweat would taste like.
He probably should go easy on the wolfsbane-laced beer now. Derek's feeling hot himself, his shirt suddenly too tight. He opens the cuffs and rolls up the sleeves before also loosening his collar. It earns him a few catcalls from Erica, who unabashedly yells, "Strip!", making the entire bar look at their booth.
Derek bows his head, feeling a blush creep up his neck and cheeks. He blames the beer when he looks at Stiles, though.
Stiles is grinning at him. "I wouldn't say no to a strip show, either," he says, making Derek blush even harder, while the rest of Derek's pack laughs loudly.
Derek has to look away before he says something stupid like, "Let me take you home, I'll give you a show." Stiles is his assistant and Derek is not good at relationships.
Fuck, why is he already thinking about relationships? This cannot end well.
When Derek is up to looking into anyone's eyes again, the conversation has shifted again, but Stiles is still looking at Derek. He startles when he realizes that Derek has noticed, and ducks his head, two red spots appearing on his cheeks. It makes Derek's heart flutter for a moment because could it be possible?
But then Isaac asks Stiles about a new movie and the moment is broken.
At least it is until it's time to head home. Erica and Boyd leave first, Erica loudly pronouncing the need for some "couple time".
"She could've just said that they're planing to have sex," Stiles says.
Isaac sighs. "Oh, she usually does. That was her drunken attempt at subtlety."
Derek can't hold back a snort. "As far as Boyd is concerned, Erica is an open book."
Stiles stretches, his shirt riding up. The glimpse of pale skin captures Derek's entire attention, so he doesn't realize that Stiles is talking again until Stiles is half-way through his sentence.
"—get a cab?" Stiles looks at Derek and Isaac.
Isaac shakes his head. "I live nearby, I can walk."
Stiles turns toward Derek. "And you?"
"My apartment's on Crocket Avenue," Derek replies.
"Sweet, I'm near Daly Boulevard, we could share a cab," Stiles says. He's smiling and Derek forgets why sharing the cramped backseat of a cab is a bad idea.
They wait outside for the cab, despite Stiles being sure that they could just hail one outside. "It's late, everyone's trying to get home, you'll never get a cab," Isaac says. "Derek is physically incapable of taking a cab when there are other people waiting for one as well. He once kept us stuck at the airport for a full hour because he had to let everyone else go first."
Stiles laughs again, the sound trickling down Derek's spine like warm water. "I can see that," Stiles says warmly and the look in his eyes takes Derek's breath away for a second.
"I'll leave you to your waiting then," Isaac says. Derek can hardly beg him to stick around and make sure that Derek doesn't do anything stupid, although he can't help throwing a last helpless look at Isaac's back as he turns the corner.
"So," Stiles says. Derek braces him for the worst. "What actually is Cora doing in South America?"
Derek lets go of the breath he wasn't aware he was holding. "Cora's studying anthropology and history," he says. "When we were younger, our parents took us on a cruise and we went to see Machu Picchu and all the other sites. For Cora it was love at first sight."
"She sounds like a pretty person," Stiles says.
"She is," Derek says. He misses his little sister dearly, her snark and dry humor, holding secret conversations in Spanish because Laura sucked at foreign languages.
"Hey," Stiles says, bumping Derek's shoulder with his own. "Don't go all maudlin, I hear rumors that she's coming back soon."
Derek bumps Stiles back, grinning when Stiles stumbles a bit.
"Easy on the puny human!" Stiles says as he rights himself on his feet. "These are fragile goods, I'll let you know."
"I'm not seeing anything puny about you," Derek says before he can think better of it.
Stiles throws him a look Derek can't quite read and opens his mouth, but then Derek's saved by the cab driving up. Out of relief he lets Stiles get in first.
Only to realize that Stiles definitely did not scoot all the way to the other side, but sat down rather in the middle of the back seat. Their legs are pressed together, and Derek can feel every of Stiles's movements as he leans forward to give the driver both of their addresses.
"Drop him off first," Derek says.
"But then he has to double back," Stiles says.
"Doesn't matter,", Derek says.
While they're still arguing, the cabbie starts driving, putting an end to their discussion when he takes the left to get to Stiles's apartment block first.
"Fine, have it your way," Stiles says and leans back, arms crossed over his chest. It means that now they're touching all the way from shoulder to knee. Derek's so close to Stiles that he can pick out all the smells that make up Stiles: his cologne, shampoo, a faint whiff of coffee and ink, the beer they were drinking all night.
Derek thinks that if he'd ask Stiles to give him space, Stiles would move. He doesn't ask.
Stiles can't stay silent for long. "I don't get you," he says, pointedly looking out of the other window. Derek waits for him to continue. He's not entirely sure he wants Stiles to get him, to be able to see right through him.
Stiles sighs and slumps back, his arms falling to his side. His hand lands on Derek's thigh, his palm feeling hot even through Derek's jeans. Derek thinks that everyone in the car can hear the way his heart stutters.
"I don't get you," Stiles repeats. His fingers pat Derek's leg, like you would pet a dog that's behaving well. Normally Derek would bristle, but coming from Stiles he finds the motion soothing.
"You get me plenty," Derek says. He can't help but looking at Stiles's hand, the way his fingers sweep over the dark denim of Derek's jeans. He's hopeless, he thinks, he's hopelessly lost.
Stiles hums. Silence reigns. Derek's listening to Stiles's breath, vividly aware of Stiles's body heat from where they are pressed together and Stiles's hand still on his leg. It's torture, but it's also everything Derek wants, this quiet just being together. He can feel Stiles gear up to speaking, taking a deep breath, turning his head, his hair rasping against the collar of his shirt, the smack of his lips as he opens his mouth and then—
"We're here," the cabbie announces.
Stiles sighs. "Perfect timing," he mutters. He starts reaching for his wallet, but Derek grabs his wrist.
"I'll pick it up," Derek says.
"Derek..." Stiles looks at Derek, and Derek wishes not for the first time that he could read Stiles's face as easily as his heartbeat. But Stiles's eyes do not betray his thoughts.
"Please," Derek says. "Let me."
Stiles shakes his head and closes his eyes. "I really don't get you," he says.
That makes two of them, Derek thinks.
Instead of getting out of the car on his side, Stiles reaches over Derek and opens the door on Derek's side. "C'mon, let me out."
Derek's perplexed enough that he obeys. Outside the air is cool enough the Stiles shivers, but for Derek the cold feels welcome, sobering him up a bit. When Stiles hugs him goodbye, Derek feels as drunk as ever, though. It's natural to put his arms around Stiles, squeezing him as tightly as he dares.
"Good night, Derek," Stiles whispers.
"Good night, Stiles." Derek waits outside the cab until Stiles has disappeared safely in the building.
The cabbie gives him a look, but Derek leans his head against the window and ignores him until he reaches his apartment. If it feels empty and cold, that's his fault alone—he hasn't been warm since Stiles stepped back from him, giving him a last shy smile.
Derek definitely has to work on this crush, it's becoming a problem. It'll have to wait until tomorrow, though, as he collapses on his bed.
The other day Laura stared at Stiles with raised eyebrows and mentioned that this seemed to be happening a lot around Derek. Stiles blushed, ducking his head, and started to reorganize everything on his desk.
Derek ignored Laura's comment, but then their mother said something similar during family dinner and now it seems as if all the people in his life keep telling Derek stuff like Stiles being a good assistant (Talia) and being a good fit for the pack (his father) and how he deserves a medal for putting up with Derek (Erica) and Stiles being a great person (Isaac). Boyd hasn't said anything so far, but he keeps making sure that Derek and Stiles end up alone in the office a lot. Derek doesn't know whether to be happy about it or aggrieved.
Last week Stiles and Derek spent an entire afternoon arguing about books—Stiles is not a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, which is just plain heresy, if you ask Derek. They do agree on Firefly being awesome. Derek hardly noticed the hours passing in their back and forth.
Stiles has also taken to sitting very close to Derek. A couple of times Derek's found Stiles looking at him in that impenetrable way, sometimes even opening his mouth to say something, only to snap it close and look away.
Every time their fingers brush, when Stiles is handing Derek papers or taking his cup of coffee from him or pressing a sandwich into his hand, every time they stand so close to each other in the elevator that Derek can feel Stiles's body heat, every time Derek catches a whiff of Stiles's scent, every little thing sends Derek's heart aflutter.
And every time he can hear Stiles's heart respond in kind, hear Stiles's breathing quicken for just a moment, followed by long deep breath, every time Stiles starts talking hurriedly about something random, every time their gazes lock and neither of them can look away for just that crucial moment, Derek's resolve is crumbling down.
Derek wonders how long he can hold out before he does something stupid like kissing Stiles.
"It's for charity," Derek says. "It doesn't matter who I buy a ticket for, as long as I buy many."
"I feel so cherished," Erica says. "Invited only so you can make your mom happy."
Derek shrugs and buys tickets for all of them anyway. He knows that Erica loves getting to dress up. It'll be fine.
Everything is indeed fine, until they get the invites.
"You didn't say this was a fancy dress thing," Stiles says.
"What?" Derek cannot help being grumpy, he hates being accosted immediately when he enters their offices. The door's barely closed behind him, for God's sake.
Stiles hands Derek a coffee. "The dinner," he says.
One sip of a white mocha with three extra shots later, Derek feels more lenient towards Stiles. Also he either shrunk his laundry or is wearing an extra tight shirt today. It has a V neck to boot. It's hard to hold on to his anger when all Derek wants to do is lick Stiles's collarbones. "Yes, what about it?"
"How fancy is it?" Stiles glances at his khakis. They're nice enough for working in the office, Derek thinks, why does Stiles keep looking at them? Oh god.
"You can't wear those," Derek says. "You need a suit."
Stiles makes a face.
"Do you own a suit?" Derek asks.
"Theoretically, yes," Stiles says in that voice he also used when he hung up on Derek's dad that one time because he thought he was a telemarketer.
"Do you own a suit that fits?" Derek amends his question.
Stiles doesn't answer, just frowns. Derek resists the urge to facepalm. Instead he reaches for his wallet and takes out his credit card. "Here," he says. "Just go and buy something to wear this weekend, okay? Preferably something that fits."
"I'll pay you back," Stiles says as he takes the credit card. He holds it loosely, eyes intent on Derek.
"Don't," Derek says. "I've lost count of how many dresses I’ve bought for Erica. It's fine."
It's Friday, the last working day in a very long week, and Derek finds it hard to concentrate on the words he's supposed to be reading. He's longing for lunch hour, for Stiles to come in and needle Derek into eating his sandwich with the rest of them, "don't shut yourself out all the time."
The hours seem to stretch into eons. That's when Derek notes that it's almost 2pm already and Stiles very definitely did not bring him a sandwich or open the door to tell him that his sandwich is ready in the kitchen if he pleases to leave his den.
It should not make his stomach drop. Was giving Stiles his credit card too much? But Stiles is pack and pack shares everything. Stiles didn't smell upset, though. If anything, he seemed—contemplative, Derek thinks. And even if Stiles wasn't comfortable with Derek paying for him, this behavior is still very unlike himself, so Derek gets up to check on his sandwich. If anyone asks, it's because he's hungry, nothing more. He's not at all worried about Stiles.
When he opens his office door, he can hear Stiles talking to someone. A quick glance shows that Stiles is on his phone, pacing the length of the room in front of Derek's office.
"He just gave me his credit card, as if I have any idea where I can even buy a suit. They sell them at Macy's, right?" Stiles is quiet. "Lydia, I'm not sure if Derek's willing to pay that much for a suit for me, it's not like—"
Derek sneaks up on Stiles and steals his phone. "This is Derek Hale, to whom am I speaking?"
There's a pause on the other side before a soft, melodious voice answers, "Lydia Martin. I've been trying to teach Stiles some fashion sense since high school."
"I am assured you have great taste?" Derek asks while evading Stiles trying to get his phone back.
"Of course I do," Lydia says matter-of-factly.
"Then please let me assure you that you don't need to spare any expenses. Just get Stiles into a suit that fits properly, with a shirt and tie that match, as well as dress shoes which don't squeak. That's all I ask."
Stiles slumps against Derek. "I'm doomed," he moans against Derek's shoulder. Derek pats his back, relishing the contact. He keeps holding Stiles, his hand rubbing in little circles. Stiles relaxes against Derek, his breath ghosting over Derek's throat. It's distracting enough that Derek almost overhears Lydia's next word.
"I can do that," Lydia says. She sounds amused, but whether it's at Derek or Stiles, it's hard to tell.
"Great," Derek says and realizes he should hand Stiles his phone back. He coughs, straightening up, and slowly shifts Stiles back to his own feet. Stiles is smiling at Derek and Derek's stomach does somersaults.
"Where's my sandwich?" Derek asks gruffly, his voice hoarse from his heart beating in his throat. Stiles's eyes are twinkling and he snorts. "Kitchen," he says before resuming his conversation with Lydia. He squeezes Derek's hand, his fingers loosely loped around Derek's hand, and for a moment Derek has to close his eyes.
"Yeah, Lyds," Stiles says, his voice calm and maybe a bit too grave for the occasion. "Do you know now what I mean?"
Derek decides that he doesn't want to hear the rest of this conversation and he flees to the kitchen. He eats alone, in silence, and before he dares to head back, he listens closely to find out if Stiles is still on the phone. But Stiles is now with Isaac, discussing last night's Orange Is The New Black.
Erica mouths at Derek, coward, but Derek resolutely walks to his office. He's totally got a grip on this thing with Stiles, he's in control.
And Derek is. Except for how Stiles won't tell him about the suit he's buying—Lydia makes him go to different boutiques and tailors, something Stiles complains about loudly, but whenever Derek tries to pry, Stiles shuts up quicker than a clam and changes the topic.
Derek doesn't know what to think about it. So he just makes sure that Erica has a new dress and goes to his tailor to get fitted for a new shirt.
For the charity dinner they meet up at the hotel where the event takes place. Derek's early because his mother insisted that they turned up together. They find Erica easily: her dress is definitely the flashiest, although still tasteful. The black fabric seems molded to her body, accentuating every curve. Boyd's already progressed to having one arm around her waist, while Erica laughs and flirts with a young man wearing a dark suit. The man has the best ass Derek's seen in a while. A slim waist and broad shoulders complete the picture.
Derek's curious who it is—normally Boyd's rather good at scaring off people interested in Erica, but now he's laughing with whatever joke the man has just told. The guy uses his entire body while he speaks, waving his hands around and almost spilling the expensive champagne forced upon everyone by the cheerful but adamant waitstaff.
Erica notices Derek and waves. The guy turns around, and Derek's knees go weak for a second. Stiles waves cheerfully as well, the suit jacket accentuating the frame of his shoulders. The suit's a very dark brown and brings out the amber of Stiles's eyes. The red tie is the only spot of color, standing out against the white dress shirt. The overall effect is stunning. Derek was aware that Stiles was hiding a body underneath all his layers, plaid shirts and t-shirts with funny prints, khakis that were held up only by his belt, but he didn't expect, well, this.
Derek either has to buy Lydia an expensive thank you gift or have her assassinated. He can't decide which.
"Stiles," Derek says when he's in conversational range. His voice might come out a tiny bit hoarse, but he ignores it.
Stiles grins and blushes a tiny bit. "Is this fancy enough?"
Derek just nods. When he turns to Erica, she's full-out grinning at him. "Stiles here has already gotten a lot of compliments," she says.
Stiles groans. "Don't remind me." Derek's jealous for a moment, but then Stiles goes on to say, "Let's find our seats, the opening speech should begin soon."
Derek lets Stiles guide him through the throngs of people. They occasionally have to stop because Derek can't walk past everyone without exchanging a few words of greeting, and by the time they reach the table everyone's already seated. There are only two empty chairs left, right next to each other. Erica smiles innocently, but Isaac actually winks at Derek, so he guesses he knows whom to blame.
Sitting next to Stiles throughout the entire dinner is sort of an exquisite torture. Stiles cannot contain his movements and every time their arms or legs brush Derek loses the thread of his thoughts. Derek barely knows what he's eating. He definitely has to do something about his thing for Stiles soon.
If dinner was torture, then the after-dinner obligatory shmoozing is hell. Stiles has the guest list, and now they're making the rounds of exchanging small talk with potential collaboration partners and sponsors.
But that's what Derek's used to—he's gone to a lot of parties of this kind, even as a child when his mother was campaigning. He knows what to do.
The problem is that Derek is not alone in noticing that Stiles is wearing a very well-fitting suit. The number of people who try to flirt with Stiles while Derek is standing right next to them is ridiculous. Derek does understand, god, he does, but his wolf is snarling inside him, wanting to protect Stiles and keep him in his pack.
And Stiles stands there and smiles without noticing any of it. On the one hand, it's good because it spares Derek a lot of embarrassment, on the other hand, he wishes that Stiles would, well, just decide to go home with Derek.
Derek very carefully puts that thought in the elaborate fantasy which is never going to happen box. He might take it out again later, when he's in bed, all alone, without anyone to chastise him for his smutty thoughts about his assistant.
Stiles usually gives everyone a few kind words which indicate his disinterest. It proves to not be enough for Deucalion, though. And Derek just left Stiles alone for a few minutes while he put his dirty glass on a table and was accosted by a generous old woman who always gives him large donations for his projects.
Deucalion has his hand on Stiles's arm, holding it tightly. Stiles's smile seems a bit forced and Derek hastens to get back.
"Ah, there's my boss," Stiles says and Derek doesn't think that he's imagining the relief in his voice. "Sorry, got to back to work."
Deucalion glances at Derek, gives him a short once-over which has Derek almost bristling with anger, and turns back to Stiles. "I could use an assistant as well," he says and it's only due to many years of lessons about control with his parents that Derek doesn't shift right then and there.
Stiles laughs, though. "I'm happy where I am," and Derek's wolf is so relieved that it feels like he's flooded with happiness.
"Also," Stiles continues, "I have all the wolves I need in my life," and then he turns to Derek, obviously dismissing Deucalion.
Derek can't help it, he's fucking preening because Stiles chose him. It's very hard not to beam out right at Deucalion, but Derek manages to only smile smugly. It still makes Deucalion fume, but then Stiles drags Derek away, to talk to someone else from Stiles's seemingly never-ending list.
From that moment on, Stiles sticks even closer to Derek, and it's both reassuring and unnerving. Stiles's closeness is comforting, his smell familiar, but the way Stiles is fidgeting makes Derek want to wrap his fingers around Stiles's wrists, keeping him still. It's not a line of thought that is conducive to talking about policy changes.
When Stiles leans in closely and says, "You have that call with the East Coast tomorrow morning, we should head out," Derek's more than ready to go home and finally get some privacy. Stiles's lips are red and plump, from when he's worrying them while jotting down notes or dragging Derek across the room to talk to someone Stiles has just seen, and Derek feels the dangerous thrall to lean forward and capture Stiles's mouth in a kiss.
When Derek starts to think like the hero in a bad romance novel, it's definitely time to leave. Stiles gets their coats from the coat check guy while Derek already heads outside. He needs some air to clear his head. He closes his eyes, just for a moment, but Stiles is getting closer (and the fact that Derek can pick out Stiles's heartbeat from the hundreds of people here indicates that the problem is much bigger than Derek is admitting right now).
Derek opens his eyes to Stiles grinning at him, amused and holding out Derek's coat. Derek takes it, but forgets to also grab his scarf.
Stiles chuckles when he wraps the scarf gently around Derek's neck. "Do you need help getting dressed, Hale? I charge extra for that."
Kissing Stiles is such a fundamentally stupid idea, although Derek currently cannot remember any of the reasons why. But Derek wants to really a lot. He's about to lean forward when the car rolls up.
"Let's get you home," Stiles says, and the moment goes by without Derek doing anything stupid. Stiles's smiles dims a bit, however, and Derek feels horrible about it.
This time Stiles hails them a cab and ushers Derek into the back. Derek expects Stiles to climb in after him. "Won't you—" Derek starts asking, but then he bites his tongue.
Stiles looks at him, sort of weary. "I don't know what you want from me," he says. "Maybe you should take the time to figure it out."
The door slams shut with a final thud and Derek's stomach lurching has nothing to do with the rather abrupt start of the taxi or the alcohol he's been drinking.
On the way home his cell phone pings with several texts, but Derek can't make himself read them. He's pretty sure he has an idea of what they're saying.
When Laura calls him, he contemplates not picking it up for a moment, but he wouldn't put it above her to just show up at his apartment in the middle of the night.
"You're an idiot," she says immediately. "And a jerk."
"Laura..." Derek doesn't know what else to say.
"No, seriously, why didn't you take Stiles home? The way you couldn't look away from him all evening, we all figured you'd finally man up and do something about it. The whole puppy love thing was cute to watch for a while, but now it's just painful to see two grown men dance around each other and both being too chickenshit to act on their feelings." Laura takes a deep breath. The next thing she says sounds more plaintive and confused than angry. "Derek, why?"
"He's my assistant," Derek says slowly.
Laura snorts. "He's way more than that," she says.
"I wouldn't be good for him," Derek says. He thinks of the hate mail that has Boyd interacting regularly with law enforcement, the threats that have been rained upon him and his family for standing up in controversial issues. He also thinks of everyone he's ever loved and disappointed, hears Paige saying, "sorry, but I can't do this," sees Jennifer leaving because Derek couldn't live up to the great ideal version of him she had in her mind. He remembers the way it hurt when Jordan smiled at him while he packed his things.
Laura's sigh is weary. "Have you ever thought about how he might be good for you? And last I checked, Stiles was entirely capable of deciding for himself what's good for him and what's not."
Laura hangs up before Derek can think of a reply.
The rest of the ride seems endless, the same thoughts running in circles in Derek's mind. He's still not any closer to knowing what to do when he shrugs out of his suit jacket, letting it lie where it falls.
He falls into bed still wearing his clothes. His bed room ceiling doesn't offer any great insights, though. Instead he can still smell Stiles's cologne, distracting and tempting. In the back of his mind one single thought spins like crazy—what if he allowed himself this, to trust Stiles with, well, everything?
He's too drunk to decide, he thinks and shoves the thought away. If he jerks off that night to images of Stiles in his suit, well, no one's going to have to know.
Everyone else is giving Derek the stink-eye.
That weekend Talia Hale's going to throw a party for everyone involved in their campaign. Derek doesn't dare ask Stiles if he's coming, and Stiles doesn't offer the information.
Erica and Boyd leave early on Friday for dinner with Boyd's family, and Isaac begs off early as well for a date. Derek stays late, trying to minimize the amount of time he spends at home staring at walls and questioning his decisions. Stiles's words are haunting him—Figure out what you want from me.
Derek assumes that Stiles left shortly after Isaac, so he's surprised to find Stiles still at his desk at 7 o'clock. "Hey, what are you still doing here?"
Stiles looks up. "I had to finish the report on attacks against werewolves," he says.
"I'm sorry," Derek finds himself saying.
Stiles snorts. "For making me delve into the deep of law enforcement statistics? No need to be."
"No, for—for the other thing," Derek says.
Stiles sighs. "So are we talking about it then?"
Derek's throat is dry. He wishes he'd prepared a speech, but he hadn't been planning to get into a confrontation with Stiles. "I'm not good at this," he says.
"That much, I figured," Stiles says dryly. "For a while I was thinking I was imagining things, that maybe I was reading too much into your looks, but Laura was almost ecstatic when I asked her about it. Apparently feelings aren't really your thing."
Derek shakes his head. "Feelings have hardly ever worked out in my favor," he says.
"Is that your answer?" Stiles asks.
Part of Derek wants to say yes, the part that is afraid and just wants this over. But then Derek looks at Stiles and thinks about never being close to him again, and he feels weak with the sense of loss that inspires in him.
"Get a ride with me tomorrow," he says instead.
"What?" Stiles frowns at Derek.
"To my mom's party," he says. "I know she invited you. We can ... talk then."
Stiles examines Derek, before nodding tersely. "Okay," he says.
"'M coming," Stiles says through the intercom.
Derek maybe paces in front of the building entrance. He ignores anyone looking at him askance.
Stiles comes out of the building in his usual get-up of jeans and a shirt, and yet he still takes Derek's breath away.
"Hi," Derek says and opens the passenger door to the Camaro.
Stiles laughs and something eases in Derek's stomach. "Are you trying to woo me, Hale?"
"Maybe," Derek says and it's worth it for the twinkle in Stiles's eyes.
Stiles gives Derek until he's eased back into traffic. "So, feelings."
Derek would bang his head against the wheel, but this is a tricky intersection. "Do we have to do this now?"
"This was the point of you giving me a ride," Stiles says. "Stop stalling."
Derek eases them on the freeway. "The last time someone told me they loved me, she left because she couldn't deal with the consequences of my work," he says.
"Wow," Stiles says. "So much for easing into the topic."
"Sorry," Derek says.
"Don't be," Stiles says, almost absently. "So you're afraid I'm gonna bail on you as well?"
"You shouldn't have to deal with this shit," Derek says.
Stiles sighs. "Neither should you. Derek, that's .... that's just not a good reason for not, you know."
"I know," Derek says.
Stiles reaches over and puts his hand on Derek's. "Let's start small," he says. "Do you like me? Circle yes or no."
Derek can't help the grin. "Yes. And you?"
"Likewise," Stiles says. "I've been really stupidly in love with you for a while."
Derek grips the wheel really tightly. "I picked out names for our kids," he says.
Stiles is quiet for long enough that Derek chances to glance at him. Stiles is staring at him with his mouth opening and closing.
"Stiles? Are you okay?"
Stiles makes a frustrated noise. "I can't believe you," he says. "What were you going to do, wait until I left on my own and then die of pining?"
"Nobody's ever died of pining," Derek says.
"I don't know why I like you," Stiles says.
"But you do," Derek states.
"Yeah," Stiles says.
Derek pulls up at his parents' house. The street is already full with cars, but Derek's habitual parking space in the driveway is still open.
On the way to the house Stiles reaches for Derek's hand and Derek feels a frisson running through him at the contact.
Of course, they're immediately accosted by Derek's parents when they enter.
"I'm so happy for you," Derek's mom says.
Derek's dad just claps Stiles on the shoulder. "Welcome to the family," he says. "You don't know what you saddled yourself with, but you're a brave person."
"Dad," Derek says plaintively, but Stiles just laughs, bumping Derek's shoulder.
"Just wait until you meet my dad," he says.
"He doesn't have to wait long," someone says from behind Derek's parents.
"Dad!" Stiles beams at the man stepping forward. "Didn't know you were already here."
"Obviously," Sheriff Stilinski says. He looks at Derek and Derek thinks he knows where Stiles got that I'm figuring you out stare from. "Hale."
"Sheriff," Derek says. It comes out a bit meekly, but Stiles squeezes his hand.
"I heard a lot about you," the Sheriff says.
Derek wants to sink into the ground. He has to clear his throat before he can speak. "I, uh..."
"I think the important thing is that they cleared everything up between themselves," Derek's mom throws in. "Don't you think so?"
The Stilinskis share a look, a conversation held entirely in glances, and then the Sheriff relaxes. "I do," he says. "Derek, I'll look forward to seeing you at brunch on Sunday."
Stiles is snickering beside him.
"It'll be my pleasure," Derek says.
Laura comes down the stairs. "Are you done interrogating them yet?" she asks. "Did my idiot brother finally grow a spine?"
"Laura," both Derek's parents chide her at the same time. Stiles dissolves into giggles, holding himself upright by clinging to Derek. The Sheriff just smirks at him, as if he were saying, you chose this yourself. Derek finds he doesn't mind.
"I think I'm gonna like having you around," the Sheriff, John, says while crunching bacon.
"This is an unholy union," Stiles says darkly. Derek puts more syrup on Stiles's pancakes. "I'm not that easily swayed," Stiles says, as he digs in.
Derek grins at the Sheriff. He thinks he can see this working out as well.
"The program is geared toward all supernatural beings," Derek repeats for the thousandth time. "We're trying to increase awareness and tolerance of all supernatural beings, not just werewolves."
Malia Tate from the Beacon Echo raises her hand. Derek likes her because she has a no-nonsense attitude that comes from having been stuck as a werecoyote for several years. "Recently you've been doing more and more projects with human involvement," she asks. "You also hired a human assistant, the first human to work for your organization. Are these facts related?"
Derek takes a deep breath. "We started working on this project almost a year before I hired Stiles," he says. "He did, however, give invaluable input."
"He gives you much more, from what I hear," Malia says.
Derek knows that Stiles knows Malia from school, that he tutored her for a while after her coyote years to help her catch up on schoolwork. He knows that Malia knows exactly what Stiles is to Derek. He's also been told by Stiles to just fucking answer her questions.
"The fact that he's my boyfriend is entirely irrelevant," Derek still has to point out.
"Not so much if you consider that the Argents have been quite vocal about your discrimination of the human portion of the population," Malia says with a smile and sits back down.
Derek shrugs. "Then they don't have anything to complain about," he says. "Next question?"
Stiles, when Malia sends him the advance copy of her article, cracks up while reading. "I love you, too," he tells Derek. Derek just kisses Stiles's temple and says, "Go to sleep, it's late." Stiles does switch off the bedside lamp and wraps himself around Derek. "G'night, sour wolf," he says.
His mom sends him a framed version of the article, Familiarity Breeds Love. It could have been worse, Derek thinks and hangs the print in his office.