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Last Lovesong of a Dying Lemon

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1.

Okay, so here’s the thing: Stiles has bonded with his car. The Jeep is his lady love, his winged chariot without the wings, and his faithful steed, all rolled into one package that doesn’t much resemble any of those things. He doesn’t want to talk about it--but it appears he’s talking about it. Point being (we’re getting there): he shares a deep, unshakable bond with the vehicle, but that doesn’t mean he understands how it works.

So when the car shudders to a halt on Red Hill Road, Stiles lays his hands on the dash and says a few choice words.

“Babe,” he says. “Don’t do this to me.”

He rests his head on the steering wheel.

“I know it seems like a good idea right now, give yourself a rest and that, but I really, really don’t want to call AAA and listen to elevator music when they put me on hold. And I don’t have cash to tip the tow truck driver, so that’ll just be awkward. But the key’s in the ignition--see?--and we’re going to try again, right, and you’re going to start up and we’ll be gold like Ponyboy. Gold like Ponyboy.”

The Jeep doesn’t say anything. She’s very stoic that way. Sort of like every girl Stiles has ever hit on, except for the one who threw a drink in his face. It was sort of sweet and sticky and not pleasant at all.

Stiles turns the key, listens to the starter try and fail to start, closes his eyes and says, “Please babe,” before trying again.

Nothing happens.

“Okay,” he says. “I see how it is. But third time’s the charm, right? So we’re going to do this a third time, and it’s going to be charming.”

He turns the key. Nothing happens.

“Right,” he says. “So that’s the way it’s going to be then.”

He tries again, then he pulls out his cell phone and fishes around the glovebox for his AAA membership card, and stares at the pair of them balefully.

“I didn’t really want to have to do this,” he says to the car. “Imagine the shame of a tow truck. Imagine it.”

Turn the key again, nothing happens again.

Stiles dials, calls, and promptly gets put on hold.

“And now I get to listen to elevator music,” Stiles says, patting the dash. “Just like I told you I would, and you didn’t believe me. Thanks for that.”

The car doesn’t respond, because it’s a car.

Stiles is on hold for twelve minutes. The woman who helps him says the tow will be along in half an hour.

“Just bring me to wherever’s closest,” he says to the tow truck driver.

“You say it won’t start?” the driver asks. “Can I try?”

“You can,” Stiles says. “It won’t start. I tried three times lucky, and then a few more for good measure, because, you know, I’m not superstitious.”

The tow driver, a middle-aged man with a luxurious moustache, looks at him for a moment, and then Stiles tosses him the keys and the guy gets in the car, pulls back the seat--and Stiles isn’t that short, okay--and tries to start the car.

It doesn’t start.

“Okay,” says the driver.

“She’s four-wheel drive,” Stiles says. “Sorry about that. I know it can be a bit of a pain.”

The tow driver looks at him.

“So what’re we going to do?” Stiles asks. “And where’s the nearest shop? I figure you can just take me to wherever’s closest, because, you know--” Stiles waves a hand. “I don’t know, really, save some time and gas, right?”

“Hale place,” says the tow driver. “Just over the hill.”

“What’s your name?” Stiles asks. “In my head I’m just thinking of you as the tow driver. Bit odd, that.”

The driver points to a patch on his chest, where ‘Geoff’ is embroidered in flowing script.

“Right,” Stiles says. “Geoff. Good to meet you.”

“Are you going to ride with me?” Geoff asks.

“A-yep,” Stiles says. “Go with the car. Don’t know where else I would go.”

“Great,” Geoff says, dryly.

“You have any kids, Geoff?” Stiles asks by way of conversation. “I went to high school here, you know. Used to play lacrosse. Might know them.”

“I’ve got grandchildren,” Geoff says. “They’re seven and eight.”

“Congratulations!” Stiles says. He doesn’t know why he’s still talking. He’s not sure if he could stop talking if he wanted to. “That’s great. I think my dad wishes I would make him grandchildren, but I’m a bit young for that--”

“You’re the sheriff’s kid, aren’t you?” Geoff asks, squinting at Stiles.

“That I am!” Stiles says. “I was coming home from school for a surprise visit, you know? I’m at Berkeley. Not that I’m--bragging or anything. That’s just where I was driving from, and then the car did--this.”

Stiles waves his hands vaguely at the hood of the car.

“Usually I at least pop the hood, but I never know what I’m looking at, you know? So this time I just called you.”

“Look, kid,” Geoff says. “I need to hitch this up, okay? So why don’t you go sit in the cab?”

Stiles would protest the use of the word ‘kid,’ but Geoff seems old enough that he’s probably earned the right to call whoever the hell he wants ‘kid.’ He has grandchildren. So Stiles goes to sit in the cab, drumming his fingers on the dash.

“So the Hale place,” Stiles says, when the Jeep is taken care of and Geoff is in the cab. I haven’t heard of it.”

“It’s a family operation,” Geoff says. “Out of the Hale house. But Derek’s a good mechanic, he’ll take care of you as well as anyone in town.”

“Hale house was that arson case awhile back, wasn’t it?” Stiles asks.

“Word of advice, kid,” Geoff says.

“Gratis?” Stiles asks.

Geoff looks at him.

“Don’t talk to Derek about the fire,” Geoff says.

“Right,” Stiles says, and mimes zipping his lips shut and throwing away the key. “Lips: sealed.”

“I doubt that, kid,” Geoff says.

“You’re probably right,” Stiles agrees, and then pull they’re pulling down a gravel drive. There are the charred remains of a house, and another house, a garage, and enough cars that it’s hard to tell whether they’re there to be worked on or there because they’ve been there forever and will never leave. It’s like a--complex. A complicated complex. Add a few more outbuildings, and you could have a commune here. A freaky-ass mechanic commune.

“So I’m not supposed to talk about the arson when the house is right here?” Stiles asks.

Geoff just looks at him, then climbs out of the cab and goes to unhitch the Jeep.

“Go inside,” Geoff calls back, and Stiles hops out of the cab and goes to the little door in the garage labeled ‘Office.’

There’s a pretty brunette behind the desk, with a sharp nose and strong eyebrows over dark eyes.

“Howdy,” Stiles says. “So my Jeep’s coming in on the back of a truck, won’t start, don’t know why, but I’d like to get my engine going--and that wasn’t a euphemism, I’d really like the engine to start, see? Because it won’t.”

“I think you want to talk to Derek,” Laura says slowly. “I just do the books.”

“The books,” Stiles says. “Finances. Right.”

“He’s in the garage, but he should be done in a few minutes,” Laura says. “Why don’t you sit down?”

She seems very--calm. Stiles sits down. Then he stands up again.

“I need to give the tow driver my AAA information, I think,” he says. “And I need to tip him, but I don’t have any cash? Could you give me, like, a twenty and just add it to my bill? Because he listened to me talk all the way here, and I kind of feel like I owe him. And I’m going to have a bill, because my car won’t start.”

“Are you trying to open a tab at a mechanic’s?” Laura asks, but she’s grinning and fussing with the till.

“So it would seem,” Stiles says. “My car’s a bit of a lemon--but don’t tell her I told you that--I probably should open a tab at every shop in the county.”

“Don’t tell me you patronize the competition,” Laura says in mock horror.

“Um,” Stiles says. “Usually. I just have them tow me to wherever’s closest. I was taking the back way home--I’m trying to surprise my dad, and he’s the sheriff, so I needed to go on roads where there aren’t any speed traps--so I’m not usually on Red Hill.”

“Of course,” Laura says, handing him a twenty. “Though I hope Derek can engender some customer loyalty.”

Stiles isn’t sure why that sounds dirty, but it sounds like Laura is pimping out--her mechanic? The mechanic? But Geoff says this was a family business, which means Derek is either Laura’s boyfriend or her brother, and either way--Stiles doesn’t have a sister, but that’s a bit weird, right?

Stiles shuts off that train of thought, stops it and physically removes it from the tracks, because it makes no sense. Obviously they just want repeat customers, because they’re back in the woods in a mechanic commune. It is normal for businesses to court customers. That doesn’t mean that they’re also sex businesses. God, Stiles is in college now, shouldn’t he be getting smarter? But he’s a sophomore, and everyone knows what that means. So maybe not.

He gives Geoff the money and the information for AAA, and then Geoff leaves him. All alone. At the freaky sex mechanic commune.

Stiles goes back inside. Laura’s on the phone, but she waves at him, and Stiles sits down and starts flipping idly through an issue of Newsweek from...four years ago. Alright. The Cosmo is new, so he starts reading that instead, and then the door that goes from the office opens, and a guy walks in.

And. And.

Okay, so if Laura was pimping out the mechanic, Derek-or-whatever, her boyfriend-slash-brother (but not in an incestous way), Stiles wouldn’t blame her, because that would be a way to make some money. Like, large quantities of money. Probably better money than you get from running a mechanic’s shop in the woods. In the probably hypothetical world where people pay to have sex with this guy, the Hales are rolling in it. And Stiles thinks that even though the guy is wearing a blue jumpsuit--which, admittedly, is undone so the top is hanging loose around his legs, revealing a grease-stained white undershirt--and has a streak of grease across one of his cheekbones.

Admittedly, the greasy jumpsuit thing might make it better. Stiles would like to--well, Stiles isn’t sure what he’d like to do, but it has something to do with sex, he knows that much. Dude is like Mr. Rochester of Heathcliff if either of those guys had ever seemed remotely appealing, which they hadn’t, what with the crazy wife in the attic and whatever was wrong with Heathcliff, Stiles had never actually read that one. Stiles hopes this guy doesn’t have a crazy wife in his attic, because if he did then Stiles would have to call his father post haste, and it would be a shame to send this dude to prison.

“You with the Jeep?” the guy sort of says, sort of grunts, looking at Stiles, who still has the pink issue of Cosmo in his hands.

Stiles holds up the Cosmo, because if he’s doing something embarrassing, why not draw attention to it.

“Quality reading material you have here,” he says.

He does manage to stop himself before saying, ‘I was learning how to please my man. Which could be you. If you wanted.’ The stopping is mostly because the guy’s expression is somewhere between constipated and ‘I just ate a lemon,’ even though Laura, behind him, looks like she’s grinning--Stiles can’t see her mouth, behind the office desk, but her eyes are crinkled at the corners.

“Right,” Stiles says. “The Jeep’s mine. It won’t start.”

“It just started,” the guy says, then turns back towards the garage.

Laura raises an eyebrow at Stiles.

“Looks like your tab comes out to twenty dollars.”

“That was Derek?” Stiles asks, jabbing a finger. Laura nods.

“My little brother,” Laura says wryly. “Real charmer.”

“You know Geoff tried to start it,” Stiles tells her. “So it wasn’t just me. I can start my car.”

“Obviously you couldn’t,” Laura says. “This time.”

“You and Judgey McJudgerson are never going to think well of me,” Stiles says balefully. “Do you take debit?”

2.

Stiles isn’t sure why he calls the Hales when the Jeep gets a fuel leak over Thanksgiving break, but he does.

“Laura!” he says. “It’s Stiles. With the Jeep that wouldn’t start until it did.”

“Right,” she sounds like she’s smiling. “I remember you. What’s it this time? Need Derek’s magic touch?”

“She’s leaking fuel,” Stiles says. “I don’t know how exactly, but the tank is getting emptier and I’m not driving, so.”

“Bring it by, then,” Laura says.

The tank is low, but it seems like a waste of time and money to fill it up when the entire problem is that the tank is leaking, so Stiles figures he’ll just drive out to the Hale place and get it fixed before filling the tank. That makes sense, right?

And it does make sense, until the car starts slowing on--yes--Red Hill Road. Stiles floors the gas, but it’s obvious there’s no gas coming, and eventually the Jeep slows to a stop.

“Okay,” he says. “So this is how it’s going to be.”

“So, uh, Laura,” he says when she picks up. “I ran out of gas. On Red Hill Road. Because my fuel’s leaking, right? So it didn’t make sense to fill it up. Until now, and right now the tank is--empty, and it’s not like I’m going to go back to the gas station. It’s not like I could.”

Laura hums into the phone.

“Give me a few minutes,” she says. “I’ll bring a tank. We’ll put it on your tab.”

“My tab,” Stiles says. “I thought I closed it.”

“I’m opening you a new one,” Laura says. “Seems like you need it.”

“Add a beer to my tab while you’re at it,” Stiles says.

“I’m afraid our establishment doesn’t serve minors,” Laura says cheerily. “See you in a few, Stiles.”

She hangs up on him, and Stiles opens the door while he waits, sits sideways with his legs hanging out. The stretch of Red Hill Road where his Jeep’s broken down--twice, now--is low through the valley and a clearing, and it’s a sort of pretty space, despite the car being broken down and all. What with it being November everything is a bit gold, and the air is cool.

An orange pick-up, old but well maintained, pulls up alongside him after not too much time has passed, and Laura slides out.

“Howdy, pardner,” she says, grinning.

“That car doesn’t look new,” Stiles says. “I mean, it looks nice, but--”

“Not much for cars, are you?” Laura asks. “1965 F100. Derek keeps it up for me.”

“I am much for cars,” Stiles says. “Just because I can’t name make and model--like mine.”

“I guess it’s a Jeep thing,” Laura says dryly, hoisting a can of fuel from the trunk. “Open the tank for me, will you? Are you old enough to know that ad campaign?”

“Am I?” Stiles asks. “How old do you think I am?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Twelve? Or is that too old?”

“Oh, you’re hilarious,” Stiles says. “I don’t know where you’re from, but here in California twelve year olds can’t drive. Sort of like how some things cause cancer in the state of California but not elsewhere?”

Laura pats him on the back as she passes, then puts the gas in the tank.

“I have a younger brother,” she says.

“But he’s not as chatty as I am, is he?” Stiles asks, and Laura grins.

“Nope,” she says. “Come on, let’s get you to the shop, then.”

There’s a black thing rumbling down the road towards them.

“You said I didn’t know cars, but I know that one,” Stiles says, nodding. “Camaro, right?” And then he starts to warble: ”Took my Chevy to the levy but--”

Laura turns around, then lifts a hand and waves.

“Not just any Camaro,” she says, interrupting his song. Stiles realizes he’s a pretty terrible singer, but that’s just rude.

Derek hooks an elbow over the window and looks at them, quirks an eyebrow.

“So I was coming to you about a fuel leak, and I ran out of gas,” Stiles says. “I’m sure you understand, being the understanding person you are. Laura was kind enough to bring me enough to get me up the hill.”

“Make sure to charge him for it,” Derek says to Laura, and then his car roars--literally roars, like it’s an animal instead of a car--up the hill.

“I have a tab,” Stiles calls after him, but he probably doesn’t hear over the sound of one overpowered engine and the cloud of dust the car kicks up.

“Is he compensating for something?” Stiles asks. “I always figured guys with cars like that were compensating for something. Not that--I mean--I know he’s your brother.”

“Afraid I’m not at liberty to answer that,” Laura says, but she grins. “Why don’t you ask Derek to his face?”

“Two years ago I probably would’ve,” Stiles says. “But I am older and wiser now, and last time I asked a dude if he was compensating for something I had to look at his dick, and trust me, I didn’t want to see it. And he was definitely compensating. But he was pretty drunk, so I figure this time I might just get punched in the face?”

“Derek’s actually been pretty restrained lately,” Laura says. “So you might just get a withering stare.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “He does seem to be a master at that.”

Laura laughs and climbs into her truck, and Stiles pulls into the road behind her and follows her up to the Hale shop.

Laura had said that fixing a fuel leak should be pretty quick so Stiles had figured he could stay and read Cosmo or the outdated Newsweek(s--because they had more than one Newsweek, and all of them were from 4 to 8 years old, which--who even keeps Newsweek that long? They weren’t that newsworthy the first week, they hadn’t been since Al Gore invented the internet.).

So anyway, Stiles was going to do that, but he lost interest pretty quick, and Laura had gone up to the house, so Stiles had wandered into the garage and sat himself down on a milk crate by the Jeep. Derek’s legs were sticking out from beneath it.

“So,” Stiles says. “Don’t think I ever introduced myself. I’m Stiles. In case you were wondering.”

It’s silent for a moment, and then the low rumble of Derek’s voice emerges from beneath the car.

“I know your name,” he says. “Stiles.”

Stiles isn’t sure why he says it like that. Stiles is also uncertain what it means that he says it like that, because it sounds a bit like--something. It’s not quite the same tone as the exasperated one people usually use when they verbally italicize Stiles’ name. And Stiles knows these things, because he’s a keen observer of the people.

“Alright,” Stiles says. “So what’re you doing under my hood there, then?” He pauses and replays that last bit in his head. “Literally. That wasn’t a euphemism for--anything. Besides, is that even a euphemism or is it just something I think is a euphemism? Looking under the hood.”

“It can be a euphemism,” Derek says. “Like most things. But I’m not under the hood.”

“You kind of are,” Stiles says. “Even if the hood isn’t popped. I mean, you’re beneath the car, and the hood is above you and--I feel like I’m doing an elementary school grammar exercise right now, please stop me.”

“Stop,” Derek says. Which isn’t super helpful.

“Find the leak yet?” Stiles asks, twiddling his thumbs.

“Yeah,” Derek replies. “Fuel line. Just finishing up now. So you don’t really need to be here.”

“I’m just here ‘cause I got bored with the reading material in the office,” Stiles says. “Seriously, what’s with the Newsweek collection? I don’t think they’re going to be worth any money. Ever.”

“My uncle bought the subscription,” Derek says. “Then he died.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. “Sorry to hear that. About your--uncle,” Peter, Stiles recalls vaguely. “Peter.”

Derek slides out from under the car, wipes his hands on his pants and gets to his feet.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “But we never really got around to renewing the subscription.”

“Um,” Stiles says. “Okay.”

He follows Derek into the office, decidedly not looking at Derek’s ass (okay: totally, absolutely looking at Derek’s ass, because it is very shapely). Derek frowns at the computer like it’s going to bite him and then picks up the phone and dials it.

“Laura,” he says into the receiver, then hangs up.

“Did you seriously just do that?” Stiles asks, staring at him and then waving a hand. “Did you just call your sister on the phone, say nothing but her name, and then hang up?”

“She does the office stuff,” Derek says. “She wasn’t here.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “I’m just saying, if you weren’t going to talk to her, couldn’t you just let her check the caller i.d.? Since I guess you two have a freaky sibling mind meld going on?”

“This works,” Derek says. “I’ll pull the Jeep out into the lot and leave the keys in.”

“Thanks,” Stiles calls after him as he leaves. “Happy Thanksgiving!”

3.

Christmas is--Christmas is.

This is what happens over Christmas: Christmas happens, for one, but that’s just the holiday, and that goes pretty well. Presents, etceteras, etceteras. Stiles meets up with Scott and Allison and they exchange gag gifts and stories about school. Scott and Allison went to college together, picked schools together--Stiles envies them, a bit, because they still know everything about one another, which means Stiles is constantly playing catch up. And he gets it, he really does--you lose touch with people from high school when you go away to college, live elsewhere, even when you’re texting them and whatnot. Luckily he catches up with things easier than Scott would, so Stiles figures it’s kind of for the best. Also because Stiles would find making out with Allison or Scott really weird. Not that they aren’t attractive people (untangle those negatives, if you please), but Scott has been Stiles best friend practically since they were in diapers, and so Stiles knows far too much about him, and Scott and Allison have been attached at the hips and lips pretty much since Allison moved to town, which means that Stiles knows far too much about her, too. So he’ll keep things the way they are, and he’ll lean back against the couch and listen to his friends tell inside jokes he doesn’t really understand.

So that’s a thing that happens over Christmas. Another thing that happens over Christmas is that Stiles’ muffler gives out. Or the Jeep’s muffler gives out. Either way, a muffler’s involved, and it dies, so Stiles calls the Hales, and Laura says, “You again?”

“I’ll bring Christmas cookies,” Stiles says. “I make awesome Christmas cookies.”

“I’m sure you do,” Laura says. “Derek likes chocolate.”

Stiles does make awesome Christmas cookies, so he holes himself up in the house and bakes (slaps his dad’s hands away) before driving up to the Hale place, cookies still warm on the seat beside him.

“Stiles,” Laura says brightly. “You’re on the fast track towards becoming our best customer.”

“Maybe you’d have more customers if you weren’t in the middle of the woods,” Stiles says. “Just a thought.”

“And a reasonable one,” Derek says, emerging from the garage. “But if we had too many customers we might need to hire someone else. Keys, Stiles.”

Stiles tosses him the keys.

“Did you just make a joke?” he asks. “I think you did.”

Derek catches the keys easily, before taking a cookie and going back to the garage without replying to Stiles.

“Some thanks I get,” Stiles says.

“Aren’t you going to go watch?” Laura asks.

“Did you get a new Cosmo?” Stiles asks. “Because, you know, the one I read the first time I was in here was really interesting.”

“No,” Laura says. “Out with you.”

Stiles isn’t really sure what Laura’s deal is, but he goes into the garage anyway, pulling his sweatshirt close around his shoulders because the garage is a bit on the cold side of cold. Not completely cold, there are space heaters here and there, but. Stiles finds the overturned milk crate in the corner and goes to sit down, feeling kind of like it’s his milk crate or something.

“Are you cold?” Derek asks, looking at him.

“Nah, I’m alright,” Stiles says. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to sue you or anything. If you were worried about that. I don’t know.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, but he pulls one of the space heaters closer to Stiles.

“You’re going to get cold, if you’re just sitting there,” he says gruffly.

“So,” Stiles says. “Tell me what you’re doing.”

“Fixing your muffler,” Derek says.

“‘Don’t get smart with me,’” Stiles says. “Is what I’d say if I were my father. But if you aren’t going to tell me what you’re doing, tell me about yourself.”

“What?” Derek asks.

“Pretend I’m your psychologist or whatever,” Stiles says, putting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. “Tell me about yourself. I realize you’ve got this,” Stile waves a hand. “Surly, rough thing going on. Brooding. Like you probably don’t confide in people. But I’m just a customer, and we’re here in this garage together, and I figure you can tell me whatever and it’s not like I’m going to show up somewhere and start cramping my style.”

“Cramping my style,” Derek echoes. He’s doing--something, with the engine and his hands. He has nice hands. Stiles knows what they say about men who are good with their hands. Things. They say things. Sexy things.

It’s like Lydia or Danny all over again--stupidly hot people make Stiles regress right back to high school. Maybe even earlier. He thought he would get over this once he had sex, but when he did have sex with a couple of sort of ordinary looking people, and his brain still melted and ran out his nose when he was met with these--whatever they were. Hotness anomalies. Freaks of concentrated hotness.

“Not sure what there is to tell,” Derek says. “Went to high school here, like you. Apprenticed with my uncle. He died. Now I’m a mechanic.”

“So you really are as stoic as you look,” Stiles says. “Is that what you’re trying to tell me? That’s what it sounds like. Well, tit for tat: I’m not any of those things. Want to hear my life’s story? Because I’ll tell it to you.”

“Not particularly,” Derek says.

“This is all very ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’” Stiles says. “I imagine. I haven’t read it.”

Derek shrugs, but there’s something playing at his lips--perhaps a smile--and goes to the shelves in the back of the garage, apparently to fetch a part. Stiles stays seated on his milk crate.

“Okay,” Stiles says when Derek returns. “So we can’t talk about you.” He starts to tick things off on his fingers, “We can’t talk about me. We can’t talk about ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’”

“Actually, we could talk about that,” Derek interjects. “Except you haven’t read it.”

“So if we can’t talk about those things,” Stiles says, because if Derek’s going to be snarky now that just won’t do. “What do we talk about?”

“You’re at school, right?” Derek asks, and Stiles is kind of surprised he even knows that. “What are you studying?”

“Undecided,” Stiles says. “It’s the only way to roll. Until you’re, like, a junior, which I’m not. Yet. Or Lydia, but she’s a math genius, so whatevs.”

“What are you considering?” Derek asks, and Stiles holds up a hand, tapping his fingers.

“Psychology,” he says, tapping the first one. “Sociology, or maybe anthropology. Or english lit. Or history. Maybe philosophy, but I don’t wear glasses or have a beard, so I’m kind of thinking that one’s out.”

“Probably for the best,” Derek muses.

“What?” Stiles says, and he--squawks a bit, maybe. Probably not. No normal person squawks. Stiles is pretty sure most people don’t squawk at all.

“That you don’t have a beard,” Derek says, looking up from what he’s doing to study Stiles. “I don’t think it would suit.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, rubbing his chin. “Thanks? That might not be a compliment but I’ve decided to take it as such. Anyway, I’m kind of leaning towards history, actually. Right now. I mean, I have a couple really good profs for my history courses, so I’m not sure if I might be a bit biased, there. Here. Whatever. And I’m kind of monologuing, so interrupt me at any point, that’s usually the best way to get me to stop.”

Derek just looks at him, and does that thing where he’s kind of grinning and kind of not.

“Stiles,” he says. “I’m working here. On your car, as it turns out, which means you’re paying me for my time. If you want to talk, keep talking, but I can’t quite give you my full attention.”

“I think that’s the most you’ve ever said to me,” Stiles says. “It’s possible that’s the longest sentence you’ve ever spoken.”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Tell me about history.”

And so Stiles does, because if dude wants to hear it, far be it from Stiles to deny him. And it’s kind of nice, actually. Almost like talking to himself, except for the part where Derek is there, being Derek and nodding and grunting at appropriate intervals. Well, sometimes appropriate intervals. Sometimes sort of randomly. But at one point he wipes the back of his arm across his brow--and it’s not even hot out, it’s December--and it’s like something off the cover of a Harlequin romance novel. Stiles wishes he could forget that about Derek, because he’s actually surprising easy to talk to, until Stiles remembers that Derek’s looks mean he’s destined (destined!) for Victorian romances or porn. Stiles still hasn’t decided which, but--one of those. Definitely one of those.

Either way, Derek’s a pretty decent listener, and he fixes the muffler on Stiles’ jeep. Which is cool, in addition to being a thing that happens over Christmas. When Stiles leaves Derek thanks him for the cookies, and so does Laura, but Laura seems like a socially normal person and probably would’ve thanked him anyway, because that’s what socially normal people do to be polite. So if Stiles weights Derek’s thank you a little more significantly in his head--well, can you blame him? Really?

So the muffler thing is the second thing--after the just slightly awkward reunion--that happens over Christmas. Another thing that happens is that Stiles runs into Lydia Martin at the pharmacy. She’s buying feminine hygiene products, but Lydia Martin is ashamed of nothing, so that’s not really part of the story.

Lydia goes to Berkeley, too. Attends Berkeley. The school Stiles also attends. They see each other, sometimes, nod a bit. Sometimes they meet for coffee and awkwardly reminisce about Beacon Hills and Stiles’ stifling crush on Lydia. It’s weird. Sort of like being friends without the part where you’re friends.

“Lydia!” Stiles says, jumping a little, when she shows up behind him and pokes him in the back with a box of tampons.

“Stiles,” she says. “How’s break going?”

“Along,” Stiles says. “Merrily. Because it’s Christmas, and row, row, row your boat, you know?”

“I know, Stiles,” Lydia says, and Stiles runs a hand through his hair. It’s longer than it used to be, and the feel of it between his fingers is still kind of foreign to him. He knows he’s going to make it stick up in stupid ways, but Lydia’s seen him vomiting in the empty lot by the In-n-Out, now, so it really can’t get much worse.

“Sorry,” he says. “Something about being in Beacon Hills causes me to regress, I think. The water, maybe?”

“No, that’s how you talk at school, too,” Lydia says. “It’s just that we’re sitting down and there are more things for you to do with your hands.”

Stiles grins at her, because, okay, maybe Lydia is his friend. A little. It’s just such an unexpected thing; Lydia Martin was always a distant ideal, Lydia Martin, through elementary, middle, and high school, that having her suddenly be an ordinary person who pokes Stiles in the back with a box of tampons so they can have a conversation in the pharmacy frightens Stiles a bit.

Then someone calls Stiles’ name from behind him, and apparently Stiles is popular today, at the pharmacy (though if he were really popular he’d be buying condoms or something and not some Advil for his dad and two boxes of Dots--because sale--for himself). When Stiles turns around it’s Derek Hale, wearing a leather jacket--of course he has a leather jacket, of course he does, because he’s such a cliche he shouldn’t even exist--a dark t-shirt, jeans. There’s still a swipe of grease across one of his cheekbones, and Stiles wants to reach up and wipe it off but he’s kind of afraid he’ll get cut. That’s how present Derek’s cheekbones are, as part of his face: they could cut diamonds, but that would be pretty awkward unless you took them out of Derek’s face, and that sounds the plot of a really bad Bond villian.

“Derek,” Stiles says, and he’s so surprised that all there’s left to say is: “Hi.” He kind of didn’t think the Hales left the woods.

“Is your car running alright?” Derek asks.

“You fixed the muffler like three days ago and I haven’t been back,” Stiles says. “So--yes.”

“Good,” Derek says, then looks past him, apparently at Lydia.

“Sorry!” Stiles exclaims. “Etiquette: I don’t know it. Derek, Lydia, Lydia, Derek, there you go, all sorted.”

“Nice to meet you,” Lydia says, and she’s looking between Derek and Stiles with a weird expression, like she’s got something in her mouth and she’s holding it there.

“Same,” Derek grunts, but then he walks past them towards the register.

“Right,” Stiles says. “See you around Derek.”

Derek lifts a hand in acknowledgment.

“So that was kind of--” Stiles starts to say before Lydia interjects.

“Who was that Stiles?”

“Derek,” Stiles says, and he knows he’s being purposefully dense but he doesn’t like the glint in Lydia’s eyes. “I introduced you.”

“Derek,” Lydia repeats, thoughtful. “Derek Hale.”

“How’d you know that? He’s my mechanic,” Stiles sighs. “Are you going to be weird about this? I think you’re going to be weird about this. Is this going to be like the time I said hi to my T.A. when we were having coffee? Because I couldn’t ignore her, it would probably be reflected in my grade.”

“Yes, I’m sure that T.A.s dock marks whenever their students don’t greet them in public,” Lydia says. “And Derek’s probably would’ve charged you more if you ignored him, so good thing you dodged that bullet.”

“Don’t get smart with me, Lydia,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “I understand the thing you call sarcasm. I’m well versed in its arts.”

“Bye Stiles,” Lydia says. “Next time we have coffee you’ll have to tell me about your mechanic.”

“He’s not my mechanic,” Stiles grouses, though when he gives himself a moment he realized he already called Derek his mechanic, except Lydia makes it sound like Stiles owns Derek, which he definitely, definitely doesn’t.

4.

Stiles has been avoiding Red Hill Road, because obviously his car hates it, but it turns out that it might not be the road, because he is pulling out of his driveway--the actual driveway of his actual house, preparing to drive back to school after spending the weekend with his dad--and there’s a sort of ker-chunk, clunking sound, and when Stiles gets out and goes to look there’s a piece of his car, lying there in the driveway. It looks like an exhaust pipe.

“Your exhaust system is falling off,” Laura repeats when Stiles calls and tells her. “Stiles, it’s Sunday.”

“I have class tomorrow! And I could probably skip, but I think my prof already hates me,” Stiles says.

“Have you tried duct tape?” she asks.

“Okay,” Stiles sighs. “I’ll skip class tomorrow.”

“That’s a good lad,” Laura says. “See you at seven. Bring donuts.”

“I’m kind of beginning to wonder who’s working for whom in this scenario,” Stiles says. “There are other mechanics in town. My friend Allison’s dad--”

“The Argents,” Laura says. “Do not go to the Argents. They’ll gouge you. And gouge out your eye.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “Just the one eye, then? Look, I don’t like Allison’s dad much, either, because he was a total ass when she and Scott first started dating, primarily because it didn’t look like Scott was going to continue their mechanic dynasty, but I’m just saying.”

“Tomorrow, seven, donuts,” Laura says. And then, somewhat ominously: “We’ve engendered your loyalty.”

“Right,” Stiles says again, and goes to tell his dad that they’ve got another day of super fun father-son bonding ahead of them. His dad’s going to be stoked. Probably. Kind of. Stiles thinks his dad has maybe been secretly been dating someone, because he’s seemed pretty eager to send Stiles on his merry way back to Berkeley lately, considering he’s an empty nester and a widower. And because he’s both of those things Stiles would actually be pretty glad if his dad was dating someone, so it’s weird that he’s being so secretive about it. Maybe he’s worried Stiles will go all “Are you my mother?” on this hypothetical woman’s ass. Which, really, he should know Stiles is too old for that.

Stiles shows up at the Hale place with a box of donuts from the gas station and a textbook, because if he’s missing his class he may as well be caught up on the reading. He settles down on the sagging sofa in the garage office and starts to read and then Laura is standing in front of him.

“I’m going back to the house to take a nap,” she says. “So I’m going to lock up the office. Can you go read in the garage?”

“I’m not going to raid your till!” Stiles says.

“I don’t think you are,” Laura says. “But you can go read in the garage.”

Stiles narrows his eyes at her, then raises an accusing finger.

“You’re doing something,” he says.

“Going to take a nap,” she says brightly, and pushes Stiles out into the garage.

“Sorry,” Stiles says to Derek’s feet. “Your sister’s conspiring to subject you to me. Anyone ever told you she’s a bit odd?”

Derek grunted a bit.

“She’s my sister,” he said.

“Yeah, I got that,” Stiles said, commandeering a milk crate and dragging it around to the back of the car where Derek was working.

“Ignore her,” Derek says.

“Okay,” Stiles says, and props his feet up on a nearby--thing--so that he can read. “Now, Derek, I know you’re a chatterbox, but no talking. I’m doing homework, here.”

“History?” Derek asks.

“No, lit,” Stiles says, holding up the book, even though Derek can’t see it, being under the car. “I’m holding up a book you can’t see. It’s George Orwell. Essays. Not ‘1984,’ though I’ve read that, too. Doesn’t everyone, when they start feeling disillusioned with society? I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.”

Derek comes out from beneath the car.

“So you’re disillusioned with society, then?” he asks.

“Not really,” Stiles says, flailing his hands around. “Just, you know, I’m pretty sure everyone hits a point in high school where they have to be a bit emo, you know. Wear dark clothes, look at their feet a lot. Sort of like you! Not that--”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Stop.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says, blinking at him. “I’m just going to read, now.”

“I did like ‘1984,’” Derek muses. “But I thought it would’ve been more trenchant if there had been a Big Sister involved.”

“Trenchant,” Stiles echoes, musing. “That’s a four point word, I think.”

“Do your homework, Stiles,” Derek says, and tosses a wadded up rag at his head.

“You know, I think I misjudged you,” Stiles says. “I’m not sure how, but I didn’t think you were the kind of person who went around chucking rags at people.”

Derek looks at him. His eyebrows are sort of--frowning.

“Dude,” Stiles says. “Even your eyebrows frown, I didn’t know eyebrows had expressions of their own.”

“What type of person did you think I was?” Derek asks.

“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “Grumpier.”

“Grumpier,” Derek repeats.

“You hardly talked to me the first time I came in here! You told me my Jeep started and then you disappeared!”

“I had work to do,” Derek says, still frowning.

“And you judged me,” Stiles says. “Because my Jeep started for you and not me. I’ll have you know, Geoff tried too.”

“I didn’t judge you Stiles,” Derek says, and his face might be--softening? Stiles really isn’t sure, but it could be softening, he thinks, if Derek’s face weren’t all hard planes and sharp lines.

“Right,” Stiles says, because the whole conversation has gotten a bit awkward and seems to have gone in this weird direction where they talk about first impressions of one another which, if he doesn’t stop soon, is going to devolve into Stiles professing his love for Derek’s body, and Stiles would really rather not have Derek think Stiles only comes here for his body. It’s not true. He’s also a halfway decent mechanic, as far as Stiles can tell. Not that Stiles knows enough about mechanics to be a particularly good judge, but Stiles’ Jeep is still running. Except when it’s not. He’ll have to have a talk with her about that, once Derek fixes the exhaust.

“Well, I’m almost done,” Derek says, after a moment of silence has passed. “So if you’re going to get your homework finished you better start it.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I guess I’ll just--do that.”

They both fall silent after that, and Stiles is surprised to find that it’s kind of comfortable. Not the milk crate, just--the space, sitting and reading while Derek does car things, the fact that there’s no radio or even noise beyond the sound of Derek’s work. Stiles isn’t even sure how much time passes before Derek says he’s done and they go back to the office. Derek calls the phone like he did before, says, “Laura,” and hangs up, then quirks a questioning brow at Stiles (and again: eyebrow expressions).

“I respect your system,” Stiles says.

“Drive safe,” Derek says, dropping the keys into Stiles’ hand.

5.

When the Jeep decides to do the thing where it won’t start again, Stiles bangs his head against the steering wheel repeatedly, twists the keys in the ignition seven times, calls his Jeep “Best beloved,” and calls AAA for a tow.

The tow truck shows up fifteen minutes later, driven by a wiry woman who introduces herself as Erica. She’s pretty. She’s wearing a lot of eyeshadow. It’s kind of strange to Stiles that his tow driver is a pretty lady about his age wearing a lot of eyeshadow, but there you have it.

“Where’s Geoff?” he asks.

“Geoff’s not the only tow driver in this town,” Erica says, and pretty much single handedly pushes the Jeep forwards half a foot. Stiles decides Erica is terrifying.

“Nice to meet you!” he says, more loudly than should be strictly necessary. “I’m Stiles.”

“Hi Stiles,” Erica says, and there’s a smirk playing at the corners of her red (very red) lips. “Where are we going to take this, then?”

“Hale place,” Stiles , sliding into the cab of the truck. “You know it?”

“Oh, I know Derek,” Erica says, grinning.

“Laura works there, too,” Stiles says. “So, you know, you could know Derek without knowing the shop, if you haven’t met Laura. Because she’s been there everytime I’ve been there, and I’ve been there a lot. Not that--”

“Yeah, I know her too,” Erica says, forcing the truck into gear. “So, how about you, Stiles? Tell me about yourself.”

Stiles is pretty sure he asked Derek that question, once. It’s strange to hear it now.

“Oh, you know, not much to say,” Stiles says. “I’m just a guy, you know, and my car breaks down occasionally, and then I need to call AAA, and then they call you, which brings the both of us here. Together. Riding along. What fun.”

“We are having fun, aren’t we?” Erica says. “You know you were a year ahead of me in high school?”

“Um,” Stiles says, because saying ‘no’ seems rude.

“Probably not,” Erica continues, with a kind of false brightness that’s making Stiles very uncomfortable, and not in a hot way. “I had a huge crush on your friend Scott, you know. But you’re not so bad yourself.”

“I’m not that good, either,” Stiles says, and he is so, so, so relieved that they’re almost to the Hale place. He’s also kind of weirdly flattered, but he’s ignoring that right now in favor of being frightened. “Promise. Now I’m going to change the subject, because hitting on me isn’t going to get Scott to break up with Allison. So don’t be awkward about it, okay? I think I’m awkward enough for both of us.”

Erica shoots him a sidelong grin, without as many teeth. Stiles can feel himself relaxing.

“How was Mr. Harris one year later?” Stiles asks. “Still awful?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Erica says. “Or so I heard. I didn’t need to take chem, so.”

Stiles nods.

“Sounds about right. I don’t imagine much changes in a year,” Stiles says. “How’d you end up doing this?”

“I never liked school,” Erica shrugs. “And Geoff was an old family friend.”

They pull into the Hale place and Stiles slides out of the front seat and to the ground. Derek’s getting out of a car that’s just been pulled out of the garage, and he looks between Stiles and Erica. Erica lifts a hand and waves, and Derek nods to both of them.

“Is Laura inside?” Stiles asks, and Derek nods again. Stiles wonders why he isn’t talking. It makes Stiles want to leave, and get to the garage--maybe Derek only talks inside the garage. “I’ll just--go there.”

“Hey, Stiles,” Erica says, catching him on the arm. “Can I get your number?”

Stiles catches a glimpse of Derek’s frown before he turns to face Erica, who is--not awful, once they got past the initial--whatever that initial thing was. He should probably just give her his number. But he feels like--with Derek here--Stiles is comfortable in his bisexuality. But sometimes other people aren’t, he gets that, it has to do with society and that class on queer theory he took second semester freshman year after he came out to everyone that would stop long enough to hear about how he was coming out. So sometimes other people aren’t comfortable with bisexuality, and they assume if you express interest one way or the other that means you only swing one way or another, and not back and forth, like an awesome pendulum.

“Are you still trying to seduce me to get to Scott?” Stiles asks. “Because you should know--”

“Nah,” Erica says, fishing about in her pocket and then tossing Stiles a cell phone. “I’m not your type.”

“You’re not,” Stiles agrees, keying in his number. “No offense, you’re a very attractive person.”

“Besides, she’s dating Isaac,” Derek says, and he is--hello--really close to Stiles. How did he get there? Derek apparently can be freakishly quiet when he feels like it. And apparently he feels like it now, because Stiles is pretty sure he’s practically touching Stiles’ butt. Not that Stiles is complaining, if Derek Hale wants to touch his ass he totally has blanket permission, even if Stiles is sleeping, but, uh.

“And Boyd,” Erica says brightly. “So, you know, the more the merrier!”

“Yeah, polyandry’s not really my thing, I don’t think,” Stiles says, handing the phone back to her. “But I’ll let you know if I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to join a man harem.”

“Great!” Erica says, twirling her fingers at him in something that might be a wave. “Now come on, Derek, help my unhitch this thing and push it into the garage.”

Derek glowers at her, maybe because it should be Erica’s job to unhitch the Jeep? Stiles hurries into the office to talk to Laura, because he’s fairly certain that will be less confusing, or, at the very least, be a bit less awkward.

“Erica brought you, huh?” Laura says, peering out the window.

“Does Derek have a problem with her?” Stiles asks. “Because whatever happened in the driveway had the character of a Mexican standoff.”

“Nah, Derek likes Erica well enough,” Laura says, and Stiles twists around to look at the drive.

“Then I can’t read Derek for shit,” Stiles says.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Laura says. “Most normal people can’t.”

“I don’t get called ‘normal’ too often,” Stiles says. “I hope you realize how strange this makes me feel.”

Laura laughs.

“I assure you, I mean it in the best possible way.”

Derek comes into the office, then turns around and goes back into the garage.

“Go on,” Laura says, looking at the door.

Stiles looks at her.

“I don’t really get you, either,” he says.

“I’m just lazy,” she says. “And cheap. And if you hang around the office, I might need to talk to you or buy new magazines.

Stiles pulls a face at her--which Laura returns--and goes into the garage. His milk crate is there, upturned, next to the Jeep.

“It was a lot like what happened the first time I came here,” Stiles says. “When the car stopped. So I kind of figured you’d just be able to start it up again, since you have magic hands.”

Stiles wiggles his fingers at Derek. Derek looks at him.

“Might be something with the fuel injector,” he says, wiping his hands on his thighs (and now Stiles is looking at Derek’s thighs. They look nice.). “But it could also be the spark plugs. Or--”

Derek looks thoughtful, then wanders off mid-sentence. Stiles considers following him, but instead he rifles through his car to find a book and sits down on his milk crate, opening it to the bookmark.

“I probably needed more Adderall for this,” he mutters, looking down at the page.

“Stiles,” Derek barks from the back of the garage, and Stiles kind of doesn’t know what his deal is, but he gets up and goes to the back of the shop.

“You do realize I don’t actually work here,” Stiles says when he finds Derek in the warren of shelves in the back half of the garage. “And I’m not going to be able to help you with much of anything.”

“No, probably not,” Derek agrees. He’s just standing there, looking at Stiles like he’s waiting for something. Which is stupid. He’s probably just waiting for Stiles, and Stiles is here now.

“You called?” Stiles says, and Derek’s eyes sort of flit around. Like he’s nervous. “Usually when you call someone it’s because you want something. Or you want them to do something. Or, you know--”

Derek takes something off a shelf and hands it to Stiles.

“Bring this back to the car,” he says.

Stiles blinks at him.

“Okay,” he says, takes the piece, and goes back to the car. “Though I really don’t get why you couldn’t do this yourself.”

Derek returns momentarily, still looking extremely put out.

“If you want I can just call my dad and leave the car with you,” Stiles says. “I mean, that’s what I used to do at my old mechanics’.”

“No,” Derek bites back, and Stiles wonders if it was a totally different person from the one Stiles had been having somewhat normal conversations with. Stiles liked those conversations. He misses them.

“Erica’s not your type,” Derek says, as a statement of fact.

“Um,” Stiles starts. “Laura said you liked her, does that offend you in some way? I just--I mean, I like aggressive women, actually, and also guys, so, well--I just came out to you. There. If you didn’t notice, that was me coming out to you. And Erica’s hot, she’s just--not.”

“Not,” Derek repeats.

“Could you throw me a bone here?” Stiles says. “Because otherwise I’m just going to keep saying--things--and I’m really not sure where you’d like me to go with this conversation. A conversation that’s looking a lot like a monologue, I’d like you to note.”

Derek looks about as uncomfortable as Stiles feels, which is a small blessing. A really small blessing. Way too small to be worth anything at all right now.

“Derek,” Stiles says. “I’m feeling extremely awkward here.”

Derek’s just standing there watching him.

“Really, really awkward. To an unusual extent, even for me. And I’m kind of stuck here until you finish fixing my car. And, seriously, you’re not talking. To an unusual extent, even for you.”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Stop.”

Stiles looks at him.

He’s neither stupid nor a virgin, but Derek has him totally stymied. For one, Derek’s not just out of his league, he’s in a completely different league, in another universe, maybe ones where they play baseball like the vampires in Twilight. Stiles can hardly play baseball at all. He wasn’t even that good at lacrosse.

So the league thing--that’s definitely significant. But there’s also the thing where Stiles likes talking to Derek, and then there’s the thing, now, where Derek is being extremely strange. And Derek isn’t socially normal.

“Derek,” Stiles says. “I’m going to say something now. And it might be more awkward and it might be less awkward, I’m really not sure, but uh--if it’s more awkward can we just pretend it never happened? Okay?”

“Okay,” Derek says, studying Stiles closely--so closely that Stiles can feel his eyes, like his eyes have little hands--like in ‘Matilda’ or something. Derek’s little eye-hands are brushing across Stiles’ face, and it should be freaky but it’s kind of nice. Soft.

“Um,” Stiles says. “I like you. And I would totally do you. Here and now. And then we could be boyfriends. If you wanted. Or just the first part, you know, the sex part. So--uh--this is me propositioning you. And asking you out. Two for the price of one! I kind of figure hanging out in your garage has been like going on dates, in case you were worried about--”

Stiles isn’t sure how Derek got so close so fast, but maybe it has something to do with vampire baseball. Regardless, Derek’s face is suddenly very close to Stiles’, and then Derek’s hands--both of them, the big, calloused, grease-covered hands that have been working on Stiles’ engine (that could be a euphemism, right?) all these months--are on Stiles’ face, cupping his cheeks and tilting Stiles’ head upwards while Derek’s lips come down.

“Stiles,” Derek says, when his lips are so close to Stiles’ that they may as well already be kissing. “Stop.”

And then--and then.

Stiles kissed a few people. He’d probably say that he likes kissing, that kissing’s pretty cool, that he’s probably down with kissing, but that there are other things that people can do with their mouths that are pretty fun, too, and if there was a general election between, like, kissing and blow jobs and doing stuff with mouths and nipples Stiles isn’t sure who he’d vote for. But Derek’s jostling Stiles up against his car--that’s Stiles’ car, and there’s something that’s kind of hot about that, Stiles thinks while his brain’s still operational--and his lips are warm and slick and his tongue is as completely pushy--as needy--as Derek himself is being now, suddenly, like he wants to eat Stiles, only in a completely sexy way. A really, really, sexy way. Stiles is pretty sure the way Derek’s biting at his lip alone could bring him off, and that’s something they should try later, maybe, but now Stiles slides his hands down Derek’s back and into his jumpsuit, grasping for Derek’s ass because it is so shapely it’s amazing Stiles hasn’t tried to touch it before now. And Derek--Derek. Derek can keep doing whatever he’s doing, because everything he decides to do is the best. He replaces biting with sucking and then his mouth is moving down along Stiles’ neck and Stiles throws back his head--actually throws back his head because he can’t do anything else--and moans.

Derek growls into the hollow above Stiles’ collarbone and threads his fingers through Stiles’ hair, tugging and then tugging harder. When Stiles manages to regain control of his neck, he lowers his head so he can lick at Derek’s ear, because that’s the nearest thing to lick at, and if he doesn’t taste something of Derek’s right now he’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to taste again.

“Derek,” Stiles says, and it comes out--well, the voice that comes out is one Stiles didn’t even know he had in his body, somewhere between husky and whispering and completely, absolutely desperate. He’s rutting against Derek, he hadn’t even noticed when he started but his hips are pressing up into Derek of their own volition, and there’s no way they’re going to be able to get out of their clothes before this happens. Because it’s going to happen: Derek pushes a thigh between Stiles’ legs while Stiles brings his hand around to Derek’s front and paws at him with the heel of his hand, and Derek is so hard and Stiles made him that way, and that alone--that alone--

“You know--” Derek says. “Do you know.”

“Nope,” Stiles mutters. “Don’t know.”

The problem is, it doesn’t sound sarcastic at all, and the cracks in his voice say everything the words don’t.

And then he’s shuddering against Derek, and Derek’s hands are somehow on Stiles’ hips, now, fingers tight enough to bruise, and Stiles doesn’t know what, or how, or what Derek’s trying to say but it doesn’t matter at all because he is gone. Everything in his head drains out except Derek’s face, Derek’s eyes on his, and the crest of pure pleasure.

When they’re done they both fall to the concrete floor, leaning against the Jeep’s rear wheel, and Stiles is grateful for that because he’s not sure his legs could hold him, after that.

“So,” Stiles says. Derek brushes a thumb against the corner of Stiles’ lips, though Stiles can’t imagine there’s anything there.

“I got grease on you,” Derek says, and his voice is hoarse and quiet and sends a thrill down Stiles’ spine.

“So,” Stiles says, sliding himself into Derek’s lap.

“So,” Derek says.

“How about you get my Jeep running and we do that again,” Stiles says, because if he just says, ‘Yes, yes please, now, how’d I get so lucky?’ that would be a little embarrassing, maybe. But Derek seems pretty into him, too, so--Stiles presses his head into Derek’s shoulder and nibbles a little, and then a little more. If they’re doing this, there should definitely be more hickeys involved.

“You drive a hard bargain,” Derek says into his hair. “But if you promise not to stop I’ll take you somewhere other than this garage for our next date.”

Stiles couldn’t stop if he tried, so that works out alright. Even though he kind of likes the garage. And when they’re done, it turns out Derek doesn’t need to do anything at all to the Jeep. She starts on the first try.

6.

“I think my brakepads are funky,” Stiles tells his dad over dinner. “I probably need to bring the Jeep in again."

“Your brakepads,” his father repeats.

“That’s what Lydia said when I told her,” Stiles says. “That’s how Lydia sounded when she said it. And she drove home with me, in the car with the funky brakes. Bad brakes are so unsafe, you should be more concerned. Have you been spending time with Lydia?”

“I haven’t been spending time with Lydia,” his father says. “You’re the one who spends time with Lydia, because she’s your peer.”

“My peer,” Stiles repeats, and gets up from the table and brings his dishes to the sink. “Dad. I’m going to get my brakepads looked at.”

“Wear a condom! I have a gun!” his dad calls after him when he leaves, and Stiles wonders if that combination of statements makes sense in any household other than theirs.

When Stiles gets up to the Hale place, he goes straight to the garage. Derek’s inside with the Camaro, hood popped.

“Hey,” Stiles says, leaning back against it and hitching his hips up just a little, so his shirt rides up. Because, c’mon, the Camaro’s sex on wheels and he’s got to compete if he wants to keep Derek’s attention. “So I think you need to take a look at my brakepads.”

Derek looks up and sidles over, brackets Stiles in with his arms, presses forward into his space, smelling of spice and grease.

“I’m beginning to think you’re using me,” he says.

“Only for your body,” Stiles says, hooking his thumbs into Derek’s waistband and leaning up for a kiss. “And, you know, everything else.”