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Two Minutes for Holding

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Stiles scanned the arrivals board at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Which carousel do we need? As it stood, his and Scott's flight had not been assigned one in Baggage Claim yet. Hurry up. He was anxious to get to campus and check out their dorm room.

"Dude, I am starving. Maybe we should stop and get some lunch on our way."

Stiles leveled his step-brother (and lifelong best-friend, ask anyone. They'll tell you) with a pointed glare, one that said, 'I am not carrying my luggage anywhere other than up to our dorm .' "We can check out campus once we drop off our shit, because there is no way I'm lugging my equipment bag to some restaurant."

A disembodied voice came through the intercom speakers. "Now unloading at Baggage Claim Six, United Flight 5466 from San Francisco."

Stiles massaged his temples. Headaches sucked. Royally, majorly, epic- okay they were a nuisance but work with him. He'd had a long day.

 

 

 

"I don't see how carrying the bag is any different than wearing its contents all at once." Scott sighed in relief, his shoulders sagging. It had been a long day so far. One that started at three am so his mom and Stiles' dad could drive them to Redding in order to catch the first leg of their flight. It was 03:35 now. He rubbed the back of his neck. Why did they decide to attend college so far from ho- Oh yeah, Stiles.

He was not jealous of his step-brother's full ride athletic scholarship, not at all. Okay, he was a little. Mostly, he was just happy to have made the gymnastics team at a Division I school. It wasn't Stiles' fault that hockey was a far bigger draw. Stiles' phone conversation drew him from his thoughts.

"I don't know, Dad. Our bags haven't come down yet." Stiles paused. "Dad, if the bags haven't shown up yet, how would I know if my equipment arrived in decent shape?" Stiles groaned. "I'm aware that's almost four grand in equipment. I have it insured."

Scott looked over and laughed as Stiles rolled his eyes; he could practically see the smoke coming from his ears.

"Yes, I understand that. Oh look, our flight's luggage is coming down. Gotta go, Dad. Yeah, yeah. Love you too. Raise a lot of money for the walk next week. Send me a shirt." He hung up without giving the man a chance at a rebuttal. "I'm calling it now, Scotty my man. My dad is going to be the worst sort of Helicopter Parent. Just you watch."

"Probably."






"Just wait until he starts calling you." Stiles flinched as the buzzer signifying the arrival of luggage blared from the carousel behind him.  As the bags started to tumble down the ramp, he waited with bated breath. To be fair, his dad had a valid point. His new equipment, a gift for graduation, was pricey, and it would suck to have to wait for insurance money before buying new stuff as practice started the second week of classes. Scott, the lucky bastard, didn't really have to worry until spring semester. Yes, there were practices in the fall semester, but at least he wouldn't be thrown into competition in a little over a month.

Stiles was nervous. He wasn't new to the sport, God no. No way he would have secured any kind of scholarship or place on a team if he was. It was just that it had been awhile since he was the new guy on a team. Between his club team (he would not miss the ninety minute drive to Roseville three times a week), Team California for the America's Showcase back in April and the National Under 18 team, he'd been around a lot of the same players for years. But he hadn't met anyone on his college team yet. Had the National Junior Team not interfered so much with his last year of high school, he'd at least have met a couple players by now.

Nope. He was flying blind.

He looked up to see his black equipment bag sliding down the conveyor belt, the orange 'Heavy' tape adorning the handle. As he hefted the thing off the carousel, thankful as fuck that it had wheels, he turned to see Scott scowling, holding up his suitcase, crushed with one broken wheel.

"What the hell do they do with bags? Run them through a meat grinder?"

"Pretty sure they just toss them into the cargo hold." Stiles pulled his second bag, the largest suitcase he could find, from the conveyor belt. Well, he tried. The thing got caught on the bag next to it, and when it did not come free, Stiles fell into the carousel. Trying to brush his clumsiness off as intentional, he looked around to see if anyone had witnessed it.

Scott doubled over, hands on his knees, sucking air as he almost laughed his way to an asthma attack. "Oh my god, Stiles. How do you manage to be any good at hockey being as clumsy as you are?"

"You're one to talk. I seem to remember at least three broken lamps as a result of your wild brandishing of a lacrosse stick."

Scott held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry, Dude."

"And to answer your question, my special brand of flailing works exceptionally well at stopping pucks."

"Even when you look like a trout on ice?"

Stiles smirked. "Especially then." He hooked his arms through the straps of his backpack and tugged the handles to his bags towards the sign that read 'To Light Rail Transit.'



*****

 

They stood in front of door 386 in Territorial Hall. Scott turned the key and pushed open the door. "Home sweet home, Bro."

"Did it have to be so far from the elevator?"

Scott pushed open the window in the room to let in some fresh air. "Fine student athlete like yourself having trouble walking all the way around the elevator?"

Stiles threw a balled up pillowcase at him.

"Which bed do you want?"

"Dude, I don't fucking care. I'll take the left one." Stiles started taking clothes out of his suitcase and placing them in the dresser underneath his lofted bed. He'd crammed as much as he could into his luggage, buying the entirety of Target's Space Saver bag supply in order to do so. Sure, his dad and Melissa had sent several moving boxes via UPS for him and Scott, but they would not arrive until Friday. That was the trouble attending school halfway across the country. If your parents weren't able to get time off to drive you to college, you took what you could carry and awaited the rest via mail.

Scott opened the box containing their coffeemaker and set it atop the small table they'd bought (also at Target). Assembly had been a breeze and now they had a little extra 'counter' space as it were. Stiles threaded their curtains through the provided rod and handed the other end to his stepbrother. "A little help?"

In no time, their room looked about as put together as a dorm with limited space could be. Their beds had been made. Star Wars for his (and no, Scott still had not watched it so his step-brother could not appreciate how awesome the bedding set was) and Superman for Scott's. Stiles tripped over his equipment bag as he toed off his shoes before clambering up the ladder to his bed. He desperately needed a nap and crashed onto his bed face first.

"Really? It's almost dinner time."

Stiles flipped him off over the bed railing. "Dude, I'm exhausted. I think even my hair is tired. Leave me alone."

"Whatever." Scott gagged and covered his nose. "Oh my God. What the hell is that smell?"

A woman's voice came from out of nowhere to answer him. "That would be the Eau de Superblock. It comes with its own natural sewer 'perfume' You'll get used to it."

"Oh Superwhatnow?" Stiles yawned, popping his head over the railing to look towards their door where he saw a pretty young woman with brown hair and dimples holding a clipboard. Definitely Scott's type.

"The Superblock. It's our little nickname for the four dorm halls in this area. For whatever reason, the sewer smell is pretty strong in this area. I recommend keeping your window closed. I learned that the hard way last year."

"Last year?" Scott craned his head to the side in a way that Stiles always told him made the guy look like a confused puppy. "I thought this was a freshman only dorm.'

"Hi," she said extending a hand, "I'm Allison. I'm your Community Advisor, your CA." She read the board in her hand. "I see you are Scott and Kr...Ky...um I'm so sorry."

Stiles laughed. "Just call me Stiles."

"Well that's much easier. And you're both from California? What are the odds?"

"Pretty negligible. We're stepbrothers."

"Ah," she blushed, "well that makes a lot more sense. I'm 383. That's kitty corner from you. I’m CA for rooms 368-399, most of us in this wing are student athletes, which,” she read down her list, “I see you both are too. Oh, that’s nice. I’m on the women’s gymnastics team, Scott. So, I'm sure we'll see each other often. Bathrooms and laundry are across the hall, so lucky you. I'll leave the two of you alone to get settled, but don't forget about welcome week which starts tomorrow. There's brunch served tomorrow morning starting at nine."

They waved to her as she left the room. Stiles' stomach chose that moment to voice its displeasure at the lack of food in it, and he clambered down from his bed. "Come on, Scott. Let's go find dinner."

"I thought you were tired."

"Dude, if I don't go get food like right fucking now, I'm going to be down for the count tonight. I can barely keep my eyes open."

They made their way down the halls to the elevator. As they waited they were joined by a girl with long black hair...and also dimples. Huh. How about that? Stiles watched her bounce on the balls of her feet, fingers playing with the ruffled hem of her skirt. The bell dinged, and the doors opened.

"What floor?" Scott asked.

"One please. Thanks."

"Hey," Stiles said, an idea forming in his mind, "can you help us out? Where's a good place to eat around here?"

"Um, I'm a freshman, so I haven't tried any yet. However, my neighbor goes to the U and has recommended some places. What are you in the mood for?"

Stiles gave Scott a playful smack in the sternum. "Well, Scotty?"

"Dude, I don't know. I'm too hungry and exhausted."

"How about Mexican?"

She shrugged. "There's a Chipotle. If you're not too set on Mexican, I've been told Big 10 subs is really good, and close. Actually, it's just up Harvard a couple blocks. And there's Bona. That's a Vietnamese place if you like Phở. Little warm for that if you ask me. There are a couple pizza places along Washington. I'm Kira by the way."

Scott smiled. "Scott."

"Stiles."

"Nice to meet you. You guys live on the third floor too?"

They walked out the front door of the building to where the air was still, and quite surprisingly, sweltering. Everyone warned them about the winters in Minnesota, how they were downright oppressive. No one said anything about hot and humid summers.

"Are you guys locals?"

"Nope. We're NorCal kids." Stiles grinned. "Total fishes out of water. Hey, take our picture by that silly bridge." Stiles handed Kira his phone and pulled Scott against his side.

"Stiles, why would you pick this spot to take a picture?"

"Because Dad is worried about us freezing when we walk to class." When Kira took the photo and he saw his step-brother's less than thrilled face, he cackled. "Oh that's awesome, Scotty! I am sending this right now." Less than a minute after he sent the picture, his phone buzzed in his pocket.



  



"You're a horrible person," Scott said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I know. It keeps me up at night." They decided on making a much longer trek for food than a few blocks, because Scott was pretty set on Mexican food, and Kira led them to a neighborhood near the interstate called Dinkytown (yeah, Stiles didn't understand it either). Along the way, they learned that Kira planned on studying history and found Scott's focus on animal science adorable (if her broad grin was anything to go by). She lived down the hall from them as well and found the fact Stiles was on the men's hockey team interesting as hell, because she played center for the women's team. However, Stiles could accurately describe the way she looked when Scott divulged he was a ring's specialist for the gymnastics team: Mentally undressing him, trying to imagine all the muscles that lie underneath his clothes. Stiles would need brain bleach.

By the time they rounded the corner onto 13th Ave Se from 4th St, Stiles felt like the proverbial third wheel as Scott managed to already get a date with Kira. How the hell did he manage to do that? Scott, however, was not totally oblivious to Stiles' mild jealousy. It was like he could practically smell it.

"Don't look so sad, Bro. This is college, a place for learning, drinking, having lots of sex, and maybe finding the love of your life."

Stiles scoffed. 

Scott clapped him on the shoulders. "I'm right. Just you watch. Any day now, you are going to be totally blindsided when that person walks into your life."

"Uh huh. Sure they will. Cause that's worked so far." Stiles shook his head. Maybe if he were someone else, the love of his life would just walk out in front of him. But he was Stiles Stilinski, and he was never that lucky.





 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

TWO YEARS LATER


"How you feeling?" Derek asked, holding the side door open to Mariucci Arena so Stiles could walk in first, a move the guy had complained about on more than one occasion ("I'm not a damsel, Derek. You don't need to hold my doors for me").

Stiles looked over at his boyfriend of almost two years. "Me? Why are you asking me? I should be asking you. It's your senior year. Then you'll be off to New York, leaving me here all by my lonesome." He whined, though it was an act. With Derek a year ahead of him, they'd known they would face this eventually, unless Stiles decided to leave school early for the pros. Neither of them wanted him to consider that option.

Stiles would forever be grateful that NHL draftees could maintain their NCAA eligibility so long as they didn't hire agents or play for any type of professional team. He'd have had a tough choice to make as a high school senior otherwise, and one that probably would have made him skip college. What a tragedy that would have been. Still, that being said, he was not looking forward to playing his senior year without Derek on the team. Boyfriend aside, Derek Hale was a top-notch defenseman who always had his back (euphemism only partially intended). They were losing quite a few players to graduation this year. He shuddered to think of how the team would literally be in shambles next season with only three returning upperclassmen, Stiles included.

Derek spared a quick glance around their surroundings before reaching over and giving Stiles' hand a light squeeze, dropping it almost as quickly. "You make it sound like I'd be leaving you instead of the team."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "You know that's not what I meant." He almost reached out to caress his cheek, but flexed his fingers and then curled them tightly into a fist. He winced, a small hiss escaping his mouth as he flexed his fingers, wrists and wow even his elbows ached. Great. Just fucking great.

"What?"

Stiles shook his head. "It's nothing." He had been noticing but ignoring the stiffness in his wrists since June, figuring he'd finally managed to get Carpal Tunnel after years of repetitive motion in sports.

He sighed. Showing restraint around Derek was still hard, even after two years. He'd like nothing more than to walk down the street holding his hand the way so many other couples did, the way all his friends got to. Being in a same-sex relationship wasn't the problem (the university was amazingly progressive on that front). Nor was it because they were athletes (hell, they were friends with a gay couple, both athletes. No one batted an eye). No, the problem lie sorely in the fact they were two male athletes in one of the major sports, both already headed to the pros, and gay (or well, bisexual in Stiles' case).

Stiles had one thing to say about that: Fuck the cult of toxic masculinity and its lingering homophobia. It had made his life college life hell, in secret, where Derek insisted they kept their relationship for their own sakes.

“Well?”

Stiles shook himself out of his thoughts. "No, I'm not nervous." When he glanced over to see Derek's face, he relented. "Fine, you win. I'm a nervous, like I am before every game."

"I thought as much."

"You?"

Derek popped three pieces of gum in his mouth. "No, I'm good. Cool as a cucumber."

"Uh huh." Stiles raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "And that is why you are stuffing your face with Dentyne the way you always do when you're nervous?"

"I hate that you know me that well."

"No, you don't. You love it."

"Shut up." Derek gave him a light and playful shove as they continued down the hall to the locker room. "But yeah, I do. You know I do."

The room was empty when they stepped into it, not that it was anything out of the ordinary. On the contrary, actually. Derek had a penchant for being so damned punctual you could set a watch to him, and Stiles, by default of walking to the arena with him, wound up early to practice and games, even team meetings. The rest of the team assumed it had everything to do with the fact that Stiles was Derek's best friend, well, behind his twin sister Laura (but competing with siblings was hard in that respect. Scott was still Stiles' best friend. Though, to be honest, he and Derek both considered their siblings tied for first place). If any of their teammates suspected otherwise, they kept their mouths shut.

Stiles sat down on the wooden bench inside his locker. Funny word, locker. Not a single one of them in the place had locks, resembling doorless armoires or cubicles more than lockers in a high school. He'd grown so familiar with this space, his space, he didn't even need to look where he was going to find it. Funnily enough, it had been the only empty one in the room his freshman year. Now, with each season, every road trip, his space was the same. Right next to Derek's. He swallowed down the lump in his throat at the thought that someone, other than Derek, would have that space next year. It wouldn't be their space though, not quite. They could borrow it, use it on loan, but it would never belong to them.




Derek moved his leg closer to Stiles so he could knock their knees together. "What's going on in that head of yours?"

Stiles shrugged. "Nothing. Just thinking about the first day I walked into this room."

Derek looked over at him, giving him a warm smile. "I think about that all the time." He sighed, blissfully. That was a great day, one of the best days...

...Already in uniform, Derek sat on his bench next to Aiden, one of their left wingers. Coach Finstock had called them all in for an early meeting before their scrimmage to meet the two incoming players, a sophomore transfer from Lake Forest and a true freshman from California. The transfer student's name and position escaped him, but the freshman goalie was a big deal. It was not often that a top ten draft pick forewent the pros in order to play college hockey first. Derek was the highest pick in almost ten years to commit to the team, at number nineteen. Stilinski had been selected fifteen spaces sooner than he had been. The scholar of the game that he was, Derek looked up videos of Stilinski when he committed to Minnesota. K. Stilinski, Derek remembered the name well, especially because he had a strong feeling this eighteen year old was going to push Greenberg, their current goalie, out of his job as a starter as soon as possible.

Derek spent hours watching and rewatching the few clips he'd been able to find. Stilinski had an unorthodox playing style, one that reminded him of hall of famer, Dominik Hasek in the way he flopped around in goal, and he somehow managed to stop a crazy amount of pucks. Although he looked like a flounder on ice, there was something elegant in the way he played, a sort of organized chaos. It was mesmerizing. The guy would be perfect for their team, which had languished last year after losing their All-American goaltender to graduation the spring before. He was looking forward to being a powerhouse team again. Hell, they all were. It wasn't that Greenberg was bad, it was...the guy was wildly inconsistent and prone to pressure induced collapses. They needed someone in net they all could depend on to stop the puck.

"Why did Coach call this meeting? Couldn't he just have thrown the newbies to the wind in scrimmage? If nothing else, it would be interesting to watch."

Derek turned to him. "They'll be fine."

From near the door, there was a loud crash as someone knocked over the cart of sticks offering a quick 'Sorry' in a panicked voice. Derek hoped that was their new equipment manager. They did not need another clumsy kid who couldn't skate well on the team. Greenberg was bad enough. Derek shook his head and resumed his usual routine of staring at the ground as everyone else dressed for practice or a game. Even if he found none of them all that visually appealing, he didn't want to give any of them fodder should his sexual orientation become known. He'd arrive early, before everyone, dress quickly and keep his attention on the floor. He'd be the last to change out of his equipment, the last to shower. By now, several teammates had teased him about his ritual, but it was just easier this way.

Aiden smacked him on the arm. "Check out Bambi on Ice."

"What?" Derek looked up and saw the back of a guy he didn't recognize pick himself up from the floor and dust himself off, looking around to see if anyone had noticed his mishap. To make matters worse, he backed up and promptly tripped over his backpack which had fallen off in the fray. Derek was about to laugh and make a joke when they guy turned around. Derek prayed his loud intake of air had gone unnoticed. Bambi had been a pretty fucking accurate description of the guy. Derek swallowed hard, taking in the sight of him. Beautiful doe eyes, framed by a lush fringe of dark lashes, took in the locker room.

He could hardly breathe, his mouth watering at the thought of putting his lips to that alabaster skin. When the guy shucked his hoodie and draped it over his equipment bag, Derek's heart pounded in his chest. The fitted, but not too snug, Batman t-shirt hung deliciously from broad shoulders. The guy couldn't have weighed more than a buck seventy, but every pound seemed to be put to good use, and fuck. That was so inconvenient. The last thing Derek needed was to be attracted to another one of his teammates. Once, in high school, was bad enough. That way lay the road to ruin.

The locker room had quickly filled in the few minutes Derek sat transfixed on the new guy's form. He shook his head, trying to clear the haze of attraction from his brain, thanking whatever deity responsible that he'd already been suited up and his unfortunately timed boner lay concealed behind his cup and breezers. He rubbed his temples.

"You okay, Man?"

"Yeah. Just a little headache."

"Don't let Coach know that. He'll talk even louder to toughen you up."

"Speak of the devil," Derek said as their coach, Coach Finstock, lumbered into the room.

"Listen up you bunch of miscreants, I want to make this quick. Where are my two new guys?" He scanned the room and pointed to a weaselly looking guy who sat at the free locker in the corner. "You, who are you?"

"Um-"

"Stand up so everyone can see you."

"I'm Matt Daehler."

"Go on."

"Go on, what?"

Coach rolled his eyes. "Forget it." He scanned down his clipboard. "Where's the other guy? Kry...kir....Krazy....What in the hell kind of name is that? I don't remember recruiting that name."

"Krzysztof," Bambi Eyes corrected him.

"God bless you."

"I didn't sneeze. That's my name. Krzysztof Stilinski."

"That sounds like a medical ailment."

That paragon of flexible floundering whose hockey prowess Derek had been admiring for months, that guy was Bambi Eyes? This beautiful face was what was hiding behind that goalie mask? Holy hell, Derek was screwed.

"You know, everyone just calls me Stiles."

"Uh huh, and you're our foreign player right? Do I have to worry about visas?"

"What?" Bamb- Stiles cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Says here you were born in Usag Ansbach, Germany."

Jordan, their Junior centerman, laughed. "Uh Coach, that's an army base. A US Army base."

"How the hell do you know that, Parrish?"

"I considered West Point."

Way past uncomfortably hard in his breezers, Derek covered his face with both hands. That voice was pure sex. This could not be happening. He'd managed to make it through three years of high school and a year of college without showing the slightest interest in a teammate, and there he was about to come in his pants. He shifted on the bench while thinking of the least sexy things possible: Roadkill, inexperienced drinkers barfing after too much booze during pledge week, the fact his parents had to have sex at least five times in their lives to conceive him and his siblings. Even though the last thought was especially boner-killing (he'd used it several times before), he still remained dangerously on edge.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Aiden asked.

"I...maybe I just need to throw some cold water on my face." Without sparing a second longer, he stood and hurried towards the bathroom. A quick check underneath all the stalls showed that he was mercifully alone in the room, and he took refuge in the farthest stall from the locker room. As soon as the door locked behind him, he had his dick in his right hand, his teeth clamped down into the skin of his left- anything to muffle his sounds of pleasure while he hurried to finish himself off before anyone noticed. In less than a dozen strokes, he came, painting the stall wall with spunk. That was not at all where he'd been aiming. He sagged in relief against the door, taking a minute to catch his breath. Then, after stowing his dick back in his pants, and attempting to clean off the wall (good enough to escape detection without a blacklight), he went to the sink.

Fuck, he looked wrecked. Cheeks flushed, the skin of his neck splotchy, a sheen of sweat on his forehead. Thank fuck no one on the team knew what he looked like immediately after sex (see: his current appearance). He splashed his face with water and walked back to his locker, resolving to keep from looking. Instead, when he returned to his locker, the universe decided just to shit on his very existence when he heard Coach's voice once more.

"Let's see, the only empty locker is...take that one next to Hale."

"Which one is that?"

Coach gestured in Derek's direction without so much as sparing a glance. "The one with the resting murder face. Don't let him fool you. He's...well he's not harmless, but it's not like he'll rip your throat out with his teeth or anything. Well, probably won't. Actually, now that I think of it, just try not to piss him off."

Derek groaned. Great. How was he supposed to ignore the way his dick seemed intent on betraying him if the guy had the locker next to him? Derek silently prayed that Stiles didn't smell as good as he looked or Derek was fucked, and not in any way that he would like. Of course, when Stiles sat down, Derek found his prayer unanswered, ignored...or more accurately, answered with the inverse. He smelled woodsy, slightly sweet, slightly spicy and completely delicious. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"Feel better?"

Derek shook his head to clear the cobwebs, looking over to see a smirk on Stiles' face. It was like he knew...hold the phone. Could the guy smell Derek's attraction to him? That would be the most horrible thing since...well since his one foray into dating women (which ended badly with him scrambling for a reason to break up with her without coming out. It earned him the label of ‘prude’ for the rest of high school). "Um..."

"Happens to the best of us."

Derek paled. "What does?" Oh God...the guy totally knew what Derek had just done in the bathroom.

"Nerves. I threw up twice today. Just...big deal, college sports. Totally didn't think I'd end up here when I switched to hockey when I was ten and my coach suggested that perhaps gymnastics was not the best sport for me. No idea what the guy was talking about; my handstands are on point. I think that foundation helped me move to goalie."

Derek absolutely did not think of Stiles and all the flexible positio- No, he was just fine.

"I started out in defense, but apparently goalie is like the one thing my ADHD is good for," he chuckled and shucked his shirt as he began to change into his equipment

Derek blinked at him. "Uh..." He could pinpoint the moment when his dry mouth began to salivate and his traitorous dick decided to be a bastard and 'rise to the occasion' as it were. Again. And that moment was when Stiles went for the fly of his jeans.

"You sure are quiet. I'll stop bothering you then."

"No, it's okay. Sorry, I'm just not myself today." By the time the scrimmage started, Derek wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out - ha, come out - he and his dick were going to need to have a serious conversation about proper locker room etiquette...

 

..."I still can't believe you had just come back from jacking it in the bathroom when I sat down." Stiles knocked his shoulder against Derek's.

"Shut up." He gave Stiles a smirk as he bent down to tie his sneakers. "You ready?"



 

Stiles adjusted the jersey-knit beanie on his head. "Yeah, I'm good." They walked out of the locker room just as the athletic trainer walked in. They both gave him a wave and started their pregame ritual: Two laps around the arena.

"So," Derek said, halfway through their second lap, "nerves calming down any?"

 

 

Stiles shrugged. "No, not really. Tell you the truth, D, I've been tired as fuck for the last week and on edge for the last two days."

"Yeah?" He looked over with a raised eyebrow. "Why is that?"

"I think I need to get laid." Stiles smirked. They hadn't seen each other since practice on Wednesday, with Coach Finstock giving everyone the day off on Thursday. Laura had dragged Derek back home for family time after his last class ended Thursday. Derek, the lucky bastard didn't have class on Fridays.

Derek stopped running. "Is that so?"

"I feel all itchy. Being sexually frustrated does that to me. Apparently, it gives me a headache, too."



 

Derek rolled his eyes. He knew full well what being sexually frustrated did to his boyfriend. Spying an alcove with vending machines ahead, he checked over his shoulder and tugged Stiles toward it.

"Ooh, have you been scouting clandestine make-out spots?" Stiles asked as Derek wedged them into the space between the Coke machine and the wall.

"Scouting? No, just seizing an opportunity." He nuzzled at Stiles' neck, breathing him in. The way his boyfriend smelled that first day hadn't changed, and it was still like catnip to him. He nipped at Stiles' earlobe before moving to his lips.

"You keep that up, it's going to turn into a quickie behind this soda machine," Stiles mumbled against Derek's mouth, trailing his tongue along the man's bottom lip. "Not gonna lie, I don't think I'm up for that." Stiles rolled his hips against him.

"No?" Derek could not believe how wrecked he sounded already. "Could be fun. Trying to keep as quiet as possible, making sure no one can hear us?"





Stiles turned his head away from Derek's mouth, an action misinterpreted by his boyfriend, who moved to mouth at his neck and collarbone. Stiles didn't stop him, but suddenly didn't feel so up to idea. That quickie would sound like fun if them staying as quiet as possible was to avoid getting caught and in trouble as opposed to staying quiet so no one found them...and by proxy, found out about their relationship. It was one thing to have a secret tryst in a dark alcove, and it was another thing entirely to have an entire secret fucking relationship.

Derek seemed to sense his change in demeanor. "You okay?" He pulled back to stare at him in the low light.

"I hate this hiding bullshit. Come on. We don't want someone to see us and jump to the correct conclusions." He ducked under Derek's arm and resumed their lap, running much faster than he intended, bound for the solace of the locker room. By the time Derek caught up to him, he'd already donned most of his equipment.

"You know I didn't mean it like that."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Whatever, D. I have to go do my stretches. See you on the ice," he said as he finished tying the laces on his left skate.

 

*****

 

A bead of sweat dripped down Derek's forehead as he waited in the face-off circle. Jackson, their star right wing and only other player on the team besides Stiles and himself to have been drafted, found himself tossed from the face-off after not squaring up. Then Jordan, the center, found himself tossed.

Derek hated taking face-offs. Nevertheless, he won far more than he lost whenever he took the draw. Laura once asked him how he became so effective at it, and he told her he had this weird way of seeing things in slow motion. Stiles called it hyperfocus, said he was an expert at it. For all the zoning out he did when the puck was at the other end of the ice, he could just zero-in on the action when it came into their defensive zone.

All that led Derek to where he currently found himself, taking his fifth face-off of the third period alone. He could see the lineman handling the puck about to drop it, and he readied his stick. Like a droplet of water waiting for gravity to shake it loose from a leaky faucet, the puck left the lineman's hand bound for the ice. It seemed to take forever to fall, but Derek was ready for it. The blade of his stick pulled the puck away from the opposing forward, drawing it back to his teammates.

A clean face-off win, not that it mattered any, because they were getting their asses handed to them. Down three goals, they had no momentum. Duluth's latest goal had pretty much taken all the wind from their sails; the energy they'd managed to get back with Aiden's goal five minutes ago evaporated in an instant. The sad part was, Stiles was single handedly keeping them in the game as it was. Had Greenberg been in goal, Derek was sure they'd be facing an eight goal deficit at least. Stiles had stopped 63 of 67 shots, and the fact the guy was a human slinky was the only reason they were only down by three...scratch that...four.

Derek dropped his head as a slapshot from the point made it through three player screens and sailed over Stiles' left shoulder. He skated over to his boyfriend. Stiles flipped up his mask to spray water in his face before glaring at Matt for not getting the puck out of the zone in the first place.

"Coach should have pulled you after the the third goal."

Stiles scowled at him. "Quit trying to be cute, Daehler, just get it out of the zone!"

"Not my job to stop the puck; it's yours."

 

 

"Yeah? Well it's kind of fucking hard to do that when you try to be hot shit and clear the puck with a shot through your own legs! Let's see you face almost seventy shots with zippo help and stop more!" Stiles flipped down his mask in frustration.

Derek skated in between the two of them. Part of his job as team captain was to diffuse any potential time-bombs between teammates. "Come on now, guys. Back off each other." He waited for Matt to skate away before talking to Stiles. "Not much you could have done on that one, matia mou."

"Save it, D. You all are leaving me floundering with a wing and a prayer out here. What the hell is up with all of us tonight?"

Derek pat him on the top of the head. A paltry attempt at calming him down. From behind him, Derek heard Coach having a conniption. Oh God, Stiles was not going to be happy.

"Bilinski! Get your ass to the bench! I'm sending out Greenberg!"

"You've got to be kidding me!" He rebuffed Derek's pat on the shoulder as he skated to the bench grumbling under his breath, no doubt swearing in Polish.

Derek followed him to the bench for shift change.

"Why don't you head to the locker room, Bilinski? There's only four minutes left in the game." Coach waved him off, earning a death glare from Stiles.

As the minutes wound down in the game, Derek watched not one but two more pucks hit  the back of the net. By the time the final buzzer sounded, they'd lost by an embarrassing six goals. That was not the way a team who began their season ranked number three in the country wanted to start.  

When the team filtered into the locker room, Derek found his boyfriend's locker empty, his equipment lying in a heap on the floor. Being pulled from the game was not something that happened to Stiles often, and he hoped Coach wouldn't start Greenberg or the new freshman in Stiles' place tomorrow night. Save five games lost to injury and the flu over the past two years, Stiles had started every game. Derek smiled as he remembered Coach yanking Greenberg from net five minutes into their third game of Derek's sophomore year, muttering something about four goals in three minutes is ridiculous. He threw Stiles in net, and Derek would never forget the look of sheer panic on Stiles' face as he asked "Who me?"

They'd somehow managed to come within one goal, Stiles stopping every puck he saw that night, and the guy hadn't given up his job as starting goaltender since.

Derek shucked his equipment, tossing the necessary items in the laundry bin and placed his skates in the sharpening room--he'd lost an edge somewhere in the last ten minutes of the game--to be ready for tomorrow's game. He grabbed his shower caddy and donned his flip flops, keeping his focus outward and slightly upward as he walked into the shower.

He'd have been lying if he said he'd never caught an eyeful on accident. Still, it was disrespectful to his teammates to look, and the last thing he needed was to be caught staring. So, he took his place at the spout next to his boyfriend, who was still visibly seething. "If it helps, Greenberg let in two more goals. So I don't think it was you."





"It wasn't. Well, goal number three was, but the others. Hard to stop deflections and screens, or pucks when I have no room to move." He glared, but his scowl softened when he noticed Derek's contrite face. "It's..." He sighed, rubbing his temples. Fuck, his head hurt. "It's everyone's fault. We were an uncoordinated mess. I was tight. We'll get over it."

 

Derek nodded. Stiles could see him swallowing hard, watching the soap rinse down Stiles' body from the corner of his eye. "Did you take a hit under your shoulder pad?" He asked, drawing attention to the freshly forming bruise on Stiles' deltoid, the darkening skin a harsh contrast to the ink on his tattoo.

Stiles looked down at his arm and frowned. Nothing like having a bruise over ink; it always looked ridiculous and way worse than it was. He rubbed a thumb over the purple memorial ribbon wrapped around a red poppy. "Yeah, I guess I did. I'll be fine."

"So...Alderaan or Tatooine?"

"Scott's not home. He went with Kira on her road trip to...where is their game this weekend? I forgot to ask."

"Bemidji," Derek filled him in. Of course he knew. He'd had the women's hockey team's schedule memorized all through college thanks to Laura's constant reminders.

"So...Tatooine I guess." Stiles smirked, pleased Derek still used his choice of code for 'Your place or mine?' even if the reason for the code was stupid. He shut off his water.

"Wait for me?"

Stiles gave Derek a small nod, his loaded question settling in the pit of Stiles' stomach. Derek knew Stiles hated keeping their relationship a secret. Stiles had just never told him how much he hated it. Yeah, he'd wait for him, but it was getting harder and harder to do.





Chapter Text

 

Stiles stuffed a forkful of salad into his mouth as he looked up to see Jackson carrying two trays towards their table. He set them down on the end of the table in front of Allison, who sat next to Stiles.

"Here you are, Allison. A slice of cheese and a Sprite for you." He handed Allison her meal, a slight pout on his face. "And for you, Lydia, a California roll, edamame and iced tea." He slid the plate in front of Lydia where she sat at the head of the table.

Stiles fought back a chuckle. For as much of a total douchebag the guy was at practice or games, it tickled Stiles to no end to see him following his girlfriends around like a lost puppy. Stiles suspected there was not one bit of their relationship that he happened to be in charge of, and he also suspected that it was exactly the way Jackson liked it, though the guy would never admit to such. The three of them worked, most likely, because Allison's brand of sweetness mellowed Lydia out and provided the perfect counter-balance to Jackson's entitled, white boy demeanor.

Looking down the table their group had claimed in Mall of America's food court, Stiles couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy at the rest of his friends, sitting next to their significant other while Derek sat all the way at the other end of the table, next to Laura (whose boyfriend was absent for the day) and their friend Danny who, along with his boyfriend, Ethan were both on the swim team. They didn't bother hiding their relationship; they could be out without worry. Hell, even the triad sitting next to him was no secret.

He could behave himself. There was no need for Derek to sit as far away from him as possible. It was silly, just lunch seating arrangements, but after two years of this crap-

Whatever, he was an adult; he'd deal. He took an angry drink of his water, before finishing up his side salad and turning his attention to his bowl of pasta.

"So then, I shit you not, Aiden took two steps out of the bathroom and promptly tripped over his backpack, the one he swore he'd remember leaving in the middle of the fucking doorway. Fell flat on his face," Isaac, Derek's line partner on the team, laughed. "Cora was there she saw it too." He turned and gave his girlfriend a look that said, 'Babe, go on, back me up here.' Instead, the younger Hale sibling kept her mouth shut.

"You are making that up. My brother would never be that clumsy. That's… had you said Stiles did that? Sure, I'd totally believe you."

"Hey!" Stiles balled up his napkin and flung down the table, hitting Ethan in the face. Of the two Wilson twins, Ethan was the one Stiles preferred to hang out with… if he had to spend time with one of them. To be honest, he didn't care for either of them, teammate or not.

"He's telling the truth," Jordan interrupted between bites of his sub. "I walked out of the bedroom just in time to see him face plant. It was awesome. Frankly," he took a drink of soda, "I'm amazed he didn't get a black eye. Jackson has it on video."

"No, I don't. I have his drunken ramblings from the moment he walked into the apartment on video. Why the hell would I continue filming when the guy was in the shower? I have no interest in seeing more of him than I have to."

Stiles feigned amusement so as not to stand out among the rest of his friends who all broke out into laughter. Still upset about being benched for their second game of the season the Saturday beforehand (they still lost. Way to go, Coach. Excellent forethought on your part), he just wanted to go home, no longer finding any entertainment in being out with friends.

“Now, now, Jackson, I would think that someone with as open a mind to relationships as you would be able to handle seeing a penis without panicking.”

Jackson narrowed his eyes at Laura. “Did I say I panicked? No. I see dicks all the time in the locker room and manage just fine. I just have absolutely no desire to have anyone else’s dick pics on my phone, thank you very much.” He took a drink of water. “And no, please don’t launch into another speech about progressive ideas of sexuality and gender, Laura. Like I said...I didn’t panic. I just don’t want to have that image burned into my retinas. I’d rather stab myself in the face with this fork.”

Stiles pushed pasta around in his bowl. Never did he think he'd be in this position, madly in love with someone and have the only people at school who knew about it be Laura and Scott… and probably Kira,  because Scott, even though Stiles loved the guy, had this policy of total honesty with his girlfriend. Hell, she probably knew about the time Scott walked in on him and Heather, their friend from high school, crossing third base and heading for home. When he got together with Derek, he knew it wouldn't be easy to hide. He just didn't think it would ever be this hard...

 

...Stiles grinned when Derek opened the door to his apartment in Yudof Hall, shaking his early birthday present in his face. "Look what I got in the mail today."

"Is that the latest season?"

"Yep. You wanna marathon it with me? I mean, I have some reading to do, but I can do both. I remember you saying you were a huge Game of Thrones fan, and super pissed that your mom said no to HBO in your dorm because she wanted you to stay focused on school. If you're busy we can totally do this another time. I probably should have called before I came over now that I think about it. But here we are."

Derek stepped aside and let Stiles into the room. "My bedroom is the one on the right, behind the kitchen. Want something to drink?"

"Is your roommate home? He can watch too if he wants."

"Boyd? No, he's at practice. He'll be done in a couple hours." Derek busied himself with grabbing snacks and drinks for them both and joined Stiles in his bedroom where he found him fiddling with the BluRay. "I hope you like lemonade. It's either that or milk, well, and water, I guess."

Stiles accepted the proffered beverage and smiled, taking in Derek’s bedroom. Strands of illicit white Christmas lights trailed up the walls and around the bed. Stiles chuckled at Derek’s private rebellion against the strict decorative lighting policy in the dorms. Dozens of photographs were tacked to the wall beside his bed, most of them scenery pictures with a few snapshots of his friends (and presumably family) scattered throughout. He also saw the spots where a few ticket stubs and Beatles calendar hung as well. Unlike the haphazard display on the wall, the room itself was almost spotless. Nearly everything seemed to be in its proper place. No clothes were littered about, with only a textbook or two sitting on the floor.  "Thanks. Gotta say, your room is way too clean for a college student. Mine is… well I wouldn't call it a disaster. My half of the room is okay, but Scott's is another story."

"Don't give me too much praise. My mom came by for lunch yesterday. Had to clean it up." He grabbed his backpack from off his computer chair and climbed onto his bed, patting the space next to him.

Stiles raised an eyebrow.

"I swear no one has had sex on these sheet," Derek paused as if considering his answer, “well, at least to my knowledge. Boyd really isn’t the kind of guy to do that. So I think you’re safe.”

"Good to know." They settled into an easy silence as they watched, engrossed, through the first two episodes of the season, before Stiles spoke up. "Are you hungry? I was hankering for Davanni's. I'll buy. My treat."

 

"You don't have to do that. I can pay for my own pizza."

Stiles gave him a bashful shrug. "I mean if you really want to, but… I was kind of thinking this could, and I mean I totally get it if it's not your thing or I'm not your ty-"

The look on Derek's face was fraught with consideration, as though he were trying to decide if Stiles was serious. "Did Laura put you up to this?"

"Put me up to what? And why would your sister do that?"

"My sister seems to think that because she's seven minutes older than me, that I need protecting.  She is also worried that I’m lonely."

"Why would- Okay, I clearly screwed something up,” he sighed, rubbing his twitching eyebrow. Stupid nervous tic. “Hi," he extended his hand hoping for Derek to at least shake it in introduction, "my name's Stiles. My birthday is November 6th. So, I'm a Scorpio, 5'11", 168 pounds. I like sci-fi, video games, drumming, and the Mets. My favorite color is blue. I like you and think you're awesome, surprisingly funny, not that anyone would know that because you like to pretend to be angry, but you're not so tough.” He gave Derek a playful punch on the shoulder. “I also think you're really, ridiculously good looking… and have on more than one occasion pictured you skating in just a cup.” He smacked himself in the forehead. “Shit! I did not mean to say that aloud... Anyway, my attempt at making this a feeler on a possible date has failed, because I obviously need to get my gaydar a tune-up. So… clearly that hypothetical date should not happen, and I'm just gonna go. You can borrow the discs and give them back at practice. If you promise not to out me to the team, I promise I won't make things weird." Stiles scooted off the bed and made for the exit.

Derek caught him by the wrist before he could flee entirely. He gave Stiles’ arm a soft tug, pulling him back into the room and shut the door. "You like me?"

Stiles furrowed his brows. "Yes, I thought my little rant there established that."

"You… like me?"

Stiles pulled his arm free of Derek’s tentative grasp and flung his hands in the air in frustration."Yes. Why is that so hard to believe? Have you seen yourself?"

Derek shook his head and swallowed hard. "No, I mean… you like me, and you're not joking?"

"No, why would-" Stiles stopped and studied him for a while. With the softness in Derek’s eyes, the raised brows, he looked almost hopeful. Stiles felt the familiar flutter of excitement in his stomach.  "Oh… oh. Dude, you could have said something."

"I don't um, I don't make the first move. I'm not comfortable- I don't trust my first impressions of whether a guy is into me."

Stiles gave him a small nod. "You're not out are you?"

"No. Laura knows. But, I like you too,” Derek shrugged and looked down at his feet, “especially your eyes.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles felt his knees go weak at the sight of Derek’s bashfulness. The blush spread up his neck until it hit his ears, but just the tops of them. His cheeks took on a rosy hue.

“Uh huh. They, um… are like...yeah.”

“My eyes are like yeah? You’re adorable, Derek.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. As if that would drive the flushed redness away. “I'd love that date, and the dinner."

“So...about that pizza?” Stiles asked.

They ended up splitting a large Supreme and plowing through three more episodes before he stood and readied himself to leave, trying not to blush himself when Derek walked him to the door. "This was nice."

"Yeah. I'll give you a call about that date. I have some good ideas."

Stiles smiled. "I like the sound of that." Then, he leaned in, before pulling back in hesitation. "Can I… can I kiss you?" When Derek gave him a little nod, he closed the space between them. Derek's lips felt unbelievably soft against his, and though the kiss was not heated, just a simple press of lips together, when Stiles stepped back, he couldn't help but chuckle at the way Derek chased the distance. It was adorable, and made his stomach flutter. "Wow," he said almost breathless. "I'd love to stay and get fully acquainted with your mouth, really I would, but I have an exam at nine tomorrow, and I really need some sleep."

He smiled all the way back to his dorm, and didn't even scold Scott when his step-brother brought up how red his cheeks grew when reading Derek's good night text...

 

...Stiles looked up as their group started to clear their trays, discussing amongst themselves as to their next course of action. He tried not to groan aloud when Lydia and Allison talked them into walking down to H&M.


*****

 

Stiles walked aimlessly through the racks of clothing. He wanted to go home, and he had a splitting headache. They'd been here for hours already, and the mall just wasn't interesting enough to keep his attention. After spending far too long in H&M, Jackson had the brilliant idea to go-on a couple rides. That would have been awesome except… Derek wouldn't even ride with him; he had rebuffed his attempt to slide in next to him with a shove towards Scott's car.

He couldn't understand it. Now, as they all browsed different sections in Macy's, he just got the impression that Derek's was mad at him. Why?

Stiles looked up to see Derek grab a pair of jeans and head for the fitting rooms. He waited a few seconds, scanning the area to see if anyone in their group was in the vicinity before chasing after him. Just before the door closed, Stiles slipped in after him.

"What are you doing in here, Stiles?" Derek snapped at him.

Shocked by the tone in Derek's voice, he stepped back, weighing his words carefully. "Are you-" He licked his lips. This was a fight in the making. He could feel it, and wasn't prepared to deal with it at the moment. The words were thick in his throat like they didn't want to be heard almost as badly as he didn't want to say them. "Did I… do something… wrong?" He couldn't even look at him.

"What? Why would you think that?"

Stiles crossed an arm across his chest and rubbed his right bicep. "You're avoiding me, actively trying to stay as far as possible. I can only assume that means you're mad at me, and I can't figure out why."

"I'm not mad at you."

"So," he took a step forward, "I'm overreacting then?" When he tried to kiss Derek's cheek only to have him jerk away like Stiles had burned him, Stiles felt like he'd been kicked in the stomach. "Why would you do that?”

“Someone might-”

"There's no one in here to see us." He took a deep breath, fighting back tears. “There is no reason to hide behind closed doors. Just like there is no reason to put as much physical distance between the two of us all day. What? Worried someone will misinterpret anything less than six feet of space apart as intimate? We’re friends. Friends can walk next to each other, sit beside one another at lunch, Derek.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Is this all because you're ashamed of your sexual-"

"I'm not ashamed of being-"

Well now, that hurt worse. "So you're just ashamed of me." He didn't even give Derek a chance to reply before bolting out of the fitting room with the full intention of riding the Light Rail back to campus alone, but he couldn't be so lucky, and Derek caught up to him quickly.

"What are you talking about? Stiles, you're wonderful. How could I… I'm not ashamed of you."

"Well you sure make me feel like it sometimes." Derek moved to caress his cheek. "Don't touch me." Derek grabbed his hand, and Stiles immediately tried to pull it free to no avail. He took a step closer to Derek so that he stood right in his face. "Let go." When Derek continued to hold on, Stiles grew furious. "Derek, let go of me right now or I swear I will make the biggest fucking scene in the middle of Macy's you've ever seen."

As soon as Derek dropped Stiles' hand, Stiles pushed away from him and fled the store. He hastily sent a message to Scott saying he felt sick to his stomach before hurrying to the Light Rail Station.

He rode home alone.

The scenery along the Hiawatha Line passed by in a blur outside the train window. Strange, Stiles thought, his mind felt a bit like that right then: Blurry. Everything he wanted to say but didn’t, bounced around inside his head, bumping up against all the pressure of keeping them a secret, of school, of hockey, each thought vying for its day in the sun. How could one brain manage to keep up with it all? Perks of ADHD he supposed. Before long, he just felt anesthetized to it all. The day had just been too much for him, and he needed to checkout.

He imagined that, to the people who saw him as he walked off the train and switched platforms to the Green Line, bound for home, he probably looked like a zombie, eyes glazed over and unfocused. That was how he felt, might as well look the part.

Even when he walked through Middlebrook Hall to the safe confines of his room, he didn’t feel a thing. It was like time decided to slow to a crawl around him. He didn't even acknowledge his step-brother when he came in later.

"Are you okay? You need me to go get you some Sprite or something?" Scott asked from the door.

From where he lay, prostrate on his lofted bed, he grumbled into his pillow. "No. What time is it?”

"Little after nine. Dude, have you been crying?”

Stiles sat up and licked his lips, stretching his arms. Somewhere in his little pity party, his limbs had stiffened up on him. He looked down at Scott’s earnest wide-eyed expression."Maybe."

"The whole time?”

Stiles rolled his bloodshot eyes at him. “Of course not.” Without thinking, he wiped his nose on the sleeve of his sweatshirt before cringing, his mouth hanging open in a disgusted grimace. “Gross.”

“Hey! You're not sick. Fight with Derek?"

Stiles buried his face in his hands. "Yeah."

"The usual?"

"Yeah."

"Well, and don't take this the wrong way, maybe back off a bit? I mean, if it's clearly a hot button topic for him."

"You don't get it, Scott." His voice broke. "On days like today, when we're out with all of you, it hurts. I can't- I… it's like I'm a dirty secret. It's just, I get it. He's not ready. His parents are well known in the state. His dad's up for re-election next year, but it doesn't make me feel better."

Scott put his bags down and climbed up the ladder to Stiles' bed. "Well, how does this sound? I order a pizza. I have a six pack Kira bought for me in the fridge. What do you say we spend the night laughing our asses off with bad television? It’d do you good."

“Thanks, Scotty. That’s a nice gesture, but,” Stiles shrugged, "I think I'm just going to shower and head to bed."

"Do you want me to go kick his ass? I mean, he’s like twice-ish my size. So I’m pretty sure I’d fail, but I’d try really, really hard. I think my point would come across"

Stiles gave him a wet and tear filled laugh. "Remind me to buy you a medal or something.” He tugged his now snot-soiled sweatshirt over his head, tossing it into the hamper. “No. He's… he’s not doing this to hurt me." With a resigned sigh, he ran a hand through his hair, before rubbing at his aching elbows. "Not on purpose anyway. Still hurts. I guess it's just frustrating." He gave Scott a playful shove and scooted past him on the bed. He tried to pass off the way he stumbled into his dresser as intentional, though he knew Scott saw through his ruse. Oh well. His ego was well acquainted with the mild embarrassment that came with his off-ice clumsiness. “The sad thing is,” he said brandishing his pajamas at Scott. “I don’t even think he realizes he does some of this stuff unless I point it out to him. I just...nevermind. I don’t have the energy to deal with this anymore tonight.” He picked up his shower caddy and left the room.

When he returned fifteen minutes later, he finally responded to Derek's texts and several missed calls.


 

Fuck off… yeah that should get his point across. Let him stew overnight.




 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Alright. I'm up. I'm up." Derek rubbed his eyes and groaned before stretching. Fumbling around on his dresser next to his bed, he found his phone and shut off the alarm whose shrill beeping broke him from his restless slumber. To say he hadn't slept well was an understatement. He'd been up until three in the morning, worried out of his mind that he'd fucked up his relationship with Stiles and would be dumped any day now. It wasn’t a good feeling to be wrestling with when dead tired in the wee hours of the morning.

He stumbled out of bed and tripped over the textbook for his Hellenistic Archaeology class, stubbing his big toe. "Son of a-" He jumped up and down, holding his aching foot. Great. He already had a headache; he didn't need a sore foot to go with it.

Without turning on the light, he pulled a pair of gym shorts from his dresser, tugging them on over his boxer briefs. He followed with socks and his sneakers. Once he'd tucked his phone into its armband and slipped his headphones over his ears, he grabbed a t-shirt and his keys then quietly left his apartment.

The run to the rec center, though short, was enough of a warm up. Outside the doors, he tugged his shirt on over his head and walked to the desk to swipe his UCard.

God, he was tired. He was going to be useless in class and practice later. Idiot. Why would you do that to him? Realizing he should have skipped his morning workout, he scrubbed a hand down his face and headed over to get his cardio workout over and done with as quickly as possible. He never worked on strength training outside of the arena. The athletic trainers were great spotters, and it would be irresponsible to lift here without one. Coach would have his head. For once, he was glad for that fact, because there was no way he would be able to manage weights today. His lack of sleep had seen to that.

He sat down at one of the rowing machines. Ahead of him, he could see the treadmills. Eyes wistful, he stared them, remembering the time Sophomore year when he stumbled upon Stiles happily pounding the rubber 'pavement', headphones on, totally oblivious to the world around him...

...Geared up and in desperate need of a good, long run, Derek made his way through the gym. The lingering odor of sweat and rubber carried throughout, but with a hint of disinfectant. The area around the front desk had smelled like coffee, and any time he passed someone with a sports drink, the air filled with the aroma of artificial fruit punch. This was a unique smell. It was the scent of 'gym'. His mother had always said he had this quirk of cataloguing places by their scents. Like the way if someone had asked him to describe his grandmother's house, the first thing he'd have said was 'It’s like like olive oil, peppermint candy, lilac, and just a hint of White Diamonds.'

His mother called him her little wolf with the sensitive nose. Often, it was a good thing. Right now, or in the locker room? Not so much.

He headed for the treadmills, and as he approached, he could hear someone singing, but could not hear any music playing. Less than ten feet away, he found the source of the sound. There, running like a man possessed, was Stiles, headphones on, belting out Taylor Swift.

"And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake. Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off."

Derek walked up to his boyfriend's treadmill as conspicuously as possible. The last thing he wanted was for him to get startled and fall off. Not that his efforts mattered any, because as soon as Stiles finally noticed him, he jumped out of his skin. The only things that kept him from hitting the deck were Derek's reflexes, catching him on the way down.

"Heyyyy, Derek," Stiles said, trying to play it cool, as though he meant to be that clumsy. "Whatcha doin'?"

"You were singing."

The look on Stiles' face screamed 'Duh!' "So?" He pressed the stop button, and the belt beneath his feet slowly came to a stop

"Out loud."

"And I repeat. So?"

"Just thought you might want to know. That kind of thing can be embarrassing to some people."

"Not me. Sometimes you just gotta sing out loud. Besides, I like singing. I thought you’d know that by now." This time, instead of just singing, he added some high quality dance moves into the mix. Sarcasm totally intended. "And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate."

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned, "Oh my god. I'm in love with a circus clown." The singing came to a halt, and Derek was about two seconds away from apologizing in fear he'd hurt his feelings. However, when he looked up, he saw Stiles staring at him, eyes full of unspoken words and emotion.

"You are?"

"Are what?"

Stiles leaned in. "You love me?" he whispered.

Derek gave him a soft, private smile. "Yeah, yeah I do."

Stiles grabbed the safety handle, placing his hand down next to Derek's, near enough so their fingers touched. It was the closest they ever got to holding hands in public. Derek could feel the heat radiating from his skin. "Me too."

Derek walked around to the empty machine next to Stiles, and they settled into a comfortable silence. That is, until Stiles started singing aloud again...

...In a huff, Derek released the handlebar, the chain zipping back into the flywheel. He stared at handle like it personally offended him, glaring at it, willing it to catch fire.

 

 

It didn't work.

As the rowing machine was decidedly not on fire, Derek slid the seat back and stretched out his legs. What else was he supposed to do? It wasn't like he could strut down the street holding Stiles' hand. Both of them were headed to the pros, where the public and fellow players made it perfectly clear there was no place for them in professional sports. Why else did players of the big four sports wait until they retired to come out? Why? Because they'd be run off their teams with metaphorical pitchforks.

To make it worse, Derek had the added pressure of being the child of public officials. Any deviation outside the norm of "acceptable" behavior could start a scandal. He couldn't do that to his dad. Not coming u p on an election year. Derek rubbed his shoulders. He'd tried explaining this to Stiles before, but somehow his words fell short.

He pulled his phone from his pocket and tried to grovel further.

 

 

His last message went unanswered. Dejected, he gave up on his workout and made his way back towards his apartment, making a slight detour two blocks East on Washington where he stopped to pick up bagels and a couple of coffees. Then, he dragged himself back to Yudof Hall, sending a message to his sister along the way.

He was met at the front door to apartment 325 by a very sleepy Laura. "What the hell could be so bad it requires waking me up before seven?" Her eyes brightened upon seeing the takeout bag in her brother's hand. "Come in." They walked into her bedroom, and she shut the door behind them. "Coffee first. Oooh, rosemary and olive oil with hummus," she said, unwrapping the bagel. "You know me so well."

He would have rolled his eyes at her if he weren't so tired. “I should hope so.”

Derek--five bites into his cinnamon sugar bagel with peanut butter--slid onto the bed next to his sister. With a sigh, he stared up at the ceiling and filled her in.

Laura waited until he was done talking before smacking him on the side of the head. "Derek, you're my brother, and I love you more than anyone else in the world, but you're an idiot. You know that?"

"I know." He balled up the wrapper to his breakfast and tossed it into the trash can across the room.

"Two points. Anyway, let's pretend for a second that I agree with you hiding your relationship from everyone, I just don't see why you would rebuff his affection in the dressing room. I mean, it's not like he was trying to get into your pants right?"

"No." Derek dropped his head into his hands. "It's just all a big mess. I don’t even know why I did that. I couldn’t even tell you why I thought keeping my distance all day was a good idea.”

“I can. Internalized homophobia.”

His jaw hung open. “That...is not- I’m not-” At a loss, Derek shut his mouth, his teeth grinding against each other. Was that it? No. He’d meant it when he told Stiles that he was not ashamed of being gay, himself, or their relationship. “I don’t hate myself. I’m not in denial, either.”

“You don’t have to be. Let me put it this way. If I’d said internalized sexual stigma, would that make more sense?”

“Thank you, Professor.”

She poked him in the nose. “I better know what I’m talking about by now. I’ve only spent four years of my life studying this stuff, Der, and I have at least that many more to go.” She curled her fingers in his hair, scratching his scalp with a gentle touch. “You don’t have to hate yourself, and by proxy everyone else in the Queer community, Der. You’re in a secret relationship, closeted. Why? Because society and sports culture tell you that you need to be. You’re afraid.”

He licked his lips. “I’m not afraid. What’s a degree of fear above terrified?”

“Hmm,” Laura scratched her chin. “Petrified.”

“Yeah. That’s it, I'm petrified, and now he won't talk to me."

"I don't blame him, Derek."

He yawned. "I can't lose him, Lolo. I just… can't." Leaning across her, he set his coffee on the dresser. "I don't know what to do if he won't talk to me."

"Well," she said patting her thigh, "I think short of a giant public display, you might just have to wait him out." When her brother stretched out on the bed, his head upon her thigh, she rubbed his head.

"And if he doesn't give in? If he dumps me?"

"Then, I will be here with ouzo and Ghostbusters. It will be twins night only. No Cora allowed. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm tired. I don't appreciated being woken up three hours early. So, either head back to your own place, or scoot over, because I need more sleep."

 

*****

 

Derek wound up and hit the puck with as much force as he could. His slapshot had always been his strong suit, which was a good thing for a defenseman. However, just like every puck so far that day, it missed its target.

"Hale!" God, Derek hated that whistle. "What the hell was that?" Coach Finstock cackled. "Hale, hell, get it?" He turned to address the rest of the team. "You all should be laughing right now! I'm a real George Carlin."

Liam, their first year defenseman, stared at Coach for a few seconds. "Who's George Car-"

"Who's George Carlin? Who's- I shudder to think what they don't teach you kids in school these days."

"Pretty sure the comedy of George Carlin is not appropriate to be taught in schools, Coach."

Derek tried not to smile at Stiles' comment, choosing to hide his face in his glove. Even though his face was hidden behind his mask, Derek could picture the expression on Stiles' face clearly.

"Stilinski! Have I ever mentioned how profoundly annoying I find you?"

"Once or twice."

"What was what?" Derek tried feigning ignorance, and was more than certain he failed.

With wild gesticulation, Coach pointed at the net. "That! That right there. You need a map to find the net?" He put his whistle to his mouth and blew. "Again!"

All the defensemen took their places at the points, half the forwards in the corners, and the other half split and lined up at the two face off dots. Derek doubled over, bent at the waist. He just needed a few moments to shake the cobwebs from his mind, work out the kinks as they say. With his stick, he scooped up a little pile of ice shavings, something he’d done since he and Laura were in Mini-Mites. He never...never really had a reason to do it. It just had a way of giving him focus. Stiles had his songs; Derek had his tiny mounds of shaved ice. The fluorescent lighting overhead had a way of casting little blue shadows in the grooves left behind by the blades of more than thirty skates.

He inhaled, pulling in deep lungfuls of air, savoring the way the smell of the rink reached his nostrils. See, no one--who didn’t spend the amount of time in one as he did--ever believed him when he said the ice had a scent. That clean scent of negatively charged air with no humidity, the coldness of it, that was the good stuff. It was not the same as the frigid winter air when the temperature dipped below zero. No, that was different. The bitter bite of subzero air was, for lack of a better word, unpleasant. It wasn’t the same

Sweat and the barest hint of Zamboni exhaust lingered in the air. But it was the smell of cold- No other way to describe it, he figured. It was just the pure scent of cold. It was one of his favorites.

Shaking himself out of his daze, Derek watched as the pucks cycled around. The guys in the corner passed the pucks to the defense, who did the same to the forwards near the net, then those players set up the defense for one timers or slapshots at the point. Basic stuff, a drill they'd all been doing since they were kids, but hell if Derek didn't send his shot clean over not just the crossbar, but glass as well. He steeled himself for the tongue lashing that was sure to come.

"You're killin' me, Hale!" Coach skated over to the net, patting the crossbar. "What, pray tell, do we call this fine piece of sports equipment here?"

Derek rolled his eyes. "You cannot be seri-" Coach's glare stopped him from finishing that sentence. "That's the goal, Coach."

"Very good, College Boy. And what goes in the goal?"

"That would be pucks."

"Yes, and occasionally Stilinski. Now, what are you not putting in the net today? And I swear to God, if you say Stilinski..."

Derek hung his head, in part, to hide the smirk at the thought of putting Stiles in the net, but mostly to hide his face. "Sorry."

"Sorry doesn't win us games. Did someone leave all his talent at home today?"

Derek sighed. "No, I'm just having a really bad day."

"Uh huh," Coach nodded, "Did someone die?"

Derek’s mouth fell open, and he stared at him. "What? No!"

"Fail a test? Should I be worried about academic probation, Hale? Gotta say, with six prior semesters on or near the Dean's list, that would come as quite a shock a month into the semester."

"No, I'm doing fine there."

"Wait, did you get arrested?"

Derek face palmed, then removed his glove and helmet so he could pinch the bridge of his nose. "Coach, I guarantee, if I got arrested, someone would have leaked it to the news. 'Next on WCCO, son of Lt. Governor Hale arrested last night. What does this mean for the chances of Deaton/Hale in next year’s election?’'," he said in his mock newscaster voice.

"Then what the hell is wrong with you today?"

"I had a fight wi-"

Coach groaned. "Damn it. We have no time for lover's quarrels. Quick, what do I always say about your personal lives, boys?"

"Not to let them interfere with the teams." Stiles actually had the nerve to sound pleased. This was not happening. How was this Derek's life right now?

"That's right. See, Hale? Even Stilinski gets it. So," Coach skated over and got right in his face, "get your shit together!" Once more, Coach blew his whistle and broke the team up, sending the forwards to the opposite end of the ice to work with the assistant coach while he kept the defense in the zone to practice support transitions.

"Derek, you look like you pulled an all-nighter," Liam said, "fun all-nighter? Good hook-up?"

"No," he could feel the scowl settling into his brows, "I had a fight."

"Ah, girlfriend troubles."

Before he could correct the kid, Liam's sophomore defensive partner, Brett smiled. "I have a great solution for you, Derek. Call her up and serenade her with a cheesy love song. It's almost failproof. Perhaps with Peter Gabriel." His shoulders, their broadness exaggerated by shoulder pads, started shaking with laughter.

Behind him, Derek heard Stiles snicker.

"What? You don't think that would work?" Brett asked. "Got a better song? Be a good teammate and help the guy out."

Nonchalant, Stiles caught the pass from Isaac and pushed it behind the net to start the next transition like it was the easiest thing in the world. Come to think of it, Derek mused, for Stiles, it probably was. "Personally, I," he caught a puck, "am a fan of...."

 

Derek caught the beginnings of a song, but he couldn't quite hear it; Stiles was singing too quietly. It sounded familiar, but it was Derek's turn to go. By the time he cycled back to wait, Stiles was in full song mode. Singing during practice was not out of the ordinary for the guy, and the team was pretty much used to this personality quirk from their starting goaltender. Hell, sometimes he even sang during games. Derek once asked him why and was met with 'It helps me focus'.

"...Oh, I would go through all this pain. Take a bullet straight through my brain. Yes, I would die for you, baby, but you won't do the same."

Well now, Derek heard those words more than clearly, and they felt like a punch in the gut. Stiles had picked that song deliberately. How could he- No, this had to stop.

"Huh. Come to think of it, Brett," Stiles said, "That's not a particularly good choice. Perhaps you're right. Definitely use Peter Gabriel."

When they broke, skating to the goal line for end of practice 'Nightmare Drill of Death' as Coach so eloquently called it. Really it was just suicides with the players first skating goal line to goal line, then goal line to offensive end face off dots. That was followed by goal line to far blue line, then goal line to near blue line, and the drill ended with goal line to defensive face off dots. Each leg of the drill also included the return trip. They did this drill five times.

Stiles hated it and had voiced his loathing of it more than once.

Not that Derek could blame him. He'd probably hate the drill if he were wearing twenty-five pounds of equipment, too. Still, he stood at the end of the line next to his boyfriend and turned around so that he faced the opposite direction, praying it gave them a bit of privacy. "I've been trying to apologize. I'm not ash-"

"Prove it."

"Is this- Are you giving me an ultimatum? Come out out or you'll break up with me? Stiles, that's not fair."

"Excuse me? I can't believe you think I'd do that." Stiles skated away from him and cut in line ahead of a few underclassmen who didn't seem to mind being pushed back in line.

Derek stood there feeling worse than he had before he said anything. A few minutes later, after he'd run through the drill once, he pulled Stiles back to the end of the line.

"You honestly think I would force you to choose between your family, potentially your career and me? Fuck you, Derek." Stiles began to skate away, but Derek moved into his path.

"Come over after practice? Please, so we can talk about this."

"I'll think about it."

"No, don't think about it. Just come over, please."

Stiles scowled at him, grumbling under his breath in Polish as started skating through the drill for the second time. However, halfway through, Derek noticed him struggling.

"Pick up the pace, Stilinski! My dead grandmother's lifeless corpse can skate faster than that!"

Stiles seemed to have just run out of gas. "Sorry, Coach. Think I'm coming down with something." Sluggish, he managed to complete the drill, and Derek would have to have been blind to see the concern set into his features. It was crystal clear even through the goalie mask.




*****



Derek stared at his open Greek textbook, feeling like his eyes were about to start bleeding. All the letters had begun to blur together, and he was sure at some point, they'd become so fuzzy he'd start seeing little pictures in the words. If he squinted badly enough, all the phi's and psi's would look like little soldiers with shields and tridents. He scrubbed a hand down his face. Clearly, he was too exhausted to work on homework tonight. He had just resolved to just head to bed right then and get up early when he heard a knock on the door. He shuffled out of his room to the door, opening it to see a still angry Stiles. "I didn't think you'd come over."

"I was working myself up to it," he growled at Derek.

Derek opened the door wide enough for Stiles to come in and grabbed the marker clipped to the dry erase board on his and Boyd's front door. In haste, he scribbled his code phrase on the whiteboard, the one he used in order to alert Boyd to certain extra-curricular activities going on in the apartment. His was 'two minutes for holding,' Boyd's was 'flagrant foul.' It was a beautiful system, foolproof, had worked now for four years. "Are you still mad at me?"





 

Stiles sighed, wringing his hands, before deciding that was a bad idea. God, Coach worked them half to death tonight "No, I'm not mad at you, Derek."

"You're not?"

"No, I'm furious," his shoulders slumped as he followed Derek into his bedroom, "because I am wondering how much longer I can keep doing this. I am tired of holding back. Do you know how exhausting it is to not touch you any time we go anywhere?"

"You know we can't do that."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Yeah, you've made it blatantly clear." He was too tired to deal with this shit. Why didn't he just sleep on it?

"What do you want from me, Stiles?"

"I'm just asking for the same Derek I get behind closed doors out in public. I am tired of disappearing to you as soon as we go outside. I don't want you to ignore me like I don't exist when we are out with friends. Because that is what I am supposed to be to you. You tell everyone I'm your best friend after Laura. It's about fucking time you showed it."

"I don't ignore you."

"You don't ig-" Stiles threw up his hands in frustration. Seriously? Did Derek just live with blinders on? How the hell could anyone be that oblivious? "Derek, that is exactly what you do! As soon as we step out of either of our rooms, I become fucking invisible to you."





 

The look on Stiles' face as he said that damn near broke Derek's heart. "Tell me what to do. If you're not giving me an ultimatum, because I don't know how I am supposed to fix this without coming out." He ran both hands through his hair.

"Why do you keep coming back to that? I'm not forcing you to come out, Derek. No one can do that. I wouldn’t want to do that.”

“But you...you want me to.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, Derek. That is what I want, but you have to want it, too. It’s not my place. This, what we’re doing now... I hate this. I hate not being able to show my affection for you the way all of my friends get to with the ones they love. When I said it felt like you were ashamed of me, I meant it."

Derek had long since become familiar with the way Stiles wrung his hands when nervous or just simply agitated, and though he watched his boyfriend rub his hands together now, it was not quite the same. It was like the way one massaged away an ache. Before he could ask, Stiles continued with his deluge of words.

"I want to feel wanted and appreciated somewhere other than the bedroom. I'm not talking intense public makeout sessions. Just private smiles, the last bite of your dessert. Sit next to me in a group instead of the far end of the fucking table!” He licked his lips, posture straightening. “And don't you ever shove me like that again! It's one thing to do that in a playful manner, but pushing me into Scott's roller coaster car, like my very existence offended you was- I've given you as much affection as I can while not being obvious.” Stiles walked away from Derek a few steps, turning around and then walking back, repeating his movements, back and forth, back and forth, back....  Pacing was never a good thing, often the sign of a mind fraught with worry, especially when it came to Stiles. “I don't want to say come out or I'm done, but if you don't start giving instead of taking, it’s gonna break me."

"When have you give-"

Stiles spun around where he stood several feet away from him, eyes tight with audible huffs of air. His stance widened, became aggressive. "Are you fucking kidding me?” he snapped. “I went back in the god damn closet for you, Derek! If that’s not giving, then I don’t know what is. And you have no idea how hard that's been for me, because I know how good it feels to be out of it!” He practically shook with anger, but that was the thing. Derek had seen Stiles like this before. Any moment now, Stiles’ resolve would crumble, and he would shrink in front of him. Derek never asked him why, but he suspected that Stiles just reached an emotional peak of anger; everything after that was just too much. So, with that in mind, Derek took a tentative step forward. Sure enough, within moments, the glare slipped off Stiles’ face; his shoulders slumped, and bringing a quivering hand to his forehead, Stiles laughed. Not one of mirth, it sounded broken and desperate. The hand on his forehead scrubbed down his face. “It's not fair,” he said, voice shaking and thick with tears. “Not to me, not to you, not to your family who deserve to know the guy who makes you so happy, and I do right? Make you happy?" He chewed on his thumbnail.

Derek pulled him into a hug, his arms wrapping tightly around him. "You know you do, more than anything."

"It doesn't always feel like it,” he sobbed. “I'm not asking for much. Just a compromise. I don't want to be your dirty fucking secret for the rest of my life!"

Derek's eyebrows rose high on his forehead and a lump rose in his throat. Were they both actually on the same page, both in it for the long haul? "Rest of your life?  Thinking about that already?"

"Figure of speech." Stiles removed an arm from around Derek's neck and reached up a hand to rub his temples. "We've been together two years now. Shame on me for loving you and wanting a future with you, because you know what normal people do when they've been happy in a relationship with someone for that long? They start thinking about the future." He pushed away from Derek, then threw open his bedroom door and crossed the apartment, reaching the front door before Derek made it out of his room.

"You're not my dirty little secret!" He shouted in desperation just as Boyd opened the front door, his phone in hand, eyes glued to the screen. Apparently, their foolproof system only worked if either of them bothered to look at the door. Derek stood there, a deer in the headlights, for several seconds, his mind in a complete panic. "This is… we're not… this is a team thing. It's an on-ice issue."

His roommate held up his hands. "I don't wanna know. See? This is how much I don't wanna know... Watch." He pulled the headphones from around his neck and clamped them over his ears, making an exaggerated flourish to turn on his music.

Derek waited until Boyd's bedroom door closed before continuing. "It isn't that I'm not ready, Stiles," he sighed, posture shrinking in defeat. "I'm terrified, okay?  This is all I've ever wanted to do... Play hockey. The whole 'I want to be an archaeologist' thing is a last resort. If someone found out… what if the pros don't want guys like us on their teams? Would you give that up?"

"For you?  Absolutely."

Derek was at a complete loss. "How can you be so quick to answer?"

"Derek, I just told you in not so many words that I wanted a future with you. There's little I wouldn't do for you. When I got to college, I was planning on being out, fully, and I was prepared to deal with the attention, good or bad, that came with it. I agreed to keep us a secret in the beginning because I liked you and I thought this would be temporary. I continued to keep the secret because I love you. I just don't know how much longer I can keep this up. "

"Please don't. Please don't leave. I don't want to do this either. I want to be able to kiss you in public, tell everyone about you; I can't, and I hate it too, Stiles."

"I understand why telling the team and being out in public scares you, but the way you describe your family... How can I feel anything other than you're ashamed of me? Only Laura knows about me, knows the reason you're so happy. My dad's decided you're his favorite fishing partner ever. And I'm a god damned secret."

He crossed his arms across his chest. "We never talked about this in my family, about sexuality. A couple people make jokes, say things... Everyone is straight; that's just how it is," he hung his head, "everyone except me. I honestly don't know how they'll react if I come out, and I can't- God, Stiles. I wish I could. And even if they're okay with it… my dad. I mean voting one way on issues is one thing, but me being gay could tank his career."

“Oh my god, Derek!” Stiles said as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Derek, your dad's a Democrat. I am pretty sure having a gay son wins him votes."

"And costs him votes from moderate voters.”

“Or you could...I don’t know, and this is just a suggestion… talk to him about it!”

“You don't understand. I-"

Fed up and frustrated, Stiles opened the door. "I'm not an idiot, Derek. I understand a lot more than you give me credit for. But I guess I am clearly not worth the effort- since I'm just an 'on-ice issue'-” He pulled up his hood. “Maybe Scott still has booze in the fridge," he mumbled under his breath as he left, leaving Derek standing frozen where he stood.

Several minutes later, when the shock of what happened finally hit home, Derek grabbed his keys off the counter, then chased after him. He didn't even stop to put on shoes. Finally catching up to him in the middle of Washington Ave bridge, Derek spun him around. "You are none of that, okay? You are-" He tried to put things into words but once more fell short.

 

 

"You're right though. I'm not ready. I wish I was, but that's not an excuse. I've been an ass; I know I have, and I - You deserve better. I'll do that," he nodded emphatically, "I'll be better. I promise. And just because I’m not ready yet, doesn’t mean I won’t try. You’re too important not to. Just," he looked down at his feet, "please don't do this. Please don’t leave me. We're- you and me, we're stronger than this."

Stiles took a minute seemingly to collect himself before he responded. "Okay, but I mean it. Don't push me like that again."

Derek felt all the anxiety bleed from his shoulders and sighed in relief. "I..." He closed the distance between them and dropped his head to Stiles' shoulder. "I'm so sorry, matia mou." Arms wrapped like a vice around Stiles' shoulders, Derek fisted his hands in the of Stiles' shirt. They stood in the embrace for a while, until Stiles took a step back and kissed him on the forehead.

"Night, Derek."

He watched him continue his trip across the bridge towards Middlebrook Hall before he even realized Stiles hadn't bothered to look around before kissing him, before Derek thought to check when he hugged him. Well shit. Then, Derek felt his blood turn to ice: Boyd.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. He was screwed. So royally and ultimately screwed.

Derek rushed back to his dorm room, scrambling for some kind of cover story. How the hell was he going to explain this away? Instead, he opened his front door to see Boyd standing in the kitchen of their common area, staring into the fridge. Derek tried to slink away into his room, praying his roommate would forget the whole thing, but he doubted he could be so lucky.

Without tearing his gaze from the contents of their fridge, Boyd spoke. "So, on-ice issue?"

"Yep." Please don't ask for an explanation. Please just let me go back in my room.

 

"Okay then. Don't let the 'issue' continue fucking with the team record." Boyd gave up on food and walked right past Derek and back to his room.

Derek stared at his retreating back. It couldn't be that easy. Could it?




Chapter Text

 

"Dude, would you fucking get up already?" Scott grumbled into his pillow as he lay in bed on the other side of the room.

"Too early." Stiles burrowed deeper into his blankets, too exhausted to move. He had at least half an hour before he needed to wake-up. What the hell was Scott's problem? He cracked open an eye when he heard Scott clamber out of bed, only to be rudely shaken moments later.

"Sorry, Man. It's fifteen to seven. You need to leave, like in five minutes."

Stiles' eyes snapped open, and yep, he was awake. Fueled by adrenaline and panic, he hurried out of bed, or at least he tried to hurry, but apparently he moved at a sloth's pace.

"You were already asleep when I got home at nine. That's what, almost ten hours? How the hell are you still tired?" Scott asked him through the bathroom door.

"Ha!  I fell asleep at 7:30." He rinsed the toothpaste from his mouth, swishing the water around in his mouth before spitting into the sink. After working on homework and finishing up packing the night before, he crashed. Yet, he still felt like he could have used an extra hour or two… or twelve of sleep before needing to be at the arena, because he felt like he hadn't slept in days. He never could sleep on a plane, or, in this case, a bus. Why the hell weren't they flying to Indiana?  Oh yeah, all the possible charter flights were full, and the athletic department hadn't approved the proposed commercial flight itinerary in time.

God, he hated buses. At least charter buses had bathrooms, even if they always ended up smelling like piss by the time they arrived anywhere. Something about the bumpiness of the highway really did a number on a few of his teammates’ ability to aim.

Flexing his fingers and trying to stretch out his wrists, he hoped they loosened up before the game. Come to think of it, he hoped all his joints did. He must have slept funny. Again.

Once his backpack had been stocked with snacks and his homework, he grabbed the portable DVD player he'd had since high school. Before going to bed the night before, he'd selected six movies for the trip. He made sure to grab the headphone jack splitter so he and Derek could both watch on the trip. It didn't take him long after that to finish getting ready, and he offered up a 'See ya, Bro' to Scott as he left, earning something that sounded a bit like 'Good luck,' from him.

If he hurried, he could make it to Coffman just as Einstein's opened, maybe even a few minutes before. He didn't have time for a line. Who the hell makes a call time for an away trip fifteen minutes after all the dining halls open? That doesn't give anyone time to duck in and grab breakfast. You're killing me, Coach. Whatever. He just needed coffee and loads of it.

As he walked across the bridge, the chill of the October morning air nipped at his cheeks. With his luck, it would snow before Halloween. It wouldn't have been the first time. Stiles laughed out loud, recalling his first exposure to a Minnesota winter. It hadn't been pretty...

 

..."Jesus Christ, Derek! It's fucking freezing out here!"

Derek gave a small shrug of his shoulders. "It's not that bad."

"Not that bad?" he squeaked, his voice unnaturally high in surprise. "How the hell is it not that bad? I think… no, I can feel my blood freezing."

"Stiles, it's 28 outside. Your blood isn't freezing."

Stiles rubbed his mitten-encased hands together with so much passion it probably looked as though he were trying to start a fire. "But how can you be sure, Derek?"

"Well," he scratched his chin, his fingers free of winter accoutrements, "they store donated blood at around 25 degrees. I am pretty sure that whole core body temp being 98, means your blood is nowhere near 25."

He stared at him, mouth hanging open. "How the hell do you know that?"

"Mom's a cardiologist. Well she doesn't practice so much anymore now that she's head of the state medical board, but you get the idea. I've been on hand to help with so many blood drives I've lost count."

Stiles took in Derek's suspicious lack of layers. "How aren't you dying of cold? You're in a hoodie?"

"Like I said," Derek smirked as he took a sip of his coffee, "it's not that cold. Just wait until it goes below zero. I can't wait to see your face when your nostrils freeze together."

"What? They cannot freeze! You're making that up."

Derek said nothing, just walked away.

"Derek, you're joking right? Derek?"...

 

...He'd been right. Nostrils freezing was an entirely strange feeling. He was just about to open the doors to the student union when his phone rang. "Cześć, kochanie. I'm almost there. I was just going to grab a bagel and a coffee for us."

"Don't worry about it. I made breakfast sandwiches and have coffee ready. Save your money."

Stiles smiled into his phone. "God, I love you. In that case, meet me downstairs in a few, bring the biggest coffee cup you can find. I feel like a zombie."

"Did you remember your pillow?"

He smacked himself in his forehead. "How the hell- No, I didn't." He rubbed his temples, feeling a headache coming on. First the sore hands and shoulders now a headache. Just great. He had better not be coming down with something.




Phone held to his ear with one hand, Derek grabbed the other pillow from his bed, pressing it to his nose and inhaling. Though he'd woken up snuggling it, it still smelled like Stiles.

"Derek, how am I supposed to sleep on this trip without my pillow?"

"Want me to bring my second one? You sleep just fine on it when you stay over." He grabbed his copy of Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture and chucked it into his bag. He had three chapters to read before Monday, plus a draft of a paper to finish. Even though they usually got a few extra days to work on assignments when they had to travel for games, he hated turning in anything late.

"That's so sweet. Would you?"

"For you? Of course."

"Have I sung your praises recently?"

"I love you too." He opened his bedroom door to find Boyd standing at the washing machine, and in a flash, he felt a mix of bile and panic rise in his throat. "I've got to let you go now." He ended the call, his heart hammering in his chest.  "Uh, um… that was my mom."

"Uh huh." Derek could tell from his voice that the guy did not believe him. "Another 'on-ice issue'? Also, I think something's wrong with the machine. It just keeps skipping the spin cycle," Boyd groaned as he pulled his sopping wet workout clothes from the drum.

Derek was fairly certain that, in that moment, he looked a bit like a fish with the way his mouth kept opening and closing as he scrambled to talk his way out of the awkward situation in which he found himself. "Um, yes. I mean- Fuck." He rubbed the back of his neck and could already feel himself beginning to sweat. Why can't I lie on the fly like Stiles? Instead, Derek's whole posture sagged in defeat. He felt his stomach roll more and more the longer he stood there with nothing to say.

"You know," Boyd's face crumpled in disgust when he pulled his hand from the water only to find it covered in a glob of detergent. "Oh that's disgusting." He looked around for something to wipe his hand off on, only finding Derek's towel hanging in the bathroom. "Can I use this? I'll wash it."

"Uh-"

"That's a yes then. So anyway, like I was saying, you really should get that 'team problem' under control."

"That's not-" Derek sighed, "and I suppose I don't need to ask you to keep the fact that you know about said issue to yourself."

Boyd dropped the trash bag filled with his soaked load of laundry onto the bathroom floor where it hit with a plop. "What issue?"

Derek's brows knit together. "The one you obviously have puzzled out by now." He studied Boyd's face. "Oh. That was you pretending you know nothing, wasn't it?"

Boyd grabbed his laundry basket and loaded up his detergent and fabric softener, no doubt bound for the communal laundry room near the dorms without their own machines. "Yep, but also, it was me saying 'what issue'? Because I don't care. You, me? We're still good even with this 'on-ice' thing you seem to be dealing with."

"We are? I mean, you don't?"

Boyd grinned. "I'm a thoroughly modern man who is secure enough to say that. So, yes, no big deal to me, just never ask me to be your wingman. Now, leave before you miss your bus." Boyd practically pushed him out the door, barely giving him enough time to grab his and Stiles' breakfast.

"What took you so long? We have to haul ass over to Mariucci now. All the good seats will be gone, and we'll have to sit by Coach."

Derek studied him for a moment. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Why?"

"You look a bit pale."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Uh Derek, I'm always pale." He grabbed his coffee from Derek's hand. "Aww. It's a Mets cup. You get this just for me?"

Derek, feeling slightly emboldened by his conversation with Boyd, took a quick look around, finding them alone on the stairs the led up to the plaza in front of the student union. He gave Stiles a soft kiss on his cheek. Stiles stopped mid-stride and stared at him, his hand covering the space where Derek had just kissed.

"What?"

"You've… never kissed me in public."

"What? Yes I have."

"Not here, and even then it was once when you were out visiting me over the summer."

Derek's eyebrows rose in surprise. Oh wow. Stiles was right. "I said I'd do better. Are baby steps okay?" Stiles gave him a small smile, the private, closed mouth kind that Derek knew were just for him. He loved those smiles, especially when they came with that look in his eyes that said he thought Derek hung the moon.

"Baby steps are more than okay. What brought that on? Don't get me wrong. I love baby steps."

"Oh. Well, Boyd sort of figured things out, and he was really great about it. I don't know, I just felt- I mean, I know everyone won't respond that way, but it put me in a good mood, I guess, because it's a start."

"Yeah." They settled into a comfortable silence, occasionally bumping into each other's shoulders as they hurried to the arena. As they turned onto 4th Street, Stiles spoke. "So...how do you want to do this? You stroll up, and I book it down the street like I'm being chased by a horde of the undead once you reach the bus?"

"You don't-"

 "Baby steps, kochanie. I love you, and I'm willing to make myself look like an ass for your benefit. Just don't let the bus leave without me or let me have to sit next to Greenberg."

Derek rolled his eyes. "One, they wouldn't leave without you, because then we'd have to start Greenberg, and Coach would rather eat those bran muffins his wife makes that he thinks taste like cardboard than start Greenberg. So you're safe there. Two, I'm team captain, and that gives me a few perks besides talking to refs after penalties are called. That means I get to sit where I want. I can make one of the freshmen sit with Greenberg."


 

 

Stiles patted him on the shoulder and waggled his eyebrows. "I love it when you pull rank for me. Get's me all fired up." He watched Derek start his walk to the bus and looked at his phone: 07:11. It was going to be a really close call. Come on. Come on. When Derek ambled up the steps, Stiles took off running, flailing his arms wildly. "Wait! I'm coming!" He almost tripped over his feet twice, hot coffee splashing on his hand. "Son of a-"

Thoroughly wiped and out of breath, he made it to the bus at precisely 07:15. Nicely done, Stilinski. You are a marvel.

"Stilinski! What are you trying to do? Give me an aneurysm?"

"Nope." He took a defiant sip of his coffee. "Just keeping you on your toes."

"When I said call time was 07:15, I mean get here by 07:10"

Stiles cackled, the sound of it echoing through the bus. "Well then, you should have made go-time 07:10. Don't you think?"

Coach pinched the bridge of his nose. "Go sit down. It is too early, and I haven't had enough to drink to deal with your brand of sarcasm."

"Drinking before noon? I'm pretty sure that's indicative of a problem. You know there are programs-"

"Shut up and sit down, before I remember how profoundly irritating I find you."

"Aww thanks, Coach. Love you too."

"Sit down!"

Still chuckling, Stiles gave him a two finger salute and slid into the seat next to Derek.

"Way to go, Stilinski." Matt stuck his head up over the seat in front of them. "Now we have to deal with a cranky Coach all the way to Notre Dame. You suck as a person. You know that, right?"

Stiles gave him a fakely sweet smile. "Now now, Matt, just because you are not one of Coach's favorites doesn't mean you need to take it out on me."

Matt looked at Derek. "Seriously Hale, how can you stand hanging out with him, let alone be friends with him?"

Derek shrugged. "Not sure I follow you, Daehler."

"Forget Hale, how can anyone stand you, Stilinski? And how the hell do you seem to find hook-ups on a regular basis?"

Across the aisle from Matt, Jackson laughed. "Matt, you know," he said taking a bite of his apple, "if you quit lusting after Allison, you'd probably get laid too."

"Shut up, Jackson. You have two girlfriends. That's just greedy. Learn to share."

"Hey now, you don't share people," Stiles snapped. "Don't be a dick. Allison's not a commodity, and you should respect his relationship. Just because it's with three people doesn't make it any less valid."

Matt grumbled and picked up his bag, making Liam trade places with him, and he went to sit at the front of the bus.

"Why are you looking at me like that, Jackson?"

"That might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

Stiles unwrapped his breakfast sandwich from the foil. "Don't worry. I won't do it again. We can go back to our slightly hostile civility, and all will be right in the world."

"That's an oxymoron, Stilinski."

"Well then, I succeeded. If it bothers you, return the favor sometime," he smirked.




Jackson rolled his eyes and returned to his breakfast. He couldn’t decide which one of them, Stilinski or Daehler he liked less.

Daehler, definitely Daehler, he decided after a moment’s thought.

 At least Stilinski didn’t leer at his girlfriend, and he did sort of stand up for him. Oh God, the guy was going to hold him to that favor. Son of a-  His phone buzzing on the tray table cut off his thoughts.

 

 

He grinned and stowed his phone. Jokes on you, Lyds. I already ate my apple. A couple guys on the team liked to tease him about the way Lydia bossed him around, and yeah, he pretended to agree with them. Key word there: Pretending.

After growing up under intense pressure to be the perfect son, some of it self-imposed, it was nice to just let his lovely ladies be in charge.

As he finished his breakfast, he immersed himself in the so very not interesting Ethics of Business assignment he had due on Tuesday. Ugh. Stab me with a fucking fork. I hate this class.




 

Stiles moved his sandwich and coffee to Derek's tray, as he pulled out his blanket, tossing it over his lap. The Sharks fleece his dad and Melissa got him back in high school was well loved, and even though he figured he should be supporting New Jersey since he would be playing with them soon, he just couldn't bear to be parted with it. Next, he set up his DVD player (shut up. The duct tape on the cover was a fashion choice not because the plastic cracked). "So, I lovingly selected six fine choices for this weekend's excursion." He handed the DVD wallet to his boyfriend.

Derek flipped through the sleeves. "Miracle? Trying to be ironic?"

"I thought we might need some inspiration. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Coach doesn't take his pep talk speech from that movie instead of Independence Day, but here we are." Derek slipped one out of the sleeve and handed it to him. "Shawshank Redemption, a fine choice." Red's narration started just as the bus traveled down the on-ramp to I-94 East.

Stiles spared a glance over at Derek every so often, nothing overt, just little darts of his eyes, a slight tilt of his head. If only they were in either of their rooms watching a movie, or even in the hotel room they would share for the weekend. Then, he could snuggle in close, feel strong arms wrap around his shoulders. But no. For the next five hundred miles, Derek would be close enough to touch, yet far enough away that it was impossible.

Beside him, Derek flipped the armrest up and stowed it between the two seats, and Stiles removed an ear bud as he looked over at him. "You need to get up?"

"No, it's just the seats are too narrow, and the thing was digging into my side."

"Such a beast. 'Me, Derek, me smash things when me angry.' No? Too much?"

He watched Derek snort, half in irritation, half in fondness. It was a fond irritation. Shut up. Stiles was a master at witty word play.

"No. You're fine." Derek leaned forward and yanked his t-shirt quilt free from under his seat. When Stiles had first seen the thing, he'd laughed uncontrollably for a good three minutes before looking up to see Derek scowling at him. ('My sisters made this for me for my birthday one year. It was a really nice gift. So shut it.') Stiles had felt bad for all of five minutes, but never made fun of it again.

Once Derek had made himself comfy and cozy under his blanket, Stiles felt a hand seeking out his among the tangled mess of jersey and fleece like a beacon, as though Derek knew how Stiles was feeling. In truth, Stiles supposed, he probably felt that way himself. Gentle warm pressure squeezed at his palm, and Stiles felt the tension bleed out of his body. He snuggled into his seat and relished in what little physical affection there was to be had at the moment, his thigh pressing up alongside Derek's next to him.

Whatever. This would have to do.

With his right hand, he fished his phone from his pocket.

 

 

However, his mad dash for the bus had drained his tank of the little energy he had, and by the time they hit the Wisconsin border, he felt himself dozing off. Yep, he was getting sick. It better not be the flu again...or mono. He dug under his seat for his hoodie, balling it up and putting between his face and Derek's shoulder.

"What are you doing, Stiles?"

"I take it back. I'm not fine. I'm so fucking tired, Dude. I just need a couple more hours of sleep or I'm gonna be useless." When Derek shifted, pushing him off his arm, Stiles glared at him. "Oh come on! The team is counting on me." To his surprise, Derek closed the DVD player and slid out from next to him. He gave his arm a soft shove. What in the-

"You'll sleep better this way. Lay down. I'll sit behind you. Brett’s sitting in the window seat, and the aisle is open. Just get some rest."

Taking Derek's advice, Stiles folded his legs into the newly vacated seat next to him, tossing his blanket over his body. Okay, so the guy had a point. This was loads more comfortable (except for the lack of secret hand holding).

"See? That's better right?"

Stiles blinked up at him and gave a soft smile. "Thanks." He didn't tell him that he would not likely fall asleep, just accepted the gesture. Yet, he was out cold before they passed Baldwin.

 

*****

 

Coach's words as he dismissed the team from the parking lot of Compton Family Ice Arena after their 2-1 victory earlier in the night bounced around inside Derek's head ("All right, you little deviants, curfew is one am. Remember the team alcohol policy of two drinks maximum! But since neither myself nor Coach Barnes will be there to keep an eye on you, if any one of you punks get arrested or drink yourself to alcohol poisoning you're off the team. Got it? I am not visiting any of your asses in the hospital nor will I bail you out of jail. Now go! I'm tired of looking at you all."), and he really wished he’d ordered something stronger than his current drink since he only got two.

The cold, creamy taste of his White Russian made up for his current mood, but only a fraction. Why was he so out of sorts? Well, as he stared into the throng of sweaty dancing students, he found himself wanting to get out of the place.

The bar (well, it was really more of a nightclub, but semantics) was too loud for his liking. Laura always called him an old man for hating their nights out at The Library, but her sentiments were not entirely true. He liked going out, just preferred pubs or live music bars instead of nightclubs.

He just... loud, cacophonous noises got to him, agitated his nerves and set his teeth on edge. With the team's drinking rule, he wouldn't even be able to drink enough to make the bar tolerable.

Even still, he could deal with it, except he'd made the boneheaded suggestion that he and Stiles dance with anyone (see: women) who wanted to. Derek, however, could only feign interest for so long before retreating to the table affectionately labeled "taken only club" where all the guys on the team who were in a relationship congregated.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said you could sit here, Captain? Go mingle; get laid," Jackson studied him for a minute, "and for once, please take my suggestion. You look like you're about to explode with unreleased sexual frustration."

Beside Jackson at the table, Isaac laughed into his beer. "Yeah, Derek, how long has it been?"

Derek remained tight-lipped. The team liked to joke that his performance went down the longer he went between sex. He'd had a goal and two assists tonight, plus an assist in the game the night before. His performance was doing all right, thank you very much.

"Oh my God. If you can't even answer then we definitely need to help you."

Derek took another drink, his eyes flitting over to where Stiles danced with a large group of students. His boyfriend looked like he was enjoying himself and all the attention. "This morning," Derek grumbled into his drink.

"I'm sorry; I didn't catch that." Jackson took a pull on his bottle of beer.

"I said, that's not necessary."

"Come on. I shall take it upon myself, as your potential brother-in-law, the duty of getting you laid. You are too good-looking to go through a dry spell. Look," he gesticulated in Stiles' direction, "even Stilinski is headed for a good time."

"Don't need your help, Isaac." Derek finished his drink and stole the rest of Stiles' as well (what? He'd bought the thing, using his ID as Stiles was still three weeks shy of twenty-one. The way he saw it, he could drink it if he wanted). He sidled up to the bar, standing next to a woman about his age. They made brief small talk (just enough to look like he was trying, all the while texting Stiles).

 

 

"So you're here for an away game? Spectator or player?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"Did you travel with the team to play, or to watch?"

Briefly, he thought about telling the truth, but thought better of it. "I'm just a fan. I try to travel with them for at least one away game a season. It's a good mental health break amidst all the classes and homework."

 

 

"Still with me?"

Derek looked over at her with a reproachful smile. "Sorry. Look, my buddies keep trying to get me a hook-up. The thing is, I am dating someone, but the guys don't know it. I'm… not sure if they'll approve, and I don't feel like messing things up because, well they know the person I'm dating, and it would just get weird for both of us if they don't. So, I came over here to look like I was making an effort. You're very pretty, and you seem really nice, but I'm not-"

She nodding in understanding. "I think I understand where you're going with this." She pulled out her credit card to pay her tab. "Correct me if I'm being presumptuous, but if your friends don't accept… him," she looked at Derek for a long while, seemingly to gauge his reaction, "then they aren't really your friends. Here's the thing. I was about to leave anyway. I have to work tomorrow morning. So, I have a really innocent proposition for you. Hold my hand while you walk me to the door, and you can let them jump to whatever conclusion they want."

"I… that- I can do that."

She signed the credit card slip and grabbed Derek's hand. "Wave to your friends."

He settled for a smirk in their direction, mostly at Jackson (the arrogant dick) and let her pull him through the crowd towards the door. Once there, he opened the cab door for her and sent her on her way with thanks. He walked back into the club where he immediately ducked into the men's room. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found it empty except for a guy at the urinals. Derek walked over to the sink and splashed some water on his face.

He was roasting. Alcohol always did that to him, heated his face warmer than anywhere else on his body. As the cool droplets beaded-up and dripped down his face, he let his mind drift. This would not be the first time they'd been pressed for time and space, and a small chuckle left his lips as he remembered the look on Stiles' face as he dragged him from Coach's packed backyard at his annual BBQ that summer after his Sophomore year...

 

...The whole team was in attendance; some had even brought their significant others. Coach's children, his step-daughter, Lydia (yes, Derek understood the hilarity at the fact Jackson was dating Coach's step-daughter), and two younger kids, Travis and Lizzy had invited friends. Hell, even some of the women's hockey team were there, though thankfully, neither Laura nor Cora had shown up.

 

Stiles' face wore a look of fear and anticipation at Derek's words, offering promises that he could, in fact, be quiet enough so no one noticed them sneaking away. Derek had no reason to suspect they'd even miss their absence with the amount of people at the party. The sun had slipped beyond the horizon about twenty minutes prior, and the last hues of sunset were beginning to fade. In an hour or so, Coach, or more accurately, his wife Natalie, would kick everyone out, sending them back to their respective homes. Derek's car had the serendipitous distinction of being one of the farthest from the house, parked near the end of the Finstock-Martin's long driveway, with only a car or two behind him.

"Are you crazy, Derek?" Stiles hissed when Derek opened the driver side door and pulled him in after him. "Coach's driveway? And don't get me wrong, I love the cruel irony of this situation--I'll laugh about this for years--but someone is going to catch us."

Derek leaned through the gap in the front seats and  turned the key in the ignition enough so that he could crack the windows to let in air. "No," he said, sliding back into the seat, "they won't." He cupped Stiles' face with both hands and brought their lips together.

If he were a more cliched man (and it wouldn't have taken much...hello, they were in the backseat of his car for crying out loud), he'd have put on music. The cheesiest rock power ballads played in his head at the thought. The roughness of Stiles' two-day-old stubble dragging across his lower lip drew a guttural moan from his throat, and in that moment, all hopes of soft and tender went out the window.

In no time, things turned fast and dirty, and by the time the moon had crept up in the sky, peeking through the leaves and branches of the maples lining the driveway, they were both half naked and sweaty. Beneath him, he admired Stiles' bare chest, moonlight kissed and pale, the faint sign of a hickey coming to the surface on his collarbone. God, he was beautiful.

 

 

Stiles' arms wrapped around his waist, hands dipping into the back of his pants to cup his ass, and everything after clouded over in the haze of arousal and thrill of the potential for being caught...

 

... In his daze, Derek hadn't noticed the bathroom emptying, and well that was even better. Perhaps they could be a little less restrained for a while. The bathroom's low lighting was not ideal for ambiance; it gave a seedy feel to the whole idea, but if he tried hard, really hard, he could imagine it was the moon and would cast icy blue shadows upon Stiles' flushed skin.

The team had been partly right. He was sexually frustrated, but not in the ways they'd thought. The ruse, this ruse, the charade of clandestine encounters and kisses hidden behind closed doors was not only wearing thin, eating away at Stiles, but him as well. Any minute now, Derek feared he would crack, grabbing Stiles in the middle of the sidewalk and pull him close and kiss him passionately, effectively solving that whole 'coming out' problem he had. God, that would be so easy. Life never worked that way though.

He looked up in time to see Stiles crash through the door, and all resolve left him. He grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him into the farthest stall from the door where he backed him in the wall. Stiles hit the wooden stall divider harder than he wanted, but he only seemed to relish in the aggressive move, nibbling at his lower lip while he struggled with the clasp of Derek's belt.

 

 

"Sorry."

"Shut up; more than okay. This- yeah..." Stiles' breath ghosted white-hot over the skin of his neck..

Derek hummed in appreciation. "I thought you said not to push-"

"Context," he said, palming Derek over his boxer briefs with a hand far warmer than normal, "is key. Shoving me against walls during sex will always get me riled up. You know that. Now hurry up before the adrenaline wears off and I remember how tired and sore I really am." Stiles' hand, already making a mess of Derek's hair as he ran his fingers through it, gave the strands a firm tug, pulling his head back and exposing his neck. Impossibly soft lips pressed firm and urgent kisses against him, nipping and sucking, rolling Derek's skin between his teeth.

Derek's knees went weak at the contact, and he slammed a hand against the wall to keep from losing balance. He was pressed so tightly up against Stiles, that Derek couldn't begin to fathom how his boyfriend had any room to maneuver in his pants to wrap a hand around his aching dick. Frustrated and beyond hard, Derek pushed his pants down just enough to free himself from the confines of his underwear. The change in temperature made him shiver.

"Easy there, big guy," Stiles said, as he pushed back against Derek and sunk to his knees.

Derek watched him, eyelids heavy with desire, and when Stiles looked up at him, an elfin gleam in those warm, brown eyes, he was struck once more by how beautiful they were. Derek had, on many occasions, waxed poetic about their color, the pureness of the brown, the way they almost looked golden in the sun. Laura liked to tease him about all the ways he'd professed his love of Stiles' eyes. She said he should write a book, and Derek would laugh, but inside, he'd be smiling, filled to the brim with affection. The depth of emotion and the very essence of Stiles' personality could be found in his eyes. He'd never tire of looking at them, never get his fill. Such a concept had a way of stealing the air from Derek's lungs from time to time. Now was one of those times, where, in the green hue of the fluorescent light, they looked like hessonite, and how fitting to compare them to a precious stone, when they were one of his favorite things about him. There was a reason he called him matia mou. Those dear, sweet eyes.

Derek wished he had the time to take him apart, piece by piece, devoting hours to worship the way Stiles was ticklish on his sides, the salty taste of his sweat damp skin, the sounds Derek could coax out of him, to wreck Stiles the way Stiles had done to him that morning.

His tongue swirled around the head of Derek's dick, licking all along the underside, and Derek was absolutely certain his heart skipped a beat. With nothing to hold onto, his hand slipped down the wall, almost taking him down with it. Only a quick-thinking hand to the top of Stiles head kept him from crashing to the floor. If Stiles continued the way he was, practically devouring him, Derek would surely break, crumble to pieces upon the tile. He tapped Stiles on the shoulder to draw him back up his body.

He could taste his own precum on Stiles tongue when it licked into his mouth, darting back out almost as quickly as it went in. Derek, wanting to chase it, needing more, but knowing any minute now, their moment of frenzied passion could be over, pulled back. Stiles' lips were kiss-swollen and red, his eyes a bit glazed; Derek loved when Stiles looked like that, because he knew he'd been the one to make him that way. That alone was the best ego stroke in the world.

Cupping his cheek, Derek traced along Stiles' lower lip, pressing a finger into the heat of his mouth. With his maddening oral fixation, Stiles could unhinge Derek on a good day simply by chewing on his pen. Now though, as Stiles sucked on Derek's finger, the sight was fucking obscene.

He fumbled in his pocket for one of the singles of lube he'd grabbed from the little basket the Student Health Advocate on his floor had hanging from her door. She kept the thing filled with the condoms, lube, and other safer sex products the student health service provided them. College was great; he hadn't paid for condoms in four years. However, when he'd stopped by Thursday night, the variety was slim pickings. Please don't be grape, please don't be grape.

Stiles noticed his struggle and laughed. "Maybe you should quit wearing pants as tight as yours."

Derek nipped at his lower lip. "Shut up. You like them." Finally, his fingers closed around the small plastic pouch and a condom, pulling them both forth. In the dim lights, he couldn't read the flavor and prayed it was something decent. Stiles opened his mouth to, no doubt, tease him once more about the cut of his pants, but Derek silenced any sass by turning him around to face the wall. Stiles took the hint and tugged down his pants to his thighs.

Derek coated his fingers, setting the lube and condom upon the toilet paper dispenser.

Stiles looked back at him, his nose wrinkled at the cloying scent filling the stall. "Oh god...banana? Really?"

"Shut up. It was all that was left." Derek pressed a hot, open-mouthed kiss to the back of his boyfriend's neck and slipped his hand between their bodies, fingers circling Stiles' rim. And yeah okay, Stiles had been right. The sickening scent of artificial banana did little to enhance the mood, but by that point both of them were desperate, so turned-on that neither man gave the smell much thought.

When one finger turned to two, Stiles picked his head up from where he'd been resting it against the cool stone wall and let it loll back onto Derek's shoulder. Despite the awkward angle, he turned his head for a kiss, whimpering when Derek's fingers found his prostate. "Ffffuck." He shuddered when Derek added a third finger. "Enough foreplay. Just fuck me. I'm dy-"

Derek silenced him with a kiss while he tore open the condom and rolled it on, which was the first time he'd bothered to look at it, and cringed. Nothing like an orange and black striped condom to get you in the mood. His hesitation was just long enough for Stiles to look over his shoulder at him.

"What the fuck is taking you- Oh...that's brilliant. I feel I should make some kind of Wizard of Oz joke, but I'm at a l-" His words died on his lips as Derek pushed inside, in a long smooth stroke until he was buried to the hilt, body pressed up against him as he waited for Stiles to give him the go ahead.

Derek had just started moving when he heard the door open and then a familiar voice. Shit. By the way Stiles stilled, Derek knew he'd also heard Isaac walk into the bathroom talking to Jackson. In a panic, Derek felt his erection begin to flag, but rather than let the opportunity pass them by, Stiles snapped out of his daze and begun to move, thrusting back onto Derek's dick with a near reckless abandon. Oh God, they were going to hear them. This was going to go...

Stiles did that thing. That thing with his hips. The one he couldn’t describe that could make Derek come in no time flat...and he no longer cared that his teammates were in the same room, only separated from him by a bathroom stall door. He snapped his hips forward in sharp punishing thrusts, hoping the booming bass of the music playing in the club muffled the sounds of Stiles' quiet and needy pants.

At one point, Stiles almost broke, only letting out a soft gasp, and Derek leaned forward to tug at his hair, turning his mouth to meet his. He swallowed the moans Stiles made when he wrapped a still lube-slick hand around him, pumping in sync with his own thrusts, all the while trying to make as little noise as possible. Thankfully, the bathroom soon turned quiet as Isaac and Jackson left, and Stiles let out what was, quite possibly, the filthiest noise Derek had ever heard him make as he came all over the bathroom wall. The sound alone was enough to bring him over the edge a handful of thrusts later.

He held him tightly against his chest as they both struggled to catch their breaths.

"Matia mou, you still awake?"

"Mmhm."

Derek stepped back and pulled out, wrapping the ridiculous condom up in toilet paper before cleaning them both up and tucking his dick back into his boxer briefs. When Stiles turned around with a blissed out smile on his face, Derek couldn't help but return it with one of his own.

"What?"

"You're a menace," he said pulling Stiles into a one armed hug.

"Liked that did you?" He rubbed at his cheeks. "How do I look? Obvious beard burn?"

"You look wrecked." Derek kissed his forehead. "It's beautiful."

Stiles shook himself out from under Derek's arm and smirked. "You're looking pretty good yourself. So, what do you say we pay our tabs and get out of here?"

"I paid cash for my drinks, and besides. The group thinks I already left. I'll meet you outside."

Derek pulled him in for a tender kiss, caressing Stiles' cheek with his thumb. "S'agapo."

"Też cię kocham." Stiles leaned into his touch.

"This plan of mine tonight...I don't want to do that again. I don't like watching- I regret suggesting it."

"Good, because I didn't like it either. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm beat, thoroughly and deliciously well-fucked--I'm about to drop--and my ass smells like artificial banana. I just want to shower and cuddle in bed."

Derek smiled. "Sounds like heaven."






 

 

Chapter Text

Stiles snuggled deeper into his seat, pulling the hood of his sweatshirt tighter around his head. His sleeves were stretched over his fingers as far as they would go, leaving only a tiny bit exposed so he could hold his pencil.  

It was a common problem each fall when the temperature outside would still fluctuate between too warm and too cold. Classroom management would eventually shut off the air-conditioning, but until then, it was a toss up whether the room would be too warm or too cold for conditions. He'd long since accepted that, but since when had Folwell Hall turned into the Bell Auditorium (or, as Stiles preferred to call it, 'The Campus Cooler')?

He blinked trying to keep his eyes open through exhaustion; he'd nodded off for a brief moment, only to snap to attention the moment his head slipped off the hand propping it up. The momentary surge of energy had been short-lived.

"As you can see on the slide here, this is the effect of the stress hormones on your brain. Now, we discussed in last class how long term stress can damage your brain. There is some debate still in the scientific community whether this damage is temporary or more long term. Research has shown that long term stress and anxiety can increase a person's risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Some additional research suggests this might be due to proteins.

"However, as you no doubt learned in your reading for today's lecture, which I am sure you all did, stress is not inherently bad for your brain, after all, stress is what jump starts the fight or flight response. When that  happens, your body puts its energy into life-saving efforts. Who can tell me some examples?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles looked around the room as best he could, thankful that others would be willing to volunteer. He knew the answer, was more than intimately involved with stress. The two of them were best buds by now. It was just… well, he was too tired to try and speak loudly enough, didn't really want to stand and project so everyone could hear him. How the hell he was going to get through practice today was a mystery to him.

"Increased heart rate and blood pressure. Since your heart is pumping faster, you will breath harder, and I think your liver releases more sugar into the blood."

Professor Burwell adjusted his glasses. "Yes, thank you Miss Martinez. These responses are necessary to survival, but when the brain is overloaded with stress, prolonged stress, your immune system can be weakened, leaving you more susceptible to infection. It decreases brain cells, which impairs memory and other cognitive functions. More distressing though are the effects on your heart. Since your blood pressure increases, your chances of stroke are increased. What is the big hormonal contributor to this?" He looked around to see no hands.

Stiles, who had only been half paying attention, focusing most his energy on trying to ignore his writer's cramp, worsened by his aching hands, prayed the guy wouldn't call on him. Oversleeping, only waking up fifteen minutes before class, Stiles, hadn't had a chance to wake up fully. He didn't even have time to shower. Hell, he didn't even fix his hair or brush his teeth before he left, just threw on the first clean clothes he could find, a piece of gum and rushed out the door. Now, he was starving and cold, and lethargic to the point he was thinking of blowing off his friends for lunch and bowling. The point was, the only seat that remained, was right up front.

Don't call on me. Please don't call on me. But then, as the universe was so keen to do… it cursed him with the biggest yawn he swore he'd ever taken in his life.

"Yes, Mr. Stilinski?"

He blinked, his large brown eyes widening in panic. He supposed he probably looked like an owl, and whatever answer that had been rolling around in his brain, disappeared, leaving him scrambling for a way out. "I, um..." Stiles licked his lips. Think, dumbass. Think. "Um, cortisol?"

"That's correct, but I think you'd be more awake if you slept more. Interestingly enough, lack of sleep can affect your cortisol levels."

Stiles narrowed his eyes at him. "I slept fourteen hours last night, and still feel like I was hit by a truck." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Sorry, Professor Burwell. I just...I think I've become the latest Middlebrook resident this fall to come down with mono. I'm lucky I even made it to class. Please continue on."

"Then perhaps a visit to Boyton would serve you well."

When the professor turned his attention back to his slides, Stiles pulled out his phone and scheduled an appointment at Boyton, the student health services center on campus. Hooray! Mono… the gift that keeps on giving. He was lucky he had on the sweatshirt, because the hood shielded his eyes from the light enough that he could almost ignore how much worse they made his headache. Almost. Oh who the hell was he kidding? The jackhammering in his skull was enough to make him nauseated.

Try as he might to stay awake, he fell asleep five minutes later.

 

****

 

Derek could hear the crash and rumble of balls striking pins the moment he stepped of the escalator, could smell the way lane wax in the air mixed with pizza and Lysol. The closer he got to his destination, the more he picked up different smells, like the slight mix of perfumes and colognes, body wash, and hair product. All it was missing was the cherry scented ball cleaner and it could be trademarked as 'bowling alley'.

When Derek walked into Goldy's Gameroom after his morning class, brain fried from his midterm ('The Epic in Translation' could go suck a dick for all he cared), his little sister took one look at him and burst out laughing.

"I'm glad I amuse you, Cora. What? I get ink smeared on my face again?" He licked his thumb  and rubbed at the left side of his face. He was always having that problem. He’d rest his hand on the paper, pick up wet ink on the skin, and then use the hand to prop up his head. Like he said: common problem.

"Nope,” she tried to stem her cackling, "Just… you, come stand over here," she said maneuvering him into position in front of a support column, "and you, Laura, come stand next to him, right here." She dragged Laura, who had walked in with her boyfriend, Evan, not even a minute before her twin brother, and pushed her next to Derek. "There we are. That's perfect. Smile!"

"What? Why? This is lunch and bowling, not a birthday party," Derek said with an exaggerated roll of his eyes.

"No," she bit her lip, another giggle fighting to break free, "this is so much better." She held up her phone and turned on its camera.

Laura walked over and poked Cora in the nose. "You're up to something. You know how much we hate it when you make us the butt of one of your jokes," she snapped, but there was no heat behind it.

"Oh come on, Laura. Look, Derek is gonna do it, and if he does, well then you have no excuse. Smile!"

 

 

Cora's maniacal smirk made Derek a little leery. "Cora, what was the point of this picture?" He watched her finger swiping away on her phone like she'd been possessed. No doubt, she was sending the picture to someone.

"I finally have photographic evidence, and now Mom can't deny it any longer. I've been telling her this for years, and she never believed me. You two," she pointed at them, "subconsciously dress alike, and it's hilarious."

"We do no-" Derek stopped as he took in Laura's appearance. Black leather jacket, jeans, dark red shirt, and though they weren't the same shirt… it was pretty close. "Well damn, Lolo. She's right, and I hate that she's right."

"I know," Laura crushed him in a bear hug, "I'm scared too. Hold me, Der."

"Let go of me." Derek tried to wriggle out of her embrace, using his hands to pry off her arms from around his waist. "You're impossible, you know that?"

"Yep. I pride myself on it." She let go of him plopped down in one of the high-top chairs. "It's my specialty."  

They sat with Cora as they waited for the others to show. Derek shed his jacket. "How are you, Evan?" Though Evan been dating Laura for almost five years, Derek had never completely warmed up to the guy. It wasn't something he could put his finger upon, but something about him rubbed Derek the wrong way. Still, he seemed to treat Laura well (he and his sister told each other everything. He'd know if the contrary were true), and she loved him, so he never brought it up.

Evan pushed his wavy brown hair out of his eyes. "My behavioral neuroscience midterm kicked my ass, but I'm pretty sure it's at least a B-. You? I think Laura said you had an exam today?"

"Skata." He looked over to see Evan's confused face. "Oh, sorry. I am fairly certain I did well, but it scrambled my brain. I think I just wrote ten pages of essays."

Evan winced.

"Yeah, I know."

Soon, Erica arrived with Kira and Boyd in tow. Isaac and Jackson came soon after that, the latter sandwiched in between his girlfriends.

"Where's Scott?"

Without missing a bit Kira replied, "Three hour animal husbandry lab. Strict attendance and no cell-phone policy."

Isaac kissed Cora's forehead.

"How was your test?"

Isaac shed his layers, tossing his scarf over the back of his chair, little droplets of rain fell from his hair. "Pretty sure I bombed it. Options and Derivatives… not the most interesting class or the easiest. Remind me, why did I decide to be a finance major?"

Cora took a long drink from her straw. "Hmm, I think you said it had something to do with your odds of getting drafted being low and needing a marketable degree."

"Yeah that sounds like something I would say," he took out his wallet and walked over to pay for his pair of bowling shoes. "Sounds like total bullshit, but definitely something I would tell myself to make me feel better."

As they all settled in, lacing up their shoes and selecting a bowling ball, Derek went to the counter to pay for his and Stiles' bowling and order them some lunch. When Derek finished paying, he then sat down at the table next to his sisters, where Cora promptly helped herself to a glass of Sprite. "Get your own."

"Oh like you need the whole pitcher!"

Derek deadpanned and pointed to the second pair of shoes. "I'm telling Stiles you drank his soda."

"You bought him lunch and paid for his shoes? That's adorable. Is this your first or second date now?"

Derek could practically taste the sass in his sister's words, that's how thick she'd laid it on. Still, the tremor of panic fluttered in his chest, and he rushed to steel his expression into one of irritation. He hoped he conveyed an utter lack of amusement. "It's my turn," he growled. "We trade off, because it makes things quicker with the check."

"Relax, Der. I was joking. You really have no sense of humor."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Boyd raise his eyebrows in silent judgment. Derek could only reply with a shrug. Baby steps, Derek.

"But I am impressed you know his shoe size."

"It's the same as mine." He poured himself a glass of soda. "His Chucks got drenched one day on his way to practice, and he borrowed the running shoes I keep in my locker. I was being nice." By the time their pizza was delivered to the table, Stiles had still not arrived. Derek checked his watch (yes, he still wore one of those. 'No, Stiles, it's not the same as using my phone. It's a fashion piece.').

Apparently, he was not the only one to notice Stiles' class had been out for twenty minutes. Laura just happened to check her phone at the same time.

"He's late," they both said in unison.

"You two," Cora pointed a french fry at them, "are scary. I'm surprised you two aren't walking stereotypes with your own language and the ability to feel each other's pain or some shit like that."

Laura's expression turned completely blank, and Derek knew what was coming. Laura Hale had a legendary poker face, ask anyone, especially her. She'd be the first to tell about her skill, to talk it up like it was a mythical hero of old. "Who says we don't?"

She wasn't bluffing. Both parts of Cora's statement were true (a: it was called Haladic, or as Derek, preferred to call it 'Browspeak'. It was a bit like sign language… of the face, mostly the brows, especially the eyebrows. b: they did not feel each other's pain… but had the uncanny ability to know when the other was stressed or anxious, even without being in the same location).

"I call bullshit."

Laura looked over at him with crooked grin and furrowed brow. Ah yes. This meant, play along, but don't say anything. He followed by tilting his head slightly, and twitched his nose (he did not look like a rabbit when he did that. Shut up, Laura). This was their go-to for agreement.

This continued, a silent conversation of facial mannerisms and small movements of the face, for several minutes until they were each hit in the face with a french fry.

"All right.You win. You are weird. Both of you. I'm surprised you didn't get an apartment off campus so you could continue sharing a bedroom. I bet that was a rough adjustment."

Derek took a bite of pizza. "No. It was fine." Lie. Total lie. The first two months of Freshman year were hell. He'd never not shared a room with Laura except for that short period when they were seven and his parents thought it was time they each got their own room. It lasted less than a month, and after finding one of them each morning in the other's bed, they gave up trying.

He'd had more sleepless nights in the beginning of Freshman year that the rest of his life combined.

"Dude, you two shared a room? You know that's kinda illegal right, brothers and sisters sharing a bedroom? " Jackson threw his two cents in, two cents which no one asked for by the way.

"No, it’s not," Derek deadpanned. He hated that myth, had put more than one person in their place over it.

Laura swallowed her bite of food. "Besides, there's a partition in the middle of the room."

"Still, don't you like, need privacy to change? I wouldn't want to walk in on my sister changing."

"You don't have a sister, Jackson. Besides, we shared a bathroom… where we got dressed."

"Pretty sure it's still weird."

"Pretty sure I don't care," Derek growled. "Our parent's didn't make us share a room. In fact, they tried to give us our own rooms."

"We didn't want them." Laura’s scowl mirrored Derek’s own.

And with that, everyone went back to eating. Finally, when everyone had started picking out their balls and entering their names into the scoring system, Stiles arrived, hood up despite being indoors, outer jacket only damp despite the fact it had begun pouring when Derek left class. He must have waited out the rain in Folwell.

Stiles sank into the empty chair with far less grace than usual, immediately burying his head in his folded arms. Derek squeezed his boyfriend's shoulder, the closest thing he could do to giving him a hug, but his action earned him a pained whine from Stiles. "You okay?" He tried to coax Stiles' head out from his arms to no avail. "You hungry? I got pizza and Sprite. Oh and I got your shoes."

"Sorry, I don't think I can bowl today," Stiles said, his words muffled by his sweatshirt. "My wrists really hurt."

"Still? Maybe you should go see someone about that."

Stiles sat up, keeping his hood drawn, posture slumped as he poured a glass of soda. "I made an appointment for this afternoon. I think I have mono."

Derek's expression turned grim. "I hope not. You know Coach has to bench you if you do, right?" He waited for Stiles' usual brand of sarcasm, but it didn't come.

"Just start the game without me. I'm pretty sure I would just drop the ball." He took two bites of his pizza and covered his head again, groaning. "My head is killing me.

They'd made it halfway through the first game, Derek periodically checking on Stiles, who seemed to be asleep, before anyone said anything about it.

"Come on, Stilinski. Don't make us have to use Greenberg in net this weekend. Go home and get some rest." Jackson smirked as he picked up his ball. Just as he was rolling, Lydia came up and poked him in the side. He sent his ball into the gutter.

"What in the hell?"  She just waved at him with a fake sweet smile. When he picked up the ball for his second roll, he turned. "Don't do it again."

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Instead, Allison did.

"Oh come on! I am a finely tuned machine. I don't respond well to tickling." The frustration practically wafted off him. "That's cheating. You two," he pointed to his girlfriends, "stop ganging up on me. You do it enough in bed."

Isaac snickered and readied his approach before turning to Stiles. "It's not mono."

"How can you be sure?" Cora cleared the table of their lunch trash, boxing up the rest of the pizza so Stiles could eat it later. "Last time I checked, you were not a doctor."

"No, but I have a good feeling. Just watch. They'll stab him with a needle, take some blood and say he has something simple like a cold. Maybe the flu if he's really unlucky. And you forget, this is the guy who finished a game with a partially dislocated shoulder. He's not going to leave us high and dry, because he's not an asshole. Well, he's not entirely an asshole. He's a loveable one anyway, and he pisses Daehler off on a regular basis, which earns him extra points in my book."






 

"Thanks, Buddy." Stiles stood and unzipped his hoodie; he could no longer tolerate the feel of the fabric on his skin. Just the weight of it made every joint from his shoulders to his fingertips burn with an unsettling ache. The hood was too heavy to stay upon his head. It made his already pounding headache worse. He needed… needed… a quiet room, a nap on the softest bed imaginable with every heating pad he could find. As soon as he was rid of the offending sweatshirt, he looked down at his hands to see his knuckles red and swollen. The crimson stood out so much more against his paler than normal skin. His wrists were just as bad. He didn't even want to to look at his shoulders. They hurt the worst of all.

The room spun around him, not like it had when he'd had too much to drink, more like the room vibrated, sluggishly moving around him. His head, though throbbing, was no longer connected to his body, or at least it felt that way, as though it hovered in the air above him like a balloon. He must have swayed on his feet a little, because Laura reached out to steady him. She said something to him, but to Stiles it sounded as though she were speaking to him underwater.

He rubbed his temples and massaged his forehead. Bad idea. The whimper that escaped his throat was inevitable. His head hurt that badly. Oh my God, what if it's aneurysm? I'm gonna die. That's it, Stiles. You are a dead man. Better make arrangements now. I one Krzyzstof 'Stiles' Stilinski, hereby leave all my worldly- He was snapped out of his thoughts when someone shook his shoulder. "I'm sorry. What?"

"Are you okay?"

He used the back of the chair for balance. "I'm really dizzy actually. I think I need to go home. Can I get someone to walk back to my dorm with me?"

Laura turned to her brother. "Hey Derek, let Stiles crash in your room. I think he's gonna pass out if he walks across the bridge."

Stiles finally faced the group and was met with shocked stares and silence. "What?"

"Jesus, Stilinski, what happened to your face?"

With furrowed brows, Stiles gaped at Jackson. "What do you mean what hap-"

"It looks like you got sunburned."

Stiles felt his stomach begin to churn, and he licked his lips. "Where?"

"All over your cheeks and nose. I take it back. It looks like someone slapped you."

The panic was instantaneous, hitting him like a brick. His eyes went wide; his breathing grew shallow as soon as he touched his face. Slightly bumpy and warm to the touch, causing him a bit of pain upon contact, the feel under his fingertips was so familiar he couldn't stomach it. With trembling hands he counted his symptoms on his fingers. Joint pain, headache, crippling fatigue, and rash. One, two, three, and four. "No, no, no, no, no."

Okay, now the room was actually spinning, and the air was stifling; he couldn't breathe.

Stiles stumbled away from his friends, bumping into the table behind him.

"Stiles? You need to breathe."

And that was Derek's voice trying to anchor him, but it wasn't going to work.

"No, no, no, no- I… I… fuck." Stiles scrambled to the door in search of a mirror.

 

****

 

Stiles crashed into the bathroom barely catching himself on the sink before he fell to the floor. After a moment to catch his breath, he stood and peeked in the mirror, gripping the porcelain of the sink so tightly his fingers went numb. It was like looking at a ghost. He'd seen that red rash so many times before, it was like seeing an old friend again, when that old friend had wrecked your life, shaking your foundation to the core.

 

 

 

He was pale, too pale, with dark purple shadows resting under his eyes. It was as though he hadn't slept in days, which he knew was not true. This wasn't happening, couldn't be happening, and yet...

He'd never looked more like mother in his life, and he'd never been more terrified.

Panic surged through him in waves. The more he gawked at the redness in his face, the worse the fear became. It was as though he were waiting for his image to change before his eyes, and all he could think about was how his mother deteriorated, how the disease attacked her brain more than any other organ, how many times she'd been in and out of hospitals almost his whole life, how it took years to get a diagnosis, and by then, the damage to her body had already been done.

And her face had looked just like this.

Denial kept screaming at him from every corner of his mind. He did not want that image he had of his mother to replace the one of himself. Before he realized it, fat tears were making tracks down his cheeks, and suddenly, the large bathroom was, altogether tiny and also cavernous. He was being crushed and lost all at once. He slid down the wall, collapsing onto the floor in a heap; his long legs were drawn tightly against his chest.

That is exactly how Derek found him a minute later. "Matia mou, what's wrong?"

"My face, it's… it's..."

"Babe, it doesn't look that bad." Derek kissed his forehead.

"No, you don't understand. I, I look... just like my mother did." He took a deep, shuddering breath.





 

Derek took Stiles' hands in his own. He could see the abject terror in his boyfriend's eyes. "You're going to be okay. Maybe it's something else, something harmless." He could tell by the way Stiles looked at him that his words did not convince him. "What time is your appointment?"

"One." Stiles clawed at his scalp. "This can't be happening. This isn't real. Any minute now- wake up, Stiles. Wake up."

Derek shuffled over to sit beside him, patting the space in the 'V' of his outstretched legs. Stiles looked over at him, and even with his vision clouded by tears, the shock was still painfully obvious.

"What? What if someone sees u-"

"You told me a couple weeks ago that you would give up hockey for me." He pulled Stiles to sit in between his legs, Stiles' back to his chest and wrapped his arms around Stiles' shoulders. "I've had a while to think about it, and I would. I'd do the same for you." He kissed his knuckles. "I'm working up to it, to telling everyone." Stiles was still shaking in his arms. Derek was about to spin him around when the bathroom door opened, and walked Laura in.

"Don't look at me like that," she said in response to his raised eyebrow. "I'm well aware this is the men's room. I just don't care. I wanted to see if he was okay."

"No." Derek's voice wavered, betraying how much Stiles' anxious mental state was affecting him. "Could you pack up our stuff, maybe bring it in here? I don't think we're gonna finish bowling today. If anyone asks, just say I drove him to the drugstore."

Laura knelt in front of Stiles and kissed his forehead. "Feel better, okay? Wow, you're really warm. I think you have a fever."

Stiles laughed and immediately began crying again.

"What did I-"

Derek waved her off and answered in his best ‘Browspeak’ (eyes looking to the left with raised eyebrows) that they would talk about it later.. When the door shut behind her, Stiles turned around to face him.

"Please come with me. I know you have your Mass Culture and Spectacle class, which is your favorite, but please don't make me go to this appointment alone. I can't... I won't even be able to force myself through the front door. I can't do this by myself. I need you. I can't go-"

Derek took Stiles' face in his hands and silenced his second wave of panic with a kiss. Feverish lips brushed against his, and it was a bit like the first rule of thermodynamics (or was it the second? Fuck if Derek knew). All the worry and negative emotions had bled over and transferred to him. Or maybe it was his own fear about Stiles (possibly) having a potentially life threatening illness. He pulled away and looked in his eyes. "You didn't even need to ask."

When Laura dropped off their things, he held Stiles' hoodie and helped him into it, batting away his boyfriend's hand Stiles tried to slip the straps of his backpack over his shoulders. "Let's go drop these off in my room. Come on; I'll take care of you."

 

 

Chapter Text

Stiles stared at an indeterminate point on the ground, letting his focus go soft so that the swirls in the pattern on the carpet began to blend into each other. His toes bounced on the ground, shaking his legs. Derek reached over and placed a hand on Stiles' knee to still him.

"Kr....Kr... Stilinksi." They stood and walked over to the nursing assistant. "Sorry, is there another name you'd prefer to be called?"

Stiles fought not to roll his eyes. Preferred name was the third question on the mountain of paperwork he'd just filled out, well the paperwork he'd had Derek fill out for him. "Stiles."

"Like the men's hockey goalie?"

"That’s me."

"Gotcha. Let's get your height and weight."

Stiles shucked his coat, stepping onto the scale. "That's 179.3 pounds and 5'11.25". Follow me."

This time, he did roll his eyes; he could have told her that much. He still swayed on his feet and leaned into Derek's shoulder for support as they walked into a non-descript exam room. He felt numb as she took his vitals, winced at the 101.2 temperature, tried not to break down when he went over his symptoms, but as soon as she left the room, his resolve broke. "I can't do this. I gotta get out of..." he trailed off, chewing on his thumbnail, once more picking a spot on the floor to focus his attention. Time came to a stop or maybe it flew by; he didn't know for sure. His head was filled with all the ways the worst case scenario (and likely the correct one in this case) had come together to fuck him over.

He worried his thumbnail between his teeth, trying to think happy thoughts, about the game on Friday, about his Halloween costume, anything other than how crappy he felt. His head hurt so badly there were tears in his eyes.

"Come here." Derek shifted so Stiles could rest his head on Derek's shoulder. "Is that better?"

"A little."

Soon the door opened, and a doctor came into the room. " Good afternoon," the man read his clipboard, "Stiles, I'm Dr. Fenris." He shook Stiles' hand, then Derek's. "So you've been feeling under the weather? Think you might have mono?"

Stiles nodded, unable to speak. The only sound other than their collective breathing came from the crunch his teeth made against his nail. Derek reached over and pulled his thumb away from his mouth, giving his hand a gentle squeeze before threading their fingers together.

"Can you talk about your symptoms?"

"Everything hurts, especially my shoulders and wrists. They're swollen and red." Stiles showed his hands to the doctor. "I'm exhausted, literally exhausted, and I slept fourteen hours last night. Not just sleepy. It's like I'm carrying a ten ton brick on my back, which is slowing me down and pushing me into the ground. I just want to lie down and never move again."

"Well that is common with mono, the fatigue."

"I'm cold and-"

"He's pale," Derek interrupted. "He usually has a bit more color. He just looks… ashen right now."

"And let's not forget the hidden elephant in the room. There's this," Stiles pulled the hood down to show his reddened face, "that appeared overnight, and my head is killing me. To be honest, I don't think it's mono anymore."

Dr. Fenris nodded, considering Stiles' words. "Well before we delve deeper, let's see if we can rule out a couple of things. Could you sit up on the table?"  He took down the otoscope from its holder on the wall and looked in Stiles' ears, nose and with the help of a tongue depressor, down his throat as well. "I'm seeing some redness, and with the fever, it is a sign of infection in both of your ears. So I will write you a prescription for an antibiotic to get that cleared up." He palpated Stiles' neck under his chin. "Your lymph nodes don't feel swollen. Can I get you to lie down?"

Stiles tried not to wince when Dr. Fenris prodded the upper left side of his abdomen. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable.

"Your spleen feels fine as well." He picked up the clipboard and continued to read over the packet of paper, he peppered the silence in the room with the occasional  'hmm's' and 'I see's.' "Ah I understand your reason for concern. Your mother has Lupus?"

"Had," Stiles could hear the slight whimper in his voice.

"How old was she when diagnosed?"

Stiles rubbed the back of his neck. "I was two I think, so twenty-four, though my dad told me once she'd been suffering symptoms for several years."

"And how old was she when she died?"

"She was thirty-two. Complications. Um, she had a stroke, caused by thrombo-something." He watched the doctor write notes down in the margins, sparing a glance over to Derek. To the untrained eye, his face would have appeared blank, but Stiles saw plainly everything he was trying to hide. The tightness of his shoulders, a slight trembling of his lower lip, blinking more than usual- fear was a hard emotion to hide, even for Derek.

"Thrombosis? Blood clot?”

“Yeah. That was it.”

“What were her other symptoms?"

Stiles craned his neck to stare up at the ceiling and exhaled. "Seizures, numbness in her hands and feet. Sometimes she'd sleep for days at a time. She forgot my name, my actual name for a while, and just started calling me Stiles. It stuck. Terrible headaches. Some problems with her lungs, and..." He sighed, "a rash that looked just like mine."

Dr. Fenris turned on the monitor of the computer sitting upon the desk and began clicking away on the screen. "Let me check one more thing." When he shone a light in his eyes, Stiles jerked his head away almost immediately.

"I'm gonna be sick." Before he could even hop down from the table, an emesis bag was placed in his hand, where he promptly emptied his stomach of what little was in there. He hadn’t even noticed Derek coming over to him until he felt the soothing sensation of him rubbing his back. Stiles leaned into the touch.

"Migraine?"

Derek helped him off the table and he walked to the sink sink to rinse his mouth out. Stiles stared at the faucet, trying to calm his nerves as he swished water around in his mouth, paper Dixie cup clutched in his hand. He spit. "I get them occasionally, but this is the worst one I've ever had."

"Given your mother suffered from more of the neurological symptoms and your headache right now, I think we should get you over to Fairview for a CT scan. I'd hate to send you home with the worst headache of your life with family history of Lupus related stroke. While you're there, I'll have them draw blood for tests. The results won't be in for a few days, so I can't make a formal diagnosis until then, but your symptoms are pointing in that direction. The blood test will also help to rule out mono."

And that is how Stiles found himself at the hospital in one of the outpatient beds an hour later while he waited for the doctors to go over his head scans. His little area had been closed off with a curtain, the lights dimmed, but he could still hear every little noise outside. There was an I.V. line in his arm for dehydration and vitamins. Blood had been drawn and sent for testing. The results would be ready in a few days just like Dr. Fenris had said.

He wanted to scream, a fact which Derek seemed to pick up on.

Stiles smiled and leaned into the touch when Derek kissed his temple. "Hang in there. Your CT results are going to be normal. I know it. Try to get some rest, and I will wake you when they come in."

He turned to Derek, fear oozing out of every pore. "Kochanie," his voice cracked, "I'm so scared. I don't want to die."

Derek caressed his arm. "I don't want you to either."

"How could you stay with me only to watch me die horribly? And trust me, it is horrible to watch someone you love waste away. Do you know how much that hurts?"

He took Stiles' hand in his, eyes fixed upon him. "Stiles, I will gladly take all the agony in the end so long as you let me go along for the ride."

Stiles swallowed the lump in his throat. "The whole ride?"

"All of it."

"My mom only got ten tears. What if it's only ten, or five- what if it's only two?"

"Then we get two."

Stiles couldn't see for all the tears in his eyes. "And if-"

Derek kissed his forehead. "Even then."

 

****

 

Derek opened his bedroom door as quietly as he could, the bulb from the hall casting a thin sliver of light towards the bed, where he found Stiles still sleeping. He understood; it had been a long and trying day. Even he felt weary.

He’d stayed as strong as he could for him, because that was what Stiles had needed, a comforting hand to hold, someone to talk to while they waited so that he didn’t lose himself in the worst case scenario, which was no doubt clouding his mind. Stiles had a tendency to overthink things, after all.

Still, bottling up all he was feeling had done a number on Derek. Sometime around hour two of waiting--that’s what always did him in when he was anxious...the waiting--he excused himself and sought refuge in the bathroom for about ten minutes. There, he fought back tears, still unwilling to break down. Once he started crying, he was unlikely to stop in a reasonable amount of time, and he could only leave Stiles alone for so long.

So, instead, he’d gripped the edge of the sink hard enough for his knuckles to turn white. He let the ache build up in his fingers, using it to distract his mind. Physical manifestations of distress, he could handle those, focusing on the pain instead.

After Stiles’ CT scans showed that it was, in fact, just a migraine, he'd been sent home with some antibiotics for the ear infection and a dose of migraine medication. He was out like a light within ten minutes.

Coach had not been too happy about Stiles missing practice, but as Derek explained, letting him play with mono would be worse (splenic rupture would not look favorable to the Athletic Director). He'd said Stiles would hopefully not have anything too serious and would be able to play on Friday.

Derek was not too positive about the second part of Coach’s statement.

He only intended to drop off his things and grab his wallet. Laura messaged him during practice telling him they we're going for a drive (which was their little way of getting away to just talk), and he desperately needed one.

However, he had not been as quiet as he thought, and Stiles stirred. "D'rek," he croaked out, his voice thick with sleep.

"Hey," Derek kissed his forehead, sitting beside him on the bed. "How's your headache?"

Stiles rubbed his eyes. "Better, I think. You coming to bed?"

"No, I'm gonna go talk to Laura, if that's okay with you." Voice soft and warm with affection, Derek ran his fingers through Stiles' bedhead.

"Why wouldn't it be okay with me?"

"I'd be talking about you, and filling her in. She's worried about you, but if you don't want me to say anything about this afternoon, I won't."

Stiles rolled inward towards Derek's legs and nuzzled against his thigh. "Mmm, you can tell her."

Derek didn't tell him that while yes, Laura was worried about Stiles, she was more worried about him. She knew there were not many outlets Derek felt comfortable using when talking about feelings, especially ones like fear. He scooted Stiles over in bed and lay down next to him, intertwining their fingers together.

"Thought you were gonna talk to Laura."

"She's not home yet," he said into Stiles' hair.

"You might want to leave off the bit about how I'm dying. Save that till morning." Stiles hissed in pain. "You want to loosen your grip there, Derek?"

He dropped Stiles' hand like it had burned him. He hadn't even meant to squeeze his hand, more than acutely aware of how much they'd been hurting him lately. "I'm sorry. I didn't-"

Stiles turned his head and kissed Derek's bicep. "I know. I was joking."

Derek ran his tongue across his teeth to give him a moment to collect himself. "Please don't joke about that." He turned onto his side to face his boyfriend, stroking his cheek with a quiet, tender affection, paying special care not to press too hard, lest he aggravate the rash on Stiles' face.

"Sorry." Stiles returned Derek's affection with some of his own, a soft kiss before returning to lie on his back again. "Hey, what's going on in that head of yours?" he asked when Derek had been quiet for quite some time.

He stroked the skin of Stiles’ arm. Sometime from when he’d left him to go to practice and now, Stiles had stripped down to a t-shirt and underwear, most likely in his sleep. He’d laugh about his boyfriend’s restless sleep even while on pain meds, but he didn’t see the humor in the situation.

How could Stiles joke about dying? Derek knew he was a bit woozy from the drugs, but just- did he honestly think it would be funny to suggest it?

Licking his lips, Derek tamped down those thoughts and rolled on top of him, propping himself up on his forearms so Stiles bore none of his weight. He dipped his head so their noses could brush together, and he took a deep breath. Stiles smelled of sweat, antiseptic, and just a bare hint of his body wash. "I want you to have Thanksgiving with me."

Shocked, it seemed Stiles couldn't help the exhausted (and a bit delirious) giggle that happened next. "Sorry, sorry. In what way? Like 'Hey everyone, remember that best friend I tell you all about but you haven't met? This is him.' or 'Everyone, this is Stiles.. I’m gay, and I love him. Be nice. Now, tell him all the embarrassing stories from my childhood you want'?"

"Matia mou," Derek kissed his eyes, "I mean it. If you only get...two years," his voice broke, lip quivering, "then I want them to know you. I want to tell them about me, us." His thumb brushed against the shell of Stiles' ear. "Besides, you're not getting just two years, or even just ten. We will be wrinkled and grey before that happens, surrounded by our family."

"Well, at least this way I won’t be spending it alone, eating pizza," he sighed. “Who the hell schedules hockey games the day after Thanksgiving?”

“People who have nothing better to do.”

“Mmm. You’re probably right,” he yawned. “Wait. Old and grey, family? Was that a proposal? Sure sounds like one."

Derek swallowed hard. "Mmm, would you like it to be?"

Stiles pushed out from under him. "Wait a minute, not even a month ago you freaked out when I mentioned I didn't want you to hide me for the rest of our lives. Is this because-"

"No," he silenced him with a kiss, "I've been thinking it for a while. I was just shocked when you said it before."

"Yes, I would, but we're not ready. Try again when we've both graduated."

Derek smiled against Stiles' shoulder. "Okay." He kissed Stiles' forehead and stood up. "I'll be back in a couple hours." He walked to his door but turned around, coming back to give him another kiss. "I love you. Get some sleep." He pulled the blanket back up over Stiles' shoulders and went downstairs to Laura's room.

When he knocked on the door, Cora opened it and rolled her eyes. "She’s in her room.”

He shuffled past her, ruffling her hair as he walked by, drawing a groan and a protest from her. He found Laura sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged him tightly, before dragging him into the kitchen. She pushed on his shoulders until he sat down.

"Guess what I got for you," Laura's bright voice carried through the room. "Lookie, lookie." She passed the Styrofoam cup under his nose.

Derek smiled. "Stop by Annie's did you?"

"It's pumpkin malt season, and I knew my baby brother was feeling out of sorts, so-"

"Baby brother? You are six minutes older than me. That does not make me-" She sat on his lap, and the only thing he could think to get her off him was to make fun of her. He flicked one of her braids. "Rockin' the Wednesday Addams look I see."

"If I'm Wednesday, then you are Pugsley, and that makes this look," she pointed to her braided pigtails, "totally worth it. Come on. I put off showering after practice to get over here quickly."

Cora, whom Derek had to admit, he’d totally forgotten was still in the room, stared at her, mouth hung open, brows drawn together in ire. "Hey, Wonder Twins, why didn't you pick one up for me?"

"Because, Cocoa Puff,I like Derek more than you."

"Wha- Exc-"

Laura winked. "Kidding. It's in the freezer." She pulled Derek up off the couch and waved bye to Cora.

 

****

 

Laura stretched out on the grass, the empty cup that had held her malt lay tipped over next to her. "So, Der, fill me in. You look like you're about to start crying any minute."

 

Over the years, he and Laura had spent so many hours like this, sitting together, just the two of them, confiding in each other, secrets that no one else in the world got to know. They talked about dreams, how annoying their siblings were, their fears. Laura was, to Derek, one of only two people he ever let see him vulnerable. Stiles, of course, was the other one. So many times they’d  stolen away for time with the two of them, that the moments were ingrained in his mind, little snippets of his life, memories he would never forget.

 

 

 

Derek looked up at the stars, picking out the square of Pegasus. He loved the night sky. As a kid, he and Laura would spend hours out on their dock looking up at the stars over Lake Minnetonka, pointing out each constellation they knew. They became really good at it, too- took glow in the dark paint and made the ceiling in their bedroom match the one outside.

Laura's favorite was Eridanus, the Celestial River, because, as she said, it had as many twists and turns, different facets to it as did her personality. She liked to joke that Derek liked Pegasus because it was easy to look at and think you got it, how one could easily see how it was supposed to be winged horse. Yet, the longer you looked at it, the more you saw and less you understood. She often said the Great Square (made up of the four stars: Alpheratz, Scheat, Algenib, and Markab) looked like it was trying to get away from the rest of the constellation, how the inside of the square was empty, quiet almost. When she'd first said this to him, Derek remembered how insulted he was, until, that is, she explained it. That the Great Square was like that dock, a safe place, a silent place. With the view of it partially blocked by the sauna his father and Uncle Peter built, it was where he'd run off to whenever their parents threw lavish dinner parties, or hosted the family holiday where extended relatives filled the house everywhere you went. Laura said that it must have been exhausting for him to be the lone introvert in a family as outgoing as theirs, that all that small talk had to drain him. So, he just needed his own Great Square.

Recalling that story, he gave a small chuckle, the only sound he'd made since they sat down.

"What?" she asked.

He pointed up to the sky. "Great Square."

"Ah. So, Father Hennepin Park, in which we're sitting in, technically trespassing, after hours is your dock? So many memories. We were fourteen when I told you that, weren't we?"

"Yeah. Do you remember why I was out on the dock that night?"

She reached over and patted his knee. "’Course I do. How could I forget something like that? You were sitting there, your feet dangling over the edge, toes skimming the water."

He laughed and stood up, walking towards the water, where he slipped off his shoes so he could get his toes wet. The water stung as it hit his skin, its icy temperature much colder than he had anticipated; the chill sobered him up a bit. At his feet, he could feel smooth rocks and crouched to find the perfect one. 

 

 

"There were fireflies everywhere," he said, flinging the stone across the water with a flick of his wrist. It skipped three times before sinking, "like little Christmas lights out over the lake. The house was packed with people. Fucking Jake, had to have the biggest graduation party possible," Derek rolled his eyes. His older brother was nothing if not prone to histrionics...

...Derek watched the beer bottle as it spun around and around, coming to a stop in front of Derek. The room around him had yet to stop spinning. How did he let his friends talk him into this? Even worse, most of them had bailed on him ten minutes in. By now, he was the youngest person playing.

 

Why did the neck of the bottle have to point to the one person he dreaded it landing on? Ricky Krasikeva was his friend Paige's older brother. Not that he didn't like him. Quite the opposite actually, and that scared Derek shitless. He tried to play it as apprehension of the fact he had to kiss a boy and was disgusted, as opposed to the fact he had to kiss a boy and was terrified because they would all see he enjoyed it. The way Derek had been feeling confused him; he hadn't even begun to understand or come to terms with it, and this was the worst possible thing that could happen. Of course, he could chicken out, but then he'd have to complete a dare (and they'd been getting more risque as the night went on).

Derek probably looked as scared as he felt. "Can I...can I spin again?"

"Nope," one of the older girls said, the 'p' popping off her lips. "I had to kiss Jennifer. It's only fair."

"But-."

"Then you'll have to run around the house naked… twice."

"Fine," he sighed, rolling his eyes, and leaned across the circle.

"And none of this light peck crap. Gotta use tongue."

He felt sick to his stomach. Please don't throw up. Please don't throw up. The moment their lips touched (as cliched as it sounded) lit fireworks in his stomach, and what he'd hoped was just hero worship of the team captain, a guy he’d known since he was eight years old, clearly wasn't. Derek could hear the group counting down the thirty seconds, and he both wanted them to stop counting so the kiss could go on for as long as they wanted and also to crawl in a hole and die. Finally, when they called time's up, Derek pushed away like Ricky had the pox, wiping his mouth with as much disgust as he could muster, desperately hoping he looked as miserable as he felt.

"That was..."

A chorus of 'hot,' 'awkward,' and 'awful' was almost drowned out by several chants of 'disgusting.' That hole was looking pretty good right about then.

"Man, I don't understand how you girls can like watching guys kiss. It's nasty."

When the boy, one of his brother's classmates, starting using slurs and how queers just threw it in everyone's faces, Derek could taste the blood in his mouth from where he was biting his tongue between his teeth. In that moment, the room felt too warm, and he just needed to get away from the suffocating scent of a too-strong mix of perfumes and body sprays, the clandestine rum the seniors had been sneaking into their sodas, popcorn, chips, cherry lip gloss, Febreze, sweat, hair spray... Every smell assaulted him all at once. He felt dizzy.

"Fuck, I do not want to do that again. No offense, Derek. It's just… you're a dude."

"Yeah. That was- I'm out. You're all older than me, and it has to be a knock in your social status to kiss a Freshman." He could not get out of that room fast enough and slipped out the side door. The backyard had about twenty people in it, but there was a strict rule that no one could go beyond the fence (occupants of the house excluded), because his parents did not want the liability of someone potentially drowning. In his haste, he forgot his key. But Derek had always been a good climber and scaled it with ease.

He was crying by the time he made it to the end of the dock. No, no, no, no. This was not how it was supposed to be. Boys grew up, found a nice girl, got married and had kids. They did not grow up and find nice boys.

On the edge of the dock, Derek let his legs kick back and forth, feet splashing at the surface of the lake while he tried to talk himself out of what he'd felt. It was just nerves, fear of kissing in front of everyone. That was what caused the butterflies in his stomach. He didn't like kissing Ricky so much as he liked doing the stuff the older teens did. He must have been imagining a pretty girl. Yeah, that had to be it.

Oh, who the hell was he kidding?

He’d felt that flutter in his stomach because it felt good. His head hadn’t been filled with pictures of girls. His head was never filled with pictures of girls.

Derek picked at the hem of his shirt, pulling at a loose thread as he looked at the moon's reflection on the water.

"I thought I might find you out here."

Startled by his sister's appearance behind him, he scurried to wipe the tears from his eyes. "It's too loud in there." Laura sat down beside him, her legs mirroring the actions of his own. She didn't say anything for a while, and when the silence stretched out too long between them, Derek glanced over to see her staring at him. "What?"

"What's the matter?"

"Nothing."

"Liar. I can hear it in your voice." She bumped her shoulder against his. "You can talk about it with me. You know I always keep your secrets."

He picked up a small pebble off the dock and flung it out over the water. "This is a big one."

"Well," she said throwing her own rock out into the lake, "mine went farther."

Laura always had been more competitive. In sports, sure Derek wanted to win, but she liked to turn everything into a game. Normally, it didn't bother him so much. It wasn't like 'who could stuff the most marshmallows in their mouth' ever hurt anyone, but he just didn't want to play right now. She seemed to sense that and stopped.

"If it's a big secret, then it's one that you shouldn't carry alone. Remember that time I was being picked on in second grade? I didn't want to tell anyone, because I thought it would make it worse, but you told me you would share the weight. Well, I mean, we were eight, so it was more like 'Laura, maybe I can help,' but the meaning was the same. Let me help you."

Derek swallowed hard. "My friends decided we should play spin the bottle with the older kids. Then they left after the second person went."

"Jerks. Did you have to kiss someone with braces? I hate that, especially when they haven't brushed their teeth."

The sound of his laughter echoed in the relative silence. "No."

"Someone you didn't want to kiss?"

He didn't answer her for a while. "Ricky."

"Ew gross. They're supposed to let you pick the nearest girl to your bottle when that happens."

This time, his laugh was muddied with tears. "Lolo, I'm pretty sure I'm gay."

She threw her arm around his shoulders. "Derek, just because you had to kiss a boy doesn't make you-"

"I liked kissing him. I wanted to keep doing it. Look, I've kissed girls before, and it never felt like this."

"Felt like what?"

"Right."

She rubbed his head. "So, you're gay. No big deal. This just we means we can talk about boys together. I, for one, think this is a fabulous development in our relationship."

He pulled his legs out of the water, drawing his knees to his chest and buried his face in them.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I'm not making fun of you." She gave his shoulders a little shake until he picked up his head. "I'd never make fun of you for something like this."

Derek dropped his head onto her shoulder.. "You don’t hear the things guys say in locker rooms about boys like me."

Laura hugged him a little tighter. "Well, your secret's safe with me."...

 

...As his latest rock hit the water with a splash, he noticed Laura had come to stand beside him.

"Any reason you brought that up right now?"

Derek gave her one of the rocks in his hand. She may have been able to throw pretty far, but she'd always been shit at skipping stones. This time was no exception, and the rock sank immediately. "I invited Stiles to Thanksgiving."

"Invited him to Thanksgiving as your boyfriend, or a friend who has nowhere to go for dinner?" Even in the moonlight, the look on his face must have said everything, because he could practically hear her jaw hit the gravel. "That's...I'm proud of you, Der."

He thrust his hands into his pockets. "I haven't asked Mom yet,"

Laura dragged him away from the shore and back to the grass. This time, they both stretched out their legs in front of them and stared out at the ripples their rocks left behind when the stones shattered the glassy image of the mostly still water. "You gonna tell her first?"

"No," he sighed, "I don't want the pressure in case I chicken out. I plan on using the 'he has nowhere to go' excuse, which is true, and then just spring it on everyone."

"This is a big step, especially after that big fight you guys had. What brought this-"

"The doctor sent him to the ER for a CT scan when Stiles talked about how his mom died, because of how bad his headache was."

Laura sat up and looked down at him in shock. "Oh my God! Is he okay?"

"Yes, well," Derek rubbed his temples, "no, but not because of that. The doctor can't say for sure until blood tests come back, but they're pretty sure Stiles has Lupus, just like his mom did. And Lolo, he was so scared at the hospital. I could practically smell his fear radiating off his skin, but I just kept telling him everything was going to be fine, that he was okay. All the while, I was sitting there terrified." His eyes stung with tears and pressed the heels of his palms to them. His breath was ragged, and he knew he was dangerously close to breaking down completely. "He just kept talking about how his mom didn't even get ten years. What if that was him, what if he didn't get five or two. And I know Lupus isn't as fatal as it used to be, that the mortality rate is a lot lower than when his mom died. I know he's lucky to even get a diagnosis this fast if he has it.

“Treatments are getting better, but- The whole time we were there, I kept thinking what if… he's right? Say eighteen months, two years from now, I wake up, and he,” his voice cracked, “he doesn’t.” He stopped, taking a minute to still his breathing. The longer he waited though, the more he felt his resolve slipping. Somewhere between one deep breath and another, the lock on his emotions broke. Tears streamed down his face, falling faster than he could dash them away. “You would be the only one who knew why I was just… wrecked, why I didn't want to get out of bed, why I won't eat. That's- they need to know about him, know him before something like that happens. I want them to know about us, about me. Because if he only gets two years, it's gonna destroy me,” he sobbed, crossing his arms over his chest to hug himself.

Laura scooted over so she could wrap her arms around his shoulders from behind. "Derek, whether it's two years or fifty, it's going to destroy you either way. It’s fucking with you right now just thinking about it. You love him, of course you'd be a wreck."

"Yeah. I know. I'm sure you'd be a mess if something like that happened to Evan."

She inhaled a sharp intake of breath. "I love Evan. I'm sure we can have a good life together, but I don't love the way you do. I’m not as passionate about it, I guess. Maybe I’ll eventually get there; maybe I won’t."

Derek furrowed his brows and studied her. He didn't understand what she meant by that at all. "What-"

"All consuming. Not really my style. Derek, they call it 'love of your life’ for a reason.'" She rested her chin on his shoulder. "No amount of time you get with him is ever going to be enough. You're never going to love anyone else the way you love him."

He lay a hand over her wrist, stroking the exposed skin with his thumb. "Yeah."

Just like he always did after a heart-to-heart with Laura, Derek's brain felt clearer; the fog of emotional confusion had lifted. They'd been having conversations like this all their lives. Memories of words spoken were like snapshots in his mind, made glamourous and softened by nostalgia. They sat in silence for a long time after that until she stood, tugging on his hand to pull him up. It was too cold, she said, to spend several hours outside in just a hoodie. He wasn't cold, but he was tired, wanting nothing more than to crawl in bed with Stiles and wrap himself around him in hopes he could will everything to be okay.

The drive back felt longer than it was. In truth, they didn't really need to drive at all, but he was glad they did. It meant he got home faster, and when he slid in beside Stiles, he was dead on his feet. Arms chilled from the time outside in the late October air, he clung tightly to his sleeping boyfriend's feverish form, burying his nose in the sweat-damp hair at the back of Stiles' neck.

"You need to have more than two, or even ten years," he whispered to the pitch black room around him, "I can't do this without you." Derek screwed his eyes shut, hot tears squeezing out from between his lashes, and, alone in the dark, he silently cried himself to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Stiles shuffled into the locker room, which, already half full, bustled with activity. Derek's midterm had run late, so Stiles saw no reason to get to the arena early. Luckily, the antibiotics had started to clear up his ear infection, and his balance had returned. In turn, not having that throbbing ache in both his ears, alleviated his headache enough to where he could function. Big plus there, but hell if he wasn't still exhausted to the point of tears. Suck it up, Stiles. Yeah, he'd deal with it. He was an expert at just dealing with things. He was fine. He was always fine (even when he wasn't).

Massaging his forehead, Stiles hoped to rub away the anxiety and pain therein, and maybe just maybe, if that happened, then the rest of him would feel okay. Still, he could do this; he'd played half a game with a partially dislocated shoulder before. This was chump change compared to that.

Lies. Total lies.

He shucked his jacket and then his hoodie, hanging them up inside his locker, and had only just slipped off his sneakers when his phone rang. His stomach sank when the call ID showed a number he didn't recognize, but the prefix he knew. Those three numbers were from the university, and he was not brave enough to take the call. But when needs must-

"Hello?" His voice shook. That low lying tingle in his fingers that always came with the high level of anxiety that bordered on panic, crackled through his digits like static before a lightning strike. He dragged his free hand down his pants to dry his sweaty palm before switching his phone to the other hand so he could dry that one as well.

"May I speak to Stiles?"

"Speaking."

"This is Dr. Fenris calling from Fairview Medical Center. For security purposes, can I get you to verify the last four digits of your social security number and your birth date?”

“Um, 6731 and 11/6/94.”

Satisfied that he was, indeed speaking with Stiles, the man on the other end of the line continued, “Thank you. Good evening, Stiles. I have the results of your tests and would like to discuss them with you. Is now a good time?"

Stiles tried to steady his breathing, but he was sure his worry could be heard through the line. "If we make it quick," he said licking his lips. Over the past few days he'd done that so much that they'd become chapped. He'd even invested in chapstick, the five dollar fancy kind that tasted a bit like tangerine. Really it was a lip saver, and also… delicious.  "I have to dress for our game. I mean, if I’m cleared to play."

"Ah yes. I'll be as brief as I can." He heard the doctor clear his throat. Bad news. They always clear their throat before delivering bad news. "Well for starters, your test for mono came back negative, as I suspected it would."

He pinched the bridge of his nose, willing himself not to cry as he kept his voice as flat as possible. "Uh huh."

"I do have a bit of good news. Your urine test showed no current impairment of your kidney function."

"That's fantastic." Excuse him if he just didn't sound all that excited. Why? Well, he felt pretty sure Dr. Fenris was stalling. "And the blood tests?"

"Your RBC, or red blood count as well as your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are low, which does indicate anemia. So we ran additional tests, which showed normal levels, and your iron levels were good. Given that and the fact you showed no signs of an enlarged spleen, anemia of chronic inflammation is most likely the culprit."

Stiles leaned against his locker. Keep breathing.

"Your sed rate and platelet levels are high, which they should be with your ear infection, but not this high."

He knew what that meant before he asked his next question. He may have only been a kid, but he remembered enough of his mother's doctor's visits in which he had to tag along, had volunteered for enough charity 5ks. He just knew. "And...and...the ANA result?" His hand raked through his hair. In that moment, he felt a bit like Professor Xavier. Everything around him froze, and he could hardly breathe.

 

 

"Unfortunately, the test for antinuclear antibodies also came back positive."

"I understand."

Through the line, Stiles heard the heavy intake of air. "Based on the tests as well as your other symptoms, I feel confident in my diagnosis of Lupus. I sent a couple prescriptions for you over to Fairview. They'll be closed when you're finished with your game, but they are open tomorrow morning. I want you to try these. I am reluctant to start some of the more aggressive treatments. I would rather you consult with a rheumatologist first, as they are more up to date with the latest treatments."

"What are you giving me?"

"Since a steroid like Prednisone would suppress your immune system, which I would not advise given that you live in a residence hall and spend close quarters with your teammates, I'm giving you a month supply of Vicoprofen. This should help with the inflammation, and it's stronger than Advil so it will help with the pain. This will get you through your flare, and your rheumatologist will decide whether or not to continue the medication. I'm also prescribing Neurontin, which has positive results-"

"Yeah I know. They had my mom on that one," he sighed. "For the referral..." Stiles had to sit down before he fell over. He'd been expecting this, but it didn't make hearing it any easier to hear.

"I will have your referral filed at the front desk. You can pick it up on Monday. I know this diagnosis can be scary, but with aggressive treatment, 80% of patients can expect a survival rate of 20 years or even longer."

"Uh huh." Stiles winced at the way his voice cracked. Anyone, were they listening, would be able to hear the unshed tears in his words.

"I have informed your coach you are medically cleared to play if you feel up to it. Don't overdo it, Stiles, but there is no risk to your spleen, and though inflamed, your joints are not unstable like they might be with arthritis. I also sent the documentation necessary for Coach Finstock to submit a TUE to the NCAA."

"Thanks, Doc." Stiles ended the call, and sent a quick text to Derek, pleading for him to run to Fairview to pick up his prescriptions for him.

 

 

He did not elaborate further and collapsed onto the bench in his locker, cradling his head in his hands. Even though he'd known what the doctor would say when he answered the call, some part of him hoped it was all a false alarm. He wanted to cry, needed to cry even, but knew it was neither the time nor place. Instead, he reigned in his emotions and let them slip from distraught to furious. Instead, he gave himself a silent pep talk the way he always did when he needed to get in the right mindset before a game when his mood was not the best.

Suck it up, Stiles. You can do this. You are a machine. A fucking marvellous machine. You feel like a million bucks. Joint pain? What joint pain? You could run a marathon right now.

He focused on calming his breathing. Meditation never worked for him; he didn’t have the attention span for it, but this? He could do this.

"Don't cry, Stilinski. Having no date for Halloween is not the end of the world. Just find an easy chick like you do every other time."

Fucking Daehler. He just wanted to punch the guy. "Ssij mi pałę, kutafonie," he groaned into his hands.

"That's rich coming from you, Daehler." Bless you, Isaac. "You can't even manage that much."

"Stay out of it, Lahey."



 

 

Derek yawned as he walked into the locker room. That midterm had been brutal. Fucking brutal. He just wanted to shut off his brain and play. Yet, he took one look at his boyfriend and the dejected posture in which he sat, and didn't even need to ask what the prescriptions were for.

"Dude, seriously? Quit crying, you sally." Derek's hand splayed across Matt's sternum, and he gave a firm shove, sending the guy backwards several steps.

"What the fuck, Hale?"

"Leave him alone." Derek sent daggers in Matt's direction. "You don't be a dick to your teammates just because you feel like it."

"Yeah. Even Jackson, who is in his own words 'an asshole' is still pretty chill to the guys on the team."

"Thanks, Parrish," Jackson smirked at him.

"Any time."

“But seriously, Stilinski,” Jackson tugged an elbow pad over his hand and up his arm, “are you okay? This seems like more than your usual pregame jitters.”

Derek sat down next to Stiles on the bench.

"I heard from the doctor." He lifted his head out of his hands, and to Derek's surprise, Stiles had not, in fact, been crying. Derek handed over the brown paper bag he'd received from the pharmacy. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it.” Derek lowered his voice so that their words would be lost in the din of the locker room,  “So um, don't take those with booze and don't drive when you're on them." He unzipped his jacket. "You were right, weren't you?" Stiles nodded, and Derek, resisting the urge to wrap him up in  his arms, settled for throwing a comforting arm around his shoulders. "You're gonna be okay."

Stiles stared at the floor, eyes unblinking as he licked his lips. "How am I supposed to be okay, Derek? It killed my mom, and now I have it. How am I supposed to stay positive knowing that?" Keeping in mind how badly they ached, Derek gave his shoulders a gentle squeeze. "And that... that's fucking terrif-" Stiles stood, raking both hands through his hair, and in frustration, booted his sneaker across the locker room. "Fuck!" His chest heaved.

Anger was, well anger was good, because if there was one time when Stiles was most on his game, it was when he was angry. Derek flinched as Stiles took out his aggression on his backpack, kicking it multiple times while cursing in Polish. Being irate at his diagnosis gave Stiles something to think about besides the pain and fatigue. But it definitely drew attention to himself.

 

 

 

"Stilinski!" Coach yelled from inside his office. Moments later, Stiles stilled and stopped assaulting his bag when Coach walked towards him, waving a sheet of paper in his face.

"What?"

"You mind telling me what this is?" he shook the paper a few times.

"Letter of Commendation from the President?"

Coach scowled, pulling him aside. "Cut the act, Stilinski. This says you're medically cleared to play. I can't play you if you have mono. I may find you annoying as hell, but I don't want your ruptured spleen on my hands."

A fake smile spread across Stiles face, the kind that looked painted on and never reached his eyes, far different than the warm and private one he had for Derek. "Well, it's a good thing I don't have mono then."

Coach moved the paper closer to him, his finger tapping over a few words on the page. "And what the hell am I supposed to do with that?"

"I dunno, Coach," Stiles said trying to play at nonchalance, "be prepared to complete additional TUE's?"

"I'm being serious here." Coach looked at the paper once more, presumably rereading the paper, "Words like systemic and erythematosus sound like I should be worried-"

"So was I,” Stiles snapped.

“What’s going on?” Isaac asked, looking over at the pair of them, his brows creased in concern.

He waved him off. “I'll be fine." Stiles grabbed a clean t-shirt from inside his bag, tugging it over his head, wincing at the movement.  Nothing hurts, and everything's fine.

 

"Uh huh. Sure you are. When you're bleeding out on the ice from an errant skate blade laceration, we'll revisit this conversation. I'll bring chips and dip."

"Oh my God." Stiles rolled his eyes. "It's Lupus, not hemophilia! They're not even close to the same thing."

 

 

 

 

Across the room, Derek heard Matt snicker and prepared himself for the 'Wrath of Stiles' that would surely come next. "That's cute, Stilinski. You trade in your dick for a pair of ovaries?"

Stiles' eyes took on that squinty appearance they got whenever he was judging someone and their obvious lack of intelligent questions. "Really? Really? Were you trying to sound like an asshat there, or do you come by it naturally?"

"Men don't get Lupus."

Derek knew what Stiles' little eyebrow dip meant, not that he ever tried to teach his boyfriend any 'Browspeak', but that was almost universal for 'are you fucking serious?' Stiles traded out his jeans for gym shorts, making sure to give his crotch a little grab. "Hate to burst your bubble, but my dick's still there so... I guess there must be a problem with your logic, your deeply, deeply flawed logic." Stiles tightened the buckle of his breezers and tugged on his socks. "One in ten Lupus patients are male, Dickbag!"

"Stilinski!"

He’d been so focused on Matt’, that he'd clearly forgotten about Coach standing behind him. "How can I help you?"






Coach motioned for Stiles to follow him into his office where he closed the door.

"I’m fine. I promise I'm not going to bleed out on the ice."

"Are you okay?" Coach asked like the question physically pained him to say.

"Excuse me, what-"

"I know I yell a lot. But it's not like I hate you guys. Well I kind of hate Greenberg, but that's different. It's-"

"Greenberg?"

"Exactly." Coach rubbed his temples. "What a profound disappointment that guy's been. But I meant it. Are you okay? You tend to play through it."

"Um," Stiles swallowed, or at least tried to. His mouth was like Death Valley, dry as a bone, "yeah. I'll be fine."

Coach did not look entirely convinced, just continued eating his dinner with a grimace. "And how's your head? I know this is what your mom had. Do I need to rest you a game? I mean I'm sure Greenberg can manage not to be a colossal failure for one night."

 Stiles' lip quivered, but he gave nothing else away. "I'll deal. Don't scratch me for the game. I need to play."

Coach dropped the spoon. "Ugh, that is disgusting. Stilinski, if anyone ever tries to tell you smashed cauliflower tastes just like mashed potatoes, laugh in their fucking faces. This is-" Coach walked over to the trash can and, with an exaggerated flourish, dropped his dinner into the trash. "Listen, if anytime it's too much to play through, let me know."

"Thanks, Coach," Stiles said, effectively stopping the man's attempt at paternal sentiments.

"Oh, and I checked on those meds. They're not banned, but keep me informed. Go suit up before I remember how much you annoy me."






While Stiles finished donning his equipment, Derek tried to make conversation. "So, did the doctor give you a list of rheumatologists?"

"No."

"I can ask my mom."

Stiles turned to him, and Derek could see the sadness in his eyes, could see how the ache in his joints was hidden behind those irises. "Look, miłość, I can't handle anymore talk about this right now. I just- After the game and before we head to the party, ask me then."

Out of sight of his boyfriend, Derek pulled out his phone:

 

Derek stowed his phone and laced his skates, tamping down his fear for Stiles




***



The puck smacked into the palm of his glove, Stiles' fingers closing around the frozen rubber disc. A moment later, the shrill sound of the referee's whistle filled his ears. For all the protective padding, Stiles never could get used to the way the blaring noise bounced around inside his helmet. Now, with the dull throb of his headache pulsing in his skull, the sound was just amplified. He winced.

In front of him, a small scuffle broke out. Stiles, as he usually did, stayed out of it as best he could. There was something about other player's having to serve his penalties that never sat right with him. So, he tried his hardest to refrain from committing infractions. Still, there were times when he just wanted to swing his stick at the back- Breathe Stiles. On any other night, he'd probably let it go, but with as angry as he was, his blood maintaining a low simmer beneath his skin, he was sure he'd draw at least one penalty.

Maybe, if he timed it right, he'd cause Daehler to sit in the box for him. Sounded like an excellent plan.

Isaac, clearly, had taken offense to the Wisconsin players getting a little too comfortable in front of the goal. "Stay out of the crease!" The Badger centerman gave him a shove, so naturally, Isaac pushed back. Well, the rest of his team didn't like that, and so they joined in the fun.

As his space got a little crowded for his liking, Stiles tried to maneuver himself out of the way, rolling his eyes behind his mask. Play had been chippy all night, the way it always was in games against major rivals, the way it was when one team's performance was so on point that the opposition grew frustrated and desperate.

Stiles, thankfully, had been mercifully left alone by his teammates. He suspected Derek had a hand in that. The guy usually gave the team a heads up whenever Stiles was in a bad mood. It saved time.

"Oh fuck you, dickwad!" The centerman, Ennis Carter, despite being massive (seriously, the dude reminded him of Colossus from Xmen), had a really short temper. Stiles had, more or less, learned to ignore the guy over the years.

"Kiss my ass!" Isaac gave him another shove. However, this one knocked the guy into Stiles, who had just enough time to get his arm up to keep Ennis from pinning him against the crossbar. Unfortunately for Stiles, Ennis decided this was an attack and turned around to give Stiles a piece of his mind, which turned out to be a poor attempt at an insult.

"Stay out of this, pretty boy!"

Stiles smirked. "You hurt yourself on that one? Pretty is a good look on me."

"Not his fault your face looks like it was run over with a garbage truck," Isaac said.

It was amazing how much could happen in the span of a few seconds. Stiles could have sworn this little scrum had been going on for hours.

Ennis turned back to Isaac. "It's cute the way you think you're intimidating, Lahey."

Stiles had had enough and angled his stick just enough so that it fit into the hole on the blade of Ennis' skate and pulled. Ennis hit the ice hard, unfortunately, he took Isaac down with him. "Oh! And down goes Frasier!"

The ref blew on his whistle again and pointed to the three players in front of the crease, then thrust his arm out to the side and away from his body. Next, he pointed at Stiles and tapped himself below his right knee before skating to center ice. "Wisconsin penalties: number 6 Evans and number 19 Carter, two minutes each for roughing. Minnesota penalties: number 14 Lahey two minutes for roughing and number 24 Stilinski two minutes for tripping. Tripping penalty to be served by number 21 Wilson. Time of the penalties 16:43 of the second period."

Well if it couldn't be Matt to serve his penalty, Aiden was the next best option. Stiles flipped up his helmet to enjoy a good long drink of water, dancing a little to the song playing over the sound system, Ennis' words still ringing in his ears. As a Badger player skated by the crease bound for the face-off circle, Stiles found himself singing along. "Look over my shoulder, I blow you a kiss, can you handle, handle this?"

In front of him, the player groaned, and Stiles looked at him, quirking an eyebrow. "I don't think you're ready for this jelly. My body too booty-"

"Really, Stilinski?" Jackson groaned. "Bootylicious is not really the word I'd use to describe you… ever."

Stiles pulled his mask back down. "I'm sorry you're jealous that your milkshake doesn't bring all the boys to the yard."

"Ew, no. Wrong song by the way." Jackson started to skate away but turned back for the last word. "And FYI, my milkshake brings everybody to the yard."

You keep telling yourself that, Jackson. Stiles shook out his arms and shoulders and readied himself for the puck drop. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like if he saw the game the way others did, the way Derek did: slowed down to half speed, watching everything proceed at a snail's pace. He reasoned that he would be able to appreciate the beauty of the game in its subtle details. Things like the intricate stitching on a pair of gloves, the carve and bite of blades into the ice, or the minute twitch of an official's hand before he dropped the puck never seemed to resonate with him.

Instead, Stiles saw everything a breakneck speed, eyes darting from one piece of action to the next, mind moving a thousand miles a mile, which was a bit of a drag when the play moved to the opposing end of the ice. He just tended to zone out, focus going soft as his team battled in their offensive zone. It gave his mind the respite it needed in games, however brief, to allow it to keep up with the hummingbird speed at which he saw things. Even Adderall didn't slow his brain down much when it came to hockey.

It was strange, however distracted he might get when the action was a hundred seventy five feet away, as soon as the opposing team crossed center ice, his attention had this way of zeroing in on the puck like a missile. Hyperfocus, his doctor had called it when he was a child. He could follow every play like a cat with a laser pointer. His eyes tracked every movement back and forth, side to side; each pass registered, became catalogued in his mind until…

The puck hit the webbing of his glove.

He didn't want to jinx himself, but he had a good feeling his shutout streak would extend to its third straight game before the final buzzer.

 

***

 

Inside the house, the Halloween party raged on. Music boomed all around him; it was giving Derek a headache. Here they were, in some non-descript house on 4th St, surrounded mostly by people they didn't know. Though, he knew some of his friends were around here somewhere. Jackson had been parked near the kegs for over an hour. He'd seen Isaac and his sister about ten minutes ago going of to do things he didn't want to think about his baby sister ever doing, but it was too dark in the room to make out much of anything else. As Halloween parties tended to be, the lighting that danced about was mostly orange, with a black light here or there. Mist rose out of "cauldrons" around the house, and he wondered, briefly, how much dry ice that took. At least it was better than the commercial smoke machines. Those things smelled terrible. Just what the party needed, the smell of stale beer, sweaty college kids, artificial fruit scented smoke aroma, and way too much AXE Body spray.

Derek snatched the red Solo cup out of his boyfriend's hand, rum and coke sloshing all over his shirt sleeve as the straw through which Stiles had been drinking caught on his hand. "Come on. I think you might have had enough."

"Have not." Stiles smirked. "Don't worry your sweet ass, Derek. I am drinking respo'sibly."

 When Stiles poked him in the nose, Derek snapped at his finger. "Sure you are.”

"If I have to stop, so do you." Stiles waited, rolling his eyes as Derek took longer than necessary to finish the contents of his cup, before continuing, "And anyway... I heard the news today, oh boy!" he sang before dropping the grin right off his face.

"You got the lyrics wrong."

Stiles glared at him. "I got a life changing dia'nosis today in case you din't know. I jus' want to drink away this day in my life." Stiles swayed on his feet a little, the way he did when his buzz was well on its way from tipsy to drunk. "An' right now, I am feeling fine. Tha's a lot better than mos' days lately. M'kay?"

Derek sat both cups down on the counter, leaning into Stiles' space enough so that his lips brushed the shell of his boyfriend's ear. Or at least they would have if not separated by a layer of red and blue lycra/spandex. "I want to dance. Come on." He tugged gently on Stiles' gloved hand, leading him over to the corner of the room. For the last ten minutes, Derek had watched the orange lights dart around from the DJ table (and he used the term loosely. He was pretty sure it was just a guy running an IPod with some colored lighting). This corner never seemed to light up fully. In short, it was pretty damn dark and mostly obscured by the fog. Perfect.

"No, Derek. I don't want to dance with people. My spidey senses are shot. How can I tell if they're super-villains or not?" Stiles, usually a pretty happy drunk, whined.

Derek snaked one hospital scrubs covered arm around Stiles' waist and pulled him flush against his body, the stethoscope of his costume hitting Stiles in the chin. "Who said anything about other people."

Stiles lifted the chestpiece of the stethoscope around Derek's neck, bringing it to where Derek imagined his mouth was under the costume. He gave an audible huff of air, presumably to warm it up the way he'd seen doctors do before. "Look a'you, Dr. Derek, or should I say McDreamy. Booze make you bold? Is it the costume? DoesSpidermanjustdoitforyou? Bring fire to your loans?" Stiles giggled. "I mean loins."

Derek raised an eyebrow. "Do me a favor, and never say loins again."

Stiles saluted him. "Yes, Sir, oh cap'n my cap'n."

"Shh." He held Stiles tighter against his body and began moving to the music. "The costume does wonders for your ass though."

"Oh yeah." Stiles panted, his coordination a little more off than it was when he was sober, made an awkward roll of his hips. Derek supposed Stiles meant for it to be sexy, but he just ended up looking a bit like Duff Man, thrusting in the general direction of the problem. That wasn't to say Derek didn't like it. They were dancing close enough together for every movement, every sway of their hips, to cause well placed thighs to brush up against the other's groin. Stiles' costume left little to the imagination, and Derek wondered if, hidden by mist, he'd be able to get Stiles off from over his clothes.

Only one way to find out.







Allison hugged Jackson from behind, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Why are you hanging out by the bar?"

"Because," he scoffed, "that's where the booze is?" He really thought it would be obvious. Why they were slumming at this party instead of enjoying a night at one of the fancier clubs downtown, he couldn't figure out.

Lydia jabbed a perfectly manicured finger into his sternum. "Don't be rude. It makes you unattractive. I don't know about Ally, but I don't date unattractive people."

He leaned back into Allison's embrace. He'd take the secret to the grave but he loved when she wore heels, because then she was taller than him. Hell, he kept many secrets about their relationship, especially that he craved, for once, not being in control of something the way he needed in every.other.aspect.in his life. He gave up the reins willingly, and his girlfriends were more than happy to take over. Lydia had done that almost as soon as the two of them started dating. It worked just fine, but then- The three of them talked about that night often, that night when Lydia came back to campus carrying three bottles of fifteen year old merlot she'd lifted from her parents wine cellar claiming they'd never miss them among all the other bottles of booze down there.

Before that night, he'd never so much as tried wine, but it was finals week and he was stressed out like crazy. One glass turned to two then three and before he knew it, before any of them knew it, their night of 'high class sophisticated drinking' had devolved into fits of giggles and a lot of cuddles. He'd like to say he was worried… jealous even when Lydia climbed into Allison's lap and started kissing her like Allison was the air she'd been missing all her life, but- yeah maybe sober he would have been, but then, sober, maybe none of that would have happened in the first place. It was not a thought he wanted to entertain. He couldn't even fathom a world where Allison had not become part of their relationship. Lydia assured him it wasn't because something was missing even though they'd been together since high school, and he blindly believed her. The first time Allison kissed him removed any lingering doubt. She was like Lydia in many ways, but softer around the edges, and she just had this way of balancing the two of them out. Looking back on it, they'd hung out so much those first few months of freshman year that by the time they actually became a thing, the only difference was sex, which was… well…

 

"Come on," Allison's words snapped him out of his head and his delicious daydream of just how great the sex was. "We found a much better place to spend the rest of the party," she reached out and grabbed Lydia's hand, bringing it to her lips. "Milady, shall I escort you and Little John to Sherwood Forest?"

Lydia feigned surprise, holding her hand over her heart. "Why, dear Robyn, run away with you? I thought you'd never ask."

Jackson rolled his eyes at their facade. Okay, so he'd agreed to dress up in this theme costume they wanted. He did not agree to the charade, just like he didn't agree to wearing tights, yet here they were. He was about to go back to his drink, when Lydia caught him by the collar and dragged him along. "What are you-"

She rose up on her toes, silencing him with a scorching kiss that sucked all the air from his lungs, made his knees weak. Four years together and both women still had that effect. Keep it together, Whittemore.

"Trust us," she said, pulling back to look at him, staring long at the shocked, yet enamored look he knew graced his face at the moment, "we are way more interesting than that beer. Also," she placed her lips next to his ear, "Ally and I aren't wearing underwear." He gulped and nodded, his mouth suddenly bone dry.

Allison tripped over a couple who sat on the floor beside the couch making out. None of them were sober, Jackson probably the closest to it, yet still buzzed. She bumped into the wall, and Lydia crashed into her. Something about this was hilarious, sending them off into a fit of giggles. A little embarrassed, she covered her mouth, but her girlfriend simply moved her hand out of the way.

Jackson felt like the luckiest fly on the wall as he watched Lydia nip and sucked at Allison's lower lip. "Why Maid Marion, you're positively shameless."

"I know," she moved Allison's hands to her ass, "it's a secret power of mine." Reaching behind her, she fumbled for a moment, but eventually found Jackson's hand and yanked him towards them so she could focus her attention on him. "How long do you think it would take you to get me out of this stay?"

"Stay?" his voice squeaked as Allison took his earlobe between her teeth. "What is a-"

"This," she pointed to her bodice, "it's the corset's older and easier to remove sister, and a total anar...anacher..." she bit back a cackle as she stumbled over the word, "anachronism for Maid Marion. So… how long?"

He licked his lips where the faint taste of both Lydia and Allison's lip glosses remained. "Um… I don't-"

"I think," Allison said, "he'd rather watch me do it. Wouldn't you?"

His mouth wouldn't form words. So instead, he nodded emphatically, and once more found himself at the mercy of his girlfriends as they guided him towards...

"The laundry room?" Ah there was his voice.

"Watch this." Allison pressed an open mouthed kiss to the hinge of his jaw before she stepped away from him. He chased the contact like an eager puppy until she splayed a hand on his sternum, holding him in place while she helped Lydia up onto the washing machine. She twisted the dial to the right spot and pulled it towards her to start the machine back up. What in the - "This, you're gonna love this," she said, a cheeky smirk play at the corner of one side of her lips. As her fingers went to at the ties of Lydia's top, he could literally picture the fuses blowing in his mind. When she'd unlaced it enough, and then tugged it up over Lydia's head, she pushed down the loose fitting chemise off Lydia's shoulders, letting it fall around her waist.

With Lydia's breasts exposed, Allison took one rosy nipple into her mouth, and Jackson pretty much melted into a puddle on the floor

"Unph," he groaned, watching the scene unfold. It wasn't his first time watching the two of them. In fact, the private display of voyeurism the two of them often engaged in was the best fucking foreplay, the biggest turn-on of anything he'd ever experienced (and yes, it even topped hearing Lydia shout 'Stroke, stroke, stroke' over and over into her cox box from her seat in the stern. Those words created a fantastic mental picture).

After a moment or two, he decided he'd had enough watching. He gave Allison a light hipcheck to move her off to the side, earning a playful smack on his ass. While Allison mouthed at Lydia's breast, he captured Lydia's lips with his own, hissing in a mix of pain and pleasure when she grabbed the top of his hair and tugged... hard, and so sue him if that hiss turned to a whimper. Did he look like he fucking cared?

Within a minute or two, the washing machine started to shake.

Allison reached out and pushed on his shoulders. "What?" he panted.

"This is the best part." As if on cue, Lydia began gasping, moaning as the machine's unbalanced load, caused it to vibrate harder. She started moving her hips in tiny circles, anything to get friction. Once more, Allison pushed on his shoulders. "Remember what she said about underwear?"

Jackson caught on to her hint. He pushed up Lydia's skirt and dropped to his knees, thanking every deity he could think of that the three of them were alone in that laundry room.







"Oh my god," Stiles groaned, dropping his head onto Derek's shoulder. Out of breath, boneless (heh heh boneless. Good one, Stiles), and buzzed, he wished he wasn't wearing this ridiculous costume. "I really wanna kiss you. Let's get outta here, McDreamy. Can I tell you my secret? How I fitinthiscostume… I may... or may not be," he pointed to Derek, "only wearing a jockstrap under my suit."

Derek stared at him, eyes blinking, mouth open.

"I break your brain?" Stiles didn't give him time to reply and tugged him out the door. "Gimme my phone?" He made grabby hands at him until Derek placed it in his hand and was about to send a message to Scott when he saw the ones from his dad

 

 

He rolled his eyes. Yeah, he was in no mood to make that phone call right now. He wasn't nearly drunk enough to be able to handle the tears in his dad's voice when he told him about the diagnosis nor was he sober enough to explain things in detail. Instead, he went with the safer option: Scott. He'd sent a text hours ago that went unanswered.

His step-brother, along with Boyd, made the bus trip to Madison to support their girlfriends' away games this weekend. At this moment, Stiles was almost positive Scott was out partying on State Street, enjoying festivities way more exciting than the house party he and Derek had attended.

He laughed when he finally saw a response.

 

 

 

 

 

Derek looked over his shoulder. "He calls me Honey Bunny?"

"Idone'enknow. He's trashed."

"Remind me in the morning to call Laura and ask her about her," before he could even finish the sentence, he started giggling, and wow, he was more buzzed than he thought, " trip."  He watched Stiles skip ahead of him. "What are you-"

Stiles turned and looked over his shoulder. "Catch me, McDreamy."

"Stop calling me that!"

"But it's your guilty pleasure," his laugh filled the space between them, “and it’s true. So, so dreamy.”

Derek chased after him as he turned down an alley. "Not a guilty pleasure. Straight up favorite. It's our thing, Laura and me."

"You two have lossa 'things.' It's hard to keep track. Lossa things that don’ include me. Wish they did.” Even drunk, Derek noticed the way Stiles’ words had a hint of jealousy in them. “Don' think I don' know you cried li' a baby in season 6 finale." He held up five fingers before noticing he'd miscounted, "right...six."

"You'd have cried too when Charles-"

Stiles stopped and lay a hand on Derek's shoulder. "Right now, how much you wanna watch me work my Spidey Mojo?"

Derek crossed his arms over his chest. "Tons," he said with a smirk. When Stiles chuckled and started climbing on the dumpster, the smile dropped from his face. "What are you doing? You are gonna fall."

"Shu' your beau'iful mouth Dr. Derek. I am a masssster climber."

Derek dug his fingers into his upper arms as he watched, on edge, as his boyfriend drunkenly scaled the dumpster. When Stiles' hands grabbed hold of the fire escape ladder just above his head, Derek flinched, his buzz all but vanishing. "How are you doing this? You've been in enough pain the last couple days to make you cry."

"Beauty of liquid courage, mon amour. I am feeling noooooo pain at all."

"Please get down."

"Ah ah ah. Not yet. You'll catch me if I fall."

He would, or at least try. Unconfident in his Stiles’ ability to catch himself, Derek took several steps forward and felt his stomach dropped when Stiles climbed up a couple feet before sliding his legs over one of the rungs. "What are you-" His words died on his lips when Stiles let go of the rails. For a moment, he actually thought his boyfriend was trying to fall. That is, until Stiles leaned back, locking his feet around the rails, and hung upside down.

 

 

"Don' look at me li' that. I can't be Spi'erman and not do this. C'mere."

Derek rolled his eyes, but obliged.

"Closer." He took another step toward him. "Closer, li'l more, more." Finally, reluctantly, Derek stood less than a foot from him. "Tha's better. Now...why doncha pull down my mask and be my MJ?"

"Your mask comes off?"

"Uh yeah."

For fuck's sake. If he'd known that, he would have kissed him senseless at the party. He fumbled around the back of Stiles' costume, trying to figure out how to get that damned mask off.

"Unzip me. Jus'a bit. Then you jus' gotta pull the mask down."

Oh, of course it was that easy.

"Ma' sure you don't pull it off all the way. Jus' like the movie."

The bunched up mask had this way of accentuating Stiles' lips, sort of framing them for Derek. They felt impossibly soft against his own, especially for all the whining Stiles' had made about how being sick had chapped them. The faint orange flavor of his lip balm, he could smell that too, along with rum, citrus, traces of lotion, sweat, and the ever present spiciness that Stiles smelled like naturally all mixed together. It was a heady aroma. Together, he tasted like reckless abandon and smelled like a safe haven.

Derek licked into his mouth, tongue tracing along Stiles' bottom teeth. The worry about him falling still lingered in the forefront of Derek's mind. So he lifted his arm and placed a steady hand on Stiles' back, right between his shoulder blade. Did he think it would work? Not so much, but it was something.

Stiles reached down and plucked the Batman patterned surgeon's hat from atop his head. The smooth fabric of Stiles' gloved fingers was a far different feeling than he was used to from him. There was no attempt to pull at his hair, no roughness in his touch. Just the soft massaging of strong fingers against his scalp.

It had begun to drizzle, and the water was ice cold against the back of his neck. It felt nice, especially against his flushed skin. Derek could hear his heart pounding in his ears, was sure Stiles could feel it through the thumb with which he was caressing his cheek. He curled his fingers in the sweat damp hair at the base of Stiles' skull, raking his nails against the skin. The purr Stiles made in appreciation sent vibrations buzzing against his lips. He chased the sensation, tried to elicit the sound from Stiles again, anything to feel that delicious tingle once more. Every sound Stiles made when they kissed, during sex, the enamored hum of approval of a satisfied lover made Derek greedy for it.

The constant and gentle pressure of Stiles' tongue sliding along his set every nerve aflame, there in that alley, empty yet illuminated enough it gave little in the way of privacy. Desperate and emboldened for once, he tried to get his fill, to satiate that ravenous craving he'd felt in the depths of his soul for so long. Hell, Derek was certain he'd been drunk on him since that first day. Stiles had somehow sunk his hooks into Derek so deep that he would never, could never shake them loose.

"Hate to bust this up, but… arm's gettin' tired," Stiles mumbled against Derek's lips, kiss bitten and swollen. He pushed away and then attempted to sit up and grab the rung but failed. The mix of alcohol and the blood rush to his head seemed  too much to overcome

Swaying a little on his feet, Derek pushed him up to the rung. That was… singlehandedly the best kiss of his life. His mind was devoid of a coherent thought; it was beautiful.

He reached out to catch him when he stumbled as his feet touched ground. "Whoa there," his voice wavered like he'd run a marathon; chest heaving and out of breath, it felt like he'd run one too, "I got you."

"See, knew you'd catch me." Stiles patted Derek's chest, hand stilling over his pounding heart. "Lemme jus'..." he said and, licking his lips, pulled off his hood, smoothing down his hair. His fingers fondled the chestpiece of the stethoscope, picking it up like he'd done at the party, but instead of blowing a hot puff of air onto it, he pulled it from around Derek's neck, "...listen." Once he had the eartips in, he tugged on Derek's collar and held the diaphragm against his skin.

If Derek didn't know any better, he'd mistake the butterfly rash across Stiles' cheeks for a blush, rosy tinted to complement the bashful smile playing at his lips as he listened. He could feel his chest swell with emotion, and surged forward to capture Stiles' lips in another kiss. "Come on," he said tugging Stiles back towards the street. He just needed to get him out of that costume as soon as possible.

 

***

 

The sound of retching roused Derek from his sleep. As his eyes took a moment to adjust to the light pouring in his room from the hallway, he scooted out of bed and towards the bathroom where he found Stiles gripping the toilet bowl hard enough his knuckles had turned white. There was just enough space between the toilet and shower stall to sit beside him and rub his back in comforting circles.

"Don't say a word."

"I did-"

Stiles groaned and heaved once more. "You were going to say 'I told you so.' Save it. I know it was stupid, okay?"

"Actually," he said, prying one of Stiles' hands from the seat, intertwining their fingers, "I was going to ask if you needed me to do anything. Do you want some juice, water? Cool washcloth on your neck?"

Stiles picked his head up enough to turn and face him, brows knit together, face painted with confusion as clear as day. "Why would-"

"I already know you realize your mistake. What good does it do me to harp on you about it? Sit tight." He hurried into the kitchen for a glass of orange juice, and when he returned he sat it on the counter while he dampened a rag. Derek was just about to hand both to him, but Stiles started crying.

"It was so stupid. So, so, stupid."

Derek pushed the glass of juice into his hand, positioning the washcloth around his neck. "You got drunk. Big deal. Don't beat yourself up about it." He kissed the top of Stiles’ his head, his hair sweat damp.

"No, you don't get it. Kidneys are one of the most vulnerable organs in Lupus patients, and it just makes your flares worse. Alcohol just makes them work harder, and hell if they're already inflamed, or your liver- I never saw my mom drink, not once, not even the New Year's toast. I just- Oh god." He barely had time to get back over the bowl before getting sick again. "It's irresponsible. I don't want to be years down the road and on dialysis or waiting for a transplant because I was stupid."

Derek sat back down beside him and kissed his temple. "One time is not going to do anything." Right? He actually wasn’t sure. Was the crying because Stiles was exhausted from throwing up and still a little drunk? Derek rubbed the back of his neck. Who was he kidding? This was his reaction to the diagnosis hitting him full-force while still a little drunk. If he was being honest, Stiles wasn’t the only one who’d used booze to cope that night.

Now that his buzz had worn off, the brick in Derek’s stomach had returned. He opened his mouth to try and soothe Stiles’ apprehension, but instead, Stiles turned and grabbed the fabric of his t-shirt and gave him a little shake.

"Don't you ever let me drink more than one at a time again. Ever." His solemn expression, despite the tears rolling down his cheeks was easy to agree with.

"Okay. I won't."

Stiles grabbed the compress from around his neck and used it to wipe his mouth, and then taking a tentative sip of juice. "And if I'm an asshole about it, remind me of this moment. If I'm still pissy, tell me I'm being selfish, that you don't want to watch me wither on the transplant list. Got it?"

He gave him a warm but earnest smile; it hid the way his heart stuttered in his chest at the mental image Stiles’ words had drummed up in his mind. An image that was filled with hospital machines and wires, beeping, and sallow skin. He swallowed the lump in his throat.. "Yeah. I promise. Come back to bed. I'll run to the pharmacy when they open and get you some Pepto." As soon as he pulled him to his feet, Stiles fell into his chest, clutching his shirt once more.

"This isn't fair, Derek. Why did this happen to me, too? Isn't enough it took my mom?"

"Shh, shh," he wrapped his arms around him, and held him until he stopped shaking. "Life sucks like that." Derek backed them up and into his room, pulling Stiles back into bed with him. No sooner than they both hit the mattress, Stiles had curled into his chest sobbing.

"I got you. I got you. Just let it out. I got you."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles unlocked his door. He was exhausted, not so much physically, but mentally drained. Giving Scott a quick wave, he prayed the bathroom was free. It should be as the two guys in the room next door were partiers. It would be a lit- He massaged his temples. Why they hell was he even worrying about this?

He tested the door handle, breathing a sigh of relief to find it open. Once under the spray, he let the hot water beat down on his shoulders. Today had been his first appointment with Dr. Morrell, and the day had been long. The whole week had been so far; it was only Tuesday. Yesterday, he had the wonderful pleasure of spending half the day at the hospital for chest x-rays and an ECG because Morrell wanted to have the results available for his appointment.

The tests came back normal, so that was one less thing to worry about. They'd gone over all his symptoms and whether he had noticed anything in particular to trigger a flare-up. He didn't have an answer for her, because, thankfully, after the hell that was the month of October, November had been a cakewalk. So, he'd told her that, while he wasn't miserable, he pretty much had a headache at least every other day, and his joints ached most of the time. But… it was manageable. Ibuprofen worked most for aches and pains, and those that didn't he just suffered through it.

Then there was blood work. Always with the blood work. Apparently, that would be a common thing from then on. He didn't remember that bit from when his mom was alive. However, he was an old pro at pissing in a cup. Stiles had taken one look at the nurse when she asked him if he knew how that worked and said "I'm a Division I athlete, I've been piss tested four times this season alone. I think I can manage." Then, he promptly apologized for his rudeness, chalking it up to nerves, which wasn't entirely a lie. Doctor's offices had always made him nervous, and since the first available appointment clashed with Derek's one class that was strict on attendance, he'd dealt with steadily mounting anxiety until he boarded the 6 bound for downtown. Why did Dr. Morell have to be down in Edina? Better yet...

Why didn't he have a car? Next time, he'd just ask if he could borrow Derek's car.

Stiles finished up and walked back into his room where he found Scott sprawled out in the beanbag chair playing Xbox.

"Damn it. So, I can't decide what to wear for dinner Thursday night," Scott said as his character died on screen.

"Are you eating at the Yukimura's house or going out?"

"House."

Stiles grabbed a pair of fleece pajama pants out of his drawer and pulled them up over his boxers. "But you've met them before. So I mean you shouldn't stress."

Scott groaned as he died again, flopping back in the chair and looking up at the ceiling. "I met Mr. Yukimura. I've seen pictures of Kira's mom. She seems terrifying, like she could cut me in half with a katana."

"Well," he said, pulling up the second bean bag so he could sit beside his step-brother on the floor, "maybe nice pants and a button down?"

Scott stood and walked to the clothes rack the two of them shared. "So I put together three choices. Let me show you." He quickly dressed in the first outfit. "So?"

Stiles quirked an eyebrow at him. The t-shirt and skinny jeans combo looked better suited on a skateboard than Thanksgiving dinner with your girlfriend's parents. "Really thought this one through, didn't you?"

"You don't like it?"

Diplomacy, Stiles thought, was the best approach. "Maybe. Let me see the others." Please be better than this one.  "Wait," he said, snapping a quick picture, "that way we can compare." He waited until Scott had modeled all three. "Yeah, I like the last one."

"I was thinking the second, but-" Scott stared at him as he tapped away on his phone. "What are you doing?"

"Hmm? Oh, I'm consulting Lydia. She's a good judge of these things."



"She says to go with the third one." Stiles grabbed his laptop off his desk and fired up Skype. "Anyway, pause your game. It's weekly Skype time." After a groan from Scott, he dialed his dad and Melissa. Soon, the screen filled with Melissa's face.

"Hi, Mom." Scott waved to the screen.

"Hey, Mel. What's Pops up to?"

"Short staffed at the station. Half the department is out with the flu. Let me call him in."

Stiles drummed his fingers on the fabric of his bean bag chair while he waited. They often had to have a three way call. Oh the wonders of unpredictable work schedules. Then, a familiar bark came from somewhere in the house, and he watched the screen in anticipation. Soon, the cheerful, black and tan face of their German Shepherd, Harley came into view, as the dog stood on her hind legs and propped her remaining front paw on the table. "Who's my pretty girl? Who's my pretty girl? Look at you, Harley. Did Mommy take you to get groomed?" he asked upon seeing the tiny pink bow tied in the fur between her ears. "Oh, and they painted your nails. Such a pretty puppy."

Harley barked, and though he couldn't see it, he knew her tail was wagging off camera. She used to be a Police Dog, but after being shot in the line of duty and losing her leg, the force had to retire her. Harley had always been his favorite--he'd been the one to name her after all. Her official name if you read the tag was Harley Q. Stilinski, the Q standing for Quinn--and he'd begged his dad to adopt her instead of letting her go to another home where he'd never see her again. He missed his dog.

However, Melissa, it seemed had had enough of the baby talk directed at the dog. "Ready for Thanksgiving, boys? Big one for both of you."

Scott laughed, the sound full of nervous tension. "No, I'm nervous as hell, Mom."

Melissa's warm smile seemed to put Scott at ease. "Take a deep breath. Be yourself. I know that sounds like ridiculous advice, but it's the best I have. You love Kira, and she loves you. That Scott is the one you should bring to dinner. Don't try to go out of your way to impress her parents. If you're just your usual self, I'm sure it will be fine." She pursed her lips and thought for a beat. "But I would leave the off-color jokes at home though." She turned her attention to Stiles, but only managed to say his name before John's call finally connected.

"Heya, Dad. I hear the department is full of slackers."

"Very funny, Stiles."

He shrugged. "That's me."

 

 

"How are you feeling, Sweetie? You had your first rheumatology appointment today didn't you?"

He rubbed the back of his neck. "It was less nerve wracking than yesterday. Nothing like an ECG to ratchet up the anxiety."

"How'd that go?" his father's voice pulled his attention away from Melissa.

"Good. Dr. Morrell said my heart looks good, and my lungs are fine for now."

His father's brows drew into a deep furrow. "For now? Is your doctor worried about it becoming a problem? I mean, I know it can change at any time."

"She said that being an athlete should help. Staying active will keep my heart healthy, just like anyone. It will help with the inflammation in my joints too. But um, she prescribed me… I forget the name. Lemme check." He stood and dug the prescription out of his pants pocket. "Uh wow. I cannot read this. It looks like hydro-something-quinine? She said it was an antimalarial drug. Ring a bell, Melissa?"

"Plaquenil. Make sure you keep regular eye doctor appointments on that one."

"Yeah, she said that, too." He looked at his dad's face. The worry in his eyes and brow, just the way he held his features had changed since Stiles had called him hungover the day after Halloween to give him the news. His dad looked about as awful as Stiles felt all through that Skype conversation. It was as though the man was already talking to a ghost. Tears were shed that morning, too many, and Stiles had resolved to keep the news as positive as he could regarding his illness, sugar coat any bad news, play up the good stuff. It seemed to be working.

His father cleared his throat. "It goes without saying, but I know how you are. Try and keep your stress levels low." When Stiles gave him an uncomfortable chuckle, John rolled his eyes. "I know, I know. Kind of hard in your sport, but I mean it. And don't worry about your doctor being out of network."

"But Dad, that's-"

"My job to worry about as your parent? That's correct."

"She's expensive. I looked into it."

"Mhm. Why am I not surprised? It will be fine." His dad seemed ready to change the conversation away from discussing Stiles' battle with the same disease that had killed his first wife. "Ready to meet Derek's family?"

"Nope," Stiles said, letting the 'p' pop off his lips. "But what can you do? Derek is still terrified about it. I can't say I blame him."

"Well," Melissa said, "tell him if it doesn't go well, he'll always have a place in our family."

He gave his step-mother a tiny smile. "Thanks. And Dad," he pointed at the screen, "don't eat too much of those au gratin potatoes Gram makes on Thursday." While Scott, Melissa, and himself all laughed, John groaned. "Well, I'm beat. I'm heading to bed. I'll call Thursday."

"Good night, boys," John and Melissa said in unison.

"Night." Stiles closed the laptop cover.

"Do you want me to turn off the TV so you can sleep?"

"You're a saint, Scotty. I could kiss you."

"That's really not-"

Stiles cut off Scott's words by kissing the top of his head. "No, you can keep playing. I'll just put on my headphones." He felt like such a loser going to bed before nine and grabbed his phone to fire off a good night text to Derek, who wouldn't be out of class for another fifteen minutes.

 

 

Under the covers, he smirked. Derek was never cold and frequently poked fun at him for being a freeze baby.

 

 

It was hard to argue with that. So, he clambered down the ladder to change into sweatpants and put on his shoes. Scott was so engrossed in his game he didn't even notice him moving around the dorm room until Stiles was at the door.

"Dude, where are you going?"

Stiles shook his phone at him. "Someone is lonely. See you tomorrow, man."  He waved and walked out the door bound for the lobby. For as exhausted as his mind was, he felt all the tension bleed out of his body when he saw the Camaro pull up in front of the building. "So you were cold and you wanted to snuggle? You really expect me to believe that?"

Derek leaned across the center console and kissed him. "No. I just wanted to see you. The cuddling was a bonus."





* * *



Stiles whistled from where he sat in the passenger seat as Derek pulled the Camaro to a stop in the Hale family driveway. "That's not conspicuous at all." His words were heavy with sarcasm, but he gave Derek a warm smile nonetheless.

"What were you expecting when I first told you I grew up in Wayzata?" Derek rolled his eyes at him over the roof of the car. He shut the door and walked back to the open trunk to grab his duffel bag.

"I know… but it's one thing to hear you say it and another to see it. This house is gorgeous." Stiles stared at the fountain in front of him. It had been shut off for the winter, but Stiles wondered how cool it would look for the woman tipping a pitcher to have frozen water coming out of one of the decanters. "Derek, you have a fountain in the middle of your driveway… roundabout… thing."

Derek shook his head with a chuckle. "It's called a circular driveway, and the fountain came with the house."

"Yeah, well… sure makes me look like a gold digger. I mean our driveway--you saw it--it's ancient concrete with tons of cracks with little plants that grow through them, pissing my dad off to no end as he gets out the sprayer of RoundUp to kill the suckers about fifty times a year."

Derek gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I didn't realize that was an actual thing you were worried about."

Stiles stared, slack jawed for a moment before he blinked a couple times and found his voice again. "Why would I be worried about my dad's battle with the driveway weeds?"

"I meant about the money thing."

"I'm not. I mean, I don't think- I won't be the one to make the statement that's all. And you… kissed me."

He bumped into Stiles' shoulder. "Well yeah. That's why I brought you to Thanksgiving, right? To say 'Family, this is my boyfriend.' They're bound to see us kissing sometime." Laughing, he opened the door for Stiles, and they walked inside. "I'd tell you to leave your stuff here so I could give you the grand tour, but Grandma is already here, and she is very particular about clutter around the house.”

“I thought your grandma lived in Edina not here.”

“What? No, she doesn't live with us. She just thinks she's in charge of this house too.  It's a long story. So um, follow me."

Derek made it about ten feet before he realized Stiles was not following him, and turning around, saw him, head craned towards the ceiling. "What?"

"Chandeli-" Stiles shook his head. "It's nothing. Sorry. Continue."

Derek led him to the stairs. "So upstairs is the master suite, the family and game room, Luke's room and our room, mine and Laura's." He pointed to two closed bedroom doors. "Parent's is on the left, and the other one is Luke's." He rapped on the door.

From inside, he heard rustling and swearing as his brother, presumably tripped over something he'd left lying around. A few moments later, his brother opened the door.

"Derek!" Luke wrapped him in a hug. "I thought you were coming later, closer to dinner."

He reached out and held a hand at the top of Luke's head and then drew it towards him, measuring the kid's height against his own. He came up to Derek's chin. "What has Mom been feeding you?"

"Nervous both Jake and I will be taller than you?"

"Little bit." He gestured to Stiles. "This is Stiles, he's-"

"Derek, I think I'd recognize the Gopher's goalie after all the games Mom and Dad bring me to," before Derek could elaborate, that no, Stiles was not just the goalie, Luke extended his hand. "Nice to meet you. Rough for all you out of state guys, having no break to enjoy Thanksgiving"

Beside him, Derek saw Stiles smirk. "Not so bad usually. I mean last year, my step-brother and I gorged ourselves on pizza and played XBox all night in our dorm room. But, he's meeting his girlfriend's parents this year."

Luke clapped Stiles on the back. "Well good of my brother to make sure you didn't spend the holiday alone."

Derek resigned himself that he'd just tell everyone all at once. It would be easier. "So yeah, Luke's room, as you can see is a disaster. Good old seventeen-year-old rebellion at work. Anyway. We'll be staying in my old room. I think Laura will be staying tonight."

"Don't tell me you plan on making him sleep on that awful futon."

He straightened his posture. "I'm a better host than that. Come on, Stiles. Let's set our bags down."

They walked down the hall, past the family room where he pointed out the pool table and dart board, but Stiles didn't seem interested. There was a bathroom off the game room, and he made sure to tell Stiles that the shower always took at least ten minutes to get warm. When he opened the door to his childhood bedroom, Derek fully expected some kind of sassy remark from his boyfriend. Everyone else always had something to say about it, but no words came. Instead he was met with coos.

"Aww, kochanie. This is cute. When I pictured a shared bedroom, I really expected half the room to be one color and clash with the other side. A giant bookcase would split the room, and where the shelf didn't cover, there would be like caution tape dividing the room, sort of saying keep out. There would be Laura's contradictory love of leather and flowers, and then your super tidy half would be navy blue with band posters and ticket stubs stuck to the wall. You'd probably have an equipment bag sticking out of the closet, which would also be immaculately organized."

Derek made sure the door was latched behind him and pulled him into a warm embrace, arms encircling his waist and sticking his hands in Stiles' back pockets ass he held him closer. "Put a lot of thought into what my bedroom looked like at home did you?"

"Well yeah. It was like Narnia, this mythical place I knew existed but couldn't figure out how to get to. Instead, it's a blue room, separated by a curtain that looks like the Milky Way. You have matching bedding."

"No, we don't. Lolo's is a galaxy print and mine is constellations, Pegasus to be exact."

Stiles kissed his forehead. "Even better, and what is that?" he asked pointing to a lamp on their shared table.

"That's a star lamp. They're not very accurate, but we've had it forever. There's this one, but it's always out of stock whenever I try to buy it. It projects actual constellations, and you can buy extra discs. They have this one of the Aurora Borealis. Sometimes, when the sky is clear, and conditions are right you can see them from out on the dock and," he blushed, "I'm being a nerd, aren't I?"

"Mmhm," Stiles mumbled against his lips, "but I love it when you talk geeky to me." He backed Derek up against the wall and licked into his mouth, hands bracketing either side of his head. Derek's head spun when he rolled his hips into him.

"Oh god," he groaned as Stiles did it again, this time slipping a hand into his hair.

"Nope, just Laura," his sister chimed, walking into the room and tossing her bag onto the bed.

Like two kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar, Stiles and Derek broke apart, faces flushed red. Stiles smoothed his hands down his shirt front, as if he thought that would cover up what they'd been doing.

Derek fought for words. "I, uh, we-"

"Uh huh. Don't mind me if you two want to keep making out. Just pull the curtain and put on some music or something."

"No, I should finish the tour." They quickly fled the room, and Derek tried to ignore her satisfied smirk on the way out.






* * *



They had just come back inside from Derek showing Stiles around the yard. The ground was covered by a couple inches of snow on it, and the way it settled onto the ice of the partially frozen lake was breathtaking. Derek, the secret sap he was, shuffled through the powder to mark out a heart in the snow complete with their initials. Stiles couldn't help but fall a little bit more in love with him. Of course, he had to go and trip over absolutely nothing and fall right into the middle of Derek's creation, effectively ruining it.

Once inside, they shed their boots in the mud room by the back door and hung their coats up on a couple pegs. On their way back through the house so Derek could introduce him to the rest of the family, Stiles stopped to stare at the photo wall in the hallway.

"What?"

"That's a cute picture," he said, pointing to a frame holding a photo of two kids on a beach. The older of the two children, a girl, looked to be about ten and the boy, maybe a year and a half. He glanced over to see Derek blush.

 

"That's Hannah and me."

"Aww. You were such a cute baby, Derek."

"That's one of my favorite pictures,” someone said from behind them.

Startled, Stiles clutched at his chest, panting.

"Hi, Mom."

And of course that was Derek's mom. The family resemblance was quite strong between them. He stepped out of the way so they could hug. Derek managed a brief introduction of his name only when the oven timer went off.

"Excuse me. I'd love to chat some more, but I have a dish to rescue from the oven. Your father, lord knows where he went to hide. Probably showing off the new TV in the family room to Peter," she said with an eye roll as she fled the room.

 

 

Stiles poked him in the side when he saw the family portrait. "Oh god! You're wearing a sweater and plaid," he cackled. "That's- I can't- You." He wiped away tears of mirth from his eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't-"

"Uh huh. Save it."

The thundering sounds of quick footsteps approached them, and Stiles watched as two young children barreled into Derek and hugged his legs. "Uncle Derek!"

"Hi there, Munchkins." Stiles was pretty sure he cooed out loud when Derek picked them both up, a child on each hip so they could hug him properly. "You're getting so big."

"I know," the boy said. "Mama always tells us to drink our milk so we grow big and strong. I drinked all my milk at snack time, but Sophia was naughty, and didn't drink hers."

"I see. Well, Sophie, don't you want to be big and tough like Auntie Laura?" Derek asked.

"I told Grammy that I don't like white milk and I wanted chocolate milk, but she gived me white milk."

"Tragedy of the times." Derek set them both on the floor. "This is Stiles."

"Nice to meet you, Stiles," Sophie curtseyed. "My name is Sophie."

"Nuh uh. Her name is Sophia."

She stuck her tongue out at her brother. "Shut up, Sammy."

"Well, Sophie," Stiles said, kneeling down to her level, "It's okay to use a nickname. Stiles is a nickname."

She poked Sammy in the arm. "Told ya so."

At the sound of Derek's bit back chuckle, Stiles looked up at him.

"So um, this, as you probably figured out, is Sophie and Sammy. They're Hannah and Mark's kids. I am pretty sure I told you about them at least once. They're five."

"You did. Many, many times.” The pair of children took off running through the house again, knocking into Stiles in the process. Derek managed to catch him so he didn't crash to the floor, and Stiles joked to break the tension. "Must be something in the water here."

Derek rolled his eyes at him. "Very funny. But yeah, obviously, twins run in my family. Well among the women in my family. I have two uncles Benjamin and Anthony who are twins, but um, they share a business in Spain. They don't come stateside much."

Stiles couldn't help himself; he just had to keep up the game. "Well then, it's a good thing you're not a girl. I don't think I could manage twins,” he said with a smirk and continued down the hall, knowing all too well that the blush creeping across the back of Derek's neck was because of his words.

"You want something to drink?" He asked. Well--squeaked was more accurate--opening the door into the garage.

"Um, sure. What do you have?" He shivered against the chill in the garage. It was certainly warmer than outside, but significantly colder than inside.

"Lemonade? Otherwise, it's all soda or booze in here, and I know you gave it up so..."

He took a can of the proffered beverage from Derek.

"My dad likes to make Arnie Palmer's out of those. There's probably some iced tea in the kitchen fridge."

"This is fine." When Derek leaned forward and stole a kiss, Stiles beamed back at him. "It's nice." Derek gave his best bewildered puppy expression, and he reached out to smooth the wrinkle between his brows that he got when confused. "Seeing you this happy. It's nice."

Stiles just had to open his mouth, because as soon as they reentered the house, Derek took two steps and literally ran into his older brother. Flustered, Derek stepped back and looked up at Jake. Stiles wasn't joking; the guy had at least three inches on Derek.

 

 

 

 

"Hey, Little Bro. So Mom tells me you finally brought someone home." He looked around his brother where he was met with Stiles waving to him. "This your boyfriend?"

Wait what? How did he- before Derek could say anything, Jake answered his own question.

"Easy, Derek. No one in our family could ever be gay. What kind of sick joke would that be? Think of the controversy. Not that we have anything to worry about. All our heads are on straight as an arrow flies."

He felt a brick settle in his stomach. "What?"

Jack cackled. "Oh my God. You thought I was serious!" He clapped him on the back. "You need to lighten up and get laid, Derek. Can't stay a prude for life. What about Angela from my office? She's hot, single, and from what I hear, an animal in the sack. I'd hate for you to go so long without it that your mind start playing tricks on you."

Derek's mind had blanked on him, and he froze, unable to form a single thought. "Um..."





Stiles spared a glance over at his boyfriend just in time to see Derek's brain short circuit. Quick, think quick. He opened his mouth but Derek's brother just kept talking. Some people really needed to quit when they were ahead lest they hit bottom and keeping digging that hole.

"Jesus,  Derek. I'm joking. We need to get you a sense of humor. I can't believe you missed the joke. I mean look at you. As if my little brother could ever be a pillow biting fa-"

Stiles jutted his hand forward, effectively cutting him off. "Stiles, the team goalie. Nice to meet you." Total lie. He tried to steer Jake's attention away from Derek, because out of the corner of his eye, Stiles could see him shutting down. Look, Derek was an expert at hiding emotion, but he had tells just like anyone, and right now? Right now, there was a slight tremor in his right eyebrow. The tightness of his shoulders had increased, and all the lightness he'd been showing all day was gone, erased with a handful of words. He could see Derek swallowing repeatedly, no doubt in attempt to force down the knot in his throat. To the untrained eye, Derek looked merely annoyed, but to Stiles? He knew better. His boyfriend was terrified. So, Stiles did what he did best in uncomfortable situations. He got chatty. "I'm a native Californian with nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. Team policy is not to let that happen. So... for any of us that couldn't make it back home for break, teammates 'adopt' them so to speak. You all get stuck with me."

"Gotta stop bringing home college buddies and bring home the college honeys. That window of opportunity is closing. Then you'll just have the gold diggers after that sweet sweet contract." Jake pulled his ringing phone from his pocket. "Yeah, I gotta take this."

Stiles made a face at the guy's retreating back, waiting until he stepped outside and closed the door before turning to Derek to see the twitch in his brow had moved down to his jaw and continued downward. Subtle trembling had wrapped his body in a vice like grip, and Stiles had been on the wrong end of too many panic attacks to know one when he saw one. He placed a gentle hand on Derek's upper arm. "Hey," he said, voice soft and as open as he could make it, "you never showed me how the shower worked in your bathroom. I'd hate to freeze my balls off in the morning."

Pliant, and with damp eyes, Derek let Stiles lead him upstairs.

He walked Derek over to his bed and coaxed him to sit. Then, he knelt between his legs and took Derek's face in his hands. "I'm sorry."

The wall holding in Derek's emotions broke, and everything came crumbling down. Before he could comfort and talk him through it, Stiles fiddled with the stereo and tuned it to Classical MPR, its volume just loud enough to drown out any noise in the room.  Derek just sat there, shaking in silence with heaving breaths as he hugged himself tightly.

Stiles lay down on the bed and patted the space beside him. Once he managed to pull Derek down to lay down next to him, Stiles wrapped him in his arms, rubbing circles into Derek's back. "Shh. Shh," he mumbled into his hair. "I know it doesn't feel like it, but you are going to be okay. Just focus on your breathing. Better yet, breathe when I breathe." He waited, and thankfully, Derek listened. "That's good. As deep a breath as you can."

"Why- Why're you sorry," Derek choked. "You, you- I- he-"

"Just keep breathing. I'm sorry, because I-" He took a deep breath, "When I said I would like us to be out, be public, I was naive I guess. I had such a positive coming out experience that I just couldn't imagine it not going well for you." He kissed Derek's temple. "It was selfish of me to want that, and-"

"No, no- I," Derek shuddered. "I want them to know. I wanted to do this. I-"

"You can still tell them, if that's what you want." He held him tighter. "But if you can't… we're still good. Okay? You've been trying so hard, and I'm proud of you, kochanie. I am."

Derek nodded against his chest, and after several minutes--how many, Stiles couldn't be sure--he felt the grip of the panic releasing Derek from its clutches.






Derek flopped onto his back and rubbed his temples. "What was that?"

"A panic attack."

"That's what you go through?" the high pitch of his voice shocked him, much like Stiles' words had. "I felt like I was dying."

Stiles rolled on top of him. "Well, mine are usually the result of irrational things like 'Oh my god, am I bugging them?' and 'There are too many people in here. What if they're silently mocking me behind my back?' At least yours had a damn good reason to happen."

"You really won't be mad if I can't?"

Stiles dipped his head to place a soft kiss upon his lips. "No. Safety whether emotional or physical is important."

"Yeah." Derek hated how broken he sounded. "Thank you."

"For talking you through it? No thanks needed. How many of mine have you helped with?"

"No," he wrapped his arms around him, pulling him down to his chest, "I meant for stopping my brother. If he'd finished that sentence, I'm pretty sure I would have broke down crying right in front of him. I've heard people say that about others, gay men in general, but that was about me. He just didn't know it. No one has ever said that to my face, and meant it for me… and I-"

Stiles kissed his nose, caressing his cheek with a quiet tender affection. "If I had my way, no one ever would. Now, why don't you take a shower? You'll feel better; trust me."





* * *



Derek poked at his spanakopita, feeling too agitated to really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, which was a tragedy, because he knew his mother made sure to include this dish especially for him. Phyllo dough was difficult to work with, and his siblings had never really taken to many of her grandmother's recipes. A shame if anyone asked him, though no one did. At least Stiles seemed to be indulging her, helping himself to a second serving. Although, Derek supposed, that had more to do with keeping his mouth constantly full in order to avoid saying more than he intended. Hard to blabber if there was food in your mouth.

He ate a bite, here and there, just enough to keep scrutinizing eyes off his plate, as several conversations went on around him. He heard bits and pieces of them. His Aunt Denise, Peter's wife, was currently debating the merits of crocheting versus knitting with his grandmother, Vivianne. It sounded like a fairly intense conversation given the subject matter, and Derek was just glad that Grandma was staying away from the hotbed conversations of religion and politics she usually tried to bait her son with.

Grandma had been quite vocal in her displeasure over her son's career choice. Not because he'd entered politics. No, she'd been over the moon about that. How wonderful that after all the generations of the great Worthington family name, that someone should aim for elected office. Unfortunately, that came before he revealed his liberal political leanings. It was bad enough, in her eyes that his father, Robert, had taken his wife's last name,  but how dare he side with the people who wanted to take the family money through taxes. They'd been having this argument for as long as Derek could remember; he doubted it would end any time soon.

So he guessed as long as Denise didn't snap at Grandma insulting her choice of handicrafts, all was well. Anything to keep her mind off the usual choice of dinner topic.

Across the table, Peter and Jake were discussing some change to the current banking and investment regulations, fuck if he knew what they were. If it wasn't about sports, then those two always seemed to talk about work. Could be worse, he supposed. It could be-

"You hear about Edgardo Polanco?" Peter asked with a nonchalance that Derek had come to learn meant that his uncle had just asked a loaded question. It was Peter's way of smoothing things over preemptively.

"No," Jake said between bites, "he get busted for PED's?"

Damn it, Peter. Derek knew. Of course he'd heard about it. It was a big deal around MLB and the sports world the way it was anytime an athlete-

"Came out yesterday."

Derek felt Stiles' leg push against his under the table. Thank goodness for long, dark tablecloths. He tucked his ankle around Stiles' and stared down at his meal while he puzzled out a way to get out of hearing range of the conversation.

"God damn it, really?"

He tried to tune him out as his brother went on about why couldn't they stay in the entertainment industry where they belonged and out of organized sports. Peter, thankfully, didn't seem to want to take the bait and engage him in that line of thinking. Unfortunately, Denise felt the need to chime in.

"I just don't see why there is a need to make it a public thing," she said before sipping on her rosé. "I mean, why does anyone need to know what you get up to in the bedroom?"

The only thing he could think of to do was to drink the rest of his beer. Luckily enough, it was almost gone in the first place. So, he stood and grabbed his empty glass and shook it high enough for anyone to see. "I'm gonna grab another. Can I get a refill for anyone else?"

"I'll take another bruskie since you offered, Little Bro."

His mother tapped the top of her nearly empty wine glass. "I could use a little more, Sweetie."

"Stiles? Another lemonade?"

"He doesn't need lemonade. Get him a beer. He's a man not a child," Peter laughed.

Stiles shook his head. "Yeah, I don't really drink. It's not a good idea for me."

Derek's mother, bless her wonderful heart, picked up on what he was saying. "Were you able to get an appointment with Dr. Morrell yet?"

"Yeah. Saw her on Tuesday. She's expensive, but definitely making me feel better about the diagnosis."

"I'm glad you were able to get in right away."

He breathed a sigh of relief as their words were loud enough to drown out the ones of not only Jake and Peter, but Laura who'd jumped in to tell Jake off. He walked into the kitchen, managed to set two of the four empty glasses on the counter, when Laura's voice startled him.

"Because representation matters!"

"Oh get off your high horse, Laura. It's a publicity stunt! Nothing more. Aunt Denise was right. Why do we need to know the fag likes it up the ass?"

His father's fork clattered to his plate. "You know your mother and I do not approve of that type of language in this house!"

"Yeah, sorry, Dad."

Derek almost dropped the glasses when he set them down in order to grip the edge of the counter-top. His knees were shaky, and he wished he could summon the courage to burst back into the dining room and shout 'I'm gay, you asshole!' at the top of his lungs. But, he couldn't. Nor could he get his feet to move in order to flee deeper into the house where he couldn't hear any of the dinner conversation.

"You- I- I have gay friends, Jake! I resent your implications." Derek could picture Laura's face as she said the words. Her face would be beet red with anger, brows furrowed, lip snarling like a furious wolf. If Laura was at a loss for words, then she was definitely seething with rage.

"Oh yeah, I forget like 70% of female hockey players are lesbians. God, I'd love to take a peek in that locker room."

Someone laughed. Derek couldn't really tell who it was, not with the way he was focusing on his breathing the way Stiles had shown him earlier. It wasn't working. This was- one of his worst nightmares was unfolding at Thanksgiving Dinner, and Derek even hadn't said a thing.

"You're a pig,  Jake! By the way, that statistic is entirely made up and has no basis."

"Jesus, Laura! Who died and made you the PC police?  At least the guys' room didn't have that. No way any of us would have stood for that. Queers wouldn't have lasted long. We'd have made sure if it. Nothing a couple of punches wouldn't solve"

Derek fled to garage for the two beers and the lemonade. Inside, he let the chilly air wash over him and relished in the quiet hum of the fridge. Maybe if he stayed in here long enough, they'd forget he'd been at the table at all.

Who the hell was he kidding? Jake would eventually realize he didn't have a drink in hand. Before tonight, Derek hadn't been naive about his older brother. He'd known for years that Jake was this kind of entitled douche who spent way too much money on his appearance, and even more money on strippers. He'd always been kind of a dick, but Derek hadn't realized he was this kind of an asshole.

He grabbed three drinks at random from the fridge and went back into the kitchen.

"I can't believe you." Oh God, Laura's voice had squeaked, which meant she was about a minute away from throwing her drink in his face.

"I'm allowed my opinions, Laura.  And my opinion is that they're fucking disgusting!"

"Language!" his mother snapped. This was all falling apart. He needed- What little he'd eaten, churned in his stomach. "Not only is it inappropriate and vulgar, there are impressionable children at the table!"

"So long as they get the right impression."







Hannah and her husband, Mark both had hands covering Sammy and Sophie’s ears. Stiles could see the mixed looks of discomfort and anger upon their faces.

"As if AIDS wasn't enough of a deterrent for the fuckers-"

"That is enough Jacob William Hale!" He flinched when Derek's mother shouted at her eldest son from where she sat to the right of the table head. He knocked over his glass, but thank goodness it was empty and Derek had- Where was his boyfriend anyway, Stiles wondered. "I will not tolerate that type of language in this house."

"It's a free country, Mom."

"Yes, and just because you have the right to your opinion doesn't mean we need to hear it. Now, can we please talk about something else?" Jake opened his mouth, about to speak in protest, but she cut him off. "No, not another word. I do not want to throw my son out on Thanksgiving, but so help me."

Stiles took a bit of smug satisfaction at the way Jake withered in his seat, shoulders slumping at the embarrassment of being scolded by his mother like a naughty child. He nodded to Cora, "Pass me the salad, Cora?" When he took the proffered bowl, he scooped a heaping serving onto his plate. Morrell did say to eat as many veggies as he could, leafy greens especially… and what was this? The salad greens were entirely spinach. Look! Leafy greens. Good thing he liked the stuff. Not indulging in the mashed potatoes, however, was a harder pill to swallow.

"Thanks. Where's Isaac for Thanksgiving, back home in Duluth with his aunt?"

Cora's lips twitched in amusement. "Nope. She and her new boyfriend are in Tahiti for the holiday. Isaac got roped into Coach Finstock's Thanksgiving dinner."

"So glad I get to miss that one," he scratched his chin. "Full house over there tonight. Coach already has Jordan and Daehler. I think Jackson and Allison were going to make an appearance after spending time with their families."

"Yep. It's hilarious. I tried convincing him to come here for dinner, but he'd already committed to Coach's."

"So, Stiles," Mr. Hale said, wiping his mouth with his napkin, "where in California are you from?"

"Right outside Chico in Northern California." Stiles speared a snow pea with his fork.

"So these winters..."

"Are horrible? Yeah pretty much."

Mrs. Hale finished the last sip of her wine. "What does your dad do?"

Stiles studied her face for a moment wondering how she knew to just ask about his dad, but then again, he figured Derek probably told her about how his mom had passed away. "He's the sheriff of Beacon County and my step-mom, Melissa is the Lead Nurse at our local hospital."

"Your, Dad, is he the reason you're studying criminology?"

"Mhm," he hummed as he chewed. "That and psychology."

"And what do you want to do with that?" Mr. Hale asked. "Profiling?"

Stiles gave him a smirk. "I am a fantastic lie detector. I have a perceptive eye for bad news." He was about to explain further when Laura's fork clattered against her plate, snapping his, and everyone's attention towards her.

"How did we manage to come from the same family, Jake?" She threw a dinner roll at him.

Jake ducked and deflected the roll away from his face with his hand. It sailed across the table where it landed in Mr. Hale's mostly finished soup. His nostrils flared, and a little vein in his forehead began to pulse. The man was about to snap, even Stiles, a complete stranger could see that. "Hit a sore spot, Laura?"

Stiles watched as Laura snapped, "You're a pig! You can't help who you love, you ignorant ass! You're absolutely co-"

Whatever she was about to say was cut off by the sound of a glass shattering in the kitchen.







"You okay, Sweetie?" His mother called out.

Derek stared at his bloody hand that only moments before held a full glass of chardonnay. His face grew cold as the blood fled it for points elsewhere in his body. There was a thickness and a lump in his throat, and he found it hard to swallow. A small bead of sweat had started trickling down his forehead, and he'd have wiped it away if he could move at all. Instead, all he could do was focus, transfixed, on the splinters of glass sticking out of his palm.

"Derek?"

"Um," his voice squeaked, "I cut my hand. Just gonna clean... " Derek couldn't flee the kitchen fast enough.

He stumbled up the stairs, bound for the safety of the bathroom off the game room. Though he knew his mother, being the doctor she was, would come looking for him, he doubted anyone else would. Well, maybe Laura or Stiles would try, but his mother would wave them off and declare that she could handle it. He ran into the door frame, and thrust his hand under the tap, his dinner barely contained. His chest felt like it had been trapped in a vice, as though it had been crushed. The eyes through which he was currently viewing the world were underwater. No, no, no, no, no. Though his parents had cut off Jake's tirade, it sounded more like they were unhappy with the cursing than the bigoted comments. Only Laura had called his brother out on those. Because no one else in his family had spoken up about the content of his words, it felt like a silent agreement to him. What was he going to do?  He couldn't breathe, couldn't take in enough oxygen, no matter how many gulps of air he swallowed.

The pain from the cuts on his hand didn't even register until he looked down at saw the blood swirling down the drain. He uncurled his clenched fingers and stared at his palm. Never did he think he would crush a glass in his fist, but well, here he was. The game tomorrow was gonna be a nightmare. Coach was gonna kill him.

The room began spinning around him, and Derek reached out his other hand to steady himself in a harried attempt to ground himself in reality. It didn't work, and instead, his knees buckled; he crumpled onto the floor where he pressed a fist to his mouth as he fought back tears. He hadn't cried so much in years, but that's what happened when you buried your emotions. Eventually, the dams broke.

The world, his world was swallowing him whole.

"Hey, Sweetie, are you okay?" Derek hastily wiped his eyes and looked up into his mother's face. There were so many things he wanted to say, but all of them died on his tongue.  "How's your hand? Where'd you cut it?" She closed the lid of the toilet, and helping him to his feet, moved him to sit.

Derek followed her line of sight to where the small pool of blood lay in stark contrast to the white tile. "Sorry I broke one of your crystal glasses. I... " Then, because the whole situation was just too much for him to handle, he started laughing, which given that he was still crying, sounded more broken than amusing.

"Don't worry about it."

"But they were a wedding gi-"

She cupped his chin. "Derek, your hand is more important." She pushed the trash can towards him before standing to wash her hands. On the counter, she'd set the small first aid kit when she'd come in. From it, she grabbed the tweezers and a pad of gauze, which she ripped open and handed to him. "Can you hold this? Dab away the blood when I tell you to."

He licked his lips and watched her grasp the little shards between the metal points, pulling them loose and depositing them in the trash.

"Dab these two cuts."

Her skilled hands worked quickly, but with the tenderest care until she was satisfied that all the glass splinters had been removed. "Let's rinse this again."

The sting of the peroxide made him hiss as it came in contact with his mangled palm.

"How did you manage to do this?"

Lie. Think of a lie...anything . "Laura startled me when she shouted at Jake. I don't-"

He could tell just by the furrow of his mother's brow that she didn't believe she'd been told the whole story. "Derek," she said, daubing his cuts with an antibiotic cream. The harsh pain in the cuts lessened a little, and had pretty much dissipated by the time she bandaged him up, "is everything okay?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"Well, for one, you didn't eat your spanakopita. Dead giveaway, Sweetie. If that wasn't a big enough indicator, I found you in the bathroom crying your eyes out. I've seen you take a puck to the face once, and you didn't shed a tear. I'm well aware that Laura is your usual choice in confidante, but you know you can talk to me right? If you don't want me to say anything to anyone else, just tell me."

"It's nothing."

"Then what-"

Before he could think of a way to talk himself out of the mess in which he currently found himself, his lips moved on their own accord. "I'm in love." Fuck, shit, damn it all to hell.

She leveled  at him with a pointed stare. "We have more than enough food. Why didn't you bring-"

"Um..." I did; I did bring him. Derek's heart started thundering against his sternum. He needed air, needed- "I, uh don't know why I said that. Too much to drink. Gotta... Gotta-"

"Derek, Sweetie, wait. It's- "

He was up and out of the room in the blink of an eye.



* * *



Derek sat cross-legged, picking at a loose string on his comforter, barely even moving when the door to his bedroom opened. The bed dipped down behind him, and Stiles wrapped both arms around his waist, tugging him backwards until Derek's back met his chest.

"Are you okay?" Stiles asked, resting his chin upon Derek's shoulder.

He licked his lips, "No."

 

"Can I see your hand?" Stiles pressed a soft kiss into his neck. When Derek lifted his bandaged right hand, he watched Stiles take great care to be as gentle as possible as he kissed his palm. Then, he kissed all the way up his arm to the elbow. It was such an over-the-top gesture that Derek couldn't help but laugh. "That's better," he said, caressing his cheek.

"So on a scale of one to ten, one being the best ever and ten being the dream in which you show up to give a speech in only your underwear, how awful was that dinner?"

"Well," Stiles' hand struggled to find the hem of Derek's shirt as it sought out the warm skin of his stomach, "it was more painful than the year Scott's dad showed up to dinner--uninvited mind you--totally shitfaced to lament about losing the love of his life when Melissa and my dad got engaged. However, that dinner was filled with a lot more awkward silence."

The slamming bedroom door startled them both, and moments later, Laura tumbled onto his bed, crawling over to kiss them both on the top of the head. "I'm sorry you both had to be subjected to that. I'm enraged just thinking about it; I can't even imagine how you two feel."

Derek gestured her in for a hug, and to his surprise, she wrapped her arms around both of them. "Thank you for defending us, Lolo. Even if you couldn't say why you were so-"

"Don't thank me, Der. I couldn't let him sit there and keeping saying that shit. If he only knew-"

In a moment of fear, he reached out to lay his left hand over hers. "You can't tell him."

Her scowl told him, he'd insulted her. "Derek, because you are clearly having a rough day, I'm gonna chalk that up to emotional turmoil. But you know I would never out you to anyone."

"I know."

She poked him in the nose. "And don't you forget it. Now," she hopped off the bed and walked around the curtain separating her half of the room from Derek's, "I may or may not have found where Mom hides the good chocolate." The large candy bar landed at the foot of Derek's bed. In her hand were two beers and a bottle of water. "For you my adorable, non-drinking, friend." She pressed the bottle of water into Stiles' hand and passed a beer to Derek. "I took the liberty of opening the cap for you. Figured everyone would freak out if I lifted the churchkey from the kitchen, leaving them high-and dry with their closed beers."

"Churchkey?" Did he ever mention how cute Stiles was when he was confused? No? Well, he was. His upper lip did this little Elvis type curl, and though his brows lowered, his eyes remained wide-eyed and doe-like. Derek loved it.

"The bottle opener. Right, now a toast." She held up her bottle. "To my little brother-"

"Six minutes, Laura, six minutes."

"I know. Practically a lifetime." She stuck her tongue out at him. "Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted by my little brother- To my brother who had his coming out foiled without saying a word. May his next attempt go much smoother."

Though he sniffled, Derek found himself laughing. Laura was good for making him laugh, always had been. Seriousness was not good look on her, and he supposed he wore it enough for the both of them. But tonight, before his fucking brother ruined it, he'd felt a bit like Laura, light and free. It pissed him off. "I wanted to tell them."

"I know," both Laura and Stiles said in unison.

"I mean, even after what Jake said before dinner. I was maybe about two minutes away from saying something at dinner, but then Uncle Peter just had to ask that question." With closed eyes, he leaned into the kiss Stiles placed at his temple. Then he felt something poke him in the mouth. He could smell the candy being held to his lips.

"Open up. Eat this, it helps. It really helps."

"Thank you, Professor Lupin," he said, taking the square of chocolate from Laura.

She smirked and broke off a piece for Stiles, before flopping onto the bed, patting the space beside her. Soon, the three of them were lying across Derek's queen-sized bed, all of their feet dangling off the edge. "So… I'm thinking of a person."

"Are you a man?"

"No. Next question."

"Are you alive?"

"No. Stiles, feel free to chime in. You're supposed to take turns asking."

He felt his boyfriend's chuckle as it shook the mattress slightly. "Are you fictional?"

"Very good. Yes."

As they traded questions back and forth, Derek felt himself genuinely smiling for the first time since his brother had shown up. Though the day had not gone as planned by any stretch of the word, he was glad at least some things would never change. No matter what. Even if that sensation of fear he'd been trying (and fairly successfully) to rid himself of whenever he thought about coming out had managed to creep back into his mind like an unwanted house guest.





Chapter Text

Derek rolled over in the dark and pressed himself tightly against Stiles' back. His hands fisted in the blankets bunched up at his boyfriend's stomach. Eyes darting back and forth behind closed lids, his body was a line of anxious tension as he found himself at the mercy of his subconscious.

Muffled sounds of crying surrounded him, but Derek felt numb to it all at this point. He didn't want to move, probably couldn't if he tried. Through hazy vision, he saw Stiles' family on the other side of the aisle. Friends and loved ones dressed in somber hues lined up one by one to spend the last moments with Stiles they would ever have.

Hushed words of loss, the bitter sting of grief would never be enough. Eventually, he felt a soft tap to his shoulder. It was his turn, but how could he say goodbye to the love of his life? He couldn't, but his legs, like lead, carried him to the casket, where he found Stiles looking peaceful, skin the fair porcelain it had been in better times, not the dull yellow it had been over the last few months as his body failed him. So the cliché was true. The dead did look asleep, but twenty-three was too young, much too young, and Derek didn't know how to go the rest of his life without him.

His mouth fell open, but every word died on his lips. He couldn't say a thing; yet, he didn't need to, not really. Anything he'd have left to say, Stiles had already known. Instead, his body chose that moment to succumb to the grief crushing him from the inside out, and his knees buckled. He pawed at his chest as he slid down to the floor against the casket. Someone, probably John, tried to guide him back to a chair. But no! He couldn't leave. He belonged right there, and remained where he was, his sobbing face buried in his knees for the entire service.

He was supposed to help carry him away, but Derek was in no shape to do it. Anyone could have seen it. He had lost everything. First his family after he came out. Even though Laura tried to act as an intermediary in the months following, the strain became too much for her. Then, Stiles... Derek had nothing.

After they lowered Stiles into the ground, he sat frozen as everyone began to filter out. Finally, he was surrounded by silence, and in a moment of clarity, or a fit of madness--he couldn't be sure which-- flung himself into the open grave, fingers working at the casket lid. A tight fit for the both of them, but he didn't care, and later, when he started to feel faint, mind foggy from dwindling oxygen, the first load of dirt hit the coffin lid. It was a welcome sound

Derek woke with a start, gasping for air. Beside him, the heavy sleeper that he was, Stiles remained snoozing soundly. Derek sat up and wiped the dampness from his cheeks. There was no way he could fall back asleep now. Moving in as much silence as his agitated body could muster, he found his shirt and socks, then headed downstairs. No one was still up. Thank God.

From the laundry room, he filled the wooden bucket they used in the sauna, adding several drops of rose and lavender oil into the water. He set the bucket by the back door and retreated into the kitchen. A night like tonight needed hot cocoa. While the water heated in the electric kettle, Derek tugged on his coat and boots by the back door, and then trudged outside, bucket and key in hand.

He'd been a good boyfriend, had been reading, devouring any information he could on Lupus, just to make sure he could be as supportive as possible. So, he understood that setting the thermostat on the heater inside the sauna would be detrimental and could possibly cause a flare. Instead, he chose a lower heat than he, himself would find ideal, and closed the door.

The kettle clicked off a few moments after he made it back into the kitchen. Somewhere in one of the cabinets, he knew there was a good size thermos. His father used it when he went ice fishing. Deep in the back of the cupboard, Derek found it, pulled it free, and set it on the counter. He'd long since wowed Stiles with his mother's cocoa recipe, often calling home once a week and asking her to make more mix. He was convinced she thought he had a bit of an addiction to the stuff.

Nope. That was his boyfriend who loved it so much.

The stairs had this way of creaking as you walked them. When he was in high school, sneaking out was never the problem. It was sneaking back in. He winced as the fourteenth step complained under his weight, hoping that it wasn't loud enough to wake his mother. That would just lead to more questions than he felt like answering. Instead, he opened his bedroom door and crept across the floor, trying his hardest not to wake his sister. Where Stiles could sleep through an earthquake (and apparently had...twice), Laura woke up at the drop of a hat.

Thankfully, his efforts were successful, and once he crossed into his half of the room, he sat down beside Stiles on the bed, giving his shoulder a gentle shake.

"Wha?" Stiles asked, rubbing his eyes as he awoke. "Der'k,  what's... "

Derek pressed a finger to Stiles' lips, silencing any future words. "Get dressed," he whispered, kissing his forehead, "I want to show you something."

With great reluctance, Stiles complied, though he suspected part of it was the way his nighttime medication made him a touch drowsy. Whatever, Derek would make sure he didn't fall down the stairs. Once they were back downstairs, his heart warmed at the sight of Stiles's sleepy face and bed head as he tried to zip his coat.

"Sit down," he said, and grabbed Stiles' boots, helping him into them.

"'m not a child, D'rek. I can dress m'self," he yawned.

"I know," Derek kissed his nose, "I just want to help." He ducked into the kitchen for the cocoa and pulled a blanket from the linen closet. "Let's go."

In silence, save for the crunch of the snow, they walked out towards the lakefront. The dock groaned a bit when they stepped upon it, but that was nothing new. It always did that. "Careful, okay? Despite the snow, the weather hasn't been cold enough to freeze the lake enough. The ice on top is really thin. Don't fall in. Trust me, falling into freezing water is really unpleasant."

"I'll bet," Stiles said with another yawn.

Finally, they sat at the end of the dock, where it widened to give space to tie up a boat. Derek draped the blanket over both their shoulders. "Would you like some cocoa?" Stiles fixed him with a look that said, 'Did you really need to ask?' With a soft chuckle, he unscrewed the lid and poured the beverage into it. "I didn't bring an extra cup, so is it okay if we share?"

"I dunno, Derek. I don't want to catch your cooties," Stiles smirked. "Yeah, of course it's fine."

His mind still reeling over the horrific nightmare despite his attempts to preoccupy himself with other tasks, Derek fell silent.





After several minutes of quiet, Stiles looked out over the water and gasped. Ribbons of green light danced across the sky before fading into purple as they rose. "Wow. I didn't know you could see the Northern Lights this far South."

"Occasionally, you can. Most of the time, there's still too much light around the lake to see them, but I guess with the holiday, most people are not out enjoying the fine nightlife of Wayzata. I usually get alerts for this sort of thing, but I haven't checked my email today. This isn't actually what I wanted to show you." He sighed and told him about how this dock was his and Laura's special spot, where they'd shared many deep conversations over the years.

"This is...one of your things, the two of you."

Derek pressed himself closer against Stiles' side. "Yeah."

Stiles looked over at him, his mouth hanging open for a second or two. "Look, if I ever made you feel bad about having-"

He stopped his words with a kiss. "Don't. I want to share this one with you." He craned his face skyward. "Did I ever tell you my favorite constellation?"

"No," Stiles said with a slurp as he took a sip of cocoa.

"There is this square in Pegasus, where unless you have a telescope or are out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, it looks completely empty. Laura likes to say that it's not empty but rather, peaceful and quiet. She says that's a metaphor for me, and how I need to seek out a quiet place for solace when I'm distressed or just overwhelmed." Stiles leaned over and kissed his cheek, and though he sensed there was something else bothering him, Derek smiled into the touch.

"She's right, and that's a nicer story than why I like my-" he stopped and began to giggle.

"What?"

"Pegasus."

"I don't follow."

He lay his head on Derek's shoulder. "You are gonna love this. My favorite is Perseus. It's just too bad yours isn't Andromeda. It would be cute." Stiles swore in the moonlight, he could see a soft flush of pink creep across Derek's cheeks.

"Why is that your favorite?"

"Because when I was a kid, I thought it looked like a giraffe. I used to be obsessed with them. Don't ask, but now it's a happy memory. So...Pegasus and Perseus..."

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose. "Don't, just don't even say it."

Stiles winked. "Wanna give me a ride?" Not even halfway through the sentence, Stiles burst out laughing, and to his surprise, Derek did the opposite. He looked over to see Derek's eyes damp with emotion. "What? I don't understand."






Derek's lip quivered. "Do you know why we're out here?"

"Because you wanted to show me the stars?"

He shook his head. "No. We're out here, because I needed a Great Square, and I needed you to be the one to share it with me." He took a deep breath, trying to calm his rushing heart. "I...had a nightmare. Worst I've ever had." He felt Stiles wrap an arm around his waist.

"You know they're not real, right?" Stiles reached down to lift their joined hands. Then, he moved his grip to Derek's wrist and counted off his fingers aloud. He did the same with the other hand. "No extra fingers. You're not still dreaming."

Derek swallowed hard; his stomach felt like it was in his throat. "I already knew I was awake," he whispered.

"How?"

"Because you're still alive." His voice cracked on the last word, and he had to finish it with a whimper.

A strong hand rubbed up and down his arm. "Derek," and Stiles sounded just as broken as Derek felt.

"I know I said my family disowning me was my worst fear. It's not anymore, and I don't know when that changed, or if it just took tonight to realize it, but losing you is the worst thing that could ever happen to me." He turned to him and cupped his chin, thumb caressing the line of Stiles' jaw as he kissed him. He could taste the damp saltiness of his tears. He didn't like it. Instead, he pulled himself together and took a deep breath.

The night air was cold, yet still warm enough that he could pick up the scent of pine on the air. One of his neighbors was still up and using their fireplace, because the aroma of burning logs wafted to his nose. Sweetness of chocolate and the spice of cayenne and cinnamon rounded it out. This was a smell he'd always remember. It would be just theirs. He liked that.  

He held Stiles close and stared up at the sky again, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Stiles do the same, a tiny smile playing at the corner of his lips. The borealis weren't all that bright, but when combined with the moon, they cast faint but colorful light on Stiles' cheeks. He felt his heart stutter at the sight of him. It was trite and cliched, but sometimes Stiles really did take his breath away.

"I can hear you thinking. What?"

He shrugged. "Nothing, just looking at you."

Stiles looked over at him, and Derek felt at home. When the shy smile turned into that impish smirk he'd come to know and love quite well, he braced himself for a bad pun or equally terrible joke. Instead, Stiles craned his face skyward and began singing softly. "You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy. When you hold me, I’m alive. We’re like diamonds in the sky. I knew that we’d become one right away, oh, right away. At first sight I felt the energy of sun rays. I saw the life inside your eyes."

He closed his eyes and let the sound of Stiles' voice fill him with warmth as he sang. Stiles wasn't the best singer in the world, but he could carry a tune well enough, and he had a timbre to his voice that Derek had always found pleasing. He lay his head on his boyfriend's shoulder and played with the zipper of Stiles' coat pocket. After a few moments, he sighed. "Matia mou, I want to do something for you, and I need you to promise to hear me out completely before you object."

"Okay."

"I know seeing Dr. Morrell is more expensive than you let on. See, the six of us, all of us and Hannah's kids, we each have a trust fund we can access when we turn twenty-one. I've only used it to buy new tires for my car. Jake spent $37,000 in one weekend in Vegas celebrating his twenty-first birthday. He spent nearly forty grand on strippers. Strippers, Stiles. Not buying a car, paying off student loans, but paying women to take their clothes off, which I mean, I hope it was one very lucky lady, but I doubt he tipped well. Forty grand, and I've spent $600. I don't need it; my athlete stipend is more than enough for me every month. And, well, I'm having a really good season so far. The Rangers have called my dad and told him as much, that they're hopeful I will start next season. When that happens, I won't even have to touch the thing. I want to pay for your treatment, because I want you to be healthy and stro- Umph." He suddenly found himself with a lap full of Stiles, who cut off his words with kisses that felt like reckless abandon.

"That is," he said between kisses, "the most romantic," another kiss, "thing anyone has ever done for me." His hands found their way into Derek's hair, and the blanket fell from his shoulders. Stiles pushed at his shoulders as though he was trying to get him to lie down on the dock so he could continue to kiss him senseless.

Though the sauna would be a far more enjoyable temperature, Derek obliged. His coat had ridden up, and the coldness of the dock was quite the shock to his senses, when his lower back made contact. His whole body shivered, but Derek didn't really care, because Stiles was sucking on the hinge of his jaw. Not hard enough to leave a hickey, but just enough to drive him wild. Loath to break contact, he wanted to get his hands on more skin than the exposed dock would allow. "I have a better place for you to keep doing that," he panted.

"Oh yeah? Like?"

"I warmed up the sauna before waking you up."

Stiles pushed up in order to be able to stare down at him. "Much better plan. I like the plan. Totally on board with that plan," he nodded emphatically, "uh huh. Definitely want to experience that plan like right now." He scrambled off Derek's lap and yanked him to his feet. The hot air rushed at them as they crashed into the sauna, a clumsy mess of chilled hands pulling at too many clothes. No sooner than he'd closed it, Derek's back hit the door hard as Stiles pushed him against it.

With frantic fingers, Stiles fumbled with the buttons on Derek's coat. "Fucking peacoats," he gasped, breaking the kiss with frustration. Derek batted his hand away and made short work of the stubborn fasteners, letting the jacket fall to the floor, then turned his attention to the zipper on Stiles'.

Removing every piece of clothing after that was a cakewalk.





* * *



Startled awake by an alert from the phone she forgot to silence, Talia stretched and rose off the bed, grabbing her robe as she ventured downstairs to check the door. Once there, she found the house quiet but the kitchen light on. Her eyes looked down the hall to see the unlocked back door and a coat and pair of boots missing. Well that explained the alarm code chiming on her phone.

She yawned, moving the hair out of her face. Might as well grab a drink while down here, she thought. On the kitchen counter sat a bag of marshmallows and the canister of her cocoa mix. That also explained who'd gone outside so late. Honestly, with as much of the stuff as he drank, she was surprised Derek didn't have cocoa oozing out of his pores. She tightened the lid on the container and found the twist-tie for the marshmallows. Why could none of her children remember to close bags up properly? Just twisting the plastic and tucking it under was not acceptable.

"And you left the milk out? Jesus, Derek," she sighed and went to work tidying up the kitchen she'd already cleaned twice today, resigning herself to have a little chat with her middle son about proper food storage safety. While she was in the pantry, she grabbed the box of chamomile tea.

Now that her mind was awake, it would take at least an hour for her to fall back asleep otherwise. The whistle of the water heating in the kettle had this way of quieting her mind, which was good because someone who was still awake after she'd gone to bed left dishes in the sink. She groaned at the sight of beer bottles mixed in with the dishes. Had her children learned nothing?

Taking note of the brand and adding that to the topic of conversation when she gave Jake a good tongue lashing in the morning, she opened the trash cabinet and deposited the bottles into the recycling bin behind the garbage can with a huff. The switch on the kettle clicked off; she poured water over the tea bag, grabbed her mug, and walked to the dining room.

She stood at the window, peering out at the night sky, which was alight with shades of green, yellow and purple. "So that's what he's up to." Why Derek had decided to study archaeology instead of astronomy she would never know. She'd thought for sure he would have, but then again, he'd never really enjoyed math. She moved the back door, where the window gave a clear view of the dock. He may have been almost twenty-two years old, but she'd fret over her sensitive and introverted child for the rest of his life.

Instead, what she saw was Derek and Stiles laughing on the dock, both huddled under a blanket. Well, at least he wasn't out there alone. Her son's words from earlier, before he'd fled the bathroom, skittered around in her mind. 'I'm in love,’ had started the gears in her mind thinking, dwelling over everything that had happened that night. His reaction, the way he tensed up and ate hardly anything. Even the broken glass was too much for her to ignore. It would take her ages to forget the way he'd looked panicked and crumpled on the bathroom floor; she could no longer sit back and stay quiet.

Yet, there he was outside, looking as though he didn’t have a care in the world, a stark contrast to the way he’d looked when she bandaged his hand. It was nice that Derek had someone other than just Laura on whom he could depend to help cheer him up when he was down. Then, out the window, she saw him lean over to kiss Stiles tenderly.

Well now, that explained everything. Though she smiled and returned to the kitchen, a pang of regret filled her stomach, making it churn, and she wished she’d seen this before dinner. Maybe then, she could have put her foot down, stopping Jake’s vitriolic words. She would have told him that type of course language and hate-speech would not be tolerated in her house. She rubbed her temples as she realized that, without specifically addressing the things her oldest son was saying, it probably sounded like an agreement to Derek.

When she’d come downstairs, she had fully intended to go back to bed as soon as possible, but some things were best not left for morning. She resolved to talk to her son when he came back in the house to assure him that she loved him and accepted him.

 

* * *




The wood of the bench was hard against his knees, but Derek couldn't bring it in himself to care, not when Stiles was licking into him, not when he was doing that thing with his tongue that made him forget his name.  He'd ask for the secret to his madness inducing method, but Derek felt it might ruin the mystique of it.

He was needy and desperate though he didn't exactly know what for. It wasn't release, at least not the usual kind. "Please, " he begged, praying Stiles understood what he was begging for.

Though he'd tried to push the images from his mind, that nightmare had jarred him, rocked him to the core. When he'd woken Stiles to share this little part of himself he'd only barely touched upon before, Derek thought he'd need to hold onto Stiles to convince himself that he was still there and that he wasn't going anywhere.

But he'd been wrong.

Derek needed Stiles to hold him, to be taken care of, taken apart, more in that moment than he'd ever needed his life, because he could feel himself crumbling, or, more accurately, fracturing into tiny slivers and falling through cracks he didn't even know existed. "Please," he begged once more, "please, Stiles. Make me feel like you're still here, still alive."

"Hey," Stiles said, his words so intimately gentle that Derek couldn't breathe, "I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere. You still have me." He folded himself over Derek's back as he entered him, mouthing at the back of his neck. "You're always gonna have me."

He gasped, words half-choked out with emotion,"That sounds like a proposal.” He felt Stiles smirk against his skin as he began moving his hips in small shallow thrusts.

"Would you like it to be?"

"That's my line," Derek panted.

"You stole mine first."

It didn't take long before he found that he could no longer take that position, and he pushed back against Stiles so he could stand. A small whimper escaped his lips as Stiles slipped free of his body, a whimper that quickly turned into a filthy moan as Stiles wrapped one arm around his chest and pulled Derek flush against his body, rolling and swaying his hips against Derek's ass. The hard tug on his hair only made him moan louder.

He could feel him sucking a mark into the back of his shoulder, and when Stiles took the skin between his teeth, biting down, it drew a hiss from him, a mix of pain and pleasure. Breath, hot and grounding, ghosted over the shell of his ear, "How do you want it?"

That husky growl was quite possibly the sexiest he'd ever heard Stiles sound. The vibration of his words reverberated through Derek's body, where it settled in the tips of his toes, tingling and white hot. He spun around in Stiles' arms and turned him, pushing him down onto the towel Derek had left behind on the bench. Before he climbed into his lap, he cupped Stiles' chin, turning his face upwards so he could stare into his eyes. "Yes, I would, but," he said in earnest. When Stiles' eyebrows furrowed, he smoothed the wrinkle with his thumb and then traced the tops of his cheeks just below his eyes, "not before I come out to my family."

He didn't give Stiles a chance to say a word and, climbing into his lap, sank back down onto him, his head lolling back in ecstasy. Little nips just below his collarbone, low enough that any marks would be covered by clothes had him panting once more. A heavy sheen of sweat covered both of them as the steam began to dissipate. He relished in the feeling.

Stiles' hands on his hips, gripped him hard, hard enough, he was sure that there would be little fingertip-shaped bruises there tomorrow. The thought had him increasing the speed of which he rose and sank until his ass was slamming down to meet the small thrusts of Stiles' hips, thrusts that faltered in their rhythm, proof Stiles was close. Hell, so was he. When he tried to reach between them to stroke himself to completion, hopefully at the same time, Stiles grabbed his hand to stop him. Instead, he pulled Derek tighter against his body, trapping Derek's dick between them where the friction as they moved soon had him falling apart, coming between their bodies. It only took a few more seconds before Stiles followed and came with Derek's name on his lips.

His head buzzed, and spots danced across his vision when he came back down, chest heaving and gasping for air. Beneath him, Stiles was clutching onto him, arms wrapped around his waist like a vice; his hands rubbed circles into Derek's back as he trembled. They both did. Derek dropped his forehead to Stiles' shoulder and breathed deeply.

The heady mix of sweat, cocoa, rose and lavender from the droplets of steam that kissed their skin mixed with the musky scent of come. The blend of smells would probably have him hard again in no time if he let it, but he was exhausted.

"Come on," he panted, "there's a shower through that door. You probably shouldn't stay in here too much longer anyway. Even though I set the temperature a lot lower than usual, I don’t want the heat to cause a flare." He climbed off him, wincing as the mess between them pulled on his chest hair. When he helped Stiles stand, he could tell his legs were like jello, because Stiles fell into him and planted a kiss on his shoulder.

"Mmm, too tired. Carry me," Stiles whined.

"I'll give you a piggyback ride back to the house... after we shower."

Stiles picked his head up off Derek's shoulders and gave him a shit-eating grin. "So you will be my Pegasus after all."

"You're such a dork," he mumbled against the skin of his forehead as he kissed him, "but god, do I love you."



* * *



Derek made sure the door latched behind them, securing the deadbolt and turned towards the kitchen to clean up the mess from the hot chocolate. He kissed Stiles on the temple. "I'll be right up. I'm just gonna clean up."

"You want some help?" Stiles smiled at him, poking him in the side.

Odd, he thought, seeing the clean kitchen when they walked in. He thought for sure he'd-

"You left the milk out."

He froze, a deer in the headlights, as he turned around and saw his mother sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, her eyes pouring over a book. "I- uh- um...sorry. I was just out watching the lights. You know, needed some me time."

She glanced from him to Stiles beside him, her eyebrows rising. Clearly, she did not believe him, and why should she? She'd seen him kiss Stiles... Oh shit!

"Stiles, do you think you could let Derek and me talk in private?"

He felt Stiles squeeze his hand, watched him move in front of him slightly, protecting him. Worried, Derek looked at his mother to see the hint of a smile playing at the corners of her lips.

"Stiles, you needn't worry. He'll be fine; I promise. Thank you, though, for being willing to stand up for him."

He turned to Stiles, leaning into him so that their temples rested against each other. "I'll be up soon." Watching as Stiles retreated upstairs with reluctance, he waited until he heard the bedroom door close before acknowledging his mother once more. She patted the chair next to her, in front of which sat a second mug of tea.

"What is..."

She smiled at him and waited for him to sit down before she spoke. He felt the hot chocolate churning in his stomach, and all he wanted to do was bolt. That way, the night couldn't get any worse. Even though she said he'd be fine, he couldn't help but worry. Yet, something about the earnestness in her eyes told him it would be okay. He clasped his hands around the mug, just to keep them busy, fingers playing with the tag on the tea bag. As he looked down at his hands, he watched her pry one of them away from the cup and take it in hers. She squeezed his hand. "Is he good to you?"

Derek gave her a little nod. "Yes."

"And he makes you happy?"

The corners of his lips drew up into a shy grin. "Yes, very."

"Sweetie, then nothing else matters to me. All I ever wanted for any of you is to be happy, to find someone who helps you be happy if that's what you wanted. Although I haven't talked about it with him, I am fairly sure your father feels the same way. I think you could tell him if you wanted."

He took a sip of tea; he had never been that big a fan of chamomile.  "Was it just what I said tonight that-"

"Derek, honey," she said, “the security alarm sends alerts to my phone after a certain hour.”

His posture flagged. "Oh," he said, sheepishly.

"I saw you two on the dock, and knowing that, I couldn't let you leave tomorrow thinking you're all alone." She rubbed the back of his hand. "I should have said more at dinner. I realize that, and I'm so sorry I didn't. I can only imagine how that sounded, how it felt like to you.”

He shrugged, trying to downplay the way the memory of the words hurt. “It’s nothing.”

“Derek, you always were a terrible liar,” she said with a warm smile. “In the morning, I'm going to tell your brother that hateful language is not allowed nor welcome in this house. I can't stop him from thinking the way he does, but I can do my best to make sure you don't hear it." She leaned over and kissed his forehead. "That's the real reason you brought Stiles tonight wasn't it? Because you wanted to tell everyone?"

"Yeah it was. He and I… we’ve talked about marriage; I know I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I wanted you all to know him, about him, about me." With a yawn, he stood. "But I think I'm gonna have to work myself back up to it. It took a lot to get myself in the right mindset, and- What do I do about Jake? Denise...Peter?"

"I can only tell you what I would do. I would talk to them. I would tell them, and if that’s what you want, please let me be there for you. I’m not an expert, but having support in your corner, has to make it easier, knowing you’re not alone. That being said, if you don’t want to tell them, that’s okay too. Just like Laura, I won’t say a thing unless you want me to."

“How do you-” he stopped when she leveled him with an expression that said ‘I doubt there’s a single thing you and Laura don’t know about each other.’ She was right, and so, he relented without another word.

She pulled him into a tight embrace, and he let his head drop to her shoulder. "But if they can't see you for who you are and only see you for who you love, then it's their loss."

He nodded. "Thanks, Mom."

"Next time, put the milk away before you go outside."

He laughed into her shoulder. "Night."

 

* * *



"Too early," Stiles groaned in the dark, rolling over to an empty bed before he remembered where Derek was. He tried to cover his head with the pillow to drown out the noise of… wait. Someone was knocking on the bedroom door, and so he stood, shuffling over to it with a yawn. When he opened it, he found himself face to face with Derek's mother. "Um," he said rubbing his eyes, thanking the universe he'd chosen to wear pajama pants and a shirt to bed last night, "Derek and Laura aren't here. She made him go shopping this morning.”

She nodded. “I know. Laura drags him out every year for Black Friday, and Derek goes along, even though he hates shopping. The usual excuse is to look intimidating and keep the ravenous shoppers away, but I know he likes spending the time with her. You know how he is. Actually,” she said with a smile, “I was looking for you.”

Brows drawn together, he looked at her, studying her expression for a moment. “Why?” he asked, his words wary.

“Because last night, Derek said he wanted us to know you, and thanks to Jake, we didn’t get the chance. But, I’d like to, even though Derek has told me a lot about you over the years, a lot. Would you like to help me make breakfast?”

Surprised, he was sure he gave her a nod of assent before he retreated into the room to look for his socks and to grab his morning medication. At least, he was pretty sure he grabbed the pills. Still barely awake as he trudged down the stairs, his shoulders felt a bit stiff, but otherwise good. In the kitchen, he could smell coffee and chocolate, and found himself smiling.

“There’s coffee and cocoa if you would like some.” She pointed to the counter. “Help yourself. Mugs are above the coffeemaker.”

“I’d love some.”






Talia watched as Stiles grabbed a mug, the largest mug they had, from the cupboard and poured half a glass of coffee before ladeling cocoa into the mug next.

“It’s like a mocha this way. An amazing and delicious mocha. Your cocoa recipe is to die for.”

With a smirk she realized that perhaps it was Stiles that was the prodigious consumer of the stuff and not Derek. “I take it you’re the reason Derek asks for so much of the mix.”

He held up his hands in surrender. “Guilty.”

As he took a drink, she found herself staring at the young man, trying to see him the way her son did.  He didn’t seem to notice her as he took a small handful of pills from the pocket of his pajama pants, setting them down to count and make sure they were all there before popping them into his mouth. In the relief, the happiness she’d felt after talking to her son, it had been easy to forget about Stiles’ illness. Knowing now, how Derek felt about him, she would include the young man in her nightly prayers.

About as tall as her son, his build was slimmer, skin more fair. Though he hadn’t spoken much at dinner, she could tell just in the way he carried himself, that he was more outgoing: a nice balance to Derek’s reticence. Maybe he hadn’t shown it the night before, but she could tell he was the kind to use humor, perhaps even too eager, quick to deflect prying eyes and minds away from how he really felt. Where Derek looked more bite than bark, she knew, and she suspected Stiles did too, that underneath that hard edge he showed the world, was a dry wit few got to see. Stiles, though, it seemed, hid behind a mask of biting humor. Their differences surely played off each other nicely; they were pieces that fit together just right.

Catching her staring, Stiles eyed her with suspicion. “What?”

“Thank you.”

“For?”

“Being good to my baby, but please, please don’t break his heart.”

He smiled, setting his mug down on the counter. “I don’t intend to. So,” Stiles pointed to the fixings on the counter, “what should I do? I’m not the best cook, but I can manage bacon.”

“That works for me. There is a cast iron griddle in the cabinet to the left of the stove if you could get that out, and there are several cookie sheets for the bacon right beside it.”

Grunting, he pulled them free. “That is so much heavier than it looks. Well, as my dad would say, ‘Good quality, then.’ Not that he cooks either.”

As he opened the two pound package of bacon--Talia was sure even two pounds was not enough to feed all twelve people in the house--and began to lay it out on the pans, she busied herself with mixing up the pancake batter. “How’d you get into hockey, being from California?”

“I was always a good skater, learned almost as soon as I learned to walk. Ice skating is pretty popular in Germany so…”

Intrigued, she continued, “I didn’t know you were from Germany. When did you emigrate?”

He chuckled. “I didn’t. My dad was in the military. I lived there until I was four, almost five.”

“Whereabouts?”

“Ansbach. That’s in Bavaria, near Nuremberg. My German...well, let’s just say, I wish I’d kept up at it. As it is, I’m cheating on my foreign language requirement and taking Polish.” He looked over at her and smirked. “I already know Polish. My mom was from Poland.”

She poured several scoops of batter onto the hot griddle. “My maternal grandparents were from Greece, Sparta specifically.”

“Derek has mentioned that before as to why he picked Classical Studies as his major.”

“It’s nice,” she said with a nod, “knowing at least one of my children wanted to have a connection to that part of the family.”

When the oven beeped, signalling it had heated to the proper temperature, he walked over and slid in the cookie sheets of bacon. “What next?”

“Eggs. Just make them all scrambled. I am not catering to everyone’s egg preferences this morning.”

“Nor should you. That’s the kind of thing that never seems to be appreciated. My step-mom did that once for Christmas, and then vowed never to do it again.I confess, I probably didn’t help the matter any. I mean, it was years ago, but I am pretty sure I asked for something ridiculous. Probably poached eggs, just because I’m a little shi- Er... I’m a pain in the butt like that.”

As each round of pancakes was cooking, she went to work chopping up fruit. “Are you out to your family? If you don’t want to talk about this, feel free to change the subject.”

“Yes, I am.” She glanced over to see him crack an egg badly, then subsequently drop the egg into the bowl. “Shit.” He covered his mouth. “Shoot. I’m sorry. I know you said last night-”

She waved him off. “It’s okay.”

With a tongue sticking out from between his teeth, his fished the pieces of shell out of the mix.

“Did that go well? Coming out?”

“Yeah, I mean I showed up with a date. My dad said, ‘A guy? I thought you liked girls.’ I said ‘I do,’ and then he said, ‘But he’s a boy,” and pointed to my date. My response was ‘So?” and that was that.”

Talia nodded as she took in his words. Admittedly, despite all the conversations she’d had with Laura regarding her field of study over the years, she was not as versed in the social aspects of the LBGT community as she would like, and was even sure she missed a few letters there. She’d have to do more reading on it. “Is that easier do you think, being bi instead of gay?”

“Nope,” he said without missing a beat. “My family was great about it. There’s a bit of a bias against it though, from other people. A lot of girls don’t seem to want to date you if you’ve dated or been with a guy. And some gay men think you’re either in a phase, experimenting or using the bisexuality as stepping stone to being gay. It sucks,” he said with a nervous laugh, “but Derek’s good like that.” He looked over at her with a small, closed mouth smile. “All he cared about was that I was into him, that I liked him back.” The egg mixture made a hiss when he poured it into the skillet. “This whole thing, the coming out, was because I put some pressure on him. I feel really bad about it now,” she watched him lick his lips, “really bad. I didn’t want him to get hurt. But… I love him; he loves me. I just wanted his family to see that. I hoped then, maybe you guys would get to see what I see when we’re alone: a Derek that’s unguarded, charming, sweet but sassy.  I understand now, and-”

Talia hadn’t really thought about it, pulling Stiles into a hug, until she had her arms around his shoulders. Stiff at first, in shock, he took a few seconds before hugging back. “I’m glad he brought you to dinner. I wish he’d done it sooner. You’re good for him.”

“He’s better for me. I’m a tight ball of anxiety on a regular basis. He knows that and has never once told me I’m being irrationally worried about anything. Talks me through panic and anxiety attacks.”






Derek set his bags down on the sofa and headed in the direction of the voices coming from the kitchen with Laura hot on his heels. He stopped; they both stopped when they saw Stiles and their mother hugging, and he found himself holding back tears at the sight. All he wanted, all he’d ever wanted was for his family to accept someone he chose to date. When Laura threw an arm around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze, he had to cover his mouth, afraid he’d start crying otherwise.

His mother and boyfriend seemed to sense their presence and released the embrace. She smiled at him from where she stood at the cutting board chopping cantaloupe. Stiles simply picked up his coffee mug and smirked.

 

 

“Have a good time, kids?”

“I found my dress for New Year’s,” Laura said, winking at Stiles. “And Derek didn’t hate it too much.”

She elbowed him in the ribs, but he was too preoccupied with the way his mother and Stiles were smiling at him. “You made breakfast?”

“Stiles was a fantastic helper.”

“Mom, it’s seven in the morning. You woke him up to help with breakfast?” he couldn’t hide the emotion in his voice nor the way it cracked with his words.

“Yes, I did. I thought I should get to know him.”

“And?” He was more than a little hopeful, but damn did he sound young when he asked the question.

Stiles, however, broke the tension the way he usually did: by changing the subject. “So, Kochanie… what’d you buy me?”

“What? How did you-”

“Call it a brilliant guess.”

Feeling much lighter than only a moment before, Derek leaned on the island, wearing his most cheeky grin. “Well, I did, in fact, buy you something.”

Stiles set down his mug, his eyes wide with excitement. “Yeah? And? What is it?”

“I’m not telling you,” he said, poking him in the nose, earning a mock sound of affront from him.

“You’re horrible, Derek. Just horrible.”

He snagged a grape from off his mother’s cutting board. “Don’t make me throw this at you. I’d hate for it to hit you in the eye.”

“Ha!” Stiles cackled. “Derek, I am a goalie, one of the finest in men’s college hockey. Like that grape is getting anywhere near-”

He cut him off by tossing the piece of fruit at him, and to no surprise, Stiles snagged it out of the air with his left hand.

“Nice try, Kochanie.” He popped the grape into his mouth. “Mmmm. Tastes like a glove save and a beauty.” Stiles dropped the smirk from his face, replacing it with a warm and earnest smile. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah,” he said, reaching out his hand to cover the one Stiles had resting on the counter, “I did. I’m just about done Christmas shopping already. And I didn’t have to scare anyone away from our cart. So I count that as a win.” He walked around the island and wrapped his arms around Stiles’ waist, kissing his forehead.

Sure, he should have been embarrassed about showing PDA around his mother, but until the rest of the house woke up, he was going to savor this moment with everything he had.





Chapter Text

 

Laura sat on Evan's sofa, her copy of History of Sexuality open and notebook in hand. She rubbed her temples. Why the hell was Foucault so boring? The book, though outdated, would be loads easier to digest if the man's writing style wasn't so damn dry. She had a paper due on Wednesday and had written exactly one line, and even that was total crap.

Erotic literature is good for feminism because women like to read it.

What the hell nonsense was that? It was like she had been channeling Dr. Shepherd and her line was just as bad as " Alzheimer's is a bad disease. We should cure it .” How the hell... She groaned and flung the book across the room just as her boyfriend entered the living room.

"That bad?"

She flopped onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. "Ugh, the worst. The actual worst."

He leaned over the back of the couch and kissed her forehead. "You'll figure something out. Anyway, I need to head to class early. You'll lock up for me before you leave right?"

Though she loved the guy, she really hated how condescending he could be on occasion. She was an adult, not a five year old; she understood the concept of locking a door before leaving. Still, she suspected he had no idea he was doing it. He'd come from money, too, but whereas her parents made the kids do things for themselves and never resorted to hiring anyone to cook or clean when they could have, Evan's family was the opposite. The guy didn't even know how to do his own laundry when he got to college. "Yes, dear."

"Excellent. I have a study group after my class until midnight. So, I will talk to you tomorrow. Bye, Laura." In a flash, he was gone and the apartment was quiet once more. She braved her book for another hour before giving up, or more accurately, dozed off.

Oh well, might as well head home . Scowling at her pathetic excuse for a paper, she stowed it and the textbook in her backpack. However, when she went to grab her phone off the counter, she noticed that Evan, in his hurry to leave his apartment earlier, had grabbed her phone by mistake.

Instead of leaving, she plucked Evan's phone off the counter and unlocked it. What? He thought it would be cute to have the same unlock pattern as she did, and she didn't have the energy to fight him on it.

 

 

While she waited for him to respond, she loaded the dishwasher. After all, half the dishes in the sink were hers. When the phone pinged with a new message, she didn't think anything of it and opened the message. Immediately, she wished she hadn't.

 

 

How...how could he do that? After five years...FIVE! The shock gave way to a sense of dread almost instantly, and a weight set in the pit of her stomach. She felt dirty and thoroughly disgusted. Did the fucking condom break? Did the cheating bastard even wear one?

A sour, bitter taste flooded her mouth. Her nostrils flared, and her pulse pounded in her head. She had never wanted to strangle someone so bad- no...she just wanted to cut his balls off. Instead, she settled for throwing the ceramic plate in her hand against the wall with a cathartic shout.

When it came to anger, she and Derek were vastly different. If he needed a push to finally confront someone, she was there to give him the metaphorical shove, and when she got like this, he was the one to yank back on her reins. Neither of them were level-headed, but his anger was quieter. They balanced each other out.

She had half a mind to just walk out without waiting to see where her phone was, go over to her brother's apartment and cry her eyes out, but there would be time for tears later. First, public humiliation sounded like a fan-fucking-tastic plan. There was a reason the quote 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,' existed, and though she didn't know exactly what that reason was, she imagined it had something to do with love.

Evan's phone screen lit up again. Oh good! He was nearby.




* * *


Laura pressed a hand to the wall outside Sally's Saloon, needing just a moment to steady herself. Glancing at her reflection in the glass of the window, she gave herself a silent pep-talk. You can do this, Laura. You are a prize, and he's no longer worthy. Just go in there with the message on the screen and shove it in his cheating face. No need to say anything. You can do it. You can do it.

She straightened her posture, held her head high, and took a deep, yet, shuddering breath. Though her heart was crumbling in her chest, there was no way she was going to fall apart in front of him. She may not love as passionately as some people, but she was loyal and affectionate and deserved better than having someone she thought loved her back throw away a long term relationship on a fucking one night stand!

At the back of the restaurant, she found Evan sitting amongst his classmates for Behavioral Neuroscience. Textbooks littered the table, a partially consumed glass of beer here and there- and how the hell any of them were able to study in here was beyond her. It sounded like... well, like a bar. Evan had his nose buried in a stack of flashcards. He hadn't even noticed she'd come in. Perfect.

She plastered on her fakest smile and slid his phone, screen lit up with the text message, into his field of vision. It was almost comical, the way he visibly paled in front of her. His hands even trembled a little while he held the phone.

"Um..."

"It came right after your last message. I thought it was you."

He blinked at her, eyes wide like an owl's, and she could see the gears spinning in his head. She felt sick. "So care to explain?"

"I...I...had a lot to drink that night and-"

"That's no fucking excuse, Evan!" She took a deep breath. "I was drunk as a skunk on Halloween, too. I managed to avoid climbing the first dude I saw. What the hell was wrong with you?"

Evan scratched his forehead, moving the blonde hair from his face. "Honestly, I didn't set out with that in mind that night. I screwed up, okay? I know that. I'm sorry."

She glanced about the table to see the rest of his study group staring at him. "If you were really sorry, you would have told me." She turned, and made it about ten feet before he hurried after her.

"This was the only time. I swear." He stared at her, eyes red-rimmed. Well, good. Maybe he felt half as badly as she did. "You have to believe me. I rolled over in the morning and panicked. I didn't want to hurt you. That's why I said nothing. I thought, um, if I kept quiet I could pretend it didn't happen. I wish it hadn't," his voice cracked on the last sentence. "Please."

Laura pinched the bridge of her nose as she let out an audible huff, loud enough to be heard over the din inside the restaurant. "So, just so I understand clearly, you got drunk, fucked a woman in a sexy honey bee costume. You regretted it in the morning, and decided not to tell me about it, instead of being a fucking adult about it and coming clean?"

He worried his bottom lip between his teeth. Now was not the time to look like a scared deer. Beg for my fucking forgiveness! She seethed below the surface, her blood boiling, anger near the tipping point. Yet, she was in public and making a scene--well, more of one anyway--was not something she felt like dealing with right then, managed to rein in her mounting temper before she snapped.

"Yes."

"Because you didn't want to hurt me?"

He nodded.

"Did it break?"

When his brows drew together in confusion, she couldn't help the massive eye roll she gave him. After all, a dramatic roll of the eyes was a Hale family trait. "The condom. You read the whole text message exchange right? You saw you knocked her up. So...did it break?"

Evan went deathly still for a moment, and it was hard for her to imagine his skin losing even more color, but it was like staring at ghost. Panic simmered in his eyes, and his lip quivered. "I...didn't....wear one."

Laura's knees went weak, and she needed to steady herself on the table. When Evan reached out to help her, she yanked her hand away as though she'd been burned. "Don't. Don't touch me."

He reached out once more. "Laur-"

"Don't fucking touch me! We're done."

"No, please, Laura. I'm sorry."

Her shoulders shook with every heaving breath she took. "I don't care. You.are.a.coward!"

 

 

She turned around and walked past the table towards the door. It didn't surprise her at all that he followed her. The guy never was much of a leader. It was part of the reason her dominant personality fell for him in the first place. When he grabbed her arm, she spun around, eyes practically glowing red with rage. She grabbed the nearest drink and threw the half-consumed contents in his face. He licked his lips and wiped the beer from his eyes. "By not telling me, you put my health at risk. Six weeks, Evan. Six weeks. I'm outside the range for post-exposure drugs."

"La-"

"No, don't talk to me. Don't call me. Nothing. I will have someone call you and arrange a time to pick up my stuff."  She spun on her heel and stormed out of the restaurant, praying she could keep from bursting into tears on the sidewalk.


* * *


A quivering sensation inside his chest and a hitch in his breath made Derek set down his homework. He rubbed his eyes, bleary from non-stop reading and looked for his phone, the way he always did when sudden and unexplained waves of anxiety washed over him.

Where the hell had he left it? He checked in the bedding, under the bed, his dresser, and the living room all the while an achy sadness began to spread through his body. He felt like crying and though he did not understand the reason, he knew why, which was precisely why he needed to find his phone. A few moments later, someone knocked on the front door. Abandoning the search for his phone, he walked into the living area. "I'm coming. Hold on." It had better be important. I have to make a phone call . He sighed, opening the door to find his sister, standing there eerily still, staring at the door, a blank mask in place of her usual smirk. She barely registered that he'd opened the door, hardly moved for that matter. The sight of her filled his stomach with ice. "What's wrong, Laura?" Though he now understood his recent melancholy, he almost felt worse seeing Laura in this state. "Is it time for ice cream or axe and shovel?" He tried to lighten the mood; it didn't work.

She blinked at him a few times, but said nothing, just held tightly to her phone.

"Are you okay?" With each second of her silence, his worry mounted. This was not behavior he was used to seeing out of Laura. He was the twin who shut down, not her. He pulled her into the apartment and shut the door. "Are you...on something?" It was a ridiculous question, but it was the only thing he could think of to explain the way she looked at the moment. She would never willingly take anything, and that made him more scared. She wavered on her feet. "What happened?"

He watched her breathing quicken, her chest start to heave. From where he held her wrist, he could feel his sister's rapid pulse. "Lo?" He heard the panic in his voice as he guided her into his room and helped her sit on his bed. "Laura, talk to me." Kneeling in front of her, he shook her shoulders gently. She licked her lips, and he could see the tears starting to fill her eyes. Almost, as if the scene in front of him were unfolding in slow motion, he watched her lip quiver, her eyes go wide in panic, body giving way to intense trembling, before the dams burst on her eyes. Seeing his sister in that state hurt. "I can't help you if you don't talk to me. Did something happen to the family?" To his relief, she shook her head. "Then what?"

"Evan, he, he...I broke up with him. Evan...he cheated on me, Derek. Got some woman pregnant."

He sat beside her and pulled her into a near crushing hug. "Oh God, Lolo. I'm so sorry." Tears of his own rolled down his cheeks when she sobbed into his shoulder. He rubbed her back, continuing to offer comforting words and choked off sympathies.

 

 

After a long while of holding her as her grief over the end of her relationship took over, the room quieted down, her wracked sobs subsiding. "How could he do that to me, Der? Why couldn't he just tell me? Called and said, 'Laura, I fucked up real bad.' I wasn’t even worth that! I'm on birth control. We haven't used other protection in years! You're supposed to be able to trust someone you love, whom you've been in an exclusive relationship with since you were both juniors in high school. Right? I mean do you both still use it?"

Derek shook his head. "Not always." When she looked up at him with a brow cocked in confusion, he clarified. "It, um...makes cleanup easier."

Seemingly satisfied, she ignored his last statement. "He didn't use one. Told me he didn't. Six weeks...I have been sleeping with him for six weeks since then." She began crying again. "How fucking irresponsible and careless- and...what if-" Her tears came to an abrupt stopped as anger took over. Her flared nostrils and furrowed brows told him as much. "Derek, he broke my heart and put my life in danger. What if he gave-"

Derek smoothed her hair, brushing it away from her face. "Don't do that to yourself. It just wrecks you. Please trust me on it when I say that dwelling over the worst case scenario is a road you don't want to go down. I've done enough of that lately. So, here's what we're going to do. You are going to hand me your keys and sit tight while I run downstairs to grab you pajamas and your toothbrush. While I'm gone, pick out something for us to watch. We'll laugh or cry over television. Then tomorrow morning we can head downtown. There's a walk-in clinic that does confidential testing. I'll go with you so you can get tested. But, that's going to be a cakewalk, because it is going to be negative. I promise. We'll go back in three then six months just to be sure. But I will text him and work out a good time for prisoner exchange. Hopefully, it will be Saturday morning, and I can get several intimidating friends together to pick up your stuff. You know, put the fear of Laura in him."

She gave him a laugh, and even though it was wet with tears, he could see her relax a little.

"That's better. I'll be right back." He kissed the top of her head and took the keys out of her jacket, phone off the table. As he clambered down the stairs, he sent off a text to Evan.

 

Hers and Cora's apartment was empty when he entered. Thankfully, because he did not want to deal with the wrath of Cora who would most certainly want to drive over to Evan's so she could chop his balls off. Now don't get him wrong, Derek wanted kick the guy's ass, but Cora might actually do it.

Quickly, he gathered up Laura's favorite sweatpants, and a tank top. From the bathroom, he grabbed her toothbrush. He was back upstairs in less than five minutes where he found his sister digging through his DVD collection. He set her pajamas down on the bed. "Here you go."

He closed the door behind him to give her some privacy and scoured the kitchen for some breakup foods. There was a pint of gelato in the freezer than he knew belonged to Boyd, but desperate times. "Hey, Boyd?" he asked, outside roommate's door.

"Yeah?" Boyd opened the door and leaned against the door jamb. "I could hear your sister crying even with my music on. Everything okay?"

Derek grimaced. "No, no it's a big mess. She broke up with her boyfriend."

"The boyfriend she's been with for five years? Wow. That's-"

He shrugged. "Well, the fucker cheated on her. I'd say breaking up with him is the least she could do. Anyway," he held up the container of Häagen-Dazs, "can I have this? I will buy you more tomorrow, but this kind of night is the kind of night you need ice cream and sappy television. I'd go get more, but I don't want to leave her alone right now."

Boyd waved him off. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure I owe you a drink or two by now. Call it even?"

Derek patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks, man." He stood for a moment outside his bedroom, rapping on the door.

"I'm good," she called from inside.

He chuckled when he walked in the room to find her sitting on his bed wearing the pants he'd brought up and- "Um, that's Stiles' hoodie."

Laura looked down at her chest. "Oh. I thought it seemed a bit small for you. Just thought it shrank. I can take it-"

"No. It's fine. Just don't wear it out of here. He tends to wear that to bed when he stays over. That whole half of the drawer is his stuff." Though he'd loved to have given Stiles a whole drawer, the dressers in the dorms were tiny; he barely had enough space for his own clothes.

She scooted over on the bed to give him space to sit down and looked at the container of gelato when he handed it to her, her face scrunched up in disapproval. "Caramelized banana chip?"

"Yeah, I know; not your favorite. That's Boyd's, and it's all we've got."

Despite her disdain at the flavor, she took the spoon from him anyway and grabbed the remote.

"So," he said, settling into his space on the bed, "what are we watching? Are we laughing or crying?"

She simply grabbed the t-shirt quilt from the end of his bed and threw it over their legs. Then, she pressed play.

When ' A month ago you were in med school being taught by doctors. Today, you are the doctors.' began playing from the TV, Derek groaned. "Crying it is." He grabbed the box of tissues from his nightstand, setting it between them.

With a mouthful of ice cream, Laura recited dialogue along with the show, "Where is she? I don't know! I only have one shoe! I'm bleeding." Then, she giggled. Christina Yang had always been her favorite, and Derek supposed it was her biting humor and the way she didn't pull her punches. Laura was the same way.

Derek felt tears well up in his eyes. "Lolo, I can't believe she loses a leg. Why could do they do that to her? And oh, God...look at Lexie."

Laura pointed her spoon at the screen. "That's it. That's my girl. Look how hardcore, Christina is. Taking that dislocated shoulder like a champ. She is a machine. Just like-" She stopped and went silent for several minutes.

He looked over to see her lip quivering and was about to say something, but she beat him to it.

"Der, am I too cold when it comes to relationships? Is that why Evan..." He pressed a finger to her lips.

"Don't. He's the one who cheated. You are amazing, and he was fucking lucky to have you. Don't do that to your-" she shoved a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth. "Blech. That is awful. Okay, we're done with this. I have yogurt instead." He took the container from her and retreated to the kitchen, stowing the offending flavor back in the freezer. From the fridge, he grabbed the tub of honey flavored Greek yogurt.

"Oh yogurt. So decadent."

He cozied himself back under the blanket. "It's full fat. It's not exactly a health food."

She moaned around the spoon as she took a bite. "That is amazing. It doesn't even taste like yogurt."

"I know."

' ...my chest feels like it's gonna explode, so it's probably a massive hemothorax. '

Unable to stop himself, Derek started bawling. "Why'd they do that? Hasn't Mer, suffered enough? Why did they have to do that to Baby Grey? Why, Laura? Why? And Sloan...he- he finally realizes. Listen how sad he is."

"Oh my God. You are such a marshmallow. Come here." She set down the yogurt and pulled him towards her, grunting from the struggle. "A giant, heavy marshmallow." She petted his hair, and he could hear her sniffling.

"Hey, I thought I was supposed to be comforting you through this, not you placating me as I cry over fictional characters," he sobbed into her shirt.

"The biggest marshmallow and my favorite one."

Despite the angst unfolding on the screen, he managed to growl at her. "If you say a word to anyone-"

"And lose the only person who will watch sappy movies and TV shows with me? Not a chance."

They watched the rest of the episode, Laura eventually joining him to sob over the dramatics as they finished the container of yogurt. In relative silence, they let the next episode start playing until about halfway through when she yawned. "Thanks for this, Der. I'm sure you had homework, but just- thank you."

He wrapped her in a tight hug. "Anytime, Lolo. What kind of brother would I be if I said no?"

"That...is why you'll always be my person," she said, patting his chest. "And it's okay if you have more than one person now. I get it, and I want that too."

"You'll find it. Now," he tugged on the blanket, "The clinic opens at nine tomorrow, and it's first come first serve. We want to get there early." When she eyed him with suspicion, he continued. "Where do you think Stiles and I went to get tested before we started having sex? You think I wanted Mom and Dad to find that out? Yeah, yeah- I know I didn't quite mention that. Remember that unspoken rule we have where we don't describe our sex lives in detail?"

"Right."

"So either let me up so I can go sleep on the couch or scoot over."

"Nuh uh. You are too big to share a twin size bed with," she shoved at him until he stood, and grabbing a pillow and his quilt walked towards the bedroom door.

"Sleep tight."



* * *



Derek pulled his Camaro to a stop in front of Evan's brownstone apartment building as they waited for Jordan to arrive, fingers wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel his knuckles had turned white. By some small miracle, he was managing to keep the murderous rage that coursed through his veins under wraps.

"Am I going to need to keep you from killing this guy?" Boyd asked from the passenger seat, "Because I will knock you out if that's what it takes. You're my friend and to be honest, I really don't want to get to adjusted to a new roommate in my last semester of college. I've become accustomed to a certain level of silence and cleanliness, and I just don't think I can deal with the possibility of the contrary."

"No." He glanced in the rearview as Jordan's truck pulled in behind him. Derek hadn't been expecting Jackson to also show up. In fact, he'd honestly expected to receive a response to his text saying ' Fuck you .' and nothing else.

They exited his car as Jordan and Isaac climbed out of his Silverado. Not that he expected to need both Liam and Brett, but the gesture was nice. He suspected Isaac had pulled the, 'Your captain needs you ,' line and the Freshmen came willingly.

"Gotta say, I'm surprised you didn't bring Stilinski," Jordan said.

"Apparently, Scott desperately needs Stiles' help to find the perfect Christmas present for Kira. Believe me, Stiles would love to be here." Conveniently covering his name for Stiles in his contacts, Derek turned his phone around and showed him the message he'd received shortly before leaving his apartment with Boyd.

 

 

"Ready?" Isaac asked, and knowing Cora, she'd probably told her boyfriend to break something important of Evan's out of spite. He grabbed a box from the bed of Jordan's trunk, which presumably held Evan's belongings and mementos he'd given Laura.

Jackson cackled when he saw the print on the box. "Oh that's genius. Where did you find that box?"

The smirk Isaac gave him spoke volumes. "I walked over to CVS and asked if they had any boxes, said the more embarrassing contents that had been shipped in them the better. The bow, I think, is a particularly nice touch," he said, shaking the box that once held men's Depends. "I thought it was a good idea. To be honest, I hope he just has Laura's stuff sitting outside. Because I really want to leave this outside his front door."

Derek clapped him on the back. "Subtle, Isaac. Real subtle."

Boyd led the way as the group climbed the stairs outside to the second floor apartments, because even though he was a giant softie once you got to know him, he was blessed with an imposing carriage. He rapped on the door  to apartment 12. Within a few moments, the door opened, and Evan--looking as though he hadn't slept in days--blinked up at him. "We're here for Laura's stuff."

"Right this-" Evan didn't have the chance to finish his sentence, before Derek pushed past Boyd and slammed him against the wall.

Derek pinned him there with an arm to the throat. "You fucking asshole! I told you! I told you when you started dating Laura, if you ever hurt her, if you broke her heart I was gonna break your nose!" When Evan flinched, Derek groaned, "I'm not gonna hit you."

"Why not," Evan rasped, "I deserve it."

"Because my mother would be very disappointed in me." He shook his finger in Evan's face.

 

 

"But I swear to God, if you gave her HIV, if my sister so much as tests positive for anything --I don't care if it's chlamydia or the god damned flu--I'll cut your fucking balls off! Am I clear enough this time?" When Evan nodded meekly, Derek let him drop to the floor in an unceremonious heap, before venturing deeper into the apartment, his friends following close behind.

He walked into Evan's bedroom, trying not to look at the bed, to no avail. "How drunk do you have to get to forget you have a long-term girlfriend? Don’t even answer that. It doesn’t matter. You were just too pathetic to keep it in your pants and control yourself." From the living room, he heard shattering glass. By the sound of Isaac's facetious, 'Oops', he knew whatever it was, had been broken on purpose. "Get me any clothes my sister has over here. I don't want to be anywhere near your underwear."

Evan pulled out the top right drawer from his dresser. "That's her drawer. I boxed up her things yesterday." He crossed the room, keeping a wide berth between himself and Derek. "I had a lot to drink. I don’t…”

Derek had managed to get his anger under control, but only barely, and simply shrugged. "I don't fucking care. That is the worst possible excuse! You’re a damn biology and neuroscience major. So you know that alcohol doesn’t make you do things you wouldn’t normally do; it makes you do the things you would do if not for inhibitions! So some disgusting part of you wanted to cheat on her, and that’s worse.” He shook his head, sneering at Evan. “I always wondered why I could never warm up to you. Should have trusted my gut. You know, I really hope your dick falls off. I hear gonorrhea is a real pain, makes your dick hurt like a motherfucker. Sounds like the perfect karma." He grabbed the drawer and dumped the contents into the box on the bed before leaving the apartment. Once he had the box stowed in his trunk, he sank down in the driver's seat, chest heaving with unreleased rage.

He should have punched him, because Evan completely deserved it. Folding his arms against the steering wheel, he buried his head. It wasn't long before he heard the passenger door open.

"I gotta be honest with you, Derek, I didn't think you had it in you," Boyd said, closing the door after he sat down. "We're done in there, by the way."

"Didn't have what?" his voice was a bit muffled by his arms, but his words came out clearly enough.

"Being that cruel. That was-"

Derek sat back in the seat and stared up at the roof of the car. With a sigh, he said, "I channeled Stiles there. When he wants to, he always seems to know exactly what to say to make it hurt worse. Seemed appropriate."

"No, it was good. Effective. I think the guy might have started crying when you left. I can't be sure. I was too busy making sure Isaac didn't break anything else. Seems he developed a serious case of Butterfingers overnight."

Derek looked over at him and let out a much need huff of amusement. "I'm pretty sure Cora told him to do that."

Boyd shook his head and buckled his seatbelt. "Anyone ever tell you that you Hale siblings can be absolutely terrifying?" When Derek didn't respond, Boyd just laughed. "Remind me never to get on your bad side... any of your bad sides."

Derek turned on the engine. "Duly noted."



Chapter Text

Derek let his bedroom door shut behind him as he placed the nondescript shipping box on his bed. Somewhere on his desk, was a pair of scissors, and after a few moments of rummaging around, he found them. Even though he knew exactly what was in the box, his hands still shook as he sliced open the tape. He pulled the kit from the mess of packing peanuts and stared at it, feeling ridiculous that he had even considered this as an acceptable Christmas present.

He'd watched videos, demonstrating the process. He'd read tips and best practices. Even still, he felt an intense nervousness about actually doing this. Being adventurous when it came to toys was not something he'd ever been into. He had precisely two of them, and neither could be described as kinky by any stretch of the word. So, he sat there on his bed for a few moments, giving himself a silent pep-talk, before turning on some music, hoping that it would mask what he was doing in his room.

"What are you doing, Derek?" He was definitely questioning himself now, but a present was a present.

Once he'd stripped out of his pants and boxer briefs, standing there in front of his dresser in only his thumbhole sweater and socks, he opened the package. By now, he'd practically memorized the instructions. There was the exact amount of water needed, water that was the correct temperature for the task. His room was warm enough so as to offset the chill. The box also contained something he knew would be essential for this whole project turning out perfectly.

He hated cock rings, always felt the constriction unpleasant, but everything he'd read said that wearing would help maintain his erection while doing something decidedly, not sexy. Before he mixed up the alginate, he lubed up his dick and stroked himself to hardness. Step one: Complete.

Using a plastic disposable cup he'd found in their kitchen, he poured in the molding powder first, followed by the water and stirred the mixture thoroughly. Then, as per the instructions, dumped the mixture into the provided tube. He pushed his erection and balls into the tube, hissing at the alginate's cool temperature. A minute and a half. He could do this.

With less than thirty seconds to go, his bedroom door opened.

"Derek, I just came- Oh my god!" Laura shrieked and immediately covered her eyes. He paled, as, to his utmost horror, he looked up to see not only his sister, but his roommate standing in the doorway.

Boyd, being the level-headed guy that he was, simply threw up his hands. "I don't wanna know," he said, turning and walking out.

With only a small hand towel to cover himself, Derek stood there frozen in flushed embarrassment, holding the tube in his right hand. His feet had apparently glued themselves to the floor.


"I know we tell each other everything, but this is too much! Put some clothes on. I'll be in the living room."

His door slammed shut before he could even move. He was going to be sick, the embarrassment having turned his stomach into a ball of knots. Pulling the mold off, his now limp dick, he set it on the dresser and hoped it would look okay when he molded it. There was a package of wipes he kept near the bed for easy post-sex clean up, and he wiped himself down, before redressing. Then, he bit the proverbial bullet, and went out to the living room.

"Ever hear of knocking?" he croaked out.

"What in the hell did I walk in on?" Laura's face was a satisfying shade of purple, so he figured he wasn't the only one dying of mortification.

"Nothing that concerns you," and wow, did he sound petulant! "Knocking prevents embarrassment. How do you think we've managed to avoid walking in on each other in compromising positions before now?"

A smirk began to pull at the corners of her lips, and Laura stood and made her way into his bedroom. She picked up the packaging from his dresser. "You bought a Clone-A-Willy kit? Look at that. You bought the deluxe version made for cloning both the dick and balls. Oh that's rich. Feeling adventurous, are we?"

"It's for a Christmas present," he snatched the box away from her and put it back on the desk, "thanks for making it worse. What do you want, Laura?"

She gave his shoulder a shove. "I'm sorry, Derek. I should have knocked. I need your help shopping for fixings to make whatever the hell it is I decide to make for the hockey potluck on Saturday. I can't cook."

"Believe me, Lolo. I am well aware. I'm sure none of the family will ever forget your attempt to make Easter dinner Sophomore year...or the food poisoning that went with it."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Which is why I need your help. Come on; grab your shoes and coat. We're heading to Cub. And then, we'll head down to Sexworld so I can buy you a new kit to replace the one I am pretty sure I ruined. I'd hate to have Stiles missing out on his custom present because I forgot to knock.

He didn't even have it in him to protest and went along with her like he usually did--honestly, most of the times the two of them got in trouble when they were younger was a direct result of him following along after Laura's grand schemes of mischief--knowing full well, he'd probably be the one making her dish to bring to the combined Christmas Party and Skate both the men's and women's team coaches decided to throw this year.



* * *


Stiles balanced the pan of mushroom and cabbage pierogies in his left hand as he opened the door to Mariucci for Scott to walk through. In Scott's hands, were two reusable shopping bags filled with sparkling grape and apple juice. He wished it were champagne, but as Coach Ito's rules for the potluck stated, no booze. For whatever reason, Coach Finstock did not speak up a word of protest at the women's team coach's edict. Whatever, it wasn't like Stiles would be drinking any booze either way.

"So...where exactly is this party?" Scott asked.

The combined team Holiday Party was a new thing this year. Usually, Coach just had the team over for dinner, allowing his players to bring a date or someone to the meal. Even with her adherence to strict nutrition, Ms. Martin was a wonderful cook, despite what Coach would have them believe. Stiles suspected, she purposely made his meals less than flavorful in some form of punishment. The thought made him giggle.

Unlike last year, there was no gift exchange. Stiles didn't particularly mind. Freshman year, Aiden was his Secret Santa, and he got a gift certificate to Chipotle. That was a good gift. However, last year? Daehler, fucking Daehler, bought him a Disney crown and scepter. The joke was on him though, because Stiles wore that tiara for the rest of the party with pride, declaring himself the Christmas witch, using his wand to dole out Christmas (or in Greenberg's case, Hanukkah) cheer for everyone except Daehler.

"The tunnel between Mariucci and Ridder Arena, where they store the Zambonis. However, there's enough room for several buffet tables. It's cooler because of the rinks, so the food that needs to, will stay cold. They have a couple long table and chairs set up on the Mariucci side,” Stiles said.

When they arrived to the location in question, Stiles set down his platter and placed the dumplings into one of the open chafing dishes while Scott added the bottles of juice to the drink table. He took a deep breath, enjoying the whiff of delightful holiday food, his mouth already salivating.

Teammates and players from the women's team filtered in slowly until the tunnel was almost stuffed to the brim with people. Derek had arrived with both his sisters, Allison, Erica and Boyd. He smiled and gave them a wave. Scott had found Kira and beckoned her over to their table, which was quickly filling up. This time, unlike that disastrous trip to Mall of America, Derek chose to sit next to him, his chair far closer than necessary, and the action filled Stiles with such a tremendous warmth, he felt like bursting. Underneath the table, the outside of their thighs brushed together every so often, and it took everything in him not to both blush and burst out in a dopey grin.

Scott groaned from across the table. "Oh my God. Who made these little snowflake breads?" he asked. "They're amazing."

"Those aren't snowflakes, Scotty. Those are stars." Stiles turned and called down the table. "Hey, Greenberg! Did you make the challah or your mom?"

Greenberg looked up from his plate. "Both. I helped."

"Scotty here, loves them. Be proud. He'll be your new best friend if you make him more." He watched Greenberg give a nervous chuckle and return to his food while Brett regaled him with a story.

Derek pressed his leg into him, and Stiles responded by shifting in his chair so that they were touching from hip to shoulder. It was nice. His action drew a confused look from a couple people at the table, but Stiles played it off by leaning his head on Derek's shoulder. "Tell your mom, she's ruined me. I will never be able to eat someone else's apple pie again. None of them will live up to that perfect example of pie."

Derek laughed and pushed his head back upright, and if his thumb tucked behind Stiles' ear to rub at the skin not covered by hair, well then no one was the wiser. "I'll make sure to tell her you're a fan."

And just like that, the awkward glances from some of his teammates disappeared as if it were nothing. Stories about how everyone planned to spend their holidays abounded, and the consensus was that just about everyone was desperate for the semester break. Stiles had one more paper to turn in tomorrow, and then his finals were over. Five semesters in and he'd finally been lucky enough to get all early finals. Scott would be done on Monday, and they'd be flying home that afternoon, a week and a half before the end of semester. He'd have four weeks before he'd need to be back in Minnesota for the Winter Classic (he was not looking forward to it. Whatever the appeal of outdoor hockey games was, he just couldn't see it- Too fucking cold).





Jackson stabbed at his pot roast, indignant that they'd been late and the only three seats available were across from Daehler. Someone stab me in the face with a fork . It wasn't even their fault they'd been late either. Thank you, very much, idiot drivers who do not know how to drive in winter! It was a little snow for crying out loud, not the ice age. He pushed his carrots around on his plate, while he stewed. Honestly, before they gave out driver's licenses in this state, there should be a mandatory winter driving course.

"So then I told her, ' Why don't we go back to my place? I have a single .' She jumped at the chance. I mean who wouldn't?" Daehler threw his head back in laughter.

Someone murder me... Please, for the love of all things holy.

Lydia seemed to sense his ire and leaned into his space, holding the screen of her phone into view. "What do you think, Jax?"

His mouth went dry. On the screen was Lydia...wearing a red black bra, thigh highs and and was that- "Is that new?" he rasped out.

"Oh yeah. This is your Christmas present. Look, and here's the back view." She swiped right on her phone, and he could actually feel his heart stutter at the sight of her wearing the red and black corset style harness. The ribbon laces, tied to perfection, hung down over her bare ass.  Garters holding up sheer, black thigh highs were attached to the clips hanging down from her harness. In short...she looked amazing.

"That's-" he squeaked and cleared his throat. "Looks really good. Really fucking good." He was blushing; he knew he was. He could feel the extra heat in his face and swallowed hard. "Does Ally get-"

Allison leaned across Lydia and batted her eyes at him, dark lashes fluttering against her cheeks. "We both got one."

He nodded emphatically. "That sounds pretty...I think I'm gonna need to see some visual evidence." He watched as Lydia swiped the phone screen again. Allison's was a black with red trim version of Lydia's, the lace bra she wore was red though. And looking at both of them, he could see they'd dolled themselves up, hair and makeup expertly done. The pictures had not been taken with a camera phone, Allison's DSLR probably.

"It will hold your favorite toy... and ours. I made sure of it," Lydia said, showing him the next picture in which, both hers and Allison's harnesses had been fitted with a dildo, one much slimmer and shorter than the other, far more intimidating one. To be honest, he was not looking at the toys. He couldn't tear his eyes away from his girlfriend's kissing, Lydia looking past Allison's head and straight at the camera. She kept shuffling through the pictures, each one more heated than the one before.

Several people at his table had stood and began to lace up their skates. Jackson, however, did not dare get up from his seat, and would not any time soon.

"So," Lydia's breath, her voice low and husky, brushed against the shell of his ear, "what do you say we break these in after the party?"

He couldn't speak, just nodded.

"Excellent." Allison had moved to sit on the other side of him. "Because I was thinking how much I'd love to watch Lydia fuck you while you eat me out. Lyds always looks so hot taking you from behind." She stuck a Santa hat on his head, winked and then sashayed off to her ice skates.

Jackson came out of his stupor when he heard someone sit their can of soda down on the table too hard to be unintentional. Fucking Daehler. Why was he still here? "Problem, Daehler?"

Matt's features were scrunched together in disgusted. "That's just sick, man."

Honestly, would anyone, anyone on the team care if he decked the guy in the face?

"Liking it up the ass...didn't think you were queer. Not sure I can share a locker next to you if you are."

Jackson wiped his mouth with the napkin beside his plate to buy his brain a few seconds to think. "I think you might be a little confused."

"Pretty sure taking a dick in the ass makes you gay."

"Yeah... no it doesn't." Jackson fished an ice cube out of the empty cup next to him and flung it at Matt's face. "Just so you know, it's not the act that makes you anything other than straight. It's the gender of the person you want to do it with that does. But hey, keep on being a lonely, desperate asshole. Because, I had not one, but two beautiful girlfriends come up to me and say they wanted to try something new in the bedroom, and it isn't just gay men who have a P-spot. Missing out, Daehler."

He winked, leaving Daehler looking like a kicked puppy (an annoying and rude puppy) and walked over to where Lydia and Allison were waiting for him, skates already laced.





Skating backwards next to Derek and Laura, Stiles pulled Scott who was, and always would be, the living embodiment of Bambi on ice. They'd been skating now for almost twenty minutes, and Scott had fallen on his ass at least fifteen times. "You know, buddy, I'm not sure why you agreed to come when you knew you couldn't skate."

Scott shrugged, almost losing his balance yet again. "Have you seen how cute Kira looks in her leggings and skates? I couldn't pass that up."

"Fair enough. So, Laura, are you done shopping yet?"

"No. Don't let anyone tell you Derek is easy to shop for, because he isn't. You done yet?"

He proudly shook his head. "Nope. But the way I see it, Tuesday is the 22nd. So I can finish when we get back home. But, unlike you, I already know what I'm getting for Derek, so it's not that big a deal."

"Oh yeah?" she asked, barely containing a giggle. "I know exactly what he's getting you, too. Walked in on him wrapping it the other day."

Stiles quirked a curious eyebrow at her. "Is it edible body paint? Because that sounds hot." He watched Derek's cheeks turn a pleasant shade of pink and changed the subject. "Scotty, no. You will never get the hang of skating doing it like that. You look like the Tin Man before Dorothy grabbed his oil can."

"Stiles...I'm not sure I'm meant to learn to skate. I'm just going to go over there and watch you guys," he said, and promptly lost his balance, pulling Stiles down with him.





After a less than graceful couple attempts to get back to his feet, Scott rubbed his sore hip as he skated towards Kira who was playing a little game of tag with a couple of kids, whose kids he wasn't sure. One of the coaches' maybe? Hell if he knew. He put on his brave face and tried to play off his string of falls as intentional. "Mind if I cut in?"

Kira glanced up at him, then burst into laughter.

"What?"

"Did you fall?" she asked with a wheeze.

"No. Are you kidding? I am a great skater."

He could tell by the look on her face that she did not believe him. "Whatever you say, Adidas."

What? With furrowed brows he tilted his head and stared at her, giving her what Stiles had dubbed "The Patented Scott McCall Confused Puppy Face."

"You didn't happen to fall on Stiles did you?"

"Um."

"You have the imprint of his zipper pull on your cheek. It's a perfect Adidas logo right there," she said, poking him in the face. "No one is going to care if you hang out by the food table, Scott. Better that than falling and breaking something."

Wobbling on his skates, he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Well, I dunno, maybe you could teach me to skate."

"Not without a helmet and knee pads, babe." She kissed his forehead. "Maybe trade out the skates and just wear sneakers. Not so slippery if you walk slowly."






"Hey, Mom!" Lydia called, waving Natalie over to where she stood. "Take our picture."

Jackson grunted as Lydia tugged on his arm, pulling him into her side. Allison skated up to his other side, and he couldn't fight his smile. Dr. Martin had always been so supportive of the three of them, Coach too, which he had to admit was surreal, but hell, he'd known the man since he was fifteen and Lydia introduced him to her mom and stepdad. When they brought Allison to Christmas Eve dinner Freshman year and said to Lydia's parents that they were all dating each other now, that was the end of the discussion. Though his parents had been slower to accept their unconventional relationship, they came around. Yet, Allison’s parents--more specifically, her mother--still looked at him like he was some misogynistic asshole responsible for corrupting their daughter. In her eyes, he must be an unfulfilled and greedy young man who was taking advantage of her baby. Three years now, they'd been together and faithfully happy for three years, and Mrs. Argent hated him. He suspected she always would.

"Smile, kids."

The flash from Dr. Martin's camera momentarily blinded him, but the look on her face told him it was a good picture.

"Lemme see it." Lydia made grabby hands at her mother. "Awww. Ally, come look at this!" Together, the two of them cooed over the picture.


"You look so hot, Lyds." Allison kissed her temple.

"You look better. And Jackson?"

"Hmm?"

"Thanks for smiling in this one." They both hugged him, showing him the picture, a tiny smirk playing at his lips. "You look happy in a picture for once. That resting bitchface of yours can be so off-putting."

He rolled his eyes, but gave her a warm grin, long since used to her teasing him about the way he didn't tend to smile in photos. "Well, I am happy. So..."

"I know." She smiled and grabbed Allison's hand so they could continue skating, leaving him holding her mother's camera.

"Um, Dr. Martin. Here's your-"

Natalie gave him a pointed stare, taking back her camera. "Now, Jackson. How many times do I need to tell you 'Natalie' is just fine?"

"Sorry."

"Are you having a good time?"

Before he could answer, someone else grabbed her attention. He was just about to skate after his girlfriends when someone clapped him on the shoulder.

"I thought about what you said."

Jackson cringed at the sound of Daehler's voice. By now it was a Pavlovian response. Whenever he spoke, Jackson shuddered and felt like puking. Still, he swallowed back the bile rising in his throat. "Did you now?"

Daehler nodded. "Yeah, and I think you're a freak."

And oh look, the urge to vomit was back. Halle-fucking-lujah. "Well, I have a highly satisfying sex life and you have an intimate relationship with your right hand so, I don't really care what you think."

The biting laugh Matt gave him, made his skin crawl. "How does it feel to know that no matter what you do, no one will ever see your relationship as anything but disgusting?"

He turned towards him and glared. "Don't you have someone else on the team to harass?"

"Nah, Greenberg's busy, and I get the distinct impression that Stilinski is one insult away from kicking my ass, and unlike you, he would have most of the team behind him when he does that. You...who do you have? Aiden maybe?"

Jackson swallowed hard. He knew the words weren't true, that the guy was trying to get a rise out of him. Sure, he was an asshole, but his roommates liked him. Derek and Stiles for as much as they bickered with him, considered him a friend. Why else would they stand up for him when it came to his love life? Coach, well Coach loved him. So why was he even listening to Matt?

"Oh ho. I think I struck a nerve," he cackled. "That is awesome. Never thought I'd find a way through that veneer of yours. God, you're like a scared little kid."

"Fuck off."

The look on Matt's face when he turned towards him was one of sadistic glee. "For all your claims about the three of you being a valid relationship and all that bullshit...You can never get married."

Jackson shoved past him before he decided to punch him in the face.





The shrill sound of Coach's whistle caught everyone's attention. "Listen up, you slackers! Coach Ito and I have purchased gift cards that we will award to the winners of the games. First game, anyone who wants to participate, go to center ice!"

Stiles laughed as Scott grabbed the boards and scooted his way to the nearest player bench where he could sit out for the games. He wasn't alone; Ethan and Coach Ito's husband, Takeshi, sat with Dr. Martin and several other people Stiles didn't know. He stood behind Derek in line.

"Okay, split into two groups. First two skaters, line up on the red line, one at the player's benches facing that way, the other at the scorekeeper bench facing the opposite direction. On my whistle, you will skate...as fast as you can, until you make a complete lap. When you come near each other, please do not run into one another. I do not- I repeat, do not want to call an ambulance. First one to make it back to their starting point wins. We will continue until there is only one person left."

Stiles raised his hand. "So, what you're saying, Coach, is that to win, will require almost twenty laps of this ice? Yeah...have fun with that."

He watched the participants race around the sheet of ice, each line slowly dwindling. He, himself, won his first two races. In the first, he easily beat Greenberg (no surprise there), and second, beat Boyd by a slim margin. However, when it came down to the third race, he lost, and handily at that, to Liam (also surprising no one). The kid was like a water-bug, scurrying around the ice. Perk of being small, he guessed.

Stiles did beam with pride, as he looked on from center ice, as both Derek and Laura kept winning races. Laura took down Daehler (hooray), Lydia, and three of her own teammates. Yet Derek, chose to skate his races backwards (the showoff). Not that Stiles could blame him. The man, really did have a beautiful stride when it came to skating backwards. Thing of beauty it was.

Stiles snickered at his unintentional Yoda-ism.

Eventually, though, Laura lost to Jackson in a close race, but they high-fived each other for the effort. Derek won his next race, also against Jackson, but lost to Kira. In the end, only Liam and Kira remained.

"On your marks, get set, go!" Coach blew his whistle.

Okay, so he wasn't gonna lie. He could feel his heart pound with excitement, even cheered along as Kira and Liam flew around the ice. Derek had returned, albeit a bit winded, and resumed his place next to Stiles. Their skates were touching, and as the applause grew raucous, even clapped his hand down on Stiles shoulder, so he could use Stiles to steady himself, as he lifted onto his toes to see over Stiles' head.

It wasn't holding his hand, but he'd take it.

Kira crossed the line first, and no one was more excited for her than Scott, who almost fell over the boards in a rush to congratulate his girlfriend.

"That was beautiful, kids. Now, if you lazy miscreants aren't too tired, I need the captains for both teams. Hale!"

"Which one?" Derek and Laura said in unison.

From somewhere behind him, Stiles heard Cora groan that her siblings were creepy, just plain creepy.

"Oh right. Anyway, joining Derek and Laura, I need one of the alternates from each team."

Jordan and Erica joined Derek and Laura to stand by Coach. "Each one of these fine leaders is going to take turns picking teammates until we are out of people. Go. Laura, you can go first."

For a second, Stiles thought she was going to pick him just to mess with Derek, but instead-

"Kira."

With her trademark smile, Kira joined Laura's team. "Aww, thanks Laura."

Derek didn't even give Coach a chance to call his name before making his selection, "Stiles."

"Really, Hale?" Jackson scoffed. "I am a much better skater."

Derek chewed on his thumbnail as he shrugged. "But I like him a lot more than I like you."

There were a few chuckles as one by one everyone split into teams. When everyone had been selected, and thankfully, Derek's team did not include either Daehler (he wasn't lucky enough to avoid having to pick Greenberg though), Coach Ito stated that the point of the game was to be the team that made it to the opposite goal line and back first. The only catch? The team captain had to pull their entire team...while skating backwards.

Yeah, Stiles thought, Derek was gonna win this one.

"Captains, please grab the hands of your first teammate. Now, now. Don't get squeamish. It's all in good fun."

With a smirk, Derek squeezed Stiles' hands in his. The familiar feeling of hundreds of butterflies filled his stomach. Now this? This was perfect. As Derek began his skating stride, slowly, but surely the line of eleven people began to move. Once Derek had them going, it didn't take much to have the whole line moving at a decent pace. See, aside from Stiles and Boyd (who he was surprised Erica didn't pick first. He was her boyfriend after all), there seemed to be a strategy in whom Derek had picked for his team.






They were all lightweights, and of the four team leaders, Derek was the only defenseman, which meant he skated backwards all the damn time. His team was winning, and winning by far. To be honest, Derek didn't even care about the giftcard. He just wanted to beat Laura. Look, they may have been twins and best friends, but that didn't mean they weren't incredibly competitive with one another.

He had this in the bag.

Had it in the bag, that is, until one of the people in the back of his line caught a toe pick or something and crashed into the person in front of them. That, in turn, sent them into the next person, and so on, like a set of human dominoes. Forward momentum was a beautiful thing, if by beauty, he meant he suddenly found himself flat on his back on the ice underneath both Stiles and Boyd. It went without saying, that having four hundred pounds on top of you, was unpleasant at best. At worst, it was claustrophobic, especially because Boyd had done his best not to fall, but only managed to land on them so that Derek was staring at the logo in the middle of his sweatshirt.

Above him, Stiles groaned, "Holy God, Boyd. Anyone ever tell you that you are really heavy?"

"Oh, like you hockey players are any lighter."

"Pretty sure you got like thirty pounds on-"

Derek seized an opportunity and lifted his head off the ice to silence him with a kiss. A small noise of shock escaped Stiles' throat before he returned the kiss with a hurried frenzy. It seemed that, like Derek, he too understood the moment was fleeting and fully intended to take advantage of it as best he could. Derek parted his lips, and Stiles wasted no time licking into his mouth, his tongue sliding along Derek's, fast and hard. He nipped at Stiles' lower lip the way he knew his boyfriend liked. For a brief moment, far too brief, he had forgotten where they were and was content with whatever happened. That is, until Boyd shifted above them.

"Brace yourselves, I'm gonna move off you now."

Derek broke the kiss. "Try not to kick me in the balls."

"Duly noted," there was a hint of a smirk in Boyd’s voice, and Derek realized his friend knew exactly what Stiles and he had been doing beneath him. He decided he owed the guy a beer for giving them a heads up so they didn’t caught.

When Derek finally managed to stand, he ignored the knowing smirk from his roommate and took in the sight of Laura and her victorious team all receiving gift cards. Well damn.

Stiles clapped him on the back, giving his shoulders a tight squeeze. "So...two guesses who cost us the win, but you're only going to need one."

"Greenberg?"

"Greenberg," Stiles said with a nod. When it came time to pick the last person on his team, it was either pick Greenberg, Greenberg's sister who skated only marginally better than Scott did, or Daehler, and there was no way in Hell he was picking Daehler. Honestly, if the team didn't have a strict 'No Hazing' policy (seriously, for all Coach's yelling and angry comments, the man was very firm when it came to bullying and hateful language), he would find ways to make that asshole's hockey life absolutely miserable.

"Tough break, baby brother."

Before he could answer her, Derek saw Jordan skating over.

"Good race, Laura," he said, both hands in his pockets. Derek quirked an eyebrow. Was the guy seriously blushing?

"Thanks, but I really think I should thank Greenberg for biffing it as usual."

Jordan gave her a good-natured laugh. "So, I was wondering if you'd like to grab a drink with-"

"You know I just got out of a long term relationship right?" Derek couldn't help but feel a bit envious at how high his sister could arch her brow.

"I know, and you didn't let me finish. I was about to say that I wasn't asking you on a date. You took Sociology 4551 last semester right?"

"Oh. Sorry. Yeah, I did. Why?"

He scratched his forehead. "Well, I gotta say, I am struggling with my book project. I could really use some help."

"Is it still the children's book?"

"Yeah," he shrugged, "I don't know about you, but I am not creative, and you have studied this topic so much more than I have. Like, you are really knowledgeable about sexuality and orientation, and I- help please?"

"Sure." She turned to Derek and waved her gift card in his face. "Coffee tomorrow morning, my treat?"

He gave her a smile and a little nod. It was hard to feel bad about losing when she was such a gracious winner...this time.


* * *


Allison fumbled for the light switch inside hers and Lydia's dorm room. She knew it was there somewhere, but then again, Lydia was kissing along her collarbone, and it made focusing difficult. Jackson? Well, he was no help either.

Ever since Lydia had shown him those pictures earlier, he'd been extra handsy and affectionate, which was unusual. Whatever, she'd take it, because at this point, all three of them were about to boil over with sexual frustration. Finally, her fingers found the damn switch, and she dragged her lovers in the room, slamming the door shut harder than she intended.

"Oh my God," Lydia groaned when Allison turned around and lifted her, settling both hands on her ass. She wrapped both legs around her waist. "So," she nipped at Allison's lower lip, "what do you say we give Jackson a show?"

"Mmhm. I love how your mind works, babe." Allison squeezed Lydia’s ass. Her fingernails dug in slightly, drawing a full body shudder from Lydia.

Lydia pulled at her blouse. "Off. Take it off.”

Allison carried her over to the desk and sat her on it. In no time, she had tugged the shirt off over her head, leaving Lydia sitting there topless. She ducked her head down and mouthed at one of Lydia's perky nipples peeking through the black lace of her bra. As she flicked her tongue against the sheer fabric, she turned her head and made eye contact with Jackson, staring at him with eyes unblinking.

Lydia's hands were cold against the skin of Allison's stomach when she grabbed the hem of her shirt and began working at the buttons, starting at the bottom. Too slow. Lydia was going far too slow; Allison made sure to tell her as much, not that she listened. Finally, when the last button popped open, she heaved a sigh of relief.

"Fuck, that's-" Apparently Jackson couldn't even finish his sentence.

She smirked against Lydia's lips as she captured her mouth once more in a searing kiss. The lip gloss Lydia wore today was mint flavored, and she shuddered as she imagined how the slight chill of the menthol would feel against her nipple. Less clothes, she definitely needed to be wearing less clothes.

Her belt buckle clattered as her pants hit the floor, leaving her standing there in only the sheer red bra and matching panties they'd shown Jackson pictures of earlier. With both hands, she tugged at Lydia's cable-knit tights until they were bunched around her ankles. A slight giggle escaped her mouth when she struggled to get the leggings off her girlfriend's feet. She didn't even have time to tug at the skirt that still remained around Lydia's waist before Jackson came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

He mouthed at the back of her neck, sending chills down her spine, chills that intensified when his hands drifted North to her breasts. Her head lolled back onto his shoulder. "You know," he mumbled against the skin of her neck, "we could continue this on the bed. Not gonna lie, I've been about to explode since you two showed me those pictures earlier."





When Allison didn't budge, Jackson rolled his hips against her ass. He was uncomfortably hard in his jeans. "Don't make me beg...not yet," he said, winking at Lydia over Allison's shoulder. He reached out for her hand, and helped her off the desk.

All three of them tumbled onto the bed, which was really just both Allison's and Lydia's bed pushed together with a mattress connector covering the middle. He spent more time in their dorm room than he did his own. But come on. He doubted any of his roommates would blame him. Aiden was a slob; he hated sharing a bedroom with the guy. Plus, it wasn't like Isaac stayed in his room that often either, choosing to sleep over at Cora's more often than not.

Spending the night listening to Aiden's snoring, couldn't hold a candle to falling asleep surrounded by the warmth of both his girlfriends' arms draped over his chest, or spooned around either of them, or being spooned by one of them- whatever their sleeping arrangements were didn't matter to him so long as both Allison and Lydia were there.

In the beginning, he thought Lydia suggesting they date Allison too was her way of distancing herself from him, and that he'd soon be single with Lydia leaving him for Allison. Now though, he couldn't imagine it any other way, even with the things people said about them when they found out about their unorthodox relationship. They didn't understand, would never understand. There wasn't a hierarchy.

The three of them, they were equals. Sure Lydia was in charge, but he liked it that way. She was good at making plans and keeping them. Allison was a good mediator, effective at balancing both his and Lydia's Type A personalities. In private, he relished in the fact that he deferred to his ladies, he could be a secret romantic, and no one need know. Apparently, he had a bit of a reputation to maintain. He was an asshole; that much he knew and accepted, but hell if he'd ever let anyone else see this softer side of him. He wasn't being greedy, hadn't insisted on needing a second girlfriend because his needs weren't being met, wasn't depraved or a misogynist or whatever the hell the usual argument was. There was nothing wrong with their relationship, and he wasn't a freak.

He wasn't.

Lydia raked her nails down his back. "Where'd you go, Jax?"

He blushed (probably) at being caught, but shook himself out of his thoughts when Allison lifted the hem of his sweater to tug it over his head. When his mind was elsewhere, Lydia had lost the skirt and both had donned their harnesses. The pictures hadn't done either of them justice. Instead, he stared, practically salivating at the sight of them.

Pulling Lydia close, he trailed a line of kisses from the hinge of her jaw to the hollow of her neck, sucking and nipping at the skin there the way she liked.

"I take it, you like your presents." She was nearly breathless, both from his actions and watching Allison, spread out on the bed with her hand dipped into her pants.

"Mmhm." He loosened the hair-tie in her hair and shook out her locks, savoring the smooth feel of the strands between his fingers. "You both look so beautiful. Thank you."

She pushed his unfastened pants to the floor, boxers too. The sudden temperature change drew a full body shiver from him, but Lydia put an end to that and pushed him until he fell backwards onto the plush bedspread, landing next to Allison, who rolled on top of him and began to kiss him senseless.

Lydia tugged at his socks, and he groaned in protest. "Socks aren't sexy."

"But m'feet are cold," he mumbled despite Allison's mouth pressed firmly against his.

"Nope, they're coming off. Don't worry. We'll have you warmed up in no time." Though he couldn't see what she was doing, he had an idea. When her fingers grasped at the ties on the side of Allison's panties and pulled them loose, he preened knowing he'd been right.

He trailed his fingertips, with feather light touches, down Allison's back until both hands cupped her ass, and his shoulder muffled her moan. The way she ground her hips down on his erection was almost enough to send him over the edge, but, and fuck if he knew how, he managed to hold out. Then, he felt Lydia kneel between his legs, felt the cool skin of her thighs pressing against his.

Lydia tugged on Allison's arm until she was upright and straddling him. He watched, enraptured as Lydia took Allison's earlobe between her teeth before unclasping the red bra. She said something he couldn't make out into Allison's ear, earning a sultry smile in return.

Allison moved down the bed, stopping near his head. "You should roll over," she whispered, and he obliged, burying his face between her legs.

The harness made things a bit awkward, but thankfully there was no rubber dick smacking him in the face. He was adventurous, but even he had boundaries. There was no way he was sucking a dick, real or not; he'd made that perfectly clear when they first tried this.

With every teasing flick of his tongue against Allison's clit, she pushed her hips harder into his face. He nipped--gently. He wasn't the Big Bad Wolf for crying out loud--at her lips as he slipped two fingers inside her to find her G-spot. When she squeezed him with her thighs, he knew he'd been successful.

"God, there, just like- yeah." She giggled when he started tracing letters over her clit with his tongue. "Are you trying to spell something?"

"Mmhm," he mumbled.

"Well, there's no 'y' in luckiest."

Damn it. He was about to tickle her side in protest, when he felt Lydia pressed a slick finger against his hole. He hissed and pulled his mouth off Allison. "You couldn't warm it up first?"

Lydia cocked an eyebrow at him. The woman was a master at silent judgement, but hell if he'd ever tell her that. "Why don't you worry about Ally, and let me take care of you? Keep being a good boy and use that skillful tongue of yours. Drive her crazy in that way you know she loves."

He flinched when she added a second finger and began to open him up. Instead of dwelling on how fucking cold the lube was (and it really was cold), he focused on Allison, licking and sucking, moving his fingers inside of her until he had her trembling on the bed. Her brown eyes looked almost black as she came down from her orgasm.

So fucking hot.

Lydia tugged him to stand and pressed her bare breasts against his back. "I like you on your back, Jax. It's a good look for you."

Subtle, so that was the game. No sooner had he lain down, than Allison had straddled him and sank down on him. Each rise and fall of her hips drew a husky moan from her throat, until her slow movements turned hard and fast. When Lydia finally pressed inside him, he was pretty sure the sound he made was more like a whine. Lydia reached around Allison and grabbed one of her breasts, rolling a nipple between her fingers. Then, she angled her hips perfectly.

And yep, that was definitely a whine.

He was going to blow his load in less than a minute if they kept that up. Stamina be damned.

"Just look at you, so pliant. So trusting."

"So good to us," Allison said, leaning forward to kiss the hinge of his jaw. "You look so good like this."

"Mmm, I think you're right, Ally." Lydia ran her free hand over the swell of Allison's ass. "He looks best when he looks wrecked and about to beg. Such a pretty boy." She turned her head and pressed an open mouthed kiss to his leg resting on her shoulder.

It tickled, but he relished in it.

He couldn't fight the full body tremor that reverberated through him when she pulled almost completely out of him and then slammed back inside him with one thrust. His mouth fell open with a gasp; the words he wanted to say died on his lips as his let their words fill his mind.

Once, back in high school, he'd confided in Lydia that he never felt good enough, never felt like he'd ever live up to his parents expectations. He wasn't their blood, so he'd never be as good a son to them as he would have been were he their biological child. He hated the pressure of constant achievement, hated how it was almost as though his father, a star college athlete until he blew out his knee, was living out his dreams vicariously through him.

And often, he hated himself.

Well, being the perceptive goddess she was, Lydia figured out a solution to that problem in no time, and now, always made sure to let him know how well he was doing, how good he was for her anytime they were intimate. It seemed that as soon as they expanded their relationship to include Allison, changing them from a couple to a trio, he heard these praises every day. They did wonders for his self esteem.

He reached out and grabbed Allison's hand on the mattress, giving it a little squeeze, while keeping eye contact with Lydia. He'd love to hold both of them right now, but this would have to do. His back arched with a particularly pleasant roll of Lydia's hips , and his head lolled back on its own accord when Allison sat back up, riding him at a furious speed.

God, he loved them, both of his beautiful queens. It was a hard thing to describe for anyone else, just how full his heart was every day because he was loved just as fiercely in return. The way the three of them doted on each other was everything he never knew he needed.

'You're a freak, Whittemore.' He screwed his eyes shut as Daehler's harsh words from earlier forced their way to the forefront of his mind. He didn't want them there, wished he'd never heard them, or perhaps decked the asshole in the face. '...your relationship...disgusting... ' A one word plea for his mind to just shut off escaped his lips.

"Please what?" Allison's lips were suddenly back upon his. Their fingers intertwined, and she pressed his hands into the mattress beside his head, pinning him in place. Any other time, being used like this, having both Lydia and Allison taking what they needed from him, would have him reduced to a near sobbing mess. Now though-

He couldn't form words, and they misinterpreted his begging, fucking him harder.

"...you...never get married."   Those words had stung the most, because for all Daehler's taunting, that part had been true. It was something he thought about often, and it always hurt. What if Allison and Lydia wanted that as much as he did? Was he holding them back from what they wanted?

And kids....what about when the three of them wanted children? No matter how they went about that, one of them would always be the 'odd person out' on birth certificates.

 

"Freak."

"Freak."

"Freak."

 

He couldn't breathe, and it had nothing to do with his current activities. Allison still had him pinned down. Everything he'd been stewing over all night, hit him full force, and it was too much. It was all too much. He needed-  

Out. Yes, he needed out. Move , he told his limbs, but his body betrayed him. His eyes screwed shut as words failed him.

 

"Who do you have?"

"Freak."

"Disgusting."

"Never...married."

"That's just sick."

 

"St..sto..." He pushed up against Allison's hands, trying to get out from under her, but she had fantastic upper body strength. Dangerously close to tears, he was shaking by now, and he couldn't shut out Matt's cruel words. "Rr..red. Red."

Just like that, he could move again as both his girlfriends moved away from him, and before either of them could speak, he scrubbed his hands down his face. No matter what he tried, his breath still came in quaking heaves. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes, and...

The taunts were still there.

He felt warm fingers try to pull his hands away from his face. Judging by the long nails, he knew it was Lydia. "Hey," she said, her voice whisper soft and distressed, "I'm sorry. I was going pretty hard there. Did I hurt you?"

He sat up and brought his knees to his chest. "I'm fine. It's nothing."

"No, you don't get to do that," Allison said.

"And you don't get to criticize me because I safeworded."

Lydia wrapped her arms around him, resting her chin on his shoulder as she petted his hair. "I think she meant that you don't get to use our safeword and then act like it was nothing. You've never done that. Don't shut us out."

He licked his lips and shivered.

Allison patted the bed behind him. "Why don't you lie down?"

They lay beside him, and threw a blanket over the three of them. Allison played big spoon, while Lydia faced him. "What happened?"

"It's nothing either of you did. It's...Daehler said something to me earlier."

Lydia wiped the sweat off his forehead. "But you always brush off the stuff he says, because you know it's utter bullshit."

"Well, this time some of what he said was true." He sighed, "We can't get married. We're probably never going to be able to."

She smiled at him. "I didn't know you wanted to."

"We've been together for eight years, with Ally for three. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about at least once. It's more than once by the way. We can't even have a domestic partnership, civil union or any of that crap they tried to convince same sex couples was the same thing. We have nothing. If I get traded to the Redwings, Lightning, or Panthers it will be illegal for the three of us to even live together. In Boston, where I will be playing- just look up Massachusetts Cohabitation Law. Cause that's a headache I never want to deal with. When we want kids, well that's another big fucking mess there. If something happens to one of us, will the doctors let us see them? Allison, your mom still hates me. That's never gonna change. And I'm so fucking tired of explaining to people that I am not a sex-addicted, greedy asshole just because-"

Lydia pressed a finger to his lips. "I've done my research. We'll make an LLC. Buy property and share finances through the corporation. Medical proxy forms exist for this kind of thing. Three parent adoption is legal in Massachusetts, so whichever one of us carries the child, we'll just add either Ally or myself to the birth certificate along with you. As for Michigan or Florida...If you get sent to the Redwings, we can live in Ontario. Florida? Just ask that a clause be added to your contract, that you cannot be traded to Flordia. I am nothing if not thorough. I've researched all of this."

Allison pressed a kiss to his shoulder. "And if it's the symbolism of marriage you want, we can have a commitment ceremony. It's not perfect, but with all the stuff Lydia brought up, we'll make it work. Okay?"

He nodded.

"Now, I think we should get cleaned up. I don't know about you, but I'm a mess."

Jackson stared up at the ceiling as they scampered off to the bathroom. He didn’t feel like moving yet, didn’t think he could get up if he tried. When he didn’t hear the shower start, he turned his head to find Allison standing in the doorway staring at him. He knew what she was going to ask and didn’t really know how to answer the inevitable question.

She seemed to take his silence as an answer, which was good, because no, he wasn’t okay, and no, he didn’t want to talk about it further.

Not tonight at least.

 

Chapter Text

"Hey, Scotty!" Stiles called out from his bedroom. "Need your help, dude, before you leave." When Scott walked in, clad in gym pants over one of his gymnastics unitards, Stiles shook the tube of A&D Ointment at him. "I can't reach my back."

"Sure." Scott pointed to the bed, and Stiles shucked his shirt before lying down. "You know...for all the fuss you made about my tattoo being dumb, you got one of dots and lines. Really?"

Stiles rolled his eyes at him. "Did your tattoo have deep personal meaning?" He waited for a response, but there was none. "Total silence. That's what I thought. You said, 'I want a tattoo,' then went and got one you thought looked cool."

"Stiles," Scott smeared a thin layer of ointment over the healing tattoo, "it's lines and dots. Mine does look cool."

"Keep telling yourself that. Anyway, it's a constellation I'll have you know, and not that I'm going to tell you what it is, but it has deep personal meaning to me."

"Dude, it's swollen."

Stiles shrugged and then hissed in pain. "Yeah, the one on my arm swelled too."

Scott put the cap back on the ointment and set it on the nightstand. "You sure it was okay to get another one, you know, having Lupus? I'm done by the way. It's all rubbed in."

Stiles sat up and put his shirt back on, careful not to brush against the healing skin. "I checked with Dr. Morrell. She said it should be fine since I'm not on blood thinners."

"Good. Hey, you want me to bring you back some lunch? I'm meeting some buddies from high school at Tammy's Diner after my workout," Scott said from the doorway.

"No, I'm good. What time do you think you'll be back in case my dad and grandma ask?"

He shrugged. "Dunno. About three probably."

"Sounds good." Stiles waved bye to his step-brother, waiting in his room for the front door to close and Scott's dirt bike to pull away from the house before turning on his computer.

For at least the next two hours, he had the house completely to himself; he intended to make full use of that time. As he waited for the Skype call to connect, he glanced over at his bookshelf where the wrapped present from Derek sat. Its tag had the explicit instructions that Derek wanted to see him open it. He couldn't be sure if that meant he was to save it for when they came to visit or not.

"Emprós, matia mou."

Stiles smiled when Derek's face came on the screen. "Hi." He took in the blazer and button down Derek wore and let out an audible exhale of breath. "Fuck, you look good. Did I interrupt- Am I early? I thought you said eleven my time."

 

Derek smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners, expression soft and adoring. "No, you're good. Lunch with my mom took a bit longer than we expected. It was busy for a Tuesday. How are you? You look like you just woke up," he said, hanging the blazer in his closet, trading his button down for a t-shirt.

"No, I've just been incredibly lazy today so far. It's been nice. What did you have for lunch?"

Stiles watched as Derek moved his laptop onto his bed and flopped down next to it. Sunlight carried in through the window and struck his face, illuminating it with an ethereal glow. Or maybe Stiles was just imagining it because he missed him.

"Koupepia. It's stuffed grape leaves over pilaf and this delicious lemon sauce. Had some hummus and tabouli too. Mom and I split a bottle of wine and baklava for dessert."

Ah, that explained the rosy flush to his cheeks. "You drunk?" he joked.

"Little tipsy, but I was so stressed. Still am. I needed those drinks. Before you ask, Dad dropped us off and we took a taxi home."

God, he loved Derek. Even from two thousand miles away the man knew Stiles would be worried if either him or his mother had driven after a few drinks. "So...enjoying your break so far?"

"I had a tea party with Sophie and Sammy this morning. She made me wear a pink boa and her Ariel wig. It didn't quite fit."

"Tell me there was a picture of this glorious event."

"No dice." He watched Derek sigh, his chest rising and falling a few times before running a hand through his hair. "But, no, not really. I miss you."

"It's only been a week and a half, but...me too."

Derek stretched out on the bed, his shirt rising up and the trail of hair on his stomach peeked out from the hem. Without even thinking, Stiles licked his lips and felt his breath quicken. He was filled with the sudden urge to lick a long stripe right up that trail to the column of Derek's throat. He must of zoned out for a moment, because when he looked up, Derek was across the room, locking the door while he sent a text. Oh... oh .

When he settled back on the bed, Stiles saw the flush on his cheeks had spread down his neck, disappearing below his collar. His pupils had blown wide. "Stiles...you look like the big bad wolf and you want to eat me."

Fuck, that was the sexi- "Yeah, I kinda fucking do." He licked his lips again, discreetly toeing off his socks off-screen. "What was the text?"

Derek rose an eyebrow at him. "Well...maybe I sent Laura a message telling her the bedroom is off-limits for the time being."

"And?" Stiles asked, his voice a bit shaky.

"And, I was thinking perhaps you should open that present I gave you."

Oh ho.

With the present in his hands, Stiles slid a finger under the edge of the paper. Then, he peeled off the box tape and opened the top flaps. Inside, sat a dildo amidst red tissue paper. He plucked it from the package at waved it at the screen. "Why, Kochanie, something you're trying to say? He watched Derek turn a bright shade of red at his joke.

"Um...I don't think you looked at it closely enough."

What? Stiles didn't want to make him think he didn't like the gift. The toy wasn't an odd color--thank God. He had no use for a bright green dildo, thank you very much--just a light pink skin tone. It looked...wait a minute. "How the hell did you find an uncircumcised dildo?" Honestly, he'd been looking for one he could afford just about everywhere. It seemed, no one in this country appreciated an uncut dick. He happened to enjoy them, or perhaps, he just enjoyed Derek's.

"I didn't. I...made one. Do you-- do you like it?"

"This is your dick?" When Derek nodded, Stiles hopped off the bed. “I will be right back.” As soon as he was out of sight of the computer, he ran into the bathroom and began to wash his new toy thoroughly. Satisfied with its level of cleanliness, he sauntered back into the bedroom and flopped onto his bed. “Now...where was I? Oh yes.” He smirked and slipped the toy into his mouth, making sure to swirl his tongue around the tip the way he knew drove his boyfriend mad. He slurped on it, moaning around it and filling his empty room with obscene noises. He heard a strangled groan and looked at the video screen with his best bedroom eyes where he saw Derek with a hand down his unbuttoned jeans, palming himself over his underwear. Stiles pulled off with a pop. "Mmm, it's almost perfect, but I'd rather have the real thing. For one, this one doesn't taste nearly as good as you do." He grabbed his bottle of lube from his nightstand. "Take off your shirt." He almost cringed at the way it sounded like an order, but to his surprise Derek obliged him.

"Unph," he grunted when the collar of the t-shirt got caught on his head. "I was so worried you would think it was a silly gift, but I just thought...we're going to be apart a lot next year, and this would..."

"Make it more bearable?"

"Yeah."

Stiles nodded and decided to press his luck as he pulled his own shirt over his head. "Your pants- off now." And damn if the way Derek's mouth fell open and he complied wasn't enough to have him struggling out of his pajama pants. "Underwear too." He took note of Derek's chin dip and blush returning to his cheeks. "I wish I was there. Cause you look so fucking good with the way the sun is hitting your skin. Makes me want to kiss, and lick...and bite you all over."

Derek whimpered. Honest to God, whimpered. "Yes, please. I want that, too."

"Yeah? And what else would you want me to do?" he asked, feeling emboldened by Derek's suppliant demeanor at the moment. They'd never tried power plays in the bedroom before, preferring to be on equal footing, but clearly, Derek wanted this right now.

Derek fumbled with the bottle of lube he'd pulled out from the cabinet on his headboard. When he finally managed to open the cap and drizzle a generous amount on his hand, he tossed the bottle on the bed where it landed next to a toy Stiles didn't recognize. "I want you to fuck my face with that big dick of yours, feel it in the back of my throat."

"Shit," he groaned, wrapping a lube slick hand around himself. With only a few strokes, he was matching the rhythm which Derek stroked his own cock. "New toy?"

"Oh this?" Derek asked, picking up the dildo from beside him on the bed. "Yeah. It's um...closest match I could find to yours given I haven't actually measured you."

Stiles smirked. "Oh yeah? Maybe I should pick up one of those kits. I can do it while you're here. With you kissing the back of my neck, I'm sure I'll stay hard for the whole thing. Hell, just you watching would do that," he panted and licked his lips. "It's eight and a half by the way."

On the screen, Derek's eyes fluttered closed as he dropped his left hand down between his open legs, teasing at his rim. Stiles did the same, but pressed a finger inside instead.

"And I love every bit of it, especially when you slide inside me nice and slow."

"Mmm. I like that, too," he said, adding a second finger, moving them both, in and out of him at an almost frantic pace. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this turned on. Voyeurism had never really been his thing, or at least that's what he thought. Apparently though, he'd been mistaken.

Stiles almost came just from watching Derek slip a second finger into himself, and he could tell just from the movement of his wrist, that he was curling both digits against his prostate. The filthy moan that escaped Derek's throat confirmed that.

"Oh fuck." Derek writhed on the bed. "But not this time. No, if you were here right now, I'd want it hard and dirty, want you pulling on my hair, hips slamming into me."

Okay, that's enough prep. Stiles grabbed his Christmas present off the bed, slicked it it up, and pushed it past his rim. "Oh, that's good. That's- yeah. Feels just like you, almost."

He watched as Derek licked his lips, while Stiles moved the dildo inside him to the base and back, almost all the way out, before moving back in. There was a red flush spread across Derek's chest, and a sheen of sweat glistened in the sunlight. "Now you."

Derek nodded, and Stiles loved the way he could see his thighs tremble as he filled himself in one smooth movement.

"You look so good right now blissed out and panting. God, if you could just see yourself." Stiles sped up his strokes on his cock. He was close, so close.






Downstairs, John opened the door from the garage into the house, holding it open for his mother to walk through. "So we have you in the guest room, but it's a bit drafty. Scott volunteered to give up his room for a few days until he leaves for New York, but trust me, Mom, you'd much rather have the guest room. The bed in there is a lot nicer."

His mother patted his cheek. "Such a nice boy, Johnny."

"Stiles should be home. I'll go get-"

Suddenly, his son's voice carried down through the ceiling. "O, kurwa! Ja pierdolę! Harder!" Then, something fell over and onto the floor with a thud.  

John blanched. There was no way to explain away what they'd just heard, but hell if he didn't intend on trying. "That was...that's a cat...our neighbor's cat. It's always sneaking onto our roof."

"Oh what a talented cat, Johnny. It even curses in Polish, and I can't even get my cat to stop scratching on the couch," his mother deadpanned as she set down her purse on the kitchen table. "Nice try, but I'm pretty sure that was the sound of your son masturbating."

He had just opened his mouth, about to ask her if they could change the subject when--and leave it to Stiles to make an uncomfortable situation worse--his son yelled again, "I can't wait till you get out here, and I can pound your ass over the couch! You're gonna feel it for days after!"

John was far too old for this level of awkwardness, and so he grabbed the bottle of whiskey from the liquor cabinet and poured some into a tumbler. "Want some, Mom? If we get blackout drunk, we can all forget this moment."

She and Melissa both rolled their eyes at him in a spectacular display of synchronization. It really was impressive. Focus, John .

"Like you never did such a thing."

"I resent that implication. I was a perfect Boy Scout."

With a laugh, his mother opened the fridge and helped herself to a beer instead. "No, you weren't. Believe it or not, this is not the first time I've been in this situation. Though, I must say, you tried to be much quieter."

Great. Now he wanted to crawl into a hole and just die. Instead, he stood there with his jaw hanging open like a largemouth bass.

Leave it to Melissa to cut the tension, though. "To be fair, it sure sounds like Skype sex." She trained her eyes on the ceiling. "Yep, I definitely hear Derek's voice up there too."

And just like that, his wife was busy unloading the groceries into the pantry. Several minutes later, Stiles came downstairs (dressed, thank God). As soon as he saw them, his eyes seemed to grow several sizes until they just looked comical. He rubbed the back of his neck, a bright red flush creeping up the back of his neck. "Um...hi."

So John said the first thing that came to mind, which, in hindsight...might not have been the best choice of words. "The couch is off limits. I take naps there."

Comically large had been an understatement. Now Stiles' eyes had bugged out of his head, and he just blinked at the three of them like an owl, his mouth hanging open in abject mortification for a few seconds before he sank down into the nearest chair--or in this case, the ottoman--and buried his face in his hands. John could hear him muttering, but he couldn't decipher a damn thing his kid was saying. He was sure he caught something about trapeze or the circus in there somewhere.

"Relax," Grandma Stilinski said, patting Stiles on the shoulder, "just make sure you use protection, Krzysiek."

"Oh my, God. You know what? I'm just going to go upstairs for a few minutes...or forever."

 

***

While the sun outside kissed and then disappeared behind the horizon, the fireplace inside the Hale family living room crackled, filling the room with a comforting, ambient warmth. Enjoying a nap in one of his favorite places in the house, Derek lay stretched out on the sheepskin rug in front of the fire. Well, enjoying was a bit of an exaggeration. He'd just managed to pass into that hypnagogic state that came before sleep, on his way to what would surely be, much needed shut-eye if he was going to be able to stay awake later, when Laura bounded into the living room.

His mother always said his sister walked like she had elephant's feet, too loud for her size. Derek suspected it had a bit to do with the size of her personality and the need to make her presence known.

When he heard her approaching, and the sound of paper rustling in her hand, he opened one eye and glanced up at her. He knew that look on her face and braced himself. She tugged the lavender, cable-knit throw from the back of the couch and flopped down onto the floor, using his back as a pillow.

"Can I help you?" he groaned, because of course she couldn't just lie down and that would be it. No, she had to shift a few times, accidentally elbow him in the ribs (twice), and smoothe out the fabric of his sweatshirt before she seemed satisfied with her level of comfort.

"Anyone ever tell you, you are a terrible pillow?"

Behind his closed lids, he rolled his eyes at her. "I've heard the opposite actually. Can you just let me sleep, please?"

She ignored him, and he heard her turning the pages of the magazine in her hand, commenting every so often about what she found on the pages. "Oh, those are amazing. I would kill for that pair of Dior peep-toes."

He wasn't quite sure what a pair of peep-toes were, but he was knowledgeable enough to know they were shoes. Despite Stiles' claims to the contrary, he did, in fact, understand fashion...just not women's fashion. Nor did he have much reason to. He knew the cut of Levi's he preferred best, the essential shoes for his wardrobe, how his suits should fit, and how to rock a leather jacket. A thousand dollar pair of high heels just wasn't something he think he could master.

"Those pants would make my ass look amazing." There was a slight pause followed by an audible huff of air. "What the hell? They call those pockets?" she squeaked. "I don't even think I could fit a condom in those things." She tapped him on the shoulder, and he opened both eyes this time to look at her. As soon as they made eye contact, she thrust the magazine in his face. "Would you wear this?"

"You have the magazine maybe three inches from my face. Hard to focus."

"Oh, sorry."

When she pulled it back, he looked at a pair of skin tight pants with pockets even smaller than he'd seen on Sammy and Sophie's clothes. "If I were a woman?"

"No, right now,” she said, rolling her eyes, “Yes, of course, if you were a woman."

"No. Where the hell would I put my wallet?"

"You would have to use a purse. That's why they do this. They want you to spend even more money than the $200 pair of pants, and buy the damn purse."

He sensed a rant of epic proportions on the horizon. Though he loved the hell out of his sister, he was loath to enable her at the moment. "That seems ridiculous. Why are you reading that anyway? You hate fashion magazines."

She elbowed him again (on purpose this time). "I don't hate them. I just thoroughly dislike the way they perpetuate unrealistic standards of female beauty."

Now that he had abandoned hope of an actual nap, he sighed. "Ever read Men's Health or GQ ? I don't think those standards only apply to women. Granted, it's worse for you, so so much worse. But-"

She cast the magazine aside and turned her head towards him. "I know. Media...they just want us to feel crappy about ourselves. So, the ladies will be over in about half an hour."

"Okay."

"Remind me to sing your praises as an awesome little brother more often. Volunteering to be drunk bus driver for a bunch of tipsy ladies. Such a gentleman. I promise I will do my best to keep my drunken friends from getting too flirty and-"

"What's this I hear about drunken ladies?" Jake asked as he came downstairs.

Derek tensed beneath his sister's head. His brother had arrived the day before, and Derek had done his best to avoid him since then.

"Don't be an ass."

Jake flopped onto the couch, and Derek buried his face in his folded arms upon the floor. Maybe if he tried really hard, he'd be able to fall asleep or at least look like he had. He thought, perhaps taking a page out of Stiles' playbook, and ignoring the problem until it went away would work, his brother being the problem and away meant anywhere but in Derek's presence.

"So," Jake started, "I need a wingman tonight, and since Luke is far too young, and you're the only one of us who is single-"

Above him, Derek had felt Laura shift to pick the magazine back up. "Speak for yourself."

Deep breaths, Derek. Inhale, hold, exhale, hold.

"I need you, Derek."

Laura rolled off him and maneuvered to lay beside him. She threw the blanket over them both and poked him in the arm. "Hey, Der. Another hypothetical..." She tapped her finger on the page. "How about this? Would you-"

He opened his eye to take a peek at the picture...and the garish electric blue eye-makeup on the model. He knew what his sister was doing; she was trying to make Jake give up his plan, and he moved his leg to press against hers as a silent way to say 'thank you'. "No."

"Ok fine. Wingman is out. How about I take my little brother to the gentleman's club for your birthday?"

"No. I'm going out with Laura tonight. I'm DD for her birthday."

Jake let out an audible huff of exasperation. "Her birthday is in two days."

Derek ground his teeth as he wondered how he never put two and two together that his brother was just an ass before Thanksgiving. Clever one, you are. "Yes, and Christmas Eve is just the perfect day to drag her friends away from their families."

"But you could drop them off and-"

"No." One of the logs broke in the fireplace, and somehow, one of the sparks made it through the screen where it landed on the back of his neck. He flinched, sitting up and abandoning his nap. Maybe if he locked himself in his room with the stereo on-

"Oh come on! You need this. It is my duty as your older brother to make sure you get laid and don't die of blue balls," Jake whined, tossing a throw pillow at him.

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose. Five minutes. Five minutes of listening to Jake, and he could already feel a headache coming on. His eyes flitted around the room, to the stairs, the grandfather clock in the corner, to the the window where the timed lights had come on outside and illuminated the driveway. Basically, he just wanted to look anywhere other than his brother's face, because that smug grin the guy wore so often, the one that said Jake thought he was God's gift to just about everything, made his blood boil. "I don't like strip clubs. Besides, I'm already seeing someone."

The look on Jake's face told him that he did not believe him. "Uh huh. Sure you are. Go on then. What does she look like? I'm dying to find out."

The left side of Derek's lips quirked up in amusement. "Tall. Just a little bit shorter than me. Brown hair, gorgeous brown eyes with these amazing eyelashes. Porcelain skin." As he went on, he'd noticed that Jake had leaned forward, interested in the description he'd given, and that just tickled Derek to no end.

"Curvy right? You seem like you'd like a healthy set of curves."

Beside him, Laura cackled, "Hardly."

"No. Athletic and slim. Lovely hands."

Jake rubbed his chin and seemed to be hanging on his every word. Oh this was fantastic. "How's her rack? Good handful?"

He was fairly certain that Laura was about to burst out laughing any second, and he could see the tears pricking the corners of her eyes as she tried to hold in her laughter. "If by that you mean well endowed...then yes. A nice big handful that I'm quite a fan of," he said, almost ready to begin laughing himself. "Great ass."

"Nice. Well done. She coming for Christmas?"

"No." And he left it at that, because before Jake could form a response, Laura yanked him to his feet, dragging him towards the stairs.

"Erica just sent me a text. She's like fifteen minutes out, and you're still in your pajamas. Now go." She planted both hands in the middle of his back and pushed him up the stairs, which was wholly unnecessary because he was more than willing to get away from his brother's inquisition.

 

***

 

On the nightstand next to his bed, Derek's phone vibrated in the dark. He rubbed his eyes and groaned softly so as not to wake up Laura sleeping across the room. His eyelids fluttered open, adjusting to the darkness. Well, the darkness, save the little hints of light cast onto the ceiling from their star lamp. It had always been a comfort to awaken, not in pitch black, but against a backdrop of the night sky. Like a warm embrace instead of a cold shoulder.

He sat up, stretching his stiff limbs, before grabbing his clothes off the chair. No matter how many years he woke this early on his birthday, a tradition by now, he would never fully be awake for it until he had an insulated mug of coffee at his lips. In the quiet of the bathroom, he dressed, first pulling on his boxer briefs, then thermals and socks. The fleece lined coveralls came last. Though the forecast had called for temperatures around twenty instead of negative twenty (that was a few years ago. He shuddered at the memory), spending hours in the cold could take its toll.

Less than ten minutes later, Derek trudged downstairs, still half asleep, with his Kamik's and ice cleats in one hand, his cellphone in the other.

The living room was still quiet and dark, the only light downstairs, coming from the kitchen where he knew his father was preparing them a small meal of steel cut oats and coffee. Just enough to hold them over until they returned in time for Christmas brunch. As he sat down on the couch to tug on his boots, his phone lit up with an incoming message.

 

Smiling to himself, he felt his heart flutter at Stiles' concern. They'd talked about Derek's plan last night in detail. He'd wanted to Skype, but Stiles was at a holiday dinner for the Sheriff's department and their families. Besides, after the debacle that was their last Skype session, he didn't think Stiles was going to feel up to trying it again any time soon.

He responded, and even though he could feel the thrum of anxiety pulsing through him, he couldn't help but feel a little braver, a little bolder.

 

Boots on, though the ice cleats would wait until he was outside, lest his mother castigate him for wearing metal grippers on the hardwood floors, he shuffled into the kitchen.

"Good morning, son. I was beginning to think you'd overslept." His father passed a bowl of oatmeal and mug of coffee to him before coming around the kitchen island to pat him on the head. "Happy Birthday."

"Thanks, Dad."

They sat down at the table, eating their meal in relative silence, neither of them really in the mood for conversation yet, and anyway, that was usually saved for out on the ice. This was their time, and yeah, Derek knew full well that his dad took Luke out to the soccer pitch for his birthday. Just the two of them kicking the ball back and forth for hours, enjoying quality father-son time. He briefly remembered his dad taking Jake hunting a couple times, before Jake decided that he was too old for father-son time. Derek thought that notion was absolutely ridiculous. He cherished the times he and his dad went fishing, and he couldn't fathom being "too old" for them. Hell, Cora and their dad went running a couple times a week during the summer. He and Laura shot pucks around on the ice for hours yesterday for her birthday. Hannah even made time in her busy schedule to have lunch with each of her parents once a month. Derek and Laura did the same with their mom, both choosing to spend the afternoon with her at the same time. He just didn't understand why Jake was such a dick about it. He was the only one who lived out of state, and if he was going to come back to Minnesota on holidays and birthdays only, Derek thought he should spend time-

Whatever, his loss.

They loaded up their ATV's and the sleds they towed behind them that held their fishing gear. In no time, they were out on the ice. The two of them had their special spot that they sought out no matter what time of year. Was it the best for fishing? No, not by a long shot, and hell, ice fishing so early in the morning was pretty futile too, but catching a nice haul was not the point. It was the camaraderie and bonding time. Their 'spot' near Spirit Island was tucked away from view of any houses.

While his dad went to work with the auger, drilling the hole in the ice, Derek set up their poles. He set the line on the jigging rods, tied the hooks, until all they needed was a couple live leeches for bait. The ice beneath him vibrated a tad as the auger cut through it. It was nothing to worry about though, they'd been out on the ice enough times to know when it was safe. You listened to news reports, waited until the truck test had been completed. If it was safe to drive a truck on it, a couple ATV's and two grown men would be fine. Their chairs sat waiting for them when the drilling was complete.

So, the pair of them took their seats, set their lines--bait wriggling on the hooks--into the water.  

Conversation started light, the way it always did, with talk about school.

"Get your grades yet?"

"Yeah," he said, taking a long and much needed drink from his Thermos, "um, two A's, two A-'s, and a B+."

"That's fantastic. Still Dean's List?"

Derek nodded. "Yeah. It was a 3.78."

His father clapped him on the back. "I'm proud of you, Son. I know your sport is demanding, and taking sixteen credits is a lot of work, but you always put your education on par with athletics. That's smart and admirable. I wish your older br-" He stopped himself, seemingly unwilling to complain about his children. "That's good. I'm proud. We'll just leave it at that."

Derek chest swelled with the praise, and he gave him a little smile. "So do you think Mom will like the present you got her?"

His dad threw back his head and laughed. "God, I hope so. She's only been asking for one of those necklaces for years. I don't know why I kept putting it off."

"Maybe you were waiting until she had some grandchildren to add to it."

"I could have done that five years ago."

Cora and Derek had gone with him when he purchased the necklace months ago. They'd helped him pick the perfect design, settling on birds upon family tree branches, each bird complete with its own birthstone...all eight of them. When they'd asked him what he planned to do about future grandchildren, the jeweler pointed out they could add bird pendants to the chain later if needed. "She's gonna cry. I'm calling it now."

"Yeah probably. You all packed for your trip?"

Derek stiffened. His dad knew that both Laura and himself were flying to California in a couple days, but he didn't know the real reason for them going. "Yeah. Mostly. I need to pick up my suit from the dry cleaners."

When his dad joked that most people choose to spend New Year's in places like New York if they were traveling, he brushed it off, stating he'd rather be warm. Conversation stalled a bit after that, and he was sure his dad could tell something was up, but Derek just couldn't garner enough courage to open that can of worms yet.

A small tug on his line drew his attention away. With care and a practiced hand, Derek reeled in the line until he could see the head of a walleye breaking the surface. When he pulled it from the water, he grinned, a little of his anxiety abated. Working quickly, his dad pulled out the tape measure to see if the fish fell within size restrictions.

"Seventeen and a half. Nice job, son. I'll filet this and prepare alongside the duck for dinner. What do you think?"

"Sounds good."

His dad set up his camera on the tripod he brought along on each trip, and tugged on Derek's sleeve until he stood. The morning sun had broken over the horizon about ten minutes before. "Smile."

Once the picture had been taken, and the fish set aside, Derek returned to their conversation. He asked his dad about work, how their campaign was going, what he thought their chances of reelection were going, to which his dad replied that things were running smoothly and their approval rating was still high.

"Say, Dad? You ever think about running for president?"

"Me? No, not seriously anyway."

"What if Alan came to you and said he was thinking about it and would like you to be his running mate?"

His dad scratched his chin, deep in thought for several minutes. "Well, then I suppose I would consider it."

Derek nodded. "And say that happened...the press would be prying worse into your life right?" He bit his lip. "That's not how I meant it to sound. You know how when you guys were running for office the first term, and you sat us down to talk about decorum and behaving in public?"

His father gave him a strange look, one that asked what Derek's angle was. "Right. But yes, they would. Why do you ask?"

Okay, Derek. You can do this. Here goes . He borrowed a page from Stiles' book and took several breaths, holding each one until eight before exhaling slowly. "And what if, you know, one of us had something...big that they found and could use against you... how would you..."

His dad moved his chair closer and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Derek, are you trying to tell me that something you did would be- Son, out of all my kids, you were the one that never got in trouble unless one of your siblings dragged you into it. I doubt there is anything-”

"No, not trouble or bad. What if...Jake went into rehab or something."


He looked over at his son. "So long as none of you committed a crime, I would stand up for any of you. Now, Derek...if you go on a murdering rampage, however unlikely...I might not be as protective."

Derek chuckled. "Might not?"

"It depends on why you went on the rampage I suppose. You decide to moonlight as Batman, it’s kind of hard to disagree with your vigilante spree."

"Dad, Batman doesn't kill people." Derek couldn't help the way the corners of his mouth drew up as he thought about all the Batman knowledge that Stiles had drilled into his head over the years.

His dad took a drink of his coffee. "Oh, sorry I forgot to mention it a couple days ago, but I got an email from the Rangers earlier in the week, and they're very impressed with the season you've been having. Leading all NCAA defensemen in points and goals. So long as you keep it up, you're most likely going to play next season."


Derek sat stunned, for a moment. He thought for sure that he was going to spend a season or at least half a season in Hartford playing for New York's AHL affiliate. Still, he couldn't let his moment get away from him.

"Still with me? They really expect you to make an impact."

The irony of the situation was not lost on him. As he sat with his fingers playing with a pocket zipper on his coveralls, he huffed out a shaky breath. "In more ways than one."

"I don't- you lost me, Derek."

He licked his lips and steeled his resolve. "Dad, I'm gay."

Now, it was his dad's turn to sit stunned, which the man did...for far longer than Derek would have liked. As the seconds of silence ticked by, that familiar panic began to fill his chest. The bile rose in his throat, and he found himself trembling before too long. "Dad, please say something," and he hated how small his voice sounded just then, how small and young.

Instead, his father stood up and Derek was sure (and abjectly horrified) that he was about to be thrown out of the house. When he found himself pulled to his feet and hauled into a near crushing hug, he actually began crying in relief. Even if the rest of the family turned their backs on him, he would still have his parents.

"Hey, hey. You don't need to do that. It's okay. Did you think I wouldn't-" His dad released the embrace and stepped back to look at him.

Derek could pinpoint the exact moment when his father realized that Derek had indeed thought that he wouldn't be accepted. He watched as his father's brows drew in. His lips were a tight grimace of tension, and his nostrils flared as he seemed to struggle with his emotions. From where they'd lain at his sides once he'd released his son, his arms were still and rigid, that is, until he scrubbed both hands down his face. "Oh God, you did."

Yet, his father couldn't meet his eyes. He had pressed a closed fist to his mouth.

"I'm sorry, Dad. I just thought-"

"No, don't. You have nothing to be sorry for, Derek. I'm not upset with you; I'm mad at myself. You're my child, and somewhere I failed in my job as a parent if, for even a second, you believed I would love you any less just because you're gay.”

"I was right there, in the kitchen when my own brother said that he would have helped in assaulting any gay men on his football team when he still played, when he said that men like me were disgusting. I just don't- oh God...that hurt." He stopped to collect himself, and found himself in another embrace, this one firmer and more desperate than the last.

“Shit. Thanksgiving.” There was a small hitch in his voice. “Oh my God,” he sighed then rubbed Derek’s back. “I'm so sorry I let you down, son. As parents, well we're not perfect, and for all that your mother and I have tried to keep racism, sexism, and homophobia out of our home, we obviously failed. I should have said more, been more explicit when I told your brother his language was unacceptable.”

Derek hiccuped and nodded against his father's shoulder. “Yeah.”

“God, I'm so mad at myself, because what I meant was not clear enough, and it led you feel unwanted and scared...even if I didn't know at the time that it applied to you. I'm sorry. I was more upset by the sentiments of his words, than any of the swearing. I want you to know that. If I hear him saying something like that again, I will do better.”

Derek released the hug and stepped back, surprised to see tears on his father's face.

His father's expression softened once more. "I’m so sorry.”

“It's okay.”

“No, it really isn't, but I'm happy you told me.” He paused as though he were pondering something. “About your previous question, about the media? That was because you're gay, and you're worried about..."

"It hurting your career. I know it's-"

"Derek," his father said with stern conviction, staring at him in the way he had since Derek was young. It was his 'are you paying attention' expression, "you are my son first. My family is my number one priority, always has been. There is nothing wrong with you. If media or opponents make claims that my having a gay child is in any way an indicator of my ability to hold an office or a reflection of my character then I will hit them with everything I have. Do you understand?"

Derek nodded, and then dashed the remaining tears from his eyes. "Yes."

"Now," his dad sat back down, patting Derek's chair next to him, "sit. There are more fish to catch."

"That's it?" Derek asked.

"Well, that's why we have these fishing outings, you and I. To talk about things." He stretched his legs out in front of him. "Am I okay with it? Absolutely. So long as you are happy and your partner is a good person, treats you well, I don't care who he is or what he looks like. Does it scare me? Yes. It's not the life I would pick for you. Despite all our strides forward, the world is still an ugly place sometimes, filled with some people who have nothing in their hearts but hate. I admit, I'll be worrying about you more than I ever have. I’ll be worried if you are going to be assaulted for holding your partner's hand in public. I'm worried about you receiving hate mail for being an out player. Are you planning on being an out player?"

"I'm working on it. It's been rough working up to telling anyone besides Laura. She's known since I figured it out about myself.”

His father rubbed his chin. “Being the first openly gay player… that's going to come with a lot of attention, and you and I both know how much being the center of any attention isn't really your thing. Make sure you surround yourself with a good group of people, because you'll be a poster child and spokesperson no matter what you do. You'll be looked up to by a lot of kids, which I'm sure you know.  Don't be afraid of leaning on your support people.”

Derek cringed. “Yeah, I know. I've been working on being more talkative, more personable. Like  I told Stiles, baby steps."

His father looked at him and cocked an eyebrow. "Stiles?"

He felt his face flame, and his smile that Laura said he gave any time his thoughts flitted to Stiles, spread across his face. "Yeah. He's- we're," he gestured to the air in front of him, "together. You know, a couple."

His father clapped him on the back. "Well, good for you. That a recent thing?"

"No. Um, going on two and a half years." He saw his father's jaw drop. "I was scared, okay? But I brought him home to meet everyone. What did you think of him?"

"He's pretty funny. Sure talks a lot though."

Derek's head dropped back, and he laughed at the sky. "I know. It's worse when he's nervous, but I find it endearing. God knows why, but I do."

"Yep, love will do that to you."

His father's line went taut, and Derek pointed to the pole. "Looks like you've got a bite now too."

Within a few moments, they had the fish out of the hole onto the ice. It was...significantly smaller than the one Derek caught.

"Aw hell. No way we can keep that one," his dad said with a groan, unhooked the fish and released it back into the water. When he reset his line, Derek pulled out his phone.

"Hey now. You know the rule. No phones unless emergency."

Derek shook his phone at him. "Stiles knew I was planning on coming out to you this morning. He's going to worry it didn't go well if I don't-"

With another pang of guilt on his father's face, he dad held up a hand. "Say no more. Go ahead."

He gave him a smile and walked a little ways away and called Stiles who answered with a sleepy grumble, "Hej, słoneczko. It go okay?" Derek's heart fluttered at the softness in Stiles' voice, the barely awake rasp of a question. It made his heart ache with a longing to be right there beside him.

"Yeah," he said with a smile, "it did."

"I'm so relieved, and I'd love to talk, but I'm fucking exhausted. I feel like death."

"Yeah, I'm sure you are. I love you."

"I know," and then there was a thud on the other end of the line followed by Stiles groaning 'Shit,' which led Derek to believe that he'd dropped the phone.

"Don't worry about it. Go back to sleep." Derek ended the call, hoping that his boyfriend wouldn't fall out of bed trying to retrieve his cell.

 

***

His bedroom door squeaked open, startling Stiles awake for the second time that morning. Well, rousing him at least, because he didn't think he could move on his own if he tried. He opened one eye to see his dad standing in the doorway, and he wanted to tell him to back the hell out of his room and march right back downstairs, that he had no intentions of getting up anytime soon. The blankets were too heavy atop his aching body, but he just didn't have the motivation or the energy to move out from under them.

"Breakfast is ready downstairs, kiddo."

He groaned and tried rolling over to face the wall, but instead, an excruciating throb of pain that drew a shaky whimper out of him.

"Everything okay?"

"No." Stiles attempted to sit up but was hit with a wave of nausea and dizziness so strong his head was pounding as the room spun around him. He gestured at his dad. "Trash can, Dad. Get the trashcan."

His dad slid the garbage bin over to him not a moment too soon, because what little remained in his stomach hit the bottom of the can with a disgusting splatter.

"Ugh, that's so gross." He waited, unsure if he was finished, groaning the whole time. A few short moments later, his father placed a glass of water and a capful of mouthwash on his nightstand. After he'd rinsed his mouth and drank about half the water, he looked up. "Thanks. Could you get my meds from the bathroom."

'Stiles-" his father just stood there, words dying on his lips.

"What? Why are you looking at me like..." Acting on a hunch, Stiles touched his cheeks and hissed. "Ah. There's a vitamin E skin cream in the hall closet." When his dad didn't move, he rolled his eyes, which hurt like a- "Motherfucker," he groaned. "I'm fine. I'm fine. Just...I need one of the Vicoprofen, too."

He rubbed the back of his neck, and just the movement of his arms was enough to bring tears to his eyes. Merry Christmas to me . "Hey, Dad. I need your help with something else too."

"Sure," his dad said as he re-entered the room and placed the pills in Stiles' outstretched hand, "what do you need?"

Stiles shifted in his seat. Foolishly, he'd fallen asleep in his hoodie, and now his shoulders were killing him. "My shirt is making my shoulders hurt worse, but I can't get the thing off."

His dad's face scrunched up in parental concern, like just seeing his son like this was breaking his heart. "Hold still," and with gentle movements and tender hands, his father removed the offending garment, and then grabbed the vitamin E cream from the bedside table, unscrewing the cap.

"No, Dad, it's okay, I can do it."

His dad knelt down in front of him and dabbed the lotion on Stiles' cheeks. "You were probably too young to remember it, but I did this for your mom." He stopped and, with closed eyes, took a few deep breaths. "I know you're an adult now, but you're still my son. Let me take care of you." He set the container down on Stiles' nightstand and extended a hand. "Come on. I'll help you down the stairs."

With each step, he just wanted to turn around and crawl back in bed. What in the hell had triggered this flare? He'd been so good with his diet and stress...oh. Real smart, Stiles. You just had to get that tattoo. Totally worth it, though. His dad helped him settle on the couch and threw a blanket over him. "Thanks, Pops."

"Melissa made pancakes. Don't worry; she remembered to make special ones for you. You feel up to eating?"

"No, but my meds make my stomach hurt without food. Maybe just one and some tea?"

His dad reached out to ruffle his hair but stopped. "Okay."  

Sensing his distress like the wonderful dog she was, Harley hobbled over and lay her head upon the couch cushion and whined.

"Good morning, pretty girl. I'm okay." When she whined again, he braced himself for impact and said, "Okay. You win. Up." Surprisingly, she landed in between his legs. "Good girl," he said rubbing her head between her ears.

“Hey, man,” Scott said, leaning over the back of the couch, “you look like crap, and I mean that in the absolute nicest way. Sucks that you're sick on Christmas.”

“Tell me about it. Hopefully if I take it easy for a few days, and like… do much of anything, this flare will only last a couple days.”

Scott finished off his glass of orange juice. “Yeah. So... funny story.”

“Funny haha or funny ironic?”

“Haha for us, a bit mortifying for your dad.”

Stiles smirked. “Oh, do go on.”

“So, she's dressed now, but when your grandma came downstairs, she was wearing a pajama shirt that ‘Life's too short for cooking. I like to eat out.’ And get this, it had two stick figures 69'ing on it. I don't know if I've ever seen your dad look so embarrassed. I think she knew exactly what her shirt meant too.”

“Oh she did. She so fucking did,” he wheezed. “Grandma is the queen of raunchy old ladies.”

When his dad soon returned to the living room with Stiles’ breakfast, his grandma, Melissa,  and Scott had already settled around the tree. As he watched his grandmother open the first present, he munched on a rolled up banana oat bran pancake that he dipped in vanilla Greek yogurt. Was it as good as a syrupy, sugar coma, shortstack? Absolutely not, but it was decent.

"Oh wow, this is so soft. It feels amazing, Melissa," his grandma said, lifting the aubergine sweater out of the box. "And cashmere? You didn't need to do that for me."

"If it helps, it was on sale." Melissa took another sip of coffee and grabbed the stockings off the fireplace, passing them out. "Stiles, I made sure to stay in line with your new dietary restrictions as much as I could."

"Thanks, Mel." The organic honey candy she'd put in there, looked amazing. Also, inside were several tubes of sunscreen and a couple chapsticks with sunscreen as well. Since he'd  been cursed with skin that burned at the drop of a hat, this whole staying out of the sun thing would probably be less of  a nightmare for him than it was for others. He couldn't imagine how miserable he'd be if he were a regular sun worshiper.

He fought to contain his laughter as his dad pulled out new fishing lures, a pack of good hooks, and a new apron for when he grilled outside from inside his stocking. Stiles had personally selected that apron himself.

"I like pig butts and I cannot lie," his dad read aloud, raising an eyebrow at him. "Really, Stiles?"

"I know; it's awesome."

Scott hugged Melissa. "Awesome! New grips! My old pair are about to fall apart, and wouldn't that suck?"

"Thanks, Grandma." Stiles couldn't wait to read Batman: Earth One Vol. 2

"Is that the right one? I couldn't remember if you'd said Vol. 1 or 2."

"Yeah, this is perfect. I have something to read on the flight back to Minnesota now. I'd hug you, but I'd have to get up and I don't think I can."

Her expression softened. "Oh you poor dear, Krzysiek, to feel so awful at Christmas is unfair."

He shrugged and immediately regretted it (he was more than certain he actually whined, because Harley picked her head up off his chest to stare at him). His pain medication hadn't begun to start working yet. Before anyone could ask him, he put an end to any potential questions. "I'm fine. Just..." he chewed on his bottom lip as he flexed and unflexed his fingers. God, how they ached. When he looked up, he noticed he was under his father's concerned gaze once more.

Though he was so young when his mother was her worst, he remembered how frustrated she was when she couldn't perform basic self-care. He couldn't understand at the time, why she'd start crying anytime his dad had to tie her shoes for her because her hands hurt too badly. Well...he was starting to understand now.

Without saying a word to him, his dad gestured to Scott to grab the other end of the coffee table, and together, they moved it out of the room and into the garage for the time being. When they returned, his father carried Stiles' mug of tea securely in his hands. Then, he grabbed the throw pillow from where he'd been sitting on the loveseat and placed it on the floor against the couch. Stiles opened his mouth to ask about it, but his dad simply sat down on the cushion and grabbed Stiles' next present.

"This one is from Abuela Delgado."

Stiles watched his dad tear into the colorful paper for him, and his chest swelled with emotion at the way the man just understood. He didn't try to baby him; he just wanted to help. The electric blankets Scott's grandma (and by now, she was Stiles' grandmother too, let's be honest) gave them would feel amazing, and he couldn't wait to use his back at school.

In a haze of pain, he watched as the family opened up the rest of their presents, and just like every year, it was over in a flash. He'd received a new portable DVD player, clothes, the complete Jurassic Park Collection on BluRay, and a new cell phone case. All in all, a pretty good haul for him.

As Melissa put in the first of their traditional Christmas Day movie choices, and by traditional, he meant "traditional", he found he could hardly keep his eyes open. He was asleep before John McClane even made it to Nakatomi plaza.

Some time later, he was lightly shaken awake. He opened his eyes and carefully turned his head so as not to wake the sleeping dog who was still laying on top of him.

 

 

"Here's some lunch, Sweetie," Melissa said, placing the plate of fresh fruit, veggies and cheese on the coffee table (returned to its rightful place). Then, she held the straw in his glass of water to his lips. He took a good, long drink and noticed that he'd slept through all of Die Hard and half of Lethal Weapon . "Aww man. I missed my favorite part."

She brushed the hair out of his face and gave him a warm smile. "How are you feeling?"

"A little better. I still hurt just about everywhere, but it's dulled a bit."

"When are you due for your next dose of your pain med?"

His mind was completely blank, well foggy was a better description.. "Um...I don't...Ask Dad. He should know."

"Okay. I'll do that. You want me to help you sit up so you can eat?"

He nodded, and breathed through the pain as she helped him into a better position for eating. "Thanks, Mel."

She sat down on the loveseat next to his dad who threw a blanket over the both of them. Stiles smirked when he noticed Scott asleep on the floor, mouth open and snoring. Grandma sat in the recliner with a bowl of popcorn, gleefully watching the action unfold on the screen. "I used to think Mel Gibson was so dreamy. You know, until I realized he was an asshole. Totally killed all his charm."

Melissa chuckled. "Oh yeah? Who's dreamy now?"

"Chris Evans. I don't even care that I'm old enough to be his grandmother, that man has an ass you should write sonnets to."

Stiles almost choked on a piece of melon. His grandma...had even less of a filter than he did.

"You okay, Krzysiek?"

He nodded, a blush spreading across his cheeks. "Uh huh. Totally. Just fine."

"What? You don't think an old lady like me could appreciate such a specimen?"

"On the contrary. It's..."

"Oh God," Scott groaned from his place on the floor, now fully awake thanks to Stiles' sputtering a moment earlier, "we're not talking about Stiles' ridiculous crush on Captain America again are we?"

Stiles' grandmother gave him a knowing wink. "Well, I guess I'll just have to visit you in school and we can go see Captain America 3 together."

"That's- Sounds like a wonderful plan."

 

Chapter Text

 

Derek and Laura strolled through the terminal on their way to the arrivals gate at Sacramento, each, with their hands curled around the handle of a carry-on. He'd been elected in charge of the garment bag, because, in Laura's words, he was ' taller '. That definitely earned an eye roll and a petulant, ' Laura, you're 5'10". Not that much of a difference ,' from him. No sooner had they'd stepped off the escalator into the baggage claim area than he found himself with an armful of Stiles.

And by armful, he meant, he collided with Stiles who just couldn't wait for him to stop moving before embracing him. Laura, the traitor, first cackled and then cooed with an 'Aww, that's so schweet." That was it; he was never watching Futurama with her again.

"I take it you missed me," Derek sassed.

"Shut up." The words were muffled as Stiles grumbled into his neck. “How was your flight?”

“Miserable. God, I hate flying.”

The vibrations from Stiles’ chuckle reverberated through his chest. It felt amazing. It felt like home.

“I know you do, kochanie. Gives you a literal not figurative headache.”

After a long minute (God, how he wished it could last forever), Derek pulled back and cupped Stiles' face in his hands. He noticed the still visible redness on Stiles' cheeks, and he brushed a thumb underneath the rash.

Before he could say a word, Stiles answered his unspoken question. "It's fine. I'm good, a little tired, but good."

"How? The last flare lasted a month. I mean-"

Stiles pressed a finger to his lips. "Each flare is different. This one knocked my on my ass for three days, and I woke up yesterday feeling fantastic."

Derek pulled him back into a hug. "I wish I'd been here for you. I should have been here."

"And miss that wonderful morning with your dad? Not allowed. Besides, my dad enjoyed the chance to baby me."

"Even still. I shoul-

Stiles looked him straight in the eyes. "No, Kochanie. It's gonna happen. My Lupus is going to flare again. Maybe next year when I'm at school and you're not, or when we're separated, playing for different teams in different cities. But it will flare up. Derek, when you think about how seldom we will see each other during the season throughout our careers, it's for the best that I get good at dealing with them all by myself."

Oh. For all his planning, Derek hadn't even thought about how hard it was going to be spending most of the year apart. Hell, it had only been a couple weeks, and that had been hard enough for him. He couldn't imagine how he'd surviv-

"Stop that," Stiles said, cupping his face now, breaking him out of his thoughts. "We will find a way to make it work. It will be tough as hell, but that will only make the time we do get together even sweeter. Come on." He reached down and took Derek's hand. "Hi, Laura! Looking as beautiful and fierce as ever. Don't think I forgot you were coming too."

With a smirk and roll of her eyes, she waved him off. The three of them walked out of the airport to short term parking, where, to Derek's surprise, he found Sheriff Stilinski and who he assumed was Stiles' grandmother waiting for them by the sheriff's Traverse. Sheriff Stilinski hopped out and helped Laura with her bags first and then turned his attention to Derek's rolling garment bag and his backpack.

"Thank you, Sir."

"Derek," he said, clapping him on the back, "I've told you that you can call me John. You're damn near family at this point. That goes for you too, Lau-"

Laura cut him off with a hug. "Nice to see you again, John."

"See, she gets it."

"Sorry, Sir…” he winced, “I mean, John. Where's Scott?" Derek asked as he climbed into the back seat beside Stiles, who sat in the middle.

"He left for New York yesterday."

"Still can't believe he is willingly choosing to spend New Year's Eve in Times Square. That sounds like a nightmare," he grumbled.

Laura climbed in, sitting on Stiles’ other side and patted him on the head. "Look who's monkey in the middle."

Stiles simply shook his head with a chuckle and scooted as close to Derek as he could. Smiling at him, Derek lifted his arm and rested it upon the seat back. He nudged Stiles' thigh with his own, his chest filling with a comforting warmth when Stiles nuzzled against him.

Grandma Stilinski, in all her purple haired glory and a sense of style that would put Phyllis Diller to shame, turned around in the passenger seat just as John climbed in behind the steering wheel and shut the door. "Oh, Krzysiek, and I thought his pictures were lovely! But he is so much more handsome in person. Believe me when I say I mean this in the most flattering way possible, photos do not do you justice, young man."

Stiles rubbed Derek's cheek. "I know, babciu. Isn't he glorious? I could look at him for hours."

She patted her grandson's knee. "Honestly, if I had a beau as beautiful as this one, I wouldn't be able to keep quiet when I took care of my own needs either."

John groaned and rubbed his temples as he took his receipt from the pay station at the garage exit. "You're a menace. You know that, right, Mom?"

She cackled and turned back around, while Derek felt an intense blush creep up the back of his neck. Was it as warm in there to anyone else?

Laura, the traitor, laughed just as loudly as Grandma Stilinski had. "Oh my God! You were heard by Grandma? That's so great. I'm never letting you live that one down, Der."

"To be fair, she just heard me," Stiles said with a sigh.

Laura reached across Stiles to pat Derek on the chest. "Don't sweat it, baby bro. No matter how much I tease you, I still love you the best."

"Thanks, Lolo."

"So, Krzysiek, aren't you going to introduce us?"

"Oh. Sorry, babciu. Derek, Laura, this is my grandma, Gra żyna . Um, you can just call her Grace. Just about everyone else does. Babciu, this is Derek."

"His boyfriend," Laura said in her most saccharine voice, her hands clasped together near her chin as she batted her eyes. "They're twitterpated."

"Really, Laura? Again with the Bambi ?"

"Of course, Derek. When you look like Thumper, and he looks like a baby deer, yes, I'm going to make a Bambi reference."

"Anyway," Stiles huffed, each syllable drawn out and exasperated, "this is Laura, Derek's twin sister. She will occasionally refer to him as Baby Bro. It's usually when she's trying to make a point or sound wiser, but really, it's just by six minutes. Don't let their bickering right now fool you. They are joined at the hip."

She stuck out her hand to shake his grandmother's but was met with a high five instead. "Nice to meet you, Grace."

Stiles pinched the bridge of his nose. "And before you ask, babciu. Yes, the rest of the family is just as good looking. Genetic jackpot winners all of them."

John chuckled as he pulled onto the interstate. The drive was surprisingly mellow for a while as Laura and Grace chatted away, earning the occasional groan from John at his mother's candor while Derek rested his eyes and savored the warmth and peace of Stiles sleeping beside him..

About halfway through their ninety minute drive, Stiles woke up, looking to Derek in confusion regarding the conversation between Laura and Grace. "Don't ask," Derek whispered.

"Oh my God! I love this song! Turn it up please, John?" The smile in Laura's voice could be heard a mile away, so of course John obliged.

She and Stiles began singing along with Bruno Mars. Derek, however, had more than had his fill of the song. Laura's standard go-to for a musical pep-me-up, she would listen to it ad nauseum some days.

" ...smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy, " Stiles sang. " I'm too hot. "

Laura took over, "Hot damn. "

" Call the po-lice and the fireman. " Stiles held his water bottle up to Derek's mouth like a microphone, but Derek did not indulge him. This , earned him an eye roll from his boyfriend, as Laura sang his 'line' instead.

" Make a dragon wanna retire man. "

This time, when Stiles tried again with the 'mic', Derek gave in. " I'm too hot ."

"Damn, fucking right you are," Stiles said in a sing-song voice, dripping with flamboyance.

And so it continued for the rest of the song which became a full-on duet, save for Derek's required input. It was nice though, because eventually, Grace joined in. They were all carefree in a way he never could be around his own grandmother. 'Image is everything' she'd preach (and had on many occasions). Fun was not a word he believed to be in her vocabulary, unless you could count judging one's friends through thinly veiled flattery over a game of bridge down at the country club as fun, which he didn't.

Upon stepping foot in the Stilinski-McCall house some forty minutes later, an exuberant Harley greeted them, and by them, Derek totally meant she nearly knocked Stiles over. No surprise there. As Stiles had explained to him the first time he'd come out to California, every time Stiles walked through the door, his beloved puppy treated him like she hadn't seen him in years and would never see him again if she didn't immediately cover him with dog kisses.

"Aww, look at you, pretty girl," Laura said, rubbing the fur between Harley's ears. "I love your Christmas bow. You look so regal."

Derek snorted at her unnaturally high-pitched voice and crossed the living room for the stairs. Unlike the steps at his parents' house, the tenth step did not creak under his weight...all of them did. As he moved to put his things in Stiles' room, he found the doorway blocked by the resolute form of John.

“I’m just gonna throw this out there right now. I do not, I repeat, do not , want to be woken up at three in the morning by my son's um...creative expletives. If you catch my drift. Once was bad enough." John turned and headed towards his bedroom at the end of the hall. "Oh, and I'll tell you the same thing I told Stiles. The couch is off limits. I take naps there. I don't want to have to worry about whose bare ass print I might be lying on when I do."

Speechless and face burning, Derek stashed his things in Stiles’ room, unrolled the garment bag, and dutifully hanging his and Laura's evening wear, grateful to find both mostly wrinkle free. He was just about to change into a pair of basketball shorts so he could take a much needed nap when Laura walked in, flopping upon Stiles’ bed.

"Want the shower first?”

He stretched out on the mattress, tugging the sheet over him. "No, that's okay. You can have it."

She walked by and ruffled his hair on her way out of the room. "Such a gentleman, Der. See you later. After I clean up I'm going to get a pedicure with Melissa and Grace. Enjoy your nap."

Downstairs, he could hear the comforting sound of Stiles’ laughter when he said goodbye to the ladies. The clang and clatter from the kitchen as Stiles emptied the dishwasher, reminded him of the last couple weeks at home with his mother cleaning up after breakfast. It was yet another thing that made him feel like he was right where he needed to be whenever he spent time with Stiles. He burrowed deeper into the covers and let the sense of family and scent of Stiles' shampoo on the pillow lull him into sleep.






* * *



"Oh my, God. Did you see the look on his face when Derek sent that blistering slapshot into his calf? Asshole looked like he was going to simultaneously cry, die of pain, and clock you in the face," Laura said as the three of them walked into the Stilinski-McCall house from the garage where they'd left their hockey equipment.  

Derek couldn't remember the last time he'd had that much fun playing a game of pick-up, and luckily for him and Laura, Stiles had come through with enough equipment for the both of them.

He winced when Laura flopped down into the chair beside him at the dining room table, knocking his knee into the table leg.

"Der, I am going to be so damn sore in the morning. Pretty sure that hip check into the boards from Kipps is gonna leave a bruise."

John came out of the kitchen carrying a couple serving dishes of steaming food. "You kids have fun?"

The crack of a pop-tab opening echoed in the dining room, soon followed by the hiss of carbonation settling in a cup. Stiles took a long drink from his glass of lemon seltzer. "Tons. Pitchy got his ass handed to him. Felt fantastic to finally get back at him for middle school."

John shook his head as though this was an old topic of conversation for them, one that he'd heard often. "Son, you're going to have to let that go. Holding a grudge is not healthy."

"Yeah, well neither was crying in my room after each practice and game. Dad, that asshole almost made me quit hockey," he said, slumping down in his chair.

John kissed the top of his son's head. "I remember, Stiles. Just, maybe now that you gave him his comeuppance, it's time to lay it to rest."

Derek heard Stiles grumble under his breath about derogatory nicknames ruining the fun of the hockey moniker.

Laura hummed as though she'd been reminded her of an earlier question she hadn't asked. "By the way," she began when she had Stiles' attention, "Slinky? S'that because you can't seem to stay on your feet when you play?

His face lit up at her question. "Noooo..." He smirked and gave her a wink, "It's 'cause I'm fun for girls and boys." He cackled. The sound of his full-body laughter filled the room. Derek loved it when Stiles laughed. It just had this way of lighting up his entire person, like sunshine. Even when it was at Derek's expense, it was still effervescent.

Stiles, Derek had learned, had four laughs. The first, was the one he was doing right now, his shoulders shaking with the hearty sound of amusement that came from his core, the gut-busting kind of laughter. The second, was the nervous chuckling he did when he was trying to lie his way out of a situation or deal with uncomfortable situations. Derek didn't like the sound of that one. The third, was the wry yet soft cackle that Derek likened to the that of Lisa Simpson. Stiles laughed like this at dirty jokes. It was the laughter when Stiles knew he shouldn't find something funny but just couldn't stop himself. Derek strived to hear this one at least once a day, because it pretty much summed up Stiles' personality. If someone had asked him to choose one characteristic that he felt best showcased the person his boyfriend truly was, it was that laugh that made Stiles sound like a sarcastic little shit. As much as he enjoyed hearing it, it was only his second favorite of the four types of laughter. The fourth kind, was the kind Derek was sure only he ever got to hear. Similar to the first type in the way it's ebullient sound could fill a room, but in every other way different. He laughed like this during a tickle war, when Derek would get that spot just above his left hipbone, and Stiles would squirm, not away but towards him. He would laugh like this when he was trying his hardest not to laugh and finally lost control of himself. This kind always, or at least ninety percent of the time, would lead to tears of mirth. When his fit of giggles would eventually subside, leaving Stiles lightheaded, his cheeks would be flushed, and there would be a look of euphoria in his eyes

That one, the fourth kind, that was Derek's favorite sound in the whole world. It was addicting, and he would do just about anything to be able to hear it every day for the rest of his life.

"Earth to Derek," Laura said, waving a hand in front of his face, and when he shook himself out of his thoughts, the knowing smirk she gave him told him he'd been caught staring at Stiles with 'hearteyes' again. Damn it.

John took his seat at the head of the table, turning to Stiles. "I never did understand why it was absolutely imperative that you got one in the first place."

Stiles reached across the table to grab one of ' his ' dinner rolls from the little plate next to the heaping bowl of rolls for everyone else. He tore off a piece of bread and popped it into his mouth, chewing it for a moment before swallowing with disdain. "Ugh. Tastes like cardboard." He craned his head towards the kitchen. "Looks like we can cross this brand off the list too, Mel." He pointed the roll in John's direction, "I swear to God, I will find a gluten free bread that does not taste like I'm eating a cereal carton."

During Stiles' first flare, when he was finally feeling a little better, Coach threw his annual spaghetti dinner for the team. As usual, because it was one of his favorite days of the year, Stiles gorged himself on pasta. By the next day, his Lupus had flared back up with a vengeance, and of course, being the obsessive researcher he was, Stiles found some articles citing the possible link between Lupus and gluten sensitivity. On a whim, and by then he was desperate, he completely cut out gluten and any of the other common foods he found that may cause or worsen flares. It helped, wound up being what finally brought him out of that wretched flare.

"Anyway," Stiles said, washing down his bread with a drink, "nicknames are just a part of hockey, so deeply ingrained in the fibers of our beings, that to be without one is- Yeah I got nothing, Dad. Just the way it is. Coach just has to be a blowhard about them."

Ah yes, nicknames. They were forbidden in the locker room. Coach even had a sign made up complete with clip art. He claimed he had a hard enough time remembering last names, and his brain was not equipped to handle bizarre monikers. Derek, of course, hadn't minded, because for most of his hockey career until college, he'd simply been called D-man, which he felt lacked supreme originality, although it did have a hint of irony (not that anyone knew about that). "I think I will stick with Indiana next year. So much better than the boring ones I'd been given before,” Derek chuckled.

John's brows drew together, clearly pondering over the meaning for the moniker for a moment, before a look of realization crossed his face. "Indiana...like Jones? Wouldn't have anything to do with your major would it?"

Stiles gave his dad a shit-eating grin. "Yep," he said, the popping sound of the 'p' filling the room. He reached over and tousled Derek’s hair. "My wannabe archaeologist. It’s so cute, and I thought the nickname was especially clever."

"I see. And what name did he give you, Laura? Gloria?"

She grinned, honored with the praise. "That's a good one. No. I'm usually just Lars."

"How pedestrian." Stiles held the back of his hand to his forehead, feigning a swoon. "Shulkie is not only beautiful, but appropriately terrifying."

"What the-" John held up his hands in surrender. "You know what? I don't need to know."

Stiles, never one to let a geek reference pass by without being understood, felt the need to clarify for his dad. "Shulkie is She-Hulk's nickname. I just figured Laura was gonna tear Pitchy a new one for being a misogynistic asshole, she might as well have a name worthy of it. Lars is too mediocre a moniker for a magnificent land mermaid such as Laura."

"And did she? Put him in his place?"

Derek smirked. "It was beautiful. You should have seen it. He told her she might need to hit the weight room more if she was going to be able to play with the boys. So what does she do the first chance she get?"

"Laid him the fuck out in a masterpiece of an open ice hit. Like I said, magnificent land mermaid."

Laura reached across the table to pat him on the head. "Aww. I love you too, Stiles."

"As you should. We Stilinski men are irresistible. Ask your brother."







* * *



When his dad rose up from the dinner table to clear his and Melissa's empty plates, Stiles stopped him. "I got it, Pops." He carried the small stack of dishes into the kitchen where he found Derek unloading the dishwasher. "You don't have to do that. You're a guest."

Derek gave him a soft grin. "It's no problem, really. You and Melissa cooked; it's the least I can do, especially because," he raised his voice, "Laura is allergic to helping!"

"Save it, Der! Grace and I are doing important work in here!" She called from the garage.

"Important work?" Derek's brows were drawn together in a deep furrow, and he stood for a moment, looking as though he was pondering what in the hell his sister could be doing in the garage. "What..."

Stiles wrapped him up in a hug and smoothed the crease between Derek's eyebrows with his finger. "You think too hard sometimes." He leaned in and kissed his forehead. "Thanks for helping though." He released Derek and filled up the sink with soapy water to start cleaning the pots and pans.

He could hear his dad shuffling around in the living room as he moved the remaining presents out from under the Christmas tree.  At the dining room table, Melissa continued her phone call with Scott, who was apparently in awe of New York City and couldn't wait for tomorrow night.

The kitchen though, was mostly quiet, with him and Derek working in a companionable silence. The clatter of ceramic plates as Derek set them in the cupboards, the metallic clang of the pots when Stiles placed them in the drainer, set a nice backdrop to the soft song he hummed while he washed what remained of the dishes. Every so often, Derek would take a dish out of the rack, dry it, and set it aside to free up space for him to place newly cleaned dishes. They would bump shoulders, hips, step around each other in movements akin to basic dance steps. It was nice, domestic, and judging by the warm contentment on Derek's face, he was enjoying it too.

The simple, almost intimate, moment was interrupted by his grandmother doing what she did best: Being herself. The door from the garage into the house swung open, and his grandma came into the house like a whirling dervish. "Who wants jello shots?"

Derek almost dropped the plate he'd been holding. "Your grandma made jello shots?"

"Yep, she considers them her specialty. Like I said, she's a fun grandma," Stiles said. The pair of them finished up the dishes and joined the rest of the family in the living room where Laura sat on the couch, a look of satisfied glee plastered on her face. "You're awfully proud of yourself."

"Indeed I am, indeed I am. These things," she picked up a gelatin cube from atop the tray, "are fantastic. They're made with champagne. Look, I classied them up with sparkly sugar." She held it under his' nose, "Look at the sparkles, Stiles. You can practically taste the class."

He eyed the wiggling confection for a moment, before shaking his head. "No can do, Shulkie. I know Babcia uses the cheap shit for those, and I am saving my one drink this week for the fancy bubbly at the ball tomorrow night."

Laura handed him one of the squares from the back. "Don't worry. We made you some virgin ones with apple juice and Sprite."

He popped it into his mouth just as Derek wedged himself in between them. "Hey! I was sitting there."

Derek gave him a silent, yet snarky, glare. "Nope, sorry. It's an oft forgotten rule of physics. If I let the two of you sit next to each other for too long, irregularities begin to form in the time/space continuum."

Laura shoved at his shoulder. "Speak for yourself."

From his seat in the recliner, John chuckled.

"Nerd." Stiles tossed a pillow at him.

"Shut up. You love it."

"Der, you look tense. Here, have some wiggly bubbly."

He opened his mouth to mock his sister for her choice of words, but she popped one of the shots into his mouth before he could speak. "Okay," he said, chewing the rest of the jello, "I've never liked jello shots, but these are..."

"Effervescent? Resplendent? A hot damn mess like an orgy in your mouth?"

"Well since I've never participated in an orgy... yummy is the only word that was coming to mind." He snagged another off the plate.

"I'm pretty sure it's the glittery sugar that takes them from just a booze shot to the treat of kings."

His lips twisted in wry amusement. "Are you sure it's not the champagne?"

When Melissa ended her call a few minutes later, she took a seat on the floor amidst the pile of presents that she began to dole out to their recipients.

"So, I wasn't sure what to get you, Stiles," Laura said, handing him the box Derek was pretty sure she'd wrapped that morning.

Stiles' fingers tore through the repurposed newspaper to find several movies. "These are...really weird titles." He held up one of them and read the back, muttering 'Ragin' Cajun Redneck Gators' . "Where the hell did you find some of these?"

"Bargain bin at Wal-Mart. Thought you'd appreciate their abject badness."

Derek opened his gift from John and Melissa, a new hoodie. Specifically, a Rangers sweatshirt.

"I'm sure you already have one of those, but never can have too many sweatshirts in Minnesota I imagine."

"No, this is...this is really good. I don't actually have one. I have the sweater and hat I got on Draft Day, but no hoodies. Thank you."

Laura opened her card from Stiles' parents, delighting in the gift certificate for professional hair and makeup for tomorrow. "You are the best! I hate doing my own hair. Thank you so much."

Derek watched, with bated breath as Stiles began to open the large box he'd had shipped to the house that Melissa had so graciously wrapped for him. He hoped Stiles liked what he'd picked for him when he stopped by the store with his mom and one of her friends, a dermatologist, in order to reap the benefits of a discount. Even still, he'd spent way too much on the gift, and he was sure Stiles would tell him that he needn't have spoiled him that badly.

Instead, Stiles opened the box and stared down at the contents in silence, his mouth opening and closing a few times, unable to form words.

"You hate it, don't you? Don't worry. They have a good return policy. I can take it all back if you wa-"

Stiles turned his head and cut off Derek's words with a kiss. "Don't do that. I was just surprised." He pulled the various pieces of sun protection clothing from the box, holding each piece up so he could see it in the light. When he finally made it to the rash guard and swim pants Derek had picked out at the last minute, Stiles had tears in his eyes. "This is...these... I looked into this brand after I was first diagnosed--Morrell had suggested them--but I could barely afford anything they sold. I mean I get it. Good quality comes with a hefty price tag, just...I thought summer was going to suck so much being stuck inside." He kissed Derek again, his lips lingering a little longer this time. When he pulled back, he took Derek's face in his hands. "I love you. You're the best, you know that? Absolute best."

Derek felt his cheeks heat up at the sentiment. "If you want more from there let me know. Mom's friend, Dr. Carter is a dermatologist, and she offered to take you with her to the shop so you get a discount. And," he rubbed the back of his neck, "I'd come too and help you buy them. I mean, if you'd let me."

Stiles ran a thumb over Derek's cheek. "You are going to spoil me next year with that half million dollar salary, aren't you?"

What the hell else would he do with that money besides buy a place to live? "I'm glad you like them. Their style...well the company is not a fan of plaid. So, yeah."

"I don't actually care about style right now." He pushed a box in Derek's direction. "This is for you. Had to wake up early as hell on Cyber Monday to order it."

"Is this..." his voice trailed off when he moved the bubble wrap out of the way, "no way. I've been trying to get one of these for years! I can't believe you were able to get one."

Stiles reached back into the box. "There are a couple additional discs too. I just remember how bummed you sounded when telling me that the one you had in yours and Laura's room wasn't accurate."

"Thank you."

"But um...I got you something else too. Can I show you?"

What? "Of course." When Stiles stood and tugged him to his feet, Derek furrowed his brows. "Where are we- that sort of thing can wa..."

Stiles snorted and shook his head. "It's not anything like what you're thinking. Come on." He pulled him into the hallway, flipped on the light and shucked his shirt.

When Stiles turned around, showing his bare shoulder blade to him, Derek couldn't help but reach out and trace his fingers along the new indelible lines inked into Stiles' skin. Even without lines to connect each star, he'd recognize that constellation anywhere. He felt a lump rise in his throat. Something so personal and permanent- "You got this for me?" His voice, though shaky, was filled with awe.

Stiles spun back around and took Derek's hands in his. "I just thought...let me be your Great Square, your safe place."

Derek's chest heaved with emotion and all the words he wanted to say but just couldn't force from his lips. Words like, ' you already are ' and ' you have been since the beginning ' stuck in his throat. He wanted to say things like how for Stiles to do this was pretty much a declaration of intent, but Stiles squeezed his hands, effectively ending the rumination going through his mind. All he managed was a breathy, "Matia mou."

"I'm glad you like it. Makes the flare it set off totally worth it." He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Derek's forehead before pulling his shirt back over his head. He was still trying to redress himself when they returned to the living room.

"You get a rose tattoo with my brother's name on it?" Laura stuck her tongue out him.

"Very funny, Laura." Derek grabbed Stiles' hand, intertwining their fingers. To his surprise, Laura set a box on his lap. "What's this? Lolo, you already got me a present. Year subscription to the Dollar Shave club."

"This," she patted the box, "is something I couldn't give you on Christmas. You know...prying eyes?"

He rolled his eyes and tore open the paper. "Oh boy, clothes. I am not wearing anything that a fashion magazine said was the thing to buy the men in your life."

"Just open it and stop being a Negative Nate."

He lifted the lid, and a loud cackle burst from his throat.

 

He showed the navy blue shirt to everyone.

Grace found it absolutely brilliant. "I like my men like I like my whiskey. On ice,” she read. “You and me both, Derek."

"Thanks. I'll be sure to keep it in my dorm room."

Laura threw a balled up wad of wrapping paper at him. "I had to call the company and have that specially made. Their website only had this in those teeny tiny women's t-shirts. The guy on the phone seemed surprised that they'd never had that request before. More equality in novelty t-shirts, I say."

Derek looked down in the box to find a card. What he expected to find was a raunchy card with an inappropriate message. He did not anticipate seeing a handmade card with...an incubator on it. "I don't..."




Laura chewed on her bottom lip, her nervous tell. "Just open it."

He rolled his eyes and obliged her. By the time he finished reading her message, he was crying, and he didn't even care that the rest of the room was staring at him. He covered his mouth to keep from audibly sobbing, too overwhelmed with emotion, first from Stiles, and now- "You're serious?” he asked, looking over at her, worried he might actually see a facetious expression on her face.

She crossed the room and wrapped him in a hug. "Of course I am. I don't want my own, but I know you do."

"Want what?" Stiles peeked over his shoulder and gasped.




"Really? You'd do that for him, us, if we wanted? That's...I don't have words, Laura."

"I'm giving you a use by date though. Thirty-five. After that, the offer expires. For safety's sake."

Derek licked his lips. "Yeah, that's...understandable."

John cleared his throat. "Okay, I'll bite. What is it?"

Stiles patted Derek's knee and gave it a little squeeze. "Laura offered to be our surrogate or egg donor when we want kids."

"I mean, I could probably do both. That's a bit trickier, legally speaking, but yeah."

They both pulled her into a tight embrace, and Derek kissed her temple. "Thank you, Lolo," he mumbled against her skin, voice breaking and only loud enough for the three of them to hear.



* * *

 

The creaking of the bed roused Stiles from his sleep, and he rolled over in the dark. The sliver of moonlight coming in through his window filled the room with just enough light for him to make out Derek’s form as he stared, wide-awake up at the ceiling. He draped an arm across Derek’s stomach, fingers idly tracing patterns on his stomach. "Hey."

"I couldn't sleep."

"What's on your mind?".

"I dunno...well, I mean I do. I just don't know why it would keep me up. It was a really good day. I just-" Derek sighed. "I don't know."

He pressed a kiss to Derek's forehead. "You want to talk about it?"

"I was just lying here, and everything kinda hit me at once. School, graduation, hockey, my family, do I come out before my first game or do I wait. What about us and Laura's gift. No matter what Laura offered, with our careers- how would we even make that work? The seasons are long, and...we'd have no time for being parents. That's if you even want that? We never talked about kids." He laughed in embarrassment, running a hand through his hair. "God, I'm twenty-two years old. Why am I even thinking about kids? It's so stupid."

Stiles caught his wrist, stilling him. "No. It really isn't. There are little girls who dream of growing up to become mothers. Why is it stupid that you might have a dream to become a dad some day? And yes, it's something I want eventually. Though with me having Lupus, and my mom, it's probably not a good idea for me to biologically ...make a child. Genetically speaking."

Derek was quiet for several minutes before shifting, and turning towards him once more. "Did your tattoo really cause your flare?"

Stiles shrugged. "Probably. I don't regret it though."

"But don't you- it's permanent and for me. I...I can't believe someone would do that for me."

He reached out and smoothed Derek's brow, caressed his cheek. "I don’t see why it’s so hard to believe.”

Derek gripped his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "What you said, about being my safe space...does it bother you?"

"What?"

"That Laura is my confidante when I need to talk through things instead of you?"

"No, no. Look, Derek, I love you so much it hurts to breathe sometimes, but I would never try and come between you and Laura. The two of you have a bond I could never dream of duplicating. Why would I want to? I'm just saying..." Stiles licked his lips. "Okay, it bothers me a little. Sometimes it feels like you don't trust that I'll be able to help or know the right things to say, but you haven't ever given me the chance to disprove that. I don't want to replace Laura as your go-to, but you can talk to me about whatever you need to. So long as we are respectful of one another, we should be able to tell each other anything. I want to be someone you can tell your dreams, your frustrations, and fears to, kochanie." He moved the hair off Derek's forehead. "Even if I don't know the right thing t-"

Derek's kiss cut him off. His lips, soft but unyielding, kissed him like he was in withdrawal, desperate to get his fill. Stiles had lost count of how many times they'd kissed since they'd been together, but only a handful of times had it been so needy. In those rare moments, Stiles found himself overwhelmed by the way it felt like he was both drowning and flying. Stiles rolled onto his back, dragging Derek on top of him.

"You are a safe space for me, matia mou." Derek nipped at Stiles' bottom lip, before moving to the hinge of his jaw and then down the pale column of his throat. “My favorite place.”

At his words, Stiles' hips rolled upwards on their own accord. The contact they made with Derek's groin drew a filthy moan from his throat.

"Shh. You want your dad to hear us?" he mumbled against the skin of Stiles' collarbone.

"Mmm. No."

"Then, we better keep quiet."

Fist pressed to his mouth, Stiles muffled every noise that came out of his mouth. Too tired and hurried to bother undressing, they rutted against each other like horny teenagers. A pair of horny teenagers that both came in their pajama pants.

Derek rolled off him, chest heaving as he panted. "I...ugh...need a shower."

"Nuh uh. Gonna have to wait until morning. Hold up, I'll go get stuff to clean us up."  Stiles opened his door and ducked his head into the hallway before scampering into the bathroom across the hall. He hurried to get a couple washcloths. When he returned to his room, he found Derek sitting on his bed naked.

"I wasn't sure what you had here that might fit me."

He dug through his dresser and pulled out his baggiest pair of sweatpants. "I don't think there's a shirt in there, but I don't mind the view."

Derek's soft chuckle echoed in the otherwise silent room.

"Mmm, you need to laugh more. I like the way it sounds. Fills me with the warm and fuzzies." He pressed a kiss to Derek's temple. "Big spoon or little?"

"Little."

"You're just saying that because you know I like being big."

Derek scooted back against Stiles' chest. "No. Really. I like being held."

Stiles buried his nose in the hair at the back of Derek's head. "Yeah, well I like holding you."

"S'agapo, matia mou."

"Kocham cię."

 

 

***



"So, what do you study in school, Derek?"

Derek cleared his throat so he could answer Deputy...Clarke--was that her name? Honestly, he'd been introduced to so many people in the last two hours he had no idea how the hell he was going to remember even a quarter of their names. "Classical Civilizations with a minor in Art History."

She took a drink from her glass of wine. "What do you hope to do with that? I mean, if hockey weren't a thing."

Stiles bumped into his shoulder. "Derek wants to be Indiana Jones."

"I do not. Not all archaeologists are kidnapped by Nazis, have to run from a giant stone sphere before it crushes them...or," he shuddered, "survive a nuclear explosion by hiding a the highly improbable bomb shelter such as a fridge."

"But I mean...oh forget it." Stiles grabbed his hand to pull him away from the conversation and over to their dinner table.

When they sat down, Derek sighed with relief. "Thank God. I'm sorry, Stiles, but I don't remember most of their names."

"It's okay. I figured you wouldn't."

Across the table from them, Grace and Laura had somehow dragged one of the younger firefighters and Deputy Graeme (her name he did remember, because Stiles had made sure of it, mentioning she'd been his math tutor when he was younger and was an old family friend) into their conversation. "No, I'm not saying women should stop shaving their legs, I'm saying feminism means that they should be able to quit shaving if they want to."

The firefighter looked genuinely lost, as though he was not quite sure how the topic of conversation had moved into the social justice and political realm. "Wait, I'm confused. Weren't we just talking about sports? Specifically women's sports? I swear I was paying attention, but you lost me. I brought up that I thought Serena Williams was good for women's tennis. How did we get to feminism?" He looked over at Derek and Stiles for help.

"Don't look at me, Moreno," Stiles said. So apparently, the guy's name is Moreno. Fuck if I will remember that in twenty minutes. "We just sat down. But I'm gonna take a guess and say someone brought up how they thought Serena was not classically beautiful, which prompted Laura to bring up feminism."

Laura glared at him. "Not you, too!"

"What? You would not believe how many times I have heard someone say Serena looks like a man and that's why she's bad for women's sports. I did not say I was of the same belief. Frankly, I think she's lovely. I mean, she could probably crush my pelvis with her thighs. But come on! Death by snu-snu would be a way to go."

"Really? You brought Futurama into this? You know me so well."

When a server passed by with a tray of wine, Derek snatched a glass of white of the platter. The first two glasses had gone down about as easy as those champagne jello shots the day before. It was a bit of a running joke on the team that Derek--and his resting murder face--was a huge wine fan. However, the team's usual choices of post-game bars and clubs had little in the way of wine, but it did allow him to broaden his alcoholic beverage horizons. So there was that. Some day though, he'd love to take a wine appreciation class so he could learn to identify the subtle nuances of the varieties. He wagered that he'd probably be good at it with as sensitive as his nose was.

"So," Grace said, pushing her empty plate away from herself, "I don't know about you, but that prime rib was to die for. Did you boys enjoy the lamb?"

Beside him, Stiles shrugged his shoulders. "It was good I guess. I don't particularly care for lamb, but the other meal choices would have done me no favors in the diet department."

"You'd like my mom's souvlaki. She makes it with dolmad- er...stuffed grape leaves, homemade hummus and tzatziki sauce-that's the cucumber yogurt sauce, with roasted peppers. So good. Well, she makes it for just the two of us, because my siblings are total bums who don't like to embrace their heritage." Across the table, Laura stuck her tongue out at him. "See what I have to live with?"

Grace took a sip from her glass of Scotch, and yes, she was the kind of person who appreciated a good whiskey. Frankly, Derek wouldn't be surprised if Grandma Stilinski also had a small humidor filled with fine cigars. Quite the character, that one. "What part of Greece is your mother's family from?" she asked

"Sparta." He tried not to roll his eyes at Moreno's 'This is Sparta!' impression. He failed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I've never heard that one before. Just so you know, it is a real place."

"I guess you lucked out that your dad had an easy last name to spell and pronounce, because, I mean at least from what I've seen, there can be quite a lot to Greek surnames."

Derek shook his head with a chuckle. "Yeah, no. My dad took my mom's last name."

She smiled at him. "Your dad took her name? What a modern man!"

He didn't really feel like getting into it right now and shrugged. "My great-grandparents changed it when they immigrated. It was Halepis. Long story," he said, finishing his glass of wine.

"Oh thank, God." Stiles yanked him to his feet. "Because I want to go show you off some more. No man who looks as good as you do in that suit should be tucked away over here. Come on."

Derek could hardly keep up with Stiles as he dragged him along behind him, and before he realized it, they occupied two seats among dozens along one side of a long table. With a quick glance, he surmised that they were two youngest people of the bunch. "Bingo?"

Stiles' eyes lit up as he bought four bingo cards, giving Derek two of them. "Oh yeah. Aside from the ticket sales, the bingo games are the big fundraiser for the Public Library every year."

"Oh Frances, I don't know about you, but the scenery for this game is looking better and better," an elderly woman sitting across the table said to her friend.

"My, my. Don't you gentlemen look handsome."

Stiles waved her off. "You're a shameless flatterer, Ms. Phillips." He turned to Derek, "So, kochanie, these two lovely ladies, work at the Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Phillips, or Frances, is on the right, and this is Maureen McLeod. Ladies, this is my boyfriend, Derek."

"Well, isn't that adorable! Why, I remember when you were barely taller than my hip, Kris. Look at you now, spitting image of your mother, rest her soul."

Stiles gave them a forced smile. If only they knew how much he looked like his mom, including the barely camouflaged butterfly rash hidden under a layer of foundation and concealer Laura had applied for him before they left for the Police and Firefighter's Ball that evening. "Yeah."

Maureen tapped the shoulder of the man beside her. "Look, Cliff," she pointed to Stiles, "you remember little Kris from church back in the day? He's all grown up. Doesn't he look just like Claudia?"

Cliff grumbled his assent and adjusted his array of odd little figurines. As Derek looked down the table, he noticed a lot of the players had them. What in the hell? Beside him, a man, who looked uncannily like Mr. Fredricksen from Up , turned his Treasure Trolls (all eight of them) around to stare at Cliff's trinkets like a Roman legion facing down a horde of Goths or Vandals.

Feeling a pleasant buzz from his glasses of wine beginning to spread through his body, Derek's imagination took over. In his head, he pictured tiny pieces of kitsch waging war on each other. Their little hands grasping toothpick hastae as they stabbed at the other statues. Wow, he was a nerd. He couldn't stop himself from chuckling.

"What?"

He gave a subtle gesture in the trinkets' general direction. "Nothing."

"Oh those. They're good luck charms. Avid Bingo players swear by them. Me? I'm not superstitious."

“Why do they keep calling you Kris and not Stiles?”

“Old habits die hard.” Changing the subject, Stiles leaned forward and looked down the table. "I don't care how many trolls you have over there, Mr. Jacobs. You're going down."

"Oh yeah? We'll see about that. I still remember when you couldn't say your name and called yourself Krispy. I have no intentions of losing to a punk named after a breakfast cereal."

Derek threw his head back with laughter just as the caller started the game. It was fun, more fun than Derek had remembered having in years. In fact, the whole trip had been that way so far, and he was beginning to understand why. Stiles’ previous words of ‘ how good it feels to be out of it ’ echoed in his head.

Being able to forget about hiding who he was was so freeing, that he couldn’t even imagine going back to the way things were at school, where they had to be a secret.

"Okay, that's a bingo. Everyone clear your cards. And look what fun pattern we have next! We call this one Love Letter! The prize in this one was donated by the Pleiades Day Spa and includes a couple's deluxe massage, two plush robes, Deep Sea mud mask facial, and more. Total gift value of $1000. Have fun folks and good luck." He reached into the cage and pulled out a ball. "G-49. G-49."

With glee, Stiles covered the space on both cards. The caller announced eight more numbers, six of which appeared on one or both Stiles' cards. Derek only had two chips on both cards. Les seemed to be quite the fan of trash talk, but Stiles dished as much as he received. "Ha! I don't hear the sounds of chips hitting your card, Les!"

"Very funny, Krispy. You may be good at talking up your skills, but my lawn never looked as mangled as it did whenever you mowed it."

Derek laughed into his glass of wine, laughed so hard he missed the next two numbers, not that he cared. There was no way he was going to win anyway. Instead, he turned towards Stiles, taking in the infectious cheer that radiated from him with every new number Stiles covered.

It was warm, Stiles' exuberance, and it filled Derek with such affection, that he couldn't be sure if it was his buzz or just the joy of being so head over heels in love. Probably both.

"O-71. O-71"

Stiles' chair clattered, falling over backwards as he jumped to his feet. "Bingo!"

When Stiles damn near skipped up to the table after calling out his correct numbers, he collected his gift basket waving it proudly. "Look, kochanie. Good thing you're sticking around a couple days. Cause I know what we're doing on Monday." He kissed the top of Derek's head.

"Hey," Derek said standing up and grabbing Stiles' hand, "S'almost midnight, and we haven't danced once. Plus...pretty sure 'm closer to drunk than sober at this point. Soooooo-"

Stiles passed his cards down the table to Les. "May these be winners for you Mr. Jacobs. Nice to see you again. Say hi to your daughter for me."

They dropped the gift basket off at their table (and Laura's nosy...nose?? Wow, Derek. You are a real winner with words ).

Just inside the dance floor, Stiles stopped someone and asked them to take a picture. "No way we're leaving this shindig without a picture of our hot asses in these gorgeous suits. Smile."

The camera flash was blinding, the way they always were.

"So," Stiles said, pulling Derek tightly against him, "this is the first time we've ever danced together, I mean with each other in public."

He rested his hand on Stiles' shoulder and brushed his thumb against the side of Stiles' neck. "I know." The gentle pressure Stiles' fingers made on the small of his back, the way he squeezed Derek's hand in their dance hold, as they swayed had this way of grounding him in a way he wasn't sure he'd ever felt before. It was almost cathartic, the overtness of the simple display of affection.

Everyone could see it, and that was the beauty of it.

Everyone could see, and no one seemed to care. No one really knew him, and those that did, had accepted him just the way they had Stiles. He doubted any of them outside Stiles' family and Deputy Graeme even knew Derek's father helped run the state of Minnesota.

Speaking of Deputy Graeme...

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her dancing with Laura, and smiled. Earlier, before Stiles had begun the introductions to just about everyone in the damn place, the two of them had been sitting at the table with John and Laura when Tara had sat down upon arriving. She'd taken one look at Laura, and then, as Stiles described it, stared at her with (and he quoted) ' them motherfucking hearteyes like Laura's smile was made of unicorns '. The request for a dance had gone something like this:

 

               "I'm sorry. I know I'm staring. Just...you are really pretty."

               "Oh wow. Thank you."

               "You wouldn't want to dance with me would you? I don't even know if you're into women, but-"

               "I'm not, but it's a dance, not sex. I dance with men I'm not interested in too if they ask me nicely. Sure. I'll dance with you."

 

This was proceeded with almost three minutes, of open-mouthed silence from Tara, until Laura had yanked her to her feet, pulling her towards the dance floor in much the same way Stiles had only minutes before. That was several hours ago, and Derek didn't think he'd seen either of them dancing with anyone else since.

"Still with me, Derek?"

"I'm sorry, what?"

Stiles crooked his head to the side and gave him a squinty-eyed stare, the look that Derek had long since identified as the Stilinski 'You've Got to be Kidding Me' voice ®’. "You weren't listening were you?"

Derek stepped out of their dance hold and rubbed the back of his neck. "You caught me. I don't even know. I..." In that moment, as they moved to the sensual, yet driving beat, he was struck by the sheer beauty of the multicolored lights and the way they fell upon Stiles' face, his eyelashes casting shadows on his cheeks. The finishing powder Laura had used to set the concealer and foundation she'd used on him earlier, had a bit of a shimmer to it. It reflected the lights, giving Stiles a radiant glow.

He looked like an angel- a sometimes caustic-tongued, temperamental, quick-witted angel.

Oh God. Derek was so gone that even if he hadn't been so hopelessly in love with Stiles before, tonight would have pushed him off the deep-end, and what a way to go that would have been. Before he could think or stop himself, he closed the already scant space between them and captured Stiles' mouth in a kiss as one song bled into the next. Pillow soft and impatient lips moved against his. Stiles tasted like sunshine.

His sharp intake of breath parted his lips, and Stiles traced the bottom edges of Derek's top teeth with his tongue. Speaking of tongues ( 'I said of tongues, not in tongues, Stiles. For crying out loud' ), theirs slipped against one another in harmony, like a choreographed dance they'd done many times. A dance that always felt new, even though it had long since been committed to memory.

Yet, this time, Derek thought, though it was a blissful and grounding type of familiar, it was altogether new in a way he could not pinpoint.

When Stiles broke the kiss, stepping back, Derek chased his lips. He craved more, needed more. And...that was it. That was what was different. Like a revelation, or a clap of thunder overhead, it all became clear, and judging by the look on Stiles' face, he'd noticed too.

"Wow."  The husky rasp of his own voice, surprised Derek.

"Yeah, that was..."

Before their fight, before Stiles had rightfully called him out on the difference between being closeted and being an asshole, little moments of stolen PDA had always been innocent, easy to brush off as friendly touches in the way that a pat on the shoulder or playful shove could be explained as easily platonic. And sadly...

They'd almost all been initiated by Stiles.

Stiles blinked, looking a bit like an owl for a moment, before the corners of his lips drew North until the smile reached his eyes. It was blinding; Derek loved it. "There you are."

Derek drew him closer again. "I didn't go anywhere," he mumbled against Stiles' lips.

"No. But that was the Derek only I ever got, the one no one else knew existed, the one with no walls, and..." He took a shuddering breath, his eyes damp. "Thank you."

"I don't think-" Stiles pressed a finger against his lips, silencing any further rebuttal.

"For coming after me that night. You could have let me walk away, been unwilling to take that scary step, but you didn't. Because if you hadn't, as much as it would have killed me, I was done."

Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles' waist, holding him as tightly as he could without crushing him. He kissed Stiles' temple. "I wouldn't have let us go down without a fight. You," he inhaled, breathing in Stiles' scent, "I never told you, but before I even met you or knew what you looked like, I had a crush on you. I'd watched video of your games after Coach told us you'd committed to our team. Just the way you moved, by all accounts should have been without a single shred of grace, but your personality comes across in the way you play and- Just...you are-" He pressed his lips together, nostrils flaring. He curled his hands in the hair at the back of Stiles' head. "I'm done. No more baby steps. I am telling the rest of my family. I don't care what my brother thinks. I want to tell Coach, and maybe our friends. I’m going to be out when I start next year."

"You...yeah- Let's do that."

"Stiles, there is no scenario I imagine for my future in which you are not a part of. You're it for me. I know you know that, but I've never been able to put it into words. You were right. It’s been cathartic, being out here and open."

Stiles opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by the sound of the midnight countdown beginning around them as servers hurried to finish passing out the champagne toasts.

"Ten. Nine. Eight."

Derek brushed Stiles' cheek with his thumb.

"Seven. Six. Five."

They received their glasses of bubbly just in time.

"Four. Three. Two. One."

It was such a cliched thing, the sound of fireworks going off outside, the band playing "Auld Lang Syne", as people around them kissed their sweethearts, family, friends. They were no exception, with Stiles draping his arms over Derek's shoulders, the chilly glass of the champagne flute brushing against the back of his neck from where Stiles held it.

For all the hunger in the kiss only minutes before, this kiss was soft, almost chaste.

Stiles stepped back and held out his glass of champagne, waiting for Derek to do the same, and clinked their flutes together. "To a spectacular year gaining acceptance and alienating loved ones."

Derek scoffed at his bad joke. "That was terrible."

"Shut up. You loved it."

He had a point there.

Stiles tore his gaze away from him and stared at the silk square tucked into the breast pocket of Derek's suit jacket. He licked his lips. "You know that thing we talk about, with conditions like 'after graduation' or 'after I come out? Well, kochanie, I'm gonna say yes. Whether it's tomorrow, next week, month or next year, it's yes. You're the Bones to my Kirk, the Leia to my Han Solo, the Dr. Jones to my...Marion? It's a yes, okay? So the pressure's off, and you needn't worry if I'll say no, cause I won't."

"I...I would- me too, Stiles. If you know, you wanted to ask. Me too. It would be ye-."

Stiles' lips meeting his cut him off. Derek had lost count of how many times they'd kissed since they'd been together, but never had it been so filled with tenderness, elation, and love. Derek found himself overwhelmed by the way it felt like he was both drowning and flying.

This kiss felt like a promise.








Chapter Text

 

 

The squeak from the hinges of the locker room door as Derek pushed it open echoed in the empty room. The lack of teammates didn't surprise him. Practices on Monday's had always been voluntary. He remembered the tone of Coach's voice at the start of every school year as he explained, " You delinquents need time to do your homework seeing as how this is an actual educational institution ." Derek, himself, had never needed the extra time for homework. If there was one thing he was better at than playing hockey it was managing his time efficiently. Where other students took the opportunity to catch up on their sleep during breaks between their classes, he dedicated his time to his studies.

Still, he knew that Monday nights were popular time slots for once a week evening classes, having taken advantage of this in more than one occasion. For those semesters, he was grateful for the optional practices.

As he waited for the others to arrive, he enjoyed the solitude, taking his time changing out of his street clothes, he could hear Coach muttering in his office about the taste of his dinner. Moments later, there was a clatter when his eating utensil fell to the desk.

"Let me give you a piece of valuable advice," Coach called out into the void of the locker room, no doubt aware of someone's presence within it, "never get married. Your wife will make you eat kale and bran muffins. She'll tell you it's because they're good for you and she cares. Everything will be going fine and then one day she'll take away your saturated fats. But I swear to God, it's cruel and unusual punishment. Natalie has become like a drill sergeant." He poked his head out of his office. "Did you catch th- Oh it’s you, Hale. Well my point still stands even though in your case it will be your husband who makes you eat that shit. It tastes like sawdust."

Derek dropped the skate he'd been holding. "What?" he croaked out; his mouth had gone bone dry in an instant.

Coach rolled his eyes. "Oh don't look so shocked. I've known since your freshman year you preferred sausage to muffins." When Derek continued to flounder for a response, Coach sat down beside him on the bench. "Listen Hale, I've been a coach for over 20 years, and if you think you're the only one, guess again. Just because none ever told me a thing while they played, didn't mean I was blind. I have a profoundly successful guess rate."

Derek's eyes bugged out of his head. "What do you mean you weren't blind? I...I."

Coach patted him on the shoulder. "Don't hurt yourself, kid. All of my less than straight players had one thing in common, they went out of their way not to be obvious, not to see anything. Never brought up anyone they might be dating in descriptive terms. You got nothing to worry about. Though, I'm seriously questioning your judgement in choosing partners. Stilinski? Really? Doesn't he make you want to puncture your own eardrums when he starts rambling sometimes?"

Derek shrugged, giving Coach a tiny, closed-mouth smile. "No. If you actually listen to what he's saying, he talks about really interesting things. He's smart."

"Interesting or not. There's only so much about the history of the male circumcision that one needs to know."

"We want to come out to the team."

"Knock yourselves out." He pointed to the wall. "You know, that sign isn't just there for show, Hale. Bullying and that language of that sort is not tolerated on this team. I'm pretty sure you'll have Whittemore on your side, Wilson too, seeing as how his brother is gay. But you promise you'll let me know if you hear pushback from the players, okay?"

"Of course. Thanks, Coach."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I’m going to McDonald’s. Don’t rat me out to my wife."



* * *



Derek groaned and rolled over in bed. His sleeping position had left a crick in his back, and sitting up, he winced when he realized he'd fallen asleep atop several of the books he'd been using for his major thesis research. He was certain there would be a bruise where a corner of one of the books had dug into his flank all night.

An index card was stuck to his arm, and he'd fallen asleep with an uncapped highlighter in his hand, no doubt drawing all over his face in fluorescent yellow ink. When he shifted in attempt to pull one hardbound book out from under his ass, several more tumbled to the floor. He groaned as he stood, the ache in his body more than apparent. Though it had been dark the last time he'd looked at the clock, while deeply engrossed in the semiotics of gender, he wasn't sure exactly when he'd fallen asleep, but it was sometime after four.

"Ugh, Mr. Halperin, you couldn't have written a smaller book?" He grabbed the book, a volume on the erotic experience in Ancient Greece, and he’d love to just chuck it across the room, but he was pretty sure librarians frowned on that sort of thing.

"These all-nighters have got to stop," he grumbled, shuffling out of his bedroom as more index cards fell off his person. There was a tickle on the back of his neck, and when he reached back, he pulled not one, not two, but seven page flag markers off his skin.

The aroma of coffee and eggs called his name. To no surprise of his own, Derek found Boyd standing at the stove, spatula in hand, stirring a pan of scrambled eggs. Derek offered him a grumble before reaching for the coffee pot, pouring himself a large glass.

"Long night?" Boyd asked, staring and squinting at his face for far too long. "Dreaming about the purity of Patroclus' thighs were we?"

"Huh?"

Boyd tore a paper towel off the roll and ran it under the faucet. He handed the damp rag to Derek. "You might want to scrub your face when you shower. Ink from your notes transferred onto your skin." He tapped Derek on the forehead. "Just here."

Derek rubbed the wet towel furiously over his brows. "Damn it," he sighed. "Any better?"

"Getting there. Thesis is getting you down I see." Boyd dished up some eggs onto a plate along with two sausage links and a piece of wheat toast. "Here."

"Thanks, man."

Boyd took the seat across from him at their small dining table, switching on Sportscenter .

 

" ...Coach Finstock, nor Minnesota's Athletic Communications office have spoken publicly about this information, and requests for a statement from the Stilinski or his family have not been returned. Our own Bryce Thompson reached out to renowned rheumatologist Dr. Maurice Frostrup, who does not treat Mr. Stilinski. Dr. Frostrup had this to say..."

 

Derek stared at the graphic on the screen, the doctor's words written out, and he couldn't believe what he was seeing. How dare they talk about this! Stiles chose not to divulge this information to the press with good reason; it was none of their business. Derek had sat with him as he spoke on the phone with New Jersey, telling them about his illness, his commitment to a strict diet and medication regimen, the worry set in his features. Even without Stiles saying a word, Derek could tell he was silently begging the Devils to be understanding, to have faith in him, not to relinquish rights to him before he ever stepped foot in their training facilities.

They hadn't, and so far, Stiles' performance was speaking for itself. If Derek was having the kind of season people around the country were talking about, well then, Stiles was right up there with him. Hell, he was on pace to break the single season shutout record. So Derek simply could not understand why the sportscasters were saying things like 'cut ties with' and 'too much of a gamble.' They had players competing after multiple concussions, bum knees, problem hip joints, and so on. They just kept talking about it, and they didn't even have confirmation.

 

 

Stiles was a college athlete not a professional. Didn't they stop to think how this extra added stress might mess with his studies, let alone aggravate the medical condition they were all assuming he had. Well, they were right, but that didn't make what they were doing right either, because it wasn't.

Unblinking, he rose from his seat and strode into his room, cringing at the sight of his research strewn about. His breakfast sitting like a rock in his stomach and keyed up from the news report, the lack of sleep, and nerves about the game today--that they would play outside, in front of five times as many spectators as he was used to, on national broadcast television nonetheless--he itched to straighten his room. A clean room had a way of calming him down, grounding him in a way. A messy space just left him frazzled.

But he couldn't do that. Not right now. Instead, he picked up his phone and called Stiles, who answered on the first ring.

"Oh fuck off! What part of 'no god damned comment' don't you vultures understand?"

The line went dead. Stiles clearly hadn't even looked at the caller ID before answering. Derek should have picked up his research before hopping in the showing. The key word in that sentence being should . That, however, was not what he did. He pulled on last night's pair of jeans and a hoodie over his a-shirt.

"Where are you going?" Boyd asked him as he finished adding layers to brave the negative temps outside.

"He needs people in his corner right now."

He was out the door and halfway across the bridge before his phone buzzed in his pocket.





* * *



The sound of the gate to the ice opening, drew Stiles' attention away from his task. Rather than ignoring it and letting the pucks continue to fire at him from the automatic shooter, he reached behind him where the remote sat on the top of the net. The rhythmic whir of the machine's engine died out, leaving him in relative silence, save the hum of the ventilation system.

He turned, expecting to see Derek, but instead found Jackson, Isaac, and Jordan coming onto the ice. What? Why the hell were they here? He'd asked Derek to come not them, but moments later, he found himself engulfed in a hug from Jackson of all people.

"Thought we'd find you in here alone."

"That was the point, Jackson."

Jackson released him from the uncharacteristic hug and skated backwards a bit, holding Stiles at arms length. "It's not right what they did. I called up the rest of the team. Rather than field any questions with 'no comment,' we're all going to call them out. Well, maybe not Daehler, but what can you expect from that guy?"

" You called the team? Why? You don't like me. You tolerate me for the sake of the team," Stiles said, flipping up his mask so he could get a drink.

"Yes and no. I mean I find you extremely annoying, but like that annoying cousin you have that you still like as a person. We're teammates. We're supposed to have each other's back."

"When you said you needed some company, Stiles, I expected you to be in here sulking by yourself," Derek's voice carried from the boards.

Stiles shrugged, ready to state these guys showed up all on their own, but Derek skated over and pulled him aside out of earshot. This hug was welcome, even with a few of their teammates looking on. Hell, Derek had a tradition before every game to press the forehead of his helmet to Stiles'. He told the team it was for good luck, a superstition, but Stiles knew better. It was to settle both their nerves.

"What do you want me to do?" Derek whispered. "Whatever it is, I'll-"

Stiles mumbled into his shoulder, "You're doing it already."

Derek pulled back, and it was the first time Stiles had looked at him since he'd arrived. He wasn't suited up, only wearing his skates and street clothes. He still wore his beanie over what Stiles assumed was an epic case of bedhead. It honestly looked liked he'd raced over, and hell if that didn't do a lot to set Stiles' blinding rage at ease. He reached up and ran a thumb along Stiles' jaw. "I'm gonna tell them," he gestured over his shoulder at their friends, "are you okay with that?"

Stiles was pretty sure his heart stopped in his chest for a few seconds. Still, he nodded, unsure what he expected Derek to do in that moment, but reaching down to remove Stiles' glove so he could intertwine their fingers was not it. Then, he pressed a kiss to Stiles' forehead before they skated back to the group.

There was a moment of stunned silence; Isaac stood with his jaw open. When he snapped it shut, the click echoed in the otherwise quiet rink. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What is this?"

Stiles lowered his brows, trying to formulate a response that conveyed his current level of annoyance.

"No, no. I don't mean it like that. I mean...Derek, you and I are practically family at this point. Why am I finding out- No. That's...everyone has their own timeline. I just mean you didn't have to wait for the right time to tell me. Any time was the right time. You could have told me at any point in our friendship. Unless this is a recent revelation."

Derek shook his head. "No. Definitely realized it when I was fourteen, started coming to that realization when I was eleven."

Isaac looked a bit put out by that piece of information. "Did you...think I'd have a problem with you being gay, or bi, or...what am I missing? Pan?"

"To be honest, I feared everyone would have a problem. Look, unless you're in a similar situation, you aren't going to understand the paralyzing fear that comes with being anything other than straight. Unless your family has explicitly announced that they're okay, it's a fear. So yeah. I'm gay."

"And that's totally cool with me, Der. And you being gay, too, Stiles is okay with me," Isaac said, still looking a bit like a kicked puppy, but Stiles figured it was more a case of Derek not being able to trust Isaac's acceptance would come so easily.

"I'm bisexual, but thanks."

Jackson clapped Derek on the shoulder. "Well congratulations on getting together just in time for Derek to graduate."

A cocky grin tugged at the corner of Derek’s mouth. "Yeah...we've been dating since October of his Freshman year. I had hoped to tell you guys soon without this ESPN mess hanging overhead, but it is what it is."

"Two and a half years!" Isaac's chest heaved with emotion. "I guess I screwed up somewhere, because I failed to notice one of my best friends had been in a relationship for years. What does that say about me? Not good things. Look, you two have my full support, but I need to go process by myself. This reaction," he pointed to his face, "is not because of you being gay, Derek. It's because I'm an obtuse asshole who didn't do a good enough job being your friend, and I need to go sulk a bit before the game or I'm gonna be useless later. I'm proud of you, Derek, for trusting me even though I suck."

As Isaac skated away, Derek seemed frozen for several seconds before gliding after him. "It wasn't just you, Isaac!" He called. "I only told my parents a couple months ago."

At that point, anything else the two of them said was lost to Stiles, with them having skated too far away for him to hear their words.   

Jordan bumped shoulders with him. "If we all have your back for the Lupus, you can count on us now. And I know you can count on Aiden's support. He was nothing but accepting when his brother came out to him. Liam is probably safe to tell too if you wanted. His best friend back home is gay."

"Yeah?"

"And you know I'm cool with you guys, right? I'd be a huge hypocrite dating two bisexual women at once, if I wasn't." Leave it to Jackson to make a statement of support all about himself, and okay, Isaac had too, but come on. It was Jackson, and supportive or not, he was still kind of a dick. Still, Stiles figured that everyone had their own way of phrasing things, and being on their side, no matter how he said it, was better than the alternative. "So, tell me. This is why Coach ordered the new signage for the locker room, and why we all have 'You Can Play' patches on our sweaters isn't it?"

He nodded just in time for Derek to call back to them that they were going to Sanford Hall for breakfast, all of them.



* * *



The cloud of his breath hung thick and heavy in the air in front of him. The subzero temperatures were doing none of them any favors, and Derek was grateful for the blowers sending hot air down the benches, both theirs and Ohio State's. On a day this cold, he didn't care that they were conference rivals. He just wanted everyone safe. He'd be concerned about his family's safety, but his father had sprung for a box for the game. His parents, Cora, and Luke were all basking in the cushioned warmth of a luxury suite. Good. At least they weren't freezing.

He looked up as Brett stepped through the gate and Isaac skated onto the ice. Liam was on his way to the bench. So Derek hopped up onto the boards, waiting for his line change.

It wasn't his first shift of the day, not by a long shot. Though he hadn't asked, he suspected that, now in the middle of the second period, he was closing in on fourteen minutes of ice time. He was feeling every minute of it, too. His cheeks were freezing despite the full face shield and thick layer of Eucerin he'd put on moments before Dr. Martin had begun snapping pictures of the players during the pregame skate. He hoped that the photo with him, Isaac, Jackson, and Jordan turned out well. It would probably look great framed in his new place next year.

He'd worn the biggest smile, happy to have the weight of keeping his and Stiles' relationship secret from the team. As he'd closed his pep-talk before the team left the locker room, he told the rest of them, and everyone ...even Daehler was supportive, and for a moment, just a moment, he allowed himself to think that it would always be that easy. He wasn't an idiot; he knew better.

Today hadn't originally been the day he'd planned on coming out to the whole team. But after telling Isaac, Jackson, and Jordan, he felt Stiles needed something else to focus on other than the shitstorm that ESPN threw his way without a warning. Stiles was still furious, almost to the point where Derek swore he could see smoke billowing from his ears at any given moment, but his head was in the right place. That , Derek knew, was a dangerous thing... if you happened to be Ohio State.

From the moment the puck hit the ice to start the game, Stiles had been putting on a god damned goaltending clinic between the pipes. Were it for a better reason than Stiles' need to show everyone that Lupus or no Lupus, he was still someone New Jersey should invest their future of goaltending in, Derek would be gloating on his behalf.

What did he mean by clinic?

Well, for starters, in the first period alone, OSU had sent at least twenty shots his way, and probably another fifteen so far in this period. He'd stopped all of them, which was impressive all on its own, because he was riding a three game shutout streak, or more specifically a 203 minute streak. God, Derek was so proud of him.

Ahead of him, he could see the two-man-rush coming his way. One of Ohio's smaller forwards, a pesky and scrappy runt of a player, Raeken, had the puck on his stick and was barreling towards him. Derek had three inches and at least thirty pounds on the guy, and it would be child's play to check him off the puck...

On any other day.

In hindsight, an all-nighter was a shitacular idea, one he really shouldn't repeat any time soon. Clearly on fresher legs than he, Raeken deked around him so fast Derek might as well have been standing still. He'd been caught flat footed at the point with Isaac ahead of him in the far end of the neutral zone. Their centerman joined the rush not even a second later.

Before he even had time to correct his mistake, Derek realized that behind him, Stiles was staring down the barrel of a 3-on-0.

His gut dropped, and Derek felt so damn guilty that his mistake was going to break Stiles' streak, because as well as he was playing, as good a goalie as he was, facing three opposing players with no one to help you out resulted in a goal far more often than not. Yet, moments later, the crowd erupted in a chorus of raucous cheers followed by a whistle.

Derek spun around to see Stiles open his glove and toss the puck to the ref. Needing to rectify his mistake, he quickly skated over to the crease, where he picked up Stiles' beanie off the ice from where it had been dislodged during the play.

The frigid air hit his sweaty hands when he removed his gloves, setting them atop the net, and waves of heat lines rose from his skin. Still, within seconds, his fingers began to feel the chill. He reaffixed the hat over Stiles' helmet, and Derek smiled. Stiles looked cute with the hat over his helmet. He told him as much before apologizing, "Sorry about that, matia mou. My legs are just dead today. I'm playing like shit."

"Don't worry about it, D. I'm always here to save your ass. I'm too big a fan of it not to."

He heard the whistle signalling a commercial break, and music filled the stadium. These were some of his favorite moments in games, because Stiles had this habit of singing along as loudly as possible. He suspected it was to piss off the other team by showing them just how unaffected he was by the quality of their play.

Stiles took his mask off for a moment and turned to him with a smirk, singing with glee. " Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss. Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed. Can't you hear the music's pumpin' hard like I wish you would? Now push it ."

When Derek did not respond with anything other than an eye roll, Stiles scoffed.

"Who doesn't love 'Push It'? It's a classic. Or I mean if you'd rather I sing you something else?"

Before he could get a word in edgewise, Stiles, not only began spitting out the lyrics acapella, but dancing to them as well.

" Ummm, you're packed and you're stacked 'specially in the back. Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that." His dancing, as per usual, was less than skilled, and as he continued, Stiles attempted what Derek assumed was supposed to be a sexy body roll. "If looks could kill you would be an uz-"

Derek tried his hardest not to laugh at the way his boyfriend's dance moves resulted in him losing his balance. "You're a menace," he said, looking down at the ice where Stiles, who remained flat on his back, stared up at him.

"Yeah, but you love me."

"I do." He extended a hand down to him, and pulled him to his feet. "And you have no idea how true that is."

A flush spread across Stiles' cheeks, and Derek knew for certain that it had nothing to do with the cold. "I think I have some idea. What do you think?”

“I think that little move you just pulled is a Not Top 10 candidate for sure,” Derek chuckled and skated back to the bench.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, and by some miracle known as one Stiles Stilinski, they wound up on top 1-0. Jackson's goal late in the third put them on top. Thank God, because Derek honestly didn't think his legs had an overtime left in them.

Derek threw an arm around Stiles shoulders. "You were amazing today! If I didn't love you before today, I definitely would have fallen for you over the course of this damn game."

He heard Isaac chuckle from behind them.

"What?"

"Oh my God. I just- You two say shit like this all the fucking time! How in the hell didn’t the idea the two of you might be a couple even cross our minds?"

"Heteronormativity," Stiles said without missing a beat, the word sounding like venom in his mouth.

"Good game out there, guys," Coach congratulated them. "Hale! I don't often say this to you, but you played like absolute shit today. You are lucky Stiles saved your ass." He turned and jabbed a finger in Stiles' direction. "Not a word, Stilinski!"


 

 

 

A reporter snagged Stiles before he could exit the ice, and Derek would have been a shit captain, and an even worse boyfriend if he didn't stick to him like glue in that moment. Rigid like an I-beam had replaced his spine, Stiles stood next to him, his face devoid of any tell, excitement, or pride.

"Stiles, you played what was arguably the finest of your collegiate career to-date, in negative temperatures no less," the reporter began, and Derek couldn't help but feel jealous of her fur-lined trapper hat and scarf at the moment. Now that he'd stopped skating and removed his helmet, he could feel the wind nipping at the back of his neck, blowing down his sweater. "Could you describe what was going through your mind on the ice today?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Derek caught a glimpse of Stiles' right eyebrow inching upward towards his hairline. There was an audible click of his tongue as he opened his mouth that Derek was surprised he could hear above the din of the crowd, but perhaps he could thank the reporter's microphone for that.

"What was going through my mind you ask? Well, I'd be happy to elaborate. After the morning's rude as hell awakening I received, in which your fine broadcasting company decided to speculate on a health condition I had not confirmed for anyone that didn't need to know and whether or not that killed any potential I would have as a professional player, I made it my sole mission to come out here and silence any criticism. By the way, I'm coming off a mini-flare up that waylaid me most of the week, and how the hell do I respond? By coming out here and giving an exhibition on textbook goaltending. I stopped Eighty-one shots. Did I count that right? That would be, what? A new NCAA Division I single game save record. I am riding a four game shutout streak. That's ten for the season; record's twelve. I think I can play just fine," he gritted through his teeth. "And no, don't bother tweeting about how I should be humble about my performance today. I am pissed the fuck off."

Derek cringed, knowing Stiles' expletives would get caught by the censors and their seven second delay.

"Not only did you decide to make a spectacle of a private medical condition, because some jackass decided to tag you in a retweet of a charity volunteer event picture with my dad and me over the winter break, you called my parents at three-o-clock in the fucking morning to get a goddamned statement. You know who calls people at three a.m.? Cops and emergency room doctors. It took my dad twenty minutes and a call to both my stepbrother and myself to assuage my stepmom's fear that one of her kids was dead or dying. I can see that your employees have zero fucking courtesy. And all that shit you decided to say this morning calling me out for hiding my condition...oh yeah. It is Lupus. Congrats for guessing correctly. My mother had Lupus too; it killed her. So, that is why I am doing everything I can, working with the best rheumatologist in the state, eating a very strict diet, and trying to keep my stress level in check- but yeah...I didn't hide my illness. Those that needed to know, did know. That includes the Devils' management. They support me. That need to know basis, did not include ‘you’."

The reporter opened her mouth to get a word in edgewise, but Stiles didn't let up.

"I think Whittemore summed it up perfectly for you. What more can we expect from a media outlet that thinks it's ethically acceptable to air a picture of personal medical records without the patient’s consent? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know journalists aren't bound by HIPAA, and public figures shouldn't really expect much privacy, but seriously? Fuck you. Those laws exist for a reason, and just like that incident, you received a tip, a picture, what have you, and instead of calling out the people involved--who in JPP's case broke federal law to do it--you went ahead for money's sake. And you know what? I play hockey, but it is not my job yet. I don't get paid for it. First and foremost, I am a student, whose job right now, is to pass his classes. So thanks a fucking lot for adding an extra level of stress to that. You know what, when I graduate and play professionally, because I am not about to let this stupid illness get in my way, and I'll be happy to list some names of professional athletes who have Lupus, I am going to laugh in all your faces."

Derek could practically see the smoke coming from Stiles' ears at this point.

"Stop harassing my parents. Don't call me for an interview, because I won't give you one, ESPN. Not now, not ever. Should you have a terrible sense of humor and want me for your The Body issue, don't bother. However," he looked right at the camera, "Sports Illustrated, go ahead and call. I'll do whatever interview you want. You decide you want me in your Swimsuit Edition, fine. I'll even model a fucking string bikini for you, but I will never work with you, ESPN."  Stiles didn't say another word and just skated off to the Fox Sports North reporter near the boards. Derek couldn't help his swelling pride at the sight of Stiles smiling with that network's questions. All a matter of tactic, he supposed.

The reporter from ESPN seemed to remember Derek was standing right to Stiles during his rant and turned to him. She was visibly uncomfortable with how to proceed. "Derek, would you care to comment on the situation?"

"Which one? Oh! You mean how I played like utter crap today? All-nighter thesis writing was ill-advised. But good thing I have an outstanding goalie like Stilinski to save my ass. Did you see how great he played today? After this game, he's gotta be in the running for the Hobey Baker. Enjoy your Saturday."

He smirked as soon as his back was turned to her, but inside he was giggling with glee. That move right there? The tone of those words? He'd learned that from Stiles. Time was, Derek would have just death-glared the camera into submission. This, he had to admit to himself, was far more enjoyable.

Stiles was waiting for him just inside the tunnel when he came off the ice. They walked about ten feet, just far enough that they were shrouded in dim light. "What did she ask you ?"

"Three guesses, but you'll only need one."

Stiles rolled his eyes and groaned, "Damn it."

"But I took a page from your book and avoided the question, talking up your skills. Maybe tossed your name in the ring for the Hobey Baker."

Wasting no time, Stiles turned to him and pushed him up against the wall, kissing him senseless. Though they were still both clad in full gear, Stiles went for the kill, trailing kisses down his neck. He nipped and sucked, rolled the exposed skin of Derek's throat between his teeth, until he had Derek panting and hard as hell in his breezers.

When they broke apart, Derek's knees were shaky, and he gasped for a breath. "Wow. That..."

"Yeah. Come on. Let's go change. I want to go home and grab nice clothes before we meet your family for dinner." He took off his glove, tucking it under his right arm so that he could reach down and take Derek's hand.

"God, I wish Jake wasn't coming."

"Hmm. How are we going to play that off? You telling them at dinner?"

"No. I'd rather it be tomorrow at breakfast, at home, you know, instead of in public. You are staying the night after Cora’s birthday party right?”

Stiles gave him a look that said, ‘You really had to ask?’

“Yeah I know. Stupid question. But um...Laura invited Parrish to dinner, and they're not-" He furrowed his brows and thought for a moment. "Come to think of it, they have been spending a lot of time together, just the two of them. But I'm positive she would have told me if they were dating. I think she wants to, but she's worried about the family too. Doesn't want to be chastened about dating on the rebound. Oh, she told me I could tell you that she got clean test results for the three month mark. Just one more at six months, but after that, it would be exceedingly rare for HIV antibodies to develop. She's not worried though; as she informed me, the transmission rate for the male partner in heterosexual vaginal sex is like four per ten thousand exposures. The likelihood Evan could have acquired HIV from his one night stand is pretty small, but I think she's just trying to make herself sound more positive about the whole thing."

"Excellent. I will buy her a drink tonight. So...what you're saying is that...to your family, Parrish is there as a friend. Ergo, I won't look so out of place?"

Derek hung his head. "I hate the thought you would ever look out of place at my family dinners. I don't want that. I want you to be in the yearly family portrait. I want my parents to be able to respond proudly when asked who you are, 'That's my son-in-law, Stiles.' That's what..." He paused, realizing what he'd just said. "I..."

Stiles gave his hand a squeeze. "Is that you asking?"

He gave him an unsteady chuckle, "I don't have a ring." His mouth went arid, all the saliva suddenly gone, and his tongue stuck to his bottom lip a bit. The more he thought about it, the words sounded so right coming out of his mouth. Perfect even.

The kiss Stiles pressed on his cheek echoed in the tunnel. "I don't need one."

"You deserve one though, but, yeah I...it was, even though it was the least romantic proposal ever." His breathing was still shaky; he trembled with nerves. Even though they'd had this conversation, and Stiles had told him what his answer would be, it didn't alleviate the trepidation of the moment."

With damp eyes, Stiles looked over at him. There was a soft blush blooming on his cheeks. His eyelashes glistened with unshed tears. He leaned in and placed a tender kiss to Derek's lips. It had no heat behind it, but that little peck had more emotion in it that Derek could ever remember being kissed with. "I think it was perfect. If it’s important to you, you can get me something when you can, and I will wear it proudly. Even if it comes from a trinket vending machine.."

"Was that...was...yes?"

Stiles nodded, a tiny, private smile playing on his lips. Derek, in a move entirely out of character, hugged him, lifting him off his feet and spun him around before setting him down. He dropped his gloves onto the cement floor, taking Stiles' face in both hands so he could kiss him properly. The thud of Stiles' glove and blocker hitting the ground soon followed, and there they were, making out in the concourse, where a reporter could walk through any moment, and yet...Derek didn't give a rat's ass who saw. He was in love and his boyf- wait...fiancé. That was a thing he could say now.

"Oh for crying out loud! Am I going to have to break this up after every game now?" Coach squawked from behind them. "Give it a rest and go get changed. We have post game press."

"Yeah, I'm not talking to any more reporters today, Coach," Stiles said, out of breath.

"No, no you're not. And I'm serious, I do not want to break up public dry humping ever again. It was bad enough the one time I walked in on Lewis jacking it in the showers. I do not get paid enough for this," he grumbled as he walked away

Stiles turned to Derek and quirked an eyebrow. "Lewis?"

"Second-line right wing my freshman year. Yeah, don't ask." He bent down and picked up their discarded gear, carrying Stiles' for him as they made their way to the locker room, and despite his abysmal performance during the game, Derek could not keep the massive smile off his face.

Isaac told him it made look deranged; he was strangely okay with that.








Chapter Text

 

Sporting a pleasant buzz, Derek took in the party from the giant floor pillow he'd stolen from Cora's room and claimed as his own for the duration of the party. The Hale house was filled with a lot more people than his parents probably expected. Apparently, 'plus one' didn't extend to their own children, because he was certain Luke had invited most of his soccer team and another ten friends... at least. Plus there were neighbors and family friends, and then Jake showed up with his "entourage" of just as many people.

As the birthday girl, Cora, of course invited her friends from the track team, classmates, and friends from the various student groups she was a part of. So, as Derek found himself in a house with at least a hundred and fifty people, this five foot pillow lounger that he'd tossed into the corner of the formal living room beside the fireplace was the perfect place to take refuge, the room marked off with a length of rope his dad hung earlier. The bass of the music booming through the house was nice though, the way it thumped and drowned out the sound of any of his thoughts except one: As of earlier that evening, he had a fiancé, and it felt awesome.

He felt the pillow sink beside him as Stiles flopped onto the cushion with him, holding a Solo cup filled with fruit. He plucked piece of mango from within and held it to Derek's mouth. "Open up, kochanie."

Derek obliged, not thinking twice before taking one of Stiles' fingers into his mouth and sucking it clean. He raised an eyebrow at the way the hitch in Stiles' breath was visible. Then, he followed with Stiles' thumb before curling in his side to nuzzle at his neck. "You look so hot tonight," he mumbled against the skin of Stiles' jaw, his fingers pushing down the collar of his cobalt blue sweater. "This color makes your eyes look even more amazing." He trailed a line of kisses down his neck all the way to his collarbone where he sucked a little mark into the skin.

"Is… uh… that so?"

The breathless quality of Stiles' words had Derek's heart pounding in his chest almost in time to the music. "Yes. Makes them look like high-gloss mahogany."

Stiles turned towards him, fisting his hands in Derek's charcoal button down. "So poetic. Aren't you worried about someone seeing us that you don't want to?"

Derek shook his head with a soft smile. "No, not really. I just want to hold you and shower you with affection right now." He rolled onto his back and slid an arm under Stiles' neck, pulling him close.

"My, my you are a cuddly one tonight. It wouldn't have anything to do with a certain thing that happened earlier tonight would it?"

He looked over at him, his smile now blinding. "It has everything to do with that."

"Oh yeah?"

"I am so fucking happy right now, matia mou."

Stiles rested his head on Derek's chest, his eyes slipping closed. "Me too."

 

 

He offered him another piece of fruit which Derek gladly accepted, and they lay like that in the emptiness of the room for quite a while, stealing lazy kisses here and there, just basking in the glory of each other's company. However, their solitude was interrupted when Cora popped her head around the wall, she looked at them both for a long moment before speaking.

" There you are! Hiding from the party I see? Why not use your own room?"

Derek shrugged. "I tried. It is um… occupied."

"Ow ow! Get it, Laura!" She called out at the ceiling. Not like anyone would hear it over the music.. "Anyway, Mom's looking for you."

Begrudgingly, he extricated himself from the pillow and Stiles' side, following her out of the room. "Where is-" His words were cut off as she pulled him into their parents' office. "What?"

She looked him in the eye, both hands on his shoulders. "Derek, I want you to know that what I am about to say, I say out of love. So please don't be offended."

Offended? What... a knot of worry formed in the pit of his stomach, one she quickly put at ease by rising on her tiptoes to kiss his forehead. "Don't make that face, Derek. I just… I know how you athlete types see it as a threat to your masculinity or some shit like that."

"Hey!"

"Sorry. Have you… I think… and this is just an observation and theory, but," she took a deep breath, "I think you might be in love with Stiles. I don't even know if it's something you've realized yourself or even knew was a possibility. But, you know that psych class I'm taking this semester? Last week we talked about romantic attraction, and Derek, you don't have to be attracted to him physically to be in love with him. And, look I've noticed you've been different with him since Thanksgiving. You're standing closer, looking at him more. It's like you're seeking any excuse to touch him lately. You, well you smile more, laugh with your whole body at things he says, even the shit that could not in anyway be funny, and... you're happy. I mean it doesn't mean-"

"Yes."

"Yes, what?"

He gave her a soft smile. "I'm in love with Stiles."

"Really?" she asked, her face alight. "Then you need to ask him on a date, because even if he isn't interested, he seems chill enough to not make a thing about it or be offended."

Against his will, Derek found himself laughing.

"What?"

"Cora, you're adorable sometimes. You know that?"

She scowled at him. "I was serious."

"I know you were, and thanks, but..." He watched her face fall and her posture slump. "I have it on good authority, he loves me too."

Her brows had a slight furrow to them as she tried to parse what he'd said. "And? Go for it, Derek! Like I said, even if you don't you know, want to sleep with him or whatever, it's still a valid rela-"

"Cora," he said, stopping her rant, "I'm gay, and I definitely am attracted to him. He's um- we’re together, have been to- we got engaged after the game earlier."

"What?" she squeaked in glee, jumping up and down, before wrapped him in an excited hug. "That's so- Best birthday present ever, D! I'm so happy for you, and thank you for telling me and trusting me."

"Of course. Good to have you in my corner. I'm gonna need it when I tell the rest of the family tomorrow at breakfast."

She stepped back and regarded him, her face solemn. "You absolutely have me in your corner." She rolled her eyes. "Of course it makes me wish I'd managed an intellectual argument to throw Jake's way at Thanksgiving dinner instead of what I actually said."

It was his turn to be confused. "You were quiet during dinner. I didn't hear..."

"I know. My brain couldn't come up with a single damn thing to say to shut him up. I can't even remember what exactly it was he said that made me snap after you, Laura, and mom left the table. But surely I could have done better than calling him an 'ignorant, dickbag, shitstorm, shoelicker' and flinging a carrot at him. All that earned me is a lecture from Grandma about 'ladylike language'. Mind you, she said nothing to Jake about his foul mouth. Gotta love her double standards right?"

Derek burst out laughing, grabbing his side. "That's..."

She hung her head, though laughing as well. "I know. Not one of my finer moments."

"No, but it sure fits him."

"I try. Too bad you weren't there to hear it though. I thought Luke was gonna lose it when Jake's face made that look. You know the one when he can't decide if he's offended or proud. Anyway... Mom's in her room." She hugged him again before he left.

Shitstorm shoelicker. That was a good one, he'd have to remember to tell Stiles about that one. He found his mother, exactly where Cora had said she'd be, sitting at the little bistro set by the bay window in the master bedroom where she and Derek's father sometimes ate breakfast together. He'd be lying if he said he didn't model all of his relationship goals after his parents. The pair of them were still madly in love with each other, and he imagined it was just as strong as when they were college sweethearts. You know those stories of elderly couples blissfully married for 60+ years and then dying hours apart from each other because… he didn't know for sure, but it seemed like those couples just couldn't bear to live without each other. Yeah, his parents were like those couples. Awe-inspiring. He could only dream that he and Stiles' relationship would stay as strong as theirs.  "Hey, mom. Cora said you were looking for me."

She set down her book and took off her reading glasses. "You sure can be good at hiding when you want to be, Derek." She crossed the room to her closet, motioning him to follow her.

Once inside, she opened the top drawer of her jewelry armoire. It had once belonged to her grandmother, and Derek knew it was one of her prized possessions. "So, this took a while to track down. Benjamin had it with him in Spain, but when I explained why I would like to have it, he gladly parted with it." She placed a ring in his hand. "You mentioned that you and Stiles had talked about marriage, so I thought you might like to have that when you're ready. It was my father's, and his father's, and his father's."

Derek held the ring up to the light. He'd seen it only a few times up close, his grandfather passing away when he was five so he never got the chance to ask about it. "What does the buckle mean?" he asked of the tiny belt buckle design on the top. Around the platinum band were engraved olive leaves. It was stunning.

"Ah, starting with Victorian jewelry and up until the 1920's or so it was a common motif. It symbolizes unending love and loyalty."

"Shouldn't this go to Jake then?

She smiled. "No. My brothers agree with me that it should be given to the grandchild who would best appreciate it when it came time to give it to their beloved. Peter asked about the ring back when he first got married, but he said it didn't suit his style. You, having the interest in archaeology that you do, we think it's best you have it."

"Wow." He curled his hand tightly around the band, holding the precious heirloom in safety. "Thanks, Mom." He hugged her tightly.

"Of course, sweetie. When you're ready, you can propose with that."

He felt a warm flush creep up the back of his neck and into his cheeks. He rubbed the back of his neck "Yeah, about that… I… um… might have, sort of done that this afternoon."

"Might have?"

"Okay, I did." He could see her waiting with bated breath, hanging on his every word. "He said yes, of course he did, even without a ring."

She had tears in her eyes and didn't bother wiping them away. "My sweet boy's getting married."

Bashful, he looked at his feet. "Not for at least a year though. I mean we both think it's best we wait until he graduates. So, no rush."

"No. There’s not." She kissed his forehead and urged him back downstairs to give Stiles the ring.

 

* * *



"Derek, what are you doing?" Stiles asked when Derek tugged him to his feet and pulled him out of the living room. "What in the hell-" He looked around the room in which they'd just entered. The door latched behind him, and he heard Derek mutter under his breath. "What?"

"Stupid door. The lock on it has always been a bit stubborn."

Stiles rose an eyebrow at him. "You have a lock on the inside of your laundry room door?"

"Yeah… Dad hides in here when he folds laundry. Some men have man-caves where they seek refuge from their families. My dad absolutely does not want to be disturbed during folding time. He considers it soothing."

Brows furrowed, Stiles couldn't decide if Derek was fucking with him or not. "You're serious?"

"Like a heart attack, but enough talk about that." Stiles watched him dig in his pocket for a moment before pulling out something small and yellow.

Derek took Stiles' hand. "Because I absolutely didn't do a romantic job of it earlier..." He held up a ring, an old ring. "This has been in my family for several generations, and my mom gave it to me for when I was ready to propose to you. I didn't really ask you before but, will you marry me?"

Stiles pressed a hand to his mouth, a soft curl of his lips taking over his face. "I already said I would. Yes of course."

Derek kissed him on the forehead. "I know, just wanted to do it right." He slid the ring on Stiles' fourth finger. "My mom said the buckle symbolized an unending union, and it's just perfect for you."

He flexed his fingers a bit, holding his hand out in front of him to admire its new hardware. "It's a little small though. Is it okay if we get it sized or will that damage it?"

"No, you just stretch the ring a little. And even if more metal needs to be added, I don't really care what it costs to do. So long as it fits you comfortab-"

Stiles cut him off with a kiss. Slow and deep, that small grin still playing at his cheeks despite his otherwise occupied lips. Hands roamed down Derek's back, stopping to savor the smooth texture of his high-thread count button down and the way it fit his fiance like it had been made for him. Not an inch lay between them, and yet Stiles needed to be closer. He was engaged-holy hell, he was getting married-and he'd been riding a high of endorphins for the last five hours; he dreaded the crash that would come later. Hopefully, he'd be asleep by then, safely wrapped around Derek's sleeping form in the dark.

Derek, Stiles knew, would not be able to sleep tonight, too nervous about breakfast in the morning. No matter what, he'd said, he was telling his family tomorrow. He was prepared to deal with their reactions, positive or negative, and would do it with his head held high. Derek was proud of being gay; he was not ashamed of it. He was in love and getting married. He would not like antiquated ideas of what constituted acceptable forms of love stand in his way of happiness.

That confidence only made Stiles love him more. The change he'd noticed in him since the beginning of the school year- well, if someone had stood that Derek next to the one in front of him he wouldn't have recognized them. It was amazing what conquering a fear could do, how much more beautiful it could make a person appear in someone else's eyes.

Stiles made a small moan of pleasure when Derek moved from his mouth to trail half-bitten kisses down his throat to collarbone. A while ago, Stiles had asked him why he lavished so much oral attention on that spot. Derek had blushed saying that when he kissed right there, he could feel Stiles' pulse against his cheek, that he could feel the way it sped up when he nipped and sucked at the skin, that it was a major turn on. Since then, whenever he did that, it made Stiles weak in the knees.

A strong, broad hand, splayed against his stomach, keeping him from losing his balance. It pushed him back against the running washing machine. The whir and chug as it cleansed the clothes within it kind of reminded Stiles of the way his brain felt at the moment where too many emotions and sensations tried to balance each other out. The only problem? He didn't want them to balance out right now. He wanted to lose fucking control, lose his mind to his arousal.

Derek's lips popped as they pulled off him, and Stiles forced himself to turn his head down to look at Derek. The right words to describe how sinful, how gorgeous and breathtaking Derek looked when he would kiss down Stiles' torso as he dropped to his knees never seemed to exist when he needed them too, his mind only able to supply a garbled mess of 'ungh's and breathy moans. The warm hand on his abdomen disappeared only to relocate to match another gripping his hip on the other side.

Look away. Look away. He told himself otherwise he'd blow his load before anything happened. Good advice.

However, all will-power went out the fucking window once Derek got his fly open, hot breath mouthing over the thin fabric of Stiles' bacon printed boxers. Kinda wish I'd have worn less ridiculous underwear.

"Shut up. I'll have them off you soon enough."

He really must work on that thinking aloud thing.

"What are you waiting for then?" Stiles knew Derek couldn't back down from a challenge of this kind.

"I'm not waiting. I'm… savoring."

"Mmm. How about you do some savoring with my dick in your mouth?"

Derek rewarded his sass with a nip to the thigh.

"Or that. You can do that too," he whined.

As promised, Derek slid Stiles' shorts down his thighs moments later and looked up at him, blinking behind those midnight lashes and opalescent eyes. Stiles recognized that look and cupped his chin. "Yeah? What do you want?" he asked, his question whisper-soft and gentle.

"Want you to fuck my mouth," Derek mumbled against the skin of Stiles' palm.

"You'll make sure to tap my leg this time when you want me to stop?"

A red flush of embarrassment crept up Derek's neck, and he ducked his head. "Yes."

Stiles ran a thumb along the underside of Derek's bottom lip before pushing the finger into his mouth, and Derek wasted no time before swirling his tongue around it, a promise of more to come. And then, Derek pulled off and swallowed Stiles' dick down in one go. It took everything in him not to come right then, but he'd promised.

Hands enmeshed in the dark strands of Derek's hair, holding him in place as he began to work Stiles' dick like he'd been doing it all his life. Look, Derek was good, so damn good. The way he could at once relax his throat and swallow- it was a feeling like nothing else in the world. Stiles liked to think to himself that a man had not lived unless he'd been on the receiving end of one of Derek's blow jobs. And it filled Stiles with a smug sense of satisfaction to know that honor had only been bestowed on one other person besides himself.

"Oh fuck, fuck you're amazing."

"Mmhm," Derek hummed around him, the pleased vibrations growing in intensity as Stiles began thrusting into his mouth.

"Like you didn't already know th-" His impending orgasm showed up out of fucking nowhere. "Fuck, fuck, ffffu-"

If someone were to ask Stiles what was the worst thing that could happen mid-orgasm, he would say it was a toss up between a fire alarm... and the door to the Hale family laundry room opening just as the words, ' Even the God of blowjobs couldn't suck a dick as good as you do! ' tumbled from his lips as he came.

"My eyes!!!! Jesus Christ, Derek!  The laundry room?" Luke's horrified voice filled the room.

Rather than say anything, Derek pulled off Stiles as discreetly as he could and hid his face in the juncture of Stiles' hip and thigh. Stiles simply looked up at the ceiling, trying to catch his breath and regain his brain.

"Oh wait! Oh my God!" That tone, Stiles was sure represented shocked. Whether good shocked or bad shocked remained to be determined.

He felt Derek's fingers tighten on his hips. Nope, nope. Stiles was not going to let anyone make Derek feel bad about himself right now. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Luke turn around and face the door.

"I am so sorry! The lock... the door... it's a piece of crap. I-" and there was a long, highly awkward pause before Luke, still turned away from them, spoke again. "I... um… what- Is this like a testing the waters, experiment type thing?"

"No." Derek's voice sounded small and broken, and Stiles needed to fix that right away. He coaxed him to his feet with one hand, as the other struggled to pull up his pants and tuck his dick back into his underwear. Once he was decent again, he held him close, rubbing the back of Derek's head when he buried his face in Stiles' shoulder.

"So you're um..."

"Yes."

"Okay. I- well... support you or however the phrase goes. I'm just gonna go bleach my eyes. I won't tell anyone. I swear!" Luke called as he ran out.

"Well, bright side? Could have gone worse." When Derek chuckled into his neck, Stiles grinned and patted the back of his head. "That's better."

 

* * *



Outside, Derek grabbed a beer from one of the Rubbermaid tubs his dad had filled snow. "I don't care if it looks tacky, Tal, I'm not buying ice, nor am I wasting energy chilling a bunch of drinks when there is two feet of snow on the ground." To each their credit, yes, they did look ridiculous, but free cooler, why not? Mingling somewhere at the party, were Peter and Mark playing booze police, doing their best to make sure no underaged kids found their way into the alcohol and confiscating the drinks of those that did. What a mess that would be? Derek could see the headlines now:

Minors Busted with Alcohol at Lt. Gov Hale's Residence.

He shuddered as he popped the cap and tossed it in the trash, savoring a few drinks of the ice cold beverage before heading towards the back door.

He had no interest in joining his sister and Isaac trying to keep up with Stiles as the three of them played Rock Band in the Hale family basement. He also, did not, feel like sitting squished on the couch in the game room with a bunch of people he didn't know while they watched some movie he didn't like. He just wanted to be somewhere quiet, which as the backyard turned out happened to be the only place in the entire house… and it wasn't even in the house.

Oh God. He was so uncomfortable with all the noise and all the people that he'd resorted to stating the obvious. Someone shoot him, just take him out behind the barn and shoot him.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, taking several calming breaths and watching the steam puffs in the air in front of him with each exhale. He and Stiles, it seemed, for as different of personalities as they had, shared the same experience of social anxiety. Stiles had trouble with tightly packed crowds, and Derek just didn't like people in large groups.

Irrelevant though.

Feeling the chill, he decided to go back inside. However, the back door had locked behind him. With a groan, he downed the rest of his beer, laced up the boots he'd only stepped into for the expressed purpose of keeping his soles warm, and resigned himself to making the long trek around the house to the front. He wished now that he'd grabbed a jacket before coming outside instead of just wearing his button down. Hands in his pockets, Derek trudged through the snow, hissing as snow made its way into the cuff of his boots.

"Yo Derek, don't be a stranger. Come on over."

Derek gritted his teeth as was his standard response to anything Jake said lately.  With heavy reluctance, Derek walked over to the patio where his brother stood. He'd never been a fan of the sort of guys Jake considered friends, but kept his mouth shut nonetheless. Low profile until tomorrow. Then everything will be out in the open . His lips twisted in wry amusement at his unintentional pun.

When Jake offered him a beer, Derek tried to refuse. "I literally just finished one. I'm cold, man. Can I just go back inside?"

"Don't be such a Sally."

"Easy for you to say. You're wearing a coat." Still, Derek rolled his eyes and took the bottle, if for nothing else, to shut him up about it. Not shut up entirely- God no. If there was a way to do that, Derek hadn't found it yet.

"So..." Jake began, trailing off in that way Derek had come to learn meant he either a) wanted something from him or b) had a poorly-thought out idea he was planning on running by him. Neither option sounded appealing right then with his fingers turning to icicles around his beer and nose beginning to run from the cold.

"No."

"Come on. You haven't even heard what I'm going to say."

"I have an idea."

Jake shook a finger at him. "Whatever you thought, this is so much better. You still with that girl you were dating around Christmas?" Jake didn't even give him time to answer before throwing his next sentence into the frigid air between them. "Doesn't matter. If you are, dump her, because I have this co-worker and she's perfect for you. Absolutely perfect, like... woman of your dreams perfect."

Derek wondered if he could explain just how wrong his brother's belief was, but there probably weren't strong enough words in any language to convey to what depths he was not attracted to women. Trying to explain to his Neanderthal brother that not only was Derek Gay with a capital fucking G surrounded by flashing rainbow lights, but androsexual as well would be less than successful. He liked dick, loved dick, one dick in particular, and he really just wanted to hit Jake over the head with that fact. Somehow, he felt that screaming, ' I don't ever want my dick, anywhere near a vagina or naked woman in my life, ' was not a good idea. Still, he was absolutely positive that if Stiles came to him and confided that he was trans, and not a he at all, that transitioning was the end goal, Derek would amend his thoughts to say the only woman he wanted to see naked was Stiles. But that was neither here nor there. Instead, Derek settled for the subdued, "I highly doubt that."

"No, I swear. Blonde, great legs. You like a big rack right?"

No, he absolutely did not. He liked the opposite of a big rack- no rack. "Guess again, Jake."

"Oh come on. Even if they say all they care about is a good personality...no dude wants a flat-chested chick. All guys like a good set of tits."

Derek gritted his teeth again. At this rate, his dentist would skin him alive at his next checkup. "Not me."

"Liar. You said it yourself at Christmas, your girl was busty, and you liked it."

He wanted to smack himself in the face at his attempt at being cheeky over the winter break. If he only knew it would come back to bite him. "I believe my words were well endowed- great ass. I wasn't talking about breasts," he smirked. 

"Ah," Jake said, clapping him on the back far harder than would be considered playful. "Who would have thought, my little brother, an ass man? Well, my co-worker, as Sir Mix-a-lot would say, 'Baby, got back'.  Trust me; you'll love her."

Derek took a long pull on his beer, drinking half of it in one go. He reasoned that if he concentrated really hard, he could finish the rest without stopping for a breath... or gagging (IPA's were never good choices for chugging. Too hoppy). "Still not interested."

Jake threw his hands up in frustration. "For fuck's sake, Derek! You are such a prude. Don't give me that 'saving yourself for marriage nonsense!' You're twenty-two. You should be getting laid by a real hottie on a regular basis."

"Who says I'm not?” Totally true. It was Jake’s fault for not specifying ‘hot woman’. “Can we talk about something else?"

Jake rolled his eyes, but obliged nonetheless, and Derek was able to tune out the conversation while he plotted his escape. Citing impending hypothermia would probably work. After all, last time he checked it was hovering around zero outside. Yet, every time he turned to sneak back to the house, his brother patted him on the shoulder, holding him in place. It was as though the guy knew what Derek was attempting and was doing everything in his power to prevent it. Derek would believe that were true if he didn't know better. Jake did not possess the superpower of telepathy.

Thank fucking God.

So, he continued staring off in the distance, the dim lights of houses across Lake Minnetonka shining at him through the branches of the barren trees. The words Jake and his crew threw back and forth, bantering as they drank their beers, some smoking a cigarette or two, were muddled in Derek's ears anytime he shivered. Good, he thought. That's exactly what he wanted, to be unable to discern a damn thing. That is, until his whole body tensed up when they started telling jokes. There was just something about their tone that cut through the air like a diamond-tipped blade. The first couple seemed innocuous enough (by Jake's standards anyway), but they grew increasingly more offensive and all seemed to be on the same subject. Derek held his tongue as long as he could and continued to make futile attempts to break free and go back inside.

With every new joke, Derek's irritation mounted. His skin began to crawl, his pulse quickened. Sticks and stones. Sticks and stones. Sticks and stones. What a bunch of bullshit that rhyme was. Words often hurt far worse than any physical injury. Words were the things that stuck with you when all the cuts had faded.

"Oh wait, I got one." Jake tossed his empty bottle into a mound of snow where it joined a small collection of others his friends had dropped, and Derek hoped the ass remembered to pick it up when he went inside. No reason anyone else in the family should have to clean up after them. 'What do you call a fag on roller skates?"

Derek worried his tongue between his teeth hard enough for long enough for the ferric taste of blood to hit his tongue. He clutched tightly enough to his now empty bottle of beer that he half expected it to shatter in his hands. Jake had finally let go of his shoulder, and Derek didn't want to hear the punchline, but didn't have time flee for the safety of the house before his brother burst out laughing. "Roll-aids.”

Derek stood there in absolute silence, trying not to throw up. There was a hurricane in his stomach, a churning maelstrom of beer, tossing around imaginary boats with reckless abandon. Any minute, he was sure it would force its way up his throat and into the snow.

"What's the matter? Didn't get the joke? See, it's-"

Nausea becoming unbearable, Derek drew by his brows together in anger "I got it; I just don't think it's funny."

"What?  That joke's hilarious, but true."

He stared at him, slack jawed, seething, and honestly scared of him, while he tried to get his feet to move. "That's an awful joke! AIDS isn't funny at all. It kills over a million people every year. How is that funny? And that slur? Jesus, Jake! Do you think about the stuff that comes out of your mouth before you say it, and the people those words might hurt?"

"Nobody gets hurt by jokes," one of Jake's posse scoffed.

Derek's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Are you sure about that? You tell that to the families of bullied teens who commit suicide because of jokes like those."

Jake gave him what he probably intended to be a playful shove, moving to stand directly in Derek's path of escape. Derek, felt trapped. "Dude, it's just a joke. Wow. College has really turned you into a pussy. First Laura and now you." He stopped when he saw Derek glaring at him. "What?"

"I'm trying to reconcile the kid I idolized growing up with the homophobic, misogynistic asshole standing in front of me." Derek tried to walk around him, but Jake blocked him with his shoulder, a classic body check for a guy who never played a game of hockey in his life.

"So I'm an asshole now?" Jake took a step forward, effectively crowding his personal space. His taller, broader form loomed over Derek, taunting him, threatening him, and Derek's fight or flight response spiked. "Like you're any better. You stand there with false righteous indignation damning me for telling jokes. You used to have a sense of humor, Derek."

"Pretty sure I wouldn't have found that joke funny even before college."

Jake gave him a hard shove. This one could not possibly be passed off as playful. He stumbled backwards, the heels of his boots crunching in the snow. "No, now you just whine about things that are offensive. I swear it's like you and Laura turned into the Social Justice Twins and now share a menstrual cycle. What the hell happened to my brother, and who the fuck chopped off your balls?"

When Jake shoved him again, Derek pushed back to get him out of the way. He made it two steps before Jake grabbed his forearm hard enough to bruise. "Let go of me, asshole!"

"You need to get off your high horse and get laid!"

"You have no idea what I need, Jake!  You don't know me at all. Now let go of my arm!" He stepped forward and yanked his arm free.

"Or what?" Jake spat at him. "Wittle Dewek will go cry to Mommy just like you always did as a kid? Fucking Mama's boy!"

"Insulting Mom now? Who's next? Sophie?"  Jake kicked the pile of empty bottles, sending one hurtling towards him. It struck Derek in the shin, a shin that was already freezing, and the impact of the bottle hurt like hell. "The fuck is wrong with you?" he yelled.

"Stop being so damned butt-hurt and grow the fuck up! Don't like jokes?" Jake looked over his shoulder at his friends. "Hey guys, listen to this! I got another one for you, Derek. What's the difference between a gay man and a horse trailer? One is only good for towing behind a truck and the other transports horses."

Now Derek considered himself a pretty big guy, and even though Jake was four inches taller than him and had about fifteen pounds on him, Derek couldn’t let him say those disgusting things and do nothing. He shoved Jake so hard, he fell over.

Jake scrambled up off the ground, wincing in pain as he rubbed his wrists. "You fucking asshole!" He popped Derek in the jaw hard enough to send him off balance, splitting his lip in the process. "You ungrateful punk!" Rather than try to break up the fight and help their buddy, Jake's friends scarpered off... all of them.

Some friends.

While his brother was distracted by his friends' retreat, Derek clocked his brother in the nose, putting all his weight behind the punch. With blood dripping down his face, Jake lunged at his little brother, knocking him onto his back into the snow. The chill of the snow falling into Derek's collar was but a nuisance. There was a loud crack as, straddling Derek's hips, Jake hit him in the cheek; there would surely be a black eye there later. "How did I ever think you were fun to hang out with?" When he leaned forward and sneered, Derek struggled to get him away from his face. Instead, he earned a heavy arm across the throat for his efforts. He hoped his brother was going for a sleeper hold and not actually trying to strangle him. And yet, that wasn't a chance he was willing to take.

Struggling for air, Derek tugged at Jake's arm. He managed to push it away from his throat enough to get a small breath, enough for him to gasp out, "Maybe you should just tie me to your truck hitch and drive away. All a guy like me is good for right?"

His words caught Jake off guard, and Derek watched a look of realization wash over Jake's face only to be replaced with something else, a look of disgust? Shame? Derek couldn’t tell, though he doubt it was shame.

“You… you’re-”

"You heard me," he spluttered.. As the edges of his vision began to turn black, Derek brought his forehead into his brother's nose. The headbutt knocked Jake off him, and Derek scrambled for the house.




* * *



The door to his bedroom was still locked. God damn it, Lolo. Banging on the door did little good. The noise of the party and the music muffling the sounds of his sister's and Parrish's exploits within were too loud. He just needed somewhere he could lock himself in, lock himself away from his brother.

He swallowed hard, regretting it immediately because it was like trying to swallow a golf ball. His throat felt thick; his busted lip screamed at protest. His face, where his brother's fist had landed, was on fire, throbbing- literally. Derek felt it pulsing with pain. Blinking a few times, he stumbled back and crashed into the hallway wall.

Think, think.

The only place he decided was isolated enough was his parents' room, and so, he made his way down the hall to the master suite. Before he made it however, he ran into his mother.

"Oh my God! Sweetie, what happened?" When he tried to push past her without saying a word, she guided him to her bathroom to fuss over him. Rather than have him sit upon the closed toilet lid, she patted the counter. "Hop on up." She palpated his cheek, and he hissed in pain. "Sorry. Nothing feels broken. You've split your lip, and-" Her voice cut out when she saw red mark across his neck. "Who were you fighting? Who did this?"

Cora burst into the room before he could answer. "Mom, there's a fight in the backya- Jesus, Derek, who did you piss off?"

He remained tight-lipped, wincing when his mom dabbed peroxide on his lip.

"Cora, can you grab me a flashlight from the hall closet?" Her fingers pressed on the skin on both sides of his trachea. "Swallow for me?"

That was one of the last things he wanted to do at the moment, but she was the doctor, not him. It hurt just as badly that time as the first attempt. Judging by the way her brows drew in, he could tell the pain showed on his face. Moments later, Cora returned with a flashlight, and his mom used it to check his pupils.

"I didn't hit my head, Mom."

"Yeah, but being struck in the face can still result in a concussion." He followed her orders while she went through the rest of the steps to check for a concussion. "You seem okay on that front. So, that is a relief, but your neck has me worried. That seemed like it was a lot of work, when I had you swallow."

"It was." He glanced over at Cora, still standing in the doorway. "Hey, do you think you could go get Stiles? I… yeah just please get him for me? Maybe we can hide in my room and watch movies all night long. Laura has had the room long enough."

She stepped forward and kissed his forehead. "Sure."

"Oh no. I am taking you to the ER." His mom had gone into full mother hen mode. "Send an ice pack up with Stiles, would you, Cora?"

His sister nodded as she left the room.

"What? No. Please don't do that. I'm fine."

She folded her arms across her chest, and gave him her 'Which one of us is the doctor here?' stare. It was highly effective. "It can be hard to spot neck trauma from the outside. It's a dangerous place to have swelling, could restrict airflow. No more arguing. We'll get you checked out and then back home before you know it. I'll make honey pancakes just for you. I would never forgive myself if I let you go on to bed and your throat swelled shut while you slept."

"No. I want to stay at my place. Not..." He felt tiny admitting everything to her, but it had to be done. "I can't stay here as long as Jake's here."

Her expression went glacial, almost ready to go to war on his behalf. "So you and Jake got in a fight?  Was it because-"

"I couldn't listen to him anymore. He told this joke and... and... " He rubbed his throat, trying to massage away the pain. "Mom, the things he said... When I was a little kid, I wanted to grow up to be just like my big brother." Tears welled up in his eyes, and his already raspy voice cracked as he said, "How could I have looked up to someone who thinks I should be beaten or dragged behind a moving car?"

"Oh Sweetie." She pulled him into a hug, holding him tightly as he broke down sobbing into her shoulder. "When we get back from the ER I am tearing him a new one. I thought I made myself perfectly clear when I laid into him the day after Thanksgiving. I guess my warning went in one ear and out the other."

He shook his head remembering his brother's taunt. "No. Don't. You'll just make it worse. I think I got my point across. But," he pulled away and forced himself to sound confident despite feeling small and scared, "you and Dad need to keep him away from me. If he comes for dinner, don't expect me to join the family. If I'm here and he shows up, I'm leaving. This goes for holidays too, because he terrifies me, Mom." He curled his fingers into a fist and relaxed them a few times. They were starting to get stiff. Was Jake serious or just putting on a front?  Derek didn’t know; he couldn't take that chance. Because even if they were just words just jokes to Jake, the threat for Derek was very real every day. He could feel his anxiety rising just thinking about it. The tightness in his chest was crushing; he just needed to find Stiles and get the hell away from his brother. Then, he could cuddle up with his fiancé and forget this train wreck of a night. "Maybe Jake wouldn't do anything to me, maybe being family gets a pass, but-" He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I can't let him near Stiles; I'm scared about what he'd do. And now... I'm coming out anyway. This isn’t going to stop me."

"Cora sent me up here with an ice pack," Stiles' voice carried down the hall. "You didn't fall on the ice did you? I told you there was a patch by the drinks that was a bit-" The words died on Stiles' lips when he stepped into the bathroom. He stepped between Derek's legs and cradled his face. "Oh my God. What happened? Who did this to you?" He ran a thumb under his split lip.

"Jake. If it makes you feel better, I think I broke his nose."

Stiles kissed his forehead, then his nose. "Was this because you told him?" Derek never wanted to see Stiles as upset on his behalf again as he was right then.

"No." He winced when Stiles pressed the ice pack to his cheek. "I sort of told him in the heat of battle though." He sighed. God, he was exhausted. "Pretty sure he hates me now."

His mom nudged Stiles out of the way, much to Derek's chagrin (he was pretty sure he whimpered at the loss of Stiles' hand on his hip), and moved the ice pack from his face to his neck. "This is more urgent. Okay. I'm going to warm up the car. Stiles could you bring him down to the garage in about ten minutes?"

"Car? Where are you go-"

"ER. Mom thinks I have throat damage," he mumbled after his mother left the room.

"Throat da-" Stiles cupped Derek's chin with the tenderest touch, urging him to tilt his head upwards. "He tried to choke you?" he cried out. "I don't care if he is a giant. I'm going to beat him to a bloody pulp. "

Derek pulled Stiles' hands away from his face. "You don't have to do that. He was... channeling WWE… I think. Though maybe he wasn't. Sure felt like he was serious."

"Now is not the time for jokes." He folded Derek in a hug. "Goes both ways you know. Keeping the other safe from harm."




* * *



Robert held the phone closer to his ear and tried to block out the remaining noise from his daughter's party with his other hand. "Well, that's good then, right?" he asked. "That there is no structural damage."

"Of course, but they're still going to keep him a couple more hours to make sure the swelling goes down and doesn't threaten his airway," Talia's frustration came through loud and clear despite the phone connection. He was pretty sure his wife was standing, one arm crossed over her chest, hand holding her opposite shoulder. Her brows would be furrowed, and she'd be tapping her toe to try and calm herself.

She always did that when stressed or impatient. Now, Robert figured, was as good a time as any to be stressed. Hell, he was stressed about it. Having one of your children in the emergency room was never easy, but his churning stomach had been settled by her assurance that Derek would be fine. "You think they'll release him before morning?"

Her thoughtful hum told him that she doubted it. "Well, it's already two am. So I think they'd probably wait until shift change. I know I would if I was his attending physician. But, you go ahead and get some sleep, Honey. No need to wait up for me. But, I did tell Derek I would make him honey Greek yogurt pancakes. I am pretty sure I wrote the recipe down in the family cookbook. No need to make fancy ones for anyone else. Oh, but I do have a small bag of gluten free mix for Stiles. I think I mentioned that he'd been put on that diet for his Lupus."

"Breathe, Tal. I got this. You just worry about yourself and Derek. Give him my love. And make sure you get some rest, dear."

"Not likely, but I'll try. I love you."

"Love you too." Robert ended the call and grabbed the bag of trash he'd only just removed from the can when his wife called. The rolling bin was not in the garage where it was supposed to be. Probably out front - he mused. When he closed the door from the garage into the house and crossed the house for the front door, he was surprised to find Jake sitting on the front steps, fingers peeling away the label on his bottle of MGD.

Robert didn't say a thing until he'd rid his hands of the garbage bag. Then, he sat down beside his oldest son. He saw the dried blood above Jake's upper lip, the large bruise forming across the bridge of his nose and stretching under his eyes. "That looks painful. What happened?" he asked in an attempt to facilitate an open conversation and get the most answers out of him.

Instead of being open and forthcoming, Jake was defensive. "Isn’t it obvious?"

Robert rolled his eyes. "Yes, but I was asking for your side of the story, because I have the details from your brother’s perspective. Now I want to hear yours. And I want you to be absolutely truthful with me."

"Well, Dad, we got in a fight."

Like pulling teeth. "I can see that. What was it about?"

He watched Jake ball up a bit of the beer label and flick it away from him. It landed on the walkway, skittering along the bricks. "I was drinking."

Nothing like stating the obvious while holding a bottle of beer. "Yeah, I can smell that, too."

"But I wasn’t drunk. I remember it, if that’s what you’re implying. I was joking around with my buddies. Telling Derek I could find him a better date than his girlfri… well I guess he doesn’t have a girlfriend, but someone told a joke. I don’t remember who it was or what they said, but I told one. It was just a joke."

Robert tried to keep his tone as neutral as possible. "What kind of joke?"

"Rude. Not the kind you’d want your grandma to hear you tell," Jake said while cringing. "They were mostly jokes about sex until I started in. Derek was quiet. I made fun of him, called him a prude. But then, I-” he paused, as though he was embarrassed to repeat what he’d said, but then bit the bullet and repeated the two jokes Robert. When he looked over, his father was staring at him.

"Those are the jokes you told?" he shouted. Offensive, disgusting, violent jokes. "I thought I made myself clear the last time I brought up the topic of hate-speech in my house." He took a deep breath. "Then what?"

"Derek tried to leave. He’d already yelled at me for the Roll-aids joke. I grabbed him, and then he punched me. I guess you could see that. I don’t know why though. It was just a joke."

Robert pinched the bridge of his nose. "Before I tell you my take on that, I need to ask… after he punched you, what happened next? Did he stay and keep fighting?"

Jake's posture slumped forward even more. "No," he said, the guilt in his voice thick and shaky. "He tried to leave again. I should have let him go. I know that, but adrenaline I guess. I don't know why I thought I needed to continue the fight after that, but I got him in the chin I think. I hoped he would stop then. He kept struggling though."

Robert took his phone from his pocket. “So, um… they’re gonna keep him overnight for observation. They want to make sure the swelling in his neck doesn’t restrict air flow."

"What?" He seemed genuinely shocked at the information.

"Your mother took him to the hospital because he was having trouble swallowing. Did you know that?” Jake shook his head, visibly stunned. Even more so when Robert showed him the picture of Derek lying in a hospital bed, Stiles curled around him protectively. “He needed stitches in his lip. But, there's no fracture to his cheekbone... or damage to his throat. There is a bone in your neck, right here," he reached over and tapped on the underside of his son's chin, "called the hyoid bone. It's often broken when someone is strangled."

"But- I... It was just a sleeper hold!" Jake sounded like a caged animal, young and frantic.

Robert figured as much with Derek relaying the same information to Talia. "Well, there’s no nice way of putting this Jake. You were an idiot and tried to use a sleeper hold without being properly trained. What the hell were you thinking? You could have killed him." Jake remained silent and looked over at him. Robert sat there silent. All the muscles were working in his jaw, the way he did when he was deep in thought. "Jacob, I hate that I have to ask this question, but given that joke and some of the things you said at Thanksgiving, I need to know. Was that what you were going for? To seriously hurt him?"

He stared, slack jawed at his father for a long while. “What? No! Of course I wasn’t. I didn’t even know about him until after that. He growled it at me before he ran in the house. Why-”

His dad held up a hand to stop his words. “Let me tell you how your brother saw it, and this is what he told your mom. I think it will help shed some light on things. You had just told a joke wherein you said you believed gay men should be tied to a truck bumper and dragged. Then, Derek, your closeted little brother, tried to leave, to get himself out of what he saw to be a potentially dangerous situation. He told your mom that when you grabbed him, he punched you because he thought you’d figured him out. And when he tried to leave for a second time, you hit him. Now, if that had been me, if I were in Derek’s shoes, I would have been scared shitless that you were serious about hurting me, which as your mother put it, is exactly how he saw it at the time."

Robert sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don’t want to take sides in this. I don’t want to put a wedge in our family, but my first job as a parent is to ensure the safety of my children. All of them, and when one of my kids tells his mother that in the heat of things he honestly thought your attempt at a sleeper hold might have been you trying to strangle him, that he is absolutely terrified to be alone in a room with you, I have to side with your brother here. I can’t just stay neutral, Jake. I don't like it, but that's the way it has to be."

Jake blinked at him, eyes wide.

"I can’t tell you to stop thinking and believing the way you do. I can’t change your beliefs. All I can do is say that you are not to ever say anything of the sort in my house again. You can have whatever opinion you want, but I don’t have to hear it, nor do I want to. I don’t have to let your brother be subjected to the hateful things you say sometimes, though the fact that you feel that way about members of the GSM community means I have failed as a parent somewhere along the line."

Jake scoffed, "The what? Just say Queer."

"No. Believe it or not, I listen to your sister’s discourses on gender and sexuality politics. Using the term ‘Queer’ while not being a member of the community yourself is a slur. I am not going to do that. Even if your brother isn’t here to hear it. He wants me to use Gender and Sexual Minorities, so I will. I meant what I said above. Derek has asked us to keep you away from him. He’s even gone so far as to ask us to keep you away from Stiles as well.” His father took a deep breath. "I’m absolutely furious with you. I’d be yelling if it weren’t so late, and if I thought it would do any good. I can’t make you change. You have to do that on your own."

“I don’t unders-”

“You have to sit down and do some thinking, Jacob. You have to ask yourself if you want to be the kind person someone legitimately fears for their life around. I know I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if that were me.” Without saying another word, Robert stood and walked back in the house.

The sound of the screen door shutting echoed in the night as Jake remained staring out at the back yard.



* * *



"Easy there. Whoa, whoa, D. Let me help you with your jacket," Stiles said, his words hushed and gentle, soothing.

Derek wanted to roll his eyes at him--he was just fine and didn't need babying--but he recognized Stiles actions for what they were: The only way he was able to help him, and things he needed in order to put his mind at ease. "Thanks, matia mou, but I got it. I'm good." He placed a soft kiss on Stiles' cheek.

Stiles cupped his chin, thumb brushing along the non-injured side of his face. "You want some coffee? I'll get you a cup."

He shook his head and collapsed down onto the couch, letting himself sink into the plush cushions. Hospital beds weren't the easiest to sleep in, nowhere near soft enough for his liking. Plus, it had been a little crammed with both of them, the side rails (that the hospital insisted he use) constricting their positions even more than their dorm beds. His care team wasn't happy about Stiles squeezing in beside him either, but Derek would not budge on it. He never liked being in the hospital as a patient. The smells... they overwhelmed him, set all his nerves on high alert, and he needed the steady weight of Stiles against his side. It calmed him down far better than any of their recommended medications. He did not need to be sedated, damn it.

His knees cracked when he stretched out on the sofa, stiff from limited use and holding one position for so long. Per hospital protocol, the trip to his mother's car had been made in a wheelchair, despite his protests in the matter. God, he loved this couch, and if his parents ever decided to get rid of it, he volunteered to take it off their hands- professional athlete salary or not. He cracked an eye open when the warmth of the thick blanket enveloped him and found himself face to face with Stiles who crouched beside him.

"You want me to let you sleep? You don't need to have breakfast with the family."

Though still dark outside--sunrise was not for another half hour or so--Derek could hear activity in the kitchen. "I do. I need to do this today, Stiles, or I am never going to get the courage again."

Stiles leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "Okay. You rest up, and I'll come get you when breakfast is ready."

He nodded and let himself drift amidst the heavenly warmth of the quilt only to be roused sometime later by a hand in his hair, raking its blunt nails across the skin of his scalp. He leaned into the touch and offered up a pleased hum. When his eyelids fluttered open, he expected to see Stiles standing there, but instead, it was Laura.

"Hey," he croaked out. Though he'd be given a passing grade by the doctor, his throat still felt like he'd eaten glass every time he swallowed

She ran a thumb under the bruise on his cheek. "I'm sorry I locked you out of the room. I- I mean if..."

"This didn't happen because you were using our bedroom, Lolo. This happened because I finally had enough of Jake's bullshit and called him on it. I guess it's one thing for you to tear him a new one, another thing entirely when I do it."

She gave a soft chuckle and shook her head. "Well I never clocked him in the face. I would have liked to though, trust me."

“He shoved me first,” he groaned as he sat up. That abrasion on his flank where his shirt had ridden up in the scuffle was going to be a real nuisance as it healed, aggravated by his shifting clothing. Laura's enthusiastic hug squeezed the air right out of him. Glad his ribs were free from injury, he leaned the side of his head against hers.

"I'm so mad at him, Derek. The jokes aside... Stiles told me everything. Jake wouldn't even let you leave? I mean, that's practically goading you into a fight right there. Thank God the guy is family. I can't imagine how much worse it could have been if he was a stranger."

"Laura, he didn't do this because I'm gay. That came out," a small grin played at his lips, "pun intended, after the worst of it."

"I don't care." She tousled his hair. "Come on. Breakfast is ready."

"Who's all here?" he asked, suddenly more than aware what he intended to do, or to be more precise, what he intended to say.

"All us kids but Jake. Based on what I've been able to figure out, Dad had a heart to heart with him last night sometime, and he told him to go home-"

"I didn't want him to be thrown out. Look," he winced when the force of the word felt like a red hot poker being jabbed into his larynx, "he's a jerk. I am not disputing that, but this is his family too. I just don't want him around me. The last thing I want is for the family to ostracize him, Lolo. They do that, and he is never going to change."

She squeezed him tightly against her side. "Don't worry, Derek. Pretty sure Dad told him something similar. Just that he needed some time away to think about his behavior. Even though he's a royal asshole, Mom or Dad would never disown him."

Good. Right now he hated his brother, but Derek couldn't help but see the ironic hypocrisy of the situation. He'd spent so long afraid his family would disown him for being gay that the mere thought of the family doing the same to Jake because he was a homophobic asshat was nauseating. He was right though. If he ever hoped to be able to have an honest conversation with his brother about all of this, the family could not turn their backs on Jake either. It was a pipe dream, but he didn't care. He would cling to the hope that his brother would change until his dying day if need be.

"Come on." Laura helped him up, and with linked arms, they walked into the dining room where he sat down next to Stiles. Derek took a deep breath, squeezing Stiles' hand under the table. A shiver of anticipation ran down his spine at the thought that soon, maybe within a number of minutes he could count on his fingers, he would be able to hold that hand in plain view of his family. Stealing a quick moment, he leaned over, mouth a hair's breadth from Stiles' earlobe and whispered, "S'agapo." Then, he let his lips brush the shell of Stiles' ear.

Derek waited as the table began to fill with people, each one pausing to stare at him in shock for a moment as though they were trying to figure out what in the hell had happened the night before. He wondered if any of them besides his parents, Cora and Laura knew anything at all about his and Jake's fight. When his grandmother waltzed in--and yes, the way that woman could enter a room with such pretentious flourish could only be described as waltzing--she took one look at him. He watched a series of emotions cross her face before she decided to speak.

"In my day, we hardly made such a fuss over young men coming to fisticuffs. Hospital, Talia? Surely, that was your maternal instinct overreacting."

His mother gave her an overly saccharine (and passive aggressive) smile. "Why thank you for your insight, Vivianne, but since of the two of us, I am the medical care professional, my instinct is the one we'll be trusting."

He managed to stifle his laugh and pass it off as a cough.

"Holy Jesus, Derek! What happened to your face?" Luke's eyes had all but bugged out of his head when he sat down across from him.

"Jake happened," Laura answered without letting a moment pass.

Luke gave a small nod that said he understood, but had no reply. It helped, Derek supposed, that the kid had found out about them the night before.

"So," his father began, taking a few pancakes from the stack his wife set down in front of him and dropped them onto her plate before taking some of his own, "as you all have no doubt figured out by now, there was a physical altercation between Jake and Derek last night."

"You sound like a press release, Dad." Cora shook her head at him. "Call it what it was. No need to sugar coat it."

"Right. Yes, thank you, Cora. There was a fight. Your mother and I have spoken to each of them, and based on our conversations, Jake was the most at fault here, Derek acting mostly in self-defense. That's why Jake will not be at breakfast today. In interest of family honesty, Derek has asked that Jake not only stay away from him, but be kept away from him for now. We intend to honor that request. I will let Derek decided when, and if, that changes. This doesn't mean that Jake is no longer welcome at home, just that there needs to be a bit of coordination prior to ensure they are not both here at the same time."

Hannah's knife screeched against the plate's ceramic as she cut up Sophie's pancakes for her. "What was the fight about?"

For all his confidence earlier, Derek felt so small, so scared in that moment. His pulse spiked. Buy some time, Derek. You don't have to say it right this second . "He told some jokes I found disgusting and offensive. I told him as much and tried to remove myself from the situation. Jake shoved me, and from there it just got messy," he rasped out, exhaling and staring up at the ceiling. He counted the seconds that ticked by as he focused on his breathing, willing himself to be brave. Beside him, Stiles shifted so that he could knock his elbow against Derek's. It was only a modicum of comfort. The family, he presumed, kept discussing the matter, not that he heard a word.

Every word and sound became muddled. It was much the same as being underwater in the way one could hear the noise but not cleanly decipher any of it. It took several pokes to his shoulder for him to even notice he'd been directly addressed. "What?"

"You okay?" Stiles asked him.

He licked his lips, and hissed, the sutured cut momentarily forgotten in his haze. "Yeah, I just need a minute." He excused himself and retreated to the living room to give himself a silent pep-talk, which was how Stiles found him minutes later. Warm, strong arms wrapped around his waist from behind, and Derek leaned back into Stiles' chest.

Stiles pressed a kiss to his shoulder. "After the night you had, I wouldn't blame you if you needed to wait."

"No, I'm- I can do this. I just need..." He rubbed his forehead. "Hell, I don't know what I need."

Stiles squeezed him tighter. "I do. I know." The touch of a hug fell away as Stiles came to stand in front of him, his hands resting on Derek's shoulders. "You have me. Regardless of what happens in there this morning," he said, pointing back towards the dining room, "you will always have me. You have your mom, your dad, Laura, Cora...and I think Luke, though his reaction was kind of confusing. Remember that."

Derek nodded. "Let's do this?"

"Your party, Derek. You just say when."

He reached down and grabbed Stiles' hand and led him back to the dining room, dropping it just before entering. "So, um..." He took a deep breath. "I've been seeing someone for a while now, and it's serious."

"How long is a while?" Hannah asked.

"Going on three years."

"No!" Her scoff of disbelief was echoed by a few other members of his family. "How did you manage to hide that from us for so long?"

"I'm just that good." Derek was not sure what made him decide to take a page from Stiles' book and use humor and brevity in the situation, but it seemed to be working. "Anyway, as of yesterday, we're engaged."

"Look, I know we teased you about not having a girlfriend for so long, but you can't get engaged without introducing us. We have to give our Hale family seal of approval the way you all did with Mark," she said as she pointed to her husband. "You should bring her-"

He held up a hand, cutting off her words. "Um, you already have been introduced, and it's… um... a him not her." He tilted his head towards Stiles. "There's never been a girlfriend for a reason, and my fight with Jake was over a hateful joke about gay men, which I took great offense to. Understandably. So um… Stiles, this is my family. Family, this is Stiles, my fiancé."

"Oh good," Hannah said, cupping Derek's chin (honestly, if his face hadn't been injured, he was 98% sure she would have squished his cheeks together like she used to when he was a kid), "because he's hilarious and, even when I thought he was just one of your best friends, you were just so much happier when he was around, and you always talked about him like you thought he was magic." She gestured to Stiles. "Don't be shy. You come here!" Before he could even breathe again, Hannah's crushing hug enveloped them both.

"Do I get to be flower girl?"

"No! I want to do the flowers!" Sammy shouted. "Not fair! Why does Sophie gotta do flowers? Why can't there be a flower boy?"

They didn't even have a date picked out yet. Derek would have set his niece and nephew right were it not for being unable to breathe from the force of his older sister's hug.

"Family or not," Peter said, "you will never convince me that the Mets are the better baseball team, Stiles."

"Really Peter? Bringing baseball into this?" Even without being able to see his mother's face, Derek could picture her expression with total clarity as one of exasperation.

"What? I use sports as my way of talking about most things. Remember Thanksgiving? I asked about Polanco's coming out, which, by the way, I thought was a major step forward for professional baseball. Not that any of you let me get a word in edgewise to say as much, and like hell I was going to bring that topic up ever again. Derek, I'm proud of you for telling us, and honored that after that debacle on Turkey Day, that you trusted us." When the room remained silent for longer than Peter was clearly comfortable with, he groaned in exasperation. "Oh for crying out loud! You all assumed I'd have a problem with it? Hank, you all know Hank, my best friend since third grade, Hank? Yeah, remember him?"

"Oh here we go again. Honestly, dear, I am so tired of hearing about Hank's divorce." Derek's aunt pinched the bridge of her nose. "It's all you've talked about for months."

"What do you expect, Denise? He's practically my brother."

"So six months ago, we are in the middle of dinner and the doorbell rings,” she said, retelling a story she had clearly heard more than once. “There is Hank, as if we didn't see enough of him already. Whatever, not important. Hank tells Pete he's divorcing his wife of 23 years. Just like that. He up and decides to get a divorce. Why? Oh because he woke up one morning the week before and decided he just couldn't do it anymore, pretending to be straight. You make it twenty-plus years of marriage, I think you can just keep up the charade at that point. Honestl-"

"You… you don't understand how hard that is, Aunt Denise. The lying to yourself, lying to someone you love… about someone you love. It's really difficult. Hurts a lot," Derek said, when Hannah finally released him.

"Yes, well think of his poor wife. Devoting two decades of her life to a man she thought loved her."

"I am thinking of his wife, and Hank probably did, does love her. You don't stay with someone that long that you don't love. Just because he wasn't sexually attracted to her, doesn't mean he didn't love her. And if she truly loved Hank, she would want him to be true to himself. You don't know, because you've never been there."

Finally, his grandmother spoke. "Well, Stiles," she started as she rose from her chair, "I'd say welcome to the family, but I won't." She took a few steps forward. "I can't welcome someone into the family that has tainted my grandson by turning him gay."

"Grandma, I've always been gay. Well before I met him."

"Robert," she turned to his dad, "I know of a camp. They do wonders."

"You can't pray the gay away!" Stiles scoffed on his behalf. "All those camps do is make gay kids hate themselves. You'd rather Derek hate the way he is, go through life miserable, than be in a loving and healthy relationship? What kind of person would wish that for another?"

Derek couldn't say what it was about her posture that put him on alert, but he just knew. He knew. Okay? On instinct, he reached over and tugged on Stiles' hand, pulling him behind his own body. She shook a finger in Derek's face. "You will stop this thinking, Derek. Or you will get nothing. I will not have you ruining our family's name with your disgusting choices."

"I don't need your money, and if that's how you feel, I don't want it. You needn't worry about me tarnishing your family name, because I don't have your family's name. I have Mom's, and she's more than happy with me, exactly the way I am."

The scowl on his grandmother’s face deepened, brows drawing in tightly. He swore he could feel her anger radiating from her, and he expected to hear more vitriol directed at him. That didn’t happen. Instead, when he watched her hand raise, open-palmed, he flinched, bracing himself as he expected to be smacked across the face. The sting of a slap never came. Instead, he opened his eyes where he saw his father’s outstretched arm had stopped his grandmother’s action. His dad was the kind of person with a slow burn temper, the kind of person that rarely lost his cool. Derek had never seen him look as furious as he did right then. It was as though all the rage of Menoetius bubbled, barely contained beneath his skin.

"Get out!" His father's booming voice startled him, as did the conviction and venom in his words.

"Good. Yes, Robert, this is the perfect time to grow a spine. Finally taking a stand on your children's actions. You brought this on yourself, Derek." His grandmother's derisive laughter sent a chill coursing through his veins.

"I'm not talking to him !"

"Throwing out your own mother?"

"I don't think you understand me. So, I'll make this clear for you. You tried to strike my child, and that is unacceptable!” If he were a poetic man, Derek would have described the volume of his father’s words as loud enough to rattle windows or wake the dead. Thunderous. Terrifying. “If Jake were not also my child, I'd have said the same thing to him as I am about to say to you. You are no longer welcome in my home. Now, leave! Or I will call the cops and you forcibly removed!."

Derek blinked at his dad, eyes wide and owlish. He was too stunned to move, both in shock from his father's words and frozen from the result of almost being hit by yet another person in the last day. He hadn't even noticed she'd left until Stiles took Derek's face in his hands.

"Kochanie, your lip is bleeding again. Hold still." Stiles pressed a napkin to his stitches. "You're shaking. Are you okay?"

Finally, he remembered how to breathe. "If one more person in this family hits- tries to hit- I'm gonna-," he gasped out, chest heaving and a prickle blooming on his skin. "I can't- I can't-"

"Whoa. Whoa. Come here. Let's sit down, yeah. No, not on the chair. Right here against the nice, cool wall." Stiles helped him sit, and before Derek could even blink, pulled him into his lap. "Feels nice, yeah? Good. Now feel me breathe, okay? Try to match me."

 

In for four.

Out for eight.

In for four.

Out for eight.

 

Derek concentrated on the cadence of Stiles' breath, and though it took… well, he couldn't tell you how long it took, but it was several minutes at least. Eventually though, his shallow breathing evened out and the full-body quakes plaguing him stopped.

"Good. That's good," Stiles said, rubbing his back.

Derek stared at him, his brain taking a few moments longer to come back online. "I never had a single panic attack until I decided to come out."

Stiles' uncomfortable laughter filled the otherwise silent and empty dining room. "Well, it's a scary thing. Coming out. Or I mean it can be. I, well, you know I never actually came out, but those minutes before my male date showed up at my parent's house were fraught with panic. But I'm so proud of you, kochanie. You did it."

Derek scoffed. "But that was just telling my family. What about coming out the rest of the damn world?"

He felt rather than saw Stiles shrug. "So don't come out."

Shocked, he sat up, pulling back to look at Stiles' face. There was no hint of facetiousness; so Stiles had to have been serious, and yet... "What? I'm not going to go about hiding our relationship. I told you I wasn't going to do that, and I assumed you were on board."

"I’m not saying to hide it either. Just live your life the way heteros around the world do. You've got your special someone, and that's that. Don't throw a carefully crafted well-rehearsed press conference. We go about our lives as though it is not a big fucking deal, which given how high we were both drafted… will be a big deal to a lot of people. If asked, don't deny it, just insist to the Rangers that you do not want to make a spectacle about it. If straight guys don't have to come out to the world, then neither should we. Frankly, I think it would go a lot farther in paving the way for Queer athletes than a god damned announcement. But that's just me."

That sounded pleasantly sensible. "Okay," Derek said with a nod and a kiss to the ski-slope tip of Stiles' nose, "that sounds like a plan. Let's do that."

Stiles' pleased smirk told him all he needed to know.







Chapter Text

“That should be illegal,” Stiles said, walking into the bathroom in his and Derek’s shared hotel room in Tampa.

Derek, raising an eyebrow, looked over at him, his fingers deftly making the necessary loops and passes with his necktie in order to complete his Half-Windsor knot. “What should?”

“You, looking that good. How much did you spend on that suit?”

Derek shrugged, “I didn’t buy it. Mom did. She took me out shopping when the Hobey Hat Trick was announced. She said I needed to look exquisite, and I didn’t argue with her.”

Stiles stepped closer to help him straighten his tie. “But like, you’re in a vest. She bought you a three piece. You know what I’m wearing? This is a mismatched suit, Derek. It’s a pair of dress pants from Target and a clearance jacket from Express. Hence my previous statement. It should be illegal for you to look like that. Trying to kill me?”

Derek pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Wouldn’t dream of it. I don’t even know why Mom made such a fuss. It’s not like I’m gonna win, not with the season you’re having.”

Stiles’ exuberant cackle filled the room, from the tile all the way up to the exhaust fan. “Me? Hardly. Since its inception only two goalies have ever won the Hobey Baker. History is not on my side. Plus, I’m a good player yeah, but you...Mr. Dean’s list, team captain, NCAA leader in assists and points by defensemen this year. Your plus/minus differential is amazing. So you had three shit games? Everyone does. But you like lead by example, babe. Hell, you are the one who makes the team go visit Gillette every month and read to the kids in the inpatient rehab center. Only player I know who is going pro that actually dreams of winning the Lady Byng*,” Stiles said with a chuckle.

Derek felt his face flame at the compliment. “Hey now! Hockey isn’t just about the physicality and fights. Nothing wrong playing a clean game, babe.  Gotta make my mother proud, right?”

Holding out Derek’s suit jacket, Stiles helped him into it. “Absolutely.” Then, he changed the subject a bit, “And besides, I want you to win. I hope you do. If for nothing else, when you come out, however, and whenever you do...you can say ‘See? I was the best college player, and I was gay. I’m not a gimmick.’”

Yeah, if only, Derek thought. Somehow, he didn’t think all the accolades in the world would matter to some people. Still, Stiles’ words brought a little comfort. As he fussed with his hair--why hadn’t he gotten a haircut--he glanced over to see Stiles opening and closing his hands into fists between each button on his shirt. “Hands bothering you today?”

Though Stiles tried to shrug it off, Derek could see he was hurting. “Yeah, it’s just the stress. Nerves you know?”

Derek set the  container of hair paste down on the counter. “Well,” he said, moving Stiles’ hands out of the way to finish fastening his shirt for him. Then, he flipped up the collar of the red dress shirt and looped a tie around his neck, making short work of the knot, “I’ll be sitting right next to you...if you want to, you can hold my hand.”

Stiles gave him a side-eyed glance, “But the cameras.”

“Don’t really care. Yeah, I’m still scared, but I care about you more than that, and if holding my hand makes you feel less nervous, which would make your stress level lower, which in turn would help your Lupus, do whatever you need.”

“Gonna kiss me if you win?” Stiles joked.

Derek sighed in resignation, “I’d love to, but probably not. That would take attention away from the team and our game tomorrow. But who knows, maybe I’ll forget where we are.”

“Uh huh. Sure you will.”

Derek brought Stiles’ hands to his lips, kissing the back of each of them, paying special attention to the antique gold band on Stiles’ left ring finger. God that ring looked good on his hand. The one on his own, the one that had belonged to Stiles’ father when he was married to Stiles’ mom, though lovely, didn’t look as spectacular as the one on Stiles’ hand. Still, Derek suspected, it had a lot more to do with Stiles’ hands than the ring itself. “I love you. Don’t forget that.”

Stiles kissed his forehead. “Couldn’t dream of it. Come on, we’re gonna be late if we don’t go now.”

 

***

 

Stiles looked around the auditorium of the Tampa Theatre. He couldn’t recall ever being in a room with this many people...well this many people there to see him, that is. Beside him, Derek fidgeted in his seat. Despite his encouraging words as they got ready earlier, Stiles knew there was a real possibility that he would have to get up and stand on the stage in front of everyone. For all Derek’s talk about not being good with speeches, at least he didn’t have social anxiety. The thought of all those eyes on him while he joked his way through the speech in an effort to not slip into a panic attack sounded less appealing than a Lupus flare-up, which said a lot.

He felt a warm thigh press against his, Derek’s subtle way of lending a comforting touch in a room full of cameras. Someday, Stiles thought, and someday soon, they could stop this pretense.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a camera moving to focus on them, the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. So, he made a show of solidarity, a rather bro-y gesture, of throwing his arm around Derek’s shoulders for the camera. If he lingered there a little longer than was necessary, well then that was his prerogative. They lived in the land of ‘No-Homo’ right? Even thinking the phrase made him shudder, and he mentally added ‘Full-Bi’ right after it.

The lights in the auditorium dimmed, and the show got underway. Various people, important in one way or another to college hockey, took the stage saying words and pearls of wisdom that he only half heard, because let’s face it, he wasn’t really listening. Instead, he focused on the heat radiating from Derek’s leg, pressed from hip to heel against his. Every so often, Derek would shift once more, even hooked his ankle around Stiles’ a few times.

It was nice, or at least would be if his nerves didn’t threaten to make him lose his dinner all over the nice theatre floor. He hoped he didn’t win. Dear God, how he hoped he didn’t win.

His legs were shaky as the three of them, Derek, himself, and a freshman from Yale, Garrett Cooper, were led to the stage. Frankly, Stiles thought the kid was overhyped, but then again, he was biased. He tried to calm his breathing, focusing not on the sea of faces before him, but the pattern of the stage floor. It seemed to do the trick. The chairman for the year spoke on, thanking everyone for coming, and welcoming them. Stiles thought he heard the man thank his family for standing by him, but honestly everything sounded like it was coming from underwater.

The audience chuckled at something, even Derek beside him thought what the chairman said was funny. Get it together, Stiles.

“...it was readily apparent that you do embrace the legacy of Hobey Baker,”* the chairman said. And well now, that made Stiles beam with a pride, just a little. Especially when he mentioned some of their stats, which Stiles felt had been underplayed, but hey the man had a time crunch he supposed.

“At this time, I would like to present the winner of the 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award from the University of Minnesota,” Oh shit, I might have to speak. Shit, shit, shit, shit, “Derek Hale.”

Stiles breathed a quick sigh of relief, watching as Derek accepted a very professional, bro-hug from Garret. Stiles, however, was not going to be so professional, and hugged Derek as tightly as he could, elated for him. “I’m so proud of you, kochanie,” he said, a hair’s breath from the shell of Derek’s ear, maybe not even that far away, because he brushed the skin with his lips in a quick, secret kiss. “I knew you would win, babe.”

Remembering where they were, Stiles pulled back and patted Derek’s shoulder the same way a coach might before saying, “Good game, son.”

Derek shook his head a little, but went to the podium to accept his trophy. He adjusted the mic to the right height. “Um, wow. Ah, first I’d like to congratulate these guys on their outstanding year. I’ve seen highlights of Garrett’s season throughout the year, and that’s one fine freshman season you had, and you’re only going to get better. I well...”

Even in the harsh spotlight, Stiles detected the hint of a blush blooming on Derek’s cheeks.

“Stiles, man, it’s the best playing with you every game, every practice. I mean, you’re my best friend, on par with my twin so that’s saying a lot, but Stiles, he’s-” Derek paused before he turned to the audience, “well, he already knew that, and knows how much I value him as a teammate and friend as well as anything else I’d say, so I’ll skip the rest of that.”

As Derek moved on to thank the committee, Stiles couldn’t ignore the shaky hitch in his voice. Oh. That pause had not been intentional or for emphasis. Derek had been about to say something else, and part of his brain wondered if that something else happened to be along the lines of ‘Amazing, and I love him to death. And I don’t mean in that ‘I love you, man’ way. Everyone, I’m gay.’ It probably was, because he’d seen the millisecond of fear flash over Derek’s face. That’s okay , Stiles thought. He wouldn’t have wanted the ruckus an admission like that would cause before the big game.

“See, I really didn’t think I stood a chance at winning. Not with the record-breaking year Stiles had, but he said to me on the ride over here, that I lead by example. And that really stuck with me. I am honored to have played with a great group of guys for the last four years and to have been Captain of for two and a half years. They have made it easy for me to motivate them by what I do and less by encouraging words.. I...well, I don’t really talk a lot. This, being here in front of all of you, is absolutely terrifying. But, as my dad always said, if you work hard, if you have a strong work ethic, that will pay off and others will take notice. That’s how I have always tried to play, and I thank you all for seeing that in me. That consistency and persistence can go a long way.”

As he thanked his coaches as teammates, Derek gripped the podium a littler harder than he probably needed to, Stiles could see that, but he also saw him take a deep breath before continuing. “But I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family. I have two of the best parents a kid could ever ask for. They love me, all of their children with such ferocity, offering strength and wisdom or a comforting hug. Mom, for sharing your culture with me and giving me a lifelong appreciation for where we came from. Dad, for being my hero. You, you really are. For embracing your introverted kid and not forcing him to be anything he isn’t, for taking a stand. So thank you. My twin sister, Laura, you are my rock. You’ve always been, even if you pull that ‘I’m the older sibling’ thing way too often. Without you, I’d be nowhere.” He licked his lips, and with the microphone’s amplification, Stiles heard his shaky intake of breath. “Finally, I’d like to thank my matia mou. You’re the best...God,” he scratched his eyebrow, “you’re just the best. Loving someone doesn’t mean loving them despite their screw-ups and allowing them, it means you care enough to call them on it so that they can grow and become a better person. Babe, thank you for showing me how to be brave.” Derek nodded to the crowd and crossed the stage to pick up his trophy, pausing to give the photographers that winning smile that always made Stiles melt.

Of course, the runner up’s also had to have their photos taken, which Stiles could have done without. After the whirlwind of the press conference was over, wherein he probably sang Derek’s praises a little too much, but who cared, they were met by both Derek’s parents and his. Stiles would have been lying if seeing Melissa and his dad hug Derek, quietly call him son, didn’t make his heart sing. When Mr. Hale suggested they go out for a celebratory drink, no one declined. Stiles could handle one drink.

In the back of the Hale’s rental car, he finally had a moment alone with Derek, and he proudly took his hand, squeezing it tightly. The SUV’s tinted windows gave enough privacy, that Stiles didn’t even hesitate to grab Derek by his lapels and pull him in for a kiss, one that lasted until someone cleared their throat.

Sheepish, Stiles apologized to his dad for the excessive PDA, though he doubted his father cared that they’d been damn near making-out in the third row seat.

“Mmm,” Derek mumbled against the skin of Stiles’ neck as he rested his head on Stiles’ shoulder, “I can’t wait to marry you.”

His whisper soft words were loud as a symphony in Stiles’ head left him lightheaded. When he’d regained his wits, he offered a simple, “me neither” before wrapping his arm around Derek’s shoulders. “Me neither.”

 

***

 

Derek gulped for air. His legs felt like rubber by this point. If you’d asked him before the game started if he expected it to come to this: Less than five minutes left of not just one overtime but two, he would have laughed it off. And yet, here they were, with the whole team gassed.

North Dakota had come out swinging ready to battle, catching Derek and his team by total surprise. They’d played North Dakota several times throughout the season, and not once had they come at Minnesota with such speed and determination. Luckily, Stiles’ aching hands the night before had only been nerves and hadn’t aggravated his Lupus. However, as Stiles described it, even when not suffering through a flare, there was always a low level fatigue he had to deal with. So, not only was the game wearing on everyone, but, as Derek figured, it had to be killing Stiles by now.

“You okay there, Cap?”

Derek glanced up to see Jackson looking at him with curious eyes. “Yeah, just tired. How’s your hand?”

With a smirk, Jackson said, “Oh I’m running on adrenaline now. Soon as that wears off I’m gonna be miserable. Can’t say I regret it though. Asshole deserved it.”

“Yeah he did. You’re lucky Coach didn’t bench both of you for overtime,” Derek said, referencing an incident in the intermission between the third period and the first overtime…

 

... Derek flopped onto the bench by his designated locker, focusing on evening out his breathing, slowing his pulse. Beside him, Stiles had already donned his headphones to help him keep his focus. As Stiles had once explained it to him game plan discussions never really mattered much to goalies unless they were doing a shitty job.

“For fuck’s sake, guys,” and Daehler’s arrogant timbre was the absolute last thing Derek wanted to hear right then, “we’re playing like a bunch of girls.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” To his surprise, Derek looked up to find that Jackson had been the one to ask that question. In the back of his mind, he swore he could hear Laura seething, about ready to launch into a tirade against misogyny in the locker room.

“Exactly what it sounded like. We need to quit playing like sissies and-”

“Fuck off, Daehler. There is nothing wrong with the way women play hockey. They don’t check because a bunch of dudes in suits decided once that they were ‘too fragile for it.’ Which is total bullshit. Don’t forget our Lady Gophers have four championships in the last ten years, and we’ve haven’t won a single one. In fact, the two Minnesota won in 2002 and 2003 were the first ones since 1979. And you’re telling me we should play less like women? I’ll say it again, dickhole, fuck you!” Jackson’s face had turned damn near purple with anger.

“That’s rich coming from a freak who likes to take it up the ass like a fa-” Daehler didn’t get a chance to finish, because Jackson’s fist collided with his jaw..

“That is not the type of team we are! Haven’t you read the sign in the locker room?”

“You fucking asshole!” Daehler held his jaw as he lay there on the floor.

Coach chose that moment to come in the locker room to address the team.. He took one look at Daehler and looked up at the ceiling, “Lord Stanley, give me strength,” he muttered.

“He punched me!”

Coach deadpanned. “I have eyes, Daehler. With a mouth like yours, you probably deserved it. Anyone not involved in the situation care to explain?”

Tentative, Liam raised his hand. “Yeah, Coach, you know how you hate bullying? Daehler didn’t get the memo I guess. Being pretty misogynistic and with a heaping side of homophobia.”

“Somebody get him some ice! Daehler! You know I am zero tolerance on that shit! Consider yourself on the bench for the rest of the game!” Coach  took a moment to collect himself. “I swear to God, I need a fucking vacation. Like an island with no telephones or internet, but has lots of drinks with little, paper umbrellas,” Coach mumbled under his breath, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay, here’s the game plan.”...

 

… Derek skated over to Stiles. “Need more water?”

“No, but thanks.” Stiles sucked in a gasping breath,  “Look, you guys need to score a goal, ‘cause there is no way I am gonna make it through another OT. We’re lucky this is the last game of the season, because I would need like three weeks off otherwise.”

Derek tapped him on the top of the helmet. “‘S that your way of asking me to score a goal?”

“You, Jordan, Jackson... I don’t fucking care who does it, just someone score so we don’t need to bring in Greenberg.”

“Sure thing.” As Derek skated away to the face-off circle just outside the blue line he could hear Stiles singing, well rapping.

Hey, I am the greatest. Hey, this is the proof. Hey, I work hard, pray hard, pay dues, hey I transform with pressure- I'm hands-on with effort …”

Jordan took his place at the dot, and Derek took a deep breath. He could do this. They could do this. They had three first round draft picks on their team. A goalie having a record-breaking season, and two of their forwards were in the top five in points for the season. On paper, they were the better team. But that was the funny thing about ‘on paper’, sometimes it lied. And sometimes a spunky team had more guts. But not today. Not this today.

For once, Coach had used an appropriate speech to motivate them. Though he lacked the gravitas of Herb Brooks, his words of  “This is your time! Go out there and take it!” echoed in his head.

Jordan lost the face-off and North Dakota sent it into the corner. For all Stiles’ talk about being tired, you couldn’t tell. Not by the way he was playing. Good, Derek thought, because he still believed that trophy last night should have gone to Stiles and not him. Hell, he'd go to his grave thinking that.

He skated to the bench for a shift change, which was the last place he wanted to be. Yeah, he was exhausted, and yeah his legs felt well on their way to jello levels of rubberiness, but he had this feeling that he needed to be out there on the ice. Had to.

Seconds turned to minutes turned into a blur while he waited for his next shift. The clock ticked down almost as if he was in a dream, so slowly it didn’t seem to move at all. Three minutes left, then two.

As soon as his feet hit the ice for his shift, Derek skated harder than he ever had before, determined to end this before the buzzer sent them to a third overtime.

“Last minute of play in the period.”

Then, just like that, the puck appeared on his stick, and everything slowed down around him. He didn’t even register he’d shot the puck at all until he watched it sail past the North Dakota goaltender and hit the back of the net. Lights flashed and the goal horn sounded, but he was dazed.

Any moment now he would surely hear the voice of Al Michaels asking if he believed in miracles.

For a good ten seconds, Derek couldn’t move. Not until he was swarmed by teammates. They’d won. They’d done it. They were national champions. In his last collegiate game, in the last minute of double overtime, he’d scored the game winner. It was… surreal. Especially when the only thing on his mind at that moment was finding Stiles.

He didn’t have to wait long after digging himself out of the dogpile of skaters before Stiles began to skate towards him, and overwhelmed with emotion, Derek damn near jumped at him. Stiles, thankfully, caught him in an elated hug, one he hoped someone managed to catch on camera. He’d love to see the look on their faces, see the sheer joy.

Stiles let him down, and took off his helmet, tossing it for a destination unknown. “Oh my God, kochanie! You did it. That was fucking incredible!”

All of the sudden, Derek’s helmet felt too constricting, too heavy, too...much. He ripped it off his head and let it fall to the ice.

As their teammates celebrated on the ice, surrounded by family and loved ones, he looked as Stiles, and he just knew. When they locked eyes, it was as though Stiles understood him with total clarity. This was his moment, their moment, the moment. And he knew no other one would be better for making his statement. It wasn’t just that though. There was nothing else he would rather do in that moment than...

Derek leaned in and captured Stiles’ lips in a kiss, in much the same way the other guys on the team were doing with their girlfriends who'd been able to make the trip to Florida. Why should he and Stiles have to miss out on sharing an experience this momentous with the person they loved? They shouldn’t have to, that was why.

You know when people say that moments in their lives it seemed stood still and they forgot where they were? This moment, this exact moment, was precisely that. As confetti rained down on them, amidst cheers and celebration, Derek only saw Stiles.

 

***

 

The reality of what Derek done hit him though in the locker room. He knew that if he checked his phone right now, he’d see congratulations from his family that couldn’t make it to the game, a simple text from his parents saying how proud they were of him, and maybe some others. He also knew he’d be tempted to look online just to see what people were saying. There would be support sure, but he imagined a larger amount of hate; it wasn’t something he needed to see.

Still, when a phone screen appeared in his field of vision, he expected to look up and see Stiles holding it, not Jackson.

“Look at you, trending on Twitter.”

Derek grimaced, “That bad?”

Throwing back his head as he scoffed, Jackson turned the phone back around. “Hardly. The Rangers, said and I quote: ‘The NYR are proud of @drkhale4 and can't wait to have you on the team in the upcoming season. #YouCanPlay.’ New Jersey said something similar about Stilinski. But um... let’s see,” Derek watched him scroll on his phone a moment, “there are at least three dozen players and staff around the league mentioning you and Stiles along with You Can Play. Oh yeah, YCP tweeted support too. Well, would you look at that! Your future goalie and a couple other Rangers players are getting into it with some homophobic asshole on Twitter. It’s glorious.” Jackson clapped him on the shoulder. “Take a breath, Cap. You look like you’re about to pass out. Don’t worry. We got your backs.”

“Well, you know,” Stiles leaned over and said to Jackson’s retreating back, “for as much as I used to dislike that guy, he’s really starting to grow on me.”

With a soft chuckle, Derek shook his head. “I think his opinion of you changed when you defended Allison’s honor on the bus to Notre Dame.”

Straightening his posture, Stiles beamed. “I did do that, didn’t I? Well, slap my ass and call me a white knight.”

“No.” Then, Derek leaned in so that his lips could almost brush the shell of Stiles’ ear, “maybe later when we’re wearing a lot less clothes, and I have a mouthful of your dick.”

“Why, Mr. Hale! I’ll have you know I am not that kind of-” He burst out into a fit of full body laughter, “I can’t even finish. Yeah, that sounds like a fucking great time. Come, get dressed and go face the vultures.”

Face the vultures was right. The press conference was packed, journalists and media members standing room only. Derek felt faint, but he’d done it. Hell, it was on television no less. He could do this he could handle it.

Just remember what Stiles said. Don’t say a thing. Keep it about hockey. They’ll get the hint. Eventually.

But from the first question, the media seemed ready to pounce. “This question is for Hale and Stilinski…”

Of fucking course it was.

“How does it feel to be the first out gay players in NCAA men’s hockey?”

“We played a hard fought game out there. North Dakota put up one hell of a fight. But that pass from Parrish was perfect. Right on the tape. Still can’t believe it.” He tried to put some exuberance in his voice, but Derek was pretty sure it was still a bit salty.

“I mean yeah. Great game. God, I’m tired. I could use like a three day nap,” Stiles joked, eliciting a few laughs about the room.

Still, no matter how much they tried to steer the questions back to the game, and the fact that,  ‘Hello! They’d just won a national championship,’ it all came back to that kiss. Derek was beginning to regret the whole thing when, at the end of the table, Coach finally snapped.

“Oh for crying out loud, people! I’ve been a college hockey coach for twenty-five years, and if you think these two are the only-” he covered the microphone and leaned over speaking just loudly enough for Derek and Stiles to hear, “You okay with me saying Queer athletes? That’s the term Lydia has asked me to use when I address the community. But I wasn’t sure.”

No, not exactly, but Lydia’s label choice was valid so...

“Sure, Coach.”

He removed his hand from the mic, “Right. If you think Stilinski and Hale here are the first two Queer athletes I’ve coached then, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, I bet if you asked around to other coaches, you’d find a similar situation of kids that had come to them, scared and worried about what the team would think. Furthermore, I will eat my necktie, if there aren’t closeted professional players both former and current, who were just waiting for someone else to go first, because they didn’t want the publicity that came with being the figurehead for the whole league. Don’t make me eat my tie, folks. I love this tie; my wife bought it for me.”

A few beats of awkward ‘hm’s and ‘um’s filled the room, before another brave journalist spoke up. “What is the nature of your relationship? If you wouldn’t mind me asking.”

He did mind. In fact he minded a lot. But his team lived up to their promise.

“Oh, I’m dating Hale’s twin sister. Thanks for asking. Laura’s great. Absolutely, the more terrifying Hale twin. Sorry, Cap.”

Isaac followed Jordan’s lead, “Yeah, and I’m dating his younger sister. Slightly less scary than Laura. Gotta love those Hale ladies. Great women all of them.”

“And I’m in a seriously committed polyamorous relationship with Coach’s step-daughter and a lovely member of the Lady Gopher’s gymnastics team. I mean if we want to talk controversial relationships, why not just start there?”

“Yeah,” Aidan began, “if you’re not going to ask all of us about our love lives, then you have no business asking Hale and Stilinski about theirs. This kind of thing is only still a big deal because you all make it a big deal.”

“But-”

Isaac cut the reporter off before they could even begin the question. “Look, Derek is the same player he was yesterday when they decided he was the best player in college hockey for the year. Stiles is the same player he was yesterday when he lost that award by only two votes. Not to mention, did you see all the records he smashed this year? First you all put him front and center by leaking his Lupus diagnosis, which is still a major dick move, and now this? Just let them be! Why even have the You Can Play Project if we can’t rally behind them. Derek clearly wanted to talk about the game, and you won’t even let us do that.”

When Isaac leaned back in his chair, Derek gestured for him to come in closer so he could speak to him. “Look, you’re not mad at what I did are you? I waited until after the season for a reas-”

“No. I’m annoyed as hell that they can’t drop the subject. I’m happy for you and Stiles to not have to hide anymore. But damn I wish they’d ask about something else. You know?”

Derek nodded. He knew, oh boy how he knew.

“But surely, you have to worry how this will affect your futures in the NHL, being gay.”

Stiles groaned and let his head thunk against the table. “Would,” he rapped his head against the table, “you all,” and again, “quit,” and again , “saying that?”

“Saying what?”

“I’m not gay!” When a stuttering, ‘But you’re with a man,’ escaped the reporter’s lips, Stiles sat up and fiddled with his phone. “Here. Let me play you the song of my people,” he said, glaring at the crowd before the room filled with music.

I'm g-g-g-g-gettin' bi. I'm gettin' bi. Oh yeah, I'm lettin' my bi flag fly.

Stiles stabbed the screen, his features set into a menacing death scowl, silencing the music, and with it the room. The quiet stretched on until several people began to shift uncomfortably where they stood. “Now, shall we talk about what is really important? Where in town has the best gluten-free curly fries?”