Skirt steak is on sale, but it’s still $8.99 a pound. Derek picks up a shrink-wrapped package and puts it in his basket. Then he takes it out and gets the family pack of ground chuck instead—hamburgers, leftover hamburgers, sloppy joes, hamburger and noodles, it’s the rest of the week. They’re running a two for a dollar sale on cans of tuna, though, so he might have enough for the steak if he—
He’s working through the math—he needs gas, but he still has half a bag of beans and some oatmeal at home—so he doesn’t notice Sheriff Stilinski until he parks his cart right up next to the cold case and lifts a pack of pork chops.
“Hi there,” Stilinski says.
“Hi,” Derek says warily. In every other interaction he’s ever had with Stilinski, he’s been in handcuffs by now.
“Buying some groceries?” Stilinski puts the pork chops into his cart with more care than necessary.
“Look, I, uh—“ Stilinski wipes his hand across his chin and then says. “I know he’s growing up and. Frankly, I don’t really need to know what you two are getting up to, so—“
“Stiles?” Derek says. He’s not an idiot, he knows Stiles is Stilinski’s kid, but he’s never bothered to examine that fact in any detail. It’s always seemed mostly irrelevant except for the time Stiles stole his dad’s password to hack the county mainframe. Stilinski’s face hardens from affable to pissed off.
“Yes,” he says coldly. “Stiles.”
“It’s not what you think,” Derek says.
“That’s good, that’s real good,” Stilinski says, nodding. “Because what I’ve been thinking is that he’s sixteen years old and he doesn’t need some asshole breaking his heart for shits and giggles.”
“That,” Derek says slowly, “is definitely not—.I don’t really know where you got the idea that I, that we. Did Stiles, ah—say—“
“I know you don’t think much of my policework,” Stilinski says, “but even I can figure out when someone’s climbing in my second story window coupla times a week.”
“Oh,” Derek says. “That.” It isn’t a couple times a week, not really. There was the first time, when he was on the run from hunters and just needed a place to lie low and catch his breath, a place no one would ever think to look. Stilinski’s house backed up on the woods, there was a light on, he could—the wolf knew Stiles, the low mumble of his heart. Stiles had bitched about it, said,
“No, no, no, what, seriously, you’re not coming in—“ backing up as Derek rolled in and landed hard on the floor, “okay, apparently you’re coming in. and bleeding,” but got him a glass of water and a wet washcloth and a handful of paper towels and a couple Advil. Then he tossed him a pillow and blanket and went back to whatever he was working on, letting Derek lie down in the dark, narrow, comforting space between Stiles’ bed and the wall and finally get some restful sleep. And maybe he’d come by a few times after that, when he’d needed help and Scott had been nowhere to be found and completely useless anyhow.
Stiles is useless too, but in an oddly helpful way, looking over anything Derek brings him, listening intently, and then talking and talking, throwing out twenty idiotic ideas for every halfway decent one. It’s been busy lately, and Stiles might roll his eyes when he sees Derek jumping from the tree at the back of the house onto the roof, but he always gets up and opens the window for him.
“And you show up after curfew quite a bit,” Stilinski says.
“I don’t have a curfew,” Derek says. Stilinski’s mouth flattens.
“Yeah, I’m aware that you’re older than Stiles.”
Derek tightens his hands over the handle of his cart, realizing for the first time that Stilinski’s casually parked his cart across the only way out of the narrow aisle between the cold case and the display with hamburger and hot dog buns and lighter fluid and cases of soda stacked higher than Derek’s head.
“Mr.—Sheriff Stilinski, I really think you have the wrong idea about—“ Derek begins, but Stilinski holds up a hand, smiling wryly,
“Son, I’m not looking to arrest you. And I’m sure not interested in being fed a pack of lies either. From the wrong side of forty, a couple years doesn’t seem quite so—well, he’s growing up,” Stilinski says firmly, as though he’s practiced it. “And he has to make his own mistakes.”
“Thanks,” Derek says, but Stilinski ignores him and says,
“He lost his mother real young. You know that, right? Not too many kids his age know much about that kind of loss, but you—“
“Yeah,” Derek says, cutting him off, and Stilinski nods, meeting his eyes.
“Well, I’m glad we had this conversation. And now that I’ve been—“ he squints at Derek and says, “let’s call it reassured—that your intentions are good and you care for him and,“ he says pointedly, “you’re not pushing him into anything he doesn’t want, you should feel free to come by, have dinner sometime. Use the front door.” He reaches past Derek into the cold case and lifts out a pack of thick steaks, marbled with fat, $16.75 a pound. “We can fire up the grill,” he adds. Derek jerks his eyes away from the meat.
“Okay,” he says, mechanically.
“Okay, then,” Stilinski says, a shade too heartily. “See you around.”
“Yeah,” Derek says.
“Hi, hello, did you tell my dad that we’re—you know—uh, doing it?” Stiles says, before Derek is even all the way in the window.
“Did you?” Derek says.
“No! Of course not. No!”
“Okay,” Derek says. “Fine.”
“Like I would—I mean, who would ever believe that you and me—that’s. just.” Stiles' voice trails off. “That’s crazy.”
“Your dad doesn’t think so.” Derek sits down on the bed and Stiles spins around in his desk chair, one foot tucked underneath him, and gestures with his pencil.
“Oh, okay, so my dad doesn’t think I’m a total social reject who can’t even get a—a date, let alone.” He blows out a breath, “Anyhow, sorry if it was weird. I mean, obviously it was weird. You could have just told him it wasn’t true.”
“And explain that instead I just come here for—what, exactly?”
“See, I had this,” Stiles says, exasperated, “I had it completely under control. Your cover story is that you’re taking some community college classes and I’m tutoring you.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Online. I signed you up for Trig and Chemistry—I’ve been doing the assignments for you. You’re getting a C. C+ in Trig.” He swings the chair around again, tapping out a quick rhythm on the arm and then glances up and winces at the expression on Derek’s face. “Hey, it had to be realistic. Why would you need tutoring if you could just get As? Which I’m sure you could. If you wanted to.”
“Perhaps it would have been a good idea to let me know about your master plan,” Derek says, matching Stiles’ maddeningly reasonable tone.
“I tried, but things—“ wolves, witches, murders, hunters, he means, “kept getting in the way and you seemed, I guess,” he bites his lip. “Busy. Stressed out. Anyhow, I figured if anyone asked you’d just get all grumpy and mysterious and tell them to fuck off, and then later we could just tell everyone you were embarrassed about how you don’t have a GED. I had—believe me, I had no idea you were going to turn around and tell my dad we were screwing.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Whatever,” Stiles says. “It’s fine.”
“Just—don’t talk about it like that,” Derek says. “Your dad already thinks I’m taking advantage of you and—“
“—despoiling my nubile teenage body?“
“Sorry!” Stiles says. “I—sorry,” he says, his mouth tilting into a frown. “I know this is stupid and embarrassing for you, because you are—“ he sighs, making a half-hearted gesture in Derek’s direction, “ripped and gorgeous and everything and I’m—anyhow, sorry.” He straightens his shoulders. “Did you have something you wanted me to look at, or—“
Derek has some satellite maps in his bag he wanted to get Stiles to scan and compile into a single map and then maybe Stiles had some kind of software that could analyze ley lines and tell where there was likely to be more occult activity or Stiles would laugh at him and tell him that he watched too many movies because that was fucking impossible, come on. But he’d text Derek a couple days later with some half-baked idea anyhow, and half the time it’d work out, and maybe Derek would pick him up after school and they’d drive down to some place Stiles had picked out on the map, get cheeseburgers and eat them on the way, and Stiles would plug his phone into the car and try to teach him what dubstep was, or what remixes were, and Derek would say he knew what remixes were, come on, and Stiles would challenge him to name one Jay-Z song, just one, and Derek would say Tupac was the only one who ever kept it real anyhow.
“You’re not a social reject,” Derek says.
“Yeah I am,” Stiles says carelessly. “It doesn’t matter.”
“High school is full of morons,” Derek says. “There’s nothing wrong with you. It takes a little longer for some people, to—um. It’ll be different for you after—“ Stiles’ eyebrows pinch together and then his eyes widen.
“Is this a pep talk?” he says. “Are you giving me a pep talk about how I can’t get laid?”
“No,” Derek says.
“You don’t have to be nice to me about this,” Stiles says, bolting up out of his chair. “It’s fine. You come see me a lot but I know it’s not personal, I’m just—useful, or whatever. I know you don’t want to—to—anyhow, you have more important stuff on your mind.”
“Yeah,” Derek mutters, without much conviction.
“Okay then,” Stiles says. He crashes down on the bed next to Derek. “Why’d you come by?”
“Satellite mapping,” Derek says slowly, distracted. He lifts his backpack and Stiles reaches across to take it. Their knuckles brush. Stiles gives him a stiff smile. Derek turns his head—just a little—and their lips meet. He doesn’t mean to, not really, but Stiles lets out a huff of surprise, mouth falling open. He drops the backpack and lifts one hand to Derek’s shoulder, fingers twisting in the collar of his shirt, and instead of backing the fuck off and apologizing, Derek crawls up over him, pushing him back on the bed and sinking down on top of him, running his fingers over the delicate bones of Stiles’ cheeks and jaw, deepening the kiss until he has to lift his head to take a breath.
Stiles’ eyes are closed, and there’s a ruddy blush rising up his neck into his cheeks. As Derek watches, his eyes flutter open, big and shy and stunned.
“So you—do want to despoil my nubile teenage body?” he says.
Derek pushes up off him and flops back on the bed next to him, covering his face with his hands. He can feel Stiles next to him, the heat of him, the rhythmic stutter of his pulse.
“This can’t happen,” he says flatly. “That shouldn’t have happened.” He didn’t mean for it to happen. He’s had thoughts—not those kinds of thoughts, but thoughts, about how much easier it would be if Stiles had been bitten instead of his shit-for-brains friend. That everything could have been different, that maybe it would be almost pleasant, running around the woods with Stiles, showing him everything, watching him learn. Derek doesn’t hate Scott; he’s an okay kid, but he acts like a jackass, and he’s always late to everything, showing up sullen, reluctant, after dry humping his girlfriend for hours. Stiles talks too much, so he says stupid shit constantly, he yells, he’s clumsy as hell, he once clicked a ballpoint pen so furiously that Derek threw it out the car window, he fidgets until Derek wants to put his hands on him, hold him still, but he’s smart and tenacious and loyal. He bothers with things. If he’d been bitten, he would have followed Derek around until Derek agreed to teach him; he wouldn’t have waited until he almost hurt someone.
“But it kinda—did happen,” Stiles says.
“Don’t,” Derek says sharply.
Stiles swallows heavily and then sits up and swings his legs over the edge of the bed.
“It’s okay,” he says. “Forget it.” Derek stands up, trying to get a little distance between Stiles’ soft lower lip and the hard-on for jailbait in his pants. Stiles swipes at his mouth with the back of his hand, staring fixedly at the floor.
“You’re sixteen years old,” Derek says, more to himself than to Stiles.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, and then, brightening, “So, hypothetically, if I were going to be seventeen in—in a few weeks—“
“How many weeks?”
“Twenty, uh, six?” Stiles falters.
“I can’t be romantically involved with you,” Derek says harshly. “It’s not a possibility, it will never happen, and you need to put it out of your mind, right now.”
“Okay, I get it,” Stiles says. The edge of his mouth is trembling; he smells salty. Sad.
“No, I don’t think you do get it,” Derek says, rounding on him. “You’re human. I can’t protect you the way that I—that. Do you have any idea how dangerous it would be for you, if people knew what you are to me? If people thought they could get to me through you? You’re so—you’re smart and you’re brave, and—“ He sighs and sits down in Stiles’ desk chair. “You’re going to college. You’re better than this, and I won’t put you in danger.”
“I’m in danger now,” Stiles says. Derek slumps back in the chair, curls his hands over the arms, thinks of Stiles, bloody, beaten. worse.
“I couldn’t stand it if you were hurt because of me,” he says finally. Stiles stares at him.
“You couldn’t?” he says softly.
“No,” Derek admits, and kisses him really, then, slides down to kneel between his legs on the floor, arches up into him when Stiles cups his face in his hands, fingers in his hair.
“How do you like your steak?” Stilinski says, shaking the garlic salt vigorously over the steaks on the counter. Stiles is out back, pouring charcoal into the grill and shooting suspicious glances at them through the sliding glass doors.
“Rare,” Derek says. He bends to look at a photograph of a woman kicked back in a plastic Adirondack chair, hugely pregnant, pretty mouth open in a laughing grin.
“Stiles’ mom,” Stilinski says.
“Yeah,” Derek says. He’s kissed that same mouth now, dozens of times, lingered over it, been kissed by that mouth, been late to meet up with Scott once—just once—because he was making out with Stiles in his car, kissing his throat, the edge of his jaw, hitching closer into him, nosing at his collarbone while Stiles sighed and pulled him closer, one sure hand on the back of his neck.
“She was something,” Stilinski says. He’s looking down at the steaks, smiling a little absently. “Big brown bambi eyes, smart as a goddam whip. It was just real hard to say no to that woman.”
“Yeah,” Derek says.