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Derek hadn't worried when he'd sent Jackson to kindergarten. He remembers when Jackson was little, he was sweet and prone to crying, but after the accident, Jackson was harder. Which Derek worries about, but the upshot was that it had meant he'd be fine at school. In fact, Jackson had practically flung himself out of the car to get away from Scott, who had been crying desperately because Jackson got to go to school and he didn't.

Today is Scott's first day of kindergarten and Derek is terrified. Scott has always been equal parts space cadet and sensitive; Derek wants to go to school with him and throw any kid that looks at Scott wrong out the window.

"Oh my god, Derek, he's going to be fine," Jackson says from the passenger seat. "You keep looking like you're going to kill someone."

"Does Dad need to kill someone?" Scott asks, sounding a little worried from the back seat. "Did you have to kill someone when Jackson went to school, too? How come you never told me about it?"

Derek rolls his eyes. "No, Scott, I don't have to kill anyone. I haven't killed anyone, either." Scott looks a little mollified but still wary and concerned.

"What are you doing?" Jackson demands as Derek cruises the parking lot for a space.

"I'm coming in with you both," Derek says, confused.

Jackson stares at Derek, horrified. "Oh my god, he cannot have you drop him off, everyone will think he's a baby, I'll take him," Jackson tells Derek.

Derek raises an eyebrow at him, but Jackson holds his ground. "Scott?" Derek asks, because really, it's Scott's call.

Scott frowns, but visibly pulls himself together. "Jackson can walk with me if he wants, but I bet I could find it on my own." Scott says.

"Yeah, right," Jackson mutters, but quietly enough that Scott doesn't hear him. Derek shoots him a look and Jackson unbuckles his seatbelt, grabbing his backpack.

"Okay, okay! C'mon, Scott, get your bag, we're going!" Jackson says, opening the door. Scott scrambles out after him, shooting Derek a wobbly smile.

"Bye, Dad!" Scott yells in unison with Jackson's "Bye, Derek!"

"Hey," Derek pins them both with a look. "Be good. Jackson, watch out for your brother."

"Yeah, okay, we gotta go," Jackson says, dragging Scott along.

Derek goes to work because going home would just be depressing without Scott running all over the house, screaming at the top of his lungs that he wanted to play aliens and ninjas. Everyone simultaneously annoys him and keeps their distance, which annoys him all over again. Derek would be lying if he said he wasn't counting down the minutes until 2 pm.

Derek's first in line at Kiss and Ride, mostly because his boss had come over at 1:30 and said, "Go, you're making the interns cry."

Jackson's 1st grade teacher is running Kiss and Ride. She catches Derek's eye and scrambles to find Jackson, and by extension, Scott. She'd been constantly talking about Jackson running the class and Derek had countered that Jackson was a leader, nothing wrong with that and it'd ended with the two of them at a vicious stalemate that somehow ended up with Derek having to chaperone every field trip. In return, in one of his rare attendances to the PTA, Derek suggested that Mrs. Porter, with her training as a reading specialist, would be a good choice to run the reading workshop the PTA had been talking about forever. On Friday nights.

Jackson is dragging Scott by his backpack straps over to the car.

"Oh my god, you'll be back tomorrow, come on, we're going home," Jackson says.

"But Jackson, it was awesome," Scott cries.

"If you want to stay at school, I can just order less pizza tonight," Derek calls out the window. "Or Jackson and I can eat yours."

"Dad!" Scott howls as he gets in. "You wouldn't!"

"Well, you'd better come fight for it, huh?" Derek says, reaching over to ruffle Scott's hair. "Your first day was good?"

"Oh my god, Dad it was amazing, Mr. S is the coolest!" Scott says, practically writhing with excitement.

"And yours? How is Lydia Martin in third grade? Still awful?" Derek ruffles Jackson's hair too, just to watch Jackson sputter and try to claw his hair back into place.

"Fine, ugh, Derek!" Jackson keeps finger combing his hair. "Lydia is whatever."

Derek fights the urge to smile.

They get an inordinate amount of pizza for two boys and one man, but the boys eat until they're lying on the couch moaning. The whole time, though, all Scott can talk about is his "totally mega cool teacher", Mr. Stilinski.

It's a pretty typical pattern for them after that- the boys go to school and Derek goes to work, he drops them off in the morning, they take the bus home- Derek comes home and hears all about how amazing Mr. Stilinski is. Derek has to admit, based off of Scott's description, Mr. Stilinski is like sunshine, candy, the Mythbusters and the holy trinity rolled into one- Derek is morbidly curious.

Jackson rolls his eyes and says Mr. Stilinski is perfect for Scott, because they're both dweebs. Jackson does five laps around the house, which doesn't faze him, but has to apologize to his brother, which offends him mortally.

"You could be apologizing to Mr. Stilinski, too?" Derek offers.

Jackson shuts his mouth and sulkily eats his vegetables.

The whole thing only serves to increase his curiosity, and in the meantime, Scott continues to come home with increasingly crazy stories.

"Oh my god, Dad, Mr. S ate bacteria today and he said we all eat it, it was gross, is cheese really mold?"

"DAD, Mr. S made crystals today, but they're candy, can I eat mine?"

"Dad, I own a GREENHOUSE!"

"Just- Dad, Mr. S had us paint in a cave! It was so awesome!"

Who is this guy?


Derek's neighbor is a spry woman of 78 who looks like she could still beat him on the tennis court, with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of patience for the boys- Sharon watches them after school for the hours before Derek gets home. Derek actually thinks they're more scared of her than they are of him, which is good, someone has to terrify them into doing their homework. A couple of nights before the open house he makes sure to ask Sharon if she wouldn't mind watching the boys for the evening, too.

"So, you'll get to meet Mr. S, huh?" Sharon asks him, an amused glint in her eye.

"Scott talks about him endlessly to you, too?" Derek asks, shaking Scott from where he's tucked up under Derek's arm like a log.

Scott giggles. "That's 'cause Mr. S is the best, Dad." Scott explains.

"We're all disciples of Mr. S in this house," Sharon agrees solemnly.

"It's like a cult," Jackson groans from under the other arm. Derek gives him a shake too, for good measure.

"Thanks, as always, Sharon," Derek calls, hefting the boys along. "Better take these home."

She laughs them out of her house.


There's only one of Derek, which could make the open house difficult, but luckily the school has it scheduled so each grade is at a different time. Derek hadn't imagined at 23, before the accident, that four years later, his first night out in two and a half months would be at an elementary school, meeting with his nephews' teachers. But Laura and Dan had listed Derek as the boys' guardian if anything happened to them and Derek couldn't have trusted them with anyone but family.

So he's wearing a button down shirt, trying to look like a respectable member of society who can totally raise two kids by himself, and well, he hasn't accidentally killed either of them yet, so he's feeling pretty good about it. His first meeting with Jackson's kindergarten teacher had left him with sweaty palms, worried that he'd been ruining Jackson for two years and no one had said anything and he remembers the moment Mrs. Reeves had told him Jackson was a very nicely behaved boy and doing very well in class- it had felt like someone pulling him out of a fire.

He'd called Sharon to check in on the boys between work and the open house and had been firmly admonished by Scott to "be nice to Mr. S."

"Oh, be nice to Mr. S," Derek says. "What if he's mean to me?"

Scott snorts, loud enough to be heard over the phone. "As if, Dad," and hangs up on him. Derek laughs to himself in the car, before heading into the school.

Derek has never been able to imagine what "Mr. S" might look like- between the strange science experiments and teaching gig, all that comes to mind is Beakman and Ms. Frizzle. He knows that's crazy, but that's still sort of what he expects to see when he's greeted at the classroom door.

What he's not expecting is a guy who looks even younger than him, with dark hair and an evaluating stare, matched with an inviting grin.

"No, no, let me guess," Mr. S says as Derek extends his hand to shake and introduce himself. "I like to see if I can guess who belongs to whom." Mr. S's stare goes from evaluating to invasive.

"That's really not-" Derek starts, but Mr. S holds up a hand.

"Ah-ah-ah!" He takes another second, but his grin turns a little sly. "You're Scott Hale's dad."

"His uncle, actually," Derek corrects, the familiar pang as he says it. "He just calls me dad." Mr. S looks like he's practically dying to ask, like most people do when Derek says that, but actually bites his own mouth shut on the question.

"Well, come on in, have a seat," Mr. S offers and Derek takes his first step into the classroom.

Jesus Christ, there actually is a cave.

The sizable classroom is cluttered in a kid-friendly way- clear bottles aligned in the window, tanks of god knows what on the counter and the aforementioned cave, constructed out of papier mache, chicken wire and sheer balls. The only space really open is the enormous rug in the center of the room, where a few of the other parents are awkwardly standing.

The other parents keep filing in, but Derek is distracted, looking for Scott's artwork in the drawings under the big banner reading "Everyone Has a Different Family" tacked to the wall. He finally sees Scott's blobby handiwork with the careful labeling "Dad," "Jackson," and "Me." Derek can't help but smile, looking at the yellow spikes of Jackson's hair and the messy splash of curls on Scott's.

"Hi, good evening everyone! Can I get you all here on the rug?" Mr. S calls. The parents come into an uncomfortable group, but Mr. S. just motions them to sit down, to universal hesitation. "No, c'mon, get a taste of what your kids do every day." Most of the parents chuckle and sit down easily enough. Derek folds himself down, curious to see where this is going. Mr. S. gets right down on the floor with them.

Mr. S. tells the parents to call him "Stiles," before talking a mile a minute about how much he adores all of their kids, how much they're all so excited to learn and how much he thinks that says about them as parents. Mr. S., no, Stiles, never shuts his mouth, hypnotizing the parents into some kind of entranced self-congratulation. Derek stares at Stiles as he just keeps talking.

He doesn't think that Stiles stops talking for the entire 30 minute block, perfectly wrapping up as the bell rings. Derek doesn't know whether to be impressed or horrified.

"Oh, man, our time is up!" Stiles claps his hands together, cheerfully. "Any questions, please don't hesitate to call or email!" All of the other parents leave with dazed, vague smiles on their faces, shaking Stiles' hand. Derek snorts.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Hale," Stiles prompts, which is when Derek realizes he's the only parent left in the room.

"So, do the kids get a word in edgewise?" Derek finds himself asking.

Stiles stares at him for a second, then barks out a surprised laugh. "The kids do all the talking. But that's because they're a lot better conversationalists than their parents," Stiles says, like he's trusting Derek with a secret. "This is just how I get through open house."

"Steam rolling?" Derek offers.

Stiles grins. "Absolutely. But apparently I didn't steam roll you," he purses his mouth thoughtfully. "So, if you want I can actually tell you about my teaching philosophy, or whatever else you want to grill me on to make sure Scott's in good hands."

Derek can't stop staring at him. "I know Scott's in good hands," he finally says. "He can't stop talking about you either."

Stiles blinks before he breaks into a huge smile. "I have to say, he doesn't stop talking about you." Derek opens his mouth to say something, but Stiles keeps going. "Although, I gotta know, are you actually a cowboy?"

"What?" Derek asks blankly.

Stiles laughs. "When I asked about his dad on family day, Scott said you were a cowboy who played with wolves."

Derek rolls his eyes and almost laughs. "I work at a wildlife ranch with the wolves we're rehabilitating."

Stiles pauses, digesting this. "Well, I guess that explains why you don't look like Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner, or something," Stiles offers. "I was sort of expecting you to have cowboy boots."

Derek reflexively glances down at his unobtrusive boots. "Not today.”

"But you can ride a horse, right?" Stiles asks innocently.

"Yes?" Derek says, not sure where Stiles is going with this.

"Just trying to get the full picture, here," Stiles explains, perching on a low bookcase. "But seriously, I know I babble on, but Scott is one of my favorite students. He loves coming to class and I love having him in here."

"He's done nothing but talk about you since school started," Derek watches a pleased, little smile- more honest looking- curve on Stiles' mouth.

"Well, I'm glad to hear that, thanks," Stiles says. "I wanted to say-" The bell rings loudly.

Derek glances down at his watch. He's kind of baffled as to how 30 minutes have already passed, but the watch confirms it. "Sorry, I have to run, I have to-"

"No, yeah, you gotta head to Jackson's classroom," Stiles agrees. "It was good to meet you, Mr. Hale."

Derek is halfway out the door when he stops. "Derek."

"What?" Stiles asks, brows wrinkled.

"You don't have to call me 'Mr. Hale,' Stiles," Derek explains, and the last thing he sees before the classroom door swings shut is that small, pleased smile spreading across Stiles' face again.


The rest of the night is a blur- Derek knows he met Jackson's teacher, but if pressed, he probably couldn't remember any of the conversation. Apparently, the only thing that did imprint on him from that night was the expression on Stiles' face, which, in an unsettling development, is the only thing Derek remembers from his dream.

He makes sure the boys are stumbling around their rooms, blearily putting on clothes, before getting in the shower himself. He's just stepping out again as he hears the tail end of Jackson's "someone on the phone for you" yell. Derek scrambles for a towel and the phone at the same time and all he hears is "...can you come in? It would mean a lot to the kids."

"Yes- hi, yes," Derek says reflexively.

"You will? You don't know how great that is, thanks, Derek!"

Derek realizes it's Stiles at the same time he realizes he just agreed to do a totally unknown favor for Stiles.

"I'll send you an email with all the details, it'll take like an hour, tops!" Stiles assures him and Derek is getting increasingly nervous. "Oh, man, I gotta run or I'm going to be late to school, thanks again, you're going to be amazing!"

Derek feels distinctly concerned.

When he gets to the office after dropping the boys off at school, he immediately checks his inbox:

Hey, Derek-

Thanks again for agreeing to do Career Day- even if you're not actually a cowboy, I think the kids will flip over you! Just be ready for like, a five minute speechy thing about what it is you do that's good for five year olds. But you know, you have one, so I figure you know how to talk to them. It's a month from now, Thursday the 15th. Let me know if there are any problems.



He's a little relieved and weirdly disappointed for no reason he can figure out. Derek sends back a quick "Received," because it's only polite. He figures that it'll go on the calendar and that'll be that, which is probably why they run into Stiles in the cereal aisle in the grocery store that night.

Scott is in rapturous ecstasies, despite having seen Stiles less than 3 hours ago, chattering away, as Stiles smiles and nods. His cart is full of pop-tarts and red bull and Derek wonders how he's even alive. Stiles glances up and must follow Derek's line of sight because he just laughs.

"I know, I know. Since I moved out, I eat like a college student. But I save all the healthy meals for my dad." Stiles says.

"Dad, Mr. S's dad is the sheriff, did you know that? The sheriff." Scott explains, starry-eyed.

Derek nods. "I've met him before." he says. He hadn't connected the dots between Sheriff Stilinski and Mr. S before, but it makes sense. Scott stares at Derek accusingly like he's been keeping this information from him. "He's come by the reserve a couple of times."

"Well, the next time he does, tell him Stiles knows about the donuts," Stiles jokes. The sheriff has eaten a danish in front of Derek multiple times, the sticky turnover ones that Anna brings in on Fridays with the look of a man seeing the face of god. Anna's danishes make everyone feel like that, but Derek understands it a little better if Stiles has put a donut embargo on the Sheriff.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Derek says loyally.

Stiles snorts. "Yeah, you and every other aider and abetter in town." He glances at Derek's cart. "But hey, I like a challenge. This weekend we're doing tofu burgers. Well, he thinks they're turkey."

"You should come over for dinner, Mr. S!" Scott chirps loudly and they both start protesting at once.

"I'm sure Mr. S has other plans-" Derek tries as Stiles says, "I wouldn't want to intrude-"

"No, my dad's the best, Mr. S. He makes the hot dogs into octopuses! He should be on Iron Chef!" Scott breezes on, completely unaware.

Stiles laughs, but not meanly. "Yeah?" he asks Scott.

"Yeah, he said it was the last time he was going to grill this year, Mr. S. This is a big deal." Scott adds solemnly.

Derek resists the urge to bury his face in his hands. "It's not as exciting as- never mind," Derek trails off.

"He could come," Jackson says, off hand. Derek stares at him suspiciously. "It'd be okay."

"Well, if-" Stiles starts, rubbing a hand over his hair. "If it's okay with your dad?"


It's a little surreal, cooking with someone else- about as surreal as finding four boxes of cocoa puffs in the groceries that Derek knows Jackson snuck in there somehow- but it's helpful having someone over four feet helping. Stiles had insisted on being allowed to at least bring a salad, and Derek can see him and Scott in the kitchen through the glass doors; Scott is supposed to be snapping the ends off of sugar snap peas, but he's mostly talking as Stiles smiles and explains something with a lot of hand motions and a vegetable peeler.

"Derek," Jackson reminds him, holding the plate of corn, wrapped in foil.

"Sorry, Jay," Derek says, putting them on the grill. The weather is perfect- one last indian summer day, with the promise of a cool fall weekend ahead. The preceding "hot dogs or burgers" conversation had led to the boys stubbornly wanting both and Derek resigns himself to leftovers to be used in increasingly weird ways.

"Scott really likes him, huh?" Jackson asks, glancing inside.

Derek nods, distributing the corn evenly.

"You like him too?" Jackson pushes.

Derek freezes. "He's Scott's teacher, he's okay," Derek finally says, feeling weirdly like he's being interrogated.

Jackson eyeballs Derek. "Are you on a date with him?" Jackson asks.

Derek nearly drops the empty corn plate. "No," Derek manages.

Jackson stares for a moment longer, but then just shrugs. "Okay." Jackson goes back to poking at the hamburger patties under the cling wrap and Derek just doesn't know what's going on in that kid's head sometimes.

"I hate to steal your assistant, but can I have Jackson? Scott and I need his help with an experiment," Stiles is poking his head out the door, smiling in a way that he clearly thinks is ingratiating. Jackson glances over at Derek and he can read the excitement behind the cool look.

"I'll manage," Derek says, nudging Jackson toward the door. Stiles flashes him a grin before they disappear back inside.

He can't help but think about Jackson thinking this is a date.

Derek has been on exactly two dates since the boys came to live with him, both in that first month. He'd still been dating Kate- young and stupid, totally blind to all her faults- but she'd been cold and unconcerned about the boys and Derek had broken up with her within two weeks. She'd laughed and said she wasn't the maternal type, anyway, keyed his car and left town with the pharmacist's husband. When he thinks about Kate, which isn't often, he usually just feels relieved- which is probably awful. He'd thought he'd loved her- had looked at rings in the small jewelry shop in town- and when he thinks about her now, all he can think is that he dodged a bullet.

He wouldn't call himself lonely- he has Scott and he has Jackson, and only an idiot could be lonely with two kids under ten in the house, constantly asking questions, climbing all over them, asking for stories, for attention, like a pair of needy pups.

But if he's totally honest with himself, the nights are almost too quiet when the boys are both asleep, the only sound the quiet hum of the television.

Still, in no way is this is a date. This is Scott's love affair with his kindergarten teacher. Derek reapplies himself to the task at hand, which is to say, not burning everyone's dinner.

Of course, he runs out of distractions when he comes in, both hands full with plates heaped with food, only to see the three of them frantically shaking bags of something.

"Dad, we're making ice cream with science!" Scott calls joyously.

"I found the rock salt in the garage," Jackson points out proudly.

"You've got a pair of scientists on your hands," Stiles says, smiling small and real and it feels like a horse kicking him in the chest.

"Can we eat it before dinner so it doesn't melt?" Jackson asks stealthily.

"We're putting it in the freezer," Scott reminds him. "Mr. S said so. We made some for you too, Dad. Well, Mr. S made it."

"I didn't know whether you liked chocolate or vanilla, so I made both. The boys insisted mint chocolate chip was your favorite, but you didn't have any mint extract." Stiles says apologetically.

Derek realizes that he's still standing in the doorway holding dinner like a moron, so he puts the plates down on the open space left at the end of the counter. "Either's fine," Derek says, belatedly adding, "Thanks."

There's a feeding frenzy as soon as the ice cream is in the freezer, the boys laying waste to burgers and dogs, even the salad under Derek's stern look. Stiles eats his fair share too, and it looks like Derek's worries about leftovers are going to come to nothing. Stiles is seemingly fine with Scott's endless questions about everything and even Jackson's weirdly invasive questions about his taste in movies and outdoor activities. Derek is sort of astounded, because it's a lot to take, but he supposes Stiles spends all day with five year olds, Jackson and Scott together can't be much worse than fifteen of them.

"Give Mr. S a break," Derek feels compelled to say by the time the boys are just pushing the remains of their food around on their plates.

They open their mouths to protest in unison, but Stiles just laughs. "They're fine, Derek. I wish all my students were as interested as Scott." Stiles reaches out to comfortably ruffle Scott's hair. Scott beams like a lantern. "And yes, Jackson, I do like to camp. Well, as long as there are enough chocolate bars for the duration. Went on a camping trip once with my dad and it was looking ugly for a while. Thought it was going to be every man for himself."

Jackson looks obscurely satisfied. Scott cheerfully starts asking Stiles about stingrays again.

The homemade ice cream is surprisingly good; Derek can't help the surprised noise that escapes as he takes his first bite.

"I know, right?" Stiles says happily, licking his spoon clean. Thoroughly. Luckily, he's distracted by the sounds of Jackson breaking into one of his illicit boxes of cocoa puffs to cram a bowl's worth into his ice cream.

"Jackson," Derek says. "You can put half of that bowl back in the freezer." Jackson sulks as he puts half the bowl back, crunching bitterly.

"You know, you're really good with them. It's never easy to be a parent, but I've seen a lot of them, and- and if you care what I think, you're doing a really good job." Stiles says quietly as Scott slowly eats every bite at Jackson.

Derek is frozen, ice cream halfway to his mouth for an embarrassingly long moment.

Stiles swallows his bite quickly, scrambling to speak. "Whoa, sorry, that might have- I mean, obviously you're doing a good job with them, I-"

"No, that- thanks," Derek finally gets out. "I've only had the boys for 4 years- what do I know about kids? It's good to know I'm not messing it up."

Stiles is staring at Derek like if he just looks hard enough he'll find the secrets of the universe or something. "No one knows kids, everyone worries they're messing it up. I worry about it all the time. But you love them, Derek, and that's the most important thing."

Derek feels like he's been kicked in the chest again and he's starting to think that's just something about Stiles that makes him feel like his rib cage is being squeezed.

"Well, this conversation got heavy," Stiles says with an awkward laugh. "But you don't have to worry so hard." Stiles nudges Derek with his elbow.

"Dad, my ice cream is better than Jackson's right? Right?" Scott demands fiercely.

"Well, you can worry about that," Stiles laughs, much more at ease.

"Scott, you can both like different ice cream, no one's has to be better," Derek sighs, grateful for and irritated by the interruption. The boys take this bone of contention out into the living room and into a competitive cushion fort battle. It doesn't make any sense to him, but he gave up on that years ago.

"So, are you gonna let me help you with the dishes or what?" Stiles asks, already stacking them up.

Derek protests, because Stiles is a guest, but somehow he ends up drying and apologizing for the lack of dishwasher in the house.

"There's just the three of us, there was really never any point," Derek explains, even thought he feels like an idiot because he can't stop talking about a dishwasher.

"No, it's kind of nice. Homey. I'm sort of surprised that you don't have a pair of yellow rubber gloves. Can't imagine you with dishpan hands." Stiles laughs.

Derek snorts, wiping the salad bowl dry. "You should have seen me change a diaper."

Stiles stares at him incredulously for a second before bursts into surprised laughter. "I tried to imagine it, it didn't really work," Stiles admits.

"Neither did me trying to put diapers on Scott. It took me about a week before I got the hang of it." Derek says. "Jackson wasn't exactly helpful, either."

Stiles glances at Derek sidelong, like he's deciding what to say. "My dad told me about what happened with your sister and her husband, I'm sorry. It must have been so hard on all of you."

Derek stares at the plate he's holding and takes a deep breath. "Nothing good is easy," he finally says. "I miss Laura and Dan every day. But I wouldn't know what to do without Jackson and Scott now. They're my entire family."

Stiles has stopped washing, his hands still submerged in the water and foam. After a long quiet moment, he clears his throat. "I lost my mom when I was 7. It wrecked my dad and I had panic attacks for years after she died. Losing a parent- losing both parents, suddenly- can mess kids up, but Jackson and Scott-" Stiles huffs, looking frustrated. "What I'm trying to say is that I think you're a great dad for them. They're happy, great kids. I just thought maybe no one had told you that, and I sort of thought you should know."

Derek nearly drops the plate.

"Sorry, I overstepped, sorry-" Stiles stammers.

Derek puts the dish down on holds up a hand. Stiles' mouth snaps shut. "Thank you," Derek finally says. "It... thanks."

Stiles exhales noisily. "You're welcome." He offers a tentative smile before turning back to the dishes.

They wash in silence for a while, and they're almost finished when Stiles cocks his head toward the living room. "Um, is it just me, or has it been really quiet?"

Derek cranes his body around to glance into the living room. "Hm." They finish quickly and head into the living room, only to find Jackson and Scott fast asleep under a pile of pillows.

"Damn, that's cute," Stiles sighs.

Derek snorts and starts excavating his kids. Jackson murmurs something annoyed sounding, but Scott is out like a light. Jackson is also sprawled half across Scott like a blanket, so Derek reaches for him first, hefting him up, half-fireman style.

"I'm not asleep, put me down," Jackson mumbles almost incomprehensibly.

"Uh huh," Derek says, feeling Jackson settle in like a little barnacle, already mostly asleep again.

"I can grab Scott for you, if you want," Stiles offers quietly.

Derek pauses, but nods. "Thanks, yeah."

Stiles picks Scott up with the ease of someone who handles kids all day. Scott wraps his arms around Stiles' neck instinctively, burying his face in Stiles' button down. Derek readjusts his grip on Jackson and tears himself away from the image of Scott clinging to Stiles like a security blanket.

Derek leads him upstairs, motioning them into Scott's room. Stiles easily lays Scott down on the bed.

"Pajamas?" Stiles asks quietly, turning to the dresser.

"Top drawer, you sure-" Derek starts to ask, but Stiles just rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah," Stiles says. "Kindergarten teacher, remember? Seen, done it all." Stiles has Scott changed faster than Derek has ever managed, and tucked under the blankets.

"You've done this before?" Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head. "Not in years. Bunch of little cousins." Stiles palms a hand over Scott's messy hair, smoothing it down.

The automatic night light is shining right behind Stiles' head, haloing the upward flip of Stiles' hair, the upturn of his nose. Derek takes a deep breath.

"Oh, sorry, Jackson must be getting heavy, sorry," Stiles says, getting up from his crouch.

"It's fine," Derek mutters. Stiles leans in the doorway while Derek gets Jackson ready for bed, Jackson clumsily moving his limbs to help Derek along.

The two of them creep back downstairs quietly.

"You want a cup of coffee, something?" Derek offers.

"Oh, um, it's sort of late," Stiles shoves his hands into his pockets. "I'm supposed to have Saturday breakfast with my dad early in the morning, it's sort of a Stilinski family tradition."

"Thanks for the help with dinner, the boys." Derek says, nodding.

"No, no, thanks for everything, it was a great night," Stiles waves his hands. "It was- it was really nice." Derek sees Stiles to the door, watches him get in his beat-up old jeep and heads back inside.

The house is very quiet.


Derek's kept busy planning Scott's birthday in two weeks. He's had his present for months- they're going to take a weekend trip to Disneyland the next long weekend. He figures he should bring cupcakes into school, since it's what he always does for Jackson and he doesn't want to rock the sibling boat. He also knows he should email Stiles about it, because that's only polite.

Which is why he's been staring at a blank email for 10 minutes.

He's tried to start it four separate times, but he only ever manages something that looks like this:


I'm bringing cupcakes to school for Scott's birthday. It's on the 4th.


He accidentally hits send around identical version 6 and spends a couple of seconds muttering "fuck" under his breath, but eventually shrugs it off. All the important information is in there, anyway.

30 minutes later, he has a response from Stiles:


Awesome! Who doesn't love cupcakes? I certainly do, and everyone knows what a connoisseur I am. We're surprisingly allergy free this year, only a couple of nut issues, so just stay away from peanut butter and you should be epi pen free. There are 14 kids in the class, including Scott, plus you and me (and I usually can't stop at just one cupcake- can you? So maybe bring at least 17 : ) right?)

See you then!


Derek stares at the screen, because he really can't believe that Stiles sent him an email with a smiley face in it, but there it is.

When he goes to the bakery, he orders two dozen and figures he can take one home for Jackson and give the rest to Stiles, since he apparently like cupcakes so much. The baker seems delighted with the order- Derek googled for about two seconds before finding cupcakes Scott would go crazy over and he brings her the pictures he definitely printed out on his work printer. They're dinosaur themed, because apparently Stiles taught them about fossils and Scott's been obsessed ever since. Derek has probably read Dinotopia to Scott upwards of twelve times. The baker is probably just excited because they're going to cost an arm and a leg- he can't believe he's spending this much money on cupcakes- but it's not like Derek can bake, so, what can he do, really.

Scott literally wakes up singing on his birthday- some strange, warbling thing about being king of the dinosaurs and birthdays and riding hippogryffs. Derek has firmly acknowledged he's never going to understand either of his kids. Ever. But he can't stop smiling and chuckling under his breath, because Scott is obviously delirious with joy that he's six and for the next three months, will be only two years younger than Jackson, not three. Derek makes eggos with ice cream for breakfast- which is firmly a 'birthdays-only' event- and by the time he has Jackson and Scott in the car they're both little balls of sugar-high goodwill toward man.

"Bye, Dad, enjoy my birthday!" Scott yells as Derek drives away to go pick up the cupcakes. The cupcakes are theoretically a surprise, but who knows, Jackson might have told Scott. Secrets aren't exactly Jackson's strong suit- it's a good thing as a parent that Jackson is utterly, sadly incapable of lying, but it's going to make his teenage years really embarrassing for both of them.

The cupcakes are ridiculously adorable- he's enough of a man to admit that. There's even one with a little pterodactyl, wings open around a "6" that is specifically for Scott. Derek's feeling pretty smug when he signs in at the office and the entire staff comes over to coo over the cupcakes- Scott and Stiles are going to flip.

Scott does flip- he had no idea Derek was coming and the cupcakes send him into an almost catatonic state of joy. The other kids are shrieking with joy and Stiles carefully deals out cupcakes, with strict instructions not to eat them until everyone has one and they've sung happy birthday.

"Dude, these are so freaking cute, I'm dying," Stiles says, as they set up two lines of pick up. Stiles is grinning, turning them this way and that, checking them out, before handing them over to the kids.

"Dad," Scott breathes out as he stares at all of them, the little brontosaurus heads peeking up out of frosting water and the tiny triceratops, and flings his arms around Derek's stomach in a bone-crushing hug. "Dad, you're the best, oh my god,"

He has to pick Scott up and bear hug him until Scott whines that he has to get down and eat cupcakes.

Stiles is smiling that little smile that Derek thinks of as his private smile as he hands out cupcakes and Derek is so distracted trying to figure out why he almost gives two cupcakes to a little girl with blond pigtails.

While the kids are eating, Derek puts a cupcake aside for Jackson in an empty box and consolidates the rest. "Those ones are for you," he explains, pushing the box toward Stiles.

Stiles blinks. "That's like, nine cupcakes, are you serious?" he asks.

Derek shrugs. "Having them at home would be absolute idiocy. You look like you could use a cupcake, anyway." Stiles isn't gawky, but that's by a hair and pretty much due to his surprisingly muscled forearms.

"Well, maybe two. Or three. But I'm going to go into a diabetic coma if you don't take at least one of these off my hands, right now," Stiles says, and before Derek realizes what he's doing, takes Derek's hand, and puts a cupcake in the palm of it. The little blue tyrannosaurus bares its sugar teeth at him.

Stiles just waggles his eyebrows at Derek, plucking the stegosaurus off of his own cupcake and eating him whole. "Do it for the kids, Derek," Stiles says, mouth full of orange fondant.

Derek snorts and deposits the tyrannosaur back in Stiles' box unscathed, before peeling down the wrapper and taking a bite of the actual cupcake. It's not bad- a little too sugary for his tastes, but probably perfect for kids, who seem to have one giant sugar taste bud, anyway.

"No crunching the bones of your enemies?" Stiles teases. Derek rolls his eyes. "Fine, fine, even so, I'll show you the single greatest trick in the world." Stiles peels the cupcake free, rips the cake part in half and makes it into a little sandwich before taking a giant bite.

"Oh my god, that's the coolest," one of the kids yells, and Stiles sparks a cupcake eating revolution.

"You're welcome," Stiles says, licking frosting off his fingers. When he's done, he raises his eyebrows at Derek. "Aren't you going to finish yours?"

Derek had forgotten he was holding a cupcake.

He tries Stiles' method and it actually seems less sweet that way, which is good. Stiles is staring at him, though.

"What?" Derek asks.

Stiles starts. "You have uh, um, a smudge. Of icing on your-" Stiles gestures with his thumb at the corner of his mouth, which is open just a little.

Derek rubs at the spot, coming up with a smudge of green icing. "Is that all of it?"

"Um, sort of, maybe just-" Stiles raises a hand like he's going to wipe it off himself but stops at the last second. "Just um, wipe again."

Derek tries again and Stiles finally relaxes.

"Yep, you got it." Stiles says. He glances around the room where, of course, the kids are playing with the dinosaurs and eating their cupcakes at the same time. "Thanks again for bringing these in, the kids are loving it."

"Scott's first school birthday," Derek explains. "I had to make a big deal."

"Well, I'm glad you did," Stiles steals Derek's tyrannosaur and eats him.

Scott bursts out crying at dinner that night when Derek tells him they're going to Disneyland.

"We should have taped this," Jackson says, grinning. "And put it on YouTube."

The trip is a resounding success- the boys get up early every day and pass out equally early from joyful exhaustion. Derek watches a lot of ESPN Classic on mute. Scott insists on getting Stiles a pair of mouse ears, which Derek doesn't object to- the idea of Stiles wearing them makes Derek snort. There's not even the "I don't want to leave" meltdown Derek half expected- probably because the boys want to take the loot, run, and brag to everyone at home. The second they're out of the car, Scott runs next door to give Sharon her stuffed Piglet.

The next day, Scott has the Mickey ears in his hands like he's holding a baby, the whole car ride to school.

They must be a success, because he gets an email halfway through the day:


Thanks for the ears- as you can see, they were put to use right away!


Attached is a picture of Stiles in the ears, reading Winnie the Pooh to the entranced students.

"I think I just got a cavity," Diana says, leaning over his shoulder. "Also, god, is that Scott in the front? He's getting huge, you have to bring him by some day."

It is an unbearably cute picture.

Of Scott.

The fall weather is shaping up nasty- this is the fourth major thunderstorm in as many weeks. Derek guesses he's lucky that Scott likes thunderstorms and Jackson is indifferent; he knows a lot of kids are scared of them. As it is, it's hard to sleep with the wind howling around the house. It's raining off and on all week, which makes kiss and ride a very damp endeavor. Hopefully this morning will stick to faint, misty rain.

He pulls up to the curb, ready to unlock the doors when he realizes Stiles is running kiss and ride this morning.

"Hey!" Stiles says cheerfully, which is when the skies open up and rain pours down.

"Whoa," Jackson breathes out, in surprise.

"Climb into the backseat," Derek tells him, and the second Jackson is done clambering back, Derek reaches over and throws the door open. "Get in before you're drenched!"

It's too late- Stiles is pulling off his blazer, which is absolutely soaked, leaving him in a t-shirt that's just wet.

"Thanks," Stiles gasps, glancing over at Derek.

It hits Derek like a ton of bricks.

Stiles' cheeks are flushed from cold and his mouth is just a little open and so red. His shirt is clinging to his chest, the v of the collar dragged down by the weight of the water, so far that Stiles' collarbone is visible on one side. Derek can see the surprising definition in his chest and stomach- hugging the shape of his abs, the curve of his shoulders. There's a thread of water running down Stiles' neck, and Derek wants to put his mouth all. over. Stiles'. body.

"Daaaaad, can we go to school yet?" Scott whines and Derek abruptly remembers his kids are in the car and having an erection is extremely inappropriate.

"It looks like it's dying down," Stiles says, looking out the window. He cranes his head into the backseat, which puts the delicate looking skin under his jaw right in Derek's face. Derek wants to bite it. "Okay, you have your raincoats on? Let's go guys!"

The boys run out yelling happily, enjoying the storm, and Stiles gets out, only to duck his head back in to grab his blazer.

"Thanks for the shelter!" he chirps.

Stiles is close enough to kiss.

But then the car door is slamming shut and people are suddenly honking behind him.

Derek peels out of the parking lot in a hurry, but he pulls over a few streets away and takes a deep breath.

"Fuck," Derek breathes out, because he can still smell rainwater and Stiles' deodorant all through the car. This is phenomenally, overwhelmingly stupid. Derek wants Stiles, yes, but thinking about Stiles- in his kitchen cooking with Scott, washing the dishes with him, wearing those stupid mouse ears- makes Derek realize he doesn't just want Stiles- he wants to be with Stiles.


This realization comes hand in hand with the quick reminder email he gets cc'd on about Career Day next week.

That realization further means he has to see Stiles- Stiles, who has starred in a number of increasingly graphic dreams since kiss and ride- in a week.

Derek is quietly becoming more and more panicked about the whole idea. He's certain that he's going to walk in the room and Stiles will just know, which is probably the stupidest thing he's ever thought. Rationally, he knows he's just going to run into work, get some of their brochures for kids to take home and things they use when they do fundraising; big glossy blown up shots of the woods and the wolves mounted on board. He'll go to the school, talk for about five minutes and answer any questions the kids have. It's nothing he hasn't done before, more or less, for other promotional things for the reserve. Scott still makes him "promise, you have to promise, Dad, that you're going to come in."

The room just doesn't usually include his son and the guy he has a ridiculous... thing for.

He does plan on wearing his good work clothes- which is to say, the one shirt that has neither holes, blood or dirt on it- and everything does go according to plan, dropping off Scott and Jackson, heading back to work, until Diana runs into his office.

"Derek, I think there's- there's something wrong," she says, voice catching on her words. "It's Laura."

Derek's blood runs cold, because he can't not go right back four years, when he got a call, slow and apologetic asking if he was Laura Hale's brother, there had been a car accident- but it only lasts a second before he remembers he has another Laura.

He'd had the boys for two months- Scott prone to crying fits and Jackson quiet and sad- when Hera had delivered her second litter. She'd been the smallest of the pups and when she'd been rejected, Derek had taken her home.

"I'm going to need your help, Jackson," Derek had said, hoping someone to take care of might bring Jackson around. "She's little and sick, she needs you."

Jackson had looked down at the little bundle of dark fur in his lap and nodded at Derek so seriously. "Can we call her Laura? Like Mom?" Jackson had asked, timid.

Derek had swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Yeah, we can call her Laura."

Laura had grown up, mostly in the Hale home, into a strong beta- Derek has no idea what he'll do if anything's happened to her.

"What?" he demands.

Diana shakes her head. "Her collar has been in the same position for six hours. It triggered the no-motion, and I cross-referenced her position on the map- she's in the canyon." Diana explains.

Derek grabs the tranq blow gun. The canyon is a rocky death trap in the northeast corner of the reserve. He'll never get there fast enough on the access roads, he'll have to take a horse; easier to maneuver on the trails. He barely takes a moment to verify her exact location before heading out to the stables, when he abruptly remembers about Scott and Career Day.

"Shit, Diana, I'll radio and let you know when I find her. I need you to call the school and let them know I'm going to try to make it, but I'm supposed to go in for Career Day, you need to let Stiles know there's been an emergency. Then drive a jeep out to the closest point on the access road." Derek says. He doesn't wait for her to agree.

The closer he gets to the canyon, the rockier and looser the terrain gets. Derek tries to remind himself that there's no sense in urging the horse faster because that'll probably just lead to both him and the horse in the bottom of the canyon too. It seems like an eternity until the trees clear- the canyon is close enough now that he tethers the horse to a tree and starts the awkward descent into the canyon. By the time he gets to the bottom, he can see the weird rock formations that are between him and Laura, if her tracking collar is reading accurately. He winds his way through, and there's Laura, lying so still, one of her legs trapped under a rock that's between big rock and boulder in size.

He runs over and when he's close he can see she's breathing- shallow, but definitely breathing and Derek sucks in a huge, relieved breath of his own.

"Hey, girl," he says, circling around so she can see him.

Laura whines, her free feet twitching like she wants to get up, lifting her head from the canyon floor.

"Shh, shh, you stay still, shh," he says, carefully crouching next to her. "I'm gonna get you out of here." He's going to have to sedate her to move the rock, and he quickly administers the dose, stroking her along her muzzle like he did when she was a pup, until her breathing settles and she drifts into sleep.

"Diana," Derek radios.

"You've got her?"

"Trapped, probably a rock slide. One of her legs is pinned. She's out now, I'm going to try to move it. I can get her out of the canyon. Where are you now?"

"Waiting for you on the road. Called Deaton, he's driving over to the center now."

"Good job."

He tests the weight of the rock- he should be able to move it, but he wants to do it in a clean lift, so he spends a minute or two trying to figure out the best leverage he can get. It comes free in a massive yanking flip, hardly an inch to spare when the rock comes down heavy and quick. There doesn't seem to be any bleeding, but the bone is undoubtedly broken. Derek can see a straight branch about the right length, and uses his belt to keep the leg straight. Laura whines, even through the sedative.

"I'm sorry, I know, I'm sorry," Derek repeats, the just same as when he takes bandaids off or when shots happen. "I'm trying."

Picking Laura up isn't much heavier than picking up Jackson. However, carrying her up the side of a canyon is less easy than carrying Jackson up the stairs. His feet slip a little a few times and he has to keep readjusting his grip- but the two of them make it up, probably thanks to sheer stupid luck.

"Almost there," Derek promises as they come up over the edge. The access road is a ten, fifteen minute walk, maybe longer, weighed down with a sedated wolf he doesn't want to shake. His infallible sense of direction when on the reserve doesn't steer him wrong- he can see the road and thank god, the jeep. Just because he can carry a seventy five pound wolf this far doesn't mean it's easy.

He whistles loud and Diana pulls around, Derek carefully laying Laura on the blankets already spread out on the back and getting in with her.

"Go, go," he says, still quiet, gently stroking Laura's fur.

"You might have mentioned that a 'Stiles' is actually Scott's teacher, Mr. Stilinski," Diana says out of the blue on the drive back.

"But you called?" Derek checks.

"Yes, yes, it's fine," she sighs.

Derek pulls out the radio and radios back to the stables that they need to send someone to pick up the horse on the drive back toward the center and the vet. It isn't more than ten minutes but the trip seems longer watching and feeling Laura's very shallow breathing.

When they pull into the lot, Deacon is waiting for them, helping Derek carry Laura out and into their infirmary.

"You did right, Derek," Deacon is undoing Derek's makeshift splint and feeling carefully along her leg. "It's broken, we'll need to x-ray, but it feels clean, stable. Her heart rate is okay for the tranq dose, she should be fine."

Derek feels like his knees are going to give out, adrenaline and relief coursing through him and he rubs a hand over his face. Which brings his watch right up to his face, and oh god, Career Day.

"Oh shit, I have to- Diana, stay with Laura," he says.

She rolls her eyes at him. "Not going anywhere. Go, you look crazy." she says, shooing him out.

Derek throws himself into his car and hopes that Stiles' dad doesn't pull him over for speeding.

He makes it to the school in record time, and he's still running on an insane amount of adrenaline, so he just runs past the office and heads straight for the classroom. He can just hear Stiles saying, "- want to thank all of our parents for coming in today-" when he opens the door.

"Dad!" Scott shouts.

"Jesu- geez, Derek, are you okay?" Stiles asks.

Derek nods as he catches his breath. "Yeah, I'm fine, sorry I'm late, there was a work emergency." The other parents in the back of the room look a little horrified- Derek can only imagine what he looks like. "I'm Derek Hale, I'm Scott's parent." The kids all alternate between staring at him and staring at Scott.

"I work on a nature reserve- we had a scary day today. Does everyone know what a wolf is?" The kids nod in mesmerized unison. Derek must look terrifying. "I work with wolves in a place where we protect the plants and animals that live there."

"What happened?" Scott asks, looking worried.

"One of the wolves we look out for was lost, she wasn't with her family- wolves call their family their 'pack,'" Derek explains, his heart starting to beat normally again. "But because we have special collars on our wolves, we can find out where they are. We had to find our lost wolf, but she was hurt and I had to bring her to the veterinarian. A veterinarian is a doctor for animals, who helps take care of them like your doctor takes care of you. But our veterinarian said our wolf is going to be okay, so even though it was scary, it's all alright now."

"Dad, which wolf?" Scott demands.

Derek winces. "It was Laura, Scott. But Dr. Deaton says she's going to be totally fine." Derek assures him.

Scott squeaks. "Dad, she's really going to be okay? Dad, are you sure?" Scott begs.

"She's going to be fine. Scott knows our wolf named Laura- when Laura was a baby, she was sick and her mommy couldn't take care of her, so I took her home and Scott and his big brother Jackson helped me take care of Laura." Derek adds, because there should probably be some kind of explanation why Scott looks like he's having a heart attack.

"Mr. Hale?" a little girl timidly asks. "How did you find her?"

"Well, all of our wolves wear special collars that let us know where they are. And because it can always tell us where the wolves are, we knew something was wrong when she wasn't going anywhere this morning. So I went out to where we knew she was- she was stuck in a canyon- a canyon is like a big rock pit. A rock had fallen on her paw and she couldn't get free. So I went down there and got her out, which is why I'm so dirty." Derek tells her. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices Stiles has sat down by Scott, a hand on his hair, all but hugging him. Derek feels like an idiot- he should have hugged Scott.

"Wow," she breathes out. "Do you have to do this every day?"

Derek shakes his head. "No, and that's good. Wolves are tough, smart and take care of each other. Most of the time, they're really good at being safe on their own. But sometimes we need to help them out. Just like I'm sure you guys are really good at taking cake of yourselves, but sometimes you need help, too, right?"

She nods shyly.

This apparently opens the floor for a horde of questions, coming all at once: "Do wolves wag their tails like dogs?" "Could a wolf beat a bear in a fight?" "What do wolves think of vegetarians?" "Do wolves ever have allergies?" "Where do wolves sleep?" "Can wolves climb trees?" Derek tries to answer all of them- but they just keep coming, and he keeps feeling like the kids think he actually is a wolf or something.

After a couple of minutes, Stiles cuts them off. "Okay, guys, Mr. Hale has answered a lot of questions, we need to give him a break, because it's time for lunch!" There's general groans of disappointment mixed with the excitement of lunch time. "Thanks again to all of our wonderful parents who came in today, let's give them another round of applause!" The kids break into chaotic clapping and yelling.

"Line up and get your lunches if you brought them," Stiles instructs, and as the kids mill around, he shakes a lot of hands and parents also leave, usually after hugging their kid. Scott is attached to Derek, demanding that he tell him again that Laura will be fine.

"I promise, Scott," Derek says. "We can go this weekend and you can see her for yourself, how about that?"

Scott nods, reluctantly. "Okay. Should I tell Jackson at lunch?"

Derek shakes his head. "No, I'll tell him after school, okay?" he says.

"Hey, Scott, it's time to go to lunch," Stiles says gently. Scott looks like he might protest for a second, but he just nods and grabs his lunchbox. "I'll be right back, I just have to take them to the cafeteria- can you stay for a little longer?"

Derek shrugs. "Sure." He unfolds from the crouch he was in to talk to Scott and sits on one of the low tables around the room. While the kids are gone, he glances around the room, noting the new stuff in the room- a giant fake tree cutout taped to the wall, hundreds of multicolored, changing leaves stuck around its branches, a terrarium with a bunny in it, twitching its nose curiously, out of its nest now that the room is quiet. He can't help but check it out, the bunny placid and calm even when he walks over.

"Hi," Stiles says, and shit, it's just the two of them, alone in the classroom, and this probably should be awkward, but Derek is too tired to be weird about this right now. "I see you met Bugs."

Derek raises an eyebrow.

"Bugs Bunny." Stiles points at the gray rabbit with its white markings and Derek snorts, because of course Stiles named the bunny Bugs.

"Cute," Derek says. "Was the speech whatever not okay, is that why-'"

"No, no, no," Stiles says, waving his hands. "It was great, are you kidding me? You're going to be bigger than the Beatles in here. Or Justin Bieber. Kids these days, I guess. No, I just wanted to make sure you were okay, you look a little... rough."

"Oh," Derek says, glancing down at himself- he's covered in dirt, some rips and tears from where he's brushed up against the canyon walls. His palms are a little cut up, too.

"I mean you look like nature John McClane, it's a cool look." Stiles says, and Derek realizes his hands are full of cotton swabs and neosporin. "But I didn't want you to get gangrene, so I thought I'd offer to be your vet."

"I'm not a wolf, Stiles," Derek points out.

Stiles snorts. "Sure you're not." he says. "Go on, wash your hands and then take a seat on the desk."

There's a little mirror over the little sink that Derek has to stoop to use. He does look beat- Derek gets a couple of paper towels wet and wipes his face down first, cracking open a couple of buttons to wipe down his neck, which somehow leaves a giant dirt streak on the towels.

“Oh, hey, if you wanted to clean up I have a towel and an extra shirt- thought it was a good idea after the rain the other day.” Stiles offers, reaching into a big cabinet to the left of his desk.

“It’ll just get dirty,” Derek warns him.

Stiles waves a hand. “They have washing machines for a reason, Derek, go for it.” He pulls out a brightly striped towel and a simple gray henley.

Derek shrugs then takes them both, stripping out of his button down and running the towel under the water. He wrings it out and wipes himself down, and sure enough, the towel’s filthy by the end- even a couple of rusty red smears that mean Derek’s bleeding somewhere. He washes his hands and tugs the shirt on- it’s small, but it’s clean. He turns around to find Stiles totally focused on a magazine at his desk.

“I’m fine, really, you don’t have to do anything. These’ll scab over.” Derek says.

Stiles frowns. “Don’t be ridiculous, come here.” He pats the desk and Derek sits on it carefully. Stiles is more gentle than Derek would have been with himself, but that probably comes from years of fixing playground scrapes on much more sensitive patients. Stiles is holding Derek’s hand still, applying the anti-bacterial ointment to the cuts, especially the deeper one beneath his thumb where he’d slammed a hand out to grab at the wall to stop from skidding down the canyon side on his way down. He hadn’t noticed at the time, but he must have scrambled down like an idiot.

“Did you climb down glass?” Stiles asks, his brows furrowing as he moves on to the next hand, which is probably worse than the other one. Derek honestly can’t feel a thing because Stiles’ hand is warm, circled around Derek’s wrist, and Derek is close enough that he can smell Stiles’ deodorant. That smell had lingered in the car for two days and Derek had been forced to spray it with air freshener so he'd stop wanting to make out with his car.

“The sides of the canyon are steep and there’s a lot of loose rock,” Derek explains. “Luckily, it’s easier to go up than down.”

“I still can’t believe you carried her out of a canyon,” Stiles says.

“There wasn’t any other way to get her out,” Derek shrugs again. He’s getting distracted by Stiles’ eyelashes, which are dark against his cheeks from where Derek’s looking down.

“I know. It’s just kind of incredibly awesome, that’s all,” Stiles grins up at Derek. Derek wants to lean down and kiss him- but he’s in Scott’s classroom and this is Scott’s teacher.

“It’s just my job,” Derek says, glancing away as Stiles puts- puts Batman bandaids on his hands. “Stiles.”

“It was these or Hello Kitty, I swear,” Stiles says, but he’s still grinning.

Derek hates that that makes him want to kiss Stiles more.

The bell rings loudly, startling Stiles and thoroughly destroying any psychotic thoughts Derek had in the back of his mind telling him to just kiss Stiles anyway.

“Oh, crap, I have to go pick up the kids from the cafeteria- are you- do you?” Stiles trails off.

“I should get back to work. Go before Scott comes back and refuses to let me go,” Derek says.

Stiles nods jerkily. “No, right, right. Well, thanks for coming in, even after this morning, the kids loved it.” Stiles says quickly.

“Right, you’re welcome,” Derek offers automatically, picking up his shirt. “See you later.”

He takes a deep breath when he’s out in the car and realizes that he smells like Stiles’ laundry. He should probably take the shirt off.

“Fuck,” he mutters as he drives back to work, still wearing the henley.

Jackson has his fully anticipated meltdown that evening. He tries to get Derek to drive them out to the reserve right then and is only pacified when they call Deaton and Deaton tells Jackson himself.

Derek apologizes multiple times for calling him, but Deaton assures him it’s fine- he sounds a little amused, actually.

“I promised Scott already that we would go to the reserve and you can see Laura yourself this weekend, okay?” Derek bargains.

Jackson crosses his arms over his chest, a rebellious frown on his face. “I guess.”

He still looks worried and unhappy so Derek relies on his default- he grabs Jackson around his middle and pulls him into his lap. Jackson makes a grumbling noise of irritation, but he curls up and puts his face in Derek’s shirt.

“Thank you. For saving Laura.” Jackson mumbles.

Derek squeezes him tighter. “Hey, of course. She’s our wolf. You saved her before. It was my turn.”

“Do I have to keep hugging you?” Jackson mutters.

“Yep.” Derek says and he can feel Jackson relax.

“Hey, hey are you guys doing hugs?” Scott asks. “I want hug.”

“Get up here,” Derek says, holding out his arm. He remembers when both of them could fit in his lap, no problem. Now, it’s sort of more like a big pile of limbs, concentrated in his lap.

“Blanket,” Jackson demands. Derek manages to tug the blanket off the back of the couch over them as much as possible.

“But like, we’re going first thing Saturday morning, right?” Jackson pushes.

“Breakfast,” Scott points out.

“Okay, breakfast first,” Jackson concedes.

“Breakfast and then to see Laura, I promise.” Derek tugs them both in until they whine.

Derek is woken up at the crack of dawn by the boys jumping on the bed and yelling “HI WAKE UP IT’S MORNING IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST AND LAURA!” He gets an elbow straight into his solar plexus; he’s suddenly and painfully awake. The boys harass him through getting showered and dressed. Derek wonders why this happens on the weekend, not the weekdays, when it’d be useful instead of cruel.

Derek is ordering the first of many cups of coffee while Scott and Jackson are still arguing the merits of waffles versus pancakes when he see Stiles walk in with- with his father, the sheriff.

“Dad, look!” Scott says. “Hi, Mr. S!” Scott waves helpfully, as if he hadn’t shouted loud enough for Stiles to figure it out. Stiles waves back and Derek thinks that’ll be that, but then no, Stiles walks over, the sheriff in tow.

“Hey Scott, Jackson, Derek,” Stiles says. “You guys are up early! This is my dad, Sheriff Stilinski. Dad, I was telling you about the Hales.”

“Derek’s taking us out to see Laura,” Jackson explains while Derek’s feeling extremely strange about the idea that Stiles talks to his dad about them.

“But first, breakfast!” Scott says cheerfully. “Hey, Mr. S, you should have breakfast with us! I wanna ask your dad about being the sheriff!”

“You don’t have to-“ Derek is quick to start, but Stiles glances at his dad, then shrugs.

“Sure,” he agrees.

“You can sit by me, Sheriff Stilinski,” Scott says solemnly, like he’s bestowing a great honor on him. Looking bemused by the whole thing, the sheriff sits down next to Scott. Which means that Stiles sits down next to him.

Jackson scoots up against the wall to make room, but that “room” still means that Derek is sitting elbow to elbow and thigh to thigh with Stiles; that’s a lot to ask of Derek, first thing in the morning on a Saturday.

“Sorry, we hijacked your breakfast, do you mind?” Stiles asks quietly, as Scott starts grilling the sheriff.

“It’s fine,” Derek says. “I don't want you to feel like you have to hang out with us because you’re Scott’s teacher. This is your free time.”

Stiles blinks. “Of course I don’t hang out with guys because I’m Scott’s teacher, I do it because I like spending time with you.” Stiles explains.

Derek freezes.

“Scott and Jackson are great,” Stiles goes on, oblivious. “But I don’t have to tell you that.”

“I like them,” Derek agrees, heart rate settling.

Stiles laughs. “And thanks again for coming in the other day. Everything still okay with Laura?”

“She’s fine, although apparently no one believes me when I tell them,” Derek says, eyeballing Jackson.

“You’re supposed to get a second opinion from a doctor!” Jackson insists.

Stiles looks like he’s holding in some laughter. “And did you get one?” he asks.

“He had me call Dr. Deaton at home.” Derek explains.

“Derek,” Jackson sighs, like Derek’s embarrassing him.

“No, no, very sensible,” Stiles tells Jackson, winking at Derek.

Derek is thankfully saved from having to take Stiles into his own hands by the waitress arriving with his coffee and asking them if they’re ready to order. When all the exact changes to menu items have been made- bananas instead of strawberries, eggs scrambled, over hard, egg whites only- the sheriff leans back against the seat and leads with, “Good to see you again, Derek. How’s everything at the reserve?”

“Derek actually had an adventure the other day- one of their wolves was missing and he went out to rescue her- and he still made it to Career Day afterward,” Stiles says promptly, before Derek can even open his mouth.

The sheriff shoots Stiles an amused look. “I asked Derek, son,” he says, not unkindly.

Stiles blinks then laughs. “Right, right, sorry! I just realized I’d forgotten to tell you about it. Your show, Derek,” Stiles apologizes.

Derek shrugs, feeling a little embarrassed that this story is still news- it’s just his job. “That’s pretty much it. She broke a leg, but Dr. Deaton says she’ll make a full recovery.”

“The kids at school are obsessed with wolves now,” Stiles adds. “The playground is a mess of howling.”

“They’re not good at like you are, Dad,” Scott says, like it’s a huge disappointment to him. “But I’m not good at it either yet, so maybe it’s just an old thing.”

“It’s a Derek thing. Not all grownups can do it,” Jackson points out.

Derek really can’t believe they’re discussing his howling abilities at breakfast with company.

“You’re good at it?” Stiles prompts, looking fascinated and Derek really can’t handle this morning at all.

“I’m passable,” Derek allows. “It can be useful for figuring out where the pack is, that’s all.”

“Dad is good at lots of things,” Scott says loyally. “He’s really tall, so he can reach stuff on shelves without getting a ladder. He’s also the best at hide and seek.”

Jackson rolls his eyes. “More importantly, sometimes he lets us stay in our pjs all Saturday and watch cartoons.” Jackson says this like Derek cured cancer. He sort of wishes there was a way for him to politely die at the table.

“Oh, and he makes really good peanut butter and jelly. And hamburgers,” Scott adds.

“Now, that one I can vouch for, Dad, they were amazing.” Stiles confirms, grinning. “What else is great about Derek, guys?”

This is seriously going to be the most embarrassing breakfast Derek has ever had.

“Well, he doesn’t read stories as good as you do, Mr. S, but he’s pretty good at that.” Scott offers.

“Ah- that does not count. I went to school for that. I’m sure I wouldn’t be good at taking care of wolves. I am a pro-storyteller, that comparison isn’t fair. Keep going,” Stiles says.

“He can lift really heavy stuff, he lifts weights in the basement,” Jackson suggests.

Their food really needs to arrive to totally derail this conversation.

“Oh, oh! He _does_ do a super amazing Optimus Prime voice. For Transformers time.” Scott tries again.

“Why don’t we talk about things that Mr. S does that are great?” Derek suggests, keeping as much of the desperation out of his voice as he can.

“Dad, everything Mr. S does is great,” Scott says, totally dismissing the idea. The sheriff looks like he’s killing himself trying not to laugh.

“You know I’m going to make you do that Optimus Prime voice some time, right?” Stiles asks him.

Derek shakes his head. “No.” He’s already embarrassing enough around Stiles, he doesn’t need Optimus Prime to add to that.

Stiles is grinning at him and he’s just stupidly close- “It’s gonna happen.” Stiles says and Derek is so distracted by the way Stiles’ nose wrinkles that he misses most of whatever embarrassing thing Jackson says after that.

“Scott, didn’t you have a bunch of questions for the sheriff about police work?” Derek tries in a last-ditch attempt to reroute the conversation.

Scott looks torn for a second, but caves and asks the sheriff if he has handcuffs on him right now.

“Nice deflection,” Stiles tells him when both Jackson and Scott are entranced by the story of a petty thief who could pop his thumbs out of joint to escape cuffs.

“Thanks for egging them on,” Derek says, but he can’t even pretend to be annoyed with Stiles.

Stiles chuckles. “C’mon, you’re like a man of mystery. It’s good to know you understand the importance of Saturday pjs and toons. It’s a philosophy more dads could get behind.” He raises his voice loud enough for the sheriff to hear.

“Nice try. You’re still helping me fix the porch when we get home,” The sheriff says before smoothly segueing back into his story for the boys.

“Busted,” Stiles sighs, but he’s still smiling, and Derek wants to stretch his arm along the back of the booth and play with the soft-looking hair at the nape of Stiles’ neck.

The food finally arrives, which thankfully stops Derek from doing anything stupid. There are an absurd number of plates and they spend a good minute or two just trying to get everyone’s food onto the table.

“Dad,” Scott gestures at his intact waffle and while Derek is trying to think of a way to politely reach across the table to cut it up for him, the sheriff just reaches over and starts.

“Ten-four,” he tells Scott, who looks delighted.

“Are you sure?” Derek asks.

The sheriff rolls his eyes. “I can handle this, go on, start your breakfast.”

Derek does, pausing when he notices Jackson isn’t digging into his pancakes like normal. “Everything okay?”

Jackson starts guiltily. “I just um, wanted to eat my bacon first,” he tries.

Derek raises his eyebrows.

“Oh, sorry, Jackson, I just kept cutting- do you want my pancakes instead?” Sheriff Stilinski has cut Jackson’s pancakes into equally bite-sized pieces.

“No, these are fine, thank you,” Jackson says, like getting the sheriff to cut his pancakes up wasn’t his angle the whole time as he takes a bite with extreme satisfaction.

Derek snorts and just starts eating his eggs. Neither Scott nor Jackson can stand the other one getting any “special treatment.” Scott had once insisted on being put in time out too.

The conversation lapses as everyone is busy eating, which Derek appreciates. First, because that means no one is currently trying to embarrass him, and second, because breakfast foods are for eating and not talking over. He always forgets that he doesn’t eat more than two bites of his hash browns, and should really order something else instead. Scott has demolished his waffle and is back to grilling the sheriff, who is good-naturedly answering between bites of his egg-white omelet.

Derek glances down at his plate and two-thirds of his hash browns are gone. He frowns, but then he notices Stiles’ fork scooping them up absently as he listens to his dad.

“Stiles,” Derek says and Stiles blinks.

“Oh my god, sorry, sorry, I didn’t realize! Um, I ate mine, but do you-“ Stiles starts.

“Don’t really eat potatoes, you can have them.” Derek says, sticking a fork in Stiles’ Canadian bacon.

Stiles stares at him. “You actually eat that?” he asks

Derek shrugs. “It’s breakfast meat.”

“All right, you’re the one getting the bum deal here,” Stiles says, reaching over and taking another forkful of Derek’s potatoes.

Derek catches the sheriff glancing away, eyebrows raised, and knows the sheriff has to know how he feels about Stiles.

And he’d thought this breakfast couldn’t get any more awkward.

Which is when Scott knocks over his orange juice, most of it spilling into his own lap, the rest flying across the table to soak into Derek’s shirt.

“Sorry, sorry!” Scott yelps, scrambling as far back from the table as he can in the booth.

“It’s okay, Scott,” Derek says, passing his napkin over. “I keep a change of clothes out in the truck, I have a shirt in there too.” He turns, expecting Stiles to get out of the booth to let him up, but Stiles blinks and then puts a hand on Derek’s shoulder to keep him down.

“No, no, let me. It’s our fault the table was so crowded, anyway. I’ll grab you your shirt, too.” Stiles says and holds his hand out expectantly. It takes Derek a moment to realize Stiles wants the keys to his car.

“No, I can-“ Derek tries.

“Keys,” Stiles insists.

“He won’t give up, you should probably just give them to him.” Sheriff Stilinski suggests.

Derek feels a little like he’s been steamrolled after all, but he just hands Stiles his keys.

“Come on, Scott,” Stiles says, taking him out to the parking lot.

Sheriff Stilinski just coughs politely. “So, Stiles mentions you guys a lot. He really appreciated that dinner invite. Your burgers must be something else.” he offers.

Derek tries to make a face that suggests that he’s never thought of the sheriff’s son in a sexual context. “Well, Scott idolizes him. What do you think, Jackson?” he asks, because he figures whatever Jackson will say won’t be as damaging as anything he might say.

“Mr. S is pretty cool, and Derek likes him a lot, so he’s okay with me.” he says, mopping up the last of his syrup with his pancakes. “Also, you’re his dad, which is really cool.”

“Thanks, Jackson,” the Sheriff says as Derek is wondering what he did to deserve any of this. “You know, we lost someone really important to us, too. And Stiles took care of me a lot more than I took care of him when that happened. He likes to take care of people, to feel like he’s needed. I think he’s looking for someone, or some people who might need that, too.”

Jackson looks confused and Derek thinks he probably looks the same.

“Family is really important to him, that’s all I’m saying,” Sheriff Stilinski takes a long sip of his coffee.

“Of course,” Derek agrees, wondering if he is interpreting this conversation right at all, because if he is- if he is- “To us, too.”

“Good,” the Sheriff nods.

“Hey,” Stiles says, holding out a park button down to Derek, Scott climbing back up to sit next to the Sheriff. “You guys look serious.”

“Your dad was giving Derek advice,” Jackson says, and then his nose wrinkles. “I think.”

Stiles’ eyebrows fly up. “Oh?” he asks. Derek takes the shirt, swapping places with Stiles.

“Just shop talk,” the Sheriff says easily.

Derek is kind of worried about what other embarrassing stories will come out while he’s in the bathroom, but his shirt’s getting cold and it’d be weird not to use the shirt after Stiles got it for him.

He changes as quickly as he can, but by the time he comes out, they’re all laughing and Sheriff Stilinski has already commandeered the check.

“So apparently, you can swing someone around so fast, they almost throw up,” Stiles says, looking really amused. “We just ate, otherwise I’d make you prove this. Right after the Optimus Prime voice.”

“Not happening,” Derek has a lot of things he’d like to do to Stiles, and none of them involve throwing up.

“Well, how about this instead- I’ve been trying to figure out another field trip for the kids- do you think we could possibly bring the class out to the reserve?” Stiles asks as Derek sits back down next to him, sandwiching Stiles between him and Jackson.

“I don’t see why not. We’ve done it before, I’ll talk to my boss about it.” Derek says with a shrug.

Stiles grins brightly and it’s still way too early for Derek to have to deal with that just inches from his face. “Great, let me know about it on Monday?”

“Sure,” Derek agrees.

“Oh, do you have my cell number? It’s the easiest way to get a hold of me,” Stiles explains, pulling out his phone. “Here, tell me your number and I’ll text you.”

And now you have my number : ) pops up on his phone.

“Good,” Derek says, reflexively. Stiles’ smile in return makes Derek’s heart pound.

The check comes and they reluctantly part ways, mostly because the boys are anxious to get out to the reserve and check on Laura.

“See you in school, guys,” Stiles says cheerfully.

“Nice to meet you both,” the Sheriff says solemnly.

The boys chirp their thank yous and goodbyes, piling into the truck.

“Thanks for breakfast, sir,” Derek repeats, shaking the sheriff’s hand.

“Any time, Derek,” Sheriff Stilinski says, nodding goodbye and getting into the cruiser- leaving Derek and Stiles alone.

“Thanks again for letting us crash your family breakfast,” Stiles says, squinting into the sunlight in a way that crinkles his nose and purses his mouth into something that Derek just wants to take.

“It was good,” Derek counters when he remembers that a response is required and kissing Stiles isn’t an appropriate option.

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, smiling up at Derek and Derek is rapidly losing his self control when there’s a loud and sudden honk from his car and he can hear his kids fighting already.

“Sorry, have to run-“ Derek starts, relieved.

“No, no, go. Talk to you tomorrow?” Stiles asks.

“Count on it,” Derek says, already turning to break up Jackson and Scott’s fight.

The boys spend a couple of hours very, very carefully petting Laura, who’s still under light sedation, mostly so she doesn’t try to walk around on her broken leg. They leave the reserve that afternoon- the boys reassured and weirdly hyper. Derek chooses to unleash this energy letting them fight about what they want to be for Halloween. He’s tried to explain that they don’t have to have a group costume, but they insist, every year. They also usually spend a week arguing about it.

There’s a vicious rock-paper-scissors tournament in the back seat, which ends the fight in a surprisingly early decision- they’d been waffling back and forth between five different choices. Derek’s relieved that Batman and Robin is at least an easy choice, unlike the year they’d wanted to be Bunnicula. Both of them. He’ll run by the party store- without them, he’d learned from the shitstorm of 2010- and pick up the costumes, no problem.

Well, at least, it works in theory until Halloween night, when Scott and Jackson insist that Derek has to dress up too.

“You have to be Alfred, Derek. Batman needs Alfred!” Jackson insists, crossing his bat-arms.

“I don’t have a costume,” Derek protests.

“Yes, you do,” Scott whines. “Alfred wears a suit, you have a suit!”

“He has that towel thing, we can take that from the kitchen,” Jackson adds, with the air of someone holding all the aces.

Which is how Derek ends up wearing his only good suit with a dishtowel over his arm, following his kids around the neighborhood as they beg for candy that will make Derek’s life a nightmare for the duration of its existence.

Which is absolutely why they knock on a completely average door and Stiles answers it.

“Mr. S!” Scott shouts, deliriously excited.

“Hey, Robin! What are you and Batman doing out tonight? Evil doers on the streets of Gotham?” Stiles asks, crouching down to their eye level. He glances up at Derek with a grin. “And you needed Alfred, too? Man, all hands on deck!”

“No one else has known who he was,” Jackson breathes out, impressed. Derek’s not sure if he’s pleased or unimaginably embarrassed. “All these moms kept saying James Bond, but duh, James Bond doesn’t have a towel thing.”

“Well, he’s a little young for Alfred,” Stiles explains. “Now, down to the really serious business.”

Both boys perk up.

“What do you want from this giant bowl of candy?” Stiles brings it out from behind him and god, he’s probably going to let them take handfuls.

Scott and Jackson exchange gleeful looks, but Stiles lifts it up at the last second.

“I do have a fee, however- group picture.” he says solemnly. “All my students are required.”

Derek moves to step out of the frame and Stiles raises his eyebrows.

“Excuse me, group photo.” Stiles pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. “Alright, say ‘crime fighting’,”

“Crime fighting!” the boys chorus, and Derek feels a single involuntary eyebrow rise. The flash is blinding for a phone and Derek is still blinking spots out of his eyes as the boys are picking all the good stuff out of the bowl and lining their bags with candy.

“How’s the haul this year?” Stiles asks.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Significantly better now,” he says as Scott picks out all the almond joys. God, what a weird kid. “Is this where you live?”

“Oh, no, this is my dad’s house. He’s always out on Halloween, you know, catching miscreants engaging in youthful misdemeanors. But he feels bad that there’s no one ever here to give out candy, so, here I am.”

“Okay, stop, there won’t be candy left for anyone else,” Derek says to the boys. Christ, they must have taken half the bowl.

“Thanks for the candy, Mr. S,” Scott chirps, the happy sound of someone who is going to eat all the sugar in the world and crash so very hard in thirty minutes.

“Yeah, thanks,” Jackson echoes, staring into his significantly heavier looking bag.

“You’re definitely welcome, Dark Knight, Boy Wonder.” Stiles says. He glances at Derek again and smiles mischievously before tucking something into Derek’s breast pocket. “Don’t look so sour, Pennyworth.”

“Bye, see you Monday,” Scott calls as he and Jackson are already running off in hot pursuit of the next candy dealer.

Derek manages a distracted, “Later, Stiles,” behind him as he instinctively chases after them. He fishes in the bottom of his pocket to find a packet of Sourpatch Kids. Derek snorts.

The boys make it through about another neighborhood before they start to droop. By the time they’re back on their own street, Derek has Scott over his shoulder in a fireman carry, dead to the world, and is carrying both bags of candy. He’s leading Jackson by the hand, and Derek thinks his eyes might actually be closed. He can’t get away with holding Jackson’s hand anymore while he’s fully awake- he sort of misses it. But Jackson’s eight now and “too big” for hand holding these days.

He must be getting sentimental, because he just squeezes Jackson’s hand and leads them home. He has to carry them both up the stairs- he’s probably just lucky that they were too tired to gorge themselves on candy.

Halloween was on a school night, so they’re up early the next morning, Scott and Jackson yawning their way through breakfast. Derek mandates no more than any five pieces of candy, despite whining complaints.

When he gets to the office- five “borrowed” pieces of candy in tow himself, including Stiles’ Sourpatch Kids- his boss pulls him aside.

“Derek, do you know why I’ve gotten 20 requests from parents for a field trip since last week? Mentioning you by name, specifically?” Anna asks.

“Oh,” Derek says, feeling sort of embarrassed. “I did Career Day for Scott’s class, I guess the kids were interested. Scott’s teacher actually wanted me to ask if they could have a field trip.”

Anna eyeballs Derek for a second. “I bet. Well, it’s fine with me, just put it on the calendar on a day where Deaton’s not scheduled.” she says.

Talked to my boss, field trip is a go. What day? Derek texts Stiles. About a half an hour later, his phone buzzes on his desk.

Really?! That’s amazing!!! How about two weeks from today? Stiles sends back. Derek glances out toward the group calendar.

Done. Make sure the kids wear clothes that can be in a stable.

Oh my god they’re going to freak you’re my hero

Diana tells Derek his smile is creeping her out.

At the end of the week, Scott comes home with a permission slip and a bunny.

“Scott?” Derek says, trying to figure out why Scott has the class rabbit.

“Yeah, Dad?” Scott asks.

“Is there a reason you have the rabbit?” Derek folds his arms over his chest.

“Oh, oops,” Scott says. “I was supposed to ask you.”

“Yeah, that would have been good,” Derek sighs. “Well, how are we supposed to take care of it?”

Scott looks down at the cage. “Uh oh,” he says.

Derek raises his eyebrows expectantly.

“Um, so I think I lost the instructions.” Scott says slowly.

Derek takes a deep breath.

They try to google it, but there’s conflicting information and stuff about poop that just can’t be right and Scott can’t remember anything other than that you’re not supposed to take Bugs out of the cage unless all the doors are closed.

After an hour of this, Derek just gives up and calls Stiles.

“Hey, Derek, what’s up?” Stiles asks, sounding cheerful, not at all like he minds having one of his students' parent calling on his Friday evening.

“So, Scott brought home the rabbit,” Derek starts.

Stiles groans. “He didn’t clear it with you, did he. Okay, sorry, I can come get him-“

“No, no, it’s fine, he just lost the instructions. I have a bag of timothy hay and some pellets and no idea what to do with them. All I know about rabbits is that wolves like to eat them.” Derek explains.

“Okay, I’m headed over to my dad’s place anyway to grab some old boxes of stuff- I can drop off the instructions?” Stiles offers.

“Thanks,” Derek says.

“Not a problem. See you in 30 or so minutes?”

“Sure,” Derek agrees.

“Mr. S is coming over?” Jackson asks, head in the fridge.

“Yes, and you,” He pokes Scott in the stomach. “Have to apologize for losing the instructions and making him come over.”

“Yes, dad,” Scott parrots obediently.

The boys want to play with the rabbit outside, which means Derek has to get out the fencing they got for Laura when she was a pup. Which also means he’s covered in dust and spider webs, just like the fence sections. It’s really just a glorified, sturdier chicken wire octagon, but Derek hoses it down and jams it into the ground and the boys pretty much cram themselves in there with the rabbit immediately.

Derek’s hosing down his arms- which feel like there are still stray spiders crawling on them- when Stiles pokes his head around the corner.

“He—eeeeey,” Stiles says, pausing. “Sorry, I rang the bell, but then when no one answered, I just followed the sound of children.”

“Yeah, they wanted to bring the rabbit out and I didn’t want poop all over the house. Compromise.” Derek turns off the hose.

“And free fertilizer,” Stiles says with a grin. “Here are the instructions, but um, you’re sort of wet, so I’ll just hang onto them for now?”

Derek shrugs. “They’ll be busy with the rabbit. Want a cup of coffee?”

Stiles’ smile turns small and pleased and Derek wants to know what it feels like against his mouth. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

“We’re going inside, do not go anywhere or let the rabbit out,” Derek yells over at the boys.

“Hi, Mr. S! Bye, Mr. S!” Scott shouts and Jackson waves.

“Milk and sugar for you, right?” Derek says, thinking back to Saturday breakfast.

“Yep, thanks. Until it’s hardly coffee,” Stiles elaborates.

Derek snorts, but he does as instructed.

“Thanks again for arranging for the field trip. The kids are dying of excitement. I can’t imagine it won’t be, but I hope it’s not too disruptive.” Stiles says, sipping his coffee. He makes a pleased, surprised noise that’s… distracting. “This coffee is perfect.”

“Good. And don’t worry. I want you to come. To the reserve.” Derek adds belatedly.

“Well, if you’re sure,” Stiles says, looking faintly amused.

“I am,” Derek pours himself a cup.

Stiles opens his mouth to say something, but there’s shrieking coming from the back yard and Derek can’t tell if it’s good or bad yelling, so he just runs out, Stiles hot on his heels.

“Dad! Worms! Gross! Cool!” Scott and Jackson shout over each other.

“Jesus,” Derek mutters under his breath, his heart starting to beat normally again.

“They’re aerorating the soil!” Scott yells happily.

Aerating,” Jackson corrects, rolling his eyes.

“Great,” Derek yells back, rubbing a hand over his face. They’re going to give him a heart attack some day.

“Oh, hey, thanks for the coffee, but I better run, my dad’s waiting,” Stiles says in a rush, his face looking flushed. “The instructions are on the counter! See you next week!”

Stiles is gone before Derek can even say goodbye- he’s left blinking and confused on the deck.

“Okay,” he mutters to himself.

He still has no idea why Stiles booked it out of the house by the following Thursday, which is also the day of the field trip. Derek doesn’t think he said anything weird, or really did anything weird.

He’s told himself a hundred times to stop thinking about it, but then instead he thinks about how he shouldn’t be thinking about it. Which is pretty much the same as thinking about it.

It doesn’t really help that he gets to work and Diana and Anna bust out laughing at him.

“What?” he demands.

Anna’s wheezing too hard to talk, but Diana manages a garbled sentence. “You look like the Marlboro Man.”

Derek glances down at himself. He’d worn some of his better jeans, and his boots, since they were going into the stable, and predictably, someone would ask him to actually ride a horse. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“Seriously?” Anna gasps out, still laughing. “I’ve known you for almost ten years, I will know if you’re bullshitting me- who are you trying to impress today?”

“You look like the cover of a romance novel. Button your shirt!” Diana waves her hand at him. “You’re going to make the chaperone moms go to confession.”

“You’re both nuts,” Derek mutters, heading for the relative safety of his office.

His phone buzzes.

See you in a couple of hours! Kids are DYING!

Derek steels himself for a bunch of hyper, over-excited kids who will want to touch and probably lick everything.

He is so unprepared.

He can hear the bus coming down the highway- weird, high-pitched howls echoing out the open windows. Derek can practically see the kids vibrating with excitement, before the bus doors open. This calls for desperate measures.

The moment the bus doors open and the kids start piling out, howling at the top of their lungs, Derek whistles as loudly as he can. The kids fall into shocked silence.

“Does everyone remember me? Mr. Hale, Scott’s dad?” he asks, authoritative, but as gently as he can. The kids nod. “Okay, welcome to the Beacon Hills nature reserve. We have a lot to look at and do today, so I want you to think of yourselves as a big wolf pack. Now, wolf packs have an alpha wolf, who’s in charge of everybody. I’m your alpha. Sti- Mr. S is your other alpha. Following the rules is very important in a pack- and the first rule is that you have to listen to the alpha. You got that, pack?”

The kids nod like they’re mesmerized.

“You can always ask me questions,” Derek says.

“But one at a time and raise your hands, just like in class,” Stiles adds, from the back of the group.

“Right,” Derek agrees. “Do you remember what I said about what a nature reserve was?”

A sweet looking blond girl raises her hand.

“Yes?” Derek asks, crouching down.

“It’s a place where you keep plants and animals safe,” she recites carefully.

“Absolutely,” Derek agrees. “I’m going to show you how we do that, and some of the animals we take care of here.”

After that, it goes surprisingly smoothly. He shows them the models of the reserve, lets them meet Anna and Diana, who show the kids the tracking software and the big light up map that doesn’t really work but makes people think they’re seeing where the wolves are. He doesn’t really have a moment off until he takes them to the stables, shows them how to keep their palms flat out with the sugar cube to get the horses to eat them. He uses Scott as a volunteer, ruffling his hair as one of the big studs hoovers the sugar off his palm perfectly. The kids are having a great time, staring up at the horses in wonder, and Derek thinks he sees some of the chaperones sneakily feeding the horses too.

“You know, you’re really really good at this,” Stiles says. Derek isn’t sure when Stiles snuck up on him, but he’s right at Derek’s elbow. “Why don’t you guys have this as a permanent program? I’m sure the older grades could adapt it to ecology and other things, too.”

“We’d probably need another staff member to do it and we don’t really have the funding,” Derek admits. “It’s good to see the kids get to interact with animals. A lot of them don’t, outside of dogs and cats.”

“Well, thanks for letting us come out and meet the animals,” Stiles says, smiling up at him. There’s a smudge of dust on his nose and it’s actually a relief when one of the kids ask if he can show them how to ride a horse.

Derek saddles up one of the older, slower horses and has Stiles usher the kids out of the barn into the pen before riding out. He calls out simple tips, like sitting up straight and steering with your thighs, not the reins.

“You have a question,” Stiles calls out, pointing out a boy with his hand up.

“Shoot,” Derek calls, steering the horse over.

“Is this the horse you were riding when you saved the wolf?” he asks.

“Nope. Bumble is an older horse, he’s a little slow. So I rode Thor, he’s our fastest.” Derek explains, dismounting, leading Bumble back into the stable.

“Another question,” Stiles calls out.

“That cat is on a horse. Can cats ride horses?” another little boy asks.

Derek pauses a second. “No, they can’t. But barn cats are sometimes friends with horses.” After Derek’s done putting Bumble back, Stiles reappears at his elbow.

“What’s next?” Stiles asks.

Derek shrugs. “That’s pretty much it, there’s really not anywhere else that’s safe to show them.”

“Dad, Dad,” Scott says, tugging on Derek’s shirt. “Dad, you need to show them the howl!”

Oh, god.

Stiles is grinning maniacally. It is actually the perfect time to do it- the sun is starting to set, winter-early, and the wolves will howl back.

“Okay,” Derek sighs. He whistles and rounds up the pack, bringing them back out to the pen.

“Pack, I’m going to howl, and if we listen quietly, we might be able to hear the wolves howl back.” Derek explains. Suppressing how ultimately embarrassing this is going to be, Derek tilts his head back and howls as loudly as he can.

There’s a long pause but coming back faintly from the north is an answering howl.

When the kids hear it they burst out into cheers and howls of their own.

“Ok, I was not expecting that,” Stiles says, staring at Derek. “You have any other secret skills you’re not telling me about? Other than the Optimus Prime voice?”

“Scott told you about the howling, it wasn’t a secret,” Derek points out.

“Yeah, but he didn’t say you could do that,” Stiles waves a hand at Derek.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to see,” Derek says.

Anna steps out, tapping her watch- wrap up. Derek gets them the activity books to take home with them- simple puzzles and coloring sheets and loads them back on the bus.

“See you later, pack,” Derek calls.

“What do we say, class?” Stiles asks.

They howl back a thank you.

They’re in the supermarket a couple of days before Thanksgiving, when one of Scott’s classmates sees them in the freezer aisle with his mom and he immediately howls.

Derek is about to apologize to the kid’s mom when Scott and Jackson howl back, a short bark of a howl.

“Um,” Derek finally says.

She laughs. “Don’t worry about it. He’s been doing it for weeks. You must be the infamous Derek Hale. Kari Walker.” They shake hands. “Beth told me about the field trip to the reserve, it sounded great.”

“Thanks?” Derek says.

“We have to run, but nice meeting you,” Kari says, ushering her son down the aisle. Derek turns the corner and literally runs his shopping cart into Stiles’.

“Hey, you,” Stiles says cheerfully. “I thought I heard howling.”

“Yeah,” Derek says.

Stiles glances into Derek’s cart. “You already got your turkey? You’re shopping kind of light.” Stiles’ cart has the suggested turkey, loaves of French bread, vegetables and potatoes piled in.

“We usually have Thanksgiving with our neighbor, Sharon, but she’s going out of town this year to her cousin’s. It’ll just be a regular dinner, I guess.” Derek shrugs.

Stiles stares at Derek like Derek just slapped him. “You’re having Thanksgiving with me.” he says.

“What?” Derek asks, convinced he heard wrong.

“I mean us, I mean me and my dad. We cook too much food every year, we eat leftovers until we want to die. Come on over, no one should miss turkey and stuffing.” Stiles insists.

“Are you sure-“ Derek starts but he’s interrupted by Scott and Jackson staring up at him desperately.

“Dad, can we?” Scott asks.

“Please?” Jackson adds. Derek can see the edge of a box of pop tarts in his hand.

“Put back the pop tarts and we’ll talk,” Derek says. Jackson sighs, but puts the box back on the shelf.

“Are you sure, Stiles?” Derek tries again.

“Absolutely.” Stiles says. “C’mon. Save me and my dad from tryptophan poisoning.”

“Okay,” Derek says. “What can we bring?”

Stiles laughs. “Uh-uh. That’s my rule, all the real dishes must be Stilinski family recipes. You can bring another pie.”

“Okay, sure, we can bring the pie,” Derek says.

Stiles shakes his head. “Don’t get crazy. I said you could bring a pie. There’s going to be more than one.”

“Okay,” Derek repeats, shaking his head. “Thanks for the invitation.”

“You’re the one doing me the favor- I don’t need five servings of stuffing this year.” Stiles says. “I have to run and get this bird home, but see you Thursday- my dad’s house, you remember where it is, right? His kitchen is better.”

“Sure,” Derek nods. “Jackson, pop tarts back on the shelf.”

The boys come home the next day, solemnly telling him that Stiles is making pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, so Derek has to make something else.

“Cherry, Dad, cherry,” Jackson says solemnly.

“With ice cream!” Scott adds emphatically.

Derek sighs, but heads for the computer. He googles “cherry pie” and- ignoring a lot of traumatizing links- sees a recipe for a sour cherry pie. He snorts, which means Stiles will laugh, and he’s sold.

He’s reading the recipe and everything’s making sense, until he gets to the part about making the pie crust and no. Just no. The rest of the pie is mixing, stirring, and putting into an oven, plain enough, but the pie crust looks more complicated than anything should be.

“Yeah, we’re buying the crust,” Derek mutters to himself.

He handles the rest of it- and Wednesday afternoon, he throws it all together. Derek doesn’t really know how to “lattice” it, despite the overly-detailed instructions, so he lets the boys do it. It’s more… artistic than accurate.

But from the expression on Stiles’s face when he opens the door to find the three of them there on his dad’s doorstep, it’s the best thing he’s ever seen.

“You guys made it!” Stiles says, as Jackson hands Stiles the pie. “This is perfect, thanks, Jackson!”

“I helped,” Scott adds immediately.

“I’m sure you did. Did Derek earn his keep?” Stiles asks, glancing over with a little smile.

“Derek did the baking. And the mixing.” Jackson admits grudgingly.

“Well, thanks to you too, then.” Stiles tells Derek as he sniffs the pie. “Oh my god, cherry. Oh- get in, get inside, it’s cold, I’m a terrible host.”

They remove all their layers of winter coating- the weather turned bitterly cold two days ago and promises to stay that way all winter- to find the house warm and filled with the perfect smells of fall. Everything smells rich and savory, including Stiles as he brushes past with the pie to get into the dining room.

“Good to see you again, Derek,” Sheriff Stilinski says, sticking out a hand to shake.

“You too, sir,” Derek replies automatically.

Sheriff Stilinski gives him an amused look. “I’m pretty sure you can call me John, Derek.”

“Right, right,” Derek says, stupidly nervous. “Thank you for letting us crash your Thanksgiving.”

“Well, it’ll be nice to have a big Thanksgiving again. Haven’t had one this big since Stiles was a kid.” John says, sounding a little wistful.

“Sheriff, Sheriff,” Scott insists, dragging John away to explain something to him and Jackson. He’s pointing at a picture of Stiles in the back of a police cruiser, maybe a little older than Jackson in the photo, with ridiculous buzzed short hair.

“Oh, god, I’ll never be able to be an authority figure again after they see the picture of me in 8th grade,” Stiles sighs mournfully from behind Derek, walking through toward the kitchen.

As intrigued as Derek is, he can’t help but follow Stiles. “Can I help with anything?” he offers. Stiles is checking on four different things, all at the same time.

“I have this down to an exact science, so if you do anything right now other than sit at that counter and drink a beer, this will all come tumbling down around our shoulders and you’ll ruin Thanksgiving. So you should sit and have a beer.” Stiles says, teasing, as he stirs something. “Second shelf, behind the cider that we’re mulling later, so don’t drink it.”

Derek does as he’s told.

“Now,” Stiles says, smiling widely, seemingly done checking all the things. “Hi. Thanks again for the pie.”

“It doesn’t really seem like an adequate return for all of this,” Derek is just staring at all the dishes around the kitchen. “Also, should I rescue your dad from my kids?”

Stiles snorts. “Please. He’s been sighing over me growing up for years, let him have some kid time again. He was so mad he missed you guys at Halloween.” Stiles glances at the stove. “You know, on second thought, if I can put you to work peeling potatoes, that’d be great. No pressure.”

“I think I can manage that,” Derek says, snorting.

“Now, the key is to leave a little bit of peel on. Fiber. You get manly mashed potatoes that way,” Stiles wags his eyebrows in a way he probably thinks looks wise.

“So basically, you want me to do a subpar job on these,” Derek starts peeling into the bowl provided to him, leaving a little bit of peel behind on the potato.

“Call it what you will, you’ll be thanking me come dinner time.” Stiles sing-songs.

“If you say so,” Derek says.

“You have gotta learn to trust me,” Stiles sighs. “I wouldn’t steer you wrong on mashed potatoes.”

“This is me trusting you, Stiles. Otherwise I’d just peel them the right way.” Derek points out.

“Then no questioning- this is not a kitchen democracy,” Stiles says firmly, peeking into the oven. It lets out a mouthwatering series of smells- turkey and apples and onions.

“How long until it’s done?” Derek asks, because the sooner he starts eating this meal, the better.

Stiles grins. “Well, as soon as the potatoes are done, I can have you mash while I make the green beans,” Stiles answers, nodding to the pile of unpeeled potatoes.

“Alright, I got it,” Derek says, reapplying himself. It’s quick work, though, and Derek drops them, quartered, into the pot of water Stiles has waiting for him, garlic cloves bobbing along the top.

“Thanks,” Stiles says, turning the heat on high. “Now we wait.”

They sit at the counter, snapping off the tops, deveining beans into a colander. Stiles seems comfortable in the kitchen, at ease. He can faintly hear the boys shrieking cheerfully outside. His hands brush against Stiles’ every so often, tossing the prepared beans together.

He doesn’t think he’s felt this relaxed in years- this happy.

It’s a little frightening, honestly.

The timing works out perfectly- Stiles has him finishing the potatoes- “a little lumpy!”- while he throws an obscene amount of butter into the green beans. As soon as they’re done, he’s pulling things out of the oven, left and right- stuffing, the Norman Rockwell turkey. He cranks the oven up, throwing in the sweet potatoes to broil, marshmallows growing puffy and caramel brown.

“Thank you, kitchen assistant,” Stiles says, as they pivot and turn around each other. “Can you take these out to the dining room? There are trivets and pads and stuff to put the hot things on.”

Derek is all too happy to be told to get out of the kitchen- before he does something stupid, like stop Stiles mid-stir and kiss him senseless in his father’s kitchen.

His father, who brings Scott and Jackson in when Stiles opens the kitchen window and yells them in, carves the turkey perfectly. John deals out pieces of white meat and plates ring around and around the table, picking up side dishes and arms stretch up and over, passing gravy and cranberry sauce. Everyone brings their best eating game to the table, but there’s still an inconceivable amount of food left over.

He feels like he should be offering to help clean up, but Stiles refuses.

“The only thing anyone is doing is migrating from the dining room to the living room to lay on the couch for at least an hour, whereupon pies will be consumed. Putting anything away will just have to wait.” Stiles insists.

There’s certainly no argument from the rest of the table- the boys already look drowsy eyed and they all pile into the living room, collapsing into sofas. The boys end up on the bigger couch, half leaning on each other while John takes the third seat. There’s still plenty of room- enough that Derek probably should take it and not join Stiles on the other couch, which is really more of a loveseat.

“C’mon, this one’s closer to the tv, they’re all going to fall asleep in a minute, anyway,” Stiles says, patting the seat next to him.

Well, it would be rude to sit anywhere else now.

He’s hyperaware of Stiles just inches away, feet tucked up under himself. Derek wants to draw him out, pull Stiles’ legs across his lap, tangle them together. Instead he tries to watch the game- the afternoon match wrapping up with the promise of the evening game ahead. It’s incredibly difficult to focus on anything but the contented sighs Stiles lets out at odd intervals, though.

They’ve barely made it through two commercials when Stiles gets a little twitchy. “I'm going to make some coffee- you want some? Irish, regular, decaf?” Stiles bounds up and off the couch. “Don’t want to end up like the life of the party over there.”

Derek glances over and sure enough, John, Scott and Jackson are all sound asleep. “Coffee, sure. You want a hand?”

Stiles waves him off. “Nah, I got this. You’re milk, no sugar, right?”

Derek is surprised, but nods.

Stiles grins. “I thought so.” He wanders off into the kitchen, looking pleased with himself.

Derek wonders what it would be like if this was something he could take for granted- family for the holidays, someone to know how he likes his coffee, someone who seems to make everything easier, make them all better and happier just by being around. But it’s not just someone he wants, it’s Stiles- he wants Stiles to want them at holidays, he wants to bring him that first cup still in bed on Saturday mornings. It’s not a new feeling, but Derek is brought up short by how badly he wants it all- everything he can have, everything Stiles will give him.

He can hear dishes clinking in the kitchen and he’s not watching the game, anyway, so he goes to check on Stiles.

“Hey, it’ll just be a couple of minutes for the coffee, sorry,” Stiles says.

Derek shrugs. “I’m not in any hurry. I just wanted to see if you needed a hand.”

Stiles furrows his eyebrows. “You really want to help me clean up? You’re a guest, you don’t have to.”

“I ate, the least I can do is clean up,” Derek offers, feeling stupidly disgruntled at being called a guest.

“Okay, you can help me shovel things into take out containers for you guys.” Stiles says, bringing out a bunch of Tupperware. “Because believe me, you’re taking most of this home with you.”

“You sure?” Derek asks.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles heaps potatoes in. “Half the point of Thanksgiving is the leftovers and the leftover sandwiches. We’ll have more than enough.”

Everything goes in the fridge, but there’s a towering stack of containers set aside for them to take home. Stiles pours him a cup of coffee, with just enough milk in it.

“Thanks um, for coming,” Stiles says, wrapping his hands around his mug. “I know I kind of strong armed you into it, but-“

“No, it was just what they needed.” Derek glances out toward the living room where Jackson and Scott are slumped over on each other, sprawling over John, too.

“What-“ Stiles pauses for a second, before blurting out the rest. “What about what you need?”

Derek just needs one thing, and he's coming up short on reasons why he shouldn’t just lean across the kitchen counter and kiss Stiles. He’s letting himself move- like the inevitable pull of gravity tugging him closer- but then Scott is stumbling into to the room, bleary-eyed, mumbling about the bathroom.

“Sure, no problem,” Stiles says, steering Scott out and around the corner.

Derek sucks in a deep breath and blows it out noisily, rubbing hard at his face with his hands.

“Get it together, Hale,” he mutters to himself. No matter what he wants, the boys come first, always. Stiles is Scott’s teacher, that’s all.

Stiles comes back, without Scott. “Um, sorry, where were we?” he asks sheepishly.

“Nothing, I was just going to thank you again for inviting the boys over. We’ve never had a Thanksgiving like this before,” Derek says, resolved to stay professional.

“Well, my pleasure,” Stiles replies, although he looks a little surprised.

“Do I smell coffee?” John asks, stumbling into the kitchen, not unlike Scott, minutes earlier.

Stiles hums a positive answer. “Let me get you a cup.”

It seems like everyone else is up now, ready for pie and the next football game- whatever moment, if they were even having one, is gone. They leave the house with a standing invite to come over for the playoffs in a couple of weeks, John clapping a hand on Derek’s shoulder before giving both of the boys a friendly pat on the head, Jackson not even complaining about his hair.

Stiles, of course, sends him home with leftover pie pieces in one of the pie plates, which means that when they’ve eaten the pie- much sooner than he anticipated- he needs to return the plate.

Which then leads Derek to realize that he has no idea where Stiles lives. He knows where John lives, and thus where Stiles grew up, but he thinks Stiles has an apartment somewhere else. He’s been trying to limit his contact with Stiles to things that are purely parental, but it’s hard when Stiles will text him in the middle of the afternoon with things like was that a flurry? Was it?!

So he feels like maybe it’s ok to text him Hey, should I return your pie plate to you or your dad?

Ooh, to me please!

Derek furrows his brows. how?

oh, I can come get it if you don’t want to drop it by my place?

Derek rolls his eyes. I don’t know where it is

His phone immediately starts ringing, flashing up on that picture of Stiles in the Mickey ears he’d keyed into Stiles’ contact information on Scott’s orders.

“Hey, sorry, sorry, just thought this would be easier,” Stiles says. “I totally forgot you’ve never been to my apartment.”

“I had mostly assumed you lived with your dad,” Derek puts the plate in a grocery bag.

“No, we both agreed it was too sad for a single male kindergarten teacher to live with his father,” Stiles says cheerfully. “I’m over in that apartment complex behind the Safeway? You know the one I mean?”

“Yeah,” Derek grabs the keys. “Is now okay?”

“Sure, sure. Building three, apartment number four, it’s the one that looks least like a frat house.” Stiles explains. “See you soon!”

“Least like a frat house” still leaves the suggestion “still looks like a dirty frat house” totally open. The buildings are just a little depressing looking, like someone sprays them down to prevent mold once every five years and calls it a day.

The door, when opened, squeaks a little and even as Stiles greets him with thanks disproportionate to driving for ten minutes and carrying a plate, Derek’s eyes can’t help but flick around the apartment, cataloguing. There’s essentially nothing up on the walls, with the exclusion of a few posters, unframed and stuck up with tape. Other than the abundance of craft materials everywhere, there’s nothing else to suggest it’s Stiles’ apartment.

It’s sort of depressing, which- this is coming from a guy who used cinderblocks to support a mattress in his shitty college apartment. Derek isn’t big on interior decorating- by any stretch of the imagination, but his house isn’t… bare like this is.

“Yeah, I know, I haven’t really done anything with the place,” Stiles scrubs a hand over his hair, apparently watching Derek’s eyes flick from the Inglourious Basterds poster to the futon- which better not be Stiles’ bed. “I mean to, but then I get home and there’s always something to do for school and I just never get around to it.”

“It’s probably the shoeboxes full of glitter and pipe cleaners.” Derek can actually see a box labeled ‘more glitter.’

“Okay, true,” Stiles concedes. “It’s like an addiction. And you know, at home, watching some Ninja Warrior, you can really get some stuff done. It just made sense to keep some stuff here.”

“Do you do… all the stuff here?” Derek says, frowning. The papier mache cave would barely make it out the door. “How do you get it-“

“Through the door?” Stiles finishes. “Well, sections, you know. And the jeep is always good for a haul.”

“You need more space,” Derek accidentally says out loud.

Stiles shrugs, his nose wrinkling a little as he makes a face. “Well, I can use the art room, but uh, have you ever been alone in an elementary school at night? It is creepy to a level The Shining can only aspire to.”

“You can use the garage,” Derek’s mouth offers, independent of his brain.

Stiles just raises his eyebrows, confused.

Derek bites down on the urge to sigh. Well, he’s already said it. “We never park the car in the garage. If you needed somewhere to do school projects, there’s a work bench in there.”

“Oh! Oh,” Stiles says thoughtfully. “I mean, that’d be great, but… Are you sure? I don’t want to take advantage?”

“Of my empty garage? Really putting me out,” Derek crosses his arms so he doesn’t fidget.

“Okay, Sourpatch,” Stiles teases with a grin. “You know you’ve condemned yourself to glitter for life, right? If I spill so much as a teaspoon, you will be finding it until judgment day.”

“If I couldn’t handle a mess, would I have two boys under ten in the house?” Derek points out.

“Alright, alright, Mr. Tough Guy. We’ll see what you say when you’re still tasting the rainbow of glitter when Scott’s in college.” Stiles says. “This is my prophecy. We will all perish in the apocalypse, leaving glitter and cockroaches.”

“Your visions are terrifying,” Derek tells him, stupidly charmed.

“I’m like Cassandra,” Stiles sighs. “I’ve tried to warn people, but no one listens.”

“Well, come over whenever,” Derek says. “Just try not to blow the house up.”

“You have such high hopes for me,” Stiles says wryly.

Derek bites back his first five responses. His not-hitting-on-Stiles plan isn’t great, but it’s working. Except for the part where he’s in Stiles’ kitchen and all he wants to do is take Stiles out of this shitty apartment and into his garage, which- doesn’t sound right at all.

“House rule,” Derek finally tries.

“I’ll see what I can do about that,” Stiles says, the smallest smile curling up the side of his mouth, and Derek has to go before he tries to kiss Stiles.

Derek escapes by pointing out he left Jackson and Scott with Sharon and he should get back- Stiles ushers him out, thanking Derek again for the pie plate return. He spends twenty seconds behind his steering wheel, sitting stupidly in park, wondering if he’s ever going to stop wanting Stiles.

If it’s going to happen, it had better be soon. His life is starting to sound like a Lifetime movie.

Derek feels like god and everyone in this Lowes is judging him as he waits in the hardware store, getting an extra key cut. He has a set, Sharon has one and now- a key for Stiles.

He figures it’s only fair- the garage isn’t heated. It has a space heater in it, but there’s no sense in offering the space if Stiles is just going to freeze to death in it. He also has no idea how he’s actually going to give Stiles this key without being completely obvious and creepy.

In the end, when he gets a text three days later asking hey can I come over after school tomorrow pinwheel shenanigans? he decides non-confrontation is the better part of not looking like a crazy person.

Derek leaves the key along with a note- that may have required ten separate attempts to draft: Let yourself into the house whenever, help yourself to the fridge

The boys will be over at Sharon’s, and thus not in Stiles’ hair, which will hopefully allow him to actually get things done. When Derek pulls up, Stiles’ jeep is still in the driveway and Sharon sends him back over to his own house.

“He had a key,” Sharon says, both eyebrows raised, smiling.

“Don’t start,” Derek sighs.

He detours through the garage to see a crate full of silver, green, and gold pinwheels, probably almost a hundred of them. When he gets into the kitchen, he can hear faint voices from the living room.

“They didn't think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters. Mrs. Potter was Mrs. Dursley's sister, but they hadn't met for several years; in fact, Mrs. Dursley pretended she didn't have a sister, because her sister and her good-for-nothing husband were as un-Dursleyish as it was possible to be.” Stiles is sitting in the center of the couch, Scott and Jackson on either side. The three of them are under the blanket they keep on the back of the couch, the boys clutching mugs of what Derek assumes is cocoa.

“The Dursleys shuddered to think what the neighbors would say if the Potters arrived in the street. The Dursleys knew that the Potters had a small son, too, but they had never even seen him. This boy was another good reason for keeping the Potters away; they didn’t want Dudley mixing with a child like that.” Stiles continues as Derek leans against the doorframe.

He has to admit that Stiles is a part of their lives now- it doesn’t feel strange to come home to find Stiles reading to Scott and Jackson- it feels right. Stiles feels like family.

He just wishes it was… in a different way, that’s all.

Scott glances up. “Dad!” he cries happily. “Mr. S was here and when he was done he said he’d read for us!”

“I picked Harry Potter,” Jackson adds. “Mr. S is going to do voices.”

“This is probably not what you expected when you gave me a key,” Stiles grins. “But they asked so nicely.”

“You don’t mind?” Derek checks.

“Of course not,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes.

“Well, I’ll start dinner, then,” Derek suggests. “Chicken and potatoes ok?”

“Oh,” Stiles says, like he’s surprised.

“They’ll make you earn your dinner,” Derek nods at the boys.

“Um, sure. Thanks,” Stiles smiles and Derek thinks he’s lucky Stiles doesn’t realize that dinner is just an excuse to keep him here longer.

There is a strategic retreat to the kitchen, and after a moment, the sound of Stiles reading starts up again. The whole meal is basically throwing things in the oven to roast, which leaves him back in the doorway, the oven timer ticking away.

“Stop hovering in the doorway,” Stiles insists. “Harry’s in Diagon Alley, I strongly suspect Mr. Ollivander is about to give him a very significant wand.”

Derek snorts, but Scott holds the corner of the blanket up next to him. Figuring Scott is as good a buffer zone as anything, he scoops him up and sits down, Scott curled up in his lap.

Stiles stares for a second, bites his lip, but then reads on about holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches long.

The oven timer dings as Harry is making friends on the train, and Derek plops Scott back down on the couch. Stiles pauses and half-stands before Derek waves him off.

“Finish the chapter, I’ll get dinner ready.” Derek says.

“Thanks, Dad,” Scott chirps in unison with Jackson’s “Thanks, Derek.”

“Uh huh,” Derek rolls his eyes. He’s just finishing dishing up the fourth plate as the boys come running in.

“Perfect timing,” Stiles grins, taking a plate and setting it out on the table for Derek. “Mmm, that smells so good.”

Derek hates that he memorizes the noise Stiles makes when he takes his first bite.

“I know what Scott did at school today because I was there, but what does Ms. Harper have you doing, Jackson?” Stiles asks.

Jackson pauses for a second, the calculating face he makes when he’s trying to figure out how to get an extra serving of dessert. It’s a face that probably means nothing good for Derek. “My best friend Danny told me his mom has a new boyfriend.”

Nothing good.

“Yeah? Does Danny like this guy?” Stiles cocks his head to the side, watching Jackson curiously.

Jackson shrugs. “His dad has a new girlfriend too. I think he was happy that his mom didn’t feel lonely anymore.”

“Um, good,” Stiles finally says after a long second.

“That’s like what you said about families, Mr. S,” Scott says, poking at his potatoes. “Families can be any group of people as long as they love each other, right?” Scott sounds like he’s reciting, slow and deliberate.

“Right, Scott,” Stiles agrees.

“Danny said it took a long time, though,” Jackson pushes on. “For his mom to date someone new. I guess it’s hard. Is it, Derek?”

Derek is caught with a mouth full of chicken, which buys him time but somehow doesn’t magically give him a response.

“I think people like Derek and Danny’s mom want to make sure that that person is right for them, but also right for their family,” Stiles says gently, glancing over at Derek.

“Yeah?” Jackson asks stubbornly, still staring Derek down.

“Yeah,” Derek finally manages. “Because you have to be sure if you’re going to let someone be your family. For your family… and for you.”

He can’t stop himself from looking at Stiles when he’s done- Stiles looks thoughtful, frowning a little. Derek has no idea what that means, but there’s a strange tension in the air.

“Dad!” Scott barks out, nearly making Derek jump. “Is Laura still doing okay?”

Derek nods. Stiles asks about her too- the awkwardness melts away and dinner goes back to normal. He also insists that because Derek did all the work and set the table that he and the boys will clean up, shooing Derek to the stools at the counter to oversee.

As they’re putting the last of the dishes in the rack, Scott screws up his face into his most puppy-like begging face.

“Mr. S, can you read just a little bit more?” Scott wheedles. “Please?”

“When’s bedtime?” Stiles asks, mock serious, but there’s already an indulgent smile on his face.

“Not until 8:30,” Jackson says quickly.

“One more chapter,” Derek says. “It’s a school night and Mr. S needs to sleep, too.”

Stiles waggles his eyebrows. “I do. But Harry has to get to Hogwarts and so do we!”

Scott insists on sitting on Derek’s lap again and Jackson is sprawled over his side of the couch so that Stiles is pressed right against Derek’s side, shooting Derek a sly, calculating look as he stretches out.

Jackson is going to be cleaning the gutters.

Stiles “accidentally” keeps reading through the chapter after the one they’d been promised, but Scott is already out like a light and Jackson’s head is starting to droop against Stiles’ arm, so Derek is fine with waiting them out.

“I wanna be on the quidditch team,” Jackson mumbles sleepily before he starts aggressively snoring.

Stiles pauses and glances down at Jackson, who is fully mashed up against Stiles. “Well, I guess they’re both asleep now.”

Derek snorts. “You want a cup of coffee? They can sleep on the sofa for a while.”

“Um,” Stiles thinks for a second. “Maybe just a quick one, then I’ll get on the road?”

Derek gets up, putting Scott back down, stone cold unconscious. “Let me help you get Jackson off of you.” Stiles gently slides over and up as Derek slowly lowers Jackson down to the couch. When Derek straightens up, Stiles is painfully close- tucking Scott’s arm against himself more comfortably. Derek wants this not to be the end of the night; he wants the cup of coffee to be maybe a beer, instead- to put the boys to bed and then put themselves to bed down the hall.

“It’ll take a minute for the coffee,” Derek warns him.

“I think I can stay up just long enough,” Stiles says, a little smile curling over his lips. “As long as you keep me talking.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Not usually a problem for you.”

Stiles laughs. “Not so much.”

“How’s your dad?” Derek asks, partially because he does like John and partially because he figures it’s a safe topic that won’t make him want to kiss Stiles.

“He’s good, really good. Loved having you guys over for Thanksgiving and you did save us from third-day-turkey-heartburn. He also made fun of me for being boring at breakfast last week. I think he just wants the boys to come out again. I stopped asking him questions about catching bad guys and being a cop when I was nine, he’s desperate for a new audience to impress.” Stiles grins like he’s sharing a joke with Derek. “I promise that if you guys come to breakfast again, we’ll get a bigger table this time, no orange juice.”

Derek smirks. “You just don’t want to change Scott in the parking lot again.”

“I will admit that the table was not prepared for three Hales and two Stilinskis- nor the ensuing breakfast foods.” Stiles shrugs. “But what man isn’t going to risk a little spill for waffles and pancakes?”

“At least it wasn’t coffee,” Derek says, ironically pouring Stiles’ coffee, swapping out a mug for the carafe, which only has about a cup’s worth.

“Mmm, there is that. Orange juice is much more comfortable for spills,” Stiles agrees. Derek automatically goes for the milk, passing the sugar to Stiles. He pours as Stiles stirs. Derek makes his own cup, putting the carafe back in the machine.

Stiles hooks a foot into one of the kitchen stools and perches on top, clutching his cup. “Perfect, as always.” He hums against the rim of the mug.

Derek leans against the counter, taking a sip of his own coffee. “You know, if you guys want to have your tradition, you could both come around on Sunday morning, we can cook here. Only fair after you hosted thanksgiving.”

“Yeah?” Stiles looks surprised and pleased. Derek wants to make him look like that all the time. “I’m sure he’d love that. Sounds great. I mean, you’ll have to let me bring something, but that- yeah, that sounds… perfect.”

“Dad?” Scott calls sleepily. “Are you going to tuck me in? Jackson’s feet smell.”

“Yeah, a second,” Derek shouts back and fights back the urge to sigh. “I’d better-“

“Yeah, totally-“ Stiles chugs his coffee back. “I should head home, it’s late. Thanks for dinner, Derek, the garage- I’ll get those pinwheels out of there for you. And um! The key?” Stiles looks at him uncertainly.

“Keep it,” Derek says, his voice coming out deeper than he’d intended.

Stiles blinks for a moment, but then bites his lip on a smile. “Sure. See you later, Derek.”

Stiles slips out the kitchen door into the garage, cheerfully calling out, “Brrr, it’s cold!” and it isn’t until he hears the door close that he heads into the living room to put Scott and Jackson to bed.

It sort of becomes a ritual- apparently the rush up to break is requiring a lot of large scale crafts, because Stiles is over two more times that week. He insists on ordering and paying for pizza the second time because, “I can’t just use your garage and get a free dinner all the time, Derek.”

“I don’t mind,” Derek shrugs.

Stiles watches him for a second, then shrugs back. “Indulge me, then.”

Derek has noticed that Stiles seems to pause a lot more- like he’s considering what Derek says, what to say in return- these last few weeks it’s like Stiles is weighing his options, every time he speaks. Derek knows exactly how he feels, even if he doesn’t know why Stiles is careful with him now, measured. But Stiles seems happy to be at the house, happy to be around the boys and Derek.

So he’s not going to over think it. He’s just going to enjoy the sound of Stiles laughing with the boys, still reading Harry Potter; seeing Stiles at the dinner table across from him. They’re tossing the last of the grease-stained napkins into the pizza boxes when Derek gets up his nerve to ask a question that’s been in the back of his mind all month.

“What are you and your dad doing for Christmas?” Derek doesn’t know what he’s thinking of offering, only that the boys had raved about Thanksgiving at the Stilinskis’ house for a solid week afterward and well, if it makes them that happy, Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, anyway.

Stiles sighs dramatically. “We’re visiting my great aunt- she was my mom’s oldest aunt and every year she’s ‘on death’s door’ and so everyone else has to come to her. We’re pretty sure it’s because she’s too cheap to spring for the plane ticket out to California, even though the rest of us are out here anyway. But to Florida we go, just like the last five years.”

“Oh,” Derek mutters, half to himself. That was an answer that had never even crossed his mind. “Are you going to be gone all break?”

“Most of it.” Stiles runs a hand through his hair, leaving it rumpled and too inviting. Derek wants to fix it or make it worse. He’s not sure which. “But we’ll be back on the 30th, which is good. No one wants to travel on New Year’s Eve.”

“Well, you should come by when you get back. I know the boys have a present for you.” Derek says, aiming for casual and probably falling far short. Stiles’ present “from the boys” was a cashmere sweater that probably erred on the side of obvious and too expensive- but Stiles was always cold and perpetually depending on eye-searing hoodies that clearly weren’t cutting it. A completely practical and non-suggestive gift, all around. Completely.

Stiles eyes light up. “Yeah? Well, I might just have a little something planned for them, too. They won’t mind late presents?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Anything to extend the gift giving season. They’ll be thrilled.”

“Alright, we’re taking the red eye, so that evening? I’ll sneak a quick disco nap then come over, bearing gifts?” Stiles suggests.

“Disco nap?” Derek repeats helplessly.

“Yeah, you know- you come home from work, take a quick nap, you’re ready to party all night. Disco nap,” Stiles insists. “I don’t know why no one seems to know this.”

“Maybe because no one’s gone to the disco in about thirty years?” Derek suggests.

Stiles tosses a napkin at him. “See if I write you a post card from Florida.”

Despite the initial rush of excess energy and excitement, within a couple of days of going on break, Jackson and Scott are bored and picking petty fights with each other- lazily, like they’re too bored to even do that. Even the idea of Christmas is only presenting in a sluggish enthusiasm. Derek flings them outside to get it out in the couple of inches of persistent snow that seems to appear overnight every day. They come in, cheeks freezing and breathing hard, but that just makes them tired and sulky, rather than tired and happy, like normal.

Derek even tries cocoa, but that just results in more pouts.

“What?” Derek sighs. “I’m not stupid. What’s wrong?”

Scott looks at his mug of hot chocolate. “It’s not right.”

Derek raises his eyebrows. “What?”

Jackson sighs. “Mr. S makes cocoa better.”

“It’s water and powder from a packet, I don’t think I can make it wrong,” Derek says.

“It just doesn’t taste as good.” Scott shrugs.

“You don’t have to drink it,” Derek points out.

“No, it’s fine,” Jackson sighs again.

“You could ask Mr. S how he makes it,” Scott says hopefully.

“Absolutely not,” Derek crosses his arms. “He’s on vacation.”

Both boys sigh and take sips of their hot chocolate like martyrs.

When the boys head out to the living room to watch Avatar, Derek slips out his phone.

mutiny on my hands he sends Stiles.

Almost instantly he gets back ???????!?

I don’t know what you put in your hot chocolate but apparently mine isn’t good enough anymore

AHAHAHAAAAHAHA ok not telling u now enjoying this new superpower

Derek huffs a laugh, reluctantly.

kids are sulking fyi

have to make you miss me somehow

Derek blinks.

Instead of the most truthful answer- of course we miss you, I always miss you when you’re not here- Derek sends him a picture of Scott and Jackson balefully watching tv.

am I a bad person for laughing at that? this is a trick for my recipe right?

they’re ridiculous. Watching tv like it's a punishment.

keep me posted. If it reaches critical mass I might tell you my chocolate chip cookie secret. but the cocoa is going to the grave

guess we’ll have to keep you around Derek sends it before he really thinks about how that sounds, but before he can send anything else his phone chimes again.

holding you to that

Derek can’t stop the stupid smile on his face.

He burns through his limited texting plan and resigns himself to a painful phone bill this month, but it’s worth it when Scott and Jackson laugh and elbow each other out of the way to see the picture of Stiles running away from an alligator.

He’s putting Scott to bed that night when Scott sleepily asks, “Dad? When is Mr. S coming home?”

“He’s coming back on the 30th, we can give him his presents then.” Derek says.

“Do you miss him too, Dad?” Scott yawns through half of the question.

Derek pauses, thinking about the frequent dinners and accidental run-ins at the grocery store, the way he instinctively looks for Stiles around the house now. Derek tugs the blankets up to Scott’s chin. “Yeah, Scott, I do too.”

After Jackson says goodnight too, Derek takes a beer to the couch and thinks it over.

If Stiles doesn’t feel the same way, it’ll be a nightmare. The boys love him. But he knows Stiles, and Stiles would never turn his back on the boys. And in the too-quiet stillness of the house Derek can admit that having this much of Stiles but no more is worse than rejection.

And, of course, having made a decision- the decision- it’s the middle of the night and Stiles is on the other side of the country. But having considered the worst case scenario- Stiles says no and is politely distant for a while- it’s not that bad. It’d be painful as hell, but just for him. Derek can make the jump if he’s the only thing on the line. He feels strangely light, like he’s been under the weight of his own fears for so long- toeing some line between acquaintances and friends and something else- that just choosing to accept them feels like letting them go.

Derek sleeps soundly and if he dreams of anything, he doesn’t remember it.

The post card arrives the day before Christmas eve- the front says “Welcome to Jacksonville” in the typical giant, colorful "retro" letters. On the back, in a chaotic scrawl sans commas, Derek deciphers the following message for the boys:

Jacksonville HOW APPROPRIATE? I’ll have to go Scottsdale AZ some other time to even up. Sorry Derek no Derektowns : ( these never have enough space on them to say ANYTHING but MERRY CHRISTMAS I’LL SEE YOU BEFORE THE NEW YEAR!! MISS YOU Stiles

There is a smiley face next to Stiles’ name.

Jackson preens for an hour solid, and Scott sulks even more aggressively than before. Derek wonders what to do with it, because it’s not like they get a lot of- hardly any- Christmas cards. Eventually he decides on the fridge, between Scott’s painting of their family and Jackson’s spelling bee certificate. He sticks it on, text out, because now every time he opens the refrigerator, staring out at him in all caps is I’LL SEE YOU BEFORE THE NEW YEAR, like a promise.

They spend most of the day eating half-heartedly decorated cookies, trailing colored sugar all over the house. To be honest, none of them have done much this break other than sit around, eat and sulk. If anything, it solidifies Derek’s resolve to deal with the whole Stiles… thing. Clearly, none of the Hales like it when he goes off on family vacations.

Christmas eve itself is better at least- Derek cooks an enormous hunk of meat all day and the boys run around, finally having decided to try to find their presents roughly ten hours before Derek will put them out anyway. Derek actually feels pretty safe- he doesn’t think they’ll look under their own beds, behind a layer of forgotten socks and balled up papers.

They put the gluttony capstone on their week, eating most of the roast, both boys laying groaning on the couch. Derek takes the opportunity to bring down all the presents from him- leaving the ones from Santa under Scott’s bed. Scott sleeps like the dead, it’ll be a piece of cake to sneak them out later. Derek reminds them about their Christmas eve present and suddenly, they’re both filled with an astounding amount of energy.

Scott runs around the house, punching everything with his Hulk hands until he nearly falls asleep standing up. Jackson opens a present he thinks is a video game, only to get a book instead, but he looks intrigued anyway. Derek had gotten the recommendation from Stiles- he makes a mental note to thank him.

Before trying to ask him out, probably.

Scott has a miniature melt down as Derek is tucking him in.

“Dad, are you sure Santa got my letter?” Scott demands.

“Absolutely, Scott,” Derek flips off the light.

“The mailman knows how to get it there, right? He got it way early, right?” Scott pushes.

Derek fights back a laugh. “He got it. I promise.”

“Okay,” Scott says reluctantly. Jackson had gotten told about Santa on the playground, but Scott had managed to avoid it so far- it probably helped that Jackson was viciously affirming his existence and Scott was too airheaded to pick up on anything else. “Night, Dad.”

“Night, Scott.” He steps out into the hallway and sees Jackson’s light still on.

“You can read for five more minutes, Jackson, but then bed,” Derek says, leaning in the doorway.

“Five more,” Jackson echoes blankly, knees tucked up to his chest, the book inches from his face.

Derek just shakes his head.

He ends up giving Jackson fifteen more minutes before finally flipping out the lights in his room. Derek hears a groan, then a sigh and the sound of the book hitting the nightstand.

Scott is up and delivering his signature move- elbowing Derek in the solar plexus- at 5:15 am.

“Dad, Dad it’s Christmas! Can I wake Jackson up again too, Dad? DAD?!” Scott shouts virtually in Derek’s ear.

“Wake up your brother all you want, we’re not opening presents until 7 am.” Derek says, smothering his head under a pillow.

There’s shouting from down the hallway which Derek can only assume means Scott did try to wake Jackson up again, which, getting Jackson up before seven is ugly on a good day.

Derek manages to fall back asleep, assuming there’s some sort of amnesty on letting your kids kill each other if it’s before six am. It feels like seconds before Scott is back, this time essentially sitting on Derek’s arm.

“Dad, Dad, it’s 7. I brought the clock. See?” Scott whispers loudly. “Jackson’s up, he’s making coffee, Daaaaaaaaad.”

Derek groans, stretching, Scott squawking as Derek’s arm moves under him. “Okay, okay. I’m getting up.”

Scott bounces off the bed and is yelling down the hallway before Derek is even sitting up. Jackson really is making coffee, which is to say, staring at the coffee maker, the filter and the coffee grounds, looking determined and completely stumped.

“I got it, Jay,” Derek says, rumpling Jackson’s hair. In the spirit of Christmas, Jackson doesn’t say anything, only scowls and tries to “fix” it. “Go pick out your first present.”

Derek yawns, hands automatically working the coffeemaker. By the time he’s managed to make himself a cup, the wails of “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaad” are getting truly pitiful, so he drags himself into the living room.

He watches the boys tear into gift after gift, totally content to watch them and drink coffee. The wrapping paper is just starting to settle when Scott brings something over for him.

“This is your first present,” Scott instructs him, handing Derek a small box messily wrapped with too much tape, but with a perfect pinwheel on top. Derek frowns at it, trying to think why that’s ringing a bell. “We made them in class.”

The crate of shining pinwheels in the garage. Derek snorts, takes the pinwheel and manages to stick it on Scott’s chest like a badge. When he gets under all the tape and opens the box, there are two little gold walnuts inside, tied with bright red and white twine.

“Mr. S showed us how to make them, they’re empty inside but we put something in them. He said it’s a really old tradition. Everyone got two for their parents, so I made one for you and Mr. S did the other one.” Scott explains.

“Well,” Derek starts, stupidly happy. “Which one did you do?”

Scott stares at them for a second, before finally tapping the one with the uneven bow. “Mr. S ties his funny. This one looks like my shoe laces.” Derek chuckles and unties it, unrolling the tiny slip of paper that has “MERRY CHRISTMAS DAD!” in Scott’s chicken scratch.

“Thanks, Scott,” Derek pulls him into a tight hug. Scott squeezes back before squirming away to play with his legos again. Derek glances at the other walnut in the box, taking a deep breath before opening it, curious.

There’s a single shining red Hershey’s kiss inside, no note.

Derek stares at the box on his lap for almost a minute before Jackson demands that Derek open the present from him.

The rest of the morning, Derek periodically looks at the box with the walnut and the kiss, wondering if he’s reading too much into it. He gets a text from Stiles around 10 while he’s cleaning up after pancakes, a totally benign Merry Christmas! that he has no idea how to respond to except with an equally neutral and safe Merry Christmas Stiles.

The boys run out to play in the fresh snow and Derek finds himself sitting on the couch, staring at the tree with its two wrapped presents left underneath it- the “boys’” sweater for Stiles and his present. He’d actually found Stiles’ henley from career day, hidden under a winter coat, washed it and wrapped it, “from Derek.”

He carefully ties the walnut back together and tucks it into the branches of the tree, waiting- like him- for Stiles to come home.

Scott refuses to let them take down the tree a few days later.

“There are still presents under it!” he cries, like Derek is a monster.

“I’m not going to throw them out,” Derek says. “They’ll just go somewhere else.”

“If there are still presents, there still needs to be a tree,” Scott insists.

“He’s got a point,” Jackson says from where he’s sprawled over the couch, still reading the book Stiles suggested.

“All right,” Derek throws his hands up in surrender. “Fine.”

Second mutiny this Christmas he sends Stiles.

What did you do to the cocoa now? Stiles sends back.

tried to take down the tree. apparently if there are presents under it it’s not done

why do you still have presents under it? whose are they?

Derek rolls his eyes. yours idiot


Derek wonders about his taste in men.

There’s a huge snowstorm on the night of the 29th and Derek wonders if Stiles is going to able to get back as planned. He’s running into work for a couple of hours in the morning, mostly to check on everything and head back out home. Derek almost never takes sick days, which leads to a surplus of sick and vacation days, which mostly means getting kicked out of the office solidly at Christmas and for the summer camping trip.

Unfortunately, everything is fine, so he doesn’t have anything to distract him from the text he gets at nine- flight a little delayed, just got in! see you tonight, 7?

you need a ride from the airport? Derek sends before he can think better of it.

nah, thanks we left the car out here we’re fine to drive. Need me to get anything for dinner?

nope see you then he sends back after torturing himself for a couple of minutes and burying his head in his hands.

Derek is really only proficient at a limited number of foods- but he makes a good chili that’s perfect for days like this, when the wind stings your face and your fingers feel stiff and numb on the steering wheel. So he stops at the supermarket, avoids being howled at by any five year olds, and picks up the ingredients he needs.

Scott “helps” and Jackson actually helps, measuring out ingredients while Derek browns the meat. It’s best if it can cook for longer than two hours, so he tries to get everything done quickly. He doesn’t even attempt cornbread anymore, just buys it at the store. But the house smells like cooking chili all afternoon while Scott and Jackson watch cartoons on the couch. Derek tries to distract himself- working out in the basement- but even after he pushes himself through a fairly grueling work out, he’s just tired and restless.

He just has enough time for a shower before Stiles should get there, checking the chili before he gets in. Derek’s dressed and finishing toweling his hair dry when he hears the door open downstairs.

“Hellllllo? Cold man carrying presents here!” Stiles calls.

Derek can hear Scott yelling and Jackson talking over each him as he heads toward the stairs.

“Mr. S! We missed you!” Scott says, joyfully hugging him, as Stiles crouches down to hug back.

“It was pretty boring here,” Jackson sighs. “Without you around.”

“Dad makes the worst cocoa!” Scott whines.

“Derek missed you. A lot.” Jackson adds.

Derek scrambles down the stairs before this gets any more embarrassing.

“Well, I missed all you guys, too,” Stiles says. He glances up at Derek. “Hey, Sourpatch.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, trying to sound normal.

“Smells great in here- chili?” Stiles asks, standing up out of his crouch. Stiles’ cheeks are bright pink from the cold, the tip of his nose red. He looks like he got some sun, freckles running across his nose, just a little lighter than his normal freckles and moles. Derek wants to pull him close and kiss every single new freckle.

“Yeah,” Derek says. “You want to come try it, see if you want it spicier?”

Stiles groans. “God, I ate the spiciest Cuban food while I was in Florida. No extra spice, I beg of you, I thought I was going to die.” But he drops the presents off under the tree and follows Derek into the kitchen anyway; takes a beer and helps the boys set the table. Derek feels like an itch between his shoulder blades has finally been scratched, like a tightness in his skin has been loosened.

The boys demand to know all about Stiles’ trip- the alligators, his family, the flight. Derek just sits back, nurses his beer and feels his body relax. Stiles keeps glancing over, as if he’s checking in with Derek and Derek can’t do anything but smile. Stiles stumbles through the stories, forgetting parts and going back to add things- obstacle courses and zip lines; a close encounter with a crab. Derek is strangely comfortable, completely the opposite of how he’d felt before Stiles had gotten to the house.

After seconds, Derek still feels loose and unaccountably amused. “Well, presents or dessert?”

The look of paralyzed indecision on both boys’ faces is good enough that Stiles bursts out in laughter.

“Do you mean we can have presents or dessert, or do you mean which do we want first, presents or dessert?” Jackson finally asks carefully.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Which first.”

Scott and Jackson stare at each other like gunslingers.

“Presents,” Jackson says as Scott says, “Dessert!”

Stiles bursts into laughter again.

“Well?” Derek tries again. Neither of them are looking like they’ll budge.

“How about this, I’ll make cocoa, we’ll open presents, then dessert?” Stiles offers.

Both boys stare at each other, then nod solemnly.

“Deal,” Jackson says.

“Ok, you guys go get ready in the living room, get all the presents together,” Derek tell them and follows Stiles into the kitchen, helping clear plates off the table.

“Are you trying to spy on my hot chocolate making prowess?” Stiles asks when Derek just folds his arms and leans against the counter instead of heading out to the living room with the boys.

“Watching the master at work,” Derek says, deadpan.

Stiles snorts. “I’ll never tell,” he says, getting the milk out of the fridge and pulling out spices Derek has never touched.

Derek draws the line when he gets out a saucepan. “This is already too complicated for anyone,” Derek protests, watching Stiles heat the milk.

“This is a Stilinski secret. Passed down from generation to generation, facing the harshest of winters.” Stiles says, giving Derek an amused look over his shoulder. “And the rest of the year too, really.”

When he’s done, Stiles hands Derek a mug. “Go on. Eat your words.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but he can feel his mouth curving into a smile around the rim of the mug.

It’s pretty much the most perfect thing he’s ever tasted. It’s chocolate and cinnamon and other things he can’t identify. He can’t help the surprised noise he makes.

Stiles looks endlessly smug. “Mmhm,” he hums as he pours three more mugs.

“This has got to be illegal,” Derek says, staring down at the mug.

“Well, I’m certainly not going to get arrested for it in this town,” Stiles counters cheerfully, laughing when Derek chokes on his next sip. “C’mon, presents!”

The boys are waiting anxiously, sitting next to the tree as Derek and Stiles sit on the couch. Stiles hands out mugs and after Scott and Jackson take their first self-satisfied sips they start handing out presents.

“These two are for you, Mr. S,” Scott explains, passing them both over.

“Thank you, Scott,” Stiles grins at him, putting them both in his lap.

“Derek,” Jackson hands over the reasonably light box that looks suspiciously like Stiles’ own present. It feels too heavy for clothes, though.

Both Scott and Jackson have their own presents in their laps and look like they’re going to pass out if they don’t finally get to open them.

“Go on,” Derek says, watching as they both rip through the paper in a frenzy. Scott has something about dinosaurs that he’s exclaiming over and Jackson has something with… jesus, rockets. Scott starts bringing out all the tiny, step-on-able pieces immediately.

“Thanks for my present,” Derek says dryly, nodding toward the general chaos on the floor.

Stiles laughs. “Totally welcome. Sorry in advance for the scuff marks on your ceilings from the air rockets.” He looks about as far from sorry as you can get. “I don’t know what you’re waiting for, I’m opening my presents.”

Derek had wrapped them so that Stiles’ shirt was in a smaller box, making sure Stiles would open that one first. He blinks for a second after opening it before laughing. “I totally forgot I had lent you that shirt, I’d been wondering where it was. Did you wash it?” he teases, sniffing at it. “Smells clean.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “No, I bled all over it, forgot to return it and didn’t wash it. Merry Christmas.”

Stiles laughs delightedly, putting the box between them on the couch to open the next one. “Derek,” he says, surprised, feeling the soft black sweater, glancing over at him questioningly.

“That’s from the boys,” Derek tries, unconvincing, even to his own ears. “You’re always cold.”

“Well, tell- tell "the boys" thank you,” Stiles says, his hands still buried in the fabric.

“Hey, Mr. S, do you like it?” Scott asks, distracted from building a dinosaur for the moment. “I tried to tell Dad to get you something awesome, but he got you a sweater, sorry.”

Derek resists the urge to smother himself with a couch cushion.

“It’s just what I needed, Scott,” Stiles says firmly. “See, I’ll put it on right now.” Stiles pulls the flannel shirt over his t-shirt off, tugging the sweater on over his head. It’s a perfect fit and Derek spends a second being embarrassed about that, too.

“It’s like being hugged by a cloud,” Stiles insists, clutching at his own arms.

“Awesome!” Scott chirps.

Jackson is watching them like a hawk, but quietly, from behind the air rocket box as he pretends to read the instructions.

“Um, you should open your present, too,” Stiles says, playing with the cuff of his new sweater.

Derek fumbles with the wrapping, still stuck on the way Stiles looks in the v-neck, his collar bones sneaking out into view. And the completely unnerving way Jackson is staring at him.

Inside the box is the most eye-searing, horrifying tropical shirt Derek has ever seen.

“Merry Christmas,” Stiles is biting his lip on a laugh.

“This is an atrocity,” Derek says, amazed.

“I looked through every store in Jacksonville to find that for you,” Stiles loses the battle with the laughter. “Oh my god, your face, I can’t even.”

“I’m not wearing this, no one should wear this,” Derek says, still staring at the shirt in wonder and terror.

“You’re totally wearing it. If you want the real present underneath it, you’re wearing it,” Stiles is adamant.

“This is the year Christmas died,” Derek says, but he’s pulling it out of the box almost against his will.

“They only had it in a 2XL, but I saw it and I knew it was the one,” Stiles explains, as Derek lifts out the tent of a shirt.

Derek puts it on. God help him, he puts it on.

“Whoa, Dad,” Scott says, blinking.

“Smile, guys,” Jackson is grinning, holding up Derek’s phone.

Stiles throws an arm around him and Derek just has enough time to raise his eyebrows before the flash goes off.

“I’m deleting that as soon as I get my hands on that phone,” Derek tells him.

Stiles smiles sweetly back. “Not before Jackson emails it to me. Now you can have the rest of your present.”

Derek looks in the box- there’s a single framed photograph. The frame is nice and heavy without being fussy and the picture in it is… perfect. Jackson is trying not to smile as Scott jams his grinning face right up against Jackson’s to get in the picture. Derek is completely unaware that he’s in the picture, instead watching Jackson and Scott and he looks stupidly happy, everything right there on his face.

Derek glances up to see Stiles watching him a little nervously.

“I um, sort of noticed there weren’t a lot of family photos- well, recent ones- around. I was taking a picture of the boys and my hand slipped and well, I got this one instead and I thought, um, it was really great,” Stiles says in a rush. “It’s not a lot, I mean, you got me-“

“Stiles,” Derek starts and it’s enough to make Stiles break off immediately. “It’s perfect. Thanks.”

Stiles’ face floods with relief. “Good. Good. And I know I made you put it on, but you have to take that shirt off. It’s just unnatural.”

Derek snorts as he pulls it off.

They eat dessert and Jackson tries to manipulate Stiles into reading to them, but Derek puts his foot down.

“It’s already nine,” Derek points out.

“We’re on vacation from school,” Jackson tries. “Tomorrow is a federal holiday.”

Derek snorts. “Bed.”

Scott and Jackson are reminded to thank Stiles for their presents before they march resentfully up the stairs.

“Thanks, Mr. S, the dinosaurs are awesome,” Scott says happily around a yawn.

“The air rocket looks pretty cool, I’m gonna get Danny to come over so we can see who can shoot it up further. Thanks.” Jackson says, showing a spark of good humor before he goes back to sulking about his bed time.

As soon as they’re upstairs, Derek realizes that he’s left himself alone with Stiles, which, while the plan, is… intimidating.

“You want another beer? Coffee?” Derek offers.

Stiles pauses, mouth half-formed around a reply.

“Tomorrow is a federal holiday,” Derek tries.

Stiles laughs.

“Ok, ok, clearly I’m much more susceptible to the ‘federal holiday’ line than you are,” Stiles says. “Coffee it is.”

The pot is already brewed- they’d both had a cup with dessert- so Derek sits Stiles down on the couch and brings him his coffee.

“Thanks. For the whole night, you know,” Stiles says. They’d unplugged one of the lamps to make room for the tree and its lights, which means it’s mostly multicolored light strings providing all the light in the room. Stiles’ pale skin seems warmer in the rosy glow from the tree, the stark contrast between the sweater and skin making Stiles seem sharper, more real. “Made it fun to come home.”

Derek means to say “You’re always welcome here,” but what comes out is, “You’re always wanted here.” It’s still true, but a little more obvious than Derek would like.

Stiles stares at Derek for a second. “I pretty much always want to be here. I know maybe it’s a little weird, I’m Scott’s teacher but- we’re friends, right?”

Derek tries not to flinch away from the word. “Of course. Yeah.” He isn’t sure if his voice comes out level. Friends. That’s a pretty clear message.

“I mean, I think Scott and Jackson are great. They’re great kids. But I’m not here just to hang out with them. I like y- I like spending time with you, too.” Stiles says. “Right?”

“Yeah, me too,” Derek nods. He can’t quite meet Stiles’ eyes, no matter how hard he tries.

Stiles is staring at him, looking almost frustrated, like he’s willing Derek to understand; Derek understands too well. “Do you want to talk- is there anything you want to talk about?” Stiles tries, sounding a little desperate.

Derek suddenly feels drained. “Same old stuff here. Pretty quiet at Christmas without you around.”

Stiles looks confused and maybe a little annoyed. “You- I-“ He works his mouth for a moment like he doesn’t know what he wants to say- or maybe there’s so much he wants to say, it’s all jamming up into silence. Stiles exhales a big noisy sigh. “I guess I’m more tired than I thought. I’ll just head home.”

It sounds like a statement, but the way Stiles is looking at him, it’s a question.

“Sure. See you later,” Derek finds himself saying.

Stiles stares at him for another long moment before nodding. “Okay. Yeah. Later.” He grabs his coat and heads out the front door.

The knob rattles a little in the frame and Derek can’t figure out how this night turned into such a fucking disaster. He’s about to lock up when the door flies open again.

“Okay, I don’t get you,” Stiles says, walking back in, pulling the door shut behind him. Derek hasn’t moved though, so they’re barely inches apart. “You blow hot and cold at me, I mean one minute we’re fine, I’m flirting, I think you’re flirting back, you bought me this fucking sweater! This isn’t a ‘just platonic friends’ gift, it’s not, Derek, I can’t-“

Derek has Stiles up against the door in less than a second and he’s kissing Stiles before his back even hits the door.

Stiles makes this noise, like he’s so surprised that he’s still talking for a moment, but then it just melts into something that’s almost a whine- high, needy. Derek has thought about kissing Stiles for months, memorized the shape of his mouth- smiling, laughing, frowning- but none of that means that he’s ready for the way it makes him feel. Stiles has both of his hands fisted in Derek’s shirt, like he has to keep Derek close, like Derek would- could- go anywhere when he finally has Stiles here, warm and promising, holding onto Derek like he’s drowning.

“Oh my god, you asshole,” Stiles gasps when Derek has to breathe. “You asshole, do you know how long I’ve wanted you to do that, and you just-“

Derek kisses him again.

Stiles is open, open, open to him, letting Derek press into his space, close as he can get, letting Derek deepen the kiss, offering himself up. Stiles wraps his arms around Derek’s neck in a frantic stretch. Derek has to kiss the corner of Stiles’ mouth, the place where his jaw flexes when it’s clenched, under the hinge of his jaw, in front of his ear, his neck- back to his mouth when it drops open and full and impossibly suggestive.

"Derek," Stiles says, when Derek has to kiss his neck again. "Derek- oh, fuck, do that again."

Derek scrapes his teeth carefully along the tendon and Stiles swears low under his breath.

“I should have known you’d- fffffuck- be a biter,” Stiles moans, but he’s arching his neck to give Derek better access and digging his nails in just a little on Derek’s shoulders.

“I haven’t bitten you yet,” Derek says, letting himself nip just at the base of Stiles’ throat, where there should be teeth marks, always.

“Ah!” Stiles cries softly. “I bruise like a peach, I hope you know what you’re doing to me, here.”

“You could tell me,” Derek suggests. He can feel Stiles’ pulse racing right under the skin, pressed up against Derek’s mouth. Derek wants to make it race faster.

Stiles sucks in a quick breath. “God, you’re killing me. I’ve been trying to figure out if you’re interested in me since September. And now, now after you’ve been making me crazy- you gave me a key, I can’t even- you just, I couldn’t tell.”

“It was obvious,” Derek argues, just seeing what it feels like to bury his face right there in the place where Stiles’ neck and shoulder meet.

“It was not,” Stiles groans. “You’re obtuse. I invited you to Thanksgiving with my father!”

“Your postcard is on the refrigerator, writing side out,” Derek points out, slipping a hand just under Stiles’ sweater, the warm skin demanding to be touched constantly. Stiles goes still under Derek’s hands.

“Oh my god, you love me,” Stiles breathes out, staring at Derek. “You wore the shirt, you love me. You totally love me.”

Derek pauses, thinking about denying it, but it’s true anyway. “I told you it was obvious.”

“Holy crap,” Stiles keeps murmuring, sounding stunned. “Come here, I want to kiss you until I die from it.”

Stiles drags Derek up to kiss him, wet and promising. He’s insistent and demanding, like he’s not going to let go and Derek pulls him in just as tight.

“Fuck, I’ve been dying to get my hands on you,” Stiles says, close in the inch of space between them, arching against Derek, making Derek pin him harder against the door.

Derek just bites at Stiles’ lower lip, lets him run his hands down Derek’s back. “Stop squirming.” Derek’s actually pretty sure that ‘don’t stop’ is what he actually means.

“I’m stuck between a doorknob and a hard place,” Stiles protests, shifting again and Derek can feel where they’re both hard. All he wants is to take Stiles upstairs, but upstairs is-

“Okay,” Derek takes a deep breath and a step back.

“No, wait, that was the opposite of what I wanted,” Stiles says, reaching out for Derek’s shirt again.

“Stiles, if I keep kissing you, I’m going to try to fuck you, which I can’t do because my kids are upstairs and they’re probably not even that asleep.” Derek points out.

Stiles makes a face, then another face, then a third. “Okay. Totally right. Okay.” He still looks at Derek like he wants to kiss him, though, which isn’t helpful at all. “But um, you still want… to, right?”

Derek huffs out a sigh. “Of course I do.” He figures he can risk one more kiss. “Come here.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows but steps forward. “So, you just said-“

Derek just cups Stiles’ face in his hands. “Stiles, shut up.” He kisses him quiet again.

“Now go home,” Derek says, smiling.

Stiles groans. “You’re the worst. I don’t know why I love you. Like, a lot.”

Derek takes a deep breath in satisfaction. “But you do.”

Stiles laughs, happy. “Yeah, I do.”

It’s not weird.

But it is difficult- letting Scott and Jackson spend time with Stiles too when really, all Derek wants to do is get his hands on Stiles. Alone. Sneaking kisses when Stiles leaves or when the boys are upstairs asleep is starting to get unbearably frustrating. Which, conveniently, is when Jackson comes home from school asking if he can spend the night at Danny’s.

“Can Scott go too?” Derek asks, glancing up from dinner on the stove.

“Derek,” Jackson whines.

Derek just raises his eyebrows.

“Ugh, fine, yes, I’ll call Danny,” Jackson says.

He starts writing the text before Jackson’s even left the room. hey what are you doing on friday?

I dunno you have any good ideas ;)

“Derek, I talked to Danny. Scott can go, now will you say yes?” Jackson yells from the other room.

“Thank him and his mother first then yes,” Derek calls back. His fingers are flying on the keys of the cellphone. come over?

liiiiiiike on a date?

Derek smirks at his phone. like a date

you’re on.

Derek isn’t sure what he wants to do, really. He’s thinking dinner out since they usually cook in the house, but he doesn’t want to make reservations either, so Stiles can choose whatever he wants. He just has time to shower and change after dropping off Scott and Jackson at Danny’s. It doesn’t even occur to him to put anything on other than his usual shirt and jeans, but it must have occurred to Stiles, because he shows up… edible.

The coat is the nice one he never wears except on the coldest days, and underneath it Derek can catch a glimpse of a perfect white collar under the sweater he gave Stiles. His jeans fit him perfectly and all of Derek’s loose plans fly out the window.

“Hey, you,” Stiles says cheerfully, like he has no idea that Derek is badly resisting the urge to jump him and ruin all his nice clothes.

Actually, fuck resisting.

Derek doesn’t even let him take off his coat.

“Jesus, Derek,” Stiles sighs when he finally lets him breathe. “I missed you, too.”

“God, you smell good,” Derek groans. His mouth is literally watering with everything he wants to do to Stiles, right this second. “Upstairs. Now. Please.”

Stiles goes from amused to dark eyed and serious in a heart beat. “Right now?”

Derek bites at his neck and Stiles lets out a moan that has Derek clutching at his hips. “Now.”

“Fucking- right now,” Stiles says, yanking at Derek’s shirt.

They stumble up the stairs, shedding clothes as they go- the coat stays in the hall, Derek’s shirt gets flung over the couch with Stiles’ sweater and Derek’s pretty sure their pants are in the hallway.

“Do- we should go slow,” Derek forces himself to say, which is hard when he has a hand on Stiles’ ass and they’re a foot away from his bed.

“No, we shouldn’t,” Stiles tips him over the edge of the bed, pushing Derek backwards to crawl into his lap, kissing him hard. “We should go fast, then slow, then maybe fast again if you’re up for it.”

“You think you can take it?” Derek asks, pulling Stiles down to grind their cocks together.

Stiles kisses him thorough and filthy, bracing his hands on Derek’s shoulders to turn Derek’s grind into a rhythm. “If you’re giving it, I can… take whatever you want,” Stiles whispers in his ear.

The noise Derek makes is something between a snarl and a growl as he yanks Stiles’ underwear down just far enough that he can get a hand on him. Stiles is just- incredible. He gasps and arches and shakes under Derek’s hands, totally responsive and shameless. There’s a never-ending litany of swearing, breathless noises and encouragement, pushing Derek hotter and hotter.

Stiles is biting his lip and whimpering. “Fuck, I need to touch you, I have to-“

Their wrists bang into each other’s, almost hard enough to hurt, but neither of them are stopping, Derek putting his mouth on any part of Stiles he can reach- neck, shoulder, jaw.

“Shit, I want you inside me, Derek, I want you to fuck me,” Stiles whines and that’s it, Derek is coming, messy over Stiles’ fist, so he just bites down on Stiles’ collarbone and jacks him fast until Stiles comes noisily and incoherently.

Derek falls backward against the bed, dragging Stiles with him until they’re both more or less collapsed on the mattress. They just breathe loudly at each other until finally Stiles awkwardly snorting a laugh breaks the silence.

“What.” Derek is still coming down, too spent for subtlety.

“So I guess we’re not going to dinner,” Stiles says, cracking up.

“We could,” Derek finally says when he has his breath back. “I wasn’t planning on letting you out of bed for another couple of hours, but if you want to-“

“That wasn’t a complaint,” Stiles tells him, scooting over the comforter to put his head on Derek’s shoulder. “Could not be further from a complaint. I love this plan.”

“You sure?” Derek asks, glancing over at him.

Stiles laughs. “Are you kidding? You pounced; it was like Wild Kingdom. Who doesn’t like surprise sex with their hot boyfriend? Most people have to wait for the end of the date for sex, it was like getting dessert first.”

“I was going to take you out,” Derek insists. “But then you looked like- well.”

Stiles contorts his neck to look up at Derek. “I just want you to know this is the first time I have ever been so sexually appealing that a person rejected a meal. This is a big deal for me. I’m going to be pretty smug about this for a while.”

“You can be whatever you want.” Derek tugs Stiles up to kiss, pulling Stiles on top of himself to make it easier. “As long as you do it right here.”

“I think I can manage that,” Stiles says. His smile is just as good to kiss as Derek had thought it would be.

“I don’t know if I can manage to keep my hands to myself,” Derek admits, running his hand along the trail of hair low on Stiles’ stomach. “You might want to eat before you get here.”

Stiles snorts. “Stop trying to feed me and let me blow you.”

Derek groans. He and Stiles are a mess- sweat and come- and his dick is trying to get hard again already.

“Should I take that as a yes?” Stiles asks, leering.

“It’s always yes,” Derek says.

“What, to blowjobs?” Stiles laughs.

Derek pulls him close enough to kiss again. “No, to you. Always yes to you.”

Stiles stares at him a second before kissing him back, hard. “Always yes.” he echoes. It’s not desperate like before, but there’s still that needy, wanting edge to the way Stiles kisses him that makes Derek’s skin hum, his blood pump faster.

They’re sticky, but Derek doesn’t care, because Stiles is draped over him like a blanket kissing him like he doesn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

“I changed my mind,” Stiles breathes out on a gasping exhale. Before Derek can frown or back away he shakes his head. “I want you to fuck me. No time for blowies.”

Derek almost laughs, but it comes out as a groan when he thinks about what Stiles is offering. “Yeah?”

“Unless you don’t-“ Stiles can’t even finish the question before Derek is rolling them over, slipping Stiles' underwear off completely.

“Believe me, I want to,” Derek says, running a hand down Stiles’ stomach.

“Nrgh, stop,” Stiles grits out. “Ticklish.”

Derek just rubs harder, hand sticking for a second over some drying come- he doesn’t know whether it’s his or Stiles and shit, he likes that. “Better?”

Stiles shudders under him. “Mmyeah. Please tell me you have lube and a condom or we are just going to rock paper scissors for who has to drive to my apartment.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Patience.”

“Not something I’m really good at,” Stiles says. “Not when I’ve thought about this so much, you opening me up- I knew you’d have a great cock. Fuck, that’s gonna feel so good inside me.”

He has to stop for a second. “Jesus, Stiles.” Derek groans. He reaches for the nightstand, pulling out the lube and the condom.

Derek drags a pillow down and slides it under Stiles’ hips, then lubes up his hand, getting it warm before he traces a finger over Stiles’ hole.

Stiles has both his hands in his hair, tugging a little. “Are you ki- don’t tease me here. C’mon, Derek.” No matter what Stiles says- and he says a lot- Derek takes his time fingering him, slowly working him up to two fingers.

“I’m ready, I’m ready, Derek, please, fuck, please,” Stiles cries as Derek persistently rubs against his prostate. Stiles is hard and leaking and it’s taking a lot of willpower not to see if Stiles can come from this alone.

But Derek’s hard, too and dying to fuck him. Mentally adding this to the list of things he wants to do to Stiles- which grows exponentially every second- he pulls out his fingers and slicks the condom on, touching his dick as little as possible.

Stiles still has one hand clenched in his hair, the other grabbing a fistful of sheets as Derek pushes in as slowly as he can, his hands holding Stiles’ hips still. “Oh my god,” Stiles grinds out.

Derek agrees. Stiles is hot and tight and it’s all he can do to stay perfectly motionless after he’s buried completely in Stiles.

“Move, move, Derek, I swear-“ Stiles hisses, rocking his hips up to meet Derek’s and Derek chokes and shoves back, instinctively. It’s not pounding, but it’s faster and harder than Derek had intended- but from the continuous whine of positive noises coming out of Stiles’ mouth, it’s working for him, too.

Derek shifts, just a little, getting a better grip on Stiles’ hips where his sweaty hands are slipping, and Stiles is throwing his arms up- they just meet the headboard, Stiles bracing himself against it hard.

“Shit, right there, Derek, oh fuck, I’m so, so close,” Stiles says. “Please, just touch me.”

Derek barely has to lay hands on Stiles’ cock before he’s coming, his whole body bowing in a tense curve before collapsing back, boneless against the bed.

“Fuck, I love you,” Stiles breathes out in an absent sigh and Derek lets himself fall over the edge, his hips stuttering and stopping, just short of totally dropping on top of Stiles.

“Yeah, yeah. Me too.” Derek sighs back, pulling out, tying and tossing the condom in the direction of the bathroom. He drags Stiles close and kisses him as sweetly as he knows how. “Me too.”

They do eat dinner. Eventually.








Stiles tells John about him and Derek on a rainy Tuesday in January.

John rolls his eyes. “You guys have been dating for months now. You think I didn’t realize?”

Stiles stares at him, open mouthed.

“I mean, you invited him and his kids over for Thanksgiving, I’m not stupid.” John crosses his arms over his chest. “Just let me know when you want me to babysit.”

Stiles shakes his head and laughs until he cries.