Derek doesn't do romance. That's all well and good with Stiles, cause he doesn't do romance, either. That is, he tried, the whole time he was chasing after Lydia like a lost puppy. He tried jewelry and he tried flattery and he tried everything short of climbing up the water tower to paint “I Love Lydia” in bright yellow paint on the rusty old thing. The first kiss they shared, the first and last, put an end to the whole romantic fantasy, that carrying the torch, holding it aloft for years on end, would end like the movies end. Lydia cried. He held her until her tears had subsided, and he felt terrible. But he knew that what he'd been looking for wasn't there anymore.
The next day he was on Derek's doorstep saying, “This is going to sound really, really stupid.” And it did. It sounded amazingly stupid. Phenomenally stupid. And it had ended with Derek and him tangled up on the floor with no clothes and lots of sweat, making even stupider noises, and if there was one thing they agreed on afterward, it was that this shouldn't be happening.
It was pretty damn far from romantic. But it was good. It's still good.
All this is the lead-up to the fact that Derek is on his porch wearing a suit, and he looks like a puppet version of himself, no neck and bunched-up arms, and Stiles has no idea what the hell he's doing wearing a suit other than making Stiles want to pull him out of it.
Their sex drive is really kind of scary sometimes. Derek turns Stiles into a wild man. Like, all that hyperactivity, the kind that keeps his mind (and mouth) working overtime normally, gets focused into the singular task of getting Derek naked and getting them both off, and he cannot be stopped until that process is complete. He and Derek together are the two halves of a split atom. The reaction is instantaneous and devastating.
Except for now. Because Derek's glaring at him, throwing the emergency “off” switch, and Stiles is left gaping and saying “Wha, wha,” like he's Charlie Brown's teacher.
“I want to take you to dinner,” Derek says.
Derek looks away, scowling. “I'm not saying it again. Yes or no?”
“Wha--- yes? I guess?” Stiles keeps trying to squint harder, like it will make this whole thing make more sense.
“Then change. You can't wear jeans to this place.” Derek turns his back and folds his arms over his chest.
Stiles looks down at himself, has a nice lustful look at Derek's ass, and then scrambles back inside and up the stairs to hunt down dinner-worthy apparel.
The shirt he finds is wrinkled and a bit too big, because all his formal clothes are. His dad keeps telling him he needs to go get them tailored, because Stiles has skinny arms, but Stiles never bothers. The pants aren't half bad, though, and he scribbles a hasty note to explain to his dad where he is before scrambling downstairs again and presenting himself at the front door for Derek's approval.
Derek doesn't even look at him. “Come on,” he says, and starts toward the car.
“What, that's it? You're not even gonna look at me?” The words are out before he can think about them, and Stiles finds himself gulping in air, as though he could swallow them back and render them unheard.
“Why do I have to l--” Derek glances over his shoulder, and momentarily loses track of his words. If there's a little stutter in the sound as it trails off, Stiles doesn't harbor any illusions that it has anything to do with him. Besides, it's followed by a snort. “There, I've looked. Let's go.”
That's just fine with Stiles. He doesn't do romance, after all.
“So what brought this on, anyway?” Stiles asks after they're seated and the waitress has refused to give Stiles a beer without proper ID. (Derek interrupted and said, “He'll have a Coke. I'll have a beer.” You can bet your ass she didn't card HIM.) “Peter kick you out of the house for the night?” Stiles doesn't trust Peter as far as he can throw him, and he knows Derek doesn't, either, but being stalked by creepy alpha packs makes strange bedfellows. (Not that Stiles should be talking about strange bedfellows.) So Peter's sticking around, doing his concerned-relative thing, and so far he hasn't raised any red flags. He's even helped, actually, and so Derek's tolerating him. Hell, they're even renovating the house a bit. Since Derek has started showing interest in having privacy. Doors that work. Bedroom with a bed in it. That sort of thing.
“Peter doesn't kick me out of the house.” Derek takes a sip of water. It's a truly bizarre thing to see him holding a glass like a civilized human being. “But he said if we're gonna make a lot of noise having sex I should at least take you to dinner.”
A patron at the next table drops his fork with a clatter. Stiles can feel the sudden round of stares. He tries to sink into his chair low enough that nobody can see he's an actual person. Awwwwkward. “I'll admit we need to work on your volume control in general,” he mutters. “I thought Peter takes off when I come over.”
“He does,” Derek says. “But he has werewolf hearing. It's hard for him to tune me out.”
“Oh, God.” The idea of Peter listening in on their bedroom sessions is, improbably enough, even more embarrassing than the whole restaurant's stares. “That's just great. How the hell do you guys – never mind, I don't want to know. Growing up in a werewolf family must suck.”
“There's not a lot of privacy.”
Stiles sits up straight. “Oh, God. If he can hear us, does that mean Scott? And-- and Erica and Jackson and--”
“Probably not.” Derek shows no sign of worry. Or remorse, if he were worried. Derek's not so much out-and-proud as unknowing-and-uncaring. He'll sleep with whom he damn well pleases and be as loud as he damn well pleases and it's anyone else's fault if they hear. “He's blood. It's different.”
“Oh. OK. I see.” Stiles doesn't see at all, but he also doesn't see why he's here. “You know that the whole buy-me-dinner thing was probably a joke, right?” Derek glares at him. “Of course you did. Um. So, in that case, why--”
“It seemed like good advice,” Derek says. For an instant, his eyes soften, and Stiles thinks he's going to reach across the table and hold hands. The thought gives him chills. Maybe he should just let the topic go.
Derek's beer arrives. He sips it, grimacing at the whole restaurant in slow sweeps of his gaze across the room. Stiles watches him dubiously. They can have all the wild sex they want, but outside the bedroom their relationship is weirdly the same. Stiles never knows what he's thinking, and half the time he's scared for his life. Suits and nice (albeit wrinkled) shirts don't seem to have changed that. For all Stiles knows, this whole thing is bait for a trap or part of some weird pack ritual.
He takes a long breath. “Right,” he says. “Guess, um, guess that's okay, then. So. Um. What, uh, what else should we talk about?”
“Why do we have to talk?”
That damn growl of Derek's. Everything above the waist freezes; everything below makes up for it in heat. Why are they here? Can't they just go home and do it? “I don't know,” Stiles says. “Because silence is awkward.”
Derek snorts, and his lips quirk. “For you.”
“True.” Stiles blinks. “Did you just laugh?”
“No.” Derek glares at him over the rim of his glass of beer. “Why are you so surprised?”
“So you did laugh!” Stiles can't help the grin that covers his face. His heart is pounding weirdly.
“I didn't laugh.” Oh, God, even Derek's scowl is amusing right now. “I want to know why you're surprised that you thought I did-- never mind.” The deeper that knot between his eyebrows gets, the funnier he looks. Stiles clutches the napkin in his lap, trying not to burst out laughing. “I said never mind. Stop smiling like that.”
Stiles loses it, giggling helplessly, biting his lip to try and keep the sound from filling the room. “Oh, my God,” he manages between peals of laughter. “Look at you huffing and puffing.”
A clatter finally stops his laughter. Derek's pushed back his chair and gotten up. He tosses his napkin on the table. “This was a mistake,” he says. “I'm going home.”
He makes it halfway around the table, bound for the front of the restaurant, when Stiles grabs his wrist. Derek halts, looks down at the place where their skin touches, and takes in a breath. He meets Stiles' gaze.
“It's not a mistake,” Stiles says. He doesn't know where the evenness in his voice comes from, or the courage he finds to meet Derek's gaze without faltering. “We're out to dinner and having a good time. That's okay. That's the point. Relax.”
Derek stands a minute, just looking at him. He doesn't pull his wrist away from Stiles' grip. Slowly, the muscles in his face calm. Wordlessly, he steps back, breaks contact, and sits back down. Stiles waits as he calms down. Right now, he looks like a very small wolf in a very big suit, trying to play human for the first time in his life. In a way, he's completely out of his depth. Stiles honestly feels for him.
It's what Stiles feels for him that's scary. And, maybe-just-maybe, it's what Derek feels back that's scaring him , too.
“Look,” he says, “I'm gonna ask you a question. And I want you to not get mad or run out on me, OK? Just sit there and give me the glare of death, and then answer when you have an answer. Got it?”
Derek gives him the glare of death. Good, that's good. A little out of sequence, but at least he's following orders.
Stiles steels himself. He grips the side of his chair and takes a breath. He can do this. He can ask this. It's not dying of embarrassment afterward that's the problem.
“Do you--” OhGodnojustdoit!
“Ask your damn question.” Derek seethes. Damn it, he's not helping.
“Right.” Another breath. There's something weird about Stiles being unable to get words out of his mouth. Ugh, think about that another time.
One more breath.
“Are you ready to order?”
OK, that wasn't him. Stiles pauses with his mouth wide open and looks up. Their waitress is standing there, all clueless innocence, with a big cheery smile.
“We need another minute,” Derek replies, unsmiling.
“He'll have the ribeye,” Stiles blurts out. “I'll have the chicken parmesan. Thanks.”
The waitress blinks at him briefly, then writes it down on her pad. Stiles gives her the sickliest smile he can manage and mentally shooes her away.
Takes a minute, but she's gone, and this is why Stiles says stuff without thinking, because if you bother to think, the moment disappears and you're left wondering what if you had said it. Somehow the waitress's interruption seems to have disrupted the flow of the universe, and Stiles is stuck in limbo. He rearranges his silverware, puts the salad fork in the wrong place and turns the knife upside-down, and wills himself to disappear entirely.
He looks up. Oh, right. Derek's there too.
“Ask your damn question, Stiles.”
Stiles pauses with the dessert spoon clutched in one fist. “I just wanted to get her out of the way. Did you want something else? I figured the ribeye was--”
“Stiles. The question.”
Shit. Shitshitshit. “Right. The question. And no running away--”
“I'm not going to run away, so ask the damn question.” Derek's fist comes down on the table. The silverware jumps. Water stains the tablecloth and spreads in a dark blob around Stiles' glass.
Stiles nods and meets his gaze. He swallows. Takes a breath, expels half of it in a sigh. When the question comes out, it's weak and scared-sounding, but at least it's finally said.
“Do you like me?”
The death glare doesn't come. He gets a confused squint instead. And a cock of the head which, if Derek knew it was so cute, would be gone in another second. Oh please don't say what , please don't make me say it again...
Stiles rolls his eyes, “You heard me. C'mon. Don't make a guy die of embarrassment. I'm trying to figure out if this is some sort of weird trick or if you're actually trying to-- to be – romantic. ” Oh, that was even more embarrassing than the original question. Death by spontaneous implosion, come on, any time now.
Still no death glare, though. Just Derek looking at him, his face unreadable. He's thinking. About what, Stiles doesn't know, but he's thinking. Maybe plotting Stiles' death in twenty-five interesting ways. Stiles goes back to rearranging his silverware. Silence is awkward, but talking now would just be calling down the thunder.
He freezes in mid-plate-rotation.
“Stiles, look at me.”
Oh, fuck. His hands go down to his thighs and squeeze hard, and he dares to look.
What the hell is that look? That's not a Derek look. That look is measured. Careful. His eyes aren't popping out of his head with anger or annoyance or lust. Stiles barely recognizes him, with eyes like that.
“You answer my question now.” But his voice isn't threatening, either. Does not compute.
“O--okay.” Stiles squeezes his thighs harder. His arms are all locked up.
“If I said yes, what would you think?”
There's still no emotion in Derek's face. How the hell is Stiles supposed to react to a question like that, without any clue as to what Derek's planning when he asks?
Oh, Jesus, that's exactly what Derek's trying to find out about his question, isn't it?
The revelation softens Stiles, and he smiles despite himself. “I don't know,” he says. “I mean, we're not romantic people, so it'd be weird. Doubly since you keep trying to kill me. But I kind of like the idea that maybe we can learn to not just be two people who don't know each other very well but can't keep our hands off each other. Don't get me wrong, sex with you is -- well, it's phenomenal -- but yeah, I'm kind of interested in seeing what happens if we -- oh, God, I'm babbling.”
“So what you're saying,” Derek says, “is that you like me.”
“It's--” Stiles stops, heaves a sigh. His fingers relax, and he leans forward, crosses his wrists over his dinner plate, and bites the bullet. “Yeah, maybe I am.”
Derek nods. “Okay.”
“Okay what? What's okay?”
And now Derek reaches across the table and covers Stiles' hand with his.
“Holy crap,” Stiles blurts out.
“Exactly,” Derek responds.
And somehow that's the most romantic thing Stiles has ever heard.