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How to Survive When There’s a You and a Me

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“This is not a puppy,” his dad says, watching as Sabine runs laps around the backyard.

Stiles rocks back on his heels and says, “Nope,” and, “Well, technically, yeah.”

“You told me you adopted a puppy.”

Stiles nodded.  “I did.  Six months old.  So, still a puppy, just,” he lifts his arms, palms an approximate width apart, “not puppy-sized.”

“Stiles,” his dad says. “Stiles, this guy is a horse.”

“Girl, actually,” Stiles says, and Sabine skids to a stop in front of him, waggling her butt and barking. She lunges at his dad and licks all over his face, claws digging into arms as he tries to push her away, then just as quickly she’s down again and halfway toward the tree line within seconds.

Sabine’s a mastiff-great dane mix that’s probably going to have joint and hip problems out the wazoo when she gets older, but right now she likes to take people down with flying tackles and mouth breathe on them until they pass out. 

His dad looks down at his mud- and slobber-smudged uniform and says, “No.”

“Just for a few hours every day,” Stiles says. “I can’t keep her cooped up in the apartment while I’m at work, Dad, she gets bored! She tore apart the couch yesterday! If she eats the walls again I’m never getting my deposit back.”

His dad arches an eyebrow at him. “So you want her to tear apart my house instead?”

“Uh.” Stiles gives him a sheepish grin. “Please?”

His dad takes a sip of his coffee and says, “No.”

Stiles slumps dejectedly. He says, “I don’t want to have to get rid of her.”

His dad sighs, and Stiles fully expects a lecture on impulsive puppy adopting, except instead he scrubs a hand over Stiles’s head and says, “How about I help you pay for a dog walker?”

*

Stiles has to work late the day his new savior in the form of a dog walker is supposed to pick up the key and get introduced to Sabine, but Scott’s a bro and takes care of everything for him. The sooner he gets someone to exercise Sabine during the day the better; frozen peanut butter kongs only work so long with a dog that can rip apart a boot in five minutes flat.

In fact, it’s over a week before he sees him, and it’s only because he decides to take his lunch in the park or risk killing Jared over the macaroons. He used to like macaroons, but Jared makes him want to punch every single macaroon in the throat, he’s sick of making decisions that Jared can’t make about all the macaroons. Stiles only has to sell the damn things.

He’s just balled up his trash and tossed it into a can when he spots the giant monster that is Sabine straining and panting on the end of a leash.

He says, “Hey!” and starts toward her; she’s so excited she starts hopping, jerking at the leash, like she wants to race over and plow him down with love and affection.

She drops to her side, legs kicking at the air when he reaches her, and he bends over and rubs hands all over her ears and neck and lets her lick his cheek before pushing her muzzle away with a playful, “Eww.”

“What are you doing?” someone says, and Stiles looks up to see—the hottest man in the entire universe at the other end of Sabine’s leash. There is artful stubble and eyebrows and pretty hazel eyes that look like they want Stiles to drop dead immediately, he’s an angry god of vengeance and also dog walking.

“Um.” Stiles is struck dumb. That has never happened before.

“You don’t approach dogs like that, she could have ripped your throat out,” the dude says, still scowling at him, and Stiles wants to laugh—Sabine would lick him to death before that happened—but there are collarbones peeking through the open neck of his Henley and the sleeves are rolled up and there are forearms.  Hairy, muscled things that are tense from holding back Sabine. Stiles wants to bite them.

“I’m…sorry?” Sabine is nosing his hands, wondering why he stopped scratching her neck, but then the Dog Walker Dreamboat is tugging her away, giving him nasty glares and seriously. Seriously, the guy has this butt, this magnificent butt, Stiles just stands there mute as he walks away.

*

“My dog walker is a dreamboat,” Stiles says, following Scott from cat cage to cat cage in the back of the vet office.  “How did you not mention that my dog walker is a dreamboat?”  Stiles is already making plans to woo this dreamboat with baked goods and his winning personality.

“Your dog walker is a Hale,” Scott says.

“My… oh.” Stiles knows of the Hales.  He knows that they’re insanely private and supernaturally hot and also probably werewolves. “Crap.”

“Yeah,” Scott says, taking a yowling calico out of her cage and handing her to Stiles.

But, okay.  Maybe werewolves like macaroons?

*

Stiles is ready the next time he sneaks outside for lunch. He has a bag of chocolate chip cookies, a box of macaroons and a giant slice of the carrot cake Jared was weeping over earlier, it’s delicious.

He hears Sabine before he sees her, heaving panting breaths. She’s straining at her leash, she greets him with barks and licks, and Stiles tries to gently push her aside before she rips all the baked goods from his hands.

Hale is scowling at him again.

Stiles says, “Hey, I got these for you,” and Hale—scrambles to grab hold of the food and keep Sabine in line and Stiles probably should have thought this through better, but at least Hale has more of a bewildered expression on his face now.

“What,” he says, flat.

“I hope you like cookies!” Stiles says, bouncing a little on his feet, and then he kisses Sabine on the head and walks away.

*

Every day that week he makes sure to run into Hale at the park on his break and brings him a different kind of cookie—Jared starts begging him to get Hale to tell him what he thinks of them all, but Stiles hasn’t gotten as far as having actual conversations yet, he’s working up to it.

Hale gets this flush over his ears when he sees him now, it’s freaking adorable, Stiles doesn’t know what to do with himself. 

On Friday, he finally gets out, “I’m Stiles,” over all of the barking, in between petting Sabine and trying to get her to stop jumping on him—Finstock’s been complaining about paw prints on his work shirts—and Hale says, “Derek,” back.

Derek. Derek Hale, dreamboat, possible werewolf, fantastic blusher with a cute butt. Stiles wants to take him out for tacos and make out in the backseat of his car.

This time, he brought biscuits for Sabine to try and get her to calm down—it always works at home.

Derek says, “You can’t give her that,” and Stiles says, “Don’t worry, they’re not from the shop, I brought them in with me.”

Derek frowns at him. He shifts awkwardly on his feet and says, “I mean, you should ask first, you can’t just give her food.”

“Well, okay, but—”

“We have to go,” Derek says, tugging on Sabine’s leash. 

“But, she’s…” he trails off, watching Derek walk off, Sabine practically walking backwards to keep woofing at Stiles.

He’s pretty sure he’s mentioned that Sabine was his before. Almost sure. Maybe, like, eighty percent sure he’s told Derek that he’s walking his dog. Right? There are always cookies and cake and macaroons and barking and slobber, though, there’s a good chance that might have actually slipped Stiles’s mind. Oops.

*

Derek isn’t at the park with Sabine on any of Stiles’s lunch breaks the next week, and Stiles tries not to take it personally.

*

Stiles gets the sniffles and gets kicked out of the bakery by Finstock despite all his protests—he only sneezed on one pie, seriously—and he may be a little bit sicker than he figured, since he passes out on his couch as soon as he gets home and medicated. The next thing he knows his door handle is jiggling and Sabine is leaping off where she’d apparently been draped all over him, nails digging into his thighs.

“Oof,” Stiles says, struggling into a sitting position. He looks up and over and sees—Derek Hale standing in his doorway.

“Oh man,” Stiles croaks. “I’m so sorry, I would’ve cancelled but I totally just collapsed when I got home and forgot.”

“You’re…” Derek absently greets an excited Sabine, hands rubbing her ears as she wriggles around in front of him, still staring at Stiles.

“Sick, I know.  I’m gross, keep your distance.” Stiles coughs into his arm. “Sorry I don’t have any cookies for you today, either.” Stiles slumps down into the couch. He’s a terrible wooer; he’s probably going to get his sick cooties all over Derek just from him stepping inside.

“…here,” Derek says.

“What?” Stiles says.

“You’re—oh my god,” Derek says, and he ducks his head, Stiles watches the tops of his cheeks turn bright red. “I can’t believe I lectured you about your own dog, that’s…” He palms the back of his neck, shoulders hunched.

“Sweet?” Stiles says. “Because, dude, it’s nice to know you take such good care of Sabine.”

Derek gives Stiles an unreadable look, face still flushed. Stiles loses a little time to his eyes, they’re even more green today, like sun shining on a pond in the middle of a forest, oh god, he’s got unicorn eyes. Stiles isn’t sure how long they stare at each other, but there’s, like, a swell of America’s Last Unicorn building in the back of his head. It’s possible that he downed too much cough medicine earlier.

Finally, Derek says, “Do you still want me to take her out?”

“I’d like to take you out,” Stiles says, still lost in Derek’s eyes. It’s the weirdest thing, he wants to reach out and cup Derek’s cheek, but he knows he’d probably just shy away.

Derek chokes out, “What?”

Stiles eyes go wide. “What, what?”

“You, uh.”

Stiles eyes go wider—oh shit, did he just ask Derek out?—and then he gets attacked by a coughing fit so bad he’s dry heaving, lovely, and there’s a glass of water sitting on the coffee table when he can breathe again, a warm hand resting high on his back.

“Sorry,” Stiles says, hoarse.

The hand slips off his back. Derek says, “I’m going to take Sabine out, I’ll be back in an hour.”

*

If Stiles had the energy for it, he’d be freaking out the entire time Derek’s gone with Sabine. Instead, he pulls a blanket over his head and falls asleep on the couch again.

He wakes up to hot soup, the TV on low, and a nervous looking Derek in the armchair across from him. Sabine is lying heavily on his legs, making them numb—when she shifts off him they slowly come back to life in painful tingles. He winces and sits up.

“Hey,” he says.

Derek has his hands clasped. He looks a little squirrelly, like he wants to be anywhere but in Stiles’s apartment.

Which is—whatever, Stiles didn’t ask him to stay.

“Hey,” Derek says. He rocks up onto his feet, stuffs his hands in his pockets. “I should get going.”

Stiles says, “Thanks for the soup?”

Derek nods. “I’m—“ He cuts himself off, presses his lips together.  He makes his way to the door and Stiles watches him scratch Sabine on the head as he passes her. At the door, he takes a deep breath and says, “I—that would be okay. If you wanted to,” staring at his hand on the knob.

“Um, what?” Stiles watches Derek’s back expand on another big inhale.

“Take me out.”

“Oh. Oh, dude, yes,” Stiles scrambles to his feet, dropping the blanket. He trips over his shoes and nearly goes crashing through the coffee table, catching himself on the arm of the couch. “Yes, please.”

Derek turns toward him again and the smile on his face is so big and bright that Stiles has to blink stars out of his eyes. “Really?” Derek says, like he doesn’t realize he’s hot like burning and also as sweet as a ladybug.

He brought Stiles soup and watched over him in a medicinal coma and is nice to his dog, those are pretty much Stiles’s top three Please Marry Me criteria.

“Yes, really,” Stiles says, grinning back at him. This is going to be awesome.

*

A couple months later, when Stiles officially meets the rest of the Hales, he realizes he got the only unicorn in a family full of predators.

“Werewolves,” Stiles says, dragging Derek out of the Hale house and into the backyard. “Werewolves, Derek. Your entire family is terrifying.”

“Stiles,” Derek says dryly, “I slept on your bed last night as a wolf.  You insisted.” 

Stiles did, but only because it was so darn cute seeing Sabine and Derek cuddle like puppies.

“Yeah, but—Cora wants to eat me,” Stiles says. He waves a hand at Derek, “You’re a harmless magical unicorn.”

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose. “Stiles.”

“You love my dog.”

“Stiles—”

“I caught you two playing tug of war together just last week with a kitchen towel.”

“Stiles—”

“As a wolf!” It was really adorable; Derek is basically Sabine’s best friend, their frolicking is epic.

“Stiles!”

“What?”

Derek presses his hands on Stiles’s shoulders. He looks him right in the eyes and says, “No one’s going to eat you.”

Stiles ticks off his fingers.  He says, “Cora’s going to eat me. Your uncle Peter. Peter has the dead eyes of a soulless psycho, he definitely wants to eat me.”

Over Derek’s shoulder, Stiles watches Peter give him a slow, creepy-wide grin through the glass of the French doors. Stiles shivers and flips him off.

Derek arches an eyebrow at him. “You’ll be fine.”

Cora appears beside Peter and flashes her fangs at him. 

Stiles gives Derek a strained smile. “Sure.” Logically, Stiles just knows they’re being overprotective, because Derek is a skittish mythical and beautiful creature of yore who spends half his time in the middle of the woods avoiding people and the other half walking dogs.

Derek runs his hands down Stiles’s arms, past his wrists, and squeezes his hands. “They’ll love you. Come back inside.”

“Oh Derek, you naïve, rainbow infused dew drop,” Stiles says. “I’ll do this for you, and then I expect you to avenge my death.”

“Stiles—”

“Avenge!”

The French doors swing open with an ominous creak and Peter says, “Come now, Stiles, we won’t bite,” like a smarmy asshole.

And then Talia appears from around the front of the house and gently places an arm around Stiles’s waist and herds him toward the back door and she’s extremely strong and has claws and, really, it would be stupid to resist.

*

“See,” Derek says later, sitting on the floor with Sabine. She’s still crazy-pants, but her hyperactiveness has seemed to level out ever since Derek started walking her. It’s especially good now that Derek will wolf-out and wrestle with her all over the living room. “Everything turned out fine.”

Fine is relative, of course. Nobody ate him, but Laura cornered him in the bathroom and gave him a super sweet break my brother’s heart and I’ll murder you talking-to while he was in the middle of pissing.  

“You’re lucky I love you,” Stiles says, filling Sabine’s food bowl with kibble. Sabine scrambles up from her sprawl next to Derek and skitters around the breakfast bar, slams into the cabinets under sink before face-planting in her bowl.

“What,” Derek says.

Stiles glances over at him—Derek’s frozen in a half-crouch, staring at him. “What?”

“You just…” Derek trails off, face pink. 

“I just—” Stiles replays the last twenty minutes in his head, fine, murder, dog food, love—“Oh crap.”

Derek straightens up. He says, “It’s okay if you didn’t mean it.”

“Are you crazy? Of course I meant it!” he says, flailing a little. “I just maybe didn’t want to say it over a cup of Nutro.”

“Right,” Derek says. He stands there, looking down at his hands.

Stiles says, “Right, so,” and feels really weird about how Derek isn’t saying anything at all.

“I, uh, you too,” Derek says finally.

“Sure,” Stiles says, it’s only been practically five hours of awkward silence, that totally sounds sincere. He spins around and heads down the hallway toward his bedroom—he’s going to slam the door and sulk for the rest of the night like a child—but Derek catches his wrist.

“No, I mean,” Derek urges Stiles around with a hand on his hip, “I do. I love you, too.” There’s a small smile on Derek’s lips, his face still pink, his eyes reflecting every color of every leaf in the preserve on a sunny spring day. 

Stiles cups a hand over his cheek, thumb pressing at the corner of Derek’s mouth.  “Okay,” he says. “That’s pretty great.”

Derek says, “Yeah,” warm hand slipping up under Stiles’s shirt.

And then Sabine comes barreling down the hallway with her rope toy and lunges at Stiles with a woof and all three of them go crashing to the floor, Stiles on top of Derek and Sabine on top of Stiles; it’s super uncomfortable, his knee is dangerously close to Derek’s good bits, and Sabine needs a thousand baths and also a rigorous tooth-brushing.

It’s okay, though, because Derek just laughs into the skin of his throat.