“So,” says Sheriff Stilinski, raising one eyebrow. “You decided not to play video games at Scott’s, after all?”
“Uh,” Stiles says. His eyes are wide and caught-out, and he’s got his arms wrapped around two giant tubs of popcorn. Beside him, Derek Hale—the same Derek Hale that the Sheriff last saw in his interrogation room—is handing a $20 bill to the cashier and clearly trying to appear as casual as possible. He fumbles the change three times before he gets it into his pocket, though, so it’s a lost cause.
“Sheriff.” Derek’s gaze is darting around in a panicked attempt to avoid eye contact, and he seems to be forcing his voice about half an octave lower than usual. The sheriff can’t quite stop himself from smiling at that, so he has to bring a hand up to his mouth to cover it.
“You boys have your tickets?” Derek nods, and Stiles makes a tiny affirmative squawk. “Good. Son, why don’t you go ahead and wait in the theater. Mr. Hale and I are going to have a quick chat.”
“But,” Stiles says. “The trailers.”
“He’ll miss them.”
“But there’s supposed to be one for the new James Bond and—”
“Oh my god, Stiles, just go,” Derek says, giving Stiles a shove toward the theater doors. Stiles stumbles back but stays put otherwise, looking torn. “Go,” Derek says again, soft and low. He shoves Stiles back again, but gently this time, lingering, palm flat against his chest. “Save me a seat, okay?”
The sheriff watches as his son’s cheeks flush absolutely bright pink, and that’s his Lydia Martin face, oh god.
“Okay,” Stiles says, a tiny little unselfconscious smile on his face. This is fucking serious. “Yes. Good. See you in there.”
Derek watches until Stiles is inside the theater, and then turns to face the Sheriff with a guilty expression that does nothing at all to ease his concerns over this situation. “Sir.”
“No, none of that. Call me John. This conversation should happen on a first-name basis, don’t you think, Derek? Come outside with me for a moment.”
“What conversation, exactly?” Derek hedges. He holds the door open for John, which is very polite of him, but it’s not going to win him any points, or anything.
“The conversation where I tell you that Stiles is all I have left in this entire world,” John says. He leads them over to Derek’s Camaro and leans against it, privately daring him to say anything about it (he doesn’t, smart kid). “And where I point out that your secret is out, and now I’m going to be watching you like a hawk, and if I find out that you’re pressuring him or hurting him or failing to appreciate him in any way I have the entire Beacon Hills police force behind me. Don’t get me wrong, Stiles drives them all crazy, but he’s kind of like their mascot and they’re all pretty fond of him. I can’t promise your safety if news of any… mistreatment gets back to them, you understand.”
“Sir. I mean John.” Derek rubs the back of his neck. “I don’t know what you think is going on—”
“Well.” He coughs. “Okay. Fine. I know what you think is going on. But it’s not. Going on. Stiles lied about seeing a movie with me because he thought you would worry, seeing as I’m, well…”
“A criminal?” John suggests.
“Yes, I mean, no—I was exonerated.”
“You still had half a body buried in your yard, son,” John says, and Derek honestly looks like he’s thinking about running away. “But either way, it doesn’t matter. My point still stands. Stiles is also only seventeen, still, so I expect you to be very careful and discreet regarding—”
“No,” says Derek, putting his hands up defensively. “There’s been no—there will be no—I told you—”
“Hm, yeah. You’re friends, right?”
“Yes,” Derek sighs, relieved. “Stiles wanted to see this zombie thing and Scott didn’t, so we’re seeing it. I haven’t been to a movie in a while. It’s not… it’s not a big deal.”
“Uh huh.” John can’t believe he’s going to get involved in this, but honestly. “Derek. Listen. I’m sure you’re a very smart boy, but. Seriously?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” says Derek, and oh god, he really doesn’t.
“My son is wearing a button-down shirt and his best jeans, Derek,” John points out, patiently. “He put on so much cologne that I can actually still smell it. He ironed his collar.”
“I thought that was just—” Derek makes a helpless gesture. “—that’s just what Stiles does when he's going out, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, on a date,” John says, pointedly. “Scott loves zombies, by the way, and if Stiles told you he didn’t then he’s a liar.” And now Derek has honestly never looked more scared, not even when he was being put in the back of a squad car. “Did you really not know?”
“I didn’t… I’m not…” Derek lets himself fall forward and leans his elbows against the car next to the sheriff, dropping his head into his hands. “I’m not exactly used to this sort of thing, okay. The last time I let myself get involved with someone…” He lets out a harsh, frustrated breath. “It didn’t end well. So now I mostly just don’t.”
“Well.” John doesn’t know what he was expecting from this talk, exactly, but it wasn’t this. “This must have been a pretty dramatic breakup.”
“She said she loved me and then burned my family alive,” Derek blurts out, and then looks completely shocked at himself. “I… I don’t know why I just—I’ve never told anyone that before.” He’s looking at John suspiciously, like it’s his fault somehow. “Why would I tell you that?”
“Son, I don’t know. I can’t even get Stiles to tell me what he had for lunch.” John reaches out tentatively, resting a hopefully-comforting hand between Derek’s shoulder blades. “Does Stiles know?”
“No one knows,” says Derek flatly, and John’s heart breaks, a little bit.
“Oh lord, you are a mess, aren’t you,” he says, kindly. “I can see why Stiles is so fascinated, you know. Dumb kid can’t resist a challenge.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “He really can’t.”
“So are you going to let him down easy, then? You have to be very clear about not being interested; Stiles can get a little stubborn.” John is trying not to feel too relieved about this turn of events; after all, he hasn’t seen Stiles this excited about someone in years. It seems almost cruel that he’s going to have to suffer through yet another case of unrequited love before he even gets to college.
“Uh,” says Derek, biting his lip. He’s back to not looking John in the eye. “Well.”
“Oh my god,” says the sheriff. “You’re kidding me.”
“You already thought we were dating!” Derek points out. “Ten minutes ago!”
“Yeah, but now you’re telling me you were, what. Taking my 17-year-old son on what you thought were platonic movie dates while secretly pining for him?”
“I am not pining,” Derek protests, shiftily.
“Okay, look. You seem like a good boy, underneath all the… leather, and scowling,” John says. “And I want Stiles to be happy, though god do I wish he just wanted curly fries and a new computer and not, well…”
“Me?” says Derek, and he just sounds so damn young and hopeful that John can’t even panic too much over this whole thing. Right now, anyway.
“Yes,” John confirms, terrified and certain. “You.” He rubs his hands over his face. “Ugh, I just really, desperately need bacon right now. Go see the movie.”
“Yes, sir,” says Derek, dazed.
“Have him home before eleven.”
“And you’re coming to dinner tomorrow night. Stiles is making vegetarian lasagna. It’s going to be disgusting.”
Derek snorts. “Oh, thanks,” he says, and the words are meant to sound sarcastic, John thinks. But they don’t.
“Anytime,” John says, and means it.