Stiles is pretty sure it first came up that time they went to the police station to break Isaac out. In the midst of the chaos that is his life, he often forgets that Derek can form sentences that aren't worded like threats or thinly-veiled insults. So when Derek says that he's going to distract, Stiles thinks that he's going for the "disgruntled customer" method (or more appropriately "disgruntled formerly-accused, probably here to sue").
But he is sorely mistaken when he sees Derek walk up to the front desk with, to his horror and disbelief, some sort of swagger. He's not going to lie, it freaks him the hell out, hardcore. It's like Derek has been replaced with a pod person. And apparently pod people have more social skills than him.
"Hi," Derek says pleasantly, smiling. Is this Tangled? Has Derek turned into Flynn Rider? The officer gives him a once-over, smiles back. Unbelievable. Has she already forgotten that Derek was suspected of murder, hauled into this very station? Is Stiles the only one who remembers this?
"I just didn't expect to see someone so incredibly beautiful." Derek leans against the counter and gives the officer full exposure to his smile. It doesn't make any sense. Stiles can see Derek's teeth, even the two cute rabbity ones, and they're not doing anything remotely threatening, much less mocking. They're just, there, being charming.
He stares at the person who may or may not be Derek, stares at the officer, who looks like she needs to sit down and maybe fan herself.
So unfair, he thinks bitterly when he remembers that he's not here to ogle. He can't believe lines like that actually work for him. Actually no, he can believe that. He actually can't believe Derek uses those lines.
He briefly considers maybe going out the back after getting Isaac out to ditch Derek, who he suspects has a lady cop draped over him, but the thought quickly fades into a oh my god am I going to die as the fake officer drags him toward the cells, as Isaac knocks said officer out and turns his crazy eyes toward Stiles.
Then Mr. Casanova himself busts in and does his roar and "I'm the Alpha" bit, which is awfully nice of him.
Stiles likes to know things. No, he needs to know things. Not knowing things agitates him on both an emotional and physical level.
His lifelong pursuit of knowledge has made him good at figuring stuff out. It's his thing. Sure, he can get in on the action every once in a while, but as much as he likes trying to help, broken bones and lacerations weren't as exciting as he thought it would be. So instead he uses his greatest strength, his smarts. Stiles eats up information, lives it, breathes it, bathes himself in it. If it were possible, he would absorb it via osmosis. His mind is a machine - well, okay, not like a finely-tuned well-oiled machine - but like a perfectly functional one that occasionally needs to be hand-cranked. It takes a while to see patterns because he just kinda stores it all in a jumble in his brain and then organizes it later.
But it works for him. He has cataloged most of Lydia's smiles, ranging from mild amusement to "if I were willing to waste even a single ATP on you, I would kill you and dissolve you in a tub of lye". He can identify every single one of his father's expressions that indicates if he's consumed any cholesterol behind his back and remembers every single spot his father has used to try to hide his contraband. It goes without saying that he knows Scott like the back of his hand, though he has added a list of "questionably idiotic/brilliant things Scott might try" since the Gerard thing.
Since Scott was bitten, he had to make room for all the research he was doing. He ends up organizing everything into mental folders because he's always liked naming folders on his computer and so far it hasn't failed him. He has a big "freakin' werewolves" folder now, which he's pretty proud of. It's got basic werewolf information, theories about werewolves, observations of werewolf behavior, wolfsbane (identification and effects), hunter-werewolf relations (past and current), stuff like that. Evil Alphas, completely amoral hunters and the like go into the aptly-named "enemies" folder. Stiles has yet to remove Peter from that folder, but he has put him in a folder within that folder labeled "people who might just be kinda dickish" along with Jackson.
Derek's pack has a place in his brain in the "allies" folder, which on some days is renamed "people who might feel bad about killing me". Other than the folder on Peter filled with data of how creepy he is, exhibit A, he was dead and came back to life, there's, of course, Derek's folder, which is pretty comprehensive, albeit filled with many unknowns. The configuration of his eyebrows have their own sub-folder. Boyd's folder is comprised entirely of snapshots of his micro-expressions, all of which are named with some variation of "???" because while Stiles can see the difference, he doesn't actually know what they mean. Ever since Isaac started hanging out with Scott, Stiles' has been slowly figuring him out, like the stuff he likes and dislikes and triggers to avoid when he's around. He knows Erica's smirks, her favorite comic books, which foods will placate her when she turns into a terrifying monster every month and which binge food she prefers when she turns into an actual monster every full moon.
The glaring problem with his roaming mind is that often times he gets bits and pieces, stuff that doesn't really make any sense or stuff that he wasn't even looking for, and then he has to organize those and jam them somewhere before they clutter up his mind space and start to bother him.
It's not something he really has conscious control over. To keep his focus, he tends to shove things that seem irrelevant aside until they become relevant. So it's not entirely his fault that since the night at the police station, a parcel of information labeled "Derek Hale's Seduction Techniques" has been floating around his head. Properly capitalized and everything.
It became relevant after he found out how Derek got Erica to agree to the bite. By "found out", he means that he asked Erica, out of innocent curiosity, and then Erica decided it was only appropriate to give him a re-enactment, manhandling him onto a table and then grabbing him by his thighs ("I wasn't wearing any pants, by the way," she says with a razor-sharp smirk), and yanking him forward to lean in uncomfortably close, her eyes all glowy and smolder-y, basically pushing her chest into his face, which Stiles is positive she added in just to make him squirm. It ended poorly, with Boyd walking in with the newly-identified "I am going to literally disembowel you" micro-expression on his face.
Stiles is aware that Derek's an attractive guy, objectively. It's not like he reimagines the scene with Derek in place of Erica sometimes during his alone time and ends up lying in bed, breathless, uncomfortable, embarrassed and shamefully content. And even if he did, which he didn't, he's only human and also bisexual and also a teenager, a triple-whammy, and it would mean nothing because it's not like he also threw in some sex and post-coital cuddling, because he didn't.
So yeah, Derek's got some good physical qualities. And he clearly knows it too, if his impractically tight jeans are of any consolation.
But it doesn't sit well with Stiles, the thing at the police station and with Erica. It niggles at him from the back of his mind, screaming PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Because Derek's apparently familiar enough with flirting to do it successfully, like it's something that comes naturally to him, but what kind of broody misanthropic guy flirts? Aren't they supposed to look all mysterious and appeal to people's desire to be the only one who can fix with their tortured souls? He hems and haws and figures out nothing, but the subject still lingers in his head, always close at hand.
With the pack not sucking as much as it did before, packs from around California are dropping in to check up on the newly-risen Hale pack, talk about potential alliances and settle any pre-existing agreements, which is pretty cool. It's like a series of werewolf conferences. Scott, as the second pseudo-Alpha of Beacon Hills, has to go with Derek to these meetings, which are held in the backyard of the Hale house, so Stiles gets to tag along if he happens to be home in time from classes at the local college (he forces Scott to take him, but that's beside the point). While the werewolves fulfill their diplomatic roles, Stiles busies himself with conversing with people, supplementing his werewolf knowledge and learning how to tell the difference between Alphas who are quite civil and respect his position and authority as Scott's second-in-command, which is awesome, and Alphas who would probably bite him the moment the opportunity presents itself in an attempt at some sort of power play. All in all, it's very educational.
Of course, needless to say, Derek gets a lot of attention at these shindigs. For various reasons.
"They're really flocking to him these days," Stiles says, mildy awed as he scans the backyard. There's Scott, who's mostly just explaining how he and Derek operate together within Beacon Hills. Peter hangs around too, mostly so he can pull Derek aside to give him background information on whoever he needs to talk to, forcing Stiles to admit, begrudgingly, that he can be useful sometimes. And then there's the very high concentration of werewolves around Derek's general area.
"I'm not surprised," Annabelle, the elderly Alpha of the Fresno pack, tells him as they watch Derek mingle. Stiles had befriended her easily after she approached him to get Peter to stop bothering her. "He's a good-looking fairly competent," Stiles snorts into his cup of soda at that, if only she knew how much effort it took to get Derek to where he is now, "Alpha, not quite marrying age yet, but close enough to start staking claims," she knocks back her drink, some nice scotch because Peter is apparently trying to get into her good graces, and shrugs, "He's practically the package deal."
"It would probably do him some good, wouldn't it?" Stiles asks casually. A woman struts up to Derek, smiling and fluttering her eyelashes, flashing her pretty beta blue eyes, and flipping her shiny blonde hair. And Derek stares blankly at her. The guy is literally not reacting at all to the smokin' hotness currently up in his business. "To get hitched with another Alpha...or something," he trails off, his eyebrows shooting up as he watches the woman's hand rest on Derek's shoulder, a ballsy move, before picking back up, "uh join forces with their pack and stuff.
Annabelle just hums, murmuring a "thank you, honey" as she has her glass refilled. Stiles moves to take another sip and realizes that his own cup is empty. He wants to get another but he's a little mesmerized by the sight of Derek talking to the blonde-haired woman. Or rather, the woman talking at Derek. Stiles notes with amusement, and vicious satisfaction, that her hand is already back at her side, twisting in the material of her blouse. She looks like she's quickly losing nerve. Derek looks increasingly impatient, though still managing to maintain his politely indifferent expression.
"Just out of curiosity," Stiles begins again, idly tapping his fingers against his cup as he turns back to Annabelle. She raises her eyebrows in acknowledgement, her eyes still transfixed on the woman and Derek, "do werewolves have like, special ways of," he wrinkles his nose, "courting?"
"Oh, not really, not these days," she says, waving a hand. "These days, werewolves date just like any other normal person. Though," she taps her finger against her lip, "Derek strikes me more as a traditionalist."
Stiles cocks his head. "A traditionalist?" He turns back to Derek, who has...disappeared. The woman is still standing in the same spot, looking quite defeated. He totally missed something important. The back of his neck tingles. He turns around to see Derek striding purposefully in his direction.
"Annabelle," Derek greets as he stops in front of Stiles, giving her with a curt nod. Annabelle tips her glass at him.
"What's up with the girl?" Stiles asks, looking back over at her. Is -, he does a double-take, is she crying? Derek doesn't even spare her a glance.
"What about her," Derek says, narrowing his eyes at him.
Stiles gives him a disbelieving look before shaking his head. "Never mind," he says. Judging by Derek's earlier expressions, she must've really offended him or something. Looking down at his cup once more, he realizes, much to his displeasure, that it did not magically refill itself. Before he can move to shoulder past Derek to get another, a cup is shoved toward his chest, soda nearly sloshing over the rim with the movement. Stiles blinks at the hand holding it, Derek's, and then looks up to blink at his face, which is perfectly stoic. He looks at Annabelle, who's hiding an amused smile behind her glass. Just over Derek's shoulder, he can see Scott staring at them over his own cup of soda. Stiles widens his eyes at him and Scott just shrugs helplessly. Thanks a lot, Scott.
"Is this a test?" Stiles asks warily, looking again at Derek and then peering down at the cup. It might be the same Coke he was drinking, but there is a likely chance that Derek got Pepsi because sometimes Derek likes to spite him for fun and also he is woefully uneducated in the nuances of junk food. Maybe Stiles is supposed to sniff out the difference. He's pretty sure he could. "This feels like a test."
"Yes," Derek deadpans. "You have to figure out if it's poisoned."
"You're not even a little funny."
Stiles hears what suspiciously sounds like a choked-off laugh coming from Annabelle. Annoyance creeps out from under Derek's emotionless facade and Stiles can tell he is trying extremely hard not to roll his eyes. "Do you want it or not?" Derek asks in his weird demanding way, gesturing at the cup. Stiles slowly takes it from him, their hands brushing.
"Uh thanks," Stiles manages to say before Derek, looking a little pleased, walks away. He pointedly ignores Peter's stupid smirky face which appears just on the edge of his peripherals.
"Definitely a traditionalist," Annabelle says with a nod.
She leaves him with a parting pat on the shoulder, saying something about "lecturing her girl about scents", whatever that means. So Stiles stands alone, stares down at his cup and takes a thoughtful chug, giving Derek a gold star for getting Coke.
Blondes probably aren't Derek's type.
Both the events of Danny being too busy to hang out and Lydia being just in the right mood to tolerate Stiles to allow him to be her fake boyfriend to ward off guys occurring at the same time is as rare as the planets aligning all at once.
But this being Stiles' life, it goes to shit soon after.
"Isn't that Derek?" Lydia shouts over the deafening music of the club. Stiles nearly does a spit-take and follows her finger, glancing down the bar, and lo and behold, there's Derek, sitting beside yet another pretty girl, brunette, he notes absently, doing what he can only assume is his signature move, which is leaning against stuff and smiling. He wishes he had werewolf hearing to hear whatever Derek's saying to make the girl giggle and flush like that. Y'know, so he can use those moves too.
And judging by the barely perceptible jerk of Derek's head, he probably heard Lydia. Stiles pulls back to hide behind her, who gives him the "you're going to thank me later" smile before waving at Derek. He is so not going to thank her later. It's times like these that remind him why he is no longer in love with Lydia. She finds a disturbing amount of glee in making his life more difficult.
"Lydia," he hisses, fruitlessly burying his face in his hands, "what if he was trying to, y'know, get lucky?You've probably totally thrown him off his game!"
Lydia gives him a look. It's sassy and unimpressed with his entire being. Stiles saves it to be identified later. "Please," she scoffs, sipping her drink daintily before twirling around to...walk away. He gapes after her as she effortlessly blends into the crowd.
"You shouldn't be here."
Stiles jumps and turns to meet Derek's scowl. "Heeey, Derek," he splays his fingers wide in an awkward wave, laughing nervously. He leans against the bar, his elbow knocking against his glass as he tries to arrange himself in some sort of casual pose. All these tight clothes Lydia had forced him into is making that very difficult.
Derek looks pained. "What are you doing here?" He says with a sigh, sounding world-weary and long-suffering, as Stiles tugs down his shirt, which keeps riding up his stomach.
"Oh, you know," Stiles holds his hands open. "Just, uh, hanging out with," he gestures vaguely toward the dance floor, "Lydia."
Derek turns and glares toward the crowd. "Lydia."
Stiles sucks in his lips and nods, drumming his fingers on the bar. It gets awkward fast because Derek makes no move to leave. "Look, I'm sorry if Lydia distracted you," he glances over at the girl Derek had been talking to, who is still sitting there, fixing her makeup as she probably eagerly waits for him to return, "so you can just go back and," he coughs, "do your thing."
Derek turns back to him. "My thing," he repeats slowly.
"Y'know," Stiles waggles his eyebrows, "getting your game on."
Derek looks so confused that Stiles almost mistakes him for Scott but after a moment, his brows stop scrunching and he rolls his eyes. "I'm not trying to get laid," he grunts. "There's a succubus in town and I'm trying to pick up some leads so I can track it."
"Well, now I just feel bad for them, you're not even planning on putting out," Stiles says, trying not to sound too happy, downing his drink so Derek doesn't catch his sigh of relief. He watches Derek glare at him over the rim of his glass. "Wait," he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, "you're just coming out here and looking for the succubus? Aren't you worried that you're going to, like," he makes little claw hands, "fall into its clutches?"
"Oh no, I didn't think this through at all," he says dryly.
Stiles glares at him. "I hope you end up humping a tree."
"Unfortunately for you, I'll be fine." He looks suspiciously shifty. "Anyway, you need to get out."
Derek leaves no room for argument as he grabs Stiles by the arm and drags him out the door, ignoring his admittedly weak protests. Stiles even manages to catch Lydia's attention, to which she, again, flashes him a smile, only to make a "go away" gesture with her hand and resume dancing, allowing him to be pulled away. He does not know what he ever saw in her.
After being herded to his car, Stiles figures, judging by the way Derek's lingering, that Derek probably won't leave until he gets in his car and drives away. He sighs, digging into his pocket for his keys.
"Do you," he hears Derek say, mumble actually, "need me to drive?"
Stiles jabs his key into his door as his head shoots up because Derek sounds shy, looks shy with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans as he scuffs his shoe against the ground. His ears even look a little pink. It's too much. Stiles can't help but smile when Derek gets embarassed of his attempts to be nice.
He finally successfully unlocks his car. "I didn't drink any alcohol," Stiles admits, a little sheepish because it's kinda lame to go to a club and not drink. Derek tenses, glowers when he notices the dopey grin on Stiles' face.
"Right." Then he stalks away.
A thought hits Stiles as he pulls out of the parking lot. Huh. Can't Derek smell alcohol or whatever? Maybe all the club smells clogged up his werewolf sinuses.
Later that night, he does a bit of digging on succubi. According to his cursory research, only people who are in love are immune. There's nothing about werewolves having immunity. But Derek seemed pretty sure that he would be fine.
He'll ask him about it later. Derek probably has some secret werewolf knowledge on that laptop he refuses to let Stiles see.
Stiles wonders if he's unknowingly become a stalker.
He's just going to the diner to pick up some celebratory burgers for him and his dad, who just finished a case that has taken two months to solve. His eyes roam around the diner as he waits for his change, coming across a familiar blur. He stops, backtracks to make sure, and groans internally before moving to hide out of plain sight by immediately dropping to the ground. Subtlety, thy name is Stiles.
Derek's sitting in a booth with one of the visiting werewolves, Kelly. She's a brunette and a bit older than Derek, if Stiles remembers correctly, and he supposes she pulls off the hot mom thing (then again, apparently it's physically impossible for werewolves to not be hot) and maybe Derek's into that. Stiles peeks up from behind the counter, pushing aside the tip jar to get a clearer view, receiving an odd look from one of the waitresses, who awkwardly sets his change beside him. He quickly waves her away.
His eyebrows slowly climb up his forehead as he, for lack of better word, spies on them.
This is not extortion Derek. This is not even stone cold rejection Derek. This is like a version of normal Derek, one that laughs, at what, Stiles wishes he could know, and smiles, not that big toothy smile but like this small shy smile. He looks...content. Happy, even.
Stiles swallows, his throat feeling tight.
So, he's not going lie.
It's not that he doesn't like the angry, broody, occasionally socially awkward Derek that he gets. Smooth, charming Derek is too abnormal for him anyway.
It's just that he wishes he could make Derek laugh and smile like that, as corny as that sounds.
Like, okay, they don't even have enough conversations beyond the occasional happenstance when they're just together and the short ones that they manage to wedge in between life-threatening situations and rescue missions and even in those, it's mostly them trying to figure out how to get out of said situations while sniping at each other and hurling insults and talking about how much everything sucks. It's hardly the ideal set-up for a budding romance, but clearly, Stiles is special. He doesn't need something as mundane as words. He saves Derek a few times, Derek saves him a few more times, they talk sometimes, they make it through two years without killing each other, and apparently that's all Stiles needs to start falling in love with people. It isn't too bad of a foundation, considering that he fell in love with Lydia, at first, on the basis of her hair color.
He knows that he isn't big on openly voicing his feelings, at least, not the ones that matter (the ones that hurt). But you'd think that after seeing him save his life not once, not twice, but like four times and counting, Derek would loosen up and realize that Stiles doesn't fall into pools or in front of things that can shoot fast-moving projectiles and then think "hey since you're here and dying, might as well give you a hand".
"Food's ready, Stiles," the waitress announces perkily, holding up a greasy paper bag. And like a terrible rom-com, the world slows to a crawl and Stiles can only watch as the bag slams down on the counter with an earth-shattering thud, Derek's head turning toward the sound, his lips still fixed in a smile. His eyes hone in on him like freakin' laser beams and so Stiles does the only logical thing.
He books it. He grabs the bag, leaving his change behind as he all but runs out the door, the bell tinkling cheerily behind him.
And he even almost makes it to his car, fumbling with his keys, until he's stopped by a "Stiles!" His forehead connects with the window as he sighs. How much would Derek hate him if he just ignored him and drove off, he wonders.
Stiles pastes on a smile and spins around, running his hand through his hair as Derek catches up to him. "Derek! Fancy seeing you here! What are the chances, am I right?" He gestures at his entire general vicinity, adds in the diner for good measure.
"Stiles I -," Derek begins but he stops himself, his mouth clicking shut. He takes a deep breath. "That wasn't what you thought it was," he says with an edge of frustration.
"I don't think anything," Stiles squeaks. Goddammit.
Derek's shoulders drop in one of the most exasperated full-body sighs Stiles has ever seen. "I'm not on a date," he grits out. Stiles casts a wary glance at the fists clenched at his sides.
Liar, liar, liiiiiies. "Of course not," is what he says, nodding in agreement. "Just sharing a piece of pie with a lady friend. Improving those pack relations." He winks. It does not lighten the mood.
Derek makes a displeased noise, looking a little huffy and pouty. Stiles is ashamed of himself because he finds it disgustingly endearing. "You always show up at the worst times," he says miserably.
Stiles feels his heart lurch painfully and hopes that Derek doesn't notice. "I don't intentionally try to cock-block you," except he did, well, not intentionally, but he doesn't feel particularly guilty about it either. "Your not-dates just - argh," he throws his head back in frustration, "keep occurring around me! They're like my Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, okay?" Stiles exclaims, throwing his arms out.
"Well, you're my Baader-Meinhof phenomenon!" Derek shouts back angrily.
A weird self-conscious silence settles over them as they both realize how odd their shouting match sounds. Wait. Stiles scrunches his brow in confusion just as Derek goes rigid. Did he just.
"I'm - what?" Stiles says intelligently after a full minute of incredulous staring.
Derek, flushed and wide-eyed, looks utterly mortified, his mouth doing something Stiles is very familiar with, which is that thing when it doesn't know if it should open or close, but he ultimately says nothing. In fact, he spins on his heel and stalks away. Again.
Stiles stares at Derek's retreating back as the bag in his hand crinkles, his food cooling in the night air.
After a fitful night, Stiles wakes up the next morning with his nose twitching. Blinking blearily, he rolls over and looks around his room, his eyes eventually landing on a paper bag sitting just below his window. He squints. It's the same paper bag used by the diner.
Dragging himself over to the bag, he sniffs again. He rips the bag open.
It's a whole entire cream pie.
The folder had rapidly changed names since it came into existence, from "Derek Hale's Seduction Techniques" to "How Derek flirts" to "How Derek gets what he wants by flirting" and then another folder had emerged and ended up being called "hOW DOES DEREK FLIRT???", like the subject matter itself was suffering a bit of ADHD. Understandable. Derek has always been infuriatingly confusing.
As he sits on the ground, shoveling the pie into his mouth with a fork, he thinks about last night. Stiles had come to the conclusion pretty early on, after watching Derek charm a few more Alphas at those meetings, that he uses this weird blatant flirting to get what he wants. He smiles, plays up on his good looks, apparently remembers how to act like a normal human being. But last night Derek was alarmingly in character.
In his defense, he does have priorities, alright? As much as he wanted to know how Derek acts around people he finds attractive, and oh did he want to know, Derek is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in trust issues and leather and sharp pointy things like teeth and claws and his cheekbones. In between doing actual research and schoolwork and trying to prevent death, he hardly has the time to sit down and figure out Derek's emotional processes. He'd sooner solve P=NP.
So he thinks.
He mops up some cream with a bit of the spongey cake. And thinks.
At one of the those werewolf mixers. "Do you want it or not?"
At the club. "Do you need me to drive?"
At the diner. "You always show at the worst times."
"Derek strikes me as a traditionalist." Annabelle, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye.
"Unfortunately for you, I'll be fine."
His eyes widen. He rummages through his brain. Peter giving Derek pitying looks every time he turns someone down. Lydia at the club, with her "boys are so dumb and oblivious" look. Derek, doing things for him. Derek, shuffling awkwardly and flushing. Derek, insisting that he's not on a date. Derek, saving him multiple times. Everything is going through his mind like a terrible slideshow.
"Well, you're my Baader-Meinhof phenomenon!"
He promptly chokes on a bite of pie.
The sheriff hears violent hacking above him as he's drinking his morning coffee in the kitchen. He immediately dashes to clamber up the stairs. "Stiles?" He breathes, panicked, flinging the door open to see Stiles coughing weakly, curled up half-naked on the floor in his boxers next to a half-eaten pie. He leans against the door jamb and runs a hand over his face, trying not to laugh. He would be lying if he said that this wasn't within the scope of Stiles' behavior. "Uh," he scratches the back of his neck, "you okay, son?"
"Daaaaad," Stiles wails, his voice muffled by the hands covering his face, "Everything I know is a lie."
Stiles collects his dignity, puts on some pants, wraps up the pie, and drives.
"That was," Stiles declares the moment he passes through Derek's front door and catches a glimpse of Derek, "such a weird confession I'm actually not even sure it was intentional."
Derek stares at him, sitting frozen on the couch, his hand poised on the television remote. His hair is messy, sticking up and flattened on one side. I could've had my hands in that hair a long time ago, Stiles thinks darkly. "Uh." Derek turns his head, dragging his eyes away from him. Stiles pushes the door a little wider to see Isaac sitting on the armchair next to Derek, a spoonful of cereal halfway to his mouth.
"Nope," Isaac says with a head shake, setting his spoon and bowl down on the table and holding up his hands. "Nope, nope." He stands, brushing past Stiles as he walks out the front door, still in his pajamas. Maybe to run to Scott's house. That might explain the wary glances he would cast him and Derek whenever they were in close proximity with each other.
Stiles nudges the door shut with a sigh. He hears the television beep as it powers down.
"Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. I have to say, that's a pretty strange and subtle way to maybe hint at the possible fact that you can't stop thinking about me," Stiles tosses the bag holding the remnants of the pie onto the coffee table. Isaac's bowl rattles. Derek looks at the bag, looks at Stiles. "Were you ever planning on actually telling me? Like a normal person." He asks with exasperation, throwing his arms out.
Derek scratches his cheek, standing. "I was," he mumbles, crossing his arms over his chest. "I did."
Stiles rolls his eyes. "You're lucky I read Wikipedia for fun, buddy, so I got to fully appreciate the implication of the implication of your otherwise childish outburst."
"I'm sorry I didn't make a banner and buy you flowers. It was a heat of the moment thing, okay," Derek says glumly before letting out a sigh. "I thought you knew." He looks away. "And that you didn't feel the same."
Stiles stares at him, slack-jawed. "What could have possibly made you think that I didn't feel the same?"
Derek stares back at him. "You were always asking about the women who talked to me," he replies. "And you hang out with Lydia all the time."
"Oh my god, Derek," Stiles groans. "First of all, I was trying to figure you out, which I failed miserably at. Second, I've been hanging out with her a lot because since she and Jackson have been a little rocky these days, she doesn't exactly want to hang out with his best friend, who will only try to convince her that he's not really a dick, whereas I will gladly and freely talk about how much of a tool he is. And third," he heaves in a huge breath, "you were throwing me off with your fake flirting!" He cries, frustrated. "I literally just learned like fifteen minutes ago that your actual flirting isn't even flirting at all! And that all that not-flirting was directed at me! I was not wooed! There were no sweet nothing's whispered in my ear, even though you've," he deflates, sighing, "totally been close enough to me more than once to do that."
"Did you want me to do that?" Derek's eyebrows do something complicated, a cross between confused and self-hating.
"Not really," he admits irritably. "But it would've been helpful." And nice.
"Sorry," Derek says, sounding a little dejected.
Great, now Stiles feels like an asshole. He exhales noisily. "What were you talking to Kelly about?" He decides to ask because it's been bothering him for what feels like forever and it's the one outlier that he can't figure out.
"Her daughter," Derek replies hesitantly, like he's unsure where this is going. "Born when I was in high school, used to babysit her," he scrunches his nose like he's embarrassed. "She joined little league this year."
Oh my god. Derek being cute and happy over a kid. Of course Derek is a huge squishy ball of feelings. And now Stiles really is an asshole because he trampled all over them.
"Flirting is easy," Derek explains quietly as Stiles struggles internally, "because it's shallow. All I have to do is pick something about a person and say something nice, even if it's not true. I'm not a good person, Stiles. It's a sort of manipulation and I know how effective it can be and I -," he stops, running his hand through his hair, and looks up at Stiles. "I didn't want you to end up liking this fake version of me, if you ever could like me." Stiles watches as Derek bows his head, rubbing his foot against the back of the other, sneaking glances at him.
Stiles is so done. Derek is a closet hopeless romantic. Even the prolonged exposure to Scott and Allison's mooning isn't making him feel any less mushy and giddy on the inside. "I can't believe you," Stiles decides to say after a long silence, not even sorry for the hurt expression on Derek's face. "You and your symbolism and vagueness and your weird wolf-y gestures. Yeah," he snaps as hurt melts away into sheepishness, "I know about those too now. You thought the research would deter me, huh? Though that all the fanfiction would scare me off, hm? Well, it didn't!" He announces triumphantly. "I relished every goddamn bare-backing, scent-marking, knotting," Derek looks increasingly horrified with every word, "and come-playing detail!"
They both turn when they hear a series of thuds coming from the stairs. It's Peter, probably having been woken up by their voices, clutching the hand rail with both hands, half-sprawled on the stairs. He gracefully manages to get upright and clears his throat.
"I heard nothing," he says tightly before quickly descending the rest of the steps. The back door slams shut soon after.
Derek sputters, bright red and evidently unable to form words. Stiles sighs and plops down in front of the coffee table, drained.
"Now come and eat your symbolic gesture with me, lover boy," he huffs, unpacking the pie. "I tried to eat half, but your emotions tried to kill me before I could get there."
"We don't have knots," Derek manages weakly.
"Stop, you're already disappointing me."
"While it would be nice and neat if we could hash out all our issues in one sitting, I kinda just want to eat this pie and maybe sleep for a few hours," Stiles says, continuing to work through the pie. Derek sits cross-legged across from him, also eating while pushing more pie over to Stiles' side of the tin. He realizes belatedly that Derek got him the least pie-like pie, it's a glorified cake, really, because Stiles actually doesn't even like pie. He hopes his dad will stand by his promise to blacklist him on every police recruit list in the world because now that he knows, it's kinda painful how obvious it all was.
"Yeah," Derek says quietly. He pokes at the pie with his fork. "...but, just, do you have anything else to say to..what I said?"
Stiles drops his fork with a clatter, startling Derek. Small victories. "Oh my god," he moans around a mouthful of pie, his face hopefully fixed in an expression of total disbelief, before shoving the pie aside, because he's not going to ruin a perfectly good pie, and leaning over the table to grab Derek's stupid insecure face and plant an open-mouthed kiss on it. The kiss is warm and wet and also incredibly messy and kinda gross because there's whipped cream and sponge cake in the way. Derek makes a satisfying choking noise as Stiles vindictively shoves his tongue into his mouth because he's allowed to do that now. He tastes sweet, like the pie, and a little sour-bitter, like the shitty coffee he brews every other morning when he's not too busy fighting for his life.
"How's that for an answer?" Stiles says breathlessly when he pulls back to admire his handiwork, only getting as far as two inches. Derek stares at him dazedly with bits of cream and cake smeared around his mouth, his hands anchoring Stiles in place where he has practically climbed onto the table.
Derek licks his lips and thoughtfully chews on the undoubtedly soggy piece of pie, to which Stiles thinks sneaky asshole because he's totally got a secret arsenal of sexy moves. "You even got a callback in there," he adds wryly.
Stiles laughs. Derek's eyes are dark, his hair is even messier than before, and he looks like a thing of wet dreams. But the best part is that he's smiling, wide and shy, a smile that Stiles has never seen, one that reaches and brightens his hazel eyes and makes Stiles feel like he's finally done something good. So he can't help but smile back as Derek leans in and kisses him again.