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Days Like This

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Week 0

 

When Derek comes back, it’s to settle the Hale estate, and it’s been strategically planned to be in the middle of finals season for everybody because they’re in their senior year of college and graduation is their top priority. Or, at least, he hopes it is. It’s not that he’s avoiding them, it’s just that the only communication he’s had with them over the past seven years has been email, the occasional phone call, and whatever information filters through Cora both ways. That is, after he and Cora disappeared and it took her three years to break him down and reach back out to the kids he was pretty certain he ruined the lives of.

While he’ll never say it, Cora was right. Reaching out was a good idea. He no longer feels like he ruined anyone’s life. He certainly didn’t help anybody’s teenage years go any more smoothly, but from what he’s heard the Beacon Hills group has handled things well. Emails and the here-and-there phone call aren’t all that got him to this point. He might have found the best therapist in Houston. At least, for him. Then again, any therapist he can talk to about being a werewolf, the fact that he was romantically involved with the woman who killed his family, and the years when he went a little insane after his older sister’s death and turned a bunch of other kids into werewolves and then had most of them die in his arms—well, he’s just really happy he can afford her.

Could. Not that he can’t anymore, but he hasn’t seen her except for the occasional venting session when work was getting too busy. That, and it’s not like she’s moving out to Beacon Hills. He does have her number though, marked: If You’re Thinking About it Call, Hillary . A direct quote from her when he’d told her he was leaving.

He knows he’ll need to see them eventually. He’s moving back after all. With his relatively new MBA a decent number of years of work experience, and enough years with Hillary to feel like a proper adult who’s got a grip on his life. So, perpetual avoidance is not the answer, obviously. He’s just been busy. Legitimately busy, with preparations for moving back and wrapping up his job in Houston and helping Cora get settled in Seattle. That, and in the little down time he’s had, he couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out a way to broach the subject with the Beacon Hills crew. Now he’s here, slinking around in a way that feels all too much like he’s a twenty-two year old mess of a person. Reminding himself he’s not doesn’t do much when his eyes are darting around and there’s a nervous tickle between his shoulders.

Predictably, all this anxiety and twitching ends with him running into the Sheriff at the only decent coffee place in town. Not, like, meeting eyes across the small shop and exchanging the kind of cordial nod that police officer and previously-accused-felon might share. No, he literally runs into the man, and it’s only werewolf instincts that keep the Sheriff’s coffee from ending up on either of them.

“Derek.” 

Being recognized makes him start. Realizing it’s the Sheriff makes him take a step and a half back before he knows what he’s doing. The almost friendly tone of the man’s voice makes his brow furrow in a lost sort of confusion. “Sheriff,” is a tentative greeting.

Tentative isn’t necessary. The Sheriff’s smiling in a way that reminds him of Stiles, which is a little weird. He knows that. Stiles didn’t do much smiling around him. The fact that Derek stalked Scott to the extent that he became familiar with the smile that Stiles never had on in his vicinity is yet another reminder of his horrifically embarrassing, unnerving younger self. Really, it’s no wonder Stiles got him arrested.

“Nice to see you. I was wondering when you’d be getting into town. Congratulations, by the way.”

He can feel his whole face contorting and can’t seem to stop it. “What?”

Patting him on the shoulder, the Sheriff guides him into the coffee shop he was just leaving, stopping them at the end of the short line. “Your MBA,” the Sheriff clarifies.

“That’s not...”

The Sheriff chuckles. “Right. Stiles said you were buying permits to fix up that old house of yours. He also mentioned something about you opening a business... a bakery, right?” Despite the fact that it’s a question, there’s a twist to his lips as he glances Derek over that says he knows he’s right. From the humor in the smile, just like Cora, he finds the idea of Derek crouched down looking through an oven door at a pan of muffins to be hilarious.

That, however, is the least of his problems. “Um, Stiles?” he wonders, because he hasn’t talked to anybody about this, except Cora and the people involved in actually getting the paperwork done. The last time he spoke to Stiles was three months ago when he got a call at three a.m. asking if Derek knew something about some creature he described as the ugly cub in a badger-lizard union, that, if he remembers correctly, also happened to be the size of a bear. He’d sounded rushed, like he normally does when he’s on a research binge and his brain is moving too fast for the rest of his body.

Derek knows because Stiles is one of the ones he’s kept in touch with the most. Not surprisingly because of Stiles’ need to know everything there is to know about the supernatural. Never mind the fact that Derek has told him, multiple times over the years, that he is not a wealth of knowledge and to go read the bestiary. Typically the response to that is a lot of anguished sighing and bitching about “I don’t want to.” Not can’t, Derek’s noted on every occasion—doesn’t want to.

The Sheriff’s smile dims a little, though Derek has the distinct feeling it’s not because of him. “Ah, I just assumed he actually spoke to you about all this.” He shakes his head and sighs. “Jesus, that kid’ll be the death of me. Anyway, congratulations on all accounts. You should stop by the house, we’re having a family dinner tonight and there’s always room for one more mouth with the way Stiles cooks.”

Accepting that he has no clue what’s going on doesn’t make things better, per say, but it at least lets him proceed with the conversation without looking or sounds too much like an idiot. Well, looking, maybe. “Family dinner?”

“Hello! How can I help you?”

A second passes before Derek drags his eyes to the woman behind the register who’s grinning at him. If he weren’t stuck in a Twilight Zone conversation with the Beacon Hills’ Sheriff, he could enjoy the Twilight Zone Beacon Hills that treats him like a normal citizen and not a criminal. (The fact that he’s dressed like a normal citizen and not in black leather, and isn’t glowering at every person from under his bushy eyebrows like they were low-hanging goth bangs, is not lost on him.) “Coffee,” sounds hollow to his own ears. In his defense, he’s still doing a lot of processing.

“Size?”

“Large.” The Sheriff is still next to him, sipping away at his own cup. 

“Room?”

Derek shakes his head, then stops, nods. “Yeah.” He hands over a five, tells her to keep the change because he’s more interested in getting back to his conversation than waiting for change, and follows the Sheriff to the milk and sugar. He’s in the middle of filling the rest of the cup to the brim with soy milk when he remembers why he feels like a zombie. “Isn’t Stiles in the middle of finals?”

“He took those two weeks ago,” the Sheriff informs. “The city’s doing a massive overhaul of its cyber security and wanted to hire him full time during the installment. With a letter from a whole city, no matter how small, his professors were pretty lenient. Then again, it’s not like he was asking for an extension.” A short lull, and the Sheriff sighs, shaking his head. “That’s how he found out about you moving back. I should have known. So, dinner?”

Before he can make up an excuse not to, Derek nods. Once he and the Sheriff have parted ways outside the cafe and he has the time to think about it, he finds himself smiling. Free dinner, company, and, better yet, he won’t have to explain what he’s doing in town, which takes a massive amount of pressure off his shoulders. 

 

“Hey!”

The first thing Derek notices is that Stiles is taller. The second is that he’s more filled out. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Not living in Beacon Hills doesn’t stop the machine of social media, and it’s not like he hasn’t seen pictures, but it’s different in person. Stiles, now Derek’s height, maybe an inch taller, still has the same wide smile and loose-limbness about him that he did when he was in high school. Between the height and the muscles though, this Stiles wouldn’t make anyone second guess that he played lacrosse. The only thing people would second guess about this Stiles is the fact that he was always on the bench.

“Okay, I get that hacking into the city database and finding out that you’re moving back and not really talking to you about it might not have been the best move, but I wasn’t going to bring it up if you didn’t want to bring it up,” Stiles says from where he’s leaning in the doorway, arms folded over his chest.

This Stiles is an adult. Derek’s not sure what to do with that thought, or why it would cross his mind. Of course Stiles is an adult. He’s twenty-two and out of college.

“But, the more I stare at you staring at me, which, yeah, I’m kind of having high school flashbacks, but, I don’t think you’re so thrown by that. I’m surprised you haven’t checked to see if I’m wolf yet.”

Derek blinks, the thought crossing his mind for the first time, and scents.

Stiles laughs. “Got you.”

He finds himself rolling his eyes, because Stiles smells purely human. Human, wrapped up in clean scents of bland soaps underneath heavier smells of meat, spices, greens. Stiles smells good. Not, like, Twilight good, but like the makings of a nice dinner. Again, not like Twilight dinner. An actual dinner. Of real food. 

“You thought I was still at school,” Stiles says. He hasn’t moved from the doorway. Derek’s not sure his legs are working yet, so this works for him.

He nods. “Yeah.”

“You hoped I was at school,” he continues, not unfriendly. “With everybody else, I mean. Not, like, me specifically. Because you’re a dope who couldn’t figure out how to tell us you were moving back.” He chuckles, sounds like his dad but different. The difference must be his mom. “Well,” he sighs, pushing away from the frame, “no reason to agonize over it, I told everybody, like, two weeks ago.”

Derek blinks. “You told everybody? Two weeks ago?” He should feel like his privacy has been breached. He should be irritated. Instead he just feels massively relieved.

Stiles nods. “Yeah. Because I found out, like, a month and a half ago, and when it became obvious you were being a boob and either weren’t planning on telling us or were too stupid to figure out how to send out an email that says, ‘Hey dudes and dudettes, I’m moving back, make sure to pull out your leather jackets and your Harleys, we’re getting wolf tats,’ I thought I’d just go about the heavy lifting myself.”

A sigh presses out of him. Now he knows emails and Cora don’t exaggerate Stiles’ particular Stiles-ness.

“Really though, there are, like, four of us in the area, and by that I mean California. Scott, Kira, and I are the only ones still even in Beacon Hills.” He shakes his head, but he’s still smiling, wide and bright. “Come on, I gotta get these burgers on the grill before the dog gets to them first. Dad’ll be here in fifteen, or twenty, or whenever he gets too fed up with me texting him and realizes he’ll still have the same stack of paperwork waiting for him tomorrow.”

Nodding, Derek follows Stiles through the house.

The ‘dog’ is a massive mutt that Stiles calls Lucy with the kind of affection people normally reserve for kittens, puppies, and actually cute babies. She quivers with the desire to jump up when they push into the back yard, but stays on the ground, tail wagging so hard the whole back half of her moves. Putting his plate of patties and veggies next to the grill, Stiles turns and pats his chest. She leaps up, paws on his shoulders, nose shoved into his face.

Derek’s heart thumbs.

It’s not the scene. Though, okay, it could be the scene. It’s stupidly adorable. It could be the scene if Stiles hadn’t thumped his chest with his palms and Derek didn’t notice that Stiles is missing a finger. Ring finger of his left hand, gone. All that’s there is a scar of an old wound. Derek doesn’t know how old, just that it’s old enough to be healed completely. And it draws his attention to the things that aren’t broad-shouldered, muscled, smiling Stiles. Like the litter of scarring across the knuckles of Stiles’ left hand and forearms. The way the length of his hair does a decent but not perfect job of hiding what can only be a scar that starts behind his right ear and runs to the back of his skull before it disappears. 

Laughing, Stiles brushes Lucy off of him. She’s reluctant to go. He says, “Down,” and she’s on all fours almost before the word is off his tongue, grinning up at him with the kind of adoration dogs have for their masters. “Where’s the tree?” Stiles asks her, and in a flash she’s gone. Back seconds later with a branch so massive Derek thinks, for a moment, that it is a tree. Albeit, a small one, but still.

“Crap,” he mutters, and he’s not sure if it’s because of the small pine the dog’s brought Stiles or the scars and what he realizes they’re indicative of. He flashes to the call he got at 3 a.m. three months ago. Before he can agonize over it, Stiles’ laugh interrupts his thoughts, bringing him back to the present.

“What can I say, a big dog deserves a big stick.” Grabbing the massive branch with one hand, he pats Lucy on the head with the other and she releases it. Backing up, her eyes never leave it. “Okay, you know, I know this isn’t going to look impressive to you, and Scott totally does a better job with the tree than I do, but I don’t know how you are about dog slobber,” Stiles says. He’s stepping well away from the barbecue, and then he’s twisting, arching his back, two hands on the tree. He takes three steps that, in a way, make Derek think of shot-putters, his body twists, curves, his forearms ripple with muscle, and then the tree is sailing through the air and Lucy’s running.

Turning back to Derek and the barbecue, Stiles winces and rubs his left shoulder. “Okay, if you’re even marginally alright with dog slobber, you’re on tree duty, because that thing wrecks me. Unfortunately she’s not into baseball bats, because that would be a hell of a lot easier.”

Dimly, Derek’s aware he’s nodding. 

“You know I’m talking so much because you’re being awkwardly silent. Right?” Stiles asks, returning to the barbecue to open it up. A wave of heat rolls out. The grill looks pristine. If the outside weren’t as weathered as it is, Derek might think it were new. 

“I’m just...” Derek tries, but fails. He’s not sure what he is. 

“It’s cool. My dad did kind of wrestle you into this, I’m sure. You were probably more prepared for some time on your own.” Three cobs of corn meet the grill. They sizzle, steam wafting up from their soaked husks. Lucy comes back with the tree in her mouth. She’s prancing with pride. The thing’s not even dragging on the ground. “Could you...?” Stiles asks, gesturing toward her as he tosses on another burger.

Derek welcomes the distraction. With a pat to the knee, Lucy instantly approaches him, presenting the tree like the blue ribbon prize at a southern pie baking contest. The tree is heavier than it looks, making him toss a glance at Stiles’ back, impressed. Looking like you can throw a Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree’s big brother a fair distance is different than actually being able to do it. Even with the muscle, Stiles’ lankiness still makes Derek think he’s more running inclined than brute strength. He puts some wolf into his throw. The tree flies across the yard, into the forest beyond, and Lucy streaks after it.

“Your dad said you’re doing some work for the city?” He makes it a question because he wants to hear more.

Stiles shrugs at the grill. “Yeah. One of my majors was computer science and I’ve been doing some consulting work for them for awhile. Wasn’t that hard to convince them they should hire me given how shitty the security is.”

Derek really only remembers Stiles going online to research supernatural creatures, skills he probably learned from his porn research if the kid’s hormones at the time were anything to go by. He never seemed the hacking type. Then again, it’s not like they really talked about their hobbies.

“That what you want to do?” He wonders, genuinely interested. Most of their talks revolve around the supernatural, Stiles grilling for information, or theories, or looking for a brain to bounce ideas off of. In the event of the last one, Derek participates with the reluctance of a parent who knows they’re the second one their kid is asking. Stiles has talked about school a handful of times, is more inclined to talk about the hobbies he picks up and drops like a forgetful seashell collector, and never mentioned the future.

“Not really. I do it because it gives me access to the city database and, since I’m basically building their security, I’m putting my own back doors in,” he says, offhandedly, like he’s not casually discussing taking a job purely so he can commit a felony with the intention of committing more felonies in the future. “Beacon Hills is too hot, supernaturally wise, to really leave it to its own devices. Scott and I are sticking around to watch over things, and considering how small the city is, it’s good to have access to the city database. Helps us do research.”

Derek thinks he might need to sit down. There’s a table close by and he drags one of the chairs over, takes a seat. There’s no sour resignation in Stiles’ voice. It’s all just matter of fact. Though it still leaves the question of whether it’s matter of choice, or even desire.

“Oh.” Lucy’s back, giving Derek a few moments to mull that over. It’s not that he thought things would completely die down once he left the area, but he’d hoped the trouble that followed him here would follow him out as well. He pauses before throwing again to pat Lucy on the head, ruffle her ears. Her tongue is massive and warm and coats his hand in a thick layer of slobber in roughly half a second. He doesn’t mind. “Do you want to stay?” Once the question is out of his mouth he realizes how personal it is, wonders if he should take it back.

Considering it’s Stiles he’s talking to, he doesn’t get the chance.

“Oh. Don’t get me wrong. Yeah, that kind of, I guess that might have sounded like obligation?” Stiles rolls the cobs over and a moment later meat sizzles. He tosses a glance over his shoulder, grin breaking out when he looks down to see Lucy gnawing on Derek’s fingers with tender love that says it will last as long as Derek plans on throwing the tree again—sometime soon would be preferable. “We love it here,” he says, not a tremor in his voice or heart. A second passes and his attention is back on the grill. “I love it here. Scott’s got all this land to run amok on. I get to be near my dad. And, let’s be honest. I’m kind of obsessed with this shit, and I’d rather handle it with Scott than on my own.”

Something that was clenching around Derek’s stomach releases. It’s one thing to get a bunch of kids involved in the supernatural. It’s another to chain them to it forever. Well, Scott’s another issue entirely.

“So, what is it that you actually want to do?”

“Meh,” Stiles murmurs with another shrug. “My other majors were mythology and criminology. I got a business minor and fiddled around with law, music, and geography. I have no clue. I’ve been talking to my dad about joining the Sheriff’s Department, since being in uniform would really help when things get rough, and Dad’s not going to be Sheriff forever. It’s insanely helpful that he has our backs, so getting on that trajectory seems logical. There’s also the Park Ranger’s service. They normally aren’t out around here because we have a Sheriff’s Department, but I’ve looked into it and I could patrol the area if I join.”

Lucy’s weaseled her way between Derek’s knees, has her head resting on his chest, her nose close enough to his chin that he feels the warm, wet breath of her. He pats her head. He’ll get to throwing the tree as soon as he has strength back in his knees and can stand. He’s not sure what he was expecting his first encounter with Stiles would be like, but this clearly wasn’t it. Stiles planning his life around his ability to keep control over the supernatural happenings in Beacon Hills isn’t where Derek thought he’d be headed. Even if there’s a smile in Stiles’ voice and his shoulders are sloped and relaxed.

A hand lands on his shoulder. “You okay?”

Derek starts, blinks. Stiles is in front of him, crouched down, brow knit in concern.

Seconds pass as the tenseness of Stiles features relaxes into a small smile. “Sorry. You don’t need to be hearing about all this stuff. It’s kind of boring,” he chuckles. Patting Derek’s shoulder, he stands, moves back to the grill. “It’s just been rattling around in my head and I don’t really get to chat with many people about it. Scott, Kira, and Malia are all in the middle of finals, and my dad and I have been on pretty different schedules. Graduation has a lot rattling around in my head, so, I guess I’m just kind of getting it all out.”

“No, it’s...” Derek shakes his head. “It’s fine.” And it is. It’s just different. It’s different than what he was expecting, but makes so much sense at the same time. That’s not what’s getting to him though. What’s getting to him is the fact that Stiles sounds like he belongs in the Hale house all those years ago, choosing a career trajectory with thoughts of family and home and safety at the forefront of his mind. The nostalgia is overwhelming and fully unexpected.

With a breath, he stands up. Lucy leaps back, grinning, tongue lolling. Grabbing the tree off the ground, he throws it, wincing when he sails into the darkness of the forest.

“Please tell me those are bison burgers,” a voice calls out from inside the house.

“Of course they’re bison. You know I’m on the email blast for this stuff,” Stiles answers. Back to them, Derek can hear the eye roll in his voice, as well as the smile. “Derek’s here already too.”

“Saw a car outside,” the Sheriff calls. A moment later he’s pushing through the back door with three uncapped beer bottles in hand. “If you don’t like a good craft for the taste and not the liquor, Stiles might kick you out of the house,” he warns, handing a beer over before walking over to his son.

“I wouldn’t kick you out of the house,” Stiles counters, turning around to accept the beer and give Derek what, he’s sure, is supposed to be a reassuring look. Instead it looks a whole lot like exasperation. Derek’s seen that face before, on the Sheriff’s face. “I might put, like, a small drop from my last batch of stink eggs in your burger, and cover it up with a ridiculous amount of chili pepper, but I wouldn’t kick you out of the house.”

Nothing about that gives Derek the impression he’s exaggerating, much less lying. He nods, satisfied to say, “I like a good beer,” and takes a drink as though to prove it. It is a good beer, too. He takes another drink.

Stiles smiles, chuckles, turns back to the grill where he rolls the cobs and flips the patties. “Good timing, Dad. We’re about ready.”

“Come on.” The Sheriff pats Derek’s shoulder and nods toward the house. “Help me grab the necessities before Stiles and the dog have a chance to finish the food.”

As though having heard herself mentioned, Lucy comes trotting out of the tree line finally, ears perked, head bowed down in a way that says unnatural, but not injured. Derek hovers wondering if he just broke Stiles’ dog. She gets a little closer and Stiles lets out a pained, agonized sigh.

“You threw it into the forest,” is a soft lament from the barbecue.

A second later Derek sees the reason she’s bent over and trotting at half pace. It’s because she’s dragging something. A tree. Not like, the funny ha-ha stick that Stiles calls a tree, but an actual tree. It’s small, but it’s a tree, and she’s eyeing Derek sideways in a way that tells him she’s expecting him to throw it for her.

“I swear, the good and the bad of werewolves playing fetch with your dog.”

Another pat on the shoulder brings his attention to the Sheriff nodding hastily toward the house. Derek doesn’t pause to follow him this time.

“Thanks for coming.”

Derek shrugs. He didn’t think he had much choice in the matter.

“Thanks for the invite.”

“It’s good to catch up. Besides, Stiles was convinced it would take you at least a month to stop lurking around avoiding him and Scott, so I’m happy to have bumped into you—bypass all that drama.”

Derek’s unsure whether or not he’s surprised that Stiles knows him so well, even after all this time. He was always a sharp kid though, so it probably shouldn’t be.

They catch up over dinner. Derek talks about his MBA because Stiles asks, and he and the Sheriff look equally interested in hearing about it. Stiles nods along, says enough and asks the kind of questions that make Derek notice his business minor. The Sheriff shrugs off questions about work with, “Same as usual,” which probably isn’t the same as when Derek remembers it, but he doesn’t press. Stiles talks a little about his contracting job and more about school, but mostly about Lucy, who seems to be a relatively new addition to the family, not that Derek could have told from the way she all but shadows him. At some point a report about a recent case gets brought up and Derek’s able to casually ask about the supernatural state of Beacon Hills. Father and son shrug and say it’s life as usual.

Derek doesn’t know what to do with that, not when he’s still having such trouble not staring at Stiles’ left hand.

“It’s nothing,” Stiles says while they do dishes. There’s a dishwasher, Derek pointed it out, and Stiles had just shrugged, said he likes doing them in the sink.

“What happened?” It has to be relatively recent. He can be dense, but he’s pretty sure he would have noticed Stiles missing a finger in the photos Cora shows him and he sees on Instagram, which is the stupidest way to keep in touch, and yet deceptively useful.

“Remember that badger-lizard I asked you about?”

Derek stops drying the plate he’s working on and looks up. “That was three months ago.” His eyes drop back to the four-fingered-hand. It doesn’t seem long enough. The wound seems too healed, too clean. Then again, Derek doesn’t actually know much about healing, other than the fact that he does it very quickly.

“Yeah, it actually doesn’t take long for an amputate finger to heal. Still get some phantom-finger moments though,” Stiles says, lifting his hand out of the soapy water and clenching his fingers into knuckles. “Mostly happens when I wake up in the night though, because I normally have all my fingers in my dreams.” He shrugs, goes back to washing.

“Anyway, the badger-lizard was a mess. It started eating people’s cats, and then it went to dogs, and Scott caught its scent a couple of times, but we didn’t have much of an idea about what to do about it. He’s the one who got the description: badger-lizard. Really, you’d think that would be enough to do some research with.” A suffering sigh. “Apparently not. By the time Scott and I decided we needed to do something before it upgraded from dogs to toddlers, it was less badger-sized and more, I don’t know, small to medium bear sized. That’s when I called you.” He glances over, as though to see if Derek remembers the call.

He nods. Yeah, he remembers the call. “You weren’t doing research,” isn’t the question it is in his head.

Stiles smiles and snorts. “No. I was running back to my car to grab a gun because I no longer wanted to be in machete distance, and Scott was down a cliff somewhere.”

Derek’s impressed. Stiles hadn’t been breathing that hard on the phone. There had been some background noise, but he’d assumed movie or video game. There’d been tension in Stiles’ voice, but nothing that indicated he was being chased by a bear-sized badger-lizard creature. He manages to say, “Oh.”

“Yeah, well, I reached the car, but all I had time to grab was a pipe bomb, which is great when something is far away from you and you’re not in the fifteen foot kill radius, but not so great when it’s, you know, all up in your grill and moves crazy fast. So I shoved it down its throat. Good choice too, thing’s hide was crazy thick. As it was, only a few pieces shot out of it fast enough to get me. So, a little shrapnel and a lost finger, but not much worse for wear,” Stiles prattles, as though talking about a particularly boring Monday night football game and not the time he almost died three months ago. His heart rate barely ticks up.

“Told you pipe bombs were a good idea,” he shouts out, and Derek nearly drops the plate he’s setting down.

“I never said they weren’t. I told you to stop making them in my garage because I don’t want my own deputies to arrest me,” the Sheriff tosses back from the living room.

“I promise not to arrest you when I’m a deputy,” Stiles counters.

“Thanks, son.”

Stiles grins and winks, like he’s pulling his dad’s leg, like the first thing he’s going to do upon getting a badge is arrest his own dad. Derek’s just trying to stay afloat.

Derek stays to watch the last half of some movie or another the Sheriff started on TV. Really, he’s doing less watching and more considering. Playing back the night’s conversations in his head he’s in processing mode, having come in fully unsuspecting. By the end of the movie, Stiles is passed out on the chair he’s been laying in, contorted like a cat, Lucy on the floor beside him, nosing the hand that’s limp on her head. The Sheriff looks like he’s ready for bed as well, and Derek thinks he has a better grip on the person Stiles has turned into and how Beacon Hills has changed since he was last here.

“You’re welcome over any time, Derek. Make sure to stop by for dinner again,” the Sheriff says at the door. Stiles hasn’t budged.

Derek nods, still feeling a bit like he’s in the Twilight Zone, but somehow comfortable with it. He enjoys this Beacon Hills. The anxiety of coming back has all but completely faded. All that’s left is an itching excitement to get life started.

He gets a text from Stiles the next day.

> Nice catching up. Don’t be a stranger, Stranger.

< Thanks for the burgers and booze.

> Hope you plan on taking responsibility for the tree Lucy wants me to throw for her. Almost broke my back getting it out of the yard.

< Not my fault your dog is the size of a horse.

> She’s not. If she were I’d be riding her to work.

Derek rolls his eyes. For all that Stiles has changed, he also really hasn’t.

> Maybe a small horse.

With a snort he shoves his phone in his pocket and goes back to hauling lumber out of the truck. The plans for the house have been approved by the city. He has six months before the contract work on the bakery is finished, and until then he’s working on the house. The idea of hiring a contractor for the house as well had passed his mind, reiterated by Cora, but he’s no stranger to hard work and construction, and the idea of doing it himself makes something warm in him. The house is a Hale house, it should be Hale built, like the original.

 

Week 1.5

 

The texts from Stiles are sporadic at best and it’s a week and a half before Derek sees him again. He’s at the hardware store picking up more lumber when he catches sight of a familiar form. Tall, svelte, distinguishable shoulders. The hair’s a mess, the shirt has paint splatters on it, even from this distance, but there’s no mistaking the man.

“Stiles.”

When Stiles turns around, Derek doesn’t know whether to flinch or laugh. Though, he has to admit, the unmaintained facial hair does match the ‘I slept poorly and am letting my hair show it’ look Stiles has got going on. His grin shows through, and Derek’s not sure if it makes the beard better or worse. “Hey! Derek. I should have expected to run into you here.” He waves a hand, before his smile quirks and dissolves to half-force. “What?” sounds accusatory.

Derek’s grinning. Not a purpose, but it’s just kind of happened. The beard is ridiculous. He ignores the part of him that says it kind of works for Stiles, particularly with the paint-stained flannel and the thread-worn jeans. Actually, he deflects it by reining the grin into a sardonic twist of the lips and asking, “What’s on your face?”

Eyebrow raising, Stiles rubs at his face, then grins. “Oh. My hiatus beard,” he answers, like it’s completely normal.  

Then again, to Stiles it probably is. Derek, on the other hand, says, “Hiatus beard?”

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah. Like, my job’s over for the moment. I have no class. Finals are done. I have a diploma coming in the mail. So… I’m on hiatus. From working,” he clarifies, before glancing over his shoulder. It takes a second for Derek to realize he’s checking for the clerk who’s supposed to be maintaining the paint counter. “Well, from working for money.” Stiles sighs, turning back to face him. “I’m painting the living room as a thank you to my dad for letting me bum at his place while I pay off my mountain of student loans. I mean, working for the city is nice money, particularly because I’m a consultant, but it’s not that nice.”

“Sorry about that,” a kid who’s probably in high school, wearing Lennant’s Hardware green says, slipping back behind the counter.

Stiles waves as he turns, encouraging Derek to stay, as he addresses the kid. “No problem. You got ‘em?”

Derek steps up to see Stiles’ wide smile and bright eyes focused on the kid behind the counter. He’s perched his elbows on the counter like he owns in, leaning in ever so slightly. The flannel he’s wearing isn’t buttoned, and even though he has a shirt on underneath, it’s stretched out at the neck and he’s leaning enough that his chest is easily visible. Derek’s a little distracted, but not enough that the awkward silence doesn’t have him looking at the kid in green.

The kid who’s turning a little pink and is having a hard time looking Stiles in the eyes. Jesus.

“You alright?” Stiles asks, waving a hand in the kid’s face.

The kid jumps, says, “Yeah. Sorry. Yeah, we have the colors. I can have them ready in,” he clears his throat, looks away, feigning looking at a clock Derek knows isn’t there. Knows, because he’s been here every other day for the past ten days. “An hour and a half. Two, max.”

“Cool. You got my number.” Stiles turns, checks Derek with his shoulder, and heads off toward lumber. “You’re getting wood, right?”

Derek opens his mouth and stops himself before he can say anything incriminating. The baffling thing is that he’s ninety-nine percent sure Stiles isn’t even aware he just tossed the kid in paint through the door of Sexual Identity Crisis. Luckily, Derek’s already confident in his, so it’s a whole lot less confusing. After a breath or two, he nods. “Yeah.”

Stiles is giving him a side-eyed look that makes Derek think he might be in trouble for a second until Stiles turns and looks ahead. “Busy on the house, I take it?”

“Yeah.” His pitiful scale of vocabulary wouldn’t be as humiliating if Stiles didn’t know he’s been through graduate school.

“And how’s the work going on the shop?”

Of course Stiles knows about the work on the shop. Stiles knows about everything happening in Beacon Hills these days. “Good. Steady. It’ll give me time to get the house finished, hopefully.”

“Yeah, a chunk of time and change, but I looked at the quote. It seems pretty solid though.” He stops walking and it takes Derek a step before he follows suit, turning around to see Stiles rubbing the back of his neck, a light flush of pink blossoming at the tips of his ears. “That- I’m sorry. That’s super nosey. All of that is-” He cuts off, tries clearing his throat. It doesn’t seem to help him much. “I’m just really used to following what’s happening in town these days, and I know that’s not really an excuse.”

“It’s fine,” Derek assures, before Stiles can get himself riled up.

Then Stiles just nods, hand dropping, thumbs looping into his pockets. “Cool. Alright.”

They start walking again.

Honestly, it’s nice that Stiles knows, is interested enough in what he knows to ask about it. Derek kind of wishes he was the one telling Stiles in the first place, and maybe he should get a grip on that. They text after all. There’s nothing keeping him from giving Stiles information freely. It’s just a little weird, because the only person he’s worried about telling anything for a long time is Cora, and now she’s off doing her own thing and, while she loves him, she keeps sending him sleeping emojis when he updates her on life in Beacon Hills.

“You want to come by and see the plans some time?” He asks before he can chicken out of it. It’s an innocent question, but he thinks Stiles might not so much be interested in what he’s doing as interested in what’s going on and what information is important to know about and what he can ignore, in regards to the safety of town.

Stiles bumps their shoulders. “Sounds like a plan. I’ve been wanting to make my way up there. I mean, I know you’re not far though, and you really liked your privacy in the past.” It comes out casually, not even shadowed by the weight of their time together seven years ago. Derek wonders if it’s time that done that, or if what Stiles went through in high school just isn’t as heavy compared to the things he deals with now.

“You’re welcome any time,” he gives, surprising himself a little with how honest the statement is. “There’s really not much. I’m still ripping out the old.”

Beside him, close enough to feel his heat, Stiles hums. “Then why the wood?”

“Replacing load-bearing supports. A lot of the stuff is rotting through, between the weather and the fire. I’m surprised it’s lasted this long.”

“Well, if you need a hand, I’ll be around. Once I’m finished painting, of course,” Stiles offers. “I’m not, like, Jesus in the carpentry department, but I know my way around a hammer and nail.”

 

Week 2.5

 

Derek takes him up on the offer.

It’s another week before Stiles is done with the painting, because he’s Stiles, and he loves his dad, and the living room turns into the living room, the two bedrooms, and the kitchen. The Sheriff stops him before he rents out a spray-painter and goes at the outside of the house, which is when he calls Derek and asks if he’s still ripping apart the old place and if he can stop by. Derek says yes and the next day Stiles shows up in a Jeep that isn’t blue and isn’t the same one he’d had in high school. It’s eight in the morning and he has two coffees, a bag that smells a hell of a lot like donuts, and Lucy, who runs around like she knows the place.

“Yeah, she comes up here sometimes,” Stiles sighs, handing over a coffee and the bag of sweets. “I have to admit, I mean, you probably smelled it, but when I’m too lazy to go real camping and Lucy needs some wild and free time, I’ve used the place as a cabin.”

Derek hums in the back of his throat and nods. He had smelled Stiles, relatively fresh, which it would have had to have been to stick around. It’s not like holes in the roof and broken windows allow a lot of scent to seep into the place, much less stay. It wasn’t a big deal and he didn’t think it was something that needed to be brought up. In fact, it was kind of nice to think of the place, as dilapidated and rotted as it was, still being of use to someone. He sips at the coffee: soy milk, no sugar. He side-eyes Stiles who’s distracted watching Lucy sniff around the base of house, making her way up the stairs and onto the porch. She’s at the door when he shouts, “You can’t go inside anymore.” She stops where she is, turns, and sits, her tail thumping loud on the porch. It’s uncanny, how much the animal understands.

“Looks the same out here,” Stiles muses.

“Not so much on the inside,” he assures, opening the bag of donuts because he can’t just stand there smelling them and not eat one. They’re donut holes, actually: denser than normal and only mildly sweet, made sweeter by the powdered sugar. They’re good. He makes a noise of approval and grabs a second one.

Stiles laughs. “Wow. That makes me a lot happier than I thought it would.”

Derek eyes him.

“You’re a baker,” Stiles points out. “Me,” he gestures to himself and shrugs, “I’m more of a meat and veggies than flour and butter kind of guy. Those are tofu and pancake mix, by the way. Super easy to make, which is why I can. I can show you some time. Just healthy enough to let yourself gain, like, five pounds before you realize ‘tofu donuts’ only sounds good for you in theory,” he says.

Eyeing Stiles some more, Derek wonders where these supposed five pounds are. Probably long gone. Stiles looks like dense muscle and not much else. “They’re good,” he says, for something to say, and because he appreciates the way the comment makes Stiles smile.

They work inside and Lucy joins them because it’s not like the floors are new yet. She noses around where an old couch had been sitting when he came back, and settles down in the spot it would be if he hadn’t tossed it out last week. Derek thinks he’ll have to get another one, maybe used, soon, so she stops looking at him like he destroyed her best friend. It makes him wonder how often Stiles and her have camped out here. Then he turns and looks over to see Stiles smashing into a wall with a sledgehammer and he needs a couch because he needs to sit down for a second.

After watching for half a dozen swings, Derek rips his gaze away and tracks down his own sledgehammer before retreating upstairs to be somewhere he won’t be distracted, and lest a potential sledgehammer wielding danger to himself or anyone else.

Two hours later Stiles pops his head through a hole in the wall beside Derek, who nearly pisses himself. “Jesus. What the hell?”

Stiles laughs. “You want some lemonade. I brought some from home. It’s downstairs.”

“You’re light on your feet,” Derek says, instead of ‘yes,’ which is what he meant to say.

Another chuckle. “Yeah. Well. Practice makes as good as I’m gonna get without supernatural powers of my own.” Still grinning, he tosses his chin. “Come on. My lemonade’s as good as my donuts.”

Stiles is right. It is. Derek tries to focus on that fact instead of on the broadness of Stiles’ shoulders, the cut of his arms, the muscle that ripples under his forearms when he pours himself another glass. The lemonade’s not a very good distraction, but the scars that litter Stiles’ arms are, so he focuses on those, tries to figure out what made them.

“Most of this is me being an idiot,” Stiles says, leaning against a wall.

Derek cocks his head in question.

Stiles gestures at one arm with the other before scratching at his face. He’s still got his ‘hiatus beard,’ which is still ridiculous, and still somehow works. “A few bites from things when getting teeth in my arm was the better option than having them go somewhere else. But most of them are from a mudslide I was in a few years ago. It’s why I have the new car now.”

Derek assumed the new car was because Stiles’ old jeep from high school, which was barely reliable back then, had finally given up and quit.

“Anyway, everything worked out alright, but busting through the front windshield of a car and climbing out from under a couple hundred pounds of mud, sticks, and rocks, really isn’t a great experience. I mean, neither is being buried alive and waiting for help, so… you know. Lesser of two evils.”

“You were okay though,” Derek says, even though it’s obvious. Stiles is standing here, with a few additional scars. Still, there’s something about Stiles’ voice, or his heartbeat, that tells him it could have gone a different direction.

Stiles shrugs, as is his habit these days. “Took awhile for the search party to find me. Spent a week in the hospital on antibiotics fighting off a bad infection, but yeah. Worked out well enough.”

Derek feels the tension between his shoulders relax.

“I’m talking a lot about me,” Stiles muses a few long minutes later. “Can I ask about you?”

It’s an innocent enough question, but there’s a tentativeness to Stiles’ voice that takes Derek back. When he looks up from his lemonade and meets Stiles’ eyes, they’re open and honest. Genuine curiosity and a genuine question. “Of course,” he says. Stiles—well, Stiles and Scott and the Beacon Hills crew who were around when he was, they know the worst of him. Everything after that was up hill. Compared to Stiles’ life, everything was bland.

“How’d you get into baking?”

Derek tells him about Esther, the single mom he dated, who owned a dozen of her mother’s cookbooks and never cracked a single one. He ends up talking about more than he intended to, like how he enjoyed being a faux stepdad more than being a boyfriend, and how she gave him the books after they broke up, because he’d been practicing with them and the breakup was mutual. They’d both realized they weren’t planning on the path to getting married and neither of them wanted to have Haley growing too attached to him.

They eventually get back to work, but the next day Stiles asks him about the books while they eat roast-beef sandwiches for lunch, sitting on the floor, Lucy rolling around between them. He tells Stiles about working at one bakery and then another until he found one he liked and stayed there for a year until he decided to get his MBA so he could open up one of his own. Stiles smiles when Derek tells him his favorite part is having people sit in the shop and eat, watching and hearing their reactions. He likes making things that make people smile. It might be why he likes answering Stiles’ questions so much.

 

Week 3.5

 

Another week passes. Stiles and Lucy show up diligently, always with coffee and some kind of breakfast, and Stiles brings a cooler with snacks and lunch and drinks like that’s his job. Then Scott and Kira come back from their post-graduation trip to Europe, and Malia hauls herself in from the Bay so they can have a pack dinner at the Stilinski house. The Sheriff is absent, which might be for the best, because they talk a lot about old times and Derek’s not sure the man needs any more years off his life, unless Stiles has actually told him about all those things. Considering Stiles makes pipe bombs in the garage, maybe he has.

It’s a good dinner. Stiles cooks, which just seems natural, and is probably why they’re at the Stilinski house instead of anywhere else. Scott and Kira announce their engagement, to which Stiles breaks out a bottle of champagne that was already chilling in the fridge because, Derek notes, this isn’t a surprise to him.

Malia tells them she got a job offer and is moving to Germany for a year for the company she’s been interning at while taking classes. Dessert is a cake that says, ‘ Herzliche Glückwünsche Malia! ’ in bright purple icing.

After some prodding, Derek tells them about the house and the bakery and everybody begs him to bake a replacement congratulations cake, because Stiles can cook, and he can follow a recipe for baking, but he forgot the sugar. He’s barely ashamed of it, just shrugs and says, “It’s fine, it’s just not sweet. But, yeah. You need to make something that’s actually decent.”

The most important thing he learns at dinner is that Beacon Hills isn’t nearly as active in the supernatural department as it used to be seven years ago. The incident with the bear-sized badger-lizard was the first in nine months, and before then it had been a trio of water nymphs who really just wanted to be left alone and didn’t even kill anyone. Something about the mention of the story makes Stiles blush, though it’s only the flush of his ears that gives him away considering he’s still got the beard. Scott, Kira, and Malia laugh at him. Derek is tempted to ask, but decides to save it for a later date, when he won’t be making Stiles relive something humiliating in front of everybody else.

 

Week 4.5

 

“We’re not having frozen yogurt for dinner, Stiles.”

Stiles freezes in the middle of piling copious amounts of mango and strawberries into the bottom of the massive tub he has yet to put any frozen yogurt in yet. The fact that putting toppings into the bottom as well as the top is the best idea Derek’s never thought of is beside the point, which still stands.

“Why not?”

Derek wants it to not be rude to just stare at the tub Stiles is holding instead of his face, because Stiles’ face makes him stupider for seeing it. He’s not sure he’s being figurative about that either. Something about the way his heart palpitates is clearly a sign something’s wrong with him when he does it. Also, Stiles’ hiatus beard, which has far surpassed scruff and is now in lumberjack territory, is doing things to Derek. Things he never knew a beard could do.

The ridiculous factor comes from the fact that Stiles isn’t wearing his usual t-shirt and flannel, that he does when they’re working in the house, and complete the lumberjack look. What his face looks ridiculous with is a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles shirt and basketball shorts. Or, he should better say, Stiles’ face should look ridiculous, but it doesn’t. It just looks good. Like the rest of him.

“Derek?”

While he’s been losing IQ points, Stiles has moved from heaping fruit into his yogurt tub to the machine, where he pauses every few seconds to shake the tub, settle the yogurt to be as dense as possible, and then starts up with some more. Derek sighs. “You know it’s by weight, right?” Fitting as much as possible into one bin doesn’t save Stiles any pennies.

Stiles rolls his eyes slowly at the growing chocolate-vanilla mountain. “Duh, but I feel stupid when I carry out two of them.”

Derek notes the fact that he says ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

“You still haven’t put up a reasonable argument against frozen yogurt for dinner.”

No, he hasn’t, because he’s trying not to stare at Stiles’ butt and is just stuck watching his back instead, which is just as bad. While Stiles still wears the same stupid t-shirts, they actually fit him now, or he fits them. Either way, it’s stupidly distracting.

Taking a breath, Derek focuses on the matter at hand. The best he can compile is, “Because it’s dessert.”

Stiles stops pouring yogurt, straightens, and turns around. Not for a second does Derek believe he’s convinced him of anything. So it’s not all that unexpected when Stiles nods his head in consideration. “Okay. Yeah. I see your point, and my plan is that we ignore it, because it’s stupid.”

That sounds about right.

“Stiles,” he sighs, staring at him and feeling some cognitive reasoning returning. Stiles eyes, while nice, are not nearly as distracting as the rest of him.

“Derek,” Stiles huffs back, staring just the same.

“Stiles,” his voice a little more serious and less exasperated.

“Derek,” Stiles repeats, even more somber than Derek.

Seconds pass. Derek already knows he’s not winning this battle.

“We’re not going to keep going?”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Keep going where?”

A sigh. “No, not- With the back and forth. The ‘Stiles’ and the ‘Derek’ and the staring and being serious. I’m just checking, because if not, I have some more yogurt to cram into this thing.”

“You have the steaks at home,” Derek points out, thanking all that is good and just in the world that he remembers those. He remembers them because Stiles texted him about ‘STEAK SUNDAY! If you are not there, I’ll judge you. My dad will judge you. My dog will judge you.’ Really, Derek didn’t need the threat of ‘judgment’ to be on board with a steak dinner, even if it the meal is called ‘Steak Sunday’ and he’s ninety-nine percent sure Stiles is going to reference it as much as possible.

A grin breaks out across Stiles’ face. “Oh. I see. You’re confused.”

He raises his other eyebrow. “I’m confused?”

“You thought this was going to be, like, our only dinner,” Stiles says, turning back around and going back to work. “This is dinner part one. Part two comes in an hour when we’re eating steak.”

Of course. Derek should probably know better by now. “Right,” he says, grabbing one of the big tubs too, because, hell, why not? “Where’s the mango?”

 

Week 5.5

 

A few weeks later, when they’re on the house, replacing the roof, he remembers to ask about the nymphs.

“I didn’t know they were nymphs. Okay. I just ran across this naked chick in the lake one day, and, I know, that lake’s out in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere, you can’t drive out, you’ve gotta hike, and nobody lives out there, I totally should have known something was up,” he prefaces. “Anyway, saw this naked chick, kind of, I mean, Derek, insanely sexy. I would have had to kick myself in the nads if I didn’t make a move. It was ridiculous. So I did. And I- I don’t even know. I got half-married to, like, the one, and then the other two were really pissed, and I was kind of maybe married to, like, all of them for awhile?” He shrugs, nearly falls off the pillar he’s sitting on and makes a smooth recovery before Derek has a chance to recognize the danger. He’s blushing again. “I had to camp out there for almost two weeks while we figured the whole thing out.”

He can’t help the fact that he’s smiling. Stiles is telling him how he accidentally married three women. Not just women, but supernatural creatures. Of course Stiles would marry three water nymphs. Who else in Beacon Hills would that happen to? “Why didn’t you just leave?” Plausible question. He doesn’t know much about water nymphs, but he’s pretty sure water’s the important part of that equation.

Stiles sigh, heavy, dramatic. Under him, Lucy barks. “Oh shush up. You’ve heard this story,” he mutters down at her. She quiets.

“I did, at first. Before I found out about the first marriage, whatever, thing. I got maybe two miles from the lake before I passed out, and when I got back she nearly mauled me to death. It wasn’t meant to be bad. It was, well, as nice as a mauling can be. There were good intent. Maybe for another nymph it might have been a really endearing thing. But, you know,” he waves at himself, “human. So, yeah, dragging me under water and trying to eat my heart was not the best decision on her part. But,” he holds up a finger, as though to stop Derek from interrupting. Not that Derek’s planning on it, he’s too stunned to say much of anything. “To her credit,” Stiles continues, “she wisened up pretty quickly and got me back on dry land. At which point I called Scott, kind of hysterical. In retrospect, it’s pretty funny.”

Derek stares across the twelve feet of roof between them. “She tried to eat your heart?” is a question, but not. He knows what he heard, and that doesn’t sound humorous. In fact, it sounds like part of the story involves another hospital stay.

“Yeah,” Stiles concedes, wincing. “There’s some really not funny parts of that story, but everything turned out well enough. The nymphs healed me, they apologized. And…” he sighs, rubs the back of his neck, then scratches at his hiatus beard. “We like it as a funny story instead of a ‘Stiles almost died’ story, because the former lets us laugh—well, lets them laugh at me—and the latter makes it depressing.”

After years of therapy, Derek thinks Stiles is probably right. Highlighting the happiness of the memory is better than dwelling on the dark part. If Stiles didn’t seem perfectly aware of the danger and the choice he and the others are making in their desired recollection, it might be reason for concern. Except it’s not, because he does.

 

Week 6.5

 

“Stiles,” Derek says a week later as they’re eating lunch amongst stacks of drywall and spools of wire for the electrical they’re running. He watches as the man in question looks up from his sandwich, eyebrows quirked in silent question. “You have to get rid of the beard.”

“But it’s my hiatus beard,” Stiles laments, eyebrows drawn in a way that makes him look like Lucy when Derek hasn’t thrown the tree in too long and she knows she’s been patiently putting up with his shit of not-throwing.

“It’s ridiculous,” Derek counters. And it is. It had gone from rustic to a weird kind of masculine lumberjack length that made Derek wonder when he got into that kind of thing, but now it’s just stupid. “You look like you’re homeless.”

Stiles snorts, rolling his eyes. “I don’t look homeless.”

“You haven’t cut your hair, you don’t even trim the beard, and you wear the same clothes every day. I know you have a home and sometimes I think you might be homeless.”

Stiles stares at him.

Derek stares back.

Lucy walks up and starts gnawing on Stiles’ face. He lasts a good fifteen seconds before he has to push her away from it. “Jesus. You’ve even got my dog against me. Fine. I’ll shave. But, for the record, I wear the same clothes because it’s a waste of money to ruin more than one set of while doing labor. And, for your information, I wash them every night.”

“That’s not the topic up for debate,” Derek retorts. It’s not. He knows Stiles washes the same stupid shirt, and flannel, and pants every night because he always shows up smelling fresh, if not looking it. “Shave your beard tonight and when you come over to watch Star Wars I’ll bake cupcakes.” He doesn’t know why he’s sweetening the pot. Stiles already agreed.

The grin the splits Stiles’ face reminds him.

 

Week 7.5

 

“How do you date someone?” Derek wonders, then corrects himself. “I mean start dating. I know how to date.”

Scott stares at him from across the table, eyes wide. They’re sitting at the best Mexican food place in Beacon Hills with heaping plates of tacos in front of them. Ordering a dozen tacos isn’t an option on the menu, but Scott assured him it was possible. Derek wonders if knowing about the restaurant, and the taco-topia he could indulge in here, would have mellowed him out when he was twenty-two.

There are a lot of things a good taco can fix.

One of those things doesn’t seem to be the brain function of a man who’s been asked an unprompted relationship question.

If Derek didn’t know any better he’d be checking to make sure he hasn’t sprouted a small head from his neck, or his temple, or some other equally visible area. Then again, he kind of understands the feeling. He’s asking Scott for dating advice, which isn’t really all that bad, Scott’s doing great in his relationship with Kira. It’s just that the last time he and Scott hung out was a week and a half after the welcome back slash congratulations to everybody party when they went to lunch and caught up on werewolf stuff. That is to say they didn’t talk about much of anything except the cliff notes of supernatural events in Beacon Hills since he left, their work life, and Stiles. That should have been a glaring warning sign back then, even if he ignored all the other neon signs of attraction and adoration regarding Stiles, but apparently it’s taken a few more weeks for his brain to get the full message about how he doesn’t really like Stiles like a friend.

Well, not just like a friend. Stiles being his friend is one of the best things about him. Second best, after much deliberation, is his smile. His hands are a close third.

“How do you start dating?” Scott asks back, as though to check that he got the question right.

Derek nods, feeling silly, but it’s not like he can back out now. “Yeah. I mean. I date. I’ve dated. This is kind of… different.” Stiles isn’t Esther, or… well, Derek’s only ever dated women. Not that he’s only been sexually attracted to women, it’s just that’s the only type of person he’s ever felt comfortable enough to approach and ask out and date. Stiles isn’t a woman, not by a long shot, and even outside of their sex, he’s nothing like the people Derek’s dated in the past. Stiles is important to Derek, which has taken some time to figure out and come to terms with, though that might be more because it made him feel bad about all his past relationships in retrospect. Not to say he didn’t care for the women in his past at all, it’s just not the same kind of care.

“I’m assuming you’re talking about Stiles,” Scott says.

Freezing, his eyes search Scott’s face for any sign of his thoughts on the matter at hand.

A moment passes before he realizes he has to nod, which he does. There’s no point in hiding it after all. He wants to ask Stiles out, he wants to date him. He wants to go to the small local movie theater downtown and not just try to keep their laugh-snorting at terrible dialogue from being too disruptive, but maybe hold Stiles’ hand, or put his hand on Stiles’ knee, or maybe do something stupid like sit in the back row and make out like they’re in high school. He wants to take Stiles to mini-golf and not just laugh at Stiles’ lewd golf club gestures, but raise his eyebrows in silent challenge, maybe win a blush and a hurried exit. He wants to make Stiles pancakes in the morning after he’s gotten up early specifically so he can do just that. Derek wants to do a lot of things that would make him think he lost his mind if he weren’t head-over-heels for Stiles.

Scott finding out about his massive crush on Stiles isn’t the end of the universe, if anything, Derek kind of feels like he’s asking Stiles’ other dad for permission for his hand in… dating.

“I mean, it’s not rocket science,” Scott continues, “you pretty much only hang out with him. And, you know, visa-versa. If it was someone else I’d be concerned.”

“So…” Derek starts, still fishing. For what it’s worth, Scott’s not shutting him down, or demanding Derek not ask his best friend out, or telling him it’s a terrible idea. Not yet at least.

Scott shrugs, which is completely unhelpful. “I’d say yeah, go for it. I’m pretty sure he’s into you.”

That throws him. “You’re pretty sure?” The idea that Stiles might be interested in him back isn’t what’s surprising. He’s been getting the hints, or what he’s assuming are hints—really hoping are hints. That’s why he’s ready to do something about this whole thing. He likes Stiles, he’s relatively sure Stiles likes him, so why not make it happen? But Scott not knowing about whether or not Stiles likes him makes him rethink everything, relive the last month and a half of his life. When he’d last been in Beacon Hills, there was nothing Stiles wouldn’t tell Scott, and mostly the same for the reverse. He’d assumed that had stayed the same.

“I don’t know,” Scott says, shrugging from behind a taco that he destroys in three bites before continuing. “I mean, Stiles doesn’t really regale me with stories of his love life. He plays it pretty close to the chest these days.”

That piques his interest. ‘These days.’ It doesn’t sound entirely positive. “Did something happen?”

“No more than what normally happens. It’s just hard to have a relationship and deal with what we deal with, unless that person’s, well, you know.” He makes a gesture that Derek knows is supposed to mean ‘involved in the supernatural’ only because it’s the only thing that makes sense. “Stiles and Malia’s relationship in high school is probably the longest one he’s had. Well, other than Trent sophomore year,” Scott winces. “Guy was over here for a year from Canada. Ended up being a Hunter. Not a friendly guy. Stiles kind of…” he tilts his head to the side, as though thinking of the right way to put it, then just goes for it, “sent him to the hospital, paralyzed him. It wasn’t a good breakup.”

Derek stares. He wants to ask if Scott’s serious, because he wants it to be a bad joke. He doesn’t, because it’s not.

“Stiles should’ve probably been the one to tell you about that.” Scott pauses, considers, and shrugs it off. “Well, I mean, it’s not like it’s a secret. Everybody knows about it. And not just, you know, us,” he says, with another gesture, no doubt indicating the Beacon Hills crew. “You don’t push a guy out a window on a college campus and just sweep it under the rug.” Scott wolfs down another taco.

Two years can be a surprisingly short amount of time depending on the incident in question. Not that Derek is the poster boy for dealing with mental health issues. Stiles doesn’t seem to be suffering through any issues, and they have, as it’s been established, been spending a lot of time together. He’d like to think he’d have noticed if something were really wrong.

A big part of him agrees with Scott, that Stiles should probably be telling him about this stuff. The other part wants to know what happened, now. He ends up asking, “What happened?”

Face contorting again, like he’s second guessing himself, Scott doesn’t answer right away. “Just so you know, I’m going to tell Stiles I told you this story. Because I don’t want things to be weird.”

Derek nods. He appreciates the gesture. “Alright.”

“Well, they dated for eight months until Stiles realized the suicide spree on campus wasn’t a suicide spree and was actually Trent killing kids he identified as not-human.”

“Suicide spree?”

“Six kids. Eight months,” Scott explains. “It got in the papers. There was a pretty big panic. Counselors were constantly in and out of dorms. Kids were getting called out to group therapy. Certain buildings were just shut down because the windows opened all the way and the Board was afraid of more kids jumping. It was rough.”

“Six kids in eight months?” Derek repeats. Compared to some of the things that happened in Beacon Hills when he was here, that isn’t a high number, which is horrifying. But six kids on a public college campus, much less one like Berkeley, is.

“What can I say, Cal’s a liberal campus. It attracts all sorts,” Scott replies, already off the topic of death and rounding back to the question of what, not who, the kids were.

“How did Stiles find out? Where were you?” He may not have been the best in keeping in touch, but he knows Stiles and Scott went to the same school. “Wait, I don’t mean-” It sounded a whole lot like laying blame, which isn’t what he’s trying to do. If Scott and Stiles were on the same campus though, it’s a wonder that Stiles figured out the deaths were murders before his werewolf besty.

“No. It’s cool,” Scott says, waving a hand as though to blow away the rest of Derek’s sentence. “I was abroad for two quarters, touching base with a pack we met senior year of high school. So, yeah, I wasn’t around. Kira was doing an exchange in Japan, and Malia was working as well as doing her full time schedule, and since she was down in LA before transferring up here to Stanford, she might as well have been in another country also.”

Derek knows Lydia went to school in New York, which is the only other person he can think of being around to help out, not that she could go sniffing dead bodies. So, Stiles and Trent and eight months of dating to find out your significant other is a serial killer. “How did Stiles find out?”

“There was a girl on campus we’d been talking to about maybe moving up to Beacon Hills. She’d been raised wolf but had bad family issues, and, you know, we’re a welcoming group. She was a freshman and Stiles went to hang out with her one night and found Trent in her room hitting her over the head with a brick. Stiles thought she was dead, they got into a fight, Stiles accidentally threw him out the window.” Scot inhales another taco, decimating the one before picking up another. “Good thing too. Trent ended up paralyzed down from L4, but if he hadn’t gone out the window he would’ve been dead.”

The words are so blasé, so matter of fact, that it takes a second for Derek to understand why he feels so uncomfortable all the sudden. Uncomfortable because it sounds like Stiles might have killed other people.

“He hasn’t.” Scott provides, as though reading his thoughts.

“Really?” Derek asks back.

“Well, not human people,” Scott answers after a second. “We’ve all got blood on our hands of one kind or another by this point.”

So Derek’s not alone in that anymore either.

 

> Ugh. Scott told you the Trent story.

> Which version did you get?

< There are different versions?

> Well, there’s the version where I sound like a badass protecting almost-pack from being killed… and there’s the version that doesn’t.

< I think I just got the truth.

> UGH

> You mean the version that sounds like I ended up in a psych ward or something afterward. I hate that version.

Derek isn’t sure what to do with that. He thinks, more than anything that he just wants to see Stiles and hug him. Questions fill him to the brim, but it’s not the time or the format to ask them, so he pushes them back down for some time later.

> Did I ever tell you the time I built a little lake cabin and a tire swing, like, seven miles into the forest?

< No. Did something happen?

> Nope. It’s an awesome place. It’s still there.

Derek stares at his phone, raising an eyebrow at it. Maybe he should take a selfie and send it to Stiles, that’s who the face is for after all, not his phone. Of course, then he will have taken a selfie, which is something he doesn’t do on principle.

His phone buzzes before he can give it a second thought.

> See, it’s not all bad.

> Somehow we just talk about the shitty stuff.

< Galaxy Quest?

> Is this some kind of pity movie since you’ve heard the Trent story?

< Just want to hear you laugh.

Enough time passes that Derek’s a little afraid he’s not going to get a response. That maybe the text was too honest, too weird. When it finally buzzes, he has a voice message. Bracing himself, he presses play and endures a full thirty seconds of Stiles laughing like a maniacal villain from a bad Bond movie.

> Like that?

< Uninvited.

> You can’t do that. Movie Law.

> That, and I already have my shoes on.

 

Week 8

 

“I read about a niche bakery that opened up in San Francisco a few months ago and I thought we should take a break from the house to go check it out. I mean, you’re opening a bakery, it’s a bakery that’s been open and popular enough to be in the newspaper. There’s really no reason we shouldn’t.”

Derek looks down. He’s on top of a ladder, nailing drywall to the ceiling, Stiles below him as momentary spotter. They switch off when their arms get tired or when Stiles tells him Derek’s werewolfness is insulting his masculinity. There’s a smile beaming up at him, which would be enough to convince him even if he weren’t already intrigued by the idea of seeing other bakeries. He’s seen a lot over the years, as the idea of opening his own came to fruition, but Stiles makes a point too. No reason not to see what this place is doing so well that it gets newspaper coverage.

They head out the next morning, early. Stiles drives up with Lucy in the back, says she loves the city and the beach, which he plans on stopping by after the bakery. There’s a cooler in the back with the dog and Derek doesn’t doubt it’s lunch. During the drive Stiles tells him about a bro-cation he and Scott took after sophomore year of college to Hawaii, where he learned to SCUBA dive and learned how much he hates surfing but loves to watch surfers. Derek tells him about the road trip he and Cora took from Texas to the Keys and has to assure Stiles he’ll show him pictures of him surfing—successfully and quite well—once Stiles isn’t behind the wheel and hurtling down the highway.

“Seriously Stiles?”

They’re standing outside Bow Wow Bakery. Or, Stiles and Lucy are standing, Derek’s trapped, because Stiles drove him out here and he doesn’t know his ass from his head in this city. All he knows is that Stiles managed to find a bakery that makes dog treats and people pastries alike, and is doing a terrible job of not snickering like a thirteen year old boy who noticed his teacher’s button-up is too tight and she’s not wearing an undershirt.

“Come on, we’re not even inside.”

The sound that Derek makes is the closest thing he can produce to a death groan without actually dying.

“You are such a baby,” Stiles chuckles, hooking his shoulder behind Derek’s and nudging him forward. “Look at Lucy.”

Derek’s gaze drops to Lucy, who’s looking up at him like he’s the Superman to her Lois Lane.

“Look at me.”

He doesn’t want to, because he has a pretty good idea of what he’ll find, but he does it anyway.

Stiles, far too close, looking at him like Derek’s the Superman to his Lois Lane.

He heaves a sigh. “Let’s go in.”

The bakery is actually fantastic, though it’s more bread bakery instead of sweets. Regardless of the theme and the fact that Stiles can’t help but mistake dog treats for person treats when it comes to suggesting what Derek should get for brunch, it’s a nice place. The layout is good, the vibe is great. His initial irritation gives way to the desire to buy something to eat, get a coffee, and sit down to enjoy both. Considering Stiles already has a bag of goodies for Lucy, a tray of things for them, and two cups, he gives in.

The food isn’t as good as the rest of the place, which makes Derek wonder if he’s sounding arrogant because when Stiles asks, he says as much. Stiles agrees with a shrug and hands over the chocolate croissant he’s been eating before taking Derek’s half-eaten berry tart.

 

Week 10.5

 

Derek doesn’t know what to do with himself. Well, other than smack his head against a hard surface until his brain starts working properly. Stiles is killing him. Or, more appropriately, thoughts of Stiles are killing him. Mainly the thought that he hasn’t sucked it up and asked him out already, despite what he considers is the best blessing he’s ever going to get out of Scott.

It’s not like his life isn’t rife with opportunities. They’re still working on the house daily. There are even multiple times where he tries, when he’s working in a room in the house, alone, doing electric, nailing up drywall, puddying. Alone, he hones in to Stiles’ heartbeat and his breathing, swells with the pure feeling of content, and he convinces himself he can do this. He can ask Stiles out. He can tell Stiles that he likes him. It’ll be easy. He just has to walk up to him and tell him, ask him. Easy.

Every time he makes it to his feet, maybe half a dozen steps when he’s really brave, and then his resolve crumbles and he gets anxious and starts to second guess himself. It takes about five seconds to convince himself he’s delusional and somehow he’s going to ruin his new relationship with Stiles and they’ll never talk again. Scott’s ‘pretty sure’ doesn’t do anything for his confidence.

 

Week 11

 

They take a weekend and hike out to the lake where Stiles built his cabin and tire swing.

“What-” Derek can’t even finish the question. When Stiles said cabin, he was expecting shack at best, lean-to at most probable, but what Stiles has stopped them in front of is an honest to gods cabin. Not quite the traditional cabin, it seems to be mostly dirt, but it’s solid. Lucy’s already over by it, sniffing and nosing at it.

“I watched this video on FaceBook of a guy who built some hut in the middle of the jungle with, like semi-thick branches and clay, which looked mostly like dirt and water. I watched it, okay, I watched it for a long time. It ended up being the subject of one of my term papers for one of my business classes freshman year—good enough that I actually passed even though it was completely off topic. Anyway, I decided to give it a shot.”

They walk up to it and Derek sees the construction. It’s more impressive up close. Seeing it, he’s not surprised it’s still standing. It’s small, which makes sense if Stiles built the thing from hand. It’ll be a tight fit, but there’s even a little fireplace. Stiles built a fireplace in his cabin and a stone fire pit outside. Watching a video of some guy making a mud hut is one thing. Writing a paper, even one of Stiles’ papers, is something else. But what Derek’s looking at is the special mix of insanity and genius that is Stiles Stilinski.

Having circled the place thoroughly and deeming it fit, Lucy sits outside, tail thumping, tongue lolling.

“Yeah, it’s a good thing I made this, because when the nymph thing happened I had a place to stay,” Stiles says, cutting in front of him and past Lucy to duck through the doorless entry and drop his pack. “Because hey,” he turns around and makes a grand, flourishing gesture that puts the cabin on display. “Cabin.”

“This is the nymph lake?” Derek asks, pausing to look through the tree line where the lake, seconds ago gorgeous and begging to be swimmed in, looks suddenly far more sinister.

Stiles puffs a breath. “Yeah, but they’re gone now. No big deal.”

“You sure?” Derek really doesn’t want to end up accidentally married to a water nymph. He also really doesn’t want Stiles accidentally married to a water nymph. He doesn’t want Stiles accidentally married to anything, or anyone. For that matter, he doesn’t want Stiles not-accidentally married to anyone. Really doesn’t want that.

He seriously needs to have a sit down with himself and get his shit straightened out.

“I’m thinking a swim and then settling in and getting a fire going. It may be summer, but this place isn’t really sleep-naked-under-the-stars warm at night, and the pit’s made to keep embers burning.”

When he looks away from the lake and back to the cabin Stiles already has his shirt off and Derek’s frozen in place by the sight of Stiles’ muscled backside. It’s mainly the muscle and the lines that have him rooted to the spot, those are definitely the parts that are making him go through a minor crisis as he silently pleads with his dick not to do anything stupid. Then there are the scars. Little ones from cuts and scrapes that are likely from scuffles, the regular fights, the things that don’t mean much. Then there are those that aren’t so little or innocent. There’s a silver dollar sized scar, shiny like a burn but not right. Centered between his floating ribs, tendrils of marbled scarring shooting out from it. The second is a long dark line that streaks across Stiles’ right shoulder, maybe six inches long, but, given how dark the scar is, more than a bad cut at the time.

“Cattle prod,” Stiles says, contorting a little to point to the burn that Derek now realizes is electrical, which is why it has the odd pattern. “Spear,” he follows up, patting the scar on his shoulder.

Derek’s not sure he wants to know. Is sure he has to. “How?”

“Meh,” Stiles groans. “Not this weekend. You can ask me when we get back to work on the house, but my stories are seriously just so depressing. Besides, I think I’m making my life sound way too dramatic and, well, threatened. I swear on Lucy it’s better than it was in high school.”

He says that, but Derek doesn’t remember Stiles getting injured enough to have scars like these back in high school.

“And,” Stiles glances over his shoulder. “Because you’re being all weird about those, I’m just going to forewarn you and say the thing on my chest is because of the nymph, and I’m totally fine. I went to a doctor and everything.”

“Just turn around,” grinds out of Derek, because Stiles is freaking him out.

With a huff, Stiles does.

If someone asked Derek this morning what someone would look like after surviving something trying to rip their heart out, he’d say he didn’t know. He knows what someone looks like after something successfully rips their heart out, but not unsuccessfully. Now, he does. He wishes he didn’t. “Why didn’t I know about this stuff?” comes out of his mouth despite the fact that it was supposed to stay firmly in his head.

Stiles lips twist into a smile. Stepping forward, he pats Derek on the cheek. “Because everybody only posts the good stuff on social media, duh.” The pat’s not endearing so much as it is a light, teasing slap that carries just enough sting to get Derek out of his own head. By then, Stiles is back two steps and hunched over his bag, looking for his swim trunks. “Besides, it’s not like we didn’t have it covered. And you were off living your life. I mean, Derek, seriously, you left for a reason. You needed to leave. It did you an insane amount of good, anyone can see that. Also, it’s kind of patronizing to imply that you think we didn’t handle things well enough on our own, or that we needed you to come save us. And let’s be honest, none of us had the best track for saving anyone back then.”

The fact that everything Stiles says is valid doesn’t make him feel better about it. Nor does the fact that he didn’t think of Stiles as anything more than an old acquaintance who knows about his past until relatively recently, that it’s questionable that Derek would have come back had they even asked for help. Stiles is right. He needed to be away. Once he was gone nothing would have brought him back. Not until now, because he’s ready to be here.

Fingers snap in front of him. He starts, eyes focusing on Stiles’ face, too close, grinning. “Awe. Someone space out there a little?” He chuckles. “Saddest part of that isn’t whatever you were thinking that made you do this with your eyebrows,” he says, raising a hand to press a finger to the bridge of Derek’s brow, “but the fact that you missed a free peep show. C’est la vie.” Another chuckle, and then he’s slipping out of the cabin. “Come on Lucy, last one in’s a loser, and unless you’re slow or stupid, that’s gonna be Derek!”

 

Week 12

 

“How do you ask someone out?”

The Sheriff, John—Derek’s still getting used to that, even after all this time and all the dinners he’s been to at the Stilinski house since he’s been back, it’s weird—looks away from the game on TV and stares at him for a second before his eyes narrow. “Aren’t you dating someone already?”

“What? Who?” He’s pretty sure he’d know if he was dating someone.

“My son,” John answers, matter of fact.

Derek stares, at a complete loss for words. Literally, there is not a single word in his brain. There are a bunch of images, mostly of Stiles, but no words.

“Wait. If you two aren’t dating-” John stops, thinks, shakes his head. “No. Yeah. You’re dating.”

“We’re not dating,” Derek manages, his brain starting to reconnect with his mental dictionary.

John’s gaze is intent, intense even. It makes Derek feel like he’s a twenty-two year old leather-jacket-wearing delinquent again. He squirms under the pressure. “Okay, how are you two not dating?” The Sheriff finally asks. The tone makes it sound like a challenge more than a question.

“We’re not,” Derek repeats. “I mean…” The cat’s out of the bag. It’s more than out of the bag. Apparently Derek’s the only one in the room who didn’t know it’s been out of the bag for quite some time. “I want to date him,” he says. He thinks it should be weirder than it is, telling this to the father of the man he wants to hold hands with when they stand in line for coffee, or be able to lean down and kiss the forehead of when he’s passed out on Derek’s shoulder and drooling halfway through a movie. However, it’s really not. Maybe because John seems to find the idea that they’re not already dating even stranger.

“You want to date him, but…” he fishes.

Derek shrugs. “I don’t know- How do I do that? I haven’t-” Here’s where it gets awkward. “I haven’t dated men, in the past. So this is just- It’s strange. It’s new.”

“I can’t imagine dating men is much different than dating women. They’re all just people. A relationship’s about the companionship, not the gender.”

If John ever gives up being the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, he could be a counselor for parents who have issues with their children’s sexual identities. Hell, maybe help the kids too. Not that Derek needs that help. “I know that. I just don’t know how to start dating him.”

“I think you just ask him out.” If the tone didn’t tell him John’s making fun of him, his smile would. “It’s pretty easy, actually. The fact that you’re asking a guy who hasn’t been in a real relationship for more than two decades is a little sad, but I think the principle holds up.”

This is no help what so ever. Of course it’s not. He’s asking Stiles’ dad for advice. Sure, John’s an adult, but the same genes flow through them nonetheless. If he’d taken a moment to think about it, Derek would have realized he’s just asking an older Stiles what to do. It’s amazing the Sheriff’s just grinning and not actually laughing at him.

“But, seriously, Derek. Ask him out. He’s not going to say no.”

Well, that’s a hell of a lot better than Scott’s ‘pretty sure.’ Still, it doesn’t make the idea any less nerve wracking.

 

Week 12.5

 

“I passed the written exam for Berkeley PD. I’m going down next weekend to do the physical, which,” he makes a noise that sounds a little like a raspberry, “easy peasy. So then there’ll be an interview.”

Derek stops painting, turns around. “You applied for a job?”

Stiles shrugs at the wall, not turning around. “I mean, technically I already have a job with the city. But since I asked for the time off to help you with the house, I’ve been thinking more about what I really want to do and how to pay off my student loans. So, yeah.”

Derek forgets to breathe at that. He hasn’t thought twice about Stiles’ free time, or the fact that he’s not working. Stiles said his consultation for the security system was over and Derek just assumed that meant the job was done. He’d completely forgotten what the Sheriff said about Stiles working for the city. It hadn’t crossed his mind that the work was relatively steady.

“And, like I said, the city pays okay, but not enough to really put a dent in the loans department. If I get into BPD versus becoming a deputy up here, there’s a chance I can do SWAT training at some point, which, you know, given everything, probably isn’t too bad of an idea. It’s still close. Depending on if I get the job and what the shifts are like, I might be able to keep living at home, which would be ideal. The drive, no so much, but that’s life.”

With a loud woosh of an exhale, he finally does turn around, eyes not quite meeting Derek’s. “I didn’t say anything because I still wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, and it seemed stupid to bring it up if I didn’t even get accepted to take the stupid written test, and then if I decided to back out, that’s stupid too. I mean, I haven’t told my dad, or Scott, or anybody yet, but you started showing me potential bakery menus and I started feeling super skeevy about not having told you.”

“Stiles, it’s okay.” And it is. Berkeley is close. Maybe not as close as living and working right in Beacon Hills, but it’s a two hour drive, which is more than close enough. If Stiles can live at home, that’s even better, but even in Berkeley it’s not like they’re never going to see each other. “Really.”

Still, it takes a moment for Stiles to drag his eyes up to meet Derek’s. When he does, another breath dribbles out of him and his shoulders sag, as though having dropped a large weight. “Oh my God. Thank you. I’ve been going crazy all day about it. I was really worried you’d be mad.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Why would I be mad?”

When Stiles shrugs, there’s a slackness to his features that alludes to honest confusion. “I don’t know. Just, because.”

“I think it’s great you’re figuring out what you want to do.” Derek’s actually relieved. Relieved that Stiles is staying close, that he’s not telling Derek about a job in New York or Milan. Relieved, to an extent, that Stiles is going into law enforcement because it means constant training and access to weapons and body armor, which, he knows, isn’t something that normally goes through people’s mind, but it settles him. Would he prefer Stiles work cyber security behind a desk all day? Maybe. Would that be healthy, safe, wise, or helpful the next time a bear-sized badger-lizard shows up in Beacon Hills? Probably, almost definitely, not.

 

Week 13

 

They’re watching Captain America. The same bowl of popcorn and M&Ms they always have is on the coffee table, between their feet. They have beers in hand, more in the fridge. Stiles’ shoulder is pressed against his, and Derek is more than content. He’s happy. Even if he’s a little bored. It’s not that the movie is boring, he’s just seen it too many times now. That, or maybe it’s the fact that all his brain is doing is focusing on the scent of Stiles’ hair, still damp, smelling like Derek’s shampoo. His shirt is Derek’s. The sweatpants he’s lounging in are Derek’s.

There may have been an incident with some paint.

Stiles claimed victory.

Considering Derek has Stiles on his couch, smelling like him, he’s pretty sure Stiles is wrong. Also, he’s in trouble. Having Stiles around every day, a constant presence, a scent that’s settling into the wood of the new house, has been bad enough. Not bad in the traditional sense, but bad in the way that means Derek is too aware of the fact that he’s been, as Stiles would put it, a ‘dense boob’ and hasn’t already asked him out. The Sheriff thought they were dating until Derek’s failure at making that a reality highlighted the fact that it’s not. Now Stiles is sprawled on his regular cushion on Derek’s couch, and yes, he has a regular cushion, and smelling like himself and Derek, and Derek’s liable to say something stupid.

“You know what would make this better,” Derek murmurs under his breath. As the words come out, he realizes he doesn’t know where this is going. His mouth is saying something his brain hasn’t approved of yet. It’s like watching a train wreck from a drone you’re piloting, while also sitting tied up in the operating room of the train that’s crashing. “Not having pants on.”

Jesus.

Fucking.

Christ.

What did he just say?

Seriously. What were those words coming out of his mouth? Because they weren’t his. Stiles may be driving him crazy, but what he just heard come out in, suspiciously, his own voice, cannot have been real. He’s not that person. He does not say these things.

Dimly, he’s aware Stiles is no longer a press against his side. Stomach knotted, he turns his head. His eyes stay latched onto the TV screen for as long a physically possible before bouncing forward to land on Stiles. Stiles, who’s climbing out of his shirt with the assistance of one hand and pulling at the drawstring of his sweatpants, which are actually Derek’s sweatpants, with the other. Stiles, who freezes under Derek’s gaze and sighs.

“If you were joking with me-”

Derek thinks his mouth might be open. His jaw might actually be hanging open.

Stiles grins, lifts a leg and totters precariously as he nudges Derek’s knee with his foot. “You know it’s doubly fun if both parties have no pants on.”

Without thinking, he reaches out, fingers wrapping around Stiles’ ankle. He pulls. Stiles squawks as he comes hurtling forward, barely missing bludgeoning Derek’s in the face with an elbow. It lands on his sternum instead, knocking the air out of him. The pain’s easy enough to ignore, because Stiles is laughing, a wriggling mess of warm limbs against Derek’s chest.

“I thought you said no pants!”

Carding his fingers through Stiles’ hair, he cradles his skull and Stiles stills, staring at him, an eyebrow raised. “Just hold your horses,” he breathes.

Kissing Stiles is different from any other kiss he’s experienced. Mainly, it’s a little difficult because Stiles is still smiling.

He pulls back enough to say, “You can’t smile and kiss at the same time,” putting effort into voicing his rolling eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles chuckles, breath a warm wash against Derek’s face. A little soured from beer and popcorn. A few inches between them would probably be better, but Derek’s not sure it’s physically possible for him to put any distance between them right now. “I’m sorry,” Stiles repeats, and takes a deep breath. “I’ll stop.” His features go flat. Somber. “Better?” His voice is monotone.

“Jesus,” Derek mutters, closing his eyes. Now he’s smiling, because of course.

“You can’t smile and kiss, Derek,” Stiles says, voice militarized.

“I’m so close to giving up.”

Warm fingers scratch under the hem of his shirt. “Awe. You know, if you’re not having fun, I heard that it’s a lot better if there aren’t any pants involved.”

He rolls his eyes behind closed eyelids. “Please don’t.”

“No. This is on you. I mean, it sounds like something a Tinder dater would say on an awkward date, but I like it. It’s sticking. It’s definitely going in the story of how we started dating.” Long fingers splay against Derek’s stomach, warming him. He opens his eyes to find Stiles, still there, smiling again.

Hand slipping from Stiles’ hair to the back of his neck, Derek pulls him in again. The smile slips away the moment their lips meet. Warm, fervid, Stiles presses himself against Derek’s chest, opens his mouth to Derek’s tongue. Hot, wet, the smell of Stiles filling his nose. His hand on Stiles’ neck tightens, his other pressed against Stiles’ bear back. He pulls Stiles as close as he can get them given one of Stiles’ arms is trapped between them, shirt half-off.

When they pull apart, they’re panting into each other’s faces. Stiles is smiling again. Derek’s pretty sure he is too.

“Want to date?” He wonders, because, hey, nothing can be as bad as ‘You know what would make this better?’

Stiles’ brow furrows in confusion. “Have we not been?”

Derek blinks.

Stiles laughs. “That was a joke. And holy ever loving Zeus, yes. I want to date the shit out of you.” After a second he adds, “Can we tell my dad this all happened, like, two weeks ago?”

Derek cocks his head at that, not sure what to make of it. After a few long seconds of thought and nothing coming to mind, he asks, “Why?”

“Because,” Stiles sighs, drooping into him. “That’s when my dad confronted me about the fact that we weren’t dating after I asked him about asking you out, like, a month and a half ago. I don’t even know how he found out. I just came home and he gave me this seriously ‘I’m disappointed in you’ look and said something about how impressed slash confused he was about how slow we were taking it given how I wasn’t spending the night or anything, but that he didn’t think I was so slow that I hadn’t even gotten around to asking you yet. Then he kind of huffed and rolled his eyes and made me order the Meat Lover’s pizza for dinner so he could spite-eat while I shame-ate. The whole thing was- Hey. Why are you laughing?”

Derek can’t help himself. He’s an idiot. “I may have ratted you out. On accident,” he adds.

Stiles’ petulant frown turns into honest confusion. “How did you do that? You just ran into my dad at the grocery store and instead of asking him how to tell which melons are ripe you just say, ‘Hey John. How’s the weather? By the way, your son and I aren’t dating.’?”

“We had dinner a few weeks ago,” Derek sighs.

“Great, you haven’t been dating me, but you go out to dinner with my dad.” There’s no bite to the statement, Stiles is grinning.

“I wasn’t ‘out to dinner’ with him,” Derek says, letting his hand on Stiles’ back slip down, fingertips tracing the hem of the sweatpants that are dangerously low on Stiles’ hips. “You were having a bro-date with Scott,” he only calls it that because it is the exact term Stiles used, “and your dad invited me over for dinner and a game, and I asked him how to ask you out.”

Stiles’ whole expression softens, a grin pulling at his lips that is less mischievous and more dopey. It lasts for all of five seconds before he’s shifting, eyes lit with curiosity that Derek’s not noticing because he’s suddenly all too aware of the fact that Stiles is a fair percentage along the way to be undressed, and is currently in his lap. “What’d he say?”

A long beat passes as he works to swallow and stay focused enough to answer. “That he was pretty sure we were already dating.”

The light of curiosity becomes sharper, and Derek wants to groan in advance because he already knows what’s coming. “Did he give you the ‘no pants’ line?”

He does groan, and lets his head fall against Stiles’ shoulder. A small shift and his nose presses against Stiles’ neck. When he breathes, it’s heavy with the scent of Stiles. “I’ve been building a house that smells like you,” Derek says. Apparently something can be worse than ‘no pants,’ because that’s worse. So much worse. Sometimes he just wants to be normal and human and not be weird.

Instead he gets more laughter. “Okay, I’m sure that’s just a side effect of me working on said house and not the reason you’re doing it. It’s also a good thing my best friend is a werewolf and I find that stupidly endearing and not creepy. So you can stop wanting to rip your own tongue out, because I’d really like you to use it a little more.”

As though to prove his point, he shifts again. There’s nothing innocent about it, the soft grind down and forward. The sweatpants leave little to the imagination. Derek knows Stiles can feel him. He’d be embarrassed about the fact that merely having Stiles in his lap has been piquing the interest of his dick if it weren’t for the fact that the motion has Stiles’ own hardness pressing into his stomach.

Sliding his hands down to Stiles’ hips, he pulls him down, his own hips rolling up. With the motion his dick goes from interested but distracted by real life conversation, to fully on board and half in charge. “Want to finish the movie?” He wonders, groaning halfway through the question when Stiles presses against him again.

Stiles’ laugh is breathless, his grin wide, eyes bright. “No,” he pants, leaning forward, grinding down on Derek again, “I really don’t.” Their lips are almost pressing, but Stiles’ arm is still stuck between them and Derek can’t finish the connection, which seems planned. “I can’t believe that, despite a very pointed statement, I still have my pants on.”

Derek chuckles and slips his hands from Stiles’ hips to push the sweats down farther. Considering Stiles is on his lap, it’s not far. Then Stiles is rolling his eyes, muttering, “I have to do everything around here,” and moving forward, not into a kiss, but up onto his knees, and Derek’s pulling the sweats over his ass and down. He looks down, between their bodies, and takes a deep breath as the band moves further and the heavy scent of Stiles fills his nose, dick hard and already leaking.

“Please,” Stiles breathes, “get me out of this shirt before I break my arm trying to get my hands on you.”

Derek does, eventually, after pulling him in for another kiss, licking his way into Stiles’ mouth, riveting the way Stiles whines, high and needy, as he tries to press into Derek.

 

Week 16

 

“I can’t do this.”

Stiles looks up from where he’s on his knees, massaging Derek’s stomach, fingers dipping below the waist of his jeans. Derek can’t see his expression, but out of his peripheral vision he can see Stiles turn to follow his gaze, and snort. “You mean Lucy?”

“She’s watching us.” That should sound stupid. Stiles makes another noise that says he thinks it sounds stupid. But it’s not. If Derek’s learned one thing about Stiles’ dog over these months, it’s that she’s no normal dog. She doesn’t put on a good show of intelligence, she is intelligent.

“She’s a dog,” Stiles says, turning back around and craning his neck to look up at Derek.

“She’s not a normal dog.”

With a huff, Stiles grips Derek’s hips and pulls himself up to his feet. Leaving his hands where they are, his presses mouth to Derek’s neck. “Well, okay, she’s not a normal dog.”

It’s not entirely possible to actually look Stiles in the eye because he’s pressed into Derek, but he makes a try of it. Then, when it puts too much strain on his eyes and he starts getting a headache, he jostles his shoulder.

A loud sigh heaves out of Stiles as he pulls back enough to meet Derek’s gaze.

Derek raises an eyebrow.

Stiles raises an eyebrow.

Derek raises his other eyebrow.

Stiles raises his other eyebrow.

Derek’s eyebrows go flat.

Stiles’ eyebrows go flat.

“What kind of dog is she?” He finally asks.

When Stiles opens his mouth, Derek rolls his eyes upward and prays to whatever might be up there to not baby-shake his boyfriend for what’s coming.  “Oh, you are a spoilsport.”

Blinking, he looks back down. “What?” He can’t quite help the way his lips twitch into a smile.

The spell is broken, and Stiles may have a sour look on his face, but it’s hilariously exaggerated and at least he’s not miming back at Derek anymore.

“You know what,” Stiles says, flexing his grip on Derek’s hips, as though it’s a threat instead of extremely sexy.

“What kind of dog?” he asks again. Though, really, he wants Stiles to get back to what he was just getting ready to do, but as long as Lucy’s on the other side of the room watching them like she knows exactly what they’re doing, he’s pretty sure he’s not going to be able to get it up. No matter how encouraging Stiles is.

“She was a prize,” Stiles sighs, pressing back into Derek. One hand releases his hip and slides to his back, fingers slipping under the waist on his pants, squeezing the top of his ass.

“From what?” If Deaton giving away magical dogs was a remote option in his mind, he might have said ‘who,’ but it’s not, which means ‘what.’

“Killing the badger-lizard thing,” Stiles answers, mouthing at Derek’s neck.

Derek cocks his head, not so unconsciously giving Stiles’ mouth more skin to work with. It loses some of its sexiness when, across the room, Lucy cocks her head the exact same way. “Why would you get a prize for killing the badger-lizard?”

Deft hands extract themselves from Derek’s skin. His hips jerk when Stiles pulls at his belt. “The Wild Hunt was passing through when I killed it,” he murmurs into Derek’s ear, nibbling at the lobe. “Apparently one of the hunters was impressed, or something, and stopped to give me one of his dogs.”

“The Wild Hunt,” Derek repeats. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t make any more sense or make him feel any better saying it aloud. “The mythical hunt of Wodan?”

“Or Waul, Fuik, Gwydion, King Herla, the Devil, you know, whoever or whatever’s in charge that year. I wasn’t really in a position to recognize anyone.” He’s got Derek’s belt undone now, is working on popping the button.

For the most park, Derek’s still pretty wrapped up staring at Lucy, who’s content to stare back. He also doesn’t feel any better about her watching them. “Doesn’t make me want her watching us any more than I did two minutes ago,” he says, deciding the statement needs to be voiced.

With a put upon sigh, Stiles pulls away from Derek and looks back at Lucy. “Stop staring like a creeper. If you want a guy to date you’re just going to have to pull one from the Hunt next year. But he’s not living with us,” Stiles warns when her ears perk and a wide dog-grin splits her face. “Also, go outside. You can entertain yourself.”

Her huffs sounds a lot more like Stiles than it has a right to, but she gets up nonetheless and heads outside without looking back.

Turning back to Derek, grinning. “Now can I get back to my plan of taking advantage of the new windows to have this place smell of copious amounts of sex and make you get an awkward boner every time you walk into your own house?”

Derek will never admit that his dick twitches at the thought. He rolls his eyes and means to say something witty in return. Instead, he says, “I’m starting to get awkward boners around you no matter where I am.”

Stiles chuckles. “Can we have sex in the bakery before it opens?”

An image of folding Stiles over the cashier’s counter and fucking him into oblivion flashes through Derek’s mind and he has to swallow back a groan and fight off instinctive, enthusiastic nodding. “That has to be some kind of health code violation. But, I’ll name a cookie after you.”

Stiles bites his lower lip, as though trying to keep himself from grinning. It doesn’t work. Even if it did, Derek can hear his heart hammering, can see the flush spilling across his cheeks that doesn’t actually have anything to do with arousal and everything to do with the way he blushes whenever Derek does something that thoroughly pleases him. “A cookie?” He asks after a moment.

Finding himself grinning, Derek nods, hands slipping into Stiles’ back pockets, dragging them flush. “The best cookie.”