“Ow, ow, ow,” Stiles whined, trying to bend over to tie his boots. “Ow.”
“You really shouldn’t be in here if your back’s hurting that badly, dude,” Scott said. They’d been partners on the force for the past three years (nobody was precisely surprised; they’d been best buds since kindergarten), ever since they had both graduated from police academy. Scott was always watching out for him because Stiles, well, Stiles had a penchant for getting himself into trouble.
“I’m fine, totally fine,” Stiles wheezed, until his back gave a spasm and he ended up on his ass. There came a snort from the doorway. Just his luck; Lahey had seen it.
“Ha, ha, funny,” he muttered, trying to get up, but his back hurt so badly that Scott actually helped to haul him to his feet. “This sucks.”
“I can pull a double and partner up with Scott,” Isaac offered, because aside from his snarky sense of humor, the guy wasn’t actually a douchebag. “And you should go collect some workman’s comp. Even if it was your own fault.”
“How does he know it was my fault?” Stiles squeaked, leveling a glare at Scott, who looked about as guilty as a kid who’d taken the last cookie. “Oh, you didn’t.”
Scott cleared his throat.
“You’re not my friend anymore,” Stiles said. “Judas!” he shot over his shoulder as he gathered up his bag and headed into the precinct to tell his dad that yeah, no, there was no way his ass was working beat today, not unless they loaded him into an exoskeleton first.
Of course, his dad was still his dad, and even if the Sheriff was in charge today, he still made a big fuss, bundled Stiles into his SUV—“Oh my god, dad, I’m not 10 years old, I can drive myself there!” he’d whined, but his father had countered with, “Not if you don’t want me revoking your license” which was, you know, pretty compelling when your job required you to drive a cruiser—and drove him to the local massage-slash-acupuncture-slash-yoga-slash-whatever studio, the one that was, in Stiles’ opinion, uncomfortably new-agey for his tastes but gave the absolute best therapeutic massages in town.
Stiles practically draped himself over the front desk, because sitting was out of the question.
“Hi, Allison,” he whined.
“Hi, Stiles,” she chirped back. “Scott already told me.”
“Is there anyone he didn’t tell?”
“Probably not,” Allison replied, and at least she sounded apologetic. Allison could keep a secret, but her fiancé? Yeah, not so much, and everyone knew it. “Go ahead back to room three,” she added, scribbling something down in the ledger. “Oh, and—“ The phone rang at the desk and she picked it up, shaking her head at him and waving him towards the back. Clearly whatever she’d meant to say wasn’t particularly important, which was fine by Stiles, because moving right now was bad enough. Moving back and forth would have been on par with the Spanish Inquisition.
He stumbled to room three and flopped down onto the bare massage table, not even bothering to get undressed. He just needed a few minutes to breathe through all the muscle cramps before he could get his limbs to work enough to strip down.
The door opened behind him a minute or two later, and Stiles let out a pathetic little noise.
“Boyd, you need to fix me. Seriously, I’m such a fucking idiot. Remember that two-alarm fire last night? Scott and I responded ‘cause we were on duty, and it was fine, you know, just some abandoned house on fire, so we were directing traffic for all the emergency response vehicles. And apparently there’s this new volunteer firefighter and, oh my god, Boyd, I mean, I know you’re not into dudes, I didn’t think I was into dudes that much either, but even you’d go gay for this guy. He was just… stupidly hot. Like, a cover model, ok? And he starts stripping out of his civvies and getting into his gear right there, ok, and he’s in just this white tank-top and it’s stretched over his chest and he’s kinda sweaty because the fire was putting off a lot of heat and the tank top was riding up over these abs that literally could kill someone and.” Stiles paused to take a breath. “And I sort of tripped walking backwards because I couldn’t not look at him, ok, it was like trying to look away from perfection, and I didn’t notice that the EMTs had put down a gear bag and… I sort of went right over, and landed with the middle of my back on an oxygen canister that was lying there, and nothing went crunch but I sort of feel like I pulled everything from my ass to my shoulders.”
Boyd snorted, and Stiles let out a huff.
“It’s not funny, I could have dislocated my spinal column or something.”
“Not likely,” Boyd said, except that was totally not Boyd’s voice. Stiles scrambled to prop himself up on his elbows so he could see (he managed to only get one of them under him), eyes wide, hat half-way off his head.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stiles squeaked, turning several shades of pink. Because there, in plain black track pants and an impossibly snug grey t-shirt was Hot Volunteer Firefighter from last night. “You know what, how about I just find somewhere to die instead,” Stiles said. “Where, uh. Where’s Boyd?”
“Boyd’s at the university,” Hot Volunteer Firefighter said, and Stiles buried his face in his forearm. Of course he was. Because he’d decided he wanted to do law school, so he was taking classes twice a week and working here as a yoga instructor and masseur the rest of the time to offset the cost. Which Stiles should have remembered, because Stiles had thrown him the congrats party when he got into his intensive pre-law course. “Are you ok with me doing your massage?” Hot Volunteer Firefighter asked, and Stiles remembered that the ground hadn’t actually swallowed him up the way he wished it had.
“Are you ok with doing my massage now that I’ve made a total ass of myself?” Stiles retorted, because wow, yeah, not his proudest moment out of a lifetime of not proud moments. The hot guy shrugged (were those muscles real? how were they real?) and started sorting through the box of massage oils.
“Most people don’t precisely like me for my stellar personality,” he said, and Stiles felt like even more of an asshole. He sat up all the way and pulled his hat off, rubbing the back of his head. Even sitting up was making him see stars.
“I’m really sorry. Really. If I, uh, promise not to objectify you anymore and not stare like a creeper when you’re getting into your uniform, would that make it better?”
The guy shrugged slightly, but his shoulders seemed to get less tense.
“It’s alright. I’m sort of used to it.” Which really wasn’t the way a guy should sound when he was basically patting himself on the back for being super hot. Stiles wondered if there was a story there, but before he could think too hard about it, the guy turned back to face him and Stiles had to not stare at his ridiculously-pretty hazel eyes. He hadn’t even seen those last night. “I’m Derek. Derek Hale.”
“Stiles Stilinski.” He shook Derek’s hand, surprised at how careful the handshake was considering the size of the guy’s muscles. Buff guys tended to shake your hand like they were trying to prove something, but Hot Volu—Derek made sure he didn’t crush anything.
“Take off your clothes and let me get the table set up,” Derek said, and really, he shouldn’t be allowed to say stuff like ‘take off your clothes’ within such close proximity to someone who hadn’t had any action since, like, ever. This was a whole lot less awkward with Boyd, because Stiles had grown up with Boyd and was about as turned on by the idea of knocking boots with him as he was by the idea of doing it with Scott. Now, faced with the reality of Derek’s hands all over him, he started to wonder if he should just scrap the game plan altogether.
“Maybe I should come back tomorrow when Boyd—“
“You won’t be able to walk tomorrow if your back is that messed up,” Derek said bluntly. “Get off the table.”
“Bossy, bossy,” Stiles muttered, but he slid off the table with a wince and hobbled over to the corner. He kept his back to Derek as he toed off his boots (not like he’d ever managed to get them tied in the first place) and removed his holster and belt. He set the hat down next, then his jacket, and finally started undoing his uniform shirt.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Derek wiping down the table, putting down a couple layers of terrycloth blankets, and draping a sheet over everything. He moved with careful, self-aware movements, like every single shift of his hand had a purpose to it. Stiles only noticed it because he flailed around like an octopus most of the time.
“So, uh,” Stiles cleared his throat, setting his shirt down. “You just moved to Beacon Hills, right?”
“I grew up here,” Derek said, “but my parents home-schooled my sister and myself, and then we moved out of state for a while.”
He didn’t elaborate, and Stiles didn’t push. He was trying not to be too awkward about easing out of his trousers, but when he started to pull one leg out his back twinged and he ended up half-crumpling to the ground—
Except there were hands on his waist, steadying him, and he was convinced he was going to burst into flames from how hard he was blushing.
He managed to get his trousers off, but Derek hovered, which made it super-embarrassing to be standing on the toe of one sock so he could tug his foot out of the other one and yeah, this just sucked. At least he’d worn a newer pair of boxers.
Derek stopped hovering once Stiles was in just the boxers and t-shirt and in no danger of falling over dead, so Stiles got to at least compose himself while he got the t-shirt up over his head (slowly and painstakingly). He was vaguely self-conscious of his body, but that was mostly left over from high school when he’d weighed about 140 lbs soaking wet and had the approximate bicep width of a noodle. Going through the academy and hitting the gym with the guys at the precinct, as well as just hitting the last of his growth spurts, meant that Stiles was pretty solid at this point. He’d never be a bulky guy, but he was tall and his musculature was proportionate and he really didn’t have to feel as awkward about standing there in nothing but his boxers as he actually did.
“Those too,” Derek said as Stiles headed towards the table.
“What?” Stiles squeaked eloquently. “I always keep them on with Boyd.”
“Then shame on him for not getting into your glutes,” Derek retorted and really, this had to be payback. Stiles grumbled something under his breath, but he got the boxers off and slid onto the table, under the sheet, because the sooner Derek started, the sooner he could put this whole horrific endeavor in the past.
Derek dimmed the lights and turned the heat up a bit, which was nice, then covered the sheet with a heated blanket, which was awesomely cozy. But when he flicked on the mp3 player, it started to hum out Massive Attack instead of Enya.
“Sorry, I forgot to change it back,” Derek said.
“No, leave it, that’s actually better.” He never really understood how Boyd could be into Enya, anyway, because he knew for a fact it wasn’t store policy—Allison always played indie bands when she did her yoga classes.
“If you’re sure,” Derek said, and Stiles nodded, settling more comfortably into the table. It was dark, warm, and quiet. His life was really not that bad.
“I’m going to start with your upper back. Any injuries I should know about that aren’t in your file?”
“Aside from the fact that there probably isn’t a single muscle or tendon I haven’t fucked up at some point? No, nothing chronic or serious. I’m sort of like a gummy bear. I always spring back in more or less one piece.”
“Until you fall on an O2 tank,” Derek said dryly, carefully folding the blankets back to expose Stiles’ back. The cop could hear him picking up a bottle of oil and warming some of it in his hands. The sudden scent of eucalyptus and lemongrass was sharp, but not unpleasant, and then Stiles wasn’t thinking about it anymore because Derek’s hands were on his skin.
He wasn’t sure what he’d imagined. After that delicate handshake and the careful way Derek carried himself, maybe Stiles had expected Derek to be just as considerate when it came to massage.
Derek’s hands were taking no prisoners. There were angry Swedish lumberjacks who gave gentler massages, and suddenly any concerns about an accidental erection went out the window as Stiles let out a startled cry and tried not to escape off the table.
“You’re a fucking sadist!” he gasped out as Derek actually got an elbow into one of the worst knots at his mid back, then again into one just below it until there were genuine tears in Stiles’ eyes. “Jesus, that hurts!”
“You can handle it,” Derek said serenely, “and it’s good for you.”
“Excruciating pain is what I came here to get over, not because I wanted more!”
“Don’t be dramatic,” Derek retorted, but he gave Stiles a temporary break by smoothing the heels of both hands up the entire length of his back. It would have been awesome except that it was just a means of getting up to Stiles’ shoulders, and the man had fingers like steel rods. And an uncanny ability for finding every single knot, sore spot, tension point, and misbehaving muscle. He worked on Stiles’ shoulders until Stiles started to squirm, then moved on to his upper- and mid-back where the real bruising was. He had some respect for that, at least, and Stiles had to give him credit (past gritted teeth) for not making the bruises hurt worse.
Everything else, on the other hand, felt like it was getting pounded into oblivion by a benign steamroller.
Derek really pulled out all the stops when it came to his lower back, too. He used thumbs, elbows, knuckles, and finally a solid kneading to beat every last muscle into submission. Stiles gave up on trying to make him be more gentle and just tried to make himself go limp so he could ride it out with at least some of his dignity intact. But then Derek covered up his back and folded back the bottom half of the blanket.
And got an elbow into a knot the size of Texas that was hiding, apparently, deep within Stiles’ left glute.
“If you tense up, it’s not going to work,” Derek chided him, and Stiles tried to remember how to breathe, because he’d actually seen his vision blur a little when the sadist got all up in there and wiggled his elbow around. “We’re almost done with the worst of it.”
Almost. Because there was the other side left, then the top of Stiles’ ass where, he found out, he had a lot of tension points. At this point he just gave up and bit part of the blanket between his teeth because he was going to be sobbing any minute otherwise.
“Your hamstrings are really tight,” Derek said, which yeah, Stiles knew, and Boyd had taught him a few stretches to try, so he knew this was going to be painful. But instead of more unwarranted brutality, Derek’s big, oil-slick hands settled around one upper thigh and he worked the underside of Stiles’ asscheek with surprisingly gentle strokes.
Perfect. Because that was totally the place to decide to be considerate.
“If you overwork them, they just get tighter,” Derek explained, clearly tapping into some sort of telepathic mind-reading Jedi skills. He did both thighs, those big hands curving intimately around each one in turn (and ok, maybe that whole awkward erection thing was going to be a problem again) before skipping down to the calves and yeah, there was the Derek he knew, and seriously, they should hire this guy to do interrogation sessions on perps.
“Don’t kick me, I’m going to do your feet.”
“I’m not trying to kick you, I’m trying to swim to freedom,” Stiles choked out. Derek got more oil on his hands and oh. Oh, that was nice. Both warm hands were wrapped around his left foot and Derek was stroking the pad of his thumb from the ball, along the sensitive instep, and finally to the slight tension spot to the inside of his heel before working the arch of his foot, the spaces between his toes, and his Achilles’ tendon.
“I think I hate you for everything else but I’ll forgive you because wow,” Stiles said, somewhat slurred, as Derek started on his other foot. “Seriously, my feet want to marry you.”
Derek made a derisive noise, but he circled his thumb over Stiles’ instep until his toes curled and goosebumps blossomed on his skin.
“Roll over,” Derek commanded.
“I can’t, I’m made of Jell-O,” Stiles said, until Derek pinched the back of his thigh. “Ow! That’s not professional conduct!”
“Just roll over.”
“My feet are re-thinking their marriage proposal.” But Stiles rolled over, carefully keeping the blanket over his hips. The front wasn’t as bad; his quads were tight, so that hurt like a bastard, but his arms, chest, and neck were more or less not messed up at the moment. He started to doze lightly. And then Derek’s hands were at the side of his hip, kneading deeply into it, and Stiles let out a really, really embarrassing noise.
He immediately clapped a hand over his mouth.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Feels good, huh?” Derek just asked with something that was almost a chuckle. Almost.
“Holy shit, you’re actually capable of human emotions. You’re not an evil pain-robot from space after all.”
And ok, how was anyone supposed to take that the wrong way? Seriously. But Derek did. Because the blanket snapped quickly back over his hip and the hands were gone from his skin and that was definitely Derek washing them up in the sink.
“You should stay under the blanket for about 15 minutes to keep your muscles warm. I’ll set a timer and Allison will come get you when you’re ready to go.”
“Whoa, wait, what did I say?” Stiles asked, trying to sit up. “I was just teasing, I don’t think you’re an unfeeling evil robot.” It didn’t even sound bad!
Derek shot him a look, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Seriously? Look at me, I’m like the least malicious guy in the world. I’m also an expert at putting my foot in it, alright? Seriously. I’m sorry, Derek. Give me a break, you tenderized me past the point of higher brain function.” He rubbed at his upper arm. “My back already feels better, so. Thanks for that.”
Derek still didn’t look overly happy, but he also didn’t look like he was about to bolt out of the room. He was fidgeting with a towel, and Stiles didn’t think he’d be the sort of guy to fidget.
“So, uh. I should still lie down for 15 minutes?”
“Yeah. Yes.” Derek cleared his throat and walked back over, adjusting the blanket to make sure that Stiles was fully covered. Stiles wasn’t sure, but he thought he felt him brush the backs of his fingers against his nape, just once, as he reached to set a timer. “You shouldn’t go back to work tomorrow. Take it easy for another day, and try not to strain your back for at least a week if you can help it. I should see you again in four or five days.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said again, and meant it. Derek was still hovering a little, and if he’d already made an ass out of himself, he might as well go all the way. “So, um. Do you ever do house calls?” And oh, shit, that sounded so bad, and yeah, his brain immediately went there. “Not like that! I mean, to the precinct. I almost live there, at this point, ‘cause we’re so under-staffed, so…”
“Yes. I’ll come to the precinct to do your follow-up.”
“I’ll save you a donut,” Stiles promised, feeling oddly pleased with himself. “And the good coffee, not the crap they put out at the front desk.”
“Just the donut,” Derek replied, already half-way out the door. “If you want me to drink coffee, you’ll have to take me somewhere that brews a decent single-source dark roast.”
And then he was gone, and Stiles’ brain was left catching up with everything.
“Wait, did you just tell me to ask you out?” he asked the empty room, then broke into a grin. “You totally did. I knew I was attractive to gay guys. I knew it.”