The bell over the door jangled, extra loud, and Derek sighed.
He didn’t even have to look at the clock to know who just walked through the shop doors. He knew from the force of the door hitting the bell, and the whirlwind of energy that came with it.
Sure enough it wasn’t thirty seconds later before he heard raucous laughter from the front. Erica worked the afternoon shift so it was a miracle any work got done at all, let alone when Stiles Stilinski walked in, fresh from the final bell at Beacon Hills Middle School.
Derek sighed and resisted poking his head behind the counter and barking at Erica to get to work. It’s not like she could go anywhere and the only option would be to switch with her and have her prepping in the back while he manned the front counter.
And that wasn’t a good idea. Not as long as Stiles was around, anyway.
“You fucking coward,” Derek muttered under his breath.
He’d break eventually, since Stiles usually hung around for at least two hours while he planned his next day’s lessons or graded papers or did whatever else Stiles did as his role of “Mr. Stilinski, Grade 7 teacher extraordinaire”, or so he introduced himself as such the first time Derek met him.
Derek had stared at him with an expression that Erica later dubbed “serial killer smoulder” without saying anything back except, “Do you want coffee?”
It didn’t seem to throw Stiles off who, as Erica later filled him in even though he absolutely didn’t ask, was used to getting weird reactions to his… everything. He marched to the beat of his own drummer, was persistent as hell and was apparently one of the most genuine guys she went to school with. Coming from Erica it was high praise. And in the months since he’d thundered into Derek’s life he had no proof otherwise.
Stiles was loud and boisterous, intense and inventive and competitive. He defended what was his, whether it was family, friend, or belief. He was annoying as hell most of the time but seemed to glide by without condemnation on a grin and a wink.
He intimidated the hell out of Derek who was just finding his footing again after moving back to Beacon Hills. He grew up here but after a house fire that claimed most of his family he moved across the country with his sisters, the only other two people to survive the fire, to live with their uncle Peter.
None of them wanted Derek to leave and come back to Beacon Hills, but Derek wanted to do something on his own for once. He didn’t want to be defined by the fire any longer. Starting the shop was a big, important step for him and made him feel like he was evolving beyond “Laura’s baby brother” or “Derek-whose-family-died-in-a-fire”.
But Stiles, who was five years younger, made him feel like he didn’t know himself again. Made him realize it’d been at least a year since his last date and even longer since he was in a relationship, long-term or otherwise. Stiles put Derek right back into feeling like a stuttering, sweating teenager who couldn’t work up the nerve to even say hello.
“Derek!” Erica called from the kitchen door, jarring Derek out of his thoughts.
“Yeah?” he asked, stepping out of the office, giving his head a shake as if it could so easily shed his insecurity about his attraction to Stiles.
“I have to take off early today for my sister’s birthday, remember? You good to take over?”
“Shit, right. Yeah, I’ve got it. Anything I need to know?” he asked, grabbing an apron from behind the kitchen door.
“Yeah, Stiles is in the bathroom,” Erica said with a sly grin. She winked at her boss, then left shouting, “Customers!” as she walked out the front door.
Derek rolled his eyes and walked through the swinging door behind the counter. He stepped up to the register to greet the new arrivals and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Laura?” Derek asked incredulously.
Standing in front of his counter were his sisters, looking beautiful and happy and entirely surprising to Derek.
“Derek!” Cora squealed as she reached over the counter to stretch out her arms and pull him into a tight hug, despite the three feet between them. When she pulled back he walked around the counter to embrace them both properly, suddenly very homesick for the feeling of family.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He asked, shaking Laura a little.
“We knew you wouldn’t be able to come to us for a visit and you’d make some excuse for why we shouldn’t come see you so we made the decision for you. We’re here for a week!” Cora explained excitedly.
“But why?” Derek asked, feeling a pit of dread start to unfurl in his stomach.
“Baby bro, we flew all the way across the country to see you! Aren’t you happy? We can’t wait to meet your special someone who, by the way, you have said virtually nothing about to either of us once we started comparing notes,” Laura said as she exchanged a grin with Cora.
Boom, there it was. Derek’s little white lie that had suddenly exploded into a massive whopper of deception and a cross-country visit from the only people who would know he was lying in a heartbeat.
Months earlier Laura pestered him about how he was doing and if he was meeting anyone, if there was someone special and she just wouldn’t. Let. Up. About it. So he blurted out there was a guy he had his eye on and he was hoping it would turn into something. When Cora followed up with him a week later he said they’d gone on a date and it turned out well. From then on there were vague updates about seeing this movie, or checking out that restaurant, things and places Derek did see and visit, but alone.
“It’s not a conspiracy, guys. I haven’t been hiding anything from you,” Derek said in a tone that sounded totally desperate to him but seemed to come out normally.
“Derek,” Laura started patiently. “You’re out here on your own and we worry about you. Now you have someone to look out for you but we don’t even know his name! We weren’t sure if you were keeping secrets for a reason, if you were in trouble—“
“If you were lying,” Cora interjected with a pointed look that made Derek want to shrink in on himself.
He heard the toilet flush and the washroom door slam shut and he winced because this was it, it was all over. Not only would his sisters find out that he didn’t have a boyfriend but he was going to be totally humiliated in front of Stiles and he’d never hear the end of—
“Babe, you’re running out of soap in there,” Stiles announced as he breezed up to the counter casually. His gaze fell on Laura and Cora who were staring back at him in disbelief and he stopped short.
“Special visitors?” Stiles asked. Derek felt like throwing up and his heart was pounding so hard in his chest he was sure Laura was going to start poking at the vein in his neck that throbbed sometimes when he was stressed.
“Stiles,” Derek said carefully as he turned to his crush who was staring back at him with a gleeful glint in his eye. “These are my sisters, Laura and Cora.”
Stiles reached out and grabbed Derek’s hand, squeezing it as a wide grin slowly covered his face. “Shut up! Der, you didn’t tell me your sisters were going to be in town!”
“I didn’t know,” Derek replied stiffly, feeling his palm start to sweat in Stiles’ grasp.
“Derek, introduce us!” Cora piped up and Derek had to admit he was happy she was the one to say something because Laura looked ready to either hug the shit out of both of them or give Stiles the third degree.
“Guys, this is Stiles. My boyfriend,” Derek said, hesitating only a little.
“You look familiar,” Laura said, eyeing Stiles suspiciously.
“My dad’s the sheriff,” Stiles said with a small ‘what are you gonna do’ shrug. “That’s probably why Derek didn’t say much about who he was dating. I know he didn’t want to get any jabs about dating me, especially since I was kinda weird growing up.”
“Kinda?” Cora asked and Derek stepped in.
“Not here, not now, not ever. That’s exactly why I didn’t go into who I was dating,” Derek said, flashing what he hoped was a grateful look at Stiles.
The bell rang and Derek wanted to rip it off its hanger because he could not deal with customers right now. He squeezed Stiles’ hand once and gave him what he hoped was a pleading, meaningful, begging look to not ruin his life before he escaped around the counter and greeted the new patrons. Stiles, Laura and Cora took a seat at a table across the floor by the window, out of Derek’s earshot but he could plainly see that Stiles was gesturing wildly and telling some sort of story that his sisters seemed to be eating up.
After Derek made a couple coffees and packaged up an order of scones and donuts for his customers he quickly joined his sisters and Stiles, hovering uneasily by the table.
“Derek, Stiles was just telling us how you met and it’s adorable,” Laura said and Derek knew he was in trouble. Laura believed Stiles. Laura liked Stiles. He was stuck with Stiles now.
“Where are you guys staying?” Derek asked, side-stepping.
“We booked a room at the Beacon Hills Inn We know you don’t have the room to spare upstairs,” Laura explained.
Derek thought about the tiny loft over the shop he converted into a living space with a rudimentary shower and a single hotplate and cringed a bit.
“Hey, it’s okay. That’s why we booked the room!” Cora spoke up, noticing Derek’s response.
“I have an idea,” Stiles piped up. They all turned to look at him, Derek more intently than his sisters. “Why don’t you two go get checked in, then, freshen up or whatever and we’ll meet you at Grayson’s? Our treat.” Stiles reached out for Derek’s hand again and grinned up at him.
Derek was going to hell for getting the tiniest bit of pleasure out of this.
“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. You guys have a rental, right? Meet you there around seven? After I close up?” Derek added.
Laura and Cora nodded, amenable to the plan. They each hugged Derek, squeezing him tightly before they left and Derek could tell that Laura wanted to wrap her arms around Stiles in a python-esque hold, too, but she refrained.
Once they left Derek put some space between himself and Stiles by hiding behind the counter but Stiles leaned across it, so it didn’t help, and his eyes glittered mischievously as he grinned widely at him.
Derek fish-mouthed for a few seconds before blurting out, “What the hell were you thinking?”
Stiles shrugged, undeterred. “The walls between here and the bathroom aren’t that soundproof and I could hear your sisters grilling you on your mystery beau. I put two and two together because I know you’re not dating anyone and figured you could use the save. Am I wrong?”
Derek shook his head, and opened his mouth to ask how Stiles was so sure Derek wasn’t seeing anyone but Stiles barrelled on.
“I figured this would work out for you and, at the very least, could score me some free coffee for the next, oh, couple years? Sound like a good trade?”
Derek looked at Stiles dubiously. “You’re doing this for free coffee?”
“I said at the very least,” Stiles countered.
“What else do you want?”
Stiles looked down at the counter for a second. “We can discuss terms later. First thing’s first, though. We need to come up with a story for your sisters that matches what they already know and that we can keep straight while they’re here. You live upstairs, right? Give me your key.”
Stiles held his hand out expectantly but Derek just stared at it, dumbly. “What?”
“If you plan on inviting your sisters into your place for more than three seconds this week they’re going to notice there isn’t a single piece of evidence that anyone else goes up there. I know you never have people over.”
“How do you know that?” Derek asked, barely able to keep up.
“Erica told me,” Stiles said with a hand wave. “Keys now, please.”
Derek shrugged. “Door’s not locked. Help yourself?”
Stiles frowned. “We’re going to have a discussion about keeping your stuff safe, you know. I have some hoodies and random books and crap in my car, I’ll go scatter it around your place. muss up what I’m sure is a very neatly made bed,” Stiles said with a shake of his head.
“Hey, I like—“
“I don’t, though. Compromise, honey,” Stiles threw over his shoulder as he was already waltzing out the door.
“What the hell have I done?” Derek whispered to himself.
Derek waited on a few more customers who wandered into the shop, overlapping each other so he couldn’t flip the sign to closed and lock up early. He could hear Stiles overhead, and imagined what he was doing so hard so every step sounded like a thump that would bring the building down around his ears.
Finally the clattering overhead stopped and a few minutes later Stiles burst through the shop door, slightly out of breath.
“Okay, I’ve left some old grading stuff, clothes, a couple photos and some books lying around. What kind of bed do you have? It’s super comfy!”
Derek blinked. “Why were you in my bed?”
“Not in it, just rolled around on top of it. Made it look ‘lived in’ which, dude. Are you a monk? You’ve got, like, nothing up there,” Stiles rambled as he sat down on a stool at the end of the counter.
“I don’t need much,” Derek replied shortly.
“You’re thinking for two now, sugarbuns,” Stiles said with a smirk.
“Why are you doing this?” Derek asked, tone a bit desperate in his head. Stiles had to be putting one over on him or doing this for some kind of sick joke, right? No one in their right mind did something like this out of the blue for someone unless it was a movie.
Stiles scrunched up his brow and reached across the counter to grab Derek’s hand, holding it with both of his. “Hey, we’re friends. Uh, right? I mean, I thought we were.”
Derek wasn’t good at “friends”, if he was honest. People were in his life or they weren’t but he didn’t put labels on them because that led to too much pain when things didn’t turn out the way he thought they would. He supposed Erica was a friend and her pals, Boyd and Isaac, that came around and dragged him into their game nights or out for drinks were, too.
Haltingly Derek nodded. “Yeah, we’re friends.”
“I’m being a friend, then. Okay? I’ll do anything for my friends.”
Derek took a deep breath. “Okay. What now?”
“What was with all the blue prints and drawings up there?” Stiles asked suddenly, switching tracks.
Derek blinked. “What?”
“All over your coffee table you have blue prints and what look like sketches for porches and rooms and stuff. Are you a closet architect?”
Derek swore in his head and cleared his throat. “Those are, uh, plans for a house.”
“Did you do them yourself? Are you planning on building something?” Stiles pressed.
Derek shifted uneasily. “Can we not talk about this? I’m a bit concerned with screwing this up and my sisters thinking I’m unhinged for having a fake boyfriend.”
Stiles paused for a second, then nodded. “Sure thing.”
“Would you calm down,” Stiles chided as they pulled up to the restaurant a couple hours later. They had their stories down which, luckily, weren’t that detailed because in the little bits of info Derek had passed on to his sisters they weren’t very far into their relationship yet.
“I’m crazy for this,” Derek muttered to himself. Stiles put the Jeep in park and reached over to squeeze Derek’s arm. Derek opened his eyes that he didn’t even know he’d closed and looked over at Stiles gratefully. “Thank you, by the way.”
Stiles shrugged. “I didn’t have anything better to do tonight. Come on!” He grinned and jumped out of the car. Derek followed, mystified by how Stiles somehow managed to fold and unfold his long, lanky body in and out of the car.
Dinner went great. Somehow Stiles fit in perfectly with his sisters and him. He was whip smart and sharp, drily funny and made Cora roll her eyes as many times as she snorted, trying to hold the laughter in. Seeing his younger sister as happy as she was caused a pang in Derek’s heart because he missed seeing her like this, vibrant and happy.
After the fire none of them were particularly easy to get along with and as a group they were sullen and closed off to most people aside from each other. It took each of them a long time to find out how to be close to whole again and Derek moving back to Beacon Hills was hard on all of them because of that. While he needed to be able to be on his own and figure things out he wanted to be sure that his sisters knew they could return if they wanted to, as well. Slowly he was working on that part.
“And you, Stiles? What do you do?” Laura asked as dinner turned to dessert and drinks.
Stiles swallowed the bite of chocolate lava cake he was wolfing down and wiped his mouth quickly. “I teach middle school. Grade seven, to be exact.”
“Wow, that’s got to take guts. I’ve seen how some of the kids act. Must make it easier for you to be around this one,” Laura replied, pointing to Derek who kicked at her lightly under the table.
“It helps,” Stiles said with a smile, leaning over to bump shoulder with Derek on their side of the cozy booth they were in. The whole meal had been like that with Stiles doling out small touches and looks, really putting his all into the whole act of being Derek’s boyfriend.
It made Derek jealous for the point when Stiles would have this for real with someone else and they’d get to act like this legitimately.
“What are you studying in school again, Cora?” Stiles asked.
“Architecture with a specialization in green design,” Cora replied, looking over at Derek.
Stiles followed her gaze and turned to Derek. “Is that what you studied before you came here? Is that what those plans have to do with?”
Derek gritted his teeth. “Stiles—“
“What plans? Are you working on something again, Derek? I thought you said you were done with architecture,” Laura cut him off, sounding pleased. “What were the plans of, Stiles?”
“Don’t ask him my business, Laura,” Derek said before Stiles could reply.
“Is there a reason you’re keeping it a secret, Derek?” Cora asked. Derek threw his napkin on the table, mouth set in an angry line.
“Stiles, can I speak with you, please?” Derek asked, sliding out of the table.
He got out of the booth and left the table before Stiles could reply. Derek paced outside for a minute before Stiles emerged.
“I don’t think this is going to work and it would be best if you left,” Derek said, avoiding Stiles’ eyes as he spoke.
“Why? Because I brought up something I didn’t even realize were a touchy subject?” Stiles pushed.
“Because I said I didn’t want to talk about it and I meant it,” Derek replied.
“Erica said you’d do this, you know,” Stiles said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“What?” Derek asked, confused.
“Come up with some kind of bullshit thing to push me away. I thought…” Stiles started, then trailed off and laughed hollowly. “Never mind. Guess this means dinner’s over?”
“Fine. Catch you later, then.”
Derek watched as Stiles got in his Jeep and drove away, leaving him in the parking lot feeling like a grade-a moron.
It was three weeks before Derek saw Stiles again. Even though Stiles left so many random things in his apartment he never came back for them or asked Erica to get them instead. Well, that was a lie. The first week he did but Erica told him to suck it up and stop being a baby, which is also the message she relayed to Derek.
“Dude, you have no idea, do you? Why do you think Stiles even offered to do that stupid thing for you? To pretend to be your boyfriend?”
Derek just shook his head in reply and Erica wandered back out to the front of the shop muttering to herself.
When it came down to it Derek was scared. Not just of trying something for real with Stiles or even just speaking to him like a normal person, he was scared of a lot of things. Once his sisters arrived in town it was as if everything that terrified him came to a perfect head and he had to face it all at once.
The blue prints were for his old house, the one that burned down. He knew he belonged in Beacon Hills and wanted to do something to prove that to himself and his sisters. He also wanted to give them a place to come home to, if they wanted to. Part of him feared they were happier in New York and would never consider moving back.
The house was in the process of being rebuilt in Derek’s free time and it’s where all of his extra money, every scrap he could come up with, went. He didn’t tell anyone he was working on it and used his own designs to rebuild it using his memories of the old house paired with some newer details and advances since it was originally built decades earlier.
Stiles discovering the blue prints and forcing the issue into the open in front of the people whose opinions he cared about the most was his worst nightmare, in his head. But once Derek haltingly explained where Stiles went and why he was so upset, what the cause was, they understood (after they figuratively smacked him upside the head) and they were touched that Derek was going to all the trouble to make a home for them again.
Laura was going to help fund the rebuild which would help Derek get some workers to help him. The project would still take him a year or more, which gave Laura and Cora lots of time to decide what they wanted to do and if they wanted to move back. If they didn’t Derek wasn’t sure what he’d do with the house but he had his own business and a life that was also slowly being built for himself in Beacon Hills.
It was a relief to discuss it all with Laura on the phone one night and the brief plot to pass Stiles off as his boyfriend came tumbling out with it. She tsked at him but understood and promised to try not to push him so much about his love life. Derek knew it would never come to pass but he appreciated the effort.
The next day he was clearing paperwork off his desk while Erica manned the front counter when the door bell clanged and she shouted for him from the door. Derek jumped and pushed back from the desk, swearing.
“Erica, for the millionth time, you don’t have to yell when you need me.“ Derek was saying as he pushed through the door, tying his apron on as he did. “It’s possible to —“
The words died in Derek’s throat when he saw Stiles standing awkwardly at the till, obviously waiting for him.
“I’ll be pretending to wipe off tables,” Erica said as she breezed past Derek from behind the counter. Derek ignored her and stepped up to the till on the other side while Stiles seemed to swallow nervously.
“Hey,” Derek said first and Stiles nodded.
“Here for your stuff?” Derek asked.
“No. Well, yeah, actually. I accidentally left a paper for one of my students in the stuff in your apartment and I guess that’s something I need for his grades or something stupid, I don’t know. But no, it’s not really why I’m here.”
“Okay, so why are you here?”
Stiles opened his mouth, then closed it and frowned for a good ten seconds as he stared at the counter. Then he took a deep breath and said in a rush, “Di’ya know I like y’lot?”
Derek blinked. “What?”
Stiles sighed and repeated slowly, “Did you know I liked you a lot?”
Derek shook his head and repeated, “What?”
“Why do you think I jumped at the chance to pretend to be your boyfriend? Although, in hindsight, that was a terrible, terrible idea.”
“For the free coffee?” Derek guessed, remembering their brief conversation before the doomed dinner.
Stiles sized Derek up and made him feel like he was being criticized through Stiles’ expression alone. “Laura was right, you’re oblivious.”
“When did you talk to Laura?” Derek asked, getting more confused as the seconds ticked by.
“Last night after she spoke with you. She called me after you told her the whole story and told me I was being an idiot to your moron. And she’s right. I don’t know why I didn’t just come right out with it months ago instead of hanging out here like a lost puppy, hoping you’d see me and magically ask me out one day.”
Derek’s eyes widened. “You did that?”
“Yes!” Stiles exclaimed, loud enough to draw the attention of some other patrons. Derek jerked his head and drew Stiles to the end of the counter, by the kitchen door where they had a little more privacy. Without the counter between them Stiles stepped closer to Derek, making their conversation more intimate and Derek nervous.
But excited nervous, in a way he couldn’t remember being in a long time.
“I thought it was easier for you to work here?” Derek asked.
“You’re funny, no. It’s noisy and that bell is a distraction and every time I see you I drop everything I’m doing and can’t concentrate again for at least a half hour. Coming here is a detriment to any of my work. Thank god I’m in school for eight hours a day or I’d be here all the time,” Stiles laughed.
“Because of me?” Derek asked.
“Because of you.”
“So you volunteered to be my pretend boyfriend because…”
“Because I’m a sucker for punishment. I watch too many bad romantic comedies and thought for three seconds it would work and I’d spend the week in your apartment and then you’d never want to let me go,” Stiles explained, sounding embarrassed.
“I think I’d probably want to kill you, actually,” Derek replied.
Stiles nodded. “Or that. But you’d tell me you love me while you strangled me, I think.”
“I guess we’ll never know now,” Derek said and Stiles looked down at his hands. “Unless…”
“Want to try that dinner again, without my sisters? And then I could take you to see the house I’m rebuilding based on those plans you saw?” Derek offered.
Stiles pumped fist in the air once and seemed to just barely be able to hold in his shout of joy. He restrained himself but was grinning wildly. “When?”
“Hey Erica?” She turned around in a chair she was slumped in across the cafe, looking up from her phone. “You’re closing tonight.”
“You owe me,” she called back as she returned to her phone but there was a smile playing at the corner of her mouth.
“Can I try one thing first?” Stiles asked, his voice dropping as he took a step forward. Derek nodded and let Stiles cup his cheeks, covering his hands with his own, and sighed into Stiles’ mouth as they kissed slowly.
It only lasted a few seconds but it seemed to satisfy whatever Stiles needed. Stiles licked his lips as they pulled apart and Derek stifled a moan watching his tongue snake back into his mouth.
“You good?” Derek asked lowly.
“For now,” Stiles replied with a smile.