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Still inspired by this post.

 

 

--

Derek is an odd child. Laura calls him lonely. His uncle Peter calls him precocious, mockingly, as he steals Derek’s books and drops creepy crawlies down the back of his shirt.

Derek reads Dad’s dictionary to find out what his uncle means. He doesn’t like being called names, and the way Peter says it is being called names.

No one notices him much anyway because Laura is always off exploring, and getting stranded in weird places, like the cliff with the yucky name, and Cora is trying to join the junior football league even though she’s only seven and the boys in the league don’t want to play with her. And Peter, when he’s not making Derek miserable, is “acting out” because Grandma and Grandpa died a few years ago. He still has Nana (his grandmother, but Nana doesn’t seem to like Peter much).

Derek spends his days wandering the backyard and finding hiding-holes so he can disappear when Peter decides to find him. Mom and Dad are too busy with Laura’s first (that they know of) boyfriend (candy is an awesome bribing tool) and Cora’s first tackle-resulting-in-a-broken-bone-and-a-threat-of-litigation.

The day before he turns ten, a strange woman steals Derek from his reading spot by the wobbly gatepost.

She uses a help-me-I’ve-lost-my-puppy-rouse with an actual puppy that Derek finds for her. He’s so proud, carrying the small dog to her car when she smiles crookedly at him and throws a hood over his head. He wails once, dropping the dog, and then she punches the air out of his lungs and he loses time.

When he comes back to himself, he’s sitting cross-legged against a wall, arms over his head in what must be shackles, with a bit of rag stuffed into his mouth.

He starts crying, begging to go home. He can barely understand himself, and the woman, sitting at a lopsided table under a dirty window, scraping the peel off an apple with a dull knife, ignores him.

They spend the better part of a week like this. Derek sitting against the wall crying and struggling to breathe, the woman reading or eating at the table.

Occasionally, she’ll stick a bucket under him and pull his pants down. She doesn’t touch him, but he still feels shame burn his face whenever he releases his bladder or bowels.

Once a day she takes the rag out and makes him drink two things. The first is a bottle of water. His mom buys the same kind, so he thinks they must still be in Beacon Hills. The second is a mug of broth. It tastes like chicken and Derek really hates it.

He starts blinking and snapping awake when the broth starts being yuckier than usual, something almost dirt-tasting sticking to the dregs. Sometimes he wakes up to find she hasn’t replaced his pants, and he shivers under her gaze.

More times passes, evidenced by the growing number of containers piling under the table. It has been so long that Derek’s cried himself out, and the woman doesn’t bother with the gag anymore.

She’s getting bolder, muttering under her breath. Something about the mayor race Mom’s in. Something about making him pay the price. She pokes him hard, flicking his nipples through his t-shirt, laughing when he cringes. She’s engaged in such an activity, one hand twisting a nipple painfully while the other is braced against his bare upper thigh, when he arrives.

The window above the table breaks apart and a canister spitting thick smoke rolls to a stop against his knee. She says a bad word and covers her mouth and nose, already running for the door. A tall man with a star pinned to his chest and a thick mask over his face says the same word when he notices Derek.

Derek coughs weakly, rattling his wrists in the shackles the woman never takes off, and then his world goes dark.

 

--

He wakes up in a hospital. At least, he thinks it’s a hospital since it doesn’t smell like home or the kitchen with the strange woman. It’s cold and clean with hints of bleach and starch. There is a different woman with tied back black curls and ugly blue pajamas with a pocket over her heart leaning over him and he panics, wailing loudly while something else screams along with him.

His mom and dad come running in, the tall man, no more mask on his face, on their heels.

They all look sad, so he tries to stop crying, but it’s too hard and he lets himself fall into the dark again.

 

--

The next time he wakes up, Laura is curled up next to him on the bed. She’s reading out loud from the third Harry Potter book, the one he’d been reading to Cora before the strange woman took him.

In the corner, holding onto each other are his parents. His mom looks…destroyed with smudged eyes and pale lips. She’s crying and Dad is trying to hug her.

“It’s my fault,” he hears her whisper, and he wonders, how could it be? He was the one stupid enough to let himself get taken.

He interrupts Laura to say this, and she glares at him. “Don’t let Mom hear you say that,” she snaps. He flinches and she looks sorry.

Mom and Dad come over then, Mom shooing Laura away with Dad while she perches on the bed and leans down to kiss his forehead.

He doesn’t mean to do it, but he can’t help himself. Mom reels back when he hits her, and he sobs as she looks at him with worry.

“Baby?” she says. He shakes his head, crying harder. “James!”

Dad and the pajama-nurse come back in. Peter and Laura peer in from the open door. Mom holds up a hand and stops the nurse while she switches spots with Dad so he’s the one leaning over and offering a brief kiss to Derek’s forehead. He clutches at him, burying his face in his neck and sobbing even harder. He can’t breathe and his chest hurts and he wants to go home.

“It’s okay,” his dad says softly into his hair, pressing more kisses to his head. “It’s okay, baby. You’re safe.”

Derek doesn’t believe him. Not one bit.

Laura ducks under Peter’s arm and slips the book to Dad before she smiles sadly at Derek and leaves again. Mom and the nurse hang back while Dad smoothes some hair off Derek’s forehead and opens the book to Laura’s shimmery green ribbon bookmark. He lets Derek hold it while he starts reading to him. Cautiously, eyes on Mom and the nurse, Derek slides his thumb into his mouth and chews on it.

He falls asleep maybe thirty minutes later, curled into Dad’s side, still sucking his thumb.

 

--

The psychiatrist Dad takes him to is a woman, but she’s dark haired and coffee skinned with a leather jacket and a white smile. Dad stays with him the first eight sessions, letting him stay pressed to his side while the woman asks gentle questions about what Derek likes to do for fun.

“I knit,” he says quietly, during the sixth session, staring at his hands. “My nana taught me last year.” He doesn’t say his hands shake too much to hold the needles and he hasn’t started a new project in nearly three months.

Dad brushes a hand over his back, encouraging him to keep talking. He draws in an unsteady breath and tucks his thumb into the corner of his mouth. Dr. Morrell looks a bit worried but ignores it in favor of asking his favorite color.

“Green,” he mumbles. “Although, sometimes I like black or blue or purple.”

“What about white or pink?” she prompts and he shrugs.

“They’re okay. I like orange better though.”

On the ninth session, Dad stays outside the room while Dr. Morrell watches him struggle to cast on and knit one row of stitches.

Every session after that, Derek brings in a ball of yarn and different sized needles. They talk easily about everything but what happened to him and by the time Dr. Morrell has decided he’s ready to move to once a month sessions instead of every week, she has a menagerie of knitted animals on her desk.

The next week (almost two years to the day he was taken), the trial starts and Derek starts panicking again.

The judge, an older fellow with a granddaughter about Laura’s age, lets him knit on the stand while he talks. It’s the only way Derek does talk.

The woman, named Kate, of all things, goes to prison for a long time.

And then they move away.

To Chicago.

To a place where no one knows what happened to Derek (because he was too young to have his name printed in the papers) and where no one cares (except his family who tiptoe around him as if he’s going to break down again).

Dr. Morrell recommends visiting a new psychiatrist and emails a few recommendations.

Dr. Deaton is just as enigmatic as Dr. Morrell, but he too lets Derek knit during sessions.

Slowly, the years pass until Derek’s graduated from both high school and college and is taking a year off (he’s only 20, give him a break, please) before he starts working toward his Masters degree in business. He still sees Dr. Deaton once a month to deal with the crippling anxiety that popped up (again) shortly before his second graduation ceremony.

Dr. Deaton makes a suggestion, as he packs away all the knitted things Derek’s left in his office, to maybe film some tutorials, to pass on the knowledge Nana gave him.

Derek worries that Kate will find him, afraid that she’s going to check a computer and it will announce his location. He spends the next three days cocooned in blankets hiding from the world while his mom and dad try to coax him to at least eat at the table. Peter sits on the foot of his bed for an hour every day and tells Derek how he should have stayed gone, how he’s complicated everyone’s lives by coming back, how he’s a useless waste of space.

Mom kicks Peter out while Laura’s boyfriend spends the time talking to Derek about Dr. Deaton’s idea for recording videos.

Dr. Deaton had made it sound like Derek would have to post the videos immediately. Jordan says, “Hell no! They’re for you.”

Dad gives him his old digital camera and Derek, with Jordan acting as a cameraman, films the first ever video.

Cora, a snipe-y seventeen year old, declares it barely passable and promptly steals it to use in her public speaking class.

Somehow, that makes it easier, and Derek and Jordan spend a good three months filming videos and testing camera angles and picking out names.

In the end, it’s Laura who says, “No offense, Derek, but you look like the hot knitting neighbor next door.” And it sticks. Overall, Derek doesn’t mind being called HKN—he minds Hot Knitting Neighbor far too much, according to Cora.

When he uploads the first video—casting on and basic knit and purl stitches—Jordan takes him for ice cream at the parlor around the corner from their apartment. Peter moves back in while they eat pistachio cones.

No one talks about it, preferring instead to gossip about Jordan and Laura’s blossoming romance (they’re both planning to propose come New Year’s Eve), Cora’s proclivities toward violent sports (another boy with a broken bone courtesy of her overzealous tackling), and Derek’s videos. Which are up to about three uploaded and ten views apiece.

Derek finds he enjoys making the videos, enjoys figuring out how to adapt a pattern so he can teach nameless, faceless people how to knit easier. He also spends a ridiculous amount of time teaching himself how to knit left-handed so he can replicate some of his more popular patterns.

 

--

Laura and Jordan get married the spring Derek goes back to school, and he spends a whole week filming videos of knitting flowers for the bouquet, all Laura’s favorites like forget-me-nots and gypsophila and a robust daisy-flower called zinnia. He also teaches himself to crochet, like Jordan can, and they spend almost two days making Laura’s veil.

He’s so nervous the day of that he throws up harder than Laura, who’s already pregnant. He’s Jordan’s best man and he panics when the microphone is passed to him.

Hyperventilating and wheezing and crying just isn’t a good place for him. He barely manages to choke out, “They’re amazing and I love them and you should too,” before his mom ushers him from the room.

Laura apologizes before they leave for their honeymoon, and Jordan sheds a few tears too when he hugs him goodbye.

He sees Dr. Deaton every other day for three weeks. Cora, in a rare fit of compassion, takes over Jordan’s job and helps him upload videos on Thursdays.

 

--

Three years pass quickly, a mess of panic attacks due to stress from his Master’s degree and more projects. Nana hires part time help so she can visit more often to help with Laura’s baby and second pregnancy, spitting vitriol about one of her customers, a young man who antagonized her by buying needles and yarns and then destroying his projects due to nervous energy.

Derek suggests to her to teach a class and see if the boy, “Son of a Sheriff!” she snaps like it’s an insult, will improve.

Jordan buys him a new camera for his birthday. The first video he uploads with the new camera has half a dozen comments from someone called “Spaztastic Batman.” The comments range from, “Damn that honeycomb stitch was sooo badass!” to “You know, I never realized just how multicolored your eyes are. The first camera showed them as really, really green. They’re beautiful either way. Man, keep doing what you’re doing!”

Derek tries not to feel anything when Jordan shows him the best comments—usually left by Spaztastic Batman—but something flutters in his chest whenever he sees the username. Nana watches him with knowing eyes, and before she goes back to Beacon Hills, she gives him a small pendant made of a stone polished to match his eyes. It makes him think of Spaztastic Batman.

 

--

Whenever Cora visits from college, they always have her favorite meal. Actually, it’s everyone but Derek’s favorite meal.

He doesn’t particularly like meatloaf although he doesn’t hate it.

He also dislikes the way his mom makes him help every time she makes it, like he doesn’t know that Laura and Jordan (and baby Monica) are on a pseudo date at the garden center where Laura works, and Dad’s busy with racecars or something engine-y.

Peter hangs around too, making comments under his breath that Derek can’t quite catch but make his mom glare at her younger brother. It’s why she won’t let Peter “babysit” him unsupervised. That and his stupid stunt a couple years ago.

Anyway. Cora’s visiting tonight. She’ll be here the whole weekend. Derek frowns at the thought. He loves her, he really does, but she’s almost as bad as Peter sometimes. She doesn’t respect his boundaries, which is really sad.

Even Peter knocks before entering Derek’s room anymore, and he’s usually trailed by one of Derek’s parents. Cora just bursts in, insults him or what he’s doing, and then waltzes away again. He envies her fluidity with people.

If he’s startled, he’ll stutter. If he’s embarrassed, he blushes. If Cora scents his weakness, she exploits it.

“I need to record the last stages of the bears, Mom,” he says, softly. She turns from where she’s discussing the frontrunners for the upcoming City Council election with Peter to stare at him. He flushes under her gaze.

“Are you sure?” she asks, just as softly.

“I’m sure. I was almost done when you called me anyway. Jordan said he’d help me make a Facebook page tonight if I completed it.”

She smiles, watery, at him, hurriedly wiping her hands on the towel Peter thrusts at her. “Oh, honey, I’m so proud,” she says, wrapping him in a tight embrace. He holds his breath and tries not to squirm. Over her shoulder, Peter rolls his eyes at them. She pats him on the cheeks, pressing a dry kiss to his forehead before she shoos him back to his room. Peter opens his mouth as Derek leaves the kitchen, and Mom says, “Don’t speak. For once in your Goddamn life, don’t speak.”

Once in his room with the door shut—no lock, the one concession he’s okay with as it lets his dad find him in the middle of the night after a nightmare—he finds his project, a series of connected, multicolored bears meant to represent different countries. It’s a rather popular project, if the views are anything to go by, and he’s thinking of giving it to his cousin Marta to sell in her Etsy store.

He’s on the last bear; this series is the Allied Forces in World War II. It’s in memory of his grandfather, a man Derek personally doesn’t remember. Laura often tells stories of Grandpa Valens holding him above his head and marching around the house proudly while Derek squealed. Laura, as a girl, never got the same attention, and he sometimes thinks she was jealous of their relationship.

He boots up his computer and checks the camera on its tripod while he untangles the yarn. He doesn’t remember putting it on the bookcase where he keeps his unfinished projects so Jordan or maybe Laura put it away for him. He’ll have to remember to thank whoever did so.

He records quickly, wrapping yarn and clicking needles and chattering softly about some of the switching of the colors. He finishes everything just about the time Jordan and Laura come back. The meatloaf is still cooking, so Derek explores the channel, seeing another comment from Spaztastic.

This time Spaztastic is outlining the finer points of Derek’s last video—the one that started the bears—extolling the technique Derek chose to use. He really hates to burst people’s bubbles, but if he were going to do the project again, he wouldn’t do it the way he did.

He checks out Spaztastic’s profile and finds not much but there is a link to a Facebook page.

Apprehensively, Derek clicks on it. He’s bombarded with a series of bright pictures and stupid quotes and pretty people. He thinks there’s way more information available to him than a normal profile should have. He forgets sometimes that Jordan has his own Facebook page automatically signed in. Apparently, Spaztastic Batman and Jordan are friends. And apparently, Spaztastic Batman’s real name is “Stiles Stilinski,” which honestly does not sound any more like a real name.

He picks out three candidates in a few photos. There’s a tall, thin man with a smattering of moles along his jaw, a shorter, more thickly muscled young man with coiffed blondish hair, and then there’s a solid linebacker-looking man with a shaved head and kind eyes.

He discards the women easily, certain his anxiety won’t let him even imagine being attracted to one.

As he scrolls through the pictures, the cursor slides across one of the photos with all three candidates for Stiles and a little text box pops up. It’s on the coiffed blonde and it says “Jackson Whittemore.” The next one over, with the moles, is “Stiles Stilinski.” The linebacker is “V. Boyd.”

Derek goes through the pictures and isolates one of Stiles without his friends. He’s standing outside the Sheriff’s Station in Beacon Hills, and next to him, arm around his shoulders, grinning at the camera is the tall man who rescued him from Kate.

He shivers and closes the window. He takes it a step further and shuts the computer off. Ridding the temptations.

Then he climbs on his bed and pulls his pillow over his head.

He muffles the whimpers with the mattress, fighting back the burn of tears. It’s been years since he thought of his savior, who is now apparently a sheriff, and he’s glad to see he’s doing well, considering. It’s a bit disconcerting that Derek’s got a fan from his hometown, much less that it’s the son of the man who rescued him. It makes him even more certain that when Kate gets out, and he has no doubt that she will get out, she’ll be able to track him down via his channel.

His door flies open and Cora yells, “Get out here, loser! It’s supper time.”

He hears his mom chastise her. It’s not enough to stop her from doing it again. It never is, but all the same, he drags himself off his bed and to the dining room. Mom pats the seat next to her and he sits. Dad pins Peter with a steady glare until he sits next to him while Laura and Jordan take the chairs beside Derek and Cora the one next to Peter.

Mom says grace quickly and everyone digs in, passing dishes around the table. Derek takes very little food, and Mom looks sad.

“Anything interesting going on at school?” Dad asks Cora. She grunts through a mouthful of potatoes and meatloaf. Monica burbles happily in her highchair while Laura feeds her the homemade baby food Mom makes. No one else says anything for a long moment.

When her mouth is clear, Cora leans forward so she can grab some of Derek’s green beans. Mom says, “Cora,” and she sits back, smug look on her face.

“I made Dean’s list this quarter,” she says, chewing loudly. She points her fork at Derek’s chest and he glances down to make sure he hasn’t spilled anything. He hasn’t. When he looks up again, she says, “My roommate needs a hat.”

“I don’t do commissions,” Derek says quietly. He’ll make stuff for his channel, for his psychiatrists (he still sends Dr. Morrell a different animal every Christmas to add to her menagerie, and a monthly email update on his life), but for no one else. Marta only gets to sell what he lets her.

She huffs. “You can call it my Christmas present.”

“I wasn’t giving you anything this year,” he counters. Which is not true, but it’s not like she needs to know it.

“That’s not fair! Mom, tell him he has to give me something!”

Mom looks like she’d rather not tell anyone anything, rubbing at her temples as if she has a headache. Again. With the upcoming election, she always seems to have a headache anymore.

It’s Dad that says, “Derek is under no obligation to give you anything, Cora. If your roommate needs a hat so badly, either buy one or learn to make one yourself.”

“But, Dad,” she whines, “Derek already knows how to knit, and I know he’s hoarding shit.”

“Language,” Laura cuts in, covering Monica’s ears.

“Oh come off it,” Cora spits back. “She’s too young to understand me.”

“Maybe so, but if you don’t change your language around her, she’ll understand soon enough.”

“May I please be excused?” Derek asks. He hates that these fights of Cora’s usually come from him refusing to do something for her. He knows she’s manipulating the family, and it’s gratifying that they usually take his side, but Mom’s busy with re-election, with budgets, with everything else all the time now and Dad looks sad whenever he has to reprimand his baby girl.

“Once you’ve eaten everything on your plate,” Mom says, slapping a hand down onto Cora’s so she can’t take anything else. “And, Cora, you’ll be doing the dishes tonight.”

“But it’s Derek’s turn!”

“Cora,” Dad says warningly. “It was Derek’s turn until you decided you could stomp all over your brother.”

“Are we seriously still treating him like he’s some fucking fragile flower?! It’s been thirteen years, Derek. Get over it!”

“Cora!” the whole table, sans Derek and Peter (and Monica), says.

Derek stands up, shoving his chair back so hard it falls. Monica starts crying at the noise it makes, and he shoots an apologetic look at his niece. “I’m going…” he doesn’t know where he’s going. He can’t stay here but he’s not sure he wants to go outside either. “I’m going for a walk,” he decides quickly, the lesser of two evils. Cora is supposed to be here all weekend, after all. He picks up his chair, kisses his mom on the cheek, and grabs the jacket with the five dollar bill Jordan always puts in the pocket.

He walks quickly, aimlessly, until he finds himself standing outside the ice cream shop. During the winter, they sell hot chocolate, and while he’s not overly fond of it, he decides today is a good day for one. Comfort food.

The clerk smiles at him when she hands him his change, and he blanches, staring wide-eyed as her smile falters and she stares at him in confusion. He stumbles outside to head to the park about five blocks from the apartment. He sits on a bench and sips his rapidly cooling drink, observing the packs of people moving about the area. There’s a group of college students that catches his eye, and he ducks his head so they won’t notice him staring.

He recognizes some of the faces from Stiles’ Facebook page.

What are kids from Beacon Hills, California doing in Chicago?

Jackson Whittemore looks even more coiffed in person, and V. Boyd looks more like a Mack truck than a linebacker, especially with a much smaller blonde girl hanging off his back. A redhead in a purple coat hangs on Jackson’s arm and directs them to Derek’s bench.

“This seat taken?” V. Boyd inquires and Derek shakes his head quickly, standing up so both couples can sit.

“Lovely day, isn’t it?” the blonde girl smiles, sharp, knowing, and Derek feels ice flood his veins.

“I—Yeah, I-I guess s-so,” he stutters, and her grins widens, looking predatory. Suddenly, an arm wraps around his waist and he turns to find Jordan standing next to him.

“Hey,” he says, and Derek nods at him. Jordan eyes the group carefully, cocking a hip so they can see his badge. “Making friends?” His tone is light, but Derek can hear the tension in it.

“Um, not really,” he says. The redhead jumps up again, thrusting out her hand. Jordan shakes it.

“Lydia Martin,” she says, smiling pleasantly.

“Ah, Cora’s roommate,” Jordan says, eying her distinct lack of a hat.

Lydia turns the same knowing look from the blonde on Derek and he squirms uncomfortably under her scrutiny. “You must be Derek,” she finally says, offering her hand to Derek. He doesn’t shake it. “Cora talks about you all the time.”

“She does?” Jordan says harshly. Lydia holds up her hands.

“Hey, all good things,” she says.

“I find that hard to believe,” Jordan replies sharply. He grips Derek’s hip tighter and starts moving them away.

“So, anyway,” Lydia continues, following them. Jackson, V. Boyd, and the blonde also come with. “I have this friend who is so into Derek’s videos, he’s actually taken up knitting.”

Derek thinks back to Nana’s visit. He tugs on Jordan’s jacket and whispers into his ear, “Son of the Sheriff.”

“It’d be really neat if you would be willing to sign an autograph for him or something.”

Jordan shakes his head. “We don’t do autographs.”

“Hey, now,” the blonde says, stopping them by jumping into their path. Derek jerks back and hides behind Jordan. They are the same height, so if he stands a little off center he can still peer over his shoulder.

“Get away from us, right now,” Jordan snaps. He tugs his badge free and all but shoves it in her face. She steps back, and Jordan, grabbing Derek’s hand and squeezing it tightly, stomps past her. Derek keeps his head ducked, but he still hears the blonde say, “What the fuck?” to her friends.

When they get back to the apartment, Jordan pries the crushed—when did he crush it?—cup from Derek’s hand and throws it away. Mom and Dad are waiting on the couch. Jordan deposits Derek between them and goes to the room he shares with his wife and child. Cora and Peter are nowhere in sight.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Mom prompts after a brief silence. Derek shakes his head. He grips her hand and leans into Dad’s side.

“I don’t want to, but maybe I should?” He feels his dad sigh and presses deeper. “Cora’s right though. It’s been so long; I should be…not over it but somewhere on the path to healing.”

His mom lifts his hand to her mouth so she can kiss it. “You are on the path to healing,” she says, squeezing his hand gently.

He smiles at them both, kissing them good night and heading to his room. He detours to brush his teeth quickly. In the midst of crawling under his blankets, he realizes that because of the way supper ended up, Jordan never set up that Facebook page. Derek decides he won’t remind him about it.

 

--

Morning comes fast, and with it comes Cora barging into his room to apologize about last night, his mom on her heels.

He wonders if she’s going to get the Peter-treatment now.

Breakfast is stilted with no one saying anything. Derek retreats to his room again and practices signing his name in a notebook he keeps stuffed under his mattress. He wonders about the friend Lydia mentioned, wonders if it really is Stiles Stilinski, bane of his grandmother’s store.

Jordan knocks around noon with a plate of sandwiches and half a dozen ideas for the channel. He makes Derek boot up the computer and log in so he can direct Derek how to change the colors and change the welcome video. Derek makes faces at him when he’s not looking.

Spaztastic Batman—Stiles—is back with his comments, bemoaning the fact that knitting is far harder than Derek makes it look. Although, he’s quick to comment again that Derek explains everything thoroughly, it’s just some people don’t have the fingers, hands, skills for it.

It gets Derek thinking, and he pulls out a skein of black yarn twined through with silver tinsel thread. He grabs four two-millimeter double-pointed needles and sets everything down on his workspace. Jordan watches him silently for a minute before turning on the camera and focusing it.

He holds up four fingers and folds them down one at a time. When all four are down, Derek breathes deeply and forces himself to smile into the lens.

“Hi, I’m Derek,” he says. He doesn’t know why he says that every time, but the viewers and commentators seem to like it. “Today, I’m going to knit a hat on double-pointed needles.” He holds up the needles, briefly explaining what to expect when using them. While he does this, Jordan digs around in the computer desk, pulls out the cloth tape measure, and sets it by the yarn.

Derek flashes him a grateful smile. “So, usually, you’d take measurements of your subject’s head. Since I’m doing this as a gift, I want to surprise the person. I’ve met the person once, but if you’ll remember, I’ve got a good eye for measurements.” Jordan holds a pink square of paper over Derek’s left shoulder. It’s their agreed cue for inserting links back to previous videos. In this case, it will be the one they filmed on New Year’s when Laura, Cora, and Marta made Derek guess their head and shoulder sizes. Jordan had officiated, to make it fair.

It’s one of the more popular videos, Derek supposes, because it shows more of his home life than just the workspace opposite from his computer desk.

He casts on, all the while explaining what he’s doing, why he chose the size of needles he did, and his choice of yarn. He knits quickly despite the fact that he’s manipulating multiple stabbies, as his baby cousin Helen likes to call his double-pointed needles.

“If you’d like, you can have a quick refresher course on how to knit with double-pointed needles,” he says, and Jordan puts the pink square over his right shoulder. If Derek points, they don’t use the paper, but Derek likes the paper, makes the link feel real.

He grins at the camera. “Now this project might take a couple days since I’ve already decided that the top of the hat will be a silver pom and it might take me some time to find the perfect color of yarn.”

Jordan pulls up the computer chair and watches him work silently for a few minutes. “So, how’s about that movie you liked so much?” He winks at Derek’s unimpressed glare.

Then they both turn to the camera and say, “Spoiler alert!”

“It was good, yeah,” Derek says, feeling the blush spread over his face. “I really liked the visual of the world, the whole building of it, and how it was executed. I think they did a good job with it.”

“It’s not without fault,” Jordan says, and Derek nods.

He runs into a tangent on major plot points he wishes would have been improved before stopping to smile fondly at the camera, saying, “I think Mom was just so excited that I wanted to go see it three times in theaters.”

“You gorged yourself sick on popcorn,” Jordan remembers. “And I had to buy you those caramel bite things.”

“Milk duds, Jordan, they’re called milk duds.”

“I thought you’d get a cavity. Hell, I thought I’d get a cavity just from watching you.”

Derek pauses his knitting to show the camera his progress. “So far I’ve got the band that goes around the forehead. Jordan, if you would?” Obligingly, Jordan unfurls the cloth tape measure and holds it so Derek can measure the band. “And we’re right on target. Perfect. Another few rounds of this and I’ll be ready to switch onto the next section.”

“Sorry to burst your knitting groove, but your mom wanted us to make supper tonight. I was thinking spaghetti and meatballs.”

“And some kind of vegetable.” Derek lays the project down gently, leaning forward so his face fills the frame of the camera. Three years and he has it down, finally. “So, enjoy the rest of your day, and remember, keep knitting, your projects need you.”

Both he and Jordan wave before Jordan shuts the camera off.

“So, spaghetti, you?”

“Yeah.” Derek isn’t terribly talented in the kitchen, not like Jordan or Laura, but he can pass muster, unlike Peter or Cora, who both don’t have the patience for cooking. “Corn?”

“Corn’s good.”

“We’ll have the bear video to edit before Thursday, and I wanna get a teaser up with it about the hat.”

“Okay.” The nice thing about Jordan is he never tells Derek they can’t do one of his ideas. “But, in exchange, you’ll have to learn how to do the back-links.” He just makes Derek learn more of what he does for the channel. “By the way,” Jordan continues, “what made you change your mind about the hat?”

Derek doesn’t answer, instead pulling the notebook from under his bed and showing Jordan where he’s signed about twenty times, trying to get his signature neat and precise.

“Son of the Sheriff?” Jordan raises an eyebrow, but it doesn’t feel judging, just questioning.

Derek nods, a bit miserably. He doesn’t know why he wants to give Stiles an autograph. He thinks it might have something to do with who his father is.

He doesn’t say another word the rest of the night, and Mom and Dad exchange worried glances until he retires to his room.

 

--

Cora says Lydia squealed at deafening levels when she gave her the hat. Derek just grunts and retreats to his room to stare at the notebook of signatures. He knows he chickened out on the autograph thing, but maybe it’s something he can bring up with Dr. Deaton at their upcoming session.

Surprisingly, Cora and Derek get along much better after that, and she stops calling him names and stands up to Peter for him.

Derek knits her a series of dolls from her favorite television series for Christmas. It’s popular on the channel too.

 

--

Suddenly, it’s April, and Cora’s out with a study group while Laura, Marta, and another cousin, Michael (father of Helen), are having a parents’ night in. Peter’s been going out with a lady from work—he teaches anthropology at College of DuPage—and he’s on a date right now. Jordan was invited to the parent-thing since, obviously, he’s a parent of at least two of those munchkins, but he’d opted to stay with Derek for a new, exciting project. Derek’s parents are watching them with their practice run, waiting on their reservation for their anniversary dinner.

Jordan and Derek are working on camera angles for the longest scarf knitted in two hours (a total waste of yarn, if one asks Peter, but no one ever does). Derek already knows he’s going to rip it apart, after setting the record, and knit scarves for the shelter by Jordan’s precinct. He’s planning to do it anyway even if he doesn’t set it. They’re practicing with stand-ins for the official observers’ cameras and crew that will be present the day of, and Derek’s getting far too nervous.

He sits in the knitting chair he’s dragged out and set in front of the television, facing his parents on the couch, trying to pretend, and mostly succeeding, that they are strangers he’s never met, come to watch him knit. It’s unnerving and he can’t quite catch his breath.

Jordan, manning a lamp impersonating a camera, keeps shooting him increasingly worried glances, while Mom keeps clearing her throat like she wants to say something.

Dad suddenly stands up and goes to the bathroom. His movement startles Derek and he lets out a little gasp.

His hands are shaking too hard to cast on, and he’s staring through a wall of tears. He can’t do this. He really can’t.

Dad returns and sets a bucket on his lap, taking the needles and yarn away. Just in time too, as Derek dry heaves and then vomits into the bucket.

“You don’t have to do this, Derek,” Mom says softly. She stays on the couch while Dad puts an arm around Derek and rubs his arm. “You’re at a limit, and it’s okay to settle back and observe it for a bit.”

Dr. Deaton’s words.

He’s the one who trained them all on what to do when Derek had panic attacks. He’s also given everyone a little booklet of phrases to tell Derek that he’s not a failure. Derek has one himself that he reads sometimes, when the stress of his Master’s gets a bit unbearable.

“I’m sorry, Jordan,” he whispers. “I really thought I could do it.”

“It’s okay,” Jordan says. “What matters is you. If you don’t feel ready, you’re not ready. The record can wait another time.”

Derek draws in a shaky breath, but the thing is, now that it’s been voiced by someone outside of his head, he feels relief. He knows he’s not ready, but what worries him is that he’ll never be ready.

“I’m sorry,” he says again, and Jordan hugs him tightly. Dad checks his watch and shakes his head, but Derek squares his shoulders. “Go,” he says to his parents. “I’ve got Jordan.”

“Baby,” Mom says softly. But, they go out anyway.

Derek and Jordan spend the night on Derek’s bed crocheting an afghan for Laura and Jordan’s anniversary next month.

Derek doesn’t panic the rest of the night.

 

--

A couple months later, Derek is browsing Stiles’ Facebook, wondering at the fact that he’s only a year younger but so much more than Derek will ever be. He comes across a series of pictures from a trip Stiles took with his friends to celebrate their graduation from college. They went to a beach.

Stiles looks really good in a pair of red-and-black board shorts and sunglasses. He grins smugly at the camera whenever he notices he’s in frame.

Derek feels a flare of something spike low in his stomach. He glances down at it, pulling up his shirt to trace where he thought he’d felt it, only to find that it was lower, so much lower.

Flushing in embarrassment even though he’s alone in his room right now, he lets his shirt fall down and goes back to scanning Stiles’ pictures.

A few scenes later, or earlier, depending on how this posting thing works, he comes across a photo of Stiles climbing out of the ocean, chest glistening in the sunlight, water dripping down from his hair and off his arms. His shorts dip low, and his happy trail is plastered to his skin. Also, his sunglasses aren’t anywhere near his face, and Derek can just make out the burned almond tone of them.

He nearly stops breathing at the intensity of the flare that surges through…that’s his groin. Definitely his groin. Oh, God, he panics silently, attention firmly on his rising penis.

He closes out of the window and shoves his chair back from it. He throws an arm over his eyes and tries breathing exercises, but he can still feel the panic crawling up his spine, can still feel his penis getting excited.

A few moments later, he manages to calm down, breathing wetly through his mouth and wondering what it would feel like to have Stiles slide his hands over his body. To taste the seawater on his skin, the sweat of it.

He’s never been sexually inclined, had even confided to Dr. Deaton that he was unable to obtain or maintain an erection.

Dr. Deaton had given him a pamphlet of terms and told him symptoms apply but labels don’t.

It’s been comforting to know that Cora is possibly bisexual with a preference for male partners while Laura is strictly heterosexual. Symptoms-wise, at least. He honestly has no idea what either of them identify as and he’s certainly not going to ask them. He heeds Dr. Deaton’s advice, though, and doesn’t put a label on himself, though he thinks he’s strictly homosexual.

He thinks again of Stiles, picturing his mouth, imagining kissing it.

His cock plumps a bit more, and he spreads his legs so it has more room.

He’s just decided to see if he can make himself ejaculate with his hand when his door flies open and Cora stomps in.

“Dinner,” she says shortly before freezing and staring at him, wide-eyed. She snorts in disgust and stomps back out.

Derek feels numb, hand halfway on his flaccid, completely flaccid, and uninterested cock, flushing in embarrassment. To make matters worse, she’s left the door open, and he notices Peter staring in at him, a smirk on his face.

He jerks his hand up and sits up, moving stiffly to head to the bathroom to wash up before taking his seat at his mom’s elbow in the dining room.

Conversation flows around him while he picks at meatloaf.

“Oh,” Cora suddenly says, turning to Mom and grinning, “I caught Derek masturbating.”

Derek chokes on the green beans he’s managed to put in his mouth under his mom’s watchful eye. The whole table goes silent for a long moment, and Derek feels the blood rushing to his face. He manages to swallow his mouthful and peeks up at his mom, seeing if she’ll excuse him before he has to endure any more surprises.

She smiles at him and says, “Oh, honey, that’s wonderful!” Then she turns to Cora. “Apologize for embarrassing your brother.”

“He didn’t apologize for traumatizing me!” Cora snaps. She stabs her food viciously before glancing up and catching Derek’s eye. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’ll try to remember to knock next time.”

“Well, that’s a new one,” Peter says. He raises his glass as if he’s toasting, and points at Derek with his fork at the same time. “We shame people for doing normal things but we praise him for doing something shameful.”

“Peter,” Dad says. “How many times have I walked in on your masturbatory sessions?”

Peter flushes and drops his fork. “I’m going for a walk,” he announces and stalks out.

“Masturbation isn’t shameful,” Mom says. Derek knows she’s talking to him, so he watches her out of the corner of his eye. She pokes at her own food before waving at the table so they go back to eating. “We’ll talk about this later,” she promises. “I’d really like to be here for you.”

Later, when he’s washing the dishes and Mom’s drying them, she explains some of the health benefits for masturbation.

He blushes each time she opens with another point. “Is it wrong to use a real person, though?” he asks, and she looks puzzled.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there’s a commentator on the channel’s videos with a Facebook page. I think I really like him. He’s—” he cuts himself off to hide his face in his hands. The warmth of them doesn’t disguise the heat of his face. “I feel so guilty,” he says.

“Derek,” Mom says, “let me tell you the story of how your father and I met.”

“I thought it was during a hot air balloon festival?”

Mom laughs. “No, that was a few months after the first time. The first time we met, Nana’s husband had hired your father to paint our house. He caught me masturbating when he was on a ladder, scraping old paint off the wall around my room.”

Derek blushes harder at the thought of it, the second-hand embarrassment for both his parents. Mom notices and hugs him tightly.

“Know what I was thinking about?”

“No,” he mumbles.

“The hot painter working on our house. We ran into each other again at the hot air balloon festival.”

“So, it’s normal?”

“It is, but don’t be intrusive in how you do it. Don’t purposefully search his page for images that you then stare at when you’re hot and bothered. If you find an image you like, you can remember it when you play with yourself.”

“Please stop using analogies for masturbation,” Derek implores her. “And please stop talking to me now. I think I’ve got it. Thank you for telling me. I’m just going to go die on my bed now.”

Mom hugs him again and kisses his head. “We still love you.”

Dr. Deaton says the same things (about masturbation not that he loves Derek) at the session Mom takes him to the next day.

So, if he doesn’t save the picture, according to Mom (Dr. Deaton says it’s okay sometimes—he gives Derek another pamphlet), he’s finally exhibiting normal behavior. He still feels guilty jerking off over Stiles’ sea-photo-image. But, that doesn’t stop him from rubbing himself raw over the next few days, now that he can maintain an erection.

 

--

On Derek’s twenty-forth birthday, Peter brings home an unannounced guest.

Her name is Julia or Jennifer and she gravitates to Derek, clinging to his arm and simpering about how she absolutely loves his videos. Derek whimpers when her fingers tighten. Peter glares at him while the rest of the family looks stricken.

Even Cora looks terrified.

Finally, Mom steps between them, dislodging her hand and forcing Derek a few steps back. Immediately, Dad wraps an arm around his shoulders and squeezes.

“Peter, you know we don’t mind you introducing your friends to the family, but a little warning would have been nice.”

“She’s not my friend,” Peter spits, “she’s my fiancée.”

Mazel Tov,” Cora intones. “Now get the fuck out before you trigger my brother any more than you already have.”

Jennifer or Julia looks absolutely confused as Peter ushers her from the apartment, saying, “If she’s not welcome, than neither am I.”

Once the door slams shut behind them, Dad sits Derek at the couch where his little cousins crowd around, petting at his arms and shoulders. Cora claps her hands loudly and says, “Good riddance.”

And that’s how Peter, thirty years old, finally moves out of his sister’s apartment.

Even more embarrassing than panicking just because someone—a woman—touched him is the fact that Jordan was recording the whole thing.

 

--

Derek works at getting better. Finally, Dr. Deaton doesn’t say, but the relief he minutely shows when Derek talks about maybe getting some medication to help with the panic attacks so he can be off by himself without a family member chasing him down is loud enough.

When Cora bugs him about a hiking trip she has planned as a graduation gift to herself, he agrees, with minimal persuasion on her part, to go with her.

Immediately, she details a training and dietary plan for him. His only consolation for the sheer number of abdominal crunches she expects from him after a three-week period is that she’s pushing herself just as hard.

On his twenty-fifth birthday, he starts a new project, and, for once, in front of the camera doesn’t feel like a chore or whore-mongering himself for the satisfaction of Dr. Deaton. He truly loves what he’s making even if he’s on the tired side with his adjusting medications and his own completion of his Master’s degree.

Marta begs him to allow her to sell the sweater in her store, but Derek overhears—spies really—on Cora talking about radio contests one day, and he approaches Jordan with doing something like that too.

Jordan is thrilled but he makes Derek write all the rules. And enforce them too.

The final video of the project goes up on a Thursday, and that was one of Derek’s never to be repeated ever, ever, ever, on pain of death to everything holy and good, ever again. Derek had actually thought he was going to die of embarrassment after Cora’s comment, but the number of views is almost quadruple what his other videos have. The only reason he’s unhappy is Spaztastic Batman, Stiles, hasn’t commentated at all. It makes his chest ring with hollowness in time with his heartbeat when he thinks about it too long.

He and Jordan spend the weekend after the video was posted scouring Jordan’s Facebook page, reading comments and marking down who won, who was disqualified, and who is just plain creepy. Hint: if Matthew Daehler comes anywhere close to the family, Jordan has a blanket restraining order ready to go.

He also flags several of the comments detailing nothing but “compliments” for Derek’s looks.

Turns out Stiles Stilinski is the first (and only) person to succeed at the contest, and Derek can’t help the fuzzy feeling that swells in his chest (and his groin, if he’s honest) when he sees his name.

Jordan clicks on Stiles’ profile, searching quickly. “Well, he didn’t post anything about the quiz, just said that HKN was his top entertainment for this past year.”

Derek peers over his shoulder, taking in the lithe man dancing his way through his new photos. “He’s really cute,” he admits softly, blushing hotly when he realizes Jordan heard him.

“Yeah, I guess,” Jordan says distractedly. Then he stops moving and turns to Derek. “Did you just?” he asks, making Derek blush more. “Dude, that’s awesome! You should totally send a friend request.”

“I don’t have a page,” Derek reminds him. Jordan snorts. “No. I’m not making one. It’s bad enough you make me moderate the channel. What if she comes back?” he shudders. “I don’t want her to find me.”

“She’s still in prison, Derek,” Jordan says. He knows this; Mom keeps tabs on her appeals and always goes to speak to the parole board. She sometimes takes video of his many breakdowns. He knows for a fact she showed them the one of his birthday with Peter and his fiancée.

“Look, do you want to talk to this ‘Stiles’ or not?”

“Yes,” Derek says before he can think better of it. He immediately claps a hand over his mouth and stares wide-eyed as Jordan signs out of his Facebook page and opens a new profile. “Don’t,” he begs. “Please don’t. I didn’t mean it!” Jordan starts typing in Derek’s information and he panics, chest tightening, mouth and throat drying out. His breath starts whistling and Jordan stops to stare at him fearfully.

“Mom!” Jordan yells, closing out of the window. He shoves his chair back so he can kneel next to Derek and grab his hands. Talia throws open the door and rattles the bottle of Klonopin to get their attention.

“Breathe with me, Derek,” she says, shouldering Jordan away so she can run her hands over his arms. She sets the bottle in his lap and counts to five. She inhales loudly, holds for a bit and then releases. “It’s a five-two count, baby,” she says. “Just follow along.”

Within a few minutes, Derek’s breathing has settled and he hands his mom the bottle back. He glances around the room, finding Jordan sitting on the computer chair, a guilty expression on his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, and Derek tries to smile but his face still feels numb. “I won’t do that again, I promise.”

Mom glances at him sharply before tugging Derek to his feet and leading him to his bed. She tucks him in and sits with him. Jordan shuts down the computer before leaving the room, leveling one last guilty look at Derek.

“Want to talk about it?” Mom asks, and Derek shakes his head. He’s tired now, usually is after a panic attack. He’s glad that he didn’t have to take any medication for this one. It means his tiredness is just a reaction to the excess adrenaline his body produced earlier, instead of the loopy, fuzzy mess he usually is after the Klonopin.

“Derek, please.”

“Jordan was going to set up a Facebook page and I panicked. It’s not his fault.”

“I know, baby, but remember it’s not your fault either.”

“Mom,” Derek whispers, “do you think I’ll ever be better? Well enough to be on my own? Well enough not to need so much care?”

Mom leans down to press a kiss to his hair, and he shudders as her lips touch his forehead. She straightens up, looking down sadly. “Maybe, Derek.”

“It’s been years,” he continues. “Dr. Deaton told me when I started therapy with him, if I wasn’t well by then, I likely wouldn’t be.”

“And did you take his words to heart and stop trying?”

Derek feels tears burning his eyes. Mom blinks rapidly too.

“I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes, you did. The same way Cora was mean to me, or the way Peter hurt me. If you didn’t, you’d have kicked them out and never let them see me.”

“Peter doesn’t still talk to you, does he?”

“Not since he moved in with his fiancée.”

Mom sighs. “Derek, I don’t know. Do you feel better?”

Derek thinks about this for a long time. Mom gets up and goes to start supper. She leaves his door open and he can hear his niece and nephew playing just outside.

Eventually, on his own, he gets up and goes to his computer. He boots it up, leg jerking up and down with nervous energy. It takes him three tries to get his password right, and then he opens a browser, logging out of Jordan’s Facebook page as it automatically signs in.

Despite the severe shaking of his hands, he manages to muddle through and make his own page with just his name and the highest privacy settings. Thoroughly exhausted, he closes out of the page and shuts his computer down.

Baby steps, he reminds himself. Then he goes to help his mom make lasagna. She doesn’t comment on the fact that he sits on a stool at the island and just rests his head in his hands instead of actually helping.

 

--

For Cora’s birthday, they go to visit Nana in Beacon Hills, and for once, Derek actually comes with. Jordan is excited to see Laura’s childhood home and the creek where she fell in when she was six. All the other times the family has gone back, he’s stayed with Derek in the apartment in Chicago.

While they’re in California, Derek looks up Dr. Morrell, who looks remarkably the same. He initiates the hug, and when they pull apart, her eyes are shining with tears.

“You’re on your way,” she says. “I always knew you could do it.”

He picks up the first animal he ever knitted for her, a lumpy wolf made from the blackest yarn in Nana’s store with little blue bits of felt for eyes. He’d remade it half a dozen times and sent each new incarnation to her, and yet, it’s his first that holds the place of honor.

“Nana is retiring in October,” he says, setting the wolf down and taking a seat in the chair in front of her desk. “She’s going to ask me to take over for her.”

Dr. Morrell sits behind her desk and folds her hands so she can rest her chin on them. “And do you want to?”

Derek thinks of all the people he would have to interact with, all the ways he would have to rely on himself. “I don’t know that I’m ready, but it’s early. I can learn, I think.”

“There’s an opening for a deputy at the Sheriff’s station, and I’m certain Laura can find work here too,” Dr. Morrell says. “Your house is still available to live in. It would be perfect for three children.”

“Everyone’s lives are in Chicago,” he says, thinking of Mom sitting on City Council, of Dad’s garage, and Peter’s impending marriage. Cora is fairly transient right now with her recent graduation as a personal trainer.

Still, Laura does complain about working at the garden center, and the way she and Jordan keep making babies means the apartment is getting crowded quickly.

“You’d be my therapist again,” he says, and Dr. Morrell smiles at him.

“That’s something I think we can arrange. I have a feeling you’ll be just fine though.”

Derek spends the evening, at the bowling alley with beer (“I’m finally legal, Mom, stop glaring at the poor bartender.”) and family, thinking about Dr. Morrell’s confidence in him. After he’s begged off his turn half a dozen times—somehow, never going out makes one a very bad bowler, plus the crowded nature of the establishment is sapping his tolerance—Cora leans over and shouts in his ear.

He startles badly, sloshing beer over his hand and the floor.

“Sorry,” she says with a grin that means she’s not really sorry at all. “But, you remember that contest thing with your sweater?” He nods. “I want you to announce the winner here. Now.” She reaches down into the ever-present diaper bag Laura always lugs around even if the kids are at a babysitters and pulls out Jordan’s handheld. She gets it set up quickly and shoves it at Mom.

“Oh, are we singing ‘Happy Birthday’ now?”

“Nope! Derek’s gonna do a video for his channel now.”

Mom looks so happy, and Dad so proud, that Derek hasn’t the heart to tell them he’s starting to panic.

Jordan gives Mom a few points on how to do an intro for the video, and she spends a good thirty seconds skimming the people of the alley—Jordan will edit it later. Derek thinks he catches a flash of Lydia’s hair over by the far wall but dismisses it as coincidence, with her being the only redhead he knows but not the only one in existence.

When the camera pans back to him, he holds up three fingers and folds each one down in facsimile of what Jordan usually does for him. “So, you remember my sister Cora, right?” He never introduces the people that march through his videos. He still remembers the last one where Cora interrupted him and Mom had to stay with him just so he could finish filming.

“Well, today’s she’s the birthday girl, and she’s made a special request.”

Cora leans close to him and says, “Demand. Never mistake my demands as requests, Derek. You might start not obeying them.”

He smiles fondly at her, aware that his anxiety is probably making him look like he’s got something sour tucked in his cheek. “Demand,” he says, to appease her. “Well, her demand is that we announce the contest winner here and now. So, Jordan, if you would?”

He expects Jordan to step up to the camera and recite the rules they’d made for the contest. Instead, Jordan waves his hello and then promptly digs into Laura’s bag again. He pulls out a hat and Laura passes him a stack of papers and colored strips of paper. Derek raises an eyebrow.

As far as he was aware, they only had one qualifier, so he doesn’t understand the need for all these props. Then he notices the camera’s back on him, Mom beaming at him from around the flipped-out LCD screen.

“So,” he all but stutters, letting Jordan hand him the stack of papers, from which he reads, “The contest rules were posted on Jordan’s Facebook, right above the big button for the quiz.” He peeks up through his lashes to find Mom still grinning at him, emotion bright on her face. “Rule number one: no cheating. This was a bit hard to enforce at the top of it, but an immediate disqualifier was to post any answers in the comments. So that means the first six people to answer all questions were removed from consideration.

“Rule number two: no posting what comes at the end.” And filming that short video that Jordan had turned into a .gif was almost as embarrassing as always announcing himself at the start of his videos, speaking of which, he forgot to do today. Oops. “So, out of all who answered the questions, only one didn’t do that.” He frowns, thinking, and lowers the papers from his face. “It seems a bit unfair,” he says, because it is, but screw it. “And if I had more energy, we’d do the contest again.” Jordan stares at him incredulously before shrugging. Derek turns back to Mom and the camera. “As it stands, the winner of this—” Cora holds up the sweater, smirking at him “—maroon-colored, hand-knitted sweater is user  name Stiles Stilinski.” Cora and Laura mime clapping.

“Stiles, please enter a private chat with me on Facebook, and we’ll get your sweater shipped out as soon as possible,” Jordan says.

“Stay tuned for more news,” Derek adds, tossing the papers onto the little table where they’ve been keeping score. He shrugs as Jordan did, and feels the tiredness weighing him down. “So, enjoy the rest of your day, and remember, keep knitting, your projects need you.”

Mom shuts off the camera while Cora jumps up to hug him. Dad claps him on the shoulder and says, “Proud of you, son.”

Derek smiles tiredly. He just wants to go home now. He also wants to discuss Dr. Morrell’s offer with Jordan and Laura.

 

--

Jordan sits at the computer after they’ve uploaded both videos. Discussion was good. Laura is thrilled that the pharmacy is accepting applications, and Jordan will inquire at the Sheriff’s Station about their openings.

Derek lounges on the bed, drifting off as he organizes, mentally, the things they will have to do for the move. It should be simple to move back here, he thinks, and difficult. He still remembers the wobbly fence post in the backyard where Kate took him. But, he wants to do this, is certain it’ll be a step in the healing direction.

“Hey,” Jordan says, snapping him out of his thoughts. “Stiles is online, and he just messaged me.”

Derek scrambles to his side and peers down at the screen. A simple Hello sits innocently in the chat box.

Before Jordan can do anything, Derek leans over him and types hi. Jordan hits enter when Derek can’t. They both blink at the screen.

Then, Jordan types, What’s your address? We’ll get the sweater out to you in the next couple days or so. Before we move.

Stiles responds quickly, Actually, maybe it would be better to hold off on it until after the move? You guys must be busy and you don’t need any added stress right now.

Derek sits back, wondering at the generosity and kindness this young man is showing them. He blinks back sudden tears that have nothing to do with panic and everything to do with the fact that he’s in Stiles’ hometown, his hometown, right now and could, if he was anywhere near ready, just find Stiles’ house and ask him, proper-like, for a date.

Jordan watches him from the corner of his eye before slowly typing Thank you and sending it to Stiles.

 

--

When Derek meets Stiles in person, he has an autograph tucked in his back pocket and the rehearsed words for asking for a date on his tongue. As soon as he sees Stiles, a bit flustered, definitely in a hurry, and carrying a box wrapped in paper patterned with dancing neon llamas, the words crash (literally since Stiles runs into him and knocks himself onto his butt) right out of his head and tumble away while he stares gaping at Stiles, beautiful, perfect, more Stiles.

“What?” Stiles snaps, and Derek thinks even his voice is perfect, if a bit waspish.

Derek ducks his head when he feels a smile quirk his lips and a blush stain his cheeks. He pulls the sweater from behind his back and hands it to Stiles. Then, remembering Mom’s insistence that he be a gentleman, he helps him stand up.

“So, I moved to town a few days ago.” His blush stays strong as he remembers Stiles’ comment that the section of the house dedicated to his apartment was “cool diggs, yo” on the moving video he uploaded.

Stiles nods knowingly. “I saw,” he says. “You posted the video of the apartment yesterday.”

Derek nods as well, blushing hotter, imagining Stiles jumping on his new bed, trying it out with him…nakedly. He clears his throat softly. “I noticed that your address wasn’t too far from my nana’s store, so I decided to walk it over. I hope you don’t mind? I know it’s kind of creepy—” almost Daehler levels of creepy, if Derek’s honest with himself “—and I can totally forget your address right now.” Except he kind of can’t…or he doesn’t want to. He really needs to go see Dr. Morrell, see if she can help him stop being so creepy.

Stiles flinches a bit, and Derek snaps his mouth shut. “No, no,” Stiles says, almost reassuringly, “I appreciate it. It’s really kind of you to bring it to me.” He opens the box, staring down at the shirt like it’s not what he expected to find at all despite the fact that, oh, right, he never said what he’d brought. He’d just assumed Stiles would know what it was. God, he’s an idiot.

Stiles traces a finger over it, and Derek worries that it got snagged on something in transit. “Maybe you should keep it?” he says suddenly, and Derek’s heart drops straight through his stomach. Stiles looks unfriendly, face pinched and mouth tightened into a line.

Derek doesn’t even know what he did to elicit that response. Surely dropping off the sweater wasn’t that bad of a faux pas, was it?

“Look, I’m late for an important meeting” Stiles snaps sharply, and Derek knows his face is closing off—it’s doing that because he’s trying not to panic. He’s got the Klonopin in his other back pocket but he’d rather not have to take anything if he can help it. He’s supposed to start learning the ropes with Nana today, and he can’t do that if he’s loopy. Or so panicked he can’t breathe. “Maybe you can come by another time?” Stiles softens his tone considerably, and it doesn’t set Derek entirely at ease, but maybe he really did catch Stiles at a bad time?

“I’m usually free on Saturday mornings.” That’s a good thing, right? This might be what he misses most about Jordan always escorting him—there’s almost no way for Jordan to misinterpret like Derek does.

“Okay,” he finally says, nodding almost mechanically. “Keep the sweater.” He hurries away before Stiles can do more than look at him with a confused expression.

He’s almost crying when he gets to Nana’s Knitters and Nana drags the story out of him one syllable at a time. Then she sends him to the back to catalog the skeins while she deals with the few curious customers rubbernecking at a grown man wiping snot and tears off his face.

By the time he’s calmed down enough to trail after Nana while she shows him how to stock items, the store is blessedly empty.

Mom likes to say Nana can terrify God. Well, Derek thinks the customers are probably easier and more plentiful.

Back at the register, he’s tallying up some figures for Nana so she knows what to order for next month’s shipment, when the bell above the door pings loudly. Derek sees Stiles and drops to the floor, hoping he didn’t see him. Nana shoots him an unimpressed look before turning a baleful stare at Stiles.

“Don’t pick green again,” she says, angrily, and Derek raises an eyebrow, asking for an explanation. Nana doesn’t give it to him.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Stiles spits back with his waspish tone. Derek shudders.

“Nana,” he says, a bit louder than he was planning to, and he blushes when she stares down at him, “how are you still in business if you treat all your customers like criminals?”

“That one is a criminal,” Nana retorts. “A thief. Keep your eye on him, boy.” Then she reaches down and hauls him up by his collar.

“Nana,” he says, warningly, and great, now he’s his dad. He goes around the corner, sneaking down the aisle with the needles. He glances back at Nana, and she shakes her head at him, pointing about three aisles over to the cheapest skeins. He slips over to it and comes face to face with Stiles.

Startled, he blurts, “Sir,” as politely as he can while Nana snorts loudly. “Are you finding everything okay?”

“Yeah-yes,” Stiles stutters, hugging a skein of burgundy (or maroon, really, the two tones are so closely related they might as well be one and the same) to his chest. “Uh, so I need to pay for this?”

Derek steps back and waves him to the register, struggling not to smile as he trip-walks toward where Nana’s glaring again. He steps behind the counter and nudges Nana so she’s not in front of Stiles while he taps a few keys on the ancient register. “It’s four-thirty,” he says, taking Stiles’ card, ignoring the way he’s staring at him.

“Your receipt.” He hands the tiny strip of paper to Stiles. Their fingers brush against each other, and Derek pulls back, surprised when the contact doesn’t immediately make his chest seize. It does make his groin surge in interest, and he thinks, Not now! at it.

“So my dad thinks I should ask you out,” Stiles blurts and then slaps a hand over his mouth.

Derek is confused. “You brushed me off earlier,” he says, slowly.

Nana leans across the counter to poke at Stiles’ chest. “See?” she says triumphantly. “Thief!”

Derek has had enough of this “thief” business. Stiles paid for his yarn. And promptly too! “Okay, I give,” he says, a bit cold. Nana doesn’t appear fazed. “What did he steal?”

“Your heart!” she cackles like the witch she is.

“Nana!” He blushes hard. The heat coming off his face might just be enough to melt the polar caps. Stiles looks worried.

He opens his mouth and says, “Do you want to?”

The confusion works to combat the blush. Maybe a bit too well, as Derek feels a bit unsteady on his feet. “Want to what?” he almost whispers. Stiles grabs his arm and holds him upright while Nana squirrels underneath his other arm. “You want to date me?”

“Hmph, thief,” Nana grumbles, but she stops glaring at Stiles long enough to shove Derek onto her stool.

“Uh.” Stiles rubs at the back of his neck with his free hand, blushing lightly. “Yeah, I wanna date you.”

Dr. Deaton, Mom, and Jordan’s voices all clamor in his head, and he finds himself saying, “Okay.” Then he thinks about that. He’s never been anywhere without an escort, usually Mom or Jordan. Except for earlier today. Maybe it won’t be so bad? He looks up at Stiles through his lashes, watching as the blush deepens. “How?” he asks.

“In all the ways,” Stiles replies, waving his hand a bit. His other hand flexes on Derek’s arm, a warmth that helps keep him grounded despite the fact that he feels as if his head is truly going to detach from his shoulders and float away. “That’s not very descriptive,” he hears himself say, and honestly, how is he still capable of conversation currently?

“See,” Nana interrupts, and Derek shushes her. He can sense her glare, but he’s focused on Stiles right now. He doesn’t have time for a batty old woman who takes pleasure in scaring people away from her store.

“Dinner tonight?” Stiles says.

Nana, a mischievous glint in her eyes says, “Yes,” a bit enthusiastically.

Stiles gulps and Derek blushes under his almost frightened gaze. “Yeah,” he confirms softly. Then, boldly, he turns to Nana. “Hey,” he tells her, “I guess Stiles isn’t the only thief in your store.”

Nana cackles again while Stiles blushes with him.

 

--

Derek meets with Dr. Morrell once a month. And with Stiles by his side, attends Kate’s latest parole hearing. She doesn’t get out, but her bug-eyed stare when she sees him makes him think maybe she’s just as afraid of him as he is of her.

He also knits a potholder from the burgundy (the skein’s wrapper said it was burgundy, so they call it burgundy) for the Sheriff’s birthday the day after their first date. Jordan gets the job at the Station and Laura ends up being a nurse at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital. Stiles frames the autograph Derek finally gives him a year after dating.

He still posts videos to HKN, and he renames the store, once Nana is settled in Chicago and fully ensconced in making things for Marta’s Esty store so she can’t come back to rage at him. He finds it amusing when people stop by just so they can buy a small item and say his tagline to him.

And three and a half years after moving back to his hometown, Derek says yes when Stiles proposes with a too-big ring knitted from some green and burgundy yarn.

 

~ Fin ~