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Something sleek and black and completely out of place catches Stiles’s eye as he heads up the stairs to the main entrance of Beacon Hills High School. He stops and flails, punching Scott in the arm to get his attention.


Stiles doesn’t even look over at Scott, he just grabs Scott by the shirt and drags him over so that Scott can see what he sees. “Look! Look, look, look.”

Scott wrenches himself out of Stiles’s hold and frowns. “Yes, it’s a parking lot. Was that really worth hitting me for?”

Stiles rolls his eyes and turns briefly to look at Scott and then pointedly at the car that caught his attention. Scott shakes his head and gives Stiles a confused look. Stiles gestures dramatically at the car.

It’s like a light goes off in Scott’s head. His moment of clarity swiftly changes into a frown. “What? That’s it? A car?” Scott turns and heads inside. Stiles scrambles to follow.

“It’s not just ‘a car’, Scott, that was a Camaro. A new Camaro, or at least relatively new. They just started making them again two years ago.”

“Yay? It’s just a car, dude. So another rich kid got a sports car for his birthday. I don’t see you drooling over Jackson’s Porsche.”

“That’s because Porsches are overpriced pieces of junk. They just don’t have the history of the Camaro. Did you see the forty-fifth-anniversary edition Chevy did? Admittedly, a bit of a letdown, but still, how can you compare a car with forty-five years’ worth of history with a Porsche?”

Scott gives Stiles a look before opening his locker. “I don’t really know much about cars, Stiles. There’s a reason I drive a motorcycle.”

Stiles snorts. “Yes. To impress- Hey, Allison!” He smiles as she joins them and makes the obligatory gagging noises when Scott and Allison kiss.

Allison smiles at his antics like she always does. “Hey, Stiles. What’s up?”

Scott slams his locker shut. “Stiles wants to hump some kid’s car.”

Stiles’s mouth falls open in shock. It hangs there for a brief second before reverting back to its natural state with words pouring out like a rushing river. “No. No.” He holds up a finger and looks at Allison. “That is not true.” Her mouth is set in a polite line but her eyes have that sparkle that means she’s trying not to laugh at him. “I was merely admiring a fine piece of steel. And you,” he rounds on Scott, “completely missed the point. That car was in the teacher’s parking lot which means....” He spreads his hands, waiting for them to fill in the blanks.

“We have a new teacher,” Allison says. He smiles at her. She always gets him.

Scott snorts. “Or an old one going through a mid-life crisis.”

Stiles glares. “You are so harshing my buzz here.” They make a brief stop at Stiles’s locker before starting towards their respective homerooms. “I bet it’s English. That class is like the Defense Against Dark Arts position. Remember Ms. Blake last year? Total psycho.”

Allison frowns. “Wasn’t she arrested for selling drugs or something?”

“Yep,” Stiles says, popping the ‘p’. “Nothing was every released officially, but I have my sources.”

“So you hacked your dad’s email,” Scott says.

Stiles fakes indignation. “It’s not hacking if I know the password.” He waves a hand. “Besides, it wasn’t in his email. I looked up the arrest report.”

It’s testament to how well they know each other that neither bothers asking if that was legal. They just wave and head off to their respective homerooms.

Stiles slides into his usual seat behind Scott in English. He’s been keeping his eye out for the new teacher, images of a young woman with the perfect librarian look dancing around his head. Instead, what he finds is a hot, older man with hazel eyes and the hint of incredible abs under his button down shirt. Stiles slaps at Scott’s shoulder to try to get the other boy’s attention as the new teacher walks into the room, but misses and ends up falling out of his chair.

All eyes turn toward him and this is totally not the first impression Stiles wanted to make. A hand appears in Stiles’s vision and he looks up to find the hot teacher standing next to him. “All you alright, Mr....?”

Stiles takes the hand, blushing as the heat from that simple touch spreads through his body. The teacher pulls him to his feet like he weighs nothing. “Ungh” is the first thing out of his mouth, causing the other students to giggle. His face goes up in flames. “Oh, God.” No, that’s not good either. “I mean, Stiles. I’m Stiles.”

The teacher raises an eyebrow at him but says nothing as he returns to the front of the class. Stiles falls back into his seat and ignores the look Scott is pinning him with. The teacher turns to address the class as soon as everyone settles into their seats. “My name is Derek Hale. You can call me Derek. I prefer that over Mr. Hale. I’ll be your English teacher for this semester.”

Stiles bites back a groan. He is not going to survive this year. He’s already picturing Derek behind the wheel of that Camaro and it’s a sexy picture. What would it be like if Derek fucked him against the hood? He shivers. That scenario is going to be the highlight of his spank-bank for weeks.

Derek starts going through roll call. He stares a moment at each student like he’s trying to actually remember their names. That’d be a first. He’s played lacrosse for Coach Finstock for years and the guy still calls him Bilinski.

He almost misses it when Derek says “Mieczysław?” He blinks and stares at Derek in shock, his mouth hanging open. “Mieczysław Stilinski?”

Scott turns around and smacks him, startling the word “here” out of Stiles. He’s never had a teacher pronounce his name correctly. Only Scott and his dad know how to say his name correctly. Derek frowns and looks down at the roster. Oh, right. He’d said something else earlier. There wasn’t a ‘Stiles’ on the roster. “I go by Stiles,” he blurts. “Stiles is fine.”

“Okay.” Derek makes a note in the ledger and moves on. Scott shoots him a grin and mouths ‘dude’. He nods back dumbly.

His crush just got a whole lot bigger. He can’t stop staring. It gets worse when Derek starts to move. Stiles’s eyes are fixed on the line of his body, on the obvious muscles hiding behind his professional clothing, and on that ass. Jesus, that ass.

A pile of papers smacks him in the face and he blinks as Scott gives him a very pointed look. Right. He takes a paper – the course syllabus – and passes the rest behind him. Next comes a set of thin paperbacks.

“To start off the semester,” Derek says, and Stiles can’t help but be captivated by the way his mouth moves, “we’ll be talking about dreams. Specifically, the American Dream. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is a fictionalized portrayal of life in the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties.” Derek picks up an earmarked copy of the book with multiple colorful post-its sticking out of it. “There have been several movies made of it and crib notes will be easy to find.” Derek levels a sudden glare at the class. “If you use those, I will know, and you will fail.”

In front of him, Scott makes a small ‘ep’ while Stiles shudders. He’s adding naughty student and disciplining teacher to his list of kinks. He needs to remember to get all his homework done before he dives into that rabbit hole on PornHub tonight because he’s not coming out for a while. Thankfully it’s the first day of the semester and the workload is usually light.

“You have two weeks to read the book,” Derek says, inciting many groans around the room. Stiles snorted. He could have a book like this done in a day. “I suggest a pace of twenty pages a day to give yourselves time to write the paper that’s due the following Monday. Minimum three pages.” More groans. Stiles pats Scott on the shoulder. Writing papers is Stiles’s thing. Scott’s, not so much. “We’ll be covering the expected structure of this paper in class. If you turn to your syllabus, you’ll note a list of approved topics to write about.”

Stiles glances at his list, and already knows which one he’s going to go with. He remembers reading some news article on how Fitzgerald’s wife deserved more credit for the book and how she wasn’t as crazy as people said. He makes a circle around ‘societal gender expectations’ and raises his hand.

“Yes, Mieczys... err, Stiles?”

“What’s the maximum?” Stiles asks. He always has to ask.

Derek looks confused. “Maximum?”

“Page count. Or word count. Whichever.”

Derek’s eyebrow raises pointedly. “Knock yourself out, kid.”

Stiles grins. “Famous last words.”

“So did you ever find who that car belongs to?” Allison asks as they sit down to lunch.

“What car?” Lydia asks as she sets her tray down next to Allison’s.

“Some sports car...”

“It’s a Camaro,” Stiles supplies. “And yes.”

Scott snickers next to him. “Stiles is hot for our English teacher.”

“Gross,” Jackson says, his face scrunching up. “You seriously have a boner for some cougar?”

“Hey.” Stiles throws his orange at Jackson, who catches it with a smug smile. “He’s not a cougar, and he’s like super hot. Probably fresh out of college.”

Lydia’s face split into a grin. “Ooo. I can’t wait for sixth period.”

“No.” Stiles points a finger at her. “No. You have your,” he waves a hand at Jackson, “thing. This one’s mine.”

Danny chuckles from beside Jackson. “You can’t call dibs on a teacher. That’s illegal you know.”

“I’m eighteen!” And still a virgin, a fact he did not want to advertise.

“Still not right.”

“Pretty sure that’s against their contract,” Isaac supplies from Scott’s other side. “No boning students.”

Stiles sighs and shoves a handful of fries in his mouth. “You guys are no fun,” he grumbles.

Erica laughs. “Suck it up, fanboy. No one in their right mind would risk losing their job for you.”

He knows Erica means it in good fun but the words still sting. ‘You’re unwanted’ is what she means. It’s something he’s been hearing his whole life, from both sexes. He forces a smile and says “Even if I can’t touch, I can still look. All the looking.”

That earns him a few chuckles. Their conversation moves onto different topics, but the sting of Erica’s words stay with him.

They get their papers back on a Friday. Derek goes down the rows, handing each person back their paper. Stiles catches a nice red B on Scott’s before Derek is handing Stiles his.

“Fifteen pages? Really?”

Stiles smiles up at Derek. “You said no maximum.” There’s a flash of a grin on Derek’s face before it’s suppressed and Stiles feels warmth curl up in his belly.

When he finally looks down at his paper, there’s an A+ at the top and then a whole lot of red. He’s confused for a moment as he flips through, seeing red on every page. Then he starts reading the marks and his eyes widen. Derek had actually taken the time to comment on what Stiles had written, adding his own insights and suggestions for further research in the margins. Stiles feels his heart skip a beat. No one gave a shit about his opinion papers. No one.

When school lets out, he’s glad Scott has plans with Allison and Isaac because it means he can go home, catch a nap, and then head out to Jungle once the midnight hour rolls around. He’s too keyed up on thoughts of Derek and he needs to find a release or he really is going to proposition his teacher. He puts on his tightest jeans and a faded Captain America tee that’s tight across his chest, then throws a little product in his hair and adds just a hint of eyeliner to make his eyes pop. He blames Lydia for the fact that he even owns any of it.

Ted just rolls his eyes as Stiles holds out his ID. For a change, it’s not a fake. Showing up on his eighteenth birthday had been one of the highlights of his life. He holds his right hand out for Ted to put a big black X on, then Ted waves him on. Stiles blows him a kiss over his shoulder. There’s a packed crowd on the dance floor and Stiles slips in with them. It’s not long before there are hands around his waist and the solid press of another body against his back. Stiles rubs his body against the one behind him, dipping a little low. He closes his eyes and pretends it’s Derek, before opening them again and smiling coyly at the bleached blonde Adonis behind him.

One dance turns into several, with occasional trips to the bar to rehydrate. Adonis offers to buy him a drink but he just asks Kenny, the bartender, for water, leaving his right hand with the big black no-drinking X on it very visible on the counter. Kenny gives Adonis a measuring look but Stiles just smiles and Kenny moves on to the next customer.

They end up in the side room. Stiles has no idea what time it is besides late, and he doesn’t care because Adonis is sitting on the wrap-around couch with Stiles straddling his lap and they’re sucking face like there’s no tomorrow. This isn’t the first time Stiles has made out with someone back here. They’re not alone and that’s almost part of the appeal. Stiles and Adonis are just one out of many couples getting a little handsy in the shadows.

Stiles makes a little moan when Adonis squeezes both of his hands over Stiles’s ass and he thinks that maybe, just maybe, he might lose his virginity tonight. He doesn’t know Adonis’s name, and that should bother him, but there’s time to ask names later once they’re outside the drowning noise of the club.

That thought dies a sad, lonely death as someone grabs the back of Stiles’s shirt, hauling him off of Adonis and out of the room. “Hey!” He splutters and whirls, yanking himself out of the guy’s grip. His jaw drops as he stares at Derek – English teacher Derek Hale – in a loose Henley and tight jeans. For a minute, his brain can’t quite connect what he’s seeing. It’s like he can’t quite match teacher Derek to at-a-gay-club Derek. But then Adonis heads in their direction, only to hastily redirect as Derek glares bloody murder at the guy, and Stiles’s mouth just spews words. “What? What? I was... He was... And you...” He flails towards where Adonis has disappeared into the crowd. “Seriously, what. The. Hell?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Derek says, his expression all closed off and dark and broody.

Stiles blinks. “Really? Seriously? Why? Teddy let me in.” He spreads his arms. “Here I am. I’ve been coming here for years.”

Derek’s scowl deepens. “You’re not old enough. Go home.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. He was getting a serious case of whiplash. Where was the kind, hot schoolteacher? When did he turn into an entitled jerk? “Um, no. I’m the sheriff’s kid. All the staff know exactly how old I am.” He holds up his right hand. “I’m not old enough to drink so I don’t. Kenny knows not to serve me and I don’t want it anyways.” He doesn’t go into all the nights he’s watched his father disappear down a bottle. He does stab a finger into Derek’s chest. He does it again when he realizes just how muscular the guy’s chest is. Sidetrack. Back to point. Right. “I am legal to be here. I’m eighteen, which means I can kiss or fuck,” he exaggerates his mouth movements as he says the word, “whoever I want.” He can’t help but follow it with a sly smile and “are you offering?”

“No.” The word is bit out through Derek’s teeth. “Of course not.” He looks angry and Stiles feels suddenly angry too. It’s a reflex, anger surging over the hurt that’s struck him to the core. Part of him still hoped that maybe he’d had a chance with Derek. That hope is now gone, leaving an aching void in its place.

“Everything alright here, mon chérie?”

Derek’s face goes blank as he turns to the six foot seven, curly-haired blonde in a sequined red dress that’s appeared beside them.

Stiles smiles and slips his arm through Trixie’s. His grin has definitely slipped into ‘little shit’ mode. “Nope. We’re done here.” He pointedly turns to look up at Trixie. “Rest of the girls here?”

He lets Trixie lead him off to the corner of the club the drag queens have claimed as their own. He doesn’t see Derek for the rest of the night.

Derek doesn’t look at him in class. Stiles doesn’t make it easy on him. He uses their poetry unit to pick the most salacious things he can to dissect. He’s not entirely sure why he does it. Part of it just wants to rub that night at Jungle back in Derek’s face, but part of him also wants Derek to realize that Stiles is not a kid. He’s old enough to have feelings and urges. He may not have any experience with sex, but he knows an awful lot about it.

He digs up ‘The Lover Asks Forgiveness Because of His Many Moods’ by Yeats and ‘I carry your heart with me’ by E. E. Cummings. He pulls out ‘Sonnet 116’ from Shakespeare, then caps everything off with Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’. Derek doesn’t flinch away, at least not in his writing. Stiles aces every paper and part of him trills at the commentary Derek provides. It feels like encouragement. Derek’s reading his papers about love and lust and he’s actually acknowledging Stiles’s points. It feels like Derek gets him and is just pretending not to.

When they move on to Oedipus and Antigone, Stiles can’t help but smile. He already knows what his paper’s going to be. He’s fifteen pages into an epic on age bias in relationships and destiny and loving who you want when he first sees it. He’s running laps for lacrosse and catches Derek walking out of the school with a pretty brunette and a little girl between them. Stiles trips and face-plants in the dirt. Jackson laughs as he laps Stiles but Stiles can’t stop staring. Derek is laughing and happy and the kid clings possessively to his leg.

Derek has a kid. Derek has a wife and a kid. That doesn’t make any sense. Derek goes to Jungle and doesn’t wear a wedding ring but it’s obvious those two are his family. Stiles’s brain does not compute. He’s been laying on the ground for a little too long when Scott stops to help Stiles up. Stiles forces himself to tear his eyes away and go back to running. When he loops around to that same spot again, Derek’s gone.

The hurt lingers.

As soon as he gets home, he deletes the paper. What he turns in instead is a perfectly constructed argument about state law, defiance, and control that comes in at exactly the minimum number of pages.

Derek frowns as Stiles hands it in and Stiles has this strange feeling that he’s disappointed Derek.

He sees Derek a few more times at Jungle. He can’t help but study the way Derek interacts with the other patrons. He chats with a few, drinks with some, never dances. They flirt, he seems only marginally interested, they flutter away. Derek keeps obvious tabs on Stiles so Stiles sticks to his circle of drag queens and their entourages. He makes certain that Derek sees him drinking only from water bottles, leaving them positioned in prime view on the table in front of him. He doesn’t see Adonis again. His dance partners never feel right outside of the press of the crowd. He doesn’t go into the back room.

He sees Derek and his wife and kid again and again. It’s like now that Stiles knows what to look for, he can’t help but see it. He doesn’t know their names. There’s another Hale in their class, Cora, but Stiles really doesn’t want to ask her about it. That way lies creepy stalker territory.

They start on Things Fall Apart at possibly the worst time of year. Christmas is around the corner and the anniversary of his mother’s death hangs over his head. Reading about Okonkwo’s life coming apart hits him harder than he realizes. Even Jackson comments on how quiet Stiles has been and it gets harder and harder to force a smile and pretend everything’s alright.

He doesn’t go to Jungle. He doesn’t go anywhere, instead sitting at home in his dark and empty house while his friends go on with their lives without him. He’s never been more aware of how much of a third wheel he is than right now. Scott has his three-way relationship with Isaac and Allison. Lydia’s with Jackson, Erica with Boyd, and even Danny’s hooked up recently with Adonis, whose real name turns out to be Bob. The holidays are a busy time at the station and Stiles can’t help but cringe as the Christmas decorations start to appear.

Christmas had been his mother’s favorite holiday. She’d deck the whole house and bake cookies and take him caroling with some of the neighbors.

They’d given away all their Christmas decorations after she’d died.

When he gets back his paper on Things Fall Apart, there’s a bright red “see me after school” triple underlined at the top. For a minute he thinks he somehow earned detention, but there’s an A+ at the top. Those are the only marks on his paper.

He agonizes about those four red words for the rest of the day. The last class is clearing when Stiles hesitantly slips into the classroom. Derek looks up, says “have a seat”, and then hovers near the door until everyone’s out. Greenburg nearly pees himself when Derek glares at him for taking too long. The door shuts and it sounds too much like a prison door slamming for Stiles’s liking.

“I wanted to talk to you about your last paper.”

Stiles sighs and pulls it from his bag. “What about it?”

Derek sits on the edge of his desk, facing Stiles. “I was surprised that you chose to focus so heavily on the themes of death and ruin in the book. I honestly expected you to do another paper on the over-importance of masculinity among the Igbo.”

Stiles shrugs and stares down at his paper. “The guy kills his foster kid, kills a bunch of other people, and then kills himself. It’s all death, death, death.”

Derek shifts minutely. “Yes, there is a lot of death in the novel. You worked in the locusts and the fire symbolism nicely, along with a good bit of the colonialism.” There’s a pause. “I’m just concerned that you looked too hard at the deaths over the rest of the book.”

Stiles shrugs again and picks at the corner of his paper.

“Stiles? I’m not asking you to talk about this with me, but I want to make sure you have someone you can talk to. Your father or your friend Scott. Ms. Morrell would happily make time for you if you need it.”

It’s not the first time someone has suggest he see a therapist. It’s not even the first time a teacher has done it. It’s been a while, though. He thought he’d gotten better at handling it.

He sighs and looks up at Derek. All he sees there is polite concern and he aches for more. “My mother killed herself.” He’s not sure why he says it. He doesn’t like talking about it, not even with his dad or Scott, but the words are already out there. “It was around this time of year, and it just... it hits me sometimes.”

Derek leans across the space between them and squeezes Stiles’s hand. He smiles. “That’s okay,” Derek says and Stiles feels like he means it. He feels like maybe it is okay. “My father was killed a few years back. Attempted arson. Most of the family got out okay, but it still hurts when the anniversary of his death rolls around. I understand.”

Then it clicks. Hale. Hale House Arson. That case had been the one that had pulled his dad out of the gutter after his mom’s death. He’d switched from alcoholic to workaholic but Stiles liked it better that way.

He nods. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t even think he’s capable of words right now.

Derek squeezes his hand once more and then lets go. He moves around the desk to start packing his bag. “If you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m available.” He scribbles something on a piece of paper and hands it to Stiles. It’s a phone number. Derek pins him with a look. “I mean it. You’re not alone.” Stiles stares down at the paper with awe.

He’s halfway home before he realizes his horrible crush is back a thousand times stronger.

Christmas is a quiet day for Stiles. There’s a small pile of presents waiting for him on his desk when he wakes up, none of them wrapped. He stills smiles anyways as he leafs through a book on body language and another called Superheroes and Philosophy. He’s got two new games he could play and a pile of Steam credits, along with more dorky t-shirts and the obligatory socks and underwear. There’s a box waiting for his dad at the station, though given the silence of the house, his dad has likely already gotten it.

There’s a thank-you text waiting on his phone, along with several wishes of a Merry Christmas from his friends. He stares at his phone for several long seconds before typing out ‘Merry Christmas’ to Derek. He’d programmed Derek’s number into his phone but never used it until now. He realizes after the fact that Derek doesn’t have his number so he sends a quick follow-up of ‘From Stiles’.

Stiles dresses warmly, wrapping himself in several layers before heading downstairs to down a pre-packaged yogurt and fill a thermos with coffee mixed with hot chocolate powder. Then he’s bundling up even more and heading to the florist who has his usual order of white lilies waiting, and then the cemetery.

It’s an odd ritual of his. He doesn’t think his dad knows about it. Scott definitely doesn’t. The McCalls are visiting family in San Diego as usual and taking Isaac with them. Everyone’s got their own families to celebrate but Stiles’s dad is always busy at work so he visits his mom.

He spreads the blanket from his Jeep over the ground in front of her headstone. There’s no snow on the ground, but it’s cold enough that his breath comes out in white puffs. He settles down with his thermos of coffee and starts talking, uncharacteristically soft for him. He tells his mom everything that’s happened since his visit last Christmas. He goes over the highlights of his dad’s cases and the trip he took to Lydia’s parents’ lake house with all of his friends for a week in the summer. He talks about lacrosse – Scott’s been getting better, Stiles remains the eternal benchwarmer – and school.

He hesitates before telling her about Derek, pitching his voice into a soft whisper for just the two of them. He maybe builds Derek up a little too much, rambling on about their margin discussions and shared love of literary analysis. He tells her about what a nice wife Derek has and how cute his kid is.

He’s moved on to the antics of the queens at Jungle when the soft crunching of feet on frozen ground makes him fall silent. He’s not the only one who visits on Christmas, but he’s the only one who stays for any length of time and the only one who usually visits this particular section.

“Stiles?” His head shoots up at the familiar voice. Snow falls off of his hat and Stiles blinks through the sudden spray of powder. When had it started snowing? Derek crouches down next to him. He’s frowning, though it’s not the angry frown from Jungle, but rather something softer. “How long have you been here?”

Stiles blinks again. His cellphone is stashed in his car so he has no idea what time it is.

Derek’s gloved hand feels like fire as it closes around Stiles’s arm. He’s hoisted to his feet, spluttering as he sways and nearly trips. Derek steadies him before reaching down to grab the blanket and empty thermos. “Come on.”

Derek’s grip on his arm is already propelling him away and he stares almost pleadingly over his shoulder at his mom’s grave. “But... I...”

Derek stops, turns, and says “My apologies, Mrs. Stilinski, but I’m kidnapping your son.”

Words fail him, leaving Stiles spluttering inarticulate sounds as he’s lead out of the cemetery to the parking lot. Derek’s black Camaro is parked right next to Stiles’s Jeep. They’re the only two cars in the lot.

“Can you drive?” Derek asks.

“What?” The question takes a moment to process. “What? Yes. I can.” He nods, sending more snow falling.

Derek shoves the blanket and thermos into Stiles’s hands and then points at the Jeep. Stiles stows them and climbs into the driver’s seat under Derek’s pointed glare. Derek grabs the door before he can close it. “Follow,” he says, and then shuts the door before Stiles can question it. Derek gets into his car, backs out, and heads to the exit. Stiles follows.

He’s not sure where they’re going. They pass close to downtown and then veer off towards the outskirts. Derek keeps driving past the suburbs and out onto a country road that disappears into the Preserve. Stiles grows more confused by the minute.

Then the trees that had been crowding close to the road open up, revealing a small mansion with two smaller houses set behind it. There’s a whole row of cars parked out front. Derek slots into an open space. Stiles is tempted to turn around. He shouldn’t be here. But Derek has his number now and Stiles is fairly certain Derek would just track him down if he tried to leave so he parks and gets out, hovering awkwardly by his Jeep.

“Come,” Derek says, and Stiles has to bite back the less than PG response that word brings to mind.

He trails behind Derek as he walks up the steps and opens the front door without knocking. There’s a plastic grocery bag in Derek’s hand, the purpose of which becomes obvious as someone shouts “Finally! How long does it take to get some freaking eggs?” from deep within the house. Stiles hesitates at the doorway, like a vampire waiting to be invited in.

He really shouldn’t be here.

Then there’s a loud screech of “Daddy!” and Derek’s kid launches herself into Derek’s arms. He thinks maybe he can use this moment to escape but then Derek turns and looks straight at him.

“Get in here. You’re letting all the warm air out.”

Stiles gulps and steps forward. Shutting the door feels like putting a nail in his own coffin.

“Emily, this is Mieczysław Stilinski.” She makes a face at the name. Stiles doesn’t blame her. Derek half-smiles and adds, “You can call him Stiles. He’s one of my students.”

The little girl holds out her hand and Stiles has no choice but to shake it. You do not refuse a child’s handshake. “Hi,” she says and he echoes the greeting back, feeling a faint smile start to worm its way onto his face. She’s adorable, though now that he sees her up close she looks a little old to be Derek’s kid. She has to be at least five or six.

The presumed Mrs. Hale comes storming down the hall and grabs the bag out of Derek’s hand. The glare she levels on him rivals Derek’s own, which makes sense when Derek says “And that’s my sister Laura.”

Stiles blinks. Sister? Oh. His eyes fall to Derek’s unadorned left hand. No ring. He looks at Emily. Kid, but no ring.

Derek ushers Stiles into a massive dining room, shoving Stiles down next to him at the table, and starts naming off people Stiles has no hope of remembering. They all seem to take Stiles’s presence in stride. Some of them even smile when they hear his name – both Polish and English - which is odd because Stiles is certain he knows none of these people besides Derek. He knows Derek’s mother Talia by reputation, since she’s worked the legal end of a few cases with Stiles’s father, and by association Talia’s brother Peter, though he does civil law where Talia handles more criminal cases.

There’s a whole other table set up in the kitchen for the small army of children. Emily quickly disappears in a sea of cousins – Laura’s kids and Peter’s and two from Derek’s older brother Mark. Stiles is lost in names. There is no hope for him. Please let there not be a quiz.

Mówisz po polsku?

Stiles belatedly realizes someone is talking to him. There’s a circle of dishes being passed and it’s hard for Stiles to follow everything that’s going on. He tries to take just a small portion but Derek glares and just adds more food to Stiles’s plate like it’s his job to keep Stiles fed.

He blinks and turns back to the... aunt, maybe? She’s patiently waiting for a response. Tak. Moja mama mnie nauczyła.

Czy ona jest z Polski?

Była. Tak jak rodzice taty.

The woman beams. Derek leans closer to Stiles. “Aunt Aniela’s from Poland too, but none of us are very fluent. She’ll keep you talking all night in Polish if you’re not careful.”

That startles a laugh from Stiles and he feels himself beginning to relax. “I don’t mind.”

Peter turns away from the conversation Talia and her other brother Daniel are having to smile at Stiles. “Derek tells us you’re quite good at literary analysis. Is that something you plan to study in school?”

Stiles goes red at the mere thought that Derek’s mentioned him to his family. Derek shoots his uncle a look which earns a sly smile back and then Derek’s cheeks redden. What? What even? “Ah. No,” he says when he finally gets his mouth working. “I like it, but not as a profession. I was thinking something in psychology or criminal justice.”

Peter’s smile widens. “Planning to follow in your father’s footsteps.”

Stiles shrugs. “Possibly.” It’s been a dream of his since he was a kid, but he’s not quite sure he likes how his dad’s work keeps him away all the time. He’s never quite sure if his dad works so much because he has to or because he wants to. Sometimes, in Stiles’s darker moments, he wonders if his dad is doing it to stay away from him.

Derek bumps his shoulder. The movement knocks Stiles out of his morose thoughts. “You have time to figure it out.” He smiles and Stiles feels warm all over. “With your brain, you could probably do both.”

Stiles flushes and shoves food in his mouth before he says something stupid.

He stays long enough to help with the dishes, despite numerous attempts to dissuade him, and then excuses himself so he’s home by the time his dad finishes shift. Talia’s mother Gertrude presses a stack of Tupperware into his hands before he can make it out the door. For his father, she says. Derek walks him to his Jeep.

Stiles hesitates once the Tupperware is settled on his backseat. He looks over at Derek. “Thank you,” he says. “For bringing me.” He would have spent the entire day at the cemetery otherwise, at least until it got dark. He probably would have earned a cold out of it.

“Anytime,” Derek says. He shuffles a little closer. “Our door’s always open if you need someplace to go.”

There’s something about the way Derek’s looking at him and the words and it’s all just too much for him. “I have a crush on you,” he blurts.

“I know.”

Stiles blinks. That wasn’t the response he expected. He opens his mouth, not sure what is going to come out. Derek holds up a hand to stall him.

Derek steps closer and leans against the side of Stiles’s Jeep. They’re close enough that the cold puffs of their breath mingle. Derek looks at the house and then back at Stiles. “Emily’s mother was my gym teacher. I was seventeen when she was born.” He stares off at the trees. “Kate didn’t want her, didn’t want any of it. She went a little insane.”

Something clicks and Stiles blurts “Kate Argent?” before he can stop himself.

Derek nods and Stiles feels like his head explodes. Emily’s mother is the crazy lady who tried to burn the Hales to death in their sleep, who actually did kill Derek’s father and three others. Shit.

“So, you can see why I don’t want to...” He waves a hand between them.

Stiles nods. He can definitely see, but the way Derek said it sticks with him. It wasn’t an “I would never” or “I don’t want you”. Stiles licks his lips. “Maybe... um, after graduation? Maybe we could get coffee.”

Derek frowns slightly. “You’re going off to college.”

Stiles snorts. “An hour away.”

“I have a daughter.”

Stiles’s whole face lights up in a grin. “I think she’s adorable.”

Derek sighs and shakes his head. “I don’t know...”

Stiles reaches for Derek’s hand and squeezes once. “I’m not saying we have to. If you don’t want...” He shrugs. “It’s months away. Just... after graduation, let’s get coffee. Just coffee.”

Derek rolls his eyes but he’s smiling. “Alright. One coffee.”

Stiles’s skin stretches with how wide he’s grinning. “Great.” He realizes he’s still holding Derek’s hand and squeezes once more. He’s about to let go when impish desire makes him surge forward and peck Derek on the cheek. He feels like he’s floating as he steps back and opens the door to his Jeep. “One coffee. It’s a promise.”

They don’t stop at one coffee.