“No, Laura! I’m not doing it again!” Derek called back down the hall as he stomped unsteadily down the stairs and away from his meddling sister. He’d been on the dating website for six months now at her and Cora’s insistence, and it had been nothing but one disaster after another.
He knew he had issues, that was obvious. He also knew almost all of those disasters had been his fault, but those people hadn’t all been prizes themselves. Time after time, it ended the same way. They would ask what Derek did, he would say he had recently been discharged from the Army and was living at home, reconnecting with his family. They would ask what happened, and he would wince, but calmly explain that he had been in an accident and they had had to amputate both of his legs just below the knees.
He offered little detail beyond that, but to be fair, no one had asked. Once he dropped the bomb, no pun intended, it had been a land mine, after all, the topic was changed almost immediately, or they suddenly remembered an urgent doctor’s appointment and promptly disappeared, never to be heard from again. Derek would sit at the restaurant and finish his meal alone with his head hung low. He hadn’t even gotten to the hard part. The part where he had driven his squadron onto that land mine himself and had killed every other man present. The part where he still woke up screaming, the phantom pain of his missing limbs shocking him out of sleep. The part where he had to watch those flag-covered coffins come off the plane and give his condolences to his men’s families from his Army issue wheelchair.
He wasn’t going to do it again. He wasn’t going to let another date look at him in horror. Derek refused to be seen as a freak. He was just going to find a new job, move out of his parent’s house, and die alone.
“Just one more date Derek, please!” Laura begged, following him down the stairs and waving her phone at his back.
“I said no! You don’t know what it’s like,” Derek muttered, suddenly defeated.
“I know babe,” Laura told him, coming up to wrap an arm around her little brother, standing up on her tippy toes until she could lay her head on his shoulder. “But look at this guy. He’s gorgeous.”
Derek couldn’t resist a quick glance at the dating app. Damnit. Laura was right, as always. The guy was gorgeous. A mole dotted face with an adorably upturned nose smirked at him from behind a pair of square framed glasses, and he could feel his resolve crumbling.
“This is the last time,” Derek ground out as he shrugged Laura’s arm off his shoulder and fled.
“Yes!” she crowed, throwing herself across the couch to set up a date between her brother and one Stiles Stilinski.
Stiles glowed, Derek thought. He was radiant in a way that lit up the entire room. Derek couldn’t keep his eyes off the young librarian. Sadly, it couldn’t last forever. After a few tales about his retired Sheriff father and his best friend Scott, came the dreaded question.
“So tell me about yourself. Your profile was a bit sparse,” Stiles asked over his beer glass.
“Yeah um,” Derek started, more nervous to make a good impression than he had ever been before, “my sisters wrote that?”
“You’re kidding,” Stiles grinned, apparently not deterred by Derek’s pathetic life. “Tell me more.”
“I was discharged from the Army about eighteen months ago, and haven’t quite gotten back on my feet yet,” Derek admitted, hoping he wasn’t talking Stiles out of dating him. “I’m back at my parents and my sisters have been trying to help me get my life together.”
“Honorably?” Stiles asked, eyes still bright and interested. “My dad wouldn’t want me dating a rule breaker.”
“Yes,” Derek said, and he could feel the shadow falling over his face. Technically his paperwork said “Medical - Under Honorable Conditions,” but something was stopping him from filling in the blanks this time.
He knew it was wrong, that it would bite him in the ass if he and Stiles actually ended up dating long-term, but he just couldn’t help himself. For the first time since getting home, he finally felt good. Stiles was handsome and interesting and kind, and beyond that, he seemed like a good person. Derek didn’t want to ruin it so soon.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Stiles asked, concern coloring his face as he carefully set his beer down and surveyed Derek.
“Not right now, if that’s okay,” Derek told him, glad Stiles wasn’t pushing the subject. “It’s a long story.”
“I can imagine,” Stiles said, still looking at him with a smile that crinkled the skin around his eyes. The look warmed Derek’s soul. He never wanted the date to end. Luckily, Stiles kept things going, prompting him, “tell me more about your family.”
Four hours and several rounds later, Derek was walking Stiles to his car and getting a good night kiss. His eyebrows shot up when Stiles grabbed his hand as they walked the few blocks to Stiles’ beat up Jeep, but he was even more surprised when Stiles pushed him against said Jeep and kissed the hell out of him. Caught off balance, Derek was grateful for the support of the car. Otherwise he was sure he would have fallen over when Stiles pressed himself against his chest in a wild, sudden movement.
“I know we just met,” Stiles said, still tight against his body, “but I like you a lot and I was wondering if you would be my date to a wedding next weekend?” Derek knew immediately that he wasn’t going to refuse, even if the thought of dancing terrified him. “My ex-girlfriend is getting married and I don’t want to go alone.”
“You trying to make her jealous?” Derek asked, a little hesitant to get in the middle of something like that.
“No, we’re great friends now, her fiancé on the other hand,” Stiles said, smirking a little bit at the grin on Derek’s face, “will never let me live it down if I go alone. He’s convinced I’m still hung up on her, but I swear I’m not. It was nearly ten years ago.”
“Okay, okay,” Derek said, those few beers he had making him bold enough to wrap his arms around Stiles’ waist and peck him on the lips. “I’ll go.”
Stiles beamed and gave Derek one more kiss before getting into his car. He rolled down the window with a few frantic cranks and stuck his head out to call after Derek’s retreating back, “it’s black tie!”
“You so owe me!” Derek hollered back, shaking his head as he walked to his car. When he caught himself in his rearview mirror as he backed into his parents’ driveway, he was still grinning.
“He said black tie,” Derek told Cora as he pulled his rented tux off the back of his closet door.
“Everyone knows uniforms count as black tie,” Cora insisted, pushing hangers aside until she got her hands on Derek’s dress blues.
“I don’t want to draw that much attention,” Derek muttered, just imagining the questions he would get if he had to introduce himself to all of Stiles’ friends in his uniform. It was making him itchy.
“He invited you to a wedding to be his arm candy,” Cora said, shaking the hanger at Derek, “you’re supposed to draw attention!”
Rolling his eyes dramatically, Derek pulled the hanger out of Cora’s hand, sitting down heavily on the edge of his bed to adjust his prosthetic. He hadn’t done a permanent fitting on his right side yet and it was hard to stand for too long without his skin getting pinched and raw.
“Come on Derek,” Cora said, flipping her brown hair over her shoulder as she knelt down to massage at her brother’s knee. “You’ll have to tell him some time, and your ass looks amazing in these pants.”
“I’m not telling him,” Derek growled, yanking his prosthetic off and tossing it on the bed behind him. “I can hide it, it’ll be fine.”
“And when he asks you to dance?” Cora asked, raising her eyebrows pointedly. “When you guys have sex?”
“It’s our second date, we’re not going to have sex,” Derek grumbled, pulling his dress shirt off the hanger and slipping it on, still seated.
“That’s what they all say,” Cora smirked, digging his dress shoes out of the closet to give them a polish.
“Well this is the fanciest party I’ve ever been to,” Derek said with a quirk of his lips, enjoying the warmth of Stiles’ hand where it was tucked around his elbow. They took their seats in the tent for the reception and Stiles introduced him to Scott and his fiancée Allison, who was an absolute knockout in her red bridesmaid’s dress.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Allison gushed, taking in the ribbons and medals adorning Derek’s jacket with inquisitive eyes. “Stiles hasn’t been able to stop talking about you… Sergeant?”
“That’s Master Sergeant actually,” Stiles corrected, trailing a long finger down the yellow bars on Derek’s bicep. Derek raised his eyebrows in surprise, not expecting Stiles to have that much military knowledge. He hadn’t been particularly forthcoming on their first date. “What?” Stiles scoffed, squeezing Derek’s arm in reply, “I like to research.”
“You were wounded in action?” Scott asked, pointing at the Purple Heart on Derek’s chest.
Derek faked a smile, he had thought about leaving off that medal when he was getting dressed, but it just hadn’t felt right. He played it off easily, using the much toted excuse, “you can get a Purple Heart for shooting yourself in the foot, as long as you’re in active combat.”
“Did you shoot yourself in the foot?” Scott asked, brown puppy eyes confused, brow furrowed. Allison elbowed him in the ribs until he changed the subject.
“You don’t get one of those for shooting yourself in the foot,” Stiles whispered in his ear, tapping his Bronze Star.
“No, you don’t,” Derek said, tone flat as Stiles brushed against his valor award. Thankfully Stiles didn’t push, just turned back to his friends and brought the conversation back around to Lydia’s bridezilla tendencies.
An hour later, after they had polished off one of the best dinners Derek had had in years, the music got louder and Stiles asked him the question he had been dreading all night.
“Dance with me?” Stiles muttered, kissing his cheek and smiling at him with quirked lips.
“Can we wait for a slow one?” Derek asked, knowing he wouldn’t be able to handle anything much more than that. “I’m not really a great dancer.”
“Sure,” Stiles said, taking another sip of champagne, “you just tell me when.”
When The Way You Look Tonight started playing, Derek figured he wasn’t going to do much better, and stood up to offer his hand. Stiles beamed at him, swiping his tongue over his bottom lip as Derek led him to the dance floor.
Derek could hear the murmurs that followed him. This was what he had been trying to avoid, but the way Stiles was looking at him from behind those sexy glasses made it all seem tolerable. Putting a hand around Stiles’ waist, Derek took the lead, sighing in satisfaction when Stiles laid his head on his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “have I told you how incredible you look tonight?”
“No,” Derek answered honestly, unable to keep the smile off his face, even if he was getting a truly douche-worthy look from Lydia’s new husband as he spun Stiles around carefully.
“Well I kind of can’t wait to get you out of that uniform, if I’m being honest,” Stiles said, winking as he pulled his face back to look at Derek’s expression.
“Nice moves, Stilinski,” Jackson called over his shoulder, deliberately knocking into Derek with one shoulder. Quickly losing his balance, Derek went down hard, cracking his elbow on the parquet floor.
“Jackson!” Lydia squawked at him, punching her husband in the arm until he muttered a lackluster apology.
“Are you hurt?” Stiles asked, squatting down next to Derek to pull him to his feet.
“Only my pride,” Derek replied, taking a quick glance down at his ankles to make sure his legs were still covered.
“Jackson’s an asshole,” Stiles said, pulling Derek to his side and wrapping a long arm around his waist. “I think we move pretty well together.” Derek had to agree, and was especially pleased when Stiles pulled him in for a kiss in front of all of his friends. When Derek pulled away, he saw a pink faced man looking back at him with a lascivious smirk. “Want to get out of here?”
Derek pulled up outside Stiles’ apartment and got out of the car with a groan, hopefully quiet enough that Stiles didn’t hear. His legs were killing him and he couldn’t wait to get home and into bed, but he walked Stiles to the door anyway, drawn in by the man’s smile and warm brown eyes.
“Would you like to come in?” Stiles asked, fondling the buttons on Derek’s cuffs with pretty clear intent. Derek knew it was a bad idea. He knew it couldn’t end in anything but rejection, but he couldn’t keep himself from nodding and following the sway of Stiles’ thin hips into his cluttered but cozy living room.
Once Stiles offered, Derek wasted no time in dropping heavily to the couch and unbuttoning his jacket with a sigh. Stiles was about to offer Derek a drink when his eyes caught the way Derek’s trim waist tapered down below his belt. He stalked forward slowly, bypassing the secondhand coffee table to stand in front of Derek.
“Is this okay?” Stiles asked as he carefully lowered himself into Derek’s lap and leaned in. Derek sighed into Stiles’ mouth, squeezing his obliques as the younger man rocked down onto his growing erection. Long fingers threaded through Derek’s hair and tilted his head to the side, giving Stiles a better angle to lick into his mouth. When the kisses started trailing down his neck and those same fingers began fiddling with his belt buckle, Derek had to pull away.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles muttered, taking in a deep breath when he saw Derek, eyes closed and head thrown back against the couch. “That was too fast.”
“No, it’s not that,” Derek said, opening his hazel eyes to see if he could read what Stiles’ reaction would be. “I really want to do that with you, I just — need to tell you something first. And you might not want me to stick around once I do.”
“I said you didn’t need to tell me what happened to you overseas, and I meant it,” Stiles told him with obvious sincerity, “we don’t have to do this.”
“I want this,” Derek reassured him again, bringing hands up to cup Stiles’ face. “I want you very much, but I want to do it right because I want it to last.”
“Okay,” Stiles said, slipping off Derek’s lap in an effort to give Derek the space he needed to get his thoughts together. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Derek took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and let the words tumble out. “Almost two years ago I was driving my men back to base in Kandahar when I missed something. I hit a land mine. The Humvee exploded and we went up in flames. Most of them died on impact, but two of them — I heard them screaming and I tried to crawl to them, but I was pinned. Stiles I — I lost both of my legs. I woke up in the hospital a week later as a double amputee. None of my men made it. And I got to go back home to my family, but the rest of them… they didn’t.”
Stiles stared at him, mouth open wide in shock, eyes darting between Derek’s face and his shoes, probably wondering how he hadn’t noticed it before.
“So that’s what happened, and — ”
“Why did you think I wouldn’t want you to stay?” Stiles asked, shifting forward until he could grab one of Derek’s hands.
“Because no one else ever has.”
“Well they were idiots,” Stiles said, smirking a little. Derek’s eyebrows arched, wondering where Stiles’ self-satisfied expression came from. “But I’m kind of glad they all dumped you, because otherwise we never would have met. And I get the feeling I want to keep you.”
“But you haven’t even seen — ”
“I don’t need to see to know how I feel about you,” Stiles said, climbing back into Derek’s lap, slow enough to give Derek the chance to push him off if he wanted. When broad, tan hands came to wrap around Stiles’ waist, that was all the encouragement he needed. Stiles’ mouth met his, hot and possessive as his hands trailed down Derek’s legs. Derek arched an eyebrow at the movement, but didn’t shy away from the touch. When Stiles finally got to the part of Derek’s calves that were tucked into his prosthetics, his eyes widened. Derek hissed against Stiles’ mouth.
“Oh God, am I hurting you?” Stiles asked, voice tinged with panic.
“No, I’m just — sensitive,” Derek said, “I’m still losing volume in my right leg, so the prosthetic isn’t properly fitted yet and it’s hard to stand for too long. That’s why I lost my balance when Jackson knocked into us. I’m not quite stable yet.”
“Oh,” Stiles said, smirking again, the expression just as baffling to Derek as it had been the first time. “How about we let you lie down then?” He asked, slipping off of Derek’s lap and holding a hand out. Grinning broadly, Derek followed him into the bedroom, finally secure in the knowledge that Stiles wouldn’t be walking out on him any time soon.