The crash came before the imitation lasers, the screeching, and the honking. The crash was what had Stiles dropping the spatula into a still-doughy pancake and splattering batter everywhere. The crash was what sent Derek tearing through the house to the front door with Stiles hot on his heels and breakfast completely forgotten. The added auditory chaos and what it could mean only made the adrenaline pump that much faster.
Derek skidded to a halt on the front lawn, and Stiles didn’t stop fast enough not to plow into him. Fortunately, Derek’s werewolf strength and bulk countered the force of Stiles’ panicked sprint and both remained upright. Unfortunately, however, pressed flush against his back as he was, Stiles felt the precise moment whatever they’d built the night before shattered.
“Yes,” Stiles said, shouted, really, considering the blaring car alarm. He disentangled himself from Derek and brushed imaginary lint from the front of his faded, threadbare Star Wars t-shirt before standing beside the werewolf. With a disgruntled and sweeping gesture, he indicated the young girl clad in hockey gear standing in the middle of the cul-du-sac. Behind her, at the end of the cul-du-sac, was a plastic, netted goal. “My daughter.”
“…you have a daughter…?” Derek murmured.
“Daddy, I can explain!” Claudia yelled over the noise. She held a hockey stick, and her helmet was unbuckled. She held it place with her free, gloved hand.
“I’m sure you can,” Stiles drawled, and waved her off. He backtracked through the front door and grabbed both sets of his keys from where they hung by the door. But when he stepped outside and rounded the open garage, his heart sank. “Are you fucking kidding me?!” he screeched, using the clicker to silence the car alarm. Then he spun on his daughter, disappointed and outraged and red in the face. “You hit my Charger?!”
Claudia ran up the driveway, mindful of the shattered glass that spilled from the garage, and dropped her hockey stick in the grass. “Dad, really, I didn’t mean it!”
“How many times have I told you to close the garage when you practice?! This is what I was trying to avoid! Do you have any idea how much it’s going to cost to—”
Stiles blinked, unfamiliar with being interrupted mid-rant, and frowned curiously as Claudia pointed to Derek. Derek, who he’d brought home the night before. Derek, who still stood barefoot in the grass in a pair of borrowed sweatpants, looking every bit as confused as Claudia. “Claudia, this is Derek. He’s an old friend of mine,” Stiles answered smoothly. “Derek, this is my daughter, Claudia.”
Derek’s discomfort was woefully obvious, but Stiles appreciated how he tried to smile, how he extended his hand to Claudia and offered her a proper greeting. “It’s nice to meet you, Claudia,” he said. Had Stiles known him any less, he wouldn’t have heard the strain in his voice.
“Wait,” Claudia said, skeptical. Though she took Derek’s hand, she completely ignored him in favor of interrogating her father. “Like, Derek Derek? Like, the Derek? The one you always talk about? The one who punched through a wall and protected you from that lizard thing? Derek Hale?”
“Yes, honey,” Stiles said. He picked his way across the hazardous driveway to reach the outdoor broom hanging on the garage wall beside the snow shovel. “The Derek. Derek, the alpha and the beta. Derek Hale.”
With as much adoration and awe as she spoke of Derek, she was much more interested in what sort of explanation Stiles had to offer than the wonder-wolf himself. “You never said anything about him coming to visit,” she accused.
Stiles began sweeping up the shattered glass and said, “It was sort of a spur of the moment thing, sweetie. Neither of us planned it.”
He’d gone out drinking with a few coworkers, had, literally, by chance noticed someone he thought looked a little like Derek lurking in the back of the bar. Drunk enough to feel bold, and drunk enough to act on his loneliness, he’d approached the guy who, yes, was in fact, the werewolf himself, Derek Hale. It took less than thirty minutes of conversation for a decade’s worth of potential to explode into heated kisses and heavy petting. They’d gotten a cab back to Stiles’ place, where he’d snuck Derek through the back door, then proceeded to act out every want and fantasy from their wasted and violent youth.
“You know I would have told you if we had,” Stiles added. He glanced up only briefly from his sweeping to see Claudia snatch her hand from Derek and fold her arms across her chest. “Besides, you have much bigger concerns than Derek. Like how long you’re going to be grounded for this, and how many more chores you’ll be stuck with for the next I don’t even know how long.”
“Are you serious?” she whined. “Derek is here, and it was an accident! How am I supposed to ask him about all your adventures if I’m stuck in my room or cleaning?!”
“I don’t know, my love,” Stiles said, shrugging helplessly. “Maybe you should have thought about that before you decided to practice without closing the garage.”
“I can’t believe you!” she shrieked. She sounded just like her father.
Stiles frowned, but didn’t respond to the outburst. Instead, he said, “Gather your gear, then go inside and take a shower. Turn the stove off for me on your way upstairs. We’ll have a discussion once I figure out what to do with the car.” Though he wasn’t unkind, his tone brooked no argument.
Claudia’s face was red with anger and shame and whatever it was kids felt when they were in trouble and upset, but she did as she was told. The goal was collected and tossed into the yard, and she stomped through the garage and into the house, leaving Stiles and Derek alone.
“You have a daughter,” Derek said.
“I have a daughter,” Stiles answered. He swept the broken glass into a small pile, and disappeared into the garage, briefly, to fetch the dustpan and a trash bag.
Derek’s thick brows pinched in a frown, and Stiles couldn’t tell if he was offended or just genuinely confused. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, and shifted awkwardly where he stood, though Stiles could feel his gaze on him as he cleaned up Claudia’s mess. “I didn’t smell her,” the wolf said, finally. “Anywhere. Not in the house. Not on you. I should have smelled her.”
“Runes and spells,” Stiles said dismissively. He bent down and swept the glass into the dustpan, then emptied the pan into the bag. He did it three more times before all the visible glass was collected and safely off the ground. “I know what’s out there, dude. You think I wouldn’t hide her from it all?”
“You never mentioned her.”
Resting against the propped broom, Stiles fixed Derek with a skeptical stare. “Should I have? I didn’t think it would matter.”
“Stiles, you have a daughter. You’re a father. Why wouldn’t it matter?” And his beautiful seafoam eyes bled like open wounds, so sincere in their shock, in their remorse and bewilderment. He took a few tentative steps towards where Stiles stood, but didn’t make the mistake of touching him, though it was obvious he had the urge.
Stiles shrugged. “Because I didn’t think this would be a thing.”
“You know, anything lasting,” he explained with a rolling hand. “Maybe a few nights or however long you were in town, but not, like…long enough to warrant mentioning her.”
He didn’t know why, but Stiles swore Derek looked wounded. “Can I ask who the mother is?”
Stiles laughed. “I don’t see how it matters, but it’s Lydia,” he said. “And before you get any wild ideas or hop on that self-loathing train you love so much, she and I aren’t together. Never were. I don’t really swing that way anymore, ya know? She’s just beautiful and brilliant and I wanted my kid to have her genes.” He shrugged again. “So we worked something out.”
“You…enjoyed last night, right?” Derek asked, cautiously closing some more of the distance between them. He ran his fingertips down the length of Stiles’ arm, then took his hand. Stiles let him.
“I’ve only been obsessing about it since the moment I laid eyes on you in the preserve,” he admitted easily. Whatever insecurities or doubts he had in his youth had long since disappeared with age and fatherhood. It didn’t faze him to admit such things to Derek, because there were so many more important things in his life; like Claudia, and being the best dad he could be for her. Derek’s possible rejection was so miniscule on his list of concerns. “Of course I enjoyed it. I loved it. I loved you.”
Derek’s wounded expression only became more severe, and he squeezed Stiles’ hand urgently. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
With a sigh, Stiles took his hand from Derek’s grasp and ran it through his messy hair. “Because, man, there was always something trying to kill us and you were really keen on getting the fuck out of Beacon Hills—which I totally do not blame you for; I wanted to get the hell out of there, too. I wasn’t going to keep you, ya know? You deserved to get away and sort yourself out. When you disappeared…I figured that’s what you were doing.”
“I would have stayed, you know,” Derek said softly. “If you ‘d told me.”
“I know,” Stiles said with a small grin. “I imagined you would. I’m just not that selfish.”
“It wasn’t a coincidence that we met last night,” Derek admitted quietly.
“Of course not,” Stiles agreed, leaning in close to nudge Derek with his elbow. “I don’t believe in coincidences. You know that.”
Derek glanced uncertainly towards the door to the house, the one through the garage where Claudia had disappeared. “I didn’t know you had a kid, Stiles. I wouldn’t have just…”
“Shown up and let me take you to bed?” Stiles finished mercifully, if bitterly. “She doesn’t really change anything. I don’t expect you to stick around.”
“And if I wanted to? Stick around?”
Laughing, Stiles said, “I can’t tell you where you can and can’t live.”
Derek rolled his eyes and sighed, and Stiles laughed some more. It was so reminiscent of the Derek Stiles remembered from his high school years—the brooding, self-loathing werewolf who was so terrified and unsure of himself, he played a tough game to keep his wounded heart safe—he couldn’t help but find it endearing. “I’d be sticking around for you. I’d stay to try to be with you.”
His laughter died in his throat. “Oh,” Stiles murmured, shocked. But he quickly started grinning again. “That’s something altogether different, isn’t it?”
“Why do you think I came here?” Derek pleaded, annoyed.
“Probably a similar reason I took you to my bed,” Stiles sniped, just as annoyed. Did Derek really expect him to think of this as anything more than a hook-up? Stiles could dream, but he couldn’t fall too far into that dangerous line of thought. He took his frustration out on the garbage bag he tied shut. “To answer the years-old question of, ‘what if?’ To see what would happen? I’m not sure what you were looking or hoping for, but I couldn’t exactly wait around for you, could I? You left without a trace, and I loved you enough to not try to find you. What else is there to say?”
“You keep saying you loved me,” Derek sighed. “Past tense. Like you don’t anymore.”
“What would it matter if I did? Are you hoping there’s some room for you in my life now?”
“Yes, actually,” the werewolf said, bold and exhausted. “I am.”
And, well, that was enough for Stiles. It was enough for a beginning.
He’d wanted Derek for years, from the moment he’d recognized his defense mechanisms for what they were and what a tender, good heart they were devised to protect. Stiles never had much of an opportunity to indulge in fantasies or longing—being a single father was time-consuming and, frankly, a more important use of his time—but he’d never forgotten about Derek. Sometimes, after Claudia was well asleep, he’d entertain himself with thoughts of Derek somewhere far away from danger, somewhere warm and cozy, somewhere he could relax and heal. Because he loved Derek and wanted that for him.
“Good thing my dishware seats at least six,” Stiles said. He continued, his voice louder, as he went around the side of the house to throw the broken glass away. “You’ll have to park your car in the driveway, though, since the mini-van and the Charger get the garage.” Returning a few moments later, he added, “And if you eventually decide you want to move in, you have to really want it, and want it for good. I can’t have Claudia getting attached to someone just to have them disappear, you know? I’d never forgive you if you hurt her like that.”
If Derek’s eyes were a little glassy, Stiles didn’t mention it. But when Derek pulled him into his arms and into a kiss, Stiles went willingly and enthusiastically. Derek kissed him like a man starved, but his hunger wasn’t lustful. It was longing. Tender, insistent caresses of lips, and soft little vulnerable sounds. Stiles vaguely recalled similar reactions from the night before, but hadn’t wanted to read into them.
But now? Now he knew Derek wanted this. Wanted him.
“We’ll figure it out, okay?” Stiles promised against Derek’s lips. “After breakfast and after I discipline my daughter for destroying my car.”
Derek hummed in agreement and followed Stiles’ lead into the house.
“What made you decide to get a Charger?” he asked as they passed the sleek black muscle car in the garage. He ran his fingertips along the smooth paint of the hood and watched as Stiles closed the garage door.
“Well, I couldn’t exactly get a Camaro,” Stiles explained with a chuckle. “You’ve had that market cornered for as long as I’ve known you.”
“Yeah, but it’s a Dodge,” Derek groused.
“Hey!” Stiles squawked indignantly and thumped the werewolf in the chest. “You come into my house and insult my overcompensation of choice? Rude!” But when Derek grabbed him around the waist and left a trail of hot kisses up his neck, Stiles didn’t care; Derek could tease him about his car all he wanted.
But they would christen it later, the way they never could with the Camaro.