Stiles had known Derek for a long time. It had been years, years since the whole Nemeton debacle, which they had finally been able to close off and stop the river of supernatural crazies from being called to Beacon Hills. They had formed a tentative friendship, growing stronger as the rest of the pack paired off and they began to end up alone together more often than not. They were comfortable, knew a lot of each other’s fears and secrets, and Stiles was confident in the knowledge that Derek called him one of his closest friends.
Stiles was also completely in love with him, but whatever.
Stiles had dated on and off in college, but nothing serious. For some reason, no one ever measured up to his growly, angry, angsty and werewolf standards. Coming back to Beacon Hills was always more exciting than any of the relationships he’d had, even to just sit in Derek’s loft and watch TV.
He’d seen Derek in several relationships as well - sans crazy serial killer vibes - in the years past, and Stiles knew all the signs. Derek had obvious tells when he liked someone. First off, he ignored them, scowled at them every time he saw them. That was honestly Stiles’ favorite part of the whole system, because it was the opposite thing that most people did when they had a crush. The funniest thing Stiles had ever seen was Derek trying to scowl and ignore the new barista at their favorite coffee place while also trying to order coffee and give her his number. The barista, of course, thought it was wonderfully endearing once she figured out what was happening, and they went on a handful of dates sometime last year. Derek had never gotten serious with any of his conquests either, but the signs were always consistent.
First, the Scowl.
Second, the Charm. Derek’s fucking face was a work of art, and he used it to his great advantage. His smile could cure cancer, Stiles would swear on it.
Third, Begrudging Eye-Roll. He pretended to find whoever he was crushing on annoying or not cute, when in reality, stage-three was equivalent to some people writing hearts in their diary. Derek would scoff and shrug and be totally smitten.
Fourth was the final and most important step of the Derek Hale Crush Process, right before he either dropped it or asked whoever it was on a date. The patented and very specific Derek Hale Chin Bob. The “I’m-thinking-of-letting-you-bone-me” Chin Bob. The “that’s-it-let’s-do-this-thing” Chin Bob. The “I’m-gonna-woo-the-pants-off-you” Chin Bob. The “Oh-god-kiss-me” Chin Bob.
Okay, okay, maybe Stiles was a little obsessed with the Chin Bob.
Because, see, the thing was was that Stiles himself had been the subject of all three stages pre-Chin Bob. The Scowl, the Charm (on very rare occasions), and the Eye-Roll. A lot. The Eye-Roll was a thing that happened a LOT. And Stiles, while grateful for the friendship that they had cultivated, still had the whole in-love-with thing going on, and would LOVE to be the subject of the Derek Hale Chin Bob. Not that he thought it would ever happen in a million years. Derek just didn’t think of him that way, obviously. All evidence pointed in that direction.
Which is why, when it DID finally happen, he freaked the fuck out.
It was a Sunday afternoon. Stiles had the day off - well, he had most days off, he worked online, so he got to set his own schedule. He and Derek were sitting across from each other at Derek’s newly installed breakfast bar, the TV on low in the background, Stiles watching Derek chop up vegetables for whatever he was making. He was sure Derek had told him what it was but the sun had been coming in the big bay windows and shining off Derek’s exposed collarbones - damn those low v-neck shirts - and Stiles had totally missed it.
Stiles said something funny and Derek had laughed, brushing rogue bell-pepper seeds into the sink and - and -
“Did you just -”
“You - Derek -”
“What the hell, Stiles?”
“You just did the thing!” Stiles said, standing up from the stool and waving his hands in the air. “YOU CHIN-BOBBED ME!”
“That - you - your thing! You’re thinking of letting me bone you!”
Derek’s face colored. “Stiles,” he growled.
“Wait, wait, you are? You are! You did the Derek Hale chin bob - you - you LIKE ME!”
“The Derek Hale - what the fuck are you talking about?”
Stiles ran his fingers through his hair. This was crazy. He was sounding crazy.
“That’s not exactly new,” Derek said, and Stiles realized he’d spoken out loud. “But why don’t you explain it.”
Derek crossed his arms, leaning against the counter. Stiles got distracted for a second.
“Okay, look, you - I - I like you.”
Derek’s eyes widened. Stiles blew air out of his mouth and started to pace.
“Yes, okay, surprise, I wasn’t ever gonna - SAY anything, because you didn’t like me back, right? Okay? But -”
“Yes I did. I do.”
Stiles paused and looked over to Derek, who was staring back at him.
“Let me finish before you go dropping world-shattering truth bombs on me, okay, big guy?”
Derek did the Eye-Roll.
“See! See? The Eye-Roll! With capital letters! It’s all part of the system!”
Derek raised his eyebrows and gestured for Stiles to continue.
“There’s a system, okay, I’ve perfected over the years. Which makes me sound like a stalker. A crazy stalker. Perfect. Anyway. The system, you have a system when you get a crush. Four stages.”
Derek was trying not to laugh. It was cute and infuriating.
“Yes, four stages, Derek, this is serious. There is the Scowl. Capital S. You Scowl and try to ignore the crush, because that is how you approach all of your problems.”
Derek was scowling now, no capital S, just a regular Derek scowl.
“Don’t even, you know it’s true. I’m your best - I’m your friend, I’m allowed to say that.”
“You’re my best friend.”
Again, the quiet admission was unexpected and world-shaking.
“Stop that, I’m on a roll. An embarrassing, crazy person roll, but if anything, I’m committed. Okay. Listen. Stage one, Scowl. Stage two, Charm. Your stupid fucking smile. Do you smile in the mirror ever? Does it turn into an enchanted face and tell you you’re the fairest one of all? You know what you look like. Which is ridiculous. Ridiculous and I hate it.”
Derek ran a hand over his face, still silent.
“Anyway. Yes. Stage one and two and THREE, the Eye-Roll, with capital -”
“Capital letters? I’m sensing a theme.”
“THE EYE-ROLL. Yes, just like that, in fact. Good example. The begrudging, You-Aren’t-As-Cute-As-You-Think-You-Are Eye-Roll that really means you think that person is cute as fuck but are too shy to say anything about it.”
“Stiles, I roll my eyes at you all the time.”
“Yeah, I KNOW, which is infuriating, because it’s stage three. All the way up to stage three, Derek! Consistently! But you don’t like me! Which is why you never went to stage four, the Derek Hale-”
“Chin Bob, capital letters,” Derek said, nodding and looking at the floor.
Stiles had come full stop, run out of steam. Derek was just looking at him, which usually gave Stiles the good kind of butterflies, but now was just making him feel slightly nauseated. He’d ruined everything. Derek was never supposed to know ANY of this, it was insane. And now he also knew about Stiles ridiculous crush, and -
“You know, you have a system too.”
Stiles eyes shot up to meet Derek’s. “W-what?”
“You have a system, or whatever. When you have a crush.”
“You get really nervous, at first, and babble a lot. Act like nothing could bother you, brush off people when they ask you if you’re okay. Then you start researching. You learn little things about the person and totally go overboard. You buy presents or do favors that you know they would appreciate in particular. Then you get really focused, listen intently to them when they’re speaking. Then you try and make them laugh. That’s the last one, the laugh part. That’s when you’re really invested. That’s when I always knew you actually liked them.”
Stiles was just staring, speechless, while Derek spoke. It was a pretty hefty speech for Derek, lots of words right after one another. And - that meant that Derek -
“You have a system for me?” Stiles asked.
“Don’t sound so scandalized, you have one for me too,” Derek growled, scowling at Stiles.
“Yeah, but I -”
“What? You like me?” Derek smirked.
“No,” Stiles said slowly, smirking back. Derek’s face dropped and he stood up a little straighter.
“Wha - why did you say that then?” He asked.
“I - I think it’s a little more than like?” Stiles said, quietly, watching Derek’s face.
Derek’s eyes widened again, and he said “oh,” softly, bobbing his chin again.
“You did it again.”
“Shut up. You’re making me self conscious.”
“I like it,” Stiles said, moving around the counter. “I’m sort of obsessed with it, actually. Never thought I’d get one. The famous Derek Hale Chin Bob.”
“That’s not a thing,” Derek said, moving towards Stiles and cautiously placing his hands on Stiles’ hips. Stiles pushed into his hands and placed his own on Derek’s shoulders.
“It IS a thing. It’s the best thing. Do it again.”
“Yes,” Stiles said, as he grabbed the sides of Derek’s face and gently pulled it up and down in a imitation of Derek’s Chin Bob, loving the way Derek’s scruff felt against his hands and the way the action made Derek’s lips curl into a soft smile. That was something that was even more rare than the Chin Bob, so much that it didn’t even register in the system Stiles had kept. Stage five, the Soft Smile. He’d only seen Derek do it twice, and now it was aimed right at him.
Derek looked right into Stiles eyes and Stiles felt suddenly breathless. Then Derek kissed him.
It was soft pressure and warmth. It was stage six. Stage amazing. Something off the scale entirely.
“Why are you still thinking?” Derek whispered against his lips, pulling away slightly.
Stiles scoffed, not being able to stop his own smile from spreading. “Of course I’m thinking - I’m - I’m freaking out a little bit. How would you feel if the person you’ve been in love with for years finally kissed you?”
“Like this,” Derek said, and kissed him again. It was even better the second time. And the third, fourth, fifth -
Turns out that there were infinite stages on the Derek Hale Crush Scale, and Stiles finally got to see all of them - some of which no one had ever seen before. There was stage six, The Kiss. Seven, Hands in the Hair. Eight - in conjunction with stage seven - the Moan. Stage seven was just the beginning of all the noises Derek could make, and those went along with stages eight, nine, ten, eleven - especially eleven.
Stage fourteen were Words, spoken softly under a blanket, that made Stiles’ heart flutter and his eyes tear up.
Stage sixteen was A Serious Discussion, and stage seventeen was A Serious Question. Those came with lots of candles and a little box hidden in a sock drawer.
Stage twenty were more Words, different words, spoken out loud in front of lots of their friends and family members that meant more, longer, forever. Words that made Derek tear up, and Stiles grin like an idiot before kissing his husband full on the mouth in a way that wasn’t entirely appropriate for the audience present.
All the stages after that? Well, Stiles couldn’t wait to find them all out.