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He just needs to stretch that little bit further, strain the tips of his fingers and—

“Shit!” Stiles’ foot slips off the bottom shelf he’d been using for leverage, he grabs for something, catches hold of a box of cereal—shit, the irony that if he’d eaten more as a kid maybe he’d be taller and not have to be reaching in the first place, so funny, universe— and shuts his eyes. He’s hoping the fall doesn’t kill him. It’s Saturday morning, he wants to go to the park later and toss a Frisbee around with Scott, pretend like it’s official exercise; there’s still two episodes of SouthLAnd he has DVR’d that he never got round to; he hasn’t had life altering sex yet; he’s only been in New York four months and he still hasn’t made it to the Statue of Liberty; he needs to meet George Lucas!

To his surprise, his ass never hits the floor. Instead, there’s a pair of hands catching him round the waist, a noise of irritation huffed into his ear, and Stiles’ legs right themselves on the ground.

“Dude!” He spins, beaming with relief and feels his mouth fall open a little. He maybe just called a magnificent specimen possibly related to the sun god dude. There’s broad shoulders and a sharp jawline, eyes Stiles can’t pick a color to describe accurately enough for—like some stupid paint commercial’s wet dream, forest green, but also sea mist? Both, both is good. The eyebrows, too. One of which is currently arched at Stiles, and displaying a clear amount of unimpressed disdain.

“Thanks,” he says brightly, stepping back so as not to offend the fine stranger any more. He looks like maybe he’d eat Stiles for breakfast, and not in the good way. Though… he could so do that. Stiles would so forgo breakfast to be this guy’s special.

“Uh,” he clears his throat, nods at the top shelf, “I was trynna—”

The man moves into Stiles’ space—and Stiles tries desperately not to notice how good he smells—and then he’s easily climbing onto the bottom shelf, stretching up and grabbing the box of Cheerios Stiles had been aiming for.

“My hero,” Stiles says stupidly before clamping down on his tongue and suddenly wishing he was six feet under the floor, never mind sprawled across it. For a split second, the guy looks almost vaguely pleased. Stiles can feel his gaze on his back as he twists to toss the cereal in his cart. “Um, thank you, again, for both saving my life, and uh me from a week with no delicious breakfast food.”

“Gotta start the day with something delicious,” the guy says drily, but Stiles can see the twitch of a smirk.

“Exactly,” he licks his lips, hopes he wasn’t imagining the way the guy’s fucking beautiful eyes drop to look at his mouth. “Uh—”

“Derek!” A harassed looking brunette pushing a stroller with a screaming baby inside appears at the end of the aisle. “I swear to god, Derek, abandoning your sister in the grocery store to go chase after pretty smells is so not cool!”

Stiles glances around, wondering who she’s talking to, and then sees Hot Hero dude’s cheeks are going pink, and he’s shoving his hands in his pockets, sidling away from Stiles.

“Pretty smells?” he asks faintly.

Derek’s eyes go wide and alarmed, and he starts backing away completely, “Sorry.”

“Uh, for what? You saved my life, dude!”

“It’s not dude, it’s Derek,” Derek corrects, and then looks astonished at himself.

Oh man, Stiles is intrigued. He pats his own chest, “Stiles. And, I was gonna go with Hot Hero Dude in my head, but Derek works, too.”

Derek stops short by the girl and the stroller, glares at Stiles, and then they’re disappearing down the next aisle, his sister still berating him.

Stiles presents a sleepy Scott with the groceries, and declares he’s more than happy to go again next Saturday. Scott makes him draw up an agreement that says as much and sticks it on the fridge.

*

After an hour of trawling not so very casually around the grocery store the following week, Stiles calls it quits and heads for the check out. The security guards were starting to give him suspicious looks and he’s pretty sure his major impact on the city of New York shouldn’t be banned signs around all the local stores.

He tried being subtle, called Scott and asked him if they needed any special cheeses he’d have to queue up for; called his dad for an explanation as to which brand of tofu tasted best—his dad put the phone down on him—and he even went through home and furnishings to look at a variety of throws he doesn’t need, though, he was tempted by a pretty blue one. It’s obvious Hot Hero Dude was only in the grocery store on a Saturday morning by chance. He’s probably rolling around his splendid upper side apartment naked, drinking champagne with a beautiful chick, whilst Stiles trudges home to his shitty barely-a-bedsit apartment, and sits around in his underwear all day drinking Pepsi.

Three blocks from home, one of his bag handles snaps, and he swears so loudly a couple of pigeons take off in offence, ruffling their feathers at him.

He scrabbles around rescuing oranges and Pepsi cans, trying to shove them all into his two remaining bags. A shadow falls over him, and he blinks up to see Derek looking highly amused, pushing a stroller and shirtless. Ugh, Derek is one of those wholesome people that goes jogging on a Saturday morning. And, if that doesn’t make Stiles feel bad enough, he does it shirtless. And looks good. So good. Stiles swings round on his knees to look at the baby inside, trying not to hyperventilate.

“Oh my god, you’re the cutest baby I’ve ever seen!” he declares, “And you were raised by wolves? You’re not nearly as hairy as I would have imagined!”

The baby gives him a wide, gummy smile and Stiles laughs, straightens up, eyes determinedly not going to Derek’s chest, glistening with sweat and with hair leading all the way down to his shorts. Stiles wants to lick him all over. He wants to figure out what makes Derek tick, what makes him breathless like running totally should, but he doesn’t seem to be having a problem with. Fucking New Yorkers and their beautiful faces, and their ability to deal with exercise. God, he hates running. If Scott ever drags him out of the apartment for jogging, Stiles bitches for the entire route and ends up walking home alone because Scott’s magic and Stiles' best friend, but he sure as shit can’t motivate Stiles into putting his muscles through searing pain for no reason.

Although, if he were to accidentally run into people like Derek…

“Cute kid,” he says finally.

“Thanks, he’s my nephew, but I’ll be sure to pass on the compliment to my sister,“ Derek says easily. "These were on the side walk,” Derek hands him a tube of toothpaste, and a box of condoms. Stiles is kind of expecting the pigeons to return and crap on him, purely because this is his life. This is his life.

“Thank god the baby didn’t see those!” He manages to garble out as cheerfully as possible, grabbing the boxes and holding them under his arm.

“You don’t seem to have much luck when it comes to grocery shopping,” Derek says with a barely concealed grin. He wipes an arm across his forehead, and Stiles makes a strangled noise he tries to cover up with a cough.

He shrugs, aims for casual, “Don’t think the city’s warming to me much, trynna get me to turn tail and head home. It should know better than to mess with a Stilinski man.”

“You gonna show it who’s boss?”

“Shut up, I could.”

Derek smirks, gives Stiles a once over that he feels in his toes, and then begins to push the stroller on.

“Good luck with that.”

“Hey!” Stiles yells after him, “I don’t need luck, I make my own destiny!”

He’s pretty sure Derek cracks up.

“I’ll show you,” he huffs under his breath. Derek spins round, and lifts his eyebrows at Stiles as if to say oh yeah?  Stiles really, really wants to plough him up against a wall. Not when the baby’s present obviously, god, he is the worst. He’s an embarrassment. He needs to go sit in a dark room where no one can ever see him make a fool out of himself ever again.

“Cut me a break,” he mutters to the sky as Derek disappears round the corner, “He’s really hot.”

*

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Stiles tells Casey as he bats sand out of her hands, “You really don’t want to change that.”

Casey pouts, tries again.

“I promise you, sweetie,” Stiles replaces the sand with a bucket, “Take it from someone with experience; you won’t like it.”

Casey considers the bucket, and then throws it at Stiles, toddles away from him.

“Aw man, I thought we were friends!”

He dusts his knees off, makes his way over to where Allison’s sitting on the swings, watching some of the older kids on the slide. Of all the little treats he finds in the city, stumbling across this nursery and applying for the job they had advertised in the window has been one of the best. He loves kids; he loves their chubby hands and their genuine excitement and enthusiasm about everything. He loves how simple everything is to them, how he can light up a face just by pretending a scarf is a snake that’s come alive. Allison’s great with the kids, too. She’s sweet and patient and kind, but when there’s a tantrum she’s cool as a cucumber, handling the behavior with firm, warm discipline. Stiles really struck gold, and he’s hoping he doesn’t screw up working here, because he’d like to do it for a good long while.

“How’s it going?”

Stiles nods, slumps down next to her, “Exhausting! Running after two years olds is fun, but I could not go home with one. I wouldn’t last a day.”

Allison laughs, pats his shoulder, “You get used to it. How’s Scott? You said he started yesterday over at King’s, right?”

“Yeah! Oh man, I think we have it easy. He said one of the kids in his second period class tried to set fire to a desk, and another tried to talk him into inciting a riot.”

Allison baulks, “Oh my god, was he okay?”

“Oh yeah, we went to school with some uh, interesting characters? Scott can handle teaching teenagers better than anyone else I know. He’s got raw optimism and sunshine flowing out of his hair.”

“Well,” Allison fidgets in her pocket, pulls out a strawberry fruit loop, “Give him this from me and tell him I said to hang in there.”

Stiles rolls his eyes, “I’m not being your go between just because the two of you have gigantic crushes on each other, and won’t say anything.”

“I barely even know him,” Allison protests, “I’m just being nice.”

“Nobody shares candy with people to be nice, Allison.”

“Maybe I do.”

Stiles smirks at her, and then reluctantly, finally, she smirks back, “Fine, he’s cute, okay?”

“Hell yeah, he’s cute,” Stiles pushes his feet into the sand and takes off. “Can I tell him you said that part, too?”

Allison twists the chains of her swing, shrugs, “I guess, if he’s not seeing anyone?”

“Allison, he saw you across the parking lot on my first day and declared he wanted to marry you. I don’t think he’s looking for anyone else.”

“I’ve never met someone so hopeful,” she digs her own feet into the sand, glances at Stiles, “Is he a robot?”

Stiles laughs, “Nah, he’s way better.”

A woman appears at the fence, and Stiles vaguely recognizes her. He can’t put his finger on where from until he gets closer, and her face clears like she was trying to do the same thing—then she outright smirks. She’s the girl from the grocery store; the one that yelled at Derek about pretty smells and had the cute kid in the onesie.

“Can I help you?” Stiles attempts a business like voice, brushes his hands down.

“Hi, Laura Hale,” she sticks her hand out, and Stiles takes it. Laura’s grip is firm and just a little too tight, Stiles does his best to return it.

“Hi there, Stiles Stilinski.”

“I know,” she says easily, “My kid’s enrolled here, we checked you out.”

“Oh,” Stiles’ mouth goes dry, “There’s nothing—”

Laura laughs, “Messing with you, Stiles. Look, Joshua’s got a checkup this afternoon, and both myself and my husband have appointments. My brother’s picking Josh up, and I just wanted to clear it with you guys on my way by.”

Stiles swallows, “Your uh, your brother Derek?”

“Uh huh,” she smirks, slips on her sunglasses, “Funny that the second he heard there was a newbie here with an unusual name such as Stiles, he leaped at the opportunity.”

“From what I’ve seen he likes spending time with his nephew just fine,” Stiles says out of some sort of odd loyalty, and then mentally kicks himself.

Laura keeps grinning, though, “Tell him I said hi.”

Stiles nods, throat stuck and waves awkwardly as she turns away.

Fuck. Why the fuck did he think today would be a good day to wear a shirt with a flamingo on the front?! He thought it’d be colorful for the kids, now he’s going to look like a prize fucking idiot when Derek arrives. God, what if he arrives shirtless again? Stiles won’t cope. He’ll have to hide. He can’t be thinking dirty thoughts in front of all the children he works with. Maybe this is a test, maybe Laura’s from the FBI and checking up on weirdo’s working with kids. Oh god, he’s going to go to jail, and he hasn’t even seen Derek fully naked. He needs that mental image to get him through jail.

To his utter relief, Joshua’s in Erica’s group, and all he has to do is avoid any awkward coincidental accidents like the ones that seem to draw he and Derek together.

He spends the morning building sandcastles with Cleo that she then takes great joy in stamping all over. He’s literally just wiping sand out of his eyes, when Derek appears at the fence. Stiles lifts a hand, squints at him, and then curses his utter failings at life and stomps inside.

Allison and Derek are chatting at the desk when he makes his way out of the bathroom. Derek’s got Joshua on one hip, looking like some sort of advert for Uncle of the Year. Joshua makes a gargling noise, and Derek widens his eyes, congratulates him on it. He holds up his keys, and Stiles sees a tiny plushie wolf attached to them that Joshua immediately begins to gnaw at.

“I hope you wash that regularly,” he blurts out.

Derek twists, narrows his eyes at him, “Of course, I’d never give my nephew something dirty to play with.”

Stiles opens his mouth with an innuendo in mind, and then remembers where he is, and that Derek has a baby in his arms, and snaps it shut.

“Huh,” Allison looks between them, shakes her head grinning as she signs off on Joshua for the day.

“Oh, shut up,” Stiles huffs.

It makes him feel marginally better when he glances up and Derek’s ears are bright red. He’s very determinedly staring at a spot just over Stiles’ shoulder.

“He’s had a really good morning,” Allison informs Derek, and he snaps to attention. “I think he’s close to full words.”

Derek nods, “I’ve been reading to him, trying to get him to join in. I think he’s said momma, but Laura insists she has to be there for it to count.”

“What do you read to him?” Stiles asks, mostly out of curiosity, but also a little to get Derek to look at him again. He just… really likes Derek looking at him, okay? Sue him; it’s been a long, hot, dry summer.

“Mostly stories about dinosaurs,” Derek scratches the back of his neck with his free hand, “He likes those.”

“Yeah? I did, too,” Stiles rocks back on his heels, and slips against the chair behind him, grabs at it for support and tries to play it off as purposeful. Derek looks deeply amused watching him.

“Stiles does the best dinosaur voices,” Allison says breezily as she files away Joshua’s day card, slamming the drawer shut.

Derek’s expression goes oddly soft, and then he seems to shake himself, smirks at Stiles, “I bet.”

“Hey,” Stiles shrugs, plays it cool because he can, shut up. “The kids like ‘em.” He raises a clawed hand at Joshua, makes a growling noise, and Joshua shrieks with glee, buries his face in Derek’s neck.

“I can see that,” Derek swallows, backs towards the exit, “Laura’ll drop him off Thursday, this was just because—it was a one time—bye,” he finishes shortly, and then walks into the door.

Stiles smothers his laugh into his hand, and when Derek’s righted himself he flips Stiles off behind Joshua’s back.

Okay, universe, he’ll take that.

*

Stiles still isn’t used to travelling underground. At home, he and Scott used their bikes, or his beloved Jeep to get around. God, he misses his Jeep. He’s so busy wondering if his dad’s sold her for parts yet, that he doesn’t notice someone sit down next to him until he feels a sudden weight on his hand. He yanks it away hastily, prepares for a full on verbal assault about being an awful human being, turns to apologize and blinks at a very red Derek.

“Oh, boy,” he grins, “Someone up there’s gunning for you.”

“Shut up,” Derek huffs, fidgeting in his seat, “Sorry.”

“Hey, man,” Stiles wiggles his hand around, and is pleased to note Derek watching his fingers avidly, “No harm, no foul.”

Derek grunts, “I hate the subway. It smells awful.”

Stiles sniggers, “Your nose too precious for the common folk?”

“Something like that,” Derek cuts a glance at him, frowns, “You get in a fight with a decorator?”

“Huh? Oh,” Stiles looks down at his shirt; it’s covered in finger paint from a very cuddly toddler. “No,” he grins, “Hazards of the job.”

Derek almost laughs, Stiles counts it anyway.

“What about you, how was your day?”

“Quiet,” Derek shrugs, “The museum’s just finished an exhibition. We spent most of the afternoon doing inventory.”

Stiles files away the fact Derek works at a museum, and therefore must in some small way appreciate art, or history, and is suddenly a thousand per cent hotter for either, and twists in his seat to get more comfortable. He ends up with his chin very close to Derek’s shoulder, and pretends he’s the cool, casual sort that can handle that. “So, what’s the coolest exhibit piece you’ve ever seen?”

Derek hums, falls silent for a moment as he looks at his hands, and then grins. “David by Michaelangelo.”

“What, really? You nerd.”

“Not just for the sheer magnificence,” Derek says primly, “Though, it is a beautiful piece. But, it brought about a lot of drama.”

“A naked dude?”

“Mhm, caused an absolute riot. We got angry letters from conservatives for weeks.”

“For real?”

“Yeah, I replied to all of them with a picture of the statue.”

Stiles bursts into laughter, ignores the old lady next to him that harrumphs and shakes his head at Derek. “Seriously?”

“I believe my sister claimed it to be one of my shining moments,” Derek scratches the back of his neck, “It wasn’t very professional of me, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s just art.”

“Ahhh,” Stiles steeples his fingers together, rests his elbows on his knees and wiggles his eyebrows at Derek, “But, do we all define art in the same way?”

Derek’s mouth curves in a sly grin, and he points at Stiles’ shirt again, “I’m sure you’ve seen some masterpieces in your time.”

“Hey, your nephew did a beautiful blob this morning, Erica was very proud.”

“I bet,” Derek’s tone is dry, but his face goes soft, and Stiles squirms around, wishing he didn’t get butterflies at the sight.

“Hey, this is me,” he stands, tries not to sway into Derek’s space as the train cart slows to a stop. As if on instinct, Derek puts a hand up against Stiles’ hip and it slides under his tee for a second, making him shiver.

“Thanks,” he wrenches out, the memory of Derek’s fingers on his skin already burned into his brain. “That was good thinking.”

“Anything to save you from falling on top of me again,” Derek says lightly.

Stiles lets out a strangled laugh, wonders if he’s imagining the sudden intensity in Derek’s gaze. He backs towards the exit, “Very—very true—” he manages, stumbling off onto the platform.

Scott’s sitting in his underwear watching Danger Mouse when he lets himself in, nods a hello. Stiles grabs a bowl, fills it with candy poppers and collapses next to him.

“Yo.”

“’S’up man? Good day?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says brightly, because it was before he saw Derek, shut up, he doesn’t feel tingly and good just because of one tiny interaction. “It was fine,” he continues, shutting his brain off, “You?”

“Mmm, I called Allison to thank her for the good luck candy, and she agreed to go on a date with me at the weekend.”

“Dude!” Stiles claps him on the knee, “I can’t believe you didn’t lead with that the second I got in the door.”

“You had a dreamy face on, I wasn’t sure if you’d hear it,” Scott grins at him, Stiles punches him in the arm.

“Shut up, it’s no worse than yours.”

“She’s gonna come over for dinner.”

“Oh, man, are you gonna sexile me?”

Scott stares at him in horror, “On the first date? What would she think of me? No!”

“Scotty, it’s not about when, it’s about what feels right,” Stiles clutches his heart, “When the lights are low and the music’s soft and—”

Scott clambers across the couch and jumps on top of him, “I hate you!”

“No, Scott not my nads, ahh shit!”

*

Back home Stiles had a favorite coffee shop. The girl behind the counter was cute and always drew a smiley face under his name. The coffee was bold and delicious and sometimes so strong it made his eyes sting. It wasn’t always good for him, but damn it was worth the shakes.

He misses it wretchedly. Starbucks just isn’t the same. The guy behind the counter doesn’t care about his name, corrects Stiles when he says regular—does he mean grande? Yes of course he fucking does—and there’s always a queue out the door.

This means, of course, once Stiles has his precious coffee clutched tightly to his chest, he tries to make a quick getaway. He can pretend it was from Shay’s on the corner, and overlook the green logo and his misspelt name. It also means that as someone opens the door, and Stiles is glaring at his stupid incorrectly spelt name, he doesn’t see them. Instead, he barges right into them, and feels burning hot coffee sliding down his front.

“Fuck!”

The entire store spins to look at him as he drops his cup, swearing profusely. He ignores them in favor of ripping off his sweater, and turning to glare at whoever’s just cost him three ninety five and a fucking pricey dry cleaning bill.

It’s Derek. Of course it’s Derek. Derek, who is, however, staring at the hollow of his throat and takes a moment to blink and look up at Stiles, sheepish as hell.

“I’m sorry,” he says curtly. “I can buy you another one.”

“Can you buy me more skin, too?” Stiles wafts his t-shirt away from his piping hot skin, hisses through his teeth.

Derek ducks away from him, and who the hell wouldn’t? Stiles is dripping coffee across the floor, and his skin is bright red. He probably looks like an enormous moron.

“Here,” Derek thrusts several soaked napkins at him.

“Oh,” Stiles takes them, shoves them down his front gratefully, “Good thinking, thanks.”

Derek takes his arm gently, ushers him towards the window seats, and Stiles collapses in one, wincing.

“Small neighborhood,” he sighs finally, gesturing between Derek and himself.

“Or, you’re stalking me,” Derek says smoothly, arching an eyebrow at him.

“What?! I was here first! Technically, I should be thinking you’re stalking me, sitting on my hand, slamming doors into me, I see your game. You’re trying to convince me you’re all awkward and flustered by me, so that I’ll be charmed by your lack of pretentiousness in a city filled with assholes, and fall in love with you.”

Derek hums, laces his hands together and leans across the table, “I could be doing that, or I could just be an asshole that doesn’t look where he’s going because he expects everyone around him to move for him.”

“That… doesn’t make you sound very nice.”

“You’re right,” Derek sits back with a grin, “You should probably chalk it up to me stalking you.”

Stiles points at him, “And convincing me of your endearing qualities—using the baby against me was a neat trick—I’ve got your number, dude.”

Derek arches an eyebrow, “You haven’t, actually.”

Hypothetically,” Stiles says slowly. Derek looks surprised, and then genuinely flustered, and Stiles realizes that was maybe Derek implying Stiles should ask for his number. “Uh.”

“Derek!” A girl at the counter waves a cup towards them, “You need me to bring it over to you, your highness?”

Derek leaps up and says something to her, pointing back at Stiles and they both turn to look at him. Stiles holds up a hand, and the girl looks down at his coffee stained shirt, before rolling her eyes at Derek and saying “Loser,” loud enough for Stiles to hear. Derek’s whole face flushes, and he sidles back over to the table looking mortified.

“Are you—are baristas allowed to talk to customers like that in New York?” Stiles asks a little non-plussed, “Because there’s banter, and then there’s… whatever that was.”

“That’s my sister, Cora,” Derek’s staring determinedly at his hands, “And, I really need to find a new coffee shop.”

“I like her,” Stiles says brightly, “She was clearly on my side about who bumped into who, and—” he jumps up when Cora waves another cup over the side, “She made me a new coffee! I like you,” he tells Cora.

“Fantastic,” Cora deadpans, “I think my brother would get jealous if you weren’t exuding obvious come fuck me vibes all over him.”

Stiles baulks, glances surreptitiously back at Derek, who’s staring down at his phone, “Uh, shush? And you don’t know me, don’t assume things!”

Cora rolls her eyes, taps her nose, “I don’t need to know you, besides he likes you, too.” She beckons Stiles closer, and when he leans forward grabs hold of his ear.

“Ahhh! Oh my god, what the hell is this place?!”

“Cora,” Derek stands, starts to come over.

“Hurt him and they’ll never find your body,” she whispers.

“Cora,” Derek snaps, “For god’s sake!”

Cora lets go of Stiles’ ear, beams sweetly at them both, “Have a nice day.” She turns away without another word, and Stiles rubs his ear, glaring after her.

“Your family is very strong, and very scary,” he sighs out.

Derek looks abashed, “I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, no, it’s cool,” Stiles grabs his coffee, “If my dad were here he’d be patting his gun. Not that he would think you were threatening,” he adds hastily, “Or, that you were gonna.. be dating me… I’m going to leave now,” he finishes weakly, “Thanks for the coffee—and the napkins… Oh god,” he mumbles, heading for the door without looking back.

The only plus is that Derek is apparently just as good at getting himself into embarrassing situations as Stiles. Maybe they are made for each other. Or, Stiles brings it out in him and he never wants to cross paths with Stiles again.

Fifty fifty.

*

“So, you keep running into a hot guy, and you think the universe is telling you to bang  him?”

“Yep,” Stiles catches the Frisbee Scott tosses him throws it back.

Scott shakes his head dubiously, “Isn’t literally running into him a sign you should like, be more careful?”

“Nope, I need to get laid, Scotty, and this guy… oh man, he totally looks like he’d go all night. And like, be really intimidatingly on it, too. He’d not stop until he’d made me come like five times and then—”

“Okay, I get it,” Scott holds up a hand, scrunches up his nose, “Five times?”

Stiles shrugs, “I think he’d have stamina.”

“Congratulations?”

“I haven’t done anything, yet,” Stiles groans, throws himself on the grass, “I think he’s hot, but you know, that’s it?”

Scott flops down beside him, “Yeah, but you think you connected, right?”

Stiles snorts, “No, Yes. Maybe, we’re not you and Allison.” They’ve been on three dates, Stiles has been witness to the beginnings of two of them; they were cute, bashful, a match made in heaven. Stiles would put money on Scott proposing before the end of the year. It’s mid-September, he knows Scott well enough to bet on his friend having found the one.

“Then, what is it about him?”

“I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it, I just… he seems interesting. He’s awkward, but he pretends not to be, he’s hot, but he seems like he’d punch you in the face if you told him so. And, he’s got the most adorable baby nephew, dude. Like, oh my god, so cute.”

“Making you broody?” Scott teases.

Stiles sits up and throws the Frisbee at his head. It misses and bounces on the grass, flies towards the baseball pitch.

“Fuck,” he groans, clambers up and twists to yell to Scott, “This counts as jogging, right?”

“Nope!”

He whips the Frisbee up, glancing at the game, and stops short at the sight of someone becoming eerily familiar at the batting spot.

Derek taps the earth with his bat, face steely with concentration, and Stiles watches in awe as the pitcher hurls a great shot and Derek hits the ball with a resounding crack, sending it flying through the air.

A tall, lithe guy goes racing after it and Derek walks at a glacial pace towards first base. The pitcher scowls and puts his hands on his hips.

“Quit mocking us, Hale.”

Derek shrugs, puts his hands in his pockets and starts whistling as he continues walking. Stiles must make a noise, or do something to accidentally draw attention to himself, because Derek snaps his head over to where he’s standing. Stiles clutches the Frisbee tighter, juts his chin at him.

“Hey,” he calls out.

To his surprise, Derek abandons the game and jogs towards him. Oh, fuck Stiles, he’s got grass stains on his knees, how the fuck was he supposed to know that was an attractive thing? He silently reprimands his dick, promises if they get out of here alive he’ll make it up later. It’ll be an easy feat if he thinks about Derek in a vest and basketball shorts, fucking radiating hotness in the fall sun.

“Stiles,” he greets easily, nods at the Frisbee, “Sports?”

“Scott and I have got it down to a fine art, dude,” Stiles sniffs.

In the background, someone yells for Derek, and then Erica’s jogging over, beaming at Stiles. Outside of work she looks just as gorgeous as ever, long blonde hair swept up in a bouncy ponytail, and an oversized police academy t-shirt.

“Stiles! You’re outside?”

“Oh, ha ha, sometimes I do that, you know.”

“Couldn’t tell,” she grins, drapes an arm over Derek’s shoulders as she smirks at him.

Stiles feels a little like someone’s punched him in the gut with the easy way Erica’s touching Derek. It’s familiar, casual, intimate. He wonders morosely if the t-shirt’s Derek’s. He moves to go, trying not to look too uncomfortable.

“Anyway, I gotta jet—”

Derek’s frowning at him, confusion written all over his face, and Stiles jerks his thumb over his shoulder towards where Scott’s still lying down.

“You guys should join us,” Erica says easily, “I know you love baseball, if only watching it mostly,” she adds teasingly.

Stiles manages a strangled laugh, “You know me.”

“I’ll get Scott,” she says brightly, racing off towards Scott.

“No, you know, he doesn’t really play team sports—”

“It’s okay if you don’t want to join us,” Derek says shortly.

“No, thanks, we’d uh, look, I just don’t wanna intrude if you’re on like, date afternoon?”

Derek snorts, juts his elbow at Erica and then in at himself, shaking his head. “She’s dating a friend of mine.”

“Oh,” Stiles bites his bottom lip, “Cool.”

“Uh huh,” Derek arches an eyebrow at him, “You want in, or not?”

“I dunno,” Stiles considers him for a moment, smirks a little, “Depends if you think you can handle it?”

Derek’s eyes go dark and he takes a step closer to Stiles. Stiles lets him invade his personal space, hopes he’s going to invade it right up against a tree.

“Bring it on,” Derek says quietly. Stiles holds his gaze, can feel Derek’s breath on his face, wants to reach up and get a fist in his hair and—

“Hale!” Laura yells from the embankment, and Derek jerks away as if he’d forgotten they had company. Laura waves Joshua in the air as the man beside her Stiles vaguely recognizes from pick up as her husband starts to stand. “You gonna let Josh play?”

“Sure,” Derek steps away from Stiles, still looking at him, “He can be on Stiles’ team. He’s gonna need all the help he can get.”

“Oof,” Stiles clutches his chest, “Insulting my game? You ain’t seen nothing yet, Hale.”

“I certainly hope not,” Derek flashes a grin at him, “I’d hate to think I overestimated you.”

Stiles chokes on a laugh, shakes his head, “Oh, you’re going down.”

“Maybe later,” Derek says briskly, turning away in time to miss Stiles swallow his tongue.

Even playing with Josh on his hip, Derek is running circles round their team. Stiles and Scott play games for fun; Derek plays like he’s got a personal vendetta against losing.

“Wow,” Stiles collapses on the grass next to Laura, and she beams at him. “Your brother is a machine.”

As if to emphasize his point, Derek leaps up to catch a ball Scott’s hit and grins non apologetically across at Scott. Scott rolls his eyes, passes his bat to Erica.

“He’s awful,” she says loudly, “Far too competitive for his own good.”

From across the field Derek flips her off, and Stiles is impressed with his hearing ability.

“For a guy with such little, cute ears, he sure can hear well.”

Derek seems to freeze in place, and then rubs a hand across one of his ears, moving to stand behind Erica as Laura laughs.

“You’d be amazed,” she says, patting his hand. “Hey, you wanna hold Josh? I need to pee and taking him is just—” she waves the baby at Stiles and he sits up excitedly.

“Yeah? He’s so cute, Laura, honestly, I know we’re not supposed to have favorites but I wish he was in my group.”

Joshua beams at him, grabs his nose, and Laura laughs again, “He likes you.”

Joshua’s eyes seem to glow in the sun, and Stiles stares at him, mesmerized. “The feeling’s mutual.”

He and Joshua roll around on the grass for a while, and he graciously allows the baby to put daisies down his shirt until Derek comes over to join them.

“You’ve made a friend,” he says drily.

“Ha! Yeah, he likes me more than he likes you.”

“Nonsense,” Derek picks Joshua up, throws him gently up into the air and he shrieks in delight. Stiles feels his stomach flip at the look on Derek’s face, scratches his nose and avoids staring.

“You finish playing?”

“Mmm, I think your friend Scott’s in danger of punching Jackson,” Derek nods over to where the two of them are glowering at each other, “Thought we’d wrap it up.”

“Just in time for you to win,” Stiles says sardonically, “How convenient.”

“Shut up,” Derek elbows him, and Stiles squawks, bats his arm away.

“Dude! I bruise like a peach, watch it.”

Derek swallows, eyes on his neck for a split second before he looks back at Joshua, “So,” he clears his throat, “You enjoying the city, yet?”

“I never disliked the city,” Stiles corrects, “The city had it out for me.”

“Maybe it was just ensuring you behave yourself,” Derek teases.

Stiles shoves the arm he’s not holding Joshua with, “Ass! I am an angel, thank you very much.”

Derek scoffs, and Stiles grabs a handful of grass, shoves it down the back of his shirt.

“Ah, Stiles!”

“What?” Stiles blinks at him innocently, “It was Joshua.”

“Blaming the infant? How angelic of you.”

“’S’what I’m having kids for,” Stiles grins, hunches up his shoulders, “Blame it all on them.”

“Poor things,” Derek says soberly.

“I’m kidding, god. When I have kids I’ma teach them all my tricks,” Stiles rolls onto his front, watches Joshua tug on Derek’s fingers, “We can be a team.”

Derek looks over at him for a long moment, nods slowly, and Stiles feels his heartbeat ratchet up for no reason more than the way Derek’s gazing at him. God, he’s such a loser.

“Anyway,” he looks away, waves at Scott who’s trying to get Erica to show him how she bats with such power. “I highly doubt I’m going to find anyone I want to procreate with if all I end up doing is spilling hot coffee all over myself, and throwing condoms all over the street.”

Derek laughs, “You wouldn’t need those if you were having a baby, anyway.”

“I dunno,” Stiles shrugs again, “It’d be possible I’d not be a biological dad, I might still need them. I’m bi,” he adds when Derek raises a quizzical eyebrow.

Joshua grabs the hem of Derek’s vest, tugs at it until he can chew on the cotton, and Stiles laughs at the look on Derek’s face.

“You want kids?”

“Maybe,” Derek says thoughtfully, “If I found someone—if it was with someone like—” he clears his throat, lifts both his eyebrows at Joshua, “If they promised not to eat my clothes.”

Stiles grins, hides his face for a moment at the sheer fucking adorable way Joshua and Derek are looking at each other. Slowly, Joshua puts Derek’s vest back in his mouth, Derek sighs and shakes his head at him.

“It won’t taste good.”

“Debatable,” Stiles points at him, “He might dig sweaty gross sports gear.”

Derek narrows his eyes at him, “You callin’ me gross?”

“I would never.”

You’re gross,” Derek retorts.

“You’re sweaty,” Stiles replies blithely.

“You look ridiculous,” Derek jabs at a grass stain on Stiles’ cheek, “And, you smile too much.”

“I smile too much? How is that an insult?”

“It’s disturbing.”

“Ha! Disturbing because you’re enticed by it,” Stiles claims gleefully, “You’re drawn to me.”

“I can’t seem to help myself,” Derek says, eyes on Stiles’ mouth for a moment before he flicks them up to meet Stiles’ gaze.

“You—” Stiles pauses, suddenly aware they’re no longer playing childish eight year old insult games. “Yeah, I get that,” he focuses on digging his fingers into the grass, bites his lip.

“Stiles—” Derek begins, and Stiles holds his breath, looks up at him. Joshua takes the silence as permission to start howling, and Laura appears at the top of the embankment.

“Baby! Don’t worry, mama’s back!” She jogs down to them, looks between them and shakes her head, “Oh my.”

Derek rolls his eyes, hands the baby off and holds out a hand to Stiles, “We play every week if you want to drop by again.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says faintly, not wanting to let go of Derek’s hand as he stands up. Scott bounces over, Stiles lets go, watches Derek help Laura load their stuff together wistfully. “See you around?”

Derek nods jerkily, gives him an inch of a smile, and then they’re heading up the bank. Erica prods Stiles in the back as she passes, “See you at work, lovah boy.”

“Shut up,” he huffs.

“Lover boy?” Scott frowns, “Oh my god, Derek is the guy the universe wants you to bang?”

From the top of the hill, Stiles can see Derek pull up short, twist to look over his shoulder at Stiles, his face unreadable, and Stiles groans, looks away.

“Scott!”

“What?”

Stiles shakes his head, turns away, kicking at grass, “Now, the universe has declared it time to move on.”

“No way,” Scott follows him, nudges him in the side, “He didn’t stop looking at you all the time we were playing, dude. I’m pretty sure that Jackson guy wanted to brain you for distracting him.”

Stiles gives his friend a hopeful smile, “Yeah? Maybe.”

Scott throws an arm over his shoulders, “What we need to do, is take Lydia up on her offer for a night on the town, Martin style. Maybe the universe will introduce you to someone better than Derek. ”

“He sent nude pictures to people complaining about the David statue being an abomination, dude, they don’t come better than that.”

Scott scrunches up his face, “Of himself?”

“No!”

*

“Here,” Lydia waves another shot at Stiles. “Maybe it’ll make you less awkward.”

“Awkward works for me,” he argues over the thump of the bar’s music, “It’s my niche.”

“At least you have self-belief,” she says fondly, patting his cheek. They’re technically out with both Lydia and Danny. Danny, however, is currently being chatted up by three different guys and keeps waving his drink at Stiles like that includes him. Stiles is a little envious, really. At this point he’s ready to get drunk, chat up the guy that most closely resembles a hot, sarcastic, huffy jogger he knows and try not to call them Derek if they make it home.

Stiles narrows his eyes at her, throws his shot back, and elbows someone in the shoulder. Stiles flinches as the guy turns round; he’s built like a fucking tree. His face is somber, and when he looks down at Stiles, Stiles gulps audibly.

“I’m sorry!” He waves around himself, trying not to knock anyone else, “These crowds, man.”

Someone jostles him, he stumbles forward and the guy moves out of the way—bastard!—just in time for Stiles to land half in someone’s lap. There’s familiar scruff as he looks up, a familiar nose, and those stupid eyes and those fucking ridiculous eyebrows. Of course it’s Derek. Why the fuck wouldn’t it be Derek he accidentally gives a half assed lap dance to? He told the universe he wanted to climb Derek like a tree—this is what the universe gives him.

His motherfucking ass on a plate.

Derek seems taken aback by Stiles in his lap, but the hand not holding his beer out of the way curls around Stiles’ arm, helps him stand.

“Thanks,” he nods, jerks away to point at the other guy, “Good to know someone’s got a stranger’s back in here.”

The other guy gives him a shit eating grin, and his teeth are scarily white. In fact, as Stiles looks between Derek and his friend, he suddenly feels a little like prey.

“You spilt my drink,” the guy gestures to his shirt, where there is indeed a stain, and Stiles pulls a face.

“Ouch, dude, sorry.”

“So, it’s not just me you call dude?” Derek tips his head slightly to the side, widens his eyes at Stiles, “I’m hurt.”

“Oh,” Stiles presses a hand to his chest, points at Derek, “Don’t worry, you were special.”

Derek smirks, and his friend looks between them.

“You know each other?”

“Oh yeah, Derek and I are old friends,” Stiles winks at Derek, claps a hand to his friend’s shoulder, “Lemme buy you another drink—?”

“Boyd,” the guy fills in.

“What were you drinking?”

“Champagne.”

Stiles stares at him in horror, he can’t afford that, “What, the good stuff?”

“Nah,” Boyd grins, “Just a beer.”

“Wow,” Stiles bobs his head slowly, shoots Derek an innocent look, “I never pictured you as the type to have funny friends.”

Derek smiles, wide and devastating, Stiles is pretty sure his whole stomach lurches with it.  “How did you picture me?”

“You wouldn’t like the details,” Stiles says casually, glancing at his hand before flicking his gaze back to Derek and holding it.

Derek lifts his eyebrows, downs his beer and places it carefully on the bar as he stands. “I think I’d like to hear them.”

Stiles can’t tell if he’s being Punk’d, or if Derek just implied he wants to go home with him. He’s normally the master at reading between the lines, but with Derek it feels complicated; like there’s stuff he isn’t sharing, but he wants to. Stiles wants to know him, he realizes. He doesn’t just want to go home with Derek and fuck around, write it off as the universe claiming Stiles needs to get laid quick and easy. He wants to know what Derek eats for breakfast, and what paper he reads, if he sleeps on the left side, or the right. Fuck, he really wants complicated and feelings with Derek.

Derek glances at Boyd, and Boyd rolls his eyes, holds up his hands muttering something about being safe that makes the predatory look on Derek’s face vanish for a moment, and he ducks his head, elbows his friend.

“Rain check on the beer,” Boyd says to Stiles easily, clapping him on the shoulder and disappearing. Stiles nods, doesn’t take his eyes off Derek. He can feel his heart thundering in his chest as Derek’s lips twitch in a tiny smile. He thinks it’s going to be okay, he can do it, he can say something and Derek’s not going to laugh.

“Derek, I really want—”

“Stiles,” Danny appears, glances between them, “Woah, where did you find this one?” He points at Derek, grins fuzzily at Stiles, and then throws up all over Stiles’ shoes.

Stiles grimaces, glances up at Derek. “I’m really sorry.”

Derek grabs napkins off the bar, hands them to Stiles, “You need a hand?”

“No, really,” Stiles swallows, goes for broke, “I actually want both, at some point, among other things.”

Derek stills, blinks at Stiles slowly, “I need to talk to you,” he says in lieu of a response.

Stiles’ stomach sinks, “Oh, okay, uh—”

“There’s two of you, oh god, it’s like my birthday all over again,” Danny groans, waves a hand at Derek, “Make him stop being so attractive, Stiles.”

“I really,” Stiles licks his lips, laughs at the crappiness of his life, “Really can’t,” he sighs, hoisting Danny up and towards the exit.

Scott joins them outside, abandoning the bar because he is a true bro, and helps him get Danny into a cab. He listens to Stiles’ recap of the conversation with Derek, and frowns.

“I dunno, dude, it sounds like he’s into you.”

“Yeah, but talk to me. He’s done that, he knows what I’m like—he has to know, Scotty. Why would he just… change his mind?”

Scott rubs a hand over his jaw, shrugs, “He’s weird?”

“Good weird, though,” Stiles sighs and stares out at the rain on the window of the cab, “Really good weird.”

Scott pats his arm.

Danny passes out on the couch, and Stiles and Scott eat cold take out before Scott turns in, and Stiles uses Danny’s back as a prop for his legs as he watches ESPN.

The buzzer goes at two, waking him from a fitful doze, and he groans when he glances at his phone.

“Dude,” he groans into the intercom, “If you’re looking for weed it’s two down from here.”

“I’m not looking for dope, Stiles, or at least that kind of dope, you on the other hand,” Derek’s voice huffs through the speaker, and Stiles almost jumps out of his skin.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Getting wet,” Derek sighs, and Stiles bites his tongue because damn, yeah, that’s uh—a good thing to hear being said by Derek. He can keep it for the spank bank once Derek has inevitably broken his heart. “Can you let me up?”

“How did you—” Stiles glances at Danny, snoring on the couch, shoves his feet into sneakers, “Hold on, I’ll come down.”

He does some deep breathing on the stairs, reminds himself if he cries, it’ll be over more quickly, but be worse for his dignity, and that he should at least wait until he’s alone with a comatose Danny. When he swings back the front door, he sort of wants to weep regardless, because Derek’s thin shirt is soaked through, and his hair is flattened to his forehead, but he still looks like the hottest, surliest person Stiles has ever met.

“What are you doing here?” He asks incredulously, waving his arms around, “I’m beginning to worry about the stalker joke being a reality, dude, and honestly, it’s not my kind of scene. I’m too young to be on the news.”

Derek rolls his eyes, “Laura may have convinced Erica to give me your address.”

Stiles’ eyes widen, “Nine times of illegal, dude!”

Derek’s jaw clenches, “I know, I can explain,” and then he’s stepping into Stiles’ space, “Look.”

Stiles swallows, takes a minimal step back.

“I—” Derek winces, and Stiles tries not to shudder when he exhales sharply, and his breath is warm on Stiles’ face. “I’m not very good at—” he waves a hand between them, “This.”

“So, there is a this? The universe isn’t fucking with me?”

“No,” Derek rolls his eyes again, “Look, maybe the universe wants us to keep running into each other in the most mortifying fashions, but, I don’t really give a shit about fate and all that kind of thing. Stiles, I don’t want to rely on chance, I want to—” he pauses, and Stiles is pretty sure his heart is going to hammer out of his chest with how intense this is.

“You want—?”

Derek huffs, “You’re such a little shit, you know what I want.”

“Then get it, dude, I’m right here—”

“I really hate it when you call me that,” Derek cuts in, before putting a damp hand on Stiles’ face and winding the other around his waist and kissing him. Stiles tries to point out he calls everyone dude, that it’s just his way of showing affection, but he’s distracted by Derek’s lips, cold but firm and warming against his own. He’s slightly diverted by Derek’s thumb stroking slow circles just under his jaw, him pressing into Stiles until he falls against the door, clutches Derek tightly to him. Derek groans slightly, nipping at Stiles’ lower lip and he makes a noise of encouragement, opens up to Derek as he slips his tongue against Stiles’. He clenches his hands against Derek’s back, slides one up to fist it in Derek’s hair and tilt his head to get a better angle, dragging his bottom lip between Derek’s own lazily and then pulling away, blinking dazedly.

“Was that—” he clears his throat, “Was that the talk?”

“No,” Derek says shakily, flexing his fingers where they’ve settled on Stiles’ hips. “I don’t want to scare you.”

Stiles smiles, and Derek can’t seem to help himself as he leans forward and kisses the corner of his mouth.

“I hate to break it to you, dude, but, you’re not as scary as you think you are. Your sister is a hell of a lot more frightening.”

Derek scowls, his grip tightening, “Don’t talk about my sister, right now.”

“Okay,” Stiles says breathlessly, trying not to arch into Derek as he leans closer, presses their chests together. “Are you gonna get to your point?”

“Stiles,” Derek ducks down and licks a stripe up his neck, making Stiles hiss, cat into him without thought. “I’m not who you think I am.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles pulls back, “Are you Batman? Like, are you serious with this? You’re so dramatic, I can’t even—”

“I’m a werewolf,” Derek interrupts.

“Oh,” Stiles tilts his head to one side, pulls a face, “Really?”

Derek leans away from him, lets go of his waist, “You’re not—surprised?”

“Scott’s been a werewolf since we were sixteen,” Stiles snaps his fingers, “Oh my god, that day in the grocery store, dude, was the pretty smell me?!

Derek scowls, looks up at the sky.

“Oh my god, it was! I smell good to you, I do! I knew it!”

Derek takes another step back and Stiles launches himself at him, throws his arms around his neck and kisses him hard and fast. Derek punches out a noise, but catches him easily, steadies them until they’re standing in the rain, kissing, like every cliché Stiles has ever heard about New York and romance.

“Yes,” Derek admits finally, “Yes, you smell good, and yes, I’m a werewolf, and your friend Scott is excellent at masking his scent.”

Stiles shrugs, “We worked on it all through high school, I was his Yoda. He’s actually really good at team sports, he’s just ever sure about playing with other people.”

“Stiles.”

“Mmm?”

“Stop talking about Scott.”

Stiles grins at him, takes in the crinkles around Derek’s eyes, the rain drops clinging to his eyelashes, the slight reluctant smile even as he’s trying to look cross.

“I’m totally gonna owe the universe for this somehow, but, I’m cool with it.”

“You’re cool?” Derek widens his eyes, “I had no idea.”

“Ha, you fell for it.”

“I did,” Derek tugs him closer, steps towards the front door, “You got towels upstairs?”

“I have lots of things upstairs,” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows, “Wanna stay over?”

“Yes,” Derek says firmly.

“Just sleeping,” Stiles warns, “I live with Scott.” Derek flashes a grin at him, and Stiles rolls his eyes, “I should have known you’d be competitive about everything. Learn to share.”

“I have two very bossy, demanding sisters,” Derek slides his hand down to twine his fingers through Stiles’, “I think I can deal with Scott.”

*

Scott bursts into Stiles’ bedroom in the morning, demanding to know why he can smell Derek Hale everywhere, and then groans and covers his eyes. To his credit, he doesn’t freak out half as much as Stiles, who was just getting reacquainted with Derek’s mouth. Derek looks irritatingly pleased with himself, rolls Stiles across the bed and Stiles pinches him until he stops looking so smug.

He’d discovered over the hours they lay awake, running easy hands all over each other, getting used to one another’s skin, that Derek had a tattoo on his back. Stiles had very much been looking forward to tracing it with his tongue, seeing the affect it would have on Derek. He wants to know if Derek’s just as intense in the bedroom as he is everywhere else. He wants Derek’s total, fierce, competitive nature entirely focused on making Stiles come. He wants to see if he can make Derek breathless.

He’d not said anything about he and Derek not fooling around in the morning, all bets are off when the sun is up, and Derek’s face is doing awesome, beautiful things at Stiles across the pillows.

Scott sighs and backs out of the room, informing them he’ll meet them later for food, and dragging Danny with him. 

Stiles doesn’t call Derek dude once the entire time he’s blowing Stiles, but he does discover Derek likes it when he says his actual name, and pulls his hair. Stiles pretty much likes anything Derek does.

Laura meets them for brunch, sips her tea and smiles knowingly at them both. Stiles keeps Derek close, leans into his hand where it’s resting against his lower back, and plays with Joshua.

“You literally are raised by wolves,” he shakes his head, “I can’t believe I didn’t clue in when I saw that shirt.”

“You’re pretty but you’re so slow,” Cora teases, bringing over a coffee for Stiles and explaining it’s just in case Derek gets the urge to throw himself into Stiles again—it’s for everyone’s safety. Derek flushes adorably, and hides his face in Stiles’ neck, mostly to reacquaint himself with a sizeable bruise he left there earlier. Stiles grins at everyone, at Joshua, at his best friend grabbing a Danish and waving to Allison as she comes in through the door, at Derek; awkward, embarrassing, brilliant, all Stiles’  Derek.