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Derek met him on a Wednesday night.

It was his first night at this new location working night construction, and he knew the neighborhood had a little bit of a bad reputation. Laura had warned him not to get into any serious fights if he was mugged, but neither of them were too worried about his ability to handle himself. Being a werewolf had its perks after all.

Unwilling to park his Camaro on the street for hours on end in this neighborhood, Derek didn’t have many travelling options after getting off work at two-thirty in the morning and he was eager to get home. He was hoping to catch a taxi, but he had no idea where the taxi stand was in this area or which streets would have the most taxis going by at this time of the night. He had wandered a couple blocks down when he noticed a few people milling about at a street corner. It looked promising, so he headed towards them.

The small group of people were standing near a signpost that had a sign so badly damaged by weather and graffiti, it wasn’t legible anymore, but Derek assumed it was a taxi stand. A very tall woman with curly blonde hair and admirably strong thighs gave him a once-over. Her eyes lingered on his bare shoulders — he was in a white tank top — and she raised her eyebrows. She turned away slightly, glaring at him from the corner of her eyes. Derek wasn’t used to getting such a hostile reaction, but he just ignored it. Taxis must be hard to come by around here, and she must be cold, waiting at this corner in such a short dress. There were two other guys waiting there as well, and he received the same unfriendly look as he walked up to them. They probably just came from a club since they were wearing an unusual amount of tight mesh and black leather. Derek positioned himself so that he was waiting to the side, willing to let the others get their taxis first since he had arrived later.

He was just staring into space, leaning against the signpost, when his ears alerted him to the approach of shuffling footsteps. He turned his head slightly to look at a figure that was walking with deliberate care, obviously trying to keep to a straight line and not really succeeding. Just another drunk on the streets. Derek was prepared to ignore him when the figure drew closer. He couldn’t help the way his gaze wandered over the long legs clad in jeans, drawing up to the red hoodie that hugged broad, sturdy shoulders. Derek’s eyes lingered on the face that topped it all off.

The guy’s cheeks were flushed either from alcohol or the brisk night air. His parted lips were unreal, with the most perfectly formed cupid bow for an upper lip. Derek looked into wide, round eyes, a light brown that caught the street light in an almost amber glow. His eyes and coltish limbs reminded Derek of a baby deer. Which was not the most appropriate thought since Derek also found him kind of attractive.

“Um,” the guy came to a stumbling stop a few feet away from him and stared, eyes dropping to Derek’s shoulders and arms before snapping up again.

Maybe he was lost.

Derek raised his eyebrows. “Can I help you?”

The strange guy flailed, as if suddenly flustered, eyes darting around at the other people waiting at the street corner. “No! I mean, not that it’s bad or anything, but uh, no. No, thanks, uh—”

The guy tripped over nothing with his arms waving around, pitching towards the pavement. Derek stepped forward quickly and caught him around the waist. The heavy smell of alcohol filled Derek’s nose. Definitely drunk.

“Yeah, you don’t need help,” Derek said wryly.

Bambi’s lookalike straightened, glaring at Derek. “I don’t. I’m fine.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m not fine.”

Touché. “As long as you’re not driving.”

Bambi gave him an odd look. “I’m not. I’m really, really not. My dad would kill me. He would kill me so bad, it’s not even funny. God, what am I even saying. I’m so drunk.”

The sounds of a guy getting a blowjob in a nearby alley started up, loud enough for Derek to almost miss part of the ramble. What the hell, couldn’t they have waited until they got home? Derek tried to ignore that and focused on Bambi instead. He was starting to list, so Derek nudged him in the shoulder so that he leaned against the signpost instead. Bambi rubbed his flushed face with his big, wide hands.

“So, so drunk,” he muttered. “This is all Boyd’s fault. He totally– it’s totally all his fault. And then he just sent me home, just like that! Even though I’m completely wasted.”

Derek made a non-committal grunting sound.

Bambi seemed to take it as agreement. “I guess it’s alright to be wasted. I just turned twenty-one, you know. Celebrate the end of all my illegal drinking! And Boyd works night at this bar. So…”

“Lots of free drinks,” Derek summarized.

“Oh my God, so many shots. So very many many many shots,” the guy said with dazed awe.

Derek smiled. “You said many thrice.”

“The better to emphasize it,” Bambi said solemnly.

There was a moment of silence between them, oddly comfortable as they just stared at each other. It took a moment for Derek to realize that the other people at the street corner were now glaring at them. Thinking about it, he wondered if it was safe for Bambi to find his own way home.

“Where do you live?” Derek asked. Bambi blinked at him, before his eyes widened and he pushed himself off the signpost. “Oh no, this isn’t what you think it is. I just needed a moment. Sorry, I didn’t mean to hang around here, and shit, I totally wasted your time.”

Now it was Derek’s turn to blink at him in mild confusion. “I don’t mind.”

“That’s… Thanks, dude. But I’m good anyway. I should go now,” Bambi said, taking a step back before turning around. He looked over his shoulder a few times as he walked away, stumbling as his eyes met with Derek’s every time he looked back.

Derek watched him go with some regret, wishing he had gotten the guy’s name, maybe his phone number. But he had always been terrible at flirting, especially when he was serious about someone. He could put on vacant, wide smiles that many seemed to find attractive, but going beyond that had always been a struggle for him. It was probably better that he hadn’t attempted to inflict his brand of flirting on this attractive stranger.

He leaned against the signpost to brood in silence over lost opportunities.

Twenty minutes later, he finally abandoned his waiting spot. He had to walk three blocks before he was able to flag down a taxi. The other people were pretty patient; they had still been waiting at the street corner when he left.

# # # # # # # # # #

Derek was back at the street corner again two days later, even though he hadn’t had much luck with the taxi stand. He thought that the guys there were the same people he saw from before, but he couldn’t be sure because he hadn’t looked at them closely. They didn’t glare as much as yesterday in any case.

It was a little absurd, but Derek wasn’t so much waiting for a taxi as he was waiting for… Bambi. He did need a taxi, but he was hoping that while he was waiting, maybe Bambi would come on by. Derek had tried to stay away, he really did, and to stop thinking about Bambi’s expressive hands and pink lips, to stop obsessing about that quick wit displayed even when so drunk. But he hadn’t been very successful. He couldn’t believe that someone he'd just met was so quickly taking over his thoughts. He had even jogged all the way home last night instead of trying to catch a taxi, trying to clear his mind of Bambi’s voice and curious eyes. But the one-hour jog had only gotten his adrenaline going, which made his thoughts take a distinctly more intimate tone that he only managed to purge with a hand down his open jeans. He felt like an out-of-control teen again. 

So here he was once more. It was ridiculous, because what were the chances that Bambi would be walking by here again? He was out celebrating his birthday on Monday, so he probably wouldn’t be at the bar again so soon after. It wasn’t likely Bambi would walk by, which was fine, totally fine. Derek was mostly waiting for the taxi anyway. If he met Bambi again, it would just be a nice coincidence.

He didn’t lie any better in his head.

To his surprise, Bambi walked up fifteen minutes later. It was strange not knowing his real name when he was front and center of Derek’s thoughts over the last two days. At least it wasn’t too hard to think of him as Bambi. The nickname appealed to Derek’s wolf side.

“Hi,” Bambi said as he came up, waving awkwardly. This time, Bambi was wearing a black jacket that fit him rather well, emphasizing his narrow torso. He didn’t look surprised to see Derek. “So… This your usual spot?”

For some reason, Bambi flushed and his eyes widened like he wished he hadn’t said that. Derek had no idea why. It was a strange question, but not anything offensive.

Derek shrugged. “Sometimes. Are you walking back from the bar again?”

Bambi nodded, head bobbing a few times more than necessary. “Yeah, I visit my friend a lot there. He bar-tends at this dive of a bar.”

“Boyd,” Derek said, and then sort of wished he hadn’t said it, because normal people didn’t remember a single name dropped by a random stranger during a drunken babble two nights ago.

“How did you know that?” Bambi asked in surprise, proving Derek’s thoughts to be correct.

Derek hid his wince as well as he could even as he tried to answer nonchalantly, “You mentioned him the other night. Something about all the free drinks. It’s always good to remember the bartenders who give free drinks.”

In return for his efforts, he got a sheepish laugh and Bambi rubbing a hand over his mop of thick hair. “Yeah, I was so drunk. Sorry about all that the other night, I didn’t mean to impose or anything.”

Derek smirked. “Yeah, the way you were propped up against the signpost was a real inconvenience. I don’t know how I managed with you standing there, leaning and breathing against public property.”

“I’ll have you know that my drunken rambles have been classified as a weapon of mass destruction,” Bambi said in return.

“The sort that people talk about, but doesn’t actually exist?”

“The sort that just the mention of it sends everyone into a worried, hysterical frenzy.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Derek felt this unfamiliar bloom of warmth in the pit of his stomach, a slow unfurling satisfaction that he didn’t imagine the chemistry between them. He was amazed that he seemed to be doing this right, glad but stunned at the thought that maybe he could stand here and flirt successfully with someone that he couldn’t stop thinking about.

They stared at each other for a moment, smiling in what was probably a dorky way, before voices from another conversation broke their little invisible bubble. Derek glanced to the side to see one of the guys talking to someone new, speaking in low tones. He ignored them and turned back to Bambi, only to see that he was staring determinedly at the ground, eyes almost completely hidden. Bambi rubbed the back of his neck and bit his lower lip.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to well, take up your time again. I really should get going,” Bambi said, gesturing meaninglessly before taking a step back.

Derek had no idea why he kept apologizing for taking up his time. Didn’t he look like he was enjoying their conversation? Unless his successful flirting was all in his head, and he was coming across as stand-offish and annoyed, something Laura complained about sometimes. He watched as Bambi took another step back.

“Do you live around here?” Derek asked, wondering if Bambi was going to walk all the way home. This wasn’t the best of neighborhoods to be wandering around at two in the morning. Derek might do it, but Derek was also at the top of the food chain when it came to predators in the night.

“About ten blocks away,” Bambi said, pointing vaguely towards the direction he was heading.

Thinking about Bambi walking that distance alone, past muggers and all sorts of criminals, Derek offered, “You want some company?”

“I… What? Me? Do I look like— Um, not that there’s anything wrong. But, well, uh, anyway, no, but thanks for the offer.” He was walking as he talked, arms flailing, and to no one’s surprise, he tripped a little before he caught himself in an awkward stumble. By the time he straightened, he had high splotches of pink on his cheeks, blushing with embarrassment.

Derek smiled, helplessly charmed. “You sure? You look like you need it.”

God knew how he was going to get home safely if he couldn’t even walk five feet without tripping over air.

“I do not, thank you very much!” spluttered Bambi, mouth flapping open and shut a few times. “Just because it’s been awhile! You’ve got a pretty shitty sales pitch, just so you know. And I’m gonna just… go now.”

He turned around and marched away with obvious determination, walking off unscathed this time. Derek sighed. Obviously he had hit a nerve with his offer, and Bambi felt like Derek was belittling his ability to get home safely. He didn’t think Bambi would be so insecure in his masculinity. This was what Derek got for trying to be a nice guy. And being weak to someone with a quirky sense of humor and ridiculous Bambi eyes.

Derek turned around and decided that maybe he needed to jog home again in hopes that it would burn off his excess energy this time. As he started off, he heard one of the guys at the stand mutter, “What the fuck is he doing here?”

Another voice answered in a low whisper, “No clue, but he isn’t doing such a great job trying to pick up that guy.”

Even strangers were judging his socializing skills damnit. Derek glared at them as he walked by, even though they were only telling the truth. 

# # # # # # # # # #

The third time they met was a week later. It was a total coincidence this time, because Erica and Isaac were dropping him off to work. Or rather, they were dropping him in the vicinity of his workplace, because they couldn’t be assed to actually listen to his directions.

“We’re on the wrong street,” Derek complained. Why did Isaac even offer him a ride from their apartment if he was going to be a dick about it?

Isaac just grinned and waved him out of the passenger seat. Erica hopped out of the back of the car, flashing an alarming amount of leg and cleavage as she did so, and came over to pat Derek on his cheek. “And you’re an hour early so you can make your way there in that time. We’re almost late to the movie.”

Derek moved his face away from her hand. “We waited for you for twenty minutes so that’s your fault.”

“Absolutely,” she agreed with an unrepentant smirk. “And don’t I look marvelous for it.”

Derek rolled her eyes. “You’re wearing a corset with knee-high stiletto boots. You look like a dominatrix about to visit an S&M club.”

She laughed as she climbed into the recently vacated passenger seat. “That’s exactly the look I was going for. Have a nice walk!”

He stared as the Miata pulled away from the sidewalk, wondering why the hell Erica would want to look like a dominatrix when going to the movies with Isaac, who was practically her brother. Sighing, Derek turned to get his bearings. He was a little early, so maybe he could walk around and explore the neighborhood. At the moment, he was standing in front of a costume shop and a soup kitchen. They were both closed, which was no surprise considering that it was nine at night. 

Derek was hungry and tired; he'd had late classes and a group project meet-up after, and had missed dinner. He wondered if there was some place to eat nearby before his part time work started.

“Hey, dude, what’s up?”

He startled, whipping around to see Bambi standing behind him, hands tucked into the pockets of his heavy, blue parka. In his preoccupation, Derek had completely missed him walking up.

Derek said reflexively, “Don’t call me dude.”

Bambi raised his eyebrows. “I don’t exactly know your name.”

“Derek.” He had made a promise to himself that when he next met Bambi, he would get his real name out of him. He didn’t expect for an opening to come up so easily, so he tried to be cool and natural when he asked, “What’s yours?”

“Huh. I didn’t expect Derek,” Bambi muttered to himself, before saying with a smile, “I’m Stiles.”

There was a pause. Derek frowned. “Stiles?”

Bambi — or Stiles, which was no less ridiculous than the nickname Derek had gave him — waved his hands and glared. “It’s a nickname okay, because there’s no way anyone can pronounce my real name.”

“How do you know if we don’t get to try?” asked Derek with a teasing smile. He hoped it looked like a teasing smile rather than a grimace.

“Because I can’t even pronounce it,” Stiles grumbled. It was going to take some getting used to calling him anything other than Bambi.

Before Derek could say anything to do that, his stomach let out an embarrassing, audible growl. Stiles’ eyes widened.

“Is that… Was that you?”

Derek, age 26, who had not blushed since he started shaving, could feel his cheeks warming. “I missed dinner. I had this group project, and it ran late.”

Stiles stared at him for a moment, before scratching his cheek and looking to the side. “Um, I know this twenty-four hour diner where the waiter is my best buddy and always gives me extra free stuff. It’s, uh, totally my treat, since I always take up your time and stuff.”

Was this a date? Was Stiles actually asking Derek on a date? He had to tamp down on a grin so as not to come across as too eager. “Yeah. That sounds good.”

Stiles jittered a foot and grinned at him. “Okay, let’s go.”

They hadn’t taken five steps before Stiles turned around and said with a worried frown, “Just dinner okay? Nothing else.”

Derek didn’t quite understand what he meant. Was he worried that Derek was going to push for sex on the first date? Or was this not a date after all? Derek felt his elation sink a little at the thought. In the end, he just shrugged, not wanting to talk about it either way. It wasn’t like Derek wanted to fuck on the first date, and if this wasn’t really a first date… well, they would still be spending time together and maybe Stiles would change his mind later about dating.

They talked idly on the way to the diner, which was actually pretty close by. Stiles was a Mets fan, while Derek was a Dodgers fan through and through. When Stiles found that out, he had feigned the inability to walk next to a Dodgers fan, quickening his pace as if to lose Derek. Derek yanked him back by the hood of his parka, earning a squawk and a grin from Stiles. It was a twenty minute walk to the diner, but the time passed quickly with the banter exchanged between them.

Stiles pushed open the door to a place called Rise ‘n Dine, a little bell jingling to announce his presence. He waved at a guy mopping the floor near the back. The guy wasn’t very tall, but he had broad shoulders and impressive biceps straining against his short sleeves.

“Their chicken burger is perfection, like seriously, it’s the only chicken burger I would ever eat. Their soup of the day is usually tasty. Oh, and so is their cinnamon apple pie, especially with ice-cream. Their hash browns, bacon and bangers are pretty good. Everything else you should eat with caution,” Stiles recommended easily, picking a booth by the window. “Those are like the only things their night shift cook knows how to make.”

“If Allison hears you say that, she’ll hang you outside by your toes,” the waiter said with a grin, putting down two glasses of water on the table. He exchanged a fist bump with Stiles, looking pleased, in a puppyish way, as he bounced on his toes.

Stiles smirked unrepentantly. “Don’t persecute me for the truth, Scott.”

The waiter, who was obviously named Scott, rolled his eyes and held out a menu to Derek, not giving one to Stiles. When Derek raised an eyebrow as he accepted the menu, Scott shrugged. “Stiles always gets apple pie if he comes by at night.”

Stiles leaned forward on the table. “I swear they put crack in it to make you come back for more.”

Derek smiled at the earnest speculation. He looked up to find Scott leaning against the table and staring at Derek with a strangely manic grin. “So who’s your friend, Stiles?” He dragged out the word ‘so’ like it deserved some strange emphasis.

Stiles looked flustered and uncomfortable at the question. “This is Derek. We met when I was getting home after Boyd got me wasted on Monday. He stopped me from falling and bashing my head against the pavement.”

“The signpost did most of the work that night,” Derek said with false modesty.

Surprisingly, Stiles didn’t pick up on that line of banter. Instead, he was sending a pleading look at Scott. They both stared at each other in a strange, silent communication that consisted of squinting eyes — Scott — and wide, begging eyes and bouncing eyebrows — Stiles — which ended with Scott frowning and crossing his arms.

“Okay, well, what would you like to order?” Scott asked, looking a little uncertain now.

Derek said, “I’ll get the chicken burger and the apple pie. A black coffee too, please.”

“Make that two coffees,” Stiles chimed in.

Scott nodded and took the menu back before moving to the back of the diner. Uncertain about what had just transpired, Derek looked around the diner as a delaying tactic. At this hour of the night, business was obviously slowing down; there were only two other tables taken. One was by a guy in a security guard uniform, and another was a young couple.

“So… you’re busy with group projects?” Stiles asked, sounding oddly stilted. “College?”

Derek nodded. “Columbia University. I know I don’t look like a student, but I’m in my last year of civil engineering.”

“I didn’t expect that,” Stiles said, tone a little wondering.

Derek was well aware of how he looked right now, wearing an old, tight T-shirt and worn jeans, with a body more suited to manual labor than academia. It hurt a little that Stiles obviously thought the same as everyone else. His tone was a little flat when he spoke, “I guess I look more brawn than brains to most people. Doesn’t help that I’m a little old to be in university.”

Stiles held up his hands as if to stop Derek’s flow of words. “Woah, woah. First of all, there’s no age limit to studying, okay? And secondly, I just meant… well, it must be crazy, man. You’re working, um, nights and really late, and then you have morning classes. I can barely handle my own classes and I only work a few hours in the afternoon, three days a week.”

Derek felt his hackles go down, feeling mildly embarrassed that he had let his own insecurities get the better of him. “My sleep pattern is completely fucked, and I usually sleep right after classes instead. But it’s manageable most of the time. Today isn’t so great.”

“I hear you,” Stiles said with sympathy. “So how old exactly are you?”

“Twenty-six,” Derek said, raising his eyebrows at Stiles. “And you’re a twenty-one year old who probably still gets carded at bars.”

“Can’t help the eternally youthful looks. Twenty-six isn’t that old. What year of college are you in?”

“Fourth year which is the worst. What are you studying?”

“First year of computer science, and I plan to double major in criminology.”

Derek leaned forward, intrigued. “That’s an unusual combination.”

Stiles asked, “But is it really? We have more and more ways to track down people using computers, and on the flip side, people are coming up with all kinds of methods to commit cyber crimes that affect a lot of people. Nowadays it isn’t enough to just be good at computers or to be good at understanding the criminal element, you have to be both to really  solve increasingly creative crime.”

Then Stiles set off on a long discussion about the virtual footprint people leave behind, the penalties for cyber crime that should be revisited, and for reasons Derek couldn’t remember, the alarming rise of pigeons in New York. Derek learned that Stiles’ father was the Sheriff back where he came from, and that Stiles had gotten into a lot of trouble poking his nose into his dad’s crime scenes, more often than not with his partner in crime, Scott. The image of a small Stiles being pulled around by the scruff of his neck, escorted home in the back of the Sheriff’s car, was just too precious. In return, Derek shared that he lived with his sister Laura, but that she would be getting married soon, so she was moving out. He told the story about one of his older lecturers who would occasionally doze off in the middle of writing on the whiteboard.

Conversation with Stiles was easy, almost unbelievably so. They exchanged little tidbits about their lives in between a heavy amount of snark, probably more than was appropriate for two people who had just met. But it was enjoyable, and they seemed to communicate best with banter. They barely paused as Scott dropped off the food, the flow of their conversation only slowing a little so that they could both eat.

“You’re right,” Derek said solemnly after he swallowed a mouthful of apple pie. “There must be heroin in this.”

Stiles grinned in delight. “Right?? It’s melt-in-your-mouth insanely delicious. It’s either drugs or blood sacrifices to get this to taste so good.”

Derek made a face at him. “Do I want to know why you think blood would make something taste good?”

“Ah, you haf diissscovered my true identity. I am ze vampire!” Stiles announced in a terrible, campy accent while waving his fork around.

“Yeah, I don’t think vampires masquerade as practically-underage boys in hoodies, with a penchant for apple pie,” Derek said, trying to suppress a smirk.

Stiles’ grin was a sign that all attempts at suppression were a failure. “Oh man, don’t stereotype them. They could totally love apple pie after a delicious human snack. What do you know about supernatural creatures of the night?” 

Derek tried not to choke on the irony as he took his next bite of apple pie, deliberately taking a long time to chew and swallow. He brought his fork down instinctively to stop Stiles when he mimed stealing some ice-cream from Derek's bowl.

“Dude, you’re eating so slowly that your ice-cream is melting. It’s a waste,” Stiles said like it was a perfectly good explanation.

Derek pulled his plate nearer. “Just because you inhaled yours doesn’t mean you get my pie and my ice-cream.”

Stiles tipped an imaginary hat at him. “A man who likes his pie and ice-cream. I can respect that.”

Nearer to the counter, Scott was watching them like an eagle. It was impossible for Derek to not have noticed the close scrutiny, but he was having too good of a time with Stiles to care. They spent the rest of the hour in verbal parry and riposte. Derek could practically feel his curiosity and affection for Stiles growing by the minute, wanting to know more and more about him, and feeling reluctant to part company.

Derek was so, so fucked.

# # # # # # # # # #

During their meeting at Rise ‘n Dine, they had exchanged phone numbers. Derek had felt pretty clever that he had managed to get Stiles’ number by offering to send a final-year computer science student his way. Stiles had been in need of some advice on how to deal with a particularly difficult lecturer, and Jessica was a genius when it came to handling lecturers. Technically, Jessica was Isaac’s friend, but Stiles didn’t need to know that.

Their text message exchanges had increased exponentially as the week went by. 

He was texting Stiles about Erica’s retort to someone calling her a dumb blonde who thought a nice body would get her through life – “I had a perfect GPA, asshole. I have perfect everything.” – when they started a somewhat strange text exchange.

I think I’ve seen Erica b4. I second her statement – Stiles, 10:11PM

Even if she looked scary too – Stiles, 10:11PM

Derek frowned at his phone. Sure, Erica was pretty and curvy in all the right places, but Derek was sharing the story because it was funny when Erica was sharp and over the top. He wasn’t looking for Stiles to praise her. She didn’t really have perfect everything.

You sure? I haven’t brought her to the diner with me before. – Derek, 10:12PM

oh… It was outside the soup kitchen. She hugged you and got in a little sporty car – Stiles, 10:12PM

It was the first time we went to the diner? – Stiles, 10:12PM

I was just walking from the bar. I wasn’t stalking you or anything! – Stiles, 10:13PM

Derek smiled at his phone, settling down a little.

I didn’t say you were. – Derek, 10:14PM

Yeah, that was her. – Derek, 10:14PM

You looked like you were good friends – Stiles, 10:14PM

Known her for four years now. – Derek, 10:15PM

She introduced me to all the right people for my part-time work – Derek, 10:16PM

That’s nice of her – Stiles, 10:18PM

Yeah. Esp cause I couldn’t find a job when I moved here. – Derek, 10:18PM

We moved around too much in the past to get good references. – Derek, 10:18PM

There was a very long moment where Derek didn’t receive a response back, and it made him antsy. Surely Stiles wouldn’t care about his inability to secure a job quickly in the past, not when he hadn’t been put off by Derek’s snark, occasional surliness and general ineptness at all things regarding social conduct. 

I can’t imagine what that was like – Stiles, 10:22PM

Lonely. I like New York better. – Derek, 10:22PM 

I like that you like New York – Stiles, 10:23PM

I wouldn’t have anyone to mock about their love for Dodgers if you weren’t here :P – Stiles, 10:23PM

If Laura ever saw these text messages, she would be blown away. Derek had never been this open with anyone for years. But Stiles brought out something in him, the urge to share and have Stiles know him as well as he wanted to know Stiles. The willingness to expose his locked-up secrets to Stiles would never stop being a surprise.

Are we calling your whining when the Mets lose mockery now? – Derek, 10:24PM

He stared at his screen, waiting for a response. Yeah, Derek was turning into a twelve year old with a hopeless crush. He certainly felt like one.

# # # # # # # # # #

After brooding over a way to meet with Stiles again — Laura had called him unbearable to live with while he stomped around the apartment — Derek had mustered up the courage to mention, as casually as he could during one of their epic text message exchanges, that he had group project work again and was probably going to get dinner at Scott’s diner before work started. Stiles hadn’t responded to that particular tidbit of information, which had resulted in another bout of brooding. But his worries were for nothing, because Stiles was there again, sitting at the same table, and giving Derek a dorky wave when Derek walked in. It took all his strength not to beam at Stiles. Meetings at the diner became a regular thing on Wednesday nights. Even after Derek's group project had wrapped up, he turned up on Wednesday night and Stiles would always be there as well.

The two of them talked about a lot of things, usually retelling their day and discussing topics of interest. Derek was happy to sit and listen to Stiles talk about the amazing advances in forensic sciences and the latest social studies paper he had just read, while Stiles actually seemed interested to hear Derek’s thoughts on engineering that complements nature rather than razing it to the ground. It was surprising how easy the conversation flowed, how their banter and discussions came naturally even though Derek wasn’t close to being a social creature and Stiles could be awkward at times.

What was even more surprising was how much Derek opened up to Stiles. He told Stiles more about himself than he had anyone else in years. Even Laura complained that he was too reticent, and here he was, slowly baring his soft underbelly to Stiles.

“Woah, really? You’re from Beacon Hills too??” Stiles gaped at Derek. “I don’t remember ever seeing you there.”

Derek stirred his coffee a little more vigorously than necessary. “I left when I was sixteen. You would have been a kid.”

Of course, Stiles was always the sharp one, because he breathed in sharply at that. “Derek. Derek and Laura. You’re Derek Hale.”

Everyone had probably heard about the Hales, when their house burned to the ground with most of their family in it. Kate Argent,  later determined to be the arsonist, had died in the house as well, trapped in one of the rooms with Derek's Uncle Peter. Probably trapped there by Uncle Peter actually. Derek’s fingers curled around the metal spoon, trying to hide how he had bent the handle in a sudden surge of grief.

“I’m surprised you remember our names,” Derek said, trying to keep his voice level.

He must have failed, because Stiles’ expression filled with remorse at his outburst. “Yeah… My dad, he’s Sheriff Stilinski. Now, anyway. He used to be a deputy.”

He didn’t have to elaborate further, because Derek remembered Stiles’ dad, remembered how he wrapped his arms around Derek to pull him back from the burning house. How he held onto Derek until Laura had picked herself up from the ground and pulled Derek into her tight, desperate arms.

Derek shook his head to clear the smoky memories, drank a mouthful of scalding hot coffee to burn away the taste of ashes in the back of his throat.

“You left right after,” Stiles continued. It wasn’t a question, just an opening. He was leaving it to Derek to change the topic or talk about life after the tragedy.

Derek nodded stiffly. “Laura took custody of me and we travelled a lot, never settling down. We didn’t feel safe.”

Stiles reached out and laid a careful hand over Derek’s fidgeting fingers. “Hey. We don’t have to talk about this.”

Surprisingly, Derek was torn on the matter. His mouth was usually sealed on the topic of his past, but he actually wanted to share with Stiles how difficult that time had been, how lonely and draining. But this wasn’t the right place to do it, not this brightly lit diner, with all the clinking cutlery and low voices from the other patrons. It wasn’t something that could be shared here, when Stiles didn’t know the full story.

“I remember Kate, you know. She was a substitute lifeguard at school,” Derek said, surprising himself that he went down this track instead.

Stiles frowned. “I didn’t know that.”

“She approached me a couple of times, flirting a little, but Laura overheard her the second time. She warned Kate off; said I was too young for her, while insulting her for chasing after underage boys. I always wondered if it was something— something I did.” Something to expose their family as a werewolf to the Argents, not that they knew that Kate was an Argent at that time.

Stiles’ hand tightened on his fingers. “No, don’t, you can’t think like that, Derek. Kate was a psychopath, I'm sure it had nothing to do with you. Who knew why she did what she did.”

Oh, they knew why. Because she was a Hunter and they were werewolves. But why the Hales, who lived peacefully, never harming humans?

“I know, it’s just… what goes on in my head sometimes,” Derek admitted, looking down at their joined hands so that he wouldn’t look at Stiles’ eyes. He was tired. He wanted so badly to turn his hand so that he could hold Stiles’ in return, but that would change it from a gesture of comfort to something more. He didn’t know if Stiles wanted something more.

“I know what that’s like, so I guess it’s a little hypocritical of me to tell you to stop doing it,” Stiles said. “But it’s a lot of survivor’s guilt to carry around, you know. Drives you crazy if you don’t put some of it down. That’s what my therapist used to tell me anyway.”

Derek looked up, tilting his head a little at Stiles.

Stiles shrugged and met his gaze steadily. “After my mom died, I had to see a therapist for my panic attacks. I kept thinking that my dad would die too and that my mom got sicker because I was such a difficult kid to keep up with.”

Fuck it. Derek turned his hand and threaded his fingers through Stiles’. He squeezed his hand gently, and Stiles gave him a small, slightly shaky smile in return. Stiles was unbelievably brave, looking straight at him as he let himself be vulnerable. Meanwhile, on a regular day, Derek could hardly be in the same room as another person when talking about his past. Talking like this to Stiles was very difficult for him, like he was peeling his skin off strip by strip, even as it felt strangely good to unburden the thoughts that he had held close to his chest for so long.

A clatter of plates on their table caused them to jump, break their gaze and clasped hands. Holy shit, they had been holding hands. Derek could feel the back of his neck turning warm. He hoped it wasn’t as noticeable as the light flush that painted Stiles’ cheeks, the burst of color appealing beyond reason. 

“Here’s your food,” Scott said briskly as he put Derek's plate down in front of him with more force than necessary, glaring at him all the while.

Derek grunted, “Thanks.”

Scott was obviously the shittiest waiter to ever serve in the food industry and for reasons unknown, he seemed to have had a vendetta out against Derek ever since that first day. 

“Thanks, dude,” Stiles said, making a complicated face at Scott. Whatever he was trying to communicate, Scott didn’t like, and he walked away slowly, casting suspicious looks back at them.

“Does Scott think I’m going to steal the cutlery or something?” Derek asked, recognizing that the deep, quiet moment between them was over, and after such difficult revelations on both sides, it would be better to move to lighter topics.

Stiles hastily swallowed the piece of pie he had shoveled into his mouth, almost choking before he washed it down with some water. “No! No, I’m sure that’s, uh, not what he’s worrying about at all. Who knows what goes on in his Allison-centered mind, right?”

Derek frowned, but let it go. He had his suspicions that Scott didn’t approve of Stiles and Derek’s friendship. Maybe his influence was the reason why Stiles ran hot and cold on him sometimes, warm and interested whenever they met up, but occasionally drawing back when Derek made any hamfisted attempts at flirting. Or maybe Derek's flirting was just that bad.

Stiles brought up his part-time work at Reading Grounds in an obvious attempt to change the topic. “Oh hey, so we gave out another crappiest customer award this week. You’ll love this one.” Stiles began regaling Derek with the most recent terrible customer to walk into the secondhand bookshop/café. The douchebag award-winning customer — in Stiles’ words — had gave his order while talking on the phone, and then complained that they got the order wrong even though Stiles and the barista heard the same thing.

“Then he spilled the replacement coffee on the book he had just bought because he was trying to juggle his phone and drink, and demanded a refund for the book and the coffee!” Stiles emphasized by jabbing his fork in the air.

“You should refuse him service next time he comes in,” Derek said, shaking his head.

“Ugh, I wish. He wouldn’t even leave, because he wanted to speak to the manager, who had already left for the day,” Stiles said with an adorable frown. “If the bookstore wasn’t just ten minutes away, I would have totally been late to meet you.”

Derek asked, “You know, I was wondering; how did all of you find work so close together?”

Stiles grinned. “I would say it’s a result of our perseverance and job-hunting skills, but that would be a lie. A lot of students live nearby, so there are plenty of places in this neighborhood that are used to hiring students part-time.”

“It’s a small miracle we ever met,” Derek mused aloud.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t usually work here,” Derek said with a shrug, a little perturbed by the thought that he might have never met Stiles at all if he had turned down this particular construction job.

Stiles bit his lower lip, watching him with strangely cautious eyes. “Oh. So where did you used to work?”

“I’ve worked all over New York, honestly. It’s the first time I’m working in this neighborhood though. Most of the time it’s a little more upscale. And in buildings, rather than on the streets.”

Stiles’ open mouth snapped shut. He boggled at Derek for a moment, before stuttering out, “Yeah, that’s… That’s good to hear.”

Derek wasn’t sure what was so good to hear about usually working on the construction of buildings as opposed to road works, but maybe Stiles thought building construction was a safer job. Admittedly, road works on busy streets tended to happen late at night so as to reduce the impact on the people travelling in that area, so the hours were harder to get used to.

Derek shrugged. “It can be harder work. There are fewer complaining neighbors, but for example, today, the oil just got everywhere, and I had to remove all my gear, which was awkward doing that at the side of the street.”

He was about to explain what road oil was really made of but Stiles’ fork screeched across his mostly empty plate, causing him to jump and knock over his glass of water.

Stiles was bright red, babbling as he tried to stop the water from spilling across the table. “Fuck, sorry about that, let me just…”

They were mostly done with their food at this point, since they had only ordered pie today. There was an embarrassed silence, and then Stiles started to apologize again, as he mopped up the water. Before Derek could interrupt Stiles' stammered apologies to say that he hadn't even gotten wet, Stiles excused himself and covered the bill for both their meals again; Derek hadn't even had the chance to reach for his wallet. They parted with a strangely awkward tension between them.

Derek spent his hours at work replaying the lighter parts of their conversation with some glee and then gloomily wracking his memory to try to figure out where it went wrong. Maybe Stiles had just been really embarrassed by his clumsiness. Or maybe he was put off by Derek’s poor conversational skills. There was a 50-50 chance of either, the way he saw it.

On the way home that night, Derek walked past the taxi stand, deciding he was going to jog home again, instead. One of the guys told him to get a move on, which was strange. It wasn’t like they had claim to a taxi stand anyway. He had heard that New Yorkers could be cutthroat when it came to catching taxis, but this was ridiculous. He grinned threateningly at the guy who had practically hissed at him, watching as the stranger stepped back in fear as his survival instincts kicked in. It was a faint form of satisfaction, but he would take what he could after the strange ending to the night.

# # # # # # # # # #

On top of the diner meet-ups, they met at Boyd’s bar on the rare nights that they were both awake and free after Derek finished work. Today, Derek had messaged Stiles that he should swing by to grab a drink after work. He and Stiles were chatting with Boyd as he got them their drinks, when Stiles startled next to him, and grabbed a corner of his tank top.

“Oh my God, Derek, that’s blood. Are you hurt? Who did this to you?” Stiles demanded, voice higher than normal in his panic.

Stiles’ concern warmed him, but at the same time, the reaction was strange. Derek’s stubbly, brooding face rarely garnered sympathy; people more often thought he had been the one to do the hurting, rather than being hurt himself. It wasn’t a bad guess. Being a werewolf meant that he didn’t usually stay hurt for long – not that Stiles knew that, of course.

“It’s not my blood,” Derek said, placing a hand over Stiles’ tight grip, trying to calm him down. “One of the guys, uh, got injured. I was just helping him up from the ground, and some blood must have gotten on my tank top.”

It wasn’t like Derek could tell Stiles that he had accidentally cut his hand at work and then wiped it on his tank top, underneath his safety jacket, before anyone could see the blood, because his wound healed up almost immediately with his werewolf healing. That would be a great way to bring Stiles into the world of werewolves.

His lie was weak and rushed out, so it was no surprise that Stiles looked skeptical. But when he looked Derek over, he couldn’t see any obvious injuries, so he didn’t push the subject. 

Stiles ran a hand through his hair, picking up his beer with a sigh. “Man, your job… It seems kind of dangerous, you know.”

“It’s not too bad,” Derek said, not knowing how to tell him that construction work really wasn’t that dangerous, not with all the safety measures taken and with werewolf healing. He tried to explain what happened, pretending it had happened to a workmate instead. “My, uh, workmate, John was just preparing a penetration demo for a client, and he was bent over when—”

Stiles spat his mouthful of beer across the bar counter. Boyd hurried over with a glare to wipe up his mess.

He didn’t even help Boyd as he stuttered and waved his arms. “Woah, woah, I don’t need the details. Wow, I’m just going to, hey, I think I forgot to turn off the gas.”

Without further explanation, Stiles practically leapt off his bar stool and made for the door like he was a sprinting deer being hunted by a pack of wolves, his plaid shirt flapping behind him as he disappeared out the door. And Derek totally knew how a woodland creature with a bobbing tail looked as it fled a pack of wolves. It was eerily similar.

A little dazed, Derek tried to pay for their drinks, but Boyd just gave him a flat stare and said that Stiles had put it on his tab.

Derek wondered if there was something about his part-time work that bothered Stiles. 

# # # # # # # # # #

This lecture is a black hole of boring – Stiles, 2:20PM

I think the lecturer is trying to weed out the weak by talking in a monotonous monologue – Stiles, 2:20PM

I will persevere! – Stiles, 2:20PM

Where are you? How am I going to persevere without entertainment? – Stiles, 2:21PM

Ugh, I wish I could listen to some music instead – Stiles, 2:24PM

The longer I’m here the more I want to (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ – Stiles, 2.25PM 

Wtf is that supposed to be? – Derek, 2:25PM

You’re back! It’s me flipping a table. Haven’t you seen emojicons before? – Stiles, 2:26PM

You should pay attention to your lecturer – Derek, 2:26PM

I’ll take that as a no – Stiles, 2:27PM

My lecturer is sucking the joy out of life. pls entertain me! – Stiles, 2:28PM

I’m in the middle of buying steel toe boots – Derek, 2:30PM

:O Why? – Stiles, 2:30PM

For protection, what else. My old ones are falling to pieces – Derek, 2:31PM.

I suppose they’re good for kicking someone in the balls. Good thinking. – Stiles, 2:31PM

I’m amazed that your brain went there immediately… – Derek, 2:32PM

Where else would it go?? – Stiles, 2:33PM

Good point – Derek, 2:33PM

I hate shopping. I’d rather be in a lecture – Derek, 2:34PM

What’s wrong with you omg – Stiles, 2:35PM

╮ (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.) ╭ – Derek, 2:26PM

O.M.G. - Stiles, 2:26PM

O.M.F.G. - Stiles, 2:27PM

I’M DYYYYIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING – Stiles, 2:28PM

I CANT STOP LAUGHING GONNA GET KICKED OUT OF LECTURE – Stiles, 2:28PM

Derek smiled down at his text messages, glad that he had found ‘emojicons’ online.

“Um, sir, can I help you with that?”

Derek realized he had been holding a pair of boots up for the last five minutes, with the salesgirl standing in front of him the entire time wearing a bewildered look. Fuck. This was embarrassing.

# # # # # # # # # #

“Hey, oh my god, sorry I was late, cleaning up took way longer than usual. Have you been waiting long?” Stiles asked, slamming the door shut behind him. Rather than meeting at the diner as usual, Derek had offered to meet outside Stiles’ workplace so they could walk to the diner together. 

“Nope. I just got here,” Derek lied with a shrug. He didn’t want to come across as desperate, arriving ten minutes early just to lurk outside for another twenty minutes.

Stiles squinted at him even as they headed towards the diner. “I’m pretty sure that was a lie. Your poker face is not as poker as you think.”

Derek felt a smile tickle at his lips. “I don’t think you understand how poker works in that phrase.”

“I was just using my creative license in English. Just ask Shakespeare,” Stiles said with an airy wave.

“In your case, it’s more like license to abuse.”

Stiles clutched at his chest and staggered. “Thy words pierce me, right in the heart.”

Derek knew Stiles was just faking, but he grabbed him by his arm and steadied him anyway. Derek shivered at the feel of warm, unexpectedly thick muscle beneath long sleeves before he tamped down on the reaction. “Stop careening around like a drunk cat before you really do trip over your own feet.”

Surprisingly, Stiles didn’t bite back. Instead, he looked Derek up and down with worried eyes, which was not the emotion Derek was trying to evoke when he had put on his thin tank top and really tight jeans today. “Dude, you’re shivering. It’s almost winter you know, why are you always wearing so little?”

Derek tried to stifle another shiver at the worry in Stiles’ voice. “Oh. The job usually keeps me warm.”

He couldn’t exactly say that being a werewolf, the autumn wind hardly affected him.

“Right, right,” Stiles said, rubbing the back of his head. “Well, you’re shivering now so you must be cold.”

Derek couldn’t admit to shivering from the lightest contact with Stiles and also from worry in his voice. Why were there so many things he couldn’t say to Stiles? He could only watch with incredulity as Stiles shrugged off his blue jacket and offered it to Derek.

He tried to protest, holding his hands up to ward off the article of clothing. “No, I’m fine, you don’t have to—”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. Just put it on. I have another layer on me, okay.”

Derek held the jacket between his hands. It was cotton soft and thick, lined on the inside with wool and was obviously of good quality. Stiles still had on a T-shirt and a plaid shirt. Even with the layers, they might not be enough to ward off the bite of the cold air. The problem was that Derek couldn’t come up with a reason to turn down the offer, not to mention that there was a stupid, sappy part of him that didn’t want to turn it down. That part — very small, miniscule even — wanted to put on the jacket that smelled like Stiles, wanted to wear it like a prize and strut around in it so that everyone knew Stiles had given Derek his jacket.

Under Stiles’ expectant gaze, Derek shrugged it on, luxuriating in the warmth the wooly underside still carried. Stiles was very nearly the same height as Derek with surprisingly broad shoulders, so the jacket actually fit Derek fairly well, but their difference in muscle mass made it tight around the arms and a little snug across his shoulders and chest; he didn’t try to zip it up, just held the front close.

“I can hear the sleeves crying out for help,” Stiles said, eyes wide as they fixated on Derek’s biceps straining against the blue material.

Derek flushed. “Sorry, I can take it off…”

Stiles shook his head quickly, tugging at Derek’s elbow to move them along. “No, no. Leave it on. I don’t think my jacket has ever looked so good.”

The words should sound envious, but they only came out a little dazed. Derek felt smug at the thought that Stiles was admiring how he looked.

The walk along the way was filled with their usual sharp to-and-fro, their shoulders brushing as they walked closely together. Stiles shot him distinctive side-glances, as if watching him to see how he managed in that extra layer. Or maybe he was admiring Derek’s arms again. One could hope.

Derek had to refrain from ducking his head to sniff at the jacket like a total creeper. Even now, he was floating in a sort of bliss that came from having Stiles’ sweet, burnt-electronics-and-old-books scent mixing with his own.

His enjoyment of the moment dimmed when they reached the diner and Scott was already glaring at them as they came in through the door. Derek hadn’t done anything. The bell above the door hadn’t stopped tinkling and Scott was already pulling Stiles aside. Not that Scott knew, but it was pointless to attempt a private conversation, what with the werewolf hearing. Derek eavesdropped shamelessly.

“Dude, that jacket cost you like three hundred bucks. You bitched about the price and cuddled it for hours when you first got it,” Scott whispered, almost scandalized.

Derek pretended not to be paying attention to the interaction by the counter as he slid into the seat at their usual table by the floor-length window. He didn’t know to feel guilty or happy. On one hand, the jacket was obviously a prized and expensive possession, and Stiles just handed it to Derek without a second thought. On the other, Derek was pretty sure that the sleeves were stretched out beyond saving now. He was afraid to take it off to check.

Stiles answered, with hands probably flailing about, “Oh my God, can you stop being such a freak about it. He was just cold, okay?”

Scott hissed back, “It’s his choice if he wants to walk around dressed like that. Did he tell you that he was cold?”

“Could you just cut him some slack and stop being so suspicious?” Stiles grumbled. “I’m tabling this conversation. We can discuss this back home. And don’t slam the plates down later like a crazy person.”

“We could talk at home if you would let me, instead of covering your ears and singing that stupid song about milkshake every time I brought this up,” Scott said with clear exasperation, but Stiles was already moving towards their table.

When Stiles flopped into his chair opposite from Derek, he looked at once irritable and sheepish. “Sorry, just had to calm Scott’s strange freak-out. I think all that diner grease in the air is getting to his brain.”

Derek said as casually as he could muster, “I get the feeling he doesn’t really like me.”

Stiles waved his hands around, eyes wide and imploring, “Hey, no, it’s just… Scott. He can get a little protective. We've been friends since we were four, so he gets a little twitchy when I start bringing other people into the fold.”

Derek had heard a lot of stories about Scott from Stiles, all the adventures and misbehaviors of Beacon Hills’ Delinquent Duo. He hadn’t heard anything about Scott being selfish when it came to Stiles’ company. But Derek wasn’t exactly the most sociable of people. Scott probably thought that Stiles could do better, and it was hard for Derek to disagree. Not that he was going to tell Stiles that. One of Derek’s failings that he wasn’t going to try to change was that he was selfish. If Stiles liked him, he wasn’t going to convince him otherwise. 

“Are you ordering your usual?” Stiles asked, obviously desperate to change the topic.

Derek raised his eyebrows at him. “Am I going to get to pay for my own meal this time?”

“Ah, not the eyebrows!” Stiles exclaimed, pretending to hide behind his hands. “You shouldn’t use them on something as minor as dinners. I get a discount here from Scott, we practically eat for free.”

Derek frowned. “Stop talking about my eyebrows like they’re—  weapons.”

Stiles grinned and said, “I wouldn’t call them weapons. More like tools of emphasis for the verbal language. They’re the bold and italics of the spoken word. Wait, they’re practically a dialect of their own!”

“Sometimes I’m not sure if you’re even speaking English,” Derek said with amused exasperation.

That only made Stiles cackle in glee, as if it was a compliment. Derek had no idea why he found that much crazy so attractive. He wanted to lick into that open mouth and taste Stiles’ happiness, feel his laughter when they were pressed chest-to-chest.

It was only when they were leaving that Derek realized that Stiles had derailed the conversation and had managed to pick up the check again. Damnit.

Derek glared at Stiles as they stood outside the diner.

Stiles faltered in the middle of a joke involving his frenemy, Jackson. “Dude, if you don’t want to hear about Jackson being arrested when he was driving around naked, he could just say so. Rein in the eyebrows please.”

“I’m just realizing how good you are at deflecting,” Derek said. “You paid for the meals again.”

“I had a lot of training living with the Sheriff. Nothing makes you better at subterfuge than trying to keep your dad, who is occupationally obliged to be suspicious, from finding out when you have been drinking or buying condoms.”

The word condoms made Derek’s brain stutter for a moment, his mouth moving on automatic. “I’m sure he would have liked to know that you were being safe.”

Stiles said, “Yeah, totally. And then he would have really enjoyed embarrassing me by giving me the sex talk again, and playing the tough dad-cop with my boyfriend or girlfriend. My dad is evil.”

“It’s in your genes obviously,” Derek said, suppressing the urge to whoop at the confirmation that Stiles was bisexual. “Wait, he played tough dad-cop with your girlfriends too?”

“Girlfriend, singular. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Popular back in school,” Stiles corrected absent-mindedly as he stuck his hands into his jeans pockets. “My dad said that girls and guys had equal opportunity to take advantage of me and break my heart. So they got equal treatment. Their parents were free to say the same things to me. And he wasn’t wrong, you know. My high school girlfriend was kinda scary.”

The fact that everyone wasn’t climbing Stiles like a tree back in high school was only further proof that high-schoolers were morons.

“And yet you dated her,” Derek pointed out.

“Scary on the outside, marshmallow on the inside. I have a type I guess,” Stiles said, his eyes flickering to the side before landing back on Derek, a nervous twitch.

Derek felt his heart skip a beat. Surely that was a hint. Surely he wasn’t reading the signs wrongly. They had been eating dinner together weekly and meeting up at the bar too. Stiles almost always picked up the bill or put it on his tab, insisting it was his treat. There was this chemistry between them, this electric connection that drew Derek in like a hapless fish to a baited hook. Or a wolf to the moon would probably be a more accurate description.

Derek swayed closer, and Stiles’ gaze dropped to his lips, long lashes shadowing his bright brown eyes. Which in turn drew Derek’s eyes to Stiles’ lips. The pretty bow-shaped mouth was parted. When was it ever not? And this time, Derek didn’t have the strength to hold back.

He leaned forward suddenly, mouth pressing insistently against Stiles’ soft lips. Stiles’ reaction was immediate and gratifying. He moaned and pressed close, brought his hand up to curl around Derek’s neck. Derek had no recollection of moving his hands, but one was now buried in Stiles’ thick hair and the other was wound tight around his waist. He kissed Stiles with the sort of fervor that came from weeks of wanting, their mouths moving together so easily, like they had been doing this forever. Except if they had been doing this forever, Derek wouldn’t feel so starved, like this first taste just made him desperate for more. He deepened the kiss, sucked on Stiles’ lower lip just to hear him moan and melded their hips together. Stiles’ hands had moved to Derek’s cheeks, palms scraping against his stubble as his thumbs brushed softly against Derek’s cheekbones. It was almost too much to bear.

And then it was hardly enough, because Stiles pulled away with a sudden, jerky force. He stumbled backwards, out of Derek’s grasping hands.

“Wait, what, I… What?” Stiles gasped out, reddened lips parted and hair disheveled in a way that made Derek want to drag him to the ground and mess him up even more. “We, are we, what is this?”

Derek stared, only just realizing that he was panting. A werewolf, panting from a kiss. It was insane. It was amazing. “Stiles, I thought we were… We’ve been having dinners and going out for drinks. I thought…”

Derek wasn’t the eloquent one here. He was full of sarcastic jibes and snarky rejoinders, but he didn’t have any material for heartfelt confessions. Why wasn’t Stiles on the same page, instinctively knowing what he meant without long explanations, like he was with everything else they did together? 

“But I thought, I thought you were just hungry, and… this isn’t for your job, is it?” Stiles’ eyes were wide and horrified, almost the worst response Derek could get from a kiss.

“My job? What does this have to do with my job??” Derek was incredulous. Why did Stiles have to be so confusing? “I really like you, Stiles. That’s all. I thought you might. Maybe. You might.”

He couldn’t finish his sentence. It was painfully obvious what he thought, and Stiles’ stricken look was like a blow to Derek’s chest. Why did you kiss me back, he wanted to ask.

“I need— Fuck, I need some time to think about this. I’m so sorry, Derek. This is on me. Please, just give me some time,” Stiles pled, eyes imploring and desperate, like this was the most important thing he would ever ask from Derek, that he would ever beg from him. Except he didn’t wait for a response. He literally turned tail and ran off.

He ran away from Derek. After Derek had kissed him. 

Derek stood there, gaping after Stiles’ retreating figure. He was still wearing Stiles’ jacket, and he felt rooted to the ground. Stupefied.

“What the fuck?” Derek whispered to himself.

# # # # # # # # # #

It was a long, terrible week. He heard nothing from Stiles, no call or text message. He had too much pride to make the next move, especially after the disastrous outcome of his first one. Hours were spent agonizing over how amazing Stiles had felt in his arms, and then more hours were spent agonizing over how amazing Stiles had felt in his arms and how he would never feel that again.

Laura kicked him out of the apartment three times, because she was just done with his gloom and doom. Erica and Isaac alternated between avoiding him so that they wouldn’t feel like strangling him, and hanging out with him so that they could pry the story out of him word by painful word. When they finally heard the full story, which took five days to wheedle out of him, they were united in telling him to forget about Stiles, who was clearly an idiot with issues.

If only it was that easy.

Derek hadn’t had an easy time trusting people or letting them in, but he had opened up to Stiles in less than two months, almost reckless when compared to his previous record. Erica and Isaac had taken more than half a year to worm their way into his life, and that was with Laura’s help.

But now it was Wednesday again, and Derek had been determined not to go to the diner. Stiles hadn’t contacted him, so it was obvious he wouldn’t be showing up. There was no point in embarrassing himself further by going to the diner when Scott and Allison had probably seen the kiss — since they had been standing outside the diner’s floor-length windows — and Stiles’ subsequent flight. He told himself that this was the smarter move, that he didn’t want to look desperate.

Then he changed his mind.

“I can’t believe you,” Laura sighed, watching him shove his feet into his boots and tie the laces in a rush of fumbling fingers. “I have never seen you act like this before, baby bro.”

“You should be making him come crawling back, not the other way round,” Erica said, buffing her nails with unnecessary vigor. She tried to act nonchalant, but Derek knew she was very protective of her Pack.

Derek glared. “I’m not crawling back. I obviously misinterpreted the situation. He has the right to say no, and we can still be friends. I just want to pass his jacket to Scott so that Stiles knows I’m not holding a grudge or anything.”

“He has the right to say no, not to give some weak excuse about needing time to think. He’s been leading you on all this time!” Erica protested, abandoning her manicure.

“You sure you can be just friends with him?” Laura asked.

“Yes. We were friends before, and we can still be friends.”

He received twin raised eyebrows at the obvious skip in his heartbeat. So what. He wasn’t sure if they could be just friends, but he could try. Weren’t they always complaining that he didn’t have enough friends, and now they were complaining that he was trying to save a friendship?

Isaac got up from the couch and patted his pockets for his keys and wallet. “I’ll give you a lift.”

Derek said, “No, I’ll just run there or take the bus.”

“You’re leaving later than usual. Come on, I’m not doing anything anyway. I’ll give you a lift, and if he’s not there, we can grab dinner together,” Isaac said with a shrug.

He was preparing to help Derek save his pride if things went awry. Derek was moved. He said quietly, “Thanks. That’s... That’d be good.”

Erica jumped up as well. “I’ll come with.”

Derek sighed. It was a good thing Laura had plans of her own, otherwise this would turn into a circus.

The car trip was tense, with Erica and Isaac chatting about their day, and Derek not talking at all. He had to loosen his grip on Stiles’ jacket that was folded on his lap, his anxiety and tension seeping into his bones and muscles until he felt like a block of immovable rock. He'd made the decision to go to the diner on an impulse. He was always better at doing, not so much with the waiting and planning. Now that he was on his way, he wondered if he was just signing himself up for more embarrassment.

“You know we don’t have to go in right?” Isaac said.

That jerked him out of his thoughts and made him realize that they were parked just a few storefronts away from the diner. Derek shook his head stiffly and climbed out of the car. Isaac and Erica followed behind him, and when he shot them a displeased look, they just shrugged at him and kept on his heels. It looked like he had brought a pair of guard dogs just to have a conversation with Stiles’ best friend. Just perfect.

Considering how much Scott hated him, maybe he would need them after all.

When he walked into the diner, Scott looked up from where he was sitting with Boyd and his eyes narrowed immediately. Now that he thought about it, Boyd hadn’t liked Derek either, glaring at him when he had tried to pay for his drink only to find that Stiles had put it on his own tab. Did all of Stiles’ friends hate him? He should have taken it as a sign.

“Woah, who is that piece of hunky man-flesh?” Erica asked Isaac, just loud enough for Derek’s werewolf hearing to pick it up. Just great. Stiles’ friends were probably about to yell at Derek, and Erica’s plan of attack was probably to flirt aggressively with the one she was now lusting after. Derek just hoped it wasn’t Scott she had set her eyes on, because Erica might be a werewolf, but Derek would put his bet on Allison in a fight. She was scary. He didn’t know many chefs who carried a gun in their apron. 

“What are you doing here?” Scott asked, radiating belligerence.

Derek had to take a deep, calming breath before he could explain. “Stiles left before I could return his jacket. I think it’s one of his favorites, so if you could...”

Scott got up and crossed his arms. “If you knew it was his favorite, why did you take it from him in the first place?”

“He gave it to me to wear because it was cold,” Derek said, frowning in confusion. He gritted his teeth when Scott looked at him in disbelief. “I don’t know what your problem is—”

“My problem is that you’re taking advantage of Stiles!” Scott said in a raised voice.

The other patrons were watching avidly, like this was a show, but Scott didn’t seem to care and neither did Derek.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Derek demanded.

Scott stepped closer and pointed at him. “Don’t play dumb. He’s given you the clothes off his back. He paid for all your meals and Boyd told me he put all your drinks on his tab.”

Scott's accusatory finger gestured towards Boyd, and Derek looked over to see Erica flirting with him aggressively; because she was helpful that way.

Derek refocused on his own conversation. “You think I made him do all those things? He insisted on doing all that!”

“Stiles isn’t, he isn’t all nice to random people, okay? It’s you, pretending to be hungry in front of closed soup kitchens, as if as everyone doesn’t know it closes by six. Then you go around wearing this tank top in the middle of autumn, like you can’t afford anything else,” Scott said, his rant gaining momentum. “But I’m on to you! I know you’re just trying to live off Stiles’ money.”

Derek had to hold back from punching Scott right in his jaw. “Why the fuck do you think I’m short of money?”

That seemed to break Scott’s rhythm and he gaped for a moment before saying, “Dude, I’m not looking down on your— your profession, but most people don’t do what you do if they have money to spare.”

Derek stared. “I do.”

Scott stared back. “Are you serious?”

“I have money. My sister and I own our apartment. I’m trying not to touch my savings so that I have some to spare when I buy my own house. The job is good experience as well,” Derek gritted out in anger, hating to share so much information with someone who obviously thought he was no better than the gum under the sole of his shoe.

Scott’s mouth flapped a few times before he squeaked out, “You think prostitution is good experience??”

“What?” Erica and Isaac asked.

“What.” Derek stared, too shocked to even phrase it as a question.

“That should be my line,” Scott said, hands flailing in a way that was reminiscent of Stiles.

Boyd said, “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

Derek turned to see Erica standing next to Boyd with an arm curled around his. Boyd was giving her awestruck glances every few seconds, but he managed to convey an embarrassed look at Derek as well.

“You think I’m a prostitute,” Derek said, voice flat and disbelieving.

“Oh boy,” Isaac muttered, at the same time as an old lady eating by the side murmured, “Those jeans are very tight, my dear.”

Allison stepped out of the kitchen with a curious expression on her face, wiping her hands on her apron around the gun-shaped bulge in her apron pocket. “What’s going on here?”

“Do you think I’m a prostitute too?” Derek asked, because he had only met Allison twice, surely she wouldn’t think the same.

She bit her lower lip. “Oh well. Um.”

The answer was clearly yes.

Scott said tentatively, “Stiles told us you were…?”

Derek leaned heavily against a table for support. Before he could open his mouth, the bells above the door jingled violently at the force of the door swinging open in a loud swoosh.

“Derek, Derek, you’re still here, thank God,” Stiles stumbled in through the entrance, short of breath. “I was so afraid you would have left already, and you weren’t picking up your phone.”

Probably because he was too busy getting the shock of the century. Derek was about to ask aloud the question his brain seemed to be looping over and over again, when Stiles took three big steps into the diner and grabbed him by the shoulders.

Stiles said with a determined gaze and a loud, sincere voice, “I’m so sorry, Derek. I shouldn’t have, I don’t, I really don’t look down on you or anything. I know things have been pretty shit for you, and you’re doing pretty amazingly after everything. I was just, I wasn’t sure I could share. I know it’s not the same, one is a job, and the other is how you feel and a relationship. It—”

“Stiles, I think—” Scott tried to interrupt urgently.

“I’m in the middle of something here, Scott, please!” Stiles waved a hand at him before clamping it down on Derek’s shoulder again. “It took longer than expected, but I really thought about it, and I, I kinda like you. A lot, if it wasn’t obvious. And I won’t ask you to change. I’ll support your choices, if you’re okay with being a little patient with me. I’ll try not to be jealous or anything, but we’ll need to be safe of course, because, well you know, dude—”

Derek turned his leaden arms to grip Stiles by the elbows. “Stiles.”

“Not that I, not that I think you’re unsafe or anything, or implying that you’re um, diseased, oh my God, just pretend I didn’t say that, it’s way too early for the sex talk anyway—”

Stiles.” Derek shook him a little, glaring until Stiles’ mouth snapped shut. “I’m not a hooker.”

Stiles did a pretty good imitation of Scott’s earlier mouth flapping in surprise and confusion, only to recover and say, “But you are.”

Derek shook his head slowly. “No, I’m not. I work construction.”

“But… Whu.” Stiles let go and waved his hands urgently even as words failed him.

Derek was trying to suffocate his embarrassment, because he thought they were dating. His voice was harsh when he asked, “Why the hell did you think that?”

It seemed like Stiles still hadn’t completely managed to regain his words, because he waved his hands at Derek, before waving them at Erica while choking out, “You, look at how you’re both, how can you not—”

At that moment, Derek was wearing a tight T-shirt that had probably seen better days, since it was really worn and thin. Erica was in her favorite, cleavage-enhancing bodice and a miniskirt, paired with laced-up platform heels.

Derek shook his head in disbelief. “They give us safety jackets to wear at work, so I usually wear the jacket over this.”

Erica crossed her arms, which only served to draw attention to her assets. “That’s just rude. What the fuck century do you live in? You don’t judge a person by what they’re wearing.”

Stiles shook his head almost violently, hands held up in automatic defense. “No, no, that’s not it. Or that’s not just it. I met Derek at the corner of Oak Point Street and Tiffany Avenue.”

Derek and Erica stared blankly back at him, until Stiles threw his hands up in frustration. “Oh my God, that’s the hooker corner. That’s where you go if you want to pick up a male prostitute. And Derek was standing there with all the other hookers!”

Derek protested, “They weren’t prostitutes.”

“Yes, yes, they were!” Stiles insisted. “One of them once offered Scott and I a discount on a threesome when we were walking by. They’re definitely prostitutes!”

Allison piped up, “Stiles is right. Everyone who lives here knows that.”

Stiles nodded and pointed at her. “Yes! That! Thank you! And you were just standing in line with them, Derek! So I thought… What did you think you were doing??”

It was such a shock that Derek answered in a daze, “I thought— I thought that was a taxi stand. There was a signpost—”

He cut himself off, because there was indeed a signpost, but he was realizing to his dawning horror that it hadn’t been readable and he'd just assumed it was a taxi stand signpost.

“You thought all those skimpily-clad men and transvestites were standing there waiting for a taxi??” Stiles’ voice went up unexpectedly high at the idea.

Derek felt like he was short on air, like his brain wasn’t really working and words were just coming out of his mouth by accident. “I thought they were just guys… and surprisingly strong-looking women. Waiting for a taxi.”

Stiles gestured in an indecipherable whirl of hands. “There was a guy giving his customer a blowjob in the alleyway next to that corner! Guys were being picked up by the cars that came by!”

Derek wanted to die. “I thought they were getting a ride from their friends. I thought the two guys were a horny couple who couldn’t wait!”

“Oh my god. Oh my god.

Just kill him now. Derek would glare at Erica and Isaac later for laughing like hyenas — they were werewolves for fuck’s sake — but he was too busy trying to will himself through the floor. “So when I was talking about working on the street…”

“I thought you meant… working on the street. Like a slang for prostitution,” Stiles said. At least he sounded mortified as well, and his friends were laughing at him too. Scott was practically holding Allison up as she giggled hysterically. 

“While I meant I was literally working on the street. We’re digging up some badly laid power cables on Edgewater and laying down new ones. Then we’re going to redo the whole road, because it was so badly done the first time,” Derek explained, faintly desperate to prove that he really wasn’t a hooker.

Stiles hid his face behind his hands. “So when you said your job was really physical…”

Derek sighed. “I meant exactly that. Physical labor. Drilling holes, carrying heavy stuff, operating heavy machinery, spraying road oil.”

“Fuckity fuck fuck, road oil, oh my god,” Stiles said. When he dropped his hands, his cheeks and ears were flushed with embarrassment, which was great because they now matched Derek’s equally red ears. Derek’s memory of a certain conversation they had about oil suddenly took a very, very different meaning. What did Stiles think he was talking about in relation to his protective gear? Probably some very kinky shit. Fuck, their interaction was a series of misunderstood conversations about prostitution and road works. What the fuck was his life?

Derek asked even though he was almost afraid to hear the answer, “When you saw me in my safety jacket that one time…?”

Stiles groaned, a heartfelt sound of despair. “I thought it was some costume you were putting on for a kinky client.”

“It was loose and fluorescent,” Derek said, almost in disbelief, except he had to believe it, because this was the sort of shit that happened to him.

“People have kinks for things like that I’m sure!” Stiles protested. “And what about penetration? What did you mean by penetration, when you said your work mate was getting ready to perform a penetration demonstration—”

Derek’s ears almost hurt from how much they were flushed red. “It was a bitumen penetration test for the developer who hired the construction company I work for.”

It was like watching a train wreck in playback. Now that Derek knew what was going on in Stiles’ brain, he was putting together all those times Stiles had given him strange looks or withdrawn from the conversation. He was seeing it in horrifying, embarrassing, high definition mental replay, how Stiles had interpreted everything. “You freaked out when you saw blood on my clothes. You didn’t believe me when I said it was from a workmate who was injured.”

“I thought a client had beat you,” Stiles moaned, dragging his fingers through his hair.

“I was amazed. People usually aren’t worried about me being injured,” Derek said faintly.

Stiles’ eyes widened and he took a step forward. “Derek…”

He shook his head. “I have to go.”

Derek was an idiot. The one time he thought he was in an actual relationship, or at the very least, that someone was interested in him, he was being mistaken for a hooker. His lack of communication skills had led to this. Stiles was funny and hot and only having these meals with Derek because he pitied Derek and thought he needed to be fed. Fuck his life. And his friends had heard it all, along with everyone in this stupid diner. He came here thinking that he could maybe save this friendship, but there wasn’t even a friendship to save.

He was heading for the door blindly, but a heavy body colliding against his back jolted him out of his messy, self-hating thoughts.

Stiles turned him around and wrapped his arms around his shoulders. “No way I’m letting you walk out of here. I know that face, that’s your stupid ‘I’m thinking destructive emo thoughts’ face.”

“Wow, he really knows him well,” Erica whispered with the subtlety of a gunshot. Without a silencer.

“Let me go, Stiles,” Derek said, his voice tight with embarrassment and anger. Stiles was holding him loosely and he could break free any time, but he didn’t want to have to physically push Stiles away, not even after everything.

His demand only served to make Stiles hug him tighter, face so close that Derek could feel his breath against his lips. He pulled his head back so that he wouldn’t go cross-eyed looking at Stiles’ serious face.

“Not until you hear me out, because if you walk out that door, I have a feeling I won’t see you again,” Stiles said, looking him in the eye with steady intensity. “This whole thing might have started out because you were nice to me when I was falling down drunk, and I wanted to feed you, because I was worried you were outside cold and hungry, without enough money. But we have been meeting up more than once a week for two months, exchanging text messages and talking a hell lot. It isn’t pity or whatever you’re thinking about, okay? Not anymore.”

“But it started that way,” Derek gritted out. “You started out thinking I was a prostitute.”

Stiles grinned, of all things. “Yeah, because I’m an idiot. And you’re an idiot too. But we’re not going to be idiots anymore. I really like you, alright? We’re not going to let an initial misunderstanding stop us when we’re finally on the same page and when we have been practically dating for weeks now, even though I was too much of a doofus to realize it. I came in here thinking you were a prostitute and I was ready to start a relationship with you anyway, even though the thought of you being with anyone else, even for a job, totally killed me, and I was so jealous, but I was going to try anyway, Derek, and—”

Derek kissed him, cutting off his ramble, not because he didn’t want to hear anymore, but because it was so very Stiles to finally put all of himself out there on the line in one big gesture to convince Derek. His flushed cheeks and bright eyes as he passionately spoke was too much to resist from such a close distance, and he was right. In all that horror, Derek had forgotten about the part where Stiles had rushed here to tell him that he wanted him too.

Stiles squeaked and jerked, causing them to bump noses. It was awkward like how their first kiss should have been. Then Stiles settled, limbs sinking against Derek’s as his body pressed closer. They found the right angle, and the kiss turned soft, intimate, as they parted lips and breathed the same air, pressed closer again in a warm, arousing exchange of gentle bites and tentative caresses with lips and tongues.

A piercing whistle followed by hoots and laughter broke their little bubble of imagined privacy. Stiles pulled back and rested their foreheads together. “Our friends suck.”

It wasn’t just their friends. The few customers at the diner were clapping like they had witnessed a live show put on for their entertainment. 

“I think they’re going to get on too well together,” Derek grumbled, eyeing how Erica and Boyd were already pressed close, whispering together, and Isaac, Scott and Allison seemed to be bonding over what they had just seen.

He could feel Stiles rolling his eyes with his whole head, an amusing, exaggerated motion. “You wanna get out of here?”

Derek pulled back and grinned. “Thought you would never ask.”

Stiles twined his fingers around Derek’s, holding hands boldly. “Oh my God, it’s not only your eyebrows that are lethal weapons. Your smile is killing me here. Put those canines away.”

Derek didn’t try at all to tamp it down, dragging Stiles out of the diner while grinning like a loon. He flashed Erica his middle finger when she wolf-whistled, but even that wasn’t enough to dampen his spirits.

“We’re going on a proper date,” Derek said. “One where no one is mistaken for a prostitute.”

“I can get behind that. Like really. Just keep walking in front of me,” Stiles said with an exaggerated leer in his voice.

Derek huffed and pulled Stiles by his hand so that they were walking side by side on the pavement. “You’re going to objectify my body now that you know I’m not a prostitute, aren’t you?”

Stiles shifted so that they were pressed tightly, shoulder-to-shoulder. “I’m going to wax poetic about your arms and ass like you won’t believe.”

Derek ducked to hide a smile. “Oh, I believe it.”

# # # # # # # # # #

-Six months later-

Derek handed Stiles his apartment keys. “Hold on to this. I would leave the apartment door unlocked, but I don’t want anyone barging in.”

The keys dangled from Stiles’ hand, held away from his body like they were radioactive. Stiles did not look pleased. “You know that when you call me over saying there’s something you want to tell me and then you behave all crazy without telling me anything yet, it makes me think you’re about to break up with me. Or kill me.”

“Take a raincheck on those options,” Derek said with a roll of his eyes even though he felt so tense, his bones might actually be cracking under the pressure. “I just wanted you to know that if you felt uncomfortable at any point, you can leave the apartment easily.”

“Okaaaaay. Really not helping with the serial killer vibe,” Stiles said, almost flinging the keys across the room as he waved his hand at Derek.

Damnit, he knew Laura’s plan wouldn’t go down well with Stiles, but he didn’t know how else to do this. Derek didn’t want any more secrets or misunderstandings between them, and he knew Stiles had already cottoned on that there was something not quite right about Erica, Isaac, and the Hales. Erica and Isaac were the least subtle werewolves alive, and it wasn’t an easy feat to keep werewolfy traits under wraps when Stiles was practically glued to his hip these days. Derek quite liked living in each other’s pockets, was happily working towards unhealthy co-dependency, so he had asked Laura for permission to let Stiles in on the supernatural secret. Humans outside Packs weren’t told on a whim, so it was a big decision.

Laura had been a little uncertain at first. She liked Stiles and had expressed many times that Stiles was a good influence on Derek. But it was still a big step. Not adhering to conventional werewolf structure, Laura had put it to a vote, and Erica and Isaac had voted for it. Derek suspected that their decision weren’t entirely objective either, since things were getting serious between Erica and Boyd, so she was probably just waiting to let him in on the existence of all bumpy things in the night. Isaac was getting close to Scott and Allison, had even brought up to Derek that he thought Scott would make a good werewolf, and it would cure him of his asthma. Stiles would be a good lead-on to bringing the others into the fold. 

Regardless of how they got here, the Pack support meant that today, Derek was doing the big reveal based on Laura’s outline to least traumatize Stiles.

“Are you going to say anything?” Stiles asked.

And Derek was already fucking it up magnificently.

Derek took a deep breath and spoke in a calm, low tone, “I know you have been curious about some things, and I’m going to tell you everything now. Just… stay calm and remember that I won’t hurt you.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles said, clutching the keys to his chest.

It was now or never. “I’m a werewolf.”

Stiles stared at him. Fuck, what was the next line in Laura’s script? He just said whatever came to his mind in a panic, “I’m not crazy. I’m going to change my eye colors now, and these aren’t contacts. I can lengthen my nails into— Omph!”

At first, Derek thought Stiles was attacking him since he had just thrown himself bodily at Derek. Under the sudden weight, Derek staggered backwards. He had just been about to bring out the claws, but he forced back the change so as not to hurt Stiles. Then he realized that Stiles was hugging him, one of his infamous, full-body hugs with his arms thrown around Derek’s body and his face pressed against Derek’s cheek.

“OH MY GOD, I KNEW IT,” Stiles screamed, causing Derek to jerk his head away from the ear-splitting volume. “I TOTALLY KNEW IT!”

Derek pried Stiles back a little so that he could look at his face. That unreasonably tempting mouth was dropped open in familiar joy, eyes wide with excitement. Derek asked in bewilderment, “You knew what?”

“I knew you were a werewolf! This is amazing, oh my God.” Stiles clung to his shoulders and shook him a little with joy, before suddenly grabbing his hand instead. “Wait, let me see it. You were going to say claws right? You have claws? This is so cool. Come on, show me your claws.”

His body was too attuned to Stiles’ words by now and before he knew it, his claws were out. Stiles traced them almost reverently, saying, “This is fucking amazing.”

Of all reactions Derek had expected, this was not one of them. He asked helplessly, “How did you know?”

Stiles planted a kiss on Derek’s open fingers, just above his claws, before turning to face Derek with an impish grin, “Oh, come on, it was so obvious. Of course I knew.”

Derek had to shake himself out of his reverie after that little kiss. These casual, affectionate gestures outside of sex never failed to warm him and stun him at the same time; the way Stiles would sling his arm around Derek’s waist, kiss whichever body part — shoulders, hair, nose, even Derek’s knee once — was near his face at any point in time, tangle their legs together when they were out having a meal together. Their relationship wasn’t filled with soppy romance, far from it most times, but the easy expression of adoration between them overwhelmed Derek sometimes.

He tried to bring his thoughts back to the subject at hand. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about all the obvious signs,” Stiles said, waving his free hand airily. “The way you all disappear together on a full moon? And how Erica and Isaac get all antsy around that time, which I’m guessing is because they’re younger and aren’t good at control yet. It’s also really obvious when you angle towards the door when someone is approaching, even though they haven’t knocked. Erica doesn’t even hide that she sniffs the air and then promptly asks us intrusive questions about our sex life. And at the diner, Isaac always seems to know when Allison is going to be done with our meals, even though we can’t hear or smell anything distinctive from the kitchen. I’m also pretty sure I saw Erica lift the couch with one hand while she was on her knees looking for her car keys. So, super hearing, super nose, super strength, plus the full moon? You’re obviously werewolves!”

Derek stared at him, wordless in his surprise at Stiles’ list of evidence. When laid out like that, it was hard to deny that they were really shitty at hiding their supernatural side. The idea had been to tell Stiles that Derek was a werewolf, before slowly easing him into the idea of Pack, if he seemed to accept it fine. That was blown out of the water entirely now. 

“By the way, you’re all really bad at making up excuses. But now that I’m officially in the know, I think I can come up with some less suspicious reasons around your disappearances on the full moon and to excuse your weirder habits,” Stiles said, smiling up at Derek in excitement while still clutching his clawed hand.

Officially in the know. Christ.

“So you’re fine with us being werewolves,” Derek said, unsure if he should be making that a question or a statement. His intonation hovered somewhere in-between.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles said. “It’s the most exciting thing I have heard all year!”

His heartbeat was fast, but it was the normal pace for when Stiles was getting excited. There was no stutter or irregularity to indicate a lie. As if unable to hold in his amazement, Stiles hugged Derek again, giving him a warm, happy kiss. Derek couldn’t resist returning it, pressing closer and tilting his head for a little bit more, even though his mind was whirling from the unexpected turned tables.

Stiles pulled back a little, eyes dropping to Derek’s lips. “Woah, do you get fangs as well?”

Derek dropped his head onto Stiles shoulder, muffling his laugh into his neck.

“What? It’s a serious question, I want to see,” Stiles said, ineffectually trying to pull Derek back by his neck.

Derek chuckled. “I can’t believe you figured out that I’m a werewolf, when you couldn’t even figure out that I wasn’t a prostitute.”

Stiles pinched his neck. “Excuse me, half of the prostitute business was because of you. You were the source of most of the confusion, dude. And I thought we agreed not to talk about the whole prostitution thing.”

That was a lie. Derek and Stiles said that a lot, that they weren’t going to talk about it again, but it came up regularly, sometimes in the bedroom too, which resulted in many enjoyable, breathless orgasms.

Derek suddenly pulled back a little. “Do you have a werewolf fetish?”

Stiles looked up, actually giving it some thought. He shrugged. “No, I don’t think so. But for you, I could probably develop one.”

That sounded like their relationship alright. Derek smiled at him, letting his mouth stretch into a shit-eating grin. His canines slowly lengthened until he could feel them pressing pinpricks against his lip.

“Oh, fuck me,” Stiles gasped, his mouth falling open.

Derek leaned forward and nipped gently at Stiles' lower lip, dragging his sharp canines carefully against the soft flesh. He murmured against Stiles’ mouth, “That will cost you.”

Stiles’ eyes were gleaming with shared amusement. “How much for the whole night?”

 

# # # # # # # # # #

THE END