“You have the actual worst taste in girlfriends ever,” Isaac says into Lydia’s wolfsbane punch. But he doesn’t have to be looking at Derek for Derek to know who he’s talking to.
“Shut up.” Derek has his own cup, and it’s empty again, because Derek is maybe being a little bit of a sad sack about the incredible tragedy that is his lovelife. Maybe he wasn’t meant to move on after Paige? Maybe he was meant to go on alone until he died of romantic frustration? Things might be better for everyone involved if he did.
Across the loft, Cora claps her hands. “Okay, new rule. Any time Derek wants a date, one of us has to vet her first.”
Scott, who’s actually upside down on Derek’s couch, in apparent celebration of their defeat of the alpha pack—which somehow ended with Kali trying to give Derek her number, and he still doesn’t know how that happened, because he’s the worst alpha ever—says, “You know who’s got really good people instincts?”
Derek says, “No,” because he can guess where this is going and it’s an even more terrible idea than Derek dating again.
“I’ll do it!” Stiles says, even though nobody actually asked him.
This is going to go badly.
And yet Derek’s protests fall on deaf ears, because the next time he gets a girl’s phone number—a respectable number of months later, because Derek’s crappy at dating but not actually suicidal; he doesn’t trust his own judgment when he’s heartsick anymore—Isaac steals the receipt she wrote it on and won’t give it back until Stiles has done a thorough background check.
It’s kind of sweet in a creepy, extremely misguided and overprotective way. Being on the other side of that equation is weird.
A day later, he gets a text from Stiles and lets himself in his window. Stiles is sitting in his desk chair, his fingers steepled in front of him. He looks serious.
Derek sighs. “How bad is it? Serial murderer? Secret cannibal? Puppy kicker?”
Shaking his head, Stiles motions toward the bed with one hand, indicating Derek should sit. “Worse.”
Worse. Jesus, Derek knows how to pick them. He sits, letting his hands hang down between his knees. “How bad?”
Stiles lets out a long breath and runs a hand through his hair, and Derek braces himself for the worst. “Derek,” he says gently, “she’s a Yankees fan.”
Derek feels his jaw drop open. God. God, and he’d almost—“Jesus. Jesus, I didn’t know.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Stiles stands and crosses the room, puts his hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Hey. It’s okay. We all make mistakes, right?”
Derek nods wordlessly. Maybe it’s a good thing he has Stiles on his side after all.
Two weeks after that, Derek meets a woman while jogging in the preserve. She’s a little older than he is, which he’s learned to be wary of, but he should probably get over that, right? Besides, she’s smart, sarcastic, and cute in a really unique way, with an uneven smattering of freckles and short hair spiked in a sort of pixie cut.
Derek gets her name, shakes her hand, and makes tentative plans to go running with her the next morning.
Then he takes out his phone and calls Stiles.
“Got it,” Stiles says. “I’ll get back to you.”
And then there’s nothing left to do but wait.
It doesn’t take very long. Stiles either really enjoys breaking the law to virtually stalk people or he needs to get another hobby. Maybe both. Probably both. But right now his habits are working in Derek’s favor, so Derek’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Hey,” Stiles says, not even bothering to wait for Derek to say hello first. “So I got your info.”
Derek puts the phone on speaker and squints into the fridge. God damn it, where’s the butter? He can’t make crepes without butter. “I’m listening.”
“So there’s nothing major,” Stiles says, but something about his tone keeps Derek from relaxing. “Except… uh. I don’t know, do you like kids?”
There it is. Derek shoves aside Isaac’s stupid Lunchables to get to the butter. “Do I what? What does that have to do with anything?”
“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “Maybe nothing? But like, this girl, okay, she doesn’t want kids ever. According to her Facebook, she punched the last person who told her she’d change her mind eventually. In the face. So if you want kids, maybe you should let this one go.”
It seems kind of premature not to go out with someone because they don’t want kids, Derek thinks, even though he sort of does. Then again, he allowed Stiles to be put in charge of vetting his dates for a reason. “Okay,” he says at length. “Thanks, Stiles.”
“Hey,” Stiles says warmly, “any time.”
After that, Cora signs him up for an online dating service. Which is probably the worst idea anyone has ever had, as Derek only gets away with talking to people in person because he’s good-looking, and the Internet takes that advantage away from him.
As soon as Cora realizes this, she starts running interference, printing off shortlists of viable candidates. Anyone Derek okays gets sent off to Stiles for further stalking.
Bachelorette number one has seven cats, Stiles texts the first day.
Derek crosses her off the list. Werewolves aren’t supposed to have allergic reactions, but cat hair gives him hives. It’s awful.
Bachelorette number two has herpes, which isn’t a deal-breaker for Derek, especially since he can’t catch or transmit it anyway, but she also has a drug habit, and Derek’s been mixed up with enough women with criminal pasts, thanks.
Bachelorette number three warrants a return to actual phone calls. “So this is more awkward than I thought it would be,” Stiles says. “And, you know, I’m not going to cast any aspersions or anything, and I’m not judging either way, I’m just going to throw this out there.”
Good God. Derek wonders if this woman is into German dungeon porn or something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as long as it’s all consensual, but—“Spit it out, Stiles.”
“So she’s kind of a furry?”
Derek pauses with his mouth open on a reply. He doesn’t know what that means. “I’m assuming that does not refer to a born or acquired ability to shapeshift.”
“It means she sometimes likes to dress up as a lamb and, in her case, have sex with other people also dressed up like animals.”
What. “That’s a thing?”
Stiles snorts. “It’s 2013, Derek. Everything’s a thing. Anyway, I don’t know, I’m not judging. You could be perfect for her, you wouldn’t even need a costume. Who could resist the irony—”
“Me,” Derek says firmly. Even if he could deal with the costume thing, not knowing whether the fact that he was a werewolf was influencing his partner’s decision to be with him sounds uncomfortable.
“Yeah, okay, not for you. Got it.” Stiles pauses. “Uh, you know that’s the end of your list, right?”
Derek does know that. “Yeah.”
Another pause. He can just hear Stiles fidgeting in his desk chair. “So. Don’t hate me for asking this or anything, because, you know. But have you considered expanding your search parameters?”
“Why, do you have a hot friend you want to set me up with?”
He imagines the face Stiles must make at that and only barely manages to restrain his laughter. “A world of no. I’m just saying, the ladies haven’t worked out so well in the past. So if you’re open to the idea…?”
And what the hell. Just because Derek’s never dated another guy before doesn’t mean he’s never been attracted to one. “I’ll keep my options open,” he promises, and hangs up.
Derek climbs through Stiles’s window again to hand over the next name in person. Stiles is lying on his bed, leafing through Where the Wild Things Are. Apparently he’s a Mets fan, because he’s wearing a jersey and listening to the game on the radio.
The Mets are losing, of course. Derek sighs. “Hey.”
“Man, you look like I feel,” Stiles commiserates. He sets the book aside. “Who’d you bring me this time?”
Stiles’s reaction is immediate and visceral: he scrunches up his face and makes an actual honest-to-God gagging noise. “Ugh, Derek. No.”
Well. Derek feels a smile tugging at his lips in spite of himself. “So you know him.”
“Ugh,” Stiles repeats, flopping back onto his bed dramatically. And he accuses Derek of being theatrical. “He’s an asshole. Danny dated him last year. Justin broke his heart. To the point where Danny—sweet, loveable Danny—was happy Justin got paralyzed by Jackson at the club.”
Sensing there’s more to the story, Derek waits.
“And he insulted my Jeep.”
Derek grins. “The nerve.”
Stiles narrows his eyes. “Don’t laugh. Betty has saved your life, dude.”
“Wasn’t laughing,” he promises.
“If you say so.”
They both sigh in disgust again as the Tigers score another run, and then Stiles rolls onto his side. “So that’s it? Nobody else to check out?” He has pillow creases on his chin, and like always, his heart is beating just a little too fast.
Nothing bad has happened to Derek in six months. Okay, he got abducted by a bunch of fairies, but it turned out they just wanted to worship him, and anyway Stiles led a rescue mission, so it was fine. His therapist says he’s in surprisingly good mental health for someone who’s dated not one but two mass murderers.
And maybe that just means he shouldn’t risk it. Maybe that means he should trust the status quo.
Derek really hopes that’s not what it means. “I… there is somebody.”
Something about the way he says it must be different, because Stiles stills for a moment, then licks his lips and sits up. “I’m listening.”
Fighting the urge to curl his hands into fists, Derek takes a deep breath. “But there’s a problem.” He laughs nervously and amends, “There are lots of problems.”
Stiles swallows. “Like what?”
“Like my entire romantic history?” Derek suggests. “Like the fact that I can barely have a conversation with him without it devolving into sarcastic one-upmanship?”
“I don’t see how that’s a problem,” Stiles mutters a tad breathlessly, and Derek chokes back a laugh as the worst one yet occurs to him.
“Like I don’t even know how you’re going to do a background check,” he says, “since I don’t even know his first name.”
For a half a second Stiles stares at him blankly, as if despite the past few minutes, he can’t believe what he just heard. Then he says, “Oh you asshole” and basically attacks Derek with his mouth, and Derek means that literally because there is a little overzealous teeth action going on at the beginning, and it’s not on his end.
But Stiles calms down when Derek slides one hand into his hair to keep him grounded, and after that—yeah. Yeah, this is worth risking the status quo for.
A few minutes later, Stiles pulls away, and Derek realizes he’s flat on his back on Stiles’s bed, with Stiles half sprawled on top of him.
“I hate the Yankees,” Stiles says.
Derek snorts. “Yeah, I know.”
“Shut up, I’m talking,” he snaps without heat. “I might want kids. I’m really more of a dog person.”
Derek’s jaw drops. “You did not—”
Laughing, Stiles claps a hand over Derek’s mouth. “Let me finish!”
Derek licks him.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Mature. I do not have herpes or any other form of STI. I take Adderall every day. I’m not a furry, but I am open to new experiences—”
“Oh my God,” Derek says, muffled, not sure whether to be horrified.
“—I’m kind of an asshole. I talk too much. I get obsessive about mysteries. I eat chips in bed.”
Derek shifts. There’s crunching. Now that he thinks about it, the sheets kind of smell like Doritos.
Stiles’s voice softens, and he meets Derek’s gaze. “I’m embarrassingly into you.”
Derek pulls Stiles’s hand away from his face and threads their fingers together.
“We’ll probably fight all the time,” Stiles warns.
Derek squeezes his hand. “Sounds perfect.”