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and you in your autumn sweater

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It wasn’t the kind of thing you’d expect to be ambushed by at eleven in the parking lot of the local Target. Well, to be fair, being ambushed by a manticore in said parking lot hadn't been expected either, but it was hungry and bad-tempered enough that it clearly qualified as Stiles' entire quota for supernatural surprises o' the week.

And then Derek showed up in the sweater.

Which, okay, yay for Derek’s presence—Stiles’ dad was great with a firearm and Ms McCall could wield a mean baseball bat, but when you were faced with a manticore which looked like it was either trying to kill his dad’s car or mate with it, Stiles was going to text Derek for back-up every time.

It was just that Stiles expected Derek to appear as a grey-and-leather-clad presence in the corner of his eye, not striding up to them in a pair of jeans and a red sweater that looked soft and pettable. Stiles blinked. Derek’s regular colour palette implied that one of his hobbies was trying to camouflage himself in a winter woodland, but there was no mistaking that that sweater was a bright, declarative red. Stiles’ brain circuits did a little loop from surprised to intrigued to worried and right back to surprised again, which was a heady thing to experience in about 2.4 seconds and so he really couldn’t be blamed for blurting out, “Soft.”

Soft. In front of, like, god and his dad and a really amused-looking Ms McCall.

Derek just looked at him blankly, like his internal Stiles-to-English dictionary was broken again, which was just fine because Stiles was pretty sure that his copy was malfunctioning, too. He contemplated punching himself in the face, but then got distracted by how Derek and his dad were working together—his dad luring the manticore away from the car, Derek tackling it and taking it out with one efficient swipe of his claws.

The beast howled once and then went limp, and Stiles got a practical demonstration in the origins of the term dead weight as the four of them struggled to haul the corpse out to the tree line that ran right down to the edge of the parking lot. It could wait there for a couple of hours until they got hold of a car or flatbed big enough to get the body out of there and over to Deaton’s. So much for a relaxing Thanksgiving break. It was enough to make a guy think with nostalgic longing of last week and its caffeine-fuelled midterms.

“Oh honey,” Ms McCall said to Derek when they were heading back to their cars, “you got something on that lovely sweater! Hold on, I’ve got a stain stick in my purse, you don’t want that to set.”

“Thanks,” Derek said, taking the stick Ms McCall held out and dabbing at what Stiles was pretty sure were some blood spatters on the cuff of his sweater. “It was a birthday present from Cora, I don’t want to mess it up.”

Stiles kept a mental list of the stuff he needed to tell his younger self, should he ever end up in a time travel scenario—which honestly, Scott had been bemused by the idea but in Beacon Hills, contingency plans like that were about on a level with making sure that your first aid kit was fully stocked. To ‘see if you can start taking Latin in sixth grade’, ‘be suspicious of all substitute teachers’, and ‘start stockpiling wolfsbane and mountain ash now, buddy’, he now added ‘one day, you’re going to see Derek Hale trading laundry tips with Scott’s mom, all while wearing a really cosy-looking sweater, and it’s not going to seem as weird as it should.’

Of course, spending several sweaty, mud-splattered pre-dawn hours secretly transporting a supernatural corpse through town turned out exactly as weird as it should. So yay, normalcy, or Beacon Hills' facsimile of it, anyway.

There was no danger from predatory beasts between then and Thursday—if you discounted the thirty seconds or so after Scott discovered that they were all out of Cheetos part way through game night and he got all huffy—which meant that Stiles’ body started to let the preparedness hormones leach from his system.

And that was a clear tactical error, because on Thursday afternoon Stiles walked into the hallway at the McCalls and saw Derek shutting the front door behind him. Derek, who was once again wearing that red sweater, and who now had a chunky blue-grey scarf wound around his neck. Stiles did a double-take before doing the only thing that seemed viable at that moment: he choked on his own spit, fell backwards against the bannisters of the stair, pointed at Derek with the serving spoon still clutched in one hand and hissed, “Unfair! Unfair!”

The fact that Derek barely even blinked at that probably said something about their relationship.

“I brought some mashed potatoes,” was all he said, hefting the giant pot a little by way of explanation.

Ordinarily, Stiles would be all about that, normally Stiles would be two thumbs up because creamy, buttery mashed potatoes? Food of the gods, for real, or at least of all the Irish gods worth knowing. But Derek was standing there in the McCalls’ hallway, holding a pot of potatoes, bundled up in these soft-looking clothes that were just—Stiles didn’t know what to do that. He didn’t know how to process Derek looking like the kind of dude who’d just show up to Thanksgiving all, you know, regular. Stiles settled for cradling the serving spoon protectively against his chest and saying, “Great! Awesome, dude, that’s, yeah, love me some taters like a hobbit! You can just leave those into the kitchen, should be some space left on the counter next to the pies, but dinner’s soon, or at least whenever Lydia gets done owning everyone at Monopoly, you know how she rolls, vicious with a top hat.”

One of Derek’s eyebrows quirked. “Monopoly?”

From the living room there came a sudden chorus of groans and then Lydia’s cry of, “Victory!”

“Survival of the fittest, right?” Stiles said weakly. “I think it’s metaphorical.”

Dinner was a noisy, colourful feast of the kind that Stiles had never had as a kid—his mom had been a great cook, but it had only been the three of them. Now there were enough people to fill two tables, family and friends and pack, and enough food consumed that even after the dishwasher had been switched on full to bursting, the sink was still piled high with dirty glasses.

“I’ll do it,” Derek told Ms McCall. “You can have your coffee.”

“Thank you, Derek,” Ms McCall said, patting him on the forearm before picking up her mug and heading back into the living room. “That’s very considerate.”

Stiles was clearly trapped inside the very special Thanksgiving-themed Twilight Zone episode of his own life.

Derek turned on the faucet and squirted some dish soap into the sink before rolling up his sleeves—rolling up the sleeves of that very soft sweater so that Stiles could see his forearms, and Stiles was starting to feel like a Southern Belle. This was ridiculous, he’d seen Derek in various states of partial nudity plenty of times before now, the sight of his tanned forearms against the rich red cashmere should have meant nothing to him, nothing, and yet here he was, like a Victorian about to swoon at the hint of a shapely ankle.

“Inconsiderate son of a bitch,” Stiles muttered under his breath, and made a tactical retreat clutching the last of the pecan pie.

A porch was a classic spot for some bewailing of one’s life, and far be it from Stiles to break with the classics, so he hauled Scott out there with him. “Help me out here,” he said around bites of pie, “because I’m lost, I honestly don’t... like, what does this say about my psychosexual development that I hit my twenties and find out I’ve got, like, a kink for cashmere-wearing werewolves? Well, to be specific, a cashmere-wearing werewolf. Huh. If you say that phrase a lot it’s totally a tongue twister, especially if you’ve got a lot of corn syrup in your mouth.”

Scott cleared his throat. “So, uh. Werewolf hearing...”

“Non sequitur there, good buddy,” Stiles said, waving his fork at him. “We’ve been talking about werewolf sartorial habits and the hotness thereof.”

“No,” Scott said, drawing the word out, “just, the walls here are sort of thin and the kitchen’s right over there? And also the kitchen window is open? And Derek’s coming this way so I’m just going to be over—”

He jerked a thumb in the general direction of the hell away from the porch, leapt over the railing and vanished into the darkness.

Stiles gaped after him. “You are a faithless and terrible friend, Scott McCall! Faithless and terrible, and I know you can hear me because—oh, hey, Derek, hi. You want some pie?”

Derek raised an eyebrow at him, ignored the pie, and said, “A kink?”

Jesus. The man had the temerity to ask him a question like that with his bare forearms all on display. Sadist. Stiles swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.

“Well,” he said, putting down the pie on the little table next to him. “More a generic thing. Less, you know...” He mimed cracking a whip. “And more like a, a... thing.” Excellent explanatory skills, Stilinski. A++. That was the kind of sterling command of the English language that had him halfway to a degree from Berkeley.

“A thing,” Derek said, and now the other eyebrow was in on the action. That boded.

“Just, you know. When you wear that sweater you look sort of like you’d be nice to... hug? And stuff. And... yeah.” You’d think that after twenty years of being himself, Stiles would have become immune to overwhelming mortification, and yet.

Derek said, “You think I’d be nice to hug?” There was a slight upwards cant to his tone that Stiles knew would have read as surprise on anyone else.

Stiles gave into the urge to roll his eyes. “No, I think it’d be nice to hug the other hot sweater-wearing guy I’ve had a crush on for ages,” he said, and then froze, because oh shit. Did he just say that out loud? He did. Oh shit. Maybe he could say that there had been something in the pie, some sort of weird chemical compound in pecans that catalysed in the presence of soft sweaters and Stiles’ general, you know, Stiles-ishness, and made him blurt out humiliating things because Derek.

There was silence for a moment except for the distant sounds of the party still going on inside the house, and Stiles was half-expecting Derek to punch him, half-expecting Derek to just walk off without saying a word, which meant that no part of Stiles was left prepared for Derek’s face to relax all of a sudden as he said, sounding oddly unperturbed and maybe even faintly amused, “It took a sweater to get you to say anything?”

Processing that statement took a moment. Stiles blinked and then said, “Wait, wait, time out,” making the T-sign with his hands. “We seem to be having a conversation based on two very different sets of assumptions, here.”

Derek shrugged. “I’m not oblivious, Stiles. Haven’t been oblivious for a while.”

And then Stiles lost the power of speech for a minute or five. Because if Derek wasn’t— but Stiles was— and that meant the two of them were— “Whoa. So this is like, you’re indicating that you’re okay with...” He flapped a hand back and forth between the two of them.

Derek smirked and said, “Hugs?”

What the hell, Stiles thought, in for a penny, in for... well, he had about forty-seven dollars and change in his bank account, so he was in for that much. He was going all in here, so he said, “Don’t mind if I do,” and walked over so that he was right up in Derek’s space—so that he could wrap himself around Derek, bury his face against the curve of Derek’s shoulder and holy crap. “Cashmere is glorious,” he mumbled, especially, it seemed, when it was covering Derek Hale’s broad chest. Derek’s broad, broad chest. “Your whole thoracic region, just thumbs up in general, dude, good job.”

Stiles had seen Derek smile more these past couple of years, had even seen him laugh once or twice, but he’d never been this close to him when that happened—had never known what it was like to feel the rumble of Derek’s low laughter like a physical thing. Frankly, it was a turn on. It got even better when Derek put his arms around Stiles in turn, when he coaxed Stiles’ head up so that Stiles could kiss him. Derek’s mouth was warm, the scrape and catch of his stubble against Stiles’ delicious.

“Traditionally,” Stiles said, patting Derek’s chest when the kiss ended, “the Big Bad Wolf isn’t the one in red, but I think it works for you.”

“I was a lit major. We do like to subvert tropes,” Derek said solemnly.

Stiles was pretty sure that was actually an attempt at a joke, and he did like to reward positive behavior, so he did the only thing he could: leaned in and kissed Derek again, hands anchored in the fabric of his sweater.