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Only Human

Chapter Text

It all starts when the Triskele finds a gorgeous, tropical planet populated with generous civilians who offer the crew a vacation in return for a small supply of antimatter. It looks too good to be real, and Derek should take that for the “red flags and flailing arms” cue that it is. But Derek is brand spanking new at being a captain—he took over a month ago, after Laura left the Triskele for a swanky new position in Starfleet Command—and he knows he’s been running his crew into the ground since he took the Chair (so capitalized because he’s still a little afraid of it). He never expected to make captain, not when Laura took to her command reds so naturally, but he somehow got here anyway. He’s been trying to prove himself worthy ever since.

Unfortunately, his zeal has made the crew tired and edgy, and Derek knows they could use a few days of shore leave. So he has Lieutenant Martin, his chief engineer, pull together a few kilos of antimatter and takes the deal. He gives the rest of the crew an hour’s head start while he finishes up a report on an encounter with a Romulan freighter. He would never tell anyone else on the Triskele, but the truth is, he could use a break, too. He’s been drinking more and more coffee to get through his long shifts on the bridge, and he knows Dr. Deaton is going to start complaining if he goes to sickbay with one more bout of heartburn.

The planet is, as expected, unbearably lovely. The inhabitants, a people called the Mularians, are nearly identical to humans and seem to delight in interacting with the diverse collection of species onboard the Triskele. Eventually, after a day of walking around and seeing more than a few crewmen pulled into conversation over their race, Derek asks a bartender why everyone seems so infatuated with the crew. “This is a vacation spot, right? I’d imagine you get all sorts through here.”

“When travelers visit, they’re often all the same species,” the bartender says, shrugging. He’s young, with a smattering of moles across his face and neck. “They think alike, act alike, work alike… you’re different. Your ship has many minds, juxtaposed and conflicting, but harmonious all at once. We don’t see that much. You’re beautiful.”

Beautiful? Derek raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”

He understood the boy—because he can’t bring himself to call this tangle of elbows and bitten lips a man—perfectly, of course, but weeks of forced civility and professional distance has left Derek itching to poke at someone, just a little bit. Someone that won’t turn around and report him to Command, that is.

And if this bartender looks particularly pokeable when he blushes, well, that’s just a perk.

The bartender realizes what he’s said all too late. His hands spasm on the glass he’s cleaning and it falls from his grasp, shattering on the floor. “I, uh—your crew,” he stammers, flushing. “I mean your crew. Not that you’re not beautiful! I mean, I—”

“It’s fine,” Derek cuts him off with a raised hand, more amused than he ought to be. He has no complaints about his looks—he’s been hit on and complimented more times than he can count, not that he takes anyone up on their offers—but he’s never bothered to care about his appearance. Still, something about this bartender is unusually charming, something that makes Derek want to get him to break every glass in the bar. “Don’t worry about it, Mr....?”

“Stiles,” the bartender offers, just this side of too quickly. He turns a darker red and hides his eyes behind a hand. “Deities above, I’ll just let you get back to your drink, I shouldn’t have—”

Stiles,” Derek says, both to try the name in his mouth and to get the bartender to stop talking. “Calm down. It’s fine. Do you need help cleaning up the glass?"

“What?” Stiles pries his fingers off his face and peers down at his feet. “Oh, no, don’t worry about that, I’ll just—” he snaps his fingers and the glass vanishes. “Done.”

Derek blinks down at the spot where the glass had been, stunned. “I didn’t know your people were telekinetic.”

Stiles startles badly, looking panicked, and eventually forces out a false-sounding laugh. “Yep, we are! Us Mularians. Very much with the telekinesis.”

But… that can’t be. Derek had spotted a merchant straining to carry a large crate of vegetables just before he’d come into this bar. If Mularians were telekinetic, why didn’t the merchant just move his wares with a snap of his fingers?

Something’s off here, Derek realizes with a slow, dawning sense of dread. He should have known better. He’s read enough captain’s logs to know that vacation planets always come with some kind of horrible complication. And he had thought about that, dammit. But the crew was just so exhausted, Derek had thrown caution to the wind.

If he kills his crew in the first month of taking command, Laura’s gonna be so pissed.

He’ll have to cut shore leave short, he realizes. Get them off-planet before this whatever it is has a chance to hurt anyone. And fuck, the crew will be even more frustrated than before. Hopefully they’ll accept his explanation; maybe he’ll cut back their shifts for a few days, extend their holodeck privileges while they get over their outrage of it all.

“Okay, fine,” Stiles says anxiously, clearly seeing Derek’s distrust. “Okay, come here.” He pulls Derek off to the side of the bar and crosses his arms. “The truth? Telekinetics are rare here. Really rare. If I’m found out, everyone will make a big deal out of it. I’ll have to give up my job and move to the city, and they’ll want to run tests on me. And… I don’t want any trouble. I just like meeting people, getting their story, that kind of thing. Okay?”

Stiles looks anxious, like he’s desperate for Derek to believe his story, which could very well spell disaster for his crew. Or, alternatively, he looks like someone who’s been living under the radar for years and doesn’t want his life to be ruined over a small misstep.

Derek doesn’t like it, but… well, he can’t afford a mutiny this soon. He’ll just keep an eye on this Stiles fellow and keep alert for signs of trouble. “Yeah, okay.”

“Okay,” Stiles repeats, grinning in relief. “Hey, next one’s on the house, yeah?”

Dammit, Derek likes that smile too much. “Sure.”


Looking back on it, he really should have known better.


Turns out, telekinesis is exceptionally rare for Mularians. As in, it doesn’t exist. It takes Derek two days of discreet research to figure this out, and the bridge crew agrees that they should call everyone back and leave before they can alert Stiles—whatever he is—to their discovery.

The rest of the crew is, of course, furious. Derek spends most of the next day in his ready room not-hiding from the glares of his subordinates. He’s doing what’s best, they just need time to realize that. At least the bridge crew understands.

He’s reading a strongly worded report on Mularian silk harvesting—Mularian silkworms, like Mularians themselves, are a beautiful, vibrant species that deserve to be studied at great length, over the course of at least a week. As such, our data on Mularian silk is incomplete, due to our unexpected and unexplained departure from the planet— from Crewman Greenburg over yet another cup of heartburn-inducing coffee when the room flashes with some sort of bright light.

“You know, it’s really rude to leave without saying some kind of goodbye.”

Shit.

“Stiles,” Derek greets with a façade of calmness he most definitely does not feel. “Hello.”

“You know, I just….” Stiles gestures expansively, and Derek hides a flinch at the threat of a powerful alien making sudden movements. Luckily, nothing in his ready room so much as twitches. “I just wanted to get to know you, dude. Like, come on. How many people can say someone’s made an entire world, just so they could get to know them? I am trying, here.”

Derek doesn’t drop his coffee. Except he totally does. “You what?”

“Oh, god,” Stiles sighs, turning away from Derek dramatically. “My mouth, I swear.”

A few days ago, Derek might have followed that up with something flirtatious, just for the heck of it. But, “Run that by me again. You made Mularia? For me? Who are you?”

Stiles turns back around, looking devastated. “You’ll hate me when you find out. I had the best intentions, I promise.”

Who. Are. You.

Stiles fidgets with his hands for a few moments. “Your people know us as… Q.”

If Derek had a thousand coffee cups, he’d have dropped all of them. Q. Of course. He’s read Picard’s and Janeway’s entries on Q, and they both say the same thing: Get it the hell off the ship. Q are nothing but trouble. They’ll give you everything you could hope for in one moment, then blink you out of existence the next.

And Derek has no idea what to do with that. The directions are pretty damn clear, of course, but not when he has an omnipotent being in his ready room. “What do you want?”

“See?” Stiles groans, throwing himself backward on a chaise lounge that materializes beneath him before he has the chance to hit the floor. “This is what I mean. So quick to judge, so ready to kick me out, when I’ve done nothing to you.”

“You lied to me and my crew,” Derek grits out. “You manipulated us into a position of vulnerability and capitalized on it. I wouldn’t call that ‘nothing.’”

Stiles snorts. “Please. You’re nothing but vulnerable, human. Tell it like it is. Your crew needed reprieve because you’ve been on them like a dog, and I gave you that. And hey, your operations officer and security officer have been circling each other since they were cadets, and I nudged them along. So that won’t be sickening as hell to watch anymore. I did you two favors.”

Derek pales. “What did you do to Reyes and Boyd?”

“Of course you focus on that,” Stiles scoffs. “I literally just made sure that they had adjacent balconies. In their nice hotel, that I made, for your crew. For you.”

That’s… okay, so that’s not so terrible, Derek supposes. Erica’s been mooning over Boyd for as long as he’s known her, and it’s honestly a bit of a relief to know they’ll finally get over their awkward flirting stage once and for all. But there’s still something Derek doesn’t understand. “Why me?”

Stiles turns a blotchy, uncomfortable shade of red. “Uh, you know… no reason?”

Oh god, no. Derek’s seen that look before, right after someone’s complimented his cheekbones, or brushed against his arm, or the countless other things people have done to let him know—”You’re attracted to me?”

“Well!” Stiles shoots back defensively, like it’s Derek’s fault for being good-looking. “Yeah, okay! Maybe! Have you seen you?”

This is just what Derek doesn’t need right now. He has an omnipotent, omniscient being panting after him, while his sister and the rest of Starfleet Command are breathing down his neck, waiting for him to make a mistake. No. He can’t handle this, not right now. “Just… no.”

And fuck, he doesn’t want to feel bad, but Stiles just crumples there on the stupid chaise lounge. The thing even has clawed feet. The kid really is trying. “Right.”

“Hey,” Derek says, suddenly feeling terrible, because appearances are deceiving, sure, but this guy seems way too innocent to deserve Derek’s candor. He crosses the room to sit at the foot of the chaise lounge. Fuck, he’s no good at giving comfort. He taps Stiles’ knee in a way that’s meant to be comforting, but just feels awkward. “Listen, kid, it’s not… you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“That’s not what you were saying two minutes ago,” Stiles points out mulishly.

Touché. “Okay, so lying to my crew was maybe a bit of a bad move,” Derek concedes. “But your heart’s in the right place. I see that.”

“I wanted them to relax,” Stiles says quietly, staring at his hands, where he’s picking at his cuticles. “You caught my eye—again, hot like burning, you are—and then I saw all of your people upset, and I thought, hey, I could make a planet, get to know you for a few days, let your crew unwind, easy peasy. No harm done. I was trying to help.”

Derek takes a deep breath. Everything he’s read about the Q says he should tell Stiles to get out and never return, but… what kind of Starfleet captain would he be if he didn’t at least try to get along with different species? For all his power, Stiles seems to need some support right now. Derek would be a sham of a Starfleet officer if he neglected those in need.

“I see that,” Derek says cautiously. “But I also know that every interaction between my people and the Q has turned out badly.”

“That’s unfair,” Stiles replies, pointing a finger at Derek. “My dad’s a little out there, sure, but he’s always been good to your kind. If you know what we can do, you know that the very fact that those logs exist means we’ve been good to you.”

“Because we survived?” Derek asks, incredulous. “Because he let us live? You know how that sounds, right?”

Stiles bites his lower lip. Derek hates to say it, but even now, it’s an appealing sight. He wouldn’t mind replacing those teeth with his own, to feel the give of plump flesh in his mouth. To taste the skin of—fuck—a god.

Because that’s essentially what the Q are: Gods. And Derek should stay the hell away from them, because however attractive Stiles seems at first glance—which, in case it’s not clear, is alarmingly attractive—he could kill Derek’s crew, and Derek has had enough heartache to know he’s terrible at romance.

“She didn’t deserve you,” Stiles says suddenly, fiercely. “She was nothing compared to you.”

Derek rears back, horrified. There’s no way Stiles could know he was thinking about Kate, nut unless…. “Are you reading my mind?”

“... no?”

That settles it. Derek seriously cannot handle this. “Get off my ship.”

Stiles purses his lips, looking stormy. “Fine. Don’t heal over a five-year-old breakup, see if I care. But I’ll be back, human. Just you wait.”

He disappears with the chaise lounge, and Derek falls flat on his ass in the middle of his ready room.

“Well,” he sighs, reclining back on the floor. “I deserved that.”

Chapter Text

It takes three months for Stiles to come back. Not that Derek is counting, because he isn’t.

In those three months, Derek has formed something of a rapport with his crew. It’s not amicable, necessarily, but they respect his decisions and say hello to him in the hallways with something slightly warmer that forced civility. That’s all he needs, really.

They’ve had a couple of scrapes recently that put Derek’s leadership skills to the test, and he’s pleased—thrilled, really—to be able to report that they survived all of them. A disagreement with a science team of Cardassians almost took a turn for the worse, but he somehow convinced them that he just needed to restock on beryllium and he’d be out of their neck ridges by the morning. He was so proud of himself, he cc’ed his report to Laura.

Things have been going so well that, when he walks into his quarters one night and finds Stiles eating a chocolate covered banana on his bed, he actually laughs. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“That depends,” Stiles says, licking up the length of the banana and catching a loose shard of chocolate with his tongue. “Is it working?”

Yes. “Not so much,” Derek lies dryly, sitting at the edge of his bed. Stiles is propped against the headboard, curled so that his shirt tucks tight around his flat, lean stomach, with one knee bent casually upward. Derek wants to curl his hand over that knee, maybe slide the flat of his hand up the length of its neighboring thigh until he can tangle his fingers in Stiles’ shirt. “Is there a reason for this visit, or…?”

“Nah,” Stiles says. Then, Jesus, he sucks the entire banana into his mouth, slurping as he pulls it back out. “Just popped by to say hi. Make sure you didn’t forget about me.”

Derek stares at Stiles’ mouth, where there’s a trace of chocolate on his lower lip from where he deepthroated a banana, and Derek just wants. “I didn’t,” he says roughly.

Stiles glances over at him, startled, and grins. “Oh, you liar. This is totally working.”

You know what? Fuck it, Derek thinks. He’s had long, lonely three months, and damn it, he doesn’t want to fight this when Stiles is so desperately interested in pleasing him. Just the idea of someone focused on pleasing him is enough to make is cock chub up in his slacks.

“Maybe a little,” he murmurs, leaning forward. Stiles’s eyelids flutter and fall to half-mast, and the banana blinks out of existence.

Stiles tastes cold and sweet when Derek kisses him, and he parts his lips so easily, so willingly, that Derek churns with the need to take . He leans in further, getting a hand on the back of Stiles’ head so he can tilt it just so, and licks into that sweet mouth. When sucks on Stiles’ tongue, he tastes something musky and warm beneath the candied tang of the banana, something that must be Stiles. Stiles’ responses are ever-so-slightly clumsy, like he hasn’t done this much—and fuck , that does something to Derek, because that’s definitely not designed for him, that’s all Stiles, this is real —but he learns quickly. He’s a long, hot press of eagerness, all scorching fingertips and jostling limbs, and before Derek knows it, he’s on his back on the bed, and Stiles is crawling over him with naked lust in his eyes.

“You have no idea what this has been like,” he hisses, straddling Derek and rolling down on him so their cocks line up and press. Derek sees a swirling galaxy of stars as his half-chub hardens the rest of the way in the span of a heartbeat. “You have no idea how patient I’ve been, watching you, waiting for you, just like you asked.”

Derek grunts and grabs at Stiles’ lean hips so he can arch up into the soft press of thighs on top of him. He’s never hated the scratchy wool of his uniform pants more, the way it grinds into him, the way it feels nothing like the silky slip of skin. “You’ve been waiting?”

Yes,” Stiles sighs, and Derek isn’t sure if that’s a response or encouragement to keep going. Stiles snaps his fingers, and Derek’s Starfleet jacket vanishes, reappearing on the hook by the door. “Oh, fuck, let me just—I’ve wanted to do this for months—”

He leans down and bites into the meat of Derek’s bicep hard. A frisson of pain shoots up Derek’s arm and straight down to his cock, and he makes some kind of growling noise that makes Stiles moan loudly.

“I’ve been so good. So, so good for you,” Stiles promises, circling his hips as he tucks his face under Derek’s jaw to bite at the skin there. “I stayed out of the way, just like you asked. All I did was change that one Cardassian’s mind, just a little bit, just to keep you safe.”

It’s like someone just poured a bucket of ice water straight onto Derek. “You… what?”

Stiles freezes and sits up. “I mean—I did nothing! Nothing at all!”

But it’s a lie. It’s a lie, and that big negotiation, that deal that Derek had been so proud of, was Stiles’ doing all along. Fuck, and he’d told Laura. The betrayal of it burns like shame through Derek’s veins. “Get out.”

“Oh, come on,” Stiles whines. “I saved your life! They were planning to send for warships, Derek! It was nothing, I swear, I just convinced one guy that he didn’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of involving the military. He was already halfway there, too, it was nothing.”

Because this is nothing to Stiles. Derek’s pride, his happiness, his success, they’re all so insignificant to a Q. So meaningless. Stiles probably wouldn’t bat an eye at giving Derek everything he ever wanted just to get in his pants.

The idea of it is sickening, and Derek can’t stand the weight of Stiles on him a moment longer. “Get the fuck off my ship,” he rumbles, “and don’t ever come back.”

Stiles slumps, like someone just kicked his puppy. “But I—”

Out.”

Stiles, looking devastated, snaps his fingers and disappears.

Derek wipes a hand over his face and wills his erection—which clearly gives zero fucks about his emotional angst—to go away. He knows Stiles’ heart is in the right place, but damn it, he just got out from Laura’s shadow. Laura, who’s always nailed the big conflicts. Laura, who’s followed their mother’s footsteps to the letter. Laura, who’s always fixed Derek’s problems for him, because she loves him and thinks that Derek wants the quick fixes. Laura, who is so perfect and lovable that even Derek adores the pants off her, even when he hates her.

Laura would probably know what to do in this situation.

Derek sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. He can figure this out. He’ll manage. He just needs to keep Stiles out of the way while he does it.

Easier said than done.

Two weeks later, an earnest ensign in science blues appears on Derek’s bridge. As in, literally, one moment he’s not there, and the next he is. “Captain Hale?”

Derek sits up straight in his captain’s chair. “Who are you, and how did you get on this bridge?”

“Uh, I’m Scott,” the ensign says nervously. “I’m Stiles’ friend.”

Of course. “You’re another Q.”

“A Q?” Argent, his first officer, asks from her seat by his side. She peers at Scott. “Sir, as in—”

“Yes, Commander,” Derek interrupts, already too annoyed. “As in the Q.”

“Huh,” she says, tilting her head. “I expected them to be… actually I don’t know what I expected. Bigger?”

“I’m plenty big!” Scott shoots back, looking outraged. He flushes a moment later and shifts his weight to one leg. “Also, uh, hi Commander Argent. I’m, um, I’m Scott.”

Oh god, he’s just like Stiles, isn’t he? Derek wants to pound his head into a bulkhead until there’s no more head—or no more bulkhead—left. And he thought dealing with one horny Q was bad.

“I heard,” Allison replies, and damn her to hell, she’s smiling. She’s not supposed to be smiling. She’s supposed to be not smiling. Frowning, at least, or maybe grimacing. Hell, Derek would settle for a confused pout. But not smiling. “Nice to meet you, Scott.”

“Yeah,” Scott replies breathily. “Yeah, it’s really—”

“As great as this is,” Lieutenant Reyes cuts in, “is there a reason there’s a Q on the bridge?”

Derek could kiss her. “I was wondering the same thing, myself.”

Scott tears his eyes away from Allison and frowns at Derek. “You hurt Stiles. A lot. And, like, he’s my best bro ever, so I know he’s messed up some of your stuff, or whatever, but it’s really harsh to just ice him out like that.”

Derek blinks at Scott, stunned for a moment. Of all the things he expected, 21st century Earth slang wasn’t one of them. “What?”

“You know a Q?” Allison asks him, sounding somewhere between curious and reproachful, which Derek resents, thank you. “You hurt a Q? How?”

Oh, this is just ridiculous. Derek’s a Starfleet captain, for crying out loud, he shouldn’t be interrogated on some pubescent alien’s drama. On his ship, in front of his crew. “He interfered with Starfleet business, twice. Remember the suspicious alien on Mularia? That was Stiles. He’s been watching us for months. You know as well as I do that the protocol about Q is very clear: We do not engage.”

“Bullshit,” Scott argues, crossing his arms. “Stiles and I are only around because of involvement with humans.”

Something clicks in Derek’s mind. “Wait, you’re Q’s son?”

“No, Stiles is Q’s son,” Scott replies. “I’m Q’s son.”

Right. Obviously.

“I’m confused,” Lieutenant Boyd says, reaching for the phaser in the holster on his hip. “Should I call for a security team, sir?”

“That won’t be necessary, I’m leaving,” Scott tells him, rolling his eyes. “Just, listen Captain. Stiles will bounce back from this. He always does. Next time, maybe just… tell him why you’re upset, instead of throwing him out of your quarters?”

“Out of where?” Allison demands, far too amused for her own good. “Why was a Q in your quarters, sir?”

Derek ignores her. “He’s omniscient, doesn’t he know?”

Scott takes a deep, fortifying breath. “Stiles has decided to refrain completely from entering your mind,” he says, as if he can’t quite believe it, himself. “It’s bonkers, of course, you humans are far too confusing to understand even with telepathy, but… he insists. Says you like it better that way. So no, he has no idea. But I do, and if you don’t tell him, I will. And when Stiles has something to fix ….”

“I get it.” Derek can feel a stress headache building between his eyes. “No need for threats.”

“Glad to hear it,” Scott says, smiling cheerily. “Don’t like giving ‘em. I’ll be off, now.” He turns to Allison and gets that dopey grin back on his face. “Bye, Commander Argent.”

And there’s the headache.

She smiles again, that traitor. “Bye, Scott.”

And he’s gone. Derek could weep in relief. The other captains’ reports hadn’t explained a tenth of what it was to deal with the Q. He doesn’t think he’ll ever sleep the same again, knowing those two are out there, spreading terror across the universe.

“... What?” Ensign Lahey spins his comm chair around, looking just as lost as Derek feels. “I’m sorry sir, but… what?”

Derek passes a tired hand over tired eyes, feeling tired. “What I’m about to say does not leave this bridge, clear?” The crew nods. “Stiles is the reason we left Mularia. Actually, Stiles is the reason we found Mularia. He thought we could use some shore leave, so he created it for us.”

For me.

“He… wow. That’s pretty amazing, sir,” Reyes says hesitantly. “Like, from scratch?”

“No, he got it from a box,” Derek snaps sarcastically before he can help himself. He sighs and rubs his brow, silently willing Deaton to show up with a hypo of painkillers. “Apologies, Lieutenant, that was out of line. Yes, from scratch.”

“Why?” Boyd asks suspiciously. “What did he want from us in return?”

And that’s the kicker, because Stiles was being nice, he was being thoughtful, and Derek just knows he’s going to sound like an ass when he answers the question. But he does it anyway. “Because he thought we needed a break.”

The bridge is silent for a long, horrible moment, and Derek grimaces at how bad all of this sounds.

“What. Did. You. Do.”

“Lieutenant Reyes,” Argent reprimands from Derek’s side. “Now you’re out of line. I’m sure the captain has a perfectly good explanation for refusing a wonderful gift that made his crew exceptionally happy.” She turns to him, eyes sharp even though her tone is sweet. “Don’t you, sir?”

Derek should throw them all in the brig, just because he can. “Starfleet protocol dictates that we disengage from the Q upon contact. I was following orders.”

It’s true, even though Derek didn’t technically find out about Stiles’ identity until after he’d made that decision. No one needs to know about that.

“And the other time? You said he interfered with Starfleet business twice.” Lahey asks.

Derek had sincerely hoped that no one had cottoned onto that. “Stiles showed up at my quarters and made… some deeply inappropriate advances. And then he revealed that he was responsible for the Cardassians letting us mine beryllium from Othar Prime.”

“You mean, he’s the reason they didn’t send for warships?” Boyd asks, sounding impressed. “That’s good of him. We’re woefully unequipped to take on any warships, sir. If you’d just let me upgrade our torpedo banks, like I asked—”

Nope. Derek’s done. He is not doing this. “I’ll be in my ready room.”

When he gets there, there’s a hypospray with a large red bow on it sitting on his desk. The accompanying note reads TALK TO HIM.

Derek takes the dose of painkillers and prays that he survives to the end of the week.

Chapter Text

The week passes without incident. Then the week after that, and more weeks, and suddenly one month has gone by, two months, three. Six months, and Derek’s heard neither hide nor hair from any of the Q. He wants to count it as a blessing, but between the judging gaze of his bridge crew and the stony pit of guilt in his chest, it feels more like a punishment.

In his defense, how the hell is he supposed to contact a Q to apologize? It’s not like they have comm badges or subspace frequencies to use. Derek’s dead in the water until Stiles drops by again. If he drops by.

Except, in the end, it’s mindnumbingly simple to find Stiles.

It’s late at night, and Derek’s given Argent the morning shift on the bridge so he can take a few hours off. He drinks an Andorian ale in his quarters while he goes over crewman reports, and then drinks another after that. Two drinks in, he realizes how he wants to spend his night off. He makes his way to the holodeck and recreates the bar on Mularia, silently promising to himself that he’ll delete the program as soon as he’s done with it.

The warmth and beauty of the environment hits Derek in a literal gust of breeze as soon as he walks through the door. Somehow, that makes him feel even worse. He walks into the bar and sits at the barstool he’d used all those months ago. “I’ll take a Novian Sunrise, please.”

“Sure.” The holodeck did a beautiful job of recreating Stiles, right down to the moles on his neck. “Coming right up.”

Safe in the forgiving, judgment-free space of the holodeck, Derek sighs and rests his chin on his fist as he watches Stiles make his drink. His hands are beautiful and confident, juggling bottles and glasses like he’s been doing this for decades. Hell, he might have, given that he’ll live forever.

Derek remembers the branding sear of those fingers on his skin, the way they’d been so curious, so needy. Those weren’t the hands of someone that had been fucking their way through centuries of boredom, those were the hands of someone young and desperate, someone new.

Stiles deftly slides a coaster onto the bar and sets the drink on it. “You look down. Wanna talk?”

Derek huffs a laugh and rolls his eyes up to meet Stiles’. “Do you want to listen?”

“I do.” Stiles fills a glass with water and takes a sip, setting it down next to Derek’s drink. “What’s on your mind?”

This is a hologram, Derek reminds himself to gather courage while he takes a sip of his drink. He can be as honest as he wants right now. He’ll delete it all later. “You. You’re impossible.”

“Not the first time I’ve heard that,” Stiles admits, smiling. “You should meet my dad.”

“I’ve heard the stories,” Derek mutters into his drink.

“Right,” Stiles says, crossing his arms and leaning back against the opposite side of the bar. “You’ve heard of him. Apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, there, I’m afraid.”

Derek shrugs, disinterested in learning more about Q, Sr. “How have you been?”

He knows this version of Stiles won’t answer him accurately; the holodeck can only fake so much, and it doesn’t have the data necessary to know what Derek wants to hear. That’s part of the reason he asked it, because he wants Stiles to lie to him and say it’s okay, that he’s okay, that Derek hasn’t ruined him forever.

“I’ve been better,” Stiles says honestly, “but I can’t complain too much. You’re here.”

Derek laughs and empties his drink. “Another, please. As flirtatious as your namesake, aren’t you?”

“Something like that,” Stiles replies, taking Derek’s glass and starting another Sunrise. “But come on, lay it on me. What makes me impossible? I’m standing right here. Looks pretty possible to me.”

“Give me the strongest shot you have,” Derek says, swirling his drink in its glass, “and I’ll talk.”

Stiles laughs—God, he’s beautiful when he laughs—and pulls a bottle from the top shelf of the bar. He fills a shot glass with a liquid as black as space itself. “This’ll knock you on your ass, big guy. Might want to sip it at first.”

Derek sniffs the shot and rolls his eyes. “Are all Q as bossy as you?”

“Nah,” Stiles says as Derek downs the shot in one go, because he does what he wants. “Scott’s a total pushover.”

Wait. Derek blinks at Stiles as horror blooms in his gut. Wait. How does the holodeck know about Scott? It couldn’t possibly have learned all that from a data entry.

Oh. Oh no. Unless….

Stiles?”

“Yeah, Derek,” Stiles says, smiling sadly. “It’s really me.”

And then Derek’s world fades to black.

 


 

He wakes up in his quarters with a blinding headache, two seconds from vomiting what feels like everything he’s ever eaten.

“Told you it’d knock you off your ass.”

“‘tiles?” Derek groans, moving his head toward the noise and immediately hating himself for it, because his head swirls dangerously and he feels ten times closer to upchucking. “Ugh god.”

Stiles tsks and walks over to the bed. “Hold on.”

He touches a cool fingertip to Derek’s forehead and the hangover vanishes. Derek blinks open his eyes, which are still crusty with sleep, and squints up at Stiles. “Thanks.”

“Oh, sweet lord,” Stiles gasps, wrinkling his nose and snapping his fingers. Derek’s mouth… changes. He thinks Stiles just cleaned it, maybe? “No one should ever have to smell that.”

“It was your shot,” Derek replies, sitting up in bed and stretching. “I blame you.”

“Responding to your request, hot stuff,” Stiles retorts. “Nice try.”

Derek takes a deep breath and swings his legs off the bed, replicating himself a glass of water. “So what happened to me?”

“I think you fainted,” Stiles says, grinning remorselessly when Derek glares at him. “Came to a few minutes later and went off on how you feel like you ruined things with us, how you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, how you just wanted to be a good captain to prove yourself to ‘Laura.’ I think she’s your… sister? Couldn’t really get that one out of you. You just kept going, ‘She’s Laura, Stiles.’”

“No,” Derek breathes in horror. “Oh god, no. You’re lying.”

Stiles raises an eyebrow. “You know I’m not. You also let me know that Scott told you about my decision to stay out of your head.”

This is it, Derek decides. This is his legacy. He got drunk and went off on a Q, and then he died from the shame of it all. He wants Argent to do the eulogy, he thinks. She’ll say something nice. Something that makes him sound less like the buffoon he clearly is. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry you had to hear all of that when I was blackout drunk.”

“Don’t,” Stiles says, sounding more serious than Derek has ever heard him sound before. “Don’t apologize. Drunk or not, you gave me the truths that I needed to hear. I didn’t… I didn’t realize why you were acting the way you did towards me. I saw me trying to help, and you rejecting me for no reason. I thought you just, like, hated me.”

Derek walks to his sink and splashes his face with water, scrubbing his wet hands through his hair to help wake himself up. “I don’t hate you. I just… have no idea what to make of you.”

“And you’ve got Starfleet Command watching your every move,” Stiles says, close behind Derek. A warm hand touches the middle of Derek’s back, and the comfort of it aches deep in his chest. “You told me. You want problems, and you want to fix them yourself.”

“You know, when you say it aloud like that, it sounds awful,” Derek jokes dryly.

Stiles makes a thoughtful noise behind him, and the hand slides down to the small of Derek’s back. “So you’re not actually mad at me? You’ve already said it shit-faced drunk, but I want you to say it sober, too.”

Derek spins and grabs Stiles’ hand between both of his own. “I’m not mad at you.”

Stiles smiles and takes a small step closer, eyes lit with something heartbreakingly hopeful. “And you like me?”

Derek feels his lips quirk up despite himself. “You’re pretty okay, I guess.”

Stiles’ smile widens, and he takes another step forward, right into Derek’s personal space. “Yeah, well, you’re pretty okay, too, Captain Hale.”

He leans forward and presses a kiss to Derek’s lips. By the time Derek opens his eyes—when had he closed them?—Stiles is gone.

 


 

Looking back on things, Derek really should have guessed what would happen next.

Chapter Text

Here’s the thing: If Stiles’ heart is in the right place, his head’s in the wrong fucking dimension. Somehow, the kid took “Derek wants to confront conflicts and resolve them on his own” and turned it into “Derek needs me to give him conflicts so he can solve them. On his own.” It’s sweet, if Derek takes a handful of steps back and looks at it sideways, but up close and personal? It’s a nightmare. The Triskele has faced one troublesome encounter after the next for weeks now, and Derek’s not entirely sure he can handle much more of this.

“We’re offering thirty kilos of dilithium and three data modules on polyneuronic transfer technology,” Derek says firmly, ignoring the cramp in his back that has been building since 1200 hours. “Take it or leave it, DaiMon.”

The Ferengi on the viewscreen bares his teeth while he thinks. They’ve been whittling at the price for an hour now, and while DaiMon Gorad seems to be enjoying himself immensely, Derek would rather floss with a Klingon batleth than spend any more time staring at Gorad’s wrinkled face.

“Very well, hew-man,” Gorad says eventually. “The trade is profitable.”

Derek could weep in relief. “Excellent. I’ll have my transporter crew send you the payment immediately. Lieutenant, end transmission.”

Reyes cuts the feed and Derek slumps in his chair. Argent runs a hand over his shoulder comfortingly. “You can take the afternoon, sir. I’ll watch the bridge. You’ve been on duty for twenty straight hours.”

“It’s been that long?” Derek asks, sitting back in his chair and staring at the ceiling. “Have I eaten?”

“You had a pot of coffee this morning, sir,” Lahey offers.

“I think I remember you eating a sandwich at oh-four-hundred,” Boyd adds.

That’s probably (definitely) not good. If he keeps going at this rate, Deaton will relieve him of duty and write a report on his inability to provide self-care. “Sounds like I need some food and a nap. Thank you, Commander, you have the bridge.”

A sonic shower, two dinners, and an enormous nap later, Derek feels markedly more human. He taps his combadge. “Hale to the bridge. How are things holding up, Commander?”

“Hate to say it sir,” she replies. “But you might want to head to Engineering. Martin says something’s wrong with the warp drive.”

Derek lets out the sigh of the world-weary and pulls his uniform jacket from its hook. “Heading there now.”

Lieutenant Martin is halfway to apoplectic when he finally gets to Engineering. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and that child, Captain, but you better fix it now or we’re going to lose warp.”

He knows he should give her an official reprimand for being insubordinate, but honestly, Derek would probably be disrespectful at this point, too, at this point. Something has gone wrong with engines every day this week, and each problem has been more ridiculous than the last. “What is it this time?”

“The plasma manifolds were overheating, so I checked the conduits,” Martin says tartly. “And I found this.”

She holds up a tiny, bright pink, paper umbrella. A cocktail umbrella, just like the one Stiles put in Derek’s Novian Sunrise. He’s outdone himself. Derek, in good spirits after his nap, bites his cheek to avoid laughing. “I see.”

“So then I ran a system-wide search,” she continues, flicking a lock of perfectly styled hair out of her eyes. “And I found those.” She points to her left, and Derek turns to see a veritable mountain of cocktail umbrellas, damp with warp plasma. “We just spent two hours pulling floozy fodder out of our engines, Captain! This has to stop! What next, is he going to replace our dilithium crystals with maraschino cherries?”

“Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that!” Stiles flashes into being right next to Derek. “That’s brilliant!”

You,” Martin growls, taking a step forward.

“Okay,” Derek says, stepping in front of Stiles before she can rip into his hide. “I’ll talk to Stiles, Lydia. He won’t touch the engines again.”

“Hey!” Stiles complains from behind him. He flashes to in front of Derek, right beside Lydia. “No cutting me out of the people circle. Uncool, dude.”

“You aren’t people,” Lydia hisses venemously.

“And you are gorgeous when you’re fired up, have I told you that?” Stiles replies shamelessly, looking smitten. “Like, wow. If I hadn’t latched onto Derek so hard, I would have fallen for you in a heartbeat. And you’re shockingly intelligent for a human. I checked you out—hope you don’t mind, it was cursory at best—and, just, wow. You’d challenge a Q, if you set your mind to it, and I know that sounds kind of condescending but we’re literally omniscient.”

Derek can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Lydia Martin shocked into speechlessness. This is one of those times. “I… uh, oh. Thank you. I think.”

“No, thank you,” Stiles insists. Does he have moon eyes right now? Derek detects moon eyes. “You’ve been the highlight of my week, Lydia. I should introduce you to Perellian chess sometime, you’d love it. Five dimensions, twelve types of pieces, and three thousand, six hundred, and eighty-two ways to checkmate.”

Lydia swoons. “Whoa.”

Stiles swoons right back. “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Derek says, feeling three thousand, six hundred, and eighty-two shades of uncomfortable right now. What the hell is Stiles doing, flirting with Martin when he’s been making Derek’s life miserable in some ill-conceived method of courtship? It’s unfair, is what it is. “I’m going to go ahead and break this up before you two make some kind of terrifying, demigod-genius baby together. Get back to work, Lieutenant. Stiles, come with me to my ready room.”

Derek turns and walks out of Engineering without looking back to see if Stiles is following. Something hot and acidic burns in his gut, licking acrid flames up his chest. Is he jealous? Is that what this is? Or is it the pot of coffee Isaac says he drank this morning instead of having breakfast?

“Okay, I don’t mean to step on your toes,” Stiles says as they walk towards the lift. “But would you be, like, crazy upset if I offered to make Lydia a Q? Because the continuum could really use someone like her to shake things up. Oh, Q would be so mad about it, too, he’s such a purist.”

“You’ve never offered to make me a Q,” Derek mumbles before he can help himself.

Okay, yep. Definitely jealousy, then.

“I… what?” Stiles stares at Derek, gobsmacked. “Hold on.” He snaps his fingers, and suddenly  they’re in Derek’s ready room. “Run that by me again?”

“It was nothing,” Derek says, flushing red. “I didn’t mean it.”

Stiles blinks at him for several long, slow seconds. “Do you want to be a Q?”

“No!” Derek groans. “Ugh, I’m too sleep-deprived for this. No, I don’t want to be a Q. But, god, Stiles, you’ve made my life hell for weeks now, and the first time I see you, you flirt with my chief engineer? Really?”

“I have no intention of mating with Lydia Martin,” Stiles replies with a moue of disgust. “I mean, I want to fall into her big, beautiful brain and never come back out of it—did you know she speaks sixteen languages, including Ancient Bajoran and Borg code? That’s ridiculous, Derek. I don’t know Borg code. I mean, okay, now I do because I’ve thought about it, but still—but I don’t want to mate with her. I want to mate with yo. I thought that was obvious.”

Well, that clears things up a little bit, except it doesn’t clear up much at all because Derek still feels like he swallowed a Talaxian lemon. “But… why?”

Because Stiles is right, now that Derek thinks about it. Lydia would make an incredible Q. She’s smart, and beautiful, and witty, and inventive, and sassy… she would match Stiles perfectly. What can Derek offer that she can’t? He’s been living in his sister’s shadow all his life, trying his best just to prove himself worthy of the privileges he’s been given. If he can’t excel as a human, what the hell could a Q see in him?

Unfortunately, Derek’s combadge bleeps before Stiles has the chance to answer. “Reyes to the Captain.”

Derek taps his combadge. “I’m here, Erica.”

“We’ve got a Romeo on our bridge, sir.”

Derek frowns. Is that code? What the hell is a Romeo?

Luckily, Stiles has already figured out what she means. “Scotty?” He flies out of the ready room and onto the bridge. “SCOTTY!

Sure enough, the other holy terror of a Q is on Derek’s bridge, leaning all too casually against the Chair, right next to Argent. “BRO!” Scott cries back as Stiles flings into his arms. “Dude, humans though. You were so right.”

Argent shoots Derek an amused look from her seat, and Derek scowls in response, his good mood from earlier now completely gone. She has no business finding anything about this situation funny. As far as he’s concerned, Stiles has run him ragged on errant missions with no real purpose. So much so that, apart from the nap today, Derek can’t remember the last time he slept.

So yeah, this isn’t funny.

Dude, though,” Stiles enthuses, leaning back to hold Scott at an arm’s distance “Also, dope human body, I’m totally digging the eyes, and whoa, dude, do you have abs? Oh man, I should have had abs! Opportunity wasted.”

“Not that this isn’t so fun,” Derek says, getting grumpier by the minute, “but what are you doing here, Scott?”

Stiles has the audacity to pout at him, and Derek wishes he could throw them both in the brig without them both snapping their fingers right back out of it again. He just wants some peace and quiet. Maybe in a forest somewhere, like a hike or a camping trip with nothing but the sounds of wildlife to keep him company. No technology, no troublesome Q to turn his hair grey, no obnoxious crew to grin at him like he isn’t sailing headlong into a mind-twenties aneurysm… just Derek, a crackling fire, and the calm glow of the moon. God, that sounds good. Next time they drydock on Earth, he’s taking a vacation, dammit.

“I’m here to drag Stiles back to the continuum,” Scott says, and Stiles turns his pout on his friend.

“What?! Why?”

“Dude, you’re… kinda going overboard with this whole ‘loving on the humans’ schtick,” Scott says apologetically. “Their Starfleet thinks Hale is flying into dangerous areas of space on purpose, and they’re thinking about recalling the ship and removing him from service until they can determine if he’s been abusing his authority to gain prestige. Straight from the mouth of the admiral, I swear. And your dad is about to flip a black hole over it. You know how he feels about messing with humans.”

Derek’s stomach falls out from under him as his entire career flashes before his eyes. He’s been captain for less than a year, and Command is already halfway to court martialling him. It’s just… not fair. Where had he gone wrong?

He understands now why all the old captains’ logs on Q had warned him to stay away. Even when a Q gives you exactly what you want, it ends up biting you in the ass. Derek doesn’t know why he thought this would be any different. He’s not a paragon of calm rationality like Picard or warm diplomacy like Janeway. He’s just Derek. He stood no chance against the Q. And he’s going to lose his job over it.

“What?” Stiles breathes, stunned. “No. No, I—I can fix this. I can—”

“You can’t,” Scott says softly. “Q wanted to come here himself to yank you home by the ear. It took a millennium of begging, literally, for him to let me do it. He’s giving you two options: Come home to the continuum and have no further contact with this ship for one human year, or forfeit your powers for that year and live on the ship as human. Your choice.”

The bridge is so quiet, Derek thinks he could hear a cube of aerogel drop if he listened hard enough. Everyone seems to be waiting to hear what Stiles is going to say. To Derek, though, it’s obvious which option Stiles will choose. He’ll never give up his powers, not when they’re such an integral part of who he is. He’d be insane to stay. No, Stiles is going to go back to the continuum, and Derek won’t see him for a year.

The thought of it hurts far more that Derek expected. Stiles has been a thorn in his side, a name he cursed right before falling asleep at night, for what feels like months now. He’s frustrating as hell, loud-mouthed and foolhardy, and absolutely impossible to understand for more than thirty seconds at any given time.

And Derek loves him so much, it feels like half of him will crumble to ash the moment Stiles decides to go.

Oh.

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Stiles says helplessly, folding his arms over his stomach like this decision is tearing him apart, too. “I—I can’t—”

“Stay,” Derek says before he can help himself. Every eye on the bridge turns to him, but he only has eyes for Stiles. Stiles, whose face has gone slack and—hopeful?

Hopeful, Derek realizes, because he loves Derek, too. He’s loved Derek all along. Something inside Derek slots into place and transforms, like he’s just made the perfect move in a game of Kal-toh. Stiles, impossible, beautiful Stiles, loves him right back, and separating for a year is going to kill them both.

“Really?” Stiles asks, taking a tentative step toward Derek. “You’d… you’d have me?”

Derek opens his mouth to say, Yes, yes, of course I’ll have you, I’ll have every last bit of you, I love you, but Argent gets there first.

“We’d all have you.”

She stands, looking like she’d try to fight Stiles if he disagreed with her. But Stiles doesn’t try to fight her. He stands in the middle of the bridge, hands hanging loosely at his sides, gaping at her like he’s never seen a human before. His eyes dart around the room, taking in the rest of the crew like they’re brand new, too.

“Aye,” Boyd seconds Allison, nodding from his post.

“Aye,” Lahey adds at the comm.

“Yeah, aye, sure.” Reyes rolls her eyes.

“You’re insufferable as all get out,” Allison says, smiling because Stiles is still frozen in surprise, “and I think we’ll all have our work cut out for us if you decide to give humanity a try, but you’ve made us one hell of a crew. Of course you’re welcome.”

Derek takes a deep breath, feeling unbearably proud of his crew. His family. He clasps his hands behind his back so they don’t do something stupid like try to hug everyone.

He clears his throat, which has gone froggy. “You’ve been trying to help me for almost a year. Seems only right that you learn to do it properly.”

Stiles laughs, beaming. “You know, it does, doesn’t it?”

Scott frowns and cups Stiles’ shoulder with his hand. “Stiles, man, you gotta think about this. Q told us about living without his powers. And, like, no offense, Derek, but Stiles, you could make a Derek for a year. It’d be the same thing. There are loopholes, dude.”

Well, shit. Derek hadn’t thought about that.

“Nah, though,” Stiles says, peering over at Derek speculatively. “That’s just it. I don’t think I could. He’s one of a kind.”

Does that mean…? Derek grips his hands together, where they’re still clasped behind his back. He almost doesn’t want to believe what Stiles seems to be implying, because if Stiles is really saying what Derek thinks he’s saying, then—

“I’ll stay with them,” Stiles declares, as if knowing that Derek needs to hear it aloud. He gestures around the ship in a flail of arms. “It’s only a year, right? And hey, it might be fun. I’ll be mortal.”

“Disease. Eating. Defecating,” Scott warns.

“Yep!” Stiles says, crossing his arms proudly. “It’s gonna suck, and I’m gonna love it.”

“If you insist,” Scott sighs. He raises his hand, fingers poised to snap, and Derek holds his breath.

Snap.

Chapter Text

Captain’s Log, Stardate 51968.3

Stiles has been human for exactly one week. The longest week of my life. He spent two days thinking he’d contracted the Romulan flu, only for Dr. Deaton to discover that he was just hungry. Three hours later, he dragged me to his quarters so that I could teach him how to use the restroom.

The rest of the week has continued in much the same manner. He’s like an infant, but with the vocabulary and demeanor of someone ten times my age. The result is… taxing. When he isn’t acting like a child, he’s telling my crew—including myself—how we’re doing everything wrong.

Scott has visited twice so far. Ostensibly for Stiles, but he spends about half of Commander Argent’s shift doing everything he can to make her smile. It would be cute, if it didn’t last for six goddamned hours at a time.

I just hope I make it through the month.

 


 

Captain’s Log, Stardate 51982.9

One month in, and Stiles is just now beginning to grow accustomed to humanity.

Oh, who am I kidding? He’s as terrible as ever. I just need to give myself some measure of hope that things are improving so that I don’t go completely mad.

Luckily—or unluckily, depending on who you ask—I’m not the only one struggling to manage Stiles’ overwhelming… everything. After the first week, I decided to assign Stiles to shadow various stations around the ship, in the hopes that he would find work that appealed to his interests. The problem is, he’s consistently outperformed every member of my crew. He knows more about my damned ship than I do.

For now, it’s just enough to keep him off the bridge. He gravitates here like the galaxy’s most destructive magnet. You see, Stiles, for all his strengths, is possibly the worst diplomat I have ever seen. He can’t see a species without loudly, cheerfully describing its worst characteristics to me. We’ve had to send him to the brig more than once for insubordination and interference with Starfleet negotiations. And each time, I’ve found Scott in my ready room an hour later, ready to give me a lecture on “growth” and “patience.”

God, I wish I could send him to the brig, too. But then, of course, I’d have Argent on my ass. These Q are going to be the death of me.

Anyway, I’ve asked Lieutenant Martin to take Stiles under her wing. She seems to be the only other person on this ship that holds his interest for more than ten minutes. She’s furious with me, of course, but she’s agreed to help regardless. Hopefully that helps. If not, we’ll have to confine Stiles to quarters whenever we come into contact with another ship.

Here’s hoping.

 


 

Captain’s Log, Stardate 52016.7

Stiles has a cold, and he’s refusing medical treatment. He says he wants to experience disease.

God help us all.

 


 

Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 52150.6

We’ve had Stiles with us for six months.

As much as I’ve struggled to acclimatize myself to having Stiles around, I can’t bear the thought that our time is half over. For every complication he brings to my life, he makes me better and better. He is a spark, an unbounded pulse of energy that makes me realize how much I’ve neglected to really live . For as long as I can remember, my every aspiration has involved someone else. I joined Starfleet for my mother, I studied engineering like my father, I became captain of the Triskele to take over after Laura. I’ve never wanted something for myself.

But I want Stiles. And Stiles, miraculously, wants me back. Not the Starfleet officer, not the engineer, not the captain. Me. Just me. It makes me want to be godly, like him, but at the same time I know that if I had half the powers of a Q, I wouldn’t be what he wants.

Impossible as always, he is. And the funny thing is, nowadays, that’s exactly what I think I need.

 


 

Captain’s Log, Stardate 52325.2

We have one week until Stiles’ year is up. Scott has already visited us to remind him, and Stiles is just about jumping out of his skin, he’s so excited. Though he’s come a long way from his first week with us, it’s clear he misses his powers. I don’t blame him. If you cut off my hands for a year, I’d be desperate to get them back, too.

But he also loves this ship, which is why I’ve had Ensign Lahey set a course for Earth. I have a gift for him. It’s no Mularia, but… somehow, I think he’ll like it just as much.

 


 

“... holy shit, Derek.”

Derek laughs tiredly. “I know.”

“But… holy shit, Derek.”

“I know, Laura.”

Laura shakes her head, scrolling through the PADD of his logs. “You’ve been housing a Q aboard the Triskele for a year?”

“A year tomorrow, yeah,” Derek replies, scratching his jaw. “Crazy, right?”

“Well, yes, the term ‘insane’ does come to mind,” Laura says, eyebrow raised. “I should court martial you right now. Conspiracy, housing a known threat to Starfleet, I’m sure I can find ten or twenty breaches of protocol if I pay more than an ounce of attention to these logs… Derek, you have to know how this looks.”

“I do,” Derek says, shrugging. “And I know if you looked at the captain’s logs of Kirk, Picard, Sulu, Janeway, all the way back to Archer… you’d see the same thing. Good captains make tough calls, and sometimes the right decision isn’t the lawful one.”

Laura snorts and sits back in her chair. “You’re comparing yourself to the greats, now?”

Derek takes a moment to look around her office. The spotless floor-to-ceiling windows, the sleek desk, the cutting edge computer screens. The chair under him is just on this side of uncomfortable, just enough to remind its user that this office isn’t theirs; Laura’s looks far more cozy. The pictures on the glass table to his left are precisely placed and show Laura, happy and carefree on her various vacations over the years. The entire Hale family smiles out at him from one of them.

It’s funny, Derek thinks. This office is beautiful, but it doesn’t hold a flame to the Triskele. Laura was a fool to give it up.

“Yes,” he says finally, making a show of getting comfortable in his uncomfortable chair. “I am. And by the way, you have terrible taste in furniture.”

Laura’s lips quirk, and a second later she throws her head back and laughs. “You’ve changed. I like it.”

He’s changed me,” Derek shoots back easily. He sighs and relaxes his shoulders, realizing how aggressive he sounds. “You’d like him, Laur. He grows on you.”

Laura hums. “I bet.” She goes quiet for a minute, looking contemplative. “He already has, if he’s finally cracked you out of your shell.”

What the hell does that mean? Derek frowns, confused. “What?”

Laura leans forward, eyes warm as a crackling fire. “This is what I’ve wanted all along, Der-Bear. It’s why I gave up the Triskele, why I begged Command to choose you to be captain. You had so much potential, and I knew that you just needed something to get you there. I always thought it would be making captain, but… maybe it was this Stiles kid.”

Derek’s fingers go slack in his lap, mirroring his open mouth. He’d always thought Laura was unimpressed by him, same as Mom, same as Dad, just brushing him off because he was the afterthought. Because he was unnecessary. To find out that she’s been giving him space to grow all this time is... well, it’s….

He doesn’t quite know what it is, just yet.

“Will you consider my request?”

Laura’s chair creaks as she crosses her legs. “I sent in the request the moment you sent me these logs, bud. You and Stiles have an appointment with Admiral Kim at noon tomorrow.”

Derek releases a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. “Thank you.”

She smiles. “That’s what family’s for, little brother. Speaking of, think I could steal you away for the evening? There’s a new Klingon-Brazilian fusion steakhouse that’ll blow your mind, and I’d love to hear more about your year with a Q.”

Derek would love to go, but he requests a raincheck. “It’s my last night with Stiles before he—”

“I understand,” she cuts him off, raising a hand. “No need to explain. I just thought I’d offer. Bed him well, brother mine.”

He makes a sound like a dying frog. “Laura.

She laughs loudly, the sound echoing in her office. “See you tomorrow, Der-Bear.”

 


 

Something Derek kept out of his logs for Laura: Stiles is insane in bed. Derek’s dick should honestly have fallen off by this point, the amount Stiles has sucked it, how many times he’s fucked himself onto it, taking over because Derek’s a virile guy, sure, but four times in one night is enough to tire anyone.

Except Stiles.

This last night is no exception. Stiles acts especially needy tonight, like he hasn’t been touched in weeks, even though he rode Derek for two hours last night. But Derek understands, because he feels a little touch-starved, too. He knows Stiles isn’t really leaving—can he truly leave, if he’s omnipresent?—but this feels like a goodbye, regardless.

But there’s something a little deeper, a little darker, that pushes Derek to clutch at Stiles tonight. What happens when Stiles regains his powers? He’s happy now, sure, but… can Derek really measure up against the pull of the universe? That’s ridiculous. Stiles gave up a year to be with him, and he’s done his best to appreciate the gravity of that gesture, but… Stiles deserves more. He deserves the galaxy. No way, can Derek give him all of that.

It’s selfish, to want to keep Stiles for himself. But dammit, Derek’s going to try, anyway.

 


 

The morning breaks clear and bright over the San Francisco cityscape. The sun kisses the ocean as it climbs higher in the sky, bringing with it a warm, cloudless day. For the first time in his life, Derek hates it. Today’s the day that Stiles leaves.

He watches the sunrise through the bedroom window of his apartment, letting Stiles sleep in while he silently panics about their meeting today. He’s never had a reason to appear before Command before; they let Laura give him his promotion, and he’s never been interesting enough to warrant special attention on his own. He’s heard that Admiral Kim is kind, though, and he supposes that’s good.

Stiles seems withdrawn, and Derek can’t tell if he’s just anxious or if he’s picking up on Derek’s nerves. He’s been trying to pull answers from Derek all morning, but to no avail.

“I don’t understand why we have to go to Starfleet Headquarters,” he complains as they walk to the meeting, hand in sweaty hand. “Scott was supposed to be here first thing in the morning! I want my powers, Derek.”

“A year as a human and you still haven’t learned to be patient,” Derek teases, even though he’s just as ready as Stiles to get this over with. He had Argent call for Scott last night to explain the situation, so that he would know to wait. Derek’s sure she found a way to keep him occupied until the meeting.

Stiles bounces on his toes on the elevator ride up. “Does this mean I finally get to meet your sister? Because I’m gonna be, like, totally honest here: If I don’t get to meet her as a human, I’m haunting her ass as a Q.”

“She’ll be there,” Derek promises, watching the numbers on the elevator tick upwards.

Laura’s waiting for them just outside the council chambers. “You made it!” she greets, looking polished in her formal uniform. “And you must be Stiles! I’m Laura.”

And Stiles—beautiful, goofy Stiles—stands at attention and salutes her. “Commodore Hale, ma’am.”

Derek can actually see the moment Laura falls in love. “At ease, crewman. Derek’s trained you up, hasn’t he? In more ways than one, am I right?” She winks at Stiles, grinning.

“What the hell, Laura?” Derek splutters, equal parts disgusted and horrified. “You can’t just say that.”

“That’s Commodore Hale to you, Captain,” she says smugly. “Okay, come on, you two, the admiral’s waiting.”

Admiral Kim is a fit, middle-aged Asian man with well-worn laugh lines and neatly greying hair. His hands are soft but strong when they grasp Derek’s in a handshake. “Captain Hale. I’ve heard a lot about you. And this must be the Q.”

“Stiles, sir,” Stiles says stiffly, holding out his hand. “You know my father, I believe.”

Admiral Kim’s face widens into a pleased grin. “You’re Q’s son? Get out of town.”

“I was supposed to do just that,” Stiles says, shooting Derek a look. “But someone, here, stole my ride.”

“He doesn’t know?” Admiral Kim asks Derek, surprised.

“I wanted to surprise him,” Derek replies. “Sir.”

“Surprise me?” Stiles asks, looking between the two of them suspiciously. “Surprise me with what?”

Admiral Kim walks to the long, glass table in the middle of the room and picks up something small. Derek’s nerves finally get the better of him, and he curls his hands into fists at his sides. He orchestrated this whole thing, but he still can’t believe it’s happening. Laura curls gentle fingers around his wrist, and he opens his hand to grip hers.

As much as he envies her sometimes, he really does love her.

“For as long as I can remember, Starfleet has had a… contentious history with your people,” Admiral Kim tells Stiles seriously. His eyes crinkle as he smiles. “A history that, I confess, I was happy to support. So when Commodore Hale told me that her brother had a Q onboard for a year, I was stunned. I was sure that our cultures were completely incompatible, because in my experience, no Q had the dedication to befriend a human, and no human had the patience to befriend a Q. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.”

The admiral pauses a moment to smile at them both, and Derek feels Stiles’ hot, clammy hand grab for his. They curl their fingers together, and Derek squeezes both his hands, Laura in one, Stiles in the other.

Family.

“Thank you, sir,” Stiles says hesitantly. “I appreciate that, don’t get me wrong… but why am I here?”

Admiral Kim chuckles. “Captain Hale, here, submitted a formal nomination for your induction into Starfleet. I will confess, based on his logs and his logs alone, I was inclined to deny his request.”

Derek registers that he should feel insulted by that comment, because he spent hours editing out his frustrated swears and more embarrassing rhapsodies about Stiles’ eyes, but he’s stuck on the way the air hangs heavy with an unspoken “but.”

“But,” Admiral Kim says, smiling impossibly wider, “those were not the only logs I’ve received.” He picks up a nearby PADD and scrolls through it with one hand. “Commander Argent says your humor and bright spirit improved not only the moods of those with whom you worked closely, but also of everyone else on the ship. Lieutenant Erica Reyes spent several paragraphs oscillating between calling you the most obnoxious adult she’s ever met, and saying that any crew would be lucky to have someone with your attention to detail and ability to multitask several urgent responsibilities at once. Ensign Lahey shared several moments in which he saw you reach out to members of the crew who needed uplifting, and detailed how readily you gave of yourself to make others more happy. He included statistics that showed a marked increase in ship efficiency, which hadn’t seen such a significant improvement since before Commodore Hale took captaincy of the Triskele. Dr. Deaton sent in reports that he has treated you multiple times for plasma burns, electric shocks, and other injuries, claiming that you willingly sacrificed your personal well-being for the safety of the crew, and that risking your life to save others is a true testament of your dedication to the ship. I have countless other letters from other members of the crew, each of them describing moments where you made the ship better.

“Most notably, Lieutenant Lydia Martin, instead of sending her logs, sent me a twenty thousand word manifesto on your brilliant intellect and clear passion for pursuing new challenges and new experiences. She equated your insistence on embracing humanity to Starfleet’s own insistence on understanding new ways of life and new civilizations; according to her, you embody Starfleet’s mission statement to the last letter. She informed me that you not only deserved a position within Starfleet, but that excluding you from our ranks because of your race would prove to her that Starfleet’s mission was a lie, because no scientific institution of growth and education would dare refuse a keen mind and endless thirst for knowledge like yours. I’m not sure I’ve been so thoroughly dressed down since I was a lieutenant, myself.”

Derek wants to speak up, to apologize for the disrespect from his crew, or to agree with every word they’ve written, to say something , but he can’t. If he does, he’ll get emotional—he is emotional, dammit—and he needs to hold himself together for Stiles. He needs to hear what Admiral Kim says next.

“Now, I won’t say these logs thrilled me,” the admiral says, tapping the PADD against the palm of his hand. “And I worry about your careless disregard for your own life. But I would be a hypocrite to say that it makes you any less fit to become a Starfleet officer.”

Admiral Kim walks up to Stiles and pins a bright, shiny pip to his collar. “I hereby promote you to the rank of ensign. Congratulations, Stiles. You’re the first Q to join Starfleet.”

Derek glances over at Stiles and starts when he realizes that Stiles is crying. Judging from the wet tracks down his cheeks, he’s been crying for a while.

Stiles clicks his heels together and salutes the Admiral. “Thank you, sir,” he rasps. “I appreciate it, sir.”

Derek’s throat constricts painfully and, before he realizes what he’s doing, he has Stiles wrapped firmly in a hug. Stiles is tense against him for a split second before he shudders out a sob and latches his arms around Derek, squeezing him at tightly as he can. Derek tucks his face against Stiles’ neck—the new pip is cold on his jaw—and fights back a burst of tears, himself.

This past year and a half has been the biggest whirlwind of Derek’s life. He knew taking over the captain’s chair would bring with it a world of adventure, but he never could have prepared himself for something like this. A year ago, he was scared of touching anything because so sure that if one thing went wrong, everything else would crumble down around him. But then Stiles came along and did literally everything he could to ruin Derek’s carefully constructed life, and… they survived. He survived.

Admiral Kim quietly excuses himself from the room, and Laura follows him out.

Derek and Stiles stand there for god knows how long, shocked and happy and wrecked with the weight of this past year. Derek has no idea what the future holds for them—or what Stiles is going to do when he has his powers back—but if it’s anything like the last year has been, Derek can’t wait to see what happens.

When they finally separate, Stiles’ collar is damp with tears.

Well, dammit, Derek tried.

He’s only human.