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Fight Fires In Your Best Clothes

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“Do you think I’m good looking?”

Scott doesn’t even look away from the television screen, jamming the buttons on his controller as hard as physically possible without breaking them. “Yeah,” he says, completely detached. Stiles watches him play for a few moments longer, tapping his fingers on his knee and puckering his lips.

“But I mean,” he goes on, leaning forward, “have you ever been – attracted to me?”

“What?” Scott furrows his brow, but again, doesn’t move his attention away from the game on the screen.

Stiles rubs at his forehead and sighs through his nose. “I mean. Have you ever thought to yourself…” he waves his hand in the air for a moment, searching for the words, “….I’d totally have sex with Stiles, given the –“

Whoa,” Scott nearly drops the controller. There’s a loud gun shot from the speakers, and next thing either of them know, Scott is virtually dead, a big END flashing at them in blood red letters. He drops the controller on purpose this time so it flops onto the carpet, turns his body to face Stiles completely, and frowns at him. “Do not say shit like that.”

“I’m asking you a question.”

“It’s terrible,” Scott frowns even more deeply. “You’re – I do not think of you like that. Ever.”

For whatever possible reason, even though he knows what Scott means, that makes Stiles angry. “I’m an omega. You’re an alpha. If you’re telling me you’ve never even thought about me like that, then that means –“

“Alphas don’t just walk around with dicks for brains, you know.”

“Don’t they?” Stiles mutters a bit caustically, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. As far as he’s concerned, as far as he’s ever been concerned since the day of his presentment, alphas are just disgusting. All they do is walk around and think about omegas and try to get their hands on omegas and do over-the-top ridiculous things just to get the attention of omegas, and really, all it’s about and all it’s ever been about is sex. That’s it. From start to finish. Stiles imagines if he went in and dissected an alpha brain it’d just be one big lump of porn-omega-food-sleep-porn.

Scott huffs and doesn’t dignify that with an answer. “What is this about? Where is this coming from?”

“I just –“ he looks away, out the window, where the tree branches are scraping and scratching against the side of the house as the wind blows them this way and that. “…don’t you think it’s weird?”

“Come on,” Scott gives him a look. It’s a look only his best friend could truly pull off. “Don’t go here again.”

“I just think it’s weird. I just think it’s fucking weird, and I know deep down, you do too, but you won’t admit it just to spare my feelings.”

Scott bends down to pick up his controller, making a big show of going right back to his game like this conversation isn’t even worth his attention or time. Stiles has forced him through it enough times by now that it’s understandable, but all the same, Stiles plows right on forward.

“Alphas walk around out there and all they fucking think about is fucking omegas –“

“Which is just not true.”

“…and yet none of them will spare me even a passing glance?”

“Which is also just not true,” Scott shrugs, and Stiles wants to smack him upside his head for being so nonchalant about this when Stiles is serious. “Alphas have been interested in you before. You just never gave them the time of day.”

Stiles scoffs. “Name them.”

“Erica Reyes,” Scott says, and Stiles is just about to open his mouth to counter it, but then quickly shuts it. He knows that Scott might have a point about that one. “She was literally so hot and she was into you, and you acted like you didn’t know she existed.”

Which is…half true and half not. In high school, yeah, Erica was really into him and seemed to just mystically appear everywhere he was for a solid school year; popping out of nowhere in the lunch room, winding up in his homeroom class halfway through the semester when she’d never been there before, offering him rides home when his Jeep would inevitably break down. But Stiles always just thought she wanted to be his friend because she was – and still is – very, very good looking. Like, in another galaxy from where Stiles considered himself to be. It never entirely crossed his mind that she might have liked him.

In retrospect, of course, he realized it and punched himself in the nads. But she went to a college far away and got a way better looking boyfriend and…well. Case closed. Opportunity missed.

“That’s your whole entire problem. You’re so fucking self-conscious you’re blinded by it.”

“I’m not that self-conscious,” he scoffs again, rolling his eyes.

“Which is why you’re sitting here asking me if I think you’re good looking. Of all people.”

“Your opinion matters to me,” he points at his chest, right near his heart. “I care what you think.”

“Oh, my God,” Scott pinches the bridge of his nose, and again, drops his controller on the floor. Without another word he’s standing up, and since he is, Stiles does too. They stand, and they face one another, and Scott grabs him by his shoulders and shakes him hard, just once. “Listen to me. Listen very carefully.”

Stiles stares into Scott’s brown eyes, lips parted.

“You are good looking. You smell good. You are a wantable, fuckable person.”

Stiles is already starting to argue. “But other omegas –“

“You know what other omegas do?” Scott interrupts, raising an eyebrow. “They go to mixers and parties and singles nights at bars and put themselves out there. You do none of those things.”

“But I just think an alpha –“

“I know,” again, he interrupts. “An alpha is supposed to make the first move. Well, like you said, most people don’t like an alpha that’s weird and creepy and acts like a fucking stalker, so most alphas are polite. They don’t pounce on the first omega they see like animals.” He pats Stiles hard on the shoulder, relinquishes him, and sits back down on the couch, leaving Stiles standing there blinking across Scott’s bedroom with a frown on his face. He starts a new game and Stiles still stands there, shaking his head. “If you want a date so bad –“

“I want a lay so bad,” he corrects, and Scott makes a face but doesn’t comment on it.

“…then go out and get one yourself. Alphas aren’t as smart as you are.” He might just be saying it to stroke Stiles’ ego, or he might just be saying it because he knows it to be true. “Make the first move. You’d be surprised.”

***

Stiles is reluctant at first to take Scott’s advice. In movies, alphas more often than not buy the first drink or offer an omega their coat or smile and ask them the time for no other reason than an opportunity to get to talk to the omega protagonist. It doesn’t make sense to him that they, as a culture, would worship the idea of an alpha being the take-charge person in regards to dating, and then turn around and not expect that to happen in real life.

But Stiles has spent twenty long years sitting around and waiting for an alpha to be up front with him. Waiting for one of them to walk right up to him and tell him they think he’s the best, they think he smells so nice and they want to just take him home right then and there. This, he has realized over time, is a fantasy. Like, of D-level porn proportions. No alpha is ever going to waltz right up to him and ask him for sex, and the ones that would aren’t exactly the ones he wants to be associating with.

So, yeah. He’s reluctant for maybe two more days, sitting in classes staring at the back of alpha’s heads thinking, turn around and look at me, turn around and say something to me. And then, nothing happens. Because nothing ever happens.

Friday night comes, and Stiles gets out of his last class of the day in the art building, holding his backpack on one shoulder and scowling at his shoes as he walks into the hallway. He shuffles along and sighs through his nose, catching sight of one couple coupling very aggressively by the vending machine he was planning on visiting for some kit-kats, and scowls even more deeply.

They say there’s nothing like the bitterness of a lonely omega. Maybe they’re right.

He sails past them and the kit-kats and meanders his way to the staircase. Drops down the first flight and comes face to face with a bulletin board he’s been walking past for three years now, since he first stepped into this building for Drawing 101 his freshman year. He’s about to walk right past it without a second glance, but something stops him dead in his tracks.

As he does so, the person who was coming down the stairs behind him smacks directly into his back and grunts, and Stiles stumbles forward a bit, nearly braining himself against the bulletin. He turns to see who it is, finds an alpha girl in a nice dress rubbing her forehead a bit and smiling placidly at him. “Sorry,” she says, and Stiles shrugs it off. “Didn’t see you there.”

That’s all she does. She barely looks at him. She walks off with a flip-flop noise, down the second flight of stairs, and Stiles stares after her. Some people meet that way in romantic comedies, he thinks, but not him. Since he’s…whatever he is.

He turns back to the bulletin board and sees a flyer for an alpha-omega mixer happening at seven o’clock tonight. For a moment, he just glares and makes a move to walk away. Makes it two steps and then flits back right in front of it, glaring harder and checking over his shoulder to see if anyone’s watching him. There’s something embarrassing about needing to go out and hunt like he can’t just get one himself like everyone else apparently can, and the last thing he needs is someone seeing him seriously considering this flyer.

He looks over his shoulder one last time, and then rips the flyer off the board and shoves it into his jean pocket, sauntering off quickly with his cheeks burning.

***

The mixer goes horribly. Stiles should’ve known.

They held it in the lobby of the library, in plain sight of half the student body population, right in front of the fucking wall of windows, at that. Stiles had made a bee line to the snacks table first thing and made himself a plate. Then he stood there for all of approximately fifteen seconds, listening to other socially normal and socially average people make small talk with one another, and be normal, and be normal, and Stiles about flipped the fuck out.

He vanished into the library with his plate of snacks like that’s the only reason he had come in the first place, and then hunkered down at a study desk on the second floor and ate by himself and thought about crying. Other people, he thinks, can make conversation. As easy as anything else.

Apparently, he’s just not like other people.

He came home in disgrace, to find Scott and Allison sitting on the couch while a movie played in front of them. As soon as he walked through the door, barely forty-five minutes after he had left, Scott is pausing and both of them are turning to face him, fake smiles plastered onto their mouths.

“How’d it go!” Scott asked, way to jovially for Stiles’ liking.

Stiles had paused for a moment, standing there in the living room with his hands on his hips. Then, he threw said hands up into the air and starting shouting. “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my fucking life. I have no redeeming qualities. I don’t have qualities.” He stormed off to his bedroom, closing the door behind himself.

Even through the walls, he could hear Allison say, “sounds like it went well.”

But Stiles must have a thing for masochism, because he went to another one from another flyer he ripped off the art building bulletin board. This time, he lasted five whole minutes, and basically almost talked to somebody. An alpha, at that. But then he had a mild allergic reaction to some of the shrimp, because he’s allergic and forgot in the face of having an alpha standing right next to him, and then the alpha he thought he was going to get a date with had to call 911 and he spent the night in the hospital being loaded with Benadryl and stabbed with an epi-pen. There’s only so much humiliation Stiles can take.

But he’s back at an ice cream social the next week, hovering by the gummy bears and slowly stuffing spoonfuls of vanilla with rainbow sprinkles into his mouth. And then he’s at the coffee shop downtown drinking a vanilla-chai latte and trying to small talk with an alpha who’s 6’3” and smells like fresh mown grass and aftershave. He leans in at one point, so close he’s sure he’s crossing a line somewhere, just to sniff him a little harder.

The alpha notices. It’s one of the most humiliating moments of his entire life. And these past two weeks have been nothing but back to back, stacked up, humiliating moments. He doesn’t even give the alpha time to really react – just books it out of there as fast as humanly possible and vows that he’s done. Finished. He’s not doing this anymore. Either someone will find him the organic way or he’ll just be alone forever, and really, does that truly sound so bad? Does it?

It does.

Stiles is desperate. He’s pathetic and desperate and Scott and Allison give him sad puppy dog faces every time he comes home from one of those singles events without anything but bad news, and it’s just…sad.

He’s tired of being lonely all the time, because he’s not aromantic or asexual and he wants…someone. He wants someone to touch him. Really. Fucking. Badly. And he wants someone who will answer his texts and phone calls and act like all the things he says are interesting and not weird and that he’s funny and smart and not awkward.

And when a person seeks answers outside of the realm of textbooks, there’s really only one place to go in the 21st century that has any iota of credibility.

He hunkers down on his laptop on a late Sunday night, nursing a beer and trying to work off the feeling that he’s reached rock fucking bottom, and opens google. He looks over his shoulder to make sure his curtains are closed, his door is shut, and he’s entirely and completely alone. Then, he faces forward again and puts his beer can down, tapping his fingers on his laptop.

He stares at the text bar as it blinks emptily at him, puckering his lips, and slowly raises his fingers to type. Even putting the words out silently into the void is mortifying, on some level. He imagines being murdered or just up and dying at some point in the near future, and they pull his laptop and document his search history, and his father will know that his son google searched how to talk to people and be overcome with the awareness that his own kid died a fucking loser.

Stiles types how to talk to alphas and his face burns, but the search goes through, and he scans the results.

Alphas aren’t like a different subspecies you know, he reads in the answers of a YahooAnswers page where a person had posed nearly the exact same question he had. You talk to them like they’re any other people. We’re not aliens.

Stiles backs out and scans the results some more, tapping his fingers. Fed up with seeing nothing but alphas butting into conversations that are evidently meant for omegas in specific, he growls under his breath and returns to the search bar, backspacing everything and starting over.

How to be an omega alphas want to date.

He sends it out into cyberspace, expecting nothing but the usual bizarre drivel from the sad, lonely denizens of the world. The first thing that pops up is a suggestion he go to some girl’s youtube channel, and he raises his eyebrows in surprise when he reads the titles of some of her videos.

Being assertive as an omega, going after what you want as an omega, dating as an omega.

He clicks. Goes to the dating video, and quickly turns down his volume so even if Scott were right outside his door with his ear pressed against it listening, he’d have a hard time hearing it.

The girl is obviously an omega in looks alone, with big green eyes and a vaguely manipulative, calculating twist to her mouth. Her long red hair is shiny and pretty and she looks like she’s sitting in a walk-in closet, a row of shoes visible behind her head and a small toy dog that walks back and forth in the view of the camera, sniffing at the carpet. “Dating when you’re an omega is more difficult than most people, alphas in specific, will generally realize,” she says, and Stiles leans forward a bit, looking over his shoulder again. “Omegas are taught from, like, birth that alphas are the ones who are meant to be in charge of situations, but the truth is, most alphas don’t necessarily prefer that. Most alphas like an omega who goes after what they want, boldly, and to hell with social norms.

“The issue is, no one ever told me that. I spent most of high school thinking there was something wrong with me, because no alpha ever walked right up to me and asked me out like it happens in the movies.”

“Exactly,” Stiles breathes, entranced.

“Unbelievably, I thought I was unappealing,” she points to her face like this truly is unbelievable, and honestly, it is. She’s so pretty. How could she ever think she wasn’t? “But then I went to college, and I learned a thing or two about what alphas actually want. And I’d be more than willing to tell you what I learned – so if you’re like I was and couldn’t get an alpha to pay attention to you for more than the time of day, don’t worry. I know how to make you irresistible,” Stiles leans forward a bit, lips curling at the corners, “to every alpha within a mile radius of where you stand. It’s easy,” she smirks, conniving and vaguely cruel, “once you know how.”

***

Stiles wears all black. He wears his old black and white converse, black skinny jeans he nearly has to fight his way into, and a black t-shirt. He styles his hair deliberately in the mirror with unscented gel, scrunching it and pushing it this way and that until he has that just crawled out of bed or maybe just had sex in the closet look down perfectly. He had showered with only soaps that would enhance his natural scent without adding any new, artificial ones on top, as the omega youtuber queenlydia had directed him to do so.

He spritzes himself with some more natural scent enhancers, doesn’t bring a jacket, and takes only his wallet and phone with him. He walks the three blocks down to the bar next to the book store, a place he and Scott have frequented before, and has to pause before walking inside. He leans up against the brick wall and closes his eyes for a second, breathing in and out.

The key isn’t actually being confident, he repeats in his head in Lydia’s breathy voice. It’s faking the hell out of it and looking as sexy as possible while you do it. For omegas, it’s easy. There’s a natural charm to all of us that only takes seconds to engage, and barely takes practice.

Walk into the room, he chants in his head. Own it, and look people in the eyes. Find the best looking alpha, have them buy you a drink, and the rest is easy.

With another deep breath, he opens his eyes and pulls the bar door open, stepping into the low lights and neon glow.

The first thing that greets him is an overly friendly girl standing at a small table directly at the entrance, leering at him with a grin and wielding a sharpie between two fingers. “Hi!” She caws at him, and Stiles just looks at her for a second. “Are you here for the mixer?”

“Yes,” he says, and she produces a singles sticky name tag from a stack on the table. She hands it to him, and Stiles has to hold in the smirk.

“Write your name,” she tells him, that same cheer still in her voice. “And remember, it’s supposed to be fun!”

Fun, Stiles thinks. He’s been overdue for fun for quite some fucking time. She gives Stiles that same purple sharpie, and Stiles holds it in his hand for just a second, uncapping it slowly.

If there are name tags, scribble your name so it’s nearly illegible. Make them lean in. They’ll smell you better.

Stiles leans over the table and moves the pen nice and quick over the sticker, appraising his work for a moment. It barely looks like a word at all, and since his name is odd to begin with, it likely does the trick Lydia had intended. He dots the I with a star as a final flourish, sticks the name tag on his shirt, and hands the sharpie back to her with a smile.

“Have a good time,” she winks at him, and quickly turns to the next person coming in behind him, shouting that same over the top hi!!! that she had greeted Stiles with.

As Stiles moves away from the table and into the certifiable lion’s den, looking out over the gaggle of other omegas and alphas all milling around with identical name tags as his, he gets that same sinking feeling he’s had at every single one of these he’s gone to before. That clammy feeling in his hands, the realization that for all intents and purposes talking to alphas is like talking to another alien species in spite of what the internet said, and he pauses for a moment.

Takes a big, fat deep breath, and reminds himself of the main and final goal of this entire shenanigan.

Find the best looking alpha in the room.

He scans for a moment, spots a tall alpha leaning against the wall that’s a pretty good candidate, another in a slip of a dress and high heels that’s just as decent, and then – sitting there at the bar.

Dark hair. Finely molded jaw. A profile out of something in a romance novel. Broad shoulders and a half finished beer – and a name tag. Stiles zeros in on him and wipes his sweaty hands on his pants, moving forward and pretending like he’s not flipping out inside of his head.

He chants what Scott had said to him weeks ago now in his head, again and again. That he is good looking. That he does smell nice. That he’s just never put himself out there, and as soon as he does, he’ll get what he wants. And what he wants, at this exact moment, is to have this alpha hold him down and screw the living daylights out of him. This is an attainable goal. This could happen.

The alpha’s left side is wide open, two empty bar stools sitting next to him, and Stiles acts like he doesn’t even see him as he approaches. It’s a game, it’s all a game, there’s nothing serious happening here.

He leans over the bar, resting his elbows on top of it and not sitting on the stool at all. Just spreads his body out nice and long and cocks his head to the side, waiting to get the bartender’s attention. He waits, waits, and finally, out of the corner of his eye, he catches the alpha looking at him.

And, if he’s seeing this correctly, it’s a real fucking look. One of those slow and calculated up and downs, hovering briefly on the back of his jeans and then quickly flitting away like he thinks he’s been gross or weird, resting finally on the side of his face. Stiles has to bite his lip to keep from screaming or something, and then the bartender is in his face.

“What’ll it be…” he squints at the name tag on Stiles’ chest, and then looks up to meet his eyes. “Sam.”

Stiles ignores that for the time being, focusing all his attention on the bartender like the alpha next to him doesn’t exist. “Green tea shot,” he says, and the bartender moves to fulfill his wishes.

Then, straight out of Stiles’ wildest fucking dreams, the alpha speaks. “Make that two,” he says, voice low and smooth, and Stiles finally deigns to look directly at him. Nearly wets himself then and there.

This, he thinks, while trying to keep his face perfectly impassive, is the alpha of his fucking porn fantasies. This is it, right here. He’s got that look about him, where he’s so fucking sexy but can also actually carry a conversation, the contours of his face just-so, just-so, like God honestly took about forty-five extra minutes just so sculpt it with his bare fucking hands. This is the one.

This is it. Stiles will accept nothing less.

He puts his game face on. Smiles just the way Lydia does in her videos, slow and precise and sultry, and nods his head.

“I’ll buy,” the alpha goes on, and Stiles has to catch himself before screaming behind his teeth.

Stiles settles himself onto the stool, resting his feet on the metal bar underneath and turning to face the alpha directly. As he does so, the alpha mirrors him, swiveling around so that their knees almost touch, and Stiles has to think for a solid three seconds of something to say. Panicking is bad. Thinking about all the times he’s bungled similar situations is also bad.

Fake the confidence. Be the person in the movie. You know all the lines, all of them, so just recite them from memory. “Well, thanks,” Stiles says, and receives a lopsided smile in return. He focuses in on the name tag, sees that it’s written in perfectly legible neat handwriting. “Derek?”

“That’s me.”

“You like green tea shots?”

“Never had one,” he shrugs, and Stiles figured that’d be the answer. This guy looks like he gets straight whiskey or Sauza, has never tried to get any of the fancier drinks before or even much thought about them. Stiles is fine with that. Stiles likes them like that.

“It’s good,” Stiles promises him, pretending for a second that he’s not talking to the hottest man that ever walked the earth. “You come to a lot of these things?”

Derek shakes his head. “I just moved to town,” he explains, before finishing off the last of the beer he had sitting in front of him. He puts the glass down gently on the coaster the bartender provided for him. “Bad break-up a few months ago.” He side-eyes Stiles for a moment. “Maybe I shouldn’t say stuff like that at these things.”

Stiles smiles at him, shrugs his shoulders. “It’s fine.”

“I always think the purpose is to make yourself seem as, you know. Normal as possible.” He scans the rest of the people here, watches the smiles and the small talk and the nothing, the substanceless nothing.

And Stiles would know better than anyone else how hard pretending to be normal actually is. Hell, he’s fucking doing it right now and can feel his eyes slithering out of his sockets from the pressure of it. “I prefer honesty,” Stiles says quickly, and then squares his shoulders and gets ready to bend the truth. “I’ve been to lots of these. It’s hard to find – uh. People.”

“People,” Derek repeats back to him, and he smiles. All teeth. They are very, very white. Stiles wants to lick them, and then he turns his head away and mouths oh my god at himself for even thinking that. When he turns back, Derek is still sitting there, not running for the hills. “What’s your name tag say?”

He’s leaning in, close, heavenly fucking close, and Stiles is going to open his mouth and tell him because no way in shit is he ever going to be able to read it, even with the guideline of the star-dotted I, but then the bartender appears, and Derek is straightening up.

“Two green tea shots. Eight bucks.” The glasses are dropped, and Derek is pulling out his wallet. Stiles catches a glance of a driver’s license, a credit card, and then a small stack of twenty dollar bills. He slides one of them across to the bartender, who vanishes somewhere to make change of it.

Derek picks up his shot glass, so Stiles does the same. As they’re clinking the glasses together, Stiles hears Lydia’s voice in his head – alcohol is a tool. Not to be used recklessly, don’t be stupid. But used in just the right amount, at just the right time…they don’t call it liquid courage for nothing. “Cheers,” Derek says, and brings his to his lips.

Stiles downs his quickly, half slams the empty glass down on the bar top, and turns to look Derek directly in the eyes just as he’s swallowing his own. “That is good,” Derek says, surprised with his eyebrows in his hairline, but Stiles pays that comment next to no mind.

He says, brazen as the day he was fucking born, “do you want to take my virginity?”

Derek is just putting his glass down on the bar, and he fumbles it and nearly shatters the thing but catches it at the last second. A few emotions cross over his face as the words sink over him – outright disbelief, intense shock, and finally, interest. He quickly scans his eyes over Stiles one last time, and it feels much more…calculating than the first time. Less of a check-out and more of a gathering of information. He looks Stiles dead in the eyes. “You’re a virgin.” He sounds like he does not believe that. Not at all.

Stiles is screaming, full volume surround sound, inside the safety of his own head. He keeps thinking holy shit, oh my god, holy fucking shit, I just said that, he’s looking at me, I don’t know what to say, what do I say, what do I do, but he buries it. It’s tucked inside and he won’t let it get out. He squares up again, cocking his head to the side. He says, “that’s a good answer.”

“I mean,” Derek stutters, and his change has arrived and he rips it away from the bartender quickly, stuffing it back into his wallet and clearing his throat. “You – yes.”

“Yes,” Stiles repeats this.

“I said, yes. Yeah.” He looks Stiles up and down one last time, and then when he catches Stiles looking, quickly looks away. As if Stiles hadn’t just granted him the full permission to look at him all he fucking pleases not eight seconds ago. “I just…you don’t look like….”

“I don’t act like, either,” someone else aside from Stiles, perhaps the evil twin lurking in his innards, says this. “Want to find out?”

“Fuck,” Derek mutters, rubbing at his jawline. Abruptly, he’s rising from the stool and Stiles is doing just the same. His legs are shaking a bit, his hands clammy again, but he stuffs them into his tighter-than-shit pockets and tries to look as nonchalant as possible. “You uh…” they’re walking, side by side, to the exit.

By the time Derek is finishing the thought, they’re out in the balmy California dusk, the bar door slamming behind them loudly and the all the noise and circumstance of the mixer lost behind them. It’s just them, and they’re out of the situation, and they’re…

“…you want to. Meet. At my place?”

“I walked,” Stiles says, and Derek immediately turns and gestures for Stiles to follow. They walk with the sound of their shoes the only noise for just thirty seconds, and then they’re in the parking lot, and Derek is gesturing to a sleek black car. It unlocks, and Stiles registers that this is Derek’s car.

Derek drives this car. Stiles is about to go home with an alpha that looks like a fucking movie star who drives a shiny black fucking sports car. As Derek rounds to the driver’s side and pops open his door, Stiles takes the second to look up to the sky, shake his head in disbelief, and suck in a deep breath.

He’s come too far to screw this the fuck up now.

Climbing inside, he sinks into the leather seat and all but melts inside of it. He clicks his seatbelt, sits up as straight as possible, and then the car starts with a gentle purr. The radio starts playing as soon as it starts up, and Derek reaches his hand to the console to immediately turn the volume all the way down.

Stiles only just got a couple second teaser of the kind of music Derek likes – for whatever reason is evidently embarrassed by. He clears his throat and explains, “wasn’t really. Expecting this.”

“Okay,” Stiles says. It’s all he can think to say. “You live near by?”

“Very nearby,” Derek explains, pulling them out of the parking lot and onto the main road. There’s only another fifteen seconds of silence, because Stiles is too afraid to say a god damn word out of fear of saying the wrong thing and getting kicked out on the side of the road, and then Derek is clearing his throat again. “So you came to this thing tonight with the intention…of this.”

Stiles taps his fingers on his knee and tries to decide which is the better answer – the truth, or a white lie. In the end, he settles on the truth. “You said it yourself,” he shrugs. “It’s weird that I’m still a virgin.”

“I didn’t say it was weird,” Derek says very quickly, like he’s afraid he’s offended Stiles. “I just…” another one of those deliberate once-overs, and Stiles’ skin tingles underneath Derek’s gaze. “…you are attractive.”

“Thanks.” Stiles wants to bite his fucking hand off.

“And, you’re…” he slows at a red light, turns to look at Stiles again. This look, again, is serious. He narrows his eyes and looks at him very, very closely, turning his head to the side. “You’re not – like – in fucking high school are you?”

Stiles’ reaction is natural. He rears his head back and bursts out laughing, his entire body shaking with it. “No,” he says, coming back down and shaking his head to find Derek still looking at him, this time, with a relieved smile on his face. “No, I’m not in high school. I’m in college.”

“Oh, okay.” A pause. Derek staring at the red light. Turning back to look at Stiles again. “But is it…uh. An early college?”

“I’m a Junior.”

“Okay.” Another pause. “Are you old enough to –“

“I’m 21.”

“All right.” He squeezes the steering wheel a bit, knuckles going white. “I’m 26. That’s not weird. Is that weird?”

“That’s not weird,” Stiles shakes his head and has to look out the window the hide his facial expression – he mouths another oh my god at nothing and no one, and then comes back around to see Derek hadn’t noticed, driving forward underneath a green light.

“Jesus Christ,” Derek mutters, switching lanes and taking another opportunity to give Stiles a look. “Don’t get offended. We only just met.”

“Okay,” Stiles says this slowly.

“But do you…perhaps. Tell alphas you’re a virgin because you think they’d like to hear that?”

This takes Stiles completely by surprise – so much so that he has to stare at the side of Derek’s face with his jaw half unhinged, trying to even dignify that with an answer. It is vaguely offensive, but then again, Derek has a point. They do not know each other. They only just met. And really, Derek has a right to know that, and if he has doubts, he should ask. Stiles looks away from him, facing forward, and breathes through his nose. “I’ve never even kissed anyone,” he says, matter of fact, and Derek double takes him, yet again. “It’s not something I’d go around telling people like I were proud of it.”

Derek is quiet for what seems like a long time. In reality, it might only be less than thirty seconds, but it’s dead air, and Stiles is hanging on his every last word. Just waiting for the second where Derek decides that this is all too weird, that he can’t do this, that Stiles is pathetic, and this and that and the other thing.

But he doesn’t. He slows, pulling over into the lot of a mid-range looking apartment complex. “So, what? You just never found the right person?”

Stiles’ lips twitch. “Something like that.”

“And now you’re just going to give it to me,” he clarifies, squeezing into a parking spot with a sign up front reading RESERVED FOR TENANT #5.

“Well, what can I say?” Again, he channels that Lydia smile and leans his head back against the seat. “You were the best looking alpha in the room. I keep my standards.”

“And, why not?” Derek shuts the car off, looks Stiles in the face. “Looking the way you do.”

“You like the way I look,” Stiles has to ask this, has to be sure. Needs someone other than fucking Scott to say this to him.

“I do, yeah.”

“You want to have sex with me.”

“Yes.”

“How do I smell to you?”

Derek, for whatever reason, takes this as his cue to get out of the car. He unbuckles and huffs something under his breath, popping open his door. “Come on up,” he says, slamming the door behind him, and Stiles can only follow, a bit helplessly.

They walk up a single flight of stairs, past a small gaggle of tulips waving in the wind, and then Derek is pausing at a door with a big gold FIVE on it, keying it open. They walk inside, and it smells…completely like Derek in here. Like alpha, and Derek, and alpha. Stiles has to pause for a moment as the door shuts behind him with a bang, soaking it in and trying to get used to it.

He notices, a bit abruptly, that he’s getting wet. This is either embarrassing or isn’t. Stiles hasn’t decided.

Derek’s apartment is very, in a word, grown-up. Although Stiles and Scott have lived off campus this entire school year, and it’s just about done at this point, their apartment is not…grown-up. There are band posters and piles of dishes and neither of them ever get paper towels or dish soap so they smack their sopping wet hands on their clothes and use hand soap to scrub at their plates with a falling-apart sponge.

Derek has got an immaculate kitchen, a coffee maker with a clock that starts making coffee right before Derek is slated to get up in the morning, pristine couch, coffee table, a shiny fridge with a calendar and events scribbled on it. There’s the barest hint that Derek only just moved in, a stack of empty cardboard boxes in the corner, but other than that, Derek looks settled. Stiles scrubs at the back of his neck and wonders if fucking a 26 year old is weird, but quickly squashes that thought down.

“You want uh…” he scritches at an eyebrow, “something to drink? I’ve got water. Tea.”

Stiles breathes, in and out. Looks up and meets Derek’s eyes directly, pretends to be savvy and sexy and brave. “Is any of that stuff in your bedroom?”

Derek deflates under this like a wilting flower, eyes going a little hooded. “No,” he says, voice quiet.

Walking close, closer, closer, and closer still, until he’s right in Derek’s face, Stiles leans in so he’s sure Derek feels his breath fanning over his mouth and cheek. He scans his eyes up and down Derek’s face, as much as he can see from this angle, and meets his eyes. “I want your bedroom.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Derek hisses, and staggers backwards down the hall. Stiles follows him, stalking along behind him as though Stiles is the predator and Derek the prey – when historically, that’s never how it’s been before, between their dynamics.

Derek opens up a door, and there’s the bed all pristine and made and the curtains drawn up tight and closed, and Stiles makes his way right for the bed. Now that he’s here, plopping himself down on the edge and spreading himself out all nice like they always do in the movies he watches, there’s no turning back. Absolutely none.

His brain to mouth filter, the one he’s been carefully cultivating this entire night, vanishes. It goes to shit. Breaks, shatters, and he says the first thing that comes to his mind as he bends down to take off his shoes. “I might be a virgin,” he explains, thumping one sneaker onto the floor while Derek closes the door behind him, “but I’m not inexperienced.”

“Huh,” Derek bends down to take his own shoes off.

“I’ve – you know,” he throws his other shoe off at the same time Derek rips off both of his in one fell swoop, starts coming closer to him. “I like to watch porn.”

“Uh-huh,” Derek agrees, nodding like he gets it.

“I like to masturbate.”

“Natural,” Derek is coming upon him, so fucking close, closer than Stiles has ever been to any other alpha that wasn’t his father or Scott.

“I have stuff,” he says the word all slow, almost embarrassingly slow, and it would be funny in any other context. But the context of the word stuff at all has Derek pausing, looking at him so seriously and, really, so hot, and he licks his lips.

“Yeah?” Derek asks, and Stiles nods.

“You don’t have to be gentle just because I’ve never had a real one,” he cocks his head to the side, smirking. “I think I can take it.”

Without another word, Derek is kneeing his way onto the bed, so that Stiles’ body is trapped in between his legs, and then they’re kissing. Derek presses his mouth onto Stiles’ and Stiles pushes back. Hard. Very, very, hard. He grabs Derek’s belt buckle and starts undoing it, mindlessly trying to return the kiss that Derek is giving him, and then abruptly, Derek is pulling off his mouth.

“Okay,” he says, half-laughs. “You don’t know how to kiss.”

“It’s not hard,” Stiles says, leaning back in to try again. They go on for another few seconds, Stiles’ tongue inexpertly shoving against Derek’s teeth and cheeks and, at one point, his nose for whatever reason, and Derek pulls back on another laugh.

“Okay,” he says again. “Points for enthusiasm. I’ll show you how, uh – another time.”

“Another time,” Stiles agrees, and Derek’s belt is completely undone. He should be embarrassed about his epic failure as a kisser, but really, he can’t mind. Not right now. He can feel against his fingers as he works on pulling Derek’s pants down that Derek is hard. He has an actual erection, and Stiles is hard and wet himself, and Derek is going to fuck him, and that’s all he can think about.

Derek pulls at Stiles’ pants, and Stiles lifts his hips up off the bed to accommodate him. With that alpha strength, Derek manages to hold Stiles’ body up and pull his skinny jeans down his hips and onto his thighs as easily as anything else, and then his hand is dipping into the back of Stiles’ briefs.

Fuck,” he hisses, pulling away quickly. “You’re so wet –“

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, thrusting his hips up against Derek’s body. “This is – this is twenty-one long fucking years of sexual tension spilling out of me right now. Twenty-one years worth of fantasies, and you know what?” The brain to mouth filter is gone again, and Stiles is reaching out and grabbing at Derek’s chin with two fingers. He pulls their faces close, breathes against Derek’s face. “You’re going to fill every. Last. One of them.”

He pulls back and makes quick work of tugging his shirt off over his head, and Derek looks stupefied for only a second or two after the fact. He mutters something under his breath and pulls his own shirt off, tossing it off to the side somewhere. Stiles gets a quick peak of a stomach tattoo, and then Derek is back on top of him and Stiles’ view is gone. He leans his face right into Stiles’ neck, presses his noise to the juncture of his jaw, and breathes. It tickles, so Stiles huffs a laugh and tries to kick the rest of the way out of his pants, but Derek is in the way.

“To answer your question from before,” he pants against Stiles’ neck, licking a quick stripe up the side of it. “Yes. You smell very, very good.”

“Like what?” Stiles demands, desperate to know the answer.

Derek takes a second to snuffle some more, running his hands along Stiles’ bare chest and making Stiles shiver and look up at the ceiling, asking himself again if this is really, fucking, happening. “Like autumn.”

Stiles is vaguely disappointed. Like dead fucking leaves?

“Come on,” Derek is saying, pulling off and away, grabbing at Stiles’ pants with his fingers. He rips at them, and they’re so tight it takes a second and Derek growls under his breath, but they come off and he throws them. Stiles’ phone and wallet spill out the back pocket onto the floor, but neither of them pay any attention to that.

Stiles is down to just his briefs, a wet patch on the front from pre-come and god only knows what’s going on in the back, but Derek doesn’t leave them on for much longer. He pulls at them, baring Stiles to his eyes, and then Stiles is completely naked and Derek is in just his unbuttoned jeans. He is not wearing any underwear. Stiles is almost speechless. “Ask me,” Derek says, and Stiles is puzzled, looking up at him with a furrowed brow.

“What? Why you’re not wearing underwear?”

“No,” Derek smiles with those bright white teeth again. “To fuck you.”

With a tilt to his head, Stiles looks at him very steadily. “Is this an alpha power trip thing?”

“Could be,” he tugs his jeans down, and then there it is. Derek’s dick. It’s…nice. Stiles looks at it for far longer than is probably socially acceptable, even in the situation, and then looks back up to Derek’s face. “Ask me.”

Stiles breathes in and out, and he can do this. Of course he can do this. He always knew, when push came to shove and all was said and done, that he’d be a massive. Fucking. Slut. He’s comfortable in this – where out in the world, making conversation, he stutters and is awkward, in bed…well. Maybe that’s just another side to Stiles altogether, and he doesn’t need queenlydia to coach him through this one. “Fuck me,” he says, and watches the words ripple over Derek. “Please, please fuck me.”

Derek takes Stiles’ legs in his hands, climbs on top of him, bends them backwards. It’s not uncomfortable, like Stiles always thought it would be when he’d seen this position in videos. It’s easy, the stretch not too hard, and Derek’s fingers press along his entrance. “Jesus, I don’t even have to finger you, you’re so fucking –“

“Ready,” Stiles finishes for him, panting. “Oh, my God, I’m ready. Come on, fuck me, take it,” he latches onto a patch of Derek’s hair and tugs, just north of rough. “Be my first.”

Not needing anymore goading than that, Derek gingerly sinks into Stiles in one fell swoop, and Stiles hitches up on a tight, quiet whimper. It spills out of him before he can help it, but Derek catches his eyes as soon as it’s out of his throat, smirking at him. “Feel good?”

“Yes,” Stiles says, his fingers scrabbling along the planes of Derek’s back muscles, his shoulder blades. “Fucking big.”

“Feel better than your stuff?”

Stiles’ answer is another whimper, pushed out of him when Derek thrusts in and out, and then again. “That’s virgin fucking tight,” he grunts, and Stiles bites his lip and nods, frantically.

“Harder,” he hisses, and Derek obliges. He pulls up and then moves back down, hard and fast, and Stiles brings his fist up to his mouth to swallow down any more noise.

“Like that?”

“Like that,” he repeats back.

Derek bends his neck and captures it between his lips and teeth, pushing in and out in a steady rhythm and biting down just enough to elicit a gasp from between Stiles’ lips. He sucks hard, pulling at the skin and purpling it most likely, and Stiles pinches his eyes shut, mouth hanging open over every push and bite.

Once one bite mark is there, Derek moves to another spot, like he plans to cover Stiles’ entire neck, and Stiles isn’t complaining. His brains are literally being fucked out of him and he feels so fucking good and Derek is so big and strong and a real alpha, and Stiles is just a shuddering, moaning mess.

“I’m gonna come,” he hisses once Derek is on his third mark, and Derek licks at the bruise gently, fucking him harder. “Derek, Derek –“

He spills over his stomach on a really pathetic but sexy-sounding all the same moan, and Derek bites him one more time and grunts into his neck, locking up. His thrusts go more erratic, shallower, indicating to Stiles that he’s coming in little spurts inside of him and Stiles’ eyes roll back in his head.

“Oh, my God,” he says, up at the ceiling, and Derek stills on top of him, panting hard. “Oh, holy fuck.”

Derek’s forehead is sweaty when he presses it against Stiles’, and Stiles swallows and kisses him on the cheek. It’s a while, then, before either of them speak again. Stiles’ come is going cold and uncomfortable and Derek hasn’t pulled out of him yet, soft and spent inside.

“That is probably,” Derek starts, cautiously pulling out of Stiles and helping him lower his legs down, “the best sex I’ve had in a while.”

“You can’t believe I was a virgin, huh?”

“I didn’t,” he says, very sincere, “until that kiss.”

Stiles’ face burns with genuine embarrassment, but Derek is light and teasing, smiling at him still, so Stiles smiles back at him and covers his face with his hands. “You’ll have to make good on that promise to teach me how.”

Derek is quiet for a second, and then he says, “sure, yeah.”

He flops down on the bed next to Stiles, naked and sweaty, and they stare at the ceiling together for a while. Stiles says, “I’m not a virgin anymore.”

“Not anymore, no.”

“I feel like,” he shifts, pulling himself up to balance himself on his elbows. “…I should feel differently. But…I don’t know. My ass just hurts a little bit.”

Derek huffs a laugh. “Virginity isn’t a real thing, you know.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Stiles sits up all the way and criss-crosses, unashamed of his nudity in front of Derek – it doesn’t really matter, anyway, not where Derek is concerned and not at this point. “But it was such a – focal point of my life for so long. It’s like I need a second to…process.”

“Process,” Derek repeats, and then they go quiet again while Stiles tries to sit there and think. Does he feel any differently? Is the universe still spinning on like it was before all this? Does any of this even really fucking matter, in the end?

It’s quiet for long enough that Stiles hears a buzzing coming from the floor. He’s perplexed for a second, and then he remembers that’s where his phone had landed. He crawls across the bed, over Derek’s bare legs, and flops down onto the floor entirely ungracefully, nearly braining himself against Derek’s bed side table. A glass of water rattles and nearly spills, but Derek catches it quickly, while Stiles grabs at his phone.

He just misses a call from Scott. As soon as it’s missed, his notifications screen appears, logging fourteen other missed calls. “Shit,” he hisses, standing up from his crouch and then immediately bending down to grab at his briefs on the floor. He tugs them on and Jesus, they’re wet and cold and disgusting but he has no other choice. “Shit.”

“What is it?” Derek asks, alarmed. Stiles tugs himself back into his skinny jeans while Derek watches, furrowing his brow more and more as each second passes. “Are you leaving?”

“I –“ Stiles stutters, pawing around on the ground for his wallet and shirt. The wallet he locates, shoving it into his back pocket. “…I don’t usually go out this late without my best friend.”

“Okay.” Derek sounds confused, while Stiles finds his shirt and pulls it over his head in a ruffled mess. His hair has gone to complete shit, and he tugs around in it a bit, but realizes it’s a lost cause, muttering under his breath.

“He probably thinks I’m dead somewhere,” he shoves his feet into his shoes like they’re slippers and then hobbles out of Derek’s bedroom. He hears the patter of Derek’s feet behind him, notes that Derek is still naked when he turns around, and faces forward again with burning cheeks. Somehow, this is embarrassing, now. “I’ve gotta –“

“Go?” Derek asks, sounding vaguely put out. “But just –“

“Sorry, sorry,” Stiles says, pressing the phone to his ear after hitting Scott’s contact. “I really have to go, he’s an alpha.”

“Oh.” Derek’s voice is clipped, tight, but he gets it. “Can you just –“

“I’m sorry, this is –“ Scott answers and Stiles palms his forehead. Pulls the phone away from his mouth while Scott yells at him through the receiver to look Derek in the face, his free hand on the door knob leading outside. “This was – I had a good time.” In his ear, Scott is still yelling. “I’d like to – again. Really. Just – angry alpha.”

“No, I – I get it.” Derek waves his hand, but still looks disappointed. Stiles pulls open the door, and then Derek is behind it, and Stiles on the other side, in his slipper-shoes and covered in hickeys, by himself to walk home or get a ride from Scott if he gets not-angry.

“…calling, and calling, and I about called your father, you don’t go somewhere with dozens of alphas and then not answer my phone calls, for all I know, you were attacked!” Stiles walks into the parking lot, sighing through his nose and squinting up at the moon.

***

Scott slams to a stop on the curb of the gas station where Stiles is currently standing, arms crossed over his chest, and glares past Allison to look him dead in the eyes. He’s frowning, so deeply it almost looks like his mouth is about to fall off of his face, and Stiles rubs his temples and mental prepares himself for another verbal lashing.

Reluctantly, he pulls open the back door and climbs inside. Before he even gets the door shut, Scott starts. “Jesus Christ,” he snaps, wrinkling his nose while Allison turns and gives him a complete once-over. “You fucking reek like alpha.”

“Well,” Stiles says, too self-satisfied for his own good. Really, every inch of him, top to bottom, is satisfied, in the most carnal way possible.

“Did you meet someone?” Allison asks – perhaps the only sane person in the car.

“I did,” he can’t help himself from smirking. O-ho, did he ever meet someone. Scott eyeballs him in the rearview mirror, eyes narrowing more and more as the seconds pass.

“And he left you at the gas station for me to come pick you up,” he gives Allison a look – that couple’s look they both give each other, depending on the situation. The one that says you’re on my side, implicitly, no matter what. “Prince fucking Charming.”

“No, actually,” Stiles rolls his eyes and leans his head against the seat, puckering his lips. “I decided it’d be best to separate you two before anyone got hurt.”

“A wise decision,” Allison says in a low voice, makes her best innocent face at the look of sheer betrayal that Scott shoots in her direction. She turns all the way around in her seat, and perhaps for the first time since picking him up, really looks at him. Like…really. From top to bottom. It takes her a second, but she spots it. Her brows furrow, and Stiles knows exactly what she’s looking at before she even says anything. “Whoa…um. Your neck.”

As if Allison’s eyes are poking at it, he subconsciously reaches his hands up and pokes his fingers at the tender bruising around the skin. He smiles to himself a bit more. Right. Those. Scott’s eyes are back in the rearview mirror, and he leans in closer to it, desperately trying to laser his way into Stiles’ soul through the mirror at the same time he’s watching the road – it’s not working out very well. He keeps veering into the next lane, Allison occasionally reaching out to steady the wheel for him.

“What the hell is all that?” He demands, and Allison’s face goes a little tight. She might be trying not to laugh. “Who did that to you? I’ll fucking –“

“These aren’t the marks of a vicious attack from some rogue alpha,” Stiles cuts Scott off before that train of thought can go any further whatsoever. God knows Hell Hath No Fury like an alpha who thinks another alpha has done something to an omega that’s anything less than genial. “I have an announcement to make.”

He unbuckles, shuffles himself into the middle of the backseat to better address both of them at once. He rests an elbow on either one of their seats, while Allison gives him her full attention again and Scott juggles the mirror and the road. The moment lasts, the suspense building up, and Scott looks nearly about ready to punch his fist through the horn if only to get Stiles to hurry up and get a move on.

Stiles says, “I’ve lost my virginity,” and Scott slams on the brakes.

They go careening to the shoulder of the road, so Stiles topples over (since he’s not wearing his seatbelt anymore) and nearly smacks his forehead into the door handle, landing instead on the cushy plush seating that smells like Scott.

Once they’re pulled over completely, Scott whips around and looks Stiles dead in the face as much as he can, while Stiles slowly pulls himself back up and rubs at his forehead. They meet eyes, and Scott looks at him intently, searching his face. He’s waiting to see if Stiles will say he’s just kidding, or something.

The seconds tick by, and by, and by, and all Stiles does in response to Scott’s eyeballing is slowly grow a bigger and bigger smile across his face, lips stretching over his teeth. “It’s finally happened,” Scott says, voice low. Allison still looks like she wants to burst out laughing, but settles for pressing the back of her hand to her mouth and trying to mirror Scott’s seriousness. “Some alpha has finally gone and done it.”

“Wow,” Allison’s voice is strangled.

Scott sits there for fifteen more seconds, staring out at the night sky with his lips curving downwards, while Allison and Stiles share looks with one another again and again. Then, he pulls the car out of park and starts driving again, turning his blinker on to merge with the rest of the early night traffic. “Well, who the hell was it?” Scott demands.

And that is the exact second that Stiles realizes three very, very important things.

Number one, Stiles doesn’t know Derek’s last name. He doesn’t even have a half decent guess.

Number two, Lydia’s name tag trick is clever in practice and theory both – but the issue is, you have to not be a fucking idiot. It’s cute and fun at first, but then, at some point, the other person needs to knows your real name, not just the vague scribble version of it. For all Stiles knows, Derek thinks Stiles’ name is Sam, like the bartender had said.

Number three, Stiles had not gotten Derek’s phone number or vice versa.

Fuck,” he hisses, palming his forehead.

Fuck.

***

“I can’t believe you did this,” Scott grouses from the driver’s seat the next day, operating the wheel with one hand and clutching a Mountain Dew tightly in the other.

Stiles sits next to him, narrowing his eyes at every passing street sign and huffing through his nose. “It’s not out of character.”

“Uh, I don’t remember you ever fucking some random alpha who didn’t even know your name.”

While that may be true, Stiles thinks with a purse of his lips, the fact remains that even Scott had to have known that if Stiles were truly given the opportunity, he’d slut-out to the best of his possible ability. Why the hell not, he always thought when he’d imagine and consider it in his head. He’s young, he’s rootless, he can do whatever the hell he wants. And while he’d never fucked anyone before, he thought about it.

A lot. He vaguely admitted as much to Derek the night before, and further ruminating on this thought would have him coloring only slightly in embarrassment. Whatever, he thinks. He always knew he’d be a slut.

“Anything looking familiar?” Scott asks, driving slowly past the bar Stiles had met Derek at. They cross over to the next block, where Stiles is sure they kept driving straight, and Stiles nods his head.

“I remember the McDonald’s. We definitely passed this.”

Scott drives straight on, towards an intersection Stiles also remembers sitting with Derek at. “What are you even going to do if you manage to find his place? Just knock on the door?”

“Uh,” Stiles scratches at his cheek, while they sit at a red light. “I don’t know. Leave a note on his door?”

With a snort, Scott shakes his head and rolls his eyes to the ceiling. “Hey, remember banging me last night?”

“Shut up. It’d be tasteful. My name, my number. He’d figure it out.”

“Alphas are big dumb idiots,” Scott plows forward as soon as the light shines green, slurping down some more of his soda and still looking put out beyond all possible belief. This is most likely not his idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon.

“What happened to your whole spiel about how not all alphas are the same?”

“That doesn’t apply to the ones who come sniffing around my best friend,” he bursts out, much angrier than the situation would even come close to warranting, and Stiles just bears it, for the most part. Bursts of random righteous rage from alphas are a dime a dozen, Stiles has learned his entire life.

They cruise forward, and Stiles shifts his eyes all across the road, trying to remember. “I know he took a turn somewhere before the gas station,” he mutters as the big neon sign for an Exxon fits its way into the stretch of the windshield. “I just can’t remember where. Uh. Left?”

“You don’t sound sure,” Scott says, even as he’s merging into the left lane with his blinker clicking rhythmically over his voice.

“I’m not.”

They make the turn anyway, and then they’re in a completely unfamiliar neighborhood. There are yards and dogs being walked and kids rolling around on little bicycles – Stiles would remember Derek living in a white picket fence type of a location, and he definitely fucking didn’t.

“This is wrong,” Stiles moans, pretty close to a whine. “Aw, god dammit. Fuck.” Scott was right about one thing – not even Stiles can believe he did this. Having sex with a certifiable stranger was always an option if he were ever given it, true, but bungling it all so badly that he couldn’t even remember where the guy lived? For God’s sake, neither of them were even anywhere near close to drunk. It shouldn’t be this hard.

He’s done queenlydia no honor whatsoever. She would have been smart enough to get the guy’s phone number at bare fucking minimum, or even beyond that, his last name so she could look him up. She, for one, isn’t a complete idiot.

As he’s pressing his cheek into his palm and staring dejectedly out the window, Scott slowly pulls over onto the curb in front of a pretty blue house with a row of flowers out front and a perfectly mowed lawn. The engine turns off, and then Scott’s keys are jangling as he dumps them onto his lap.

“Okay,” he starts, putting on a familiar serious tone. “You seem really upset about this.”

“Well, yeah,” Stiles mutters from behind his hand and a squished up cheek.

“I mean…was it – really that great?” He probes a bit, shifting in his seat and staring at the profile of Stiles’ face as if to search it for a silent answer. “He seemed all right to you? Nothing weird?”

“There was nothing weird. And, yeah,” he stares at a cat with a fluffy tail as it slinks around the yard, meowing up at nothing and blinking at the sun. “Yeah, it was good. It’s not really just that. I don’t know. He seemed…I don’t know. I liked him.”

“How much did you really talk to him?”

Stiles is instantly annoyed – there is nothing on planet earth that’s a bigger fucking buzzkill than two alphas getting into a pissing contest, and in between the lines of what Scott is actually saying and what Scott means to say, that’s exactly what it is. Scott being annoyed that there’s some alpha running around out there who put his hands on Stiles. That’s it. “You’re ruining this.”

“I’m –“ he puts his hands up, as if in surrender. “I’m not. Sorry, okay? He’s just your first. Maybe you’re just attached because that was important to you.”

“My virginity? Important?” Stiles crinkles his nose up and rolls his eyes. “Not even close.”

“Well, all right,” Scott says this slowly, as if he wants to be saying something else but won’t, if only for Stiles’ benefit. “Look at it this way – if he’s really that great and you’re really meant to know him or whatever, you’ll probably run into him again.”

Yeah, Stiles thinks. He’s not particularly superstitious or even really much of a romantic, but fate has always tended to just sort of…work. People come and people go, and if someone is meant to be there in his life, then they will be.

And hey, Scott has a point. Stiles barely knew him. Maybe Derek’s whole and entire purpose in Stiles’ life was just to take his virginity and give him self-confidence so that he could go out there and meet the alpha he’s really meant to be with. Maybe that’s all it ever was, in the end, and they won’t see each other again.

***

Stiles flips his baseball hat backwards on his head after killing the engine in the lot of the Sheriff’s Department, reaching over into the passenger seat to scoop up the lunch he picked up for his dad and climbing out into the early Summer sunshine. He squints up at the sky and wishes he brought his sunglasses, chuffing along in the stray pebbles of the lot.

He had done his best with the help of Allison’s make up to cover up the hickeys on his neck, and had actually managed to make his skin look somewhat unblemished. As it turns out, he and Allison have nearly the same complexion, which might come in handy in the future. One thing is for certain – he couldn’t waltz in to see his father looking like he just got done shooting some weird alpha/omega kink porn for the internet. Still, his hand reaches up to subconsciously rub at it before he can stop himself, and then he quickly darts it back down into his pocket as he shoulders his way into the building.

He ignores mostly everyone else in the building as he trudges down to his father’s office, knocking twice and then bursting inside before his dad can even welcome him in. When he opens the door, his dad is just sitting there with a pen in his hand, poking around in some file with his reading glasses on.

As soon as he spots Stiles, he smiles and leans back in his chair, pushing his glasses up on top of his head. “Well, well, well,” he says, “look who remembers they have a father.”

“I call you all the time,” Stiles thumps his father’s lunch down onto his desk, and the man zeros his eyes in on it like he’s been starving in an underground bunker somewhere for several days.

“Not enough,” he insists, wagging his pen in the air. He reaches across the desk to grab at the rustling plastic bag holding his burrito hostage, and Stiles has half a mind to pull it out of his reach on principle alone. But the Sherriff get his hands on it, dragging it over to his side and fishing out the plastic fork and knife buried in the warmth.

“Should I call you every time there’s a new development?” Stiles leans his hip against the desk and folds his arms over his chest, raising his eyebrows sarcastically. “Each time Scott actually does his own dishes, perhaps?”

“You joke.” He opens up the Styrofoam container and takes a great big sniff, and Stiles has to resist the eye roll. He’d call his dad a foodie, but he thinks that actually entails some basic knowledge or skill in regards to cooking and understand how food works. His dad barely knows how to make scrambled eggs. “Now that you’re standing here in front of me, though…” he trails off for a moment, looking Stiles up and down and cocking his head to the side with a bit of a bemused smile. “There is something different about you.”

Stiles pauses for a moment, feeling his face go tight. After clearing his throat and trying his level best to casually adjust his shirt collar to hide his neck better, he says, “what do you mean?”

His dad stares at him some more, calculating but not necessarily serious. He looks almost confused himself, not sure of what it is he’s actually seeing in Stiles that’s different, at all. “I don’t know. You just seem…”

There’s no way, Stiles has to remind himself. No possible way that his dad could know that he’s had sex. He might be the Sheriff, and he might be better than anyone else at solving the unsolvable and seeing straight through people’s bullshit and lies – but he can’t just know that Stiles isn’t a virgin anymore.

It makes his face go red to think that his dad could tell that, and he has to look away after another several seconds of the dad stare. All the same, the subject is dropped in the face of the burrito sitting there awaiting him, and Stiles is fine to just let it pass like it never happened.

“Well, either way,” he takes another big bite of his lunch and then wipes a napkin over his face and mouth, standing even as he’s still chewing. “Now that you’re here, I’ve been meaning to give you some news.”

He comes around the desk to the front, taking Stiles by both shoulders and steering him out of the office. The two of them go meandering through the small maze of desks for the rest of the deputies, some of them occupied and others empty, and as he goes, he catches the eye of more than a few that quickly avert their gazes down to their work as soon as they see him coming.

Stiles smirks to himself. Most police officers are alphas if only because most alphas get their dicks hard at the prospect of being in charge of something – so ninety percent of the population of this building is terrified to look too long in Stiles’ direction for fear of being accused of creeping on the Sheriff’s omega son. It’s always been funny to Stiles, ever since the day he turned sixteen and Parrish abruptly stopped being able to joke around with him anymore. Then, the joke was on him.

“We’ve got a new member of the team.”

“Oh, boy.” Stiles snarks, and receives a sharp pinch on the arm for it.

“Be nice,” he says into Stiles’ ear, and then steers his body so he’s facing a particular desk pushed up against the farthest window, and the guy sitting there looks up and meets Stiles’ eyes immediately.

Stiles’ entire body seizes. It’s one of those moments, like in cartoons, where they dive inside the little cartoon mouse’s head and in there are hundreds of other even tinier little mice running back and forth yelling and screaming and throwing manila folders in the air as they try to figure out what the protocol even is for dealing with the particular situation they’ve landed themselves in.

His palms immediately begin dripping sweat, he thinks about vomiting all over the floor, and his father’s hands are still on his shoulders. This last detail is perhaps the most terrible of them all.

Because sitting there, in a fucking Beacon County Sheriff’s Department uniform, is Derek. That Derek.

They stare at each other, and stare, and then Derek’s eyes are flickering between he and the Sheriff again and again, as if trying to gauge the relation between them. Oho, fuck.

“This is Deputy Hale,” his dad says, patting Stiles on the shoulder a couple of times in the dadliest way possible. “He only just moved to town a couple weeks ago. I thought you’d want to meet him.”

“Meet him,” Stiles repeats, the words coming out tight and strangled. He cannot physically take his eyes off of Derek, who’s sitting there unmoving, pen still balanced over a sheet of paper he had been writing on like he’s been paralyzed completely by the sight of Stiles in this environment.

“He’s an OV specialist.”

OV, Stiles repeats inside of his head. Omega victims. Holy, fucking –

“Hale, this is my son,” and once that word son is out there, it’s like a bomb has gone off. While Derek’s posture is stiff and still and his face betrays next to nothing, Stiles can see the destruction happening behind his eyes. His eyes, that move from Stiles to the Sheriff lightning quick, as if he’s thinking I fucked the Sheriff’s son and now he’s going to find out about it, which in and of itself has to be petrifying to him. Absolutely shit-your-pants terrifying. “Stiles.”

There’s a beat. Derek says nothing, Stiles says nothing. But the Sheriff is standing there watching them and waiting for one of them to say something, fucking anything, and neither of them do. What is there to say? What could they possibly fucking say to one another in this situation?

Blessedly, since Derek is the adult by all counts, he slowly creaks out of his chair and rises into a standing position. As he does so, he reveals the full glory of himself being dressed in that god-forsaken uniform, and holy fucking God.

He wears it well. Stiles will leave it at that. His dad’s hand is still sitting on his shoulder, and he can’t afford to think on it any more deeply than that.

Derek’s hand comes out in between them, and Stiles clears his throat. His hands are sweaty and disgusting, but he lifts his own anyway. “Derek Hale,” he says, voice a little low and gruff. Stiles takes the hand, big and masculine and strong, and can’t help but remember the last time any part of his body had been ensconced in that particular grip.

Again, the Sheriff pats Stiles’ shoulder right as their hands separate, and Derek puts his hands on his utility belt and looks remarkably uncomfortable. Like he’s about to crawl out of his skin at any second. “I just thought Stiles would want to meet you,” he goes on to say, and Stiles can’t look either of them in the eyes. “You do a lot to help omegas, and Stiles is big on that kind of thing.”

“Yeah,” Stiles squeaks, squeaks, like a tiny little mouse. “Being one.”

That makes Derek look right at him. And Stiles has to stand there like a fucking disgusting rat while Derek runs his eyes over Stiles’ neck, again and again, searching for the hickeys. He must find the barest hint of one even hidden behind all the make up, must be able to tell Stiles had tried to cover them up – because he stops and looks up to meet Stiles’ eyes.

They stare at one another. Stiles can’t help but think that he wishes they were alone in this room right now so Derek could touch him.

“Anyway,” another shoulder pat, and Stiles is about to whip around and slap his father clean across the face. “I expect you’ll look after my son during your time in this town, you hear?”

Oh, God. Oh holy fucking God.

“Absolutely, sir.” Derek’s voice is smooth, but Stiles can tell. Oho, Stiles can tell. He is screaming in full volume surround in his head.

With that, the Sheriff meanders his way back to the smell of his lunch, and leaves Stiles and Derek standing there staring at one another. Phones ring, and papers shuffle, and his dad’s office door closes, and there they are. Derek is very good at looking official and serious, if only because he’s wearing that bizarrely sexy uniform.

He keeps his hands on his belt, meets Stiles’ eyes a little intensely. They don’t move or speak. There are so many things, so many, many things, that Stiles wants to say to him – but…how? Here? Not here. Holy shit. This is the worst possible scenario Stiles would have ever thought could happen between them – even worse than never seeing Derek ever the fuck again.

Because the thing is, Stiles might be well above age. And he might be an adult. And he might live away from home. But the fact remains that the Sheriff is Derek’s boss. And Derek specializes in omega victims. And Stiles is the Sheriff’s omega son.

There are too many variables. It would be…wrong.

Just when Stiles is seriously considering turning tail and heading for the hills and never, never no matter what, returning to this place ever again in spite of the fact that he practically grew up here, Parrish appears like a ghost.

“Hey, Stiles,” he greets when he spots him, casual and cool, and then he slaps a manila folder onto Derek’s desk. “Got that run down for you, Hale.”

“Oh,” Derek quickly scoops the folder up as if he’s afraid of Stiles seeing the contents of it, angling it away from Stiles’ body and clearing his throat.

“All the licensed twenty-one year old omegas in –“

“Okay, thank you, Parrish,” he snaps, quick and harsh, practically hugging that folder against his chest. Parrish blinks at him, and then apparently decides he doesn’t care, vanishing off into the rest of the office to squat down at his own desk and dick around for a few hours, most likely.

They stand there some more. Stiles can feel his lips twitching, and twitching – because… “you used official resources to try and track me down.”

Derek’s eyes look at him, lightning quick, and then he’s just as quickly looking away, clearing his throat and dropping that folder onto his desk. He plops down into his chair and rolls it all the way in, shaking his head and pretending he has some serious work to do on his computer as he shakes the mouse and the screen comes to life. “We shouldn’t talk here,” he says, rushed, panicked.

“Hm,” Stiles cocks his head to the side, tilting his neck just so.

And – right. Derek can’t help but watch him as he does it, and then averts his eyes again and swears under his breath.

“Just…” Derek starts, and then doesn’t need to finish.

“See ya later,” he gives Derek the two-finger wave, and stalks off down the rows of desks with a smirk spreading across his face slow as molasses. Of course Stiles has to leave, because Derek is sitting there sweating bullets and about to jump out the window if only to get out of the situation he found himself in – the one where he screwed the boss’s omega son’s brains out and now has to sit there and act like it never happened. And Stiles has pity. He really does.

Another thing he has is a place to find Derek any time he feels like it.

***

Stiles walks into the Sheriff’s station the following afternoon carrying a rustling white bag with a sandwich tucked safely inside. He’s got on the same black skinny jeans he had been wearing the night that he met Derek, and he wonders if they’ll look different in this lighting, in this building, than they had in the neon-smoky bar and Derek’s own bedroom.

His father is surprised to see him, eyebrows raising when Stiles knocks and bursts in without waiting, just like always. “You never bring me lunch two days in a row,” he says, poking inside the bag to see his ham and cheese wrapped and waiting for him.

Stiles shrugs it off. “I figured I should start coming by more.” He only feels slightly guilty making his father believe that the entire reason he’s here is just to visit. Only slightly.

He closes his father’s door behind him very deliberately, and casts his eyes across the room at large. Eyes flit away from him lightning quick, alpha eyebrows furrow at computer screens as they all pretend like he doesn’t exist. And then there, across the room and tucked all the way against one of the few windows in sight, a pair of bunched up shoulders and a lowered neck.

There’s not a single doubt in Stiles’ mind that Derek smelled him the second he walked through the door and the wind pushed his scent in tendrils across the room, right over his head. In a room this full of alphas and alphas alone, the scent of an omega has to be like a bomb going off. Derek knows he’s here.

Derek is more likely than not hoping that Stiles will turn on his heel and walk out the front doors without pestering him or drawing any more attention to him or them than is entirely necessary. The thing is, Stiles is hoping (and pretty much banking) on another part of Derek also hoping that Stiles will do exactly the opposite of that.

After all, before Derek knew exactly who Stiles was, he had tried, rather inappropriately at that, to find him. Stiles left an impression on him. And no matter who Stiles has turned out to be, neither of them can ignore that.

Stiles walks down the rows of desks and pays no attention to the way all the other alphas turn away from him, tilt their heads in the opposite direction, click their pens and act like he isn’t there. He keeps his eyes trained on the shoulders that go tighter and tighter the closer Stiles gets, and runs his sweaty palms over his jeans, just like he had the first time he had approached Derek.

He has to remind himself to not just be brave, and to not just be forthright, like Lydia had taught him to do only days ago now – but to be casual. Nonchalant. The setting demands he not draw any attention to himself, and so in spite of being in the tightest pair of jeans he owns, in spite of the careful and attentive styling of his hair, in spite of the barely covered up hickeys on his neck, he can’t act sexy. It can’t be like it was at the bar that first night.

So, he clears his throat once he’s right upon Derek’s desk, and Derek all but goes to stone. “Deputy Hale,” Stiles prompts, keeping his tone as even as is physically possible.

Derek turns. Glacially slow as though he’s gliding across Atlantic Ocean waters instead of simply looking an omega directly in the face, he turns. Lips parted, eyes big in his head. He likely cannot imagine where this conversation is going to go.

Stiles reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slip of paper, holding it up in the air between his pointer and index finger. “I have this for you.”

Derek swallows, but says nothing. Looks at the paper, looks at Stiles’ face.

“It’s a tip,” he explains, while Derek’s face betrays nothing but puzzlement. “For the missing omega case you’re working on.”

“Oh,” Derek’s voice is soft, disbelieving. He makes no moves to reach out and grab the paper from Stiles’ hand, maybe because he literally can’t make himself move, and so Stiles gently sets it down on top of a messy stack of papers Derek has on his desk.

Then, he doesn’t wait for Derek to react. He gives him another two fingered wave, says “hope that helps,” and saunters out of the room. As he goes, the phones keep ringing and the papers keep shuffling and no one has seemed to notice anything. After all, is there really anything all that strange about an omega talking to the omega victims specialist?

At the doorway, he pauses, looking briefly over his shoulder – and he finds that Derek has opened the little slip of paper. It sits there on his desk with its contents scrawled in neat sharpie, and Derek has got the bridge of his nose pinched between his fingers, his other hand cradling his forehead.

***

530-253-4775 : We should not be talking to one another.

Stiles perks up as soon as he sees the long string of numbers instead of a contact name pop up on his notifications – there’s only one person who would have his phone number but isn’t in his address book yet. He pushes his textbook aside and chews on the end of his pen around a shit-eating grin, lifting his fingers to quickly add the number to his contacts under the name Derek.

He pauses for a moment, his thumbs hovering over the text field. He has his read receipts on, mostly because like all omegas, he can be a little petty and manipulative, so he knows that Derek knows that he’s read it. It would be fun to play with his head a little bit, but honestly, Stiles isn’t that brave. Lydia would be, but Stiles just isn’t there yet.

Texting is easy, he repeats Lydia’s voice in his head as he chews on his short thumbnail. When it comes to dating, texting is like a game of cat and mouse. There are dozens of ways to fuck with some alpha’s head through texting, if you know what you’re doing.

Stiles, 3:45 PM : You : says we shouldn’t talk to one another
Stiles, 3:45 PM : Also you : texts me anyway

He can’t help himself from jiggling his leg as he leans over his phone, staring and watching the messages say sent. Then, seconds later, read. Derek has his reads on, as well.

This should be fun.

The three little bumping dots appear at the bottom of the message and Stiles covers his mouth with his hand, another grin eating away at his face before he can help himself. He has never, never in his life, texted with an alpha before. Well, he has, but we’re talking about Scott and a series of other alpha friends he’s had, and those don’t entirely count.

What he means is, he’s never texted romantically with an alpha before. He can feel his heart nearly shitting itself out of his throat, but it doesn’t necessarily feel bad. It feels – Jesus. Stiles can’t even explain it.

Derek, 3:48 PM : I’m just going to state the obvious – it would be ethically wrong of me on several different levels to canoodle with my boss’s son.
Stiles, 3:50 PM : canoodle….I like you.
Derek, 3:53 PM : I repeat : ethically wrong.
Stiles, 3:55 PM : It was “ethically wrong” of you to use official police resources to try and find some mysterious 21 year old omega
Stiles, 3:56 PM : And yet.

The dots appear, and then vanish. Appear again, vanish again. Stiles bites his index finger and nearly screams behind his teeth. Got you, Stiles thinks.

Derek, 4:01 PM : I’m just saying we shouldn’t see each other in that capacity.
Stiles, 4:03 PM : So you didn’t have fun with me?
Derek, 4:04 PM : That’s not what I said.

Stiles can tell, even only fifteen minutes into this back and forth, that they could go around and around on this particular subject for hours. Derek will keep saying he shouldn’t do it and Stiles will tease him about it, and then Derek will say again that he shouldn’t, and that he shouldn’t, and that he shouldn’t, and Stiles just – doesn’t have the time to deal with that.

He doesn’t want to deal with it. He wants to cut to the fucking chase.

Stiles, 4:06 PM : Look – I know you like me and you know I like you.

The dots appear, but Stiles texts right over them, thumbs lightning quick.

Stiles, 4:07 PM : It’s a weird situation and my dad would shoot you between the eyes if he ever found out, but uh
Stiles, 4:07 PM : count me in as “who cares?”
Derek, 4:10 PM : So what are you exactly saying?

Stiles bites his thumb again, looking up from his phone to the textbooks he has scattered all over his desk. He’s got finals in three days, and then it’ll be summer vacation. He and Scott had a lot of plans for the summer; working more hours at their respective service jobs and making more money, saving up for trips down to Southern California, painting the apartment, drinking. And Stiles will still do all of that.

He had never planned to really meet anybody. And now, he just doesn’t know how much of a somebody Derek might be. The thing is, he has to know. He won’t let something as stupid and petty as his dad being angry about it or Derek thinking it’s “wrong” somehow stop him from doing this. He wants to see it all the way through to the end.

Stiles, 4:15 PM : I’ll take you out to dinner on Saturday
Derek, 4:15 PM : That’s a bad idea.

Derek’s response had been near instantaneous – he hadn’t even thought about it. Didn’t let himself, most likely. Stiles knows that if he had thought about it, he wouldn’t have been able to say no. Not really. Never one to be shot down that quick, Stiles slaps his thumbs against the screen again.

Stiles, 4:17 PM : It doesn’t have to be any like funny business
Stiles, 4:17 PM : Just dinner. Pizza, even, the casual food. I know, like, the best place for good pizza and you’re new in town and all
Stiles, 4:18 PM : Finals will be over and all.
Stiles, 4:18 PM : We can just talk.
Stiles, 4:18 PM : Don’t you want to know me?

There’s radio silence, briefly. The dots don’t come and three minutes pass on read from Derek, and Stiles sighs through his nose and leans back in his chair, running his hands through his hair again and again. He’s never asked anyone out before – for all he knows, he did a spectacularly bad job of it. All he knows for sure is that now that he’s thought about it, imagined what it would be like to go on a date and have an alpha sitting across from him who’s actually interested in him – he can’t just let it go. No fucking way.

Derek, 4:25 PM : What time?

***

When Stiles pulls up to a conveniently just-vacated parking spot right in front of his favorite pizza place, Derek is already sitting on the bench outside, eyeballing him even before the engine cuts. Stiles doesn’t have very much time, with Derek watching him, to sit there freaking out and dry heaving in the safety of his car. Which is disconcerting, because Stiles had planned on having plenty of freak-out time.

He pretends to drop his keys into the footwell, and then ducks down after unbuckling to hide his face between his legs. He mouths oh my god to himself, rocking a bit back and forth, and then straightens up like nothing had happened. Derek is still sitting there, hasn’t gone running for the hills like he used to have nightmares about when he was nerdy and awkward in high school, and Stiles opens up his door.

Dating is easy, Lydia says in his head in her give-a-fuck, laid back voice that Stiles wishes he were good at using. Alphas are easy, too. Omegas are the ones who are hard to understand and nerve-wracking to date. Remind yourself, if you get nervous, that alphas don’t play mind games like you likely do. They’re straight forward. They don’t go on dates with you as jokes. They don’t lie for fun. They don’t say one thing and mean another.

You’re smarter, better looking, and more capable than any of them. They should be so lucky to sit across from you.

He slams his door behind himself and smiles, with all the innocence in the world – as though he hadn’t just ten seconds ago considered vomiting onto his own shoes. “I love that you’re early,” he says, and Derek stands up, straight and tall. He adjusts the hem of his button down black shirt, long sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and Stiles has to take just a second to appraise him.

Now that Stiles knows that he’s a cop, it makes sense. He has perfectly styled hair, all the time. His clothes are pressed and clean with the suggestion that he’d had the messiness of him beaten out of him at the academy. His biceps are big, his teeth are eerily straight, and he’s got a calculating stare on him that suggests he analyzes people far more than he lets on.

He’s a cop. Pure and simple. Stiles never knew he found it particularly attractive before – sure, there was the short lived crush on Parrish when he first started, but that was mostly because Parrish was all young and baby faced and naïve, at the time.

There’s nothing, not a single thing, that’s naïve or baby faced about Derek Hale. He’s all edges. Stiles wants to touch every last one of them.

“Late is lazy,” he says back, and Stiles ducks his head to hide a toothy smile. Stiles is about to walk right past him to get to the front door, with the neon OPEN sign glowing and blinking at the two of them in the fading sunlight, but Derek takes him gently by his upper arm.

Big fingers wrap around his pale skin, and Stiles has to stop and meet Derek’s eyes directly. This close, Stiles can smell his cologne and deodorant, and it’s a sensory memory to Derek holding him down, putting his hands all over him – Stiles nearly grabs him and drags him down the nearest alley for some privacy.

But Derek speaks, first. “I just want you to know,” he starts, and Stiles literally cannot imagine where the hell this is going, “I have all the respect in the world for your father.”

“Okay,” Stiles agrees, dumbfounded.

“I wouldn’t do anything to disrespect him, not ever.”

There’s a beat. Stiles knows what Derek means to say. Derek means to say that having sex with Stiles again would be bad, wrong, and ultimately an affront to the Sheriff. Derek’s boss, the dude who apparently sings Derek’s praises up and down the halls of the department, and a man with more accolades and solved cases than any other Sheriff in Beacon Hills’ history. So, then, what Derek means is that he won’t have sex with Stiles. He’s here because Stiles asked him to be here and oh, he’s a gentleman, and he’ll offer to pay for Stiles’ food, and he’ll be nice and polite to the Sheriff’s son because nice and polite is all he should ever be where Stiles is concerned. Nothing more, nothing less.

Derek means I won’t be having sex with you tonight. And Stiles has to smile. He can’t help himself. There are many, many things that Stiles could say in this particular situation. The old him, the one who awkwardly sniffed at alphas at alpha/omega mixers and could barely hold a conversation with an alpha for more than ten seconds without sweating, might have nervously cleared his throat and agreed, hands clamming up, gone inside and had an awkward, terrible time. Gone home and cried, or something.

Stiles got himself here by being brazen. The new Stiles, the one who’s still him but the best version of himself he can be, tilts his head to the side, can’t help from taking a step closer to Derek.

“Honey,” he starts, voice low and sickly-sweet, dripping with sarcasm that has Derek parting his lips in disbelief. “You already have.” Stiles pats Derek on the cheek, twice, and pulls the door open. “Why stop now?”

If he’s being honest, there’s a part of him that thinks Derek won’t follow him. All the same he pulls open the door and steps inside, only checking over his shoulder once he’s all the way in and there’s no going back.

Derek is already grabbing at the door where Stiles is holding it open for him, an unreadable expression on his face, and Stiles smiles. It’s the satisfied smile of someone who’s getting exactly what they want.

They get a booth next to a big window, and as soon as they sit a waitress is upon them, pouring them glasses of water and smiling and asking if either of them want something else to drink.

“Can I have a Dr. Pepper?” Stiles asks, and then looks to Derek to see if he’s going to get anything.

“Water’s fine, thanks,” Derek says, and then she’s gone, leaving them alone with each other and the menu. Stiles has been here thousands upon thousands of times, knows the entire menu by heart since they’ve barely changed it in the thirty years they’ve been operational, so he simply leans his chin in his palm and watches as Derek furrows his brow, reading each individual thing listed.

“I think we should get a pizza,” Stiles says, getting the feeling that Derek is the type of person who deeply scans every menu he’s handed until he’s memorized all the ingredients. “Do you like pepperoni?”

Derek meets his eyes. “Pepperoni is good.” It’s the first thing he’s said since they were standing outside.

“And we should get breadsticks,” he leans over and points at the section of the menu dedicated entirely to just those, and Derek follows his finger. “I like the cheesy ones.”

“Cheesy is good,” he looks up from the menu and then runs his thumb across his mouth, dropping it down onto the table and squinting out the window. Still, Stiles can’t make heads or tails of what that expression on his face is, or what he’s thinking. Stiles shifts in his seat and wonders what he should say.

In spite of all the queenlydia videos he’s watched, and all the advice she’s given him, there comes a point where he just has to wing it. And this is it, right here. Making conversation. Not being weird. Making someone like him, organically and genuinely. Stiles knows that he’s likeable, because he makes friends and has a generally laid back personality, but he doesn’t know if he’s necessarily likeable like that.

Loveable, is really what Stiles means. He’s long thought that he’s not loveable, but he knows now’s not the time to be thinking about that.

The waitress appears with Stiles’ soda and asks if they’re ready to order, and Stiles orders for them, keeping his eyes on her pen as she scribbles quickly across her little pad as Stiles speaks. From the corner of his eyes, he can see Derek staring at him, maybe feeling comfortable in doing so now that Stiles isn’t necessarily paying attention.

Either way, she leaves, and Stiles looks him in his face again. He tries to duck away a bit, stuffing both menus behind the parmesan and hot peppers to give his hands something to do, but Stiles watches him.

Getting to know someone is generally pretty boring, Lydia had said once. The good parts come later, but you have to trudge through the monotony a bit first. Even I still think it’s nerve-wracking and scary to talk to an alpha on a first date, but there are tricks. Act confident, and they’ll think you are. Ask the right questions. Smile.

Stiles taps his fingers for a couple of seconds on the fake marble table-top, and then breathes in and out, nice and deep. “So,” he starts, and Derek looks at him again. His eyes, Stiles thinks, are the best part about him. “How’d you wind up where you are?”

Derek seems puzzled. “Sitting here with you?”

“No,” Stiles has to resist rolling his eyes. “In Beacon Hills. As a police officer.”

Chit chat is awful. But Derek doesn’t seem all that annoyed by the question. He seems something, something that Stiles still can’t quite put his finger on, but he puts both hands down on the table and fingers a bit at some of the condensation on his water glass. “In college, I double majored in crim and omega studies.”

That gives Stiles some pause. In fact, it gives him a lot of pause. He raises his eyebrows and waits to see if Derek is going to laugh, but he doesn’t. He’s dead serious. “You studied omegas.”

Derek sips his water. “Yes,” he says, like it’s that simple. “Graduated, went straight into the academy, did a year in LA and hated it, transferred here.”

“Well, Jesus,” Stiles rubs at his mouth and tries to think of something clever to say – but nothing comes to him. So he just settles on the honest truth of what he’s thinking. “What do they teach you about omegas in an entire major dedicated to them?”

Stiles knows about omega studies classes – of course he does. He’s taken one or two himself, but he’s an art major and only took them for core credits. It’s not that he’s necessarily uninterested, how could he fucking be when he is an omega, but it always seemed a little like overkill to him. A couple of classes just for omegas, sure, but his mind is boggled at the prospect of literally majoring in the subject.

Derek drums his fingers on the table and gives Stiles a long, steady look. “Societal expectations, dynamic analyses, anatomy –“

“Whoa, anatomy?” Stiles hacks out a surprised laugh. “You had a cadaver, or something?”

“What?” Derek is alarmed, it would seem. “We didn’t cut open a dead omega, Jesus Christ.”

“Well, Jesus!”

“I chose that and criminology because it goes hand in hand,” he decides to go on like the cadaver comment had never happened, and Stiles is a bit glad for it. “I wanted to be an omega victims specialist, so I am one.”

There’s really only one question Stiles could think to ask to that – to any of what he’s just said, honestly. “Why?”

Derek pulls in a deep breath, and then pushes it back out again. He jiggles his leg a bit under the table, like he’s nervous or on the spot or something, and Stiles is a bit charmed by it. “Did you know that seventy percent of all crimes in Beacon Hills alone are committed by alphas?”

“My dad has said as much before.”

Like bringing up Stiles’ father is the worst thing Stiles could have done, Derek gives him a look – then, he keeps talking. “There’s something wrong with that.”

“I agree,” Stiles says this slowly.

“I just…I wanted to uh…” he plays with some more condensation on his glass, and Stiles watches his fingers move. “…I wanted to help people. Omegas. Specifically. I guess.”

Stiles looks at the profile of his face for a long time, unsure of what to say. He could say just what he’s thinking – that he thinks Derek is really amazing, for doing what he does, for clearly being passionate about it, that the world would be a much better place if more alphas felt and thought the way that he did. Spent time actually learning about omegas instead of making their own judgments and assumptions, listening to what culture says an omega should be.

But his throat is a little tight and he’s abruptly really into him, and his hands are clammy and he wants to touch Derek really bad. He says, “I’m glad you came here, then.”

Derek does that finger-drum thing again, and meets Stiles’ eyes. “What’s your major?”

“Oh, um,” he rubs at the back of his neck. “Art?”

He waits for the laugh that he typically gets from alphas who hear about his major – because, generally speaking, omegas are not artists. They’re lots of things, to be sure, but his classes since freshman year have been ninety percent alphas. For whatever reason, omegas just don’t do art.

Derek does not laugh. He seems a little surprised, but he doesn’t laugh. “What’s your focus?”

“I paint.” He shrugs, looking away, across the restaurant. “I’m kinda good, I don’t know. My dad about fainted when he heard that’s what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I could show you some of my stuff sometime. I’ve got, like, a portfolio and everything.”

Derek’s expression shutters a bit after Stiles says this, and Stiles knows exactly way. Suggesting that Derek could see some of Stiles’ stuff sometime is a suggestion that they’re going to see each other in any other capacity aside from running into one another at the station at some point, which is a suggestion that they’re going to date, or something. Frankly, Stiles is fine with it.

For whatever reason, Derek appears to be wrestling with the entire idea of it. “I bet you are good,” is what he says back, and Stiles just smiles to himself.

Be honest, Lydia says in his head, and so Stiles is. “I know you want to see me again.” He just puts it out there, like fact, like cold hard truth, and Derek looks out the window again. “I know you do.”

“Come on,” he says in a low voice, shaking his head and looking uncomfortable. Put on the spot, as it were.

“What were you going to do if you had found me from that search Parrish had done for you?” He leans over the table a bit, and Derek doesn’t pull away. “Pretend that my name had really been Sam, and I was just an omega and not the Sheriff’s son. If you’d found me, what was your big plan of action?”

It takes just a few seconds for Derek to answer. He looks at his fingers where they rest on the table, and Stiles sips at his soda and waits, patiently. He can be patient. He can be very patient. He wants to know.

When he does speak, he sounds a little shamed. “Look you up on facebook. Message you,” he looks down at his hands even harder, brow furrowing. “Ask to see you again.”

Stiles is pleased beyond all belief at this answer, so he smiles again. Derek has a tendency to make him do that. “And why?”

Derek doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to answer.

“You’re into me,” he points to himself. “You had a good time with me. You liked fucking me.”

Jesus,” Derek hisses, voice going low and slightly panicked. “I – yeah, all right? But things are just different now.”

“Why?”

Why?” Like he cannot believe this, not one bit, Derek’s eyes nearly bulge out of his head. “I can’t – Stiles. I can’t do that.”

“I really don’t see why not. I mean, my dad would be –“

“Maybe if we had met for the first time when your father introduced us, maybe then,” he leans back in his seat, shaking his head and not meeting Stiles’ direct eye contact. “Maybe if I had asked you out and been a fucking gentlemen or something, but even then, I….but that’s not how it happened.” He pauses, shaking his head some more like he’s somewhat upset at himself. “You don’t even know what I think about when I look at you.”

“I don’t know,” Stiles agrees, looking around to see how close other people are to them – not very close, blessedly. “I’d like to know.”

Both hands go over Derek’s mouth, and he looks stressed out – anxious and ashamed and in disbelief. At himself or Stiles, Stiles can’t really be sure. “It’s not how I should be thinking about my boss’s son.”

That sends a thrill down Stiles’ back – and he needs to know more. He needs to know if after they fucked, Derek stayed in his apartment and laid on his bed and smelled Stiles all over his pillows, his sheets. He needs to know if Derek has thought about him like that again, if Derek imagines Stiles underneath him, if he’s ever jerked off in the shower to the thought of him. What goes through Derek’s mind when Stiles tilts his head to the side and shows his neck, what he thinks about when Stiles gives him his best sultry eyes, what Derek wants to fucking do to him.

He leans even farther across the table, a lascivious grin on his face much like the ones he’s seen in badly directed porn before. “What daddy doesn’t know…”

“Stiles,” Derek warns, and he looks a little wrecked. It might be just his luck that the waitress comes with their pizza and bread sticks at that exact moment, so the both of them have to pull back into their respective seats to give her room to set it all down. She drops the pepperoni pizza in between them, and while she moves, Derek and Stiles hold each other’s eye contact.

They stare at one another, and stare, and she puts the breadsticks down, and Stiles’ face splits into a grin. She gives them each a big white plate, asks them if they need anything else.

“We’re good, thank you,” Stiles says, not taking his eyes off of Derek. Derek swallows, so Stiles can see his adam’s apple move, and his jaw is tight. Rock hard, like he’s keeping himself from losing it, or something.

She leaves, and neither of them touch the food for several suspended seconds. It must look bizarre to anyone who could be noticing this – two people who just got some hot and ready food, not touching it, just staring at one another. The sexual tension is so heavy Stiles could pick up a bread stick and cut the air with it.

“I work with omegas,” he says, very carefully, very evenly. “They trust me. Your father trusts me to behave appropriately.”

And, maybe he has a point on that one. It’s one thing to date an omega to begin with – of course Derek is allowed to do that no matter what his job profession is, no matter who he works with, period. But it’s another when there’s something sleazy about it. It’s another when he took Stiles’ virginity and Stiles is who he is and Derek is who he is and all Derek can think about, so he says, is fucking Stiles again, and again, and again.

But Stiles still can’t see the real problem. That’s how bad he wants it.

“I trust you,” Stiles says, and Derek breathes out, shallow. “You wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.”

“Stiles,” Derek reaches out and grabs a slice of pizza, plops it down hard on his plate. “I can’t do that to you, or to your father. It’s not professional. That’s it.”

With a long suffering sigh, Stiles grabs his own slice and rolls his eyes to the ceiling. “Stupid,” he mutters, and Derek bites into his food and chews it, viciously. Like he’d rather be chewing Stiles’ neck off, or something.

“That’s just how it is,” he says when he swallows, and Stiles pouts a bit. It’s unfair. It really fucking is.

“Fine. That’s just how it is.”

“Yes.”

“Right.”

 

Not twenty minutes later, Derek is slamming the men’s room door behind them and faltering with his fingers to lock it – it jiggles, again and again, and Stiles takes two big steps back and breathes in the scent of the cheap air freshener they’ve got stuck to the wall. Finally, after swearing under his breath about six times, Derek manages to lock it and turns to face Stiles directly.

There’s not a lot of time to look at each other. Nearly no time whatsoever to pause and think about what they’re doing. Because in the next second, Derek is on Stiles, pushing him against the wall in a stuttering mess of limbs and shoes squeaking on the tiled floor.

Stiles kisses him, witless and inexperienced and messy, and Derek lets him for several seconds. Stiles is just about to figure that he’s doing pretty good, and then Derek pulls back and huffs a frantic laugh, lowering his head and shaking it again and again. “God, it’s still so bad.”

“Shut up,” Stiles hisses, unbuckling Derek’s belt. “You promised to teach me, and you haven’t.”

“I don’t know if I promised –“ Stiles shucks Derek’s pants off and his belt clatters to the floor as they land in a heap, “you’re just – so bad at it.”

“As if you want to kiss me, anyway,” Stiles hisses, undoing his own pants and frantically shoving them and his briefs off in one fell swoop. He steps out of them at the same time Derek steps out of his own, and Stiles attacks the buttons on Derek’s shirt like an animal with claws. “I know what you want to do to me,” he pants, looks Derek in the face to find him out of sorts. Stiles gets five buttons undone, runs his hand along the planes of Derek’s bare chest. “I want you to say it.”

Stiles finishes unbuttoning but leaves it on, open and exposing that chest tattoo again that Stiles still has not yet had time to look at, and won’t examine even now. Derek makes no moves to take Stiles’ off, and instead just stands there for a moment, running his hands up and down what he can reach of Stiles’ bare thighs, breathing in and out through his mouth, searching Stiles’ face. “I…” he starts, and Stiles pulls him closer – right up against his body. “I want to fucking wreck you –“

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees instantly. Derek puts both hands on Stiles’ hips and uses them to flip him around, so he’s facing the wall, so Derek can run his hands along the cheeks of Stiles’ ass.

“Want you wet,” he basically snaps in Stiles’ ear, and Stiles shivers. “Come on, come on…”

A big hand reaches around and grabs hold of Stiles’ erection, pumping it up and down in vicious, quick snaps of his wrist. Stiles squeaks, and just as quickly as the sound is out, Derek smacks a hand over his mouth and bites down on the shell of Stiles’ ear. Right, Stiles remembers – they have to be quiet. They’re in the bathroom of a family restaurant.

This fact is nothing to him, at the moment. He doesn’t give a shit, and apparently, in spite of all his protesting earlier, neither does Derek.

Derek strokes him for a bit of time, until Stiles’ eyes are rolling back in his head and he can feel slick dribbling down to his taint, and Stiles muffles against Derek’s hand. “I’m good –“ it comes out garbled, but Derek understands it all the same.

His hand pulls off of Stiles’ dick, but the other stays firmly glued over his mouth. Derek remembers, then, that Stiles isn’t exactly quiet. There’s nothing for a second or two, just Derek adjusting himself behind Stiles, and then the head pokes at his rim. He makes a small noise, tries to strangle it down to no avail, and Derek slides inside of him – tight, and hot, but easy with all the slick Derek had managed to work out of him.

Stiles can’t stand how much he loves having Derek inside of him, even before he’s moving. He stays put for seconds, upon seconds, upon seconds, panting in Stiles’ ear and listening to Stiles pant against his hand, squeezing one of Stiles’ cheeks in a big hand and finally thrusting out and back in once.

“I can’t tell you,” Derek noses at Stiles’ neck, snaps his hips hard enough that Stiles whimpers against the palm of his hand, “how much I’ve thought about this. You’re just so…”

So what, Stiles thinks in his head, with what little thought processing he has at the moment. It’s all Derek in him and Derek’s hand on his mouth and Derek’s other hand clasping at his hip to keep Stiles in place even through the fucking, and Stiles wants to know. He wants to know what it is about him that even with everything Derek had said before, even with all of that…what is it about Stiles that makes it so Derek apparently can’t help himself?

Derek nails Stiles’ prostate so hard Stiles sees stars and half screams behind Derek’s hand, and Derek tightens his grab on Stiles’ chin, leaning down to hiss in his ear. “Shhhhh,” he coos, licking a stripe along what little of his face he can reach. “Just take it.”

Stiles braces his hands against the wall and tries to do exactly that – just take it. He bends a little bit more to make it easier for Derek, and Derek responds in kind. He picks Stiles up, miraculously, just by a single hip, and puts him back down on the ground a little bit farther from the wall, so Stiles has to arch his back harder, and Stiles nearly goes right then and there just from the display of strength.

“You feel so good,” Derek moans helplessly into his hair, and Stiles whimpers back at him, all muffled and pathetic. “Oh fuck, oh fuck –“

Stiles bites Derek’s hand, just a little bit, when he comes on the wall and his stomach, eyes clenched shut and his entire body going stiff – which makes it easier for Derek to come right along with him. And Stiles could get used to the way Derek comes; how he goes all stuttery and whimpery with his thrusts, how he presses his face into Stiles’ neck as if for comfort and gentles out these little grunts. How as soon as he’s done he drops his hand off of Stiles’ mouth and instead uses it to pet at Stiles’ hair, so soft and gentle, like Stiles is something to be revered, by him.

“Oh, my fuck,” Stiles hisses into the wall, pressing his cheek against it and panting wildly, unable to stop himself. “Ah, ah, Derek –“

Derek moves to pull out, and Stiles is so weirdly sensitive there now – but Derek has to pull out. They’re in the god damn bathroom, for Christ’s sake. He’s gentle all the same, as gentle as possible.

But once he’s out. He’s out.

He moves across the room and, before Stiles can really react to it, he smacks the opposite wall with his hand so hard the mirror on the wall rattles and Stiles is surprised the drywall doesn’t crack. “Fuck,” he snaps, palming his forehead and looking distraught. “What the fuck did I just –“

Stiles straightens away from the wall on pleasure-shaken legs, running a hand through his sweat-damp hair. “Don’t freak out,” Stiles says, holding both hands out to placate him. He’s been in the presence of many an emotional alpha before, after all – he knows what to do. “Come on, it’s fine, it’s fine.”

“I can’t do this,” he repeats, very firm. “I can’t be doing this.”

“Derek.” Stiles keeps his tone even. “You just pulled me into the bathroom in a family style Italian restaurant so you could fuck me.”

Helpless, Derek mutters, “yeah,” under his breath.

“I think it’s safe to say, you’re doing it.”

Derek pauses. He stands there, naked as the day he was born, and just stands. He looks at Stiles, looks and looks, and Stiles wonders what it is he’s seeing – his face gives nothing away. He knows how to wear a poker face, and of course he does. He’s a cop. One of his father’s deputies. Does that matter? “This isn’t right,” he shakes his head, and Stiles rolls his eyes.

He throws his hands in the air and hisses, “I need to wipe the god damn come off the walls.”

“Holy shit,” Derek moans, covering his face with his hands. All the same, Stiles rips off a wad of toilet paper and swipes nice and hard at the short streaks of white on the red wall. “I can’t help myself.”

“You’re into me,” Stiles says, throwing the wad into the toilet and flushing. It should throw the entire mood off, honestly, but they’re animals – absolutely fucking disgusting creatures – so it doesn’t, not at all. “I’m into you. I like you, you like me. Come on.” Stiles approaches him, makes like he’s going to touch him and Derek looks like he really, really wants Stiles to do just that – but instead, he bends over and picks up his briefs and his pants, shaking them out. “Don’t lead me the fuck on.”

“I’m not trying to. I don’t know what I’m doing. Trust me on that, I don’t play games.”

“Then don’t play games.” Stiles shoves one foot into a pant leg, then the other, shimmying them up his legs.

Derek watches this like a hawk. He makes no moves to get his own clothing, so Stiles throws his hands in the air and does it himself, snatching the jeans up off the floor and pushing them into his arms. Derek looks down at them, then looks into Stiles’ face – close enough their noses could touch.

“Tell me you want to see me again,” Stiles asks, voice low, serious.

Derek swallows. He parts his lips. “I want to see you again.”

Stiles leans up, and kisses Derek on the lips. Not a real kiss, but a peck, something that not even he could screw up. When he pulls away, he strokes his fingers along Derek’s jaw and smiles, gently. “Deputy Hale,” he says, cocking his head to the side as he slowly backs away from him, “you’re getting yourself into something.”

***

“No,” Scott says. He shakes his head, he puts his hands over his mouth, he closes his eyes. “Stiles. No.”

“I’m not kidding,” he sips at the beer in his hand, leans back into his kitchen chair, and shrugs. “He’s a deputy.”

“Oh, no,” Scott is still shaking his head, eyes still closed. “Oh, no, no, no –“

“He just moved to town.”

“This is a nightmare I had once –“ he covers his eyes, as if trying to rid his mind of the images he must be conjuring up in his head. “How old is he?”

“Twenty-six.” This, at least, doesn’t irk Scott at all. That’s not that much older than Stiles, not really.

Allison is sitting next to Scott with her own beer, looking between the two of them and grinning from ear to ear, dimples out on full display. “Wow,” she says, sounding entirely too pleased, the complete opposite of Scott. “You decided to go all out for your first, huh?”

Stiles shrugs and smirks, and Scott shakes his head even harder. “I can’t believe any of this. You’re like an alien to me.”

“Hey,” Stiles snaps, but he can’t help the smile that curves over his lips. “After twenty-one years, I think I’ve earned the right to – you know. Hoe out a little bit. And my father –“

“You did not just use the terms hoe out and my father in the same breath.”

“…he’s never gonna find out!” He holds his arms out, like duh, obviously, come on, it’s nothing. “I’m going to keep having sex with Derek, and my dad is never going to know.”

“You think that,” Scott accuses, like there’s something to accuse anyone of in this conversation. “But he’s a police officer. The best one. The king of them.”

“Eh,” Stiles chugs more of his beer. “He’d never even suspect it. Derek is, like, his little pet. He’d never even think –“

“The way you’re rationalizing this,” Scott finally looks directly at him, and when he sees the grin on Stiles’ face, can’t help himself from smiling a little too. “It’s – it’s crazy.”

“Tell me about it.” Stiles takes a nice long sip, pulls back with a satisfied aahh. “He made me come on the wall in the bathroom of Patsy’s Pizzeria.”

Scott just yells nooooooo at the top of his lungs while Allison about screams her head off in shock, and Stiles can’t help but throw his head back and nearly laugh himself out of his chair.

***

Derek, 2:32 PM : I want to see you
Stiles, 2:34 PM : ooohhh, Mr. This Is Wrong wants to see me
Derek, 2:35 PM : Please don’t tease me
Stiles, 2:36 PM : Where are you right now???
Derek, 2:36 PM : At a gas station. About to go home and change my clothes.
Stiles, 2:37 PM : Civies, as they call them
Derek, 2:38 PM : where are YOU?
Stiles, 2:39 PM : My house.
Stiles, 2:39 PM : You could come over…?
Stiles, 2:39 PM : My best friend isn’t convinced you’re not a serial killer
Derek, 2:41 PM : Great.
Stiles, 2:43 PM : Hey, I set him straight. I said, come on. He’s only killed, like, three people.
Derek, 2:44 PM : You’re a serial killer if you kill two or more.
Stiles, 2:45 PM : Bye okay so you are one
Stiles, 2:45 PM : Shit, have you ever actually shot someone?
Stiles, 2:46 PM : I don’t ask my dad q’s like that because he gets that weird far away look in his eyes
Derek, 2:48 PM : Never shot anyone. Tazed, though.
Stiles, 2:49 PM : Are you coming????
Derek, 2:51 PM : Address.
Stiles, 2:53 PM : Can’t you just sniff me out
Derek, 2:54 PM : The address, I beg of you.

Stiles opens the door to Derek just standing there, in plain clothes, but doing that thing that a lot of officers get in the habit of doing – putting his hands on his hips as though his utility belt is there, even when it’s not. “Hey,” Stiles says, and pulls the door open all the way, gesturing for Derek to step inside. “Welcome.”

He closes the door behind Derek as soon as he’s all the way in, and then Stiles is ushering him into the kitchen before he can get too long of a look of the disaster area that is Stiles and Scott’s living room. We’re talking, dozens of empty beer cans, Stiles’ paintbrushes scattered in random crevices, an unruly stack of unread mail, and about a pound of each of their respective unwashed laundry.

“Want a refreshment?” He opens the fridge, hoping Derek doesn’t look too long at the sink full of dishes. “I’ve got beer, beer, and beer.” For himself, he pulls out a twisted tea, and then looks up at Derek with expectantly raised eyebrows.

Unfortunately for them both, Derek is closely examining the dish pile in the sink. And then the mountain of crumbs on the stove. And then the cupboards thrown open wide and spilling their guts of tea boxes, spaghetti noodles, and boxes of rice. He finally looks at Stiles, pulls down on the hem of his black t-shirt. “PBR?”

Stiles frowns with a heavy blink. “Disgusting. Why do you ask?”

Huffing a laugh, Derek tries again. “Bud light.”

“Oh…” Stiles blinks again, shaking his head. “…my God. Here.” He pulls a hard cider out from the fridge and throws it at Derek, expecting his reflexes will catch it in time. They do, and Derek looks at the label once it’s in his hand.

He makes a face, but Stiles doesn’t even wanna hear it.

“It’s either that, or Four Loko.”

“Enough said,” he pops the lid off, takes a sip, makes a face, takes another. Stiles leans back against the fridge and twists open his own drink, swigging it and watching Derek with shrewd eyes.

They stand and drink, in silence, and Stiles chews on his bottom lip. “So,” he starts, nervously running his sweaty palm on his shirt. “It’s a mess, but this is the casa. Don’t say I thought omegas were supposed to be neat. I’m only one man.”

“I would not say anything like that,” Derek assures him, too matter-of-fact to be anything but the truth. And then Stiles realizes, oh yeah. Derek was an omega studies major. He should know what not to say better than anyone else. “It’s – the way I lived when I was in college, anyway.”

“Yeahhhh,” Stiles draws it out all long, awkward. They stand some more, and Stiles wishes he were better at this.

Derek notices the kitchen table pushed up against the wall, the chairs all spread out from when he Scott and Allison had played dice and drank the night before, and walks over to it. Stiles instantly feels self-conscious, watching the way Derek observes it critically. He points at it. “You did this?”

“Uh, yeah.” Stiles had painted it when he and Scott first moved in and were picking furniture out from tag sales. It used to be an ugly pastel pink monstrosity with chips in the paint all over it, and then Stiles had stripped it down in his father’s garage and painted over it. A white background, cherry blossoms painted swirling up the legs and up onto the top in sinewy branches. “It’s whatever.”

“It’s nice,” Derek counters, running a finger along some of the detailing of a particular flower. “You like cherry blossoms?”

“I’ve thought about getting some tattooed. Speaking of,” he snaps his fingers, and Derek looks up. “You’re got a tattoo. What’s it, you know. Of?”

“I have three,” he corrects, and Stiles is a bit stupefied to hear it. He’s been intimate with Derek twice now, and he’s only noticed the one on his chest. “There’s another on my back,” he reaches up and pats his shoulder blades, “and on my calf. The one you’ve seen,” like it’s nothing to him, he pulls his shirt up and reveals it for Stiles’ eyes to finally get a good long look at. “It’s a wolf.”

Stiles leans down to get a better look at it, furrowing his brow, and – “wow. Oh, man. I mean, wolf tats are usually so – yikes, you know? But this is…” he reaches out and touches a finger to it, stroking it along the hard lines of the edges. It’s all black, but the detail in it is insane. One half of the wolf’s face is as it should be, but the other looks like it’s made of intricately woven tree branches, some of them reaching out past the confines of its head, dripping like they’re reaching toward something. It’s a lot like the art Stiles wishes he could create.

“What’s it mean?” He queries, still running his fingers along the ink.

“Wolves are guardians,” he says, and Stiles guesses he’s supposed to fill in the rest of the blanks – he can guess at why Derek might be attached to wolves as an image, as a symbol, as a police officer. Stiles looks up through his lashes at Derek to find him looking right back at Stiles. It’s amazing how important this whole idea is to Derek – helping people, and protecting people.

Police officers aren’t always the best of people. His dad is one of the few whom Stiles would trust with his entire life, Parrish on that list as well; there are even some under his dad’s thumb that Stiles side-eyes from time to time, suspicious and untrusting of them. What gets him about it is that they’re supposed to be implicitly trustworthy, good-hearted people. It’s a shame, then, that they’re not all like that.

Derek is. Stiles can tell, and it makes his heart warm for him.

Just as he’s moving his finger along one of the big eyes of the thing, a throat clears from the doorway leading to the living room. Stiles jumps a bit, pulling his hand away, while Derek just drops his shirt and turns to the source of the noise.

Scott is standing there, arms crossed, glowering in at them. Stiles had decided to get this part of Derek and Stiles’ whatevership over as soon as possible – because…well. “Hello,” Scott says, voice very slow and even.

“Hey,” Stiles says, enthusiastic enough to make up for Scott’s lack-there-of. “My friend is over.”

“I see that.”

“This is,” he takes Derek by a shoulder, guiding him so that he’s facing Scott directly, “Deputy Hale.”

“Derek,” Derek instantly corrects, holding a hand out for Scott shake.

“Derek, this is Scott.”

Derek’s hand hovers there in the air between them, and Scott eyeballs it like Derek has stuck a venomous snake there in the air instead of just his fucking hand. After another beat, Scott says, “I don’t like him.”

“He’s super nice,” Stiles continues to Derek, grabbing at his hand to end the awkwardness nice and quick. “Nicest guy ever, really.”

The staring match continues. Stiles has half a mind to pick up the squirt from the sink and start spraying them both down with water like two dogs fighting each other in the yard over a stick. The world has progressed a lot, and general discrimination between either of the dynamics is frowned upon heavily in society – omegas can do whatever they want, and alphas can do whatever they want, and if anyone tries to say anything about it, people will judge them for it.

That being said, some things remain. Scott and Derek will hate each other on principle likely until the day they die, if only because of Stiles. For Derek, Scott is that person who knows Stiles better than anyone else, grew up with him, has mother hen’d him through much of his life and watched over him and been his friend, as an alpha. For Scott, Derek is the evil person who runs his hands all over Stiles and steals time away from him and is stupid and a meathead, as an alpha.

It’s boring, at best.

Scott abruptly steps forward, pointing a finger in Derek’s face that Derek hardly blinks at, and tries to start in. “You listen to me –“ he says, and Stiles grabs Derek by his wrist and tugs.

“Golly, my bedroom sure is nice. Wanna see it?”

Derek goes along with it, shooting only one heated glance over his shoulder in Scott’s general direction. They enter the short hallway, three doors only – Scott’s room, Stiles’ room, and the bathroom – and Derek immediately has something to say. “That guy’s an asshole,” he quips, and Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose.

“He’s so. Nice.” Then, under his breath. “If you’re not fucking his best friend.”

Before Derek can say anything to that, Stiles pushes open his bedroom door and pulls Derek inside, shutting it swiftly behind them and flicking on the light. It illuminates everything, and Derek looks around, while Stiles plops himself criss cross down on his unmade bed and chews on his thumb nail.

“It isn’t the Plaza Hotel or anything,” he says with a hand wave, “but it’s…my room.”

Derek nods his head – it sure is. Stiles’ room isn’t nearly as messy as Scott’s likely is, but it’s still a sight to behold. It’s more cluttered than necessarily messy, with old canvasses stacked up in one corner almost to Stiles’ hip, a desk littered with different paints and the wood of it covered in splotches of every color imaginable, brushes sticking out from piles of dirty clothes on the floor.

“I like it,” Derek says, and then he sits down on the bed right next to Stiles and takes another long sip of his beer, which he doesn’t even like but keeps drinking anyway. “Lots of paint.”

Stiles shrugs, a bit bashful.

Then, they sit. Stiles glugs and glugs his drink, barely taking the time to breathe in between sips if only for something to do, and Derek turns the bottle around and around in his hands. He puffs out a breath from between his teeth and then looks at the ground. “I’m gonna say something,” he starts, and Stiles chews on his thumb again. “I just – want you to know. I like you. As a person.”

Confused, Stiles furrows his brow and has to resist scoffing. “Uh, okay?”

“I just mean – if you thought.” He swallows, scratching at the back of his neck nervously. “I just – if you thought I just liked one thing about you –“

“You mean my sweet ass.”

Derek closes his eyes briefly, like that’s the worst and stupidest thing Stiles could’ve possibly said. “…I like a lot of you. You’re…interesting. To me.”

“Well, thanks,” Stiles nudges him in the shoulder and smiles, a blush on his face. “I like you, back. Do you wanna hold my hand?”

He offers it, long slender and pale fingers reaching out towards Derek’s bigger, tanner fingers. Without missing a beat, Derek takes the hand and twines their fingers together, placing both of them down on his thigh and sipping his beer some more. Stiles sidles up a bit closer to him, so he can press his shoulder right up against Derek’s, and then he strokes his thumb against the back of Derek’s hand, watching it move.

Derek speaks first. “Then I guess the idea is we’re not telling your father.”

“That is the idea,” he says back.

“So, then, we’re doing this.”

“What’s this?” Stiles asks, half-desperate to know the answer.

Derek sips, swallows. “Hanging out.”

With a scrunch of his nose, Stiles rears his head back. “That’s how you define it?”

“I just mean – Jesus, I don’t know what we’re doing, Stiles.” He shakes his head, looks about as confused as Stiles feels. “I don’t know what this is. I just know – I wanna be around you. Something about you, I don’t know, it just…” he turns, looks Stiles in the eyes. Again, Stiles is struck by how nice Derek’s eyes are, the shape of them, the color of them, the lashes. “…it just does it for me.”

Stiles would be angry at Derek for being so cavalier about what it is they’re doing, but then he knows he really can’t be. After all, if asked to define this to anyone, Stiles wouldn’t be able to. They had sex on a one night stand on the basis of Derek taking Stiles’ virginity, and then they had sex again in a public bathroom, and now they’re sitting here in Stiles’ bedroom holding hands and making eyes at each other.

What the hell is he supposed to call that?

He bites his lip, looks away. Then, just as quick, looks back. “Will you teach me to kiss? You promised.”

“I never promised,” Derek says, just like he had said before, only this time, he smiles as he says it. “But sure yeah. It’s easy. Just –“ he leans forward, slow, and Stiles surges forward and moves to slap his lips on top of Derek’s like a wild animal. Derek catches him by both shoulders, a small smile spreading over his face. “That’s your problem right there.”

“What?” Stiles demands, a bit affronted.

“You get crazy about it. You don’t take any time to think about what you’re doing.”

“I feel attacked,” Stiles furrows his brow, and Derek shakes his head around another smile.

“I’ll lead you. Just sit there.” He leans forward again, and holds Stiles in place so he can’t snap his jaws on Derek’s nose, or something. He tilts his head to the side, just so, and moves in closer, brushing his lips feather light against Stiles’. After another moment, he kisses him, reaching one hand up to hold against the back of his neck. His lips move slow and easy over Stiles’, and Stiles is overcome with the urge to climb on top of him and take control of the entire situation – but remembers what Derek had said.

He lets Derek go slow and easy, moving his tongue past Stiles’ lips and gently sweeping it around his teeth. He pulls back, only an inch or so, and looks Stiles in the eye. “See what I mean?”

Stiles sits there, lips still stuck in the position Derek had pushed them into, and blinks a few times. Because, yeah, holy shit, Stiles sees what Derek means. To him, a kiss was just a prelude to fucking, nothing more, nothing less – but just now, Derek made it seem…bigger than that.

Like kissing is saying something without saying anything at all.

“Try on me,” Derek says, adjusting himself a bit where he sits. Stiles hesitates, sure he’ll manage to bungle this somehow, but he pushes forward all the same.

He does the lip brush thing, like Derek had done, and then goes all in, nice and slow. Derek puts his hand on Stiles’ hip, this time, curling the fingers against Stiles’ bare skin by rucking the shirt up just enough to touch.

When they pull away, Stiles wants to bury his face in Derek’s neck and vanish there, but Derek looks pleased. He says, “see? Easy.”

“You’ll miss my slobbery dog kisses,” Stiles says with a finger wag. “Just you wait.”

Derek smiles, tracing his eyes over Stiles’ face a couple of times. Says, “I’ll take you to a movie.”

“Popcorn in the package or no deal.”

“Popcorn, fine.”

“And raisinettes.”

“Reese’s pieces, or no deal.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Fine. But I get to pick the movie.”

***

“I like him,” Stiles says, collapsing into a kitchen chair next to where Scott and Allison are parked, playing cards by themselves. He puts his chin in both hands and sighs all breathy. “He held my hand during the movie.”

“Was it a scary movie?” Scott asks, sounding petulant.

“No, it was funny.”

“So he just, held your hand. No reason.” He raises his eyebrows all haughty, switching one card in his hand into another position. “Sounds creepy.”

Stiles decides to resolutely not listen to anything Scott has to say on the matter, and instead, focuses all his attention entirely on Allison, like she’s the only person he’s speaking to. “And he’s so not weird about who pays. I paid for dinner last time, so he paid for the movie. It’s not about, like, alpha omega anything.”

Allison smiles at him, very genuine, nodding her head along as he talks. “He sounds nice. I wish I were here when he came over.”

“I told you what happened.” Scott insists, annoyed again.

Allison gives him a look. “You ranted for ten minutes about how ugly you think he is.”

“There’s gotta be a better looking alpha for you out there somewhere. There’s just gotta be.”

The thing is, Stiles is pretty sure there isn’t. Derek is good looking as sin, and Scott knows that, and is all bitter about it. And no matter how good looking any alpha Stiles brings home is, Scott will hate him.

It’s just a reminder, then, that Stiles’ father is an alpha, as well. And Stiles doesn’t really wanna think about that much, so he clears his throat and shifts in his seat, looking away and sighing again. “It was nice. He said he wouldn’t take me home and tonight was just about…like, talking.”

“Talking,” Allison repeats, smiling even bigger.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, what a dreamboat,” Scott snaps, dropping his cards onto the table and huffing. “What’s this about not telling the Sheriff? You really want to hide this?”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend, all right? The first guy who’s liked me just so happens to be someone who…” he clears his throat, looks away. “…my dad might not like me dating. For a while, yes, I do. Okay?”

“Okay,” Allison agrees, and then practically breaks Scott’s ribs she elbows him so fucking hard. Scott grunts, and then looks at her face, and looks up at the ceiling.

Through grit teeth he says, “okay.”

***

Stiles works at one of the nicer restaurants in town – where he has to wear a white button down and nice black pants underneath his impeccably clean and pressed waist apron, serve from the left and only the left, and pour so much wine in a single night you’d think he was working singles night at a bar. It’s probably one of the worst jobs he could possibly have, all things said and done, but his paychecks are decent and his tips are off the wall. So he has enough money for rent and necessities and dicking off, too.

On a Tuesday afternoon, he’s polishing wine glasses. It’s only early summer yet, so hell months won’t be starting until June at least, so it gets slow at three o’clock – which is only two hours until he’s scheduled to go the fuck home. He has one table, an older couple that keeps waving him over for more water, and the other waitress on staff only has one herself. It’s, in a word, boring.

He polishes another, sets it down gently on top of the fine white linens they’ve got lining every last inch of this place, and then he hears the front door creak open. It’s a weird sort of feeling he gets at work when it’s slow and suddenly he has work to do – it’s like, he wants to have something to do, but by God, anything but dealing with another set of people. Anything but that. He rolls his eyes and knows his section will be seated next, can hear the voice of the perky hostess dragging these poor souls over to a table on his side.

With a huff, he makes sure his apron is in order, pilfers two wine glasses by the stems in one hand, and stalks off toward the table in question. He rounds the corner to find the hostess still only just dropping menus down on the table, and when she moves away, there he is.

Derek, in his uniform, nodding with a tight smile as the hostess tells him his server should be right out. Stiles is flabbergasted to see him in this particular setting, but then, he’s mostly flabbergasted at seeing Derek just about anywhere – the man almost doesn’t look real, sometimes.

Especially not when he’s wearing that god damn uniform.

Derek is eyeballing the menu when Stiles approaches, so he’s a bit startled when Stiles dumps the wine glasses down on the table and says, “how did you know I worked here?”

The look on Derek’s face when he sees Stiles standing there is not what he would have expected – it goes through several different expressions in the span of a single second. Pleased delight, shocked dismay, and realization. Stiles can’t parse any of it for a moment, cocking his head to the side with a smirk on his face.

“So you came to taunt the slave,” he shakes his head, setting the wine glasses up appropriately. “Come on. How’d you know? Did you do that weird police thing?”

“Stiles, I –“ he starts, and then doesn’t get to finish.

Like a fucking ghost from a horror film, his father is suddenly standing right there. Stiles honest to god jumps with a squeak, taking two big steps back away from Derek as if even looking directly at him would let the Sheriff know just about everything that’s been going on in the past couple of weeks.

“Hello!” He says, and Stiles just about has an attack. “I thought you’d be working today.” He reaches out, with the clear intent on giving one of those patented kiss on the forehead half-hug combos he doles out to Stiles as often as possible, and Stiles nearly shrinks back.

Then, he leans into it. As he accepts the forehead kiss, he makes eye contact with Derek. Who’s pretty much gone white as a ghost and is pretending to be fascinated in his empty wine glass.

“I decided to take Deputy Hale here out to a nice lunch,” he plops down into the chair opposite Derek, “show him that Beacon Hills isn’t all chain restaurants and diners.”

Derek sips his water, looks innocent and guilty at the same time.

“He also knows about pizzerias,” Stiles says off the cuff, and Derek sputters and chokes on his water, while the Sheriff goes on obliviously.

“Don’t drink the ice, son,” he suggests, and then turns to Stiles with an expectant look. “You haven’t brought out the bread yet.”

Stiles looks at him, looks at Derek, and considers, very briefly, asking Kira to take this table for him. If he thought he could get away with it, he would be doing exactly that. But his father would know and be confused and possibly even hurt about it, and Stiles wouldn’t be able to get away with it, and everything would just get worse

But having to stand here and be a waiter to his father and Derek at the same time, pretending like he barely knows Derek, like he and Derek haven’t had sex or held hands or kissed for very long periods of time in Derek’s car…well.

He straightens up, and decides to play ball as best as he physically can. “All right, master,” he bows low and sarcastic, and his dad’s eyes crinkle at the corners. “You guys want any wine today?”

“Aw, no thanks, I’ve gotta go back –“

“You have a pinot grigio?” Derek cuts in, voice tight and serious. Stiles looks at him and has to resist screaming in laughter. He’s got a bead of sweat on his forehead, while it is crisp and cool as a cucumber inside the restaurant.

“Pinot grig,” Stiles finger guns him, and Derek looks away very quickly. “Sure thing. Dad?”

“One of us has to go back to work,” he sighs.

“I’ll be back. With the bread and the wine,” he ducks away, tucks himself into the space hidden behind the wine barrels that are there mostly just as decoration, and leans back against the wall, deep in the shadows.

This is not an ideal situation. Of course he knew there was ultimately going to be overlap, where he’d have to see his dad and Derek in the same location and at the same time at some point – for god’s sake, they work together. But never did Stiles think it would happen this soon. He thought he’d be able to get prepared, mentally prep himself and work out the kinks of what it’s like to boldface lie to his dad.

He’s lied to his dad quite a bit. But about things like, no I never drank underage. No, I don’t smoke weed. No, I didn’t shave my pubes in the shower and clog the damn drain.

Not about shit like this. He palms his forehead and closes his eyes for a second. He can fucking do this.

A lot of times, as an omega, you’ll have to lie to your parents about who it is you’re seeing. He fingers along the rows of wine in the cooler until coming up with a pinot g, pulling it out and patting his apron to make sure he has a wine opener. Parents don’t like alphas. They know their kid is going to wind up seeing one, at some point, but it’s a principle of fact that they won’t like it. If you have to lie, make it a good one.

Stiles returns with a warm basket of bread and the wine, dropping the basket down in just its right place. He puts the bottle on the table and cuts the wrapping off the top with a vicious swipe of the small knife on his bottle opener, drives the corkscrew in deep, rips it off with a pop.

He picks up Derek’s wine glass and tries to ignore the way that Derek is looking at him – like there’s something inherently and implicitly sexy about Stiles opening a fucking wine bottle. He wants to kick Derek under the table as a silent don’t fucking look at me like that while my dad is sitting right there, but instead, just pours the wine and sets it down next to Derek’s empty bread plate.

“You want me to leave –“

“The bottle?” Derek all but rips it out of his hands. “Yes, please.”

“Okayyy,” Stiles says, turning to his dad – who’s obliviously buttering up a slice of bread and munching away on it. “Need another few with the menu, or?”

“Sure,” his dad says, while Derek all but downs his entire glass in one glug. “Thanks, kid.”

Stiles nods, turns on his heel, and walks back to his post with the wine glasses, picking up the damp polishing rag and pretending to be normal. This isn’t hard, he tells himself. Even if his dad did notice anything weird, Stiles could just chalk it off to how he’s awkward around Derek because he doesn’t know him very well, and if anyone would know how awkward Stiles can be around strange and good looking alphas, it’s his father.

He sets a glass down and picks up another, angling his head to try and get a peak of what’s going on at the table. They’re just sitting there talking, and Stiles can’t hear what they’re saying. It is probably not very interesting, but he wants to hear it all the same.

Kira sidles up beside him, stuffing her notepad into her apron pocket and craning her neck to get a look at what Stiles is looking at. “Isn’t that the new guy?” She points a finger in Derek’s direction, and Stiles nods with his lips pursed tight. “The omega guy?”

“Omega victims specialist,” he corrects. Of course in a small town like this, everyone would know the second a new officer was hired onto the force, even randoms like Kira.

“Wow.” She cranes her neck a bit more and looks, and looks, pulling away with her cheeks a bit flushed. “He’s sorta sexy.”

“He’s really sexy,” Stiles corrects, and then clears his throat and tries to look nonchalant, polishing away.

“An omega victims specialist. What’s that even mean?” She clicks the pen in her hand, again and again, which is an old habit of hers that Stiles has tried to weed out of her to no avail.

Stiles shrugs. “It’s for uh – you know. Certain kinds of cases.”

Realization dawns on her face, and she goes oohhhhhh, nice and long. “That’s what he does? Assaults and whatnot?” She angles herself again, staring at him and clicking that damn pen. “Is he nice?”

Stiles doesn’t even know how to answer that, but he has to say something. “He’s certainly not mean,” he settles on, which is true. Derek never struck him as being particularly nice or amicable, but he’s never been an asshole that Stiles can remember. “I’m sure he’s different when he’s – uh. Working.”

“Right,” she clicks, and clicks, and stares. “You have to be a real special type of an alpha to want to work with omegas things like that happen to.”

Stiles rubs and rubs along the contours of the wine glass in his hands, lowering his eyes and thinking about that wolf tattoo that Derek has on his chest. Wolves are guardians, he had said. “Yeah,” Stiles agrees, voice low. “He’s different.”

He comes back and takes their orders – his father gets what he always gets, which is a steak and more potatoes than he can ever force himself to eat. Derek gets linguini, is on his second glass of wine, and looks remarkably distressed. It’s almost funny. In fact, it is flat out funny. Stiles snickers to himself as he inputs the order into the computer.

He brings the food out, sets it down nice and gentle like how he was taught, and Derek attacks his pasta like an animal in the wild as soon as he gets it. More likely than that, he’s thrilled to have an excuse to not say very much in this situation. The Sheriff, however, takes the time to get a great big sniff of his food and looks like a pleased cat in the sun, picking up his cutlery like weapons.

“All right,” Stiles says, edging away from the table slowly. “If you guys need anything –“

“Why don’t you sit with us for a minute?” His dad suggests, and Stiles freezes. Briefly looks at Derek, who looks back at him, mouth full. “It’s slow and your shift’s almost over. Right?”

“Uh…” Stiles desperately tries to think of a way out of this. The thing is – he’s got nothing. All of his side work is done, and he’s got a half an hour until he can clock off when the next server shows up. “…okay.”

He slowly sits down in the empty chair next to his dad and scuffs it on the nice tiles underfoot a bit, squeaking along and then dropping his arms down on the table, biting his lip. Derek twirls his noodles on his fork, and Stiles’ knee is very close to his under the table. He bumps it against Derek’s, and Derek goes very still.

“How’s work?” The Sheriff asks, slicing into his steak with fervor.

“Terrible,” he sighs, tapping his fingers on the table. “It pays the bills.” When a beat has passed, Stiles looks Derek right in the face, a small smile on his face. “Dad says I better get used to it, because majoring in art has guaranteed me waiter status for the rest of my life.”

Derek chews, slow and deliberate.

“I don’t say things like that,” his dad immediately scoffs.

“He implies it,” Stiles winks at Derek, and Derek drops his fork with a clatter on his plate when Stiles pairs the wink with another nudge of his knee under the table.

Having been the victim of teasing such as this before, the Sheriff mostly lets it go over his head, giving Stiles an eye and swallowing what food he has in his mouth. “Stiles is very talented,” he says to Derek, who wipes along his mouth with a napkin. “I don’t know where he gets it from. I can’t draw a stick figure, and Stiles’ mother was pretty much the same. Must not be genetic. He can paint anything.”

“I can try to paint anything,” Stiles corrects, looking down at his hands.

“I think Stiles has a natural gift,” he says, reaching around to give Stiles a big old pat on the back. “I just worry the world doesn’t have appreciation for people like that anymore. And he’s…” he trails off, waves his hand in the air, as if not saying it will mean Stiles won’t hear it.

What he means to say is, Stiles is an omega. People don’t appreciate art by the weaker, stupider type of people in society. Stiles’ shoulders bunch up and he pretends like it doesn’t bother him; the truth, that’s all it is.

Derek rakes his fork along his pasta and pinches his face together, thoughtful. He says, “I’d like to see it sometime. Your art.”

Stiles rubs the back of his neck and tries not to blush. A blush would be bad, right about now. Before he can humiliate himself by saying anything, his dad pipes up. “He’s got a big art show at the end of the Summer –“

“Dad,” Stiles says, turning to Derek with a head shake and an embarrassed smile like don’t worry about it.

“I’d come,” Derek says, and Stiles wants to be a puddle. Just a big puddle on the floor, maybe made by Derek tipping over his bottle of wine and letting it spill out over the edge of the table and onto the tiles.

“I always invite everybody. It’s exposure.”

His dad wouldn’t know what art exposure looked like if it smacked him on the head – inviting the Beacon Hills County Sheriff’s Department is never going to get him fucking anywhere, but at least his dad tries to be supportive.

“I should, uh – finish some stuff up,” he stands from the table, accepting the circular hand motions his dad gives him on his back for as long as he’s in his reach. “Nice talking with you guys. I’ll have the check in a few.”

“Don’t rush it,” his dad says, and Stiles nods.

That wasn’t so bad, he thinks to himself, as he notes that his replacement for the rest of the night is walking in through the back door, sunglasses on her face, scowl to be present up until she clocks on and is paid to be pleasant. He just has to run his check out, count and report his tips and drop his money bag in the safe, and he’s home free.

He walks off to the computer farthest away from the dining room, off to the side and almost breaching into the kitchen. Taps in his entry code lightning quick, and sees his only open tab is his dad and Derek’s table. He prints the receipt, picking up a small black pocket book from the pile to his left, and tucks the receipt safely inside along with a pen. He’d print two separate checks, but he knows his dad. Even if Derek insists, his father will pay for the entire thing either way.

As he’s moving to take them their check and get his dad’s card so he can hurry up and get home, a big hand grabs him by his shoulder and pulls him back into the shadows, hiding them both in a small corner away from the kitchen doors and the dining room.

It’s Derek, because of course it is, and he presses Stiles up against the wall with a gentle thump. Stiles tilts his head back and looks him in the eye, a smile tugging at his lips. “What are you doing?” He asks, but he knows what Derek is doing.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look sexy in this?” He uses big thumbs to play with Stiles’ little apron, fingers along the buttons on his crisp white shirt that he bleaches and starches as often as he’s required to.

“This is not sexy,” he says, pointing to his get-up. “This is March of the Penguins.”

All the same, Derek kisses Stiles on the neck, apparently heedless to the fact that any second someone could burst out from those kitchen doors carrying hot food. He brings his hands down lower, to the front of Stiles’ pants, and palms him a little bit. Stiles jerks, pushing Derek’s hands away. “Derek,” he says around an incredulous laugh. “What, are you drunk?”

“I’m not drunk.” He says, and so maybe he’s not. “I’m tipsy, maybe.”

“My dad is fifty feet away,” he pushes Derek’s hands away farther, until they’re not touching at all, and rolls his eyes. “Animal.”

“Come over to my place tonight.”

When Stiles hesitates, Derek leans forward and ghosts his lips over Stiles’, light like a feather. “Please?”

Stiles ducks his head and pushes Derek away – all the way. So there’s a good and safe and appropriate two feet in between them. He bites his lip, shrugs, and says, “Dinner?”

“Dinner,” Derek repeats, a lopsided smile going up the side of his face. “That’s not what I had in mind.”

“Oh?” Stiles cocks his head to the side and licks his lips, notes the way Derek watches the movement like a predator. “Cook me dinner and maybe I’ll think about it.”

Derek backs away from him, smiling as though he can’t help himself, and then finally turns around and heads back to where Stiles’ father must be waiting for him. Stiles is still holding the check book in his hand, but he stands there for several more seconds and presses himself back against the wall.

Man, he thinks, shaking his head at himself. Man, oh fucking man.

***

Derek seems to like the fact that Stiles is particularly skinny. There’s a certain point of him, the tightest and narrowest section of his top half, where Derek can wrap his hands around both sides and nearly touch his thumbs together. He does that now, having pulled out just briefly to rearrange Stiles where he wants him to be.

Stiles is face down, burying his face in his arms and clutching at the sheets with his fingers, laid out almost flat on the bed. Derek had rucked a pillow underneath his hips before pushing into him the first time to give him some leverage, held him down and stroked his hands up and down Stiles’ back.

Derek moves his hands down farther, to his hips, and picks them up easily, like Stiles weighs nothing. He pulls Stiles back onto himself, eliciting a muffled whimper from Stiles into the sheets. Derek picks Stiles up a few times in tandem, fucking him that way without even moving his own hips, and Stiles’ fingers dig in deeper.

Derek pauses again, content for the moment to slowly pull in and out of him like he has all the time in the world, and Stiles turns his head just enough so he can speak. “I like when you do stuff like that,” he says, voice a little rough.

He simpers when Derek pulls out another time, massaging Stiles’ bottom with big hands. “Stuff like what?” He sounds intense, like he needs to know the answer to that, right now. He needs to know what Stiles likes, what he can do to make Stiles feel good, all the time, constantly.

“Show me how strong you are,” he buries his face into the sheets again, and Derek is back inside of him. “I’m really not – ah, fuck – an omega type.”

“You’re an omega,” Derek reminds him – as if he needs to be reminded, when Derek is fucking him just like an omega is traditionally fucked.

“I mean…” he pants for a moment, scrunching his eyes shut. “…I don’t swoon over big tough alphas.”

Derek hoists Stiles up by his hips again, all the way, so Stiles has no choice but to get up on his hands and knees and spread his legs a little wider. He reaches his hand around Stiles’ front, takes a hold of Stiles’ long-neglected hard-on, and strokes him, hard and fast. Stiles seizes up, lowering his neck and making small sounds down at the bed. “You swoon over me, is that it?”

Derek,” Stiles hisses, when he slides back inside of Stiles again and strokes him at the same time.

“Alpha.” Derek corrects in a harsh whisper, right in Stiles’ ear, and Stiles opens his eyes and looks over his shoulder. He looks at Derek, watches how he bites his lip as he fucks Stiles and works his hand over Stiles’ dick at the same time. So that’s what you want, he thinks, shuddering a bit.

“Alpha,” he says, voice quiet, and for whatever reason, that does it almost instantly. Derek comes, and Stiles comes, and it’s over. It lasted forever, Stiles thinks, when he has the presence of mind to think on it now – they undressed and kissed for what had to have been thirty minutes, and then Derek was on top of him, taking his sweet-ass time, for…Jesus, Stiles doesn’t even know. It was torture, almost, at some points. Stiles is all sweaty and wrecked and weak, and Derek has to pick him up again to flop him down onto his back on the bed.

Derek lies down next to him, breathing harshly still, and nuzzles into Stiles’ neck. Runs his fingers up and down Stiles’ bare chest and stomach, kisses him on his temple. “You know,” Stiles starts, grabbing at Derek’s hand and holding it in his own, “there’s weird things about you.”

“Oh, yeah?” Derek looks amused, lips curling up.

“Oh, yeah. Like, how you’re apparently some big omega lover or whatever. Totally into treating them right and helping them.” He looks Derek dead in the eye, smirks. “And then you demand I call you alpha in bed.”

“Huh,” Derek doesn’t seem that surprised. “Like, how you’re apparently some big independent omega who doesn’t act like a traditional omega,” Stiles looks at him, aghast, “…and then you love it when I hold you down and fuck you how I want to.”

“Okay,” Stiles agrees, voice slow and uneven. “All right. Wow.”

“Check and mate.” Derek kisses him again, on his forehead, and Stiles allows it with only the slightest scrunch of his face.

They lie there for a while, Derek running his fingers along Stiles’ bare skin again and again, and Stiles content to just sit there and let him. The mess in the kitchen remains, most likely, from when Derek had cooked for him as promised – and cooked well, might Stiles add. They’d eaten, Stiles two servings, and drank beer and talked. And the next thing Stiles knew it they were all over each other, knocking glasses off the table and nearly dragging the tablecloth off in a cacophony of a mess.

Neither of them seem to be very concerned about it, for the moment. Derek curls himself on his side and pulls Stiles onto his side as well, wrapping his arms around Stiles like a squid and digging his face into Stiles’ neck. He sniffs some more, like he’s prone to do, and Stiles tilts his head back to allow better access. “I’ll come to your art show,” Derek says in his ear, like a promise.

“Oh,” Stiles blinks, across the room. He’d forgotten his father had mentioned that, earlier. “That’s uh – it’s in August.”

“Okay.”

“And it’s May now.”

“Right.”

Stiles fiddles with some of Derek’s hair, happy that he doesn’t have to look Derek in the face as he speaks. “So, you think,” he pauses, embarrassed and unsure. “…you think, uh. We’re doing this – long term? Like that?”

For his part, Derek doesn’t need to be awkward and pause twenty times. He simply says, “yes.”

“Oh,” Stiles bites his lip to hide his smile. “Are you, my uh…”

Labeling is hard. A label is like a brand. It’s completely barbaric, if you think about it, but important to us none the less. When it gets to that point, don’t wait for the alpha to be the one to say something about it – chances are, they won’t. You need to do most of the work yourself, on that front.

“…my boyfriend?”

“If you want.”

“I just mean it’s just you and me,” Stiles presses his lips to Derek’s shoulder. “No one else. You’re mine, right?”

Derek pulls his face out of Stiles’ neck to look at him, and Stiles averts his eyes for only as long as he can. Then, as though they’re magnetized, he has to look. “And you’re mine.”

Stiles pitches his voice lower. “And we’re not telling my dad.”

“It’s complicated.”

Yes, that it is.

***

Stiles, 5:34 PM : Thinking about you, currently
Derek, :5:36 PM : I’m always thinking about you.
Stiles, 5:37 PM : Are you at work?
Derek, 5:38 PM : I am.
Stiles, 5:39 PM : booooo. I’m naked in bed
Derek, 5:43 PM : You are not.
Derek, 5:44 PM : Are you???
Stiles, 5:46 PM : You’ll never know 
Derek, 5:48 PM : God help me.

***

Stiles and Allison go out for iced coffee on the first very hot day of Summer, Allison in a prim white sundress and Stiles still in pants because shorts make him look like a fucking idiot. He sweats it out like an animal all summer long, all for the sake of not making a fool of himself.

Allison, frankly, has been a little bit easier to hang out with these days than Scott. Don’t get Stiles wrong – he’d literally die for Scott, and he knows the feeling is mutual. But lately…well. Stiles always knew the day would come where he’d start dating and whatnot, but maybe if he had started doing it earlier, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is now. Maybe there was a part of Scott that hoped Stiles would never date so that he wouldn’t have to deal with it.

In a lot of ways, it’s not really Scott’s fault that Stiles being with Derek makes him so fucking crazy. It’s just…his nature. It’s how he is, and there’s not a whole lot he can do for the moment besides just get used to it.

But, hell. Allison is an alpha, too. And you don’t see her going whacky every ten seconds. Then, her relationship with Stiles is a bit different than Scott’s is.

“How’re things going with Derek?” She asks from the passenger seat, sipping at her coffee and rubbing her wrist on the cold condensation to cool off. “He still being nice?”

“He is very nice,” Stiles says, slowing at a red light and giving her a smile. “He’s different, I don’t know. He’s not like any other alpha I’ve met. I wish Scott could see that.”

“Scott’s never going to see anything, I hate to say,” and lord does Stiles know that to be the fucking truth. “You’re like his little omega brother. He just can’t handle it.”

Stiles grips the steering wheel a little harder, gritting his teeth. Whatever, he thinks.

“But you seem happy,” she observes, side-eyeing him and then looking him dead in the face. “So he must be treating you right. This whole thing, though…” she plays with her straw, stabbing it around in the ice again and again. “…not telling your dad? It seems kinda…weird.”

“It is weird,” he assures her, speeding through the green light and flitting past trees and sidewalks and busy restaurants.

She taps her fingers on her knee, and then sighs. “It also doesn’t seem smart. And to be honest, I don’t really get it. You think he’d react that badly?”

“There are a lot of factors,” Stiles says slowly, mincing his words very carefully. “Derek is – he’s a person that my dad is putting a lot of trust and, like, pressure on. To be this safe space for omegas. And we’ve never had an OVS here before, and bringing him in was a really big deal, and if he…you know.”

Allison listens very carefully, nodding along as Stiles speaks, and it does seem like she’s beginning to get it. It’s a twisted cob web, what he and Derek have going on with each other. Allison is right that it isn’t smart to hide something like this from his dad, because if and when he finds out, it’ll be even worse.

“Screwing around with a college-aged omega, the Sheriff’s son no less…that’s. That’s not great. Unprofessional, comes to mind.”

“It does come to mind,” Allison agrees, sounding a little somber.

“Putting all that aside, dating someone under my dad’s thumb would make him so mad.” He shakes his head, just thinking about it. “He would be so angry.”

“Maybe at first,” she says. “But I think if he saw how happy he made you –“

“If we – if it gets serious. Like, really, really serious. Then I’ll tell him,” he shrugs, resolute in this decision. “I’ll tell him if I have to. But for now…”

Allison looks like she doesn’t fully agree with this idea. Most likely, if it were her, she’d have just told her dad the truth and lived with the consequences, because that’s how she is. But all the same, since she’s Stiles’ friend and not his mother, all she does is smile and nod her head. “All right. Whatever you think.”

***

Derek calls Stiles baby for the first time in his kitchen.

As it turns out, Derek is a very, very good cook. It’s one of his hobbies, something he even just does for fun or when he’s bored. By the way he cooks and the things he makes, it’s a wonder he’s not eight hundred pounds by now, but then Stiles guesses the rigorous training and work-outs he does to stay in police-shape sort of make up for all of the food he eats.

He’s teaching Stiles how to make meatballs from scratch, since Stiles expressed interest in learning how to cook so he and Scott can stop treating frozen pizza as a main food group. Apparently a huge part of making meatballs involves squishing his bare hands into a disgusting concoction of ground up beef and various chopped vegetables in a big metal bowl; Derek had offered it to him, said squish it up for me, and Stiles just made a face like he was looking at a dead bug.

Derek had huffed, pulling it away. Now, Stiles is mostly just sitting there observing Derek as he works. “When I make my own, I’ll have gloves,” Stiles says, and Derek nods with a smile on his face as he works. “I don’t need meat getting underneath my fingernails. These are artist’s hands,” he holds his hands up in the air like long spindly spider’s legs. “They’re too delicate to handle meats.”

“Whatever you say,” Derek says. Some time passes with Derek squishing at the meat, and it makes a disgusting squelching noise that Stiles flinches at, and then Derek must deem them done. He starts molding them into little balls, putting them down in a pan that’s already oiled up for them. Completely off hand, like he’s not even thinking about it, he says, “put the water on for the pasta, baby.”

Stiles, perched up on the counter and swinging his long legs, pauses for a moment. Derek doesn’t even notice – he molds his meatballs, one by one, and drops them into the pan, oblivious to Stiles’ reaction entirely. Stiles isn’t even sure that Derek realized he had said it, or cared at all.

“Uh,” Stiles intelligently sputters, “yeah, sure.”

He thumps down to the ground in his socked feet, moving into the cupboard where he knows the big pots to be from previous experiences in Derek’s apartment. He pulls one out and puts it in the sink, turning on the water.

As the pot fills, he watches Derek’s face some more, waiting for any indication that he realizes he just called Stiles a pet name, which he’s never done before. It’s been a little over a month since they’ve been doing this, June only just beginning, and Derek has never called Stiles anything but Stiles.

Derek does nothing, says nothing, and Stiles puts the water over high heat on the stove and bites at his thumb. “Smells good,” he says, and Derek nods.

“Now,” he grabs at the pan with all the meatballs tucked safely on a metal rack so they don’t roll around, “we bake them for thirty minutes at….”

The cooking garble continues on, and Stiles barely listens. Throughout the rest of the cooking and even during the plating ceremony, where Derek insisted on slicing open one of his meatballs to show how good it looked on the inside, perfectly cooked, all nice, (he acted like he just cured cancer, Stiles swears), Stiles can’t take his mind off of it.

Derek fixes him a plate and sits him down at the table, where a glass of wine is already waiting for him. He stares at his silverware, waiting for Derek to sit with him politely, and furrows his brow. He never really figured himself the type to get a pet name – he already has a nick name, after all. He doesn’t really need a pet name. He’s definitely not the kind of a person who gives other people pet names, so he’s not going to be calling Derek sweetheart or anything anytime soon.

And Derek is so not a sweetheart, anyway. Or a honey, or a love, or anything.

He forks his way into a meatball once Derek is sitting. “This looks great,” Stiles tells him, and Derek gives him the same pleased smile he always does whenever Stiles compliments his cooking.

“Meatballs are easy. Next time, I’ll show you how to make those bacon wrapped chicken breasts you like.”

“Oh, yeah,” Stiles looks back fondly on those little things. Not only were they wrapped in bacon, they were filled with this crazy good cheesy substance, mushrooms shoved in there too. It was like a religious experience. Still, not even the cheesy bacon chicken can take his mind off the issue at hand, here.

They eat for a while, Stiles getting sauce on his face that he has to keep wiping off with the back of his hand, and Derek using his napkin like a real person. But after the sixth time Derek says something completely off the wall like he doesn’t even care, Stiles drops his fork down on the plate and pipes up. “You called me baby earlier,” he says, apropos of nothing, and Derek pauses with a meatball slice halfway to his mouth.

He puts the fork down, looking at Stiles a little critically, but with a smile on his face. “I did,” he agrees, seeming more amused than is necessary for the situation. “Is that bad?”

“Uh –“ Stiles hasn’t decided on that part yet. “No? Just…I don’t know. You’ve never said it before.”

Derek taps his fingers on the table, still giving Stiles that bemused look of his. “I’m struggling to see where this conversation is going to go. Do you want me to call you that?”

For whatever possible reason, Stiles blushes and looks down at his half-done plate, covering his mouth with his hand and shrugging. “I don’t know, I guess.” It comes out muffled.

“The weirdest things make you bashful,” he comments, reaching over and stroking a finger along what has to be a very red cheek, at this particular moment. “You’re the biggest horndog in bed, but I call you baby, and you freak out.”

Stiles collects himself a bit, pulling his hand off of his mouth and breathing out through his mouth, then back in. He picks his fork back up and uses it to push noodles around on his plate, just for something to do that isn’t sitting there like an idiot “Just…I’ve never been with anyone before. You know that. And I don’t really…” he shrugs, not meeting Derek’s eyes. “I don’t really know how it works. But I just really like how - how you talk to me. How you treat me. You make me feel really…uh. Special.”

Derek nods his head, listening to every word Stiles says. When Stiles is finished speaking, Derek smiles at him with all his perfect white teeth, not even a scrap of food caught in any of them because he’s too god-like for something as menial and peasant as that. “Then, I’ll call you that.”

“Okay,” Stiles agrees. “Just not in front of my dad.”

“Jesus Christ.”

***

Stiles, 2:30 PM : what are ya doin
Derek, 2:33 PM : Lots of paperwork. Alone, at that.
Stiles, 2:35 PM : At the station?
Derek, 2:37 PM : Yes.
Stiles, 2:38 PM : How alone is alone?
Derek, 2:39 PM : Like, I’m essentially the only one here except for one other guy.

It’s a wonder that Derek is surprised when Stiles shows up not twenty minutes later. Of course he came – Derek is alone at the station. His dad isn’t here. Parrish isn’t here. As he scans the rows of desks, he notes that essentially it’s just the front desk operator, an officer taking stock of the evidence room, marking things off on a checklist, and one other guy sitting at a desk with his back turned to Derek all the way on the other side of the room.

Stiles can’t help himself but smirk as he gets closer and closer to Derek, scribbling away at a hefty looking file. He looks up, and then double takes when he sees that it’s Stiles. A pleased smile crosses his face, and then, as if on habit, he looks behind himself to where the Sheriff’s office sits.

The door is closed, the lights off inside. Not here.

“What are you doing here?” Derek asks, not unkindly.

Stiles leans himself back against the desk on Derek’s side, so he has to look down to speak to Derek where he’s sitting. He raises his eyebrows, and then gestures around at the near empty room they’re in. “Let’s see. What am I doing here…” he taps his chin, cocking his head to the side. “You’re alone.”

“Almost,” Derek corrects.

“In your uniform.”

Derek looks down at himself, like he forgot about that.

“In the station. At your desk.” He taps his chin some more, giving Derek a mocking deep thought expression. When Derek does nothing but sit there looking confused, Stiles throws his hands in the air and lowers his voice a little. “I’m here to screw around with you.”

What?” He shouts, literally shouts this, rearing his neck back. Unbelievably, no one comes sniffing around to see what the commotion is about, but Stiles slaps his pointer finger to his lips all the same to get him to shut up. “Literally, what?”

“Hey,” Stiles points at him, vindictive, “you tried to put your hand on my dick while I was at work. It’s time to pay the piper.”

“I’m not really hearing this,” Derek looks back down at his file and clicks his pen, posing it over an empty spot on the page and shaking his head. “This isn’t real. You can’t be serious.”

“My dad’s not here,” Stiles shrugs, and then gestures around them once again. “Basically no one is. C’mon,” he straightens up, steps closer to where Derek is sitting. “Let me suck you off under the desk.”

What?” Again with that, and Stiles has to resist smacking him in the back of the head. “Stiles, no. Absolutely not.”

“Really?” Stiles crosses his arms over his chest, gives him a no-bullshit look. “You don’t want me to crawl under there and give you a blowjob? You’re honestly going to try and tell me that?”

Derek colors a bit, looking around himself all nervous as if there were anyone close enough to hear them. “It’s not that I don’t want that,” he hisses, voice low, “it’s that you’re insane.”

Ignoring that, Stiles drops down onto his knees and tries to push at Derek’s chair to wheel him off and out of his way. Derek resists for a moment, pushing Stiles’ hands away and making a big show out of not absolutely loving the idea, but Stiles just looks him dead in the eyes, from down there on the ground, making his own nice and big. “No one will know,” he taunts, voice as sexy as he can get it. “Alpha…”

That does it. Derek pushes his legs out of Stiles’ way and mutters, “Jesus fucking Christ,” under his breath, letting Stiles pass by him to get in the space under the desk. Stiles crawls underneath it on his hands and knees, and then has to turn himself around like a dog to get to where he wants to be.

It smells all dusty and weird down here, but Derek pushes himself all the way back into the desk on his chair, so even if someone walked past, they wouldn’t be able to see Stiles under there. “You have no shame,” Derek tells him, voice muffled a little.

“I’ve been practicing,” Stiles says, unbuckling Derek’s belt and pulling the zipper of his uniform pants down. “Bananas, and what not.”

“Please don’t say things like that. You didn’t really pretend to suck off a banana.”

“I had to learn,” Stiles shrugs, even though Derek can’t see it. “Plus, I’ve had this, like, fantasy. Don’t tell me you haven’t.”

“You fantasized about giving an officer a blowjob under their desk?”

“Oh, God, yeah,” he pulls Derek’s half-chub out into the open air, licks his lips.

“I’m going to say this, now. And I’m only going to say it once.” He leans down, peers in at where Stiles is holding Derek’s dick gently at the base with one hand. “You’re really a fucking slut.”

“I know,” Stiles sighs, all put-upon. “It really – it keeps me up at night. Now shut up and look casual up there.”

Stiles strokes it a little bit with one hand, trying to get him harder and bigger, and Derek shifts a little under the desk, pushing his legs open a little wider. Stiles’ vision is limited down here, with only a little bit of light filtering in underneath the desk, but he stares at Derek’s cock for a moment and tries to remember all the tips and tricks he’s read online before.

Even before he had an alpha boyfriend to actually try this shit out on, Stiles had studied. Like he’s said before, he’s always been a slut, he just never had much of an opportunity to really show it off before.

Stiles wraps his lips around the head, mindful of his teeth, and sucks down. Derek full body jerks, nearly kicking Stiles in the process, and Stiles pulls his mouth off and huffs a laugh. “If you can’t contain yourself –“

“No, I’m –“ he doesn’t look down, but grabs for Stiles’ head blindly under the desk. He finds Stiles’ hair, pets it a bit. “I’m fine. It’s good.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, suspicious still. He pulls Derek back into his mouth and watches Derek’s chest move from underneath his uniform shirt, a heavy pant. Stiles bobs up and down for a moment, and then pulls his mouth off and kisses up and along the shaft, licks at the head, and then kisses back down. He flicks his tongue against Derek’s balls a couple of times, and Derek grabs with both hands at Stiles’ hair.

He tugs for a moment, and Stiles pulls away completely.

“Hands up top,” he murmurs, and Derek hesitates. “At least pretend like you’re doing work, for God’s sake.”

Derek makes the smallest, most pathetic noise Stiles has ever heard him make, and then his hands vanish. Stiles hears them thump down on the desk overhead, and goes back to his own work. It’s actually surprisingly easy, all things said and done – he had thought it would be different, somehow, to have an actual dick in his mouth instead of just something he’s practiced on before, but it’s…really not. No matter what Stiles does, so long as he doesn’t try to bite it off with his teeth, it makes Derek feel good.

He pulls it out for a second and cradles the head in one hand, using the other to hold the balls and gently squeeze them. He licks at it like it’s ice cream for far longer than can even be considered teasing, and Derek shifts again. He scoots his chair in deeper, at just the right moment, and the head slips back past his lips before Stiles can do anything about it.

“Please,” Derek half whispers from above Stiles’ head – and how could Stiles really say no to that? Doing as he’s asked, he sucks appropriately, only briefly pulling off every now and then to pop his lips so Derek will hear it. “You really did practice, didn’t you?”

A trail of saliva keeps Stiles’ lips connected to Derek even as he pulls away. “Yup,” he says, and strokes him. “I like sex.”

“I fucking love this side of you.”

“Five minutes ago I was insane for even suggesting it.”

“You are insane,” Derek insists. “Never said I didn’t like it.”

Stiles smiles to himself, no one else down there to see it, and sucks Derek down to the root. At this point, he’s definitely just trying to finish up and get out from under here before anyone else shows up – he always knew their time was limited, and he’s already spent too much of it screwing around.

The one bad thing about this whole scenario is that Stiles can’t see what Derek is doing up there; he can only imagine. It’s a good thing for both of them that after twenty-one years of nothing but fantasizing, he’s gotten pretty god damn good at imagining things. He imagines, then, that Derek is biting one fist in his mouth, a pen held in the other hand, while he pretends to be writing something on a blank sheet of paper. Or that Derek is white knuckling the edge of the desk, head lowered like he’s reading something, breathing harshly through his nose.

It’s all going fine – nearing the end as far as Stiles can tell. He’s just about to try and get the thing as far down his throat as he can physically manage, and then Derek suddenly jerks – his knee slams against the bottom side of the desk and he pushes Stiles away, so hard Stiles nearly hits his head. Stiles is just about to ask what the hell he thinks he’s doing, and then, Derek slaps a big hand over Stiles’ mouth. He says, “Hey, Parrish,” in a desperate, panicked tone, and Stiles about has a heart attack.

Parrish is up there?” He squeaks in a high pitched whisper behind Derek’s hand, and immediately, without even thinking about it, tucks Derek’s dick away back into his pants and buttons them up. He can’t be staring at a dick while –

“Hey, Hale,” …Parrish is standing out there.

There’s a thumping noise, like someone putting something down on the desk right next to Derek’s. Some shuffling. A chair being pulled out and a squeak as it’s sat in. “I thought uh,” Derek slowly removes his hand from Stiles’ mouth, likely figuring that Stiles knows well enough to be quiet on his own. “…I thought you weren’t coming in tonight.”

“Well,” Parrish starts, sounding tired. Stiles sits there, on his knees, head in between Derek’s legs, and sees his life flash before his eyes. “I wasn’t. I was trying to catch up on sleep. But, you know how it goes.”

Derek adjusts himself. Scoots in deeper, as if trying to protect Stiles from exposure. “Case keeping you up?”

“Yup.”

“Uh – I know how it is.”

“Yup.”

They go quiet after that, and Stiles curls his fingers into Derek’s pant leg and holds on for dear life. What is he supposed to do? “What am I supposed to do?” He whisper hisses at Derek, who reaches his hand down and sets it down on his knee.

“Um.” A pen falls down between Derek’s legs, and Stiles is about to grab it and hand it back up to him, and then – “whoops.”

Derek’s face is leaning down into the desk, and there Stiles is, and he frowns. “He’s not going anywhere,” Derek whispers, very solemnly. This is damning.

“I’m just supposed to stay down here on my knees for three hours?” He can’t keep the panic out of his voice, and Derek’s eyes shoot over to the left, like he’s checking to make sure Parrish isn’t looking. He must not be, because he looks back down at him.

“Wait for a bathroom break?” His voice is helpless.

“Oh, my God…” he palms his face, and Derek stays bent over looking in at him, frowning and shrugging like…well it was your idea. “You’ve been looking for your pen for twenty seconds, you god damn idiot.”

Derek hustles to pick his pen up off the ground, and immediately shoots back up to full sitting position. Stiles listens to the pen drop back on top of the desk and roll a little, looking up and frowning and shaking his head. Derek is quiet for at least fifteen seconds, leaving Stiles down there to his own devices – and Stiles about punches him directly in the dick.

Then, Derek bends over again after dropping another pen. “You can’t just stay down there,” he whispers, and Stiles looks at him like no shit.

“Right, it’s my dream to be trapped down here in between your legs while Parrish sits not fifteen away. It’s my dream.”

“Well.”

“God…” he rubs his forehead, looking down at his own knees. He has to think for a second. There’s gotta be a way out of this – and he only says that because the only option he can think of is unthinkable. He could be stuck down here long enough that his dad will get back into the office, and that would be…awful. Just terrible. He can’t let that happen.

If he crawled out here from underneath the desk, at this point, everyone would know what he was doing down there. And for fuck’s sake, Derek’s pants are still tented. Apparently not even this situation can make him go soft.

Then, Stiles snaps his fingers. “I have an idea,” he whispers. Derek pulls himself back up after retrieving the second pen, like he implicitly trusts that Stiles’ idea won’t be absolutely nuts and out of the question.

Stiles fishes his phone out from his back pocket, swiping the screen and digging through his contacts list. He’s got a pretty good amount of deputies listed in his phone – some of them he even has the desk number and personal cell phone numbers of. His dad is a very worrisome man.

He finds Parrish office and calls it, holding it limply in his hand. About two seconds later, a phone rings, loud and obnoxious, to Stiles’ left. He knows from prior experiences that Parrish keeps his phone to the left of his desk, so he’ll have to turn his body away from Derek to lean over and pick it up.

It only rings once, and in the time between Parrish must lean over to check the ID. Sees Stiles’ cell number. Immediately picks it up. “This is Parrish,” he says, and Stiles shoves at Derek’s legs so the chair rolls out just enough to make room for Stiles to crawl out.

Like lightning, Stiles shoves himself out from under the desk, looks up from the ground to see Parrish is still looking away – “Stiles, are you there?” – and hefts himself up onto his feet.

Derek rolls underneath the desk again to hide his stupid hard-on, and Stiles pants and tries to look like he just walked in. By the time Parrish is turning over his shoulder, a furrow to his brow, the scene looks mostly normal. Parrish blinks upon seeing Stiles standing right there, pulls the phone away from his ear.

“Were you just calling me?” He asks, and Stiles blinks like he’s confused.

He looks down at his phone, with a timer that keeps ticking the seconds off. “Must have butt dialed you,” he says, ending it with a jab of his finger. “Um, anyway.”

Derek sits there, horrible at looking casual. God only knows what he must have looked like while he was actually getting a blowjob under there – likely, not very great. He bites on the end of a pen and looks at a paper on his desk. It’s blank.

“Is my dad in?” Stiles squeaks this, pointing in the direction of the Sheriff’s office.

“Not that I know of,” Parrish says, flicking his eyes between Derek and Stiles again and again. It’s not necessarily a suspicious look – it’s a confused look. He literally does not know what just happened. He could never, never for the life of him, guess.

“Great,” Stiles huffs, and then he storms off without another word to either of them. He beelines it for the exit, which just so happens to go right past his dad’s office. He’s probably walking too fast to be normal at all, way too fast, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about for the moment is getting out of here as fast as humanly possible.

He’s cheated death. That’s honestly how he feels right about now.

Right as he’s walking past the closed-tight Sheriff’s office door, the worst possible thing that could ever possibly happen, happens.

The front door leading out into the foyer of the building opens, and there the Sheriff is. Full regalia, mug of coffee and a slice of pizza in hand. And there Stiles is, looking guilty as sin.

“Stiles,” he says, pleasantly surprised.

“Daddy,” it slips out of his mouth. He hasn’t called his dad daddy since he was fourteen years old – and even that was a little too old to be doing so. It’s just what he used to say when the man would come in and catch Stiles with his hand in the cookies he wasn’t supposed to be eating until after dinner, or sneaking Halloween candy when he’d already had his daily allotment, or getting caught playing video games far past bed time. “Uh –“

Self-consciously, he wipes at his mouth. As if his dad could see dick juices there, or something.

“What are you doing here?” He comes closer, munching on his pizza, and Stiles takes a step back.

“I was…well.” His mind is blank. It’s completely fucking blank.

And his dad can tell there’s something up. He can always fucking tell. “Are you okay?” He asks slowly once he’s approached as close as he can get, tilting his head to the side as he looks Stiles up and down. “You look a little flushed.”

Fucking God, help him please – he knows he’s not the perfect picture of a devout man, but just…this…once… “Oh, yeah,” he forces a laugh, awkward and choppy. “Just – Deputy Hale, real dreamboat. I’m gonna –“

“About that,” suddenly the Sheriff’s hand is on his shoulder, and he’s being guided away from freedom and toward the office door. He’s unlocking it, and Stiles just stands there and watches him.

“Dad, I’ve really gotta –“

“I’ve been meaning to have a conversation with you.” The door’s unlocked, and Stiles, against his will, is herded inside. He shuts the door behind them and flicks on the light, so they’re all alone, and Stiles stands there, dust on his knees, and cowers like a little kid.

Anyone can think what they want; but Stiles’ dad can be fucking scary as shit. He would know above anyone else. The time he came home reeking like alpha and beer when he was sixteen from going to a party he was not supposed to go to…the man grew seven feet, Stiles is entirely certain.

His dad leans back against the desk, arms crossed over his chest, and gives Stiles a very critical look. It’s a look that makes Stiles feel like all his skin is peeled back, so he can see straight through to Stiles’ ugly guts. “Now, I know Deputy Hale – he’s very charming, and handsome, and he’s got an omega studies degree.” He looks at Stiles very seriously, and Stiles could burst into flames right about now. “And I can tell you have a bit of a crush on him.”

“I –“ Stiles chokes. He nearly chokes on his own spit and dies. “...what?”

“It’s okay,” he says, assures more like. “I get it. But he takes his job very seriously, and I’d hate for you to get your feelings hurt if it seems like he doesn’t reciprocate.”

“Doesn’t reciprocate,” Stiles repeats back to him – robotically. This is insane.

“He’s a serious man. And, Stiles, he’s older and in a different place in life than you. There are other alphas your age who would be more suitable.” He stands, pats Stiles on the shoulder twice, and Stiles is numb to it. The entire thing. He just stands there with his mouth hanging open, completely speechless. The Sheriff opens up his office door and pats Stiles again, smiling in the most bizarre way. “And besides, I like the guy. I’d hate to have to shoot him.”

Stiles blacks out. He’s sure of it.

“See ya, kid,” he herds Stiles out of his office, closes the door behind him. Leaves Stiles standing there, whiplashed and all fucked up, thinking about how he’s just had the most absurd and unbelievable twenty minutes of his entire fucking life.

He looks across the room and sees Derek staring at him. Then, as soon as they make eye contact, he whips around and pretends to read that blank piece of paper in front of him again.

Stiles mostly staggers out to his car in somewhat of a daze, closes the door behind him, sits there with his hands on the wheel. This isn’t reality. He’s dissociated.

All the same, he picks his phone out of his pocket before turning on the engine, opening up Derek’s text thread right where he left it.

Stiles, 3:54 PM : How’re the blue balls???
Derek, 3:54 PM : What did your dad say to you
Stiles, 3:56 PM : Wouldn’t believe me if I told you
Derek, 3:56 PM : Try me.

Jesus, Stiles thinks, eyebrows raised as he looks down at his phone. Derek must have really been worried about that, sitting at his desk while they were in there for all of forty-five seconds, twiddling his thumbs and imagining all the worst possible scenarios.

Like, somehow, since the Sheriff must be the all-seeing eye, he knew exactly what Derek and Stiles were up to without even having been in the room at the time. Stiles remembers having similar fears about thinking his father knew everything, saw everything when he was a kid.

Stiles, 3:58 PM : He said he intuitioned that I had a “crush” on you
Stiles, 3:58 PM : Said I shouldn’t pursue it since you’re such a “serious man” and take your job “seriously”
Derek, 3:59 PM : Jesus. Christ. Do you see what I mean, now?
Stiles, 4:00 PM : He does think a bit highly of you, I have to say.
Derek, 4:01 PM : Too highly of me. Evidently.
Stiles, 4:02 PM : You’re good at your job even if you have sex with me you know. They’re not related.
Derek, 4:03 PM : He thinks I’m some professional who eats, sleeps, and breathes the job. I just let you get underneath my desk and try to suck me off.
Stiles, 4:04 PM : Uh, TRY?
Derek, 4:05 PM : The key word there being OFF. I’m still very much on.
Stiles, 4:06 PM : Aw. Sad 
Derek, 4:06 PM : You’re a bad influence.

Derek comes by Stiles and Scott’s apartment later that night, still in his uniform but sans-gun this time it would appear. He comes in and looks around the living room to see if it’s any cleaner – it isn’t – and then Scott hard-eyes him from the couch and Allison just eyeballs him generally.

She hasn’t seen him or met him before this point. She looks him up and down and then gives Stiles the eyebrows. She thinks he’s good looking. Of course he is.

“To what do I owe this visit from the Neighborhood Watch?”

Derek stands there, hands on his hips, and then shifts his eyes over to where Allison and Scott are sitting. They’re just staring at him still, like he’s better to watch than anything they’ve got playing on the television in front of them. “Can I talk to you?” He says, and Stiles gestures to himself.

“We are speaking now.”

Derek runs his hand over his mouth and looks out of sorts. “I meant privately.”

“Oh,” Stiles shifts his face a little. “My room?”

With a nod, Derek already starts walking off in that direction. He’s halfway there before Stiles has taken a single step, and the last thing Stiles sees before turning to leave himself is Scott staring after Derek with that mutinous expression that suggests murder is happening inside of his brain.

Stiles closes the door behind them once they’re inside, but Derek doesn’t sit down on the bed. He doesn’t sit down anywhere – he just starts pacing, back and forth. Stiles’ bedroom is not very big, not at all, so he’s mostly just going back and forth in a single seven foot length of space. For a person that tall with legs that long, it’s pretty funny to watch.

Stiles deposits himself on the edge of his bed and pulls his pillow into his lap for something to lean on, putting his elbows on top and waiting for Derek to say something. It takes a minute. The pacing, and the hands running through hair, and the frown. Stiles watches it like Wimbledon, figuring that he should stay quiet and wait for Derek to speak first.

And speak, he does. “You wanna know something fucked up?” He starts, and Stiles bites his lip. “Even after you told me that, even after you told me what he said. How he thinks so much of me and I’m so great at my job and all that shit – even after all that…” he shakes his head, like he’s disgusted with himself. “…I still wanted to put my hands on you.”

Stiles doesn’t really know what to say to that. He settles for the first thing that comes to mind. “It was the blue balls talking,” he quips, and Derek shoots him this murderous glare.

“It wasn’t the blue balls, come on, I’m being serious, Stiles.”

“Okay, okay, sorry,” he puts his hands up in surrender.

“It’s like there’s nothing I can do about it. Part of me knows it’s – it’s sort of wrong, what I do with you. There at my desk of all places…”

“That was my idea,” Stiles reminds him.

“I wasn’t exactly begging you not to,” his voice is low, intense, and Stiles gets what his father had meant about Derek being serious, earlier. “And I know it’s wrong to touch the Sheriff’s son when I am who I am and I do what I do, but I can’t…I can’t help it.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I know what you mean,” Stiles says, hugging his pillow closer to his chest. “I’m the one lying to my dad and I know I shouldn’t but. I’m not stopping either.”

Derek finally stops pacing, instead settling for standing there with his hands at his sides, like he’s helpless to even do anything with them. “What is this?” He asks, and Stiles doesn’t have the answer to that. “What are we doing?”

There’s only one thing Stiles could possibly say – and that’s just the truth of it. “I like you a lot. You like me a lot.” He clears his throat, looking down at his hands. “And we’re in an unfair, weird situation.”

In the blink of an eye, Derek is sitting next to him on the bed, taking Stiles’ hand hostage and squeezing it in both of his, catching Stiles’ direct eye contact. “I’m not a bad person, am I?”

Stiles rears his neck back, surprised. “No,” he says, sure of it. “Not at all. We just – it’s just sex. It’s not…”

“You just make me so crazy,” he says, stroking the back of Stiles’ hand with his thumb. “You just make me so fucking crazy.”

Stiles is into him in every possible way, and it isn’t really fair. It’s not fair at all that they can’t just be together, plainly, like they could if this were another situation. “Well whatever,” Stiles decides. “I’ll – I don’t know. Just fuck it.”

“Shouldn’t say that,” Derek says, mostly to himself it would seem, and he looks thoughtful for a moment. “But I know I’m going to do it anyway.”

They both have reasons not to do this. The issue is, neither of them seem to think those reasons are more important or even any stronger than the reasons they have to keep right on doing it.

Chapter Text

Stiles brings his dad lunch at the station again – mostly just because it’s become somewhat of a habit to him, at this point. It’s not really about seeing Derek, because he can see Derek any time he wants with a simple text or phone call. Of course, there is something very, very appealing to Stiles about seeing Derek sitting there at his desk in his little uniform, but honestly, for all Stiles knows he’ll walk in there and Derek will be out on call, or something.

There’s also a weird guilt thing going on in his head. He feels like he owes his father lunch at least twice a week, for all that Stiles is doing behind his back. It’s not strictly right or good, what he’s doing, so he’ll buy his dad a meatball sub and call it a day.

He walks in with his food bag, two meatball subs because he plans to sit there and eat with his father, and skirts past the front desk with a head nod to Janice. She’s about a hundred and fifty years old and used to babysit Stiles when he was a kid. She never let him eat ice cream and forced him into bed by eight o’clock even though his real bed time was ten at the latest. Stiles hated her then, and isn’t the biggest fan of her now.

When he enters the main room of the station, with all the deputies’ desks all arranged in a confusing maze, he does see that Derek is there. Not that he was necessarily looking, except that he was.

The thing is, he’s not just sitting there doing paperwork or poking around in case files. He’s got his chair rolled out from behind his desk, though his back is turned to Stiles. He’s bent over to make himself look smaller, maybe, hunching in on himself as he leans in and talks to an omega girl that’s sitting in a chair right next to his desk.

She has several purple bruises on her face and neck, and is crying. Derek is speaking to her, in a voice low and gentle enough that Stiles can’t even hear it. All he can see from where he’s standing is his lips moving, and the girl blotting at her teary eyes with a tissue she must have picked up from the box Derek has sitting on his desk.

He stares for longer than is entirely necessary, and then looks away when he feels like he’s being intrusive.

The Sheriff is just coming out of his office, to refill his empty coffee mug in the small kitchen they have off to the side it would seem, right when Stiles is about to knock on the door. “Stiles,” he greets, as surprised as he ever is. “And food.”

“Stiles and food,” Stiles repeats back at him, only flickering his eyes over to Derek and the girl across the room one more time. “A great combination.”

He gets a kiss on the forehead and a shoulder hug, tugged into the sanctity of his office. When he comes out half an hour later after eating and shooting the shit until his dad has to get back to doing his job, the girl is still there. Derek is tucked back into his desk and has what looks like forms in front of him, scribbling down information that she says to him.

Stiles walks out, but the images of it, for whatever reason, stick with him.

By the time Derek is knocking on his door at seven o’clock that night, Stiles has mostly spent the rest of his day trying not to think about it, but thinking about it still. Derek has got take-out food, some Chinese, and dumps it all on the counter after clearing a space in Stiles’ kitchen.

“You promised to cook,” Stiles reminds him, with little to no real venom.

“I never promised,” Derek corrects with a tiny little smile, “and I know I said that, but work was long.”

He takes the containers out of the bag one by one, and Stiles watches him, leaning back up against the fridge with his arms crossed over his chest. He looks away for a moment, to the window, and purses his lips together. He can’t get the image of that crying omega out of his head. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. One of those days,” he digs around in the cupboard for plates, and then looks down and realizes the vast majority of them are stacked up and dirty in the sink. Flexible as the next, Derek simply grabs two forks and opens the containers up one by one, setting them out on the table.

Stiles waits for him to elaborate more, but then he doesn’t. So as he sits down at the table and observes Derek stabbing into the teriyaki chicken box, he has to bring it up. “I came by earlier, actually.”

“Did you?” Derek looks like he genuinely did not realize that. It’s funny; most times when Stiles comes in, Derek notices it instantly. He must have been laser-focusing all his attention on listening to her, which is his job, anyway.

“Yeah,” Stiles pokes his fork around in the fried rice. “You were uh. Talking to that girl. With the bruises.”

Derek looks at him for a long moment, as if trying to assess where this conversation is going. He chews some chicken, swallows it, and nods. “A case,” he says, and then nothing more.

“What’s it about?” Stiles presses, and Derek gets this look on his face like he doesn’t want to talk about this. Not at all.

Keeping with Stiles’ assumption, Derek says, “nothing you need to be thinking or worrying about.” He jabs another piece of chicken hard, extra hard, and Stiles figures that’s where Derek wants the conversation to end.

He should know by now, however, that Stiles can’t ever just leave anything. “I think anything that happens to omegas is something I need to think and worry about,” he corrects, and the next thing he knows, Derek is mad at him.

He drops the food container down on the table so hard it’s a wonder it doesn’t collapse in on itself, throws his fork into it, and snaps. “Yeah, well not with me around, all right?” He yells at Stiles. He has literally never, never once, even at the start of their entire relationship, yelled at him. Never even really raised his voice.

Stiles is a lot of things – but he’s still an omega. And like most omegas, he doesn’t take very well to having an alpha be angry at him. He shrinks back, stunned, and curls in on himself a bit – pulls his hands off the table and into his lap, hunches his shoulders in.

“If anything like what happened to that girl ever happened to you, I’d find the alpha that did it and kill them with my bare hands, you understand? You really wanna know?”

They sit there for a moment, and Derek just looks so angry. He’s never really been angry before – or he was, once, that time in the bathroom at the pizzeria. But that wasn’t really angry at Stiles – and right now, it really seems like he’s angry at Stiles. Stiles doesn’t know what to say or do, so he mostly just sits there and feels like he wants to start crying.

The seconds tick by, and then Derek looks at Stiles’ face, and he must really look for the first time since he started talking. Must be able to see that Stiles is still just an omega, and Derek is mad at him and Stiles doesn’t get why, must know that he’s done something wrong – after all, he studied omegas in college. He says, “I’m sorry,” quick, immediate. “Shit, I’m sorry, baby.”

Derek stands up from the table with a loud screech of his chair legs on the linoleum, and then he’s across the room, all the way across it, tucking himself into the corner in between the window and the edge of the counter. He leans back into the wall, tilts his head back. Pinches the bridge of his nose and shakes his head. “Just…the things that happen.”

Stiles swallows, still stuck frozen on the spot.

“The things that happen to them. I think about something like that happening to you…” he closes his eyes, breathes out shallowly through his mouth. When he opens them again, he looks Stiles dead in the eye. “You don’t need to know, you never need to know about any of this. Please don’t ask me.”

Stiles looks at his hands down in his lap, curls and uncurls his fingers. Sometimes, it’s the scariest thing in the entire world, being like he is. He’s been fortunate enough that nothing truly bad has ever happened to him, and he’s convinced himself that it’s because the town he lives in is safe.

But they had to bring in an omega victims specialist. And he’s apparently got his work cut out for him.

As if being able to read his thoughts, Derek crosses the room in three steps or less, bending down to wrap Stiles up in his arms, holding on tight. Stiles squeezes back, shoving his face into Derek’s chest and breathing in the warm and comforting scent of him. “I’d never let anything happen to you,” Derek promises, kissing his hair. “Your father would never let anything happen to you. Scott and Allison. It’s okay. I’m sorry I scared you, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Stiles muffles into his chest, and Derek pulls back, squatting down in front of him and looking up into his face.

“At the risk of sounding like a martyr, my job is – it can be difficult. I wish I didn’t know what I do.”

Stiles runs a finger through Derek’s hair, scratching gently at his scalp. “Why do you do it, then?”

Derek sighs, leaning into Stiles’ touch. “Couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t doing something.” With that, he stands back up and sits down in his chair again, picking up his fork where he left it and clearing his throat. “Let’s get back to dinner. I missed you all day, and now I’m ruining my time with you.”

“It’s not ruined,” Stiles tells him, smiling a little into his fried rice as soon as he picks it up again. “You missed me?”

“All the time,” he says, and Stiles is thankful. He’s got more than enough alphas looking out for him, with Derek included. And he believes Derek beyond any shadow of a doubt that if someone tried to hurt Stiles, Derek would kill them. Even his father, proponent of justice through the law system that he is, has said as much before.

Stiles reaches out and takes Derek’s spare hand with his own, curling the fingers nice and tight, and holding on.

***

Derek takes a long sip of his beer – Stiles had broken down at some point in early July, sick of hearing Derek complain all the time, and bought a pack of PBR’s just to shut him the hell up – leaning his head back against Stiles’ bedroom wall. Stiles is sitting opposite him on the bed, chewing on his thumb nail and appraising a line of cards in his hand.

He looks at his cards, raises his eyebrows. “Go fish,” he says, very seriously.

Derek sighs. “Learn more card games,” he fishes a card out from the pile and sticks it into his hand, frowning when he sees what it is.

“I know some magic tricks,” he taps his free fingers on his knee, cocking his head to the side. “I mean, I know how to do them. Doesn’t mean I’m good at them. Got any fours?”

“Go fish,” Derek sighs again, and then bunches his cards together and drops them face up on Stiles’ bed. Stiles is aghast, holding his hands up in the air like what the hell.

“Uh, the game is still going.”

“The game is boring,” Derek corrects, and Stiles grumbles.

“You only say that because I was winning, for once.” He drops his own cards onto the bed anyway, admitting defeat. They’ve only played Go Fish about two hundred times since Summer started anyway, because Stiles doesn’t know any other card games aside from ones that need 3 players or more and refuses to listen when Derek tries to teach him. “What’d you wanna do instead? I’ve got dice.”

Derek drinks more of his beer. It’s one of those rare days where they both have the entire day off – most of the time, they have to work around each other’s schedules to find time to spend with one another. Even then, it’s always either just the morning or just the night time, and then Derek has to go home to sleep early to get up for his morning shift, or Stiles has to go back into work to finish his double shift after a quick break. They’ve already gone out to lunch and watched a movie and had sex – so really, what else is there to do?

He runs his thumb over the lip of his bottle and says, “I wanna see some of your art.”

Stiles looks away. He reaches over to his bedside table to pick up his own drink, squishing the can a bit as he goes so it makes a crunching noise to cover up some of the silence in the room. He says, eyes downcast, “don’t put me on the spot, or anything.”

Derek keeps running his thumb over his bottle, again and again, keeping his eyes on Stiles’ face even when Stiles won’t look at him. “What’s your weird thing with your art?” He demands, not unkindly – he just wants to know. “You say you can’t imagine doing anything else, and then you just say you’re not that great. And you don’t have any of it up,” he gestures around to Stiles’ walls – that are covered in other people’s art, but none of his own. “And you push it all into your closet like you’re embarrassed by it, or something.”

Stiles stares at the labeling on his beer can while Derek talks. “Observant, much?” He jokes, but it falls flat.

“I just think it’s weird,” Derek goes on, voice gentle and not at all accusatory, “this is what you want to do with your life and it’s important to you, yet I’ve never seen any of it.”

He puts his beer back down again, runs the length of his forearm over his forehead as if wiping sweat away, and then shrugs down at nothing. “Just uh – I know it’s counter productive. But I get weird about – you know. Showing it off.”

“You’re having an art show in a month,” Derek reminds him, and Stiles gives him a look.

“Yeah, because I have to if I want to graduate this year. If it were up to me, I’d rather chew my wrists down to stumps, but –“

“I just want to know why you put all your energy into it and then never show it to anyone. I know you paint all the time, yet I never see it.”

Stiles does, indeed, paint in most of his spare time. His entire room reeks of the stuff, to the point where he has to open up the windows and let the air conditioning he pays up the ass for drift out into the summer heat – otherwise, he’d likely faint from the fumes. Stiles has met up with Derek, still having paint all over his fingers and his clothes.

But Derek is right – he’s never seen any Stiles’ art before, aside from the table Stiles painted in the kitchen. And that wasn’t really a showcase of what little talent he might have. Anyone could paint cherry blossoms on a table.

He runs his fingers along the top of his quilt for a moment, puckering his lips. He knows that Derek won’t let the subject drop until he gets an answer, let alone actually gets to see some of Stiles’ work. “Just - you should see how some of my classmates look at me,” Stiles looks at his hands. “Like I couldn’t possibly have a unique, interesting thought or idea. Maybe sometimes I give into stereotype threat, I don’t know. Sometimes I look at my own stuff and I just think it’s so bland. Like, everyone’s right and I’m stupid and uncreative.”

“I really highly doubt that.”

“Well, you wouldn’t know,” Stiles’ voice goes a little venomous, but he laughs in self-deprecation immediately after it to soften the blow.

“I know,” Derek says, voice steady. “Look, if you really don’t want to show me –“

“No, I’ll –“ he runs a hand through his hair and laughs nervously again, before standing up and meandering over to his double-door closet – the kind with the slats that someone could spy through if they were hiding inside of it. He hastily pulls the doors open, all the way, so they smack against the opposite sides of his wall. At first glance, all he has in there is a long rod of clothing. Jeans upon jeans, shirts, hoodies, stacking plastic compartment boxes with socks and underwear and belts tucked inside. The drawers are open and spilling their guts, currently, so Stiles hastily shoves all the stuff inside and closes it as best as he can.

After he gets it in some semblance of order, he clears his throat and pushes his hangers and clothes out of his way. He parts them like the red sea, shoving them away to either end of the closet until they’re all stuffed against the walls as best as he can get him.

There must be at least six dozen heavy canvasses of various sizes stacked up against each other or on top of each other, stuffed all the way at the back of the closet, almost hidden. There are old sketch books piled almost to his hips, portfolio folders unlatched and spilling out paint-smattered crinkling paper, and even notebooks he had doodled in a lot during classes.

Derek is standing right beside him, looking inside with a furrow to his brow. It almost looks like he can’t believe how much is there – and says as much. “Holy shit,” Derek mutters, and Stiles scratches at the back of his neck.

“There’s way more in my kid bedroom at my dad’s house. Um. In the garage, too.”

Derek reaches out without asking and grabs at the first canvas on the closest stack he can get at. He holds it up, in his hands, and Stiles clears his throat.

“That’s – my dad had a bunch of my mom’s old make-up. Lipstick mostly. I uh…melted them. It was pretty easy. Heat gun.” Various shades of red, because that’s the only color his mother ever wore, dripping down like blood out of meticulously crafted eyes. They look like his mother’s, but they also look like his.

Derek stares at it for a long time. Then, he grabs at the next one on the stack after gently dropping the other down on top of the plastic bins. He observes it critically in both hands, and Stiles feels the need to speak again.

“I was really into butterflies for a while?” It sounds stupid when he says it out loud, and he licks his lips and nervously tries to gauge Derek’s reaction from his face – but he can tell nothing. Stiles had ripped a butterfly apart by its wings in paint, let some of the color drip, drip, all the way down to the edge, like blood. “I’m not very good at watercolor.”

Derek puts that one down, reaches for another. Not from the stack this time, but one that Stiles has propped up against the wall. A big one. He has to drag it out along the carpet to look at it, cocking his head to the side.

“Another butterfly one. I was like, fixated,” he huffs a laugh. He had attached a single long line of black string and constructed the silhouette of a person with butterflies dripping out of them as if he were made of them. “Possible Mothman fear somewhere in there.”

Derek squats down and flits through another stack, and Stiles palms his forehead. “The hands phase. I’m not very good at hands so I just – kept painting them to get better. I didn’t ever, really.”

There’s one in particular Derek pauses on. A stark black background, a hand and wrist reaching in from out of frame. The palm holds a pile of what looks like someone’s innards – guts, Stiles had meant. The blood drips down the wrist and something like flesh is caked underneath the fingernails. The hand itself is fine and slim, delicate. An omega’s hand.

Derek pulls that one out and stares at it for what feels like a long time. “What’s this mean?” He asks.

“Uh,” Stiles coughs into his hand, like a nervous tic. “I was angry, that day. Someone told me I didn’t have the guts to do something because I was an omega.” He clears his throat, feels his palms go even sweatier than before. “That’s – I guess me stealing an alpha’s guts.”

For whatever reason, Derek sets that one aside instead of just putting it back into its stack. Stiles is about to ask him why, but then Derek is reaching all the way into the back, and pulling out – one in specific. One he had deliberately buried deep back there.

“No, don’t –“ Stiles reaches out to stop him, but it’s too late. There it is. Derek sets it up against the wall and looks at it good and hard, and Stiles feels his face go beet red. Like, tomatoes, we’re talking about. He palms his face and covers his eyes, too ashamed to look at it. “I had a really big crush on him for a really long time,” he rasps out, and Derek stares at the painting harder.

It’s Parrish. Stiles could go up in flames right about now. “Does he know about this?” Derek asks, turning over his shoulder to look up into Stiles’ face. Stiles cannot read his expression.

“Are you kidding me?” Stiles steps forward to pry the painting out of Derek’s hands, but Derek grips the edges of it, moving it away from Stiles’ fingers. “I’d kill myself before I’d let him see that. He was just – I mean he is –“

“I’d rather not hear about your unrequited love for Jordan Parrish.” He looks at the painting again, rakes his eyes over it. “I don’t know how to say this to make you believe it. You are unbelievably talented.”

Stiles doesn’t know whether or not he’s even relieved. Derek had been silent and his face a blank slate at every single work he’d looked at, and Stiles didn’t know if he was trying to figure out how to say that perhaps Stiles should see if there was still time for him to change his major this late in the game, or – what he had been thinking.

Even now, Stiles just thinks Derek is humoring him. “Like a parrot of my father,” is what he chooses to say, reaching down again to try and push the Parrish painting out of Derek’s hands.

Derek huffs a sigh, moving the painting away again and nearly cradling it against himself so Stiles can’t get at it. “Don’t believe me if you want,” Derek shrugs, propping the painting up again so he can look harder at it. “I’ll keep saying it. Jesus, you made Parrish actually look semi-decent looking.”

Stiles’ face burns from the compliment and the fact that he’s still holding that painting. “Jealous?” He teases.

“A little bit,” he admits, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiles. “I wish I were dreamy enough to you that you’d paint me.”

Stiles stands there for several seconds. He looks down at his feet, cheeks still on fire, hands shaking a bit. He thinks that Derek is many, many things – but a liar? That doesn’t even rank. Of course, that being said, both of them are lying to Stiles’ father…but that’s more of an omission.

Stiles’ point is, if Derek thought that Stiles’ art wasn’t that great, he might’ve been polite about it. He might’ve said no, wow, it’s really good. Or, oh yeah it’s great. Really. But Stiles would’ve been able to tell, because he can always tell.

In Derek’s case, it rang out as nothing but the truth. He had been sincere. It takes a lot for Stiles to get the balls to show anyone else aside from his professors and his father and Scott his artwork.

Even moreso, the art he makes that’s inspired by the person he’s showing it to.

He wipes his hands down on the front of his jeans and clears his throat. Without saying anything, while Derek stares at the Parrish painting some more like he’s thinking about ripping it apart or something but won’t if only because Stiles would be upset (and really, he would be. Embarrassing as it may be, his Parrish obsession was a part of his teenagehood), he reaches over to the side of the closet opposite where Derek has planted himself.

He reaches back, all the way back, to a small collection that’s facing the wall. He pulls the biggest canvas he can get his hands on out. Before he can think himself out of it, he turns it around to face Derek and makes a ta-da gesture. His hand slaps against his hip and then shakes a bit, when Derek drops the Parrish painting face down on the ground and makes this face when he looks at what’s in front of him.

It’s an indescribable expression.

The painting is of Derek, yes – but it’s one he spent a great deal of time on. About a week, several five hour long painting sessions. It’s from his chest up, so it’s obvious he’s not got on a shirt, but that’s not the focal point of the image. He stares directly out at the viewer, eyes insanely detailed because Stiles has spent a lot of time staring at them, lips parted. One half of his face is human, and the other half is a wolf.

The wolf from Derek’s tattoo – the one made of tree branches, spreading out across the canvas like fingers reaching for something. The wolf half still has Derek’s eye, but it’s more animalistic than the other half. There’s a glint in it Stiles had worked at. Something that hunts, and searches.

Derek looks up at Stiles. Says absolutely nothing. But he reaches out and runs his fingers along the painting, just like Stiles had done with Derek’s tattoo when he had been given the opportunity to really look at it, and Stiles doesn’t want to just sit there waiting for him to react.

He bends down into that same deep dark corner and produces a small portfolio folder with some sketches – the profile of Derek’s face, Derek’s hands because he’s still trying to get better – and then a small stack of more paint canvases. Derek’s desk window. Derek’s eyes, up close, all the way zoomed in.

“There’s – I do Scott, too,” he says in a low voice. “And Allison. My dad. I do everyone. It’s not like –“ he clears his throat. His voice is shaking. “It’s not like I’m creepily obsessed. I just…um. It’s what I do.”

Stiles is completely exposed in front of Derek right now, in ways he’s never been before. So much of his art, the stuff he keeps hidden in the back of his closet, is just there for Derek to look at it. And Derek has seen Stiles naked dozens of times up to this point, but never like this. This is like Derek is peeling back Stiles’ skin and looking at the inside of him. His guts. What makes him who he is. It’s terrifying, and Derek is still looking at that painting of him; the first one.

“What you do,” Derek repeats, and finally looks away from the art in front of him to look right into Stiles’ eyes. “I wish I could make you see what I see,” he looks back at the painting, shakes his head like he can’t believe it. “You make people see what you see. You don’t know how rare that is.”

Stiles, bizarrely, feels like crying his eyes out. It comes over him and he wants to hide or scream or punch something, and he doesn’t know how to identify that feeling. It’s just there, and he crosses his arms over his chest and heaves out a great big shaky breath.

“This,” he points at what’s in front of him. “I don’t even know what to say. I can’t say anything else other than it’s amazing. Please believe that,” his lips curl up at the corners. “Or else I’ll send a picture of the Parrish painting to him.”

God,” Stiles throws his hands in the air and growls up at the ceiling. “I was eighteen and his eyes are so green.”

Derek smiles and shakes his head. He moves some of the art back into its original place, where he’d found it – blessedly including the Parrish painting. Even more blessedly, he doesn’t find any of the ones he’d done of queenlydia; that’s a conversation he doesn’t really want to have with Derek tonight. Too hard to explain.

The one he leaves out is the one with the guts and the hand. He picks it up and examines it again, seeming pleased. “I want to get this in a tattoo,” he says, like it’s no big deal, and Stiles nearly faints then and there.

“You…” he trails off. Doesn’t finish.

“Will you make a print for me to bring in?” He looks Stiles in the eyes, and he’s so – he’s just so serious. Stiles nearly can’t believe it.

“Derek,” he says slowly. “You really want – I mean…”

He looks at the painting one more time, and then nods his head. “I’m sure.”

“Uh –“ Stiles clears his throat. If Derek is bullshitting him about liking his art just to be nice, he’s doing the most over the top job of it out of anyone he’s ever met before. “Okay. Yeah. I’ll – make a print.”

“This one should be in your art show,” he says, and Stiles wants to ask him what the fuck is it with that one in specific he’s so obsessed with. “Is it?”

“I haven’t, uh…” he rubs at the back of his neck for what feels like the thousandth time – his skin is going raw there, he thinks. “…I’ve been avoiding. Going through. Picking them out. I’m.” He clears his throat. He really thinks he might cry, now, just thinking of it. “I’m really nervous.”

“You shouldn’t be. Which isn’t helpful to say,” he props the painting up against Stiles’ wall and smiles up at him, finally standing back up to his full height. “But there it is.”

Derek walks closer to him, until they’re only a foot apart. Well beyond close enough to touch. Stiles bites his lip and doesn’t touch him. Just looks him in his face, traces every inch of it. “You really like my art?”

“I really like your art,” he says. It can’t be anything but the truth.

Stiles toes at the ground, looking down and hunching his shoulders a bit. “I really like you,” he counters, daring to look up and meet Derek’s eyes.

“I know,” Derek says, one of those lopsided smiles on his face. “Parrish only got one painting.”

“That you know of,” Stiles taunts, and Derek frowns immediately, like someone just told him the worst possible thing.

“I have to see this guy at work and know my omega has thought about him like that,” he grits his teeth, narrows his eyes. “I just don’t like him, now.”

“I’m so over him, I assure you. He’d never have laid a hand on me to begin with. He’s such a mama’s boy. He irons his shirts.” Stiles trails a finger up Derek’s chest, and Derek watches it go with a raise of his eyebrow. “I like them a little rougher around the edges.”

“Oh, yeah?” Derek’s voice is low – the way it always is whenever he’s thinking about putting his hands on Stiles.

“You never struck me as the jealous type.”

“I’m not,” he grabs Stiles’ wrist, so Stiles has to stop moving his finger up and down Derek’s chest. “I wasn’t.”

“Until me.” Stiles licks his lips.

“His eyes aren’t that green,” he says as a way out of answering Stiles directly – but it’s more of an answer than Derek realizes.

“You’re really bent out of shape about that,” Stiles assesses, a cruel grin crossing over his face. Derek takes him by the shoulders, kisses him full on the mouth, out of nowhere – not that Stiles is complaining. He wraps his arms around Derek’s neck and presses his body flush against Derek’s.

When Derek pulls back, he looks incredibly satisfied with himself. “Parrish never would’ve had the balls to do that.”

Derek is right on that. Even if Parrish had been interested in Stiles (and since hindsight is 20/20, he sort of looks back on those early days and thinks that he certainly was), he never would’ve acted on it. He would’ve been too afraid to do so, what with the Sheriff looming over his shoulder every twenty seconds. All things said and done, Parrish is a cookie cutter type of guy. And Stiles liked him, yes. He met the bare minimum requirement of not being an asshole to omegas, so of course.

But Derek is – well. Derek is Derek. And he’s all over Stiles, all the time. Even when he’s not there.

***

Stiles, 1:34 PM : Thinking about youuu
Derek, 1:36 PM : What specifically?
Stiles, 1:36 PM : Hmmmm….
Stiles, 1:37 PM : Your cooking. Daddy’s hungry
Derek, 1:38 PM : Have I ever told you literally how much I hate when you say that word.
Stiles, 1:39 PM : Which word?
Derek, 1:40 PM : You know which word and you know I won’t type it out.
Stiles, 1:41 PM : You hate when I use the D word. Gee, I wonder why.
Stiles, 1:42 PM : You ever get like hot flashes of fear when thinking of my father?
Derek , 1:47 PM : Terror, to be more specific.
Stiles, 1:48 PM : Poor bab. He’s not that scary.
Stiles, 1:50 PM : What time are you done at work?
Derek, 1:51 PM : Long night actually. Work cut out for me. Don’t know if I’ll be done before midnight.
Derek, 1:52 PM : Sorry, baby.
Stiles, 1:54 PM : You promised to make me the cheesy chicken/bacon 
Derek, 1:55 PM : I never promised.
Derek, 1:56 PM : Tomorrow night?
Stiles, 1:58 PM : It’s a date.

***

Stiles takes a bite, chews, rolls his eyes back into his head. “You deserve an award for this,” he points to his food with his fork, swallowing what’s in his mouth and nodding some more. “It gets better every time.”

“I didn’t invent it, but I’ll take the props,” Derek says next to him before taking a long sip of his beer.

There’s evidence in Derek’s apartment of Stiles’ existence, if anyone knew to look closely enough. He’s got a drawer in Derek’s room for overnight stays, mostly consisting of clean underwear and a couple spare shirts and jeans. A toothbrush he bought specifically to keep here, some deodorant. His couch, which he had bought new upon moving here, is much more broken in than it likely would’ve been otherwise, there’s red wine on top of the fridge and a box of Lucky Charms in the cabinet right beside Derek’s Raisin Bran, and a stack of books Stiles has loaned to Derek stacked up on his bedside table, one with a bookmark sticking out of the center.

Stiles likes Derek’s apartment. He cleans it regularly and keeps his things in order, bleaches his shower and does his laundry on a regular schedule instead of just letting it pile up until he can’t live with it anymore. It smells like him. What Stiles likes the most about it, though, is how it makes him feel safe and warm – like home.

“Have you started picking stuff for your show?” Derek asks him, and Stiles ducks his head and takes a big bite to avoid answering right away.

When he swallows, Derek is still looking at him expectantly. “Some,” he says, glugging down his beer and shrugging a shoulder.

“It’s in two weeks.”

Stiles nods and bites his lip. He has honestly picked some things out, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. He has to figure out how to arrange it. He has to have a vision. Truth be told, he doesn’t even have a theme. The other kids there probably will, and they’ll make him look bad, and he just doesn’t want to do it. “Are you gonna be there?”

Derek gives him a look. “You even have to ask me that?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Stiles smiles and shrugs again. “I thought you might be worried my dad would see you there, or something.”

“He’s the one who invited me.”

“Right.” Stiles had forgotten about that. That day, when Derek had come in with the Sheriff to see him at lunch time while Stiles was working – that feels like centuries ago. That was at the very start of the summer, and it’s August now, the heat hot and the days so long and hazy it gets miserable and amazing at the same time.

Derek and Stiles have spent a lot of time together. So much so that it all seems to blur into one long lazy afternoon leading into night. All the sex and the talking and the drinking and the food; it’s all one long weekend. Stiles never really took the time to stop and look around.

“I know you’re nervous,” Derek goes on, and Stiles shakes out of his thoughts and blinks. “That’s not a bad thing. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll come early and help you set up.”

“That’d be nice,” Stiles nods, face going a little pink. Derek can be so, so thoughtful and kind. It would surprise people who didn’t know him that well, to hear it. “But you know what would reeallly make me feel better?”

Derek takes another bite of his food and chews it. He likely knows where this is going. He’s been here a dozen times before.

“Ice cream,” Stiles finishes, and Derek nods his head like yup, saw that coming. Before Derek can get a word in edge wise, Stiles gently thumps both of his fists down on the table and chants, “Dairy Queen, Dairy Queen, Dairy Queen,” again and again, rattling their bottles and silverware and plates, until Derek holds his hand up in the air.

“Fine,” he agrees. “Dairy Queen.”

They pile into Derek’s car and Stiles fiddles with the radio as they drive through the fading Summer sunlight, comfortable enough with Derek to be quiet with him for a while. They don’t always have to be talking to one another – they can sit and hold each other’s hands and drive for hours, and hours, not saying anything, and it’s fine. Stiles likes that about him. It’s not often he can find someone who makes him want to just shut up and enjoy the company of.

Dairy Queen is not crowded at nine o’clock on a Thursday night. Their trek through the drive-thru is quick and both of them get what they always get. Derek, a cookie dough blizzard, and Stiles, a strawberry cheesecake blizzard. Derek parks, Stiles pushes his seat back as far as he can get it and puts his feet up. “This is the life right here,” Stiles says, licking a bit of ice cream dribble off his wrist. “Summertime and ice cream.”

Derek sops up a heaping spoonful of his ice cream, examines it a bit critically. “How much of this would you say is artificial?”

“Approximately one hundred percent. Tastes good, though.”

“Sure does,” Derek agrees at that. They sit and eat for a while, occasionally making jokes at one another and watching cars go by on the busy intersection right in front of them. A yellow car goes by at one point, and Stiles nearly brains himself reaching out to punch Derek on the arm before Derek gets to him first.

“Yellow car,” he half-shouts, managing to get Derek right on time. Derek looks put out, but there’s a smile on his face. “Put it on the score card. Come on.”

Reluctantly, Derek reaches up into the visor on his side and pulls down an old coupon for a free car wash with the purchase of an oil change. On the back there are two rows – one with Stiles’ name scrawled across the top and the other with Derek’s – and underneath, rows of tally marks. Stiles leans over as Derek clicks a pen he digs out from the glove compartment, appraising the marks. “I’m winning,” he says with all the satisfaction in the world, and Derek clicks his pen again after giving Stiles another tally.

“Not for very long.”

“You say that like there’s any skill involved in yellow car other than having a good eye,” he taps his temple, waggling his eyebrows. “You might be stronger, but I am the all seeing eye.”

“Right,” Derek stuffs the score card back into its original spot, digs around in what’s left of his melting ice cream.

“When do you suppose yellow car ends?”

“I thought we agreed when one of us got to one hundred.”

“We did?” Stile doesn’t remember that – but then, it wouldn’t have been surprising. They’ve had a lot of conversations in the past four months. “Huh.”

A few beats of silence pass, Stiles reaching down to the tied up plastic bag in the footwell where Derek stuffs his trash until it gets full and then replaces it with something else. He dips his empty cup in, straightens back up, and scratches at his cheek.

Derek scrapes at the bottom of his with a spoon, looks beyond Stiles’ head. His eyes go a little big. “Holy shit, look at that,” he says, and Stiles whips his head around to try and see what Derek is.

He sees the parking lot, trees, and the Olive Garden directly adjacent to them. “What?” He demands.

And then, a punch on the arm. “Yellow car,” Derek says.

Flabbergasted, Stiles turns back around to face forward and sure enough – there a yellow car is, parked at the red light right in front of them. Stiles’ jaw drops, and he looks at Derek with some level of shock. “You cheated,” he says, aghast. Derek shrugs, a smirk on his face. “You cheated at yellow car. No one’s ever cheated at yellow car.”

“It’s not cheating,” he corrects. “It’s called a tactic.”

“My ass.”

Derek is reaching up to grab at the score card again anyway. He gets his fingers on it, takes it down, but Stiles reaches over and rips it out of his hand. “Nuh-uh. No point.”

“There are no rules to yellow car,” Derek half-laughs, trying to make a grab for the score card again. Stiles does his best to try and keep it out of his reach, but it’s hard when he’s an alpha to begin with, and even harder within in the tight confines of Derek’s car. Stiles rolls down his window, sticks his arm with the score card all the way out, and shakes his head.

“The rules of yellow car are the basic rules of a civilized society,” he says, all the pomp and circumstance in the world, and Derek half climbs on top of him to try and get at his arm.

“Come on. I get the point,” he grabs at Stiles’ hips, trying to pull him all the way back in the car that way, and Stiles squirms. It tickles, so he laughs, and he can hear it echo against the empty parking lot.

“No point,” Stiles snaps, though its venom is lost in all the hysteric giggling he’s trying and failing to smother. Derek pulls on his hips once, so Stiles nearly falls into his lap over the center console, and then –

“Stiles?”

Both Derek and Stiles jump nearly a foot in the air. They nearly brain each other – Stiles almost punching Derek directly into the face, Derek elbowing Stiles a bit in the ribs – in their haste to get away from one another.

Parrish is leaning his head into the open window, a confused frown on his face, in his uniform. Stiles sits back down in his seat entirely, clears his throat, and pushes a fake smile onto his face. He doesn’t look in Derek’s direction, so God only knows what he looks like right about now. “Oh, hey,” he greets, swallowing a bit nervously. Parrish blinks at him, and looks over his head to where Derek is sitting.

“Hey,” he says. “Recognized Hale’s car.”

Stiles taps his fingers on his knee.

“Hale,” he greets, and Stiles dares a look at Derek.

He’s just sitting there, hands on his knees, a bit stiff around the shoulders. His expression is blank, completely – a poker face. “Hey.”

There’s a beat of quiet. No one moves, or talks, and Parrish isn’t stupid. Obviously he’s not fucking stupid. Not being able to figure out that Stiles was underneath Derek’s desk that one day was one thing; because why would he ever think that to begin with? This is another matter entirely. Entirely.

“What are you two up to?” He asks, and slides his eyes to Stiles again, calculating.

“Getting ice cream,” he says. Which is the truth.

“I don’t think I knew you two were friendly,” he goes on, and Derek’s hand twitches on his knee. Whatever that means, Stiles doesn’t wanna know.

“Sure,” Stiles says, too quickly. “He uh – well. He’s an – he knows how to talk to. Omegas. I am one. So.”

Parrish knows Stiles very, very well. They go back a good solid seven or eight years, at this point, and Parrish has seen Stiles lie before. He’s caught Stiles in more lies than Stiles could ever possibly count, and this time just might not be any different. Seeing as how Stiles is doing an absolute shit job of it, it wouldn’t be shocking if Parrish added two and two in his head and came up four.

“Well,” Parrish stands, so his head vanishes from their general line of sight. Stiles is stuck looking at his chest, the Beacon Hills badge, the hands on his utility belt. His gun. “Don’t let me stop you.”

He saunters off across the parking lot to where his cruiser is parked, and Stiles stares after him for a long time. Long enough to see Parrish get into his car, start it, and drive off. And Derek is silent, and Stiles is more than a little afraid to turn and look at him to say anything.

But they can’t sit there forever, so he does. He turns, clears his throat. Derek has a hand over his mouth, elbow propped up on the door handle, hand on his keys. Stiles knows what he must be thinking – that that was bad. That was not good, what just happened, and again – Parrish is no fucking idiot.

No one is that stupid. Let alone a Sheriff’s deputy.

Stiles starts to say, “I don’t think he –“ but Derek cuts him off.

He sits up straight in his seat, pulls at his seatbelt, and says, “I’ll take you home,” in a clipped tone of voice. Stiles sits and twiddles his fingers, disappointment flooding every last orifice of him.

“But I thought…” he thought he was supposed to stay over at Derek’s house.

Derek doesn’t even let him finish the thought. Starts the engine, puts it in reverse to get them the hell out of there. “I’ll take you home,” he repeats, and Stiles doesn’t know what to say or do.

So he says and does nothing. Gets driven home, barely gets a peck on the lips from Derek as a goodbye.

***

Stiles, 12:43 PM : Thinking about you, currently.
(Read, 12:45 PM.)

***

Stiles checks his phone every twenty minutes at work – fishing it out of his apron pocket and examining the bare notifications screen. Nothing but the time and his background, for three hours of his shift. At around three o’clock, he about jumps out of his skin when he sees a text notification. He fumbles his phone and nearly drops it into a plate of food sitting on the hotline, frantically sliding the screen.

It’s just a text from Scott asking him if he’ll be home for dice with he and Allison. He stuffs his phone back into his apron and picks up a serving tray, cautiously placing hot plates on top and convincing himself it’s probably nothing.

Yeah, running into Parrish likely freaked Derek out. It freaked the hell out of Stiles too, if he’s being honest. The thing is that Parrish might be a lot of things – loyal to a fault, self-righteous, a do-gooder, genuinely believes he’s Captain America or some shit – but a fink? Stiles wouldn’t think so.

He more likely than not figured out that he and Derek were at bare minimum on a date or something, but what does that information mean to him? Why would he give a shit?

It’s just that Derek always texts back, near immediately, even if he’s at work. He keeps his phone face up on his desk and is pretty good at multi-tasking. Stiles convinces himself that he’s just super busy with a really messy case or something; after all, his entire job is handling the messiest of cases.

He goes through the motions of work, and it’s a busy one. August is full of tourists and end-of-Summer people flocking in to spend their excess money from working so much on expensive food, and it’s an ass-kicking, but Stiles makes tips like you wouldn’t believe. Not to mention, his shifts are usually closer to ten hours when all is said and done, as opposed to the maximum eight he can manage to work in the winter. He’s been making bank all Summer.

He’s juggling eight tables at one point, pouring wine and bowing and scraping and hefting food out, and the place is loud. It gets that way, even in a nice place like this, so you can hardly hear yourself think. It’s a good distraction to get his mind off of Derek, if nothing else than that.

At least it is, until the hostess appears with that nervous twitch in her eyebrow she gets whenever it gets really busy, clutching a stack of menus in her hands so hard she’s almost cracking the fine leather binding. “There’s someone up front who wants to talk to you,” she says, and then skirts away to lead a pack of business women to their table in front of the biggest window in the place.

Stiles is standing at the hand sink, viciously scrubbing spaghetti sauce off of his hands after bussing a table. He blinks, dries his hands off as he watches her go, and dumps the used paper towel into the adjacent trash can. He meanders his way through the dining room and sticks his head out into the foyer to see a line of people waiting for their names to be called to get their table, and then Derek.

He's standing off to the side by a potted plant, hands on his utility belt, looking particularly severe. Customers eyeball him a bit warily, the way everyone does once they realize a Sheriff’s deputy is standing in the same room as them. If he’s here, they think, there must be something wrong. Especially when he’s still got his gun on his hip.

Stiles smiles when he sees him, and Derek barely returns it. His lips slightly curve up, and that’s all Stiles gets. “Hey,” Stiles greets, stepping almost into his personal space bubble.

Derek takes a single step back.

“If you want to eat, you’ll be waiting for at least half an hour,” Stiles starts saying, gesturing around himself to the mayhem and general chaos. “We’re pretty booked up, and –“

“I just wanted to talk to you,” he interrupts, and Stiles blinks.

“Uh…” he laughs, a bit baffled. “I can’t really get away right now.”

“Five minutes,” Derek insists, a pleading note to his tone. Then, to accentuate it, he tacks on, “please.”

Stiles puts his hands in his apron and frowns. It must be pretty important, if Derek is waltzing in here in the middle of the early dinner rush on a fucking Saturday night. He could have just waited until Stiles was done with work, but apparently, he couldn’t.

“I’ll just – check on my tables.” Stiles points back with his thumb, into the dining room, and Derek nods his head.

“I’ll be out back.” He turns and vanishes out the cherry wood double doors, not another word. Stiles stares after him for only as long as he can until it starts to look bad – people sitting on the waiting couches blinking owlishly at him, wondering why if it’s so busy, a server can afford to just be standing out here like an idiot.

Stiles makes the rounds of his section, asking each of his tables everything good?, need anything else?, I’m about to take a break so if you needed anything…A good half of them have only just gotten their food and are happy as clams, and a couple others have long finished and are just sitting there hogging tables but hopefully planning on writing Stiles a big tip on their receipts. He frees himself, leaving his apron on because he plans on coming back inside as soon as possible seeing as how he’s liable to be seated again within the next five minutes, and heads out the back door.

He spills outside into the sunshine and by the dumpsters, and Derek is already out there. He’s doing that police-man standing thing again, all serious and intense, and Stiles scratches at his eyebrow and gives him a tight smile. “Not that I hate to see you,” he says, and Derek frowns deeper, “but I’m incredibly busy in there, so –“

“I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

The wind blows, hot and humid and not cooling whatsoever, over Stiles’ head. It’s almost silent out here, with the distant and closed-off sounds of the kitchen staff sautéing and grilling and shouting at one another to be heard over all the white noise. But it’s just Derek and Stiles out here, traffic seeming far away, and Stiles stares at him. He tries to think of something, anything to say – anyway to react, but he can’t. He opens his mouth. Nothing comes out.

“Today, I,” he tightens his grip on his belt, swallows, and squares his shoulders, before continuing on. “…today your father called me into his office.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, voice very small.

“Parrish had for whatever reason taken it upon himself to tell the Sheriff he had run into the two of us and alluded to it having seemed like…” he trails off, clears his throat, keeps the rest of his face impassive.

Stiles looks away, mouth still hanging open, squinting up at the sun. He had thought Parrish wouldn’t do something like that. But then he remembers one tiny little detail he had managed to overlook in his own mental rundown of Parrish’s core personality traits.

Loyal to a fault. Not to Stiles, or to Derek – but to the Sheriff. It’s almost funny that Stiles thought Parrish wouldn’t run to the Sheriff’s door the second he saw what was going on.

“Maybe he just casually brought it up, didn’t realize what he was doing, maybe he was jealous, I don’t know,” Derek rubs at his mouth, and the sound it makes as his palm scratches over some of the stubble he has there sounds loud in Stiles’ ears. “Your father brought me into his office and – he said a lot of things.”

“Like what?” Stiles demands, trying to step closer to him. This cannot be happening. Derek is just freaking out, and he’ll get over it, and Stiles can talk him out of it. It isn’t happening, it’s just not. “What things?”

Derek steps back in time with Stiles, and Stiles freezes and can’t believe it. He can’t fucking believe it. Derek has never, never once since they’ve met practically, been reluctant to be close to Stiles.

Now, it’s like Stiles is on fire. A ticking time bomb. Dangerous.

“He asked me what I was doing with his son,” his voice is low. “He asked me if I was out of my mind.”

Stiles breathes out, puts his hand over his mouth.

“He said of course I wasn’t really doing anything, with you. And I said.” He looks up, like he can’t meet Stiles’ eyes, right now. “I said no. No I was not, and I am not. I…made something up about how you asked me to go with you and I felt obligated to say yes and I was just.” He still refuses to look Stiles in the face. “I was just being polite to the boss’s son.”

Polite, Stiles repeats in his own head. Polite.

“Then he said I should be careful around you because he knows you have a crush on me, and it wouldn’t be appropriate,” he draws the word out nice and long, so long it’s like every single syllable is like an individual word, “for me to consider taking advantage of that.”

Stiles wipes his palms on his apron. “I don’t see why –“

Stiles,” and Derek says his name like a little fucking kid. Like he really is just the boss’s stupid college-aged son who’s immature and silly and thinks he’s going to be an artist and doesn’t know what the world is really like yet. “I lied to his face. I’ve jeopardized my work, acting the way I have. I can’t…” he is resolute. It’s hard for him to say it, but Stiles knows. His mind is made up. “I can’t do that, anymore. I’m sorry. I – I care for you, but I –“

“You don’t just care for me,” Stiles moves closer, and this time, when Derek tries to move back, Stiles just chases him back farther. “You don’t – you don’t just give a shit about me. You. We.”

When Stiles advances so close they could nearly touch each other, Derek backs into the fence surrounding the dumpster area and holds his hand up. A warning. A do not touch sign. That’s never how it’s been between them. Not ever.

Stiles blinks, and he blinks, and he feels the tears welling up in his eyes, wringing his hands together. His mind is racing, just this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening, not now, not here, and on and on. He looks at the ground, his hands. The sky. “But I’m in love with you,” he confesses, voice as small as the bravery to say it is big.

Derek continues in his crusade to not see Stiles’ face. He looks pointedly at anything, anything at all, but him. “I’m sorry,” he says. And that’s all he says.

This is a stranger. This is a stranger.

Alphas, they are what they are, Lydia says in his head, and Stiles bites his bottom lip and chants you won’t cry, you’re not going to cry, you’re at work, you can’t cry.

You think you love one so much and they’re not like the rest. You think you know them. You think you know what they’re like, really, on the inside. You think you’ve learned all there is to learn, and there are no mysteries. No hidden sides. Nothing. They have no dark side.

The truth is, alphas are cruel. Even the ones you love, and even the ones who say they love you back.

Stiles is standing there in his work uniform, forcing himself to not cry, and Derek is there and he won’t look Stiles in the face, and he’s just come in. While Stiles is at work. In the middle of his fucking shift. And done this. Out of nowhere. The clear blue sky. Stiles looked at him and said that he loved him, and Derek said. Nothing.

He does the only thing he can think to do. He slaps Derek as hard as he can across the face.

In the aftermath, Stiles’ hand tingling, his jaw hard, looking to see Derek’s reaction, Derek just stands there. He has his cheek turned from the force of it, but his neck is lowered, as if in submission. He says nothing, doesn’t retaliate, doesn’t get angry. He thinks he deserves it. He’s never been more right about anything else in his entire life.

Stiles turns on his heel and goes back inside. The world seems different now, and the restaurant is loud and it hurts his ears. He blinks ferociously to try and get his eyes to adjust to the light difference in here as compared to outside, but they won’t. He realizes it’s because his eyes are filled up with tears and viciously wipes his shirt sleeve against them.

He can’t cry here.

He sees that he’s been seated again, as he suspected, twice, and they’re two big groups of people. They’re reading the menu, waiting for someone to show up and ask them what they want to drink, if they’ll have wine, smile and nod and be gracious and friendly.

Stiles can’t do that right now. He can’t be here right now. He stands there in front of the back door for what must be a solid sixty seconds, his hands clenching and unclenching.

They tell you they love you and they don’t mean it. Or they never say it at all. Sorry, kid. You don’t play your hand right, and you lose it all.

He spots Kira, quickly opening up a bottle of wine behind the bar area and tucking a loose strand of her ponytail behind her ear. She looks very busy, and very stressed out, and like she doesn’t have the time for anyone’s bullshit. Stiles doesn’t know what else to do. He’s backed into a corner and his hands are shaking, and he’s guilty, but he has nothing else to do.

He walks over to her, puts his hands on top of the bar, and says, “I – will you cover for me?”

She looks up. Blinks at him. In the entire two years that they’ve worked here together, Stiles has never once even called in sick. He’s never been late, he’s never missed a shift, he’s never walked out in the middle of one. She knows that. And she knows that if he’s asking to leave now, then it’s important. It helps also, that his voice is cracking and his eyes are bloodshot. “Are you okay?” She asks, voice concerned and low.

“I – please?”

“Of course,” she swallows, forcing a fake smile on her face. “We can manage. Uh –“

“Thank you,” he rips his apron off of his hips and tosses it into the bin, only barely remembers to pull his tips and cell phone out at the last second. “Please just – tell them I got really sick.”

“Sure.” She opens the wine, finally, and watches him as he turns to leave. “Feel better!” She calls at his retreating back, and Stiles doesn’t even know what to say to that.

He goes out to his car in the parking lot. Because he’s a masochist, he scans the rows to see if Derek’s car or a Sheriff’s department cruiser is still sitting there, parked in the sunshine. There isn’t one, not anywhere in sight, and Stiles doesn’t know if he’s relieved or not.

Sitting there, keys in the ignition but not turning them, Stiles closes his eyes.

This isn’t happening, he thinks. It doesn’t make him feel any better, not at all.

Stiles goes home. His bedroom is bigger than he remembers it being – empty and huge and depressing, in its darkness. He doesn’t turn the light on, just lets what little light filtering in through the shades do their best at displaying all of his things. It’s weird to be back here, now, when this morning before he left, it seems like everything was different.

He undoes the buttons of his work shirt, slides his shoes off, and sniffles. He hasn’t really cried, not yet.

There, on his desk, is that print that Derek had asked him to make. It’s sitting there completely innocent, because it had no idea – no idea this would happen. No idea this could happen. All the same, Stiles targets it, like everything that’s happened is just all its fault.

Frantic fingers scoop it up off the desk, and he thinks of Derek saying he wants the stupid thing tattooed. Stupid, fucking stupid. Of course Derek never actually wanted that. Of course not. He just said it.

He was being polite. Stiles hates him, hates him, hates him.

He rips the print up, fine expensive paper Stiles had worked a lot for tearing up underneath his fingers like it’s nothing. He rips it, and rips it, and rips it, until all the pieces are just unrecognizable nothing, and he’s just never felt like this before.

All the little pieces flutter to the ground in a mess, and Stiles puts his hand over his mouth. This is the most awful feeling in the world, he thinks, and then he can’t help himself from letting a sob claw its way out of its throat – unbidden.

He tries to swallow them down because this isn’t what he’s like. He’s not like this. He doesn’t cry like this, he never has, not over…not over a fucking boy. But he can’t help it. He cries and he cries, in the darkness of his bedroom, all alone.

***

What could be hours later, or not that much later at all, Stiles hears the front door open and close – and someone pauses. He burrows his face deep into his pillow and tries to hide. He knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Scott will smell him. The smell of an omega crying and in distress is one of the strongest scents there is, and Scott would recognize Stiles’ better than almost anyone else would.

Footsteps approach, and Stiles wishes he could disappear. His head hurts and his eyes are so tired but he can’t stop crying. This is humiliating, pure and simple.

Two soft knocks on his bedroom door. “Stiles?” Scott calls, and before Stiles even has the chance to answer him back, tell him not to come in, to leave him alone, Scott is in the door.

Light spills in from the hallway, illuminating Stiles’ face in what has to be all its ugly, terrible glory – and he has to squint against it. It hurts his eyes. Scott stands there for a moment, seeming a bit flummoxed and at a loss for what to do. He hasn’t seen Stiles like this in years, and years, and years. Last time, it was maybe Junior year of high school, when some alpha ripped up his painting and told him he was ugly and untalented.

This feeling is worse than that. This feeling is like someone reached in through his throat and ripped his heart out.

Scott blinks at him for a moment, and Stiles clutches his pillow a bit tighter. “He –“ Stiles starts, and then his face contorts when he cries harder for a moment. “…he broke up with me.”

Scott tilts his head to the side and makes this face. It’s a very pitying face, and Stiles hates it.

“I don’t know what I did,” he bursts out, slightly hysteric. “I don’t know what I did wrong, I don’t know why he doesn’t – he doesn’t –“

“Okay,” Scott says, gentle, as gentle as possible. He walks over to the bed and Stiles immediately grabs for him – the scent of an alpha, the feel of one, that’s all he wants, right now. He clutches bony fingers into Scott’s shirt even as Scott sits down on the bed, all the way up top. He sits criss cross, while Stiles cries and blubbers, and then pulls Stiles down by his shoulders.

Scott rests Stiles’ head in his lap and slowly runs his fingers through Stiles’ hair, again and again. “It’s okay,” he says, and Stiles knows it isn’t. He clutches onto Scott’s knee and shakes, he cries so hard.

“He doesn’t love me,” Stiles says, helpless and small into the darkness across his room. “No one’s ever gonna love me, no one –“

“Shhh,” Scott gently palms Stiles’ face, hand so warm and big. “It’s okay. I love you, Stiles.”

“What is this?” Stiles demands, even as he’s crying and feeling entirely out of control of himself. “This – feeling.”

Scott sighs, still stroking Stiles’ hair. “It’s heartbreak.”

Heartbreak, Lydia repeats, and Stiles remembers the sullen twist to her mouth as she had said it, the way her eyes went more shrewd at her camera. It’s worse for omegas, so they say. I’ve been there myself. Her eyes went off, faraway somewhere. I think they’re probably right.

***

When Stiles wakes up, Scott is still there. It’s dark out, and the first thing Stiles does even with Scott there is reach over to his bedside table and check his phone.

Maybe Derek changed his mind or realized he was wrong, Stiles thinks. The notifications are blank. Stiles drops it back down and curls his hand against his chest. Thinks about crying again, but knows he doesn’t even have the water inside of him to do it anymore.

“Hey,” Scott says, and takes Stiles by his underarms. He props him up, so he’s sitting back against some pillows against the headboard, and then turns to look at him very critically. “I’m sorry this happened,” he says, and Stiles is thankful for him.

He could be a complete ass about it, and say I told you so and rant and rave about how Stiles shouldn’t date any alphas anywhere – either date omegas or just be a monk for the rest of his life. But he doesn’t. He reaches out and plays with Stiles’ bedhead, maybe trying to flatten it out into something less hilarious looking.

“Stiles, that wasn’t you,” he says, looking Stiles in the eye very critically. “Last night, the… You crying like that.” He furrows his brow and shakes his head. “I’ve never seen you like that.”

Stiles has never been like that, not that he can remember. He’d count when his mother died, but that’s another realm of an event that this doesn’t hold a candle to; so what Stiles and Scott mean is, Stiles has never been that way over some fucking alpha.

The thing is, Stiles never had some alpha to get that way about. “He’s my first everything,” Stiles says, and his voice is cracked and destroyed and it hurts his throat to speak. “I’m so sad, I can’t move.”

Scott could say something else. More about how Stiles isn’t acting like himself. But he doesn’t. He says, “I’ll make you something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry,” Stiles mumbles, picking a pillow up and hugging it against his chest.

“I’ll make you something to eat,” Scott repeats, and that’s likely the final word on that.

Stiles sits hugging his pillow and gritting his teeth, listening to the distant sounds of Scott puttering around in the kitchen. Scott had turned the light on for him, so he’s stuck looking at the pile he had made of his ripped up print. It makes him so angry to see it all there, and he doesn’t know if he’s angrier at himself for doing that, or at Derek for making him so upset to the point where he would.

As it is, Stiles doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do now. His automatic reaction to being this upset, this messed up, this sad, is to call Derek. And that just makes him feel worse, and worse, until he’s just curled up with his pillow staring blankly at his sheets. He has never felt like this before.

Scott returns with a steaming bowl of chicken and stars, handing Stiles the spoon and sitting down next to him on the bed. He takes the pillow out of Stiles’ hands to deposit it into his lap and makes a soft table out of it, setting the soup precariously in the middle of it, gesturing at Stiles. “Eat.”

Instead of doing that, Stiles just says, “I slapped him.”

Scott blinks at him, surprised.

“In the face. I slapped him in the face.” He dips his spoon into the soup and makes a small steamy wave, crinkling his brow. “I feel bad about it.”

With a snort and an entirely too pleased smirk, Scott just shakes his head. “He probably barely felt it. A slap from an omega to an alpha is more of a statement than it is actually trying to hurt them.”

A statement, right. And Stiles couldn’t speak in that moment after Derek did what he did – after Stiles admitted to him that he loved him and Derek just stood there and looked at him and said he was sorry. Stiles couldn’t think of a single thing to say. So, yeah. The slap was a statement.

“What happened, anyway?” Scott asks, gesturing again to the soup on the pillow that Stiles continues to only play with instead of eating.

Stiles looks at the stars in his soup, picks up a big spoonful of them, and then drops it all back in with a clink against the rim of the bowl. “It was really busy at work and he came in,” he starts the story in a bit of a detached voice, like this didn’t happen to him, or like he had dreamed it instead. “And he made me talk to him out back, and he said we shouldn’t see each other anymore.”

“He came into your work?” Scott looks affronted enough for the both of them. “To break up with you? He couldn’t have – I don’t know – waited?”

“It was awful,” Stiles says, because it was. It was the worst thing Derek could’ve possibly done. “I had to leave early.”

“He’s a fucking asshole,” Scott decides. “He’s a piece of shit.”

Stiles nods his head, mostly just out of feeling like he should. Anything but an agreement with what Scott says right now is too much responsibility for him. He’s just tired.

“What was his excuse, even?”

“My dad…” Stiles starts, and then stops. He has to hold the words inside of his mouth for a while, because he knows, deep down, that some of this is his own fault. “…my dad brought him into his office and essentially accused him – I don’t really wanna talk about it.”

“Okay,” Scott says, voice quiet. He can probably put the pieces together himself even without hearing the whole entire play by play, anyway. The worst thing about something bad happening is that everyone wants to know what it was, and they want to know all the details, and you have to live it again and again, retelling the story. Stiles just wants to sleep.

But Scott takes the spoon out of Stiles’ hand and dips into the soup for him, holding it up in the air. “Come on,” he says, and Stiles opens his mouth.

He barely tastes it, but Scott keeps feeding him until the bowl is empty, running his fingers gently through Stiles’ hair and not saying anything else because Stiles doesn’t want to talk anymore.

***

Stiles cleans up the mess he had made of his ripped up print and dumps it all in the trash. He considers, a bit insanely, burning the original painting. But maybe he’d regret that, so he doesn’t. He takes out the paintings he did of Derek and then quickly shoves them into the deepest, darkest pit of his closet. Throws old laundry on top of them.

Derek does not call.

***

He nearly empties his closet – save for the Derek paintings, buried for the rest of eternity as far as Stiles is concerned – and sets all his art up in his bedroom and stares at it, sitting criss cross in the middle of his floor. He has a notebook and a pen, ready to jot down all the art he plans on showing at his show in a week and a half. Derek had promised to help him, Stiles thinks, staring at the blank paper in front of him and then at the rest of his work.

The painting Derek had wanted to get tattooed catches his eye, and he hates it. He hates it. All the same, he writes it down in his notebook maybe because he just hates himself, and moves onto the next one.

He tries calling Derek halfway through it, his mind exhausted from having to sit there and judge himself and his own art, and he just wants Derek to help him pick. Derek doesn’t answer, because of course he doesn’t. And the sound of his voice, serious and low, on his voicemail message just makes Stiles miss him so much it’s visceral. Like he could puke up his guts from missing him so much.

It doesn’t matter either way. He just has to keep reminding himself that Derek never really loved him, maybe never even really cared about him that much, and eventually, the feeling will go away. It has to go away, so it will.

***

Stiles won’t go back to the station, under any circumstances whatso-fucking-ever. Instead of bringing his dad lunch, when his father texts him and asks him where he’s been for the past several days, he suggests they have dinner at his house. His dad agrees, and Stiles shows up right on time in clothes that haven’t been washed because Stiles hasn’t felt like it, hair undone, bags under his eyes.

Since his dad’s expertise in the world of food mostly centers around the microwave, he had ordered pizza and breadsticks from the place down the street, and they pick the food apart and set it out on their own individual plates. His dad asks how the art is coming and Stiles says fine, and his dad asks how Scott and Allison are doing and Stiles says fine, and how are the classes you’ll be taking this upcoming semester and Stiles says fine, and how are you and Stiles says fine.

The Sheriff makes it about halfway through his first slice of pizza before he runs his napkin over his mouth. He watches Stiles pick at his pizza like he’s barely interested in it, eyes narrowing more and more as each second passes. He straightens up in his chair, pushing it forward a bit so it grinds against the linoleum, and he fixes Stiles with a straightforward stare. “Are you okay?” He asks, and Stiles barely looks at him.

“I’m fine,” he says. “Tired, is all.”

His dad drums his fingers on the tabletop. “You’ve seemed a little out of it these past few days.”

“Uh,” Stiles furrows his brow at his pizza, has got grease all over his fingertips from picking it apart instead of eating it. “Stress. The art show and school and all.”

His father is not an idiot. He knows Stiles like the back of his hand. Matter of fact, he doesn’t even have to say anything. He just sits there and looks at Stiles, all the implications in the world on his face of how he knows Stiles isn’t being honest, how he knows Stiles looks fucking awful and like he’s done nothing but cry and sleep for the past several days, how he knows that Stiles playing with his food instead of actually eating it is about as weird as a fish not swimming.

Stiles cracks fifteen seconds into the dad-stare, picking his own napkin up and wiping at his fingers. He doesn’t look his dad in the face, because he knows he couldn’t possibly, not like this and not now, but he speaks. “Dad,” he starts, voice quiet and small and nervous. “I need to tell you something.”

“Okay,” his dad agrees. He’s got that tone of voice that’s a mixture between the Sheriff and dad – all stern and tough, but also nervous and unsure.

Stiles could’ve gone the rest of his life never telling his father the truth about any of this and eventually he’d have moved on and it would just be forgotten about. Stiles is terrified, right now, to tell his dad what happened, and what he did. He’s going to be mad, Stiles knows. And Stiles hates, hates, angry alphas, the way his biology is predispositioned to cower and be small and deferent.

It’s just that Stiles is so exhausted of it. And the weight of the lie and not being honest with his dad on top of everything else that he has to deal with is just too much.

Stiles takes in a deep breath, staring at his picked apart pizza. “Deputy Hale,” he starts, and then lets it hang there for a long time. Way, way too fucking long.

When he chances a glance up at his dad, he sees genuine worry there. He must think, with the only information given so far being Derek’s name, that Derek has done something to him. Or done something to somebody else. It’s the worst possible case scenario, but that’s the kind of man his father is – especially when talking about a person who’s employed to look after omegas. God knows what might be running through his head right about now, so Stiles clears his throat and dares himself to just say it.

“Deputy Hale and I,” he goes on, and can’t, can’t, can’t look his dad in the face. “We had been, uh. Seeing each other. And we lied to you about it a lot and I – I hid it from you.” He clears his throat, still refuses to look in his dad’s direction – all he can see from the corner of his eye is that the man has gone very, very still. The calm before the storm. A bit petrified, Stiles does what he does best under pressure – babble. “But I didn’t know he was Deputy Hale at first, I swear. I met him at a – we hooked up. We hooked up and I didn’t know who he was and then you introduced me to him and he was the omega victims specialist and it was – we just – I lied. I lied a lot.”

For the first time since he started talking, he looks to try and see what the Sheriff’s reaction is. He turns just in time to watch when his dad pushes his plate away from him with a heavy scraapppee against the wooden tabletop, nearly knocking his water glass over the edge of the table, and Stiles flinches.

But he doesn’t say anything, not at first, so Stiles speaks again. He reaches out and curls the fingers of one hand around his dad’s arm, holding on for dear life. “Please don’t be angry with me, daddy, please,” his voice trembles with the effort he’s putting in to not crying. “I didn’t mean to lie, I just didn’t know what else to do, and I know he’s one of your deputies and it was wrong of me, and he’s – he’s –“

His father cuts him off, taking hold of the hand that Stiles has on him and prying it loose. “It’s not you I’m angry with,” he says, voice low and dangerous and vaguely threatening.

It makes Stiles angry, for some reason. He furrows his brow and tugs his hand out of his father’s grip. “I wasn’t just some stupid omega being led around by an alpha,” he says, and his dad looks away. “He didn’t make me do anything. I was there, too. I lied just like he did.”

“That doesn’t matter,” he bursts out, half-yelling, and Stiles only barely flinches back. “He was the adult, and he shouldn’t have –“

“I’m an adult,” Stiles hisses, pointing at himself.

“All the omegas in this town, they look up to him, do you realize that?”

“Why does that mean he can’t date one?” Stiles is yelling now, too, and his father looks a bit startled by it. He opens his mouth to say something else, but Stiles just talks right over it. “Why have you always treated me like I’m some – some – untouchable thing that none of your deputies are even allowed to look at?”

There’s silence, in the wake of that. What Stiles has accused his father of here is ugly, and both of them know it. The way that alphas at the station are afraid to even glance at him and the way that Parrish never would have touched him out of fear of what the Sheriff would’ve done to him, and dozens of other countless instances where Stiles felt like he was nothing, nothing but a stupid omega.

And now all this, with Derek. His father is stunned silent for several suspended moments in time, while Stiles stares down at the tabletop and puts his hand over his mouth. He regrets saying that, but it’s the truth.

Once the silence has just started to get unbearable, his dad clears his throat. And he says, “it’s hard, being the parent of an omega.”

Stiles gets that. He understands. He knows that the world is terrible and alphas are awful, and he knows that his dad must see things near daily in his line of work that have made him hyper-protective of Stiles and hyper-vigilant of any alphas who try to get near his son.

But it isn’t fair. There’s not much he can do about that.

“I don’t want to fight,” he says, putting his elbows down on the table and staring down at the wood. “I just wanted to tell you the truth, because I’m not…I’m not doing great. I’m really, really sad. Derek broke up with me and he really hurt me, and I just don’t want to fight, okay?”

As Stiles should have predicted, the one thing his father picks out of that sentence is – “he hurt you?”

“Dad, I don’t –“ he closes his eyes, wants to disappear. “Please? Can I not?”

There’s a lot more to be said here, and Stiles knows he hasn’t heard the end of it, not by a long shot. But his father has pity, to an extent at least, so he lets the subject drop.

***

At one in the morning on a Wednesday night, three days before his art show, loud banging rouses him from sleep. He pinches his sleepy face and groggily flips over, glaring at his clock as it lasers the time out at him almost angrily. He blinks, and then burrows deep into his pillows and sheets and tries to return to sleep.

But the banging starts up again, and Stiles knows from previous experiences that it’s coming from the front door. He tries to ignore it, and then he realizes that it might be Scott out there, after having forgotten his key or something. And Stiles won’t be able to get back to sleep until he lets him in – Scott will bang, and bang, and then resort to calling him, and he’ll do it for hours until Stiles opens that fucking door.

He curses, throws the covers off of himself, and staggers out of his dark bedroom into the hallway. He flicks on the light, grumbling to himself the entire way as he squints at the brightness and hobbles to the front door.

Without checking through the peep hole, he pulls the door open, and finds – not Scott. Decidedly not Scott.

Derek is there, leaning all his weight up against the door frame with his eyes closed. Stiles can tell from the smell of him alone that he’s been drinking – and at least he’s not in his work uniform. He’s dressed in a black t-shirt that seems to be damp in more than one place, dark jeans, and converse sneakers covered in dirt at the toes.

Stiles stands there, mouth gaping open, and tries to think of something to say. They haven’t seen each other or spoken to each other in a week, more than that even, and Derek has ignored Stiles’ calls and texts and Stiles has dodged him right back to the best of his fucking ability. So color Stiles shocked to see Derek standing out there.

“I’m not here,” Derek starts, eyes still only half open, “to beg for forgiveness or have a drunken pity party.”

He’s slurring. A lot. Stiles has never seen Derek drunk before.

“I just – the bar is closed,” he goes on, and Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. “Nobody wanted to drive me home, and you live – close. I need someplace to…not be drunk.”

Stiles looks at him. He should slap him again. Instead, he says, “you’re going to be drunk no matter where you go.”

Derek huffs and puffs, presses his forehead against the door jamb and looks pitiable. Stiles and Derek have had a lot to drink together – and yeah, Derek has gotten a bit drunk or a bit tipsy before, but never like this. “Please can I come in. Otherwise I’ll sleep out here.”

With a roll of his eyes, Stiles rubs his forehead with the palm of his hand. He can’t just leave Derek out there to pass out in the fucking hallway – first of all, because the cops would show up. Which would be ironic and funny and also terrible, because the cops at this time of night pretty much translates to Stiles’ dad. And second of all, because Stiles is just not that vindictive to be cruel like that, even in the face of everything that’s happened.

He opens his door more and gestures with two fingers, and Derek hefts himself up off the wall. He steadies himself, takes a very sharp step forward, and nearly falls on top of Stiles in the process.

Stiles dodges out of the way and makes a face, unimpressed. “Jesus,” he hisses, taking Derek by his shoulder and slamming the door closed behind them. He leads Derek off to the couch, shoves him down into it, and Derek curls against a pillow and stares at the ceiling. More likely than not, watching it spin. “What did you drink? Tequila shots all night?”

“There were shots,” Derek says, grave. As though he’s talking about a great trauma he’s recently undergone. “There were shots.”

“Okayyy,” Stiles draws it out nice and long, and then skirts away from him, towards the kitchen. Derek actually reaches a big hand out and tries to grab at his hip, misses by a long shot, and then paws around at the empty air where Stiles had just stood.

“Where’re you goin’?” He slurs, and Stiles can’t fucking deal with this.

“To get you water and advil.”

“Ohhh,” Derek says, like a little kid who just solved a math problem. “You’re gonna take care of me.”

Stiles stands at the sink and pours a glass of water from the filter, glaring out the kitchen window into the black night and asking why this had to happen now, and tonight. He’s got enough to think about with his art show, and he doesn’t need Derek showing up being pathetic to add on top of everything else. The advil bottle rattles as he gets three pills out into the palm of his hand, the standard amount for an alpha, and Derek laughs about nothing from the next room.

He lifts his eyes to the ceiling and shakes his head. Curse. This. Shit.

When he comes back, Derek looks like he’s asleep. Stiles is just about to turn tail and dump the water out into the sink while cursing up an annoyed storm, but then Derek’s eyes open, all bloodshot and crazy looking, and he gives Stiles a bizarre smile.

“Here,” Stiles grits from between his teeth, holding the water and pills out. “Take these and go to sleep.”

Derek takes the water and nearly spills it everywhere. He dumps the pills into his mouth all at once, glugs the water, and it’s all gone within seconds. Stiles watches this like a hawk, and then he rubs at this temple and sighs. “Go to sleep,” he repeats, moving to walk over to the light switch to shut it off.

“Here?” Derek sounds affronted, patting the couch cushions around him. “I don’t want to sleep here.”

Annoyed, Stiles glares at him. “You showed up at my door, all right?”

“I want to sleep with you,” he mutters, reaching out to grab at Stiles’ hip. He uses it to pull Stiles forward, closer to him, and Stiles staggers before he can stop it. He must be too drunk to remember how much stronger and bigger than Stiles he is, is barely thinking clearly. “In your bed.”

“Yeah?” Stiles hisses, and shoves Derek’s hands off of him like they’re annoying little gnats. “Well, you forfeited that right.”

“Oh, right,” he pinches the bridge of his nose and leans back into the couch, talking to the ceiling. “You’re mad at me. I fucked up.”

Stiles just – can’t. With this. “You sure did,” he snaps, and again, has to dodge away from Derek’s hand. He moves to the other side of the coffee table, staring at Derek with his arms crossed. He should just go to bed and let Derek pass out all by himself out here, but something keeps him standing here, even as annoyed as he is.

“I always do that,” he grumbles, turning himself so his face is almost buried into a cushion. “I always fuck up.”

Stiles looks up at the ceiling, shakes his head.

“I always hurt the people I love.”

In the wake of this, Derek goes still. He’s drooling on a couch pillow and snuggling into the lumpy cushions, looking stupid with his long legs dangling off the edge, shoes still on. Stiles stands there and watches, waits until Derek snores after three minutes of staring, and then he can’t move.

Derek had used the word love. Stiles taps his fingers on his elbow and swallows. It doesn’t really mean anything, he thinks, moving to the end of the couch to untie Derek’s shoes and drop them gently one by one onto the floor. He had just said it because he’s drunk and wasn’t thinking about what he was saying. That’s all.

He picks up the blanket from the back of the couch and drapes it over Derek, standing back and looking at him for a second.

Then, he curls his upper lip and shuts the light off, vanishing into his own bedroom.

***

In the morning, he expects to wake up and find Derek still passed out on the couch. He is bitter still, so he fantasizes about squirting him with the sink hose and shouting at him to get the hell out, and to never come back again.

Instead, he comes out and smells coffee. Derek isn’t on the couch, so Stiles is suspicious immediately. It’s even worse when he comes into the kitchen and spots Derek in there, drinking out of one of Stiles’ mugs like he has even half of a fucking right to do so. He’s just about to rip the thing out of Derek’s hand, burning both of their skin with the hot coffee he’s sure since Derek drinks it black, but then Derek turns to look at him with bloodshot eyes. He says, “want some?”

Stiles stands there, whiplashed and annoyed and clenching his hands into fists at his sides. He should throw Derek out, here and now. He should pick something up and throw it at the wall, should start yelling at him and cursing the day he was born.

He says, “okay,” and watches as Derek pulls a mug out of the cabinet, familiar in an annoying way with the layout of he and Scott’s kitchen. Derek pours him a cup, and then reaches into the fridge to pull out Stiles’ favorite flavor of creamer. It’s caramel. He pours in just the right amount, and then hands the mug off to Stiles.

Accepting his coffee, he sips, and then they’re just standing there in the kitchen, silent. Stiles stares into his mug and fingers along the lip of it, touching the moisture there just for something to do. He should say something, he thinks. The first thing that comes into his mind.

“You said you loved me last night,” he says, and then wants to dump his hot coffee all over his head and lie down on the ground and melt. Derek looks up from his own mug with his lips parted, cocking his head to the side as if checking to make sure Stiles really just said that. Stiles is ready for the oh I don’t remember that, and the sorry, not true, or just – or just anything.

But Derek looks at him, furrowing his brow the longer they share eye contact. He looks terrible, with his hair a complete mess, still in the clothes from last night that reek like cigarette smoke and liquor. Derek says, “so I did.”

“You were just drunk,” Stiles finishes for him, taking a long sip of his coffee and pretending it’s a shot of something particularly strong.

Derek stares at him for a long moment, and then sets his mug down. The sound of it is loud in Stiles’ ears. “I wasn’t just drunk,” he snaps, and Stiles raises his eyebrows like really? “I was drunk. But – Jesus, Stiles. Of course I love you.”

“Like a friend,” Stiles corrects, and Derek shakes his head, like he cannot believe Stiles is saying this shit right now.

“No, I love you, like I love you. How could you think anything else?”

Now it’s Stiles’ turn to not believe what Derek is saying. He gestures around himself, as if the kitchen itself encapsulates everything they’ve been through in the past several months, and gapes at him. “Uh, how could I think that?”

“Yes, how could you fucking think that?”

“Maybe because you fucking treated me like shit,” his voice raises, and Derek winces – he’s still hungover. Stiles has little to no mercy. “What you did! You came into my work, I was on shift, and you –“

“I made a lot of bad decisions,” Derek interrupts in a low voice, not meeting Stiles’ eyes like he doesn’t even dare to.

“Bad. Decisions.” Stiles repeats the words like they can’t be real. “You fucking broke my heart. I cried. I don’t cry like that, I don’t cry!”

“I had to do that,” he sounds like he’s convincing both of them. Not just Stiles, but himself as well. “I had to. It was the right thing to do for both of us.”

“I’m getting a little sick and fucking tired of people telling me what the right thing to do is when it’s my life. What, is it because I’m an omega, you think you can just –“

“Don’t say shit like that to me,” he warns, picking his coffee up again. “You know I’m not like that.”

“Funny how you treat me, then,” Stiles’ voice is caustic and biting, and Derek just looks at him. He might not be able to think of anything to say, like Stiles has just given him a checkmate. It should feel good, but it doesn’t. “And, so you know, I told my father.”

“You think I wouldn’t know that,” Derek shakes his head and laughs, sarcastic and low, up at the ceiling. “I got suspended from work.”

That gives Stiles some pause. Since that night at his father’s house when Stiles had told him the truth, they haven’t really spoken all that much. And Stiles had been clear that he didn’t want to talk about it, not at all, so it makes sense the Sheriff wouldn’t be running to tell Stiles this juicy little detail.

Maybe also, the Sheriff figures Stiles would be mad at him about it. He figures right.

“With pay,” Derek says, as if to soften the blow as he rubs at his neck. “Humiliating all the same. Now this is a black mark on my career –“

“Nice to know what you think of our relationship,” Stiles snaps, and Derek pinches the bridge of his nose like he just can’t do this. “A black mark on your whole life. Fucking thank you.”

“I made bad decisions,” he points at himself as he repeats this same sentiment from earlier, eyes serious. “Me. Not you. Me. You’re 21, how are you supposed to act?”

Stiles throws his hand in the air and nearly spills his coffee as he does so. “I’m done with this fucking argument,” he half-yells, and Derek just looks at him. “The bottom line is, you fucking ruined everything and acted like you were the only one who had any say in this relationship. Like an alpha.”

The word is like a slap across Derek’s face, even more powerful than the actual one Stiles had given him not too long ago.

“I still love you,” Derek says, and Stiles wants to tell him to shut the hell up, just shut up. It doesn’t make it any easier. “I always will. That’s my bottom line.”

Stiles has nothing to say to that. Everything he wants to say is coated in that sickly-venom of hurt, and angry, and confused, and he doesn’t want to say anything he’ll regret or that he doesn’t mean – so he just stands there and cradles his coffee and wishes they could just go back in time. He wants, more than anything, to act like none of this ever happened.

It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t.

Derek finishes the last of his coffee and sets his mug in the sink, clean for once since Stiles has had so much free time as of late, and straightens up. He looks Stiles in the face. “I’ll see you at your art show.”

Stiles watches his retreating back for a second, and shouts, “maybe you’re uninvited,” at him.

Derek looks over his shoulder – sees Stiles standing there almost crying and holding his coffee and looking small and scared and hurt. He says, “I’ll see you there,” like hell or high water or the wrath of Stiles couldn’t keep him away.

With that, he’s out the door. Stiles hovers, clutching his coffee, for what feels like a long time. “Fucking asshole,” he mutters, and then doesn’t know if he even really means it.

***

“It looks great!” Scott caws at Stiles before he’s really even in hearing distance. It’s shouted loud enough that more than a handful of people turn to look at him with confusion on their faces, clutching glasses of wine or little bacon and shrimp appetizers.

Stiles accepts this humiliation with a smile that he catches from Scott’s infectious one, while Scott and Allison push and shove through people to try and get closer to Stiles. Scott just barrels right through, nearly knocking red wine all over some woman’s crisp white dress, while Allison mutters excuse me, sorry, coming through, in his wake.

“Wow,” Scott says once he’s standing right in front of Stiles’ exhibit, taking the entire sight of it in with big eyes, scanning each and every individual piece. His eyes land on one and they go huge, as he steps forward to point a tan finger right at it. “Look!” He stands right next to it, so his forehead is right in line with the forehead in the painting. “It’s me!”

“It sure is,” Stiles agrees, turning his head to look at the painting himself. It’s a newer one, and frankly, one of his creepiest paintings to date. He thought it would be interesting to paint Scott as the opposite of himself, like he had dug into the pits of him and found the darkest parts of him – it’s eerie to look at, but Scott, for whatever reason, really likes it.

Scott poses beside it, while Allison angles and re-angles her phone in the air, until clicking the picture. Once that song and dance is all over with, they surround him as though they’re an entire army of people instead of just the two of them, and it’s all shoulder pats and hugs and congratulations.

“When you first told me the theme you picked, I’ll be honest, I thought it sounded boring,” Allison says, and of course she didn’t say that to his face at the time, because she’d never in her life be like that. “But this is actually – really interesting.”

Stiles has chosen people as his theme. It wasn’t exactly groundbreaking or anything, not like the kid across the way whose theme is creepy little dolls that wear clown masks and have tea parties with severed heads on their plates, but Stiles is proud of what he managed to put together. He wanted to capture a wide range of different types of people, from what they’re really like to what they’re not, from how people see them to how they see themselves to how Stiles sees them.

“This one,” Scott points at another and makes a face, cocking his head to the side as he thrusts his fist underneath his chin. “It really makes me think.”

Stiles rolls his eyes but smiles all the same. It’s been okay so far – people have come over and ooh’d and aah’d and asked Stiles questions, and he’s had a couple of glasses of wine so he’s all loose and not as nervous as he could be, and he pointedly tries not to look at other people’s works so he doesn’t freak out in the comparisons. He doesn’t think he’ll win anything, but that’s fine. At least he’s finally getting it over with so it’ll stop keeping him awake at night.

They stay and talk with him for a while, standing by when other people appear – most notably the judges. Mostly, they say absolutely nothing to him. They just mark stuff down on their clipboards and mutter things to one another while Stiles stands there and feels his eyes rolling out of his head, and they do it for a while.

Like, ten minutes of them muttering and scribbling and appraising with serious frowns on their faces. Art judges are the absolute worst people in the world, Stiles has always thought, but open hostility is likely to not even get him a participation ribbon, so he keeps his face impassive and his mouth shut.

It’s about halfway through the show that Derek actually makes good on his promise to appear. He parts his way through the crowd, eyes scanning the other art with a sort of blank detachment, until they finally land on Stiles’. He recognizes Stiles’ particular art style before he even sees Stiles, and makes his way through the crowd to come straight for him.

Stiles straightens up, but he doesn’t know why. He had been hoping that Derek wouldn’t come, and hoping that he would at the same time. It was exhausting, and now Stiles just wants to get the awkward interaction over with.

He’s in his normal clothes, and he stuffs his hands into his pockets when he’s standing right in front of the wall. His eyes scan and he says nothing to Stiles at first, but then Stiles can tell when Derek spots the one painting that the guy might be the most interested in seeing.

There’s a pause, and still, neither of them have spoken yet, and Derek stares. His hands remain in his pockets, but Stiles thinks that he can see his fingers twitching even where the fabric hides them. As the silence drags on longer and longer, with Derek just staring and an entire room of people wandering around them, Stiles feels the need to defend himself.

He clears his throat and says, “I think it’s one of my best pieces,” and he tries to keep his tone light – not hostile, or overly defensive. “It didn’t have anything to do with you personally.”

“I’m personally in it,” Derek says, and Stiles can’t read his face or his voice for any emotion. “And it is one of your best pieces.”

“Okay,” Stiles looks away, down at his feet. His shoes are scuffed on the toes. “Thanks.”

There are a million things that they have to say to one another. Some of them are bad, and some of them might even be good, but none of it is anything that they can say here. Not here, not now. It never used to be like this between them, but in the face of everything, Stiles is speechless and Derek is the same.

All things considered, it was really nice of Derek to come, and Stiles should say that it was. He won’t, though. Stiles says absolutely nothing, and Derek says absolutely nothing. Derek tips his head, hands still buried as if he’s afraid he’d do something with them if he left them free, and walks away. It could be better that way – the hardest things are always better, once the dust clears. Or, that’s what Stiles has heard.

Stiles winds up winning second place for one of his works, which is both surprising and not in equal amounts. In the back of his head, even as he’s being handed the ribbon they’ll slap onto his work and hang in a gallery on campus somewhere for a few months, he thinks that maybe if he’d been an alpha he’d have been given first place. Then, he doesn’t know if he’s just being whiny or not. Second place is second place, after all, and it’s better than the ugly orange participation ribbons any day.

He gets to hold the ribbon and pose next to his work, and then they take it and the art away so Stiles has no proof of being a winner anymore. His dad congratulates him and is all proud of him and Scott and Allison take pictures with him which he suspects strongly will wind up in that dorky yearly scrapbook Allison has been making since sophomore year of high school. It’s a good night, and for a moment, Stiles almost forgets that Derek was there. Truth be told, he had assumed Derek had left. Why wouldn’t he?

Stiles is tasked with taking apart his own exhibit, so he has plans of waiting until almost everyone is gone in the main event hall to do it in peace. There’s a room down the hall that has more refreshments for the artists themselves, better ones in his eyes (munchkins, eclairs, brownie bites), and he pushes out the double doors into the dimly lit hallway to make his way down there on his own.

He makes it about ten feet in the direction of his destination before a hand wraps around his upper arm and stops him short, surprising him enough that he yelps and whips around. He lifts his hand in the air with the intent to backhand whoever it is in the face, mostly from the shock of it, and stops short when he sees that it’s Derek.

“Jesus,” Stiles breathes, lowering his hand and pressing it against his throat. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“I wanted to talk to you,” Derek lets go of his arm, dropping his hands down to his sides and looking a little cowed; like he’s done something wrong. In more ways than one, he has. “Away from – all of that. I was waiting for you to…”

“There are munchkin donuts waiting for me,” Stiles says, all pomp and circumstance. Mostly, he still feels bitter and petty, and even seeing Derek’s face gives him that sharp stab right in his side.

Derek blinks at him, and then he lowers his eyes and frowns at the ground. “I really want to talk to you,” he repeats, and rubs his hand over his jaw. “I don’t want to argue with you. I just wanted to – I know that me just – doing that. And then disappearing. That wasn’t fair. And I know you deserve to hear more than what I said that day, and I just want to say those things, and please. I don’t want to argue.”

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest and looks away, his jaw tightening. “You don’t really get to decide how our conversations go anymore.”

He can be stubborn and an ass when he wants to be, and Derek has always known this, so he barely even reacts to what Stiles had said. He just squares his shoulders like he’s getting ready for battle or something. “I keep thinking about what you said to me when I was at your apartment the other day,” he looks past Stiles’ head, down the dark hallway, his face unreadable. “I never should have shown up like that, and I’m sorry for that too, but – what I’m most sorry for, out of all of this. Even more than getting suspended or your father being disappointed in me or anything…is the fact that I made you think for even five seconds that I…that I ever faked what I felt for you.”

Stiles is stunned into silence, but he tries his best to keep his reaction private. Keeps his arms crossed, stares expectantly, jaw set.

“I love you,” he says, earnest and true and sure, but Stiles isn’t sure if he can believe it just yet. “And I know you have these insecurities and it was so terrible of me to just – to do that to you. You told me you cried.” He reaches out, and even though Stiles looks so hard and cold right now, Derek puts his hand on Stiles’ cheek like he’s something soft. “I am so sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Derek keeps his hand on Stiles’ cheek even as the seconds of silence tick by, and it’s hard and warm and calloused. Stiles has this bizarre need to press his face closer into it, but he knows that by coming to him like this, Derek has given Stiles almost all the power in the conversation. It would be so easy, so easy, to tell Derek to go fuck himself and push him away. And even easier still to do the exact opposite of that, and Stiles doesn’t know what to do.

He settles on something in between. “What was it supposed to be like?” He asks.

Derek’s thumb strokes gently across Stiles’ cheek. In the dim lighting, his eyes look particularly bright and focused, tracing the movement of his skin across Stiles’ like he had forgotten what it felt like to touch him like this and now he needs to commit every second of the feeling to memory now that he has it back again. “Easier. You, me – it should be simple.”

“It isn’t.”

“No,” Derek agrees, shaking his head. “It isn’t.”

“Do you really –“ Stiles starts, and then he has to stop and clear his throat, a blush of shame rising up his cheeks. “…do you really love me?”

“Yes,” this answer is automatic. He doesn’t even have to think about it, and that makes Stiles’ skin crawl. All the times he fantasized about what it might be like to be loved, he could never have imagined the reality. There’s color, and Derek’s hand on him, and the sound of people chit-chatting in the room with the donuts Stiles had wanted, and tables being broken down in the main event hall, and it all feels so real. It’s solid and here and Stiles is living it.

But there are things that are wrong with the entire situation. Stiles wishes they would just go away, but they won’t. He never factored in complications, when he would daydream.

“I’m so angry with you,” Stiles says, mostly just to say it. “And my dad and I aren’t really speaking and I bet he barely speaks to you either. It’s not fair.”

Finally, Derek pulls his hand back and lets it hang limply at his side. The moment for tenderness is gone, and Stiles wants it back so bad he’d do anything for it, but there’s nothing he can do. “If I could change the way things are…”

“Well, what are we gonna do? What are – what am I supposed to do?” He holds his hands out, gestures at nothing. “Just forgive you, and we get back together? Is that what you wanted from this?”

Derek shakes his head and looks away, down the opposite end of the hallway where there’s more light and people. “I just wanted you to hear all that. The truth.”

“You love me, and I love you, and the situation is the same. We can’t just…”

“I know.”

“But I want…”

“Yeah.”

Stiles clenches his hands into fists at his sides and feels like crying, or kicking his foot through the wall, or just yelling at the top of his lungs for how unfair it is. That two people can feel so deeply for one another, and it still can’t work. It still isn’t enough.

All the same, he lunges forward and kisses Derek as hard as he can even while his eyes are all welled up with unshed tears. Derek kisses back, because of course he does, and Stiles puts his hand on Derek’s chest and closes his eyes and imagines another situation.

When Stiles pulls back and looks into Derek’s eyes, it feels so final. Summer is ending, and so are they.

Derek reaches up and swipes away some of the dampness from Stiles’ eyes. The expression on Derek’s face is abysmal, like he’s watching someone he loves very much being tormented, and that’s how it feels. “I’d do anything,” Derek says, voice low and firm, “to go back and do it right.”

The problem is, they can’t. Stiles lets Derek wipe his tears away, and then he has to step back and walk away. It’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. They didn’t go about anything the right way and they treated their entire relationship like they were getting away with something. That’s just not how it’s done. Now there are consequences that feel as huge as mountains in between them, and Stiles can’t brave them.

Lydia never had a video about this, so as he walks, his mind is blank. Derek’s eyes on the back of his neck, and silence.

***

Stiles had sworn up and down after Derek broke up with him that he wouldn’t go back to the station – no way, no how, no fucking chance in hell. He had thought he’d rather chew glass or swallow razorblades than have to go in there and see Derek, and see his father, and see them both in the same place. The enormity of a feeling makes people think like that sometimes; like there couldn’t possibly be anything worse than this, and the world is ending, and nothing can ever be the same again.

Of course, weeks have gone by. Stiles is still licking his wounds, but at least now, there’s a sense of real closure. He has the presence of mind to realize that he can’t avoid the situation forever, and at some point, he has to start picking himself up and moving on. There are a dozen parts of him that scream at him to stop, to just stop, to look back, to go back, to try again – but then a dozen more parts that remind him it can’t be done. It is done. It’s over. They fucked up. It happens.

Now, Stiles is parking outside in the lot and then pulling his keys out of the ignition. He drops them into his lap with a jingle and squints up at the sun with a frown. Last time he was here, everything was different. It’s no use thinking about it.

He picks up the lunch he bought for his dad and sighs through his nose, creaking his way out of his car and slamming the door behind him. They still haven’t talked very much since everything happened, save for the check-in phone calls and awkward text thread, but Stiles really needs to start biting his bullets. It can’t stay weird between he and his dad forever, so here he is. His best impression of normal.

Inside the foyer, Margie looks almost too surprised to see him walking inside. Her eyebrows lift into her hairline and she smiles a bit thinly at him, eyes big in her head. Stiles nods at her and she returns the gesture, adjusting the headset against her ear and clearing her throat. Stiles wonders, not for the first time, if the entire fucking department knows what happened between he and Derek. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least, but it makes him feel slightly humiliated all the same.

Still, head held high, he walks into the station with all the ringing phones and the quiet chatter and bustle, and acts like he can’t feel eyes on him as he goes. It’s the same as it always was, with how the second he tries to meet anyone’s gaze directly they all spin away in their chairs or pretend to be fascinated with something on their desk in front of them – now, there’s a different edge to it. It doesn’t bother him, he tells himself, setting his jaw and ignoring them all. They can all go fuck themselves.

Parrish is there, leaning back in his chair and then nearly falling out of it when he sees Stiles coming. Stiles ignores that, can’t help but drift his eyes right next to him to where Derek should be sitting – but isn’t.

There’s all the evidence of him being there; an open bag of chips from the vending machine, his phone sitting with a blank screen next to his keyboard, his computer lit up with what looks like an old scanned case file open. But he’s nowhere to be seen, chair pushed in. For a split second, Stiles is almost certain Derek had known Stiles was coming and booked it like a bat out of hell into the bathroom to hide until the coast was clear.

Then, Stiles gets close to his father’s office door. It’s cracked open only a bit, but the blinds on the window are open so Stiles can see inside. His dad is there, of course, sitting with a pen balanced between his fingers and glaring particularly hard at something.

Across from him is Derek, his posture rigid. Instead of leaning back in the chair across from the Sheriff’s desk, his shoulders are bunched up tight and he’s got his hands clenched together in between his knees. Stiles can’t see his face, but he bets that Derek is doing that thing he does with his eyebrows whenever he’s in an uncomfortable situation.

Stiles stops short with a squeak of his sneakers against the tiles underfoot. He watches for as much time as he can without drawing too much attention to himself, sees that the two men are talking, and makes a quick decision.

He jumps down onto the ground with his rustling bag, not giving a shit who sees him, and crawls closer to the door, pressing his ear against the crack. He shifts his eyes across the station to see more than one deputy flicking their eyes between the window of the office and Stiles on the floor, but he knows no one, not a one of them, is going to speak up. Half of them probably wish they had the balls to do what Stiles is doing, anyway.

Pressing his body against the wall and lowering himself, he catches the tail end of a sentence. “…would be a good fit.” Derek’s voice, steady.

“I don’t think so,” the Sheriff says back, and Stiles furrows his brow and tries to press his ear even closer. “I was going to give that one to Parrish.”

A pause, heavy. “Parrish,” Derek’s voice repeats. “He’s barely trained to work with omegas.”

“He’s worked omega cases,” is the immediate argument, and there’s finality there. Likely, it’s supposed to be the end of the conversation.

But there’s a rustling sound like Derek moving in his chair, likely sitting up straighter to better argue. “Two,” he says, and it goes quiet again. “You personally brought me in to deal with these cases specifically, and now you’re –“

“Maybe I think you’ve got enough on your plate.”

Another pregnant pause. Stiles is practically gluing himself to the wall, lips parted, brow furrowed. “Parrish can barely look an omega in the face, let alone deal with one whose suffered abuse of this magnitude –“

“Hale,” Stiles’ dad interrupts, in that raised voice that always used to make Stiles curl in on himself when he was a kid, “you’re off that case. End of discussion. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

Something that sounds sort of like a laugh and sort of like a sigh at the same time, and some more creaking of the chair as Derek shifts around in it. “I don’t want to be out of line,” he starts, and Stiles swallows – that can only mean Derek is about to be very out of line. “…but you’re deliberately taking me off cases that are tailor made for me to handle.”

“Like I said –“

“You’re letting personal conflicts interfere with your judgment. You know I’m the best person to –“

“If you don’t get up and get out of my office…”

“This is about Stiles.” And it’s said so loud that Stiles wouldn’t have needed to be sitting here eavesdropping to catch it. A quick scan of everyone else here shows raised eyebrows and quick, furtive glances in Stiles’ direction. Almost everyone heard that, and this time, when the quiet in the office comes back, it feels even louder than the words had. “And I understand if you take personal issue with me for that, but not even letting me do my job because I –“

“You went behind my back and lied to me for months on end and proved yourself as untrustworthy and unprofessional,” he snaps before Derek has a chance to finish. “The fact that you were screwing around with my twenty-one year old omega son is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“He’s an adult,” Derek counters, voice rising again.

“He’s my son.” This is accompanied with a fist banging on the desk so hard that Stiles flinches back in surprise. “The disrespect you clearly have for me…treating him like your dirty little secret.”

“That’s not –“ Derek clears his throat. “That’s not how I thought of it. That’s now how it was, you don’t even know what – what we –“

“He deserves better than that. You treat my son like that, and then you just throw him away like trash like he’s nothing to you – I had him in my house crying and barely eating over whatever it is you said or did to him. You just used him to –“

Chair legs screeching on the floor loud enough that whatever it is the Sheriff had said after that is cut off and silenced, then the wall rattling and nearly sending Stiles flying off on skittering legs out of fear that one of them is about to come bursting out from the door. Neither of them do – Stiles’ best guess is Derek had stood up and pushed his chair back so hard it hit the wall. “You don’t even know the start of it. I would do anything for him. He’s my mate.”

That is exactly Stiles’ cue to go scrambling up off the floor, turn tail and run back to his car and pretend like this never happened – but he’s paralyzed there on the ground. He can’t move. The word mate has struck him completely immobile, mouth hanging open.

He reaches his hand up and slaps it over his mouth, listening to the deafening silence from both inside the office and in the rest of the department. You could hear a pin drop, but all Stiles can hear is the frantic beating of his heart.

“Stiles,” his father starts, and for a second Stiles is almost sure that he’s been caught – but then, he continues. “…didn’t mention that.”

A sigh. “He doesn’t know.”

And of course, Stiles wouldn’t know. Omegas don’t get the mystical mates feeling like alphas do – frankly, Stiles had thought it mostly stuff out of myth and legend. He believed that there was love and then something even above that reserved for certain people and certain relationships, especially when concerning alpha and omega relationships, but the word mate is one he’s typically shied away from. As far as he and Derek were concerned, he thought they just loved one another.

Apparently, Derek has gone and mated Stiles. As in, he let himself get so wrapped up and attached to him in that cosmic and primal alpha way that now he’s never, not ever, going to stop being, like, obsessed with Stiles. Which, in Stiles’ opinion, was pretty fucking stupid of him.

“I didn’t want him to feel pressured to –“ he cuts off, goes quiet. Then, clears his throat and starts up again. “It took me by surprise. And I did what I had to because I thought it was the right thing, but I can’t sleep at night and Stiles barely speaks to me.”

Stiles stands from his crouch on shaking legs, clutching the plastic bag with his father’s lunch in it against his chest. He looks out across the department, and is met with several sets of owlishly blinking eyes staring back at him. There’s either varying degrees of pity or embarrassment to be seen here, and in Parrish’s specific case, he looks almost angry. For a brief flash, Stiles remembers Derek mentioning that Parrish might have been jealous to see he and Stiles out together. It doesn’t really matter, now.

This should be humiliating. By all counts, it is. But Stiles just stands there and barely listens to whatever else it is that his father and Derek have to say to each other, staring out at nothing and shaking his head. The sheer number of things Derek has found it unfit to fill Stiles in on, even things that pertained to Stiles specifically, is astounding.

If Derek mated Stiles, he should have told Stiles the second it happened. It’s not like it can’t be undone, for God’s sake – it’s just a rite of passage. It’s all smoke and mirrors and inflated feelings.

But then, there’s a part of Stiles that doesn’t want Derek to want to undo it, let alone actually go through with it. There’s no time for him to think about it, either way.

Parts of the conversation had gone on over Stiles’ head while he was inside his own thoughts, and the next thing he knows, the door is opening. He is still standing there, and even when he should start booking it in the opposite direction, he doesn’t. He stands, and he’s caught like a deer in headlights as Derek rounds the corner and then stops short upon seeing him.

Stiles could act like he heard nothing and only just walked up to the door and there’s nothing to be upset about. The issue is, he can’t rearrange his face. And he knows his eyes are big and shiny and his lips are parted and he’s standing there looking like he heard every fucking word. Derek can see all of that, and they stand there looking at each other for far too long to be entirely appropriate.

Stiles clutches the plastic bag with his dad’s lunch to his chest, and swallows. “I –“ he starts, voice raspy and small. Derek looks at him like he wants to say something, anything, but won’t. Can’t, maybe. This is another mistruth and another layer to the brick wall they keep building between each other. “…I have to go.”

He turns on his heel and starts going and all he can think about is getting as far away from this entire situation as physically possible. This entire thing has gone so wrong so fast and he’s exhausted of dealing with all of it, and he just wants to go back home and get into bed and vanish in the sheets and never come out. Never deal with any of it. Never figure out what he’s supposed to do. Never confront Derek. Nothing.

It was easier when they were just screwing around. Feelings had to go and come into it – it’s exactly what Lydia had warned him about in one of her videos. Feelings fuck everything over. It’s a waste of time. It’s a fucking waste of time.

Stiles gets to his car and throws the door open with the homey and familiar creak, tosses the lunch that’s most likely going to wind up in the trash at home into the passenger seat. He moves to climb inside and drive away and leave all of this mess behind, but then, because Stiles never should have expected nothing more and nothing less, Derek is there.

He puts his hands on Stiles, pulling him away from the car just far enough that Stiles can’t get inside, and Stiles more or less just lets him. He turns and faces Derek head on, right in the face, and Derek is standing in his uniform with a gun on his hip – the picture of alpha-male, and strength, and domination. But here, with Stiles, there’s almost a part of him that looks small. A little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “You heard that,” Derek clarifies, and Stiles wants to slap him again.

“I heard that,” he hisses, is mad at Derek all over again even as it exhausts him. “You were never going to tell me that.”

“I was going to –“

“You broke up with me, and you were never going to tell me that,” he shakes his head in disbelief, mouth working around words he can’t even think of. “You’re such an idiot, you’re so stupid, you’re so fucking –“

“I didn’t want to make you feel like you had some obligation to me just because of the alpha in me. Okay?” Derek steps closer, so close their noses could touch if Stiles wanted them to. “People treat mating like it’s the end-all be-all but I wanted you to have a choice.”

Stiles shakes his head again. “You should have told me,” he repeats, and Derek runs a hand through his hair in frustration, growling under his breath.

“Can we not do this?” He gestures behind himself, to where the station sits and waits. “There are cameras on us and we’re in a screaming match in the parking lot, can we not?”

“If I want to scream at you in a parking lot, I’ll do that!” Stiles’ voice raises several registers as he speaks, so he’s sure anyone who happens to be standing out here with them can hear every word crystal clear. “How could you not tell me that? How could you not tell me that?”

Derek looks around and shakes his head, and opens his mouth and closes it again, like he’s struck silent and stunned and caught in a spotlight he wasn’t ready for. “I – come on.”

“You were embarrassed,” Stiles finishes for him, and Derek stops everything and just looks at him. It’s a real steady, all-seeing gaze. “You were embarrassed you’d mated me of all people, and you wanted to undo it, so you just –“

“Oh, my God,” Derek shakes his head, and reaches out and grabs Stiles by his shoulders, shakes him once. Then, without warning, leans down and kisses Stiles on the mouth. It’s a quick one, just passionate and fast and Stiles pressing back into it even when he knows he should pull away. When Derek is done, he looks Stiles in his eyes, so serious and calculating Stiles is surprised he doesn’t try to hide from his direct gaze. “I love you, and I knew you were special the night I met you, and I’m always going to love you, nothing is going to change that. What is it going to take to get you to believe me?”

Stiles’ chin wobbles and he tells himself he won’t cry, so he doesn’t. “You mated me,” he hisses, ignoring everything else. “You made a mistake.”

“No,” Derek insists. “No, I didn’t.”

Stiles says nothing, and doesn’t meet Derek’s eyes. There’s too much to process and too much going on, and Stiles is so confused and lost and he wants to feel nothing at all. Or, he wants to remember how it felt at the start when everything was easier.

“I can’t keep doing this with you,” Derek goes on, pressing his body up against Stiles’ body in a way that feels so good if only because it’s Derek. “I don’t want to fight with you anymore, and I don’t want to not talk to you anymore, and I want you in my bed, and I want you, I want you. Please.” He strokes some of Stiles’ hair away from his forehead and Stiles has to resist leaning into the touch for only as long as he can – then, he does, pressing against Derek’s hand and frowning and he’s just so…confused. “Let me talk to your father. I don’t think I can go another day without you, is that crazy?”

“Yes,” Stiles says without thinking about it.

Derek breathes through his nose, keeps his hands on Stiles. “You feel the same about me,” he pushes, searching Stiles’ face for the truth. “Or do you?”

It’s embarrassing even if Derek had just admitted the same thing – so Stiles blushes and blinks tears out of his eyes and shrugs. “Yeah,” he rasps, and Derek puts his hand on Stiles’ face like he’s so fond of doing lately.

“Then that’s it. Don’t think about anything else. We’re overcomplicating it.”

“But there’s –“

“Come home with me,” Derek’s hands go on Stiles’ hips in a familiar way, and Stiles pushes against the touch even knowing it’s wrong, it’s stupid, it’s insane – they were just screaming at each other not five fucking minutes ago. And now Derek has got his fingers pushing around in the waist of his jeans even though there really are cameras on them and Derek is still in his uniform and God this is unprofessional, God this is fucking the most insane Stiles has ever been. “Please. I’ll talk to your father, and I’ll make everything work, I’ll do that, you don’t even have to worry about it – just come home with me.”

Stiles shouldn’t. He’d made up his mind that he and Derek were done. He was moving on, as slow as it may have been. And he thought that he and Derek were a blip on his screen – a cigarette burn, or a story for him to tell sometime in the future when he was older and could look back on it and feel anything, anything else aside from pain.

But here’s this opportunity to pretend that everything is fine. That neither of them fucked up. And Stiles wants it more than anything – that pretend reverse button like rewinding an old VHS tape.

So he takes it. He nods his head and breathes against Derek’s lips and lets himself pretend, in spite of all else. It’s wrong and stupid and if Scott knew what he was doing he’d probably freak out and try to murder Derek with his bare hands – but then, it’s not really Stiles’ fault. It’s not really Derek’s either.

They drive back to Derek’s apartment in Stiles’ Jeep, and Derek directs Stiles to park in the spot that Derek normally does – reserved with the number five just like Stiles remembers. Up the stairs they go, Derek still in his uniform and Stiles maybe half out of his mind, and before the apartment door is even completely shut, they’re on top of each other.

Derek presses Stiles up against the wall and touches him – kisses him on the mouth, and the jaw, and the neck as he runs his hands all over Stiles’ body, as much of it as he can get to. Stiles tilts his head back and grinds his hair into the wall as an invitation for Derek to take his neck, and Derek does. He bites and sucks, so Stiles’ eyes roll back into his head and he pushes his hips into Derek’s palm, where he’s cradling the growing bulge in Stiles’ pants.

“Oh, my God,” he hisses, reaching his own hands out to touch what of Derek he can. “It feels so –“

“All I do is think about you,” Derek murmurs this into Stiles’ neck. He licks gently at the mark that’ll turn into a bruise he just left, still palming Stiles through his pants. “I have these dreams where you’re – you’re in my bed.”

“Yeah,” Stiles reaches down and undoes his own pants, takes Derek’s wrist and pulls it up against him. “Yeah, tell me.”

As Stiles dips Derek’s hand into his briefs, Derek latches onto Stiles’ cock and keeps talking, rubbing up and down as he does so. “And you smile at me, you know? That way you do.”

“What way I do?” Stiles demands around a pant, trying to meet Derek’s eyes.

“The way you smile at me when you want me to fuck you,” he says, and Stiles hadn’t known he had a specific smile for such occasions – then again, it makes sense. Seeing as how Stiles had always wanted Derek to fuck him about eighty percent of the time they spent together, it’s no wonder whatsoever Derek has committed Stiles’ fuck me look to memory. “You smile like that and you put your hands on me. And it’s so real, I can feel it.”

He jerks his hand up, flicking his wrist, and Stiles moans and grips onto the collar of Derek’s uniform shirt. The man still has a gun on his hip. Stiles can hardly give a care – he thinks, let me die like this. Let my ex-boyfriend accidentally shoot me during sex. It’s the only way I want to go.

“And we fuck. You bite your lip and say my name, and my bedroom isn’t even really a room – it’s just my bed, and you.” He reaches up with his free hand and strokes his thumb across Stiles’ open mouth, eyes intense and searching. “Say my name now.”

Stiles sucks in a deep breath, thrusting his hips into Derek’s hand. “Derek,” he says, breathy and low, and Derek smiles at him and grips him by the chin.

“Again,” he pushes, and Stiles presses his head back against the wall and gives him a look. It’s all teasing and light and really, seriously, honestly? But of course, Derek is completely serious even while Stiles is almost rolling his eyes. Of course Derek legitimately just wants Stiles to say his name over and over again, because he’s an alpha, and that’s likely all he thinks about.

Still, Stiles is nothing if not obliging, so he hoods his eyes and bites his lip and says, “Derek,” again, and receives a particularly sharp stroke for his efforts. “Derek, Derek, Derek,” and Derek is giving it to him so good Stiles has to screw his eyes shut and pant up at the ceiling, shuddering and reaching his hands out for purchase. “Oh, fuck, Derek –“

Abruptly, it stops. Derek’s hand snakes its way out of Stiles’ pants, and Stiles is this close to just grabbing it and shoving it back down there. Until Derek takes him by his hips and manhandles him away from the wall, guiding him towards the hallway by a hand on the back of his neck. “I need to fuck you,” he hisses, and Stiles staggers along down the hall underneath Derek’s hand, towards his ever-familiar bedroom.

In they go, Stiles spilling forward so he flops belly down on the bed, limbs all sprawled out like octopus legs. He makes an effort to pull himself up onto his knees, at least, but Derek’s hands are on him again and they’re not exactly helping anything.

Derek pulls Stiles’ pants and briefs down his legs in one fell swoop, tearing them off with the type of determination reserved for, like, serious things. From the way Derek is acting, you’d think someone’s life were at stake. The only life in danger here is likely Derek’s erection. “God, I think about you,” he says, running his hand up and down Stiles’ back, still protected by the thin cotton of his white shirt. Derek does maneuver Stiles onto his knees, and Stiles mostly just goes along with it, looking over his shoulder and spreading his legs a little wider.

Derek is still mostly fully dressed, and the last possible thing Stiles wants when he’s this wet and this ready is for Derek to take the fucking time to undo himself from his uniform. He has to unclip his utility belt, go through the motions of putting it all away, take his pants off, his boxers, unbutton his shirt, take off his undershirt, and it usually takes somewhere around five minutes to do the entire operation. Which isn’t much normally – but when Stiles is bare-assed and waiting for someone to fuck him?

Five minutes is way too long. Way, way, too long.

It’s a lucky thing then that Derek doesn’t even bother. He literally just climbs on the bed behind Stiles and starts fumbling with his belt buckle. Undoes it, pulls down the zipper of his pants, pulls his dick out. It’s startling if Stiles takes too long to think about it, Derek wearing his entire uniform and fucking him, but then, Stiles doesn’t really think about it.

“I just want to live like this,” Derek says, still rubbing up and down on Stiles’ back as his other hand lines his cockhead up with Stiles’ entrance. “I want to wake up with you, like this…” Derek slides in, nice and easy with all of Stiles’ slick, and Stiles’ body tightens as he whimpers and grips the sheets.

Derek wastes no time. He immediately starts a steady rhythm, in and out, holding onto Stiles’ hips in a death grip and likely leaving bruises in his wake. As he goes, certain parts of Derek’s clothing and belt smack into Stiles’ skin and might leave marks or bruises in the morning, but Stiles doesn’t care. He leans back into it and arches his back, obsessed with the feeling of Derek inside of him.

“I want you to come in again and try to get me off under my desk –“

“Derek, Jesus,” Stiles hisses, curling his fingers into the bed. Derek isn’t usually this chatty during sex – he’s typically a bit chatty, is decently good at dirty talk, and all that – but not this chatty. It’s almost like he just can’t help himself, everything that he’s been thinking about for however long they’ve been apart but couldn’t actually tell Stiles spilling out of him.

Derek takes Stiles by his neck and pushes his cheek down into the bed, effectively arching Stiles’ back even more, giving Derek a better angle at which to fuck him. It’s harder, faster, eliciting these short little hiccups of noise from Stiles’ throat while Derek keeps his hand on the side of Stiles’ face, leaving him pinned down against the bed. “That’s it,” Derek says, Stiles’ fingers holding on so tightly to Derek’s sheets he’s afraid he’s going to rip them. “Right there, you like that?”

“I –“ Stiles tries to talk, but he just winds up stuffing his face deeper into the bed to muffle the sound of a high pitched squeak when Derek hits him in just the right place. It’s all the answer Derek needs anyway, as he adjusts a bit and then goes right back to nailing the exact same spot again and again, and again. “You’re gonna make me come –“

“Then come,” Derek says, gruff, and Stiles can’t help himself. He does – comes insanely hard and quick, vision whiting out for a second as he spills and spills into Derek’s bed and against his own stomach and chest.

He lies there, arms going limp like jelly at his sides. Derek fucks through his own orgasm, holding Stiles down in place the entire time in a way that should feel rough but just – doesn’t. Not with Derek. Even while Derek holds his head down into the mattress, he strokes his thumb against Stiles’ cheek so gentle and nice, and even while he essentially just uses Stiles’ totally spent body to get himself off, he murmurs sweet little encouragements down into Stiles’ skin. Stiles blinks out across Derek’s bedroom when Derek goes still, and when Derek pulls his hand off of Stiles’ cheek and moves it into his hair, gently stroking, Stiles sighs – content, bizarrely.

Derek, still inside Stiles, adjusts their bodies so that he can thump down right next to Stiles. Stiles’ back to Derek’s chest, keeping himself flush up against Stiles’ body for as long as he can. He leans over and kisses Stiles on the cheek, nuzzling his nose into his neck. “I love you,” he says, gentle and smooth. “I love you so much.”

“I love you,” Stiles says back, because in this moment, he can only say the truth. They stay that way for a moment, and then Stiles figures Derek can’t imagine how weird it feels to have a flaccid dick still up his ass – so he shifts and pulls himself forward. It feels weird, a bit, when it pops out and Stiles is free, and Derek makes this face like he’s shocked and can’t believe it – but Stiles doesn’t care. “Up,” he says, gesturing to Derek.

Derek seems confused, momentarily, but pulls himself up onto his knees and makes a face at Stiles like like this?

Without saying a word, Stiles reaches out and tugs at Derek’s utility belt, gently unwinding it from his pants and setting it off to the side. Then, he deftly undoes the buttons on Derek’s shirt, one by one, all while Derek watches him with a fond expression on his face, blinking serenely down at him and stroking a hand through Stiles’ hair. Stiles gets the button down with Derek’s crest and name tag off, shucks it aside, and tugs on the hem of his white undershirt until he gets the hint and lifts his arms so Stiles can pull it off over his head.

The pants come fully off now, and Stiles plops back down onto the bed on his back, making grabby gestures with his hands in Derek’s direction. Derek obliges, now naked just like Stiles, and lies down next to him. Without pausing, Derek leans over and presses another kiss to Stiles’ face, sighing through his nose and letting himself sort of melt into Stiles’ skin.

Time passes. Derek strokes his fingers up and down Stiles’ bare chest, and Stiles looks up at Derek’s ceiling as the late afternoon sun starts to drift across Derek’s bedroom. Stiles blinks, and blinks, and shakes his head against the pillow. “Nothing is fixed,” he says, and Derek looks at his face. “We can’t just ignore…”

“I told you I’d take care of it,” Derek says, voice soft and not at all agitated. “I’ll talk to your father.”

“But everyone –“

“Fuck everyone.”

Stiles swallows and guesses that Derek is right, on that account. Everyone else can honestly and truly go fuck themselves for all Stiles gives a shit – Parrish and the rest of the deputies and Scott, who isn’t going to understand if Stiles tells him he and Derek are going to get back together. They can all just disappear, if they have a problem with he and Derek.

“But,” Stiles starts again, sighing. “…you never told me about –“

“It was the day you showed me your art,” Derek interrupts, and Stiles has to crane his neck to look him right in the face. He’s confused at first, but then Derek meets his eyes and smiles. Just the slightest upward curve of his lips. “When I knew you were mine. You showed me your art, and I just – I just knew.”

“Oh,” Stiles blinks, and then furrows his brow. “I thought it’d be…you know. While you were fucking me, or something.”

“I knew right then,” he shakes his head, and then leans it back into the pillows and smiles up at the ceiling. “And then it was only further solidified by how jealous I got over your crush on Parrish –“

No,” Stiles covers his eyes with his hands and just about liquefies in embarrassment. “Please stop bringing that up. He’s a family friend, now.”

“My point is, I knew then. And, yeah, I should’ve told you. But I just wanted you to…” he trails off a bit, moving his hand up and down Stiles’ chest and stomach and frowning up at the ceiling. “…I wanted things to be right before I told you, and then they only got worse. It was cowardly of me to do what I did.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees.

“I’m sorry, baby,” he says, and he’s always honest, always, so Stiles knows he means it. And, really, Stiles doesn’t have it in him to be angry, any longer. “But I want to move on from all of this.”

“You promise you’re going to talk to my dad? Even if he threatens to shoot you?”

Like he thinks it’s funny or that Stiles is fucking joking (when he seriously, seriously isn’t), Derek smiles a bit. “It’s important to you, so yes. Even if he threatens to shoot me.”

Stiles mulls it all over in his head for a moment, considering. It’s true that there’s a lot wrong with their relationship as it stands now, and even more true that a lot of what’s gone wrong has been the product of their own mistakes and shitty decisions. They never should have hid it. They should have just gone out on dates like normal people, and Derek should have come over to his father’s house with a bottle of wine and had dinner with them and showed the Sheriff how much he cares about Stiles. They should have been honest. They should have been more brave. And Derek shouldn’t have treated the entire thing the way he did, and Stiles shouldn’t have pushed Derek to lie. Derek shouldn’t have broken up with Stiles the way he did. Stiles shouldn’t have been so petty, in the wake of that.

But it doesn’t matter, now. None of it has to matter anymore.

Derek presses his nose into Stiles’ neck and breathes, taking in the scent of him. Like autumn, he had said when they first met. Cinnamon and pumpkin spice, crisp air, rain water. “You’re mine,” he says, his breath tickling Stiles’ skin. “And I’m yours. All yours.”

Their relationship was, on some level, a complete disaster. It was like a raging fire that they thought they could control, or even fight. And Derek thought he could do it in his best clothes and think no one would notice the soot all over him and Stiles thought he was just screwing around with someone and nothing would ever come of it.

Stiles tips his head back and points to his neck with his index finger, smile curling up on his face. Derek leans in without any further prodding and bites him again, sucking another mark deep into Stiles’ skin. Stiles runs his fingers up and down Derek’s back gently as he works on putting himself inside of Stiles’ skin for everyone to see.

None of it was strictly perfect. Still isn’t, as far as Stiles is concerned. But Stiles never went out looking for perfect – he wanted this, even with how much it hurt. The best things burn. They don’t tell you that.

***

Stiles reaches up to adjust Derek’s collar for the sixth time, and then leans back to give him the full once over. After a moment of assessment, he clucks his tongue and says, “you look nervous.”

Derek pulls at his collar as if it’s strangling him, once again undoing the work Stiles had put into making it look neat and presentable, and grimaces. “Do I?” Stiles doesn’t know if that’s rhetorical or not, but either way, he answers.

“You look like someone who’s about to walk the plank,” he squints his eyes and cocks his head to the side, looking him up and down. Khaki pants, a blue and white striped button down with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and nice dress shoes. He looks like the picture perfect image of exactly the kind of alpha all parents of omegas want to have walking over their threshold – which is more or less what Stiles had been going for when he picked the outfit for him. “You act like you’ve never met him before.”

Derek gives him a look. “Not in this capacity.”

“You had the balls to go to him and tell him we were going to see each other whether he liked it or not,” Stiles raises his eyebrow and smirks a bit just remembering it. That was months ago – it’s been four months since he and Derek broke up and all of that disaster happened, and only a little less than that since Derek went to the Sheriff’s house and sat him down and had a frank conversation with the man about his intentions. Even still, both Derek and Stiles’ father have been avoiding a sit down get together like this one; but the time has long since run out. “Now, dinner at his house has you terrified.”

“Terrified isn’t the word I’d use,” he says as he adjusts his collar the wrong way again. “I’m anxious.”

“Anxious.”

“Concerned,” he corrects after Stiles’ tone, and Stiles wants to laugh out loud but buries it deep down instead, mostly out of pity. “Have you ever tried telling your father that treating you like a possession of his that other alphas should be afraid to even look at –“

“Tried,” Stiles interrupts with a shrug. “He’s progressive, but not that progressive.” Some things, you just have to learn to accept. It’s insulting on eighteen different levels that his father still acts like this about alphas who come near Stiles, but what is he supposed to do? Tell him to chill? Right.

Derek makes a face at himself in the mirror across his bedroom, heaves a great big sigh. He looks absolutely and totally fucking miserable, and Stiles really does take pity on him this time as he reaches out to run his fingers through Derek’s hair and hug him around the shoulders. “Just think. In two weeks’ time you’ll get to put me through the same torture when your family comes to visit.”

“Not comparable,” Derek shakes his head and clutches his wine, using his free hand to check to make sure he’s got his keys and wallet. “My family will love you and drop adoption center pamphlets in your lap before the ring is even half on your finger.”

Stiles opens his mouth to respond, but the words Derek had just said slowly sink over him like water running down his back. He pauses, while Derek takes his keys out of his pocket and jingles them in his fingers – when Derek notices Stiles just standing there, a bit stupefied, he lifts a single brow.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you I’m going to propose to you in the next two weeks?”

“I –“ Stiles starts, and then can’t finish.

“…well, I am.” He smiles, all shiny white teeth and without a care in the world, and turns around to start walking his way toward his front door, leaving Stiles standing there with his mouth hanging open. Right as he’s about to pull on the knob, he looks over his shoulder and cocks his head to the side, almost inquisitive. “And you’re going to say yes, right?”

Stiles swallows, running a hand up and down the side of his face. “I’m going to say yes,” he says in a quiet voice, still stunned, and Derek smiles even wider.

“C’mon,” he gestures with his head. “We’re gonna be late. Your father hates it when people are late.”

**

“That wasn’t so bad,” Stiles says in the car after dinner with his father – and it actually wasn’t even half as bad as Stiles had expected it to be. He had expected at least one giant hunk of steak to go flying at someone else’s head at some point during the night, but somehow, everyone’s meat stayed on their plates and the conversation was cordial, if at times a little stilted. His father didn’t make any snide remarks about Derek’s tattoos or make comments about how age differences really catch up to people later in life; he just sat there and was as pleasant as possible, and Derek was the same.

“Not at all,” Derek looks behind him as he backs out of the driveway, eyes searching either side of the road for anyone else coming. He gets onto the main road and puts it in drive, turning the wheel and facing straight ahead again. “Especially considering I asked him for your hand while you were in the bathroom.”

If Stiles were the one driving, he’d have been slamming his foot on the brake right about now and swerving off to the side of the road. But he isn’t – so he settles on smacking Derek on the backside of his head. Derek’s reaction is a surprised laugh, which isn’t nearly as satisfying as Stiles hoped it would be. “Are you joking?” He demands, and Derek looks at him while pointing his finger up to his face.

“Do I look like I am?”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “It’s not funny.”

“I’m not joking.”

“You’re not being funny –“

Derek leans back in his seat as he slows to a stop sign and presses his hand down on his pocket, so that the outline of a small square box can easily be seen hidden underneath the fabric. Ring boxes are pretty obviously sized and shaped – and there’s not a doubt in Stiles’ mind that that’s what that is. It’s a box, with a ring in it, and Derek had brought it along to show Stiles’ father.

He looks up to Derek’s face, finds no trace of humor there whatsoever, and frowns. “So you’re just going to propose to me at some point?” He clarifies, and there’s still a hint of disbelief in his tone. “You’re not going to tell me when. You’re just going to randomly do it?”

Derek shrugs. “Gotta be the right moment.”

“I’ll remind you,” Stiles finger goes up into the air, and Derek has seen the gesture a million times and can only roll his eyes as Stiles keeps talking, “I have a bit of school left. And I’m going to be an artist, and we don’t make a lot of money there. And you’re only a cop and you don’t make that much money either. We’re going to be poor. And explain to your mother that I don’t even want kids, not for another ten years, and –“

“Are you trying to talk yourself out of getting proposed to?” Derek demands, and he doesn’t sound particularly angry. He sounds equal parts incredulous and amused, eyebrows all the way up in his hairline as he juggles between looking at Stiles and looking at the road.

Stiles leans back in his seat and crosses his arms over his chest. “Just stating the facts,” he mumbles, glaring out the window. “When’s it gonna be?”

Derek shakes his head. “Can’t tell you that.”

“This is fun for you, isn’t it?”

Derek says nothing, not a word, but the shit-eating grin that spreads across his face is answer enough.

**

After sex one night, Derek and Stiles are both lying on their backs blinking up at the ceiling in that post-orgasm haze, panting and holding each other’s hand. Derek abruptly sits up, rattling the bed a bit and startling Stiles – whose limbs are too loose and useless right now to do anything to stop him – and leans over Stiles’ prone body.

“What are you doing?” Stiles demands, pawing at Derek’s arm as it stretches over his face, reaching in the bedside table drawer for something.

“I gotta ask you a question,” Derek says, serious, as the rustling of random knick knacks fills the room. Stiles’ heart immediately flies out of his throat – because, obviously, this is it. Derek is going to propose here and now.

He’s got the ring in the knick knack drawer, the last place Stiles would ever think to look. It’s clever. It’s good. Stiles shoves Derek’s arm out of his way and sits up himself, completely revived in the face of this, and starts frantically shoving his hair down into place. He wipes across his mouth to get any residual sex juice off his face, pools the sheets around his body just right, so it looks sexy instead of haphazard and gross.

Derek comes back up with something hidden in his hand, and Stiles straightens up and has to press the back of his hand over his mouth to keep from smiling too stupidly. This is the perfect time to do it, Stiles thinks, while Derek keeps whatever is in his hand hidden, smiling at him all serene and nice. Right after sex. In bed, alone, so they can have sex all over again. They’re already naked, after all.

“Stiles,” Derek starts, looking him dead in the eyes. He reaches out, tucks some short strands of hair behind Stiles’ ear all gentle and fond, and Stiles leans into the touch and almost bursts out laughing just because he’s so excited and happy and jazzed.

Then, Derek holds his hand out, palm up, and says, “will you shut the lights off?”

Stiles stares at him. The smile slowly drops from his face, and he looks down at Derek’s palm to see…not a ring. It’s the remote that Derek uses to turn all the lights in his apartment off because he’s a lazy piece of shit that can’t be bothered to just get up and do it like a normal person apparently, and Stiles stares at it and stares and stares.

Then, he flicks Derek directly on the nose and snaps, “you’re milking this,” standing up from the bed and traipsing over to the bathroom without looking back, nose in the air.

“I need an answer, baby, please,” he calls at Stiles’ retreating back, even as Stiles is slamming the bathroom door behind him. “Will you shut the lights off?”

**

They go to the Farmers Market on a crisp December afternoon, and Stiles buys them hot cider and donuts and they sit on a picnic table out behind the ring toss game. Derek’s family is coming next week and Stiles would be lying if he didn’t say he was nervous – because Derek has a very, very large family. Which isn’t something he’s used to.

After all, it’s only ever been he and his dad for years now, and Scott only has his mother. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be bombarded with ten siblings, two parents, a whole slew of cousins, and worst of all, grandparents. The old fashioned kind who will look down their nose at Stiles for being an unruly omega leading their good, wholesome alpha boy astray. He gets anxiety panics over the entire thing, because, as everyone knows, he thinks he won’t be good enough, and they won’t like him, and they’ll think he’s too ugly or too stupid to be with Derek.

On the whole, he tries not to think about it too much. He sips his cider and listens as Derek talks about the new drama at the office – they’re rearranging the desks, and apparently even a room full of big tough alphas get petty and catty about things like that. The Sheriff tried to seat Parrish and Derek right next to each other again, mostly just out of spite Stiles would guess, and Derek apparently went bananas and threatened to walk out. Stiles wants to laugh, but Derek is taking it so seriously that he has to just nod his head and look concerned instead of amused.

At one point, Stiles is ripping apart the last pieces of his donut with his fingers, and Derek vanishes from beside him fast enough that Stiles has to turn and look to see what he’s doing.

When he does, he nearly shits his heart out of his stomach. Derek is on the ground, on one knee, and he’s holding something shiny and glittery in between two fingers. Stiles’ immediate reaction is to whip his entire body around to face him directly, so that he can commit the moment that Derek says, Stiles, will you… to memory for the rest of his life.

Then, Derek says – “there it is,” and drops the shiny thing into his palm. Upon closer inspection, Stiles can see that it’s… “…dropped my quarter.”

Stiles sits there, mouth hanging open, and then he quickly closes it and looks off somewhere like there’s an imaginary camera waiting for him. His face draws in on itself and he glares. As Derek is moving to get up, Stiles reaches over and picks up Derek’s hot cider cup – by now, it’s gone lukewarm, and there’s only a few sips left.

Stiles rips the lid off and drips the liquid down the back of Derek’s light jacket, causing the alpha to jerk and shout a laugh from the back of his throat. “Cock,” Stiles hisses, even as he’s laughing and shoving Derek while he still tries to get up. “It’s not funny.”

“It gets you every time,” Derek shakes his head as he finally manages to get up, ripping his jacket off and shaking the cider out as much as he can. Of all the types of humor that Stiles knew Derek was capable of – sarcasm, most notably – practical jokes didn’t really rank. But apparently, he has a real penchant for pulling one over on people. Who would’ve thought.

**

“Stiles,” Derek gets down on one knee in the kitchen, holding something behind his back. Stiles turns around from where he had been standing at the sink washing off green beans to help Derek cook dinner with, wet hands gripping the edge of the sink as he looks down at where Derek is on the ground. “…will you –“ he pulls his hand out from behind himself, producing a stick of butter that he waves around in the air a bit, “…butter the pan?”

“That’s it,” Stiles turns around and shuts the sink off, throwing his hands in the air. “We’re over. I’m leaving.”

Derek heckles a laugh and grabs at Stiles’ ankles as he walks, latching onto one and holding on for dear life as Stiles tries to keep trudging toward the hallway. “I can’t live if you don’t butter the pan,” Derek begs, and Stiles has half a mind to kick him directly in his fucking head.

**

The Hales apparently decide to both do a meeting of, as they keep referring to him as, The Infamous Stiles, and a family reunion in one weekend. As soon as Derek tells him this over dinner at the pizza place they had sex in the bathroom in, Stiles about chokes on his cheesy breadstick and Derek has to administer him the Heimlich while the other restaurant goers look on in worry. Stiles spits the half chewed up bread stick out on his dirty plate, and even with tears streaming down his face and Derek and half the restaurant surrounding him in worry, he chokes out, “your entire family is going to be there?”

Derek assures him it’ll be fine, his family is nice and yeah, a little overwhelming at first, but Stiles doesn’t care. He freaks out and gets so nervous he thinks he’s going to puke on the morning of. He spends an inordinate amount of time in his closet trying to pick something out that isn’t covered in paint or covered in holes and doesn’t make him look like a college student – but it’s no use.

He has no choice but to show up in his white converse his friends have scribbled all over (most notably, a giant dick that Allison drew while drunk one night), a white shirt with red paint all over the front that makes it look like he was stabbed, and a pair of holey black jeans. It’s the best he can do, and Derek says he likes it. “It’s a real representation of you,” he says in the car ride over, and Stiles stares out the window and thinks of death.

The reunion is held in the town center. It’s a quaint little shopping center with all kinds of greenery and a large courtyard that has a big babbling fountain in the middle where people throw pennies and make wishes. Stiles is most fond of this place out of anywhere else in Beacon Hills, and he gets nervous that he’ll make a complete ass of himself and taint all his favorite memories of the place in one fell swoop. As soon as Derek pulls up in the parking lot, and Stiles sees the sheer number of people milling around and all the tables set up and how much a fucking big to-do it is, he considers, very seriously, leaping out of the car and making a break for it.

Yes, Derek is a police officer he thinks to himself, while Derek climbs out and closes his door behind him. But Stiles is fast. Stiles is very fast. He could book it and be gone, in another town, and Derek wouldn’t be able to catch him.

All the same, Stiles clambers out and just stands there. His fingers twitch with the desire to start running, but he just squares his shoulders while Derek rounds the front of the car to take him by the hand. “Come on,” he says, a smile on his face like he thinks Stiles’ complete mental breakdown is fucking funny. “We’ll start with the worst and make our way down.”

“Okay,” Stiles mutters miserably, and he knows that the only reason he’s even agreed to this is because it seems particularly important to Derek that he show up and fucking do it. Just do it, he tells himself, and it’ll be over before you know it. Sure, they may hate him and look down on him and tell him directly to his face he’s not good enough for Derek, but Derek won’t care. He’s not going to care, no matter what they say about him.

They approach the party and Stiles curls into himself like a dying leaf, while Derek hunts and searches for who Stiles knows has to be his grandparents on his father’s side. Apparently, they voted for Trump. Stiles wants to eat his hands off.

In they go, and Derek must spot them, because he grips Stiles’ hand nice and tight and starts dragging him off like he’s on a mission. They walk through the crowd and some people stop and stare at him as they go, because they know that he’s Stiles and he’s the evil omega harlot who’s brainwashed their beloved family member, and Stiles tries his best to just ignore, ignore, ignore.

They come to a stop in front of a round table set with a pristine white table cloth and a pretty bouquet of fall flowers, and there sits the two oldest people Stiles thinks he’s ever seen still living. There’s also a couple of little kids at the table who barely pay them any mind, playing with crayons and barely looking at the food that’s in front of them.

“Derek!” The older woman greets, voice all watery and grave, and Stiles plasters the fakest smile on his face he can manage.

“Nice to see you, Meemaw.”

Meemaw, Stiles thinks to himself. He snorts a laugh before he can stop himself, and then everyone is looking at him. Derek gives him that look. That are you kidding me look. And Stiles’ smile immediately fades and he clears his throat, shaking his head and pretending he just had a cough.

“This is your young man,” she gestures to Stiles, while the man Stiles can only presume to be Peepaw or whatever the male equivalent to that name would be glares daggers at him. Then, Meemaw stares at him for several suspended seconds of time, down her glasses, eyeing him up and down. From the penis on his shoes to the red paint on his shirt to the gel in his hair. “There aren’t a lot of suitable omegas in Beacon Hills, I take it.”

“Wow,” Stiles says, eyes going big as he hisses a laugh and looks between her and Derek again and again. Derek palms his face and mutters worst first, like I said under his breath, and Stiles just says wowwww again, more drawn out.

“Stiles is Sheriff Stilinski’s son. My boss.”

Meemaw has apparently checked out of the conversation. She sips her coffee and looks pointedly away from both Stiles and Derek, and Stiles turns to Derek with this look of frozen amusement on his face. Derek pats Stiles on the back, shrugs, and says, “nice to see you,” again, before taking Stiles by the wrist and leading him away from the table altogether.

“She was there, wasn’t she?” Stiles asks, looking over his shoulder at where the old woman is still sitting and sipping. “The Great Depression. Vietnam. She’s seen it all.”

“Okay,” Derek pats Stiles on the back again.

“Back in my day,” Stiles starts, an obnoxious voice on, like a cartoon, “our omegas dressed in burlap sacks and only spoke when spoken to.”

“You’re joking,” Derek tells him, leading him through the crowd, “but at the same time, there’s a kernel of truth.”

“Tell me what her expression was when you told her you were minoring in omega studies.”

“She doesn’t know about that. God willing, she’ll die before the topic ever comes up.”

They mingle some more. Stiles meets Derek’s cousins on his mother’s side, who are very nice, and then Stiles’ parents, and his siblings, and everyone shakes Stiles’ hand and asks him where he learned to paint, and on and on. One thing that Stiles begins to notice as the afternoon wears on is that there aren’t very many omegas in the Hale family – there are a few, teenaged and too young to really stick out, but the vast majority of them all are alphas, Derek’s immediate family most notably. Laura and Cora and the whole slew of other girls – apparently, Derek is the only male in a sibling pool of nine, which is insane – they’re all alphas. Derek’s parents are both alphas. Which makes sense, in a way. Derek came from those roots, and he’s a pretty solid alpha – but then Stiles wonders where he got the inspiration to focus on omega studies from.

Stiles gets himself some punch and stands over by the fountain, hand in his pocket, while Derek talks to a couple of his younger cousins about what it’s like being a police officer in a small town. Stiles listens with one ear, mostly because he and Derek have already talked about this particular topic among themselves quite a bit and he’s heard all Derek has to say for it already.

He Stands there and sips, still feeling horribly out of place and relatively unwelcome in spite of the overwhelming majority of Derek’s family being very nice and friendly towards him. Derek introduces him as an artist and says he’s very talented, and most people ooh and ahh and say they’d love to come to a show of his sometime, invite us down, we’ll come, and Stiles blushes and shrugs – they’re nice people, for the most part. But Stiles still feels like an outsider, uncomfortable with a family so large.

Stiles is just taking another big sip of his punch and wishing it were alcoholic, glugging it down and barely tasting it – when the big white dog that Derek introduced to Stiles as Marshmallow comes barreling straight for Stiles at a high velocity, dragging his leash behind himself. Stiles can just make out the dark ponytail of Laura Hale, the dog’s owner and Derek’s older sister, bobbing through the crowd as she tries to chase Marshmallow down and catch him before he does something truly unsavory, but it’s too late.

All animals seem to have a particular penchant for liking omegas. Must be something about not being particularly threatening, as opposed to the way alphas are. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that Marshmallow dives right at Stiles and tackles him with a happy bark, even while Derek whips around and tries to keep it from happening, and Stiles staggers back.

He stumbles, the back of his legs hit the edge of the fountain, and down he goes into the water with a resounding splash. He descends down into the shallow waves among the pennies, thousands upon thousands of them, and there are bubbles in the water from Marshmallow kicking his feet and bounding around in the stuff, happy as a clam.

Stiles comes out of the water on a big breath and hears Laura’s voice interchanging between scolding her dog and offering copious apologies in Stiles’ name. Stiles sits there, dripping wet in the water knowing his shirt has gone see through, and just blinks. The entire congregation is looking at him, sitting like a drowned rat in the fountain, and it hits him.

This is the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to him. This is exactly what he was afraid of happening from the start. The cup that his punch had been in is floating around in the waves that Marshmallow and Laura had made in their struggle, and he watches it and thinks about drowning himself.

He uses his hands to push himself up into a standing position in the water, and it only gets more humiliating as he drips huge gobs of water back down into the fountain, loud and grabbing even more people’s attention. He stands there, shivering and wet, and crosses his arms over his chest.

Derek hops onto the edge of the fountain, and Stiles looks at him and chatters his teeth. Laura is still apologizing, and Derek looks at him, this tiny little smile on his face, and Marshmallow barks happily in Laura’s arms. He’s still kicking his wet paws in Stiles’ direction like all he wants is Stiles’ attention, and Stiles is just about to wade his way over to Derek and demand to be taken home before the humiliation can get any worse. Then, before Stiles can say anything about it, Derek jumps bodily into the fountain, belly first, flopping down into the water with a huge splash.

Stiles staggers back, surprised, and when Derek’s head comes up above the water Stiles looks down at him, still chattering his teeth. Derek looks a lot better wet than Stiles does, even with his hair pressed flat against his skull, which isn’t surprising at all. “What are you doing?” Stiles asks, hugging himself tighter.

“Now we’re both wet,” he shrugs, and in this moment, with Derek’s entire family watching them and everyone seeing them both look like complete idiots – Stiles is sure that he’s in love with Derek. Even with his crazy Meemaw and his absurdly large family and the lack of fucking alcohol they provide, Stiles has never been more sure of anything in his life.

“Come on,” Stiles says, bending down to give Derek his hand. “We’re tainting other people’s wishes and dreams.” He gestures to the pennies all around them, and Derek looks down and raises his eyebrows like he forgot they were there.

Then, he looks up, looks at Stiles’ offered hand, and smiles huge and white.

He ignores Stiles’ hand, and instead props himself up in the water. Before Stiles can fully react to it, he sets himself up on one knee, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a soaking wet black box. “Stiles,” he starts, and Stiles just stands there all wet and shaking and says nothing, not a word – he knows, somehow intrinsically, that it’s not a joke this time. Derek opens the box and the ring is there, and it’s better than Stiles could have imagined it – and trust that Stiles has spent a lot of time in the last couple of weeks imagining it. “Will you marry me?”

Stiles laughs. He bursts out into hysterical laughter, his entire body shaking with it, and it echoes off the tops of the trees and around the buildings in the courtyard – everyone is standing there staring and watching, and Stiles doesn’t care. As far as he’s concerned it’s just him and Derek in the water, with all the glittering pennies with sunlight bouncing off their faces, the babble of the fountain around them. He nods his head, still laughing. “Yeah,” he says, physically unable to stop smiling. “Yes, yes, yes.”

Derek stands up all the way, still clutching the ring box in his hand, and Stiles immediately lunges at him and wraps his arms around Derek’s neck, holding on for dear life. “I told you,” Derek says into his neck, quiet enough that no one else could hear. “I was waiting for the perfect moment.”

“I hate you,” Stiles tells him with absolutely no venom.

“I love you, too,” Derek tells him. They pull apart, and Derek looks him in his face while his family is cheering and clapping for them, and they just smile at each other for a minute. It’s unbelievable – this moment is real, and Stiles can barely even believe it’s happening to him. “I really, really want a green tea shot right now.”

“Same,” Stiles says.

“You wanna go?” Derek jerks his head in the direction of where the car is parked.

“Yes,” he says, letting Derek take both of his hands to gently guide him toward the edge of the fountain. They climb onto the stone, dripping heavy drops onto the sidewalk and the surrounding bushes, and then plop down onto the ground together and just start walking. There are dozens upon dozens of people here, most of them trying to talk to them or get their attention at the very least – but for the moment, it’s like no one else is there except for them, and they just keep going. Back to Derek’s car, to be alone.

Stiles never thought that things would end up this way when they first met. He just wanted to lose his virginity for the sake of saying he’d done it before. There was no possible way he could have ever thought that almost a year down the line, he and Derek would be engaged, and Derek would have mated him, and now Stiles can’t really picture his life without Derek.

And, yeah, Stiles’ dad still relatively hates Derek on principle alone because of everything that happened and Stiles is still a massively unforgivable slut and there are entire parts of the story on how they met that they’ll have to leave out whenever anyone asks. Still, Stiles wouldn’t change anything.

“I can’t believe you jumped in after me,” Stiles says when they’re safe inside Derek’s car, untying his shoes and shucking them off his feet in the foot well.

Derek looks at him for a second, and when Stiles looks back, he catches Derek eyeballing the ring on Stiles’ finger particularly hard – almost like he can’t believe it’s there at all. “I’ll be jumping in after you for the rest of our lives,” he says, and smiles. “I’ll follow you anywhere.”

Stiles twists the ring around on his finger and ducks his head to hide the look on his face – dopey and stupid, he’s sure. “We are gonna be so poor.”

“If it comes down to it, we can pawn that ring,” Derek says with a shrug, and Stiles just about breaks his wrist in his haste to shield the ring from Derek’s gaze. It’s too nice to give away or sell; it’s Stiles’ now, forever and ever.

“We’ll sell your stupid car first.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Whatever you say.”

Stiles sits in the passenger seat quietly for some time, and as he watches their surroundings go by, he knows that Derek is driving them to the bar that they first met each other in. Stiles hasn’t been back to that place since, and he doubts that Derek has either. It’s not the kind of spot either of them would frequent; they just…wound up there, and found each other there, somehow, someway.

As he turns the ring around and around on his finger some more, he smiles a bit to himself and takes in a deep breath. “You know, before we met, I couldn’t even barely speak to alphas.”

Derek looks at him for a moment, and then faces the road. “What?”

“I was a virgin because alphas terrified me and I’d make a fool of myself trying to talk to them.”

What?” Derek is incredulous, half a laugh bubbling out of his throat.

Stiles just nods and looks out the window. “Yeah. I watched these videos on youtube, like, self-help videos –“

“Oh, my God.”

“…obsessively. This girl pretty much coached me into fucking you and then dating you, and I’ve never even met her. It was essentially Dating for Dummies. I went to all these mixers because I wanted a lay, and I bungled almost all of them. I wound up in the hospital once, and I was…” he shrugs his shoulders, mostly to himself. “…I was really lonely. I thought I was some freak who’d never be able to connect with someone. The way I acted that night we met, just out of nowhere asking you to have sex with me…I don’t know if that’s really me.”

Derek is quiet for a moment, and when Stiles has the guts to turn to look at him directly, he finds that there’s a contemplative expression on his face. “Evidently, it is. You never told me any of that.”

“Well, I was embarrassed,” Stiles admits. “I was really embarrassed and I still feel stupid about it, sometimes, but man. Imagine if Scott had never pressured me into going to mixers, and imagine if I’d never seen those flyers in my art building, and imagine if I didn’t go to that one bar that one night at the exact time you were there.”

“We’d have met some other way,” Derek says this like he’s sure of it, positive, has never been more certain of anything in his life, and Stiles blinks. “I was waiting for you. I didn’t know it, but I was.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, and his voice cracks. They pull up to the bar, and it’s daylight still, and it looks so different now. Stiles is a different person. Derek might be, too. “Let’s have sex in the bathroom here to make our relationship full circle.”

“Yup,” Derek pops his door open, and Stiles smirks at him and follows suit.

Then, they’re not really that different.