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By The Beautiful Sea

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“Dude, you’re gonna have to come out here. Like, as soon as possible,” Stiles said with all the vehemence he could muster when his phone was slowly slipping further and further from where it was squeezed between his cheek and his shoulder, jostled by every hurried step he took. “I’m telling you, this town may be small and boring as fuck, but it’s got the best ice cream on the goddamn planet and one scoop will totally be worth a day trip out here.”

“A day trip where I’ll spend ten hours of that day driving?” Scott asked, not sounding enthused. “It’s five hours there and five hours back! Do you know how much studying I could get done in that time?”

Stiles started to roll his eyes, but he’d always been an exaggerated eye-roller so he had to abort that mission before his phone took a dive for real. His hands abandoned their quest for the wallet he couldn’t seem to grab hold of in his messenger bag in order to save the aforementioned phone. His eyes finally caught on that blessed candy-striped awning across the street and his feet automatically carried him off the sidewalk and into the path of an oncoming car, which honked at him repeatedly. Stiles didn’t even slow down, but he did offer the driver an apologetic wave as he passed in front of them.

“A weekend trip, then,” he said to Scott. “Seriously, man. Worth it. This ice cream is nirvana in a waffle cone. Your professors will understand if they have any human decency in their hearts.”

“I don’t know, bro,” Scott said with a sigh. “Summer semester is kicking my ass. It’s all the same info as the regular semester, just crammed into even fewer weeks. I really don’t know if I can afford to wast—”

The tinkle of the bell above the door was a choir of angels in Stiles’ ear. The little ice cream parlor smelled of heavenly sugary goodness and he was already drooling. He’d only found this place two days ago when he’d elected to wander the little seaside town alone instead of follow his dad out on the dinky fishing boat owned by one of his dad’s old army buddies, but even just two days had proved more than enough to get him addicted.

Midafternoon on a Tuesday in July apparently wasn’t the premium time for ice cream because the place only had a few people in it, at least compared to how busy it had been on Sunday, but Stiles still had to get in line. He bounced on the balls of his feet, leaning around the lady in front of him to peer through the glass-fronted case. He almost had a heart attack when it looked like the tub of salt water taffy ice cream was empty, but as he inched closer he saw there was a bit left in there right at the bottom.

His sigh of relief must have been audible because suddenly Scott was saying, “You’re not paying any attention to me at all, are you?”

“What?” Stiles said immediately. “Psh! Sure I am!”

“You were drooling over the ice cream and ignoring me completely.”

Stiles offered up his only excuse: “It’s really fucking delicious ice cream, Scott. Totally worth drooling over.”

The bell over the door tinkled again, competing with Scott’s groan of exasperation, and Stiles glanced over his shoulder at the newcomers. Then he had to do a double-take. He had to; people that beautiful deserved to be looked at twice.

They resembled each other closely enough that they were probably siblings, a man and a woman with the exact same flawless bone structure and piercing light eyes and glorious dark hair, though the man had an even more glorious layer of stubble to match. Both in black leather jackets and boots, they looked like they could crush him under their heels with a smile while a dramatic wind blew and cameras flashed all around.

“Speaking of things worth drooling over…” Stiles muttered, a little breathless.

“Are you talking about a person?” Scott asked immediately, proving once more that he knew Stiles far too well. “Did a hot person just walk in? Is it a guy or a girl this time?”

Stiles was about to say both, but then the beautiful be-stubbled man lifted his head and their eyes locked. Well, they didn’t really lock for long. It was more of a passing glance, honestly, but it was enough to make Stiles squeak a bit in a very embarrassing fashion and then whirl around to face the front of the line.

“I know that squeak!” Scott cried, sounding obnoxiously schadenfreudenistic. “That’s the a-hot-person-looked-at-me-and-now-I’m-blushing squeak!”

“You know what, pal?” Stiles said, just as the lady in front of him got her change and moved out of the way. “Just for that, even if you do make it out for a visit, I’m not gonna bring you here. You don’t deserve ice cream.”

He hung up on Scott’s dismayed “What? Oh, come on!” and stepped up to the counter to place his order. In accordance with his previous estimation, there was just enough of the salt water taffy flavor left for one scoop. As the server scraped the bottom of the tub, the stunningly gorgeous woman behind Stiles let out a disappointed noise.

“Aw, no!” she said. “Der, they’re out of your favorite!”

Her presumed brother—clearly named Der or some variation thereupon—didn’t say anything, but another glance over his shoulder had Stiles squeaking for an entirely different reason because the dude sort of looked furious now and he was a little bit terrifying. He obviously took his ice cream very seriously and did not appreciate having it ordered out from under him.

Since apparently he was a horrible, horrible ice cream thief, Stiles deemed it prudent to pay for his scoop and vacate the building as quickly as possible. At least the woman didn’t glare at him as he skirted around them, instead quirking her lips up into a friendly half-grin and winking at him. Stiles might have tripped over his feet at that point, but he thought stumbling was a pretty reasonable reaction when a person that attractive winked at him.

Stiles made it out of the shop without embarrassing himself any further and collapsed on the little wooden bench outside the storefront. It was hot and breezy and shaded here. The air all around him smelled like sea salt. He had nowhere he needed to be for hours. People he didn’t know smiled and waved at him as they walked past. And of course, he had icy goodness in his hand, ready to be consumed. All in all, it was a pretty beautiful setup and he wouldn’t mind getting used to it, at least for a few weeks.

The ice cream was every bit as delicious as he remembered and his moan might have been a tiny bit pornographic. He closed his eyes and leaned back, just letting the flavors settle on his tongue and linger there for as long as possible. Every taste deserved at least ten seconds of dedicated appreciation and he was determined to give them that, even though the scoop was already starting to melt and drip down the cone to make his fingers all sticky. Totally worth it.

He was maybe halfway done when he heard a distinctly canine whine. He opened his eyes to find a humongous black dog right in front of him. The thing was so big he almost dropped his precious cone out of surprise, fumbling to keep hold of it at the last second. The dog just watched him, settled on its haunches with its head cocked to the side and ears perked up. It whined again.

“Hey there...very large dog,” Stiles said cautiously. Despite its size, it didn’t seem aggressive or anything. Not even when it let its tongue fall out and there were some extremely sharp teeth on display. It almost looked friendly like that. “What is it, boy? You lost or something?”

Another whine, then a yip. Stiles pulled back on instinct when the dog shuffled closer to him, large paws stepping on top of his shoes and warm fur brushing against his shins. That giant muzzle leaned in even more, nose twitching right above Stiles’ ice cream cone as he sniffed. Stiles spent a few seconds looking back and forth between his cone and those big blue puppy eyes in disbelief.

“You want my ice cream?” he asked slowly.

The dog yipped again, head moving up and down in almost seemed like a nod. Jesus, it was a big dog. It almost looked more like a wolf. Not that Stiles really knew what actual wolves looked like in person, but he was reasonably sure one of the most important differences between them and domesticated dog breeds was size. This one’s tongue was probably as long as his waffle cone was, hanging out to drip drool on the bench.

Reluctantly, Stiles tipped his cone forward, forfeiting his precious ice cream. The dog perked up considerably at the offer, fluffy tail suddenly wagging behind him, and with one sweep of that enormous tongue, the rest of the scoop was gone.

“The whole thing?” Stiles asked, dismayed. “You couldn’t just take one lick or something? It’s not like I can go in and buy another one. Not only are they all out for the day, but I also only have so much pocket money to make it through this stupid vacation. Most of it’s gonna get spent here when I come back every single day for more delicious ice cream, but it won’t be worth it if somebody steals all my ice cream before I get to enjoy it!”

The dog’s tail kept wagging, completely undeterred by Stiles’ scolding. In fact, as soon as Stiles was finished talking, it leaned in again and took half the waffle cone out of his hand with a chomp.

“Hey!”

Stiles couldn’t even be properly mad though because in the next second, there was a heavy paw in his lap and a big scratchy tongue on the side of his face. Stiles might have flailed a little tiny bit in panic at first, half expecting he was gonna go the way of the cone and have to wait for a woodsman with an axe to rescue him and granny, but then he realized that he was not being eaten. Just licked. All over. In an affectionate sort of way.

“Okay, okay! Down, boy!” He could barely get the words out through his laughter. The enormous overgrown puppy was nothing if not enthusiastic and it took some doing for Stiles to fight his way to the surface of the unexpected tongue bath he was receiving. “Jeez, it was just some ice cream. I mean, I know it was the good stuff, but I don’t know if it was worth all that.

The dog evidently did not agree, considering he immediately set out lapping at Stiles’ fingers, the ones all sticky with melted ice cream and still holding the last of the cone.

“Is this stuff even safe for dogs?” Stiles mused. “Can dogs have taffy? Does taffy-flavored ice cream actually have any real taffy in it? You know, I’ve never actually had real taffy? That stuff seems like it would get stuck in your teeth and make a mess. It can’t be good for your dental health. I bet dentists make a killing in places like this.”

The dog stopped licking his head long enough to look up at him and tilt his head to the side, giving off a distinct air of judgment, like he thought Stiles was asking stupid questions. Or maybe Stiles was just projecting Scott’s usual reactions onto a dog because he hadn’t spent a summer apart from Scott since they were seven and he didn’t know how to function without his best friend. Either way, it made him smile.

He smiled even harder when the dog didn’t snap at him or shy away when he reached out to pet. Stiles rubbed at the top of its head, scratched behind its ears, buried his fingers in the thick ruff of dark fur around its neck. Before long the dog was leaning its whole weight against Stiles’ legs, its head resting in his lap and tail still wagging gently.

Even if being pinned down by all that fur and muscle was stupidly hot in the summer weather, Stiles was pretty content to just sit there and pet his random new dog friend for a while. He looked down the street, intending to do some quality people-watching, and caught sight of the woman from the ice cream line. She was sitting at an outdoor table for what might’ve been a cafe on the other side of the street. She was alone now, no equally intimidatingly attractive brother in sight.

And she was staring at Stiles. Well, no, probably not. Women like that did not stare at Stiles, but all girls loved dogs, didn’t they? This one had her chin propped up in her hand and a huge smile on her face, so chances were she was just really excited about the gigantic puppy that had taken up residence in Stiles’ lap. She waved when she noticed that Stiles had caught her watching him, and Stiles waved awkwardly back at her like the awkward person he was.

By the time the dog stood up, gave itself a shake, and trotted off after one more lick to Stiles’ face, the woman had disappeared too.

 

 


 

 

Maybe the dog just lived in that part of town. Maybe it was a normal thing for small, quaint towns like this to have communal pets that everyone knew and took care of. The dog didn’t have a collar or a tag or anything, and Stiles never saw it react to anyone like they might be its owner. And yet, every time Stiles came to the shop and sat down on the bench with his ice cream, the dog would be right there. It would sit at Stiles’ feet and wait for Stiles to eat at least half of his scoop before edging closer, whining and looking pitiful until Stiles gave in and let him have the rest.

It was probably a strange routine for a usually very socially-oriented teenage boy such as himself to settle on for his summer break, but Stiles found that he looked forward to these odd little moments. He could spend an hour at a time just petting the dog and talking to it, rambling on and on about nothing in particular, letting his thoughts run away with him the way most people got tired of after a few minutes. It was nice to have someone who would listen patiently, blinking up at him with those big blue eyes, happy to stay for as long as Stiles would keep petting him. Somehow that was worth losing half his precious ice cream every day.

He kept seeing that woman too. After a few days and one near-collision on the way out of the shop, he learned that her name was Laura. And her brother, she volunteered apropos of nothing, was Derek. Derek was as obsessed with this ice cream parlor as Stiles was, she said, and his favorite flavor was also the salt water taffy. She even made sure to assure Stiles that Derek hadn’t been mad about Stiles getting the last scoop the other day.

When Stiles had asked why he hadn’t seen Derek at the shop again if he was such a regular customer there, she had just laughed.

“Oh, he’s around,” she’d said, blue eyes sparkling with good humor. “Can’t seem to stay away lately.”

Something about her tone had piqued Stiles’ interest, but he had no idea what she might have meant by that. Laura had sat at the cafe again that day and several times since then, sneaking glances at Stiles and the dog over her the edge of her kindle and hiding smiles behind her hand. It was a little weird, but Stiles couldn’t quite bring himself to care when he had a tummy full of ice cream and a lap full of happy puppy.

 

 


 

 

Two and a half weeks into his vacation, Stiles finally succeeded in nagging Scott into joining him for a weekend. They were on a filler chapter, Scott said, one of those with lots of repeat concepts and little quizzes instead of the more challenging content that he actually needed to review, and he could afford to blow off some steam. And, of course, experience the glory of the ice cream his best friend could not stop raving about.

“It had better be fucking orgasmic for how much you’ve built this up,” Scott warned as he trotted along in Stiles’ wake. He was much more successful at weaving through traffic, though, only earning himself two honks to Stiles’ seven. Stiles still maintained that the fancy werewolf reflexes were cheating and he should be afforded at least three extra honks as a penalty just to make things fair.

“Man, you have no idea. Hurry up, will you? They run out of the good flavors if you come in too late!”

Thankfully, they were just early enough for there to be two scoops’ worth of salt water taffy left. Stiles paid because this was his treat and he was a good friend like that, and the two of them plopped down on Stiles’ favorite bench to eat. When Scott moaned loudly in appreciation at the first bite, Stiles did not hesitate to pump the air in triumph, which earned him a shove that nearly knocked him off the bench completely.

Finally feeling like all was right in the world now that Scott was by his side, Stiles settled back to bask in the moment. It was almost perfect. The only thing missing was—

There was the familiar whine, right on time!

“Hey, buddy,” Stiles said, automatically reaching out to pet as the dog came trotting up to nose at his knee. “Scott, this is the dog I was telling you about. The one that loves me? Or at least loves my ice cream? Look at this giant fluff-ball! I told you he was huge, didn’t I? I’ve never seen a dog this big.”

“That’s not a dog.”

Scott’s face, when Stiles looked up at him, was twisted up in confusion, or maybe horror. He was staring at the dog like he’d rolled in something gross, but Stiles didn’t smell anything funky. Across the street, Laura set her kindle down on the little round table she was sat at and propped her chin in her hands again, watching them unabashedly. Stiles waved to her before turning back to his best friend.

“What do you mean, it’s not a dog?” he asked. “Kinda funny-looking for a cat.”

“Looks just right for a werewolf.”

What?

Stiles was not proud of how high-pitched that exclamation was, but he thought he could be forgiven the unmanly shriek considering the circumstances. When he looked down, the maybe-dog was hunkered down on its stomach, its ears pinned back against its head, its eyes wide and wary and fixed on Scott.

“How would you know?” Stiles stammered.

Scott rolled his eyes impatiently. “Stiles, I’m a werewolf too. And a vet. I’m pretty sure I know the difference between a dog, a real wolf, and a full-shift werewolf.”

“You can’t do a full-shift!”

“Doesn’t mean I don’t recognize it when I see it,” Scott argued. “And that is totally a werewolf you’re petting right now.”

The werewolf in question immediately dislodged Stiles’ hand with a shake of his shaggy head, turned tail, and took off at a run, disappearing down the nearest alley.

Stiles mouthed silently after it for a few seconds, scrambling to readjust his worldview to accommodate the new information he had just been given. His ice cream was melting, dripping down over his fingers. Across the street, Laura had her hand over her mouth and her shoulders were shaking with how hard she was laughing. And, of fucking course, that’s why she had thought the whole situation was so funny! Clearly she had known the whole time and just hadn’t seen fit to tell him, the traitor.

“Hey, wait a minute!” With a bolt of comprehension, Stiles leapt to his feet to point an accusing finger at her and then at the alleyway. “Is that your brother? Is that why I haven’t seen him around when you keep saying he comes here every day?”

Laura was laughing too hard to answer him, but she managed to nod. She flapped a hand in the direction her brother had gone, which seemed to indicate that she thought Stiles should follow him. He only hesitated for a few seconds before complying, leaving Laura and a snickering Scott behind.

Stiles rounded the corner into the alleyway just in time to see Derek, back in human form, pulling his leather jacket over biceps too muscular for words. And yet despite how amazingly fit and intimidating the man was, he still managed to look alarmed and almost scared when he caught sight of Stiles, like he expected Stiles to shout at him or call the cops on him for his deception and ice cream thievery.

Instead Stiles just came to a stop in front of him, shrugged, holding his arms out wide, and said, “Dude. What the hell?”

Derek opened his mouth, but no sound came out, so he closed it again.

“Did you seriously pretend to be a stray dog just because I got the last scoop of your favorite ice cream and you needed the cute factor to get me to give it to you?” Stiles asked. “Because look, seriously, you don’t need any extra cute factor. Your face does all the work there.”

Derek’s eyebrows shot up like he was actually taken aback by that comment, as if he didn’t know how freaking beautiful he was. Or maybe he’d just never been called “cute” before instead of things like “devastatingly handsome” or “too physically flawless to exist in real life”. He still didn’t say anything though, and Stiles was left shifting awkwardly on his feet and searching for words. He was suddenly very conscious of the ice cream he was still holding, pathetically soupy now and making a total mess of his fingers.

Fingers that Derek had licked clean, good lord. That engendered a whole different set of feelings now that he knew it was an extremely attractive man that had done that instead of an affectionate stray. Stiles’ cheeks went all hot, which meant he was blushing, and he had to clear his throat twice before he could speak again.

“So, uh...all this time…” he started, not sure what he was even trying to get at. Derek had been so much easier to talk to in that other form. “Was it just for the ice cream?” he settled on. “I mean, clearly it started that way. You just really wanted that last scoop and I had it. But then you kept coming back. You let me pet you and talk you to death every day. Even my dad doesn’t want to hear me talk that much.”

“I like the way you talk.”

Derek looked as surprised by his own statement as Stiles felt. His eyes went wide for a second before he ducked his head, and he stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket like he didn’t know what else to do with them.

A slow smile spread across Stiles’ face. “Yeah?”

“You’re funny,” Derek said. His voice was softer than Stiles would’ve expected, less harsh than all the black leather and stubble would suggest. “You tell good stories. I like the way you think.”

“You like scratches behind the ears too,” Stiles pointed out, and Derek’s cheeks went pink.

“I’m sorry,” he said haltingly. “I just wanted the ice cream at first, but then you were so… You were nice and friendly and you liked me. People always like me more in that form.”

The last remnants of Stiles irritation over the whole situation disappeared in an instant. Derek didn’t look half as intimidating now as he had when Stiles had first seen him, all scowly and whatnot. The guy was just like his wolf form: a giant fluff-ball with big scary teeth he had no intention of actually using.

“Well, if you’re as good a listener human as you are all wolf-ified, then I think I’ll like you just fine as you are,” Stiles said.

Derek smiled just a little bit and it was breathtaking. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, dude. Hell, you could’ve come up to me human and asked to share my ice cream and I totally would’ve let you,” Stiles told him.

Derek’s eyes fell to the ice cream in question. It was mostly just a puddle by now and the poor waffle cone was soaked and soggy.

“It’s making a mess,” he pointed out.

“Yeah…” Stiles brought his hand up to his mouth in time to catch a drip on his tongue; even melted, it was still tasty. “Usually I don’t have to worry about this. See, I’ve had this dog around. Big sweet puppy, very cuddly, lots of licks. Better than any napkin!”

Derek’s hand—wide, warm, calloused hand that Stiles decided he was already enamored with—closed around Stiles’ wrist. Suddenly Derek was much closer, stepping into his space until there were only a few inches between them, and Stiles’ breath caught in his chest.

“I can still help you with that,” Derek said lowly. “If you want.”

Stiles nodded frantically. Derek tugged the waffle cone out of his hand and tossed it aside, which normally Stiles would protest but now he was far too concerned with the way Derek’s lips wrapped around his forefinger. Derek’s tongue as a human was very different from the wolf version, and the wolf version had certainly never sent hot shivers all the way down Stiles’ spine to make his knees go weak. He was pretty sure he was panting in what was probably an unappealing way, but Derek just moved on to the next finger, slowly and carefully licking every trace of the sticky melted ice cream from Stiles’ skin.

By the time he had chased down every last drop, his lips were wet and red and Stiles was more turned on than he had ever been in his entire life without any actual sexual contact happening first. When Derek looked up at him slowly, almost hesitant now like he wasn’t sure if he had been too forward or crossed a line or something, Stiles gave in to the overwhelming urge to kiss him. His lips tasted like taffy, only so much better.

They broke apart gasping for breath. Stiles had to laugh, just a little bit, and said, “You can do that anytime.”

Derek rolled his eyes. He didn’t let go of where he’d wrapped an arm around Stiles’ waist though, for which Stiles was eternally grateful because his legs almost certainly would not support his weight right now. He was about to dive back in for more of those sweet, sweet, cream flavored kisses, but a loud groan from behind interrupted him.

“No, Stiles!” Scott said, stern and unimpressed. “You told me a long time ago that if you ever tried to have trashy back alley sex, it was my responsibility to save you from yourself.”

“Yeah, Derek,” Laura said, smug and eminently amused. “Very trashy. What would mom think?”

Derek let his forehead fall onto Stiles’ shoulder with a groan of his own. Stiles patted the back of his head comfortingly and said, “You guys are such assholes. You’re paying for lunch.”

“Lunch?” Derek asked, lifting his head to raise an eyebrow at him.

“Well, I didn’t get my snack,” Stiles reminded him, thumbing at the discarded waffle cone. “So now I’m hungry. And if we can’t have trashy alley sex, then we better be getting some quality food instead. The assholes are paying because they’re assholes. Wait, no!” he said, twisting around in Derek’s arms to point accusatorily again. “Laura is paying for all of us because she knew it was you the whole time and didn’t tell me. She just laughed about it instead of wingmanning for you like a good sister should!”

“Oh, come on, it was hilarious,” Laura protested. “And adorable. And clearly it all worked out because I stayed out of it, so I think I deserve some credit for not meddling like I could have.”

“You can have all the credit you want,” Stiles said, “as long as it’s your credit card that pays for my lunch.” He took Derek’s hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “Come on, you. You’ve been listening to me babble about myself for weeks. Now it’s your turn.”

Derek let Stiles tow him back up the alley and into the bright sunlight. The others fell in on either side of them, Scott bitching half-heartedly about how his vacation had suddenly turned into an exercise in third-wheeling while Laura poked Derek in the side repeatedly and threatened to tell their mom again.

Derek’s hand in his and Scott’s arm around his shoulders was the happiest Stiles had been in probably ever. With the sun beating down on them, salt on the breeze, laughter all around, and the lingering taste of sugar on his lips, it was pretty goddamn perfect. Yeah, he could totally get used to this.