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THAT BOMBED

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Any day where Derek was able to find an empty table outside the Starbucks within a one block radius of any newspaper office, wasn’t just a good day, it bordered on spectacular. Early summer in New York meant it was just hot enough to get something iced (almond milk latte, the company recently switched to a new soy product that was far subpar), but not so hot to avoid the outside tables.

There was a bird singing somewhere. Derek tried not to identify where from, because in a city like New York the most probable two locations were: a cage or someone’s TV, but if he didn’t know for certain, he could imagine it might be in a tree. The only problem with that being that there weren’t any trees. There was a street light, the city’s tree, currently home to a messenger bike being victimized by a pitbull relieving itself over the pedals.

He glanced at his watch, deciding to give himself another ten minutes before heading in for his meeting, which was less of a meeting and more of a surprise encounter. Reporters were difficult to get information from no matter what, there was no reason to let Maurice arm herself further by telling her he was going to be showing up asking questions. Ten minutes to enjoy his cool drink, the heat of the sun, the (probably fake) bird singing, avoid the scent of dog piss eight feet away from--

The explosion of noise, whoomping impact of air, and soft thuds of debris happened, relatively, at the same time. It wasn’t enough to knock him from his seat, but startling enough that he leapt to his feet, the cold liquid of his almond milk latte dripping over his knuckles from the crumbled cup in his tightened grip. People were screaming, running down the street despite the relative lack of damage Derek could make out through the thick cover of dust and particles of concrete clouding the air.

Dropping his mostly empty cup into the trashcan on the sidewalk, he pulled his leather satchel over his head and moved across the street, toward the masses of people streaming out the undamaged from doors of the NY Daily News offices. From the looks of it, the explosion had occurred on the second floor, and by looks, he meant there was a massive hole in the side of the building where a window used to be. In a sense, there was still a window, just not a very traditional one.

He could probably make the ledge if he jumped, his pants weren’t that tight.

He was also in the middle of crowds of employees streaming out of the building and, because this was New York, no doubt more than half a dozen of the bystanders too close to be considered safe were filming the event on their phones. He didn’t need another allusion to Superman surfacing on the internet that luckily had zoomed in on his ass and not his face.  So, it was the front door and fighting the crowds to get up the stairs to the second floor for Derek.

It probably said something about his life that Derek not only felt confident walking through the smoke and sparks for a building post recent explosion, but that he could also determine that the damage wasn’t extensive and the danger of further degradation or damage was less than likely. He'd spent a lot of time learning about structural integrity in his early 20s. Approaching the site of the blast, the air became thicker, parching his throat and coating his tongue. Nothing that a glass of water wouldn’t take care of once he made sure everybody was out. For the most part, it looked like that was going to happen, and without any assistance.

Across the bullpen of cubicles, he could see the site of the explosion. An office against the far wall, the glass front of it, and the offices on either side, shattered--others with thick, dangerous spiderwebs crawling across the glass. Combing through the the maze of cubicles, he stumbled, almost literally, on the sprawled legs of a not entirely unconscious man, more dazed than not, bleeding from the temple and looking around with the gaze of a confused child.

Derek had the man on the ground outside the building, kneeled down checking his pupils for the second time, when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.

“Dude, you alright?”

“Don’t call me dude,” Derek growled out without looking over his shoulder, reacting to the tone on instinct rather than awareness.

“Right. Sorry. Sir. Is everything--Fuck. Derek?”

He jolted, leaving a supporting hand on the bleeding man’s shoulder while whipping around to find the impossible to forget face of none other than Stiles Stilinski staring at him. Eyebrows high, eyes wide, he wore a black vest over a white shirt, the bold white letters of FBI printed across the front.

“I don’t think it’s very professional of FBI agents to swear at people they’re supposedly helping.”

Stiles’s mouth turned up at the corners, and it wasn’t a laugh, not the way Derek remembered him throwing back his head and reacting with his whole body, but it was amusement--the kind he’d sought out, once.  “You don’t look like you need helping,” Stiles nodded in acknowledgement.  “Him on the other hand,” he said, raising a hand towards someone to beckon them over with a kind of casual familiarity with command that didn’t look at odds with the FBI tactical vest.

They looked at each other for a moment.  

Stiles opened his mouth to say something.  Derek furrowed his eyebrows in return, waiting.  Their standoff was interrupted by someone calling Stiles’s name, and he broke the gaze to squint through the smoke towards the front entrance.  “Well. I should--” He gestured vaguely.

“You should.” Derek agreed.

Watching Stiles hurry away was an odd experience, because Derek had left everything in Beacon Hills behind.  He’d taken pains to grieve and heal and forget in that way time and therapy allowed his ghosts and demons to settle into his bones until he learned to live with them without constant fear.  The last time he’d seen Stiles had been when he’d bolted awake in the middle of the night four years before, sweating and trying to breath through the remaining disquietude of a night terror, and had been driven to Google him.  He hadn’t recognised the college kid doing the keg stand in an open Facebook album from the memory of dumb courageous recklessness and flinty eyes, and it had eased something in his chest that had felt like guilt.

There was a spark of a second as he watched Stiles run into the building that he thought of the things that had shaped them, both of them, and he was surprised that seeing Stiles didn’t bring back more than that.

Derek rolled up his sleeves and started helping the first responders.  He’d never been able to stand on the sidelines observing, interviewing and taking pictures, not when people were in trouble.  He’d always been a kind of awful reporter that way, but it worked for him, and he was usually treated with a kind of grudging respect for it by professionals.

Before long, he knew whose office had blown up and knew more about the newspaper’s internal gossip than he had any wish to ever know.  Some people were guessing a faulty gas line was the cause, but most were whispering about a bomb in a tone that said they didn’t want to acknowledge the truth of it loud enough to make it feel real, despite the smoke and dust inhalation and burns they were being treated for.

- - - -

It took awhile for the dust to settle--literally. Without a breeze harder than the slamming of a door, it hung in a thick mass in the middle of the street. It was starting to dissipate by the time the sirens stopped screaming and Stiles walked out of the building at a relaxed pace that told Derek the crisis was over and the next group of people coming in would be construction crews and insurance agents.

Between the blooming summer heat and the dust, Stiles looked more like he’d been roped into an impromptu mud battle than running around a crime scene. It was not, Derek assured himself, in any way appealing to watch Stiles wipe dust and sweat from his face. He also didn’t care about how Stiles’ once crisp white shirt clung to his chest, or how the rolled sleeves revealed tanned skin and sculpted forearms.

He also didn’t care about how he’d walked out of the smoke and dust like romantic hero emerging from the mist--or like the action hero from the smoke and flames and dust of an explosion. Derek really wasn’t thinking about--

“I think I have her card, actually.”

It took effort to remember he’d been talking to someone.  Deliberately. Derek turned back to the balding twenty-something man he’d been in the middle of an engaging conversation with before not being distracted. Sure enough, the man was holding out a business card with Trisha Winter typed in clean font under the Daily News logo.

“I have no clue why I have this in my wallet.”

From the blush staining the man’s cheeks and the distinct scent wafting off of him, Derek knew all too well why he’d kept the card. Not that he was going to look a gifthorse in the mouth. A second gifthorse really, the first being that the woman in question--the woman whose office had just been nearly obliterated--had been sent, fully conscious, to the hospital. Derek had been preparing himself for the slightly more difficult task of rifling through the life of a dead person.

Living people were so much easier.

He reached for the card and paused, noting the tight whiteness of the man’s finger tips as they clutched the paper. “You know, I could just take a picture of it,” he suggested, pulling his phone out of his back pocket, “and you can hold onto the card.”

The man exhaled sharply, wilted with relief, and held it up to be photographed. “I really can’t imagine anyone doing something like this to her. She’s such a wonderful woman, and her critiques are so honest. Really genuine.”

“Of course,” Derek agreed in that vague, soft tone that put people at ease. “Thanks again for the information. Go ahead and give me a call if you remember anything else.” Fishing out his own business card was a long practiced motion at this point, one he was pretty sure he could do while drugged or under duress--though, if Derek was honest with himself, there wasn’t much he couldn’t do while drugged or under duress.

He waited until the man took the card, gave a final parting nod, and turned away, gaze immediately--though not intentionally--landing on Stiles. Standing at the back of what Derek supposed was a standard issue black SUV, he was chugging down the last of one bottle of water before pulling another, and a towel out from the back.

As though feeling the attention, Stiles looked up, scanned the muted chaos, and caught Derek’s eye. With a wave and a smile, he tossed the towel over his shoulder, palmed the new bottle of water, and trotted over.

“How am I not surprised that you ran into a crime scene to save people?”

“I help people.”

Stiles laughed. “Sure, Superman. You drop your glasses in there somewhere? You really shouldn’t be interviewing people without your disguise. Oh, and you’re missing the curl,” he chuckled, gesturing to his own forehead.

For all the years that had passed and how adult Stiles had appeared in his tactical FBI vest and now in his… sweaty shirt and black skinny tie, it was almost a relief to see such clear evidence that he wasn’t entirely different. “So, FBI,” Derek said, opting for option: ignoring everything that just came out of Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles shrugged. “I’ve always liked law enforcement, but… you know, I want to say that being a Sheriff just wasn’t going to be exciting enough, but considering things, I can’t, in good conscience, say that.”

“Right.”

“So… high school was bad, there was supernatural shit,” Stiles acknowledged, as though compelled to address and sweep aside the elephant on the street in a single stroke. “I think Beacon Hills has some kind of hold on people because staying through it all seems stupid now.”

Derek hummed in agreement before he could think to stop himself. But Stiles was right. In the grand scheme of things, in retrospect, so much of what had happened those years in Beacon Hills seemed so trivial. Maybe not all of it, he had history there, dark history that still ate at him some nights. They had just been so young.

“Do you remember Greenberg?” Stiles asked, seemly without prompting.  Then he waved the question aside.  “No one remembers Greenberg.  Do you remember Danny? How could anyone forget Danny?”

That question Derek could answer, and he did so with a terse nod because he wasn’t sure where Stiles was was going with it.  Probably back to his teenage bedroom of awkward.

“He works for NORAD now.  Life after high school, am I right? Like, I have a degree, and 2 years worth of work experience, you kinda have to just to be considered for the FBI. And you! A reporter. Speaking of--” he continued, a very obvious segue, even if Stiles punctuated it with a wave of his hand and a suddenly serious facade.  “Want to give me the rundown on what you found out? Saw you interviewing people,” Stiles said, pouring water from the bottle on the towel before rubbing it over his face, washing away dust and sweat and revealing aged, yet familiar features.

“Trying to get someone to do your job for you?”

“Says the guy who gets information from people for a living. I don’t really see how this is any different.”

“I might be inclined to tell you something,” he said with a wry twist of his lips.

… was that flirty?  Was Derek flirting with Stilinski now?

“If…” Stiles continued for him, eyes light with amusement, a grin curling across his face.

“If you’ll make an official statement.”

In the process of trying to shove the towel down the neck of his shirt, Stiles snorted. “Yeah. Right. No way buddy. Next thing, you’ll be following me around asking for special treatment to get through police lines.”

“I would never.” Derek would almost certainly definitely, but the longer they talked, the more likely it was that Stiles would realize he had to loosen his tie and unbutton his shirt if he wanted to get any cleaner without taking a shower.

Sure enough, Stiles was just releasing a frustrated grunt, pulling the towel out of his shirt and reaching for his tie when someone shouted his name. Derek looked up a fraction of a second before him, locating another suited man, standing at the vehicle Stiles had just come from, waving.

“Wrapping it up, Stilinski. We got people to talk to before--Jesus, please tell me that’s not a reporter.”

“Not a reporter,” Stiles called back before tossing a grin at Derek. “Oh, hey. In case you get into trouble. Or, you know, more trouble.” In a flurry, long fingers produced a very official looking business card, embossed with the FBI logo and--

“What is that?” Derek wondered, eyebrows climbing as he read the card.

Stiles punched his shoulder, almost hard enough to sting. “It’s my name, ass.”

“Stilinski!”

With a quick, “See you round, Derek,” Stiles turned and headed back across the street, not bothering to wait for a response.

What was next?  Would Derek find out Stiles was also part of a shady assassin ring?  Nothing would surprise him anymore.

- - - -

Derek gave himself the time to take a shower, rinse the dust, dirt, and blood off of himself and out of his hair. He made quick work of scrubbing himself down, wanting to jump on the Trisha Winter lead, track her down at the hospital, and figure out a way to ask questions before she got too wrapped up in police and lawyers. Unless his plan was getting checked in as another patient, showing up like looking like a victim of blast wasn’t going to do him much good (and he didn’t want to be a patient).

Still, the reprieve from the action, the five minutes it took him to step under the spray and rub soap through his hair and over his arms, was more than long enough to let his mind wander. Typically, working a story like this--something with victims and urgency--his thoughts churned through possibilities, hypotheticals, and leads, fitting them together in a cobbled path that would eventually lead to his story. Today all he got was close ups of Stiles’ smile and the image of his broad shoulders filling out his FBI vest so well Derek couldn’t imagine Stiles doing anything else with his life. And under that vest… the fit white shirt, sleeves rolled up, muscular arms, the assertive, commanding way he’d moved around the scene.

Thinking about it further, the idea of running into Stiles after all these years didn’t feel strange. The strangeness was that it hadn’t happened earlier. Or, maybe that was disappointment.

With that uncomfortable--or not--realization dawning, he embraced the sharp trilling ring of his phone and the excuse to scramble out of the shower, suds mostly rinsed away.

“Hale speaking.”

“Hey Derek, I found which hospital your girl got dropped off at.” Sandra, an ambulance dispatcher with loose morals and an desperation to find fifteen minutes of fame so engorged that she ruthlessly broke the law by giving Derek this kind of information, was somewhere between friend and source.

It was a blurry line.

“Fantastic. Where?”

“Pft. Come on now. One of my drivers told me he watched you chatting it up with some sexy FBI guy.”

Derek took a moment to pause patting himself dry and hang his head while muttering a curse. “Sandra.”

“Oh no. Come on. This is the price you pay, Derek. Tell me about sexy FBI guy and the Seven Step Sex Plan for getting that uniform on the floor of your apartment, and I’ll tell you what hospital this Winter person is in.”

“The Seven Step Sex Plan is your thing, not mine,” he reminded her, giving in and putting the phone on speaker so he could move freely around his room to change.

“See, it’s amazing how I don’t actually care about that. Cough it up.”

“How about you give me the information I need, and I take you out to drinks after I finish this story.”

Except he wasn’t going to talk about a Seven Step Plan for Stiles, because there was no plan. In fact, given that he’d never seen Stiles in the city, the likelihood of them running into each other again was slim to none--it was a big city. So what if he could all but feel Stiles’ business card burning a rectangular hole in his back pocket, where he’d just slipped his wallet into his fresh business casual slacks.

“Oh. I like that. Gives me more time to tell you how terrible your Seven Steps are.”  Her voice took on a suspicious air, “But the end of this article wouldn’t happen to coincide with the last time you’ll see sexy FBI guy, would it?”

Silence was as bad as lying, but it was all Derek had in his arsenal since Sandra was about as good as detecting lies as a werewolf was, probably better when over the phone.

“Right. So, drinks tonight?”

“This article is kind of time sensitive.”

“It’s always time sensitive. Maybe you’ll catch a break and the bad guy will just tweet his culpability and put you out of a job,” she continued, chewing on something with a complete lack of respect for--well, anything, really.  “Drinks or no information.”

Derek groaned, and if it sounded like he was dying that was only because he was. Not physically, but emotionally, spiritually. Really, he needed to stop being friends with Sandra. He needed to find a new ambulance dispatcher to cozy up to.

Except Sandra would poison that well the moment she sensed him drifting. Like right now.

“You’re not finding someone to replace me, Derek.”

“Fine. I have his card and his phone number, which means the end of the story isn’t technically the end of seeing him. Now will you tell me?”

Every beat of her gleeful chortle was a knife to his dignity. How he had anything left for her to pilfer was another mystery entirely.

“Hospital, Sandra.”

“Right. NYC Health Plus, Cumberland.”

“Thank you.” He buttoned his shirt closed and grabbed a lightweight jacket. “You wouldn’t happen to know anyone at Cumberland…?” He needed to stop having Sandra risk her job giving him information on the destinations of ambulance patients, not be asking her to smuggle him into hospital rooms. But what else was the life of a journalist if not taking advantage of what was around them?

Sandra huffed again. “I think you should write a nice piece on all the hardworking ambulance dispatchers of NYC.”

“I can definitely bring it up at work.”

She laughed. “Right. Ask to talk to Trent Herburt, he’s a nurse there, and my brother in law, so don’t get me in trouble.”

“No guarantees.”

Yes guarantees, or I make you send me photos of you going through all Seven Steps with sexy FBI guy and don’t just have to give me a detailed plan when you buy me no fewer than four drinks tonight.”

Jesus. So, that was going to be a hundred fifty dollars Derek wouldn’t going to get back. Then again, the money was worth the hassle of finding Trisha Winter’s location some other way, and they both knew Sandra wouldn’t make it past drink four if she was going to aim for the expensive ones. “Alright. Fine. Trent Herbert, nurse, be nice. Thank you.”

“Call me tonight.” The ‘or else’ was heavily enough implied that she didn’t need to say it.

“Right. Thanks again.”

- - - -

Trent walked Derek past police security at Winter’s door with a casual finger pointed at his RN tag hanging from his neck and… that was it. The officer didn’t ask who Derek was, didn’t question what Trent was there for, wasn’t the slightest concerned about why a strange nurse showed up with a guest. While the guy’s laziness, or indifference, was beneficial for Derek, it just made NYPD look bad--a possible story topic to file for later.

Despite having her office blown up, Winter didn’t look that worse for wear. A dark bruise stained the left half of her face, minimal swelling, and a cast on her left hand that only went to the wrist (looked like she might have broken her pinky and ring fingers). She may as well have been in a bad fender bender. It took Derek forty-five minutes to get home, shower, and get to the hospital. From the look of Winter--not even hooked up to an ECG--she should have been out and home by now.

Far be it from Derek to question the policy of the NYPD or, if Stiles was at the scene, maybe the FBI. And if suddenly the idea of it being the FBI, or Stiles, as the reason Winter was sitting in a hospital bed with a Starbucks and box of donuts, watching soap operas, had more credence to it, then Derek never needed to address that. Stiles bringing people donuts and getting there before Derek did (because he hadn’t gone home to shower) was something Derek didn’t want to think about either.

He was an adult. He could ignore uncomfortable thoughts if he wanted to.

Forever.

In the time it took for him to take Winter in, she’d looked away from her soap opera, scanned him head to toe and back again, and said, “Journalist?”

He wasn’t surprised. Journalists had a pretty developed sixth sense for identifying each other.

He nodded. “New York Times.”

She nodded. “Right. Well. You want to find Jason Daniels.”

Derek blinked, startled by the ease with which she was giving him the information--usually getting information out of other journalists was like pulling teeth with his bare hands, moreso when the stories involved said journalists. Then again, Winter was a book critic. It wasn’t as though sitting on the story of her own office bombing was going to do her career any favors. It might do her company some favors though.

But really, who was Derek to look another gift horse in the mouth? Then again, “Jason Daniels? Just that easy?”

Winter snorted, grabbed a donut and ripped into it like a carnivorous animal attacking a fresh kill. “Yeah. That easy,” she said around cheeks full of sugarcoated fried dough.

“But--”

“You could take my word for it. Or the twenty-seven belligerent letters I received, in the mail, most going in depth about either my lack of credibility as a critic, my lack of intelligence as a woman and a reader, or my lack of deserving to be alive. Or the forty-two emails I got before I blocked his address, basically about the same thing. Or you could just go find him. You’ll get it as soon as you meet the guy.”

“Right. Well, thanks. And I’m Derek, by the way. Derek Hale.” He stepped forward, business card ready. “In case you think of anything else.”

She looked at the card with undisguised disdain, as though the idea that she would think of anything else, that she would be wrong, was grossly offensive, but took it anyway. “Sure.”

“Can I quote you?”

“That it’s Jason Daniels?” she wondered, raising an eyebrow. “Or that he’s a crackpot author whose books should be pulled from libraries and bookshelves alike and would be reason to begin a Fahrenheit 451 future?”

Wow, that was… that was some strong language. “All of it.”

Her lips quirked and she stuffed the rest of her donut in her mouth as she nodded. With her mouth full, “Go for it,” was muffled but still plenty clear.

- - - -

Derek did his due diligence verifying that Winters was telling the truth.  The catch of being given a name directly was that he probably shouldn’t go writing an article pointing fingers directly without doing at least a minimal amount of research.  That was libel.

Winters, it turned out, undersold Jason Daniels’ ability to hold grudges.  He’d found the man’s website after a quick google search, and it basically had a “hate list” on it that started with Winters and kept going.

He thought maybe if you had every respectable critic in the city writing scathing commentary about your most recent book, you should probably stop blaming other people.  Derek thought if the second person on your list was your editor for telling you your whitebread characters were boring, you were probably a pissbaby.

A blog post was as good as the tweet Sandra jokingly mentioned.

People.  So stupid for just the smallest bit of attention.

Derek weathered a sigh and pulled out his phone. Stiles’ number was saved under his first name because Derek laughed every time he saw it, and once the smallest joys he’d gotten out of life had been little jabs at Stiles.  It was a habit Derek had no intention of breaking.

Derek: I just spoke to Trisha Winter, owner of the blown up office.

Derek: It’s Jason Daniels.

Stiles: OK so (1) She’s in the hospital under NYPD protection. Are you trying to get the city cops in trouble? (2) Stop infringing on my investigation.

Stiles: Jason Daniels was on the top of the list.

Stiles: Are you sure or did you settle for the first match?

Derek: Positive. He holds grudges.

Derek: Find his blog.

Derek: I do know how to do my job.

Stiles: Right.

Stiles: Shockingly, so do I.

- - - -

Jesus Christ, Derek thought as he saw Stiles cross the street towards him.  His hair was longer than it was when they first met, but definitely within regulation for the FBI now that he got a good look at it. His movements were confident in a way that exuded ‘on shift law enforcement.’  He reached out of the alleyway and grabbed Stiles’ arm, dodging a well-aimed elbow to his face.  “Are you lost,” he hissed, dragging them both back into the shadows.

“No,” Stiles answered in a furious tone.  “Ok, yes. But I’m pretty sure I’m where I want to be.”

Derek’s eyebrows winged up as he realized that Stiles was more or less trapped in the cage of his arms, even if that cage was probably something he could have gotten out of easily before all his fancy training.

“I mean on this street,” Stiles clarified, seeming to suddenly be aware of the same thing.  “Going after the bad guys.”

“You read the blog.” Derek wasn’t sure if he was resigned or not that he’d messaged Stiles.  On the one hand, he wasn’t the type to sit on information if someone was about to get hurt.  On the other hand, the thing that got hurt could be Derek’s career if Stiles completely froze him out.

“He telegraphs his intentions pretty clearly,” Stiles agreed.  “The next person on his list was his editor.  I mean…” Stiles broke off, and then easily slipped out of Derek’s hold in a move that was partially his familiar slipperiness and at least 75% training.  It reinforced the idea that Stiles had been deliberately not moving, which was another thought he was not having.  “Is that him?” Stiles asked, making Derek question the whole training thing by unsubtly leaning out of the alleyway to look down the street.

Since Stiles looked like his question wasn’t rhetorical and he was actually asking Derek a question, Derek joined him, easing into the little space available that wouldn’t have him stepping out into view.  “Based on his vanity profile picture, I think so…?”

They both watched as the man hitched a backpack up his shoulder with so much care that it had to contain something fragile.

Or a bomb.

“The sheer incompetence of this guy,” Stiles muttered beneath his breath, watching as a bundle of wires slipped out of the back of the backpack.  “Is that a detonator in his pocket.”

“I sincerely hope so,” Derek answered, though he thought Stiles might be making a rhetorical question this time.  They hadn’t been pressed against each other for long, and the scent of Stiles’s new FBI windbreaker was stronger than the smell of his soap, but there was something old and familiar about the scent that Derek hadn’t exactly missed, because fuck Beacon Hills, but it was seared into his brain.

“Well…” Stiles answered, clearly knowing where Derek had been going with that.  “I wouldn’t put it past this guy to whip it out in public, but that’s clearly a detonator.”

“HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?” Jason yelled at the front door of the publishing house.  “MY BOOKS ARE EDGY AND SOPHISTICATED AND MORE CLEVER THAN YOU CAN HANDLE.”

“Circle jerk of one,” Stiles muttered.  “With room for multiple egos.”

Derek snorted, because there he was standing across the street from a bomb and for some reason he was enjoying himself. “I read one of his books,” Derek said.  “It was pretty racist.  And sexist.”

“Of course,” Stiles observed.  “I remember your feelings towards books.  As in, you read.”

Derek did read.  It made him happy that it was something Stiles remembered about him since it was a pivotal part of his lifestyle and personality.

Jason made a move, taking the backpack off his shoulders and gingerly putting it on the sidewalk.  

“There we go,” Stiles said, easing out of the shadows.  “Stay here.”

Derek didn’t say anything.  He gave Stiles a second to dodge across the street in order to make it seem like Derek was willing to stay behind.  He’d almost been blown up once already.  He wasn’t going to just leave Stiles without his FBI backup, or any backup, no matter how much Stiles would roll his eyes at him.

By the time he joined Stiles, he’d already taken the detonator out of Jason’s hand and had the disgraced author face down on the sidewalk.  It was… really fucking easy.  Derek frowned at the bomb and wondered what the catch was.

“I’m being discriminated against!” Jason said, sharp and full of spite.  “You don’t know what it’s like to be a gay man trying to make my mark on the world and getting punished for who I am.”

“I don’t know what it’s like?” Derek repeated in a deadpanned tone.  “Just because you’re queer doesn’t mean you’re owed the world, especially if you treat other marginalized groups like garbage.”

“How dare you use that word,” Jason said, face red as Stiles hauled him to his feet.

“Alright, Jeff,” Stiles answered with deep sarcasm.

“Jason.”

“Whatever,” Stiles made a face like ‘can you believe this guy?’

“I’m pretty sure none of us are straight,” Derek said and met Stiles’s eyes.  There was a moment between them that felt profound.

“Really?” Stiles said, ruining the moment with a slow smile.  “Awesome.”

His team had finally arrived, and there seemed to be some disbelief as they looked between Derek, Daniels, and Stiles.

“Hale,” one of the agents Derek had met the year before in the aftermath of a shoot out stepped forward and nodded at him. There was a grudging sort of respect there.  Or annoyance.  No one liked a vigilante, especially one that seemed to be able to withstand bullets.  There were rumors, he was sure.

“Just a bystander,” Derek said, and the look he was levelled said they knew he wasn’t just anything.  

Stiles passed Daniels on to to his team leader, and then hesitated, looking back at Derek.  “Maybe…” he started to say, tilting his head to look at Derek.  “Wanna fuck?  Dinner first, definitely.  But winning makes me hot.”

Derek considered it.  He thought about Sandra mocking his Seven Step Plan, and about the effect Stiles had on him. “Two casual dates and then a fancy sit down meal.  I have a life, now.  I deserve better than ‘wanna fuck, I’m horny.’”

“That’s fair,” Stiles answered with a grin, leaning into Derek’s space so that their shoulders brushed.  “You always deserved more.”

Derek reached out, his fingers tangling quickly with Stiles’s in a catch and release.  “We make our own paths, now.”

 

EPILOGUE

Derek was horrified to find out that Sandra, the original developer of the Seven Step Sex Plan, was prepared. The last time they’d talked about the Seven Steps was four months ago when a hot new bartender appeared at Pergolesi and Derek hadn’t been able to hide how entranced he’d been by the guy’s hands as they poured drinks.

Tonight, she pulled out a business card, slipped it across the table, and Derek groaned.

 

“Are you serious?”

 

Her smile reminded him of a dangerous combination of Stiles and Laura. He didn’t know if that made it make more or less sense that they were friends.

 

“Be prepared is my motto.”

 

“No, it’s the Boy Scout motto.”

 

She huffed. “And it can’t be anybody else’s? Come on, these are good steps. They need to be shared.”

 

“Good God. Please don’t tell me you pass these out to people.”

 

From the look on her face, that was exactly what she did.

 

With a long suffering sigh, he looked down at the clean, small type on the card. Small enough to fit what was necessary, but not so small he had to strain his eyes to read it. One side simply read:

 

Seven Step Sex Plan

 

The other, predictably, had the steps, listed in order.

 

Step 1: Meet the lucky person (gender not important) and hit it off

Step 2: Compliment them

Step 3: Get contact information / judge their interest

Step 4: Get together in public as a date or precursor

Step 5: If date successful, continue to woo

Step 6: Go for sex

Step 7: Remember condoms and lube!

 

“So, it’s been awhile. You remember how to do this?” Sandra asked like it was an Olympic sport. As though he it were an exam he could give wrong answers to. Of course, because it was Sandra, and because she had an unhealthy obsession with her Seven Steps, there were most definitely wrong answers.

 

Derek’s Seven Steps:

 

Step 1: Meet the lucky person (gender not important) and hit it off

 

         Already accomplished. Met at the bombing of the NY Daily News office.

 

Step 2: Compliment them

 

         I think I might have offended him.

         Offended him? How? WHY?

         I basically told him he needed to do his own job and then made fun of his name.

         Don’t you know this guy? Like, for years? How do you make fun of his name now?

         I’ve only ever known his nickname. I saw his real one on his business card and… it wasn’t good.

         Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

         Then I met him when I was following a lead and I asked if he was lost. Which might have sounded like I was implying he didn’t know what he was doing.

         You are the literal worst at this.

         And when he told me to stay behind when he was approaching the perp, I… didn’t.

         Please, God, tell me it was because you’re a nosy journalist?

         I was afraid for his safety.

         HE’S AN FBI AGENT. So, you’re saying you emasculated him by implying that he isn’t fit to do his job. Great. Fantastic. Okay, so, where do the compliments come in. Because you better get started on that. Like now. This moment.

         But I’m already on Step 3.

         Really?! After that, you managed to get to Step 3. Holy crap. Alright. We’re going to have to plan some retroactive compliment action.

 

Step 3: Get contact information / judge their interest

 

         We exchanged cards at the scene.

         What about judging his interest? Did you talk?

         About the case. I figured he was interested when he asked to fuck me after the arrest.

         He asked to what now?

         Fuck.

         Please tell me you remembered Step 7.

         We didn’t get there. I asked for two dates and a third one somewhere nice.

         Oh. My. God. This guy either has brain damage or in fucking love with you. I don’t even want to be hanging out with you after hearing this and he agreed?!

         Yeah.

         When’s your first date?

         Tonight.

         TONIGHT?

         Casual. Drinks and some food. So, you know, we’re going to need to hurry this up.

         Hey, buster, you owe me four drinks and 7 Steps, and I’m going to get my four drinks and my 7 Steps.

        

Step 4: Get together in public as a date or precursor

 

         Tonight. Bar and drinks. No clue about the other two, he’s planning them.

         Only if you get on the complement train immediately.

         Yeah. I should… I’ll definitely do that.

 

Step 5: If date successful, continue to woo

 

         Assuming this guy doesn’t come to his senses and you’re able to complement him so hard he doesn’t walk out of the weird love-fog he has for you and into a disappointing reality, what exactly are your woo tactics?

         My what now?

         WOO TACTICS DEREK. How will you woo him.

         He already wants to fuck.

         Oh my God, how is this--How does this happen to you? I mean, you are insanely hot, but you clearly have the personality of a slug.

         I don’t think I like that.

         Well you do. You insulted him multiple times in the span of twenty four hours. You told him he was bad at his job. That’s, like, the number one thing you do not do to people. Especially men. Men are pretty touchy about being good at what they do for a living.

         He didn’t seem to mind.

         Ugh. Of course not, because he was thinking about your dick with his dick--metaphorically. Or not metaphorically. Okay, pun intended, I guess. Are you seriously just going to coast your dates because you know you’ve already, metaphorically, got his dick in a condom?

         No.

         Then, about the wooing.

         I don’t even know what wooing is.

         It’s basically like complements. It’s also kind of like every time you use that smile, face, arms, and abs to get information from people. What do you like about him.

         Everything.

         Oh my God, I might barf. Okay. What three very specific, non-dick related, things do you like about him?

         His hands.

         That is… I will tolerate it, but that sounds so very dangerously close to dick related. Next.

         His smile.

         Much better.

         The way he’s always looked out for me.

         Oh. That--That’s a good one. Wow. My heart kind of hurts. I don’t know if it’s because of the look on your face when you said that, or because I’m starting to regret talking to you about all of this because clearly you guys are gone on each other already. Should I be planning a wedding?

         What? No. Jeezo.

         You should bring him something. Flowers or chocolates or something.

         I don’t think he’s that kind of person. Actually, I don’t know if he is. I haven’t seen him in a long time. I’m also certain that he’s the one supposed to be wooing me since his opening like was “wanna fuck.”

         Please do not tell me he actually said that.

         Word for word.

         You are both brain damaged. Him for putting up with you, and you for wanting to date someone who would say that. So, basically what I’m saying is that you’re perfect for each other and clearly the 7 Step Sex Plan isn’t for you. But you might want to pass that card to him.

 

Step 6: Go for sex


Step 7: Remember condoms and lube!