“Is this a joke?” Stiles says when Derek hands him the bottle. It has to be a joke, right? This is just more evidence of Derek’s redeveloping sense of humor. Ha-ha. He’s hilarious.
“Does it look like I’m joking,” Mr. Murder Eyebrows himself says flatly.
Fuck, he’s not joking.
Stiles turns the bottle over in his hands. No matter how many times he reads it, it still says Flea Treatment Shampoo for Dogs. “But you’re a human! Sort of.”
Derek makes a pained face and scratches behind his ear. What is even happening right now. “The human treatments don’t work as well.” He scowls. Well, he was scowling before; this is more like… his scowl intensifying.
“So you’re gonna use dog shampoo. Okay, I mean, I won’t judge.” Lies—he’s totally judging. Derek narrows his eyes further like he knows this. Goddamn lie-detecting werewolf skills. After so many years, you’d think Stiles would be used to it. Alas, no. “What does this have to do with me?”
Derek suddenly gets less scowly and a lot more sullen. “It’s not pleasant. As a human. This brand works the best, but it….”
“It what?” Stiles prompts.
“It gives me a rash,” Derek finishes in a mutter, blushing furiously.
Oh God. Oh God, that’s cute. Fuck. Stiles has a crush on a man who has fleas. What is his life.
Oh God, Derek wants Stiles to give him a bath. Granted, this isn’t exactly how Stiles would’ve imagined it, but hey, beggars and choosers and all that.
“Okay,” he says finally, once the silence has stretched past uncomfortable and into sitcom territory. “Okay. But I’d—uh. You have other stuff, right? Like for your apartment and stuff? So you won’t… so they won’t come back?” Ugh, Stiles has slept on that couch. He always thought it looked kind of flea-ridden.
Maybe he should get Deaton to prescribe Derek some Frontline or something.
Derek nods tersely.
The things Stiles is willing to do for this guy. “All right. Why don’t you go run the bath”—fuck, why does that sound sexy; this is not a prelude to sexy times—“and get your fur on, and I’ll meet you in the bathroom.” Because as many times as Stiles has seen Derek shirtless, and as good a handle as he usually has on his olfactory-related Derek problem, he’s not sure his control will hold up to the sight of Derek’s bare ass.
Or anything else.
Nope, not going there. Derek has to deal with enough people perving on him as it is. He doesn’t need Stiles adding himself to the list.
Derek deflates a little in obvious relief. “Thanks.” Then he ruins what might have been a moment by scratching behind his ear again as he walks away.
Stiles hears the water turn on and distracts himself for a few minutes by stripping Derek’s sheets and shoving them in the washing machine. He won’t start it yet—he should probably add the clothes Derek wore today too, just in case. He drags Derek’s ugly throw rug out onto the balcony. At least Derek doesn’t have carpet. Or curtains. That should make this easier.
Finally he can’t delay it any longer. The water shuts off in the bathroom and Stiles climbs the stairs with trepidation.
It occurs to him, as he steps into the bathroom and closes the door behind him, that he’s never actually seen Derek go full wolf before.
“Holy God you’re enormous,” he says before he can help himself—and then, off Derek’s self-satisfied huff, “Don’t be smug.”
He really is huge, though, bigger than any dog Stiles has ever seen, black except for a splash of white across his muzzle and the electric blue of his eyes.
He’s also fluffy. Like, it’s getting close to winter, so it makes sense that he would have a thick coat, but Derek is in full-on it’s so fluffy I’m gonna die territory. Stiles only barely resists sinking his hands into Derek’s fur. Washing that is going to take forever.
“Are you sure you have enough shampoo?” Stiles asks doubtfully.
Derek grumbles and nudges him toward the bathroom counter and a pair of elbow-length rubber gloves. Thoughtful.
And yet also so wrong.
“I hope you appreciate the lengths I’m going to in not making inappropriate jokes right now.” Stiles wrestles out of his hoodie and tugs the gloves on. “Are you gonna get in or what?”
He is, apparently. And he’s going to do it in the splashiest way possible.
Stiles looks down at his wet jeans, then up at Derek, who’s sitting on his haunches in the bathtub, mouth open in an obvious grin. “I’m doing you a favor here, you know.” Ugh, wet denim. It’s uncomfortable and heavy. Now he feels like his pants are falling down. “Fine. If that’s the way you want to play it.” He peels his jeans off too and tosses them with Derek’s clothes at the other end of the bathroom. Shit, that was probably a bad idea; now he’ll have to wash them. Oh well. Derek totally owes him; he can lend Stiles some sweats or something.
And then Stiles is half-naked and Derek is a giant wolf in a bathtub. Welp. This might actually qualify as the weirdest thing ever to happen in Beacon Hills. Stiles grabs the shampoo bottle and sets it on the edge of the tub. “Do you want to, like, roll over?”
Impressively, Derek can do Murder Eyebrows even when he doesn’t have eyebrows.
“You’re not all the way wet,” Stiles points out. “So do you want me to use the showerhead or are you gonna do this part yourself?”
Derek does flop over on his side then, sending a small tidal wave of water over the edge of the tub onto Stiles’s bare legs. He’s definitely glad he lost the jeans.
“If there’s a hidden camera in here, I swear to God,” he mutters to himself. “Try not to kill me, okay?”
But Derek’s still not wet all the way through. It must be all the fluff. Plan B it is. Stiles grabs the showerhead and flicks the water on, testing it with his hand. “Too hot?” he asks.
Derek shoves a paw under the spray and shakes his head no.
No again. Fine.
Holding the showerhead in his left hand, Stiles sprays Derek down, using his right hand to ruffle his fur until the water penetrates to the skin. The final effect is kind of hilarious. Derek doesn’t look nearly so large with all the fluff weighed down. He has sort of a wolfy beard thing going on, which is hilarious. The phrase “hangdog expression” has never been so apropos.
“You are so lucky I’m not putting this on Facebook,” Stiles says as he lets the water out of the tub. Then he reaches for the shampoo.
The instructions say head and shoulders first, and to avoid contact with the eyes—“You might wanna keep ’em closed; we all know I’m kind of a klutz”—so Stiles rubs shampoo over Derek’s muzzle, between his eyes, over his ears. Derek tilts his head back so Stiles can get his neck and chest, where the fur is thickest.
It’s a good thing Stiles jerks off so much, otherwise his arms might hurt from this kind of workout.
Once he’s worked his way down to Derek’s shoulders, things get tricky. The bottle suggests he should shampoo Derek’s forelegs next, and—
“Are you ticklish?” Stiles says incredulously as he’s working suds between Derek’s toes.
Derek’s head droops and he relaxes his leg, which he’d pulled up to his chest.
“This would never have happened if you’d just gotten a real hobby instead of chasing squirrels,” Stiles mutters. He scrubs harder this time, hoping to avoid the tickle reflex. It mostly works. “Why can’t you take up knitting?”
Not surprisingly, Derek doesn’t dignify that with an answer.
The shampooing process goes more or less smoothly after that—Stiles finishes Derek’s back, hind legs, and tail. And then he realizes—“Oh my God I have to soap your junk.”
Derek puts his ears back and literally tucks his tail between his legs.
“Don’t give me that, it’s not your fault this only occurred to me now. I could’ve said no.” A lie—Stiles was never going to leave Derek in the lurch. Especially if it meant Derek asking someone he trusted less to help. “I’ll try not to get too bad touchy if you try not to bite my face off.”
Needless to say, this is not how he imagined getting his hands on Derek’s goods the first time.
The shampoo bottle indicates special attention should be paid to the fur at the base of the tail, so Stiles does that first, figuring he’ll work himself up to the rest. “No sudden movements, right?” he murmurs to himself as he goes. And then he can’t seem to stop narrating. “Okay, dude, I’m gonna de-flea your balls next. Bet you never thought I’d say that.”
Stiles resolutely deletes all information about the size and weight of Derek’s wolfy testicles from his brain before he can make any educated guesses about their human counterparts.
“I feel like I should say ‘no homo,’” Stiles says absently as he rubs flea shampoo over Derek’s dick, “but a) that’d be a lie and b) only douche bags say ‘no homo.’ So.” There, that should do. “I’m not trying to be creepy, promise.”
Finally he pulls away, aware of a crick in his neck and a dull throbbing from the tile floor in his knees. He strips off his gloves, washes his hands, and digs his phone out of his hoodie. “This stuff has to stay on for ten minutes, and then I’ll rinse you and dry you off. Meanwhile, any objections to me throwing this stuff in your washing machine?”
Derek shakes his head no. If Stiles thought he looked funny soaking wet, that’s nothing to how he looks now, covered in white foam and with a little mohawk between his ears. Lying on the floor of the tub like he is, he can’t see his reflection, and Stiles figures what Derek doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
He sets the timer on his phone, then shoves everything, including the bathmat, in the washing machine and turns it on. That leaves eight minutes, so he vacuums the couch, the mattress, and the space under the bed. If he goes back to the bathroom with Derek, he’ll start talking again, and God knows what hideously embarrassing thing will come out of his mouth if he does that.
But he can’t avoid it forever. Eventually the alarm goes off and Stiles trudges back upstairs to face the music. He puts the gloves back on, grabs the showerhead again, and starts working the suds out of Derek’s fur.
He doesn’t even have to grope him this time.
“Okay, I think you’re done. You can open your eyes now. Towels?”
Derek swings his head to indicate the cupboard by the sink.
His towels are black. Of course they are. Stiles trades out the gloves again. “So the fur doesn’t show when you shed, right?” he says, wiping the towel gently over Derek’s muzzle before scrubbing between his ears.
Derek smacks him in the arm with his tail.
“Uncalled for,” Stiles reprimands, fluffing his back. “I’m doing you a favor here.”
Finally he’s about as dry as he’s going to get without electrical intervention. “Okay, hop out. The instructions say I’m supposed to blow you dry. Cook the rest of the little bastards, I guess. I don’t know. You have a hairdryer?”
Derek jumps out of the tub onto the bathmat and shakes himself vigorously. Stiles probably should’ve seen that coming, but he didn’t, so now he finds himself wiping wet fur off his face. “Very mature,” he says dryly.
Derek gives him a smug look and nudges open a drawer with his nose. Inside there’s a comb, a hairdryer, and an ancient-looking dog brush, matted with hair, the end covered in teeth marks.
Stiles picks it up and swallows. That’s probably the closest thing to an heirloom Derek has. “This too?”
Derek looks at him levelly. Stiles figures that’s as close as he’s going to come to asking for what he wants, so he sets the brush on the counter and plugs in the hairdryer.
In the end, Stiles decides it’ll be easiest on the floor. He folds the towel under his knees this time to avoid excess pain. “Let me know if it gets too hot.”
Things Stiles did not need to know about Derek Hale: how much he enjoys being blow-dried. Stiles has never seen human-shaped Derek this relaxed, following Stiles’s commands to turn this way, then that way. He does shoot Stiles a warning look when Stiles is blow-drying his backside, but after the afternoon they’ve had, Stiles doesn’t blame him.
And then, well, Stiles can’t not brush him. Firstly because he looks ridiculous, like a big black cotton ball that stuck its tongue in an electrical socket. But mostly because this is probably something Derek’s family used to do for each other, and since Cora’s been gone, Derek doesn’t have anyone else to ask. Fur that felt coarse when Stiles was wetting it earlier is smoother and soft now, warm from the hairdryer, and Derek all but melts into the brushing.
“Oh my God, you big teddy bear,” Stiles says before his brain-mouth filter can kick in. But Derek doesn’t even open his eyes. He just flops over on his side so Stiles can finish brushing his belly.
And that—well. Stiles knew Derek trusted him, but he never expected it to go this far. The significance of a werewolf showing his belly isn’t lost on him.
Swallowing, Stiles drags the brush through the fur on Derek’s chest. “You know, if you wanted a tummy rub, all you had to do was ask,” he says, mostly to himself. “It’s not like I ever say no to you.”
Then Derek turns his head so it brushes Stiles’s knee. His eyes are open.
“Yeah, asking is the hard part,” Stiles agrees. He keeps up the brushing. “I get it.”
Finally he can’t justify drawing it out any longer. He puts the brush and hairdryer away and picks the towel. He sort of wants to stay there on the floor, combing his fingers through Derek’s fur, but Derek’s not a dog and he didn’t ask for that, and Stiles doesn’t actually think he can say no right now. And if he does want to change back to human, Stiles should give him some privacy.
He hesitates a second at the door before saying, “I’m just gonna get this in the laundry in case.” And then he makes a really cowardly retreat.
Leaving must have been okay, because he hears Derek get up off the floor a minute later, the clack of claw on tile unmistakable in a loft with so little in the way of sound dampening. Stiles relaxes as he’s loading the wet stuff into the dryer. Everything will be fine.
“Hey, Derek,” he calls a minute later, “can I borrow some—”
He stops when he hears someone at the door. It’s Derek, of course, human-shaped again, barefoot and wearing yoga pants and a stretched-out purple henley from his alpha days.
He holds out a bundle of clothes, but apparently he’s not ready to speak again yet.
“Thanks,” Stiles says, taking them. “I’m just gonna….” He lifts the bundle and hey, actually, that’s Stiles’s shirt. He must’ve left it here. Or maybe Derek borrowed it the last time they crashed at Stiles’s apartment following one of their adventures protecting the oblivious citizens of Beacon Hills.
Derek nods and leaves him to it.
In an effort to shut up the part of his brain that is sounding all kinds of alarms, Stiles sorts through the rest of the laundry and puts it all in with his T-shirt and boxers, just so it won’t be a flea harbor. Then he decides to grow up and goes to find Derek.
He’s standing in the kitchen, staring into a glass of water.
“Hey, so, you probably need to fumigate, huh?” Stiles says sympathetically, leaning against the counter next to him and staring at the opposite wall.
Derek sighs. “They’re coming tomorrow morning.”
When nothing else is forthcoming, Stiles prompts, “The chemicals they use probably don’t smell very good to sensitive noses.”
“No,” Derek agrees.
Silence falls again, but it’s not uncomfortable.
Stiles thinks about what he’s said today. Asking is the hard part, and it’s not like I ever say no to you.
“You want to stay at mine for a few days?”
“I….” For a second, Stiles is sure he’s going to say no. “Yes. That would be… thanks.”
Okay. Good. That’s… okay. Stiles sighs a little in relief and sags back against the counter. “This is probably a bad time to ask you on a date.”
Derek sets the water glass down, empty, and braces his hands behind him on the edge of the counter. “I always get a little… after.”
Jesus, Stiles hardly knows what to do with that information. “Makes sense,” he says, his voice cracking a little.
Then Derek leans into him just slightly, warmth seeping through the material of his henley. “Ask me again in an hour.”