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Crazy, Stupid, Love

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“Are you just going to stare at her all morning or are you going to try and talk to her at some point?”

Stiles is startled out of his daydream by Derek's words, and he wonders how long he has been staring at the girl. She sat down at a table, two rows ahead of their own, about fifteen minutes ago. Kindle in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. She's been smiling here and there at whatever she's reading and Stiles caught himself smiling with her. She's pretty and she's definitely out of his league.

“Shut up,” Stiles says, because Derek is the last person on this planet he wants to bond with over girls. Not just because of the man's disastrous track record when it comes to relationships, but also because Stiles hates Derek now. He hates Derek now, because Derek arrives at his house at six in the morning and yanks Stiles out of bed, forces him out of the warmth of his home and makes him exercise. This has been going on for over a month now, ever since he got off anti-depressants and his dad thought it would be a good idea for Stiles to get out more. How that translated into spending hours a day destroying his muscles in the company of the most emotionally damaged person on this side of the world, he doesn't know.

“I'm serious,” Derek says. “I can leave and you can go talk to the girl.”

“I'm soaked in sweat,” Stiles counters, as if he'd go otherwise. For the record, he would not. “And you need to mind your business.”

Derek rolls his eyes and uncaps his bottle of water before taking a swig. Stiles tries not to look at the girl again and instead tries to focus on the napkin under his own barely touched mug of coffee. He only catches himself trying to peek at the girl again because Derek snorts when he does so.

Stiles grabs the napkin, balls it up and throws it at Derek's face. Derek catches it easily and throws it back, getting Stiles right in the forehead.

“What's the problem? You think she won't like you?”

“I know she won't,” Stiles says. “Not when I smell like a locker room.”

“Say you didn't smell like a locker room, you'd go talk to her?”

“Sure,” Stiles says and doesn't try to mask the blatant lie.

Derek raises an eyebrow: “What's the problem?”

Stiles is better now. Better than he was a year ago, when the Nemeton was destroyed once and for all, and definitely much better than two years ago, when the nightmares started. Destroying the Nemeton may have shoved a lot of things evil back into the ground where they belong, but the things Stiles had done, the things he had felt and seen, those couldn't just go away. The only thing that helped him get through the rest of high school were a bunch of pills and a whole lot of pretending things were okay. The truth was that Stiles was too afraid to fall asleep and too tired to stay awake for a very long time. Things did get better over time and Stiles sleeps a whole of four hours a night now. He considers this a miracle, since there were times when he thought that he'd never sleep again, and that if he did, he would probably sleep forever.

Things got better, and Stiles feels a lot better, almost like himself. Almost. He can do without the pills and he can go out into the streets of Beacon Hills and not have a panic attack, but he can't just jump back into his old skin. He can't just pick up where he left off, can't just start chasing girls again and can't just go and have fun. Those aren't really things he deserves.

What he deserves is Derek working him to the bone, he deserves the aching muscles and the burning lungs and the unforgiving way Derek keeps dragging him out of bed every morning.

“I'm not ready,” Stiles admits quietly. “I can't...not yet.”

“I think you're ready.”

“Well, you're not in my head, so.”

“Don't you get it?” Derek says and leans forward over the table. “You're never going to actually feel ready. Not after what you went through. It doesn't just go away. Not unless you force it to. Fuck being ready, Stiles. Just do the things you want to do, and see what happens.”

Derek gets up before Stiles can say anything – he doesn't know what to say, so he's thankful for that – and when Stiles looks over at the table the girl was sitting at a minute ago, it's empty.

Stiles follows Derek out the door.

 

For the following week Stiles is afraid that Derek will bring it up again. When it doesn't happen, Stiles is somewhat disappointed.

They're done with their workout and it's only just nine am, so Stiles decided he might as well do a few of the errands his dad had put aside. One of them is to do the grocery shopping for the week, so Stiles convinces Derek to go with him so that they can share the heavy lifting.

They're at the bakery waiting for the girl behind the counter to pack the sheriff's favorite whole wheat buns, when Stiles notices Derek's eyes linger on the girl's face. She had been a bit flustered when they first walked in – Derek just has that effect on people, Stiles has accepted it – but when Stiles gave her his order she'd moved on swiftly. She's older than Stiles, maybe even a bit older than Derek, but she's definitely beautiful and definitely interested if the shy glances she throws Derek's way are anything to go by.

Stiles nudges Derek's arm before he even knows what he's going to say. “Are you just going to stare at her all morning, or are you going to talk to her?” he mutters softly. The chatter of the customers around them should be enough to prevent the lady from hearing them, but it's still satisfying to see Derek's eyes shoot up to the woman's face to see if she might have heard.

“Shut up,” Derek grumbles. Stiles grins at him until his order is called out, and he has to step forward and accept it.

When they're outside again, Stiles has to ask: “So, have you been with anyone since?”

“Mind your business.”

“I thought we were bonding. We could bond over this, Derek. We're both scared to talk to girls. Granted, for different reasons, but-”

“We're not bonding,” Derek interrupts. “Stop trying to bond with me.”

“Hey, you're the one dragging me out on hiking trips in the woods and trying to give me advice on how to pick up girls. That's some extreme attempted bonding, right there. I'm just returning the favor.”

“Don't.”

“So have you been with anyone since?” Stiles repeats. He expect to get punched in the arm, or maybe get pushed off the sidewalk. Instead, Derek lets out a harsh sigh and says: “No.”

“Good call,” Stiles blurts, and then immediately adds: “Kidding! I'm kidding. I mean, you know, don't give up on love and all that crap? You'll find-”

“Stop talking,”Derek says, sounding like he's in agonizing pain. “I regret talking to you. Stay a virgin forever, for all I care.”

“Hey, if you're trying to get me laid then I can at least try to return the favor. We can do extensive background checks, stack up on mistletoe and holy water to be on the safe side. We might actually find someone for you who is not pure evil,” Stiles suggests. Derek has picked up the pace and Stiles is now half walking-half jogging behind him.

“Let's not do any of that, and I won't kill you,” Derek gruffs.

“There's this one girl in my psych class. She owns a leather jacket and I don't think she has a boyfriend. Perfect for you, right?” Stiles catches up right on time to see Derek turn his eyes up to the sky. “I'm kidding,” Stiles assures him. “Sort of. It's been over two years. We both need to get back in the game before we actually die virgins.”

“You're the only virgin here.”

“We're a team.”

“We absolutely are not.”

Stiles considers his options here. He's not exactly sure what he's trying to accomplish by being overly annoying and getting on Derek's nerves. Apart from the fact that it's super entertaining. What he knows is that Derek's words from the other week haven't left Stiles' mind since he spoke them. Stiles has gotten used to Derek's presence every morning, and with it the pressure to talk and listen and to play an active role in his own life.

Stiles figures there is no one other than Derek Hale who's bounced back from so many things at such a young age. Sure, Stiles has scoffed at the idea of Derek, of all people, trying to help Stiles out of the dark. He can admit that Derek is doing a much better job than Stiles expected him to do. Mostly Stiles appreciates that Derek doesn't look at him like he's a puppy that's been ran over and left at the side of the road. Some people look at him that way. It doesn't feel great.

“Here's the thing,” Stiles then says. They're nearing his house already. Since they've started exercising together, Derek has not accepted Stiles' offer to come into the house after their workout even once. That's why Stiles drags out their mornings sometimes, by going to the Starbucks, or dragging Derek along for errands. His mind is a lot quieter when there's someone there he can talk to. “I know you've started doing all this because you figure I need to be stronger physically, in case something happens again. I get that, and I agree. I appreciate the effort and I'll work hard on it with you. But you must have noticed that I'm still shaky, mentally. I get scared easily. I randomly start counting my fingers at least five times a day. I get dizzy and nauseous looking at books and posters, just because I'm afraid that if I try focusing on the words, I won't be able to read them. That's not getting any better, and you know that, and that's why you wanted me to go talk to that girl, right? So that I could focus on something that has nothing to do with the situation I'm currently in, something normal. But what about you? You've got a degree in history, but no job-”

“Oh, no, please tell me all about my job opportunities in fucking Beacon Hills, go ahead,” Derek snorts.

“- and you go out to hunt demons and spirits outside of town for fun.”

This stops Derek right in his tracks. “Who told you that?”

Stiles shakes his head. “No one. You've all done a great job at trying to keep me out of the loop, but you should all know better by now.”

“I really didn't care if you knew or not,” Derek sighs. “But for the record, it's mostly not that much fun.”

“That's not my point,” Stiles says, but can't help a smile. “The point is that murdering demons and expelling spirits should not be something you're doing with your free time. Going to parties, meeting girls and going on dates. That's what you should be doing. Both of us.”

“Or just you.”

“I can't do it alone.”

“You're not alone. Scott will shoot a guy to be your wingman.”

“I know that, but Scott is a disaster when it comes to flirting. Besides, he has a girlfriend. That totally limits the stuff he's willing to do so that I can get laid.”

“I'm not going to your dumbass college parties.”

“That's fine, neither am I. I hear girls are everywhere, not just at parties. Amazing, right?”

 

Stiles regrets his every word the very next morning.

The girl is at Starbucks again, and the second Derek spots her, he gives Stiles a look.

“No,” Stiles says instinctively. “We can't start in the middle of the week. We have to wait until Monday. Fresh starts and all that. It's important to be prepared and today I am completely unprepared. I'm sweating, and this shirt is too big.”

“You're pathetic,” Derek tells him. “Offer to buy her a drink. Hers is empty.”

“You do it,” Stiles shoots back.

Derek smirks. “Are you sure you want me to do that?”

Stiles considers that. The effect Derek has on women and girls alike is frustrating, sure, but Stiles has no way of knowing how Derek would act if he were actually flirting with someone, and what the reaction to it would be. For all he knows Derek could be worse than Scott. He doubts it, for some reason.

“You're too old for her anyway,” Stiles sniffs. “And with that beard, I bet she'll be creeped out.”

“Not if she doesn't know who I am,” Derek shrugs, smirk still in place.

“Oh my god, I hadn't even thought of that. Derek Hale, suspected murderer-”

“Exonerated.”

“Oh, that is a harsh reputation to live with, man. At least my damage isn't common knowledge.”

“Exactly. So why don't you go talk to her?”

“Smooth,” Stiles manages around a laugh. “You almost got me there. Besides, if she does know who you are, she's going to be wondering what I'm doing hanging out with a convict.”

“I'm not-”

“I know, but you look like one and you act like one and I'm pretty sure you've done enough shady shit in your life to be one.”

“This coming from the twelve year old delinquent.”

“I'm twenty, you son of a bitch.”

“Maybe next year you can actually pick up girls at a club or a bar or something.”

Stiles kicks out at him from under the table, but only manages to bust his toes on the foot of the table.

He forgets about the girl.

 

Stiles graduated high school with everyone else and with his grades still intact, but there was not a single doubt in his mind that if he started college immediately after, he'd not only fail, but he'd probably have the worst mental break down ever. His father was supportive of whatever choice Stiles made at that point, because he had a first row seat to everything Stiles had gone through. So when Stiles decided to take a year off and stay home, the sheriff seemed relieved. Stiles got a job at a crummy data entry firm for six hours a day, he went to therapy for his anxiety for two hours a week, and the rest of his time he spent holed up in his room and shutting the world out. Therapy just meant that Stiles got some pills, because actually talking about what had brought him to this point in his life was impossible. He couldn't discuss the Nemeton with a random stranger without being committed into a mental hospital, so he kept it to himself. The pills helped numb his mind anyway. He managed to get well enough to sleep again, well enough to enroll into community college and well enough to leave the house for reasons other than work. His dad seemed very proud, which gave Stiles some sense of satisfaction.

Allison, Scott, Kira and Isaac started community college straight out of high school and they'd come by Stiles' house now and then. It was always awkward and their visits barely ever made Stiles feel better, and the fact that Stiles didn't feel better made him feel guilty. It was a cycle that just would not end. It didn't help that they were obviously all patrolling the woods and the outskirts of town for demon activity and trying very hard – and failing – to keep it from Stiles.

Derek stopped by a couple of times and he never stayed for longer than fifteen minutes. He never asked Stiles how he was doing. He mostly just talked to the sheriff, pushed Stiles around, and then left again.

Stiles liked his visits the most.

About six weeks ago Derek said that Stiles looked like the wind could blow him over, and the truth was that it might actually have been true. Stiles had lost weight, lost all the muscle mass he had built up the last two years in high school. Luckily for him, Derek and the sheriff had come to the agreement that Stiles needed to beef up. Instead of making him sign up for a gym membership like any normal person would do, Derek was standing next to his bed at six am the next morning. And every morning after that.

They would walk for thirty minutes until they reached the preserve, and there they'd run for an hour. For another hour, Derek would point at branches for Stiles to pull himself up on, he'd make Stiles jump, climb and scramble through dirt and vegetation until his legs were shaking and he felt like he might just throw up. Which he did, the first two times.

They'd usually arrive back to town around nine o'clock and after the first week of going straight home, Stiles asked Derek to get coffee with him and he did.

That's how Stiles copes now; he tries to push away the feeling of there being way too many hours in a day. His classes are all in the afternoon and only three days a week, and the homework he gets for them is barely enough to distract him for more than two hours a week, max. He still works at the data entry firm, which is becoming more and more depressing, but it's something that takes time out of his day, it takes time away from thinking, and that's always a good thing.

 

On the evening of the day Stiles sees the girl at Starbucks for the second time, he tells his father over dinner: “Derek thinks I should start asking girls out on dates and stuff.”

His dad looks up from his pasta. He looks surprised, but pleasantly so if the smirk he tries to hide behind his fork is anything to go by.

“Is that so? That doesn't sound like a bad plan, if you ask me. What do you think?”

“I think he's a horrible life coach, but he's not entirely stupid. I said I'd give it a shot, on the condition that he does too.”

“Sounds kind of great,” his dad says with an encouraging nod. “Just don't embarrass me while you're painting the town red.”

“Who even says that, dad.”

 

Stiles and Derek are walking back towards town the next day when Stiles thinks of something. “I should probably get new clothes, right?”

“Definitely.”

“I mean, I haven't really bought anything new in more than a year, it feels like. My dad buys me t-shirts from Target sometimes.”

“Buy new clothes. Not from Target.”

“It's either Target or that one store that sells plain white t-shirts for a hundred bucks, dude. Whatever, I can order some stuff online-”

“Don't do that. Go out this weekend. Go far, if you have to. Take Scott and Isaac, drive up to San Fransisco and buy whatever you want.”

“San Fransisco is four hours away.”

“Leave early.”

“I don't like Isaac.”

“Don't ask him to come.”

“My dad would be worried if I left town for the entire day.”

“You don't have to make excuses for my sake. It was just a suggestion,” Derek sighs. “My point is that I think it would be better if you went out to get your shit instead of getting it delivered to your house, where it's safe.”

“It's a good idea. I like San Fransisco. It's just... I don't know. Far. And it sounds exhausting, you know? Going over there, pretending like everything is great for an entire day, socializing, being a part of society. Wow, just talking about it is exhausting.”

“You don't have to pretend anything if you're just going with Scott.”

“That's where you're wrong. Scott is the love of my life, but he will turn a nice day out into an intervention within seconds if he thinks I'm not doing well. You don't know how he looks at me when I count my fingers in front of him. Like he wants to cry, literally.”

“He's worried.”

“Yeah. Whatever, I'll figure something out. It's just clothes.”

“What time is it?” Derek then asks.

Stiles looks at his watch and holds it up for Derek to see. “Almost nine, why?”

“Do you have to work today?”

“No, but I have class at three.”

Derek looks at him, quirks an eyebrow up. “Are you prepared to skip?”

“Huh, what's the alternative?” Stiles asks curiously.

“San Fransisco,” Derek smirks.

 

And that's how Stiles ends up going on an impromptu trip to a city four hours out of Beacon Hills. Derek gives Stiles an hour to get home, take a shower and meet Derek at the loft. That's an hour in which Stiles could change his mind, blow the whole thing off, disappoint Derek and get on with living on the safe side just a bit longer.

He doesn't. They leave Beacon hills a little past ten am, stop for gas once around twelve and arrive at their destination around one thirty.

Stiles forgets that long drives with people you don't know very well should be awkward. And sure, Stiles and Derek know each other pretty well. All their darkest secrets are out, but as people they are only just starting to bond, no matter what Derek says. They are bonding, and the drive is actually a lot of fun. There's no traffic, and Derek allows Stiles to pick the music and he doesn't tell Stiles to shut up when he rambles on for so long he needs to take a breather. In fact, the drive is so nice that if they were to turn back without buying anything, Stiles would still call it a good day.

 

But they don't turn back.

“Have you ever seen Crazy Stupid Love?” Stiles asks, because Derek is pulling off a great Ryan Gosling and Stiles needs to know if that is intentional or not.

“Is that a movie, or is that a question about my life experience?” Derek mumbles as he fingers through a rack of shirts. Stiles snorts at that and points at the blue shirt under Derek's hand. “That's a nice color,” he says. Derek pulls it off the rack and pushes it into Stiles' hands without a word. When Stiles sees the price he says: “I was kidding. This is hideous. Here, you can have it. Would look great on you.”

Thankfully though, Derek does not go Ryan Gosling all over Stiles' ass. Not that Stiles would particularly mind having Ryan Gosling all over his ass, but that's a thought to take home with him and play around with in the deep hours of the night. No, Derek lets Stiles pick his own clothes and only tells him to pick something else if it's too similar to what he already has. Derek is also in charge of what size Stiles needs, since he's not even sure himself and everything looks strange in the mirror anyway. As a matter of fact, Stiles hasn't looked into mirrors much in the last two years. Now that he has to – dressing rooms are a menace – he figures he probably needs a haircut and he definitely needs to get some more sun. At least his skin lost that diseased, ashy gray look it had up until he started working out. Now he's just very, very pale. His eyes still look kind of like those of a dead fish, but that's something he can not just easily fix by getting a tan.

Derek doesn't say much all day, but he does reply to Stiles' questions and nods at Stiles' stories and tells Stiles to shut up when it's gone on for too long. They eat pizza before heading back home, and on the drive back Derek says: “You need a haircut.”

“I'll make a spa day out of it; get my hair cut, get a tan, do my nails. Maybe I'll even get a massage, huh.”

“I've got scissors in the dashboard, don't test me.”

“Hey, I'd let you cut my hair, don't test me.

 

They don't get back to Beacon Hills until after midnight, but by that time Stiles has already clued the sheriff in on what's going on. Derek drops Stiles off in front of his house, and when Stiles gets in and up to his room, he feels lost. He leaves the bags with new clothes lying by his bedroom door, gets undressed and watches Crazy Stupid Love followed by some gay porn, before he falls asleep.

 

On Sunday, a few days after the trip to San Fransisco, Stiles thinks about cutting his own hair, but considering how that worked out for him that summer before high school started, he decides against it. So for the first time in his life he gets his hair cut by a professional hairdresser. Scott joins him, and does not even try to hide his amusement when the hairdresser shoves a magazine into his hands and asks him if he wants 'Bieber 2013' or maybe something more British. Stiles tells her he just wants it shorter.

“I wish Derek was here,” Scott muses when the women is gone for a moment. “I just wanted to see his face when she said that.”

“You don't know, maybe Derek is totally into those One Direction boys,” Stiles snorts as he twirls around in his chair. “I know I am.”

“Dude, no way. If you end up with a guy, it should at least be someone super hot. Like Hugh Jackman or Russel Crowe.'

“Now you're just naming hairy dudes from down under, Scott. That's not the definition of a hot guy.”

“So you think Derek likes guys?” Scott suddenly asks and Stiles gapes at him for a second too long.

“I was kidding,” Stiles stammers. “Why, do you think he's into guys?”

“You've been spending more time with him than me, so you should know,” Scott says, holding his hands up in defense. “I mean, everything is possible.”

“He did give me some sound fashion advice a few days ago,” Stiles says thoughtfully. “But I don't think he knows who Ryan Gosling is. What male-loving human being doesn't know who Ryan Gosling is?”

“Ryan Gosling is pretty hot,” Scott agrees. “Yeah, Derek is probably straight. I mean, does he know that you're bisexual?”

“No one knows that, officially. Just you.”

“Maybe you should tell him. Broaden the horizon for this whole getting laid-mission,” Scott suggests. “Or if that makes you uncomfortable, you can pick up girls with him and I'll go with you if you want to pick up a guy.”

And that's why Scott will always be number one in Stiles' dead heart.

 

On Monday Stiles throws up again after the workout. It's the first time since the first week, and Stiles doesn't blame Derek for the confused look.

“You don't smell sick,” Derek says. “What, you're just nervous?”

“Maybe,” Stiles says. He's jittery and nauseous, and completely, definitely not ready for whatever it is that he's supposed to be doing, starting today. “I don't know.”

“How do you feel?”

“Like I'm dying.”

“No, I mean how do you feel when you start doing that,” Derek says and catches Stiles' wrist. Stiles realizes he's been counting his fingers while they've been talking. He finishes counting – he was on six – and then looks up at Derek. It's going to be a warm day, from the looks of it, and Stiles wouldn't mind a cold drink after this, but he doesn't want to go anywhere near the Starbucks.

“It feels like if I don't do it, the floor is going to fall out from under me and I will never get back on solid ground again,” Stiles finally says. “I think you should shave your beard.”

“Why?”

“Because. I cut my hair, got new clothes. You didn't do anything. I thought we were a team.” There's more nerves in Stiles' stomach than he thought there were and it's getting difficult to talk without gagging. He's pretty sure he looks horrible and smells worse, but Derek just rolls his eyes and sighs loudly.

“I never said we were a team. This isn't about me, not really.”

“Well, it should be,”Stiles pants and waves himself in the face with both his hands. “Shave your beard. It'll make your face less menacing. People might not run away at the sight of you anymore.”

“That's the exact opposite of a reason to shave my beard,” Derek tells him. “I don't want people talking to me. Ever.”

“Not even super hot girls without an evil bone in their super hot bodies?”

“That's the worst thing that's ever come out of your mouth. And your puke is right over there."

“...Yeah, I think you're right. So unless you want to watch another round of me hurling behind that tree, agree to shave your beard so we can go home.”

“You'll stop puking if I agree to shave my beard?”

“I might-”

Stiles doesn't even make it to the tree.

 

Derek shaves his beard. And. Well.

Derek has a good face. A very good face, if the lingering glances every women and girl they pass the next morning are anything to go by. People stare and they try to make eye contact. People usually just stare at Derek's body and pretend they're not staring whenever Derek looks their way.

It's strange to see Derek shy away from looking people in the eye, like he's genuinely afraid they'll start talking to him.

Another thing Stiles notices about Derek's naked face is how young he looks. His eyes are suddenly big and bright and his skin smooth and there are even a couple of freckles on his cheeks.

“So, what, you're just too hot for the public? You've got to hide your face behind a beard and eyebrows to be left alone?”

“The naked face does not help with looking uninterested.”

“Oh, you still look uninterested. But more in an 'aloof Abercrombie model' kind of way, and less in a 'look at me again and I will rip your throat out with my teeth' kind of way. Your teeth actually look kind of cute-”

Stiles is cut off by Derek's hand covering his mouth and forcing him forward and down the street. Stiles considers biting or licking, but then Derek lets him go again, and points at the Starbucks. “My face is naked, so you're going to go in there. If the girl is there, you're going to talk to her, and you're not going to puke.”

“No, I'm not even wearing any of my new clothes! And my hair, it's not even done right! What's the point of the make over if you're not even going to use it?”

“You were working out. Girls like that.”

“They like sweaty guys bothering them at nine in the morning?” Stiles asks sceptically. But then he figures, maybe girls do like it when Derek Hale comes up to them all sweaty and pretty, no matter what time of day.

“They like guys who live their life and don't puke in the woods.”

“Are you ever going to let that go? It happens, okay? I'm a mess,”Stiles hisses and gives Derek a weak shove, which the man doesn't even acknowledge.

“Just go. It's Tuesday. You're a day late.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You're coming with me, right?”

To Stiles' sheer horror, the girl is actually there. Derek looks smug and Stiles almost doesn't accept the twenty dollar bill Derek shoves into his hand before sending him her way.

Her name is Sandy and she works at the daycare across the street. She doesn't start work until nine thirty, so she sometimes stops in to get a cup of coffee. She reads pedagogics journals on her Kindle and she likes black coffee. She's even prettier up close, and then right before Stiles can ask her for her number, she flushes red and says: “I have to ask you something, I hope I'm not rude. The guy you walked in here with... what's going on there?”

“Derek? Oh, he's harmless. A teddy bear, even,” Stiles says, just to spite the man who's clearly been listening in on the entire conversation. “Why, has he been looking at us?”

“No, I just... I figured you're usually with him when he comes in, and I thought maybe...if you think he could be interested, maybe you could give him my number?”

Stiles forgets how to blink for a good twenty seconds, and he's pretty sure he can hear crickets cricketing in the background, before he says: “Yeah, sure. I'll pass it on.”

She scribbles her number down onto a napkin before running out the door, and when Derek walks over Stiles throws the napkin at his face.

“Grow back your damn beard,” he tells him, but the truth is that he's not really angry. Sandy was nice enough, but also kind of boring and she didn't get all of Stiles' jokes. He is pretty sure that they wouldn't have gotten very far even if he was the person she was interested in.

“You could have told her that I wasn't interested and that you were,” Derek says. “You could have even said that I have a girlfriend and that you'd be happy to take her out instead.”

“Whatever. Better luck next time,” Stiles says, and is surprised to find that he means it. He's also a bit confused about the lightness he feels when they leave and he sees Derek throw the napkin with the girl's number on it in a trashcan on their way out.

 

“That's harsh, but I've got good news,” Scott says when Stiles tells him what happened later that evening. They're having pizza after a few hours of class – Stiles saw the girl with the leather jacket and almost asked her if she would mind going on a date with Derek, just to see his face when he told him – and Stiles is now starting to worry that cluing Scott in about the extent of this 'getting back out there' thing, was a bad idea. Scott has that gleam in his eyes that says he is excited about things. Stiles is just kind of tired. “There's a gay guy in my biology class.”

“That's your good news?” Stiles asks blandly.

“He's hot,” Scott adds.

“That is good news,” Stiles says with a nod.

“Kira thinks he's your type. I told her you don't really have a type, and she said that the guy was everyone's type. And it's true. Even I thought he was good looking.”

“You think Russel Crowe is hot, Scott. Besides, I did not ask for you to set me up with random gay dudes from your classes. That's not really how this is supposed to work.”

“You're looking for dates, aren't you? I really think this guy is nice.”

Stiles hesitates. Is he just looking for dates?

“It's not about that,” he decides. “It would defeat the point if I just dated a guy you already know. It's sort of like an easy way out. I'm supposed to go out into the big scary world and talk to strangers. Even if the thought makes me want to puke. Which I did a couple of times.”

“I don't understand,” Scott says, and from the look on his face Stiles can tell he really doesn't.

“Doesn't matter. It's complicated. You can point the guy out to me if we see him in school some time,” Stiles shrugs and eats his pizza.

 

“Can I ask you something?” Stiles asks only a few days later when he and Derek are making their way down the stairs from Stiles' room to the front door of his house. It's incredibly quiet outside at this time of day. The birds are only just waking up and it's always, always cold, but it's also the time of day that Stiles feels like his mind is clearest, quietest.

When Derek doesn't answer Stiles adds: “It's personal.”

“When has that ever stopped you from asking me anything and everything that pops into your mind?” Derek asks as he closes the front door to Stiles' house behind him before following Stiles down the front steps and onto the driveway. Stiles falls into step next to him, keeps his eyes on the road ahead and asks: “Do you know that I'm bisexual?”

Derek replies without missing a beat: “Yeah.”

“Oh. Oh, good. Because Scott figured you might not know, and it could be weird or-”

“You spent an hour talking about all the naked guys in that show you're watching and assuring me that you were only appreciating the great form they were in because you were also trying to get into shape. I felt really bad for you,” Derek tells him. Stiles laughs.

The show Stiles has been watching is Spartacus, and even though it's really not a feel good show, all the nudity does have a positive effect on his mood and on his somewhat recovering libido. He wonders why he thought it was a good idea to tell Derek all about it? He's been telling Derek a lot, hasn't he? Because he sees him everyday and they have to talk about something, and they're all still in silent agreement that cluing Stiles in on demon-adventures is a bad idea. Since Derek's life basically just revolves around demons and all other things horrible, he doesn't talk much. But he listens, and Stiles figures that's just as good.

“So Scott wants to set me up with this guy from his class, and I'm not completely sure about it.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don't know this guy. I've never even seen him. Scott picked him. It feels like it's about me, but at the same time it has nothing to do with me, because I literally don't even know this guy's name. Does that make sense?”

“You want to find someone yourself,” Derek shrugs. “What's the big deal?”

“I don't know. It just feels like a big deal. Can't you explain it? This was all your idea to begin with.”

“What are you talking about? All I did was suggest you go talk to a girl, and you turned it into an opportunity to get your shit together. This is all you. I'm just here to make sure that the next time someone tries to kidnap you, you can run.”

“Shut up, you're totally my life coach.”

“I will kill you.”

 

In the following week Stiles notices something. He had figured that Derek would put the pressure on him now. Tell him to go talk to strangers at Starbucks or to the pretty girl at the bus stop, or something. He'd figured that Derek would not let it rest.

Instead, Derek refuses to stay in town with him for longer than strictly necessary. He doesn't even walk Stiles home anymore. It shouldn't have taken Stiles as long to realize what the problem was.

“So you're just going to stay either in the woods or in the loft until your face is covered again,” Stiles says when Derek shoots down Stiles' whining about frosty frappuccinos for the fifth morning in a row.

“People talk to me when I'm outside,” Derek says grimly. “I don't appreciate it.”

“Isn't that the whole point, though? Us, talking to people, socializing,” Stiles says, wiggling his fingers around the last word. “Besides, you've got some pretty good fuzz going on already-” he reaches up to touch Derek's face in a reflex and to his surprise Derek does not bite his hand off. Instead he lets Stiles graze a couple of fingers over his stubble before baring his teeth, but it's playful and Stiles grins.

“It's your turn anyway,” Stiles then says. “You want to see if that lady that works at the bakery is there now?”

“No.”

“Are you scared?”

“Yes, Stiles, I'm terrified,” Derek drawls and pushes at Stiles' shoulder for him to continue walking. They had stopped at the edge of town, where they usually parted if they decided to go straight home.

“Scared that she might be a she-demon in disguise?” Stiles asks and lets himself be ushered towards over the sidewalk. “Terrorizing Beacon Hills, one delicious pastry at a time. I definitely need one of their coconut cookies right now.”

“You go get those. I'll see you tomorrow,” Derek says, pushing Stiles forward and stepping back. He turns around and walks the other way before Stiles can yell after him how much of an asshole he is, without making a scene.

 

Stiles eats all of his words on a Monday afternoon when he finally meets Scott's mystery guy outside of Scott's biology lecture hall. Stiles is absolutely not prepared for beautiful green eyes, dark blond hair and a sparkling smile. In fact, he's pretty sure that he gapes at the dude for a very inappropriate amount of time before he somewhat finds his senses again and is able to stiltedly accept the number that's shoved into his hands before the guy leaves again.

“So,” Scott beams. “Awesome, or what?”

“I love you,” Stiles sighs.

“Aw, I love you too, man,” Scott grins and swings an arm around Stiles' shoulder.

“I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to my future husband. What's his name again? I was distracted by thoughts of all the sex I'm going to have with him as soon as possible.”

 

Of course that's not how it goes. And truthfully, Stiles has always known that that's not how it was going to go.

Because the first thing that happens is that when Stiles goes to insert the number into his phone that evening, he tries to put letters to the numbers on the piece of paper. Until there's almost a name, a name that doesn't exist, because this is just a phone number, Stiles, not a message, you're fine, you're fine. But the feeling doesn't going away, not until he tears the piece of paper up and flushes it down the toilet. His dinner follows it quickly.

He doesn't sleep that night, is kept awake by nausea and his heart thundering in his chest. He puts on movie after movie until the sun rises and he can hear Derek come in through the front door at the same time the sheriff leaves for work.

Derek knocks once before entering Stiles' room, and stops at the door. The look he gives him is enough for Stiles to figure that Derek knows something isn't quite right. The older man closes the door behind him, but doesn't move further into the room. Stiles doesn't know if he can open his mouth without bursting out into pathetic tears, so he keeps his mouth shut and his eyes on his laptop screen. There's a movie playing, but he has no idea what it is or when it started. He can't recognize anything, can't focus on the words that are being said.

“Did you sleep?” Derek's voice is clear as day though, cutting through the chaos of thoughts running through Stiles' head.

“I don't know,” Stiles utters hoarsely.

“Stiles,” Derek says, tone warning.

“No,” Stiles immediately says and looks up at him. “No, I don't think so.” He counts his fingers under his bed covers before pushing the covers off of his chest and releasing his arms. He closes his laptops but doesn't get out of bed.

“Should I call your dad back?” Derek then asks, taking a few steps forward. He stops at the side of Stiles' bed and cups Stiles' forehead with one large hand.

“No,” Stiles' says weakly. He practically melts into the warmth of Derek's hand, but keeps his eyes open. This isn't the time. “No,” he repeats, and gently pushes Derek's hand away. “I'm not sick. I just had a small freak out.”

“A small freak out that kept you up all night.”

“I prefer being awake when I'm in an unstable mindset.”

“You want to tell me what happened?” Derek asks, and pulls Stiles' desk chair over. Stiles doesn't really want to talk about it, still afraid that he'll start crying in front of Derek Hale, of all people. On the other hand, Derek is here, isn't he? He's not one to offer help if he does not actually want to help.

Stiles tells him what happened, and he doesn't cry.

“It's not as if this is the first time I've seen a bunch of numbers. I just got so fixated on them, on what would happen if I called him – and before I knew it, I could barely even breathe. Basically my body telling me that I am definitely not ready to deal with people on that level yet. Sorry. I really thought I was making progress, and we were bonding and-”

“Apologize again and I'll punch you in the mouth, I swear to god, Stilinski,” Derek sighs loudly and covers Stiles' forehead with his hand again. “Get some sleep. I'll be back tomorrow morning.”

“Are you going to run by yourself?”

“I can stay until you fall asleep, if you want,” Derek says and that definitely surprises Stiles. He can't make out if Derek actually wants to stay or whether Stiles just looks so horrible that Derek is having mad pity for him this morning. Whatever the reason, Stiles nods before lying back down in his bed.

Derek doesn't remove his hand.

 

Stiles wakes up a little less than three hours later and when he finally stumbles downstairs after a long shower, there is a bag from the bakery waiting for him on the kitchen table. There is orange juice in the fridge – and milk, and tomatoes and -

Stiles looks for the grocery list he's sure his father had stuck to the fridge door the evening before, but can't seem to find it. All the groceries are in their place though, and Stiles knows better than to assume his father did them before going to work. He wants to be able to say that he also knows better than to think that Derek might have done this. That Derek had done Stiles' chores for him, because Stiles wasn't feeling well. He wants to think that it's impossible, but finds himself thinking it's just kind of... Derek.

Stiles eats a coconut cookie before putting on his running shoes.

 

Stiles tries not to think too much about the fact that he and Derek are pretty close friends now. He tries not to think too much about it, but it's constantly on his mind anyway. The fact that Derek is just kind of there for him these days. The fact that Stiles can pretty much talk to him about anything; from light summaries of TV shows he's been watching, to the bone crushing fear Stiles feels seconds before he falls asleep every night.

So Stiles should be able to say thank you.

He can't though. Instead he says: “Your beard is back nice and thick.”

“I'm not shaving it again.”

“You're just going to let it grow forever?”

“I might.”

“I could give you all my plaid flannel. You could build a cabin in the woods. You know, that kind of makes me want to see you fight a bear.”

“Why don't you go find a bear for me, and I'll see if I can fight it off you.”

Stiles hasn't been inside Derek's loft for almost a year and a half, but he ran all the way here and he's standing in Derek's doorway now, as if he had a plan.

He doesn't have a plan. He just has a feeling that he should be here, that he can't avoid this place forever, no matter how often the wall of windows appears in his nightmares.

“I think you should move somewhere else,” Stiles says, sliding the heavy metal doors closed behind him. “Not actually into a cabin in the woods, but at least somewhere with central heating, maybe. I'm saying this as a friend who cares.”

“You're not the one feeling the cold, so you don't get an opinion,” Derek says easily. Stiles follows him further into the loft, dragging muddy shoes over hard floors. He looks around to see if anything has changed from the way he remembers it being, but the only significant difference is the amount of books piled onto a large table at the far end of the open space.

“Evil creature library?” Stiles asks, nodding towards the table.

“That's one reason you're not supposed to be here, isn't it?”

“I'm being the change I want to see in the world, remember? But I think we might need to regroup on this whole 'new us' project we have going on. I was thinking maybe throwing ourselves into the dating game head first is a bad idea.”

“We haven't even gone near the dating game, Stiles,” Derek says. It seems as though he's fished a bottle of water out of thin air and Stiles accepts it thankfully. “And I'm getting tired of telling you that there is no 'us'.”

“Ignoring everything you are saying right now, I think we might need to make a few other changes first. Like, maybe you could get a new place to live. Maybe get a job that is vaguely related to what you went to college for. Maybe go out with friends now and then. Like when we went to San Fransisco? We should do that again. Go to other places, do other stuff. Who even needs to get laid, right? Wow, I am really thirsty.” He unscrews the cap off the bottle of water and chugs down about half of it in one go. “So?” he then asks, seeing as Derek has yet to react to Stiles' suggestions for bettering his life. “What do you say?”

“What are you saying?” Derek asks, annoyance clear not only in his tone of voice but also by the way he is standing there, looking very... annoyed.

Stiles mimics his stance, crosses his arms and glares. He opens his mouth to say something and then doesn't find the words. What is he saying? Why is he here? Why is he at Derek Hale's loft, of all the places that he could be on this very morning?

And just like that, Stiles knows why. He looks at Derek's face, still scrunched up in agitation, and feels his own face go from a normal temperature to unnaturally hot in less than a second.

Oh god.

Oh no.

 

Realizing you're in love with someone who is not romantically or sexually interested in your gender kind of feels like getting punched in the gut by an icy fist the size of a basketball that manages to blow a hole all the way through your stomach and come out through the other side. That's what Stiles is thinking when his father keeps throwing glances at him over the kitchen table that very evening. Stiles wonders if he can put it into words that won't sound so melodramatic, won't make him out to be more pathetic than he actually is.

His father speaks up first. “You're not back to skipping meals, are you buddy?” he asks.

“No,” Stiles says without hesitation. He's noticed the pleased smiles people give him when he eats, like they're proud of him for doing something that simple. It's kind of degrading, but at the same time he can't really be mad at anyone for being happy he's performing basic human functions either. “I'm just not feeling these fries tonight.”

“We can order you something else,” his dad suggests readily. “What do you want?”

“Derek, apparently.”

The sheriff stares at him from across the table, blinks twice, and then leans back in his chair. “Okay, from the beginning,” he says, motioning with his hand for Stiles to explain.

“There's no story,” Stiles shrugs. “I just like him, I guess. More than that. I love him. He's great. I'm also into dudes, in case that wasn't already very clear.”

“Oh god.”

“Come on, dad, it's not like-”

“Derek Hale, though? What happened to going out and dating girls – or boys, whatever. When did that turn into dating Derek?”

“No one said anything about dating Derek, dad. He's straight and I'm a dude. Case closed.”

“He said that?”

“He said what?”

“You told him that you're... oh god, in love with him and he said that he's straight and not interested?”

“I didn't tell him anything. You think I should? I should, shouldn't I?”

“Hold on, son, hold on.” The sheriff is up and around the table, taking Stiles' phone out of his hand and holding it away in a matter of seconds. “You've got to think this through for a second here. We don't know if he's interested, but we do know that he cares about you a lot. Telling him you're head over heels might not be the best plan of action just yet.”

“Dad, he's going to find out,” Stiles counters. “Sooner or later I'm going to say something stupid or he's going to smell that I'm super hot for him. Then what?”

“I'm not saying keep this a secret forever. I'm just saying do what you do best. Do your research,” the sheriff says before handing Stiles' phone back to him. “Now eat your fries, or I will.”

 

“What is wrong with you?”

Yeah, that's a pretty fair question, since Stiles is now at Derek's loft for the second time in one day after not going there for more than a year. It's a fair question in general in Stiles' case. But since there's not an easy answer, Stiles decide not to try.

“I skipped out on work and then I was kind of bored at home, so now I'm here,” he says and shuffles past Derek's frame, that has been blocking Stiles from entering. When he's far enough into the loft that he can comfortably assume that he won't be hauled back and thrown out, he says: “I'm here to work out. I only ran this morning. I didn't do any weight training and I know how important that is to you. So I figure why slack off when I still have time?”

“Why did you skip out on work?” Derek asks. He hasn't moved from his place by the door, and that kind of makes Stiles nervous. In fact, Stiles is very nervous. He might need to think his plans through for more than five minutes from now on.

“Because it's very boring,” Stiles then says, “and I'm not in the mood for data entry, crazy as it might sounds. Were you doing something important? Why are you still standing there?”

“I got a call from Isaac five minutes ago. There's something in the woods and he can't catch it's scent,” Derek says and finally moves forward.

“Great, I'll come with you,” Stiles blurts. It takes a moment for him to register exactly what he just said, and when it registers, he feels about as confused as Derek looks.

“Seriously,” Derek says flatly. “What is wrong with you?” They're almost toe to toe now and Derek can probably see every imperfection in Stiles' face, can probably smell his confusion, his lust and his fear, can probably feel the heat radiating off of Stiles' skin in waves -

“Hey,” Derek then says softly. His hand comes up to rest on Stiles' shoulder. “What-”

Stiles has never initiated a kiss before. He always figured that if someone would want to kiss him, they would kiss him. So he doesn't know why it's suddenly so important for him to kiss Derek in that moment, why he surges forward like it's the only reasonable thing to do. Why he kisses him, while the other man stands unmoving for seconds on end.

And then Stiles feels warm fingers wrap around his throat. Gentle at first, but it quickly becomes forceful and then Derek is pushing him away but not letting go. For a second Stiles feels betrayed. He had expected that Derek might push him away, but he didn't think Derek would actually hurt him because of a kiss. It's when Derek speaks up that Stiles feels a flood of relief, ironically.

“Prove that you're real,” Derek says, ice in his voice and his eyes shining electric. His fingers don't tighten around Stiles' throat, but it would only take a split second for Derek to dig his nails in.

“I'm real,” Stiles breathes out. “I swear, it's me, Derek. I'm sorry, okay? I should have warned you, but it's me.”

“Prove it,” Derek bites, but his shoulders sag, resolve slowly crumbling. Stiles wants to scream at him then, because how does he prove it? What can he say that will convince Derek that he's not another demon, that he's not another shapeshifter, not another killer trying to seduce him?

“You said that I was never going to feel ready,” Stiles pants. “You said that I shouldn't wait until I felt like I was ready, because it was never going to happen. That I should just do the things I want to do and see what happens. I wanted to kiss you, and I did, and now you're choking me. But at least I got to kiss you first.”

Derek retracts his arm, as if his hand has been burned on Stiles' skin. Stiles stares at him, shocked, but not afraid.

“I'm sorry,” Derek then says, and he seems to hesitate about stepping into Stiles' space. He stays where he is, but repeats: “I'm sorry. I had to be sure. I didn't want to hurt you, I swear-”

“I know,” Stiles says, touching the skin around his neck and throat gingerly. It doesn't hurt, probably won't bruise. “At least you're keeping an eye out.”

“Sorry I choked you.”

“Yeah, no problem. Thanks for not damaging my windpipe, I guess. I'm just going to...” he points at the door, and pushes past Derek in hurried steps to get there. Stiles sees Derek's fingers twitch, as if he's contemplating grabbing Stiles as he walks past, but decides against it in the last moment. Stiles is busy fighting down his bitter disappoint when Derek's voice startles him.

“Wait.”

And Stiles does. He turns around.

“Why did you kiss me?” Derek asks.

“It was uh, part of my research. My research to find out if you might be attracted to guys, and potentially by extension be attracted to me.”

At that moment Derek's phone rings somewhere in the loft, and Derek only hesitates a second before he goes to grab it.

Stiles takes that as his cue and leaves.

 

He's surprised to see that Derek shows up the next morning. Stiles is in the kitchen in his running gear, finishing up a glass of orange juice when Derek pushes through the front door. He's about fifteen minutes later than usual, and when he comes in Stiles can see why. He's still in his jeans and shirt from the other day, there are dirt smudges on his clothes and even a few streaks in his face.

Stiles hadn't expected him to come, but he'd been awake and of course he'd been hoping.

“I was kidding when I said I wanted you to wrestle a bear,” Stiles says lightly and pours another glass of juice. He slides it over the table and Derek takes it, drinks it all in one gulp. “Rough night?”

Derek shrugs, puts the empty glass down on the table and suddenly looks like he's lost. Stiles doesn't blame him.

“I'm sorry,” Stiles says. “I shouldn't have done that yesterday and I know why it freaked you out. I understand if you don't want to hang out anymore.” It hurts to even say the words, and to think of what it would be like to have to wake up alone again every morning, not having his few hours with Derek to look forward to. He doesn't look away from him though, and continues. “But I think you should know that I meant it. I have feelings for you, that's why I kissed you.”

“Did you mean it when you said you wanted to come with me last night?”

“What?” Stiles asks, confused.

“When I told you that Isaac had called me about something in the woods, you said you wanted to come with me to see what it was. Did you mean that?” Derek clarifies.

Stiles thinks about it, thinks about the evening before, about how he felt, about the flutter of excitement in his chest at the thought of something interesting he could be part of. All of that before Derek had his hand on his throat.

“Yeah,” Stiles nods. “I did. It might sound weird, but I felt like I could do it again. Like maybe I could help.”

“Do you know why I come here every morning?” Derek then asks after a pause. “It's not because I feel sorry for you, or because I think you're weak. It's because this town needs you, Stiles. Scott needs you and Beacon Hills needs you. They might think it's better if you stay away from all of it, but I don't believe that. Neither do you.”

“No,” Stiles agrees. “I'm willing to help again.”

“Good,” Derek nods and takes a few steps around the table, so fast that Stiles backs away and into the the kitchen counter. Stiles can feel the heat coming off of Derek's body and is confused at the proximity. Their faces are close enough that it would only take a tilt of Stiles' head for them to kiss, and while Stiles considers that, he realizes what is really going on.

“Oh, wow, really?” he asks breathlessly, and Derek just nods before putting a gentle hand on Stiles' neck. The kiss is soft and easy, and long enough for Stiles to wonder how he ever went without Derek's mouth on his own.

 

“I see that you've decided to completely ignore my advice,” is how the sheriff greets them when he comes home that evening and finds Stiles and Derek on the living room couch with a foot of space between them. Derek's hair is all messed up and even his shirt is rumpled, so yeah, Stiles can see how his dad made the connection.

They had gone to Derek's place that morning so that he could change before they went out into the woods for their work out, and they had parted again so that Derek could once again go home for a shower and a change of clothes and Stiles could do the same. Stiles went to class for two hours, pretended to care about whatever was going on there, and raced back home because Derek had promised he'd meet him there.

That was three hours ago and they'd been making out ever since.

“You don't sound surprised,” Derek notes before pushing himself off the couch. “I was just leaving.”

“No, you weren't,” Stiles says, and has just enough self preservation not to add your were just coming. “Unless you mean leaving and heading upstairs to my room.”

“Take him and go,” the sheriff sighs and it's unclear who exactly he's referring to. It doesn't really matter.

 

“Do you really think I could help again?” Stiles asks quietly. It's late and it's become dark around them a long time ago. They're sprawled out together on Stiles' bed. He's on his back with his head on Derek's stomach. Derek's hand is in Stiles hair, making slow circles and making Stiles sleepy. Stiles doesn't want to fall asleep, doesn't want to wake up to find out that this might not be real. No matter how many times his fingers tell him that it is.

“Yes.”

“You said Scott needs me, and Beacon Hills needs me... what about you? You don't really need me, but...”

“All I need is for you to be okay. So that I can want you without holding back.”

“You're holding back?”

“Hm.”

Stiles laughs at that, feels his face heat up and covers it with his hands despite the fact that it's so dark Derek wouldn't be able to make out the blush. “That makes me kind of happy,” Stiles admits. “To know that there's more where all this came from.”

 

Stiles' sex drive had petered out when he started taking anti-depressants. He'd jerk off to let loose of some tension, but he'd rarely been horny. His sex drive had gone up pretty much the second he got off anti-depressants, but there had still been something dull about it.

He's thinking about this, and how he's going to explain this to Derek while he's on his way to class. Derek had spent the night there, and they had gone running together that morning like it was just any other day. The only difference was that they kissed when they parted ways. And maybe one more thing was different; how badly Stiles didn't want to part ways.

He runs into Scott in front of the community college building, sees him waving him over. He texted Scott earlier telling him that they needed to talk, because this isn't just something you keep from your best friend for more than twenty four hours before it becomes actively not telling him.

Scott looks cheerful, as usual, but with a hint of extra excitement about him. Stiles wonders if maybe Derek already told him, but that doesn't seem likely.

“You look happy,” Scott says, before Stiles can say the exact same thing to him. “Did you talk to Gregory?”

“Did I talk to who?” Stiles asks, confused. “Who's Gregory?”

Scott blinks at him, looks worried suddenly. “You know, the guy from biology. Greg?”

“Oh, that guy,” Stiles says and lets out a surprised laugh at the realization. He had no idea that that guy's name was Gregory. “No, I didn't talk to him.”

“Really? I thought you guys would have totally hit it off! I thought you were going to call him. Listen, if you're nervous we can do a double date first. Me and Kira, and you and Greg-”

“Yeah, not going to happen, Scotty,” Stiles grins cheerfully. “But hey, I'll totally ask Derek if he wants to go on a double date with you and Kira. I'm sure he'll love that.”

“Okay, I'm missing something here. Why would Derek want to – why are you looking at me like that?”

“We kissed,” Stiles then blurts, because talking around it is clearly not going to work. “A whole lot. Almost all day yesterday. Derek and I, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”

“No. Way.”

“Yes way. There was tongue and everything. Come on, we have a lot to talk about.”

 

As it turns out, Stiles had forgotten what it was like to share good news and to see a friend be genuinely happy for him, with him. Scott is excited, which makes Stiles excited, which causes for them to then skip out on their classes and talk over milkshakes for three and a half hours. It's the first time in a very long time that Scott volunteers information about his own situation. Stiles always asks, and the answer is always 'fine' or 'busy, you know' and never detailed. Scott tells him about the demon activity, about Kira, about how he's happy Stiles is willing to help because apparently Lydia is living up her life at the other side of the country and they are severely inconveniencing her at least once a week by asking her to help them over Skype.

“Let me tell you something,” Scott says, almost gleeful with his hands on Stiles' shoulders. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you smiling. It's like I can breathe again.”

“That's gross, Scott, don't ever say that again,” Stiles says easily. “But also I love you.”

“So...” Scott looks awkward all of a sudden. A bit shifty-eyed and nervous. “We're still best friends, right?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, I know you and Derek have been spending a lot of time together and to be honest I'm really happy things turned out the way they did, but I was kind of worried. You were always with him, like it was something normal all of a sudden. And you didn't really call me anymore to catch up, and your dad said you were getting a lot better, so I thought maybe you just weren't interested in being friends anymore.”

“That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, Scott. There was a lot going on, that's the only reason we kind of lost touch a bit. You're my best friend. Derek is Derek.”

“Good,” Scott then grins. “So are you seeing him later today?”

“Derek? Yeah, I need to read up on all this demon stuff and he's bringing some books over for me to scan through later tonight. You can come over too, if you want.”

“No way, that sounds like a study date. You have fun and text me all the raunchy details.”

 

“Do you want a gun?”

“Why, what did you do?” Stiles sits up from where he had been reclined on his bed until Derek pushed the door to his room open after a knock and his great starter.

“A gun for when you inevitably get harassed by something when you start helping the pack,” Derek clarifies. Stiles is surprised to see that he's not carrying any books. It's the first time that Stiles considers the idea that Derek actually just wants to make out, and that the catching him up on demonic activity was all just a ruse.

“I don't like weapons. Besides, I have a bat,” Stiles says, waving his hand at his shiny metal friend that's tucked next to the headboard of his bed.

“Think about it,” Derek says absently as he digs through his pants pocket. His nice tight pants. Well. Maybe Stiles wouldn't really mind if it was all just a ruse.

But to Stiles' surprise Derek pulls a flash drive out of his pocket and hands it to Stiles before sitting down in Stiles' desk chair. “We had to make scans of all the information we have so we could send it to Lydia,” Derek explains. “If you want to see the originals, you can come by whenever.”

“Maybe when you move out,” Stiles snorts and doesn't waste any time plugging the drive into his laptop. “Holy shit, that's a lot of information. This is going to be a long night-”

“You're not going to get through all of it tonight and you don't have to. It's mostly boring stuff anyway. I can tell you the basics.”

“Are you going to do that from all the way over there?” Stiles asks. It's supposed to be a flirt, but it just sounds shy even to his own ears. Derek looks a bit surprised, but he doesn't waste any time getting up and shuffling over to sit next to Stiles on his bed.

“Hi,” Stiles says.

“Hey,” Derek answers. They meet in the middle for a kiss, just a quick one, but Stiles' face feels hot anyway. He's anxious about pulling away, because he suddenly feels the urge to start counting his fingers. He knows Derek understands why he does it, but it would be a mood killer, no doubt. Still, the urge is too strong to ignore and he won't be able to focus on anything until he has counted them.

So he pulls away and smacks a peck on the corner of Derek's mouth and starts talking about his afternoon with Scott, while he presses one finger at a time against his thigh, until he's had all of them.

Derek does a great job of pretending he doesn't see it, or maybe he's really not bothered by it. Stiles isn't sure and he's not prepared to ask at the moment.

They filter through a certain amount of information on Stiles' laptop before Stiles feels the need to lean back into Derek's warmth and Derek lets it happen as if it's the most natural thing. Stiles then disregards his laptop entirely, closes it and slides it under his bed when he feels Derek press a kiss against the back of his neck.

“Do that again,” Stiles hums. “I don't think I've ever felt anything that nice.”

And Derek does it again, and again, and trails soft kisses from Stiles' ear down to his shoulder. At first it tickles a bit, but then it just turns into warmth and softness.

That's how Stiles falls asleep. It's not even ten pm.

 

“So, Derek has slept over two nights in a row and it's been suspiciously quiet both nights,” is how the sheriff decides to embarrass Stiles the next day over lunch. It's Saturday and Stiles used to bring his father lunch at the station on Saturdays. It was sort of a tradition before that became harder and harder to maintain after werewolves started being a thing. The last time Stiles had brought his father lunch at the station was about two months ago. In fact, his father was surprised to see him, and hugged him at the door of his office before pulling him inside.

“I slept really well last night,” Stiles shrugs. “All through the night. Didn't wake up once.”

“Wow, son, that's some serious progress,” his dad as he pokes through his salad. “You know, I've always liked that kid.”

“Please, dad, I haven't even always liked Derek. No need to pretend,” Stiles snorts.

“I might not have been his biggest fan when I thought he had killed his own sister, but you're partially to blame for that so that cancels things out, right?”

“Don't bring that up around him. I'm pretty sure he's still mad at me for that. But you know, dad, now that we're speaking of how much we like Derek... I want you to remember that when I tell you this next little thing.”

As expected, his dad doesn't react all that well to the news that Stiles is planning on getting back involved with evil supernatural crime solving. The sheriff doesn't flat out reject the idea, but he does ask why about five times in a row and he does look up at the ceiling for fifteen minutes like God is personally there calming him down.

“It was my idea,” Stiles says before he leaves at the end of his dad's lunch break. “Derek just thought it was a good one. Scott too, for the record. Apparently Beacon Hills needs me?”

“Stiles, we all need you, alive.” The sheriff has that frown on his face that tells Stiles he's absolutely not happy with what is going on, but that he's also aware that this isn't something he can stop. Stiles feels a wave of nostalgia.

 

“So how come we never knew you were attracted to guys?”

Stiles had decided to walk to work that afternoon, because spring had finally arrived and the sky was a nice bright blue color for the first time again in a while. When his shift ended, his mood was a little less great, because Jesus data entry is so fucking boring. But Derek offered to pick him up when Stiles complained about it over text, so now Stiles is bothering Derek as they're waiting in front of a red light.

“Because I'm not,” Derek shrugs, peering through the front window. Stiles is about to object that it is way too late for Derek to crawl back into the closet, when Derek glances his way and adds: “Usually.”

“Oh. Wait, so you picked me to be attracted to out of all the guys in the world? Have you ever seen Ryan Gosling?”

 Another shrug. “You're better.”

“Shut up.”

“What can I say, you're attractive to me, even when you're puking in the woods and smell like a locker room.”

“You need to work on your flirting, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

“I wasn't trying to be sentimental. These are just facts.”

“That I'm the only guy you've ever been attracted to? In what universe is that even a thing? Have you seen how pale my skin is? It's so white I'm pretty sure it could blind you, you know. If you're going to tell me that you find me attractive because I have a girlish mouth, then we're ending this right here.”

“Who's been telling you you have a girlish mouth?” Derek asks, sounding amused.

“People used to tease me about it in middle school – do not laugh at my trauma, Derek, I am a man.

Derek is still laughing at him when the light turns green. Stiles isn't sure where they're going, doesn't really care all that much as long as they can still spend some time together. But when Derek pulls into a neighborhood all the way down town and stops in front of an apartment building Stiles has never visited before, Stiles has to ask: “What's this?”

“Peter's place.”

“Jesus Christ, Derek.”

“He's not here, don't worry about him. Come on, let's check it out.”

Stiles hesitates before he finally follows Derek out of the car and across the street to the entrance of the building. Derek, as it turns out, has a key to the place. “So why are we checking out Peter's evil hideout?” Stiles asks, following Derek into the warm foyer. It's fancier than most buildings in Beacon Hills, and Stiles figures that that's why Peter lived here. Stiles hasn't seen Peter in about two years, when he decided Beacon Hills wasn't worth dying for and moved to Brazil? Argentina? Stiles didn't care enough to remember. He's curious now though.

“You're the one who keeps saying I can't live in the loft. It's either this or a cabin in the woods, like you said.”

“I vote for the cabin! Ten million times the cabin over anything Peter has ever touched!”

Derek blatantly ignores Stiles' objections and pushes him into a spacious elevator. They go up to the twelfth floor and Stiles spends the elevator ride summing up all the horrible, horrible things they might find in Peter's apartment. Stiles' best guesses are either a torture dungeon or a sex dungeon, and knowing Peter, they probably won't even be able to tell which it is.

“How long has it been since anyone's been inside? Two years? Man, that place is going to be dusty, if not rat infested. What if we find crack heads in there? What are you going to do if –“

Words die on Stiles' tongue as Derek pushes the front door open and nudges Stiles inside. The front door opens in a huge open living room, entirely modern interior and windows from floor to ceiling at the far end. “Holy shit,” Stiles says. “Yeah, you're definitely moving in here.”

 

“So, I'll text Scott and tell him he's helping us disinfect that place tomorrow afternoon and then tomorrow night you can move all your stuff in there. I've got to say, Derek, I'm impressed that you actually had a plan. What's next? Are you going to be a history teacher?” Stiles asks teasingly when they're back in Derek's car on their way to Stiles' house.

“Yeah, my interview is next week.”

“Oh my-”

“If you actually believe I'm serious then you don't know me at all and I'm ending this right now,” Derek tells him seriously and Stiles clamps his mouth shut.

“All I'm saying is that....” Stiles starts after a while and then rethinks what he wants to say. “All I'm saying is that I think you moving out of the loft is really great, and I can't imagine you doing anything other than violently protecting Beacon Hills from getting swept off the map by evil.”

Derek doesn't reply and Stiles doesn't really expect him to. He somewhat regrets saying it, because he's aware that Derek doesn't actually do what he does because he likes it. He does it because that's all he knows, because he feels like he has to, and despite himself Stiles doesn't want to make it sound like he agrees with that. He knows Derek can do other things, but he also knows that he won't. It was supposed to sound supportive.

They're pulling up in front of Stiles' house before he knows it, and Derek doesn't turn off the ignition.

“You should stay,” Stiles suggests hopefully, thinking of the amazing sleep he had last night. “Go over some more demon info...”

“Your dad is home.”

“Yeah. Oh, he hates you now, probably,” Stiles blurts, remember his visit to the station that afternoon.

“He didn't hate me before?”

“I know, right? I was surprised, too. He didn't take the news of me getting back in the game all that well. Your name might have come up,” he says guiltily. “Sorry. Hey, if you come inside, I can make it up to you with cookies. And making out.”

“I don't know. What kind of cookies?”

“Coconut, from that woman at the bakery you almost married,” Stiles grins at the memory. “That feels like such a long time ago, and it's only been a few weeks.”

“A lot can happen in a few weeks,” Derek says.

“Yeah, I think we've proved that. Do you really think I'm going to be okay?”

The question hangs in the air and Stiles wonders where it came from. It just... came.

“Yeah,” Derek says, sounding confident. “Definitely. Anyone else in your place wouldn't have made it this far.”

“Except for you.”

“Not quite as well.”

“I'll take your word for it then. Hey... I slept really great last night, and I think you might have had something to do with it. So if you can stay over, that would be great.”

Derek turns off the ignition.

There aren't any cookies left when they get inside, but Stiles thinks he more than makes up for it with the making out part of the deal.