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Gym Rats

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After New Year’s there’s always a bunch of new members at Stiles’ gym. Based on history he knows that the crowd will thin out in February, and by March it’s just the regulars again. Still, he takes interest in a newcomer lifting weights nearly every weekday morning in January and hopes he’ll stick around. Stiles tries not to stare too hard when the guy does squats, but his ass in those shorts is glorious, and most of the other gym rats agree. The gym is a meat market, no doubt about it. Normally Stiles would balk at this kind of objectification, but Gym Guy is certainly more interesting to watch than the shitty daytime television that plays on the screens overhead. Beyond aesthetics, the guy is just Stiles’ type--hot like fire, but with an air of steely coolness.

Stiles tries to go to the gym five times a week, and not just for the eye candy either. It’s the hour a day he has to himself, and it’s important for his sanity. Between working full-time as a Sheriff’s deputy and raising his son as a single dad, there’s not a lot of time for Stiles to be on his own. Even though Stiles notices the guy at the gym consistently for a couple of months, he has no serious plans to make his interest known. Sometimes when Lydia or Erica bug him about dating he’ll mention he’s got his eye on Gym Guy, but that’s the extent to which he’ll admit he’s got a crush.

Stiles catalogs a bunch of little facts about Gym Guy, but in a non-creepy way. Being observant is a trick of the trade for law enforcement. Mason, who works the front desk most mornings, greets Gym Guy as Derek. Stiles is fairly certain Derek has at least two kids. One time Derek walked in with a hot pink water bottle. He grumbled about it, but drank from it anyway. Stiles has also spotted Derek carrying a small blue camo print gym bag with the initials JH stitched on it. He grumbled louder about that mix-up and left without doing his daily workout. He drives a fancy Mercedes SUV and the bumper has two stickers announcing ‘My Kid was the Student of the Month at Orchard Elementary’ and ‘Proud Member of the BHHS Marching Band Boosters Club.’

Like Stiles, Derek arrives at the gym at about 8:30, most likely after morning drop-off at the elementary school. Stiles usually runs on the treadmill or uses the elliptical machine and then alternates between circuit training and strength training on some of the weight machines. Derek sticks to lifting weights and does the morning spin class right as Stiles leaves the gym at 9:30. Stiles would love to stick around and watch Derek’s form on the stationary bike like all the women that crowd the spin room, but he has to be in bed by ten to sleep. Stiles can only assume that Derek has taken a vow of celibacy or is gay, because he completely ignores the signals all the ladies throw at him. Stiles hopes it’s the latter. Derek is single, according to Mason who heard it from Liam who works in sales.

Stiles wonders what Derek does for work. He vacillates between theories--he’s either independently wealthy and doesn’t have a job or he’s like Stiles and works nights. Stiles doesn’t mind working the night shift permanently. He gets to be with Sebastian after school until Malia gets home from work. It leaves Stiles just enough time for a power nap and a meal before he starts his shift. The only things that suffer are Stiles’ split sleep schedule and his social life, but those are small sacrifices.

Stiles occasionally runs into Derek around town. Beacon Hills isn’t all that big, so it’s inevitable that he sees him at the pizza place one Friday afternoon before the dinner rush, and sometimes on Sunday mornings at the grocery store when it’s Stiles’ turn to bring the champagne for mimosas at Lydia’s. Derek doesn’t exactly acknowledge Stiles, but Stiles’ theory is that Derek is too cosmopolitan for Beacon Hills and either doesn’t notice or care that most townies greet each other whether they know each other or not. Stiles can’t help it if maybe his gaze lingers a bit longer than is strictly polite, but again, Derek doesn’t seem to notice or mind.

It’s at one of those brunches that Lydia asks Stiles about Gym Guy and Stiles admits that it’s entirely possible Gym Guy hasn’t noticed his existence.

“Yet another in the long line of Stiles’ crushes,” Scott teases.

“You don’t know.” Stiles puffs his chest out. “I could totally bag him, if I wanted.”

“But you don’t want to,” Allison jokes.

“Exactly. I’m focusing on me. It’s the era of Stiles’ personal growth and achievement,” he insists.

“It’s not because you’re chicken or anything, right?” Lydia mocks him.

Malia smiles and interjects, “I’m sure it’s because Stiles is being a responsible dad and thinking with something other than his--”

“--tiny--” Jackson interrupts with a lewd hand gesture and all.

“I was going to say heart,” Malia finishes and glares at Jackson.

“You over-think things, Stiles,” Lydia says. “Maybe this guy isn’t even worth pining over. Maybe he’s dumb as rocks.”

“Stiles could do worse than pretty and dumb,” Danny supplies.

“Says the guy dating the himbo.” Lydia does not look impressed.

“Hey, hey. Let’s not judge a book by its cover,” Stiles says in Danny’s defense. Stiles has seen Danny’s newest boyfriend, and if he didn’t already know the depths of Danny’s sincerity, he’d be right there ready to tease him too. “Anyway, if you’re all quite finished, I just want to say that there’s no point to my crush on Gym Guy other than it’s a great incentive to go for the extra fifteen minutes on the treadmill. It’s harmless fun, and I’m going to keep it that way. I don’t have time for a relationship.” The groups tires of the subject and they move on. It’s routine to razz Stiles every so often about his lack of a love life, and usually it doesn’t bother him. Usually.

His friends’ comments stay with him for the next week and put him in a weird head space. Stiles feels hyper-aware of his crush, and decides that his only course of action is to ignore it. Unfortunately for Stiles, he also spots Derek around town a lot more than usual--first, at a stop light while Stiles is on duty, and later that week at the hardware store. Stiles is with Sebastian and they’re on a mission to find a plunger and Draino. Stiles walks by quickly and doesn’t even try to make eye contact. The third time Stiles sees Derek feels like fate. Stiles spots him in the pick-up lane at the elementary school. Derek is several cars behind him, and Stiles feels like a creeper for watching him in his rearview mirror.

Stiles attempts to ignore his interest in the mysterious Gym Guy, but it only reminds him further how single he is. He’s not dating, and not even trying to date. When Stiles feels like he’s gotten over his stupid whatever crush, he realizes he’s not just single but now he’s single and not looking, which is both freeing and terrifying. Whatever feeling he had when he looked at Derek gets replaced with something that feels a lot like loneliness. Winter drags on with endless gray fog, rain, and the occasional frost. Sometimes Stiles wishes he had someone to cuddle with on the couch, or someone to keep him warm in bed, but they’re fleeting thoughts. Stiles has Sebastian, his dad, his friends, work, and the gym. It’s enough. It’s actually a lot to handle on most days, and sometimes Stiles feels like he can barely juggle it all.

In mid-March, when all the other New Years resolution people have stopped coming to the gym, Derek finally warms up to an actual head nod when he passes Stiles. It makes Stiles embarrassingly giddy and he feels positively high off of the acknowledgment after months of absolutely nothing. Stiles’ crush comes back with a vengeance, and he contemplates introducing himself to Derek, and then that escalates into Stiles envisioning asking Derek out for a post-workout smoothie at the juice place across the street. But another two weeks go by and each day Stiles finds reasons not to go through with it.

***

Spring abruptly begins with Malia announcing that she signed Sebastian up for the youth lacrosse league and Sebastian really wants Stiles to come to as many practices and games as possible.

“But why do the games have to be at 9 AM on Saturday morning?” Stiles whines.

Malia snorts. “To torture parents.”

“Figures.”

“Look, we can alternate weekends with Seb just like we always do, if you want. He’ll understand,” Malia offers half-heartedly.

Stiles shakes his head. “No, no. I want to be there for his games if he wants me there. I don’t care if it’s not my weekend. I’m going to make obnoxious signs and be there on the sidelines cheering him on.”

“I’m glad you want to be there, because I really don’t want to go every Saturday, and he doesn’t seem to care half as much about my presence. It’ll be good that you can go consistently to support him.” Malia gives him an impish grin.

“Wait! What? But you’re the one who signed him up, and you didn’t even ask me!”

“I could really use the time for myself. And I did ask you in the first week of February when sign ups came out.” Malia puts her hands on her hips. “I can see you weren’t paying attention.”

Stiles throws his hands up in the air out of frustration. “You know better than to ask me important things after a shift. My brain is fried. And what do you need time for?” Stiles feels old resentments creeping up to the surface. He should walk away from the conversation, but instead he doubles down. “I run your errands with Seb after school. I do your dishes and clean your house. I do Sebastian’s laundry and help him with his homework!”

Malia levels him with a contemptuous look. She’s never asked him to do those things, and she makes a point of telling him how much she appreciates his help on a regular basis. But Stiles knows she won’t stand for him throwing it in her face, and the last thing he wants to do is pick a fight with her.

“Stiles, you have your hour every day at the gym. Can’t I have every other weekend to do grown up things? I’m at work eight to five and then I rush home to be with Sebastian. He’s starting to stay up later and later, so on a good day I have an hour to myself, and usually I’m so tired that I spend it in my sweats on the couch half-asleep.”

Stiles wants to ask what more she wants, but he gets the impression he won’t like her answer. It isn’t a secret that Malia goes out on dates, she was clear about it with him from the start. But Malia’s never introduced anyone to their son before, and it makes perfect sense that Malia would want her weekends off for her more adult activities.

Stiles sighs heavily. “Fine.”

Malia purses her lips. “You know, if you had someone…” she trails off and shakes her head. “You know, nevermind.”

Stiles nods. It’s another old wound, and she knows better than to pick at it.

When Stiles and Malia ended up with an unplanned pregnancy at nineteen, Stiles wanted to try and make a relationship between them work. Their romance started off hot and heavy, but the love that grew out of it was strictly as friends. They gave it the old college try, but Malia moved out with Sebastian before he was three years old. Malia always knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to go after it. Stiles both admired and hated that about her. Stiles had never been in a serious relationship before becoming a father, and he’d never looked for one since. Hooking up with Malia was a happy accident because Stiles got Sebastian out of it. He always wanted to be a father, but never imagined it would happen when he was practically still a kid himself.


Stiles spots Derek at the smoothie shop across the street from the gym early on a crisp April morning--it’s not even 7 AM yet. For some reason, and Stiles will deny it has anything to do with Derek in joggers, he decides that maybe this is the perfect chance to introduce himself. After five minutes of surreptitiously checking Derek out, he makes his move.

“Hey, Derek, right?” Stiles says when they bump shoulders standing at the counter waiting for their drink orders.

Derek looks over at Stiles and recognition dawns on him. “You’re a member over at Beacon Hills Athletic Club, right?”

Stiles extends a hand, “Nice to actually meet you.”

Derek nods and gives him a subtle once over. “Likewise.” Derek shakes his hand and his touch sends a zing up Stiles’ spine. Derek’s grip is firm and his palm is warm. He holds on for a second longer than strictly necessary. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your first name, Deputy,” Derek glances down at the name patch on his shirt, “Stilinski.”

Apparently Stiles has lost all his social graces, not that he ever had them. “Sorry. Hi, I’m Stiles,” he stutters. “I shouldn’t have assumed you knew my name.”

Derek grins sheepishly, and somehow it makes him less intimidating and more adorable than Stiles thought possible.

“I don’t usually talk to people at the gym,” Derek says.

“No, me neither,” Stiles admits. “It’s my time to just turn my brain off.” He gestures with his hands.

“Totally. I’m just in the zone, or whatever,” Derek agrees.

Stiles searches for the words to keep the conversation going, but can’t.

Luckily, Derek fills in the gap. “Your uniform threw me off for a second, but I definitely recognize you.” Derek smiles.

Stiles looks down at his khaki uniform and hopes he doesn’t have donut crumbs or coffee stains on him. “Oh, yeah. I’m just finishing up a shift and grabbing a quick breakfast before I go pick up my kid and take him to school.”

“Really?” Derek looks interested.

Stiles knows he looks young for his age, always has, and it usually shocks the hell out of people when they find out he has a kid as old as Sebastian.

“I just dropped my high schooler off for zero period,” Derek says and shakes his head. “Can you believe there are classes before the official start time? I didn’t know there was anything before first period.”

Stiles smiles. “That explains why you’re out at this ungodly hour.”

Derek snorts. “I’m headed back to pick up my youngest for elementary school.”

Stiles feels like this could be his opening with a guy like Derek. “Hey, maybe we could get our kids together?” He only wants to kick himself a little bit for using his son to hit on a guy.

Derek raises his eyebrows. “I don’t know...” he trails off sounding uncomfortable with the suggestion.

Stiles shakes his head. “I don’t normally--”

Derek cuts him off, “--Maybe we could go out sometime. Alone.” Derek looks surprised at his own offer, but he doesn’t take it back.

“What? Yeah, yes.” Stiles stumbles over his words. “Definitely,” he finally manages, and desperately hopes he sounds more sure of himself than he actually feels.

“How about dinner?” Derek suggests.

Dinner sounds like a lot of pressure on Stiles for his first time out of the gate after such a long dry spell. “How about a walk.”

Derek looks confused. “A walk?”

“You don’t need to buy me dinner, is all I mean.” Stiles hates the awkwardness when the bill arrives. He generally prefers to split the check or pick up the tab when he can, but he’s not exactly flush with cash. Derek does not look like a cheap date, and Stiles doesn’t get paid for another week.

“Lunch?” Derek follows up.

Stiles laughs nervously. “Seriously, let’s just go for walk and we can talk. How about the trails at the nature preserve.”

Derek shrugs. “Okay,” he agrees, though he sounds uncertain. “When works for you?”

Stiles thinks that sooner may be better so he doesn’t have time to freak out too much. “I have Friday nights off. What are you doing this evening?”

***

Their plan to meet up at the preserve at 5:30 gives Stiles just enough time to drive over after Malia gets home from work. Stiles has on a standard outfit for an afternoon of hanging out with Sebastian--a plain white T-shirt with a flannel over it, and a slightly beat up pair of slim fitting jeans. He stares down at his less than pristine Adidas sneakers and tries not to feel inadequate.

Derek arrives just a couple minutes later and looks even hotter if possible with a classic pair of aviator sunglasses perched on his cheekbones. He’s in jeans too and a black henley with the sleeves rolled up. His dark hair is styled perfectly and it matches his designer stubble. There’s nothing ostentatious about him, but it all reads expensive.

“Hey, you made it,” Stiles greets him, trying to keep it cool.

Derek gives him a casual wave. “I’m not going to lie, I contemplated backing out.” Derek shoves his hands in his pockets. “I wasn’t sure if you meant this to be a date or…”

“Oh.” Stiles feels like maybe he misread the whole thing, or Derek did, and now it’s just awkward.

Derek gives him a worried, apologetic look. “No, it’s nothing to do with you.”

“It’s okay if you want to call this off.” Stiles’ confidence takes another plummet.

“No, no. I just meant that it’s been a really long time since...” Derek trails off. He takes his sunglasses off and hooks them over the front of his shirt. Stiles notices Derek’s blush, he’s faintly red from his cheeks to his neck.
Stiles feels better somehow. He grins at Derek hopefully. “Well, that makes two of us.”

“Can we just get this out in the open? Is this a date?” Derek asks impatiently.

Stiles grins. “Absolutely, if you want it to be. Otherwise, it’s just two dudes standing awkwardly in a parking lot.”

Derek laughs and looks instantly relieved. “Okay, it’s a date, then.”

Stiles feels the anxiety in his chest loosen. He points toward one of the easier trails through the preserve. “You want to walk for a bit?” Derek nods and follows his lead.

They’re on a well traveled trail wide enough for a few people at least, but Stiles and Derek seem to gravitate toward each other and walk side by side. Stiles brushes up against Derek’s broad shoulder and he doesn’t seem to mind in the least, Derek actually smiles and returns the gesture. Later, when they approach some low branches, Derek puts his hand to the small of Stiles’ back. Stiles has never encountered that kind of chivalry and it gives him a little thrill.

They make small talk about Beacon Hills--how it’s really grown in the last ten years, the traffic, and the weather. When Derek admits he’s from Beacon Hills, Stiles is really surprised.

“I never would have pegged you as a small town kind of guy,” he says.

“I grew up here, actually, but we moved to San Francisco when I was a teenager,” Derek explains.

“That’s cool. When I was a kid I always wanted to live in the city.”

Derek purses his lips. “Moving wasn’t exactly our choice,” he says cryptically. “My family is spread out now, but two of my sisters moved back to town a while ago.”

Stiles doesn’t really want to talk about family on a first date. His dead mother tends to be a downer for him, so he changes the subject back to something superficial. “What are your favorite local hot spots? Beacon Hills isn’t huge, but we’re not totally uncultured.”

“I’ve only been in town since the fall. What is that,” Derek counts out on his fingers, “seven months? I haven’t even exhausted Yelp yet. What’s your favorite coffee place?”

“Fran’s on Third,” Stiles says.

“No way, Java Junkie all the way,” Derek argues. “Laura, my older sister, she took me there a few years ago when we came for a visit. I like the vibe.”

Stiles gives him an affronted grin. “Their hipster coffee comes with fancy latte art and their sizes are small and smaller. You’ve got to be joking me.”

“Fran’s is good, but it’s more of a donut shop,” Derek counters.

“And nothing goes better with coffee than donuts.”

“Says the cop.” Derek elbows Stiles playfully.

Stiles bumps him back and grins. “Touché.”

“Cora likes Fran’s, too. She’s my younger sister.” Derek grins. “Favorite take-out place?”

Stiles laughs nervously. “I don’t know. Pizza, I guess. We don’t eat out much.” The truth is, take-out beyond pizza is just not in the budget. “I prefer to cook,” he deflects.

“That’s cool. I’m a terrible cook. Or so my daughter says. She’s banned me from the kitchen unless it’s packing Lunchables.” Derek’s eyes get soft.

Even though Stiles used his kid as a line on Derek, he’s reluctant to share details about Sebastian. Both he and Malia agreed that they would keep Sebastian shielded from their relationships unless they were serious, but it’s never been an issue for Stiles since he hasn’t really dated. Stiles feels intensely attracted to Derek, but he worries that nothing is less sexy than packing lunches, wiping noses, and checking spelling homework.

Stiles veers the conversation toward something a little more adult. “Hey, maybe I should show you my skills in kitchen sometime?”

Derek pauses a beat and then chuckles. “Oh, yeah?” Derek reaches out and holds on to Stiles’ wrist. His grip is light, giving Stiles an out, but Stiles doesn’t want to be anywhere else but here with Derek. “I thought you said no to dinner?” Derek’s tone is suggestive.

Stiles feels hopeful about where they’re headed. “Hmm…” Stiles checks their surroundings and notices that they’re alone. He pulls them into a copse of trees so that they have a bit more privacy from other runners and hikers on the trail. “How do you feel about dessert instead of dinner?” He practically purrs into Derek’s ear. Up this close, Stiles can see the way Derek swallows like his mouth has gone dry.

Derek leans in and lowers his voice. “I don’t know. What’s on the menu?” His breath on Stiles’ neck feels hot and something about being outside where anyone hiking the preserve might see them gives Stiles a thrill.

Stiles feels himself get hard in his jeans. He’s too excited to overthink this, he just wants Derek, and the way Derek grips his hips tells him the feeling is mutual. Stiles leans in further and chases Derek’s mouth with his own. He seeks the wet heat of Derek’s tongue and drags him closer with a hand to the nape of his neck. Derek takes a minute and then he starts to give as good as he gets. Stiles encourages him by making appreciative noises when Derek sneaks a large, warm hand underneath Stiles’ shirt.

“My place?” Stiles suggests between kisses.

Derek pulls back and looks at Stiles carefully. They study each other for a second. Derek’s eyes are a shade of green hazel that Stiles wants to get lost in. There’s lust there, but also nervousness. Stiles can relate--this is out of character for him--but he’s never been one to let his nerves get the better of him. Stiles wonders what Derek sees

Stiles grabs Derek by the hand and pulls him bodily back down the trail toward the parking lot. Stiles is halfway to his Jeep when he calls out to Derek to follow him. “I’m on Peach Street across from the park, can’t miss my place. It’s aqua with yellow trim.”

Stiles tries not to peel out of the parking lot and attempts to drive the speed limit back to his house. He tracks Derek in his rear view mirror to make sure he he’s able to follow. When they arrive at his house, Stiles hops out of the Jeep and dashes to the front door before Derek’s even found an open spot down the street to parallel park. Stiles rents a tiny one bedroom bungalow just off the main drag in downtown Beacon Hills. The living room is a disaster, but he honestly hadn’t anticipated bringing Derek back to his place for sex on the first date. This is so not like Stiles to bring someone home.

Stiles grabs the worst of the mess in the living room and shoves it in the miniscule hall closet. Sebastian leaves toys and shoes everywhere, but Stiles isn’t much better. Stiles’ bedroom looks like a tornado ripped through it. He can’t remember the last time he actually pulled the duvet up and fluffed the decorative throw pillows Lydia made him buy. He’s pretty sure there’s a stack of dirty dishes on his bedside table. The only place that’s really clean is the kitchen because he hardly uses it.

Derek raps his knuckles on the doorframe, the door still hanging wide open. “Should I come inside?”

Stiles tries to look nonchalant leaning up against the couch. “Yeah, come in, come in.”

Derek walks inside and closes the door behind him. He lingers in the entryway, a good three feet from where Stiles is in the living room. “I don’t usually,” he starts. His cheeks turn pink and he looks slightly winded. “I mean, I haven’t ever done something like this--”

“No, no, me either,” Stiles says to reassure him.

Derek gives him an accusatory look.

“I mean, usually I’m not this fast.” Only, that’s kind of a lie, Stiles is absolutely that fast. It’s how he and Malia ended up pregnant after hooking up that first time. And there was a period of time in his early twenties when Stiles was really exploring his sexuality. He explored it in back seats, in seedy alleys, bathroom stalls, and strangers’ beds. “Well, okay maybe I am. But it’s been a long time, is what I mean,” he clarifies.

Derek moves towards him nervously. “I meant what I said. I’ve never done something like this.”

Stiles believes him. Derek looks like he might bolt any second, but also like he’s magnetized and he can’t help moving closer and closer to Stiles.

“I promise I won’t bite,” Stiles teases.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Don’t tell me, unless I ask you to.”

Stiles laughs. “Hey, you stole my line.”

“How old are you?” Derek asks.

“Yeah, I know my sense of humor is pretty juvenile.” Stiles smirks.

“No, seriously, how old are you?”

“Oh, um, twenty-nine. Why?”

Derek clears his throat. “Just trying to figure out how bad of an idea this is.”

“And?”

Derek rocks back on his heels and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “You’re not even thirty, so yeah, pretty bad.”

“I’m always a good idea.” Stiles snakes his hand out and pulls Derek in by the belt loops.

They don’t come up for air for the next hour. They’re just a tangle of limbs on the couch, and then the floor when they need more room to spread out. Stiles attacks Derek’s mouth, and he just knows he’s going to have an awful case of beard burn, but he can’t bring himself to care. Derek mewls and moans and lets himself be manhandled out of his shirt. Stiles appreciates all the weights Derek’s been lifting at the gym, he’s somewhere between ripped and jacked. He notices a healed wound on his Derek’s otherwise smooth chest that piques his curiosity, but then Derek cries out when he accidentally lays down on top of a stray Lego, and the moment to ask questions is gone.

“Sorry, sorry.” Stiles rubs at the tender spot on Derek’s back. “Better your back than your foot.”

“Amputation is the only solution when that happens,” Derek jokes as he stands up. He lifts Stiles up from the floor like he could bench press him easily.

Stiles likes the feeling of his legs wrapped around Derek when he carries him to the kitchen. “Here, here’s good,” Stiles says. “Cleanest room in the house.” Derek sets him down in front of the kitchen counter and pulls off his shirt in one swift motion.

“Thought you said you loved to cook,” Derek says while kissing Stiles’ collarbone.

Stiles shivers at the contact. “I do. I never said I cooked here though.” His kitchen is used for reheating whatever he made at Malia’s and that’s about it.

“Where--” Derek starts but Stiles cuts him off with a brutal kiss.

“Stop talking,” he commands. Stiles feels like he’s going to buzz right out of his skin. He hops down from the counter, drops to his knees, and proceeds to mouth the front of Derek’s jeans.

Derek makes a string of incoherent noises followed by a litany of oh gods. Derek runs his hands through Stiles’ hair, tugs at it, and it turns Stiles on so much that the only thought he has is getting Derek in his mouth immediately.

Stiles looks up as he unzips Derek’s fly, seeking approval. Derek moans and it sounds like a yes. Stiles looks down at the task at hand, Derek’s dick straining against the material of his underwear. Stiles does him a favor and releases him. Derek makes a strangled noise and drops his head back. He looks blissed out and Stiles hasn’t even begun to touch him yet.

His mouth waters, he can’t wait to suck Derek’s beautiful cock. It’s just the right size and uncut like Stiles’. “You look so good like this,” Stiles praises him.

Those words make Derek’s cock twitch, a bead of precome drips from the tip. Stiles licks his lips and mouths at Derek’s thick shaft. “Fuck,” Stiles says before he takes him inside his mouth. Stiles closes his eyes and just takes a moment to savor the feeling and taste of Derek on his tongue. Stiles likes getting head, but not like he loves giving it. And it’s been a really long time since he’s gotten to do this.

Stiles can’t remember the last time he had sex with someone he knows. There were hook-ups via an app he installed a few years ago, and sometimes they’d call or text for a while until someone got bored, but none of those people were someone he encountered on a regular basis in his real life. When it was over, it was over, and there were no hard feelings.

Being with Derek in his kitchen is something altogether different. He’s never let anyone in his house before. He hasn’t been this risky either, forgoing a condom, which he knows is stupid with a virtual stranger. The whole experience leaves him feeling high, and extremely vulnerable. For some reason though, he trusts Derek. Maybe it’s those dumb bumper stickers or the fact that he’s been just as nervous as Stiles the whole evening. So Stiles really wants to make this count, make it good for Derek, he wants Derek to remember him when he’s alone later in his house. He wants Derek to call him, and ask him out on a proper date, and this time Stiles won’t be weird and insist on keeping it casual. Stiles wants to get to know Derek and do the stupid shit couples do in TV and movies.

But first, Stiles wants to make Derek come. He swallows him down as far as he can, bobs his head and lets his throat open up. When Derek squirms and complains that he’s going to come too fast if Stiles doesn’t ease up, he slows the pace and teases the tip of his cock with his lips. He moans around the head, sucking and licking his slit. Derek seems to like it, if his pained gasps are anything to go by.

Stiles plays with Derek balls as much as his jeans and underwear will allow. He buries his face in Derek’s crotch and inhales. Stiles loses all sense of time and feels like he’s being controlled by only his baser instincts. He palms Derek’s ass through his jeans and when he’s finally had enough of the offending material, he lowers them further so he can sneak a finger in between his cheeks. Derek makes guttural noises and thrusts his hips, he’s an absolute wreck. Stiles loves it, can’t get enough of it, so he vocalizes it. “Yeah, fuck me. Fuck my mouth.”

Derek loses it. His thrusts become more powerful, but Stiles can tell he’s still holding back. Derek’s careful not to be too rough with Stiles. Stiles’ finger brushes against Derek’s rim and then Derek pushes back gently. Stiles is surprised to find him loose, and imagines that Derek worked himself open in the shower before they met up. The extra stimulation sends Derek over the edge. He comes suddenly in Stiles’ mouth. He swallows some of it and then lets Derek finish across his cheek and neck. Derek takes heaving breaths like he just completed an intense workout, not like Stiles sucked his brains out through his dick. Even though he’s clearly in dire shape, he manages to haul Stiles up so that he can kiss him. Stiles’ face is a mess, but Derek doesn’t notice or care. He smears his come all over his stubble and it sends shivers down Stiles’ spine.

Derek scrabbles to get his hands on Stiles’, fumbling with his skinny jeans. “How are you still wearing clothes?” he whines.

Stiles helps him out, unzips his fly and touches himself for relief. Stiles is rock hard, aching, and leaking profusely. There’s a large wet patch on his grey boxers. Derek pulls his pants and boxers down to his knees and then gets his fist around Stiles’ cock. He drags his foreskin down and back over the head again, slowly at first, so slow that Stiles nearly doubles over. “I’m not going to last long,” he warns.

Derek takes that as a challenge and works his hand up and down his length, rubbing the pad of his thumb over his sensitive head. Stiles tries to think about baseball, long division, couponing, anything to keep himself from coming. It’s impossible, Stiles keens and shoots his load over Derek’s hand and his exposed torso. Stiles feels like he blacks out for a second or two. He sags against Derek’s solid chest and tries to catch his breath. When he regains some awareness he takes a step back and gets a really good look at Derek. His dick is still out and his underwear looks a little worse for wear, but Derek somehow manages to still look beautiful, all fucked out and debauched.

Stiles doesn’t bother buttoning his jeans, he just sort of tucks himself back into his underwear, and then moves about the kitchen to find something to clean up their combined mess. “Here,” he says as he tosses a clean dish towel at Derek.

Derek catches it and stands there lamely. He moves to the sink and gets it wet, like he’s not quite sure what to do about his current state.

“Let me.” Stiles takes the towel from him and wipes up his face, neck, hands, and torso. “I’m pretty sure your shirt will cover the worst of the mess on your jeans.”

Derek reaches down and adjusts himself, zips up his jeans and frowns. He stands there awkwardly and silent, like he wants to say something but doesn’t know what. “So that was…” He doesn’t finish his sentence.

Stiles smiles. “I know.” He wants to say amazing, perfect, incredible, a religious experience, but he also wants to play it cool. He wipes up the mess on himself and tries to give Derek a cheeky grin.

“I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do now,” Derek says looking down.

Stiles finds it endearing. “You hungry?” It’s dinner time and Stiles has definitely worked up an appetite. He goes to the fridge and spots leftover homemade pizza. “I’m going to have a slice. You want?” He takes the container out to show Derek.

Derek looks twitchy, maybe a little embarrassed, which he really shouldn’t be considering what they just did together. “I guess.”

They sit on the floor with their backs against the cabinets while they eat cold pizza. It’s a little chilly with their shirts off, but Stiles isn’t going to complain about the view. Derek is in amazing shape, not that his own physique is anything to slouch at. Stiles has broad shoulders, sinewy forearms, and a flat stomach. He likes to joke that it’s his good genes, but he knows his workouts are essential.
“So, you asked me how old I am,” Stiles begins, remembering their conversation from earlier, “but you didn’t say how old you are.” Derek looks over at him, his expression unreadable. Stiles feels suddenly self-conscious, and it’s all too reminiscent of being an inexperienced teenager and how he used to act when he had a crush. “Um, how old are you? Not that it matters,” he finally says.

Derek clears his throat. “I turned forty-five in December.”

That’s not what Stiles had been expecting. He knew Derek was older than him--he’s got a little bit of grey in his otherwise jet black hair, and he’s got laugh lines around his eyes when he smiles--but their age difference is more significant than his initial estimate. Honestly, he doesn’t know why he’s so surprised, he knows Derek has a high school-age daughter. Derek is sixteen years older than Stiles, and with that age probably comes a lot of wisdom and experience. Stiles thinks that Derek probably has his life together. Derek’s a bona fide adult. Stiles knows the Mercedes SUV Derek drives is pricy, and he probably owns an actual house with more rooms than the people who live in it. Derek probably has an accountant to manage an investment portfolio, and a 401K with actual money it. Stiles wonders what the fuck Derek is doing with him.

Stiles looks around at his house, the kitchen floor provides a unique vantage point, and sees it how Derek must see it. It’s on the shabby side; the hardwood floors are ancient and creaky, the walls are the generic white all rentals come with, and he has very little in the way of decor. Some of Sebastian’s art is tacked up on the walls, there’s a fake palm tree in the living room, and cheesy lace curtains over the kitchen window. It’s cozy for just him and his kid, and he’s not here a whole lot anyway. His house is mainly a place for him to crash between shifts. Sebastian doesn’t even have his own room, he uses the makeshift sleeping loft when he’s over every other weekend.

Stiles is finally making decent money as a Sheriff’s deputy, but on top of his own rent he pays child support so that Malia and Sebastian can live in a nicer part of town. Sebastian has an actual full-sized room of his own at his mom’s. Raising a kid is not cheap. His kid grows like a weed--one month he outgrows all his shoes and the next it’s his jeans. Stiles has hefty student loans to pay off still, and a car payment on the gently used Jeep he bought when his blue beast finally died. Becoming a single parent at such a young age hasn’t been easy. He missed out on the traditional experiences of going to university and partying with friends. Instead, he worked two part-time jobs to support himself and his family, and it took him seven years to finish his bachelor’s degree and complete the police academy.

Stiles glances over at Derek and he looks so out of place in Stiles’ ugly kitchen, he’s too beautiful. Despite their age difference, and probably the disparity between their bank accounts, Stiles still really likes Derek and he hopes the feeling is mutual. “Forty-five,” he finally says, testing the number out loud. “That’s cool.”

After another stretch of silence, Derek stands up and wipes his hands on his jeans. “This is really awkward. Maybe I should go.”

Stiles grabs his arm gently. “No, don’t. I’m sorry I’m terrible at this whole conversation thing.”

Derek snorts. “I’ve never done this before, but what’s your excuse?”

“I’m really out of practice?” It’s more of a question than an admission. Stiles wracks his brain for anything less awkward to talk about than Stiles’ sex life. “Um, so tell me about your kids?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Look, we don’t have to do this.” He heads to the living room in search of his shirt and shoes.

Stiles hops up too. “No, seriously, I’m really trying here.”

“It’s fine, really.” Derek slips his feet into his boots without the socks, just balls them up and shoves them in his back pocket. He pulls his henley on and pats his pants pockets for his keys.

“We said maybe we’d do a play date with the kids.” Stiles knows it’s a shitty move, especially since he spent the first half of the date avoiding any talk about his son.

“It was just a line, I get it.” Derek finds his keys and cell phone on the coffee table. “See you around, Stiles.” He storms out the door.

Stiles follows him and from the doorway calls out, “Wait, Derek, don’t go.”

But it’s too late, Derek’s already a dark figure halfway down the block. By the time Stiles gets his shirt and shoes on to go after him, Derek’s peeling out down the street like he’s a getaway driver.

Chapter Text

The following Monday after their hook-up, Stiles gets to the gym before Derek. He picks the treadmill closest to the door so he can try and catch him for a quick conversation to clear the air. Stiles felt like shit all weekend after Derek left his house, but he couldn’t reach out by phone or text because they never exchanged info. He doesn’t even know Derek’s last name. Stiles has no moral issue with cataloging details about Derek, but using his Sheriff’s Deputy status to track him down is a line he won’t cross.

When Derek arrives at the gym he doesn’t bother taking off his dark aviator sunglasses, so Stiles can’t even make eye contact with him before Derek heads straight for the locker room. Later on, Stiles approaches him while he’s doing bench presses, but Derek rebuffs him again. He just counts out his repetitions and keeps his eyes on the barbell as it goes up and down until he finishes his set.

“I’m done, if you want it,” Derek says as he abandons the weight bench, not even bothering to do the courtesy wipe-down or reset the weights. He throws his towel over his shoulder and heads into the room where they do the spin classes ten minutes earlier than necessary.

Derek skips the gym for the rest of the week, or he does a hell of a job coming and going without Stiles’ notice. Stiles struggles with insomnia every morning after he gets home from the gym. He’s obsessing over Derek and he can’t get his mind to quiet down enough to relax into sleep. He contemplates taking Melatonin to help him, but Stiles strictly uses sleep aids only on his nights off. Even though he’s absolutely exhausted after each shift, he sticks to his morning workout routine because he knows his body needs the activity, needs the release of endorphins that help his body regulate pain and stress, and help him sleep deeper and longer when he’s not battling insomnia.

By the weekend Stiles has accepted that Derek does not want to talk to him. He can’t go on this way, his body can’t physically take it. Stiles feels like an absolute jackass for blowing it with Derek. He traded an opportunity to make an honest emotional connection with Derek for a physical one. It’s an old pattern, and Stiles only has himself to blame.

Allison and Lydia don’t help the situation. He gives them the PG-13 summary of events over brunch on Sunday, and they pretty much confirm that he was in the wrong. Scott is supportive and tries to run interference when they gang up on him.

“It’s obvious he thought you were only interested in sex.” Lydia doesn’t mince words.

“It really wasn’t my intention, and I tried to make it clear that I don’t normally do this,” Stiles defends himself.

“You asked him to take a walk in the woods.” Allison rolls her eyes. “Isn’t that like, code?”

“I thought it was date-like without being too formal?” Stiles’ voice goes up an octave. He scratches his neck, wincing at the memory of Derek being confused and asking if they were on a date or not.

“A walk is not a date. I know you’re broke, but you’re not really that cheap, are you?” Lydia asks.

It stings on some level because Stiles is not cheap, he can be generous to a fault, but he really doesn’t have extra money for going out, no matter how much he likes Derek. “I feel like this was just a misunderstanding. If I could talk to him again and explain.” What Stiles really needs to do is apologize for his actions, but he’s not even sure he could get Derek to listen.

Lydia raises an eyebrow at him. “Seems like he’s made it clear that’s not going to happen.”

“I don’t know why you’re busting my chops, Lydia.”

“It was a shitty thing to do, Stiles. A nice guy wanted to go on a date with you and you basically acted like all you wanted was a hook-up.”

“To be fair, Derek could just be like any other asshole blowing Stiles off after a hook-up.” Allison gives Lydia a significant look.

Stiles puts his hands up. “Going out on a real date just felt like, I don’t know...” He wants to say serious, grown-up, mature, risky, nerve-wracking, anything that will make his friends understand where he’s coming from. “I don’t know how to do this. You know I don’t.” He can feel his eyes start to prick with tears.

Lydia doesn’t let up. “Why did you talk to him in the first place then?”

Stiles doesn’t really have an answer. He doesn’t know what possessed him to talk to Derek that day. He really didn’t have a plan, Derek was just standing there in joggers at the smoothie place and Stiles couldn’t help himself. It was impulsive, and not in a good way. Stiles may be nearing thirty, but he’s still very inexperienced in matters of the heart.

Scott puts an arm around Stiles protectively. “Guys, it looks like Stiles feels bad enough already. He doesn’t need this.”

Stiles slumps over and into the warmth of his best friend. This is the reason Scott is his best bro--he knows that Stiles is always ten times harder on himself than anyone else, and the last thing he needs is more criticism.

“You okay?” Scott whispers into his ear. “You look rough.”

Stiles gives him a grim smile.

“You haven’t been sleeping, have you?”

Stiles shakes his head.

“You should head home and try and rest.” Scott squeezes him a little tighter.

Stiles actually sniffles. He wills himself not to cry in front of his friends. “I’ll go soon, I promise.”

He wants to rest, he craves deep sleep, but he keeps remembering details of his night with Derek. It plays like a movie in his head. The part he leaves out for his friends is that Stiles used his kid as a pick-up line, and then became evasive anytime Derek tried to actually get to know more about him and Sebastian. Stiles kept the conversation superficial on purpose, which made it seem even more like Stiles only wanted a hook-up.

Allison cracks and gives him a sympathetic look. “I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like being a single dad and trying to date, none of us are in your shoes. But at some point you have to stop using that as an excuse to keep people at arm’s length.”

Brunch is a miserable affair for the next half hour. Allison and Scott talk about their new house and how they’re going to have to put on a new roof before next winter. Lydia gushes about her promotion at work and how she’s saving her bonus for a trip to Greece. Stiles picks at his food and then offers to do the dishes just so he can leave the table. He loves his friends, he does, but sometimes he just can’t relate to them. He wishes he could go back to high school when he and Scott were the dorky kids benched on the lacrosse team, before he met the love of his life, before Scott went off to college and grew up without him. He’ll even take being completely unnoticed by Lydia Martin, because it feels better than her being disappointed in him.

***

A few days later, Lydia texts to ask if she can drop by Stiles’ house just after one o’clock. He knows it must be important for her to interrupt him in the middle of what is, essentially, his nighttime. Not that he’d been sleeping--his insomnia wakes him earlier than his alarm, though he supposes it’s an improvement over the previous week when he struggled for hours to fall asleep. When Stiles opens the door for her he’s rumpled and grouchy, he’s still in the dumps about how things went down with Derek, but he does his best to be hospitable.

“Come in,” he says as he opens the front door. “I’ll put on coffee.”

Lydia points toward the bathroom. “You shower, and I’ll make the coffee.”

Stiles nods feebly and does as he’s told, it’s usually the best course of action when it comes to Lydia. He takes a five minute shower and brushes his teeth. His hair has gotten too long again and he doesn’t really have any clean clothes. He’s a mess. He roots around the back of his closet and finds a pair of khakis he swore to Lydia that he burned, and tosses them on with a Sheriff’s Department sweatshirt.

“You look like shit,” Lydia says when she hands him a steaming mug of coffee.

“Gee, thanks.” Stiles slumps over on the couch.

“Sorry.” Lydia sits next to him. “About the other day, I mean.”

Stiles raises an eyebrow at her. “You mean, you’re not sorry for insulting me just now?”

Lydia makes a sound in the back of her throat but doesn’t say anything. She looks down at her own mug and worries her bottom lip. “I was projecting.”

Stiles considers her explanation but can’t figure out what she means. “How so?”

She sighs heavily. “Dating is hard. It’s like...I’m either with Jackson out of habit, slightly unhappy but not alone. Or I’m not with Jackson, dating scumbags that I meet in bars, and hooking up with guys from Tindr.”

Stiles presses his lips into a thin line.

“I don’t have the right to judge you, is what I’m saying.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “Sometimes I have sex with a guy just for the hell of it. Like I’m bored and waiting for him to get interesting. So what do I know about relationships?”

Stiles knows what it cost Lydia to apologize, but it doesn’t make him feel particularly better. However it looks to his friends, and whatever impression he gave Derek, Stiles didn’t have sex with him casually. Though his reasons for being so closed off with Derek were misguided, Stiles could see himself falling for the guy if he gave himself the chance.

Lydia must be able to read his mind. “It’s okay to let yourself like Derek.”

Stiles frowns at his mug. “It doesn’t really matter. He’s way out of my league.”

She snorts. “Since when has that stopped you?”

“He won’t talk to me. It’s like I don’t exist.”

“Again, I ask, when has that stopped you?”

Stiles sighs heavily. “That was a long time ago, Lydia,” he says, referring to his high school crush on her.

“You’re not a hard guy to fall for when you let people in to see the real you.”

Stiles shoots Lydia a murderous glance. She’s treading on something they never talk about, something Stiles had to let go of a long time ago. He doesn’t want to think about the weekend Lydia spent with him in his childhood bedroom, days before she left for MIT and Stiles stayed behind at community college, too anxious to leave Beacon Hills. That weekend was fast and fleeting, and when Stiles called Lydia in a panic after Malia found out she was pregnant, it hardly seemed to matter anymore. They’ve been firmly just friends ever since. “Lydia, stop.”

“No. You have it in your head all wrong. You think you’re some unlovable person. You think you can’t do serious. And yeah, you’ve had some really shitty timing when it comes to sex and relationships,” she says pointedly, “but that doesn’t mean you have to keep going on this way.” She reaches a hand out to comfort him.

And it does comfort him. She runs the pad of her thumb back and forth across his knuckles. He gives her a tight smile and tells her what she wants to hear, what she needs to hear. “I won’t give up if you don’t.”

“Deal,” she says.


When lacrosse season starts a week later, Stiles’ after-school routine changes to accommodate Sebastian’s practices. Stiles picks him up at school and they quickly run any errands they have. Sebastian does his homework in the car, and finishes whatever is left when they get home. Stiles feeds him a quick snack and then drives him over to the field for practice at 4:30. Stiles sits and watches practice for the first half hour, then he heads home for a nap and a quick bite to eat before work.

Sebastian takes to lacrosse like a fish to water, which is a pleasant surprise since Stiles had been a benchwarmer through most of his lacrosse playing years. Sebastian’s coach, Kira Yukimura, is encouraging and animated from the sidelines. She’s young, but she’s clearly not new to the sport or coaching. Stiles does the embarrassing dad thing and brings orange slices and yells things like good hustle and you’ll get it next time.

“Dad! Did you see me make that shot?” Sebastian says as he throws himself at Stiles at the end of his first week of practice. He’s just shy of eleven and hasn’t had his major adolescent growth spurt yet, but he’s athletic and graceful. He definitely got that from his mother. Stiles’ genetic contribution seems to be in the form of pale skin, a slightly upturned nose, and long, skinny fingers.

“I did! It was awesome. Up top.” Stiles puts his hand up for a high-five.

“Dad.” Sebastian gives him a look that says not in front of the team.

Stiles puts his arm down. “Right.” He counters with a look that says okay, but you’re the one who wears your mom’s yoga pants around the house and calls himself a ninja.

“Hey, Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we start giving Jack rides to practice?”

“Who’s Jack?” Stiles perks up. Sebastian’s best friend is a girl named Hillary, but they’re getting to that age where making friends of the same sex kind of matters.

Sebastian points to the kid in the ratty 07 practice jersey and waves at him. “That’s Jack.” The kid with curly hair gives him a shy, toothy grin. He’s a bit more developed than the other eleven year olds. Even from a few feet away, Stiles notices his bright eyes that contrast against his dark skin.

“Sure, just as long as Jack gets permission from a parent.”

Sebastian rolls his eyes but keeps the ‘duh, Dad,’ silent.

***

The following Monday, Sebastian gives Stiles directions that lead them to the outskirts of town toward the nature preserve. About the same time Stiles sees a kid walking along the treacherous shoulder of the highway, Sebastian tells him to pull over. Jack looks up, nervous and hopeful all at once. Stiles unlocks the door and Sebastian waves for Jack to get in the car. Jack opens the back passenger door and climbs inside. He fumbles with the seat belt until it clicks and avoids making direct eye contact. Stiles wonders how his loudmouth son befriended this shy boy.

“Hey, Jack. I’m Stiles. How are you?”

Jack clears his throat and does his best to look up. “Hi, sir. Thanks for the ride.”

“No problem.” Stiles looks both ways before making a U-turn and heads back towards town. “So, Jack, are you in the fifth grade, too?”

Jack nods.

“Do you guys know each other from school or just from lacrosse?” Stiles doesn’t recognize Jack, but then he could be in another classroom or school altogether.

“Jack’s new to Orchard Elementary,” Sebastian supplies.

“Not so new…” Jack attempts, his voice cracking a bit. “I moved here at the end of summer,” he mumbles.

Stiles doesn’t want to push since clearly the kid isn’t a talker. “Well, I hope you’re excited about practice today. Sebastian convinced me that orange slices are lame. So today I brought cheese sticks.”

Jack looks out the window.

“You’re not lactose intolerant, are you?” Stiles jokes.

“No, sir.”

“Hey, you can call me Stiles, okay.” Stiles looks over at Sebastian who is two seconds from sighing dramatically. Stiles notices in the rear view mirror that Jack isn’t suited up for practice, and now that he thinks about it, he doesn’t have a crosse with him either. “Jack, did you forget your gear?”

Jack blushes furiously and Sebastian comes to his rescue. “I told him he could borrow some of my stuff, and Coach Yukimura always has extra gear.” Sebastian pulls out a t-shirt that’s two sizes too big on him and a pair of shorts that look suspiciously like a pair Stiles keeps for doing yardwork. He tosses them into the backseat.

Stiles gets an odd feeling, and remembers all the times he and Scott tried to pull fast ones on his dad or Mrs. McCall. He decides to try and get more information before he accuses his kid and his friend of being in cahoots. “So, how did you get to practice last week, Jack?”

“I walked.”

“You live out near the preserve, right?” Stiles knows it’s a good three miles from where he picked up Jack to the field where the team practices.

“Yeah.”

“Seems kind of far to walk for practice.”

“I walked from school,” Jack explains.

It’s a valid explanation, lots of kids walk home from the elementary school. It’s probably unfair to assume Jack is lying just because Stiles was always into mischief as a kid. Stiles pulls into a parking spot and as soon as he puts the parking break on, Sebastian darts out of the car and grabs the cooler from the back seat.

“Jack, you can change in the back seat, if you want,” Stiles suggests.

Jack nods. “Thanks.”

“We’ll give you some privacy,” Stiles says as he closes the car door.

Instead of getting organized, Sebastian bounces around waiting for his friend and gives Stiles an all too innocent look. Stiles recognizes it immediately as the kind he’d give his dad when he had a secret. Sebastian has his lacrosse bag slung across his shoulder, his crosse in one hand, his cleats in the other, a water bottle tucked under his arm, and the cooler resting on the ground. Jack hops out of the car a minute later in his borrowed clothes and drags his backpack with him.

“Hey, buddy,” he addresses his son, “your hands are kind of full. Why don’t you and Jack leave your bags? I’ll grab them and bring them to the field. Jack, can you help Sebastian and carry the cooler?”

Sebastian and Jack hand Stiles their bags and then skitter down to the field with just the crosse and the cooler. Stiles watches them go and once they look engrossed he takes the opportunity to investigate. He pops open the back of the Jeep and takes a seat on the tail. He looks through Jack’s bag and finds a cell phone. It’s locked with a passcode, which doesn’t help Stiles much. He keeps looking until he finds an ID tag in a little pocket of Jack’s backpack. The tag says Jack Hale and there’s a phone number included.

“Jackpot,” Stiles says, typing the number into his cell phone. It rings once and then goes to voicemail. There’s no personal greeting, just a mechanical voice reciting the number he’s reached and then the beep. He leaves a detailed message, “Hi, this is Sebastian’s dad. We just gave Jack a ride to practice and he doesn’t have his gear or his practice uniform. My kid didn’t seem too fazed by it and pulled out some extra clothes from his bag. Anyway, I thought maybe I should just check in with a parent. I never believed in the whole ‘mother’s intuition thing,’ or father’s, in this case, but I have to say mine is pinging like crazy. Anyway, give me a call back. Sorry, this is Stiles Stilinski, I don’t think I said so before. I’m Sebastian’s dad. Okay. Bye.” Stiles shakes his head and before he hangs up remembers another important detail. “Oh, right. You can reach me on this number. I’ll be here at practice for thirty minutes or so. Then Sebastian’s mom will do pick-up, and I’m sure it’s fine with her if she takes Jack home. Sebastian didn’t say if Jack needed a ride home too. Okay, sorry for rambling. Bye.” Stiles feels his face turn pink over the verbal diarrhea he just left on a stranger’s voicemail.

Stiles wanders down to the field lugging Sebastian’s lacrosse bag and Jack’s backpack filled with textbooks. He feels like he did the right thing by snooping and following up with a phone call. At best, Jack’s mom or dad will give him a call back and confirm that everything is fine, and at worst, he’ll have a terrified parent phoning the cops to report their kid’s abduction. Thankfully, in his case, Stiles is a cop.

About twenty minutes later, Stiles gets a call back from the number he found in Jack’s backpack. The voice is frantic but familiar. “Stiles. You called this number. You have Jack? I don’t understand,” the voice yells into the phone.

Stiles feels flustered already. He hops up and walks toward the bleachers for some privacy. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up. We picked him up for lacrosse practice, just like I said in the message.”

“Why do you have my kid? I did not give Jack my permission to go anywhere today. And I don’t know anything about lacrosse.”

“Calm down,” Stiles says, trying to regain control of the situation like he would on the job during an altercation. “This has to be a misunderstanding.”

“The misunderstanding is that somehow you have my son. How do you even know my kid? Are you stalking me?” the voice accuses him.

Finally, Stiles makes the connection. “Derek? Is that you?”

“Of course it’s me. Who else would it be?” Derek barks.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well, I don’t know. I didn’t know you were Jack’s dad.”

“Oh.”

“We never mentioned our kids’ names and I never found out your last name,” Stiles reminds him.

“Right…” he trails off. “Who’s fault is that, anyway?”

Any question Stiles has about whether Derek still harbors resentment toward him is answered. “Arguing isn’t helpful right now.” Stiles tries to get the conversation back on track. “Look, I don’t know what Jack did or didn’t tell you. All I know is that last Thursday my kid asked if we could start giving Jack a ride to weekday practices. I said it was fine as long as he had permission. In hindsight, I probably should have called before to make sure this was all on the up and up. But Sebastian’s a good kid, he’s never lied to me like this before.”

“That you know of,” Derek mutters.

“Hey!” Stiles won’t have anyone judging him or his son. “Look, what do you want me to do?”

“Just stay there. I will be there in--shit. Shit!” Derek shouts.

“What?”

“I’m at a band thing in Santa Clara with my daughter.” Derek sounds like he’s gritting his teeth.

“That’s like sixty miles away.” Stiles looks at his watch, the hour hand ticking closer to five. “And it’s rush hour.”

“If I leave now I might get back there by seven.”

“Dude, that’s stupid. Just let Jack finish practice and then Malia can take him home.”

“Who’s Malia?”

“Sebastian’s mom.”

Derek snorts. “Your wife?”

“Ex. Though we were never married, but that’s beside the point.” Stiles thinks that maybe this was the sort of stuff they should have covered before they hooked up, or maybe even before their date.

“I’m not letting my kid go in the car with a stranger.”

“He was already in my car,” Stiles reminds him.

“Well, you’re not exactly a stranger, but I don’t know your ex.”

Stiles huffs out a sigh. “Fine. I’ll stay until the end of practice.”

Derek sounds reluctant to agree. “Let me call you back,” he finally says and then hangs up.

Stiles kicks the ground out of frustration. It’s pretty obvious that Derek hates his guts, and maybe he has good reason. Stiles wishes he could go back to the day he ran into Derek at the smoothie shop. He’d go back to the moment he introduced himself to Derek and he’d say yes to dinner. He’d take his time and get to know Derek and he’d let Derek get to know him. He wouldn’t have sex with Derek on the first date, they wouldn’t even kiss.

Stiles mentally calculates whether or not he’s going to need someone to cover his shift in case he runs late. He scrolls through his contact list, ready to call Parrish or Clark when Derek calls him back.

Derek skips any sort of greeting. “My sister can come meet you there. What time is practice over?”

“It’s over at about 6.”

“She’ll be there. Don’t leave with Jack,” he says emphatically.

“Okay, I won’t.”

“Look, I have to go. I can’t talk now.” There’s a lot of noise on the other end of the line, like Derek’s standing in the middle of a drum line.

“What should I say to Jack?”

“Nothing. He’ll know something’s up when he sees his aunt.” Then the line goes dead.

Stiles sighs and rolls his shoulders a few times. He’s glad he got the chance to talk to Derek more, but he’d rather it was under better circumstances. He sends Malia a quick text to tell her what’s up, and let her know that since he’ll be there until the end of practice he can bring Sebastian home. They exchange a series of texts about how they’re going to handle a conversation with Sebastian after practice. Stiles hates disciplining his kid, mostly because he hates having to enforce any sort of punishment that lasts longer than a few days.

After he collects himself, he heads back over to watch practice. Sebastian must sense something is going on because when he makes his way over to Stiles during their break he’s got a sheepish expression on his face. “I saw you on the phone,” he says. He offers his dad a cheese stick like a peace offering.

“Thanks, bud.” Stiles takes the stick and bites into it. “Jack’s dad was not amused.”

Sebastian frowns. “So, how much trouble am I in?”

Stiles puts his hands up. “We’ll talk about this later with your mom.”

“You told Mom!” Sebastian looks affronted.

“Yeah, I told your mom. You know she and I don’t keep secrets when it comes to you.”

“I swear, Dad, I just wanted to help Jack. He said it wouldn’t be a big deal because he’s home by himself anyway. He said no one would miss him.”

“It sounds like your heart was in the right place, but that doesn’t change the fact that you lied to me. Go finish up your practice. Afterward, you and your mom and I are going to have a little chat.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Sebastian starts jogging backward toward his friends.

Stiles shakes his head and waits for the end of practice. He calls into the station to let them know he’s got a family emergency, and he’ll be a little late for his shift. Tara’s on desk duty and just tells him to give Sebastian a squeeze for her. Stiles watches practice inattentively, alternating between texting Scott about his kid’s antics and looking at the parking lot for Derek’s sister. When Coach Yukimura tells the kids to take a lap to cool down, a brunette woman shows up wearing paint splattered overalls. She walks down the sidelines looking at the other moms and dads suspiciously and then stops in front of Stiles.

“Are you Stiles?” She looks down at him, her big brown eyes narrowing.

Stiles is sitting on the grass with his legs splayed open, eating leftover cheese sticks one by one from the cooler. There’s a pile of wrappers by his knee. He stands up and offers his hand. “Yeah, that’s me. Hi,” he says.

The woman gives him an assessing look. Stiles feels uncomfortable under her scrutiny. She’s a little scary, extremely attractive, and damn if she’s not Stiles’ type to a T. “Uh, Derek didn’t tell me which one of his sisters was coming. Are you Cora or Laura?” He could take a guess, but clearly he’s not great at guessing people’s ages.

The woman makes a face at him. “You know Derek?

Stiles stutters and turns like fifty shades of red. “Well, um, see. We kind of know--”

“--Derek said some parent called him,” she interjects. “Wait a minute, are you that fuckboy from the gym?” she asks a little too loudly.

Stiles wishes the ground would open up and swallow him. He does a quick glance around to see if any of the other parents heard. “Mind keeping it down?”

“Shit.” The woman half-covers her mouth with her hand. “Breeders are so sensitive about language.”

Stiles snorts. “They also don’t tend to appreciate the term breeders.”

“Well, fuck them,” she says with a raised eyebrow. She shrugs and extends her hand toward him. “Cora, I’m Derek’s younger sister.” Her hand is callused and spotted with paint.

Stiles is at a loss for what to say, but he doesn’t have to wait long for Cora to break the silence.

“When the fuck did Jack join a lacrosse team?” So much for Cora watching her language.

Coach Yukimura blows a whistle and tells the kids to clean up the field, practice is officially over.

“He told Derek that he was doing some special P.E. thing at school last week,” Cora mutters.

“Last week was the first week of practice. Sign-ups were a while ago.”

“Huh.” Cora scratches at the paint on her hands.

“Are you an artist?” Stiles asks.

“Real estate investor,” she says. “My other sister, Laura, we buy houses and flip them. We’re in the middle of a reno right now.”

Stiles nods. He spots Sebastian and Jack making their way toward them. “Hey, can you tell Derek to give me a call when he has a chance?”

Cora looks seconds from cursing him out again.

“I’m going to talk to Sebastian tonight with his mom, and we’re going to sort out some sort of punishment that includes an apology to Derek from both of us,” he explains.

Cora huffs. “Fine.”

Jack stops short of his aunt. He looks down at his muddy sneakers, defeated and embarrassed.

Sebastian picks up his friend’s backpack and hands it to him. “See you at school tomorrow?”

Jack’s green eyes light up. “On the back field by the basketball court?”

“I’ll look for you before the morning bell rings.” Sebastian puts his fist out for Jack to bump.

Jack returns the bump tentatively and blushes.

“Let’s go, Jack. Do you want burgers or pizza?” Cora puts her arm around her nephew and guides him toward the parking lot.


The rest of the week passes before Stiles hears from Derek again. It’s early Friday morning and Stiles has just gotten off shift, he’s in the locker room at the station changing into street clothes when he gets a text from Derek.

Do you have time for coffee this morning?

Stiles wills his heart not to skip a beat as he types out his reply.
I have less than an hour before I need to go pick up Sebastian for school.

Derek texts back.
Fran’s?

Stiles smiles. Derek remembers it’s his favorite.
It’s a cop’s hangout. Let’s go to Java Junkie.

See you at Java Junkie then.
Derek punctuates his text with a coffee cup emoji.

Stiles quickly laces up his shoes and grabs his bag. He looks at his watch and guesses that Derek’s driving over from the high school after dropping his daughter off for zero period. The high school is closer to the coffee shop than the Sheriff’s Department, not that downtown Beacon Hills is particularly big, but Stiles hustles to the parking lot anyway. He tries to mentally prepare himself for the conversation, but doesn’t really know how.

When Stiles arrives at the cafe, Derek’s already seated at a corner table. He looks effortlessly cool reading something on his phone, but the set of his jaw gives away his nerves.

“Hey,” Stiles calls out as he approaches. “Did you already order something for yourself?”

Derek stands. “I was waiting for you. Let me get you something. My treat.”

Stiles tries to decline, “It’s okay, I got it.”

“Please, I invited you here.” Derek moves toward the counter and gestures for Stiles to take a seat. “What’ll you have?”

“Extra large decaf mocha with whip,” Stiles says sheepishly. He really shouldn’t indulge in caffeine or sugar after a long shift, but he can only be so good.

Derek orders and comes back to the table with two plates overloaded with baked goods. “I didn’t know what you’d like.”

Stiles grabs a strawberry scone and takes a big bite. He moans.

“The strawberry ones are the best. They usually sell out by mid-morning,” Derek explains.

“I can see why.” Stiles tries not to make a mess, but it’s a lost cause. The scone is flaky and buttery, but not too sweet.

Derek breaks off the top of a zucchini muffin and pops it in his mouth. They eat in silence for a long minute, neither one brave enough to start. The barista delivers their drinks and saves them from the awkwardness.

“So…” Derek beings, “thanks for agreeing to meet me. I know we both have to go in a bit, so I’ll try and keep this brief.”

“I’m just glad you texted.”

“It took me a while to work up the nerve,” Derek admits.

Stiles licks the whipped cream off the top of his drink before taking a sip.

Derek makes a strangled noise, and then begins, “I want to say I’m sorry for flipping out on the phone. Also, thank you for calling me in the first place. I had no idea Jack wanted to join the lacrosse team.”

“You definitely don’t owe me an apology. I’m really sorry I didn’t check in with you first. I shouldn’t have trusted Sebastian blindly like that. And you had every right to flip out. It would be my worst nightmare if my kid was with some stranger and I had no idea about it.”

Derek deflates a little bit. “It’s been a rough year for us all, but I don’t think I realized how hard it’s been on Jack.”

Stiles feels for Derek, because he’s a single dad too and the only way Stiles’ world works is with a lot of help. He and Malia are still very much a team, but he counts on his dad fairly regularly for support too, and Scott and Melissa help out when Stiles is in a bind. “I don’t know what your situation is--”

Derek gives him a hard glare.

“--but I have to ask, do you have any help at all?” Stiles finishes.

Derek bobs his head. “My sisters are less helpful than I initially thought they would be when I decided to move us here. I mean, I’m sure they’d drop whatever they needed to if I asked them. I just hate to ask them.” Derek takes a sip of his coffee. “They just don’t really get it. Neither of them have kids, and they’re basically workaholics.”

Stiles knows exactly where Derek’s coming from. It’s really hard to make his friends understand what he’s been going through these last ten-plus years because their lives are so different. Most of them were away at various universities when Stiles became a dad. “I’m probably the last person you’d want to take advice from--but you gotta reach out. You need help, or you’re going to drown. I only have the one kid, but you’ve got two. Two,” Stiles repeats for emphasis.

“I’m already dead in the water. My kid’s been hiking along the highway for the past week.” Derek looks guilt-ridden, he’s got dark circles under his eyes, and it doesn’t look like he’s shaved in awhile.

“Where did you think Jack was?”

“At home.”

“Alone?” Stiles tries not to sound like he’s judging Derek. Stiles was a latchkey kid, and he knew he wanted something different for Sebastian.

“Cora and Laura have been checking on him after school, but last week he told me he was staying after at school and catching the bus later.”

“Where are you usually in the afternoons?”

“I’ve been with Piper, my daughter, most days.” Derek rolls his eyes, but there’s affection there. “She’s really into band. Between this drum corp over in Santa Clara and the high school band, I’m out with her almost every day. I didn’t realize how lopsided things had gotten. At first, Jack would come with us, then he asked to stay home. He said he had homework, and I never had a reason not to trust him, you know?”

Stiles nods. “I get it. You’re spread really thin.”

“Jack’s never been the joiner of the two of them. They’re so different from each other. Piper’s always had a million activities, but Jack’s more like me--quiet, independent.”

Stiles smiles. “Well, my kid thinks Jack is basically like the shit.”

Derek grins. “Jack’s never really had a good friend like Sebastian before. I’m happy for him.”

“Look, I’m more than happy to pick up Jack and drive him to practice. You know, after you sign him up for lacrosse officially and give me and Malia express permission to drive him.”

“You think the coach would let him back on the team after he missed most of this week’s practices?”

Stiles guffaws. “Are you kidding me? Jack is easily one of the better players on the team. Coach Yukimura would take Jack back in a heartbeat.”

Derek looks skeptical. “Jack doesn’t even know how to play.”

“Well, they all pretty much stink. Jack at least has size and speed on his side.”

Derek laughs and it brings some much needed levity to the situation. “Well, okay then. I’ll get in touch with the coach and see if I can sign Jack up officially.”

“Sebastian will be so happy. He’s been pouting all week. Although, that could also have to do with being grounded.”

“What’s his punishment?”

“No screen time for two weeks. You know,” Stiles explains, “no computer unless it’s for school, no videogames, no TV, no phone or tablet.”

“Wow. I wish I could enforce something like that.”

“Yeah?”

Derek nods. “Jack’s mom suggested it, but she’s not around to see Jack’s puppy dog face or hear his whining.”

“So what’s his punishment then?”

“Hard labor.” Derek quirks his thick eyebrows. “He’s on garbage and yard work duty for the foreseeable future.”

Stiles laughs. “Sebastian’s regular weekly chores include taking out the trash, raking leaves, pulling weeds, and watering plants.”

Derek hunches in his chair. “I haven’t set the best example for that sort of thing.” He scratches at his chin, the stubble really more of scruff at this point. “Our house is kind of a mess.”

“Hey, I’m not in a place to judge. You saw my house.” Stiles taps the table with his fingers. “Hey...um, do you mind if I ask about Jack’s mom? Like, where is she?”

Derek fiddles with the handle of his coffee mug. “She’s finishing up a case back in New York and waiting on a transfer to the Bay Area.” Derek looks like he’s choosing every word carefully. “We worked together for the U.S. Marshals Service.” He looks up at Stiles as if to gauge his reaction.

“You were in law enforcement.” Stiles isn’t exactly surprised, it actually makes sense now that he’s putting the pieces together.

“Yeah,” Derek says sheepishly.

“Hm.” Stiles makes a little satisfied sound.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Stiles smirks, “I used to try to imagine what you did for a living.” Honestly, Stiles just assumed Derek was rich, but he’s not going to admit that.

“I’m retired, actually,” Derek explains. “I got shot last year--”

“--Whoa. I wondered, but I never got to ask. Are you okay?”

“I’m better now. If it had been inch to the left though...” Derek rubs absently at his chest. “After months of physio and a lot of therapy, I decided I was done.” Something about his tone says he’s talking about more than just his career.

“Must be hard out here in California without her.”

Derek nods. “I’m the one that pressed for the divorce, and it was my idea to move, so I feel like I can’t complain.”

“Dude.” Stiles rolls his eyes.

“What?”

“It’s not complaining, it’s being honest. You should be able to let her know you’re struggling.”

“What’s she going to do about it all the way across the country?” Derek sounds resigned.

Stiles throws up his hands. “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure you’re violating the basic rules of co-parenting.”

“What.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Communication. Look, I don’t know how your relationship ended, but even though that’s over, you’re still on the same team when it comes to your kids. You have to be open and honest about stuff.”

Derek snorts. “What, and you are with your ex?”

“Absolutely.” Stiles runs a hand through his hair. “Sometimes she’s even more honest than I want her to be.” He remembers Malia pushing him to put himself out there and date, and look how spectacularly he’d messed that up.

Derek checks his watch and sighs, then downs the rest of his coffee. “I know time is limited, so I won’t beat around the bush about this last thing. About the other night, I should have been clearer with you when I said I hadn’t done that before.”

Stiles’ breath hitches, but he doesn’t have a chance to even finish his thought.

“I meant I’d never done it before with a guy,” Derek finishes.

Stiles feels like he’s been punched in the gut. Mentally he’s in a free fall panic, but outwardly he stays calm.

“I think maybe you thought I meant it some other way, but I…” he trails off. “It’s important you know so you understand why I blew you off afterward and avoided the gym. I really just couldn’t deal.”

Before Stiles’ mind can catch up with his mouth he sputters, “So it wasn’t entirely my fault?” He smacks his own forehead. “I’m sorry. What I meant was…” Stiles collects his thoughts before he continues, “It’s been brought to my attention that I may have given you the wrong impression about my intentions. I don’t blame you for wanting nothing to do with me. And for that, I’m sorry.”

Derek bobs his head. “Thanks.”

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks. “Wait, was it okay, what we did? I mean, I think there was consent, but oh my god, you consented, right?”

“I’m fine, Stiles. Confused, but fine. And yes, there was consent. I mean, I don’t regret it, not exactly,” Derek reassures him.

Stiles exhales and sags into his chair. His mind is still going a million miles a minute with questions and doubts.

“I didn’t mean to dump that on you.” Derek frowns.

Stiles reaches out and swipes his thumb over Derek’s knuckles gently. “You didn’t, I swear, I’m just… You’re really okay?”

Derek retracts his hand, clearly not comfortable with the intimate gesture. “I guess I don’t really know what I am, I mean, what I’m feeling.”

Stiles gets it. He understands how being a single dad is an all-encompassing identity and sometimes it means, no, very often it means sacrificing yourself for your kids. It means that there’s not always time to think about your own feelings or needs. It means feeling lost and convinced that you’re a total screw-up.

“Hey, if you want to talk about it, if you need someone to just listen, I’m here. I’ve been where you’re at,” Stiles offers.

Derek gives him a questioning look.

“I feel extremely qualified as Beacon Hills’ preeminent bisexual single dad.” Stiles gives him a small, encouraging grin.

“Thanks.” Derek frowns, but it still feels like a win. “But I just want you to know so that we’re both on the same page…” He gives Stiles a lingering gaze.

Stiles doesn’t want to hear what comes next.

“We probably shouldn’t do what we did...again,” Derek says regretfully.

Stiles swallows hard and nods like he understands.

Derek looks down at his watch again. “It’s about that time.”

Stiles doesn’t want to get up, but Sebastian is waiting on him. “All right. I’ll wait to hear from you? About Jack,” he clarifies with a scratchy voice.

“Sure. I’ll be in touch.” Derek gets up from the table and offers Stiles his hand, though it’s not really necessary.

Stiles lets himself be pulled up because the touch is on Derek’s terms and that feels significant. They stand there and give each other a final look. Even though it hurts, Stiles hears himself asking if they can do coffee again. “As friends,” he clarifies.

After a long pause Derek says, “My daughter has zero period band class every Friday. I’m free from seven to eight.”

It’s an opening, and Stiles takes it. “Next Friday then.”

“See you next Friday, Stiles.”

Chapter Text

Sebastian takes his punishment pretty well once he finds out that Jack is going to sign up for lacrosse officially. He even orchestrates an apology that involves dropping by the Hales’ house, and if Stiles weren’t just a little bit selfish and hopeful that he’ll get to see Derek, he’d have discouraged the idea altogether.

While Stiles has his son for the weekend, they whip up a batch of homemade brownies. Stiles allows Sebastian to call Jack when the brownies are just about done in the oven. He asks if they can come over to drop them off and apologize formally. Before Sebastian hangs up, Stiles asks for the phone. Sebastian makes a face at him and begs his dad not to embarrass him in front of his friend.

“Just give me the phone.” Stiles puts his hand out. Sebastian hands it over reluctantly. “Jack, is your dad home? Can you put him on the phone?”

“Uh, yeah… Let me get him.” There’s a muffled sound in the background and then Jack calling out for his dad.

“This is Derek,” he says when he finally picks up.

“Hi, Derek, it’s Stiles and Sebastian.”

“Hi.” Derek sounds uncertain. “What’s going on?”

“I have Sebastian for the weekend and he insisted we make apology brownies. If you’re not busy, can we bring them over? I had Sebastian call Jack to make sure you guys aren’t busy, but given our kids’ track record, I thought it was best if I double checked with you.” Stiles makes a face when Sebastian rolls his eyes.

“Oh, um, that’s nice of you. Sure, we’re home. Come on over.”

“You don’t by chance live out by the old Hale place, do you?” Stiles takes a guess based on the direction he saw Jack walking from on the highway.

“Yeah, out on the edge of town, bordering the preserve. You know it?”

“Of course I do. Born and raised here.” Stiles thinks back to all the times he and Scott would go dick around in the woods, and how there were always teenagers huddling around smoking weed on the porch of the dilapidated house or drinking around a bonfire where the property line meets the nature preserve.

“Okay, then. See you when?”

Stiles eyes the clock and estimates. “About an hour?”

“Okay, bye.”

“See you.” Stiles ends the call and hands his kid back his cell phone. “Now go wash up and write a card for Jack and Mr. Hale.”

“I’m not a little kid anymore, Dad.” Sebastian stomps toward the bathroom.

“Face and hands!” he yells at his son’s retreating back.

Stiles rummages around the junk drawer in the kitchen and finds a set of monogrammed stationery, most likely a gift from Lydia that he’s never used. He finds a few pens and tests them out on a notepad. Half of them are out of ink so he chucks them into the trash. Once he finds a pen that writes smoothly, he sets the materials out on the kitchen table.

Sebastian plops down in a chair and sighs dramatically. “Do I have to?”

“Come on, kiddo. Your mom and I were fairly lenient, and she and I both agree that you need to learn there are consequences to lying. Write a quick note and say you’re sorry. Then we’re going to pop over to the Hales.”

“Fine.” Sebastian hunches over the card and picks up the pen. He takes way too long to write two whole sentences.

Stiles reads it over, “Sorry for not telling the whole truth and not asking for permission even when my dad told me to. It won’t happen again. Sebastian Stilinski.” Stiles beams. “See, that wasn’t so bad.”

“Whatever.” Sebastian goes to the fridge and gets a glass of milk. “Can we do a taste test?”

Stiles looks at the brownies now cooling on the kitchen counter. “What, you don’t want to take over the whole pan?”

“The whole thing?” Sebastian whines.

“Oh, so you thought you’d be clever and sneak a brownie now? Should I just cut out a chunk and we’ll deliver them with a hole in the middle?” Stiles pretends to take a piece from the center.

“Very funny, Dad.”

Stiles laughs and starts to cut into the pan. He loads up a plate and dusts the top of the brownies with powdered sugar. He saves two large pieces for him and his pouty kid. “Here.” He hands one over to Sebastian. His face lights up.

“So good,” Sebastian says with a mouthful of brownie.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Sebastian smiles and reveals his teeth covered in brownies. Stiles shakes his head fondly at his son. Sebastian washes the bite down with milk and let’s out a satisfied sound.

“You done?”

Sebastian nods and smiles.

“Let’s go.” Stiles wraps the plate loosely in foil and grabs his keys.

“You’re not going to eat yours?” Sebastian looks at the brownie left in the pan.

“Leave it! I’m saving it for later,” Stiles says as he walks to the front door.

“You’re so weird, Dad.”

“Yeah, yeah, get in the car.”

The drive to the Hale property is just enough time for Sebastian to get worked up about apologizing and then get excited that he gets to see his friend on a non-school day.

“Maybe we can hang out, you know, eat some more brownies.” Sebastian waggles his eyebrows.

“You will do no such thing,” Stiles warns. “You were raised with better manners than that. Do not invite yourself over.”

“But what if they invite us to stay?” Sebastian pleads.

“We’ll see. We’re not imposing on them. You’re there to apologize.”

“But Jack says he’s bored.” Sebastian fiddles with his phone and brings up their text thread. “See.” He shoves the phone into Stiles’ face.

“Point that thing elsewhere. I’m driving. Also, you’re still grounded. Turn it off and hand it over.” Stiles points to the cupholder.

“This is so unfair,” Sebastian whines but does as he’s told. They drive in silence until Sebastian starts peppering him with questions. “So, you’ve been to their house before?”

“Not exactly. I’m pretty sure the house Jack lives in was built a few years ago, but there used to be an old house out on the property when I was a kid.” Just then Stiles turns off the highway onto the Hale property. He sees an overgrown path and points to it. “Over there.” Stiles drives by slowly and through the treeline he can see a structure. “The Hales have owned this piece of land since the eighteen-hundreds.”

Sebastian looks moderately intrigued.

Stiles stops the car and idles. “You know, my mom used to volunteer for the local historical society, and she would show me these really cool old documents about the Mexican land grants with the names of the ranchos. If I remember correctly, the Hales purchased their land from an original grantee after the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.” Stiles looks over at his son to see if he still has his interest.

Sebastian rolls his eyes so hard that Stiles worries he’ll detach a retina. “Dad. Please.” He sighs dramatically.

“I know, I know. I’m so weird.” Stiles resumes their drive down the long path.

“You’re a nerd. A history nerd.”

It’s true, Stiles is a history nerd, and that’s why he majored in it at college. He loved how he felt more connected to his mother whenever he got the chance to go to archives and look at primary sources. He remembers being about Sebastian’s age when his mom let him tag along to the Beacon Hills Historical Museum while she did her docent duties. He tries to recall the way the Hale house looked in pictures back in its hay-day. It was an enormous Victorian style mansion, with a large front porch, and ornate woodwork. The Hales were prominent founders of Beacon Hills, and multiple generations lived under one roof even when it was no longer the fashion. Sometime before Stiles was born the house had burned down and the family had relocated.

“How come they don’t live in the old house?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s in a state of disrepair.”

“Why?” Sebastian asks.

“There was a fire a long time ago and part of the house got damaged.”

“Why didn’t they just fix it? When was the fire? Do you remember it?”

Stiles shakes his head. Conversations with his kid always go something like this. “I don’t know. I just know it was close to before I was born.” Stiles thinks but can’t recall the exact year. “Maybe thirty years ago? I don’t know, buddy.”

“But you know everything,” Sebastian insists.

Stiles snorts. “Well, I am usually a wealth of useless information but I’m all tapped out.” The Hale fire has always been a bit of a local mystery, but Stiles doesn’t want to tell his son that.

“Wow, cool,” Sebastian says when the new house comes into view.

The new house is massive and modern in design and construction. Stiles lets out a slow whistle. The house looks like an expensive piece of art, like something out of an architecture magazine. There’s nice landscaping that works well with the natural elements of the surrounding preserve, and a yard with a few toys strewn about. There’s an attached garage with cars actually parked inside it, and a rack of bikes in various colors and styles all lined up. Stiles can also see that there’s a fancy workbench with tools hung and organized carefully. There’s also a smaller house with a carport just beyond the garage, and through the carport Stiles can see the blue water of a swimming pool in the backyard.

Stiles parks his Jeep in the paved driveway and kills the engine. He takes a deep breath and looks over at his son who is carefully taking in the scenery. It’s a far cry from Stiles’ shabby bungalow and Malia’s suburban starter home.

“You ready?” Stiles asks. Sebastian pales, so Stiles does his best to put his brave Dad face on. Everything about Derek’s house screams money, and Stiles would be lying if he said it didn’t intimidate him too. “Come on, let’s go see if you can cheer Jack up from his boredom.”

Sebastian puts his hand on the door handle. “We don’t have to stay for long.” It’s a plea framed as a statement.

“You give me the word and we’ll go.”

“Hey Dad, do I have to, you know--”

“--It’s okay if you’re scared.” Stiles knows exactly what his son is about to ask. “Just give Jack and his dad the brownies and the note and do your best.” Stiles can only imagine how intimidated his son must feel.

“Okay.” Sebastian throws the door open, hops out, and clutches his apology brownies tightly.

Derek and Jack answer the door before they even have a chance to ring the bell. Their body language mirrors each other. Derek stands tall, that air of steely reserve back after their coffee date where he’d been open and vulnerable. Jack isn’t like other kids, he’s not awkward in his body, he seems to have an awareness that he’s more developed and his stance accentuates it.

“Thanks for letting us drop by,” Stiles says after a round of formal introductions.

“Jack’s excited to have a friend over.” Derek tries to suppress a smile, but Stiles notices the upturn of his lips.

Jack’s cheeks and ears turned red, but he stays quiet. Sebastian does an admirable job of apologizing to Jack and his dad, going so far as to admit it was his idea for Jack to join the team without getting permission. It’s the first Stiles has heard of this part of the story, but he’s willing to let it go for now. Derek accepts his apology and invites them inside.

“You boys want to go into the kitchen and spoil your dinner?” Derek asks.

Jack, who’s been almost silent until now, pipes up, “Depends, are you cooking?”

“Very funny.” Derek crosses his arms over his chest and his muscles bulge. Stiles tries not to notice the way the material of his t-shirt stretches over his pecs and biceps.

Jack pulls Sebastian along by the elbow and they disappear into the interior of the house, leaving their dads standing in the foyer.

“It’s okay with you, right?” Derek asks.

“Yeah, it’s fine. We were just going to reheat leftovers anyway.” Stiles tries to look around subtly. From the foyer he can see down a hallway that likely leads to bedrooms, and a spacious room off to the other side that looks like a formal living room.

“Did you want a tour of the house?” Derek asks, and it sounds painfully grown up.

Stiles doubts he’s ever uttered that phrase. He shrugs, curiosity getting the better of him. “Sure, if you don’t mind,” he tries to sound cool.

Derek starts talking about the design and how his sisters commissioned an architect to build the place about ten years ago. “They thought it would be nice to build a place the whole family could come back to. And we did do that for a few years, we’d all come and stay for a week, but it never really felt like home. It was like meeting up at an Air BNB,” Derek explains.

Stiles nods. He’s heard of Air BNB, but he’s never stayed at one so he thinks maybe the comparison is lost on him.

“Once my brothers started having kids too the whole thing just petered out. For the holidays we try to get together at my parents’ place in the city, it’s easier that way.”

Stiles doesn’t know much about the Hales since they moved out of town before he was born, but their large brood is kind of legendary.

Derek looks uncomfortable in his own home as he walks Stiles through the house. The walls are mostly bare, and the furniture and decor look like whole spreads from a catalog. It doesn’t feel lived in or personal, with the exception of the kids’ spaces. Their bedrooms and bathrooms look like a tornado hit them, for which Derek tries to apologize profusely.

“I told you the house is a bit of a mess,” Derek says as he clumsily folds bath towels and throws dirty clothes in the overflowing hamper. “I should really just break down and hire a housekeeper. Or maybe a zookeeper,” he mutters.

Stiles snorts. He really wants to say that maybe Derek needs a live-in maid, but he manages to hold his tongue.

While showing off the master bedroom, Derek turns a deep red and won’t make eye contact with Stiles. The bedroom is gorgeous--with floor to ceiling windows that look out into the forest. It’s simply furnished but messy. The walls are painted a navy blue and it gives it a very moody and masculine feel. Stiles imagines Derek in this space alone, in that great big bed all to himself, and finds himself getting aroused. He’s not proud of it, but he’s a weak man after he sees the unmade bed and the clothes Derek stripped out of carelessly tossed onto the back of a leather club chair. When Derek leads Stiles back into the hallway his blush starts to fade.

The house is grander than Stiles’ in every way, but seeing the very real and imperfect side of Derek that’s not totally put together is a relief. It doesn’t make Stiles feel any more confident about himself, but it makes Derek feel more approachable and human. Stiles spent months elevating Derek by putting him on a pedestal, objectifying him, really. As awkward as the whole situation is, Stiles is grateful that they’ve been able to talk honestly, and they’ve each seen where the other person is coming from. He hopes this means they can build some kind of friendship.

Once in the kitchen, Derek asks if Stiles what he wants to do next. “We could hang out here at the kitchen island or head into the backyard with the vista of the preserve?”

Stiles can’t decided because the kitchen is his favorite room in the house so far. It’s luxurious with top of the line everything, but it feels like the heart of the home. There are piles of papers and books on the table. Jack and Sebastian are huddled up at the booth eating and chatting. Knick-knacks and mementos line the open shelves. There are crumbs and dishes on the counters, and fingerprints on the windows. The kitchen is large and sleek but still manages to feel cozy. Stile catches a glimpse of the preserve from the wall of windows overlooking the backyard. It makes Stiles want to explore outside the house even more.

“Oh, um, backyard, I guess?” Stiles gestures to the French doors that lead to the patio.

Derek and Stiles check on the the boys before heading out and catch them eating directly from the plate of brownies. Derek shoots a look at his son and Jack gives him a sheepish grin.

“What? I saved you some.” Jack points to a smaller plate on the kitchen island.

Derek looks incredulous. “Three, Jack?”

“There’s one for you, one for Stiles, and one for Piper when she comes home.” Jack stares back at his dad. “You said I could spoil my dinner.”

Derek shakes his head. “At least use a napkin.” He crosses the room and opens the fridge to offer Stiles a drink. The professional grade refrigerator is well stocked and full of organic and high-end looking foods Stiles recognizes from the fancy grocery store in town. Stiles asks for water and Derek selects two glass bottles of water for them.

As they walk toward the backyard, each holding a napkin with their brownie and their bottled water, Stiles catches Derek mumbling something about his son’s manners.

“Kids, am I right?” Stiles jokes as he takes a seat at the patio table.

Derek raises his eyebrows. “Mine’s gotten particularly mouthy in the last few weeks.”

“Eek. Leave it to my kid to be the bad influence,” Stiles says.

“He’s acting out because I haven’t been around as much as I should be.” Derek breaks off a piece of brownie and pops it into his mouth.

Stiles sips his water and leans back in his chair, taking in the sight of the preserve. “Nothing beats this spot this time of year, does it?”

Derek’s quiet for a minute. “Did you grow up coming out here a lot?”

Stiles tilts his head and considers how to answer. “I think most teenagers from Beacon Hills did. Before this place was built, the Hale property was the scene of many a high school party.”

Derek purses his lips. “It’s hard to imagine the place after the fire.” There’s a long beat of silence. “My parents moved me and my siblings to San Francisco. Then I went to college in New York. I hadn’t been back until my sisters built this place.”

For most of Stiles’ life he’d simply thought of this spot as the old Hale land with the half-charred house. Derek is considerably older than him and actually grew up here. He experienced the fire; it’s more than just a story to him. The idea that Derek spent so many years away from his hometown is hard for Stiles to wrap his head around.

“Why didn’t your sisters rebuild the old house?” Stiles asks.

Derek leans back and he gets this far away look in his eyes. “I think it was a bigger project than they could handle. I think they’d like to tackle it in the future though.”

“Do they live here at this house with you guys?” Stiles asks. The were several rooms they didn’t tour and there’s also the pool house he saw when he parked. He eats half of his brownie in one go.

Derek snorts. “No. I could not live with my sisters as an adult.” He jerks his thumb over his shoulder. “They both live in town. Not together, but in the same neighborhood, over in Cherry Hill.”

Stiles is familiar with that development with custom built homes. Allison’s and Jackson’s families live there. Stiles and Scott biked over to that part of town to go trick-or-treating as kids because everyone knew that’s where they had the good candy.

He’s vaguely aware of Derek talking about how he came to buy the house from his sisters. “We lived out of boxes for the first three months while I painstakingly picked out furniture. My kids begged me to go to Ikea and be done with it, but I wanted everything to look nice.”

Stiles interprets that as expensive.

“I made a mood board. Cora thinks that’s dorky.” Derek rolls his eyes. “I was going for mid-century masculine. Not sure if I pulled it off though...” Derek says with a goofy grin on his face and then starts name dropping designers that go right over Stiles’ head.

Stiles feels charmed by Derek, and he knows he shouldn’t, Derek made it clear where they stand. But he’s just so cute talking about his house and his design aesthetic, and Derek’s muscles in that V-neck is unfair. Stiles notices the light dusting of hair on his chest peeking out and he has to lick his lips. It wasn’t there before when they hooked up, and that’s very intriguing. Stiles shoves the other half of his brownie into his mouth to keep himself from asking something inappropriate. He prays that Sebastian will come save him soon. While Stiles would never complain about the view or the company, he is failing miserably at keeping his cool around Derek.

Derek looks perfectly at ease now lounging on his designer patio furniture and talking about credenzas and Turkish kilims and drinking overpriced French water. His scruff makes the hard planes of his face look impossibly soft, and even his weekend attire looks like something out of the pages of GQ magazine. Derek is essentially the George Clooney of Beacon Hills, and Stiles is definitely no Amal Alamuddin. Derek is so far out of Stiles’ league, he’s pretty sure they’re not even playing the same game.

“Stiles, are you okay?”

“Huh?” Stiles is shaken from his reverie.

“I asked you if you and Sebastian wanted to stay for dinner.”

“What?” Stiles sputters.

Derek smiles. “You said before that you’re a good cook. I thought maybe you’d take pity on me and show me what to do with the whole chicken I foolishly bought at the market today.”

Stiles’ mouth hangs open, shocked that Derek actually wants to spend more time with him. He can’t decide if Derek’s flirting with him or if he’s just being a good host.

“I’m sorry. Is this awkward for you? I thought we had cleared the air on Friday, but maybe I--”

Stiles cuts him off, “No, it’s not awkward,” he lies. “I’m just surprised is all. I’m like…” Stiles is about to list the number of things wrong with himself, but in the back of his head he hears Lydia yelling at him so he shuts up. “Yes, that would be nice. Dinner.”

Derek smiles nervously. “It’s probably not exactly what you had in mind when I invited you to dinner before.”

“Are you kidding me, this is better,” Stiles admits.

“Really?” Derek laughs.

“Hell yeah. I don’t have to get child care, the dress code is casual, the food is free, and I don’t have to stress out about where this is going.” Stiles shakes his head. “I mean, it’s a moot point because the kids are here,” he rambles and then realizes how it sounds, “not because I have any expectations. I don’t. I totally got the message about last time and I respect what you said.”

Derek gets up and smiles slyly. “It would be okay though.”

Stiles follows him inside, captivated. “What would be okay?”

Derek looks around for the kids and finds them out of earshot. “It would be okay if you have expectations.”

“Really?” Stiles says in a lowered voice, his eyebrows shooting up towards his hairline.

“I think maybe I was a little too hasty on Friday. We could just see where this goes?” Derek suggests casually. “But I should warn you, barring what happened last time, I don’t usually put out until at least the third date,” Derek quips.

Stiles bites his lip to keep from smiling like a lunatic. Though Derek was quick to say they shouldn’t hook up again, and Stiles offered to keep things strictly friendly, Derek seems to be on the fence about keeping things platonic. He can work with that. “I hate to nitpick, but this is technically our third date.”

“You think?”

“Well, yeah. First date we spent hiking, our second was coffee, and dinner’s about to be our third.”

“Hm...I guess it is.” Derek puts his hand to the small of Stiles’ back and ushers him out of the kitchen toward the family room. It’s a small gesture, but it gives Stiles something he didn’t know he needed--hope.

***

“But you can’t cook,” Jack says to Derek when he announces that the Stilinskis are staying for dinner.

Derek turns to Stiles and shrugs. “See, I told you my kids banned me from even trying.”

“He burns water.” Jack frowns.

Stiles bursts out laughing and it gets everyone going.

“It was one time!” Derek shouts, but there’s no anger there. He turns toward Stiles and says, “I walked away and got distracted and all the water boiled out of the pan while I was steaming broccoli.”

“My dad’s a really good cook, don’t worry,” Sebastian reassures Jack.

“Let’s go and whip something up.” Stiles tries to sound encouraging.

“Number for the pizza place is on the fridge!” Jack calls out.

Stiles tries to hide a snicker. “Wow, he’s really got it out for you.”

Derek shakes his head.

Stiles heads to the kitchen to survey the fridge. “So, you mentioned chicken.”

Derek leans against the kitchen island like he’s totally at home with Stiles poking around his house. “Yeah, I normally buy those pre-cooked ones, but they were all out at the market so I bought a raw one. I thought it couldn’t be too hard to try and make one from scratch. Then I got it home and looked up a recipe and it said I needed to truss it. So I watched a YouTube tutorial on that like a dozen times.” Derek lets out a frustrated sigh. “Then I gave up and we went out for burgers last night.”

Stiles moves to the oven and opens it up, repositioning the racks. “Let’s preheat this to 475.” Stiles spots a shelf full of cookbooks and peruses them. “You have Thomas Keller, I see.”

“We ate...” Derek stumbles over his words, “I ate at The French Laundry once.”

Stiles knows what Derek means by we, he and his ex-wife, but Stiles doesn’t press. He grabs Ad Hoc at Home and flips through it. Stiles mostly relies on the internet for recipes, but he can’t deny the satisfaction of paging through fancy cookbooks.

“What are you making?”

“We are making the roast chicken you wanted.”

“You can truss a chicken?” Derek sounds skeptical.

“It’s really easy, it just looks hard. I’ll show you.” Stiles stands next to Derek and walks him through the steps.

Derek doesn’t have rutabagas or turnips or leeks, but Stiles reassures him that potatoes, carrots, and celery are fine. They substitute rosemary from the bush Stiles spotted on the patio for the thyme in the recipe. Stiles makes Derek truss the bird even though he looks squeamish about it. The face he makes is adorable. Derek argues when they skip steps and leave out ingredients like butter and oil.

“Trust me, I have made roast chicken dozens of times.”

“Then why did you look it up in the book?” Derek wonders.

“To get the temperature and time right,” Stiles explains.

“Are you sure about this?” Derek asks for the tenth time as they shut the oven door.

“Seriously, loosen up. It’s just roast chicken.” Stiles pokes around the cabinets and finds a loaf of French bread. He tears off a chunk for himself and offers the bag to Derek. “Want?”

“Why the hell not. It’s cheat day. Or cheat weekend at the rate I’m going,” Derek grumbles.

“Stop it. You look amazing.” Stiles has a flash of a memory of them in his small kitchen, their shirts off, Stiles’ hands all over Derek. He remembers how sexy Derek looked and how Stiles felt being so close to him, being so intimate with him.

Derek blushes. “My metabolism isn’t what it used to be.” He points toward Stiles. “I can’t eat whatever I want and look like you.”

Stiles looks down at himself. He’s leaning back against the counter, his arms crossed. “Like me how?”

Derek’s stance mirrors his. He nudges Stiles with his foot. “Fit.”

Stiles laughs and feels his cheeks turning pink. “You’re hilarious, you know that.”

“Seriously, I’m getting soft in my old age.”

“You’re not old.” Stiles nudges his foot back.

“I’m a lot older than you.”

Stiles quirks his mouth. “Does that bother you?”

Derek seems to consider this. “I don’t know. Yes. Maybe.”

Stiles wants to argue with Derek that age is just a number, but he can’t deny that there’s an enormous gap between them, and it’s not just their age. Derek is retired, and Stiles’ career is just beginning. Derek comes from serious money and looks like he enjoys the finer things in life, while Stiles still struggles to make ends meet. And while those are glaring differences, Stiles also can’t help but feel like he has the advantage of experience in other areas, like balancing life as a single dad, maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship with an ex, and even understanding his own sexuality and being okay with it.

“It’s all right,” Stiles says after a long pause. “Maybe it is a little weird, but I’m okay with that, and I’m okay with it even if you’re not quite there yet.”

Derek gives him a significant look and then a small smile. The moment passes the second the front door swings open.

“I’m home!” a voice calls from the foyer, “there’s a weird car in the driveway.” A teenage girl comes into view. She’s tall and slender and looks very similar to Jack. Her hazel eyes sparkle against her warm brown complexion. She’s striking, which Stiles concludes must be a Hale trait.

Derek stands up straighter and introduces them rather formally. “Piper, your brother’s friend Sebastian is here. This is Sebastian’s dad, Mr. Stilinski.”

Stiles waves. “Just Stiles,” he corrects him. “Your dad invited us to stay for dinner. I hope that’s okay.”

Piper makes a face at her dad. “You’re cooking?”

Derek puts his hands over his face and groans.

“Actually, I’m giving him an impromptu cooking lesson. We’re having roast chicken,” Stiles explains.

Piper sniffs the air. “Smells edible.” She walks to the fridge and grabs a bottle of juice.

“How was the meeting?” Derek asks her after a beat.

Piper bobs her head after taking a long sip. “Okay. Everyone voted on a bake sale.” She rolls her eyes. “It’s in a little less than two weeks. We need to bring four dozen treats.”

Derek looks concerned. “I guess I can place an order with a bakery?” Derek looks at Stiles. “Do you have any recommendations?”

Stiles snorts. “Isn’t the point of a bake sale to make money, not spend money?”

“Trust me, it’s better this way. There’s not a baker among us.” Piper finishes and tosses her empty bottle into the fancy built-in recycling bin.

“If you’re just going to throw money at the problem, you may as well just write the school a check,” Stiles says.

“That’s not a bad idea. Cut out the middle-man,” Derek agrees.

“Dad!” Piper whines. “It’s a bake sale and you’re the VP of the Boosters Club. How’s it going to look if I don’t even participate?”

“How much are you selling these cookies and cupcakes for? When I got cupcakes from that fancy bakery for Cora’s birthday they were three dollars a piece. You’d need to charge at least a buck more to make it worthwhile, and what kid wants to spend four dollars on one of those dinky cupcakes?” Derek tries to reason.

Piper pouts. “How about one of those tubes of cookie dough. How hard can making cookies be?”

Derek nods. “Okay, I’ll see if I can pick up a couple of options and we can try them out.” He looks satisfied with the compromise.

Stiles won’t stand for it, not under his watch. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t use pre-made cookie dough for a bake sale.”

“Why not?” Derek asks.

“Well, first of all, dough from a tube should only be consumed under the most dire of circumstances.” He uses his fingers to count, “During a mourning period after a break up, at two o’clock in the morning when literally nothing is a good idea then anyway, and well, I can’t think of another instance.”

Piper and Derek just look at Stiles like he’s gone mad.

“Everyone knows bake sales are kind of a competition. You need to impress your classmates,” Stiles addresses Piper first. “And you,” he turns to Derek, “you’re the VP of the Boosters? You absolutely have to bring something made from scratch.”

“I just told you we can’t bake. You think my cooking is bad? You don’t even want to know what happened when I tried to make a batch of muffins last month.”

Piper mimes an explosion.

“Come on, guys. I’ll help,” Stiles offers like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

“Seriously?” Piper asks.

“Sure, you said you need them the week after next?”

“Yeah, the sale is on a Thursday.”

“We can whip something up on the Wednesday before.”

“You have enough time to make four dozen of something?” Derek wonders. “Don’t you work nights?”

“We can do it during the day.” Stiles really tries to keep a straight face after hearing the innuendo.

The corners of Derek’s mouth twitch. “Don’t you need to sleep?”

“I’ll be fine.” Stiles insists. “We’ll work something out.

Piper gives Stiles an assessing look, one that says, what’s in it for you? Stiles thinks maybe he’s revealed too much already, like how gone on Derek he really is. Derek looks delighted and grateful, and it’s almost too much to bear.

Stiles tells Piper to look for cookie recipes on one of his favorite baking blogs. She excuses herself to find her iPad and on her way out of the room she gives her dad a furtive glance.

Derek takes that as his cue to fiddle with the oven. “Maybe I should check on the chicken again?” He bends down to peer through the window and turns on the light. “Yep, looks like chicken.”

Piper shakes her head. She’s clearly not amused by dad jokes.

Stiles comes to his rescue with a meat thermometer. He hands it over and directs him to stick it in the meaty part of the breast. Derek does as he’s told and they decide the bird needs another fifteen minutes.

“I’ll go tell the boys to wrap up their game and wash up for dinner,” Derek offers.

Piper returns with her iPad and hands it to Stiles. “You’re being awfully helpful.”

Stiles is not going to be intimidated by a teenage girl, he’s a Sheriff’s Deputy for crying out loud. He clears his throat. Okay, he’s definitely intimidated. “Call me a good samaritan.” He shows her some of his favorite cookies. “I think we should do some interesting picks, like how about raspberry thumbprints and double chocolate chip swirl cookies?”

Piper looks skeptical. “You really think we can do this?”

“It’s not hard. It’s just following directions.”

“How long is this going to take?”

“Honestly, not too long. I can help assemble the dough and then I can leave you to bake it.”

Piper’s eyes widen. “If you knew how bad we all are in the kitchen, you wouldn’t seriously consider letting me bake cookies.”

“Just trust me.” Stiles sets about talking Piper through the recipe and surveying the kitchen for the things they’ll need.

Piper looks confused but determined to be helpful. “I think we have a mixer around here somewhere,” she supplies with her head inside the pantry.

“If you don’t, that’s okay. I just use a bowl and a wooden spoon and a spatula when I bake at home.”

“So what’s the mixer for then?”

“They’re a really helpful tool, but expensive.” Stiles looks fondly at the beautiful copper Kitchenaid mixer Piper uncovers from the butler’s pantry.

Derek tries to help by pulling out a canister of sugar, but it’s half-empty. “I’ll start a shopping list.”

Together they figure out all the things they’ll need to bake cookies and come up with a plan. The timer for the chicken beeps and the boys come into the kitchen freshly washed.

“Set the table,” Derek tells Jack. “What can I get you to drink, Stiles? I have wine and beer.” Derek moves toward a fully stocked bar cabinet. “I can also make cocktails if that’s more your thing.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Um, whatever you’re having, I guess.” Cocktails feel a little too decadent in front of their kids, but he’s not going to say no.

“Wine it is.” Derek selects a bottle from the wine fridge and uncorks it.

Stiles puts the chicken and the fixings on a platter in the center of the table. Within ten minutes they’re all seated around the Hales’ kitchen table and digging into dinner. Piper and Jack smile and look generally amazed that their dad had any part in making dinner. Derek blushes and takes zero credit. They all thank Stiles for dinner too many times, and Stiles actually gets embarrassed by the praise. Sebastian looks sufficiently chuffed, like somehow he had a hand in creating the whole happy situation.

After dinner, Piper offers to do clean up. “It’s the least I can do since you’re offering to help me with the bake sale.”

Sebastian shows Jack, who acts like he’s never cleaned up after himself, how to wipe up the table and counter with a rag and disinfecting spray.

Derek looks on stupefied. “You and your kid are getting my kids to do chores. One of them even offered on her own.”

“Chores aren’t really a choice in our house,” Stiles explains.

“We had a housekeeper back in New York.” Derek almost sounds nostalgic. “Technically she was a nanny, but once Piper started high school she said she was too old for a nanny.” He shakes his head fondly at her. “Can I refill your glass?”

Stiles looks down at his dwindling wine. “I shouldn’t.” Stiles never drinks much, and even less on weekends where he has Sebastian and needs Melatonin to sleep at night like a regular person.

“Some other time then,” Derek states rather than asks.

Stiles feels something like butterflies in his stomach, and he can’t help the schmoopy grin on his face. “Okay, that would be nice.”

“Piper really seems to have warmed up to you.” Derek arches an eyebrow. “And that’s not easy.”

Stiles laughs. “I am honestly shocked. How old is she?”

“Fifteen going on sixteen.”

Stiles snorts. “I’ve never been popular with the sixteen year old girl demographic, not even when I was sixteen.”

“Really?” Derek sounds shocked.

Stiles chuckles. “No,” he insists. “I was an annoying little shit. You can ask my friend Lydia.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” Derek swirls the wine in his glass. “So, Wednesday after next?”

“I hope you don’t mind that I am taking over your kitchen.”

“God, no, that’s really nice of you. This was…” Derek trails off. “My--”

“--More of Piper’s mom’s territory?” Stiles supplies.

Derek nods. “Yeah, pretty much. Not that she was an expert in the kitchen either. But she’s a natural at anything she tries. If Piper needed four dozen cookies, she would have read a recipe and winged it.” Derek quirks his mouth. “Me on the other hand…”

“I’m sure you’d do just fine.”

Derek laughs. “No, I really wouldn’t be fine. I accidentally selected the broil option last time I tried to make muffins.”

Stiles grimaces. “It’s a confidence thing. Once you’ve made a few things successfully, you’ll have no trouble.” Stiles downs the last of his wine and they sit in Derek’s living room just chatting about nothing in particular. It’s nice and it tugs at a place in Stiles’ empty heart he didn’t know he needed filled.

***

After a nice evening together, Stiles extricates himself from Derek’s couch and gets his kid to say goodbye to his friend. Neither of them really want to leave, but it’s well past dark outside.

On the drive back home, Sebastian asks his dad a question that takes him aback.

“What will Jack think when he sees where we live? I mean, I never cared about that kind of thing before. But Jack’s house has an extra house next to it. Did you see how big their Plasma is? And Jack’s got a Giant mountain bike but he doesn’t even know how to ride off road. Do you think he’d lend it to me?” he stops rambling and looks at his dad. “Dad? Do you think that sort of stuff matters?”

Stiles swallows hard. He wants so badly to tell his son that money doesn’t matter, that Jack likes Sebastian for who he is, not for how much money his family has. But Stiles is struggling with all those same emotions; he feels the same insecurity when he’s around Derek, and the last thing he wants to be is a hypocrite. He feels the stinging prick of tears and remembers being a latchkey kid with holes in his jeans, biking over to Scott’s house on a shitty no brand bike, and eating Easy Mac when their parents were working late shifts. He remembers how much easier it was having a friend who understood him and accepted him. Stiles turns toward Sebastian and it comes easily to him.

“Jack is your friend, and you have more in common than you don’t. That’s what matters.”

It seems to appease Sebastian and he goes back to talking about a videogame that he and Jack played. It feels like a win for Stiles, and he’ll take them where he can.

Chapter Text

The week starts off well for Stiles. After dropping off his son at school on Monday, Stiles rushes to the gym like all the months before. He and Derek trade more than cursory head nods though when he walks in after him. Derek actually joins Stiles for a warm up on the treadmill, and they chat about how their Sundays went. It’s friendly and light, and Stiles really enjoys Derek’s company. After the treadmill, Stiles follows Derek to the free weights. Stiles tries to remember the few exercises he learned in his community college weight training class. He’s more of a machine guy, so when he bores of doing the same repetitive movements he asks Derek for help.

Derek’s face lights up. “Really, you want my help?”

“Sure, I’m getting bored doing the same handful of moves.”

Derek shows Stiles how to do a few different things and even offers to spot him if Stiles wants to do bench presses. G

“Um, I don’t want to embarrass myself too badly,” Stiles admits.

“Honestly, don’t be. We all have to start somewhere.”

“You’re a really good teacher, you know,” Stiles compliments him.

Derek gets bashful and focuses on helping Stiles figure out the right amount of weight to lift. Stiles is pleased to discover he can handle more than he initially thought. He does three sets of ten reps and Derek hovers above him counting off. When Stiles finishes he notices the spin class members gathering.

“I think your class is about to start.” He points to the room.

Derek shrugs. “I’m not in any hurry. I was getting bored of spin anyway.”

It’s the beginning of a new routine for both of them. They’re cautious around each other and keep the topic of conversation neutral but amiable. They talk about traffic at pick-up and drop-off, the mild spring weather, and how their baseball teams are looking for the season. Neither of them offers up anything too personal, and Stiles notices how careful Derek is not to appear flirtatious in public. Stiles works really hard not to ogle Derek and he think’s he’s doing an admirable job of it.

Stiles also gets into the groove of picking Jack up with Sebastian after school. They do errands like usual and the boys sit in the backseat working on homework and finish up whatever they need to when they get back to Malia’s house. Stiles preps meals and snacks and then drives them to practice. Sebastian and Jack are two of the better players on the team and they clearly are loving the sport. Stiles watches from the sidelines and shoots the shit with Cora when she shows up. Cora makes fun of the other moms and dads and sometimes the players. Stiles tells her she should take her one woman show on the road. Cora smacks him hard on the arm.

Early Friday morning Stiles has to text Derek to cancel their first coffee date. There’s a nasty accident on the highway near the preserve and he has to work overtime. While Stiles directs traffic around the tow truck pulling a car from a ditch, he spots Derek and Piper waving at him as he drives by in his SUV at 6:30 AM. Stiles gives them a mock salute and signals for them to use the oncoming lane to pass the accident. Stiles has to forgo their morning workout too. He wants to text Derek because he kind of misses him already, but he doesn’t want to look clingy.

Stiles can’t even use his kid as a reason to call Derek and make plans for a play date because it’s Malia’s weekend with Sebastian. He passes the time cleaning his bungalow, watching random stuff on Amazon, and trying hard not to picture Derek while he jerks off. It sucks and Stiles pouts during his long, child-free, and Derek-less weekend.

***

The following week they continue their new normal schedule, but on Wednesday morning Stiles heads over to Derek’s place. Stiles and Derek skip the gym for their baking date. At least, that’s what Stiles has been calling it in his head. He took extra care showering that morning after his shift. He picked a much nicer outfit than he’d normally wear for a morning in the kitchen, but it’s not exactly fancy. He’s got on a slim fitting pair of navy pants, a plaid button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and his newest Adidas that are still about a year old.

When he arrives at Derek’s house he sees that Derek just beat him there by a few seconds so they walk into the house together. Stiles slyly admires Derek in jeans and suspenders. With his beard growing out he looks like a hot hipster lumberjack. Derek has a bag slung over one arm and uses his other to usher Stiles into the foyer. He likes the feeling of Derek’s hand on him, and Stiles misses it the second he withdraws it.

“Thank you so much for everything this week and last. Jack won’t stop talking about lacrosse. I’ve never seen him excited like this,” Derek says.

“No problem. It’s been good for Sebastian to have a pal on the team.” Stiles follows Derek to the kitchen and goes to wash up at the sink. “His other best friend is a girl and it’s been fine up until now, but I think they’re kind of growing apart.”

Derek starts pulling out all the baking ingredients, but he looks worried. “I hope I got everything you asked for.”

Stiles moves to the island and looks at everything and checks it against the two recipes. “Looks good to me.” Stiles notes the eggs and butter left on the counter. “Oh good, you remembered.”

“Room temperature,” Derek repeats for the umpteenth time since they texted at 5:45 in the morning. “Here are the bowls and measuring cups and spoons. How should I help?”

Stiles gives Derek directions and lets him set the pace. This is easy for Stiles, but he can see how nervous Derek is to make a mistake. He walks him through everything step by step and gives him praise when he does something right and only gently corrects him when he starts to do something wrong, like trying to use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon.

“It’s not so bad when you take your time,” Derek says.

“Yeah, you have to pay attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed the salt when I meant to reach for the sugar. It’s confusing when things are in canisters and out of their packaging. Though you can see how the kosher salt is a larger granule than sugar, and baking powder and baking soda also have a different texture.”

Derek beams at him. “It’s like you’re on a cooking show.”

Stiles laughs. “Only I’m a whole lot less charming.”

Derek blushes. “Oh, I don’t know about that…”

Stiles wills his heart not to beat in double time. They’ve gotten along so well ever since they cleared the air, and they see each other frequently now. It’s difficult being around Derek because he’s so damn handsome and kind.

They work to get the cookie doughs prepared and within an hour they have everything assembled. “Okay, let’s let these chill in the fridge for a bit while we clean up. We can preheat the oven and do a test batch of cookies. I hope you’re prepared to blow your diet off entirely.”

“Allowances must be made,” Derek says.

Derek starts clearing the kitchen island and doing dishes. Stiles puts away all the ingredients and takes the liberty of rearranging the pantry so that things are easier to find. He doesn’t think Derek will notice or care. The pantry is mostly filled with cereal boxes and other snack foods. Stiles thinks Derek must have amazing willpower to live in a house with seven different kinds of chips.

Derek approaches the pantry and watches Stiles work but doesn’t comment, though he hums like he’s pleased. “Should I make us some coffee to have with our cookies?” Derek reaches past Stiles and pulls out some sort of cylindrical glass and steel appliance. It looks like a peppermill, but when Derek carries it over to the countertop Stiles realizes it’s a fancy hand coffee grinder. Anything is fancier than Stiles’ nonexistent grider--he always uses the free in-store coffee grinder.

“Sure, sounds good, but can you make it decaf if you have it?” Stiles hopes it’s not too much trouble.

Derek pours water in a kettle used for pour over coffee and puts it on the stove to heat up. “I thought you might want decaf, so I stopped at Java Junkie and got some since I don’t normally keep it stocked.” Derek opens a new bag of coffee, measures out what he needs and starts grinding the beans by turning the handle.

“That’s really thoughtful of you.” Stiles tries not to sound shocked by Derek’s kindness, even though he’s reeling on the inside.

“I know you need to get some sleep.” Derek shrugs it off, but Stiles can tell he likes the approval by the blush on his cheeks.

Stiles takes a moment to watch Derek as he starts the elaborate process of making pour over coffee. He looks different in his kitchen being so domestic. He’s softer than Stiles has ever seen him, like he’s more settled in his body and his domain.
When he looks back up at Stiles he gives him a look of concern. “Are you going to get enough rest today?” Derek asks.

Stiles had thought about that when he offered to help Derek and Piper with the bake sale. He has a bad habit of overextending himself at the expense of his sleep. “I should be fine if I’m in bed by 11. It’s a less than I normally get, but I can drop the boys off at practice and head back early for a longer nap before my shift.”

Derek nods. “How do you like being a deputy?” He sounds genuinely interested.

Stiles lights up. “It’s good. Routine stuff, nothing too harrowing. Probably boring in comparison to the Marshals Service.”

Derek snorts. “Come on, you know I spent most of my time doing paperwork. Law enforcement is way less exciting than anything they show in the movies and on TV. You know that.”

“True, true.” Stiles leans against the counter with his legs stretched out and his arms folded, his stance mirroring Derek’s. “Actually, I really like the small town element. My dad’s the Sheriff, and I’ve always looked up to him. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but after we had Sebastian I knew I wanted a job that would let me provide for my family and also be something my kid could be proud of. It seemed like a natural choice.”

“How is it working nights?”

Stiles scratches the back of his neck. “I mean, it’s not ideal in many ways, but I get to spend the most amount of time with Sebastian this way. It’s worked out that we don’t have to pay for childcare. I get to have breakfast with him and take him to school almost every day, pack his lunch, see him off. I get to be there after school and do homework with him, make sure he and Malia don’t starve. It works for us.”

Derek smiles. “You didn’t really answer my question.”

Stiles nods. “Nights are usually quiet in a small town like this, and when they aren’t boring they can be…” Stiles tries to think of the right word, “Bad. Hard. Awful.” Stiles hopes Derek gets the picture, that he won’t have to spell out how terrible it is to be the first on the scene for accidents, altercations, and violent crimes.

“For your sake, I hope tonight is exceedingly boring.” Derek gives him a grim smile. The kettle whistles and cues Derek to take it off the heat. “Can I get you a cup?” He turns toward the cabinet and opens it up, revealing a dozen or so mugs.

“Sure.” Stiles finds it endearing that Derek’s got mismatched holiday mugs, mugs with superheroes, mugs decreeing him the Number 1 Dad, mugs with handpainted flowers and handprints. He would have guessed Derek had coffee cups with matching saucers, something that belongs in his otherwise designer kitchen.

Derek pours water over the grinds in filter and they both watch as the hot coffee drips into the Chemex. “Cream, sugar?” he asks.

“Maybe just a little cream, if you have it.”

Derek retrieves a container of half and half from the fridge.

“I don’t need it sweetened if I’m going to be eating cookies,” Stiles reasons.

“Do you think the dough is just about ready?” Derek wonders.

“Good enough for a taste test,” Stiles says as he pulls out the mixing bowls from the fridge and turns on the oven to preheat.

“I don’t really understand the principle behind chilling dough if you’re just going to put it in a hot oven.” Derek quirks his brow.

“It keeps the dough from spreading too much. It’s a consistency thing. I find that it makes a firmer, crisper cookie. I don’t think my mom chilled her dough and I still loved her cookies,” Stiles reminisces. It’s the first time he’s mentioned his mom to Derek, and it gives him a weird pang in his chest.

Derek nods like he’s just going to take Stiles’ word for it. Stiles shows Derek how to use the cookie scoop to make nice, even balls of dough and how to space them out to fit a dozen on a cookie sheet. They scoop six balls of the two types of cookie dough they made.

“So your mom taught you how to cook and bake?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head. “No, not really. I kind of learned out of necessity. My mom died when I was just a kid, so I got it in my head that I needed to take care of my dad by making sure we ate something other than hot dogs and mac and cheese.”

“Ah. I’m sorry to hear that.” Derek sounds sympathetic, but doesn’t dwell or make it awkward. He moves on, “Were you a natural cook?”

Stiles makes a face. “I was a lousy cook. We mostly ate a lot of dry, overcooked chicken breasts I threw in the oven and frozen veggies I heated in the microwave.”

“Hey, sounds better than anything I’ve tried.”

“I think you just started off with lofty goals. Most people have to master basics before they move on to Julia Child and Thomas Keller.” Stiles points over at Derek’s cookbook collection.

Derek sets the timer for ten minutes and they take their mugs of coffee and sit at the barstools. “I think the major flaw in my plan was that I had this idea of how things would go when we moved out to Beacon Hills.” Derek looks at his kitchen wistfully. “I wanted to do the whole stay at home dad thing so badly, because I missed a lot of my kids’ growing up. I felt I had something to prove to myself, that I could do it.”

“Single parent martyrdom.” Stiles nods.

“Is that a thing?”

“I don’t know, for me it is.” Stiles looks at Derek with empathy. “Maybe it’s a thing for a lot of parents, single or not, that feeling like we have to prove we can do it all.”

“Exactly. It’s how I ended up the VP of Piper’s marching band boosters club.”

Stiles quirks his mouth. “Overextending yourself because you think if you say no you’ve failed.”

“Totally. But the thing is that I failed because I focused all my energy on Piper and forgot about Jack,” Derek says with a tone of defeat.

“Jack is just laid back. It’s easy to forget to pay attention to your kid when they aren’t demanding it.” Stiles remembers his own childhood. “I can’t tell you how many games my dad missed when I was a kid or events he didn’t come to because I never even invited him.”

“You were a laid back kid?”

Stiles makes a face and shakes his head no emphatically. “I just never wanted to bug him after my mom died. I tried to bottle everything up.”

“How’d that work out for you?”

Stiles snorts. “Anxiety and crippling panic attacks.” He tilts his head. “Not that Jack is going to develop those problems. Every kid is different.”

“I don’t think Jack even realized how mad he was until things got better last week.” Derek drops his head into his hands. “I think he’s too much like me.”

Stiles considers this information and what Derek’s choosing to reveal. It feels enormous, so he does the only thing that feels right and reaches a hand out and puts it on his solid arm. “That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if he was like you. You’re great.”

Derek turns his head to look at Stiles but doesn’t lift his head up. “You don’t even know me, Stiles.”

Stiles scoffs. “I know all I need to know. You’re a good man who loves his kids who’s doing the best he can.”

“Does it ever get any easier?” Derek asks.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy, but I think the burden doesn’t feel so heavy when you have people you can count on for backup.”

Derek gives him a cautious look. “I shouldn’t be counting on you so much, it’s too--”

Stiles squeezes Derek’s considerable bicep. He doesn’t want to hear that it’s too much or too fast or too weird or too soon. They’re saved by the bell when the timer goes off. Derek covers Stiles’ hand with his free hand, and the gesture feels like more than enough.

Stiles gets up after a moment to check the cookies. “Another two minutes at least.”

“How do you know when they’re done?” Derek asks, peering over Stiles’ shoulder.

“I like them a nice, even golden color. Do you see right now how the tops are just a little bit shiny still and they’re almost yellow in color? They’d be fine if you took them out now, but for me that’s a little under done. It’s just a matter of preference though.”

Derek nods like he understands. They wait huddled near the oven until the cookies are finally ready. They pull them out of the oven and then wait a few more minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

“The anticipation is killing me,” Derek complains as he reaches out to take a cookie off the wire rack. “There’s so much waiting when you bake.”

Stiles smacks his hand playfully. “Go get yourself another cup of coffee,” Stiles directs him.

Derek looks chastened. “Do you want a refill too?”

Stiles really shouldn’t even though it’s decaf, but he’s a glutton for punishment. “Sure, hit me.” Stiles feels like the cookies are cool enough to eat so he puts two of each on a plate and heads back to the barstool side of the island.

Derek joins him a second later and holds up his mug. “Cheers.”

“To cookies,” Stiles says.

They both grab a cookie and take a bite. Stiles tries the double chocolate chip swirl.
It’s hard to tell who moans louder.

“This is like heaven,” Derek says with a grin, a little bit of the raspberry jam on the corner of his mouth.

“The holy grail of cookies, right here.” Stiles points to his.

“I can’t believe I helped make these.” Derek sits up a little taller.

Stiles puts his hand out for a high five. Derek hits his hand up top and they break out into manly giggles. Stiles is just glad none of their kids are here to witness them, because the scene is pretty embarrassing.

Stiles isn’t fooling anyone, much less himself. He’s totally falling for Derek.

***

Friday comes quickly and Stiles finds himself rushing through his shower in the station locker room so that he can meet up with Derek for coffee. He knows the bake sale was a big success. The marching band managed to raise several hundred dollars and Piper is really grateful for Stiles’ help. She borrowed her dad’s phone and texted him a thank you on Thursday night, and Stiles isn’t above admitting that it made his day. Sebastian and Jack are totally in a rhythm now and Jack actually says more than a handful of words to Stiles. Sometimes Jack even smiles at Stiles’ bad dad jokes.

While Stiles and Derek have been in touch throughout the week, their coffee date will be the first time they’ve spent together sans kids, in public, and without an activity to keep them busy. Stiles relishes adult time, and when he sees Derek waiting for him, he can tell the feeling is mutual.

“I got you your mocha,” Derek says to Stiles as he approaches the table. He’s freshly showered, and even from a foot away Stiles can tell he smells incredible, like expensive aftershave and designer hair products. He’s dressed in a light blue v-neck shirt, leather jacket, and jeans. He’s the epitome of dreamy.

Stiles smiles. “Thanks, you’re the best,” he says and he means it. Derek understands how pressed for time Stiles is because he is too.

“How was your shift?”

“Total nightmare. The Greenbergs’ home security system was malfunctioning and kept going off every eleven minutes for two hours. My head is killing me.” Stiles runs a hand through his wet hair and tilts his head to the side to stretch the tense tendons in his neck.

Derek clears his throat. “I’m sorry.”

Stiles shrugs. “How’s your morning going?”

Derek grins wide. “Good. Jack was up extra early to have breakfast with me and Piper. It was nice. This is the kid that usually refuses to get up until the last possible second and eats Poptarts straight from the package while he finishes his homework in the car.”

“That’s awesome.” Stiles knows all about taking pride in small victories with his kid.

“I think lacrosse and you and your son are making a huge difference in his attitude. His homework is actually done before we leave the house, and that’s a total one-eighty.”

Stiles feels truly happy that he can offer some support to Derek. He remembers how much he struggled in the early years with Sebastian and how he appreciated the extra help from his dad and Melissa. At the same time, Stiles can’t help but want to be selfish and reclaim the time he and Derek have together to talk about adult things. He decides to see if Derek is inclined to do the same. “Hey, I’m glad to help...but I was wondering, and maybe you think this is going to sound crazy, but what if we didn’t talk about the kids for the next,” Stiles checks his watch, “oh, thirty or so minutes.”

Derek lowers his eyes and smiles. If Stiles isn’t mistaken, he’s even got a hint of a blush on his cheeks. “Sure, that would be...really nice.”

“I’ll set a timer so we aren’t late leaving.” Stiles pulls out his phone and sets the alarm for 7:45. It’ll give him enough time to meet Sebastian at Malia’s, make him cinnamon toast to-go, pack his lunch, and drop him off at school. Stiles takes a sip of his coffee and gives Derek an encouraging smile.

Derek fiddles with a sugar packet and then begins again, “I totally don’t want to talk about the kids, but I’m drawing a blank. I had hobbies or interests before this, right?” He doesn’t sound convinced.

Stiles snorts. “How about TV. Do you watch anything these days?”

Derek rubs the back of his neck. “Netflix and chill? That’s what the kids say these days right?”

Stiles laughs and smiles broadly. “I hope to God our kids aren’t. A little young for that, aren’t they?”

Derek furrows his brow in confusion.

Stiles grabs his phone and types the phrase into Google and selects the link to Urban Dictionary. “I don’t think you know the exact meaning of that phrase.” He hands Derek his phone.

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up and he turns red. “Oh my God.” He hands Stiles back his phone.

Stiles cackles. “What’s in your queue?” he finally manages.

Derek hems for a moment. “I just finished Sense8.”

“Awesome. I remember I really liked it when it first came out. I haven’t caught up on the newest season.”

“Yeah, takes me a while to find time to watch adult shows.” He blushes harder. “Not that it’s like adult.”

“Not completely X-rated, but definitely not suitable for younger viewers.” Stiles snickers.

“I’m more apt to get sucked into a Gilmore Girls marathons than anything else.”

“Seriously?”

Derek laughs. “Piper just discovered it when the revival came out. She forgets to turn off the TV when she heads to bed and I forget to change it.”

“A likely story.” Stiles grins.

“What about you?” Derek asks him in return.

“I share an Amazon Prime account with my dad, so I’ve been watching The Americans.”

“That’s a good show.”

“Yeah, but I have to go slow because they’re intense and sometimes I’m just not in the mood.” Stiles’ career in law enforcement makes him less excited to watch violence and suspense.

“I know what you mean,” Derek agrees.

“Yeah, I bet you do,” Stiles teases, “that’s why you like to hang out in the Hollow.”

Derek tries to stifle a grin. “So, um, what do you do in your downtime besides TV?”

Stiles shrugs. “As you can imagine, I don’t have a whole lot of time to myself. But, like, my friends are all still not quite settled down so they try to rope me into going out to clubs and bars every once in awhile.”

“Is there a club scene around here?”

“There are a few decent bars, and for being such a small town, we do actually have a gay club. It’s called The Jungle.”

Derek scratches under his chin. “Huh. I thought that was a strip club or something.”

“Yeah, it’s not in the best part of town, but it’s not too seedy, this is Beacon Hills after all. I snuck in there a bunch of times before I was twenty-one.”

Derek laughs. “Really?”

“Oh yeah, I made friends with a group of drag queens.”

Derek gives him an impressed smirk. He slouches into his chair. “I can’t even remember the last time I went out to a bar or a club. Eons ago, I guess.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “You’re not that old.”

“It was before Piper was born, before I was married. So what sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years ago?” Derek muses.

“You never went out for drinks with friends back in New York?”

Derek contemplates it. “All right, sure. A group of us would go to a sports bar every now and then after work.”

“See, you’re not that much of a fuddy duddy.”

“Would it bother you if I was?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Not even a little bit.”

Derek beams.

“In a few weeks I committed myself to wine tasting trip in Napa that my friends Scott and Allison planned.” Stiles rolls his eyes.

“What, not a wine fan?”

“It’s not that...it’s a bunch of couples.” Stiles rolls his shoulders in irritation. “I’m used to being the oddball out, but Malia, my ex, is going to be there too and she said she might bring someone. And Lydia is on-again with Jackson. I would make Danny my date slash wingman, but he’s seeing someone new too.” Stiles tugs at the collar of his shirt, suddenly finding it confining. “I don’t know, I might just bail and tell them my dad can’t watch Sebastian that weekend.”

“I get it. Feeling like the odd man out is hard. I don’t have many friends here in town, but the ones I do have are all married or in relationships.”

“What’s it like,” Stiles leans forward, “returning to Beacon Hills as an adult?”

“Weird. Nothing is how I remember it, but it’s also exactly the same.”

Stiles nods because he gets it. “Tell me about your friends.”

Derek leans forward. “Well, there’s my friend Boyd and his wife Erica.”

“Wait, as in Erica and Vernon Boyd? I’ve known her for years. She works over at County Records.”

Derek smiles. “I knew she worked for the County, but to be honest, I only reconnected with them when I moved back. That’s cool that you two know each other. She’s a kick, right?”

Stiles smirks. “That is putting it lightly.” He sincerely hopes Erica never connects the dots and figures out that Derek is Gym Guy. “How do you guys know each other?”

“High school. Boyd and Erica got married right after senior year and had their kids when they were really young. Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Derek clarifies.

Stiles doesn’t argue. He has long since stopped taking offence to comments about young parents. “It’s cool. Actually, that’s something Erica and I have bonded over.”

“Their two kids are already out of the house, yeah? Anyway, then there’s Isaac, who I met through Cora when she moved back to town. They’ve been dating for a while now. And then there’s my friend Jordan, actually, you work with him.”

“Parrish?”

“Yeah, I met Jordan after I left Beacon Hills. We were roommates in college. And I just found out the most disturbing news.”

“What?” Stiles leans in further.

“He’s dating my older sister, Laura.” Derek makes a disgusted face.

Stiles laughs.

“It’s not funny. I used to gripe about Laura to Jordan and vice versa, and now they’re together.”

“It’s not funny, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you,” Stiles says. “I feel your pain. Where did you guys go to school?”

“UC Santa Cruz.”

“Nice. It’s a good school.” Stiles had visited all the northern California colleges when he was in high school and liked that one the best, but by the time he was ready to transfer he just couldn’t bear the thought of being that far away from his son.

“What’s it like being in a friend circle with your ex?” Derek looks at Stiles quizzically.

Stiles shrugs. “It’s okay. It’s a bitch trying to figure out childcare since we’re always going to the same get-togethers,” he complains. “But seriously, it’s the only reality I’ve ever known. We’ve been friends since high school. We were the only two who didn’t go away to school, ended up at the community college together.”

“Is that how you and her…”

“Yeah, just add tequila to boredom and mix in a couple of eighteen year olds.”

Derek grins. “It’s cool though that you two were able to make it work. Sebastian is a great kid.”

Stiles beams with pride. “He is.” He searches for something to say that won’t take them further down the line of talking about their kids. “Have you been missing your spin class?”

Derek makes a face. “Not really. I was getting bored of it, but it’s the only thing at that time. I can still switch it up if I just go later in the day to a different class. What do you think of weights?”

“Well, I’m sore as hell if that’s what you’re getting at.” Stiles chuckles. “But no, I don’t mind free weights. I’m just lazy and generally stick to machines. I don’t love the group setting of classes after a long night of working. Circuit training is just as effective for me and keeps my ADHD brain interested.”

“Oh.”

“But I’m definitely interested in weights now.” Stiles smirks.

Derek guffaws. “I’m glad I could be of service.”

“You’re a really good teacher. Have you considered being a trainer? Not that I’m suggesting you need the work.”

He laughs. “I had a great physical therapist back in New York.” Derek touches his chest.

“Do you mind if I ask what happened? You were shot on the job, right?” Stiles remembers the scar tissue on his chest from when he’d gotten up close and personal with Derek. He tries valiantly to ignore the mental image.

“We were working this case, and it went sideways. I…” Derek looks off into the distance. “I’m sorry I can’t really talk about it.” Derek purses his lips. “Classified.”

Stiles nods and doesn’t push though he is dying of curiosity. He has a sneaking suspicion that Derek worked in Witness Protection. “Well, I’m glad you’re okay.”

Derek nods. “Yeah, me too.”

“I was lucky. It could have been so much worse than six months of intense physio and counseling.”

“Was that...before?” Stiles asks cautiously, “Your divorce, I mean,”

“Yeah, I made the decision I didn’t want to go back to the Marshal’s Service and then it made me start to question a lot of other things in my life. Like why we were still together when we hadn’t been acting like a married couple for a while already. It was the impetus for a lot of changes and personal reflection.”

Derek sounds very mature and grown up using a ten dollar word like impetus. He sounds like he’s gone to expensive therapy sessions to process his trauma. Stiles attempts to sound like an adult. “Was it amicable, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Derek bobs his head. “Yeah, Braeden’s fine. We were partners in the Service, first and foremost, so even though our marriage wasn’t always great we still could function. I don’t know, maybe it’s what did us in?” Derek quirks his mouth. “Actually, no, that’s not it. The truth is that we didn’t love each other in the way you need to sustain a marriage.” He sighs. “I’m trying to be more honest with myself.”

Stiles wants to be supportive, but he has a lump in his throat and he’s not sure why. It seems like Derek has started the hard work of trying to understand himself and figuring out what he wants in life, and it makes Stiles feel like a giant phony. Stiles has been single for all of his adult life, and he told himself he was content with that until Derek came along. But now Stiles questions if he’s even ready for someone like Derek. Stiles never thought he’d find a person who’d be able to accept him and his son as a package deal, his insane work hours as a Sheriff’s deputy, and his co-parenting relationship with Malia. But Derek doesn’t seem fazed by any of it, he even seems to admire the way Stiles balances his responsibilities. Derek could be everything Stiles has been looking for, but Stiles doubts he has the tools to be in a mature adult relationship without sabotaging it with his insecurities.

“I told Braeden about you,” Derek admits.

Stiles is shocked. “Really?”

“I told her I met someone.” Derek pauses. “I was worried she’d be upset.”

“That I’m a guy?”

Derek laughs gently. “No, that I moved on before she did.”

Stiles tries to stifle a smile. Derek’s moving on, and Stiles can’t believe it’s with him. He’s overwhelmed and all he can muster is a surprised, “Oh.” But the tips of his ears feel hot and heat radiates all the way down his neck.

“I have this bad habit of seeking approval.” Derek pauses and then begins again. “It’s like I need validation from others, and marriage was one way to get that. It worked for a while, until...it didn’t. Maybe on some level I’m still looking for approval, maybe that’s why I told her about you. It’s fucked up.” He looks embarrassed.

Stiles bristles at his honesty. He wants to press Derek and ask why he needs approval from his ex. He wants to push Derek and tell him he only needs to look inward to get the validation he craves. He keeps his mouth shut, because maybe it’s not his place.

“She was...happy for me.” Derek looks down into his coffee cup, like he’ll find an answer there.

The timer on Stiles’ phone goes off letting them know they have to head out to pick up their sons for school. It’s an abrupt ending to their intimate conversation, but duty calls. They walk to their cars in mutual silence.

“I guess the first lacrosse match is tomorrow?” Derek sounds tentative.

Stiles grins. “Yeah, seems really fast, right?”

“Do they even know what they’re doing?”

“I guess we’ll find out. See you tomorrow, Derek.”

“See you,” Derek says with a little wave.


“My brother seems like ten thousand percent less stressed this week,” Cora says on Saturday at the boys’ first lacrosse game. She plops down next to Stiles on his blanket and helps herself to the cooler. She grabs a Capri Sun and stabs the flimsy straw through the hole unsuccessfully a few times.

“Here.” Stiles puts his hand out and takes the foil pouch from her. He flips the thing over and uses the now dulled pointy end of the straw to make a hole in the bottom. “There,” he says, ignoring her comment altogether.

“Thanks.” Cora watches for a few minutes and they remain silent.

After a while Stiles chances a look at Cora. She has her hair in a ponytail and is wearing a baseball hat. She could pass for eighteen or double that. The Hales are preternaturally gorgeous, Derek especially. Stiles recalls his expressive green eyes and thick eyebrows. Derek’s hair is darker than Cora’s, but it has body like hers, a natural wave that makes it look good shorter or longer. Stiles reaches up to feel his own hair, an unruly mess that is in dire need of a cut. He remembers Derek running his hands through it that night they hooked up in his kitchen and it sends a shiver down his spine. Stiles really shouldn’t be thinking sexy thoughts about Derek around his sister of all people. “Where is he, by the way? Your brother,” Stiles clarifies.

“He had to work the Boosters Club pancake breakfast. He should be over here in the next half hour,” Cora explains with a glance to her watch.

“That’ll be nice. You know, for Jack.” Stiles keeps what he has to say short. This is more awkward than he could have imagined. He knows that Derek has made great strides this week in letting people in and accepting help, but Stiles isn’t sure how much Derek has told his family about his budding relationship with Stiles.

Cora leers at him. “Yeah, it’ll be nice for Jack.” She snorts. “It’s not some huge secret about what’s going on between you and my brother.”

Stiles blushes furiously and looks over at Cora with his mouth agape.

“Derek’s got a lot of issues, but he folds like a cheap suit when he’s wrestling with a secret.”

“He made it sound like he wasn’t exactly out,” Stiles chooses his words carefully.

“The guy was married for seventeen years, so it’s not like he’s been looking at other men, or women, for that matter. That’s so not my brother. He’s the most honorable guy in the world,” Cora says with pride.

“I’m starting to get that about him.” Stiles says.

“So, like...do I need to give you the whole speech about how if you break his heart I’m going to break your fingers?”

Stiles raises an eyebrow and glares at Cora. He’s not scared of her anymore.

“Okay, good.”

They watch the game for a few more minutes and sit in companionable silence.

Cora can’t seem to help herself. “It’s just...Derek is going to kill me for saying anything, but he actually really likes you. I know he’s worried it won’t work out, but I think you guys should at least try. I mean, despite what I said about you before, you’re obviously not really a fuckboy.”

“Gee, thanks.” He makes a face at her. “Why does he think it won’t work?”

Cora shrugs. “Says he’s too old for you. He thinks you wouldn’t want to settle for someone like him.”

“He’s not too old! And it wouldn’t be settling,” Stiles says incredulously. If anything, Stiles feels too young for Derek, not that Derek’s too old for him. There’s a distinction, but he doesn’t know how to explain it. Stiles is afraid of how it looks for him to be with someone like Derek. He worries people will think he’s into Derek because he’s older and rich. But Stiles is no gold digger. “We’re in different places, that’s for sure.” Stiles hates that he agrees with Derek’s fear that they won’t work. Despite really liking Derek, Stiles worries that’s not enough to build something lasting.

“But similar places, from where I’m standing.” Cora tries to reassure Stiles with a pat to the arm, but her hand lands a little harder than intended. “For what it’s worth, I hope you two can work it out.”

Stiles nods and rubs his arm. “Thanks.”

“Laura’s here,” Cora says while waving to a tall, gorgeous brunette approaching them from down the field. “I’m going to go say hi to the coaches. Do you know if the guy is single?” She gets up from the blanket and looks down at Stiles.

“Seriously. You’re going to leave me here alone to meet Laura? And isn’t Liam a little young for you?”

“Hey, age doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers Derek.”

“How old are you anyway, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“I’m only a few years older than you. I’m 32.”

Stiles makes a surprised face. Based on Derek’s age, he wouldn’t have guessed Cora could be so young.

“I’m the youngest of the clan and Laura’s the oldest. There are a few siblings between me and Derek, but I was basically an oops.” Cora smirks as she walks away.

Laura stops in front of Stiles’ blanket and does something with her mouth that looks like a smile. Stiles isn’t totally sure, but there are all her teeth. Stiles stands to introduce himself.

“Hi, I’m Stiles, Sebastian’s dad.”

“Hello, I’m Laura Hale. I saw my sister slinking away, so I assume it’s okay if I park myself here.” She sounds resigned.

“Absolutely. Pull up a square.” Stiles sits and smooths the blanket out for Laura.

She sits and crosses her legs and tries to look for Jack on the field. “What number is he?”

“Lucky number seven.” Stiles locates him quickly and points.

“Thanks.” Laura watches the match for a few minutes and Stiles watches her.

Laura is genetically blessed like Derek and Cora. He’s not sure how old she is, but older than Derek obviously. Stiles notices she has few wrinkles around her light eyes, but her hair is dark and shiny underneath the big floppy hat she wears. Derek resembles Laura more than Cora. Stiles wonders about their other siblings and almost asks, but then Laura starts talking at the same time, so he lets her go first.

“We’re glad you’re able to help out Jack. And Derek,” she says stiffly.

“Of course,” Stiles nods, “Jack’s great, and I know how hard it is being a single dad.”

“We would have helped more, if Derek would have asked,” Laura explains defensively.

Stiles nods. “That’s the thing about being a parent. You think you have to do everything yourself and anything else is a failure.”

Laura swallows and considers this. She’s thoughtful about what she says, just like Derek. “I never had kids. I saw how hard it was on my parents, and they were great at raising all of us.”

“That must have been nice, having so many siblings. I’m an only child and so is my son.”

“Do you want more?” she asks pointedly.

Stiles opens his eyes wide. “Um--”

Derek chooses that moment to appear. He intervenes, “Really, Laura? Leave him alone.” He puts a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “Hey, Stiles.”

“Good morning, Derek.” Stiles tries not to blush, but he likes the feeling of Derek protecting him from his overbearing sister. He takes in Derek’s appearance. He’s wearing a henley with the sleeves rolled up and dark jeans. His jeans look smeared with flour and there’s a little bit of batter on the sleeves of his shirt. “So, pancakes, huh?”

“Yeah, I brought you a plate.” He hands Stiles a plate covered in foil.

“Oh my god, you are my favorite.” Stiles takes it and offers a spot on the blanket for Derek to sit.

“Where are my pancakes, Der?” Laura complains.

“Did you buy a ticket to the pancake breakfast?” Derek fires back.

Laura makes a face and then gets up from the blanket. “I guess I’ll go to the concession stand and retrieve Cora before she gets into too much trouble.” She heads toward where Coach Yukimura and her assistant Liam are standing.

Stiles reaches over to his thermos and pulls the top off. “Coffee?” he offers Derek. “It’s nothing fancy, I just brewed it at home.”

“That would be amazing. Anything’s got to be better than what we served at the fundraiser.” Derek grabs the mug and holds it up so Stiles’ can pour from his thermos.

“So, you were double booked this morning?” Stiles asks.

Derek yawns. “Yeah. I’ve been up since five setting up tables and folding chairs and helping to prep the food.” He drinks half his coffee and sighs. “It’s good.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says as he watches Sebastian with the ball.

They watch him run down the field, dodging the other team’s attackmen. Stiles leaps up and shouts, “Go, Sebastian! Go!” He claps and hollers and it gets Derek up from the blanket too. Sebastian successfully passes to Jack who is positioned better to make a goal. Jack takes the shot and scores. The play is quick and fluid and the whole crowd of parents on their side of the field erupt into cheers.

Stiles jumps up and down and yells, “That’s my kid! Did you see that assist!” He turns toward Derek and beams at him. Derek looks totally shocked. “Derek, did you see Jack? He scored a goal!”

“Holy shit! That’s my nephew!” Stiles looks down the field and sees Cora punch Liam on the shoulder and screeching, “Way to go, Jack!”

Derek still looks like he hasn’t processed the turn of events. “My Jack? My son?”

“Yeah, did you see it?” Stiles asks again.

“I did. I’m just...I’m…” Derek takes off running to meet Jack near the goal where he’s celebrating with his team.

Stiles laughs and sets his coffee down and then takes off after Derek. The rest of the game is intense for a youth league, but the opposing team isn’t able to score so it ends one-zero. Sebastian and Jack look hopped up on adrenaline at the end of the game.

Sebastian begs Stiles to drench him with the ice chest full of melted ice and freezing water. “Do it! We won, Dad!”

“I saw, buddy. But it’s barely seventy degrees out. Your mom would kill me if you caught a cold after I dumped an ice chest of freezing water on you.”

“Aw, man!” Sebastian whines.

Jack motions for Sebastian to come over. They high five again and mix in some complicated hand gestures that they’ve clearly practiced. They chat for a while with their team and their coach, leaving Stiles and Derek to talk alone on the blanket.

“Where are Cora and Laura?” Stiles asks.

“Oh, they had to leave for an open house,” Derek says.

Stiles laughs just thinking about every time Cora cheered and used curse words. He shudders though thinking about Laura and all the disapproving looks she’d given him.

“Hey, thanks again for watching Jack after school these last two weeks. If it wasn’t for you, we would never have discovered his inner jock.”

Stiles grins. “Please, he’s your kid. You honestly didn’t think he’d be good at sports? Have you seen you?”

Derek blushes. “Well, Jack’s only interest in sports has been the virtual kind. He knows all the rules to different sports because of video games, but he’s never been interested in going to a game in real life, much less playing a sport.”

“Oh, well, glad to be of service.” Stiles shrugs his shoulders.

“Jack’s asking Sebastian if you two are free for lunch. Jack asked earlier if we could go to Gio’s and we’d love for you both to join us.”

Stiles gives Derek a crooked smile. “I don’t know, we should probably just head home.” Stiles wants to say yes, but he doesn’t get paid until Wednesday and his bank account is looking sadly depleted. Eating out at a restaurant is not in the budget right now.

“Come on, I know you like Gio’s. I’ve seen you there picking up pizza before,” Derek admits.

Stiles smirks. “Oh, so you do remember bumping into me around town.”

Derek looks down and then up at Stiles through his lashes. “I confess, it used to be the highlight of my day.”

Stiles feels a zing go through his body. He is utterly weak when Derek flirts with him.

Jack interrupts their moment. “Dad! Did you ask Stiles?”

Derek looks at Stiles and gives him a hopeful glance. “I did, but I’m not sure Stiles and Sebastian can make it.”

Sebastian looks like his whole world is ending. “But Dad, we don’t have any plans. Come on, can’t we go?”

Stiles looks at the sad face his kid is giving him and it makes him want to smack his best friend. “Wow, Scott really gave you a lesson in puppy dog eyes, didn’t he.”

Sebastian pants like puppy and puts his hands up like he’s begging, acting like the ten year old boy he is and not the preteen he so desperately wants to be.

“Well, okay,” Stiles gives in easily. As long as he and Sebastian stick to the cheapest items on the menu, they should be all right.

“Do you mind taking Jack and meeting me there? I need to pick up Piper from the fundraiser,” Derek explains as he stands to go.

“Not at all. See you there.” Stiles says.

“You’re the best.” Derek puts out a hand to help him up and gives him a thousand watt smile.

The boys wave Derek off and then Stiles helps them pack up their gear. The boys walk slowly toward the Jeep, but Stiles is so happy he practically floats there.

Chapter Text

Stiles drives the boys over to the restaurant and they get a table while they wait for Derek to arrive with Piper. Jack and Sebastian badger Stiles repeatedly about playing video games, but Stiles is not about to give his kid cash to waste. He orders them water and does his best to ignore the boys’ whining by goofing off on his phone. Sebastian knows better than to ask Stiles for money--that’s what his allowance is for--but going out to lunch with the Hales had been a last minute thing.

Derek takes a good thirty minutes longer to arrive at the restaurant with his daughter, and when they do Piper looks like she’s there against her wishes. She looks like she’s been crying and is trying to hide it. Her green eyes look puffy and she dabs at her nose with a napkin. Derek looks weary, but he does a good job of putting on a happy face for Jack.

Stiles catches Derek’s eye and gives him the supportive parental look that’s also a question. He mouths, everything okay?

Derek shakes his head ever so slightly and replies silently, later.

Stiles tries not to worry, but it doesn’t bode well.

Jack and Sebastian recount the whole game for Piper and tell her about the goal they scored, but she looks irritated the whole time. She purses her lips and shoots daggers at her dad with her eyes. Derek ignores her by sipping his water and becoming engrossed in the menu. Stiles may have been an only child, but he’s grown surprisingly perceptive to women when they’re irritated with him. He’s seen that look from Melissa, Malia, Lydia, and even Allison. He knows something's up between Derek and his daughter.

When the boys start to retell the story a second time she rolls her eyes, grabs her phone and ignores the whole table. Jack doesn’t look offended in the slightest, like this display of teen angst is a common occurrence. Stiles feels for Derek--it can’t be easy raising a tween boy and a teenage girl.

The waiter comes then to take their drink order. Piper and Jack are quick to order sodas. Stiles cuts off his son and not so subtly raises his eyebrows when Sebastian starts to order one too, “He’ll stick with water, and so will I.”

Sebastian starts to whine, “Dad--”

“--Sebastian.” Stiles cuts him off with a look.

“Can I get a soda if I pay you back for it?” Sebastian tries to reason.

“Actually,” Derek intervenes, “why don’t we share one of the specials. How does the Number Four Special sound?”

Stiles glances at the menu and it’s a ton of food--a big salad, eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, a basket of garlic bread, a pitcher of soda, and dessert--enough for six people. It’s also sixty dollars, and evenly split two ways plus tip is still more than Stiles has in his wallet. When Stiles looks up he finds Jack and Piper nodding, and Sebastian looking at Stiles with hope in his eyes.

“The Number Four it is,” Derek says before Stiles can argue. “We’ll take a pitcher of Sprite for the kids, and two beers for the adults,” Derek informs their waiter.

Stiles opens his mouth to speak up, but Derek cuts him off. “Our treat. It’s the least we can do after all the help you’ve been this week.”

Stiles tries not to bristle at Derek’s insistence. Then he sees Sebastian’s relief and excitement and it’s all Stiles needs to remember it’s not the end of the world if Stiles lets Derek pay for lunch. He takes a few calming breaths before he pulls Sebastian toward him, slinging his arm over his shoulders. “I love you, kid.”

“For the assist?” he says.

“For that too.” Stiles gives him a gentle squeeze and then lets him go back to his conversation with Jack.

Piper and Derek seem to engage in some sort of eyebrow warfare. Piper eventually concedes and goes back to texting on her phone, and Derek huffs out an exasperated breath. Stiles leans in to listen to the boys and pretends not to notice the father-daughter exchange. Whatever it is, he does not want to get caught in the middle.

Derek gets Stiles’ attention when the beers arrive. “We deserve these.” He lifts his pint glass up but doesn’t reach over to toast with Stiles. Stiles tries not to read into too much, but it feels like a slight.

Stiles takes his glass and hopes that the alcohol will take the edge off. “Thanks.”

“We really owe you for helping out with Jack,” Derek starts. “I insist on giving you gas money.”

Derek’s offer seems so out of the blue that it gives Stiles whiplash. “Whoa, no. That’s not necessary.”

He raises his voice a notch. “Come on. You’ve practically become a one man taxi service for Jack. And if I had hired the kids a nanny like I initially wanted, I’d be shelling out a lot more,” Derek reasons.

“It’s really okay. I’m happy to help you guys out.”

Derek tries again in a lower voice, “Please don’t try to talk me out of this. It feels like the right thing to do. Let me pay you.”

Everything about the way Derek is treating Stiles feels patronizing. Ordering food for him and his son and insisting on paying Stiles for his help feels like a slap in the face. Stiles wants to help Derek because he likes him, not because of what he might get out of Derek.

He’s on the verge of saying absolutely not, but Stiles catches Piper staring at him and her dad over the top of her phone. She looks like she’s testing him, watching how Stiles will react. She’s unnerving, the way she seems to be able to read him. Stiles swallows hard. He doesn’t want to cause a scene in front of Piper or the boys, so he relents. “Fine, I really don’t want to argue about this.”

“How about two-fifty a week?” Derek offers.

Stiles shakes his head. “Way less. How about twenty bucks a day. That more than covers gas and anything we’re spending on food and entertainment between school and practice.”

“Thirty. That’s barely ten an hour, still cheaper than what I’d be paying a sitter, so that’s my final offer.”

Stiles doesn’t like being compared to a paid employee. “Fine.” He takes a long drink to avoid eye contact with Derek. If he’s being honest, Stiles can live with a hundred and fifty dollars of extra income. Every month is still a stretch even though he makes decent money now. It’s easier to accept the money knowing he needs it. Stiles tries to brush off any feelings of unease about the transaction, but his pride has taken a beating, and he feels really unsettled by the looks Piper keeps giving him.

Lunch is a rowdy, and mostly jovial affair thanks to the boys. Piper barely looks up from her phone, and Derek doesn’t try to engage her. Clearly, they are in the middle of a fight. When the food arrives the kids dig in, but Derek and Stiles both sit back and hardly touch their plates. Stiles sips his beer and picks at the salad and bread. Derek eats the eggplant parmesan, but mostly he just pushes it around his plate with his fork. Piper doesn’t even pretend to eat, she just crunches ice and texts furiously on her iPhone. The boys run off to the small arcade section with five bucks from Derek after the waiter clears their dishes, and Piper tells her dad that her ride is waiting and bails before Derek can object.

That leaves the dads on their own to place the dessert order for the table. They get mint chocolate chip gelato for the kids, but both decline anything more for themselves. The awkwardness is palpable, and Stiles wishes he could escape like Piper with no questions asked.

“The boys seem like they are having fun,” Derek finally says after a long stretch of silence.

Stiles feels like he’s been through the ringer. The day had started out so promising, but had gone downhill ever since lunchtime. He can’t figure out why Derek is being so cold to him. No one is watching them or scrutinizing their conversation, but Derek grasps for safe topics and hardly makes eye contact with Stiles. Derek talks about the remodels his sisters are doing, how the Booster’s Club fared with the pancake breakfast, and the traffic in the Bay Area.

Stiles wants to ask Derek what’s going on, but he bites his tongue. He knows better than to push Derek in public. Stiles gets the sense that even though Derek feels comfortable flirting with Stiles in the privacy of his own home, there are boundaries he’s not willing to cross in front of an audience. Derek’s acting like they’re barely acquaintances, not like the friends they’ve worked hard to become, and definitely not like Stiles has been on his knees for him. At this point in their whatever relationship, Derek’s indifference stings--no, it fucking hurts--but Stiles refuses to let it show.

Eventually the boys run out of quarters for the arcade and they return to the table to stuff themselves on gelato. They complain loudly as they waddle to the parking lot. Sebastian and Jack do a complicated handshake while their dads move Jack’s equipment from Stiles’ car to Derek’s. Neither of the boys notice the chilly interaction between their dads, or at least they don’t comment on it.

***

Late on Sunday night, once Sebastian is back at Malia’s, Stiles lets himself indulge with a few more beers than usual. He debates texting Derek, but he knows the mixture of exhaustion with alcohol makes him sentimental. He doesn’t want to let it slip how far gone Stiles is on Derek, and he doesn’t want to put pressure on Derek when he’s clearly not ready. Stiles wishes for the hundredth time that he could just see Derek and talk to him. He hates how his insecurities and fears take hold of him when he’s alone.

Stiles starts texts he never sends. To his horror he sees Derek’s also typing out a message. There are those three unmistakable text ellipses blinking and it sends Stiles into a full blown panic attack. He deletes his text and then powers his phone off as quickly as he can. He feels like he can’t catch his breath, like if he might stop breathing if he doesn’t concentrate. His stomach turns and it feels sour. His hands feel clammy and he starts trembling. He resists the temptation to curl into a ball and instead he stretches out on his couch like his doctor had suggested. He mentally pictures the bottle of Xanax in his medicine cabinet and knows he’s down to his last pill. He rarely needs them anymore, so it’s easy to forget to put in a refill request. Stiles breathes in and exhales deeply six times. It feels like his body lost the instinct to replenish its oxygen supply. Stiles breathes deeply six more times like he’s doing repetitions at the gym.

When he feels strong enough he goes to his bathroom and takes a combo of pills to take the edge off. He takes half a Xanax, because having nothing left in the bottle will keep him up all night, and half should be enough anyway. He takes an Aleve PM for the headache that always follows his panic attacks and hopes the sleep aid won’t fuck him for the week ahead. Then he chews on two Tums to settle his stomach.

Stiles pours himself a glass of water from the fridge and then curls up in his bed. He watches I Love Lucy on Amazon and focuses on breathing until he doesn’t have to consciously think about it. He doesn’t want to think about anything right now, his brain is a minefield. When he can’t keep his eyes open anymore he grabs the last pill from his arsenal, an antacid, and tells himself the sensation he’s feeling is just common heartburn. The fat, traitorous tears that leak out of his eyes when he drifts off to sleep that night are a bit harder to explain away.


Stiles shows up for the gym on Monday morning even though he feels like absolute shit. It would be so much easier to just head home after dropping Sebastian off at school, but Stiles knows the best way to deal with his anxiety is to keep to his schedule. He starts off slow on the treadmill and works his way up to a punishing uphill run. He tries not to let it bother him when Derek doesn’t show up at all. After his workout he checks his phone and sees Derek has left him an apology text.

I’m sorry. Something came up. Can I come by your place later

Stiles licks his lips and tries to think of excuse. He has a sinking feeling about this.
Yeah. I’ll be home by 9:30.

He tries not to rush home to clean up his living room and change out of his sweaty gym clothes, but he feels himself push down a little harder on the gas pedal and takes corners a little sharper than usual. When Derek arrives at Stiles’ house the living room is still cluttered, but it is free of dirty dishes, and he’s wearing a clean Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department t-shirt and ratty old sweats. Stiles is nervous letting Derek into his house for a lot of reasons, but the most pressing is Derek’s face--he’s completely clean shaven and his hair is styled neatly. He’s a sight to behold even with his brow deeply furrowed and his jaw clenched. Stiles leads him inside and offers Derek a seat at the couch, which he declines. Stiles sits and watches Derek pace in his designer jeans rolled up at the ankles and driving mocs. Derek rolls his shoulders a few times and exhales deeply as if preparing himself for a fight. Stiles waits for him to breathe in again, but Derek seems determined to deprive himself of air.

When Derek finally inhales it’s sharp and short. “I’ve just been thinking,” he begins.

“About?” Stiles tries to prepare for the blow.

“Well, I guess there’s no other way to say this. I think what we’re doing is a mistake.”

Stiles lifts an eyebrow, resigned. He never should have bothered to get his hopes up with Derek. “And what is it we’re doing, exactly?”

Derek makes a motion with his hand between them. “The flirting. It’s not a good idea for us to be doing that, especially not in front of my kids. We said we were going to be friends.”

“Actually, I offered for us to be just friends but you’re the one that started flirting with me.” Stiles recalls making dinner in Derek’s house for their families, and Derek telling him it would be okay to hope for something between them.

Derek slumps a little. “I know. It’s my fault. I’m... I don’t think I’ve done a good job of communicating this, but my life, it’s not, I’m not in a place where I can give you more.”

Stiles is completely exasperated. “Derek, you’re not really giving me anything. We have coffee on Fridays, we work out, we flirt when you think no one’s looking, I help you with transporting Jack. We hooked up one time. It’s not like I think we’re living in some fairy tale where we live together happily ever after.” It’s a lie. Stiles has definitely imagined, against his better judgment, what it would be like to be in a real relationship with Derek. Denying that even to himself cuts at Stiles’ very soul.

“I just feel bad that this can’t be more,” Derek laments.

Stiles can’t help the angry laugh that escapes. “Why? Because you want it to be more or because you think you owe me something? I’m not helping you with Jack because I want you to feel indebted to me, or because I think it’s going to get me back in your pants. I mean, you’re paying me to help out with Jack now, so don’t worry about it. We’re square as far as that’s concerned.”

Derek worries his lip but doesn’t say anything. He looks like there’s a war going on inside himself. It’s a look that Stiles is familiar with--he knows what it’s like to dream of more but never turn fantasy into reality.

Stiles debates whether to continue and then goes for broke. “I won’t deny that I was flattered by the mutual attraction, even if you’re confused about it.”

Derek shakes his head. “I’m not confused,” he says defensively. “I know I’m attracted to you.” He breathes out and he sounds pained. “But I can’t do this with you. I’m not used to being able to do anything about my attraction, and even though I’m divorced and totally entitled to pursuing whatever I want physically and emotionally, I feel this guilt.” Derek stops pacing again and touches his heart.

Stiles wants to ask him what exactly drives the guilt. He wants to assure him it’s normal to feel guilt constantly, that it’s basically a tenet of parenthood.

“I didn’t get divorced so I could find someone else. I didn’t move my family across the country so I could date, that’s never what it was about. I’m trying so hard to be a good dad, and I feel like I’m just…” Derek trails off.

Stiles doesn’t understand. “So what was it about then?”

Derek shrugs. “We wanted different things,” he says distantly. “I just really wanted space,” Derek insists, but it sounds like an excuse. Gone is the earnest man Stiles remembers talking to at the coffee shop just a few days before. Derek looks like he’s shutting down and going into defensive mode.

Stiles crosses his arms and scoots further back into the couch, half hoping the cushions will swallow him. “Well, you got space. And I’m not trying to change you.”

“I appreciate that.” Derek folds his arms around himself.

“Can I ask you something though?” Stiles starts after a beat.

Derek nods.

“You said you’re not confused, but you also said that you think flirting is a bad idea, and a few other things. It feels like a lot of excuses to me.” Stiles tries not to sound angry, because it would serve no point with Derek.

Derek turns red but stays quiet.

“Is it possible that if you let yourself feel something for me we could be really good together? And if we’re really good together, then maybe you’d have to come out to your family and to yourself? That’s a lot of pressure, I know. Or maybe you can’t imagine ever telling your kids about us. Let’s face it, the sex talk is awkward no matter what, but the sex talk is even more awkward when parents have to admit to having one? A sex life, I mean. Maybe coming out is just something you don’t want to do. You’re so busy looking for the approval of others, but you’re never going to get it, Derek, if you don’t accept yourself first.” Stiles watches Derek’s reaction carefully, but he’s inscrutable now.

“You don’t know me, Stiles,” Derek spits out.

Stiles knows his rousing speech about self-acceptance isn’t going to crack Derek. Stiles doesn’t recognize the man in front of him. “Well, then I’m sorry. I truly am.”

“I don’t need your pity.”

“Derek, that’s not--”

“--I should go.” Derek looks away and toward the door.

“I won’t keep you,” Stiles says without getting up.

Derek takes a step to go but then looks back at Stiles. “Maybe we shouldn’t work out together anymore.”

“If you think that’s best.” Stiles can’t bring himself to say anything about their Friday coffee date. It’s almost a whole week away still, and foolishly he hopes they’ll be in a better place by then.

When Derek shuts the door behind him, Stiles eyes won’t stop watering. He’s not really crying, he can’t be, because Derek Hale can’t have that kind of power over him. But his eyes just keep watering, and before he realizes it he’s letting out a wracked sob. At first he doesn’t recognize that the sound is coming from himself, and then the sobs are coming so fast that he’s losing his breath. It feels like an elephant is sitting on his chest and he can’t get enough air. He’s having another panic attack and he’s fucking angry that he’s letting himself get this worked up over Derek. Stiles starts his deep breathing routine, but it’s hard to keep it up through the crying. He stalks over to the bathroom and rummages around the cabinet and finds the bottle of Xanax. It’s got half a pill, and just knowing that there aren’t anymore sends him deeper into his panic. Stiles pops the pill along with a regular Aleve and an antacid. He cups his hand underneath the bathroom faucet for water and swallows. Stiles dribbles water down his chin and onto his chest, but he doesn’t bother wiping it up. His shirt is already wet with tears.

Stiles picks up his phone and wonders who he can text in the middle of the morning. He curls up in bed and settles on Scott, and before he can stop himself he’s calling him instead of texting and spilling his guts over the phone. Scott says all the right things and promises to come over during his lunch break. Stiles cries tears of relief when Scott arrives at noon with Stiles’ refill of Xanax. Scott cuddles with him on the couch and they watch Sponge Bob Square Pants and eat Easy Mac. Scott tucks Stiles into bed at one and promises to coordinate Sebastian’s after school care. Stiles takes a long nap until it’s time to get ready for his shift. It’s the first time in a long time that Stiles wishes he didn’t have the responsibility of being an adult and could just bail for the rest of the day.


The week is fine, if you don’t count the fact that Stiles is heartbroken. He picks up Sebastian and his friend and carts them to lacrosse every weekday. They have games now every Thursday in addition to Saturdays. Derek only texts to check up on Jack, and Stiles keeps his responses perfunctory. When Stiles leaves the gym every morning at his usual 9:15, he spots Derek’s car in the gym parking lot but they never cross paths. On Friday he uses work as an excuse to cancel their standing coffee date, and then has to make himself look useful while moping around at the dispatch desk. He swings by Scott’s veterinary office instead of heading to the gym, and invites his best friend to lunch.

When they meet a few hours later at their favorite diner, Stiles has bags under his eyes and he feels hungover. He hates how his shifts take a toll on his body, but the added stress from Derek drama has wreaked havoc on him. He can’t sleep, and when we finally does drift off he sleeps fitfully and wakes up without feeling rested.

“You alright, man?” Scott asks with concern.

“Yeah, just didn’t get enough sleep. I’ll try napping after lunch before I have to pick up Sebastian.” Stiles holds his hand out for a friendly shake, but Scott pulls him in for a hug.

“Come here.” Scott embraces him and rubs his back. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t hang longer on Monday. I’m just slammed at work.”

“No worries,” Stiles says as he pulls back reluctantly. “I’m glad we found the time now though.”

The two old friends head inside, get seated, and order without looking at the menu--cheeseburgers with double bacon, curly fries, and strawberry shakes.

“My treat today,” Scott insists.

Stiles shakes his head but he smiles. Scott’s vet practice is doing really well, and he’s all too happy to cover Stiles whenever they go out. The only reason Stiles lets him is when they were kids Scott never had much money and Stiles would often cover him for movies or comic books. He figures it’s all a wash in the end.

“How’s Allison?” Stiles asks to change the subject.

“She’s good, but let’s talk about you. What’s up? Are you feeling any better since Monday?”

Stiles shrugs. “Not really. It sucks.”

“I’m sorry. Derek doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

“He literally doesn’t know me well enough to reject me,” Stiles says bitterly.

“From what you said, it doesn’t sound exactly like he rejected you,” Scott reasons.

“He doesn’t want to be with me. That’s what it boils down to.”

Scott reaches out and puts his hand over Stiles’. “He sounds like he’s struggling.”

Stiles quirks his mouth. “Who’s side are you on, anyway?”

“Yours, of course.” Scott squeezes his hand in support. “I just know you’ve been there, too.”

“I know. You can’t help being sympathetic. It’s just who you are.” Stiles wants to say Scott is sympathetic to a fault, but it wouldn’t be true. Scott is a good person, through and through, and Stiles wishes he had the ability to sympathize with Derek half as much as his friend. “I just wish Derek wasn’t ashamed of being with me,” he laments.

“Is that what he said?” Scott asks in a shocked tone.

Derek’s exact words already feel fuzzy in Stiles’ brain. “Well, not exactly. He talked about his divorce and how even though he could be with me he feels too guilty about it. And I think I told him off for not coming out to his kids.”

Scott looks incredulous. “You really said that?”

Stiles thinks it’s the fatigue messing with his memory. “Yeah, and something about how he needs to stop looking for approval and learn to accept himself.”

Their food arrives and the waitress drops the check down on the table and swishes away. Scott starts eating and doesn’t say anything. Stiles knows Scott’s silent judgment is not a good sign.

“I guess it was kind of harsh,” he concedes. Stiles adds extra mustard and pickles to his burger. “It was the heat of the moment.”

“Do you know for sure he isn’t willing to come out to his kids? It’s generally not a good idea to put words in someone else’s mouth. Especially someone like Derek who is already confused and trying to figure out how he feels and identifies,” Scott advises.

It strikes a chord with Stiles because he knows it’s true. Stiles takes a giant bite of his burger and feels like he’ll never be able to swallow it with the current lump in his throat. When he can finally speak again he thanks Scott.

“Thanks for what,” he asks.

“For making me realize what an incredible asshole I am,” Stiles replies with a smirk.

“You’re not an asshole. I never said that.” Scott gives him a puppy dog face. “I love you, bro.

Stiles shakes his head. He’s not angry with Scott in the least. Scott gave him the perspective he needs to see the situation clearly. He’s hurt that Derek has prioritized his family over his relationship with Stiles, even if it’s something he understands on a profound level. He also recognizes that Derek hadn’t set out to hurt Stiles, it was just an unfortunate byproduct.

Stiles and Scott change the conversation, but not because it’s too heavy, just because they hardly ever get to do this--hang out together alone--and they have a lot of ground to cover before Scott’s lunch break is over. Stiles takes solace in hearing about Scott’s new intern he hired for the veterinary practice, Allison’s handy skills around the house, and the last fight Lydia and Jackson got into while on a double date with Scott and Allison at Color Me Mine. Lunch with Scott is a healing experience for Stiles. It feels like a bit of a reprieve on his emotions. He’s not over Derek or their conversation, but he needs a break from the intensity of everything.

***

Unfortunately, it’s Sebastian’s turn at Malia’s house that weekend, so he’s got plenty of time to wallow and over think things again. Stiles also has to attend Sebastian’s game on Saturday morning, which he knows will be awkward, and he’s not sure what he should say about it to his kid if he asks. When Stiles arrives at the field he spots Malia on the field getting Sebastian geared up for the game. The Hales are spread out on the sidelines between two other families. Derek doesn’t invite Stiles to join them even though they make brief eye contact. It’s nice seeing Piper, Cora and Laura there to cheer Jack on too. When Stiles passes behind them only Cora turns around to give him a tight lipped smile. He gives her a half-smile half-grimace in return. Stiles plops himself down a blanket, and texts Scott for backup. Within ten minutes, Scott is there with Allison, Lydia, and Danny.

Stiles looks up at Lydia and tries to snipe, “Jackson getting his beauty sleep?”

Lydia gives him a sympathetic smile that says she knows everything and it sets Stiles off. He turns to Scott, “You told her?”

Allison scrunches up her nose guiltily.

“And her too?” he accuses Scott.

Scott looks mortified. “I only told Allison, I swear.”

“Blabbermouth,” Stiles teases Allison.

She rolls her eyes. “I only told Lydia, promise.”

“It’s okay, we’re your friends. We support you,” Danny intervenes.

“What, you know too?” Stiles asks Danny.

“Just be thankful I told Jackson to stay home this morning.” Lydia rolls her eyes.

Stiles rests his arms on his knees and pouts. He tries to push Lydia and Danny away when they lean in for a group hug, but he gives in. He likes the warmth of their bodies against his.

“Who else did you tell?” Stiles narrows his eyes at Lydia.

“Just Danny and Jackson, I swear.”

“Are you trying to make me jealous,” Scott jokes.

“Get over here,” Stiles says once he’s free from the group hug. They cuddle on the blanket like two dorks, and Stiles doesn’t mind in the least.

“Who’s making who jealous now?” Allison quips.

Scott opens one arm and lets Allison slide in. Stiles feels like crying again.

“Got room for one more?” Malia joins them finally and gives Stiles a squeeze on the arm.

He wonders if she knows about things with Derek, but guesses not since he never told her anything in the first place and she hasn’t commented on the change in his demeanor all week.

The game is fine, but Jack and Sebastian play unremarkably, and their team loses. Afterward, Sebastian tries to finagle a sleepover invite for Jack, but Malia tells him no. “Sebastian, we already have company coming over. Look,” she points to their crowd of friends, “everyone came out to see you play today. Jack can come over another time.”

“But it’s not fair!” Sebastian kicks the ground with his cleat.

There’s about to be a tweenager showdown, but Mom wins with an assist from Coach Yukimura who’s making the rounds to visit with parents.

“Hey, buddy, you are so lucky to have so many friends and family here to support you,” she says with a wink to Malia. “When I was just learning to play lacrosse, I never had my own cheering section.”

Sebastian frowns. “Were you my age when you learned to play?”

Coach Yukimura lights up. “I was in college, actually. I wish I had learned when I was your age. You’re building your skills every week.”

“I stunk today. We lost.”

“Well, this week you’re learning good sportsmanship. You have to learn to lose graciously, and part of that is learning to pick your battles with your mom.” She ruffles his hair. “I’m Kira, by the way. We haven’t had a chance to talk in a few weeks,” she addresses Malia.

Malia extends a hand and they shake. “Sorry, yeah, I’m Malia, Sebastian’s mom. Thanks so much for all you’re doing with him.”

Kira grins. “He’s awesome. Glad you made it to his game this Saturday. I hope to see you around more. I better go mingle some more,” she says reluctantly and turns to go.

“Coach!” Sebastian calls out to her and then looks at his mom for the go-ahead. Malia gives him a sly grin. “We’re having lunch at my mom’s house, do you want come?”

“That’s an offer I can hardly refuse.” She beams. “Sure it’s okay?” she directs at Malia.

“I’d love to have you.” Malia smiles like she’s aware of the double entendre.

It appears to do the trick for Kira. “I have your contact info. I’ll be by as soon as I pack up my car.”

Stiles stands and joins his son and Malia while they pack up his gear. Stiles holds a hand up for Malia to high five. She smacks him on the hand hard.

“Shut up,” she says. She’s not really mad at Stiles, but maybe just a little annoyed at how well he knows her.

“I didn’t say anything.” He mimes zipping his lips and throwing away the key.

They all go to Malia’s for a simple lunch with their friends and Coach Yukimura. It’s casual and raucous, and when the Sheriff and Melissa show up and offer to take Sebastian for the evening to make up for missing his game, no one comments how quick Malia is to agree to the plan. Stiles knows better than to tag along with Sebastian and the grandparents, so he gives his son a big hug and a kiss and tells him he’ll see him on Monday. Everyone else heads out to enjoy the rest of their weekend, except Kira who’s on a tour of the house with Malia. Stiles does her a solid by throwing out the trash and stocking the fridge with a couple bottles of white wine from the pantry before he locks up.

***

Stiles spends the rest of the weekend cleaning and fixing up his house. He mows the lawn, cleans the gutters, and fixes the leak under the kitchen sink. He takes two car loads of clothes and household items to donate to Goodwill. He didn’t think he had that much to get rid of, but he knows he’ll never buy clothes if his closet looks full.
Stiles is tired of wearing Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department t-shirts, ratty sweatpants, and contraband khakis he swore to Lydia he threw away. It might be cliche, but he could do with a bit of retail therapy. He falls down a rabbit hole of online shopping, but it keeps him from focusing on how he feels.

On Sunday night, Stiles lets his mind wander to thoughts of Derek again. Stiles still feels angry, but most of that anger is at himself for getting his hopes up. He wishes he could direct his anger at Derek, but after a week Stiles has more clarity. He can’t fault Derek for wanting to put his kids first, even if Stiles can’t fully accept Derek’s reasoning. Derek may not be ready to come out to his kids right now, and Stiles realizes that he has to respect that everyone’s process of coming out is different. Rationally, a relationship between Stiles and Derek was probably doomed anyway. They have significant differences--like their age and class status--and while they aren’t insurmountable odds, Stiles can understand that they may have scared Derek off.

Long past Stiles’ bedtime, he picks up his phone and tries to compose a text to Derek. He wants to say something, not an apology exactly, but he wants to let Derek know that Stiles is letting him off the hook. He spends an hour typing things he never sends, half waiting for Derek to start doing the same thing. Stiles wonders if Derek is at home watching Stiles’ text ellipses dot back and forth. He doesn’t panic this time, instead, he finds comfort in it and drifts off to sleep with the lights on, his phone still clutched in his hand.


One week turns to two and then into three weeks of no contact, except when Jack necessitates it. Derek steers clear of Stiles at the gym, and Stiles doesn’t even bother making up an excuse to cancel their Friday coffee dates. At Saturday games they sit on opposite sides of the sidelines, and when Sebastian points it out, Stiles just tells him that game time is family time. Stiles makes sure to extend invites to his dad and Melissa and his and Malia’s friends.
Sebastian appears to believe the excuse, but not without giving Stiles a suspicious look. Thursday games are easier to deal with since Derek can’t make them and Cora and Laura show up around the time Stiles has to leave to get ready for his shift.

Stiles texts Derek an update a few times a week and sends pictures of Jack. Derek always thanks him, but offers little else. On Fridays, Jack hands Stiles cash in an envelope. Stiles uses it to stock more snacks for the boys and orders pizza or takeout on Fridays. When school ends in the middle of June he takes Sebastian and Jack to the comic book store and lets them get whatever they want. He doesn’t let himself feel weird about the money. He knows it doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s a comfort to know it’s there. Stiles tries to accept the loss of Derek’s friendship, though it’s hard when they are still in each others lives even if it’s just through their kids.

After almost a month of Stiles and Derek not speaking, Stiles overhears his son and Jack having a conversation that piques his interest. The two boys are busy playing a videogame in the living room on Sunday afternoon, while Stiles cooks a double batch of spaghetti and meatballs. He hears Jack talking, his voice lower than Sebastian’s, the mark of his burgeoning adolescence. His tone is sad, matching how he looked when Stiles had picked him up from his house earlier that day. Jack looks more like the sullen boy he used to know way back when he first started spending time with Sebastian, less like the happy, spirited kid he’s grown into.

Stiles tries not to eavesdrop from the kitchen, but he can’t help himself. He hears fragments of sentences, and his ears perk up when Jack starts talking about his dad.

“He’s been weird for the last few weeks.”

Stiles can’t hear Sebastian’s response, so he turns down the loud stove fan and strains to listen.

“I don’t want to go home,” Jack says. “It’s so boring. And I’m sick of eating takeout.”

“Maybe you could stay for dinner?” Sebastian asks.

“I wish.” Jack sighs loudly. “Dad says we have to eat dinner together as a family tonight.”

“Oh.” Every night is family dinner for Sebastian, even if it’s just him and his mom, so the concept is probably lost on him.

“He’s going to try to cook again, which means we’ll end up with frozen pizza or corn dogs.”

“Maybe my dad can come over and cook for you guys again sometime. He said he liked your kitchen a lot,” Sebastian offers.

“My dad and your dad are mad at each other,” Jack mumbles.

Stiles feels his palms go clammy and his face turn red. He keeps his head down and tries to remain inconspicuous at the kitchen stove.

“Why?” Sebastian is clearly the less observant of the two.

“He said it was a grown up thing.” Stiles can practically hear Jack rolling his eyes.

“That’s dumb. Being a grown up sounds boring.”

“Yeah... You think your dad would still come over to our house even if they’re really mad at each other?” Jack wonders.

“We could tell my dad that your dad really wants him to come over.” Stiles imagines the wheels in Sebastian’s head turning.

“Isn’t that lying?”

Stiles peeks around the breakfast bar and catches his son shrugging his shoulders. “But is it really lying if you do it for a good reason?”

Stiles has to cover his mouth to hide his snort.

Sebastian continues, “Maybe I can talk my dad into making apology brownies.”

“Ooh, that’s a good idea. Let’s do that,” Jack agrees enthusiastically.

“You just want brownies,” Sebastian teases.

They both laugh.

“Yeah. Brownies from Whole Foods are disgusting.” Jack makes a gagging noise.

Stiles decides he’s listened long enough and walks out into the living room. “Hey guys, do you want to test some of these meatballs I just made for dinner? It’s a new recipe,” he lies. He subbed basil for oregano and panko for breadcrumbs. “Unless you’re not hungry?” It’s a dumb question, they’re growing boys and always hungry.

The boys look up at Stiles and try their best to look like they weren’t just talking about their dads.

“I could go for some meatballs,” Jack says casually.

“Let’s wash up.” Sebastian scurries into the kitchen and he and his friend make a beeline toward the sink.

They all serve themselves too much to really qualify for a snack, but it gives Stiles a good opportunity to chat more with Jack about what’s going on in the Hale household. “So, summer vacation is finally here,” he begins.

“What are you doing, Jack? Maybe we can take you camping next week.” Sebastian pleads with his dad using his eyes alone. “My dad and grandpa always take me camping in Santa Cruz after school gets out,” he says with a mouth full of spaghetti.

“I’m going to New York to visit my mom for the next couple of weeks.”

“Oh, right. Maybe another time. Dad, can we go camping another time and bring Jack?”

“I don’t know, Jack will have to ask his parents, of course.” Stiles wipes his son’s chin and Sebastian bats his hand away.

Jack blushes and looks down at his bowl.

“What’s New York like? Is it just like in TV and movies?” Sebastian asks.

Jack rolls his eyes. “I don’t know, does everyone surf and live next to the beach in California?”

“Nah, I guess not. So you don’t live in a skyscraper and take yellow taxi cabs everywhere?”

“Not even close. We ride the subway and our house is just a regular brick house.”

“Cool, tell me about the subway.” Sebastian is oddly curious about random things just like Stiles.

Sebastian and Jack forget that Stiles is even in the room once he starts doing dishes. His son peppers Jack with more questions until it’s time for Stiles to drive Jack home. Neither of the boys mention anything more about their dads fighting, and Stiles supposes that he should be relieved, but he aches for news about Derek.

***

Stiles doesn’t have to wait much longer--he runs into Derek at the smoothie shop on Monday morning.

Derek takes his place two spots behind Stiles in line and gives him a forced smile.

“Oh, hi.” Stiles waves. He places his order and stands near the station with the straws and napkins and pretends to be fascinated by the community bulletin board. He spots Derek walking toward him, and without thinking he tears off a little tab of paper and scrutinizes it to avoid a conversation. Even though he’s desperate to know how Derek’s doing, Stiles is less confident talking to him in person.

“Did you get a dog?” Derek asks after he stands there for a minute.

“What?” Stiles asks feebly.

“The ad is for a dog walker.” Derek points to the little scrap of paper in Stiles’ hand with the phone number of a dog walking service.

“It’s for a friend,” Stiles says on the fly. He blushes deeply and hopes Derek will spare his dignity and drop it.

“Oh.” Derek rocks back on his heels. “How have you been?”

“Fine,” Stiles says a little too quickly. The part of him that’s good at shutting out thoughts and feelings is fine, and the part of him that obsesses over everything is terrible. He offers a neutral subject, “So, summer break is starting. Sebastian grilled Jack on the ins and outs of the MTA.”

Derek makes a quizzical face, but goes with it. “I’m driving the kids to the airport in a few hours. They’ll be with Braeden for two weeks. Jack is bummed he won’t be able to hang with Sebastian,” he adds.

Stiles shrugs.

“Piper can’t wait though. They both miss their mom, but Piper especially. I’ve been meaning--”

Stiles cuts him off, “--There’s my order.” He steps up and stabs straws through two hefty foam cups. “I told Sebastian I’d get him the Mango Tango as a summer break treat.” Stiles grabs the smaller of the two smoothies and holds it up to Derek. “He’s waiting in the car.”

“Oh.”

Stiles wants to retreat quickly and end the awkward encounter, but Derek’s blocking his way out.

“Stiles, would you like to grab a coffee or a drink sometime? I’ll be alone for the next two weeks and--”

Stiles doesn’t want to hear the rest. “--I’m taking Sebastian camping.” He won’t be gone the whole time, but Derek doesn’t need to know that. “See you around, Derek.” Stiles scoots around Derek and heads for the parking lot, his heart in his throat. He’s still not over his feelings for Derek, but Derek doesn’t seem any more willing to spend time with Stiles unless his kids aren’t around. Maybe hiding a relationship from his kids works for Derek, but that’s not how Stiles wants to live his life.


On their third and final night camping at New Brighton, Stiles can’t sleep. He can hear distant waves crashing into the cliffs, wearing down the jagged edges, and decorating the sandy shore with shells. He loves their ritual of camping out here, just the three Stilinski men, but sometimes the intense quiet gets to him. His mind spins with thoughts about things he can’t control--like Derek, his future life of loneliness, the hours at his job that are slowly killing him, and the fact that Sebastian has outgrown his lacrosse cleats and he’s signed up for a summer lacrosse camp in July. It’s too much and he needs to look at the stars and breathe fresh air or he’s going to suffocate. Stiles unzips his sleeping bag and throws on the sweatshirt at the end of his bedroll. He slips into shoes and then opens the tent carefully so he doesn’t jostle his dad or his son awake. The campground is peaceful at two in the morning, but Stiles wishes he could be asleep like everyone else instead of trying to get comfortable on a squeaky lawn chair.

“Stiles, you’re going to freeze to death,” his dad says as he zips the tent closed behind him and tosses Stiles a fleece blanket.

Stiles always forgets how cold it feels right next to the ocean even in summer. He wraps the blanket around himself and goes to unfold a chair for his dad.

“Turn on a lantern, would you.” His dad searches the top of his head, then his pockets for glasses. He finally finds them hanging around his neck from a chain.

“Okay, old man,” Stiles teases as he turns on the old fashioned camping lantern. “What are you doing up at this hour.”

“You’re not as stealth as you’d like to believe.” The Sheriff wraps a blanket around himself too and takes a seat.

Stiles shrugs. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s all right, I didn’t say I minded.”

“I’m going to make some tea, do you want any?” Stiles gets up to turn on the camping stove and fill the percolator with water.

“Got anything harder?” his dad jokes.

Stiles chuckles. “Hot cocoa is the best I can do.”

“Are we talking marshmallows or whipped cream?”

“Both, pick your poison, Pops.”

“Marshmallows.”

Stiles prepares two mugs with milk from the bear-proofed ice chest and then pours in some hot water. He mixes in the cocoa, careful to thoroughly beat the lumps of chocolate powder. He tops both mugs with marshmallows and hands one to his dad. “Cheers.”

His dad clinks his mug against Stiles’ carefully. “So, what’s keeping you up tonight?”

Stiles sighs as he drops back down to his lawn chair. He shrugs. “Just can’t get my brain to shut off. You know, hazard of being on permanent night shift.”
His dad doesn’t press, he knows that Stiles isn’t capable of holding anything back from him once asked.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Always.”

“Weren’t you lonely after mom died?”

His dad furrows his brow. “Of course I was.”

“Why’d you take so long to start dating, then?”

“I had a lot of responsibilities, and if you don’t remember, I wasn’t particularly great at balancing them all,” he says, referring to his years as a high functioning alcoholic.

“But after you got sober, why didn’t you date then?”

“I suppose I wasn’t ready.” His dad studies him. “Are you thinking about dating?”

Stiles makes a face that tells his dad he’s already messed the whole thing up.

“Oh. Who is it? Do I know...er, them?”

Stiles snickers. “I’m not sure you’ve ever met him.”

“Ah, the Hale boy.” He nods smugly.

“What? How do you know?”

“You forget, I’m the Sheriff. I know things.” He taps his index finger to his temple.

Stiles doesn’t buy it. “Who told you?”

“Who do you think?” His dad makes a face at him that tells him everything.

“Scott.”

“He was telling Melissa you had a crush on him and I think he forgot I was in the room.” He shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you when it was actually news worth sharing.”

“That’s okay. I knew you’d tell me in your own time if he became more to you than just Jack’s dad.”

“I think he did, or he could have meant something to me. But now it’s just over.” Stiles sips his cocoa.

“So I guess that means I don’t have to tell you to be careful, go slow, that he’s older, and probably has more baggage than you,” he says using his extra paternal voice.

“Too late.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son.”

“I just thought… We have so much in common, despite our obvious differences. How did we manage to screw up so badly?”

His dad furrows his brow and finishes off his cocoa. “He still trusts you with Jack, and I’ve seen him looking at you a time or two at those games. I wouldn’t be so sure it’s over, it could just be the middle of things. None of us can predict the future.”

Stiles shakes his head and sinks further into his lawn chair. Talking about relationship stuff with his dad is still awkward, no matter if he’s no longer a kid anymore.

“How long are you going to stay up, kiddo?”

Stiles searches for the horizon, and there’s barely a sliver of moonlight through the trees. “Not much longer.” He yawns. “I’m right behind you, Dad.”

Stiles folds up the chairs, turns off the lantern, and then heads back to the tent. When he finally falls asleep he has a small smile on his face. The idea that maybe he has a chance with Derek in the future is more comforting than anything else his friends have said to him in the last month.

Chapter Text

Stiles is bored out of his mind during his Thursday night patrol. There tends to be an uptick in calls from Independence Day to Labor Day, so he’s grateful for the break. He’d been swamped on the Fourth and ended up clocking sixteen hours during that shift, and fourteen hours the day after. Stiles had finally gotten his sleep in order after his fight with Derek back in May, so he really hoped that his final shift of the week would be over without incident.

He stops for a cup of coffee and a doughnut at Fran’s, and while idling in the parking lot he checks his phone and sees a text from Sebastian asking him to bring Eggo waffles in the morning. There’s a voicemail from his dad wanting more information about the weekend at the end of July when he’ll be watching Sebastian while Stiles and Malia go to Napa with their friends. Stiles scrubs his face with the palm of his hand and puts his phone back on Do Not Disturb. He knows other deputies are less careful about their personal phones while on shift, but Stiles doesn’t like the distraction of notifications. Besides, his timeline is dead during his shift and refreshing social media constantly is not satisfying. He’s given up on getting random, friendly texts from Derek.

They haven’t seen each other since that awkward day at the smoothie shop in the middle of June. Stiles thought about trying to patch things up between them, so they could at least be friends, but he hadn’t worked out exactly how to do that. Derek had texted on the holiday to ask if Stiles could still help out with Jack over the summer on the days he and Piper were out of town for drum corp. Stiles replied of course and Derek texted back thank you so much. It was all very civil. The Hale kids are back in town now--he knows because Sebastian wouldn’t stop talking about it all damn day--so he supposes it’s just a matter of time before Stiles will have to face Derek in person.

The crackle of the radio and the sound of Tara’s voice from dispatch shakes Stiles out of his reverie.

“Stiles, you got a call at the station,” she says informally.

He picks up the radio and holds the button to respond. “What’s up, Tara?” Stiles sits forward in his cruiser waiting to hear who’s calling for him while on duty.

“A young woman called, she wouldn’t identify herself, said she knows you. She asked to speak with you directly and I told her I’d pass along a message.”

Stiles furrows his brow. “Did she leave a number?” He reaches for his pen and notepad and takes down the caller’s information. “Thanks for the heads up, Tara.”

Before dialing he realizes it’s Piper Hale’s number. He recognizes the New York area code and the suffix is just two numbers different than Derek’s. Stiles has a bad feeling as he hits the call button.

When Piper picks up she sounds hysterical and she slurs her words like she’s under the influence. She’s crying and on the verge of hyperventilating. Stiles spends five minutes trying to calm her down enough before he’s able to get the story out of her.

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t…” she keeps repeating.

“Breathe in,” he instructs. “Hold it.”

She tries and fails and starts crying again. “Stiles, I’m so sorry to call you,” she manages through her hiccups.

“It’s all right. I’m on duty. What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“This is so embarrassing,” she admits.

“It’s okay. I’m sure I’ve done worse. You can talk to me,” Stiles consoles her.

“I’m at this house in Beacon Valley and my friend Missy ditched me for this guy she hooked up with and I don’t know anyone else here. And there are three girls passed out in the bathroom, and I threw up on myself a little, and I have my friends keys but I’m too drunk to drive and I don’t even have my learner’s permit,” she says and starts to sob again.

Stiles feels relieved that at least Piper knew she shouldn’t try to get behind the wheel, but then he looks at the time on his dashboard and gets a terrible feeling. It’s nearly four in the morning and Derek must be worried sick. “Have you called your dad?”

“My dad isn’t answering his phone!” Piper sounds both concerned and extremely irritated at not being able to reach her father.

“Did you call your mom?”

“Why would I call my mom!” Piper screams.

Stiles is taken aback. She went from hysterical crying to hysterical screaming in no time flat.

“I’ve called my dad like fifty times, but he isn’t answering. I don’t know if he’s mad at me and trying to teach me a lesson--”

Stiles interrupts her, “--I’m sure that’s not it. It’s ass o’clock at night. Wait a minute, where does your dad think you are?”

“At home, I guess? I snuck out. So either he’s asleep and has no clue or he figured out I snuck out and is just making me squirm.”

“There’s no way your dad wouldn’t pick up the phone. I’m sure he just doesn’t know.”

“Do you know the address of where you’re at?” Stiles asks.

Piper whines that she doesn’t, so Stiles instructs her to go outside and get the house number and describe the street. She does as she’s told, she’s still whimpering but increasingly more calm. “The number is 3916. The street is kind of L-shaped. There’s a basketball hoop in the driveway. There’s a giant yellow Hummer in the driveway. I don’t know what else.”

“That’s fine, I think I might know where you are.” Stiles pulls up the DMV database on his cruiser’s laptop and looks up yellow Hummers in Beacon Valley; there’s only one registered. “Look directly across the street. Is there a two story McMansion with a big wrought iron gate?”

“Yeah. It’s kind of covered in ivy. It’s pretty.”

Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, that’s the one. Okay, do you feel safe enough to walk across the street? I know the woman who lives right across from where you are. You can go there and wait for me until I get there.”

“I guess. I really don’t want to be here. I have to pee and the bathrooms look worse than a public bathroom in the subway.”

Stiles snorts. “Wait five minutes and then walk across the street to my friend’s house. I have to call this in, and then I’ll be on my way to get you.”

“What do you mean, call this in?” Piper sounds panicked.

“I mean that I have a duty to report minors under the influence and find out who’s supplying alcohol and possibly narcotics.”

“Stiles!” Piper screams, sounding mortified.

“I suggest you get out of there or whoever else is on duty may pick you up. If you go to my friend’s place, I can come get you and keep you out of all this.”

“Fine,” she says.

“I’ll be there as fast as I can.” Stiles hangs up and then calls Natalie Martin, Lydia’s mom. She’s groggy but sounds more alert once Stiles identifies himself.

Mrs. Martin confirms with much disdain that there are multiple cars parked across the street, the lights are on, the garage door is wide open, and someone is slumped over a giant teddy bear on the front lawn.

“Can you call dispatch and report it? And would you mind terribly hosting my friend’s daughter who’s on her way to your place right now? She called me frantic. I know she didn’t meant to get caught up in all this. I’m on my way, and I’ll be there in seven or eight minutes tops.”

Stiles starts driving toward Beacon Valley, fast yet cautiously, and responds to dispatch when they ask for available units. Stiles gets to the scene first and notices that it’s relatively quiet, but there are cars lining the street still. He grabs an emergency blanket from his trunk and heads to Mrs. Martin’s front door. She opens it and just behind her is Piper, shivering, clothes soaked with who knows what, and her eyes red from crying. Stiles offers her the blanket and tells her to stay put while he does his job. “I’ll do what I have to do as quickly as I can and then I’ll come get you and take you home. Try your dad one more time. I’ll send him a text too.”

Mrs. Martin steps in and starts to mother Piper. She wraps her tightly in the blanket and rubs her arms, whispers something into her ear, and then shuts the door. Stiles fires off a quick text to Derek to let him know he’s got Piper somewhere safe. Then he crosses the street to the house party, checks the perimeter, and waits for backup.

Another unit arrives a minute later and together Deputy Valerie Clark and Stiles deal with the remaining intoxicated minors. They call an ambulance for the three girls passed out in the bathroom, and the guy mumbling to the giant stuffed teddy bear on the lawn.

Valerie tells Stiles she’ll stay with the girls until medical help arrives. Stiles talks to the guy and he admits he took mushrooms. Though he appears fine, Stiles hands him over to a paramedic to be safe. Stiles calls for a police van to come pick up the other party goers and drive them to the station so they can call their parents to come pick them up. The whole ordeal takes about an hour, but there’s already the first dregs of morning light creeping up.

Stiles is the last to leave the scene. He looks around carefully before crossing the street and knocking on Mrs. Martin’s door.

She opens the door quietly and ushers Stiles inside and down the adjacent hall. “Piper is sleeping in the den.” She points to the heap of blankets on the couch. “I got her a change of clothes, and let her wash up in the bathroom.” Mrs. Martin hands Stiles a plastic bag with Piper’s soiled clothes.

“Does she seem okay?” Stiles asks concerned.

“Drunk and embarrassed, but otherwise okay.” Mrs. Martin shrugs. “How do you know her?”

Stiles can’t help it but he blushes. “I...She’s the daughter of a friend.” It’s the most succinct answer he can come up with at five in the morning.

Mrs. Martin smiles knowingly. “Well, I think your friend will appreciate that Piper felt comfortable enough calling you.”

Stiles snorts. “I think I was her last option. Her dad wasn’t picking up the phone.”

“She could have called an Uber, but she called you instead.” She arches an eyebrow.

Stiles lets his mouth fall open. He hadn’t really thought about that. Piper is from New York City, surely she could have figured out her way home.

“Good night, Stiles. Or should I say, good day? I hardly know at this hour.” She leans in for a hug. “Lock the handle, would you?.” Mrs. Martin turns and heads up the stairs, not waiting for her guests to leave.

Stiles knocks gently on the door to the den and then lets himself in once Piper starts stirring. “Are you ready to go home?”

Piper looks up and just nods. When she sits up the blankets fall around her shoulders causing her to shiver.

“Go ahead and take a blanket, Mrs. Martin won’t mind,” Stiles says, holding an arm out for Piper to grab onto.

She pulls a blanket around her tightly and let’s Stiles help her up. Piper follows him wordlessly to the police cruiser. Stiles thinks about tossing Piper her dirty clothes bag but after getting a whiff he decides against it. The last thing he wants is for her to get sick in his car.

The whole way to her house Piper sits silently looking out the window. Stiles radios in to dispatch that he found another party straggler and he’s driving her home. Tara says there’s a lot of commotion at the station with all the parents arriving and to check in on his way back. Stiles glances at Piper and sees her visibly exhale, but she still stays quiet. They drive all the way out to the Hale property line without speaking.

“Will you come in with me?” Piper’s voice sounds scratchy when she finally speaks.

“Of course.” Stiles had been planning on it. There’s no way he can drop off Derek’s hung over teenage daughter alone.

Piper gives Stiles an intense look. “I’m sorry. By the way.” Her eyes are bloodshot, but she holds his gaze.

Stiles furrows his brow.

“Not for tonight,” she explains. “Although, I do regret dragging you into this.” Piper shrugs her shoulders underneath the bulky blanket. “I mean, I’m sorry I gave my dad such shit about you. I didn’t think he’d actually listen to me.”

Stiles feels his heart drop to his stomach.

“I had no right to tell him what to do. But in my defense, I just turned sixteen and clearly my judgment isn’t great.” She shrugs. “He shouldn’t have given me that kind of power over him.” Piper sounds contrite, like someone who’s done a lot of growing up in the course of one night.

All Stiles can do is nod his head. He’s too stunned to ask questions. Stiles drives on autopilot until he’s parked in the Hale’s driveway.

“I’m not,” she struggles to get the word out, “ashamed of my dad. It’s just that usually it’s the teenage daughter trying to date the cute guy in his twenties, not the dad in his forties.”

Stiles nods.

“And look how well that turned out for me tonight.” Piper knocks her head against the headrest a few times.

“You mean the party?” Stiles asks.

Piper nods. “He’s in drum corp with me. I made an ass of myself in front of him.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” Stiles consoles her.

“It was my first time getting drunk and I kind of threw up on him.” Piper pulls the blanket over her head dramatically.

Stiles makes a face. “Yeah, I guess that’s not great.”

“He kind of deserved it. He hooked up with my friend Missy and they ditched me at the party.”

Stiles slings an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry. That really sucks.”

“Thanks, Stiles.” Piper gives him a grim smile. “I guess we can’t stay out here forever, right?”

“Better face the music.” Stiles walks around to the passenger side to help Piper out of the police cruiser. He hands her the plastic bag with her dirty clothes and she wrinkles her nose.

“I’m not going to bother washing them.”

“What are you going to do then?”

“Burn them. Maybe it will wipe away the memory of tonight.” Piper stalks off toward the front door and opens it with a key from under the doormat.

Stiles shakes his head and follows Piper, making a note to tell Derek to find a better hiding place. Piper yanks off her shoes and leaves them unceremoniously in the entryway, adding another pair to the pile. She heads straight to the family room and finds her dad’s phone wedged between the cushions of the couch. She hands it to Stiles and shakes her head.

“Three voice mails and twelve texts,” Stiles says as he hits the home button on Derek’s phone. “Impressive.”

“Let’s just get this over with.” Piper walks down the long hallway to her dad’s room and knocks.

Stiles can hear rustling and a few moments later Derek appears in the doorway, sleep rumpled with his pajamas slung low on his hips. Derek finishes pulling on a shirt and then notices Stiles standing behind his daughter. His eyes boggle.

“What’s going on?” he starts.

“Dad, before you get too worked up, just know that I’m okay. I’m here. I’m exhausted, but I’m okay.” She hands her dad his phone. “I tried calling and texting you more than a dozen times.”

Derek fumbles to unlock his phone and check his messages. Stiles notices Derek’s eyebrows climbing progressively higher on his forehead as he catches up on the news of the night. His thick eyebrows, long eyelashes, and soft beard are too beautiful for five o’clock in the morning and they stab at a tender spot in Stiles’ otherwise cold, dead heart.

“But you’re okay?” Derek looks up at his daughter and at Stiles for reassurance.

“I’m fine. My head is throbbing and I smell worse than the boys’ locker room, but yeah, I’m okay.” Piper hugs the blankets around her closer.

Derek pulls her closer and envelops her in his arms. Piper tries to hug back, but her arms are caught around her blankets. “I’m okay, Dad. I’m okay,” she reassures him.

When they pull apart Derek looks between his daughter and Stiles. “You called Stiles.”

Piper shrugs sheepishly. “I know he works nights and when I couldn’t reach you, I just figured--”

“--You knew he’d come get you,” Derek finishes. He gives her a half-smile.

Piper blushes, and even from where Stiles is standing he can see tears start to well in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” She flings herself at Derek and starts sobbing. “I’m so sorry,” she says through her tears.

Stiles starts to back away to give them privacy, but indicates to Derek that he’ll hang around. He finds himself walking toward the kitchen. He remembers how it had once seemed so big and impressive, and now all he sees is the towel rod Derek installed that’s just a hair crooked, crumbs on the countertop, and three pairs of shoes lined up at the French door that squeaks when you open it. Stiles grabs a cold water in a fancy bottle from the fridge, and lets himself out to the patio so he can watch the sunrise over the preserve. He finds a dry perch on the table and takes a seat, leaning back on his arms and looking up at the lavender sky.

There are birds singing in the trees, the air is fragrant with morning dew and wild roses that grow around the Hale property, and the sun fills Stiles with the feeling of renewal after another long night on the job. It’s not often that Stiles gets to enjoy these early hours of the day, he usually spends them watching the clock on his dash so he can head back to the station and get on his way to see his son. Stiles hears the French door open and squeak, alerting him to Derek’s presence. Stiles tenses. He reminds himself he’s here because of Piper, he’s not here out of some misguided hope that things are fine between him and Derek.

Derek walks around the patio and takes a seat on the tabletop next to Stiles. He leans back, mimicking Stiles. Stiles waits for him to say something, but Derek remains quiet for longer than Stiles would like. Stiles can’t bear the silence and he’s just about to break it when Derek finally begins.

“Thank you, Stiles,” he says. His voice sounds gentle, emotional, and reverent.

Stiles looks over at him and he’s caught off guard by Derek’s open expression. There’s no tension in his jaw, no crease over the bridge of his nose, no worry lines in his forehead. Derek’s eyes are pure light and verdant green, not the murky shadow grey Stiles remembers from their fight, when Derek told Stiles they had no future.

Stiles bites his lip. He doesn’t want to break the spell with talking, he always finds a way of ruining things with his big mouth. Instead, Stiles shrugs his shoulders and gives Derek a small smile as if to say you’re welcome. He’s shown his hand time and time again, but he won’t dare to again. Stiles feels Derek shift his hand so his fingers brush up against his. Stiles holds his breath; he can't quite believe what he’s feeling, he doesn’t know if this is a sign.

“I’m so sorry,” Derek says. Now the tone of his voice is a mixture of conviction, hope, and trepidation.

Stiles sits up suddenly, he wants to look at Derek head on for this. They turn toward each other, Derek pulls Stiles’ hand into his lap and squeezes it to reassure him. Stiles grabs Derek’s other hand and feels Derek tugging him closer. Stiles goes willingly. They’re so close now.

“I love you,” Derek says, like those were the three words he’d been trying to say all along. He puts his hand behind Stiles’ head and angles his forehead to touch his.

Stiles inhales. Derek kisses his cheeks, first left, then right. He kisses his forehead tenderly. Stiles exhales and lets go of all the resentment he’s been holding onto.

“I love you, too.” It’s easy for Stiles to say.

“I’m so sorry. There’s so much I want to tell you,” Derek says again before he stops talking and just kisses Stiles breathless.

Stiles feels like he’s having his picture perfect cinematic moment, and even though he’s curious about Derek’s apology, he doesn’t want their moment to end. Stiles kisses Derek back with all the passion he has, hoping he can make his feelings clear because the trouble always starts when he tries to talk. Derek only pulls back when the radio on Stiles’ shoulder begins to crackle.

“Sorry.” Stiles reaches up to silence it. “Hold on, I need to check in with dispatch.” It’s the last thing Stiles wants to do, but he can’t exactly shirk his responsibilities now.

“You have to go?” Derek looks disappointed.

“I’m still on duty,” Stiles explains before telling dispatch he’s on his way back to the station.

“How soon can I see you?” Derek asks. He sounds desperate, and the little whine he gives suggests something illicit.

“I’m off at seven,” Stiles says and then remembers he’s in charge of coordinating Sebastian’s summer vacation child care. “Shit, I’m supposed to meet Sebastian for breakfast like usual.”

Derek smiles. “Right. The kids.”

Stiles smirks. “Getting a little ahead of ourselves, are we?”

“Maybe just a little.” Derek blushes. “Oh, um, I guess Piper will be staying home from summer school today.” He gives Stiles a grimace.

“Melissa is watching Sebastian today until 2:30. I’ll run it by him, but I’m sure he’d be stoked to invite Jack over. We can go to my place.”

***

Stiles drives back to the station with a smile on his face and a sense of hope. He finishes up the rest of his shift by doing paperwork. He’s just about done filing a two page report about the party he and Deputy Clark broke up when he sees his dad arrive for his shift. He hands him the report personally and asks to speak to him privately.

The Sheriff ushers Stiles into his office and then grabs two mugs of coffee for them from the break room. “What’s going on,” he asks his son as he passes him the fresh cup.

Stiles rolls his shoulders and taps his fingers on the report laying face down on the desk. “Everything in there is accurate, but I may have left a detail or two out.”

“What happened?” The Sheriff picks up the report and puts on his glasses to read. He scans the first page and then looks up over his bifocals, “Natalie called in suspicious activity around four in the morning--”

“--I asked her to. I got a personal call from Derek’s daughter. She was at the party, scared, stranded. She’d been drinking.”

His dad grimaces and continues reading. “She wasn’t brought in.”

“No. I took her home after everyone left,” Stiles admits. “I let dispatch know after the scene was cleared.”

The Sheriff nods his head. “Did we cite any of the minors? Anyone have to go to the hospital?”

“No. Kids were treated at the scene by paramedics for dehydration. The homeowner wasn’t home, and details are still unclear about who supplied alcohol and drugs to minors.”

The Sheriff closes the report and hands it back to Stiles. “Add at the end of your report that you took the Hale girl home and radioed dispatch.”

“That’s it?” Stiles sighs in relief. He’d been terrified his father, his boss, would rake him over the coals for acting outside protocol.

“No one is in legal trouble over the matter, and unless any of the kids’ parents talk about pressing charges, this probably won’t go any further.”

“I think all the parents are just happy their kids weren’t arrested.”

“Thank God none of them got behind a wheel,” the Sheriff says with his eyes upward. “This could have ended a whole lot differently.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Derek was thinking.”

“You talk to him yet?”

“Just briefly.” Stiles tries and fails to keep a straight face. “We’re supposed to meet up later.”

“So I take it you’re not fighting anymore.” His dad gives him a knowing look. “All right, out of my office. File your report, you’re off duty, get out of here. Melissa won’t mind if Sebastian invites his friend over,” he teases.

“Aw, thanks Dad.”

Stiles practically floats to the locker room, humming to himself while he showers and changes. He’s too happy to worry about money, so he picks up breakfast sandwiches for him and Sebastian and Malia.

Malia looks frenzied when he meets her at the door. Her hair isn’t combed, she’s got bags under her eyes, and she’s wearing one black heel and one grey heel, but she looks happy. Stiles suspects it’s Kira that’s keeping her up at night, but he doesn’t pry.

“Brought you breakfast,” he says as he tosses the bag at her.

She has quick reflexes and catches it easily. “Thanks! I’m running late, see you guys later!” she calls as she heads to her car.

Stiles gets down on his hands and knees and spots Malia’s black heel on the floor underneath the coffee table. He chases her down the driveway, waving the shoe around in the air to get her attention.

Malia rolls down her window and lets out a peal of laughter. “Thanks.” She hands him her grey heel in exchange for the black one.

When Stiles returns to the kitchen Sebastian is already eating his food with enthusiasm. Stiles, though normally starving at this hour, can barely eat half of his. He’s too keyed up thinking about seeing Derek again. There’s so much he wants to say, so much he wants to do. Just thinking about that encourages him to finish his breakfast. He’s going to need his energy.

“Hey, Dad?” Sebastian starts when they get in the car to go to school.

“What’s up, kiddo?”

“Are you and Jack’s dad still fighting?”

Stiles raises his eyebrows and wonders why Sebastian is suddenly bringing it up. He figures it’s best to just be honest. “We weren’t fighting. We just weren’t really talking for a while. But things are better now, I think.”

“Jack said he saw you at his house this morning.” Sebastian gives his dad a serious look.

“Oh, well, yeah. I was dropping Piper off. She was stranded and needed a ride home really early this morning so she called me.” Stiles wonders what exactly Jack saw, but doesn’t press.

Sebastian hums. “That’s good. I’m glad you could help out.” He turns and watches his dad carefully. “You’re the best, Dad. I love you.” Sebastian gives him a bear hug.

Stiles thinks he might burst into tears, because his son is way past the age of doling out compliments and I love yous. “Thanks, kiddo,” is about all he can muster without blubbering.

“I just really want you to be happy,” Sebastian continues.

It takes Stiles’ breath away. “I am. I love being your dad...and things are going well.”

“Can we go over there again? It’s been a long time.”

“I’m sure we will soon,” Stiles says.

“Jack has way better games, and he has a pool. Do you think it’s heated?”

Stiles laughs. “I don’t know, but I guess we can ask Derek.”

“Awesome!” Sebastian looks like he woke up on Christmas morning.

“Do you want to text Jack and invite him over here today?”

“Yes!” Sebastian does an air punch and starts texting away. “Can you take us to the arcade this afternoon?”

Stiles twists his mouth. “Don’t push your luck.”

The bell rings but Melissa lets herself into the house with her key. She’s a regular caretaker in the summer along with Stiles’ dad, and Allison. They cover the hours Sebastian would normally be in school so that Stiles can still get some sleep.

“Hey guys!” Melissa comes to collect her hug and kiss from Sebastian.

Stiles gives her a hug too and thanks her for agreeing to watch Jack.

“No problem. I’m used to having an extra boy hanging around the house.” She winks at Stiles.

Twenty minutes later Derek and Jack knock at the door. Jack looks excited to see his friend and they run off to Sebastian’s room after Stiles introduces them to Melissa. Melissa invents an excuse to head to the kitchen, which leaves the two dads hanging out in Malia’s foyer.

“So…” Stiles begins while staring at Derek like a man in a desert in need of water.

“You mentioned your place--” Derek starts.

“--Yes, let’s.” Stiles searches his pockets for his keys.

“Actually, Piper’s getting ready to leave for summer school right now.”

Stiles is impressed. “Wow. Making your hungover kid go to school as punishment is next level parenting. I should know, my dad did that to me once when I was sixteen.”

“To be honest, it was her idea. She’s taking Spanish and Señora Villalobos doesn’t give makeup quizzes without a doctor’s note.”

Stiles laughs and shakes his head. “I would not want to be in her shoes. How’s she feeling?”

Derek shrugs. “Like crap. But I think she’s more embarrassed than anything else.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. She really shouldn’t be embarrassed. You don’t even want to know the kind of stuff Scott and I used to pull in high school. You know, besides getting wasted at Lydia’s sixteenth birthday party and sneaking into the gay bar on the reg.”

Derek grins. “Maybe I buried the lead, so let me be clear. We have the place to ourselves.

Stiles laughs. “Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t want to talk about what a depraved teenager I used to be?”

Derek leans over Stiles and pulls him toward him. “Not really. But my bed is currently free, so maybe we can work up to depravity?”

Stiles just nods at Derek. He calls out to no one in particular, “See you later, guys!” He doesn’t wait for a response, he just pushes Derek out the front door and tells him he’ll meet him at his house.

Stiles makes a pitstop at his house to pick up supplies, his arsenal of meds and remedies, and a small bag with extra clothes and a tooth brush. He’s nervous about being with Derek, which he knows is normal, especially after all they have been through. The last thing he wants, however, is to be without condoms and lube or have a panic attack and not have the things he needs to calm himself down.

***

Derek answers his door wearing the same outfit as before, but this time Stiles has the presence of mind to notice it. He’s in a soft blue v-neck shirt and jeans, but he’s barefoot. He smiles and grabs Stiles’ hand to pull him inside. “You’re finally here.”

“I needed to get some things from home.” Stiles squeezes his hand tentatively.

“Are you exhausted?” Derek asks with concern.

“No more than usual.” He lets Derek guide him to the cushy sofa in the family room and he plops down on it. Stiles scratches the back of his neck and notes for the fifth time in as many weeks that his hair is no longer outgrown, it’s just long. He runs his fingers through his hair to get it out of his face. When he looks over at Derek he catches him watching him intently. “Are you okay?” Stiles asks.

“I’m just thinking about everything I want to tell you. I’m not really sure where or how to begin.” Derek turns toward Stiles on the couch.

“How about we start with what happened the day you came over and you--”

“--freaked out and ended things?” Derek says.

“Yeah.”

Derek clears his throat. “Well, that weekend, after the game I went to pick Piper up. I told her we were having lunch with you guys and she started saying things I wasn’t prepared to hear, asking questions I wasn’t ready to answer.” He quirks his mouth. “She asked me if we were dating and I said we weren’t.”

“We weren’t. That’s true,” Stiles notes.

“She said she didn’t believe me. Piper said it was obvious we had feelings for each other.” Derek blushes.

“I don’t think either of us were exactly subtle.” Stiles reaches out and holds Derek’s hand again. It’s not a bold move, but it still feels significant.

“She said it was humiliating having her dad chasing after a guy half his age.” Derek looks down at their linked hands. “I told her over and over that we weren’t dating, that we were just friends. I may have even lied and said we were only friends because you were helping with Jack.” Derek shakes his head. “I’m so sorry. God, I was such an asshole.”

The truth stings, but Stiles is glad Derek isn’t sugarcoating anything.

“I asked her what I needed to do to prove to her I wasn’t lying. She made me promise nothing would ever happen between us. I felt trapped. I knew I had feelings for you, but I wasn’t ready to admit that to my kid.” Derek takes a deep breath. “I was so…mad. I wasn’t mad at Piper. I was mad at you. I was mad at myself. I was so mad that I had revealed something without meaning to, before I was ready to, and she caught me.” Derek’s voice catches, like he’s holding back tears. “So I was mean to you. Cruel, even. I made a point to pay you for helping with Jack. I used money to draw a line between us. And weirdly, it made me feel better about ending things. Like somehow it absolved me.”

“It made me feel small when you did that,” Stiles admits. “I’ve always been aware that you have money, but you never made me feel less than you because of it.”

“I’m so sorry, Stiles. I just hope you’ll let me work to earn your trust again.” He squeezes Stiles’ hand. “You are not less of a person, in any way. I never thought that.”

Stiles appreciates that Derek isn’t trying to make light of the situation. Derek looks up at Stiles and he can see the earnestness in Derek’s eyes.

“I told you I have this problem…” he swallows as if to steel himself, “of needing approval. But I don’t need my teenage daughter’s permission to date or for her to approve of the person I’ve fallen for. I know that now.”

Stiles grins. “You sound pretty sure of yourself.”

“I am. It took me a long time to make peace with it. I...I’m not quite straight.” Derek shakes his head and smiles. “I’m bisexual. Or queer, as the kids say.” He laughs at himself.

Stiles can’t hold back his laugh either. He lets out a giggle and then climbs on top of Derek’s lap to give him a hug. Derek just holds on to him and smiles, looking content and hopeful.

“Hey, Derek, you know it’s okay to want approval, right?” Stiles raises his eyebrows. “But you can’t stop living your life when you don’t get it.”

“I know. And she does. Piper’s okay with us being together, she told me. And Jack is--”

“--I think he’ll be okay with us,” Stiles interrupts.

“Why, what do you know?”

“I know he misses my cooking, at least.” Stiles grins. “I overheard him and Sebastian talking about our fight. Jack seemed pretty down about it. My kid was completely oblivious to it and was ready to trick me into making apology brownies.” Stiles still suspects Jack saw him and his dad kissing this morning, but he won’t alarm Derek unnecessarily. "Jack is keenly observant."

“Still waters run deep, I guess,” Derek says fondly.

“I wonder who he gets that from,” Stiles teases.

Derek loosens his grip on Stiles and lets his hands drift toward his ass. Stiles can’t help it, he rolls his hips a little. Derek lets out a moan.

“You feel amazing, but I was just thinking that maybe this room feels a little, I don’t know, exposed.” Derek looks around at the giant windows with the beautiful sunlight pouring in.

Stiles gets it--Derek may be excited to get intimate with Stiles, but this is his family room. There’s Jack’s sweatshirt on the back of a chair and Piper’s sheet music strewn on the coffee table. It doesn’t do much to improve the mood.

“Do you want to go somewhere more private?” Stiles suggests.

Derek grins and stands and pulls Stiles with him. They playfully race toward Derek’s bedroom, but when they get there the mood shifts from silly to serious again. Derek encourages Stiles to lay down on the bed and then he lays down next to him. Derek wraps his arms around Stiles and places gentle kisses on his cheek and neck, nuzzling at the soft hair on his nape. It sends chills down Stiles’ back.

“This is nice,” Stiles says through an exhale.

“I missed this,” Derek admits.

Stiles thinks about how he and Derek have never been able to share this kind of simple intimacy. They met, they hooked up, and then they were just friends. They’ve really come about their relationship kind of backwards. And Stiles has never really been in the kind of relationship where he could laze around. He never even knew what he was missing, but Derek does. Derek’s been married, and Stiles doesn’t feel threatened by that, but he does resent that they’ve had to wait this long to do something as innocent as cuddling. “I know what you mean.”

They spend the next hour just holding each other and kissing, touching, and exploring each other’s bodies with clothes on. Derek is obsessed with the trail of hair on Stiles’ stomach, and the moles on his neck. Stiles can’t get enough of the way Derek smells, and the sharp angles of his face covered by his thick beard. Whenever Stiles gets too worked up, he pulls back and takes a deep breath.

After the third time of Stiles slowing things down, Derek speaks up. “Why do you keep stopping?”

Stiles shrugs and blushes. “I don’t know.”

“I invited you into my bed, didn’t I?”

“You did. Bold move, by the way.”

“Well, don’t you want to have sex with me?” Derek asks. He almost sounds hurt.

“Of course I do. Fuck, I just…” Stiles grabs Derek’s hand and leads it to his crotch. “I’m so hard for you. But don’t you think we should, I don’t know, take it slow, keep talking?”

Derek shakes his head petulantly. “No. There’ll be plenty of time for talking later. Right now I just want you.”

Stiles is relieved that Derek’s not putting on the breaks anymore. He moves swiftly and pins Derek to the bed. “I want you too.” He leans down for a slow, torturous kiss. He rolls his hips against Derek’s and swallows his moan. He does it two more times until Derek keens. “What do you want?” Stiles whispers against Derek’s lips.

“I want,” Derek pants, “I want...” he’s too out of breath to finish his reply. “I want you to fuck me.”

Stiles lets out a low growl. “How do you want me to fuck you, Derek?”

Derek can’t seem to answer, or doesn’t know how, so he tries to communicate with his lips and his hips thrusting. Stiles thinks about taking his time with Derek, making the kind of sweet love meant for couples in books and movies, but he decides that might be better for when they know each other better, when Stiles knows exactly what Derek likes. Instead, he wants to let his passion inspire him. Ever since they met they’ve been fueled by raw attraction to each other. Stiles is completely turned on by how Derek looks, and vice versa. They met at the gym, for fuck’s sake. Stiles proceeds to tell Derek in filthy detail what he wants to do to his ass with his tongue and fingers. Derek moans like he can hardly wait, and Stiles hasn’t even put a hand on his dick yet.

“I want you, I want you so bad,” Derek says between kisses. “I’ve been thinking about you, dreaming about you. I wake up hard, harder than I ever was as a teenager even. You do that to me, Stiles.” Derek grabs Stiles hand and puts it on the bulge of his pants.

Stiles feels through Derek’s jeans how hard he is, how he’s straining against the fabric. “Fuck. Take your jeans off.”

Derek shimmies underneath Stiles and unzips his pants, revealing that he’s gone commando.

“Fuck,” Stiles hisses. He yanks Derek’s jeans off and grabs hold of Derek’s cock, pumping it a few times until a bead of precome leaks out of the tip.

“I ran out of clean underwear,” Derek admits.

Stiles laughs, but doesn’t let go of Derek’s dick. “And here I thought you were the mature grown up who has it all together.”

“I’m a mess,” Derek says as he arches his back and thrusts up against Stiles, “haven’t you figured that out yet?”

“We’ll get you sorted out. Don’t worry.” Stiles rubs the precome down Derek’s shaft until he elicits a throaty moan. “I’m talking chore charts, responsibility wheels, the works,” Stiles teases.

“Take my shirt off,” Derek directs Stiles by sitting up so he can grab his shirt by the hem.

“Fuck, you’re hairy,” Stiles blurts out.

Derek looks embarrassed. “I’m sorry--”

“--Don’t apologize, I fucking love it.” Stiles leans down and starts attacking Derek’s chest with with his mouth. He circles a nipple with his tongue and runs his hands through the silky, dark hair that covers his chest.

Derek hisses. “Last time you saw me I was shaved.”

“Which do you prefer?” Stiles likes Derek’s manly chest hair, but he doesn’t mind a slip and slide either. Derek blushes and it reaches the middle of his chest. Stiles looks up at him. “Whatever you like is okay by me.”

Derek shrugs. “I used to shave and wax. Believe it or not, I was a lot more vain when I was younger. But ever since the divorce, I’ve really let myself go.” He strokes his beard, now long and luxurious.

Stiles snorts and runs his hands down Derek’s six pack to play with his gorgeous trail of hair below his navel. “Oh, yes, you’ve really let yourself go.” He dips his head down and nestles his face into it, his mouth watering from being in such close proximity to Derek’s cock.

Derek sighs like he’s in ecstasy. “I shaved right before we hooked up. I wasn’t sure what you’d like, but I thought shaving might make me feel less insecure.”

“Derek, honestly, however you want to be is how I want you to be. I think you are so sexy either way, and I can’t believe I get to be with you. I can’t imagine you’ve ever felt insecure around me.” Stiles smiles up at Derek like he hung the moon.

“Really? You really feel that way?”

“I really do. You’re amazing, Derek.”

Derek hauls Stiles back up his naked body and settles him between his legs. “I feel the same way. I look at you and can’t believe how lucky I am. You’re such a good dad, and a good friend, so caring, so giving, and just... I feel stupid saying this, but you’re so hot. I’m forty-five years old and I can’t believe I have a hot boyfriend.”

Stiles can’t help it, but he giggles. Apparently, Derek already decided they’re together. “So what you’re saying is, things are really looking up for you.”

“Way up.” Derek grinds his cock against Stiles looking for relief.

Stiles leans down for another scorching kiss. He slides his tongue into Derek’s mouth, mimicking what he wants to do to his ass. When Derek starts to mewl, Stiles decides he can’t wait another minute to be inside Derek. “Turn around,” he commands gently.

Derek visibly shivers but does as he’s told. “I have supplies,” he says quietly.

“Where?”

“Bathroom. The upper cabinet, toward the back.”

Stiles gets off the bed and goes to the attached master bath. He opens the upper cabinet and sees a nondescript toiletry bag toward the back. He picks it up to inspect it and finds lubricant and condoms. When Stiles returns to the bed, he straddles Derek’s legs and he grinds himself against the mattress with anticipation. Stiles massages his lower back with his hands until he reaches Derek’s ass. Derek’s body is muscular and powerful, his skin an even golden tan, with the exception of his ass cheeks which are several shades lighter. Stiles imagines Derek sunbathing in a tiny Speedo and it turns him on so much he ruts against Derek’s thighs.

“Is your pool heated?”

“Yeah, why.”

“We should go skinny dipping. We can work on these tan lines. You’ll look amazing, of course, but I’m a lost cause though, I’m pale all over. You’ll need to slather me in sunblock.”

“Sounds like fun. I’ll have to get a gate so no one joins the party unexpectedly.”

Stiles starts kissing Derek’s lower back, working up his nerve. “Derek, just so we’re totally clear on this consent thing, I want to eat you out, I want to stretch you out with my fingers, and then I want to watch you come while I fuck you tenderly into the mattress.”

Derek just sucks in a shaky breath.

“Is that okay with you?”

“Stiles,” he sounds pained. “I would love nothing more. I’ve--” Derek cuts off the moment Stiles spreads his cheeks and starts using his tongue to open him up.

Stiles takes his time and lets Derek get used to the sensation of his mouth on him. Derek relaxes and combined with Stiles saliva, each pass with his tongue makes his hole a little looser. It’s been a really long time for Stiles--he honestly can’t remember the last time he did this or someone did this too him. It’s a little bit taboo and it makes him feel drunk with power. Fucking Derek with his tongue also turns him on beyond anything he’s ever experienced. Stiles’ dick actually starts to hurt from straining against his pants.

Derek seems to go to another place while Stiles eats him out. At first he lets out these little breathy moans, and after a while he starts to curse and begs for Stiles to add a finger.

“Do you touch yourself here, Derek?” Stiles asks while he comes up for air. He replaces his tongue with his index finger and then his middle finger and starts to scissor them. “How many fingers have you worked into yourself?”

Derek mumbles something incoherently that sounds like three. Stiles returns to licking and sucking Derek’s asshole and gently working him open. After a while Derek grows impatient of that too, so he adds a third finger.

Derek hisses.

“Are you okay? Is this alright?” he asks out of concern.

Derek pushes back against Stiles’ fingers and groans. He moves his hips against the mattress for relief. “It the best kind of burn,” he finally says.

“Not fair,” Stiles complains and tries to adjust himself. “I still have my pants on.”

“I’d offer to lend you a hand,” Derek quips, but his left hand is gripping a pillow and his right is stroking his cock back to full hardness.

Stiles pulls his fingers out momentarily so he can take off his clothes and has Derek go up on his knees a bit and spread his legs. Stiles drapes himself over Derek’s muscular back and kisses his neck until Derek turns his head enough so they can kiss properly. It’s awkward at that angle, but neither of them care. Stiles breaks the kiss to get back to working Derek open. He takes a scoop of the thick lube and coats his fingers. He starts again with one and works back up to two, and finally three. Derek is relaxed and ready, but Stiles isn’t in a hurry. He imagines making Derek come untouched when he starts to get impatient.

“I’m ready. That’s enough,” Derek insists.

Stiles’ cock is aching and he’s more than ready too, but he was waiting for Derek. He pulls his fingers out and strokes his own dick a few times before reaching over for a condom.

“Roll over and scoot up a bit,” Stiles instructs Derek. Derek lays back against the pillows, tucks one underneath his hips and bends his knees. When he’s ready, Derek looks up and watches Stiles intently as he unwraps the condom and rolls it onto himself. He uses more lube for the condom and then positions himself between Derek’s legs. Stiles leans in for another kiss, and just lets his cock tease Derek between his thighs, up to his abdomen, in the jut of his hip bone. Derek rolls his hips against him and whimpers.

“I could come just like this,” Stiles says against Derek’s ear and starts to rut between his thighs.

“Don’t you dare.” Derek sounds deadly serious.

Stiles laughs playfully. “Not today.”

Derek arches his back and it increases the friction.

“Fuck,” Stiles hisses.

“That’s the idea.”

“I had no idea you were so witty in bed, Derek.”

Stiles stops stalling and slides his cock between Derek’s ass cheeks and teases at the ring of muscle. He watches Derek’s eyelashes flutter against his perfect cheekbones and then he pushes just the tip of his cock inside. Derek exhales and opens his eyes.

Stiles waits a beat and feels his cockhead throb inside of Derek. “Are you okay?” The pulse makes Derek’s eyes flutter closed again.

“I’m fine, I’m only dying here.”

Stiles pushes all the way until he bottoms out. He grunts like he too is mortally wounded. “You’re so tight,” he says between panting.

Derek hitches his knees up a little higher and swats Stiles playfully on the ass. Stiles takes it as encouragement and starts pumping his hips. His pace is slow, taking his time to fuck Derek, dragging his cock almost all the way out and then pushing back inside. Neither of them seem to be able to take it--Derek arches his back and Stiles is sweating profusely and his muscles are shaking. He increases his pace and lets his technique get sloppy. He’s just snapping his hips and trying to make it last for Derek as long as he can. Derek’s cock is now fully erect again after flagging a bit at the beginning, and he’s desperately trying to touch himself. Stiles selfishly wants to make Derek come on his cock alone and bats at his hand. Stiles fucks Derek harder and faster and uses one hand to play with Derek’s nipples. He cries out in frustration, and Stiles feels a little triumphant. He leans down and kisses the right nipple, drags his tongue through his luscious chest hair, and pinches the left nipple.

“Fuck,” Derek says while thrusting his hips up to meet Stiles’.

Stiles pulls back from the right nipple and switches to the left. Instead of pinching the other he snakes his hand down between them and touches Derek where he’s being stretched open by Stiles’ dick. Stiles catches Derek off guard with the addition of his finger, and it’s enough to push Derek over the edge. Derek’s orgasm is strong and makes him shout obscenities. His come is warm and sticky between them. Stiles can’t actually hear what Derek’s saying because he’s so focused on making every stroke count, but then he realizes Derek is begging for Stiles to come. He takes one last breath and fucks Derek with a final thrust, and then he feels like his whole body is exploding--everything is stars, heat, and white light.

Stiles must have passed out for a second, because when he stirs he finds Derek with his eyes closed. Stiles carefully holds onto the base of the condom and pulls out. He pads softly to the bathroom and cleans himself up and returns with a warm washcloth for Derek. Normally after a hook up, Stiles wouldn’t stick around, but now he can’t wait to get back in bed with Derek for the post-coital cuddling. When he returns he notices Derek’s wet cheeks, like he’s been crying, and that alarms Stiles.

“Are you okay, Derek? Did I hurt you?” Stiles runs a hand through Derek’s mostly jet black hair.

Derek opens his eyes and he just looks peaceful. “No, you were amazing.”

“Is it what you expected sex between two men to be like?” Stiles asks as he carefully wipes come off of Derek’s stomach.

“Sex between you and me is better than anything I could have ever imagined.” Derek pulls Stiles hand up to his lips and kisses his knuckles.

Stiles kisses Derek on the mouth and Derek doesn’t seem to mind tasting himself. Stiles wants to be in the sort of relationship where he doesn’t have to hold anything back, and he hopes that maybe this can be their thing. After everything he’s gone through with Derek, he thinks Derek might be just the man for him.

“Can I tell you I love you again?” Stiles heart skips a beat. It’s ridiculous.

Derek nods.

“I love you. I really do.”

“Me too. I didn’t think it would be this easy to do or say, but it is. I love you, and I want to be with you,” Derek says while climbing on top of Stiles, and then starts kissing him.

They stay wrapped up in each other for the next hour, kissing, talking, and dreaming about their future until Derek’s stomach interrupts them with a growl.

“I didn’t have breakfast this morning. I was too nervous,” he admits.

Stiles yawns. “Why don’t you fix yourself something. I’m just…” he trails off, too exhausted to string a full sentence together.

“You’re going to fall asleep, aren’t you?” Derek tucks Stiles’ shaggy hair behind his ears and looks at him lovingly.

“I’m so sorry,” he admits sheepishly, “but my brain is about to shut down.” It’s past Stiles’ bedtime.

Derek grins. “You rest, I’ll go find food and then come back to bed with you and keep you company.”

Stiles pulls the covers up around him and burrows into the pillows. He feels contented and hopeful, like Derek is the future he never had the courage to dream of before.


Epilogue

two weeks later

“You should move in,” Derek announces as they pull back the covers to his plush duvet.

“What?” Stiles can feel himself start to blush from head to toe. He feels singularly special that Derek wants to cohabitate after making things official just two weeks before. Stiles also feels a familiar fight brewing inside him to assert his independence, to declare he doesn’t need a man to take care of him.

“I want to see you more, and you’re so busy. If you lived here, I could see you more during the day. Braeden’s transfer finally came through, so the kids will be with her part time. And when school starts back up, we’ll have even more time alone.”

Derek’s explanation makes sense, but he’s forgetting Stiles’ sleep schedule. “And I’d sleep when?”

Derek guffaws. “I promise we won’t have marathon sex every day if you move in.”

“And if I don’t move in?” Stiles teases.

“Well, I can’t promise I won’t want to have you every second we have together by ourselves.”

Stiles grins. Derek’s eagerness to get and keep Stiles in his bed every minute he can is endearing. They have stolen hours when Stiles should be sleeping and when they can get the kids out of the house, but it never feels like they have enough time together.

Stiles lets himself collapse into Derek’s expensive mattress. “How would that work. If I moved in?”

“This would be your home, our home, with us and the kids. I mean, you and Sebastian are here a lot already, this would just make it more official.”

Stiles considers this as he watches Derek undress for the night. They had gone out to dinner on an actual date, alone, without their kids. Derek dressed in a crisp button down shirt, jeans that show off his powerful thighs and ass, and leather loafers. Stiles feels like he might be drooling as he watches Derek strip. It’s not like he’s putting on a show, but Stiles likes that he can do that now--watch Derek unabashedly. Stiles doesn’t know how it’s possible, but Derek’s bare ankles in loafers are doing things to him. He’s the most gorgeous man Stiles has ever laid eyes on, and he can’t believe he gets to be with him. Sometimes Stiles has to pinch himself. Stiles doesn’t need a man to take care of him, but he thinks maybe it’s okay if Derek wants to and Stiles lets him.

“At least consider it.” Derek slides into bed naked and pulls Stiles toward him to spoon.

Stiles likes the feeling of Derek’s thick cock nestled against his ass. He wriggles back against him until Derek starts mouthing at his neck and ear. They are both too tired to have sex again, but it doesn’t mean they can’t mess around before they pass out at nine on a Saturday night.

Stiles thinks about what it would be like if he moved in with Derek, what it would be like to see him more than a couple hours a day. They’re in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. Every touch feels incredible, and ever minute apart feels excruciating. Stiles knows that eventually it will wear off and life will go back to normal, or at least a new normal. He worries his bottom lip and tries to imagine a future where their relationship isn’t fresh and exciting, and it terrifies him. He reacts bodily with a shiver. Derek holds Stiles tighter and tickles the back of his neck with his beard. It comforts him and brings him back to the present.

It’s like Derek can read his mind when he says, “I’ll never get sick of you. Don’t even think it.”

Stiles sighs with relief. He doesn’t want to voice every concern he has about the arrangement, he just wants to enjoy their first whole, uninterrupted weekend together.

“Sebastian would be stoked if we moved in. He is obsessed with your house.”

“Jack would be excited, too.”

“And Piper?” Stiles asks skeptically.

“She came around about you.” Derek sounds wistful, probably remembering the night Piper called Stiles for help. “I’m sure she’d be fine with it. And the more you’re over, the more driving lessons you’ll give her.”

Stiles hems. “I guess you’re right. I am her favorite now that she has her learner's permit and I’m teaching her to drive because you’re too chicken.”

Derek barks out a laugh. “You’re very good at winning people over.” Derek kisses Stiles’ neck, teases him with his tongue, and bites him gently. “Cora likes you, and she hates everyone.”

“Laura hasn’t warmed up to me,” Stiles mumbles.

Yet,” Derek says. “She says she supports me, and I have to believe her, I want to. She’ll come around soon enough and then you’ll both be conspiring against me.” Derek grins against his neck.

Stiles appreciates Derek’s confidence in his ability to charm Laura. But there are other concerns that Stiles wants to address. Stiles wants to complain that he doesn’t like the financial implications of moving in with his significantly older and richer boyfriend, but he’s trying not to care what other people think. It only matters what Derek thinks, and Derek thinks Stiles moving in is a great idea. But in the spirit of honest communication, he has to let Derek know what he’s feeling.

“I want to say yes. So badly. Because I want you. I want you to be the last person I see before I close my eyes, and the first person I see when I wake up. But...but I worry that I’m not going to feel like we’re equals. This is your house, and I don’t want to feel like a guest in it.”

Derek squeezes Stiles tightly and then turns him over so he can look into his eyes. “And I would never want that either. If you moved in, if, this would be our house. You fixed the French door last week. You arranged everything in the pantry. You taught me how to program the security gate you had installed, so--”

Stiles snickers. “--So we could go skinny dipping in privacy.”

“I had been meaning to get around to it,” Derek insists. “This house is just a pile of sticks without you.”

“A very nice, expensive pile of sticks--”

“--Sticks, nonetheless. You, Stiles, you are what has made this house feel like a home. And not just for me, for my kids. From the very first time you came over, you’ve been taking care of us, loving us, and I almost ruined everything between us by not being honest with you. And I’m honestly telling you that I love you and I want to spend my time building a life with you. I know you worry about our age difference and money, but I don’t. You’re the least material person I know, and I want to share what I have with you. What worries me is that I’m forty-five years old and I just found you. I want to spend forever with you and I want forever to start right now. I don’t want to put anything on hold or take things slow or be cautious,” Derek says passionately without pausing for a breath. “And I understand that maybe you’re not there yet--”

“--Derek,” Stiles tries to cut in.

“And maybe I need to learn patience--”

“--Derek.”

“What?” Derek realizes Stiles wants a turn to speak.

Stiles has a lot of doubts, but none of them have to do with Derek. Stiles believes everything Derek is telling him, it’s just a matter of quieting the doubts in his head. “I’ll move in.”

“What? Yes, you’ll move in?”

“Yes. I want our forever to start now too, and I don’t want my pride to get in the way of that. If you don’t care that I’m a broke twenty-nine year old, than who am I to insist that it matters and let it get in the way of our happiness?”

Derek doesn’t respond with words, but he does put his mouth to better use. Derek dives in for a kiss and they make out until Stiles’ lips hurt.

“I’m so glad you bailed on the Napa trip,” Derek says as he settles in for the night, head resting on Stiles’ chest.

Stiles closes his eyes and smiles. He had considered inviting Derek on his trip with his friends, but found he wasn’t in the mood to share Derek just yet. There will be plenty of time in the future for Stiles to introduce Derek to his friends, but right now they need the space to figure out their relationship and their future.

“I’m glad my dad took Jack and Sebastian camping this weekend.”

“Your dad is a saint.”

Stiles pulls Derek’s hand to his lips and kisses it. “Did you hear from Piper?”

Derek hums. “She rode BART to the city and her mom picked her up from the station.”

“I’m glad they made up and that you convinced them to do a girls’ weekend.” Stiles smiles to himself.

“It couldn’t have been easy,” Derek sympathizes. “When Piper visited her in New York she just wanted her mom to be on her side. I’m sure she didn’t expect her mom to tell her to be happy her dad was moving on.”

“Nothing is easy when you’re a teenager. Everything is fraught,” Stiles reflects on his own teenage years. “What were you like when you were sixteen? Were you always this smokin’ hot?” Stiles plays with Derek’s beard. Stiles loves the way it feels against his skin, especially when Derek’s buried between Stiles’ legs.

Derek snorts. “No. Braces and a perpetual five o’clock shadow don’t mix.”

“So hot.” Stiles palms himself over the sheet. “I definitely would have been into it.”

Derek guffaws. “What about you?”

“Shaved head, gawky, a total punk ass. I was a nightmare.”

“Do you think we would have been friends?” Derek wonders.

Stiles considers it and stops himself from making a comment about their age difference, how Derek was a grown man while Stiles was just a kid. It doesn’t matter now, age is just a number. What matters between them is life experience, because that’s where they complement each other, that’s why they work so well together.

“No, I don’t think so,” Stiles says. “I think we would have been more than friends, because I can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t have fallen for you completely.”