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Logically, Derek knew that he could and, in fact, should use the door.

He knew this because the Sheriff had very deliberately taken him aside, shortly after the new year, and explained to him that he would prefer it if Derek used the front door, and handed him a key.

He didn’t…he didn’t entirely understand why the Sheriff had felt the need to give him a key, but he also didn’t know how to express his confusion without also offending the older man. So Derek took the key, nodded with his brows drawn tight over his eyes, and said nothing. John had also nodded, but with a far more pleased expression than Derek knew how to translate, and patted him on the back.

The gesture reminded Derek of pre-fire Peter, and he had to take a minute in the bathroom to remember that that man didn’t really exist anymore.

But Derek knew that using the door was probably the wiser decision. But logic ceased to exist when the scent of Stiles’ distress had permeated the entire loft, mixed with enough of Peter’s scent that Derek knew they’d both been there at the same time.

Derek knew that Peter was never safe to be around. It was why he didn’t let Peter be alone with any of the pack, especially the breakable ones.

Stiles, in particular.

So Stiles-scent and Distressed Stiles scent and Peter scent made for a less-than-logical Derek when he got home. He linger in the doorway just long enough to catch and register the scents, and immediately began following the Distressed Stiles scent.

It led him to the Stilinski house.

He knew he should use the door, but knowing didn’t stop him from leaping to the roof and edging towards the window he knew belonged to Stiles’ bedroom. Besides. The Sheriff wasn’t home.

He’d never know.

Derek lifted the window open, and slid inside. Stiles, sprawled on his back on his bed, didn’t move.

His eyes were open, his heartbeat was actually pretty steady, so Derek knew he wasn’t dead or physically harmed. Okay, that pretty well ruled out any issues with Peter? Maybe?

“Stiles?”

“Hey, Derek,” the human replied, still not moving. He continued to stare at the ceiling. Getting a little closer, Derek could see that his eyes were a little wider than normal, his fists were clenched, and his hair looked like he’d been gripping it in his hands a lot.

Okay, so emotional distress.

Of course.

The exact flavor of distress that Derek was the least capable of dealing with.

“What’s wrong?” Derek knew the second the words came out of his mouth that they were wrong-wrong-wrong but they were out! He couldn’t take them back. He winced as Stiles’ eyes swung to him. Yep, he should’ve kept his mouth shut.

“What’s wrong? Oh, nothing much, I’ve just thrown away my future and I figured out why and it’s so dumb and of course, you know, whenever Stiles does something dumb, Derek has to be within a 100 yard radius so he can be witness to my death by mortification,” Stiles rambled, gesturing vaguely at Derek. He sat up, fingers immediately in his hair, tugging at it like it was personally responsible for all of his problems.

As Stiles began to pace the length of his room, Derek took the desk chair and sat down, opting to mimic what he hoped was an expression of Active Listening and Concern. He was pretty sure he was nailing it.

Which definitely meant that it was awful.

“Why didn’t I just send it in? Even after I figured out — which, still baffled by the fact that it was Peter that got me actually thinking about, of all people — I still could’ve sent it in. I had hours to send it in. But no. No, no, I sat outside the post office for an hour until they closed and my opportunity was gone, because of —”

He snapped his mouth shut.

Derek didn’t intend for his eyebrows to shoot up, but sometimes the fuzzy bastards had a life of their own.

“I still don’t understand what’s going,” Derek admitted slowly.

If there was one thing Derek knew about Stiles, it was that the guy was a terrible liar and wore every emotion on his face for all the world to see. As someone who had a really shitty history with people lying to him, Derek appreciated that about Stiles. Over the years, he’d come to rely on it. Because goddamn it, even if everyone else lied to him, he could count on Stiles to communicate his every honest opinion without hesitation, no matter how unpleasant the results might be.

So when Stiles answered him by carefully constructing a blank face, a smile faker than plastic fruit, and a jaunty little “Never mind! It’s fine. I’m all good. You wanna play Call of Duty? Come on, I’ll let you have the wireless controller,” Derek’s heart dropped to the floor and he flinched away.

Stiles’ voice faded mid-sentence, shoulders slumping and he sat back on the bed with a heavy sigh.

“Sorry,” he said.

Derek didn’t respond. He stared at his hands. Part of him wondered that Stiles seemed to have caught on so quickly, and had immediately dropped the act, while the rest of him wanted desperately to know what he had done to make Stiles even try to act fine when he so clearly wasn’t. He…he’d thought that, over the years, Stiles had come to trust him, too.

“Derek, I’m sorry.”

Maybe he’d been wrong. He’d been wrong before. Kate…Jennifer…hell, even Scott had gotten around him with Gerard. That one would probably always sting a little, if only because Scott was a genuinely good person that had believed Derek was the bad guy.

Sometimes, Derek agreed with him.

“Derek, please look at me.”

He looked up. Stiles started to reach out, but hesitated just shy of making contact before he seemed to steel himself and his hand slid over Derek’s.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…I’m sorry.”

Derek nodded, but Stiles shook his head.

“Talking is hard, dude. I know, of all people, I should be the last one who has issues with talking, but I…”

“If you don’t want to talk, Stiles,” Derek interrupted, “you don’t have to. Not talking is okay. Lying just so you don’t have to ask for space isn’t. I may be the Alpha but that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to every thought in your head. I’m sorry if I made you think I expected that. You can always tell me that you don’t want to talk. If that changes, that’s fine, too.”

Stiles’ head tilted, a tiny, genuine smile quirking his lips. “I think that was the most non-gym related words I’ve ever heard you say in one go.”

Derek flushed, but he frowned and continued despite the teasing. “Laura never made me talk.”

His smile faded, but he almost seemed to perk up at the rare mention of Laura.

“She made me go to therapy, hoping it would help, and they tried to make me talk. The more they pushed, the further into silence I retreated. After a year of no progress, Laura put a stop to it. After my last session, she sat me down and she said, ‘Derek, if you never want to open your mouth again, I will be the last person to argue with you. It’s okay to find comfort in the silence.’ It was the best thing she ever did for me, and my sister did a lot for me.”

Derek took a deep breath. He hadn’t talked about Laura in so long…thinking about her, he could almost smell the soft lavender and rosemary lotion she used. On instinct, he took a deep breath but got only the sawdust and mint bubblegum of Stiles. Grief stung on the exhale.

“You never have to explain the need for silence, Stiles. But please…” He licked his lips. “Please never lie to me like that again.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. “It won’t happen again.”

Derek nodded. “Okay.”

Stiles smiled crooked, amber eyes crinkling at the corners. “I’ve decided I want to talk.”

Derek blinked. “Oh. Well, okay. What’s going on?”

Abruptly, the human stood, body almost vibrating with manic energy. In fits and starts, he told Derek about school, his absolute inability to make himself send his acceptance out, and the weirdly appropriate advice from Peter.

“Seriously, I don’t know what you guys talk about your ‘private walks’,” Stiles said on a verbal detour, air-quoting the words, “but keep it up. He’s damn near tricking me into thinking he could be a non-murdery member of society someday.”

Derek huffed on a smile, ducking his head. “Maybe someday.”

“But anyway, he actually got me thinking,” Stiles continued. “And look, I don’t claim to be the smartest person in Beacon Hills—”

Derek cocked a brow.

“Okay, I don’t claim it when Lydia’s around, shut up. Anyway…” Stiles frowned, and turned on his heel, pacing away from Derek again. “My first thought was that I just wanted to stay for my dad. That made sense, but it didn’t really fit. That wasn’t it. I sat outside that freaking post office until right after it closed, trying to figure it out. Scott’s leaving, Lydia’s already gone. Aside from my dad, what else was there, I asked myself.”

For a heartbeat, Derek was glad Stiles was facing the other direction so the younger man couldn’t see the flinch he couldn’t suppress. Rubbing at the pang in the spot right above his heart, he schooled his face into a serene, listening expression as Stiles turned back around.

“And then I had this thought, and that thought led to another one— y’know, as thoughts tend to do — and it wasn’t exactly a hallelujah moment, so much as a well fuck me moment.”

Derek managed to just nod, and not take that as a request for volunteers.

Stiles had stopped pacing, staring at Derek with an expectant face. “Aren’t you going to ask what the thought was?”

“Uh.”

“I thought, ‘I wish Derek were here,’” Stiles blurted, before the Derek in question could articulate a response. “And that thought led to a lot of thoughts about you. And then I felt really, really dumb because holy shit how did I not realize that I had fallen head over fucking heels in love —”

Derek choked.

“— with the grumpiest grump to ever grump? And I sat there at the post office, and I maybe had a panic attack because oh my fuck loving you is such a bad idea —”

Derek stiffened. “Sorry, what?”

“— because honestly that is just asking to get my heart broken, but I’m kind of already there. Too damn late. Heart already invested. So I left the post office and I managed to get home. I laid down, and I stared at the ceiling, and I maybe was having a serious crisis about this entire situation. And what happens? Derek Fuck Me In Particular Hale comes through my window —”

Stiles stopped talking. Stiles stopped talking because there was a hand over his mouth. Stiles stopped talking because Derek really needed him to repeat himself.

“Pause,” Derek whispered, resting his forehead against Stiles’. “Rewind.”

Stiles nodded, eyes wide on the Alpha. Derek slowly (very slowly) lowered his hand.

“Which part am I repeating?” Stiles asked quietly.

“The really good part.”

“Uh.”

“Stiles.”

“The part where I said I was in love with you?”

The quiet rumble-whimper sound that Derek made would haunt him for the rest of his life, but words failed him and all he could do was try to get as close to Stiles as he could and surround himself in the scent of bubblegum and sawdust and Stiles.

Nothing had ever smelled so good as Stiles in his arms.

Stiles wrapped his arms around the taller man’s neck, shifting to rub his cheek against the wolf’s stubble.

“I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that the feeling is at least a little bit mutual?”

Wordless, Derek nodded.

“Can I kiss you now?” Stiles whispered.

“Yes,” the word was more growl than speech, but neither of them cared. Stiles’ followed the line of Derek’s cheekbone to the sharp edge of his jaw and pressed a soft kiss to the prickly skin. He wanted to linger but Derek didn’t give him a chance as he ducked and captured the human’s lips with his.

Hours later, curled up, fully clothed on Stiles’ bed, Derek snorted into the silent darkness.

“What?”

“Erica is gonna be so freaking smug about this.”

“We’ll name our first kid after her.”

“Lydia will literally kill us.”

“…that’s a fair point.”

 

~*~*~

 

“That’s not how you park a car,” John sighed, standing in his own driveway, staring at the black Camaro. Shaking his head, he walked up the steps to the front door and reached to open it. He expected it to be unlocked.

It was not.

He expected Derek to use the front door.

He pretty clearly had not.

“I gave him a key for a reason,” John grumbled, pulling out his own.

~*~*~

A Year Later

Stiles found it when they moved the desk. It was the last piece of furniture to leave his childhood bedroom, and the package, wrapping paper obscured by layers of dust, had been under it.

“Oh, hey!” Stiles waved it at Derek. “I forgot about this.”

“What is it?”

“It’s that Christmas present for you the year you got me the bat. I remember, I found it under your couch earlier in the year and brought it home. I meant to give it to you but … well. I forgot.”

Derek just shook his head and held out his hand. “Gimme.”

Stiles grinned, an evil expression as he handed it over. Folding his arms over his chest, he watched his boyfriend, soon-to-be live-in, open the gift.

The slate blue tank top unfolded, and Derek stared at it.

Stiles bit his bottom lip, snickers squeaking out.

“Stiles.”

“Yes, Derek?” Stiles wheezed out.

Derek flipped the tank around so the lettering faced his incredibly immature boyfriend.

In giant red letters, the tank top proclaimed #(K)not All Men.

“I am really hoping that you know that this isn’t a thing. I really hope that you know by now that this isn’t a thing.”

Stiles doubled over in laughter, taking deep, dramatic inhales. Derek just watched, deadpan.

“Sorry, sorry, okay, okay I’m good.” Stiles took another deep breath, hiccupping a laugh and then straightening his face into a very serious expression. “Yes, Derek, my love, I am well aware that knotting is knot a thing, because, let’s be real, here, Scott would’ve called me in a panic after he and Allison….”

And he lost it again as Derek threw the shirt at his head and walked out.

 

~*~*~

 

Derek kept the shirt, if only because a little embarrassment was always worth it to hear Stiles’ laugh.

 

~fin~