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They did Christmas on New Year’s Eve.

Scott and his mom went to visit his abuela and abuelo for the holiday, although Scott grumbled about having to also deal with his dad. But even as he complained about that, he said it’d be worth it to see his extended family after so long.

Allison and her dad didn’t leave Beacon Hills. Death had taken too much from them, and they couldn’t bring themselves to celebrate. Instead, they went about as if it were a normal day, and trained. Maybe they trained harder, faster, more brutally, but neither mentioned the manic light they saw in each other’s eyes. Allison relished the bruises and didn’t look at the pictures of her mother on the wall.

Lydia spent Christmas Eve with her dad, and hated every expensive gift he gave her. She spent Christmas Day with her mom, and hated every expensive gift she gave her. Lydia texted everyone the entire day, though she only really got responses from Allison. She hadn’t expected differently. When a sympathetic response came from Derek, she nearly dropped the phone in the toilet in her shock.

Stiles made his annual trip to the cemetery, talked to his mom about the events of the past few months. Promised her that he wasn’t letting his schoolwork fall behind. When the chill made his fingers trembled, he reluctantly left. He and his dad had a quiet dinner, and watched Nightmare Before Christmas — not because either of them were paying attention, or really enjoying each other’s company at that point, but because it was tradition and neither of them were willing to talk long enough to break that tradition. In the stiff silence, Stiles felt the bitterness tangle in his chest again. Lying to his dad had been the worst but he wondered…he wondered if it hadn’t been better than this chasm that had been born from the truth.

Stiles learned later that Erica, Boyd, and Isaac had spent the day with Derek, Peter, and Cora. They had all grumbled about Peter being involved, but couldn’t deny that he had done a lot for them with the Alpha Pack. And Derek had pulled on his Alpha Britches and kept Peter in line. Mostly, anyway.

New Year’s Eve finally came, and the entire pack gathered at the loft. Stiles and Allison were the last to arrive, both having to fight with their dads to even be let out of the house. Stiles figured that she’d probably had an easier time of it than he had. Chris Argent knew exactly what his daughter was capable of, and was actively making sure she learned more.

John Stilinski, on the other hand, was terrified of the very idea that Stiles would pick up a weapon, let alone actively let him learn how to use one.

Stiles tried to not feel bitter about it.

Walking into the loft, he shook it off with a loose wiggle of his shoulders. The pack was spread out around the loft, lounging on each other and talking animatedly. Whoop, whoop echoed through the room as he and Allison walked in. The tree in the corner was piled high with presents they had all secretly stashed with Derek. Stiles had been shocked to find that Derek was a stickler for Christmas surprises. He hated it when people guessed their presents, and even more when people actively snooped. Cora had confided in Stiles that it was a holdover from their childhood. She’d almost sounded fond.

Stiles didn’t have the nose of a wolf, but he knew the smell of pizza more intimately than anyone in that room. He laughed and made a beeline for the kitchen, unsurprised to find a pile of pizza boxes as high as he was tall.

“Pizza for Christmas, Derek? Really?”

Derek rolled his eyes. “The grocery stores were out of turkeys and hams. Besides, I would’ve figured all of you had enough of both last week.”

“Are you sure it’s not just that you don’t know how to cook?” Stiles nudged the alpha with a sharp elbow.

“Actually, he made dinner last week,” Isaac piped up. “It was really good. Sucks we didn’t leave any leftovers for you guys.”

Stiles gaped at Derek, fascinated by the reddening at the tip of the wolf’s ears.

“Shut up, Isaac,” Derek muttered. Definitely loud enough that the wolf could hear him and the embarrassment in his voice.

“Stiles, seriously, he made this stuffing that just…” Erica moaned, melting back into Boyd’s lap. Boyd grinned, slipping his hand through her blonde hair. “It was practically orgasmic.”

The blush had extended down to the back of Derek’s neck. Stiles found himself hoping the pack would continue to embarrass him, if only so he could see how red the older man could get.

“That’s enough, all of you,” Derek growled. They all laughed, not even remotely intimidated. “Come get pizza or forever starve.”

The laughter died and all of them scrambled over each other to reach the pizza as fast they could. Stiles snatched a box of his own and hopped behind Derek while the others did the same and scattered.

“As soon as everyone’s seated, we’ll do presents,” Derek announced.

“I bet you have a process for presents, don’t you?” Stiles asked from behind him.

The alpha looked over his shoulder and gave one of his rare grins. “Yes, I do. And just for that, you’re going last.”

He snagged one of the last boxes, and found his seat in a giant blue recliner Stiles hadn’t remembered seeing before. Peter grabbed the last box, snapping his teeth at Stiles as he passed.

“Derek, your creepy uncle is being creepy again!” Stiles whined, sticking his tongue out at the formerly dead wolf.

“Derek, your human toy is blocking the kitchen exit and holding up the Christmas process!” Peter whined back with a sharp smile.

Before Stiles could rebut, Derek appeared behind him and dragged him away from the kitchen by the back of his neck and shoved him into the chair next to his.

“Sit. Eat,” he growled, pointing a sharp finger at the pizza box Stiles had somehow managed to keep ahold of.

Peter sauntered out of the kitchen, a smug grin on his face.

Derek turned and pointed at him. “You.”

Peter froze.

“We had a conversation about this.”

Apparently, it took a few seconds for Peter to feel safe enough to nod his head in acknowledgment.

Derek hmphed, and sat back down. “Isaac, Scott, since the two of you have already inhaled your food…”

The two boys looked up with their mouths full of food and guilty eyes.

“Finish chewing and work on handing out all the presents. No one opens anything until everything is handed out.”

Stiles didn’t really pay attention to the pile of presents that grew beside him. It was about the same height as everyone else’s — though he found himself pretty surprised to find that Peter had also been given gifts and wondered how many the wolf had bought for himself. But the surprise in the other man’s eyes made Stiles almost feel bad for the unkind thought. Almost.

Peter had killed a lot of people, and his grief wasn’t a good enough excuse in Stiles’ opinion.

But he chose to set it aside in favor of watching the satisfaction grow in Derek’s eyes as he watched his pack coo over their individual piles.

Isaac went to hand one more to Derek for his pile, and Stiles snatched it out of his hand before either of them could do more than blink.

“Stiles, what the fuck?” Isaac asked, his hand still held out but definitely emptier than it had been.

Stiles held the gift close, grinning. “This one is from me, and it has to go last.”

“Oh god, it’s probably a wolfsbane bomb,” Peter sighed.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Not today, but I want it to go last.”

Derek eyeballed him for a long minute and then shrugged. “Okay. If it’s that important to you, it can be last.”

“Well, that was the last of them, so can we start opening now?” Scott asked, settling back in next to Allison. Isaac curled up at their feet, leaning against Scott’s legs and throwing his arm over Allison’s.

“You guys go ahead. Dig in,” Derek said, waving his hand.

He was the only one who didn’t. Everyone else in the room tore wrapping paper off their gifts lightning-fast — except Peter, who gently pried the wrapping paper off the boxes and folded it neatly to the side.

Eventually, the floor was obscured by vast amounts of wrapping paper. Allison was petting the mix of clothes and weapons she’d been given. Scott was buried in books and sports supplies, and already flipping through one particularly expensive college medical textbook Stiles knew Derek had gotten him. Isaac was…unsurprisingly drowning in various scarves.

Erica cuddled a stuffed wolf, growling every time someone smiled at her. Boyd was the only one allowed to touch it, and she snuggled into his arms, disturbing the books and clothes in his lap. Lydia had her face buried in her own books, old and worn and leatherbound — pretty clearly research texts. Stiles hadn’t thought anyone would have the guts to stray from the clearly defined list she had handed out weeks ago, but apparently someone had. He caught her looking at Peter, scowling.

Thank you, she mouthed to him. You are not forgiven.

Peter shrugged, looking back down at his own gifts — mostly clothes, a few books, and someone had given him cookware as well. Cora had already grabbed all of her things and transferred them to her room, so Stiles had no idea what she’d been given. But she seemed happy, so he didn’t worry about it.

He glanced at Derek, who was going really slowly with his pile. So far, he’d gotten a lot of clothes and weapons. From Lydia, he pulled out a self-help book called How To Talk To Teenagers For Dummies. He huffed out a laugh and thanked her, a genuine smile revealing the bunny teeth they all knew and loved.

Lydia shrugged and looked satisfied with herself.

Personally, Stiles was pretty well satisfied with his own haul. Comic books galore (Thank you, Scotty), a few clothes (no plaid — Lydia wasn’t subtle at all), a couple of throwing knives that Allison promised to help him learn to use, a scarf (he glared at Isaac, who only burst into laughter), and more comics (Erica got him Batman and Catwoman comics and made him promise to let her come read them with him).

Reaching for the second to last one — an oblong box from Derek — he was stopped when Derek grabbed his hand.

“Leave that one for last,” he said. He wasn’t smiling but Stiles could almost detect a level of humor in his eyes. Slowly, he pulled his hand back and shrugged.

“Ohkay, then.”

He opened the other gift instead. It was a thick, blank notebook with a cheesy, generic wolf on the cover. This was from Peter. He frowned and held it up at the older man.

Peter rolled his eyes. “List every possible question your mouthy little heart could ask if there were enough hours in a day, and between me, Cora, and Derek, we’ll answer them all if we can.”

Stiles gaped. A carte blanche to ask as many question as he could think of? Oh, they were all gonna regret that. But Stiles turned a grin on the exasperated wolf.

“Thanks, man. You’re probably gonna regret this, but thanks.”

He already had an on-going list on his computer. He made a mental note to transfer it to the notebook when he got home.

“I am definitely going to regret this,” Peter muttered.

Stiles looked at Derek. “Can I open the other one now?”

“Go for it.”

He snatched it up and quickly pulled the wrapping paper off, opening the box. He pulled out a baseball bat. Stiles stared at it, his fingers tingling from the power radiating from the wood.

“It’s made from rowan,” Derek said. “Deaton spelled it. That will hurt just about every kind of supernatural creature we can verify actually exists.”

Stiles couldn’t look away from it.

“It won’t make you invincible,” he stressed. “So, don’t take this as an invitation to go out and look for trouble. But if trouble finds you, this will give you a fighting chance.”

“Holy shit, Derek,” Scott said. “You know he’s not hearing anything you’ve said right?”

“Believe me, I know I’ll be repeating this,” Derek muttered.

Finally, Stiles looked up at his alpha. “Dude.”

“Good job, Derek. You know we’re never gonna be able to leave him in the car now, right?” Isaac asked.

Derek buried his face in his hands.

Stiles just laughed and pointed the bat at Isaac. “Damn right you can’t leave me behind anymore! Fuck yeah!”

“I have made something akin to a mistake,” Derek said, the words muffled by his hands.

Chapter Text

With the pack (well…Stiles) caught up in the excitement over the baseball bat, Derek’s last Christmas gift languished, unopened under a pile of sleeping bags. As the bags got passed around the room to be settled around the house, the gift fell and slid under the couch.

The pack settled in for the night, curled up close together and whispering in the darkness.

And the gift was forgotten.

~*~*~*~

After the excitement had faded and the reality of what the bat really was had settled in, Stiles may have become slightly hyper-focused on learning to wield his new weapon. The knives from Allison were great, but they didn’t feel like his the way the bat did. Derek, surprisingly, was the one that offered to help him work on his stance and putting as much power behind the swing as possible.

Stiles didn’t even think too hard about the fact that Derek had to get right up behind him to correct his stance, and that he could feel firm thighs and — okay he tried.

He tried a lot to ignore the fact that every time Derek got close, he could feel his Gay XP levels increase. He silently prayed to every possible god that he didn’t pop a boner in front of the werewolf. He figured it was probably too much to ask for that the wolf couldn’t smell his attraction, but he hoped that he’d just chalk it up to normal 18-year old hormones.

God, he hoped.

After a few practices, Derek invited him to work out, and Stiles surprised himself by agreeing. He’d half expected to be out in the middle of the Preserve, lifting a branch (while Derek lifted a giant oak, probably) but the Alpha apparently had an actual gym membership. He showed Stiles how to use all the weight-lifting equipment. Stiles figured that it couldn’t hurt to get into decent shape, considering all the running he had to do in his life. And with the bat, the more power he could put behind it, the better.

One day, Stiles realized that it was April, and he’d actually gotten used to being around the Alpha. Sure, he was still attracted to the guy. He still got angry in his pants every time the asshole lifted an eyebrow — seriously, at some point, Stiles had developed a kink around the man’s eyebrows and he kind of judged himself for it — but he didn’t feel jumpy around him anymore. At some point, he’d actually started having conversations with Derek, and discovered that he actually liked him. The older man’s sense of humor was a bit obscure, but Stiles may have gotten a little addicted to the way he’d duck and shake his head on a laugh, as if he couldn’t believe he was making the sound.

It was a really nice sound.

“When did you get abs, Stilinski?” Erica asked, poking him in the belly with one sharp-nailed finger.

“What?” Stiles glanced up at Erica and realized what she meant. He was sprawled on Derek’s couch, upside down, legs thrown over the back of it and his head hanging off the edge. He already knew he was going to regret the decision when he got up, but he was riding high on a video game streak and didn’t really care. But his position had the bonus of gravity forcing his shirt to ride up, revealing more of his stomach that he tended to prefer, and his jeans were all wonky, showing just a hint of happy trail.

Huh.

He did have abs.

“When. Did. You. Get. Abs. Stilinski.” Erica repeated herself slowly.

“Uh. I dunno, dude. I’ve been going to the gym this year. Guess I’ve been doing more than I thought.” He turned back to the video game.

“You have a gym membership?” she continued.

“No, but Derek does.”

Erica’s silence said more than if she’d opened her mouth again. Immediately suspicious, Stiles looked back over to find a considering look on her face.

“What? What is that face for? Erica?”

“Hm?” she said, looking back up at him like she’d forgotten he was there.

“What? What's with the face?” Stiles gestured to her face with wiggly fingers.

“You’ve been hanging out with Derek?”

“Yeah…why is that weird?”

“Hm. No reason,” she said, smiling almost…smug. Like she suddenly had dirt on someone and knew exactly how to use it.

“Erica, I don’t like your face right now. That’s not a nice smile. I like nice smiles,” he said. She started to walk away, idly tapping one manicured fingernail to her chin. Suddenly panicked, Stiles rolled off the couch and regretted it.

He hit his head on the coffee table, landed with his elbow hitting hard tile, and the blood left his skull all at once.

Staying on the floor seemed like a good idea.

The floor was good.

Erica was mean.

Stiles decided to stay on the floor until his body stopped screaming.

The TV turned black and giant letters spelled out G A M E O V E R, and he groaned. Damn it, Erica.

He rolled over, and saw it.

He scowled and dragged the dusty package from under the coach.

“Hey!” he muttered. “I forgot about you.”

He grinned and hopped to his feet.

 

~*~*~

 

He forgot about it again.

He took it home, set it on his desk, made a mental note, and then…nothing. It got knocked off the desk in favor of giant books that would’ve made Hermione weep, and he just forgot.

 

~*~*~

Coach complimented him on getting better at lacrosse.

It was weird.

 

~*~*~

Derek’s birthday party was not a good idea.

Isaac was the one that saw the date on Derek’s ID, so Stiles decided it was Isaac’s fault.

Erica was the one that followed through on it, so Stiles decided it was her fault, too.

Derek was the one that dropped his wallet, so really it was Derek’s fault, too, actually.

Lydia counted it a win when Derek stomped back into the loft, picked up the cake, and left again.

Stiles mourned that he didn’t even get to stick his finger in the icing.

His grief turned to delight when Derek slid him a saran-wrapped goodie the next day when no one else was around.

 

~*~*~

 

Graduation came and went. Beacon Hills had its first year of record lows in “animal attacks” in ages, and John had finally accepted that his kid was never going to stop running around with wolves.

Everything was really good…except for the part where everyone was about to scatter. Lydia was going to MIT and taking Allison with her, who wasn’t going to college but to train with local hunters and to keep the other girl safe. That had been Derek’s rule. Everyone had to go in pairs if they left California. Scott and Isaac both clung to Allison until Stiles and Derek both had to pull them off her so she could go.

They both moped for weeks.

Erica and Boyd didn’t leave the state, but they did move to Sacramento for school. Stiles won 50 bucks off Scott for that one.

Scott and Isaac left for Louisiana together, though Isaac despaired of leaving all his scarves behind. Stiles may have concocted a plot to burn them all, but Derek just shook his head at him.

Stiles…had intended to leave.

He had a scholarship.

He’d finally gotten Roscoe in good enough condition that it would make the trip to Seattle without a problem, and even survive past that. But he had found himself unable to send in his acceptance for the offer. While the clock clicked down, he just…kept not doing it.

When the last day to mail it in came, Stiles was at the loft. He sat at the bar, staring at the envelope on the counter, waiting for an epiphany.

Peter walked in, instead.

“What are you doing, Stiles?” he asked, rummaging through the fridge.

Still staring at the envelope, Stiles grunted.

“That might work for Derek, but not you,” Peter said. “Talk, pipsqueak.”

Stiles looked at Derek’s creepy somehow-not-dead uncle, and figured it couldn’t hurt. Shrugging internally, he started talking.

“It’s the letter I need to send in to go to school. I can’t…I can’t seem to make myself actually send it in, and today’s the last day that I can. If I don’t send it today, I can kiss the school of my dreams goodbye, and I am stuck in Beacon Hills.”

Laying out like that, Stiles really couldn’t understand why he was having such a hard time with just doing it. Why was it so hard to just follow the path he’d been planning on since he was a kid?

“Do you even want to go to college?” Peter asked. He set out ingredients, prepping something for lunch.

“I mean, that was kinda the point of applying —”

“Do. You. Want. To. Go.”

“I…I don’t know.”

“Then that’s probably your problem,” Peter said, pointing a butter knife at him. It was a testament both to Peter’s rehabilitation and to Stiles’ increased self-confidence that Stiles didn’t even flinch away from Peter holding a weapon in his presence.

“I don’t think…” he stopped. Started again. “I don’t think I want to leave.”

“Okay. Then don’t. No one will think less of you because your plans changed, Stiles.”

Any other day, any other subject, and Stiles might’ve questioned how Peter could sound so casually wise and feel almost like a regular uncle giving life advice, but he was still pretty well rocked by the idea that he just didn’t want to leave Beacon Hills.

Why didn’t he want to leave?

He had always wanted to leave. That had been the Plan.

Scott wasn’t there anymore.

Lydia wasn’t there anymore.

What else was even in Beacon Hills?

Chapter Text

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~