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Fuel a Fantasy

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"...Look, all I'm saying is that no one has ever actually seen proof that Stilinski's not just making shit up. Like, he talks about all these supposed friends back home all the time, but there's never anything to back it up. And I mean... come on! From the sounds of it, half his graduating class ended up dead! That has to be complete bullshit!"

"Taron, man, come on... that's a bit harsh bro..."

Stiles turned his attention away from the small cluster of people discussing his life, with varying degrees of incredulity and disbelief, to chew on his lip. Was that really what people thought about him? That he was making his whole life up? Rationally, he knew that sometimes the stories he told of his friends, his family - his pack - could sound a little... far-fetched. But that didn't mean he was making everything up!

Normally Stiles could let these kinds of comments just slide right off, but lately it had been harder and harder to get a hold of his friends; Lydia was busy at MIT; Isaac was still in France, wearing too many scarves and being a general douche; Jackson was concentrating on trying to win Lydia back, and had no time for anything else; Kira was still with the skinwalkers; and even Scotty was elbow deep in keeping the younger members of the pack in check - even with Malia there to help him - not to mention trying not to drown in the course load for vet school. Honestly, Stiles didn't even blame people for questioning the validity of his life.

He was jarred out of his ever-spiralling thoughts by the harsh sound of his phone ringing.
Cursing quietly, Stiles started trying to dig his phone out of his pocket - when the hell did his jeans get so tight? - completely missing the group of people that had been talking about him turning to stare in his direction. He finally managed to extract his phone and grinned at the display before answering the phone.

"Babcia! How are you?" Stiles leaned against a wall and turned the volume down on his phone, knowing his conversations with his elderly babcia could be both loud and time-consuming.

"Oh my little kochanie! It's been too long since you called me, you know." Her voice was a comfort he hadn't even known he'd needed until he felt the tension bleeding out of his shoulders.

"I know... I'm sorry." Stiles ducked his head and kicked his toe at the ground. "I've just been so busy, what with school and everything. It's my final year, you know?"

"Oh lovely boy! No need to be sorry. I'm so proud of you!" Stiles grinned at the sound of his grandmother's praise. "My darling wnuk is graduating this year!"

"I just wish mom could be here, you know?" Stiles' smile turned a little sad. "Do you... do you think she'd be disappointed in me? For... for not... turning out the way she wanted?"

"My darling little Mieczysław," and Stiles had to blink back tears at the sound of his name from someone who could actually pronounce it, "don't you dare think for one second your mother would be anything other than proud of you."

"No, I know she would be-"

"Why are you doubting yourself? Is that awful Whittemore boy picking on you again? Because I can tell you some stories about him-"

"No!" Stiles stopped his babcia, a startled laugh bubbling out of him. "No babcia, don't worry. Jackson is... surprisingly okay these days. I mean we're pa- friends. We're friends."

"Oh good. Now, I called for a reason, before you distracted me."

"I'm sorry."

"Hush. Now, your father has told me I'm to be at your graduation, and I will be having words with him about dictating my travels." Stiles groaned and dragged his hand down his face. "So I will be taking you to dinner, and you must bring the lovely boy you talk so much about."

"Lovely boy? Wha-"

"Yes, Mieczysław. The boy. You know the one."

"Babcia, I have no idea what you're talking about." Stiles was in the process of asking her if she was feeling alright, when his eye caught the familiar shape of shoulders in a leather jacket. He inhaled sharply, no longer aware of his babcia still chattering away in his ear. He said the name on an exhale, almost too quiet for even werewolf hearing. "Derek."

Even from across the quad, Derek heard Stiles, and his head snapped around, eyes zeroing in on where Stiles was now using the wall to keep his knees from giving out. They stared at each other for a few moments, unaware of the small audience still watching Stiles. Stiles was dragged back to his conversation with his babcia when she said Derek's name.

"Derek! That's the one! Bring him to dinner. I need to meet the boy that captured so much of your time!" Stiles was busy trying to breathe long enough to answer when she spoke again. "Alright, bye my darling! I will see you in two weeks!"

"Wha- Babcia!" But she had already hung up.

Stiles couldn't really bring himself to care too much, because holy shit, Derek was still standing there, frozen, staring at Stiles. Stiles smiled at the same time Derek seemed to unfreeze, and before he could think about it, he was running across the quad and throwing himself into the already open arms of Derek fucking Hale.

"Holy shit, dude! What the hell are you doing here?" The words were muffled slightly, because Stiles' face was currently pressed into the side of Derek's neck, but he thought he got the sentiment across anyway, if the way Derek's arms tightened a little around him, and the soft huff of a laugh, were any indication.

"Scott told me where you were. He's sorry he's been missing your calls lately." Derek's voice was just like Stiles remembered it. Soft and soothing.

"Man, I don't even care about that anymore." Stiles pushed at Derek's shoulders until he let him go. "It's been too long dude. We missed you."

Derek ducked his head, and if Stiles didn't know better, he'd swear there was a bit of a pink tinge to his cheeks.

"Tell me everything! What have you been doing? Are Braeden and Cora with you? When did you get here?"

"Come on," Derek put his arm around Stiles' shoulders and steered him toward the parking lot, "I'll tell you everything over a late lunch. I haven't eaten all day."

"Oh shit yeah, dude! I know the best place!"

Stiles wrapped his arm around Derek, only shoving Derek a little when he ruffled his hair. They walked through the quad, navigating around a group of people who were all studiously not looking at them. Stiles was talking too fast to notice the parting comment of one of the nearby students.

"Huh... I guess maybe Stilinski wasn't bullshitting us."

"Shut up Taron."

 

***

 

Stiles was sitting in a booth in the best diner within walking distance of his campus, watching Derek talk with a feeling akin to awe building in him. This Derek was so different from the one that left the pack behind in Mexico; this Derek was open, and at ease, and smiling. And Stiles had never been happier for someone. If anyone deserved to smile, it was Derek. Stiles had lost track of the conversation at some point after Derek started detailing his and Braeden's troubles finding the desert wolf, but he struggled back to full attention when Derek's smile turned a little rueful.

"... and after that, we sort of realised we weren't good for each other that way, and I left her to her hunt while I went to find a pack that was on friendly terms with us before the fire."

"Oh dude, I'm sorry." Stiles' brow furrowed. "Braeden was cool. I really thought you guys were gonna work out."

Derek shrugged a little and looked at Stiles for a long moment. "We're better as friends, I think." He huffed a laugh. “I wasn’t a very good boyfriend.”

“Dude,” Stiles raised an eyebrow, “unless Braeden walked in on you blowing her roommate, you can’t have been that bad.”

“No! God, of course not!” The affronted look on Derek’s face was priceless. “Why would you- did you-“ Now Derek looked outraged. “-did that happen to you?!”

“Sophomore year.” Stiles replied, nodding his head. “That’ll teach me to date dudes named Chad.”

“You can’t be serious.” Derek wrinkled his nose. Adorable. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

Stiles sighed through his nose and looked down at where his hands were twisting around his glass. He grinned, a little crookedly, and cast his mind back to sophomore year.

“We’d only been going out a couple of months, we weren’t that serious.” He looked up again, suddenly aware his voice was sounding a little uneven. “I hadn’t even told Scotty I was seeing someone.”

He laughed a little to lighten the mood, but Derek was frowning at him; his eyebrows were drawn so tightly together, it threw Stiles back in time, to when they barely knew each other and Derek’s only facial expression seemed to be pissed off.

“It was a long time ago-“

“Stiles.”

Derek’s soft voice cut off his rambling before it could really begin. Stiles didn’t think he could handle heavy talk right then; he was fairly certain his entire body was pleading with Derek to let it go. For now.

“I can’t believe you dated someone called Chad.” A startled laugh slipped out of Stiles’ mouth, and Derek grinned. “Next you’ll be telling me he was in a frat.”

“Well…”

“Oh come on!” Derek groaned dramatically, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Stiles grinned as Derek shook his head and reached over the table to steal some of Stiles’ fries. Stiles retaliated by taking the last bite of Derek’s burger.

“So… how long are you in town for?” Stiles pushed the rest of his fries over to Derek. “Actually, do you have somewhere to stay?”

“I uh… hadn’t really thought that far yet.” Derek looked down at his hands. “I was gonna just find a hotel or somethi-“

“Dude, no way!” Stiles cut him off with a flailing arm that nearly took out a passing waitress. “You are not staying in a motel when I have a perfectly good spare room!”

Derek raised an eyebrow, and damn him, he knew Stiles too well.

“Well… okay… it’s a fold out couch in my living room, but come on! Do you really want to stay in a hotel, where god knows how many other people have been in? With all their… people smells.”

“As opposed to your non-people smells?” Derek asked; an amused lilt to his voice.

“Okay, first of all… I smell amazing!  I think… how do I-? No,” Stiles shook his head; he was getting off track, “don’t answer that. No I uh… I figured that… well…”

“Never thought I’d see you struggling for words.”

“Oh screw you, man!” Stiles threw his napkin at Derek’s face. Derek caught it of course, but the feeling remained. “I just thought you might prefer the smell of pack, you unappreciative fuckstick.”

“No I…” Derek paused, an indecipherable look on his face. When he continued, his voice sounded almost shy. “You… you still think of me as pack?”

“Well… yeah dude. Of course I do.” Stiles dropped his gaze to his glass again; finger tracing a drop of condensation. “Doesn’t matter how long you’re gone for. You’ll always be pack.” He looked up and he was pretty sure the stinging in his eyes wasn’t from anything in his environment. “You’re family, dude.”

“…Oh.”

Stiles snorted. “Come on, dork. You can struggle with your emotions on the way back to my place.” Stiles stood and dropped some money on the table. “I’ll even let you drop me back at my car so you can brood in silence.”

 

***

 

Stiles wrestled with his door, a shoulder against the frame for leverage as he wiggled the key in the lock. He ignored the amusement that he could practically feel rolling off Derek, in favour of administering two solid kicks to the bottom right corner of the door. With a triumphant cry, the door opened and Stiles stumbled into his apartment, followed closely by a grinning Derek.

“Not a word, wolfboy.” Stiles pointed a threatening finger at Derek and dropped his keys in the bowl by the door. “This place might be an absolute dump, but it’s my absolute dump. There will be no making fun of casa de Stilinski. Comprende?”

“I didn’t say anything-“ Derek started.

“It was pre-emptive. Don’t think I don’t know what those eyebrows are saying.” Stiles threw himself down on his couch, landing with a groan of satisfaction. He waved Derek over. “Make yourself at home, dude. What’s mine is yours and all that jazz.”

Derek took a tentative step forward as he looked around the room. Stiles could tell what he was thinking. It was a small lounge room that opened onto an even smaller kitchen, with a doorway leading to a narrow hallway with only two doors in it; the bedroom and the bathroom. His furnishings were sparse and mismatched, but at least the couch was comfortable, and the small size meant it was incredibly easy to keep the apartment warm in winter.

“It’s… nice.”

Stiles snorted and didn’t bother answering him; instead he raised one eyebrow and rolled his eyes. He watched as Derek sat on the other end of the couch, a mildly surprised expression flickering across his face when he sank down into the soft cushions.

“I hope you think the couch is comfortable, because it’s where you’ll be sleeping.”

“This is fine,” Derek smiled at him. “Thanks, for this. I would have stayed in a hotel but…”

“I get it dude. Pack’s got your back.” Stiles grinned and leaned back, propping a foot on his coffee table. “So… how long you thinking of staying for?”

“Uhh, not too sure really? I was expecting to be staying in a hotel, so really it’s up to you how long you think you can handle tripping over me.” Derek said, getting more comfortable on the couch with a quiet sigh.

“Dude, you can stay for as long as you like. I mean, I trip over shit daily. One more hazard really isn’t gonna make that much of a diff-“ Stiles trailed off  as he looked over at his clock; a garish thing with wonky numbers that honestly hurt to look at. “Oh shit!”

“What’s wrong?” Derek had shifted forward, half off the couch.

“Fuck-shit-goddamn-sonofa mother-“ Stiles scrambled around the room, stuffing things into his bag as he let out an unending stream of expletives. Derek watched on with a sort of bemused air, clearly unsure if he should be concerned or not.

“Everything alright?” Derek asked, still half crouched.

“-fucker! God dammit!” Stiles paused and looked at Derek. “Sorry dude! I totally forgot I have a class to get to in like, ten minutes. And normally I’d just bail, because, you know, only two weeks left and I’ve already got enough to graduate, and it’s not like I actually need the extra credit, right? Because I’m awesome and have this degree locked in, but like, I’m the TA for my criminology professor, and he was gonna put in a good word for me with the director of the pre-FBI program, and like, I don’t need it need it, because agent dickface already sorta got me a spot, but I don’t really wanna rely on him for my career, you know? So if I bail on this class, I’ll only get into the program because of Scott’s dad, and that is so not how I want my career to start and-“

“Stiles!” Derek cut Stiles’ rambling off before it got too far, “just go. I interrupted your day enough, just showing up like I did.”

“Dude, you totally didn’t-!”

“Stiles. Go.” Derek gently pushed Stiles toward the door, handing him his keys as they passed the bowl. “And remember to breathe once in a while.”

“Okay.” Stiles nodded and spun around to face Derek. “I should only be a couple of hours, and then I’ll be back and we can go get dinner, or we can order in, or I can make you somethi- no, ignore that, I have no food. Look, just uhh… help yourself to anything you want, if you can find it, you can have it. There are towels and shit in the bathroom if you want a shower, and I’ve got a couple of spare blankets in my room. There’s coffee in the kitchen somewhere, but I can’t vouch for its edibility.”

“Okay.” Derek smiled at him and squeezed the back of Stiles’ neck with a gentle hand. “Go. I’ll be here when you get back.”

Stiles took a deep breath and took a moment to soak in the feeling of Derek’s hand, warm on his skin. He nodded and took a step back, allowing Derek’s hand to drop down.

“If you wanna go anywhere, just pull the door shut. Don’t worry about locking it- actually…” Stiles fumbled at his keys; he located the one he was looking for and wrestled it off the keyring. “Take this. Chances are you’ll be back before I am if you do go anywhere. I should be out of class at five, so just… text me if you’re not gonna be here by then, and I’ll go get my spare key from my neighbour.”

“Alright. Now off you go. You’re late.”

“What?” Stiles looked at his phone. “Oh son of a-“

Stiles took off toward the stairs, throwing a hasty ‘see you later, dude!’ over his shoulder as he disappeared around the corner. He missed the look of fond exasperation Derek sent him. He also missed his next door neighbour leaning out of her doorway to wink at Derek, although he did hear her laugh, even if he didn’t know it was because the tips of Derek’s ears were pink.

 

***

 

“Dude you are not going to believe what happened today! So I got to class like, ten minutes late, right? Which is totally cool, because Monroe loves me, and I brought him coffee so even if he was mad, he couldn’t be mad because coffee!” Stiles spoke to Derek while he struggled to open his door, knowing full well Derek could have heard him before he even made it to his apartment. “And like, I fell into the room and nearly dropped the coffee, which would have been awful! Like, dude! I cannot put up with freshmen without caffeine! And I- whoa!”

Stiles succeeded in opening the door by virtue of very nearly falling through it. He straightened up and closed the door behind him as he continued to regale Derek with the happenings of his day.

“Anyway, Monroe like, absolutely lost it, right? And all his little minions were cackling. Cackling! Rude bastards. I’d like to see how funny they find it when I give them back their papers tomorrow. Smug little- dude!” Stiles had come to a stop in the entrance to his kitchen, utterly transfixed at the sight of Derek. Cooking.

“Stiles.” Derek nodded his greeting and turned back to the stove, his eyes lingering on a point somewhat below and to the side of Stiles’ left eye, “Dinner will be ready in a bit.”

“Dude.” Stiles spoke softly, and he had to count to three to stop his voice sounding too awed. “You’re cooking? For me?”

“You had no food here.” Derek’s replied; voice gruff and a slight tinge of pink to his cheeks. “When was the last time you had vegetables?”

Stiles stood for a moment, dumbfounded, unable to come up with an answer. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had cooked for him. Mama McCall cooking for everyone didn’t count; she always cooked for everyone. Derek looked like he would rather be walking on hot coals and lego right now, but Stiles knew the many intricacies to Derek’s facial expressions and this one was firmly set in ‘I want to do something nice, but no one can know I’m an actual human person with feelings, so I’m going to insult them while I do it.’ Now, Stiles was usually on the receiving end of Derek’s ‘why am I on the same plane of existence as this idiot?’ facial expression, so to say this was a surprise would be a gross understatement. Stiles was unprepared. He was also apparently expected to answer Derek. Right.

“Excuse you, asshole!” Stiles mentally kicked himself, “I will have you know I eat plenty of vegetables-“

“Curly fries don’t count, Stiles.”

“-and the only reason I didn’t have anything in my fridge is because if I have food in here during finals, I never get any studying done! So… just…” Stiles stuck his tongue out at Derek to drive his point home.

“…I’m not even going to try to figure out your logic behind that.” Derek spoke in a monotone, and Stiles had to resist the urge to blow a raspberry at him.

“Thank you.”

“You’re thanking me for not understanding your logic?”

“No, dick!” Stiles pushed at Derek’s shoulder, accomplishing exactly nothing, “Thank you for cooking for me. You didn’t have to do that.”

Derek snorted. “I did if I want you to survive ‘til graduation.” He raised an eyebrow and turned off the stove, “I’ve invested a lot in keeping you alive over the years. I would hate to see you be taken down by malnourishment.”

Stiles huffed a laugh and blinked rapidly; apparently he was so starved for human interaction, one act of basic decency had him getting a little misty-eyed. He sniffed and ran a hand through his hair. When he looked back up, Derek had an alarmed look on his face and his hand was hovering in the air between them like he had started to reach out to Stiles, and then thought better of it.

“Are you…”

Stiles cut Derek off with a hug. He wrapped his arms around Derek’s waist and buried his face in the crook of his neck, letting out a sigh when he felt Derek’s arms hesitantly settle around his shoulders. This was a good hug. Let it be known that Derek Hale gave good hugs. Ten outta ten, Stiles would recommend.

“Nice to know you approve of my hugging skills?”

And apparently Stiles had said all that out loud. Of course.

“Shut up dude, don’t ruin my moment.” At least, Stiles meant to say that. It came out more like, “Shu’p do, don’ roon m’ m’mnt.” Close enough.

Derek snorted and squeezed Stiles a little closer, one hand drifting up to settle on the nape of Stiles’ neck, the other rubbed soothing circles on his shoulder. Stiles just gripped Derek's shirt tighter, scrunching the soft fabric in his clenched fists; he sighed heavily and the last vestiges of tension drained from his body. He hadn’t realised how much he had missed being around pack.

“So this is what your grandmother was going on about.”

Stiles froze at the sound of a voice behind him; a voice that should not have been in his apartment. Derek appeared to have stopped breathing.

“Derek.” Stiles’ voice came out a bit strangled. “How long has my father been in my living room?”

“Uh…”

“Dude!” Stiles tried to pull back to glare at Derek, but the vice-like grip Derek had on him wouldn’t allow for it, he instead glared at Derek’s ear lobe, “What kind of werewolf are you? You couldn’t hear my father waltzing into my apartment?!”

“I was a little distracted, Stiles!” How Derek managed to sound both exasperated and terrified, Stiles wasn’t sure.

“How can anyone be that distracted, Derek?”

“Boys…”

“I’m sorry I let my guard down for all of five minutes, Stiles. I didn’t know I needed to be on the lookout for the authorities today.” Oh dear, now Derek sounded hurt. “Excuse me for feeling safe enough around you to relax.”

“Derek… I didn’t…” Stiles sighed and dropped his head, slumping into Derek again. “I’m sorry. I’m an ass.”

The sound of a throat clearing jolted them both. Stiles unclenched his fists, smoothing the rumpled fabric of Derek’s shirt; Derek shuffled a bit, awkwardly, and gently squeezed the back of Stiles’ neck before letting go with a quiet sigh. Stiles ran his hands down Derek’s back for a second longer, putting off turning around, until he realised how quiet it was.

“Heeeyy, daddio. What uh… what are you doing here? I thought you and babcia were coming in two weeks?”

His father eyed him for a long moment, an unreadable expression on his face, before he answered.

“Well, that was the plan… but after a very confusing phone call from your grandmother – thank you for that by the way – and after Parrish forced me to take my leave earlier than I’d planned, I figured I’d come surprise you.” A raised eyebrow; apparently his dad was in ‘Sheriff Mode’, “Didn’t think I’d be getting a surprise too.”

“Dad, look…”

“Sheriff, I can expla-“

Stiles and Derek spoke at the same time, and Stiles broke off to glare at Derek in a clear ‘let me do the talking’ kind of way. Which of course Derek ignored.

“Sir, it’s not what it looks like… I uh… that is… we…”

Derek trailed off sheepishly, and Stiles looked at him like he had three heads. Actually, now that Stiles thought about it, three heads would be less weird than Derek getting flustered in the face of a stern father; a stern father who was apparently not all that stern, as he appeared to be trying very hard to hold it together, but couldn’t quite keep the glee out of his eyes.

“Dad.” Stiles started warningly.

“Oh man, I’m sorry kid.” Stiles’ father was now holding onto his sides as he shook with suppressed laughter, “The looks on your faces were priceless, I couldn’t resist. Although if your grandmother asks, I definitely gave Derek a talking to about not mentioning your relationship when he passed through Beacon Hills last week.”

“Relationship? Wha-?” Derek was stopped from continuing with his confusion when Stiles squeezed his arm, digging his nails in perhaps a tad sharper than was strictly necessary.

“You’ve been talking with babcia? When did she call you? I literally talked to her this morning! When would you have had time to talk to her? What did she tell you? Because she is a crazy old lady and I really think we should get her to a doctor. How did you get here so fast? What’d you do, break the sound barrier?”

“Stiles.” Derek’s voice was calm, if a little strained. “Breathe.”

“I’m breathing, I’m breathing… now.”

“You do know you’re only a two hour plane trip away, right kid? I talked to your grandmother this morning, and it wasn’t that hard to get a last minute flight.” He smirked at them, “Now I’m glad I didn’t wait, if you’d known I was coming, who knows how long you would have kept this from me.”

“Wha-! I don’t hide things from you… anymore! We have open communication now!” Stiles glared at his father, “Or at least we did.

“You are literally keeping your boyfriend a secret, Stiles. I mean, what were you gonna do? Tell him to hide the whole time your grandmother and I were here?”

“Of course not,” Stiles spoke before he could think about it, “If I kicked him out, he’d have nowhere else to go.”

Stiles had never before experienced the feeling of the phrase “you could hear a pin drop”, but this had to be what it was like; nobody moved for a very long moment, and he was pretty sure even his clock had stopped ticking in sympathy.

“You…” his father looked startled, “you two are living together?”

“Well... I mean… technically? At this moment in time? We are both currently residing in this one… bedroom… apartment…” Stiles trailed off as he realised just how that sounded. He slid his hand down Derek’s arm and gripped his hand tightly. “Would you excuse us for just one second? One second. We’ll be back… just… make yourself at home. One second.”

Stiles brushed past his father, dragging a very confused and suspiciously silent Derek along in his wake. They sped down the short hallway and turned abruptly into Stiles’ bedroom, Stiles making sure Derek was all the way inside before closing and locking the door. He dropped his head against the door with a soft thud and a heavy sigh.

“Dude I am so sorry. If I’d known my babcia would talk to my dad, I would have told her I didn’t have a boyfriend, but then she was going on about how I talked about some ‘pretty boy’ all the time, and like, I was confused, because I only ever talk to her about the pack, and okay, maybe I mentioned you a couple of times, but like, come on! We’re friends, we’re pack! And I know, I know she doesn’t know about pack, or like, werewolves, or anything, but like… I didn’t know she thought I was dating you. But then you were there, and I said your name, because dude! I haven’t seen you in ages, right? But she heard me, because of course she heard me, that woman has ears like a freaking werewolf! And then I was too overwhelmed at seeing you that I kinda stopped paying attention to her, which was apparently a very bad idea, because now apparently we’re dating.”

Stiles gasped and spun around, eyes finding Derek immediately. The poor guy looked a bit shell-shocked.

“Oh my god! Dude!” Stiles flailed his arms and lunged forward, tripping a bit and catching himself on Derek’s arms. “You have to fake date me!”

“What?” And that was apparently what it took to get Derek back in the land of the speaking.

“Okay, just… hear me out, dude. My father, and my grandmother both think we’re dating. Hell, dad thinks we’re living together. Which, okay, technically true, but like, I have met both of them several times, and trust me on this... there is no way in hell I can tell them that we’re not.”

Honestly, Stiles wasn’t too sure where he was going with this, but previous experience had taught him that his babcia was like a dog with a bone when it came to his love life. He also loved her with all his heart, and the absolute last thing he ever wanted to do was disappoint her; she was all he had left that had a connection to his mom, other than his dad. And besides, it was only for a few weeks. Unless Derek refused to play ball, in which case it would be a few weeks of unbearable disappointment from two of his favourite people in the world, which, just… no. He wouldn’t be able to handle that.

“Okay.”

“Look, I know this is a stupid idea, and I totally get it. Why would you want people to think we’re together but dude, please! I am-“

“Stiles!” Derek grabbed the sides of Stiles’ face and squeezed his cheeks to get him to stop talking. “I said okay.”

“I… really?” Stiles looked at Derek and grinned as much as he was able to with Derek’s hands pressed against his face. “Dude, I am going to fake date you so hard!”

Derek snorted and released Stiles’ face, giving him a gentle shove back towards the door.

“Come on, idiot. Let’s go have dinner with your father.”

“Oh, what’s the bet he mentions his gun at least four times!”

“You’re on. No way will he mention it more than twice.”

Stiles barked out a laugh and unlocked his door, waving Derek through ahead of him.

“He likes you dude, but he doesn’t like you that much. I’m his only son, remember?”

“Uh huh.” Derek sounded insufferably smug. “His only son who kept his relationship hidden.”

“Ohhh, low blow, buddy.”

“Loser buys the winner a drink?”

“...Deal.”

 

***

 

After Stiles and his father had confirmed, that yes, the sheriff could take the couch, and no, Derek wouldn’t be forced out onto the streets, and after Derek had reheated dinner – thankfully he had made enough that everyone was able to have second helpings, and there were leftovers – Stiles sat on his sofa and pulled Derek down to sit next to him, leaving the armchair for his father.

“So… daddio… how do you always manage to open my door without making any noise? Every damn time!”

“I made plenty of noise, son.” His father looked way too pleased with himself, “but apparently I could have dropped a bomb in here, and you two wouldn’t have noticed.”

“Well… I mean…” Stiles trailed off, unable to come up with a response.

“Ahh, young love.”

“Oh bite me, pops.”

Derek growled a little under his breath and Stiles turned to him, surprised. What on earth could have had Derek growling? This was Stiles’ father. Derek, for his part, looked surprised at himself too; his eyebrows were drawn together, and there was a sort of shock in his suddenly bright blue eyes that made it clear to Stiles that that little growl hadn’t been intentional. Oh. Oh.

“Seriously dude? You know dad won’t actually bite me, right? Like, we’re close, but we’re not ‘date your own cousin’ close.”

“Shut up.”

“Oh my god, you possessive doofus! If I promise to never let anyone but you bite me, will you turn off the neon glow?”

While his father sounded like he was choking, Derek let loose a rumble from deep in his chest that Stiles could swear sounded almost pleased, and then he bit the noise back and clenched his teeth, looking furious with himself.

“Sheriff, I am so sorry! I…”

“It’s alright, son. You forget I’ve been around Scott pretty much constantly for the last few years. I know how you fuzzballs get about people you care about. Scott once growled at the postman because he said Mel was looking particularly pretty that day.”

“Oh my god!” Stiles burst out laughing, “I totally forgot about that! Oh man! Mama McCall was so mad at him for like, three days after that. Didn’t he say something like, ‘the only people who’re allowed to call you pretty are me and the sheriff.’?”

“Yeah, something like that.” He chuckled and shook his head, “I swear, I have never seen a person look more like a wounded animal than Scott did by the time she was done laying into him.”

Derek was sitting stock-still beside Stiles, eyes wide and a look on his face of slowly dawning realisation. Stiles wasn’t too sure what that was about, but Derek had never really been good with emotions, so it was probably something to do with him trying to figure out how to behave like a regular person, or something. Whatever. Derek had survived a lot worse than an awkward evening with Stiles and his dad. He was just going to have to deal with it.

The rest of the evening was spent talking about what had been happening in Beacon Hills, how Stiles’ last few classes were going, whether or not Monroe had written that recommendation yet – Derek had let slip another growl at the mention of Monroe, which seemed to amuse his dad, and which Stiles wasn’t even gonna try to figure out – and what they were going to do once his babcia arrived. The main consensus seemed to be getting a motel room for his babcia and his father so that he and Derek could have their space back. Stiles smiled a little at how he was already thinking of his apartment as both his and Derek’s space; he’d always said any place of his belonged to the pack as well, and it was nice to see at least one member of his pack taking advantage of that. Even if they were being forced to share a bed. Something that hadn’t actually crossed Stiles’ mind until he and Derek had retired to his room, and his father was already snoring on the couch.

“Uhh… so how do you wanna do this, big guy?” Stiles was standing in just a pair of sweats, looking critically at his bed, “Do you want the wall side or the room side?”

Derek, looking endearingly soft in light blue sleep pants, raised an eyebrow and nodded to the side of the bed open to the room.

“We really need to teach you how to use your words, buddy. It’s like you were raised by wolves or something.”

Stiles grinned as Derek groaned and pushed him face first into the bed. He landed with a surprisingly gentle thud, and rolled over in time for Derek to slide in beside him and crowd him up against the wall. Once they had both wriggled under the covers, and were lying side-by-side, shoulders just barely touching, Stiles let silence sit for a few minutes before he shuffled himself over until he was lying on his stomach, with his torso and head resting on Derek’s chest, and an arm slung over his waist. He was inordinately pleased when all that happened was Derek letting out a quiet laugh and rearranging them both so Stiles wasn’t crushing his arm.

“It’s really good to see you, dude.”

“Go to sleep, Stiles.”

“Aye, aye, el Capitan!”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Hey dude, that is no way to talk to your fake boyfriend!”

“I’m leaving you for your father.”

“Liar.”

“Goodnight, Stiles.”

“Night, Der.”

 

***

 

Stiles woke up to the strange feeling of being crushed by a very warm, very cuddly, and surprisingly soft, rock. While not unexpected – his bed was only a double, after all – he did wonder at the seeming ease with which Derek had agreed to this admittedly ridiculous plan. The physical affection Derek had shown, all the hugging and scent-marking, were all fairly easily explained; this kind of closeness was something that just happened naturally in the pack. Quite often, Stiles used to find various members curled up on his bed when he woke up, so he had gotten used to a certain amount of intimacy.

But Derek was different. Before Mexico, he’d never really touched anybody, and then afterwards, he’d left almost straight away with Braeden, and only ever stopped back in Beacon Hills occasionally. Stiles had probably only seen him in person about ten times over the last six years. Granted, Derek had gotten to be a lot more open with the pack in those years as he settled into his new skin, so to speak, but still.

Stiles sighed and tried to extract himself from Derek’s clutches without waking him, but apparently Derek really had turned to stone in the night. Well then, there was nothing else for it. Stiles wriggled an arm free, and managed to lever himself up over Derek’s face; he grinned and worked his tongue around his mouth, trying to work up a decent amount of spit. When he thought he’d produced enough, he very slowly let it out of his mouth, a long thin string of it that was aiming slowly but surely, for Derek’s cheek. The spit was hovering about half an inch from his cheek when Derek opened his eyes with a growl and a flash of fang; Stiles gasped in surprise; he fell back on the bed and managed to choke on the spit that he breathed in. While he was coughing and cursing Derek in between ragged breaths, Derek laughed, a deep, full-throated sound that had Stiles feeling strangely light, even as he choked and coughed.

“Oh my god, dude! You suck so much!”

“You’re the one that was trying to spit on me.”

“And apparently you were awake and aware of it the whole time, so I don’t see how trying to kill me is the appropriate response, you dick.”

Derek snorted and pushed at Stiles as he climbed over the bed, a well-placed elbow getting Stiles in the solar plexus, and causing him to start wheezing again. “You choked on your own spit, Stiles. That’s hardly what I would call an assassination attempt. Besides… you deserved it.”

Stiles spluttered out an incoherent denial as Derek slipped out of the bedroom, sleep pants slung obscenely low on his hips. Stiles’ protestations trailed off as he got distracted at the sight of the dimples on Derek’s lower back; his eyes glazed over for a long second before he shook himself slightly and fell back onto the bed with a groan. Things might be about to get more complicated than he’d anticipated.

By the time Stiles managed to drag himself out of bed, into some clothes, and out into the lounge, Derek had breakfast on the table and Stiles’ father cackling about something in a way that made Stiles worried about leaving the two of them alone for the day. His father must have seen the look on his face, because once he regained his breath, he looked over at Stiles with a smile.

“You get to your classes, kid. Just go about your day like I’m not here.”

Stiles frowned at his dad, but he did really have to get to his classes. “You’re lucky I have to get the freshman tests back to Monroe today, pops. He might love me, but he would probably kill me if I didn’t go in.”

His dad waved at him in acknowledgement, and started in on the breakfast Derek had placed in front of him. Stiles looked up to thank Derek as he passed a plate over to him, but Derek wasn’t looking at him; instead he looked tense again, his face closed off and unreadable.

“Are you okay, dude?”

“Fine.”

“…Alright.” Stiles looked back to his father, “I’ve got a couple of classes every day for the next two weeks, so you’re gonna have a lot of time to yourself, old man.”

Stiles’ phone chimed with an alarm to let him know he had to leave for class. He sighed, wolfed down his breakfast, grabbed his bag from under the couch and headed to the door. He turned back before he left and sent a wave to his father.

“Don’t you dare threaten Derek with bodily harm, pops. I mean it. He doesn’t deserve it.” Stiles winked at Derek, “Try to smile today, big guy.”

He laughed at the expression on Derek’s face and closed the door behind him. He focused on getting out to his car, where he was fairly sure he was going to have a mini panic attack. Maybe just some mild freaking out.

By the time he got to his car, he was having a little trouble breathing, but he tried to maintain an indifferent air, just in case anyone was watching him. What had he been thinking? There was no way he could keep this up for two whole weeks. Apparently that little crush Stiles had had on Derek back in high school, which he had totally gotten over years ago, was back in full force. He’d tried to act unaffected, and for the most part, talking and hanging out with Derek was as easy as it was with Scott.

“Oh god… what am I doing?” Stiles dropped his head onto his steering wheel and sighed. “It’s cool Stiles, you got this. You can do this. I can do this!

With that, Stiles turned the key in the ignition, and headed to class. Apparently by the end of the day, he hadn’t managed to convince his facial muscles that he would be fine, and Monroe had pulled him aside after his freshman criminology class, and asked if he was doing okay. Stiles had stumbled through some form of excuse before getting away, but found himself waylaid by a student he vaguely recognised from Monroe’s class. Or was it one of his psych lectures?

“Stilinski!”

“Only by birth.”

“What?” The student – Tyler, maybe? – looked very confused, and Stiles bit back a grin.

“How can I help? Because if you want to complain about grades, talk to Monroe.”

“What? No, dude, I’m not a frosh.” The dude – Todd? – curled his lip up mockingly, “Who was that guy you were all over yesterday? The one that looked like he kicks puppies in his spare time.”

“Kicks puppi- do you mean Derek?” Stiles raised an eyebrow, “Big guy, eyebrows that would put Frida Kahlo to shame, cheekbones that could cut steel, ass you can-“ Stiles cut himself off, and cleared his throat awkwardly, “Uh... that guy?”

“Yeah dude, that guy. Who is he? He one of your ‘friends’ from back home?”

“Okay, first of all, I can totally hear the quotation marks, dude, not cool. And secondly, yes, he is one of my friends.” Stiles looked at this guy – Tony? – and thought about the best way to wipe that smug look off his face. He grinned as an idea came to him. “Actually, Derek’s my boyfriend.”

To say the stunned look that garnered was satisfying would be a gross understatement. Even if it was a blatant lie, Thomas – Terrance? – didn’t know that. Stiles was about to walk away, when he spotted Derek hovering in the background, looking rather intently at the back of Taylor’s head. Stiles could tell just by the set of Derek’s shoulders that he had heard everything that had been said, and Stiles apparently had paused long enough for Tyrone to recover.

“So how does it feel knowing you’re with someone so immensely out of your league?”

Stiles inhaled sharply at the disdain that he could practically feel dripping out of Tim’s mouth; the force of it had him stepping back to put some distance between them, and that seemed to piss Derek off, because he stalked up behind Travis. Derek crossed the short distance quick enough that he could answer Theodore in perfect time.

“Honestly, it feels pretty amazing.” Derek spoke as he walked around Tate, brushing just close enough to put him off-balance. He came to a stop at Stiles’ side, and turned a smile on Trey. Well, he showed his teeth, at any rate.

“Derek, hey, what are you doing here? I thought I was meeting you at home?” Stiles leaned gratefully into Derek, sliding an arm around his waist and gripping the fabric of his shirt tightly.

“I wanted to pick you up, take you out to dinner with me and the sheriff.”

Stiles noted Derek’s use of his father’s title, and he noted the way Trevor paled when he heard it. Stiles had to bite back a grin.

“Oh cool, did you drive dad here with you, or did you come alone? Because I have to get my car back.”

“The sheriff can drive yours home, he’s in the car waiting actually, we should go.” Derek turned to Tristan with a disarming smile, “Please excuse us, Taron. We have dinner plans.”

Derek turned Stiles around gently, and they left Taron – Taron! How did Derek know his name? – standing behind them, his mouth hanging open, and a group of people snickering at him. Stiles managed to contain his grin until they got to the car.

“Dude that was awesome!” Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s shoulders and hugged him, “You scared the shit out of him!”

Derek just sighed and squeezed Stiles tightly around the waist, lifting him up off the ground a little.

“He deserved it, that guy was a dick. I heard him talking about you yesterday with his friends.”

“Oh.” Stiles tilted his head, his eyes focused on the soft looking skin of Derek’s throat, “but how did you know his name?”

Derek put Stiles down, but held onto him, his hand trailing lightly along Stiles’ waist. Which he was definitely not hyper aware of. No sir.

“Apparently his friends think he’s a bit of a dick too. One of them called him out on it.” Derek looked at him, and grinned, “I have pretty good hearing, you know.”

“Come on boys, let’s go get dinner, and you can tell me all about what just went on.”

Stiles sighed and let go of Derek. “Yeah, alright pops. Can you take my car?”

“Sure thing.” Stiles handed his keys over to his dad, “And I get a steak at dinner.”

“Oh dad! Come on! At least get a salad!”

Stiles watched his father head in the direction of his car and shook his head. He turned back to see Derek watching him closely.

“Oh, hey man, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. That is not the first asshole I’ve had to deal with.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with any.”

“The first one I had to deal with makes all the rest not even worth bothering about.”

“I swear to god if you say I was the first, I will leave you here.”

Stiles grinned, “It’s all good, pretty sure Monroe would drive me home.”

Derek narrowed his eyes and growled under his breath.

“Get in the car.”

“Aye aye, cap’n!” Stiles skipped around to the passenger side door, he looked up at Derek and softened his voice, “Seriously though, thanks. You always were pretty great at saving me.”

Derek looked at him for a long moment before he slid into the driver’s seat, throwing out a terse, “Buckle up.”

Stiles smiled and got in the car. If today was anything to go by, the next two weeks might not be as bad as he feared.

 

***

 

It turned out Stiles was both right and wrong in his predictions. The next two weeks were spent on last classes, more students he’d never talked to before coming up to him and wanting to talk about Derek - though none were as rude as Taron had been - scrambling to get his life organised for after college, and increasingly embarrassing dinners with his father. Not to mention the fact that Derek had the unfortunate habit of ending up wrapped around him every morning. Maybe unfortunate wasn't the right word. Because Stiles was pretty sure he liked it a bit too much.

 

***

 

The day Stiles’ grandmother was due to arrive; Derek woke up surrounded in the scent and feel of Stiles. The last two weeks had been an overwhelming whirlwind of everything Stiles, and Derek still wasn’t sure just why he had agreed to be his fake boyfriend. Admittedly, Derek still couldn’t figure out how the sheriff had managed to get in the apartment without either of them noticing; the only thing Derek could attribute it to was how unbelievably overwhelmed he’d been, standing in that tiny kitchen, Stiles barely holding it together and his scent enveloping them both; then the sheriff had been there and Derek had agreed to Stiles’ stupid plan for god only knows what reason. Lies, Derek knew exactly the reason he agreed to the plan.

Surely it would have been easier, less complicated, less agonising, to just correct the sheriff right off the bat. If they had done that, Derek could have found a motel and given Stiles and his father some time alone; instead, the very first day the sheriff had been there, Derek had growled – growled – at him! And all because Stiles had made a stupid joke about biting. Derek had honestly thought he was better than that, but apparently not. Then when that guy had walked right up to Stiles, and said those things that made Stiles look and smell so ashamed... The guy was lucky Derek hadn’t ripped his throat out right then and there; only the thought that Stiles and the sheriff both would have been disappointed in him prevented it.

Now though, Stiles was lying on his stomach, one leg thrown over Derek’s, and his head resting on Derek’s chest. Stiles’ eyelids were fluttering gently, in the midst of a dream perhaps,  the sun streaming through a gap in the curtains, and Derek thought Stiles had never looked more beautiful. Christ. He sighed through his nose and dropped his head back onto the pillow that smelled enticingly of Stiles, and Derek, and Stiles-and-Derek. He closed his eyes, and focused his hearing out into the rest of the small apartment; the sheriff was still asleep, but the slight increase in his heart rate indicated he would be waking up soon; there was a faint bubbling sound that Derek knew now was the neighbour’s tropical fish tank; a cat somewhere on the floor above them was meowing loudly, demanding breakfast. Such a peaceful morning and Derek was freaking. the fuck. out.

How, in the name of all that was holy, was he supposed to convince Stiles’ beloved babcia that not only was he dating Stiles, but also that they had been dating, and indeed, living together, for who knows how long? How long had this woman thought they were in a relationship? Derek hadn’t spoken to Stiles for six months before this; he hadn’t seen him for almost two years. Did Stiles’ babcia think they had been together that long? Longer? He needed answers, dammit. But one look at Stiles’ peaceful face, and Derek couldn’t bring himself to wake him up.

When Derek had first arrived, Stiles had had the slightly haunted look of someone who was a hairsbreadth away from falling apart. Derek knew it had been a while since the pack had gotten together; Scott was focused on vet school; Lydia was off being brilliant and wowing the academic world; Kira was who knew where, still learning to control the fox; Isaac had left with Argent and never really looked back, and while Derek was sad Isaac was out of his life, he was glad that he’d found a way to be happy; Jackson was – well, Derek wasn’t sure what Jackson was doing. Some days he seemed to be trying to get Lydia to take him back, and other days he seemed to be planning his life with Ethan of all people. Derek wasn’t touching that situation with a ten-foot pole. Needless to say, Derek was feeling well out of his depth with a lot of things lately.

Which just brought him right back to his current dilemma; just thinking about having to wear this mask in front of yet another person was making him tense. So tense that he was apparently close to crushing Stiles with the arm he had wrapped around Stiles’ waist. Derek bit back a curse and slowly, gently, eased his arm out from under Stiles; all this accomplished was Stiles shifting closer, the leg thrown over Derek hitching up further, and his hands gripped Derek’s shirt tighter; one hand grazing the bare skin of Derek’s waist where Stiles’ grasp had hiked his shirt up. Derek resolutely refused to think about how firm, and hot, and good it felt.

To try to make this situation better for his sanity, he slid his hands down to Stiles’ waist again, and gently pulled him up so he was no longer curled up against Derek’s chest, but was instead now stretched out beside him with his face in Derek’s neck. This was not better. This was worse. Because now Stiles’ warm breath was ghosting along the column of his neck, and trailing along the shell of his ear. Derek suppressed a shiver and rested his cheek against the top of Stiles’ head. He would get up in a minute. He just wanted to soak this feeling in while he still could. He closed his eyes and started to drift off, vaguely aware of the sound of the sheriff finally waking up fully. When the door to the bedroom opened almost silently, he was sound asleep again. In his not-quite dreams, he heard a soft chuckle that sounded familiar, but it was a comforting, safe sound, and he didn’t wake up.

 

***

 

The second time Derek woke up that morning, it was to the sound of Stiles cursing vehemently at his alarm clock, and the feeling of an elbow to his kidney. Why were Derek’s kidneys being harmed? They hadn’t done anything to anyone. Derek groaned and pushed Stiles the rest of the way off the bed, gratified to hear Stiles’ rambling cut off with an indignant squawk. Stiles sprang back up with a surprising show of agility, and rounded on Derek.

“Dude!”

“You nearly broke my ribs.” Derek swung his legs out of bed and sat on the edge, “And don’t call me dude.”

“Oh my god.” Stiles stood and stared at Derek for an uncomfortably long time. “You’re literally the worst. I hate you.”

“Lie.” Derek grinned when Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you think you should be nice to me today? Your grandmother is expecting to see a happy couple.”

Derek waited for Stiles to make some kind of joke, but instead he seemed to sink in on himself; his shoulders hunched and he wrapped his arms around his waist, fingers digging into the soft skin there. Stiles’ heartbeat ratcheted up a couple of notches and Derek started forward, alarmed; he reached out to touch Stiles’ shoulder, but stopped short when Stiles’ heartbeat got even faster. Stiles seemed to be having trouble breathing.

“Stiles?” Derek kept his voice low and even, “What’s happening? Is there something I can do to help?”

Stiles continued to gasp unevenly, his eyes looked wild and they were darting around the room without seeming to focus on anything. Derek hesitated just a moment longer before he reached out again and slowly slid his hand up Stiles’ arm, coming to rest on his shoulder.

“Stiles I need you to talk to me. Do you think you can do that?” Derek ducked down to try to catch Stiles’ eye, “Can you breathe with me, Stiles?”

Stiles managed a shaky nod, and when Derek took an exaggerated breath, he tried to mimic it.

“Good Stiles, that’s great.”

Derek spoke softly, and when Stiles tried to take a hiccoughing breath again, he grabbed Stiles’ hand and brought it to his chest; Derek spread Stiles’ fingers out so he could feel his heartbeat and breath. He took another deep breath in and smiled when Stiles immediately copied him, albeit a little shakily. Stiles’ heart had already started slowing down the moment Derek had touched him, and now it was calming even more, getting back to the range that was more normal for Stiles.

After a few more minutes of deep breathing and soft reassurances from Derek, Stiles seemed to sag a bit in Derek’s grip; he exhaled roughly and dropped his head down onto Derek’s shoulder and turned his face into his neck. Derek moved the hand still gripping Stiles’ shoulder just enough to grasp the back of his neck and squeeze gently. Stiles let out a noise similar to a sob, and clung to Derek a little desperately, one hand still held against Derek’s chest, the other in a fist against Derek’s lower back; Derek kept murmuring words of meaningless comfort until Stiles started to speak in a rough voice.

“What are we doing, Derek? How am I supposed to look my babcia in the eye and lie to her?” Stiles sniffed and leaned back, though he only got so far because refused to let go. “My mother would be so disappointed in me.”

Derek let out a noise not dissimilar to a whine at the pain in Stiles’ voice; the misery wafting off of him was making Derek’s head spin. Derek breathed in and out through his mouth a couple of times to clear his senses. When he looked up, Stiles was refusing to meet his eyes; Derek let go of the nape of Stiles’ neck in favour of tilting his face up; he waited for Stiles to look at him before speaking.

“I remember her, you know.”

“What?”

“Yeah, Mrs. S.” Derek smiled and stroked a thumb across Stiles’ cheek. “She was my sixth grade teacher. I absolutely adored her.” Derek watched the wonder in Stiles’ eyes, but it was overlaid by that bone deep pain of loss. “I remember she used to wear this one sundress in the most hideous colours, and I asked her one day, why? I’d seen her in other clothes and she always looked so well put together, I couldn’t understand how someone could have such good taste in clothes one day, and then think that an orange and blue striped sundress could look good. So I asked her, and she looked at me with those big brown eyes and a big smile. Do you know what she said to me?”

“They were my favourite colours.” Stiles voice was almost too low even for Derek to hear.

“She told me that orange and blue were her son’s favourite colours, and that he hadn’t quite got the hang of colour-coordinating yet, but that he absolutely lit up when she wore that dress.” Derek wiped away a tear that had started to slide down Stiles’ cheek. “She told me that there was never anything that her son could ask her, that she wouldn’t do. Nothing he could do, that she wouldn’t forgive instantly.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you needed to hear it.” Derek sighed, “Stiles I… do you know, I used to think her son had to be the most amazing kid in the world. He had to be, being raised by a woman like that. That kind of unending faith had to be the best thing for a kid to grow up with. And then I met you that day in the forest when you were looking for Scott’s inhaler.”

“Bet I was a bit of a disappointment.” Stiles sounded bitter, and he tried to pull himself away from Derek’s gentle, but unyielding grip.

“I met you,” Derek continued like Stiles hadn’t spoken, “and you were this hyperactive, curious, infuriating, kid, and at first I didn’t realise who you were. Didn’t realise you were her son. But then one day you did something, and the way you laughed… it was her laugh, and I felt like I was in sixth grade again, watching her tell me about her son, who she loved more than anything in the whole world, and I… you just… everything about you, from that point on, just reminded me of her. And I knew I was right.”

“Right about what?”

Derek smiled at Stiles and pulled him back into a hug; Stiles went willingly, and Derek was thankful; he wasn’t sure he could say this with Stiles looking at him like that. Not when Stiles looked at him with a kind of raw hope. Derek knew he’d already revealed too much; there was no way Stiles wouldn’t be able to pick up on his feelings after this.

“I knew I was right about…” Derek breathed in deep – here went nothing, “that growing up with that kind of love was the best thing for a kid, because you are so amazing, so… so loyal, and kind, and- and good. There was no doubt that you were made up entirely of her love, and I wish you could believe that there is no way she could be anything but proud of you, Stiles.”

Stiles was quiet for a long time, though Derek could smell the salt of his tears; when Stiles finally pulled himself free of Derek’s arms, Derek let him go, watching him with sad eyes as he turned away and wiped his face on his sleeve. Stiles was so still that Derek was caught off-guard when he turned back around; he wasn’t entirely sure he had managed to school his expression into something less open; something less honest.

Stiles watched him for a beat, eyes scrutinising every detail, and Derek just hoped he was pulling off ‘concerned friend’ vibes and not ‘desperately in love with you’ vibes. Just when he was starting to get uncomfortable under Stiles’ steady gaze, Stiles smiled. A small quirk of his lips that lasted only a fraction of a second, but it was enough. Derek let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and sat back down on the bed, his legs suddenly feeling not up to the task of keeping him upright.

“You know,” Stiles began, his head tilted slightly, “I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at once.”

And just like that, the tension in the room was broken, and Derek laughed, feeling lighter than he had only moments ago. Stiles laughed too, and though the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, Derek could smell the relief and gratitude that were practically oozing from him. A sharp knock on the door startled them, and Derek used the time it took Stiles to cross the room and open the door to compose himself. The sheriff was standing on the other side if the door, an unreadable expression on his face.

“Stiles, I’m going to go get your grandmother from the airport.” His eyes flickered over to where Derek was still sitting on the bed, “did you want to come with me, or are you just going to stay here?”

Stiles opened his mouth, and then closed it, turning to look at Derek. “I think I’m gonna stay here.” He turned back to his father, “I wanna make sure the place looks alright for babcia.”

“Alright kiddo, I’ll be back soon. Maybe an hour or two.” He clapped Stiles on the shoulder and turned to go, but he paused and looked back over his shoulder and met Derek’s eyes for a few seconds. He nodded. “Okay. Try to be wearing real clothes when we get back, kid.”

“So a three piece suit, or…” Stiles grinned.

“Hilarious. Derek, I don’t know how you survive sharing a room with him.”

“It’s a daily struggle, Sheriff.” Derek just grinned at the glare Stiles threw his way.

The sheriff looked at Derek oddly for a second, and Derek suddenly had the feeling that he had heard at least part of Derek and Stiles’ conversation.

“Call me Noah, son. Seems about time, don’t it?”

And with that, the sheriff – Noah – headed back down the hallway, a shocked Stiles and Derek watching the doorway with wide eyes.

“So… how much of that do you think he heard, then?” Derek asked, looking at Stiles with one eyebrow quirked.

“Fuck.”

Derek couldn’t help but agree.

 

***

 

Derek fully expected the hour and a half that the sheriff was gone to be awkward and uncomfortable, but Stiles seemed to be back to his usual self. The only thing that betrayed the calm exterior he was projecting was the occasional sharp whiff of anxiety underlying his normal scent; a confusing mix of musky sweat, faint traces of cologne, something that reminded Derek of the preserve after it rained, and the cloying tinge of medication, all coming together to create a scent that was uniquely Stiles. Derek was surprised to realise Stiles also carried his scent on his skin, and in his hair, perhaps he should’ve expected it, they were sharing a bed, after all. He refused to admit to himself just how much he enjoyed it; that way lay only disappointment, or outright rejection.

By the time Derek heard the quiet rumble of the sheriff’s car, Stiles was no longer one with the cool, calm, and collected front he had been projecting. Derek walked up to where he was pacing by the front door, and laid what he hoped was a calming hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, and squeezed gently.

“It’ll be fine, Stiles. Unless your grandmother is expecting us to make out in front of her, we’ll be fine.” Derek joked, trying to ease the tension. Though going by the wide eyes Stiles turned on him, he’d only made things worse.

“Dude!” Stiles somehow managed to whisper and shout at the same time. “What if that’s exactly what babcia is expecting! What do we do?”

And Derek said the one thing guaranteed to make him want to kick himself.

“Well, I guess we’d better practice then.”

He watched Stiles with a blank face while his words were being processed, though internally he was panicking. Just a bit. A lot.

“I… uh that is- we don’t- obviously if you-“ Derek stumbled over his words, hoping Stiles would tell him to shut up.

“You would do that?” Stiles’ voice was strained, like he didn’t dare so much as breathe too much. “You- you would-“

“Yes!” Derek winced at how over-eager he sounded. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I mean, yeah, if you- if you think it will help?”

Stiles just stared at him, and he could feel his face growing hot, though thankfully his beard covered most of the incriminating blush; he had never been more thankful for facial hair. After what felt like far too long, and just when Derek heard the sounds of the sheriff and Stiles’ grandmother reaching the landing below Stiles’ floor, Stiles finally spoke.

“Okay.”

Derek blinked. “Okay?”

“Well, yeah,” Stiles scratched at the back of his head, “I mean, y’know… if you- that is, only if you meant it. Only if you want to.”

“Okay.”

Derek had never been more terrified in his life as he was when Stiles started to lean in, his eyes closed and his heart beating fast and hard enough that it was all Derek could hear. It was that that gave him the courage to slide his hand along Stiles’ neck to settle on his jaw and lean forward to close the distance between them. He sighed and his eyes fluttered shut as their lips touched, and he had to brace himself to keep from falling to his knees. Stiles’ scent was amplified in the taste of him; so much richer and more complex than Derek had ever experienced it before. Derek groaned and brought his other hand up to cup Stiles’ cheek, pushing forward until Stiles was backed up against the wall; the intense feeling of Stiles pushing his shirt up was eclipsed by the scorching heat of Stiles’ hands on his skin; his tongue darted out and swiped across Stiles’ lips, and some raw, primal part of him rejoiced when it elicited a shaky breath and a high-pitched whine from the back of Stiles’ throat. He pressed forward, one leg slotting between Stiles’, their torsos connected in a line of heat. He could have stayed there forever, but the sound of footsteps coming down the outside hall brought him back to himself.

Derek reluctantly pulled away, trailing lingering kisses on the corner of Stiles’ mouth. He pulled back, and took a deep, shuddering breath, and opened his eyes to see Stiles staring back at him, looking a bit awestruck.

“How- how was… how was that?”

Stiles swallowed and opened his mouth to reply, only to shut it again and nod, unblinking, at Derek. He took a deep breath and answered on the exhale.

“Yeah.”

The doorknob rattled, and they sprang apart as if burned. Derek straightened his shirt and reached out to smooth down Stiles’ hair, his hand lingering on Stiles’ cheek unnecessarily. He lowered his hand just as the sheriff opened the door, a small, frail-looking old lady trailing behind him.

“Ah, boys, there you are.” The sheriff’s voice washed away the last of Derek’s lingering daze, and brought him fully back to the present.

“Sheriff, did you need a hand with anything?” Derek reached out as he spoke and relieved the sheriff of one of the bags slung over his shoulder.

“No no, it’s alright. I think we got everything.” The sheriff called back over his shoulder, “You don’t have anything else, do you, Wioletta?”

“That’s everything Noah. You’re such a good boy.”

“Although why I had to bring all her bags up when she won’t be staying here is beyond me…” The sheriff trailed off, mumbling under his breath as he moved past Derek and into the lounge room.

Derek looked over his shoulder and saw Stiles wrapped in a very tight and comforting looking hug by the tiny woman that had to be his grandmother. Derek got the feeling that she wasn’t as frail as she looked, when her eyes met his over Stiles’ shoulders with a steely determination. Derek was man enough to admit that he walked away, with the bag clenched in his grip, a bit faster than the average human would have. The look the sheriff gave him as he dropped the bag next to the surprising large pile in the lounge told him that he wasn’t alone in his feelings for Stiles’ grandmother.

Stiles and Wioletta followed them into the lounge, where Stiles deposited the tiny woman into the armchair, dropping a kiss on her cheek as he stood back up.

“Mieczysław, dear boy, I left my purse in your father’s car, be a dear and go get it for me, would you?”

“Babcia!” Stiles darted a quick glance back to Derek, and Derek had to work to keep the amusement off his face. No wonder Stiles had never told anyone his name. “Did you have to use my full name? Come on!”

She glared at Stiles and he seemed to shrink back under the force of it.

“Mieczyław, that is the name your mother gave you. Of course I’m going to use it.”

Stiles sighed. “Yes ma’am.”

Derek watched Stiles head out of the apartment, and missed the brief silent exchange between the sheriff and Wioletta. He was only aware anything had happened when Noah shuffled past him, calling out to Stiles that the car was locked. Derek watched him go, and he could feel the weight of Wioletta’s gaze on the back of his head. He gulped audibly and turned slowly back to face her.

“So you’re the boy my little mischief is so taken with.” Wioletta gave him an assessing look. “Well… he always did love pretty things.”

“Uh… thank you, ma’am.” Derek moved to sit gingerly on the edge of the couch. He couldn’t say just why this woman unsettled him so much, but there it was. Maybe it was the way her eyes seemed to see so much more than just what was in front of her.

“Dear boy, you may call me Wioletta.” She smiled at him, and Derek was suddenly very aware of where Stiles got his eyes from. “Now, tell me. Are you a born wolf? Or were you bitten?”

 

***

 

Derek stared at her from his perch on the edge of the couch, his eyes wide as he struggled to hold back his shift. Who was this woman? Was she a hunter? Experience had shown him that age was just a number when it came to people who wanted him and his kind dead. Was she here to kill him? Did Stiles know his babcia knew Derek was a werewolf? Was Stiles in on this? No. No Stiles would never put Derek in danger knowingly, which must mean he had no idea what kind of person his grandmother was. Was Stiles in danger?

“Oh dear, I’ve upset you.” Wioletta sighed and pulled herself up from the armchair. “Come now, Derek, I’m old, not blind.”

Derek let a growl slip out, and his eyes flared blue before he could stop them. Panic seized him when the sight of his eyes drew her up short, a small gasp leaving her.

“I mean you no harm, young man.” She held up a placating hand and stood her ground. “And I know my Mieczysław better than to think he would care for you so much if you were the kind of person to come by those eyes by your own design.”

Derek held his breath as he listened for any trace of a lie, but, though her heart was beating fast, there were no indications she was speaking anything other than truth. Even so.

“Who exactly are you, and how do you know what I am?” Derek spoke as evenly as he could with his fangs out, though it still came out a bit strained. “If Stiles comes to any kind of harm-“

“Dear boy, let us get one thing straight.” Wioletta cocked an eyebrow, a hint of irony on her face. “First and foremost, I am Mieczyław’s grandmother. His mother was my only daughter. My only child. Believe me when I say no one who is a friend to my boy will ever have anything to fear from me. But that is not all that I am. My family has always been blessed with the Sight, though the gifts vary and some of us are not strong enough to handle them.”

Derek furrowed his brow and felt his shift recede slowly. He was so confused and overwhelmed.

“Not strong enough? Do you mean-?” Derek wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what he thought Wioletta meant.

“Yes.” Wioletta shook her head sadly. “Claudia’s gift was strong. I’ve not seen any stronger, save for Stiles’. But he is better suited to his gift than she was hers. I think we have his connection to your pack to thank for that.”

Derek stared at her for a long moment. He’d known Stiles was special, not just anyone could manipulate mountain ash to the extent Stiles had managed on numerous occasions. Even Deaton had said something about it being surprising. Clearly Derek was going to have to spend some more time with this woman, and learn just what else she knew about his world.

“As for how I know what you are. That’s my little gift.” She smiled at him. “You’re also about as subtle as a brick to the face, dear boy. You might want to work on that.”

“I- does… does Stiles know? About- about you, I mean?”

“He knows nothing of the gift of our family, no. Though I suspect he’s figured some things out for himself. He’s such a smart boy.”

Derek snorted. “Too smart for his own good, you mean.”

“Yes, well… that he gets entirely from his mother.” Wioletta sat down beside him and took his hand in both of hers. “Now Derek, you never did answer my question. Born or bitten?”

“Oh! Uh,” Derek looked down at their hands, knowing that if Wioletta knew anything about the world of the supernatural, she would recognise the significance of what he said next. “Born. My mother was Talia Hale.”

“Oh, dear boy. No wonder you reacted that way! I am so sorry I scared you.” She released his hand, only to pull him into a tight hug. “Talia was a good alpha, and a wonderful woman. I’m so sorry for what happened to your family.”

“Did you know them?” Derek closed his eyes and wrapped his arms gently around Wioletta’s frail body, taking comfort in something he hadn’t had in years.

“I corresponded with Talia many times in the past, before she had children, but never in person.  I wish I had had the chance to meet her.” She rubbed soothing circles on Derek’s back and he melted a little in her embrace. “She would have been proud of you. You’re a good man, Derek Hale. My Mieczysław doesn’t love just anybody.”

Derek tensed at that and pulled away from her, unable to keep the guilt off his face. He was going to have tell her that everything with Stiles was fake, and then Stiles would be devastated, and the sheriff would be disappointed in him, and Stiles would never forgive him- wait.

“Love? Stiles doesn’t love me, ma’am. He- he can’t love me. I’m not- he shouldn’t-“

“Hush, Derek. If I say he loves you, he loves you. I’m never wrong. Just like I always knew that Lydia girl was just a placeholder. He was never in love with her, just the idea of her.” She placed a hand on Derek’s cheek. “Now, when are you going to tell him you love him?”

“I… I don’t…” Derek sighed and looked down, he could feel a blush creeping up his face, “I’m not good with words. Not the way Stiles is.”

“Well then,” Wioletta spoke just as the door to the apartment banged open, admitting Stiles and his father. “You’re just going to have to show him, aren’t you?”

Wioletta patted Derek on the cheek and stood, making her way over to where Stiles was standing watching them with a soft look on his face. Derek caught his eye briefly, and ducked his head, embarrassed. The sheriff walked over and gave him a knowing look.

“She’s terrifying, isn’t she son?”

Derek shook himself a little and turned his gaze to the sheriff. He looked at him for a long moment, before deciding something.

“Sheri- Noah. I’m going to need your help with something.”

 

***

 

Stiles couldn’t concentrate on anything his babcia was saying, not when his father and Derek were whispering to each other in the corner, occasionally flicking amused glances back at him. They’d been doing that for days, always going off together and speaking in hushed tones. Stiles’ graduation was the next day, and in the week since his babcia had arrived, he’d barely spoken to Derek or his father; it was like they were both avoiding him. And he got it, okay? He knew the second Derek had kissed him that night that things had changed between them, but he’d hoped it had been a shifting to something better, not… whatever this was.

Derek had barely said two words to him, and he’d seemed to be avoiding being left alone with Stiles, which, honestly, hurt. Quite a bit. But Stiles was a big boy; he could take rejection, if that’s what was coming to him. And he was sure that’s what was coming. Even if Derek did occasionally look at him like he had just before they’d kissed. God, that kiss. Stiles had never thought it could be like that; never thought kissing someone could be like drowning and finally getting oxygen after being deprived of it his whole life at the same time. Nothing he’d experienced before could have prepared him for that. Which was sort of the problem.

He had no frame of reference, really; he had his disastrous relationship with Chad; and then a few hook-ups with some people – both guys and girls – from some of his classes; and that one night with the guy from the club he liked to go to. He had never had anything real enough to help him figure out if what he was feeling for Derek was real, or just a product of loneliness, and opportunity, and the warm flare of pack bonds in his chest. He wished Scott were there with him. Or Lydia. Hell, even Jackson would work; he’d at least tell Stiles the truth with no attempt at sparing his feelings.

Of course, no amount of wishing for his friends, his pack, his family, would help him get through the last, agonising, night he had to spend with Derek. Gone were the careless touches; the grounding feeling of Derek’s heartbeat in his ears; the quiet whisper of Derek’s warm hands on his skin, soothing him. Each night, since that night, Derek had disappeared sometime after dinner, only slipping back in when Stiles was already asleep, and then he was usually already gone by the time Stiles woke up, the sheets on his side of the bed cool to the touch. Sometimes Stiles dreamed he felt a hand running through his hair, or the brush of lips against his temple, but he knew that had to be his imagination.

The one thing that didn’t add up with Derek’s imminent rejection of Stiles was his sudden new-found friendship with Stiles’ father. Every minute that Derek wasn’t on his phone, talking in low, tense tones, he was talking with his father, their heads bent together so Stiles couldn’t even pretend to read their lips. Which was what he was trying to do right at that moment, instead of listening to his babcia.

“Are you even listening to me, kochanie?” His babcia sounded amused, but Stiles still winced at being caught not paying attention.

“I’m sorry babcia,” Stiles turned to look at her, and the sly smile on her face was worrying, to say the least. “I’m just thinking. Tomorrow’s a big day and I just…” He trailed off and looked back at Derek, to find him watching him with intense eyes. Stiles sighed. “Everything’s going to change after tomorrow, and I don’t think I’m ready for it.”

“Come now, dear boy. Tomorrow will be wonderful, and you will be surrounded by people that love you. That is more than some people get.”

Stiles hummed in acknowledgement, thinking about what she’d said. People that loved him. He wished he could be as sure about that as his babcia seemed to be. He would just have to settle for his babcia and his father, and he would hope that his friendship with Derek hadn’t been changed so much as to be unfixable. Fingers crossed.

 

***

 

The day of Stiles’ graduation dawned bright and sunny and Stiles felt like it was mocking him. He just wanted to roll over and hug Derek’s pillow to his chest for a bit before he had to get up. He went to do just that, and came face to face with Derek himself. Well, with Derek’s chest. He froze, and dared to glance up at Derek’s face; the sun slanted through the split in his curtains and fell across Derek’s cheek, lighting his skin with a golden hue that made Stiles’ breath catch in his throat.

Slowly, achingly slowly, Stiles reached out a hand to Derek’s cheek. He trailed shaking fingers down Derek’s cheek and exhaled roughly. Maybe he could pretend that this was some distant point in the future, and he and Derek had been together – for real – for years, and they had no reason to get up today. Maybe he could pretend that Derek loved him just as much as he loved Derek. And maybe the whole pack would all drop their lives and come see him graduate. One seemed as likely as the other. Which is to say, not at all.

Derek moved and Stiles froze, terrified that Derek would wake up and shatter Stiles’ carefully constructed illusion. He wasn’t ready to face the real world yet, but apparently the universe was picking today to be merciful, because all that happened was Derek turning further into his hand and letting out a small content-sounding sigh. Stiles suppressed a sob and lowered his head to rest on Derek’s chest. He curled into Derek’s side and slid his hand down his neck, and along his arm, until it came to rest loosely around Derek’s waist. The real world could wait just a little longer.

***

Derek had had to exert every last ounce of self-control he possessed, to not just say fuck it and stay in bed, when he woke up to Stiles curled into his side; long limbs wrapped around his own, and Stiles’ face tucked against his neck, the scent of salt water in the air. Wait. Had Stiles been crying? Why would he be crying? Derek gently pulled himself out of Stiles’ grasp and looked down at him. There were indeed the remnants of tears on Stiles’ cheeks, and he bit back a whine at the sight. Stiles should never be given reason to cry.

Derek knew he had made Stiles very confused over the past week, but he hadn’t been able to trust himself alone with him, not if he wanted to keep his sanity; instead, he had spent longer and longer away from the apartment that he found himself thinking more and more of as theirs, and had thrown himself into planning his surprise with Noah.

When Derek had first brought up the idea, Noah had been hesitant to agree; not because he was against the idea itself, but because he thought the likelihood of them pulling it off in time was low. Derek had been determined, however, and had eventually convinced him to help. They had spent the last week constantly on their phones, tracking down certain components that Derek said were non-negotiable. When Noah had balked at the cost of this surprise, Derek had calmly assured him that he had the money, and that this was something he wanted – no, he needed – to do for Stiles. Even if he didn’t think Stiles would ever feel the same way about him, he had to try; he’d told Wioletta he was better with his actions than he was with his words, and dammit, he was going to do this if it killed him.

Derek gently stroked Stiles’ cheek before carefully sliding out of bed. He got dressed quickly, then tiptoed across to the bedroom door and opened it just enough to slip through the gap. He closed it behind him and made his way out of the apartment. He had one last thing to do today, and then Stiles would finally know how he felt. He only hoped Stiles felt the same.

 

***

 

Stiles woke up for the second time alone and cold, and without the presence of Derek, and he had to take several deep breaths before he could bring himself to get out of bed to get dressed. He was just pulling on his shoes when there was a tentative knock on his door, and his heart gave a stupid little jump at the thought that it might be Derek. Shaking himself, he finished tying his laces and stood up, fiddling with the upturned cuff of his button-down shirt.

“Come in!” He called out, trying to compose himself. The relief he felt when it was his father that poked his head in was overshadowed by the disappointment that it wasn’t Derek.

“Hey kiddo. How you doing? You nervous?” Stiles raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Alright, point taken. Stupid question. Do you need anything?”

“No I…” Stiles shook his head and looked down at the ground. “Have you, uh… have you seen Derek this morning? It’s just… he wasn’t here when I woke up… he hasn’t been around a lot, the last few days.”

His dad’s face did something complicated before his expression settled on something Stiles couldn’t decipher.

“Derek’s going to meet us there. He said he had something to do before your ceremony.”

Stiles sighed. “Has he- has he said anything? To you? I’ve barely seen him all week, and it’s like he’s been avoiding me.”

“Aw hell, kid.”

“I just don’t know what happened. If I- if I did somethi- something wrong or…” Stiles sat heavily on his bed and wrapped his arms around himself, closing his eyes. He felt the bed dip beside him as his father sat down.

“What’s got you talking like that, son?” Stiles felt an arm wrap around his shoulders, and he leaned into it gratefully. “If you can’t tell that boy is head-over-heels for you, we might need to get your eyes checked.”

Stiles snorted. “Yeah right. If he was so into me, he would have at least looked at me this past week, instead of only creeping home after I’ve fallen asleep, and leaving before I wake up.”

“Oh good lord, that boy is utterly useless.” Stiles dad sighed and squeezed him tighter. “Stiles, kid, you listen to me, okay? Derek is so far gone on you, he has spent the past week running himself ragged to do something for you that is going to blow your mind. Now, I might have told him he needed to work on his poker face around you if he was going to pull this off, and it would seem he took that to mean the best thing would be to spend as little time as possible around you. Idiot.” His dad sounded fond, “Son, I don’t know if you know this, but you are literally the worst person to try to plan a surprise around.”

Stiles laughed, a little wetly, and rubbed his eyes to clear them of the tears that had gathered there.

“You always had to leave my presents at mama McCall’s so I wouldn’t find them at home.”

“Exactly. And Derek… well. He just really wanted this one to stay a surprise for you, kid. So go wash your face, and come out to the lounge. Your grandmother wants to take some photos.”

“Alright pops. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Alright.”

His dad kissed him on the forehead and got up, groaning about his old joints, then left the room, pulling the door shut behind him. Stiles sighed and rubbed a hand down his face. He took a few deep breaths and stood up. Time to get this show on the road.

 

***

 

After suffering patiently through way too many photos taken by and with his babcia, Stiles was standing awkwardly in his graduation robe, fiddling with the hem of his sleeve. He was waiting to be hustled into position, and he was suddenly outrageously aware of the fact that he had exactly zero friends from any of his classes.

Granted, he had never really tried to engage with his classmates; any time there had been a group project, he had done the work, as quickly as possible while maintaining his quality, and he had left. He’d probably spent more time with his professors over the years than he had his classmates, but when you’d been through the amount of things he had, it was hard to relate to the standard dramas of people his age. In truth, he’d envied them their silly problems.

He’d made a few friends through Chad, but they had of course taken Chad’s side in the breakup. Never mind that Chad had cheated on Stiles with his roommate. Oh no, to Chad’s frat brothers, he could do no wrong, and Stiles was the weirdly intense kid who lost his cool over nothing. And okay, Stiles might have thrown a few things, and verbally eviscerated Chad and his roommate both, but he was perfectly justified. Honestly, they had been lucky the pack had had no idea Stiles was even dating anyone at the time, because there would probably be no trace left of them if Lydia had gotten hold of them.

Thankfully Derek hadn’t brought Chad up again since their first chat in the diner a few weeks ago. Stiles was pretty sure he would have spilled the whole story if Derek had asked; would have told him all about how Chad had started out sweet, and charming, how he had seemed amused and intrigued by Stiles’ quirks, by the little ticks and tricks to Stiles’ personality; how over the course of their relationship, Chad slowly grew more distant; how Stiles had talked to his roommate about it, asking if he had any advice on what to do. Stiles had been so naïve. There was no way he wanted Derek knowing just how easily he’d been taken in by a pretty face and sharp eyes, and sharper tongue. He wouldn’t have been able to take Derek’s understanding.

The dean was making her way through the gathering of students, handing out little cards with seat numbers on them; they were separated by degree, and then broken down by name, so Stiles knew he’d be in the middle of his graduating class somewhere, but closer to the back than the front.

When the dean reached him, she smiled and handed him the card. Stiles could see her saying something to him, but the noise of the crowd covered it up. He just smiled and nodded at her; it seemed to be the right response, because she smiled again, patted him on the shoulder, and continued on along the line of students. Stiles looked down at his card and went to find his section.

He was passing the students with last names starting with ‘A’ when he heard someone calling his name.

“Stilinski!”

Stiles looked up, and groaned when he saw it was Taron. He did not need this today, of all days. Still. He forced a smile and walked over.

“Taron.” He looked at the group of students around them. “How are you?”

“Where’s your boyfriend today, Stilinski?” Taron’s voice was harsh and his lip curled up in a sneer. “Did he not bother coming? I wouldn’t blame him, who would want to be seen with you?”

“Okay what the fuck, dude? I’d never even met you before last week, and you’ve decided to pick on my boyfriend? Who fucking raised you? Because they sure as shit didn’t teach you any manners.” Stiles was seething. He could handle being bullied, but Derek didn’t deserve that.

“I just want to know what’s wrong with him that he decided to date you. Are you paying him, or something?”

Stiles spluttered out a choked off expletive and he nearly missed one of the students behind Taron trying to call him back.

“Jesus, Ainsworth. Cut it out!”

“Ainsworth?” Realisation suddenly dawned on Stiles. “Oh my fucking god! Are you kidding me? You’re Chad’s brother?”

“Took you long enough to figure out.”

“Seriously dude? I dated Chad for like, four months! What the hell is your problem?” Stiles took a step forward as he spoke, and was gratified to see Taron visibly stop himself from taking a step back.

“My problem,” Taron leaned into Stiles’ space, “is that my brother was fucking devastated when you dumped him!”

He was dev- seriously?! Did he even tell you why I broke up with him?”

“Well-“

“Let’s hear it, hotshot. Why don’t you tell me exactly how I broke your precious brother’s heart?” Stiles practically spat the words out. “You can’t, can you? Because I’m betting he didn’t tell you. Or if he did, it was some made up fucking sob story that painted me as the weird, intense, too clingy, jealous asshole. Am I close?”

“He told me you got all possessive any time he was hanging out with his frat bros. How you hounded him day and night, then dumped him when he tried to being nice to your friends.” Taron was holding his ground, and his voice still had that belligerent tone.

“Wow. Wow, I knew he was a dick, but that takes the fucking cake.” Stiles swiped a hand down his face and took a deep breath. He was suddenly exhausted. “If asking him about his day, and wanting to meet his friends makes me clingy and possessive, then I guess I’m guilty, but do you wanna know why I really dumped him? Honestly?”

“I know I do.” The girl that had tried to tell Taron to stop earlier was leaning forward eagerly.

“Shut up, Cece.”

“Oh bite me, Taron, your brother is a dick, and I never once believed he was the jilted party every time you told the story of his psycho ex.”

“Psycho ex. Wow. Classy family you got, Ainsworth.”

“Well it’s not like you’re known for telling the truth, Stilinski.” Taron waved a hand dismissively at Stiles. “All that bullshit about your hometown. Everyone dying mysteriously, or being flat out murdered? No one here takes anything you say seriously”

“Bullshi- do you have any idea what I’ve been through, Taron? If you knew even half the things I’ve dealt with, you’d run screaming home to your mother.” Stiles looked Taron dead in the eye, and got no small amount of pleasure when Taron flinched at the venom in his gaze.

“I’ve seen my friends beaten, and cut up, and fucking murdered, right in front of my eyes. A girl I grew up with was taken and ritually fucking sacrificed just for being innocent. A- a fucking- some kind of god-damned cult came in and kidnapped two of my- of my friends, and toyed with them for months! One didn’t- Erica didn’t make it out alive, and Boyd… Boyd, he-“ Stiles broke off and had to take a breath, blinking back tears. “Boyd got out, and we thought he was safe, and then those- those- those animals came back and slaughtered him! And Alliso-“ He cut off again, unable to keep going.

Everyone around him was staring at him, dumbfounded. Cece seemed to be holding back tears, and Taron was looking extremely uncomfortable. Stiles felt a savage sort of pleasure at that.

“So don- don’t you- you have no right to stand there, and tell me that what I’ve been through is made up! I’m done with questioning whether what I’m seeing is real, and I won’t stand there and let you of all people- when you don’t even- God, you’re so young.”

Stiles stepped back and wrapped his arms around himself, taking deep shuddering breaths. He had never been more aware that he was never going to be the same as other kids his age. He opened his mouth again, but was cut off by someone calling his name. A familiar voice that filled him at once with both relief and an impossible sadness.

“Stiles! Are you okay?” Derek skidded to a stop in front of him, his back to Taron and he cupped Stiles’ face in gentle hands. “What’s wrong? You sm- you look upset.”

“It’s fine, Derek.” Stiles’ voice was rough. “I’m okay.”

“Don’t lie to me. What happened?”

“Derek-“ Stiles sighed, he didn’t have the energy to pretend anymore. “I was just telling Taron here about all our little adventures back home. Apparently they sound a little far-fetched.”

“Our adventures? Wha-“ Derek’s face grew murderous as he realised what Stiles was implying. He rounded on Taron.

“Hey man, you gotta-“

“What the fuck is wrong with you? First you accost Stiles and imply he’s not good enough for me, and now you’re telling him what he’s been through sounds like a joke to you?”

“Derek stop.” Stiles put a hand on Derek’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “It’s not worth it.”

“Not worth it? Stiles, he made you upset! That’s worth everything!” Derek looked like he was about two seconds away from ripping out throats.

“Yeah well, he is Chad’s brother, so…”

“Chad? You mean that asshole you dated in sophomore year? Is that what this is all about?”

“My brother isn’t an asshole!”

“He kind of is, dude.” Cece piped up from behind Taron. Siles liked this girl.

“Shut the fuck up, Cece!” Taron glared at Derek. “This guy breaks my brother’s heart, and-“

“He broke Chad’s heart?” Derek turned to Stiles, “He has no idea, does he?”

“No.” Stiles pulled a face. “I hadn’t gotten that far yet.”

Stiles pulled Derek aside and a little behind him, and faced Taron head on. Cece seemed to be bouncing on her toes in anticipation, and Taron had a sneer to rival Jackson at his douchiest on his face.

“The reason I broke up with Chad is because I walked in on him with my roommate’s dick down his throat, so… you know… you might wanna ask him about that.”

“Oh! Oh my god, dude!” Cece looked positively gleeful. “I fucking knew there was no way your brother had done nothing! Oh man! This is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” She stopped and turned wide eyes on Stiles. “Oh my god, I am so sorry. Obviously it’s not great that that happened to you but-“

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” Stiles shuffled awkwardly, suddenly hyper aware of the crowd they had drawn. “So I’m gonna…”

Stiles gestured down the line of students and backed away, pulling Derek with him. As he turned around, he could hear Cece still exclaiming gleefully over the Chad revelation. He had Derek’s hand clenched tight in his, and he was resolutely not looking at anyone else; his gaze was fixed on the ground in front of him, and he was pleased to note the further from Taron’s group he got, the less people seemed to be whispering about him. By the time he reached his section, he was trembling all over. Derek tugged on his hand and he slowed before coming to a stop.

“Are you okay?” Derek’s voice was careful and quiet. “Do you need me to do anything? I can get your father-”

“No I’m okay.” Stiles couldn’t bring himself to look at Derek. “I just have to get through this ceremony, and then I never have to see any of these people ever again.”

Derek was quiet for a long moment, and Stiles thought he had his phone out, but since he was still looking at his feet, he couldn’t be sure. All he focused on was the warm, comforting weight of Derek’s hand in his, tethering him. A few minutes passed this way before Derek spoke again.

“I uh… this was supposed to be a surprise for after the ceremony, but… well. It looks like you could use it now.”

“What?” Stiles sniffed, and chanced a glance up at Derek. There was something unbearably soft in the way Derek looked back at him.

“Why don’t you turn around?” Derek smiled a little and flicked his gaze up to look behind Stiles.

Stiles felt movement at his back and he turned around slowly, following Derek’s line of sight. What he saw made his breath catch and a sob threatened to break free.

“Scotty?” Stiles’ voice broke and he was suddenly swept up in a bone-crushing hug from his best friend. “Wha-“

“Derek called everyone and payed for us all to be here for your graduation.” Scott’s voice sounded rough and upset, and absolutely wonderful. “I’m sorry I’ve been so bad at keeping in touch, dude.”

“No it’s fine I- what do you mean us?”

“Observant as ever, Stilinski.”

“Jackson?!”

Stiles pulled himself free of Scott’s grasp, noted that Derek still had a firm hold of his hand, and looked past Scott to see the pack standing a short distance away. The whole pack. Lydia, Jackson, Malia, even Kira; and Isaac, with Chris Argent; and Cora and Peter? And was that Ethan in the back? Melissa and his father were behind them, and his babcia was there too, watching him with keen eyes that promised retribution for whoever had hurt Stiles. He almost felt sorry for Taron. Almost.

“What? How? When did you all- How did you all-? Dad?”

“Don’t look at me, kid. It was all Derek’s idea. I just helped him track down some of our more hard to find friends.” His dad looked pointedly at Kira and Isaac at that. “Derek planned everything, paid for it all…”

“Dude.” Stiles turned to Derek, awed. “You did this for me?”

“Well… yeah, Stiles. Of course I did.” Derek looked like he had eaten something that disagreed with him. “You missed the pack, and it’s not like I need the money, and… and I just want you to be happy.”

Oh dear god, Stiles was in love. Like, honest to goodness, hold my hand and never let it go, wake up with me every morning, leave your books in my bookshelf, never leave me alone again, love. And if this was any indication, Derek felt the same way. Derek Hale loved him.

“Oh my god, you love me. You love me!” Stiles stared at Derek in wonder, gripping his hand so tightly it hurt.

“Well…” Derek’s cheeks turned a soft pink and he ducked his head for a second before looking back up at Stiles with a small smile on his face. “Yeah. I do.”

“Oh my-“ Stiles surged forward and wrapped his free arm around Derek’s neck to tangle his fingers in the hair at the back of his head.

When their lips touched, for the second time ever, and certainly not for the last, he was vaguely aware of the sounds of whoops and catcalls from the pack, but mostly he was enveloped by the feel, and smell, and taste of Derek. His lips, so impossibly soft, moved against his own in a way that he was fast becoming addicted to; Derek’s hand blazed a path up his shirt, across his skin, and Stiles had to suppress a shudder.

He gasped when he felt the light pinprick of claws, and Derek took the opportunity to slip his tongue in Stiles’ mouth. He groaned and pushed even closer against Derek, uncaring of the pack behind them, and the massive crowd that was his graduating class. All he knew in that moment was Derek. He could die right then, and he would be happy. Except he wouldn’t because that would mean he wouldn’t be with Derek, and that was a thing that could never happen. He loved everything about Derek. He loved his warm heart, and his kind soul; he loved his gentle hands; he loved his humanity, and he loved the raw power that came with being a werewolf. He loved… he loved Derek. Oh. Oh!

Stiles pulled away, long enough to gasp out, “I love you too dude, you have no idea.” And then he was pulling Derek back in for another searing kiss. He could have stayed like that forever, quite happily, but he was interrupted by someone clearing their throat. He and Derek broke away, gasping a little, but they remained twined around each other even as they looked over at the short, elderly man that had walked up to them.

“Mr Stilinski. Kindly send your young man back outside so we can proceed with your graduation ceremony.”

“Monroe! Fancy seeing you here! Have you met Derek?” Stiles gestured to where Derek was wrapped around him, “Derek, dude, this is Monroe! The awesome prof I was telling you about who’s gonna give me the recommendation!”

“I won’t be recommending you for anything if you hold today up, Mr Stilinski.” Monroe sounded far too amused.

“This is Monroe?” Derek’s face did something that looked painful. “I expected someone… younger… with the way you’re always going on about him.”

“Younger? Why would you-?” Stiles frowned and looked at Derek. “Oh my god! You were jealous of Monroe? Seriously? Dude, I know I said he loved me, but come on!”

“Shut up.”

“Oh my god, no way, this is too good!”

“Mr Stilinski, please?”

“Oh! Right you are prof! Off you go, big guy, I’ll see you after the ceremony. I’ll be a sexy college grad.”

“Oh god, what have I gotten myself into?” Derek complained, but the grin that stretched across his face gave away how happy he was.

“Shut up, you love me.”

“Yeah.” Derek sounded impossibly soft, and happy. “Yeah I really do.”

Stiles just had to kiss Derek again, at that. They finally pulled apart again when Monroe cleared his throat pointedly. One more peck on the lips and Stiles sent Derek off with the rest of the pack after quick hugs from everyone; Jackson tried to protest, but his hug was just as warm and solid as everyone else’s. Ignoring the stares from his fellow graduates, Stiles took his place in line and waited gleefully for their turn to head outside. He caught Cece’s eye up ahead, and she grinned and threw him a thumbs up. Taron was studiously ignoring everyone around him.

 

***

 

When Stiles crossed the stage to accept his diploma from the dean, he was overwhelmed by the cheers and whistles and whoops - and even some howls - that rose up from the crowd. He grinned as he moved the tassel on the cap across to the other side, and he could see Derek out in the crowd, his grandmother hanging onto Derek’s arm, his father beside them looking prouder than ever, and the whole pack circled around them.

When he got off the stage, one of the students who had somehow missed the earlier drama leaned over and whispered loudly to be heard over the howls and whistles.

“Jesus dude, what the hell kind of people you got out there?”

Stiles smiled and turned his face in the direction of the pack, a warmth in his chest at the sound of their support. He looked back at the student beside him and grinned.

“That’s my family.”