“Turns out my dad's allergic to cats, who knew, right?” Stiles says as soon as Derek opens the door. He steps around Derek to enter the loft, arm and shoulder brushing against Derek's and leaving a pleasantly distracting warmth behind. There's something weird about his scent, something new, and it throws Derek off enough that it takes him a moment to process what Stiles has said. Not that it made any sense as a greeting to begin with, but over the years he's grown accustomed to the non sequiturs.
As Derek turns to find Stiles sprawled comfortably across the couch--a sight which fills Derek with a contentment he tries to ignore--his inquiry of “And this is important because?” is cut short when he notices the source of the change in Stiles’ scent. There's a small kitten, barely big enough to be weaned and clearly enamored with Stiles, batting her tiny white and orange paws at Stiles’ long fingers as they wiggle in front of her. After a few seconds of daydreaming about those fingers, Derek shakes his head slightly to chase the thoughts away; now is not the time for thinking about how Stiles’ fingers would feel on his skin, or what it would be like to weave his own between them.
“That's a cat,” Derek says, wincing at the absurdity of the statement the second it's out of his mouth.
Stiles snorts. “Very good, Der, glad you're paying attention,” he teases, his voice softer than usual, presumably in deference to the cat, who Stiles can't seem to stop smiling at.
He tries to keep his responding laugh annoyed, but he knows it comes out fond instead. Stiles knows it too, because he tears his attention away from the kitten to smile at Derek.
Clearing his throat to break the tension he's pretty sure only he's feeling, Derek says “I meant, why do you have a cat? In my house, specifically.”
Stiles looks at him again, rolling his eyes slightly, as though the answer is obvious. “Because dad is allergic. I thought you were keeping up?”
Derek sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose for a moment. He may possibly be a little bit in love with Stiles, but no one could irritate him quite so efficiently.
“That answers literally zero of my questions, Stiles. And why'd you get a cat in the first place if your dad's allergic?”
“First of all,” Stiles sighs, fondly exasperated, “I didn’t know he was allergic until he came home from work this morning and started sneezing. Secondly,” he continues, cradling the kitten to his chest so he can sit up without dislodging her from where she’s fallen asleep, tiny purrs coming from her tiny body. “Secondly, I didn’t get her on purpose. Someone left her in a box in the parking lot on campus. Like a heartless monster, just abandoned her,” Stiles defends, a frown between his brows as his anger for the faceless abandonner of kittens leaks into his words and his fingers began absently scratching between the kitten’s ears. “Scott and Deaton checked her out, but they’re all out of foster homes for cats right now, and I couldn’t just leave her because she made the saddest little sound when I even mentioned it. So I obviously had to adopt her. But then, The Great Stilinski Sneeze Attack happened.” He’s still petting the cat, cooing at her when she wiggles her nose in her sleep. “And C, I’m here because I have something to give you. A present, even,” Stiles says with too much casualness, his scent spiking with nerves in a way that meant he was being less than straightforward as opposed to being anxious.
Oh. Oh no.
“But, Der! Look at her!” Stiles says, cradling the kitten in his hands and presenting her to Derek like an offering. The kitten wakes up then, blinking her big green eyes sleepily at Derek and unleashing a squeaky yawn as she cocks her head to the side, studying Derek’s face from where Stiles is holding her mere inches away from his nose. “She needs a safe home, big guy. She can’t fend for herself out there in the great big world!”
Derek narrows his eyes at Stiles, who is looking at him with a shockingly accurate imitation of what Stiles would call Scott’s puppy dog face; Derek pretends he’s unaffected, but the kitten takes that moment to reach out with one tiny striped paw and bat at the tip of Derek’s nose. Stiles absolutely cackles as Derek reaches up to brush away the tickly sensation, shooting a shocked glance at the little ball of fluff that is now trying valiantly to escape the cage of Stiles’ hands and climb onto Derek’s face. “See! She loves you already!” Stiles crows triumphantly. Derek doesn’t have it in him to pretend that he’s actually going to fight him on it; he knew he was keeping the cat the second Stiles had flopped down onto his couch and snuggled up with her like it was something he did all the time. Dammit.
“Here,” Stiles says, gently shoving the cat into Derek’s chest, “Hold her a second while I go get her stuff from my car!” And just like that, Stiles is running out the door and Derek is staring at the cat-- his cat, apparently--with what he can feel is an incredulous expression.
“Well, hi Cat. Welcome home?”
She mewls at him before nuzzling against his chin. He takes it as assent and moves to fall gracelessly into his favorite overstuffed chair to wait for Stiles to return.
When Stiles comes clamoring back up the stairs, he has a truly startling amount of stuff in his arms; Derek can only stare at him in mild terror for a long moment. “What is-- haven’t you only had Cat for like, two days?”
Stiles looks sheepish when he shrugs as best he can with an armload and a half of cat-care and entertainment. He looks like a walking pet store. “I mean, she needed a litter box, and Scott said kittens need special food to help them grow,” he shuffles his burden slightly to indicate the box and a bag full of food, and Derek belatedly springs up to take some of the stuff, the kitten tucked against him carefully with his free hand. Stiles sighs in relief as Derek takes two of the heaviest bags. Derek leads him into an empty corner of the room to start setting up and unpacking. “Plus, she has a lot of energy--when she’s not sleeping--so I got some toys, and I figured it’d help her brain development if she had a variety. But if the little balls with the bells inside drive your wolfy senses nuts, I can take them to Deaton.”
Derek can’t help a fond smile and eye-roll as Stiles talks, he was clearly very excited about having a pet (and clearly also already diving into research about feline development). The disappointment he clearly feels at not being able to keep the cat is obvious, and before he can think about it, Derek is saying, “You can come see her anytime, you know. You do have a key, and she’s your cat.”
With a grin that makes Derek feel like a king for having caused it, Stiles says “Thanks,” in a soft, awed kind of way, and Derek is hit with a wave of contentment that almost knocks him over. They stare at each other for a perfect moment, broken only by an excited squeak from Cat. When they turn away from each other to investigate the cause, both wear a heated flush that they tacitly ignore.
“So,” Derek clears his throat to ask, “What’s her name, anyway? We can’t just keep calling her ‘Cat’.”
Stiles snorts, and Derek pretends the inelegant sound is off-putting. “Tiger, obviously. I was gonna go with Pumpkin, but I figured most of my favorite people are wolves, so I stuck with the theme.” Derek thinks that Stiles’ eyes flickered to him when he mentioned his favorite people , but he probably imagined it. He can’t dwell long, because the cat--Tiger--demands attention, and neither of them can really deny her.
Before either of them notice, the day has passed in a pleasant flurry of playing with the kitten and watching her sleep.
Stiles starts coming over to visit. A lot. Derek’s place always smells like Stiles, and it’s as wonderful as it is maddening.
Tiger has quickly established herself as the Alpha of the house, and Stiles finds it endlessly entertaining to watch Derek coo at her and give into her demands for affection with half-hearted grumbles and a soft curve at the corners of his mouth. It makes it hard to keep his feelings for Derek from spilling all over, but he would give up a lot to see more moments where Derek absently scratches Tiger’s ears while he reads, or when he lets himself in to find Tiger curled up on Derek’s chest when he’s fallen asleep on the couch.
Tiger is a troublemaker. She hides socks, she likes to bat at the your heels when they’re on the floor, and she shreds paper like she’s getting paid for it. More specifically, she shreds Stiles’ papers. For his thesis.
“Der-ek! Your cat ate half of my article on forensic psychology! Again!”
He’s staring menacingly at Tiger where she’s curled around a small pile of destroyed paper, her tail flicking slowly back and forth as she rubs her cheek against a strip of paper that has curled around her paw with a pleased expression on her face. Derek tries very hard not to laugh. He does not entirely succeed, because Stiles shoots him a glare that should probably cause him actual pain.
“Why is she only my cat when she’s destroying your stuff?”
“Who knows what you tell her about me when I’m not home! She’s targeting me, Derek!” Derek freezes in place at hearing Stiles call his place home , and a warm, bright feeling fills his chest, joining a pleased rumble that he hopes Stiles can’t hear. Tiger does, though, and she pads quickly over to Derek to try to climb his leg, a loud purr echoing his.
Stiles’ annoyance melts away when Derek scoops Tiger up and holds her with one arm, petting her with his free hand. “I only tell her true stories when you’re not here,” he tries to joke, but it lands too sincerely. “We’ll make it up to you by ordering your favorite take-out from that Thai place on Birch.”
“Extra peanut sauce?”
“Of course; gotta have extra peanut sauce.” Tiger meows.
Tiger is a daredevil. It’s nerve wracking.
She jumps from stupidly high places, wriggles her way into the tiniest spaces, and climbs on top of things she has no right to be able to balance on.
Mostly, she has the balance of, well, of a cat, and it’s not a problem. But on one particular day, she leaps onto the counter and knocks Stiles’ mug of hot coffee down to shatter on the floor, gets spooked by the sound and by Derek’s yelp, and fumbles her dismount, landing in the middle of the puddle of coffee and ceramic shards.
They work seamlessly to bundle her up and get her in the car, arriving at the emergency vet in record time. The reception desk is empty, and Stiles yells, “Excuse me? Our cat needs help, please!” His voice is a little shaky, which should be ridiculous after all they’ve been through--that a cat that might have a minor cut on her paw should make Stiles feel frightened--but only makes Derek’s love for him rush to the surface. He puts a palm on Stiles’ back and rubs soothing circles there, gratified when he feels the tension leave Stiles’ frame.
A friendly looking woman with cartoon dogs wearing capes on her scrubs rushes out from behind the reception area, already offering reassurance as she asks for their information. When she asks, “And Tiger is both of yours?” Derek can feel Stiles tense up, can smell his embarrassment even above all the other scents in the office.
Before Stiles can back-track, Derek says simply, “Yes, she’s ours,” and is immensely gratified when Stiles relaxes into the gentle press of his hand and looks at him with something like hope.
The nurse smiles at them warmly and says, “Right this way, gentlemen, we’ll get Tiger patched up in no time,” before leading them into a small exam room. Less than forty minutes later, Tiger has had a small piece of ceramic removes from the pad of her foot, and is sporting a small bandage and a cone around her tiny head. The cone is orange, at Stiles’ request, because “It’s funny! She’s Tiger, but now she looks like a lion! Come on, you know it’s funny.”
Derek has to admit it is.
When they’re settled in back at Derek’s, Tiger napping on her oversized cushion, Stiles and Derek sit quietly on the couch pretending to watch a movie that may or might not be about vampires; they’re close enough to feel each other’s warmth, but not quite touching. They haven't spoken about anything but Tiger all afternoon, and the weight of what they both almost said at the vet is pushing in on them from all sides.
With a deep breath, Derek moves his hand an inch or so, so that it lays against the side of Stiles’, and is beyond relieved when Stiles loops his pinkie around Derek’s own. “So,” Derek breathes out uncertainly, equally afraid to speak as to stay silent. Stiles though, Stiles has always been good at reading him, so he just lets himself lean over so that his head rests on Derek’s shoulder as he threads their fingers together.
The smile in his voice is audible when he replies with a quiet “Yeah.” They wordlessly rearrange themselves so that they can settle in to watch the movie. Stiles lays against Derek’s chest, and raises their joined hands to his lips to place a kiss on Derek’s knuckles. The kiss Derek presses into Stiles’ temple is shaped like a smile.
Before they can speak more--or kiss more--Tiger jumps onto the couch and claims Stiles’ stomach for the remainder of her nap. Stiles makes an annoyed sound, and Derek cuts him off with “She’s your cat.”
“Nope, ours ,” Stiles argues happily. They both laugh softly, and hold each other a little tighter. When Derek hums his agreement, Stiles turns his face toward Derek’s, and they meet in a perfect, (mostly) chaste kiss.
Tiger purrs in her sleep.
Later, they leave her to her cushion and close the bedroom door.