“He’s back,” Lily calls from the front office, her voice barely audible around the music blaring from the stereo. When her words register, Derek jolts upright, smacking his head against the hood of the Honda he’s been tinkering with.
Cursing, Derek wipes his hands off on the rag tucked into his belt, turns down the radio, and tries to smooth out the tank top he’s wearing, as though that would be enough to make him look presentable in spite of the oil and grim staining his clothes.
“You look fine,” Lily mutters, peering at him from behind the desk. Even if it’s not technically good parenting to glare at an eleven year old, that’s what Derek does. Lily just grins in response, looking so much like her mother that it makes Derek’s chest ache. He doesn’t have too much time to dwell on it though, because the door to the office is being pulled open, and officer Stilinski is stumbling inside, still in uniform. Gods, he must have just gotten off of work and came right over.
“Hey, Derek,” he says, cheeks flushed. “How’s your day been?”
He raises an eyebrow. “Stiles, you were just here last week.”
From the corner of his eye, Derek sees Lily smack her hand against her forehead in exasperation, but gets distracted when the blush on Stiles darkens, causing the moles on his cheeks to stick out. Derek wants to kiss each one.
Stiles brings a hand up and rubs at the back of his head, messing up his hair in the most delicious way. “Well, about that. Rosco was running smoothly, but then I was on my way home Friday and I had to swerve out of the way of some geese, and now he’s making this whining sound every time I make a left turn.”
Both Derek and Lily give him the patented Hale look of disapproval, though Derek’s is more fond than anything else. “Do you hurt your car on purpose or do you have really terrible luck?” Lily asks, disdain dripping from her words.
Stiles glares at her (which makes Derek feel better about doing it), but deflates at her flat look. “Rosco is just old, that’s all. He needs a lot of attention.” Derek knows all too well what that sad tone means. There’s a story there, one touched by tragedy, that makes Stiles hold on to the jeep despite it’s failing condition. It’s one of the reasons that, even though it’s in the shop all of the time, Derek will never complain about all of the work the jeep needs.
“Let me open the garage doors and you can bring him inside,” his voice is probably too fond, but he doesn’t care. His crush on the officer is disturbingly obvious to everyone (except Stiles himself apparently). And the smile Stiles casts his way is full of joy and relief. It makes Derek’s hands tremble.
When Stiles leaves the office to get the jeep, Lily raises her eyebrows at Derek. “Are you going to ask him out this time?”
Ignoring her, Derek goes back into the garage. She should already know the answer, it’s a conversation that they’ve had many times before, pretty much every time Stiles comes in. As cute as he thinks he is, and as easy as they get along, Derek won’t ask him out. He’s too busy running the shop and taking care of Lily, he doesn’t have time to date.
He reminds himself of that again as Stiles turns and pulls his jeep into the garage alongside the Honda. It’s not too hard to do, considering the fact that Rosco most certainly does not sound right.
Leaving the engine running, Stiles tumbles out of the jeep. “Do you think we should test drive it? I mean, so that you can hear the clunking noise?”
Derek snorts, already moving his toolbox forward. “Trust me, I can hear it. Kill the engine for me, alright? We’ll get this figured out.”
In a whirl of limbs, Stiles goes and does just that. Derek tries not to look too fond at the action. For as poise as Stiles can be on the job, he’s so full of clumsy energy. It’s infectious and adorable, and Derek isn’t sure how Stiles has never figured out that Derek has such a huge crush on him. Honestly, he can feel the besotted look on his face. How can Stiles be so clueless?
Derek has spent so much time under the Jeep’s hood, he could probably work on it with his eyes close, so finding the problem is too easy. It’s not too hard to fix either, so Derek takes some extra time and checks the rest of the engine over. He knows that he should just take care of the problem and let Stiles get on with his day, but he can’t help prolonging the proceder. Stiles sits on a stool beside the jeep, chatting away about his week and how dinner with his father went, and generally letting Derek into his life, one story at a time.
Eventually though, Derek runs out of things to tinker with. He straightens out, trying not to think too hard about how Stiles’ eyes linger on his waist where his shirt has ridden up. “Alright, that should do it,” Derek says, enjoying the blush that colors Stiles’ cheeks.
“Wow, already?” He glances at his watch and blanches. “Oh Gods, I hadn’t realized that so much time had passed! You were supposed to close half an hour ago, Derek!”
Derek shrugs, wiping his hands off on the towel hanging at his waist. “It’s alright, I’m not worried about it. Besides, while you were here I made sure everything else looked good, so that hopefully you won’t have any problems for a while.”
“You didn’t have to do that, you know. I mean, I appreciate it, and I feel better knowing that Rosco is going to make it through, but I still kept you here longer than you needed to be. Let me pay you real quick and then I’ll get out of your hair.” He’s already reaching for his wallet, looking genuinely distressed about keeping Derek late, but Derek waves him off.
“Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t that big of a problem, and the rest of the work I did was just extra maintenance.”
Stiles blinks at him in surprise, amber eyes catching all the light left in the garage. “At least let me give you the service charge. I mean, I did keep you from working on the other cars here and-.”
Crossing his arm over his chest, Derek cuts off his rambling. “Seriously, please don’t worry about it. You kept me company the whole time, so consider the story about Mr. Ramb as payment enough.”
“I-. You-. Really? Derek, are you sure?”
Feeling the smile tugging at his lips, Derek nods. “Of course.”
They’re staring at each other in silence, longer than is probably appropriate, when Lily clears his throat. The sound makes them both startle and step away from each other. From the door into the office, Lily watches them both with a hard expression. “Can I talk to you real quick?” Even though she makes it sound like a question, it’s obvious by the way that she’s staring at Derek that she won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He nods and takes two steps in her direction, but before he can get to her side, she turns on Stiles. “You. Don’t. Move.” Each word is a hard command, one that has Stiles standing up straighter and nodding, looking serious despite his flushed complexion.
Exasperated, Derek pulls Lily through the door. He shuts it for good measure, already guessing what this conversation is going to be about. “Lily, can we please just-.”
She points her finger at one of the waiting room chairs, frowning at him hard enough that he cuts off his sentence and stumbles into the seat. She looks so much like her mother standing there staring him down, ready to lecture Derek for all he’s worth.
“This is gone on long enough I think,” she begins, pacing around the room. Her voice is hard and cold, so much more mature than an eleven year old’s has any right to be. It makes Derek wonder if he’s somehow let her down. After all, she’s still just a kid, and yet here she is, pacing around the room and lecturing him instead of enjoying her youth. “You can’t keep using me as an excuse to avoid living your life.”
The words hit Derek hard, right in the heart. He leans forward in his seat and reaches out towards her. “Lily, how could you even think that? I love you! I would never think that!” His hands start shaking, as he frantically tries to gather the words he needs to explain to her that she’s wrong.
As if sensing his anxiety, Lily softens, coming over to kneel down at his feet. She lets him take her hands, but doesn’t give him a chance to keep talking. “I’m sorry if that sounds mean. But that’s what it feels like you’re doing, at least to me it does.” She drops her head down to stare at the floor, looking so so small. “It’s just-. Since I’ve moved in with you, you have done everything to make me feel welcome. And you do a great job taking care of me, I don’t want you to think that you don’t. But that’s all that you do: look after me and take care of things here at the shop. And that’s not living, not really.
“When Mom and Dad died,” she chokes up a little, squeezing Derek’s hands tighter, but then she raises her head to look him in the eyes. “When Mom and Dad died, you stepped up and have done the best job to make losing them easier. For a long time, I needed you there like that. I needed to know that you were there. But things are better. I’m okay now, and I’m happy with the way things are, even if it’s still hard sometimes. I’m happy. You deserve happiness too, Uncle Derek.” Derek tries to look away when she says that, but Lily moves her head to hold his gaze. “Mom would think so.”
He snorts, but it’s a sad sort of sound. The truth is, Laura would be pissed at him. She’d probably kick his ass is she could hear the speech her daughter is giving him. And Derek would let her do it too.
He can remember when Lily was born, how thrilled Laura had been to have a daughter. It was the happiest moment of her life. But she was also terrified that something would happen to her and Martin, something that would leave Lily without her parents, just like a house fire had left Laura and Derek without theirs. It was a morbid line of thinking, one that she shared with Derek and no one else. He had tried to tell her that nothing would happen, tried to reassure her that everything was going to be alright. Despite that though, Laura had made him promise that he would look after Lily. She made him swear that he would take care of her. And after the car crash, after Laura and Martin were gone, Derek tried his damndest to do everything he could to fulfil his promise.
For three years all he did was work at the shop, making sure that the cars that came in left in the best possible condition, and pour all of his efforts into ensuring that Lily would grow up healthy and be happy. His own dreams got pushed to the sidelines, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. But he knows that Lily is right. Things are better know. They’ve both gotten over the sting of loss and have learned how to deal with Laura’s and Martin’s absence. Lily is thriving at school, making friends and living a life that would make Laura proud. And Derek has gotten a hell of a lot better at parenting, considering he was a twenty-eight year old bachelor when he lost his sister and became a parent all in one night. They are better, good even. And now that things have calmed down, not that they’ve figured out how to survive, maybe Derek can think about having a life outside of cars and parenting.
“I’m sorry,” he breathes, not trying to hide how rough his voice sounds. “You’re right, and I’m sorry that I ever made you feel like you were holding me back. It’s not that I’m unhappy, not really, but-.”
“You just really want to go and make out with Stiles’ face, right?” Unexpectedly, her blasé tone makes Derek laugh. She pulls one of her hands from his to smack at his arm. “What? Don’t laugh, I know that it’s the truth! I am so tired of you saying that you don’t want to date him and then staring at him with these lovesick, puppy dog eyes! Girls in my class are not even that bad! And they’re teenagers!”
“You sound just like Laura,” he says with a laugh.
Lily pretends to pout, though the words make her blush. “Well, Mom was a genius, so I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
He watches his niece for a long moment, smiling softly. “Yes, she was. And so are you.” He leans down and kisses her forehead, thanking every deity he knows that he has been allowed to watch her grow into someone so wonderful. When he pulls back, he grins. “Now, I think I better get in there to Stiles, don’t you agree? He probably thinks that we’ve forgotten about him.”
She snorts, rocking back on her heels before standing up. “So long as he hasn’t tried to escape everything is fine.”
Derek snorts, thinking back to the serious expression he had on his face when they left him alone. “I’m sure that you scared him enough that he won’t try that.” She swats at him, but he dances away.
“You better ask him out this time,” she emphasizes as he reaches for the door. “I’m serious, Uncle Derek. Ask him or I will do it for you, and I will make sure that it is done in the most embarrassing way.”
The threat has him rolling his eyes, but he salutes her anyway before pushing the door open.
Stiles is leaning against the jeep with his head thrown back to stare at the ceiling. He startles when the door bangs against one of the work benches, nearly stumbling over. “Derek! I was wondering if you guys had-.” He trails off and takes a few steps closer, eyes wide. “Derek? Are you alright?”
He must look like an emotional train wreck for Stiles to sound so concerned. Instead of worrying about it, Derek smiles. “Yeah. I’m-. I’m good.”
Stiles’ hands flutters in front of him, like he’s looking for a lie. “Are you sure?”
He shrugs, then, feeling brave, reaches out and grabs one of Stiles’ hands. “Yeah. Lily was just lecturing me about not caring about my own happiness. I think that she kind of forgot that I’m supposed to be the parent.”
Stiles is staring at their joined hands with wide eyes and a faint blush. He doesn’t look away from them when he asks, “You needed to be reminded to care about yourself?”
Derek tugs him a little closer. “Yeah. You see, I was so focused on the shop and taking care of my niece that I was letting someone that I really care about get away without ever taking the chance to let them know how I feel.”
That gets Stiles attention. He snaps his head up to look Derek in the eye, and holds his hand tighter. “Are you talking about me? You care about me?”
Derek rolls his eyes. “I like you. A lot. Ask Lily is you have to, I’m sure she would love to tell you about all of my pining.”
Stiles’ laugh is full of awe. “You were pining after me? Really? That’s-.” He pauses, licking at his lips. “That’s great news actually, because I’m pretty gone for you.”
Ignoring the exuberant feeling in his chest full of warm light, Derek takes a deep breath and says seriously, “Stiles, I haven’t dated in years, and I don’t really know how to balance it with parenting and stuff, but I would like to figure it out with you.” Admitting that makes him feel nervous. “I mean, if that’s something that you would be interested in. I would like to date you. Because I like you. If, uh, if that wasn’t clear.”
When Stiles throws his head back and laughs, the long line of his throat leaves Derek breathless. “Derek, I don’t know how you’ve never noticed, but you’re kind of it for me. You have been for years, pretty much since I met you.” His expression turns serious.” After Laura-.” He swallows. “I knew that you needed time to grieve and learn how to be a parent, so I stepped back and supported you as best I could as your friend. But even then, I hoped that when things got better, when time helped to heal wounds and you figured everything out, I hoped that there would be a chance for us to become something more.” He swallows. “I mean, I wasn’t sure that there ever would be, but I liked you so much. And the more we got to know each other, the more that I fell for you even if you never gave any indication that you might-.”
Derek cuts his rambling off with a kiss because Lily was right about that too, he does really want to make out with Stiles’ face. He’s also imagined what it would feel like to cut off one of Stiles’ tangents that way, and as Stiles relaxes into his chest, Derek is pleased to find out that it’s even better than he dreamed.
Something occurs to him suddenly that has him pulling away and looking at Stiles with surprised suspicion. “Wait, have you been actually been messing up the jeep just to come and hang out with me?” Stiles blusters, and tries to pull away, but Derek keeps a tight hold on his waist.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, sir! How dare you imply that I hurt my poor baby Rosco in some nefarious attempt to woo you with unrelenting proximity!” His indignation makes Derek laugh. “And now you’re laughing at my pain! How dare you just-.”
Derek kisses him again. He can’t help it. There is no hesitation from Stiles, who throws his arms around Derek’s neck and holds him closer, humming delightfully against his mouth. That’s a problem for another day. For now…
Derek tilts his head and opens his mouth, running his tongue across Stiles’ lips in a way that makes him groan. The sound makes him frantic, makes him want to devour Stiles in only the best way and-.
“Oh my Gods,” Lily screams, falling back against the office door with her eyes shut tight. Derek pulls away from Stiles, but doesn't let him go completely. “I said ask him out, not make out with him! Uncle Derek, I’m scared for life! When Aunt Erica hears about this, she is going to freak out so much! You’re in the middle of the garage! The doors are still open, oh Gods!”
Derek smiles and tilts his head against Stiles’. He still has to figure out how to make everything work, needs to learn how to balance the shop and his responsibility to Lily with the thrill of a new relationship. And it he knows that it might take him some time to figure everything out.
But he also knows, without a doubt, that so long as he has Lily and Stiles in his life, things are going to be good.