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Belief

Chapter Text

Derek groans as he wakes up and realizes what day it is today. When he was a child, Halloween was the holiday you looked forward to all year long. For an eight-year-old were, the opportunity to go out in public half shifted and pretend to scare people is a treat beyond compare. Throw in candy and you have pretty much the perfect holiday for a shifter. As an adult running a bar, not so much.

The Full Moon has been in the Hale family for three generations. Derek’s paternal grandparents had opened the bar just after they had got married. Wanting to have more of an exciting lifestyle than that they had grown up with in their small home town, they picked San Francisco and found a small rundown corner property in a quiet neighbourhood just a little bit distant from the centre of the city.

Months of hard graft were needed to turn the old hardware store into an establishment suitable for welcoming patrons. Lucky then, that the Hale family were long used to building and furnishing their own homes. A steady stream of cousins, siblings and various relatives of cloudy provenance would arrive in a predetermined timescale according to their skills. Slowly, the premises took on the appearance of a small, homely neighbourhood bar.

The Hales are a huge extended family and the werewolf community is also large although diffused widely. Word of mouth quickly spread that there was a home from home for the travelling were in San Francisco. Some never left and a city-loving pack of itinerant weres developed around the location of The Full Moon.

Derek rubs his eyes trying to displace the sleep left within them, slips out of bed and pads to the small bathroom in his boxers. Getting in there before Cora of a morning takes an element of timing that Derek now has down to a tee.

They’ve been here for two years. Cora attending SFU and Derek using the opportunity to kill many birds with one stone, namely the need to keep an eye on his sister away from home under the guise of taking up the obligation of Hales from every generation to keep the little bar in the family. Also, escaping from his loving but pushy mother whose unnecessary wish to see him settle down to family life has grown greater every year since he turned eighteen.

Under the gloriously hot stream of water from the shower, Derek squirts shampoo into his hands and lathers up his hair. He wishes his mother understood that relationships just don’t work for him. It’s not for want of trying but Derek has an appalling track record for choosing the wrong people. It’s as if all his senses let him down when it comes to romance and sex. After several bad relationships in his youth and not a little tragedy, Derek decided not to trust himself to make a choice anymore and so he doesn’t. Not for him the world of dating, he can shut down an oncoming advance at fifty paces now.

Irregular one-night stands fill the void and he even had a three-year long friends-with-benefits thing with an acquaintance of a cousin whenever he came to town. He finds it generally easier to stick to weres for meaningless sex, they understand better. He was a little sad when the FWB ended but he couldn’t help be happy that his friend met his mate. Derek just knows that he won’t be so lucky.

He scrubs down his torso, ridding it of the stale odour of night-time. His hands glance over his genitals and a hazy image passes through his mind. He might choose weres to have sex with but his preferences lie elsewhere. Derek can’t help but be fascinated with the fragility of humans and the bodies that attract him most are lithe and supple but smaller than him and pale, not like most werewolves at all. Something about humans and their delicate bones and bruisable skin brings out the natural protective instinct in him like nothing else.

There’s a thump from outside. ‘Derek, how much longer?’ Cora yells through the bathroom door, breaking his reverie, ‘I’ve got a study group in forty minutes’. Derek sighs but speeds up his cleansing routine.

‘Two minutes, Cora. Go and put the coffee on’, he shouts back at her and hears her stomp into the kitchen. He steps out of the shower, grabs a towel and dries himself briskly. When he’s mostly damp as opposed to outright wet, he hooks the towel around his hips and opens the bathroom door letting a cloud of steam out.

‘All yours…’ and before he has a chance to even get out of the doorway, Cora barrels past him and slams the door behind her.

By the time he’s gone back to his room and dragged clothing over his still-damp limbs, the coffee has percolated and he heads to the kitchen when dressed to pour himself a mug. He sits quietly at the breakfast bar savouring it. Eventually Cora reappears and pours herself a coffee as well. She scoots up next to him on the banquette.

‘You know what today is?’ she asks.

‘Yes’, he says flatly, ‘Halloween’.

Cora’s still young enough to get something out of the party aspect of the holiday. This is their third Halloween at the bar. Last year Cora stealth decorated it with pumpkins and hanging jack o’lanterns and streamers everywhere. Over the years the city has grown outwards and now they aren’t so far from the busy districts. Her reasoning that they should try and grab some of the passing holiday trade proved astute and they’d actually had one of their best nights ever. Derek hated it and put his foot down.

‘No decorations, Cora, I mean it.’

‘Aw’, Cora pouts, ‘we did so well last year.’

‘I don’t want to attract too much random trade, if we start getting too many strangers in, it unsettles the regulars.’ Derek is insistent that the bar retains its appeal to its core patrons - the local were community - and Cora is aware of this.

‘Okay then, but we can do costumes, right?’

Derek knows that Cora means going beta-shifted. She still gets a kick out of it even if the novelty has worn off for him. He nods, ‘just costumes.’

She tips back the dregs of her brew, plants a coffee-breathed kiss on his cheek and skips out of the room.

‘See you later’, she shouts as she bounces down the stairs.

Derek knocks back the last of his coffee and puts the mug in the dishwasher. He heads downstairs to make sure the bar’s stocked; there’s still a couple of hours before they’re open. Once that’s done he grabs the cleaning stuff from the kitchen and gives the bar and booths a quick once over.

Returning, he pauses by the wall to the side of the bar, the one with all of his mother’s photographs on. He sprays some polish on a cloth and gently wipes the frames then stands back and contemplates the images of his home territory for a moment.

He misses it…a lot. The photos his mother takes are a link to home, an anchor to his birth right. She knows this and that’s why, periodically, Derek will receive a new one. Ostensibly it will be for a frivolous reason, a celebration of an event or even just the excuse of a change of season but in truth, the purpose of sending them is baser. If Derek can’t feel his land beneath his feet, at least he can see it.

He and Cora get back there a couple of times a year, it’s never less than joyous, to shift and run with one’s family but he knows it could be better. The pride a were takes in bringing a mate home for the first time is something he’ll never know; the sense of belonging, something he can’t share. Derek sighs and returns the cleaning supplies to the kitchen.

He doesn’t serve on the lunchtime shift; Boyd takes care of that. He does some laundry, pops to the supermarket and does his accounts. Gradually he notices an increase in noise from both the bar downstairs and the streets outside. He looks at his watch, it’s nearly five o’clock, he’d better head on downstairs.

They really do get quite busy. Every local were seems to think it’s their duty to stop by and touch base with the community. There’s a fair bit of shouting going on. Derek has to step in and give an alpha stare to a couple of betas who get a little punchy. The red eyes do it, the betas back down without Derek needing to resort to his strength.

Cora returns from school. She gleefully climbs up on a barstool and pins a plastic bat on an elasticated string above the bar. Derek glances balefully at her but she flashes her yellow eyes and grins a mouthful of fangs at him, so he just lets it stay up there. Compared to last year’s orange and black glitter nightmare, it’s positively restrained.

By around 11pm, the hubbub has died down a bit. Cora’s come behind the bar to serve, allowing Boyd a couple of hours to slip home and sleep before returning for the last part of the shift. There’s enough idle time for a conversation.

Cora leans on the bar looking over at the wall of pictures. Derek has recently hung the latest one up, it shows two cubs, play fighting in a sunlight dappled copse. Both a tawny brown, they’re Laura’s cubs and they’ve grown considerably since Cora was last home.

She turns to Derek, ‘I think I want to invite Isaac home with me, the next time I visit.’

‘Yeah?’ he questions, his casual tone belying the seriousness behind Cora’s comment.

Isaac’s been a fixture around the place since he arrived in San Francisco, having escaped from a small-town nightmare of a drunken and violent father. After a week or two sleeping rough, he had stumbled into the bar, starving and dehydrated. Cora nursed him back to health, initiating a bond that grew over time. Derek had given him the bite when it became obvious that the boy wasn’t going anywhere, he’d found his home.

Despite all this, Cora’s been home at least half a dozen times since Isaac’s arrival and never once mentioned him accompanying her.

‘Yeah, I think it’s time. I feel…I feel like I need to. The last time I was home, I felt a little empty, it wasn’t until Isaac phoned that I realised it was him I was missing.’ She smiles wryly at Derek.

‘Then I’m very happy for you.’ Derek pulls Cora in for hug and scents her gently. He knows that taking a partner to your ancestral land is a precursor to a mating.

‘What about you? She asks. ‘Don’t you want to take someone home as well?’

Derek pulls away slightly, his arms slipping from her shoulders down to her wrists.

‘Of course I do but I haven’t felt like that about anybody in years, you know that.’

Cora grasps Derek’s hands, ‘Have a little faith, brother mine, you never know when the perfect person is going to walk right through that door.’

Derek harrumphs, he knows how likely that is but still Cora doesn’t give up. She thumps him on the chest in faux-exasperation.

‘Believe! And then the magic will find you. This is our night, anything could happen.’ She turns and moves down the bar to serve a waiting customer.

Derek would like to believe, he’d love to think that there’s a lithe, pale, delicate figure just waiting to fall into his arms. Someone with whom he can indulge all his protective instincts, all his need to cherish and provide.

So, mindful of Cora’s words, he runs upstairs quickly, has a swift wash, combs his hair and changes into the V-neck shirt that Cora bought for him and insists he wears whenever they go out together.

The first stage of believing is being ready for it.

Chapter Text

It’s 11.30pm and Derek is taking five. He’s sprawled out on a kitchen chair making a rough calculation of the evening’s takings; they’ve certainly done OK tonight. Derek batches up the cash ready for the safe.

He hears the bar’s main door open and moments later feels the faint wash of cooler air that floods into the bar. With that air, the scents of the night waft in; there’s the usual undertone of car fumes, urban living never being without that. There’s a faint tinge of ozone that’s drifted over from the bay and the melange of aromas that a myriad of people passing by or through have left behind them. One rises to the surface, stronger than the others, a mix of cinnamon and coffee wrapped around the metallic tang that always belongs to someone who spends a lot of time around technology.

It makes Derek’s nose twitch and he doesn’t know why. Years of conditioning ensure that personal scents don’t often trip Derek’s consciousness. He sneezes and gets up to put the money in the safe, more as a distraction than from an immediate need to move. However, it’s just as well because…

“Derek. Customer!” Cora yells into the back.

Derek is minor league pissed, she could have easily served the new customer herself and allowed him another five minutes but no, why would she do that? He locks the safe, flips the picture covering it back into place and steps out, possibly not with the welcoming expression Cora always encourages him to wear.

He sees two newcomers, not locals as none of his regulars bother with costumes on a night like this. He can see Cora side-eyeing them as she insouciantly carries on filing her nails. One, the woman, is stunning - if you like that kind of thing - voluptuous figure poured into a Catwoman costume, long blonde curls tumbling down from the fake cat ears she’s wearing and a ruby-red pout on her flawless face as she approaches the bar. Beside her, perched on a bar stool, unsurprisingly, is Batman.

Derek moves behind the bar towards them, “What can I get you?”

It’s Batman who answers, “I’ll have a bottle of whatever beer you recommend and my feline friend will have a JD and coke.”

Derek recognises that the scent he identified earlier emanates from this person. His brow creases a little as he picks up further notes to the scent: cedar, which probably comes from the man’s cologne, a spicy top note and an underlying floral tone that he pins down as lily. The mix of them is enticing and completely overwhelms the scent of the man’s Catwoman companion who exudes honey.

His immediate impulse is to press closer, get more of that scent. He hasn’t even taken in details of the man’s appearance yet, over and above his costume preference, such is the strength of the instinct that seems to be taking over Derek’s hindbrain. He turns to mix the JD and coke in a desperate attempt to normalise himself.

Derek has never been happier about Cora’s insistence on wolfing out for Halloween, he doubts he would have been able to help himself flashing a red-eye or dropping a fang in the face of the shock of the scent. Cora, for her part, has been taking it all in, no doubt aware of the stutter of his heartbeat as he processes his unusual reaction. She smirks ever so slightly at him, enough to bring him back to level ground.

He grabs a bottle of beer from a local microbrewery and slaps both drinks down on the countertop, slightly harder than he’d intended.

“That’ll be ten dollars fifty”, he tells the seasonal superhero and for the first time, looks directly at his face. Half hidden by a tightly fitted cowl, the man’s amber eyes shine out with amusement. He can see a number of chocolate coloured moles splashed across the lower half of the man’s face, edging up along his cheekbones. He’d bet his life that similarly toned freckles are spread across the bridge of his nose.

What? When has Derek ever considered the facial construction of his patrons. Never. That’s when. Nor has he ever let his eyes drift down from a face to observe a strong but slim frame swathed in figure-hugging lycra. He recognises that it’s a pretty good replica of the Adam West TV show iteration of Batman. He’s just about to lean forward a bit see if the man’s attention to detail carries on below the waist when the costumed man tips his head at a delightful angle, catching Derek’s eye and drawing his attention back to a questioning gaze.

Almost reflexively he growls, “Tabs for regular customers only” at the man. Beautiful eyes or not, he still needs to pay for his drinks.

Surprisingly, Batman challenges him back, “How do you know we won’t become regular customers?” he asks with a hint of a tease in his voice, which is deeper than Derek would have expected and ever so slightly raspy.

“Our customers tend to be a certain kind of person” Derek says truthfully but a for a split second contemplates a future in which amber eyes and lithe limbs are a welcome addition to the usual fur and fang aspect of his customary patrons. His reverie is broken by the whirlwind that is Boyd, returning for the remaining couple of hours.

Boyd apologises for apparently being a little late, not that Derek has noticed or even cares right now. Derek usually spends the end of the shift doing the accounts and preparing orders to be sent off in the morning, so Boyd moves to replace him at the bar.

Cora allows him entry but indicates towards the back room with a pointed reminder, “Boyd, costume!” before he can resume his shift or, indeed, his shift.

Boyd dips out of sight, Derek can sense his partial beta-shift but by now has lost interest in Boyd in favour of the enigma in fancy dress in front of him. He wants those liquid eyes back on him, not wandering round the room checking out other people. He taps on the bar in front of where his latest patron is leaning.

“Ten fifty”, he reiterates. Batman leans back to gain access to a pouch on the utility belt on the costume. He brings forth some random coins that he thrusts in Derek’s direction and Derek notices that the eyes that he was so taken with before, are now examining the wolfier aspects of his face. With another endearing head tip, he leans forward again, towards Derek who can only imagine what that stretch of neck and throat would look like without the faux-leather covering it.

“So, if you’re not on the party trail and you’re not particularly taken with the holiday, why are you all wearing matching wolf faces?”

The open curiosity on what he can see of the man’s face does something to Derek’s normal reticence. He doesn’t often have to deal with questions like this from humans. So few of them have ever seen his other face and nearly all of those who have, are aligned with the community somehow. Derek would, under similar circumstances, probably growl a little and ignore the question but this time he’s compelled to be truthful. Or, given his hugely powerful self-preservation instincts, as truthful as he can manage without outing himself. He shrugs.

“My sister insists upon it”, and then he grudgingly admits, “It’s more trouble not to do it”.

He can almost hear Cora snort at him. He’s not wrong, he knows which battles to choose with his sister. There are countless ways she can make him miserable, if she wants.

Batman – Derek’s resigned to thinking of him as Batman now, for want of his real name – takes a long glug from his bottle and Derek can see his throat flexing under the skin-tight mask. It sets his mouth watering. Weres are tactile, everybody knows that and skin to skin contact is highly important. Equally, the sight of skin is a powerful attractant and yet Derek can only see a few square inches of this man’s skin. Despite that, he’s still enraptured.

 

Batman is still obviously intrigued by Derek’s all-natural vibe, he says, “Well you do it very well, those prosthetics were not bought in a costume shop, they look professional to me.”

Derek is rigid as the man slowly reaches forward. Almost in slow motion he sees a hand stretching up towards his wolfed-out ear. His ear tingles a little, he wants to move towards that hand but he can’t. If Batman touches his ear like Derek would like him to, he’ll know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it’s no prosthetic.

“Can I touch?”

This time Derek’s self-preservation instincts kick right in. He jerks away, out of reach, grunting out a “No.” at the impertinent request.

Removing himself from the temptation of pushing into the offered touch, Derek starts messing around at the back of the bar. It’s make-work, he doesn’t really need to do it, but it gives him time to think about why he so much wants to engage with this person. It’s very out of character for him, he usually couldn’t give a fuck – excuse him – about anyone except his oldest friends and family.

He recalls his parents’ tales of how they met. His mother had told him many times how she’d caught this delicious scent in the air one day and couldn’t help herself from following it. It led her to the local newspaper offices and it took her a week of borderline stalking to identify the person to whom it belonged: the newest junior reporter. Being 18 and inexperienced, Talia had no idea what to do next, so she organised a charity event at school and invited the local newspaper, crossing her fingers.

Obviously, the ploy worked, else Derek and his sisters wouldn’t be there. Derek doesn’t wonder too much about the rest of the story; about how his Dad was equally smitten despite not having wolf senses. He ponders his mother’s experience of being overtaken with an urge to find the source of that one scent that called to her. It seems very similar to his own feelings now.

He almost wants to call his mother; to ask if she ever felt something equivalent but ignored it, how strong was it? Above all, was she sure, certain this was the one. Did she believe in her instincts? It’s 1am so he can’t, he’ll just have to wing it.

Derek drags a crate of beer in. He starts filling the under-counter refrigerator with bottles, just for something to do while he contemplates his next move or if there’s even going to be one. He should talk to the guy. Yes, that’s what he should do, he should make conversation, be urbane and amusing. Scintillate this man so he doesn’t want to leave, give Derek some time to win him over.

He stands up and noticing that Batman’s bottle is all but empty says, “Did you enjoy that?”

No-one ever said that Derek’s conversational skills were sparkling, he cringes internally and then cringes more when the reply comes slightly archly, “I certainly did!”

Derek’s like a bulldozer, once he’s off, everything in his path is gonna get destroyed. “Would you like to see our other options?”

Batman grins, it’s full of teeth and very wicked, “Honey, you can show me your options any time!”

Those amber eyes scan down Derek’s torso in an unmistakeable fashion.

Derek’s not stupid, just because he doesn’t much like talking to people doesn’t mean he can’t read them. He can smell them as well and he knows lust when he scents it. That sort of late night, casual attraction you feel when you’re a little relaxed and a few drinks in.

Derek flushes, he can feel it start on his chest and rise, unhesitatingly, up his neck and over his cheeks. He’s never too sure what to do when people are overtly attracted to him, apart from shut them down. It’s a new experience to have someone he’s interested in, appear to be interested back and it’s right out of his comfort zone. He grabs for the two nearest bottles and puts them between himself and Batman, to break the tension that’s becoming unbearable.

It works, Batman looks down, apparently mollified by his earlier behaviour. When he looks up, his countenance is open again, there’s no trace of the look that said he wanted to eat Derek right up and smack his lips afterwards. He takes one of the beers from Derek without looking at it.

“Beer, yes”, he utters, as if this conversation has been about beer all along. Well, maybe it was from Derek’s side and now Derek is stymied, a million conversational starters flit through his brain, he discounts them all. He’s no good at this, he’s never had to do it before. He feels awkward and tense, Batman takes pity on him.

“Uh, sorry, force of habit, it’s my profession, kind of hard to switch off…” the apology trails off but Derek’s none the wiser, what kind of profession must you be in to be able to leer at random strangers for a living?

He wants to know. “What is?” And then grimaces when he realises that could be perceived as being over familiar.

Batman doesn’t seem fazed, “People watching, I’m in fashion.” Then amazingly, he follows that up with, “And if you don’t mind me saying, you look like you could be too, have you ever done any modelling? I could see you walking for Tom Ford or someone like that if you got rid of the stupid holiday gear.”

Derek’s a little stunned that this guy thinks he could be a model, almost too stunned to realise at first that he is again reaching for Derek’s wolf ear. He flinches back quickly to avoid the contact. Derek’s heartbeat is going nineteen to the dozen, he knows Cora can sense it, what she doesn’t know is whether his urge is for fight or flight. Regardless, she comes to back up her alpha.

“Modelling? Derek? With His social skills?” she scoffs. Derek’s not sure whether she is doing him any favours but she leans, elbows on the bar, in a conversational manner. It’s enough to disarm Batman, he directs his answer towards her.

“Well you can take it from me that social skills are not a prerequisite for a model. Most of them can only hold a conversation if it’s about themselves”

Cora seems actually interested now, she bumps her hip against Derek’s in a kind of ‘I’m here for you, bro’ gesture. She takes the reigns of the conversation from him.

“So, what is it exactly in fashion that you do…er… “

Oh great, she’s found a way to get this man’s name, he can finally stop calling him Batman in his head.

“Miecieslaw, but you can call me Batman if it’s easier.”

Derek dies a little inside, he’s getting absolutely nothing he can work with. Cora holds her hand out towards Batman.

“I’m Cora and this hulking tower of awkwardness is my big brother Derek.” When they have shaken hands, Batman - Derek’s not even going to try and replicate the random consonants uttered by their owner moments ago – turns to Derek with a shy smile and reaches out to shake with him also.

Derek finally has an opportunity to touch, to learn what this man’s skin feels like against his. Batman’s fingers are long and elegant; his palm, cool in Derek’s clasp. There are no callouses or hard patches, the skin is soft like peaches. This is not a man who works with his hands for a living. All this, Derek compiles from the brief moment he allows himself. Propriety stating that a handshake between two men should be brisk and efficient. But propriety be damned, Batman does not seem to want to let go.

The issue is forced by Derek loosening his grip. He has to, if he holds on one second longer, he knows he’ll never let go. He’ll have the memory of the contact forever though. He’ll always know how it feels to hold the hand of a superhero.

“It’s nice to meet you, Cora and Derek.” This time it’s directed at Derek not that Cora’s offended, she just ploughs straight on with more conversation.

“Tell me more about this fashion thing, how do you know so many models?”

Derek can tell when Cora’s on a roll, she gets a glint in her eye. She’s like a bloodhound on a trail, never gives up when she senses there’s something interesting to find. He phases out of the conversation to mull over his reactions. He feels on the back foot, surprised and the sense of heightened awareness that comes with that. He thinks he wants to sit down so he heads out into the back room.

He flops down in the kitchen chair, holds his head in his hands and takes a few deep breaths. That scent is everywhere, all-encompassing but it’s starting to feel natural not an interloper’s aroma.

The more time he spends in the company of the mysterious stranger, the more he wants to. Derek is almost at a point where he’s ready to offer everything to a person whose face he’s not even see yet. He rubs his hands up his head and his fingers catch on his ears, still furry. Swiftly, he pulls the wolf in, ears, eyes and teeth.

What is he thinking, he’s a werewolf, this is ridiculous, he can’t possibly start something with a random human. He can easily hold the wolf at bay for a one-night stand, that’s not important but he inherently knows that this wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, one night only. Derek wants more and he doesn’t want to hide his nature, he wants to share it.

Chapter Text

Derek is indulging in a fantasy, as he loads up the dishwasher; he’s imagining the trip home that Cora described earlier, only this time there’s four of them, not two.

Cora and Isaac are off doing…whatever, but he’s got his hand on the lower back of his intended and he’s guiding him, showing him the breadth of their lands, displaying his influence.

Then they’re in the house, his partner turns to him, laughing. “Show me your childhood bedroom, I want to see where you grew up.”

Derek takes his hand and leads him up the grand staircase in the hallway. Reaching the room that he called his own for 18 years, he pushes the door open and ushers his companion in. Following after, he barely has time to notice that the room is pretty much as he remembers it when he is caught by the shoulders and pushed up against the closing door.

“I’ve been waiting to get you alone”, is whispered huskily into his ear. He’s being crowded, arms are leaning into the door, caging his upper body. It’s super tense and delicious. Derek’s skin is alight, every molecule of him stretching out, yearning with the anticipation of the imminent contact.

Lips descend on his, firm and demanding and their bodies join, chest to thigh, becoming as close as it’s possible to be while writhing against a solid oak door.

Derek is letting his beloved ravish him. Those long fingers are clasped around Derek’s head now, buried in his hair to match the tongue buried in his mouth. He can feel a solid length pressing against his crotch, it’s still growing.

Part of the intense arousal that Derek is feeling is down to the fact that he’s letting it happen. It’s a choice. This is his den and he’s demonstrating his trust by allowing another person dominance within it. He could easily take back control and push his mate-to-be back onto the bed, climb over and…

…”He knows he’s an alpha male…” penetrates his consciousness and he knocks over the glasses he’s just loaded on the top shelf of the dishwasher. What. The. Fuck?

Derek hastily finishes loading up the glasses and rams the door shut. Does this man actually know where he is after all? Is it not just the vagaries of chance that led him here tonight? Now, more than ever, he needs to know everything about this person who just dropped in to his world from out of nowhere.

Derek takes a deep breath, wills his nascent hard-on out of existence and grabs a bottle of pilsner from out the crate by the door.

He registers Batman’s surprise when the bottle is placed in from of him and also how the surprise turns to shy pleasure, lighting up his eyes when he realises Derek’s back.

“Do you have a vested interest in getting me drunk?” Batman enquires, and Derek has to fight back a smirk because he does, oh yes, he does but he simply replies, as gruff-faced as he can, “I have a vested interest in keeping this bar profitable, that’s all.”

He hears a chirp from Cora’s phone and it breaks the moment. Suddenly, Batman’s attention is no longer on him, it’s on Boyd and Catwoman at the far end of the bar where they’re obviously getting to know each other far better than Derek’s managed to achieve.

Cora puts her phone in a pocket. “That was Isaac, I’m going to run out and see him for a bit, okay Der-bear?”

Derek’s cringe at his childhood nickname is camouflaged by Cora’s quick peck on his cheek. She turns, halfway to the door, “Good to meet you Batman, I hope I run into you again.” And then cheekily, “Play nice, you two” she winks as she skips out the door.

His shame at being so obvious resurfacing, Derek catches the eye of a regular further down the bar and goes to serve him, as it seems plain that Boyd won’t be doing it anytime soon. Also, it’s an excellent opportunity to take a moment to think, not that that’s actually allowed him.

With a persistence Derek should have anticipated by now, Batman calls over to him.

“How long have you had this bar, it’s quite the unique place?”

Derek looks over and wonders how he arrived here, in this place where he is having mating fantasies over a man in a Batman costume. A man whose face he’s not even seen yet. He rings up the other customer’s purchase and then studies the man whose existence consumes him, tries to see beneath the surface to the man inside, it’s impossible. He sighs.

“How on earth do you expect me to have a proper conversation with someone wearing a mask, I can’t take you seriously?”

Batman laughs, not unkindly; rather, the laugh of someone who recognises what a ridiculous situation he’s in.

“You know if I let you see my face, I’d have to wipe your memory afterwards. Can’t have anyone knowing my secret identity.

Derek feels like he only knows the secret identity of the man in front of him. He stares deep into those mesmerising eyes trying to fathom the real him. He is no wiser, so he raises a wry eyebrow and asks…

“That only holds true if you have something to hide, do you?” The irony of the remark causes a shadow of a smile to flit across his face and he leans just a tiny bit closer to Batman who matches him in closeness until they are inches apart across the bar. The air surrounding them smells of cinnamon and coffee mixed with Derek’s leather and woods. It’s uncommonly good and Derek’s heart begins to melt.

“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. You, my fine wolf-man will just have to find out.”

Once again, Derek is jolted back to a harsh reality. One where his kind are hidden in plain sight and that has only been possible because of the utmost secrecy of all his community. Outsiders are only brought in after the longest of times; when it is certain they can be trusted with the most precious of life’s secrets.

The references this man makes to his world could be knowing or innocent. It could be a wink of an eye or just the usage of common phrases. Derek has no way of knowing which, the man’s heartbeat does not betray him one way or the other.

Derek panics, he can’t trust himself to make decisions any more. He doesn’t know how this is going to play out, he needs support and advice from his pack. He casts a glance at Boyd, but he’s completely occupied, kissing the Catwoman whilst wearing her cat ear headband on his bald head. It’s too late for his family at home, both his parents and Laura will be asleep by now. It has to be Cora.

“I have to go do something…in the back”, he manages to stutter out and then vanishes, wolf speed, into the back room.

He pulls out his phone and speed dials his sister. ‘C’mon’ he thinks as it rings and rings. Finally…

“S’up, bruv?” Cora’s in a loud place, he can hear the sounds of many people and the faint echo of space. She must be in a warehouse club. Never mind, this is when werewolf hearing comes into its own.

“Cora, please come back, I can’t do this”, he begs desperately.

He can hear her, already moving towards a quieter area. “What? What can’t you do?” Cora is confused.

“He’s my mate, Cora”, he admits, “I know he is.”

“Oh”, Cora pauses, she knows immediately to whom he’s referring. “Is it his scent, like Mum and Dad?”

Derek lets out a breath of relief, Cora understands. “Yes, as soon as he walked in, I sensed it. My instincts have gone haywire I can’t tell you what I want to do.”

“Eww, thank you, please don’t.” Cora’s empathy only extends so far. “So, what’s the problem, Der? Go claim him!”

“Are you out of your mind? He’s human, he doesn’t know about us. At least, I don’t think he does, he keeps saying weird shit, so I don’t really know.”

“Der, do you honestly believe that he’s your mate?”

Derek looks deep within himself, at his wolf, so sure and certain. There’s no doubt anywhere.

“Yes, I really believe that.”

“Then human or not, you have to do something, ask him out, woo him, sing a ballad outside his bedroom window at midnight, go hunt a deer for him so he knows you can provide. I dunno, just do something. You can’t let him walk out of the bar, you may never see him again. Although….” She trails off.

“But he’s human, Cora”, he repeats plaintively. How can he make her understand, her beau is a wolf, albeit bitten. The bite protects the community, humans welcomed in are often extended an offer of the bite. It’s just common sense, but he doesn’t want to bite the pale skin of this stranger, his mate, not that way, at least.

“Derek, do you really think your wolf would choose a mate who’s not right for you?” Cora is losing patience a little.

“I don’t make the best decisions, Cora, you know that, look at Kate.” Derek whimpers as he names his least successful relationship.

“Kate be damned!” Cora’s patience is exhausted. “Did you ever, even once, think that Kate was your mate?”

“Well, no.” Derek knows this is the truth, he might have tried to kid himself at the time, but it was the human in him pushing against the will of the wolf.”

“Have you ever felt like this with anybody else?”

“No.”

“Are you certain he’s the one, do you believe it with all your heart?

“Yes”, Derek sighs, emotionally drained. Cora softens.

“Then just go talk to him, all you need to do is talk, the rest will fall into place.”

“But I have no idea what to say, I’m like a complete moron in front of him.”

Cora sniggers, “It doesn’t matter what you say, just that you say something. Ask him what he thinks of your clothes, ask him anything. The words aren’t important, it’s the saying of them that is.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I just never thought this would happen, I wasn’t ready for it.” Derek is so grateful to his sister for talking him off that proverbial ledge. “I’ll go back, I’ll ask him about Batman.”

“That’s the spirit Der-bear, now get back in there before he gives up on you.”

“Thanks, Sis.” Derek hangs up

“Good luck”, she whispers into the already dead connection.

Derek steels himself, the certainty of the wolf within giving the human the confidence to face his future. He knows now, what he’s going to do. He’s going to go talk to the man who, by all the laws of nature, is the most perfect partner for him. Everything else will follow afterwards.

He goes to a cupboard in the kitchen and fetches down a bottle of bourbon that he doesn’t keep out in the bar. This one’s special, brought out only for the most memorable of occasions. He grabs a couple of shot glasses as well. They’re the ones still surviving from the time his grandparents opened the bar.

Pausing for a second, he reminds himself that this is a good thing, it’s a great thing. He tries to will a pleasing expression to his face and steps purposefully back into the bar.

Chapter Text

It’s not that Derek doesn’t know how to charm people. It’s relatively easy when you look like he does. Derek learnt when he was fairly young that a gleaming smile will get you quite a long way, that’s why he now uses them so rarely. You can’t be the proprietor of a city bar without having to interact with many people in all sorts of states. He can talk anybody into anything…when the stakes don’t matter.

In the brief seconds between the back room and the bar, Derek tells himself that he can do this, steels himself for success and puts on his most winning smile. He almost panics when he sees that Batman appears to be getting ready to leave but he can hear Cora urging him on in his head and he reaches the bar just in time.

“Here”, he says, pouring out a couple of shots from the bottle of wolfsbane infused bourbon.

Derek elects for total honesty, his mate is going to have to get to know the real Derek, so he may as well start now.

“I’m sorry, Cora says I can be a bit unwelcoming to new customers.” He turns up the wattage on his smile a little and glances up to hold the luminous eyes of Batman in an open invitation.

“Will you stay for a nightcap?”

“Well…”

Derek can practically see the thought processes occurring; Batman glances at his sidekick, who is wrapped around Boyd much like a real cat clinging to a sturdy tree. He pauses for a split second that feels like a lifetime to Derek and then decisively puts a booted foot back on the barstool.

Derek’s close enough to see the stretch of thigh muscle as the man hoists himself back up. His cape has got caught and is revealing the gorgeous expanse of his ass, held tight and smooth within the lycra of his costume. God, Derek wants his hands on that! His hands, his mouth, his teeth…

“Well, it would be churlish to refuse such a heartfelt invitation.” Batman says with a smirk, he’s definitely caught Derek checking him out. Derek pushes a glass his way, he doesn’t have anything to hide anymore.

They keep looking into the other’s eyes as they clink their glasses and down their shots, that is until Batman explodes in a manner that is most un-superhero-like.

“Whoa!” he manages to exclaim, after a short bout of coughing. “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s a special import, not many places carry it, but we like it”, Derek offers.

Derek forgets that this stuff is pretty strong, especially for a non-supe. He’d almost feel bad he’d given it to Batman had there not been the most delightful pinking of the part of Batman’s cheek that he could see. He resolves to get rid of that wretched cowl at the earliest opportunity. That, and the rest of the costume if he can. He imagines peeling the man incredibly slowly out of the skin-tight lycra.

Batman, in the meantime, has taken the bottle and is examining it.

“Moondew, that’s unusual”, he ponders.

“Like I said, it’s a special import.” Derek decides to head him off from an interrogation about the origins of the bourbon on to a topic that he’d both expressed an interest in and that Derek could converse happily on. “You asked about this place.”

Derek can feel the alcohol start to course through his body, he doesn’t often get intoxicated, but he feels that if any night requires it, this is that night, he pours a couple more shots while he explains.

“It was my grandparents’; Cora and I came down a few years ago from Northern Cali to run it. Family heritage is very important to us.”

He hopes that his mate will understand just how important family is for Derek and how much he hopes that a mate can slot in seamlessly.

Once again, they clink and shoot back their drinks, Batman manages to mostly not explode this time, but his eyes do bug out momentarily and his face has gone a little sweaty from the effort of not choking. Derek wants to trace his fingers down the line of the man’s cheek, gather the moist essence and wipe it all over himself, mix their scents. It’s really hard to stop himself reaching out to do exactly that.

Batman inclines his head towards the wall of photos that Derek was lovingly cleaning earlier.

“So, who in the family is the photographer?”

Derek can’t help but think of his mother and her omnipresent camera, her treks into the forest when the light was ‘just right’ and her gift of demonstrating the bonds of family in a single moment. His fond expression comes unbidden.

“My mother took those, we have property on the edge of a preserve up north.”

Batman is examining the photos with some care.

“I didn’t think there were any wolves in California now”, he says, not quite a statement, not quite a question.

Derek’s been watching him while he’s been looking at the pictures. Observing the questing gaze, the kind that belongs to a person never satisfied with an easy explanation. He’d tell him about wolves. Indeed, he’s almost certainly going to have to soon anyway, but right now he just wants to get to know the man without needless complications, so he offers teasingly...

“Oh, there are if you know where to look.”

Any doubts that Derek may still have been harbouring that this was a one-sided attraction are poofed into oblivion when Batman deliberately flirts back.

“And you know where to look.” His tone is soft, low, intimate.

Derek chooses to be equally intimate, he leans nearer, close enough to feel the breath of the other on his cheek.

“I know where to look.” And he demonstrates that by gazing slowly down the length of Batman’s lithe body. As far as he can without actually face planting on the bar itself. As his glance returns upwards, he notices that the blush has returned to his companion’s face.

“Why don’t you take off that mask, you look a little flushed.”

Derek’s feeling in control now, his alpha-ness has returned, he knows where this is going. He’s going to claim his mate, maybe not tonight, but soon, and in the meantime, he’s going to get as close to him as he can. There’s nothing Batman could say now that can dissuade him from his path.

“I told you before, if you see my whole face, I’ll have to give you the memory zap.”

Derek recognises this for what it is, the obligatory attempt at denial before capitulation. He leans in a little closer still, capturing those gleaming amber eyes with his own fierce hazel stare.

“I think I’ll take that chance”, he murmurs, just loud enough to reach Batman’s cowl-hidden ears. He knows that this is the moment when he’ll get to touch, at last, and he feels his fingertips tingle in anticipation before he brings his hands up to Batman’s face.

His skin is warm, a little damp from the closeness of the faux-leather enclosing his head. Derek marvels at every minute change in texture. From the rough scrub of his lower jaw where his beard is starting to grow in again to the little raised moles he can feel as his fingers stretch up under the cowl. Derek feels it all before he sees it, senses the bone structure underneath the flesh, builds a picture in his mind of what is about to be revealed.

He pushes up and slips the covering away from the man’s head. It drops to the bartop as he stares. It’s not like he hasn’t seen most of it already, the pale skin, lush mouth and those eyes but now, to see the whole, is stunning.

His mate has more of those chocolate coloured moles than he’d realised. They are the perfect contrast to his luminescent skin, not too dark and they reach up over his tip-tilted nose. He has an open gaze, eyes wide in his boyish face. Derek is completely smitten, not like he wasn’t before but now it’s as if he’s being given everything he never knew he wanted.

Batman’s hair is a bit sweaty and flat from being covered up all night and it’s a little hard to determine the shade. It’s not as dark as Derek’s own raven locks but probably a similar shade to his beauty marks. That’s what Derek’s going to call them because that’s what they are: marks that are beautiful.

Before Derek’s mind can stray to other types of marking, he runs his hand through the damp hair, loosening it up, it makes the face below the thick strands look even younger. Batman shakes his head a little and smiles widely at Derek.

“Isn’t that better?” Derek enquires, the grin is captivating, he can’t help but return it. Half of it’s his human side entranced with another human and half is his wolf preening and proud.

“And look, the skies haven’t fallen now I can see all of you.”

Batman blushes again, “Not really all of me though, is it?” He pauses, and Derek waits, like he’s teetering on a precipice, heart stopped and not knowing which way he’s going to fall. One side leads to misery and the other…

“Would you like to see all of me?”

Derek can breathe again, his mate wants him too, the dance is over, it’s only the details that have to be worked out now. He pulls Batman closer, almost touching and says, so there can be no doubt, “I would very much like that.”

He feels his mate’s hand reach up to cover his own, fingers slipping between his, stretched out across that porcelain skin.

“Then what are you waiting for, wolf boy?”

They are so close now that it’s no effort for his mate to lean in and kiss him. It’s hardly even a kiss but it sets Derek’s mouth watering, imagining how he’ll plunder that mouth in the future. They part, hands falling away, and Derek realises that except for the brief moment of the kiss, they haven’t stopped staring into the other’s eyes. It’s time, Derek thinks, to bring this one home…and speaking of time…

He goes to lean back to ring the bell that signals the end of service but needing to keep the contact, now he has it, he clasps Batman’s long, slim fingers in his own. He can easily reach back to the bell without letting go. It’s going to be hard to let go for a while.

The tolling of the time bell has sent the last customer shuffling off into the night, muttering to himself. It’s also roused Boyd and his Catwoman from their personal bubble over at the far end of the bar.

She turns to her partner in crime-fighting, “We were thinking of checking out a club, interested?”

Derek can see the surprise flit across Batman’s face. A club is the last place he wants to be but if that’s what his mate wants, he’ll suck it up.

“I don’t think so”, Batman responds, and Derek’s relief is palpable.

Catwoman doesn’t seem too worried, Derek reckons Boyd has vouched for him like a good beta should.

She says, “Yeah, I didn’t think you’d want to”, with such a knowing look but then follows it up with, “Will you be able to get back to the hotel OK without me?”

Derek feels his hand gripped that little bit tighter. He hears, “If I need to, I will”, and thinks need to, why would you need to go anywhere.

Catwoman obviously feels it’s her duty to look after Batman and Derek wonders briefly at their roles, are they friends, colleagues, something else?

“Alright then, don’t forget we have that inter..” she stumbles, “…That thing at eleven tomorrow”, and Derek senses a blip in her heartrate and resolves to find out why later. Batman’s heartrate remains constant, a little fast but constant.

“I won’t”, he says fondly and leans in to give her a hug goodbye, still holding on to Derek.

When they part, Catwoman turns towards Derek and says seriously, “look after him, he’s very precious.”

More than you know, thinks Derek, but he takes the admonishment with the importance it deserves. She really doesn’t have to worry, a werewolf would do anything for their mate, even lay down their life without question if they had to.

Derek hears Boyd call out goodnight and the door swing behind him. His eyes are drawn back to the only man in the room, literally the only man in the room and Derek realises they are finally alone together.

Chapter Text

Derek’s been waiting a lifetime for this moment, from the time he was old enough to understand the concept of mates. When he was younger, he used to feel a little smug; that he knew without doubt that there was one perfect person for him, out there, somewhere. Poor humans, he used to think, never knowing the certainty of their choices, and then he waited…and waited…

The doubt crept in and the belief wavered and at some point – Derek’s not sure when – he just gave up believing. As he’d gotten older, the fairy tales about mating he’d been told in his youth gave way to cold hard facts. Facts like: only 82% of werewolves ever find their mate and 14% of werewolf matings fail.

The longer he waited, the longer he was sure that he would be one of the 18% that spent their lives longing for something they were never going to have.

Now, he’s standing in a room, alone with the man that blew all that doubt away. Derek looks at him and knows that he’d wait all that time again if it just led him here. But he doesn’t want to freak his mate out, so he tries for a more casual opening than simply declaring his ardour.

Nodding towards the door that’s just seen Boyd and Catwoman leave, he says, “She looks after you”. He’s glad that his mate has people in his life that value him as much as Derek’s going to.

“She’s my personal assistant, it’s her job”, comes the reply, as if it’s a given.

Derek’s not above a little teasing now he’s certain of their future. “So, it’s her job to look after you in your job, the details of which we failed to ascertain earlier.”

“Yes.” His mate is looking a little squirrelly, as if he doesn’t really want to discuss this. Derek can’t scent any obvious signs of deceit, just a small amount of awkwardness. He leans closer across the wooden countertop that still separates them.

“You must be quite important to have a personal assistant.” He can’t help the wolf in him preening at the thought that his mate is something more than ordinary.

The sense of awkwardness dissipates into something that’s far thicker and headier. Derek’s mate squeezes his hand and states, in his delightfully husky tone, “Some people think so, yes. It entirely depends on your opinion of what’s important.” His luminous eyes stare earnestly, and his voice deepens a tiny bit. “Right now, you’re what’s important to me and I couldn’t give a shit about work”, he says dismissively.

Derek sees this as acknowledgment that his mate values him as much as he does in return and he adores him for it. He has to touch again so he leans forward to feel those soft lips under his. They’re just the right amount of warm and giving and Derek wants so very much to learn more and feel more but this is not the place for that, he should move them somewhere more intimate.

He pulls away, “Let me just lock up”.

Derek might have relinquished his lover’s lips but he’s not going to give up his hand, just yet. He pulls at his mate until he gets with the programme and follows him along the length of the bar to the opening. Then there are no boundaries, no impediments so Derek does what he’s been longing to do since he first realised exactly what was going on, he draws his mate into his arms and presses his face into the creamy and fragrant skin of his neck.

It’s so good, in so many different ways, all of his senses are in overdrive. He wants to dip his tongue out and taste as well but it’s a little too early for that, so he just breathes in the scent of mate for a few short moments. His chin catches on the collar of the costume. Without lifting his head up he mumbles, “Batman, eh? I always had a soft spot for Adam West’s Batman.”

His mate seems a little breathless, “No kidding!” he says.

Derek moves away to bolt the doors and finally give them the privacy they deserve. He wonders just how long he has to get to know his lover, he wants to make every second count and he didn’t miss Catwoman’s allusion to an appointment tomorrow.

“So, I have you until about, what, ten tomorrow?”

“You have me all to yourself until then.” Batman assures him. It’s not really long enough, only eight hours, if there’s going to be any sleeping, then much less. No time to waste, Derek moves back towards his mate, standing in the middle of the empty bar. He reaches for him, pulling him into his hold with one hand and using the other to gently stroke from his chest to his waist.

“I get the feeling that makes me a very lucky man”, he says.

“No, that makes me the lucky one.” His mate smiles up at him and goes to run the back of his knuckles down Derek’s face. “Lucky to be doing this.” The back of his hand changes to his palm as he cups Derek’s cheek. Derek’s starting to become hooked on this feeling that someone wants him back. He presses into the touch and can’t resist turning his head to enable him to kiss the warm palm of his soon-to-be lover.

He allows the time for his mate to carefully drag a finger across his face, it’s only right that he gets to know Derek as well as Derek is getting to know him. When the finger reaches his lips, they exchange a loaded glance and with infinite slowness, his mate leans in and traps Derek’s lower lip between his own. Derek can feel his mate’s breath, he can taste it, it’s sweet, like cinnamon, reflexively he draws in a breath of his own.

Still with his bottom lip imprisoned deliciously, he feels a tongue draw along its length. The intimacy of the move sends waves of arousal through him and he feels his cock twitch in response. Much more and he’ll be stripping the man and laying him out on the bar. While that seems like fun – and Derek makes a mental note to put it on the bucket list - he wants their first time to be more sensual and less animal. He pulls away from the kiss and starts to move towards the back room.

“I don’t want to do this here, come with me.”

When he’s reached the bottom of the stairs, he turns to ensure his mate is still with him. He is, so Derek joins their hands together and stretches to lay a kiss on the tip of his nose. He takes the first couple of stairs backwards pulling his lover along with him. There’s the hint of a frown of concentration between his mate’s eyebrows and that’s not right so Derek leans in again to kiss it away.

A few more steps and the next kiss is on the corner of his mouth, where his cheek curves to a dimple. They’re so very close together and coordination is hard enough without the effects of several shots of wolfsbane bourbon. Derek finds the next steps more by luck than anything by which time he needs to set his lips on the mole highlighting his mate’s cheekbone. Somewhere in the back of his mind he’s convinced it not only looks like chocolate, it tastes of chocolate too.

Maybe this was literally a step too far, Derek misses the top stair and feels himself flailing to catch his balance. It’s not really an alpha move and it shakes his confidence a tiny bit.

Turning to make sure he didn’t take his mate down with him, he catches him laughing and that doesn’t make it any better.

“Are you drunk?” His mate askes, between giggles

Derek doesn’t like this feeling, he wants to get back to the business in hand as quickly as possible. He opens the door to his room which he, thankfully, always keeps tidy.

“A little”, he says, no sense in lying. His lover advances on him with a broad smirk on his face. He gets pushed back into the room

“Did you have to get tipsy to allow this to happen?” His mate is teasing him now, turning the tables and Derek’s sure enough of the outcome to allow it.

“Maybe…” he confides, hoping to leave it there but the look on his partner’s face tells him he’s not going to get away with that, so he follows with…

“Maybe I needed Cora to give me a pep talk too.”

His mate takes a mock serious stance with arms crossed but Derek can see his mouth twitching and knows that he’s anything but.

“And what did she say?”

Derek paraphrases, “She said to stop being such a sourwolf and that you were hot, anybody could tell that despite the bodysuit.”

The wrinkle of lips turns into a full-on smirk. “She gives excellent advice.” He appears to come to a conclusion. “So that’s what you were doing in the back room when you ran in there with your tail between your legs.”

Once again, Derek is taken aback by his partner’s words. He still has no idea if this is a broad hint or a just a random phrase.

“With my…what?” he stutters.

“When you ran away from my rather obvious advances”, is the reply and Derek only senses honesty, so he lets it go for the time being.

“Oh yes, I phoned her, told her she’d have to come back, I couldn’t deal with you anymore.”

“Because you wanted me but were being all pussy about it?”

It’s not a term that Derek would have used, cautious, restrained, perhaps. Slightly prissily, he replies, “If you must put it that way, yes.” Hearing the tone of his voice, he softens and adds, “I wanted you but don’t often get what I want.”

Batman takes another step towards him while fixing Derek straight in the eyes. There’s a hint of a wicked gleam in his own amber gaze.

“Well guess what? Tonight, you do”

He moves past Derek, somewhat to the were’s surprise and goes to sit on the bed. He makes himself comfy, which just feeds the satisfaction of the wolf inside; that his mate wants to relax in the privacy of his den,

Batman is quiet for a moment, the wicked gleam morphs into something more akin to anxiety and there are tiny creases around the corner of his eyes.

“I have something I should probably tell you before we go any further”, he says. Derek’s heart sinks. There are infinite things that could scupper this, he can’t even begin to imagine. He’ll hear him out though, one man’s deal breaker is another man’s kink or something…Derek doesn’t even know. He sits down next to his mate and far more calmly then he feels, says…

“Oh, should I be worried?”

“I don’t think so, but I’d rather you know now.” He seems to steel himself. “I’m actually quite well known, the mask was there for a reason, a lot of people would recognise me.” He sighs, “It gets a bit tiresome and it’s not always fun for the folks around me.”

Derek is confused, he doesn’t know how to parse this, it’s not what he was expecting at all. He was trying really hard not to think about things like: a husband or wife somewhere or that he lives on the other side of the country and this was a fleeting visit. No, it seems that his mate is a celebrity. Derek opens his mouth, but no words appear.

Batman fills the gap with “Halloween gives me the chance to go out and just be me, not the persona people think I am. It’s like the one day of the year I can drop all the artifice.”

Derek’s starting to feel a little hysterical, his mate had him so worried and it turned out to be nothing. He doesn’t care what his mate does, only that he can have him. He sees the man in front of him, still costumed and can’t help but snigger.

“So, you go around in a Batman costume for privacy.” He can barely get this out for laughing.

His mate gives him a look that stops Derek’s hysteria stone dead.

“I can see the irony there but cut me some slack”, Batman says, in a more serious tone. “When any idle conversation you have can make the gossip rags, you take care to watch what you say and do all the time. This is the one night I get to just be.”

Derek’s heart breaks for him a little. He wants to tell him that he doesn’t have to worry about any of that when he’s with Derek.

He says fondly, “And you happened to fall into my bar…”

Batman smiles, softly, “I did and I’ll be forever grateful for that because otherwise we would have been unlikely to ever meet and that would be such a shame.”

Derek feels, rather than sees, as Batman twists their fingers together. He marvels at the smooth texture of his skin against Derek’s own work roughened hands. He glances down and notices the pulse beating, slightly fast, in the veins of his mate’s wrist so he lifts their hands up to press a kiss in that exact place. The air thickens somewhat, with pheromones, Batman’s, Derek’s, both of theirs? It doesn’t really matter.

“I still don’t know what it is you do that makes going out dressed as a sixties crimefighter such a necessity”, he murmurs against the delicately scented flesh of his partner.

They’re so close that Derek can feel his mate squirm in awkwardness.

“Oh, I’m a fashion blogger, I have five million followers on my Instagram and I have a weekly show on the E! network.”

Something Cora said earlier returns to tickle the back of Derek’s mind.

“That’s what Cora meant! She told me to ask you what you thought of my clothes if I needed an icebreaker. I thought she was just being an idiot”, He admits.

It’s his mate’s turn to laugh, now. “So you don’t care?”

Derek shakes his head, he thinks he’ll never get a better opportunity to drop his own bombshell. Just one final barrier before he can have it all. Visions of them both from his earlier fantasy flood his mind. He scents the air subtly, he only senses affection and want. He takes a deep breath.

“It seems we were both hiding something.”

He refuses to let go of the contact between them, worst case scenario, he can pull Batman back and hold him until he understands. He turns away briefly and lets the change suffuse him.

Swinging back, he gives his mate the full benefit of his wolfed-out face. He pleads with his scarlet-tinged eyes, don’t be scared, but his mate just stares at him; doesn’t move, doesn’t recoil in horror, just stares.

After a moment, he exclaims, “Hey, how did you do that?”

“I’m a werewolf, this is a werewolf bar, we’re all wolves here”, he lisps slightly, through his fangs,

His mate reaches out with the hand not clasped in Derek’s own. He strokes ever so gently along the back of Derek’s pointy ear. Derek growls sub-vocally, it’s all he ever wanted: acceptance.

“That’s incredible.” His mate cups his cheek, runs a thumb down from his hairline against the soft fur that would otherwise be much coarser beard.

“I thought at one point, you knew”, confesses Derek, “You made so many references to wolfy things: alpha male and tail between the legs and whatever.”

He’s so happy he can feel a tear forming and threatening to slip down his face. He blinks it away which just makes his red eyes shine more brightly. He has to hear the words though, actions alone won’t quite convince him.

“You’re not scared by me, not put off by this?” He presses against the warm hand on his face.

Fingers scratch softly through his fur as his mate says archly, “Darling, I work in the fashion industry, this isn’t even in the top ten of ridiculous things I’ve seen!”

Before he even knows it, Derek’s being pulled in for a kiss. Soft lips on his, warm tongue probing carefully between his razor-sharp teeth. Derek doesn’t want to be careful anymore, he defangs to allow his mate to explore more fully and then he remembers something.

He pulls away from his mate’s plush mouth. “What do I call you? I can’t even recall that name you gave me earlier, was that real?”

His mate laughs but Derek carries on, “In my head I’ve been calling you Batman or…” but he tails off, perhaps it’s too much for ‘wolf’ and ‘mate’ in the same night.

“You can call me Stiles”, says Stiles. “That’s what all my friends call me. And the five million Instagram followers”, he adds.

“Stiles”, sighs Derek, leaning in to nuzzle against his mate – Stiles’ – neck. “I like that.”