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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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The worst day of Stiles' life was on a Friday.

It started out nice, he had to admit.

Head office had just gotten back to him and let him know he had passed his 6-month employee evaluation with flying colors and they were glad to have him on board.

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and his favorite cafe down the street from the office had given him a free muffin with his coffee. Double chocolate muffin, to be exact, Stiles' favorite.

And then, of course, it had to go down hill.

His boss was holding a staff Christmas party at his penthouse suite that night. Stiles lived a few blocks down and decided to walk. After all, it had been such a great day -- why not enjoy the night? Wearing a deep red button up and fancy, yet comfortable, black trousers, Stiles joined the party with the rest of his colleagues, instantly spotting Isaac across the room.

3 glasses of wine later, Stiles was pleasantly buzzed, whereas Isaac and everyone else was nearly falling over.

Stiles snorted into his glass after Isaac had tried to sit on the couch and just barely caught himself from falling to the floor instead.

Isaac laughed, "Shut up."

"I said nothing," Stiles responded with a grin. He outstretched his hand to help Isaac back to his feet.

Feeling a heavy hand on his shoulder, Stiles glanced back to see his boss smiling at him.

"Mr. Stilinski, can I have a word in the kitchen?"

Stiles shot a look at Isaac to make sure the guy could stand on his own. Isaac gave a messy thumbs up along with a goofy smile.

Laughing softly, Stiles shook his head fondly and followed Gerard into the kitchen.

Gerard took his time, setting his empty wine glass into the sink and rinsing his hands. He finally turned to look at Stiles while toweling his hands off. He smiled. Stiles tried to smile back without feeling too self-conscious.

Was he going to tell Stiles that head office made a mistake and the employee evaluation was for someone else? God, Stiles hoped not. It was stressful having to wait for those results to come out.

"I heard the good news from head office today," Gerard began. "I'm very proud of how far you've come. You've made yourself stand out from all the other employees. Your future with us looks very promising."

Stiles smiled graciously and opened his mouth to speak -- only to shut it quickly as ice cold dread raced down his spine. His stomach dropped and he couldn't feel his fingers as Gerard ran his hands up the outsides of Stiles' thighs.

"U-uh--"

"Shh," Gerard smiled again, leaning closer, "You've been wanting a raise, haven't you?" he purred in Stiles' ear. "Prove to me you've earned it."

No. No no no no no. Stiles shook his head, opening and closing his mouth with no sound coming out. He felt stone cold, his stomach churning with the need to empty itself. With every slide of Gerard's fingers against his body came a lurch of disgust.

As soon as Gerard's hands settled on Stiles' ass, he jerked himself back to life and smacked Gerard's hands away, stumbling like a deer to put as much space between them as he could.

"That, Mr. Argent, is very inappropriate and I would appreciate it if you kept your hands to yourself, sir," Stiles bit out. He was willing to brush it aside as drunkenness, but the more Stiles looked, the more he realized Gerard was displaying no signs of intoxication. If anything, he had had only one drink the entire night. He had been perfectly aware of his actions.

Stiles' insides curled in disgust at the thought of Gerard thinking Stiles had been the one to have had a few drinks. That way Gerard could take advantage and get away with it.

"If you'll excuse me, I should be going," Stiles quickly leaped out of reach when Gerard moved his hand toward him again.

By the time Stiles had run down the stairs to the front door, he was shaking. Trembling to the point of needing to lean against the outside brick wall and take a moment to breath. After he had finished throwing up.

Once he had finally wandered home, it was past midnight and sleep was the only option.

He got the phone call the next morning from the office letting him know he had been let go.

.::::.

Stiles felt too dead to cry. Not only was he now jobless, but the anniversary of his dad's death was coming up in a month and a half, Christmas was in 3 weeks, and his boyfriend of almost two years had dumped him 7 months earlier. It was the craptastic year of all years.

He called Scott Monday morning after having nearly 3 panic attacks in 48 hours over the future. He would be kicked out of his apartment without a job. He couldn't buy Christmas gifts without a job. He had no significant other to turn to for comfort -- everything was spiraling out of control too fast for Stiles to chase after it.

Once discovering he actually did have more tears to shed, Stiles drew in shaky breaths while listening to Scott's comforting words. He was at work but took a 15 minute breather to talk, bless his soul.

"...I know for a fact I can get you at least an interview there," Scott was saying, "Dr. Deaton has connections and you haven't made that horrible of an impression with him, so that'll work out well. And..."

His voice turned hesitant.

Stiles, with his face smashed into the carpet of his bedroom, grunted a 'what?'

"Well..." Scott drifted off again before lunging into it, "Okay, this was supposed to be a Christmas surprise kind of thing -- not that it was your whole gift, 'cause that would be insulting, but I made an online dating profile for you... and paid for it, so all you have to do is log on and check out people's profiles and stuff, 'cause I already have a picture and description of you up there."

It took about 2 minutes for the gears in Stiles' head to register what he just heard.

"You what?!"

"Don't kill me! It's just...it's been, like...almost a year since your break up and he was a tool to you anyway, so like...I feel like you should check it out! At least give it a try, 'cause it cost me $300 for a year of it."

Stiles still hadn't fully processed it, even after they had both hung up with the promise of hanging out ASAP.

He didn't go onto his account until the next afternoon.

He was curious, okay.

Not to mention he felt the need to prove Scott wrong and go on one date. He'd have the guy run for his life and then Stiles would go back home and tell Scott he was an idiot for making him an online profile. It was really the perfect plan, not even Stiles could mess it up. Except he totally did by just existing.

Derek Hale's profile had a picture of him posing with grumpy cat, both of them looking equally pissed off. Stiles didn't realize a grown-ass manly man could still look masculine with a fuzzy cat dwarfed in his hand. But Derek Hale somehow pulled it off. Stiles didn't smile at the picture. Nope.

He viciously sent Hale a message to say hi. The poor sucker would be running for his life in 10 minutes flat.

Only, when they did plan a date for coffee, Stiles' plan backfired so spectacularly he almost gave up on life.

He had even dragged Scott with him to hide behind a nearby garbage can so he could make sure Stiles wasn't meeting a murderer. Stiles had made sure to warn Derek of his suspicions by pointing Scott out to Derek in an exaggerated manner before Scott took his place behind the garbage.

At a sturdy 6 feet, Derek Hale was the owner of broad shoulders, a narrow waist, gorgeous sea-green-blue eyes, and a strong jawline. He looked just as unimpressed as he was in his profile picture.

But to Stiles, none of Derek Hale even mattered.

He was just here to prove Stiles' point. Whether Derek knew it or not.

"Let's get things straight -- I'm only doing this 'cause my best friend since we were 5 years old set me up a profile in secret and blew all his money on it so I decided I'd make use of it," Stiles began as soon as they took a seat after getting their drinks. "My dad died this past February, my long-term boyfriend dumped me 3 months later -- it turns out he had been cheating on me for almost a year and had decided to go be with his new love -- and my creepy-ass boss felt me up at a staff party and fired me for not putting out.

"I am not liking people right now, I'm between jobs, and I have trust issues. I don't really know when to stop talking ever and will randomly tell you all these worthless facts that you would probably rather go through life without knowing. Like turtles -- did you know they can breath through their butts? Yeah, didn't think so. I'm also surprisingly sensitive. But I cover up my feelings with harsh words and if someone's getting too close to me, I feel like I'm backed up into a corner and I'll lash out to try to get them to not want to be a part of my life. Oh, and I don't care that we're both in our twenties, I am not putting out. It will be months -- maybe even years before you see me naked. I live alone and haven't truly been happy since before my dad died," Stiles took a deep breath, "it's been a long year."

Raising his coffee to his lips, Stiles calmly watched Derek's reaction.

His face was blank despite the somewhat owlish way he was now blinking. He hadn't responded yet, but he did take a thoughtful sip of his own drink.

Stiles could hear Scott whining to himself from behind the garbage can.

Visibly steeling himself, Derek opened his mouth, frowned, then closed it again. Stiles took another sip of coffee and watched Derek's eyebrows go through some intense movements. Maybe they were communicating to each other.

Finally, Derek leaned his elbows on the table, and spoke for the first time.

"Can they really breath through their asses?"

Stiles' smug expression plummeted. Oh, shit, he was a goner.

.:::.

From that day on, they were almost inseparable. It was platonic feeling, their relationship, which is what Stiles needed. Platonic with the promise of something more -- and that's what Derek was providing.

They would text each other throughout the day -- Stiles updating Derek on how his job interviews had gone, Derek complaining about meddling sisters. It was easy. So easy that Stiles made sure to keep certain parts of his life out of the conversations, just in case Derek turned around and left his life as soon as he had come into it.

Christmas Eve came along and Derek invited him to stay the night so that Stiles wouldn't be alone Christmas morning.

This was the first step that put Stiles on guard, but he accepted. They spent the evening watching old Christmas movies with Derek's dog asleep on the rug in front of them and Stiles berated Derek for not having tinsel, so they drove back to Stiles' place to get tinsel, then returned to Derek's. They ended up mainly just wrapping it around each other instead of around the Charlie Brown tree in the corner of the living room.

Stiles ripped a piece of silver tinsel off and pressed it up between Derek's eyebrows. "Pretty unibrow princess."

Derek retaliated by sticking a string of red, itchy tinsel down Stiles' crack and Stiles yelped out in discomfort while Derek laughed into the couch cushion.

When it came time to sleep, Stiles claimed Derek's bed and made the owner of the house sleep in the guest bedroom, which Derek agreed to graciously.

.:::.

Everything seemed to dwindle down to February 13th. And Stiles wouldn't get out of bed.

His dad had been gone a whole year now but Stiles could still feel the ghostly pressure of his dad's dying hand in his. And what it had felt like when John had gone totally limp in that hospital bed.

It wasn't right for a sheriff to be so weak. John Stilinski had been the rock of the family even before Stiles' mom died. He was the one who faced crime on the streets every day yet he was still brave enough to keep going back to work. He was brave enough to raise a child in a world whose darkness he knew better than anyone. He was brave even on his death bed. But the only difference was he no longer looked like the strong man Stiles knew. And Stiles hated how his last memory of his dad was one of John being fragile and weak, drowning in the scent of antiseptic.

John should have gone heroically, not slowly and painfully.

But Stiles still saw him as a hero for holding on as long as he could.

Stiles, on the other hand, could never see himself being as strong as his dad. Which is why he couldn't find the strength to get out of bed. He had called into work (his new job was amazing and gave him two days off), shut off the phone, and kept all the curtains closed with the lights shut off. If he made everything as dead as it could be, maybe he'd feel closer to his dad.

Derek came by after the sun had gone down. He knew Stiles needed time to himself. But, scarily, he also knew when Stiles would be needing company. That fact alone shook Stiles' core with fear at the thought of Derek getting too close.

Wrapped up in blankets and surrounded by pillows, Stiles lay tucked on the floor underneath his bed. He cracked a sleepy eye open at the feeling of his blankets being adjusted. Derek shimmied under the bed with great discomfort, but managed to adjust himself into a bearable position.

Stiles watched in silence through puffy eyes as Derek slowly rubbed soothing circles across the back of his hand. He was close to dozing off again when Derek reached behind himself and presented him with a double chocolate muffin from the cafe.

It was then that Stiles realized how he would be willing, even though it scared the shit out of him, to put his heart out there for Derek.

Tears running freely now, Stiles curled his fingers through the hair at the back of Derek's neck and tugged him flush against his body, pressing their lips together for the first time.

It was perfect with Derek's stubble rubbing his chin and his soft lips slowly rubbing against his own. Yet it was also kind of terrible with Stiles crying and all. But somehow, even through the tears, Stiles felt a flush course through his body right down to his toes and he held onto Derek a little tighter until his fingers turned white. He dragged his lips across Derek's and scraped his nails through his hair, feeling Derek's arms wrap around his torso and hold onto him just as tightly.

It was in that moment, with only the lights from the street lamps smudging in through the window, that Stiles breathed into Derek's chest everything he had held back so far. He whispered stories about his dad and shared with Derek things he hadn't even told Scott yet. The space under Stiles' bed became their sanctuary away from the world.

.:::.

Derek was the first to say 'I love you'.

It had been 9 months since they had been official and it was across the table in a new restaurant Stiles had been longing to go to.

As soon as he said it, he had reassured Stiles that he wasn't expecting to hear it back, he had just needed Stiles to know that there were people out there who cared for and loved him, even if he didn't see it.

It was 3 months later when Stiles said it back, whispered into the sweaty skin of Derek's neck as they lay in bed, clothes discarded and breaths heavy as their bodies slowly began to cool.

.:::.

Their wedding vows made Scott bawl. There was literal weeping going on from where he stood beside Stiles.

In fact, there were more watery eyes than not in the crowd.

"I have trust issues," Stiles began, grinning through his own watery eyes, "I will randomly tell you worthless facts that you could go through life without needing to know. I cover up my feelings with harsh words. My dad has been gone for almost 5 years now and not a day goes by where I don't miss him or my mom. Every day with you has made me happy beyond words and I am so thankful for dumbass Scott for making that online profile. I am a handful. I'm overwhelming and I never stop talking," the crowd laughed at this, giving their own little nods of agreement. Stiles tried not to blush. "... But I promise to love you with all my faults until death do us part."

.:::.

Derek still has the old phone he had used when he and Stiles first met.

Even though it's severely outdated and takes ages to power up, he will charge it on occasion just to look at the very, very first text Stiles ever sent to him.

'I'm not a slut. Don't expect to tap this ass for years. If that's a deal-breaker for you, then have a good life. As far as you're concerned, I'm a nun. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.'

Stiles still groans in embarrassment for his crass, past self.

Derek keeps all the texts they've sent. But it was that very first text that had squeezed his heart the hardest.