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show me something beautiful

 

The new captain is terrifying.

And definitely not just in a “well mark me down as scared and horny” way. More of a “please don’t rip my throat out with your teeth” kind of way, really.

But this is not surprising to anyone in the special victims unit of the New York Police Department’s 14th precinct. It’s clear to the members of the unit early on that their new boss is a nightmare of biblical proportions all wrapped up in dark eyebrows and murderous glares, only ever speaking in monosyllable words. Anything more that resembles a normal human conversation is always accompanied with a grimace like it pains him to be talking any longer or something. Which is a shame, because the man is actually drop-dead gorgeous, but it becomes very hard to look past those frightening blue-green eyes that glint like gunmetal. In fact, before anyone had known what a supreme jerk he would turn out to be, Erica had even tried to shoot her shot, though she’d failed spectacularly.

No one talks about that to her face anymore though, for fear of their files getting ‘accidentally’ shredded.

How the man had gotten the position is a mystery—never mind that he’s one of the most accomplished detectives the NYPD has seen—because he certainly hadn’t been hired for his charming personality and winning smile. No, in fact, he has a smile that is simply stuff straight out of a horror movie, teeth all clenched in a way that sends chills down its recipients’ spines. Even Boyd, one of the senior detectives in the unit, had been taken aback when the captain had ended their first briefing with a smile so frightening that it made him look more like someone who skinned rabbits with his teeth or something.

Debriefings are more akin to stepping in front of a firing squad, what with the captain’s eyebrows having the power to obliterate them and all if they’re not succinct and detailed enough with their case reflections. “Staff retreats” turns out to just be a nickname for "boot camps from hell", and it really seems like the man enjoys pushing them to the brink of passing out (“get up off the ground, Whittemore, we just started”). If they’re not being forced to rewrite their reports, then they’re being assigned case after case without fail. If they have free time, they’re expected to sort and organize evidence. If they get injured, they’re growled at, the captain’s jaw tense with fury (“are you stupid?”).

It seems that nothing can meet his expectations. Yes, their previous captain had been a useless and corrupt pushover who had nearly run the precinct into the ground, but really, they're not the ones who should have to be punished for that. Because that's exactly what having to work under the glare of a man like this is. Punishment.

Strangely enough however, the captain's frightening reputation isn’t very well-known to the rest of the precinct. This might be because only the special victims unit has the…fortune to be located on the same floor as the captain’s office and therefore under his direct supervision. One would think that this would provide the opportunity to develop closer relationships with the man in charge of their paychecks. This is not true. It’s not like they get that much face to face time with him apart from staff meetings and briefings given that the man pretty much lives in his office, only ever leaving for inhumanely short breaks or to go home, never seeming to want to spend any unnecessary time in the bullpen with the detectives.

His reputation clearly doesn’t extend to other divisions either, what with people like Captain Martin—a force to be reckoned with herself—from the 15th precinct always barging into his office unannounced and unafraid, tossing long, strawberry-blonde hair over one shoulder as she slams various pieces of paper down on his desk (“and just where do you think you get off on ordering my officers around?”)

Granted, this is all probably because no one else is around long enough to understand truly how petrifying the captain can be.

Which is what makes the events following the discovery all the more bewildering.

Isaac is the one who first catches sight of the ring, an entire two months after the captain had joined the 14th precinct. It’s somewhat pathetic, really, considering the fact that an entire floor full of detectives hadn’t noticed right off the bat.

But when he does see it—a thin, silver band so innocuous that it could have just been a trick of the light—he trips headfirst into a recycling bin, earning a dirty glance from his boss through the window of the man’s office and Isaac kind of wants to sink into the ground and never come back out, but he has a duty to fulfill: spreading the news to every floor of the precinct that the captain is married.

Captain Derek Hale is married.

“A trick,” Erica declares confidently, picking at her nails and sniffing as she closes a case file and tosses it at Isaac’s chest. “To try and convince us that he’s human. In reality, the overlords sent him to us because we have sinned.”

Boyd just grunts and glances at Derek’s office with an appraising look. “Maybe his partner is worse than he is.” He pauses briefly, thinking over his words before adding, “No offense.”

“Blackmail?” suggests Greenberg because he’s an idiot.

“I think it’s sweet.” Kira pipes up, clearly forgetting the fact that their captain glares at them on a daily in a very not-sweet manner. She’s a soft-spoken woman with not a single mean bone in her body, and it’s a wonder that she’s survived Derek for the past few months. “He always works so late and it’s nice there’s someone waiting for him at home. He seems lonely.”

“You guys are all idiots.” Jackson finally rolls his eyes derisively at them and sighs dramatically, because he’s an asshole like that. “Clearly, whoever married him is an extreme masochist. Probably also cries every night to sleep because Hale refuses to be within twenty feet of them to engage in, you know, basic human contact.”

Which is ridiculous and sounds far-fetched but it’s actually the most plausible explanation. But it’s not a confirmed fact and this is the NYPD for god’s sake. There is no conclusion without evidence.

Cue the most thorough, passionately investigated case that has ever been undertaken in the history of the unit’s existence: finding out exactly who and what sort of person would marry Captain Hale.

 


 

Employment records come up empty, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering that several districts that Derek had worked for before had been rather unsavory and it would make sense that his personal files would be sealed for safety purposes.

They don’t dare recruit the help of Danny, who’s in the basement with cybercrimes, because their last attempted abuse of power—a petty competition between precincts that had escalated into Jackson sweet-talking his boyfriend into hacking their rival’s mainframe—had been found out by the captain and ended very badly. In tears. Lots of tears. Tears from Jackson.

So, it turns out that the only way to go about doing things is the good old-fashioned way. Which is perfectly fine because they are champion detectives. Top of the line. Seriously!

The captain’s younger sister works in vice and homicide, so Erica slinks down to the second floor one day with a bribe coffee and muffin to try and wheedle information out of her. Cora Hale just cackles, throwing her head back to laugh manically all while fanning herself with the gruesome crime scene photos in her hand. Is that…a severed hand?

Erica stares at her hard, vehemently hoping that she’ll choke on the hyena impression that she’s currently making.

“You guys are so cute, oh my god. I’m not telling you shit. Now stop bothering me or I’ll fucking take you out with the garbage.”

Yep. There’s no doubt that the two are related. The entire fifth floor is fairly certain that the two Hales and probably all the rest of their relations—a prominent family with members in powerful positions all over the city—might just be a bunch of dark-eyebrowed serial killers who gather once in a while in a shadowy lair to share murder stories over meals. That can be the only explanation for what Cora and Derek get up to during lunches, when the younger Hale forces her way into his office with two sandwiches (“if you miss one more lunch because you’re overworking, it’ll be my cute ass he comes for, Der”).

In any case, interrogating Cora Hale is a dead end.

 


 

Kira becomes the sacrificial lamb because besides Isaac, she has the most innocent and unassuming face. And also because she’s the police administrator, thereby making her the only one who would have good reason to be sneaking into Derek’s office when he’s down in the shooting range. She prints out a schedule that she’d already given Captain Hale the previous day, looks behind her to find all the detectives giving her two thumbs-ups, swallows, and opens the door to his office.

The captain’s office is sparsely furnished, containing only a large desk in the center and a swivel chair behind it, a large bookshelf to the right, and a few frames hanging on the wall detailing the captain’s numerous awards and achievements. There are no pictures to be found anywhere in the office and the drawers only contain neatly arranged folders, pens, and note pads. Kira frowns. Everything screams impersonal, though granted, Derek has only been with the precinct for a few months. Maybe he likes to take his time with decorations. Who knows.

Just as Kira is about to give up, not having found a single thing to shed insight on who the captain is, she opens the door of the mini-fridge under the desk and peers into it. Ah.

“Well?” Jackson’s wheeling around the bullpen slowly in his chair, looking over his newest case—a murder of a rich, elderly gentleman in Times Square—while irritating the hell out of Erica by nature of his mere existence, as Kira finally exits the office. “What’s the verdict?”

Kira shakes her head but holds up her phone with a picture displayed. It’s of a Tupperware container with a delicious looking chicken salad in it and a sticky note on top that reads: remember to eat, sourpants!! :)))

“They make him food?” Kira says weakly, and even she knows that it’s not very compelling evidence.

Erica groans, filing faster at her nails and glaring needlessly at Jackson. “That could be Cora, for all we know.”

“Sorry.” Kira replies unnecessarily.

The disappointment in the room is palpable. But then the elevator doors open to reveal Derek back from his break—seriously who goes to the shooting range for fun during their break?—and that’s the end of the discussion for the day.

 


 

Fridays are always a mystery.

On Fridays, Captain Hale always dresses up quite nicely, a different look from his usual Henleys and black jackets every other day of the week. It almost makes him look like a normal human being instead of one who sharpens knives in his spare time or something. He always leaves early too, at five PM sharp, not a minute earlier and not a minute later. No one has a clue as to what he does in his free time because questions about his personal life are always met with a sharp gaze and a clenched jaw.

Naturally, bets have been placed on where he goes every Friday, but the consensus that most arrive at is that he goes on dates, though it leaves everyone puzzling over what exactly he and his mysterious partner do. Glare at each other?

Nevertheless, this gives for the perfect opportunity to try and get a little personal again.

Today, Derek’s in a dark blue button-up shirt, a matching tie, and a pair of khaki pants which would probably have people salivating all over him if his eyebrows didn’t currently look like they could pick up tiny knives and stab a bitch. As he locks up his office at exactly five PM and begins to make his way out, Boyd squares his shoulders and stands. “Captain.”

Derek pauses mid-stride and turns to face him, wearing an expression that clearly states ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing talking to me when I’m off work.’ Boyd clears his throat and asks, “The rest of us are going out for drinks tonight, to celebrate closing the Daehler case. Would you like to join?”

Derek lifts a hand to rub at his stubble and there’s a strange look on his face that’s almost…regretful. No, that’s probably not it. “No. I have plans. Sorry.”

Erica pounces. “Plans? With your wife?”

The captain shoots her an unimpressed look and replies flatly, “No.”

He doesn’t elaborate and there’s no time to ask another question because somehow he’s already across the room and in the elevator, looking down at his watch as his thumb plays unconsciously with the wedding band on the same hand.

“Foiled again.” Isaac sighs, slumping in his seat and staring balefully at the report that he’s rewriting for the third time.

 


 

The one stakeout that they ever plan crashes and burns.

Jackson is the best driver in the precinct and even though sometimes he drives like a maniac hellbent on killing them all, he’s well-known for never losing sight of a suspect. It gets to the point that other units even request to borrow him from time to time for different cases, so naturally Erica, Isaac, and Boyd pick him and a nondescript black vehicle to tail the captain with. Unfortunately, it becomes clear very quickly that his abilities may have been wildly overestimated because he loses Derek’s black Camaro within ten minutes of starting the car.

“Where did he go?” Jackson mutters, swiveling his head and looking around the block after having circled it for the third time. It’s devoid of movement apart from a homeless man pushing a shopping cart across the street. Definitely no black muscle car in sight.

“Real professional,” drawls Erica, kicking her feet up on the dash, though she doesn’t bother contributing to the search effort. “We’re all in such good hands. Remind me never to go on car chases with you ever. You’d probably end up driving us straight into a gang shootout.”

“Bitch.” Jackson throws her a glare, to which she simply flips him off with one, perfectly manicured finger.

There’s still no sign of the captain’s car.

But then suddenly, someone from outside wrenches the passenger seat door open with startling speed and strength. Isaac definitely does not let out an embarrassingly high yelp.

“Out of the car.” A voice growls. “Hands up.”

It’s Captain Hale, standing a little ways off from the car and wearing a look of extreme suspicion, one hand wrapped tightly around the grip of his gun as he levels it at them. Well, at Isaac, who’s the closest and looks like he’s about to shit himself. Derek’s pupils are blown wide open and he takes in the scene with one expert sweep of his eyes, legs arranged in a defensive stance. When all he sees are the detectives looking like they’ve been caught with their hands in a cookie jar, his forehead creases in confusion.

“Isaac? Boyd?” Derek relaxes his hand and slips the gun back into its holster but the tension in his shoulders is still visible. He frowns at them and narrows his eyes. “Why are you following me?”

Erica jumps in, lying smoothly, “We wanted to surprise you. Take you out for some cake. For your birthday.”

“It’s not my birthday.” Derek says flatly, the suspicion in his eyes deepening.

“It’s not?” Erica plasters on a shocked expression, turning to Jackson in outrage. The woman’s acting skills are truly first-rate. “Jackson, you fucking idiot. You got the wrong date, didn’t you?”

Jackson splutters. “What…how is this my…

“So sorry to bother you,” Erica tells him in a saccharine sweet voice. She elbows Jackson in the side and everyone quickly piles back into the car, if only to avoid the scrutinizing gaze of their captain. “We’ll be off now. Apologies for following you!”

Derek still doesn’t look like he believes them but instead of pressing further, he just sighs. If anything, he sounds slightly…amused. Likely from imagining their slow deaths in his head. “Don’t do it again.”

“No sir,” Isaac says eagerly. “We won’t do it again, sir.”

“Stop calling me sir.”

“Yes sir.”

 


 

“Heyyy…Captain?”

They’re even desperate enough to send in Greenberg, who has no concept of self-preservation and that comes in handy in situations like these.

“No.”

“But—”

“Get back to work, Greenberg.”

“Okay. Good talk.”

Everyone deflates. Of course Derek would be the one person that Greenberg doesn’t have a spine around.

 


 

This goes on for months—week after week of running around in circles and chasing answers that amount to nothing—and the detectives gradually resign themselves to the fact that maybe they would never find what they’re looking for.

 


 

The annual New York Police Department gala is held at the end of May, an opportunity for people to rub elbows with and simper at officials and wealthy donors all in the hopes of moving up NYPD’s ranks. Typically, only the most accomplished departments and select employees are invited. Which is why it’s a surprise, a rather daunting one, when the entire 14th precinct is invited to the exclusive event. Having never attended such a high society event before though, the detectives just clump together—more strength in numbers—and peer out at the crowd with wary eyes.

This year, the gala is being held at Carnegie Hall, and no expense has been spared. The room is decorated impressively and guests dripping in expensive clothing and jewelry are already milling around. The gala hasn’t officially started yet since most of the department officials are having a photo op, which means their captain is probably among the higher-ups participating in the event. This gives the unit a chance to relax and hang around, casually bantering and letting their inner gossips loose.

“Is that Blake?” Erica squints into the distance.

Isaac follows her gaze and groans, “Yeah, it is. How did she even get in here?”

Jennifer Blake, a cutthroat defense attorney often seen taking the cases of many of the city’s high-profile criminals, is infamous within the police department for always being seen on the arm of a different officer or detective each week. It’s a wonder that men and women alike still fall for her, considering the widespread rumor of her ability to seduce case details out of her various lovers.

“Probably some unsuspecting, hotshot rookie. You know, I actually really hope she tries going for Derek if they ever meet tonight.” Erica says with enthusiasm. “I bet he could reduce her to tears. I would pay good money to see that.”

Kira laughs, fidgeting nervously with her the straps of her evening gown while nodding in agreement. Erica slaps at her hands, annoyed. “Stop doing that, you look gorgeous. Own it.” 

“Finstock’s already drunk.” Boyd observes, tilting his chin in the congressman’s direction. The man in question is yelling at Greenberg, gesticulating wildly. How the two even know each other is a mystery.

“You guys talking about Finstock?” A voice sighs from nearby. “Man, I hate that guy.”

Everyone turns around to find a man standing behind them, clad in a simple, fitted black suit over a white dress shirt and no tie. It makes him seem almost underdressed, considering everyone else here is dressed to the nines, but it suits him quite well. He’s pretty, dark amber eyes set in a youthful face with short, dark-brown hair styled in an artfully messy fashion. His pale skin is dotted with moles, a smirk dancing around playfully on his lips.

“Well, hel-lo.”

Isaac stares at Erica like she’s grown two heads. Erica doesn’t flirt. Erica waits for people to flirt with her. And then takes an unholy amount of pleasure in turning them down with scathing remarks hidden behind a sharp smile. But she’s already sidling up to the newcomer while pursing her lips. Her arms press together to push up her cleavage, impressively exposed in her gold, floor-length mermaid gown. “And who might you be?”

White Shirt grins at her shyly, stuffing his left hand into his pants pocket awkwardly like he doesn’t know what to do with his long limbs. It’s all rather endearing and even Boyd can’t help but smile unconsciously at the newcomer. “I’m Stiles. Nice to meet you.”

“Styles of…?”

“No, that’s my name. Stiles.”

Jackson wrinkles his nose. “What the hell is a Stiles?”

The man’s eyes narrow, clearly not liking the way that Jackson is looking at him, and he claps back defensively, “I don’t know, what the hell’s up with your face, jackass?”

There’s a stunned beat of silence before Boyd starts to laugh, shoulders shaking and a deep, throaty chuckle escaping his throat, and the others also lift their drinks to hide their amused smirks. Stiles glances around, looking surprised for a moment before a pleased expression slides onto his face. Boyd claps Stiles on his back. “Good man. We needed someone to take him down a notch.”

Jackson glowers. Stiles just rolls his eyes and nudges the detective with his shoulder in a conciliatory gesture, grinning and explaining, “It’s a nickname, dude. Pretty sure you couldn’t pronounce my real name.”

“What do you do?” asks Kira curiously. “Which precinct are you a part of?”

Stiles shakes his head quickly, waving one hand out in front of him. “Oh my god, no, no. I don’t work for the department, I’m just here for a few people I know. I work for the New York Medical Center.”

Kira perks up. “You’re a doctor? My mother is a surgeon there.”

“Technically.” Stiles bobs his head, one arm flailing out at her as he elaborates, “I’m a medical examiner.”

“So you do work with the police then.” Erica’s smile is shark-like and she loops a hand through his arm. “I wonder why I haven’t seen you around.”

“Oh, I just started there a couple months ago. You wouldn’t have seen me around that much, trust me.” Stiles laughs and doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that Erica has attached herself to his person like an overgrown leech. Isaac and Boyd exchange amused glances. Clearly, the man is either immensely oblivious or is extremely skilled in rebuffing people’s advances, this being made clear by the rather resigned expression making its way onto Erica’s face.

“What about you all?” Stiles asks conversationally, “You work for the department, then?”

Isaac grins. “Yeah, we’re detectives.”

“No shit?” Stiles arches an eyebrow. “Where do you work? I know a few people in the force.”

“14th precinct.” Boyd answers.

They miss the way the man’s eyes widen at that because at that moment, an announcement comes from the stage declaring the photo op has ended and that everyone will be convening in the large ballroom they’re currently in.

 


 

“Ugh, he is hotter than the sun.”

Their new companion sounds equal parts impressed and amused.

No one is exactly sure why the man is still hanging around even after the announcement since most guests should have arrived by now and the people he’s here for probably have too. But he’s good company because despite the discovery that he seems to be able to talk a mile a minute without air, it turns out that this Stiles guy is actually pretty decent to be around. He’s quite the pleasant breath of fresh air, so different from the usual stuffy New York personalities that attends such events. The man nerds out over comic books with Erica, discusses politics with Boyd, and even manages to strike up a heated conversation with Jackson about cars (“Camaros are sexier than Porsches, dude!”).

The detectives curiously follow the man’s gaze over the crowd to where it lands on…their captain.

Jackson immediately chokes on his shrimp appetizer and has to turn away to cough, thumping his own chest desperately. Erica makes a distressed noise at the back of her throat, probably because she had been trying to chat up Stiles for the past half hour and had been bested in less than five seconds by her unknowing boss. Everyone else just stares at Stiles in disbelief. While yes, Derek does look rather impressive in his dress uniform, back straight as he talks to someone who looks like the mayor, it’s also…Derek. A man who regularly looks like he’s in pain and surrounded by idiots.

“That’s our captain.” Kira’s blushing a bright red because Stiles is shamelessly dragging his eyes up and down Derek’s body now. “He’s married.”

Stiles doesn’t look too surprised or disappointed, but he does turn to her, still amused, and asks, “Is he now?”

Erica wrinkles her nose. “He’s doing that thing with his face. Again.”

“Someone needs to tell the captain to never smile ever again.” Jackson grumbles, finally turning back after having dislodged the piece of shrimp. “I still have nightmares about the last time he showed me his teeth. I’m pretty sure he wanted to eat me. I’m too pretty to be eaten.”

“I don’t know.” Stiles makes a thoughtful noise, appreciative gaze still plastered on Derek. “I think he’s got the whole dark and mysterious thing going on. It’s all very appealing.”

“He’s married.” Erica repeats Kira’s assertion, obviously more than a little irritated.

The sharp grin on Stiles’s face just widens. It's a little unsettling. “I know.”

“Speaking of which,” Jackson looks around and asks no one in particular, “Where is the unfortunate soul who promised to spend the rest of their life with Hale? Surely he’d bring a plus one to an event like this.”

Isaac shrugs, replying, “We haven’t found evidence of a significant other in three months. Are we even sure they exist?”

Erica snaps and points at Isaac triumphantly. “I told you.”

Jackson rolls his eyes and retorts, “And you also said that the overlords sent Hale, so what exactly do you want us to fucking believe?”

A strange sound comes from Stiles and when they look at him, it seems like he’s on the verge of bursting out in laughter. He’s looking at them, delighted, like they’re the best entertainment of the night.

“Dude, what?” Stiles manages to get out, amusement clear in his voice. “He is your boss, right?”

“Yeah, a boss from hell,” Jackson complains and takes another vicious bite of his shrimp. “He shoved me against a wall one time because I crashed one of the department vehicles accidentally during a chase, pointed a finger in my face, and growled at me. It’s not like I had a broken arm or anything at the time.”

Stiles’s eyebrows go up but no one is paying attention to him in favor of the much-needed outlet for grievances that has just been created.

“Oh, stuff it, you big baby. He didn’t actually hurt you. But this one time, he handcuffed Isaac to a pipe and left him there for a few hours because he wanted to quote ‘show Lahey the benefits of knowing how to get out of cuffs’ unquote.” Erica recalls, though a smirk flickers around on her lips. “We weren’t allowed to help and he was stuck there until midnight.”

Isaac nods miserably. Stiles snorts something under his breath that sounds suspiciously like, “It’s not that hard. But he can cuff me to a headboard any day.”

“His presence can be…intimidating.” Boyd admits vaguely. He’s seen a lot in his time with the department, but he can say with certainty that Derek Hale is one of the most frightening individuals he’s ever met.

Kira tugs on a strand of her hair and tells the entire group, “He does scare me still.”

That should have been the final straw, because honestly, how could anyone take one look at Kira’s sweet face and do anything apart from sympathize?

Stiles’s mouth is hanging open slightly like he wants to say something, but before he can get a chance, he’s interrupted.

“Big boss alert, big boss alert,” Danny mutters urgently, sliding between Jackson and Erica with two cocktails in his hands and handing Jackson one of them. The other detectives all look up and collectively twitch when they see the police commissioner heading their way. The man is a legend, originally a small town sheriff who worked his way up to become the head of the entire NYPD, and has gained near universal respect from the entire force. Naturally, when he stops right in front of them, there’s a bit of a starstruck silence before the man starts speaking.

“14th precinct, I gather? SVU?” The commissioner smiles at them, all warm and friendly, and the man’s relaxed disposition takes them off guard. It’s a welcome change from the sharp words and pointed glares of their boss that they’re still trying to get used to. “I’ve heard great things.”

They all blink. How? Where? From who?

“Yo, Daddy-o!”

The exclamation comes from their new companion, who had almost been forgotten by everyone in the excitement of the new arrival. He slides up next to the commissioner, throwing his arm around the man’s neck casually and grinning wildly. “How are things?”

Commissioner Stilinski sighs, face slightly pinched but resigned, as though the other man’s behavior is a regular occurrence but there's nothing he can do about it. “Hello, son.”

The team’s expressions melt from pleasant surprise to mirroring looks of horror.

“…Dad…dy-o?”

Jackson’s voice is quiet and slightly strangled, echoing the sentiments of every single other detective in the circle. They had been bitching about one of the youngest and most successful detectives in the force—appointed to the position of captain by the commissioner himself, no less—right in front of the commissioner’s son. Isaac casts Stiles a nervous look, as though the man would just immediately start spilling the beans right then and there. But he just grins and says, “Yeah, hey guys, meet my dad who, I really hope doesn’t think that he can get away with eating anything on the dessert table.”

The man lifts a warning finger, pointing it right in the commissioner’s face and adds, “I have eyes. I have sources. I will know.”

Commissioner Stilinski sighs again, a morose look passing over his face and he casts a forlorn look at the dessert table. It’s stacked high with macaroons and cupcakes and brownies, and it does look a little bit like a slice of heaven.

Just as it seems like the commissioner is about to protest his son’s strict orders, his gaze slides over their heads to something behind them and he smiles, lifting a hand in the air.

“Derek. Good to see you, son.”

The effect is immediate. Everyone stiffens, missing the way that Stiles’s eyebrows draw together as he glances between them and their captain, who is stalking up to them and looking very much like he would rather be dead in a ditch somewhere than in the crowd.

Maybe he's finally noticed the commissioner talking to them and has taken it upon himself to come growl about their incompetence to him or something. Kira smiles and manages a weak "hi, Captain” but he doesn’t even bother to glance at her.

Instead, Derek walks right past them and slides one arm around Stiles’s waist, curling a hand around his hip—the son of the police commissioner’s hip—while handing him a flute of champagne with the other. Stiles murmurs a quiet thanks before tilting his head up and pressing his lips gently against Captain Hale’s in greeting. His free hand drifts up to touch Derek's cheek, the tips of his fingers dragging slowly over the other man’s stubble.

What.

There also might have been a bit of tongue in the kiss, but no one is really paying any attention to that detail.

Because really. What.

“Hi.” Derek says, and he smiles at Stiles. Not a fake smile either, but a real smile that reaches his eyes and his front teeth poke out from behind his lips and it’s positively adorable. Which is to say, not a look that has ever been seen on the captain’s face. Ever, in the months that the unit has known him. This is turning out to be some serious Twilight Zone shit. “You look nice.”

“Thanks.” Stiles grins back at him and his face lights up. “You’re not looking too bad yourself. Damn. I’ve gone ahead and made the decision for both of us that you’re going to have to wear this uniform a bit more around me by the way, so there’s that.”

And then he promptly proceeds to give their captain the most inappropriate leer that even Erica has ever seen, eyes traveling slowly from Derek’s service cap all the way down to his dress shoes, lingering a little too long on the belt area.

Commissioner Stilinski clears his throat very loudly.

Stiles jumps and looks around, like he had forgotten that there were other people around during his journey of undressing Derek with his eyes, the sexual tension dissipating as quickly as it had appeared. The commissioner just gives him a pointed look before he shakes his head and excuses himself (“behave yourself, Stiles”), saying something about preparing for a speech and then taking off, leaving them all alone with their captain and Stiles.

Finally getting over their shock of Derek actually smiling and someone looking overjoyed to see him instead of scared shitless, the detectives’ eyes slowly travel down in horror to where the man’s long fingers are delicately grasping the glass of champagne Captain Hale had handed him. Isaac pales and Boyd starts to cough into his hand, having choked on his own saliva.

There’s a silver wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand.

It’s identical to the one on Derek’s larger hand.

Oh.

Oh no.

Undisguised glee crosses Stiles’s face as he finally seems to remember who he’s standing with, and he nudges Derek with his elbow. “I think these people know you. Why don’t you introduce me, Derek?”

Derek is looking very much like saying no, that is not something he would like to do, but relents when the other man gives him a look.

“Stiles, the 14th precinct special victims unit. Everyone, this is Stiles. My husband.”

They’re all going to die. They are going to be eliminated. Funeral arrangements need to be made. Cora Hale will be investigating their deaths by the end of the week. And then will probably cover up the crimes for her brother.

“No he’s not.” Jackson laughs uncomfortably because it’s all he can do, denial written all over his face. It can’t be true. There’s silent agreement over this assertion among the others.

Derek stares at him. “Pretty sure he is.”

“But he’s…!”

Nice. Talkative. Funny. Easygoing. Adorable. The list goes on. But the whole point being that Stiles Stilinski is not the type of person who would be married to someone like Derek Hale. The captain’s partner is either supposed to be some nightmarish, high-maintenance individual who's more fear-inducing than he is, or, well—in the kindest words possible—a complete and utter wimp who screams when Derek looks at him. Stiles is neither of these. They all actually like Stiles.

Jackson’s brain has completely disconnected from his body and Erica is wearing a rather pained expression, as though it hurts to try and make sense of the facts laid out in front of her.

The weird wheezing noise that had been coming from Stiles finally transforms into a full-bellied laugh, and he lifts a hand to slap at Derek’s chest. Stiles doubles over and gasps out, “Oh my god, look at their faces! Oh Jesus, my stomach hurts.”

The captain just looks a little confused, eyebrows knotting in a frown. “Stiles?”

“Derek, dude, what kind of trauma have you inflicted on these guys?” Stiles groans, taking a hearty swig of his champagne like he really needs to be not sober for this conversation. “I’ve heard nothing good about you in the entire time that I’ve been here. There may have been an implication that you are the actual devil.”

And there it is. The words that would ultimately end in their untimely demises.

Derek’s reaction surprises them though. Rather than eviscerate them brutally with his eyebrows, he just tightens his arm around Stiles and looks a little disappointed while…flushing? Isaac squints, trying to see if that’s really pink in the man’s cheeks or just the light. “It’s not…what you think.”

“Well then, what do I think?” Stiles glances around at everyone, who have all suddenly become fascinated with either the crowd or their shoes. “I think they’re terrified of you, man.”

It's mind-boggling how unresponsive Derek is to the information coming out of the other man’s mouth. Surely there would be some glares thrown in, a growl that warns them not to say another word, and maybe even some threats hurled at his husband about not embarrassing him in public or anything. Because that seems like the sort of thing that a man who spends his days holed up in his office with serial killer glares would do. But he does none of that.

"I..." Derek looks startled, and finally turns his gaze on them, inciting flinches that cause his surprised look to slip back into a frown. "That's not true."

He doesn't seem convinced of his own words at this point and neither does Stiles, who looks at them expectantly. "Guys?"

“It is true.” Surprisingly, it's Kira who courageously challenges Derek's claim. “You never smile. Jackson thinks you want to eat him.”

“What…!” Jackson shoots her a betrayed look.

Derek takes a deep breath in through his nose before saying slowly, “I do smile.” 

Everyone stares at him incredulously because no, nothing he does with his face has ever fallen into the general 'smile' category. Nowhere near it even.

“There’s a difference between baring your teeth like a predator in the wild and the literal heart eyes and beam you gave Stiles when you saw him.” Erica says honestly, becoming more fearless with every second that the captain isn’t snapping at her like he usually does. It’s as though Stiles is the entire reason that they’re not six feet under right now.

Derek looks at her flatly. “There’s also a difference between you and Stiles.”

Erica thinks about it for a long moment. “Okay, point. But still, surely, you can stop looking at us like you want to skin us in our sleep? There should be a fine line somewhere."

Stiles sighs and gives his husband an exasperated look, like he knows exactly what the detectives are talking about. “Hey Derek, what have we said about smiling naturally? Remember when you first met Dad as my boyfriend? He thought you were in massive pain.” He throws them an apologetic look and pats Derek on the arm fondly. "It's a work in progress."

Jackson brazenly points a finger at the captain but quickly curls it back after a second thought. “You yell at us every time we get injured. Like it’s our fault that suspects have a violent streak?”

“You always make us rewrite our case reports even though there aren’t that many mistakes.” Isaac continues, and then shifts slightly so Stiles is standing between him and Derek now. For safety purposes. “Other detectives even abbreviate.”

“You never seem to want to spend any time with us out of the office.”

“Your eyebrows scare the shit out of us.” Erica adds brutally, enjoying this chain of events a little more than she should. “Mostly when you’re glaring at us. Which is all the time.”

Oh my god,” Stiles rolls his eyes up to the ceiling. “Derek, you said things were going well at your new job.”

“I thought they were.” The captain’s expression had become increasingly concerned as he listened to the growing list of complaints. He looks so confused that they almost feel bad for him. Almost, being the key word. Because they still need these issues addressed while they have Stiles as a shield.

“Look,” Stiles sighs. “I’m sure this is all one huge misunderstanding. Derek is one of the sweetest people I know—”

Say what now?

“—and I’m sure if he used his words like a normal human being, he could clear all of this up. Derek?”

The man in question looks put on the spot and rather constipated now, but when Stiles grits his teeth and says his name again, he finally turns back to them, heaving a deep sigh.

“I’m tough on you guys because your jobs are serious. You deal with the worst of humanity on a daily basis and slipping up is costly.” Derek says this slowly, eyeing each of them as if to make sure they’re paying attention. Everyone shifts uncomfortably at his words because yeah, he has a point there. But still. They’ve been living in fear for so many months now that they deserve further explanations for their trouble.

“Jackson.” Derek says, startling the man in question. “Many injuries you all have sustained are preventable, had there been a little more thought that went into the execution of your strategies. So when you do get injured, all due to impulsivity, it’s upsetting. And I worry.”

Jackson’s mouth is dangling open by now. It’s probably the longest he’s ever gone without being glared or growled at by the captain.

“Isaac.” Derek pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. The movement causes the golden light of the chandeliers to glint off the wedding ring on his hand. “I make you rewrite reports because they all go on file. You know this. And so when my supervisors come to me for recommendations, I have quality work to draw from to showcase exactly how much effort you all spend on cases and why you are some of the finest detectives the NYPD has. Why do you think every single one of you has been invited to this gala?”

Boyd and Isaac exchange glances, and Jackson and Erica avert their gazes. Because what are they supposed to say to that? It sounds reasonable now that he’s actually explaining his actions. Everyone’s indignance gives way to a bit of guilt now because it’s seeming more and more like maybe they really had just misunderstood Derek ever since he’d joined the precinct. And furthermore, if someone like Stiles had married Derek, then maybe they’d gotten this all wrong.

Maybe Derek isn’t actually all that bad.

“Boyd, I didn’t want to…intrude on any team-building activities that you all may have planned.” Derek says, scratching his head and looking more than a little awkward. Team-building activities? Does the man not understand the concept of socializing and fun? “I thought it might be weird for you to spend time with your boss outside of the office.”

“And Erica…” Derek seems at a loss for words to respond to the detective and glances at his husband, who just snorts and reaches up a hand to trace one of the offending eyebrows with his thumb.

“You have sexy eyebrows, sourpants.” Stiles winks, a smirk curling up on his lips with full force. “But you gotta stop unconsciously glaring at people.” Stiles turns to them and says conspiratorially, “He doesn’t mean anything by that most of the time. Take it from me. I was convinced that he hated me sometimes even when we started dating.”

Derek shoots Stiles a look but tells Erica, “I’ll…work on that.”

A stunned silence falls over them. Everyone gapes at Derek because he sounds serious and sincere about everything that he’d just said, and not at all like he’s a heartbeat away from eviscerating them. It’s a little surreal.

“I…apologize if I’ve put you in difficult positions these past few months.”

Holy shit.

Not only is Derek apologizing, but there’s a slight quirk of his lips to indicate that he’s smiling now. And it’s not a serial killer smile either, but a friendly and slightly embarrassed one that makes the green in his eyes all the more apparent. It’s a really nice smile. “I’ll work on making that up to you in the future.”

“See, I knew there was a simple explanation to all this!” Stiles raps Derek’s cap with one finger, earning him a scowl from his husband that replaces the small smile that had been there moments ago. “Hey Der, why don’t you grab us something to eat? I saw what they had and holy god, am I in the mood for some chips and salsa. Also some chicken wings. Throw in some of those delicious looking spring rolls too. Also please make sure my dad is nowhere near the dessert table if you get the chance. The man’s cholesterol levels are going to give me a heart attack.”

Their captain heaves a long-suffering sigh at the other man’s rambling, but just adjusts his cap from where Stiles had knocked it askew, presses his lips against Stiles's cheek, and strides away. There's still a flabbergasted silence hovering over the detectives when Stiles turns back to them as soon as Derek is gone and scratches the back of his head, looking contrite.  

“So…listen. Sorry about the whole…lie-by-omission thing.” Stiles shrugs. “I guess I just really wanted to know how he was doing at work. He’s not the most personable of individuals and I guess my hunch was right.”

Erica gives him a long look. "Hunch?"

Stiles winces. "Yeah. Listen, he's...trying."

The man gives them a serious look, very different from the friendly smiles he’d graced them with earlier that evening. “He means well, he really does. It hasn’t been easy for him though…socially. He’s been through a lot.”

Jackson scoffs, still a little displeased that the other man had somewhat deceived an entire group of detectives. "What could have happened to him that was so bad?"

Danny elbows Jackson, hissing a quiet "shut it, idiot." Stiles shoots the other man an unfriendly look. “Well, for one, one of his exes tried to burn down his family’s house with all of them in it.”

“Jesus.” Boyd breathes. Jackson swallows guiltily.

“Yeah. Thank god she didn't succeed, but that's just one of the many things he's had to go through.” Stiles sighs. “I won’t go on, but believe me when I say that he has trust issues that make it hard for him to open up to people. I think that you guys have been really good for him though. Dude practically sings praises about you to anyone who’ll listen. Which is mainly just me and Dad though, now that I think about it.”

The entire team looks at him skeptically as Stiles takes a sip of his champagne. Captain Hale? Singing praises about them? The other man is probably exaggerating but it's hard to imagine Derek would ever compliment them out loud. When Stiles notices them squinting at him disbelievingly, he rolls his eyes.

“Vernon Boyd, right?” Stiles snaps and points a finger at Boyd. “You were in the ROTC program when you were younger and you’re amazeballs at cross country. You joined the force because of your younger sister. You don’t speak much but you’re wildly intelligent and most of all, compassionate. It’s a trait that’s hard to find nowadays.”

Boyd’s eyes widen but before he’s given a chance to respond though, Stiles is already moving on. “Isaac Lahey. You joined the force because of your father. You never want someone like him to walk free again. You’re meticulous, kind, and the department is lucky to have you. Kira Yukimura, you’re quiet and shy, but no one else has a work ethic like you do. Jackson Whittemore, you can be a bit of an asshole—”

Hey.

“—but you’re crazy loyal and you’re amazing at your job. Erica Reyes, you’re confident, driven, and you can be downright terrifying at times to be honest, but it works for you.”

Isaac asks hesitantly, “How…do you know all that?”

Stiles grins and tilts his head. “How do you think?”

All eyes turn onto Derek who is finally making his way back with two plates, one piled high with Stiles’s many requests, and has another scowl plastered on his face as he navigates through the crowd.

“Like I said,” Stiles says, gazing fondly at the captain. “He’s trying. He doesn’t trust easily, but from what I’ve seen, he’s getting there with you all. So please be patient with him.”

The rest of the gala goes swimmingly. The “few people” that Stiles knows turns out to be pretty much everyone vital to the inner workings of the NYPD. Jordan Parrish, the deputy police commissioner, comes by to ask Stiles about input for a recent department policy that had been enacted, Captain Martin drops by to eye Stiles’s outfit critically, and even Congressman Finstock ambles over to complain to Stiles about his poll numbers (“they’re dropping, Bilinski, dropping!”). Commissioner Stilinski makes a very inspiring speech, honoring several officers that had fallen in the line of duty earlier in the year, and there’s a silent auction held before the music starts up full blast and people take to the dance floor.

And throughout the entire evening, it’s hard for the team to miss the absolute adoration that their captain has for Stiles whether it be through the way he holds him when they dance, the gentle touches and occasional kisses, or the fond looks that he bestows upon Stiles when the other man isn’t looking. It’s absolutely bizarre, seeing this side of Derek that they'd never had the chance to witness before. It's a Captain Hale who's happy, clearly in love, and looking not at all like an emotionally constipated individual. It's obvious how good the two men are for each other, if the matching looks on Stiles's face are anything to go by.

“So how did you two meet?” Kira finally asks, curiously eyeing Stiles who’s now leaning into Derek’s chest and looking a little bit worn out. Not surprising, considering that the man really hadn’t stopped talking for the past few hours. Derek has one arm curled possessively around Stiles and is looking down at him sweetly, expression all soft and warm. Jackson thinks he might have diabetes now.

“Oh, it was so romantic.” Stiles sighs dreamily, though a contrasting scowl creeps onto Derek’s face and the man stiffens. “He arrested me.”

What?” Erica asks gleefully.

Derek casts Stiles an irritated look and tells them, “He was acting very suspicious.”

“Scotty and I were just curious!”

“It was a crime scene.”

“I’m a medical examiner!” Stiles protests, waving his hands animatedly. “I needed to, you know, get to the down and dirty and practice my skills.”

The ping-pong back-and-forth is frankly quite hilarious and everyone follows the argument eagerly. 

“You weren’t a medical examiner yet.”

Stiles pokes the captain’s chest. “I was getting there.”

“You were a headstrong medical student who thought he could cross police lines to get what he wanted.” Derek glowers at him. “You tried to undermine my authority at every turn. You were infuriatingly annoying.”

There’s a beat of silence.

“That’s high praise.” Stiles grins proudly and Derek performs the most impressive eye roll that they’ve ever seen. He gestures at Stiles all while looking at everyone incredulously for help. “See what I have to deal with?”

Laughter bursts out from the group and Derek smirks triumphantly. It's still a little jarring to be able to interact...normally with Derek without fear of incapacitation, but somehow, it suits him. The captain is unexpectedly sarcastic and funny, from the small amount of conversation he's contributed throughout the evening.

Stiles rolls his eyes and turns to Derek, “Oh sure, gang up on little ol’ Stiles now that you’re all buddy-buddy. You’ve managed to turn your team against me, congrats.” He screws up his nose and says without bite, “I hope you’re happy now, I hate you.”

“No you don’t.” Derek says simply, leaning down to press his lips to the side of Stiles’s head. “You love me.”

"Yeah." Stiles sighs, and the look that he gives the captain can only be described as one of pure affection and devotion.

"I really do.”

 


 

“That was…” Isaac starts, mouth opening and closing like a fish as he tries to find the right words.

The gala is slowly coming to an end, guests already having started to trickle out of the hall half an hour ago. Now all that remains are people wrapping up their conversations with co-workers or swapping contact info with new acquaintances. Servers walk by with trays, collecting empty glasses. There may have been more than a little judgment in one server's eyes as he cleared the table that the team is stationed at. There's quite the number of empty champagne and cocktail glasses sitting on the table. They shouldn't be blamed though. Nobody could have gotten through tonight by being completely sober. 

“Enlightening.” Erica finishes, still staring at the door that Stiles had pulled Derek out of after saying their goodbyes (“sorry guys, there’s a case in my bed that I need Derek to look at while he’s in uniform, if you know what I mean”).

A snicker comes from nearby and they all turn to see Cora Hale passing by. She gives Erica an appreciative once-over before winking at everyone. “I see you idiots finally figured it out. Only took you…” Cora glances at her phone, calling out mockingly as she walks away, “…three-and-a-half months.”

Erica makes a rude gesture at the other woman’s back but otherwise ignores her in favor of turning back to the group. "So...I guess we got our answers after all."

Everyone exchanges glances and releases a collective breath, finally feeling the exhaustion of being on their feet for the entire night.

“Yeah...case closed.”