They’re both so pale under the layers of ash and soot, that’s the first thing John notices, that, and the smell that clings to their hair, their skin, their clothes.
Years later, when he knows Derek better, when he knows the truth, he’ll recall this moment and it’ll make his heart break a little. He’ll remember how the scent was so acrid, so intense, and he’ll wonder: If it was like that for him— a human— then how much worse for them? What else could they smell as they sat on hard plastic chairs beneath the stark strip light in a paint-peeled hallway at the Sheriff’s station?
That comes later though. Much later.
In this moment all he sees are two kids who should be safe at home with their family, and who instead have lost everything.
They seem completely oblivious to the world around them. The girl, Laura, has her head in her hands, fingers gathering her hair in tight fistfuls. She’s barely eighteen, and she doesn’t seem to be crying exactly, but she won’t look up. Won’t make eye contact. She keeps her eyes scrunched tight shut almost like she’s afraid to open them.
The boy, Derek, is a different matter entirely. He sits straight in his chair, black hair sticking up in all directions, face smeared with ash from where he’d been so close to his home as it burned, from where he’d tried to run back in. It had taken three burly firemen to restrain him. At some point this evening tears have tracked through the dirt on his face, but he isn’t crying now— he’s passed that point. His skin is deathly pale, and his green eyes stare unseeing at the opposite wall. There’s something hollow about him. Empty. John knows that look, saw it on his own son’s face not so many years ago when his wife— When Claudia—
He can’t bear to see it again now, and his fingers curl into fists in his lap.
God, he wants a drink. He’s been sober three years now, but sometimes something will hit him just so, and—
Staring down at his hands he takes a deep breath. Then another. Slowly, he forces his fists to unclench. He’ll call his sponsor tonight when this shift finishes if he needs to. For now, though—
Tea. He makes tea. Strong and sweet, the way his mom used to make it, and brings them both a mug.
When he offers it to them, Laura doesn’t look up. Won’t acknowledge him beyond a tight shake of her head, knuckles whitening as she grips her hair.
“What about you, son?” John says, offering a mug to Derek.
It seems to take Derek a moment to process that he’s being spoken to. Eventually he blinks, and comes to himself a little. “Thanks,” he says, voice coming out softer than John imagined.
“No problem.” John hands him the mug. “You want something to eat? We have brownies. Homemade. I mean. I didn’t make them. I can’t cook to save my life— But— If you—?”
Derek shakes his head; he cradles the mug between his hands but doesn’t drink from it.
Neither of them seem to want to talk, and god knows John isn’t about to push it, but he wants to do more. Wants to make sure they’ll be ok.
Going back to his desk, he decides to see if they want to stay with him and Stiles for a bit. Laura could have the spare room, Derek could share with Stiles. Just for a little while, until they work something out.
As it turns out, he never gets to make the offer. At some point that evening the kids disappear from the Sheriff’s station, and though John tries his damnedest to track them down, it seems like maybe they don’t want to be found.
The next time John sees Derek Hale he arrests him.
Five years have passed, and it takes John a moment to realize who he’s arrested at first. The young man before him with the chiselled jaw, the leather jacket, and the don’t-fuck-with-me attitude seems a world away from the pale, vulnerable, kid he remembers from all those years ago.
That said, John might have connected the dots sooner had his own kid not been so intent on inserting himself into the investigation. Not that that should be a surprise— Stiles has never met a line he didn’t take delight in crossing.
As John drags Stiles out of the front of the cruiser, where he’s apparently been trying to interview the suspect, Stiles is flushed and excited, wide-eyed and squirrelly with nerves. It takes barely any effort to get Stiles to admit that he’d been lying about what he and Scott were doing the night the whole Sheriff’s department was out searching for a girl’s body in the woods.
Not just any girl’s body.
Laura Hale’s body.
More than once John’s thought about the Hale kids over the years and felt a lingering sense of guilt that he hadn’t found a way to do something.
Now, more than ever, he wishes he’d succeeded.
Still, he can’t focus on that now— he has a job to do. So he sends Stiles home, and brings Derek in. Once John’s seated opposite Derek in an interview room at the station, he tries to bury his own regrets and self-recrimination, keeping his expression carefully neutral.
Derek’s leather jacket is slung over the back of his chair. He sits ramrod straight, arms folded across his chest, jaw clenched so tight a muscle ticks furiously as he stares sullenly at the far wall. Clearly he’s expecting a fight.
“So— ” John begins. “Care to tell me your side of the story?”
“Is there any point? You already know what you think.” He’s still refusing to make eye contact.
“Maybe so.” John leans back in his chair. “But I’d like to hear what you have to say.”
“Well you’re the only one who feels that way.” The delivery of the line is off. It lacks the necessary bite. For all his bluster, Derek’s not good at pretending not to care. Sure, he’s trying his best— pushing himself to be as surly and angry as he possible. But all John can hear is the desperation bubbling beneath the surface. And all he can see is that pale, vulnerable kid, his face streaked with tears and ash.
God. He doesn’t think Derek did this terrible thing. Doesn’t want to believe that he killed his own sister, but he needs to be sure. “Look, I want to find who did this,” John tries. “So if it wasn’t you— ”
“It wasn’t.” Derek’s lips barely seem to move, but the words are a snarl of angry conviction.
Finally he meets John’s eyes.
John has had a lifetime of sizing people up, of getting a read on people. It’s his job, it’s instinct and experience, he’s good at it. The look in Derek’s eyes in that moment— raw grief, helpless rage— there’s no way to fake that, and John knows right then beyond a doubt that Derek didn’t do this.
“I believe you.” Derek blinks in shock, his shoulders slump like a puppet whose strings have been cut— right up until John says, “But you know who did.”
Immediately Derek’s expression goes carefully blank, and tension bleeds back into his posture. “No.”
It’s a lie. Or a partial lie. Derek knows something. Or at least he has suspicions.
“I want to get justice for your sister,” John changes tack. “The person who did this needs to be caught. They need to be punished. Laura—” Derek flinches back in his chair at the sound of her name, and John trails off. There’s a long silence. Then John says, fierce and low, “I want to help you.”
Derek’s face is pale and gaunt, his clothes faded, jeans wearing at the knees, the lining of the leather jacket worn threadbare. When they found him, he’d been living in the abandoned burned out shell of his family’s old home. Jesus, just thinking about that— John wants to help him, he doesn’t want to be another bad thing to add to a growing list of bad things that’s happened to Derek Hale.
He can almost hear Claudia’s voice telling him he’s too sentimental. John isn’t sentimental though, not in a fluffy, romantic way, at least. Justice is important, but it has to be tempered with mercy, compassion and kindness. Those things matter as much, maybe even more. Those things can change the world-- and the world needs changing. It needs people of good character who give a shit.
“Son, I want to help you,” he says again.
“No,” Derek says, finally meeting his gaze. “No you don’t.”
He shuts down after that. Refuses to speak at all. In the end John has to let him go.
They cross paths a few times in the weeks and months that follow. John keeps an eye on Derek as best he can, but there’s only so much he can do; the Sheriff’s department is constantly busy as the body count in Beacon Hills continues to rise.
It all makes sense once he’s finally let in on the big secret. John’s good at his job, but he doesn’t think he can be blamed for failing to realize that werewolves were responsible for all the weird and unexplained things that have been going on. Well. Werewolves. Hunters. Kanimas. Basically it’s one giant clusterfuck.
In the aftermath of the big werewolf reveal, though, he isn’t sure what’s more disconcerting: That supernatural creatures like werewolves exist, or that his son is in love with one of them.
Not that John realizes that last part immediately.
After all, Stiles had obsessed over Lydia Martin for years. He’d idolized her, fantasized about her, and collected facts about her like some people collected baseball cards. Though it was always clear to John that Stiles didn’t really know her, he figured that the crush would probably see Stiles through to college, before dying a natural death.
That isn’t the case though.
In those first few weeks after the big werewolf reveal, Stiles still talks about Lydia a lot, but it doesn’t take John long to realize that it’s different. It’s fonder and familial, softened with actual knowledge of her character. They’re friends; Stiles isn’t infatuated with her any more.
Once John’s figured that, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that Stiles has fallen in love with someone else.
It is love, too— not just infatuation. Stiles cares about Derek frustratedly and ferociously. If he isn’t calling him out to his face, he’s defending him behind his back. Derek appears to exasperate him and make him laugh in equal measure, seems to bring out the best and, occasionally, the worst in him. The moment Hale walks into a room, Stiles’ whole demeanor changes, he sits a little straighter, seems to burn a little brighter. It’s like he’s more alive in that moment. Best he can tell without asking, John doesn’t think Stiles realizes his own heart, yet, and he’s in no hurry to point it out.
Particularly because it definitely isn’t one-sided.
John’s seen the way they circle each other, the way Derek always has one eye on Stiles during any skirmish— the way he watches Stiles when he thinks no one else is looking. He saw the cut open expression on Derek’s face during the whole Nogitsune debacle, when it looked like Stiles might— well, yeah. John is many things, but he isn’t stupid.
Case in point, the pair of them tumbled through the front door of the Stilinski house a minute ago, arguing loudly. The kind of arguing that’s only possible when someone really matters.
“I can’t believe you!” Stiles spits, jabbing a finger at Derek’s chest.
“Me.” Derek lifts an eyebrow.
“Yeah you, you fucking dumbass.”
“Language, kiddo.” John says, glancing over his glasses, from where he’s sitting at his kitchen table, reading over a case file.
“You’re right, sorry, Dad.” Stiles lifts a hand in the universal gesture for mea culpa. “My fault. He’s a colossal fucking dumbass.”
Derek huffs out an angry sigh. “Because I’m the one who insisted on confronting a succubus!”
“I had a plan.”
“Your plans are shit.”
“My plans are shit? My plans are shit!”
“So you are aware of the fact.” Derek smirks, but he looks pale in the light of the kitchen. The kind of paleness that John’s begun to associate with recent healing. “I didn’t need you there. Things were under control until you—”
Stiles steps forward into Derek’s space, breathing hard. “You nearly died you ungrateful--” His voice breaks a little and he cuts himself off, takes a trembling breath. “You are so unbelievable sometimes I just wanna grab you and—”
“Boys,” John says. They’re standing nose to nose, breathing heavily. Neither of them look around at the sound of John’s voice, but at least Stiles has the sense to stop talking. “Why don’t you just—” Ugh. John wants to say ‘get a room.’ But then, no— no, he really doesn’t.
Stiles isn’t quite 18 yet, and John isn’t in a rush for him to start dating someone that’s nearly six years older. So they can work this out in their own time. Hopefully many years from now, when Stiles is in his forties or something.
“If the succubus didn’t kill you both,” John says mildly, “than perhaps you could avoid killing each other in my kitchen?”
At that Stiles harrumphs angrily, but he takes a grudging step backwards, and John doesn’t miss the way Derek’s eyes follow him, or the fact that there’s a massive bloodstained gash down the front of Derek’s t-shirt. It’s basically been shredded.
“This succubus,” John says, closing the case file firmly, “is it still out there? Or— ”
“All gone,” Derek says, top lip lifting to reveal just a hint of fang. “I made sure of it.”
“We made sure of it,” Stiles corrects. “Where would you have been if I hadn’t hit it with my bat while it tried to eviscerate—”
“I had things under control,” Derek grinds out.
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I saw your intestines. Which was gross by the way. And I’m sending you the bill for the hours of therapy I’m definitely gonna need.”
“If you’d listened to what I said in the first—”
“Intestines, Derek! Anyway, if you’d listened to what I—”
“Well if you had stayed home—”
“Then you’d be dead. Ok? Dead. You need me,” Stiles snarls, rounding on him, and backing Derek up against the kitchen counter, one knobbly finger jabbing him fearlessly in the chest. “How many times have I saved your ass now? Admit it.”
John watches them both, saying nothing. They’ve completely forgotten he’s in the room again, that much is obvious.
Eventually Derek reaches out and places his hand gently over Stiles’, pushing it away. “We have each others backs,” he says lowly, his hand still covering Stiles’. “That’s what— That’s what pack does.”
Stiles’ eyes look impossible wide, his tongue darts out to wet his lips. “Pack,” he says, voice a little hoarse. “Yeah. Exactly. Right. Pack. That’s— That’s what we are.”
They both stand there watching each other for a long moment. The air in the room filled with the kind of tension that occurs just before a storm hits.
“Ok--” John says, clearing his throat loudly. He smirks as Derek and Stiles both spring apart. “If the succubus has been dealt with maybe I could give you a ride home, Derek?”
“I— um.” Derek drags his eyes away from Stiles long enough to look at John; he scrubs a hand over the back of his neck. “I can walk. It isn’t far.”
“I’ll drive you, unless you wanna stay and eat my attempt at Kraft Mac and Cheese?” John offers.
“He can never get the sauce right,” Stiles says. “But it’s up to you.”
Derek shakes his head. “Thanks. But I can walk.”
“It’s winter. It’s cold, and apparently you nearly died looking out for my son. So. I’m giving you a lift back to your place, that’s non-negotiable. You—” Here he glares at Stiles over the rim of his reading glasses. “--have a chem test tomorrow.”
“Ugh,” Stiles makes a face. “Fine.”
Later when Derek’s sitting next to him in the cruiser, John takes the time to ask, “Are you ok?”
“I mean with the—” John lifts a hand from the wheel long enough to gesture broadly at the bloody remains of the shirt.
“Yeah. It’s fine. I heal.”
“Hmm.” John has opinions about this laissez faire attitude towards injury, but he keeps them to himself for now.
Besides, the way Derek’s clenching his hands into fists, and darting glances at John, it’s evident he’s working himself up to say something, so it isn’t exactly a surprise when he suddenly blurts out, “Could you talk to Stiles about stepping back— ”
“Not being so--” Derek swallows. “--involved.”
“Ha!” John grips the steering wheel tight. “It’s my personal experience that any time you tell my son to get less involved he takes it as a personal challenge to see how much more involved he can be.”
When Derek’s shoulders slump, John continues, “Look, half his friends are supernatural creatures, now. And there’s no way I’m gonna be able to stop him trying to look out for Scott, or Lydia, or any of you. If I forbid it, he’ll sneak around and do it anyway. It’s who he is. Stupidly brave. Resourceful. Loyal to a fault. I blame his mother, she was the same.”
“I just. I don’t want— Sometimes he’s so— Ugh.” Derek makes a gesture with his hands, like he’s wringing an imaginary neck. Stiles’ imaginary neck, probably. John has some sympathy.
“Yeah,” John says, fondly. “He is.”
“I just. If something happened— I— ” Derek’s jaw works soundlessly for a bit, and he trails off.
“What?” John pulls into a parking space outside Derek’s building and switches the engine off, then turns to look at Derek and waits.
He’s good at waiting, he’s made an art out of it over the years. Leave a big enough silence and eventually even the most stoic and intractable people will try and fill it.
“I don’t want him to get hurt.” The way Derek says it, all in a rush, voice raw, like it’s really cost him to admit it, makes John bite down against a smile.
“Me either,” he says. “But the world is a dangerous place.” He leans back a little in his seat. “You know when I first found out about werewolves I wanted to lock him in his room and never let him out again.”
Derek lets his head thud back against his headrest. “It wouldn’t work,” he says heavily, like he’s seriously considered the option from every angle.
“No,” John agrees. “It wouldn’t.”
Derek eyes him askance. “You could move.”
“Yeah,” John nods. “I considered that too. But he’d hate me for it. His friends are here. His mom is buried in the cemetery just outside of town. This is the only home he’s ever known. No. When he leaves Beacon Hills it’ll be on his own terms. Besides, can’t say I’d feel great about turning my back on all our friends and leaving them to deal with this stuff. Not when we could help.”
“I promise I will talk to him. Again. I’ll tell him to be more careful. It isn’t the first conversation we’ve had on the subject, and it won’t be the last. Hell, I gave him body armor a couple months back, don’t know if he bothered to wear it tonight.”
When Derek doesn’t say anything, John continues, “The best chance Stiles— or any of us has is to keep communication open and stick together. So maybe neither of you should be confronting succubi on your own. There’s more than just the two of you, remember? Hell, I’ve got a whole Sheriff’s department worth of resources I can send your way if necessary.”
“Right, yeah.” Derek has the grace to look a little sheepish.
“We’ve gotta look out for each other. We’re—”
“Pack,” Derek says simply.
“Pack. Family. Whatever you want to call it.”
Derek musters a weak smile, and goes to open the door.
“By the way, I keep meaning to ask you,” John says. “Do you have a job?”
“A job?” Derek’s expression devolves into something carefully blank. Eventually he shakes his head.
“You know we could use someone like you in the Sheriff’s department,” John says. “Pay’s decent, and it does a body good to be working.”
“Oh,” Derek says, voice coming out soft and uncertain. “I— me?”
“Yes. Something to think about,” John says. “But for what it’s worth, I think you’d make a damn fine deputy, son.”
In the orange glow of the streetlamp, Derek’s face looks young, a little lost, even. “Thanks,” he manages. “I’ll um— I’ll think about it.”
“You do that,” John says, clapping him on the back in a friendly sort of way. “Let me know.”
“Ok,” Derek says, and John watches him as he climbs out of the car. He glances back as he reaches the door to his building and offers a small half smile.
John smiles back, turns the key in the ignition and heads home.
Derek never does take him up on his job offer, instead he leaves town after a near fatal encounter with a Beserker in Mexico. More to the point, he leaves with Braeden, a bounty hunter who he’s apparently started to date.
John isn’t sure whether he should be pleased or not. On one hand, that means he doesn’t have to pretend to turn a blind eye to the burgeoning feelings developing between Stiles and Derek. But on the other, well—
Stiles is sad. More than sad. Quietly devastated would be closer to the truth. Sure, he puts on a good front. Still dutifully hangs out with Scott and Lydia to help wrangle the younger pack members— though there’s an air of resignation to it. And while he still cracks jokes, now his smile never quite reaches his eyes. Hell, he even keeps his grades up at school— completes all his homework— but it’s the actual homework, now, not a ten-thousand word ode to male circumcision. That spark, the restless energy that has been the hallmark of Stiles’ character his whole life, has dimmed, and John can’t seem to find a way to reignite it. He catches Stiles more than once staring off into the mid-distance, mouth a flat line, eyes pensive; he’s sitting perfectly still.
It’s unnatural is what it is— sets John’s teeth on edge.
“You ok, kiddo?” John asks the third time he finds him like this. When Stiles doesn’t respond he tries again. “Hey, Stiles!” He reaches out and places a hand on Stiles’ shoulder; Stiles startles, looking up at him. His math homework is spread out on the table in front of him, there’s a doodle of a triskele in the corner of the top sheet. “You ok?” John asks again.
“Yeah. Sorry. Miles away.” Stiles smiles up at him weakly. “Just thinking.”
“Thinking, huh?” John pulls out a chair and sits down. “Y’wanna talk?”
Stiles shrugs listlessly. “Not much to say.”
“Uh-huh.” John folds his arms, resting them on the table and waits.
Eventually Stiles shakes his head and sighs. “Fine, it’s just— Ok. God. Right. Well. I guess. There’s this—” His eyes flit to John and away. “Person. And I didn’t realize I felt a certain way about them until it was too late. And now they’re gone. And. There’s this hole— I guess. This space they used to inhabit, and it’s empty now and I don’t—” He sucks in a breath and holds it. Shrugs.
“You miss them.”
Stiles exhales slowly. “More than. It’s freaking ridiculous. If you’d told me a year ago that I would miss—” He laughs hollowly. “It’s more than that, though. I felt— safe— when he— when they were around, and now. I— I don’t know.” He shrugs again.
John clears his throat. “You still have me, you still have Scott. Lydia. Kira. Liam. The rest of the pack. We’ll protect each other.”
“I know. God. I know. It’s just—” Stiles gestures with his hand. He isn’t in love with any of those people, that’s the thing. He knows it. John knows it. And that’s the root of it. “Sorry, I’m not explaining it well.” Stiles says. “I feel like this person— they— they saw me. Y’know?” He lifts his hands and then lets them fall helplessly into his lap. “I don’t know how else to describe it. But I never had that with someone before.”
That’s how love is. John remembers vividly how it used to feel to have that with someone. To know and be known. To see and be seen. Entirely. And loved anyway.
God, sometimes he thinks love is the worst goddamn thing in the world, because nothing hurts like the losing of it.
“I’m gonna make some tea for us both,” John says. Standing to his feet he places a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and squeezes. “Then you can tell me more about Derek Hale.”
Stiles double takes so hard he jerks John’s hand off his shoulder and nearly falls out of his chair. “You knew?”
John shrugs. “I know you.” I see you, he wants to say. Maybe not like he sees you. Maybe not like you want to be seen. But I do see you. You are not alone. “You’re my son.”
“And you don’t? I mean. It isn’t? With Derek. You’re not—”
“You think I’m homophobic?”
“No,” Stiles spits scornfully. “But I thought you might say he was too old for me. Not that— I mean. Not that he was interested in me. Not like that.” Stiles flushes a startling shade of red. “Nothing happened between us, because he only— well uh— he likes girls. It. It was always gonna be unrequited. But—”
John squints. Considers, briefly, telling Stiles that his feelings for Derek were anything but unrequited. Then decides against it. It’s possible that knowing Derek cared but left anyway would be more painful for Stiles. It’s also possible that armed with that knowledge, Stiles might try and chase Derek halfway across the country to confront him. Neither sit well with John.
“It won’t always be unrequited,” is what he chooses to say in the end.
“You mean with Derek?”
“I mean when it comes to love.”
“Yeah, well—” Stiles sighs heavily, shoulders sagging. “I’m 0 for 2 so far, old man. So. We’ll see.”
“Tea,” John says firmly. “And Die Hard.”
“It’s a good movie for a broken heart.”
“One of the great romantic movies of our time, in fact.”
Stiles shakes his head, face scrunching in amusement. “If you say so, pops.”
“Well then, yippie-ki-yay, motherf—” John glares, mostly just to mess with him, but Stiles still flinches. “--father. Lead the way.”
Time passes, but Beacon Hills is still Beacon Hills. The Dread Doctors show up, Stiles kills Donovan in self defense, argues with Scott, then gets erased by the Wild Hunt, before being brought back again. When he gets accepted as an intern at the FBI it’s a relief as far as John’s concerned. Sure, working for the feds is dangerous, but more dangerous than his hometown?
That seems unlikely.
Still, John misses him terribly when he goes, and Skypes him often. Or as often as the unrelenting shitshow that is Beacon Hills allows.
The pack are in the middle of yet another ‘final battle to save the town’ against whichever bad guy is on the rampage this week, (John’s given up trying to understand or explain what’s going on, it doesn’t make any fucking sense to him anymore), when Stiles bowls up to help with none other than Derek Hale in tow.
It’s only in the aftermath, once the bad guys have been defeated and the dust settles, that John really gets to observe the two of them together again.
During Stiles’ last few Derek-less months in Beacon Hills John had got used to a different version of him. Pale and withdrawn one second; angry, anxious and bitingly sarcastic, the next. There had been a bitterness, a hopelessness to Stiles that he hadn’t been able to rein in. John would always love his son, would do anything for him, but he couldn’t say he’d been easy to be around back then.
Now, he’s driving Derek and Stiles back to the Stilinski house in his cruiser, because the Jeep’s battery is dead. He’s spent two minutes listening to Stiles argue with Derek about who rescued who before they reached Beacon Hills. Something to do with an an FBI raid, a toe, and— well, John’s struggling to follow the full story, he’s sure he’ll hear about it properly later. The important thing is— Stiles is vibrant, alive, warm. Practically vibrating with energy in a way that John hasn’t seen in months. In a way he’s missed, painfully.
“That is not what happened,” Derek’s saying.
“No it isn’t!”
With a muted noise of frustration, Derek shifts forward in his seat and appeals to John. “Sheriff—”
“It’s John, and leave me out of it. I’m just happy to see the both of you in one piece.”
“I’m not in one piece, though,” Stiles says. “Haven’t you been listening? My toe—”
“Exactly.” Derek says, triumphantly. “Your toe. Which is why I had to carry you. So. I rescued you.” In the rearview mirror John sees Derek cross his arms, expression smug.
A splotchy blush creeps over Stiles’ cheeks.
“You two bicker like an old married couple,” John says, and grins when he sees Derek roll his eyes and look away, the tips of his ears turning pink.
Stiles glares murderously at John in the rearview mirror, but John pretends not to notice.
It’s telling, he thinks, that the seat next to him is empty. Stiles had climbed into the back seat of the cruiser, and Derek had climbed right in after him, neither of them bothering to call shotgun, and neither seeming to have noticed just how weird that was.
They’re both sitting in embarrassed silence now, refusing to look at each other; John takes pity on them both.
“You planning to stick around now you’re back in Beacon Hills, Derek?”
“I don’t know,” Derek shrugs. “When I left I didn’t think I’d miss, uh—” His gaze darts to Stiles and away, “—it— as much as I did.”
“Hmm. Well. My offer still stands, son.”
“Your offer?” Stiles leans forward in his seat. “What offer?”
“Told Derek a while back he’d always have a place as deputy at the Sheriff’s department if he wanted it.”
“Deputy?” Stiles sputters. “Derek! A deputy? Deputy Derek! With the—” His hand flails around in John’s rear view mirror. “The cuffs and the uniform with the tight pa—” He swallows, cutting himself off.
“What? You don’t think I could pull off the uniform?” Derek asks, raising one eyebrow.
“Hah,” Stiles laughs but it has an edge of hysteria to it. “HahahahahahaHAH! That’s- Goddamn it, Dad. Jesus. Change the subject, someone.”
The Skype call comes through on John’s cell, just as he’s contemplating whether to have another brownie, or whether to be sensible. Less brownies now, means more at work tomorrow after all.
“You go talk to Stiles,” Derek says, getting up from the table immediately. “I’ll wash the dishes.”
They have dinner together every Thursday, assuming they’re not working. It’s a thing the two of them do now, ever since Derek took the role of deputy at the station a few months back. Tonight had been heart healthy lasagna and brownies, both made by Derek, who’s a surprisingly skilled cook. Left to his own devices, and without Stiles to consider, John tends to live on takeout and TV dinners, so Thursdays are always a treat.
Derek starts to collect the dirty dishes, but not before John snags another brownie. Standing to his feet he brings it with him into the living room, and settles into his favorite armchair to take the call.
“You’re a life ruiner,” Stiles says, as soon as John picks up. He’s clearly on his laptop, in his dorm at Quantico, and he frowns at John through the mobile screen. “You ruin lives.”
“Mmhmm. Is this about that picture I sent?” John takes a bite of brownie and chews. The picture had been of Derek playing with Sadie, a dog in the Sheriff department’s K-9 unit. John’d snapped it impulsively at lunch today, struck by how happy Derek had looked stroking Sadie’s fur as she nuzzled into him. On a whim, he’d sent it to Stiles.
“Yes I got the goddamn picture. It’s the new wallpaper on my phone. Ugh.” Stiles’ scowl deepens. “Hey! What are you eating? Just because I’m not there, doesn’t mean you can get away with breaking your diet. Is that a brownie? Right. That’s it. I’m gonna call Wanda at the station and make sure she starts bringing in the bran muffins again.”
“It’s heart healthy,” John tries. Derek said the butter has been replaced with avocado, or something? Mostly John tries not to think about it, because he enjoys them less when he does.
“Hah! Heart healthy? Nice try, old man. But I’m serious. Bran muffins. It’s what you deserve.”
“And you say I’m the life ruiner.”
“You are! I was getting over him!” Stiles says, shrilly.
“Uh-huh. Stiles, it’s Thursday, and D—”
“And then you had to be all— come work for me.” He clasps his hands and bats his eyes. “And—”
“Yeah, he’s actually—”
Stiles steamrollers over him again. “And here’s a cute picture of him, Stiles. And he’s coming to my birthday party.”
John’s birthday party had been last weekend. It had been a gathering of close friends and family at the Stilinski house, and Stiles had flown in just to be there. Derek had managed to swing by near the end, once his shift at the station finished, but he hadn’t had time to change out of his uniform.
“Seriously,” Stiles continues. “It was awful. And his ass in those pants! I knew! I just knew. How am I supposed to—”
“Firstly, don’t objectify my staff,” John says, through a mouthful of brownie. “And secondly if you talk Wanda into making those godawful bran muffins again, I’ll— I’ll— ” He’ll do something. He isn’t sure what, yet, but he will.
“There’s no threat you can make. You’ve already done your worst.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes,” Stiles says mulishly. “It is. I know what you’re doing, and I want you to stop.”
“What am I doing?”
“Trying to set us up.”
“Set you up?”
Ok, so he suggested they dance together at the party. There had been music. People had been dancing in the backyard, and he’d gotten fed up of watching the two of them moon at one another when they thought the other wasn’t looking. He figured just a little push. Nothing too obvious. Just settled himself between them and said, ‘You like to dance, Derek? Because Stiles here has some great moves.’ Not that it had worked. Stiles had glared mutinously at him, and Derek had hemmed and hawed and then pretended to receive an urgent call.
Later, John had tried again when everyone had left, conscripting them both to help clean the kitchen in the hope that they would talk, but that had somehow degenerated into an argument. Still, that could hardly be described as setting them—
“Look.” Stiles continues, interrupting John’s internal justifications. “Just because I, at one point, may have, in a moment of weakness! Expressed to you some— some feelings. That I may or may not still have. Doesn’t mean you can force the two of us to—”
“Force? All I did was invite you both to the same party.”
“You know that isn’t all you did.”
John takes another bite of his brownie, and feigns ignorance. “So does this mean you don’t want anymore pictures?” he asks, changing tack.
Stiles explodes. “It means, Derek Hale isn’t into guys. And he isn’t ever gonna love me like I love him. No matter how much you keep trying to push us together, ok? Back off.”
There’s a noise from the next room, like someone dropped several plates all at once. Even Stiles seems to hear it.
Shit. For a moment, John had forgotten Derek was still here. After an awkward silence, he calls, “Derek, you alright out there?”
“Fine!” Derek calls back. But his voice is about an octave higher than it usually is.
On the screen Stiles face drains of all color, eyes going wide. “He’s there!? He’s in the house? This entire time? And you didn’t say anything?”
“I did! I tried to tell you! And then I lost track and— shit. Sorry, son.”
“Oh my god, Dad! Oh my god! Oh. My. God. I’m gonna be sick. I think I’m gonna be sick. Do you think he heard what I just said?”
The look on John’s face appears to be answer enough.
“Fuck my life,” Stiles says, and ends the call immediately.
John sits there for a long moment, staring at the phone screen until it eventually fades to black. He has no idea how he’s gonna handle this one.
Slowly he finishes the brownie, takes a few deep breaths, and contemplates his next move. It’s no good, though, whichever way he looks at it, he’s just gonna have to bite the bullet and talk to Derek. With a heavy sigh, he gets to his feet.
When he enters the kitchen it’s to see Derek crouching down over a mess of broken crockery. He has a brush held slackly in one hand and a dustpan dangling limply from the other. He’s staring into the middle distance in a kind of daze.
“Derek? Are you ok?” John says cautiously.
Derek startles so hard he almost topples backwards, it’s probably only his werewolf reflexes that prevent it.
“Me?” he says, and starts hurriedly sweeping bits of broken plate into the pan. “Yep. Yeah. Good. I’m good. I’m— sorry. About this. I don’t know what happened.”
John raises an eyebrow. “Why don’t you come take a seat,” he says, after a beat. “I’ll do that later.”
“A seat, Derek.” He gestures to the kitchen table.
Shoulders sagging, Derek puts down the dustpan and brush and shuffles across to the table; he takes a seat.
“Tea?” John says. It isn’t really a question, though, and he heads over to the stove to fill the kettle and boil some water, carefully avoiding the remains of the crockery.
Neither of them say anything else until a few minutes later when John places two steaming mugs of tea on the table and takes a seat next to Derek.
“So,” John clears his throat. “You heard what Stiles said.”
Derek’s eyes widen, and jaw goes tight. “I—” he swallows. “Yes. I didn’t mean to listen, but sometimes I have difficulty—uh—”
John raises an eyebrow.
“I have difficulty tuning him out.”
“Don’t we all. Ok. Well.” John sighs. “Look. Seeing as you heard anyway, we might as well have the awkward conversation.” When Derek doesn’t speak John follows that up with, “He’s been in love with you for a while now. Longer than I think even he realizes.”
Derek’s throat bobs, and he gives a slight shake of his head, in disbelief, maybe.
“We both know Stiles,” John continues. “When he falls, he falls hard. The thing is. The thing is— He thinks it’s one-sided.” John watches as Derek’s grip tightens on the handle of the mug. “But we both know that’s not true, don’t we?”
Reluctantly Derek nods.
“So,” John says, “Given that my son is probably having a panic attack in the middle of his dorm at the FBI Academy right now, I guess the question is: What are you gonna do about it?”
At his words, Derek looks down and away. After a long silence he says, “I’m not going to do anything.”
“Run that past me again?”
“I’m— not a good pick for your son.”
John tilts his head to one side, lifts his eyebrows, and waits.
“I come with too much baggage.” Derek lifts his chin, and looks him in the eye. “And he— He deserves someone whole.”
“I see.” Leaning back in his chair, John folds his arms across his chest and considers this statement for a long moment. “I’m just thinkin’ about all the shit that’s gone down over the last couple years and I gotta ask: Do you think Stiles is whole? Hell, d’you think any of us are?”
“I’m just sayin’. If there are whole people out there, I haven’t met one yet,” John says, gently. “We all have baggage. We’re all broken. Now, I’m not gonna pretend for one second your life hasn’t been harder than most, but you’ve never let that stop you living it before. You’ve always given it your best shot.”
“I’ve made mistakes.”
“Show me someone who hasn’t.”
“Look, Stiles doesn’t need someone whole. He needs someone who’s broken in a very specific way. He needs someone who is gonna have the life experience and the empathy, to understand where he’s coming from, and the strength of mind not to tolerate any of his bullshit.”
Derek huffs a little laugh at that. “I think you’re giving me too much credit.”
“Am I? I don’t think so.” John scrubs a hand over his face. “I was with you and your sister the night of the fire. You probably don’t remember.”
“I remember.” Derek smiles wanly, and gestures with his mug. “You made me tea.”
“I always make tea. It’s what I do. Y’know, I was planning to ask you and Laura to stay with me and Stiles back then. You left before I got the opportunity and I uh— I always regretted it. Felt responsible in some way for what happened next. One of my biggest mistakes.”
Immediately Derek leans forward in his chair. “Nothing that happened to us is on you. You have to know that.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. I guess what I’m saying is: looking back on your past and feeling regret. Learning. Trying to do better. That’s the hallmark of being a good person. And you’re a good person, son. Stiles is a good person too.” John grins. “Neither of you are easy people. But in my experience good people rarely are.”
“So you think I should, what? Ask him out?”
“If you feel for him what he feels for you, then why not? If it doesn’t work out then—” John shrugs. “Just don’t martyr yourself, Derek.”
Derek exhales through his nose, and drops his gaze, stares down at the mug of tea cupped in his hands. “I’ll think about it.”
“You do that. Now.” John pushes himself to his feet. “Come with me, and bring your tea. We’re gonna watch Die Hard.”
“Die Hard?” Derek asks, standing with him.
“Yup. It just so happens to be one of the great romantic movies of our time.”
Derek’s eyebrows climb towards his hairline. “Is that so.”
“Yup. It has all the answers you’re looking for.” John wraps an arm around Derek’s shoulder as they walk toward the living room together, and squeezes. “You see, like you, John McClane had problems communicating with the person he loved. Fortunately Hans Gruber was there to play matchmaker—”
John tries to leave them alone after that. He knows for a fact that Stiles won’t appreciate any more interference. John’s given Derek his blessing, and that’s all he can do. The rest is up to them. So although he’s curious, he doesn’t mention it again to either of them. Figures, if they want him involved, they’ll ask him.
Unfortunately, in the days that follow, Stiles gets assigned to a big case. It means John doesn’t hear much from him in the coming weeks, and he doesn’t see him at all. Stiles even misses Thanksgiving; John has to make do with a hurried Skype call at 6AM, and then doesn’t hear from again that day until nearly midnight, when Stiles shoots him a quick text, to check in and let him know he’s ok.
Not that it’s a problem, per se. John heads around to Mel’s place with the rest of the pack, and spends the day stuffing his face with good food and watching the game. Derek’s there too, and they end up washing the dishes together; both of them carefully avoid mentioning Stiles.
It’s Christmas Eve when Stiles finally returns to Beacon Hills. John meets him at the airport, and they hug each other hard enough John feels his joints creak with it.
“Good to have you back,” he says.
“Good to be back, pops,” Stiles says, looking flushed and happy.
Maybe it’s John’s imagination, but he looks older somehow. Broader. He carries himself with a strength and confidence that wasn’t there a few short months ago. There isn’t much of the gawky high school kid left— He’s a man now.
If Claudia could see— John inhales sharply, and swallows around the lump in his throat.
If Claudia could see him she’d be proud.
“Let’s get you home,” John says, swiping at his eyes as he turns away. If Stiles notices he doesn’t say anything.
They talk on the drive home. Inconsequential stuff— work mostly.
“So,” Stiles says, eventually. “What’s the plan tomorrow? Are we gonna see Scott and Mel, or—?”
“Uh—” John winces. “Mel’s visiting Scott in Michigan State. Apparently he’s got a girlfriend and it’s kind of serious. So she’s flying up to meet the family and—”
“Oh,” Stiles frowns. “He didn’t tell me. That he wasn’t coming home, I mean. I knew about Carla.”
“I think it was a last minute decision. You know how Scott gets when he likes someone.”
“Hah! True. Oh well, just the two of us then. I guess I’m cooking Christmas dinner.”
“Yeaaaaaaaah. Uh, about that—”
“You invited someone—” Stiles cuts him a look. “It’s ok if you did, I—”
“I may have invited. Um. Derek? But I’m gonna cook. So. Don’t worry about that.”
Stiles’ mouth turns down in dismay. “Derek? Jesus, Dad.”
“Cora’s on some retreat with her pack in Colombia, and if I didn’t invite him he woulda been alone and—”
“Ok. Ok. I get it. It’s fine! It’s fine.” Stiles turns his head and stares out of the window at the passing scenery.
After a beat John says, “So you two haven’t spoken since the— uh?”
“He texted me a couple times. Asked if we could talk, but I was in the middle of that case. And. Well. I’ve barely had time to call you—” Stiles lets his head thunk back against the headrest. “Plus I guess I was— putting it off.”
“Sorry, kiddo. I shoulda asked. But when he said he was gonna be alone for Christmas I had to offer. And when he said yes, I figured you two must’ve talked and, y’know, patched things up.”
“Yeaaaaaah. Not so much.”
“You want me to cancel?” John sets his jaw. “Because I will.” He’d hate himself for it. But he’d do it.
Stiles sucks in a deep breath. “No. No. We can’t do that to him.” He grips his knees and exhales slowly. “I’ll just— take the hit I guess.”
“Are you talking about seeing Derek? Or eating my food?” quips John.
When the doorbell rings at eleven the next morning, John opens the door to find Derek standing on his doorstep looking pale and more than usually nervous.
“John,” he says, swallowing. “I uh— I brought- um.” He hands John what looks to be a pie of some kind. John can’t tell what type, it’s covered in aluminum foil.
“Thanks! Come in,” John says, ushering him in. “Come in. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Derek’s nostrils flare slightly, and his eyes widen.
At that moment Stiles calls, “Dad! Dad? I gotta ask, is the oven supposed to be up so—” He appears in the doorway to the living room; as soon as he catches sight of Derek his voice dies in his throat. “Hi—” he says, cheeks pinking. “Derek. I didn’t hear you come in. It’s uh— it’s good to see you.”
“Good to see you too,” Derek says, shifting from foot to foot.
After a long moment of just staring at each other, Stiles seems to pull himself together. Blinks. “Uh. Merry Christmas,” he says and sticks out a hand.
Reaching out Derek takes it. Shakes it. It’s all weirdly formal. John glances between them both, waiting to see what will happen next.
Eventually, Derek gently pulls his hand back and Stiles flushes an even deeper shade of pink. “I should uh—” he says. “I’m gonna go and check on the—” He doesn’t bother to finish the sentence. Just turns on his heel and leaves.
“Well,” John says, after a beat. “You better come through.” Turning to follow Stiles he says, “Don’t touch the stove, son! I have a process!”
It doesn’t get much better. Yesterday, John said he would cook Christmas dinner on a whim, because he figured it’d give Stiles and Derek a chance to talk— maybe clear the air. That isn’t happening though.
They’re sitting on opposite ends of the couch staring fixedly at the A Charlie Brown Christmas on the TV and not saying anything, while John putters around the kitchen pretending he knows what he’s doing.
How long should the ham cook for? He’s got a vague notion that it shouldn’t be under-cooked— so he figures if he just keeps it in the oven for long enough, at a high enough temperature, at least he won’t give anyone food poisoning.
Green beans and carrots are easy enough. It’s just a question of boiling them for long enough, right? And mashed potatoes? Well. Anyone can make mashed potatoes. They’re not exactly difficult. The gravy might be a bit trickier, but he figures that’s his one weak spot, and that’s not too bad for someone who regularly lives on Chef Boyardee and Hamburger Helper.
No. The real problem here are Derek and Stiles. He’s checked on them multiple times now, and they haven’t moved. Haven’t spoken. Aren’t so much as looking at each other.
Briefly, John considers staging an intervention— but then the smoke detector starts beeping furiously and he figures that probably means it’s time to take the ham out of the oven.
The awkward silence continue once they’re seated around the table, serving themselves dinner. John distracts himself trying to carve the ham, but the knife doesn’t seem to want to go through it. It’s possible he left it in the oven a smidge too long.
“Aha!” he says, eventually as he manages to hack off a charcoaled chunk. He holds it aloft triumphantly and then offers it to Derek who stares at it for a beat, then smiles weakly and offers his plate up.
“Help yourself to the mash and the uh—” John gestures at a tureen which is filled with soggy carrots and waterlogged green beans.
“Could you pass me the gravy please, Derek,” Stiles says, politely.
John watches as Stiles pours a sluggish river of gravy over his food. It looks lumpy, if John is honest, more of a sludge than a liquid? He isn’t sure what he’s done to it, but maybe it’ll taste better than it looks.
At least if all else fails, the mashed potatoes should be fine. He serves himself a heaping pile of them, and then takes a bite— and just manages to stifle a groan.
They’re sweet. Sickly sweet. Like someone has tipped a ton of sugar and— oh fuck. That may actually have been what happened. He swallows it with some effort and grimaces.
Across from him Stiles is poking a gelatinous glob of gravy suspiciously with a fork.
Derek, on the other hand, is bravely trying to chew his ham. John watches with something akin to fascination; it takes a good minute of chewing before he swallows.
“Ok?” John says.
“Uh-huh,” Derek nods. He grabs his glass and chugs some water. “It’s um— amazing. What you’ve. Accomplished. Here.”
Stiles stifles a snort and John whips around to look at him eyes narrowed. “You like it, huh?”
“S’great, pops,” Stiles murmurs. “Really, really— something.”
“Uh-huh. Gonna have some more then?” He raises an eyebrow at Stiles, and then Derek.
“I’m just—” Derek trails off. “Yes?” He spears a carrot that’s been boiled to within an inch of its life and takes a small bite.
“Really— uh. Contrasting. Textures. Between the ham and the uh— vegetables.”
“Why thank-you, Derek.” John turns to look at Stiles. “You gonna eat some more, son?”
“I’m feeling a little full—” Stiles wilts under John’s gaze. He scoops up a forkful of mashed potatoes “But this looks so good I can’t resist!” He takes a bite. “Oh holy mother of god what is that?” He spits the mashed potato out onto his plate. “So sweet! What did you do?”
“So now’s the time when I admit I may have confused the Splenda for the salt,” John admits calmly.
“You knew? And you let me eat it? Oh my god. That shit’s like three hundred times sweeter than sugar, dad!” Stiles pushes his plate away. “How much did you use?”
“I don’t know? Two or three teaspoons?”
“That’s how much salt you thought you were adding?”
“I forgot to salt the water— I figured I’d make up for it at the mashing stage.”
Stiles throws his hands up in despair. “That’s it. I’m quitting the FBI and coming back home. You cannot be trusted with your own diet.”
“I think the ham broke my tooth,” Derek says morosely, running the tip of one finger over his teeth. “And I’m a werewolf.”
For a long moment John and Stiles stare at him, then at each other.
It’s Stiles who cracks first, laughter bubbling up out of him like a fountain. The moment he starts Derek ducks his head and tries to hide his own smile. John puts his fork down, covers his face and his shoulders shaking. He can’t hold it in, tipping back his head he roars with laughter.
“Oh god,” Stiles sputters, when he’s finally calmed down. “What is this? How have you managed to do this, Dad? Look at this gravy? Look at it! It’s basically a solid.”
“You wanna talk about solids? You should try the ham,” Derek says. “Nothing has ever been more solid than the ham.”
“Not gonna happen. Not all of us can heal, dude.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know it’s bad,” John says. “But, I was distracted.”
“By what?” Stiles yelps. “You spent two hours in the kitchen by yourself!”
John waves a hand. “You two and all your drama.”
At his words Derek goes completely still; Stiles sucks in a breath, and shoots John a look. “There hasn’t been any drama,” he says acidly.
It’s on the tip of John’s tongue to point out that no drama is drama in their world, but he clamps his mouth shut and tries to look contrite. “Right.”
Stiles blows out a sigh. A blush spreads up his neck and over his face; he won’t look either of them in the eye. “Welp. Kudos on killing the conversation, Dad. I’m gonna go check in the kitchen, see if there’s anything else I can cook for us.” He stands quickly to his feet and heads toward the kitchen.
John looks imploringly at Derek, but he’s not paying attention because he’s already on his feet. “Stiles, wait,” he says. “Stiles!”
“What?” Stiles hesitates in the doorway to the kitchen, glancing back in Derek’s general direction, but not meeting his eye.
“Your dad’s right, there is— tension.”
“You think?” Stiles rolls his eyes, but still won’t look at him. Instead he reaches out and picks at some loose paint on the doorjamb.
“So.” Derek takes a step towards him. “I think we should talk.”
“Now?” Stiles sounds incredulous.
“We can’t keep putting it off.”
“But in the middle of Christmas— ok, I was gonna say dinner, but whatever this counts as.” He waves a hand at the dishes on the table.
“Hey,” John says; they both ignore him.
“When, then? When are you gonna let me talk to you.”
“I don’t know, man. This is a conversation I’d rather not have on an empty stomach.”
Look if there’s nothing in the fridge, I’ll call Dragon Palace and see if they’re open—”
Derek sighs. “Stiles.”
“—because if they aren’t we’ll have to go to Huangs—”
“—and that’s over in Beacon Heights.”
“Stiles, I love you too.”
“Then maaaaybe we can— wait! What?” Derek’s words finally register, and Stiles wheels around to look at him, jaw gone slack.
“I love you too.” Derek shifts his feet, and looks away. “That’s what I’ve been wanting to say to you for the past two months. But you wouldn’t reply to my texts or answer my calls. So.” He lifts his hands and lets them fall.
John’s eyes dart between the two of them. He kind of doesn’t want to be here for this, but he figures if he reminds them he’s here, they’ll stop having this conversation entirely, and then who knows when they’ll have it again?
“But—” Stiles is saying. “Your text said: ‘I think we need to talk.’”
“Yeah.” Derek shrugs. “Because we did and you ignored it, and refused to answer my calls.”
“Are you serious? ‘I think we need to talk?’ It’s ominous phrasing, Derek. Nobody in their right mind starts an important conversation about feelings with ‘I think we need to talk,’ unless their about to tell someone something awful.”
“That isn’t true,” Derek snaps. “That’s not a thing.”
“It’s absolutely a thing. Everyone knows that.”
“No they don’t. I don’t know that.”
“Because you’re a hermit, who’s been living under a rock. I didn’t respond to your text, because I thought it’d be easier for us both to pretend we’d already had the awkward conversation. I figured you felt you had to let me down easy.” Stiles takes a couple of steps towards Derek.
“Well, I guess you don’t know everything, genius,” Derek says, closing the distance between them. “Because that wasn’t the conversation I wanted to have.”
“You love me,” Stiles says, like he’s testing the sound of the words on his tongue.
“You.” He gestures at Derek. “Love me.” He points to himself.
Derek nods jerkily; a smile steals over Stiles face.
“Well, how was I supposed to know that?” Stiles throws his his arms up in the air; one hand narrowly avoids hitting Derek’s nose, but Derek catches it and holds onto it. “Honestly, your interpersonal skills need so much work,” Stiles mutters, as Derek leans in to kiss him. “If we’re gonna date I’m gonna need to introduce to so many things— TV shows. Memes.”
“Grumpy cat,” Derek murmurs, lips barely brushing Stiles’.
Stiles pulls back a bit. “Grumpy cat.”
“S’ a meme.”
“Of course you would know that one,” Stiles says. “But what about mmmpphh.” Derek kisses him.
As quietly as he can, John stands, lifts his chair back carefully, so it doesn’t scrape against the floor, and with one last, fond look at the two of them, he goes and plants himself in his favorite armchair and turns the TV up loud.
Later that night the three of them are sitting in the living room surrounded by empty cartons of Chinese take out. John is still in his armchair. Stiles is laying on the couch, his head resting in Derek’s lap, as they all watch Die Hard.
“I can’t believe you think this is a romantic comedy,” Stiles says, craning his neck to look at his dad.
“It's a romance, with elements of action and comedy,” John concedes.
“It’s an action movie with comedic elements, and a tiny romantic subplot,” says Stiles.
“You’re both wrong,” Derek says, “it’s a Christmas movie.”
John lobs a fortune cookie at his head, on principle; Derek catches it easily.
On the screen, John McClane drops C-4 attached to a computer and an office chair down an elevator shaft.
“I think I’m gonna need to eat that last egg roll,” John says. “But I’m too full to reach for it.”
Derek leans forward and grabs the carton, “Here you go, Dad,” he says.
At his words everyone in the room stills, and the only noise is the C-4 exploding on screen.
“Uh—” Derek says, eyes wide. “I—”
John looks at Stiles. Stiles looks at John. And John knows without a word being said that they’re both on the same page, but he lets Stiles be the one to say it.
“It’s ok,” Stiles says, sitting up and looking Derek straight in the eye. “It’s ok. It’s fine. You can call him that. He can belong to you too.”
“Are you—” Derek trails off, darts a glance at John, who nods.
“You were already family, son. This is just making it official.”
“Exactly.” Stiles kisses Derek’s cheek, but Derek turns his face so that their lips meet.
“Ugh,” John complains, throwing a fistful of fortunes cookies at them. “Quit making eyes at each other, you’re missing the movie.”
It’s late when John finally goes to bed that night. They make their way through Die Hard, and Die Hard 2. He leaves Stiles and Derek still curled around each other on the couch watching Die Hard with a Vengeance.
When he wakes the next morning and makes his way downstairs, he finds they’re still on the couch, fully dressed, Stiles is sprawled on top of Derek, and they’re both snoring gently. With a small smile, he goes and rustles up some cereal for breakfast.
Even he can manage not to fuck up cereal.