the one where Derek is an asexual potterymaker:
we’re not dead; we have feelings, too
When it’s over, Derek walks until the sun is low enough in the sky to hit his eyes. He doesn’t have the closure he’d hoped for, doesn’t feel like anything’s been resolved. Laura is still dead, his uncle is still gone, and he’s— He’s alone. The sense of relief – of vengeance and justice – that he’d been hoping for just isn’t there and he feels strangely empty. Numb.
He’s alone, the lone survivor of his family. Before, he’d had Laura and a comatose uncle. Now, he has neither.
He wonders, as he sits down under a tree at the far reaches of the preserve, he wonders where he’s supposed to go from here, what he’s supposed to do.
Where does he even start to rebuild, to get his life back.
He doesn’t get an apartment or buy a house. He considers moving back to New York, but he likes the climate in California too much, prefers it over the cold northern winters. The building he settles in used to be part of farm, but the current owners have rented out most of the lands, don’t keep cattle and refurbished the outbuildings. It’s calm, quiet. Peaceful.
Derek likes it. He can hear his thoughts, can read books again without feeling like he’s leaving himself open to attack. Once he decides to settle down, it’s like a weight has been lifted and he finds himself making choices. Long-term choices, the kind of decisions that won’t let him just walk away at a moment’s notice. It’s why he buys and installs a kiln, why he takes the time to find someone who can get him good clay at a reasonable price.
The farm is removed enough from Beacon Hills that he can mostly avoid it, situated between two towns of similar sizes. Technically, there is nothing keeping him here, in this part of California, but there’s even less for him anywhere else.
He settles in and learns to be comfortable in his own place, in his own skin, and he stays.
Sheriff Stilinski comes knocking the day Derek’s wearing stained shorts, flip-flops, a holey wife beater and most of him is spattered with clay. He’s had better days, no doubt about it, but he’s also had worse.
A lot worse.
“Am I interrupting?” Stilinski asks.
Derek stares, then he shakes his head. “No, sir. I was just working.”
“So I am interrupting,” Stilinski says.
“I just have a few questions, then I’ll be on my way.”
Stilinski raises his eyebrows. “You gonna invite me in, son?”
“Oh. Yeah, sure.” Derek moves to the side and Stilinski steps past him.
He lives in a refurbished stable and uses most of the space as a studio. Laura was the one who’d sent him to therapy and one of the therapists in turn had urged him to do something with his hands. Now, years later after a college degree he doubts he’ll ever use, he’s still trying to bend and mold clay to his will. He has a potter’s wheel, a workbench, buckets of colours and glazes, a kiln and more clay than he knows what to do with. But for the first time since coming back to California, he feels settled, feels comfortable.
“Looks like you’ve been here a while,” Stilinski says.
“I had time. Coffee?”
“Sure.” Stilinski is still looking around, but he doesn’t use his hands the way his son no doubt would and Derek feels more okay with the surprise police visitation than he would have in the past. Still, Derek doesn’t have much in the way of personal effects and what little he has left is squirreled away in his bedroom. The mug he brings to the Sheriff, filled with steaming coffee, is jade green with crackled brown along the rim. Stilinski takes one look at it and raises his eyebrows. “You’re really good at this, aren’t you?”
Derek shrugs. “I’m good enough.”
“Figures you’d be the broody artsy type.”
“No, no. So like I said, I have some routine follow-up questions.” Stilinski blows carefully over his coffee, then nods in the direction of the battered sofa and mismatched armchair Derek shoved into a corner. There’s a second door there and Derek’s been thinking of maybe building an addition, about fixing a glass encased patio, about moving the kiln out there instead. There are small windows now, but he’d like big ones, huge ones, a space he can fill with light and potted plants.
“How about we sit down, Derek?”
“Right,” Derek says. “Of course.”
Stilinski leads the way and Derek follows. He has a stack of pottery magazines, well-thumbed and covered in dusty smudges from dried clay, used books and a collection of almost empty glasses on the table. Stilinski looks, but he doesn’t say anything.
“You weren’t easy to find,” Stilinski says after a while. “As a person of interest in an on-going investigation, you’re required to inform the police when you’re leaving the area or going away for extended periods of time.”
“I just started walking. I couldn’t stop.” Derek stares at his coffee. “It hit me that I was alone. I hadn’t realised that before. Laura… She was always the one who took care of things. I never… I never had to do that. Be in charge. Know things.”
“I know how that goes,” Stilinski sighs. “Is there anyone who can attest to the fact that you’ve been here since you dropped off of our radar?”
“I don’t exactly go out,” Derek says. “Mrs Miller comes over a couple of times a week. I buy food from the farmers nearby or I go to River Creek for supplies when I need something else. I think the car has GPS?”
“A car that new and expensive? Yeah, probably.” Stilinski sighs. “A hassle I’d really rather not go to, to be perfectly honest. Witnesses—” Stilinski winces as he says it and Derek gets the feeling that the “witnesses” are Stiles and Scott— “Give you alibies, so we know you didn’t break any laws.”
“These witnesses of yours… Did they also admit to lying about me?”
“There might have been some words exchanged of that nature.” Stilinski takes a sip of his coffee, blinks in surprise, then goes back for another. If Derek were the type, he’d smile. “Where did you get this coffee?”
“There’s a local winery that makes it. It’s worth the drive.”
“I’ll say,” Stilinski says.
That summer Derek makes a series of plates, bowls, mugs and pots for the winery where he buys his coffee. One of the co-owners, Sarah, talks him into it and has grand designs on how they’ll display it with their coffee beans and the bags – Derek doesn’t pretend to understand it but he enjoys making the collection all the same. She puts a hand on Derek’s arm and she talks, and talks, and talks. Derek mostly listens.
The last time someone commissioned anything from him was in New York for a friend of Laura’s and that had been more art than functional items. This is different, new, but he likes it.
Sarah urges him to create a webpage and, after weeks of thinking on it, he does. It’s nothing fancy, barely more than a collection of photos and his contact information, but it’s enough. She makes him get business cards she can display at the winery and slowly but surely his business takes off in a way it hasn’t since he left everything behind in New York.
Stiles finds him a week before his birthday. Derek isn’t sure if it’s by chance or not, but here Stiles is anyway, knocking on his open front door, jeep parked by the Camaro. Derek didn’t even know Stiles had figured out where he lives.
“So I might have sneaked a view at Dad’s report,” Stiles says. “But, seriously, dude, you just vanished off the surface of the earth.”
Derek shrugs. “I did what I set out to do.”
“Well, yeah, but everyone’s been going nuts trying to figure out where the new alpha ran off to.”
“I didn’t run away,” Derek says. “Why are you here, Stiles?”
Stiles shrugs. “Honestly? I was bored. Believe it or not but I don’t have that many friends. Scott’s still all hung up about his ever on going romance with Allison, Jackson’s still an asshole I can’t stand hung up on becoming a werewolf. I don’t even know, man. I got in my car and I drove.”
“Nothing.” Derek moves away from the doorframe he’d been leaning on and Stiles slinks inside.
“Whoa.” Stiles blinks, then he’s off, running his fingers over the tools on Derek’s workbench, over the drying mugs he’s got by the kiln, on the lids of the bucket of glaze he’s hauled out. “I thought Dad was making shit up but you’re, like, legitimately awesome at this.”
“What do you want, Stiles?”
“Nothing.” Stiles shrugs. “I was bored. Being around you is a lot of things, but boring isn’t exactly one of them, if you know what I mean.”
“I have to work.”
“I don’t mind.”
“No, seriously, I don’t mind, do what you gotta do, man, I just. I need to be somewhere that isn’t home, okay? I just. I need to be away.”
“Okay,” Derek says. He can almost feel Stiles’ surprise. “I still need to work.”
“I can entertain myself,” Stiles says and that’s that.
Derek goes back to his mugs, dips them in the glaze one by one then puts them in the kiln. It’s way too hot, but that’s why all his doors and windows are open. He likes the feeling of sweat running down his spine. It makes him feel alive.
He’s sculpting a tree when Stiles sidles over, curiosity in his eyes and energy in his tapping fingers. So Derek slides over a lump of clay, instructs Stiles how to work it over to get as much air as possible out if it, then leaves him be while he figures out what to make.
Derek’s tree is no taller than the length of his hand, hollowed out and crowned by spindly branches. There is space for a tea light inside it and he’ll probably glaze the tree the same off-white shade as he did the cups. He might make smaller trees, too, trees that have holey trunks and no crowns or ones designed to hold an actual candle. He isn’t sure, he just knows that he needs to do something that sets off the collection.
Something that isn’t yet another mug or bowl, something that isn’t a plate or a beaker.
“I made a snake,” Stiles says.
Derek snorts. “You mean you couldn’t come up with anything so you rolled your clay into a long string.”
“Shut up, I did not. I heard the call from deep inside it, okay? Elsa just wanted to be let out and I listened to her and shaped her and gave her life, you cave-man. Have you no soul, Derek?”
Derek rolls his eyes, but then he helps Stiles coil the snake into shape, shows Stiles how to fix eyes and finds something that leave impressions like scales on the back of the snake. He makes a mouth with fangs and a forked tongue and Stiles exclaims over how totally badass Elsa is.
“So now what?”
“Now we let it dry, then you can pick whatever colour you like.”
“Awesome,” Stiles says. He picks a cobalt blue colour, lets Derek add green details to the back and puts a piece of red glass in the snake’s mouth. The glass will melt in the kiln and it’ll look shiny and smooth when it’s done.
The next time Stiles visits, two weeks later, Derek has the snake ready.
Derek is twenty-three when Sarah asks him out.
Beyond the panic, Derek feels only surprise. He says no and feels her anger, displeasure and shock.
“Derek,” she says, tone sharp. “I’ve been flirting with you for weeks. Couldn’t you at least have been decent enough to turn me down straight away rather than lead me on?”
“I wasn’t—” he starts, but doesn’t get further. The other co-owner of the winery steps into the room, a crate of grapes in his arms. The conversation gets postponed and Derek never restarts it. Sarah doesn’t either. Unlike his own reasons for not wanting to talk, hers leave him with a feeling of unease.
It’s times like these he misses Laura more than ever; she’d never been shy on filling him in when he was being an “oblivious little werewolf dick.”
How do you lead someone on without realising it?
I dunno. Why?
Someone told me I’d been doing it.
Well, I imagine you were being your usual charming self so I see how the signals might have gotten all mixed up, cutie-pie.
Derek signs off from the chat. It takes Stiles all of two seconds to call him back, squawking about rude werewolves who are rude and display a serious lack of social skills.
“So anyway, why did you ask about leading people on?” Stiles asks, and maybe there’s something strange about his tone, maybe it’s interference, maybe Derek’s hearing things that aren’t there.
“I told you about Sarah, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. Girl with the winery and the awesome coffee Dad swears by. Why? She wants to bump the uglies?”
“You know, participate in the passions of the flesh, engage in sexual relations—”
“Shut up, Stiles. You know what? Forget I said anything—”
“Hey, hey— No, calm down, okay? I can be supportive. Come on, man, tell me what happened.”
Derek tips his head back, lets out a deep breath as slow as he can. He’s outside, stretched out in a lawn chair, sunglasses covering his eyes. “She asked me out.”
“Oh.” Stiles pauses. “You said yes, right?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you like her?” Stiles queries back. “I know you do. She seems really nice, dude.”
“But she asked me out, Stiles.”
“Don’t tell me you’re an old-fashioned jerk.”
“I’m not old-fashioned, Stiles! She said she’d been flirting since basically day one but—”
Derek huffs. “What’s the difference between being friendly and flirting since I obviously can’t tell the difference?”
“You’re asking me for advice about flirting. Me. The awkward high school kid. Who’s never been on a date in his life.”
“Who else am I supposed to ask? Mrs Miller? Your dad?”
“…yeah, I see what you mean. So did she smile at you?”
“Of course. She’s one of those, you know. A smiler.”
“A smiler, huh. Wow, Derek, you really know how to work them words, bro.”
“You know what I mean, shut up, Stiles.”
“Anyway. Did she, like, touch you? Or try to show off her goodies or something?”
“She shows off her coffee and the wines and stuff all the time. It’s what people who work at a winery do.”
There is a silence, then Stiles says, “Yeah, that wasn’t really what I was talking about, man.”
“She doesn’t have any other goods, Stiles. It’s not like she owns a farm.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“No, shut up. Dude, are you gay?”
Derek feels his eyebrows shoot up. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Because I just asked if Sarah ever tried to show her boobs off to you and you gave me a list of the products her winery sells,” Stiles says, voice dry.
Derek blinks. “Huh,” he says. Then, “No.”
“Then why’d you say no to Sarah?”
“Because I don’t like her?”
“So she doesn’t make your heart pump, huh, gets your blood rushing—”
Derek hangs up and drops his phone to the grass. Laura had always left him alone, never pushed him to do anything he didn’t want, but the topic of dating wasn’t exactly left untouched. She just knew him well enough to get his unresponsive moods, his silences, or his quiet, close-to-the chest panicking to leave him alone about it.
Laura made him date one time, then never again. She went with him with her date – Derek can’t even remember who it was, if it had been Lena from the coffee shop or Mark from the library – and they spent a day at an amusement park. Derek hadn’t even minded, mostly because he hadn’t known it was a set up until the end when his supposed date had become frustrated with Derek spending most of the day talking to Laura’s date – and it had been Lena, because she was the one who painted and Derek, well. He was the broody artsy type.
“Oh, sweetie,” Laura said.
“But she kissed me!” Derek hissed. “What was I supposed to do?”
“Well, anything but pushing her into a fountain!” Laura exclaimed, but Derek heard the hysterical giggles wanting to break free. “That was a bit extreme, little bro. A no would’ve done it.”
“But why would she do that?”
“It’s a sign of affection,” she said.
“I don’t like it,” Derek said and that was that.
Laura dragged him on more of her dates but she never tried to set up him with anyone again.
Two weeks later, Derek calls Sheriff Stilinski. He doesn’t go through the proper channels because he isn’t sure how to navigate that way, but he does have the Stilinski home number and he can find out when the man is home easily enough.
“Derek Hale,” Stilinski says.
“You’re the one who’s behind the recent spike in Stiles’ phone bill, aren’t you?” Stilinski says.
“No, it’s fine.” He sighs. “So what can I do for you?”
“Someone’s been parked in a black SUV down the road for a week. It’s freaking Mrs Miller out, but when she called the police they said there wasn’t anything they could do beyond asking that they leave and a warning not to come back.”
“She’s right,” Stilinski says. “Unless they’re breaking an actual law, there isn’t much to be done.”
Derek nods, then he makes a choice. It would be a lie to say it’s something he has considered for a while, but at the same time he knows that when Mom was alpha, she’d had a list of people – people in places useful to a family of werewolves – she trusted to know, to help and aid. Derek can’t remember who they were, but he feels like maybe Sheriff Stilinski can be on his.
“Did you ever figure out who killed all those people involved with the fire?” Derek asks.
The silence is brief, but when Stilinski speaks up again, his voice is firm. “Withholding evidence is a punishable offence.”
“Nothing about that case made sense.”
“I know that, too. I could tell you, but not over the phone.”
Derek shrugs. “Because maybe if you know you can make them go away. They’re basically harassing me for who I am.”
The silence is briefer this time and just a little bit uncomfortable. “My son tells me you aren’t gay. I trust you didn’t lie to spare his feelings on the matter.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but as far as I know Stiles isn’t a homophobe. I’m talking about a birth right.”
“Oh, boy,” Stilinski says. “I’ll be over as soon as possible. Is today okay?”
Derek isn’t surprised when Stiles arrives with the Sheriff an hour later. The SUV is parked in the same spot it’s been for a week, windows rolled down and with the same two hunters inside it as always.
“He wouldn’t stay home,” Stilinski says.
“I figured as much. I put out some colouring books for him.”
Stiles squawks, Stilinski laughs and Derek smirks. Casting a glance at the SUV, Derek says, “We can sit out back.”
“So they just park there, watching, all day?”
“Another car takes over at night.”
Stilinski pauses, then nods. “That’s bribery, son.”
Derek smiles. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sheriff.”
After the coffee’s been served, and after Stiles scrounged up some ice-cream Derek didn’t even know he had, Stilinski sits back. “So.”
“I’m a werewolf,” Derek says.
Stilinski puts his mug down. “One more time.”
“I’m a werewolf,” he says again. He lets his nails grow into claws and holds his hand out. “How much you want to know is up to you.”
Stilinski eyes first him, then Stiles who looks entirely too busy to be anything but terribly guilty. “You got my son involved with werewolves,” he says and Stiles jumps. Derek speaks up before Stiles can, though, and Stiles shoves a spoonful of ice-cream in his open mouth instead.
“Not really. I think he did that himself. Mostly my uncle, though.”
“Your uncle. Peter Hale.”
“You could say he was a little bit insane, Dad,” Stiles interjects. Stilinski holds up a hand and Stiles closes his mouth again. He even makes an exaggerated zipping motion across his mouth.
“Your comatose werewolf uncle Peter Hale murdered all those people?”
Derek nods. “Yes.”
It still hurts, thinking about it and it probably always will. He’s lost his entire family and that’s not something you just get over. It’s possible to move on and he’s getting there. Just slowly, one step at the time.
“Stiles, go wait inside.”
“I need to talk to Derek without you snooping around and telling me what you think I need to know rather than what I actually do need to know, is that okay?”
Stiles mutters and grumbles, but he goes inside. Derek listens after him until the sound of Derek’s laptop being turned on hits him, then tunes out.
“Talk to me,” Stilinski says, so Derek does.
The hunters eventually go away. He never asks what Stilinski did, only appreciates that he did something and says thanks the best way he knows – and, no, the bag of special coffee beans is not bribery.
Derek builds his addition. He does it on his own and sometimes Stilinski helps out, sometimes Stiles is there being less than helpful, but Derek gets it done mostly on his own power. It’s large and roomy and he manages to get the kiln moved out there and re-installed. It means his front room won’t be as crowded – or warm, for that matter – and he buys a used table and several mismatched chairs to put in his pseudo-orangery from a nearby yard sale. Stiles gifts him with a potted olive tree, then goes on a cleaning spree inside.
Clay is dusty and everything inside is basically covered in a thin film of it, but it’s never bothered Derek. His bedroom is clean because it’s in a separate room and so is the bathroom. But the kitchen is along one of the short walls inside and his sofa/armchair area is in the corner adjacent to it: they’re both part of the open-space front room and, yeah, it’s not as clean as it probably could be.
So Stiles nags. Derek responds by moving the couch to his glass encased extra room. It’s spacious out there and most of the windows can be slid open to let in air and wind.
“We’re going to the beach, you wanna come?”
“Who’s we and why would I want to?”
Stiles huffs. “Who doesn’t like the beach, dude?”
“Laura didn’t,” Derek says. Stiles falls silent.
“Yeah, Mom didn’t either.”
After a while, Derek clears his throat. “What about the beach?”
“Oh. Scott and me were planning on going, just the two of us, kind of like a bro-weekend before school starts up again, but then Allison got into a fight with her parents and it’d just be cruel to leave her here so she’s coming, too, and since she’s coming, so is Lydia and Jackson goes wherever she goes now that they’re dating again and since Jackson refuses to spend time with losers, Danny’s coming, too.”
“So basically, you need another car.”
“We need another car,” Stiles says. “Do you mind?”
“Who’d I be driving?”
“Danny, I think. Maybe Allison, too. Is that okay?”
“Just so long as he’s aware I’m not your cousin Miguel.”
“Are you ever going to let that go?” Stiles squawks. “It was an emergency, dude!”
“You made me take my clothes off!”
As it happens, Ms McCall drops off Scott, Allison and Danny on the day they’re set to head off. They’re early and Derek isn’t ready. He still has some stuff to do, has to pack and lock up and make sure he doesn’t leave the oven on.
“I heard from John you had something of a business out here,” Ms McCall says, smiling. “I thought I’d check it out. I mean, since I was making the drive anyway.”
“Yeah,” Derek says. “I don’t have a lot of stuff finished right now, but, yeah. Come in.”
So Ms McCall pokes around while Derek moves the pieces he’d put in the kiln yesterday back into his workshop. They’re mostly plates, simple flat ones in earthy colours.
“Wow,” Ms McCall says. “You know, I’ve had to be supportive of Scott’s art from school for years, but this time I don’t even have to pretend. This is gorgeous, Derek.”
“Mom!” Scott protests. Allison giggles. “I’m not that bad.”
“Scott, honey, you really are.”
“Do you make custom orders?” Danny asks. He’s got one of the tea light trees in his hands.
“My business kind of depends on it,” Derek says. “Why?”
Danny smiles. “Because this would really save me stressing out about what to get my mom for her birthday. Like, a lot.”
“I want everything,” Ms McCall says.
Derek clears his throat, then makes them all coffee, ushers them over to sit by the table and disappears into his bedroom to pack. He’d meant to be properly dressed, to not look the part of the brooding artist in stained cut-offs, flip-flops and an old, dirty tank with more holes in it than not and a serious case of beard going on. So he changes, shaves, then gets on with packing what he’ll need in a duffle. They’ll be at the beach for four days so it’s not like he’ll need a lot. He makes sure he has his trunks, some t-shirts and a couple shorts. There are things like his phone charger and his electronic razor, like sunblock and hair gel, a book or five and a sketchpad, pens. Important stuff. He tucks his sunglasses down the front of his t-shirt, then heads back out.
Stiles is there, lounging on the couch with Allison, while Danny and Scott are still seated by the table, comparing something on their phones.
“Derek,” Ms McCall says. “I really have to be going now or I’ll be late for work, but…”
“Could you send, like, four of those gorgeous brown mugs with my son when you take them home?”
“With the white insides?”
Ms McCall nods. “I’d take them now, but I don’t have money with me—”
“It’s fine,” Derek says. “Don’t worry about it.”
So he packs them up in a small box, puts it in her car and waves her and her protests off.
It doesn’t feel right to take her money, not when his uncle is the reason her son got turned into a werewolf against his will. Not when his uncle hacked into her account and sent fake texts from it. Not when his uncle tried to trick her into who knows what by pretending to date her. It doesn’t really matter how much she knows about it, because it’s still something that Derek’s not comfortable with.
“Jackson’s car is in the shop,” Danny says. “So Lydia is driving. She has a mini cooper. Seeing as I’m not five feet tall, I don’t actually fit in the backseat.”
“How does Allison fit? She’s tall.”
“It’s a mystery for the ages,” Danny says.
The drive to the beach from Derek’s place takes a little over two hours. Danny is the one with the GPS, so they’re driving first. Stiles is last.
“I’m kind of relieved not to be riding with Stiles,” Danny says. “I think my brain would explode.”
“He’s a good guy.”
“Yeah, I know.” Danny shrugs. “You can’t get along with everyone.”
“So did he tell to you about where we’re gonna stay?”
“He started talking about colour-coordinated throw pillows whenever I asked so I figured I didn’t want to know, why?”
Danny laughs. “Anyway, there are three bedrooms,” he starts, and Derek’s hands tighten on the wheel. “Uh, you’re not, like, anti-gay or something?”
“No,” Derek says. “Just big on personal space.”
“My sister used to make me pose as her example of how even angry people could be allies. Then she stole my shirts and covered me in glitter and pushed me into the pride parade. In New York. Happy drunk gay people are grabby.”
“Man, all happy drunk people are grabby.”
“Yeah, but the guys kept slapping my ass.” Derek scowls. “Lesbians don’t push their boobs in my face. I think I like them more.”
“You don’t like boobs?”
“Not when they’re naked in my face, no.”
“Huh,” Danny says. “So, where are you on the spectrum?”
“The big on personal space side?”
“Yeah, I got that.” Danny rolls his eyes. “But are you aromantic or just ace?”
Derek blinks, then he briefly turns away from the road to look at Danny over the rim of his sunglasses.
“Shut up, my mom makes me go to all the LGBQT*A meetings, okay? She doesn’t want me to feel ‘lonely.’”
“Okay,” Derek says. “My sister did the same. Of course, she went to flirt and thought it was fun to watch me flounder.” Then, “Grey-romantic ace, I guess.”
“That’s not the one where you rarely want sex.”
Derek snorts. “No. That’s the one where we rarely form romantic attachments to other people and don’t want sex at all. There are too many different names and definition, so the only one I can really remember is the one that’s about me. I’m a dick: if it doesn’t apply to me then I’m not interested.”
“Apparently it’s considered bad form to say that you’re not interested when girls ask you out,” Derek says, “And then correct them when they assume you’re gay. They get really upset about that. At least guys just back off.”
“Apparently it’s not a good idea to check out football players when you’re naked in a sauna,” Danny says.
“You’re not supposed to push people who kiss you into fountains.”
Danny laughs. “I once punched a girl in the nose. We were, like, six, but still. There are right and wrong reactions to turning down unwanted advances. Who’d have thought, huh?”
“Laura had a list called ‘The Hilarious Faux Pases as Presented by the Clueless Derek Hale.’”
“Jackson once listed all the ways I ran and hid from girls who had crushes on me when we were kids. Lydia found it a while back and laughed until she cried.”
“I want to ask why you were hiding in Stiles’ bedroom pretending to be his cousin Miguel, but I won’t.”
“Thank you,” Derek says. “I would hate to have to kill you.”
“A matter of national security, then?”
“What else would it be when Stiles is involved?”
Danny is quiet for a moment, then he winces. “Yeah, you’re right, I really don’t want to know.”
“So anyway, there are three bedrooms. We don’t know for sure if there are singles or doubles in the rooms because the website was delightfully unhelpful and no one thought to ask when we made the reservation.”
“If there is a couch—”
“There might just be a dining table and chairs.”
“If there is a couch—”
“You let Stiles have it, please.” Danny rolls his eyes. “I mean, I get why you want it, but I can’t take him asking me if I find him attractive if I have to share a bed with him, okay?”
When they get there, after they’ve made the payment and retrieved the key, they find a modest beach house with two bedrooms and a shared kitchen and living room area.
“It said three bedrooms,” Lydia says, sounding unimpressed. “I count two.”
“The couch is a foldout,” the representative from the renting company says. “It counts as a bedroom in most of the properties we have for rent. We placed a camp bed in the kitchen. Please, enjoy your stay.”
In the end, Danny, Stiles and Derek end up in the main room with the fold-out couch and the camp bed. They don’t talk about how, exactly, they’ll sleep, but at least they have the rooms sorted out. After that, they split up and Derek ends up on food duty. He doesn’t mind, is even a bit relieved because out of all of them he’s the only one who doesn’t live at home; he can’t imagine any of them do much of grocery shopping on their own.
So he buys groceries, most of which are fresh vegetables and fruit because he can’t stand warm food when it’s hot outside, goes to the beach house and puts it away before settling outside on the patio in one of the sun chairs with a book.
“Well, now,” Lydia says.
Derek looks up over the book to find her staring appraisingly at him, one eyebrow raised. “What?”
She smirks. “Nothing. You and I are on cooking duty today.”
“Chicken salad,” Derek says. “The chicken should be done in twenty.”
She blinks, then smiles and settles down in the other sun chair. She has a sundress on that she quickly sheds, revealing a bikini underneath. “You’re a positive surprise,” she says. “Danny said you were nice. Of course, now I know why that is. You’re just his type, aren’t you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Derek says.
Derek’s grin is maybe a little wolfish, but it’s mostly deflective because he’s really not sure what she’s getting at here. “None at all.”
“Hmm. Danny is very nice, you know.”
“He was in my car for two hours. I think I got that.”
“So what kind of salad did you buy?”
“All kinds,” Derek says. “Maybe add melon or something. I don’t know.”
“I really don’t see why Jackson dislikes you so.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “That’s because he’s a spoiled brat who’s never had anyone tell him no his entire life.”
Lydia narrows her eyes. “This wouldn’t be part of the secret Scott, Stiles and Allison think they’re so good at hiding, would it? Because they’re so obviously hiding something that it’s embarrassing. Trust me, if I want to find out what they know, then I will know.”
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” Derek says. “But once you know? You can’t take it back. That’s your choice.”
“Oh, I like you,” Lydia says, her eyes a little narrowed. “Do I have all the pieces?”
“Stiles had one and he figured it out.”
“And what’s that?”
“Scott.” Derek goes back to his book. “Jackson knows, too, but I don’t know how he figured it out.”
“Hmm,” Lydia says. “Will I know what attacked me?”
Derek glances at her. She’s lying still, face turned toward the sun, eyes closed. She looks like she doesn’t care about anything, but Derek can hear her heart and knows what she isn’t saying.
“I can tell you everything.”
“If I want to know.”
“If you want to know,” he agrees. “Your question is wrong, by the way. You should use a different interrogative.”
Lydia finishes putting the salad together, so Derek busies himself by making all the beds. The skin on his chest and the bridge of his nose feels tight, stretched and while he knows the sunburn will have healed in the morning, it’s still annoying and the shade and cool air inside feels nice.
“So, Danny or Stiles?”
“You have to choose one of them if you want to get any sleep tonight.”
“Not if I take the camp bed.”
“True,” Lydia agrees, sounding bored. “But, really, that thing looks like a well-aimed sneeze will collapse it. I think Stiles should probably sleep on it, just to be safe.”
The weekend away, even spent with a bunch of teenagers, is nice. He hasn’t been to the beach in years, not since before the fire, and part of him missed it. Missed swimming in salty water and running on sandy beaches, missed being ridiculous and building sand castles, or playing tag in the water, or stretching out on a towel on the beach.
It’s nice and he has a good time.
He wakes up early and goes running on the beach with Danny every morning and they come back to Lydia and Allison doing yoga of some sort on the patio. Stiles is invariably on breakfast duty and the other two are nowhere to be seen.
One day he finds himself with Lydia even though he isn’t sure how that happens. Part of him will forever be used to following Laura, and while Lydia is nothing like his sister, she has the same strong will. Lydia takes him to a mall and makes him watch as she tries on more clothes than he cares to remember (Laura and he used to do this approximately three times a year but they never learned to enjoy it because new clothes smell weird). After that, Lydia drags him to a restaurant where Jackson and Danny are already waiting.
“Where are the others?”
“Oh, they had plans.” Lydia smiles smartly. “Now, Derek.”
“I thought Scott had plans with Allison,” Derek says. “What about Stiles?”
“Who cares about that loser?” Jackson mutters.
Derek glares. “I do, seeing as he’s my friend.”
“Well, anyway,” Lydia starts, but Danny butts in.
“Okay, I don’t want to get pushed into a fountain here, obviously, but is this a set up?”
Lydia just smiles. “Don’t be stupid,” she says, but her heart tells a different story.
“Okay, I’m leaving,” Derek says, then he gets up and is out of the restaurant before anyone can try and stop him. As if they could, he thinks. He doesn’t drive off, though, but he does get in his car and pull out his phone.
“So date not going well,” Stiles says and his tone is a little stiff, a little quiet.
“I don’t date,” Derek says. “Where are you?”
“Oh, you know, home. Alone. ‘Cause it turned out everyone but me had plans. Wonderful vacation, no?”
“Iron-Man 3 starts in forty-five minutes at the movies,” Derek says. “If you get subs and drinks or something, I can get the tickets.”
Stiles is quiet, then he says, “Are you asking me on a date here, dude?”
“No,” Derek says and maybe he’s vehement and maybe he sounds annoyed but only because he is. “I’m asking you to come with me and watch a fucking movie, Stiles. What’s so fucking weird about that? Why can’t I do things with friends without having to push people into fountains?”
“I…have no idea what you’re talking about. But, yeah, sure. We can go be buddies who watch action flicks together, sure, no problem, man.”
So they do. Maybe it’s not exactly perfect, but it’s still pretty great. Stiles fidgets throughout the movie, but Derek had expected that because Stiles wasn’t made to be still in any capacity. He mumbles along to some of the lines and he grins and laughs and drags Derek into the movie, makes it alive in a way he’s not used to.
Stiles questions the choice to see it without the 3D-effects, but all Derek has to do in response is flash his eyes. He’s not sure if it’s because he’s a werewolf or not, but he can’t see the special effects, can’t see the supposed depth of the picture or the objects reaching out of the screen. The first time he and Laura tried it out, they spent thirty minutes staring at a mostly blurry screen, before walking out. Needless to say, they hadn’t been repeat customers.
If Derek were a people person, he’d probably notice Lydia being frosty and short with him, or Jackson glaring more than usual, or even how Stiles seems to ignore the two of them along with Danny altogether. As it is, Danny keeps hanging out the same way he had before, but without the others it feels like Danny is around more and Derek kind of likes it because out of all of them he probably gets along with him the best.
“I just wanted you to know that last night wasn’t my idea.”
“I got that, yeah.”
“Good,” Danny says and that’s that.
Except it’s not because Lydia corners him later when he’s playing Scrabble with Danny down at the beach, glaring at him as if he’s someone particularly offensive.
“Okay, I don’t know what your problem is here, but what you did to Danny is unacceptable,” Lydia says.
Derek looks up from his letters long enough to give her a blank glare, but he doesn’t say anything – mostly because he isn’t sure what it is she supposes he did. Opposite to him, Danny sighs. “Leave it, Lydia,” he says.
“I will not! He walked out—”
“He doesn’t date, okay?” Danny snaps. “I don’t ‘like’ him, he doesn’t ‘like’ me, we’re kinda hanging out and it’s cool.”
“You’re straight?” Lydia says, sounding unimpressed and disbelieving.
“I’m not interested,” Derek says, tone short and sharp.
“Straight guys do not just sleep in the same bed as gay guys without being weird about it and then need to re-assert their sense of masculinity by sleeping with fifteen girls in one go,” Lydia says. “I’m sorry, Danny, but not even Jackson does that and you’re as close as anything.”
“He does make sure to mention you every other minute,” Danny agrees.
“I actually have no idea what you’re talking about,” Derek says and there’s this uncomfortable feeling in his stomach again, that prickling sensation of missing something, something obvious even if he has no idea what that’s supposed to be. “You were the one who said Stiles should have the camp bed. Both of you.”
“And Amen to that,” Stiles says, flopping down on the towel next to Derek. He’s wet, droplets of water clinging to his eyelashes and he’s cold where he’s leaning against Derek’s skin. “Seriously, I would’a kicked you awake so many times.”
“You wake us with your talking anyway,” Danny says, rolling his eyes.
“You’re right. I should have my own room.” Stiles nods and he’s staring in the direction of the beach house as if trying to figure out how he could possibly manage that. Then he snaps out of it and takes in the board on the sand between Derek and Danny instead. “Who’s winning?”
“Derek,” Danny says.
“Huh,” Stiles says. “So the man of few words has got them all?”
“No,” Danny says. “He cheats, is all.”
Stiles looks at Derek, who shrugs. “Yeah, not that surprised to be honest. Kinda surprised you’re letting him get away with it.”
“I just asked if you could put some sunscreen on my back,” Derek protests. “It’s a legitimate question since my arms don’t bend that way.”
Danny looks at Stiles, who’s kind of staring at Derek with his mouth halfway open. “See? Cheating.”
“Dude, you’re asking a gay dude to feel you up,” Stiles butts in.
“No, I’m asking a friend for help putting on sunscreen block,” Derek snaps.
“We’re nearing a fountain again,” Danny says. “Why don’t you ask Lydia to do it?”
“I for one certainly don’t understand all these fountain references,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes. But she does come to sit behind Derek and she rubs his shoulders in lotion. His skin feels tight and burning and the lotion is cool and soothing, so he relaxes a little, then tenses right back up again when she mutters, “Can’t say I don’t see the appeal, though.”
“Do you, like, even need sunscreen?” Stiles asks later, when Danny and Lydia have gone. “I mean, I have a serious case of lobster imitation going on, but you?”
“I still burn,” Derek says. “It’s easier healing when I’m not in the sun.”
“You can control that?”
“Stiles, you can control everything.”
“Huh. So, on a scale of one to Naboo, how much does Scott suck at being a werewolf?”
Derek just raises an eyebrow and Stiles nods like that settles something. “Point taken.” He fidgets a little, then reaches for the sun lotion. “So, uh, would you—? I don’t heal. Well, I do, but not that fast and I can already feel how much pain I’m gonna be in tonight.”
Derek sighs, but he takes the bottle and rubs the cold lotion all over Stiles’ back.
“Okay, maybe I’m just being thick here or something but you didn’t like Sarah, you don’t like Danny, you don’t date or notice when people flirt with you or get innuendos—”
“Is this going somewhere, Stiles?”
“I want to know why,” Stiles says. “I’m not, like, saying you owe it to me or anything because obviously you don’t, but I want… I need to understand. So I don’t mess up.”
“Please, okay, Derek? Just, tell me.”
Derek frowns. “What would you mess up?”
“Uh, us? Our friendship?!”
“How?” Derek exclaims, because he’s confused and he doesn’t see what Stiles could possibly do or come up with that would destroy anything, much less this comfortable rhythm they’ve got going where they are almost friends. It’s so far removed from the almost enemies/almost allies gig they had going before when Derek was still in Beacon Hills.
“Because I’m fucking in love with you!” Stiles snaps. “I’m stupid about you and everyone knows except you and I don’t know if you like me and that’s why you keep turning people down or if you’re antisocial and just hate everyone or what, okay? So I need you to tell me what’s up and what I should do because messing this up is the last fucking thing I wanna do.”
“Oh,” Derek says. Maybe his ears feel hot, but the way his heart is pounding under his breastbone makes them easy to ignore and— He doesn’t know what to do. He’s had people crush on him before, but he usually only knows about it after someone (Laura) has pointed it out or, like Stiles, they’ve said it themselves.
Usually, it makes him uncomfortable, unsettled, makes his skin feel tight and his stomach roll with discomfort. Usually, he deflects. Usually, he says no. Usually, he doesn’t even have to think about what to say or do because it’s all automatic and his reaction is always, always the same.
Usually, he doesn’t feel like he’s burning from the inside, like his heart is trying to beat its way out of his body.
Usually, they’re not Stiles.
Stiles. Infuriating, hyperactive, sarcastic – a skinny little shit Derek has no idea what to do with, how to react to.
“I don’t have a lot of friends,” Stiles is saying. “The few I have? You can damn well bet your furry little werewolf ass I’m gonna do all I can to keep—”
“I’m asexual,” Derek blurts. “That’s— I’m not sexually attracted to people.”
“What?! I mean, what does that even mean? I’m assuming you don’t recreate by cloning yourself, unless that’s a werewolf thing you kept to yourself because that would freak Scott out so bad, I’m not kidding—”
“Stiles!” Derek shouts, then clenches his jaw, because that reaction right there? He’s had too many of those – too many to count – and while he never lets them get to him enough to hurt, they still annoy and poke and fester (although to be fair it’s the first time anyone’s added the werewolf bits to the equation), it’s never been Stiles. “I don’t do sex: that’s it! Danny? Sarah? They want sex more than they want me, so pushing them away? Is so fucking easy you have no idea. My desires or wants aren’t less important than anyone else’s and I’m not going to have sex just because I’d be doing some idiot a favour.”
Stiles gapes. There’s a flush slowly creeping up his face and his heart is racing, rabbit fast. “You mean it’s okay?” he gets out. There is something strange in his tone, in the way his heart is pounding, something desperate and yearning. “Because I just told my therapist this one thing about how I didn’t want to have sex, like, ever and he started to ask all these questions about if my dad was touching me in the no-go zone or if someone else bad-touched when I was a kid and he’s, like, tried to put me on a bazillion different meds and sent me to I don’t know how many doctors and gynaecologists—”
“Stiles!” Derek snaps. “Of course it’s okay: your therapist is an idiot.”
Stiles just stares. “He said I couldn’t be in love with people if I didn’t want to have sex with them. That fulfilling relationships and expressing love—”
“He’s an idiot,” Derek says again. He taps his chest, then his head. “What you feel here and here has no impact on what you feel or do down there—” Derek makes a vague gesture at the below-the-belt area— “And your therapist is an idiot if he doesn’t even know that. Seriously, who says that to anyone? Why the fuck didn’t you Google it, you idiot? You spend days researching creepy werewolf facts—”
“Because I didn’t want him to be right!” Stiles explodes. “I didn’t want the whole of the internet telling me what a freak I am and detailing everything that’s wrong with me!”
“Stiles, there’s nothing wrong with you!”
Derek isn’t sure if his conversation/shouting-match with Stiles solves anything, but Stiles seems more relaxed, more at ease whenever they speak and he supposes that’s a victory in itself.
When Stilinski invites Derek to take part of a fundraiser, Danny insists on Derek helping out the joint GSA chapter of Beacon Hills High School and the Community College at the same time. Derek asks how, Danny tells him to make something ‘rainbow-themed’ and Stilinski says to just bring ‘stuff he’s made.’ Derek finds both of these instructions incredibly unhelpful.
Derek drives into Beacon Hills late on a Thursday, the Camaro packed to the brim with ceramic goods (there’s not a lot of loading space in a sports car) and doesn’t stop until he’s reached the Stilinski residence.
Stilinski helps Derek carry everything into the house and he’s casually poking his nose in some of the boxes when Stiles whirls into the house in a flurry of complaints, exclamations and questions. And Indian food: the smell of curry is pervasive.
“I hope you like spicy,” Stilinski says.
“I’m a werewolf,” Derek says, which in no way answers the question.
Stilinski smiles. “That’s a no, then?”
“I heal fast.”
Stiles laughs, but he sorts out the food that’s supposedly “not as hot” – which is a lie because everything is hot and spicy to the point where Derek feels himself sweat and his tongue burn. There’s rice and some kind of flat bread, so he goes to town on that and the cool cucumber-ish sauce. Stiles keeps laughing and Derek retaliates by reaching out to poke several holes through the top of his can of coke with a claw amidst much squawking about cheaters from Stiles. Stilinski just rolls his eyes at them.
Derek sleeps in the guestroom and the next morning he goes to the station with Stilinski, then continues on to the Community College. The fundraiser/yard-sale/whatever-it-is is on Saturday and the people at the GSA just want to see what he came up with.
All in all, it’s fairly painless.
Derek debates going out to his old house but decides not to. Instead, he visits the graveyard, traces the letters shaping the names of every member of his family. They’re all here, sharing one tombstone, Laura’s and Peter’s names having been added last.
He doesn’t stay long.
Derek is watching TV in Stilinski’s living room when Stiles gets home.
“This is not why I left my window open,” Stiles says when he passes on his way upstairs.
“Liar,” Derek calls after him.
Stiles comes back downstairs with his laptop, then detours into the kitchen for snacks. When he’s done, he sits down on the sofa, pressed close to Derek. He shifts and squirms until Derek glares, then settles with his computer in his lap and the plate of snacks in Derek’s “for easy access.”
“Stiles,” Derek starts.
“No, no, shut up, this is brilliant,” Stiles says, smiling wide. “Okay? ‘Cause I don’t want sex and you don’t want sex and I can sit like this without it being weird.”
“Stiles, it’s weird.”
“Shut up, you know what I mean. Give me a sandwich.”
Derek feels his heart beat erratically and he’s not sure what to make of it.
Stiles insists on going with Derek the next morning and helping him set up his table. Stilinski looks amused and says nothing at all, so Derek relents and Stiles looks smug and satisfied. It only lasts until they get there and he discovers Danny waiting for Derek already, at which point his face falls a little.
“Oh,” Stiles says.
“I didn’t know Danny’d be here.”
Derek shrugs. “Half of it was his idea, your dad gave the okay. Danny offered to help me set up.”
“I thought you didn’t like him.”
“Do I strike you as the kind of person who willingly spends time with anyone I can’t stand?” Derek asks before getting out of the car. Stiles scrambles after him.
“He likes you. Like, likes-likes.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Derek says. By then Danny’s reached them and he’s not alone.
Derek figures he can be forgiven for not having noticed the girl clinging to Danny’s legs, seeing as she’s not tall enough to reach Danny’s waist yet.
“My sister wanted to come,” Danny says. “Someone might have mentioned candy.”
“Oh my god, your sister is the cutest ever,” Stiles exclaims, grinning wide. “I see you favour Iron-Man, huh? That is an awesome T-shirt.” The girl smiles back, a finger stuck in her mouth, but she doesn’t say anything.
Danny just shrugs. “It’s Robert Downey Jr., what can I say?”
“So cool,” Stiles repeats. “Did you see the cartoons this morning? Like, Stark just swooped in—”
“—‘Pepper, Pepper, help me,’” the girl finishes, giggling. “Then fell in the mud.”
Derek smirks. “We’ll leave you to it, then,” he says and goes to grab a box out of his car.
He didn’t bring a lot, just enough to cover the table and some extra in case he actually sells anything. There is a stack of his business cards in a bowl alongside the cards he’d picked up from the LGBTQ centre. Danny puts away the empty boxes. He keeps an eye on his sister – Mandy – but stays mostly by Derek’s side and seems to trust Stiles to look after her.
“This is really cool,” Danny says, holding on of the mugs.
Derek thinks it’s kind of plain, but the directions had been vague and he hadn’t been given a lot of time to work with. The mugs are either black or white, and the rims are stained in rainbow colours mostly through trial and error as he’d tried to get the shades just right. None of them have ears – a personal preference – and there are no two alike.
“How did you come up with the prices?”
Derek shrugs. “Material costs, then Stilinski added on a bit. Said I could probably get away with adding on more if I wanted.”
Danny looks nonplussed. “I still think it’s cool of him to let the gay community be part of a police backed fundraiser,” he says instead. “I mean, statistically, how often do you see small-town cops being allies?”
Derek shrugs. “Stiles,” he says. Danny grins.
“I see your point.”
“Danny, Danny, I love Stiles,” Mandy declares. She’s piggyback riding on Stiles, looking deliriously happy, and for a second Derek misses his sisters so much it hurts. “He says Pepper is totally the best, too, even if Iron-Man’s got the coolest toys.”
“Pepper totally kicks butt,” Stiles says and Mandy giggles. “Danny, your sister is the best.”
Around lunch-time, Derek has had enough of the masses of people. The urge to just give into the wolf and slink off and hide somewhere is overwhelming to the point where supressing it is becoming more and more impossible. Stiles must be able to tell somehow, even if Derek can’t figure out how, because he shows up with a takeout box crammed full of fries and the juiciest burger Derek’s seen in what feels like years, plies it at him, then shoves him out of the way and tells him to eat up.
For fifteen glorious minutes, Derek doesn’t have to listen to inane conversations or be forced to take part of small-talk. He hates small-talk. He’s sold more of his wares than he thought he would – which is a good thing – but he hates all the people who just come over to talk, the ones who have a list of compliments and opinions he just doesn’t give a damn about. When he’s done eating, he downs the bottle of water Stiles also brought, then takes a deep breath.
“You look beat, son,” Stilinski says, looking entirely too amused for Derek’s liking.
Derek glares. “I’m not a people person.”
“You don’t say. You know, my wife worked in a flower shop. She used to say that she imagined chopping the heads of her customers off when they started grating on her patience, which was all the time.” He winks. “She said it worked great for stress-relief.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Derek grunts, then he heads back into the fray as if he’s facing his own execution. Peripherally, he’s aware of Stilinski laughing at him.
In a way Derek is, because when he’s back behind the table, listening to Stiles’ report of the “craziest twenty minutes of his life,” Argent shows up, fake-smile offering fake-politeness.
“Ah, Derek,” he says. “I heard you moved out of town?”
Derek doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t owe the Argents anything. He never did.
“Son,” Stilinski says from behind the tent wall, as if they hadn’t finished their conversation when Derek went back to his stand, and pops his head through the slit in the canvas covering the back. “How do you feel about Thai?”
Derek covers his grimace up pretty well, but apparently not good enough going by Stilinski’s laugh. “I can cook,” he says instead.
“Sheriff,” Argent says, a little stiff.
“Mr Argent,” Stilinski says, slipping through the gap. He’s dressed in his uniform, like all the cops, and Derek’s never before experienced the sense of safety having a member of the law enforcement on his side brings. It’s a somewhat disconcerting and the part of him that’s wild and wolf, that’s alpha, bucks a little at the feeling of bowing to someone else’s authority.
“I didn’t realise you know Derek Hale,” Argent says.
Stilinski shrugs. “It’s my job to know and protect the people of my town,” he says.
Stiles doesn’t stay still exactly, but he keeps his mouth shut and he counts the money Derek’s made, over and over, as if that’s the only thing helping him keep his mouth shut, so Derek shoulder-checks him, earns a glare and huff, but then Stiles relaxes against him and together they ignore the weird conversation Stilinski’s having with Chris Argent, the resident werewolf hunter.
That night, Derek stretches his limbs and arches his back in the guest room, then he undresses and shifts into the wolf. He feels freer as a wolf, more at ease and relaxed. It’s as if the tension he’s carried all day just melts away and he jumps up on the bed. He walks in circles, pawing at the bedding until he’s satisfied, then curls up, snout under his tail and goes to sleep.
“Oh my god,” Stilinski says the next morning and slams the door.
Derek huffs, flicks an ear, then decides he doesn’t care enough to move and drifts back to sleep. The sun is warm on him, heating his fur and making him drowsy in the best way.
Derek isn’t sure how long it takes before the knock on his door comes, but he rumbles a little in response and Stilinski evidently decides to take that as an invite, because he steps inside the room seconds later.
“This is not something you expect to see on an everyday basis,” he says.
Derek just opens his eyes and stares at him.
“Stiles didn’t say you could do this.”
Derek huffs. His ears flick and it’s no problem to pick out Stiles in the house, still fast asleep in the room across the hall.
“To be honest, I’m amazed he was able to keep you guys secret from me at all because my son is a lot of things, but being known to keep his mouth shut isn’t one of them. I had no idea wolves could laugh.” Stilinski chuckles. “Anyway, he told me about, about his feelings.” Derek flicks an ear. Stilinski rubs his chin. “His romantic feelings. My seventeen year old’s romantic feelings for a twenty-three year old man,” Stilinski continues.
Derek may have whined a little, but mostly he sticks his head under the nearest pillow. He snaps his teeth when Stilinski pulls it away, but all that earns him is a sharp flick on the nose.
“Stop that,” Stilinski says. “He’s seventeen—”
And Derek pulls back, jumps off the bed and changes back into human form. Stilinski resolutely holds out a blanket, staring out the window until Derek wraps it around himself.
“What did he say?” Derek asks, voice a little rough after sleeping, after being wolf.
“Just that.” Stilinski looks at him. “He also changed therapists to one of the guys at the LGBTQ centre that Danny’s mom recommended, then went on to describe all the ways that his old one was an old fashioned idiot and a jerkface who put him on all kinds of medication that he apparently doesn’t need and violations disguised as examinations and doctors appointments. It was a very long day. He had lists.” Stilinski rubs a hand over his face, then adds, “I felt like the worst father of the year.”
“You’re not a bad father,” Derek says, feeling awkward and out of place. He isn’t sure if he’s the best person to have this conversation with, but he also isn’t sure that Stilinski would let him run away if he tried: Stilinskis have annoying tendencies of being overly stubborn. “Did he tell you that his therapist said that the only way to have fulfilling relationships was by having sex?”
“He might have mentioned that a time or ten. Or a hundred.” Stilinski sighs. “Even I could have told him that was bullshit.”
Derek knows that: he knows that now. But when he was in high school, before the fire? He hadn’t fit in, had been the odd one out for years and it’d had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was a werewolf and everything to do with “normal” stuff. Like the fact that he’d rather read than watch TV or talk to people or eat lunch. It had to do with him not wanting to date or, well, do any of the stuff teenagers usually got up to because, again: he’d rather read. He knew it’d had worried his parents back then, but at the same time they’d also known that he wasn’t unhappy.
They’d known that he was more or less much the polar-opposite of Laura and that he was pretty damn content with that. With himself.
“When you’re a teenager trying to figure out where you fit, no one ever tells you it’s okay not to want sex.” Derek hesitates, frowning a little. “After my family died, I spent years just being angry. Laura sent me to therapists, dozens of them, and I still don’t know if that helped or not. She was worried and had no idea what she was doing. I think one of the people I saw convinced me at one point that I didn’t have a sex drive because of the loss, but then I remembered I’d never had one before, either.
“Going to high school and not wanting to date, not wanting to have sex? It’s not easy. There is this breaking point where you can’t hug just for the sake of hugging anymore. Where, if you hold someone’s hand you’re expected to do more than that. It’s like everyone around you are going through this thing, this change that you can’t ever understand or get behind. Stiles likes people, but I never did. I never pretended to understand jokes or references that I didn’t.”
“I don’t think I understand,” Stilinski says and Derek knows it’s true, knows it because if there’s one thing in life he can’t fully understand, it’s why people would ever want to have sex.
“It comes down to sexual attraction. Most people have it.”
“I don’t. I don’t even understand it. I’ve come to learn that some find that I don’t want to have sex with them offensive, even if I don’t get why.”
“Where does Stiles fit in?” Stilinski asks. “He was spouting off all about how he was pan-asexual and I don’t even know what that means. I got the feeling he wasn’t talking about cooking implements.”
Derek smiles, but just a little. “Pansexuals are attracted to everyone regardless of sex or gender.”
“He can still be that even if he’s asexual,” Derek says. “There are plenty of us who form romantic attractions to people, just like there are those who don’t, who want nothing more than friends. Everyone’s different, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be content or happy. I don’t feel like I’m missing out or as if my life’s somehow lacking or something.”
“I don’t want him to be alone,” Stilinski says. “He’s my son. Of course I want him to be happy and have a family and a dozen kids— I just want him to be happy.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “He’s Stiles,” he says. “You really think he won’t get exactly what he wants?”
“I don’t know, Derek,” Stilinski says, a hint of a tired grin on his face, maybe some sarcasm in his voice and he’s looking right at Derek. “Did he get you yet?”
Derek feels uncomfortable with the scrutiny. “I don’t know,” he says, because that’s at least not a lie even if it’s not much in terms of giving an anxious father answers. He’s been pushing people away, has been knowingly and unknowingly turning people down for so long now that the fact that he doesn’t have to – doesn’t want to, because it’s Stiles – is taking some time to sink in.
“I pushed the last person who kissed me into a fountain,” Derek adds after a while. “I don’t, I’m not—”
“Oh boy,” Stilinski says, laughing. “You said you could cook. How’s your breakfast?”
It’s as obvious as a change of subject ever is disguised as an out, but Derek takes it.
“Just get dressed first, for my peace of mind if nothing else,” Stilinski says and Derek feels his ears heat up in embarrassment, because he’d forgotten that other than a blanket, he’s actually naked.
Derek finds himself breathing smoother after his conversation with Stilinski, finds it easier to accept the weekly invitations to come over for Sunday dinners. Nothing much changes about his interactions with Stiles and he’s grateful for that as well. The last time he thought he might have feelings beyond friendship for someone, his skin had itched with an uncomfortable crawling sensation. He’d felt unsure, felt pushed into something he wasn’t sure he either liked or wanted.
Stiles had said he was in love with him once, then never mentioned it again.
Derek isn’t sure if he’s grateful for that or if it’s the other way around, because this means the ball is in his court and Derek has never been good at ball sports. That was always Laura.
There is no one way to be asexual and Derek knows that, has talked about that with therapists and members of the GSA chapter where he went to college, has read articles and blogs on the internet and even written one or two texts about it himself. Mostly, though, mostly he knows himself and how he feels about physical contact.
Stiles complicates matters, because he turns everything Derek thought he knew about himself on its head.
“So Stiles came out today in the locker room,” Danny says. He looks a little concerned. “I don’t think he meant to, but Jackson was goading him.”
“Jackson always goads him.”
Danny rolls his eyes. “Yeah, but he was making smartass remarks about Stiles ‘being a lame ass virgin who couldn’t even score,’ pushing at his buttons. Stiles doesn’t exactly keep quiet when he’s attacked, so. You know what he’s like.”
“I was talking about Stiles. Anyway, did you look over the pics I sent over about what I wanted to get for my mom?”
Derek nods, already reaching for his sketchbook. He isn’t as computer savvy as either Danny or Stiles, but he’s good enough. He doesn’t own a scanner, has had to borrow Mrs Miller’s printer on occasion, so the sketches he came up with for the vase Danny wants to commission aren’t digital. Instead, he holds them up in front of the webcam.
Derek doesn’t call Stiles, mostly because he ends up being covered up to his elbows in wet clay as he attempts to figure out how to best make the vase for Danny’s mom. He takes several photographs of his progress with his phone and drives to Beacon Hills an hour or two earlier than usual that Sunday to meet up with Danny at a coffee shop.
“Why were you drinking coffee with Danny?” Stiles asks. He’s not looking at Derek, is focused on kneading dough on the table. Derek freezes where he’s standing, just inside the kitchen.
Stiles shrugs, but he’s clearly bothered by something even if Derek can’t figure out what it is, or even why. “Nothing.”
“No,” Derek says.
“If you don’t say what you mean I won’t suddenly get what you’re angling for.”
Stiles laughs, but it sounds hollow and horrible.
“I just want to know why you were drinking coffee.”
“I had iced tea,” Derek says.
Stiles sighs. “I didn’t ask what you were drinking. I just…”
“You like him, right? I get it, okay? I’m a spaz who gets on everyone’s nerves. You like him better than me—”
“I like him differently than you,” Derek interrupts.
“But I annoy you.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Everyone annoys me, Stiles. Is this about Jackson?”
“Who told you about Jackson?!”
“You talk to Danny?”
“Yes, Stiles, I talk to Danny. Guess what? I now have two friends.” Stiles nods, but he still looks off and Derek can’t figure out why.
“Do you like him?”
“No, I mean romantically. Do you—”
Derek grimaces. “Don’t be stupid,” he says. “I watched three of Laura’s relationships fall apart because they didn’t know she was a werewolf.”
“But if he knew—”
“No,” Derek says. “Didn’t we talk about this already?”
“Yeah.” Stiles shrugs. “Okay, okay. So.”
“I fall in love,” Stiles says and Derek’s heart pounds, each beat deep and slow and sure. “I told you that. I told you I fall in love and you didn’t say anything.”
“I don’t know,” Derek says, which is the truth. He continues before Stiles can butt in, before he’s interrupted. “I tried once and it didn’t… It didn’t work. Every time she touched me my skin wanted to crawl off. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t like her and forced myself, or if it was because she wanted more than I could give, or if it’s because I could tell she was lying to me.” Derek looks away, then continues, “It’s possible to have relationships with people who’re sexual, you know, but being a werewolf makes it more difficult and complicated.”
“Why would it—”
“Arousal kind of stinks. She was always reeking of it.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, his ears going red. “I get hard, you know? I watch porn and read erotica and I scratch that itch, but if I had to, to—”
“I know. I mean, I don’t, but yeah, I know.”
Stiles nods again. “Good,” he says. “So.”
Stiles gestures between them, hand covered in small lumps of sticky dough. “I’m still, like, madly in love with you, idiot. I still want to date you and curl up with you and hold your hand. Derek, I wanna hold your hand, I want to try and see if I like kissing or if I can stand sharing a bed. I want you and that’s not just gonna go away or disappear overnight. I’ve had this unattainable crush on Lydia for ten years because I knew it’d never go anywhere. It was safe, you know? But you? I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
Derek doesn’t say anything, doesn’t know what to say or even how to start. He isn’t sure he has to say anything, though, because his ears feel too hot and he might be smiling, but only a little and there’s something wrong with his heart. Stiles narrows his eyes at him, shakes a finger.
“I’m on to you, Hale,” Stiles says. “Now get your ass over here and help me put together some pizzas.”
When Stilinski gets home, Derek is in a half-asleep blissful state on the couch, head pillowed on Stiles’ lap with long fingers in his hair, massaging and pulling. The only way this could get better is if he were the wolf because then Stiles could run his fingers through Derek’s fur, scratch behind his ears and rub his belly. He’s pretty sure nothing can top that.
“Smells good,” Stilinski says.
“Derek’s really good in the kitchen,” Stiles says. “He’s a catch.”
“Stiles,” Derek grumbles. “Shut up.”
“Dude, you made breadsticks from scratch using pizza dough you also made from scratch because you think the pre-baked store bought stuff I was already using is disgusting, and you made this dip sauce that’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my life using an avocado. Avocados are nasty, just FYI—”
At some point Stiles hands vanish from Derek’s hair because Stiles needs visuals when he talks, so Derek sits up and makes the mistake of looking at Stilinski. Stilinski’s watching him more than his son, and there’s something fond and resigned in his eyes, something that makes Derek want to huddle in on himself.
“How about we eat while the food’s still hot, boys?” Stilinski says, interrupting whatever Stiles is still going on about.
They don’t see each other more often, but Derek starts to head over earlier, starts to drive out to Beacon Hills on Saturday afternoons instead of Sundays. Stiles always smiles when he does, this big, happy thing that sets Derek’s heart to a slow, heady beat and his ears almost uncomfortably warm.
It feels good. New – different – but not bad.
Stiles’ encroachment on Derek’s personal space is similar in a way. He starts with his hands, tugging on Derek’s fingers as they watch TV or buried deep in his hair when he can’t focus on what’s happening on the screen anymore.
Stilinski catches them at it more than once, but he never says anything, just sits down in the adjacent armchair and watches TV with them.
On occasion, Stilinski puts Derek in charge of fixing dinner. It gives Derek the chance to show off his mom’s old recipes, the ones that only exist in his memory anymore because the worn clipbook with hand written notes, internet printouts and taped cut-outs from magazines was lost in the fire.
Derek’s addiction to books trickles out slowly, comes out after one too many weekends of him always reading a different book, but it’s only after Stiles catches him blowing through a couple of related series in a matter of weeks that something is said about it.
“Dude, this is the first part.”
“You were reading the first one last week, too, except it was the first in another series that this one says it’s a follow-up to. That’s insane, Derek.”
“I read a lot.”
“Yeah, I got that but this is, like, seven hundred pages of tiny print about some kickass warrior-knight chick with a ridiculously long name even I won’t try to pronounce and my first name is mainly consonants and before that it was the series about the fake-Celts—”
“Stiles,” Derek says. “I like books.”
“I think you’ve made that pretty clear, Derek. For everyone involved.”
“No one’s involved—”
“Dad just shakes his head and walks right by and you don’t even notice. People are involved here, Derek. You know we sometimes try to talk to you, right? You just kind of hum. Didn’t take a lot of time to figure out you weren’t exactly paying attention to anything but what’s going on in that head of yours and that’s not even taking into account the ‘I just need to finish this chapter’ crap, because, dude, it’s never just one chapter!”
“To be fair, that book didn’t have chapters,” Derek starts, smirking, but Stiles just glares at him and snatches the book away. Derek thinks it’s only natural that he chase after Stiles when he runs away, cackling, book in hand. If they almost turn the couch on its head when Derek catches Stiles, when he realises that Stiles is ticklish to the point of extreme, then, well, Derek can hardly be held accountable for that, right?
They’re at the grocery store the first time Stiles hooks his fingers through Derek’s in public. It’s in the fresh produce aisle and Derek’s thinking about Laura’ favourite mango banana bread, about maybe baking it for Stiles and his dad when Stiles’ fingers slide against his, first nudging a little, then just slip between his like it isn’t world changing. Like it isn’t sending Stiles’ heart into overdrive, heating his ears and wreaking havoc on his nerves, turning them into butterflies on his stomach.
The best part is probably that Stiles doesn’t seem to notice what’s he done, doesn’t seem to realise that they’re in public and that Stiles is holding his hand.
Derek thinks that’s probably the best part.
Stilinski is rolling his eyes at them, but Derek ignores that. Instead, he reaches for the almost too-ripe bananas on sale with his free hand and tries to calculate how many he’ll need. It’s difficult, because most of him is hyperaware of Stiles’ hand, the way his fingers feel against Derek’s and how soft Stiles’ thumb is rubbing circles on the back of his hand.
“Dad,” Stiles says.
Stiles huffs. Stilinski looks summarily unimpressed. “Dad,” Stiles says again. “Derek and I are going on a date.”
“Uh-huh,” Stilinski says. “Curfew’s at midnight, boys.”
“Fine,” Stiles says, crossing his arms over his chest. “The movie ends at eleven thirty, though. Just in case we’re late getting home.”
Derek spends the entire movie with Stiles’ head on his shoulder, their hands a mess of entangled fingers. Stiles only lets go sporadically, when he needs to have some more popcorn or when he needs to drink something or when he needs to point something out on the screen by repeatedly snapping his fingers and pointing at it. Frankly, Derek’s a bit amazed that Stiles manages to sit still for the entire three plus something hours the movie lasts.
He’s come to learn that Stiles can end up weirdly enthralled when he finds something fascinating and that sometimes the story doesn’t happen in the actual movie because Stiles is too busy concocting symphonies inside his head. Derek isn’t sure he cares, one way or the other, because it’s still the first time Derek’s seen a movie with Stiles without him fidgeting even once. Beyond that, it means that he gets to have Stiles close, gets to hold him and have his scent rubbed into his skin.
“You know what would make this date perfect?” Stiles asks when they’re back at the Stilinskis, still in the Camaro on the driveway.
Stiles grins, then unfastens his seatbelt and scoots closer, until his face is in Derek’s. “There’s this kissing thing I’ve heard so much about. That I’m told people do on dates.”
Derek grimaces and rolls his eyes. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” he says.
“Won’t know until you try.”
“I did try.”
This time, it’s Stiles who rolls his eyes. “With me, dumbass.”
Derek is sceptical right up until Stiles’ nose knocks into his and he starts laughing. Derek snorts, puts a hand on Stiles jaw, which makes him shut up pretty quickly. The first time their lips touch, hesitant and slow and too dry, it’s like a fire starts burning in Derek’s stomach, this slow, heady thing that warms him up better than Mom’s special Christmas hot chocolate ever did, the one with whipped cream and peppermint. Stiles makes a small noise and moves back, eyes wide.
“Okay,” Stiles says. “Again.”
When Derek leans back in for a second one, lips moist, mouth a little open, Stiles meets him half way and—
It’s not bad. It’s different and Stiles feels— “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Stiles grins, kisses him again, this time more insistently and—
Derek pulls away with a grimace. “Don’t put stuff in my mouth,” he mutters.
“Yeah, sure, no tongue, totally no problem, man,” Stiles agrees, eyes blown. “Can I kiss you again?”
That night, Derek learns that kissing can be nice, that it’s something he can enjoy with the right person. Stiles is the right person, he thinks. Kissing Stiles makes him warm to his toes, makes his heart pound and soar. It makes him fundamentally happy. Stiles hums and smiles and wiggles closer, his hands warm against his neck, on his arms.
Kissing with Stiles is slow, sure. It’s heady and Derek likes it. He likes it a lot.
He’s never liked it before.
Derek lives on his own now and before that he lived with werewolves. Keeping a door closed when he grew up signalled a need to be alone, that the rest of the family should stay away and not listen in, even if everyone knew that complete privacy was impossible. Back then, he hid himself away in his bedroom to escape his siblings and cousins to read books. These days, he only keeps his bedroom door closed during the day to save himself from sleeping with clay dust. It’s gotten better, especially since he moved the kiln outside. When he’s at Stiles’ place, he only closes the door when he sleeps as the wolf in the guestroom because Stilinski still jumps sometimes when he catches sight of him in his fur.
Sometimes, though, sometimes he’ll fall asleep in Stiles’ bed. They’ll curl up against each other, legs tangled, and it’ll be snug and warm. He’ll feel safe, warm and cared for. Protected, almost. The door is always wide open in the mornings, letting in coffee scents and soft sounds of Stilinski puttering about in the kitchen. Derek doesn’t mind because Stiles always keeps a window open and having the door open as well means it’s warmer, less drafty. It feels homey and Derek revels in it.
One morning, Stilinski wakes him up with a soft but firm, “Derek.”
Derek flicks his ears, waves his tail, then jumps off the bed. Stilinski’s holding a towel, but Derek huffs at it and trots into the guest bedroom where he’d folded his clothes the day before. He stretches before he shifts, arching his back and wiggling his hindquarters, tail wagging.
When he finally makes it downstairs, hair ruffled and eyes sleep crusted, Stilinski’s poured the coffee.
“Thanks,” Derek says.
Stilinski nods. “So I hope I won’t have to spell out why I’m not hugely enthusiastic about the fact that you’re sleeping naked in my son’s bed.”
Derek frowns. “I’ve never slept naked in Stiles bed.”
“No. Why would I— It doesn’t make sense. Stiles insists on keep his window open because he likes fresh air. His room isn’t warm enough—”
“Oh my god,” Stilinski says. “I’m going to regret this,” he mutters, then looks Derek in the eye and says, “The way I see it, when you shift into a wolf, you’re technically naked because you’re not wearing clothes, am I right?”
Derek feels confused. Confused and unsettled. “So?”
“I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that you’re not getting me,” Stilinski says.
“What are you talking about?”
Stilinski purses his lips. “Naked people have sex, Derek.”
Derek’s glad he hasn’t had time to actually drink the coffee yet, because he’s fairly sure there would have been an accident. As it is, he goes pale and his stomach turns over. “It’s not— I told you—”
Stilinski sighs and runs a hand over his face. “How do I believe that, Derek? I don’t understand—”
“You don’t have to understand it,” Derek snaps. “Accept it as a fact. You think I ‘understand’ why people would want to rub their genitals together? It’s messy, invasive and disgusting – why would anyone want to do that? You know, I don’t even get myself off because I don’t see the point. I don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t feel good and at most it’ll just feel bothersome and disgusting. It feels wrong.”
“No,” Derek says. “I feel safe here. With Stiles. I won’t let you ruin that.”
“You won’t let— Derek, that’s my son you’re dating. My underage son. How many other people in my position do you think would open up their homes to their child’s adult boyfriend? I don’t ask much from you, so would it kill you to follow the few simple rules I have? You don’t sleep naked in his bed and you keep the door open.”
“Fine,” Derek bites back. He downs half the coffee in one go, then frowns.
“What?” Stilinski asks.
“What’s the door got to do with it?”
“You started it!” Derek says. “This is your fault! I don’t get half the things you’re talking about and then you make me suffer by bringing up—”
“I regret everything about this conversation,” Stilinski says. “Go wake Stiles, I’m making pancakes.”
Once upon a time, not that long ago, Derek didn’t know where to go or what to do with himself. Initially, Laura had been there and they had held each other up for a long time, had helped each other get their feet back under themselves again. But then she died, and Peter died, and Derek was alone.
He’d buried the last of his family and traced their names on the gravestone and he’d been alone. He’d wondered why, what the point was, why he got to live when the rest of his family didn’t.
There’s a Hale sized hole in his chest, every member of his family, the family that he lost, fitting perfectly inside, like the pieces of a puzzle he knows by heart. It hurts and he misses them, always will, but Derek…
Maybe he didn’t know how to live alone, without pack and Laura, but he knew enough to know that he had to try, that he didn’t want to die. Derek is an alpha without a pack and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be ready to fill that void, but there are other voids that he can fill, that he’s ready to.
The empty spaces on the bookshelf he builds in his bedroom, spanning an entire wall, floor to ceiling – those spaces are easy to fill. He collects books like a magpie, finds them wherever he goes. Reading is familiar, is comfortable. Books let him escape when he needs to.
His work lets him heal, lets him keep busy until he’s not so alone anymore. Filling his bookshelf was easy, and he probably started with books because he was afraid to touch the holes inside him, but now… Derek isn’t alone anymore. There are people around him, in his periphery and close to him.
There’s Stiles and his dad, Danny and Mrs Miller. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for Derek.
He might not have a bustling family and a pack spanning three generations anymore, he doesn’t have a plethora of friends and acquaintances or a high-end job. Derek has a house and a pottery, a modest business that makes a moderate turnover, he has a couple friends who are probably too young for him – and too old for him: Stilinski is only a handful of years younger than his dad would have been (should have been). He has a nosy neighbour who knows to stay away when Derek needs to be alone and he has Stiles.
Whatever the hell a Stiles is.
(A Stiles is someone who laughs a lot, who talks and fills silences and gesticulates wildly with his arms. A Stiles is someone who smells of affection and family and soft, warm spaces. A Stiles is someone who sits close to Derek and holds his hand, it’s someone who curls into his body under the covers and who lets Derek rub his nose into the soft crook of his neck. A Stiles is someone who challenges and keeps Derek on his toes, it’s someone who argues and demands and pushes and prods, it’s someone who hugs and plays videogames, it’s someone who demands attention just as much as he hands it out.
A Stiles is someone who lets Derek be Derek even while he’s busy helping Derek heal and rebuild and learn to live like a normal human being again – that is, as normal as a human being someone who also happens to be a werewolf who has a Stiles can be, that is.
Derek thinks it’s pretty perfect, having a Stiles in his life.)
A Stiles is a challenge, Derek thinks, it’s someone who makes him whole, warm from the inside out. Stile keeps him on his toes and makes sure he’s never alone.
It’s someone he can love, someone he never wants to be without.
Stiles is Stiles, Derek thinks, and that’s pretty damn great.
Everything is pretty damn great. Maybe he’s not happy and bursting at the seams with it, but he feels settled and okay, feels good. He feels like maybe this is his new start, like maybe this is how his life ii supposed to look now, that this is the direction he’s supposed to go in. With Stiles, with Stilinski, with himself.
It’s his life and it’s a good one. He’s not lost anymore and he knows exactly where he wants to go. It’s more than he’s had in years and for the first time since Laura, Derek wants.
It’s good to be alive.