“You’re gonna die alone.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d been told that, but somehow, it always seemed to be a little more true every time he heard those particular words.
To be fair, it wasn’t his fault that things never worked out for him. He did his best, he tried really hard, he just felt like no one understood him. People always seemed to try and change him, make him into some perfect image that they saw him as in their head. This straight-laced, professional, serious individual.
Well, he wasn’t that.
He was loud, and excitable, and energetic. He was passionate, maybe a little immature, and knew exactly what he wanted in life. People either had to get on board or stick to being his friend. No one was going to make him into this perfect little doll they all seemed to think they could just by looking at him.
If there was one thing Stiles Stilinski was not, it was a pushover.
“You know I don’t fuck on the first date,” he insisted, pouring an obscene amount of sugar into his drink before slapping a lid on it and leading the way to the closest free table. His friend followed, leaving his coffee black and bitter—like his heart.
“You don’t have to fuck them, just try to ease them into what you’re like outside work.”
“I’m exactly the same!” he insisted, somewhat offended while sitting down and sipping at his drink. It burned his tongue but he just made a face before putting it down.
“You’re really not, take it from someone who grew up with you.” Jackson Whittemore fell into his own seat across from him with all the grace of a dancer. It was entirely unfair that he was so graceful while also being unapologetically attractive. His cheekbones alone mocked Stiles every time he looked at his dumb, stupid face. Unfair.
“Okay, maybe I’m not, but isn’t everyone different outside work? I mean, look at you!” He motioned his friend. “You’re an asshole most of the time, but not at work!”
“The fuck you talking about, of course I am.” Jackson scowled, as if he’d just been insulted. “If you’re an idiot, I’m going to treat you like one. Why do you think I’m always a dick to you?”
Stiles gave him a look and just picked his drink back up.
He burned his tongue again.
“It doesn’t help you always dress like you’re going to a funeral.”
Stiles sputtered incoherently for a few seconds, offended again. “What?! I do not!”
Jackson gave him a very pointed and condescending once-over. “You own eight suits. All of them are black, and your ties are boring.”
“What’s wrong with black?” Stiles insisted, looking down at his clothes. To be fair to Jackson—not that he’d tell him so—it was his day off and he was, admittedly, in a suit. “It’s professional.”
“It’s boring,” Jackson argued. “And what’s the point of me buying you all those ties if you’re never going to wear them?”
“You bought me a tie covered in dicks!” Stiles insisted loudly, then winced and lowered his voice when a few people in the lineup turned to look at him. “Where did you even find that thing?”
“A porn shop.”
“Of course.” Stiles sighed.
He could not wear a dick tie to work. And all of Jackson’s ties were a bit too flashy for his job. Sure, maybe Stiles could go out and buy like, some kind of striped tie or a green tie or something, but that was a bit hard to pull off in his line of work.
Jackson was lucky, he basically had a uniform. Which he was wearing right now, because he was on the night shift and had only come out with Stiles for coffee because he liked to play the ‘I told you so’ game.
“Just let me set you up with some people I know,” Jackson argued for the millionth time. “I’m sure I can find you someone who can tolerate your stupidity like I do.”
Stiles made a face at him. “All your friends are pretentious or conceited.”
“Pretentious?” Jackson smirked. “This from the guy who ordered that monstrosity of a drink, and proceeded to drown it in sugar?”
“Whole milk gives me a stomach ache!” Stiles insisted. “Coconut milk is much kinder to me. And the raspberry gives the drink an oomph of flavour. And the sugar is healthier than that garbage syrup they normally use!”
“Whatever, my pretentious, conceited friend.”
Stiles conceded that one, he’d walked right into it. Kind of par for the course with Jackson. Came with being best friends since middle school.
“What makes you think I’d have better luck with the people you know?” Stiles demanded with an almost defeated sigh. “Half of them are your friends from law school, so I doubt they’d be able to handle my personality. The other half are your co-workers at the station, and they all think I’m a stuck up dick.”
Jackson didn’t deny it, and Stiles knew he was right. Every time Stiles ever stopped by the station, Jackson’s co-workers just gave him dirty looks and made themselves scarce. Stiles knew that was why Jackson was mocking his funeral look, but it wasn’t his fault! He had to look professional at work, and he had to act professional at work.
He’d tried being his usual goofy, jovial self but that hadn’t worked out well when he’d first started and given what he was involved in, he couldn’t really blame his superiors for telling him to get himself under control or figure out another career path.
Stiles liked his career path, so he’d tried to channel his father and had started being calmer and more professional at work. Five years strong, and now everyone thought he was just like this all the time. It was why every time he got asked out, the people he ended up going to dinner with never called him for a second date, because they saw how he was at work, and figured he was always like that.
He was just destined to die alone, he supposed.
“Let me talk to some people,” Jackson said, evidently because Stiles was pouting a bit too much. He just wanted someone to come home to and cuddle with, was that too much to ask?
“Fine,” he muttered. “But I’d rather your co-workers than your law school friends. Seriously, those guys are dicks.”
Jackson didn’t deem that worthy of a response, standing up and cuffing Stiles lightly across the side of the head in parting. Stiles just grunted, long used to Jackson’s weird forms of affection, and wished him a good shift while his friend walked out of the coffee shop, a few girls walking in eying him with interest.
Stiles just rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink, glad it didn’t burn him for the third time. Would’ve been his own fault anyway.
He watched Jackson walk past the window on his way back down the street, and couldn’t help the small twinge of anxiety that reared its ugly head before he tamped it back down. He’d long ago learned to force himself to remain calm whenever Jackson walked away from him, because if he didn’t, he’d go fucking insane.
Despite having been thrown into law school and passing the Bar, Jackson had never wanted to be a lawyer like his father. He’d gone through all the schooling to keep the man happy, but he’d never had any interest. They’d gotten into a huge fight when Jackson had turned down numerous coveted and well-paying jobs with big name lawyers.
Jackson had been texting with him about it for weeks on end, but he hadn’t realized how bad the fight had gotten until he’d opened his door to find his friend a wreck on the other side. He’d been cut off by his parents, basically disowned, and kicked out. Stiles had thought that was harsh and extreme, but he only found out after about a month of Jackson sleeping on his couch that during their fight, it had come out that Jackson was gay.
Stiles had known since high school, but being a good friend, he’d never told anyone. Finding out his father was as much of a homophobic bigot as they’d both expected him to be had been pretty awful. Thankfully Stiles’ own father was very tolerant of his bisexual son, and while he didn’t have much money, Jackson was like his second child, so he and Stiles did the best they could to keep Jackson happy and healthy.
Fast forward a few years, and Jackson was doing good. Amazing, even. He had a boyfriend, an apartment, a cat, and a job that he loved more than anything.
It was the job Stiles felt anxious about, because Jackson had become a firefighter. It was a noble profession, and very selfless, and extremely rewarding, but Stiles worried. It was hard, and dangerous, and every time Jackson walked away from him to head to work, he couldn’t help but worry he’d never come back.
After years of the anxiety eating away at him, Stiles had managed to tamp down on it as much as he could every time Jackson walked away from him. Jackson was good at his job. The people he worked with were good at their job. His friend loved being a firefighter. So Stiles forced himself to just trust that everything would be okay today, just like it had been every other day since Jackson had come home proclaiming he’d gotten the job.
Stiles was just glad Jackson’s boyfriend Ethan got just as anxious about it as he did. It made Stiles feel like he wasn’t just overprotective because Jackson was like his brother.
Letting out an annoyed sigh, and hoping Jackson wasn’t going to set him up with that weirdo co-worker of his Matt—his friend was a dick, he wouldn’t put it past him—he pulled out his phone to text with a few friends.
Being an adult sucked. He had tons of friends: from high school, university, and old co-workers, but they never had time to hang out together. They all worked weird schedules, and half the time Stiles wasn’t even in the same State, which made meeting up for dinner, or a chat, or even just coffee an impossibility.
“Adulting is hard,” he muttered, putting his phone away after receiving a text from one of his other close friends and finding out he was at some kind of birthing class. His wife was pregnant, so Stiles didn’t fault him for being busy, he just wished being an adult didn’t have to mean losing out on everything that made life fun.
Figuring he and Netflix could have a date tonight, along with the pizza that had been living in his freezer for much too long, Stiles people-watched while he slowly finished his coffee, not in any hurry to head home given how sad and depressing it was going to be.
Even sadder and more depressing to realize he almost hoped he got called in to work. At least he’d be doing something productive.
He was almost done his drink when the door opened to admit a... rather strange pair. Stiles paused in raising the drink to his lips, because usually the first thing he noticed about people was their posture, and this guy’s posture was very defensive.
His shoulders were hunched, his head was bowed, and his hands were shoved into the pockets of the leather jacket he was wearing. It seemed as though he was trying to make himself smaller, which would be quite the feat given Stiles could tell he had to be over six feet. He was handsome, too. That wasn’t a word Stiles used very often. Handsome. But he was.
The man’s hair was black and cropped fairly short. He had a neatly trimmed beard, striking green eyes, impressive eyebrows and defined cheekbones. He was a good looking man.
It was hard to pay attention to how aesthetically pleasing he looked though, because Stiles was more focussed on his clearly defensive posture. And he felt like he understood why when a woman followed him into the coffee shop a second later.
She was not sporting a defensive posture. Her back was straight, her head held high with her chin up. A small smile played on her lips, her blonde curls framing her face, and it was very clear that she was confident and quite possibly smug. Her heels clicked across the floor as she followed the man towards the counter.
His voice was deep, but quiet, making it impossible for Stiles to hear what he’d asked for. The woman with him scoffed and rolled her eyes, crossing her arms and leaning closer to him.
Stiles didn’t miss the way the guy tried to shy away.
“Don’t order that, you won’t like that. You’ve never liked coffee, Derek. You’re strictly in the hot chocolate category, because you’re a child at heart, and you always have been.” She motioned for the cashier to replace his order. “He wants a large hot chocolate. He’ll never admit it, but that’s what he wants.”
“I’m perfectly capable of ordering my own drink,” the guy—Derek, apparently—said. It was clear he was trying for irritated, but he kind of missed the mark. He wouldn’t look the woman in the eye, and he kept trying to hunch further into himself, especially when she got closer.
“Stop being a fucking pain in the ass, Derek. I don’t have time to deal with this tantrum. Get your stupid drink, and then we’re going back to the apartment.”
“I don’t live there anymore. I moved out for a reason, an—”
“Come on, Derek,” she cut off, sounding annoyed. “Your childishness was cute when we were younger, but my patience is wearing thin. You know you can’t last a week out in the world without me, stop being a fucking drama queen.”
Stiles scowled, the protective instinct in him rising the more the woman spoke. He looked around to see if anyone else was paying attention, and was actually kind of angry that they weren’t. A few people had glanced up to see what was going on, but returned to whatever they were doing fairly quickly, deeming it a non-issue.
Honestly, Stiles found that to be the thing that angered him the most. This man was clearly being verbally abused, and nobody seemed to care. Stiles knew the problem was that he was a man. If this had been the opposite, with a hunched over woman walking in and a man trailing behind her, belittling her, ordering for her, insisting he knew her better than she knew herself, at least three different people in the place would’ve been right there telling him to back off.
But because it was a man being verbally abused, nobody was batting an eye. He was fine, because men couldn’t be verbally abused, or abused, or sexually assaulted, or any of those other things that were predominantly ‘feminine.’
So people didn’t care. And both this Derek guy and the woman with him knew that nobody would care.
Because Derek hadn’t looked up. And the woman hadn’t lowered her voice.
The cashier seemed uncomfortable. Stiles knew all the cashiers in the place, and this one was new. She obviously hadn’t ever encountered anything like this before, so she was standing there watching them uncertainly, not having keyed anything in, like she didn’t know if she should be entering the man’s order, or the woman’s. That made Stiles even angrier, because how could the cashier think what the woman was ordering for this guy was actually what he wanted?
This was abuse. This was manipulation, and belittlement, and abuse.
Before Stiles could get to his feet and storm over there, the woman still bitching about the guy acting like a fucking child and to stop being such a whiny little brat, Derek looked up briefly and Stiles noticed it looked like he was sweeping the place.
He was silently looking for help, and clearly wasn’t expecting to get any.
Until his eyes landed on Stiles.
Who was staring right back at him.
‘Do you need help?’ Stiles mouthed. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been two seconds away from marching over there to begin with, but he didn’t know this guy. He didn’t know if maybe he was trying to stand on his own, tell bitch lady off in his own way, take care of himself. He didn’t want to assume anything, but now that they were making eye contact, it would be easier for Stiles to sit back and just keep an eye on things if he was told to mind his own business.
He wouldn’t mind it entirely, since he was kind of worried, but he’d at least stay in his chair unless things escalated.
When the guy lowered his gaze, head going with it, Stiles thought the answer was no and that he was fine on his own. But then he lifted it once more, head coming with it, and Stiles realized he was trying to nod as subtly as humanly possible.
Bristling at the realization this guy honestly needed help, Stiles got up from his seat and moved quickly towards the door, being able to do so without the woman noticing since she was facing this Derek guy and still mocking him.
Stiles tamped down the ache in his chest at the broken look on Derek’s face when he thought he was being abandoned, but hoped he’d understand in a second. Because all Stiles did was wrench open the door so it’d make noise, and then immediately jogged towards the pair of them, smile bright and inviting.
“Hey Derek!” He practically slammed into the guy, wrapping his arms around him and crushing him in a tight hug. I’ve got you, buddy, he promised silently. You’re okay. I’ve got you. “Sorry I’m late, got held up. Hope you weren’t waiting long.”
The woman had gone silent beside them and Stiles turned to face her, still smiling brightly. He pretended to be startled at the sight of her, but kept a tight hold on his new friend, because the tenseness of his shoulders was kind of concerning, and he wanted him to know he was not leaving him behind here.
“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt. I didn’t know you were bringing someone, you should’ve told me!”
“Who the fuck are you?” the woman demanded rudely, her eyes hardening into shards of glass.
Stiles couldn’t help feeling a little smug when her arms crossed over her chest in a clearly defensive way. Good.
He blinked at her, going for startled, and let the smile slide off his face, expression hardening slightly. “Well, I was going to be polite since my parents taught me manners, but clearly yours didn’t so, I’m Stiles, who the fuck are you?”
Stiles could feel the guy he was hugging tense further, breathing coming probably a bit faster than was normal, and his heart thumping so hard Stiles could actually feel it with how he was holding him. He just squeezed once in comfort, trying to convey that everything was okay without saying so, and kept his eyes on the woman.
More people were looking now, mostly the regulars, and Stiles was pissed that it took him literally having to make a huge scene about everything for them to feel like this warranted their attention. Why was it so hard to believe men could be abused, too? They could get groomed and mistreated from childhood the same way women could.
And this woman had clearly been shaping Derek the way she wanted him, which was why she was so pissed he was walking away from her.
“Really Derek?” the woman asked instead of answering him, eyes skirting to the man. “This is what you’re trying now? You really think I’m going to fall for this?” She turned back to Stiles, giving him an annoyed once-over. “Leave before I make you.”
Stiles was really sad when Derek tensed even further, like he thought that would actually work. It was closely followed by anger when he realized the reason Derek thought it would work was because it would have on him.
“Yeah, I don’t think so.” Stiles offered her a condescending smile. “I had plans with Derek today, and unless you have an appointment, you can fuck right off.”
“Stiles, should I call the manager?”
He turned to smile brightly at one of the employees. The cashier was new, but given he came by literally every day when he wasn’t out of State, he knew all of the other employees, and all of the shift leads.
Mason Hewitt was standing beside his co-worker, looking between them, clearly concerned. All of his mistrust was directed at the woman, since it was clear the guy with Stiles wasn’t the problem.
“Nah, it’s fine. I think she was getting ready to head out,” he insisted, turning back to the woman and closing off his features once more, going for extra threatening. “Weren’t you?”
Clearly she wasn’t used to people paying attention to her when she was abusing Derek, because she glanced around and saw most of the people watching them now. Her arms were still crossed defensively, and Stiles found some sick sort of satisfaction when her shoulders rose slightly, like she was trying to retreat into herself the same way Derek had been. It was more subtle, and this was evidently a very foreign experience for her, but she seemed smart enough to see a lost cause when it stared her in the face.
Turning back to the pair of them, expression hard and jaw clenching, she forced a smile that showed way too many teeth, and said, “I’ll see you back at the apartment, Derek.”
“No, you won’t.” It was said relatively quietly, but Stiles was glad to hear him say it because it showed he was trying to break out of whatever knee-jerk reaction he usually had around this woman. Following every order, doing her every bidding. Not anymore, and while it was clear he had a long way to go, he was moving forward, and that was the important thing.
The woman’s jaw worked and it looked like she wanted to smack him for his words—huge red flag, good fucking Lord!—but she knew she couldn’t cause more of a scene or there would be trouble.
Stiles watched the woman while she uncrossed her arms and strode towards the exit, pulling the door open much more forcefully than was necessary before leaving. She turned to watch them while walking past the window, and shot Stiles a filthy look before disappearing past the coffee shop.
“Are you okay?” he asked immediately, releasing the guy he’d been hanging all over and taking a step back out of his personal space. “Sorry about jumping on you like that, I thought it’d make it more believable I knew you.”
Derek turned to look at him, and he seemed a little... shocked. Like he wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. Like he honestly hadn’t expected to get away from crazy lady.
“Are you okay?” Stiles asked again, a little concerned. “Why don’t we sit down? Hey, can you make this guy’s original order for me?” Stiles started to pull his wallet out, but Mason waved his money away.
“I’ll get you a refill on yours too, don’t worry about it.”
“Thanks buddy.” Stiles smiled, then turned back to Derek and patted him on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s go sit down for a bit.”
It took a second, but the guy finally moved, allowing Stiles to lead the way to the table he’d previously been occupying, his empty cup still sitting there. Stiles took his seat again, moving the cup aside, and waited while Derek sat down, still seeming a little out of sorts.
“We’re just gonna sit for a minute, okay? I figure you need a second to catch your breath. Did you want to call someone? Do you need to get someone to come down and pick you up or anything?”
“No,” Derek finally said. “No, it’s fine.”
“Okay.” Stiles wasn’t going to push him, he just wanted to make sure he was okay.
Mason wandered over after about a minute with a new coffee for Stiles and a latte for Derek. It must’ve been what he’d originally ordered before the crazy lady had insisted he wanted hot chocolate, so Stiles was glad the cashier had remembered.
“Thanks Mason. I’ll owe you.”
“You’re single-handedly keeping us in business with Jackson, you owe us nothing,” he insisted with a small smile before heading back for the counter. He’d originally been in the back doing something, so Stiles hoped he hadn’t derailed his day too badly.
Stiles turned to his new friend and offered him a huge smile. “No problem. I mean, Mason’s the one you should be thanking for the drink, since I didn’t pay for it in this case, but—”
“No,” the guy interrupted. “For what you did. For before.”
Oh, duh. Stiles was an idiot. “There’s nothing to thank me for. I just did what anyone else would’ve done.”
“Nobody else ever has,” Derek admitted quietly.
Stiles pressed his lips together, sighing and raking a hand through his hair. He knew that was true, because he’d been thinking the same thing. People saw a man being abused by a woman and didn’t bat an eye. ‘Oh, but he’s a man, he can get out of that abusive relationship whenever he wants.’
Life didn’t work that way. Stiles had no idea what kind of history this guy had with that crazy woman, but clearly it was deep-rooted and she was extremely manipulative. It was evident he could take care of himself, what with those muscles, but sometimes there were just people that could control you so completely that no matter how strong a person was, it was never strong enough.
Being physically stronger than someone who’d mentally broken you meant very little in the grand scheme of things.
“I’m sorry it took me so long,” Stiles admitted. “I wanted to say something right away, but I wasn’t entirely sure if I would be overstepping. I wasn’t going to let you leave without saying something though, and I’m glad you looked up when you did.”
“Didn’t think anyone would care. They usually take one look at me and figure I can take care of myself.”
“Everyone’s got a weakness,” Stiles insisted, picking up his drink and taking a sip.
He burned his tongue. He was literally never gonna learn.
“How come you didn’t think that?”
“Hm?” Stiles asked, setting his drink back down and trying not to wince.
“When I looked over at you, you immediately asked if I needed help.” His eyes inspected every inch of Stiles’ face. “Relatable?”
Stiles shook his head. “Work. You looked uncomfortable and curled in on yourself when you walked in, and she was saying some pretty shitty things to you. I could tell there was something going on. I didn’t exactly mean to jump on you, I just wanted to make sure I could keep some space between the two of you.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
Stiles grinned. “No problem. Hey, I’m Stiles, by the way.” He held one hand out. Derek smiled slightly, then reached out to take it, shaking it once.
“Nice to meet you, Derek. Come here often?”
“Actually, first time.” Derek was holding his coffee between both hands, staring down into it like it was comforting him. “I recently moved to the area. Haven’t had much time to look around yet.”
Stiles had heard the woman talking about the apartment and Derek saying he’d moved out, so it had evidently been recent. It sucked that she’d found him already though, he hoped that she didn’t actually know where he lived and had just bumped into him on the street.
“You live close-by?”
“Nah,” Stiles waved one hand and then leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. “My buddy works at the fire station down the road, and my office is a few blocks up from that. I come here every day though, unless I’m out of town. Live about twenty minutes away from here.”
“Must have good coffee if you come here every day,” Derek offered with a small smile. Stiles was glad he seemed to be calming down. He’d looked so broken and defeated when he’d walked in, and then so shocked and uncertain when the crazy lady had left. To have him sitting there smiling and calming down was really rewarding, and he was glad.
“Yeah, it’s good. I like it, anyway.” Stiles grinned. “You like coffee?”
“Sometimes,” Derek admitted, and finally took a sip of his drink. He made a pleased noise before setting it back down. “This coffee’s pretty good.”
“Coffee is my life’s blood. Though I wouldn’t say no to a good Belgian milk hot chocolate, or a frozen vanilla drink. Those are just,” Stiles kissed his fingers, and grinned at the small smile on Derek’s face.
He didn’t know if Derek honestly preferred hot chocolate over coffee, but even if he did, there was absolutely nothing childish about that, and he hated that crazy lady might make him feel like others would think he was a big kid if he liked hot chocolate.
Derek didn’t say anything else for a long while, the two of them sitting in comfortable silence and sipping at their drinks. Stiles was itching to ask questions, because he was a curious person by nature, and because of his job, but he forced himself not to. It was obvious Derek was still trying to get his thoughts back in order and Stiles didn’t want to be a dick about it.
He couldn’t even imagine what Derek had been through for him to react so badly to that lady.
When Derek looked like he was almost finished his drink, and seemed to be doing much better in the mental state area, Stiles had just opened his mouth to ask him a question when the man’s phone rang. Derek pulled it out of his pocket and flinched. Stiles immediately bristled, thinking it was crazy lady.
“Is it her?”
“No,” Derek said, putting his phone back. “It’s my sister.”
“Don’t want to answer it?” Stiles asked, relaxing slightly.
The way Derek paused had him tensing again. What the fuck had this woman done to him to make him afraid to answer his own phone in someone else’s company?
“You can answer it,” Stiles insisted. “If you want to. If you don’t, that’s fine too.”
Derek hesitated, then winced and pulled his phone back out, seeming to catch the call right before it hit voicemail.
Stiles didn’t hear the conversation on the other end, just the buzzing of a voice. He stood up to throw their trash away, since Derek was done his drink, and he wanted to give him a bit of privacy. When everything was in the garbage, he headed back to the counter where the new cashier was.
“Hi. Can I get two of the chocolate chip cookies please? Separate bags.”
“Sure.” She rang him through, but he could tell she looked uncomfortable. Evidently Mason had told her Stiles was a regular and everyone loved him and to not piss him off. She hadn’t pissed him off, exactly. He’d just been annoyed she hadn’t just started on Derek’s drink order.
Then again, she looked like she was fresh out of high school, so she probably honestly hadn’t known how to react to what was happening in front of her. He figured she deserved a bit of slack.
Paying and taking the offered bags, Stiles turned to see if Derek was still on the phone. He seemed to be, so he hung back just checking out all the food in the display case as if he didn’t have the place’s menu memorized after all these years.
He kept glancing back over at Derek to see when he was done with his conversation, and as soon as the phone left his ear, he wandered back over, sitting down across from him and holding out one of the cookies.
“I hope you like chocolate chip. This place makes the best cookies. I swear, they put crack in them or something.”
Derek paused, a little startled, then reached out after replacing his phone for the cookie, giving Stiles a nod of thanks. Stiles just beamed at him and reached into his own bag to tear off a piece of his cookie, stuffing it into his mouth.
“Everything okay with your sister?”
“Yeah. She was just checking in. I was living with her for four months before getting my place here, so she’s just being an older sister.”
“That must be nice, having someone who cares.” Stiles smiled.
“It is.” Derek’s smile was fond while he stared into the bag, but he didn’t make any move to eat his cookie. Stiles hoped he hadn’t bought him something he was allergic to. “She’s coming by to pick me up.”
“Did you want me to stick around until she gets here, or would you rather I go?” Stiles asked. It wasn’t that he was trying to make Derek feel like a child, it was more that he could tell he was still a bit out of sorts. Definitely better than he had been, but seeing crazy lady had clearly knocked him off-kilter.
Besides, Stiles wasn’t entirely convinced crazy lady wasn’t lurking in an alley or something, so he’d really rather stick around.
“I don’t want to trouble you.”
“It’s no problem,” Stiles insisted, tearing another piece of his cookie off and stuffing it into his mouth. “I’ve got nowhere to be but on my couch with Netflix. I’m fine sticking around until she comes to get you.”
Derek finally reached into his bag for his cookie, pulling it out just past the waxy paper and taking a bite out of it. He made a pleased sound, similar to the one he’d made when he’d sipped his coffee, and Stiles smiled.
He was kind of adorable, and he really hoped he was going to be okay.
They stayed at the table in comfortable silence, eating their cookies, all the way up until a bombshell brunette entered the place and made a beeline for them. She didn’t even seem to notice Stiles, her face furious and panicked all at once. She somehow wrenched Derek out of his chair and crushed him into a hug before wrapping a protective arm around his shoulders and leading him to the door.
Before they exited, Derek glanced over his shoulder and offered Stiles a nod of thanks. Stiles just grinned back at him, waved one hand, and watched them walk out. It was obvious this girl was his sister, because he melted into her side like she was the only thing holding him together, and when they passed by the window, Stiles saw him finally relax.
He was glad he’d made it clear it was okay to answer his phone. He didn’t know anything about Derek, but he hoped he’d be okay.
where tf are you??
your black as your heart coffee is gonna get cold
[NOT my Type Get Over It]
as in by a robber
or by work?
did the early shift fill your bed with shaving cream again?
because if they did
take a picture this time
[NOT my Type Get Over It]
kill you soon
Stiles grinned, knowing that meant he was on his way now. Wouldn’t take him long, given he was right down the street, so Stiles just shoved his phone back into his pocket and tugged his own drink closer. He’d managed to resist making the foolish mistake of sipping it while it was still too hot and was now pleased with how good it tasted when it wasn’t burning his tongue.
He’d just set it back down when the door opened, and a shadow appeared in front of him, taking the seat across from him. Jackson’s name was on his lips as he rose his gaze from his drink, but the word stuck in his throat, because it wasn’t Jackson.
“I’m really sorry, can you be my boyfriend?” Derek asked breathlessly, panic on his face and looking seconds away from losing his shit.
Stiles didn’t even have the chance to reply, because the second he saw crazy lady walk into the coffee shop, he just immediately leaned over the table and planted a kiss right on Derek’s lips. The other man seemed startled, but he recovered quickly and brought one hand up to press against Stiles’ cheek.
He made sure to keep the kiss short, and relatively chaste, because this was all for show and he didn’t want to make Derek more uncomfortable than he already was.
“Hey,” he said with a smile, like he’d been waiting for him all day. “Took you long enough, your coffee’s probably cold.”
“Thanks.” Derek wrapped his hands around it just as crazy lady appeared beside their table, the man tensing at her approach.
Stiles turned to her, his expression hardening, as if he hadn’t realized who she was until this very moment. “Can I help you?” he asked coldly.
“I don’t know what game you’re playing at, but it’s getting tiresome,” she snapped at him. “Stay out of my business.”
“Maybe you should stay out of mine. There a reason you’re basically stalking my boyfriend?”
The woman let out a loud bark of laughter, a few people turning to glance over, but returning to whatever they were doing relatively quickly. He saw Isaac Lahey shifting by the counter, clearly knowing something was wrong with one of his favourite customers, but he didn’t do anything yet. Stiles was clearly able to fend for himself, but Isaac was lovably protective sometimes.
Hopefully Jackson wouldn’t show up before bitch lady left, or she’d be in real trouble. He did not take kindly to anyone being mean to Stiles, even though he pretended like it didn’t bother him.
It bothered him. Stiles knew it did, if the broken noses and missing teeth of various bullies from their childhood were anything to go by.
“Cute,” the woman said, smile malicious. “But he’s not your boyfriend. He’s mine.”
“Pretty sure he’s not, considering I’ve met his sister and I’m positive she’d have mentioned if the guy I’ve been with for three months was with someone else.”
Stiles was very glad he had enough little tidbits about Derek to put that sentence together, because the woman’s smugness slowly melted off her face. Her eyes shot to Derek, who was staring down into his coffee, both hands still around it.
It took him only a second to clue in to what her furious look was about, and Stiles severely hoped he was right when he spoke next.
“What, you didn’t believe him when he told you he was gay?”
Derek’s head snapping up was missed by the woman only because she’d whipped around to stare at Stiles, practically baring her teeth like an animal.
“Derek doesn’t know what he is, because he—”
“I’m sorry, he what?” Stiles interrupted, eyebrows slowly rising. “Did you literally just say he doesn’t know what he is? Because I’m pretty sure he knows himself much better than you do. You’re ruining the atmosphere with your homophobic bullshit, can you kindly just—” Stiles shooed her away with both hands.
It looked like she was going to argue with him, but Jackson showed up at that moment and Stiles knew he was immediately in protective mode given some strange, angry woman was hovering over him.
Also, Stiles may have told him about Derek, and given how hunched over the guy was, Jackson wasn’t an idiot. He knew what was going on.
He was beside the table in the blink of an eye, grabbing at the woman’s arm and pulling her back, baring his teeth at her similarly to how she’d done to Stiles.
“I’m sorry, is there a reason you’re bothering my friends?”
The woman wrenched her arm free, and Stiles was positive she was going to lose it on them, but she seemed to recognize, just like last time, that there was an audience and they were actually paying attention. Her eyes shifted back to Stiles, looking murderous, and she seemed to recognize now wasn’t a good time for this kind of thing.
“I’ll see you later,” she said to Derek, who still didn’t look up.
“No, you won’t Kate,” he informed her softly.
Stiles was glad he finally had a name. Kate. He didn’t think it was his place, but maybe he could convince Derek to get a restraining order. Clearly she was bad news, and unable to take no for an answer.
With one last angry glare at Stiles, she turned on her heel, heading for the door. Stiles could’ve kissed Jackson with his next words, because she hadn’t left the coffee shop before he pulled a chair over to join them and spoke.
“Hey Derek, thanks for keeping an eye on Stiles, you know how dumb he gets without supervision.”
Kate’s head snapped back to look at them while she pushed through the door, and Stiles was fairly certain she’d officially bought the whole boyfriends thing, because how else would Jackson know Derek’s name?
Well, because Stiles had told him what it was, but Kate didn’t know that. And Jackson was smart. He’d passed the Bar, after all, so it was easy for him to clue in that this guy was the same one Stiles had said was being harassed by some crazy lady.
Derek seemed startled at being called by his name, but managed to hide it fairly well. At least, Stiles was pretty sure Kate hadn’t noticed as she stormed out of the place.
Stiles turned to ask Jackson how work was while watching Kate through the window to make sure she was well and truly gone. Once she was out of sight, he cut himself off, and turned to Derek.
“Sorry I just—went for it like that. You said you needed a boyfriend, and I panicked and—”
“It’s okay,” Derek said, cutting him off and offering a small smile. “You—it was perfect.” He froze, then said, “What you did, I mean. Not the kiss. Not that the kiss wasn’t perfect!”
“Wow,” Jackson said, snorting and leaning back in his seat, arms crossed over his chest and muscles bulging. “Congratulations, Stilinski. You found someone who word vomits the same way you do.”
“Shut up, go buy yourself a coffee.” Stiles shoved at Jackson’s shoulder.
“Sorry,” Derek blurted out, and shoved the cup at Jackson. “This was yours. I didn’t mean to—I haven’t had any of it.”
Jackson waved one hand at him. “It’s contaminated anyway, Stiles already touched it.” He let out a sigh and stretched before getting back to his feet, kicking the chair back around where he’d gotten it. “I’ll just head home, coffee’s free there. See you later?”
“Yup.” Stiles held one hand up in farewell. “Sorry.”
“Shut up, Stiles.” That was Jackson speak for, “Take care of him, I’m good.”
Stiles loved him. Jackson really was the best of friends, and he still didn’t know how he’d been lucky enough to have the asshole in his life.
Derek looked like he wanted to protest Jackson’s departure, but he was already gone before he could say anything. That seemed to make him unhappy, because he turned back to Stiles looking like a kicked puppy.
Dammit, he was cute.
“For what? I basically see him every day, it’s all good.”
Derek looked down into his drink, playing with the edge of the paper cup. “Boyfriend?”
“Kind of my brother.” Stiles frowned, knowing that would be confusing but not wanting to explain right then. “Long story.”
“Oh.” Derek picked up the coffee and took a sip. He made a face and Stiles laughed, nudging him lightly under the table.
“Yeah, Jackson likes his coffee black as his soul. Do you need some sugar or something?”
“I don’t know if sugar can save this,” he admitted, and before he could say anything else, Stiles took the drink from his hand and replaced it with his own. Derek opened his mouth to protest, but Stiles just grinned.
“Don’t worry about it. Coffee is coffee to me, I can drown it in sugar. Mine’s a mocha made with coconut milk. As long as you’re cool with coconut milk, it’s all yours.” He stood to go and get some sugar and milk, because he loved coffee, but not the battery acid way Jackson did.
Standing at the station, he poured an obscene amount of sugar into it, and then took a few sips to get enough room for milk since there wasn’t usually any space given Jackson didn’t use any. He was tempted to ask Isaac for some coconut milk or almond milk, but figured a little bit wasn’t going to hurt him and just used what was available at the station before stirring it and heading back for the table.
When he sat down, Derek still looked like he didn’t know what to do with himself, or the drink. Stiles hoped it wasn’t because he was uncomfortable with him. In retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have kissed him like that, but it was kind of the first thing he’d thought of when Derek had asked him to be his boyfriend.
And Christ, he wished. Derek was a very attractive man, and while they hadn’t exactly had hours and hours of conversation, he seemed like a really nice guy. Considering Stiles had nowhere to be, and Derek obviously wasn’t in any hurry to leave, now seemed like a good time to get to know him.
If Derek wanted, obviously. Stiles knew he was an acquired taste, he wouldn’t wish being stuck with him on anyone but his dad and Jackson. They were immune to his unique level of annoying.
“I know you said it was okay, but I am sorry about just kissing you like that,” Stiles said, still stirring his drink.
“It’s not a problem,” Derek insisted again. “Thank you, actually. For going so far to try and prove her wrong. You didn’t have to.”
Stiles shrugged. “It wasn’t a hardship.”
“Still. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable doing something like that.”
“Bisexual,” Stiles informed him, taking a sip of his drink. It wasn’t as good as his mocha would’ve been, but coffee was coffee. Besides, now that he’d taken a few sips, Derek looked like he was enjoying it, so Stiles considered it a win.
“Oh.” That was it. That was all Derek said.
Stiles literally wanted to crush him to death in a hug, he was so fucking adorable.
“How did you know?”
“Know what?” Stiles asked, taking another sip of his drink before forcing himself to set it down. He was going to drink it all in one shot and then have to pee in like, five minutes.
“About the conversation we had. Kate and I. When I ended things.”
Stiles stared at him for a long time, wracking his brain for what the heck Derek was talking about before he remembered what he’d said to Kate. It had been a total shot in the dark, he’d had absolutely no guarantee he was right, but apparently he’d hit the nail on the head.
No wonder he was so good at his job.
Maybe this was why people didn’t like him, he was too observant.
“I didn’t know if I was right, to be honest,” Stiles admitted, crossing his arms on the table and leaning forward slightly. “It was just the way she was acting with you. I could tell it was more than being upset about losing someone she thought she could control. Her pride was wounded, and that usually only happens to women like that if they’re basically told they’re not good enough.” He shrugged. “It was a lucky guess.”
“It was a good guess,” Derek admitted.
Stiles waited, because it looked like he wanted to continue, but he didn’t. He just sat there, looking a little awkward. Stiles allowed it for a few seconds, then decided he didn’t want Derek to feel like he wasn’t allowed to talk about things. Kate clearly controlled virtually every aspect of his life, if the way Derek acted was anything to go by. It was going to be hard and take a lot of time for him to stop acting like he needed permission to do basically anything.
“You want to talk about it?” Stiles prompted. “It’s cool if you don’t. But you can if you want to.”
“I don’t want to trouble you.”
Stiles smiled. “You’re not troubling me. If you’re comfortable talking to me about it, and you need to talk to someone, I am all ears. Honestly, I’d love to get to know you better, especially since you have such impeccable taste in coffee shops.” He raised one hand to motion around them absently. “So for real, if you want to talk about it, I’m all ears.”
For a moment, Derek hesitated, like he was trying to figure out if Stiles was being honest or if he was just pretending. It was easy for him to determine Stiles was being honest, because he was. He genuinely wanted to get to know Derek, and he wanted him to feel comfortable talking about anything he wanted.
This conversation was a little heavy for a second meeting, but if Derek needed to get it off his chest, Stiles was more than happy to listen.
“I didn’t know,” Derek admitted, fingers of his left hand picking at the sleeve of the drink he was holding. It was a common nervous habit for people when talking about things they weren’t fully comfortable with, but Stiles wasn’t going to stop him unless he could tell they were moving into a realm Derek didn’t want to be in.
“That you liked guys?” Stiles offered.
“Yeah. I’ve been with Kate since I was sixteen. She was a senior when I was a sophomore.”
Stiles didn’t know what to say to that because, based on Derek’s general appearance, he had to be close to thirty, so that was a long time to be with someone so abusive. And it was basically just as Stiles had thought when they’d first met. Kate had been grooming him for a long time, so she obviously wasn’t happy to be losing him.
“I’ve never really had the chance to be around other people. I never enjoyed being with Kate, but when I was younger, she was the popular cheerleader and I was a nobody.”
“It felt nice being noticed,” Stiles deduced.
“Yeah.” Derek still seemed uncomfortable, but not so much that he didn’t want to talk about this. More like he wasn’t sure how to talk about it, and where the line was.
Stiles literally had no boundaries, so Derek was totally fine.
“When we got together, people kept talking about how lucky I was, how jealous they were, that I had to hold onto it as tightly as I could. I honestly—didn’t really get the appeal. I wasn’t ever into her like that, but after the first year, it was almost like a routine for me. I kind of just... stayed with her because I didn’t know any different.”
“Yeah, I can understand that,” Stiles admitted. It sounded like Derek was worried Stiles would think he was weird for staying with someone so awful but he’d seen a lot of fucked up shit in his life, so this whole thing here made total sense to him. “You stayed because you thought it was what you were supposed to want, because everyone else kept telling you it should be.”
Derek nodded, taking a sip of his drink and avoiding Stiles’ eye.
“You know, you should be proud of yourself,” Stiles offered when Derek was quiet for a few minutes.
That earned him a scoff and a look. “For what?”
“Getting out. Do you realize how amazing that is? You’ve been with her since you were sixteen. I don’t know how old you are right now, but that’s still a long time. She was abusive and manipulative and clearly horrible. I know the instinct for people who’ve never gone through it is, ‘well you can just leave,’ but it’s not that easy. It’s never that easy. But you did it. You told her you didn’t want to be with her, you admitted how you felt, and you left. That takes a lot of courage and fortitude, so give yourself a bit of credit.”
Derek actually managed a small smile then, nodding once, like he was acknowledging Stiles’ praise. It might seem logical to anyone looking in, but that was because it was easier to look at someone else’s suffering and say, “Well I would never let that happen to me.” That wasn’t true, it was just a hard pill to swallow.
“You said last time we met that you were living on your sister’s couch for four months. How long have you been out on your own?”
“Just over eight,” Derek admitted. “I was hiding out at my friend’s place for two and a half months before my sister found out and told me to stop being an idiot and to just stay with her. She has a spare room and my friend didn’t, but I didn’t know how to talk to her about it.”
“Well she seems great,” Stiles said. “And she obviously cares about you a lot.”
“Yeah, Laura’s amazing.” He paused then. “Sorry she didn’t introduce herself.”
“Eh.” Stiles waved one hand absently. “All good. She had bigger things to worry about. I’m just glad you have her and your friend looking out for you. And eight months free seems like an amazing achievement, so congratulations.”
“Thanks.” Derek didn’t seem to know how to respond to that, but Stiles was just glad he wasn’t still stuck in a terrible place.
“So.” Stiles clapped his hands together. “Not to change the topic or anything, but you escaped from the she-bitch, and I’d really rather lift your spirits than plummet them by constantly talking about her, so we’re gonna move on. First order of business, you mentioned last week when I saw you that you’re new to the area. Have you explored any of the restaurants?”
“Not really. Kate found me pretty fast after I bought my place so I tend to stay inside more often than not.”
That wouldn’t do at all, this area had amazing restaurants. There was a little place about two blocks away that served the best Indian food Stiles had ever had in his life. And the fish tacos at the restaurant beside his workplace were literally to die for. And there was that dessert shop about five blocks away that Stiles wanted to live in. For real, it was delicious.
“Well, like I said, I work in the area and I know basically all the best places to eat around here. Did you want to grab a bite to eat and chat a little bit? I meant it when I said I wanted to get to know you. But,” he held up both hands, “no pressure. This is a legitimate invitation to meet someone new and have a relaxing evening just chatting. If you’re not feeling that, totally fine. No hard feelings.”
“Thank you,” Derek said, sounding genuinely sincere. “I really appreciate that. And if you’re sure it’s not any trouble, I wouldn’t mind exploring the area a little bit.”
Stiles drummed on the table briefly with both hands before getting to his feet, grinning widely. “Let’s go for a walk then. I can show you all the cool places to grab food, and the really cheap market close to Jackson’s work, and literally the best gym in the city. It’s open twenty-four hours so you can go whenever you want, which might be beneficial for you if you’re trying to not have a predictable schedule.” Stiles grabbed their trash and went to throw it out, Derek standing and following. “Of course, I’d introduce you to the best ever coffee shop in the area, but you found that all on your own.” He turned to wink at him while heading for the door, raising one hand in farewell while looking over at the counter. “Later Isaac.”
He pushed through the door, holding it briefly for Derek before letting it go, beginning to head down the street to show Derek all the fun things in the area. He figured he’d introduce him to the best restaurants, and let him decide which one to go to. Stiles would eat pretty much anything, so he didn’t mind either way. Besides, independence still seemed a little surreal to Derek, and Stiles wanted him to feel comfortable being himself without someone breathing down his neck.
Derek seemed like a great guy, so he was looking forward to getting to know him better.
Stiles very much enjoyed his chance encounters with Derek whenever he was lucky enough to bump into him. He’d asked if they could exchange numbers while they’d been wandering around the area that second meeting, and had seen how tense that made Derek, so he’d immediately rescinded the request. He’d promised he was just asking because he wanted to hang out with him more, but he understood Derek still needed some space to himself. He didn’t begrudge him that, and he still managed to run into him more often than not at the coffee shop anyway.
Their first night out together had been extremely fun, and he’d learned a lot about Derek as a person.
He was twenty-nine years old, born in December, had two sisters, a very annoying uncle who was like a father to him, and had only recently been able to afford a down payment on the apartment he’d bought after moving out of the one he’d shared with Kate.
Apparently he was a high school teacher, and had been teaching at the same school for almost six years. Stiles didn’t envy him that job, because as someone who was once a high school student, he honestly pitied the teachers, they did not get paid enough for the shit they dealt with.
Derek liked it a lot though, and Stiles felt like he turned into a bit of a different person when he was talking about ‘his kids.’ That was what he referred to his students as, and it was adorable. He really liked being able to help them and make a difference, and Stiles was so glad that he had something he was so passionate about in his life.
It was obvious Derek still had a lot to work through after years with Kate, but during one of their subsequent coffee visits—they didn’t formally make plans to meet up, since Derek tried not to have a set schedule, but they did bump into each other every now and then—he’d admitted that he’d been going to therapy for a few months.
Stiles was really glad to hear about it, because Derek clearly knew the bitch had done a number on him and he was working hard to put her in the past where she belonged.
Difficult to do when she was a fucking stalker. Stiles had seen her a few times since that first day. Sometimes he was with Derek, sometimes he wasn’t. He just hoped when he wasn’t there that Derek was telling her to fuck off. Probably not in so many words, but even though Stiles had jumped in to help him that first day, Derek had still been saying no to her. That was really important, and Stiles kept wanting to hug the guy and tell him how great he was doing.
He’d probably take that the wrong way and think Stiles was being condescending though, so he refrained.
Stiles had just finished eating a brownie—fuck you, Jackson, I am not getting fat!—and was licking chocolate off his fingers when the door opened. He barely had time to look up before he felt a hand at his shoulder and tilted his head up in time to accept the kiss Derek dropped on his lips.
“Hey, sorry I kept you waiting. I was grading papers and lost track of time.”
Derek had done this twice before as a greeting, and both times, it was because Kate was nearby. If he walked in and came over to Stiles, asking if he could sit down, Stiles knew he was having a good day and the bitch was nowhere to be seen. If he walked in and kissed him as a greeting, chaste as it was, it meant there was a Kate somewhere.
And sure enough, not even ten seconds later, Derek still in the process of sitting down across from him, the door opened and in walked Kate.
The thing Stiles hated was that Kate was a phenomenally attractive woman. He hated it so much because someone so shitty should not look that good, but she did. She looked amazing, and honestly, he could see her and Derek being the most attractive couple ever. They would’ve had gorgeous babies together.
You know, if Kate wasn’t a manipulative, abusive bitch who was ruining Derek’s life.
“Don’t you have anything better to do than stalk my boyfriend?” Stiles asked coldly. He really hoped he didn’t have chocolate on his face, because it would probably detract from the look of doom he was trying to force onto her.
“Don’t you have anything better to do than hang out in a coffee shop all the time?” she sneered back. “Do you attend funerals every day, or are you just that much of a loser that you chauffeur people around in a car too expensive for you?”
“Why are you assuming being a chauffeur is an easy job?” Stiles asked, annoyance spiking. He hated people who talked down to others, but he especially hated people who talked down on someone’s job. Being a chauffeur was hard! They had to know routes, and literally predict traffic, all while being fast, efficient and generally friendly. Having someone like Kate, who looked like she’d never lifted a finger her entire life, implying a chauffeur’s job was beneath her really rubbed him the wrong way.
People with money didn’t understand that there was a reason nobody wanted certain jobs. It wasn’t because they sucked, it was because they were hard. Stiles one-hundred percent could not be trusted to work in the fast food industry. People had to know about food safety and be conscious of allergies, and make sure certain things didn’t touch other things and just—no. He couldn’t even handle his own meals, let alone someone else’s.
Seriously, fuck people like Kate.
“Are you done playing this little game?” Kate sneered at him, looking particularly menacing. “When are you going to give it up?”
“When are you?” Stiles asked. “You realize how pathetic this is, right? You’re, what? Thirty? Thirty-one? Stalking some guy who’s told you repeatedly he wants nothing to do with you. Why don’t you just set up a dating profile and go fishing for a new beau. This one is taken.” He motioned Derek. “Now get out of here before things get serious.”
Kate looked like she wanted to take it further, but as usual, they were beginning to attract an audience, and even she wasn’t stupid enough to cause a scene in public. It was obvious this entire thing was a new experience for her, because she probably got away with talking down to Derek and being abusive without anyone batting an eye.
But in this coffee shop? A lot of the people here were regulars. Most of them knew Stiles, at least in passing. And virtually everyone had noticed the angry blonde constantly coming in to bother Derek. This was not a place she could get away with being a bitch.
Kate offered him another one of her fake, menacing smiles, and leaned down closer to him, lowering her voice.
“I’ll be seeing you again really soon. Stiles, right?”
He leaned into her, wanting to show her he wasn’t someone she could intimidate, and offered his own vicious smile in return. “Can’t wait.”
He heard Derek let out a sharp exhale across from him, but didn’t pay him any attention. He just kept eye contact with Kate while she straightened, smiled sarcastically at him, then turned and stormed out of the small café. He felt bad for the people closest to the door because she’d really slammed open that door.
“Thank you,” Derek said quietly, “but you need to be careful. Kate is...” He winced, like he didn’t know what to say. “Her family has a lot of money. I shouldn’t even have involved you, this is going to cause problems for you. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” Stiles informed him. “And I’m not worried, either. She can try whatever she wants with me, it’s not gonna work. She can’t scare me away, trust me.”
“I don’t want anything to happen to you because you’re trying to help me,” Derek said, and Stiles could tell he was suddenly regretting everything that had happened between them up to this point. “Her family tried to get me fired when I first broke it off with her, but the principal has known me for a long time and basically told them to get lost. They tried to go after her next. Went so far as to contact the school board and demand her resignation.”
“What the fuck?” Stiles asked, horrified. “What happened?”
“I told the principal I’d quit. I didn’t want to cause trouble. She told me she’d never forgive me if I did, so I stuck it out while she was investigated by the school board. They ruled in her favour, but it was a close call.”
“Seriously, what a bitch.”
“Maybe I should stop coming here,” Derek said, and it looked like he hated speaking those words. “I shouldn’t have gotten you involved, I shouldn’t have asked you to pretend to be my boyfriend, this is just going to cause trouble for you.”
“Hey,” Stiles insisted, leaning forward. “No. You want to keep coming here, you keep coming here. You want me as your fake boyfriend, I will be your fake boyfriend. If you stop doing things you want to do, you’re still letting her control you, and I don’t want that for you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I don’t want to trouble you.”
“You’re not,” Stiles promised. “I promise. I’m here as long as you need me. And you’d be missing out on amazing coffee, so you need to prioritize here.” He offered Derek a small smile. “But no, for real. It’s okay. And for the record, I am really glad you got out of that relationship, she is definitely not worth your time. You’re an amazing dude, you deserve someone as amazing as you are.”
Derek didn’t say anything to this, but Stiles could tell he was kind of happy to hear him say that. It was easy to say, because it was true!
Sure, Derek kind of had resting bitch face, and he was definitely a long way from being okay, but he cared about his students, and he was always really nice to anyone the two of them interacted with, whether it was cashiers here at the coffee shop, or the waiters at restaurants they’d gone to, or even that one homeless guy down the street. Derek had given him leftovers once when he and Stiles had gone to eat at a restaurant. Derek hadn’t finished his meal, and when they’d passed him on the way back towards the coffee shop, he’d stopped and handed it over.
It was good food, too. It wasn’t a burger from McDonalds, it had been steak or something, Stiles honestly couldn’t remember. But legitimately something people would want to keep and have again. And Derek had just handed it over like it was nothing.
Derek was an amazing human being, and Stiles really liked him.
“So do you go to funerals every day?”
Well, Stiles really had liked him. Until that.
“What?” he asked, pretending to pout. “Why does everyone think I go to funerals? Do I dress like I’m in mourning or something?”
“You’re always wearing a suit. It’s always black.”
“So that makes people think I’m a mortician or something?” Stiles sighed. “Everyone here thinks I’m a mortician, don’t they?”
“Probably,” Derek agreed with a small smile. “Are you a mortician?”
“Nah.” Stiles leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms and splaying his legs. “I work for the government. I’m basically always working, even when I’m not, so it kind of turned into habit to wear a suit. Now, I don’t know, I find them comfortable.”
“You wear a suit at home then?” Derek asked, amused.
“No.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “I wear sweats at home. You know, like a normal person.”
“I had to ask, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy to wear sweats at home. For all I know, you have another suit you wear to bed.”
“Well, to be fair, I have slept in a suit many times.” Not by choice, but that seemed implied, so he hoped Derek caught that. Sometimes Stiles was on the go twenty-four hours a day, so he had to grab some shut-eye when he could. If that meant sleeping awkwardly on a chair with his head in his hands in a suit, he’d do it. Sleep was a treasure when he was working something big.
“I believe it,” Derek teased.
“Fuck you,” Stiles insisted, throwing the remnants of the bag his brownie had been in at Derek. That just made him laugh and Stiles grinned.
He liked seeing Derek happy. He deserved to be happy after all the shit he’d been through.
“Good brownie, by the way?” Derek asked after he’d finally stopped laughing. Like an asshole.
An adorable asshole, but an asshole all the same!
“Yeah, it was delicious. You didn’t catch a taste?” Stiles asked with a saucy wink. He’d learned early on that doing ridiculous, over-flirty actions with Derek made him feel more comfortable. He had no idea why, but maybe it was just that Derek was so used to everything being regimented in his life that having someone as over-reactive as Stiles helped him realize he was allowed to act how he wanted.
“You ate it too fast, I missed out. Looks like you enjoyed it though, if the way you ate it is anything to go by.”
“What?” Stiles stared at him, then hastily grabbed for a napkin to wipe his mouth. It came back with some chocolate on it and he let out a dismayed groan. “Oh God, was that there the whole time I was mouthing off at her? The effectiveness of my scary face went down by at least thirty percent!”
“You have a scary face?” Derek asked, feigning shock, and Stiles made an offended noise.
“I’ll have you know, I have the scariest of faces! Nightmarish, even! You haven’t seen me look scary, I would terrify you.”
“I’m sure that’s how golden retrievers feel, too.”
Stiles sputtered incoherently for a few seconds, then threw his wadded up napkin at him before flipping him off.
“Fuck you. Rude. I am terrifying.”
Derek laughed, shaking his head while crossing his arms and sinking a bit more into the chair. He looked really relaxed, and calm, and just... so different from that first day. It hadn’t been that long, only about three weeks, but it was obvious being away from Kate and knowing he had a safe space in this coffee shop was doing wonders for him.
The therapy was probably helping too, but Stiles was a firm believer of coffee being the solution to all problems.
Even caffeine withdrawals brought on because of coffee. Worth it. Everything was worth it for coffee.
“For what?” he asked, which earned him a look.
“Being yourself. Helping me that first day. Making it feel less terrifying leaving my house every day. I might not go out as often as I’d like, and I definitely don’t feel comfortable when I have to head somewhere specific, like work, but it’s easier knowing this place is safe. Knowing I can get here from virtually anywhere in the area, and feel like I’m going to be okay once I walk through the door. Even if you’re not here, you kind of... made this a safe place for me. The guys at the cash are always conscious when she follows me in here. Just—thanks. For making me feel like I can escape from this one day.”
Stiles smiled, kicking Derek lightly under the table. “You’re doing great, man. I had nothing to do with it. It’s all you. Give credit where credit is due, you did the hardest part. You walked away.”
“Maybe, but you make it easier to stay away.” Derek made a face then. “She went to harass my sister at work the other day.”
“Laura?” Stiles asked. He’d heard about Derek’s sister only once since she’d shown up that first day, but she sounded badass.
“No, younger one. Cora.”
Stiles only managed not to laugh at the absurdity of having sisters named Laura and Cora because this was a serious conversation. But still, for real. Why would parents do that to their children? That was just mean.
Now he was waiting on Derek to tell him he had a brother named Eric or something.
“What happened?” Stiles asked.
“Cora dealt with it, but she works as a tour guide at the museum. Kate spent the whole time she was there talking over her and arguing. Then she tried to get her in trouble for not having given a good tour, but the other people defended her by insisting it was all Kate.”
“Jesus, what is her problem? Seriously, she is so messed up. I’m really sorry you’re going through this.”
Derek shrugged one shoulder, arms still crossed. “She’ll get bored of me. Eventually.”
Stiles heard the added ‘hopefully,’ even if Derek didn’t say it.
“Have you thought about maybe getting a restraining order?” Stiles asked hesitantly. He knew things like that could be touchy for some people, but if Kate was harassing Derek’s sisters at work, and had tried to get Derek fired for dumping her ass, she was literally dangerous and fucking crazy.
“Laura thinks I should. Cora insists that’ll prove she’s wearing me down. I’m kind of torn on it.”
“I don’t think you should worry about what kind of message it sends to her. If you get a restraining order, it doesn’t matter if she thinks she’s won or not, she can’t come near you, so it’s a moot point.”
“True,” Derek said, looking thoughtful. “I guess my pride wants me to stick this out to the end on my own.”
“There’s no harm in getting some extra help.” Stiles shrugged.
“I suppose not. Getting helped worked out pretty well for me last time.”
The smile he got then was so tooth-rottingly sweet, Stiles literally felt ten new cavities form. God, this guy! He was so fucking adorable, Stiles wanted to kiss his face all the time.
For real, not just because Derek was trying to escape a crazy lady.
Derek’s phone went off then, and he hesitated with his hand half off the table for a second before following through with the action. Stiles had always made it explicitly clear he was allowed to check his phone whenever he wanted, and while Derek seemed to still be getting used to it in general, at least he followed through in the end.
“Laura,” Derek said, looking down at his phone and typing one-handed.
“She’s just checking in.”
“She’s a good sister. I could be lying dead in a ditch for a week before Jackson even noticed I was gone.” Stiles snorted.
“I doubt it, he seems pretty protective.”
“He is, but he’s also an asshole,” Stiles argued with a laugh.
“He’s a firefighter, right?”
“Yeah. I hate it.”
Derek frowned, confused. “Why?”
“I just—worry. You know, if something goes wrong, if he goes into a building and doesn’t come out. I get anxiety over it. My dad too. He’s sheriff back home, and every day when he goes in to work, I worry about him.”
“I’m sure they worry about you too,” Derek argued.
“Oh, they absolutely worry about me.” Stiles laughed. “We’re just a giant family of anxiety and worry over each other, it’s great.”
“Sounds it,” Derek agreed with a small chuckle.
Stiles beamed at him, eyes shifting to the door when it opened, not so much because it had opened, but because the woman who’d just walked in was staring at them before she’d even fully walked into the coffee shop.
It took him only a second to recognize her, even though he’d only ever seen her briefly once.
“Hey,” she said to Derek, stopping beside their table. Her eyes shifted to Stiles and she offered a small smile. “You’re the fake boyfriend, right?”
“That’s my name. Fake boyfriend,” Stiles agreed with a grin.
She snorted at that and Derek winced.
“His name is Stiles.”
“I know his name is Stiles, you never shut up about him.” She rolled her eyes, pulling a chair over from the next table and sitting down before holding out her hand. “I’m Laura.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“You too. You just come from a funeral or something?”
Stiles really hoped the snort that escaped Derek hurt, because seriously, what an asshole.
“Must be genetic,” Stiles said, levelling Derek with a fake glare. “I’ll have you know, I look amazing in suits, which is why I live in them.”
“I never said I was complaining about the view,” Laura insisted, hands raised in surrender. “If I had to have a fake boyfriend, I’d love to have stumbled onto someone as attractive as you.”
“Laura,” Derek insisted, scowling at her in annoyance.
“I’m just saying—”
“Say less,” Derek shot back.
“Bitch,” Laura said.
“Only on Wednesdays.” She winked at him and Derek made a disgusted face.
Stiles was so glad to know he and Jackson really were siblings if this was how siblings interacted.
“Cora and I were gonna go uptown to grab pizza from that bomb place on Victoria, you wanna come?”
Seriously, siblings were hilarious. Name-calling one second, and going to dinner together the next.
“You wanna come?”
Stiles took a second to realize Laura was speaking to him, and he pointed at himself like an idiot. “Who, me?”
“No, the guy sitting behind you, he looks fun.” She rolled her eyes. “Yes, you. Wanna come have pizza? I can give you a ride home if you need one after dinner.”
He’d literally just opened his mouth to say fuck yes when his phone rang. The shrill sound of it as opposed to his usual jaunty tune meant it was his work phone.
That didn’t bode well.
“Hold that thought,” he said, pulling it out of his pocket and checking the display. He would’ve groaned if it wouldn’t look so unprofessional, but seeing who was calling definitely didn’t bode well. “Stilinski,” he said upon answering.
“You eaten yet?” his co-worker’s voice asked down the line.
“Grab something that’ll last the night. And coffee.”
He winced. “That bad?”
“When isn’t it? This job’s gonna kill me one day.”
“I wouldn’t let it.” Stiles checked his watch for the time, lamenting the loss of his evening, and probably weekend. He’d have to cancel on Jackson again. “I’ll see you in ten.”
“Don’t forget the coffee.”
“Will do.” He pulled the phone away from his ear and hung up, then looked over at Laura. “I was going to say I’d love to have pizza but, duty calls.”
“Work?” she asked sympathetically. “I know the feeling of never being off the clock. What do you do?”
“I work for the government,” he said, putting his phone away. “And the government is always calling for something or another.” He stood then, straightening his suit jacket and doing up the buttons to close it up. “Raincheck?”
“Absolutely,” Laura said with a smile.
He nodded to her, then looked over at Derek. “Have a good night.”
“Thanks. I hope work goes well.”
Stiles knew it wouldn’t, because it never did, but no sense in ruining his good mood, so he just wished him good night again and headed out of the coffee shop, waving goodbye to Mason on his way out.
If Danny wanted coffee, Stiles needed to buy the cheap stuff, because knowing them, they were going to need a lot of it.
When Stiles entered his favourite coffee shop just after four on a brisk Thursday afternoon, the smile on Derek’s face at the sight of him made his stomach do all kinds of flip flops. He still didn’t know Derek’s schedule, since he tended to try not to have one, but every time they ran into each other was a blessing, honestly.
He waved at him while heading for the counter, needing to get his delicious nectar of the Gods before heading over, and greeted the barista with a friendly smile before ordering. It was the new girl, so he didn’t know her well enough to be overly familiar with her yet, but he knew he’d get there in time.
Eventually, he always did. He literally knew everyone who worked there by name.
When his order was ready, he grabbed his drink and two cookies and headed over to the table Derek was sitting at with a stack of papers. He was obviously grading them, and Stiles kind of loved that Derek was doing something like this out in public instead of squirrelled away in his apartment like a recluse.
“Hey,” Derek said with an adorable smile. Seriously, Stiles wanted to kiss him. Like, for realsies kiss him. “Haven’t seen you in a long time.”
Normally, he’d tease someone by asking if they missed him, but given their relatively unique relationship, he didn’t want to make Derek feel weird or uncomfortable, so he saved the quip for someone like Jackson and said instead, “Yeah, I was out of town this past week. Just got back in last night around one, and headed to work at seven so I am tired.” He took a sip of his drink.
He burned his tongue. One day he would learn. Today was not that day.
“Work?” Derek asked.
“Mm.” Stiles nodded while licking his lips, setting his drink down and digging into the wax paper bag for a cookie. He held the other out to Derek, who took it with a nod of thanks. “It happens a lot. I have a messed up schedule. Jackson says I’m going to die alone because of it.” He paused. “Actually, he says I’m going to die alone because I’m all serious and adult-like at work, but a total child outside of work.”
“I did sense a bit of a shift when you left the other day,” Derek admitted, taking a bite of his gifted cookie. “But if given the choice between off-the-clock-Stiles or work-Stiles, I think I like off-the-clock-Stiles better.”
Stiles sputtered, feigning offense. “You think? Wow. Okay. I see how it is.”
Derek rolled his eyes, but didn’t try to argue because he evidently knew Stiles would win this one. Because he was a master at the sass, no one could ever beat him in sass-levels!
Not even his dad, no matter what the old man said!
“Where did you go?”
“Wisconsin,” Stiles said, licking melted chocolate off his thumb. “It was hot.”
“You wear a black suit twenty-four hours a day, I’m surprised you’re not always hot.”
“Excuse you?” Stiles raised both eyebrows and motioned himself with his free hand. “I am always hot. These pants make my butt look amazing!”
Derek snorted at that, letting out a small laugh before shaking his head. He’d just opened his mouth to say something else when his expression shuttered and he went tense.
Stiles didn’t bother turning around, because he knew what that reaction meant. He just shifted one leg under the table to press against one of Derek’s, reminding him he was there, and finished his cookie.
He’d just started to fold his wax paper bag into a small square when the she-bitch loomed over their table.
“Your chauffeur’s back, I see,” she sneered. “Wasn’t missing you the past few days.”
“Hard to miss you since you never seem to fuck off,” Stiles told her pleasantly, tone light and fun but expression hard and cold. “Are you still coming around here?”
“I’m not going to leave until you stop with this idiotic game nobody is buying, go away, and stop putting stupid ideas into Derek’s head.”
“Oh, I’m putting stupid ideas in Derek’s head, am I?” Stiles let the small square of wax paper land on the table and leaned back in his seat. “Please, enlighten me on these ‘stupid ideas’ I’m filling his head with.” He put air quotes around ‘stupid ideas’ before crossing his arms and splaying his legs. He made sure to keep contact with Derek under the table, but wanted to make it clear to Kate she did not worry him in the slightest.
“Derek isn’t gay,” she said, spitting the last word like a curse. “And he doesn’t want to live alone. He was perfectly happy living with me until you came in and ruined it all by sprouting out whatever bullshit you told him to get him to leave me.”
“Did you miss the part where he left you before we met?” Stiles asked, raising his eyebrows. “I didn’t need to put any ideas in his head at all, he was smart enough all on his own to get up and walk away from you. Speaking of walking away, I suggest you do that, because you’re not welcome here. Derek has told you repeatedly that he wants nothing to do with you, so why don’t you—”
“Oh please,” she cut in with a scoff. “Like Derek has any idea what he wants. He’s a child in a grown man’s body, he can’t function without me.”
“I seem to be doing just fine,” Derek said. It was relatively quiet, and he was looking at the table when he said it, but Stiles was really glad to hear him sticking up for himself.
“Down puppy, the adults are speaking,” she snapped at him. Derek scowled at that, but Stiles noticed him flinch at the words too, which meant she’s probably called him a puppy a lot. And not in a cute way, in a condescending way.
Stiles loved puppies! He was going to have to help Derek not hate the word puppy because puppies were adorable and now he kind of wanted one. But it was hard to have a pet with his job so... maybe when he had a significant other.
Or a roommate, since Jackson insisted he was going to die alone.
“All adults currently involved in this conversation,” Stiles said heatedly, voice dropping slightly and going a bit more into work-mode, “have spoken. This is no longer up for discussion. Derek has asked you to leave him alone. I have asked you to leave him alone. If you don’t leave us alone, we are going to do whatever is necessary for you to comply.”
Kate let out a loud, harsh laugh at his words, like she found him amusing. She sobered up fairly quickly though, clearly wanting to unsettle him with her unconcerned reaction.
It didn’t work, which she didn’t seem to appreciate, if her next words were anything to go by.
“Listen here, you little shit-stain,” Kate hissed darkly while bending down closer to Stiles, eyes flashing dangerously. “You are playing with fire, and I am sick and tired of your holier-than-thou attitude. Derek belongs to me, he always has, and he always will regardless of what you think or what he thinks. He is mine, and if you don’t stop interfering, you’re going to regret it.”
Stiles’ eyebrows slowly slid upwards at her words, and he could tell Derek was getting a little distressed across from him. Like he wasn’t sure if he should just leave with Kate to avoid anything bad happening to Stiles. Like he was willing to go back to this abusive, crazy bitch to avoid bothering anyone.
Stiles, his sisters, the other patrons.
Well, no way was that happening.
“I’m going to regret it?” Stiles asked, eyebrows still raised. “Really?”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Kate hissed, looking every bit as menacing as her words. “I am going to fucking bury you if you stand in my way one more time. This is your last warning.”
Stiles stared at her for a moment, then nodded his head slowly, licking his lips. He could tell Derek had frozen across from him, likely unsure of what was about to happen.
For his part, Stiles ran his tongue over his teeth, then leaned a bit closer to Kate. “Just to be perfectly crystal clear here, are you threatening me?”
“Damn straight I’m threatening you,” she said, sounding pleased he seemed to understand. “I know people, and I’m perfectly happy to introduce you to them.”
“Hm.” He turned to Derek. “You heard her, right? She’s threatening me.”
Derek seemed at a loss. He looked both horrified that Kate was threatening him, but also broken that this was probably legitimately the last time he’d see Stiles.
Well, not if Stiles had a say in any of this, because he’d be damned if he never saw Derek again. He really, really liked him.
So, he decided to do the thing he’d really been hoping he wouldn’t have to do. This wasn’t really the way he wanted to deal with this, but honestly, he was tired of seeing her come around and he wanted her to leave Derek alone. If he had to pull this card, so be it.
He sighed loudly, shifted his cup of coffee over slightly, and reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket. Kate frowned when he pulled something out, placed it on the table, and then flipped it open. He then looked back up at her, tilted his head, and clasped his hands together, elbows resting easily on the table.
“Are you sure about that?” he asked pleasantly. “The you threatening me part. Are you absolutely sure? Because maybe I misheard you. It’s pretty loud in here, difficult to really catch what everyone’s saying sometimes.”
It was not, in fact, at all loud in the shop, but he was willing to give her an out just this once. She’d threatened him, but at least she’d had the courtesy of threatening him before coming at him. So he was returning the favour.
Her face went red, then white, and her eyes snapped up to Stiles’ face before they flicked back down to stare, clearly horrified, at the very shiny FBI credentials staring her right in the face.
Because yes, Kate had, in point of fact, just threatened a federal agent, and whether she knew that at the time or not was wholly irrelevant.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Stiles informed her, making no move to grab his badge back, because the horrified look on her face was particularly satisfying and he wanted Derek to have as much exposure to it as possible. “You’re going to leave this coffee shop, walk away, and never come back. You’re going to stay away from Derek, you’re going to stay away from his sisters, and you’re going to get yourself the help you so very obviously need. I’m letting you off this time, but if you ever come within a foot of me, or heaven help you Derek, ever again, we’re going to have a problem.” He smiled and unfolded his hands so he could grab for his badge, snapping it shut before leaning back in his chair to put it back into his suit pocket. “The door’s behind you, feel free to let it hit you on the way out.”
He’d never seen Kate leave so fast. Evidently whatever friends she had were not so high that they could go after someone who worked for the FBI. Stiles was immeasurably satisfied with this outcome, and while he acknowledged it wouldn’t have gone quite as smoothly if he weren’t a federal agent, he did still have the sheriff father in his back pocket that was usable. This situation just seemed to warrant a bit of a harder jab.
Letting out a happy little sigh, Stiles turned back to Derek, who was staring at him with his mouth hanging open.
“What?” Stiles asked, smiling impishly while picking his drink up. “I told you I worked for the government.”
“You’re an FBI agent?” he demanded, completely floored.
“Only Monday to Friday, nine to five,” he argued with a wink. “Or when I do overtime. Or like, all the time, really. Also, that was a lie, I don’t work Monday to Friday, nine to five. My schedule’s a mess, it’s a wonder I ever leave the office.”
Derek didn’t seem to know what to say, he just kept staring at him like he couldn’t believe it. Like he was trying to pick up this person he’d been slowly getting to know over the course of a few weeks and plop him down into the role of an FBI agent.
“I told you I was different at work,” Stiles argued when the silence stretched for too long. “But on the bright side, you’ll probably never see her again. Not unless she wants to try going after me, but good luck to her, my boss loves me and I have a lot of friends with guns.”
Derek actually managed a small laugh at that, and it kind of looked like he was in shock. Like he was slowly coming to the realization that, yes, this had just happened, and Stiles was most likely one-hundred percent correct in that Kate was going to be leaving him alone.
One did not fuck with Agent Stilinski, he was a very dangerous person to piss off.
“You really can take care of yourself, huh?”
“I told you not to worry about causing me trouble,” Stiles reminded him.
“Can I buy you dinner?”
Stiles blinked, coffee halfway to his mouth. “What?”
“I’d like to take you to dinner. As a thank you. For this. For that first day. Just—for everything. You keep inviting me out. I’d like to invite you. Would you like to have dinner?”
Grinning, Stiles nudged him under the table. “Shit, Derek. If I knew being an FBI agent would get me a free meal, I’d have pulled the badge out ages ago.”
Derek still looked stunned, but not so much that he couldn’t let out an aggrieved sigh. Stiles just grinned, following through on his action and taking a sip of his coffee before nodding.
“Yeah, Derek. Let’s grab dinner. You can tell me about what I missed this past week, and I can forget about what I saw this past week. Mutually beneficial dinner discussion.”
“Sounds perfect,” Derek agreed.
Stiles grinned at him, nudging him under the table again, and then motioning for him to get back to work grading his papers. Stiles liked people-watching anyway, so he didn’t mind sitting with Derek in comfortable silence.
He knew the dinner invite—the first one he’d received from Derek—didn’t change anything between them. Derek still had a long way to go before he would feel comfortable starting anything with anyone, especially someone he’d been pretending to date for a month, but Stiles didn’t mind.
Derek was an amazing person, and if he ended up being interested in him, Stiles definitely wasn’t going to say no to that. But he was a patient person, and he wasn’t going to push. One step at a time.
After dinner, Derek asked Stiles for his number, and added him into his phone as ‘Agent Stilinski,’ because he was an asshole, and he told him so.
Stiles had never been so happy to see anyone smile in his life.