“Before you all go,” the sheriff says, voice raised over the cacophony that erupts as the meeting ends; chairs scraped backwards, chatter breaking out in groups, “there have been a rash of break-ins and robberies on Main, some occurring in the middle of the day. Now, we’ve never had the need for beat cops before, but some official presence may be enough to put an end to it. So—”
Stiles knows what’s coming before the sheriff says anything, which is the only reason he manages to school his face into an appropriate expression and not one of utter exasperation.
“—Deputy Stilinski will be putting some of his big city knowledge to use and patrolling around those neighborhoods. Be safe, everyone. Mrs. Rosenblum dropped off some treats, they’re in the break room.”
He stays in his seat, glowering up at his boss, until the last deputy leaves the room. “Really?” he asks, bodily blocking the exit. “Really?”
“Well, son,” Noah says, the twinkle in his eye saying he remembers exactly how often Stiles had complained about being a beat cop in New York, “you did say you wanted to get more exercise.”
Stiles stands up, shoving his chair back to the table. “Can I at least have a partner? I’m gonna go crazy out there by myself.”
“Oh, I’m sure the shop owners will keep you busy enough,” Noah says, moving Stiles towards the door with just one push on his arm. “You start today. Better hurry.”
“I’ll get you back for this, old man,” he says, pointing at him. He nearly trips over an errant chair leg on the way out, somewhat ruining his dramatic exit, but manages to slam his hand down on the table when he catches himself, which he tells himself is expressive enough. “You’ll be sorry.”
“I’m sure I will,” Noah says, and Stiles has a very difficult time not flipping him off when he makes a shooing motion with his hand.
He already regrets coming back to Beacon Hills.
Derek is tired.
It’s a bone-deep, headache-inducing exhaustion, and even though the distance between the office of Hale Construction and the house they’re in the middle of rebuilding is a measly six blocks, he just—can’t.
He at least made it as far as Bread & Butter, so if Peter happens to drive by he can reasonably claim that he stopped to see Isaac and was sitting at an outdoor table with no sweets or drink in front of him because Isaac had gone in to help a customer, because there is no way in hell he’s admitting to Peter that his cushy, 9 to 5 office job has made him weak.
His gym routine is about to get a lot more brutal.
Isaac appears at the door long enough to smirk, then disappears again in a cloud of flour that rains down when he brushes his hands off over Derek’s head. Derek can’t be bothered to move, a fine tremor still running through his arms intermittently. He shouldn’t have let Peter goad him into carrying all the lumber from the truck to the yard on his own, but Derek would do almost anything to prove his uncle wrong.
Leaning back in the frankly uncomfortable metal chair, he groans, neck popping. He wraps aching fingers around the armrest and is about to lever himself up when someone walks out of Erica’s antique—read: junk—shop across the street, and he stops.
And maybe stares.
He’s not sure when the Sheriff’s Department started hiring deputies straight out of Derek’s fantasies, but they can go ahead and stop because they met the mark with this one. Long and lean, hip cocked almost indecently as he rests his forearm on the doorframe above his head and leans inside, hair that looks like he just rolled out of Derek’s bed.
He’s two steps from the street, intent on introducing himself, when an ache in his calf reminds him that he’s just spent the day drowning in his own sweat, he hasn’t shaved in nearly a month, and he’s covered in a fine layer of sawdust and dirt.
He turns around and heads for the office, trying not to make his limp too noticeable.
“Hey, Boyd,” Stiles says, lifting a hand in greeting as he passes the bookstore before dropping it and running his fingers along the spines of the books on the cart outside. “Everything going okay?”
Stiles has been walking the downtown Beacon Hills area for a week, and at this point he’s hoping for a break-in to occur. Anything to get him out of writing another fucking parking ticket. He’s pretty sure this is his dad’s revenge for all the fries that Stiles has confiscated since he moved back home.
“Same as yesterday,” Boyd says. It’s the most Stiles will get out of him, so he nods and moves on, spending a few minutes talking with Allison in the flower shop and Norma at the cafe, nearly hugging Liam when he hands Stiles an iced coffee after talking about the latest episode of the crime-drama he’s obsessed with, and ending his circuit at Emporium, where Erica winks at him from behind the counter.
“Cutie,” she says, leaning on her forearms, “catch any baddies today?”
“Put the handcuffs on and you tell me,” he says, grinning when she laughs. Erica’s been the saving grace of what he can only consider his repentance for somehow wronging his father. She shares his desire for another break-in, but only so she can finally put her fighting skills to use.
“Be a good boy and go get us lunch,” Erica says, looking over his shoulder at Bread & Butter. “It’s Thursday, so Isaac’s got rosemary focaccia, and if you tell him it’s for me he’ll bitch about it but he’ll use it for our sandwiches.”
He doesn’t think that wasting most of his shift poking around at the junk Erica sells and sitting on her counter is what his dad had in mind when he assigned him to this task, but there’s only so many times he can walk in a circle until he gets bored, so that’s what he does for almost the rest of the day, looking up people they used to know in high school on Facebook and making up ridiculous stories.
He does take one more loop before he heads back to the station, cutting through the park to avoid Dr. Meyer’s office (so what if he hasn’t had his teeth cleaned in three years? He brushes—and flosses—daily!). He slows down near the playground; there’s two young girls on the swings, a bored looking teenager on her phone next to them, and—
He’s laying on a bench in the afternoon sun, arm thrown over his eyes, dirt streaked across his cheeks. He’s wearing the same ragged clothes that Stiles has seen him in for the past three days—a dingy black t-shirt and jeans that are ripped at the knees, and not the artsy, designer, I paid too much money for these kind of rips. The hems are frayed, the dirt looks caked in at this point, and Stiles stops and stares at him for a little too long.
For someone clearly living on the streets, the dude is gorgeous.
Even with tiny flowers woven in his beard.
Stiles is probably supposed to wake him up and make him leave. Beacon Hills has ordinances against loitering and sleeping in parks, and as an officer of the law, it’s up to him to enforce those. Except technically Stiles went off-duty thirty-seven seconds ago, and he really hates those ordinances anyway, so .. he just—doesn’t do anything except leave the bottle of water he’d gotten at Bread & Butter and never opened near the bench.
He sees the guy all the time anyway, he’ll just talk to him next time, find out if he knows the location of the shelter, or if he needs help with anything.
“Uncle Derek,” Eliza screeches, and Derek stifles a groan when she flings her five-year-old body on top of his. “I’m getting really hungry and Auntie said if I wanted to eat then I’d have to go pick berries. You promised us pizza!”
“No, he promised us burgers,” Olivia corrects. A seven year old shouldn’t have that sassy of a tone, but Olivia had taken after her mother at a young age, a fact Derek thinks is hilarious when directed at other people and irritating when used on him.
“We had pizza last week, Liza—”
“Don’t call me that!”
Derek sighs and opens his eyes to the endless blue sky. “I’m trading both of you in for quieter children,” he says, bringing a hand up to scrub at his face and pausing when the heel of his hand brushes against his beard. “What did you do.”
“You look so pretty!” Eliza says cheerfully, petting his face, sisterly contempt forgotten. “Livie did the daisies and I did the buttercups. Your whole beard is flowers now!”
He loves his nieces. He does. He just might love them more when he’s not the only one with them, the full force of their attention, although—”Where’d Auntie Cora go?”
“She said she had better things to do and if we got hurt to wake you up and also to tell Mommy that—” Olivia stops and frowns. “I don’t remember. It probably wasn’t nice, anyway. So can we go get burgers?”
“Pizza!” Eliza whines.
“Sushi if you don’t quiet down,” he says, wrapping an arm around Eliza and lifting her up as he pushes himself into a seated position, smiling when they both make a disgusted sound. “Come on, we’re going to have to call Mom or Grandma for a ride, I don’t have your car seats.”
Olivia glances at the ground, hand crunching around an empty water bottle. “Um,” she says, and Derek’s heart drops when she darts a guilty look at him and drops to her knees, reaching under the bench and coming up with Cora’s keyring. “Auntie said she’d take your car and you could use hers.”
He’s going to fucking kill his sister.
In an effort to actually do the job he gets paid for, Stiles takes a one day—okay, one afternoon—break from nearly breaking things in Emporium. The fact that it coincides with Erica’s day off means nothing. And if he happens to decide to spend the day at Turn the Page, nobody can prove he does it because he knows Erica will show up at lunch to see her fiancé.
They’re browsing through a load of boxes Boyd had picked up from an estate sale the day before, eagerly flipping through the pages to find pseudo-bookmarks; they’d already come across two hand-written recipes that Erica had pocketed to give to Isaac, a gift card that Stiles had dropped down his shirt and regretted the second he did because Erica attempted to unbutton it, a child’s homework sheet that was yellowed and likely decades old, two postcards, and—their best find—a receipt from the adult shop three towns over.
Boyd tolerated their made-up stories about that for ten minutes before he’d threatened to kick them both out.
There are only two boxes left when Stiles happens to look up, and elbows Erica to get her attention. “You know that guy?” he asks, nodding his chin at where the man from the park is wandering down the street, rubbing at the back of his head.
“Derek?” Erica says, glancing at him. “Yeah, why?”
“Does he stay somewhere around here?” Stiles asks, pulling out another book. “I saw him sleeping in the park last week, I just wanted to make sure he knew there were other options. I know the shelter isn’t great, but I know of some programs that can—what?”
The weird expression clears from Erica’s face in a flash. “Nothing,” she says, flipping through another book. “Derek—he can be prickly. You might have to work up to that conversation. Hey, I’m dying for an iced chai, can you go grab one while you pretend to make your rounds?”
He flips her off but sets the book down; he thinks he hears her laughter as he jogs across the street to Liam’s.
The deputy has taken to giving him things over the last few weeks. Bottled water, fruit salad and sandwiches, little boxes with snacks that Derek takes and gives to his nieces. He sees him almost every day as he walks back to the office—Stilinski, his nameplate says, although he’d introduced himself as Stiles—and despite not needing to rest at Bread & Butter anymore, it affords him the opportunity to look, so he takes it. He doesn’t get around to saying very much—Derek’s been single for a long time, and a string of bad relationships had left him hesitant and, apparently, a little shy in the face of someone so perfect for him on the surface level.
“Thank you,” he says, because his mother raised him well, although he can’t help but frown a little when Stiles hands him a ziploc bag full of travel sized toiletries. He’s not sure what to make of this; he knows the job site has left him in less than ideal condition and he desperately needs to shave, but—
“Let me know if you need anything else,” Stiles says, hand resting on his utility belt, hip cocked to the side in a way that makes Derek’s mouth go dry. “Be safe.”
Be safe. He ends every conversation with that, and Derek supposes that it’s nice but this isn’t his first time with power tools. Yes, he’s been doing the paperwork side of running Hale Construction for three years now, but he grew up helping with renovations and new-builds—he knows what he’s doing.
Stiles is only gone a few minutes when Erica comes sauntering across the street, plopping herself down at his table, mouth pinched as she looks at the bag on the table. “Sauve? What happened to your fancy ‘only one hundred bottles of this shampoo is made each year’ shit? Lowering yourself to our heathen standards?”
“They’re from Stiles,” he says, pulling the bag closer to himself. He’s not using any of it, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to keep it. He’s about to ask if he really looks that bad when Erica chokes on literally nothing and starts coughing, eyes watering as she fans her now bright-red face. He pushes himself up; Isaac’s already halfway across the floor with a cup of water, and Erica grabs it and waves them away as she sips at it.
“That was nice of him,” she says, voice shaking. “I just remembered—I have to—bye,” she says, and bolts up out of her seat and back across the street to her shop.
“That was weird even for her,” Isaac says, and shrugs. “You want something to eat?”
“No, we’re having dinner at Mom’s tonight,” Derek says, frowning after her. “You want to come? She’s picking up Chinese food and making us watch Crazy Rich Asians.”
Isaac snorts. “Yeah, sounds good,” he says. “I’ll go in the back and whip up some egg tarts.”
“Suck up,” Derek says, shaking his head and giving Isaac a friendly push. “See you later.”
“Don’t forget your gift,” Isaac says, and his laughter follows Derek down the street.
Stiles is gonna talk to him.
It’s been almost a month of trying to connect with Derek, to get in his good graces, so that Derek doesn’t shut down or leave when Stiles brings out all the pamphlets for the programs designed to help people get back on their feet. Derek hadn’t seemed thrilled with the toiletry bag, but he hadn’t been negative about it either, and it’s been nearly a week so Stiles is pretty sure he can make an attempt at another difficult conversation.
First, though, he’s going to see if Erica can be of any help, because he hasn’t seen Derek around for a few days. She seems to know him enough that she may be able to find him; she’s let a few things slip about him, like that he’s just a few years older than Stiles, that he’d gone to Beacon Heights Prep, and that his favorite candy is Twix. Trying to find where he is may be a long shot, but it’s easy enough for him to ask her before he takes a squad car around town.
She appears to have actual customers, though, a couple waiting at the counter while she gives them a genuine smile, not the smirk she bestows on everyone else who walks in the door, as she passes a gift-wrapped box across the space between them. “I checked it over, it works like a dream,” she says. Stiles takes a seat on a truly hideous orange velvet chair, and she tosses a wink at him before returning her attention to the people in front of her. “And I wish I could make it, Talia, but Boyd booked this trip—”
“Nonsense, it’s not like Cora will notice,” the woman says, “she’s invited half her graduating class. She probably wouldn’t notice if we weren’t there, either. You’ll just have to come by for dinner when you get back in town.”
“Absolutely,” Erica promises. “Do you need anything else? I can always lock up and help you get ready. It’s mostly me and the Deputy in the afternoons, I wouldn’t be missing anything.”
“No, we sent the other kids to run all the errands,” Talia says. “Although if you wanted to keep Peter out—”
“Oh look at the time,” Erica says brightly, to soft laughter, “I’ve got to go. I hope the party goes well!” It’s only another minute of goodbyes before the couple leaves and Erica turns towards him. “What’s up, Deputy Hotstuff?”
“I was wondering if you knew where I could find Derek,” he says, standing up and starting to brush orange fibers off his uniform. “I haven’t seen him around lately—I just wanted to check on him, see if there was anything he needed.”
Erica’s lips press into a thin line and for a moment, he thinks she may be angry with him. “You know, Isaac usually has tabs on him,” she says, glancing over Stiles’ shoulder at Bread & Butter. “The van’s gone, though, and he’s got a bunch of deliveries because of graduation—hang out here with me and we’ll go over there together when he gets back. Boyd was gonna grab us a slice at Jimmy’s for lunch, let me text him so he gets you something, too.”
“Pepperoni,” he says, and she nods, tapping at her phone. “And—thanks. I just—want him to get some help, you know?” He leaves off the part where he might—might, like, tenuous, barely there—have a crush on the man.
“Oh, don’t we all,” Erica says. “There. Boyd will be here in a few, and then we can head over to Isaac’s.”
He loves his family. He loves his family, he loves his family, and maybe if he tells himself that often enough, he might get through the day without wanting to strangle one of them.
Derek doesn’t really like parties. His family hardly respects this fact when it comes to having one for him—being the only introvert in the Hale family is the cross he has to bear, but he wishes he didn’t have to bear it quite so frequently. And he’s not trying to take anything away from Cora, but his mom is acting like her baby has graduated with her Ph.D from an Ivy league and not just from the local high school.
Pointing that out didn’t get him out of wearing a suit—which, after five weeks of hard labor, has become unpleasant to wear.
He yanks on his collar again, the blue and gold tie his mother had bought him for the occasion—to celebrate Cora’s transition to UCLA, a school Derek couldn’t care less about—too tight around his neck. He’s going to take it off as soon as the mandatory family photos are done, but he’s too worried about leaving it behind somewhere to take it off now.
At least he got the easy job—picking up the cake from Isaac. He’s running a little behind when he pulls open the door to the bakery and bites back a groan when he sees how busy it is, but Isaac catches his eye and hitches a thumb behind him. He’s been friends with Isaac long enough to know where everything is in the back, and it only takes a moment to scan the shelves of the walk-in and spot the cake with his mom’s name scrawled across the box.
Erica’s walking in as he comes back around the counter, box in hand, Stiles right behind her. And Derek is finally in a state that Laura has deemed acceptable—clean, for one, with his beard trimmed as close as it can be to his face and still be called a beard, and not working until he drops from exhaustion day in and day out. He’d meant to ask Stiles out the next time he saw him, but he hadn’t counted on that being the day of Cora’s graduation, when he was already pressed for time and irritated. He thinks about walking by—Stiles is turned around, chatting to Boyd, and Derek could just twist and turn his face away, Stiles would never know—
Except that Erica calls out his name with more joy than he’s heard from her since she shrieked out an answer when Boyd proposed, and Stiles turns, an abrupt about-face that’s stopped on a dime, his arm flailing out and catching Erica’s shoulder. His eyes are wide, mouth falling open, and Derek’s just going to say hello and then book it out of there, but Erica takes one look at Stiles’ face and starts laughing so hard she bends over double, one hand on Stiles’ forearm to steady herself.
“Oh my God,” she gasps out, flapping a hand in between them, “oh my God—” He regrets asking her what’s so funny the second he closes his mouth, because Stiles’ face flushes instantly and Erica sucks in a stuttered breath and loses it all over again.
“I really have to go,” he says, uncomfortable with everything, with the way Stiles is staring at him like he wished he’d never laid eyes on Derek before, with Erica’s reaction, with the crowd of people now openly watching them.
“He thought—” Erica starts, clutching Stiles to her like she’s afraid he’ll run away—which to be fair, Stiles certainly looks like he’s trying to. “He thought you were homeless,” she manages, and Stiles finally manages to wrench his arm out of her grasp. “He kept trying—Stiles, wait, it’s—”
“I told you this would happen,” Boyd says, and Derek—
Can’t deal with this right now.
His mom’s going to kill him if he’s late.
“Resignation not accepted, get back to work,” Noah says, crumpling up the post-it that Stiles had scribbled I quit on and tossing it in his trash can. “I gave you two days to sulk, get going. There hasn’t been a break-in since you started, whatever you’re doing is working.”
Well, if his dad won’t accept Stiles’ utter shame as a reason to move to a desk job—“I heard Parrish really wants a chance to take over,” he says, throwing his one friend in the department under the bus without a second thought. “Maybe it should be on a rotating basis—”
“That’s not a terrible idea,” Noah says, making a considering face, and Stiles feels a brief moment of hope before he shrugs. “But duty schedules for the next two weeks are already written up, so it’ll have to wait. Get going.”
He tries to look at least reasonably professional as he slumps his way out of his dad’s office and into the street, and immediately straightens up when he sees Derek—Derek fucking Hale, as in the family who owns half the damn town—walking towards him.
Well, he can always move back to New York.
“Stiles,” Derek calls, looking like he’s actually concerned that Stiles might run away again. He only wishes he could; his dad would kick him right back out the door if he tried to return so quickly. “Can we talk?”
“I’m on duty,” he says, although he’s not sure what he’s going to do with Erica both out of town until the next week and on his mortal enemies list for at least several months. Possibly hang out with Allison, the only one of the shop owners that didn’t seem to be best friends with Derek. He thinks she’d probably tolerate him for a few days, at least, maybe longer if he made himself useful.
“I just wanted to see if we could get coffee,” Derek says, and not only is it the most Derek has ever said to him at one time, he seems nervous, like Stiles blames him for Erica choosing chaos over honesty. “My treat. I owe you a few lunches, anyway.”
“Oh, Christ,” Stiles says, covering his face with his hand and groaning. “Look, I—”
“—didn’t think anything my sister hadn’t already said to me a dozen times,” Derek interrupts. There’s a small smile on his face, despite the frustrated tone. “Trust me, I’ve heard how your assumption was only natural more times than I cared to over the weekend.”
Gorgeous, kind, and self-deprecating—Stiles is clearly going to have to swallow his embarrassment and go out with the man. “The beard didn’t help,” he says, relaxing his posture and letting his shoulders drop. “Coffee would be good, but I really am on duty—”
“I can walk with you,” Derek interrupts, and then he grins. “Besides, I have a key to Erica’s place. Isn’t that where you spend most of your time?”
“Not anymore,” Stiles mutters, earning a laugh from Derek.
“You know,” he says, “I’m sure we can come up with a way to get revenge before she gets back.”
(They try, but—it turns out the dusty rose chaise lounge that Erica’s been storing in the back of the shop for when she and Boyd move into a bigger place is the perfect place to spend their time, talking and making out and—
They never actually get around to the revenge plot.)