“Hey, where were you?” Stiles asks as he lounges at Derek’s desk - his usual spot if he isn’t keeping the Sheriff company or taking over front desk duty.
It’s not like Stiles actually works at the Police Station, but he’s more like a son to the Sheriff than anyone else ever will be, and he knows that the Sheriff likes to keep him close. And if Stiles is completely honest, he likes working the front desk, he even thinks he does a better job at it than Greenberg, not that that’s saying much. The added bonus of getting to spend a lot of time with Derek is… well, one of Stiles’ favorite parts of the “job”.
“Getting fixed up by Lydia,” Derek says as he shrugs off his coat and hangs it over a chair, “I needed some fine-tuning.” He winks at Stiles before plopping down in his desk chair and jokes, “Another day of not being tossed in the junkyard.”
“Oh, stop it,” Stiles brushes off as he rolls his eyes.
“I’m serious,” Derek says while shrugging but Stiles knows it’s a genuine concern, “I’m an old model, Stiles. Why would they go on keeping me around if they’ve got improved ones everywhere?”
“Lydia’s not like that, Derek. You know that,” Stiles huffs out. He never likes it when Derek talks like this. “You’re one of the hardest workers I know. Stop putting yourself down like that.”
“I’m just saying… What with everything they can do now,” Derek waves in Stiles’ general direction, and Stiles knows that he’s one of the latest models, the upgrade, but that doesn’t mean that Derek is worth any less, “It would be understandable if at some point they decided to replace me.”
“You can't just be replaced!” Stiles bites back, and the thought of it alone is enough to make Stiles feel queasy inside.
“I’m an old model bot, Stiles,” Derek smiles softly, “Of course I can.”
“If you think I’m going to just let that happen, you’ve got another thing coming!” Stiles says, annoyed, his brow furrowed in a scowl. “And my dad would never accept it either. You know damn well you’re one of his favorites!”
Stiles thinks that if he had blood running through his veins, it’d be boiling by now. He knows Derek isn’t the same as him, that Derek was one of the first model robots to be made, by the Argents, and that their technology wasn’t at the top yet. But Derek was one of the first. He’s a damn miracle as far as Stiles is concerned, no matter how much Claudia perfected the art by adding the emotionary range the way she did. Stiles is a robot that can feel and sense pretty much exactly like a human being, which is all his mother’s doing. She and his father couldn’t have kids, so while working to perfect robot technology for the Martins, she created Stiles, their very own, hand-made child. He was lucky, he knows that. Derek doesn’t have the same experience Stiles does. Derek wasn’t made out of love, he was made to function, to work. And he was made with the most limited capacity for emotion, something Stiles can never fully grasp.
Because Stiles, with all of his technology and all of his perfection - according to his mother anyway - has gone and done the stupidest thing… He fell in love with a robot that can never love him back.
“It’s not like it’d be a big deal anyway,” Derek says, and Stiles knows he’s trying to brush it off, to change the conversation, “I wouldn’t feel a thing anyway. It’s fine.”
“How can you say that?” Stiles chokes out, there’s a clenching in his chest as he can feel his eyes begin to prickle.
“Stiles, I didn’t mean to…” Derek trails off, confusion clouding his face.
“No, just… forget it,” Stiles shakes his head, getting up out of his chair.
“Stiles!” Derek says as he rounds the desk, stopping Stiles before he can leave his office.
“Maybe you wouldn’t feel a thing, but I would be devastated,” Stiles says, sadly, and reaches for the door, leaving Derek with a dumbfounded look on his face.
Stiles calls up Lydia in a panic, making sure there are no actual plans to get rid of Derek. She assures him that there is no such plan, but it can only go so far in easing Stiles’ mind, so that’s how Stiles ends up in his father’s office, ranting about Derek.
“Stiles, will you calm down?” the Sheriff says, a comforting hand on his shoulder, “You know that’s not going to happen. Derek is a valued part of this team, of this family. You know he’s just worried about nothing. He might be as intelligent as they come, but he’s pretty dense when it comes to this.”
“That’s kind of the problem, isn’t it?” Stiles huffs out, annoyed.
“Well, you know he’s never going to be replaced here,” the Sheriff says, pointedly, “I know the Argents donated him to me after the whole Kate disaster, and they probably didn’t think we’d keep him as long we have, but Derek’s place is here, and that’s never going to change.”
“He’s worried that because he’s not the same as me, because he only has the basic sentiments…” Stiles trails off.
“Well, he’s the only one worried about that, Stiles,” the Sheriff says firmly, “It doesn’t matter to me.”
“He’s not the only one though…” Stiles mutters, casting his eyes to the floor.
The Sheriff sighs, leaning against the edge of his desk as he reassuringly squeezes Stiles’ shoulder. “That’s the problem, isn’t it?”
Stiles shrugs, keeping his eyes down. He feels ridiculous for even feeling like this.
“That Derek doesn’t know how to return your feelings?” the Sheriff goes on, his voice soft and comprehending.
“It’s so stupid,” Stiles says, aiming for nonchalant even though he knows the Sheriff knows him better than that.
“No, it’s not,” the Sheriff shakes his head, leaning a little closer to Stiles, “But you know that it isn’t Derek’s fault.”
“I know,” Stiles nods, sniffing. Then he huffs out a laugh. “If Mom was still around, she could fix this stupid part of me.”
“You know, son,” the Sheriff says, his voice going all soft like it always does when Claudia is mentioned, “If your mother was still around, she’d probably do a whole lot of things, but I know she would never change the part of you that makes you love.”
And Stiles knows that he’s right.
“She was so proud of you,” the Sheriff goes on, “And of the way that you loved. She’d never want to change that, not in a million years. And I would hope that you wouldn’t either. It’s what makes you you, Stiles.”
“I know,” Stiles whispers, as he buries his head against his father’s chest. “Thanks, Dad.”
“You probably have the easy end of this deal,” Stiles muses as he looks up at the sky. The city lights cloud a good portion of it, but there are still some stars shining through, smiling down at them.
“You think so?” Derek asks. He’s sitting next to Stiles, leaning back against the wall as he looks up as well. They come here sometimes, to the roof of the police station, just for some quiet time.
“Sometimes I don’t know why people bothered to perfect the emotionary range in us anyway,” Stiles says, his shoulder leaning against Derek, “I mean, look at you, you can function perfectly well. And you don’t have to go through all of these horrible feelings like grief, heartache…”
“But I don’t grasp the other things either… love, passion, pure happiness…” Derek says, and he sounds almost wistful. “I know how I’m supposed to feel, so I know how to have the appropriate reactions, the right way to interact with people. But all the intense emotions that you have, these deep sensations that make you tick, that drive you…”
Stiles nods as he closes his eyes. He can’t even begin to imagine what life must be like for Derek. How one goes through the day without feeling that you’re loved by your father, without that warm fire inside of you that shines just a little bit brighter when that one person smiles or looks at you just right…
“Yeah, maybe you don’t have the easy end after all…” Stiles ponders out loud, leaning a little closer to Derek, even though he knows it probably won’t bring him much comfort. Does Derek even need the comfort?
“Yeah…” Derek sighs.
“Why do you hang out with me?” Stiles asks after a moment of silence, his eyes still cast up at the night’s sky.
“What do you mean?” Derek asks, confused.
“I mean… do you even like it? Or is it just… for me?” Stiles asks, and his mother used to tell him not to ask questions he didn’t want to know the answer to, but he guesses it must be a flaw in his design because he never knew when to leave well enough alone anyway.
“Of course I do,” Derek says, and even though he sounds genuine, Stiles just can’t drop it.
“Is that one of those appropriate reactions to better interact with people?” Stiles asks, and he nudges Derek’s shoulder as he laughs a bit, to ease the tension.
“You’re not people,” Derek smirks as he turns towards Stiles. There’s a silence as Stiles can feel Derek’s gaze resting heavily on him. “I like you,” Derek says, like he’s contemplating his words. “Being around you feels better than not being around you.”
“You’re quite the charmer,” Stiles quips, but he knows it’s a lot, coming from Derek.
“It’s the truth,” Derek says, shrugging somewhat uncomfortably. “But it’s the best I can do.”
“I know,” Stiles says, pressing his lips together in a thin line. Derek feels warm and safe beside him. “I love you,” Stiles says, and once again he curses his emotions because he knows that nothing good can come of this confession. But he guesses there really is no way to change the way he loves.
“I know…” Derek says, almost sadly, as he looks back up at the stars.
“Where’s Derek?” Stiles asks worried as he barges into the Sheriff’s office, causing both his father and Deputy Parrish to look up from the file they’ve currently got their noses buried in.
“Stiles…” the Sheriff frowns.
“Where is he, dad?” Stiles asks, not even sorry about the rude manner in which he’s interrupting them, “He’s not in his office, and Greenberg told me that other officers are taking over his case-load for the time being.”
“Derek asked for some time off,” the Sheriff says, straightening in his chair.
“Derek?” Stiles calls out, incredulous, “Derek never takes time off!”
“Well, he did now,” the Sheriff answers, but Stiles can tell he’s hiding something. Stiles knows his father, he recognizes the way he avoids Stiles’ eyes, the way he says as little as possible, as not to actually lie to Stiles.
“What is going on?” Stiles asks, clenching his fingers into a fist to fight off the nerves.
“Stiles…” the Sheriff sighs, as Deputy Parrish clears his throat and puts his hands behind his back, clearly uncomfortable.
“You told me he wouldn’t be replaced!” Stiles calls out, accusing.
“And he isn’t!” the Sheriff answers immediately, “But he asked for time off, and he asked me not to tell you why. I’m sorry, son.”
“What?” Stiles frowns, confused. His mind is going a million miles an hours, and none of it sounds good. “But…” he stammers, and he’s trying to rack his brain for answers, but finding none. “Dad?”
“Maybe you should tell him?” Deputy Parrish whispers at the Sheriff, and receives a scowl for it in return.
“You know?” Stiles asks Parrish, a hint of desperation in his voice.
“Look…” the Sheriff sighs, “He just doesn’t want you to get your hopes up. And neither do I.”
“My hopes up?” Stiles asks, confused, “About what?”
“Lydia doesn’t even know if she can do it,” the Sheriff goes on.
“Lydia?” Stiles calls out, his chest tightening as he thinks about the possibilities. “What is Lydia doing to him? He was fine, he just had a fix-up! What happened?”
“You,” Parrish says, and the edge of his mouth curls up in a modest smile.
“What?” Stiles says, taken aback, “What is he doing?” He fixes his father with a stare. “Dad, what is Lydia going to do to Derek?”
“She’s going to try and upgrade him,” the Sheriff says, and Stiles thinks that something in his chest just explodes, that his brain short-circuited and his nerves are sizzling.
“Oh my God…” Stiles breathes out.
Upgrade him. Lydia is going to try and upgrade Derek. Upgrade him with an emotionary range, something he’s never had before. They’ve talked about it before, and Lydia said she wasn’t sure she could do it. The new models are implanted with Claudia’s technology, but it’s a whole other thing to install it in an older model. Derek wasn’t built to hold this kind of technology, and Lydia wasn’t confident she could make it work.
But now they were trying anyway? Why? What has gotten into Derek that he went to Lydia for this? Why does he want the upgrade all of a sudden? Why does he want to feel like Stiles?
And what if it doesn’t work? What if it creates some kind of bug inside of Derek? What if it short circuits him, or messes him up completely? Would they be able to reverse it?
Then again, what if it does work? Does that mean that Derek will be able to love? That he’ll fall in love and experience all the things Stiles does? But, even then… does it mean he’ll fall in love with Stiles?
There are too many questions spinning through Stiles’ head as he makes his way over to Lydia’s lab, and none of them are reassuring him in any way.
He barges into Lydia’s office without so much as knocking, only to find Lydia scowling at him from behind her desk.
“Where’s Derek?” Stiles calls out, probably a little bit louder than he plans to.
“Hello Stiles, how are you? No, no, please don’t apologize for barging rudely into my office,” Lydia exclaims, crossing her arms in front of her as she gives him the stink-eye.
“What did you do to Derek?” Stiles asks vehemently.
“What he asked me to do,” Lydia says, quite simply.
“Did it work?” Stiles asks, his chest tightening at the thought.
“It’s too soon to tell,” Lydia says, leaning back in her chair, “The installment went okay. But we had to reboot him completely, and it’s gonna take a couple of hours for him to start up again. We won’t know until then if the upgrade took.”
“Can I stay with him?” Stiles asks, his nerves completely on edge.
“So you can drive yourself insane looking at him while he’s completely out?” Lydia arches an eyebrow, “And then bombard him with questions and send him in overload the second he wakes up? I think it’s best if you sit this one out, Stiles.”
Stiles hates it when Lydia’s right. He knows it wouldn’t be good for Derek, or for himself for that matter. But he just wants to take a look at Derek. He wants to see him, make sure he’s still there.
“Can I just see him for a second before I leave?”
Lydia talks to him first, explaining to him that Derek’s emotionary range - if it even works - would take a while to fully develop. How long, she can’t say exactly, but Stiles knows that what she means to say is that he shouldn’t expect Derek to be madly in love with Stiles the second he wakes up. Stiles knows that Derek might not even fall in love with him at all.
Finally, she takes pity on him and guides him towards what she calls the recovery room. Derek is laying on a metal table, his eyes are closed, his body unmoving. He looks… cold somehow. There isn’t a sign of life in him, except for some wires hooked up to him, and it fills Stiles with worry.
Stiles walks over to the table, looking down on Derek. He wishes he could see Derek’s chest go up and down, could see his eyelids fluttering or his lips slightly part, but he knows it’s impossible. He carefully reaches out and places his palm over Derek’s forehead, brushing his hair back. Derek doesn’t move.
The first time Stiles sees Derek again, he’s so relieved that Derek is functioning at all that he doesn’t even think about the emotionary range right away. Derek is walking around, smiling, talking, properly functioning like he did before, and it feels like a gigantic weight that drops off Stiles’ shoulders.
“Look at you, you’re not even glitching or anything!” Stiles calls out, a goofy smile on his face to hide the worry that he’s been having about Derek since the upgrade.
“Good as new!” Derek smiles, leaning against the front desk where Stiles has taken up residence again.
“Does that mean you’re ready to receive an ass-kicking then?” Stiles asks, quirking an eyebrow at him.
“Why would I…?” Derek’s face turns into a frown.
“Because you’re an enormous idiot who could’ve messed up your entire mechanism with this upgrade, that’s why!” Stiles calls out.
“Stiles…” Derek sighs.
“No, really,” Stiles goes on, angrily, “Lydia told me about the risks! We all knew them! But you went ahead and did it anyway! How could you be so reckless? Why on earth would you do that?”
“You know why!” Derek huffs, somewhat annoyed.
“It was stupid!” Stiles all but yells.
“It was a calculated risk!” Derek bites back.
They’re attracting the attention of a few people by now, snapping at each other at the front desk of the police station, but Stiles doesn’t even care, he could’ve lost Derek without so much as a goodbye.
“You think you’re so smart!” Stiles says with a grunt.
“I thought you’d be happy!” Derek says, exasperated.
“Idiot!” Stiles bites out with one last burst of annoyance, before he hurtles himself around the desk at Derek, arms thrown around Derek’s neck as he buries his face against Derek’s skin, pulling him close.
There’s a fraction of a second that Derek doesn’t move, just stands still like he’s frozen, or stunned into stillness. But then his arms close around Stiles’ waist and he tilts his face against Stiles’ hair and he’s letting out a deep and shuddering breath that he didn’t even need to take.
“I’m sorry,” Derek mutters against Stiles’ hair, but Stiles just holds on tighter, like he’s afraid Derek will slip through his fingers if he doesn’t hold him close.
And Derek clings back.
They don’t actually talk about the feelings, but Derek is smiling more. He’s visibly enjoying little things in life, his face lights up when the Sheriff squeezes his shoulder, and his pride is evident when they’re able to do something good for a civilian who reached out for the help of the police. Stiles can tell the upgrade worked, that Derek is experiencing feelings he’s never had before, and that it livens him up.
But Stiles is afraid to ask about Derek’s feelings for him. And Derek doesn’t offer.
Until he does…
“What are you doing?” Stiles asks, amused, as he finds Derek at his front door, holding out a box of chocolates.
“I thought it was a nice gesture,” Derek shrugs, all but shoving the chocolates against Stiles’ chest as he makes his way into Stiles’ flat.
“But we don’t eat!” Stiles snorts, staring at the box in his hands.
“We can!” Derek shrugs, sticking his hands in his pockets, “We don’t have to, but…”
“But we’ve only ever eaten on social occasions,” Stiles frowns, closing the door behind him, “To, like… not make people uncomfortable and stuff.”
“Fine,” Derek huffs, grabbing the box of chocolates out of Stiles’ hands abruptly, “Sorry I even tried…”
“What are you…?” Stiles trails off, and then suddenly something clicks in his brain and as he looks at Derek’s face - a little embarrassed, a little vulnerable - it all makes sense. “Oh my God, Derek! Are you trying to woo me?”
“I…” Derek stammers, his face suddenly heating up in a flush. “I read this stupid article online, and it said chocolates make for a nice gesture, and…”
“For humans!” Stiles says, and he can’t help but grin from ear to ear.
“Forget it,” Derek huffs, scowling down at the box of candy like he’s got a personal vendetta against it.
“Oh, no!” Stiles calls out, hurrying towards Derek, “No, lets not forget it. I mean… you’re doing this for a reason, right?”
Derek mumbles something under his breath, not quite meeting Stiles’ eyes.
“What?” Stiles frowns, ducking his head to try and catch Derek’s gaze.
“T’woo you,” Derek grumbles, reluctantly, and Stiles can feel his heart grow ten sizes at the half-mumbled words. If he’s really honest, he already melted at the sight of Derek’s blushing face, at the fact that Derek actually thought he needed to do anything to win Stiles’ heart… when he made it so clear that it was Derek’s all along.
“Mission accomplished long ago,” Stiles whispers, his hand reaching out to Derek’s chest.
Derek blinks his eyes a few times, before finally meeting Stiles’, and then Derek’s lips are on his and they’re soft and warm and so much more than Stiles could ever dream of.
Stiles lets himself fall against Derek’s body, confident that Derek will hold him up. And he does, arms wrapped around Stiles’ body, lips moving against Stiles’ mouth… And Stiles doesn’t regret the way he loves one single bit.
Derek’s skin is warm against Stiles’. Soft. Comforting. Derek’s ear is over Stiles’ chest, like he’s expecting a heartbeat there. He won’t find it, but Stiles likes it anyway. Likes the closeness. His fingers run softly over Stiles’ arm, up and down, exploring, caressing.
“We should give those chocolates to Lydia…” Derek mutters, his eyelashes fluttering over Stiles’ chest as he opens and closes his eyes.
Stiles hums a non-committal response. He’s too busy enjoying the feel of Derek in his arms, at last.
“Or maybe you wanna keep them as a souvenir,” Derek says, and Stiles would almost think Derek is mocking his sappy emotions, until he realizes that now… Derek has them too.
“I love you,” Stiles says, in a rush, almost a confession, because these feelings he has for Derek are so huge it’s impossible to keep them in.
Derek doesn’t say anything, doesn’t move, and Stiles thinks for a second that maybe he rushed things. Maybe Derek still needs time to get used to it all, to come to terms with these feelings he’s having. Maybe Derek simply isn’t there yet, and Stiles is jumping the gun. But then there’s something that sounds like a hiccup, and Derek’s fingers wrap around Stiles’ arm, and he buries his face just a little bit closer to Stiles’ chest.
“Derek?” Stiles whispers, almost scared, and he’s met with another sound, and then Stiles recognizes it. It’s a sob, and it cuts through Stiles like a knife. “Derek…?”
Derek shakes his head slightly, presses his face into Stiles’ chest as if trying to disappear, but Stiles can feel the wetness of Derek’s eyes landing on his skin, can feel the shaking of Derek’s hiccuping body as he sobs.
“Derek…” Stiles says once more, tightening his arms around him a little bit more, burying his nose into the top of Derek’s hair, pressing soft kisses on his head.
“I never…” Derek says, his voice sounding small and fragile, his lips trembling against Stiles’ skin. He sniffs, tries to compose himself, and Stiles wants to tell him he doesn’t have to, that he can just let it all out but he doesn’t find the words. “I never understood,” Derek says eventually, lifting his head so he can look at Stiles. His eyes are wet, but they look more filled with feeling than Stiles has ever seen.
“I told you before,” Stiles says, softly, the edges of his lips curling up.
“But I didn’t get it,” Derek says, sniffing a little bit, “I didn’t…”
“You couldn’t have,” Stiles says, because he knows that those words were just abstract to Derek before, that he couldn’t know what it was like to feel this way, to experience these kinds of emotions.
Derek nods a little in agreement, another tear streaking down his cheek and he pinches his eyes closed as he drops his face back against Stiles’ chest to let out another sob. Stiles’ eyes start prickling as well, and he closes them as he slides his arms up a bit, wrapped around Derek’s neck, holding him as close as he can.
They’re quiet for a while, Stiles just holding onto Derek, caressing his fingertips over Derek’s back, pressing soft kisses on the top of Derek’s head, the occasional tear dropping onto Stiles’ skin. Stiles doesn’t try to make conversation, doesn’t try to dig into Derek’s feelings, have him analyze every single thing. It’s clear enough how Derek feels - now that he is able to feel - and Stiles never thought he could be so lucky.
“I get it now…” Derek says eventually, when Stiles doesn’t expect it anymore, and the words grow in Stiles’ chest, filling him up with something so unambiguously close to pure happiness that he thinks maybe this is all just a dream.
“You took such a risk,” Stiles whispers, and Derek lifts his head to look at him, “For me…”
“You’re worth taking risks for,” Derek smiles, softly, resting his head on the pillow next to Stiles.
“You couldn’t have known that,” Stiles snorts lightly, and he moves his hand to playfully push at Derek’s shoulder but he ends up just touching Derek’s skin instead, as some kind of reassurance that he is there, that this is real.
“I must’ve known somehow…” Derek says, a tiny shrug tugging at his shoulder, “I told you, being around you was better than not being around you.”
“Imagine how I felt,” Stiles smiles.
“I don’t have to anymore,” Derek says, his face so close that his nose is brushing gently against Stiles’.
“Who knew you would turn into such a romantic?” Stiles says, his eyes fixed on Derek. “Didn’t think you were made that way.”
“Maybe we were made for each other?” Derek muses, before dropping another kiss on Stiles’ lips.
And even though Stiles knows that that is technically impossible, he still likes to believe it anyway.