Derek frowned into the mirror. "Do you think I should shave? Or at least have my hair trimmed?"
"Considering most people think your hair makes you look like a Disney prince in addition to a real prince, I would say leave the hair." Boyd, his bodyguard and best friend, glanced up briefly from his magazine. "Might want to trim your beard, though. You're almost a hobo."
Derek rolled his eyes and pulled out his beard trimmer. "You're fired."
Boyd chuckled. "You know Greenberg's next in line for this job."
"Never mind." Derek winced. "You're never fired. So what's the agenda for this evening?"
Boyd flipped through his magazine. "Just the Christmas dinner for the raffle winner, which starts at 7:30 and has four hours blocked out."
Derek nearly shaved a chunk out of his beard. "What? Four hours?" He turned from the sink to look Boyd full-on. "Are you sure?"
Boyd pulled his phone out of the pocket of his suit jacket and held it out, eyes never leaving the magazine. "See for yourself."
Derek scowled—of course Boyd didn't see it, and it wouldn't matter if he had—and swiped the phone. He frowned at the calendar. "That never lasts longer than two hours. Two and a half, at most." Derek tossed the phone back and Boyd caught it without looking up. "Why is it so much longer this year?"
When it became clear Boyd wasn't going to answer, Derek sighed and went back to trimming his beard. It might not have been a hobo look, but it was a little longer than it needed to be, especially for a dinner that would involve at least two or three press pictures.
It was something his mother had come up with years before, where Derek's older sister, Laura, had first turned 18: raffling off a Christmas dinner with the crown princess as a way of raising money, and donating the proceeds to a different charity. That first year had been a rousing success, raising enough funds to keep Mom's favorite children's charity open for another two years, and so it had become something of a tradition.
This was the first year Derek was the only one doing a dinner, as both Laura and Cora had other obligations. And in another first, he was in New York for the holidays, rather than home, which meant they'd done the raffle here. Shockingly, the total raised this year had been twice what it had been the year before. It was enough that they could donate to two charities instead of just one.
Americans were excited about the prospect of dinner with a foreign prince, it seemed.
Derek washed his face and wiped it off, then waved a hand at Boyd. "I'm getting a shower. Out."
Boyd finally closed the magazine and stood. "Suit will be hanging on your closet door, sir. You have one hour before the dinner."
Forty-five minutes later, Derek was walking out of his room with Boyd right on his heels, listening as Boyd rattled off the information about the winner of this dinner.
"Detective Przemysław Stilinski, 29 years old, been with the NYPD for three years—"
"Przemysław?" Derek repeated. "What a fun name to be saddled with during grade school."
Boyd continued as if Derek hadn't said anything. "Double-majored in criminology and computer science, originally from California but transferred over to the NYPD after graduating the police academy. Never married, no children. His father still lives in California, recently retired as the sheriff from some small town there. His references come from Dr. Lydia Martin—"
Derek started at the name. "Didn't she win the Fields Medal last year?"
"Indeed she did. Apparently she went to high school with Detective Stilinski and had a number of glowing things to say about him, followed by a threat to my personhood should any of that get back to the good detective. Other references are his partner, Detective Allison Delgado, and her husband, Dr. Scott Delgado, a veterinarian here in the city. Apparently Dr. Delgado and Detective Stilinski have known each other since, and I quote, 'we were in diapers.'"
Derek chuckled as they hurried down the wide staircase to the formal dining room. "Don't tell Erica, but I think you're better at this than she is."
"I'll remember that in case I need blackmail material, sir," Boyd said evenly. "Oh, and there is just one more thing."
Derek was about to turn to ask what it was, but then he saw the man standing in the dining room and he stopped short, exhaling like he'd been punched in the stomach.
Just like that, he was 21 years old again, cautiously sipping a drink at a gay bar in San Francisco, when a lanky young man with the most beautiful amber eyes Derek had ever seen sidled up to him and said, "Hey."
He barely heard Boyd's voice beside him, continuing, "Detective Stilinski prefers to be called—"
"Stiles," Derek finished, voice hollow.
The man in question finally looked at him, and God, that was another punch right there. He was older, obviously, slightly taller and broader than he'd been in college, brown hair finally grown out into something longer and more flattering than that ridiculous buzz cut that Derek had nevertheless loved. He looked absolutely delectable in a dark suit and white shirt, so different from the plaid shirts and graphic tees he's worn without fail every damn day back then. Those amber eyes were a little sharper, a little harder, a little more world-weary.
But the small smirk on those pink lips, the moles along that jawline which Derek had memorized the taste and pattern of, those were heartbreakingly familiar, so much so it felt like only a few days had passed since he'd last seen Stiles, instead of ten years.
Boyd stepped around him and held out a hand. "Detective Stilinski. Good to see you again."
The smirk turned into a smile, and Stiles shook his hand. "Boyd. It's been awhile."
That voice—deeper and raspier than you'd expect, coming out of a man like that—sent a shiver down Derek's spine. He should say something, anything, but he was frozen where he stood. He wasn't even sure he remembered how to make words.
Boyd gave Derek a small, knowing smile. "Well. I've got a pregnant wife to get back to, so I'm off. You two have fun."
Don't leave me, Derek wanted to call out, because Boyd was calm and rational and would keep Derek from doing something idiotic, like saying "Fuck it all" to dinner and bodily dragging Stiles upstairs to his bedroom for the rest of the night.
Instead, he nodded sharply, the only motion he was capable of making at the moment. Boyd gave him a half-salute before heading out the swinging door that led from the dining room into the kitchen, probably to pilfer snacks for Erica before he headed back upstairs.
And Derek was now alone in the dining room with Stiles.
Silence filled the air, punctuated only by the ticking of the grandfather clock, the creak of the kitchen door still swinging, and Derek's own harsh breathing. He was almost afraid to step forward, afraid that Stiles would vanish into thin air, like he had so many times in Derek's dreams.
Derek clenched his fists and reminded himself that this was the Christmas dinner. There would be cameras here soon, pictures for the press, a brief interview with both of them. He couldn't—it had been ten years, for God's sake, he didn't have any right to anything.
"So." Stiles took a step forward, made a show of looking around the dining room. "Fancy place you have here, Your Majesty."
"Highness," Derek said automatically.
Stiles blinked. "What?"
Derek wanted to kick himself, that that was when his brain decided to come online and start working. "'Majesty' is for kings and queens. 'Highness' is the proper address for a prince or princess. But—"
"Oh, well, excuse the hell out of me, Your Highness," Stiles snapped. "It's my first time having dinner with a prince. Well, knowingly."
Knowingly. Right. Stiles had every reason to still be angry with him. Why had he expected anything different?
Derek let his eyes dart away, feeling shame heat his cheeks. "Just...call me Derek. Please."
"Derek." Stiles's smile sharpened. "Be honest with me. How many guards are going to come running if I punch you in the face?"
It startled a laugh out of him. "Just one," Derek said. "But are you really sure you want to start an international incident?"
Stiles tapped a finger on his chin. "I don't know. Might be worth it."
Derek couldn't argue with that. Hell, he deserved worse than a punch, after the way he had ended things.
"Dude, are you actually bracing yourself for a punch?" Stiles asked incredulously.
Derek dropped his eyes to Stiles's hands, both in his pockets once again. "I wouldn't blame you for taking one."
The smile dropped from Stiles's face, and he actually glared. "I'm really fucking tempted."
"You should've told me you were a prince, jackass, instead of letting me believe you were with someone else."
"I wasn't—" Derek sighed harshly. "That wasn't really a lie. Just...the someone else wasn't a person. Isn't a person." More than ever, he felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. "My country comes first. Has to come first."
That didn't seem to placate Stiles in the least. "What, and you thought I couldn't understand that, being the lowly commoner that I am?"
"No, it wasn't that." Derek wanted to disappear into the floor. "I never thought that. I just..."
He trailed off, clenching his fists and counting his breaths. Everything jumbled in his head, the only clear words were ones Derek was positive Stiles wouldn't want to hear right now.
I love you. I miss you. I haven't stopped thinking about you in ten years. I'm sorry.
"I'm sorry," Derek finally whispered.
Stiles's jaw dropped, like that was the last thing he'd expected. "What?"
The door to the dining room swung open, and the butler, Blakely, stepped through and bowed. "Your Highness, the press is here for the photos."
God, he'd completely forgotten. Derek nodded jerkily. "Thank you, Blakely. Just one moment, please."
Blakely bowed again and disappeared back out the door into the foyer.
Derek turned back to Stiles. "If you don't want—I can tell them you were sick, or something, and couldn't make the dinner. You don't have to stay."
Some of the anger bled out of Stiles's face, and his shoulders relaxed a bit. "No. I don't—I can stick around for it. I've always wondered what kind of food gets made for these things, anyway."
"No curly fries, sadly," Derek said.
Stiles laughed like it had been shocked out of him. "No curly fries, well. Now I know the truth; it won't be worth eating." He eyed Derek suspiciously. "I can't believe you remember that."
I remember everything about you, Derek wanted to say. I remember everything you told me. I never wanted to forget.
Instead of saying anything, he shrugged. "Well then. Shall we meet the press?"
The (thankfully short) press conference went well. Stiles was still a little awkward, but he'd learned to make it work for him, learned to hold in his flailing limbs, learned to be more charming instead of spouting off everything that went through his head.
It killed Derek on the inside, to see how much he'd changed, to know that it was his own fault he hadn't been there for the changes.
For his own part, Derek didn't remember half of what he was asked, just focused on making sure no one could so tell how gone he was on Stiles, how deep their history really went.
"I actually didn't buy tickets for the raffle," Stiles was saying, with a self-deprecating smile. "My partner on the force, Allison, did. Guess she thought it would make a good Christmas present."
"Hell of a present!" one of the interviewers shouted, and everybody laughed, even Derek.
Finally, it was over, and the press left so Derek and Stiles could sit down to their dinner without being disturbed.
Derek didn't know what he'd expected, but it wasn't this: falling back into conversation as though they'd just parted yesterday as friends instead of ten years ago with angry words. Stiles was more apt to tease Derek or make a sarcastic comment about the silverware and the overly ostentatious place setting than to sit back in awe.
It was so painfully familiar: the back-and-forth of their banter, the way Stiles gestured as he told stories about Scott and Allison and his father, the way his whole body lit up when he found something amusing, the practically pornographic moans he made over the food he liked. Halfway through their filet mignon, Derek had to surreptitiously adjust his pants. He'd previously only heard that noise when—
He cut off the thought before it could go any further.
The five courses flew by faster than they ever had before, and the next thing Derek knew, they were both on their third glass of wine, empty dessert plates in front of them, laughing so hard they couldn't sit up straight.
"So Allison and I get to this guy's apartment, right?" Stiles gestured as expressively as he always had, nearly knocking over his glass of wine in the process. "And we're totally prepared for, like, an insane level of resistance because we know the dude's got a small armory in there. We get there, we shout 'police,' we knock down the door and he doesn't hear a fucking thing because he's in the shower belting N'SYNC as loud as he can."
Derek choked on his wine, the burn of the alcohol bringing tears to his eyes. "Are you serious?" he asked as soon as he could speak again.
"As a heart attack." Stiles raised his wine glass. "To this day, I can't hear 'Bye Bye Bye' without laughing. He was even doing the dance!"
Derek covered his face and laughed harder. "Oh my God."
Stiles was still nodding, laughing just as hard as Derek, when suddenly he startled. "Holy shit, is it actually 10:30?"
Derek followed his gaze to the massive grandfather clock at the other end of the room, and the time sobered him up fast. "So it is."
For the first time all evening, silence fell over the dining room.
"So what happens now?" Stiles asked, eyes focused on his wine glass. "How do these dinners normally end?"
Derek swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, the pang that the evening was ending and Stiles was going to walk out the door and out of his life yet again. "Usually Boyd comes in to let us know the time's up, and I escort the guest to the door."
Stiles's brow furrowed. "But Boyd left."
Derek felt the heat on his cheeks, and resisted the instinct to duck his head. "Yes."
"He doesn't normally leave?"
"No." That time Derek did duck his head, because he couldn't look. "He probably thought I was safe with you."
He probably knew how much I wanted to see you again, wanted just a few more minutes with you.
It was a blessing and a curse that he'd gotten the wish. It had taken only a spare handful of minutes for him to fall back in love, or rather, to realize he'd never fallen out of it. He wanted to grab Stiles's hand and beg him to stay, even as he knew he couldn't, knew what the answer would be.
Stiles cleared his throat and pushed back his chair. "Well. I guess I should probably get going."
Derek nodded and stood, praying his disappointment didn't show on his face. "Just one moment, before you go. I have something for you."
Stiles frowned, and Derek shrugged self-consciously. "It's nothing," he said, in some vain effort to backtrack. "I just...I just wanted..."
Thankfully, the kitchen door swung open and Janine, the chef, brought in a small white box. "The special order you requested, Your Highness."
Derek managed a smile as he took it from her. "Thanks, Janine. You're the best."
She rolled her eyes, but he spotted the way she smiled before she sauntered back into the kitchen.
"What's that?" Stiles asked.
Derek walked around the table to hand him the box. "Just open it."
Stiles flipped it open, and then just stared at it. "Curly fries."
"We didn't have any for dinner," Derek said. "I just wanted to make sure it was still worth eating."
Stiles made a distressed noise Derek couldn't even begin to interpret. "You had them make me curly fries."
Now Derek started to fidget. "They're...they were your favorite, I thought—" He cut himself off and shook his head. They'd been Stiles's favorite ten years ago, of course they weren't now. "Never mind, you don't have to take them, I—"
Stiles yanked the box close to his body and glared at Derek like he'd just suggested they throw rocks at helpless animals. "No, they're mine, you gave them to me, no take backs. Dude." He rubbed one hand over his face. "You...you remembered fucking curly fries, how did you remember I love curly fries?"
Derek's surprise came out in a choked noise, and he felt his face flame in response. He found it suddenly very interesting to study the shine on his shoes. "I handled it all poorly. You're right. I should've told you then, should've told you what—who I am. Should've..." Should've done something, said something, explained better, but of course he hadn't been able to then. Not that he was much better at it now.
He made himself look up. Stiles had set down the box and stepped into his space, close enough to touch, amber eyes bright with concern. "I thought you forgot about me," he said softly. "I thought you went back home to your palace and a parade of really fucking hot girls, I was just a summer fling—"
Derek shook his head jerkily, a lump in his throat. "No. You...you were never that. Not for a second."
Stiles smirked. "I bet I was for at least a second. Come on, we met in a bar and both of us were looking for a one-night stand."
Derek somehow managed a smile. "I think you quit being a fling sometime between the bitching about Hemingway and the passionate defense of Superman as a character."
Stiles sucked in a breath at that, and he continued to stare at Derek, an unreadable expression on his face.
His heart beat so hard it was all Derek could hear, blood rushing and making him lightheaded. "I never forgot any of it," he whispered. "I couldn't."
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Stiles cursed.
He took another step forward, sliding close enough that Derek could smell the faint spice of his cologne, and slipped his arms around Derek's neck. Derek sucked in a breath, and his hands automatically settled on Stiles's hips. His heart pounded even faster now, fingers itching to pull Stiles closer, to get past that suit to the skin he knew so well, still dreamed about even all these years later.
And then Stiles closed the last few inches between them, pressing his lips to Derek's.
Some part of him that had been asleep for a decade woke up with a jolt, like it had just been waiting for Stiles's touch to spring back to life. Derek whimpered and dug his fingers into the slick fabric of Stiles's pants, opening his mouth to chase the taste of wine and chocolate and the kiss he thought he'd never get to have again.
Stiles's fingers trailed up the back of his neck, sending shivers down his spine, tangled in Derek's hair and tightened. He kissed with more focus than he'd had before, his entire attention on Derek's mouth, as though he could divine the meaning of life from it. Hell, maybe this was the meaning of life, the heat of Stiles's lips and the nip of his teeth and the softness of his tongue. God knew Derek didn't need anything else.
After an eternity, Stiles broke the kiss with a shaky pant. "Okay, I think that might be better than I remembered."
Derek pressed his forehead to Stiles's and laughed weakly. He meant to murmur his agreement, but what came out was, "Stay."
Stiles froze, body stilling under his hands. "What?"
"With me," Derek added. "Stay with me tonight. Please."
"Oh fuck," Stiles groaned, and kissed him again.
It was a wonder they made it up the stairs, given that Derek couldn't keep his hands off Stiles, couldn't bear to give up that touch for even a moment. Not that Stiles was any better; his hands slipped between Derek's jacket and his shirt, trailing down to tug at where it tucked into the waistband of his pants. Even through the cloth, his fingers burned, surer and hotter than Derek remembered, and all he could think about was getting his hands, mouth, body on Stiles's bare skin.
The only thing that kept him moving toward the bedroom was the dim reminder that his staff was still in the house, and Derek didn't want to share this with anyone.
He had no idea how they made it to his bedroom, but they did, stumbling through the door, and Derek kicked it shut behind him.
Stiles pulled away, panting, hair and clothes mussed and lips dark from their kiss. Derek could only stare, gobsmacked at the beauty of him. He felt drunk and greedy, torn between wanting to rip off Stiles's clothes and wanting to savor each moment, to peel back each article of clothing and worship the pale skin underneath until he forgot—until they both forgot how long it had been since the last time.
"Can I ride you?" Stiles blurted out.
His thoughts crashed together at the question, and the only response Derek could articulate was "Bwha?"
Stiles hunched his shoulders and drew back further, taking a step away. "We don't have to, I mean, I'm cool with whatever you want to do—"
"Yes," Derek cut in, and closed the space between them again. There shouldn't be any space between them. "We can do whatever you want, please. I just want you. Just you."
His shoulders relaxed, and Stiles smiled once again. Derek traced the edge of it with his thumb, followed the line over his jaw to brush across the moles.
"I missed you," Derek whispered.
Stiles reached up to wrap his fingers around Derek's, squeezing them. "So I gathered. I missed you, too, big guy."
Derek dropped his forehead to Stiles's, trying to steady his breathing but failing miserably. His heart tumbled in a rapid staccato, and his chest felt like it might burst, long-dormant emotions overwhelming him. God, he had forgotten what it was like, not the kind of feelings he had for Stiles, but the intensity of them, the way they stole his breath away and swept aside everything else.
Stiles tilted his head and pressed their lips together in another kiss, this one softer and sweeter and less hurried, like a reassurance and a question all in one.
Derek closed his eyes and let himself fall into it, taking the kiss deeper, letting some of the urgency bleed away. Need still itched under his skin, pushing him closer to Stiles, but it was easier to focus, easier to put all his attention on remembering every moment of this.
He unknotted Stiles's tie and tossed it away, fingers fumbling next at the buttons on his shirt. It felt like victory when it opened, when Derek could push away the fabric and finally, finally get his hands on Stiles's skin.
He spread his fingers, relishing in the touch, slid his hands over Stiles's chest and then up to his neck, tracing little circles over the skin as he moved. It felt like something clicked, like an old ache had finally soothed, like coming home after a long journey. It felt right, perfect, like this was all they needed.
Stiles let out a little sigh, a soft, contented noise, like he felt the same way. Derek peeled away the shirt, pressing kisses to each inch of pale skin revealed, making his way down Stiles's neck and chest. He flicked his tongue over one puffy nipple, and was rewarded with a hiss of breath and a soft curse.
Derek rubbed his thumb over Stiles's other nipple. "Still sensitive, I see."
"Shut up," Stiles said, and grabbed the back of Derek's head to pull him into another kiss.
They undressed each other—Derek pushing Stiles's shirt the rest of the way off, Stiles throwing Derek's jacket halfway across the room—until they were both shirtless and panting. Derek let his hands roam over Stiles's skin, finding old moles and new scars, chapters of his life that Derek had missed.
Derek traced the outline of one puckered scar along Stiles's side, and Stiles grasped his wrist. He looked up with an oddly vulnerable expression, like he knew what Derek was thinking. "It wasn't life-threatening."
Derek flattened his palm over it. "I still wish I'd been there."
"Me too." Then Stiles grabbed his belt and ran his fingers up Derek's fly, where he was already straining at the zipper. "Now, less talking and more dicks. If memory serves, I'm going to need a lot of prep to ride you hard."
Derek groaned at the words, and the next thing he knew, Stiles was tossing his belt across the room and yanking down Derek's pants. Before he could say a word, Stiles was on his knees, soft lips closing around the head of Derek's cock through his boxer briefs.
Derek helplessly bucked into the touch, but Stiles didn't pull down his underwear, just kept mouthing along the line of his cock through the fabric. It was the most exquisite torture, and God, Derek knew how good Stiles was with his mouth and tongue, wanted desperately to see if the present would live up to his memory.
"If you blow me, I can't guarantee you'll be able to ride me," Derek managed to say through hitching breaths.
Stiles pouted and nuzzled Derek's cock, but he stood back up, running his hands along Derek's sides as he did. "I'm guessing you've got lube and a condom around here somewhere?"
Derek nodded and pulled Stiles back toward the bed. He fell onto it first, tugging Stiles behind him. Somehow, they finished kicking off their pants, and then Stiles was stark naked, kneeling over him with the lube from the bedside table and fingering himself open.
He couldn't tear his eyes away from Stiles's body, the way he flushed all the way down his chest, his hard cock beading pre-come at the tip, the way his eyelids fluttered with each movement of his fingers.
It was the most beautiful sight Derek had ever seen. He gripped Stiles's hips, rubbing his thumbs along the bones there, and made to wrap his hand around Stiles's cock only to have it slapped away.
"Don't." Stiles gasped the word. "You touch me, and I'm gonna come, and I want to come on your dick."
Derek's cock throbbed at the words, and he nearly bit his lip in two to keep from moaning. He'd had dreams about this, dreams of Stiles clenching around him, tight and hot; dreams of Stiles riding him, of fucking him on hands and knees, of driving into him face-to-face, sharing the same breath as they came. It still didn't feel real, and Derek half-thought he'd blink and wake up alone again, as he had every other time over the past ten years.
He shot up, and Stiles let out a surprised noise, which Derek promptly swallowed with a deep kiss. He chased the taste of Stiles, kissing with all the longing inside him, with the pain of all the chances he'd thrown away.
I need you. I need you. I missed you. I love you.
Tender fingers brushed along his neck and jaw, petting his stubble, and Derek reluctantly broke the kiss for oxygen. But he couldn't bear to lie back down, stayed close enough that he could feel Stiles's breath against his skin. "Are you ready for me?"
Stiles laughed breathlessly. "It's been awhile, but yeah. I think I'm ready."
Derek cupped Stiles's face and kissed him again. "It's okay. It's been awhile for me, too."
He grabbed the condom, ripped it open, and slid it on. Before he could get the lube, Stiles was wrapping a slick hand around Derek's cock and jacking him slowly. For once in his life, Derek was grateful for the way the latex dulled the sensations, because it was already close to too much.
"Stiles," he said, both a prayer and a plea.
Stiles pushed him back down and positioned himself over Derek, lowering his ass down to his cock and—
Derek felt his eyes roll back in his head, and God, it didn't even matter that he had a condom on, Stiles felt so fucking hot and slick and perfect. Derek wanted to drive up into that heat, wanted to see Stiles fall apart, wanted to feel him come, but Stiles put a hand in the center of his chest, holding him down.
He rolled his hips and Derek saw stars.
"Fuck, Stiles," he whispered, at a loss for any other words.
"That's the plan." Stiles grunted, pretty mouth falling open. "Good God, I forgot how big you were. Forgot how good you felt. Forgot a lot of things."
Derek clung to his hips for dear life, as Stiles hit a rhythm, switching from rolling his hips to bouncing with abandon, their skin slapping together with the movement. Instinctively, Derek bucked up again, and this time Stiles didn't stop him. They met each other, thrust for thrust, their breathing harsh and ragged in the quiet of the bedroom. For the first time that night, Derek felt like this was real, felt like Stiles was solid and whole, like this wasn't just one wrong breath from slipping out of his grasp.
He gripped Stiles's cock and stroked him, somewhat awkwardly given the angle, but the utterly wanton moan Stiles let out more than made up for it. Derek grinned and swiped the pre-come off the head, bringing it to his mouth to lick it off his fingers. Salty and bitter, but it was from Stiles, and damn it, Derek wanted more.
Stiles cursed. "How the fuck are you so sexy?"
"All you," Derek said, because that was about all he was capable of at the moment. He grabbed Stiles's cock again, stroking him at a better angle, relishing in the way it made the rhythm of his hips falter. "Want you to come on me."
Stiles whined. "God, Derek, yes, fucking hell, I wanna come on you, wanna...fuck..."
Derek could feel his orgasm building, the way his balls were starting to tighten, but then Stiles scratched at his chest and cried out, coming all over Derek's abs. Derek thought he could make it a little longer, but no, he couldn't, not with Stiles shuddering above him like that. His own orgasm punched out of him with the next few thrusts, and then Stiles slid to one side and collapsed on top of him, still shivering.
It was easy to wrap his arms around Stiles, easy to pull him close, easy for Derek to turn his head and press his forehead to Stiles's sweaty temple. This was perfect, and he absolutely didn't want to be anywhere else.
"Holy shit," Stiles said, sounding awed, and another tremor ran through his body. "Holy shit."
Derek could only nod his agreement, running his hands over Stiles's back, down his sides, over his ass, where they were still joined. He never wanted to move again.
Stiles turned his head and nuzzled at Derek's cheek. "We should probably shower. I'm starting to feel kind of gross."
Derek grinned, feeling loose-limbed and happy. "Remember the time we fell asleep before we could clean off and had to peel apart two hours later?"
"Ugh." Stiles groaned and slapped half-heartedly at Derek's side. "Don't remind me. I think I lost at least two layers of skin."
"You know," Derek said as conversationally as he could, "I've got a very nice shower. Easily big enough for two."
He felt, rather than saw, Stiles's smile. "Oh yeah?
"Mm-hmm. Perfect for cleaning up."
"I see." Stiles raised his head, just enough that Derek could see the mischievous spark in his eyes. "This your way of telling me you're going to be ready for round two in a bit?"
Round two. Derek slid his hand to Stiles's ass and squeezed. "If you think you can handle it, old man."
Stiles's laugh was music to his ears. "Oh, it is on."
Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, when it was still grey outside and the sun was fighting to get through the clouds (and well after round two), Stiles wiggled around to face Derek and whispered, "So why did you really leave?"
Derek buried his face into his pillow, and fought a smile as Stiles traced long fingers over his hairline. "I know you aren't really asleep," Stiles said. "I can see you smiling. Come on. I know you didn't just leave because of duty to your country. Not...not if this is how you've been feeling for the last ten years."
Any other time, Derek might have fought it, might have shut down. But after last night, he just felt oddly open, vulnerable and safe at the same time. He caught Stiles's hand and threaded their fingers together. "I told my mother I was bisexual right before I left for California. I thought...well, she'd sounded like she understood."
Stiles's grip tightened. "I'm guessing not so much?"
"The morning that we met for breakfast, the morning I ended it, she called me." Derek closed his eyes at the rush of shame and guilt that came with the memory, still potent all these years later. "Shouted at me for half an hour about how I was ruining the family name by running around America fucking any guy who would have me. Pointing out there was only one didn't really help." He took a deep breath. "She told me it couldn't continue. And then she said 'you end it or I will.'"
"Fuck," Stiles breathed. "What did that mean?"
"I didn't know, and I didn't want to find out." Derek shook his head. "I didn't think she'd do anything, but I'd never heard her that angry."
"So you came to breakfast and let me assume you were actually seeing someone else, because your mom freaked out on you?"
Derek nodded into his pillow. "It sounds stupid, when you say it like that. Maybe I should've pushed back, tried to call her bluff, instead of caving—"
Stiles nudged him gently. "Hey, dude, don't start that. It's been ten years. And besides...I kind of get it. I mean, I wouldn't have then, but I do now."
Derek pulled their hands up to his lips to kiss Stiles's knuckles, and swallowed over the lump in his throat. "Anyway, that's why—I ended up having to go home early anyway. And Mom decided that, since 'bisexual' meant I liked women as well, she'd just throw them at me until one stuck. I'd barely been back two weeks when Erica showed up."
Stiles's eyebrows shot up. "Erica? Was that the blonde you were seeing for awhile?"
Derek had to laugh at that. "No, that was the blonde I saw for all of three hours before I realized she had a massive crush on my bodyguard and it was reciprocated. Every 'date' we had for six months was me giving them an excuse to be together. They're married now."
Stiles grinned. "So she's the pregnant wife Boyd had to get home to."
"Yeah." Derek found himself returning Stiles's grin. "After him, she's probably my best friend."
"So..." Stiles drew out the word. "All those women you dated, your mom set you up with all of them?"
Derek shrugged. "Mom or one of her many secretaries. After Erica, there was Kira—she's the daughter of the Japanese ambassador—who is absolutely one of the sweetest and most macabre people you'll ever meet. She's bi, too, and is now dating one of my cousins." He chuckled at the memory. "Mom actually facepalmed when she saw Kira and Malia together.
"Then there was Jennifer, who turned out to be in a relationship and had just agreed to date me on the hope of getting paid for it. After her was Braeden, who was actually paid for it, but she told the secretary who hired her to go fuck herself after a month, because the whole forced dating thing was bullshit, and drove off with twenty grand."
Stiles's eyes went wide. "She stole twenty grand from you?"
"No, she had been given twenty grand by the secretary, with the promise of another twenty if the relationship lasted six months." Derek snorted. "We got to be pretty good friends. I told her a lot about you. She was...a little incensed when she found out the real reason why there was a budget item for girlfriend-for-hire. Fortunately, Braeden was the last one."
"Good," Stiles said softly. "I don't...I thought that all meant you were over me, that it hadn't meant anything to you. I didn't realize you were being forced into it. That's..."
"It wasn't so bad," Derek said quickly. "Like I said, with Erica and Kira and Braeden, we ended up becoming friends. We still talk regularly. I mean...the circumstances were terrible, obviously, but I'm glad I know them all."
"And then your mom just stopped?" Stiles asked.
"Yeah. I guess after four years, she realized that plan wasn't going to work."
"Have you talked to her about it since then?"
Derek scoffed. "No. It's probably cowardly of me, but I just...can't."
He'd already had her reject him once, and Derek wasn't sure he could handle it happening again. Maybe that did make him a coward.
"So." Stiles flopped back against the pillow. "We're still in the same place we were ten years ago."
Derek closed his eyes and tried to ignore the burning of his eyes. No matter how much he wanted to argue, no matter how much he wanted it to be otherwise, Stiles was right. Ten years apart and there was still nothing he could do to bring them together, not without infuriating his mother and wrecking his family, not without sacrificing everything else important in his life.
"Just...one question." Stiles sat up, rubbing his hands over his eyes. "If it weren't for this...if your mom was totally okay with it, would you still want this? Want...me?"
Derek pushed himself up and took Stiles's hands in his, looked him right in the eyes. "If my mother hadn't called me that morning, I would never have let you go in the first place. I've never stopped wanting you. I don't think I ever will."
I love you. I love you. The words beat against his tongue, but he couldn't say them.
Stiles let out a shaky breath and dropped his gaze to their clasped hands. "Then promise me this, okay? Promise me you'll talk to your mom, as soon as you get a chance."
Derek froze, the slight chill of fear settling into his stomach. "Stiles—"
Stiles's eyes snapped back to his, burning in ferocity. "I know, okay? I'm not asking you for us. I'm asking you to do it for you. It's been ten years. Who knows? Maybe she's mellowed. If so, awesome! If not...okay, it'll still suck majorly. But either way, you'll know, and there won't be this cloud of 'what if' hanging over you." He sighed, and some of the anger faded from his eyes. "Believe me, it's the uncertainty that kills you."
Derek reached over, traced his fingers along Stiles's jawline, heart clenching as Stiles leaned into the touch with a soft exhale.
Then he pulled away. "I should go."
No, no, I don't want you to, Derek wanted to say, but he only nodded, jaw tight.
He watched Stiles sort his clothes from Derek's on the floor and slowly get dressed. With each moment, Derek could feel him moving further and further away, even though they were still in the same room.
You're going to give up the best thing in your life? Let the man you love walk away from you again? And for what, for someone who will never understand, never accept you?
You'd sacrifice your entire life—your family and your duty to your country—for this? For someone you loved ten years ago?
He let his mind wrestle the question as he stood to dress himself, and then he quietly led Stiles downstairs to the garage, where his car was parked from the night before.
Stiles shoved his hands into his pockets and rolled his shoulders, like he was trying to work out the kinks. Derek's fingers itched to rub there, to work through the muscles until they weren't so tense, but he forced himself to keep his hands at his sides. Besides, he was likely the one responsible for any tension there.
"I'm heading home for the holidays," Stiles said. "Back to Beacon Hills. I'm guessing you'll be flying back to—" He flapped one hand in a general easterly direction.
Derek nodded, cleared his throat to speak without a rasp in his voice. "Yeah, I'll be heading home, too."
Stiles's lips ticked up on one side, and he held out his hand. "Well, have a happy holiday, Your Highness. It was a pleasure."
Perfectly respectable. Like they hadn't just spent the night together, like Derek's heart wasn't breaking all over again to let him go.
"Stiles," Derek whispered, but there wasn't anything else to say. They would just be words, regardless. "Happy holiday to you as well."
They shook hands and Derek watched Stiles walk out of his life for the second time.
Two days, Derek told himself. He looked at his schedule and decided he could allow himself two days of moping in his room before he had to return to the outside world, plaster on a smile, and pretend his heart hadn't been ripped out of his body, leaving him bleeding on the inside.
He saw Boyd briefly just after Stiles left. He didn't even have to ask; Boyd just took one look at him and immediately cancelled all his meetings that day, telling people that His Highness had come down with a particularly nasty virus and would not be able to leave his house for the next forty-eight hours.
Derek made a note to give Boyd a two-week vacation to the location of his choice for his next birthday present.
That feeling of love for his friends only intensified when Erica showed up outside his room with a brand-new bottle of Derek's favorite whiskey and one glass. She scowled at her stomach and shoved the alcohol at him. "I can't drink, but you're getting shit-faced."
Which was how Derek ended up spending most of the day plowing through a bottle of whiskey and crying on Erica's shoulder, both literally and figuratively. She petted his head and made soothing noises and listened as he slurred through an overly detailed recounting of both the night before and the month he and Stiles had had together in college. Fortunately, Erica had no problem with the inevitable TMI.
"I love him," he muttered into her shoulder. "I love him, and I wanna wake up every morning with him, and wanna bring him to meet Laura an' Cora an' you an' Boyd an' everyone. But I can't. I can't because I'm stupid and I'm scared and I wouldn't be 'living up to my responsibilities'—"
"The fact that you can still say 'responsibilities' right now tells me you aren't drinking enough," Erica said.
Derek cast a blurry eye at the half-empty bottle on the coffee table. "The table's moving."
"Or maybe you've had just enough." Erica scratched a little on Derek's head, and he sighed. "Look, I don't know what it's like being in your position, but I do know this. From a social perspective, you being an openly bisexual prince with a steady boyfriend will be a tremendous boost for queer representation, giving young people all over the world an excellent role model."
Derek blew a raspberry. He was a terrible role model right now.
"And from a personal perspective," she continued as if he hadn't made any interruption, "you are going to regret it for the rest of your life if you don't at least try to get rid of the barriers to a relationship with him. Even if that means going up against your mom."
His heart panged at the thought of his last conversation with Stiles. "Promised him I would. Gonna ruin the holidays, probably."
Erica pinched his ear, not hard enough to hurt, and gave him a smacking kiss on the forehead. "Don't be so doom and gloom about it. Keep a positive attitude."
"Did that last time," Derek said. "Look how that turned out. Four years of bad dates and the worst fight I've ever had with Mom on top of walking away from the love of my life."
Erica rested her cheek against his head and rubbed his arm. "Well, at least you know it can't get any worse."
Derek couldn't help it. He laughed and patted at her leg. "You're gonna be a good mom, Erica. Good mom."
She didn't say anything, but she hugged him even harder.
His self-imposed moping deadline was two hours from being up, which meant Derek hadn't showered or shaved in forty-six hours, when the doorbell rang.
Derek could hear it from his bedroom and promptly buried his head under his pillow. Drinking with Erica had been a terrible idea. Absolutely terrible. His headache was so bad he could almost forget that Stiles had left him.
Ah, no, wait, there was the wrenching pain of heartache. Dammit.
At least he could count on Boyd to get rid of whoever was at the door.
He'd very nearly slipped back into unconsciousness when someone knocked lightly at his door. Derek grunted in response.
"I wouldn't be disturbing you if it wasn't important," Boyd's voice said from the other side of the door. "But Her Highness Princess Laura and Her Majesty Queen Talia are sitting in the greeting room downstairs."
"Boyd, I'm still hungover," Derek grumbled into his pillow. "Don't scare me like that."
The only response from the other side of the door was silence, before Boyd opened it and stepped into the room. Derek took one look at his face and felt his stomach drop out from under him.
His mother. And Laura. Here.
He stumbled out of bed and his head instantly throbbed like someone had taken a hammer to it, reminding him why standing was a terrible idea. Derek grabbed hold of a table to keep from pitching forward.
Boyd was immediately at his side. "Sit for a minute, sir. I'll get you some water and aspirin. Erica's downstairs with Her Majesty and Her Highness, so you don't have to worry about them for at least an hour, hour and a half."
Derek closed his eyes and dug a knuckle into his temple in an effort to stop the pounding, and obediently sank into the nearest chair. "I'm sending you both to Hawaii for two weeks."
"As soon as she can travel again, I'm sure Erica will be thrilled to take you up on that," Boyd said with a soft laugh.
Boyd left the bedroom and returned with a glass of water, two aspirin, and two pieces of toast. Derek obediently got them all down his throat without his stomach rebelling, and after sitting a few more minutes, his headache subsided enough that standing didn't seem like an entirely dicey proposition.
He managed to make it to the shower by himself, and standing under the hot spray helped him feel a little more human. He rested his head on the cool tiles and sighed at the relief. Derek might have stayed there forever, but it would be wrong to leave Erica alone with his mother that long. Besides, he had promised Stiles. And better sooner than later.
He just wished he'd had a little more time to build up his courage before doing so.
Despite the hangover, Derek still showered, trimmed his beard, and dressed appropriately for a visit with the queen, all in less than half an hour. He took another five minutes to breathe through his nerves and pull himself together before heading down the stairs.
He walked in just in time to catch the tail end of Laura's favorite pregnancy story, about how she hadn't been able to eat anything but green vegetables for three weeks. Her eyes lit up the moment he crossed the threshold.
"Derek!" Laura jumped to her feet and strode across the room to hug him. Derek winced at the pitch of her voice, but he hugged her back tightly. It had been nearly two months since he's seen Laura; he'd missed her.
Mom stood for a hug as well. "About time you joined us. What are you still doing in bed at this hour?"
"He's not been feeling well these past two days, Your Majesty." Erica stood smoothly and curtsied. "Glad you're feeling up to being out of bed, Your Highness."
Derek fought to keep his eyebrow from going up and to keep his voice as neutral as possible. "Thank you for your concern, Erica. And your...help."
She beamed. "No problem at all, Your Highness. I'll just leave you three to catch up, okay?"
Without waiting for an official dismissal, Erica sauntered out of the greeting room and slid the door partway shut, so as to give them some privacy, most likely.
"You have a very presumptuous staff," Mom said.
Derek wouldn't have them any other way. "Yes, I do." He settled on the chair next to Laura, across from his mother, and hoped his nerves didn't show. "So, to what do I owe the unexpected pleasure?"
His mother waved the question away. "What, I can't just fly in and visit my son in New York City, when I haven't seen him in nearly two months?"
That time, Derek did raise his eyebrows. "Even though I'm supposed to be on a flight home in four days and Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for you?"
"Yes, Mom." Laura turned to face their mother, a slightly terrifying smile plastered on her face. "Why did you decide to fly in with me to visit Derek?"
Mom made a rude sound that, before now, Derek would have sworn her incapable of making. "Very well. I saw the pictures and the interview from the raffle dinner. And I...wanted to talk to you about them."
For a moment, Derek's vision tunneled, heart pounding unnaturally hard at the memory of their last conversation that had started like this.
"Some tabloid pictures have been brought to my attention. I wanted to talk to you about them."
He took a deep, measured breath to calm himself. No, this wasn't going to be easy, but he owed it to Stiles—to himself—to see this conversation all the way through. "What about them?"
To his surprise, his mother averted her eyes and coughed delicately. Derek had never seen her do anything delicately in his life. "Detective Stilinski seems like a nice man."
"Yes," Derek said firmly, even though he had no idea where this was going. "He is. You might know him a little better as Stiles. Remember him? We dated in college." For a spare handful of weeks, until you threatened us both to end it.
"Ah. I thought that was him." His mother shifted her weight uncomfortably on the sofa, and cleared her throat. "I have been informed by a number of reliable third parties that I may have been a bit...uncompromising on this particular issue."
Laura snorted. "No, Mom, the exact phrase I used was 'biphobic asshole.' Three times, in case you weren't counting."
His mother shot a flinty glare in Laura's direction. "In my defense, I thought he was having a crazy summer fling thanks to those damn tabloid—"
"You wouldn't have said a word if it had been a woman," Laura cut in, eyes flashing. "And then forcing him into how many relationships once he got home?"
Mom's nostrils flared, and she exhaled sharply. From the look on her face, this conversation was only going to go downhill. "Laura. I didn't fly all this way to have this conversation with you."
Laura narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms, but she clamped her mouth shut and shot Derek a tight smile of solidarity.
Derek continued to breathe evenly, trying to keep himself together. Clearly Mom and Laura had been having some important conversations without him. "Mom," he said, to bring her attention back to him, "what particular issue do you think you've been 'uncompromising' on?"
His mother folded her hands in her lap and her gaze darted away, but at least she brought it back to Derek before she spoke. "When you were in America for college. Those tabloid pictures of you and that boy—"
"Stiles," Derek interjected.
"You and Stiles at the beach," Mom corrected smoothly. "And I...did not react well. Some might even say I overreacted."
Derek couldn't help the snort he made, and Laura echoed it, tacking on a roll of her eyes.
"Oh, fine, I overreacted," Mom snapped. "I was busy dealing with your uncle's bullshit in addition to running a country, I saw the photos, and all I saw was a scandal I didn't have the time or the energy to deal with, especially considering I knew you knew better than to do something like that."
"Something like what?" Derek dug his fingers into the arms of the chair. "You mean date someone like a normal fucking college student?"
His mother pursed her lips. "I didn't wish to find out my son was gay from tabloid pictures."
Derek gaped. "Bisexual, Mom. Bisexual. We had that conversation two weeks before I left for college in America."
"Do we need to define that for you again?" Laura said, her voice syrupy sweet.
"Not with that tone, you don't." Mom turned her attention back to Derek. "I apologize. I've been getting an...education over the past year. I'm still learning."
Derek couldn't believe what he was hearing. He didn't think he'd ever heard his mother ever remotely admit to being mistaken, let alone actually apologizing. "So, what brought on this realization?"
"A number of things. That you didn't even make an attempt to date anyone after Braeden. That you just seemed a little distant. But, most recently," his mother leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees, "it was seeing the interview from the raffle and realizing I had never seen that look on your face before, and this man was the one who'd put it there. I meant to call you to apologize, but Laura let me know in no uncertain terms this was a conversation we needed to have face-to-face."
Derek was pretty sure he was gripping the arms of the chair so hard he could hear the wood crack. It was the only thing keeping him grounded, because otherwise this was a dream, and he would wake up any moment with a headache and a heartache, both wrecking him. "So, just to be clear... You're okay with the fact that I'm in love with another man."
"Not entirely," Mom admitted. "But, before either of you jump down my throat again, you are my son, Derek. I want you to be happy. And if that's with him, then I will work on being okay with it." She sighed. "I just spent the past year learning gender and sexuality are spectrums; what's one more thing to add to the list?"
Derek nodded, and stood up. His headache had miraculously vanished sometime in the last five minutes. "Mom, Laura, thank you both for coming, but I'm afraid I can't keep you company. Erica will be more than happy to stay with you, though."
Laura grinned, but Mom looked confused. "Derek?"
Derek was already halfway out of the greeting room. "I've got a plane to catch."
Thanks to Erica's efficiency, Derek and Boyd were on a flight to Beacon Hills, California, less than two hours after he walked out of the greeting room. By the time they landed on the West Coast, Derek had a text from Erica with the address of one Sheriff John Stilinski, and a sleek black rental car was waiting for them.
Now that they were actually on the ground, the itching sensation that had been plaguing Derek since they'd left New York had changed into a bright buzzing that made him feel like his body was trying to lift off from the ground. He forced himself to sit still, but he couldn't stop from tapping his fingers or bouncing his leg, though he made himself stop every time he noticed. He tried to blame it on jet lag or a delayed reaction to his hangover.
Of course, that was until they pulled up outside the sheriff's house and Derek was suddenly positive his heart was trying to explode.
Boyd clapped him on the back of the neck. "Breathe, sir. Everything's going to be all right."
Derek took two steadying breaths, and then nodded. "I'm fine, thank you, Boyd."
Even so, walking up the drive filled with cars felt like longest distance Derek had ever had to walk, and it still seemed like he reached the front door too soon. Stiles was on the other side, Stiles and every member of his family who'd gathered for the holidays—
Before his courage could fail him, Derek raised his hand and knocked on the door.
"Very good, sir," Boyd said under his breath. "Most authoritative knock I've ever heard."
Derek shot a glare over his shoulder. "The moment we return to New York, I'm getting a new bodyguard."
Boyd grinned. "We both know you wouldn't last a day."
Before Derek could snap back, the door swung open, and Derek found himself face-to-face with a petite redhead holding a glass of wine and wearing a pair of fearsome black heels that Erica would sell her child for.
With her hair down and without her glasses, it took a moment for him to place her. When he did, Derek's jaw dropped. "Dr. Martin?"
A flash of confusion, then recognition, then irritation crossed her face, and Dr. Lydia Martin curtsied perfunctorily. "Your Highness. Please tell me you're here for Stiles."
His voice seemed to have deserted him. Derek couldn't do anything but nod in return.
Dr. Martin rolled her eyes and stepped to the side, opening the door wider. "Oh, thank God. He's in the living room."
Derek followed her into the house, feeling awkward and out of place. The house wasn't small, but it was filled with people, people who were family and friends and who probably only knew Derek because he'd broken Stiles's heart.
He really hadn't thought this one through.
But Dr. Martin was leading him into the living room, and he got the impression of people squeezed onto every piece of furniture, and some still standing at the periphery of the room, before his gaze settled on Stiles. He stood by the Christmas tree in the most ridiculous green sweater Derek had ever seen, chatting with an olive-skinned man with a toddler perched on his shoulders.
Derek's heart thudded so hard he was surprised half the room didn't hear it. Or maybe they did, given the way everyone went quiet, the way all eyes suddenly turned on him. If it had been awkward before, it was a thousand times worse now.
And then Stiles turned, amber eyes landing on him. Everything slowed, and Derek just...quit caring about the other people in the room. Nothing mattered but Stiles. All the carefully rehearsed confessions flew out of his head.
"Derek." Stiles set his drink on the mantle and took a cautious step forward. "What are you doing here?"
Well, that was easy enough. "I already wasted ten years. I'm not wasting another minute."
Stiles's eyes went wide. "But...your mom—"
"I promised you," Derek said. "I promised, and we talked, and I know there's a lot we'll have to figure out, but—"
"Wait, wait." Stiles held up his hand. "You flew across the country just to tell me that your mom changed her mind?"
"I told you, if it hadn't been for that, I'd never have let you go. I never stopped wanting you." Derek shuffled his feet, for the first time feeling heat creep up that back of his neck. "That is, if you still want me."
He'd barely finished the sentence when Stiles bounded across the room and dragged Derek into a kiss that made his head spin.
"Hell yeah," Stiles whispered. "I want you. Mine. No take backs." He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Derek's. "I never stopped, either. And I never want to."
Derek had to close his eyes against the bubble of happiness swelling inside him, because it was too much. At the back of his mind, he knew there were other people in the room, and in less than a minute he'd probably have to answer to them. But right now, it felt like he and Stiles were the only two, and that was all he needed. All he wanted.
"I love you," he whispered, low enough that Stiles would be the only one to hear it.
The sound of Stiles's voice, soft and bright, saying the words back was the best present Derek could ever have asked for.