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My Saving Grace

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“That over there is Derek,” the curly-haired mechanic - Isaac, his nametag says - tells him as he points towards the pair of feet currently sticking out from under a car. “He’ll help you with your jeep, ‘cause I got another towing to get to.”

Stiles nods as Isaac unhooks his beat-up jeep from the tow-truck.

“Yo, Derek! Car versus tree!” Isaac yells out before climbing back into his truck, and Derek slides out from under the car to look up at them. Isaac just waves in Stiles’ general direction before taking off.

Derek puts down one of the tools he was holding - he’s sure it has a specific name but Stiles is about as handy with this kind of stuff as he is at not crashing his own jeep, it seems - and walks up to him. His eyes go from the damage on the jeep to Stiles, his rather impressive eyebrows scrunching up in a frown.

“Are you okay?” Derek asks by way of introduction, his eyes fixed on the scrape Stiles knows he has on his temple as a result of the accident.

“Yeah, I just…” Stiles brings his fingers up to the scratch. It stings a bit, but otherwise he’s fine. “I kinda hit my head when I…” He sways his arms around a bit.

“Drove into a tree?” Derek adds, and Stiles is sure he isn’t entirely making up the criticizing tone in Derek’s voice. It’s okay, Stiles is judging himself too.

“Yeah…” Stiles sighs, embarrassed, ducking his head.

“There’s a reason they say ‘don’t text and drive’...” Derek mutters as he rounds the jeep to inspect the damage, and wow, Stiles already feels like an asshole enough.

“I wasn’t texting!” Stiles calls out, even though he knows he doesn’t really have a defense.

Derek quirks an eyebrow at him.

“I was… trying to find my phone to answer a call?” Stiles winces at his own words, and if it’s even possible, Derek’s stare at him becomes even more judgmental. “There was this thing with one of my kids!” Stiles calls out, trying to make Derek understand that he’s really not an irresponsible driver… usually. He’s not quite sure why it even matters what his mechanic thinks of him though, and yet…

“Your kids?” Derek frowns.

“One of my kindergarten kids,” Stiles clarifies, shrugging, “I’m a teacher at Beacon Hills Elementary.”

“Ah,” Derek says, and Stiles can’t quite gather from his tone if this somehow makes things better or worse. But then his face softens just a tiny bit - and Stiles has to admit it’s a damn good look on this guy - as he asks, “Is the kid alright?”

Stiles can’t help but smile. Maybe this ridiculously attractive, grumpy mechanic has a weak spot after all. “Yeah, she’s fine. My colleague called ‘cause he was doing after school care today, but this mom was late picking up one of my students and she was having a fit, she’s kind of a special needs kid, so I was driving back to the school but then Scott called again and I was trying to reach for my phone and…”

“And the tree got in the way?” Derek says, the edge of his mouth tugging up slightly.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs, his shoulders slouching in defeat, “It was so stupid, I know. I just know how freaked out she gets when things don’t follow routine, and she’s not even in Scott’s class, so I kind of panicked.” He can feel his face heating up under Derek’s scrutinizing stare. “Turns out Scott, that’s one of the other teachers, by the way, was calling to let me know the mom arrived and they were all good.”

Derek nods, like he’s relieved this story has a happy ending even though he doesn’t even know these people. He doesn’t even know Stiles, to be fair.

“You know you wouldn’t have done the kid any good if you’d killed yourself on the way over there, right?” he says, kind of as an off-handed comment, but Stiles feels like maybe there’s a bit more to it.

“I know,” Stiles says, “I feel like an idiot already, thanks.”

“That’s not…” Derek starts saying, but then he stops abruptly and shakes his head as he focuses on the jeep again. “So, I’m assuming you’ll want this fixed?”

“Yeah, uhm…” Stiles can feel his face heating up again, but it’s not like he has much choice. “Can you just… do whatever is necessary to get it up and running again? The exterior isn’t that important.” It kind of kills him to say so because damn, he loves that jeep.

Derek quirks an eyebrow as he tilts his head towards the jeep. “The bodywork’s gonna need replacing if you don’t want to keep driving around with a mangled hood.”

“I know, I just…” Stiles sticks his hands in his pockets, a bit embarrassed, “I can’t really afford it. So as long as it’s up and running again, I can’t really be picky with the way my baby looks right now.”

Stiles is pretty sure Derek rolls his eyes at the word “baby”, but he nods reassuringly at Stiles anyway, “Alright. I can definitely do that.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says, genuine, “I know the worst kind of customer is the one that wants it as cheap as possible, but…”

“It’s okay,” Derek says, lowering his voice a bit, “I’ll work on it myself. If I let my uncle do it, he’ll probably try and sell you stuff you don’t really need.”

“Oh, so you’re not the Hale then?” Stiles says, nodding towards the big “Hale’s Mechanics” sign on the wall of the garage.

“I am a Hale,” Derek says, looking back towards one of the offices, presumably his uncle’s, “But it’s my uncle Peter that runs this show.” There’s a hint of discontent lingering in his voice, but Derek doesn’t clarify. And Stiles really doesn’t know him well enough to pry.

***

If Stiles gets excited by Derek’s phone call, it’s because he’s been waiting to get his jeep back, alright? Nothing else. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he’s basically been thinking about Derek ever since he stepped out of the garage that day, no matter what Scott might imply. Yes, Derek is good looking. Ridiculously good looking. But he’s also a bit grumpy and he was judgmental about Stiles’ accident - even though Stiles still blames himself for it as well - and he’s way out of Stiles’ league anyway.

Besides, local mechanic falls for kindergarten teacher? As if that’s ever going to happen…

But then Derek is standing in front of him with a smudge of grease across his face, and his overalls tied around his waist so his dirty tank top is showing off his impressive shoulders, and… yeah, okay, maybe Stiles has been looking forward to seeing Derek again, and not just the jeep.

The jeep that Derek is now guiding him to with a sly grin and… it looks brand new. There’s not a dent or scratch left in the hood, which is impossible…

“How did you…?” Stiles asks, confused, as he’s holding out his hands to stroke over the hood of the jeep. It’s flawless.

“I replaced the parts…” Derek starts, but there’s a slight panic building up inside of Stiles’ chest.

“I told you I couldn’t afford it!” Stiles calls out, his eyes wide, “I can’t put myself in debt for a car, Derek, I told you - !”

“Stiles!” Derek stops him, holding his hands out, “It’s free.”

There’s a beat before Stiles frowns and says, “What?”

“The bodywork is free, alright?” Derek says, with an actual smile, “My buddy Boyd owed me some parts, I replaced them on my own time. I mean, you’re still gonna have to pay for the work I did on the engine and stuff, but the bodywork’s on me, alright?”

“But…” Stiles stammers, stares at his beautiful jeep, not a scratch or a spot on the new hood. He can’t believe Derek actually did that. “Why?”

“I saw your face,” Derek shrugs, like it really isn’t a big deal, “It’s clear that you’re pretty in love with your jeep, and that you felt bad about not being able to replace the parts. I bet you even have a name for that thing.”

“I - ” Stiles splutters, his face flushed, “That would be crazy.”

“Right,” Derek says with a smirk, wiping his greasy hands on his already greasy top.

“No, but seriously…” Stiles turns his gaze from the jeep to Derek. “You didn’t have to do this. I don’t… I - Thank you.”

“It was nothing,” Derek shrugs, even though Stiles knows that it really wasn’t. Then he smiles, “You can thank me by telling me what you named your baby.”

“That’s not fair!” Stiles calls out, but he’s laughing anyway. “That feels like a highly unequal deal.”

“For you or for me?” Derek asks, winking, and Stiles is seriously starting to think that maybe Derek is… flirting with him?

“Jury’s still out on that one,” Stiles says with a put upon huff, but he relents anyway, “It’s Roscoe, alright?”

“Roscoe,” Derek mouths, with a smirk.

“Hey!” Stiles calls out, indignant, and then he all but stumbles over Derek’s rolling board, and he

just manages to steady himself on a tool chest. “Oh.” Stiles looks at his hand, smeared with grease.

“I’m not sure if I wanna give you your car back if you can’t even stay steady on your feet,” Derek jokes, but he nudges the board away with his foot anyway, so Stiles isn’t at risk of falling over it again.

“You’re the one who leaves their… their skateboard laying around,” Stiles counters weakly.

“It’s called a creeper,” Derek says.

Creeper?” Stiles raises his eyebrows, then mutters loud enough for Derek to hear, “You’re the creeper.”

Derek laughs as he shakes his head amused, “You can go wash your hands in the bathroom if you want, it’s right over there.” He gestures towards a door near the back of the garage. “I’ll go get your invoice ready in the meantime. Come find me in my office when you’re done, alright?”

Stiles nods as he heads out to the indicated door as he throws another glance back at Derek. He’s pondering how he can make sure he can see Derek again without having to fuck up his jeep in the process. He could just ask him out, of course, but what if Derek is genuinely just being nice? What if there’s no alternative motives and Derek will get all weird if Stiles asks him out? But what if he doesn’t take the chance and he never sees Derek again? Never is probably a bit of an exaggeration, seeing as they live in the same town, but still…

Stiles turns off the tap and reaches for the paper towels with his now clean hands when he hears an agitated voice somewhere in the small hallway. It’s not Derek, that’s for sure, but Stiles doesn’t recognize who it is either. He sticks his head out into the hallway just as the voice snaps, “No, you won’t! I need it by tomorrow.” It’s not coming from the hallway after all, it’s coming from an office a little further down. It really isn’t any of Stiles’ business either, so he’s about to head back out when he hears his father’s name being called. “And how about you not almost move it under Sheriff Stilinski’s nose this time? I’m working with fucking idiots here.”

Stiles’ breath catches in his throat, and he sneaks back into the bathroom soundlessly, holding open the door just a bit so he can still hear.

“Listen, I need those parts and you’re going to get them to me by tomorrow,” the voice - which Stiles suspects must be Peter Hale’s - says, “Or don’t you know who you’re dealing with here?”

Stolen car parts, that’s gotta be it. Why else would he need to stay off the Sheriff’s radar? So the Hales are doing business with stolen car parts, and… Oh God. Derek just fixed up Stiles’ jeep with parts that “his friend Boyd owed him”. Are they stolen too? Would Derek be that risky? He has Stiles’ information, surely he must know that Stiles is the Sheriff’s son! And what about the flirting? Is that somehow all part of the game? Does Derek get a kick out of playing with fire? Of course he couldn’t be into Stiles. Stuff like that never happens to him. Maybe this is even a ploy to get Stiles involved! What better way to have a bit of security than make the Sheriff’s son an accomplice. Have him drive around in a jeep with stolen car parts that he didn’t even pay for! How is Stiles ever supposed to prove he didn’t know anything about it?

Stiles groans in frustration, leaning back against the door, which makes it snap shut with a bit more noise than he’d intended.

“Shit…” Stiles whispers as he hears footsteps out in the hallway, and Stiles quickly turns on the tap to wet his hands again, then sticks them under the loud hand dryer. The door opens swiftly and Stiles starts for a second, splashing some of the water around.

“Woops,” Stiles says, as casual as he can muster, “You scared me there.”

The guy has a sly grin as he regards Stiles. “Sorry, I thought I heard something,” he says, and it’s definitely the same guy as the phone call.

“Just me,” Stiles says, fake smile plastered all over his face as he holds up his wet hands as if in evidence, “Managed to get grease all over them. I’m here to pick up my jeep.”

“Ah, yes,” the guy says, flashing his teeth as he smiles, “Derek is helping you out with that, right? I’m Peter, the owner of this fine establishment.”

“Hi,” Stiles nods, wiping his almost dry hands off on his sweater. Peter Hale, so Stiles’ assumptions were correct. “I better go and…” he gestures towards the door to get past Peter, who only leaves just enough space for Stiles to worm his way through… Talk about a creeper.

Stiles takes a deep breath before he enters Derek’s office.

“You know what,” he says, rather firmly, “You can just bill me for the whole thing, body parts and everything. I’ll pay it off in segments, I’ll find a way.”

“What?” Derek’s face falls, eyebrows knitted together.

“I wanna pay for all the work you’ve done. The parts, the hours, I will pay in full,” Stiles says, swallowing away the doubt he has at the sight of Derek’s crestfallen face.

“I told you it was fine,” Derek says, confused, “I decided to replace those parts, you asked me not to. You shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

“But I want to,” Stiles says, gritted through his teeth.

“Stiles, I… What’s going on?” Derek asks, and he sounds genuine enough.

“Listen, I know what you’re playing at, alright,” Stiles snaps, “And it’s not gonna work on me. So just bill me for the whole thing.”

“Fine…” Derek says, somewhat defeated, and Stiles feels awful but really, it’s Derek that’s at fault here. Derek that’s trying to rope him into whatever illegal car part handle Hale’s Mechanics is involved in, and that is just not fair. Stiles isn’t the bad guy here. He’s just not as stupid as Derek seems to think he is.

“Thanks for the work, I just…” Stiles says, not sure how to leave this on semi good terms. He’s not even sure what he’s going to do next. He knows what he should do, but…

“Yeah, no, I get it,” Derek says quickly, refusing to look Stiles in the eye. At least he has the decency to feel embarrassed about it.

But it feels like small comfort to Stiles.

***

Stiles doesn't know just how long he's been living in Beacon Hills without ever once bumping into Derek, but of course his luck will have it that a few days after he goes to pick up his jeep from Hale's Mechanics, he runs into him in the parking lot at the grocery store.

"Stiles..." Derek says, somewhat surprised.

"Oh," Stiles says with a start, and he clutches his arms around his bag of groceries as his heart clenches in his chest. "Hi."

"Roscoe still running nicely then," Derek says, with a smile that looks almost sad.

Stiles looks at the jeep, feeling strangely uncomfortable. "Yeah... You did a good job."

"For that price..." Derek says, shifting from one foot to the other.

"Yeah, well..." Stiles shrugs, loading his groceries into the back of the jeep.

"Stiles, please just let us stick to the original price," Derek sighs, exasperated, helping Stiles with a carton of milk that is threatening to fall off the top of the bag.

"I can't, okay," Stiles bites back, purposefully adjusting the carton of milk just as a way of defying Derek.

"But why?" Derek grunts out, annoyed, "I wanted to help you out, do something nice, for fuck's sake!"

"Why? Huh?" Stiles asks, agitated, "Why would you offer me a good deal? If you're so hard up for money you gotta move stolen car parts around, why on earth would you not have me pay full price?!"

"What?" Derek asks, caught by surprise. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't even play innocent with me," Stiles hisses, lowering his voice a little bit because even though he really can't condone the illegal activities, there's something about Derek that makes him want to not shame him in a public parking lot either. "Isn't that why you were flirting with me? So you'd rope me into being an accomplice? Who better than the Sheriff's son, right?"

"Stiles, what are you - ?" Derek asks, a scowl on his face.

"I heard your uncle on the phone, alright!" Stiles calls out, "I heard everything."

"Stiles, listen to me..." Derek says, and for the first time Stiles notices that Derek actually looks... surprised as well. "I have no idea what you heard, but I can assure you that I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Your uncle," Stiles clarifies, because what if Derek really doesn't know anything about this? "He's dealing in stolen car parts. I heard him on the phone with one of his associates or whatever."

"Fuck..." Derek whispers, his face closing off in a second as he leans back against Stiles' jeep.

There’s a beat of silence.

"Did you really not know?" Stiles asks finally, tentatively.

Derek just closes his eyes, gives him a curt shake of the head.

"I'm sorry, I..." Stiles starts, not quite sure what to say.

"I know my uncle's an ass," Derek sighs, cold, "I know he'll try and charge people extra, try and sell them shit they don't even need. I've had endless discussions with him about it, but he doesn't listen and he's the boss so I can't really..."

Stiles nods, compassionate now. He’s kicking himself internally because he really should have trusted his first instinct about Derek.

"But stolen parts?" Derek's face scrunches up into disgust, "What is he trying to do? If this comes out... Hale's Mechanics will be ruined. We'll all be arrested. God, Isaac will be out of a job, me too..."

"No, Derek," Stiles says, firmly, "You didn't know. How can you be held responsible if you didn't know?"

"Evidently it’s all happening right under my nose, Stiles!" Derek exclaims, "Besides, who will believe me when I say I didn't know? He's my uncle!"

"Me!" Stiles calls out, "I believe you. And so will my dad if we just go and explain."

"You thought I was in on it," Derek scoffs.

"And I was clearly an idiot," Stiles sighs, feeling a bit embarrassed about it too. "I just jumped to conclusions, and after you'd been so nice to me even. I'm the asshole that ran his car into a tree because I was busy with my phone, you try and help me out and I end up judging you."

"Seems like a pretty fair assumption to make," Derek shrugs, trying for a tiny smile.

"So uh... I know he's your uncle, but..." Stiles trails off, uncertain.

"That garage is my life," Derek says, "And that's the only reason I haven't ran out of there, despite my uncle being in charge. It was my parents' garage, and I was too young to take over when they died..." Stiles wants to mumble some condolences under his breath, but Derek is already continuing. "But they ran a clean shop, and that's the way I want it to continue, they never would've accepted any illegal business, and neither will I." He sounds genuine, determined.

"We can go to my dad," Stiles says, nodding, "He'll listen. He'll help you. You can take over the business, run a clean shop when you're in charge."

Derek nods, firmly.

"Come on," Stiles says, gesturing towards the passenger side of the jeep, indicating that he can give Derek a ride.

As he's climbing in behind the steering wheel, a thought hits him like a lightning bolt.

"Wait?!" He calls out at Derek, "Does this mean you were flirting with me for real?!"

***

There’s a knock on Stiles’ classroom door as he’s cleaning up the mess his kids have left after an entire day of school. There’s still chatter on the playground from the kids that are in the after school care as Stiles turns around - big foam flower in his hand - to face Derek lingering awkwardly in the doorway.

“Hey…” Derek says, and for once he’s not dressed in his garage overalls. He’s wearing dark jeans and a maroon henley and it’s completely unfair because he looks absolutely stunning, and Stiles really shouldn’t be lusting after someone whose uncle he just helped get arrested. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, of course,” Stiles says, quickly, “Take a seat - ” He waves at the seats surrounding him… all little plastic child-size chairs.

Derek’s mouth curls into a smile as he says, “I think I’ll stand. Unless you feel like removing one of those tiny pink chairs from my ass later on.”

Stiles opens his mouth to comment, but he closes it just as quickly.

“I thought maybe I’d see you today,” Derek goes on, as if he didn’t just make a crack about the chairs, “But then I realized it was a school day.”

“Yeah, that too,” Stiles says quietly, clutching the foam flower to his chest. “And I didn’t really know if you’d want me around when I’m basically the one that got your uncle caught today, so…” He shrugs. “Also, my dad really doesn’t like it when I interfere with his work.”

Derek snorts, nodding his head as he ducks it slightly.

“How did it go?” Stiles asks, eventually.

Derek shrugs. “As well as could be expected,” he says, “Peter’s… pissed, to say the least. The Sheriff says it’s not sure if he’ll go to jail, or just risks a heavy fine, they need to investigate it all better, see how long this has been going on, how much money he’s made off it…”

“And Hale Mechanics?” Stiles asks.

“He already agreed to have me buy him out,” Derek says, a hint of a smile appearing on his face only to fade just as quickly, “He’ll be able to use the money, for attorneys, for fines. He’s burnt in the business anyway.”

“Well… congratulations then, I guess,” Stiles says, trying a smile of his own.

“It’s not entirely the way I wanted it to happen, but…” Derek shrugs, his eyes reaching Stiles’.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, the feeling genuine.

“Don’t be,” Derek shakes his head, “I should be thanking you.”

A sound escapes Stiles’ mouth, something between a scoff and a snort. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Mister Stiles?” a small voice calls out from by the doorway.

Stiles immediately smiles at her, “What’s up, Rikki?”

“I forgot my backpack,” the little girl says, almost sadly, and before Stiles can even look around, Derek is holding up a pink backpack with bees printed on it.

“Could this be the one?” Derek asks, kneeling down so he’s at Rikki’s height.

“Yes!” the girl shrieks excitedly, grabbing the bag with both hands.

“Can you say thank you to Mister Derek?” Stiles asks, pointing his foam flower at Derek as if to indicate who he is.

“Thank you, Mister Der’k,” Rikki says politely, swinging the pink backpack over her shoulders.

“You’re very welcome, sweetie,” Derek says, and Stiles tries not to melt as Derek rubs his hand over Rikki’s head playfully.

“Mister Stiles?” Rikki asks, her face scrunching up inquisitively as she regards him, “Are you giving flowers to Mister Der’k?”

Stiles looks down at the brightly colored flower in his hand as his mouth falls open. Derek, however, just chuckles.

“Well, I don’t know, Rikki,” Stiles says in all honesty, “I’m not sure if Mister Derek wants flowers from me.”

The little girl is already bouncing out the door as she calls out behind her, “I’m sure he does, Mister Stiles!” Her footsteps clatter down the hallway as Stiles’ hand tightens around the foam. He then shrugs one shoulder and holds out the flower for Derek, a little tentatively.

But Derek’s face breaks open in a smile, reaching out to grab the flower.

“It’s been a while since I got flowers,” he says, holding the toy flower up to his nose, and uh - it probably smells like fake plastic and sticky childrens’ hands, but Derek smiles anyway.

“Uh, it’s actually school property,” Stiles says, feeling like a bit of a dork.

“Are you telling me you got my uncle arrested, and you’re making me give back the flower you gave me, all in the same day?” Derek quirks an eyebrow, and Stiles winces visibly. “Stiles!” Derek calls out, a reassuring smile on his face, “Stop feeling so guilty. It’s fine, you can relax.”

Stiles lets out a deep breath. “I feel like a total douche,” he admits, stuffing his hands into his pockets, “I’m basically messing up your entire life, and I’m trying to pick you up on the same day. Why aren’t you hating me and out to destroy my life already?”

“Yeah, no, stop it, alright?” Derek says, shaking his head as he takes a few steps closer to Stiles. “This is ridiculous and you know it. Or did you forget the part where I was flirting with you?”

Stiles can’t help but grin at the thought. “Oh yeah…” he mutters, his entire face heating up.

“So if you’re not gonna ask me out then I’m just gonna ask you out, but either way - ” Derek starts, but Stiles is already surging forward with a sudden rush of bravery - not that hard when the object of your desire has just given you the green light - to press his lips against Derek’s, effectively shutting him up.

Derek falters for maybe a fraction of a second before he brings his arms around Stiles’ waist, pulling him closer as he kisses Stiles back.

Stiles brings up his hands, thumbs rubbing over the stubble tracing around Derek’s jawline, revelling in the taste and the feel of Derek’s lips moving against his. He nudges his nose against Derek’s for a moment before finally pulling back, his tongue darting out to chase the taste of Derek on his lips.

“Do you get it now?” Derek asks, with a grin, one strong hand still caressing Stiles’ back as the other is still clutching the flower.

“Hmmm,” Stiles nods, closing his eyes for a second as he rests his forehead against Derek’s. “Think I do.”

“Good,” Derek says with a soft smile, “Can I take you out to dinner then?”

Stiles shakes his head fervently, but he grips his fist into the front of Derek’s henley to make it clear that he’s not rejecting him, “I’m taking you out to dinner.”

“Okay,” Derek grins, moving to put the foam flower in the big basket filled with toys.

“No, no,” Stiles says in a whispered tone, sneaking a glance at the door.

“I thought it was school property?” Derek frowns, amused.

Stiles smirks. “I’ll be a bad boy for once.”

***

The End