*^* Derek *^*
Derek is not only lost, but he's a huge, monstrous idiot who is lost. He can't believe he's done this and as he stands on the corner and looks one way and then the other to make sure that yes, every single apartment building looks the same from where he's standing, he feels hopelessness swell inside him.
He's fucked up.
Derek juggles the cardboard tray with two coffees and a bag of muffins as he turns in a slow circle, trying most likely in vain to orient himself. He can't believe he's done this, got turned around like this, been this absolutely, unforgivably boneheaded.
This is not him.
Derek is steadfast, reliable, his sisters would most likely say boring if pressed. All of those things might have been tossed out of the window the night before and Derek should have known there would be consequences. He's not a whim kind of guy. He doesn't step out of the box, push the envelope, take risks. He just doesn't.
He likes being the level-headed one.
Except, well, except maybe in the last few months.
The last few months he certainly has stepped out of any kind of comfort zone he normally has. Cora says it's just another way for him to be a giant nerd, but Derek has embraced wholeheartedly this new aspect of his life. He finds it's an escape and the community is a close-knit one in his area. Everyone is enthusiastic and passionate and it's just, well, it's fun.
Derek hasn't had this much fun in his life.
Except for this morning. This morning pretty much sucks.
The coffee he's carrying is rapidly cooling and the pastries are trying their best to soak through the brown paper bag they're nestled in. The fact that the bag is rapidly turning transparent and is collapsing in on itself is a good indicator of how much time he's losing just standing on a street-corner, a mess of indecision.
Pick a direction, try and lock onto a familiar landmark, he tells himself sternly. He closes his eyes, opens them again and tries as hard as he can to see something, anything that could orient him. All he sees is those same, darn, cookie-cutter buildings. They even have the exact same box planter outside each one, same exact plants like there's a neighborhood conspiracy happening to confuse outsiders.
Derek thinks he might have trouble finding the place even with an address.
Except, he doesn't have an address.
He just hadn't thought it would be a problem. On his way out, coffee, coffee, coffee ringing in his brain like a siren song, blotting out rational decision making skills apparently, he'd assumed he would be able to find his way back.
How hard could it be?
Pretty freakin' hard, it turns out.
The coffee shop had been further away than he'd been expecting and he hadn't really been paying as much attention as he should have. He was only going to have to retrace his steps and he could have sworn he'd still only gone about three blocks but here he was, stumped.
His phone bleeps as Derek dithers and he juggles the coffee tray awkwardly again so he can pull it out of his pants pocket. He at least remembered to bring it, although if he'd forgotten it, that might have solved his problems because the guy, the cute, pretty-eyed, mole-covered guy that he'd spent last night with and only had a nickname for, Stiles, would have been able to call someone in his address book when he woke up and say, hey, get that dumbass to come back and get his phone.
He would be able to tell Derek where he was.
As it is, Derek has taken his wallet, phone and keys. He's left behind his favorite pair of space invader socks, stepping into his boots without them because he couldn't find them in the dark of the apartment, but that's it. He doesn't have his address sewn into them even though that would have probably surprised his sisters. He basically didn't leave any way of identifying himself behind at all and he has no way of finding his way back.
He finally manages to pull his phone free and sees he has a message from Allison who he'd put into a cab the night before, her giving him a dimpled grin and a go get him tiger with a friendly slap to his butt as she'd disappeared into the night.
ALLISON: Are we seeing you for brunch? ;)
Derek finally gives up on the idea of bringing coffee back to Stiles and tosses the lot, coffee and pastries, into the nearest garbage can before hitting Allison's number and waiting impatiently for her to answer.
"Oh hey, you didn't need to call to beg off. I totally understand if you're still-"
"I lost him," Derek says, interrupting her warm greeting.
There's a beat of silence and then, "What?"
"I mean I'm lost. Kind of. Like, I'd be able to find my way home from here but I can't find his place."
"Just call him," Allison says, not getting it.
"No, you don't understand. I snuck out when he was asleep because I was going to surprise him with coffee and breakfast and now I... can't find his place."
"So? Call. Him," Allison repeats, sounding puzzled.
"I don't have his number," Derek says flatly.
"Oh, um, well, we can probably look him up?" Allison says, although she's sounding more unsure.
"The only name I got was Stiles. I'm pretty sure it's a nickname."
"So you don't know his real name either?"
"I don't need you judging me right now," Derek moans, taking a moment to hit himself in the forehead with his own phone.
"No I... I'm not judging. Just..." Allison's voice is a little choked and Derek scowls, even though she can't see it.
"Are you laughing at me?"
"I'm sorry, hon. I really am. I just... only you."
"So, you'll have to wait for him to call you," Allison says and Derek groans again heartily. "He doesn't have your number either, does he?"
"You snuck out when he was asleep?"
"So, right about now he's waking up and thinking you... oh," Allison says, finally getting it. "Oh no!"
"What am I going to do?"
"You'll see him at another convention, won't you?" Allison asks.
"Possibly," Derek hedges, although he doesn't know that for sure. "But it's a little hard to come back from being the douchebag that slept with you and didn't even say goodbye the next morning," Derek points out.
"You can explain..." Allison starts, but even she doesn't sound like she believes that will solve anything. I meant to come back but I couldn't find your place sounds like one of those excuses, along the lines of, I lost your number or I never got your message, my phone is really unreliable. One of those trite, awkward brush-offs when confronted by that one-night stand you never thought you'd see again.
If Stiles even gives him enough of a chance to offer an excuse at all.
"Was he... did you like him?" Allison asks carefully.
"Yes!" Derek blurts and it's so immediate and so abrupt that Derek even surprises himself.
He'd started cosplaying about two years ago when Cora had dragged him along to a local comicon because she was dressing as a steampunk Super Girl and she'd said that sometimes people didn't understand about boundaries and personal space when you were in costume. Derek was supposed to just be a glowering deterrent to anyone other than those that wanted pictures or to compliment her, but he'd had fun and marveled at the creativity of a lot of the costumes. Derek had always had a not-so-secret love of sewing, metal work and construction and this blended all three. He'd been helping Cora with her costumes for ages and to actually hear people gushing at her when he'd been responsible for making a good portion of what she was wearing was nice.
The next convention, Derek had gone along, partnered with Cora as a fully articulated medieval Iron Man and had teased Cora for pouting about him getting more attention.
Making complex suits had been a blast, but then Derek had become obsessed with a new show called Shift and he'd been told enough he looked like one of the lead characters that he'd toned down his costume and instead had gone along to the next convention as Dexus, a man who could half-shift into a wolf. He'd figured out a way to make a costume where he looked like an otherwise unremarkable guy wearing a tough leather jacket and jeans, only with wolf ears but when he dropped over to all fours and curled in his head, he looked like Dexus in his monstrous wolf form. Cora had relented to humoring him and went along as Dexus' sister Eliza and the two of them hadn't been able to take more than a few steps at a time without people wanting pictures with them.
He'd perfected the costume over the next few conventions and it became his go-to but then he'd started hearing about a guy who was an excellent Little Red, a fox-shift and also Dexus' partner on the show. It seemed the two of them were destined to keep missing each other and Derek had practically given up ever meeting Little Red until the day before when he'd spotted a Little Red across the room at an after party, still in costume. Derek wasn't, back in his street clothes for the party, but he'd dragged Allison over anyway to meet the guy.
Derek didn't really remember much about that initial meeting because he'd been drinking pretty heavily, but he did remember Little Red, Stiles, turning around and his eyes widening through Little Red's half-mask on Derek's approach. "Okay, I know you're not in costume, but you have to be the Dexus people keep telling me about," Stiles had said, slinking into his personal space immediately and Derek wasn't inclined to displace him for the rest of the night.
Fast forward to some very hot making out at the party, a couple of fantastic orgasms at Stiles' house and Derek waking up to see Stiles still asleep, head turned away and pale curve of back on display that Derek had nuzzled before having the bright idea to sneak out and get coffee since Stiles had been lamenting about his machine breaking the night before.
It had all seemed so unproblematic at the time.
"I haven't even seen all of his face," Derek admits.
"What?" Allison barks.
"I asked him to leave the Little Red mask on and it was really hot at the time..." Derek feels himself blushing furiously in the morning sunlight just having to say that out loud.
"Derek, there could've been some Phantom of the Opera shit happening under his mask," Allison cajoles.
"I could see his eyes and his face from the bottom of his nose down. Trust me, he's cute," Derek says. He's sure. He's pretty sure. He's most definitely at least sixty-five percent sure. "It wouldn't matter anyway. He was funny and awesome and... tell me what to do."
"Start knocking on doors," Allison instructs and Derek slumps and checks the streets he's standing on again. The same apartment buildings stretch away from him as far as the eye can see and while logically he knows he can't be that far from the right one, it still feels like a needle in a haystack kind of situation.
"I'm never going to find him."
"How about this," Allison proposes. "You remember which apartment number he was?"
"Five," Derek says, the one thing he does know for sure. He'd touched the stylized five screwed into Stiles' apartment door as he'd left to fix it in his mind so he'd know which apartment to buzz when he got back. He doesn't know why he hadn't checked the street number as well since he'd done that much.
"You're supposed to be meeting up with me and your sisters in an hour, so just try to find it for the next thirty minutes. Hopefully if you have a deadline it won't be so frustrating and you can legitimately call it quits with a good reason. Call me if you find him," she says and it sounds like a reasonable plan.
It sounds reasonable up until Derek is at the twenty-eight minute mark and he thinks he's found the right building. There's a red bike chained up at the bottom of the front steps that Derek remembers catching his hip on when he was leaving, and he's buzzing number five before he can second-guess himself. Suddenly he's nervous, palms sweaty and heart racing. He wants this to be Stiles so badly he almost aches with it and when a young guy answers the buzzer, sounding bleary and half-asleep, Derek nearly sags down on the stairs in abject relief.
Right up until the guy says, "Uh, Stiles? No, um, sorry man. No one here by that name."
*^* Stiles *^*
He'd been planning to sneak out of bed and brush his teeth, slip back in so he could pretend he was one of those mythical beings that woke up just naturally minty fresh but there's nothing but an expanse of cool sheets on the other side of the bed.
He looks about for evidence that Derek is still going to be somewhere in the apartment but doesn't find anything. There's a moment of bright hope when Stiles stumbles out into the hallway and hears the shower going, but the only response he gets to his tentative knock on the bathroom door is his roommate Jackson's obnoxious bray of, "Ocupado!"
Stiles sighs and makes his way to the kitchen. He's still holding onto the shreds of positivism by his fingertips as he pokes his head around the corner but there's no Derek on either of the stools set against the small kitchen island and no note either tacked to the fridge or left on the one gap of free space not taken up by appliances on the counter. In a last ditch effort to stave off complete defeat, Stiles checks the outside of the front door because maybe Derek affixed a note to it when he was leaving but doesn't find anything.
Nada, zip, nic.
Stiles goes back to the kitchen to find Jackson wearing just a towel, poking around in the fridge. Jackson levers upright with a carton of milk in hand, box of cereal already tucked under his other arm which is super gross because he's still damp and the box is losing structural integrity under there. He raises an eyebrow at Stiles.
"What's with the tragic face?"
"My face isn't tragic," Stiles grumbles, climbing onto a stool and dropping his chin into his palm.
"Stilinski, your face is always tragic, no point fighting it. There's just a little more... patheticness layered over the top than usual."
"Derek left," Stiles sighs and immediately regrets it, because Jackson is not someone to seek sympathy from at the best of times. He's more a laugh at you as you face-plant kinda guy.
"Really," Jackson says, sounding unsurprised which is just plain mean. "I figured he would have stuck around considering how grateful he sounded."
"Grateful?" Stiles says, perking up a little, but he should've seen it coming, he really should have.
"Thank you, thank you, tha-a-a-a-nk yo-o-o-o-u," Jackson mimics breathily and then rolls his eyes and Stiles really wants to hit him with something, but the closest thing to hand is the blender and he likes the blender, possibly more than Jackson right now. He's not willing to sacrifice it just for the satisfaction of knocking Jackson out.
"It's not like you and Lydia never keep me awake with your particular brand of weird sex play," Stiles says, making a show of shuddering and Jackson flips him off.
"What was he so thankful for anyway? I can't imagine you-"
"Jackson, so help me if you finish that sentence with anything nasty about my prowess in bed I will brain you with the toaster right now," Stiles warns, not in the mood to hear what particular insult Jackson will come up with.
"So? The inevitable happened, just a littler earlier this time. What's the big deal?" Jackson asks, pouring cereal into a bowl and then glugging milk in sloppily after. Stiles squints at him, incredulous.
"You know, you and another person," Jackson says, then pauses in making his breakfast long enough to press his hands together and mime an explosion, fingers fanning outwards like startled birds taking flight.
"It's not always like that," Stiles argues, disgruntled.
"It's been like that every time, at least since I've known you. There's a couple of weeks of you wandering around like a gormless, lovestruck husk of yourself, then there's screaming and throwing things and then..." Jackson mimes the explosion again. "Just think of it this way, you only have nice memories of this guy for once."
"You call me waking up with him having snuck out without so much as a goodbye a nice memory?" Stiles asks and Jackson pulls a fair enough face.
"You're better off," Jackson rallies, and if Stiles didn't know better he'd think that Jackson was trying to be reassuring, which is impossible.
Stiles had told Derek that their house coffee machine was broken, but the truth was that Jackson had bought some complicated monstrosity that he couldn't make work that had a manual that was in Italian, which was not one of the languages Stiles even knew swear words in. He'd become reliant on McBean's coffee three blocks down ever since and pawed pathetically at the glass door now because the Closed sign was flipped even though it was half past ten in the morning.
"Didn't you see the- oh hey, Stiles," Erica says, tugging the door open, her annoyed expression melting into an affectionate grin.
"Why are you closed?" Stiles whines.
"Water pipe burst in the kitchen about twenty minutes ago."
"Can't I just-?"
"You can't come in, Stiles. If you slip over and break your head, we'll be liable."
"I won't sue, I swear," Stiles wheedles, but he knows it's a lost cause. He slumps, resigned to the extra three blocks he'll have to drag his sorry ass to get to Bean Town which has far superior coffee but is also further away and Stiles, by his very nature, is a pretty lazy individual.
Stiles reaches Bean Town in an impossibly sour mood and immediately thinks he just should have stayed in bed because the universe is apparently determined to kick him in the ribs when he's down.
Sitting in a corner booth with three beautiful women, is Derek.
The level of attractiveness just at that one little table is fairly impressive and wholly unfair to the rest of the place which pales in comparison.
Stiles slides behind the nearest pillar, the barista at the front giving him a funny look because the place is quiet enough in that magical time between the breakfast and lunch rushes for him to notice Stiles' antics. Stiles ignores the curly-haired guy, peering around the pillar at Derek with the three girls, one of which is a brown-haired girl with dimples and an arm slung proprietorially across Derek's shoulders.
That rat bastard. No wonder he snuck out. He has a girlfriend.
Stiles straightens up, sets his face into a determined scowl and approaches the table. Derek's turned a little away from him so he doesn't see Stiles approach and Stiles has enough time when he hears Derek lament in a truly broken tone, "-could be so stupid? How could I have done something so dumb?" with the dimpled girl making soothing, comforting noises at him for Stiles to flail and change trajectory.
He slides into a table set against the window and tries to make it look like that's what he was doing all along, covering his face with a brightly colored mocktail menu. He flicks a glance at the barista over the top who just rolls his eyes at him and very pointedly taps the No table service, please order at the counter sign by the register. Stiles tries to communicate with large, pleading eyes to just ignore him, for the love of god.
So, Derek didn't cheat on the pretty dimpled girl the night before. No, instead he was telling her about the huge mistake he's made.
Stiles nearly went over there. Stiles nearly went over there and made a complete fool of himself.
"Look buddy-" a busboy starts to say, appearing at his elbow holding a bucket of empty coffee cups and wearing a put-upon expression.
"I know, order at the front. It's fine. Just leave me alone."
"You gotta order if you want to take up a table."
Stiles takes a moment to stare incredulously around. There's three other tables occupied and about a half-dozen empty and then he looks back at the busboy and raises his eyebrows. "Fine, god," Stiles huffs out when all he gets is the busboy resettling his weight and looking unimpressed at him. He's not really watching what he's doing when he gets back up so he hits someone with his chair when he pushes it out.
He hits Derek with his chair.
"Sorry!" Stiles blurts reflexively and winces, waiting for the recognition, the awkwardness, the horrible-
"No problem," Derek dismisses, barely glancing at Stiles on his way to the counter. Stiles watches him go, mouth a little unhinged. Stiles then watches him order another coffee. Stiles then watches him smile a little haltingly when the barista says something flirty, not so much as glancing back at Stiles the entire time.
"So, are you going to order or...?" the busboy presses, sounding like he only really half-cares and Stiles suspects the barista was the one that sent him over. Derek's headed back to the table so he's free again to glare at Stiles for no real reason whatsoever.
"Uh, no," Stiles says faintly and flees.
*^* Derek *^*
"You're pouting," Allison accuses, busily opening curtains and ripping the blanket off Derek's legs and the cereal bowl out of his hands. There's nothing wrong with eating cereal at two in the afternoon, no matter what her judgmental eyes say.
"Am not," Derek grunts and tries to curl into himself like a hedgehog.
"You're getting up and we're going to that thing you like. I'll even let you stick me in one of Cora's costumes," Allison says. "I know there's a convention today, I saw the flyer on your fridge."
"I'm not going anywhere," Derek says. He's embarrassed, is the thing. Hotly, acutely embarrassed and he just wants to hide, maybe for a few months, just until he can see the funny in the whole situation like his sisters had almost immediately.
"Derek, I'm offering to be in a costume for you, and you know I hate that stuff. This is a sacrifice that I want you to acknowledge."
"He might be there."
"Good. Then you can explain what happened, you can laugh about it together and then have really hot sex and tell me all about it, all while praising me for being the best."
"You are the best," Derek asserts loyally and right when she's starting to smile, he adds, "But I'm not going anywhere."
"Alright, I didn't want it to come to this, but I'll do it," Allison says, crossing her arms and lifting her chin.
"Do what?" Derek asks, but then gapes at her. "Wait, wait, wait. You're serious?"
"This is how much your happiness means to me."
"You'll dress as Wonder Woman? Linda Carter era Wonder Woman? Giant underpants, big red boots, Wonder Woman?"
"I should find it more disturbing that of all the things you could want in life, seeing me dressed as Wonder Woman is at the top of your list."
"I'm complicated," Derek sniffs, but he's getting up, he's thinking about what he's going to wear, whether he needs to shower. He's moving and it's more than he's done in the last seven days.
"You're going to go as that wolf thing?"
"That wolf thing?" Derek repeats incredulously. "That hurts my heart."
"It's your favorite, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but..." Derek says, hesitant.
"If Stiles is there, you can explain, both laugh about it and, y'know, again hot sex and telling me about it because I am currently bereft of any hot sex of my own so I need to live vicariously through you which means I'm relying on you to get your shit together."
"Stiles had a pretty decent-looking Arrow with him last time and Stiles mentioned he was single," Derek says, waggling his eyebrows.
"Really," Allison says, suddenly looking way more interested.
"Yeah. Seemed nice, good smile, a bit of an uneven jaw and I know you like your men with a little character."
"Is that a nice way of saying I like men with flaws?"
"I think it's a mean way of saying that, but nice works too."
Derek freezes when the crowd seems to magically part like the Red Sea and Stiles is there, the guy in the Arrow costume at his shoulder and Allison jabs him in the small of the back with her way-too-pointy elbows to get him moving again.
"Hey, do you two know each other, because it would be a travesty if you didn't?" the girl enthuses and Stiles turns and spots Derek and the bottom of his face that's visible under his mask clenches.
Hoo boy, Derek thinks. This might take some fast-talking.
They pose for pictures and the girl thanks them warmly and retreats with a happy wave. Stiles makes to melt into the crowd but Derek catches his elbow, not wanting to let the opportunity pass and says, "Hey, wait."
Stiles stops moving but also tenses at his touch and Derek takes his hand back. He throws Allison a pleading glance because the Arrow guy looks like he's about to intervene and Allison is a super hero not just when wearing a costume because she smiles brightly at him and says, "Can I see your bow?"
Stiles slumps a little when Allison effectively waylays Stiles' companion, the guy powerless against Allison's dimpled grin.
"What?" Stiles asks, sounding resigned when they're effectively alone.
"Look, can you just..." Derek makes a frustrated gesture with his hands. "Can you take off the mask? If I pass you in the street, I want to recognize you," he implores and something about what he says makes Stiles flinch, but he does it, sweeps the mask to the top of his head with an impatient swipe of one palm and then makes a sarcastic little tada gesture with his hands.
The thing is, Stiles' body language is impatient and closed off, but something in his expression for just a second is almost hopeful.
He's also so, so achingly pretty. Derek could have guessed at what he looked like under the mask, but somehow anything he was imagining didn't live up to the reality. As Derek stares, Stiles' face does a funny little clench and then he ducks his head. "Sorry I'm..." he says, not finishing the thought and Derek has no idea what he's apologizing for.
"It's nice to see you finally," Derek says and somehow, some way, he's said the wrong thing because Stiles' whole face kind of crumples and then his mouth is a pissed off little line.
"What do you want?" Stiles demands, a lot more acerbic than Derek was expecting even for how things were left.
"I just wanted to explain," Derek tries a little faintly, thrown by the waves of discomfort Stiles is giving off.
"That it was a mistake?" Stiles says and Derek feels his stomach drop. "It's fine, it was just..." Stiles leaves his sentence unfinished again. He's looking away now, Derek can only see the pronounced tendon in his neck, the cut of his cheek and jaw. He's looking for an escape and Derek doesn't want to make him feel uncomfortable or trapped and he certainly doesn't want to push if he's totally misunderstood the connection he thought they'd had.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"I said it was fine," Stiles says tightly.
"Yeah, I guess?" Derek says, at a loss. This Stiles is miles away from the cheeky, naughty, laughing guy he'd spent the night with. Stiles had made to push the mask off when they were first making out that night and Derek had said, a little breathlessly, "No, leave it on. Oh god, that's weird right? Is that super weird that I want that?"
Stiles had just laughed, this bright, happy sound that had been frankly addictive and had pushed his hands under Derek's shirt instead in answer.
Maybe he had thought it was weird. Maybe Stiles had spent the whole night thinking Derek was a giant loser but that sex was sex.
Maybe Stiles had been relieved that Derek had snuck out.
Why don't you like me anymore, Derek desperately wanted to ask, but it was such a banal, childish question that he closed his teeth on it. Stiles does not want to be having this conversation, that much is clear in every line of his body. Derek knows, even though it sucks and that living with a spark of hope might have been easier, that this is better, that knowing is better. He can stop pining for a one-night stand like a fool.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you," Derek says, sounding stilted and formal and awful, but the words are out there now, small and hurt. They must have been said neutrally enough though because Stiles doesn't look at him again, just makes a break for it, collaring his friend as he goes who'd been throwing increasingly concerned glances their way despite Allison's best efforts to distract him.
"I take it that didn't go so well?" Allison asks, sidling back up to him when Stiles and the Arrow disappear into the milling crowd.
"Let's just say that to be worse, Stiles would've had to have punched me in the stomach before he left," Derek says.
"Ouch," Allison says, pulling a sympathetic face and then she smiles, unclips the golden lasso from her hip and drapes it around him. "I think this calls for something fried and terrible for us," she proposes and starts towing Derek towards the corner of the convention space dedicated to food vendors.
"Churros aren't going to solve my problems," Derek says, but he goes.
*^* Stiles *^*
"You using that Word Of The Day calendar again bud?" Stiles asks, not looking away from the episode of CSI: Miami he's watching. Scott should know that watching the Miami one means Stiles is in a Bad Mood, Do Not Approach. Jackson certainly understood the implication if the speed he made himself scarce that morning was any indication.
"So I've been texting with that girl Allison I met at the convention," Scott continues blithely.
"How did you even get in here?"
"It's going really well, but there's a sticking point."
"I don't want to hear about your sticky points."
"Stop being obtuse," Scott scolds and Stiles raises his eyebrows and finally looks at him.
"I am going to rip up that calendar, I swear."
"Stiles, I really like this girl and we get along really well, but we have a problem."
"Are we talking about erectile dysfunction here, dude? I mean, I'm here for you, but I don't know how I can help."
"Each of us has a best friend we're convinced is an asshole."
"You think I'm an asshole?" Stiles asks, hurt.
"No, she thinks you're an asshole."
"I've never even talked to the girl!" Stiles splutters. Okay, at times Stiles knows he can be an asshole, but usually he has to converse with a person before they figure that out.
"I'm starting to think she's right," Scott says, narrowing his eyes.
"To her, you're the asshole in the Derek situation. To me, he's the asshole. See my problem?"
"Not really. We don't have to get along for you guys to hang out," Stiles says and Scott looks at him like he's just announced that red is blue and down is up.
"Of course you do," Scott asserts and Stiles feels something clench in his chest at the certainty of Scott's statement.
"So, what do you want me to do?"
"We need to figure this out," Scott says, dropping down on the armchair opposite Stiles' couch and pressing his hands together. He looks more serious than Stiles has ever seen him and Stiles is maybe just the tiniest bit scared.
"There's nothing to figure out. He's the asshole."
"I know that," Scott says loyally and then screws up his face. "I think we've used the word quota on asshole today."
"He's the one that slinked out like I was an embarrassing prom date he never wanted to see again and then ran off to tell all his friends what a huge mistake he'd made sleeping with me in the first place. Then he finds me at a convention just to tell me to my face that he thought the whole thing was a mistake which, thanks, I got the memo the moment he snuck out without a word. There's not really anywhere to go from there."
Scott looks conflicted, chewing on his thumbnail. "There's gotta be more to it."
"What did Allison say?"
"She didn't want to talk about it because she said I would just take your side. We have these awesome, rambling conversations and then one of us happens to mention one of you and bam, awkwardness."
"I'm sorry but I don't-" Stiles starts to say and that's when Lydia bursts into the apartment, dragging Jackson behind her. He looks like she might as well be towing him by his ear and Stiles has seen this before. They're mid-fight and need someone else to weigh in. Stiles hates this, because he can never help himself, he always takes a side and then inevitably when they make up, they're both mad at him.
It's a vicious cycle.
"Save yourself," Stiles tells Scott who just shakes his head and snorts.
"Tell him what you did," Lydia orders, shoving Jackson in front of her and then poking him in the small of the back with one pointy little finger that makes Jackson wince. Stiles knows from personal experience that she's lethal with those things.
"Lydia," Jackson whines.
"Tell him what you did," she repeats, giving him her best not messing around glare.
Jackson sighs and prevaricates but eventually he says something all in a rush, too fast and too low for Stiles to make out, looking extremely hang-dog.
"Sorry, what?" Stiles says, glances at Scott who shrugs at him in a hell if I know way.
Jackson sighs again, extremely put-upon, before he throws Lydia one more beseeching glance and then, "So, that guy? He came back."
"What guy? Came back where?"
"That Derek guy. That morning. He came back. When he buzzed I told him he had the wrong place."
Stiles blinks at Jackson. Jackson's speaking haltingly, the admission obviously paining him and it only sinks in slowly the ramifications of what he's actually saying. "Wait, what?"
"It was for your own good," Jackson says, drawing up and looking more like his cock-sure self. "You know, it would've-" Jackson goes to do that explodey hand gesture again and Stiles stands up and slaps his hands apart before he can finish the move.
"That's not why," Lydia says primly. "Jackson is perpetually too manstipated to tell you this, but he likes living with you and he worries every time you hook up with someone that you'll leave him."
"That's not even..." Stiles makes a helpless gesture with his hands. He wants to be furious, but Lydia's words stick a pin in his anger.
"Tanya. Peter. Fucking Claire," Jackson lists off on his fingers, surprising Stiles when he doesn't deny what Lydia has said. "You were talking about moving in with Claire after two dates."
"The point is, that guy came back here. Jackson says you've been all sad since he left without saying goodbye," Lydia pushes Jackson aside to say.
"Other stuff happened. That's not just why," Stiles says but... why would Derek have come back if it was all just a big mistake? Did he forget something? No, that can't be it because Stiles would have found it by now if he had. Other than the socks that Stiles squirreled away like a loser, but would he have come back just for those?
Stiles doesn't think so.
"You should talk to him," Lydia proclaims, giving them a decisive nod.
"I think it's too late for that," Stiles says.
"No it's not, dude," Scott enthuses. "Maybe this has all been a big snowball of misunderstanding."
"He said it was a mistake."
"Did he?" Lydia asks, eyebrows arching.
"He... I mean, I'm pretty sure he... did?"
"Oh my god, just talk to him," Jackson groans, doing a whole-body roll of his eyes. "I'm sorry I interfered. I thought you'd be over it by now like you normally are when you ruin things but since I ruined it..."
"I don't have his number," Stiles says, like that'll be the end of it.
"I'll text Allison," Scott volunteers happily, furiously typing on his phone with his tongue poking out to one side before Stiles can stop him.
"No, wait-" Stiles tries anyway, because he doesn't want to start believing that this might work out, he doesn't want to catch whatever crazy has infected his friends who are all looking at him with varying degrees of expectant hopefulness. Scott finishes texting, there's the swipe noise of a sent message and then they all wait, Scott's leg bouncing and Stiles feeling like maybe he can throttle Jackson, just a little, just to pass the time.
There's the ding of a received message and Scott checks it and then frowns.
"She said no?" Stiles asks, because of course. Why should anything work out for him ever?
"Not exactly," Scott says. "She won't give me Derek's number, but she proposed a neutral meeting place. I think she's kinda worried you're going to stomp on his heart more."
"More? Me?" Stiles splutters, because apparently everyone has forgotten he's the wounded party here.
There's the sound of another message and then Scott says, "Bean Town, half an hour."
"That's not neutral, the barista hates me," Stiles grumbles, but he also goes to change out of his shirt that's stained with Cheetos dust.
He might as well look decent if he's going out with the express purpose to humiliate himself some more.
*^* Derek *^*
The last time he was here was that fateful morning when he'd royally screwed up, although looking at it with the benefit of twenty-twenty-hindsight, he might have just saved himself some heartache and embarrassment by not sticking around.
"Hey Derek," the blond barista calls warmly and Derek offers a wave.
"Hi Isaac-" he starts to greet but Allison grabs him by the elbow and shuffles him over to a table.
"What are you wearing?" she demands, looking him up and down.
"What?" Derek says, looking down at himself. He's in track pants and his favorite sweater that's starting to unravel. He's also got on his reading glasses because he couldn't be bothered putting in his contacts and has no product in his hair, but he and Allison have seen each other in worse states. "I was asleep when you texted. You're lucky I'm here at all."
"Okay, in about five minutes you're really going to hate me, but just please remember I love you and only want what's best for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Derek asks, but then he knows because right at that moment Stiles walks through the door looking infuriatingly adorable in a dark red flannel shirt and slim-fitting jeans, his friend Scott on his heels.
Derek has a salsa stain on the knee of his track pants and he doesn't even remember how it happened.
"I am going to kill you," Derek grits out of the side of his mouth and sees Allison grimace.
"I hadn't expected you to just roll out of bed and walk here in whatever clothes stuck to you," she hisses back, not really as apologetic as she should be.
"Hi Allison!" Scott says brightly, apparently unable to contain his enthusiasm and then winces when Stiles elbows him in the sternum.
"Hi," Stiles says, looking unsure and Derek really wants to know what's going on. Why did Allison think this was a good idea or even necessary? The two of them had had a one-night stand that Derek had mistaken for the start of something and Stiles had obviously seen as one night too many. Even if Allison thought that any lingering awkwardness between them might get in the way of whatever was happening between her and Scott, she should know that Derek would never do anything to jeopardize her happiness.
"Hi," Derek grits out when the silence stretches uncomfortably between the four of them.
"How about we order and you guys go sit down and talk?" Scott says, reaching out and taking Allison's hand, dragging her over to the counter. She throws a belatedly apologetic glance over her shoulder at Derek before Stiles gestures for Derek to pick a table.
Derek shuffles over to the nearest one, feeling ambushed. He doesn't know what's going on, he's only been awake for half an hour and he's pretty sure he smells like old sweat and pizza while the guy he slept with once and apparently never wanted to again is so attractive that it almost makes Derek's eyes hurt.
This is not his best day ever.
"So," Stiles says when they sit but then seems to run out of steam and blows out an explosive breath, looking unsure.
"We don't have to be friends," Derek says and Stiles, who had been opening his mouth to say god knows what else, falters and blinks at him.
"I get the impression that Allison really likes your friend, Scott. She kinda feels... disloyal for liking him though, or at least that's the impression I'm getting. We don't have to be friends for them to be together but we can be civil for their sake, right?"
"If that isn't too much of a stretch for you?" Derek asks snidely, unable to resist.
"Look, we don't really need this little sit-down or whatever. I'm not going to cause trouble or get in the way if that's what you're thinking."
"Is that what you think this is?"
"I don't really know what to think, honestly," Derek admits, plucking disconsolately at his threadbare sweater. "A little warning that I was going to be seeing you would've been nice."
"You need warning now?"
"Just, y'know," Derek says, gesturing at his clothes, his glasses and wonders what the hell his mouth is doing. He shouldn't be telling Stiles that it bothers him that he looks less than put together in front of him. He should be acting like he doesn't give a shit.
"What, so you can look more cute and really rub it in?" Stiles says, and then flinches, like he didn't mean to say that aloud either.
"More cute?" Derek asks faintly, raising an eyebrow.
"Just, y'know, the rumpled hair and sweatpants and glasses? It's like you read a how-to on driving me crazy."
"I'm feeling a little lost here," Derek says, rubbing his forehead, trying to massage away the headache that's starting up.
"You came back," Stiles says quiet, tentative, like he can't really believe it's true. "That morning. You came back."
"I tried to," Derek says and sighs. "I couldn't find your place. All those apartments in that area look the same and-"
"Wait, you got lost?"
"Stupid, right? I went out to get coffee and-"
"You went out to get us coffee?"
"And muffins," Derek says.
"You were always going to come back, though?"
"Of course. I had a really, really good time. I get it that you didn't-"
"I didn't?" Stiles splutters, looking surprised.
"You said it was a mistake."
"You said it was a mistake," Stiles counters and now Derek feels really confused, especially when Stiles snorts and says, "A snowball of misunderstandings."
"What are you talking about?"
"Can I get something straight here? You wanted to come back that morning. You were bringing coffee and muffins. You... liked me?"
"Of course," Derek blurts, knows it's too fast and too certain and feels the blush stain his cheeks before he can duck his face away. Before he can though, Stiles has scooted forward in his chair and is holding Derek's head between his warm palms.
"We're both deeply, deeply stupid," he says and leans forward to kiss Derek.
It's not perfect immediately. Stiles kind of takes him by surprise so Derek starts to lean away when Stiles leans in and Stiles basically ends up flopping into his lap like a landed fish, center of balance pitched too far forward when he makes his move and he manages to elbow Derek painfully in the knee. Derek is laughing, saying, "Ow, fuck," when Stiles gets his weight back under him and tries to push himself upright again, but he's not going anywhere, not anytime soon if Derek has his way.
Instead, Derek grips Stiles under the arms and hauls him back in, closer even, and this time it is perfect, their mouths aligned and the kiss hot, messy and wonderful.
"Oh you are kidding me," someone says, sounding horribly aggrieved. Derek looks up to see Isaac standing close to their table, wringing the dish towel he's got in his hands. "I've been flirting with you for months and you choose him? Him?"
Derek can't stop smiling helplessly when he turns back to Stiles and sees the glare Stiles is shooting Isaac. It's possessive and angry and at the same time completely adorable.
"Him. I'm pretty sure I'm always going to choose him," Derek agrees.