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REASONS I WOULD DATE DEREK HALE

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Stiles remembers exactly how hot Derek Hale is when he literally bumps into him in the frozen food section at the local grocery store.

“Hey, Stiles,” Derek says, “I heard you were moving back to town.”

“Yep,” Stiles says proudly, because there were moments where he thought that his senior thesis might actually kill him, and yet here he is, alive and buying three frozen pizzas. “I start at the Sheriff’s office on Monday.”

“Yeah, your dad told me last week.”

“Weird,” Stiles says, lightly, “He usually doesn’t chat with the perps during booking.”

“Ah,” Derek says, and blushes, “No, he didn’t, I mean, I wasn’t being… It was at dinner. With the pack. He sounded pretty excited to have you back.”

“Oh, pack dinners, sure,” Stiles says easily, even though it’s really strange to think about his dad sitting around a table with Derek Hale and not threatening to shoot him at least once. “Is that what you’re shopping for? Do they have frozen rabbits here? I thought you had to get those fresh from the forest.”

Derek looks down into his cart, which currently contains the frozen peas he just threw in and a bottle of shaving cream. Then he looks back up at Stiles. “Well,” he says, without so much as a return jibe, which is just as weird as the mental picture of him and the Sheriff sitting down to dinner, “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”

And he wheels his cart away.

Derek’s at home when Stiles rings his doorbell on Wednesday at 2:30, which, considering that most of Derek’s skill sets lie in the eye-flashing and brooding areas and also that he has never worked a day in his life, is not that surprising.

What is surprising is the fact that when he opens the door, the door to his actual own respectable house (light blue with a flowerbed, because the weird continues), he says, “Sorry, I’m in the middle of some work stuff.”

“Is that code for something,” Stiles says flatly.

“No,” Derek gestures to the pile of papers spread across his counter after ushering Stiles in, “It means I was in the middle of a manuscript. Sorry for the mess.”

“Manuscript,” Stiles repeats.

“Yeah,” Derek says, and then, when Stiles continues to look at him blankly, looks at his feet. “Oh, I thought you knew. I do some work for a publisher. I commute into the city a couple of days a week and spend the rest of the time working from home.”

“Publishing,” Stiles says, “I didn’t know that there was much of a market for, what, leather jacket wearing guides, or skinning rabbits with your fingernails.”

Derek, who has been wearing a kind of creepy, pleasant smile up until this point, lets his eyebrows fall into their usual glower. “I do mostly adult fiction,” he says. “What do you want.”

“I have a proposition,” Stiles says, “That we could maybe go get dinner sometime and you could pay.”

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitches. “Do you mean a date?” He says, after a few very silent seconds.

“I mean, I guess if you want to get specific, sure,” Stiles says easily, because he’s totally cool and casual, “We could call it a date.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, after his face runs the complicated gauntlet from stunned to confused to suspicious and lands right on carefully blank, “You don’t want to date me. You don’t even like me.”

“What?” Stiles protests, “Of course I like you! I mean, we’ve had our moments, obviously, but what would make you think that I don’t like you?”

Derek brings both palms up to his eyes in what is clearly frustration. “You aren’t… very nice to me. You kind of… how would you put this… you kind of treat me like shit, Stiles.”

And Stiles gapes. Because that is just totally unfair. And preposterous.

“What?” He says again. That’s how shocked he is. “What about the time I…” But then he has to stop. Because he has nothing. Nothing except maybe ‘what about the time I saved your life,’ but after the past few years, Stiles—and probably Derek—recognize saving somebody’s life when they’re clearly in imminent danger as more of a day-to-day activity and recognition of someone’s basic humanity, and less of some sort of statement of personal investment.

“Well.” Derek says, after Stiles struggles for a moment. He almost looks a little disappointed, even though Stiles is the one who just got straight up rejected, “I don’t know if this was a prank or something. If so, good job, I guess. Maybe we should just both forget all about this, okay? No hard feelings. I’ll see you at the next pack meeting.”

Stiles is still so stunned by the last ten minutes that he doesn’t even think of a good parting jibe until he’s already at his car.

“What would you do if the person that you have had a huge crush on for the better part of a decade but only have been on good terms with for like five years and then you thought that you had this sort of nice mutually jokingly antagonistic friendship with some underlying sexual tension and a little bit of anger flirting rejected you when you finally asked them on a date?”

Scott looks for a moment like he might shut the front door in Stiles face. Either that, or he’s thinking hard.

And then he says, “What,” kind of how most people say it around Stiles—confused and a little afraid.

And then he says, “Oh, shit.”

And then he says, “Did you ask Derek out?”

“Well, yeah,” Stiles says. He didn’t think that this would come as a surprise to anyone. He thought that he and Derek were those annoying friends with the unresolved sexual tension that people were secretly betting on.

Scott just widens his eyes, and stands there for long enough that Stiles has to pointedly edge forward until Scott actually opens the front door all the way for him.

“I just don’t understand why he said no,” Stiles says, throwing his coat over the rack, “I thought we were at that point, you know?”

“No,” Scott says emphatically, “Nobody knows. We know that you hate Derek. We don’t really know why. We know that it’s kind of weird and depressing and we all thought you should be past this point by now. We know that you haven’t been nice to him since… maybe ever. We certainly did not know that you wanted to… ask him out?” He still looks dubious.

“Okay, so who is this ‘we’ that you speak of?” Stiles asks him, “Because my ‘we’ was me and Derek.”

“I don’t know. The whole pack, probably. Your dad. My mom. Maybe the checkout ladies at the grocery store. Pretty much everybody.”

“No,” Stiles says, shaking his head, “We don’t hate each other. I like him! We’re friends! That’s how our friendship works, we’re both mean to each other, but we both know we don’t actually mean it!”

“Does Derek know this?” Scott says doubtfully, “Because he mostly tries to be civil to you and then looks like someone kicked his puppy when you say something mean, even though everybody saw it coming. Don’t you notice that we try to keep you two separated these days? It’s so you don’t make him cry.”

“Of course he knows this!”  Stiles throws his arms up, and collapses into Scott’s couch. “We communicate through glares, insults, and wall-pushing! It’s our thing!”

“When’s the last time he pushed you into a wall, Stiles.” Scott folds his arms. Sometimes Stiles really hates that he’s gone all calm, capable, alpha.

“I don’t know, like last month, probably.”

Scott raises one eyebrow, which is a sure sign that he’s been hanging out with Derek recently. Which, huh. Is maybe new. At least, Stiles is never there when that happens, though apparently that’s intentional.

“Okay,” Stiles says, actually thinking about it, “So it was maybe… like… huh. Oh God. High school?”

Scott just looks smug.

“Since when are you on his side?” Stiles says, in lieu of admitting that he was wrong.

“I’m not on his side!” Scott says, finally dropping the cool demeanor and throwing his hands up defensively, “I’m always on your side! It sucks that he said no, bro. I’m sorry for you. But I’ve been spending a lot of time with him the last few years, for pack stuff, while you’ve been away for school. And he’s learned and grown a lot, like all of us have. And I think he’s made a pretty big effort to change his relationship with you. And you…”

Scott sort of shrugs, and looks away. He doesn’t say it out loud, but he doesn’t need to.

And you haven’t.

“I made a list.” Stiles says, and pulls it out of his pocket.

Lydia looks vastly unimpressed, probably because it’s written on old notebook paper, and his pen broke halfway through, and he wrote it at breakfast, which means it’s got ink and coffee stains all over it. Also, it’s a little crumpled from being stuffed in his pocket all morning.

“A list of what,” she asks, running a finger gingerly along the top of the bookshelf she’s standing near and then sniffing at the dust it kicks up. She’s been helping Stiles search for an apartment all day, which basically consists of her turning her nose up at basically everything while Stiles blindly agrees. Apparently, the housing market in Beacon Hills leaves something to be desired.

Stiles thrusts the list at her, so she can read the title: REASONS I WOULD DATE DEREK HALE (aka reasons Derek should date me).

Lydia rolls her eyes.

“I have to say, Derek handles rejection a lot better than you.”

“Excuse me, rude,” Stiles says coldly, and then, “Wait, what?”

“Well,” She says, “When you rejected him like ten times in a row, he didn’t mope around making lists. He accepted defeat gracefully and moved on.”

“Uhhh,” Stiles says, list hanging limply from his fingers, “I never rejected Derek. Derek Hale? Fuck no. I would definitely remember that.”

Lydia gives a long-suffering sigh. “Your entire junior year of college, Stiles. He tried to court you for the entire year. We all told him it was useless. I mean,” She flips her hair over her shoulder, a little smugly, “We all know how you are when you like somebody. And you basically hated him. But he tried anyway.”

“No,” Stiles says again.

“What about the time over Thanksgiving when he asked you if you wanted to see that new superhero movie? And you told him that you were already going with Scott. But that he could come along. If he had nothing else penciled in on his exciting social calander.

Stiles does not remember this precise event, per say. But it does sound like something that he would say, especially with the amount of sarcasm that Lydia injects into her ‘Stiles voice.’

“Or how about over Spring Break, when he brought you coffee on your stakeout, made just the way you liked it, and then you made him taste it first. In case it was poisoned.”

“I—,” Stiles says, because he maybe does  remember that one, but Lydia continues, “Or my personal favorite, when we all advised him to take the direct approach, so he came over and let me stick him in a dress shirt and then drove five hours to see you at school to ask you to dinner and you told him that you just got a date for that night, spur of the moment, and he should probably find some other place to stay in case your date went well, so he drove five hours back up here? I think that was when he truly gave up on you.”

And for the second time in as many days, Stiles is speechless.

“Okay, that was so not a date,” Stiles says. “He just called to say that he was popping down and wanted to see if I was free that evening. I didn’t think it was a big deal, or I wouldn’t have said yes to Jake. And I totally would have had coffee with him or something the next day, he didn’t have to just leave.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says, “He wanted to take you to a nice restaurant for dinner. Where he was going to pay. He wore a dress shirt, for God’s sake. I almost got him into a tie. He called ahead to make sure you were free that night. It was definitely a date.”

Stiles looks at the floor for a moment. “Do you think that I should give him the list? I thought number seven was pretty convincing.”

“This place has nothing,” Lydia says, which basically means that she considered his question too stupid to even think about responding to, “Let’s move on.”  

REASONS I WOULD DATE DEREK HALE

(aka reasons Derek should date me)

1. He has a smokin hot bod and his face is okay too

2. I have been told by several people recently that I have ‘grown into myself’ which basically means that I too am hot

3. Also I have recently had more than three sexual partners (which is Derek’s all time total, we’re all pretty sure) so I know some cool moves and can probably show him some stuff even though the sex would already most likely be pretty good (see no. 1 and no. 2)

4. He is apparently mega rich which is not only hot but also very nice (and unrelated to the fact that I have mega student loans)

5. He has a cool sister who I would not mind hanging out with

6. He speaks lots of languages which is also very hot and combined with no. 4 means I could probably get a pretty cool world vacay out of this

7. I am not completely batshit nor have I ever seduced someone for evil so really I’m already a step above pretty much everyone else he’s been with

8. We already know all the same people so I don’t have to worry about impressing his friends

9. We are both (hot) men and we also both are attracted to other (hot) men so that is v convenient

10. When in doubt refer to no. 1 again

“Here,” Stiles says, not a little proudly, and thrusts the list into Derek’s free hand.

Derek just blinks once at him and then takes a long drink from the coffee mug he’s holding.

“What’s this?” He says eventually, and then yawns. “And why are you here at 7:30 AM?”

“I never went to bed last night!” Stiles tells him cheerfully, “I couldn’t sleep, but I know you have work soon so I figured you’d be up. And it’s a list. Which you’d know if you read the title. And this is me not making a joke about how I didn’t know that you could read, so hey, that’s progress.”

Derek glances at the list. “He has a smokin hot bod and his face is okay too,” he recites in a dry voice. “That’s your number one reason for dating me?”

“It’s the number one reason that I would consider attempting to date you.”

Derek’s mouth tightens, and he skims the rest of the list.

“Stiles,” he starts, but Stiles interrupts him, saying, “And before you reject me again, I’d take a look at number seven and then reconsider, okay?”

Derek reads number seven again, and his face doesn’t really change, but that might be because it’s still pretty early and he isn’t awake enough yet to appreciate Stiles’ subtle and ironic sense of humor.

“That’s a good point,” Derek says stiffly when it’s clear that Stiles is waiting for an answer, though Stiles thinks he detects a trace of sarcasm in his voice. “But this is what I’m talking about, Stiles. Because I don’t particularly like to discuss my past relationships, or make jokes about them, or have other people make jokes about them, and I’ve been working pretty hard to get myself into a good place about this kind of thing. And everybody else is being pretty respectful of that.”

“Well,” Stiles says floundering, “What, and I’m not? Hey, I mean, I thought you had a good therapist, you know, I thought we had moved into the joking place about the Derek of homicidal girlfriends past.”

And then he realizes, after Derek kind of makes a weird involuntary full body jerk, that he probably shouldn’t have said that. But it’s hard, because being mean to Derek—not mean mean, like hey, your family’s dead, but just a little mean, like hey, you have no social or life skills—is his default. That’s a hard habit to break.

“Sorry,” he says, a little belatedly, when he realizes that Derek’s flinching probably means that they are not in fact in the place where he can joke about it.

“Look, Stiles,” Derek says, and he’s using the weird gentle voice again, “I don’t think that it would be good for me to date somebody who doesn’t even like me. Who’s just in it for my body, or my money, or whatever, and not because they actually want to be around me.” Derek gestures halfheartedly with the list, and then tucks it back into Stiles’ hand. “I can’t do that. Not again.”

He swings the door shut, and says “Have a good day,” softly before it latches closed.

“I don’t understand,” Stiles moans.

“Yeah,” Scott says, and he does sound a bit impatient, but it’s probably because Stiles turned up right after he left Derek’s, and he’s about to make Scott late for work, “I can see that.”

“I made a list,” Stiles says, “That took effort! I’m wooing!” He waves the list in the air.

Scott snatches it from him, and then says, “Stiles!” Sounding scandalized.

“What?” Stiles says, throwing an arm over his face.

Scott pulls it off. “Okay, dude, you know I love you. But this is, like, really offensive.”

And then Stiles yelps in dismay, because words have left him.

“You’re basically telling him that you still hate him, but that you want him to pay your student loans and fly you to Paris, and let you have playdates with Cora?”

“That sounds super creepy,” Stiles protests, “And I’m not saying that I hate him!”

“Well, it has absolutely nothing about him that isn’t either superficial, or really hurtful to his sensitivities about his past.”

“Derek doesn’t have sensitivities,” Stiles scoffs, but he’s feeling kind of weird about the list now. Scott hasn’t been firmly not in Stiles corner in a really long time, and Scott’s sort of his moral compass. If he’s upset about it, maybe there really is something wrong with it.

Scott just gives him a raised eyebrow. “You don’t even like strangers telling ‘your mom’ jokes, Stiles. You really think that Derek likes people making jokes about his family? And his therapist had just nudged him into a healthy acceptance about his lack of guilt about everything, like, barely a month ago. That took years. What if you just set him back?”

Now Stiles really does feel like shit. It’s kind of hard not to, when Scott’s big brown eyes are looking at him so accusingly. And now he can’t help but remember Derek’s flinching earlier, which just makes everything worse.

“Sorry,” He mumbles.

Scott just shakes his head and sighs. “Maybe you should apologize to him instead of me.”

Stiles grimaces, because the idea of apologizing to Derek is really not a pleasant one. On the whole, Stiles avoids apologies whenever possible.

“Are you sure you even want to pursue this?” Scott asks, when Stiles won’t answer. “Are you sure you’re not just, like, bored being back here? Because remember how you used to ask me to let Derek die? I was pretty sure that you had never really left that place. You’re not just doing this because he’s the only single one around, right? Or because you think you can wear him down because he has a crush on you? It’s not fair to exploit his weakness for you like that.”

Stiles really wishes that people would tell him when other people have crushes on him when Stiles could actually do something about it, instead of two years later. At least he knows now that Lydia wasn’t lying, before, about Derek liking him.

“You’re late for work,” he tells Scott, because his questions are getting super uncomfortable and he doesn’t want to even begin to think about how to answer them.

Lydia is even less impressed than Scott when Stiles tells him how badly his plan of how to woo Derek went, but at least she’s impressed with this apartment.

“Why didn’t you stop me if you thought it was such a bad plan?” Stiles demands, because if he relies on Scott to be his moral compass then he definitely relies on Lydia to stop him from making rash, or just plain bad, decisions.

“I thought it was so obviously bad that even you wouldn’t go through with it,” she says, with a shrug.

“Well, apparently I know less than everybody else in this stupid town about my relationship with Derek. Or lack thereof.”

Lydia’s inspecting the grout in the tiles of the counter, and ignores him.

“Scott said that I probably offended Derek’s sensitivities,” Stiles says after the silence has dragged on long enough to make him uncomfortable, “I didn’t even know he had sensitivities. He’s like a brick wall most of the time.”

Lydia turns to stare him dead in the eye. “People who have walls up usually put them there because they’re vulnerable to attack, Stiles. If Derek’s heart couldn’t be broken—again—why would he bother defending it?”

Stiles opens his mouth, and then closes it.

“I think you should take this one,” Lydia says. She’s so used to his gawking at this point that it’s mostly ignored. “It’s the best we’ve seen in your price range.”

“Heyyyy,” Stiles drawls, and Derek just closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Okay, at least it’s not so early this time,” Stiles says defensively, “And I brought you a muffin. Blueberry, your favorite!”

He wiggles the muffin irritatingly close to Derek’s nose until Derek snatches it out of his hand.

“So, I wanted to apologize about the list thing,” Stiles says bluntly, “That was weird.”

“So you figured it out,” Derek says drily.

“Yeah, after how Scott and Lydia reacted after I showed them—”

“Oh,” Derek says, and looks at his feet, “So you didn’t figure it out.”

“Well, I guess not technically, but I’m still here to apologize, so it counts. It has been brought to my attention that some… okay, most of the items on it were slightly rude…”

“Just forget it,” Derek says, still avoiding Stiles’ sincere and apologetic gaze. “You clearly don’t understand.”

“No, I do!” Stiles protests, “And I want to take you to dinner to make up for it!”

“Look, Stiles,” Derek says, and now he does meet his eyes, “I don’t know how I can make this any clearer for you.” He’s speaking slowly now, like he’s afraid Stiles won’t understand, “I don’t want to date somebody who only wants to date me for my sister. Or for my money. Or for my abs. Okay? I don’t want to date somebody who wants to be with me in spite of everything that’s actually important about me as a person. And honestly, Stiles, this is really hard for me, because I did hope to be with you, at one point, and I’m still sort of getting over it, I guess.”

“You’re hung up on me?” Stiles says, uncomprehending, because he honestly thought that someone like Derek Hale would never look twice at him, much less pine for him.

Derek looks utterly defeated, which is disheartening. Stiles has never seen him defeated before, even in the middle of a battle they all seemed certain to lose, not even as every important person in his life dropped out of it, one at a time.

It makes Stiles feel all weird and guilty.

“I’m trying to move on,” Derek says, “I’m trying my hardest. I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but just. Please. Stop taunting me with it.”

It’s a theme now, Derek closing the door before Stiles can answer him.

When Stiles goes to sleep, he’s in his own bed, in his own new apartment, back in Beacon Hills, still trying to think of a creative way to get Derek to want to go out with him—or at least, a way to get Derek listen to him apologize. Again. Stiles has been feeling worse and worse all day about the way that their last encounter had gone, can’t stop thinking about the look in Derek’s eyes, can’t stop replaying the way that Derek had said, “This is really hard for me.” Can’t stop thinking about how good it could be with them, if Stiles hadn’t gone and fucked it all up with his carelessness and cockiness.  

Which is why it’s such a shock to open his eyes and see… wilderness.

“Do you remember how to build a fire, Stiles?” His father asks him, crouching over a fire pit. They haven’t been camping in years, the two of them, but this is his father’s favorite campsite—there’s the grove of trees, there’s the ragged orange tent, the scent of earth and sap and the rushing of the brook only a few hundred feet away.

“I—” Stiles starts, but when he looks back at the figure by the fire, it’s not his dad anymore.

“It’s not that hard to do,” Kate Argent tells him with a grin. “You know, it’s not that different from seduction.” She shrugs, and laughs. “Maybe that’s why I’m so good at both.”

“You’re dead,” Stiles says, because she is, and has been for six years.

“Maybe,” Kate says, “But clearly, we both know that I know how to get you what you want. Indulge me?”

She holds up a handful of dry twigs. “You have to start small, of course. If you go straight for the logs, it will never take off. You’ll only smother it.” She tosses the twigs in the fire pit, disdainfully. “You know, I was his substitute teacher, when we met. His English teacher was on maternity leave, and I was the lucky girl that was on the top of their list. It was intentional, of course. Not that he knew that. He was so naïve back then, clearly the weak link. That’s why we targeted him. But still, not quite innocent enough that I could have just sucked his cock the first day without raising suspicion. No, at first it was, ‘What an insightful paper, Mr. Hale. Why don’t you drop by after class, so that we can discuss it.’ Or, ‘Is that a new shirt? It makes your eyes look so green.’”

“Kate, stop,” Stiles says desperately. “This isn’t real. You’re gone.”

“Then you can add the bigger stuff,” she says, ignoring him, “Not too much, of course. It’s a delicate process. But you could touch his arm reassuringly when he comes to you, worried about his GPA. You could buy him lunch when his sister forgets they were supposed to meet.” She’s crouching now, carefully stacking thin sticks around the kindling.

It looks like she’s building a house.

Stiles claps his hands over his ears, but it doesn’t help. Her voice penetrates through anyway, jovial and warm. She likes what she’s saying.

“Here’s the real trick,” she tells him with a wink, “It won’t take much, with him. He’s just a little boy who’s desperate to be loved. The middle child, always lost in the shuffle. And nobody notices his grief, even though his eyes are blue, because he feels like he killed the last person in the world who loved him. So all I had to do was care.” She shrugs, and chuckles, “Or, at least, pretend to.”

“He trusted you!” Stiles shouts, furious now.

“And that’s what made it so easy!” She says gleefully, “You know, in the end, he would have done it anyway. I had done so well. But there’s no harm in being too careful.” A can of lighter fluid materializes in her hand, and she liberally douses her careful wood structure as she says, “It wasn’t even a hardship, really. He was pretty cute back then. Nothing like now, of course.  And a virgin, too. But I didn’t hate it. He certainly didn’t. It was just icing on the cake, the sex. Especially once I taught him how to actually be good at it.”

She lights a match on the zipper of her jeans and holds it up, the flame reflected in her triumphant eyes. “It’s so easy, in the end, when you’re as good as me. All it takes is one little spark.”

She drops the match and the flame catches, grows, until it’s a roaring inferno, and Kate Argent stands in the middle of it, laughing. Unburning, uncaring, she holds a log, carved with the initials: D.H. + K.A.

Stiles closes his eyes, hard. It’s a dream, and in a dream, he shouldn’t be able to read. The letters should change.

They do, when he opens his eyes.

D.H. + S.S.

When he looks into the face of the person holding the log, it’s his own, and he watches himself laugh.

When he opens his eyes again, it’s to the dark silence of his own room.

Derek looks less and less surprised each time he opens his door to find Stiles standing at it.

Although this time, Stiles is still in his night clothes, breathing harshly, face blotchy with the tears he can still feel behind his eyes.

“Stiles?” Derek asks softly, once he’s taken the whole scene in, “What happened? Are you okay?”

Stiles doesn’t say anything—can’t say anything—only flings himself at Derek, who, to his credit, catches him before catastrophe can strike.

“Why don’t you come in,” Derek says, in the same gentle voice, after a long moment of Stiles clinging to him and sniffling loudly into his neck.

He parks Stiles on the couch and then says firmly, “I’ll be right back. Stay here.”

Stiles listens to him rustle about: the sharp flick of the kitchen light switch, the rushing sound of the faucet, the click and the whoosh of the gas stove being lit. By the time Derek returns with a blanket that he forcibly swaddles him in, Stiles is breathing easier, and he’s stopped losing bits and pieces of time—he barely remembers the drive over, doesn’t know when Derek would have brewed the minty-smelling tea in the mug that’s set before him.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says robotically, even as he reaches for the mug and lets the warmth seep into his palms. “It was just a bad dream. A nightmare. I overreacted.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek asks him. When Stiles shakes his head, he doesn’t pry.

More proof that he knows exactly how these nights feel himself.

Which, of course, is the thought that has the hot sting of tears welling back up in Stiles’ eyes. He sees it so clearly now, the whole situation with Kate, though, he obviously had to have invented the particulars in his own twisted mind. The way she earned his trust, used him, and left his life aflame. All the ways that Stiles had wanted the same thing—nothing more than a quick fuck, nothing more than to use Derek to get something, his fabulous body a bonus, his gentle heart thrown by the wayside.

Stiles is suddenly, blindingly, furious. “It’s not fair,” he spits.

“I know,” Derek says, “I have some books, if you want to borrow them, about how to help with the dreams.”

“No, that’s not—” Stiles sighs in frustration. The last thing he wants is to tell Derek that he had a nightmare about his psychotic—quite literally—ex-something. Or that she and Stiles had merged, somehow, in those last, burning moments. “Thanks. That’s really nice. Which is what I mean. It’s not fair, everything that’s happened to you. Everyone. You’re one of the best people I know, Derek. Genuinely, as a person, one of the kindest, best people. And people just treat you like shit? What is that? Why do they do that? Why do I?”

Derek looks confused now, stricken. Which is fair, after Stiles has blindsided him with this. “I don’t… I don’t know. Maybe I need to learn to stop letting them. Treat me like shit.”

“Why should you have to?” Stiles says, his anger burning away, leaving only a smoldering frustration. “Why don’t they value you for everything that you do, and are? I don’t understand it. You’re so beautiful, Derek, and people seem to think it’s only because of the way you look.”

Derek looks as if he’s blushing now. “You should get some sleep,” He says, in his same, gentle voice. “You can stay here. You can have my bed.”

“I really want you to be happy,” Stiles says seriously, though he looks into the depths of his mug so that he doesn’t have to face Derek’s intense gaze. “And I didn’t say it very well before, but I really am sorry. For treating you like… well, you know. I was so fucking dumb.”

“Okay,” Derek says, “I appreciate that. I accept your apology. I’m going to help you get to bed now, okay Stiles?”

He takes the mug from Stiles—still untouched, though the thoughtfulness of it, the knowledge that it’s probably what Derek does for himself, on the nights that he can’t sleep, that he wakes from the nightmares, sends Stiles careening right back into overwhelming sadness. God, he’s a mess. Not that that’s news.

Derek’s bed is big and soft and the covers are pulled haphazardly down from where Derek scrambled from bed to answer the door when Stiles started banging on it. When Stiles climbs in, he imagines that he can still feel the heat in the outline he can see pressed into the mattress. Derek sleeps on the left side, the side closest to the door.

“Can you stay?” Stiles blurts, before he can lose his courage, “I don’t want it to be awkward. But I don’t want to be alone. Plus, it’s your bed.”

Derek stills, glances at the door once, and then says, “Yeah. I can stay.”

They fit together in just the way that Stiles always hoped that they would.

By the time Stiles stumbles out of bed in the morning—Derek’s bed, which is not only Derek’s bed, but is also hands-down the most comfortable place that he has ever slept in his entire life—Derek’s already up, coffee brewed, and standing at the stove, frowning over a pan of scrambled eggs.

The toast pops up right as Stiles walks into the kitchen, and Derek says, “I didn’t know how you liked your eggs.”

“Scrambled, actually, good guess,” Stiles says. “Is this the deluxe treatment? Most of my overnight hosts don’t bother to fix me eggs before they hand me my shoes and shove me out the door.”

Stiles sees his mistake instantly, as Derek turns to hand him his finished eggs and toast, expression suspiciously guarded.

“Not that, you know, I do this all that often. Or that you were some sort of booty-call, obviously. Since we didn’t have sex. And since I wouldn’t do that anyway. And… god, I’m going to shut up.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, just sets a mug in front of him, the coffee a perfect shade of milky-caramel.

“I. God. Trust me to fuck things up first thing,” Stiles says, still babbling, unable to help himself, especially since Derek won’t interrupt him. “I really appreciate what you did for me last night. I was a total mess, so thank you.”

“Were you drunk?” Derek asks quietly, “I couldn’t smell it, but the things you were saying…”

“No!” Stiles says, “I had not been drinking. I remember everything. I meant everything. And the whole morning after thing a few minutes ago was really ill-judged. Sorry again. I’m really trying, here, but you know, old habits.”

Again, Derek remains silent.

“And,” Stiles continues, after pausing for a moment to shovel a fork-full of egg into his mouth. It’s really good. He can taste cheese, maybe. “I guess I wanted to ask you again. Can I please take you to dinner? Considering the fact that I’ve been a total jackass, I know I don’t deserve it. But I’m trying to fix it. I’m trying to be someone that you might at least consider dating. Someone worth you.”

The kitchen is filled only with the scraping of a fork against a plate.

Finally, just when Stiles is about give it up and bolt, Derek clears his throat. “I know you’re stubborn,” he sighs, “I know that this is just a pride thing for you. You need me to say yes because you can’t stand to be wrong, not because you actually want me to say yes.”

“No,” Stiles says, and yes, maybe he’s a little desperate now, “This isn’t a pride thing. This is a you thing. I like you. You, Derek, because you’re you. It’s not because I have something to prove, it’s because I enjoy spending time with you and because you’re a great person and because I like you. I don’t want to be with you in spite of everything about you, Derek, I want to be with you because of it. And I meant what I said last night, too. I want you to be happy. If that’s not me, then, this is it. I’ll move on. I’ll move all the way on out of town, if you want. I mean, I’m really hoping that, in all your magnanimous glory, and considering the fact that you told me you once had a really big crush on me, you’re willing to give me some sort of trial run. But if the answer is no, you don’t even have to see me again. I can be super stealthy. It’s a small town, and you’ll still never see me.”

“Okay!” Derek says, finally cutting him off. “Okay, fine, you’ve worn me down.”

“Good,” Stiles says, trying not to sound too smug. Or too much like he’s holding back his signature happy-dance. “Because this is great. The eggs are wonderful. But Saturday night? I’m going to knock your socks off.”

And Stiles relishes in the private smile that Derek tries to hide in his coffee mug.

REASONS I’M LITERALLY THE LUCKIEST GUY IN BEACON HILLS (AND THE WORLD)

(aka reasons my boyfriend is the greatest thing since the dinosaurs, because T-Rexes were pretty badass)

1. He’s got a not-so-secret weakness for kittens. I’m not saying that’s his next birthday present, but I’m just saying that I noticed the way he was looking at Leia last week at the clinic (I maintain it’s a great name, not just because I picked it myself) and that I saw him price shopping litter boxes last week. I think it’s super adorable.

2. The fact that he’s the most beautiful person I—and probably everybody else—have ever met is only coincidental to the fact that he’s also pretty nice to me (and to orphans, and puppies, and old ladies, and soccer moms, and baseball dads… okay, so he’s the greatest).

3. We have really banging sex. Literally banging. We broke the headboard last week. But it’s only so good because of the force of our true love. And some online sex columns I read for him. Because I love him.

4. He’s pretty loaded, because he’s the best at his job. The BEST. Someone from England called last week. There was nobody in the whole country that can do what my boo does.

5. He has an incredible capacity for love—you should see him with his baby sister. It melts even my cold, dead heart. And I totally admire the way he treats friends like family, and is devoted to them with every fiber of his very muscular, very hot being.

6. He’s maybe the smartest person I’ve ever met. And I know Lydia Martin (congrats on the Fields Medal, btw). His mind works in crazy beautiful ways. He learned Polish for me. In five months. And I don’t even speak Polish (sorry again for the misunderstanding).

7. He’s dealt with some really heavy shit (as an understatement), and he’s still one of the strongest people I know. I admire so much the way that he strives every day to not only help himself get better, but also to help the people around him. He’s super strong already (200 pushups without breaking a sweat, anybody?), but the way that he’s transformed himself is the most amazing to me.

8. He’s made my family his family. Who took my dad to the emergency room last year after that car accident when I was unavailable (sorry)? Derek. Who calls Scott his brother? Derek. Who searched out the exact hand-made quilt that Melissa wanted for Christmas? Derek. Jealous yet, bitches?

9. He’s become a real pillar of this community. And I’m totally not joking. He teaches young children to read. He maintains his mother’s charities, and he’s been elected to the Board of Education post formerly held by his father. He helps little old ladies at grocery stores. He coaches high school baseball. I’m pretty sure he’s actually the most popular person in the whole town. Maybe the county.

10. What makes you love someone? All this, and something else, I guess. Something bigger than I can fit in just 10 short bullet points. I’m trying my hand at sonnets, but so far, so bad. So number ten is just this: I love him. And the really amazing, mind-boggling, too-good-to-be-true part?

He loves me, too.

Happy anniversary, baby. Love you to the moon and back (haha).

TO: stilinskidude@gmail.com

FROM: smccall@beaconhillsvet.com

SUB: Re: I LOOOOOOOOOOOVEEEEEE DEREK

Bro,

U know I love you, and i’m really glad you and derek finally worked everything out. Happy two year anniversary, btw.

But did u really have to email out that 10 point list to everybody you know?

Just sayin,

Scottie

P.S. Yes, I do think it’s better than your first list. No, I don’t think that’s saying much

TO: smccall@beaconhillsvet.com

FROM: stilinskidude@gmail.com

SUB: Re: Re:  I LOOOOOOOOOOOVEEEEEE DEREK

I’m sorry you can’t share in the BLISSFUL every moment that is my relationship with the LOVE OF MY LIFE and my SOUL MATE.

I’m sorry you’re so jealous.

But yes, it was necessary. What’s even the point of having something this good if nobody else knows what they’re missing out on?

I’m joking. Mostly.

Also, just consider the fact that in high school, I had to PHYSICALLY AND VERBALLY transfer messages between you and a certain young lady we shall not speak of. You totally owe me.

And Mrs. Reynolds from next door said we were “very cute,” so fucking there.

S

P.S. Derek reallllllly liked it, even if you didn’t. Like, we didn’t get out of bed Saturday liked it. Like, I caught him covertly shopping rings liked it (he really needs to learn how to clear his browser history). So I don’t care what you say. It was totally worth it.

Every minute.