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The Stare

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Stiles sat outside, in the miserable heat and humidity, cursing himself for leaving his keys up in his apartment. He’d buzzed for Cora, but neither she nor her obnoxiously hot Brazilian boyfriend answered. They probably weren’t home. He sat on the cement, still sweating from his yoga class with Lydia and sweating from the above 100 degree temperatures. He’d already had to buy overpriced water from the drugstore. Twice. Water wasn’t so pricy in California. Granted, anything in Manhattan was probably twice as much. He made twice as much money in Manhattan though. Generally it evened out, he figured. He probably made more than double his former income as an NYPD beat cop than he did at the sheriff’s department back home. He tried not to gripe about it. But, when he was sitting in the heat waiting for someone friendly in his apartment building to save him, there was a lot to gripe about. Days like this, or the bitter, snowy winter made him miss his home. Sure, they had hot summers and cold winters too in northern California but there were easily accessible beaches and there weren’t as many people to stare at him as they walked past him. And there weren’t blizzards back home. He had yet to face his first winter but he was told by everyone that it truly was miserable.

Cora came up with her arms full of groceries. He thanked the universe for her. She smiled when she saw him at first, but the closer she got the more she frowned.

“What happened to you?” She looked him over. He smiled, standing and taking some bags from her.

“I was at yoga with Lydia but when I came back I didn’t have my keys, so I’ve been stuck in the heat.”

“Aw, that sucks. I have been there.” She frowned. She opened the gate with her magical seeming key. “You could have called.”

“Phone’s upstairs too. I woke up late and bolted out to make it on time.” He scratched his neck.

“Up all night?”

“No, just tired.” Stiles tried. Cora glared at him. “Okay, fine. I took Clarke’s shift so she could take her sister to a birthday dinner. I made myself mac’n’cheese on my second shift, okay? And I had a protein bar after I got home.” He closed the gate after her, and followed her into the building.

“Stiles, while that’s better than normal, it isn’t a real second shift meal.” She sighed, mom-ing him.

“I know, I know.” He sighed. “I owed her, I couldn’t say no. She covered for me when the contractor went ridiculously over his time putting in my bathroom and my lights.”

“That’s good that you’re even with her. I know you hating owing people. But eat something really substantial on your second shift. That’s the meal you should focus on even more. Bring meatballs and a salad with that macaroni and cheese. That’s all I ask.” She led him up the stairs. Cora was keeping pace with Stiles, who was tired and sore and really needed a shower. He trudged up the steps, trying not to complain. He rarely took the elevator. If he was able to, why shouldn’t he take the stairs? He didn’t want to take up space in case one of the ladies in wheelchairs needed it. Right now he hated sharing that philosophy with her.

She opened her door and set her bags down, and Stiles followed suit. He looked around, spotting the new furniture. She was always changing things, upgrading them and making them even homier. She grabbed his spare key and unlocked his door.

“There you go, all open and cool. Come over for dinner tonight, we’re having pizza.” She smiled.

“Can’t. I’m going to Scott’s for dinner.” He frowned.

“Oh, is Kira cooking?” Cora smiled again, trying not to laugh. She’d heard about Kira’s failed attempts when Stiles came knocking late at night, hungry.

“Trying to. We all chipped in for takeout in advance should it fall flat. She’s been taking a cooking class at the rec center so who knows?” Stiles laughed a bit, as did Cora.

“I’ll put a couple of slices in your fridge for you just in case. If her meal is a success, the next double shift you take you’ll have some real food you can take with you.”

“That’s really sweet of you. Thanks. And thanks for letting me into my apartment.”

“No problem.” She shut his door lightly. He turned the deadbolt lock, then stripped on his way to the shower, turning his AC on high and closing windows to cool the place off. He went into his bathroom, not even bothering to shut the door. He showered under cool water, relaxing his sore muscles and relieving aches. He tried not to linger. He got out, and not a second later Scott called him. He was toweling off, but answered.

“Yo, Scotty.” He crooked his phone between his head and neck as he dried himself off.

“So Kira’s making a frittata, she wants to know if you’d be okay with it if it had bell peppers in it.”

“Yeah, why?” He shook his head yes, even if Scott wasn’t right in front of him to see it.

“She knows you’re not a fan of peppers but they’re all mixed into it so you might not be able to eat around them.”

“I’m sure I’ll live, Scott. Tell her I appreciate the thought though.”

“Okay. Hey, Kira, he said he’ll be fine with the bell peppers!” Scott shouted.

“Is he sure? I’m making two and I can put something else in the other one!” She shouted back.

“You sure? She can make the other one pepper free.” Stiles tried not to laugh. No matter how many times he told Scott he heard Kira shout back, Scott always restated her sentence.

“I want to let her do her thing. So, it’s up to her. If she wants to segregate the peppers that’s cool, if not, I’ll be fine. I’ll even bring my beano to limit my lethal post-pepper farts.” Stiles smiled as he spoke. He toweled out his hair roughly, it still dripped onto his back. He walked out to his kitchen naked after hanging his towel, getting himself ice water. His puppy, Leia, barked at him. He frowned. “You’ve seen me naked before, don’t act like this is new.” He told her, petting her. She barked again. “Do you need out?” She barked again. She ran to the balcony, then back.

“What’s wrong over there?” Scott asked.

“Leia wants something from me but I have no idea what. Do you need food?” She barked again, then ran from him to the balcony. “She wants to go out onto the balcony.” He opened the door and screamed, diving out of sight. The man in the corner apartment across the street, Hottie McEyebrows, was out on his balcony sitting in his really cool looking chairs reading, fully able to view into Stiles’s apartment while he perused around it naked. He’d looked up when Stiles opened the door and subsequently screamed, Stiles would have bet money on it. He grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around himself after a minor panic attack, then found his phone.

“STILES I SWEAR TO GOD-”Scott shouted into the phone.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I thought Leia was going to get over the gates I put up so I screamed then reached out for her, dropping my phone when I did that. I escorted her inside where she’s safe and sound and had to find my phone again. It’s all good now.” He breathed into the phone, rising and looking out to the balcony, where Hottie McEyebrows had risen and was clutching the rails of his balcony, wanting to help Stiles but unsure of how to do that. His puppy trotted around on the balcony, looking at everything she could.

“I was about to call the cops to help you, dude! Don’t do that!” Scott sighed, though.

“Tell Leia that, not me!” He answered.

“I will, if you bring her. Kira wants to meet her and so does our puppy Fido.” Scott took a breath.

“Good, that means I can take her out and not worry about accidents while I’m gone. She almost has the hang of the litter box. Almost. Sorry I scared you. We’ll be there in a half an hour.”

“Okay. I’ll see you then. I’m glad it’s all okay.” Before Scott hung up he heard him talking to Kira about his dog’s imaginary actions. He set his phone down then petted Leia.

“Good girl. Very, very good girl.” He even got her a treat. He stepped out onto his balcony, covered from the shoulder down by his blanket. His across the street neighbor looked like he wanted to hurtle his balcony and jump to Stiles’s to make sure he was alright. He also looked a little guilty.

“So, do you make a habit of watching me when I’m naked?” Stiles bit out more harshly than he wanted to admit it.

“What? No. I was reading, then I heard you scream. I wanted to make sure you were okay.” His fists were white, straining against the rails. His eyes searched Stiles for injury under his blanket, it seemed.

“Just reading. Didn’t see anything?” Stiles raised his eyebrows, giving Hottie McEyebrows a once over, using his cop-eyes.

“No. I try not to stare.” He shook his head.

“So you did see something but chose to avert your eyes, then? Staring indicates noticing something to look at in the first place.” Stiles shrugged.

“I, no comment.” He was trying to hide his blush.

“Smart move. You got a name?” He sounded more like his dad than he cared to admit.

“Derek.”

“Stiles. I have to go, but I’ll see you around. Or, more appropriately, you’ll see me around, naked.” Stiles kept his face blank as he went in. He got dressed after closing curtains and his balcony door, then got Leia into her coat and booties, and leashed her before heading out.

Hottie McEyebrows-Derek, wasn’t on his balcony anymore. Stiles tried not to be disappointed.

-

Leia’s outfit was a hit. Everyone wanted to pet her and she absolutely loved it. Fido kept trying to figure out what the hell it was, and she thought it was a really fun game. And after Scott scolded her, Stiles smoothed her over with bell pepper bits. She loved peppers. Most of the human food he gave her was all the peppers he picked out of his food. She couldn’t have been happier.

-

Stiles sat on his couch, cleaning out his DVR. He’d worked four doubles in eight days, so he was given three days off after everyone got a talking to about dumping shifts onto their newest member of their station. Stiles got a talking to about not being such a pushover. He resented that a little, but he let it go.

There was a knock at his door. Leia barked, as if Stiles didn’t hear the knock. He tossed her another piece of popcorn before getting up and setting his empty bowl in the kitchen. He opened it. Derek stood in front of his door. Stiles moved to shut it but Derek got in between it and its frame. Stiles sighed and opened it just a bit. He raised his eyebrows, cueing Derek to start talking.

“I wanted to apologize for the other day. You’re right. What I did was amazingly creepy and perverted and I shouldn’t have done it and I’m really sorry. I just, you were so gorgeous and I just couldn’t look away. I knew I couldn’t make myself go inside so I grabbed a book…”

“Way to incriminate yourself.” Stiles chuckled. “The fact that you found my exact apartment is even creepier.”

“Cora, your neighbor across the hall, she’s my little sister. I’ve seen you fly in and out when I come over to visit, hurrying everywhere you go.”

“Oh. So you’re Derek Hale.”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

“Why does she live here? Not that it’s a bad building but it isn’t anything like what yours looks like and she always goes on about how her family is loaded.”

“She doesn’t like the people in buildings like mine. They’re all too, mean, in her eyes.” He shrugged. “I just don’t care who does or doesn’t like me. I have a few friends in my building but this place is a lot nicer, or so I’ve heard.” Stiles nodded. “I’ll go. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t intend to see anything but that I was sorry for my actions. But to be fair, you had most of your curtains open so it wasn’t hard to see you.”

“You didn’t have to stare, though. Camp out to see the view from your balcony.” Stiles replied. Derek looked like he bit back a comment. He nodded.

“You’re right, and I’m sorry.” He backed out.

Leia took off down the hall after him. Stiles dashed out to catch her but Derek was petting her down the hall, saving him from worry. She rolled over for him and he rubbed her belly. She seemed happy letting him pet her, she was panting with her tongue out and even let him touch her tail.

“Sorry. She kind of doesn’t have the hang of staying in the apartment yet.” Stiles scratched his neck. “Leia, come here.” He called. She huffed at him but didn’t move. Derek picked her up gently, and carried her back. He handed her off to Stiles gently.

“She’s a sweetheart, I don’t mind and I’m sure not many do.” He petted her again and she licked his hand sweetly, reinforcing the sweetheart image he had of her.

“Want to come in? Your sister thinks I have no food and now I have a fridge full of leftovers, mine and hers. I could use help clearing out that and my DVR.”

“Sure.” Derek nodded.

-

When Stiles moved in with Derek nine months later, he made a habit of walking around naked when Derek was home. Derek was more tentative, and made sure no one would come in or see him naked. But, when he felt comfortable, he’d do the same. Usually, though, the curtains were closed since they were in the same apartment and Cora had moved to Stiles’s corner apartment. She didn’t need to see her brother and his boyfriend parading around naked. And she told them that frequently. They tried to remember to close the curtains or stay off the balcony. Tried to.