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Derek loves his office. It’s large, spacious, and it has his name on the door, just below Senior Partner. He’s worked hard for this: hours and hours, with no vacation in sight. He’s great at what he does, and everyone knows it.

Perhaps that is why the call takes him by surprise.

“Is this Mr. Hale?” the voice on the other end asks.

He doesn’t bother with the correction that it’s actually Hale-Stilinski. No one can spell Stilinski, and he doesn’t have time to explain.

“Yes,” he says instead, wondering why Isaac let this call through.

“Please sit down, Mr. Hale.”

Derek’s already sitting. The request isn’t unusual; sometimes clients who think they are entitled to Derek’s time start out their calls like this. However, this time  cold dread starts to creep up his spine. Something feels off. “Okay.”

“This is Joan from Beacon Hills Medical Center.” She sounds formal. Derek puts his pen down, and then instantly picks it up again. “Your husband, he’s been shot in the line of duty.”

Derek can’t feel his feet, and when he tries to speak, he realises that he’s been holding his breath. “Is he…?” he begins, but he can’t finish the sentence.

“He’s having surgery in thirty minutes,” Joan says calmly. “The doctor thinks that he will be just fine.”

There’s too much room for doubt in that statement. The fact that Stiles even needs surgery makes him worry even more.

“Beacon Hills Medical Center?” he manages finally. He has at least two client meetings this afternoon, but someone else will have to take them. He needs to be there when Stiles wakes up. As soon as Joan confirms the name of the hospital, he hangs up and grabs his coat.

Isaac looks up when he steps out of the office, and it’s clear that he’s already gathered something serious has happened.

“Everything okay?” he asks anyway.

“I need to go to the hospital. Make sure that someone takes my meetings this afternoon. Don’t cancel.” Derek is surprised by how steady his voice is, and that he manages to grab his coat and briefcase.

“Is Stiles okay?” Isaac asks, while opening Derek’s calendar on his computer.

“No,” is all he says, because he doesn’t think that he’ll be able to explain. He doesn’t trust himself to keep it together, not to lose his eerie sense of calm.

“I’ll inform Ms. Reyes,” Isaac calls out to him as he leaves. Yes, Erica will probably want to know why Derek is absent. He didn’t even think about that.

Derek is grateful for their health insurance, for their benefits. Beacon Hills Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the area. It’s quiet and the staff is professional. They come to meet him as soon as he walks through the doors and explains whom he’s looking for.

It’s as though he has water in his ears, making their words distorted and hard to comprehend. Stiles’ condition isn’t the best, he understands. He’s been shot in the chest, but the bullet missed his heart by several inches. He hadn’t been wearing a bulletproof vest at the time. Idiot. Derek’s going to kill him when he wakes up.

“Please wait here, Mr. Hale,” the woman who met him by the doors tells him when they get to the waiting room. Derek doesn’t correct her on the name. “Would you like coffee and something to read? You will be informed as soon as your husband is out of surgery.”

“Coffee, please. Black.” He busies himself with calling Isaac to make sure that he’s found someone to take Derek’s meetings. He calls their insurance company to make sure that everything is in order. He calls Erica to explain why he’s not at work.

“I’m sorry. I can’t make it to the meetings this afternoon.” As he opens his mouth to explain further, the words get stuck. He clears his throat. “Stiles has been shot. I need to be here. At the hospital.”

“Derek,” Erica says, and she sounds stern.

“I can probably be back by tomorrow lunch at latest,” he adds quickly. By that time, he should have been able to find someone to take care of Stiles while Derek’s working.

“Derek,” Erica says again. “We don’t need you here when you need to be somewhere else. I want you to take five weeks off, with pay, and take care of your husband. Your office and your clients will be here waiting for you when you get back.”

“But –” Derek begins, but she hangs up on him before he can get another word out. Five weeks is a long time. Derek doesn’t think he’s taken five weeks of vacation in total for the past six years. Working from home is a possibility, though. He does that a lot. It’s not a problem.

Then, the woman who gave him the coffee, which is standing cold and long forgotten on the table in front of him, approaches once again.

“You can see him now, Mr. Hale.” She shows him to Stiles’ room. Stiles is pale, so pale, and he looks incredibly small in the large bed. There’s a bruise on his cheek, he’s got a split lip and bandages all over his torso. For a moment Derek is overwhelmed by the urge to cry.

“You can sit by him, and talk to him,” she informs him. “He’s tired, but everything went well. He’s a real fighter.”

Derek looks around for something to sit on, briefly noting that Stiles’ bed is the only one in the room. He drags a chair over from the corner.

It’s strange seeing him like this. Derek grasps his hand carefully, grateful that it’s warm and then instantly wondering why it wouldn’t be, and rubs his thumb over Stiles’ knuckles. They’re a bit bruised, too.

“Hey,” he says quietly. “I’m here.”

He can see movement under Stiles’ eyelids, and the corner of his mouth twitches slightly. But that’s all the reaction he gets for several hours. That can’t be good.

Derek talks to the nurse and the doctor several times, asking why Stiles seems to be sleeping still, why he isn’t awake and talking everyone’s ears off. And every time they tell him, patiently, that Stiles needs his rest, that he’s probably in a lot of pain, and that he’s going to talk to Derek as soon as he feels well enough.

Derek spends the rest of the time replying to work emails from his phone. He’s being efficient, since he’s not able to do anything else while Stiles is sleeping anyway. Sometimes he wonders if it wasn’t the worst choice to marry a police officer. The uniform is hot, but the risks aren’t.

It’s past midnight when Stiles wakes up, his eyes darting around unfocused for a moment before they lock with Derek’s. For a second Stiles looks surprised, like he didn’t expect to see Derek there, and then he smiles slightly.

“Hey,” Derek says. “How are you feeling? Do you need me to get the nurse?”

Stiles shakes his head ever so lightly. “Everything hurts.”

Derek reaches for his hand again, squeezing his fingers as hard as he dares. He helps Stiles drink some water, wondering if he should press the button and call for a nurse. But Stiles said no.

“I didn’t expect you to be here,” Stiles says after a moment. Drinking water seems to have drained most of his energy, because his eyelids are drooping again.

“I got time off from work,” Derek explains.

“I didn’t know they let you do that kind of thing,” Stiles remarks, and sure, Derek knows that he works a lot, but that’s the reason why they have the house that they do, and the cars. Their life is good and stable, largely thanks to Derek’s hard work. It’s not like Stiles isn’t hardworking, it’s just that you don’t get rich from being a cop.

“Well, they agreed that I should be here, because you’ve been shot.”

Stiles just hums, and his eyes close again. Derek’s quite certain that he’s not asleep, but perhaps he’s tired anyway. Surgeries tend to have that effect.

He sits there for a long time. Until Stiles’ breathing starts getting slower and more even. Until the doctors and nurses wake him up again to do their check-ups. Until Stiles is fast asleep once more after that. Derek falls asleep in the chair, his neck bent in an odd angle and his back hurting.

It takes days before Stiles is permitted to leave the hospital and go home. Derek has worked a bit from beside the hospital bed, keeping him company as he watched TV. At least until Erica called and told him that his account would be blocked if he didn’t keep away from work.

It’s difficult for him not to do his job. Especially since he’s been working so hard, for so many years, to get where he is now. Without work, he’s not sure what to do with himself.

He’s arranged for a nurse to visit them once a day to assess Stiles’ healing process, but other than that, it’s just the two of them. For some reason Stiles always seems surprised over waking up and finding Derek there, no matter if it’s in the middle of the night, or midday.

“Hungry?” Derek asks one Friday. Stiles is reading in their bed, and he’s been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few days. Derek thinks it’s shock, but he’s not sure.

Stiles looks up with that mild look of surprise again. It’s there for barely a second, but Derek still notices it. “Yeah.”

“Is Indian okay?”

Stiles only nods.

Derek doesn’t quite get it, but he thinks it might just be him. He’s not used to this much free time. To suddenly be able to watch a game on TV on a weekday, or just wear regular jeans. Spending an afternoon on the couch is something he’d forgotten how to do.

He sits with Stiles as they eat. They exchange a few words, but it’s all in all much quieter than it has ever been between them before. Stiles usually talks a lot. About work, about their friends, about the movie he saw with Scott last week. Derek rarely has a chance to do those things, so he relies on Stiles telling him about them afterwards.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” he asks finally. He’d been sure that Stiles would tell him right away, or at least as soon as they got home, but he hasn’t said a word.

Stiles shrugs, and then grimaces immediately, as though it hurt his wound. “It was kind of dumb. I thought I was going to be able to bust this drug cartel easily, and I was getting there, but then a guy pulled out his gun from nowhere. Apparently I had forgotten to put my vest on.”

“Apparently,” Derek mutters under his breath. “Did you still take them down?” he asks, a little louder.

“Yeah, Lydia and Allison finished the job.” His lips twist into a self-deprecating smirk. “No careless mistakes for those badass ladies.”

Derek’s chest swells with pride despite Stiles’ tone. Stiles has always been great at catching the bad guys. It’s like he’s got a sixth sense for it. “Then it was a success after all.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, I guess.” He hesitates then, but Derek knows him well enough by now to wait him out. “So, how long will you be home?”

“Three more weeks,” Derek informs him, and Stiles looks so surprised that Derek doesn’t know how to interpret it.

“Wow. Will you be able to live with that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Derek asks defensively, refusing to admit that he itches all over just from the need to grab his work phone and turn it on, to be able to go over emails and messages. He wants make sure he’s not missing something important.

“You’re a workaholic, that’s what I’m referring to.”

There’s an edge to Stiles’ voice that Derek doesn’t quite get, but he just shrugs it off. Stiles has been shot. He’s probably just irritated because he’s in pain.

“I don’t mind being home with you,” Derek says carefully, and grabs Stiles’ plate when he’s finished his food. “I’ll be in the living room. Call if you need anything.” Stiles sleeps a lot these days, and Derek’s found that he enjoys watching Dr. Phil.

He’s almost halfway into his third week of leave, about to climb the walls from under stimulation, when he finds it. He accidentally topples the trashcan in the home office while going through the files for some of his old cases. And there it is. A sheet of white paper, torn in two parts, and easy to puzzle back together again. On the top it says Christmas Wish List in Stiles’ messy handwriting. Derek smiles to himself. They used to do this for several years. It was their thing. For a second, he thinks that Stiles has just found an old one and decided to throw it out, but then he reads what the list actually says:

  •       Derek working less.
  •       Derek being home more.
  •       Spending time with Derek.
  •       Having my sex life back would be nice.
  •       Also the guy I married.

That’s all it says. But Derek has been emptied out from those five bullets alone. He reads them again. And then one more time. And suddenly the surprise on Stiles’ face every time he woke up and found Derek there makes a lot more sense. He just never expected Derek to be there.

It wasn’t that long ago that they had sex, though, Derek tells himself. It was on their anniversary...

Derek swallows as cold realisation washes over him. That was seven months ago. It had been short, kind of messy and just...quick. Derek had had to get up early the next morning, but Stiles had seemed so hopeful after their dinner at the restaurant, and it wasn’t like Derek hadn’t missed him, too. Before that? Derek can’t even remember.

He stares at the note for a while. He works about eighty hours a week, leaving early and getting home late. He eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work. Then he comes home and goes to bed. That’s what he does.

Stiles works odd hours. Sometimes it’s the night shift. Sometimes it’s days. Derek can never quite keep track of when he’s working, so he doesn’t really care anymore if Stiles is home when he leaves for work, or when he gets back home again in the evening. If he isn’t, Derek just assumes that he’s working. He hasn’t realised that this might actually be an issue. That this isn’t as okay with Stiles as it is for Derek.

For a moment he thinks about throwing the list back in the trashcan, but then decides against it. Instead, he stuffs it in his wallet, without really knowing why. On one hand, he doesn’t want to see it ever again. On the other, he’s tempted to keep reading it over and over, until he won’t forget the words.

His legs are a bit unsteady as he walks back to their bedroom. Stiles is asleep, lying on his back, which is odd for him. He used to always sleep on his side, but perhaps the wound from his surgery is still too painful for that. He looks both younger and older than Derek remembers. In reality he’s only thirty-two. It’s no age at all. But it seems like it was yesterday when he was twenty-three and so vibrant that Derek was compelled to tear himself from his books to be with him. And then they both got jobs, and Derek managed to make a career no one’s quite seen before.

Stiles looks more muscular than Derek remembers him, and that makes him wonder when he last saw Stiles naked. Or the last time he actually saw him.

Glancing at the clock on Stiles’ nightstand, he realises that it’s ten to eleven, and his first thought is that he should start packing up to leave work for home. Something breaks a little inside him.

It’s not Stiles having unrealistic expectations of his husband. It’s Derek having unrealistic expectations of him, thinking that he can work eighty hours a week and still be with Stiles for the rest of his life. They don’t spend any time together.

He avoids his reflection as he brushes his teeth and undresses. He loves the house, the cars, the financial security. But he wanted all of that because he wanted the perfect life with Stiles. Because more than all of that, he loves Stiles. None of that will mean anything if they can’t share it.

Back in bed, he moves over to Stiles’ side carefully, trying not to wake him. He puts an arm loosely over Stiles’ waist. The smell of him is both familiar and new at the same time. Derek closes his eyes, realising that he doesn’t remember the last time they slept this close together. Probably on their anniversary, after having sex.

Stiles stirs a little, but he doesn’t wake. For some reason, Derek finds it easy to fall asleep, even though his heart is so heavy.

He wakes when Stiles does. Perhaps because he gets an elbow to the face.

“Oh shit, sorry,” Stiles grumbles. “I didn’t expect you to be so close.”

In reality, Derek knows that he only has himself to blame for this. But it still hurts.

“It’s fine,” he replies, voice rough with sleep, and rubs his jaw.

Stiles stills beside him, and when Derek opens his eyes, Stiles is staring back at him. “It’s eight a.m. and you’re still in bed.”

“I’m on vacation, remember?”

He somehow expects Stiles’ face to soften up, to get a smile. Or at least to feel Stiles moving in against him, like he used to. Instead, Stiles looks at him as though he’s someone new. Someone unknown. And Derek can’t stop himself.

“Are you leaving me?”

The question hangs there for a moment, and Stiles doesn’t look surprised at all. He opens his mouth once, closes it again, and then opens it once more:

“I don’t know.”

Derek just stares at him. Surprise is the wrong word. He’s seen the note. He’s realised that he’s been neglecting Stiles and their marriage. Everything that’s truly important. He just didn’t expect Stiles to flat out tell him that he’s actually thinking about leaving.

“I wish you would’ve told me,” Derek says quietly.

“I was going to. When I had decided.”

Raw irritation blooms behind his ribs. “That wouldn’t give me any possibility to improve.”

“I don’t see how you wouldn’t realise yourself that working twenty-four-seven would kill our marriage.”

“It was for us. So that we could have this house. Our life.”

Stiles blinks. “This isn’t a life, Derek,” he says calmly.

That’s probably the worst part. That Stiles isn’t upset, that he isn’t angry. It’s like he’s already accepted that this is what it is. That things won’t ever change. That Derek won’t change. So if he can’t stand it, he has to be the one to leave. Derek doesn’t know how to respond to that. He has no clue what to say.

Instead, he gets out of bed, feeling shaky all over as he walks through the house, and sinks down into the armchair in the study. It’s cold in here. The air conditioning just never seemed to find the right level, swinging between cold enough to give you goosebumps and suffocatingly hot.

There’s one of those capsule coffee machines on the desk. Because Derek is dumb enough to feel like leaving this room to get coffee in the kitchen is too much of a hassle. God, who knows? Perhaps he would’ve been forced to actually acknowledge the fact that he’s sharing a house with someone if he did. However, right now, it’s a blessing. He needs something warm.

Twenty minutes later, with the empty mug standing on the desk, his gaze falls on the trashcan again. It hits him, then, that maybe Stiles has thrown something else away. As he goes through the things there, he finds mostly old newspapers and shopping lists. But at the bottom, he finds the last thing he wanted to find: the papers from the adoption agency.

They’ve talked about this before. Mostly Stiles, but Derek likes the idea of being a father. Family is important to him, and having his own with the most incredible person he knows really speaks to him. Now, however, it’s clear that Stiles has long since given up on that, too.

For a short moment he feels okay. Then, he looks outside the window, at their big lawn, realising that he’s been busting his ass to get here. To have a husband, maybe a couple of kids. But he never realised until now that he can’t just obtain those things and expect everything to be fine, as though they’re nothing but the next bottle of rare scotch to be added to his collection. Now, he’s got a hot shot job, a huge house, great cars, and is on the verge of a divorce. And that just...shatters him.

It’s been years since he cried. He doesn’t even remember the last time. Perhaps during Stiles’ speech at their wedding. He sits there, with the adoption papers in his hands, and cries like he’s been holding back for a decade. And maybe he has.

He’s got no clue how long he sits there, with tears rolling down his cheeks. It’s probably not for very long. Then the door is pushed open, and Stiles is standing there in a t-shirt and sweats. Derek’s still only in his underwear.

Stiles looks a bit taken aback at first, but then he sees the papers in Derek’s hands, and the look on his face changes. Suddenly, he’s weary and sad.

“Yeah,” he says slowly. “I thought you realised. But I guess you didn’t.”

“Guess not,” Derek agrees, his voice barely audible.

“Derek, I…” Stiles starts, before he grows quiet for a second. “I thought you knew. I thought this was your way of saying that you were done with this. With us. I figured...that working so much was your way of telling me we were over.”

“Of course not.”

“I just don’t - I don’t get how you could ever think that working over eighty hours a week would work? Before I got shot, we hadn’t even seen each other in two weeks. You never text me at work anymore. You stopped touching me way before that. I didn’t know what else to think.”

It makes sense, of course it makes sense, when it’s said like that. Derek just hasn’t realised before, that this is what he’s become. What they’ve become.

“I didn’t realise,” he says.

“I can see that now.” Stiles’ voice is soft, and he sits down on the footstool. “I should’ve told you sooner.”

“I’ll get the papers.” Because he can’t just sit here and cry. “I’ll contact Erica.”

“Papers?” Stiles repeats, confused.

“For the divorce,” Derek clarifies, wishing that his voice didn’t break over the last word. “It’s a process. You might want to get it over with as soon as possible.”

He wants to sound hard and in control, like he always is at work. Not like this, scared and broken. He is scared. To his surprise, Stiles’ face softens, and Derek feels like he can recognise him again.

“Hey,” Stiles says gently, and he reaches out for Derek’s hand. “Let’s not rush things, okay? I told you that I wasn’t sure. There’s a reason I married you in the first place, lots of them actually, and I’ve been walking around assuming that you wanted this too. I didn’t know that you had no clue, Derek.”

“Okay,” Derek says quietly, and sags in his chair. It’s not relief, but some odd mix of helplessness and all the adrenaline leaving his body.

Stiles winces a little as he makes a move to stand but seems to fail, and Derek is suddenly acutely aware that Stiles is still injured.

“Sorry,” he says, getting to his feet. “Do you need anything? Help getting you back to bed?”

Stiles looks like he’s going to decline at first, but then he winces again. “Yeah, I think I need it.”

Derek hooks an arm under Stiles’, helping him to his feet. He tries to be careful, but Stiles still grunts a little as he straightens up. He leans heavily on Derek, with cold sweat breaking out on his forehead and neck.

“How did you even get in here, when you can barely stand on your own?” Derek asks under his breath, and he’s worried again. Worried that Stiles might not be recovering as fast as he should. Or that when he does, he’s going to leave.

“I felt like I had to talk to you. I didn’t have much of an option,” Stiles explains, as Derek leads him out of there and to their bedroom. Helping Stiles sit down on their bed seems oddly intimate now.

“Do you want to sleep in these clothes, or do you want help to take them off?” he asks, frowning over the lack of colour on Stiles’ face.

“Off. It’s warm in here.” Stiles sounds like he’s drifting off already.

Nodding, Derek helps him tug the sweats off, and tries not to worry over the way Stiles grimaces when he has to lift his arms for the t-shirt. He helps Stiles lie down and tucks him in. Before he can stop himself, he reaches out to smooth Stiles’ hair, and his heart ticks when Stiles smiles sleepily. When he looks at Derek, there’s something in his eyes that hasn’t been there for a while. Probably for longer than Derek thinks.

“You really didn’t know,” Stiles mumbles, before he closes his eyes and drifts off.

Derek wants to move in close, to hold him. He loves this man with all of his being. And he wants to show that he wants them to work. He wants this to work. However, just telling Stiles that he loves him won’t make much of a difference. At this point, that’s not much more than empty words. The feelings aren’t the problem. It’s the life they’ve created, where Derek’s never home and where they’re two strangers living separate lives under the same roof.

“Derek, I’ve told you that you’re not allowed to work,” Erica greets him when she picks up the phone.

“That’s not why I’m calling.” Derek closes the door to the study behind him. His heart is beating a little fast. It’s almost half eleven and he’s trying to repair his life. Or finding hope to do so, at least.

“What is it, then?” she asks, and it sounds like she knows that something is bothering Derek.

“It’s Stiles.”

“How is he? Is he hurt?”

“No.” Derek shakes his head to himself. Not hurt in the way she’s referring to. “No. He wants a divorce.”

The silence on the other end is deafening. Erica clears her throat after too-long of a moment. “A divorce?”

“Yes. I’m working too much. He thought I wanted it too.” Derek rubs a hand over his face. “I feel so stupid. Here I was thinking that things were good. That he was happy. That we were going to try and adopt a kid.” A sound of frustration escapes him. “And he was sure that I wasn’t interested in him, or this, anymore.”

“And why’s that?”

“I’m always working. We haven’t had sex in seven months, and before that I can’t even remember,” Derek admits. As soon as he says it out loud, he feels ridiculous for not realising this sooner. “I’m sorry for oversharing.”

“Oh please,” Erica snorts, but then she grows serious almost instantly. “How didn’t you realise this? I’ve always admired you guys for keeping your marriage together, even though you work all the time.”

“Apparently we didn’t.” Derek feels like crying again. “I don’t know how I couldn’t realise. It’s obvious, isn’t it? It all makes sense. Of course he can’t be with me if I’m never with him.”

“What are you going to do about it, then?” Erica asks, rational as always.

“I don’t know,” Derek confesses. “I love my job. I don’t want to quit.”

“You don’t have to quit. But you don’t have to work as much as you are. Forty hours would be enough.” Erica sighs. “Everyone knows that you’re the hot shot here. That you know what you’re doing. You don’t have to keep proving yourself to anyone here. Hell, I come to work at nine and leave at three sometimes, and no one says anything about it.”

“That’s because your name is on the door,” Derek points out.

“I’m not going to put you on the bottom of the list of names next up to get on the door, just because you realise that family is important, too.” She sighs again. “Hell, I encourage you to take a few weeks vacation over Christmas and work less. We have associates. They’re the ones working twenty-four-seven and that’s just how it is. They know that. Once you’ve made your way up, you’ve already proven your worth.”

Derek takes a breath. His fingers are trembling slightly. Maybe, maybe, it can work.

“Derek. You’re the only one who’s ever made a career this big, this fast. You also happen to be one of my closest friends. This means that I know that if you and Stiles got divorced, you’d be useless to me for several years, because that’s how long it would take you to get back on your feet. Now, make sure to do all you can to repair this.”

“You’re right,” Derek agrees, but Erica has already hung up on him.

He sits in the study for a while, staring at the framed photo of him and Stiles from their wedding day. They look so incredibly happy and Stiles has this look in his eyes, as he’s looking at Derek, that’s not there anymore. But he’d be stupid not to fight for this man. The man who showed up out of nowhere, when Derek was in college and studying so hard to keep his grades up, and bought him a coffee. Who made Derek come out of his shell. Who encouraged and supported anything he tried to pursue.

Derek doesn’t want a future without him. Truth be told, he isn’t sure that he could live with himself if he didn’t even try to fight for the love of his life. The one person who held Derek’s heart in one hand, and pushed him forward with the other. Stiles knows all of his flaws. Knows his strengths. Knows his weaknesses and his fears. And Stiles used to love him, despite everything that wasn’t perfect.

Now, Derek is so close to losing him.

Stiles is long since asleep when Derek gets into bed beside him. For a moment, Derek wonders if it’s okay for him to move in closer, but he thinks it is. Otherwise Stiles would’ve told him to sleep in the guestroom. He gets goosebumps all over his skin as Stiles’ body heat mixes with his own.

“Goodnight,” he says quietly. Stiles only stirs for a moment. “I love you,” Derek adds, knowing full well that Stiles can’t hear him. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m not going to lose you. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

He places a kiss on top of Stiles’ head, hoping that Stiles’ subconscious somehow will get the memo. That he’ll at least let Derek try.

“How long will you be off duty?” Derek asks a couple of days later. Stiles has been sleeping a lot, but when Derek called the doctors for the sixtieth time, they told him that it was still completely normal. The nurse who checked up on him the other day also said that everything seems to be going well, so Derek is trying to accept that.

Shrugging, Stiles eats his soup. “Until I can move somewhat freely. And then I’ll be on desk duty for a month or two, just to make sure I’m okay to go back in the field.”

“Okay.” Derek doesn’t want him back in the field, but he also knows that that’s where Stiles wants to be.

“Why?”

“I was just wondering if you’ll be home over Christmas.”

“Probably.” Stiles grimaces.

“I was thinking about taking a few more weeks off.”

Stiles fumbles with the spoon, almost dropping it. “What?”

“I’ve talked to Erica,” Derek says awkwardly. “About working less and all that. I want to take a few more weeks vacation, and then work more decent hours.”

“Is she okay with that?” Stiles asks, and he looks dumbstruck.

“She encouraged it.”

“Are you okay with that?” Stiles asks then.

Derek looks at him for a long moment, trying to determine if Stiles looks hopeful behind that expression of doubt. “I love my job…” Derek trails off for a second, trying to find the right words. But then he feels ridiculous. This is his husband and not a stranger he’s confessing his love to. “But I love you more, and I want our marriage to work. I want to try and fix it. If you’ll let me.”

Stiles stares at him for several long moments, and then his eyes are suddenly brimming with tears. Derek has no clue what to say or even think. “Really?” Stiles breathes.

There’s a lump in Derek’s throat, and it doesn’t go away even though he tries to swallow it multiple times. “I want to try. Please let me try.”

“I want that, too,” Stiles whispers, and then he reaches out. Before Derek knows it, he’s scrambling across the room, rounding the kitchen table, just to hold Stiles close to him. Carefully so, because he’s still in pain.

Derek doesn’t know how long they stay that way. It feels like hours. Stiles’ soup is cold when they let go. They have a long way to go, Derek knows that, but at least this is a start.

They start couple counseling the next week. Derek is sceptical at first, but Stiles really wants to. He expects to feel like he’s being blamed for everything but, surprisingly, both the counsellor and Stiles seem pretty adamant that the focus should be on how to move forward.

Derek’s chest feels less heavy when they leave their first session. Stiles talked the most, and Derek feels like he’s gotten a glimpse of how this was for him. Neglecting is probably not a strong enough word for how Derek has treated their marriage the past couple of years.

“So no sex for a few months at least, doctor’s orders,” Stiles says as soon as they get home. He looks tired, but Derek isn’t sure if it’s because he’s still in pain, or because he too feels drained after the session. “That shouldn’t be too hard for us,” he snorts.

Derek knows that it’s supposed to be a joke, but his heart sinks. He remembers when they could barely keep their hands off each other. Now, he doesn’t even know if kissing Stiles would be off limits.

“Hey,” Stiles says, touching Derek’s hand. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Derek looks up, realising that he’s zoned out, caught up in his brain. “It’s okay.”

Stiles looks at him for a long time. “I don’t want you to take the blame for everything,” he says then. “Us going to therapy isn’t about you feeling guilty and like you should take all the responsibility. It’s about us finding each other again, okay?”

“It is my fault.” Derek shrugs. Really, there’s no room for argument there. Stiles wasn’t the one picking work over their marriage.

“I could’ve brought this up for conversation about a year ago, and maybe we wouldn’t need therapy now.” Stiles hooks his forefinger around the platinum band of Derek’s wedding ring. “Our marriage is my responsibility, too.”

Nodding, Derek reaches for him, and it feels both familiar and new as Stiles presses in close. “Okay.”

As he locks his arms around Stiles, he wonders if they gave up on hugging even before they gave up on having sex. But this is okay, according to their counsellor. Touching on top of clothes. Kisses are okay, too.

“How about a date on Friday?” he asks, as he breathes in the smell of Stiles’ cologne. He doesn’t recognise it. Maybe he switched fragrance.

“What kind of date?” Stiles asks, making no effort to create space between them.

“Dinner and a movie?”

“Movie first and dinner after?” Stiles asks. Because they have always done it that way.

“Of course.”

That Friday, Derek is a bit nervous as he picks Stiles up after his doctor’s appointment. He’s wearing slacks and a button-up, and he feels casual until he notices Stiles’ jeans and t-shirt as he approaches the car. Stiles is smiling. It must’ve been a good appointment.

“Hey.” Stiles’ smile falters somewhat when his gaze falls to Derek’s clothes. “Are we going somewhere fancy?”

“No,” Derek says quickly, feeling stupid. “Just our usual place.”

Stiles looks like he’s not going to comment on it at first, but then he opens his mouth anyway. “You’re so dressed up.”

Derek’s stomach drops and he grows defensive. “This is what I normally wear.”

“Yeah, to work.”

He tightens his grip on the steering wheel, looking away. Stiles used to like him in suits. When Derek first started working, Stiles wouldn’t even allow him to take the suit off before they had sex. Things change.

“You used to like me in suits,” he says quietly, wondering if he should offer going home to change. They’ll miss the beginning of the movie if he does, though. He sighs, because really, if Stiles would prefer him to change clothes, it’s not that big of a deal. “I’ll drop you off at the theater, and I’ll come back after I’ve changed.”

“Hey, no,” Stiles says, his hand falling on Derek’s wrist. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s just clothes.” He reaches down to start the car, but Stiles stops him.

“I think you look great. You don’t need to change. I’m sorry I made it sound differently.”

Derek looks at him, then. Stiles eyes are wide, worried. He used to look like that when he had cleaned and accidentally lost some of Derek’s important papers. It happened more than once.

“I don’t need you to change,” Stiles says again, his thumb rubbing circles against Derek’s skin. “And I still like you in suits. I’m sorry. I was out of line.”

Derek takes a slow breath. “If me changing clothes will make things better, then I’ll do it.”

“We’ve already been through this.” Stiles looks a little stern now. “This isn’t about you doing everything you can to please me. This is about us finding a way back to each other. It’s a two-way street. Okay?”

Derek looks at him for a moment. They have been over this. They won’t be happy if Derek breaks his back trying to do everything Stiles asks of him.

He nods. “Okay.”

Stiles smiles slightly. “Good. Let’s go then.”

Derek feels a bit odd during the movie. In line, people are smiling at them as though they’re a happy couple, and he feels like they’ll be caught lying at any second. He relaxes in the dark of the theater, and hearing Stiles laugh at the jokes on the screen warms his heart. It’s been a long time since he heard Stiles’ laugh.

It’s perhaps his favourite sound in the world. Well, along with another couple of sounds of his.

Dinner feels exactly like dinner used to feel with Stiles. Stiles talks a lot and forgets his food, and he’s not even halfway done when the waitress picks up Derek’s empty plate.

“Oh crap,” Stiles sighs. “How do we always end up in this situation?”

Derek smiles. “It’s because you never learn to eat, breathe, and talk at the same time.”

Stiles tries glaring at him, but his smile completely ruins the effect. Perhaps he can feel it too, the familiar ways they used to spend time with each other, how they used to talk.

Derek’s had three cups of coffee before Stiles has finished his food. Stiles is an expert at analysing movies, and Derek always gets caught up in his theories and ideas. He’s missed Stiles talking with his hands. He’s missed Stiles laughing at his own jokes.

He doesn’t get how he hasn’t realised this until now.

“Ready to go?” he asks, when Stiles leans back in his chair with a sigh.

“Yeah, unless I explode from all this food before we get there.”

Laughing, Derek calls for the waitress and pays. Stiles walks close to him all the way to the car, seemingly having forgotten about feeling too full, and talking at full speed again. Derek’s heart aches and swells at the same time, when Stiles’ fingers tentatively curl around his.

As per usual, though, he gets quiet and sleepy as soon as Derek pulls into their driveway. It’s either sleepy or handsy. Derek knows from experience. There have been times when Stiles has fallen asleep in the car. And there have been times when Stiles hasn’t even allowed Derek to leave the car before either having sex or making a very elaborate promise of sex as soon as they’ve stepped inside.

“Hey,” Derek says, and brushes his thumb against Stiles’ cheek before stepping out of the car and opening the door on Stiles’ side. “We’re home.”

Stiles blinks at him slowly, and he’s got this look of quiet adoration in his eyes, as he always does when he’s almost fallen asleep after a date. He accepts Derek’s outstretched hand and reluctantly gets out of the car. “I love our home,” he says suddenly, as they approach the front door. Derek’s heart ticks.

“Me too.”

Stiles’ fingers squeeze around his. “Thanks for tonight,” he says, as Derek unlocks the door and turns off the alarm.

Derek turns to him. Stiles always looks much younger when he’s sleepy. “Thank you,” he echoes.

“I’m sorry for commenting on your clothes,” Stiles whispers, dragging his palm from Derek’s chest to his hip. “I really do like you in suits.”

Derek swallows. “Thank you.”

Stiles smiles. “Can I kiss you?”

“Yes, that’s allowed, right?” Derek wets his lips, suddenly nervous. What if he’s forgotten how to kiss?

“Yeah, that’s allowed.” Stiles closes the distance between them, and Derek closes his eyes just as their lips brush together. He doesn’t know why he ever doubted that kissing Stiles would feel anything but familiar. His spine tingles as he sinks into the kiss, and Stiles’ fingers find the hair at the nape of his neck.

Just as Derek wants to press in closer, Stiles creates an inch of space between them. “I can’t believe I’ve gone without kissing you for so long.”

Derek swallows. “I’m going to do my best to change that.”

Stiles rubs their noses together, his hand on Derek’s cheek. “I know. So am I.”

It’s not that late, so Derek decides to read the newspaper in bed. Watching TV was never allowed after date nights, no matter if there was sex or not. The sheets rustle as Stiles moves over to his side, resting his ear to Derek’s chest, with an arm over his waist. Derek’s arm finds its way around Stiles without him even realising.

“This is okay, right?”

Derek looks away from the article he’s reading and down at Stiles.

“Yes, absolutely.”

Stiles hums, and settles in against him, like he’s done so many times before. Derek assumes that he’s fallen asleep, until he makes a move to turn the page and Stiles makes a sound of protest.

“Okay, you can turn now,” he says a moment later.

For a moment, Derek thinks his heart is too big for his chest.

The next few weeks pass in a blur. They go to the Stilinski home for Christmas, and things feel semi-normal. Derek finds himself forgetting from time to time that things aren’t okay yet. That there’s a long way to go still.

They’re at Scott and Allison’s for New Year’s and Stiles kisses him at midnight. “This year will be the best one yet,” he whispers against Derek’s lips, before kissing him again.

Derek agrees so much that his body aches.

Stiles goes back to work before Derek does. At first it’s just a couple of hours a day, slowly working up to full time. Stiles is often tired when he gets home, and naps for an hour or so before he pads out into the kitchen and helps with dinner.

Last week, after their counsellor had approved of them moving forward in their physical relationship, they made out on the couch like two teenagers. They had both been hard, but since getting each other off wasn’t allowed yet, they had had to break it off. Still, Derek had been so happy afterwards, knowing that the attraction was still there for both of them.

Today, Stiles is in a less good mood when he gets home. He doesn’t look tired, but he seems to be in a bad place as he sits down at the kitchen table as Derek’s putting lasagna in the oven.

“Welcome home,” Derek says, feeling a little awkward. Stiles is usually the one to greet him with a kiss.

“Thanks,” Stiles mutters, unbuckling his belt. He’s still wearing his uniform.

“Did something happen at work?” Derek asks carefully. They haven’t had any fights yet. Their counsellor told them that they would come soon, and that there will be setbacks.

Stiles juts his jaw. “No.”

Derek’s first instinct is to bite his cheek, concentrate on dinner, and then probably not speak for the rest of the night. Then he remembers their counsellor encouraging them to talk more. So, instead he pulls out a kitchen chair and sits down.

“Please talk to me.”

Stiles stares at the clock on the wall for several long moments before his shoulders sag. “You start working tomorrow and I’m worried.”

Taking a deep breath, Derek reaches for his hand. To say that he isn’t worried as well would be a lie. He’s been addicted to his work. It’s not going to be easy for him to find a good balance.

“So am I,” he confesses.

Stiles’ gaze snaps to him in surprise.

“But,” Derek continues. “I have my priorities straight, now. I’ll work regular hours.”

Stiles nods, but he doesn’t look convinced. “I just…despite getting shot and the excruciating pain, these months have been the best in a long time.” He sighs heavily. “I’m worried that it will go back to how it was.”

“We won’t let it,” Derek decides, even though he’s worrying about the same things. “I promise that we won’t.”

Stiles looks at him for a long time. “Okay.”

Derek feels like an imposter when he gets back into his office the next morning. Everything is where he left it, including Isaac, who is sitting behind his desk as though he hasn’t moved since the day Stiles was shot.

“Welcome back,” he greets, and puts Derek’s usual coffee order on his desk. “How is Stiles doing?”

“Better.” Derek turns his computer on, and sighs as he opens his mail inbox. So many unread messages. “Who’s been handling my clients?”

“Ms. Reyes and Mr. Boyd,” Isaac informs him. “No need to worry.”

Derek’s shoulders relax. “Thank God.”

“There’s a partner meeting in twenty minutes. I suggest you go through that folder before then.” Isaac points to a particularly thick one beside Derek’s mug.

“Thanks for having my back, Isaac.”

Isaac rolls his eyes. “Of course. That’s my job.”

Derek needs to make sure that Isaac gets a good raise this year.

Just as he’s about to open the folder and put his brain to use, he remembers something more important. He grabs his phone and sends a text to Stiles.

< Already looking forward to coming home to you.

Then he puts it away, and goes through the folder. The partner meeting is interesting, sure, and Derek provides a lot of great points and ideas. However, it’s like he’s realised that there’s more to life.

A client calls that afternoon, just as Derek’s about to pack up and go home. “Mr. Hale?”

“Hale-Stilinski,” Derek corrects.

“Is that why you’ve been away?” his client asks, sounding smug. “You got married?”

“I’ve been married for six years,” Derek informs him.

There’s silence on the other end for a moment, before the client recovers and starts asking about his case. Apparently it’s an emergency.

“Come by the office tomorrow morning,” Derek tells him. “At nine.”

“How about tonight?”

“Tomorrow morning at nine,” Derek says again, and hangs up.

Stiles is already there when Derek gets home. He’s cooking, looking relaxed in worn out jeans and a t-shirt. But the way he turns around, the relief so clear on his face, tells Derek that he was more strung up than he seemed.

“Hey,” Stiles says, smiling. “How was work?”

“Good.” Derek gives him a quick kiss. “But busy. For you?”

“Same. Lots of paperwork.” Stiles pulls him in for a kiss again. “Thanks for sending me a text.”

“Sorry I couldn’t send you more.”

Stiles shakes his head at that. “No, that was just fine. No need to apologise.”

Smiling, Derek looks over to the stove. “What are you cooking? It smells really good.”

“Spaghetti and meatballs.”

Derek’s heart swells. “My favourite.”

“Yeah, I thought you might need something special for your first day back.”

“Thank you,” Derek whispers, pressing his face to Stiles’ hair.

Stiles has even bought wine.

“So,” Stiles says as they’re clearing the table. “I asked our counsellor about something.”

Derek pauses, wondering if he’s done something wrong.

Stiles rocks back and forth on his feet, chewing his lip. It gives Derek flashbacks from when they had just started dating. He looks so young, suddenly. “Um, so…the not getting each other off rule is still set. But if you want, we can watch each other get off?”

Derek almost drops the plate he’s holding. “What?”

Stiles turns a little red. “You know, if you want to watch me jerk off, that’s okay. We can do that.” He meets Derek’s gaze briefly. “It’s not like you haven’t before.”

Derek swallows heavily. “Yes.”

“Yeah?” Stiles asks, sounding a little breathless. “Right now?”

Derek feels a little lightheaded. “Can I shower first?” he asks, because it’s been a long time since Stiles saw him naked, and for some reason he just really wants to make a good impression.

Stiles smiles as though he knows exactly what Derek is thinking. “Okay. I’ll be in the bedroom.” And then he winks, and Derek wonders how he was ever able to stay away from him.

He showers as quickly and thoroughly as he can. After a moment of hesitation, he skips putting his clothes back on after drying himself off. He’s already hard, excitement thrumming through his body in a way it hasn’t done in years, as he enters their bedroom.

“Sorry, kinda started without you,” Stiles grins, and Derek doesn’t believe that he’s sorry for a second. Stiles is naked, too, leaning back against the pillows on their bed with one foot propped up against the mattress. He’s stroking himself slowly, looking at Derek with such a pleased expression on his face that it’s obvious he knows exactly what he’s doing. “Are you gonna stand there all day?”

Shaking his head, Derek gets on the bed next to him, wrapping his fingers around his own dick. Oh God.

He hasn’t seen Stiles like this in so long, and he can’t stop staring at the long lines of his muscles, the veins on his hands as he strokes himself.

“Why aren’t you naked all the time?” Stiles breathes, turning towards him on the bed, so that they’re face to face.

Derek groans as Stiles licks his palm, loving the way Stiles’ gaze flickers between Derek’s face and where he’s stroking himself. “I could ask you the same.”

“Wish I could touch you.”

Derek shivers, because he wants that too.

“Wish I could blow you,” Stiles rasps again before Derek can reply, and Derek twitches, groaning. “Would you like that?”

“Yeah.” Nodding, Derek times his hand with Stiles’ movements as they speed up. This is not going to last long, and they both know it. Moving closer, Derek tangles their legs together, and kisses him as Stiles opens his mouth to protest.

Stiles is panting when Derek pulls away, and immediately grabs his hair to pull him in again. “No, if you’re gonna do foul play, you have to do it properly.”

Smirking, Derek pushes him down on his back, guiding Stiles’ hand back to his own dick, and kisses him like he hasn’t in years. If ever. Stiles’ mouth is desperate against his, their lips crushing together, and Derek feels like he’s a teenager again, so close to coming already. His spine tingles when Stiles’ strokes turn erratic and he seems to forget how to kiss, panting and groaning into Derek’s mouth. And then he comes, back arching, a low sound escaping his throat that makes the muscles in Derek’s stomach clench painfully. He pulls back a fraction to see Stiles coming all over his own hand and stomach. A shuddering moment later, Derek comes too, harder than he thinks he has in a long time, collapsing back against the bed.

Derek feels shaky all over afterwards, his chest heaving. Stiles shuffles close, kissing his shoulder, and when Derek cracks his eyes open to look at him, he seems just as spent.

“Please don’t ever leave me again,” Stiles whispers against Derek’s skin.

Derek doesn’t bother saying that he never really left Stiles, because it’s not entirely true. Even though Stiles was the one contemplating a divorce, Derek’s the one who left their marriage first.

“I won’t,” he promises and rolls over on his side, pulling Stiles close to him. “Thank you for giving me a second chance.”

Stiles creates enough space between them to make eye contact. He’s still flushed, hair all over the place. “You’re working so hard for this. For us,” Stiles says quietly. “And that’s everything to me. It’s like I’m falling for you all over again.”

Closing his eyes, Derek takes a deep breath. There’s a weight on his heart that has been lifted somewhat.

“I love you,” Derek whispers, tracing his finger from Stiles’ collarbone down his side. He smiles to himself as Stiles twitches.

“Tickles,” he says quietly, pressing as close to Derek as he can get. “And I love you, too.”

Derek closes his eyes, wondering why he feels like crying suddenly. “Thank you.”

Stiles kisses his nose, then his lips. “Thank you for proving to me that the man I married was more than I gave him credit for at the end. Because you’re the one who wanted to fight for us.”

Just as Derek’s about to open his mouth and add that he’s also the reason they have to fight in the first place, Stiles kisses him.

“Don’t.”

“Okay.” Derek nods, warmth spreading under his skin as Stiles drags his fingers through the hair on his chest.

“Let’s go on another date this weekend,” Stiles says, his lips grazing against Derek’s. “Get some fancy ass dinner at some fancy ass restaurant.”

“Mm,” Derek agrees, his hands wandering down Stiles’ back to the curve of his ass. “Sounds perfect.”

“And if you don’t shave, you can watch me jerk off as many times as you want afterwards.”

Groaning, Derek kisses him. “You’re terrible.”

He doesn’t shave that weekend. 

“How are things at home?” Erica asks Derek one morning, several weeks later, as he’s going over cases. There’s something he’s missing and he needs to find it.

Things at home are pretty great. They’re fighting some, but not about very important things. Their counsellor has explained that it’s normal, and a little bit as though they’re testing each other to see if the other will still stay.

“Better,” he says, looking up from the contracts in front of him. “Definitely better.”

“That’s good to hear.” She smiles, but Derek frowns when she closes the door to his office behind her. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about something.”

“Go ahead.”

She sits down on the other side of his desk. As his boss, it’s something she rarely does, because that puts him in a position of power over her. “I’m here as a friend,” she explains, as if reading his mind. “You’ve told me that your relationship has been an issue for Stiles and that you didn’t realise, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Have you asked him if he cheated on you?” she asks, straight to the point as always.

Years ago, before they were married, Stiles and Derek had talked about how they would always end their relationship before being with someone else. The thought that Stiles might go back on his word never crossed Derek’s mind until now. Still, he can’t imagine Stiles doing that to him.

“No, but I know he wouldn’t.”

“You didn’t have sex for seven months,” she points out. Derek doesn’t say that if they’re not counting watching each other masturbate, it’s probably closer to eleven by now.

“I’m aware.”

“And you don’t think he was tempted even once?”

Derek shrugs at that. “He might have been, but he wouldn’t do anything.”

Erica looks at him for a long time. “You sound awfully sure.”

“It’s something we promised each other a long time ago.”

She sighs, shaking her head. “For one badass lawyer, you’re insanely trusting.”

“Stiles isn’t my job, he’s my life.”

She smiles then. “If you say so.”

Derek assumes the subject is dropped after that, and therefore he’s taken completely by surprise when he comes home a couple of weeks later, and Stiles is sitting at the kitchen table looking beyond serious.

“Did something happen?” Derek asks cautiously, as he puts his briefcase down. He undoes the button in his suit jacket, before taking the chair opposite Stiles.

Stiles looks up at him, eyes huge, vulnerable. “I met Erica today when I got lunch with Scott.”

“Okay?” Derek asks, scalp starting to prickle.

“She told me that she had asked you something a while ago.”

“Yes.” Derek swallows heavily. “She did.”

“And when she asked you if I had cheated on you, you said no, right? You said that I’d never do it?”

Sucking in a breath, Derek nods. That’s exactly what he’d said. He doesn’t quite understand why Stiles is sitting here, in front of him, looking as though he’s on the verge of crying.

“The fact that you said that–” Stiles shakes his head, reaching for Derek across the table. “The fact that you said that despite everything. That you trust me, even though I didn’t talk to you about our problems. I…” he trails off, shaking his head. “That’s probably more than I would’ve done in your place, Derek.”

Derek just stares at him, trying to comprehend if Stiles is admitting to something here, or what this discussion really is about. “You didn’t, did you?” he asks quietly.

“No.” Stiles squeezes his fingers. “No, I didn’t. Because we agreed, you know, that whatever happened we would break up first.”

Sucking in a breath, Derek can feel his shoulders relax.

“But I just…” Stiles shakes his head. “Thank you. I’ve been unfair to you-”

“I was unfair to you, too,” Derek interrupts.

“Yes, you were.” Stiles smiles a little. “Sometimes I’m still surprised over how great you are.”

Having to go on a business trip over their anniversary isn’t something Derek has ever been very fond of. Especially now. Stiles wasn’t too happy about it either, but they talked it through. Then they were both given an extra dose of disappointment, when their counselor gave them the go-ahead on sex just in time for Derek to leave for NYC. In the end they booked a weekend trip to Hawaii the next month to compensate, and Stiles decided that spending their anniversary with baseball and pizza wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Thwarted anniversary or not, Derek can’t help but be overjoyed by his own abilities as he manages to close the client within the first day. Adding to his elation, he’s able to take the first possible flight back home and surprise Stiles with dinner.

He even stops by the little chocolate shop in town that makes the insanely expensive truffles that Stiles loves, and buys the last bouquet of roses from the flower shop just before it closes. Humming under his breath, Derek checks Stiles’ schedule on the fridge as soon as he gets home. His shift ends in less than two hours, but Derek doesn’t need that long to prepare pesto shrimp.

Setting the table is almost fun for once, and he even goes to find a particularly fine bottle of wine in the basement from his collection. Today is definitely worth celebrating. They’ve made it to another anniversary, and Derek doesn’t think he’s been this happy in a long, long time.

As the two hour mark nears, he pops the wine bottle open and places the dishes on the table. He’s put the chocolates on Stiles’ pillow, knowing all too well that he loves eating them in bed, and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. Stiles had forced him to buy the jeans a couple of weeks back, because apparently Derek’s ass in them “made him religious.”

He starts getting a little itchy when Stiles should have been home ten minutes ago. Fifteen minutes ago. Twenty minutes ago. When the hour mark passes, Derek sighs and sends him a text. Stiles has probably had to work for a bit longer, or offered to do so in place of a colleague. It doesn’t have to ruin the surprise. He can still reheat the food.

< Hi, how was work? How’s your baseball and pizza night?

> Hey :) Work was calm for once. I’m skipping pizza and baseball in favor of beer and football with the guys. Can’t wait for you to come home.

Derek’s heart sinks. He knows that he can’t be hurt by this, shouldn’tbe hurt by this. Stiles doesn’t know that Derek managed to shorten the trip and wanted to surprise him. To be fair, Derek is rather certain that he’d pick a bar with a couple of friends over pizza on the couch at home too.

He just very much wanted to show Stiles that he can still surprise him. That he can do those extra little things. Just like Stiles did a couple of weeks back, when he showed up at the office with two lunch boxes and they had lunch together before Stiles had to go back to work. It had been the highlight of Derek’s day, week even, to see Stiles step out of the elevator, still wearing his uniform, and have them spend forty-five minutes together.

Heart heavy, he walks into the living room and sinks down on the couch. If Stiles isn’t out too late, they can still have the wine. If he decides to stay til late, however, Derek has plenty of time to clean up. Either way, Derek can still make this a surprise, and that’s the important part, isn’t it? Food or not.

He goes through their channels twice, before he finally settles on a sitcom he doesn’t recognise.

He tries not to think about it. He knows Stiles hasn’t done anything wrong. Derek hasn’t even told him that he closed the client early and that he’d be home tonight, and not in three days. If he had, he’s sure that Stiles would’ve been home after work.

Sighing, he rubs a hand over his face. Honestly, he needs to get a grip. He does a breathing exercise Marin taught him at work, to calm down and concentrate on what really matters. He only means to close his eyes for a second, but he must’ve fallen asleep, because the sound of a car in the driveway jerks him awake.

He’s disoriented for a few seconds as he listens to the car door slam. Crap. The food is still on the table. Hurrying into the kitchen, Derek stares for a few seconds, unable to decide where to start. He can hear quick steps on the gravel path, and just as he grabs the pot, he can hear the door open and Stiles’ quick steps over the hardwood floors.

“Derek?”

Turning around, the pot still in his hands, Derek sighs inwardly. He should’ve cleaned up before even turning on the TV.

“Yes,” he says, voice raspy.

Stiles is standing in the kitchen doorway, staring at him like Derek’s the last person he expected to see in their kitchen right now. To be fair, that’s most likely quite close to the truth.

“Surprise?” he tries, not sure if he should feel guilty about this or not. His heart is beating hard behind his ribs, but he can’t quite figure out why.

“You’re not supposed to be home for another three days,” Stiles whispers.

Derek bites his lip, still holding the pot. “I managed to close early.”

Stiles’ eyes flicker between Derek, the pot in his hands, the plates on the table and the opened bottle of wine, like he’s trying to understand what’s going on.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Sighing, Derek puts the pot down in the sink. “I wanted it to be a surprise,” he confesses, and his chest aches suddenly. “Because I know you like surprises, and I haven’t done that in a long time.”

“Did you cook?” Stiles whispers.

“Um,” Derek looks at the pot again, as if seeking confirmation. Like he doesn’t already know that he’s cooked. “Yes.” When he looks up at Stiles, his heart breaks a little, because Stiles looks crestfallen. “But it’s cold now,” he says hurriedly. “I’m just going to clean up.”

He feels so stupid for hurting. This isn’t Stiles’ fault. It isn’t anyone’s. As he turns to the pot again, picking it up to scoop the food into the trash, Stiles grasps his wrist.

Closing his eyes briefly, Derek moves all the food over to one side in the pot, creating a neat pile there.

“I’m so sorry, Derek,” Stiles says, his voice quiet. Derek thinks it wavers. “If I had known, I would’ve come home.”

“I know,” Derek sighs. “I know that. I’m not angry with you.”

“But you’re upset.” Stiles’ fingers are trembling against his skin.

“Not with you,” Derek promises. Because he isn’t. He can’t be.

“Please don’t throw that away.”

Derek isn’t sure if Stiles means the food or something else. Sucking in a breath, Derek drops the pot back into the sink and wipes his already clean hands on the cloth. When he turns around again, Stiles looks like he’s somewhere between worried and scared.

“I’m not angry with you,” Derek says, feeling the need to explain, but it’s like Stiles hasn’t heard him.

“I’m so sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Derek brushes a hand over his face. “I fell asleep. I was going to clean up all of this so you wouldn’t know.”

“So I wouldn’t know?” Stiles echoes.

Nodding, Derek glances at the wine bottle, wondering if they could still drink it tomorrow. He tries to pretend like he doesn’t care that his surprise was a complete flop, well aware that he can only blame himself for this.

“Why wouldn’t you want me to know?”

Derek looks down at his clothes. The t-shirt is all wrinkly now, and his hair probably looks like shit.

“Because then it’d still be a happy surprise that I was home. You wouldn’t feel bad.” Derek smiles bitterly to himself. “I’ve always been fucking horrible at surprises, haven’t I?”

Stiles is quiet, and Derek doesn’t know what to say or do. Instead he starts putting the plates and glasses back in their respective cabinets, plugging the wine shut again, and scooping the food into a plastic box before putting it into the freezer. Stiles doesn’t say a word during the entire time.

“You bought me flowers?” he says suddenly, and Derek’s gaze falls on the vase on the kitchen table.

He had forgotten about those. “Yeah.”

Stiles does nothing but look at him for a long moment, and then he smiles, nodding to himself. “Okay. We can fix this.”

Frowning at him, Derek mindlessly accepts the bouquet when Stiles pulls it out of the vase and presses it in his hand. “What?”

“Wait.”

He watches as Stiles presses the wine bottle into his other palm, and doesn’t really understand what’s happening. Stiles stops in front of him, drags a hand through Derek’s hair, smooths his t-shirt and undoes the top button to his jeans. “There. Perfect.”

“What are you doing?”

Stiles smiles at him, brilliant, wide. Something warm settles in Derek’s chest. “I’m going to walk out the front door, wait fifty-five seconds, and then I’m going to come back in and be surprised.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Derek snorts, smiling despite himself.

“Yeah.” Stiles grins and presses a peck to his lips. “But you’re already smiling, so it’s worth it.”

Derek shakes his head as Stiles leaves the kitchen. A few seconds later the front door opens and shuts. Looking down at the flowers and the bottle of wine in his hands, Derek smiles some more before he grabs two glasses and heads for their bedroom. The chocolates will be the surprise, then.

He dims the lights just as the front door opens again, and he snorts to himself when Stiles calls: “Hello?” as though he wasn’t there less than a minute ago.

Derek doesn’t say anything, instead he pulls the shirt over his head on a whim and leans against the door frame, feeling ridiculous as he waits for Stiles to find him.

“Derek?” Stiles calls again, but Derek doesn’t get a chance to reply, because Stiles turns the corner and stops in front of him a second later.

“Hi,” Derek smirks. Stiles stops and blinks at him.

“Oh God, I don’t even have to pretend to be surprised.” Stiles tears his gaze from Derek’s, eyes a little wide, and shamelessly takes in all of his shirtlessness.

“Are you…” Stiles looks up at him again, eyes darkening. Derek knows exactly what he’s discovered. “Are you not wearing underwear?”

Shrugging, Derek steps aside to let Stiles step into their bedroom. “Who knows?” He picks up the bottle from the bedside table. “Wine?”

Stiles nods, blatantly eyeing Derek’s crotch and ass every time he turns around. Derek doesn’t even need to check, he just knows. His skin is already buzzing.

“Oh my god,” he hears Stiles breathe. “Are these for me?”

When Derek turns around, he finds Stiles holding the chocolates like they’re treasure. “Of course they’re for you.”

Stiles drops the chocolates back on the bed and kisses him then, so fiercely that Derek loses his breath.

“Thank you,” Derek whispers when they break apart. “For saving this night.”

Stiles smiles brilliantly, his eyes warm. His fingertips slide from Derek’s shoulders, down his chest and stomach. Derek’s skin is burning. “Can we save the wine for later?”

“What for?” he asks, throat tight, his heart beating fast, and puts the bottle down.

Stiles dips a finger into his bellybutton, and then down, down until his fingers reach the remaining buttons on Derek’s fly. Without breaking eye contact, Stiles slowly undoes them one by one. “Just curious to see if you’re really not wearing anything under these.”

Derek swallows, taking in the look on Stiles’ face as he looks down after finishing the last button. And it’s like the first time he saw Derek naked in that messy dorm room years ago. Like he doesn’t know exactly what Derek looks like without his clothes. Like he hasn’t seen Derek naked so many times in the past.

He watches Stiles suck in a breath as he pushes Derek’s jeans open, and down his thighs. “Yeah, you’re…how,” Stiles finishes.

And Derek…well, Derek just loves him.

“You’re wearing too much,” Derek mumbles, before leaning in to kiss Stiles again.

“You always say that,” Stiles whispers against his lips, but he pulls his shirt over his head anyway.

“Because it’s always true, unless you’re naked.”

Grinning, Stiles steps out of his pants and his underwear. He’s already hard, just like Derek. For a moment, he has no clue where to start, because a part of him wants to take this slow, to savour the moment, and the other is just desperate to be with Stiles like this again.

Stiles kisses him, pressing up against him, making Derek groan with the familiar feeling of how well their bodies fit together. “So, my plan is to call in sick tomorrow,” Stiles mumbles against his lips as he pushes Derek onto the bed, straddling him. “Correction, my first plan is for us to screw both our brains out, and then call in sick.”

The way Stiles grinds down over his dick makes Derek shudder, certain that Stiles will hold to that promise. “I like that plan,” he groans, sliding his hands down Stiles’ back, squeezing his ass. The way Stiles arches into his touch, how his flush has spread down his chest, makes Derek twitch beneath him.

And Derek loves taking things slow when Stiles is being impatient. Loves stroking his dick languidly, kissing every inch of skin he can reach, watching Stiles squirm and curse above him.

“Don’t think I don’t know exactly what you’re doing,” Stiles pants, grinding down over Derek’s dick again, making his eyes roll back. “But you’re not gonna get away with it this time.”

Derek watches him as he reaches over to the bedside table, and does his best to create a distraction with his tongue and his teeth, and rubbing the head of Stiles’ dick until he almost collapses on top of Derek, body shuddering.

Oh, and he knows Stiles, loves the triumphant look on his face when he presses the lube into Derek’s hand with the words: “If you don’t get to it, I’m going to do it myself.”

And Derek knows he will. Knows that even though they like pretending Derek’s the one in control when it comes to sex, Stiles always gets what he wants, and Derek loves giving it to him.

He goes slow, though, knowing it’s been too long. Stiles groans as he presses back over Derek’s fingers, over and over, digging his fingers into Derek’s chest, eyes falling shut.

Derek loves seeing him like this, flushed and loud, always letting Derek know when he’s doing things right. And judging from the way Stiles leaks over Derek’s hand and stomach, he’s doing everything right.

“Oh fuck,” Stiles breathes, reaching back to pull Derek’s hand away. “Ready?”

Derek kind of wants to shake his head, already so close to being overwhelmed. But he nods, body growing taut as Stiles slowly sinks down onto his dick. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times they’ve done this over the years, this feeling always breaks him like it’s the first.

He groans, grabbing Stiles’ hips to keep him in place for a moment, trying to catch his breath. Stiles looks perfect where he is, with his chest heaving, and his hair a complete mess. Rising onto his elbows, Derek kisses him quickly before he allows Stiles to push him back down again.

As Stiles grinds his hips, Derek bites his lip and just holds on. He’s grateful that they don’t have any close neighbours, because they’re both louder than Derek remembers them ever being. But he loves every groan, every grunt, every breathless sigh that comes out of Stiles’ mouth. His toes curl, muscles straining, and the familiar pressure starts building low in his stomach long before he wants it to.

“Stiles,” he groans, clutching Stiles’ hips.

Nodding eagerly, Stiles starts stroking himself, and effectively makes Derek lose coherency with the way he rolls his hips next.

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles grunts, and Derek’s vision whites out as his back arches and he holds on to Stiles for dear life as he comes.

He’s still shaking when Stiles collapses on top of him, breathing hard.

“I think I’m going to call in sick for at least two days,” Stiles mumbles after a long moment. He moves off Derek, stretching out on the bed beside him. The chocolates fall to the floor with a low thud. “Crap.”

“That was amazing,” Derek says, trying to get his breathing back under control, eyelids growing heavy.

“Don’t you dare fall asleep on me,” Stiles mutters, jabbing him in the ribs with his forefinger. “I’m planning on at least four more orgasms before dawn.”

Derek smiles to himself as he watches Stiles leave the room and come back, rubbing his face with a towel, and tossing another one at Derek to clean himself up with. “I think I’m going to need wine for that,” Derek says, reaching for the bottle as Stiles settles on their bed again after picking up the chocolate from the floor.

“After I finish eating a couple of these, I’m going to eat you out,” Stiles announces as he opens the box.

Derek almost drops the bottle.

AROUND CHRISTMAS

It’s Derek’s last workday before he leaves for Christmas vacation. As he digs through his briefcase, looking for a contract for the case he’s just about to close, he finds something that makes his breath lodge in his throat.

Christmas Wish List, the piece of paper says in Stiles’ familiar handwriting. This year, there’s only one item on it.

  •       My (pretty great) husband coming home early to have a special dinner with me.

With that, Derek knows that Stiles has left it in his briefcase on purpose. Smiling to himself, he digs out the contract and signs it, before grabbing his coat.

“Leaving early today,” he tells Isaac on his way to the elevator, and puts the contract on his desk. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” Isaac echoes, just as the elevator doors close behind him.

Derek has no clue what Stiles means by special dinner, but maybe he just wants to start their vacation in the best possible way.

< On my way home, Derek sends just before he gets into the car. Stiles has forbidden him to text and drive, and after being shown one too many videos of car crashes, Derek never does it anymore.

He smiles to himself as he parks. Stiles has gone a little overboard with the Christmas decorations in their yard this year. There are lights twinkling everywhere.

“Hello?” he calls as he opens the front door, closing it gently behind him so the wreath doesn’t fall down again.

“Dining room.” Stiles’ voice comes from the kitchen. “Food’s almost ready.”

“Do you need help with anything?” Derek asks, shrugging out of his coat and reaching for a hanger.

“Nope, just sit down and I’ll be right there.”

Smiling to himself, Derek puts his briefcase on the chair inside the door. Stiles has set the table, with candles lit and everything. He swallows as he notices the stack of papers on his plate.

I love you, the one at the top says. When Derek moves it, his heart stops for a second. Because he knows these papers. It was a long time ago now, but he used to read them over and over.

“Are you ready for this?” Stiles says, his arms snaking around Derek’s waist as he comes up behind him.

Is he? Derek doesn’t think he can ever be. But he wants this more than anything.

“Yes,” he says anyway, tracing the name of the adoption agency with trembling fingers.

THE END