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Gravity's Got Nothing on You

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Stiles doesn't know how he feels about surprises. On one hand, the idea of something new and exciting is kind of tempting. On the other, all of the surprises that Stiles has experienced in his twenty-three years of existence have been decidedly… wanting.

Like that time in third grade when his parents, surprise, hired a clown for his birthday party.

Yeah, not a good surprise. Actually kind of a terrifying surprise.

Or that time in seventh grade, when his dad came home early, and, surprise, barged into his room just as he was engaging in some much needed (and very healthy) self-love.

Not a good surprise at all. Horrifyingly embarrassing, more like. The kind of surprise that comes back to haunt you late at night, when you're trying to sleep.

Or there was that time in tenth grade, when Scott, surprise, got bitten by a fucking rogue werewolf. That one was actually a two-for-one deal. Because, surprise, werewolves exist, and surprise, now your best friend is one.

Or maybe it was a three-for-one, because not only did werewolves exist, but it turned out that Beacon Hills had a sizeable population. Otherwise known as the Hale pack.

It had been fun letting his dad in on that surprise.

A fricken' joy, actually.

Anyway, surprises.

Stiles is… surprised, right now. It's a different kind of surprise than he's used to. Usually, at least, he knows how to react to surprises. You know, by screaming and crying, or floundering to cover his dick up while his dad stares at him from his bedroom door, frozen in place, or just recognizing that his best friend turns furry sometimes, and then letting it go.

But this time Stiles is kind of… confused? Confused and surprised? Flabbergasted? Speechless? He really can't think of a word that correctly describes his state of mind, right now, because Derek Hale (werewolf, his brain supplies, former captain of the swim team, all around douchebag, perennial hang-on ever since Scott got the bite) is standing in front of him, gripping at the counter of Alf's Antiques, Stiles's place of employment, with a look on his face that lets Stiles knows he wishes he was anywhere other than where he is right now.

"Um," Stiles says. "What?"

"Oh come on." Derek pushes away from the counter, grabs at his hair. "Stiles, you heard me."

"Yeah, I heard you, but I didn't… understand you?" Stiles should be used to that, he realizes, even as he says it, because Derek is… Derek is unique. Aside from the whole werewolf shebang, he seems not to have inherited the famous Hale personality—outgoing, a little vindictive, sarcastic, overwhelming, but overall pleasant. No, Derek is… a jackass. A douchebag. Broody. Sometimes downright creepy.

He also likes leather way too much.

The only reason they know each other—he can't really say they're friends, but, then again, they know each other too well to just be acquaintances—is because when Scott got bitten, Derek was the one who grabbed him the next day after school, slammed him against Stiles's jeep, and demanded to know who his Alpha was.

So… yeah. Stiles has known the guy for seven years, and he doesn't exactly know what's happening now? Because twenty seconds ago, Derek had burst in through the front door and yelled some garbled words at him, and is now staring at him expectantly.

"I need you," Derek speaks slowly, mockingly, and accompanies his words with exaggerated hand gestures, which is rude, because Stiles is pretty sure he's asking for a favor, "to date me."

"Uhh, no?" Stiles says, looking around for… something. Back-up, maybe. A witness, possibly. Which is asking for a lot, because Alf's Antiques gets, on average, about three customers a day.

"Not, for fuck's sake, Stiles, not for real." Derek rubs the palms of his hands into his eyes. "Just… Laura's coming to visit."

"Oh." Stiles perks up at that. He likes Laura. At least, more than he likes Derek. "When? Why?"

"She didn't tell me why," Derek seethes.

"A-huh." Stiles glances down, at where Derek's hands had been previously. He blinks when he sees dents that weren't there before, runs his hand over the wood, and… yup. "You dented the counter."

"I—that's not important, right now, Stiles."

"Damn right it's important, fucker." Stiles points at the marks. "This, this right here? This is fucking mahogany. Not just any fucking mahogany, jackass. This is a one hundred year old saloon bar made of mahogany that is even older than that."

"Stiles, could we just… could we stay on subject here?" Derek whines, resting his elbows on the counter and putting his head in his hands.

Oh, Stiles has never heard Derek whine before. It makes him feel strangely… good.

… which, really, that says a lot about Stiles as a person, doesn't it?

"Continue," Stiles says, trying to disguise his sudden glee.

"You know how Laura gets," Derek says.

Stiles does know how Laura gets. Mostly because Laura is what would happen if Stiles was a 31 year old werewolf badass who happens to be a civil rights lawyer.

… what he's saying is that they think alike. Sometimes.

"Yes," Stiles says.

"Once she gets an idea in her head it stays there." Derek isn't looking at him anymore. Instead, he's fiddling with the ceramic figurines Stiles keeps lined up by the register. Because while Alf's Antiques looks like someone vomited kitsch all over the place, he has a soft place for ceramic figurines.

"Oh god, could you just get to the point already?" Stiles wishes Scott were here for this. He would be howling with laughter. Stiles is, already, internally, because, one, he's not a nice guy, and two, this is funny.

"I may have told Laura that I've been… dating," Derek winces as he says the word, like Stiles winces whenever someone uses the word moist or thrust or clown in a sentence. Maybe the two things aren't comparable; Derek's not so good with dating ever since Kate Argent seduced him and than almost burnt down the Hale house, while Stiles just gets very visceral and uncomfortable reactions to some words. "She wants to meet them."

"So…" Stiles squints, tries to connect the dots. It's a thing you do, when you're in a conversation with Derek. He tends to leave a lot of shit—a lot of important shit—out when he talks. "So you need a fake significant other to… fake date you. And this has to be me because…?"

"Because I don't know who else to ask?" Derek snarls. "Because you're the only one here that knows about us." Derek takes a moment to look around conspiratorially, then continues. "She'll smell it if I lie, Stiles. And if she finds out it's a lie, she's going to tell everyone else. And they'll start asking questions, and… fuck, I'm almost done with my degree I don't need them breathing down my neck, all right?"

"So, why can't your best bro-friend do this?" Stiles asks. When Derek just looks at him, unimpressed, Stiles sighs. "Scott, idiot. Scott knows?"

"Scott has a girlfriend," Derek says, face pinched like it always does when something even remotely related to the Argents comes up. Or maybe he's just thinking that Stiles is an idiot. He does that a lot. The fucker. "And Scott's like a brother to me."

Stiles should probably be insulted at that, since Derek is implying that Stiles isn't like a brother to him, even though Stiles has known him just as long as Scott.

"I don't want to," Stiles says.

"Oh, come on." Derek grabs at his hair again, his expression pained. "It'll be for… for a couple of weeks. Until Laura leaves. She already thinks we've been dating for two months, so if we break up after she leaves, it'll be fine."

"Still don't want to, buddy." Stiles shrugs, choosing to ignore that Derek has been lying to his sister for two months. "I mean, I don't even think I could pull it off. Don't you remember the whole," --Stiles taps at his chest with one finger-- "lie detection thing?"

"We won't have to lie, per se, we'll just…" Derek looks like he's searching for an answer in the plates Stiles hung from the rafters above the counter a couple of months ago. He only picked the weirdest ones, of course. Alf lets him do shit like that—decorate, install wi-fi, use his entire shift to work on his master's thesis—and Stiles loves him for it. "We'll just bend the truth."

"Huh," Stiles says.

"Three weeks," Derek says.

"Still don't want to," Stiles says.

"I'll pay you," Derek says, and that… that has Stiles interested. Alf's Antique's may be a great job, but it's not a high-paying job, and half of Stiles's tuition is coming from financial aid, so…

"How much," Stiles asks, "are we talking here? Because I know your family, dude. And it'll be kind of awkward after."

"My family thinks you're some sort of fucking gift to the world," Derek seethes, like he's jealous, "they'll probably be pissed at me when we break it off, so don't worry about that. Five hundred bucks."

"A thousand," Stiles says, because screw ethics. Also, the Hale family is loaded. Derek can deal.

Derek glares at him for a couple of minutes. It's a specific glare, the one where his nostrils flare out and his mouth gets pinched and he gets a slight tick in his left eye.

"Five hundred up front," Derek says, eventually, his words clipped. "Five hundred after six weeks if we pull this off."

"Six hundred up front," Stiles says, because he's, like, eighty percent sure they're not going to pull this off. "The rest after our untimely demise as a couple."

"Fine," Derek spits out.

"Oh man." Stiles rests his elbows on the counter. "This is gonna be hilarious."

"I swear if I could use someone else I would," Derek snarls.

"Or you could, just, you know, tell big sister you were lying." Stiles grins. Suddenly, he's excited. Stiles's life has been… surprisingly boring, for a dude who hangs out, primarily, with werewolves. Sure, for the first six months of Scott's werewolfdom, there were some… rough spots. But after the rogue Alpha was found, fixed, and then chased off of Hale territory, everything kind of… just went back to normal.

Well, more like a new level of normal was invented. One in which Scott and Stiles were now followed around town by Derek and his werewolf cronies.

So, this is exciting. There's intrigue. There's suspense. There's the danger of being caught in a lie. Well, not that Stiles is in any danger, but it's as close to it as he's been in a long while.

"Or you could, you know," Derek mocks in a high falsetto. God, the guy is, like, eight. "Just do as you're told."

"Healthy relationships are about compromise, sweetums," Stiles says, then gets distracted when the front door opens, and an elderly couple walks in. Holy fuck, he thinks, customers. Good timing.

"I'll—" Derek grunts, eyeing the couple suspiciously. "We need to talk about this more, tonight."

"Yeah, fine," Stiles says. Derek lives in the apartment underneath the one that Scott and Stiles share. Actually, Derek was the one who told them about the place. Or, well, he told Scott, because they're brothers (even though Scott doesn't necessarily like Derek), and Stiles just tagged along. As he is wont to do. "I have class from five to seven."

"Come down at nine, then," Derek grunts, and then he's walking away.

"See you tonight, babe!" Stiles calls, just loud enough that the couple—currently perusing the antique teacup section—will hear. "Don't forget to stop by the bank!"

Derek bares his teeth at him, then he's gone, and Stiles is left wondering, first, what the hell did he just get himself into, and second, who should he blame for the dents in the counter? Maybe he can tell Alf a couple of teenagers came in or something.

Alf will buy it, mostly because Alf is a nice dude.

Derek hates surprises.

Hates them. Loathes them. Feels like the world would be a better place if people just completely stopped surprising other people.

Which is why, ever since Laura called this morning and, surprise, told him to pick her up at the airport next Monday, his day had gone to shit. Derek relies on an arsenal of self-discipline, breathing techniques, and begrudging affection when it comes to dealing with his older sister.

Also distance.

And apparently lies.

But now Laura is flying up from San Francisco, and Derek is screwed.

Derek is screwed because two months ago, he got tired of Laura telling him that relationships aren't that scary, that all people aren't like Kate, that having one night stand after one night stand is not a viable plan for the future, that if he doesn't stop feeling guilty about something that never happened, he's going to end up a crotchety old werewolf with bowel problems. So, in a fit of idiocy, he had interrupted and told her that he was, in fact, seeing someone, and then refused to say anything else.

It had been going great—mystery significant other and him were taking it slow; they went on a date last weekend to the movies, went hiking a month ago, talked about the books they were reading over coffee, and a thousand other fake scenarios that made them both sound like the perfect couple—until today. Until this morning. When Laura had called, and Derek realized just how deep of a hole he had dug himself into.

The only smart thing Derek did, in the last two months, was refuse to tell Laura anything else. Like, for instance, the name of his significant other. Or if said significant other was male or female.

Which brings him to why he's still screwed. Because he may have averted one disaster (and embarrassment, and, more terrifying, the rest of the pack getting involved), but he's pretty sure he's just walked right into another one.

That disaster being Stiles Stilinski, proverbial thorn in his fucking side for the last seven years.

"Stop by the bank," Derek can't help mimicking, suddenly pissed. He grips at the pen he's holding, clenches his fist over his laptop's keyboard. On screen, his thesis is staring back at him. Mocking him. Judging him.

Because, apparently, he's not even safe in his own apartment.

Damn it, Derek is a twenty-seven year old werewolf. He can lie to his sister if he wants to. And if that lie involves hiring the annoying kid that lives above him? He can deal.

At least for the next month.

If there had been anyone else that could possibly have helped him, Derek would never have even told Stiles. The kid is a dick. It's like he delights in other people's discomfort.

But there had been no one else. Because Stiles is single, and he knows about werewolves, and, for some reason, the rest of the Hale pack is infatuated with the kid. They think of him as some kind of honorary werewolf.

It's stupid. They're stupid. And Stiles is an idiot.

And Derek is now realizing he sounds like a ten-year-old boy, instead of a twenty-seven year old werewolf who is mere months away from completing his doctoral thesis in history.

He glances at his laptop, wondering if he should just call it quits for the night. It's eight-thirty; Stiles is due to be here soon. He's written a page, which is more than he did yesterday.

Derek snarls in frustration, lets his claws grow just to use the slight twinge of pain as a distraction. When that doesn't work, he gets up from the couch and starts pacing.

He shouldn't have to do this. He has classes to teach, papers to grade, his own thesis to write. He has a life, despite what everyone in his family seems to think. He has hang-ups, yeah, sure, he does, but isn't that to be expected?

Kate had seduced him so she could get close to his family in order to kill them. Actually, considering what could have happened, Derek thinks he's grown up to be a fairly normal, fairly in control guy. It's only late at night when he lets himself think about what could have happened, if Kate had actually succeeded, if she had burned down the Hale house with everyone inside. With his parents inside, with his uncles, with his aunts, with his little sister.

Derek knows Laura just wants him to be happy. That she connotes being in a relationship with happiness but… Derek doesn't want it. And if he has to deal with Stiles until Laura leaves, then he figures it'll be fine.

Stiles isn't all that bad; he thinks quickly, he's strangely perceptive. Laura likes him, so maybe she'll be so surprised that the mystery boyfriend is Stiles that she won't pay too much attention to how they interact with each other. As in, she won't smell them, or focus on their heartbeats too much, or…or other equally terrifying scenarios that Derek has yet to think of.

When his phone rings, Derek is still pacing.

"What," he answers, when he sees that it's Stiles, "you're not backing out, or I swear, Stiles, I will—"

"Calm down, asshole," Stiles says, cheerfully, the fucker. "I'm upstairs. Do you want me to bring anything down with me?"

Derek blinks, clutches the phone a little harder. "Clothes," he grits out. "Toiletries? Things that smell like you."

"Yeah, fine," Stiles draws out that last word on a sigh, "but I meant more along the lines of food? Because I haven't eaten yet."

"You—" Derek sighs. "Yeah, fine. Just, eat here. We need to talk about… the arrangement."

"Yeah, great, sounds good," Stiles says, and then hangs up.

If he concentrates, Derek can hear Stiles moving around upstairs, the shuffling of bare feet against wood floors, the occasional bang when he inevitably bumps up against something, and the muffled sounds of Scott talking about how he helped fit a cow for a prosthetic leg today.

Derek looks around, realizes that his apartment is a mess, then realizes he doesn't give a shit, and sits back down at the bar to stare (glare) at his laptop screen. He uses the ten minutes it takes for Stiles to knock on his door to respond to some of his students' e-mails.

"I brought nachos," --Stiles holds the bag up when Derek opens the door-- "and dip. Also dirty laundry."

Derek can understand the nachos and the dip but… "is dirty laundry a metaphor?"

"No." Stiles pushes past him, dragging a duffle bag on the floor behind. Derek sniffs, wrinkles his nose at the smell. "I need to do laundry. Figured it would help if I used your laundry detergent."

"That… that's… yeah," Derek says, oddly impressed. He closes the door as Stiles sets the nachos and dip down on the bar, walks over to it as Stiles drags the duffle bag down the hallway and opens the closet that holds the washer and dryer.

"All right, wolf-man," Stiles says, adjusting the dials. "Details. I'm going to bed before midnight tonight, because I feel like crap, so this needs to be quick and dirty."

"How do you turn everything into an innuendo?" Derek remembers why he usually doesn't talk directly to Stiles. Well, one of the reasons. It's like… it's like walking into a maze that's constantly changing. He never knows how to deal with him.

It's frustrating.

"What do you mean an innue—" Stiles stops, grins wide. "Hah, I didn't even realize. Good job, buddy."

"Not your buddy." Derek opens the bag of chips, grabs a handful and starts eating.

"I think we kind of have to be buddies for this to work," Stiles says, raising his voice over the sound of the washer filling up, grabbing his clothes and dropping them in. "I made a list during class that—" Stiles stops, looks around and scrunches his nose. "Crap, didn't bring my laptop."

"Doesn't matter," Derek says through a mouthful of nachos. "She gets here Monday. We have a week to prepare."

"Yeah, but dude." Stiles slams the washer shut, and the sound is loud enough to make Derek flinch. "We've got dates to memorize, inside jokes to make up, movie preferences to go over, arguments to flesh out…"

"I thought you didn't want to do this," Derek interrupts, opening the dip. Spicy cheddar. He can work with that. "You seem excited."

"I'm getting paid for my efforts," --Stiles kicks the duffle bag out of the way and walks over-- "also this is kind of hilarious."

Derek glares. "I'm so glad you can find humor in my pain, Stiles, really."

"Oh come on, Derek." Stiles punches him in the shoulder. Sometimes Derek thinks Stiles forgets that Derek is a werewolf and could, if he so wanted to, rip him apart. Or maybe he never forgets. Maybe he's just fucking nuts. "This is like the set-up to some Harlequin ultra-romance novel. All it needs is for you to be the billionaire playboy philanthropist, and me to be your virginal but hard-working personal assistant." Stiles pauses, contemplating something. "With glasses. And big boobs."

"You're right," Derek says, nodding.

"I am?" Stiles looks surprised.

"Yeah," Derek says. "I should've just asked Scott."

"I want my money, fucker." Stiles points at him, eyes narrowed. "We are going to be the most adorable fucking couple Laura has ever seen. You will smell so much like me it won't even be funny."

Derek… Derek doesn't know what to say to that. To be honest, he's a little terrified.

"We don't have to talk about all of it tonight," Derek says after a bit, almost mindlessly grabbing chips, along with Stiles, and shoving them in his mouth. "Just… I need you to understand what it means."

"All right," Stiles says, "but I'm writing up a contract before she gets here, just to let you know."

"That's stupid," Derek says.

"It's necessary," Stiles says, "and you're stupid."

Derek sneers, lets his canines sharpen just enough that Stiles will notice them. It irks him a little more than he thought it would when Stiles just rolls his eyes.

"Oh no," Stiles says, monotone, "the wolf, it's going to eat me. What do I do? Please, someone, save me."

"You're a fucking idiot," Derek ends up snarling.

"Who you need so you can convince your family that you are not, in fact, a recluse shut in with a guilty conscience and trust issues." Stiles says, and there it is again, that fucking perceptiveness that scares the fuck out of Derek.

"Fuck you," Derek grunts.

"I don't know," Stiles says. "I don't think we're in that stage of our relationship, yet."

"Oh god damn it." Derek regrets this decision. He regrets it so much. But he can't… he can't back out of it. Because as horrible as Stiles can get, as annoyingly smug as Stiles is right now, as horrifically unmerciful, the face Laura would give him if he told her the truth… that would be worse.

So, he can do this. He has to do this.

Stiles hasn't had this much fun in months. Not since Allison left for the Peace Corps and Scott stayed on the couch for a week, eating ice cream and watching rom-coms (all right, he may have done other stuff, Stiles just prefers to remember it like that). He is perfectly aware that Derek is suffering right now. He is perfectly aware that he is being a grade A douchebag.

But, okay, Stiles and Derek have a history. A long and storied history, actually, of trading barbs and picking at each other's weaknesses and then avoiding the other for weeks on end. So, really, Stiles is doing what Derek would be doing if their positions were reversed.

"All right, all right"--Stiles grabs a chip, chews as he thinks--"can I take notes on your laptop?"

"No." Derek eyes his fingers, which have crumbs all over them and only a couple splatters of cheese dip. "I will."

Stiles shrugs, licks the cheese off while Derek situates himself across from him at the bar.

"How's the thesis going?" he asks, mostly as a way to make Derek less…tense.

"Fine," Derek says. Ahh, so maybe that made him more tense.

"All right," Stiles says, watches for a bit while Derek types something, then frowns, and types something else, then clicks a few times.

Objectively, Stiles knows Derek is handsome. He's got the whole permanent five o'clock shadow and sharp cheekbones and the kind of eyes that probably make the students in the undergrad classes Derek teaches go weak at the knees. Stiles knows all of this, but he kind of forgets it, usually, because he knows Derek too well, despite his best efforts at staying away from the guy. Knows that behind those intense eyebrows is a childish, annoying, lazy, baby brother who would rather lie than tell his big sister to just back off. Also, he's a werewolf. Who likes to flash his eyes and teeth and claws to intimidate people. Well, usually only Stiles, because Stiles is the only human Derek knows who knows.

"What?" Derek glares at him after a few minutes of silence.

"You're the werewolf," Stiles says, "you need to tell me what to do so we can convince your sister—a fellow werewolf—that we are madly in love."

"Smell like each other," Derek says, bluntly.

"And how are we going to do this?" Stiles asks. "You said clothes on the phone? I'm doing my laundry here. I can bring more stuff, I guess?"

"We need to touch each other," Derek grunts out, after a moment of looking like someone kicked him in the balls, "if that's not enough…"

"We can't just share clothes?" Stiles asks.

"We should do that, too," Derek says, but eyes Stiles's chest like he's not sure if anything of Stiles will fit him, "but if that's not enough, we need to… rub off on each other."

"Fuck you," Stiles says, suddenly angry because… he doesn't know why, actually.

"No, not…" Derek grunts, looking frustrated. "I mean… sit together. Just… smell like each other."

"All right," Stiles says, slowly, "so when does that have to start?"

"As soon as possible," Derek says, wincing. "She's here in a week."

"So, you're doing this because," Stiles says, "Laura has been bugging you about the… the Kate thing, right?"

"Yes," Derek says, clenching his jaw.

Stiles could pester for more details, but he's pretty sure he knows what's happening. The Hales, for all their furriness, are surprisingly predictable when it comes to the issues they have with each other.

Laura, like the horribly obtrusive older sister that she is, wants Derek to be happy. And she thinks that because she's in a relationship (Stiles hasn't met him, but, judging from the pictures on Facebook, he's the type of guy who raises his own chickens and goes foraging for mushrooms), and is happy, Derek will be happy when he has the same thing. Derek, meanwhile, as the broody, pig-headed, self-loathing asshole that he is, wants Laura to a) get off his back, and b) think that he's not as screwed up as he actually is.

"All right," Stiles says. While he's been thinking, Derek's face has gotten even more pinched, to the point where Stiles wonders if it could just… collapse in on itself. That would be gruesome. And awesome. Also horrible. "So, I'll go grab some stuff, come back, we can talk about how we started dating."

"What?" Derek asks.

"Uh, we've known each other for seven years?" Stiles says. For the guy who was so desperate he pretty much hired Stiles to do this, Derek is kind of amazingly clueless about how involved this shit is going to be. "It's the whole friends-to-boyfriends scenario. Or, well, semi-friends. You know, a tipping point? One day you saw me walk out of the shower and were like, I wanna tap that? Or vice versa, whatever."

"Huh," Derek says.

"I told Scott, by the way." Stiles shakes the bag to see if there are any more acceptably-sized chips inside. When he sees one, he grabs it, shoves it in his mouth before Derek can take it.

"I figured." Derek eyes something on his laptop. "So, notes."

"You want to do that now? Or want me to get my stuff?"

"Let's get this over with," Derek says. "I have an early class tomorrow."

"Oh, wow," Stiles rolls his eyes. "Poor Derek."

"Yes poor Derek," Derek snarls. "Derek didn't need this right now."

"Derek should stop talking about himself in the third person," Stiles says.

"We started dating," Derek snarls, and his eyes flash blue. It would be slightly more intimidating if Stiles didn't know he was doing it on purpose, "two and a half months ago."

"Fine," Stiles says.

"I think I told her something about a… a coffee shop," Derek says. "We met at a coffee shop."

"We didn't meet at a coffee shop," Stiles points out.

"Yeah, well, I didn't know that this was going to happen when I said that," Derek growls. He looks… Derek looks pissed off and embarrassed and frazzled, and Stiles only lets himself feel bad for a couple of seconds before he responds.

"You saw me on a date at the coffee shop—"

"Stiles, I swear—"

"—and realized you had feelings for me," Stiles continues, on a roll. "You chased the dude away with your broody-wolf routine, and declared your intentions."

"I hate you, you know that, right?"

"All right." Stiles looks up at the ceiling, thinking. "You saw me at the coffee shop with a guy that looks just like you, leather jacket and all, and realized you had feelings for me."

"Why am I always the one realizing I have the feelings?" Derek looks like he's been eating moldy bread.

"Because—" Stiles sighs. "Fine. I saw you on a date at the coffee shop with someone who looks just like me—"

"I wouldn't be on a date with someone who looks just like you," Derek says. "That doesn't even make sense."

"All right, I saw you talking with one of your students at the coffee shop, mistook it for a date, and got jealous." Stiles thinks these ideas are pretty good, all right? He doesn't know why Derek keeps looking at him like he's nuts. He's not nuts.

"Laura will call bullshit," Derek says, after a bit.

"Oh my god." Stiles runs his hands through his hair, hits his head against the counter a couple of times. "You know I'm doing this out of the goodness of my—"

"You're doing this for a thousand bucks," Derek interrupts.

"Fine—oh!" Stiles hits the counter with the palm of his hand. "We lied!"

"I don't…"

"We didn't want to tell your family, because it's me, right?" Stiles is on a roll now. This is brilliant. "So you lied and said you met someone at the coffee shop, but really we just… I don't know, did something more us. The shower thing. I liked that idea"

Stiles can see Derek struggling to find something wrong with that. "... not the shower thing, " he says, finally. "What about the dates?"

"Pick and choose, dude," Stiles says. "List 'em down. I'm going up to get more stuff."

"Fine," Derek says.

Stiles snorts as he walks out, leaving the door unlocked behind him so he doesn't have to knock again.

Scott is sitting on the sofa when he reaches the apartment, talking to Allison on Skype. Which is… pretty much what he does every day.

"Stiles!" Scott greets. "That was quick. I thought you'd be a couple of hours, at least."

"I forgot my computer. Staying there tonight, because apparently—" Stiles freezes, glances down at the back of Scott's computer. "Did you tell Allison?"

"That you're helping Derek with a thing?" Scott supplies. "Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

And that's why Stiles loves Scott, because as much as he loves Allison, he knows this little… arrangement should be kept as private as possible.

"No reason, dude." Stiles leans over Scott's computer, waves at Allison. "You look tanned, Allison."

"Right!?" Allison says. Her voice is grainy, and so is the video for the matter, but Stiles can tell she's happy. Which is good, because Allison's refusal to follow the family, ah, business was kind of a sore spot throughout most of high school. "How's life, Stiles?"

"Fine." Stiles glances up at Scott. "Writing a paper on deviant behavior in public bathrooms, if you want to—"

"No, Stiles, I don't want to," Allison says, laughing.

"Fine, fine," Stiles stands up. "See you tomorrow, probably."

He ends up with a bag full of shampoo bottles, unopened soap, and his toothbrush, and more (dirty) clothes, because if he's going to stay the night and, like, roll in things, he's going to do the rest of his laundry at Derek's expense. He says bye to Scott, who waves back, then carries everything back downstairs.

Derek is still at the counter, typing away, his expression focused, so Stiles puts the stuff in the washer in the dryer, and puts the dirty clothes in his bag in the washer.

Ahh, laundry. Stiles detests laundry.

"You should sleep in one of my shirts," Derek says, just as Stiles is closing the washer.

"Can't that start… later?" Stiles scrunches his nose up. He knows that the whole senses thing is important when you're in a relationship with werewolves. Scott had explained it to him, a while back. Well, semi-explained, and then Stiles had filled in the blanks.

The whole mixing-scent thing… that's a big deal. At least for Scott. And it sounds kind of creepy, to be honest.

"It needs to seem like we've been doing… this," Derek grunts, "for a while."

That… "that makes sense," Stiles says.

"I know," Derek says, then, "I'm sending you a list of what I said to Laura."

"You remembered?" Stiles is impressed.

"Some of it," Derek says.

Today's one of those days that Derek wishes he could get drunk. Just… drown his sorrows and frustrations out by getting shitfaced. He can't though, get drunk. He doesn't even think that he would get drunk if he were human and it were actually possible.

He's too much of a control freak. He would be too scared of what could happen to him while he was drunk. He'd say stuff, maybe. Or attack someone. Or just collapse in a heap of shame and embarrassment and guilt and start weeping.

So, yeah, maybe not drunk, but it would be nice to find a way—some way—to just make everything seem… better for a bit. Not that things aren't good, it's just that Derek hates surprises, and even though it's been more than twelve hours since this particular surprise, Derek is not over it.

He'll get over it, soon enough, but by that time, Laura will actually be here, and he'll have an entirely new and probably more horrifying set of problems to worry about.

"You told her we went to the zoo?" Stiles says. He's been going over the list Derek compiled—the one he had somehow remembered through his blind fear and desperation—for the last five minutes, scoffing at every single little thing.

"Yes," Derek says. He closes his laptop and looks around. The bag of chips from an hour ago is still on the counter, as is the dip. The hallway is a mess, the washer and dryer are driving him crazy, and Stiles is mumbling something under his breath."I'm going to take a shower."

"Fine," Stiles says. "Oh man, you told her we kissed?! How the fuck did that conversation come up?"

"The way conversations usually come up with Laura," Derek walks past the couch, then thinks, fuck it, and walks back. He grabs Stiles's laptop with one hand, pushes Stiles off the couch with the other, and when Stiles squeaks, and his face morphs into this comical version of itself as he drops to the floor, Derek finally, finally, feels less panicked and more… like himself. "She just pesters me until I say something to shut her up."

"That was unnecessary," Stiles says. He doesn't get up off the floor, though, and Derek leans over to see him staring, owlishly, at the ceiling.

"It was necessary, though," Derek says, putting Stiles's laptop down on the sofa cushions and walking towards the bathroom.

Yeah, he feels better.

There's always been something calming about getting in the last word over Stiles. It's probably Derek's sense of inferiority coming into play, because the guy just infuriates him. For the past seven years, he's just been this constant buzzing in the periphery. Always there with a sarcastic comment or a fucking joke made at Derek's expense, treating Derek like he's younger one.

The water pressure is crap when Derek takes a shower, because the washer is on and the building's plumbing is practically ancient, but he doesn't care.

The apartment is already starting to smell, slightly, like Stiles. Like… like… like fuck, what does Stiles smell like? The body wash he uses is on the bathroom counter, and smells like lemon verbena and green tea. But Stiles himself? Derek has never really paid attention to what Stiles smells like.

It's not until he's finished in the shower, and is dressed in his boxers and an old t-shirt, leaning over the sofa to sniff at Stiles (who's still on the floor, which… isn't that surprising), that he realizes what it is.

"Allspice," Derek says, and watches, maybe a little too proud of himself, as Stiles flails and cracks his elbow on the coffee table. "Coffee. Sugar? Barley."

"Dude, what the fuck," Stiles says.

"What you smell like," Derek says. "Allspice and sugar."

"What the fuck, dude," Stiles says, eyes going wide. "That's… kind of invasive."

"Stiles," Derek says, slowly, "this entire thing is necessary because Laura is going to be sensing you. She's going to... she's going to smell things, because she's a nosy ass, and she's going to watch us, and she's going to listen to our heartbeats and… and it's going to suck."

"Oh," Stiles says. "Crap, right. Just… no need to announce your findings to the world, dude. Scott never does that."

Fuck Scott, Derek thinks, for some reason. He grins, though. "Why? Are you uncomfortable?"

"Doesn't it make you uncomfortable!?" Stiles says while he picks himself up off the floor.

"No," Derek says, truthfully. It had been uncomfortable when he had lived at home; when he couldn't even think about jacking off without either Laura or Peter or god, sometimes mom and dad, sniffing the air and then grinning at him, but now it's not.

"Have I said you're an asshole, and that I'm going to use this to blackmail you for a long, long, long time?" Stiles asks.

Derek chooses to ignore that, for now. "You're sleeping on the couch, tonight. I'll get you sheets."

"Oh, so kind," Stiles says.

"Wait, so," Stiles calls out just as Derek opens the linen closet. "I'm doing this so the couch smells like me, right? What happens when she's here?"

"What do you mean?" Derek grabs a couple of blankets, glances at the dryer when it dings, then walks back out and throws the bundle at Stiles.

"Uh, am I going to need to make your bed smell like me?" Stiles asks, setting the blankets on the couch next to him.

Derek… crap, Derek didn't think about that. His bed, though… Derek's bed is his. It's not anything territoria—okay, it is, fuck it. Derek likes his bed because it doesn't smell, doesn't feel like anyone else.

"I, uh…" he says. "Crap."

"This is going to suck, isn't it?" Stiles sighs on his way to the dryer.

"Yeah," Derek says, "it's going to suck."