"I want a divorce," Stiles said.
Derek stared at the television, letting whatever stupid movie Stiles had picked out wash over him. He couldn't think of a single thing to say; he'd gone completely blank, at a loss for any reaction to have, anything at all.
Was that why Stiles had come over to hang out tonight? Dinner, a movie, and I want a divorce? Derek should've known there was an angle, given that Stiles had willingly submitted himself to Derek's company for the first time in months.
"Derek," Stiles said, nudging Derek's foot with his.
"I didn't know you were seeing anyone," Derek said. Had Stiles been dating someone in secret? How long had this been going on for? How had Derek missed it so completely?
"I'm not," Stiles said. Derek tilted his head back against the couch cushion and closed his eyes, trying not to look relieved. "Look, this isn't a big deal, I."
Stiles took a deep breath, exhaled on a quiet sigh.
"I think it's time I moved on," he said, hastily adding, "legally, moved on legally. I'm not seeing anyone right now, but sooner or later I will be. I'm not going to be single forever, no matter what Lydia says. And I think now is a good time to..."
"Move on," Derek said.
"Yeah," Stiles said.
Derek opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. Stiles' heart was racing. In his peripheral vision, Derek could see Stiles watching him, the light from the television flickering over his face, bright and dark in turns.
"Okay," Derek said.
What was he supposed to say? Please don't divorce me? Marriage was a bit much to ask for when they'd never so much as dated in the first place.
It felt real at the time. Derek was incredibly drunk on Erica's hideous werewolf moonshine and there were portions of the evening he wouldn't be able to remember later, but for a few hours, it felt real. They bought a license, stumbled over their lines, and kissed, kissed and kept on kissing.
In the morning, Stiles said, "holy shit, how did this happen?"
He was pale and stunned, staring at his tacky wedding ring like it might jump off his finger and bite him.
"Stiles..." Derek's voice was pained. He didn't remember what he'd said to convince Stiles to marry him, but he remembered sliding that ring on. He'd been mostly sober by then, and he'd thought Stiles was too, and now—
Now, Stiles was turning to look at him with obvious regret.
Derek didn't want to see Stiles looking at him like that, so he pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes and said, "you should go."
Stiles took off his ring, dropped it on the side table, and left.
They didn't talk about it, not to anyone else, not to each other. They didn't talk to each other about much of anything, after that; Stiles stayed away from pack gatherings, and every forced interaction they had was just that, forced and awkward.
Two months after Vegas, Stiles invited himself over for dinner and asked for a divorce.
It had felt real. That should've been Derek's first clue he was making a huge mistake.
Stiles' dad served Derek with divorce papers a week later. Derek tossed the papers on the kitchen counter, where they sat untouched for days.
Derek couldn't bring himself to drink any of Erica's moonshine, but he did ignore his phone, stay in bed, and watch badly edited movies on basic cable. He wasn't ending a real marriage, but he'd turned into a break-up cliché anyway, one Sandra Bullock movie at a time.
Scott came over three days into Derek's wallow, puffed up with righteous anger. Derek should never have let him have a key.
"What the hell did you do to Stiles?" Scott demanded, rant underway before he set foot in Derek's bedroom. "He won't tell me, but he's miserable, and I know you—" Scott stormed into the bedroom, got a good look at Derek, and fell silent.
"Leave," Derek said, voice muffled by the blanket he had pulled up halfway over his head.
"Someone needs to tell me what the hell is going on," Scott said, taking a cautious step forward. "If Stiles won't, then you — are you seriously watching Titanic?"
"No," Derek lied, then added defensively, "it came on after — go away."
Scott left the bedroom. Derek didn't hear the front door close, so he clicked between channels until he found a Bourne movie, just in case Scott was coming back to critique his movie choices again.
"Oh my god," Scott shouted.
That was when Derek remembered the divorce papers sitting out on the kitchen counter.
"In here," Stiles called out. "Still. Right where you left me, when I kicked you out an hour ago."
Scott sat next to him on the couch, leaning into him a little, his shoulder knocking against the gray fleece burrito Stiles had made of his blankets.
"I went to see Derek," Scott said.
"About werewolf stuff?" There wasn't a chance in hell Scott had gone to see Derek about werewolf stuff. Scott knew something. Fuck Stiles' life, anyway.
"I wasn't snooping around," that meant Scott had definitely been snooping around, "but he left it right out on the counter, and — were you ever going to tell me?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Stiles said, wishing he could get away with pulling the blankets up over his head and ignoring Scott until he gave up and left. "I never said anything about Derek."
"You've been dodging each other for months," Scott said. "I'm not an idiot. And I saw the divorce papers in Derek's kitchen."
Stiles looked away, swallowing hard. He was getting divorced, so what? His quickie Vegas wedding mistake had lasted longer than Britney Spears', that was all that mattered.
Technically. Technically, his drunk Vegas marriage had lasted longer than Britney's. In reality, it had been over the moment Stiles had looked up from his freaking wedding ring to see the look on Derek's face, like the world was ending because he'd woken up married to Stiles. The other two months had just been aching sadness and avoidance.
"I thought maybe you'd hooked up in Vegas," Scott said. He wasn't wrong. They had in fact hooked up in Vegas, and how. "I didn't think you'd gotten married. How did that happen?"
"Can't a guy get divorced in peace?" Stiles gave in and pulled the blankets up over his head, slumping sideways against the arm of the couch. "It happened, it's over."
"Not gonna talk about it, dude." Stiles didn't want to cry about his poor life choices in front of anyone, not even Scott. "Either make yourself useful and turn on the X-Box, or leave me alone."
Scott dropped a controller onto Stiles' fleece burrito.
"If it makes you feel any better, Derek is miserable too," Scott said, sounding vindictively pleased about it.
Stiles hesitated, then lowered the blankets, peering at Scott. "He is?"
"He's in bed watching Titanic. He looked even more pathetic than you do."
"Gee, thanks," Stiles muttered. Derek was miserable? What did that mean? Derek was the one who'd — no, nope, Stiles wasn't going to overanalyze Derek's moods, not this time. The entire point of filing the paperwork had been getting over this: the years of unrequited ... whatever, the embarrassingly fulfilling night of married sex, the past two months of hoping that somehow, they could go back to the embarrassingly fulfilling part and pretend Derek kicking him out the morning after had never happened.
If Derek was miserable, that was Derek's problem. Stiles wasn't going to think about Derek anymore, and he definitely wasn't going to hope it all meant something.
"I've wanted you forever," Stiles said, drunk enough that his own ridiculous hyperbole sounded incredibly romantic.
"I want you forever," Derek said. He sounded painfully earnest; Stiles didn't think there was hyperbole in there anywhere.
"Okay," Stiles said, "okay, yeah," and two hours later he was putting a ring on Derek's finger.
Lesson learned: drunk hyperbole in Las Vegas really didn't pay off.
Boyd served Stiles, making him the fourth person to learn about Stiles and Derek's alcohol-induced quickie wedding. Stiles' dad had been all quiet disappointment, Scott was clearly waiting for Stiles to vomit up his feelings and have a good cry over it all, and Allison — was leaving Stiles alone, even though he was sure Scott had told her. Two points for Allison.
Boyd looked Stiles over, frowned, and said:
"Do you want to get divorced?"
"Yes," Stiles said. He almost meant it: Derek wasn't contesting the divorce. They were one more round of paperwork away from being done with everything, and he wanted that, he wanted this whole exhausting mess to be over.
"That's what Derek said." Boyd shot Stiles a pointed look. "He was lying, too."
"I think your lie detector needs to be recalibrated," Stiles said. Boyd had misread Derek somehow. It happened; werewolf senses weren't perfect.
"I think you're both idiots," Boyd said.
"No argument here," Stiles said, brandishing Derek's paperwork.
"Derek has had your ugly-ass wedding rings in his coat pocket for two months." Boyd turned to go, calling over his shoulder: "We can talk about how you're going to pay me back for that information later."
That didn't make any sense. Derek didn't want to be with Stiles; the whole thing had just been a booze-flavored misunderstanding, extreme buyer's remorse, or both. Derek couldn't have made that any clearer if he'd said that morning, I didn't mean any of it and I want a divorce. He'd kicked Stiles out of his hotel room before Stiles had even had time to finish processing the fact that he was married to Derek, which had been the most mind-blowing way to wake up of all time.
None of it made any sense. Not Derek being miserable, not Derek carrying around their rings in his pocket, not Derek agreeing to marry Stiles in the first place.
Stiles needed to figure this out.
He could start with Boyd's tip about the rings.
Between the overhead music and the sound of a few dozen people wandering the aisles, Derek didn't hear Stiles coming. One moment, Derek was trying to decide between apricot and strawberry jam; the next, Stiles was shoving him hard, clutching handfuls of Derek's leather jacket. Stiles' forward momentum and the element of surprise were enough to send Derek stumbling back into the shelves, glass jars rattling loudly on impact.
Stiles stuck a hand into Derek's right jacket pocket. Derek didn't realize what he was doing until Stiles pulled out their rings, light gleaming off yellow gold in the palm of his hand.
"What the hell is this?" Stiles demanded, holding up the rings.
Security kicked them out before Derek had time to come up with an acceptable answer.
Stiles was alone when Derek found him in the hotel bar. Derek felt warm all over, Erica's foul-tasting werewolf moonshine leaving him relaxed and vaguely pleased with everything. When Stiles grinned at him, Derek smiled back, and Stiles laughed like that was funny, shaking his head.
"Did they leave you here by yourself?" Derek leaned against the bar next to Stiles, comfortably invading Stiles' personal space.
"Yep." Stiles patted him on the shoulder. "Just you and me, now."
"I like it that way," Derek admitted, because why not? It was true.
"I do too," Stiles said, and just smiled at him for a minute, eyes searching his face. "Man, you are so dr—"
Derek kissed him.
Stiles put a hand on his chest, easing him back.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but — no." Stiles' gaze flicked down to Derek's mouth and up again. "I want more than some stupid — god, I'm so drunk." He dropped his hand from Derek's chest, rubbing at his eyes.
Derek touched the tips of his fingers to his own mouth, thumb stroking over his lower lip. He'd kissed Stiles. More importantly, Stiles had kissed him back, if only for a few seconds. He'd been thinking about doing that for years, and he knew, he knew the moonshine was messing with his head, pushing things he'd kept locked away out into the open, but he couldn't bring himself to care. If he let it go, moved away, changed the subject, he'd never be able to make himself try again.
He waited until Stiles looked at him again. He made himself stand there, holding his ground, as Stiles stared at him, eyes widening slowly.
"I want more," Derek said.
"I don't believe you," Stiles said, but his heart skipped a beat. "I don't, and I can't be some — some crappy drunk decision you regret in the morning, Derek."
"I won't." Derek rocked forward, pressing his forehead to Stiles', noses brushing. "No regrets, I promise."
"I don't believe you," Stiles said again, but Derek could hear the lie, knew he didn't mean a word of it. Stiles proved him right with a kiss, arms wrapped around his shoulders.
Derek never made Stiles promise, but that didn't occur to him until later.
"Give them back," Derek said, following Stiles to his car. Stiles still had their wedding rings clutched in one hand, and Derek wasn't going to let Stiles leave with them. Those fucking well belonged to Derek, and not just because he'd paid for them.
Stiles ignored him. Stiles was so angry he was shaking with it, breathing hard through his nose, hands clenched into fists as he strode through the parking lot.
Derek grabbed him by the shoulder. Stiles swung toward him and shoved him again, one-handed. Derek shoved him back on reflex and Stiles fell back against his car, glaring up at Derek.
"You lied to me," Stiles said hoarsely, clutching the rings to his chest. "You promised, you asshole. I know we were drunk and it was all just a really stupid mistake, I know that, but you fucking lied, and you don't get these back."
"You're the one who didn't want them in the first place," Derek shouted, grabbing Stiles' wrist. "You have no right to—"
"Me?" Stiles yanked his wrist free. Derek let him. "You're the one who kicked me out of your hotel room!"
"Because you were horrified," Derek said, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets so he wouldn't give into the urge to grab Stiles and shake him. "You were the one who regretted it, not me."
Stiles stared at him, unusually still.
"Boyd said you didn't want to get divorced," Stiles said.
"Boyd was wrong," Derek said. That might even have been true, because now, face to face with Stiles ... for the first time, Derek genuinely did want a divorce. He wanted to move on like Stiles had said, he wanted closure on at least one of the screwed up choices he'd made.
Stiles exhaled slowly, held out his hand, and uncurled his fingers, offering the rings to Derek.
Derek put the rings back in his pocket. Stiles got into his car and left.
Not long after, Derek had an ex-husband, and that was the end of that.
Stiles was legally a bachelor again. He had the paperwork to prove it.
Scott brought over a stack of video games, the fuzzy red blanket Stiles had always secretly coveted, and a fruit tray.
"Dude," Stiles said, eyeing the fruit tray. "Not that I don't appreciate the thought — is that strawberry yogurt dip? — but I'm fine, I swear."
"You just got divorced, Stiles," Scott said, adding a bag of peanut butter cups and a box of chocolate donuts to the slowly growing heap of food on the coffee table. How much angsty binging did Scott think they needed to do, exactly?
"Yeah, I remember — it's divorce, not amnesia." Stiles grabbed the box of donuts. "This is good. It's great. Now we have a clean slate, and we can start over without all the who-regretted-what misunderstandings."
"Start over?" Scott stopped short, a slice of watermelon halfway to his mouth. "You and Derek?"
"Well, yeah." Stiles popped open the box of donuts, sticking one in his mouth and talking around it. "Who did you think I meant? Obviously, me and Derek. Hey, you can help me figure out how to ask him on a date, you've been on lots of dates. I don't think flowers are going to get me very far. Do you think chocolates would work?"
"You want to ask your ex-husband out on a date," Scott said.
"I get that it's kind of backwards, but yeah, that's what I want." Stiles shrugged. "I want him to say yes, that's where you come in. With your ideas. For dates."
"I refuse to get involved in this." Scott stole the box of donuts.
"You're already involved in this," Stiles said, stealing the donuts back. "You're the one who said—"
"Vegas," Stiles repeated, staring at Scott. "Your idea of a pack bonding activity is Vegas?"
"We've never been to Las Vegas," Scott said, coaxing. "Come on, it'll be fun. What's the worst that could happen?"
Derek answered the door, which was a good sign. He looked like Stiles was the last person on Earth he wanted to see on his porch, which ... wasn't such a good sign, but Stiles had a speech prepared, he could do this.
"It was stupid," Stiles said. Derek tensed. Dammit, that wasn't how his speech started, what had happened to the speech? "I — look, it was. Don't pretend you think it was a genius move to get married on a whim in Las Vegas after a night of heavy drinking, either. I know you don't."
"Either get to the point or get off my porch," Derek said, scowling at Stiles.
"I didn't regret it," Stiles said. Derek's eyebrows shot up. "Not that morning, anyway. Later, yeah, because again, dumbest idea ever, but — I meant everything I said, and I think maybe you did too." He took a deep breath. This was where it either got better or a whole lot worse, depending. "Am I wrong?"
Derek didn't say a word, only stood there in the doorway with his jaw set and his shoulders hunched, looking like he was waiting for the catch.
"You're an asshole, you know that, right?" Stiles rubbed the back of his neck, wincing. He was so far off-script it wasn't funny. "You couldn't give me two minutes to decide how to feel about waking up surprise married? I still — even if you hadn't kicked me out of your room like a jackass, I don't know that I would've wanted to stay married, but we could've skipped the past several months of whatever the hell that was, you know? It was ugly. I heard you watched Titanic and cried."
Derek glared at him. "It came on after—"
"Am I wrong?" Stiles waved a hand to indicate the whole thing, everything he'd just said. "About any of it?"
"No," Derek said, and sighed, leaning against the doorframe. He stared hard at the floor for a minute, then shook his head, closing his eyes. He looked exhausted. "What's the point of this, Stiles? It's done. It's over."
"Yeah, the Chapel of Love part is over," Stiles agreed, stepping forward, into Derek's space. Derek didn't open his eyes, but his nostrils flared, scenting the air. "Now, I was thinking — you buy me dinner, apologize a lot, and spring for dessert, and we'll go from there."
Derek's eyes flew open.
"You're asking me out on a date," he said, voice flat. Stiles spread his hands, saying, well, yeah. "Why?"
Because I've been in love with you since forever, and I'd bet my entire paycheck you're in love with me too, Stiles didn't say. He wasn't going to get ahead of himself this time; dinner, another dinner, another dinner, a whole lot of sex, and at least one crappy movie Derek pretended to enjoy for Stiles' benefit, and then he'd think about dropping the L-word into conversation.
"Because this is how people do things in the right order." Stiles gestured between them. "We got married, had sex, and ordered room service. I was thinking maybe this time we'd start with the food, and then we could do the whole thing again, in reverse."
No, he wasn't supposed to get ahead of himself this time, that was the entire point.
"But first," he said, holding up a hand, "dinner."
Derek's eyes flicked back and forth over Stiles' face.
He smiled for the first time in months, relaxing against the doorframe. Stiles exhaled slowly, smiling back.
"All right," Derek said.
"All right," Stiles echoed, leaning in.
Derek stopped him with a hand on his chest, raising his eyebrows.
"I'm not kissing you before our first date, Stiles," Derek said, lightly pushing him back.
"Oh, come on," Stiles protested, leaning into the touch. "I didn't mean—"
"We're doing this the right way, this time," Derek said, and closed the door in his face.
Stiles grinned at the door, doing a quick double fist-pump.
He heard Derek laugh inside the house. Was he watching? Stiles was dating a complete asshole.
"This is my ex-husband," Stiles said to the hostess, pointing at Derek. "It's our first date."