Derek isn’t entirely sure how it happened, although he knows it started out as an argument with John.
“What the hell are you thinking, letting Stiles become a deputy? He’s the most graceless, physical disaster of a human being I’ve ever known. He’s going to get someone killed, and it’ll probably be himself!”
John smirked at him sourly. “First off, that’s my son you’re talking about, rather disrespectfully I might add. Secondly, when has anyone ever let Stiles do anything? He does whatever he damn well pleases and you know it.”
Scowling in frustration, Derek whirled around and thrust an arm in the direction of the lobby where Stiles was currently signing paperwork and excitedly accepting a uniform from Tara. “You’re the damn sheriff, John! You could tell him you won’t hire him. Isn’t there something about not being allowed to be in a position of authority over a family member?”
“That doesn’t apply when it’s a small-town Sheriff’s department,” John sighed. “Look, I don’t like it either. The idea of my son being armed with a deadly weapon quite frankly scares the hell out of me. But he passed every test and training exercise the Training Academy threw at him, he’s probably the smartest person I’ve ever met, and the department really needs him. Especially when ninety percent of the employees have no clue what kind of supernatural shenanigans occur in this town, and he’s one of the town’s leading experts on it.”
Derek snorted derisively, his opinion of that statement perfectly clear. “Deaton is our town’s leading expert. I’m probably second. Stiles ranks, at best, a distant third.”
“And we could use every bit of knowledge he has,” John replied firmly. “The connections to you and Deaton aren’t anything to turn my nose up at, either.” Derek’s scowl darkened and John stared him down. “Whether you like it or not, the department has another new member.”
“Two,” Derek snapped, and John’s eyebrows rose before Derek realized what he had just done. Sighing, he sank into the chair and rubbed at his forehead with his thumb and index finger. “Fill out some paperwork. It’s going to say you’re getting a transfer dog for the K9 unit.”
“Falsify some paperwork, you mean,” John scoffed. “And who is this new dog?”
Derek glowered at him. “Me. You’re looking at Stiles’ new partner.”
John’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
Glancing into the lobby to make sure Stiles was still preoccupied, joking up a storm with Tara, Derek quickly shifted into his full wolf form. John dropped back in his chair in surprise, gaping as Derek growled softly at him. The liquid red of his eyes faded into a pale gold color just in time for Stiles to come bounding in, immediately zeroing in on the wolf. Derek whined, nosing at Stiles’ fingers until they trailed over his muzzle, smoothing between his eyes and then ruffling the fur between his ears.
“When did you become the dog whisperer?” Stiles laughed, lazily stroking his fingertips from the top of Derek’s head down the back of his neck, tangling in the mane of fur.
Derek stared at John, silently telling him to go with it, and John sighed. “Meet your new partner, son. You’re going to be part of the K9 unit.”
“Sweet!” Stiles crowed, rubbing a little more vigorously at Derek’s shoulders. “What’s his name?”
John blanched, ducking his head and shuffling some paperwork on his desk as if he were checking to confirm the information on it. “Magnum,” he improvised, and Derek whuffed in disapproval.
“Like the PI, or the condom?” Stiles mused, and this time Derek’s whuff was joined by John’s equally disapproving stare.
“Like the gun,” he drawled. “You know, the one you’re going to be packing soon.”
“I thought I was getting a Glock,” Stiles parried, and Derek had to refrain from rolling his eyes. He was pretty sure dogs didn’t visually express when they thought their owners were idiots, so he had to be careful Stiles didn’t start recognizing his human characteristics.
John stared at him unflinchingly. “You’re missing the point, Stiles. This job isn’t a game, or a joke. When you have that uniform on and you’re carrying a weapon, you have to take it seriously.”
Stiles sat forward, the expression on his face intense. “I know, Dad, I promise. You know me better than that.”
Scrubbing a hand over his face, John sighed and sank back. “I know, son. I just worry about you.”
Derek couldn’t stand it anymore. He knocked his head into Stiles’ thigh, pressing the top of his head into the seam of Stiles’ jeans and whining. Stiles absent-mindedly reached down and scratched one of his ears, and oh, shit. Derek was in trouble. When he turned his head slightly he caught the amused look on John’s face and slunk back, already missing the feel of Stiles’ fingers in his fur.
“Something tells me your new partner is going to do a damn good job of keeping you safe,” he said gruffly, crossing his arms and nodding at Derek. “He has an excellent track record.”
“Hopefully I won’t need him to be anything more than good company,” Stiles mused ruefully, running a hand through his hair. “I spend enough of my life running from danger like a coward in my extracurricular activities, it would be nice if my professional life felt like I had a measure of control over it.”
Derek growled before he could stop himself. Stiles always belittled himself, always downplayed his contributions to the pack. As Derek, he was unable to really express how much Stiles mattered, both to him and to everyone else. As “Magnum”, he damn well wasn’t going to let his partner doubt himself.
Stiles chuckled, scritching Derek under the chin. “Sounds like I already have a loyal defender.”
“More than you know,” John acknowledged enigmatically, and Derek shot him a look that clearly told him to zip his lips.
“Alright, I have to get back home. I have my last paper ever for my Masters program to finish tonight, and of course I’ve spent the last two weeks researching pretty much anything but my topic.” He blew out a breath of annoyance. “I’ll see you both tomorrow, for my first day as a Beacon Hills deputy.” Standing up, he rubbed at Derek’s ear again before exiting John’s office.
They both waited several moments, until it was clear that Stiles wasn’t going to pop back in unexpectedly. John brought his gaze from the door to Derek. “You better know what the hell you’re doing, Hale. I’m already lying to my kid and I’m not real thrilled about that unexpected development.”
Derek shifted, easing into the chair Stiles had just vacated. “It’s for his own good. Stiles is a good kid, he has a heart of gold and he’s brilliant. But he needs protecting from himself and you know it.”
John nodded, throat flushing a deep red as he lifted his eyes to the ceiling. “Ah, yeah. I know.” Derek stared at him, nonplussed, and he coughed uncomfortably. “You might, ah, want to find a uniform yourself.” When Derek cocked an eyebrow at him, John rolled his eyes. “You’re a little naked there, son.”
Derek glanced down at himself and groaned. Werewolf-related nudity was something he’d long ago grown accustomed to, but he forgot that it wasn’t normal for everyone else. And now his new boss had seen him naked before he’d even shown up for his first day of work.
Welcome to the BHSO.
It took less than a single shift before Derek realized he’d had no clue what he was signing himself up for. Somehow, when instinct had him stepping in to keep Stiles from literally shooting himself in the foot, he’d forgotten that the man Never. Stopped. Talking. And when he had a captive audience that couldn’t verbally protest the endless stream of auditory assault flowing out of his mouth, he talked about everything that nobody else would let him talk about.
“Like, who in their fucking right mind would ever glitter their damn beard?” he ranted, smacking his hand violently against the steering wheel of the cruiser. “It’s called the herpes of the craft world for a reason! It’s not sexy, it’s terrifying, and you never know where all that glitter is going to end up, and what if you get it in your nose and sneeze and all of a sudden there’s a spray of purple glitter and snot?”
Derek barked, praying that it would translate to Stiles as, For the love of all that is holy, please, please shut up. Just. Stop talking. Now. Of course Stiles interpreted it as horrified camaraderie.
“Right? I mean, who wants to be making out with some hot guy and end up with a grill that looks like Snoop Dogg’s after being decorated for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and the Fourth of July all in one?”
Derek sighed, lying down in the backseat and putting his nose on his paws. Maybe if he pretended to fall asleep Stiles would realize there was no one left to talk to. Of course, with his luck Stiles had no more issue with talking to himself than he did to people who didn’t care about a word he was saying.
“You getting tired on me there, buddy?” Stiles reached back between the seats, his arm at an awkward angle, and sort of half-patted the top of Derek’s head. “Better not let the Sheriff catch you lying down on the job. I don’t know what police dogs get paid in, but whatever it is, he might dock it if he thinks you’re napping on duty.”
He shifted, rolling onto his side and letting his paws dangle over the edge of the seat while Stiles turned around in order to reach through more comfortably and scratch his belly. Derek couldn’t help it; the pleased rumble rolled up and out of his throat, and Stiles grinned-beamed, really, and holy shit Derek couldn’t think straight. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen that smile on many occasions, it was just never aimed at him. The ones aimed at him were always mocking, mostly when Stiles was taking an inordinate amount of joy in aggravating Derek. But that grin was usually directed at Scott or Lydia.
Not that he’d noticed or anything. He definitely wasn’t jealous, not even a little bit.
He pawed at Stiles’ hand, shamelessly encouraging the continued belly rubbing, and Stiles’ smile grew wider, if that was even possible. “Dad told me like six thousand times this morning that you’re my partner, not my pet, but I can already tell that line is going to be blurred, like, a lot.”
Derek tended to agree. Not about the pet thing, but yeah, this whole professional and personal thing was already shaping up to be a hot mess. The likelihood of him managing to not fuck it all up was slim to-hell, who was he kidding? It was less than nonexistent. It was all but guaranteed.
But as long as Stiles didn’t end up with a bullet to the brain or the gut, that was honestly all that mattered when everything came down to it. He was protecting the weakest member of his pack. He was an alpha. That was his job.
A crackle of static burst out of Stiles’ radio and he grabbed for it, the nerves rolling off of him in waves. “We have a 10-54 in the area of River and Patton.”
He picked up the radio and held the button down, his voice coming out steadier than the stink of anxiety would have indicated. “Stilinski here, I’m two blocks over. I’ll go check it out.”
Stiles slid his seat belt into place, waiting for the click before he twisted the key in the ignition and glanced into the backseat at Derek. “I don’t know how many codes you recognize, but 10-54 is a possible dead body. Trust me, in Beacon Hills you’ll have that one memorized before the end of the week.”
Of course it was a possible dead body. What else would it be? Derek sat up, ears pricked forward on alert, waiting for Lydia’s wail to confirm if it was 10-54 or 10-45D. That was one he’d learned awhile back, too. It just meant dead.
“Do you even realize that there are places in this great country of ours where it’s practically, like, an act of treason to put ketchup on your hot dog?” Stiles asked Derek, the words garbled around a mouthful of bun, dog, ketchup, and relish. “The only condiments allowed are mustard and onions, which, fuck that. I mean, mustard is okay, but onions are Satan’s flowers.”
Derek privately agreed. His eyes tracked the hot dog, which he generally didn’t even like, but he had been running a little late that morning and didn’t have time for breakfast. He always had to be at the station a half hour before Stiles’ shift started, because sometimes he showed up ten or fifteen minutes early to chat with Tara or hang over his dad’s shoulder and poke into his open case files, and Derek had to be shifted and in the kennel when Stiles got out there or the whole unstable house of cards would fall down.
Stiles noticed where his attention had been drawn and thrust the hot dog in front of Derek’s nose. “Here buddy, don’t say I never gave you anything.”
The smell was too tempting and he jumped at the opportunity, nearly catching the ends of Stiles’ fingers with the sharp snap of his gleaming white teeth, and Stiles’ eyes widened. “I didn’t realize you were so hungry. I’ll have to talk to Dad, make sure they’re feeding you enough.” He shifted his grip on the remainder of the hot dog, tentatively holding it out for Derek to finish. Derek, for his part, gentled his second approach, closing his jaw carefully around the final two bites and swallowing it down gratefully.
Stiles shifted on the park bench he was sitting on, leaning forward so he could rest his hand on Derek’s broad head, rubbing it back and forth vigorously so his ears moved from one side to the other with the shifting of the skin between them. “You’re such a good dog,” he murmured affectionately. “I wish you were mine, really mine.”
I am, Derek wanted to tell him, and fuck, no, that wasn’t what this was all about. Pack. He was protecting his pack. That was it. Really.
“We have a 10-54 at 1021 Placerville,” came the crackle of the radio, and Stiles sighed, lifting it to his mouth wearily. It had only been two weeks. Derek was worried about how often Stiles was the one to find the dead bodies now.
“Stilinski here. I’m at Granger Park, heading over now.”
If Derek never heard those two codes again, it would be too soon. Realistically, he couldn’t even bet that he wouldn’t hear them again before the end of shift.
Stiles stood, crumpling up the paper-lined tinfoil that was all that remained of his lunch, tossing it in the trash can a few feet from the edge of the bench. “Three points!” he cheered, and Derek shook his head. That was two, at best. “Alright Mags, time to head back to work.”
Derek gave him a baleful look as they walked back to the cruiser. Mags? No.
Stiles caught the look and chuckled, beeping the lock open and opening the rear door for Derek before sliding into the front seat himself. He glanced in the rearview. “Come on, Magnum. That’s way too formal a name for as easy-going a dog as you are. You need a nickname.” Derek whuffed at him, unimpressed. “What about Nummy? I could call you Num-Num,” he teased, and Derek growled, low and dark and making it clear that his answer was not just no, but hell no. Stiles’ eyes widened. “Holy shit, you really do not like that one. I’ll keep thinking.”
Derek laid his head down on his paws as Stiles started the cruiser and eased away from the side of the curb, into the flow of traffic. It was slightly worrying that he’d gotten so comfortable with their new routine, but fuck it, it worked for them. He wasn’t going to look for trouble. It found them way too often as it was. Would it really be so bad to let himself be happy for a little while before everything went back to shit? He didn’t think so.
Stiles: You still up?
Stiles: I need to come over and get that book Deaton let you borrow.
Derek: It can’t wait until tomorrow?
Stiles: Dude, I work a double tomorrow. I need to get it tonight so I can read through the spell before I see Deaton Saturday morning.
Derek groaned. He’d spent all day with Stiles, just as he had every work day for the past month, and he had a double tomorrow, too. He’d been hoping to actually be in bed early and get some sleep.
Not that he’d probably end up with much of it, considering the last month he’d spent most nights tossing and turning, trying to force Stiles from his thoughts. Trying to forget his eyes, his laugh, his bright, happy chatter, that scent that was purely him and tended to drive Derek all but crazy. Sighing, he stabbed at the phone, giving Stiles permission to come over and retrieve the book. Not that it mattered; if he’d said no, Stiles would still end up on his doorstep in fifteen minutes anyway.
He was pulling the door open with a resigned look on his face seconds before Stiles’ fist landed on it. “Dude, that is so fucking creepy when you do that,” Stiles grumbled, pushing his way past Derek’s unmoving shoulders into the house. It had been a relatively recent purchase, bought at the pack’s insistence that the loft was too emo for where Derek was at in his life.
“You’re, like, stable now,” Stiles had insisted, and Scott had nodded, his puppy eyes boring into Derek intently. “You don’t exist on pain and self-flagellation anymore. Or, well, there’s probably some flagellation in there, but it’s not because you’re trying to remind yourself how miserable you are so you can marinate in it every minute of every day.”
“The loft has bad memories,” Isaac had added quietly, and that more than anything was why Derek had turned over the keys to the new owner before the ink was dry on the deed. Isaac had finally returned from France six months earlier and Derek couldn’t explain how much more whole he felt to have the last living member of his pack back in his life, in a physically-present way. When he’d found the new place, on the opposite edge of the preserve from the hollowed-out skeleton of his family home, Isaac had smiled his approval. It settled him.
Stiles unsettled him.
“Come on in,” he snarked at the younger man now, voice gruff, scowl firmly planted on his face. His arms were crossed over his chest as he pivoted to face Stiles, who was rummaging through the detritus on the coffee table in an effort to find the book.
“Thanks,” Stiles said absently, frowning when the book didn’t magically unearth itself from the pile of papers and coffee mugs. “Where is it?”
Shrugging, Derek gestured at the bookshelf. He could have easily found it in the time since Stiles’ text, but he didn’t mind if it took him a few extra minutes to find it himself.
“Because you couldn’t have had it ready for me, that would be too easy,” Stiles grumbled, standing on his tiptoes to peer at the titles on the spines he could see. He wasn’t paying attention to Derek, so when the wolf stepped up behind him, reaching over his head to pull down the one he was in search of, Stiles jumped with a sharp intake of breath and glared at him. “You did that on purpose.”
Derek shrugged again, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, and Stiles relaxed into a half-grin himself. “I get so little entertainment these days, I have to take it where I can.”
“I’m not a stand-up comedian or explosion-laden action movie,” Stiles retorted, though the words lacked heat. “I’m not your entertainment.”
Derek’s eyes roamed him lazily. “You’d be surprised,” he murmured affectionately, and Stiles flushed.
“I have to get home and get some sleep,” he muttered. “Long day tomorrow. Thanks for letting me swing by.”
“Anytime,” he replied, surprising himself by meaning it. From the look on Stiles’ face, he could tell the offer was genuine and was equally, if not moreso, surprised by it.
The speculative glance he cast at Derek over his shoulder as he let himself out the front door warned him that he was treading on dangerous, unstable ground. He had to be careful not to let Stiles get too close or he might find out just exactly what Derek was keeping from him, and that could mean the end of everything Derek was trying to accomplish by signing up for this thankless gig. He would just have to take a step back, that was all.
Even if that was getting harder and harder to do.
Derek stared in disapproval at Stiles’ third fast-food lunch in the past week. His metabolism meant that the greasy, lacking-in-nutritional-value food had yet to make an appearance on his body, but he’d clearly forgotten about the health effects that he’d long railed against whenever John tried to sneak a value meal.
“And the asshole just stood there and smirked at me!” he complained, hand gesturing erratically in the air even as it gripped a barely-held-together burger that was currently molting large chunks of mayo-covered lettuce all over the seat and floorboard. Three fries disappeared into his mouth simultaneously and he continued his litany of frustrations against Derek, unaware that he was bitching at the man in question. “You’d think he thought I’d actually asked to be kidnapped and seduced by a damn incubus. I mean, I know he thinks I’m like this inept virgin who wouldn’t know real interest if it smacked me in the face, but I’m not all that bad. It wasn’t unreasonable to think a really good-looking guy wanted me.”
No, it wasn’t unreasonable at all. In fact, there had been a number of men who had eyed Stiles in blatant interest, but between his obliviousness and Derek’s well-timed Glares of Death, no one had ever gotten close enough for him to realize it. What was dangerous to Derek was that the incubus had taken the form of a man, and that Stiles had responded. He’d always wondered if Stiles would have reciprocated the interest expressed by those other men, or if his protectiveness was pointless because Stiles would have looked right past them because they were, well, men. Derek’s security blanket for the past several years had been the knowledge that Stiles would never look at him that way because he was straight. There was Lydia, Malia, that wood sprite his sophomore year of college… Stiles had only ever been attracted to women. It made things so much safer for Derek to believe it.
Whining, he licked at Stiles’ hand-not the one holding the burger, gross, he wasn’t going to risk getting that thing anywhere near his mouth-trying to show him that he was loved, even if he thought it wasn’t in the way he was looking for. It was the best Derek could do right now.
Stiles sighed and slumped back in his seat. “I don’t get it, y’know?” he confided in Derek, who looked back at him steadily. “I never thought this was going to be my life. I mean, I know I was dorky in high school, but I always figured I was going to be that kid who came into his own after graduation, the one who all of a sudden realizes he’s a badass and kind of hot and everybody wants him. Yeah, okay, my mind was like a really bad 90’s teen romcom, but still, I didn’t think I’d be twenty-four, a college graduate, and working a small-town job in the same place I grew up in, with nobody in my life except my dad and a really awesome dog for a partner.”
Derek nuzzled into the side of Stiles’ thigh, tempted to shift back into himself right there to show Stiles exactly how much he mattered, that he had someone in his life who loved him and wanted to be there for him and was going to insanely long lengths to prove it. He didn’t. For one thing it would probably give Stiles a heart attack, and for another, he would likely be furious and immediately throw himself into danger just to prove a point. Derek was trying to keep him all in one piece here; that was the whole point of this idiotic non-plan.
Maybe Derek couldn’t tell Stiles how he felt, but he could show him. In a small way.
He stepped up on the console and pushed his way into Stiles’ seat, feeling warm when Stiles laughed and threw a (non-burger-holding, thankfully) hand around his neck before lowering his face to the thick black fur. “You’re such a good dog,” he crooned into Derek’s neck, turning his face so he could still breathe while snuggling against him.
It almost made Derek feel guilty when he snatched up the greasy paper bag sitting in Stiles’ lap, retreated from his grasp, and leaped out of the open window.
Stiles’ gasp was audible even halfway across the street. Derek stuck his head into the closest trashcan-and dear God if the stench wasn’t enough to scar him for life-and deposited the sack of heart attack. “I take it back!” Stiles yelled from his window. “You suck! You’re a bad dog!”
It only hurt Derek’s feelings a little bit.
“Alright, you hermit, we’re getting out of here,” Stiles announced the second Derek opened his front door.
He raised a bemused eyebrow at the determined expression on Stiles’ face. “We are?” he asked skeptically.
“We are,” Stiles reiterated emphatically. He swept into the house, eyeing Derek’s loungewear critically. “But not in that. Go change.”
Derek folded his arms over his chest and glared Stiles down. Or he tried, anyway. Somehow over the years, the Glare had lost what little effect it had ever had on Stiles. He dismissed it entirely as he climbed the stairs to Derek’s room, and damn it, his heart started thumping a little harder when he realized that Stiles was actually in his bedroom. Where his bed was.
Damn it, Stiles.
“Why are we getting out of here?” he growled grumpily as he dutifully followed Stiles in, standing in the doorway while Stiles rummaged through his closet.
“Because Scott called me,” he called back, his voice muffled by the shirts he was currently buried in.
“Yeah, that totally explains everything,” Derek snorted derisively, adding a challenging raise of his eyebrow when Stiles finally came out of the closet-and Jesus, Derek, really?- laden down with several shirts and two pair of jeans.
He tossed the armful of clothing on the bed and gestured for Derek to try it on. The eyebrow stayed raised and Stiles rolled his eyes. “Oh my God, Derek, it’s not like I haven’t seen you in nearly every state of undress over the years,” he scoffed. “I’m not going to go wait in the living room for half an hour only to come back in here and find you in bed, curled up with a good book.”
Derek cocked his head, biting back a grin as he studied Stiles consideringly. That was probably exactly what he would have done if Stiles wasn’t standing over him, ready to personally strip him down if he didn’t cooperate.
He was tempted not to cooperate.
“So Scott called you?” he prompted as he sighed and reached for the gray V-neck Stiles had selected, which was the least offensive of the choices available to him. Seriously, he didn’t know he even owned something green. Or blue. How had those gotten in there? He half-suspected Isaac was supplementing his wardrobe and swapping out some of the black pieces.
“Yeah,” Stiles affirmed, sinking down onto the bed and watching him unabashedly. Derek could feel his heart picking up speed at the blatant interest in Stiles’ eyes. “He asked me if I’d seen you lately.”
Pretty much every damn day for months, not that you’re aware of it. “And?”
Stiles frowned unhappily. “I realized I hadn’t. I’ve been so caught up in work and my shifts have been so odd and inconsistent that I haven’t made time for anybody lately. That is changing, starting right now.”
“So I’m being punished because you’ve been busy?” he parried dryly, trying to calm his racing mind. Stiles realized he’d been neglecting people and Derek was the one he’d run to first. That was… wow.
“Please, you know you missed me,” Stiles teased, and even though he’d spent more time in Stiles’ company in the past few months than he had in the past few years, he had. He’d missed them, Derek and Stiles. Hanging out with him as Magnum could never be the same.
The look Derek leveled on Stiles was completely open, naked and vulnerable, and he could hear the stuttered intake of breath, the spiking pulse. “Where are we going?” he asked quietly, bypassing the potential for a Moment and waiting for Stiles to relax back into their easy camaraderie.
His mouth opened to respond when his phone went off. It took him a few bars before he recognized the song. “The pressure’s high, just to stay alive, ‘cause the heat is on.” He snorted when he realized who Stiles would have given that ring tone to.
“Hey, Dad.” Sure enough. “I’m at Derek’s.” Glance up at the man in question. Half-smile playing around his lips. “I realized I’ve been a shit friend lately and decided to-. Dad. I’m twenty-four, I can say shit if I want to. Want to know something totally crazy? I’ve also dropped the f-bomb.” Laughing. Derek’s chest warmed at the free and easy happiness in Stiles’ face, his voice. “Speaking of which, I nearly launched a few of them at that damn dog today. Magnum, who else? Stupid animal took my lunch and dumped it in the trash.” Pause. “McDonald’s.” Another pause. “Again, with the whole being twenty-four thing. My metabolism allows me fast food more often than yours does.” Sigh. “Dad, I have to go, I have plans. Pack bonding with Derek tonight. Pack bonding, Dad, not-ew. I so don’t need to hear that you think Derek and I are having sex.”
He wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, honestly, but-werewolf hearing. And his name and Stiles linked in the same sentence as the word sex. It’d be kind of hard not to.
“Yeah, Dad, I’ll see you tomorrow. Oh, and make sure if anyone feeds Magnum tonight, all they give him are dollar-menu burgers. Little shit. Yeah, love you too. Bye.”
He hung up, flashing an apologetic and endearing grin at Derek. “I was thinking Moreno’s for a late dinner and some cheesy-ass monster movie on Netflix afterward.”
“Dinner and a movie? That’s not a cliché or anything,” he teased, struck by how foreign the concept of teasing Stiles would have been not that long ago. Thank God for the passing of time and the healing of wounds and all that bullshit. Not that he was a paragon of mental health even now, but he was infinitely better than he’d been a few years ago.
His phone buzzed as Stiles made a face at him, and his lips twisted in amusement when he saw that the text was from John. Good boy.
“Are you going to change your pants or what?” Stiles groused, gesturing at his pajama pants that didn’t go well with his tight-fitting sweater.
Derek tossed his phone on the bed and picked up the black jeans that were, not coincidentally, the tightest he owned. “Turn around.”
Stiles arched an eyebrow, crossed his arms, and most decidedly did not turn around. Derek grinned and reached for his waistband anyway.
Another bag of artery-clogging horrors sat on Stiles’ lap, but Derek refrained from attacking it. They had a truce and a mutual understanding now; Stiles was allowed two fast-food lunches per week and Derek wouldn’t interfere. If he dared to get a third one, Derek intercepted and destroyed it.
One week he’d been in a particularly bad mood and he’d wanted very strongly to make his point, so when he snatched the bag away from Stiles and vacated the cruiser, he’d dropped it on the ground outside Stiles’ window and deliberately peed on it. Stiles had taken him back to the office and locked him in the kennel in retaliation. When he got to his next call Derek had been sitting on the doorstep, tail swishing irritably. They’d called a truce, Stiles had admitted he was getting too dependent on drive-thru lunches, and Derek cut him some slack.
Stiles swallowed the last of his fries and sighed. “Did I tell you he texted me again last night?” he asked aloud, his words frustrated.
He didn’t have to, obviously; Derek knew the “he” Stiles was referring to was Derek himself. Stiles had taken it upon himself to become Derek’s best friend in order to keep him from being either alone or lonely. They’d spent a significant amount of time together since the night Stiles showed up and dragged him out on their impromptu “date”. Nothing had happened, that night or since, other than light flirting, but it was still more than Derek had believed he was capable of. He’d found that when he wasn’t with Stiles he wanted to be talking to Stiles, and spending practically day and night with him for the past month hadn’t satisfied his appetite for the younger man. On the contrary, it had only whetted it.
“You’re so lucky,” Stiles confided in his partner. “You don’t have to play these bullshit mating games. You see a pretty dog you want to get up close and personal with, you just get up close and personal. I wonder what Derek would say if I just started humping his leg?” he mused with a snort.
Derek would probably say “What the fuck are you doing, you idiot?” before pulling him in for a proper kiss and then divesting him of all of his clothes so they could get up close and personal. But Magnum couldn’t tell him that.
“I don’t get it. He acts interested, he’s even flirting, and I swear, that fucking blows my mind. If you knew Derek you’d understand why,” he offered as an aside. “He doesn’t flirt unless it’s an act, meant to distract someone or get information. But there’s no need for that with me, so I have to believe he actually means it. He texts me, and not just to demand something or tell me about the newest supernatural pain in our collective ass. Last night he was ‘checking in’ to make sure I was doing okay after work. He had to have found out about that one call.”
‘That one call’ had disturbed Stiles more than any of the dead bodies they’d been called out to. They’d found an abandoned four-year-old who bore signs of abuse, and her golden curls were so reminiscent of Isaac that Stiles hadn’t been able to shake it off once they’d taken her to the hospital. Stiles had sat with her through the intake process, keeping her company while they waited for Child Protective Services to show up, playing make-believe games and holding her close when she was frightened about what would happen when they did.
It had torn Derek up, too, and he wasn’t even allowed to be with them in the hospital. He’d had to be satisfied with the way she wrapped herself around his neck and buried her face in his fur before Stiles took her into the hospital, knowing he’d brought her a small measure of comfort. When Stiles had come back out after several hours, his eyes were shadowed and drawn and he’d stayed quiet, the customary chatter silenced. The rest of their shift was somber, and when Stiles had brought him back to the office, he’d gotten down on his knees and wrapped himself around Derek the same way the girl had. It had broken Derek’s heart to feel the tears that matted his fur while Stiles held him and cried silently for a good five minutes.
He’d had to text him afterward, had to make sure he was okay and that he knew he could talk to Derek about anything if he needed to. Stiles had gamely said he was fine, though, and he was going to settle in with a beer and a bad movie before going to bed early. Derek had almost asked if he wanted company, for all of it, but he wasn’t ready to push their uncertain thing into the next stage. He was comfortable with flirting. It was harmless. No one got hurt with simple flirting.
Derek whined and nudged Stiles’ hand with his snout, and Stiles’ fingers found their way between his ears, scratching affectionately. He’d learned that “Magnum” favored that spot on the top of his head, if he wasn’t getting his belly rubbed, anyway. “He’s a good guy, Mags. He doesn’t think he is, but I know better. I just wish I could figure out how to convince him that he’s not going to ruin everything he touches. He’s not going to break me if something were to happen.”
That was debatable, in Derek’s estimation.
“Of course, I’m probably reading way too much into this and he’s just remembering that part of being a functional human being is having relationships with other people. And we all know I’m kind of a flirt, although I flirt way more with him than I do with anyone else. Or, well, I do now, since I know he’s not going to bite my head off for daring. He probably doesn’t think anything of it, though.”
He absolutely does, Derek wanted to assure him. He had to settle for twisting his head to be able to lick the fingers that were still stroking absent-mindedly between his ears. Stiles grinned ruefully before sliding his arms around Derek’s neck and pressing his cheek to the same spot he’d just been rubbing on Derek’s head, nuzzling against him.
“I’m so glad I have you, buddy,” he murmured affectionately. “Although it’s kind of sad that all the most important people to me are canine or canine-adjacent. Except my dad, of course.”
Derek whuffed into Stiles’ throat as he bumped his head up, knocking into the underside of his chin. He felt like the world’s biggest asshole. Stiles would never be sharing all of this if he knew Magnum was really Derek, and it was absolutely an invasion of privacy. Derek was beginning to wonder if his good intentions were paving his way to hell.
He was pulling a shirt over his head when his phone started vibrating against the top of the dresser, lighting up and skipping over the surface. When he saw it was John calling, he frowned and answered. “Sheriff?”
“Get to Deaton’s,” John commanded urgently, and Derek tensed. That was their contingency plan if Stiles ever got to work before Derek and realized Magnum wasn’t in his kennel.
“Got it,” he said brusquely, disconnecting the call without another word and racing out the door. He shifted before he hit the front porch, leaping off the top step into the dirt and disappearing down the road in a flurry of fur and claws.
Deaton barely raised an eyebrow when Derek bounded through the front door and skidded to a stop in front of him; he presumed John had warned him after the phone call to Derek. Deaton simply lifted his chin to indicate the metal examination table, and Derek hopped up. Almost as soon as Deaton finished wrapping his foreleg in gauze, Stiles burst through the front door.
“Is he okay?” he asked, his voice frantic, and Derek felt sick with guilt.
“He’s fine,” Deaton replied calmly, cleaning up the unnecessary medical paraphernalia and turning to visually acknowledge his presence. “It was a minor altercation with a coyote. Your father heard the fight and chased it away with a shotgun before the coyote could do much damage.”
“I hope he got a good shot in and the damn thing bleeds to death,” he snarled darkly as he approached the table where Derek lay. His hand stroked over Derek’s side, a rhythmic, repetitive motion meant to soothe both of them.
Derek lifted his head, refusing to whimper and make Stiles think he was actually in pain. Stiles’ fingers went for Derek’s head, but before they could make contact he was licking at them, bringing a fond grin to Stiles’ lips. “He’s really okay?”
“The coyote bit his leg,” Deaton explained patiently. It was a patent lie, but the simplest, most plausible thing Derek had been able to come up with as a cover story. It wouldn’t force him out of commission for too long, and it was meant to keep Stiles from freaking out. Of course, this was Stiles. He felt pain to his loved ones deeper than he felt pain to himself. Any injury would upset him.
“How long will he be here?” Stiles asked, his voice small, and Derek felt like shit all over again.
Deaton studied him. “He’ll be out of here tomorrow,” he said firmly. “Stiles, I promise you, he’s fine.”
A split-second later, Stiles was throwing his arms around Derek and holding him tightly, his torso pressed tightly against Derek’s belly. “I love you, buddy. So you’re going to be totally okay, because you have to be, got it? You’ll be up and about in no time.”
Rather than lifting him up into the clouds, Stiles’ words made his heart sink. He had to tell Stiles the truth. Not right now, because he was already dealing with an overload of emotions, but he couldn’t keep lying to him like this. Catching sight of Deaton’s face over Stiles’ shoulder, Derek realized he wasn’t the only one who thought so.
“I have to get to work, but I’ll be back to see you tonight,” Stiles promised. “And I’ll bring you a whole bag of your favorite jerky treats.”
Deaton shook his head. “I’ll be sedating him before I leave so he doesn’t pull the bandages off. Might I suggest you visit him in the morning, instead?” he offered, and Derek was tempted to lick him in gratitude. He wouldn’t, because Deaton, but he definitely thought about it.
Stiles deflated. “That makes sense.” He pressed a kiss to Derek’s muzzle. “I’ll see you in the morning, buddy.”
Derek waited until the Jeep’s engine faded into the distance before finally shifting and sitting up on the table, wordlessly accepting the sweatpants and tank Deaton handed him and getting dressed.
“You need to tell him,” Deaton said simply, no judgment in his tone.
Derek sighed. “I know.”
It didn’t surprise him at all when Stiles showed up on his doorstep that night unannounced. Nor did it surprise him when he opened the door and Stiles brushed past him without a word, pacing back and forth and spearing his fingers in his hair until it stuck up in wild tufts. Derek waited him out, knowing exactly what was wrong and also knowing that Stiles had to verbalize it on his own.
“He got hurt today,” he mumbled finally, and Derek loathed having to feign ignorance.
“Your dad?” he asked dumbly, and Stiles glanced over, distracted from his pacing.
“No, thank God,” he admitted on a pained exhale. “Magnum. My partner at work,” he clarified at Derek’s puzzled expression. “He’s only like the most amazing, badass dog in the whole world,” he added, his face lighting up with an affectionate smile. “He looks out for me and doesn’t let me eat too much fast food and cheers me up when I’m feeling like shit.”
“Did something happen to him at work?” Derek asked casually. “You didn’t say anything about a bad call today.”
Stiles shook his head. “No, I guess early this morning a coyote snuck into the kennel and Magnum tried to take it down. My dad chased it off, but not before it bit Mags’s leg.”
He was trying to hold it together, Derek realized, but the façade of confidence was beginning to crumble. “It doesn’t sound major,” Derek began carefully, but Stiles cut him off.
“It shouldn’t be,” he admitted. “Shouldn’t being the operative word, but Dad ran the coyote off so we don’t know anything about it. If it was sick or anything. If it was rabid.”
Ahh. Derek finally understood why Stiles was so stressed. “Wouldn’t he show symptoms if that was the case?” he asked, trying to bolster Stiles’ spirits.
“Yeah, eventually.” He raked an agitated hand through his hair again, spiking the front and flattening the back. “But it could take awhile.”
“Can’t you test him?” he asked practically, then mentally cursed when Stiles’ face crumpled.
“Sure,” he replied bitterly. “We could totally test him. Deaton could whack his head off at the neck, pull his brain out, and test it. If he doesn’t have rabies, great! He’s still dead.”
Derek kept his expression placid, refraining from reaching up to rub at his throat the way he instinctively wanted to. “So no testing then.”
Shaking his head, Stiles threw himself back onto Derek’s couch and expelled a huff of frustration. “Fuck that,” he snapped. “We’re not cutting off my dog’s head to test him for something he might not have.”
“Your dog?” Derek parroted, raising one eyebrow.
Stiles squished himself down into the couch, refusing to meet Derek’s eyes. “I know he’s my partner, but he feels like he’s mine,” he explained sheepishly. “It’s shitty, but after I realized he was okay, I was kind of disappointed he couldn’t be, like, medically retired so I could adopt him.”
Derek eased down onto the couch beside him. “He’s going to be okay,” he reassured Stiles, feeling horribly guilty. He needed to explain things. He knew he did. But… he couldn’t. Stiles was going to be furious, no matter what Derek’s reasoning for lying to him was.
Tears brimmed in his eyes, the liquid trembling at the edge of his lid until he blinked and a droplet fell over the fan of his lower lashes. “What if he isn’t, though?” he whispered. “What if we don’t know, we don’t see anything, and then he starts to just deteriorate until he goes full-on Cujo and we have to put him down?” More tears slipped down his cheek and Derek couldn’t stand it anymore, he had to do something. He stretched out a hand and before he could place it on Stiles’ arm in a comforting gesture, Stiles was launching himself across the couch and into Derek’s arms, his face buried against Derek’s chest. “I can’t lose him,” he mumbled, his words muffled by Derek’s shirt. “I can’t watch him stop being Magnum and start being this vicious beast that has to be destroyed.”
Derek tightened his arms around Stiles, his mouth opening involuntarily to confess everything. It was cruel to let him worry like this when it was completely unnecessary.
Before he could get the first word out, Stiles’ phone went off with the lyrics to Immortals. “They say we are what we are, but we don’t have to be,” and yeah, that was clearly Scott’s ring tone. Stiles skimmed the text quickly and half-smiled, tapping out a brief reply before sliding the phone back into his pocket.
“Fall Out Boy?” he asked, smirking, and Stiles threw a throw pillow at him.
“Come on, tell me you can listen to that song without wanting to belt it out at the top of your lungs,” he challenged, and Derek shrugged, neither admitting nor denying. The stupid song was catchy. And he would die before admitting he only knew it because he’d watched Big Hero 6. By himself. Multiple times.
“What’s my ring tone?” he questioned instead, trying to distract Stiles from his worry over Magnum.
Stiles grinned slyly, grabbing for Derek’s phone and calling his own number. “In touch with the ground, I’m on the hunt I’m after you, smell like I sound, I’m lost in a crowd, and I’m hungry like the wolf,” and Derek rolled his eyes.
“Really, Stiles?” he snorted caustically.
“Like there could be another song more perfect for you,” Stiles retorted, grinning, and Derek breathed a sigh of relief that he was no longer focused on whether his partner was going to go Old Yeller and require a bullet to the brain.
Derek had to tell him. He knew that. Just… not tonight.
Derek was agitated. Stiles had been acting shifty for the last half hour of their shift, and now that it was half an hour after and all his paperwork had been completed, he should be dropping Derek off at the kennel and heading out. Instead, he was chatting with the other new-ish deputy, Marlowe, and gently ruffling Derek’s ears.
When the dog handler, Rickert, ambled by, Stiles perked up. “Hey, Rickert,” he said easily, and the older man nodded in acknowledgement.
Glancing down at Derek, Rickert smiled. “You about ready to settle down for the night, boy?” he asked warmly, and Stiles waved him off, his hand shaking almost imperceptibly.
“We’ll be another few minutes,” he said, striving for breezy and coming off strained. “You go ahead and get home to your family. I’ll put Magnum in his kennel before I leave.”
Rickert frowned. “You sure?” he asked doubtfully, and Stiles nodded.
“He spends all his non-work time in that kennel, I figured I’d let him stay out a little longer,” he explained, his words slightly sharp. Derek watched him suspiciously, wondering what was going on. “I’ll take care of him in a few.”
“Okay,” Rickert said with a shrug, and yeah, something was definitely going on because that sigh of relief wasn’t even close to being subtle. “Have a good night, kid.”
“You too, old man,” he replied jovially, and Rickert rolled his eyes as he made his way to the front entrance.
Derek’s gaze flicked back and forth between Stiles and Marlowe as the former continued to ramble. His expression went dark when he realized Marlowe was fucking entranced with pretty much everything about Stiles, from the words that avalanched out of his mouth to the animated expression on his face and the emphatic, erratic gestures he was making with his hands and arms, and hell, his whole body. Making an executive decision, Derek barked mid-sentence, catching Stiles’ attention and lifting his haunches off the floor, clearly ready to move things along.
“What is it, buddy?” he crooned, his hand sliding down the back of Derek’s neck and fisting in the fur on his neck. “Are you bored?”
Derek barked again. He wasn’t bored, per se, but he was definitely not on board with sitting here and watching this slack-jawed idiot drool all over Stiles.
Stiles glanced back at Marlowe apologetically. “I think it’s time for me to put this guy to bed and then head home myself. Catch you later.” Marlowe didn’t hide his disappointment well, and Derek’s tail thumped against Stiles’ leg in vindictive pleasure as the younger man led him away.
He stiffened when he realized the direction Stiles was heading was definitely not toward the kennels. What in the world was Stiles doing?
His question was answered when Stiles dropped abruptly to his knees and lowered his face to within a hairsbreadth of Derek’s. “I’m busting you out of here,” he whispered dramatically. “I’m springing you. It’s a jailbreak, kid.” Derek’s heart started thumping when he realized what Stiles was getting at. “I’m taking you home with me tonight, buddy. You’re going to get real food and a nice warm bed for once.”
Shit. Shit shit shit. Derek was pretty certain he knew whose warm bed he was going to be sleeping in, and it was both a dream come true and a fucking nightmare.
Sure enough, when Stiles pulled the Jeep to a stop it was in front of his house. It was small, more of a cottage than a house, but it was his and he loved it. He’d enthused about it more than once to Derek, confiding that he felt like a real adult to have a place of his own that he didn’t have to share with a roommate, usually followed by a self-deprecating laugh and a dismissive hand-wave at the expanse of Derek’s living room. “It’s not like your place, obviously, but I don’t have a trust fund and an insurance payoff to fall back on, and hey, it’s mine. Mine.”
“And that makes it perfect,” Derek had assured him, and maybe that was the wrong thing to say because Stiles had eyed him suspiciously. To be fair, it was a completely un-Derek-like thing to say. He’d tried to come up with something cutting or grumpy to say instead, but for once his perpetual bad mood failed him and he’d fallen silent instead, because at least he could always count on that.
Stiles unlocked the front door and led Derek in, and he wandered around as if he was in the place for the first time. He sniffed at anything that smelled strongly of Stiles, enjoying the opportunity to inhale deeply without it making him look like the creeper Stiles loved to fondly accuse him of being.
“Let me grab you a bowl of water,” Stiles said as he dropped his badge and gun belt on the dining room table. Derek could hear the sound of running water from the kitchen and then Stiles was bending down, setting the bowl in front of him. He wasn’t thirsty, but he lapped at it for a few seconds just to appease him.
Stiles sank onto the couch while he grabbed for the remote and Derek didn’t think twice before he jumped on it, circling a few times before collapsing onto the cushion beside Stiles, his head hooked over Stiles’ thigh and his chin resting on his knee. Stiles’ hand landed immediately on his back, stroking the soft black fur rhythmically.
“I wish you weren’t an official police dog,” he admitted softly. “I wish I could come home to you every night.”
You could, Derek thought immediately, but he knew it wasn’t what Stiles meant. He could hope that it would actually be even better in Stiles’ opinion, but he was starting to feel like any chance he’d ever had with Stiles would be decimated the second he learned that Derek had been deceiving him for months.
He whined instead, settling heavily against Stiles’ leg, and they fell into a companionable silence as Stiles flipped aimlessly through hundreds of channels before finally stopping on a rerun of Friends. He huffed out muffled chuckles periodically, and sometimes burst into loud laughter, and eventually he began to list to the side, half-covering Derek’s body while his eyes drooped.
Derek nudged Stiles’ cheek with his nose, then decided to go for broke and licked it wetly. Stiles smiled and leaned into him sleepily, his arms winding around Derek’s neck as he settled against him the same way Derek had done to him, and Derek knew he was going to have a bitch of a neck ache if they fell asleep on the couch like this. He pawed at Stiles’ leg, pushing his nose into Stiles’ shoulder and dislodging him from his half-curled-over position.
“Wha?” he mumbled, rubbing at his eyes, and Derek felt his heart seize with warmth and affection. Barking softly, he jumped off the couch and tugged at Stiles’ pant leg with his teeth, and Stiles stumbled off the couch after him and followed him into the bedroom.
Derek almost couldn’t tear his eyes away from Stiles as he unselfconsciously dropped his uniform pants and stripped out of the shirt, but he had a smidgen of human decency left in him, so he glanced out the window while Stiles finished undressing. He heard the collapse of a body into the mattress and turned around, mouth going dry when he realized Stiles hadn’t changed into pajamas. Fortunately for Derek he was still in his boxers, so while it was painful to jump onto the bed when Stiles encouraged him by gently patting the mattress beside him, it wasn’t full-on torture.
It was, however, when Stiles curled into him and threw an arm over his neck and a leg over his haunches, snuggling in tight. “So warm,” he sighed into Derek’s fur, and yeah, the room was definitely about twenty degrees hotter now than it had been ten seconds ago. “I love you, Mags,” he mumbled, already half-asleep again. “You’re mine.”
I am, Derek agreed, whuffing sadly. Even if you won’t be mine for much longer.
Stiles flopped down onto Derek’s couch, kicking his feet up on the coffee table despite Derek’s obviously displeased scowl. “I hear you’ve all but disappeared lately. What’s the deal?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.
“I mean, Scott and Isaac have both complained that they haven’t seen in you in, like, weeks,” Stiles challenged him. “They say you’re never home during the day, you never answer your phone and rarely respond to texts, and you’ve pretty much been an alpha in absentia. What gives? How come you’re being an anti-social wolf?”
His double life was catching up to him, that was how come. Stiles had taken to sneaking Magnum home more often than not, and Derek still hadn’t worked up the courage to actually tell him who he was. He spent the majority of his days with Stiles, half of his nights at Stiles’ house and the other half with Stiles showing up at Derek’s house, and he’d become so fully immersed in being the younger man’s other half that he didn’t know how not to be. He didn’t know how to come clean, so he did what he did best and avoided everything resembling honesty and healthy communication.
“Well?” Stiles prompted, refusing to be put off by Derek’s silence, and he scowled in self-defense.
“Scott and Isaac don’t need me, they never have,” he snapped, and Stiles glared at him.
“When has that ever mattered?” he shot back. “They’re your pack, Derek, and it’s taken fucking years for you guys to all be in a semi-healthy place about the whole thing. You can’t abandon them now. Besides, this is all you’ve wanted for nearly as long as I’ve known you. Why would you blow them off?"
Derek turned away, the tense line of his back screaming Danger! Approach with caution! Stiles, of course, was about as cautious as a bull in a china shop, which was a horribly obvious cliché, but clichés were clichés for a reason and it was the most accurate description ever for the man who couldn’t help but launch himself headfirst into any and every problem he’d ever encountered. “Because my life has gotten complicated lately,” he admitted through clenched teeth, willing Stiles to just accept it and not challenge him for once.
He wasn’t the least bit surprised that Stiles latched onto the statement and ran with it. “Your life is like the least complicated it has ever been in the history of ever, or at least since you were sixteen,” he retorted. “I think you’re just trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You only know how to be miserable and now that you’re in a place where you could, conceivably, be happy, it scares the shit out of you and you don’t know how to deal with it, so you’re creating problems out of nothing in order to justify freezing everyone out. Again.”
“I didn’t freeze you out,” Derek muttered sourly, and Stiles considered that.
“No, you didn’t,” he conceded softly. “Why not?”
Because you’re all heat and fire and I don’t stand a chance of being in your presence and not going up in flames, and really, it was a testament to his personal growth that he could even think in terms of fire without retreating into the self-flagellation and manpain.
And shit, when had he started adopting Stiles’ sense of irreverence and sarcastic humor even in his own personal thoughts? The kid had wrecked his whole world, turned it upside down so many times he didn’t know which way was up anymore, and he couldn’t even imagine not being grateful for it.
“Because you forced yourself into my life and made it so that I couldn’t walk away from you,” Derek answered stiffly, followed by the unspoken, without leaving half of myself behind.
Stiles stared at him, shock written all over his handsome features, and it was clear he thought Derek considered that to be a bad thing. “I’m sorry that I’ve been such an imposition on you,” he said, sarcasm heavy in his voice in an effort to disguise the hurt, and he started to turn away.
Derek wanted nothing more than to grab his arm, to halt his exit, to make him understand just how intertwined their lives had become and that it was one of the best things to have ever happened to him, but he kept his hands at his side, fingers clenching into tight fists before relaxing and then tightening again. “You haven’t been,” he replied, tone wooden and less than reassuring, judging by the face Stiles made at him.
“Stop it, Derek, you’re gushing, it’s embarrassing,” Stiles snorted caustically, rolling his eyes, and Derek narrowed his eyes at the mouthy little shit.
“What do you expect from me, Stiles?” he growled, eyes flashing red before flickering back to their mostly-greenish-kind-of-gray-sometimes-blue natural state; at least that was how Stiles had described them on more than one occasion. A half-hearted groan rose in his throat when he realized the extent of how Stiles had embedded himself in his life. “You’ve known me for almost eight years. I’m still the same person I was when you first met me.”
Stiles stared at him, an odd expression on his face. “How can you possibly think that?” he asked, mystified. “You are so far from that angry twenty-two-year-old who just wanted to hurt everyone around him and wallow in his own pain. You have a home now, a pack, a family. You’re stable and you communicate and it’s like you remind yourself sometimes that you’re supposed to pretend to be angry and emotionally stunted, but you’re not. You’re not that kid anymore, Derek. You’re a good man, a great one actually, so stop trying to keep everyone else from seeing what I see, and stop acting like it would be a fucking crime to finally let yourself be happy for once!” He blew out an unsteady breath, his lungs working overtime after the emotional outburst.
His shoulders caved in as he deflated, and he knew now was the perfect time to tell Stiles. To tell him that he wasn’t trying to shut him out, he was trying to keep him from seeing the truth. It was time. “Stiles, that’s not-.”
“Magnum is okay, by the way,” Stiles interrupted, and Derek flinched. Stiles’ mouth worked while he tried to figure out how to say the rest without letting the tears, the ones that were just under the surface, begin to flow. “Deaton gave him the all-clear. Said if he was going to exhibit any symptoms of rabies, we’d have seen them by now.” His lips trembled and Derek wanted to capture them under his own, to take away all the fear and the uncertainty, to refuse to allow Stiles to distract him from the declaration he’d just made.
Instead, he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets, rubbing the silky lining between his thumb and forefinger. “That’s good to hear,” he said, forcing a fake smile. “I know you were really worried about him.”
Stiles studied him for a moment, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, before nodding in acknowledgement. “Thanks.” He turned away again, aiming himself for the front door, and Derek couldn’t let him go, not without clarifying.
“Stiles.” He paused, his head swinging back until his eyes caught on Derek’s, but his body still faced away. Derek knew he just wanted to go and was only being polite by acknowledging him. “I can’t shut you out. I never have. Not for lack of trying,” he conceded with a smirk, “but it didn’t matter. You were always there, you’ve always been there.”
He nodded, hesitant, but a light of understanding dawned in his eyes. “Always will be,” he replied simply, and Derek nodded in return as he watched Stiles shut the door behind him.
Stiles was in one of his rare quiet moods, a fact which worried Derek more than calmed him. He sat in the front seat of the cruiser, elbow propped up on the frame of the open window, knuckles digging into his chin as he stared at what appeared to be nothing, and Derek would have given anything for him to start rattling off facts about the mating habits of the platypus or whatever new Wikipedia article had caught his attention at two in the morning. Instead, he just continued to gaze out the window while his focus remained inward, on whatever was throwing his mind into chaos.
Derek whined, pawing at Stiles’ thigh, and he came out of his trance with a reluctant smile at the enormous dog with the sleek black fur and pale gold eyes. “Sorry, buddy, I’m not all here today.” Derek cocked his head, silently encouraging Stiles to continue. “You ever hear the expression, ‘at a crossroads’? I think I’m at one, and I’m not particularly pleased with the fact that I have to make a choice. I’d like to continue to live my life in ignorant bliss, but apparently that is no longer a feasible option.”
He debated for only a second before stepping over the console and plopping down into Stiles’ lap, wedging himself between the other man’s torso and the steering wheel, and Stiles huffed out a surprised laugh. “If only human and, well, sort-of human relationships were as easy as ours,” he murmured, stroking his thumb along the side of Derek’s jaw and smiling warmly. “You are the best dog ever. I think if I could just take you home with me forever I might be happy.” His eyes shuttered half-closed. “Not quite as happy as I could be,” he sighed, a touch of bitterness in his tone, “but again, options are things I don’t seem to have lately. And Derek is definitely one of those options.”
Derek froze, torn between cuddling closer in an attempt to comfort Stiles, and backing off because he knew he was just digging his inevitable grave that much deeper. Before he could talk himself out of it, he reached up and licked Stiles’ chin and then wiggled back into his own seat. Stiles rubbed at his chin with a small smile before letting it fade back into the bleak expression that had taken over before.
“He doesn’t think he deserves to be happy. Still. After all these years. It’s so fucking frustrating because he’s a totally different person than he was, yet he still sees himself as that damaged loner. He wants me too, I know he does, but he’s too fucking scared to let himself have it,” he exclaimed, smacking the steering wheel in his frustration and turning his chin enough to glance over at Derek.
He flinched away from the anger practically vibrating through Stiles’ skin. If he hadn’t already known it, this would be the moment where he realized just how badly he’d destroyed everything. He had everything he could possibly want at his fingertips, but he couldn’t wrap his hand around it and pull it in because doing so would force him to tell Stiles the one thing that was pretty much unforgivable at this point. Whimpering, Derek dropped his head into his paws and fell into a pool of self-loathing. This time the pool was one he suspected he might actually drown in.
Before Stiles could curl his fingers comfortingly into the fur at his neck, the radio crackled. “We have a 417 at the Winterwood Apartment Complex leasing office,” and Derek’s heart leaped when Stiles snatched it up and declared himself en route. Person with a gun. This was the entire reason he’d signed up for the job. Stiles could handle dead bodies on his own these days without breaking a sweat. If someone shot at him, however, Derek was going to be there to make sure he didn’t become one of them.
Before they even pulled up at the complex, Derek could smell the alcohol. Shit. This idiot was drunk as fuck and had a gun. Something told him this was not going to go well.
When Stiles had pulled into a parking spot in front of the leasing office and carefully exited the vehicle, Derek leaped out to stand at his hip, fur standing on end while he growled softly. “It’s okay, Mags,” Stiles murmured, one hand on his head to steady him, the other resting on the butt of his Glock. “Just take it easy.” He took several cautious steps toward the office doors, drawing his gun as he got closer.
“This is the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Office!” he called out as he eased the door open. “Put down your weapon!"
“Good fucking luck!” the drunken idiot snarled, waving it around in a bad parody of an action movie. “I’m not going to jail!”
Derek was proud of Stiles; he knew his natural inclination was to smartass that the guy could either leave in cuffs or a body bag, his choice, but the situation was too serious for flippancy. Derek could smell two other people in the office, one of whom was practically catatonic, and the other was so afraid she was on the verge of throwing up. Stiles could obviously sense it.
Stiles walked in, his gun trained at the man’s chest. “I have a really good record so far, I haven’t shot anybody yet. Please don’t make me break my streak.”
Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.
“Shut the fuck up, asshole,” the man sneered, and Stiles’ jaw tightened.
“See, now, that’s exactly what we don’t want here. You know what I want? I want to resolve this nicely, peacefully, without anyone getting hurt. You, however, seem to want to end this with a body count. Let me tell you, friend, if we’re going to start a count, you’re going to be the first, and the last.”
Derek snapped at him. If he could speak he would have been saying something along the lines of, Jesus, Stiles, stop antagonizing him, you fucking moron! As it was, he had to growl to remind his dumbass partner to take a step back. While the drunk was focused on Stiles, Derek slunk around him. If he could just get to his back without being noticed, he’d tackle him and knock the gun away. Stiles would be able to secure the weapon while Derek secured the guy until Stiles could get his cuffs on him.
It was a perfect plan, until it wasn’t.
The catatonic one’s eyes cleared and she gasped when she saw that both Stiles and the drunk had their guns drawn and aimed at each other. It startled the drunk and he swung around, his arm jerked, and a bullet went through the window behind the two women, causing them to start shrieking and diving underneath the desk. Stiles, thinking the civilians were at risk, popped off two shots at the drunk. Unfortunately, he’d already started backing up and stepped on Derek’s paw, and Derek yelped and snapped at him as he stumbled to the side, escaping being shot. He pivoted and ran for the back door, out onto the pool deck, and Derek and Stiles took off after him.
He half-turned mid-stride and the bark of bullets split the air. Derek instinctively snapped his attention to Stiles, who was running hard with a determined look on his face. Relief flooded him when he realized that Stiles was still upright, blood wasn’t spreading across his uniform, and there was no indication he’d been shot.
Until he recognized the burning in his own chest, felt the fire of the two slugs that had torn into him, and stumbled.
His soft yelp went unnoticed as Stiles leaped forward, tackling the man the way Derek had meant to do. He watched with pride as Stiles jammed his knee in the drunk’s spine, deftly hooking his arms behind his back and securing them with a pair of cuffs before pulling the radio from his belt and calling into the station.
Derek was so tired. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to getting his ass kicked from time to time, but bullets weren’t something he dealt with much; he could feel that they were still lodged in his chest and they kept him from being able to heal properly. Any residual energy he had was draining fast and he realized in a panic that he couldn’t hang on anymore.
His voice echoed over the softly lapping water of the pool and Stiles’ head jerked up, his amber eyes widening in disbelief when he turned and saw him bleeding profusely, lying on the ground next to a neon-orange lounge chair.
“Derek?” he croaked.
“What the fuck are-No. You know what, I don’t even want to know.” Stiles’ face was carefully blank, concealing a rage underneath the surface that had him fairly shaking. Derek could sense it, could smell the fury pouring off of him, and in that moment he was more afraid than he’d ever been, at least since the day he watched his family’s house go up in flames. “Shift back before anyone sees you.”
“Can’t,” Derek choked out. “Bullets are still in me. I can’t hold on to the shift.”
A vicious, vindictive sneer lit his face. “I’ll get them out. Bite down on something so you don’t traumatize the whole complex.”
Derek hardly had time to drag a discarded beach towel off the chair and into his mouth before Stiles’ fingers were digging into the first hole in his chest, gouging him and making him so light-headed with pain that he nearly passed out. He snarled into the cotton clenched between his teeth as Stiles yanked out the first bullet, then dove back in gleefully to extract the second. It was such a direct contrast to the young man who’d fainted at the side of blood and gore.
When the second one was out, Derek allowed himself a few moments to recover before attempting to shift. Stiles drummed his bloody fingertips impatiently on the wet cement. “Hurry up before one of those women gets curious and comes out here!” he hissed, and Derek glared at him. He had a right to be mad, but he could damn well stop with the demands.
When he felt a little stronger, he concentrated and felt himself shifting. He watched, detached, as his fingers and toes became black paws and the fur grew in, covering every inch of his body. When he dared to lift his gaze to Stiles he saw the stricken expression and the wounded eyes, and the bottom dropped out of his stomach.
“It really is you,” he whispered, and the utter devastation in his voice nearly destroyed Derek. Then, as he watched helplessly, Stiles’ eyes shuttered and became hard, cold, unfeeling. “Go home, Derek. Your time with the BHSO K-9 unit is officially at an end.”
Derek whimpered, reaching a paw out to Stiles, but he slapped at it furiously. “Don’t ever touch me again,” he snapped, and Derek recoiled as if Stiles had been the one to shoot him.
He knew it was pathetic, but he hadn’t been able to stop himself from going to Stiles’ house every day in the month since his cover had been blown. As he had every day, Stiles ignored Derek. Derek knocked on the door, he rang the doorbell, he shifted back and forth from one foot to the other awkwardly, fists shoved into his pockets. He paced. He walked around the house. He heaved shuddery breaths. He listened to the angry pounding of Stiles’ heart and the rapid inhales meant to calm himself, though they were unsuccessful. He got back in his car and drove home to brood.
But not today.
Today, he listened to Stiles’ heart and realized it was slower than it had been the previous month. It was slow for Stiles in general. The scent wafting through the air was one of misery. He could smell tears. So today, when Stiles ignored him, instead of walking around like a creeper, he banged harder on the door. Stiles ignored him again. He yelled. “Goddamn it, Stiles, open up!” Stiles ignored him some more. “It’s been a fucking month, enough is enough! Let me in!”
That got Stiles’ attention.
The door was flung open and Stiles glared at him. “Who the fuck are you to say when it’s enough?” he yelled. “You fucking lied to me, Derek! You took advantage of me, my trust, my feelings, and you think it’s time that I just got over that and forgave you? Fuck you, you fucking asshole!”
Derek got an arm in the door before Stiles could slam it shut. “I never said you had to forgive me,” he snarled out between gritted teeth, guilt spiraling through him, “but you need to listen to me.”
Stiles gaped at him, stunned. “Are you kidding me?” he sputtered. “I am never going to listen to you again!”
Derek refused to let that hurt him. Stiles was mad, but he would get over it. At least Derek prayed he would. “Let me say what I came to say and then I’ll walk away for good,” he growled instead, challenging Stiles while simultaneously hoping he’d never have to live up to his promise. He could see Stiles actually considering it, and then he finally sighed and smirked, waving a hand in a semi-welcoming gesture.
“Fine. Get in here, say what you have to say, and then leave.” He disappeared into his living room and Derek followed him in.
What struck him first was that it still smelled so much like them, their scents intertwined and lingering over everything. The couch was the strongest, but they’d wrestled on the floor, too; one night Stiles had pretended to teach him new tricks like “roll over”, and Derek would wait until Stiles rolled over, his knees and arms tucked in to his hips and chest but leaving his stomach exposed, and Derek would pounce on him and lick his face enthusiastically until he giggled like a little kid.
Stiles had thrown his arms around Derek and pulled him in close, and Derek had reveled in the easy affection. He’d known it was likely to be the only way he ever got it, so he’d been selfish with it. He’d never considered how much it would hurt Stiles when he found out the truth, and that had been the hardest thing for him to live with.
Stiles plopped down on the couch, his mouth pressed into a thin line and his arms crossed tightly over his chest. His entire body screamed at Derek to stay away, so Derek seated himself on the very edge of the recliner. “I’m sorry,” he began simply, and Stiles snorted. Derek inhaled deeply, warning himself not to lose his temper even though Stiles could test the patience of a saint. “I was afraid,” he continued, and Stiles eyed him, curiosity crossing his face despite his obvious best efforts to appear disinterested. “You told me you were going to be a deputy and all I could think was that this was it, this was going to be the thing to get you killed.”
“After eight years of dealing with Beacon Hills’ monster of the week bullshit, you thought that a mundane nine-to-five would be what did me in?” Stiles scoffed irritably. “This is Beacon Hills, dude. The only dangerous thing about this place is the supernatural stuff we lived and breathed every day. I figured that crap had actually prepared me for life as a deputy.”
“Monsters of the week have rules,” Derek said quietly, and he could see that register with Stiles, could see him puzzling over what Derek meant by it. “There was always something that drove the creatures we dealt with, we just had to figure out what it was. They had a purpose, they had history to dictate their actions and their behaviors. Humans don’t have rules. They’re unpredictable and far more dangerous than the beasts. I was afraid you’d be in more danger as a deputy than as a pseudo-Winchester.”
The pop culture reference had Stiles beaming in pride for a split-second before he remembered he was furious, and a scowl replaced the grin. “That doesn’t change the fact that you lied to me,” he objected. “I told you things you had no right to know, or at the very least, that you had no right to learn the way you did.”
He could sense the embarrassment climbing up Stiles’ throat as he remembered exactly what he’d told “Magnum” in confidence, but he watched as Stiles willfully pushed it away and didn’t let it overcome his anger. “It was seriously shitty of me,” he agreed, and Stiles blinked in surprise that Derek hadn’t argued the fact. “I hated that I was betraying your trust, but I couldn’t see a way out of it.”
“Did you even consider being honest with me?” he muttered, eyebrows drawn together, and Derek sighed.
“Of course I did. I was on the verge of telling you half a dozen times when something would interrupt us, and I convinced myself it was for the best. If I’d told you, you wouldn’t let me continue being your partner.”
Stiles stared at him in disbelief. “And you didn’t think that maybe if what you were doing required you to lie to me to be able to continue doing it, then maybe you shouldn’t fucking be doing it?” he snapped sarcastically.
“I wanted to keep you safe,” Derek reiterated obstinately.
“It’s not your responsibility to do that!” Stiles cried, launching himself off the couch and pacing the living room. “I have my own life, Derek, and I’m allowed to make my own choices. You don’t get a say in what I do or don’t do.”
His pale green eyes tracked Stiles’ erratic movements unhappily. “You don’t seem to get it, Stiles. I’ve lost too many people and I couldn’t watch it happen to you, too. Maybe I don’t get a say in what you do with your life. But I want one.”
Stiles tripped over his feet as he pivoted to gape at Derek, wide-eyed. His shoulder slammed into the half-wall at the end of the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room, and he rubbed at the ache absent-mindedly while his eyes never left Derek’s face. “What does that mean?”
Derek stood, not willing to push this any further tonight. He’d given Stiles a lot to think about, and now it was time to let him actually think. “You’re more aware than I’ve ever given you credit for, and I’ve always given you a lot of credit,” he admitted softly. “You were right when it comes to how I feel about you. You were just wrong in your reasoning for why I haven’t done anything about it. The secret between us was what held me back. There are no more secrets now.”
Heart pounding, he headed for the front door, wondering if Stiles would call him back. He was disappointed but not surprised when he closed the door behind him without a word of protest.
When Stiles barged into his house three days later, it almost caught Derek by surprise. He was so mired in his own misery that he hadn’t even noticed the sound of approaching footsteps, but Stiles’ scent was too ingrained in his subconscious for him to miss it. His head snapped up as he pushed himself up off the floor, sweat running down his chest after a punishing workout.
Stiles skidded to a stop in his living room and snorted, rolling his eyes. “Of fucking course,” he muttered, pulling a hand down over his face. “Could you, like, put on a shirt or something? This conversation is going to be the opposite of productive if I’m staring at your chest the whole time.” Derek obliged by grabbing a tank and pulling it over his head, and Stiles groaned. “Like that’s any better,” he muttered, his eyes falling on Derek’s arms and losing focus for a second.
“What are you doing here?” he asked cautiously. Hope sprang up in his chest and he viciously squashed it down. More than likely, Stiles was here to yell at him some more.
“I’m so fucking angry at you that I would actually punch you right now if it wouldn’t hurt me more than it would hurt you.”
Derek stood like a statue, eyes carefully blank, refusing to let it show that the words sliced into him like a wolfsbane-laced knife.
“You pull this shit on me, you lie to me for months, you let me go on and on about how I felt about you, and you do it all while knowing you feel the same way about me,” Stiles exclaimed, frustrated, as he paced around Derek’s living room. “You knew that what you were doing was going to ruin everything, and you did it anyway.” He stopped raking his hands through his hair in agitation and straightened, leveling a piercing glare at Derek. “Why would you do that to me? To us?”
“Being able to keep you safe mattered more than how I feel about you,” Derek said simply, and Stiles fell back, mouth dropping open.
“Do you do this shit on purpose?” he asked sourly, narrowing his eyes.
Derek blinked in confusion. “Do what?”
“Jesus, Derek, for someone so incredibly smart, you act as dense as a goddamn black hole,” Stiles snapped. “I have every right to be furious with you, and here you are making me feel like an asshole for being mad when you were just trying to protect me.”
Derek couldn’t stand the wounded, frustrated look on Stiles’ face and he escaped into the kitchen, pulling out a jug of water and drinking straight from it while his mind sought out an appropriate response. “You do have every right to be mad at me,” he admitted finally. “But I’m not going to tell you I wish I hadn’t done it. I’d do it again. You will always be more important to me than I am.”
Stiles’ heartbeat elevated, not quite racing but definitely galloping. “Derek.” He swallowed hard when Derek turned to face him, eyebrows raised inquisitively. “You betrayed me. You lied to me. You really, really hurt me. But the reason I’m so damn angry is because you didn’t trust me.” He took a shaky breath before plunging forward. “You didn’t trust that I’d be okay with it if you told me what you wanted to do.”
“Would you have been?” Derek challenged, and Stiles blew out a breath.
“Probably not,” he conceded. “But you didn’t give me a chance.”
“Stiles.” The word was simultaneously patient and frustrated. “I didn’t ask you because I knew you’d say no, and once I asked I would lose any opportunity to look out for you. I could have followed you from call to call just in case, but then I would have been the creeper you’ve always accused me of being.”
He allowed the corner of his lips to lift, which caused a slight smile to cross Stiles’ face. “Were you really that worried?” he asked curiously. “I mean, really. Did you honestly think becoming a deputy was going to sign my death warrant?”
Derek considered for a second before finally sighing. “Honestly? No, not really. But it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.”
Stiles took a step closer to him. “I really matter that much to you?”
Derek lifted his gaze to Stiles’, knowing that he hadn’t looked this vulnerable, well, ever. “You matter more.”
He took another step. “So what do we do now?”
“I think that’s up to you,” Derek said honestly, eyes flicking back and forth, gaze searching, trying to read what Stiles was thinking.
One more step, and Stiles was close enough that Derek could slide an arm around his waist and yank him all the way in. He kept his hands at his sides. “What if I told you I’m still mad, but I understand? That I’m willing to forgive you so we can give this a chance?”
Derek swallowed, lifting one hand and cupping Stiles’ jaw, rubbing the pad of his thumb over Stiles’ lower lip. “I know you, Stiles. I know how deeply you feel things, and you hold onto pain almost as tightly as I do. Can you really forgive me that easily?”
Stiles eased into him, the angles of his body fitting neatly into the contour of Derek’s, and he tipped his head up just slightly. “I do feel things deeply,” he allowed. “Which means what I feel for you, what I’ve felt for you for years, is so much a part of me that I can’t let it go just because you hurt me. You do stupid shit, Derek. You make your own decisions without thinking about what it’s going to do to the people whose lives you unilaterally impact.” His eyes locked on Derek’s searchingly. “But I know you do it out of love. I can’t punish both of us for that.” His lips quirked. “We’ll just need to work on that in the future.”
He lifted onto the balls of his feet, slotting his mouth with Derek’s, one hand curling over Derek’s shoulder and the other slipping around the back of his neck to play with the curl of too-long hair at his nape. Derek surged forward, arms locking around Stiles’ waist as he poured himself into the kiss. Their mouths fused, both desperate, both stunned that they hadn’t lost the potential for this. Derek’s teeth sank into Stiles’ lower lip and he groaned, hips tilting up to brush against Derek’s, and Derek growled, eyes blazing red as his claws extended and bit into Stiles’ hip.
Flinching, Stiles pulled away and rubbed at the tender skin. “Careful with those,” he said glibly. “They’re kind of deadly weapons and I don’t need you losing your head while you’ve got your hands all over me.”
Derek tugged him back in and nipped at his lips. “Good luck with that,” he murmured, his voice desire-drugged.
Stiles shrugged, an impish grin lighting his face. “I’ve been dealing with supernatural shit for eight years, I’ve had worse than a few claw-holes. I guess I can deal.”
“I’ll try my best not to hurt you,” Derek promised, hoping Stiles understood what he was really saying.
“I know you will,” he acknowledged, shrugging. “And when you do hurt me, we’ll deal with it. When I hurt you, we’ll deal with it.” He kissed the corner of Derek’s mouth, dragging his mouth over Derek’s and tugging his lower lip between his own. “We’ve come through too much to walk away for stupid shit.”
“This wasn’t stupid,” Derek protested guiltily, but Stiles cut him off.
“No, it wasn’t. But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t something worth giving up on us for, either.”
Derek closed his eyes, heart pounding. “Stiles?” When he opened them Stiles was watching him openly, waiting. “You were right.”
“I usually am,” he agreed easily. “What about this time?”
“I do stupid shit, but I do it out of love.” He held his breath, and was relieved when Stiles broke out into a blinding smile.
“I love you too, Der."
Der. Derek tested the name out in his head and found, surprisingly, that he didn’t dislike it. His eyes crinkled at the corners when Stiles’ fingers curled into the hair at the back of his head, and he stopped thinking when Stiles pulled him back in and their mouths claimed each other, rejoicing at the promise of a new beginning.
Tonight had turned out nothing like Derek expected.
He’d thought, optimistically, when Stiles had invited him over for tonight, that it was to move their relationship forward. He was still somewhat in shock that Stiles hadn’t jumped headlong into bed and pulled him along for the ride, but Stiles had been adamant that they take it slow.
“We’re not sleeping together until we’ve gone on at least three dates, mister,” Stiles had insisted. “I’m not that kind of guy. I mean, yeah, there was the thing with Malia, but there were extenuating circumstances. Well, and then there was Ben, but I didn’t really mean for it to go there, it was, like, a comfort thing. And I can’t be blamed for Carmen, we were both drunk off our asses-.”
“Right. My point is, I never expected any of those to last, I didn’t anticipate ‘relationship’ with any of them. The fact that two out of three lasted longer than the morning after shocked the hell out of me, and honestly, I think Carmen might have wanted to like, really date me, if I hadn’t left her passed out in her bed after-.”
“Sorry. I just, we’re it, you know? You’re it. I don’t want anyone else but you. And that means I want to do this right. I don’t want to leap into anything.”
“We’ve known each other for eight years, Stiles.”
“Yeah, and how long have you actually known you felt something for me besides disdain and irritation? Not long, I’m guessing-.”
Blink. “Three years where you were just realizing you didn’t want to squash me like a bug, right?”
“No, Stiles. I’ve known how I felt about you for three years.”
Another blink. “Oh. Well. Still, I don’t want to leap before I look, you know? I can’t afford to screw this up. I’ve never actually said the ‘L’ word to anyone before, not in a romantic sense anyway, and I’ve already dropped it on you because I love you. No question. Non-negotiable. So I need to make sure we do this in a way that isn’t going to fuck up everything.”
“Stiles. It’s okay. I understand.”
“You do? Because honestly, I kind of don’t understand it myself. I mean, I have to be a fucking idiot to turn you down.”
“We’ll do this however makes you happy.”
“You make me happy, okay? You do.”
So, yeah. It had been three weeks and Derek was wondering how much longer he could hold out without pouncing and possibly upsetting Stiles’ carefully plotted timetable, and when Stiles had invited him over for dinner, he was figuring that was a thinly-veiled euphemism.
Turns out, he actually meant for dinner. With his father.
Derek stood silently next to John, both having volunteered to wash dishes since Stiles had cooked. Neither one of them was particularly chatty, so the room was awkwardly quiet until John finally cleared his throat.
“How would you feel about coming back to the Sheriff’s Office?” he asked, eyes trained on the plate he was drying.
Derek’s hands plunged back into the soapy water as he tried to figure out how to phrase his response. “I don’t think Stiles wants me back.”
John scoffed. “Now that he would know you were a deputy, he wouldn’t have an issue with it.”
“I appreciate the offer, John, but I don’t think the deputy life is for me,” Derek admitted with a rueful sigh. “I’m not a fan of uniforms and even though my skills with a gun have gotten slightly better than they were a few years ago, I’m still not all that comfortable using one.”
John nodded in concession. “Well, for what it’s worth, the offer is always on the table. I think you’d make a damn fine deputy, and God knows Stiles needs someone to watch his back.”
“He did great with the gunman,” Derek defended him immediately. “I was useless, in fact I probably made things worse, and he was the one who kept everything under control. He took the guy down without any help from me.”
“He did,” John agreed with pride. “But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need someone watching out for him. Especially if that person loves him enough to lay down his life for him.”
Derek flushed, somewhat unsurprised that John knew, and simultaneously horrified that he had to discuss his feelings for his boyfriend with his boyfriend’s father. “I didn’t go into this with ulterior motives,” he muttered. “I was looking out for my pack.”
“Don’t try to bullshit me, Derek,” John snorted. “I’ve known for years that you’re in love with my son. Even if I hadn’t, you volunteering nearly all your free time to be an unpaid, glorified watchdog would have been enough to drive the point home.” He smirked and tapped his temple with his middle finger. “They didn’t make me Sheriff just because I’m pretty, you know.”
A small smile broke out onto Derek’s face. “I thought I was being subtle.”
“Only to someone who’s seeing what they expect to see,” John replied easily. “For someone who knows to look for the details, the signs, it was obvious.”
Derek nodded, not knowing what else to say. His neck was growing hot and he desperately wanted to pull at his collar to allow cool air to hit his skin, but he knew that would be a dead giveaway under the Sheriff’s eagle-eyed gaze.
To his surprise, John stuck the last plate in the drying rack and clapped him on the back. “You’re a good man, Derek,” and yeah, maybe the use of his first name kind of made him feel a little bit warm inside, “and I know you’d die before you hurt Stiles. That’s the only reason I’m not threatening you with the usual fatherly ‘I have a gun and I know how to use it,’ bullshit.” His eyes narrowed and Derek recognized that the threat just wasn’t being put into words, necessarily. “And now that I’ve said my peace, it’s time for me to go home and put my feet up in my recliner.”
Derek understood that it was his tacit way of saying it was time for the two younger men to be alone. He wondered just exactly how much Stiles had told his father. “Thanks,” he said instead, “for everything.” John nodded, accepting the gesture without a word.
“Stiles!” he hollered, starting to cross the kitchen, and both his and Derek’s eyes narrowed in suspicion when Stiles’ head popped into the kitchen a split-second later. “Were you eavesdropping?” he accused, and Stiles shook his head once, sharply, eyes innocent. Derek’s own narrowed further. Lie. Stiles ignored the knowing smirk Derek threw at him.
“What’s up, Pops?” he asked, smiling brightly, pretending like he hadn’t been standing on the other side of the wall with his ears straining to hear every word.
John smirked at him, the expression mirroring Derek’s. “Thanks for dinner, son, even if it was vegetables and whole grains instead of a bacon cheeseburger,” and Stiles rolled his eyes in exasperation. “I’m heading home now.” He clasped Stiles’ shoulder and squeezed. “Have a good night, both of you.”
Derek dipped his chin in acknowledgment while Stiles threw his arms around his father and hugged him hard. “Good night, Dad. Thanks for joining us.”
John did the same chin-dipping thing Derek had just done and it struck him then, uncomfortably, just exactly how similar he and Stiles’ father were. He willfully shoved the thought out of his head as John waved goodbye and let himself out the front door.
“So.” Stiles turned to face him, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. “Netflix?”
The corner of Derek’s mouth curved slightly, recognizing the unsaid, “and chill” that followed it. “What do you have in mind?” One eyebrow rose knowingly, and Stiles swallowed, his heartbeat picking up the pace.
“Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog?” he suggested, and Derek’s eyebrows shot upward.
“First off, what in the hell kind of name for a movie is that?” he asked in disbelief. “And secondly, I really didn’t think you meant we’d actually watch a movie!”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “First off,” he mimicked, “Dr. Horrible is a fantastic movie and you will love it. Or you will pretend to love it because I think it’s amazing and you want to stay in my good graces. And secondly, did you seriously think we’d jump right into bed the second my dad left?”
Derek fought down the blush that threatened to consume his face. Maybe he kind of had. Without saying a word, he slunk down on the couch and settled back, his arms loosely crossed over his stomach. Stiles plopped down beside him, his knee digging into Derek’s thigh as he faced him. “Is the not-having-sex thing really bothering you that much?” he asked, his voice subdued. “I didn’t mean to make it a big deal. I just…”
“I know. You didn’t want to jump into anything,” Derek muttered in a gruff tone. “I respect it. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Stiles leaned in, brushing his lips across the soft beard covering the lower half of Derek’s face. They skimmed over his sideburns down to his jaw line, peppering little kisses along the way. “I want you,” he admitted quietly. “I want you so bad it scares the hell out of me.”
Derek’s eyebrows quirked in confusion. “Why would it scare you?”
“Because.” Stiles exhaled anxiously, his whiskey-colored eyes locking on Derek’s kaleidoscopic gaze. “Because I’m afraid that both of our expectations are so high that we’re just setting ourselves up for disappointment. Nobody can be as perfect as I think you are, and I have this feeling you think the same about me.”
Derek chuckled as he twisted to face Stiles. His eyes were solemn as they tracked Stiles’ face before finally landing back on those worried pools of liquid amber. “You will never disappoint me,” he insisted firmly, one hand cupping Stiles’ cheek, his thumb stroking over Stiles’ jaw. He leaned into the feather-light touch, eyes lifting to meet Derek’s as he continued to speak. “I don’t think you’re perfect. You’re an annoying pain in my ass. You give me heart attacks with your reckless disregard for your own life.”
“Pot, meet kettle,” Stiles muttered with a soft snort.
“You stay up too late and you stress yourself out with pretty much your every waking minute, you exist on caffeine and sarcasm, and you’re likely going to die of a heart attack before anything else in our lives can finish you off,” he continued.
“Don’t you have anything positive to say?” he grumbled, but the way he rubbed his chin into Derek’s hand like a kitten belied any true irritation.
Smirking, Derek brushed his thumb over Stiles’ bottom lip. “Despite all that, I love you. I have for years. Trust me when I say you can’t disappoint me.”
Stiles nipped at Derek’s thumb as his lips parted, taking the digit into his mouth and sucking lightly. Derek’s gaze darkened until his eyes were a deep jade green and Stiles swallowed. “I think I’m ready now.”
“About fucking time,” Derek teased, a soft grin lighting his face.
Stiles sprawled across Derek’s lap. “Aren’t you going to go all cave-man and carry me to the bedroom?”
“Please,” Derek scoffed. “I’m not carrying your dumb ass anywhere unless it’s over the threshold after we’re married.”
He flushed when he realized how easily those words had slipped out of his mouth. Stiles’ eyebrows climbed so high they nearly disappeared into his hairline. “Married?” he parroted faintly. “You’re already thinking marriage?”
Derek shrugged, his shoulders tense and clearly displaying his discomfort. “I’ve had a lot longer than you to think about this.”
“I like how you think,” Stiles murmured, eyes bright and shiny, and Derek relaxed, leaning in to press a kiss to his mouth. It was light, chaste, but hot with intent.
“Right now I’m thinking about how fucking badly I want to be inside you,” he confessed, and Stiles groaned.
“Sure you don’t want to carry me?” he joked. “You can throw me on the bed and ravage me.”
Derek smiled as he took Stiles’ hand and tugged him into his lap. “I think this one time, I can make an exception.”
“Derek, time to wake up.”
Derek grumbled in his sleep and rolled over, cramming the pillow down over his head, and Stiles sighed in frustration. “’m tired.”
“No shit, genius,” Stiles snorted, rolling his eyes as he made his way into the bathroom. Derek couldn’t actually see him rolling his eyes, but he could feel it. “We were up until almost three this morning.”
“How’re you not tired?” Derek mumbled, lifting the pillow enough to squint one eye blearily at Stiles, who was humming while he brushed his teeth.
“I’m young and I have better recovery time,” Stiles explained cheerfully.
Derek shot him a baleful stare. “You’re twenty-five and you drink coffee eight times a day. Don’t bullshit me.”
Stiles pounced on the bed and kissed Derek with a resounding smack, leaving a smear of Colgate on his cheek. “I still can’t believe you’re a grumpy wolf when you wake up, every single day,” Stiles teased him, though his voice was laced with affection.
“I hate you,” Derek muttered grouchily, retreating back under the pillow.
Stiles grinned. “No you don’t, you love me.”
“Not right now I don’t,” came the sullen, childish retort.
“Come on, Der, you gotta get up and get ready for work,” Stiles encouraged, and Derek stuck his tongue out at him, although it could barely be seen from the confines of the bedding. “Derek Hale. Do I have to come tickle you?”
Scowling, Derek flung the pillow off his head and aimed a dark, punishing glare at the back of Stiles’ skull. He rolled off the side of the bed, shifting into his wolf form before he even hit the floor. Stiles smirked as Derek stretched, his face and front legs nearly level with the carpet while his haunches were lifted up in the air.
“Showoff.” Derek barked at him and Stiles chuckled as he grabbed his gun belt and strapped it on, then pinned his badge in place. “Come on, partner. The mean streets of Beacon Hills await us.”