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Dude, what's a bulwark?

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"I'm starting to get a little uncomfortable about how much of a dealer I feel like for you," Derek says, pouring coffee into Stiles' outstretched cup anyway, then huffing and doing the same for Chester who is mirroring his father exactly. "I shouldn't even be giving you any at all, it'll stunt your growth."

Chester rolls his eyes at the well-used joke. At six foot two, the fifteen year old towers over most kids his age. He's a beanpole of a boy, leanly muscled in a way that reminds Derek of Stiles when he'd first come to Beacon Hills. Stiles has filled out in the intervening years, still running lean but with broad shoulders and Chester is promising to be much the same.

Chester retreats from the counter while Stiles pulls himself up on one of the stools, his face already buried in his cup. Chester spreads out on the table Stiles has always claimed as theirs, pulling out far too many books as is reasonable for the ten minute window he has before his bus cuts through town.

"You can't blame me, you gave me my first cup for free, got me hooked," Stiles says, tugging one of the newspapers on the counter towards himself and then pulling a face when he sees it's the Beacon Bugle. "Ugh, can't you get any real papers in here?"

"The real papers are available for sale at Terry's stand," Derek says.

"That's all the way outside," Stiles whines and drops his head dramatically onto the counter top, only to roll it sideways and edge it towards the muffin case. Derek picks the small case up and moves it before Stiles can get any ideas about chewing through the glass just to get to the muffins inside.

"You could buy your paper on the way in here, you have to walk right past Terry," Derek points out.

"That would require my brain to be doing something other than chanting coffee, coffee, coffee at me before I've had any."

"One of these days I'm going to cut you off, or at least switch you to decaf."

Stiles sits up, gripping a hand over his heart with his eyes wide in horror. "You take that back, Hale," he says, sounding scandalized.

There's a flurry of movement behind him and then Chester is swooping in, snatching up Stiles' cup and stealing the last swallow. "Bye Dad!" he says as he ducks away to Stiles' indignant squawking.

"Betrayed by the fruit of my loins," Stiles laments, looking into his empty coffee cup before waggling it back in Derek's direction with big, hopeful eyes.

"Can you not say the word loins in my diner? It'll scare away the customers."


It was true. Derek had given Stiles his first cup of coffee on the house. He hadn't been able to resist the hollow-eyed teenager holding an infant that had snuck into his diner an hour after opening. He'd not only given Stiles coffee, but also a sandwich, fries and had sneaked a couple of apples and a wrapped muffin into his backpack when Stiles was distracted by Chester fussing. He hadn't wanted to spook the kid, but the way Stiles' too-thin shirt for the weather was frayed at the elbows while Chester's blanket looked new and warm had made something turn over in Derek's stomach and spurred him into the kind of meddling he usually hated in other people.

"I'm really sorry if I'm being rude, but you wouldn't be looking for work would you?" Derek had asked, wasn't really sure why at the time that he'd felt compelled to involve himself.

"Ah... it's..." Stiles had kind of jostled his tiny charge on one arm and the worn backpack he was towing on the other and Derek, without having any way to know for sure, was still certain that Stiles was completely on his own.

"Just, they're looking for cleaning staff up at the Crescent Moon Inn and I know for a fact Deaton is a sucker for kids." Stiles had looked down at Chester, but Derek had meant Stiles, knew Deaton wouldn't be able to resist giving Stiles a roof and a way to earn some cash, even if he was just passing through.

"Oh, um."

"There's a free shuttle in twenty, leaves outside the bookstore across the street." Derek had offered the information like it was totally up to Stiles what he did with it.

Stiles sat in his diner for the next fifteen minutes, stole out quietly when Derek was in the kitchen getting an order for a group that had just come in. He'd been strangely disappointed, thinking he was never going to see this kid again, never know what happened but later Deaton had called.

"I have you to thank for Stiles I'm assuming?" Deaton had asked.

"What the hell is a Stiles?" Derek had huffed in return.


Derek resisted everything about being involved in town life, except the town meetings. He mostly went to make sure Jackson didn't railroad them into anything he would hate or spend the town's meager funds on frivolous extravagances. Jackson, the mayor eight years running, ruled with an iron fist and a strangely old-fashioned and idealistic view of what the town should be.

He's sitting waiting for it to begin with the agenda in a tight fist, already ready for a fight since Jackson is trying to rezone the area his diner is in again, when Stiles drops into the seat next to him.

"Did you know-" Stiles starts to say and he's talking in the loud whisper that means everyone in Erica's dance studio can hear him. "That Chester is tutoring Isaac?"

Isaac is Derek's nephew, dumped on him by his sister's low-life of an ex-husband. Laura's passing was rough on them all, but mostly Isaac who'd ended up in Freddy's care and Freddy hadn't cared much for that, it seemed.

"I asked him to," Derek says, knowing that he probably should have run something like that by Stiles but Stiles has always been a little over-zealously protective of his son's academia and anything that threatened to take time away from it. Derek is surprised though that Chester, who usually tells Stiles pretty much everything, hadn't mentioned it.

"Isaac's a year above and in a different school. Why Chester?"

"Isaac's smart enough to be passing on his own, he's just unmotivated. I thought Chester would be a positive influence for him. He's a good kid."

"He's a brilliant kid, that's beside the point."

"If you don't want him to do it, you could just say that."

"I don't want him to do it."

"Why not?" Derek barks, a little too loudly and everyone goes from pretending they aren't eavesdropping to outright gawping. Erica actually makes Boyd switch seats with her so she can be closer to the action. The residents of Beacon Hills could never be accused of subtlety.

"If you don't know, I'm certainly not going to tell you," Stiles hisses, infuriating as always.

"I'm sure that whatever Derek and Stiles are discussing is fascinating, but if everyone could face front again so I can call this meeting to order, that would be fantastic," Jackson says from behind the podium. He's flushed and has his gavel gripped in a tight fist like he's been banging it for a while and no one has noticed.

"You think my kid is going to taint yours?" Derek growls, completely ignoring Jackson, who bangs his gavel again, incensed.

"What? Of course not!" Stiles exclaims.

"I will eject you!" Jackson shrills from up the front.

"That's what it sounds like to me," Derek argues. Chester has always been the town sweetheart, held up on a pedestal by everyone, including Derek. It was why Derek had wanted Isaac and Chester to work together, because he was hoping some of Chester's drive would rub off on Isaac and he would stop hiding in the partitioned off section of Derek's small apartment that was his makeshift room with headphones on and head buried in a book that was never school material.

"If you really believe I could think that, then I'm done talking to you about this," Stiles seethes.

"You're both done talking period. You're out!" Jackson says, flailing his gavel at the door.

"I'll leave. Derek has to stay because you're trying to rezone his diner into a parking lot again," Stiles huffs, getting up as the whole room cracks up.

"I... that's not what I'm doing!" Jackson yells, obviously having realized he's lost control of the situation.

Derek watches Stiles go and then slumps down in his chair. He doesn't like that he and Stiles do this, can fight about nothing but it happens all the time and he doesn't know how to stop it. It makes him tired.

He flips Erica the finger when she makes a show of rolling her eyes at him.


Stiles doesn't come into the diner the next morning, but Chester does, looking sheepish. Derek knows the Inn coffee doesn't hold a candle to his and Stiles will be in a spectacularly bad mood when he finally has to give in and come back, especially since Derek doesn't let Chester pick up coffee for him and not a single other person in the whole town will do it.

He figures it's a good opportunity to try and find out from Chester just what Stiles' problem is so he can be prepared when Stiles will huff in, probably that very afternoon.

"So, what's-"

"Nothing, god, it's not true okay?" Chester explodes, his cheeks going a vibrant tomato color. "You're as bad as Dad!"

"I didn't say anything."

"You were going to and I know, alright?" Chester grumps, dragging up to the counter. It's then that Isaac appears from upstairs. They both startle to see each other, then Chester goes an even brighter red and Isaac kind of awkwardly shuffles in place.

"Oh my god," Derek groans. "Really?"

"What? No, nothing!" Chester says, grabs up his bag and hurtles back out of the diner without ordering anything. Derek looks at Isaac who raises his eyebrows and then makes an overly complicated whatever face to indicate just how unbothered he is about everything.

"Why Chester?" Derek groans.

"Why Chester what?" Isaac asks, making his way over to the coffee and avoiding Derek's eyes like his life depends on it.

"People might think Stiles is cool and zen or whatever but he's basically sitting on a porch with a shotgun when it comes to his kid."

"We haven't done anything."

"Yet. I can hear the yet in that sentence."

"So? What's the big deal?"

"Let me repeat myself. Stiles is a perfectly rational human being, except when it comes to Chester."

"I'm not going to break his heart or whatever."

"Aw, kid, I wish I could believe that," Derek says.

"Gee, thanks Uncle Derek. Nice to know I'm your priority here," Isaac says. He's still carefully blank faced, but Derek can hear the hurt under his words.

"I'm... god, of course you are. I'm sorry, okay? Just... does it have to be Chester?"

"He's the only decent person to hang with in this podunk town," Isaac says, tucking the book he'd been carrying under his arm so he can wrap both hands around his coffee mug.


Isaac just skirts Derek and heads back upstairs. Derek resists the urge to bang his head on his own counter, wondering how he could have possibly handled that situation worse.


Scott McCall is a wonderful chef, Stiles' best friend and, luckily for Derek, a terrible liar.

"Is this extra large, triple shot with foam really for you?" Derek asks, right before he hands it over. He stares levelly at Scott until Scott ducks his face and mumbles an embarrassed no. "Well, you just tell Stiles it'll be here waiting for him when he stops pouting."

"You don't understand," Scott implores, wide-eyed. "Uncaffeinated Stiles becomes-" Scott leans over the counter like he's imparting a dreadful secret. "-almost like Lydia."

"Yikes," Derek commiserates as Scott nods, still sporting the large, dramatically imploring eyes. "It's still a no."

"Derek, ple-"

"Isn't that Allison?" Derek asks, happy to have spotted the one thing that can distract Scott. He whips around, already grinning brightly and watches Allison push into the diner with a large box of produce. He darts over to help her and Stiles' coffee is well and truly forgotten.


Stiles holds out an admirable three days before he slinks back in on a Friday afternoon, driven to desperation. "You know I need your coffee to gird myself for the dinner," he says when Derek pours him a cup, manfully resisting the urge to say anything else.

Derek knows about Stiles' Friday night dinners. He knows that a few months ago, Stiles had had to swallow his pride and approach his grandparents for tuition money if Chester was going to remain at Chilton Academy. Derek only knew this because Stiles had stumbled in one night while Derek was stocktaking, drunk and maudlin. Derek had forced coffee and water on him in equal measures while Stiles lamented about making a deal with the devil.

"Are they that bad?" Derek had asked.

"They wouldn't help us when Chester was small. They weren't interested in him until he started showing potential, being someone they could brag about at their Country Club. You should hear them talk about him. It's like he sprung fully formed out of the ground and Bec and I never existed."

Fingers being snapped in front of his nose bring Derek back to the present. "Earth to Hale, come in Hale," Stiles says, smiling tentatively. "Look, I'm sorry for flying off the handle the other day. I just worry."

Derek wants to say you shouldn't but he can't. He loves Isaac, loves that looking at Isaac sometimes he sees so much of Laura it hurts in the best way, but Isaac has bad boy first romantic disaster written all over him. Instead he says, "If we try to stand in their way, it'll all become more exciting and they'll get secretive. Do you want Chester to become a regular teenager on you?"

"God no," Stiles groans. They both know Stiles has been pretty lucky, Chester a good, untroublesome kid for the most part. Sometimes Derek thinks he's fifteen turning forty whereas Stiles is the perpetual teenager.

"We'll watch them, pick up the pieces when one of them hurts the other one."

"You know it totally throws me when you're nice," Stiles says.

"I'm always nice," Derek deadpans and Stiles cracks up, the tension leaving his shoulders. Chester pushes through the door behind Stiles, half of his long length still outside.

"C'mon, Dad. You said you were just ducking in for coffee," he complains, swinging the door back and forth so it keeps hitting the bell.

"Sorry, right," Stiles says, slides off the counter stool and straightens his clothes. Friday night dinners mean jackets and dress pants for both of them and Derek tries not to stare because the Stilinski men both cut very fine figures when they make even half an effort.


Derek is in the middle of throwing Jackson and his box of Winter Festival decorations out of his diner when the phone shrills behind him. He gives Jackson a final shove, then dives for the phone.

"Hale, we need you right now." Derek recognizes Lydia Martin's crisp voice immediately and he groans, taking a moment to hit himself in the forehead with the phone handset. He really needs to get a machine so he can screen calls.

"I'm kind of busy running a business."

"Isn't there some tall, mopey teenage with your genes just languishing about your apartment?" Lydia asks. "Make him mind your... cute little stall and get your ass up here."

"Lydia," Derek growls. He does handy work around the town sometimes. It's nice to get a little extra cash and he'll also take items in trade for the residents that might not be able to afford a regular repairman.

"The kitchen is flooding, Scott is freaking out and Stiles is completely wet," Lydia says. Derek swallows hard at the image those particular words conjure and then Lydia, who is evil, has a grin in her voice when she says, "Super, I'll see you in twenty minutes."

Derek has a waitress, Hayley, but she doesn't come in till eleven on a weekday so Derek goes up to the apartment and pulls the blanket off Isaac's head. "Up, you're minding the diner."

"Wha...zu?" Isaac says, curling away from the sunlight he's been hit by like a grumpy vampire.

"C'mon, time to earn your keep," Derek says, jostling Isaac until he flails and hits at Derek to make him stop.

"Where are you going?"

"I've got to go up to the Inn."

"Oh my god," Isaac says.


"You're just totally whipped, is all," Isaac says, finally getting his feet on the floor. He'd slept in jeans and a hoodie which is convenient because he has no excuse to delay, Derek shoving him towards the stairs.

"By Lydia?" Derek snorts.

"No, not by Lydia," Isaac says, throwing Derek a look over his shoulder.

Derek sets Isaac up downstairs before he grabs his toolbox and heads for his truck. The breakfast rush is well and truly over and Hayley will be in before the lunch crowd starts trickling in. He figures Isaac can handle making coffee and handing out muffins and toasting banana bread for the few breakfast stragglers. He tries to put Isaac's words out of his head as he drives.

When he gets to the Inn, Lydia is waiting for him on the wrap-around porch, tapping a pointy-toed heel impatiently. "C'mon, c'mon," she huffs when he ambles up the pebbled walk and she leads him around to the kitchen entry and through the door. There's water everywhere and Stiles is indeed in the middle of it, drenched to the bone and trying to stave off water jetting from a broken faucet with a towel.

"Oh my god, why didn't you shut the water off at the mains?" Derek demands and Stiles pulls a face at him as he ducks back outside to do so. When he comes back in, Stiles is shaking himself out like a dog and then wringing the bottom of his sopping shirt out. Derek averts his gave from the flat curve of Stiles' bared belly and tries not to be troubled by how much of an effort it took to do so.

"That would have been the logical thing to do," Stiles says as Scott appears in the kitchen doorway, looking stricken and muttering about everything being ruined.

"You're the least practical adult I've ever met," Derek grunts, moving over to the sink with Stiles shuffling in beside him, out of Scott's way who is scooping tubs of food into the trash and sounds like he's choking back tears while doing so.

"You're overly practical so it works out," Stiles says, still plucking at his wet shirt.

"How about you go get changed while I fix this. What even... how did this even happen?"

Stiles shrugs and then strips his shirt off completely, shaking again so that water droplets hit Derek's arms and chest. He reaches over and snags the dish towel from Scott's back pocket, starts wiping down his arms and his chest and Derek's mouth goes dry. Stiles catches him staring but makes a face and says, "Shut up, man. Not all of us can have Herculean physiques."

"That's not-" Derek bites down on the rest of his sentence because it was going nowhere good.

"Scott, shirt me," Stiles orders, holding out a hand and Scott does without protest, both he and Stiles with a penchant for layers which is fortunate, given the circumstances. Scott strips off his top shirt and hands it over, Stiles tugging it on. Stiles smirks at Derek for a second before he says, "Scott, pants!"

Scott actually gets hands on his belt buckle before he realizes what he's doing and scowls, flipping Stiles off.

"One of these days man," Stiles says, chuckling to himself. "When he's busy mourning produce I can get him to do almost anything."

"I'll do almost anything if you'll leave me in peace to fix this."

"Fine," Stiles huffs. "I guess I should go and warn the guests about trying to have a shower. I hope you didn't catch anyone mid-lather because that shit will cost me complimentary wine."


"As I live and breathe."

"In the back," Derek orders, the wagon squeaking sideways as Stiles completely ignores him and climbs up to sit shotgun. Derek is driving the hayride wagon at the Full Moon Festival and it's humiliating enough without Stiles' special brand of commentary.

"Nu-uh. No way dude," Stiles says, sounding far too chipper. He leans across and plucks something from Derek's hair, holding a bit of straw and smiling at it. "Oh yeah, this is just making my night."

"I thought you didn't like the Full Moon Festival. You always say it's too coupley for you," Derek complains. Generally he avoids it like the plague himself, but Dylan Jenkins who usually handles the hayride came down with the flu and Erica is someone that's hard to say no to when she's determined. He's pretty sure if Erica and Lydia ever joined forces, therein lay the apocalypse in cute shoes.

"Ugh, Chester wanted to come and he dragged me here then completely abandoned his poor old single father," Stiles laments.

"You're thirty-three years old. You can't be poor old anything."

"I have a fifteen year old son. That automatically qualifies me for griping about my ancientness."

"Does that mean I can since I have a sixteen year old now?"

"Dude, you're thirty-six. You are ancient." Stiles squawks when he's very nearly tumbled off the side of the wagon by Derek's elbow in his side. Derek catches a hold of him by the scruff of his shirt and hoists Stiles back straight with a put-upon sigh.

Stiles has made a lot of sacrifices for Chester, one of which being determined to make sure Chester is a priority and not bring anyone new into his household. Derek knows that now Chester is old enough to understand and accept it, it's only a matter of time before Stiles is taking up with any number of a dozen Beacon Hills residents that would gladly jump at a chance at him. Derek finds the whole idea oddly depressing. He'd felt less alone when he'd had someone to be alone with.

"Anyone offer you a bribe for an extra long, super special ride yet?" Stiles asks, waggling his eyebrows.

"Gross," Derek huffs and Stiles kind of curls back into himself, props his sneakers up and sighs. It's quiet then, just the gentle stump of Mortimer's hooves, the quiet murmurs of the four couples in the back.

"They made him a bedroom," Stiles says to his knees.


"Mr and Mrs Evil. They made Chester a bedroom in their castle of doom. They want him to stay over sometimes, on the weekends maybe."

"Your grandparents?" Derek asks and Stiles nods.

"It was terrible. There were boy-band posters on the walls and dinosaur sheets. I wanted to laugh at them being so lame but Chester kind of looked..."

"He was happy?"

"It's just been me and him for so long. Is it terrible that I resent the hell out of them trying to involve themselves now when all the hard work is done?"

"Of course not," Derek says, remembering the scared kid he'd first seen, how skinny and fragile Stiles had looked. Stiles has worked hard, from cleaning bathrooms to now managing the Inn and Derek knows Chester's great-grandparents had cut themselves off from the daughter they'd written off and her illegitimate son. Derek doesn't know much about Chester's mom or Stiles' own, Stiles always careful not to mention them, but his grandparents are a different story, Stiles constantly railing against them.

"Why don't you tell him?" Derek asks, because he's always wondered. Stiles lived in a room at the Inn for the first five years of Chester's life because he couldn't afford anything else, had to rely on the kindness of the townsfolk for the essentials for Chester and went without for himself more often than not. Derek knows he complains about the town alot, but they certainly pull together when it's a cause they believe in, and Deaton certainly made sure that Stiles and his son were that cause.

"Man, I can't do that to him. Chester likes to see the best in people and they're... it was just me and him for so long and he craves family. He'd never admit it to me, but I can see it, how much it means to him that they seem to"

"You're a good person," Derek says as they reach the end of the trail and the passengers alight, the next group waiting their turn at a roped off area being marshaled by Erica.

"I'm a crappy person with a veneer of good over the top, don't be fooled," Stiles says, grinning dryly before he pushes off the wagon and disappears into the crowd.


Derek knows he probably shouldn't turn the lights on in the diner when he sneaks down late at night, because it's inevitable that some drunken idiot will start banging on the doors, demanding to be let in. Scott appears to be the drunken idiot of the evening which is a surprise and then others appear behind him, Derek recognizing Boyd and Stiles amongst the group.

Derek goes up to the door, pointedly looks at the Closed sign and then glares.

"C'mon man!" Scott yells through the glass. Derek knows it's Scott's bachelor party tonight. Most of the town is going along to the wedding tomorrow. Derek had been invited as well, probably because of Scott, but he politely declined because he knows that the Argents are still uncomfortable around him. It's taken Allison a long time to stop being awkward around him for what happened with Kate.

"Sorry dude," Stiles offers, apparently the only sober one of the group. He's trying to tug Scott away from the door but Scott's holding on, mooshing his face to the glass.

"I neeeeed pieeeeeee," Scott practically wails, now pawing at the door pathetically and Stiles in turn. The others are laughing and jostling amongst themselves, probably uncaring about where they'll be propelled next, inside the diner or away.

"Alright, fine," Derek grumbles. "If Scott pukes though, you," he levels a finger at Stiles as he opens the door, "Are going to have a very uncomfortable conversation with Allison in the morning about how her husband died."

Derek sets the others up with the leftover pies he had from the day before, all of them falling on the plates like hyenas while Stiles loiters at the counter, giving Derek the eyes until he has a mug in his hands. "Wait, what is this?" he asks when he takes a sip.

"Hot chocolate. You don't need to be caffeinated right now."

"Booooo," Stiles says and Derek fights the urge to smile.

"How come you ended up sober Sally anyway?" Derek asks.

"We drew straws. Apparently my so called friends don't agree that the single father needs a night of sloshy abandon more than anyone."

"Your friends are tired of you using the single dad card for everything," Boyd calls out. He seems the least messy of the others, blinking heavily but otherwise coherent.

"I do not!"

"Billy's a single dad and you don't hear him leveraging it to get his way."

"Billy's daughter is in Oregon, and she's twenty!" Stiles shrills.

"Soldier down!" Single-dad-Billy cries, throwing his arms up and Derek cranes over Stiles' head to see that Scott is indeed face-down on the booth table, snoring loudly. He thankfully didn't land on any of the pie plates.

"Oh geez, how am I going to get his ass home now?" Stiles groans.

"I have to take a bread delivery in three hours. You can leave him upstairs and I'll wake him up and make sure he's on his way in time to become human for the wedding," Derek offers.

"Seriously? You're a life saver," Stiles says as Derek rounds the counter and Boyd manages to get Scott, still snoring, upright enough to be towed up to Derek's apartment. When Derek comes back down from dropping Scott on his bed, the others have scattered to parts unknown but Stiles is still sitting at the counter.

"I'm assuming Chester is taking the opportunity of being alone to eat vegetables and study," Derek says.

"Hey, I feed him vegetables," Stiles says, frowning. "He's at Mount Doom though tonight."

"Oh that's... I didn't realize that would start so soon?"

"He knew I was doing this and he asked. He seemed excited."

"You shouldn't call your grandparent's house Mount Doom," Derek says although he's fighting a smile.

"Why? It's appropriate. My grandmother is a giant firey eyeball on top of a tower."


"She goes through a crapload of Visine," he muses and that's it, Derek's done. He's laughing helplessly and Stiles is kind of staring at him with his mouth hanging open. When Derek manages to bring it under control, he glares and says, "What?"

"You just... I don't think I've ever heard you laugh before."

"I laugh," Derek says in his usual deadpan and this time it's Stiles who chuckles.

"So hey," Stiles says after finishing the dregs of his hot chocolate. "I could wait up and sign for your bread delivery if you want to catch some sleep? I've done it before."

"When did you sign for my bread delivery?" Derek asks, raising an eyebrow.

"That time I stole your bread delivery," Stiles says, grimacing and rubbing at the back of his head.

"Stiles! That was you?"

"We needed it for the Inn. Desperate times."

"I had to make my own bread."

Stiles' eyes go a little dreamy. "That was a good day. Best burgers ever."

"I don't have time to make my own bread every day," Derek grumbles, irked. That had been the plan before Laura... before she had left. Derek would bake overnight and through the morning and Laura would run the diner during the day. "Look, it's fine. I'm better off with no sleep than under six hours. It's a thing."

"I could stay, keep you company?"

Derek's first impulse is to say, yes, of course, that would be great. He doesn't though, because he can see the fatigue stretching Stiles thin, making darkness bloom under his eyes. "Go home, get some sleep. You're going to be a best man in a few hours and I'm thinking the groom is going to need all the help he can get."

"Fine," Stiles huffs. "I'll be back for him at eight."

"I'll pour a bucket of water over him at ten to then," Derek says, smirking and Stiles waves as he heads out the door.


"So? Spill it," Erica demands as she sweeps into the diner. She's got glitter on her cheekbones and is wearing an electric blue dress that would be more appropriate at a club late at night than at seven in the morning in a diner. Derek figures she's going to the wedding like everyone else and Erica likes nothing more than the opportunity to go overboard.

"Spill what?"

"A little birdie told me you had Stiles in here late at night, all alone," Erica says, her eyes gleaming. "Have you finally slipped him the ol' meat thermometer?"

"Ugh, Erica," Derek groans.

"It's clear he has Derek fever and that's the only cure."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, and how did you really know he was here?"

"George's dog was barking all night again. I went for a jog to try and exhaust myself so I could pass out. I saw him."

"It's not what you think. He, Scott and their buddies came in after Scott's bachelor night. I gave them pie, Scott passed out and is still passed out upstairs and Stiles was just the last to leave."

"Really?" Erica says, looking disappointed. "You guys need to resolve the awkward boners you have for each other."

"He doesn't... again, you don't know what you're talking about."

"Really? He's totally head over sneakers for you and I'm pretty sure you feel the same way."

"Totally." Derek looks over his shoulder to see Scott hovering at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to his apartment, scrubbing a hand through an unfortunate case of bedhead and looking bleary.

"What?" Derek says, hating that he sounds kind of strangled. It's one thing for Erica to tease him about Stiles, but Scott, being Stiles' long time best friend, would actually know.

"People say I'm oblivious," Scott snorts. "Stiles has had a major crush on you ever since you white knighted him when he was eighteen."

"A crush when he's a teenager and doesn't know any better-"

"Stop trying to talk your way out of what is obvious to everyone with eyes," Erica says, leaning across the counter to flick Derek in the forehead.

"You're saying I should be the one to do something?"

"Yes!" Both Erica and Scott cry together.

"God knows he won't," Scott adds. "He'll dither about it forever because he's still worried about Chester, but Chester loves you and I know you'd rather saw off your own arm than hurt either him or Stiles, right?"

"Of course," Derek says, no hesitation.

"What are we all talking about?" Stiles is hanging in the doorway and all three of them jump at the same time. Stiles kind of pulls a hilarious face at that, pleased with himself. "Wow, looks serious."

"Painting," Derek blurts.


"As in the diner. Really needs it," Derek says. Stiles just stares at him for another beat before he looks around and then nods.

"Yeah, definitely. Hey, I've always been a demon at painting," Stiles says and Derek actually hears it for the offer it is for once. He always figured Stiles was being reflexively polite whenever he said things like that but now Derek wonders if it's simpler than that, it's just Stiles wanting to hang out, making an overture and waiting for Derek to pick up on it.

"I was going to maybe... tomorrow night, if you're free?" Derek asks, tries to ignore both Scott and Erica staring at the side of his face, enraptured. "I mean, only if you wanted-?"

"No, sure, I mean yes!" Stiles says quickly, then winces. "I, yeah, fine, sure," he adds, his cheeks filling in a lovely pink.

"Hey, isn't there a wedding we should be getting me to?" Scott interjects.

"Right, yeah, buddy c'mon," Stiles says, making with the hurry up arms and Scott rolls his eyes.

"Thanks for the bed," Scott tosses over his shoulder as he's herded out by Stiles.

"Thanks for the... advice about painting," Derek calls, hears Scott chortle and Stiles make confused noises as they leave. When he turns back, Erica is very nearly vibrating with glee. "Not a word."


The next night, at six when the bell over the door dings, Derek is finishing up sweeping in the back. He hurries out to the front, already smiling but it drops instantly. He recognizes the woman standing in his doorway immediately despite not having seen her for almost seventeen years.