It’s just after sunset, and the chandeliers bathe the Hale mansion’s ballroom in a welcoming golden light. Socialites mill about on the hardwood floor, their voices filling the vast space with a low hum conversation, shot through with lively trills of laughter as the fashionably late wander in. Everyone’s dressed to the nines, even the caterers weaving through the crowd, balancing trays with flutes of champagne and tiny caviar canapes that cost more than they’ll make in an hour. There are probably worse ways to spend an evening, but right now Derek can’t think of any of them.
He can think of a couple of better ways, of course: looking into the illegal dumping in the preserve, testing out new equipment with Boyd, doing pullups until he passes out, getting punched in the face... pretty much anything other than making small talk with this crowd, actually. Not that he can let that on to any of the guests, of course. Derek Hale, Beacon Hills’ resident playboy, is supposed to love parties.
Derek plucks a glass of champagne from one of the passing caterers. Before midnight they’ll switch out the bubbly and gossip for platters full of shots and the truly tabloid-worthy antics, so he’s just getting a head start. After all, he has a reputation to keep up. He tries at least not to fidget in the tight, trendy suit he’d bought for the occasion. He’s Batman, for God’s sake. Surely he can deal with one lousy party.
Except that it’s his thousandth lousy party, he thinks with a sigh. And he’s only got himself to blame. When he was getting started, he’d thought it was safest to be known as an empty-headed playboy, so that's how it is. Changing his behavior now would arouse the very suspicion his cover had been created to head off.
“Hale!” a familiar, snooty voice calls.
Derek glances over his shoulder and finds himself face to face with Jackson Whittemore, the spoiled brat of the most corrupt defense lawyer in the city. He takes a second too long looking for an escape route, and by then Jackson’s got him cornered. Ignoring Derek's expression, he launches into a tipsy rant on city politics, assuming as always that the two of them are in perfect agreement. Derek takes a deep gulp of champagne, wishing he was hitting something harder.
“...and the thing about Beacon Hills is, the thing is,” Jackson insists, leaning in too close. “The crime. I mean, take this Cat Thief! How are any job creators supposed to... to stay in this city and job create if they’re just going to be robbed blind?”
“Won’t Batman catch him soon?” Lydia asks, slinking over and putting an arm around Jackson’s waist. They must be on again, Derek guesses. She’s not as vapid as her boyfriend is, or she couldn't hold down a job at GreenCorp as a botanist in the R&D department. She still plays dumb, though, and in some ways that’s worse.
Jackson sneers. “Batman can’t fix anything.”
“Agreed,” Derek says easily, pointing a finger at Jackson and winking as if he’s the first person to ever express doubt that one man can turn their dying city around. Frankly, it might just be the most boring conversation Derek can imagine.
Jackson, however, is only just warming up to the topic. “See, Hale gets it. Batman’s just one more weirdo playing dress up. Like that guy in Metropolis with the underwear. I mean, our precious vigilante must have some real issues, wearing a bat costume to go beat up on petty criminals. Can you believe the sheriff might be collaborating with him? I always thought Stilinski had a better head on his shoulders. ”
Derek gives them both a big toothy guffaw. Behind that, though, he seethes. Firstly, he does plenty of detective work in between stopping street crime. That stuff just never makes the papers. Secondly, the costume is practical. Boyd’s invented all sorts of gadgets and equipment for it, plus it disguises his identity. And symbols striking fear into the hearts of the criminal class, that’s a thing, isn’t it? It’s not a sign of poor mental health, thanks very much.
“He’s a vigilante, who knows what drives him.” Lydia sniffs. “But I don’t blame the cops for working with him. At least he’s cleaning up the streets.”
Jackson scowls, jealous. “Except for the Cat, remember?”
“Oh,” Lydia says playfully. “You don’t think it’s a bit romantic? All those jewels gone, and not even a fingerprint left behind?”
Derek makes a face before he catches himself. Romantic? The man’s a common criminal. What Lydia means is that the guy is good at what he does. Way too good. And yes, fine, Derek can admit that having so many high-profile robberies right under Batman’s nose looks bad. Especially since the news outlets seem to care infinitely more when said robberies are happening to the wealthy.
At the same time, there’s only one of him, and there are so many problems in the city more pressing than some socialites’ jewelry going missing. So what if Batman is focusing on the larger issues plaguing Beacon Hills? It’s not as if he doesn’t care about the Cat Thief’s crimes, but he has to make decisions about where he can do the most good.
Jackson shakes his head at Lydia and takes a deep breath to start informing the room at large of all the reasons the Cat Thief is a menace. That's exactly when a particularly loud laugh catches Derek’s attention. He turns to see that it belongs to a slim, younger man who, against all odds, looks interesting.
“Uh, excuse me,” Derek says, waving his empty glass in Jackson’s face before heading across the floor towards the other man. He’s wearing red sneakers that clash with his pale grey suit, clearly not caring that everyone else is in dress shoes, and at the moment is practically doubled over, slapping his knee.
“Oh God,” the young man sighs happily, “You probably didn’t even say it to be funny,”
“Uh, it’s not funny,” the woman across from him says with a curl of her lip. “It’s stupid that the caterer’s only serving one type of champagne. I only drink Moet, I wouldn’t touch this vintage if you paid me.”
“How are you real?” the man asks, sounding horrified, yet strangely delighted at the same time.
Derek finds himself close enough that he should either join the conversation or move on.
“I’ll let the caterers know to bring options next time,” he says, inserting himself between them. “I’d hate for anyone to have to stay sober.”
The woman - Jennifer, he remembers, a fashion writer from Boston - perks up. “Ohmigod, Derek! Hey, you.” She smiles flirtatiously, cocking an elbow and tipping her chin up to draw attention to how much cleavage is on display in her short dress.
Derek squints good naturedly at her for a moment. “God, I’m so sorry... but, have we met?”
Her smile goes rigid. They’ve more than met, they had slept together after the Rodarte show at last month’s Milan fashion week. Derek feels a little guilty for the ruse, but it isn’t personal. Being an asshole is just part of the playboy cover.
“Well,” she says, a beat too late for casual. “I actually should go say hello to Kali, I think I see her over by the shitty champagne table.” She gives the other man a sharp smile and, without even a second look for Derek, gracefully swans off.
“What a bitch,” the man says with something like admiration, and Derek slouches back against the wall to get a better look. He’s slim, but not skinny - there’s muscle filling out the shoulders of his suit jacket. He’s got a broad cupid’s-bow mouth, hastily gelled hair and a smattering of dark moles that trail down his neck and must continue under his collar. Very much Derek’s type, then.
“So, you’re the host,” the kid says, glancing at Derek under long lashes. He angles his body closer, more than appropriate for casual conversation.
“I don’t remember inviting you,” Derek says, leaning in too, pretending it’s so he doesn’t have to shout to be heard over the pulsing beat of the music. “And I would remember.”
Go ahead and feed me diamonds, the song goes, feed me diamonds. It sounds somewhere between a plea and an invitation. Derek lets his fingers skim over the small of the other man’s back, just to see if he can.
“Oh, you need an invite to get into these shindigs?” Stiles asks with a teasing grin that seems to draw them into some kind of confidence. “I hear just about anything goes at Derek Hale’s parties.”
Derek curves his mouth into a flirtatious smile, because it's something a spoiled rich boy thinking with his dick would do. It’s not because he's actually charmed - like everyone else here, this guy just wants to get a taste of second-hand celebrity. “True, but I do like to know who’s doing the ‘anything’.”
That wins him a small laugh. “Well then, I’m Stiles - here as a plus one. For my dad,” he amends at Derek’s displeased raise of eyebrows, “who is probably talking with the other big-shots and will not miss me. I hear it’s huge - the house I mean.” He bats his big, amber eyes, not even trying for subtle. “Do I get a private tour?”
“I think that can be arranged,” Derek murmurs, taking Stiles by the elbow and leading him through the crowd. Another meaningless hookup with someone who’s only interested in his shallow alter-ego, fantastic. Still, it’s been suspiciously long since he was with Jennifer, and Stiles being attractive and funny doesn’t exactly make it more of a chore to start up the rumor mill.
He makes a point of knocking a few elbows on the way to the stairs, including one belonging to Matt Daehler, a ‘writer’ for Star, or maybe US Weekly. The guy gives him a knowing look that has Derek’s skin crawling even as he makes himself wink back. He can see the headlines now: Derek Hale on the D again, or something equally subtle. He’s glad that he had at least had the sense not to lie about being straight, but he loathes how some people take his bisexuality as confirmation that he’s a huge slut. Frankly, he must have a world record discrepancy between the number of people he’s rumoured to have slept with and the number he actually has.
The music follows him and Stiles up the wide staircase: It’s useless, what’s the good in being good? the singer asks in a lilting sigh that answers her own question.
Derek would usually head straight to the bedroom and get the show on the road, but tonight he wants to extend this tryst as long as possible -- if only because the longer he's upstairs, the less of the party he needs to pretend to enjoy. He gets the feeling that despite his usual distaste for meaningless hookups, pretending to enjoy his time with Stiles will be easier than making small talk downstairs with people like Jackson and Lydia.
He turns theatrically at the top of the stairs and gestures to the first door on the right. Stiles raises an eyebrow at his mock gallantry, but he steps obligingly into the library.
Derek follows just in time to hear Stiles' awed gasp. It’s not a huge room, but it's big enough to hold two couches and a square sectional In the center. Books fill every wall floor to ceiling, each of them something Derek has read or hopes to, though nobody but Boyd knows that.
He steps around Stiles, who’s frozen just inside the door, and goes to lean against the shelf in front of him. He takes a moment to appreciate Stiles’ floored expression; this room is one of his favorites, but others don’t alway appreciate it as anything more than another showy example of his family’s wealth.
Stiles’ eyes finally flick away from the books. If he was flirtatious before, now he’s downright lustful. His eyes travel slowly up and down as if it’s the first time he’s really seeing Derek. Under the scrutiny, Derek suddenly feels exposed. The library is too much a part of himself, the real person he doesn't usually let groupies like Stiles see. He’d thought Stiles would gawk at the room for a second and move on like everyone else. It’s distressingly attractive how fascinated he seems.
But an appreciation for books isn’t the point of them coming upstairs. Derek loosens his tie, feeling the weight of Stiles’ gaze rest on his throat. The music from downstairs pulses like a heartbeat below them.
“Like what you see?” Derek asks, slowly dragging the end of his tie so the fabric slithers through his collar.
Stiles smiles like honey, rocking playfully back on his heels. “It's alright,” he says, his casual words belied by the rough burr to his voice. He dips his chin and watches through long lashes as Derek undoes his cuff links, sheds his suit jacket, begins to roll his sleeves. He does it slow and careful, tension building in the air at each new inch of skin he exposes. Finally, Stiles walks towards him.
Derek lets out a long breath in anticipation of the kiss, the thought of a hot, wet mouth on his seeming now like it would be anything but a chore. Only the kiss never comes. At the last moment, hand already on Derek’s neck, Stiles’ head pulls to the side, his eyes refocusing on something over Derek's shoulder.
“Is this a first edition?” Stiles asks, tipping a book off the shelf into his hands. Derek glances down in surprise: It’s a Dumas, one of his favorites.
“Yes,” Derek says, startled. Damnit, he shouldn't know that just by looking. “Probably,” he amends.
“Oh God, this must be worth... I shouldn't even be touching this,” Stiles blurts, tensing up and almost fumbling the heavy edition.
“It's fine, I bought it to be read,” Derek says, reaching out to steady the book.
“You read this?” Stiles says incredulously. “It's in Spanish.”
“I, uh, spent some time in South America,” Derek admits. This is going all wrong, he never talks about being bilingual.
“Wow,” Stiles murmurs, running his fingertips over the spines of the other books next to Derek. They’re still standing too close, almost chest to chest. “These are gorgeous copies. I'd kill for a library like this.”
Derek feels a pang of unexpected want. He’d love to ask Stiles what else he’s read, if he sticks to the classics or keeps up with modern fiction. He wants to offer him free use of this room any time he’d like, in exchange for some honest conversation. Absurd. Bringing someone up here in the first place was only for appearances, not connection. This was a mistake.
Derek forces a smile as he plucks the Dumas out of Stiles’ hands and slots it back into place. “C’mon, books are boring. On with the tour, right?” He directs Stiles out towards the hall, ignoring the other man’s slight frown. What was he thinking, bringing someone into his refuge? He doesn’t have room in his life for anything more intimate than a one-night stand, much less with a groupie.
A few steps into the hall, Stiles has recovered from whatever annoyance he’d felt at being hustled out of the library. “If you're offering,” Stiles purrs, any genuine arousal hidden once again under his smooth, flirty veneer, “I’d love to see the family jewels - the ones in cases, I mean,” he adds innocently.
“Sure,” Derek agrees easily. Anything to get them away from the library and the irrational way he’s suddenly feeling so connected to someone who’s basically a stranger.
Stiles gives another awed gasp when they see the jewels, only this time it sends Derek’s mind spiraling to the gutter. He can’t help imagining all the other ways he could coax that sound out of Stiles’ wide, mobile mouth.
“These are the real deal,” Stiles murmurs, pausing in front of the largest case. He’s right - the set of ten delicately filigreed rings in front of him are the highlight of Derek’s late mother’s collection. They were personally designed for her by Alexander McQueen before his death. In fact, they were the last jewelry he ever made. Even their raw materials - especially the finely-cut diamonds - put their value in the tens of thousands, but their designer status and macabre history make them worth at least a million on the open market.
“Wow,” Stiles says, reaching out towards the glass.
Derek pulls him back. “Careful - we do have security. Don’t want to bring the police force up here, do we?”
“Oh, gosh,” Stiles says. “Sorry. Motion detector?”
“Infrared,” Derek corrects automatically.
Stiles shrugs. Of course he doesn’t really care about security systems - it’s crazy how far off his game Derek is. He tries to collect himself while Stiles walks through the room, peering at the jewel collection.
“So these were your mom’s?” he asks, coming back to the claws.
Derek has the spiel all ready. “Yeah. The cursed claws! I don’t believe in any of that, but with McQueen’s suicide after they were finished, and then how she was wearing them the night she died...”
Stiles twists his head away from the glass case to stare at Derek. He looks horrified.
Derek’s thrown. Everyone who reads the tabloids already knows these things, it’s just a point of conversation to them. They brush it off, or fake sympathy to dig for the juicy details. Nobody has ever looked horrified on his behalf. Most of the people he sleeps with forget he’s got a past, feelings, any of that.
“Er,” Derek fumbles. “I didn’t… sorry to be a downer.”
Stiles gawks. “A dow- hey, no, don’t apologize, I’m the one who’s sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up what happened to your parents.”
“It’s alright, it was a long time ago,” Derek says, uncomfortably. He usually finds the claws comforting, actually, a reminder of the reason he’d taken up the cowl. It’s the sympathy that’s getting to him.
“Is that why you donate to so many charities for improving the city?” Stiles asks. “In their memory?” He’s blinking up at Derek, wide-eyed, looking nothing like the confident, fame-chasing kid from before. It’s as if he’s just figured out Derek might be a real person, a good person who’s worth something.
Derek takes a deep breath. That revelation is a dangerous one, hardly something he can let stand. Not when he and Batman showed up in Beacon Hills at the same time, when there are only a few people still in Beacon Hills with the resources to pull something like Batman off. He has to make it unimaginable that he’s got a heart, because if anyone starts looking there are only too many obvious clues.
“Do I?” he asks, slipping on a mask of genial confusion. “I mean, my people handle all that stuff. I don’t really care about charity, I just like the parties.”
“Oh, I… yeah,” Stiles says, clearly disappointed.
“Everyone says that some areas of the Hills are supposed to be rough, or impoverished,” Derek continues, taking a certain vicious enjoyment in the subtle shift of Stiles’ expression. “It’s just that I don’t go there, you know? So it’s not really my problem.”
“What happened your parents, though…” Stiles suggests, still hoping he’s going to get something real out of Derek Hale, millionaire playboy.
Derek gives him an exaggerated shrug and goes for the kicker. “Shit happens, I guess.” It comes out so smooth, the line he always gives when he’s asked to comment on their deaths. “I got to go to New York.”
“Wow,” Stiles says, and this time it’s clearly not the “I’m so impressed” kind any more, it is the “you fucking piece of work” kind.
Derek’s too good a liar at this point, too comfortable in his practiced ‘I don’t have feelings, just money’ persona. Suddenly he hears afresh exactly how he sounds, and only just keeps from grimacing his disgust. Trust me kid, the feeling’s mutual.
“Stiles?” a voice calls from the hallway. Derek’s thrown for a second because the voice is familiar to him, but totally out of context in his home rather than on the roof of the precinct.
Sheriff Stilinski walks in and instantly lemon-faces. “Hale,” he greets Derek with barely concealed distaste.
The thing is, John Stilinski respects Batman, and that by definition means he loathes Derek Hale. Could this night get any worse? When Derek’s in the suit, he and the sheriff are a dedicated team striving to improve their beloved city. They would risk their lives for for the cause and maybe each other, and in some ways, Stilinski’s started to feel like the mentor he hasn’t had since his parents’ deaths. For that reason, Derek mostly tries to avoid him in his playboy mode. It stings to see the sheriff’s distaste for him when at some level he craves his approval.
“I see you’ve met my son,” the sheriff says, sounding less than pleased about the fact.
Derek can’t help flinching back to take another look at the man he’d brought upstairs - this is the sheriff’s kid? Sure, they've talked about him a few times when Derek’s been in the suit, but the name had been different, he swears. Something unpronounceable with an M? The sheriff had talked about how hard it had been to keep his son on the straight and narrow after his mother’s death, the petty trouble he’d gotten into, his demands that the sheriff leave the force where police fatalities were a frustratingly common occurrence. Stilinski had not mentioned that part of the problem was he’d grown up hot as fuck.
Derek had known Stilinski was bringing his son tonight, but he imagined him as a pimply teenager, not… this. Ugh. Well, now they had the holy trinity of people disgusted with Derek.
“I was about to head out,” the sheriff says with a loaded glance at Stiles.
Who, of course, picks up on the chance to escape. “Welp, guess that’s my cue,” he says easily, and with a final glance around the room he’s walking to the door. He barely spares Derek a wave over his shoulder before he’s out of sight. The sheriff spares him significantly more, in the form of a very intimidating glare.
Alone again, Derek lets himself stew for a moment rather than returning straight to the party. He doesn’t know what he was even hoping for. What was the saying, I wouldn’t be part of any group that would have me? Well, that’s about right; he’s not interested in anyone who’d have him, not when he’s playing the role of hedonistic millionaire. And to maintain his secret identity he has to be playing that role. He needs to protect the small, tattered remains of his family from any reprisal.
It's not Stiles slipping through his fingers tonight that’s twisting his stomach with displeasure, or not only that. The guy just represents everything that Derek can't have: the sheriff’s respect, a real relationship, his own goddamn personality.
Derek grits his teeth and heads down to the party that’s still dragging on downstairs.
The next night, Derek wakes from a nightmare of his parents dying. He’s alone, as always. His room is huge and dim even with windows open to the full moon, and while the minimalist space is familiar, it’s hardly comforting. He breathes through his nose and tries not to think about the after - hands sticky with blood, fumbling in his dad’s pocket for his phone, calling 911, knowing but not believing that they were already gone. It seems like he should be able to put it out of his head, after all this time. He sighs, rolls to a cool, dry spot on the silk sheets, closes his eyes.
After the funeral, he’d been sent away from Beacon Hills to live with Laura in New York while she finished her degree at NYU. It had been good to get away, but she’d had no time for him. He doesn’t blame her - there’d been her own grief to manage, classes to catch up on, dreams of being a lawyer to fulfil. Left to his own devices, he’d dived into martial arts, weightlifting, anything physical to distract from the memories.
As soon as he’d graduated high school he’d run farther. He’d lived off the grid for five years, traveling through China, Tibet, and Thailand, then Belize, Argentina, and Mexico. He learned to live in a world he’d never known in Beacon Hills - one of poverty and crime. He met good people trying to get by on almost nothing, and bad people trying to make a quick buck by screwing them over. He’d learned about the web of organized crime that had far more impact on cities than individual criminals. Ultimately, the idea of Batman had been brewing the entire time he traveled, even as the wound of his parents’ murder had been scabbing over and healing into a scar.
When he’d finally returned to the States and heard how Beacon Hills had changed, he knew he had to come back to his hometown and try to turn it around. He couldn’t let the city his parents had loved and helped build degenerate into slums and abandoned neighborhoods.
But his sisters had stayed away, dealing with being orphaned in their own way. It was never the right time to discuss vigilante justice, even once he’d finally admitted his plans to himself. He’d changed so much over the five years of travel he didn’t know how to talk to them any more. Even now, they don't know what he really does; they exchange cards on their birthdays and Christmas and not much else. Maybe they have nightmares too, but if so Derek isn’t privy to them - the same way he would never call one of them tonight to talk about his dream. Sometimes it feels like they’re just as lost to him as his parents.
His eyes blink open. He’s not going to fall asleep like this. Out in the hallway, the slap of his bare feet on the hardwood floor barely stirs the heavy silence of the empty mansion. Boyd is downstairs, maybe even awake tinkering with some new gadget, but Derek doesn't want to bother him. Instead he ends up, as he usually does on these nights, going to look at his mother’s old jewel collection. It might be macabre, but at least the claws remind him of his parents. Of before.
But when he turns on the lights, the claws are gone.
The Cat Thief has stolen his mother's claws, that much is certain. As with all the other thefts, the break-in was almost impossibly clean. The cops discover that the alarms have all been disabled, but there are no fingerprints or broken glass, and the CCTV units have been cheekily covered with black cat stickers. There are no other clues.
Derek is unsettled by the development, to say the least. Even with his playboy cover, his night job’s found a way to follow him home. Usually, Derek can convince himself that Batman is the arm of justice, not a vendetta born out of personal damage. This, though? The petty theft of his last memory of his family? It feels unavoidably personal. He does not like his Batman stuff feeling personal.
But that feeling is only an illusion, he reminds himself. This crime was hardly targeted at Batman, and if he wants to bring the thief to justice, well, wanting to catch a criminal isn’t a vendetta. The Cat Thief might only be stealing from the wealthy, but he’s also making crime look easy and fun. Derek of all people should understand the power of a symbol. Batman isn’t one to let crime of any kind slide in his city. So, he’s decided; getting this so called “Cat Thief” caught quickly is the best solution for everyone.
Derek dives into the case, tracking down each theft and plotting it on a huge map in the Batcave with a date and any details from news articles or from gossip he’s heard. It’s easy enough to see the pattern when he lays it out: Upscale parties. Almost every time, the robberies occurred a few days after one of his peers’ events. Not every party results in a break-in, of course, and one or two times the break-in happens without a party in the recent past. Still, it’s clear that this is how the Cat Thief scopes out marks.
Derek tracks down the old guest lists next, cross-checking the parties that led to thefts versus the ones that didn’t. He considers that it might be one of the caterers, but almost all of the parties have used different companies, so that seems unlikely. The guest lists, on the other hand, overlap to an almost incestuous degree. Said overlap makes it difficult to narrow down which down-on-their-luck or in-need-of-a-thrill socialite it may be, but he’s fairly confident that the culprit is one of the thirty people who have attended every party that led to a theft and none that haven't.
At that point in his investigation, it becomes unavoidably clear that he can gather more intel at the parties themselves. So, he finds himself going to all of the ones he’s invited to. Which is to say, every goddamn one of them. As if he didn’t hate the Cat enough already.
After a few weeks, he’s narrowed it down to eighteen suspects who seem most plausible considering their age, character and physical fitness. The sheriff had been one of the original thirty, but Derek quickly struck him from the list. Of the many people in City Hall he suspects of being corrupt, John is the rare one he considers beyond reproach.
The party du jour is being hosted by Kali, Jennifer’s friend. Or perhaps more than just a friend - tonight’s celebration is in honor of her becoming an editor at Beacon Hills Weekly, and they’ve been flirty with each other all night. Good for them, if so. More importantly, Kali’s known to have plenty of expensive jewelry, so Derek has his fingers crossed that this will be the party that the Cat Thief attends and slips up at. He can’t wait to be done with the parties, and to have a lead on where his mother’s claws are now.
Despite the invite, Jennifer and Kali are pointedly ignoring him now that he’s here. He doesn’t know many of their editorial buddies, either, and they clearly think they’re too good to converse with a headline. Even Jackson is snubbing him after he’d asked after Lydia, not realizing the two of them were back off again. So, Derek’s just... standing to the side, taking things in. Or, to put it less nicely, he’s sulking in a corner. Sue him; he doesn’t like parties on a good day, and this isn’t that. Imagining new ways to capture the Cat Thief and put him in jail for the rest of his natural life is just about the only thing he’s taking any pleasure in lately.
Then, the night gets worse in just about the only way it could: that laugh again. Only this time Derek doesn’t have to look to know where it’s coming from. He can already imagine the plush pink lips stretched wide in amusement, the messy brown hair, the mole-dotted throat long and exposed as Stiles throws his head back. Yes, Stiles is still on his mind, even though it’s been weeks since he was shut down cold, even though Derek is perfectly aware he’s got approximately zero chance with him now.
Against his better judgment, he turns to take in Stiles’ enticingly athletic frame. God, he looks good. Their eyes catch from across the room, and Derek notices with some pleasure how Stiles’ gaze dips down, checking him out. They’re both in more casual clothes this time, and he knows what he looks like wearing a white button-down under this green sweater, with his artfully gelled hair and fitted jeans. He takes a bit of cold comfort in the way Stiles’ eyes linger even as he turns his head away.
What the hell, Derek thinks as he pushes off the wall to walk over to where Stiles is excusing himself from his current conversation. Even awkwardness has got to be better than waiting the night out alone as the object of whispered jokes and, no doubt, tabloid speculation tomorrow.
“Nice to see you again,” Stiles says as Derek catches up with him, his tone betraying a healthy thread of sarcasm.
Derek ignores it. “Same. Too bad you had to leave early last time. I was enjoying our... tour.”
“Yeah, sorry. Gotta keep pops happy.” Stiles shrugs without much evidence of actual contrition. “You know how it is.”
“Not really. My parents are dead.”
Stiles’ eyes widen for a split second and then wince closed; he actually mouthes ‘ fuck ’ to himself. Derek can’t help but let out a tiny chuckle.
“I’m so sorry,” Stiles says, legitimately chastened.
“Don’t be, I was just teasing.”
Stiles still looks abashed.
“Really. It was a long time ago, and...sometimes humor helps.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, giving him a strangely appraising look. “My mom died when I was a kid, too, so I kind of get it. Not like yours, I mean! it wasn’t violent or sudden or anything. Just an autoimmune disease.“
“It’s never ‘just’ anything,” Derek says softly. Except no, that’s not his line at all. Why is he losing his carefully crafted persona around this guy, again? He hasn’t even had much to drink.
Stiles nods, but he’s miles away. “After the diagnosis, she told me that at least I’d have a great way to shut down ‘yo mama,’ jokes,” he says with a half smile. “She was like that, you know. Funny, sarcastic, irreverent. Dad says I get my sense of humor from her.”
“Losing her must have been hard.”
“Yeah,” Stiles sighs. Then his eyes glint with humor as he lets a slow smile stretch across his face, slipping into the same flirtation as he had the first night they met. “But, you know, I’m pretty good with hard things.”
Derek snorts. “I think this is where your dad comes and interrupts us, right?” He looks around in fake concern and wins a surprised chuckle from Stiles. “Wouldn’t have guessed he was into the tabloid scene.”
“No, no. He isn’t here, I came with Lydia.”
Derek blinks. “Oh, that’s…oh.”
“As bros!” Stiles rushes to correct, and then looks mortified at his own eagerness. When he blushes it’s endearingly blotchy, and Derek feels himself smirking. Maybe non-zero chances, then.
“I thought that…” he starts, with half a plan to invite Stiles back to the mansion for a follow-up tour.
“Actually…” Stiles says at the same time, looking over Derek’s shoulder. He barrels on as Derek stops. “I really should... I have to go. So. You know, see you around, or not, actually. Just… later!” And he power-walks off, still blushing.
Derek blinks. He looks behind him a second later, but Stiles is already gone and there’s nothing in his line of sight that looks like it would have inspired his sudden departure - just an empty hallway. A moment later one of the guards steps into the space and glares at him until he backs up. Derek goes back to his corner and looks around the party again for Stiles. He spots Lydia over by the buffet table with Jackson is beside her, talking fervently. She’s got her arms crossed, but Derek thinks he spots a hint of a smile starting to break through her pout. No Stiles, though.
In fact, Derek doesn’t see Stiles the rest of the night. He doesn’t seem the type to leave his date, even if they went as friends, but maybe he wanted to let her and Jackson spend time alone? Whatever the reason, he’s clearly gone. Which is probably for the best, as it frees Derek to focus on gathering clues. Still, his mind isn’t completely on the task. When they talked, there had been the same spark as when they first met. Or he’d thought there was, before Stiles ran off. He really does wish he knew what that had been about.
The night after, Derek is staked out in the alley behind Kali’s place, wishing he’d asked Boyd to add a bit more lumbar support to the Batmobile. Between the bucket seat and the suit, he’s none too comfortable. Leaving isn't an option though; he does this after each party, but this time might be his best chance to catch the Cat. He’s picked the likeliest exit route from Kali’s mansion to watch, and hacked into her alarm system so he should get an early heads-up on any malfeasance.
Unfortunately, there’s no real pattern in how soon after the party the Cat makes his move - if he’s even going to steal from Kali at all. Around one AM, Derek decides he should call it quits and come back the next few nights. If the criminal still doesn’t show, at least he can use the lack of theft as a datapoint to narrow down his list of suspects even more.
Then, out of nowhere, he spots a shadowy figure sneaking over the high walls around Kali’s mansion, dropping easily to a nearby apartment building roof from one of her old growth oaks. The thief cuts a lithe figure in his skintight black catsuit, almost dancing along the gutter in the moonlight, clearly feeling on top of the world to have gotten away with something.
Except that he hasn’t gotten away this time, not yet.
Derek is out of the Batmobile and clambering up the fire escape in a flash, with all the agility born of doing this for five years. Catching up to the Cat is only too easy, since the guy is more intent on reveling in his success than running. Derek lays him out with a quick leg sweep from behind, taking a certain pleasure in the man’s surprised “oof!”.
Derek pulls a pair of handcuffs from his belt, but the Cat recovers quicker than he expected and rolls out of the way at the last minute, back to his feet. Derek throws a punch, which the Cat also dodges, and Derek catches the Cat’s return left hook right on his chin. He falls back a step with a grunt. The guy’s as strong as he is fast.
Derek’s still got him cornered at the edge of the building, preventing any escape, but the Cat doesn’t seem particularly concerned. He bounces on his feet, a smirk under his mask and his hands at his chin like a boxer. “I was wondering when I’d run into you! Been playing around in your city long enough.”
“Petty theft isn’t usually worth my time,” Derek answers, rising to the teasing challenge in the Cat’s tone. He steps in quickly with another jab, then a quick one-two. The last connects, but not directly. The Cat strikes back, a few rabbit punches that Derek sidesteps handily. They’re testing each other out, almost sparring. It’s much better than the gangbangers who always pull a knife on him straight out of the gate and force him to taze them. Boyd’s the one who loves the gadgets. Derek honestly finds them less fun than good, old-fashioned hand to hand.
“Sure, petty million-dollar theft,” the Cat agrees mockingly as they eye each other. “And here I thought you just weren't smart enough to catch me.”
He tries a kick, but Derek neatly avoids it, following up with a punch of his own that the Cat blocks.
“Don’t flatter yourself. Had a free night, is all.” Derek feints and then punches, finally landing another hit. The Cat spins out of reach before he can turn it into a hold.
“What, no date on a Friday? You do have very virginal hands,” the Cat quips, dodging another punch. “No wonder you’ve turned to vigilantism to get out your aggression.” He shakes his head with mock sorrow. “Poor, lonely Bat. You should look into Tinder.”
“Thanks for the concern, but no need,” Derek says, and he has to remind himself not to laugh. It’s just that the Cat’s actually skilled enough to hold his own, and fighting with him is… fun? Is he having fun right now?
“You sure? I can help you with your profile.” The Cat blocks his next two blows almost lazily, dancing back with precise footwork. It looks a bit as if he’s enjoying himself as well. “Interests include bondage, dressing up like it’s summer Halloween, and creepy, nocturnal lurking.”
Derek frowns - he’s a symbol of hope, he isn’t creepy - and the Cat takes advantage of his loss of focus. He hooks a leg behind Derek ankle and shoves, knocking Derek to his back and winding him. Before he gets his breath back, he’s pinned by the Cat straddling his chest, shins trapping Derek’s arms so he can’t quite manage to roll them over. He squirms ineffectively. The suit protects him from unnecessary injury, but it’s not exactly made for judo moves.
“I’d swipe right,” the Cat purrs. ”Guys like you are catnip to me - handsome, dazed, a little bit dangerous…” He winks behind the mask. “I know you’ve got a rep as Mr. Dudley Do-Right, but we’d make a pretty good pair. What do you say?”
“Tempting - you’re just my type,” Derek says, finally throwing some of the tension back at the thief. The dirty offer in Derek’s voice has Cat’s distracted for a half second, his mouth falling open, and that’s all Derek needs to get the leverage to twist a hand free and cuff him to the fire escape.
“Oh, shit,” the Cat says, in a shocked voice that’s weirdly familiar without the affected flirtiness. Derek rolls to his feet, trying to shake off the effect the Cat’s having on him. Batman intimidates criminals, he doesn’t flirt with them.
Even though he’s trapped in a position that makes it impossible to stand, the Cat’s quickly adapted to the situation and is giving the impression that he chose to be exactly where he is. “Kinky,” he purrs, flipping onto his back and rolling his hips. “So what now, do I have to call you daddy?”
“Now I’m taking you to the sheriff,” Derek says gruffly. He’s making a valiant effort to keep his eyes off the Cat’s lithe, spandex-clad form, but some things are just outside his control.
The mention of the cops has the Cat dropping the sexy act again. “Okay, hey, look,” he says in a quick, low tone. “You don’t need to turn me in to m- to the authorities. Let’s just talk this through. We’re both guys who dress up like nocturnal animals to get shit done outside the law. Gotta be some common ground there, yeah?”
“We’re nothing alike. You’re a criminal.” It’s bothering Derek now. Why is the voice so familiar?
“Look, just, I’m sorry? I won’t do it again?” The Cat seems personally invested in not getting taken to the sheriff, pleading like a wayward teen. “C’mon, I don’t hurt people. You’ve got a whole city to defend, a city full of actual gangsters. Don’t you have better things to do?”
“So, robbing from the rich is okay, then?” Derek hears a bit of bitterness that he knows is more about his personal loss than about the Cat’s actions. They’re not just jewels, to him. They’re his memory of his family.
The Cat makes a disgusted groan deep in his throat. “Oh please, have you met ‘the rich’? Take fucking Hale as an example, nice stubbly jawline and all, can definitely be charming… but look, if there’s anyone who deserves to get robbed, I mean, exhibit A through Z right there. You know he doesn’t even care that his parents died? I got to go to New York,” he mimics in really unflattering tone. “Let yourself think one of them’s decent for half a second, and get proved wrong.”
Wait, Derek thinks, what? The Cat is referencing Stiles and Derek’s conversation from last month as if he was there. No, not just there, as if he was half of that conversation. The reason his voice is familiar is that the Cat is Stiles, and Stiles is the Cat. He’s the one who stole the claws.
“You’re...” Derek breathes but then the Cat shoves up into him, using the cuffs hanging loose off his wrist to clock Derek’s temple. Of course he wasn’t really begging; he was buying time.
Derek is caught entirely off-guard, unsure what to do. He can’t taze the sheriff’s son! The Cat smirks under his mask, that wide pink mouth so obviously Stiles’ now that Derek’s put things together. He had the sense to cover his moles with some kind of makeup, at least; he may be young, but he’s no amateur.
And then he’s leapt over the rooftop, a six-story drop. Derek rushes to look over the edge, appalled, but instead of a body he sees that Stiles caught himself on a window ledge, swung to a lower building and is now happily running away with Kali’s jewels.
Any other person, and Derek would tell the sheriff the Cat’s identity and be done with it. But in this case, that’s the one thing he can’t do. Not that he doesn’t think John would turn his own son in - he’s almost sure he would. That’s the problem: Stilinski's position is already on the rocks due to their work together, and if it comes out that his own son is the one robbing the rich and powerful blind? Goodbye reelection.
Instead, Derek needs to get at Stiles directly. Collect some more information about how he’s pawning the jewels, figure out how he can be convinced to stop and return the goods without having to bring the law into it. And to get that kind of insight and leverage, he needs to get closer to Stiles.
It doesn’t take much deliberation to realize that Derek Hale, playboy, is going to have better luck with that than Batman. If he goes with the whole growly death threat routine on the sheriff’s only child, the kid would probably tell the sheriff, and then the sheriff would ask Derek what the hell, and they'd be back at square one. On the other hand, Stiles liked Derek’s looks. It shouldn’t be that hard to get a date, then, and when he's closer to Stiles and knows him better, he’ll… Well, he’ll work it out from there.
He heads over to the police station the next day around noon, because he knows from John that Stiles often swings by for lunches. Weirdly, his nerves are acting up. Asking Stiles out isn’t something he should be nervous about; it isn’t an actual date. Stiles is a criminal, for God’s sake. And his mentor’s son, and way too young for him, and hates Derek anyways.
It’s business, is all. Vigilantism. Whatever.
“Here to pay a ticket,” Derek drawls to the cop manning the intake desk, which is technically true - he always has at least one outstanding, usually for speeding. In a perfect stroke of luck, Stiles wanders by before she finishes pulling the citation up. He spots Derek and does a full-body double take.
Derek props his elbows on the counter and leans back, arching his hips out to make his body into one long, inviting line. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself,” Stiles says a little warily.
“You get yourself in trouble with the law, too?” Derek asks, enjoying the tiny look of panic that flashes through the Cat’s eyes.
Stiles covers it well, though. “Naw,” he smiles. “Just having lunch with my Dad.”
“Oh, that’s adorable! Lucky him, having an adult son who’d rather eat in with Pops than go out,” Derek says. The patronizing tone has started getting under Stiles’ skin, if the way he’s clenching his jaw is any indication. Good. The more off-balance he is, the more he wants to prove himself, the better for Derek. “Bet you used to get straight A’s and come home by curfew, say ‘no!’ to drugs and tattle on the kids with fake IDs.”
“Something like that,” Stiles says tightly.
Got him. “ You know, we never did finish our tour. You should come back to the house, see the rest of what you missed.”
Stiles shrugs. “Think I got to all the highlights.”
“I promise there are some good parts you didn’t see,” Derek says, quirking an eyebrow so there’s no way Stiles can miss the double entendre.
Stiles’ tongue darts out to lick his lower lip, his eyes flicking down. He may be grossed out by the playboy act, but he’s undeniably attracted to Derek’s body. More importantly, he must like the high of making not-great choices or he wouldn’t be a part-time thief. Come on, Derek thinks.
But Stiles catches himself and shakes his head sharply. “Eh, what can I say. I like the thrill of the new.” He smirks and starts to turn away.
“Bali,” Derek says.
Stiles stops in his tracks. “Huh?”
“I’m assuming you haven’t been. I have a private jet, so if you’re not busy this weekend…?” He leans in conspiratorially. “If that’s new enough for you, of course.”
Stiles gapes, but his eyes are sparkling and there’s a smile curling around the edges. Even before he says anything, Derek knows he’s found the right bait. There’s something in Stiles that craves wealth and opulence, or he wouldn’t be stealing jewels. Electronics would be as good a paycheck and easier to fence if he wasn’t at least partially in it for the thrill.
The sheriff comes out of his office, frowning down at some reports in his hands. “Stiles? Parrish said you… oh. Hale.”
If the sheriff didn’t like his son palling around with Derek at the mansion, he sure as hell doesn't like the development of Derek actually coming to the station. He looks every inch the disapproving father.
The part of Derek that’s Batman has the impulse to say “Sorry sir,” and back off, but he knows that’s a bit much. Stiles is a college grad; he can make his own choices. And at least for the moment, he’s choosing to give Derek a try. For once, the playboy act is doesn’t feel like a stone around his neck. He can actually appreciate his wealth with Stiles’ bright eyes on him like a challenge, and there’s nothing the sheriff’s going to do to spoil it.
“I’ll see you at the airport on Friday,” Derek says to the younger Stilinski, with an unnecessarily lascivious wink. “Take off’s at two.”
Stiles shows up at the airport at 2:15 in aviators, crisp khakis and new boat shoes. His attitude is calculatedly indifferent, but Derek smiles. Those clothes weren’t bought on a college student’s budget. He’s trying to impress.
They spend most of their Balinese weekend on a relatively small rented yacht, some of it sampling the local restaurants, and the rest enjoying the hiking and beaches. Stiles doesn’t so much as hold Derek’s hand, much less divulge any personal details that would help put an end to his crime sprees… but they flirt like mad, Stiles looks amazing in swim trunks, and somehow it’s the best vacation Derek’s had in years. (Okay, so it’s also the only one. Still.)
On the flight back to Beacon Hills, Derek pesters Stiles into promising he’ll come to dinner the next Friday at Cotogna, the most expensive restaurant in town. As fun as the trip was, after all, it’s only the first step in his plan to stop the kid’s extracurricular activities as the Cat Thief.
What they start to do after that must look a lot like dating. The tabloids are going wild; Derek Hale, consummate bachelor, is actually sticking with one person more than a week! Is it love? Should they expect a wedding announcement? Derek shrugs and feigns ignorance to half the reporters, and makes gross insinuations about his and Stiles’ sex life to the rest.
Stiles seems to find the heated articles written about them hilarious. “I had no idea there was a sex dungeon in the Hale mansion,” he smirks, scrolling through the latest from Star on his phone. “Much less that I’m apparently the reason it exists?”
“The more you know,” Derek says. “If you want to swing by on Sunday and give it a spin…?”
Stiles ignores the offer. “I don’t know why people give a flying fuck about all this celeb gossip anyways, when we have a literal superhero in our midst.”
“Who, Batman?” Derek says, stifling a smirk. One of his favorite things is when Stiles tries to make him jealous by talking about how amazing his alter-ego is.
“Yeah. Maybe it’s just that there’s not much to write, seeing as how he’s not a publicity hound.” Here he looks pointedly at Derek, who bites his lip in an attempt not to smile. “Or maybe they leave it to the news because it’s the same story every time,” Stiles says breezily. “The guy always wins. Kind of boring, you know? He’s smart, strong… nobody else here is really a match for him.”
“What about the Cat, though?” Derek suggests casually.
Stiles’ eyes go distant, and he shrugs. “Eh, flash in the pan. He’ll probably take a header off one of those mansions and the problem will take care of itself.”
Not the answer Derek expected. “Really? He’s pretty good at what he does, never leaves clues. If the magazines want a good story, they could do worse than the Cat.”
“Maybe. But they can’t write about him ‘till they catch him,” Stiles says with the hint of a smirk. He changes the topic to the next outrageous article (Stilinski Pregnant with Hale Heir?!), and Derek lets it go, a little afraid to overplay his own hand in their one-sided game of cat and mouse.
As the weeks roll into a month and then nearly two, Stiles lets go of the pretense that he’s not perfectly happy going to whatever upscale restaurants Derek suggests, or taking a spin in the private jet or the copter, or accepting truly extravagant gifts. He still flatly refuses to come back to the mansion. Derek doesn’t push. He figures Stiles is half playing hard to get, half milking Derek for every penny he’s willing to spend. It would be a little irritating, except for how exciting and challenging it is trying to keep him interested, enough that he sometimes forgets that Stiles is a mark, not someone he’s spending time with just for fun.
Perhaps for that reason, the dating ruse goes on… slightly longer than it needs to. It’s not entirely Derek’s lapses of attention, though. It really is tricky getting anything useful out of Stiles. He’s crafty, using the fact that he’s so interesting and glib to direct the conversation away from specifics. One comment and he can chatter away for literally hours, and have Derek playing along, laughing and asking questions and realizing too late that he got so sidetracked that he never pried into anything about Stiles’ schedule or income at all.
And it’s during that sort of conversation that - every once and awhile - Stiles starts to speak earnestly about something, without insulting Derek’s intellect or values, and Derek forgets that he’s supposed to be finding a way to trap Stiles in a lie. In those moments when they slip up and get honest with each other, there’s an undeniable pull between them whispering that they could be so fucking compatible.
In an alternate universe, that is, one where Derek isn’t trying semi-successfully to lead two incompatible lives and Stiles isn’t a fucking criminal. He shakes the idea of anything else away; his erstwhile boyfriend might be attractive and fun, but he’s also a morally compromised thrill-seeker. Batman doesn’t have time for a relationship, anyways.
It’s easier to remember when the two of them go to parties together. The idea is for Derek to ensure that the Cat doesn’t have a single unoccupied moment to scope the houses out, even though he not-so-subtly wants to. Watching Stiles twitch each time Derek insists on following him to the bathroom or buffet almost makes up for the loss of the claws, frankly. The robberies have stopped cold; at least one part of his plan is a success.
Unfortunately, Derek’s time for vigilantism is also pinched by the close tabs he’s keeping on his new nemesis, as Boyd points out with increasingly pointed comments.
“Two more banks were robbed while you were busy getting your dick wet,” he says dryly, handing Derek the paper.
“I’m not getting my dick wet,” Derek snaps, reviewing the police blotter with no small amount of guilt.
Boyd doesn’t answer - verbally, anyways. He’s making his ‘congratulations, you played yourself’ face loud and clear.
“Shut up,” Derek mutters.
“There’s an obvious solution here, you know.”
Derek folds the paper up and focuses his attention on Boyd for this old argument. “No, we’ve been over this. It’s too dangerous.”
“Dangerous is you trying to figure out the smoke bombs I put in the Batmobile, not me in the suit,” Boyd tells him. “I know you’ve got guilt, man, but you’re not the only one who wants to make a difference. You’re not the only one who’s lost someone.”
Derek opens his mouth to shut him down - yes, he know what happened to Alicia, but their training isn’t enough, he can’t have Boyd’s death on his hands, too - and remembers, unbidden, the most recent moment of honesty between him and Stiles. It had been something about the sheriff, Stiles had said something like, yeah I try to get him to eat healthy, but it’s his choice in the end. Me trying to force it on him just puts us at odds. He gives me space to live my life, so I have to trust him, too.
It isn’t the same, of course. Boyd is younger than Derek, not his parent, and the question at hand is far more immediately dangerous than a cheat day on his diet. It’s not the same at all… except for the part where the point is exactly the same. He’s always insisted that Boyd is his equal partner in the Batman enterprise, but he’s been treating him more like the butler he pretends to be.
“Promise me you’ll just patrol,” Derek says. “Don’t look for a fight, and call me the second you need back-up.”
Boyd’s eyes almost bug out of his head, but he recovers quickly. “Yes, sir!”
“Don’t call me sir,” Derek says, but it’s too late. Boyd has already run down to the Batcave to start retrofitting an old suit to his measurements.
Boyd in the suit is effective to the point where Derek feels a little adrift. He always kind of knew that his penchant for doing things the old-fashioned way was holding him back, but Boyd’s full-hearted embracing of tech is shockingly effective. It’s a credit to his character that he doesn’t gloat.
Derek still occasionally gets out as Batman, of course; he wouldn’t know what to do with the free time if he didn’t. Specifically, he makes time to meet with the sheriff, who would probably wonder if he showed up one day four inches taller and black. The topic today is a strange new gang using a weaponized laughing gas to rob banks a few towns over. It’s a little troubling, but not at the top of the pile where the arms dealers and human traffickers reside. The conversation wraps up in a positive note, or Derek thinks it does. Only the sheriff hesitates, looking pensive and troubled.
“Sheriff?” Derek asks. ”Is there something else?”
“No, no. Or, nothing to do with the gangs. It’s just… well, you’ve seen the tabloids. My son, he’s started dating Derek Hale. That airheaded playboy!” He shakes his head. “I know Mieczyslaw is legally an adult now, but he’s barely out of college! I tried to raise him better than to pal around with people like that. Do you think… you don’t think they’re... you know… intimate?”
“I don’t read tabloids,” Derek lies. “I’ll, uh, keep you informed if I hear any more about the gangs.” He shoots his hookshot to a ledge across the alley and throws himself off the roof, rappelling away. Honestly, he might have taken the dive even without the hookshot to escape his almost-boyfriend’s father and professional mentor saying the word “intimate” like that again.
He’s getting a little concerned that this thing with Stiles is a terrible, terrible idea.
The concern does not abate later that week, when Stiles gets parsley stuck in his teeth at brunch and Derek finds it endearing. It grows significantly worse that evening when, as they’re walking back to the car, Stiles casually elbows Derek to direct his attention to a funny bit of graffiti and he gets butterflies in his stomach.
To be clear: Derek is well aware that what he and Stiles have isn’t a real relationship, because it’s built on lies. He is well aware that he’s, as Boyd would put it, playing himself. This was supposed to be about getting more intel and finding a way to stop the Cat without ruining the sheriff’s life, but now he finds himself remembering that Stiles likes curly fries and graphic tees as much as he likes foie gras and Hugo Boss, asking him what’s on his bucket list... as if any of those things have the slightest relevance to the case. He knows he’s getting in over his head, yet here he is wandering around in Saks just for excuse to talk with Stiles, a privilege he’ll likely end up dropping a couple grand for. It’s plain old stupid is what it is.
“Are you going to the GreenCorp gala?” Derek asks. Stiles is generally happy to banter with him, but today he seems distracted. His question was purely to break the silence. The gala is hosted by Lydia’s R&D department, and he knows that she and Stiles are close enough he’d never miss her big day.
“Yeah. No need for you to come, though.”
Derek blinks. “I’m free, I can take you. Scientists aren’t great company, anyways. You’ll be bored if you go by yourself.”
“You mean you’d be bored,” Stiles says. “It’s fine, Lydia’ll keep me entertained.”
“Really?” Derek teases, hoping it sounds careless. In reality, he’s getting nervous. Usually Stiles will cave before he has to beg like this; is it something to do with the Cat? Or maybe he’s finally getting bored. “Do I have to buy you a fancy suit first? Promise to take you in a limo?”
“Hmm,” Stiles hums, sharply sarcastic. His expression is uncharacteristically vicious; Derek hit a nerve. “As much as I love the whole paternalistic asshole thing, don’t bother with the swanky ride. I just want to hang with Lydia, not babysit you and try to translate PhD conversation into fifth-grader. Why don’t you go find a model or something, bang her in your limo.”
“Yikes, what’s gotten into you?” Derek says easily, despite the aching hurt in his gut where Stiles’ words have settled. He’s already coming up with a crazy plan to turn up at the gala anyways. Maybe he really will come with a model on his arm; Paige and he left on good enough terms. Then he catches himself. He’s honestly trying to make his mark jealous?
There's a moment of tense silence that Derek doesn't know how to diffuse. Half of him wants to spout out something smart enough to make Stiles gape and take back the fifth-grader comment, half wants to smooth over whatever he did wrong. Preventing Stiles from using parties to case new targets is the only aspect of Derek’s plan that’s worked at all. If he won’t even be able to do that, there’s no point in keeping up this ruse.
“You know what, I've gotta go,” Stiles says shortly. “Good luck bagging a hot model.”
He makes for the door, leaving Derek standing alone among the dress shirts like an idiot. A moment later, Derek power-walks out himself, half intending to apologize. He makes it through the door just in time to see Stiles furtively answering a call. Derek frowns, pressing back into the shadows instinctively and straining to hear.
“Hi Lydia. Yeah, it’s fine, I’ll be alone. Just blew Derek off,” Stiles is saying. He scowls at Lydia’s inaudible reply. “So what if he is, I don’t give a shit... I do not, he’s a bland, over-privileged asshole! Honestly, he means nothing to me.” He huffs an annoyed sigh. “I’ll get the sample for you, no problem,” he says firmly, and ends the call.
Derek ducks out of sight and lets Stiles walk the opposite direction, his chest feeling strangely hollowed out. So, Stiles is stealing a sample from the lab. The party’s being held for a new plant-growth serum Lydia helped invent, if Derek remembers right. Could that be what Stiles is stealing? He shoots a text to Boyd to research the invention. But why is Stiles stealing it for Lydia, if she’s the one who invented it? Only for money?
Derek huffs a small laugh at his own stupidity. Of course money. What other reason would he need? Stiles is a criminal, which he should never have let himself forget. The research at GreenCorp, though, that’s a more serious bounty than overpriced jewelry. Who knows its off-label uses?
Derek already knows that he needs to go as Batman and foil the Cat’s plan. Hell, maybe he should turn Stiles in to the authorities after all. He’s been defending a common thief from the consequences of his actions, out of some misguided fear for the sheriff’s job - or for the kid himself - but that ends now.
The night of the gala, Derek watches from the rooftop as cops escort guests past a crowd of protesters waving signs and yelling about how the company’s experiments are killing the rainforests. From what Boyd’s darknet research has turned up, the hippies aren’t far off; GreenCorp is anything but green. Their tech is, however, very profitable. If the sample serum disappears, it will take GreenCorp months to make another, and in the meantime any other company would pay big bucks for the original to reverse engineer.
Batman lets himself into the building through an industrial air vent, and wanders In the upper lab areas looking for Stiles. The guards are all downstairs keeping the carefully vetted guests at bay, but they’re not patrolling regularly up here. It seems like they trust their fancy alarms to keep the area secure. Foolish guards.
The Cat isn’t taking much care to hide as he shreds some papers by Lydia’s workspace. No, he’s just standing right there that skin tight suit, every muscle and curve highlighted in the fluorescent light. It’s more than Derek usually sees of Stiles’ body despite all the ‘dates,’ because they still haven’t done more than flirt with each other. The lack of physicality is of course perfectly explainable considering that Stiles has thought of him as nothing this whole time.
“Stop right there,” he growls, and the Cat freezes.
“O-ooh, it’s the Bat again,” he says, feeding the rest of the sheaf through the shredder even as he turns. “Taking me up on my offer to get you up and running on Tinder? Or are you just planning on working out some tension with me right now?” He makes an exaggerated show of licking his lips, with a little shimmy that almost disguises the sleight of hand tucking a green vial into his belt.
“Not today,” Derek says. He fires his taser directly into Stiles’ chest.
But the Cat doesn't go down. He glares at the wires, unaffected, then pulls the leads out and tosses them aside. His suit is rubberized; he must have a literal genius working for him, too.
“Guess playtime’s over,” Stiles says. Apparently he isn’t kidding, because the claws literally come out; he flicks his wrists and knives snick out of the gloves’ fingertips. “Sorry, Bat, this kitty doesn’t like to share.”
He gains the upper hand instantly. Derek’s too cautious of the claws, and too hesitant to hit Stiles. He takes a couple hard blows to his abs, one to the head, and a vicious kick to the thigh. Damn, that'll leave a mark. No, he realizes, this kid doesn’t need kid gloves at all. Derek steels himself and strikes back, pushing the advantage of his larger stature. The Cat ducks and dodges away, but Derek doesn’t let himself be maneuvered into giving him a free path back to the windows.
They’re evenly matched, trading blows back and forth without either of them getting the upper hand. Honestly, the office is seeing the worst of it as they knock into desks and send lab equipment and papers flying.
At least, they’re evenly matched until Derek remembers a story Stiles had told about an old lacrosse accident. He grabs him by the wrist and pulls where he knows the joint isn’t as flexible anymore; the Cat twists gracefully away, avoiding overstretching the old injury, but Derek was anticipating the move. He grabs the vial when the Cat has his back turned, and shoves him away.
Stiles stumbles into a desk and turns back, gasping in irritation and offence. “That’s mine!”
“Oh really, it is? Then you won’t mind if I do this.”
Derek plucks a batarang from his belt and throws it into a security panel on the wall. Alarms blare. It’s a risk, because he’s technically a wanted man, too. Still, so long as he’s gone before the cops arrive - and the serum isn’t - it will do the trick.
Stiles grits his teeth, eyes flicking to the flashing lights, and makes a dive for Derek. His claws are poised to slash, but Derek turns his body between them and the serum, at the cost of a swipe to his ribs; he gasps in pain. The knives must be fucking sharp to cut through the Kevlar like that.
The Cat whirls on him again, but before he attacks the hall fills with shouted orders and tromping boots as guards arrive via the elevators across the floor. Cursing under his breath, Stiles breaks for an open window and grabs the climbing lead he’d left for his escape. Derek sets the vial back on Lydia’s desk and sprints to get back to his own escape route, the vent. By the time he gets to the roof, Stiles is nowhere to be seen, of course. Derek feels a strange mix of disappointment and relief knowing that the Cat lives to steal another day.
Derek slinks home, nursing his ribs and ego. The four cuts across his ribs sting badly when he pats them with disinfectant, but they’re not bleeding enough to warrant a bandage. He shrugs on a fresh dress shirt, haphazardly buttons it up halfway, and swigs a few mouthfulls of scotch from a bottle worth more than most people in this city pay for rent. Boyd is out and about fighting crime, so the house is dark and empty. He sits alone in the smaller living room on the main floor, the one that seems homey if you don’t know that no family actually lives here. Derek feels himself slide into a darker place than he’s been in for some time. No friends, no family, no purpose even, if he really can’t stop a fucking petty thief. He tries not to think about how much he’d gotten used to having Stiles around as a bright distraction.
The doorbell rouses him from his thoughts, and he frowns in confusion. He doesn’t have anyone who comes to his house just to say hello.
He walks gingerly to the front door and swings it open to find Stiles, dressed in a normal suit now rather than his Cat Thief getup.
Derek blinks. Stiles may not know that their alter egos tried to kill each other less than two hours ago, but they didn’t leave on the best terms as Stiles and Derek either.
“Stiles,” he finally says. “I didn’t expect to see you.”
“Had a frustrating night,” Stiles murmurs, his voice husky. It seems like he’s been drinking, too. He crowds into the entryway, slipping his hands over Derek’s shoulders and down his back. They’ve never been this close before; it’s simply not something Stiles wanted from him. Only apparently he wants it now, and more, because his mouth is on Derek’s, biting and insistent. Derek freezes, too surprised to react.
“C’mon, kiss me,” Stiles orders, brushing his mouth softly against Derek’s.
Finally getting his wits about him, Derek takes a quick step back and puts some distance between them. What kind of game is he playing? Even when they were on good terms they never did this, and now he wants to? After what he said earlier in the week?
“I thought you had better things to do than babysit me tonight,” Derek says. He can’t help the bitterness of the words, remembering Stiles’ easy dismissal when he thought he was alone.
“Well, apparently I didn’t,” Stiles says. “I just… I wanted to see you.”
His tone is chastened, and the way he’s slouching and avoiding eye contact makes it seem like an honest admission.
But Derek can’t quite accept it. “What are you saying?” He shakes his head, half disbelief and half pure confusion.
“Fine, I’m saying you’re hot,” Stiles says angrily, pushing him back into the hall. “I’m saying you’re funnier than I thought, you’re smarter than I thought, you’re fucking interesting. I’m saying that maybe I like you a little.” The rant would be flattering, if Stiles didn’t sound so mad about it. “Maybe I like you a lot, and you don’t have to fucking buy my attention.”
That’s what he got upset about? The money? Derek makes a rough noise of frustration and stops letting Stiles push him back. He takes him in his arms, trying to kiss that stupid idea out of his head. Stiles is surprised for maybe a millisecond, and then he surrenders to the embrace. His hands are tangling through Derek’s hair, dragging him close with all the pent-up frustration built over practically two months of nothing but heated innuendo. They’ve been dancing around this for too long.
Stiles sighs when they part for breath, their wet, tender lips bumping against each other in the bare fraction of space between them. Derek lets himself be pulled over to the nearest couch where Stiles settles him onto his lap, pressing their bodies together. He must be more than a little drunk, because he can tell that this is a deeply terrible idea and he still isn’t stopping it, is absolutely powerless to do anything but grind down into Stiles, bite his lips, ask for more.
Stiles seems to be equally entranced, palming Derek’s ass and straining up into him with increasingly apparent arousal. It’s frankly amazing, having him here like this, saying that the moments of connection weren’t just on his end, were real. He’d been so sure they’d never get to have this after their fight in the store.
And their fight fight he remembers, as he realizes Stiles is unbuttoning his shirt. He makes a noise of protest and bats Stiles’ hands away, but the guy’s very determined to get him naked. In any other situation that would be unfairly gratifying, but in this one it's terrible. Unfortunately, Stiles has made quick work of the buttons and triumphantly sweeps the fabric aside, baring Derek’s chest and torso.
And, of course, the distinctive set of cuts across his ribs.
They both go very, very still.
Stiles stares down at the cuts, lined up perfectly with his fingers, then drags his eyes up to Derek’s face. He tries to play it cool but fails. He knows, now, and from his expression he knows Derek knows that he knows, and Derek knows that… ok. They both know.
Stiles squirms out from under him and stumbles to his feet. Derek stands too, keeping him within arm’s reach. The tenor of their encounter has changed, though it still feels just as heated. He regrets the fear in Stiles’ eyes, but he can’t let him leave now, knowing what he knows.
“Well, well, well. The Batman is really Derek Hale.” Stiles’ back smacks up against a wall, halting his retreat. “Have to admit, I thought you’d be broodier. But then, I guess that’s the point.”
“Trust me, I can be plenty broody.” Derek crowds in on Stiles, a hand braced next to his shoulder to keep him from making a move towards the door.
“Is that what you’re gonna do to me now, Bats? Brood at me?” The smirking challenge is half the Cat and half Stiles. It didn’t seem possible for Stiles to get more attractive, but the combo of his alter-egos is, unfortunately, doing the trick. Derek breathes through his nose, attempting to push down his untoward arousal.
“I can’t let you go public with my identity.”
“Got it, secret’s safe with me,” Stiles says, and while his winning smile is the picture of ease, his tone is pitchy with nerves. “Problem solved!”
Derek scoffs. “I don’t trust thieves.”
“Thieves?” Stiles asks, playing at offense. “I’m a thief?”
“I mean, that depends on how you define ‘thief,’ doesn’t it?”
Derek quirks a brow. “Someone who takes things that aren’t theirs?”
“Haha, okay, if you go with that definition, I suppose I am technically a thief,” Stiles prattles. “But a nice one, like Robin Hood! Robbing from the rich isn’t really so bad, is it? They can still eat! They’re not going to get evicted! I’m just… redistributing.” He makes smoothing motion with his palms as if to illustrate. “Admittedly, I’m regretting having stolen from you, what with the whole being a superhero thing. Sorry about hitting you, by the way... and also that whole thing where I called you an airheaded asshole to your face. In my defense, you give a very convincing performance.”
“You’re sorry for insulting me, but not for robbing my friends?”
“Eeh,” Stiles says with an exaggerated wince. “I’ve seen you at the parties, big guy. Jennifer and all? Not your friends,” he corrects. Then his face goes earnest. “Besides, with this kind of payday I can actually improve conditions in Beacon Hills! I can prop up the housing nonprofits and the needle exchanges, I can turn this city around, make it so I don’t have to worry every time my dad goes out on patrol. Stealing is just a means to an end dude, we want the same thing.”
“Every cent gets donated, then? Your fancy apartment, the new consoles, all that’s from your regular salary?”
Stiles’ eyes narrow as he realizes that Derek has spied on him. “Alright, yes. I enjoy some of the finer things in life, too, sue me. You beat up gangbangers for kicks! At least I never put anyone in traction.”
“I do what I do for the good of the city, not for kicks. Don’t compare that to your little crime spree.”
“The hell?” Stiles snaps. “Last I checked, vigilantism is a crime, too. So, let me get this straight: your extralegal hobbies make you a saint and mine make me a sinner because... why? I’m not resigned to suffering in the shadows like you? I enjoy myself every once and awhile, and that’s immoral?”
“Immoral is you seducing me that night at the party just to get a look at the security for my mother’s jewelry.” Derek clenches his jaw and looks away, regretting how bitter the accusation came out. He’s not supposed to care that Stiles was playing with his emotions.
“Seduc- Oh, fuck you, Pot. Kettle here would like you to look at your life choices. You’ve been taking me out on honest-to-god dates just to get intel on the robberies. For weeks! Real nice detective work,” he snaps. “I may have made an excuse to get upstairs that night, but I never went any farther to get the scoop. But just now, you…” Stiles breaks off to lick his lips. “You’d have fucked me right on your couch if I hadn’t put two and two together myself.”
The worst part is that he isn’t wrong. Derek growls in frustration, equally irritated with both of them. “I didn’t mean to do anything of the sort, I was just going to get intel. Except then you were just… just all… you.”
Stiles’ eyes light up. “Oh?” he says, and now he has that stupid flirty grin on, the one he wears when he knows he has the upper hand. The one Derek loses any sense of moral certitude for. “I’m all me, and that means… you can’t help yourself?”
Derek’s still pining Stiles to the wall, but his illusion of control vanishes when he fails to disagree. Stiles is still grinning at him. Then he leans in, wickedly slow, and slots their mouths together. Derek doesn’t kiss back - but he doesn’t pull away, either. Stiles kisses more insistently, tongue teasing at Derek’s mouth until Derek moans and kisses back, hard, slamming Stiles back into the wall.
That opens the floodgates. Suddenly they’re all hands, pushing and shoving each other back to the couch, each striving to be the first to get the other person unwrapped like the best kind of present. In short order, they’re naked and unobstructed to touch. Stiles tumbles Dereck flat on his back, slotting in between his legs. For a fuzzy eternity of bliss the only sound is their panting and desperate little moans as they rut against each other.
Stiles’ cock feels like velvet, hot in Derek’s hands. He’s kind of glad they don’t use this couch for much because he has a sense there are going to be flashbacks associated with tonight. He can’t imagine sitting here later and not having this on his mind - flashes of dark whiskey eyes and a pink mouth, pale freckled skin in the half light blooming with pink-red bruises where his mouth has been.
He’d almost forgotten what it’s like to actually be into the person he was fucking, honestly. He isn’t quite ready for the eye contact when they move rather than having his partner’s gaze fixed on his abs or dick or the wall behind his shoulder. There’s tenderness in the way they touch even as the sex itself is athletic, fast and hard and amazing. Stiles as a lover is everything that the Cat’s flirtiness promised - playful, demanding, preternaturally competent at taking Derek apart piece by piece.
That would be enough by itself, but even better is the way that Stiles responds to Derek’s attempts to give as good as he gets. Stiles is generous with intoxicating praise, and Derek is so caught up in their connection that he misses the usual signs and is practically blindsided by the most intense orgasm of his life. He spills over his abs, surprised at the wanton noises he’s making. He’s usually stoic when he comes, and in bed generally. Being noisy has it’s advantages, though; the loose abandon of his cries is enough to encourage Stiles to follow him. Derek clutches him close, holding him through the aftershocks.
“That was - wow,” Stiles huffs out between gasping for air. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Derek answers.
“You don’t even care that I’m the Cat Thief,” Stiles purrs.
Derek fixes him with a glare. “Yes, I do. It’s wrong.”
“You totally don’t care,” Stiles says, grinning wide and smug. “I think you’re into it. You’d rob those rich assholes yourself if you didn’t have such a boner for justice.”
“I do not have a...!” Derek starts, then snaps his teeth shut at the laughter dancing in Stiles’ eyes. “Can we go back to the part where you robbed me of a precious family heirloom?” he huffs instead.
“Well, I’ll give them back now.” Stiles sniffs, his shifty eyes betraying some contrition. “If you’re gonna keep dating me for real.”
So, maybe the shiftiness wasn’t contrition.
Weeks later, Derek is in bed scrolling through an email from Laura. There are pictures of her rooftop garden in NYC, a quick update about her law firm’s new case, and she’s agreeing to come visit for Easter.
“Did Laura get back to you? What’d she say?” Stiles asks from beside him, still muzzy from his post-coital nap.
“She’s coming,” Derek admits.
Stiles smiles at him, pats his head. “Told you so. Family is family. And you know, speaking of, my dad took the news pretty well…”
“We only told him so he wouldn’t shoot me for debauching you,” Derek interjects.
“And he took it pretty well,” Stiles continues calmly. “So, I think you should tell Laura and Cora. Who knows, maybe they’d like to help!”
Derek groans. “You’re just as bad as Boyd with his whoever she is. That ex-cop.”
“I think Erica would make a great Batlady. Batwoman? Batgirl.”
Derek would like to protest, but it’s harder to brush the argument away when crime is reliably down with Boyd and him both patrolling. Stiles is even on an uneasy break from robbing anyone, under threat of his father getting told about who, exactly, was behind the Cat Thief situation.
For once, things are looking up. And despite his flexible view of the law, Stiles is - he’s good. They’re good together. It’s good to wake up with someone beside him more nights than not, good to have people other than Boyd that he doesn’t have to lie to about everything that matters, good to have someone encouraging him to open up, to enjoy himself occasionally. Even publicly he can be a bit more himself, with the excuse that it’s just the sheriff’s son reforming the bad boy rich kid.
It’s easy enough to see that every good change in Derek’s life is all about Stiles. He still can't quite believe he gets this, the man laying in his arms now, snuggling his head into the crook of Derek’s neck. After all those years of lies and self-denial he gets to be with this wonderful, authentic, joyful person he hardly deserves. It’s as if he’s found his other half, who’s so young and yet somehow the most insightful, mature person Derek has ever...
“We should totally bang in the costumes sometime,” Stiles says sleepily. “You can tie me up with that bat lasso thing and just ream me. Unff.”
...He’s mostly mature, anyways.
“My suit is a finely tuned weapon, Stiles, not fetish gear,” Derek growls.
Stiles shrugs into Derek’s ribs, absently stroking the thin scars his claws made. “I mean, okay, I’m just saying it could be both.”
Derek harumphs. “...Maybe. For your birthday or something.”
“What about in the Batmobile?”
“Don’t push your luck.”
Stiles rolls over him on his elbows looking down with an uncharacteristically sweet smile. “I dunno, feels like I’m on a bit of a winning streak here.”
Derek laughs softly, twining his fingers through Stiles’ on the sheets. “Me, too,” he admits.