"Just go talk to him."
Laura says it like it should be easy. She's sitting across from Derek at a small circular table, long dark hair outlining her strong features. She looks like their mother, which, years after the fire, only makes him glad.
The coffee shop is buzzing with soft music, quiet conversation, and the occasional clutter of a cup hitting a table top. There's also the constant assault of - Welcome to JavaHut! Stiles, at your service! What can I get you today? - that Derek would like to ignore, but for the life of him cannot. Those words are like a heavy scent, pulling him in; pulling him back here at least three times a week to willingly take all of his older sister's mockery.
"Derek, this is insane."
Does she think he doesn't know that? Derek watches his mouth as it moves, asking a little girl about her face paint (birthday party, she explains, grinning madly). Derek lets his eyes fall down along every single one of his moles, counting, already having the number in his head anyway, and stops at his neck and collarbone. He watches the deep curves of it, the way it flexes as he laughs. It's only his collar but there's something way too venereal about it to Derek, like he has a secret hidden somewhere on it. One that’s meant for him, and no one else.
"Oh god," he says, and throws his head in his palms.
There is a long list of things he wants to do. With this guy. With this guy he's never even talked to.
Because no, Derek has never actually worked up the courage to walk up to the counter and order anything.
"My poor little brother, twitter-patted over the local goof-ball barista."
Derek doesn't even know-- He'd never pictured himself, or his wolf, having any interest in someone like this guy. Open, bright, talkative. His mother had always said that finding a 'mate' was a pile of spiritual mojo she didn't believe in; and neither does he. But there's something going on here. He could break himself from it, but he doesn't want to.
"Baby brother," Laura says, "For your own sanity, please go order me a coffee. I want a tall café mocha, with whipped creme and reeces."
She blows air into his face. "Come on, he's like the sweetest person," she says and she looks over at Stiles - Derek does too. He's washing the counter with a rag, singing to himself -- Taylor Swift, Romeo and Juliette -- and shaking his hips. Derek goes a bit light headed.
Laura kicks him in the shin, laughing at his resulting angry expression. "He's not going to say anything mean, or run away, or scream about you being a monster." She nudges him with her foot this time, smiling, though Derek knows her smiles come in many flavours, the most common being I'm Up To Something. "He's going to take your order and give you my coffee, nothing serious."
No, he's going to smile at Derek and look at Derek and pay attention to Derek - no one else, just Derek - and he doesn't think he could handle that. Not without jumping over the counter and stuffing his nose in his throat and smelling every inch of his skin. Not without growling at him. Not without embarrassing himself until he grew a tail and it flew up between his own legs and he ran away, and Stiles thinks Wow what a freak, and Derek hides in his apartment until he dies.
"You know, I bet Mom would've liked him."
Derek looks at her.
Laura keeps talking. "He seems…" She hums about it for a moment. "Defiant. Fun. Goofy, like I said. Different from the others. Like he could really handle himself around us."
Derek shakes his head. His past relationships don't have anything to do with this.
Because this guy behind the counter, smiling like the sun and singing shamelessly, he's on a whole other level.
"Alright," Derek says, and rolls his shoulders back, meaning to stand up.
Laure gapes at him. "You're going?"
He had intended to but he is still sitting. His sister laughs at him for about the millionth time.
"Go, go!" She says, kicking him relentlessly. "Please go, I spend so much money here because of you, he owes us."
Oh god but he can't. He can't really do this.
Derek does it. He heaves his body upwards, legs straightening out until he's standing tall. Laura beams up at him, but it doesn't quell the nausea bubbling down his throat and crashing into his belly. How can he be this nervous? Derek has fought an entire pack of Alphas, a kanima, has looked death in the eye and survived more than one traumatic event, the fire, has been to hell and back - all of that, he has done all of that - but this, standing up to go order a coffee from the cutest thing alive, is so much more terrifying.
What if Stiles hates him? He comes across as grumpy, he knows. What if Stiles laughs? What if Derek really does jump over the counter and sniff him?
What if he's indifferent?
"Derek." Laura puts a hand on his arm. His heart is going too quick. "Would you relax? You're just ordering coffee. Totally normal non-suggestive platonic coffee."
He tightens his jaw and stomps over to the queue, because his sister is right. It's just coffee.
And because he really wants Stiles to pay attention to him.
As the line gets smaller and he gets closer to the front, Derek chants in his head:
Totally normal non-suggestive platonic coffee, Totally normal non-suggestive platonic coffee, Totally normal non-suggestive platonic coffee, Totally normal non-suggest -
"Ah!" The woman in front of Derek shouts as a coffee-coloured frozen drink slushes down the front of her white dress.
"Oh my god," Stiles is saying, mortification an understatement for the tone of his voice, "I am so sorry - "
"This is never going to come out!"
"I can - oh crap." Derek cranes his neck to watch him dig through his pockets, frantic. His heart is beating like a running rabbit. "I don't have my money with me but I can totally buy you a new one - "
"This was hand made!" She is still staring down at her lap. Derek can smell the anger on her.
Stiles fumbles, trying to soak up the spilt drink from the counter with the same rag he'd been dancing with earlier. His hands are shaking slightly. "I can still give you some money, and free drinks forever, and - "
Derek growls. It's involuntary. No one hears him.
"I'm sorry, I'm really so so sorry," Stiles says, his eyes pleading. "Did you want me to make you another drink? I - "
"Not you! I want someone who's not a total fucking klutz to serve me, thanks!"
"Okay, okay, I'll get someone else then - "
"YES someone else!" She wipes at her dress, heels stepping in the coffee puddle at her feet. "Fucking hell."
Derek holds his hands at his hips. He wants to pick her up and set her outside where she can't talk to Stiles like that. But it would be weird of him to do, and it probably wouldn't help.
"Alright." Stiles looks miserable and it's like the world goes dim, subdued, lightless. "Did you want to talk to my manager? She's outback, I can go get her - "
"No! Just get the hell out of my face!"
He scampers away, running off to the back room. Someone new comes over and apologizes too, remakes this lady's coffee, and for a full three minutes Derek is worrying that Stiles is pouting (crying?) outback. Derek has been coming here three days a week for two months. He knows how seriously Stiles takes pleasing customers. He always knows people's names. He always asks about their day. He's always polite. He does get snarky - Derek has heard his boss lecturing Stiles about his mouth - but only when people goddamn deserve it, when the situation doesn't involve him, when he's standing up for someone else.
The lady stomps out with her ruined dress. Derek watches her, glaring. She'd smelt bad anyway, like flowers and chemicals and hair products used over too many years.
Turning around, Derek fully expects for the new employee to be there to serve him.
So he stops breathing when his eyes meet brown ones.
Something must show on his face because Stiles puts his palms up, defensive as he says, "I swear I wont spill anything on you." Derek still cannot make his lungs take in oxygen. Stiles is talking to him. Stiles is beautiful. His voice is deep and husky and cute, his expression worried - oh. Oh! Derek should be replying - "Do you," Stiles flounders, "Do you want someone else?"
"No." He says it too quickly. "You're - It's fine."
Lips tug up into a huge grin and Stiles is smiling at him. Derek is going to go into cardiac arrest. All of the supernatural horrors in his life hadn't managed to kill him, but this man might do it with nothing more than his face.
"Great!" Stiles says. Derek listens to his heart. It does calm down, but not entirely. Must be left-over jitters. That lady had been pretty aggressive.
Stiles is still looking straight at him. It makes Derek feel more insecure than he had on his first day of school when he was five and his mother explained that he had to be careful around the other students. That they might not understand, that they might not like him because of it.
"What would you like?"
Derek opens his mouth and shuts it a few times, because all he can think to say is ‘you you you’ - but luckily he manages, "A tall café mocha." He tries to make his jaw not stiff but it's like trying to take the stripes off a tiger. "Please," he adds, wanting to come across as at least polite, if not pleasant.
"Sure," he says, nodding, "You want whipped cream on it? You don't look like you're into sweet stuff, but shouldn't judge a cover by it's - er, a book by it's cover, you know, don't want to assume or anything." He scratches the back of his head, looks up once at Derek, and then reaches out for an cardboard cup from the pile to his left.
"Yes." Derek doesn't understand why Stiles’s heart is still beating like a humming bird flies, fast and almost flippant. "And recess," he adds, which makes him feel ridiculous.
"So you are into sweets." Stiles beams. "See? You never know by how a person looks," he says, and then picks up a marker from the counter.
Derek watches his fingers grip it. He’s never been close enough to see them before. They're long, boney yet soft, and might be giving him a hand-fetish. His other hand curls around the empty cup, knuckles fleshing out under stretched skin. Gentle and firm. Derek wants - he'd let Stiles touch him anywhere. How the hell can hands be this sexual?
"What's your name?"
"Huh?" He blinks his gaze back into Stiles' eyes.
And subsequently forgets to breathe again.
"For your drink," he explains, holding the tip of the black marker to the white side of the cup. "I know you're the only person in line, so it's not like I could mix up the order - but well I'm not really the most organized person alive, I guess I probably could mix it up - not that I will - or anything - not on purpose - and it's a rule, writing names on drinks." Stiles shuts his eyes, clearly frustrated. Derek mentally beats himself for somehow managing to irritate him in less than two minutes.
"So, um… "
Derek clenches his fists. Stiles' heart is going wild. Is there something wrong? Had something bad happened? Something worse than getting bitched-out by that woman? "Derek," he says eventually, because none of those things are any of his business.
"D - E - R - E - K?"
"Yeah." Are there other ways to spell it? Why is he asking?
And then Stiles turns around, and Derek gets a face-full of the back half of him.
At first everything is sort of okay, because Stiles is just writing his name. But there are only five letters and he writes down names on cups all day long so he's quick at it and then Stiles is moving - walking, looking for things, bending down to get the reeces from an under-side cupboard, reaching up to get the whipped cream, fiddling with some fatly button on whatever it is café mochas come out of. Derek couldn't look away if he wanted to.
It's over too fast, but that's probably a good thing considering that this is a public place and hard-ons are generally frowned upon in them.
"There ya go," Stiles says, turning quickly and holding out the mocha. Derek's breath catches as his vision is rapidly filled with brown eyes again. "I'm happy to say that you'll be drinking it, not wearing it." Stiles gives him another toothy grin. Derek obviously stares too long, because Stiles asks: "Did I make a mistake?" His voice is a bit strained and his heart slows down with dread; it's a reaction only people who have had to be calm in highly stressful situations have. And god that makes Derek curious. "It was a mocha, right? Reeces, whipped cream?" His face falls, confusion mixed with worry.
Derek reaches out to take it, and god their fingers brush - of course they do, the universe loves taunting him with things he can't have. "No, it's right."
Stiles is smiling again. "Sweet! Can't screw this up twice in a row, my ego couldn't handle it."
He wants to say something. He wants to give Stiles his number. He wishes Stiles had poured the mocha all over him, so they could talk longer, so Derek could find it in him to flirt with a cheesy line like It's okay you can repay me by letting me take you out to dinner.
But Derek is Derek. These things are not meant to be.
"Thanks," he says, and turns to leave. He makes it about two steps before -
Automatically Derek freezes, turing around.
Stiles jumps at something. "Uh, sorry. You didn't… pay me?"
"Oh," he says, feeling like an awkward teenager, "Sorry."
Derek pays him, almost swoons at the sight of Stiles' fingers counting out change, and walks back to his seat with Laura.
She snorts at him and takes her drink. "You suck."
They leave after about another thirty minutes. Derek doesn't noticed his sister pulling his phone out of his pocket and setting it on the table.
Derek is sitting on his couch late that night, with Laura, Erica and Isaac. Pack-togetherness is important, his mom used to say. They're half-way through some terrible zombie movie he isn't even watching (because today he had talked to his café-boy and nothing could trump that) when Laura's phone rings.
She looks at it. It says that Derek is calling - What? And for some reason, she's got a smile on. Flavour: Derek is Doomed.
"Hello?" She says.
"Um, hey." Derek entertains the idea that he is dreaming, because in what reality would Stiles ever call his sister? Maybe in hell. This might be hell.
"I um… I work at the JavaHut. I found this phone on a table?" Laura leaves the room, but Derek can still hear the whole conversation. She knows he can. He knows she knows he can. "I don't know who it belongs to. Your number was the first one listed in the contacts, so. Sorry if this is like an office or work or something… "
"No, I'm his sister. It's my brother's phone - Derek. He must have left it in the café today."
"Here, I'll put him on."
Derek goes stiff. Laura walks back into the room - Erica and Isaac look irritated, because they want to watch the damn movie - so Derek races to the kitchen, phone clutched between his fingers.
With Stiles on the other end of it.
"Hello? Is anyone - "
Derek hangs up on him. He's such an idiot. But there's no way he could take that voice in his ear. Even if it was altered by machinery, even if it did lack in real warmth. He just can't.
Stiles sends him a text.
Derek stares down at it in horror.
Ill be at the JH until midnight, doing a cleaning thing. Feel free to drop by.
Derek blinks. Stiles sends another:
I have your phone btw dont know if you know
but i guess you would since Im using it rn
Also there are security cameras everywhere and the bar next door is open until 3 AM so if youre like some crazy psycho murderer dont even think about it okay, Im well loved, people would notice
Derek lets out a small, slightly wry laugh at that. It's all he needs to relax and send a reply.
Okay. I'll be there soon. Not a murderer.
Laura is in the kitchen's doorway, smirking.
"You're welcome, baby brother."
Derek chooses to let his eyebrows reply for him. Furiously.
Purely out of spite, Derek takes Laura's phone with him. He doesn't expect it to come in handy. Actually he hadn't really thought about it at all, because he can't get ahold of the fact that he is going to meet Stiles - alone - at night - alone - and he's got a completely not-weird reason for doing it. Derek isn't all that attached to his cell, but most people are. Going to reclaim it as soon as possible wouldn't seem strange. He hopes it doesn't seem strange. Is it strange? Derek knows he’s pretty physically intimidating, not to mention the whole werewolf thing. Maybe meeting Stiles alone at night is a terrible idea if he wants Stiles to feel at least safe around him. God, it hasn’t even happened yet and he’d already screwing this up.
As it turns out, having Laura's phone with him is just about the luckiest thing.
When Derek gets out of his camaro (he'd parked it beside a jeep - CJ-5 model - no dashboard - one guess who it belongs to) and walks up to the double glass doors, his sister's phone buzzes with a text. At first Derek ignores it. There are more important things to do, after all, like try to figure out how to make himself seem non-threatening when his permanent facial expression is a scowl.
But when he tries to open the doors, they stick. Locked.
Catching the sound of a familiar heart beating too fast, Derek looks inside the café. Every second light is on, making it darker than usual, and the black sky over him adds to the surrealness of it. Of coffee shops at night. Of the fact that he in inexplicably lovesick for someone inside, someone he doesn't know.
He presses his nose to the glass, looking for Stiles.
Laura's phone buzzes again. Derek checks both messages, still pushed against the glass.
Idk if you took your sister’s phone or not but are you here? I heard a car park and if its not you then ill be dead soon omg
This is really stupid im sort of stuck
Derek has no idea what he's talking about and is starting to expect that most people have no idea what Stiles is talking about.
The door is locked. He replies, figuring that answers everything well enough.
A few seconds tick by. Derek hears his heart slowing down, though clearly something is wrong.
Theres a box to the left code 4242
He looks to his left and yes, the box is there. Derek flips the lid and presses the correct buttons; there's a sharp beep and the lock undoes itself with a metallic click that makes him jerk, loud in his sensitive ears. And then there's nothing standing in his way. Derek pushes the doors open. They lock behind him. It feels like he'd just jumped off a cliff, committed himself to the dive, the plummet, the end of his life as he knows it.
Except all he'd done is walk into a coffee shop. He can be a bit over dramatic occasionally.
He texts Stiles again, instead of just opening his mouth like a normal person.
He hears a laugh from behind the counter, through the wall and into the back room. "I'm back here!" Stiles shouts, amusement and something like shame in his voice. "Can you, ah. Do you think you could come help me?"
Derek walks to the other side of the counter and into the back room. It's a mix between a storage room and a staff room, probably because the café is pretty small. There are boxes on the wooden floor full of sugar packets, tables to sit at, and a refrigerator near the back, sitting next to a huge dishwasher.
The dishwasher isn't what makes Derek pause in the doorway, though.
"Okay this is super embarrassing," Stiles is saying, "I'd like to tell you I'm usually way cooler than this but no, this is pretty standard - " He shifts backwards.
But he can't move, because Stiles is stuck in the dishwasher. His shirt is squeezed between the heavy metal door, pulling it tight against his skin, his back to Derek. The machine buzzes and shutters, lights on it blinking as it does it's job, making Stiles' black work-shirt jerk up and down with it. It's rubbing against his body, showing off a thin stripe of skin.
Derek makes a noise, but the running of the dishwasher drowns it out.
"I tried to just like… get out of my shirt," he says, twisting his body to face Derek, making his stomach flex. Stiles moves downwards, trying to wiggle out, as if it prove his point. "But it's too tight."
But it's too tight
But it's too tight
But it's too tight
Derek takes a slow, hard breath.
"And I can't get it out of the door," Stiles continues, "This dishwasher wants to eat me. It's very determined to make me its midnight snack."
Derek takes a step into the room, starting to find this situation funny in a crazy way. "How did you even…" He has no idea what to finish that with.
Stiles laughs nervously. "I have some research to do for class tomorrow, and I have to clean the whole store tonight, like pressure washing and disinfectant and that sort of stuff, so I was in a rush loading the dishes on, and then when I slammed the door shut and hit the go button I guess my shirt decided it wanted to be a plate?"
"Can't you turn it off?"
"Not once it starts. You have to wait until it's done, which is about three hours. It's a high maintenance cleaning apparatus."
Is it weird that hearing him say the word "apparatus" sort of turns Derek on?
Yes. Yes it is
"You're in college?"
Derek bites his tongue just as he says it. Why the hell does he have to be so untactful? Why can't he be good at conversation? At saying what he should say and not what he wants to?
Stiles blinks at him. "Uh, yeah, first year, haven't declared anything yet - ow!" He hisses, hands snatching at the side of him closest to the dishwasher. "Ow ow, it's hot. I think it's eating more of my shirt."
"Sorry, here." Derek walks over to the (still kind of hilarious) scene before him.
"No, I'm sorry. I don't even know you." Stiles hangs his head. "Figures I'd get myself caught in the evil clutches of an industrial dishwasher and you'd be all tall and dark and stoic, like some real-world Chris Redfield-Albert Wesker hybrid, and have to deal with rescuing my lame ass."
Derek lets himself laugh once at this.
"Hey you can't laugh, you're supposed to be dark." Derek is really close to him and Stiles is warm, it radiates. He tries to pick up his scent - but all he can smell is coffee, detergent, and cleaner. "And this is already hard enough on my ego. Do you realize how many times I tried to get my shirt out of this thing? I can't believe how weak I am. I mean, all I do is study and make coffee - sometimes sandwiches - but… "
Stiles stops when Derek puts his hands on his shirt. He's not actually touching him. But there's a flick to his heartbeat that Derek will not let himself read into.
"I think I have to rip your shirt." Stiles goes stiff. His heart goes faster. Derek avoids his eyes entirely, gripping onto the part of his t-shirt that's being sucked into the machine and asking, "Okay?"
His breath gets caught. Derek can hear it lock up in his throat. Then, quietly, almost too quiet for any human to hear, Stiles says, "Yeah."
Realizing that this will haunt his dreams for the next thousand years, Derek tears Stiles' shirt apart with one low crrrrrkk! He moves away as fast as he can without letting it look supernatural.
Stiles takes a giant happy step back from the dishwasher. "I'm free!" He cheers, spinning in a circle and pumping one arm. He stops to look at Derek.
Who is in no way at all watching the guy in front of him with heaps affection and amusement, thinking things like I bet he’s good with kids.
He called me dude. This is never going to happen.
Well he already knew that anyway.
"No problem," Derek says, "Sorry. About…" He nods towards his exposed torso.
Stiles makes a sort of pffftt noise, which should be ludicrous on someone his age but is actually fitting. "Don't worry about it," he says, exiting the staff room, "Seriously, I'm just sad that your impression of me so far is the guy who spills drinks and gets eaten by dishwashers." He laughs and turns around, facing Derek again now that they're behind the serving counter.
Derek is surprised that Stiles even remembers him. Saturdays are usually busy.
He wants to say something but he's afraid to open his mouth because all he can think of is fuck you’re gorgeous where do guys like you even come from. Hands rubbing at his neck while his lips stick together slightly every time he parts them to speak and eyes darting around the room and back at Derek like they're bioluminescent they're so vibrant, so intelligent under the soft lights. It's unbelievable. Derek is half expecting him to turn out to be a siren, or an incubus, another monster trying to get at him and his pack - because how can anyone without supernatural powers hypnotize Derek this way? Completely overtake him by just... existing.
"So, yeah," Stiles says, and sticks out his hand, scratching behind his ear. "My name is Stiles, by the way, if you wanted to know, since I know yours and you did just save me from my own stupidity…"
If Stiles were an incubus or a siren, Derek probably wouldn't be able to wonder that he might be. The magic wouldn't let him question it, right? And besides that, Stiles would have him on his back and be distracting him with his body before inevitably sucking out Derek's soul. He's certain that's how sirens and incubi operate. He's never had to deal with one, though. But there's no way Stiles can be anything but human - Derek would be able to smell it on him, wouldn't he? Except, all he can really smell in here are fifty different flavours of coffee. He has no idea what Stiles smells like without all that. What if he is a monster?
"Alright well not everyone shakes hands, that's cool. I'll just give you your phone and - "
"No," Derek blurts, eyes locking onto Stiles' faltering fingers, his hand that's slowly retreating.
"You don't want it?"
"No," he says again, and takes Stiles' hand finally, hoping it's not too late for it to not be weird. Derek doesn't shake it. He holds onto his hand for a second, then lets go. "It's nice to meet you." He looks right at Stiles as he says it.
Stiles’ eyes widen a little. "You're kind of intense."
He goes stiff, as if he hadn't actually meant to say it. "No, no, it's cool." Stiles smiles and digs into his pocket, cheeks pink. He pulls out Derek's phone. "Here."
Derek takes it.
There is a terribly awkward moment of just standing, staring, before Derek realizes that he has no other excuse to still be here.
Stiles looks down at his body. "You know, I probably deserve it after today, but I'm going to have to walk home like this," he says, laughing at himself.
Derek quirks an eyebrow. "The jeep outside isn't yours?"
"Oh no, that beautiful baby is mine all right," he says, smiling over at Derek (who is never going to get over how it feels to be at the receiving end), "But my best friend took my keys to break into his girlfriends house… er, it's hard to explain." Stiles gives him a please-don't-think-I-have-a-key-to-my-best-friend's-girl's-place-for-any-indecent-reasons look. "They're not supposed to be together, so I'm sort of middle-manning it."
Who would ever catch him with a key to her place? She must have one paranoid set of parents.
There's a thing Derek wants to do. He lets himself try to work out whether it's weird or not, but then resides himself to the fact that - considering he'd just seriously entertained the idea that his feelings for Stiles stem out of supernatural lore rather than natural interest and emotion - he is not made to comprehend social situations, and just does it.
He takes his jacket off, grips it by the neckline, and holds it out to Stiles. "Here."
"No it's fine - I can't - " His eyes are wide again, searching the black leather. "It's a ten minute walk and I'm not a girl or anything, so it's really super okay."
Derek continues holding out his jacket. "It's cold." It's late. You're hot-as-hell. You'll be walking home alone. Rape happens to men too. There are demons in this town. He wants to offer to drive him, but it's late and they're alone so the whole idea just screams skeevy.
"Right." Stiles takes it, smiling. "Thanks. How do I get it back to you? Oh, wait, I can give you my number, here, let me see your phone again. Sorry, I know you just got it back."
Derek hands it over without a thought. He watches Stiles' long fingers work the buttons, folds his arms to make himself feel more steady, and wonders how any of this is even happening.
"There," Stiles says, "Just send me a message, and I'll have yours too. I don't want to become a coat-thief. My dad's the Sheriff. He'd have to arrest me himself and he's already done that a few too many times… Okay that was probably too much information. I swear I'm not a drug-dealer or a male prosti - You know what? I'm going to shut up now." His lips draw into a very thin determined line, head bobbing.
Derek feels a bit dazed out, so he merely nods. Should he offer to drive Stiles home anyway? This neighbourhood is safe, but there's something gnawing at the back of his head, something that makes he feel like he owes Stiles.
"Well, have a good night."
If Stiles sounds disappointed, Derek doesn't let himself think about it. He just leaves.
Laura is still awake when he gets home. She practically tackles him the second he walks into his kitchen.
"How'd it go? Did you kiss him? You reek of coffee. Where's your jacket?"
Derek deadpans. "Nothing happened."
"He was stuck in a dishwasher, I got him out. His shirt was ripped. I gave him my jacket."
"A dishwasher?" She lets out a condescending Huh under her breath. "You sure you like this guy?"
Derek nods, yes to both.
Laura raises one eyebrow. "And? What else?
He grips his phone, lips pressed tight and glaring at her slippers.
Laura catches the action and dives for it, snatching it from her brother's hand. She flips through his contacts and her face explodes into a sly excited grin.
"He gave you his number!"
"Just to return my jacket."
"Right," she narrows her eyes on him, "Which is when you will ask him out on a date and spare me more of your pathetic pining."
He eyes the floor.
“Did you give him your number?”
He doesn't say anything.
His eternally-meddling sister starts pressing buttons on his phone. It takes Derek a whole three seconds to realize what she's doing, and by then it's too late.
Hey. This is Derek.
She sends the message.
"No. Shut up." She pushes his phone into his chest and drops it. Derek fumbles to catch it. "I know I'm sticking my nose into things but I'm your sister and your Alpha this needs to end. You're driving yourself crazy." Laura stares at him, right through him like she always could. "Alright?"
She leaves him standing alone in his kitchen.
And that's what Derek does - he just stands there. Depressed. Because that's exactly what he's scared of, what he knows will happen: this ending. And it wont be with Stiles kissing him. It wont be with Stiles wanting him. It will end with Derek alone in his kitchen all over again, just like he is now, except his heart will be broken. Wrecked.
The sweeping insensitivity of his silent empty lightless kitchen crushes him. Derek leans on the doorframe. This sickening aloneness - it's not why he likes a random guy at a coffee shop, Stiles, so much. He isn't trying to escape solitude. He's got Laura and the pack, and he’s even got Scott’s pack, allies, friends. Things are so different now. Yet, the idea of him, the thought that Stiles could be here too - the fact that he never will be here, in Derek's apartment, lazying around, studying, rambling on - it's earth-shattering. It's grounding. It's impossible to believe but the only real answer, all at once.
Derek is alone, and it's got to be alright that way.
His phone buzzes in his pocket.
Derek isn't used to it being his pants, so he starts a bit before reading the message.
Hey! Cool. Thanks again for tonight, thought you should know that your jacket is safe at my place, hanging in my room. I have provided pictorial evidence.
He stares, totally lost, reading it seven times over before opening the attached file. True to his word, Derek's jacket is hanging on a coat-hanger stuck over the top of an open door. He can't see much else, just a few textbooks in the corner of the shot, sitting on a light grey carpet. He stares for a good minute.
Then, nervous, Derek hits Reply To Message.
Maybe Stiles will never return his affection. Maybe he'll never want Derek the way Derek wants him. But he might want to be friends. Derek would be there for him, any way Stiles will let him, and he'd never expect anything else.
No problem. - That's kind of arrogant. Delete.
Thanks. - That sounds like a brush-off, considering how long Stiles' message had been. Delete.
Did you get home okay? - First of all, none of Derek's business. Second, obviously the answer is Yes. Delete.
Derek frowns at his phone. This is unbelievably difficult.
Glad you're keeping it safe.
He hits send before he can change his mind. He hauls himself out of his kitchen, refusing to stand around in the dark waiting for a reply.
But he does get one, after he's in his bed, folded under a mess of warm blankets. The blinking electronic lights of his phone turn the walls into a biotic blue.
Every summer, Derek and his sister buy flowers for their parents’ and siblings’ graves. It isn’t the happiest of occasions, even thirteen years later. You never really get over burying your brothers and sisters - or what had been left of them, anyway. Cora usually comes too, but she’s out of town, negotiating territory rights for two adjacent packs, trying to avoid a fight. Derek smiles and his chest goes warm every time he thinks of her, of the woman she’d turned into, and knows that their mother would rather Cora be out mediating two rival packs than visiting her grave any day.
Talia had never be very sentimental. At least not in the sappy way like Laura is.
His sister parks the camaro and steps out into the rising sun, dark hair gleaming in it like black lightning.
"Getting out anytime soon?" She raises her eyebrows at him. But then her expression changes as she jerks her head, ears picking up and what Derek’s had only seconds earlier. Laura glares at the store, and then back at her brother. "Are you serious?"
Derek is glued to his seat because he is a werewolf with werewolf hearing and he would knows Stiles' voice and heartbeat in a crowd of millions.
"So you think it's a regular murder?"
"I'm still not going to discuss official police business with my son."
"But dad, if it's about the pa - "
It's coming from inside the flower shop. Why is Stiles here? Stiles is the centre of moments in Derek's life that only happen at the JavaHut, not outside of it, not while he’s going about his day and not expecting - not planning - to see him. He shouldn't be popping up out of nowhere like this. Unpredictable. It makes him into his own person -- it makes him real.
"This is perfect," Laura says, tugging at his arm and smiling like the wolf she is. "Now you can ask him out."
Derek lets himself be pulled into the parking lot, ears still stuck on a familiar heartbeat. "His dad's there."
"I'm not…" There's something off-putting about asking someone out while their father or mother is there - it sucks the romance out - not that Derek would be asking Stiles out anyway - not that there's any romance to be sucked out - his sister is just insane. "Laura, no."
She laughs at him, low, and heads for the white walls of the shop. "Come on. We have to get the flowers anyway. Mom would be ashamed of you for being too scared of your feelings to buy her flowers."
Laura said it because it's not true. Talia had never been ashamed of her children. But Derek lets it work anyway, because he really does want to buy his dead family flowers, like they always do.
"… been years of this and I know I can help, okay dad? I have about fifty USBs full of this stuff! I know more about ancient religion and mythology than my professors! You have to let me in on some of this, just so I know whether it's normal or super - Oh."
Stiles stops rambling on at his dad when he swings his body around dramatically - halfway through making a point - and faces the front of the store.
Derek is trapped under two big brown eyes. He doesn't know what to do. He just stands there.
"Uh, woah," Stiles says, surprised, almost as if he doesn't mean to be saying anything. But slowly the shock fades from his features and then he's smiling at Derek from across the small bright room. He's holding an enormous bouquet of white carnations in his arms, their petals resting just under his chin. His white teeth stand out even more than they usually do. Derek is too distracted by the unexpected sight to immediately realize what holding those particular flowers means.
When he does get it, his heart sinks.
Laura looks back and forth between them. Stiles' father does the same.
"You know him?" He whispers so Derek shouldn't be able to hear, giving his son an odd look. It is possible that Derek had once been arrested on a false (very false) murder charge back when he and Scott didn’t get along so well.
Stiles, despite his father's career, appears to not know about it. Or if he does, has since forgotten. "He's a regular," Stiles whispers back, which means that he had noticed how often Derek frequents his café, which is embarrassing, and makes him want to run to his car and drive off the nearest cliff. "I'm gonna go talk to him, okay?" Stiles' dad gives his son a worrying frown but nods, and then Stiles is moving.
Laura nudges Derek on the back before she walks away. "Go get 'im, tiger."
He wants to make a comment about the irony of that statement, but Stiles is walking over to him, cheeks a bit pink and practically drowning in a ridiculous mountain of white flowers - somehow without looking any less masculine - so Derek lets it go.
"Morning," Stiles says.
Derek is himself and nods silently.
"I still have your jacket." Stiles tries to move the bouquet to the side, but ends up with flowers in his nose. He sniffs upwards twice, trying to fight it - looks away from Derek, eyes watering a bit as he continues fighting the urge - but it overtakes him and he sneezes loudly towards the floor. He looks at Derek with a humbled grin. "And I swear it's perfectly clean and not sneezed-on at all. Totally unharmed."
Derek is horrendously amused and tries not to let it show. "It's okay."
Stiles shrugs his shoulders back and rocks on his heels, letting the large bouquet rest along his torso. "And I should say thanks - again - for, you know."
"Ripping your shirt apart?"
It was supposed to be a joke. Stiles is clearly thanking Derek for helping him out - but Derek was going to make it sound like Stiles is thanking him for ruining his clothing. Haha. Hilarious, right?
But Stiles' eyes get really dark. Almost black. Is he pissed off? God, Derek has never even thought about how Stiles might look when he's angry.
"Well," he says, cutting Derek's thoughts in half. His tone is even, stable, and his heart drums slow and heavy inside his chest. "I did like it." There's something there that isn't anger. Something playful.
"The shirt?" Derek asks, eyebrows furrowed, confused.
Stiles lifts one corner of his lips up.
"Yeah, the shirt," he says with just a hint of sarcasm, and holds Derek's gaze for a gravid moment. Then he looks away, down at the flowers lying against him.
Wait. Is Stiles implying what Derek thinks he’s implying, or is he reading too much into this conversation? Derek focuses on his heart, but it hasn't change. Still slow and steady.
"So…" Stiles bites his bottom lip. Derek suppresses a growl. "There's a sale at the café on Sunday morning - free lattes until noon. You should check it out. If you like lattes, that is, if you don't it's cool, not everyone likes lattes. I mean I do but I'm paid to endorse this stuff, you know - and uh, if you go, I can bring you your jacket, which was the point of me telling you in the first place but if you haven't already noticed I sort of have a problem with my mouth and words coming out of it in quantities largely out of my control."
Stiles laughs and it's so nervous Derek wants to hug him.
"Don't worry about the jacket," he says, figuring that's the issue. "It's fine. I can get it whenever."
"Alright." Stiles grins at him. "My dad saw it yesterday, by the way, and is now convinced I've got a secret bad-boy boyfriend who drives a Harley and never finished high school. That's what your jacket says to people, Derek, just so you know."
Derek is in his last few years of college, actually, but obviously not the same one as Stiles. He thinks. He has no idea, since his crazy crush on him only started this summer. Come to think of it, Stiles had said "first year." Does that mean he's going into his second? Or is he just starting school this fall? Actually, wait. He'd also said that he'd had research due for classes. In the middle of the summer? Maybe he's taking summer classes?
Derek sniffs. "I finished high school."
"Oh," Stiles says, feigning disappointment. Then he smirks. "But you are a bad-boy, right? Those eyebrows and your inability to smile make a guy hopeful."
Derek laughs a little. More than the last time Stiles had cracked a terrible joke at his expense.
"I can smile."
Something shifts in the way Stiles holds himself. His heart flicks and then it's beating too fast. His cheeks go a little red. Derek can feel warmth flooding from his body in waves.
"Stiles! Let's go!" His dad calls from outside.
Stiles looks over at Derek, coy and shameless all in one. "Can't wait to see it," he says.
And then he turns around, putting his back to Derek, and walks directly out of the store to his jeep.
Derek doesn't move until the car is long gone.
Laura catches him like that - standing and staring out at the parking lot, and subsequently threatens to claw his lungs out of his chest if he doesn’t go to the JavaHut on Sunday for a free latte.
And so, Derek is at the JavaHut on Sunday by ten AM, feeling a little unstable. More than anything, though, he feels out of place. Is it alright to be here? Stiles had invited him, sure, but isn't Derek being pushy? He really is okay with only having whatever part of him Stiles is willing to share; and if that's nothing, then Derek will deal with it. Yet he still feels like he's trespassing, asking for too much. Something about all this feels wrong, like he's missing something important.
That is, of course, until Stiles' big brown eyes see him walk through the glass entry way and Derek gets another one of those dazzling grins. (When the hell did words like 'dazzling' become part of his lexicon? Just how stupidly infatuated with this guy is he?)
The café is mostly uninhabited, only two other customers sitting separately along a long table on high stools, their ears occupied by head phones. Stiles seems to be the only employee working. He'd paused in his cleaning to catch Derek walking into the store.
"Hey, you came," he says from behind the counter. "You should've texted me, I would've brought your jacket. You never really gave me an answer, so. Not that you needed to I just didn’t bring it and I would’ve."
Derek tells him for the third time not to worry about it. The longer Stiles has it, the more it will smell like him. Even though it's creepy, Derek really wants to know what he smells like under all this coffee. It would be easy to pick him out of he'd ever caught his scent before, but Derek is only ever around Stiles here, and at the flower shop he'd been buried in a giant bouquet of carnations. It drives him crazy that he doesn't know his scent. It drives him crazy that it drives him crazy. This is all just driving him crazy.
He makes for the counter to order a coffee (because no, he doesn't like lattes), but Stiles shakes his head and smirks. "Oh no, no waiting in line for you, not for my late-night hero." Derek stops and stares. Stiles points to a couch near the large windows. "Seriously, sit your ass down." He still doesn't move. Stiles folds his arms, leaning haphazardly forwards over the counter, while Derek stares at him from a few feet back. "Go. Sit."
Oddly compelled to do as he's told, Derek walks over to a single-seated couch and sets himself down. Stiles is coming towards him then, his heart a little faster than usual. Well, that's fine, Derek's is too, but likely not for the same reason.
With the way Stiles looks at him, Derek is expecting to hear a taut 'Good boy.' As if Stiles would somehow know about his inherent lycanthropy and be making jokes at his expense. Instead, though, he smiles and says, "What can I get you?"
"You're waiting on me?"
"Looks like it," he says, stepping in place, the movement so small Derek nearly misses it. Nervous. "You got a problem with that? Because your eyebrows are looking at me like they have a problem with it and while I'd never assume that your personal opinions reflect that of your eyebrows, I'm starting to think that unlike normal people - whatever that means - the window to your soul is your eyebrows so maybe I should be giving them more credit here. Do they to a lot of talking for you? They're like insanely expressive, you know? Do you think you could tell me what you want to drink just by wiggling them around?" Stiles looks at Derek like he thinks he's the cleverest street cat in the alley. Smug would be an understatement. "Well? Go on, big guy, flex those corrugator supercilii muscles, let's see it."
On reflex, Derek frowns. Mostly because he's confused at the fact that Stiles knows the scientific name for eyebrow muscles.
"There we go," Stiles says, studying Derek's expression, "Now let me guess. Hmmm……. Broody, dark, not-sweet at all." He lets out a puff of air from his nose and smirks, teasing. "A black coffee?"
Derek takes the urge to grin like a fool and crushes it mercilessly. It only half-works. One corner of his mouth flips up into a sideways smile.
Stiles cocks an eyebrow of his own, curiosity banishing absolutely all traces of any other emotion. Derek has a second to think about that before Stiles is talking. "I was just joking but, no sugar? Really? I thought you liked sugar. You ordered that whipped cream reeces monstrosity last time, right? Sugar-rush in a cup?"
Derek is fighting a losing battle with his lips and them wanting to smile. There's just something about the way Stiles puts words together, something about the way they tumble out of his mouth, unplanned, like one accident after another. The freedom to say the wrong thing, to say anything he wants.
"That was for my sister. She likes sugar."
"Oh," he rocks on his feet, "You don't?"
"Not in my coffee."
"Ah, right!" Stiles perks and turns on his heels, moving back to the counter. Derek pouts because that's not what he'd meant. And he realizes that Stiles had just taken a huge step there, in being friendly and social, and that if Derek really does want this guy in his life anyway that he can have him, he has to start taking steps himself.
So when Stiles gets behind the counter and brews a fresh pot of coffee, Derek takes a step.
"You said," he starts, and clears his throat, "You said you had research to do?"
Stiles looks at him, surprise apparent, then nods. “Yeah. For my Mythology class.” Derek recalls Stiles saying something about myth to the Sheriff. “I’m taking a summer course, have to write a paper." He clams up after that, which is the opposite of what Derek has come to know as Stiles' inability to ever be reasonably silent.
Derek isn't one to pry, considering he hates it when people pry into his life, but he does it anyway. It's a harmless subject, right?
"What's it on?"
"What?" Stiles is lost somewhere below the counter. Derek hears the scraping of metal.
Stiles emerges a second later, cookie sheets in his hands. He places them on the counter, washes his hands, and then starts to roll out pre-made dough.
"Your paper. What's the topic?" He asks again.
Stiles' heart flicks once out of rhythm, but he's grinning lopsided when he looks at Derek. His eyes betray a sort of uneasiness, though, as if his thoughts are somehow twisted and overlapped. Worrying.
"Werewolves," he says as if it's normal, which of course he would because he has no idea. He doesn't know what Derek is, what's living in this town. Stiles is just a happy guy who is the unfortunate recipient of a werewolf's relentless and tireless and endless affection.
"It's actually really interesting," he says after Derek has said nothing for a full twenty one seconds (which must be the limit of how long Stiles can stand dead silence before he has to fill it), "There's a lot of history to it." Stiles starts talking about everything Derek has already heard Deaton say, and is crazily impressed with it all - and a bit mortified that a guy who knows nothing about it can know so much about it. “And basically, yes, I’m a huge myth-nerd, no use denying it. No shame from me, though, this shit is awesome.”
Derek lets himself smile faintly. Because Stiles thinks that werewolves are awesome, even if it is in a way he understand to be hypothetical.
“What do you do?” He’s asking Derek as he pours his coffee into a cup. “No wait, let me guess.” He studies Derek’s face from behind the counter. Then Stiles is walking towards the table where the lids, sugar packets, and utensils are, screwing a lid on Derek's coffee and mumbling something that Derek catches perfectly but for the life of him doesn't understand. Stiles comes towards him next, stopping beside the couch and handing him the cup without a smile, still studying his face with fierce concentration. Derek tries not to get lost in his eyes for the tenth time in ten minutes.
Then Stiles is talking again, lighting speed. “Building contractor? Archeologist? Mechanic? Bouncer? Something where you have to lift lots of heavy things, right? Because your arms are like the same size as my entire body.” That’s not true in the slightest, but Derek decides to take it as a compliment. “Or do you live with your parents still and lift weights all day down in their basement?” He says, grinning wide, clearly joking.
“My parents are dead.”
Derek doesn’t mean to say it. Stiles isn’t pissing him off or anything. Stiles is just running at the mouth, saying whatever comes to his head, even if it is ridiculous. Honestly Derek thinks it's cute, and really likes that Stiles expects more from him than being a freeloader.
He just… he'd wanted Stiles to know the other day. And it came out.
“Oh… ” He grabs a handful of the apron down his front, near his hip. “You t - ” He stops abruptly and wipes at his nose with his arm. He looks at Derek, heart fluttering. “At the flower shop a few days ago?" His voice cracks, high. "Those were for my mom. She died when I was a kid.”
They share a look, holding each other’s gazes in the worst kind of understanding.
Derek breaks it. “I’m studying physics and mechanical engineering,” he says, taking a sip from his coffee. “I'm in my last two years. I don't cat-call college girls."
"I thought you said I was a 'bad-boy'?"
"Bad-boys would cat-call college girls. Duh."
"Sorry to disappoint." He takes another drink of his coffee.
Stiles breaks into a broad grin. How many has Derek been the target of now? What good deed had he ever done to deserve receiving even one of those smiles?
"I'm more disappointed in your inability to order a free latte over a four dollar coffee. Who the hell passes up free drinks?"
Derek frowns. He wants to make a joke about his eyebrows having ordered for him, but he's never been very good at being intentionally funny and he doesn't want to make a fool out of himself, so he just says, "I don't like lattes."
"But it's free." Stiles waves his hands in the air. "I don't think you understand what being a poor college student means - free nourishment is life, Derek, it's life, and if you're not taking advantage of it, then we have a serious problem here."
"Why would I order something I don't want to drink?"
"Because you have to pay tuition and thus have no money."
"It's only four dollars. I have four dollars, Stiles."
It's the first time Derek has ever said his name. Stiles pauses for a second, then opens his mouth to retort.
"No you don't. Not if you're a college student. I don't have any extra money to be spending on fancy coffee," he says, a bit haughtily, a lot condescendingly.
Derek rolls his eyes. "First of all, I wouldn't call this fancy. It's in a paper cup. Second, just because you have a problem with sticking to a budget doesn't mean the rest of us are completely incapable."
"Hey, I don't even have a budget to stick to, all my money just goes towards gas and school."
"You don't budget?"
"There's your problem, then." Derek looks away and drinks his coffee victoriously.
"Woah you're kind of an asshole, huh?" Stiles is smirking, arms folded. "I bet you think you can get away with talking to everyone like that, don't you? Well have I got some news for you, buddy." Stiles flashes him the most unearthy snarly smile Derek has ever seen. "Try that attitude with me and you'll get it thrown back in your face, double time."
Derek attempts to keep the arousal from his voice. "Sounds fun."
Stiles unfolds his arms, looking down at him. Derek really doesn't feel in control of this conversation, which is weird. Being a werewolf usually guaranties a high degree of control. "Good," Stiles says, "Wouldn't want to get bored."
"I doubt you ever get bored."
"I do. It's not pretty. I usually end up breaking something."
Derek has this flash of fear that Stiles will get bored of him and break his heart. "I'll try to keep you entertained."
But then Stiles is grinningly wildly at him. This is flirting, right? It is, isn't it? Derek's not good at flirting. Considering his past relationships, though, he's not surprised that he's garbage at it; he's surprised that he's able to do it at all, actually, however badly.
"Alright," Stiles says, looking him up and down. Then he shifts, unfolding his arms. "Why do you always come here alone anyway? No girlfriend to subject to my amazing coffee making skills and stellar personality?"
If this is flirting, why is Stiles asking him about his possible girlfriend? Derek frowns. "I don't have a girlfriend."
Stiles' smile goes wider, if that's possible, and Derek just wants to faint. Because he didn't see that coming, he doesn't understand how it happened. He can't take more of those smiles, his expressions, of his long fingers and his bright eyes, of just how unbelievably overwhelming everything he does is. Derek wants to run.
But he doesn't. He couldn't.
Because his brain is on a constant reel of Stiles Stiles Stiles and he doesn't care anymore. Derek will just drown in his thoughts and be happy about it, about this, about being in love even if it’s one-sided.
He catches the sudden shift in Stiles' heart beat instantly, and nearly snaps his neck as he turns his head to look at him.
But Stiles is fine. Physically, anyway. He's scratching at the back of his neck, fingers flexing - god how can hands be this fascinating - and looking like he wants to run just as much as Derek does. His lips open and close five times. He stares at his shoes, at the table, at Derek, and then back at his shoes, seeming altogether like a five year old trying to explain something profound but doesn't have the vocabulary for it yet.
"Do you… " He laughs once, low in his throat, something beyond tense, timid, rushed and nervous. But he locks eyes with Derek then, determined tenacity intertwining around the trepidation in his voice. "Do you maybe - "
"Stiles!" A shrill call sounds over the entire café. "Stop flirting and get you ass over here and do your job!"
Stiles slumps and groans and gets angry and pouty all at once. He gives Derek a shrug and says, "Sorry, gotta go," and heads to the counter, quickly and almost relieved. There's a girl with long red hair curled at the ends, and for a second Derek doesn't realize who she is, though he knows the voice. But then she turns just a bit.
Lydia Martin. Scott McCall's friend, the banshee, the girl who dated Jackson and is now dating Aiden, the Alpha of another pack, split the title with his twin brother - that had been a crazy year. It makes sense that Stiles would know Lydia, considering they're the same age and probably went to Beacon Hills High together, but Derek is surprised nonetheless. Or maybe ‘worried’ would be a better word. Aiden and Ethan aren't murdering for the Alpha pack now, haven't been for over a year, but Derek still doesn't like Lydia and Danny dating them, and by extension doesn’t like that they know Stiles.
He wants to keep Stiles as far away from all that as he can. That’s why seeing him at the flower shop had Derek so scared. Stiles isn’t an object. Derek can’t lock him up and keep him safe. And Derek doesn’t want to, not actually - but the fact that Stiles is his own person with his own agency - the fact that Stiles talks circles around him - the fact the he snarks at rude customers - it means that Derek can’t control him.
It’s not that he wants to. He’s not like that. It’s the powerlessness that comes with the inability, it’s the reality, it’s his past coming back to haunt him. Derek just wants Stiles to be safe.
The café gets busy quickly, and Stiles is working his tail off, sending Derek a few apologetic glances. Derek leaves after he finishes his coffee, placing the money on the table.
The next three weeks find Derek occupied with a nasty sucubus (ironically enough) terrorizing Beacon Hills. It's the usual mayhem: Scott texts Laura that there's been a murder, they bring their packs together - plus a Aiden and Ethen's on insistence from Lydia - Scott says they should try to reason with her before trying to kill her, they try that, it doesn't work, she nearly cuts Isaac in half and suddenly Scott is all for killing the bitch, he sends the info to his mysterious "source" he's been using since the day he was bitten, Derek growls more often because he's worried about everyone, and everything falls quickly into insanity.
He looks at his phone more than once, thinking about texting Stiles. He wants to tell him he's busy, so that Stiles doesn't think Derek's ignoring him or avoiding him. But what if Stiles doesn't care? What if he's not even expecting Derek to show up at the café? What if that flirting had only been Derek misreading their conversations? He thinks about sending a sarcastic message about kidnapping his jacket (the pack haven't mentioned yet, thank god, though Scott's been giving him looks), just do something to keep their feeble connection there. To make it feel real. But he'd rather Stiles keep it, so they do have something holding them together.
Isaac suggests that no one sleep alone until this is over, a werewolf for every human, and no couples together as that would give the sucubus more power. Scott insists on staying with his mysterious source, Aiden and Ethan with Isaac, Derek with his Laura, Erica with Allison, and Lydia chooses to stay with Scott and whoever his source is. The rest of Aiden and Ethan's pack work themselves out. It's no business of Derek's.
Erica kills the sucubus on a Friday night. Scott's source had told them that the only thing succubi love more than sucking souls is their own reflection. So Allison holds a mirror in front of her, distracting it, while Erica tears the beast's head off. It probably helps that Erica and Allison still have a burning hatred for each other. It probably makes the sucubus weaker.
At the end of it, Derek is completely destroyed from three consecutive weeks of feeling the anxiety from not only his own pack, but Scott's too. It’s draining enough when you’re a beta -- he can only imagine how Laura and Scott feel.
Derek collapses on his couch and stares at his phone, wishing Stiles could be next to him after all of this, watching some stupid movie and laughing. In this moment, alone and completely dead tired, nerves still shuddering from it all - he wants to be the target of those brown eyes and goofy smile more than ever.
But he’d fucked it up. He hasn’t been to the café in three weeks, and hadn’t been able to bring himself to text Stiles, not even once. Every time he picked up his phone to do it, there was this nagging sensation in his head telling him that when he's busy fighting monsters, talking to his café-boy is off-limits. Have to keep those worlds separate. Have to keep him safe.
Laura flops down next to him, her eyes stern. She can read his heart beat better than anyone.
"Tomorrow. Go ask him out," she says, staring straight ahead at the stone wall.
Derek glares at it. "I can't bring him into this." Because that's the biggest issue, isn't it? This isn't safe.
"Oh for the love of god Derek!" Laura absolutely snaps. She turns to him, her eyes bright red and vicious, fangs drawing from her white teeth. "Get off your fucking high horse! Not everyone is afraid of what they don't understand! He might not give a shit. Have you thought about that?" She's breathing heavy, claws gripping into the wood panelling of the wall next to her. "Do you think we're monsters? We were born like this. We're not the ones hurting people, we're the ones stopping the bad guys! Did you ever think he might want to be a part of that?"
"I am not bringing him into this."
"You're a fucking idiot."
She punches him in the knee cap and storms off up the stairs.
Derek rubs his knee and frowns.
This is a bad idea. He knows this is a bad idea. Derek is very familiar with bad ideas, because he has had a lot of them over the course of his life. They began with Kate Argent and continued until sometime through the business with the Alpha pack. He'd thought that over the years his ideas were becoming less bad, more factual, reasonable, and very influenced by teenagers (who are now no longer teenagers) and mostly Scott McCall and his True Alpha title. Yet, here he is, outside the parking lot of the JavaHut, gripping the steering wheel of his camaro, about to embark on another bad idea.
But Laura has a point. She does. Derek isn't getting over Stiles any time soon, he isn't going to stop wanting him around as even just a presence in his life. He has no way of knowing what Stiles would think of the supernatural world, whether he would find it sickening or too dangerous or - as he'd said - awesome, in a non-hypothetical sense. Derek shouldn't be deciding things for him, especially considering they hardly know each other. Right? Is that how this should work? Can Derek put all the cards on the table and say So do you still want to chat me up at your coffee shop or should I just go? Because he's really not getting over this. He really likes being chatted up by Stiles. He really likes that he'll talk him down, fearless, cocky, and hopes that part stays after today.
He also really does want him safe, but Derek can’t control everything. He knows it.
It's around six thirty when Derek gets out of his car, the sun low in the sky. He can hear Stiles' voice inside the café, and he relaxes. He hadn't known if Stiles was working tonight - that would be treading into stalker-territory. So he's relieved when he hears the snarky, You want a raspberry shot in your dark roast? Are you serious? Erica, you're crazy.
It doesn't even cross his mind that it might be the same Erica until he catches her voice, familiar to his ears.
Shut up, Stiles. It's delicious.
Well - it makes sense that she knows him, just like Lydia. She'd gone to Beacon Hills High too, after all. Brushing the information aside, Derek walks into the coffee shop (Erica smirks at him as she exits, like she knows), trying his best not to be too overly broody; but it's hard when he feels out of place. His natural reaction to insecurity is to close up and become a personified thunderstorm.
Stiles looks relieved for a second when they lock eyes, but he darts his eyes away quickly. Fuck, he should've texted him, he did ruin it. It's not like they made any promises, but to anyone else it would look like Derek was leading Stiles on, flirting with him and then just not showing up anymore. He'd be angry too. Crap.
When Derek walks up to the counter to order, Stiles doesn't smile. "I still have your jacket," he says. It comes out more than a bit distant. Apprehensive, irresolute, and passively pissed off. It actually looks really sexy on him, which is not the point right now, but holy shit - Stiles looks hot as fuck with his lips pressed into that line and his arms stiff and shoulders strong, squared, defensive - okay, okay, get a hold of yourself and stop checking him out when he's mad at you.
"You do," Derek says, nodding once.
Stiles looks him up and down, and then seems to let go of something. His heart slows to a decidedly normal pace. Indifference supersedes his anger.
"So, what would you like?"
Derek watches his expression fall into blankness and hates himself for somehow ending this. His mind races, trying to think of something clever, something that will make Stiles smile or laugh or just do anything other than look at Derek like Derek doesn't mater, like he's just another customer, like Stiles has been-there-done-that and it's finished.
"I was busy," he says suddenly, not really knowing if he should. There are people behind him, waiting. Stiles' lips are still pursed. "For the last three weeks."
"Yeah?" He shrugs. "That's cool. I mean, we didn't really make… you know… " He gestures wildly and doesn't finish the sentence. He shakes his head. His lips un-press, and he learns backwards a little, hands dropping to his sides in comical defeat. "I figured I scared you off."
Derek smirks. "You couldn't scare me if you tried."
"Is that a challenge?"
"You're about as threatening as lint."
"You better watch your mouth there, Derek. I'm vicious." The lady behind him coughs loudly. Stiles smiles at her, chastened, and looks back at him. "So… what can I get you? There's sort of a line." He bites his lip once, quick, hard - Derek watches as it compresses between his eyeteeth - and then Stiles is smirking like he had been before. "Can't play favourites all the time you know, might go to your head."
Derek can feel the words rushing out of his mouth, "What time is your shift over?" God, is he even allowed to ask that?
"Ten." Stiles' eyes widen into realization. "I can totally grab your jacket and meet you back here. Like I said before, I live close. I drive to work because I'm lazy."
Is he seriously still going on about the jacket? It's been over a month now. Does Stiles not understand that Derek wouldn't care if he kept it forever? It probably reeks of him, of his room, his shampoo - Derek doesn't want it back anytime soon. The smell would probably turn him feral. He feels his cheeks go warm at admitting it to himself, but it's true, Stiles can keep the damn thing, it's safer that way.
The lady coughs again, but Derek ignores her.
"That's not what I mean." He grabs the counter, trying to fight off the warmth in his face. "I want to talk to you, when you're finished. If you're not busy - if it's okay."
"Oh." Stiles blinks and then jerks once, quick, spastic. "Oh. Um. Yeah," he says and looks at Derek, heart thudding harder now and his eyes full of curiosity, "I'm done at ten."
The lady coughs - again - and Derek squeezes the counter tightly. He's trying to be brave here. She can shut up and deal.
"Can I meet you here?"
"I - " Stiles closes his mouth and seems to think for a moment. "Yes. Sure, here," he says, "Now are you going to tell me what the hell you want?"
It takes Derek a second to realizes Stiles means what he wants to drink. Because the other thing doesn't have an answer, really, not a decent one. He orders a black coffee and goes to sit at his usual couch near the windows. He intends to wait the four hours until Stiles in finished his shift, mostly because he wants to make up for flaking on him - he really should have texted him - he’d brought a book and everything - but Derek's phone buzzes before his butt even meets the chair.
It's from Isaac.
Scott's hurt. Bad. We're at the loft.
Hunters got him with an arrow dipped in something. Smells like a plant. Bleeding bright red wont heal half unconscious we have no idea what to do. Laura's gone, went after them with Cora.
Derek looks across the café at Stiles. He’s shuffling around behind the counter, making a parfait with strawberries and chocolate sauce, laughing at his co-worker’s expression as he adds more sprinkles than strictly necessary. Derek thinks of Scott, and knows that Stiles is fine here and Scott is dying.
On my way.
Scott is strong. Derek keeps that in mind as he crushes the breaks to a skidding stop outside of the loft.
He runs inside, breathless, and then he has to let it go.
Scott's blood is leaking over the sides of the coffee table like a fountain, spilling onto the floor in constant bouts of drip drip drip that beat unevenly into the ears of everyone surrounding him. Isaac, Erica, Allison, Ethan, Aiden, and Lydia. Derek can hear their hearts pounding hard and hears Scott's barely making any noise at all as it heaves inside him, trying to suck the blood back in; useless doesn't describe it. There's more blood on the table under him and on the wooden floor under it than inside his body right now, and Derek knows the only reason Scott's still breathing is because his pack is here, and Laura's pack is here, and being supernatural gives you some advantages, but only for so long. Scott shifts upwards in pain and groans, thickly, blood curdling as it curls over his already stained lips. The blood under him smacks wetly as his body shifts against the table, writhing.
No one is doing anything to help him. No one is trying to stop the bleeding. They know, they can feel it, the Banshee is here and she knows there's no point. Scott is dying.
Derek walks over to him, this kid he's seen grow into a man, an Alpha, and puts a hand on his forehead and tries to suck his pain away.
And that's when he lets it go. That's when Derek realizes, not for the first time, that his world is defined by death and infested with loss. It's not about the universe not letting him keep anyone, it's about the ones who die on him, the ones who get buried, Paige, Boyd, his entire family - it's not fair to them. And this might not be Derek's fault, but this is Derek's world, and he wont bring Stiles into it.
Isaac and Allison and Lydia grab at Scott. Allison puts her hands on his face, Isaac on his arm, Lydia through his hair, and they all start sobbing, the sound low and heavy in his ears.
"Can't you… " Lydia says, but she knows he can't and drops off and bites her hand.
"Scott, Scott, no don't you fucking dare - " Isaac shoves his face against Scott’s arm, crying into his bloodied skin.
Erica is the only calm one. Actually, she is so calm that Derek feels like he's missing something. Maybe losing Boyd had just hardened her.
She’s tougher than Derek. He’s falling to pieces watching Scott die and watching his pack crying over him, and soon it will turn to rage and Derek will snap. He’s going to lose his mind. Scott - his pack - they’re connected, and this, this is so sick - who the hell kills a twenty year old peace-loving Mother Theresa of a werewolf?
Derek’s claws come out just as someone busts the door to his loft open, cracking it at its hinges.
Deaton enters first, bag slung over his shoulder. He looks serious and concentrated.
Derek freezes as a familiar heart beat finds his ears.
Stiles is bounding in after him. His jaw is set stiff, his eyes alight with fear, tension and determination. Coherent and entirely lucid focus invade his expression as if daring anything else to try and take its place, vicious like he'd said he could be. He hollers at everyone to back the hell away from Scott, "Now! Get the FUCK out of my way!" and drops to his knees next to him, pulling out some herbs from the bag Deaton had brought in and cutting Scott's bloodied shirt open with a pair of surgical scissors.
There's no denying what it looks like, though Derek can’t wrap his mind around what he’s seeing.
Deaton had said he'd had an apprentice. But how can it be... it can’t be Stiles. That doesn’t...
Looking around the room, Derek sees that no one else is surprised by this.
"Okay buddy, you gotta keep your eyes open," Stiles says as Deaton begins cleaning his too-bright and coagulating blood away from the expanding hole through his stomach, undoubtedly where the arrow had stuck him. "Remember you've got Allison. She’s right here. She’ll cry man, and I'll cry too - so you gotta stay with us." She already is crying but no one mentions it.
"You aren't supposed to be here, Stiles!" It comes out wet and gurgled, almost non-coherent. Scott's eyes flash red.
Stiles snorts and rubs the blue herbs into his chest. Derek knows them - they numb pain. "Dude, you are dying. If you think I'm just going to stay safe and out of the way, then fuck you very much."
"You aren't… "
Stiles presses a hand over Scott's mouth. "Where have you been the past three years? You try to keep me out of this, but I've never been out of this. I will always save you, we're brothers, remember? I got this. So please," he presses his forehead into Scott's and whispers so terrified and loving that it races the hearts of everyone in the room, "please just shut the hell up and let me save you."
Stiles and Deaton cover Scott in the blue herbs and wrap his entire torso in cloth soaked in something that smells rancid, old, and dead.
But no one cares because the dead smell is not Scott actually being dead. He’d smelled like he was about to die when Derek walked in - had smelled far beyond saving, like the only thing keeping him alive was the magic engraved through his pack and his friends. Now, though, under the stench of the bandages, he smells like someone that's continuing, whose cells are still growing and splitting and dying and being replenished. Someone who is living.
The relief in the room is obvious. Derek re-tracks his claws, weight lifting from his shoulders.
"Stiles," Allison says when Deaton and Stiles stop in their work. She falls to her knees next to him, wrapping her arms around Stiles and hiding herself in his neck, "Oh god. He almost, he almost - "
"I know." He's holding her like they've done this before.
Derek is totally lost.
"I'm going to kill whoever did this to him," she says, venom in her voice.
Stiles laughs, and grips her harder. "Took the words right out of my mouth."
Lydia joins them next, and Isaac, all four of them on their knees next to Scott's slowly recovering body. Deaton is checking his vitals, indifferent about the lack of praise as perusal - though when he's close enough, Allison does lean over to peck him on the cheek. He smiles and nods at her, always the sage, and passes Stiles a paint brush. Stiles breaks from his friends and draws a few careful symbols into Scott’s chest, water still building in his eyes.
So - Stiles isn’t only his café-boy. He’s - he's what, exactly? An Emissary in training? He’d just saved Scott’s life with some herbs, some magic, some thing not even Deaton had knowledge of; So - Stiles knows werewolves inside and out non-hypothetically. He’d just berated Scott for trying to keep him safe. He’d just blasted into Derek’s home and took control and fucking saved an Alpha’s life.
Derek is pretty sure Stiles doesn't realize he's in the room. He finishes drawing the symbols and rubs Scott on the shoulder.
"You awake yet buddy? Did you hear that? Me and your girlfriend are going to avenge you."
Scott laughs once, but winces from the pain. "I can believe it."
"You have to stop trying to leave us out of this."
"I don't want you hurt."
"Really? Really? Are you even aware of your current situation? We're not the ones hurt, Scott! You almost died! If Erica hadn't called me, then you would be dead right now. I know a few things Deaton doesn't, stuff we learn at school, a lot of it is crap but sometimes it's not so you need to fucking call me when you're hurt."
Scott slumps back in defeat, still lying in his own blood. "I know, okay? I know. I will. You've both saved me so many times - from the Alpha pack, the Darach, now - I get it."
Stiles seems satisfied with that, and he stands up.
Which is when his eyes finally lock onto Derek and they flash open, wide, staring and disbelieving and looking entirely like he wants to bolt.
But he doesn't.
"Stiles - "
Scott tries to sit up, Deaton pushes him down. "What, what?" he says, craning his neck towards Stiles.
He can see Stiles working something out in his head before he takes a step toward Derek, ignoring the curious glances from everyone and the knowing gaze from Erica and, oddly enough, Lydia.
"Holy shit!" He says again, and stumbles over someone's bag on the floor on his way to Derek. When he recovers his eyes are wide, and his lips tug up into a huge grin. "I knew you were a - I knew it! Fuck, we need to talk - "
And before Derek can question anything else, Stiles is pulling him by his arm and out of the loft. The others stare after them, Scott's curious and worried voice carries all the way out the door, but Stiles lets all of it brush away behind them and drags Derek down the stairs, outside and to his jeep, his expression bewildered and yet, at the very core, insanely pleased.
He expects Stiles to get in his jeep. Stiles does not.
"Okay," he says, like he's going to go somewhere with that - but then he falls back against his jeep and pulls Derek with him, onto him. "Okay?" He looks at Derek's lips, once, questioning. And then he's rushing forwards with his neck and kissing Derek soundly, tugging at his shirt and shaking with excitement, his heart positively thrilling in his chest.
Derek manages not to faint at the feeling of Stiles' lips rubbing against his, at those hands kneading at him, at their chests bumping together. Stiles pulls him in close. Derek wants to react to the kiss but he’s way too overwhelmed to do anything but groan into his mouth, disbelief and lust swallowing him whole.
Stiles pulls back, breathless. "Sorry," he says, voice so low it makes Derek's knees weak, "Not very noble of me, kissing before a first date."
Derek grabs his arms because fuck nobility if it means he gets to kiss Stiles more.
"We need - I need to… oh god, where do I start?" He looks at Derek, and his heart flutters, and Derek will never get over the fact that he's the reason, he caused that. "My best friend, the one who I have to hold his girlfriend's key for - I never told you his name, did I?" Stiles places his forehead against Derek's. "God, if I did we could've avoided so much of this pussyfooting…" He shakes his head, clearly forcing himself to stay on topic. "It's Scott."
"Oh," is all Derek manages.
"All this time… Can't you smell him on me or something?"
"The coffee drowns you out," he says, mouth running on automatic because Derek isn't grasping this, can't believe this is happening. Stiles is still holding onto him, their bodies pressed together.
"So much for werewolf senses," Stiles says, catching his eyes suddenly, looking at him as if he's worried Derek might break, "What about now?"
Derek stares at him - at Stiles, the café-boy who he wanted to protect from this - who it turns out is already neck-deep in the supernatural world - who Derek has been restlessly charmed by for months now -- who had just kissed him and - wait. Did he just get an open invitation to smell Stiles? Is that what just happened, because okay, he's not going to let that slip by, no matter how bewildered he is right now.
He shoves his face against Stiles' neck and inhales deeply. There's Scott's blood, coffee, traces of the rest of Scott's pack, Isaac, and... Sex. Stiles is turned on.
Derek growls against his neck.
"What?" Stiles sounds worried. "Is it bad? You don't - "
"No." He cuts him off, and takes another breath in. This time he gets past all the other scents and finally, finally his brain is flooded with his natural smell, earthy and soapy and just Stiles. Derek's eyes flutter shut and he breathes in again, head going soft and disorientated with every intake of air. "It’s… "
There are a lot of adjectives on his tongue. Wonderful, perfect, nice, like fucking sunshine and rainshowers - but what Derek actually says scares the hell out of him.
He knows this scent, has smelt it on Scott and Isaac and Lydia and Allison for three years now, just faintly under their own. It's been constant. Not enough for him to notice it, to pick it out and realize they all have a mutual friend - but shoved up against him like this, Derek knows.
Scott's human confidant, the one he refused to ever let anyone meet, the one who'd known how to catch a kanima, the one who'd helped Lydia stop his betas from killing themselves at that fucking motel, the one who'd tricked Kali and lead to the end of the Alphas, the one who's been finding cures for his pack for years -
"You… You've been…"
Derek can't say it because his mind is still playing catch up with reality, but Stiles nods at him, understanding anyway.
Derek looks at Stiles and wants to kiss him so bad it makes his chest ache. Instead, Derek sets his face on his shoulder and holds Stiles tight, still off-kilter with the situation. He knew there was something going on here. He knew there had to be a reason he'd fallen so hard. He likes Stiles because he'd always been there, helping, his scent had always been on Scott, trailing; he likes Stiles because his subconscious already fucking knew him.
"I wanted to ask you out," Stile says suddenly, pushing Derek's head off his shoulder and searching his eyes, "but I was worried about dragging you into this. My life isn't exactly safe, you know? Even if you are a werewolf. I mean, you could've had kids for all I knew. And I realize that it's totally hypocritical considering I just yelled at Scott for trying to keep me out of this, but I couldn't… god it just felt so wrong to flirt at you when being with me is practically a death sentence."
Derek wants to deflate and go boneless and just absorb the fact that Stiles wants to protect him - he wants to say Me too, it was the same for me, I want you safe, it's stupid, we're both stupid, but he can't. The words wont come.
"Seriously, how the hell have we never met each other before? Scott was always against the packs knowing about me, but everyone figured it out anyway - except you. I'm starting to think he did it on purpose. He knows me really well, maybe he knew I'd…" He doesn't finish that, just gestures his hands towards Derek's face like it makes perfect sense. Derek stares at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"I knew you were a werewolf, but I didn't know you knew Scott," Stiles says quickly, playing at Derek's hair with his ridiculous fingers. Derek shivers. His eyes fall closed, and he sets his head on Stiles’ shoulder again. "I didn't know you were part of the pack his pack works with. I thought you were from out of town, visiting, I don't know. I should've figured it out while you were gone these last three weeks. Because Scott asked for my awesome research skills, and we had a nasty run-in with a sucubus, and you were never at the café."
He waits and, after a moment, pushes Derek away from his neck, softly. "You gotta say something, dude. I'm sort of freaking out here that you're letting me hold you like this."
He's freaking out?
Derek swallows, his mouth dry. "I didn't understand why I liked you so much. I don't know you." Stiles' face drops and Derek hurries to finish and grabs his hands because he's always been better with body language. "But I do know you - you're Scott's secret source of information. I've been smelling you on him for years.” Derek frowns. “It doesn't make sense, though. I could never smell you at the café, so I don't know why…"
"Hey." Stiles brings one of his hands up to hold Derek's face, rubbing his thumb against his jaw. "You're thinking too much, alright? And trust me, I know all about over thinking." Stiles slumps a little, his cheeks filling with colour as he continues. "I don't have any supernatural werewolf powers and I liked you since the first time I saw you. It took you three months to order anything, and when you did I was so nervous I spilt that drink all over that lady - it’s officially your fault, you big jerk - you are like the most distracting thing in the world - you tore my shirt apart, do you have any idea - do you have any idea - I have been staring at you for like fucking ev - "
Derek yanks forwards on Stiles' hips and kisses him. Stiles lets out this happy high-pitched whining noise that Derek wants to spend the rest of his life being the cause of.
When they part, Stiles looks thoroughly kissed, and Derek collapses on him again, smelling his skin. He's never going to get tired of it.
“I was worried about keeping you safe, too.”
Stiles laughs and sets himself straight against Derek, lining their bodies up and leaning them back on his jeep. “Neither of you are keeping me out of this, not anymore.”
“Yeah.” Derek wants to ask him if he's Scott's Emissary, if he'd be Laura's instead, or too, wants to tell him I think you're my mate because I've never felt like this before, wants to ask Stiles to marry him tomorrow, wonders if he ever wants to have kids.
But instead, pressed against him and surrounded by his heartbeat, Derek says nothing.
Stiles, however, does, and Derek expects he will be the one to save them from their inevitable future fights due to a lack of communication.
"We should go on a date. We should probably take this slow. We should... " Stiles says it, but he's kissing Derek again after a moment. " - hold off on the kisses - " Derek hums his agreement while Stiles bites his bottom lip. " - because I kind of like you a lot and if this doesn't work - "
Derek stops and growls and then he flips them, pressing Stiles into his jeep and grabbing both of his amazing hands and kisses him and kisses him and kisses him. Derek drags his tongue across his lips, slow, careful. Stiles opens his mouth, letting Derek in as he rolls his hips forwards, grinding his cock against Derek's through their jeans. Derek moans into his lips, about to lose his mind at the fact that even trapped under him like this, Stiles still manages to be the one in control. He lets go of Stiles' hands and grabs his ass, wanting to see if he can switch this. He yanks Stiles off the jeep for a second before pushing forward and setting him on top it, putting himself right between Stiles' thighs.
"Oh my god," Stiles says, "You're fucking awesome." He kisses Derek again, kicking his feet happily as they hang in midair.
"Oh GOD! Stiles what the hell! It's been like ten minutes!"
He pulls away from Derek and cranes his neck to see. "Scott! You're up!" He smiles and then looks at Derek and against all laws of nature his smile gets wider as he whispers, "He's okay," to Derek and then he looks back at Scott. "Derek's the guy! The one I told you about!"
Scott is mortified, probably, but Derek doesn't turn to look. His café-boy is somehow in his arms and kissing him, and Scott's not dying anymore so he no longer gets priority.
"Get in my jeep," Stile says, his eyes shining with intent, "We're either going on a date or you're fucking me senseless in it - it's up to you, really - but get your ass in my jeep now."
Derek nearly trips on his way to the passenger seat.