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B.E.A.C.O.N.

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Derek makes a face at the cup in his hand and deeply regrets not trying the coffee before he left the shop, but he can’t turn back now just to go stand in line again. He’s already late, so he goes back to his car, sits the coffee cup in the cup holder, and goes just over the speed limit toward the animal clinic.

It’s out of habit that he takes the cup inside with him and the door is closing behind him before he realizes that he has it grasped in his hand.

“What a great start to the day,” he mutters to himself.

“Did you say something?” asks the young man sitting behind the desk flipping through a magazine with a tongue-wagging dog on the cover.

“I said ‘Morning Theo’,” Derek replies as he pushes passed the little hip-high door to step into the clinic. “You want some coffee?”

“I don’t drink from strangers.”

Derek scoffs, “We’ve worked together for two years.”

“In a spy agency,” Theo retorts. “Need I say more?”

Derek rolls his eyes and makes his way, shitty coffee in-hand, toward the retina scanner in the storage room. He is trying his hardest to swallow another bitter sip when the scanner blinks red back at him.

With a frown, he steps back out to the waiting room.

“Do you know why the biometric scanner isn't working?” he asks.

Theo flips to another page before replying, “Because we’re on lockdown.”

Derek closes his eyes. “That sounds like something you would say when you first see someone walk in.”

“Yeah, well I’m not your secretary.”

Derek opens his eyes to glare at the side of Theo’s head.

“Is there anything else I should know?” he asks through clenched teeth.

“It’s only a level orange lockdown, hence the lack of blast shields—” Derek could swear he sees a smirk and it makes him want to punch it off the kid’s face. “—so I believe if you go ahead and put in your password, then you’ll be good to use the elevator.”

“I know that,” Derek mutters as he heads for the scanner again.

He hears the words, “Yet you didn’t do it,” behind him and it takes everything in him not to turn back.

Derek uses his fingerprint to unlock the hidden compartment housing a keyboard and one-handedly types Anchor into the password box.

The little light in the corner of the scanner turns green and the elevator doors finally, thankfully open.

The retina scanner inside the elevator blinks green, and two floors up, the doors on the other side open to reveal a group of people gathered at the far end of the bullpen, around the Director’s office door. They all turn to Derek as he steps into BEACON Headquarters.

“Uh,” he starts as he approaches his colleagues. “Why are we on level orange lockdown?”

Allison is the first to answer, “An hour ago some guy walked in—”

Lydia interjects, “With the most unkempt...head I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Allison bumps Lydia in the side with her elbow then continues, “And Noah just...shooed him into his office. They’ve been in there with the door closed ever since.”

Kira adds, “We locked down in case he brought friends.”

“What are they talking about?” Derek asks.

“We have no idea,” Kira replies with a shake of the head. “Noah turned off the audio and video.” She shuffles on her feet. “He could be hurt in there.”

“No way,” Allison laughs.

Lydia says, “Yeah there’s absolutely zero chance.”

Derek adds, “If anyone’s dying here today it's the unkempt guy,” as he almost takes another sip of coffee. “So who do we think it is?”

Parrish replies, “I think it’s an ex-partner from Interpol.”

Allison furrows her brow. “I don’t think Noah worked for Interpol.”

“Or maybe that’s what he wants you to think.”

She lets out a soft, incredulous laugh.

“Maybe it’s just...an ex,” Lydia muses.

“He looked too young,” Kira says. “Noah’d been married years before this guy was even born.”

“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t have any on the side.” Lydia shrugs one shoulder. “Especially after his wife passed.”

Braeden scoffs, “Maybe it’s Stiles,” then immediately drags in a soft gasp.

Derek gapes at her and her eyes go wide but she doesn’t look back at him.

Parrish, who had been looking around at the other's suddenly solemn expressions, asks, “What’s a stiles?”

Allison starts, “He’s a...” then clears her throat as she spares a quick glance at Derek. “He’s Noah’s kid.”

“Oh…” Parrish nods. “Are they estranged?”

Kira hums. “There's speculation that he died on assignment but they never found a body.”

Derek's ears feel like they’re filling up with water while his throat is filling up with bile. He purses his lips and presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

Lydia corrects, “They did find a body. It was just burned up in the car fire.”

Kira snaps her fingers. “Right, right, they couldn’t find any teeth.”

Derek clears his throat and tries not to gag when he says, “Well I’m not standing here waiting to see who comes out and you guys shouldn’t either.”

Allison shakes her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I need to know who this is,” Lydia adds.

Kira shrugs. “Everyone’s literally standing around my desk so I can’t work, regardless.”

“Whatever,” Derek grumbles then turns away.

He hears Parrish ask, “What’s his problem?”

“He and Stiles used to date,” Lydia replies as soon as Derek turns into his own office.

He leans up against the wall just inside his door and takes a deep breath.

“I’m so sorry,” Braeden says by his ear as she rests her hand on his shoulder. “I know we talked about this and I shouldn’t have mentioned him.”

“It’s okay,” Derek chokes.

Braeden sighs, “Derek...”

There is the sound of a door opening followed, immediately by some rustling, before Noah scoffs, “Stop pretending to work and get your asses in here.”

Braeden squeezes Derek’s shoulder.

He closes his eyes and wishes he hadn’t left his anti-anxiety medication at home.

She starts, “I’ll—”

“Don’t bother.” He grips the cup still in his hand and starts on his way to Noah’s office.

He stands in the back of their group and tries not to think about his dead boyfriend while his dead boyfriend’s father seats himself on the edge of his new mahogany desk.

“So,” Noah says as he clasps his hands together. “I bet you’re all wondering what the hell is going on and...well, I suppose I can show you better than I can tell you.”

He clears throat and the chair behind his desk starts to turn around before Derek even realizes the unkempt guy isn’t in the room.

Derek watches the others’ hands start twitching for their various hidden weapons when a voice he instantly recognizes calls out,

And, dramatically turn the chair to dramatically reveal…!”

Allison very nearly screams.

Lydia does scream as she makes her way, heels click-clacking on Noah’s new hardwood floors, around the desk to pull Stiles—Derek squeezes his coffee cup hard enough to put a bend in it—out of the chair and into her arms.

Derek stares.

Lydia releases him from her hug and immediately slaps him across the face.

“I deserved that,” Stiles admits then works his jaw back and forth.

“You honestly deserve worse,” Allison replies.

“I know, I know, but...” Stiles takes a deep breath and looks around at the faces in the room until he lands on Derek’s undoubtedly aghast expression. “...but I was on a deep cover mission so I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone.” He moves passed the girls and starts toward Derek. “And I am so sorry.”

The others look on as Stiles stands before Derek, who has yet to speak.

“Babe?” Stiles breathes and reaches out to hold Derek’s arm.

Derek’s stomach lurches at the touch and the cup almost slips from his hand. He looks down at the bitter, quickly cooling coffee before his gaze shifts to the hand clasped around his arm. He can feel the pressure of the grip around his bicep. He can actually feel it. Not like those countless nights—when he drank enough to clutch at sleep—that he would see Stiles, talk to him, touch him, but could never feel him.

So this is real. He’s not about to wake up in bed, sweat-drenched and with tears in his eyes.

His stare drifts back to Stiles’ face. His forehead—the place Stiles once confessed was his favorite place for Derek to kiss—is mostly covered with the long, unkempt hair that Lydia mentioned. He looks down Stiles’ nose, his cheeks, his Cupid’s bow lips—surrounded by coarse beard hair and once Derek’s favorite place to kiss.

Somebody mutters, “Do you think he had a stroke?”

Derek swallows around the frog clogging his airway and jerks the hand holding the cup of shitty coffee.

An audible gasp rings out from everybody else in the room as Stiles is covered in coffee seconds before Derek is dropping the cup and storming out of Noah’s office.

The stupid elevator won’t come fast enough and Derek has to lean his hand against the wall over the call buttons so he doesn’t pass out.

Someone is talking but Derek only focuses on the ding of the elevator and getting inside of it as soon as the doors open. He jabs the button for the floor of the clinic then pushes the button for the doors to close until his thumb aches and the elevator is moving.

He clutches his belly as vomit splatters onto the floor.

|

“Well, of course, he puked in the elevator,” Lydia exclaims as she hangs up the call with facilities. “I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner since some of us are stuck here twelve hours a day, six days a week with hardly any sunlight.”

She scowls up at the nearest high-efficiency fluorescent light bulb and it buzzes in reply.

Allison retorts, "I think he threw up because of Stiles, who we all thought was dead,” as she taps her nails on the surface of Lydia’s desk.

“It could be both.”

“It's not both.”

“Well,” Stiles starts as he makes his way toward them, a large coffee stain on the front of his shirt and a wet towel in his hand. “That went better than I expected.”

“The day is still young,” Lydia says.

Allison asks, “What did you think was gonna happen?”

“I thought I'd get punched.” Stiles shrugs. “Like...enough to require corrective surgery.”

Lydia chuckles as she repeats, “The day is still young,” and takes a seat behind her computer.

Stiles sighs and stares at the elevator. “Where do you think he went?”

“Probably to get some air,” Allison replies.

“Uhh…” Lydia holds up a forefinger as she taps on her keyboard. “Tracker on his phone says he’s going home.”

“Okay, so is he still living at—?”

Allison shakes her head. “No no no you're not going to his place.”

Stiles scoffs, “I need to talk to him.”

“What you need”—Stiles jumps when he realizes that Parrish is standing next to him—“is to be debriefed.”

“Where the hell did you come from?”

“From H.R.” Parrish holds out the hand not clutching a clipboard. “Jordan Parrish.”

Stiles looks down at Parrish’s hand then turns back to Allison. “We have an HR now?”

“Yeah, a lot happened while you were dead,” Lydia replies.

Parrish pulls back his hand and flips to the second page on his clipboard.

“It says here that you were supposed to have your last session when you came back to base, so can you—”

Stiles interjects, “Can you see we’re having a conversation?”

Stiles,” Allison admonishes just as Lydia mutters, “Glad to see you haven't changed.”

“Hey!” Noah barks from his doorway, startling all four of them. “Get in here, you need to be debriefed.”

Stiles grimaces, “Jeez, okay,” then holds his hand for Parrish to shake.

Parrish looks down at Stiles’ hand then turns to Lydia, which makes Stiles smirk then drop his hand.

“Are we still on for tomorrow night?”

“Wait…” Stiles laughs, “Are you two—?”

“No,” they reply in unison and Allison stifles a laugh.

Lydia rolls her eyes then says, “He means that every other Friday we have a...company get-together and tomorrow night it's at mine and Allison’s apartment.”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “Is Derek gonna be there?”

Allison shrugs. “Maybe, but maybe not since you freaked him out.”

“Well, I'm definitely coming just in case.”

Noo.

Lydia flutters her eyes closed.

“Wh—” Stiles jerks his head forward. “I need to talk to him.”

Parrish sighs, “You need to be debriefed.”

“Jesus, can ya hold on a second?” Stiles barks then turns back to Allison. “C’mon Alli what better situation could there possibly be? We'll be pretty much stuck together, we can talk, drink and maybe later even…”

Lydia scoffs, “What? Have reunion sex?”

Stiles shrugs. “It's been four years.”

Lydia whispers, “Oh my god.”

Allison closes her eyes and rubs her temples. “Jordan?”

Parrish takes a deep breath and takes Stiles by the upper arm to tug him away.

Allison hangs her head back and groans, “He's still gonna come over isn't he?”

Lydia hums. “You mean Stiles? The guy who’s been obsessed with Derek pretty much his entire life?” She tsks. “Yeah, there’s no way he’ll show up.”

“Which means he’s gonna see—”

“Mmm-hm!”

Allison exhales sharply, “Great.”

Chapter Text

“Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo,” Derek huffs as his footsteps thud against the treadmill. “Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, S—”

The intercom buzzes and Cora’s voice comes through the static, “Hey, Braeden’s pulling up.”

“Thanks,” he replies breathlessly and ignores the twist in his stomach as he turns off the treadmill then starts for the steps leading up from the basement.

He narrowly misses stepping on the miniature tea set sitting right in front of the door and pushes it to the side with his foot at the same moment that Laura reaches the bottom of the staircase.

“Have you seen Olive?” she asks.

“She was here,” he replies, pointing to the tea set.

Laura lets out an exasperated sigh and starts toward the back of the house, calling out for her three-year-old.

A knock brings his attention back to the front door and the person on the other side of it. Derek feels like there is slime in his chest.

They hadn’t talked about it. It’s been well over 24 hours and they hadn’t talked about it because he ran out of headquarters and she rightfully wanted to give him his space.

Still, he can’t imagine how he would even start the conversation. He can’t simply open the door and say he’s sorry, he thought his boyfriend was dead when he started dating her but it turns out he wasn’t dead after all, he was just hiding so well that no one could find him for almost four years.

Derek takes a deep breath in through his nose then exhales through his mouth. His hand twitches as he reaches out for the doorknob.

He exhales softly when Braeden gives him an easy smile.

“I see you’re not ready,” she remarks, running her gaze down his body.

Derek blinks at her and hopes he doesn't have the unease written across his face. “For?”

“It’s Friday.”

“Shit.” He closes his eyes and runs a hand over his face then moves aside so she can step into the house. “Let me get in the shower.”

She asks, “What have you been doing all day?” as he closes the door.

Derek sighs when they move toward the staircase.

“I uh I went to the shooting range, then Laura and I went to kickboxing, and I just decided to hop on the treadmill after I dropped her back here.”

“That’s...alotta exercise.”

“Yeah.” He clears his throat and decides not to tell her that he had to work off excess energy since he laid in bed all day yesterday after leaving headquarters. “Do I even want to know what happened after I left?”

“Well, Lydia was on the phone with facilities to clean up the vomit in the elevator, but I had to go meet a contact so I didn't stick around either.”

He doesn't know what he expected to hear.

“I'll be out in a minute,” he announces as they step into his bedroom and he heads straight for the ensuite bathroom.

Derek closes the door then turns on the radio sitting on the shelf by the shower.

know it's wrong, it’s a problem I'm dealing.

He lets out an exasperated sigh before pushing his shorts down his hips to the floor. He recognizes that the song is drawing to a close and decides to just leave it playing. He moves to turn on the shower and stands by it while the water warms, but the sound of the stream doesn’t drown out the rest of the song.

There's an awful lot of breathing room but I can hardly move / And if you're gone, yeah, baby, you need to come home / There's a little bit of something me in everything in you.

That sick feeling climbs up his throat again as he steps into the shower. He thumps his head on the shower wall as the water runs over him.

The radio host’s voice filters through with an excited, “Welcome back to 100.1 where we keep it 100. That was If You’re Gone by Matchbox 20 on our Ninety-minute Latest and Greatest where we play the artist’s latest hit and you vote for the song you think was their greatest. Next up is Florence + The Machine so get those Twitter fingers fired up with what you think was their greatest while we hit you with Breath of Life.”

Derek turns the showerhead and picks up his soap as the drumbeat starts.

He lathers himself while Florence sings,

I was looking for a breath of life, / For a little touch of heavenly light / But all the choirs in my head sang no oh oh oh / To get a dream of life again / A little vision of the start and the end / But all the choirs in my head sang, no oh oh oh / But I needed one more touch...

Derek picks up the loofah and scrubs at his arm, the same place that Stiles had gripped him. He stares down at his pinkened skin then over at the radio through the glass as the song continues.

He turns the shower back on himself and tries to focus on the beat instead of the words until the song ends and he can hear the radio host’s voice again.

“Guys, the votes were neck and neck but alas, Howl won out in the end. So here it is folks, Howl by Florence + The Machine.”

The music builds as Derek picks up the shampoo and squirts it into his palm.

If you could only see the beast you've made of me / I held it in but now it seems you've set it running free / Screaming in the dark, I howl when we're apart

“Oh my god,” Derek says aloud.

He bends his head to let the shampoo rinse out then shuts off the shower.

My fingers claw your skin, try to tear my way in / You are the moon that breaks the night for which I have to howl

He slaps his wet hand against the radio’s power button.

Derek ignores the prickling feeling in his eyes as his feet splat against the tiles when he makes his way toward the towel rack. He takes a deep breath as he wraps it around his hips, then another one right before he opens the bathroom door.

He finds Braeden sitting on the edge of his bed with his phone in her hand and Olive wrapped around her leg. Derek notices that his niece is wearing only one shoe.

Laura is kneeling two feet away, both her eyes closed and her fingers massaging her temples.

“Ollie...” she starts and Olive immediately starts pretending to cry.

Derek laughs softly at her attempt to manipulate her mother and he watches Braeden press her lips together to stop herself from doing the same.

Laura huffs as she pushes herself to her feet.

“Olive Georgia Hale,” she starts, in that stern voice that makes even the adults in the room straighten their backs. “If you don’t go get your other shoe and get in that car right now, I’m not taking you for ice cream on the way back from visiting Uncle Peter.”

The child’s mouth drops open and her eyes widen to almost look like they cover half her face. Silently, she releases Braeden’s leg and drops to her knees to reach under Derek’s bed. Olive pulls out the twin to the shoe already on her foot then sits down to tug it on.

Laura shoots Derek a look of disbelief when Olive stands again and steps passed her, still without a word. She takes a deep, deep breath before following her daughter out of the room and closing the door behind them.

Braeden covers her eyes and laughs, “Is that what you were all like as kids?”

Derek snorts, “Unh unh,” as he steps over to his dresser. “That one is a special case.”

She clears her throat then says, "Not to put a damper on the mood but…” as she appears at his shoulder and hands him his phone.

He scowls at it. “What now?”

Braeden opens the screen and points to one of the several notifications at the top.

The one from Allison reads: Lydia told him about the party. I’m so…

Derek turns his eyes away.

“You haven’t checked your phone since yesterday,” Braeden remarks softly and he shakes his head in answer.

She sighs, “We should talk about this.”

“Later.” Derek keeps searching through his dresser. “After the party.”

“We don't need to go if—”

I have to go,” he interjects. “We made a pact.”

“And you really think that's more important?”

“We said that whenever a group of us are home, we have to come together to celebrate life, or mourn a death or whatever.” He purses his lips. “We promised and besides I have to personally apologize to everyone for throwing up in the elevator.”

She rests her chin on Derek's still-damp shoulder. “And if he does show?”

“I'll be fine.”

She sighs, “Derek...”

“I'll be fine.”

|

Stiles checks out his reflection in his father’s Chevy side mirror as he runs his fingertips over his newly-shaven jaw and his gaze over his shorter haircut. He stands upright then inhales deeply as he looks up at the apartment building.

He frowns when he realizes that there isn’t a doorman and internally chastises Allison and Lydia for not moving to a safer building in the last few years. Then again, they’re a pair of secret agents with honed skills that would baffle even the highest-ranking agent in the CIA or FBI and that’s just from what Stiles remembers. As Lydia said, a lot has changed since he “died”.

Stiles makes his way to the third floor but stops outside their door to brush down the front of his shirt and jeans. Once he has deemed himself presentable, he raises his hand to knock but Lydia opens the door before he has the chance.

“How’d y—”

She wordlessly points up at the doorframe.

Stiles chuckles when he looks up to see a tuft of flowers sitting at the top which probably contains an even smaller camera that feeds into hers and Allison’s phones.

“Nice,” he remarks but finds her glaring at him.

He gives her a very wide grin and raises the hand holding a bag with two bottles of wine sitting inside it.

“Cabernet Sauvignon,” he says in what he thinks is a French accent.

Lydia looks over the bag then back at him.

“I thought we talked about this,” she finally says.

Stiles purses his lips and narrows his eyes at a divot in the doorframe.

“I know I spent a couple of hours talking to my dad and Parrish about shit I did this last week then another two hours trying to convince Scott to stop being mad and talk to me, he still hasn’t by the way, then I went home and got myself back to the—” He moves his hand in a flourish around his face. “—dashing young man you’ve all come to know and love. Went back to Scott’s and he told me to my face that he’s not coming tonight because he quote can’t stand to look at me unquote.” Stiles frowns as his eyes find hers again. “I don’t remember anything else.”

Lydia shifts her weight to her other leg but doesn’t move out of the doorway.

“C’mon, Lydia, I swear I won’t do or say anything inappropriate.”

She barks, “Ha!”

He slumps his shoulders. “Okay...uh um...um...oh! I’ll let you pick out a whole outfit for me.”

She narrows her eyes.

“All of it,” he continues. “Head to toe and I’ll buy anything you pick.”

Lydia sucks her teeth. “Okay,”—Stiles pumps his fist—“But, I’m warning you, if you come in here, you might see something you won’t like.”

He furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”

She holds out her hand and replies, “Give me the wine,” then steps aside when he places the bag on her outstretched fingers.

Lydia hands him a stemless wine glass of pink liquid from the tray sitting just inside the doorway.

“All of it,” she commands and watches him drink the whole thing with a wince then hands him another.

She turns and he follows her down the short hallway.

If Stiles knows his boyfriend, he knows that Derek would be in the room with the least amount of people and, judging by the noise coming through the kitchen door as Lydia steps inside, that seems to be the living room.

Stiles moves to the archway and stands to the side as he lets his gaze sweep through the room. All the other bodies fade into the periphery when he sees Derek, sitting in the La-Z-Boy against the adjacent wall. Stiles’ heart feels like it’s swelling with every pulse.

Derek looks amazing in his dark skinny jeans that Stiles always loved to peel off him and a… Stiles recognizes the clothing as a black cardigan and his mouth very nearly starts to water. Derek is wearing a gray shirt underneath and Stiles knows it’s a Henley because his man rarely wears anything else. His heart isn’t the only thing that’s swelling at the thought of peeling that off Derek too.

Someone steps into the tunnel of his vision and the entire vignette cracks around the edges when she perches herself in Derek’s lap. She moves her hand to start rubbing the hair at his nape and Derek smiles up at her.

Stiles knows that smile. It’s the smile that Derek always wore when he and Stiles were off the clock and anywhere in public together. The smile that Derek wore when he wanted people to know without a doubt that the two of them were a couple. Stiles had secretly dubbed it his I’m-hittin’-dis smile. The smile he thought Derek reserved only for him.

The Kill Bill sirens are going off in Stiles’ head. He moves with intent to charge across the room and throttle her but he is suddenly shoved out and put in an arm lock.

“If you make a sound, I’ll break it,” Allison breathes by his ear.

Stiles grits his teeth and holds up the hand still clutched around the wine glass in surrender.

She releases him then pushes at his shoulder so he goes toward the door leading into the kitchen.

Lydia, a glass of the wine Stiles brought in her hand, is standing by the little table in the corner where she and Isaac are watching what looks like a group of teenagers playing cards.

Stiles ignores them all and turns back to Allison.

“Okay, but who the fuck was that?” he demands.

Allison turns to the teenagers but Stiles keeps staring at the side of her face. He doesn’t see Lydia shake her head when her eyes land on him but he does hear her complain,

“You weren’t even here a whole minute.”

“Guys, can we have the room?” Allison asks sweetly as if she didn’t just threaten to break someone’s arm.

The teenagers rise from the table and Allison smiles at them all as they make their way out. Stiles is still staring at her, waiting impatiently until she answers his question.

She doesn’t face him again until the last of the group disappears through the door.

“That’s Braeden,” Allison says and sets her hands on her hips. “Derek’s girlfriend.”

Stiles stares at her and breathes, “His w-what?”

Allison frowns and slowly repeats, “His girlfriend.”

The wine glass shatters in Stiles’ grip.

“Oh my god,” Allison and Lydia cry in unison as Allison grabs Stiles’ bloodied hand and Lydia gets something to pick up the pieces of glass off the floor.

“Stiles,” Allison whines as she plucks tiny shards of glass from his palm.

He doesn’t even feel them.

“That was part of a very expensive bar set,” Lydia fumes from the floor by his feet.

The word “girlfriend” keeps being repeated to him in Allison’s voice even though she isn’t actually saying anything.

He hears himself mumble, “What's her name?” as he resurfaces from the shock and finds Allison bandaging his hand.

“Braeden,” Allison repeats.

“Last name.”

She makes a face. “You want me to tell you her social security number next?”

Stiles blinks at her. “Only if you happened to memorize it. Lydia get me a pen, please.”

Allison grumbles, “I can’t even talk to you,” as she releases him.

“Who is she? Where did she come from? How long has that—” He gestures in the direction of the living room with the undamaged arm. “—been going on?”

“She's a mercenary,” Lydia replies. “She came to us to get information on a target a couple years back and then just stuck around. That—” She makes the same gesture he did. “—has been going on since last August.”

Stiles is taken aback. “So...” he chokes, “...nearly a year?”

Lydia nods and Allison sighs, “Nearly a year, Stiles, and I know, I know this is hard for you but can you please relax about this?”

Hard doesn’t even begin to cover it. Stiles purses his lips.

They stare at him until he concedes, “Fine.”

“Thank you,” they reply in unison.

“But I'm gonna need six, no seven more of those drinks.”

“You can have one more drink,” Lydia retorts then picks up the glass of wine and hands it to him. “We don’t need you getting drunk either.”

Stiles scoffs and downs the wine.

“Good?” Allison asks when he sets the empty glass back on the counter.

“I'm good.” Stiles licks his lips.

Lydia and Allison give each other a disbelieving glance but walk him out of the kitchen anyway.

Allison rests her hands on his shoulders as they move toward the living room.

She whispers, “Remember to relax,” in his ear before calling out, “Look who’s here!” as they step into the room with Lydia behind them.

The teenagers look up from the card game they apparently continued. Stiles gives them and everyone else in the room a pursed-lipped smile as his eyes track back over to Derek.

Derek has his eyes closed and she is still sitting on his lap.

Stiles’ eye twitches.

Allison gently pushes at the side of his head, forcing him to turn and face the teenagers as they come up to him.

One of them holds out his hand to Stiles and says, “I’m Liam.”

The guy standing over Liam’s right shoulder says, “I’m Mason.”

The girl to Liam’s left says, “Hayden.”

“They’re interns,” Allison announces proudly.

Stiles furrows his brows. “We’re accepting high school kids now?”

Hayden starts, “We're in college…” and something creaks.

Stiles turns his head in time to see Derek and Braeden leaving the room hand-in-hand. His breath catches and he has to stop himself from chasing after them.

He clears his throat then turns back to the interns and sighs, “Congratulations,” as he looks them all in the eyes. “No shady shit ever goes down at BEACON, so you’re better off with us than anyone,” then steps away to sit on the couch next to Isaac.

He sighs heavily as he lands.

“Allison told me you were back,” Isaac comments as he gestures at the bowl of trail mix balanced on his leg. “I wasn’t sure I believed her.”

Stiles says, “Well, here I am,” as he grabs a miscellaneous handful and brings it all to his mouth. “Flesh and blood.”

He chews and tries to concentrate on the loud crunching in his head, hoping that it will distract from all the emotions he’s suddenly flushed with because his best friend refuses to speak to him and his boyfriend isn’t even his boyfriend anymore.

“I feel like shit,” he confesses, swallowing his mouthful, then reaches out to pull the bowl off Isaac’s lap and into his own.

Isaac leans forward and grabs a pair of beers from the ice bucket on the coffee table then hands one to Stiles.

When he gets a confused look in return, Isaac replies, “Can’t have you choking to...back to death,” then clinks the necks of their bottles together.

Stiles’ chest feels heavy but he smiles anyway.

Two more hours pass and the group of interns—apparently there were four of them and the fourth, Corey, was in the bathroom during introductions—had left. The BEACON staff has since cozied up in the living room to watch a movie.

Everyone but Derek and Braeden, because they had migrated to the balcony, and Stiles, because he had noticed them on his way into the kitchen to get something to eat and found a satisfactory vantage point to watch them through the curtains without being seen if the lights were off.

She keeps touching him, his face, his shoulder, the top of his head, running her fingers through his hair. Every time she puts her hands on him, Stiles’ grinds his teeth.

“Okay,” Lydia huffs when she emerges from the living room to find him. “You’ve way exceeded the borderline for creepy. Why are you just standing there staring at them?”

“What else am I supposed to do?” Stiles brings his newest beer to his lips. “Everyone’s paired off but the two of us and you’re gorgeous Lydia, but my heart wouldn’t be in it.”

Derek must have said something hilarious because Braeden throws her head back with a laugh. Stiles wants to put his hand around her bared throat.

“You could come watch the movie,” Lydia says.

“I’ve seen it.”

Lydia folds her arms over her chest. “What movie is it?”

Stiles makes eye-contact with her for the first time. “Wolf of Wall Street?”

She rolls her eyes and scoffs, “Find something else to do,” then makes her way back into the living room.

Opportunity promptly presents itself. Braeden, with a lingering grasp on Derek’s hand, makes her way toward the balcony door. Stiles holds his breath and slides into the darkened kitchen. She steps right passed him and he sets the beer bottle on the counter before making a beeline for the balcony.

“That was quick,” Derek remarks when he hears the door open.

The smile he had disappears as soon as his eyes land on Stiles and he stands up out of the wicker loveseat he and Braeden had been sitting in.

Stiles sees the way Derek’s gaze flits over his face, top to bottom, just like earlier in his father’s office, right before he wore coffee. He holds his palms out and Derek frowns at the bandaged one as Stiles makes sure that the cup in Derek’s hand is empty.

“I just wanna say like, two things and then I swear I’ll leave you alone.”

Derek scoffs, “Interesting choice of words,” and turns his eyes towards the night sky.

Stiles gasps softly because he realizes that this is the first time he’s heard Derek’s voice in four years.

He clears his throat and mutters, “Sorry,” as he scratches the back of his head. “Sorry, lemme start over.”

Derek sighs, “Don’t bother,” as he starts toward the door but Stiles doesn’t let him by.

“Please,” Stiles exhales.

He raises his hands but drops them back to his sides when he sees Derek hunch his shoulders, cringing away from any impending touch. Stiles’ stomach falls.

Derek folds his arms over his chest and Stiles forces himself not to watch the muscles bulge under the cardigan. He meets Stiles’ gaze directly and steps back.

“Okay,” Stiles starts. “First off, I’m sorry. I know I said that already but I...I get the feeling that saying only those words for the next four years, w—”

“Three years, ten months, and nineteen days,” Derek corrects.

The specificity makes shame turn Stiles’ stomach.

“R-right,” he stutters. “If I said only those words for the next three years, ten months, and nineteen days, it still wouldn’t even cover how sorry I am because there were a few ways that I could’ve gone about this whole thing and I probably chose the worst way.” Stiles licks his lips. “Believe me, I regret every second I know you mourned me and I wanted so bad to figure out some way to get a message to you, hell even a smoke signal but…”

“But you would’ve been killed for real,” Derek finishes solemnly.

“And then I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to make it up to you...over, over the next six years, twenty months and thirty-eight days.”

Derek blinks at him and Stiles nervously chews on his lower lip. He thought that would’ve at least made Derek dip his head and smile like he always did when Stiles did or said something ridiculous.

Stiles continues, “And second...” He breaks eye-contact and digs his hands into his pockets. “I’m happy for you.”

Derek’s gaze is noticeably softer when Stiles faces him again.

“I’m sure moving on after you thought I died was hard on you and...I’m glad found someone.”

Derek works his jaw.

“I hear she’s a mercenary so that’s pretty hot, right?” Stiles adds with an insincere grin then sighs, “I wish you guys the best,” before turning for the door.

Though he couldn’t see Braeden from outside, Stiles knows that she must have returned by now and was standing just inside the door, watching in the dark as he had.

Stiles makes his way back to the living room to find Lydia staring at her phone while the couple, joined at the lips, also ignore the movie still dutifully playing in the background.

He announces, “I’m out!” with a wave. “Catch you guys bright and early Monday morning.”

Lydia waggles her pinkie at him but doesn’t look away from her phone. Allison and Isaac don’t even give him the courtesy of a glance, they just wave while their lips remain pressed together.

Stiles reaches for another one of those pink drinks as he goes to leave the apartment, but he can imagine the look on Derek’s face if he found out that Stiles was driving after drinking as much as he did. It doesn’t occur to him until he’s on the other side of the door that Derek probably wouldn’t care anymore.

Chapter Text

Derek remembers what it was like when he was first recruited to join BEACON. Long before it became the organization with ties and contracts worldwide that it is now. At the time, Derek’s plan was to join the FBI Academy, continue to serve his country on home turf after fulfilling his family’s tradition of joining the military, but Noah Stilinski had intervened with talk of the private sector. Derek had already known Noah Stilinski, BEACON’s founder and CEO, an ex-CIA operative and pride of the hometown they shared: Beacon Hills—the namesake of his company—but he barely knew anything about his new colleagues:

Scott McCall, the son of an FBI Agent and a nurse, joined because he was best friends with the boss’ son and they never did anything without each other. “I just want to help people however I can,” was his reply when Derek had asked him what his job was.

Jackson Whittemore owed Stilinski for helping find his birth parents and so lent his identity theft skills to their outfit. Over time, and with more than a little coercion, he was the one they went to whenever a client needed to disappear or a target needed to be found.

Allison Argent’s father is an illegal arms dealer and he trained her from a young age how to use every projectile weapon known to man up to that point. They had all once watched her shoot her initials into a paper target from three-quarters the length of a football field with a different handgun for each letter.

Derek had heard about Lydia Martin. Apparently, she could take a stick, a pack of double-A batteries, and a razor blade and “MacGyver them” into a bomb that could take down a ten story building. He didn’t believe the rumors until she described to him, in meticulous detail, how she would do it, then showed him the prototype she’d made in high school.

Then there was Stiles, Noah’s son.

Derek had looked at him and remembered the brat that used to hang around his younger sister, Cora, in school and couldn’t believe that he was capable of being the brains behind nearly every operation they carried out. Especially with the way he gaped and gulped whenever he and Derek were in the same room together. The attraction was mutual, but Derek didn’t think he was ever quite as stupid about it.

Their relationship, when it finally got underway, was no secret around headquarters but they didn’t realize how obvious they were being until a new recruit—a hacker named Danny Mahealani that Jackson had recommended—asked when the wedding was after he caught them looking at each other on his first day. Noah had since told them to tone it down whenever they were on the clock.

Danny brought the twins, Aiden and Ethan Steiner with him, one of which he was dating. It took the others an embarrassingly long time to figure out which, meanwhile the three of them got a kick out of the confusion.

Once they had these extra employees, the government sanction, and the money, they needed to expand the animal clinic Noah bought to use as a front. Noah let Alan Deaton, the previous owner, continue to run his business as he saw fit if he would pardon a few additions. First and foremost, they needed a sub-basement for Allison’s weapons and Lydia’s explosives. Two floors above the double reinforced roof of the clinic, there is a gym, for exercise and combat practice, and above that are their offices, both fingerprint scanner protected. It was during the midnight constructions—so none of the civilians would take immediate notice and start asking questions—that Scott found his calling, namely working in the animal clinic with Deaton. He always said that he never wanted to go into the field because he couldn’t stomach killing anyone if the situation ever called for it. By that time, Allison and Derek had killed four people total. Aiden had killed five on his own.

Rebecca Harlowe had wandered into the animal clinic with her sick cat at the same moment Derek and his buddies from his old platoon, Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd, emerged from the sub-basement at the end of their welcome aboard tour. She had run her gaze over the fingerprint scanner by elevator, then grinned and said, “Hi, I'm Harley and I don't know what this is, but I want in.” Two days later, she brought Isaac Lahey to show him around and got a clear warning from Noah, Allison, and Allison’s .44 Magnum never to do that again. Isaac, like Scott, wanted nothing to do with the darker BEACON activities and was content to work in the clinic.

Stiles—after years of talking in Derek or Allison’s ears—used the company’s growth as an excuse for becoming a field agent. Scott and Derek were both in the room for this first conversation. Scott alone was there for moral support. Derek wanted Stiles to stay right where he was, safe in the base. He didn’t let Stiles know as much but later pled with Noah not to grant his son this promotion. His pleading fell on deaf ears and, after demonstrating his competency, Stiles was promoted. He grinned nonstop for a week but Derek only smiled when Stiles looked at him.

When he got his first assignment, Derek leaped at the chance to go with him, because Stiles had no idea what it was like to be out there and he needed protecting. Derek remembers that the operation was simple but he has no recollection of what they even did, just that by the end of the day, Stiles was visibly shaking. Derek had held him, thinking that it was from panic, but Stiles was just unable to contain his excitement about successfully completing his very first mission. The sex they had afterward quickly changed Derek’s mind about Stiles being in the field.

Derek was in the middle of waiting for the word Foreverto be etched into the ring he wanted to give Stiles once he returned from Berlin when he got the call. Scott was sobbing uncontrollably as he told Derek that there was an accident and they had found a body.

Derek had resurfaced apparently over a week later on his living room floor, with his sisters, Noah, and a strange woman standing over him. The stranger said her name is Marin Morrell, a psychiatrist and Deaton’s sister. She was here to see him, to take care of him because everyone was sure he was losing his mind.

By the time Derek was deemed well enough to return to the office, they had two new operatives: Jordan Parrish, another one of Noah's military picks, and Kira Yukimura, whom Noah had pulled some strings to get extradited from Japan. Apparently, she had racked up charges for breaking and entering and one count of arson. Noah brought her back to America and promptly put her to work. A week later, she had suggested updates for all their security because “I could get in here with both hands tied behind my back and blindfolded”. A month after that she got herself and Parrish in and out of a reporter’s house with a handful of lascivious photographs without even so much as rousing the dogs.

The earth kept turning. Allison, ever protective of weaponry, named herself BEACON’s Armory Requisitions Officer so she can keep track of them all whether they’re in storage or out in the hands of a fellow agent. Lydia took on the title of Comptroller and helps Noah with the company finances whenever there’s not an immediate bomb threat to attend to. Jackson, Danny, and the twins are currently in England working with the MI6 to bust a terrorist organization. Boyd and Erica are on their honeymoon in Mazatlán. They said to call them if anyone in Mexico “needed murdering”.

Erica is going to break Stiles’ nose when she comes back to find him alive.

Parrish gave up being a field agent and took on the mantle of human resources representative alongside Marin. BEACON started taking in interns. Derek got to the point where he would get nauseous whenever something reminded him of Stiles, or if someone said his name, instead of breaking down into tears every time.

He takes a deep breath when his stomach turns even now, even knowing that Stiles is fine. He looks over through the darkness of his bedroom at the back of Braeden’s head and sighs. He never thought that after Stiles, he could ever bring himself to share a bed with anyone else, especially someone in a similar line of work, someone he had once paid to help find Stiles before he accepted that the man he loved was gone. Derek rolls onto his side and she sighs softly as he curls his body around hers. Braeden was there for him while Stiles hid, without even so much as a word, probably jet-setting across the world doing who-knows-what while Derek was here, suffering and alone. He closes his eyes and kisses her shoulder.

He can still hear Stiles calling him “Babe” as if no time had passed and nothing had changed. If Derek had known that Stiles was alive, he would've waited as long as it took, he would've waited forever, but Stiles kept this from him. It's too late for them now.

Chapter Text

Aɢᴇɴᴛ Mieczysław Stilinski. Cᴏᴅᴇɴᴀᴍᴇ []. License to Kill. Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Sᴋɪʟʟs: Covert operations. Intelligence Gathering. Interrogation. Search and Rescue. Cᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ Sᴛᴀᴛᴜs: Deceased.

“Creepy,” Stiles remarks as he stares at the reddened photograph of himself on his father’s computer.

“Yeah,” Kira replies from across the desk.

Allison and Lydia, on either side of Kira, nod.

“Wait…” Stiles presses his palms onto the surface of the desk. ”We got codenames? What are your codenames?”

The others glance amongst themselves and then turn back to him.

Allison starts, “Mine’s Huntress.”

“Obviously,” Stiles giggles. “Personally, I would’ve picked Killshot. Lydia?”

“Banshee.”

Stiles snaps his fingers then points at her. “Nice.”

She smirks.

“And what about you Kira?”

“Kitsune.”

Stiles squints and hums as he leans back in his father’s chair. He steeples his fingertips together for a moment before leaning his elbows back onto the desk.

“Okay, I don't get it. What's your vice?”

Kira takes a breath and heavily exhales, “Fire.”

Stiles glances at the others when Kira seems to dreamily stare off into the distance.

They shrug nonchalantly.

Kira clears her throat. “But mostly I’m here to fix things when they break.”

Lydia scoffs, “She’s apparently also here to sell herself short,” and rests a hand on Kira’s shoulder. “Kira cracks safes and security systems.”

“And she’s pretty badass with a sword too,” Allison adds.

“Wow,” Stiles breathes. “Is it weird that I'm kind of in love with all three of you?”

“Please refrain from falling in love in my office,” Stiles’ father declares as he walks into the room with a box of donuts. “Again.” He sets the box down on his desk and slaps Stiles’ hand when he immediately reaches for it. “Get outta my chair.”

Noah pushes the box toward the women as Stiles makes his way around to the other side of the desk.

“Okay, Daddy-o, what you got for me?” He rubs his hands together as he watches the others all take a donut. “I’ll do anything. Just gimme my codename and my assignment and I’m gone.”

Noah sighs, “Only active agents get codenames and according to our system, you’re dead,” as he sits. “AKA inactive.”

Stiles freezes with his hand halfway to the donuts. “So...I’m stuck here like a drone in an espionage beehive?”

“Hey,” Parrish admonishes as he enters the office carrying a plastic folder housing a stack of paper half an inch thick. “Don’t knock the drones, they do good work,” he says as he sets it down on the desk.

Stiles waits to hear the wood creak under the weight of the folder.

“Alright kiddo,” his father starts as he touches the tip of his finger to the top of the packet. “You remember the Battery.”

“I remember it being smaller.” Stiles picks up the packet and starts flipping through it. He scoffs, “I practically co-founded this outfit and you’re really gonna put me through all of this again?”

Noah says, “You can’t just come back after four years and expect to jump right on the saddle.”

“It was only three years, ten months, and nineteen days,” Stiles grumbles. "God, I think I'm gonna be sick.”

“Juff shtay outta da eovator,” Kira mutters around her donut.

“We all had to go through it again after the update Stiles,” Allison says.

“And like you said,” Lydia sighs. “You’ve been here since the beginning, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you get through.”

Stiles sucks his teeth as he comes to the page listing the activities and the agents most qualified to train in them. Allison and firearms, Danny and hacking, Derek and close combat, Lydia and explosives…

“I only have one concern.”

He hears Lydia asks, “You mean other than that last concern?” and sneers at her before turning back to Parrish.

“Is he going to be the one training me in close-combat?” Stiles looks at Parrish from head to toe. “He seems more than capable.”

Parrish says, “I’m not a field agent.”

Stiles jerks his head forward. “I’m sorry, I just assumed since you’re built like a house.”

“A brick house,” Kira comments as she sucks icing from her middle finger.

Everyone turns to look at her and Kira bows her head.

Stiles chuckles as he faces his father again. “Since Mr. Brickhouse can’t do it, why not Aiden or Erica or Harley or...god-forbid Jackson?”

Allison says, “Jackson, Danny, and the twins are in England.”

Lydia tells him, “Harley isn’t due back from her operation with the UN Intelligence Committee ‘til next month.”

“And Erica is on her honeymoon,” Parrish adds as he picks up a donut.

Stiles narrows his eyes. “With Boyd?”

Everyone makes a sound of confirmation.

Stiles groans as he hangs his head back. “I mean good for them but…” He groans again.

Noah takes a deep breath. “Can my son and I have the room, please?”

The others immediately start to make their ways out.

“I know what you’re gonna say,” Stiles starts as Parrish closes the door.

Noah reaches under his desk and Stiles hears two soft clicks before his father stands away from his chair.

Stiles clears his throat and mimics his father’s voice, “Grow up,” as Noah makes his way around the desk. “So what if Derek has a hot new girlfriend? I’m still gonna make you rub up ag—”

He’s pulled into a hug and it pushes the breath out of him.

Noah softly exhales, “I’ll talk to Kira and see if she’d be willing to train you in the hacking and close combat.”

Stiles buries his nose in his father’s shoulder and closes his eyes.

Noah continues, “I never planned on making you do that.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and sets his chin on his father’s shoulder.

“I’m willing to do it,” he admits. “I just don’t wanna make him uncomfortable.”

“I know.” His father holds him tighter for a second then breaks their hug. “And I know I should’ve told you about—”

“No,” Stiles interjects with a shake of his head. “Thinking about coming home to Derek was pretty much the only thing that kept me going the last year so…” He turns his gaze away. “So...if I knew about him and Braeden then there’s no telling if I would’ve even made it back.”

Noah purses his lips and reaches out to rest his hand on Stiles’ jaw.

“I’m still sorry you had to find out like this.”

“It's not your fault.” Stiles shrugs. “He thought I was dead, it's not like he could be expected to wait for me.”

“You'll find someone else too,” his father tries to soothe but Stiles cringes at the idea.

He's always known that he would rather be alone for the rest of his life than entertain the thought of loving anyone but Derek.

He was under the impression that Derek had felt the same way about him.

Stiles clears his throat and flaps the packet. “So when do I start?”

“Soon as you can work out a schedule with everyone,” Noah replies. “And speaking of everyone, have you seen Derek today?”

Stiles shakes his head then watches his father reach for the phone on his desk.

“I'm gonna go talk to the others,” Stiles announces as he picks up the box containing a singular chocolate-glazed donut with sprinkles and one of those jelly-filled ones that he hates. “And I’m takin’ these.”

He hears his father say, “Where are you?” into the phone as he leaves the office.

|

Derek can just barely hear Stiles’ voice coming through the open door of Noah’s office as soon as he steps off the elevator. He stops and pulls in a breath because he expects Stiles and whoever he’s talking with to have heard the elevator’s arriving ding. No footsteps start his way so he quickly moves toward his own office.

He hears Stiles saying, “—better than finding a guy my exact height and build, ripping out his teeth and then killing him.”

Derek stops right outside his door when Lydia groans, “But grave robbery?”

“More like...morgue robbery,” Stiles corrects and Derek grimaces.

Allison scoffs, “You’re kidding.”

“He was a John Doe that nobody had come to claim and he was already there like, seven months so they were about to incinerate the guy anyway. I just...expedited the process.”

“Wait,” Allison starts, breaking Derek away from the picture forming in his mind of Stiles rolling a body bag out of a hospital on a covered, metal gurney. “Should you be telling us this stuff? I feel like this would have confidential stamped all over it.”

“This was before most of the confidential shit happened.”

The elevator dings again and Derek moves further into his office. He hears Kira and Marin’s voices as he moves behind his desk and sets his bag on the floor next to it.

Through the corner of his eye, Derek sees Kira appear in his doorway. She raises her hand with a wave and opens her mouth to call out to him but he brings his forefinger to his lips to stop her. She furrows her brow and drops her hand.

“Kira!” Lydia calls. “Come show Stiles the new system.”

“Coming!” she replies with a smile before warily glancing back at Derek.

He mouths, ‘I’m okay,’ and waves her off.

She lingers in the doorway another second before stepping away, headed toward the others in Noah’s office. Derek follows her to his doorway and slowly peeks through. Finding the bullpen still empty, he makes his way across to Marin’s office.

“Morning,” he announces as he steps inside and locks the door.

“Good morning.” Marin, leaning against the edge of her desk, runs her gaze over him and she sets her phone down. “Everything alright? I wasn’t expecting you for another…” She presses the Home button on her phone. “...twenty minutes.”

Derek clears his throat. “I was late on Friday so I decided to come in early today. Is that okay?”

“Of course,” she says then gestures toward the couch.

He sits and rubs his hands over his thighs as Marin moves to the wall of file cabinets behind her desk.

“No coffee this morning?” She asks as she presses a code into the keypad that makes the specific drawer containing their past conversations pop out.

“No.” He watches her move toward his drawer. “It's the same barista as last time so I didn't want to take that chance again.”

Marin chuckles as she pulls a tape recorder and a black, leather-bound notebook with a triskelion embossed on the cover out of the drawer. “It was that bad?”

“Too much coffee, not enough everything else.”

“Maybe that’s why you seem a little off today,” she muses. “You're under-caffeinated.”

“I'm fine,” he says then frowns when he thinks about how many times he’s said those words in the past four days. “Considering.”

Marin sets the tape recorder and the notebook on her chair then pulls it out from behind the desk. “Considering?”

He watches her roll the chair to the other side of the coffee table sitting before him then replies, “Considering my dead ex turned out not to have actually died and he’s sitting in the Director's office right now.”

Marin hums as she sets the recorder on the coffee table.

“I heard about that,” she says, pressing the button to turn the device on before taking her seat. “I can't imagine what it must be like for you to see him again.”

Derek remains silent. So far, it feels like the best dream and the worst nightmare wrapped into one.

Marin watches him as she pulls a pen from the spine of the notebook.

“Are you at least...” She circles the pen in the direction of his torso. “Somewhere in there, happy to know that he's okay after all?”

Derek closes his eyes. “I don’t know.”

The sound of her pen scratching against paper makes him open his eyes again.

“I probably should be but…”—She looks up from her notes—“...I feel like that would be like I’ve forgiven him and I...don’t.” He scoffs, “Apparently Scott and I are the only ones that feel that way.”

Marin furrows her brow. “What do you mean?”

“Just that…” Derek sighs and scratches his knees over his pants. “He came back and everyone acted like nothing was different, like he hadn’t even left us in the first place.”

“And you’re upset that the others aren’t upset.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “It’s stupid, I know.”

“Not necessarily,” Marin says and he looks her in the eyes. “They’re your friends and it’s normal to want them to feel the same way about something that you do, but...that’s not always the case.”

“Especially since they’re his friends too,” Derek adds in a grumble.

“It’s not any consolation that Scott shares your unhappiness with him?”

“No,” Derek scoffs, “They’re best friends, Marin. They’ve known each other practically since the womb. Scott forgiving him is a matter of when, not if. Whereas, in my case, it’s…” He gulps. “...it’s the opposite.”

She taps her pen against her lips as she says, “So, you're not happy to see him and you don't think you’ll ever be able to forgive him.”

Derek raises a brow at her tone. “Is that so hard to believe?”

“Judging by our previous conversations, yes.”

He purses his lips. “So, you think I'm lying.”

“I think you're putting your walls back up,” she retorts and takes him aback. “Stiles’ death”—she air-quotes—“caused that to begin with and now his return his affecting it again.”

Derek wants to tell her that it’s not true, wants to tell her that Stiles doesn’t have that power over him anymore, but his mouth can’t form the words. Marin wouldn’t believe him anyway. He doesn’t believe it himself. He presses his tongue to roof of his mouth.

She asks, “Have you seen him since the last time you were here?”

Derek shifts in his seat. “He made an appearance Friday night.”

“Oh.” She leans forward a little in her chair. “How was that?”

“He cut his hand.”

She moves back and Derek can almost hear the tsk when she asks, “Is that all that happened? You didn't speak?”

“He cornered me on the balcony while Braeden was in the bathroom.” Derek shrugs. “He apologized and...said he’s happy for me.” He scoffs, “Happy that I moved on, if you can believe it.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Because he was trying so hard to push back the sick feeling that built up as he flitted his gaze over Stiles’ face in the light from the night sky. He looked exactly how Derek had remembered him and Derek found himself wishing that Stiles had kept the long hair and beard if only as a reminder that so much time had passed.

‘Three years, ten months, and nineteen days,’ he remembers himself saying, then feeling immediately embarrassed that he had an exact number on how long it had been since the morning he kissed Stiles goodbye next to the airline desk.

His face had started to flush and he tried to leave but Stiles wouldn’t let him. Stiles had raised his hands toward him but Derek wasn’t ready to be touched again so he cringed, then felt oddly regretful when Stiles let his arms fall back to his sides. He folded his arms over his chest because his heart was beating so hard he thought Stiles would probably be able to see it through his clothes.

Marin asks him, “What do you wish you’d said?”

“I don’t know,” Derek replies. “But I wouldn’t have lied.”

Like Stiles did, his eyes averted and his hands in his pockets, when he said, ‘I’m happy for you.’ As if he could ever be happy that Derek is holding, kissing, loving someone else.

“By the way, how does Braeden feel about all this?”

Derek drags in a deep breath as his mind fully returns to the present. He can’t imagine her reaction is anywhere near positive. No one would want their significant other’s previous love interest back in their lives.

The ringing phone interrupts the start of Derek’s response and he sighs. He looks across the coffee table to Marin for permission to answer it and she nods but also writes something down.

Derek watches the moving pen as he pulls the phone out of his pocket.

Noah's voice comes through the other end of the line, “Where are you?”

He purses his lips. “I'm with Marin.”

There is a pause before Noah lets out a heavy breath. “Tell her I said hello.”

“Noah says hello.”

Marin smiles then gestures for him to wrap it up.

“She smiled,” Derek tells him. “I have to go.”

Derek ends the calls and clears his throat and as he replaces the phone in his pocket, he answers, “Braeden is fine.”

“Oh, so you’ve talked to her about the situation?”

“No.” Derek shakes his head. “I don’t want her to feel like...like it matters, like our relationship is different now because he turned out to be alive.”

Is it?”

No.”

“What if Stiles says something to her about your past?”

“He wouldn’t be saying anything she doesn't already know about.” Derek clenches his jaw. “He was the...the love of my life. Everyone knows that and Braeden knows better than anyone and before you ask me about whether I think the time will come where I need to make a choice, there is no choice. I pick her.”

Marin sets her pen down. “Why?”

Derek furrows his brows.

“I just mean…” She shrugs. “After all this time of being away from each other, one might think you would choose your long-lost love.”

“Yeah,” Derek scoffs. “But one isn’t taking into consideration the choices he made. He chose to take that mission, he chose to fake his own death and send our group into a tailspin, he chose to stay underground all these years only to come back thinking that it would all be the same as he left it. Why should I choose someone who never bothered to choose me in the first place?”

Marin searches his eyes and he turns them towards the door.

“Maybe…” He shakes his head. “Maybe if you'd asked me a couple of years ago, I would've...said something different, but I've moved on.”

Marin hums. “You should talk to Braeden.”

“I will.”

Soon.” She shakes her pen at him. “That's your homework.”

Derek chuckles softly at her action and she laughs along with him.

“And…”

His smile falls when Marin takes a deep breath and interweaves her fingers.

He grumbles, “Don’t say it.”

“You have to talk to Stiles.”

His eyes fall closed.

“I know, I know,” she says. “And I’m not saying you need to forgive him right away but it’s important that you let him know you feel about all this.”

Derek rolls his eyes open. “He already knows.”

“He doesn’t know everything.”

Derek clenches his jaw and says, “I should go,” through his teeth. “I’m expecting a call.”

“Give me one more minute.” Her pen starts scratching paper again. “How’ve you been sleeping?”

He's probably gotten eight hours total since Friday. He keeps waking up with thoughts of the past, thoughts he had pushed down deep but apparently Stiles’ return is affecting it again. This morning, he woke up from a dream with the memory of Stiles above him, lips on his neck, then kissing down his chest. Derek had lurched out of bed and ran to the toilet because it was too soon after waking for his brain to catch up to reality.

“Same as always,” he replies. “Like a log.”

“And you’ve been using your medication as prescribed?”

“Yep.”

Marin closes the notebook. “Would you like a copy of today's tape or no?”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “You can keep this one.”

“I don't blame you.” She shrugs. “If I were you I wouldn’t want to be listening over it and then Braeden walks in to hear those long, soul-searching pauses you took whenever Stiles was mentioned.”

Derek scoffs, “I wasn't...I wasn’t soul-searching. I was thinking about my answers.”

“Mhm,” Marin smirks. “I know you, not just as your doctor but, I like to think, as your friend and as both, I'd prefer for you to be honest with me.”

“I am being honest.”

Marin takes a deep breath and purses her lips before exhaling, “Okay,” as she leans forward to turn off the recorder. “Well, in keeping with all this honesty, I want to stay updated on both your homework assignments, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Derek gets up from the couch and she mirrors him. He takes a deep breath and stretches his arms backwards as she places the notebook and recorder in the seat of the chair again.

Marin grins, “I'm looking forward to hearing from you,” as she rolls the chair back behind her desk.

Derek leaves her office feeling unusual. Not as bad as he felt when they first started his therapy sessions but not as good as he felt in the more recent ones. He walks silently across a bullpen that is slowly filling with people and doesn’t say a word in greeting to any of them. He doesn't want to take the chance of meeting a pair of amber eyes.

Something in the middle of his desk catches his attention: a single chocolate-glazed donut with sprinkles sitting on a napkin. He lingers in his doorway, staring at it as Kira did to him, before moving toward his desk.

Thought you might like a pick-me-up is written on the corner of the napkin underneath the donut, in what Derek recognizes as Stiles’ handwriting.

His breath catches and he can’t help but look out through his door.

Stiles is standing in the middle of the bullpen with the Field Agent Aptitude Battery folder in one hand and a jelly donut with a single bite taken out of it in the other. He says something to Allison before handing the folder to her.

Derek looks back down at the donut on his desk then calls out, “Allison?”

He doesn't look to see if she heard him but she replies, “Yeah?” before he's forced to.

Derek jerks his head to the side, beckoning her. He listens to the sound of her shoes as she comes to stand before him.

“What's up?”

Derek wraps the donut up in the napkin and hands it to her.

“Tell him I don't want it.”

Allison looks down at the donut then purses her lips.

“And close the door behind you, please?”

“Okay,” she whispers.

The door clicks shut, separating him from Stiles and that’s the way he would prefer it, no matter what Marin says.

Chapter Text

“Can we go lie down?”

“Lie down?” Derek had scoffed and Stiles had almost broken right then. “It's 5:30, we haven’t even had dinner yet.”

“I know, but I wanna lie down with you...just for a little bit.”

Derek pulled his hands out of the kitchen cabinets, where he was rummaging for something to make them to eat that night, and turned to Stiles with that furrow in his brow.

“Is something wrong?” He asked and Stiles had heard the worry in his voice.

He didn’t have the guts to tell Derek they may never see each other again.

“No.” He lied because he’s a coward. “But can we please go to bed?”

“Okay,” Derek said softly then held Stiles’ face in his hands. “Yeah, we can lie down as long as you want.”

Stiles pursed his lips to stop them from quivering after he said, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, so much.”

That was two days before he left for Berlin. Two of the hardest days of his life, because he knew what was coming at the end of them and Derek had no idea. Stiles had tried not to make their last kiss at the check-in desk seem too desperate because Derek would’ve known that something was wrong and Stiles would've let down his father, would've spilled everything immediately. Derek would’ve stopped him from getting on that plane and that couldn’t happen. The operation needed to be carried out.

“Hey, you alright?” Noah asks as he approaches.

Stiles gulps as he sets the picture frame back on the shelf in the living room. It’s the fifth time he’s picked it up since he walked passed and noticed it this morning.

Noah sighs when he looks at the photo in the frame. It was one of the many pictures Stiles and Derek took when they were on vacation in Monaco. Stiles, wet from the ocean, was making a funny face at the camera as Derek pressed a kiss to the corner of his lips. The last time Stiles saw this picture, it was still in the saved images folder on his camera.

“I needed something to remember you boys,” Noah says, setting his hands on his own hips. “When you were happy.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and turns away to wipe at the tear in his eye before it rolls down his face. He sniffles as he picks up the frame again and hands it to his father.

“I shouldn’t have pictures of him, of us. He wouldn't want that.”

Noah retorts, “Well they’re not in his house,” with a scoff as he sets the frame back on the shelf.

Stiles laughs softly as he is pulled into a hug.

Noah presses a kiss to the side of his head then asks, “You good?”

Stiles sniffles. “I'm good.”

“Good!” comes a groan behind Noah. “Because I'm starving.”

They pull away from their hug to see Claudia coming down the stairs.

“I just ordered Chinese food on this thing,” she says, holding up her new cellphone. “Isn't that wild?”

Stiles clears his throat then says, “Mom, I was gonna cook for us tonight,” as Claudia turns the phone over in her hand.

She raises her brows then smiles brightly back at her son. “I already ordered it though.”

“You can cook for us tomorrow night, huh?” Noah says rests his hand on Stiles’ shoulder before moving toward Claudia. “You know you shouldn’t be out of bed,” he admonishes softly as he takes her hand.

“I’m not a child,” Claudia complains as he guides her back up the stairs with a hand at her back.

“I know, I know.”

Stiles licks his lips as he turns around and his gaze makes its way back to the photo. He sighs as he picks it up again. He takes it with him to his bedroom and sets it on the desk because he knows that he would lay awake all night staring at it if it rested on his nightstand.

“Dad?” He calls as he walks out of the bedroom.

His father meets him in the hallway between their rooms.

“You think I can convince the others to let me host the party this week?”

Noah takes a deep breath. “As I understand it, the parties rotate alphabetically.”

“Oh.” Stiles nods and pushes his hands into his pockets. “So, next is Braeden since Boyd’s on his honeymoon.”

“Braeden isn't a BEACON employee,” Noah replies, shaking his head. “Derek is next.”

“Well, that’s a bust,” Stiles scoffs. “Derek has so much security at the house, he’ll see me coming ten miles away.”

“Actually,” Noah starts, solemnly. “He moved uh he moved to another place because...he said there were too many memories at that house.”

Stiles feels that one in his chest and his gut. First, his parents whom they had lost at the hands of a vengeful burglar when Derek and Laura were still in high school, then Stiles’ loss a decade later. He couldn't blame Derek for wanting to leave. There probably wasn’t a room in the whole house he could walk into without being reminded of someone he loves...loved.

Noah adopts a cheerier tone when he says, “But, now he's got a loft in Old Town and I think his new door slides.”

Stiles shakes his head and mutters, “He wouldn’t want me there anyway.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Oh come on Dad, I show up there and the first thing, the only thing he’ll do is slam the door in my face.” He sighs, “Whether it slides or not.”

Noah crosses his arms over his chest. “You’re overreacting.”

“It’s been a week Dad,” Stiles groans. “A week of me coming in every day, setting up appointments and signing waivers and he hasn't said a word or even looked at me.” His voice started to break and he has to catch his breath before continuing, “He hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Noah retorts, reaching out for Stiles’ shoulders. “There's no part of Derek that could ever hate you.”

Stiles huffs, “Then why’d he give back the donut?”

He notices that his father narrows his eyes the way Derek always said reminded him of Stiles.

“I don’t understand.”

“Donuts with chocolate icing and sprinkles are Derek’s favorite,” Stiles explains and watches his father’s left eyebrow rise. “I used to get whole boxes for him whenever we’d have a fight...and then we’d have a fight over me getting him fat and it would be a vicious cycle for like two days.”

“Uh huh.”

“My point, Dad, is that I left him the chocolate one on his desk and he told Allison to tell me he didn’t want it. Which...as you could probably guess, hurt my feelings because Derek has always eaten every single one in every single box that I have ever bought for him.”

“Stiles,” his father sighs, “Things have—”

He interjects, “If I hear the words things have changed one more time I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to handle it.”

“Okay,” Noah lets out a short laugh and nods. “Then I’ll say that Derek needs more time to adjust.”

Stiles frowns. “How much time does it usually take to adjust to a dead ex not actually dying?”

Noah shrugs. “I’m sure he’ll let you know when he’s over it.”

The knock on the front door echoes through the house and Claudia appears in the doorway of the bedroom she and Noah share.

“Is that the food?” she asks.

Noah can’t help but laugh and Stiles feels a pang in his chest seeing the way he looks at her. Derek used to look at him like that, but now Derek won’t even spare him a glance at all.

“Probably,” Noah replies, still smiling.

Claudia steps out of their room and makes her way toward the front door.

“I almost forgot how similar you two are,” Noah says softly and Stiles smiles.

Stiles expects the delivery woman to halt in the middle of her greeting when Claudia opens the door but she takes the view—a woman with her arm in a sling—in stride. She does, however, let her mouth fall open and her eyes go wide when Stiles steps up behind his mother.

“Hi Wei,” he says, taking the bags of food containers as Claudia hands her the money. “How’ve you been?”

She whimpers in response and it dawns on Stiles why she is reacting this way.

“Well, it was nice seeing you again,” he says quickly and closes the door.

His mother gives him a quizzical look and he holds up his hand toward her.

“Dad?” he calls out as he goes toward the dining room and sets the bags on the table.

“Yeah!” Noah answers from the kitchen where he had headed to get them drinks.

“Did you tell Wei I was dead?”

There is a long pause before Noah replies, “It might have come up, why?” as he walks into the room with three bottled sodas.

“She just came to the door and I think she shit her pants when she saw me.”

Claudia lets out a loud laugh, which makes her husband and son laugh.

For a moment, it makes Stiles forget about his current problems and remember what it was like when he was younger. When it was always like this: the three of them sharing laughs watching a movie or bowling or sitting together at dinner. They were happy and unafraid to show it.

He is grateful for this moment and he knows his father is too because his mom is starting to act more and more like her old self, a noticeable difference from how she was when Stiles brought her back.

He couldn't be more honored to have been the one to bring her home, even if it meant losing someone he wanted to create a new home with in the process.

|

Derek! Derek!”

The fear that ran through him in the middle of the grocery store that day when Stiles cried out for him makes his heart skip even now. He had let go of the shopping cart and ran toward Stiles’ voice, only for Stiles to meet him at the end of the aisle with a box of cereal.

“What? What is it? What's wrong?” Derek asked, near-frantic as Stiles shook the box at his face, and cried,

“Oh my god! Pops!”

Derek blinked at the box then back at Stiles. “What?”

“Pops!” Stiles exclaimed again, making Derek clench his jaw. “God, you remember Cora and I used to eat these by the bucketload!” He turned the box over to look at the back as he muttered, “I thought they got discontinued.”

Derek stuttered, “Is-Is this why you screamed?”

“Yeah dude,” Stiles started and Derek rolled his eyes despite the relief that coursed through him. “This stuff was—”

Derek turned and started back toward the abandoned cart in the middle of Stiles sentence. He moved passed the tomato sauces he was comparing without choosing one because he knew Stiles was chasing him with that bewildered look on his face.

He had only stopped because a woman with a stroller cut him off before he could turn into the next aisle.

“Babe…?” Stiles set a hand on his shoulder. “I shouldn’t have yelled out like that. I’m sorry.”

Derek had softly sighed, “I thought you were hurt or something.”

“I know.” Stiles ran the tip of his finger over Derek’s earlobe. “Look at me?”

Derek turned to Stiles with a scowl.

He held Derek’s chin in one hand and breathed, “I'm sorry,” before kissing one corner of Derek's pursed his lips. “I'm so sorry,” Stiles repeated, kissing the other side. “I’m so sorry baby.”

Derek sighed, “I heard you.”

“So what did I say?” Braeden asks, her voice pulling him back to the present.

“You asked when my sisters were coming back,” he replies, returning a cereal box to the shelf without really looking at it. “And I had to think about it. They're coming Friday.”

“Did you ever get around to telling the others you're moving the party to Saturday?"

“I did.” He looks down into the shopping cart that's full of groceries and mutters, “Cora’s gonna want this,” as he picks up a box of Pops cereal from a lower shelf.

The cart’s wheels clack against the store’s tiles in echo of his footsteps as he moves and she follows.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone.”

There is a heartbeat of silence when he stops to look at more cereals before Braeden continues, “Even Stiles?”

Derek turns toward her with arched brow and she mirrors his expression.

“Since when do you care what Stiles is doing?”

Braeden smiles as she replies, “You once hired me to care about what he’s doing, remember?”

Derek clenches his jaw. “He knows he’s not invited.”

She hums. “Allison and Lydia told him he wasn’t invited last time and we all know what happened there.”

Movement out of the corner of his eyes brings Derek’s attention to an elderly man and a young woman slowly making their way across the aisle.

He sighs, “Braeden, can we talk about this later, please?”

“Of course,” she says, following his gaze. “When it comes to him it’s always let’s talk about this later,” She takes the cart’s handle from him as she grumbles, “...but then later never happens.”

He sighs deeply as she watches her walk away, wishing he knew how to give this situation a quick fix, like Stiles had done all those years ago in this very same store, but he doubts a couple of kisses and softly exhaled apologies would solve anything right now. He follows Braeden when she turns into the wine aisle.

“My sisters don't...know yet,” he says, walking up as she surveys the selection.

“You’re kidding,” Braeden huffs, turning so he can experience her incredulity full-force. “You didn't tell them?”

“I just haven't had the chance.” He shrugs then mutters, “I'm not sure I'm even done processing it myself.”

Braeden hangs her head backwards.

He tells her, “Lydia’s going to want Beringer,” in an effort to change the subject.

She scoffs, “Yeah and I want my boyfriend back.”

Derek pulls in a sharp breath at the same time that Braeden heavily exhales.

“I dunno if you’ve been noticing,” she starts but she’s not looking directly at him, which makes him nervous, “but ever since he showed up, it’s like you’re slowly turning into stone.” She lets go of the cart’s handle and slides her hands into his as she finally looks at his eyes, but it still feels like she's staring through him. “Are you gonna tell them when they get here?”

“They won’t believe me,” Derek argues. “They’ll just think my delusions are coming back.”

Braeden searches his eyes. “Regardless, you need to face this...and if you won’t talk to me, you need to talk to someone because…” She closes her eyes then drops her head. “...because I don’t know if I can take you being like this anymore.”

Derek’s stomach falls when she pulls her hand out of his. His fist clenches around nothing as she picks up a bottle of Beringer from the shelf and sets it carefully into the cart before walking away from him.

Chapter Text

Aɢᴇɴᴛ Allison Argent. Cᴏᴅᴇɴᴀᴍᴇ: Huntress. License to Kill. Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Sᴋɪʟʟs: Firearms. Covert operations. Enemy Agent Disposal. Search and Rescue. Asset Acquisition. Cᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ Sᴛᴀᴛᴜs: Active.

“Okay so,” Allison starts as the lights automatically come on in BEACON’s armory. “Obviously you already know how to use guns.”

“Like a baby knows how to use a teat,” Stiles replies as the lights reveal walls and walls of weapons, laid out like a library of firearms. “Jeez Alli, how many do you have now?”

“Uh…” she chuckles, starting forward between two walls. “I stopped counting at a thousand.”

“Wow,” Stiles breathes, following behind and running his fingertips over the grips of the handguns to his right as they go. “Do you and Lydia not share this space anymore?”

“Well she kind of has her own space now.” Allison points down at what Stiles thinks is the floor. “Some of her supplies are still in drawers at the bottom of the shelves though.”

Stiles mutters, “Yeah I guess springs and coils don’t take up nearly as much space as an assault rifle.”

“She does store a couple of those uh, projectiles from World War II on the back wall somewhere.”

He watches Allison shake her head as she let out a soft laugh.

“Do they…work?

Allison shrugs. “She reconstructed them all herself so I would guess so.”

They come to a stop in front of a metal door at the other end of the vast armory. Allison moves her hand toward the scanner by the door but then drops it back to her side and turns to Stiles.

“See if your prints work,” she says.

“Kira said they should,” he replies, raising his hand to the scanner then watching the light at the top blink green. “Speaking of, why don't we just burn them off? Men in Black style.”

Allison chuckles, “One, that's a movie,” as she pushes the door open. “And two, because Kira might get a little carried away at the word burn.”

They step into the BEACON shooting range and the armory immediately goes dark behind them. There is a second of complete darkness before the lights in the range come on and the door closes then automatically locks behind them.

“What do you remember about the Battery?” Allison asks as she presses the button by the door to bring the paper targets forward.

Stiles pulls in a deep breath and exhales heavily, “For the physical part there’s different like, areas that you need to pass through and every one requires a different skill and they’re randomized so you don’t know whose is first or next or whatever. The written test is the same but y’know written and you guys are the ones who come up with all the questions.”

“Yeah!” She gives him a bright smile. “So for my section, you just need to either field strip a weapon of my choosing or put one back together, I haven’t decided yet, then take down a set of enemy targets while trying not to hit a civilian target.”

Stiles scoffs, “Easy,” as he looks down range at the targets.

They are innocuous now, just regular outlines, but for the test, Allison will hang the outlines of someone pointing a gun or running forward with a purse and others of children with toys, or adults with babies or pets.

And…” She raises her finger in a way that reminds him of Lydia. “There’s a three-minute time limit.”

“Still easy.” Stiles shakes his head. “I bet you could do it in a minute.”

“If it’s a pistol?” She shrugs a shoulder. “More like mere seconds.”

He snickers and recalls the time, in BEACON’s beginning, when they all gathered in the shooting range to watch Allison demonstrate then Derek follow when he first undertook the Battery.

“Derek did it in a minute-thirty,” he muses softly. “On the first try.”

“I remember.”

Stiles looks up to see Allison wearing a wistful smile. He runs his tongue along his gums and folds his arms over his chest.

“How’s he doing?”

The look on her face answers his question before she opens her mouth.

“About how you would expect.”

Stiles purses his lips then tells her, “He won’t talk to me.”

“He’s not really talking to any of us,” she replies solemnly and her mouth quirks as if she was about to say something else but then decided to keep her mouth shut instead.

“So then...” Stiles supplies, “Is he still hosting the party at his loft this weekend?”

Allison searches his eyes then narrows her own.

“My dad told me,” he explains.

She sighs, “He's...it won't be at the loft, he's been housesitting while his sisters check out grad schools for Cora.”

Stiles can't help but smile with pride at that revelation.

"I assume you're gonna crash this one too?”

Stiles scoffs, “I’d ask him whether or not he wants me there if he would give me the time of day.”

“Well if you do decide to come, don’t tell him I told you where it was.”

“My lips are sealed.” He does the action to accent his words.

“Good, now go pick a handgun and show me what you got.”

Chapter Text

Braeden is standing in front of the mirror in his bathroom, running a brush through her hair when Derek steps into the doorway with Olive in his arms. His niece grabs at his chin as Derek watches Braeden.

“Yes?” she says, having noticed him out of the corner of her eye as she glances over her reflection.

“How’d I do?” he replies, bouncing Olive a little on his arm.

Braeden pulls her eyes away from the mirror to look at Olive: in her new blue dress that Derek had bought her and her hair that Derek had braided just the way Cora taught him.

“You did really good,” Braeden says with a grin Derek knows is only for the girl’s benefit. “You're gonna be the prettiest girl in the restaurant Ollie.”

Olive presses her knuckles against her mouth and giggles just before they hear someone calling out from downstairs.

Derek wonders for a second why they weren’t alerted by security that his sisters had arrived, but Olive tenses in his arms and yells back, “Mama!” as she starts tapping one little hand on his shoulder.

The way Olive is acting, one might think that Laura had been gone for months instead of a few days. He imagines himself and his sisters at that age, doing the same whenever their father had come home after a long time away.

“They’re early,” Braeden says.

“That’s a first,” Derek replies as he holds Olive a little tighter, knowing that if he set her on the floor, she would take off like a shot and Laura would kill him dead with her own hands if her daughter took a tumble down the stairs.

“Mama,” Olive starts to whine, “I want Mama!”

He softly says, “We should probably go before she beats me to death,” when Olive’s taps on his shoulder become more urgent.

Braeden agrees with a nod then steps around him to walk out of the room.

Olive shrieks and her small frame starts vibrating in Derek’s arms when he and Braeden reach the landing, where they can see Laura and Cora at the bottom of the staircase.

“Mama!” she cries. “Mama!”

Derek lets her loose near the bottom step because she was bouncing so hard he could hardly keep hold of her anyway. They watch Olive leap into Laura’s outstretched arms.

After a tight hug and a sucking kiss on her cheek, Laura balances Olive on her arm. The girl leans over to grab onto Cora’s sleeve and pull her in for her own kiss, which makes Cora smile and hum.

“We uh we weren’t expecting you so early,” Derek says as he steps toward Cora for a hug.

“Laura insisted that we get ahead of traffic,” she says, pulling away, then wiggles her eyebrows as she adds, “Hope we didn’t interrupt anything.”

Braeden laughs softly and Derek looks at the side of her face as Laura steps around Cora. Olive, who was suctioned to her mother like a lamprey, lifts her head from Laura’s neck and kisses Derek on the ear while they hug.

“How was she?” Laura asks as she adjusts Olive on her hip.

“Very good,” he replies with a smile that his niece matches, but it quickly falls off his face and he clears his throat. “And um...there's something I have to tell you.”

Laura’s face falls and she quickly runs her gaze over Olive as Cora glances between her brother and Braeden. Derek takes a deep breath and the intercom on the wall by the door buzzes.

He huffs out his breath and listens for the head of security’s voice but there is nothing.

“Oh,” Laura starts, “I told them to leave. You know I hate having them here.”

Derek scoffs, “And now someone’s at the gate and we have no idea who it is.”

Braeden lifts her hand but doesn’t rest it on his shoulder like she had clearly meant to.

She just softly announces, “I'll get it,” before stepping around Cora.

He gulps as he watches her step through the front door then pulls it closed behind her. He had hoped that she would at least stay with him while he told his sisters about Stiles. He recalls her saying she doesn’t know if she can take him being closed off anymore and now is the first time he feels like she meant what she said.

Cora softly gasps, “So she’s pregnant, right?”

Derek is taken aback by the sudden question as he realizes that he had just been staring at the door.

What?”

Laura chuckles.

“That’s what you have to tell us,” Cora huffs, “Braeden’s pregnant…”

He shakes his head. “No!”

“Damn,” Cora tsks as she deflates and folds her arms over her chest. “But...as much as I could use a nephew to round out the set, it’s probably for the best. You don’t need to bring a baby into whatever’s going on here.”

Derek narrows his eyes. “What? What are you talking about?”

Laura replies, “You guys are fighting.”

His gaze flits to her. “How d—”

“Because the two of you usually can’t keep your hands off each other and she hasn’t even looked at you since you came down the stairs.”

“We don’t—” Derek sighs and moves his gaze to the doorway again as if he can will Braeden to walk back through it. “Can I finish? I really need to get this out.”

Cora glances at the side of Laura’s head before facing him again, mirroring their sister’s expectant expression that so reminds him of their mother.

He takes another deep breath and exhales, “Stiles is alive.”

Cora’s shoulders minutely hunch as her mouth drops open and Laura says, “Why is this delusion raring it's ugly head again?”

He sighs, “It's not a—”

“It is a delusion, Derek,” Cora interjects. “Jesus, I thought Marin was supposed to be helping you. What the hell is Noah paying her for?” She snarls as she reaches into the back pocket of her jeans to pull out her phone. “I’m gonna call and give that quack a piece of my mind.”

Don’t—oh my god, you're not listening to me,” Derek says through teeth clenched so tight he thinks they may crack.

He watches Cora turn toward the door as she puts the phone to her ear. His heart starts to race when Laura reaches out to lay her free hand on his cheek.

“Have you not been taking care of yourself?” she asks softly and he knows it’s because she’s trying not to agitate him further.

“I am tak—!”

He gulps in air when the front door starts to open again and Braeden appears in the frame. Her gaze jumps around the space, from Cora with her arms crossed and her foot tapping while the phone rings to Laura who is saying something softly to him but he isn’t paying attention to her words because he sees Braeden give him a look of concern. He finds himself smiling because of it, because it means she still cares.

Another figure appears in the doorway behind Braeden and Cora's phone clatters to the floor.

|

There is a deity, or maybe several deities, out there somewhere that hates Stiles because Braeden is that one that comes out of the house to answer his buzz at the gate. He counts himself as lucky that the security was gone and that Derek hadn’t changed the access code in the time since he’d been away, because he didn’t know how he was going to lug the fruit basket he brought over the gate.

He wants to show her a smile as they approach each other but he’s afraid that if he tries it’ll come off more like a scowl.

“Hi,” he says then clears his throat because it sounded like he snarled. “Hey.”

She squints in the light from the sun but her smile is easier, it actually seems genuine and he hates her for it. Among other things. She pretends not to notice the fruit basket he has grasped to his side as she narrows the final few feet between them.

“Am I the first one here?”

“Uhh,” she laughs softly and he takes comfort in it sounding forced. “What do you mean?”

“The party.” He gestures around the driveway that has Derek's Camaro and a black Toyota sitting in it. “There’s no other cars.”

Braeden tells him, “The party isn’t until tomorrow,” and he has to stifle a scoff because of course she would lie, she doesn’t want him there any more than Derek does, early or not.

She adds, “Derek rescheduled because his sisters were coming home today.”

“Oh.” He gives her a wary once-over and asks, “So can I come in?” then points to the fruit basket. “I kinda have a gift for him and I wanna drop it off before they like...rot.”

The smile she gives him this time is definitely forced and he ends up smiling for real because of it.

“You don’t have a fridge?”

“I don’t wanna take that chance.” He shrugs. “I think they might’ve put bananas in it.”

Braeden purses her lips. “It’s just that now probably isn’t the best time for you to be here.”

“I just wanna pop in real quick say hi and then I’m so gone you won’t even know I was there in the first place.”

She exhales heavily, like she’s exasperated. Stiles’ eye twitches.

He glances over her shoulder toward the house and thinks that it would probably take more than a few hits to knock out a mercenary and he doesn’t want to take a chance at destroying Derek’s gift. Edible Arrangements are far from expensive—certainly less expensive that those bottles of wine he got Lydia—but Stiles can’t just ask for the address to the loft so he can send another basket tomorrow. Derek’s security would probably turn the delivery person away anyway. Stiles definitely couldn’t walk it up there himself like he could now. So today, this moment, is his only chance to see Derek, to present him with this basket of decorative fruit since he didn’t want that carby donut. Braeden would probably catch on quickly if he fakes right but goes left and—

“Fine,” she says and takes him aback.

He scoffs, “Really?”

She arches her eyebrow and it distinctly reminds Stiles of the way Derek does it. Suddenly he doesn’t care how many hits it would take to knock her out.

“Did you change your mind?”

He clears his throat and shakes his head because he doesn’t trust his voice right now.

“Okay then.”

She turns and he has to take a deep breath to fight the urge to swing the basket so it catches her on the back of the head. As they go, Stiles turns his eyes to the treeline then follows the leaves and branches up to the sky until the porch roof obstructs his view.

Braeden pauses outside the door and Stiles almost runs into her. He thinks he hears a sigh before she pushes open the door.

The Hale house is probably the most beautiful home Stiles has ever stepped foot in and his mother would stop speaking to him if he ever uttered those words aloud. He had thought so even when he was in high school whenever Cora would invite him over and he would gleefully accept for the chance to see her older brother. Everything was always in its place and any speck of dust was meticulously swept away from every surface, leaving the furniture immaculate, almost shining. He recalls Cora telling him, It’s the way Mom kept the house so we try to keep it just the same.

Cora's phone clatters to the floor when he steps in behind Braeden.

She breathes, “Oh my god,” which alerts her older siblings who look up or turn to rest their gazes on him too.

Laura repeats the “Oh my god,” then turns back to Derek and says it again.

Cora is still staring at him.

“I told you,” Derek says solemnly and Braeden adds, “And I figured you guys might need the proof.”

Stiles clenches his jaw when he realizes that he was played.

“H-How?” Cora sobs and Stiles frowns because there are tears brimming her eyes. “We th—we all thought you were...where were you?”

“I…” Stiles gulps and he looks over at Derek but Derek is looking at the floor. “I can’t tell you that, Cora. You know I c—”

“Don’t you give me that bullshit Stiles,” she barks then her chin quivers. “You don’t think you owe us the truth after breaking our brother into pieces?”

Stiles sucks his lower lips between his teeth and bites down on it. He doesn’t know what he expected Laura’s reaction to him coming back would be since he didn’t know her that well, but he never thought that he could make Cora cry. This is someone he grew up with, his closest friend next to Scott or Derek, someone he considered like a sister, and he’s made her cry. Cry for him and what he did to her brother. Stiles slides his lip back out of his mouth once he starts tasting blood. He swallows down the sobs building in his own throat when he says,

“I’m so sorry.”

“Get out,” Laura says and Stiles looks over to find her glaring a hole through his head. The child in her arms is staring at the side of her face in something like fear mixed with surprise. “You’re not welcome in my home so get the fuck out.”

He opens his mouth to speak but then thinks it’s better to just remain quiet. He bends to set the fruit basket on the floor then—with one last glance around at the averted, glaring, or teary eyes in the space—he opens the door and steps out of the house.

Stiles feels like he can’t hold onto a substantial breath as he makes his way back to his father’s car on the other side of the gate. He grabs hold of the steering wheel and tries to take deep breaths but they keep coming in ragged. He turns on the car when tears start to blur his vision and moves the vents so that cold air blows in his face. He wants to scream but he waits until he’s pulled away from the house because he knows that someone is on the inside, watching him to see what he does, where he goes.

He is at the edge of the woods when he can’t hold it in anymore.

Chapter Text

Derek doesn't want to admit to himself that he's apprehensive about seeing Stiles for the first time since last Friday, since he saw the look on Stiles’ face when Cora started to cry, since he watched through the window as Stiles slunk toward Noah’s car.

His sisters apologized for what felt like hours after Stiles had pulled away from the house. Laura had even cried, something that Derek hadn’t seen her do since she found out she was pregnant, and not for years before that.

Derek takes a deep breath before standing in front of the retina scanner.

The elevator doors on the other side open to reveal Erica clawing at the air while Boyd holds her back by the waist. Stiles is standing on the other side of the bullpen by Derek’s office, two desks shoved between himself and Erica. There's blood dripping from his nose down to his under shirt.

Everyone else is standing by the far wall with something like terror on their faces.

Derek takes a sip from the coffee mug he brought from home to hide his smile as he steps out of the elevator. The others may have been fine with Stiles returning from the dead but Derek knew he could count on Erica to treat him how he deserves to be treated.

Stiles’ eyes find him first and Erica snarls for a second before she and Boyd follow his gaze. She completely deflates when she sees Derek.

Boyd sighs and rests his forehead on the back of Erica's head as she frowns at him.

“I already knew,” Derek assures and Boyd snaps his head up. “He made his grand return two weeks ago.”

“Why didn't you tell us?” Boyd asks as Erica turns her glare back on Stiles.

“I didn't want to disrupt your honeymoon.” Derek admits then looks over at Stiles as he takes another sip from his mug. “And because I knew Erica would punch him in the face as soon as she saw him.”

Stiles’ jaw falls open as Boyd smiles and Erica snickers.

The elevator dings behind Derek and he shifts out of the way in time for the doors to open to reveal Noah.

The Director gives the space a quick sweep, his gaze lingering on his son and the desks separating him from everyone else. He sighs then turns his eyes to the newlyweds.

“My office,” is all he says before stepping out of the elevator.

Erica huffs at Derek as Boyd slides his arm from her waist and gets a shrug in reply.

Boyd and Erica slide their hands together then follow in step behind Noah. As they pass, Erica feints jerking toward Stiles, which makes him yelp, press himself to the wall and grab his chest.

Derek has to purse his lips as he starts toward his office and Stiles.

“Come on,” Derek says, pushing open his door and stepping inside.

Stiles is standing in the doorway when Derek sets his coffee on the desk.

He scoffs, “Get over here so I can see your nose in the light.”

Stiles gives him a wary look. “Are you pladding to make id worse?”

For a second, Derek almost feels sorry for the man bleeding in his doorway but then he remembers why Stiles was hit in the face in the first place.

“No,” he says slowly and seriously. “Come here.”

Stiles purses his lips, making a glob of blood trail down to his chin as steps into the room and moves immediately toward the windows on the far wall.

Derek slowly pulls in a deep breath as Stiles walks passed him then exhales it just as slowly before standing in front of him.

Just from looking straight on, Derek can tell that there is a cut in the middle of the bridge of his nose but no obvious bend in the flesh.

“It’s too swollen now, I can’t tell how bad the break is,” he says. “Or if it’s even really broken.” He reaches up to Stiles’ chin and pushes his head back. “It might just be a busted blood vessel.”

Stiles is wearing an even deeper frown when he drops his head down again.

Derek folds his arms over his chest. “What?”

“I’b juss…” Stiles raises a shoulder. “Wonderin’ wad changed betweed lass week wed you couldn’ even stand to be in the sabe roob as me and dow wed you’re checking me for a broken dose.”

Derek shrugs. Marin would say that he’s more comfortable around Stiles because he has an adequate support system in Braeden, his sisters, and now Boyd and Erica.

“I wished this on you so I at least owe you a check-up. You should probably still see a doctor though just to be sure.” His gaze drops to the cut on Stiles’ nose again and he looks back up in time to catch Stiles looking down at his lips.

Derek huffs, “Don’t do that,” as he steps away to pick up his coffee.

He hears a soft, “I’b thsorry,” behind him and clenches his teeth.

Derek leans against his desk and sees Stiles pull at his shirt with another sigh.

“Looks like you need to start carrying spares,” he says and gets a glare in return. He smirks, “You can’t say it not your fault we keep ruining your shirts,” as he pushes away from the desk and walks around to the other side. He is acutely aware that Stiles is watching him as he reaches down to open the bottom drawer. “Don’t say I never did anything for you,” he says as he pulls out a T-shirt and tosses it to Stiles.

Stiles catches the shirt and furrows his brows at Derek before opening it out.

“Hey,” he chuckles softly, “Dis is mide.”

“Yeah, I...” Derek gulps. “I took it from your room after you...left.” He looks out the window when Stiles turns his eyes back up. “And now I'm giving it back.”

Stiles laughs softly, “A war pris’ner of op’ration gran’ theft dever returned from the other side before.”

The sick feeling builds up suddenly in Derek’s throat again. He’d forgotten that stupid game they used to play: stealing an article of each other’s clothing whenever they spent a night together.

“I forgot all about that,” he admits.

“I didn't,” Stiles replies softly as he slowly runs his thumbs over the fabric. “I've uh...I've still got a couple’a yours at the house if you...wan’ ‘em back.”

A knock at the door brings their attention to Kira who is smiling from the doorway.

“Stiles, uhm...are you ready?”

He chuckles and holds up the shirt. “I need to get clead up first.”

She nods and says, “Yeah of course, just uh...lemme know,” then steps out of the doorway, but not before casting wary looks between them.

“Keep the shirts,” Derek says, sitting in his chair then opening the laptop lying on his desk.

He doesn't have to look up to know that Stiles is frowning in that way that always… used to always make Derek give him whatever he wanted.

“Did you...did you like the froo’ basket?”

“I don’t know.” Derek purses his lips because he was hoping Stiles wouldn't bring it up. “Laura threw it out.”

“Oh.”

Derek still doesn't look up, even when he hears the dejected tone of Stiles voice, nor when Stiles walks out of the office and closes the door behind himself.

|

Aɢᴇɴᴛ Kira Yukimura Cᴏᴅᴇɴᴀᴍᴇ: Kitsune Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Sᴋɪʟʟs: Arson Investigation. Asset Acquisition. Close Combat. Covert operations. Search and Rescue Cᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ Sᴛᴀᴛᴜs: Active.

“Have you ever been to Fort Knox?” Kira asks as she presses her palms against the scanner outside the control room.

Stiles quickly drops his hand from his nose when she turns to him as the doors open.

“No,” he says then frowns at how nasally he still sounds. “Have you?”

“No, but I'd love to go!” She swings her head around as she turns back and her ponytail almost hits him in the face. “It's like, a dream of mine. I wanna learn more about what kinds of security they have. Did you know that the depository could withstand a direct hit from an atomic bomb?”

“I think I heard that somewhere,” he replies as he looks around the control room.

In the years before he became a BEACON field agent—the first time around—this room used to be his home away from home. The only thing he notices being the same is the paint on the walls and the auditorium-style layout of pristine white tables and black chairs. The monitors—of varying sizes surrounding the supersized one in the center—lining the far wall have all been replaced with state-of-the-art models.

Kira is saying something about a house of cards and Stiles’ gaze moves to the center of the room, to the chair he used to sit in, wearing his headset whenever Allison and Derek were overseas and his dad wouldn't let him go with them. Stiles chews the corner of his lip. All that time he missed with Derek and now, he has no time left.

“Stiles?”

He clears his throat as he meets Kira's eyes.

She smiles as she pats the back of the chair she had pulled out for him.

“Thanks,” he says, returning her a smile before taking the seat.

“So,” she starts as she leans against the edge of the table, “tell me about Headquarters.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and exhales, “Only two possible means of ingress, if you don’t count all those pesky windows. One at the street level and a couple of air vents on the roof, which by the way, I always thought was stupid because you could just zipline across and those vents could easily fit someone my size or smaller.”

“Well that was before I came along,” she smirks as she reaches down to the backpack he didn't notice she had set on the floor. “Now, both entrances have three countermeasure systems each. The one downstairs only comes online if the vets aren't inside.” She pulls a laptop out of the bag and sets it on the table before him. “The first is pressure-sensitive in the floor just inside the doors and surrounding both vents. We used a mouse to test and it worked like a charm.”

Stiles furrows his brows. “What happened to the mouse?”

“Scott said she was a little scared...maybe a slight case of tinnitus. The alarms were really loud. And the secondary alarms are sound sensitive.”

Stiles chuckles.

“Yeah,” she giggles. “If someone manages to get passed the triggers in the floors, anything above a whisper will set off the secondary set. The third is voice activation but that one's not anticipated to get used much.” She shrugs. “Plus the retina and or fingerprint scanners on every door.”

Stiles raises his brows and wipes his hand across his mouth. “You did that all on your own?”

“I supervised the installation and the testing. Allison helped me threaten the guys who worked on it not to divulge what they installed and who for.” She opens the laptop and the screen immediately comes on. “Okay, I set up a teensy little virus on this computer and I want you to figure out a way to kill it before it gets on the Wi-Fi and infects the whole BEACON system. Can you do that?”

Stiles furrows his brow and purses his lips as he shakes his head.

“Oh good!” she replies, excitedly. “That means I can teach you.”

She pulls up the chair next to the one Stiles is sitting in and turns the laptop toward herself. Stiles watches as she moves her fingers across the keyboard until the laptop screen is casted to the big monitor in the center of the far wall.

“Danny's section of the Battery is gonna involve a more sophisticated virus,” she says, glancing up when Stiles starts tapping the tip of his middle finger on the surface of the table. “This one is just practice and they’ll get harder and harder the more time we spend together.”

“Who took the longest to complete it?”

Kira purses her lips then hums as she leans back in the chair. “I think it was...Ethan.” She squints. “Yeah...I had to be the one that shut it down actually because he was taking so long. Then again, he didn’t even want to be a field agent, he only went through the Battery because Aiden said to. I think he purposefully failed so he could stay here with Danny.”

Stiles nods slowly.

“It was sweet,” she says. “It’s also a cautionary tale because the virus I used is real and if I’d let him go another minute, it would’ve gotten into the system and every single BEACON agent, on base or in the field, would’ve been exposed.”

Stiles scoffs, “Are you serious?”

“Well yeah I mean Allison uses real guns and Lydia uses real explosives and Harley hit me so hard when I was going through it that I almost swallowed one of my teeth.”

He raises his brows and Kira shrugs nonchalantly.

“No one would take it seriously if it wasn’t applicable to a real-life situation.”

“Yeah.” He chuckles at how easy they had it in comparison to his first time around since everything was all but theoretical. “I guess you’ve got a point.”

She pushes the laptop toward him again. “You ready?”

Stiles smacks his lips and cracks his knuckles. “Let’s find out.”

Chapter Text

Marin uncrosses her legs then recrosses them on the other side as she looks up at the clock by the door.

“How are you doing on your meds?”

Derek hums as he tries to remember how many pills were left in the container after he took them this morning.

“I might have another couple of days left,” he replies. “Maybe a week.”

“Alright.”

She stands away from her chair and steps toward her desk.

“What about sleep?” she asks as she pulls a prescription pad out of the top drawer and starts to scribble on it.

Derek squints. “I’ve been sleeping fine but...I had a weird dream last night.”

“Define weird,” she says, ripping the topmost sheet from the others then walking back over to hand it to him.

“I think I dreamed it because of something I watched with my niece recently.”

“That sounds sweet,” she chuckles as she takes her seat again. “Tell me about it.”

Derek flicks his tongue over his teeth, feeling suddenly regretful at mentioning the dream in the first place. He sighs heavily.

“The three of us—me, Braeden, and...and Stiles, we were on this beam balancing over a bottomless pit with me in the middle and them on either end.”

Marin raises her brows.

“I had the dream, I think, because I was watching an episode of PowerPuff Girls with Olive that had the same kind of subject.”

A smile grows on Marin’s face that she tries to hide by biting her lip, which makes Derek laugh.

She giggles, “Go on.”

“Uh…” He shakes his head. “I don’t know if you watched the show but Blossom is the pink one and she was in this trap and she had to come up with a way to take down the bad guy without putting her sisters and their dad in harm’s way.”

Marin squints. “But can’t they fly?”

“If they moved off the platform thing their dad would fall into the lava.” Derek waves his hand and shakes his head. “There was a whole villainous explanation.”

“Uh huh.” Marin licked her lips. “So in this dream you were Blossom?”

“Apparently.”

Marin nods slowly. “And you felt you had to save Braeden or Stiles?”

“Or both of them.” He shrugs, “I...guess,” then leans his elbows onto his knees. “But the thing is, no matter whom I go toward, there’s a chance we’d all fall since if I move to one side, the beam tips and the one I’m trying to rescue will slip off anyway.”

Marin twists her lips to the side and makes a short note of something in his notebook before looking back up at him.

“Who was the bad guy?”

“Mojo Jojo.”

She snickers, “I mean in your dream.”

Derek smiles, “There was no bad guy. It was just the three of us and the pit.”

Marin hums then rubs her forefinger under her lower lip.

“Well I’m no dream interpreter but what I’ve gathered is that you consider yourself to be in a precarious situation and you desire…” She shrugs, “...balance.”

He closes his eyes and rubs the middle of his forehead as he chuckles, “I thought you weren’t a dream interpreter.”

“Well you’re not gonna like what I have to say next.”

He drops his hand to his lap and opens his eyes to look right into hers.

“I just think that due to his involvement, this dream could be your unconscious mind trying to figure out whether you want things to go back to the way they were with Braeden...or with Stiles.”

“You're right,” Derek sighs after a moment, “I didn’t like what you had to say.”

The smile that started to grow on her face at his reaction drops off when his phone starts to ring.

“Do we need to have the phone talk again?” She says, watching him pull the device out of his pocket then frown at it. “This is the second time in a row.”

“Sorry, it's my sister,” Derek replies as he puts it to his ear despite Marin’s disapproving look. “What's wrong?”

“Couple things,” Cora replies. “Olive was throwing a tantrum at daycare so Laura’s gonna be late ‘cause she went to do damage control and two…” She takes a deep breath and Derek can guess what she’s about to say next. “Stiles is out here so I need you to come out here so we can go before he tries to talk to me.”

Derek looks at Marin and she has her head tilted.

He pulls the phone away from his ear and tells her, “I need to go.”

She shrugs, “We were done anyway,” then points to the prescription clutched in his hand. “Remember to refill that.”

“Yeah,” he says, standing away from the couch as he tells Cora, “I’m on my way.”

“He went inside,” she replies and Derek halts for a second in Marin’s doorway.

Marin’s voice asks, “Are you okay?” behind him and he nods before continuing through the door.

Derek still has the phone to his ear, even though his sister isn’t saying anything. He listens to her breathing and clutches the prescription in his fist as he waits for the elevator, then thinks the better of it and smooths it out one-handed on his leg.

He ends the call as soon as the elevator stops on the first floor and the doors open to let him lock gazes with a pair of amber eyes.

“Hey,” Stiles breathes and a smile plays on the corner of his lips. “I was just coming up to—”

“I have to go,” Derek says, his gaze flicking up to check if he can see Cora sitting in his car. “My sisters and I are going to see our parents.”

“Oh,” Stiles gulps. “I would’ve been here earlier but I’ve been up since the crack of dawn getting abused by Lydia and I took what I think was a well-deserved nap.”

Derek blinks slowly and keeps his eyes away from the man standing before him.

“But anyway, I…” Stiles pushes the box Derek hadn’t noticed he was carrying into his chest. “I need to give you this.”

Derek starts, “Sti—” but he cuts off when he sees the seal printed in the middle of the cover. His breath catches. “Stiles…that’s a CIA evidence box,” he chokes. “Where did you get that?”

“I got it from nowhere okay?” Stiles whispers. “This is nothing and I’m not giving it to you.”

Derek searches his eyes then barks, “You can’t just steal government property, what’s wrong with you?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “I just...I thought about what Cora said and she was right, I do owe you. I owe all of you and I’m not allowed to explain but...maybe this can.”

Derek looks down at the box Stiles is still trying to push toward him.

“I’m not taking that.”

“You have to.”

Derek snorts.

Please,” Stiles breathes and Derek feels a twinge in his chest at the sound. “If…” He licks his lips, as if unsure of his next words. “...if you ever loved me then you need to know why I had to leave you.”

Derek stares at him in disbelief and crushes the prescription paper in his fist. His nails dig into his palms and he is sure he is going to throw up when he finally opens his mouth.

“That’s... Stiles, that’s not fair.”

“I know,” he says and pushes the box toward Derek again.

Derek snatches it out of Stiles’ hand then shoulders passed him without another word. His jaw aches from clenching it when he finally opens the Camaro’s passenger side door.

“Did he see you?” Cora asks as soon as he sits next to her.

“Yeah, can we go?”

He doesn’t have to look over to know she means the box now resting in his lap when she asks, “What’s that?”

Nothing,” he snarls. “Can we please go?”

Derek hears his sister gulp in the second before she starts the car again and he closes his eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she replies into his ear as she turns her head to reverse out of the animal clinic’s parking lot.

|

Aɢᴇɴᴛ Lydia Martin Cᴏᴅᴇɴᴀᴍᴇ: Banshee. Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Sᴋɪʟʟs: Explosives. Intelligence Gathering. Unarmed Combat. Cᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ Sᴛᴀᴛᴜs: Active.

“Lydiaaa,” Stiles groans as they make their way through the woods.

The sun, barely peeking over the horizon to stretch its light through the trees, isn’t doing a sufficient job of warming the environment and he isn’t too proud to admit that he is grouchy because he didn’t bring a jacket. Lydia meanwhile, in her skirt and tights, is pounding the dirt under her boots as if it’s not fifty degrees outside.

“I’m cold and up way too early,” he cries at the braid on the back of her head. “What are we doing out here? God it’s so cold.” The thin plume of his exhaled breath accents his words. “Are we literally marching into Hell?”

She huffs, “Would you shut up? We’re almost there.”

“Almost wh—” Stiles steps on something that shifts under his shoe and he launches himself toward Lydia. “I think I just stepped on a snake.”

She rolls her eyes and grumbles, “Snakes wouldn't be out when it's this cold,” as she keeps walking.

“We couldn’t do this after some coffee and scones?”

Stiles,” she grouses, sounding a little breathless as they arrive at a clearing. “We can stop here for a minute. I need to check something.”

“Check what? There’s nothing here.”

Lydia ignores him. She moves further and further away in a straight line, kicking at the ground at foot-long intervals as she makes her way to the edge of the clearing. He watches her as she walks back then starts doing the same actions on the opposite side of him.

She’s about halfway to the other side of the clearing when he groans, “Oh my god okay so just go back the way we came and I’ll end up in town again? Awesome. Great. Loved all this quality time.” He wraps his arms tighter around himself and turns away from her.

“Stiles,” she calls but he doesn’t turn back until she barks, “Hey!”

Something small and dark is soaring through the air toward him when he turns around. Stiles reflexively catches it only to discover that the small, dark thing is a grenade and the pin is missing.

He immediately flings it in the opposite direction and moves toward Lydia again, leaping on top of her and knocking her to the ground, covering her body with his to shield her from the impending blast.

A moment passes without an explosion and Stiles sits up to sees the still-intact grenade sitting near the middle of the clearing.

Lydia yells, “Would you get off me!” right in his ear, making him jerk away.

She huffs as she fixes her skirt but stays sitting on the ground.

Another way that could have gone,” she says. “The grenade would have fallen to the ground and you would have jumped on top of it to better protect your fellow agent from being severely injured or dead.”

“Okay, yeah obviously but also what the fuck?” He pushes himself to his feet then extends his hand to pull her up. “Where did you even get a grenade in the middle of the damn woods and please tell me you knew it was a dud before you threw it at me.”

Lydia has the nerve to roll her eyes as she takes his hand and Stiles is tempted to drop her.

“I have knockout grenades strategically placed all over these woods as a security measure.”

He opens his mouth but she holds up her finger.

Yes I know where they all are.” He snaps his mouth closed as she brushes off the back of her skirt. “I didn’t know that that grenade was a dud, which means we should definitely check the others.”

“Lydia…” he starts softly then barks, “Couldn’t we have done a different first exercise?”

She tilts her head and narrows her eyes at him.

“Are you still sleepy and cold or did that life or death experience get your adrenaline going?”

“Wh-what does that have t—”

“The exercise served its intended purpose in waking you up,” she interjects. “Too bad it couldn’t stop you from whining.”

Stiles jerks his head back. “What did I ever do to you?”

He immediately regrets asking when she gives him a look of disbelief.

“Are you kidding?” She crosses her arms over her chest and he’s sure she only did that to stop herself from punching him. “You let us think you were dead for four years.”

Stiles reflexively wants to remind her that it was only three years, ten months, and nineteen days but the look still on her face tells him that he wouldn’t like her response.

“Now shut up and get your ass in gear, it’s at least another half mile to the Nemeton.”

She steps away, heading in the same direction as before and leaving him to blink and wonder aloud,

“What’s a Nemeton?”

Lydia halts and he hears her sigh, “Oh right, you weren’t here for that.”

He stands there, waiting for her to explain but she starts walking again instead, making him have to catch up to her.

“It’s a back-up base in case the vet clinic gets attacked or something,” she says as he meets her shoulder-to-shoulder. “It’s supposedly the name of a sacred tree or whatever. Deaton named it and you know how he’s into that Druid stuff. Apparently, Nemeta are found in wooded areas and well...” She raises her arms to the trees.

“But why are we headed for the Nemeton?” He yawns. “Other than for you to throw will-they-or-won’t-they grenades at me?”

“Your dad wouldn’t let me keep my active bombs at headquarters so I had to improvise.”

“Improvise means put them in the back-up base?” He scoffs, “What if something goes wrong?”

“Just don’t let anything go wrong.”

Stiles sighs, “You guys and your real-world application bullshit. You’re gonna get some idiot killed one day.”

“Well so far the only idiot working at BEACON that got killed was you.”

Stiles makes little mocking noises and she slaps him in the middle of chest so hard he doubles over. After finally catching his breath, he decides to keep quiet for the rest of their journey.

Chapter Text

“I just don't think it's a smart idea to go swimming in the ocean in the middle of the night,” Derek said from the edge of the bed as he watched Stiles pull on a pair of swim trunks.

“Babe,” Stiles grunted as he picked up his T-shirt and underwear off the hotel room floor. “There’s a whole sport for this kind of thing.”

Derek watched him walk over to the dresser and drop the clothes right next to it.

“I think the sport you’re thinking of is night fishing.”

Stiles set his hands on his hips. “Well whatever… Are you coming?”

“One of us should probably stay here and do the job we came to do.”

“Baby c’mon,” Stiles whined and Derek tried his best not to smile. “Where's your sense of adventure?”

“Right here in this room.”

“We’ll just be like...ten minutes.”

“Ten mi—?”

“Five minutes then,” Stiles pled as he moved close enough to set his hands on Derek’s shoulders. “ Please Babe ? W e never get to go to nice beaches like this. I can't even remember the last time I saw a body of water that wasn't the freakin’ Hudson.”

Derek reached out for Stiles’ waist. “I can take you to a nice beach after we complete this mission.”

Stiles pouted as he climbed onto Derek’s lap and gave him a soft kiss that decimated his resolve.

"If you love me you'll do this with me,” he whispered then kissed Derek again, just as softly, as he ran his fingertips through the hair at Derek’s nape. “And you love me, don't you big guy?”

Derek hums. “I do,” he replied as he palmed Stiles’ ass. “So much.”

Stiles grinned against his mouth . “I love you too, so much.”

Manipulative. If Derek was asked to use a word to describe Stiles throughout their relationship, it would be: manipulative. Stiles just needed to push out that bottom lip, or bat those lashes, or in desperate cases put his hands and lips on Derek and he would get anything he wanted, no matter when or where. Derek never thought to complain but he always hated when Stiles did that, hated that it worked every time, that it still works, and Stiles knows it too.

If you ever loved me then you need to know why I had to leave you.

He hates how weak he is when it comes that—

“Prick!” Erica barks when someone cuts her off. “I hate driving in this damn city.”

“I offered to drive,” Boyd retorts from the front passenger seat.

Erica huffs, “Just hush and wake Derek up.”

Derek chuckles, “I’m not asleep.”

“So then you heard us talking just now about how you seemed a little far away at dinner.”

“And at the bar,” Boyd turns over his shoulder to add.

Isaac, sitting next to him, mutters, “And the whole ride back.”

Derek sighs onto the window then adjusts in the seat as Erica pulls into his building’s parking lot.

“I've just…” He clears his throat. “I've got a lot on my mind.”

“We know man,” Boyd says, “And we hoped a night on the town would've helped ease some of that.”

“But you basically ignored us the whole time,” Isaac grouses when Erica parks.

She laughs, “Which is why Isaac went ‘D if you wanna pay for the next night out keep staring into your beer mug’ and guess what?” She turns in her seat to grin at him. “You did.”

Derek snickers then reaches out to push Isaac’s shoulder.

Boyd laughs, “Good night man.”

“Good night Derek,” Isaac adds.

“See you,” Erica says when Derek rests a hand on her shoulder and squeezes. “Tell Braeden we said hi if she’s up there.”

“I will,” he replies as she pats his fingertips with her own. “Night.”

Derek pulls his phone out of his pocket as soon as he steps into the building. He nods to the night watchman as he listens to it ring but he reaches the elevator still with no answer. He moves the device away from his ear to hang it up when he hears the click at the other end and Braeden breathes,

“Hey.”

“Sorry to wake you,” Derek replies, stepping into the elevator and hitting the button that’ll take him to his loft.

She hums softly. “How was it?”

“Great,” Derek says then purses his lips. “They wanted me to tell you good night.”

There was no immediate response from the other end.

“Braeden?”

“I'm here.”

Derek chuckles, “Barely,” as he steps off the elevator and moves toward his door. “Good night.”

“Night.”

One of the bedside lamps is on and it puts Derek on high alert the second he steps into the loft, but then he realizes that it was probably Braeden who left it on for him after he went out, knowing that he would come back after dark. Still his eyes track to the stack of files sitting on the coffee table, next to which, he had stupidly laid the evidence box.

Stiles’ words echo in his head again: If you ever loved me then you need to know...

Derek sighs and flips on the kitchen light as he drops his keys onto the counter dividing the kitchen from the living room, then moves to the couch. Sitting before it, Derek thinks he should just give the box back. He shouldn’t care that Stiles is going to look at him like he had been slapped, and if Stiles wouldn’t take it back then Derek would just have to get rid of it some other way.

He sighs as he looks up at the time on the microwave. Green numerals tell him that it’s 1:04 in the morning. He looks down at the box again and decides he’ll skim over some of the stuff in there, he’ll only have his hands and eyes on it for five minutes then he’ll go to bed.

Derek sets his phone on the coffee table then opens the cover carefully. The first thing he pulls out is a copy of a birth certificate for someone named Claudia Gajos. F. Born 11/23 the rest is blocked out with long, dark rectangles. Derek doesn’t immediately recognize the name so he replaces the piece of paper and keeps flipping. There’s copies of everything someone would need to learn every aspect of Miss Gajos’ life, the birth certificate, her social security number, every driver’s license she’s ever owned over the years... Derek furrow his brow because he doesn’t understand what this woman had to do with Stiles’ disappearance, until he gets to her marriage license.

In flourishing letters it reads,

 

 The state of               hereby certifies that on the 3rd day of July at               in the county of               , under the authority of a license issued by               , county clerk, joined in marriage Claudia Gajos and Noah Stilinski

Derek blanches and he has to read that again: joined in marriage Claudia Gajos and Noah Stilinski. Claudia Gajos is Claudia Stilinski, Noah’s wife and Stiles’ mother who had disappeared when Stiles and Cora were still in grade school. Derek knows that it isn’t unusual for the spouses of CIA operatives to be vetted but this seems way too in-depth to just be about some presumed-dead housewife.

He stops to look up at the clock and it tells him that it’s 1:42. The five minutes that he gave himself were long up and he purses his lips but he doesn’t put the certificate back into the box and closes it. It wouldn’t hurt to keep looking another few minutes, if only until he finds out what she must have done to deserve the CIA taking special notice of her.

Derek doesn't have to skip through for long before he finds a mugshot. Claudia Stilinski, looking nothing like the perpetually smiling woman he’d seen in the photos at Stiles’ house and on Noah’s desk, has tears and makeup streaming down her face as she holds up the wooden slab with her prisoner information written on it. Derek finds a document with the U.S. Department of Justice seal in the upper left corner and thinks that must be what he is looking for. 

 

February 21,          

Honorable

 

 

     Re:   United States v. Claudia Stilinski (née Gajos)

Criminal Docket No.               

 

Dear Judge               :

The government respectfully moves in limine to remove documents recovered from the home of Claudia Stilinski at the trial in this matter scheduled to commence on February 27,           . For the reasons set forth below, testimony regarding the acquisition of the documents, and the documents themselves, are inadmissible pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence.

  1. Background and Relevant Facts
  2. Case Background

The indictment charges the defendant with three criminal violations:  conspiring to provide material support to the terrorist organization               , providing financial support to               , and aiding and abetting crimes of violence.

The defendant is an American citizen who resided in               ,               in           , when she was arrested by the local Sheriff’s department. Beginning in          , the defendant assisted               operations leaders and facilitators located in                ,                to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States. The defendant was said to have traveled during the same general time period in          and met with other               members to train in the use of weapons, which they then utilized in preparation for attacks. Between November          and January           ,               leadership based in                maintained operational contact through email and phone with

There is no second page and there is nothing on the back of this one. He checks the page number and finds that four pages of the motion are missing. Derek panics a little, thinking that they somehow fell out while he was moving the box from one place to another, but that would have been impossible. He was more careful with this dossier than he was with anything from BEACON.

So the pages must have been removed on purpose. Derek doesn’t think that Stiles would be careless enough to tamper with government property, but since he did take this evidence from God-knows-where, he would probably be exactly this careless. The microwave switches to 2:33 as soon as he looks up at it.

Derek grabs his phone and dials the number before he gives himself too much time to think about it.

There is a soft click as the other line is picked up but there's no sound on the other end, not even breathing.

He sighs, “Stiles, it's me,” and pretends not to hear the soft gasp before Stiles says,

“You have my number?”

“There's four pages missing from the motion in limine, where are they?”

A moment of silence hangs between them before Stiles says, “I don't have ‘em. I don't think they were ever in there.”

“Four pages of a government document don't just go missing.”

“These ones did.”

“Stiles.”

He sighs, “I don't have them, Derek. If I did I would bring them to you.”

“Fine.”

He hangs up and places the phone next to him on the couch, then drops the first page of the motion back into the evidence box. Next, he picks up a photo of a blonde woman wearing an overcoat standing outside a building. He turns it over and in the bottom left corner on the back, there is an evidence number and a name: Claudia Stilinski. Derek flips the photo back over and squints at it. This woman looks nothing like the Claudia Stilinski that could be found photographed on every wall in her old home and she definitely doesn’t look anything like the Claudia Stilinski in the mugshots.

Derek keeps flipping and finds more pictures: some of a woman—some different women than the one in the first photo, with different haircuts and in different styles of clothing, but they were all still marked Claudia Stilinski. Some photos were of material he recognizes as bomb parts and others of guns, enough to make Lydia and Allison take notice.

He stands and picks up all the BEACON folders sitting in the middle of the coffee table. After setting them at the foot of his bed, Derek returns to the dossier and starts pulling the photos out. He sets them side-by-side on the wooden surface, photos of the woman on one side and photos of the weaponry on the other. He started to stack when he ran out of space and ended up counting 100 photographs of evidence in total, all condemning Claudia Stilinski—wife, mother, American citizen—as a terrorist.

No wonder Stiles rarely mentioned her, he was ashamed and Noah must have been too. But they never took the pictures of the walls, Noah never turned the picture on his desk face-down, in fact it was the first thing removed then replaced when he got the new desk. Derek wonders if they were glad when she disappeared, now that he knows why.

Derek finds another Department of Justice document and he makes sure to check if all the pages are there before he starts reading the stenographer’s shorthand. He doesn’t get far before his phone starts to ring. He blindly picks it up and starts to swipe his thumb over the screen when he realizes that it isn’t ringing, the morning alarm is going off. The green numerals on the microwave are blaring back 6:00 and the sunlight coming through the windows on the other side attests.

Five minutes turned into five hours without Derek even really noticing. He sighs as he looks down at everything spread across the coffee table and resigns to clean up before he showers because if he doesn’t he would end up leaving it all there while he goes to work.

Derek drinks two cups of coffee before he is even out of the loft but he still calls Laura to pick him up and drive him to the clinic, just in case he passes out at a stoplight. His sister was displeased with the fact that he had stayed up all night—“You need your sleep Derek,” she said in the voice she usually employs to rein in her daughter. “Your brain needs sleep. You can’t get better if you keep sucking down coffee and not sleeping.”—but Olive couldn’t be more pleased with having her uncle along for the ride to daycare. She even called him into the backseat after they arrived at the animal clinic and gave him a big, wet kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t reward him now Ollie,” Laura said into the rearview mirror. “It sets a bad precedent,” but she smiled when he went back to the front and leaned over the passenger seat to give her her own kiss on the cheek.

Allison, Lydia, and Stiles are all munching on different flavored Twizzlers and they all turn to Derek when he steps off the elevator.

“Morning,” the girls say in unison but Stiles remains quiet.

“Morning,” Derek replies then looks over at Stiles, who raises his brows.

Derek moves toward his office and he doesn’t have to turn to know that Stiles is tailing him. He is sitting his third serving of coffee on the desk when he hears the door close behind him and Stiles chomp the end of the Twizzler.

“So?” Stiles ventures. “You get it now right?”

Derek sighs as he sits on the edge of his desk and crosses his arms over his chest.

“Why didn’t you tell me your mom was a terrorist?”

Stiles scoffs, “Because she’s not.”

“The CIA seems to think she is.”

Stiles exhales heavily. “You didn’t read everything.”

“I fell asleep,” Derek lies. “But I think I got the gist of—”

“No, you didn’t,” Stiles barks, looking right into Derek’s eyes and making him drag in a soft breath. “Because if you’d kept reading you would’ve seen that she was framed.” He licks his lips. “I mean, you saw the pictures right?”

Derek sighs, “Yeah I saw the pictures.”

“And did you happen to notice that not a single one of those women looked like my mom?”

“I never met your mom.”

Stiles scoffs, “But you’ve been to my house so you’ve seen her.”

“She could’ve been in disguise,” Derek argues. “Terrorists wear disguises all the time.”

“She’s n—” Stiles cuts himself off and bites into the Twizzler again. “I really wish you’d spent more time on that evidence.”

“Well I had better things to do than what you wanted,” Derek scoffs. “You lost your right to manipulation when you deserted me.”

Stiles frowns and his shoulders sag. Derek turns his eyes away when Stiles starts searching them.

“What are you talking about, Babe?” Stiles catches himself and shakes his head. “D-Derek, sorry um I...I never manipulated you.”

Derek closes his eyes and sighs, “Just tell me what makes you think that your mom wasn’t a terrorist, that she was framed?”

Stiles clears his throat. “Because the guys that did it, which by the way, were active CIA agents at the same time that my dad was, owned up to it.”

Derek opens his eyes then narrows them at Stiles.

“There are sworn affidavits in the box.”

“Why would CIA operatives want to frame your mom?”

“The guy who was the brains behind it…” Stiles snarls, “He admitted that he hated my dad, because of the way he was treated by the higher-ups. Noah Stilinski gets everything he wants,” Stiles quotes with a look of disgust, “so we wanted to take everything he has.”

Derek thinks he already knows the answer to his next question but he feels he still needs to ask, “Stiles...who got these men to admit what they did?”

Stiles takes a breath deep enough to raise his shoulders. “I think you might already know the answer to that.”

Derek clenches his teeth and gulps. “You used the training we gave you here to hunt down those men and what, torture them until they admitted framing your mom?”

Stiles shakes his head. “BEACON taught me how to hunt them down yeah, but it was the CIA who taught me...the rest.”

Derek is taken aback. “You were working with them?”

“The Director suspected that something was off with the framers and he couldn’t ask my dad to do it so...I was the next best thing.”

Derek scoffs, “You didn’t have to resort to torture, you could’ve just—”

“What? Done decades of research while they lived their lives? Fuck that.”

“Stiles—”

No,” Stiles huffs and Derek can hear the frustration in his voice, can see the tears building in his eyes. “You ask Claudia Stilinski what means the most in the world to her and she’s not gonna say being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy or getting the chance to meet one of the presidents, she’s gonna say her family, and those agents, those fucks ripped her away from us.”  He pulls in a shaky breath and a tear rolls down his cheek. “You look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t do the exact same thing to the guy who killed your mom.”

Derek wants to pulls his arms away from himself and wrap them around Stiles but he talks himself out of it.

He sighs and softly replies, “But after everything you did...it didn’t bring her back to life, did it?”

Stiles sniffles and bows his head to wipe his eyes on his sleeve. He takes a deep breath and sets his hands on his hips. They stand there, in silence before Stiles looks up at Derek again. Stiles licks his lips—Derek notices that the red Twizzler had darkened the color of his tongue—then solemnly tells him,

“My mom isn’t dead.”

Derek furrows his brow. “She disappeared years ago, Stiles, it’s—”

“She didn’t disappear,” Stiles interjects. “We made it look like she escaped custody and ran. Beacon County doesn’t have the resources so if she was gone, they wouldn’t go looking for her.” He softly adds, “We’ve known where she is this whole time.”

Derek takes a deep breath and heavily exhales, “So what, lying about being dead just runs in the family?”

Stiles hangs his head back a little as he lets out a soft laugh.

“I guess it does.” Stiles sniffles. “The only difference is that the guy I was pretending to be was supposed to die, remember?” He softly finishes, “I just kind of…let you guys think it really was me,” but Derek can hear him loud and clear.

The sick feeling storms it’s way up Derek’s throat and he watches a grimace form on Stiles face as he no doubt turns a little green.

Derek clears his throat. “Wh-where is she?”

“She’s at the house,” Stiles replies as he steps closer to Derek and studies his face.

“Where was she?”

“Munich.” Stiles comes to a stop with barely two feet between them. “At her sister’s. After Berlin and after the...confessions, I got her and I brought her home so she could face the men who ruined her life over stupid, petty jealousy.”

Stiles chuckles and he is close enough that Derek almost feel his warmth.

“What made it even better; and I know this is messed up, but what made it even better is that she was hit by a drunk driver in Munich so she was all broken and bruised-up and it really went over with the jury how much shit she had to go through because of those guys. They were convicted like…” He snaps his fingers. “...that.”

Derek looks Stiles directly in the eyes when something occurs to him.

“How long were you back?”

Stiles’ face falls.

“Stiles…” Derek searches his eyes until he averts them. “How long were you back in the US before you came here?”

Stiles closes his eyes and exhales, “Ah...a couple of months.”

Derek lurches away from him and goes toward the window. He shoves one of them open and sticks his head out so he can feel the breeze on his face.

“Ba—Derek…”

“Get away from me,” he says into the air.

“Dad said I couldn't come back until I was sure Mom was safe, I—”

Derek yanks his head back inside.

“Noah knew?”

“He...” Stiles looks out the window.

“Did he know the whole time you were gone?”

Stiles’ mouth falls slightly open and his brow is furrowed but he doesn't answer.

So he did know. Noah knew that Stiles had faked his death and was working with the CIA, he knew that Stiles was with his mother in Munich, not burned alive in a stranger's car in a strange country. He knew. All the while Derek was having a hard time staying alive because he missed Stiles down to his bone marrow, Noah knew. He had the audacity to come to Derek's home and try to soothe him, even hired Marin to rescue him, when he had the knowledge to save Derek in his back pocket. He let Derek hire Braeden and probably sabotaged her every effort to find Stiles, forcing Derek to accept that he was really gone. Noah knew his son was fine but he allowed Derek to suffer, truly alone.

There are two knocks before Erica pushes open the door. She starts to greet Derek with a smile but then she notices the other body in the room.

Stiles takes a step back when she scowls at him.

He tells her, “This is a new shirt,” and she rolls her eyes before facing Derek again.

“You okay?” she asks, glancing over him, noting his body language and the opened window.

“I’m okay,” he replies even though he knows she can tell it's not the truth.

She sighs, “Well, Harley’s back and boss man has a fresh one so...whenever you’re ready.”

Derek nods. “Did someone call the kids?”

She mirrors his action. “Lydia’s on it.”

“Thank you.”

Erica looks them both over before closing the door again. He senses Stiles is about to rest a hand on his shoulder and moves toward his desk.

“I thought I told you to get away from me,” he says as he pulls the chair out.

“Baby please.”

He slams his fist down on the table and, out of the corner of his eye, he sees Stiles jump before immediately starting for the door.

Derek waits until the door clicks closed before collapsing to the floor and grabbing the mesh trashcan next to his desk.

He is grateful to whoever started putting little plastic bags in the cans because the vomit splatters into it instead of into the floor.

Chapter Text

“But you said that if the situation ever arose where we had a chance to rescue your mom, that you wanted to be the one to bring her home,” his father recalled and Stiles could tell he was trying not to sound as agitated as he surely felt. “That’s the whole reason you wanted to become a field agent. So what's changed?”

“Derek,” Stiles replied easily. He couldn’t meet his father’s eyes so he stared at the table.

“You were dating long before we had this conversation.”

“Yeah,” Stiles choked out, “but that was before I found out he wants to marry me,” and hung his head back to stop the tears from trailing down his face. “And if I go, there’s no telling when or even if I’m coming back.”

Noah sighed and set his intertwined hands on the surface of the table.

“How’d you find out that he wants to marry you?”

Stiles rolled his eyes and two heavy tears rolled down the sides of his face.

“He was acting weird so like a jealous idiot, I snooped and found out that he'd made an appointment to see a jeweler.” He wiped the tears away with his sleeve.

Noah hummed softly as he leaned back into the chair.

“He showed the set to me last week when he came by to...ask for permission to propose.”

Stiles closed his eyes and clenched his teeth against the sobs that threatened to shake him apart.

His father started, “If you want me to ask someone else then I—”

“No,” Stiles exhaled then shook his head. “She won’t leave for anybody but one of us.”

His father didn’t respond and Stiles opened his eyes to see a sorrowful expression.

“I’ll take care of him,” Noah said.

Stiles licked his lips then pursed them as he reached for the pen and paper sitting between them on the dining room table.

He started the message slowly, took deep breaths before every stroke of the pen so his hands wouldn’t shake, leaned his head to the side so the tears streaming down his face didn’t land on the sheet of paper. His mother needed to be able to understand the code they created clearly and something, anything could go wrong if she didn’t.

Mischief, the name she lovingly called him as a child, written over and over again in dark ink across the white paper, the difference between the lettering just subtle enough that, to the untrained eye, they all looked alike but Claudia would know the words that were encoded, just as her husband and son knew those in the messages she sent back.

The phone in his pocket vibrates and the stool Stiles is sitting on creaks as he shifts to pull it out of his pocket.

The screen lights up, making him have to squint. The words on the screen are blurred with his tears so he wipes them away with the back of his free hand before trying to read the message again:

Your dad won't answer his phone honey, Claudia sent. What do you guys want from dinner? quickly followed by, For.

The storage closet door opens and Stiles has to put the hand holding his phone up to shield his eyes from the light not completely blocked by the person standing before him.

A voice Stiles recognizes gasps, “Dude,” and he drops his hand. “What are you doing in the dark?”

Stiles waves his phone then replies, “Texting my mom,” as he types, I dunno maybe pasta.

“Well,” Scott flips on the light as Stiles hits send. “I need something.”

“What?”

“The…it’s the...it’s right behind you in the white box that says Bupivacaine.”

Stiles turns around on the stool and the box is the first thing he sees. He pulls it off the shelf then shifts his hips to move the stool toward Scott.

“What is it?” he asks as he hands it over.

Scott answers, “Anesthetic,” then flips the lights back off. He pauses in the doorway then takes a deep breath and turns the lights on again.  “Are you okay?”

Stiles scoffs, “Do you care again?” then turns his eyes up to see Scott shrug. He answers, “I’m not okay.”

Scott sighs, “Derek?”

Stiles hangs his head and nods.

“He’s still not talking to you?”

“He started talking to me but then I screwed up again.”

Scott laughs softly and Stiles chest feels like it’s caving in.

“Sorry, I just...never thought I’d outlast him.”

Stiles snorts. “Me neither.”

Scott takes another deep breath then says, “Look, I’ve got a dog out here that has something stuck in her foot but...if you’re still here when I’m done, we can talk.”

Stiles swings his head up and searches Scott’s eyes. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Scott shrugs one shoulder. “You’re an asshole but you’re my best friend and...I guess you’ve been punished enough.”

Stiles rolls his eyes but he smiles.

Scott tells him, “I’ll be right back,” then pulls the door closed.

The phone buzzes in Stiles’ hand and he takes a settling breath before swiping his thumb over the screen.

“Chicken or beef?” his mother asks as soon as he puts the phone to his ear.

“Chicken if we have it, but beef would be fine.”

“Are you okay?” she asks and he chews the corner of his lips. “You sound upset.”

“I’m alright,” he says. “Scott was just telling me about this sick dog and it got me.”

“Okay,” Claudia laughs softly. “Have you talked to your father yet?”

“I think he’s in a mission briefing.”

There is silence and he can imagine his mother nodding before she asks, “Why aren’t you?”

“I’m not a full-fledged agent again...yet.”

“Oh.”

Stiles remembers what it would look like in the control room: All available agents parked in a chair, sometimes with note-taking devices laying on the desk before them, his father standing at the front of the room like a lecturing college professor, a photo of the target on the big screen behind him. He and Derek would usually sit in the middle of the second row, their knees touching under the table as Noah told everyone about the thing they were supposed to retrieve or protect, or person they were supposed to rescue or snuff out. Stiles would bet that right now Derek is sitting in the back corner chair closest to the door so he can make a quick escape as soon they were done, his fingers intertwined and his face frowning, eyes glaring holes through Stiles’ father because he was a part of Stiles’ lie, because Stiles made him a part of the lie without any regard for how it would make Derek feel in the long run.

“We do have chicken,” Claudia announces. “I’ll get started on that and I’ll see you when you get home, okay?”

“Okay...love you.”

“Love you too.”

Stiles hangs up then rests his hands in his lap again.

That night he scratched wᴇ’ʀᴇ ʙʀɪɴɢɪɴɢ ᴜ ʜᴏᴍᴇ onto the sheet of paper meant to cross the 4,000-plus miles to Munich, Stiles had made his father promise never to tell Derek that he was alive. There was no point in saying Stiles really survived the car fire if he ended up with his brain splattered on a German sidewalk three days later.

There is a knock on the closet door this time and Stiles pushes himself away from the stool to answer it.

“You ready?” Scott asks with a pursed-lipped smile on his face.

“Yeah,” Stiles replies as he steps out and turns off the light. “I hope you’re ready for an earful.”

|

“I’m fine,” Derek says into the phone clutched between his ear and shoulder as he clinks the rim of the wine bottle against the glass to make sure every drop falls out. “I’m thinking about watching a movie.”

Laura asks, “What was that sound?” and Derek clenches his teeth.

“What was what sound?”

“It sounded like something hitting glass.”

The bottle makes an audible thud as he rests it on the countertop and he winces.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Derek replies as he takes a sip of wine. “Maybe it was on your end.”

“Maybe,” she mutters then sighs.

He wouldn’t blame her for being exasperated with him since he called her back to pick him up not thirty minutes after she had dropped him off.

“Is Braeden there?”

“No, I wanted to spend a quiet night alone.”

“You guys still fighting?” she asks and Derek rolls his eyes as he makes his way to the couch.

“We weren't fighting.” He sets the glass down on the coffee table then picks up the DVD binder when he drops onto the couch. He repeats, “I wanted to spend a quiet night alone,” before moving the phone away from his ear and putting it on speaker.

Laura sighs, “What movie are you gonna watch?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

He unzips the binder and starts languidly flipping through it with one hand as he gulps from the glass.

“I hope you’re not doing anything stupid,” Laura remarks.

Derek pulls the empty glass away then clears his throat. “The day I’ve had warrants doing some stupid things.”

Something thumps against the door and Derek’s body goes rigid. He looks up at the speaker just above the door, expecting to hear the head of security’s voice come through to tell him who’s on the other side but there is only silence.

Laura sounds a little panicked when she calls out his name.

“Sh,” he whispers as he reaches down for the pistol he has strapped to the underside of the couch. “Stay on the line.”

“Okay,” she replies in a lowered voice.

Derek stands and checks to make sure that there are still bullets in the magazine before cycling one into the chamber.

There is another thud and Derek glances up at the speaker again before moving toward his door with his gun aimed at it.

A voice from the other side calls out and Derek exhales heavily as his arms swing down to his sides.

“It’s Noah. I’ll call you back.”

He doesn’t wait to hear her response before he drags open his door to reveal Director Stilinski in his street clothes with his hands in his jacket pockets.

“Were you sleeping?” he asks as Derek steps back into the loft and slides the gun onto the kitchen counter next to the wine bottle.

“I was getting my gun,” Derek replies then turns to frown up at the speaker as Noah pushes the door shut.

“Oh,” Noah starts. “I told your guys I’d find my way up and they didn’t need to bother you.”

Derek softly scoffs, “Maybe I didn't feel like talking.”

When Derek turns around again, he catches Noah looking over at the gun and the empty wine bottle. As if he felt Derek’s eyes on the back of his neck, Noah faces him again.

“You know better than to drink when you’re on those meds.”

Derek purses his lips. “I’ve had a rough month.”

“Is that why you left the office at the beginning of a work day and didn’t come back?” Noah raises the index and middle fingers of one hand. “That’s twice now, by the way.”

“I think I had two pretty good reasons.”

Noah shrugs. “Far as I’m aware, you just walked out today.”

Derek folds his arms over his chest. “I walked out because I was told that my boss, a man I thought I could trust, had been keeping a secret from me for years.”

Noah’s expression remains passive.

“And I didn’t feel like sitting in the control room listening to his voice, knowing that if he had just told me the truth in the first place then I wouldn’t be…”—he thinks to say unstable or broken—“...like this.”

Noah licks his lips and nods. “He didn’t want me to tell you.”

Derek drops his arms to his sides and for the first time since he started on the wine, he feels like his head is swimming.

“He said that it wouldn’t make a difference whether he died in the car fire if he ended up getting shot in the face by the end of the week anyway.”

Derek gulps. “And you agreed with him?”

“Yes,” Noah admits easily. “Because you couldn’t exactly contact him this entire time whether you wanted to or not anyway.”

“But I would’ve known,” Derek cries then quickly straightens his shoulders. “And I would’ve been fine waiting until he came back to me.”

After all, he had done it plenty of times before whenever Stiles was abroad or on the other side of the country without him. Regular contact or not, and regardless of how much time it took, if either of them went away on a mission, the other would always wait.

“Well you have him back now,” Noah says, “but all you seem to want to do is push him further away.”

Derek blinks slowly then scoffs, “Things are different now,” as he makes his way back over to the couch.

When he drops onto it, he finds that Noah had turned to follow him.

“So you don’t have feelings for him anymore?”

“I have a few feelings,” Derek replies as he goes back to the DVD binder. “Most of them based in rage and embarrassment.”

“I’m only asking because I just now realized who stole his movies from my house.”

Derek looks down at the two topmost titles: The Man Who Fell to Earth and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He hated that Stiles never put them in alphabetical order but could never bring himself to rearrange them after Stiles died…

“We bought and watched these movies together so they're mine as much as they are his.” Derek runs his fingertip over the binder zipper's teeth. “I wasn't going to let them gather dust.”

“You left everything else,” Noah retorts and Derek doesn’t look up. “You left the clothes he took from you...you left your house…but you kept the movies?”

Derek purses his lips. He wants to say something about how he spent his hard-earned money on the contents of this and the other binder. More than that, he and Stiles spent their time, all those nights snuggled in one of the recliners that are wide enough to hold two people comfortably, under the screen in the home theater at the house with their popcorn, candy and soda that Stiles demanded for the true movie experience. Derek couldn't just abandon those memories and he relives them every time he watches one of these films.

Something he never does when Braeden is around.

“I’m sorry,” Noah says softly as he sets his hand on Derek’s shoulder then takes a seat next to him. “I don’t mean to sound like I’m attacking you but, I just...I miss you.”

Derek turns his head a little. “You—”

“I see you almost every day, I know,” Noah interjects with a short laugh. “But there’s something about seeing you happy and you were both so happy.” He squeezes Derek’s shoulder as he takes a deep breath. “I don’t want you to think that I don’t regret not telling you that Stiles was okay, but given a second chance, I would do it again because I know he meant it to protect you.”

Derek turns his gaze toward the windows. Noah's hand slides down to rub his back.

“Braeden’s a good girl,” Noah continues. “I’m grateful every day for her being able to bring back a part of that happiness for you, but—”

“But nothing,” Derek interjects as he shrugs off Noah’s hand then stands away from the couch. “Braeden’s a good girl, she makes me happy, but nothing.” He gulps when he sees the dejected look on Noah’s face and looks away because it reminds him of Stiles. “If you’re not here to give notice that you plan to dismiss me for walking out, then you should go.”

Noah nods as he presses his hands on his knees to push himself upright.

“You should probably take the rest of the week off,” he says then shrugs. “Or just until you feel ready to come back.”

Derek clenches his jaw until he hears the door groan as Noah pulls it open.

The DVD binder is still clutched in his hand and he sighs as he zips it back up and sets it down on the coffee table. He moves to the door and pushes it closed then hits the intercom button next to the door handle.

“I’m going to bed.”

The voice chips in, “Good night Sir,” and Derek hits the button again.

“Also, don’t make it a habit to send people up without talking to me first. I don’t care who it is.”

“Understood Sir.”

Derek takes a deep breath that he hopes will help settle him but it doesn’t. He steps into the kitchen, picks up the empty wine bottle and tosses it into the trash before grabbing the gun. He drops to his knees in front of the couch and feels around for the holster underneath to replace the pistol, but then remains seated on the floor between the coffee table and the couch.

This is a similar spot to where he woke up that afternoon: tucked between his mother's reupholstered couch and her custom built coffee table, his head in Cora’s lap, one hand in Laura’s and the other in Noah’s, the three of them and Marin staring down at him with worried expressions. He’ll never forget the way they looked at him. Stiles did that. He made Derek suffer through months of panic attacks and drunken stupors and that’s not something you do to someone you supposedly love. Noah can claim that Stiles’ heart was in the right place all he wants but that doesn’t change anything. Or at least it shouldn’t…

Derek forces himself to his feet and steps over to shut off the kitchen light, leaving only a bare amount of light coming in through the windows from the overcast night sky. He drops face first into bed and lays there, pushing away any thoughts of Noah's words and Stiles’ face whenever they try to shove their way to the forefront of his mind.

Chapter Text

It’s been fifteen days since Stiles saw Derek, since they talked about the contents of that CIA evidence box that Derek returned to the vet clinic with a note for Scott that just said, Please give this back to him.

His dad said Derek was just taking some time off and, admittedly, what they talked about was a lot to swallow so Stiles was fine with that for the first week. Afterwards, he took the initiative to follow Derek and decided he should really talk to Kira about how easy it is to hack into the location software on Derek’s phones.

Stiles rented a car because he thought it would be inconspicuous and every day after firing a few rounds with Allison or sparring with Kira, he would follow Derek, to a shooting range, to the edge of the Hale property, and once to the movies with his family, but mostly to a gym.

Today, Stiles slots the car in the nearest open parking space but he doesn’t get out right away. He sits there taking deep breaths and preparing himself to face Derek’s fury. On the off chance that he managed to cool down since that last day in the office, he’s sure to go straight back to enraged when he finds out that Stiles was stalking him, and that’s exactly what Stiles is counting on.

He scans the place as soon as he steps inside and it wasn’t the kind of gym he was expecting. From the outside it looks like the typical commercial gym: bright paint on the walls, a name that doesn’t really reference fitness, and super-sized pictures of appropriately muscled people running or jumping on the windows, but inside it looks like something from Rocky. There’s no one in the space with a frame that resembles Derek’s so Stiles figures he must be in another area. As soon as he turns his head, he sees a pretty girl with her brown hair in a ponytail bouncing toward him.

She tells him her name but he’s not interested in hearing about the cost of memberships and how he doesn’t even need to officially join but he can sign up for some classes to see how he likes the place.

“I have to pee,” he tells her, bending his knees a little for the effect. “Where’s the bathroom?”

Her face falls. “The restrooms are for members only.”

“Look,”—He doesn’t remember her name and he shouldn’t assume her name is Cindy but she looks like a Cindy—“miss, I would love to join, like sign me right up but can we oh,” he winces and hisses. “Can we please talk about this after I’m done peeing, I ca—”

“Okay, come with me,” Probably Cindy chirps and swings her ponytail right at his face.

He follows her with the I-have-to-pee gait until she comes to a door that says Men’s Locker Rooms.

“It should be right there as soon as you walk in.”

“Thanks hon,” he says then pats her on the shoulder, even squeezes a little to make sure she’s thoroughly creeped out enough to not be standing there when he comes back out.

The locker room is quiet and if it weren’t for the sound of running water and steam coming out from the showers and the occasional ding of someone’s phone, Stiles would think the place was empty. He starts toward the lockers.

The first five sets of U-shaped sections are empty and the sixth has a guy wearing nothing but a towel sitting on one of the benches playing on his phone. Stiles is beginning to think Derek is the one in the shower when he runs right into the chest of a man that took the corner coming out of the seventh and furthest section.

Stiles apologizes but the guy still steps around him with a huff, which makes Stiles rolls his eyes before turning the corner.

Derek is facing his open locker so he doesn’t realize that Stiles is standing there, which allows him to get an eyeful. Derek has always been strong—at least he was always capable of lifting and carrying Stiles with ease—but he was never quite so packed with muscle. There doesn’t seem to be an inch of fat on Derek’s body anymore and as much as Stiles loved all of Derek’s previous softness, he can’t help but ogle. The muscles under the black inked spirals of Derek’s tattoo—which used to lay flat and stationary across the flesh of his back—now dances with Derek’s movements as he searches his locker for something Stiles hopes isn’t a shirt.

He doesn’t have time to close his mouth before Derek is turning to face him and his gaze is running over Derek’s torso, over his wide shoulders, the arms like columns, the chest he desperately wants to sink his teeth into. Stiles has to hold onto the lockers he’s barely hiding behind unless he’ll slide to the floor. There’s a six pack now complete with the V-shaped outline underneath. Derek has let his happy trail grow out and Stiles whines as he follows it down to the edge of the basketball shorts just barely grasping Derek’s hips.

A locker door slams and shoves Stiles out of his gape.

“I’m uh...uh…” He closes his eyes because he thinks that’ll help stop his stuttering but he just pictures himself rubbing up against Derek’s firmly muscled form. He doesn’t reopen his eyes. “I...I was...looking for uh...the...I just went on a walk and...”

Derek scoffs, “You went on a walk across town from your house?”

Stiles slowly opens one eye to see that Derek had put on an old T-shirt. He internally mourns the loss but snaps open both eyes and moves out from behind the lockers.

“I just wanna talk,” he replies then clears his throat.

“I need to be somewhere,” Derek says as he turns toward his locker again and Stiles realizes that his was the one that slammed shut.

“I know that every time we talk you get mad or you get sick or...whatever but,” He licks his lips and moves a little closer, “I was hoping that this talk could lead to us relieving some tension.” Derek turns his head over his shoulder to narrow his eyes at Stiles, who backpedals, “That didn’t come out the way I meant.”

Derek pulls a small duffle bag out of the locker then gently pushes it closed again before jumbling the numbers on the combination lock.

“I’m gonna tell you anyway,” Stiles blurts as Derek starts around the other side of the bench. “I think we should fight.”

Derek halts and closes his eyes for a second before reopening them on Stiles. “Excuse me?”

This close, he looks tired, not just tired of Stiles but tired like he hasn’t slept in a while, maybe days. Stiles’ chest tightens and his brows furrow with worry but he doesn’t mention it.

“I just...it dawned on me recently while I was training with Kira that probably the reason why you stay so mad at me is because you’re not getting the chance to hit me.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I stay mad at you because you lied to me and you made your father lie to me.”

“And I totally get that,” Stiles starts and he watches Derek watch him further lessen the space between them. “I know you’re frustrated with all the lies and all the secrets and I’m frustrated with you being frustrated so if we were to maybe go out to that ring out there and start throwing some punches then we’ll definitely be well on our way to taking out our frustrations on each other oh…god that didn’t come out right either.”

Derek searches his eyes and Stiles’ breath catches in his throat.

“I’m not fighting you,” he says slowly and softly.

He starts forward again but Stiles shifts to stand in front of him. Derek snorts and Stiles knows that it’s because he’s being childish.

Derek starts to say something but Stiles cuts him off,

“I cheated on you,” he says then watches Derek’s entire face twitch. “And I mean this was way before, when I was still here.”

Derek narrows his eyes.

“I’m not lying.” Stiles retorts as he shakes his head. “But if you hit me, I’ll shut up.”

“This isn’t going to work, Stiles.”

“So then you won’t mind hearing about the way he touched me or the way he fucked me.”

Derek closes his eyes.

“His mouth was always so warm Derek and he used it all over my body.”

“Stiles.”

“Hit me.”

“No,” Derek replies through clenched teeth.

“I thought I was in love with him.” Stiles puts a more plaintive tone on his voice. “I planned to leave you for him long before I was asked to go abroad. Doesn’t that just eat you up inside? Doesn’t it make you wanna knock me into next week knowing that you weren’t good enough for me even way back then?”

Derek snaps his eyes open. “I know you’re lying and I know because you would never cheat on me. You used to love me too much to do something like that.”—Stiles frowns—“Besides, we know who’s really the one screwing somebody else.”

Stiles’ throat feels like it’s tightening.

“A woman, no less,” Derek continues and Stiles bows his head. “Doesn't it just eat you up inside to know that you can’t ever compete with her?” He bends his neck to try to catch Stiles’ gaze as he keeps talking, “You’ve seen how beautiful she is, all soft skin and curves and if you’d like to talk about warm mouths—”

“Okay fine!” Stiles barks, facing Derek again. “I lied, I was lying. God, you didn’t have to...” He sobs and a tear rolls down the side of his nose.

Derek’s eyes flit over Stiles’ shoulder. The guy back there playing on his cell phone must have peeked around the corner to see what was going on.

“You started it,” Derek grumbles.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles scoffs. “Real mature!”

“And I'm the only one in this conversation being immature?”

“I just…” Stiles throws his arms up. “I don't want it to be like this anymore. I don't want you to hate me anymore.”

Derek sighs, “I don't hate you.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “You just figuratively rubbed your hot girlfriend in my face.”

“Only because you were rubbing your fake boyfriend in mine.”

“I just wanted you to hit me!” Stiles groans.

“It wouldn't have solved anything,” Derek argues and Stiles hates that he isn’t even raising his voice. “I would still be heartbroken and you would still be an asshole for breaking my heart.”

Stiles takes a deep breath. He feels weary all of a sudden and he wants to sit down but he doesn't. He reaches up to rub the spot between his eyes.

“I wanna fix us.”

“There's no us anymore.”

“You—” Stiles huffs when he feels that ache in his chest. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah,” Derek exhales. “Look, I have to go meet…” He purses his lips. “I have to go.”

Stiles softly says, “Okay,” even though he feels far from okay.

Derek starts forward and Stiles wants to follow him, wants to grab him by the T-shirt and flip him around and press their lips together. He wants to plead with Derek not to go home to her, wants to beg him to press the proverbial reset button so they can go back to kissing and holding and loving each other. But he knows that even if he did all that, Derek still wouldn't take him back. Derek is too loyal.

Stiles knew that and he took that loyalty for granted. He assumed that Derek would be ready, arms wide open, and waiting for the return he didn't really ever expect himself to have.

Derek is loyal and he deserves someone who'll be loyal to him, someone who'll do a better job of taking care of him than Stiles ever did. He can at least appreciate Braeden for that, even if he doesn't like it...or her.

Probably Cindy was nowhere to be found when he makes his way back outside the locker room so he beelines for the door. He still feels fatigued and he can't even rush in case she catches up with him again.

The Camaro is gone by the time he steps into the evening sunlight and Stiles finds himself staring at the empty space until he feels like he can't stand up anymore.

He sits in the car, trying to catch a good breath, before driving home.

|

“I love you.”

Stiles had snuffled and Derek thought it was because he was asleep, but then Stiles sat right up, straight as a board, making the sheets they had just dirtied bunch up around his bare hips.

He gaped down at Derek and gasped, “What?”

“I said,” Derek had gulped but calmly repeated, “I love you.”

“Dude,” Stiles whimpered, “you stole my thunder.”

Derek softly laughed, “What?”

“I just…y’know I thought I'd be the first one to say it.”

“Stiles, you've been saying it since you were in middle school.”

“Well we weren't dating when I was in middle school.”

“That's because I was in high school,” Derek retorted. “And you were annoying.”

He jabbed a finger into Derek's side, making him snicker.

“You really love me?”

Derek remembers hating how unsure Stiles sounded so he had sat up and held Stiles' face in his hands.

“I do...I love you.”

He watched Stiles gaze flit back and forth between his eyes in the moonlight coming through the trees outside his bedroom window.

“You’re not just sayin’ that because we just got done having sex?”

Derek shook his head in disbelief and exasperation. He pressed a kiss to Stiles’ parted lips and his eyes were still closed when Derek pulled away.

Stiles smiled sweetly. “One more time.”

Derek snorts. “I love you Stiles.”

“I love you Derek,” he said, the sweet smile spreading impossibly wider. “I love you so much.”

“What are you thinking about?” Braeden asks, breaking the silence of the room and startling him a little because he thought she was still asleep.

“Nothing,” he replies, turning to look at her.

Her eyes are alert, like she’d been awake and watching him for a while. He wishes they had turned out the light in her bedroom.

“Nothing huh? Then why do you have that something-on-your-mind crease right…” She presses her forefinger to the center of his forehead. “...here.”

Derek laughs as he turns his face away to escape her accusing finger but she follows him, keeping it on his face then lying on his chest to stop him from rolling to the edge of the bed.

“What are you thinking about, Derek?” she giggles.

He swats her hand away and cries, “I wasn’t thinking about anything!”

Braeden kicks the sheets back and throws her leg over to straddle his waist then pins his arms to the pillows under his head.

“What are you thinking about, Derek?” she repeats with an expression meant to be serious but he knows she’s hiding a smile.

“Okay,” he laughs. “If you must know...I was thinking about Noah.”

She raises her brows.

“About how…” Derek clears his throat. “How he said he would make you an official BEACON agent but never did.”

Braeden releases his arms then shrugs. “Maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it.”

“But he let…” Derek doesn’t want to say the name. He never mentions that name to her. “...other people go ahead of you.”

“You shouldn’t let it bother you,” she says, walking her fore and middle fingers up his chest. “Maybe I don’t wanna be under somebody else’s flag. I like being on my own.”

“You like having to have someone let you into the elevator whenever you want to come upstairs?”

“It’s something I can live with.”

Derek sighs deeply as he runs his hands up her bare legs to the line of the panties at her hips.

Braeden presses her finger to his forehead again and he snickers as he turns away.

“Stop worrying about it,” she admonishes gently.

“I can’t help it,” he softly replies. “I want you with me.”

“I am with you.” She leans over him and sets her hand on either side of his head. “You don’t have to sit me at that desk right outside your office and put a sign on there that says ‘Derek’s woman’ to prove that.”

“That’s not—”

“Then let it go.”

Her voice takes a more insistent tone and it makes him search her eyes.

“Maybe…” She drops down to her elbows. “You should stop focusing on me joining you and start thinking about joining me instead.”

Derek lets out a soft laugh but shakes his head. “The BEACON agents are my family. I can’t leave them.”

She gives him a soft smile.

“And as much as I would love to be the Eagle 2 in your dynamic duo,”—Braeden lets out a cackle and drops her forehead onto his shoulder—“I’m good,” he finishes with a chuckle.

Her shoulders shake as she laughs into his before she takes a deep breath.

“So it’s settled then. You’ll stay where you are and I’ll stay where I am and we’ll just...be together at the end of the day.”

Derek purses his lips and nods. “I like the sound of that.”

“Me too,” she replies, raising her head. “And would you look at that, no crease.”

He brings his hand up to the back of her neck and pulls her down for a kiss.

Chapter Text

“So, which one are you?” Stiles asks as the guy who looks absolutely comical in a lab coat turns to face him.

The guy had pulled a huge syringe out of one of the drawers and is now coming toward Stiles, where he lay on a raised cot they switched out with the usual exam table.

“Theo Raeken,” the guy replies, bending over Stiles’ arm that has a rubber strap tied around the bicep. “Relax your arm and stay still.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“We’ve met twice plus this time,” Theo mutters. “You’re gonna feel some pressure.”

“Yeah, I’m not real good with faces or names.” Stiles brings his head up when he feels the needle slip into the vein at the bend in his elbow. “Why are you taking my blood?” he asks, watching the dark red liquid flow freely into the syringe as Theo slowly pulls back on the plunger.

“Drug testing,” Theo replies softly, like he’s concentrating. “A spy who’s not real good with faces or names?”

“I’m not a spy again, yet,” Stiles retorts as Theo pulls the needle free then presses a cotton ball over the puncture hole. “And I’m not on drugs.”

“It’s gonna be tested for all sorts of health issues.” He releases the strap around Stiles’ arm. “Bacterial infections, high cholesterol…any kind of communicable disease.”

Stiles holds onto the cotton and grunts as he sits upright.

“Are you telling me that my love of Australian meat pies would hinder the performance of my duties as an agent of espionage?”

Theo doesn’t answer. Stiles watches him push the needle into the lid of a three-inch-long plastic tube then fill it with his blood before doing the same to the other three.

Stiles clears his throat. “As for communicable diseases, the only person I’ve ever had sex with is Derek Hale and he’s pure as the driven snow so.”

That makes Theo turn toward him with a scowl.

“Sorry.” Stiles shrugs. “I get in a doctor’s office and I tend to overshare.”

“Well I’m not a doctor.”

“Okay.” Stiles shrugs. “So apparently it happens with vets too.”

“I’m definitely not a vet,” Theo replies, shaking his head.

Stiles frowns. “Then I definitely shouldn’t have let you put that needle in my arm.”

“I’m on my way to becoming a nurse but for now I’m a phlebotomist.”

“That sounds like it’s hard to spell.”

Theo narrows his eyes. “That means that it’s my job to handle people’s blood.”

“Do you spell it with an F or a P-h?”

The clinic’s door opens and Theo mutters, “Oh thank god,” as he turns to pick up the tubes and just holds them out in his palm toward the door.

The person who opened the clinic door—a young woman with long brown hair—steps into the exam room.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says, grabbing the tubes from Theo’s palm without question.

“Are you a phlegm lobotomist too?” Stiles asks.

“No, I’m a nurse” she laughs and holds out the hand not grasping his blood tubes. “Tracy.”

He holds out the arm the blood wasn’t pulled from. “Stiles.”

He watches her mouth drop open and they both look over at Theo.

You’re Stiles?” she asks, looking back and pointing at him with his own blood.

“Ever since the day I was born.”

She laughs incredulously. “I didn’t think you were real.”

“You want an autograph? Teddy, get me a pen.”

“It’s...Theo,” he says slowly.

Stiles shakes his head. “Okay, do you just not have a pen or…?”

Theo rolls his eyes and announces, “I’m going on break,” then shrugs off the lab coat and puts it over Tracy’s shoulders before stepping out of the room.

She watches him—longer than Stiles does—then sighs, “He’s…sensitive.”

“What do you mean you didn’t think I was real?”

“Oh.” Tracy sets his blood down on the counter and properly fixes the coat on her frame. “Theo and I don’t officially work here,” she says and Stiles furrows his brow. “We only really come by when someone is sick or injured or when tests need to be run, especially on new people.”

“Okay…”

She picks up his blood again then walks it over to the refrigerator. “So because I’m not here that often, I’ve only heard bit parts of stories about you. Mostly from Scott,”—Stiles smiles—“but I just assumed you were like a...uh like a group hallucination.”

Stiles squints and lies, “I get that.”

“But now, here you are in front of me and I’m sort of confused because...and I don’t know what exactly goes on upstairs, but I think I heard someone say once that you were dead.”

He forces a laugh. “Well obviously that’s not quite what you heard.”

Tracy starts to nod then she chuckles, “Obviously.” She points to the refrigerator. “I’m gonna drop those by the hospital when we’re all done here and we should have the results by tomorrow.”

“Sounds good.”

“Did Theo do anything else with you?”

“Nope.” Stiles shakes his head. “He scowled, took my blood, then scowled some more. You should tell him he’s gonna get worry lines on his pretty face if he doesn’t quit that.”

Tracy giggles, “You think he’s pretty?”

Stiles shrugs, “Don’t you?” then presses his lips together when she starts to stutter.

“I’m…uh I need to…check your vital signs.”

Stiles nods and lays back on the cot again.

“So…” He starts as Tracy moves out of his peripheral vision. “Do you have access to everyone’s medical records?”

“Uh to an extent, yeah.”

She returns to his line of sight, towing what looks like a small computer monitor on a pole.

“Like…” He cranes his neck to watch her give the screen a tap before it comes to life. “Even the people who aren’t officially working here?” Tracy holds onto Stiles’ wrist, presses two fingers against his pulse. “Like...say, someone who has a contract with the company but who isn't—”

“Are you talking about Braeden?”

“Yes,” Stiles answers easily then watches Tracy’s eyes widen.

“Do you think she’s a double agent?”

There’s a slight quaver in Tracy’s voice, like she’s trying to remember something suspicious that Braeden might’ve done in the past to confirm that she’s working for some secret organization bent on BEACON’s destruction. It makes Stiles want to nourish that uncertainty until it turns into outright fear, maybe even retaliation if the fear spreads.

“I don’t think she’s a double agent,” he says. “I’m just curious as to whether you have access to her records.”

“Some access, yes,” Tracy replies and the quaver is softer but it’s still there. She pulls a thermometer from the machine and slides a plastic covering over the tip before placing it into Stiles' waiting mouth. “Of course Braeden’s not a double agent, she’s way too nice.”

Stiles hums and rolls his eyes.

“Her boyfriend is really nice too.”

Stiles hums again, deeper in his throat. Tracy pulls his arm up and wraps a blood pressure cuff around his bicep.

“It’s a shame he never found that thing he was looking for,” she says then taps her finger on the screen.

Stiles frowns, tightening his lips on the thermometer’s tube. The cuff starts to tighten around his arm.

“I'm not sure what it was but he apparently didn't let it go for a while,” Tracy continues when the cuff starts to deflate. She tugs the thermometer out of Stiles’ mouth. “That's why he had hired Braeden in the first place, to find it, but—”

Stiles sputters and jerks upright. “Derek hired her to find me?”

“No.” Tracy shakes her head. “To find something he lost.”

“He lost me!” Stiles cries out as he starts pulling the limp cuff off his arm. “And am I the only one seeing that she’s terrible at her job?”

Neither of them hears the heels clicking until they come to a halt in the doorway. Stiles and Tracy turn to see a dark-skinned woman standing in the frame.

“Hi Marin,” Tracy chimes as she pushes the monitor on a pole back out of Stiles’ vision.

“How's our patient doing?” Marin asks.

Stiles raises his brows. “Our patient? Are you the doctor?”

“I'm a doctor,” she smiles. “Marin Morrell, BEACON's resident psychologist.”

He exhales heavily, “Shit.”

“I know you've been trying to avoid me,” she says and she doesn't budge from the doorway. Stiles would have to hurt her if he wanted to escape. “Your preliminary examination was scheduled weeks ago.”

“I don't do too well with shrinks.” He taps the side of his head. “It's a nightmare up here.”

She's still smiling but Stiles isn't unsettled by it.

“Come upstairs with me and we can talk about it,” she says then looks over at Tracy where she's wiping down the machine in the corner. “Unless you're not done with him.”

“He's all yours,” she says.

Stiles slides off the cot and Marin gestures for him to walk through the doorway first.

As non-threatening as her smile seems to suggest she is, Stiles has the feeling one or both of them isn't going to enjoy their session.

Marin’s office is right off the elevator and Stiles pulls in a soft, slow breath as he steps inside.

“Have a seat,” she says, gesturing to the suede couch and Stiles begrudgingly does as he is told.

There is a tape recorder sitting on the coffee table between the couch and the leather chair that Marin now occupies. He notices that she has a clipboard in her hand but doesn’t know where it came from.

He asks, “Do you have to record this?”

“Not if you don’t want me to.” She crosses her legs at the ankles. “I prefer to record the preliminary examinations for later comparison, but if you’d like, I—”

“It’s fine,” Stiles interjects then takes another deep breath.

Marin hums. “Let’s start with your full name and your birthday.”

“Mieczysław Stilinski, Male, born April 8, 1991 at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital in Beacon County, Northern California to Claudia and Noah Stilinski.”

Marin raises her brows as he rattles on then chuckles softly.

“Okay,” she says then writes something down on the clipboard before looking back up at him. “How would you describe your childhood?”

“Fine.” He shrugs. “I was a pretty happy kid, y’know, I didn’t have any siblings but I had plenty of friends and I used to hang out with my mom and dad all the time before Mom had to leave.” He scratches his fingernails over the jeans at his knees. “They worked but they always made time for me and I was never abused or anything...save for a couple spankings but nothing that ruined my life or developed into a kink.”

Marin nods. “What about your teenage years?”

“I had less friends as a teenager.” Stiles narrows his eyes as he recalls, “They just kept dropping off for some reason.”

“Did you ever get into trouble?”

He barks a laugh, “Lady, I stayed in trouble.”

She wears an expression like concern when she asks, “How come?”

“Previous therapists said that my defiance stemmed from anxiety over my mom being gone.”

She nods and writes that down.

“What about relationships?”

He shrugs. “I dated some.”

“Sex?”

Stiles waits until she looks back up at him to shake his head.

“What’s your current relationship status?”

He almost laughs, “Single.”

“Any plans for the future?”

He does laugh then. “If you’d asked me around this time five years ago I would’ve said marriage, maybe a couple kids, definitely some dogs and getting the chance to grow old with the man I love but now…” Stiles shrugs. “...I guess other than becoming an agent again, my future’s blank.”

He looks down at the tip of his shoe because he doesn’t want to see the look of pity he knows is on her face.

“Have you ever been diagnosed with any episodic mental illnesses?”

“What does that mean?” he asks his shoe.

“Depression, mania, panic attacks or anxiety in general, any psychoses...”—Stiles likens her listing these illnesses like a kid reciting a Christmas list—“...PTSD, any specific phobias, any kind of personality disorder, body disorder, eating disorder…stuff like that.”

“Um…” Stiles cleared his throat. “I’ve had panic attacks in my life but that was when I was way younger and I guess...I have been feeling kinda low recently. Never anxious, I don’t think, just...tired.” He knows that he really should have said exhausted. “As for personality disorders,” Stiles continues, “I dunno, I pretend to be other people a lot but...I’m a spy, so I don’t think that counts.”

“Right.”

“That’s it.”

He watches her pen move then looks at her face when she stops to ask,

“You said you started feeling low recently...do you have a general time frame on that?”

Stiles easily replies, “Two-ish months ago.”

Marin furrows her brow. “This started happening around the time you came back to BEACON?”

“Yep.”

“What brought it on?”

He scoffs, “Aren’t you the doctor?”

She shrugs. “I’d still like to know what you think.”

Stiles drops his head onto the back of the couch and sighs, “Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to be home because I got my mom back and I get to see all my friends and Derek again.” He interweaves his fingers over his chest. “And to not be suffering from a lick of PTSD is weird but awesome.”

“What’s so significant about seeing Derek specifically?”

Stiles lifts his head so he can raise an eyebrow at her. “Don’t act like you don’t know.”

“I don’t know anything you don’t tell me,” she replies and her non-threatening smile is back.

Stiles shakes his head as he lays it back down on the couch. “We dated before I went away and then I come back and…” He scoffs, “There’s someone else.”

“Did you agree to wait for each other?”

“No, he thought I was dead, which...” Stiles licks his lips then continues, “Which is more than enough incentive to move onto the next one but it never occurred to me that he would.”

“Why not?”

“I dunno Marin, maybe because we were in love?” He replies with a sardonic laugh. “Or at least I thought we were.”

“How often do these low moods affect you?”

Stiles shrugs. “Every time I see him and I’m reminded that I can’t touch him and I can’t kiss him, I can’t...show him how much I missed him.”

“You mentioned not having PTSD, why do you think you would?”

“Cos’ I saw and did some pretty fucked up stuff.”

“Like what?”

Stiles raises his head again to see her holding her pen at the ready. He answers with blinks and Marin chuckles.

“I can take it.”

“Okay,” he says slowly as he fixes himself properly on the couch. “If you’re looking for an example, we’ll go with the guy from Virginia.” Stiles licks his lips. “This one I convinced, don’t ask me how, to meet me, don’t ask me where, and once he got there, I knocked him out then tied him up.” He studies the look on Marin’s face then continues, “I’d already put the plastic down by the time he got there so then I proceeded to ask him a few questions and every time I thought he was lying, which by the way he’s a CIA agent so lying is second nature, but every time I thought he was lying, I slipped the tip of a flathead screwdriver under one of his fingernails then knocked the screwdriver handle with a hammer until the nail…” He makes a popping sound with his lips.

Marin, her pen and clipboard notes forgotten, stares at him. They sit there, in silence, until a knock at the door startles her out of the stupor.

Stiles’ father pokes his head in through the doorway.

“There you are,” he says, looking between them but making no mention of the shadows still on Marin’s face. “We were supposed to meet a few minutes ago. Marin, you mind?”

She stutters, “N-no I...we’re all done. Thank you Stiles for that colorful exam.”

Stiles hops up off the couch and moves toward his father who fixes him with a stern look.

“You’re just now having your prelim?”

Stiles shrugs, “You know I hate therapy,” then ducks around his father. “Thanks Marin!” he calls then listens to her uncomfortable laugh as he makes his way to the elevator.

Chapter Text

The light coming through the Director’s office door is glaring in the predawn hours and it catches Derek off guard. Noah never leaves his office lights on after work because he knows that Deaton and Lydia both would tear into him over the energy bills if he did. Derek moves toward the light, looking to catch some movement in the room but everything is still. His heart is drumming in his ears by the time he reaches the doorway and leans around the jamb. His eyes take a moment to adjust to the light and Derek sighs when he recognizes Stiles’ form, lying face-down in the pile of papers spread out over his father's desk.

He moves fully into the doorway and clears his throat but Stiles doesn't budge.

“Stiles,” Derek says, stepping close enough touch the edge of the desk.

Stiles smacks his lips and starts snoring softly, which makes Derek sigh and hang his head.

There are many memories of the two of them in these same positions: Stiles sleeping like a log anywhere he sets his head down and Derek trying to wake him, and every one of them rush to the forefront of Derek’s mind. He picks up the gun safety handbook sitting at the edge of the desk.

“Last chance,” he says and Stiles moans softly in reply but doesn't open his eyes. “Okay.”

Derek brings the book down as hard as he can on the edge of the desk and it sounds like thunder in the otherwise silent office.

Stiles yells and jerks up off the desk, hitting the chair with his back so hard that it rolls backwards two feet.

“Wh-what?” Stiles gasps and grabs at the piece of notebook paper sticking to his forehead. “What just happened?”

Derek tries to hide a grin as he leans his fingertips onto the edge of the desk while Stiles sputters himself into proper consciousness.

“Step one, don’t let your guard down,” he says.

Stiles closes his eyes and shakes his head. “What?”

“Why are you here so early?” Derek asks slowly, enunciating every word.

“I sp—I spent the night here,” Stiles says, looking over at the windows then the desk lamp before looking back at Derek. “I was studying.”

“It looks more like you were sleeping.”

Stiles sighs and gestures helplessly at the papers before him.

“I start the Battery on Monday so I’ve been pulling all-nighters here and there,” he says with sleep still evident in his voice.

Derek puts the handbook down then folds his arms over his chest as he watches Stiles stand up out of the chair.

Stiles yawns, “I need to put some coffee on,” as he rubs both eyes.

“You need sleep Stiles,” Derek declares. “Your brain needs sleep. You won’t do well if you keep sucking down coffee and not sleeping.”

Stiles scoffs, “Thanks mom,” as he goes around the desk.

Derek frowns because he realizes that Stiles was right, he did sound like a mom. Laura had said those same words to him the morning after he stayed up all night with the evidence against Claudia.

He looks down at all the papers from the Battery packet spread out over Noah’s desk, along with the different handbooks and manuals and Derek finds himself impressed that Stiles seems to be taking this time around more seriously than he did the first, when he just walked into testing after barely considering any instructions that he was given.

C’mon Babe, I practically run this joint, he had said, I got this.

He turned out to be right, to everyone but Noah’s surprise. Derek knows now that it was because Stiles was getting CIA training on the side.

Stiles’ back is disappearing into the break room when Derek steps out of Noah’s office and heads into his own. He picks up the laptop bag that he set down by the door when he first walked in to investigate the light and brings it inside with him.

Two weeks off, though it did his temperament some good, meant there were two weeks’ worth of reports and spreadsheets to pore over and, though Derek spent some of his last week back trying to catch up while simultaneously avoiding Stiles and his father, he still feels overwhelmed. Cora had warned him about drowning under the weight of the work he would be returning to, but he had ignored her to focus on enjoying his vacation from both headquarters and the Stilinskis. At least until Stiles showed up at his gym and unintentionally reminded Derek of everything Noah said.

Derek stares at the spreadsheet splayed across the laptop screen and sighs. He’s only been in the office about fifteen minutes and he already wishes he could go back home. He brings his hands up to massage the knuckles against his temples.

The sounds of slurping alerts Derek to Stiles stepping into his office, one paper coffee cup at his lips and another in his other hand.

He asks, “I assume you still take it with enough cream and sugar to mask the taste of coffee completely?” as he sets the other cup next to Derek’s laptop.

Derek glances at the cup then up at Stiles.

“Thought you might like a pick-me-up,” he says with a small smile before taking another sip of his coffee. “You’re welcome.”

Derek lays his arms over each other on top of the desk. Stiles’ words remind him of that chocolate donut and he is tempted to tell Stiles he doesn’t want this either, but his craving for coffee was starting to nip at the back of his neck anyway. Derek puts his hand around the cup, feels the warmth of the liquid inside, but he doesn’t bring it to his lips.

“Why are you here so early, by the way?” Stiles asks.

“I’m still catching up on what I missed when I was off.” He accents his words by a scrolling down the spreadsheet even though he isn’t looking for anything.

“You look bored.”

Derek nods. “I do boring stuff now.”

“Did that happen…?” Stiles moves to bring the coffee to his lips again but doesn’t finish the action. “Derek, did you get demoted because of...what I did?”

“Don’t you have something to be studying for?” Derek asks, keeping his eyes on his screen.

“Yeah,” Stiles says after a moment, so softly it almost goes unheard, then steps away.

The coffee, though it is still warming his hand, almost went forgotten and Derek sighs as he takes a sip. It’s good. Much better than store-bought and just as good as when he makes it at home. He always bought his coffee because he could never manage to make the break room coffee taste just the way he wanted to, and even if he could, the cups were way too small. Nevertheless, Stiles remembered how Derek likes his coffee and recreated it perfectly, even working with what Derek likened to mud.

His heart starts to thump and he has to take a deep breath. He can’t ignore the memories of all the mornings Stiles would shuffle downstairs and put the coffee on then come back to bed so it would be ready for Derek when he got up. He recalls the first time it ever happened, how strange it felt when the bed shifted and hearing Stiles’ soft grunt as he got up. Derek had thought that Stiles was sleepwalking but when he tried to get up and follow, to make sure Stiles didn’t hurt himself if he went down the stairs, he was pushed back down on the mattress.

I’m okay Babe go back to sleep.

Derek had watched the clock on Stiles’ nightstand until he came back seven minutes later and crawled back into bed with a long groan.

The pot’s on so your coffee should be ready in a few minutes, he said then fell immediately back asleep.

“Damn it,” Derek mutters as he stands away from his desk with the coffee cup still in his hand.

Stiles is scratching the back of his head and blowing air out of his mouth so hard his cheeks swell when Derek turns into Noah’s office.

“Do you need help with anything?”

Stiles snaps his head up.

“You managed to turn the equivalent of just chewing coffee grounds into something palatable,” Derek proclaims as Stiles stares at him. “I consider it a favor and I’m here to repay it, so what do you need help with?”

“I ah…” Stiles clears his throat and looks back down at the manual before him. “I can’t find how to disarm the VI-35,” he says, running his fingertips over the page. “The Russian model.”

“You find the serial number on the side of the timer,” Derek answers easily. “That’ll tell you which wire you need to cut. You should probably write this down,” he adds because Stiles is just staring at him again.

“I’ll remember it,” Stiles replies and Derek scoffs.

Stiles rolls his eyes and pushes the papers around until he finds a pen then holds it at the ready.

“If the serial number is eight digits long,” Derek continues and Stiles starts writing, “then you cut the blue wire with the concurrent white stripes. If it’s six digits long, you cut the yellow wire. We good?”

“Cut the yellow wire,” Stiles mutters then sets down the pen. “We’re good.”

“Good,” Derek says then makes his way for the door before Stiles could say anything else.

The coffee was long gone before he finished the first report but Derek didn’t want to go into Noah’s office to ask Stiles to make him a second cup. He takes a deep breath and steps away from his desk, heading for the window. He hangs his head outside and takes a deep breath of the morning air as he looks out at the sunlight just on the horizon.

“Do you know who my proctor is gonna be?” Stiles asks from his doorway and Derek turns over his shoulder to see him setting down another cup of coffee.

“Everyone,” Derek replies, turning to fully face the room and watch Stiles furrow his brows.

Everyone?”

Derek shrugs. “Everyone who’s available.”

He steps away from the window and moves toward the paper cup. Stiles doesn’t move away as Derek steps closer and now there’s not enough space between them. Derek can clearly see unease on Stiles’ face, even though Stiles is staring down at the two fingers he has resting on Derek’s desk.

“But the written test still has to be sterile so—”

“So strip search and proctor,” Stiles finishes. “I remember.”

Derek’s free hand twitches at his side with the urge to hold Stiles by the chin and turn his gaze up but he doesn’t allow himself.

“Are you modest all of a sudden?” he asks then drinks down the coffee.

Stiles just shrugs then mumbles, “I’m probably gonna head out soon.”

“Good,” Derek says. “You don’t want to be this groggy during the Battery.”

“I planned to study all I could today then sleep all day tomorrow so I’d be fresh,” Stiles sighs. “But I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”

“Are you going to be okay to drive?”

That makes Stiles look right at him. He searches Derek’s eyes then turns his own away again.

“Y-yeah I should be.”

Derek says, “I’ll call you a cab,” as he sets the coffee cup back on the desk.

“No...I’ll be fine, really, I—”

“You can barely hold your head up,” Derek retorts, pulling his phone out of his pocket.

“How am I gonna get my car home?”

Derek replies, “You’ll figure something out,” as his fingers scroll over the screen to the Yellow Cab company’s phone number.

Stiles sets his hand over Derek’s phone screen and pushes it down.

“I’ll be fine,” Stiles says, looking him in the eyes again as he slowly drags his fingers over and away from Derek’s hand. “Thanks for your help...”—He catches Stiles’ gaze dip to his lips—“...and your concern, but I’ll be okay.”

“Call me when you get home so I can know for sure.”

Derek doesn’t know why he said that. His mind tells him that it must have been because of something residual since he had been floating through their memories all morning. Derek shouldn't have allowed Noah to get into his head and remind him how happy he and Stiles were. He realizes that Stiles is staring at him with a hopeful expression, like he’s looking for something that only Derek can give him. Derek turns away and moves behind his desk again.

Stiles leaves the office without another word and Derek flattens his palm over his desk. He closes his eyes and chides himself for letting his mouth get the best of him.

Some minutes later, when Derek is mostly finished with his report and entirely finished with his coffee, Stiles walks by with a book bag on his shoulders. Derek doesn’t look up from his work, even when out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Stiles pause in front of his doorway. He doesn’t say anything, just looks inside at Derek, before stepping away.

Derek holds his breath from the moment Stiles appeared in the doorway until he hears the elevator’s arriving ding.

|

Stiles should’ve kissed him.

It’s all he can think about the entire drive home. He should’ve done it just to see what Derek would do. Stiles thinks that any other day, he would’ve been rewarded for his trouble with a punch to the face or gut, but there was something different about this time. Stiles could sense it. He could see it in the way Derek looked at him, in the way Derek tried not to look at him. He could hear it in the way Derek spoke, soft and clipped, like he does when he’s trying to hide his true feelings. He could feel it in the air when Derek asked if he would be okay getting home, something Stiles thought he would never do again because he doesn't care anymore. Stiles should’ve let himself taste it on Derek’s tongue.

There are hardly any cars on the road and Stiles is laser-focused on reaching his house so he can hear Derek’s voice again, even if it is over the phone.

His mother yawns, “How was studying?” as he steps through the garage door and into the house.

“It was great,” is his hasty reply as he makes his way toward the stairs. “I’m gonna go take a nap.”

“No breakfast then?”

“No breakfast.” He turns and kisses the air between them. “Thanks though. Love you,” he calls as he makes his way up the stairs.

Stiles leans against his bedroom door to close it as he pulls out his phone.

“Hey,” he breathes when Derek answers. “I made it home.”

“Good,” Derek says and Stiles expects it to end there, but then he says, “Get some sleep.”

He finds himself waiting to hear the ‘I love you’ before Derek hangs up but it doesn’t come and Stiles sighs heavily. He shrugs off the book bag and lets it fall right inside the door then sets his phone on his desk.

Stiles should have kissed him, maybe then he could have worked off some of his nervous energy instead of falling into bed alone, again. He hugs his pillow close and buries his face in it. Derek wouldn’t respond the way Stiles would’ve wanted, he knows that, but he likes to think that Derek would kiss him back.

Stiles makes himself get out of bed again. He shuffles over to his closet and picks up the pair of burgundy sweatpants he’s had since high school Lacrosse off the floor. Stiles strips out of all his clothes and pulls on the sweatpants then falls backwards into bed again. He rolls over onto his front and turns his face away from the room. He hugs his pillow close again when his bedroom door opens.

He listens to the scrape of the door against the book bag but doesn't turn his head. He knows it's his mother, probably coming to drop off the laundry Stiles had left in the dryer before going to Headquarters last night and she didn't knock because she figured he was already asleep. He falls asleep before she's done folding and putting away his—and some of Derek’s—clothes.

Their neighbor—a different one than the one Stiles knew—liked to mow his lawn in the afternoon when he comes home from work. Stiles is awoken at the first growl of the motor but he doesn't open his eyes because then the fantasy will die.

He can almost feel Derek’s weight pressing him down into the mattress, his naked body blanketing Stiles, and every exhaled breath on the back of his neck. Derek's hand is on the back of his thigh, pushing it further out so he can sink his cock even deeper. It makes Stiles want to open his eyes, to see if Derek is really there, but he doesn't want to ruin it. The sweatpants had worked down his hips while he slept, leaving him to press, rub, leak onto the bed. He hears a moan from Derek and it makes Stiles shake as he shifts his hips back so he can reach down to get his hand around himself.

The sound Derek makes when he cums—his hips still nestled against Stiles’ ass because he knows how much Stiles loves to feel the pulse and twitch of Derek’s cock spilling inside him—is guttural and always right in Stiles’ ear. Stiles toes curl and he bites into his pillow to muffle his groan. Derek would say I love you then, his voice barely above a whisper as he starts moving his hips in circles with intent to find Stiles’ little bundle of nerves. Once he does, once he makes Stiles keen and arch his back and press him impossibly deeper, Derek would drag his lips across Stiles’ earlobe and say, Come for me moja miłość.

Stiles understands Polish though he rarely speaks it, but when Derek whispers to him, calls him my love while they make love, it never fails to push Stiles right to the edge. He wants to pull his hand away from himself, wants to make this fantasy, this memory last a little while longer but he can't help the tempting slide of his dick through his fist. Stiles whimpers Derek’s name through teeth still tight around the fluff of his pillow as he spills onto his comforter.

He lounges in the afterglow, his eyes staying closed and both hands holding onto the sheets as he grinds his hips into the wetness underneath him until Derek—his memory, his presence—evaporates.

The sun is on its downward slant when Stiles’ eyes open again. The neighbor's mower has stopped and he can faintly hear his parents talking downstairs.

The sob feels like it's choking him so he lets it out and pushes his pillow away so he can wipe his free-flowing tears on the comforter.

The shade of Derek is gone, leaving nothing behind but reality, Stiles’ reality, which holds no hope of experiencing Derek that way again.

|

Derek doesn’t remember any part of the report he just read and he doesn’t realize he’s at the end until he taps the down arrow on his keyboard and the screen doesn’t move. He groans and lets his eyes fall closed. The bullpen has filled in the hours since Stiles left and Derek would have to get up to shut his door at the first ding signaling the arriving elevator, but he knows that the others would just barge in on him when they wanted something  anyway, so he resolved to leave it open. The voices emanating from outside his door would distract him from thinking about Stiles.

The sound of heels clicking makes him open his eyes again and his gaze drops to the time on his laptop to find that he had his eyes closed for six minutes.

“Lydia,” he calls out when a head of strawberry blonde hair moves passed his doorway.

She quickly replies, “One sec!” as she steps out of his eyesight only to return a moment later.

“Yes?” she says, walking up to stand in front of his desk.

“I wanted to ask how Stiles was doing,” he says, interweaving his fingers over the mousepad on his laptop.

She tilts her head. “What do you mean?”

“The Battery,” Derek clarifies. “He was having a problem with the bomb questions earlier and—”

“Earlier?”

“This morning.”

Lydia blinks slowly at him, expertly mascaraed lashes brushing the tops of her cheeks for a second before her eyes open on him again.

“You two spent the night together?”

“No,” Derek coughs and her eyebrows rise, which makes him recognize that he sounded defensive. He clears his throat. “Stiles was here when I came in early this morning to finish up some work. We talked.”

“About the Battery.”

He doesn’t like that she said those words as if she finds his story suspicious.

Yes.”

Lydia folds her fingers together and squares her shoulders.

“I think he’s doing fine,” she says then licks her red-painted lips. “As far as anyone else is concerned, he’s training great overall.”

Derek nods, contemplative. “He’s definitely taking it a lot more seriously this time around.”

“Yeah,” she replies, sounding wary to Derek’s ears. “Then again there’s no way he could take it less seriously.”

“I thought that exact same thing,” Derek chuckles softly before he notices her staring at him.

Lydia turns away to step over and close the door.

“Let me ask you something,” she starts and her tone makes him frown. “Why do you care how Stiles is doing?”

“He’s an employee,” Derek replies easily then shrugs. “It’s my job to care about the employees.”

She stares and her lips part but she quickly closes them.

“Okay,” she says eventually then turns for the door.

“What is it?” Derek asks because that’s what she wanted him to do.

Lydia faces him again and shrugs one shoulder. “It’s just that...I know how this sort of thing goes. I’d been through it enough times with Jackson.”

“How what sort of thing goes?”

“Y’know.” She leans her fingertips onto the edge of his desk. “You date someone and then you break up and then something happens to remind you why you dated in the first place and you think wow how could I ever live without this person? Then as soon as you get back together you remember why you broke up and it’s just a vicious cycle for years and years.”

Derek blinks and decides that he’s too tired to appropriately follow what she’s trying to say to him.

“Do you think that’s what’s going to happen between me and Stiles?”

“I think that is what’s happening between you and Stiles. Why else would you suddenly be interested in,”—She raises his fingers to air-quote—“how he’s doing?”

“You’re wrong,” Derek replies and leans back into this chair. “No offense but you and Jackson always broke up over petty, childish things.”—Lydia purses her lips—“I thought Stiles was dead. Not to mention, he kept secrets from us, he lied to all of our faces, his family. That’s not as easily forgiven as...forgetting an anniversary or a birthday."

“The point is it’s thinking about the good times that are going to get you in the long run,” she says and his chest feels like someone is sitting on it. “Then again, I know the signs.” Lydia starts to chew the inside of her lips then stands away from his desk. “Maybe the others just haven’t noticed.”

“There’s nothing to notice because there’s nothing going on,” Derek replies with a pointed glare.

Lydia hums. “Well anyway, I should get back to work.”

Derek gulps when she turns away for the last time.

He wonders to himself if he’s really been being that obvious. Lydia said that she recognized the signs but maybe the others and his sisters just haven’t been mentioning it.

No, his sisters and Erica definitely would have mentioned it. They would have sat him down and told him flat out to stop being crazy, to keep loving Braeden because she deserves it, not Stiles. Stiles is a life-ruiner and nothing good comes from falling—back—in love with a life ruiner.

Derek sighs and pulls his laptop screen closed then rests his hands on top of it, rests his forehead on his hands. He wishes Lydia had closed the door because if he could manage to get some sleep then his mind will clear up and he can concentrate on his work instead of on Stiles.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ gaze is running down the check marks on the last page of the Battery packet when the elevator arrives. He turns his head up and scans the space only to find it empty. Kira and Parrish had apparently made themselves scarce while Stiles was scanning the checklist. He knows that Harley and Lydia are downstairs with his father preparing the gym for his exam. Allison and Boyd are away on a mission so he can’t think of anyone else that would be coming in at one in the afternoon. He glances over when Derek and Erica appear in the frame of Derek’s office door in time to see the elevator start to open. Stiles slides off Lydia’s desk and readies himself to duck behind it in case whoever it is brought firepower.

There are four bodies clustered inside the elevator. Jackson steps out first and fixes his jacket on his shoulders as he looks around the bullpen. Stiles can’t see his eyes through the sunglasses he’s still wearing on his face despite being indoors but he knows when Jackson sees him. Danny follows out of the elevator, a bag slung over his shoulder and Ethan attached to his hand. Aiden steps out right before the doors close then freezes, just as the others had.

They all stare at Stiles until Danny whispers, “Do you guys see him too?”

“Stilinski?” Jackson ventures as he pulls the sunglasses off his face. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

Erica lets out a soft laugh and Stiles rolls his eyes.

“I missed you too buddy,” he says then places the Battery packet on Lydia’s desk. Stiles holds out his arms as he starts toward Jackson. “C’mere.”

“If you touch me, I swear to god I'll put you back in the ground.”

Danny shoulders passed his best friend and goes toward Stiles to take the hug that was sarcastically meant for Jackson.

“What happened to you?” he asks, pulling away and holding Stiles by his upper arms.

Stiles watches out of the corner of his eye as Derek turns back into his office, leaving Erica still in the doorway for a moment before she follows silently.

“Faked my death,” Stiles says, shrugging and hoping Derek hadn’t heard his nonchalance.

Danny scoffs and shakes his head before he stops to give Stiles a solemn look.

“So how’s…?” He leaves the question hanging but nods his head toward Derek’s office.

Stiles purses his lips. “He’s about six levels above pissed.”

Danny gives him a deep frown as the twins appear at his shoulders.

“Well it’s good to have you back Stilinski,” Ethan says and his brother adds, “Yeah, it wasn’t the same without you here.”

Stiles smiles as another arriving ding pulls the group’s attention back to the elevator.

As soon as she sees him, Lydia gasps and runs at Jackson. He had been flicking his thumb over his phone screen while Danny and the twins spoke to Stiles and nearly dropped it to catch her in a hug.

A lump forms in Stiles’ throat as he watches them. Lydia and Jackson had started dating before he and Derek had, but their relationship was full of ups and downs. Experiencing their relationship from the outside always made Stiles grateful that everything was smooth sailing with Derek. Stiles is happy to see that Lydia and Jackson still seem to be going strong but he can’t help the sting of envy.

Lydia clears her throat and brushes down the front of her dress when Jackson places her back on the floor.

“We’re ready for you,” she says to Stiles, making the others look at him.

“I’m restarting the Battery,” he replies in answer to the question on their faces.

“You have to restart it?” Aiden asks as he gives his twin an incredulous look.

“Only if you die,” Lydia replies as she hits the elevator call button then steps over to wrap her arms around Danny. “You guys can come along if you want.”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Danny says as he gives Lydia an extra squeeze.

“Pass,” Jackson announces as they bundle into the elevator. “I’m gonna go find Parrish and debrief. The last thing I wanna see right now is Stilinski’s zombie dick.”

“Your loss,” Stiles scoffs. “It’s pretty nice. Life-changing even.”

Jackson is rolling his eyes as the doors close.

All the gym’s equipment and practice weapons have been pushed toward the walls, leaving space in the middle for a single, standard issue high school desk sitting in the exact center of the room, surrounded by a circle of chairs. On top of the desk sits a pair of sharpened, number-two pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a single sheet of paper.

“I’m having war flashbacks,” Stiles mutters as he steps into the room behind Danny and Lydia to see what reminds him of every exam he’s ever taken in school.

Harley is already sitting in one of the chairs surrounding the desk and she nods her agreement to his statement as the others join her in the circle.

“Your dad’s waiting for you in the locker room,” Lydia says, folding her dress under as she sits.

Stiles looks toward the door, then around they space they fill.

“Is this it?” he asks. “I thought everyone was supposed to—”

The gym’s door swings open again and his head whips around to see Kira step into the room. She sends a smile and a wave at him before taking a seat.

He frowns and looks to the door again because he doesn’t want to accept that Derek isn’t coming.

He and Allison were there last time as Stiles’ proctors. They sat up front right where Stiles could see him, right where Derek could show him a sweet and reassuring smile whenever he raised his head. Allison is in Miami so she can’t be there for him, but he thought that Derek would at least be willing to come down.

“We need to get started,” Harley says. “We don’t have all day.”

Stiles gulps and nods before starting toward the locker room.

His father is standing across from the door, an empty laundry hamper on the floor next to him.

He asks, “What’s wrong?” as soon as his son steps inside.

Stiles shakes his head. “I just thought…” He clears his throat. “Derek said he’d be here.”

“He doesn’t have to be,” Noah replies softly.

“I know, but he said all available agents and he’s available to talk to Erica for a half hour but not to come down here and watch me test?”

Stiles sounds a little wound up to his own ears so he can’t imagine what he sounds like to his father. He looks up to see the same sullen look on Noah’s face that is always present whenever Derek’s name comes up.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “but we need to get started.”

Stiles works his jaw and nods.

Noah points to the empty hamper. “You can leave your underwear on if you want.”

“Alright.”

“You think you’re ready?”

Stiles cracks his neck. “I guess we’re about to find out.”

|

The BEACON Field Agent Aptitude Battery requires participants to demonstrate comprehension in all specialized fields employed by the organization.

Participants must be:

  1. Psychologically and medically cleared by board-certified professionals and,
  2. Deemed physically capable of carrying out simulated BEACON operations, as well as practice exercises in the appropriate circumstance if accompanied by an experienced agent.

The participant can choose to complete the field exams before or after the written exam, but all must be completed within seven days.

The written exam must be taken in a sterile environment under the watchful eye of a proctor(s). The participant passes with a score of 90 or above. Scores of 89 or below will result in termination of all examinations, none of which can be retaken for 180 days.

Derek has heard or recited the Battery instructions so many times he could say them in his sleep and he didn’t feel like hearing them again so he and Erica waited instead of stuffing into the elevator with the others.

The Battery is Director Stilinski's brainchild. He had developed it based on the kinds of tests that he and his wife had to undertake in the military and CIA. Like those tests, the Battery is meant to take participants to their limit and in some cases even further.

In its infancy, the Battery was solely physical: be able to properly use a gun or defend yourself in the event of an enemy attack while unarmed. As time passed the written exam was implemented, then they included the bomb defusing, the hacking, the security override practices. Everyone needed to know the basics of everyone else’s fields, in case of an emergency or a death.

The desk in the middle of the room is still empty when they arrive and Derek huffs. He contemplates stepping back out but the locker room doors open before he gets the chance to turn.

Noah emerges first and Stiles follows close behind, wearing nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs. They make their way toward the desk and Derek makes his way toward the seat next to Erica, the one just outside of where Stiles’ line of sight would be when he sits at the desk.

Stiles takes his seat and his father moves to the front of the room. Out of the corner of his eye, Derek sees Erica shift to cross her arms over her chest, Danny rests his palm on Ethan’s knee and Lydia inspects her nails as she crosses her legs at the ankles.

“The Battery’s written examination instructions are as follows,” Noah starts, making Derek’s gaze snap back to the front of the room where something catches his eye.

There is a knot, obvious in the lights shining down from the ceiling, on Stiles’ shoulder.

Derek knows every one of Stiles’ scars—from the ones he got when he was a kid to the ones that Derek regretted letting him suffer when he was in the field—and he had never seen this one before. It looks like a gunshot wound, left by a bullet that only grazed Stiles flesh but went deep enough to make it’s mark. He doesn’t understand when Stiles, charged with two undercover operations, would have been shot at. Derek exhales sharply because looking at the scar is making his stomach turn.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Erica turn her head to look at him. He shakes his head minutely and tries to listen to what Director Stilinski is reciting, but his eyes go back to the wound.

“Good luck son,” Noah is muttering then kisses the top of Stiles’ head.

Stiles looks up, probably to smile at his father, before Noah turns to step out of the room. The Director never sits the Batteries and when asked, never gave any clear indication as to why not.

Derek watches the scar move as Stiles takes another deep breath then turns his eyes up to the clock on the front wall. Ten seconds to go before Stiles has to start testing at one. Derek turns his head up now and so do the others.

Four. Three. Two…

Lydia generated the first page of questions and Derek had asked specifically that she include one about the Russian VI-35, just so he can assure that Stiles was indeed listening that morning and had revisited what Derek told him to write on the sheet of paper. She had given Derek another knowing look but placed the question at number 2.

Stiles bounces his leg and Derek’s gaze drops to the scar on the back of that calf. It sits three inches above Stiles’ Achilles tendon, from when, in the middle of a fight, a target who was trying to escape tackled him into a glass table that shattered under their weight. When he came limping back from Italy, bandages wrapped all along his leg, crutches under his arms and an unblemished Allison at his side, Derek saw red. Allison would possess a matching scar if Stiles hadn’t moved between them and talked Derek down.

“Forty-five minutes,” Harley announces as Derek shakes himself away from the memory.

The instructions say that the proctors are there to watch the participant for any signs of unease as well as provide them with a mid-to-high-pressure situation. If one can’t handle the feeling of up to a dozen sets of eyes watching the completion of a 12-question examination in under an hour then one can’t be expected to handle oneself in the event of an emergency. More often than not, the proctors sitting outside the participant’s view end up staring off into space or through a crack in the blinds drawn down over the windows. Harley always sits front and center, right where the participant can see her if they look up and always wearing a scowl, no matter how close of friends they were.

Derek and Allison were the ones sitting with Stiles the first time he took this test because Harley was with Danny and Aiden in Thailand. Derek remembers his stomach sinking every time Stiles would look up at him. Twenty-three times Stiles raised his head and Derek thought it was because he was having trouble so Derek would always give him a reassuring smile, because he was otherwise powerless to help. If Stiles hadn’t passed, he would have to wait six months before he could try again, which would have devastated him, but Stiles came through and scored a 94.

Stiles hasn’t raised his head a single time since he started, but that could be because Stiles can’t look up and see Derek. He does seem more confident though. His shoulders aren’t even hunched. Derek’s eyes are drawn back to the scar he doesn’t recognize.

“Thirty minutes,” Danny says and Stiles shifts in his seat.

He had said that a drunk driver hit Claudia in Munich and Derek wonders if Stiles was in the car with her and that’s where he got that scar. Derek shakes that thought from his head because from what he saw of Stiles’ chest when he came out of the locker room, he couldn't have suffered a collision, there weren't any old wounds from coming into contact with shards from broken windshield.

Derek pulls in a short breath and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He knows about the tiny burn scar on Stiles’ left knee from when he and Cora had tried cigarettes. Stiles, in the middle of a coughing fit, had let the thing slip from his fingers and land, burning end down, right between the lines of the rip in his jeans. Peter congratulated them on the foray into adulthood but Noah grounded Stiles for six weeks and banned him from the Hale house for twice as long. There’s an almost imperceptible cut on Stiles’ right thumb from the first time he took the Battery and Noah had Derek tie him to a wooden chair and time how long it took him to escape. Stiles had managed to break out after two hours and ended up with a dislocated shoulder and an inch-long splinter in his thumb for the trouble. There was a bruise forming on Stiles’ lower back by the time he was getting ready to go to Berlin because Derek had backed him into the bedroom doorknob, but that’s long healed by now.

Erica pulls out her phone to look at the screen then places it under her leg.

Derek gulps when the action makes him realize that he had been staring, gaze flicking over Stiles’ body to the places he remembers Stiles being hurt. He leans back in the chair again.

Erica takes a quick breath and starts to exhale, “Fift—” but Stiles cuts her off with, “I’m done.”

Derek raises his shoulders and has to stop himself from asking Stiles if he’s sure.

Stiles remains seated as Harley stands and moves toward the desk to grab the test sheet. She walks around him as she runs her pinkie down the paper, checking the answers. Once she’s finished, she hands it to Lydia so she can do the same and so on until everyone has seen Stiles’ test.

Derek takes his time reading, making sure that Stiles had answered every question, even going so far as to score the test then go back and start again.

“Jeez Derek,” Stiles groans over his own shoulder, “way to keep a guy in suspense.”

Derek rolls his eyes and makes his way to the end of the exam again.

“Looks like 97,” he says, raising his head toward his colleagues, who had crowded around him, and decidedly keeping his gaze away from Stiles when he turned around in the seat.

“That’s what I said too,” Lydia chimes.

“I thought it was 98,” Harley counters and others mutter their agreement.

“No because…” Lydia and Derek start in unison then glance at each other.

Derek nods and Lydia continues, “He said that M26-series grenades were used during the Korean War but it was the Korean and Vietnam wars, so half points.”

“Plus he didn’t take into consideration the air vents as a method of ingress for enemy agents into Headquarters,” Derek adds then glances at Kira. “So that would actually make it a 96.”

Stiles starts, “But Kira’s countermeasures—”

“Kira’s good but there’s always a way around a security system,” Derek interjects as he looks Stiles in the eyes for the first time. “Always.”

“Whatever,” Stiles huffs. “I passed and that’s what really matters.”

“And two points higher than last time,” Danny smiles.

“You passed the written exam,” Derek asserts as he stands and watches the smile on Stiles’ face droop. “Don’t get complacent. This was the easy part.”

“I know,” Stiles scoffs. “I’ve done this before, remember?”

“I remember you not taking this seriously,” Derek says, his voice sounding harsh in the otherwise silent room. “You did great here, but tomorrow it’s going to be different. Not to mention next week when the real work begins.”

Stiles’ jaw tenses.

Derek silently moves forward and hands him the test paper then turns for the door.

The room is still just as silent when he steps out.

|

Director Stilinski is pacing by the windows on the far wall with the phone to his ear when Stiles steps into his office.

“How long?” he's saying, unaware that his son is standing by the door. “It’s doable but all my agents are preoccupied with other operations or the B—” His eyes find Stiles when he turns to make a loop in the corner of the room. “Hold on,” he says into the phone before resting it on his chest and turning his chin up at his son.

“I passed!” Stiles whispers sharply as he holds up the test paper with Harley’s 96 written on it in red marker.

Noah squints at the score for a moment then puts the phone back to his ear with a hum.

“Actually I might have someone for the job,” he says with a smile. “Yeah, I’ll see you then.”

“What’s up?” Stiles asks as his father hangs up the phone but keeps holding it in his hands.

“How would you like a practice exercise?”

Stiles eyes widen. “Definitely.”

Noah points to his chair. “Sit down.”

Chapter Text

Lydia’s test always comes after the written exam because if someone managed to pass that first test but was incapable of stopping the timer on a bomb then their incompetence would save the other BEACON agents the trouble of dealing with them in the future.

Derek tries to remember which of his colleagues had spouted those words as he makes his way into the bullpen and finds Lydia and Stiles sitting at Allison’s desk.

“So then...I would cut the green wire, right?” Derek hears Stiles say as he approaches.

Lydia hums. “Are you asking me or telling me?”

As he moves closer, Derek notices there is a contraption sitting before Stiles on the desk, even closer and he sees it has a timer that is counting down.

“No, I…” Stiles flips through a few pages in the handbook he has perched on the edge of the desk. The hand resting next to the modified pipe bomb is shaking. “I cut the blue wire.”

“Thirty-six seconds ‘til we die,” Lydia says then whips her hair over her shoulder and smiles at Derek.

He arches his brow at her.

“Shit,” Stiles says softly.

“Derek’s here,” Lydia announces and Stiles turns to look at him. “You don’t want him to get blown to pieces do you?”

Derek glares at her as Stiles faces the bomb again.

“Fuck it.”

Stiles snips the green wire with a pair of pliers that Derek hadn’t noticed he had. The timer starts counting down faster.

Stiles yells and stands up out of the chair. He looks back at Derek with a helpless expression then he looks at Lydia then at the bomb.

He whimpers, “I don’t...”

With fourteen seconds left, Lydia hooks her pinkie around one of the wires hanging out the side and tugs it out of the socket, stopping the timer at nine seconds.

Stiles groans and drops heavily back into Allison’s chair then lays his forehead on the edge of the desk.

“See,” Lydia starts, “this is exactly why Erica said that thing about my test always being second.”

Derek chuckles then sobers quickly to give her a stern gaze.

“I hate it when you do that.”

“It’s just more practice.” She shrugs. “That he clearly needs.”

“I’m gonna kill you,” Stiles groans into his lap then raises his head. “And that’s not a threat, I literally mean that I’m gonna fuck this up and kill you.”

“No you won’t,” Lydia says as she pats his shoulder. “And you know why?”

Stiles sighs heavily. “Because you believe in me?”

Lydia purses her lips. “Because there’ll be 12 inches of granite between the test area and where Jordan and I will be watching from. So if you give up and make it to the door in time, at worst, you’ll fail and there’ll end up being a dent in the wall but at least you’ll be alive.”

Stiles lets out another heavy sigh before picking up the handbook and making his way toward his father’s office.

“I thought you said he was doing fine,” Derek says once Stiles steps through the door.

“He is.”

“His hands were shaking,” Derek argues. “That doesn’t exactly show confidence.”

“It’s a life or death situation.” Lydia shrugs as she turns to pick up her bomb. “Wouldn’t your hands shake?”

“If he’s not ready, then he shouldn’t test.”

“If he wasn’t ready he wouldn’t have chosen to start testing in the first place.” She shakes her head as she makes her way to her desk with the bomb clutched in her hand like a purse. “Stiles isn’t green, he knows what he can and can’t do.” She bends underneath the desk to pick up a bag then sets the bomb inside it. “I know you’re worried about him—”

“I’m worried about the Nemeton,” Derek interjects. “If he does fuck up and the bomb blows, someone is bound to hear it and come investigating and then who’s going to explain why there’s a hidden bunker full of bomb parts in the middle of the woods?”

“You,” she replies with an insincere smile.

Derek opens his mouth at the same time Parrish calls out, “Sorry I'm late,” as he steps out of Marin’s office.

“You’re not late,” Lydia assures with a considerably more genuine smile. “We have all day.”

Parrish shrugs. “Well anyway I’m ready now, so...”

“Stiles!” Lydia calls and he almost immediately appears in his father’s doorway. “Are you ready?”

He gives her a solemn nod and his eyes shift to Derek for a second before he turns to wave goodbye to his father.

Derek watches the three of them climb into the elevator. As Parrish pushes the button to take them to the clinic floor, Derek's mouth twitches with the urge to ask if he can go with them, even though he knows he can't.

The physical tests only need two proctors: the pair most skilled in the process of whatever was planned for that day. Parrish was no longer a field agent but he was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist in the army so he is more qualified to go along.

Derek notices Stiles staring at him right before the doors close. He smiles before he can catch himself. At least Stiles can find some comfort in it until their lines of sight are cut off.

Kira appears at his shoulder and softly tells him, “Allison’s on the phone to check in.”

Derek turns away from the elevator to walk with her to the control room.

The Nemeton is situated in the middle of the woods, just outside the nature preserve and concealed underground so they didn’t have to disrupt the wildlife. It’s on Hale family property but Derek is the only one who knows exactly where it is and his sisters never bothered to ask why it is there, even when Noah went to Laura for permission to hire the three different independent contractors to build beneath their land.

It shouldn’t take Lydia, Parrish and Stiles long to get there, twelve minutes for the drive followed by a twenty-six-minute hike through the woods until they reach the ring of bear traps that surround the stump of a fallen tree they use as a marker for the door.

Lydia had started using the space for about a year after a narrow escape with a would-be agent almost blew Headquarters off the face of the Earth. That man—sworn to secrecy at the urging of Allison’s various sniper rifles—has since left to pursue what he deemed to be a less dangerous lifestyle. Though he moved two states over, Greenberg still gets occasional visits from BEACON agents, just to ensure that he keeps that secret close to his chest.

Derek returns to his office after the call with Boyd and Allison with the knowledge that the operation is going according to plan and the target doesn’t realize that he’s playing himself right into their hands.

He stands by the windows, staring out at the city with his arms crossed over his chest and he doesn’t know whether he’s waiting for the impending explosion or the sound of Stiles’ excitedly howling as he runs in-between the desks.

Three quick raps at his door make him turn around to see Erica making her way into the room.

“What is it?” he asks when she stands beside him.

She shrugs. “Just wondering what the plan is in case he fails.”

Derek huffs then says, “Stiles isn’t going to fail,” but he doesn’t know if he believes his own words.

“It’s been almost two hours.”

“Parrish was late so they left late,” Derek counters. “Plus Stiles isn’t big on hiking.”

Derek can picture him whining and dragging his feet.

“You really think he can do it?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what Lydia and Parrish think.”

“Say he does fail,” she starts with a sigh. “What is the plan?”

“Same as it’s always been.”

“So...lie.”

Derek chuckles, “We’ll deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he watches her turn toward him.

“Isn’t that something Stiles used to say?”

“Yeah.” Derek schools his expression back to passive and tells her, “It’s an X-Files reference,” as the memory of them watching that rerun together flows through his mind.

Erica hums before turning back to the window.

“You’re probably right,” she says with a shrug. “A fiery death would be a little redundant.”

Derek takes a deep breath and closes his eyes when the sweet memory evaporates with the heat he imagined Stiles suffered, trapped in that car as it burned around him.

Erica exclaims, “Oh shit, I’m sorry.”

He almost gags when he says, “It’s okay,” and reopens his eyes.

“God, how come that’s still happening?” Erica asks and at first he doesn’t understand what she means. “You know he’s alive. He’s been back for months.”

Derek sighs, “Marin says it’s because of my anxiety and the grief.” He shakes his head. “Thinking about it still stresses me out so my body reverts to that coping mechanism.”

Erica scoffs, “I wish he hadn’t come back.”

Derek purses his lips and gulps but he doesn’t look at her. He finds himself disapproving of her words.

After a long, quiet moment, Erica sighs.

“Anyway, I only came in here because Jackson was pissing me off, so...I guess I should get back to work.”

Derek nods and she pats him on the shoulder as she steps away. He stays by the window for a little while longer then goes back to his desk.

The elevator comes and goes three times in the next fifteen minutes and Derek stares through his doorway in anticipation every time it arrives, but Noah is the only one to walk into his office.

“Have you heard from them?” he asks, which makes Derek’s stomach drop.

“No, I…” He gulps and rises from his chair. “Is there anything on the news?”

Noah starts shaking his head as he says, “I haven’t ch—”

The elevator dings one more time and Stiles’ uproarious voice can be heard before the doors even open. Derek and Noah let out twin sighs.

“I did it!” Stiles yells as he fist-pumps his way into the bullpen. “I disarmed a bomb!”

Derek's body moves before his mind can catch up but Noah shoulders passed to wrap his arms around his son, forcing Derek to realize that he was about to do the same thing.

“We were done an hour ago,” Parrish says. “She yelled at him for an hour.”

Noah pulls away from his son to scoff, “How close did you cut it?”

“Three seconds,” Lydia replies, grinding her teeth.

“I knew I had it,” Stiles explains, eyes darting between his father and Derek. “It just took a while to remember the sequence.”

Noah slaps Stiles on the side of the head. “Think a little faster next time.”

Stiles frowns and rubs the spot where his father hit him as his gaze lands firmly on Derek.

“You're awful quiet over there,” he huffs. “You don't want to come slap me too?”

“No.” Derek shakes his head. “I'm proud of you.”

To Derek's ears, everything in the room ceases all sound as everyone turns to look at him.

Stiles' lips twitch before he manages to gasp out, “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Derek gulps as his chest up to his scalp flush with heat. “Good job.”

He doesn't know who to look at so he turns away from the group and makes his way back to his office then closes the door.

|

“Dude,” Stiles sighed as he rested his elbow on the back porch bench’s arm and his chin in his palm. He watched, rapt, as Derek mowed the lawn. “Your brother is so hot.”

Cora, sitting next to him with an apple in her mouth, cried out a muffled, “What?!”

Stiles didn't dare turn away from the view even as she choked beside him.

She managed to squeak, “What did you just—? No. I don't need to hear you say that again.”

“Well he is.” Stiles shrugged. “Like super hot, like a sidewalk in the middle of summer hot, like Icarus flying too close to the sun hot, like—”

“Stooop!” she groaned and out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw her cover her ears but he couldn't look away from Derek wiping his arm over his forehead to catch the sweat there before it ran into his eyes.

“Jesus I don't even get what people see in him,” she whined.

“It's because he's all dark and brooding,” Stiles answered easily. “It adds to the overall hotness.”

“He's dark and brooding because our parents are dead, our sister’s off doing god-knows-what, and our uncle’s being investigated for money laundering.”

“I know.” Stiles dragged his eyes away from Derek and turned to see Cora's face wearing a deep frown. He raised his hand to rub her back. “I was just explaining what people see in him. I know Derek is all cotton candy fluff on the inside.”

“I can't believe you have a crush on my brother.” She shrugged off his hand. “He's 17 and you're 13. That's sick!”

“Well, one day I'm gonna be 18 and he'll only be 22 and know what?” He leaned closer to whisper, “We're gonna do stuff to each other.”

“Oh my god!” Cora shrieked as she stood away from the bench, away from Stiles.

“Cora?” Derek called from the lawn. He shut off the mower and raised his hand to block the sun from his eyes. “You okay?”

“No! Stiles is over here being gross talking about—”

Stiles jolted up off the bench and softly pled, “Cora no!”

She huffed, “Talking about...about dissecting frogs in Bio.”

Derek shook his head and said, “Stiles quit bugging my sister,” then restarted the mower.

“Will do,” he said with a salute but Derek hadn't heard or seen him.

Cora rolled her eyes as she sat on the bench again.

“Thank you best friend,” Stiles smiled and sat next to her.

“Scott’s your only best friend now,” she groused.

“You're right.” Stiles nodded. “I should be saying thank you sister-in-la-AH!”

He hadn't seen the punch coming and when it connected, right between his legs, Stiles ended up on the wooden floor of the porch. He writhed there in pain while Cora finished her apple and Derek mowed the lawn.

Stiles is coming out of the grocery store when he hears her voice and freezes.

Cora is sitting on the concrete bench just outside the store doors, the little girl that was perched on Laura's hip the last time he saw her was now straddling Cora’s lap and twisting her hair into a sloppy braid.

He doesn't know if he should take the chance on moving closer in case she attacks him so he stands there, just staring.

It doesn’t take long for her to notice the figure in her periphery and turn toward him, her eyes squinting in the afternoon sunlight.

“Hey,” Stiles says with a sweet smile and raises the bag in his hand with a wave.

She turns her head and grumbles, “Of all the grocery stores in the city...in the county.”

“This one was closest,” he counters as he tentatively steps toward her. “Derek and I used to shop here all the time. Can I sit?”

She shrugs but doesn’t shift over, leaving him with no space to set down his bags so he puts them on the ground.

“Hi, I don’t think we properly met before,” he starts as he wipes his palms on his jeans then holds a hand out to the girl on Cora’s lap. “I’m Stiles.”

The little girl looks at his hand and Cora supplies, “Her name’s Ollie and she’s not supposed to talk to strangers.”

Stiles returns his hand to his lap. “She yours?”

Cora snorts. “Laura’s.”

“Oh.” Stiles clears his throat. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you guys just sitting out here?”

“We came down to get her stuff for school but we couldn’t find what the teacher wanted so now we’re waiting for Laura to pick us up,” Cora replies as she plays with a lock of Ollie's hair from the top of her head to her waist.

Stiles nods slowly as he turns to look out at the parking lot.

“How far away is she? Cuz I could take you home if you want.”

“Do you happen to have a car seat?”

“Oh.” Stiles squeezes his eyes closed. “No. Sorry.”

He reopens his eyes when one of the bags falls over onto its side with a gust of wind that makes both girls’ hair fly.

Stiles shifts his hips on the hard surface of the bench.

“Far be it from me to ruin the moment but...does this easy conversation mean that you’re not mad at me anymore?”

Cora lets out a soft laugh but she doesn’t reply.

Stiles gulps. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m furious over what you did,”—Stiles wishes she would at least look at him while she speaks—“and I won’t promise that I’ll ever really forgive you, but seeing as we grew up together and you were my best friend up until you abandoned my brother and drove him to the edge of sanity, it’s kind of hard to stay mad at you.”

Ollie looks over at him and he finds himself unable to meet even the child’s eyes so he looks down at his hands.

“Laura on the other hand?” Cora laughs in a way that makes him clench his jaw. “She barely knew you and you broke her baby brother so if I were you, I would do my best to avoid her.” She moves her knees up and down so Ollie bounces. “Mama’s been taking kickboxing lessons, huh? She can knock the mean man into next month without breaking a sweat, isn’t that right?”

Ollie’s laugh is uproarious and it makes Stiles stomach sink.

Cora still doesn't face him but he knows he's being addressed when she asks, “I bet you’re getting one of either reaction from all sides, huh?”

“Yeah,” he replies solemnly.

“Good.”

Stiles’ lower lip starts to quiver.

“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” he says softly. “I thought it would be easier for him to let me go.”

“How could you think that?” Cora shakes her head. “You were everything to him.”

Stiles sweeps his tongue around his mouth. He doesn’t think he ever truly believed that. He could never fathom Derek—smart, loyal, perfect Derek Hale—would be so deep in love with him that he would put everything, everyone he held dear in jeopardy all because he lost Stiles.

“He was gonna propose.”

Stiles exhales heavily, “I know.”

“Is that why you ran?”

“I didn’t run.” He rolls his eyes. “There was something I had to do.”

“Hope it was worth it.”

He tries not to think about the consequences that would have presented themselves had he chosen Derek over his own mother.

“No one’s telling me everything that happened to him.”

Cora licks her lips.

“Don’t you think I deserve to know all the damage I did?”

She shakes her head. “It's not my place to tell you.”

“I know he got demoted and I know he developed...well I guess I should say fell deeper into anxiety.”—The little girl looks at Stiles and it makes his stomach turn to realize that she recognizes that word—“I know he needed therapy to get over me.”

“He needed therapy because we were convinced he would try to go with you.”

The revelation makes Stiles swallow a sob.

“He wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do his job,” she continues. “He stopped being Derek the day he found out that you died.” Her soft laugh takes Stiles by surprise. “That is, until your dad brought Marin in, which he didn't have to do because he knew you were fine in the first place. But she fixed him up and got him feeling better, at least. Braeden did the rest.”

Stiles couldn't help the scoff that breaks out of his throat.

“They had their first anniversary recently,” Cora continues and Stiles grinds his teeth. “Derek didn't call that night so we figured they were fu—”

“I defused a bomb today,” he interjects and ignores the smirk Cora isn't even trying to hide. “If I'd waited another four seconds, I wouldn't even be here right now. Isn't that so cool?”

Cora hums. “So you thought you'd celebrate with three bags of chips?”

Stiles looks down at the bags of Tostitos brand chips and grumbles, “I couldn't decide between original, hint-of-lime, or scoops.”

She scoffs, “Scoops all the way,” and finally turns so he can see her brown eyes; so much like his that, when they were kids, they tried to convince people that they were twins. “They're the same as original but in bowl form and hint-of-lime tastes like lime-flavored sandpaper.”

Stiles chuckles, “I'll have to call you next time I come shopping.”

Something dings and Cora reaches down on her other side to grab her phone.

“Laura's on her way,” she announces after reading the message on her screen. “You should go.”

“I'm gonna win you back, I promise,” he says, standing.

Cora snickers as she holds tight to her niece and stands with him. When she reaches out with the arm not holding Ollie to her side, Stiles dodges her grasp and grabs onto her wrist when he notices the ring on her finger, a silver band so thin he had missed it their entire conversation. It could easily be mistaken for a piece of string.

“Who’s the lucky guy?” he asks.

“You don’t need to worry about that,” she counters with a roll of the eyes. “Do you want this hug or not?”

“Not,” Stiles scoffs. “Don't think I forgot you go for the nuts when you're mad at me. No no no.” He reaches down for his bags. “I don't need to be kicked back to pre-pubescence.”

Cora laughs and adjusts Ollie on her hip.

Ollie waves at him and he returns it with enthusiasm then takes a deep breath that draws his shoulders up before starting toward his Jeep.

Chapter Text

Harley had scheduled day three to be Danny’s day, which usually means Danny or Kira would be in the control room setting up the virus while the participant waits to be called for testing; but for the last hour Stiles has been sitting behind the locked door of the Director’s office with his father and a pair of unknowns.

The security feed Derek and Kira are watching from the control room has muted audio and it makes Derek uneasy. He feels impaired when it comes to making the decision whether or not to sound the alarm if one of them says something untoward.

“They’re just talking,” Kira grumbles. “They’ve been talking nonstop for almost two hours. Who does that?”

Derek raises his eyebrows at her. “You can take a break if you want.”

She shakes her head. “I’m just sayin’.”

“Got ‘em,” Jackson exclaims from the other end of the table, where he had been sitting running facial recognition on the duo. “The old guy is Henry Tate and the girl is his daughter, Malia,” he announces as he picks up his laptop to move closer to Derek and Kira.

Derek furrows his brows. “Why do I know those names?”

“They’re Coyotes,” Jackson replies as he sets down the laptop and points at the screen, where dozens of windows are open showing information about the father and daughter.

Kira frowns at the laptop. “So...they’re like…?”

“They’re like people smugglers,” Jackson finishes.

“Well what could they possibly want with us? We don’t smuggle anything, let alone people.”

“Maybe they’re here for protection,” Derek ventures.

Kira scoffs, “Don’t Coyotes usually have like, arsenals?”

Jackson snorts. “You’re thinking of Border Patrol.”

“Okay, so...it seems like Noah’s seriously considering helping them and if he’s seriously considering helping them then that means he’s been compromised, right?”

Derek shakes his head. “We don’t know why they’re here.”

“We’re about to find out,” Jackson replies, nodding to the monitor where they can see Henry reaching across the desk to shake Noah’s hand.

The agents watch as the pair makes their way out of the office. Kira switches the feed to the ones in the bullpen and they watch the Coyotes move into the elevator before Derek leaves the control room.

Stiles is stepping through Noah’s open door, eyes down and his fingers flicking over his phone screen as Derek moves toward him.

“Hey,” Derek starts and Stiles halts right before he collides with Derek’s chest.

“Hey,” he replies as he pushes his phone into his pocket.

“Who were those people?” Derek asks, nodding toward the Director’s office door.

“Uh Malia and Henry Tate.” Stiles grins, “Of the Southern California Tates.”

“Coyotes,” Derek deadpans.

Stiles searches his eyes then nods slowly.

“What do they want?”

“Protection,” Stiles says then shrugs. “Well, protection for Malia.”

“What’d your dad say?”

“Said we’d do it.”

Derek steps passed Stiles, headed toward Noah’s office.

“Since when are we working with lawbreakers?” he asks as he steps in, which earns him a stern look.

Noah interweaves his fingers then lays both hands on top of his desk.

“Since when do you just barge in here?”

Derek takes a deep breath and clenches his jaw.

Noah hums. “If you must know, I’m doing an old friend a favor.”—That takes Derek aback—“He asked me to get someone to watch his daughter so I got someone to watch his daughter.”

“Who?”

“My son.”

Derek folds his arms over his chest. “Stiles isn’t cleared for field work.”

“All he has to do is keep an eye on the girl in her own hotel room for a few hours.” Noah shrugs. “If you feel so inclined, you’re welcome to go with him.”

Oh no!” Stiles exclaims as he moves into the room and stands between Derek and his father’s desk.  “No no no, Dad you promised I could do this one on my own.”

Derek shakes his head. “These people could be dangerous, Stiles, you—”

You don’t even know anything about them,” Stiles argues. “Henry was born and raised in Mexico. His daughter spent half her life there after her mom abandoned her on Henry’s doorstep without so much as a note. They either know or know a relative of every single person they sneak across the border and, unlike practically everybody else, they're not using people for sex trafficking or drug peddling. They're just trying to help them get a chance at a better life and isn’t that what we all want?”

Derek raises his brows.

“What?” Stiles scoffs. “I did my homework.”

Noah snickers.

Derek looks at Noah then back at Stiles.

“I want to be updated,” Derek says.

“Duh,” Stiles snorts. “I’ll give you a call every hour, on the hour and I’ll have a written report on your desk by morning.” He nods once. “Sound good?”

Derek searches Stiles’ eyes and dutifully ignores the clench in his stomach, then repeats Stiles’ action. “Sounds good.”

“Good.” Stiles jabs his thumb over his shoulder. “I’m starving so I’m gonna grab something before I test. You guys want anything?”

“Cheeseburger and onion rings from Mary’s,” Noah responds.

Stiles turns to his father with an incredulous look. “I heard Cobb salad,” he says then ignores the look of disgust on Noah’s face as he turns back to Derek. “What about you?”

Derek shakes his head. “I’m fine.”

Stiles snaps his fingers on both hands. “Be right back.”

Derek waits until Stiles is out of the room before he turns to Noah and asks, “Where’s the dossier?”

Noah shakes his head. “This one's off the books. It’s a practice, remember?”

Derek scoffs, which makes Noah sigh.

“Something the matter?”

“All due respect, Sir, I don't appreciate being left out of the loop.”

“As far as I recall, you report to me, not the other way around.”

“I'm just—”

“Anything you wanna know, you can ask,” he interjects then leans back in his chair.

“Fine.” Derek shrugs. “How did you come to be old friends with a Coyote?”

“We met when I was still in the service,” Noah replies. “My team was doing some work in Mexico and he was running one of the businesses in the town where we were stationed. He and I got to talking and drinking and we happened to stay in touch after my team left.”

Satisfied, Derek nods then asks, “Stiles said they were here for protection. Protection from what?”

“Malia's mother.”

“Her mother?” Kira exclaims from the doorway.

Noah's eyes flit to her at the same time that Derek turns over his shoulder to see her shrug.

“I was curious,” she says, stepping into the room.

“Yes, her mother,” Noah sighs. “She's on a special task force meant to come up with new and exciting ways to slow down the influx of illegal immigrants coming into the United States. But there's talk that her methods are...unorthodox.”

“Meaning what?” Kira asks, her voice soft as if Noah is telling a ghost story in a darkened room.

Derek furrows his brows. “She kills the immigrants?”

Noah shakes his head. “She more often returns the immigrants, but when it comes to the Coyotes it’s shoot first ask questions later.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Derek sees Kira glance at him before she asks, “Even her own daughter?”

Noah purses his lips. “Malia chose this life.”

Derek clears his throat. “So Stiles is watching out for her tonight because…?”

“Because Henry has business in the city but he doesn't want Malia in the same place as him in case her mother anticipated the arrival and tries to take them both out. The two of them go down, there's no one to run their...outfit.”

“Why even bring her in the first place?” Kira asks.

“She's hard-headed. Wouldn't let her father come alone.”

Derek sighs.

“Have your curiosities been satisfied?” Noah asks, looking back and forth between his agents. “Can I have my office back now?”

Kira nods and immediately turns for the door but Derek lingers a moment longer before he leaves.

“Jackson,” he calls as he moves into the bullpen.

“What?” Jackson responds without turning away from whatever he’s doing on the laptop he carried from the control room to his desk.

“Send me everything you have on the Coyotes and whatever you can find on Malia's mother.”

Jackson turns his head up to look Derek with a scowl.

“I have other things to do y’know.”

“So do them after you do this.”

That earns him a scoff. “Do we at least have a name on the mom?”

“No.”

Jackson sighs heavily and rolls his eyes but nods.

Derek gives him a pat on the back of the shoulder as he turns for his office.

He is barely settled behind his desk when his laptop alerts him that he’s received a new email from Jackson. He chuckles when he’s reminded of something Stiles once said to him: Jackson may be a dick but he’s nothing if not efficient.

The subject line reads: Her name is Corinne.

“Okay,” Derek hears Stiles say as he makes it barely halfway through the charges that have been brought against Henry, Malia, and their employees alike. “I know you said you didn't want anything but did you know that Mary's has strawberry cheesecake milkshakes now?” He sets one of two cups he had desperately clutched to his chest next to Derek’s laptop. “I got us both one.”

Derek sighs as he looks at the cup.

“I know,” Stiles starts as he waves the hand holding the bag containing his and Noah’s food. “We're not together anymore so I should stop feeding you and I swear I'm gonna drop the habit but just try it, okay? It's delicious.”

“You keep offering me sweets,” Derek says, shaking his head.

After a second, Stiles stutters, “Uh...w-well to be fair, I brought you a fruit basket but your sister threw it out.”

Derek snickers and reaches out for the cup then brings the straw to his lips. He’s resisted trying the new milkshakes on Mary’s menu for well over a year now. He hadn’t even stepped foot in the diner for months, but he regrets making that choice as soon as he tastes the shake.

He makes a small noise in the back of his throat as he pulls the straw away and comments, “It’s really good,” then quickly licks his lips before looking back up at Stiles.

He almost doesn’t catch the heated stare Stiles is giving him before quickly turning away.

Stiles clears his throat then steps toward the door without another word.

Derek exhales heavily and he expects the sick feeling but it doesn’t come. Instead, he feels butterflies in the pit of his stomach for the second time today. He shakes his head hard and focuses his attention back on the Tates and Corinne.

It’s close to the time to go home when Stiles appears at Derek’s door frame again.

“Aced the hacking test,” he announces before Derek has the chance to ask why he’s standing there.

Derek doesn’t look up so he misses Stiles’ gaze drop to the trashcan next to the desk that now houses the empty milkshake container.

“Kira’s a good teacher,” Stiles continues. “Much more patient than Lydia.”

Derek barely resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“Kira hasn't been around you nearly long enough to figure out that it’s hard being patient with you.”

Stiles chuckles. “Anyway, I came by to tell you I'm leaving now to go to the hotel.”

He sighs, “I'll call you when I get there,” at the same time that Derek demands, “Call me when you get there.”

That makes Derek glance up in time to see Stiles suck his lower lip between his teeth as he stares at the floor. Derek looks back at the laptop as Stiles faces him again.

Stiles mutters, “Later,” as he departs from the doorway.

Derek closes his eyes and berates the butterflies that have fluttered to life in the pit of his gut.

It's seventeen minutes until Stiles makes good on his promise and tells Derek he’s walking through the hotel lobby. Derek is headed home by the second call. He gets the third as he is stepping into the loft and handing off a bag of groceries to Braeden so she can start on dinner. The fourth is almost a half hour late and the fifth doesn’t come at all. Neither does the sixth.

“What's wrong?” Braeden asks from the other end of the couch when he picks up his phone for what feels like the hundredth time to find he has no missed calls.

“Someone’s not checking in,” he says with a huff as he opens his phone only to close it again.

Braeden chuckles, “Don't they know you worry?”

Derek clenches his jaw. Stiles knows that better than anybody. He’s had more than his fair share of lectures about timely check-ins with base, even when they were away together.

“Hey.” She nudges him with her foot. “Did you hear me? I asked who it is.”

He frowns but doesn’t say.

After a moment, Braeden sighs and sets down the book she had been reading on the coffee table.

“I thought he wasn't cleared for field work,” she says as she settles closer to Derek.

Derek shakes his head. “His dad said this would be an easy one.”

“Have you tried calling him?”

Another shake of the head.

“Maybe you—”

“I should've just went with him,” Derek huffs as he stands away from the couch.

Braeden sighs softly and Derek checks his phone again as he starts pacing.

Everything he read about Corinne and her so-called ‘unorthodox’ methods starts running through his mind. If she and her team had located Malia and attacked them... Stiles is clearly not an immigrant, so he won’t be shipped off to a foreign country. He’ll be killed alongside Malia and Henry.

Derek takes a deep breath but doesn’t seem to be able to fill his lungs.

“Well it’s kinda late,” Braeden tries to soothe. “Maybe he went home and just forgot to call.”

“He wouldn't leave without calling me.”

“Well, he wouldn't necessarily have to leave to fall asleep.”

Derek barks, “Braeden, he's not that careless!”

The look on her face makes his stomach drop.

He sighs, “I’m sorry, I—”

The buzz of the phone in his hand startles Derek before it rings. He turns away from Braeden as he brings the phone to his ear.

“Stiles?”

“Hey Derek.” Stiles clears his throat. “Sorry for the uh for being late…” His voice trails off and it makes Derek's heart thud. “We lost track of time uh so more nothing happened over the past few hours. Malia…” He clears his throat again. “The target is asleep and I'm tired as hell myself but her dad's not back yet.”

Derek closes his eyes. “You have to stay there until he gets back.”

Stiles sighs, “I know Babe.”

The endearment makes the tension in Derek’s body diminish considerably. If Stiles feels safe enough to use his old nickname then the coast really must be clear. He turns over his shoulder to see Braeden still sitting where he left her. Her lips are pursed and she’s looking toward the door.

“Don't call me that,” he demands into the phone as he turns away from her again.

Stiles hums. “Sorry I uh...oh hey…one sec, Derek.”

The line goes quiet for a moment and Derek pulls his phone away to look at the screen.

He hears Stiles say, “Derek, I'm gonna go,” and he puts the phone back to his ear in time to hear, “I'll call you back when Mr. Tate gets here.”

“Are you sure everything's okay?”

Someone on the other end says something Derek can't quite make out.

“I promise I'm good,” Stiles says. “I'll call you back.”

Stiles hangs up and Derek scoffs, “He says he's fine.”

“Am I sleeping here?” Braeden replies.

Derek furrows his brow as he faces her again and finds her standing. “Isn’t...I thought that was the plan.”

She shrugs then crosses her arms over her chest.

Derek sighs as he starts toward her.

“I want you to stay tonight,” he says softly, exhaling on her lips before lightly kissing them.

She’s still frowning when he pulls away.

“Does that mean we’re going to bed now?”

Derek opens his mouth and his answer comes out in a stutter, “Y-yeah...I just…” He feels like his skin is itching all over and the displeased look on her face is making it worse. “In a little bit,” he finally answers and watches her jaw tighten. “I’m going to wait up until Tate gets back but you can go ahead. I'll be right there.”

She studies his face then steps away from him, headed towards the bathroom.

The phone starts ringing again by the time Braeden is about to climb under the covers. She sits on the edge of the bed instead and watches him answer it.

“Alright he's back,” Stiles says. “So I'm heading out in a little. Text you when I get back to HQ?”

“Call.”

There’s a pause before Stiles replies, “Will do.”

Braeden shifts in his periphery after he hangs up.

She asks, “What now?”

“He's leaving,” Derek says then looks up to catch her nod. “I told him to call when he gets back though so...”

She lies back against the pillows and he starts twirling the phone in his hand.

“I’m exhausted,” she groans after a while.

He frowns. “I know.”

“You should be over here.” She lets out a heavy sigh then looks at him. “Can’t you just bring the phone to bed?”

“I thought we had a thing about that,” he says with a small smile that she doesn’t return.

Derek sighs when the phone rings in his hand again.

“Hey,” Stiles breathes when Derek answers. “Sorry for making you wait up and super sorry for not calling for like five hours but...I made it and it looks like Dad hasn’t fell asleep at his desk so we're gonna debrief and I'll start working on that report.”

“Good.”

“Thanks so much Derek.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll reward you generously, I swear.”

Derek softly laughs, “No more sweets please.”

“No okay maybe like...do you have a Bowflex cuz I can buy you a Bowflex if you want one.”

Derek can feel Braeden’s eyes on him so he reins in the smile threatening to spread across his face.

“Good night Stiles.”

“Night.”

With a heavy sigh, Derek sets the phone down on the coffee table then makes his way toward the bed.

“I’m so sorry I yelled at you,” he whispers against Braeden’s ear as she rolls over to let him curl his body around her.

She replies with a short hum.

Chapter Text

“Last day kiddo,” his father says from the doorway. “You ready?”

Stiles’ fingers stutter over the keyboard on his laptop just as his voice stutters to answer, “Y-Yeah I uh...you remember that thing I...told you happened last night?” He turns his chair so he can see his father’s confused expression. “With Malia?”

Noah narrows his eyes. “The kiss?”

Stiles nods.

“What about it?”

“I don't…” Stiles huffs then gestures over his shoulder at the laptop. “I'm not sure I should put that in there.”

“Why not?”

Stiles jerks his head forward. “Derek's gonna read it.”

Understanding shows on Noah’s face as he sighs, “If it happened in the field you put it in the report Stiles, that’s the rule.”

“I know, but—”

“And despite how Derek may feel about it, he’d want you to be mindful of the rules.”

Stiles closes his eyes and shakes his head. “I just...I don’t want this to push us back again.”

Noah leans against the doorjamb. “What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s somehow miraculously getting over me lying to him and me telling you to lie to him...” Stiles sighs, “But now there’s this, I… He’s starting to worry about me again, Dad.”

“Stiles,” Noah sighs in the way that always means that his son isn’t going to like what he has to say next. “Much as I hate to say this,”—Stiles bows his head—“You and Derek aren’t together anymore, so he won’t regard a kiss that you didn’t even see coming as cheating.”

Stiles wipes his nose as he raises his head.

“I hope you’re right,” he grumbles as he presses the button to print the report.

Stiles’ stomach feels like it’s full of bricks the whole ride to the clinic.

His knock at Derek’s door is barely audible even to his own ears and he tells himself that if Derek doesn’t face him by the count of five, he was going to shred the report and say he forgot to do it. Stiles gets to four before Derek turns those beautiful hazel eyes in his direction.

“Mornin’,” Stiles says, forcing a smile.

Derek nods to the folder in his hand. “That it?”

Stiles mimics the action then starts forward when Derek gestures him in with the hand not holding a cup of coffee. He stands in front of the desk with the report still in his hand until Derek asks,

“Are you going to hand it over?”

“Yeah, um about that...I was thinking how since this one was off the books then you don’t really need to read this, right?”

Derek narrows his eyes. “You can’t possibly still be that bad at writing reports.”

Stiles laughs nervously.

“We don’t have time for this,” Derek says, holding out his hand for the folder and waiting until Stiles places it between his fingers. “You have two tests to take today and I’m proctor for both.”

“Oh?” Stiles folds his arms over his chest and pretends to be nonchalant about the idea of spending a whole day with Derek.

“Yes,” Derek sighs as he stands. “The first one because Allison isn’t here and the second with Kira.”

“Cool,” Stiles says as he watches Derek set down the folder in front of his laptop.

“Did you bring a change of clothes?”

Stiles looks back up then pats the bag hanging from his shoulder.

Derek nods. “Okay, let’s go.”

Stiles doesn’t understand why his legs suddenly feel like jello as he moves toward the elevator with Derek behind him. The thought of participating in this test shouldn’t unnerve him, he could probably dismantle and reassemble a handgun in his sleep. The combat performance would be a breeze too. Kira had all but stopped practicing with him by the second week because she deemed him capable enough not to really need it. He takes a deep breath when the elevator doors close, leaving them standing shoulder to shoulder in the enclosed space.

“What?” Derek softly asks as he pushes the button to take them to the sub-basement.

Stiles shakes his head. “Stomach feels weird.”

“You’re gonna do fine.”

“Yeah,” Stiles replies with a crooked smile.

He still lingers on the elevator a second after Derek leaves it and starts his way through the walls of weapons. The lights roll on as they move and Stiles looks side to side to see if he can spot an empty holster for some indication of what weapon he would be working with. He has no such luck by the time they reach the metal door. Derek unlocks it with his palm print but gestures for Stiles to walk in ahead of him.

The lights within come on to reveal a case at the edge of the range, sitting on top of the waist-high divider next to two sets of noise-cancelling headphones. Stiles drops his bag just inside the door then starts toward the case as a whirring sound brings his attention to the paper targets moving forward into the light.

They are the regular, innocuous outlines and frowns because Allison isn’t here to add the flair to her test.

“You can open it,” Derek says, stepping forward to stand next to Stiles.

He takes a deep breath and unlocks the case’s snaps to reveal the pieces of a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber pistol sitting in the cut out sections of sponge within it. Stiles doesn’t immediately recognize the model and he can almost see Allison giving him a disappointed look because of it.

Derek pulls his phone out of his pocket and sits it next to the case.

“Allison wanted you to put this back together and hit all the targets in under two minutes,” he says.

“She told me three,” Stiles mutters as he catalogues all the pieces and makes sure he remembers how to place them back together in a way that won’t have it exploding in his hands.

“She said that if you brought that up, to make it one minute.”

Stiles laughs softly, “Fine,” then rolls his shoulders. “I can still do that.”

“I’ll give you the two minutes.” Derek starts swiping his forefinger over his phone until finds the stopwatch app, which he activates before asking, “Ready?”

Stiles nods once and holds his hands behind his back.

“You need to hit the targets in the ten range or a kill shot.”

Another nod.

Derek hits the start button on his phone and says, “Go,” at the same time.

He stands at Stiles’ shoulder, watching closely as Stiles picks up the slide and the barrel then fits them together. He picks up the spring and slides the loose end into the little hole at the top. He chuckles and shakes his head because he can’t remember the official name of that hole as he compresses the spring until it sits in the groove at the bottom of the barrel. He picks up the frame and lines up it’s grooves to the slots on the slide and slowly pushes it back.

He remembers the very first time his father had him practice this as a teenager: he had went too fast and got his finger caught as he was trying to push the levers at the rear of the frame down. He’d had to disassemble it again to clean the blood out. His fingers are considerably more skilled now and the levers go down easy. He brings the slide back with one hand and holds it in place as he picks up the slide-release lever to work it back into the frame then snaps it into place. Stiles racks the gun three times then pulls the trigger as a test to make sure it will fire.

Stiles inserts the magazine and glances at Derek’s phone in time to watch it hit the minute-ten mark before he cycles a bullet into the chamber and points at the targets.

If Derek hadn’t reached over to pick up one of the headphones, Stiles would have forgotten them altogether and suffered a serious case of hearing impairment for hours.

After placing the other set of headphones over his ears, Stiles picks up the gun again and pulls the trigger. He doesn’t release until he’s emptied the magazine into all three targets, three bullets in each chest and two get headshots.

Derek taps the phone screen as soon as Stiles sets down the gun and raises his hands to pulls the headphones off. The phone is grabbed up before he gets the chance to look at the time.

Pushing the headphones off his own head, Derek clears his throat and says, “Minute twenty-nine.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and lets out a loud laugh.

“Good job,” Derek says. “Now take it apart again and put it back on the shelf.” He pats Stiles on the back then tells him, “Meet us upstairs when you’re done,” as he quickly steps away, headed toward the metal door.

|

“Can we stop for a little bit?” Stiles panted from the gym floor.

Derek scoffed, “Are you getting tired?” as he watched Stiles’ chest quickly rise and fall.

“I’m getting hard,” Stiles replied then reached up for Derek to pull him to his feet.

Derek arched his brow and set his hands on his own hips. Stiles let his hand drop heavily onto his belly.

“Hey, you asked,” he grunted as he pushed himself upright. “And don’t pretend I couldn’t feel how interested you are in pinning me underneath you.”

“You fell and pulled me with you,” Derek challenged as he looked to see the tent in Stiles’ shorts.

Stiles shrugged. “Same difference.”

“Fine,” Derek bent to pick up his water bottle off the floor. “Let’s take a ten minute break then.”

Stiles pursed his lips. “If you make it twenty, I’ll make it worth your while,” he said wiggling his eyebrows.

Derek paused with the bottle halfway to his mouth.

“I’m supposed to be training you,” he said as Stiles moved closer. “If someone, if your dad walks in and catches us—”

“No one’s gonna catch us,” Stiles muttered as he reached up under Derek’s T-shirt and rested his hands on Derek’s waist, just above the line of his shorts.

“Stiles,” Derek gently warned, glancing at the gym door as Stiles’ pinkies pulled at his waistband.

“We can get back to training right afterwards,” Stiles muttered as he kissed Derek’s neck. “I swear,” he said against Derek’s lips. “Please?”

Derek conceded by dropping to his knees.

There are cameras in the elevator, so Derek keeps facing the doors when he steps inside it with his hands over his crotch.

He can hear his colleagues’ voices as soon as the bullpen becomes visible and he moves as quickly as he can toward his own office with the hope that no one notices the way he’s walking to hide his erection.

The door locked behind him, Derek reaches under his desk to flip the switch that turns off the audio and video surveillance in the room before reclining in his chair.

Nearly four years since he's seen Stiles wield a gun and it still has the same arousing effect that it did the last time he'd seen it. Derek knows he should feel shame at his body's reaction, especially since Stiles seems to have forgotten about this particular predilection of his, but all he can think about is how hot the space got as he watched Stiles, how hot he is now.

He pulls his shirt out of his slacks because it’s sweltering. He drums his fingertips on his armrests because he shouldn’t put them on himself. He shakes his head because he starts thinking about Stiles’ hand on him, running over his knees and up his thighs before resting on his crotch. He reaches for his zipper with one hand and puts the fingers of the other in his mouth because he can’t think of a faster way to get rid of his erection.

When he said he would take over for Allison in proctoring this test, he didn't think his body would be capable of still having this reaction. His spit-slick hand around his dick proves otherwise.

Derek tries to make it quick, one hand on his balls and the other tugging his shaft. He closes his eyes to imagine Braeden between his thighs, his hands buried in her long, dark hair but he can't hold on to that image. What he sees is Stiles’ Nirvana T-shirt moving up and down as he remembers sitting at the desk in Stiles’ room and Stiles in his lap, riding him within an inch of his life, his hands—those strong, sure, long-fingered hands—gripped tight enough to Derek's shoulders he could hear the leather jacket protesting. He can hear the sound of his hand moving on himself and remembers Stiles’ gasping breaths in his ear.

Almost there baby, the Stiles in his head moans and Derek repeats the sentiment aloud. He barely gets his shirt up in time before he spills onto his hand and abdomen.

Derek doesn't give himself time to assess the gravity of what he's just done, what he imagined doing as he cleans up with the Kleenex on his desk then pulls himself back together.

He flips the surveillance back on and takes a deep breath before leaving the office.

Kira is already downstairs waiting, seated in one of two chairs when Derek walks in.

“He's changing,” she says as Derek takes the remaining chair and sits with his elbows on his knees.

That position forces him to look at his hands so he sits back in the chair and folds his arms over his chest.

When Stiles finally steps out of the locker room having changed into the same shorts he’d had on that day Derek blew him on the floor of this very room, Derek blanches. He looks at the door when Stiles starts toward them because he realizes that, sitting in the chair, he’ll be in almost direct line of sight to Stiles’ crotch.

Kira asks, “You okay?”

Derek purses his lips. “Mhm.”

“Okay...” She sounds wary but Derek can't turn to reassure her without looking at Stiles. “Do you wanna start or…?”

Derek clears his throat and turns his head but keeps his eyes on the wall.

“In order to pass this test, we need to see you subdue an enemy agent.”

Stiles sets those hands on his hips and asks, “Which one of you is the enemy agent?”

“It’s not either of us,” Kira tells him then checks her watch. “But she should be here any min—”

As if on cue, the door opens and all three turn their eyes up to see Erica step into the gym.

Stiles whips his head back around.

“No way,” he laughs hysterically. “You’re kidding right? She’s gonna kill me.”

“She volunteered,” Derek informs and Kira adds, “Wouldn’t let anyone else do it.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Erica says, stepping toward the group. “I took a call from Boyd upstairs and lost track of time.” She stops right next to Stiles and bumps his shoulder with her own. “He says they anticipate starting phase two within the week.”

“That’s fast,” Kira comments then looks at Derek. “Isn’t that a little fast?”

“I would call it efficient,” Erica remarks with a snarl.

“I’ll talk to them later,” Derek says. “Right now we need to focus on this.”

Erica cracks her knuckles as she moves toward the mat in the middle of the space Derek and Kira had cleared for them that morning.

Stiles lingers to give Derek a pleading look before taking a deep breath and going to stand across from Erica.

“Just don’t put me in the hospital,” he softly begs.

Erica shrugs. “Whatever happens, happens.”

She takes the first swing and Stiles just barely dodges it but she does catch him beneath his left eye, forcing dark spots into his vision. As he reels, she catches him in the chest with her foot, casting him backwards to the floor. Stiles quickly regroups and charges at her. He picks her up by the waist and pitches forward, forcing her back and her head into the mat as he falls on top of her. Erica is groaning in pain as Stiles climbs over to straddle her. He lands two punches before she kicks him off then elbows him in the abdomen while he’s lying on the floor.

Derek sucks a breath in through his teeth when he hears the ragged way Stiles gasps for breath after the hit.

Stiles dodges a kick as they make their way back to their feet then swings his own punch that Erica blocks. He catches her on the jaw when he tries again. She drops to the ground on one knee and Stiles grabs her ponytail. He pulls her head back as he raises his fist but Erica lands another punch to his abdomen, then another while he’s stunned. She crawls forward when he starts backing up and grabs the back of his foot to trip him. Erica quickly makes her way to her feet and waits until Stiles tries to do the same. Erica sends her knee into his ear before he can get himself upright.

Stiles cries out and slaps his hand over the side of his head. Erica chuckles and backs off enough to give him time to stand.

“C’mon dead man,” she huffs as she wipes the blood from the corner of her mouth. “That the best you got?”

Stiles spits the blood from his own mouth and lets out a soft laugh as he goes to charge again. Erica he sees it coming and moves to the side. Derek realizes what Stiles is doing before Erica does and her lapse in realization earns her kick in the face.

Stiles was pretending to go for another charge but when she moved to avoid it, aimed a kick at her face that she would run right into. Stiles had practiced that move with Derek after seeing it on some TV show. The kick sends Erica back to the floor and Stiles straddles her again. He starts raining down punches that make Derek wince when they thud against Erica’s skin.

She manages to get her arms up to block some of the shots, then brings her legs up to wrap around Stiles’ neck as she grabs hold of his arm and pulling. Stiles cries out in pain when Erica starts tightening her thighs around his neck and Derek almost lurches out of his seat.

He leans back in their chairs when Stiles gets his legs under him and starts to lift Erica, before dropping her onto the back of her head again. Erica grunts in pain but doesn’t let go.

“Derek?”

He turns his head a little toward Kira but he doesn’t take his gaze away from Stiles.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

He exhales, “I’m fine,” when Stiles’ face starts going red because Erica is still squeezing.

“Okay but...you’re breathing kinda hard,” Kira says.

That makes Derek’s face flush even hotter than it was. He looks over at Kira and finds her expression to be one of concern.

“It’s—” He was going to say It’s hot, but figured it would be a poor choice of words. “I’m okay.”

Stiles starts lifting Erica again, slowly this time and Derek can see his legs shaking. When he drops her this time, she lets go. Stiles punches her in the side twice, forcing a cough out of her. He wraps his hands around her neck. She slaps and punches at his arms but he doesn't let up, not even when she starts scratching his face with her fingernails. Derek gulps when the muscles in Stiles’ arms start to bulge and he opens his mouth to tell Stiles to stop when Erica whines and slaps her hand three times on his shoulder.

Stiles immediately releases his grip and groans as he rolls onto the mat next to her.

Derek exhales as if he’d been holding his breath since they started. He makes his way toward Erica and she smiles weakly up at him as he kneels next to her.

Her lip is busted and there is a cut above her eyebrow that is dripping a thin line of blood down the side of her face into her hair. He frowns at the finger marks that are already forming along her neck.

Derek asks, “You okay?”

She looks over Derek’s shoulder when Kira steps up behind him then turns to look at Stiles at the same moment that he looks at her.

“You got your ass kicked,” she laughs breathlessly.

Stiles scoffs as he pats one of the scratches along his neck that is dripping red. He doesn’t look any worse for wear than Erica does, as far as Derek can see: beginnings of bruises and more than a few scratch marks along his face, neck, arms.

“That was definitely a tie,” Stiles retorts as he gingerly sits up.

“Whatever,” she snorts as she mirrors the action. “Your diaphragm will never be the same.”

Stiles lets out a raspy laugh. “You’re probably right.”

Derek clears his throat then stands. He holds his arm out for Erica to take so he can pull her up but she swats it away.

“Help Stiles,” she grunts as he moves to stand on her own. “That concussion is probably making him woozy.”

Derek gulps and his hand quakes but he reaches out for Stiles all the same. He tries not to think about the fingers curling around his hands or what he thought about them doing under an hour ago. He keeps his eyes averted as he tugs Stiles to his feet then immediately pulls his hand away once Stiles is standing before him.

“I gave you a four,” Derek says shortly as he steps over to stand by Kira again as she gasps.

“I gave you a five so you passed!”

Stiles’ face immediately breaks out in a grin as he looks back and forth between his proctors.

“So I’m a field agent again?” he asks, excitedly. “Officially?”

Derek can’t help the small smile on his face and he looks over to find that even Erica has her lips pursed to hide her own smile. He thinks maybe there was something to what Stiles said about fighting helping to ease some of the tension the other agents are feeling toward him.

“Not officially,” Derek replies. “You’ll still need to sign some more paperwork and get a codename but...yeah, you’re almost there.”

Heat pools in Derek's belly when he realizes his word choice, even as Stiles makes an excited noise.

“Oh my god, we need to celebrate,” he says. “Party at my place?”

“Wow,” Erica scoffs, “You don’t waste any time, do you?”

“I mean…” Stiles shrugs. “That’s kind of what I’m going for.”

She furrows her brows but Derek is the one to ask,

“Wasting time?”

“No just getting, being wasted.”

“You’re going to get, be wasted in your parents’ house?” Derek asks.

Stiles faces him with his mouth ajar. “W-well no I uh...I was thinking of having the party be at my apartment.”

“But it’s not your turn yet,” Kira remarks at the same time that Derek says, “You have an apartment.”

“Yeah, but don’t you think this momentous occasion gives me leave to skip the line a little?” Stiles says to Kira before turning to Derek again. “Well, not...yet. I was waiting to get the money from Tate for the safety deposit first but there’s not like, a rule that says we can’t take this to a bar, right?”

He looks around at the other three agents, who then look at each other.

“You would need to talk to Danny and Ethan,” Erica starts as she stands. “I think it's their party that's supposed to be this weekend.”

“Oh no problem,” Stiles retorts. “Those guys love me.”

Erica blinks twice, gives Derek an unreadable look, then shakes her head as she makes her way toward the door.

“Let me know what they say,” she says, waving with one hand and palming the door handle with the other.

“I need to talk to Scott,” Kira chirps before pulling Stiles into a hug. “Congratulations again,” she says then quickly makes for the door.

Stiles laughs softly then taps Derek on the arm.

“What about you?”

Derek raises his brows.

“Can I expect to see you at my celebration if I can convince Danny and Ethan?”

“I…” Derek shakes his head and honestly responds, “...don’t know.”

He doesn’t think Stiles does a very good job at hiding his frown, but he does try.

“You can bring her if you want,” he says with a small shrug.

“Who?”

“Your gi—c’mon are you really gonna make me say it?”

Derek sighs, “She won't want to come anyway.”

Stiles scoffs, “Not even to—” but he purses his lips instead of finishing his sentence.

Derek furrows his brow. “Not even to what?”

“Nothing.” Stiles clears his throat and makes to turn away but he faces Derek again. “Y'know…I beat your time.”

“What time?”

“Your time in the range,” Stiles clarifies. “It was a minute-thirty.”

Derek laughs, which makes Stiles laugh, “And I beat you by one second,” as he jabs a finger into Derek's shoulder each time to accent both words. “Would’ve been more if I hadn’t forgotten the headphones.”

Derek snickers.

Stiles licks his lips. “You proud of me?”

Derek takes a second to search Stiles’ eyes. Stiles is staring back at him with that same hopeful expression from before. Derek purses his lips and turns away to leave the gym.

“Is that a yes or a no?” Stiles calls out but Derek ignores him, like he wishes he could ignore everything he's feeling.

Chapter Text

“I don't wanna go,” Stiles whines as Scott drags him forward when the line for the club starts moving again. “They didn't want to switch days with me so why should I go to their stupid party?”

“You can still celebrate,” Scott huffs and holds tighter when Stiles starts trying to slip from his grip. “They're still your friends and there was a promise made.”

“I didn't make any promise,” Stiles scoffs. “I was dead for that.”

Scott gives him a stern look and shifts closer to whisper, “It was you being dead that inspired the promise in the first place.”

Stiles furrows his brows when Scott pulls away, which makes Scott roll his eyes and make his way back to Stiles’ ear.

“Marin brought us all together every couple of weeks to talk out our feelings over you being dead and we just kept it up but added alcohol.”

“Oh my god.” Stiles hangs his head back and yells, “I'm the worst!”

“I feel that!” someone from further back in the line yells in reply.

Scott laughs softly and pulls Stiles’ up to the doorman.

After showing him their IDs, Scott and Stiles step inside and are immediately met with moving bodies.

Stiles pulls in a deep breath and shouts, “How are we supposed to find everybody?” over the music.

Scott nods his head to the side and starts around the dancefloor.

Stiles follows him up the stairs at the side, leading up above the bar.

“They sprung for a VIP lounge?” Stiles remarks at regular volume as they step into the soundproof area surrounding each of the six lounges on the second floor. “Nice.”

“About that...” Scott starts as he palms the handle of the door closest to them. “Tonight wasn't Danny and Ethan’s night.”

Stiles narrows his eyes.

Scott pushes open the door and a chorus of, “SURPRISE!” blasts through the doorway. Stiles’ breath catches in his throat when he sees all his fellow agents smiling at him from within the room.

“It was my turn to have a party,” Scott explains when Stiles starts to stutter. “And I decided I wanted to share it with my best friend.”

Stiles closes his eyes and drags Scott into a hug so tight they both have to catch their breath when they pull away. He keeps his arm around Scott’s shoulders and scans the space as they move into the room.

Lydia appears in front of him and presents him with a pair of shots he has to release Scott to grab.

“He's not here,” she says and Stiles’ whole body sags.

“Is...is he coming?”

Lydia purses her lips and shakes her head. “I don't know.”

Stiles sighs heavily and swallows down both shots back-to-back with a wince.

He clears his throat and asks, “Wanna dance?” as he sets the glasses down on the back of the closest chair.

She gives him a small smile and takes his hand.

|

Derek has been sitting in his car for the last twenty minutes, his eyes switching between watching the clock and the front door of the bar.

A part of him feels like he should've just stayed at home, which is why he took so long to get here. He is sure he paced a dent in his floor by the time he made the decision to come, but now he's outside the club sitting in the dark car second-guessing instead of going in to celebrate with his friends.

Four more people leave the club by the time he makes it to his last in a series of deep breaths and makes himself climb out of the car to go stand in line.

When he called to tell Derek about the plan to surprise Stiles, Scott had mentioned that they were going to rent the first lounge at the top of the stairs so he makes his way through the crowd then up to the second floor.

Kira and Scott are right outside the lounge door, their bodies pressed together from their knees to their lips but they break apart when music blasts over Derek’s shoulders before the soundproof door slides closed again.

“Hey,” Scott breathes as he moves forward and takes Derek in a hug. “What took you so long?”

“Couldn't decide whether I wanted to come or not,” Derek replies.

Scott purses his lips and nods then points to the door. “Everyone’s inside.”

A choral shout accents Scott’s words and he lets out a soft laugh.

“They’re playing darts,” Kira says over Scott’s shoulder.

Derek nods slowly then pushes the door open.

“Okay okay,” Stiles is saying as Derek steps into the lounge then closes the door to give Kira and Scott their privacy back.

Erica and Isaac are laying on top of each other in the only loveseat and Lydia, her head resting on Aiden’s thigh, is the only who seems sober enough to be keeping a good grip on her phone as she holds it above her face. She looks up passed the screen while Stiles speaks.

“Okay, if I miss this next one then...then Isaac has to pay the bar tab.”

“Whoa whoa!” Isaac cries as he clumsily climbs out of the loveseat—leaving Erica to slide down a little before catching herself—when he goes to grab the dart out of Stiles’ loose grasp. “No way am I paying for everybody’s drinks.”

Stiles scoffs, “Are you imposing that I would’ve missed?” and sets his hands on his hips.

Derek shakes his head because he is reminded that Stiles tends to mix up words when he has too many drinks in him.

“I think that’s what he’s implying,” Lydia corrects. “And he’s right. You’ve missed every shot since that last Jägermeister.”

“I’m not drunk,” Stiles argues then proves it by moving toward Isaac and the dart with a stumble. “Gimme that,” he grunts as he yanks the dart away then sits on arm of the loveseat. “I wish Allison was here,” he mumbles then flexes and extends his arm to aim the dart but doesn’t throw it. “She knows how to shoot.”

“Derek knows how to shoot,” Erica says then rolls her head on the back of the loveseat to look right at him. “And he is here.”

Stiles ends up on the floor before anyone realizes they need to try to catch him, but he springs back up to his knees in no time. He grins when he locks eyes with Derek.

“You're here.”

“And you're getting, being wasted,” Derek replies.

So?” Stiles scoffs thickly and pushes himself to his feet. “It's my party—”

Scott’s party,” Erica corrects.

“We're sharing!” Stiles cries as he starts toward Derek.

“From the looks of it, you're all sharing cabs home.”

“I'm requesting Lyfts as we speak,” Lydia supplies with a finger in the air.

“Wait wait wait we can’t go yet.” Stiles grasps Derek by the upper arms and almost falls forward into his chest. “Not when Derek hasn't even played me at darts yet.” Stiles clears his throat then says, “You can have next,” in what he must think is a whisper.

Derek raises his brows. “Should you really be playing around with sharp objects this gone?”

Please!” Stiles rolls his eyes and taps his middle fingertip to his temple. “If anything my senses are hazardous!”

Erica snickers and gets herself up from under Isaac’s arm.

Stiles pushes at Derek’s shoulder with his forefinger and tells him, “What you need to do is catch up.”

“Hear, hear,” Erica says as she appears at Stiles’ shoulder and hands Derek a beer.

He arches his brow at her. “You’re agreeing with him now?”

She shrugs and goes back to her seat.

“C’mere,” Stiles starts and he moves to take Derek’s hand but then pulls his back. He inhales sharply then looks up at Derek’s eyes before turning away to announce, “Just one game,” to the room.

Derek takes a sip of his beer as he follows Stiles toward the dartboard.

Stiles almost falls forward three times when he tries to reach down and pick up the dart he had dropped when he fell off the loveseat. With a long-suffering groan, Isaac eventually reaches down to get it for him.

After another bout of flexing and extending his arm to aim the dart, Stiles throws and it lands on the floor.

The other agents break out in thunderous laughter.

The lounge door opens in time for Danny and Ethan to hear Stiles shout, “Winna winna chicken dinna!” and throw his arms up in the air.

“You missed completely!” Erica cries and gestures toward the fallen dart.

“What?” Stiles drops his arms and looks back at her then down at the dart on the floor. “Wait, no wait wait wait I can do it.”

He goes after the dart again but Derek grabs him by the arm and pulls him upright before he faceplants into the baseboard.

“You need water,” he says then dumps Stiles on the floor next to Aiden’s feet.

“I’ve to pee,” Stiles replies.

Derek sets his beer down as he moves toward the lounge door. He, Danny, and Ethan greet each other with nods of the head and Derek notices that they’re both wearing a thin sheen of sweat, probably from spending time on the dancefloor.

By the time Derek returns with a bottle of water smaller than his fist, Stiles is nowhere to be found.

“Scott took him to the bathroom,” Aiden supplies.

Derek sets the water down and picks up his beer.

Another hour or maybe more passes and their numbers thinned out to just Derek, Kira, Scott, and Stiles. The couple is sitting across the room, whispering and giggling between themselves with their faces barely an inch apart while Derek is sitting on the couch Aiden and Lydia had long vacated, watching Stiles mumble nonsense as he lays draped over the loveseat.

Derek isn’t sure whether Stiles is asleep or not but his eyes keep getting pulled back to the strip of skin that was revealed when Stiles shifted to throw his arms over his face and complained that his head is—“no pun indentured!”—killing him.

“How much longer?” Derek asks and Scott pulls away from Kira to look at his phone.

“Three minutes,” he answers then goes right back to whispering at his girlfriend.

They had rented the lounge until one in the morning and they wanted to get their money’s worth so they decided to stay until then. Derek stayed to sober from a couple of beers and three shots of something he doesn’t remember how to pronounce. Stiles, who had kept drinking after finishing three bottles of water, gave no reason for staying. He just fell onto the loveseat as soon as Scott said they were going to wait. Derek has found it difficult to keep his eyes away ever since.

“Ask him,” Derek hears Kira whisper then looks over to find Scott frowning at her.

“Ask me what?” he says and they both jump as if they didn’t expect him to have heard.

Scott licks his lips. He and Kira share a glance before he says, “Do you...do you mind taking Stiles home?”

Derek turns his ear toward Scott because he wasn’t entirely sure he heard that right.

He knows he did when Scott frowns.

“Please? His house in on the other side of town and we’re really...tired.”

Tired?” Derek scoffs and looks between the two of them. “That’s your excuse?”

Scott purses his lips and his phone alarms to alert them that it’s one o’clock.

Derek huffs as he stands away from the couch.

“Help me get him in the car,” he says then rolls his eyes when Scott smiles gratefully at him.

Scott is the one that yanks Stiles up off the loveseat, despite his protests. He and Derek swing Stiles’ arms over their shoulders and carry him down the stairs, passed the dancefloor—Stiles starts heartily singing along to Wild Thoughts—out the door and across the street to Derek’s car with Kira following close behind. Stiles is still humming the music as they shove him into the Camaro.

“Thanks man,” Scott says after locking Stiles’ seatbelt. “I owe you one.”

“You both do,” he corrects before taking Scott then Kira into a hug.

He waits outside the car and watches until they reach the corner. They had taken separate cars so Scott waits at the corner until Kira gets into her car then heads for his when she pulls out of the club’s parking lot. Derek waits until Scott does the same before getting into his own car.

He doesn’t look at Stiles as he starts the car and pulls out of the space.

“I miss us,” Stiles mutters five minutes into the drive and startles Derek because he thought the lump sitting next to him was asleep.

Derek keeps his eyes on the road and doesn’t respond.

Stiles sighs, “I miss all of it.” He shifts in the seat and turns to face Derek. “Remember…’member that time we had a flight after you said I should stop calling you the love of my life when I...when...I hadn’t really dated before you?”

Derek remembers that argument and he still feels that Stiles simply mistook his words.

“I thought about that a few days ago.” Stiles goes quiet as he slides down into the seat until his knees touch the dashboard then continues, “Miss that too. The fighting. It’s weird right?”

Derek sighs, “Yeah,” as he turns a corner.

“I miss goin’ on missions with you.” He chuckles, “I ‘specially miss the way we used to fuck afterwards.”

Derek gulps.

“We were...we were like...y’know those monkeys that just go at it all the time? What are they called? Barnabies?”

Bonobos,” Derek supplies as he shakes his head.

“Yes!” Stiles sits upright in the seat again. “God, it's so sexy how you can be drunk and still so smart.”

“I’m not drunk, Stiles,” Derek scoffs. “Can you not see me driving?”

“Well you’re still smart and definitely still sexy.”

“Stop that.”

Stiles hums. “Be honest though, do you ever think about what it was like?”

Derek clenches his jaw then admits, “Sometimes,” because he knows Stiles won't remember it.

“You think about the sex too?”

Derek doesn't reply to that.

“Mhm I know you do.”

“I didn’t say—”

C’mon dude g-gimme a little credit.” He snorts, “We dated five years and fucked every time we were in the same place alone for long enough.”—Derek shifts his hips in his seat—“I know wh-what you look like after you come and I know, I know I saw that look on your face yesterday.”

Derek grips the steering wheel until his fingers hurt and keeps his eyes forward.

“It was the gun, huh?” Stiles giggles, “You always loved that shit. Got you rock hard every time.” He lurches forward and gasps, “It’s probably Palestinian, right?” then turns his body as much as the seatbelt would let him toward Derek. “I don’t touch guns ‘less we’re going on a mission and we always fucked after missions so you would get hard in anticipation of the fucking.”

“You mean Pavlovian,” Derek says as he turns out of the city limits.

“What’d I say?”

“Sit back.”

After a moment staring at the side of Derek’s face, Stiles does as he was told.

“I do it too by the way,” Stiles says and reaches over to pat Derek’s knee twice then pulls his hand back. “Can hardly get through a whole day without fucking my fist thinking about you.”

Derek stomps on the brake because he almost runs a red light.

Whew, head rush!” Stiles exclaims with a laugh.

“Stiles,” Derek huffs then turns for the first time to face him. “You need to shut up.”

“Why?” His body goes rigid and he starts peering through the windshield and his window. “What’s wrong? Are we being filleted?”

“No, just...” The light turns green. “Shut up.”

He watches Stiles face fall into a frown before he leans back into the seat.

Derek sighs and shakes his head as he presses the gas and turns into Stiles’ neighborhood.

“I kept the pictures,” Stiles says to the window and Derek wants to slam his own face against the steering wheel.

He wishes the speed limit wasn’t so low because he wants to get as far away from Stiles in this moment as possible.

“What pictures?” Derek asks, resigned.

“From…” Stiles turns his head. “From M-Man-Montego?”

“Monaco?”

Stiles snaps his fingers. “There it is.”

Derek closes his eyes and sighs heavily as he parks in front of Stiles’ house.

“Your dad had some of those printed,” he says through his teeth. “So Noah’s seen—”

No...no no I…” Stiles unlocks his seatbelt. “I deleted ‘em off camera. They’re in a engulfed file.”

“An encrypted file.” Derek releases the breath he was holding. “Good.”

Noah didn’t need see those particular pictures and videos from that vacation. He definitely didn’t need to be that up close and personal with either his son or Derek.

“The pictures are good,” Stiles mumbles. “You’re so sexy.”

Stop saying that.”

Stiles hums. “‘scuse my drunkenness.”

“Get out of my car please.”

Stiles whines softly then looks out at his darkened house.

“Long walk.”

“So crawl.”

He turns to pout at Derek, which makes him scoff but he climbs out of the car anyway.

Stiles has opened the passenger side door by the time Derek makes it around to the other side of the car. He holds out his hand for Derek to take but Derek takes him under the arm instead. Stiles grunts as he is lifted out of the car then pushes the door closed with his hip.

Derek lifts Stiles arm over his shoulders and asks, “Where’s your key?”

Stiles takes a while but he manages to produce the key when they reach the front step.

“Can you stand by yourself?” Derek asks, taking the key.

Stiles nods so Derek lets him go. By the time he gets the tip of the key against the lock, Stiles starts toppling sideways and Derek has to grab him before he falls into the bushes. Derek clutches Stiles to his side then tries the key again.

Stiles giggles, “You’re so strong,” as he rests his palm over Derek’s abdomen.

“Don’t think I won't drop you.”

The door opens easy and Derek gently kicks it closed once they’re inside.

He heaves Stiles up the stairs with barely any help and thankfully no noise. He would hate for Noah to catch them like this, would hate the look he would get for the way he’s holding Stiles. That idea makes him hustle them to Stiles’ bedroom.

Stiles’ door is ajar and Derek pushes it further open with the tips of his fingers.

Everything is the same as it was and Derek feels as if he stepped into a time capsule. He hasn't been in the Stilinski home, let alone this bedroom since the day he laid in Stiles’ bed, holding Stiles’ pillow and crying until he exhausted himself into sleep. That was when he took their movies from Stiles’ room, after Noah had woken him the next morning with a glass of water and a hug.

Stiles pulls in a deep breath and wrestles himself out of Derek’s grasp. He stumbles toward his bed and falls face-first into it. Derek clenches his jaw when he remembers the last time they were in that bed together and he decidedly does not look at the chair rolled under Stiles’ desk.

“Hey…” Stiles starts as he rolls over onto his back and forces himself upright to pull his outer shirt off. “You read the report yet?”

“I haven't had time,” Derek replies as he moves forward then drops to his knees to help Stiles take off his shoes before he slides off the bed and onto his face.

“Malia kissed me.”

Derek snaps his head up. “What?”

“In the hotel,” Stiles clarifies. “I didn’t want her to,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry.”

Derek drops his gaze back to Stiles’ feet as he pulls off one shoe then starts on the other.

“You shouldn’t feel bad,” he says and hates the way thinking about her lips on Stiles leaves a bad taste in his mouth. “You can kiss whoever you want.”

“Whoever but you,” Stiles laments and Derek doesn’t look up at him as he pulls the shoe off and drops it to the floor.

“Lay back,” he demands and Stiles does.

Derek is only unfastening Stiles’ jeans because he knows Stiles always hated sleeping in his street clothes, especially when he’s drunk. He has experienced first-hand that it gives Stiles nightmares but he never found out why.

Stiles’ hands lay motionless at his sides. Derek is grateful that Stiles doesn't have the wrong idea, that he’s not trying to direct Derek’s hands anywhere else. Stiles does reach into his jeans to hold onto his underwear so they don’t slide down while Derek tugs the pants off. His hands go back to his sides when the fabric passes his knees.

“Thanks Babe,” he mutters then shifts up higher in the bed.

Derek sighs, “Are you alright now?”

Stiles nods.

“I’m going home, okay?”

“Mmkay.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.” Stiles sighs, “I love you.”

Derek freezes in the doorway and looks back to see Stiles with his face half buried in his pillow. He probably doesn’t even realize what he said.

Derek gulps and tries to shake what he just heard from his head as he makes his way back downstairs.

The singer coming through the speakers when he turns his car radio on tells him,

–you know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone / Two, don't let him in / You'll have to kick him out again / Three, don't be his friend / You know you're gonna wake up in his bed in the morning / And if you're under him, you ain't getting over him.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ head hurts so bad he can’t open his eyes and even if he could, he knows he wouldn’t be able to see clearly. He recognizes the fluff of his pillow under his face, the feel of his comforter under his hands and legs so he knows he’s at home, but he doesn’t remember how he got here. The headache doesn’t subside the longer he lays there trying to force himself to go back to sleep.

He blinks open bleary eyes and the sunlight barely peeking through his shutters is blinding. He groans long and loud as he pushes himself upright to sit at the edge of his bed another few minutes before gathering the strength to stand up. His full bladder makes itself known and he wobbles to the bedroom door then down the hall. He barely makes it to the toilet and he has to sit down on it because his head starts spinning again. He feels like he pees for hours.

There is a black smudge where last night should be in his memory. All his brain can come up with is dancing with Lydia then Danny but after that, nothing. He holds onto the edge of the sink to pull himself back to his feet with one hand while the other pulls his underwear back up over his hips. He hadn’t turned the light on so he blindly searches for his toothbrush and takes care of the alcohol-infused morning breath before sluggishly making his way downstairs.

His father is sitting at the table, a mug of coffee in one hand and papers from a file in the other.

“Good morning,” he says too loud and Stiles grimaces.

“Shhhh,” he demands as he moves toward his father so he can sit a while before getting himself something to eat.

“You have fun last night?” Noah asks at a much softer volume as Stiles lays his cheek down on the table and closes his eyes.

“How would I know?”

“You blacked out?”

Stiles hums.

Noah sighs, “You know better than that.”

“Yeah, well I’m sad, Dad.”

The sound of Noah setting the ceramic mug down on the wooden table sounds like an explosion.

“Why are you sad?” he asks.

“Derek wasn’t there.”

There is a beat of silence before Noah asks, “What do you mean?”

“Derek was missing in action,” Stiles says. “He didn’t show up last night.”

Derek was the one who brought you home.”

Stiles swings upright in the chair too fast and he suffers an immense amount of pain and nausea for it.

“Derek brought me home?” he whimpers and grips onto the edge of the table. “Are you sure?”

“If I know anything, I know what it sounds like when that man is in my house.”

“Who is that man, by the way?” Claudia asks as she appears at Stiles’ shoulder.

She sets two pills and a glass of something brown by his hand before sitting in the chair next to him.

“Advil and a hair of the dog that bit you,” she explains, pointing to the glass. “Whiskey.”

Stiles frowns. “I don’t think those should be taken together.”

Claudia shrugs. “I’m sure it’s fine in moderation.”

Stiles looks at his father and Noah mimics Claudia’s action, so he shrugs too.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she says as he swallows the pills and the whiskey.

He waits a moment to make sure he can hold them down before asking, “What was your question?”

“Who is Derek and why did you two scare me half to death last night sneaking around?”

“We weren’t sneaking around,” Stiles says even though he has no clue at all what they were doing. “He was just bringing me home after the party.”

“Sneakily,” she retorts. “He didn’t even knock.”

“It was the middle of the night and I have a key.”

“Is he your boyfriend?”

Stiles feels the sudden and insistent urge to burst into tears.

“No,” he says, pursing his lips when he feels them start to quiver. Every inch of his head is pulsing. “A coworker.”

“A coworker you’re sleeping with?”

Noah sighs, “Claudia.”

She looks over at her husband. “Well you said he’d been here before, so I—”

“We...dated,” Stiles chokes and her eyes find him again just in time to see a tear roll down the side of his nose. “Before Berlin.”

Claudia’s lips part and she reaches out for his hand. “You never told me about him.”

Stiles shakes his head. “You had more important things to think about.”

“There’s nothing more important to me than knowing you two are alive and happy.” She squeezes his hand and glances over at her husband before looking back at Stiles. “Did he make you happy?”

Stiles nods then sighs, “But he’s with someone else now.”

She reaches up to run her hand over his arm and tries to soothe him by saying, “You’ll find someone else too.”

“I don’t want anyone else Mom.” He shakes his head. “I’ve loved him since we were kids.”

Claudia searches his eyes but it isn’t until she sits back in the chair, almost pulling her hand from his, that Stiles realizes what he said.

“Derek…” she muses then looks between her husband and son again. “Derek Hale?”

Stiles purses his lips. “Yeah.”

Claudia clears her throat as she fully pulls her hand from her son’s to drum her fingertips against the table.

“Mom…”

“You must be starving.” She stands away from the table and leans down to press her lips to his hairline. She says, “I’ll get you something to eat sweetheart,” then squeezes his shoulder before stepping away.

Stiles runs the back of his hand over his face then turns wide eyes to his father and whispers, “You think she remembers Peter?”

“Who could forget him?” Noah replies, picking up his mug again.

Stiles sighs.

He supposes it would be hard to forget the man who stole hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in and outside of Beacon Hills—including the homegrown Stilinskis and the newly immigrated Gajoses—in the biggest Ponzi scheme in California’s history.

“I need more whiskey,” Stiles says, looking down at the empty glass.

Noah admonishes, “Moderation,” between sips of coffee.

Stiles lays his face back down on the table and tries to remember what happened the night before.

|

Derek sighed, “Are you sure about this?” as Stiles climbed into his lap and ran those fingers through his hair then pulled his head back so he could place a chaste kiss at the corner of Derek’s mouth.

“I just wanna see what we look like,” he breathed then licked Derek’s lips.

“That could easily be achieved with a big enough mirror,” Derek grumbled despite his breath catching when Stiles started rocking his hips and rubbing their dicks together through their underwear.

“I can’t watch a mirror when you’re not around,” Stiles retorted then slid his tongue into Derek’s mouth as he dragged his nails from the nape of Derek’s neck to the middle of his back.

Derek broke their kiss to press his lips to Stiles’ shoulder, his collarbone, his neck but his eyes went back to the camera. He couldn’t help staring over Stiles’ shoulder at it, perched on the edge of the dresser.

His stomach twisted and turned. It was as if he could see the residents of Beacon Hills watching him through it, pointing their fingers and crying out, ‘See! Those goddamn Hales. Nothing but thieves, pill poppers, and sexual deviants! Can’t wait to see what shit the little one gets up to!’

“Okay,” Stiles sighed as he climbed off Derek’s lap and turned for the dresser. “If it bugs you so much then I’ll—”

“No.” Derek reached out his hand. “No, it’s okay. Leave it.”

Stiles shook his head and said, “I think I’m getting jealous over you paying more attention to it than me anyway,” as he picked up the camera and flipped it over to find the power button.

Derek moved quickly to take the camera from him.

“I want to do this for you,” he admitted. “But…just...can you promise no one else will see it?”

Stiles frowned and set his hand on Derek's elbow.

“Of course Babe,” he said softly. “But really, if you're at all uncomfortable, we don't have to use it.”

“I trust you.” Derek set the camera back on top of the dresser. “And I guess…” He smirked, “You'll just have to keep my mind off it.”

Stiles searched Derek's eyes then bit his lip.

“We’ve got plenty of pillows for you to bury that pretty face in,” he said.

“I don't know.” Derek glanced toward the bed. “I think I'd rather bury my face somewhere else.”

Stiles grinned as he made sure to press the record button before leaping into Derek's arms.

Another voice is calling out his name from farther away than the room where he’s dropping Stiles onto the hotel bed.

He groans, annoyed because he wants to go back to the memory that is escaping him and being replaced by reality, wants to go back to watching Stiles’ eyes roll over, his lips parted and obscenely panting.

“Hey, come on wake up,” she demands.

Derek turns his head away from her.

“There's a disgustingly greasy breakfast out here with your name on it and it's getting cold,” she says right against his ear.

He grumbles, “I'm not hungover.”

“Uh huh,” Braeden chuckles and runs the tip of her nose along the shell of his ear. “You came home last night smelling like a brewery.”

He takes a deep breath and turns his head toward her again then opens his eyes to see her smiling at him.

“By the time I got there, everybody else was at least five drinks deep,” he says.

“Either way, you should get up and come get something to eat.”

He slides his eyes closed again. “Bring it to me?’

She snickers.

Please Brae?”

“Oh my god,” she laughs and he can't help laughing along with her. “Now I know you're drunk.” She slaps him on the ass as she climbs off the bed. “Go brush your teeth and come on!”

He groans and slides himself out of bed with no recollection of why he wanted to stay in it in the first place.

When he gets back from the bathroom, he finds Braeden sitting at the kitchen's counter island in yesterday's tank top and underwear with a plate of sausages, sunny-side up eggs, and hashbrowns before her. There's another plate next to her waiting for him.

“Looks good,” he says then kisses her cheek before taking the empty stool. “Thank you.”

She hums around a mouthful as she flicks her finger over her phone.

“Is that a case?” he asks, picking up a sausage with his fork.

Braeden finishes chewing before replying, “Yeah, I got an email this morning but…” She shrugs. “I’m not sure I’m all that interested in going to Kansas.”

He snorts as he picks at his hashbrowns. “What’s wrong with Kansas?”

“Too flat,” she replies then slides her last piece of egg into her mouth.

“How much are they willing to pay?”

She mutters, “Not nearly enough.”

“So ask for more.” He lifts his plate over hers and scrapes half of the hashbrowns onto it. “Make them speak your language.” Braeden raises her brow as she watches him and he answers, “I’m not feeling potatoes today.”

She laughs and shakes her head as she scoops some up on her fork but then stops before bringing it to her mouth.

“Speaking of languages,” she says, setting her fork down. “I meant to ask last night but you went to sleep right away. What’s…” She squints then slowly continues, “...moya miwosh?”

A chill runs down Derek’s spine and he hopes that Braeden didn’t see him shake from it. He swallows around the part of the meal he’s already eaten when it threatens to resurface.

“Wh-wh—” he stutters and she furrows her brows so he clears his throat. He turns away from her and starts poking at the other sausage on the plate with his fork. “Where did you hear that?”

“You said it last night…” She sounds wary and his stomach turns again when she finishes, “...during.” She pushes the plate away just barely an inch. “You said some other stuff too but that was the only thing I caught.”

Derek closes his eyes and mumbles, “That’s impossible,” through clenched teeth.

He remembers getting home, finding Braeden asleep in his bed and waking her. He remembers pushing his jeans down and pulling her panties off. He remembers thinking about her hands, how small they were, how they don’t very nearly envelope his, how they don’t feel anywhere near the same. He thought about how she smells like some fruit-based lotion and underneath just a little gun oil, not like the trees in the woods outside his home. He had tried to force himself not to think about the person that spent so much time in those woods and the house within them that he seemed to have absorbed the scents into his skin.

Derek had closed his eyes last night and imagined that the gasping breaths against his cheek, the arms curled around him, the legs that trembled with his every move belonged to someone else. He couldn’t block out the higher tones of her voice whenever she chose to tell him how good he feels and how close she was, so he covered her mouth with his. He pretended he was kissing another’s lips.

He recalls his dream then, a memory in pieces of grainy footage. The slick sounds of their lovemaking, their whispered declarations of love and promises for the future, every change of position, every cresting moan, all filled the room for hours and the camera captured every second of it until the battery died; only to be recharged and killed again. Stiles was always so proud of that.

Braeden asks, “Impossible because?”

Derek opens his eyes and his gaze lands on her hand. Her right index finger is twitching like she’s repeatedly pulling a trigger.

“Because I don’t remember saying that at all.”

But he must’ve said it, he must’ve because Stiles loved when Derek spoke to him in Polish when they’re in bed and it was Stiles he was imagining being in bed with. Stiles’ hand guiding his cock inside, Stiles’ heat clutching him, quivering around him, Stiles’ skin under his lips and hands, Stiles gripping his hair and scratching his back as they reached their peaks together.

“I would never say that…” Derek shakes his head. “Not to you.”

“Because you used to say it to Stiles,” she whispers then takes a deep breath.

He looks up but she isn’t looking back at him. Her eyes are firmly sealed to the wall above the stove. He wonders if she’s thinking about the breakfast she made him, because she wanted to take care of him, because she didn’t know that he had betrayed her in his thoughts. He doesn’t reach out to touch her because she would probably break his hand.

“Braeden...”

“What does it mean?”

“It…” He sighs and he doesn’t want to tell her but she would just look it up anyway. “It means...‘my love’ in Polish.”

“My—” She gasps sharply and Derek’s stomach falls. “My love?”

“Braeden—”

“Y’know…” she starts as she turns away from him to slide off the stool and make her way over to the bed. “I thought you were doing that thing again where you would whisper something sexy in a different language and then wait to see how long it takes for me to figure out what you said and I went yes he’s bringing this back, I missed this but no…no you were just...”—He is sure the sound she makes as she picks up her jeans off the floor is a sob.—“You were just thinking about your ex while you were in bed with me.”

“That’s not true,” he lies as he watches her pull her jeans on. “I just said it. I didn’t mean to. It-it just slipped out.”

“We’ve been together over a year now and that has never slipped out before so—” She halts. “Something happened last night, didn’t it?”

“No,” Derek assures but he isn’t sure whether or not he’s technically lying. “Not… nothing like that.”

She finally turns her eyes up to his and the look is cutting but her eyes are dry. He should’ve known she’s too proud to let him see her cry over this.

“I just…” He puts his arms up in surrender. “Scott and Kira didn’t want to make the drive so...I took Stiles home after the party.”

Braeden scoffs and sits on the edge of the bed to pull her boot onto her right foot.

“I dropped him outside his house and came straight home.” That was another lie and he knows it, but he doesn’t know why he said it.

“Your body came straight home but your mind was still with him.” She zips up the left boot then shakes her head as she stands. “You basically called out someone else’s name right in my ear and I didn’t even know it.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says because he realizes that he hadn’t said it yet.

She purses her lips and doesn’t look at him when she says, “I’m going home.”

That stings. It’s been so long since she referred to her apartment as home, she always just says her apartment or her place. It was unspoken that Derek’s loft had become her home.

He pleads, “Braeden...” one more time as he steps toward her.

“I need to go home,” she says with a finality that stops him in his tracks. “I need to think.”

He grinds his teeth.

Braeden demands, “Don’t follow me,” as she steps passed him, giving him a wide berth as she goes.

Derek is still standing there long after she walks out and shuts the door.

Ty jesteś mój, moja miłość, mój wszystko, his mind supplies and it’s as if he is listening to his own voice through static. You are mine, my love, my everything. Derek had learned early that Stiles often needed to be reminded and so he would tell him in either language any chance he got, but it wasn’t really Stiles he was talking to last night.

He’s ashamed of his words, his actions, of himself. He’s too ashamed to move, even when his legs start getting tired. He barely shifts until his phone rings and his mind tells him that it’s Stiles calling.

He only moves to run to the bathroom to throw up.

Chapter Text

Stiles freezes in his tracks when the elevator doors open and he sees the bullpen. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen the space this empty before, especially not on a Monday. Usually at least one agent would be sitting at a desk poring over files or tapping on laptop keys.

If it weren’t for all the cars parked outside, he would think that there is no one in the building at all save for himself and the three people downstairs waiting for Isaac and Deaton to see about their poor pets.

He expects a tumbleweed to roll through the space at any moment.

“Super creepy,” he mutters to himself as he moves toward Derek’s closed office door.

There is no answer when Stiles knocks but he still waits another couple of seconds before he pushes the door open. The chair behind the desk is empty and Stiles leans around the door to see if Derek is standing by the far wall but there is no one in the room. He is unsettled.

He quickly makes his way to Derek’s desk and decides to leave a note then get himself right out of this situation.

Heard you came to my rescue Friday night! He writes with one of Derek’s pens on the topmost sheet of a notepad he found in Derek’s desk. Sorry you had to see me like that but thank you for taking me home. His hand twitches with the urge to draw a little heart but he resists and just finishes with Stiles.

The sudden sound of the text alert from his phone startles him in the deafening quiet.

“Shit!” he exclaims, dropping the pen onto the desk and reaching into his pocket to pull out his phone. There is a picture text from Scott of a pot of pasta with a caption that reads, It’s almost done! Get over here!

“What are you doing?” comes from the doorway and Stiles almost leaps out of his skin.

Hoh my god,” he gasps and grips his chest. “You need a freakin’ bell.”

“What are you doing?” Derek repeats, stepping into the office. “You’re supposed to be off this week.”

“I was—” Stiles gulps down air as Derek takes his seat. “I was leaving you a note thanking you for Friday night before you and Scott almost made me piss myself.” He scoffs, “Where the hell is everybody anyway?”

“They’re working,” Derek replies shortly and opens his laptop. “Just like I should be, so please leave.”

Stiles feels like he was slapped and his shoulders slump. Derek sat right next to the note, his arm is lying mere inches away from the pad but he hasn’t even spared it a glance. Stiles pushes it even closer with the tips of his fingers.

Derek pulls in a deep breath and finally looks over when Stiles’ forefinger taps against the page.

He huffs, “You’re welcome.”

“Okay.” Stiles sets his hands on his hips as he makes his way around to the other side of the desk. “What is it this time?”

Derek doesn’t even look up at him. “Excuse me?”

“You’re mad at me again and I want to know why,” Stiles enunciates, leaning forward a little over the desk with every word to try to bring Derek’s eyes up to his.

“I’m not mad at you,” Derek replies, his eyes firmly situated on his laptop. “I’m just—”

“Furious?” Stiles interrupts. “Outraged maybe?”

Derek sighs and closes his eyes.

“Just…” Stiles purses his lips. “...tell me what I did so I can feverishly make up for it.”

With another deep breath, Derek pushes himself up out of his chair and goes to close the door.

Stiles doesn’t know how to react. He hopes that Derek is going to propel himself forward, grab hold of him and join their lips.

Derek keeps standing in front of the door as he asks, “What do you remember about Friday night?”

“Nothing.” Stiles gulps. “I was so far gone, when I woke up Saturday morning I didn’t even remember my own name for a little bit.” He reaches up to rub his forehead. “Why? What’d I do?”

He figures he tried to kiss Derek. He made a fool of himself and that’s why Derek is angry at him, disgusted with him. It makes the most sense.

“After I dropped you off…” Derek starts and Stiles hates that he is looking at the corner of the desk instead of up at him. “When I was leaving, you said…” Derek purses his lips and clears his throat then continues, “You told me you love me.”

Stiles flushes and his skin suddenly feels too tight.

He drops his own gaze and stutters, “I...uh I...oh god...Derek, I was drunk off my ass. I didn’t know what I was saying.”

“So then it’s not true?”

Stiles’ lips quiver because Derek almost sounds like he would be thrilled if Stiles didn’t love him anymore. His eyes fill and he looks up to see Derek frown. Stiles wishes Derek wasn’t still standing in front of the door so that he could run out.

“What difference does it make?” Stiles runs his right hand up his left arm. “It’s not like you love me back.”

“And don’t you think that’s a good enough reason to focus your attention on someone else?”

Stiles almost laughs, “I'm sorry?”

“It shouldn’t be too hard,” Derek says softly, like he's cajoling a wild animal. “You probably dated while you were in Germany, right? And you saw plenty of guys before me.”

Plenty?” Stiles scoffs and drops his arm. “It was two but way to make me out to be a slut and no, I didn’t date in Germany. The only thing I could think about was getting closer to coming home to you.”

Derek clenches his jaw. “The point is—”

“The point is that there is no point. I didn’t love those guys. I never even slept with them.” He has to stop to catch his breath because Derek might as well have both hands around his throat. A tear rolls down his cheek. “You were in West Angola or North Mumbai or Southeast Kazakhstan or wherever and I thought...I thought that maybe if I played the field then I could stop thinking about you so much but guess what?” He pulls in a shallow breath. “It didn’t work. I always ended up at your house, bombarding Cora with questions about how you were doing and when you were coming home, so don’t give me that shit about how it shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Well you’re older now,” Derek says, calm as if he’s talking about the weather while Stiles is trying to steady his breathing. “More mature and wouldn’t you want to be with someone who can...love you back?”

The room instantly falls cold and Stiles skin erupts in goosebumps. He holds his breath and narrows his eyes.

“Is that what she said to you?” he asks after a moment.

Derek blinks. “What?”

“Wouldn’t you want to be with someone who can love you back?” Stiles quotes then wipes his hand over his face. “Did she drill that into your head so you’d think it was okay to move on from me to her?”

That earns Stiles a scoff. “This isn’t about Braeden.”

“Of course it is,” Stiles snarls. “Everything is about Braeden because if it wasn’t for her slithering into your bed while you were lonely and sad and vulnerable—”

“I was lonely and sad and vulnerable because of you!” Derek barks, pointing his forefinger and advancing a little. “Braeden helped me through it.”

“So you repay her by letting her take advantage of you?” Stiles searches Derek’s incredulous eyes. “I mean who gets hired to find someone and then just gives up”—He throws his arms out—“so she can start screwing her client?” He snorts, “Did you ever check to find out if she does that with all of her employers?”

“I’m not playing this game with you,” Derek says through clenched teeth. “I’m not going to entertain your petty jealousy.”

Stiles laughs, “I’m far from jealous of that woman,” then shrugs. “I hate her. There’s a difference.” He licks his lips and tastes the streak from the tear. “Besides, jealousy implies that she’s taken something from me that I don’t think I can ever get back.”

Derek folds his arms over his chest. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Stiles purses his lips. He hadn’t expected to let himself say that but now that it’s out, he doesn’t want to stop.

“Well for one, you’re standing there”—He gestures at Derek—“arguing with me over bullshit.”

Derek furrows his brows.

Stiles continues, “Remember when you laughed after Erica nearly broke my nose? You wanted me hurt over what I put you through and Derek, you know better than anyone how to hurt me. Yet you’re standing there not entertaining my supposed petty jealousy when you could just look me in the eyes and tell me that you’re over me.”

He considers it a victory when Derek doesn’t respond.

“You’re not telling me that there isn’t even the slightest shadow of a chance in a frozen Hell at us getting back together because you're in love with someone else. You’re not saying you can no longer stand the idea of being mine.” He takes the chance at moving closer and Derek doesn’t move away. “You’re not telling me you love her more than you ever loved me and you’re not saying those things, baby, because you don’t feel that way.”

Derek works his jaw and Stiles takes another step forward.

“You got so turned on during my range test that you had to excuse yourself to a closet somewhere and jack off,” he says softly then chuckles, “You kept my shirt in your desk! What part of that am I supposed to believe means that you’re completely over me?”

“The part where none of what you just said matters,” Derek replies with a glare then shoulders passed him.

Stiles chews the corner of his lip and turns to face Derek again.

“I wanna hear you say it then.”

He sees Derek shake his head and lean his hands on the edge of the desk.

Derek mutters, “You’re acting like a child.”

“It’s the quickest way to shut me up.” Stiles closes the short distance between them. “And I’m sober as a judge now so I’ll remember every word.”

“You’re so—” Derek starts as he turns around but then gasps softly when he realizes how close Stiles is standing to him. He breathes “...annoying.”

“Say it, Babe,” Stiles softly demands then unabashedly glances at Derek’s lips. “Tell me you don’t have desire for me.”

Stiles sets his hands on Derek’s waist and waits to see how long it will take before he’s either pushed away or pulled closer, but Derek pays them no obvious attention.

Derek scoffs, “Stiles, I’m...serious.”

Neither of them hears the knock.

“All I ask is that you look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want me anymore.”

He could cheer when Derek gulps.

Stiles breathes, “Say it,” right against Derek’s lips.

Someone clears their throat which makes Derek gasp and pull up against the desk as if he means to climb it. Stiles grits his teeth to hold back a scream then turns over his shoulder to see Lydia.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she says, leaning to the side so she can ignore Stiles’ glare and look at Derek over his shoulder. “Mason and Hayden are ready with their presentations if you’d like to sit in.”

“Yeah,” Derek breathes as he squeezes passed Stiles.

Stiles drops his hand and lets Derek go as he keeps his glare on Lydia in the doorway.      

She raises a defiant brow at him.

“I’ll uh I’ll be right there Lydia,” Derek says and it sounds like he’s trying to catch his breath.

“Sure you don’t want me to stay?”

“I...”

“It’s okay,” Stiles says, turning his head a little but never really facing Derek. “We’ll talk about it later.”

He starts toward Lydia and the door.

“You’re incorrigible,” she says softly as he steps passed her.

Stiles rolls his eyes but he can’t help the grin that makes it’s way to his face. He checks his phone to find a Dude where r u? text from Scott.

|

Marin sneaks a glance at her watch for the third time in the last twenty minutes.

Derek has his head bowed, elbows on his knees, so she probably thinks he can't see her movements. Maybe she knows he can see and she’s just trying to highlight the fact that he hasn't spoken except to say hello since he walked in twenty-five minutes ago.

He's heard her open her mouth a few times since she asked how his weekend was, but she hasn't said a word. She wants him to take his turn to speak, but he doesn't know how to properly express what's been bothering him these last three days, the sick thing he did. If he tells Marin, she'll have the same reaction as Braeden, he knows it.

“It's been thirty minutes Derek,” she says in an even tone, a direct contrast to what the inside of his head sounds like.  “If you'd like to cut this session short—”

“No, I just…” He sighs heavily. “You started with a pretty loaded question.”

“Your weekend was that bad?”

Derek runs his tongue over his front teeth then softly admits, “I screwed up.”

“How?”

She’s getting impatient, he knows, that’s why she asked.

Derek sighs and leans back on the couch.

“Braeden,” is all he says then looks over to see Marin’s face showing no expression. He purses his lips and continues, “I said something to her that I shouldn’t have but...I don’t even remember saying it.” He sighs, “I hurt her,” then goes back into the position he was in before, his eyes on the floor, ashamed. “I might’ve lost her.”

“Have you tried talking to her since?”

“She’s not answering my calls and if I showed up at her apartment, she’d…”—slam the door in his face, maybe even slap him first, she might tell him never to come back—“I don’t know what she’d do.”

“Can I ask what you said?”

“No.”

Marin opens his notebook for the first time and writes something down before she says, “I’m sure whatever it is, Braeden understands that you’re under a great deal of stress. She needs time but she’ll come around.”

Derek shakes his head because he’s not sure he believes that.

“Have you spoken to your sisters?”

“Not since before.”

“You should.” Marin switches her legs to the other side. “In times like this, family can be more of a comfort than you realize.”

“They’ll ask me what I said to upset her,” Derek counters. “And I can’t tell them either.” He shakes his head and muses aloud, “But if I shut myself off and they find out I’ve been holding out on them, then they’ll be pissed at me too.”

“Hey, how about you let me do my job?” Marin jokes and Derek manages a small smile.

“I could go see them,” he says because he wants to smell those trees, knows he should do that instead of burying his face in the neck of the man who has their scent in his skin. “Today, if I have time.”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

He sits up and rubs his hands over his thighs.

“Whatever it is that you said to Braeden, does it have to do with Stiles?”

Derek clenches his jaw and doesn’t respond but he sees a knowing look on her face.

“Well?” she presses but he says nothing. She continues, “I thought as much when you said you didn’t want me or your sisters to know.”

He turns his eyes toward the wall.

“I won’t be angry or disappointed,” she tells him.

“I’m already angry and disappointed in myself,” he replies morosely then rubs his fingertips over his forehead.

Marin has already figured it out, for the most part at least, so he might as well fill her in on the rest.

“When Stiles and I…” He feels like his whole body is flushing as he sighs, “When we slept together...”—Stiles’ voice adds every time we were in the same place alone for long enough in his head—“...he liked when I spoke to him in Polish and...that’s what I did with Braeden.” He quickly adds, “By mistake,” when she starts to write in his notebook again.

Marin says, “You were fantasizing about him,” evenly again and Derek wants to ask her to turn her chair around so she would stop looking at him. “Does she speak Polish?”

Derek shakes his head. “I told her what it means.”

Marin sighs, “I’m sorry that happened.”

He nods.

“And I’m sorry that I had to push you but I don’t need you locking up on me again.”

“I know.”

She takes a moment a write something else then closes his notebook with finality and sets in on the coffee table next to the tape recorder.

“Not that there’s very much to listen to but do you want this tape?”

“No, that’s okay,” he says quickly as he gets up from the couch and all but runs for the door.

He ignores her when she calls out to him and makes his way across the bullpen only to freeze when he notices that his office door is open.

Stiles isn’t supposed to be at headquarters today but there he is, leaned over Derek’s desk writing something on his notepad with one of his pens. Derek watches Stiles’ hands through his open door. He contemplates walking away, leaving the work he has to do and going into the control room with Kira, Jackson and the interns. He would need to come up with a good reason for why he would be in there instead of in his office.

Stiles’ phone alerts and startles them both.

Derek doesn’t know why he moves toward the door. He doesn’t know why he spares more than four words on Stiles, doesn’t know why he sits down instead of grabbing his laptop and walking back out, doesn’t know why he shuts them both up in there together, doesn’t know why Stiles wouldn’t just listen to what he demanded, doesn’t know why he let Stiles back him into a corner. He knows he’s grateful for Lydia walking in when she did because he was about to do something else he would’ve regretted.

“Lydia…” he coughs once Stiles has walked out and he is finally able to think clearly enough to pick up his laptop and it’s cord.  “What you saw—”

“I didn't see anything,” she interjects with a soft smile.

Despite that, Derek continues, “It’s not what it looked like, I just…”—almost kissed him— “He…”—was right and he still has Derek wrapped around his little finger.

“Derek...” He hadn’t realized that he was staring at the spot where he and Stiles were just standing. He looks up to see Lydia raising her palm to him as she enunciates, “I didn’t see anything but we need to go okay? The others are waiting.”

Derek nods and grasps the laptop close to his chest as he follows her out of the office.

|

“Finally!” Stiles cried as he yanked Scott by the wrist into his bedroom. “What took you so damn long?”

“I got over here as soon as I could,” Scott said. “Your voicemail sounded really serious. What’s wrong?”

“I’m freaking out,” Stiles admitted as his hands ran from the top of his head, over his cheeks and back. “It’s my shirts, man. How have I lived twenty years on this planet and only amassed two shirts?!”

Scott blinked at him. “What? What are you talking about? You…” He looked over at Stiles’ open closet door. “You’ve got more clothes than me.”

“They’re...look…” Stiles pointed to his bed where three shirts lay neatly spread out. “These three are the same shirt but in different colors and I’ve worn all of these to the office already.” He gestured at the closet. “I’ve got four shirts in there that are the same too and-and...” His hands found their way back to his hair.

Scott simply replied, “Dude.”

“Don’t dude me mid-panic Scott,” Stiles threatened. “I’m seriously about to lose it.”

Scott had the audacity to cross his arms over his chest and adopt a nonchalant air about him.

“This is about more than just the shirts isn’t it?”

“Yes!” Stiles flung his arms toward the ceiling. “This is about pants too. Like...I don’t have any dress pants.” He huffed, “I am legally an adult and I don’t have a single pair of dress pants!”

“This is about Derek isn’t it?”

“He has seen every article of clothing I’ve ever had and I can’t even impress him with dress pants!”

“Dude.”

“If you dude me one more time, I swear.”

Scott rolled his eyes. “Derek won’t care what you’re wearing.”

“It’s our first date, Scott.” Stiles picked up a sleeve of one of the shirts then let it fall limply back onto the comforter. “This could set the frame for us spending the rest of our lives together.” He gasped and made his way toward his laptop. “Maybe if I order something new online…”

“Aren’t you meeting in like five hours?”

“Is there such a thing as express express shipping?” he asked as he typed in his password.

“Du—” Scott cuts off when Stiles turned to send him a cutting glare. “Look, Derek’s known you for like what, ten years?”

Stiles’ fingers took him to Amazon.com as he replied, “Twelve.”

“Right so he knows your style and that you don’t have freakin’ dress pants and he still asked you out.”

Stiles balled his hands into fists because he knew that Scott was making some sense.

“Look, all you need to do is just be yourself,” he continued. “Be the self that Derek asked out. If you just keep being that guy then you’re well on your way to making Derek fall madly in love with you. And then before you know it, you’ll be getting married and having babies and dogs and whatever else.”

Stiles shut his laptop and sighed, “Okay.”

Scott clapped his hand down on Stiles’ shoulder. “Okay?”

“Okay, but...” Stiles stood and made his way over to stand before his closet. “But now I have too many clothes.”

“Oh my god,” Scott groaned.

“What's going on with your face man?” Scott asks as he hands Stiles the plate and a glass of lemonade. “You've never been this excited for my chicken alfredo before.”

Stiles pulls in a deep breath and manages to grin even wider as he says, “Derek still likes me.”

“What?” Scott scoffs as he moves back into the kitchen. “What are you talking about?”

Derek,” Stiles says, setting the glass on the coffee table and picking up the Xbox controller so he can select the third episode of the documentary they started that morning, before Scott had to go collect groceries and cook and Stiles had to go to headquarters. “Y’know, my super hot and super moody ex-boyfriend? He’s still into me.”

Stiles can hear Scott’s snort from his place on the couch and Stiles is more than a little offended but he doesn't let it kill his glee.

“You would believe me if you saw what happened a few minutes ago.”

Scott is sucking pasta sauce off his finger as he steps back into the living room with his own plate.

He asks, “What happened?” as he makes his way to the couch but then turns back for the kitchen instead of sitting down.

“We kissed,” Stiles replies loud enough that Scott is sure to hear him.

There is a sudden clatter of something metal hitting the floor.

Stiles calls out, “You okay?”

“Dropped my soda,” Scott replies as he appears in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. “But what did you just say?”

“We, that is, hot moody Derek and myself, almost,” he admits with a roll of the eyes, “kissed. If Lydia hadn't walked in then we totally would have.”

“Wait…” Scott closes his eyes and touches the spot between his eyebrows. “What happened to Braeden?”

Stiles shrugs. “She wasn't like, standing in the room with us. Were we on episode three or four?”

“Dude, if he has a girlfriend, you can't just kiss him!”

“Almost kiss,” Stiles corrects as he selects episode three then puts down the controller and picks up his fork. “And I don't care if something happened to Braeden, just that for a few blissful seconds before Lydia poked her nose into our business there was no one in the world but me and Derek.” He sighs, “As it should be,” then tests the heat of the pasta on the tip of his tongue.

“I can't believe you don't even feel bad about this.”

“Why should I?” Stiles scoffs, “Y’know technically? Technically Derek and I didn't break up so if anything, he's cheating on me with her.”

“Are you hearing yourself?”

Stiles scoops a forkful of pasta into his mouth.

Scott walks back into the kitchen then returns, plate of pasta and can of soda in his hands, and sits next to Stiles.

“I think we were on four,” Stiles mutters, “I feel like I've seen that particular autopsy photo before.”

“You can't do this to him,” Scott replies and makes Stiles sigh. “I know you still have feelings for him and you wanna fight for him or whatever but...you can't.”

“We were definitely on episode four.”

Stiles.”

“I heard you,” he grumbles. “I can't believe you're not on my side.”

“I would be on your side if he wasn't still with Braeden.”

“He's not even in love with her,” Stiles counters. “She's just a rebound.”

“Dude...who's with a rebound for this long?”

Stiles clenches his teeth so he doesn't remind Scott that Derek is the exact kind of lonely, sad, and vulnerable person that would hold on to a rebound longer than necessary. Only because he knows that Scott would in turn remind him of who made Derek this way in the first place, just like Derek had.

“Let's just watch the show, okay?” he says instead.

“Okay,” Scott sighs then picks up his soda from the coffee table where he had placed it next Stiles’ lemonade. “We were on episode five,” he says as he pulls the tab open.

Stiles pushes Scott’s shoulder and almost makes him spill his drink.

|

“Hey,” Derek sighed as he stepped into the living room to find Cora sitting on the couch. “I saw Stiles today.”

She looked over her laptop and furrowed her brow at him. “Okay?”

“He's grown his hair out.” Derek sat on the far end of the couch and was acutely aware of his sister’s eyes still watching him. “I almost didn’t recognize him.”

“Okay?”

Derek sighed as he rested his head on the back of the couch and thought about the difference that four years made in Stiles’ appearance. He was somewhat odd-looking the last time Derek saw him but today at the vet clinic, he looked good, really good.

“Does he still come around here?”

Cora replied, “He was here a couple days ago what’s going on?” without missing a beat.

Derek rolled his head to look over at her and shrugged. “I was just curious.”

“About Stiles?”

“Yeah,” Derek laughed and he didn’t think he sounded nervous but the way she was looking at him made him feel that way. “What’s so shocking about that?”

“You just...you barely paid attention to him before. I guess I’m just surprised you even remember him.” She shifted to set the laptop down on the cushion between them. “You saw him where?”

“He was with his dad in town.”

“And you...noticed his hair.”

“So?”

Cora squinted at him then shook her head.

“I can't believe this,” she said as she reached down to the floor to pick up her phone. “Thought this stuff only happened on TV.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Hold on,” she said as she flicked her thumb over the phone screen.

Derek sighed a second before his phone started buzzing in his pocket. He pulled it out to see a message from Cora. He frowned at his phone then at his sister.

“It's a contact card,” she replied, setting her phone back on the floor. “In case you wanted to meet up for dinner or something.”

“That's…” Derek started as he opened the message to see Stiles’ phone number, his email, even his address. “...not where this conversation was going.”

Cora hums. “If the date goes well, don't bring him back here because I very much don't need that level of awkwardness in my life.”

Derek snorted, “I'm insulted that you think I would give it up on the first date,” as he saved the information.

She sighs, “Oh it's not you I'm worried about.”

“Meaning?”

Cora scoffed, “As if you didn't know Stiles has had a crush on you since like, middle school.”

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched. “I had my suspicions.”

“Yeah in-between dabbing drool from the corners of his mouth, he made me promise not to tell you.” She rolled her eyes. “But how could you not notice with the way he always got super weird whenever you were around.”

Derek shrugged. “He could just be weird.”

“He is weird but he’s weirder when it comes to you.”

The front door groans as it opens and Derek has to squint a little as the lights from inside shine on him before Laura’s shadow appears to barely block it.

“What are you doing weirdo?” she calls as she wraps her shawl tighter around her shoulders and steps outside barefoot. “It’s too cold to just be sitting out there.”

Derek had parked as close to the front porch as he could manage then climbed onto the hood of his car, where he laid the past ten minutes looking up at the trees in the twilight. He smiles as Laura approaches.

“It’s really not that cold,” he says.

“It's almost October,” she retorts as she comes to a top next to the Camaro.

He counters, “It's barely September.”

She rolls her eyes. “Back to my question, what are you doing weirdo?”

Derek takes a deep breath. “Thinking.”

“About?”

“A lot.”

She purses her lips. “Anything I can help with?”

Derek shakes his head.

“Mama!” Olive calls from the doorway, making her mother turn and her uncle sit up. “Want SpongeBob,” she whines.

“He’s on the couch baby.”

“Hi Ollie,” Derek says, raising his hand to wave.

“Hi!” Olive chirps before stepping out of view.

“Ouch,” Derek groans as he lays back down.

Laura snickers. “You’re the one that bought the doll and now she loves it more than you.”

“You can cut the irony with a butter knife.” He sighs, “Where’s Cora?”

“She said something about wedding planning with Lydia, so I assume they're in town somewhere.”

Derek hums.

“I can call her if—”

“It’s okay.” He rolls his hand down to his side with the palm up and Laura slides her palm over his. “Wow,” he chuckles when he feels the chill in her fingers. “You really are freezing.”

She squeezes his hand and says, “I told you.”

“You should go back inside where it’s warm then.”

“I don’t want to leave you out here by yourself while you’re looking so woeful.”

Derek shakes his head. “I’m not woeful, I’m thinking.”

Thinking and saturating himself in the scents from the trees. Derek gulps.

“You know you can talk to me right?” Laura asks softly as she looks down at their joined hands. “You don’t only have to share your life with Cora.”

Derek furrows his brow. “I don’t do that.”

“Well you always go to her first.”

He huffs, “I guess I just got used to it since she was always the only one around.”

Laura frowns and he sees a shudder move through her. He doesn’t know if it’s because of the chill or his words but it brings a frown to his face too.

“I’m sorry,” he sighs as he sits up and rests his other hand over both of theirs. “I didn’t mean that.”

And he doesn’t know why he said it. Laura was there for him when Stiles disappeared, right when he needed her most, and that more than made up for her leaving him and Cora in Peter’s unequipped hands most of the time after their parents were murdered.

Laura opens her mouth at the same moment that the roar of a motorcycle reaches their ears.

She chuckles, “Speak of the devil.”

Her siblings watch as Cora pulls into the front yard then steers her Honda Rebel into three donuts before parking right next to the Camaro.

She pulls off her helmet and sings, “Hello brother, hello sister!”

Laura scoffs, “Are you drunk?”

“On premarital bliss,” Cora grins before nodding at Derek. “What’s wrong with Nosferatu?”

He flips her the bird as Laura answers, “He’s thinking,” with a one-handed air-quote.

Cora hops up onto the Camaro’s hood and Derek warns, “If you scuff my car, I’m gonna spray-paint your motorcycle orange and purple.”

“I’m not gonna let you rain on my parade,” she replies as she lays her head on his shoulder then pokes him in the side. “What’s the matter? You and Brae can’t come up with a good baby name?”

Derek groans, “She’s not pregnant!”

“I like Cole,” Cora says then lightly taps Laura’s arm. “Or Laurence?”

“I refuse to have my nephew nicknamed Larry,” Laura retorts and Cora giggles. “I much prefer Luke.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I much prefer an end to this conversation.”

“That’s fair,” Cora grunts as she sits upright. “I mean how can you and Braeden be talking about baby names when you haven’t been talking at all lately?”

Derek looks over at his sister. “Who told you that?”

Laura asks, “Is that true?”

He looks back at Laura when Cora raises her brow at him.

“We’ve…” He purses his lips. “I think we’re taking a break.”

“A break?” Laura gasps and Derek doesn’t realize that she had pulled her hand away until he notices her folding her arms over her chest. “And you didn’t tell me?”

“To be clear,” Cora says with her finger in the air between the three of them. “He didn’t tell either of us.”

Laura scoffs, “What happened?” but Derek faces Cora.

“Who told you?”

“Lydia did,” she replies easily. “She’s going to be my wife, we’re supposed to be upfront and honest with each other.”

“Who told Lydia?”

“Braeden.”

Derek blinks and shakes his head. “When did—”

“We’re trying to get an apartment in her building remember?” Cora shrugs. “They talked.”

“Why didn’t you tell us you were on a break?” Laura says as she leans into Derek’s vision.

“I’m…” He sighs, “I’m not even sure what we’re doing.”

“Then why would you say that?”

“Mama bear...” Cora rests her hand on Laura’s shoulder. “You’re freaking out about the wrong thing. You should be asking what he did.”

Derek scoffs, “What makes you think that I did something?”

Laura’s eyes go wide the same way that Olive’s do. “Did she do something?”

“No,” he huffs. “It was me.”

“What did you do?” His sisters ask in unison.

“I…” Derek gulps and tries to come up with something that won’t make his sisters give him that look they both adopted from their mother—that one he never seemed to master—the look that says I’m disappointed in you but I love you too much to say it out loud. He decides to go with something close to the truth but not quite there. “She...doesn’t like me spending so much time around Stiles.”

Why are you spending time with Stiles?” Laura asks in an accusatory tone.

“We work together,” Derek replies. “I can’t just leave the building every time he shows up.”

“Well then, maybe you should just leave, period.”

Derek looks his sister in the eyes and sternly replies, “I’m not leaving BEACON.”

He looks over to find Cora giving him a sympathetic look.

“I’m dealing with it,” he says softly. “We are dealing with it.”

Laura takes a deep breath.

“I’ll call her when I get back to the loft,” he says although he’s not entirely sure whether he will or not, but his sisters look satisfied. “Can we go in?” he asks. “Before Laura turns into a momsicle.”

“Shut up,” she says but he sees her small smile before she turns to go back into the house.

Cora slides off the Camaro’s hood then checks to make sure she hadn’t left any marks as Derek does the same.

“Hey,” she starts as she moves toward him and pulls his arm over her shoulders as she puts her arm around his middle. “Just between us? I wouldn’t blame you if you started to forgive him a little.”

Derek’s stomach feels like it’s climbing up his throat.

“Just as long as you’re sure that it’s the right decision.”

He clenches his jaw and remains silent as they step into the house.

|

Stiles doesn’t know if it would be the right decision. Really, he doesn’t feel like he could make himself go through with it. Scott had regarded that he’s cheating on me with her thing as some kind of selfish proclamation, but that’s exactly what Stiles feels like he would be doing: cheating. After all it was Derek who moved on, not him. He knows it’s ridiculous to think of them as being in a relationship set to pause, but the idea of being with anyone but Derek makes Stiles cringe.

At any rate, what’s Stiles supposed to do with a shiny, new boyfriend? He wouldn’t get Stiles’ humor, he would just think that Stiles is a run-of-the-mill asshole. Stiles’ own friends think that and he’s known them for years, so this new guy is going to be over his shit before they ever get anywhere.

Even if—in some alternate universe—he did manage to find someone, they would probably end up trying to have sex but the new guy wouldn’t know how to roll his tongue around Stiles’ mouth in a way that makes his knees weak, he wouldn’t know that well-timed bites to his lips while being kissed has a tendency to make Stiles cum in his pants, he wouldn’t know that Stiles likes getting fingered while he’s having his dick sucked or that he likes getting jerked off while he’s being rimmed. Stiles could tell the guy but Derek already knows. Derek knows because he likes those things too, because he and Stiles are perfect for each other, but Derek has convinced himself that he still wants her.

Braeden. With her beautiful hair and her perfect face and her slammin’ bod and her legs that go on for years. Fuck her. Stiles had Derek first and he was right on the verge of getting him back.

Damn Lydia and her shitty fucking timing.

Stiles sighs heavily because his bed is cold. He has a queen-sized and thinks that when he moves out, he should opt for a full, because he hates staring at all that empty space. He doubts it’ll make much of a difference. Any bed would feel too big, too cold without Derek there to warm it.

For argument’s sake, he could give a shot. There’s apps, there’s whole websites, there’s cafes and bookstores and street corners. There’s headquarters. Stiles makes a face at the ceiling because he isn’t sure where that particular thought came from. Although, BEACON isn’t exactly lacking in the hot guy department.

There was Derek, of course, forever the measuring stick. Boyd, but he’s married now and Stiles just knows that Erica would feed him his own nutsack if he even dared finish that thought. Isaac and Allison seem to be really into each other but he doesn’t know how long that will last. He doesn't think that Aiden is into dudes at all, but it wouldn’t kill him to ask. Stiles wonders if he could talk Danny and Ethan into a polyamorous thing.

Stiles rolls over onto his belly. Any of the interns would make him feel like he’s with a teenager so they're all out.

Stiles hums when he remembers Toby, no… Theo. He seems the type that would be into a quick fuck in a bathroom stall and he has hair like Derek’s. If Stiles closes his eyes when Theo goes down on him, he might be able to imagine it was Derek’s hair he was holding onto, Derek’s mouth he was fucking into.

Whoever it is, Stiles knows with every fiber of his being, that it could never be Jackson. Or Deaton because that’s a whole different can of worms and he wouldn’t be able to look Scott or his own father in the eyes ever again.

There’s someone he’s forgetting.

Parrish, his half-asleep mind supplies some time later. Stiles’ eyebrows jump and he thinks, maybe… but he would need to ask on that one too.

Chapter Text

Everyone’s eyes are on him as soon as he moves into the bullpen and Derek furrows his brow. Noah had called him in on his day off because they had a new mission and Derek needed to be present for the briefing.

That was nearly three hours ago, but he told Noah that he was busy and got here as soon as he could so he doesn’t understand why the stares are necessary.

He asks them, “What?” and Lydia starts studying her nails.

Ethan and Jackson turn back to the conversation they were having.

“Noah wants to see you in his office,” Erica says and the furrow in Derek’s brow deepens.

He sighs as he starts toward the Director’s door and prepares himself to be berated for being so late.

Stiles is standing across the desk from his father with his arms folded over his chest.

Noah turns away from his son to greet Derek with a smile and Stiles looks up at the same time that his father does, but then quickly turns his eyes away. He's staring at Noah’s awards case while Derek closes the door.

As if magnetically repelled, Stiles moves away from the desk toward the couch up against the far wall when Derek makes his way over to stand in front of Noah.

Derek started noticing that Stiles has been doing that a lot lately: stepping away or walking out of a room whenever Derek enters it when only three weeks ago Stiles was practically dry-humping him on his desk. He purses his lips and pushes that thought away when Noah clears his throat and folds his fingers together.

“I need you to accompany Stiles on this operation,” he says and Derek can’t help but scoff.

“Why?”

He looks over at Stiles who is looking back at his father.

“There's no one else available,” Noah replies easily as he rests his back against his chair. “This is a three-person job and with Stiles reinstated, we have an uneven amount of folks now.”

Derek wants to argue but he clenches his jaw when he remembers that Noah is right. Danny, Jackson, and the twins just came out of the field so they would need to complete an assignment from base before they go back into the field. Harley and Lydia are busy with the interns, none of whom are allowed to do any actual casework. Allison and Boyd are still out and Erica had to take over as their base contact because there’s a suspected serial arsonist on the loose near the California-Mexico border so Kira had to leave to go help track them down.

“I'm not a field agent anymore,” Derek says instead and he’s trying his best not to sound plaintive.

It hasn’t been that long since Braeden decided to forgive him and when she finds out that he’s been asked to go into the field with Stiles, she won’t be happy. Derek doesn’t want to think that he would fall prey to Stiles’ advances if they were alone together again, but he would rather not have the opportunity dangled in front of him.

“The way we’ve always done this is that the newest agent gets the next assignment,” Noah counters in his least authoritative tone. “And if I thought he could take care of this one on his own, then I wouldn’t be doing this, you know that.”

Stiles chimes in, “And for the record, I wanted Danny or Erica. This”—He gestures between himself and Derek—“was Mason's idea, so don’t look at me.”

Derek turns his eyes back on Noah. “Mason?”

“He suggested that your skills melded the best and since you already know each other so well...” Noah raises his arms out to the side.

Stiles offers, “Just consider it a punishment for missing the briefing.”

Derek rolls his eyes.

“I asked for this day off so I could pick up my girlfriend up from the airport. It’s not my fault the plane was delayed.”

Noah asks, “She's back already?”

“Apparently it was an easy one,” Derek replies with a shrug.

Stiles snorts and mutters, “Yeah, if it was hard she'd probably just give up.”

Derek opens his mouth to retort but Noah beats him with a warning, “Stiles!”

They watch him scowl at the floor.

Derek clears his throat. “Who’s going to work with us from here?”

Noah leans forward to rest his elbows on his desk again. “Does that mean you’ll do it?”

Derek pulls in a slow breath. A part of him wants to say no, to turn Noah down flat but he knows he shouldn’t. He gets the feeling that Stiles will convince his father to let him go on his own anyway and if something were to happen to him, Derek would never forgive himself when he knew he could stop it this time.

He nods almost imperceptibly and Noah turns his gaze to his son. Derek doesn’t follow the action.

Noah tells him, “Danny offered to be your base contact,” then sighs. “Everything you need is still in the control room whenever you’re ready. The others can fill you in.”

“But before we get into any planning,” Stiles starts. “I should tell you I’m gonna need to leave in a little bit.”

“Are you kidding?” Derek scoffs. “Your first mission back and you’re going to bail on the most important step to completing it?”

“Dude.” Stiles closes his eyes and shakes his head. “It’s hardly my fault this asshole decided to pop up on the radar the same day I’m supposed to be going on a date.”

Derek blinks and looks at Noah because he wants to know if there is a startled look on his boss’ face too. He finds Noah’s expression to be passive but he’s looking over the edge of his desk to the floor, so Derek turns back to Stiles.

“A wh—a...date?”

“Yeah,” Stiles breathes then also glances at his father and back. “Tonight.” He pushes his hands into his pockets. “And it’s the first date so I can’t stay here until ass o’clock and set a bad precedent.”

Derek gulps. He figures that would explain why Stiles has been practically avoiding him. He was right after all because Stiles had found someone else and that’s why he hasn’t been wanting to follow Derek around like a lost puppy looking for home. He knows he should be happy that Stiles is finally moving on but that’s not what he’s feeling.

He realizes he’s been quiet for too long when Stiles starts searching his eyes.

“I thought you’d be thrilled,” Stiles says softly.

Derek stutters, “I’m...I am...thrilled you took my advice,” and it feels like he’s lying. “It’s just that...not too long ago you were telling me something different and—”

“And then I met someone,” Stiles interjects and it almost sounds like he’s angry that Derek dared to even bring that up. “It happens.” He licks his lips then gestures to the door. “We should probably go, huh? Time’s a-wastin’.”

“Right.”

Derek catches Noah’s gaze before he turns away and he can hear Stiles’ footsteps following him as he steps out of the office.

He wants to ask even though he knows it’s none of his business. Where did Stiles meet him? When? How does he know that this guy can even be trusted? He could be anyone. He could’ve been sent to infiltrate BEACON and Stiles was made the target because his vulnerability was on full display at some bar or wherever. Derek wants to know how thoroughly Stiles looked into the guy’s background, if he did. He doesn’t think that Stiles would be dumb enough to date someone who wasn’t properly vetted, not with all of these resources at his disposal.

Danny had apparently joined the conversation between Ethan and Jackson and he looks up just in time to catch Derek’s eyes as he and Stiles make their way toward the control room. Danny raises his finger, miming hold on a second then turns for the break room.

Stiles and Derek descend the steps at the side of the auditorium-style control room and Stiles immediately goes for his usual seat in the center of the first middle row. Derek looks at the seat to Stiles’ right, the one he used to occupy, and bypasses it in order to sit in the front row. They are in a moment of silence that Derek almost desperately wants to fill with questions but he’s cut off as the scanner on the other side of the door beeps then opens on Mason with Danny right behind him.

“So what did I miss?” Derek asks once the door closes again.

Danny answers, “Stiles called Jackson a dumpster fire,” as he and Mason move toward him. “Because Jackson said and I quote ‘Thank god, I was starting to think that people heard Stilinski came back and decided not to do business with us anymore’ unquote.”

Derek lets out a soft laugh as he shifts his hips to move his chair forward so Mason can sit to his left, in the chair in front of Stiles.

“Erica said that it was almost like the last four years didn’t even happen.”

Derek doesn’t have to turn. He could hear the smirk at the start of Stiles’ sentence turn into a frown by the end of it.

Danny is wearing a frown now too as he goes to stand at the front of the room behind a smaller desk in the space that Noah usually occupies.

He opens the laptop sitting on the desk as he starts, “Um…so I already emailed the minutes to everyone but to catch you up in case you didn’t realize it, it’s been well over a month since we’ve had a call.” He huffs then starts tapping on the keyboard keys more forcefully. “But then, of course, our dry spell has to end with this guy.”

Danny clicks the keyboard mouse and the image of a man pops up on the large monitor on the wall.

“Adrian Harris.”

“No seriously,” Stiles starts and, out of the corner of his eye, Derek can see him fling his arm out to gesture at the screen. “Does the guy not look like a toothbrush wearing glasses?”

Derek shakes his head, Mason snickers, and Danny rolls his eyes but he’s grinning as he continues, “Harris is a...he was a high school Chemistry teacher but he got let go after he was discovered to be having illicit relationships with students from that school and others in the area. Some of the parents too, I believe. Apparently, he would supply them with drugs in return for whatever he wanted.”

Derek grimaces.

“Anyway, he was working for a private school,”—Danny clicks again and a school website appears on the screen—“And rather than make a case about it, they expelled the kids and fired Harris.”

“So now he’s pissed,” Derek concludes.

Danny purses his lips and nods sharply.

“The school administrators think he could be planning an attack on the school but Lydia says there’s nothing in his past that suggests he would be using explosives and he doesn’t have any guns registered in his name, but...he’s been shopping.”

Another click of the mouse brings up a list.

“Cyanide, Dioxin, Polonium, Sodium Fluoride, Thallium…” Danny recites. “And this sounds like...”

“A biological attack,” Derek finishes.

“Bingo,” Danny replies.

“But what's he even trying to accomplish? It seems like he's stockpiling everything.”

Stiles chimes in, “It also seems like FBI work so I don’t get why we’re the ones dealing with this.”

"The school didn't want the Feds involved," Danny says. "They thought we would be more...discreet."

Derek scoffs, "Meaning they don't want all of their dirty laundry aired, just this part of it." 

"Stupid shit always happens at private schools," Stiles adds in a grumble.

“This is exactly why they would be perfect to work together on this,” Mason says and he sounds like he’s in awe. He seems to shake himself back to reality when Derek turns to look at him. “See, I read up on all the missions that everyone’s completed in the past—”

Stiles interjects, “All of them?”

“Yeah,” Mason grins. “And from what I gathered, you two are the best team that BEACON has.” He quickly holds out his hands toward Danny. “Not saying that everyone isn’t great but,” He looks back and forth between Derek and Stiles “…you guys are just great together.”

Derek's stomach sinks. He spares a glance over his shoulder and catches Stiles’ eyes for a second before Stiles hangs his head to frown at his own hands sitting on top of the desk. Derek turns back to give Mason a small smile then faces Danny again.

“Where are we going?” he asks.

“Las Vegas,” Danny replies quickly as if he was desperate for a change of subject. “Harris has been making several trips back and forth since he got let go. We think that may be where he's meeting his supplier.”

Stiles asks, “Where does he live?”

“San Marino.”

Derek says, “We should go there first.”

Stiles agrees with a “Yep. Get his place bugged in case it turns out he’s just going to Vegas to get buckwild.”

Derek adds, “That way if he comes back empty-handed, we can have a lead on when he’ll be meeting the supplier for real.”

Mason whispers, “This is awesome,” to himself so Derek pretends not to hear him.

Danny nods. “I’ll put it on the schedule.”

Stiles asks, “When does he leave?”

“He usually drives out on a Friday afternoon…” Danny scrolls over the screen. “...and comes back Sunday nights.”

“He drives?” Derek tsks. “So he could be meeting up with the guy anywhere within those four hours.”

“We’ll need to get a tracker on that car too,” Stiles says.

Derek nods. “Is he at home right now?”

“Uh..." Danny starts typing on the laptop keys. “Hold on.”

Mason asks, “Can’t you just follow him wherever he goes with CCTV cameras?”

Stiles replies, “CCTV doesn’t cover every inch of the interstate,” before Derek gets the chance. “And all sorts of things could go wrong with the orbiting satellites but our trackers don't fail unless they're tampered with.”

“Okay,” Danny sighs. “This is the view from his next door neighbor's security system.”

The perfect image of suburbia comes across the big monitor: peaceful, idyllic, barely-affordable homes with manicured lawns.

“Looks like he’s home.”

Stiles whistles. “Nice place for a teacher.”

“A teacher that extorts people,” Derek counters.

“Fair.”

The camera rolls to the left.

“Shit he’s got a garage,” Stiles complains. “Why do these dickbags never have an easily accessible driveway?”

Danny counters, “It shouldn't be too hard to get into that house.”

Stiles gasps, “Car trouble.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “No.”

Come on,” Stiles whines. “It’d be perfect.”

“We don’t know if it’s even going to rain later this week.”

“You’re just gonna act like the weather channel app doesn’t exist?”

Derek can hear Stiles shuffling as he pulls out his phone.

Danny asks, “What are you guys talking about?”

Derek sighs, “He wants to pretend to get caught in the rain with a broken down car.”

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Stiles giggles, “and honestly what’s more pitiful than that? Don’t say sad puppies.”

Derek shakes his head. “If he can trick Harris into letting him in the house—”

Stiles interjects, “Because we know he likes ‘em young.”

Danny furrows his brow. “You’re almost thirty.”

“Young-looking then. I can pass for a teenager easy.”

Derek snorts and grumbles, “Maybe in the dark.”

“It’s gonna rain, see?”

Derek turns to look at Stiles’ phone when he leans over the desk and pushes it towards Derek's face. Sure enough, there's a cloud and water droplet symbol hovering over Thursday and Friday. He turns back to Danny.

“If he can trick Harris into letting him in the house—”

Stiles hisses. “I have to pee, can I use your bathroom?”

“—then he can find his way to the garage and plant the tracker.”

“It’ll be a classic!”

“It won’t work.”

Stiles scoffs and Derek faces him again.

“What are we supposed to do if he comes looking for you while you’re pretending to be in the bathroom?”

“Duh, you’re going to distract him by being the guy who comes to fix my car.”

“That could work,” Danny says.

Derek repeats, “It’s not going to work because I’m not climbing into that death trap you call a car and driving all the way to San Marino.”

“Hey!” Stiles points a finger at him. “Don’t insult my baby.”

“Your baby is older than everyone in this room.”

“Y—”

Mason cuts in, “What about the rest of the bugs?”

Derek replies, “We go back later after he’s already started on the way to Vegas and plant those.”

Stiles hums. “Maybe one of us should follow him and the other one plants the bugs.”

“That’s…” Derek nods. “...a better idea. So we’ll have to bring both cars because if he sees the jeep broken down on the road, then he sees it following him…”

“Right so we take separate cars. Perfect.” His phone buzzes loudly on the desk. “Perfect um...I have to go.”

Derek's hands twitch with the urge to ball into fists. He didn't realize that time had been moving so quickly.

“Go?” Danny scoffs, “Go where?”

“He has a date,” Derek says and Danny’s eyebrows very nearly disappear into his hairline.

Stiles mutters, “What he said,” as he taps on his phone.

“Uh…” Danny looks like he's trying his best not to look back and forth at Derek's face and watching Stiles starting to walk out. “Is it someone I know?”

Stiles chuckles, “Nosy.”

“So then...are we just gonna wrap this thing up without you?”

“I guess.” Stiles' voice is coming from the top of the stairs near the door. “Just send me the details later, no…” He snaps his fingers. “Tomorrow in case things go well.”

Derek works his jaw and turns around to see Stiles with his hand on the door handle, his other hand is grasping his phone, and his eyes are intently staring at it.

“Hey, what’s your codename?” Derek asks. “You need to be put in the database.”

“Director Stilinski already did that,” Danny says. “Since you weren’t here.”

Stiles replies, “It’s Void.”

“Void?” Derek furrows his brow. “That’s not a codename, it’s an adjective.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “So you know how on the computers you only see an empty box next to the codename entry? Well…” He glances at his phone again then back at Derek. “In the mainframe, it says ‘void’ in the box and I liked it better than Deadman, Ghost, Zombie, or any of that shit so...” He shrugs. “Void.” Stiles licks his lips then waves to the room. “Good night guys.”

“Whoa,” Danny breathes once the door closes again. “How are you handling that?”

Derek thinks it would seem that he's handling it poorly, but he doesn't really understand why.

“Handling what?”

Stiles?” Danny scoffs. “Going on a date?”

Derek shrugs. “I don’t care.”

Danny glares and Mason is staring at the side of Derek’s face.

“I don’t,” Derek asserts. “He’s an adult and he can do whatever he wants with whoever he wants.”

“Right…” Danny clears his throat. “Um, so…”

Derek doesn’t hear the rest of Danny's sentence. He's too busy thinking about what just took place.

He didn't notice while it was happening but now that Stiles is gone and he's forced to take stock, he realizes that it was as if they had just slipped easily back into their previous selves, before Stiles left. They were working together almost like the last four years didn’t even happen, even the bickering was commonplace.

Maybe Noah was right to bring Derek back the same time that he did Stiles, maybe this means that he'll be able to go into the field more often again, maybe he'll get more comfortable working with the others again too, not just Stiles. Even so, he's always been more than happy to only work with Stiles. After all, it's like Mason said, they make a great team.

By the time the three of them finished with the outline of the plan, it’s well after sundown, but the bullpen is still buzzing.

As he makes his way to his car in the dark, Derek absently wonders how the date is going.

|

“Are...wow um…” Stiles moaned. “Would you lose respect for me if I asked you to spend the night?”

Derek chuckled and it made Stiles’ knees wobble. If Derek wasn’t holding him up against the Camaro, their bodies pressed together, he would’ve slid to the ground.

“I didn’t lose respect for you the last three times you asked,” Derek said as he dragged his lips from Stiles’ neck up to where it meets his jaw. “I still don’t think that’s a good idea though.”

Stiles breathed, “We should put it to a vote.”

Derek hummed as he moved his lips to Stiles’.

“How would that work when there’s only two of us?”

“Well see my erection gets a vote”—Stiles shifted his hips against Derek’s to accent his words—“and the rest of me gets a vote, so in the eyes of our democratic society, you’ve lost.”

Derek snorts, “That so?” as he brushed the tips of their noses together.

“We’ve been on four dates now,” Stiles pleaded. “The sex date is usually the third one.”

“Maybe I want to preserve your purity,” Derek said as he ran his hand up Stiles’ chest under his shirt.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have blown me on the first date then.”

“I guess not.” Derek smirked as his thumb just barely swept over Stiles’ nipple and made his hips jerk. “You want me to stop teasing you?”

Stiles heavily exhaled, “Yes.”

Derek flicked his tongue into Stiles’ mouth and made him whimper before completely pulling away.

“Good night Stiles,” he said as he started around to the driver's side of his car.

Stiles watched Derek walk away, his mouth hanging open in disbelief and something like rage.

He cried, “You’re the worst person ever!” when he realized that Derek was being serious.

Derek gave him a sweet smile and promised, “Next time,” as he climbed into the Camaro’s front seat then proceeded to leave him there, standing in front of his house.

Stiles masturbated that night until his whole body hurt and his toes went numb. No one but Derek Hale could ever inspire him to perform such a feat so Stiles knew he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t be with anyone else.

Earlier tonight, he made it as far as the first floor of his apartment building before he chickened out. He stood in the middle of the lobby and texted the guy he met online that he couldn't come out tonight because his cat died. He thinks he deserves credit for at least trying.

He pops another gusher into his mouth as he picks up the binoculars again then scoffs because she’s still sitting—like she has for the last hour—in the dark watching what is probably some gross, unnecessarily bloody murder drama on TV.

“Come on,” he demands softly when he sees her laugh. “Do something evil!”

He sets the binoculars back on the windowsill and turns off the little space heater he brought with him because he’s starting to sweat.

Stiles slumps in the chair. It had been a while since he broke into someone's home while they were away but he thinks this might be the very first time he has been bored out of his mind. He had thought that by now Braeden would have at least pulled out the box of kittens she likes to strangle.

He sits there and wonders if he should have gone on the date anyway. After seeing the shocked and almost disappointed expression Derek probably didn’t even realize he was wearing, Stiles wants to know what Derek would do. He wonders, if there wasn’t an operation to plan, if Derek would have followed Stiles to see where he went, what he did and with whom.

Stiles had never seen Derek jealous before because Derek always knew he had absolutely nothing to be worried about, but Stiles was always on the defensive whenever someone’s gaze lingered too long on his man.

He had told Derek that he wasn’t jealous of Braeden, maybe had even tried to convince himself of that much, but there is no other way to describe why he is doing this. It’s undoubtedly jealousy that brought him to this decision of finding Braeden’s address and locating the apartment directly across in the building on the other side of the street. It was jealousy that made him break into said apartment after the guy that lives here went to work.

His phone buzzes and he opens it to find a message from Scott asking how the date is going.

Stiles replies, Great! We just got out of the movie.

Scott wasn’t clued in because Scott wouldn’t exactly approve of this behavior. Then again, he had pleaded with Stiles not to play with Derek’s emotions, he didn’t say anything about spying on Braeden. He smiles when Scott replies with a thumbs-up emoji.

Stiles picks up the binoculars again and finds her still watching the damn movie.

He huffs then glances over his shoulder at the TV perched on the living room wall and contemplates turning it on, but he has no way of knowing whether or not there is a neighbor who'll call whoever lives here to tell him they heard his TV suddenly come on.

Stiles gets up out of the chair and starts pacing. He makes sure his steps are light as he moves back and forth across the living room four times, then into the bedroom, around the bed four times then into the bathroom.

It's a nicer bathroom than the one in his apartment so he makes a mental note to ask his landlord if he can remodel as he moves back toward the living room. He picks up his phone from the seat of the chair then goes back to the bathroom to take some pictures of the things he really likes, just in case his landlord says yes.   

Braeden isn't sitting on the couch anymore when Stiles looks through the binoculars again and he panics. There’s no space on the other side of living room wall so he can’t move about to try to find her again. She steps back into view right as he moves to put the binoculars down and he gasps, relieved, before he realizes that she isn't alone.

All those deities out there that hate Stiles have conspired yet again to make Derek step into Braeden’s living room.

“What are you even doing here?” Stiles grumbles as he reaches down for the bag of gushers again. “You saw her earlier today.”

He chews his lip as he watches Derek move toward the windows and pull the curtains closed.

Stiles scoffs then reaches into his bag.

“Can’t outsmart me, Hale,” he says as he pulls the set of infrared lenses out of his bag.

He detaches the regular ones then fits the infrared ones on and brings the binoculars back up to his eyes then places the strap around his head.

Derek has turned away from the window but he is still standing across the room and Braeden hasn’t made a move to go near him either.

Stiles arches his eyebrow.

Braeden gestures to the couch and Derek seems to hesitate before he moves to sit. She follows him and sits at the other end.

“Huh,” Stiles mutters to himself. “Trouble in paradise?”

Derek has his back to the window and  Stiles wishes he could at least see Braeden’s mouth so he can try to decipher what they might be talking about.

Stiles chews his lower lip as he watches them and he doesn't know what he's expecting to see until it happens. Braeden, sitting there quietly, listening to whatever Derek is saying, suddenly jerks her head back then turns her head away from Derek.

He reaches out for her shoulder but she shrugs it off. Stiles can't help the smile that tugs at the corner of his lips.

He watches Derek scoot closer and reach out for her again but this time, she lets him touch her.

Whatever Derek is saying must be getting to her because when Derek pulls her back a little, she turns to him.

Stiles wants to know if she's smiling or frowning.

Derek reaches up with his other hand to grasp her face and she leans into the touch.

Stiles turns his own head away with a sigh. When he faces the window again, he has to look away just as quickly because he looked up right at the moment the orange and red blobs of Derek and Braeden lean into each other.

Stiles scoffs and yanks the binoculars off his face when his eyes start to tingle.

He sets the binoculars down so he doesn't throw them against the wall and he turns away from the window so he doesn’t start punching or kicking it. The neighbors would definitely be alerted to the various loud noises he wants to make and he won’t be able to explain to the cops what he’s doing here with all this equipment.

Stiles sniffles as he removes the infrared lenses then pulls out the regular lenses and fits them on before setting the binoculars back in the bag. He yanks the fan plug out of the wall and puts it in the bag too. He zips up his hoodie and pulls the bag over his shoulder as he makes his way toward the door.

There’s no one in the hallway when he steps out of the apartment. Stiles pulls his hood up when he reaches the first floor and keeps his eyes forward as he passes the new security guard on shift sitting in a booth just inside the door.

When he steps outside, Stiles spares a glance up at Braeden’s apartment building before starting down the block.

Chapter Text

Derek is getting report from Boyd over the phone when Stiles and Jackson come blasting into his office. He watches them as they step over to his desk mid-bicker and sits backward in his chair when Stiles rests his hands so he can lean over the edge of the desk.

“If we needed a bazooka for the mission then Jackson, who for some reason Alli chose as her backup, would have to tell me the lot number no matter what, right?”

Derek sighs and says, “Boyd, let me call you back,” before hanging up and setting the phone down. He folds his fingers together. “Stiles, what would we even need a bazooka for ?”

Jackson barks, “Exactly!”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Because it’s good to be prepared.”

Derek blinks twice then gently tells him, “We’re going into a very densely populated area and that kind of weapon would draw unnecessary attention.”

“I don’t even think we have a bazooka,” Jackson says as he flips through the laminated pages on the clipboard in his grasp.

“Trust me, Allison has a bazooka,” Stiles retorts. “Maybe several.”

Jackson scoffs, “Why would she—”

“Because it’s Allison . Dark hair, yea big”—Stiles holds up his hand to just above his ear—“ massive fan of projectile weaponry.”

Derek closes his eyes and rubs his temples. “Can you two please leave?”

“No,” Jackson replies. “Because you need to sign off on the other equipment requests this colossal idiot submitted.” He presents the clipboard to Derek. “But we can wait until you’re done talking with Boyd if you need us to.”

Derek opens his mouth to express his gratitude but Stiles cuts in.

“No, we can’t, because someone has to get started on what we need and since Derek is sitting up here making calls…” He turns to Derek with his palm up. “Not disparaging, I know that whatever you’re talking about is super important, I’m just saying I’m on a bit of a time crunch here.”

“What?” Jackson snorts. “Got another date?”

Derek holds his breath as he watches Stiles turn back to Jackson with an incredulous scowl.

“No smegma,” Stiles says through his teeth. “I just have the brainpower to recognize that we had four days to plan, prepare for, and execute this operation and have you seriously seen the size of the armory because I’m pretty sure there’s a village in there that we have yet to discover and if you won’t tell me the lot numbers for the equipment then that means I have to dedicate the next few hours of my life fumbling for the shit we need!”

“Jesus,” Jackson exhales.

Derek pulls the clipboard from Jackson’s grasp but he doesn’t take his eyes off the red splotches that always form near the base of Stiles’ neck when he’s frustrated. He drops his gaze to the clipboard when Stiles turns to face him again.

Derek is surprised but thankful that Jackson and Stiles manage to stand there in silence as he runs his gaze down each of the check marks Stiles made next to a piece of equipment, at least five for each of the twenty-six pages. Every time he swipes his thumb over a page to wipe away one of the check marks, Stiles lets out a soft sound of indignation.  

He pauses and looks up at Stiles when he reaches the seventh page.

“Geiger counter?” he asks.

Stiles replies, “In case he has something radioactive in his house.”

Derek nods and remarks, “Good idea,” then continues with a sigh.

Every time he thinks that the women couldn’t possibly fit anything else in the sub-basement, they find a space for a new gun or a new bomb part or new tech. Soon enough, the equipment sheets are going to be thicker than the Battery.

Derek takes a deep breath after he finishes the last page then declares, “Everything seems fine.”

“Why’d you take out the sniper rifles?” Stiles asks. “What if we need to snipe somebody?”

“I’m not lugging that gun around and you’re not qualified to be a sniper.”

“How long are the classes?”

Derek gives him a stern look which makes Stiles rear back and cross his arms over his chest with a huff.

Jackson smirks.

“The .22 calibers will be fine,” Derek says as he hands the list back to Jackson. “Has Danny figured out yet where we’re staying?”

“Speak of the devil,” Danny says as he steps into the office with his laptop open and resting on his arm. “Harris booked a room at the Excalibur hotel so you’re staying at the Excalibur hotel,” he informs as he scrolls his finger over his touch-screen.

“Aw,” Stiles complained. “Couldn’t he have sprung for the MGM Grand? I wanted to stay in one of those Skylofts so bad.” He wiggled his shoulders. “They give off such a sexy James Bond vibe.”

“When we went, we stayed in the seven-hundred square-foot ones with the soaking tub and the mirror wall,” Danny replies then sighs heavily, “It was a fun time.”

Stiles slowly turns his head toward Danny.

“You went to Vegas without me?”

Danny shrugged. “You were dead.”

Jackson chimes, “I, for one, had more fun because you were dead.”

Stiles croaks, “You went to Vegas with Jackson ?”

“The twins were there too,” Danny deflects. “Oh and also, you were dead .”

Derek gulps then pronounces, “Two or all of you need to leave,” and the three of them look down at him as if they forgot he was even sitting there.

Stiles immediately looks at Jackson and tells him, “It’s our mission so…” He makes a sweeping motion with his hand. “Fuck off.”

Jackson looks at Derek in disbelief and gets a shrug in reply. He scoffs then shoves the clipboard into Stiles’ chest before turning to walk out.

Stiles smirks.

“Which rooms?” Derek asks.

Room ,” Danny corrects as he sets the laptop down so Derek can see the hotel floor plan on the screen. “He’s got one of the last royal luxury suites so you need to pick the one on the right or the left of him.”

“We have to share?” Stiles asks and Derek keeps his eyes on the laptop, even as his skin erupts in goosebumps.

“I tried getting you separate rooms,” Danny says, “but he got his so late notice and there’s no other options unless he changes his room.”

Stiles prods, “Can you not change the room for him? I mean—”

Derek cuts in, “How many beds do those rooms have?”

“One,” Danny and Stiles reply in unison.

Derek sighs, “Go ahead and book the one on the left. I’ll bring a sleeping bag.”

“No, I'll bring one,” Stiles counters as he lets his arms swing down to his sides. “I got this new one I've been meaning to break in anyway.”

Derek keeps looking at the laptop, pretending to be interested in the amenities and actively ignoring his flaring nerves.

Danny reaches down to hit the tab that takes him to the payment options.

“I'm pretty sure these rooms have couches too so you don't actually have to sleep on the floor,” he says.

“I'll just end up on the floor anyway,” Stiles replies, shaking his head.

Derek pulls out his desk drawer and peers down into it as memories of Stiles sleeping like a hurricane is blowing his limbs around. He had woken up in the middle of many nights with Stiles laying on top of him in some way or another.

Stiles adds, “I keep my bed in the corner of the room because there's less of a chance of falling off either side.”

Danny snickers.

Derek finds the wallet he was looking for in the back of the drawer and pulls it out.

“Platinum,” Danny demands when Derek starts flipping through the credit card slots. “You can't go to Vegas with a Macy's card,” he adds when Derek raises his brows.

Derek begrudgingly hands him the platinum credit card then places the wallet back in the drawer.

“What are your names?” Danny asks as he hefts the laptop back onto his arm.

Derek replies, “Jackson hasn't come back on that yet,” and ventures a glance up at Stiles.

He's staring blindly at Derek's desk with a frown.

Danny scoffs, “I'm gonna go light a fire under his ass,” then starts for the door but flips around again. “Someone needs to talk to Noah about allowances. Does that someone have to be me?”

Derek furrows his brow. “Why would we need an allowance?”

“In case you wanted to have a little fun on the company's dime.” Danny shrugs like it's the most obvious thing in the world. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas until you get the credit card bill.”

Derek snorts and looks up at Stiles again but he hasn't even cracked a smile.

He assures Danny, “I'll talk to him,” as he drops his eyes to Stiles' chest to see if he's actually still breathing.

Derek stands when Danny walks out.

“Stiles?” His hand moves forward but it doesn't leave the surface of the desk, doesn't reach out to touch Stiles’ shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah I...I'm just thinking about…” Stiles shakes his head. “I'm just thinking.”

“Anything I can help with?”

Stiles scoffs and grumbles, “Not unless you have a time machine.”

Derek frowns and Stiles takes a deep breath that seems to reanimate him.

“I'm gonna go find our stuff.” He clutches the clipboard to his chest and pats the back of it. “I'll see you tomorrow.”

“I can come down and help in a little bit,” Derek attempts to soothe but Stiles doesn't respond, doesn't even seem to have heard him, just keeps walking out the door.

Derek watches him leave then picks up his phone again to call Boyd back so he doesn't sit there trying to figure out what memory they made that cropped up in Stiles’ mind for him act that way.

He can't allow himself to sink into their past too, not when there's work to be done.

|

Stiles is sitting on the floor, his back up against the edge of one of the shelves, one knee drawn up to his chest and his eyes overflowing with tears.

That talk about him rolling out of bed in the middle of the night while he was fast asleep made him think about the nights he spent in bed with Derek, his body folded around Stiles’ and holding him still or the nights he exhausted Stiles to the point that he couldn’t move even if he tried. Then he recalled all the nights in Germany he woke up on the floor or in the middle of falling. He got overwhelmed by those memories in Derek’s office just as he was overwhelmed on those nights because Derek hadn’t been there to hold him down or to catch him as he tumbled.

He sniffles but doesn’t wipe his face because it would just get wet all over again anyway. He’s starting to hate crying.

Stiles brings his other knee back up to his chest a second before he hears the echo of Derek calling out his name. He doesn’t reply, even as he forces himself to his knees. He shuffles forward and zips up the duffel bag sitting by his feet then sits back on his legs as he picks up the list to make sure he got everything.

Derek finds him when he’s zipping up the second bag.

“Hey,” he huffs like he’s out of breath. “Didn’t you hear me calling out for you?”

Stiles shakes his head and pushes himself upright.

“Well I’m here,” Derek sighs, “So what’s left?”

Stiles shrugs and says, “I got everything,” as he gestures at the duffel bags on the floor.

Derek looks down at the bags then back up at Stiles. “Then what are you still doing down here?”

Stiles pulls in a deep breath and decides to just admit it.

“I was crying.”

He doesn’t expect the look on Derek’s face to be one of pity.

“It’s not a big deal,” Stiles says with a shrug. “They say it’s good for you, like...masturbating and dark chocolate.”

Derek sighs, “Why?”

Stiles raises his brows. “Why are crying, masturbating, and dark chocolate good for you?” He raises one shoulder. “I’m no biologist but I would hazard that it has something to do with enzymes.”

Derek closes his eyes for a second then demands, “Why were you crying?”

Stiles gulps. “Because I’m sad.”

He is grateful that Derek doesn’t ask him why he’s sad because he’s sure he would just break down again. Although, it shouldn’t be that hard to guess why Stiles is sad, has been sad, can’t clearly see an end to his sadness.

“I should go,” he says because Derek is just staring at him in a way that’s making his skin start to itch. “Long drive ahead of us tomorrow.”

He turns to grab one of the bags and Derek says, “You should start scheduling regular appointments with Marin.”

“Pass.”

He is still wearing that pitying expression when Stiles faces him again as he slings the duffel bag over his shoulder and it makes Stiles simultaneously want to kiss him and punch him in the face.

Derek turns to follow when Stiles steps passed him.

“She can help,” he pleads.

“She doesn’t like me,” Stiles counters as he starts down the middle aisle.

Derek scoffs, “That’s not true.”

“You don't know.”

Derek is still following him, close enough that if Stiles were to suddenly stop, Derek would run right into his back and if he were to do a quick turn, they might—

“Well it doesn't matter if she likes you or not,” Derek says and cuts Stiles’s thought short. “She's our doctor.”

Stiles shakes his head. “I don't need a shrink.”

“You will , Stiles, some of the stuff we do takes a toll and—”

“Derek.” Stiles slows before he turns to give Derek time to adjust accordingly. “I'm fine with the stuff we do, like you probably can’t even begin to grasp how fine, and I know—” He pulls in a shaky breath. “I know you know that's not why I'm sad.”

The armory falls silent and it’s eerie. Stiles doesn’t know why he expects guns, ammo, and tactical devices to make sound but he wishes there was something to listen to other than the thudding in his chest. He can’t look Derek in the eyes so he watches Derek’s jaw clench and unclench until he softly says,

“She can help with that too.” He sighs, “She helped me.”

The tears build up in Stiles’ eyes again.

“I’m…” he sobs. “I’m so sorry that I put you through that, but…” He closes his eyes. "I don't need help , I need to get to bed.”

“Stiles—”

“I'll be fine after some sleep.”

Derek's arm moves like it did when they were both in the office hours ago, as if Derek was about to reach out and hold onto Stiles or pull him into a hug, but he doesn't.

“I want you to promise that you’ll at least talk to her.”

Stiles takes a deep breath.

“Just a conversation, Stiles, it won’t kill you.”

“You don’t know,” he grumbles.

“Please?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “If I say okay will you let me go home and sleep?”

“Yes.”

“Then okay .”

Deek nods once. “Thank you.”

“Don’t forget your stuff,” Stiles says and nods in the general direction of where they were just coming from. “Good night.”

“Good night.”

Stiles turns for the door and Derek turns back to get his things.

As much as he would like to avoid any kind of conversation with Marin,  Stiles doesn’t want Derek to be disappointed when he finds out that Stiles never went to go see her. And Derek would find out, some way, somehow.

Stiles can’t imagine what this conversation with her would consist of anyway. He conjured up an old story to scare her out of his head before, so he’ll probably go for more of the same. Unless she’s capable of prescribing Stiles with new memories.

He is rubbing his eyes as he steps through the vet clinic doors so he has to blink a few times before he recognizes the figure sitting on the hood of his car.

He grumbles, “Oh great, just what I fuckin’ need,” under his breath but projects, “Hey Becky,” as he approaches with a smile that’s just shy of hateful.

“It's Braeden ,” she says.

“What is?”

“My name.”

He narrows his eyes. “What'd I say?”

“Becky.”

Stiles gestures toward where her feet are perched on his front bumper.

“You know that particular section of a vehicle isn't for sitting , right?”

“I dropped by to pick Derek up and saw that you were still here so I thought we could have a little chat.”

“Well you didn’t have to risk your life climbing all the way up there to get my attention. I mean that jacket is already so loud, I could see you from the basement.”

Stiles has nothing against the jacket, in fact he thinks it’s quite stylish, but the look she gives him after than thinly veiled insult does wonders for his temperament.

He crosses his arms over his chest.

“So...?”

Braeden stands with an admittedly impressive feat of balance but puts all of her weight on the bumper and makes it groan loudly before hopping down to stand with barely a foot of space between them.

“I wanted to make sure that you know better than to try anything while you’re on this little trip.”

Stiles tilts his head. “Try anything like what?”

“Like, for example, that time you broke into my boyfriend's office and tried to kiss him.”

Stiles scoffs, “One, the door was unlocked and two…” He shakes his head. “I honestly can’t believe Derek told you about that.”

Braeden shrugs. “He tells me everything.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Surely not everything .”

Yes .” She moves her upper body forward just slightly. “ Everything .”

“Oh.” Stiles squints. “So he’s described for you in meticulous detail what the spot between my balls and my asshole tastes like?”

Braeden jerks her head back and scowls.

“Okay so not...” He widens his eyes as he emphasises, “ Everything .”

She flicks her tongue over her teeth as she moves her hands to her hips and for a second, Stiles think she’s going for the gun strapped to her side.

“I want you to leave Derek alone,” she says.

“Didn't realize I was bothering him.”

“You’re bothering both of us.”

Stiles hums.

“In fact, since we’re here I should tell you I’d appreciate it if you didn't contact Derek outside of work anymore, period.”

Stiles laughs, “Betty—”

Braeden .”

“What ever ,” he scoffs. “Did any of others get this stipulation too or am I special because I’ve fucked your boyfriend many, many, many, many times?” She opens her mouth but he doesn’t let her get her word in as he continues, “Once we did it six times in one day,” as he shakes his head. “And we hadn’t even started in morning so I’m talkin’ like some Olympic shit.”

Braeden breaks her glare and stares at the clinic wall as she asks, “Are you done?”

“One more thing.” Stiles clears his throat. “ Please tell me he still does that thing where he goes down on you until right when you’re shaking so hard your bones almost turn to dust and then he just...slides it in real slow.” Stiles flutters his lashes closed and lets out a soft moan as those memories flash before him. “If he does then you should know we spent some long days and nights perfecting that timing so you don’t even have to thank me.” He sighs, “But you are welcome,” as he starts around her, headed for his car door.

“Wow,” she breathes as she turns around. “Y’know he said that you weren’t over him but I don’t think I actually believed it until just then. I really thought you were doing and saying some of this stuff just to spite me.”

Stiles grumbles, “Hate to break it to you Brighton,” as he pats the back of his pants but he doesn’t feel his keys. “But you’re not that important to me.”

“Look, I get it,” Braeden continues and Stiles rolls his eyes.

He could be in the middle of a dramatic peel out right now if only he could find his damn keys.

She is saying, “You think Derek is a great guy, and I agree, but if you love him so much then why can't you just be happy he's happy?”

Stiles quits searching for his keys and turns a glare on Braeden as he shrugs the duffel bag off his shoulder.

He doesn’t know if it’s the stress of the day, or assignment anxiety, or her bastardization of his and Derek’s way of saying I love you , or a mix of all three but he’s seeing red. He drops the duffel bag to the ground.

“Because you can’t seem to grasp that you’re nothing but a long-term rebound lay, I’m gonna level with you. This...”—He gestures to himself—“...is me being nice and respectful because if I wanted to, and I mean really wanted to tear your flimsy excuse for a relationship to shreds, I could do it in fifteen minutes tops.”

Her face twitches but she doesn't speak.

“Just because you managed to weasel your way into his broken heart and then into his bed, doesn't mean a damn thing’s changed.”

Stiles doesn’t realize he’s right in her face until he hears a click. The sensation of something pressing against his abdomen brings his attention down to the gun barrel pointed at the base of his ribs. He narrows his eyes at her and she raises her eyebrows at him.

Movement over her shoulder catches Stiles’ attention but he doesn’t look away from her eyes as he asks,

“How do you think he’d feel if you shot me?”

She shrugs. “I know how I’d feel.”

Stiles smirks, “Maybe we should ask him,” then turns his gaze up when Derek steps through the clinic doors. He whispers, “I wanna see how he reacts to the thought of losing me all over again,” when she turns.

Stiles balls his hands into fist to stop himself from going for the gun. Derek would never forgive him for snapping her wrist then her neck right in front of him.

As he approaches, Stiles notes the look of horror on Derek’s face at seeing that Braeden had drew her gun. She must have noticed it too because she is finally placing it back in its holster.

“You left your keys downstairs,” Derek says and holds Stiles’ keychain out on his finger but his eyes are on Braeden. “What’s uh...what’s this ?”

Stiles grabs his keys and answers, “I was just trying to get home and she threatened to shoot me.”

Braeden scoffs and closes her eyes.

He mutters, “You sure know how to pick ‘em Hale,” then yawns, “Bye,” and turns for his car again.

She calls out, “Don't forget what we talked about!”

Stiles gives her the finger over his shoulder as he goes toward the duffel bag. He scoops it off the ground and opens his car.

He doesn't look up at them as he climbs behind the wheel, nor as he reverses out of the parking lot because he gets the feeling that Braeden would do something petty like kiss Derek right in front of him. He won't give her that win.

Chapter Text

“Are you pouting?” Danny asks over the line loud and clear as if he’s sitting right next to Derek in the truck he decided to rent instead of bringing his Camaro.

“I'm not pouting,” Stiles scoffs and Derek rolls his eyes because he can hear the pout. “I’m waiting .”

Derek asks, “Waiting for what?”

“Uh, for the freaking sky to open up?”

Danny replies, “You’re waiting for the sky over California to open up.”

Stiles argues, “The weather app said it was gonna rain.”

“Forget the weather app and get your ass in there,” Derek demands. “We don't have all night.”

Fine !” Stiles huffs. “But know that I am distraught.”

“Noted,” Danny and Derek reply in unison.

“You guys are such jerks,” Stiles complains as he slams the car door. “It's not even cold out. How the hell am I supposed to pull this off?”

Danny snorts. “Just make sure you don't screw it up.”

“Just make sure you bite me,” Stiles snaps with another huff as he starts walking.

They listen to him swear nonstop under his breath at the weather channel app as he starts up the incline leading into the cul-de-sac.

“How’s the visual?” Stiles stops in the middle of his tirade to ask.

“Good,” Danny replies and Derek replies the same as he stares at the laptop perched on the seat next to him.

Danny had made his way into the cameras on the streetlights and the neighborhood security systems to allow them an all-around view of the area. Derek is watching the same feed in the truck that Danny is watching from headquarters.

“And you’re sure everybody got the hell outta dodge?”

Danny asks, “Do you see any lights on in any of the other houses?” as Stiles crests the hill.

It isn’t until he appears on the camera that Derek realizes that he hadn’t actually seen Stiles all day.

The three of them had been keeping in contact over the phone but Derek and Stiles had left at different times that morning in separate cars. Derek had gone to rent the truck while Stiles found and checked into a motel. He had gotten them separate rooms so Derek hadn’t even seen Stiles when he made his way to the motel to pick up his key and drop off his bags.

“No,” Stiles grouses as he looks at the darkened homes surrounding him.

Stiles is dressed differently than usual, in the cardigan, skinny jeans, and beanie that Lydia picked out for him—“ because that’s what all the hot young guys are wearing nowadays” —along with the thick-rimmed glasses that have a built-in camera.

Danny says, “Okay then shut it.”

“How did you even--?”

“A magician never reveals his secrets, Stiles.”

Stiles snorts, “Okay.”

He seems smaller, more fragile and Derek suddenly regrets parking a block away instead of right behind the jeep, because if something goes wrong it’d take him too long to get there to save Stiles.

Stiles pulls in a deep breath as he starts up Harris’ walkway then releases it long and loud at the edge of the darkened porch.

Derek can’t help the smile that blossoms on his face as Stiles gets himself in the zone .

“Wish me luck kids,” he says softly as he makes his way toward the door.

Derek and Danny reply, “Luck,” a second before Stiles start frantically rapping his knuckles on Harris’ door.

His breaths come quicker to match the frenetic knocking until Harris’ porch light comes on.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles gasps when the front door opens to reveal their target wearing a robe and bed slippers.

“Can you please help me?” Stiles is asking. “M-my car broke down at the bottom of the hill and my stupid, fucking phone is dead. I was supposed to be meeting my boyfriend somewhere around here but Jesus, I…I must’ve took a wrong turn or something. He’s so shitty at giving directions and my piece a’shit car freakin died and I need to borrow your phone to call AAA or some shit I…” Stiles gasps in a shaky breath and Derek feels his chest tighten. “God, what do people even call ?”

Harris seems apprehensive despite Stiles’ admittedly convincing woes. He even leans his head out the door and looks around his porch.

“Oh god ! I’m sorry,” Stiles continues. “I don’t wanna bother you b-but yours was the only house with lights on and I...”—Derek thinks he heard a sob—“Jesus shit, this must be so weird I’m...I’m so sorry I’ll-I’ll just go. Maybe there’s someone else home, I-I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to ruin your night, I...I’m gone. I’m so sorry.”

Stiles turns away to descend the porch steps and Harris moves out of the house.

They hear him ask, “What’s your name?” and Derek smiles.

Stiles whips back around.

“I'm Michael,” he says. “Mike.”

“Adrian,” Harris replies as he touches his chest. “I’ll let you borrow my phone,” he says then holds his hand up when Stiles starts up a series of thank yous and oh my gods . “Just stay right there while I go get it, okay?”

Stiles sniffles and nods. Harris mirrors the action then steps back inside and closes the door behind himself.

“Whew,” Stiles exclaims. “Hook line and sinker.”

“Dude,” Danny starts. “Good thing we’re not trying to murder or rob the guy blind because he would totally fall for it.”

Stiles snickers, “We missed our calling.”

Derek adds, “And you didn’t even need the rain, see?”

“Inaccurate,” Stiles counters. “If it was raining, I’d already be inside.”

Derek rolls his eyes just as Harris comes back to the door.

He asks, “Do you know the number for your roadside assistance provider?” as he presents the phone.

Stiles sniffles as he takes it and says, “Thank you, uhm…yeah I have no clue.” He shakes his head. “I don’t even know if AAA is the right thing, I kind of just said that.” He whimpers, “God you must think I’m so stupid .”

“No, no, no it’s okay, we can just call 911 and—”

“I’ll call my boyfriend,” Stiles interjects. “The car’s registered in his name anyway.”

Harris nods and folds his arms across his chest.

Stiles turns away to dial the phone then turns back to Harris, probably to show him a smile, for a second as he puts the phone to his ear.

“It’s ringing,” Danny says, referring to the BEACON phone sitting next to him that he will be using to put a trace on Harris’ phone too just in case.

Danny picks up the phone and Stiles starts talking.

“Baby? It’s me,” he sniffles and Derek’s purses his lips. “No, I’m not okay because I’m lost and my phone died and my car died and I told you you should’ve just picked me up like we planned .”

Danny snickers, “I legitimately forgot how bratty you could be and I’m feeling sorry for Derek all over again.”

Derek doesn’t respond because his mind is stuck on Stiles’ first three words. He lost track of how many times he picked up the phone during the years that Stiles was gone and wished he could hear those words in that voice.

Danny adds, “Give me like thirty more seconds.”

“No, I don’t know where the fuck I am, that’s literally what lost means, I…” Stiles sighs and starts rubbing his forehead. “I’m sorry...you know how I am when my blood sugar is low and god, can you please just come get me?”

Danny announces, “I got it.”

Stiles continues, “Uh the address is…” then looks around at Harris, who supplies, “375 Williams Avenue.”

“Thank you. It’s 375 Williams Av—Oh, that was the man who was super nice enough to let me use his phone to call you,” Stiles barks. “The car’s at the bottom of the hill and I’ll be waiting next to it.” He waits a moment then sighs, “Thanks daddy,”—Danny snorts—“I can’t wait to see you.”

Stiles pulls the phone away from his ear and takes the time to delete the number from Harris’ phone before handing it back.

“Thank you so much,” he says then wipes his face before turning to head back down the walkway.

“Wait...” Harris starts and Derek narrows his eyes. “You don’t have to go stand by your car in the middle of the night. You can come inside.”

Stiles very nearly squeaks, “Really?”

Harris nods. “You can even charge your phone a little.”

“Okay!”

Derek tells Stiles, “Don’t forget to turn the cam on,” as he bounces up the porch steps.

“Thanks again Adrian,” Stiles says as he lays a hand on Harris’ arm and uses the other hand to turn on the camera in his glasses.

“No problem Mike. Do you mind if I call you Mike?”

Stiles hums as the new feed shows him looking around the living room.

“If my man doesn’t get here soon, you can call me whatever you want.” He turns to show Harris’ surprised expression then backpedals, “Sorry, I...I’m just really anxious about this whole thing and you’re so...caring.” He starts shaking his head. “Very unlike my daddy. He can be so mean .”

Harris looks like he’s preening himself with Stiles’ compliment. It makes Derek scowl.

“I just made some tea,” he says with a gesture toward one of his couches. “Would you like some?”

“Please?”

With a nod, he turns to leave and Stiles groans softly.

Danny laughs, “Listening to you flirt with this guy is hilarious,” and it sounds like he’s chewing. “Did you see his face when you compared him to your daddy? That was so sad.”

“Tell me about it,” Stiles replies with a shudder as he drops to his knees and peers under both couches.

There’s nothing underneath either of the couches and Stiles shuffles on his knees over to the ottoman in the middle of the room and pulls the top off. He finds nothing but tv remotes and porn.

Danny cackles, “Anything good?”

Footsteps sound in the hallway and Stiles hops up then sits on the nearest couch just as Harris appears with a mug of steaming liquid in his hand. Derek notices that his robe is open now to reveal a T-shirt with the periodic table on it and black boxers. He starts grinding his teeth.

“Here you go,” he says, handing Stiles the mug. “It’s Earl Grey.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ll go get the charger, just give me one sec.”

Stiles looks down into the cup as Harris walks away.

Derek doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary but he hopes he doesn’t have to tell Stiles not to drink it.

“This smells really good,” Stiles mutters. “You think he roofied it?”

Derek easily replies, “Yes.”

“He doesn’t seem like the type that would roofie someone,” Danny counters. “Especially not when he knows daddy is coming.”

Harris walks back into the room then and hands Stiles the charger as he tells him, “There’s an outlet right there next to you.”

Stiles plugs it into the wall then hooks up the dead phone that hadn’t seen daylight in over a year. When he looks up again, it’s to find Harris perched on the same couch with just the middle cushion separating them.

“So...what do you do for a living?” He asks and cradles the cup in both hands. “This is a beautiful home.”

“I used to teach.” Harris crosses his legs.

“Used to?”

He shrugs. “I got fired.”

“Aw,” Stiles tsks and reaches out to touch Harris’ knee for a second. “That sucks so much.” He shakes his head. “This economy is already so terrible, we really shouldn't be firing our t—”

Harris’ face falls. “Mike?”

“Um…” Stiles gasps sharply and Derek’s heart skips. He groans, “Adrian this...this isn’t milk in here, is it?”

“Y-yeah, I always—”

Stiles jumps to his feet and cries out, “I…I have a s-severe milk allergy!” which makes Derek relax since Stiles drinks milk like it’ll spoil in seconds rather than days.

He is stuttering, “I...if I even walk through the refrigerated aisle in a supermarket I get queasy oh my g—” He slaps his hand over his mouth.

Harris stands up almost as quick as Stiles did. His hand disappears around Stiles’ back as he says, “The bathroom’s through here.”

He leads Stiles to a door and Stiles shoves himself into the bathroom. He closes the toilet lid with his foot then sits on top of it as he pulls his real phone out of the inner pocket of the cardigan and quickly googles ‘vomit sounds’.

“Holy shit,” Danny laughs as Stiles hits play on the video that’s an hour long. “You really can find anything on YouTube.”

Stiles turns the volume all the way up and sets the phone on the edge of the sink.

He asks, “Can you see him through any of the windows?”

“Uh…” Danny starts as the cameras switch back outside. “Nope.”

“Shit.”

“I’m so sorry,” Adrian exclaims from the other side of the door. “Is there anything I can do?”

Stiles waits another ten seconds before pausing the video and groaning, “Water...Adrian please, I need water I need—” He hits play again.

They all listen to Harris’ footsteps depart during a lull in the video’s noise before Stiles quickly opens the door and pulls the glasses off his face. He sets them on top of the little shelf Derek hadn’t noticed is standing just outside the bathroom door then shuffles down the hallway to where the blueprints say his garage is.

“Can you see him?” Stiles asks and they can hear a door gently closing.

Derek starts, “Not—” but then Harris reappears with a glass of water in his hand. “Yeah, he’s at the bathroom door.”

“Kay.”

Stiles grunts and Derek feels a chill rolling up the back of his neck because he can’t see Stiles. Harris looks distraught as he listens to the video and Derek at least takes comfort in that. It means he’s still buying it.

Stiles whispers his name.

“Yeah.”

“You can come up now, I placed the tracker.”

Derek immediately starts the truck then reaches over to close the laptop.

Stiles asks, “Where is he?”

“Still in front of the bathroom door,” Danny replies and Derek can hear him typing. “I think he imprinted on you.”

“Shut up. Are you doing the thing?”

“I’m doing the thing.”

There is a flurrying sound of fingers tapping on keys and Derek is almost to the cul-de-sac when Danny says,

“The thing is done.”

Derek reaches the jeep and he can hear the car horns blaring from there.

Danny tells them, “He’s at the front door, Stiles.”

Derek thinks that Stiles might’ve been onto something when he referred to Danny as a demigod because he had apparently gotten into the computer systems of all the remaining cars and made them start alarming. It’s too loud in the cul-de-sac now and Derek can’t hear Danny or Stiles anymore as he makes his way toward Harris’ house.

He can see the target standing in his own doorway again, peering out, confused as to why the cars in his neighborhood suddenly started going crazy. Harris rears back a little when he notices the black Ford F-450 rolling to a stop at the end of his driveway.

Derek makes use of his tinted windows and pulls the laptop open again. He sighs, relieved, when he sees Stiles hands holding his phone over the sink.

“I’m outside,” he says and Stiles looks up at the mirror.

His face is wet so he must’ve splashed some water on it when he got back to the bathroom. Stiles uses his forefinger to push the glasses up his face then gives a quick nod before stepping through the bathroom door and heading toward the living room to grab the old cellphone.

“Oh, there’s my guy,” he says as he comes to stand behind Harris.

“Mike!” Harris exclaims and Derek watches through the passenger side window as he rests both hands on Stiles’ upper arms. “Are you alright?”

“Yup.” Stiles smiles and pats his stomach. “I think I got it all outta there.”

“I’m so sorry that that happened.” Harris pulls his hands away but not before he lets them trail down to Stiles’ elbows. “Here you are talking about how I took care of you and I end up poisoning you.”

Stiles giggles and shakes his head. “I’m okay Adrian, really.”

Derek slams his palm on the horn when he looks down at the laptop and sees the way Harris is searching Stiles’ eyes.

Stiles looks out at the truck then tells Harris, “I gotta go but thanks again.”

Harris nods as he says, “Anytime,” then watches Stiles from the moment he steps away until he reaches the truck.

Derek scowls. He doesn't realize that the car alarms had quieted until the door opens and Stiles is moving the laptop out of the way so he can climb inside.

“Good job team!” Stiles cheers once the door is shut behind him.

“Okay,” Danny yawns as Derek pulls away from the house. “Tracker’s up and running so I'm gonna go home. You guys call if you need anything.”

Stiles replies, “You too.”

Derek's stomach feels like it's in knots as the truck rolls down the hill in sudden silence after Danny hangs up the call. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches Stiles take the comm out of his ear and the glasses off his face then set them into their respective cases before dropping them into the bag at his feet.

“You did good,” Derek says softly.

“Thanks.”

Derek wants to say something else, wants to comment on the way Stiles was acting, but he doesn't open his mouth, not even when he drops Stiles off next to his car. He wouldn’t be surprised if the jeep actually did break down while they were away so he waits until Stiles climbs into his car and starts it before he pulls off.

It’s then that he realizes that Stiles hadn’t apologized. Stiles always apologized whenever someone who wasn’t Derek looked at him like Harris was looking at him, whether Derek was there to see it happen or not, like he apologized for Malia kissing him when he didn’t want her to.

Derek glances up in the rearview mirror to make sure that the jeep is still following him and doesn’t dwell too long on why he even expects Stiles to apologize. They aren’t together anymore so he shouldn’t have to. He never had to in the first place because Derek knows that Stiles would never do anything to betray him like that. He wouldn’t do to Derek what Derek did to Braeden, to the point that she would pull a gun on Stiles out of jealousy.

He hadn’t asked her to explain after Stiles had left the vet clinic last night because he didn’t need her to. He knows what was going through her head because it’s the same thing he would never admit out loud is going through his own. It has been ever since Stiles announced that he would be going on that date.

Derek rolls into the motel parking space right in front of his room and turns the car off but then lays his head on the steering wheel. He still hasn’t brought himself to ask how the date even went because he doesn’t want to know. He wants to be happy that Stiles is moving on but he can’t be and that’s ridiculous because Stiles isn’t his to covet anymore.

Something taps his window and he turns his head to see Stiles standing outside.

Derek frowns and pulls the key out of the ignition then opens the door.

“So tomorrow...” Stiles starts as Derek climbs out of the truck. “Should I wait until after you come back to head to the house or are you just gonna go ahead and follow him right off the bat?”

Derek furrows his brow at the oil stain in the section of the parking lot he can see over Stiles’ shoulder. “Come back from where?”

“From returning this behemoth,” Stiles replies and gestures at the truck. “He’s seen it so you’d need to be in a different car if—”

“Yeah,” Derek shakes his head. “Yeah yeah yeah go ahead and go. Just…” He looks down at the car keys in his hand. “...whenever Danny says he’s out of the house.”

Stiles stands before him for another second then asks, “Are you okay?”

“I’m exhausted.”

Stiles scoffs, “You barely did anything.”

Derek turns a glare on him then and finds Stiles smirking at him.

“I knew that would get you to look at me.” He nods toward Derek’s room door and says, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” before stepping away, headed towards his own room.

Derek doesn’t watch him go because he doesn’t know what he would say or do if he did. Instead, he pulls his phone out of his pocket and finds a text from Lydia and three from Braeden.

He feels sick looking at the screen so he closes it and goes toward his room.

Chapter Text

Stiles can’t shake the feeling like his skin is buzzing as he heads toward Harris’ front door again.

“What are you pouting about this time?” Danny asks in his ear.

“I’m not pouting, Daniel,” Stiles retorts and he can imagine the scandalized look on Danny’s face. He stares down at the device in his own hand as he hops the porch steps. “I’m just not entirely sure how to even work this thing. I don’t even remember packing it.”

“Well, you did,” Derek counters. “I marked it on the checklist and you found it.”

Danny adds, “And you don’t really have to do anything but put it on the doorknob.”

“Does it…” Stiles turns it over in his hand. “...pick locks? Because I can pick a lock.”

“Picking the lock by hand will leave evidence,” Derek retorts. “This won’t.”

Stiles crouches before the front door and secures the whatever over the doorknob.

“I assume I hit one of the buttons?”

Danny replies, “The top one.”

Stiles hits the topmost button and the thing sounds like it suctions itself onto the door.

He hums. “It sounds like it’s gonna break the door.”

“It won’t,” Danny replies. “Just give it a few more—”

The lock disengages and Stiles makes a noise of disbelief as the front door swings open about an inch.

Danny finishes, “Okay, just press the bottom button then take it off.”

“This thing is insane,” Stiles chuckles as he waits to hear the suction sound again. “What is it?”

Sukerutonkī.”

Stiles frowns, “Say who-now?” as he moves inside the house and closes the door.

“Kira named it,” Danny supplies, “It’s her design. It apparently means ‘skeleton key’ in Japanese.”

Stiles shrugs the messenger bag off his shoulder then toes off his shoes and leaves them turned on their sides by the door.

“Seriously, guys if this whole spy thing doesn’t keep panning out, we definitely need to start looking into burglaries.” He pulls a pair of gloves onto his hands then pulls the first bug out of the bag and rests it on the table next to the door. “Especially since we have Kira now.”

Danny proclaims, “I’m in.”

Stiles snickers as he goes toward the fireplace. “How ‘bout you Derek?”

With a heavy sigh, Derek replies, “No thanks.”

Stiles groans and Danny sings, “Laame!”

Derek argues, “I’m not going from a decorated army veteran to a criminal.”

Stiles and Danny both sing “Laame,” as Stiles sets a bug on top of the ottoman.

Derek grouses, “You’re both acting like children.”

“And you’re acting all grouchy,” Stiles retorts.

As he sets a bug on top of the refrigerator, he recalls that Derek had seemed grouchy last night too. Stiles had laid in the cold bed staring at the ceiling going over everything that he might’ve done wrong while he was in the house with Harris. He wondered if Derek was sitting in that monster truck watching and listening to him and correcting every mistake, chastising Stiles’ every word. Before, if Derek didn’t like something Stiles had done, he would’ve been corrected, but this time Derek kept his mouth shut. Stiles wasn’t sure what exactly was bothering Derek but he knows that exhaustion excuse was bullshit.

Danny is teasing, “What’s the matter, Derek, you didn’t get enough sleep last night?”

“Probably not,” Stiles supplies as he moves into one of the bedrooms. “Derek thinks motel beds are too lumpy. Whenever we went on missions together, half the time it was like sleeping with the princess from Princess and the Pea.”

Derek sighs, “Please don’t start that again.”

Stiles is grinning so hard his cheeks hurt and he can hear Danny trying to mask his own giggling as he asks,

“Are you gonna turn them on now?”

“Not yet,” Stiles replies as he moves out of the master bedroom.

When he steps into the other bedroom, his eyes immediately land on the ajar closet door.

Stiles licks his lips as goes toward it. He finds the closet empty save for the four boxes laying side-by-side on the floor.

He takes a deep breath then says, “Really wishing I’d brought those glasses right now. Shit and the Geiger counter, fuck!”

Danny asks, “Why?” just as Derek asks, “What do you see?”

“Lead-lined boxes.”

“Like…” Danny starts. “Like they have in hospitals?”

“For the radioactive contrast dyes, yeah.”

Derek demands, “Stiles, get out of that room.”

“Shouldn’t I put a b—”

“Get out of the room, Stiles.”

“Okay okay!” Stiles reflexively pushes the closet door closed with his knuckles then steps out of the room. He says, “Alright, I’m turning ‘em on now,” as he pulls the controller out of the bag. He swings it back over his shoulder as he starts switching on the cameras. “Are you seeing?”

“I’m seeing,” Danny replies. “Maybe find somewhere else to put another one in the kitchen. I’m only getting half the space.”

Stiles makes his way back to the kitchen and turns in a slow circle as he looks around until his eyes land on a china cabinet in the dining room. He sets a bug on one of the edges jutting out from the side.

“How about now?” Stiles asks.

“Perfect.”

“Anything else?”

“No, we’re good.”

“Kay, I’m gonna start placing them. Derek, how far away are you?”

“Just about two hours but we’re coming up on some traffic.”

“Mmkay.” Stiles’ shoulders rise with a sigh. “Well, you guys say something if you need me.”

He makes his way back to the living room and starts with the bug he had placed on the table by the door. He sets the bag on the floor and pulls out the tape as he kneels in front of the table.

Stiles starts to wonder what Derek was going to say last night as he sets the tiny mic on the underside of the table. He knows there was something on Derek’s mind because he knows Derek like the palm of his hand.

He would ask right now, if only to see if Derek would even be willing to answer him, but Danny is listening and Derek wouldn’t want Danny to know if he felt a certain way about how Stiles was being with Harris.

Stiles is making his way toward the fireplace when it crosses his mind whether or not Derek wanted him to apologize.

“Danny,” he starts, “how resistant to heat are these little guys?”

Danny hums. “I dunno.”

Stiles chews the corner of his lips. “I’m just thinking what if Harris turns on his fireplace?”

“The temperature barely drops below 80 there.”

“You forget we’re dealing with a certified whack job.”

Derek says, “I don’t think we have anything to worry about.”

Stiles shrugs, “Suit yourselves,” then leans into the fireplace to place the bug.

If Derek wanted Stiles to apologize for flirting with someone while pretending to be someone else when he hadn’t minded before, then he must’ve been… Stiles shakes his head in an effort to loosen that thought. He doesn’t want to get ahead of himself in assuming that Derek was anywhere near jealous because it wouldn’t make sense. He’s got a beautiful and way too fucking nosey girlfriend waiting for him back home. Stiles sucks his bottom lip between his teeth when he remembers the look on Derek’s face after they got back to the motel last night.

Stiles picks up the camera he set on top of the ottoman then climbed onto it so he can attach the camera to the ceiling fan.

“Danny?”

A hum comes through the other side before he replies, “There’s a dark spot by the dining room but if you get the one on top of the cabinet in the right place then it should be fine.”

“Got it.”

Stiles makes his way toward the dining room and the cabinet in question. He gingerly moves one of the chairs from underneath the table and stands on top of it so he can reach the top of the cabinet.

He sets the camera on top then lowers his head as he asks, “Can you see?”

Danny replies, “Yeah,” and Stiles tapes the camera in that spot before stepping off the chair. He does his best to put the chair back the way that he found it before stepping into the kitchen.

Stiles thinks maybe Derek didn’t know he was being obvious about whatever he was feeling. The air in the truck was heavy with Derek’s tension for the whole minute-long ride down the hill and Derek had refused to look at Stiles at first.

He’s probably reading too much into it. Derek would be right to be jealous over Stiles’ non-existent date, but the target for a mission? Harris doesn’t even come close to being anywhere near Stiles’ type anyway, Derek knows that.

After the bug on top of the fridge is securely on the inside of one of Harris’ cereal boxes, peeking out through a hole Stiles made, he goes back to the master bedroom.

Stiles asks, “See me?” as his gaze moves to the camera and speaker hanging off the headboard.

“Yeah.”

“Any dark spots?”

“No, you’re good.”

Stiles makes his way over to the bed and kneels on it so he can reach behind the headboard to plant the bugs.

Danny tells him, “I can see everything but that back bedroom,” as he’s patting his knee print out of the covers.

Stiles replies, “There’s nowhere to—wait...” He moves out into the hallway then looks toward the upper edge of the door jamb. With a hum, he goes back to the bag still sitting by the door and grabs another camera. He sticks it on top of the door jamb and rolls it over as far as it can go then tapes it flat..

“How about now?”

“Good.”

“Awesome, I’ll head out,” Stiles announces then rolls his shoulders. “Derek?”

Derek takes a deep breath and sighs, “Snail-like traffic.”

Stiles smiles. “Okay...well, I’ll see you in a little bit. Danny, you sure we’re good?”

“Long as the tape holds.”

Stiles snickers. He picks up the bag again and uses the controller to turn all the cameras back off before slipping back into his shoes then stepping out of the house.

He makes a mental note to think up ways to breach the subject of Derek’s feelings while he’s driving to Vegas.

 

Chapter Text

Derek feels like his whole body is dragging by the time he makes it inside the hotel.

He’s always hated going on long car rides by himself but he knows that he wouldn’t be able to make it through four hours in a confined space with Stiles, not after the last time they shared a car. It was easier having Stiles and Danny talking in his ear for most of the trip, but it wasn’t the same as having someone in the car with him. He contemplated calling Braeden more than once but never brought himself to dial her number.

The lobby is nothing short of bustling with couples and groups wearing wide, almost manic smiles and it feels like every one of them bump against Derek as he moves toward the front desk. He has to release his suitcase handle so he can hold onto the counter because his legs are starting to feel like jelly.

“I made it,” he mutters to Stiles and Danny but neither one answer.

Derek assumes it’s because they hadn’t heard him over the cacophony in the lobby.

The blonde behind the desk beams at him as she says, “Hi,” and he tries to force a smile but a jolt of pain rolls from his lower back down that makes him grimace. She clears her throat. “What can I do for you?”

“Checking in.”

She takes a deep breath then starts tapping on the keyboard of the computer in front of her.

“Name?”

“David Harper.”

She softly replies, “Okay,” and keeps typing. “It says here that you’re checking in with someone?”

“Yeah, he’s…” Derek switches his weight to the other leg. “He’s coming later.”

“Kay.” She shifts away from the computer and pulls out the drawer full of key cards. She mutters to herself and flicks her fingers in the air as she looks over them before finding the one for their room. “Here we go,” she grins as she plucks it out of the drawer and hands it over the counter to him.

He smiles, “Thank you.”

She asks, “Would you like to hear about the hotel’s amenities?” as she reaches for the stack of brochures on her side of the desk.

Derek purses his lips. He doesn’t want to be rude but Harris had beat him to the hotel by at least twenty minutes thanks to the traffic and he really needed to get upstairs.

He holds up his hand and asks, “Are those same brochures in the room?”

The corners of her mouth droop. “Yeah.”

He shakes his head and tells her, “Then no, thank you,” as he reaches down for his suitcase again. “Can you point me to the elevator?”

She nods and shows him a smile then leans slightly over the counter to point through the crowd to her left.

He mimics her smile and tells her “Have a nice day,” before stepping away.

There is surprisingly no one in the hallway but Derek still looks around as he comes to a stop before the room that Harris is meant to be occupying.

“Danny?”

“Yo.”

Derek asks, “Can you see the target on any of the cameras?” sets his things down in the space between his and Harris’ doors.

“Jackson’s still running facial recognition.”

Derek huffs. He knows he shouldn’t have let Harris get so far ahead of him because now he has no idea where the guy is and Derek runs the risk of getting caught while he’s bugging the hotel room. He takes a deep breath as he peeks at his watch then looks up and down the empty hallway again.

“Anything?”

There is a pause before Danny replies, “Jackson says not to rush greatness.”

Stiles’ end of the line goes from completely silent to erupting with a noise of disgust.

He announces, “Great at being a dick maybe.”

Derek rolls his eyes and shakes his head as he says, “Nice of you to rejoin us, Stiles.”

“I’m conserving energy to hold my bladder ‘til the next rest stop.”

Derek opens his mouth but forgets what he was about to say when Danny tells him, “Target is downstairs.”

Derek reaches into his duffle bag to pull out his own Sukerutonkī. He attaches it to the keycard reader then presses the middle button, which lets the machine know what it's dealing with. He reaches back into the duffle in search of the small bag holding the tiny cameras and microphones he means to plant in Harris’ room.

Once he’s finished, Derek peeks his head through the door and locks eyes with a woman standing two doors down. He smiles and she furrows her brow but tentatively smiles back. He tugs his bags through the doorway and sets them on the floor in the hallway as he shuts the door.

Another woman comes out of the room that the first was standing next to as Derek shuffles toward his own room. They both disappear inside as Derek pulls the keycard out of his pocket.

The little green light on the card reader reminds him of the one in the elevator at headquarters and Derek’s breath catches a little in his throat.

The room he’s going to be sharing with Stiles is laid out the same way as Harris’ and Derek finds himself standing in front of the closed door, frozen. He gulps as he looks around the space.

In a couple of hours, Stiles is going to join him and they’re going to be here, in this 682 square foot room, alone together for the first time in over four years. Derek’s fists tighten around the handles on his luggage and he doesn’t know if he can do this. He wants to go back downstairs and request another room but he knows that it probably wouldn’t be anywhere near this one. A part of him doesn’t care, he wants to go home anyway. He can’t be here the rest of the weekend with Stiles and their memories.

Danny is calling his name.

Derek croaks when he opens his mouth but then he clears his throat. “Yeah?”

“I think Stiles drowned.”

Derek sighs, “What?”

“He hasn’t said anything in like twenty minutes.”

Stiles’ voice comes through the line then in a huff, “I’m...I’m fine.” He sighs, “My eyeballs were floating but I got there just in time.”

Danny snickers, “I’m glad.”

“Mmkay, so I’m getting back on the road and I’ll be there in…”—Derek sets down the duffle as he waits for Stiles to continue—“...roughly an hour.”

Derek clenches his jaw and closes his eyes.

“I’m guessing the traffic cleared up,” Danny says.

“Yeah.”

There is the dull thud of the car door closing.

Derek releases his grip on the suitcase too.

He makes sure that the door is locked before turning the corner and facing the bedroom door. With a sigh, he pulls the piece out of his ear with one hand and pushes the door open with the other. He tugs the wire out of his shirt and sets in on top of the tv stand as he moves toward the bed.

He doesn't realize that he's fallen asleep until he's waking up on his back with the feeling of something pressing on his chest. He frowns and when he opens his eyes, he's met with nothing but honey-brown.

Derek freezes and gasps, “Stiles, wh—”

“Shh baby,” Stiles grins, then leans down to Derek's neck. “It’s okay.”

Derek gulps and stares up at the white ceiling as Stiles kisses and licks his skin.

“What are you doing?” Derek whimpers and he can't move as Stiles’ hands push his shirt up.

Stiles chuckles, “You want me to stop?” as he moves down to kiss the newly-revealed skin of Derek's chest.

The movement brings Derek’s attention to Stiles’ erection when it brushes against his thigh through their clothes. He pulls in a soft gasp when Stiles fits his mouth over a nipple.

Derek protests, “Stiles I…I can’t,” and he can feel himself hardening in his pants. “You know we can’t do this, I...”

Stiles releases Derek's flesh and lets out an exasperated noise.

“She’s not here Babe,” he argues as his hand finds Derek's belt. “She’s not even in the same state.” He moves further down so he can press a kiss to Derek's lower abdomen as the belt loosens in his hand. “And you know what they say about Vegas.”

“Please…” Derek wants to reach up and stop Stiles's hand before it can grasp him but he just grabs the hotel sheets instead. He moans, “Stiles,” and his back arches a little off the bed.

Stiles grins up at him and says, “I love it when you say my name like that baby,” before taking Derek into his mouth.

Something crashes in the front room followed by a yelp. Derek sits upright and expects to hear an echoing thud as he knocks Stiles off of him and to the ground but there is only silence. He leans over to look at the floor but finds it empty. Except for him, the whole bedroom is empty.

Stiles—the real Stiles, Derek realises—is on the other side of door groaning. The Stiles that Derek found on top of him was a dream.

He swings his legs out of bed and means to go into the bathroom to splash water on his face and wait for his erection to wane but Stiles shoves the bedroom door open before Derek has the chance to get up.

“Dude!” He huffs when their eyes meet. “The fuck?”

Derek puts his hands in his lap and drops his gaze to the floor. “What?”

What?” Stiles lets out a breathless scoff. “What do you mean what? You just went off the com without saying a word, shithead. Danny and I were worried sick. We didn't know where—Why would you even do th—?” Stiles grabs at his chest. “Fuck, I think I'm hyperventilating.”

Derek had closed his eyes during Stiles' tirade only to reopen them again because Stiles’ heavy breathing coupled with the remnants of that dream were not aiding his predicament.

“How long have you been here?” Derek asks and, to his own ears, he sounded a little breathless himself.

What? Like...three seconds? Did you not hear me fall? And that's another thing, why'd you leave your luggage in the doorway? I almost busted my face open.”

“I needed to lie down.”

Stiles gulps down air then asks, “What?” as he starts moving closer. “Why? Are you alr—”

Derek barks, “Stiles, don’t come any closer!” and holds out his arm to stop Stiles’ approach only to quickly drop it to his lap again because he can’t let Stiles see.

Okay,” Stiles scoffs. “You look like you’re about to barf and then pass out in it but I forgot that I'm not allowed to care anymore.”

Derek clenches his jaw.

Stiles turns back toward the door and grumbles, “Come get your shit out of the way.”

Once Stiles steps into the front room, Derek goes toward the bathroom.

He stares into the sink as the cold water drips from his face down into the porcelain because he can’t look himself in the mirror. He can’t hear Stiles moving around from the other side of the wall but he knows Stiles must be grumbling and stomping a hole through the floor. Like he always did on the rare occasions that he got mad at Derek.

With a sigh, Derek dries his face with the embroidered hotel towel then goes toward the front room.

Stiles is sitting at the desk, barefoot with a suitcase full of rumpled clothing at his feet. On top of the desk, in Stiles’ hands, is one of the small surveillance monitors.

“I miss the old monitors we had,” Stiles says to Danny. “They were much easier to understand.”

He snickers at whatever Danny responds a second before Derek moves into his vision. Stiles’ face falls and he shifts his hips on the chair so he can turn away.

“I didn’t mean to snap at you,” he says and Stiles’ frown deepens.

Derek leans his shoulder against the wall and expects the two of them to be there in heavy silence for longer than it takes Stiles to let out a resigned sigh.

“I get that you haven't been in the field for a while and on top of all the awkwardness of being here with me of all people…” Stiles pauses and gulps. “This is probably more than a little overwhelming but Derek you always, always got on me about checking in and then you turn around and scare us like that?” Stiles looks up at him and Derek turns his eyes to the back of the monitor. Stiles doesn't seem to mind because he continues, “We didn't know if you'd been made or if someone saw you coming out of his room and called security or what.” He huffs, “You used to tell me to keep an open connection at all times and then you pull this.”

Derek says, “I'm sorry,” and Stiles turns his head away, goes back to messing with the monitor. “Will you tell Danny I'm sorry?”

Stiles works his jaw then replies, “He says it’s okay.”

Derek purses his lips then reaches out his hand toward the monitor.

“Let me do it,” he says.

“No,” Stiles says through clenched teeth. “If you’re not feeling well then you need to go back to sleep.”

Derek's stomach does a somersault at the idea.

“It was just a little headache and I feel better.” Stiles is ignoring him so Derek snatches the monitor out of his grasp which makes him scowl. “Seriously. You should get some rest now since you’re taking first watch tonight.”

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. “Why do I have to take first watch?”

Derek easily answers, “Because I’m the senior agent and what I say goes.”

Stiles opens his mouth to argue but instead licks his lips and gets out of the chair.

He asks, “Can I use the bed as long as you're not in it?” as he walks toward his backpack and Derek takes the seat at the desk.

“Yeah.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Derek watches Stiles pull his pillow—the one he can’t sleep without and the twin of the one Derek cried into when he thought Stiles was dead—out of the bag, then turns his head until he hears the bedroom door close. It opens again a few seconds later and Derek turns over his shoulder to see Stiles walking back toward him with the discarded com hanging from his fingers.

“Open communication,” he says and Derek nods as he takes the com without looking at Stiles’ fingers.

|

Stiles is right on the verge of being in a panic as he makes his way into the hotel, bags in both hands and a book bag hanging halfway off his shoulder.

“Danny I'm here,” he says aloud with no care for who might’ve heard him apparently talking to himself. “Haven't quite made it up to room yet but...shit.” He was halfway to the elevator before he remembers that he needed a key. “Shit shit shit!” he whines as he flips around and goes toward the woman behind the front desk.

“Hi Maxwell Sampson,” he says as he reaches into his pocket to pull out the wallet containing his fake ID. “My friend already checked in so I just need to key.”

He shows the ID to the brunette who then starts tapping on the keyboard.

Stiles watches her fingers move as he tries to convince himself that Derek is fine. He’s not locked up or currently being choked out by a goon they didn’t know Harris had. Maybe his com fucked up because of some unknown reason and he’s desperately trying to fix it, not tied up in the trunk of someone’s car on the way to have his body dumped. Stiles bites down on the inside of his lower lip so he doesn’t scream at her to hurry the fuck up.

“You’re the one with the hottie,” she remarks as she opens the drawer with all the key cards. Stiles furrows his brow as she continues, “We were watching from the back while he checked in and whew, you're one lucky guy.”

Stiles blinks. “Can I have my key please?”

He watches her face fall before she pulls out the card and hands it over to him.

“Thanks.” Stiles adjusts the bag on his shoulder and he moves to turn away but then quickly faces her again. “He has a girlfriend, by the way, so maybe think before you speak next time.”

He turns to leave after her mouth drops open and he hears Danny exclaim, “Jesus Stiles,” as he all but sprints toward the elevator.

Stiles repeats, “Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay,” under his breath the whole ride up, eliciting a few glances over the shoulder from the others in the elevator, but he doesn’t meet any of them. He just stares at the numbers on the buttons as it sluggishly climbs.

When it finally, thankfully reaches his floor, Stiles bolts down the hall to his room, almost knocking down a pair of women as he goes. He slaps the keycard against the reader and the door is barely open before he’s barreling in and then immediately falling to the floor.

Aɢᴇɴᴛ Derek Hale. Cᴏᴅᴇɴᴀᴍᴇ: Triskelion. Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Sᴋɪʟʟs: Asset acquisition. Covert operations. Enemy Agent Disposal. Firearms. Search and Rescue. Unarmed Combat. Cᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ Sᴛᴀᴛᴜs: Inoperative_Psych.

Seeing Derek sitting on the edge of the bed, his arms in his lap like he hadn’t a care in the world flushed Stiles with relief and abject rage. It worsened when Derek yelled at him when Stiles was just trying to help make sure he was alright. He wants to scream at Derek for making him worry and then being so damn calm about it, but instead Stiles leaves the room.

“This is such bullshit,” he says before he remembers Danny is still listening. “It’s like he doesn’t even care.”

Danny replies, “You probably scared him out of sleep when you face-planted and he’s pissed off,” as Stiles kicks his shoes off with such frustrated force that one of them almost lands on the tv stand.

I’m pissed off too Danny!” Stiles scoffs as he goes for the suitcase he brought. “If I even thought about pulling that shit I would be getting yelled at ‘til his eyes started bleeding but no it’s fine when he does it because he’s Derek frickin’ golden child Hale.”

Stiles pulls a surveillance monitor out from underneath his clothes and sits at the desk with it in his hands.

“At least he’s okay, right?” Danny tries to soothe.

Stiles sighs because he feels like he is going to cry. All the adrenaline that was coursing through his veins just moments ago is coming down on him too heavily too quickly.

“God.” He turns around on the desk and flips the monitor upside down, looking for the power button. He sniffles and huffs, “How do you even turn this thing on?”

“You have to plug it into the camera controls and it just comes on.”

Stiles shakes his head. “I miss the old monitors we had. They were much easier to understand.”

“You sound like a baby boomer.”

Stiles snickers and movement at the edge of his vision alerts him to Derek’s presence at his shoulder.

When Derek apologises, Stiles wants to stand up, take Derek into his arms, and kiss him. He keeps messing with the monitor instead so he can have something else to do with his hands. When Derek grabs the monitor and tells him to go rest up for tonight, Stiles folds his arms and purses his lips because he is on the verge of suggesting that they go lie down together. When Derek pulls that Because I’m the senior agent line, Stiles’ immediate urge is to challenge Derek to make him. He decides to keep his mouth shut and just go into the bedroom.

Stiles glances at the rumpled place that Derek had vacated as he moves toward the other side of the bed. He sighs as he pushes the hotel pillows aside and lays his own pillow down then lies on top of it, facing the opposite side of the bed. He closes his eyes and pictures Derek, laying asleep and peaceful, a soft smile on his face because he’s having a nice dream.

He misses those rare mornings that he would wake up before Derek and get the chance to watch him sleep. He misses running his fingertips slowly over Derek’s hairline, running his thumb over Derek’s eyebrows and his eyelids, brushing over every lash. He misses tracing the length of Derek’s nose with his forefinger. He misses watching Derek wrinkle his nose and hearing Derek snuffle before he tries to escape the invading touch only to turn back, because even Derek’s unconscious mind loved having Stiles’ hands on him.

Stiles finds himself wishing that Derek had come to bed with him instead and he immediately suppresses the idea. Going down that road would only lead to misery and it’s too early into the mission to be moping. Stiles forces his eyes open and swipes his face across the fabric of the pillow case before turning toward the outer wall. He frowns at the ugly curtain just as there is a clatter in the front room.

He moves to get up but he stops himself before his feet touch the floor. Derek would have made some sort of sound if he was hurt and if he wasn't then Derek would probably just turn Stiles away again anyway.

Stiles takes a deep breath and lays back down so that he is facing the tub. He furrows his brow at it then gets to his feet before he can talk himself out of it.

Derek doesn't immediately come into the room to berate him about still being awake when the water starts pounding against the porcelain, so Stiles makes his way toward the cabinet to see if he can find anything to pour into the water. What he finds is a variety of mini soap bottles and bubble baths fillings all three shelves. Stiles grabs as many bottles as he can sweep into his fists and carries them back to the tub with a smile as the image of Cora staring at him with pure judgement on her face comes to mind.

As the tub fills, Stiles dumps everything he grabbed into it until the suds reach the rim of the tub before he starts to strip.

Stiles has never been one for baths but he couldn’t think of any better time to take one in an effort to relax. He’s testing the water with his foot when he realises that Derek might want to take a bath and he’d already used up most of the soaps. Stiles scoffs as he thinks it serves Derek right for being a dick. Stiles rests his head against the rubber pillow at the edge of the tub and closes his eyes.

He tries to think relaxing thoughts as the bubbles surround him: open fields of grass...sunshine peeking through treetops...the sound of ocean waves crashing...the weight of Derek’s arm laying over his belly...Derek’s breath against his ear...Derek’s legs wrapped up in his...

A soft knock at the door makes Stiles jolt then frown because he was finally starting to fall asleep.

He stares at the door with a sigh and contemplates not answering.

“Yeah?”

The door opens and Derek steps inside only to halt and turn his head when his eyes find Stiles. Apparently Stiles had been laying there for some time, hovering on the edge of sleep without realising it because the bubbles have considerably receded, though not enough for Derek to see anything but the top of Stiles’ chest and tips of his toes.

“You could’ve said you were still in the tub,” Derek says and it doesn’t sound exactly like a complaint to Stiles’ ears.

He retorts, “I didn’t think you would barge in.”

Derek clears his throat and stares down at the piece of laminated paper Stiles hadn’t noticed he was holding.

“It doesn’t look like Harris is going out tonight so what do you want for dinner?”

Stiles takes a deep breath then runs a warm, wet palm over his face.

“What do they have?”

“Soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers.”

Stiles bends his knees so they peek up from the edge of the water then sits up to wrap his arms around them.

“Do they have reubens?”

“Vegetarian reubens.”

Stiles scowls then chews the corner of his lower lip.

“Bacon cheeseburgers?”

“Yeah.”

He leans back in the tub again as he sighs, “I’ll have that.”

“I’ll call you when it gets here,” Derek mutters as he palms the doorknob but he stops before he steps through it. “Do you want me to bring you your suitcase?”

“Please?” Stiles says before sliding down until his head is underneath the water.

He resurfaces in time to see Derek setting the still-open suitcase on the floor. Stiles shamelessly watches Derek’s ass and thighs as he bends, then turns his eyes to the tub faucet so Derek doesn’t catch him ogling.

“Thank you,” Stiles says.

Derek replies, “I’ll call you when the food gets here.”

Stiles hums and closes his eyes as he lays on the rubber edge again.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed before he hears the faint thuds of someone knocking on the outer door but it shocks him out of sleep again. He groans because he has to force himself to get out of the cooling water.

He finds the drain plug with his toes and pulls it then grunts as he stands to get out of the tub.

Derek knocks as Stiles is drying himself with one of the hotel towels.

Stiles quickly replies, “Indecent!” like it should matter, like they haven't seen each other naked more times than they can count on all four hands and feet.

“Food’s here,” Derek says in a voice muffled by the door.

“Be right out.”

He stands in front of his suitcase and grabs whatever is sitting on top then steps out into the front room.

Derek is already eating at the small table that sits up against the wall adjacent to the bedroom, a sandwich clutched in one hand and his phone in the other. Across from him is Stiles’ dish, still covered with the cloche, and a beer.

“What did you get?” Stiles asks as he reveals his burger and fries.

Derek finishes chewing then replies, “Chicken caesar on focaccia.”

“Looks good,” Stiles remarks as he takes a seat.

Derek nods. “Is good.”

Stiles notices that Derek hasn’t looked up once since he stepped out of the bedroom because his eyes and fingers are glued to his phone. He reaches for his beer.

“Riveting conversation?” he asks before he brings the lip of the bottle to his own.

“It’s Allison,” Derek replies as he puts down the sandwich and reaches for the pile of kettle chips on his plate. “They’re going home tomorrow.”

“Aw.” Stiles wraps his fingers around his burger and lifts it toward his face. “I wanted to be there when they came home,” he says before burying himself in the burger.

“It’ll only be two days difference.”

Stiles hums and watches Derek furrow his brow at the phone then lean back in the chair.

“I think something went wrong,” he confesses as he wraps his fingers around his own beer bottle. “But she won’t tell me what.”

Stiles hums and mutters, “Afk Boyd.”

Derek shakes his head. “If they screwed up bad enough that Allison won’t tell me, Boyd definitely won’t.”

“Then ask Erica.”

Derek chuckles and picks up his sandwich again. “I might.”

Stiles’ burger and all but three of his fries are gone and Derek is done with his kettle chips, still working on the sandwich before Stiles decides to fill the silence with something other than the sounds of chewing.

“What time do you wanna switch shifts tonight?”

Stiles considers it a small victory when Derek sighs and puts down his phone.

“Midnight is fine,” Derek replies but he still doesn’t meet Stiles’ eyes. “Or just whenever you get tired.”

Stiles scoffs, “I’m tired now.”

“Then maybe you should’ve went to sleep instead of taking a bath.”

“I was trying to sleep in the bath but you woke me up.”

“A bathtub is not a bed.”

“You have no imagination.”

Derek rolls his eyes and presses the button on the side of his phone to awaken the screen.

“The kitchen closes in fifteen minutes,” he grouses, “Would you rather I let you starve?”

“You wouldn’t let me starve,” Stiles challenges with a scoff.

Derek shrugs then picks his phone back up as he grumbles, “Guess we’ll never know,” before setting another kettle chip on his tongue.

Stiles chews the inside corner of his lips.

“What’s Harris up to?”

Derek nods toward the middle of the space as he says, “You can go ask Danny.”

Stiles had been watching Derek the whole time they ate so when he looks over for the first time since he stepped into the front room, he is surprised to see all the monitors on the living room tv stand, stacked on top of each other like someone might find in the surveillance room of a mall, and showing every inch of Harris’ hotel room. The television itself has been set on the floor next to the stand, it’s face down-turned into the carpet.

“Jesus,” Stiles breathes. “You did all that in like twenty minutes?”

Derek meets his eyes again.

“You were in there—” He sets his phone down to air-quote, “—sleeping for an hour and a half.”

“Didn’t feel like it.”

“Probably because you were in the tub and not in the bed.”

Stiles rolls his eyes then looks down at the fries still left on his plate.

“You want these?”

Derek shakes his head. His eyes and fingers are back on his phone again.

“I don’t wanna just throw them out,” Stiles complains.

“Then eat them.”

“If I wanted to—”

Stiles cuts off when Derek’s phone starts to ring. Stiles’ gaze drops to the screen in time to see her name before Derek snatches it up and stands away from the table.

He hears Derek answer with a soft, “Hey,” a second before he closes the bedroom door.

Stiles’ cheeks heat. He wonders if Derek told Braeden to call him so he wouldn’t have to sit there anymore, stuck in forced conversation with his ex. She probably jumped at the idea because speaking to him would at least prove that he and Stiles weren’t rekindling their flame on every sturdy surface in the hotel room.

Stiles gets up from the table too, leaving his fries right where they are and making his way toward the monitors.

He calls Danny to say that he’ll be taking over surveillance for the rest of the night then sits on the floor in front of the monitors to watch Harris watching TV.

Stiles spares a glance in Derek’s direction once he emerges from the bedroom some time later and Derek meets it for a second before quickly averting his gaze.

They don’t speak and Stiles is sure that it’s because of Braeden. She spoke in Derek’s ear and he remembered what he had waiting for him at home, remembered what Stiles did and that he was ultimately still pissed off about it, remembered that they’re not in love anymore, not even really friends anymore and so they shouldn’t have easy chit-chat over a meal. Stiles swallows thickly.

He watches out of the corner of his eye as Derek looks down at the abandoned fries. Derek says nothing, just covers the plate with the cloche again before carrying both trays to the door.

Derek moves back into the bedroom and Stiles doesn’t watch him go because he’s forcing himself to keep his eyes on Harris reading the hotel brochures in bed while the TV plays in the background. It feels like it’s hours later before Derek closes the bedroom door when he’s ready to go to sleep.

Stiles reaches over to grab a couch cushion and holds it to his chest as soon as Derek closes the door.

Chapter Text

“Can I confess something to you?” Stiles asked as soon as Derek closed the door.

Derek took no time to guess, “You've always wanted to do it in here.”

He supposed Stiles nodded along with the giggle, but he couldn't see a thing because the light had broken years ago and nobody bothered to get it fixed because they rarely used this bathroom.

Stiles found his way to Derek's lips even in darkness and Derek smiled into the kiss as he pushed Stiles up against the sink counter that he would never have been able to find had he not seen it a second ago in the sunlight streaming in through the downstairs windows.

“God I missed you,” Stiles exhaled against Derek’s mouth.

He could feel Stiles’ hands trying to slide between their hips so he pulled away enough to allow him to open his jeans.

“Missed you more,” Derek told him then grinned when Stiles snorted.

“Five weeks is way too long,” Stiles muttered then joined their lips again as Derek started working his own pants open. “Don't you ever leave me for that long again.”

“Stiles, you know I—”

“Sh-sh-shh,” Stiles started then turned around in Derek’s grasp. “Less arguing, more making up for lost time.”

Derek snickered and, as he bent to push his pants down, his face collided with Stiles’ lower back.

He winced at the pain in his nose as Stiles cried out, “Ow dude!”

Derek grumbled, “Well maybe if we weren’t doing this in the dark,” as he stood upright then held on to Stiles’ hip with one hand and rubbed his sore nose with the other.

“Don’t judge my fantasies.”

Derek rolled his eyes.  “Did you bring lube?”

“Are you kidding?” Stiles scoffed. “I’ve been prepping since you called this morning. We’re good to go.” Derek felt Stiles wiggle his ass. “So go.”

Derek pressed his chest against Stiles’ back and leaned toward his ear to ask, “I ever tell you how charming you are?”

“Honestly, you oughta tell me that more oft—”

Stiles’ voice cut off with a gasp when Derek pressed the tip of his cock against him. Derek rested his forehead against the back of Stiles’ head as he slid inside to sound of Stiles’ soft, slow sigh. He reached back with one hand to bury his fingers in Derek’s hair.

“I missed you,” Derek repeated as he started moving his hips.

Stiles pulled in a shaky breath and dropped his hand from Derek’s head so he could brace himself against the edge of the sink.

He pushed back to meet Derek’s thrusts and sobbed every time Derek filled him. Derek remembers wondering if, had the light not been broken, he would be able to look in the mirror and see tears in Stiles’ eyes.

Derek wrapped both arms around him as he started to thrust a little faster.

Stiles gripped on to Derek’s forearms as he hung his head back to rest it on Derek’s shoulder.

Derek slowed again as he bent to nip at the base of Stiles’ neck then drag his teeth up the column of flesh until he reached Stiles’ ear.

“I wish we were alone in the house,” he softly confessed between thrusts. “So I could hear you.”

He slowly parted his arms so he could move his hands down Stiles’ abdomen. Stiles followed his movements, holding on to Derek’s wrists when Derek grasped his cock in one palm and his balls in the other.

“I’d make you scream…” Derek whispered as he started moving his hand up and down Stiles’ shaft while he massaged his balls. “...so loud, you’d scare the birds out of the trees.”

Stiles whimpered and Derek cupped his hand just in time to prevent Stiles from making a mess of the sink.

Their heavy breathing was the only thing Derek could hear and he was content to just listen, to feel Stiles in his arms but Stiles would start to get restless soon, needy, as if Derek’s pleasure mattered more to him than the over-stimulation.

Stiles started moving his hips, just like Derek knew he would, and it spurred Derek to do the same. Stiles used his grip on Derek’s wrists to pull one hand back around his middle and the soiled hand he brought it to his lips.

“I love you so much,” Derek said as he rested his forehead on the back of Stiles’ head.

Stiles let Derek’s fingers slide out of his mouth then quickly and easily replied, “I love you too, so much,” as Derek spilled inside him with a grunt.

“Are you even listening to me?” Stiles asks and Derek has to shake his head a little to clear it.

“Yes,” he replies then averts his gaze from where it was stuck, watching Stiles, bent over the hotel sink as he brushes his teeth. “You said Harris only slept for two hours.”

“Hyperbole,” Stiles says with a roll of the eyes and a wave of his toothbrush. “But he tossed and turned most of the night.” Stiles checks his teeth in the mirror as the water runs. “I swear, he's probably taking a few of those drugs he's been trying to sell to kids or whoever.”

“Or he’s agitated about his plan,” Derek counters. “Whatever it is.”

Stiles shakes his head as he shuts the faucet then starts toward Derek.

“All I’m saying is thank god I was pumped or we would be having a very different conversation right now.”

Derek studies the wall when Stiles crouches to put his toothbrush back into his suitcase, which is sitting in the same place that Derek left it the night before when he found Stiles in the tub. Thinking about that image now is making his skin erupt in goosebumps.

“Why are you pumped?” he asks.

“Bec—”

“Guys,” Danny calls out from the laptop on the nightstand next to Derek’s knee. “Target’s moving.”

Derek stands off the bed as Stiles closes the top of the suitcase then slides on the shoes he had set on the floor. Derek picks up the comms next to the laptop and puts one in his ear as he hands the other to Stiles.

“Where is he now?” Stiles asks as he moves through the bedroom door.

Derek closes the laptop then follows him as Danny answers, “On the elevator.”

Stiles is standing over his duffle bag that’s resting on the couch with one of the .22s in his hand.

Derek clears his throat. “What do you need that for?”

“Security,” Stiles replies with a shrug as he stuffs the gun into the back of his pants and pulls his shirt over it.

Danny tells them, “He’s in the lobby,” as Derek follows Stiles through the door.

He waits to make sure the door closes behind them then sets the Do Not Disturb sign on the knob before he moves to catch up with Stiles outside the elevator.

“Oh uh...to answer your question,” Stiles starts when Derek stands beside him. “I’m pumped ‘cause...y’know this my first mission back and it’s nice being in the field.”

Derek purses his lips and nods slowly. “It is.”

When the elevator arrives, they squeeze in amongst the others then ride it down to the lobby without another word.

“He’s outside...smelling the air?” Danny says as they make their way between the bodies in the lobby. “What’s it smell like?”

“Desperation,” Derek replies at the same time that Stiles says, “Sweat.”

Danny makes a soft noise of disgust then tells them, “He’s on your three wearing a straw hat.”

They’re barely out in the cool air and sunlight before Stiles says, “Got him,” and starts to the right.

Derek follows Stiles, despite not having seen Harris or his hat through the crowd of people who are moving in, out, and around the outside of the hotel.

“Hey guys, I won’t be able to see once he gets far enough away from the hotel so don’t lose him while I find some satellites.”

“Thanks Danny,” Derek replies when he finally sees Harris’ hat bobbing across the street, between the cars leaving the throughway.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles huffs as they follow him across the road, toward a smaller building with the same castle turrets as the hotel. “I’m starving.”

“Who eats pretzels for breakfast?” Derek asks as they watch Harris disappear into the Auntie Anne’s.

“It’s…” Stiles starts then glances at his watch. “...practically brunch time.”

“Maybe that’s what he was smelling for,” Danny adds.

They slow their pursuit to allow two cars to pass by them, heading out of the parking lot. A man and a woman enter the building before Stiles and Derek make it to the door and Derek has to grab Stiles by the shoulder to stop him before he palms the door handle.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Uh…” Stiles glances inside. “My job slash gettin’ some pretzels?”

“You can’t go in there,” Derek says. “What if he sees you?”

Stiles’ whole body seems to sag. “Shit.”

“Have a seat,” Derek says then gestures toward the wide border around the small collections of flowers outside the building.

“Will you bring me back something?” Stiles asks and Derek doesn't reply as he steps inside.

Harris is standing before the counter when Derek steps into the shop, but he moves out of the line and to the side as Derek makes his way forward. They make eye-contact and Derek gives Harris a short, acknowledging nod, which the target returns.

Harris is still waiting by the time Derek steps up to the man behind the counter, who greets him with a wide smile.

Derek recites, “Mini pretzel dogs with sweet mustard and frozen lemonade, please,” with a returning smile.

With the food ordered and paid for, Derek goes to stand by the window, out of the way and away from the noise while still being able to keep an eye on Harris.

Derek glances out the window and he can see the back of Stiles’ head from where he’s standing. Stiles is sitting on the garden border but he has his phone up to his face now, probably pretending to be face-timing so no one thinks he's just sitting there talking to himself. He and Danny had been speaking softly since Derek entered the shop but Derek hadn’t been paying much attention to anything they were saying until now.

“My what?” Stiles replies as he turns over his shoulder to look into the building.

Derek notices that he’s wearing sunglasses now.

Danny scoffs. “Last week, you said—”

“Oh!” Stiles hangs his head back. “Oh yeah my date uh, it was...fun.”

Derek’s stomach twists but he doesn't make a sound or open his mouth to remind them that he can hear their conversation.

Danny asks, “Did you sleep with him?”

Stiles shakes his head and runs the fingers of his free hand through his hair. “No.”

Liar.”

Stiles laughs, “Oh my god.”

Derek catches himself holding his breath and he has to exhale softly through his mouth. He turns his gaze toward the other patrons as Danny continues the inquisition.

“You going out with him again?”

Stiles replies, “Probably not.”

The girl behind the counter yells out a number that’s not Derek’s but he misses whatever Danny says.

“He wasn’t very…” Stiles starts to reply.

Danny presses, “Very?”

“I dunno, interesting?” Derek looks through the window again in time to see Stiles wave his arm. “It’s kinda hard to go from Derek to the equivalent of a rice cake.”

The girl behind the counter calls out, “Twenty-two!” and out of the corner of his eye, Derek sees Harris step up to the cash register.

“It was one date,” Danny snorts. “Don’t you think you’re selling the guy a little short?”

Stiles scoffs, “No.”

Derek watches Harris gather up his food, thank the girl behind the counter then start for the door.

He clears his throat then turns toward the window to mutter, “Stiles, he’s coming your way.”

Stiles stands away from the garden border and turns away from the store door.

Harris opens the door and spares Stiles a glance that makes Derek hold his breath again, but Harris just continues into the parking lot.

“Twenty-four!” the woman says.

“I’ll follow him,” Stiles declares as he starts walking in the same direction that Harris is headed.

Derek tries not to seem like he’s in too big of a hurry as he moves toward the counter to collect the food then exits the store in pursuit of Stiles and Harris.

He manages to find Stiles some minutes later standing at the base of a staircase leading up to the bridge meant for crossing the busy intersection.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles exclaims as Derek hands him the bag of food but keeps hold of the lemonade. “Is your stuff in here too?” He asks as he reaches into the bag.

“No, I didn't get anything,” Derek replies as he glances up to see Harris at the top of the staircase, a camera in his hands, taking pictures of the skyline.

Stiles scoffs, “I know you're watching your figure but you gotta eat dude,” then pushes three mini dogs between his lips.

“I'm not watching my figure.” Derek rolls his eyes. “I just don't want to eat a pound of bread first thing in the morning.”

He doesn't mention that his stomach is suddenly so tied up in knots that he probably couldn't keep the food down anyway.

“Jush one,” Stiles suggests with his mouth full and holds out a single mini dog to Derek between his thumb and forefinger.

Derek turns his head to look up at Harris again.

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until night time to take pictures?”

Stiles admonishes him with a muffled “Dude!” and Derek turns to him with a glare then quickly snatches the offered food from Stiles’ fingers with his teeth.

“Happy now?” he asks as he chews.

Stiles replies with a mocking noise as he pulls the lemonade out of Derek's grasp just as Harris disappears from Derek’s periphery.

They’re following the target and the crowd across the road before Derek realizes what he just did.

|

Stiles pauses in the middle of the tuneless song he was humming to let out another sudden burp. This one was loud enough that the people enjoying their Del Taco at the other table scowl at him, then at their food.

"If you were this noisy in Germany, I'm surprised you survived.”

Danny snickers and Stiles turns to glare across the table at the side of Derek’s face. He’s sitting there, enjoying the veggie omelet, turkey bacon, and English muffin that he got from god-knows-where when he disappeared for fifteen minutes after they walked in.

“I told you,” Stiles grumbles and sits upright in his chair that is facing away from the store doors in case Harris spots him when he’s coming out. ”The mini dogs make me gassy because I always eat them too fast.”

Derek pauses in the middle of bringing his last bite of omelet to his mouth. Stiles looks at the fork.

“Then why do you get them all the time?” Derek asks then places the fork in his mouth.

“I don't,” Stiles says as he picks up the cup of mostly-melted frozen lemonade only to set it back down. “Cora is the one who likes the minis and anyways, the bigger ones taste better.”

Derek shakes his head then chews a while longer before replying.

“It all tastes the same, Stiles.”

Stiles scoffs, “I should know such blasphemy would come from a guy who eats an omelet in the middle of the day.”

Derek rolls his eyes and rises from his seat to go toss his now empty to-go box in the nearest recycling bin.

“Hippie,” Stiles teases when Derek sits across the table from him again.

Derek quickly replies, “Earth killer,” and makes Stiles laugh softly before he catches himself.

He clears his throat and forces himself to look away from Derek.

“So...what's he even doing?” Danny asks.

Derek replies, “He's walking around the M&M store,” as he pulls his phone out of his pocket, looks at the screen then puts it back in his pocket.

“The what?”

“It’s a room full of candy and candy paraphernalia and he’s walking around in it.”

“I didn’t know that was there,” Danny says and there’s the faint sound of tapping. “I see the giant M&Ms on the wall outside but I didn’t know there was just a room full of it in there.”

“You would know it existed had you not came here without me,” Stiles retorts as he slides down enough in his seat to rest his head on the back of the chair.

“If I have to remind you one more time that we thought you were dead, I’ll kill you myself.”

Stiles smirks.

“I’m starting to think this guy is just nuts,” Derek remarks. “We’ve been doing nothing but seeing sights all day.”

Danny hums then asks, “Think you’ve been made?”

“Wouldn’t he be running?” Stiles retorts.

“Or trying to lose you in the M&M store.”

“There’s only two doors in and out and we’re watching both,” Derek says as he drums his fingers on the tabletop. “There’s no way he shook us.”

“Maybe we’ll get something from him on the cameras once he goes back home.” Stiles flips the sunglasses back over his eyes and folds his arms over his chest. “I mean he has to be up to something. Why else would he be gathering all that shit?”

“To sell?” Danny asks.

Derek counters, “Out of his house?”

Stiles sighs in exasperation. “We should just ask him.”

“Yeah,” Derek scoffs. “Walk up to him and go, hi I know you’re busy looking at candy plushies but just curious, why are you stockpiling heavy metals in your second bedroom closet?”

“I mean when we get back to the hotel.” Stiles sighs. “If we get back to the hotel and I don’t just waste away sitting here.”

“Our mission isn’t to engage.”

“Yeah well, I’m engaged in a battle against boredom.”

“I thought you were excited about being back in the field.”

“That—” Stiles holds up his finger. “—was before Harrison dragged my ass all over the strip.” He shifts his hips. “I haven’t moved this much since Zambia.”

“Harris,” Derek corrected.

Stiles waved his hand and groaned, “Whatever.”

“At least we’re headed back in the direction of the hotel.”

“We thought the same thing before he decided to turn all the way back around so he could go see the Bellagio Gardens.”

Derek sighs. “You’re welcome to go back to the room if you’re so tired.”

“Bored,” Stiles says. “I’m bored.” He shifts his hips. “Maybe there’s an arcade somewhere I can go shoot at something.”

Danny says, “He’s come out the front,” and Derek immediately rises from his chair with Stiles right behind him, heading into the crowded store.

Derek replies, “Which way did he go?” as he and Stiles step outside.

“Left.”

Stiles moves to take off in a run but Derek grabs his upper arm to stop him.

Don’t cause a commotion,” he mutters as he starts at a brisk pace and forces Stiles to move alongside him.

Stiles starts, “If we lose him—”

Derek interjects, “Danny, you got eyes?”

“For now.”

“See? We’re not gonna lose him.” Derek admonishes, “You can’t just go blasting through the crowd.”

Stiles realizes that his arm is still firmly in Derek’s grasp and pulls it away. Judging by the look on Derek’s face, he hadn’t noticed that he was still holding on to Stiles either. He turns his gaze away when Derek looks at him and starts forward again. He purses his lips as he tries his very best not to think about how it felt to have Derek touch him again. He absently wonders if Derek's heart is racing right now too.

Derek is the one that sees Harris first and Stiles knows this because he gets shoved behind one of the trees outside the MGM Grand as Derek keeps nonchalantly moving forward.

He laughs when he notices the looks that the people in the crowd flowing by giving him.

“My buddy’s a real asshole,” he explains to a woman with a particularly surprised look on her face.

He looks around the tree to see Derek urgently waving him over.

Derek opens his mouth to say something once Stiles meets him at the bridge but Stiles interrupts him.

“You didn’t have to shove me!” he barks. “A simple ‘Hey, he turned around, go over there!’ would have sufficed.”

“I did try to get your attention,” Derek replies with a scowl as he starts up the bridge stairs. “But you were daydreaming and didn’t hear me.”

“I was not daydreaming,” Stiles argues to the back of Derek’s head. “I am laser-focused.”

“Then why didn’t you see him turn around?”

Stiles scoffs as he falls in step with Derek.

|

“You’re cheating,” Derek said as he laid his cards face-down on the coffee table.

Stiles tilted his head and switched the positions of the cards in his hand for the sixth time. “How so?”

Derek dropped his gaze down between his legs, where Stiles’ foot has snaked its way underneath the coffee table and is rubbing Derek's crotch through his sweatpants.

“Oh, that?”—When Derek looks back up, Stiles is reaching for the deck again.—"That’s not cheating unless it’s working.”

Derek had suggested they play on the living room floor on opposite sides of the coffee table to avoid this very situation. Because the last time, when they were playing checkers, Stiles chose to break their tied games by sliding under the table and blowing Derek. No dining room table to slide under or climb onto should have meant that Stiles wouldn’t get distracted. Derek should have known Stiles would find a way around it.

He sighed and lied, “It’s not.”

“Then it’s less cheating and more like a counterstrike, which…” Stiles shrugged then flexed his toes. “...sure feels like it’s working.”

Derek rolled his eyes and shifted his hips but he didn't move Stiles’ foot, which made Stiles smirk at his cards.

“My ass is cramping from sitting here waiting for you,” Derek said.

“Then…” Stiles sighed and set his cards down. “...we should just quit playing and—”

Derek softly laughed as he closed his eyes and reached up to rub the spot between his eyebrows.

“No just hear me out,” Stiles pleads and Derek was surprised to open his eyes to find Stiles almost climbing into his lap.

He brought his hand up to cover Stiles’ mouth when he leaned in for a kiss.

Derek asked, “What happened to me teaching you how to play poker so you won’t stick out like a sore thumb in Monte Carlo?”

Stiles pushed Derek's hand away and replied, “That was before.”

“Before what?”

“Before you became the teacher and I became the student,” Stiles started walking his fingers up Derek's arm to his shoulder. “And don't you think I’ve been so bad professor Hale?” He curled his hand around Derek's neck. “Don't you think I should be spanked?”

Derek dodged Stiles' lips when he leaned in again. “You’re a menace, you know that?”

“You love me,” Stiles said as he brushed the tip of his nose against Derek’s cheekbone.

“Yeah,” Derek replies then turned to give Stiles a quick kiss before picking him up by the hips and depositing him on the floor. “And I’ll love you even more if you concentrated on this so you don't screw up your mission.”

“But—”

“Stiles, this...” Derek gestured between their chests. “...might work on me but it’s not like you can go feeling up the other poker players while you're there.”

Stiles sighed deeply then crawled on his hands and knees back to the other side of the table. Derek shamelessly watched Stiles ass as he moved.

“Can we at least play strip poker?” Stiles asked as he sat across the table again. “I'm bored.”

“Fine, just show your hand.”

“You first.”

Derek flipped over his cards to reveal five of the same suit.

“That's uh…just a regular flush right?” Stiles asked.

Derek hums and nods to Stiles’ cards.

Stiles made a soft noise then said, “Well then I'm gonna need your shirt Babe,” as he set down five cards of the same suit in numerical order. “Straight flush wins against a regular flush.”

Derek shook his head when he saw Stiles’ hungry grin.

“At least you're learning,” he grumbled as he pulled at the hem of his shirt.

“Derek.”

Derek pulls his eyes away from the Blackjack table in front of him to glance up in the direction of where Stiles is sitting at the slot machines near the entrance.

“I have a question.”

He doesn’t see Stiles so he hums as he turns back to the table.

Stiles continues, “And you’re more than welcome to say no, but I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t.”

Derek signals for the dealer to hand him another card, which brings his total suits to nineteen.

“Thunder from Down Under is doing a show tonight and I would really, really like to go.”

Derek furrows his brow at his cards and tries to decide whether he wants to double down or stand.

“I’m gonna assume your silence means you don’t know what that is so I’m gonna tell you that it's a group of hot Australian guys, but I doubt they’re all Australian, bumping and grinding on a stage for like...an hour.”

Derek hums.

“Okay yeah, they’re strippers but so what? Can we go?”

Danny chimes, “Can you tape it?”

Stiles admonishes, “He hasn't said yes yet,” and it sounds like he’s speaking through his teeth. “Derek, it'll be really fun, I pr—”

“Mr. Harper?” says the dealer. “Would you like another hit?”

Derek turns his eyes up to see Harris, sitting at another table with a grin on his face as the woman standing next to him runs her palm up his arm.

Stiles pegged her as a prostitute as soon as she walked in and Derek agreed the moment she attached herself to Harris’ arm when he was just at the beginning of his winning streak. She hasn’t let him out of her sight since.

“Nah,” Derek replies. “I’m gonna stand.”

“Damn it, Danny,” Stiles grumbles. “You jinxed it.”

The dealer reveals his cards and Derek smiles even though he was beaten. He watches his chips get swept away then turns his eyes back up to the woman, Harris, and his grin.

Derek asks, “Can I see the next card?” and the dealer nods then rolls over the topmost card in the deck to reveal a six.

The dealer lets out a soft laugh then asks, “Would you like to go again? Your luck might change.”

Derek laughs along then looks up at Harris again, in time to see him step away from his table with the woman’s arm folded around him.

“No thank you,” Derek replies. “Have a good night.”

“You too sir.”

Derek picks up his chips as he steps away.

“I got him,” Stiles says before Derek gets the chance to warn him that Harris is on the move.

Derek meanders around the space, seemingly trying to make a decision where to sit next until he hears Stiles call out his name again. He looks up and they lock eyes for a second before Stiles turns his head to nod in the direction that Harris went. Derek makes his way forward as Stiles disappears into the slot machines again.

Harris and the woman are standing in line at the kiosk, waiting to cash out his chips so Derek sits at the nearest slot machine to play and watch where they go out of the corner of his eye.

“Would they even let men in there?” he asks and both Stiles and Danny reply, “What?”

“The down under thing,” Derek explains. “Would they even let—”

“Oh,” Stiles interrupts and Derek hears the pull of a slot machine lever. “I dunno but we could ask.”

Someone down the row hits a jackpot and the noise of the machine makes Derek turn his head. Stiles is sitting four seats down from him pushing coins into a machine. Derek watches his hands and wonders how much Stiles has already spent.

“Guys?” Danny calls and Derek flips his head back around but Harris and the woman are nowhere to be seen.

Derek hops off the stool as he starts to ask, “Where’d—”

“Looks like he’s headed back to his room with that girl.”

Derek hears Stiles croon, “Bow-chika-wow-wow,” as he comes to stand at his shoulder.

He scowls and Stiles returns it then gestures to Derek’s hand.

“How’d you do?”

“How’d I do what?” Derek replies as he makes his own way toward the kiosk with Stiles behind him.

“At Blackjack.”

Derek digs his hand into his pockets and feels the remaining chips. “I lost six hundred and thirty-seven dollars.”

“Wow,” Stiles breathes as they stand before the kiosk. “You’re probably gonna get fired.”

Derek hums then replies, “At least I’ll never have to be stuck in Vegas with you again,” as he pulls the chips out of his pocket and starts placing them inside the machine.

“Aw,” Stiles chuckles as he swings his elbow to bump against Derek’s arm. “You’re just sayin’ that to insult me.”

Derek lets out a short laugh.

When he looks over, Stiles quickly turns his eyes away, but not before Derek recognizes the same hopeful look that Stiles has been giving him ever since he came back.

Derek clears his throat and turns his back on Stiles at the same moment he feels the warmth from Stiles’ body dissipate when he steps away.

Chapter Text

"Because y’know what day it is?” Stiles grunted as he tightened the strap around Agent Shaw’s wrist, effectively retarding the blood dripping from his wrist to the plastic on his living room floor. “It’s—”

Shaw’s head bobbed and Stiles lightly smacked him on the cheek.

“Hey buddy, don’t pass out while I’m ranting ‘kay? It’s rude.”

The half-naked man tied to the chair groaned but he brought his lidded eyes up to meet Stiles’ gaze.

“Like I was saying,” Stiles continued with a roll of the eyes. “Today is the anniversary of the first date I ever had ever with my boyfriend. Ever.” He picked up the drill sitting next to him on the floor and pressed the button once, making it rev like an engine. “And it was a nice date too. We had dinner and then he gave me this blowj—"

Shaw’s head fell again in the middle of Stiles’ sentence, which made him huff.

“Look, you said you needed a break so you could get your thoughts together, not so you could take a nap.”

A rattling sound broke out of Shaw's throat.

“Can I finish my story?”

The agent groaned, “Your story sucks.”

“You suck,” Stiles scoffed. “Fine,” he grunted as he stood. “Fine, you want me to stop talking about face-fucking my super-mega-crazy-hot boyfriend and start drilling into the tips of your fingers, I can do that.”

Stiles reached for the wrist that wasn’t slowly bleeding onto the floor and Shaw jerked. Stiles noted that it was more animated than he had been in the last hour.

“Please!” Shaw cried and Stiles watched him. “Please don’t do this please.”

Stiles grumbled, “What a joke,” then used the tip of the drill to bring Shaw's face up. “So tell me what I wanna know.”

Shaw gulped. “I have...I have no idea who Claudia Stilinski is.”

Stiles made a noise like a buzzer then said, “Wrong answer,” as he grabbed one of Shaw’s fingers with one hand and revved the drill with the other.

“Wait!” the agent pleaded. “I don’t know anything about Claudia Stilinski okay? But I know somebody who might.”

Stiles crossed his ankles then sat on the floor in front of the chair Shaw is perched in. He placed the drill on the floor again and watched the agent’s eyes track to the tool. Shaw’s throat bobbed with a gulp before he started talking.

“Dude,” Stiles scoffs as he steps back into the front room to find Derek sitting on the floor in front of the couch, eyes trained on the monitors. “You’re not honestly sitting there watching them have sex, are you?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “They’re not having sex. They were kissing for a while but now they’re just...talking.”

“About prices?” Stiles asks as he drops onto the couch behind Derek.

“About his job,” Derek replies. “Or lack thereof.”

“Maybe you were right,” Stiles sighs as he watches Derek watching the monitors. “Maybe Harris is just here blowing whatever money he does have on Blackjack and working girls.”

Derek hums and Stiles scratches his belly under his shirt.

“Are you hungry?” he asks. “I’m starving.”

“Menu's on the table,” Derek replies.

“Think I’ll get a salad,” Stiles says as he gets up from the couch. “I feel like I’ve been eating nothing but garbage today.”

“You have been eating nothing but garbage today,” Derek retorts.

“I didn’t ask you.”

Stiles drops back down onto the couch, menu in-hand, but he stares at the side of Derek’s face instead of at the laminated piece of paper in his grip. Derek lets out a soft sigh and Stiles watches him lean his back against the couch and stretch out one of his legs.

Stiles purses his lips and has to drag his gaze away from Derek to settle it on the menu.

“Do you want anything?”

“Not hungry.”

Stiles licks his lips and he glances over at Derek a second before forcing himself to get up off the couch and into the bedroom to use the phone.

He is in the middle of ordering chicken tenders and french fries when Derek calls out for him.

“I'm coming!” Stiles yells back before thanking the woman on the other end of the phone and hanging up.

“Okay,” Stiles starts as he makes his way back into the front room. “I know I said I was gonna get a salad, b—”

Stiles stops in the middle of his sentence when he realizes that Derek isn't even paying attention to him. Derek's eyes are still glued to the monitors so Stiles turns his eyes on them too.

The woman is laying in the middle of the bed with both feet still firmly planted on the floor and her gaze firmly planted on Harris. He is standing by the bed in front of a big black box perched on the edge. He’s staring right back at her.

“Hey, that box,” Stiles starts as he moves to sit next to Derek on the floor. “It’s just like the ones in his closet.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles sees Derek turn to him as if he didn’t realize that Stiles was so close until he finished speaking. Stiles keeps his eyes on the monitors and hopes Derek doesn’t see his gulp. He notices Derek takes a second before turning away again.

“She seem weird to you?” he asks.

“Weird like…?”

“Weird like she hasn’t moved an inch since she lied down.” Derek sighs when Harris steps away from the bed and heads toward the front room. “Not even a hand twitch.”

“Did you see him slip her something?”

“No.”

“He’s gonna kill her,” Stiles says morosely then turns to Derek. “And depending on what’s in that box, he could do serious harm to whoever else walks into that room after he’s done.

Stiles watches Derek’s jaw clench.

“What should we do?”

“Our mission is…” Derek clears his throat and keeps his eyes on the monitors. “Our mission is not to engage.”

“Okay,” Stiles scoffs. “I hear your senior agent answer but what’s your human being answer?”

“Stiles.”

“Derek.”

“If he kills her, then what’s he going to do with the body?” Derek asks then faces Stiles.

“I don’t know, melt her in the tub?” Stiles gestures toward the monitors. “He got passed security with god-knows-what? He could have acid too.”

Derek nods to the screens. “Look at him.”

Stiles tears his incredulous gaze away from Derek and turns it toward the monitors, specifically the one showing the front room.

“He’s freaking out,” Derek says as Stiles watches Harris, sitting on one of the couches in almost their mirror image, with both hands in his hair. “He won’t kill her.”

“No, that’s even more reason to kill her because she’s seen his face.”

Stiles clenches his fist when he remembers what he did to Agent Shaw and it isn’t until then that he realizes he still has the hotel phone clutched in his hand.

“She’s been staring at him this whole time,” he remarks softly as he brings the phone up to his face and tries to remember which number to press to call out from the hotel.

“If you’re planning to call the cops, the number is seven,” Derek says. “But they aren’t going to get here in time.”

“I know,” Stiles says. He didn’t even notice that Derek was watching him but he presses the 7 as he stands up, then 911. “That’s why I’m going in there.”

“The hell you are,” Derek counters then stands too. “You talk about her knowing his face then you’re going to show him yours?”

Stiles looks down in time to see Harris rise from the couch.

I’ll go,” Derek says.

What?”

“You can’t let him see you, Stiles,” Derek says as he steps around him.

“It’s my mission.”

Our mission,” Derek retorts. “And I’m not letting you go in there because if whatever he has gets in or on you, you could d—”

He cuts off with a soft gasp and Stiles thinks he sees Derek’s lips quiver before he turns away. Stiles feels a chill up his spine.

Derek is looking at the floor as if he doesn’t remember where he is or what he’s doing.

“Derek,” Stiles starts as he steps forward.

He doesn't know if Derek is ignoring him or if he didn't hear Stiles call his name, but Derek doesn’t meet Stiles' gaze until Stiles touches his hand. They’re standing so close now that Stiles can feel Derek's breath on his neck.

He holds up Derek's hand and puts the phone in it.

“I'll be okay,” he says. “You have someone to go home to and…” He takes a deep breath then sighs, “I don’t like talking to Braeden on a good day so I’m really not gonna enjoy her guilt-tripping me if something happened to you.”

Derek searches Stiles’ eyes then scoffs.

Stiles pats the back of Derek’s hand.

“Call my dad too,” he says then steps away, headed for the bedroom. “Just to keep him updated.”

He grabs his com off the end of the bed then doubles back for the zip ties he had stuffed in the bottom of his suitcase for just such an emergency. He finds Derek standing in the same place but he’s watching the monitors again.

“Derek.”

“Yeah.” He shakes his head and holds up the phone.

“Just press the call button and talk to the cops,” Stiles says as he moves toward the room door. “You can watch on the monitors and berate me all you want but call the police first.”

“Be careful!” Derek calls out right before Stiles closes the door behind himself.

Derek doesn’t say ‘Come back to me’ but Stiles could almost hear it.

|

“Come back to me,” Derek said as he tightened his arms around Stiles’ waist.

“Like you could ever get rid of me,” Stiles breathed against his lips.

“And call me when you get there.”

“Soon as my foot hits Texas.”

“And try not to miss me too much.”

“Are you kidding?” Stiles grinned. “I miss you already.”

Derek brushed the tips of their noses together just as a groan floated over his shoulder.

Stiles glanced over when Erica remarked, “You know we actually have to leave in order for you to miss him, right?”

“Butt out,” Stiles said and Derek snickered before burying his face in Stiles’ neck.

She scoffed. “I’m so glad Boyd and I aren’t this gross.”

“That’s because you don’t have a love like ours,” Stiles teased before running his fingers through Derek’s hair.

Derek raised his head just in time to see Stiles stick his tongue out at her and he didn’t see Erica roll her eyes but he was sure she did.

“I love you so much,” he said and Stiles smiled as he replied, “I love you too, so much,” then sealed their lips together one last time before pulling away to go join Erica in the car.

That became something of a ritual—disgusting their fellow agents with kind of affection that they rarely exhibited—whenever one of them has to leave on a mission without the other. A ritual that ended with the flight to Berlin, but Derek finds himself wanting to say those words, Come back to me, as the door closes behind Stiles.

Derek takes a deep breath and sets down the hotel phone then steps back over to the couch. He opens the laptop that had been sitting on the floor next to him and is relieved to see Danny in his chair, but he is turned away from the camera, toward the chair next to him.

“Danny, can you hear me?” Derek says and Danny stops whatever he was saying to whoever is next to him to look at the screen.

Derek watches him hit the speaker button, then say, “Yo.”

“Turn the monitors on,” Derek demands as Kira leans into view and waves. “Hey Kira,” he says with a smile. “I hope you guys enjoyed your lunch.”

Danny says, “What the fuck?” and Derek looks up in time to see Harris pulling a gas mask off his face as he heads toward the room door.

Derek replies, “Yeah.”

With a shake of the head, Danny mutters, “I leave for an hour and shit goes sideways.”

“I’ll get Noah,” Kira says before disappearing off-camera.

“Where’s Stiles?” Danny asks as they watch Harris peer through the peephole.

“I’m right here,” Stiles softly replies and Derek holds his breath when he sees Harris reach for the doorknob.

“Right where?” Danny asks as Harris opens the door. The second Stiles is revealed in the doorway, Danny exclaims, “What the f—what are you doing?”

They hear Harris say, “Mike?” right before he ends up on the floor.

Derek winces at the crack he heard when Stiles’ fist connected with Harris’ cheekbone.

“Jesus,” Stiles grumbles as he flashes his fingers. “You better not have broke my damn hand.”

He kicks Harris’ legs out of the way so he can shut the door then moves toward the bedroom.

The woman is still frozen on the bed and Derek gulps as he watches Stiles rest two fingers on her pulse.

“Hey,” Stiles says softly as he sits on the edge of the bed. “It’s okay, you're safe now. The police are on their way, okay? But I’m gonna go try to find out what he gave you so maybe I can try to help until they get here.”

Derek doesn’t see her give any indication of understanding but Stiles nods at her before he steps away from the bed.

“I didn’t call the police,” Derek confesses as he looks over his shoulder at the phone.

Stiles halts in the middle of the room and glares at the nearest camera.

“I didn’t know what you were going to do,” Derek explains, “And I didn’t want them bursting in on you in the middle of flaying him.”

Stiles says, “Fair,” with a shrug then grabs one of the chairs from underneath the table and sets it in the middle of the room.

He grabs Harris by his shirt, yanks him up, then drops the dead weight into the chair.

“Can someone explain to me just what in the hell is going on here?”

Derek takes a deep breath when he hears Noah’s voice and he looks down to see his boss sitting in Danny’s place, flanked by Danny and Kira.

“Hey Pops,” Stiles says as he pulls zip ties Derek didn't know he had out of his back pocket and starts to secure Harris to the chair.

“Stiles, what are you doing?”

“I’m—” He lets out a breathy laugh. “Well, isn’t it obvious?”

Noah lets out an exasperated sigh and Derek knows Stiles wouldn’t be kidding if he could see the concern on his father’s face.

“Sir,” Derek starts then clears his throat. “We had reason to believe that the target had become hostile. He incapacitated the woman on the bed and it’s been documented that the black box at the end of bed holds radioactive materials that we believe he was going to use on her. Stiles volunteered to step in and prevent it.”

Stiles adds, “And I figured while I’m here I’d ask him some questions.”

Derek watches Noah’s jaw clench as he looks up at the monitors.

“How did he incapacitate her?”

“That’s gonna be one of the questions,” Stiles replies then takes a quick breath as he steps toward the bedroom.

He goes over to check the woman’s pulse again.

“Can you move at all?” he asks, “Maybe blink once for yes and twice for no?”

There was no movement that Derek can see because Stiles’ back is blocking the camera but when Stiles nods, he figures she gives him an answer.

He tells Stiles, “Ask if she can feel.”

“Can you feel me touching you?” Stiles asks as he puts both hands on her shoulders. “Here?” He moves one hand to her stomach and as he shifts, someone at headquarters makes the camera zoom in on her face.

She blinks once when Stiles asks if she can feel his hand on her knee and again when he asks the same of her feet.

Derek suggests, “Check her breathing.”

Stiles leans over her, with his ear to her nose then raises his head to look at the camera on the lampshade.

“Normal?” he says with a shrug.

Derek purses his lips then opens them again, though he doesn’t know what to tell Stiles to do next.

Noah cuts in, “Go wake him up.”

Stiles gently pats the woman’s arm before stepping back into the front room.

He pulls the other chair from underneath the table then sets it in front of Harris. He sighs, “Any suggestions on the how?” as he sits. “I’d feel bad just pouring water on him because someone has to clean that up, y’know?”

“Slap him,” Kira says.

“Painful stimuli,” Stiles chuckles as he leans forward. “Good thinking Kira. I knew there was something I liked about you.”

Stiles raises his uninjured hand and brings it down hard on Harris’ cheekbone.

The man jumps to life and, had it not been for the zip ties, Derek thinks he would have leaped right out of the chair.

Stiles waits, quietly and eerily still in comparison to how he was just moments before, until Harris focuses on where he is.

“Mike?” Harris grunts as he fights his bindings. “Wh-what are y—?”

“What did you give her?” Stiles asks.

“Wha-? Who?”

Stiles nodded to the bedroom door. “The lady laying in the bed. What’d you give her?”

Harris takes a deep breath as he looks toward the door then sighs, “Rohypnol.”

A chorus of groans erupt from the computer but Derek doesn’t react. He just watches Stiles watching Harris. Derek doesn’t remember a time when he’s ever seen Stiles so still and it makes his skin erupt in goosebumps.

“Not—not for that,” Harris explains. “I just...I needed her to be still.”

Stiles tilts his head. “You didn’t want her fighting back while you poisoned her.”

“I wasn’t—” He halts for a second then lets out a soft sound. “Who are you? What—” He starts jerking his wrists again. “What do you want?”

“I just want answers,” Stiles says with a shrug.

“Answers about what?”

“About what you were planning to do with whatever’s inside the other lead-lined boxes in your closet at home.”

“You were in my house for fifteen minutes, how do y—?” Harris freezes and snarls, “I want my lawyer.”

Stiles chuckles, “I’m not a cop, Adrian,” then shakes his head. “And I need you to tell me what your plan is.”

“What are you gonna do to me if I don’t?”

Stiles licks his lips then leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees.

“Well, lucky you, I don’t have any tools but..” He turns over his hand. “...you might’ve broken my hand with your cheekbone, so I’d probably end up returning the favor.” He sighs as he leans back into the chair. “Either way, by the end of this, you won’t be able to follow through with your plan, so you would be saving a lot of my time and a lot of your fingers by just telling me what you were gonna do.”

Harris gets quiet for so long, Derek can almost hear everyone at headquarters getting uneasy. Stiles, however, is still waiting in silence, seemingly unbothered. Derek rubs his palms over his arms.

When Harris does speak, it's so soft Derek has to lean closer to laptop to hear.

“—to me after I...if I tell you anything?”

“That’s up to the Feds,” Stiles replies with a shrug.

“The F-the Feds?”

Stiles nods. “They’ve been watching you for a while.” He crosses his arms over his chest. “And before you ask, no I’m not one of them either.”

“You're not a cop and you're not Fed.”

Derek notices Harris is still trying to get the zip ties off.

“Then who are you? CIA?”

“I'm…” Stiles sighs, “...waiting for you to tell me what you're planning.”

“How do I know you won’t kill me after I tell you?”

“Like I said, whatever happens to you after this talk isn’t up to me.”

“Danny,” Derek says softly. “Are you recording?”

“Have been since he woke up.”

Derek nods as he watches Harris’ shoulders rise with a deep breath.

Begrudgingly, Harris describes in detail how he was going to use his illicit connections to infiltrate his old school, make his way down to the basement and into the boiler room with one of his lead-lined boxes. He was going to use the air conditioning system, specifically the air vents leading into the headmasters’ offices and the teachers’ lounge, to spread the materials he managed to aerosolize throughout so that when everyone returned the next day, they would be, essentially, irradiated.

By the time he was done talking, the agents at headquarters had fallen completely silent.

“Not enough to kill them,” Harris adds. “Or even enough to really do permanent damage but just…I dunno enough. That's—that's why I needed the woman...for testing. I needed to make sure I had the right measurements.”

Derek knows his own face is contorted into a grimace but Stiles’ expression still hadn’t changed. He had listened, just as still and silent, all the while Harris talked. Derek wishes he knows what Stiles is thinking.

He stares at Harris even while Harris has his head bowed. Derek thinks he hears sobbing but he isn’t sure.

“Are you done?” Stiles asks.

Harris nods.

Stiles hums. “And where are the drugs?”

Harris raises his head. “Th-the what?”

“The Rohypnol,” Stiles explains. “Where is it?”

“It’s...it’s in the desk drawer.”

Stiles pushes himself out the chair. “How many did you give her?”

Harris watches Stiles walk over to the drawer then open it before replying, “Two.”

“How long before she can move?”

Another pause as Stiles pulls out a baggie containing four little white pills.

“Shouldn’t be too long.”

Stiles shakes two pills out of the bag into his palm then steps back over to Harris in the chair.

“She dies, you die,” Stiles says as he holds out his palm to Harris.

Harris hesitates, but then after taking a long look at Stiles, hangs his head back a little and opens his mouth.

Stiles shakes the pills onto Harris’ tongue then quickly covers his mouth with his hurt hand while pinching his nose with the other, forcing him to swallow.

Derek grits his teeth. He can't help but think that Stiles was nothing like this before he left for Germany. He was serious when it came to his work, sure, but this cold, callous.

Once he's satisfied that Harris has swallowed the pills, Stiles uses his foot to topple the chair. He watches for a moment as Harris squirms and groans on the floor before going into the bedroom again.

Chapter Text

The back of Stiles’ neck is still freezing cold and in stark contrast to the way the rest of his body feels, wrapped up in one of the hotel robes as he steps barefoot toward the room he and Derek share.

The woman he assumed to be the leader of the discreet HAZMAT team Noah alerted is saying something to Derek but she cuts off in the middle of her sentence as she turns to look at Stiles over Derek's shoulder.

“Don’t mind me,” he says with a wave as he drops the bag of cameras and microphones from Harris’ room onto the edge of the desk by the doorway.

She starts talking again as he moves toward the bedroom.

Stiles dresses as he listens to the hushed tones coming from the other side of the door.

He wonders if she’s updating Derek on everything that happened from the moment Stiles opened the door for them to enter Harris’ hotel room with their equipment, to the meticulous cleansing of the room, himself, Harris, and the woman who got enough of her faculties back to tell them her name is Sandy.

In all his adult life, Stiles had only ever bathed while one other person watched, so it was certainly a new experience having someone else’s eyes on his naked body, critiquing how he washed himself to make sure he was doing it just right to ensure proper decontamination. An experience made even worse by the incessant throbbing in his hand.

He offered to go first in order to help Sandy feel more comfortable about it and had stayed long enough for her finish showering before he left the room. He doesn’t know what they’re going to do with her but he assumes they’ll keep her old clothes, give her fresh ones, and send her on her merry way with a vow of silence, like they did Stiles.

It’s a knock on the door that makes Stiles realize that the voices on the other side of the door had stopped.

“Indecent?” Derek asks.

“No.”

Derek opens the door and gives Stiles a look he can’t read before sweeping his eyes down to take everything in.

“So what was it like?” Derek asks as he steps inside. “Being decontaminated.”

Stiles notices that he’s holding an Ace bandage package in his hand.

“You remember that B&B we stayed at in Switzerland?”

“After the false flag operation or before?”

Derek sits on the end of the bed and Stiles follows him.

“Before,” Stiles replies as he holds out his affected hand. “The one with the water that was freezing cold for like twenty minutes before it finally got warm enough for us to have sex in the shower?”—Derek gently takes Stiles’ hand and turns it over so it’s palm-down—“It was like that but it stayed cold.”

“Make a fist,” Derek said and Stiles gingerly does as he was told. “I thought de-con showers were meant to be warm.”

Stiles mutters, “Apparently these guys didn’t get the memo.”

“How bad is the pain?” Derek asks as he looks up and meets Stiles’ eyes for a second before dropping his gaze back to Stiles’ fist. “Out of ten.”

Stiles licks his lips then shrugs. “A...four and a half? Five at most.”

An hour ago it would have been about an eight but Stiles figures the cold shower helped with the pain.

“Then it might just be a sprain,” Derek declares then rests Stiles’ hand on his own knee, which is barely an inch away from Derek’s knee. “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

Stiles tamps down on the shudder that threatens to roll through him at the idea of going to a hospital.

“Wouldn’t want your Ace bandages to go to waste.”

Derek dips his head and smiles a little, which makes Stiles gasp softly. He schools his expression as he watches Derek pick up the package then shake out a spool.

“Why’d you bring those anyway?” he asks.

“I had a feeling something like this was going to happen to you.”

Stiles scoffs, “Ye of little faith,” when Derek takes his hand again.

Derek chuckles as he starts to wrap the bandage around part of Stiles’ forearm. “I was right, wasn’t I?”

“Yeah well...” Stiles watches Derek’s hands as they carefully move, carrying the cloth up to his wrist. “You should see the other guy.”

“Speaking of…” Derek starts as he watches himself work. “When you were in there with him you were so… I don't think I've ever seen you so still, like motionless. I mean you're bouncing your knee as we speak.”

Stiles purses his lips and flattens his foot against the carpet.

"That…” If he had use of both arms, he would fold them. He starts drumming the fingers of his other hand against the sheets. “That was just something I taught myself to do.”

Derek glances up at his face then back to his hand.

“In Germany?”

“More like for Germany.”

Derek hums as he bends the bandage across Stiles’ palm.

“It's like a switch, I can…” Stiles nibbles on his cheek.

Agent Shaw comes to mind again. Stiles had been nearing the end of his mission when he met Shaw but he didn't know that. He was getting exhausted, frustrated. His switch had flipped and he let Shaw bleed out right there in his living room where his mistress would find him three days later.

His stomach is in knots when he asks, “Did I scare you?”

Derek pauses for a second like he's trying to collect his thoughts.

Stiles counts twelve seconds before Derek replies, “No,” but he doesn't look at him, which makes Stiles chew his lip.

“I thought I heard a crack when you hit him,” Derek continues as he reaches for the clips.

“Thought I felt one,” Stiles mutters.

“That was probably his cheekbone shattering.”

“His face was a little swollen.”

“Hit him any harder and he could've died.”

Stiles gulps.

Derek clips the end of the bandage around Stiles’ wrist. “Is it too tight?”

“No,” Stiles replies as he bends his fingers as far as they can go then tests the full range of motion in his wrist. “Thank you.”

“Yeah.” Derek closes up the package then tosses it onto Stiles’ suitcase.

Stiles expects Derek to move but he doesn’t budge. So they sit there, side-by-side, in silence with Derek staring into the tub and Stiles watching him through the corner of his eye.

“Forgot to ask if I can get my clothes back,” Stiles says after a while. “I really liked that shirt.”

“She said she’ll have them delivered to headquarters as soon as they’re sure it’s safe.”

“Oh,” Stiles says with a nod. “Good.”

“And…” Derek takes a deep breath and out of the corner of his eyes, Stiles watches his shoulders move. “I’m sorry for freezing up like that before. I don’t know what happened.”

“It’s your first mission in a long time.” Stiles shrugs. “It was probably just, I dunno, rust. I’m sure it happens a lot.”

Stiles isn’t so sure that what he offered is the truth. He can’t help but think that Derek got caught up in the idea of losing him again. Derek froze in fear.

Derek faces him again. “It didn’t happen to you .”

“Well I wasn’t exactly on a cruise for the last four years,” Stiles says with a chuckle as he turns to find Derek staring at him. “Not...saying that you were on vacation this whole time, just that you were y’know, on the sidelines.”

Stiles gulps and he’s sure that Derek is going to move away from him now. Talking about the years of his life that Stiles had disrupted is bound to upset him all over again.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Derek admits softly and Stiles holds his breath. “And that you managed to think on your feet while I was freaking out...or whatever.”

“Well…” Stiles tries to exhale slowly as he nods. “I had good trainers.”

“I trained some of your trainers,” Derek scoffs, “but I still—”

“C’mon stop it,” Stiles interjects with a huff then turns his body toward Derek. “I know what you’re doing and you need to quit. You freezing up for a millisecond didn’t cause the mission, our mission to fail. It was just...completed a different way than how we planned.”

Derek searches Stiles’ eyes.

Stiles counts on his fingers as he speaks, “One, Harris confessed and we have it on tape. Two, he’s locked up in his room right now with no chemicals and no escape until we’re green-lighted to get the cops involved. Three, they’re gonna find all the evidence they need in his house. Four and most important, those kids and the staff are gonna be fine . Derek,” Stiles rests his hands on Derek’s shoulders. “We did good. We won .”

|

Derek doesn’t expect it to happen any more than Stiles probably does but it happens before either of them have time to stop it. One second, Derek is listening to Stiles ramble on in an effort to comfort him, trying to make him feel like he didn’t ruin their operation and the next…

As their noses brush for the second before their lips do, Derek is concerned about the high rate of speed at which his heart is drumming in his chest. He feels like he's vibrating with it, each rapid-fire thud making his hands shake as he sets them on the back of Stiles’ head and pulls, crushing their mouths together.

Stiles pushes his tongue into Derek's mouth and kisses him back just as fervently. He moves like he doesn't know whether to lay back and pull Derek down on top of him or swing his leg over and climb into Derek's lap.

Derek shifts so he can push Stiles onto his back and his heart manages to thump even faster when Stiles lets out a satisfied little sigh into Derek’s mouth. For the first time in four years.

Derek’s heart is beating too fast and his hands are too cold. He breaks the kiss only long enough to help yank Stiles’ shirt over his head so he can warm his hands on Stiles’ skin.

He doesn’t think about what he's doing, even as he settles between Stiles’ thighs. He gets the feeling that if he dwells on his current actions he's going to… Derek doesn’t know what he would do.

Stiles’ bandaged hand is rubbing a sore spot against Derek’s side before it dawns on him that Stiles is trying to remove his shirt too but is finding it difficult to get a good enough grip.

Derek pulls away again, enough to get his own shirt off and to see Stiles’ face. His eyes are still closed, his lips slightly puckered and he is brightly flushed.

The color going all the way up to his hairline reminds Derek of how Stiles looked the very first time they kissed, moments after they stepped through the front door into Stiles’ empty house and minutes before Derek dropped to his knees before Stiles in the entryway.

Stiles doesn’t look to be too thrilled about the lengthy separation and his brow furrows before his eyes open but they don’t meet Derek’s. He looks off to the side, toward the door.

Derek watches him lick his lips as if he’s contemplating something. That’s when he hears the laptop pinging from the front room. He turns over his own shoulder to look at the door, as if expecting whoever is calling to come walking into the room. When he faces Stiles again, he finds honey-brown eyes watching him.

Derek’s heart feels like it stops for a second, only to start into a gallop again. He can feel himself being pulled into Stiles’ orbit now more than ever.

“Someone's calling,” he breathes.

“I hear it,” Derek replies and to his own ears, he sounds like he does after a long run.

They have to separate, Derek knows that, but he can’t make himself move.

Stiles glances at Derek's lips then searches his eyes.

He grunts, “Y-you need to get up,” and his voice broke as he used both hands to push at Derek’s shoulders.

Derek goes easier than he thought himself capable and he stands at the edge of the bed, watching Stiles watch him. Stiles’ chest rises and falls with heavy breaths and Derek knows his own is doing the same.

It crosses Derek’s mind that they must look like the woman and Harris watching each other. That thought makes Derek pull in a deep breath before moving toward the bedroom door.

He opens the laptop facing the windows then says, “Hey,” as steadily as he can then sits behind it. “Sorry, I was in the shower.”

Danny asks, “Why can't I see you?”

Because if he lets Danny see the flush he knows is on his own skin and notice that he’s got no shirt on, Danny would start to suspect.

Derek quickly answers, “I'm still drying off,” then peeks over his shoulder at the doorway to the bedroom.

Danny is saying, “So did that HAZMAT lady tell you the plan or?"

“Yeah,” Derek clears his throat. “They're going to Harris’ house next to get rid of that stuff in his closet and in the process they'll destroy the cameras and mics we left there so we don't have to worry about going to retrieve them in case they're contaminated too now.”

Danny sighs, “So much money just... wasted.”

Derek smiles softly.

“So yeah from what I could gather, that's what she told Director Stilinski too. I just wanted to know if you guys were up to speed.”

“Yep.” Derek nods uselessly. “What are they going to do with Harris?”

That I don't know,” Danny replies. “Probably hand him over to the Feds and then he's definitely gonna get stuck in a cell or disappeared.”

“Definitely,” Derek agrees in a mutter.

“Okay, I think that’s it. Do you guys need anything? Where’s Stiles?”

“He went for a walk,” Derek replies then furrows his brow because he doesn't totally understand why he felt that he had to lie. He could've easily told Danny where Stiles is but his mouth started working before his brain could catch up. “Said he needed to clear his head,” he continues. “I think he thinks we failed the mission because it didn’t turn out like we planned it.”

Derek wonders if Stiles is rolling his eyes, if he's even listening.

Danny sounds incredulous as he replies, “We didn’t fail. It’s like you said, it just went in a different direction.”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway call me if you need me.”

“Thanks Danny.”

“I’m sorry,” comes from the doorway behind him as Derek pushes the laptop closed again.

Derek turns and sees that Stiles is wearing his shirt again and he’s got both arms wrapped around himself. He’s staring at the floor.

“For what?” Derek asks.

Stiles shrugs. “Seducing you?”

Derek furrows his brow and almost scoffs, “ Seducing me?” He shifts his hips so he’s sitting facing the doorway. “ I’m the one who kissed you. You just”—Derek recalls the time in his office when Stiles had him up against the desk, tempting him—“responded.”

“Yeah okay but…” Stiles comes out of the doorway and starts slowly toward where Derek is sitting in front of the couch. “But I should’ve stopped you,” he finishes softly as he bends to his knees before Derek, close enough to touch if either of them wanted to reach out. “You shouldn’t do stuff that you’ll regret.”

Derek takes a deep breath then heavily exhales, “Who says I regret it?”

Stiles furrows his brow as he searches Derek’s eyes.

It comes to mind that someone needs to stop this before they lose themselves in each other. Whether it be Danny who calls because he forgot something, or Noah because he wanted to see how they were doing, or Allison to ask when they're coming home, or anyone . Despite what he said, Derek gets the feeling the someone who stops them won’t be Stiles. Derek knows that it won’t be himself either.

It isn’t until he reaches out a hand to wrap around Stiles’ arm that Derek realizes Stiles is shaking.

Stiles watches as Derek trails his hand down to grab his unbandaged wrist then pull him forward. Stiles moves easily as Derek pulls him enough that he's sitting with his knees on either side of Derek's hips. He drops his hands to the hem of Stiles’ shirt and pulls it over his head again then folds both arms around Stiles’ back and pulls him close enough that their chests are pressed together. He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Stiles’ bare shoulder when he is overwhelmed with a feeling he can’t describe.

He can feel Stiles’ heartbeat now, like a hummingbird in his chest, matching his own.

They fall into silence sitting there, Derek listening to Stiles’ breaths go from shallow to steady and Stiles with his fingers running through the hair at Derek’s nape.

He immediately notices when Stiles’ hand stops moving.

“Are you asleep?” Stiles asks.

Derek shakes his head then raises it. He sees that the place where he was laying is slightly pink from the constant pressure of his head. He turns his eyes up to Stiles’.

“Are you okay?”

“Are you kidding?” Stiles lets out a short and nervous sound. “I’m sitting on your lap and we’re drenched in sexy lighting and neither of us is wearing a shirt and...god I know I should feel like the proverbial cat that got the canary, but…” He pulls in a breath. “...I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, y’know? When am I gonna wake up from this dream that I’ve had every night for the last four years?”

”It’s not a dream Stiles,” Derek assures as he brings his arms around to grasp Stiles’ sides when he starts to shake again. “If so, we’re having the same one.”

Stiles is shaking his head. “It has to be a dream...” he says. “You wouldn’t…”—Derek gets the feeling that the next word out of Stiles mouth was going to be cheat , but he doesn’t get the chance to find out—“You wouldn’t do something like this.”

Derek is looking right at Stiles and he can see the man he spent five years of his life with, the man he fell in love with, the man he wanted to marry and grow old with, but the quaver in Stiles’ voice, his unsure expression reminds Derek of the child he knew, the boy who sighed and stuttered every time he was within ten feet of Derek.

He laughs softly at this imagery of the past and present coming together, like interlocking gears.

Stiles scoffs, “What’s so funny?”

Derek shakes his head. “That’s almost the exact same thing you said when I first asked you out.”

Stiles furrows his brow and searches Derek’s eyes. He laughs when the memory comes back to him and Derek laughs along.

“I did say something like that, didn’t I?” Stiles mutters.

“And do you remember what I said after you said that?”

Stiles shakes his head and watches himself rest both hands on Derek’s chest.

“I said…” Derek leans down as much as he can to try to catch Stiles’ gaze. “Are you gonna make me beg?”

Stiles’ eyes find Derek’s in an instant and Derek watches as Stiles’ skin flushes in real time.

“Well?” He rests his hands on Stiles’ hips. “ Are you?”

Stiles exhales heavily then licks his lips as he stares at Derek’s. He shakes his head then slides his hands up to take Derek by both sides of his head and pull him in.

|

It’s been six months since Stiles returned to America, four since he rejoined his fellow agents at BEACON, just under an hour since Derek leaned in to join their lips for the first time in four years and for every second of that time, there has been one name flitting around in his head: Braeden .

He tries to focus on the feeling of Derek’s tongue swiping through his mouth, the soft, breathless sounds Derek makes every time Stiles moves his hips to grind their dicks together, but all he can see behind his closed eyelids is her face.

Stiles thinks it would probably take a lot for her to shed a tear but her boyfriend, the man she loves enough to stick with through a deep, dark depression being unfaithful, cheating on her with the very ex who abandoned him… He thinks that would be enough to send her into her own depression.

He sets his hands on Derek’s chest again and breaks the kiss.

Derek asks, “What’s wrong?” as his thumbs start rubbing back and forth on Stiles’ hips.

“We…” Stiles gulps. “We should go to the bed. This carpet’s killing my knees.”

Derek chuckles as he leans back in for a kiss and Stiles allows him a quick peck before swinging his leg over. He does wince at the slight ache in his knees as he rises to his feet.

Stiles can clearly see the erection tenting Derek’s jeans even before he stands. When he brings his gaze up to Derek’s face, he finds a shy smile, but he can also see the want, the desire, the conviction for what they’re about to do in that smile and it makes him feel like something is squeezing around his heart. He isn’t sure if it’s the very same desire or guilt even as he takes Derek’s hand to guide him into the bedroom.

Stiles sits on the end of the bed, almost in the exact spot they were in when this all started, where Derek kissed him first, where he desperately kissed Derek back with everything he had, where he thought about Braeden for the first time today.

Derek moves around the bed, toward the nightstand to turn on the lamp then pull open the top drawer. Stiles watches him bring out lube and a box of condoms.

He chuckles, “Gotta love Sin City,” but he doesn’t feel any real mirth as he stares at the condoms in Derek’s grasp.

Yet another reminder of Braeden.

Derek sets everything on the bed before stepping in front of Stiles again. He holds Stiles by both sides of the head as he leans down to join their lips but Stiles backs away from him.

He watches Derek furrow his brow in confusion and exhales, “Can I blow you?” into the inch of space between their lips.

It’s something he’s wanted to do since the second he saw Derek shirtless in that weird gym. The gym Derek probably joined and devoutly attended with Braeden’s encouragement, because one of the best band-aids for depression is exercise.

Derek chuckles as he stands upright again. He replies, “Yeah,” and reaches up to run his thumb over Stiles’ parted lips as his other hand reaches for the button on his jeans.

Stiles stares up the chiseled plain of his torso and thinks Braeden probably loves how his body turned out, must love running her hands over his shoulders, his arms, his thighs. He remembers wanting to sink his teeth into the flesh of Derek’s chest and wonders if Braeden ever indulged in that practice. He finds himself searching Derek’s chest for teeth marks.

“Stiles,” Derek mutters and Stiles has to shake his head to clear it.

“Yeah.”

“Are you with me?”

Right in front of Stiles’ eyes, Derek’s jeans are hanging, open and tantalizingly, on the V of his hips and Stiles can just barely see the tuft of hair the happy trail disappears into.

Stiles replies, “No place I’d rather be,” as he pulls Derek’s jeans the rest of the way down his thighs, revealing his cock in what seems like slow motion.

“So where did you go just then?” Derek asks as he combs his fingertips through Stiles’ hair.

“Nowhere,” he mutters as he leans in to press a kiss to Derek's hip. “I'm right here Babe.”

Stiles grasps Derek’s cock in his hand as he turns his eyes up. Derek watches Stiles slowly kiss his way up the length of his cock then sighs when Stiles finally closes his mouth around the foreskin. He hangs his head back when Stiles wraps his hand around the base as he nudges the folds apart with the tip of his tongue. He exhales heavily when Stiles flicks his tongue over the slit. Stiles had almost forgotten how much he loved feeling Derek's considerable weight on his tongue. So he takes his time, sucking lightly as he works his mouth down.

Derek snaps his hips forward and catches Stiles off guard, forcing a cough out of him as he pulls off.

“Shit,” Derek pants. “You okay?”

Stiles clears his throat and shakes his head.

“Yeah, just ah..gimme a little warning next time maybe.”

“Sorry.”

Stiles can’t help but wonder if Braeden enjoys that kind of sudden, rough treatment and that’s why Derek let go just then when he had never done anything like that with Stiles before.

He replies, “It’s okay,” before leaning down to suck one of Derek’s balls into his mouth.

Derek lets out a deep sigh and Stiles feels both of Derek’s hands in his hair as he moves to take Derek into his mouth again. Derek slowly moves his hips once Stiles’ mouth covers him, like he’s asking permission. Stiles’ mind reels.

Derek would never have to ask Braeden permission. He would just do it, like he did moments before when he was thinking of her and not Stiles. Derek was always gentle with him, soft touches and slow thrusts and sweet kisses, but he isn’t that way with Braeden. Braeden probably likes her ass spanked and her hair pulled along with her throat fucked. That’s probably one of the things he loves about her. She matches him. All that time they were in love and Derek didn’t trust Stiles enough to show that part of himself.

Derek’s breath hitches when Stiles moans softly around him and he whimpers every time he bumps the back of Stiles’ throat. Stiles tries to concentrate on the sloppy noises his mouth is making along the thick hardness of Derek’s shaft, uses it to spur himself on. Stiles closes his eyes and bobs his head.

“Wait,” Derek gasps suddenly as he squeezes a hand tight on Stiles’ shoulder. “St-sto...” Derek cuts off with a short whine when Stiles starts to slowly pull off, tugging the foreskin a little between his lips as he goes until Derek’s entire length hangs in front of him, slick with saliva and dripping pre-cum onto the carpet between Stiles’ thighs.

“Is something wrong?” Stiles asks when Derek grasps his chin so they can face each other.

He grits his teeth in preparation for Derek to tell him that it’s all wrong because he’s not the right person.

Derek rubs his thumb over Stiles’ lips again as he leans down to breathe, “I just didn’t want you to be having all the fun,” before closing the space between them.

Stiles runs his fingers to the back of Derek’s head but breaks their kiss right when he feels Derek’s tongue push between his teeth. He holds Derek there for a moment and searches his eyes before pulling himself up the bed.

Derek follows him, never breaking eye-contact, until Stiles is laying back near the pillows. He watches Derek lean over him, keeps watching even after Derek's eyes close while they kiss. Derek’s tongue is tentative this time, asking permission again and Stiles opens up for him.

Derek’s hands blindly unfasten Stiles’ pants and he breaks their kiss to press his lips to Stiles’ chest. Stiles rests his hands on Derek’s shoulders and watches as Derek moves down the middle of his body with soft, wet kisses. He sighs when Derek plants a kiss next to his navel and raises his hips when Derek grabs the waistband to pull down the pants and his underwear in one swoop.

He isn’t as hard as he was when they were in the living room, he knew it and now Derek can see it.

“Since when don't you stay hard when you're sucking me off?” Derek mutters after a moment that felt like forever as he pulls Stiles’ pants the rest of the way off.

Stiles hears something in his tone but he can’t figure out what it is.

He gulps then says, “Too focused on”—Braeden—“pleasing you, I guess,” as he pulls himself up to his elbows.

Derek chuckles, “You've always been so selfless,” as he climbs over Stiles again. He joins their lips in a quick kiss then searches Stiles’ eyes. “Are you sure everything’s okay though?”

“Yeah Babe,” Stiles smiles while looking into Derek’s eyes and running his fingertips over Derek’s sides. “Everything’s...almost perfect.”

Derek frowns. “Almost?”

“Well, I mean…” Stiles shrugs one shoulder. “You implied that you were gonna return the favor but your mouth is up here.”

Derek closes his eyes as he lets out a soft laugh, which makes Stiles’ heart start thudding in his chest as his smile widens.

“I see your point,” Derek says then crawls back down Stiles’ body.

Stiles turns his eyes up to the off-white roof and his body vibrates with exultation because after all this time, all this distance, he gets to feel their connection again. Stiles just wishes he could concentrate on Derek kissing and touching him, swiping his tongue over Stiles’ head before guiding his dick between his lips.

He doesn’t want to be thinking of her and everything she’s done for him. He doesn't want to think of this as a betrayal.

Derek makes a sound around him and Stiles hisses when he pulls off. He watches as Derek reaches back for the condoms and lube.

Derek pulls the condoms closer but he keeps the lube in his grasp. He glances up at Stiles’ face then gives him another smile—and that something clenches around Stiles’ heart again—before leaning down again. Stiles closes his eyes when Derek hooks his hands underneath his knees then pushes them toward his chest.

Stiles expects to hear the lube cap open or feel a finger against his hole so the huff of Derek's breath, the brush of stubble before lips circle his hole in a wet kiss catches him off guard. Stiles whines when Derek darts the tip of his tongue in then out again and again. He reaches between his legs to rest his fingertips against the top of Derek’s head as he starts rutting against his face.

Something uncoils abruptly in the pit of Stiles’ stomach, forcing a gasp out of him. He raises his leg even higher to rest the sole of his foot against Derek's shoulder and push him away.

“I...hold on, I...I need a second.”

“Are you that close already?” Derek asks as he rubs his palms over the backs of Stiles’ thighs.

Stiles just barely raises his head to shoot Derek a glare. “Ex...scuse me, I...haven’t done this with anyone else in a while so.”

But Derek has, Stiles’ mind mocks. Derek has been with at least one other person since Stiles went off on a mission of espionage and celibacy. Derek has been going to bed with Braeden, he’s been learning her body, studying up on what turns her on and what doesn’t.

Please tell me he still does that thing where he goes down on you until right when you’re shaking so hard your bones almost turn to dust... His comments to Braeden, spoken only two nights ago though it seems like forever now, come back to him in shameful echoes.

“Reminds me of our first time,” Derek teases then squeezes the meat of both of Stiles’ thighs in his hands.

Stiles raises himself up on his elbows again and scoffs, “You swore you would never mention that again.”

Derek laughs, “I’m sorry,” as he pulls himself up to sit on his legs with his knees on either side of Stiles’ hips.

Stiles drops back down on the bed and grumbles, “I don’t accept your apology.”

Derek hums then asks, “How about now?” as Stiles’ feels the lubed finger brush his rim.

“Nope,” Stiles replies as he cranes his neck to look between his thighs, down at Derek’s hand, it’s heel pressing against Stiles’ perineum as a finger sinks into him.

He can tell that Derek is looking back at him but he doesn’t meet the gaze, just keeps watching Derek’s hand. The constant pressure of it’s heel is sending zips of pleasure up his spine, but not enough have him racing toward the edge again.

When he does look Derek in the eyes, he tells him, “Don’t take this the wrong way,” when he starts rolling his hips. “I still don’t forgive you.”

Derek grins as he slowly pulls his hand away. Stiles watches him squeeze more lube onto his already wet middle finger and his ring finger. He lets out a weak sound as he watches Derek bend again to easily take his erection back into his mouth, just as Stiles feels the tip of Derek’s fingers pushing into him.

The world finally pinholes to the sensations flowing through Stiles’ body at the urgence of Derek’s mouth and fingers. It’s all he can do not to fall into the darkness dancing around the edges of his vision.

Derek slides off of him with a pop and Stiles’ body curls in on itself. He encircles his dick in his fist and whines, “Why’d you stop?” as he shoots Derek a glare.

“I wanted to know if you forgive me yet,” Derek replies with a smirk as he squeezes more lube onto the first two fingers and his index finger.

Stiles groans, “If I say I do, will you fuck me now ?”

“That depends...” Derek lowers his hand to Stiles’ ass again. “Would you”—He pushes in the first two fingers.—“be telling the truth or are you just saying that so I’ll fuck you?”

Stiles bites his bottom lip as the third lubed finger slides in amongst the others.

He shrugs and heavily exhales, “Does it matter?”

Derek nods slowly as he moves his gaze from Stiles’ eyes to his chest to his dick to where his own fingers are disappearing into Stiles’ body.

“I forgive you,” Stiles says and Derek’s eyes find his again.

He arches an eyebrow. “Do you really?”

Stiles mirrors his action. “Does it matter?”

Derek laughs as he turns to reach back while keeping his fingers in Stiles.

When Stiles realises that Derek is reaching for the condoms, he tenses. Derek glances down at his hand then up at Stiles with a look of concern on his face.

“Do we have to use those?” Stiles asks as he turns his gaze down to the red packaging in Derek’s hand.

In his periphery, he sees Derek drop his head to look down at the box. Stiles wonders if he even realized that he’d grabbed it out of the drawer in the first place. If he’s gotten so used to using them with her, it must be second nature by now.

Derek is still hesitating when Stiles reaches out to grasp the arm with the fingers still in him.

“I wanna feel you Babe,” he says. “ Please? I’m not—”

Derek cuts him off with a short, “I know,” as he sets the package down.

“Okay,” Stiles whispers and rests his hand on Derek’s flank when he covers him again. “I'm sorry,” he mutters as Derek leans their foreheads together.

“It's okay,” Derek replies and Stiles can feel tears stinging in his own eyes so he closes them because he doesn't want Derek to see.

Derek flicks his tongue out to run along the seam of Stiles’ lips as he reaches between their bodies to guide himself inside.

Stiles gasps against Derek’s mouth when he feels the pressure of Derek’s cock and he opens his eyes to find Derek staring back at him.

A sob breaks out of him as he is slowly filled and he pulls Derek as close to his body as he can with all his limbs.

Stiles arches into Derek's first, agonizingly slow thrust as he mutters,  “God, I missed you.”

Derek exhales heavily as he moves his lips to Stiles’ jaw then his neck.

For a second, Stiles thinks he heard Derek's soft reply, “I missed you too,” inside his own head until Derek adds, “So much,” against his shoulder.

Stiles can't hold back the whimpering sob when he hears that and his face flushes impossibly deeper as soon as it leaves him.

Derek brings his face away from Stiles’ shoulder to look at him but Stiles turns his face toward the ugly curtains. He feels Derek pull back so he tries to prepare for that sense of loss and emptiness, but Derek doesn’t leave him. Derek rests his forehead against Stiles’ cheekbone as he thrusts forward much harder than before. The suddenness forces a cry out of Stiles and shoves him right back to the edge.

He becomes acutely aware of the moisture pumping out of his dick in-between their bodies, mixed with the sweat flowing out of their skin, covering his dick in wetness and warmth that's making his skin feel like it's buzzing. Stiles wants to pull away at the same time he wants to chase his orgasm.  

Derek asks, “You okay?” into Stiles’ ear as he pulls his hips up just enough to relieve the friction, as if he knew what Stiles was thinking.

Stiles nods and he notices the fingertips clutching Derek's arm and the back of his neck are numb.

“Did that hurt?”

Stiles shakes his head, though it did hurt, but the low physical pain is easily drowned out by the pleasure and affirmation, the closeness.

He takes a deep breath of their scent filling the room and whispers, “Slow though,” as he runs numbed fingers through Derek's hair and rolls his hips up.

Derek sighs softly before giving him another kiss then lowering his forehead to Stiles’ shoulder as he picks up the rhythm and rocks their bodies with every thrust. His breaths against Stiles’ shoulder are like steam on his already hot skin and someone is trembling but he isn't sure if it's himself or Derek. He groans against Derek's neck and feels goosebumps erupt on the skin under his hands.

Derek's hips stutter and he pushes forward hard again. Stiles purses his lips but that barely stifles the pained grunt that breaks out of his throat. Derek brings his head up and fixes Stiles with a worried stare.

“It's okay,” Stiles says as he holds Derek's face with both hands then cranes his neck up to press a kiss against Derek's tight lips. “I'm okay,” he assures, “Don't stop Babe, please,” because he knows that Derek is just trying to chase his own orgasm with earnest.

Stiles—thinks of Braeden—looks at Derek’s face and sees that same desire as before, still barely held in check, in the gaze Derek is giving back to him. He moans and his eyelids flutter when Stiles reaches up to touch his lips with his thumb. Stiles feels a sense of power knowing that he can still make Derek feel all this wanting, all this love.

He has to bite his lip to stop himself from saying anything.

Derek drops his head to Stiles’ shoulder again and lets out an almost imperceptible sob. Stiles turns his head to press a kiss to Derek's neck as he scratches his nails along Derek's back.

“Stiles,” Derek gasps just before Stiles feels teeth sink a little into his shoulder.

"Please,” is all Stiles whispers back and he feels Derek freeze for the length of a second before giving him a hard push again.

Stiles whimpers and pumps his hips as he fills the bare amount of space between their bodies with his seed. At the same time, he feels Derek grip his hip like a vice and stiffen again, his whole body firmed like the part of him inside Stiles, as he reached his climax.

Their moment ends and Stiles gasps when he starts to feel Derek spill seeping passed his rim. He runs his palms over Derek's back until Derek's body softens on top of and inside him.

Derek sighs on his neck and Stiles winces at the heat of it, even as he asks, “You okay?”

Derek replies, “Mhm,” as he presses a kiss to Stiles’ collarbone then another to the base of his neck.

He gives Stiles’ hip a quick squeeze before slowly pulling out. Stiles moans softly as Derek departs and, somewhere in the back of his mind and despite how absolutely worn out he is, he already knows he’ll want to do this again before morning. The feeling of guilt re-emerges with that thought and it deepens while Derek hovers above him, staring without speaking for a long time.

Derek pulls in a sudden, quick breath and Stiles expects him to say out loud everything his eyes have been telling Stiles since this all started. Derek opens his mouth but then closes it again. He clears his throat then gets up.

Stiles watches him move toward the bathroom cabinet, open it, then pluck two washrags from the basket nearest the bottom and walk them over to the sink. Stiles runs his hands down his chest as he surveys the lines of Derek’s body and becomes aware of the stickiness on his belly as well as the insides and backs of his thighs.

Derek brings both rags back to the bed and holds one out for Stiles.

“Thank you,” Stiles mutters and he winces when the wet and warm rag touches his skin because he realizes that his body is still too hot.

In Stiles’ periphery, Derek gives himself a quick rub down then grabs the condoms and leftover lube and throws them back in the drawer. He waits until Stiles finishes up then gives him the rag, which he tosses into the tub along with his own before turning the bed down.

Stiles gulps as he shuffles to the edge of the bed and climbs out of it.

Derek got to cum so now no more touching, no more kissing, no more silent declarations of love. Stiles wraps his arms around himself and his legs shake as they try to hold him up, to move him.

“Where are you going?” Derek asks and Stiles freezes next to his pants that are laying halfway off the foot of the bed.

He isn't entirely sure what to reply so he shrugs. “I thought…” He shrugs again. “I figured I should go get started on cleaning up.”

Derek frowns. “You don't want to come to bed?”

“I…” Stiles blinks. “What? Yeah but we—”

“We need to sleep,” Derek interjects as he pulls the other side of the blankets back. “We can pack up tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Stiles easily concedes with a nod.

He is so tired, so used up after this day and he does want to sleep, despite what he just said. He is thrilled that Derek doesn’t want to sleep alone because he wants Derek’s warmth and, more than anything else, he wants to sleep in Derek’s arms again, in spite of his guilt.

Derek turns out the light as Stiles climbs under the blankets then he slips an arm around Stiles’ side when he presses against his chest.

Derek holds him like he’s a welcome body and Stiles wonders how Derek feels about the differences, the lack of curves, of breasts. Derek rests his hand over Stiles’ pec and Stiles’ mind tells him that Derek is futilely searching for a breast to cup. Stiles bites his lip and forces himself to focus on the warmth of Derek’s chest, the comforting weight of the arm around him.

He wriggles as his eyes close and feels Derek stir against the back of his thigh. That makes Stiles smile but he is too sleepy to try to do anything about it.

Chapter Text

Derek’s expects the bed to be empty when he wakes up.

He assumes Stiles would’ve waited until he was asleep before slinking away, like he tried to do last night after they had made love for the first time in the longest four years of Derek’s life. He can't think to describe the feeling he had watching Stiles climb out of bed then walking away from him as anything but gut-wrenching.

He gulps even now just thinking about it.

Stiles had made him vulnerable all over again with his kisses, his touches, his gazes and if he had kept walking or if he wasn’t here when Derek woke up, Derek doesn’t know how he would react.

But Stiles is still here, practically suctioned to Derek’s side, holding on like he would never want to get out of this bed again. And he’s awake, Derek knows, because Stiles is never this still while he’s asleep.

“You up?” Stiles asks softly and Derek contemplates not answering because he gets the feeling that if he spoke, if he further broke the silence, they could never get it back.

Still, he takes a deep breath and replies, “Yeah,” then opens his eyes when he feels Stiles raise his head.

Their eyes don’t meet at first because Stiles is staring across at the bedside clock. Derek doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t want to have the timer ticking in his head, counting down the moments he has left with Stiles in this bed.

“Check-out is in forty-four minutes,” Stiles says with a frown that only deepens when he looks down at Derek.

Derek purses his lips and runs a hand over Stiles’ back.

Stiles sighs, “I wish we could stay another night,” as he leans his forehead against Derek’s temple.

Derek clenches his teeth, forcing himself not to agree or disagree with Stiles because either response would come with their own consequences.

After a long moment, Stiles takes a deep breath and exhales, “But I guess that would be a little suspicious,” as he pushes himself away.

Stiles’ dejected tone hits Derek in his chest but he doesn’t know what to say so he just watches Stiles shuffle to the other side of the bed. He sighs as he turns to slide out of it himself. He tries to ignore how the silence in the room is pulling at his ribcage as he reaches for the jeans he had discarded on the floor.

“Where do you want to start?” Stiles asks.

Derek peeks over his shoulder as he pulls on the jeans to see Stiles doing the same with his underwear.

He continues, “Cuz I was thinking that I could do the packing and you could do the cleaning,” as he scratches the skin just above his waistband.

Derek watches Stiles’ fingers move as he nods.

“Kay,” Stiles mutters then starts toward the front room.

Derek watches Stiles walk away until he disappears and he finds himself experiencing the same uncomfortable feeling he had last night.

Now, with his mind a little clearer, he realizes that the feeling is almost like a kind of dread. As if Stiles moving away from him, being out of his sight, is going to become permanent all over again.

Derek gulps and takes a step toward the doorway. He can already feel his heart-rate climbing because he’s sure that when he reaches the other side, Stiles won’t be there.

“Uh hey, Derek?” Stiles calls just before he reaches the doorway and Derek gasps, flushed with relief. “Can you come here?”

Derek takes a deep breath before stepping out to see Stiles standing before the monitors with both hands on his hips. He can see the edges of a bruise under Stiles’ palm and recalls that it’s his own handprint embedded in Stiles’ flesh.

“Ah...” Stiles purses his lips then huffs through his nose. “Do I just…” He gestures to the monitors. “...take ‘em apart like Legos or is there some kind of procedure?”

Derek grins and folds his arm over his chest. “Yeah Stiles,” he laughs. “Like Legos.”

Something in the corner of his vision catches Derek’s attention and he turns to see a cloche sitting on top of the table. He recalls that it’s the plate of chicken tenders and fries that Stiles had ordered yesterday evening before shit went sideways, as Danny put it.

“You didn’t eat your food,” Derek says as he turns back to see Stiles reaching down to the floor to pick up the laptop that Derek had left there last night.

“Oh, I forgot all about it,” Stiles says then makes a face at the plate as he opens the laptop and awakens the screen.

“Do you want it?”

Stiles makes the same face. “Is there a microwave in here?”

“No.”

“Then no,” Stiles replies with a shake of his head as he closes the laptop then stands to carry it over to Derek’s suitcase. “I‘ll get something on the road.” He kneels in front of the suitcase then swings it open so the lid makes an audible thud against the carpeted floor. “Unless you want it.”

“No thank you.” Derek watches Stiles pull the laptop bag out of the suitcase. “But Lydia will be mad you put something on the tab that you didn’t eat.”

Stiles scoffs, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” as he pushes the laptop into the case.

Derek is glad that Stiles’ back is turned as he stuffs the laptop bag back into the suitcase because he doesn’t have to see the grimace on Derek’s face. Those words, however innocuous Stiles meant them to be, makes Derek’s skin crawl.

He gulps then clears his throat before asking, “Before you get up, can you pass me the gloves?”

“Yeah,” Stiles grunts then reaches over Derek’s suitcase to grab one of the duffle bags and tug it closer.

Derek watches Stiles’ movements as he searches for the box of gloves, even catches the box when Stiles sends it flying through the air before it hits his chest, but the only thing going through his mind is what he’ll be facing once they go home.

He tears the box open and slides a pair of gloves onto his hands as a voice in the back of his head tells him, What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Derek feels a sting in his chest because the voice is eerily reminiscent of Stiles’, though he knows the man on the floor hadn’t really said anything.

He lifts the plate with it’s cloche off the table and carries them to the door. With cursory glances up and down the hallway, he lays them on the floor next to the door then lets it swing closed again. Derek keeps walking by where Stiles is still kneeling on the floor as he rearranges the contents of the duffle so he can fit the monitors back in there. He knows he doesn’t have to wonder what Stiles would tell him to do about this.

As he passes the tub, Derek’s gaze lands on the rags they used to clean themselves up last night and he feels a low twist in the pit of his stomach. With a sigh, he moves toward the little alcove that houses the toilet and pulls the trash bag out of the can by the door. He drops the bag next to the tub, plucks the rags from within, and tosses them into the bag.

He is moving toward the cabinet to grab another rag when he remembers the look on her face the morning after he took Stiles home from the party. Derek wets the rag in the sink, squeezes the excess water from it, then rubs it forcefully over the faucet handles. He knows that he never wants to see that expression—one of being completely blindsided with a little devastation—on her face ever again, but that’s exactly what would happen if he told her what took place in this hotel room last night.

Derek rubs the rag on the door handle of toilet alcove then wipes down the tank lever. He flushes the toilet twice before stepping back out.

She’ll know something is different if he tries to play it off. She knows him too well, plus she’s no idiot. If he doesn’t tell her and she recognizes that something is out of place, like she did that morning, then she’ll try to figure out what the problem is and, of course, the first conclusion she’ll jump to is Stiles. There’s too much bad blood there for her to think of anything else.

He tosses that rag into the tub then gets another. Derek thinks even if he just broke up with her with no explanation, she would still assume that it had to do with Stiles. He lets out a heavy sigh as he bends to swipe the new rag around the rim of the tub.

There is a low clatter from the living room and Derek looks up through the door but Stiles doesn't give any indication of a problem so he continues to wiping the tub faucet.

Derek leaves that rag in the tub and sighs as he pulls off the gloves.

He calls, “Can you bring me the vacuum?” as he throws the gloves into the trash bag.

Stiles soon steps into the bedroom with a hand-held vacuum in his grasp.

Derek takes it from him with a soft, “Thanks.”

He starts vacuuming the pillows as Stiles makes his way to the other side of the bed to pick up his own pillow, which he hugs close to his chest.

“Good thing there’s at least seven hundred different guy’s jizz in those sheets so there’s no way someone could link us to this room.”

Derek glares at him across the bed and Stiles just shrugs.

“It’s true,” he mumbles before going back to his suitcase, dropping his pillow into it, then dragging it, open, into the front room.

Derek follows Stiles with his gaze for a moment before noticing that the low twist is back, but this time in his chest. He shakes his head as he turns his attention to inspecting and vacuuming the sheets.

If she were to make the discovery on her own, that would be worse than not telling her in the first place.

As soon as Derek shuts the vacuum off, he can hear Stiles muttering to himself from the front room. Derek moves toward the sound and finds Stiles standing over his suitcase. He steps around Stiles and sets the vacuum into one of the duffle bags then zips it up.

“What’s wrong?” he asks as he makes his way toward the box of gloves again.

“I feel like I’m forgetting something,” Stiles mumbles. “I didn’t have this much space.”

“You had one of the monitors in there,” Derek says as he slides another pair of gloves onto his hands.

Stiles snaps his fingers and exclaims, “What would I do without you,” then turns back to pick up one of the dismantled monitors from the floor.

Derek heads back into the bedroom with a sour taste into his mouth.

He wets another rag then brings it back to the front room to wipe down the backs of both chairs. Derek almost forces himself not to look at Stiles as they work in near silence. He can hear him so he knows Stiles is still there and that is more than enough. He doesn’t even turn when he hears the low thud of Stiles dropping the tv too heavily back onto the stand, he just moves on to cleaning the front door knob.

Stiles says, “I think we’re all set?”

Out of the corner of his eye, as Derek swiped the rag over the back of the desk chair, he sees Stiles turning in a slow circle in the middle of the room.

“What do you think?”

Derek turns to take a look around but he doesn’t gaze fully at Stiles. Having been in a sort of fog when he first walked into this room two days ago, Derek isn’t entirely sure what it looked like before all their belongings and equipment were scattered around the space. But the room looks clean, other than the bags laying around on the floor, so he shrugs.

“Looks like we’re all set.”

“Cool,” Stiles sighs heavily. “I’m gonna go warm up the shower.”

“Careful how and what you touch,” Derek calls as Stiles steps into the bedroom.

“I know.”

Derek makes his own way toward the television then, after carefully wiping around the edges of the television set, Derek strips off the gloves for the last time. He drops the box of remianing gloves into Stiles’ suitcase then closes it.

He rounds the corner into the bedroom at the same instance that Stiles is slipping out of his underwear next to the tub.

Derek catches sight of Stiles’ flaccid penis when Stiles turns to ask, “You comin’?”

He gulps as he drags his gaze up Stiles’ body, stopping at his lips.

Derek doesn't know what he's going to do, not about the feelings Stiles has inspired in him again and definitely not what he's going to do about Braeden. He can admit that much to himself.

“Babe?”

But right now...

“Yeah.”

Derek drops the used gloves into the trash bag and the rag into the tub then pushes his jeans off and follows Stiles into the shower.

“Kind of a tight fit,” Derek mutters as he slides in underneath the showerhead to find Stiles already drenched in the warm water.

“Well we don’t have time to shower one by one,” Stiles says, pushing back the hair that is plastered to his head. “And besides…” He reaches up to pull Derek by the back of his neck until he's underneath the water too. “It’d be bad luck to break tradition now.”

Stiles turns to pluck a tiny shampoo bottle off the shelf behind him. Derek furrows his brow and runs a hand over his own face as he watches Stiles spin the cap off.

“What do you mean bad luck?”

Stiles hands Derek the shampoo bottle then turns to get the other one.

“I mean… before we used to have sex after a mission and then last night we…” He shrugs as he twists the cap off this one too. “Well you know, you were there.” The bottle’s cap slips from Stiles’ grip and they both watch it fall to the floor of the shower before Stiles continues, “And then the mornings after, we would always shower together so...if we went one at a time, we would be breaking tradition...which would be bad luck.”

He finishes with a shrug then dumps the bottle of shampoo onto his head.

Derek tries to hold it in, but he can’t help the laugh.

Stiles has his eyes closed as he grumbles, “What?”

“Nothing.” Derek steps out from underneath the water. “You’re absolutely right. I just didn’t realize you’d become superstitious in your old age.”

“You’re way older than me,” Stiles mutters as he lathers his hair. “Remember that.”

Derek watches Stiles for a moment then, with a soft smile tells him, “I can't reach my head.”

Stiles moves his face underneath the stream to wash the shampoo away from his eyes before opening them.

“What?”

“It's…” Derek wiggles his shoulders to accent the lack of space between himself and the shower walls. “...too small and I can't reach. Can you?”

“What, wash your hair?”

“I can't move, Stiles.”

Stiles grins as he takes the bottle from Derek's hand. Derek bows his head and his shoulders jolt from the sudden coolness of the shampoo against his scalp, then again once Stiles slides his fingers through his hair.

His eyes slip closed as his dick moves to attention between himself and Stiles.

Stiles hums then grumbles, “You should have whoever told you to go to the gym until you were the size of a bus wash your stupid hair.”

Derek feels guilt wash over him faster and hotter than the water from the showerhead. For an almost indiscernible second, Stiles’ fingers stop moving on his scalp. Derek tells himself that it's because Stiles realizes what he said, he realizes he knows exactly who suggested Derek join a gym.

Stiles drops his hands to Derek's shoulders and pulls him forward until he's completely under the water again. His eyes still closed, Derek waits to feel Stiles’ fingers in his hair again, helping to make sure all the shampoo along with any stubborn grease gets washed down the drain, but the hands only drift to his upper arms.

When he does open his eyes, Derek finds Stiles looking back at him.

He isn't sure whether Stiles is really crying or if the water falling on them is only making it seem that way, but the sorrow in Stiles’ gaze feels like it's piercing Derek's chest.

He lets their lips close on each other.

Stiles immediately deepens the kiss, sliding his tongue between Derek's lips and suctioning himself to Derek like he did when they were still in bed. Derek presses the knuckles of one hand against the wall of the shower while the other curves around a globe of Stiles’ ass.

Stiles makes a soft sound as he pulls himself away, pressing his back against the wall of the shower.

“We really don’t have time for this,” he breathes then looks down at the growing erections between their bodies.

Derek leans into him again and grinds their hips together. Stiles’ mouth drops open and his eyes roll closed.

“We can make it quick,” Derek says against Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles shakes his head. “You always say that!”

Derek rubs the tips of their noses together. “I mean it this time.”

Stiles whines, “You always say that,” even as Derek feels the minute push of his hips.

Derek chuckles as he flattens Stiles against the shower wall, forcing a breath out of him. Stiles rests his hand on the back of Derek’s neck as Derek slides his hand back to Stiles’ ass, so he can feel from both sides every time Stiles moves his hips. Stiles hooks a leg around one of Derek's and mutters something under his breath as he quickens his hips, faster than Derek can keep up.

Stiles looks down between their bodies and Derek feels wetness at his hips that has nothing to do with the water at his back.

With a heavy exhale, Stiles drops his head against the shower wall to stare at Derek with lidded eyes. Something about that look makes Derek’s stomach feel tight and not in the way he expected.

He reaches up to run his thumb over Stiles’ lips and Stiles sticks his tongue out to taste Derek's finger.

“See,” Derek says with a smile that belies the discomfort he’s feeling. “I told you.”

“And you just had to be right,” Stiles grunts as he gingerly pulls himself away from the wall. “God, you realize that we didn't actually wash anything but our hair?”

Derek chuckles then quickly turns toward the water so it can wash away Stiles’ spill off his abdomen. Stiles’ arms wrap around his middle then his lips press on the back of Derek’s neck.

“C’mon,” Derek says as he shuts off the water.

Stiles whines into his back but he releases Derek who quickly steps out of the shower.

“How are you even moving so well right now?” Stiles asks as Derek makes his way toward the bed with the sick feeling crawling up his throat. “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to relearn how to walk.”

Derek smiles despite feeling like he going to throw up any second.

|

The first thing Stiles notices when he pulls into the vet clinic parking lot is Derek’s car and his shoulders tense as soon as he lays eyes on it. He knows that Derek hadn't left it there before they started on the way to San Marino, so that could only mean that she's inside it, waiting for him to come home. Next, he notices that Allison and Kira are standing right outside the doors, watching his car as it rolls past.

He forces himself not to even glance in the direction of the Camaro as he parks the jeep on the other end of the parking lot.

“Welcome back,” Allison says cheerfully as Stiles moves toward her and Kira, towing his duffle bag.

Stiles frowns when he gets close enough to notice that Allison’s arm, mostly hidden under her jacket, is in a sling.

“It's just a dislocation,” she says before he gets a chance to mention it.

Her gaze drops to his hand that Derek had checked and re-wrapped before they got on the road this morning.

“Just a sprain,” he says, waving the wrist.

She outstretches her unaffected arm to give him a hug. Stiles drops the bag at their feet, takes her into his arms, and gently lifts her off the ground. Then he turns to do the same with Kira.

“So what,” Stiles scoffs and gestures at the clinic doors. “No one else wanted to welcome us back?”

“No we uh…” Allison pauses to glance at Kira. “We came out because we wanted to talk to you about something.”

Stiles purses his lips as he looks both women in the eyes.

“What’s up?”

“So,” Kira starts, “I was cleaning up the mainframe last night and I noticed um that you had logged into it recently.”

“Yeah.” Stiles sticks his hands into his pockets. “I was just doing a little light reading.”

Allison scoffs, “A little light reading.”

“Yep.”

Kira glances at Allison then looks back at Stiles. “In Braeden’s files?”

Stiles nods. “Yep.”

“Does she or Derek know you did that?”

“Nope.”

Allison moves to cross her arms but then aborts then motion. “You shouldn’t be snooping in other people’s files,” she says.

“I’m a spy, Alli, snooping is literally my job description.”

“Snooping on your colleagues?”

“If it comes to that.” Stiles shrugs. “I mean what do we even know about this—” He air-quotes,“—Braeden? Does she even have a last name?”

“We know everything there is to know, Stiles. It’s all in her files.”

“Which you shouldn’t have even been looking in,” Kira adds.

“I just wanted to make sure for myself.”

“You don’t trust our judgment?” Allison asks. “Your father’s judgment? Or Derek’s?”

“I trust you guys,” he sighs. “I’d just rather seen for myself.”

Kira opens her mouth but something over Stiles’ shoulder catches her attention. He turns to see the midnight blue Ford Bronco Derek was driving rolling into the parking lot. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles also notices the Camaro’s door open. He turns back to Allison and Kira.

“Like for instance,” he says. “She was salutatorian in high school, so that led me to an explanation for her crippling inferiority complex.”

Allison scoffs, “That was rude.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “What’s rude is she threatened to shoot me.”

In his periphery,  Kira’s jaw drops open meanwhile Allison cries, “Oh pl— No she didn’t!”

Stiles folds his arms over his chest. “Yes, she did.”

“Right, and you just let her pull a gun you.”

“Well, I didn't have the chance to get to my broadsword.”

Allison narrows her eyes at him but Kira turns her head to hide a smile. Behind him, there is the thud of a car door closing.

“The point, Allison, is she put a gun to my gut and told me to stay the hell away from Derek. I mean what kind of completely sane and trustworthy person does that?”

You’ve done that,” she says, pointing at his chest.

He scoffs, “No I haven’t.”

Yeah, in Ukraine when that bartender was flirting with Derek and you put your Ruger to the guy’s chest and over the wire, we all heard you tell him to stay the hell away from your man. You don’t remember that?”

Stiles clenches his jaw. He hadn't remembered that incident until now. In fact, the only thing from that operation that had stuck in his mind was what he and Derek did in their hotel room afterward.

Stiles shrugs. “I remember I suffered a head injury on that job.”

“Stiles…” Allison shakes her head. “Believe it or not, Braeden doesn’t have ulterior motives.”

Stiles’ jaw is so tight, it sounds like it creaks from the inside of his head.

“All she wants is to have a life with Derek.”

He knows that. Of course, he knows that.

“But guess what?” He reaches down to grab the duffle bag. “It's not her life to have.”

Allison's mouth drops open, much like Kira's had moments before.

Stiles steps between the women, headed for the clinic doors.

Chapter Text

“So…” Marin starts as she presses the record button. “How was it?”

Derek smiles as he watches her lean back into her chair.

“It was great,” he says and she matches his smile.

“I’d…” Derek shakes his head. “I’d almost forgotten how fun it could be.”

“Fun?” She crosses her ankles. “Dealing with a man who planned on poisoning hundreds of teachers and students was...fun?”

Derek purses his lips. “Maybe fun isn’t the right word but it felt more…” He shrugs. “Right I guess.”

He leans back into the couch and recalls the anticipation of chasing Harris all over the strip, the tension of watching Stiles’ interrogation, the relief of knowing that the job was completed without anyone getting too badly hurt... All feelings that he never got to fully experience ever since the first day he took that chair. Sure he felt them to some second-hand degree while reading through the reports or hearing them relayed from a fellow agent’s mouth, but there was nothing like feeling it himself.

“You know how much I hate riding that desk,” he says and Marin nods. “I’d rather be out there doing what I was trained to do instead of just...sitting around all the time.”

She stares at him for a second then looks down to write in his notebook.

She faces him again and asks, “You think then that we should start the process of getting you back into being a field agent.”

Derek’s stomach doesn’t turn at the mere mention of it, so he nods. “I’d like that.”

“You realize you’ll have to take the Battery again.”

Derek softly laughs, “Yeah.”

“Alright.” Marin shrugs. “I’ll talk to Noah and Jordan as soon as we’re done here.”

Her nonchalance makes Derek wary though he tries not to show it on his face. He thought he’d get more of a fight out of her over this. After all, Marin was the one who suggested he be taken out of the field in the first place after she concluded he was a danger to himself and others. He runs his right hand up his left arm to trail the goosebumps that are forming there from the memory how devastated he was, not only in his personal life but his professional life as well.

“How was it having Stiles for a partner?”

Derek clears his throat in an effort not to gulp.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, a few months ago you could barely stand being in the same town as him and this past weekend you had to share a room with him.”

Derek nods. It felt so small at first, almost stifling, but then the longer they were there, the longer they were together, it felt nice to have that closeness again.

“How did it affect you?”

“It was fine.” He shakes his head and shrugs. “We were fine.”

“Well, that’s…” Marin readjusts herself in her seat. “...good. It’s good that the two of you managed to get along.”

Derek nods again.

“So there wasn’t any…bad feelings, emotionally or physically?”

“There was at first,” he admits. “I felt, I guess, overwhelmed.” He recalls practically shutting down and burying himself in the bed, like an ostrich with its head in the sand. “But it had a lot to do with being exhausted after that drive as well as about being in that room with Stiles.”

Marin smiles as she flicks her pen back and forth. “Did you just go to sleep again?”

Derek chuckles, “Yeah.”

The dream he had about Stiles’ mouth drifts to the forefront of his mind.

“What happened once you woke up and realized that you still had to go through with the mission, that you still had to be around Stiles?”

“Well, first I got yelled at for going off comms.”

Marin raised her brows.

“I didn’t tell him or Danny that I was about to crash so they thought something horrible might’ve happened to me.”

She purses her lips and hums as she looks down to write something.

He adds, “Everything was pretty much smooth sailing after that.”

“And what does Stiles think about you going back to fieldwork?”

Derek furrows his brows and his stomach does do a somersault then.

“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “I didn’t ask.”

“Oh.” Marin tilts her head a little. “I just thought that maybe he had encouraged you to retake that mantle since you worked so well together on this operation.”

Derek shakes his head. That has been in the back of his mind—ever since he woke up this morning with the desire, the will to make the request to go back into the field—that the successful completion of this mission meant had something to do with having Stiles at his side again, in more ways than one. Stiles was there for most of his missions, even before Stiles himself was a field agent and so having him there in Las Vegas felt right, natural. The image of interlocking gears comes to mind again.

“No,” he says. “We haven’t even talked about it. I just...woke up this morning and knew that that’s what I wanted.”

“Have you spoken to Braeden about it?”

Derek looks right at her when he shakes his head.

“I think maybe you should get the opinions of—”

“They’re just going to tell me to wait.”

“Then maybe you should.”

“Is that your professional opinion?”

And my personal one,” she replies with a nod.

He shakes his head. “This is what I want, Marin.”

She furrows her brow and purses her lips.

Though she does change the subject back to the mission, he can’t help but notice she keeps that look of concern on her face for the rest of the session.

|

The little bell above the vet clinic door rings while Stiles is waiting for the elevator. He waits to hear footsteps approaching him so he can try to identify who just entered the clinic but there is no sound but the door closing, triggering the little bell again. Goosebumps erupt on Stiles’ arms as he turns to watch the doorway, but once he sees who steps through it—in her perfectly silent leather boots—his stomach lurches.

Without locking eyes with her, Stiles turns back toward the elevator and mutters, “Morning Braeden.”

“Morning Stiles,” she mutters just the same as she comes to stand beside him.

Stiles moves, minutely, just enough to keep her entirely in his vision just in case she starts reaching for her gun again. He thinks his discomfort would be too obvious if he jammed his finger into the elevator call button again so he just stares at it, trying to will the elevator to come faster.

Braeden clears her throat.

“I’m actually glad I caught you,” she says and he gives her a wary look out of the corner of his eye. “I wanted...to apologize.”

What?”

“For…” She takes a second and if Stiles was looking straight at her, he would’ve seen her clench her jaw. “For what I did before you and Derek left on your mission.”

“Oh.” He nods and says, “You mean drawing your gun on me,” in a matter-of-fact tone while resists the urge to fold his arms over his chest.

“Yes,” she replies as she brings her hand up to move her hair over her shoulder, which makes Stiles tense before he realizes what she’s doing. “And also for implying that you weren’t man enough to keep your hands to yourself.”

Stiles purses his lips and gulps. He figures there must be someone holding the elevator somewhere because it should definitely be here by now.

“I’m sorry too,” his mouth says before his brain could stop it. He knows exactly what he’s apologizing for but he tells her, “All that stuff I said that night was uncalled for and...immature.”

He sees her bow her head and a lump forms in his throat. For the first time, he actually turns to look at her and she seems different, less than. He can’t imagine that she felt so bad about what she had said that it was dragging her face down. There must be something else. Maybe…

Stiles cuts off that thought before it even has time to form. If Derek had told her, she wouldn’t be here having a calm conversation with him, let alone apologizing.

The elevator dings and he jumps.

Stiles watches as she steps into the elevator and a chill runs up his back but he silently boards alongside her.

|

Derek doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to seeing Braeden and Stiles standing next to each other. The sight freezes him in the middle of making his way back to his office. He just stares back and forth between the two of them, standing in the elevator at the other end of the bullpen.

He recalls the dream he had all those months ago and the subsequent conversation he had with Marin about balance. If something were to happen right this second, if the elevator somehow malfunctioned, trapping them both and he could only save one, who would he choose now? Months ago, he adamantly declared he would choose Braeden, but now, having done what he and Stiles did and knowing that he wants to do it again...

Braeden is the first to lay eyes on him and he doesn’t notice she was frowning until her expression changes when she sees him. She smiles softly and starts toward him. With a glance over her shoulder, Derek can see Stiles watching Braeden’s movements with a wary eye up until the point she reaches Derek. He doesn’t know if Stiles ever glanced back.

“Sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming,” she says softly then presses a kiss to the corner of his lips.

“It’s okay.” He puts his arms around her shoulders and turns to walk them toward his office. “What’s the occasion?”

She shrugs. “I just missed you.”

Derek can’t help but smile as he closes the door.

“Y’know you were gone all weekend and then once you came back, all the time we had was that drive to your sisters’ house before I had to leave and then you’re at work today. I just…” She shrugs again. “I feel like we haven’t seen each other in forever.”

Derek nods as he starts toward her then takes her into his arms. She wraps her arms around his waist and lays her head on his shoulder.

“If you’re busy now, I can go,” she mutters. “I just wanted to see you.”

Guilt turns his stomach and stings his eyes. He couldn’t ever bring himself to admit out loud that he had been avoiding her on purpose.

After sleeping with Stiles, his entire focus had shifted away from her, which is disappointing but hardly a surprise. Truly, showing up here unannounced was the only way that he would have allowed her to see him because he would have come up with some excuse if she had called ahead.

“I’m so sorry,” he says into her hair then immediately feels even worse because she doesn’t know what he’s really apologizing for.

Chapter Text

Stiles was still holding the newspaper in his hand when he got the text. It only read two words, I’m outside , and it instantly propelled him off the bed.

Noah, who was making his way up the stairs, had to suction himself to the wall so he didn’t get knocked back down as Stiles bolted passed him with a breathless, “Sorry Dad!”

It was a breezy autumn afternoon and a blast of wind hit Stiles in the face as soon as he opened the door, but he barely noticed. The only thing that mattered to Stiles in that moment was the man standing next to the red car at the end of his walkway.

Derek was turning back from waving goodbye to the rideshare driver when Stiles moved out of the house toward him.

“Holy god I missed you,” he cried as he collided with Derek’s chest then wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck.

“I missed you too,” Derek chuckled before Stiles joined their lips in earnest.

They kissed as the red car rolled away and the wind whipped around them, blowing leaves into the Stilinski’s living room.

Derek was the first to pull away and rested his forehead on Stiles’.

“Much as I’m enjoying this,” he breathed. “Can we please take it inside? It’s freezing out here.”

With a nod, Stiles grabbed Derek’s suitcase in one hand and Derek’s hand in the other then moved towards his open doorway.

He swung Derek’s suitcase toward the couch just as his father was making his way back down the stairs.

“Hey Noah,” Derek said as they moved toward each other with open arms.

Stiles couldn’t help but smile as he kicked the door closed and watched them embrace.

“And don’t worry,” Noah said, pulling away from Derek and reaching toward the coat rack. “I’m leaving the house to the two of you so…” He fixed his jacket on his shoulders then palmed the doorknob. “Don’t be too loud and bother the neighbors.”

“Dad,” Stiles grumbles, turning his head to hide a blush as Noah stepped into the cool air with a chuckle.

The door had barely clicked closed before Derek shoved Stiles against the wall and pressed against him.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Stiles breathed as he pushed at Derek’s shoulders.

“Wait?” Derek scoffed against Stiles’ lips. “You were ravenous outside and now I have to wait?”

“Just...one second.” Stiles brought up his index finger. “I need to show you something first.”

Derek rolled his eyes and feigned an exasperated sigh as he backed away.

With a grin, Stiles reached out and took Derek’s hand again before locking the front door then turning up the stairs.

“What do you think?” he asked, dropping Derek’s hand to pick up the newspaper he had discarded on his bedroom floor.

Derek replied, “I think newspapers are a dying breed,” without even looking at it when Stiles pushed it towards him.

“No.” Stiles held the paper in front of Derek’s face and pointed so he could be sure that Derek saw where he circled in highlighter. “The listing.”

Derek furrowed his brow at Stiles before finally turning his eyes to the page.

“It’s a house,” Stiles blurted, suddenly nervous.

Derek frowned and Stiles gulped when he saw it.

“Stiles, this is uptown,” he remarked, pushing the paper aside. “We can’t afford it.”

“Yes we can if…” Stiles pulled the paper to his chest with a shrug. “...if I become a field agent.”

This time Derek genuinely rolled his eyes and scoffed, “Was that your angle all along?” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Butter me up with kisses and sex then try to have the field agent conversation while I wasn't paying full attention?”

“Uh…” Stiles waved his arms out to the sides. “Obviously not, considering we're both fully dressed and pre-coital.”

Derek heavily sighed, “Stiles—”

“Look, I know you don’t want me in the field because you think I’m made of rice paper but I would be earning almost twice what I am now plus what you make and that would be more than enough to live there.”

Derek clenched his jaw and reached out for the paper again. When Stiles handed it to him, he swept his eyes over the whole page.

“Why this one?” he asked. “There's plenty of other places nearby we can—”

“It’s in a really nice neighborhood, it has a big backyard, and it has two bedrooms,” Stiles replied easily. “So we’ll have extra space y’know for a study or a gym or a...or a nursery.”

Derek jerked his head back in a way Stiles found oddly familiar and stared at him for a long while. In that time, Derek opened and closed his mouth twice before clearing his throat.

“You...” He eventually managed to croak, “You want a baby?”

“Or a gym or a study,” Stiles shrugged as Derek advanced on him, the paper long forgotten as it falls to the floor again. “I mean, it’s up to you really.”

Derek rests his hands on Stiles’ neck. He stares into Stiles' eyes as he breathes, “Please tell me you're not just saying that so I'll agree to—”

“Derek shut up,” Stiles scoffed. “You know I've wanted to have your babies ever since the first day I saw you.”

He watched Derek’s lips tremble before he steadied them with a smile.

Stiles laughed, “So is that a yes?”

At the moment he hears the knock at the door, Stiles’ body is slumped in the couch as he flips mindlessly through the TV channels. He doesn’t move at the sound, except to flick the TV to the feed for the camera right outside his front door.

He dislodges himself from the couch as soon as it shows the uneasy look on Derek’s face.

“Hey,” Stiles breathes when he opens the door.

Derek quickly glances over Stiles’ shoulder then back to his face. “Hey.”

Stiles frowns as he asks, “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, uh I just…” Derek pauses to let out a humorless laugh. “The whole way here I had all these things on my mind that I wanted to say to you but now that I’m here, I…” He closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Stiles, do you even know where here is?”

“Yeah...” he replies with a nod.

“Of course you do,” Derek mutters. “What are the odds of you finding this place by mistake?”

He squeezes his eyes even tighter, as if not seeing the space behind Stiles means that it would cease to exist.

Stiles asks, “Do you wanna see it?”

That makes Derek snap his eyes open.

“No,” Derek replies with another shake of his head. “No I...”

“But that’s why you came here isn’t it?”

Derek purses his lips and, in the dimmed hallway light, Stiles sees little shimmers of tears in Derek’s eyes.

Stiles holds out his hand and Derek lets it hang in the air for what feels like forever before he takes it and steps inside. Stiles watches Derek out of the corner of his eyes as he pushes the door closed then locks it.

They start, fingers intertwined, across the living room.

He can feel Derek’s grip tighten around his hand the closer they get to the balcony, as if he wants to resist but his stride doesn’t falter.

Cool air hits them when Stiles opens the balcony doors and he spares another sidelong glance at Derek. He doesn’t know why he expects to see Derek’s eyes closed, like a child being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do, but Derek’s eyes are wide open and searching.

Stiles brings them over to the bend in the corner of the railing, his eyes still on Derek so he can know the second Derek sees it.

The wind changes, blowing through the leaves in the uppermost branches of the trees at the back of the apartment building.

Derek gasps, so softly, it was almost imperceptible and his grip impossibly tightens. Stiles has to bite his lip so he doesn’t cry out but he keeps his eyes on Derek’s face.

He is surprised to find that they aren’t having anywhere near the same reaction.

The first time Stiles gathered up the nerve to step out onto the balcony and get himself into a good enough position to see the back corner of that house, the home they chose to build their future in, his heart started racing, he doubled over, he cried. Even now, his heart still skips when he sees it. But Derek is stoic, only the slightest quiver in his lips gives away any emotion.

“Does someone live there?” he asks softly.

“I don’t know.” Stiles shrugs. “I haven’t seen anyone.”

And he has spent many hours, sitting or standing out there waiting for the wind so he can catch glimpses into the kitchen, where they were going to make meals together, where they were going to bathe their baby in the sink like the people do on TV. Stiles had always wanted to do that but Derek thought it was stupid when they would have two perfectly good bathtubs.

He hopes that when the leaves start falling off the trees, he might even be able to see the living room that Derek would have meticulously baby-proofed, where they would have played with and watched their child grow up.

He opens his mouth to tell Derek as much but Derek pulls away from him and heads back inside the apartment. With one last look at the replaced tree branches, Stiles follows him in.

“Why here?” Derek demands and Stiles notices that he sounded a little choked up. “Why would you live here knowing what’s on the other side of that wall?”

“I dunno, I…” He folds his arms over his chest and starts toward Derek as he tries to explain, “When I came back and found out that I…didn’t have anything except for a few pictures and my memories,”—Derek turns his gaze to the floor—“I wanted something tangible and since there’s no way I could get that house, I went with the next best thing.”

Derek shakes his head.

“I won't lie to you though,” Stiles mutters. “For weeks, I couldn’t go back there either.”

When he first came here, Stiles thought that he would’ve ran to the balcony to see what he could see of the home he never had but somehow still lost. He ended up avoiding it for weeks. Even going so far as to not go near the doors leading out there. But once he built up the nerve to step out, he found himself sometimes unwilling to come back inside.

Derek brings his hand up to the bridge of his nose then turns away from Stiles and the door.

“Can I have something to drink?” he asks and Stiles nods, even though Derek can't see him.

He stands before the refrigerator and contemplates getting them water but Derek probably had something a little stronger in mind.

A beer in both hands, Stiles turns away from the fridge to find Derek setting his jacket on the arm of the couch before sitting down, next to the place where Stiles was slumped just minutes ago. As he makes his way back, he wonders if Derek can see the indent he left.

Stiles hands him the bottle and gets a soft, “Thanks,” before reclaiming the sunken spot.

He is bringing his own beer to his lips when he notices that Derek is staring out the balcony doors.

“You ever been inside?” he asks.

“No.” Stiles shakes his head. “That's not something I think I could do.”

Derek nods and wraps both hands around the beer bottle.

“At least not alone,” Stiles adds and Derek turns to him with an unreadable look, then turns away again.

“I thought about you when I found out that they were putting up these apartments,” Derek says then takes the first sip of his beer. “I mean I thought about you all the time but I knew you would’ve hated having this place here, blocking out the sun.”

The irony makes Stiles smile.

“And when I found out you’d moved in here, I thought that was a little ironic.” Derek shakes his head. “But when I saw that you moved into this specific apartment...”

He turns to Stiles again and Stiles looks away. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Derek bring the bottle up to his lips again.

“You turned into a real glutton for punishment,” he mutters before taking a long gulp of his beer.

“I guess I just got used to it.” Stiles runs his hands over his own chilly bottle. “Sometimes I sit out there for hours, thinking about the floorplan and moving around furniture in my head.” He licks his lips when something suddenly crosses his mind. “One thing I never seem to have room for though is that god-awful dining table you wanted.”

That makes Derek fix him with a scowl.

“How are you still hung up on the dining table?”

Stiles shrugs, “That level of ugly sticks with a guy,” then hides his grin with his beer.

“Stiles.” Derek turns his whole body to face Stiles across the couch. “Boyd offered to custom-make us a table and you—”

“And I deeply appreciated it, he knows that, but I just couldn’t get passed those freakin’ tree stumps.”

“The stumps were the legs of the table, Stiles.”

“And I would’ve been fine with one, maybe even two but four? Four Derek?”

Derek laughs and the sound makes Stiles’ heart thud in his chest.

He ignores the urge to grab Derek and kiss him as he continues, “Yeah okay you’re not gonna see something like that in anybody else’s house, I’ll give you that, but you know that when, not if, when I ran into one of those things I would lose a toe or something.”

Derek continues to chuckle as he takes another sip from his beer.

“Oh and not to mention that if Micah or Rona were playing and not watching where they were going and ended up breaking their face.”

Stiles watches Derek’s expression go from amused and reminiscent to disheartened, crushed.

The room suddenly feels like the temperature dropped thirty degrees.

Derek rights himself on the couch then leans his elbows onto his knees and clasps his hands together.

“I forgot their names,” he mutters, barely audible, and Stiles immediately feels tears stinging his eyes. “I can’t believe I forgot their names.”

Stiles scoots closer and shakes a tear loose as he wraps his arm around Derek’s back.

“It’s okay,” he whispers as he rests his cheek against Derek’s shoulder.

“I should go,” Derek says with jarring finality as he shrugs Stiles off and stands to grab his jacket.

Stiles gulps and he doesn’t know what to say so he just sits there, watching Derek pull his jacket on. He waits for Derek to storm out without another word but he just stands there, shoulders slumped and face drawn, fingertips brushing the arm of the couch.

He shakes his head and mutters, “I spent hours on every website I could find and every book I could get my hands on until…”

Another tear rolls down Stiles’ cheek but he still smiles when he remembers Derek yelling out for him that afternoon.

“You woke me up out of a dead sleep when you found ‘em.”

“Micah if it’s a boy and Rona if it’s a g-girl.”

Derek’s voice breaks and the facade breaks with it.

Stiles watches his eyes fill and overflow in the seconds it took him to get off the couch and wrap his arms around Derek. He sags in Stiles’ grip and if it weren’t for the arm of the couch to catch him, Stiles is sure that Derek would’ve ended up on floor.

“How could I forget the names that I chose?” he sobbed into Stiles’ chest.

Stiles pressed his lips together and just held Derek tighter. Derek’s arms come up around his waist and pull him so close it feels like they’re sinking into each other. The action makes warmth bloom in Stiles’ chest but he can’t bring himself to enjoy it, not when he can feel Derek’s miserable tears soaking through his shirt.

He strokes Derek’s hair and runs a hand over his back as he says, “I’m sorry,” because he knows that this is all his fault.

If he had just stayed, if he had taken his father up on the offer to send a different agent, they would have each other and their baby and their home with that ugly fucking dining table and they would be impossibly happy.

“I’m so sorry Babe,” Stiles sobs as a tear rolls off his cheek and into Derek’s hair.

They stand there, wrapped in each other for a long while. Derek has since clutched onto the back of Stiles’ shirt as if he needs something to hold onto. Stiles is still stroking one hand through Derek’s hair and the other over his back.

Stiles can feel when Derek takes a deep breath as he pulls away enough to turn his head up. Stiles can’t meet Derek’s eyes so he stares at his hairline as he keeps swiping his fingers over Derek’s scalp.

He switches his gaze to Derek’s chin when he stands.

“Sorry about your shirt,” Derek says softly.

Stiles looks down to see the damp spot then shrugs. “It’ll dry.”

He notices Derek’s hands coming up to encircle his face. With his thumbs, he swipes at the moisture Stiles didn’t realise was still under his eyes, then leaves his palms to rest against Stiles’ cheeks.

Stiles finally looks Derek in the eyes when he starts to lean in.

“Are you sure?” he asks when he can feel Derek’s breath on his lips.

Derek nods and Stiles gulps but he brings his hands up to rest them on Derek’s hips as they kiss.

Chapter Text

Derek never assumed things were going to end up any different. He didn’t try to fool himself into believing that the touch of their lips on each other’s skin, Stiles’ fingernails digging into his back and sides, their unrestrained moans echoing each other in Stiles’ new bedroom weren’t his true reason for coming here. Sure he wanted to see the house they would have started their life in, cultivated their love in, but he knew that they would have ended up tangled in the sheets and each other before long.

It had been days of sneaking glances at headquarters, of lingering touches if they happen to pass each other in an otherwise empty hallway, of a single stolen kiss after hours, despite knowing that the twins were working just on the other side of the wall.

His skin buzzed as he walked toward Stiles’ apartment door. Even the misery he felt after looking at that house, after realizing that he’d forgotten the would-be names of their child, couldn’t stop his heart from racing before their lips touched again, and it didn’t stop him from letting Stiles guide him to the bedroom either. He appreciated Stiles asking him if he’s sure about this, once before the kiss and again even as they stood half-naked by the bed, his hands undoing Derek’s belt and his lidded gaze on Derek’s lips.

Derek’s never felt unsure about sleeping with Stiles, like he’s never been surer that Braeden doesn’t deserve this.

He stares at his phone in the early morning light that shines through Stiles’ bedroom windows and, for the first time, nervousness binds up his stomach just from seeing her name.

Two missed calls. One in the middle of the night, when he was asleep or he was so absorbed in the taste of Stiles’ skin that he didn’t even hear it ringing. One from three minutes ago, that he quickly silenced then watched ring and ring for what felt like an eternity.

He couldn’t talk to her, not while sitting in the latest bed he’s shared with Stiles, not with the remnants of their love-making dried on his skin, not while their scent still hangs heavily in the room. He’ll call her back in the car, once he’s away from Stiles and his hands and this bed, once he’s away from temptation.

Stiles sighs behind him and the bed shifts. Derek turns his head and sees Stiles laying on his back, eyes still closed as one hand moves to scratch his scalp then slide down to do the same to his jaw. Derek smiles even as his guts twist when he starts to slowly ease himself off the bed.

He’s securing his jeans around his waist when he notices Stiles’ hand reaching across the sheets.

Derek clenches his jaw. He hoped to at least be out the door before this happened, but he should've known that it wouldn't be too long before Stiles was missing his warmth.

Stiles’ eyes slowly open and Derek sees the immediate disappointment on his face when Stiles lays eyes on him, out of bed and already half dressed. He rolls over to look at the windows or to hide his face.

“What time is it?” he asks in a voice gruff with sleep.

Derek pulls on his shirt as he replies, “I don’t know,” despite seeing 8:42 AM on his phone before he laid it on the nightstand.

He tries not to move too quickly, not to seem too urgent to leave but Stiles’ silence is starting to unnerve him. Derek sits on the edge of the bed to pull on his socks and shoes, thinking that at least having Stiles out of his vision would make this easier.

“So…” Stiles starts and Derek closes his eyes, braces himself for the question. “...were you even gonna say goodbye?”

He was waiting for that but what he didn’t expect was for Stiles’ tone to catch in his chest.

Stiles sounds as if Derek had beaten him instead of just getting out of bed and putting on his clothes.

Derek turns just enough to have Stiles in his periphery and as soon as he sees that Stiles is looking back at him, he turns away again.

He replies, “Of course I was,” even though he knows that was a lie.

Stiles scoffs, “Before or after you got to your car?”

Derek clenches his jaw and slides his feet into his shoes.

“Is this what it's gonna be like now?” he asks and, to Derek, it sounds like he’s holding back tears. “You come here, we hold each other and we cry together, we sleep together, and then you run off the next morning to go back to your real life without even saying goodbye?”

When he finally gets up up the nerve to turn and take a good look, Derek finds Stiles staring at him across the bed, eyes shimmering with tears in the early morning light, shoulders slumped. He looks just as defeated as he sounds.

Derek wishes he had picked up his things and dressed in the living room just so he wouldn’t have to see Stiles’ face.

He turns away again because he doesn’t know what to say.

There is an urge to make something up, try to ease Stiles’ mind with a little white lie. He'll say he left a light on in his office and he has to get back to turn it off before Lydia sees it and mauls him, but he knows if he said anything so ridiculous Stiles would immediately see through it.

The bed shifts and Derek curls his hand over his own knee.

Stiles breathes by his ear as his arms wrap diagonally around Derek’s chest.

Derek closes his eyes and he can barely hear what else Stiles is saying over the noise in his own head. Images and sounds of the past few days and weeks and months. He remembers the mix of relief and despair he felt the first time he saw Stiles again after thinking he had been dead. He remembers the pit in his stomach when he heard Stiles’ mumbled ‘I love you’ into his pillow. He remembers the dread and the sliver of excitement he had when he found out that he would be going back into the field with Stiles. He remembers the exhilaration of kissing Stiles again.

With a sigh, he reaches up for the wrist of the arm wrapped around his shoulder. He means to pull it away, break Stiles’ grip, but he just holds it. He remembers the moment, staring down into Stiles’ eyes as they laid in that hotel bed, that he admitted to himself that illicit encounters were something he could get addicted to, but he knows he needs to quit before Stiles settles into his bones again.

Stiles plants a kiss on Derek’s shoulder just as the phone starts to vibrate on the nightstand.

Derek wonders if Stiles realizes that his grip tightened at the sound of the dull buzzing.

Regardless, it prompts him to finally release himself so he can get the phone.

It feels like it takes an eternity to reach what must have been two feet across to the nightstand and Derek is flush with relief because the name on the screen is not the one expects.

“Hey Cora,” he answers and turns to look back in time to see the tension go out of Stiles’ shoulders.

“’cha doin’?” she sings over a low humming in the background.

“I’m still in bed,” he replies as Stiles starts moving in his periphery. “What’s up?”

“Just checking to make sure you’re not dead and that we’re still on for suit shopping later.”

Stiles climbs out from under the sheets and Derek catches a glimpse of his naked ass before he turns his eyes to the wall above the nightstand.

“Was that today?”

“Did you forget?”

Derek smiles at the slight annoyance in his sister’s voice.

“Of course not,” he lies. “We’re absolutely still on.”

“Good. I’ll see you later.”

“See you.”

Derek is still smiling as he lays his phone back on the nightstand and he barely notices Stiles making his way toward the bedroom door until he asks,

“So what do you want for breakfast?”

He’s out the door before Derek could tell him he doesn’t want any breakfast. Derek grabs his phone then rises from the bed with an uneasy feeling in his stomach and follows Stiles out of the bedroom.

He finds Stiles standing in front of the open fridge in nothing but his underwear. Derek recognizes them as the same boxer briefs Stiles wore during the Battery's written exam and it sends a chill through him.

“We need to talk,” he says then clears his throat.

Stiles turns to Derek with a carton of eggs in his grasp.

“We can talk over breakfast.”

“I’m…” Derek sighs, “I’m not staying Stiles.”

“If you can stay long enough to talk, you can stay long enough to eat.”

Derek opens his mouth to further protest, but his stomach cuts him off and he thinks Stiles must have heard it because he grins.

“Look,” Stiles says, “I for one don’t feel like talking on an empty stomach. Especially not after the appetites we worked up last night so...”

Derek clenches his teeth and is suddenly aware of the spot on his jaw that Stiles had scraped his own teeth against last night.

...just let me feed you and you can talk all you please.”

Derek swipes his hand down his face as he turns away from the kitchen, toward the other end of the apartment, but quickly faces Stiles again once he remembers what's on the other side of the balcony doors.

“Is just a cheese omelet okay?” Stiles asks. “I was gonna go grocery shopping la—”

“I can’t do this,” Derek says, loud enough for Stiles to hear but he sounds meek in his own head.

Stiles stares at him for a moment then asks, “You can’t do what?”

This,” Derek replies more forcefully though it still sounds like he’s whispering. “I can’t stay for breakfast,” he says, gesturing at the pan Stiles had laid on the stove. “I can’t come back to this apartment. I can’t look at that house. I…” His voice breaks and his lower lip shakes when Stiles starts around the counter toward him. He shakes his head and breathes, “And I can’t...I can’t trust you,” as he takes a step back from Stiles’ approach.

Derek thought he would choke on those words. Nothing has ever hurt so much to expel while being so impossible to swallow.

“Wh-uh-what?” Stiles stutters and by the look on his face, Derek thinks that Stiles seems to be the one choking on those words. “What are y— What do you mean you can't trust me?”

Derek mutters, “Well look at what happened the last time I trusted you.”

Stiles just blinks at him then turns away. Derek watches him move back into the kitchen and turn off the stove.

“Why would you—” He starts then turns and puts his hands on the edge the stove. “We slept together and you say you don't trust me?”

“How could I?” he asks, losing his voice again. “You abandoned me.”

 Stiles closes his eyes and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Derek—”

“I was days away from proposing to you left me with no explanation.”

“Babe—”

“Of course I want to be around you,” Derek continues despite Stiles’ attempts at interruption. “I want to kiss you and touch you, but I c—I can't possibly give my whole heart back to you after you shattered it last time.”

Stiles pushes away from the stove and clasps his hands together. “I didn't want to leave, but this was my mom, I—”

“I know that!”

Stiles jumps and looks back at him with wide eyes.

Derek sighs, “And I know I'm being selfish but you're not giving me much of a choice.” He watches Stiles’ throat bob with a gulp. “I'm thrilled you got your mom back Stiles, but you know you didn't have to sacrifice us to do it.”

Stiles licks his lips and turns his head, but not before Derek sees a tear roll down his cheek.

Derek shakes his head and mutters, “If you'd thought about what you were doing to me for one second.”

“You've got to be kidding,” Stiles says with an incredulous shake of the head. “Derek, I thought about you every second. Hundreds of nights up crying because I couldn’t sleep without you.” He sobs and Derek ignores the sharp feeling in his chest. “I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was dead just so I wouldn't have t...to feel anything. But I made it passed all that, fought my way back to you only to find out that you’d moved on.”

Derek shakes his head and scoffs.

Stiles wipes his face with his arm then folds them over his chest.

“Yeah, I moved on…” Derek nods then steps forward to catch Stiles’ gaze after he turns his head. “I moved on after over two years of therapy, asshole.”

Stiles purses his lips and Derek advances on him.

“I needed to be fucking medicated.” He gets close enough to make sure that Stiles can feel what he’s saying as well as hear it. “My boyfriend, the love of my life, everything I ever wanted got ripped away from me and I felt so guilty about not being able to save him that I couldn’t even think about him without feeling like I wanted to puke every inch of my guts up.”

He stares at the side of Stiles’ face, watches him as he pulls in a sob.

“Is that what you wanted?” Derek asks. “Me stuck in limbo because that’s where you were? The good boyfriend waiting for you when you didn’t know if you were going to come back. How is that fair?”

Stiles steps away and Derek watches him move toward the couch. He leans his hands against the back of it and hangs his head.

“You think it would’ve been better that I wasted away, locked up in my room for days at a time? My only source of sustenance whatever bottle I buried myself in before my sisters locked them away and after that, nothing at all? Would you rather have come back from Germany to hear that died from grief?”

“Of course not!” Stiles barks.

“She helped save me!”

“I had you first,” Stiles says so softly that Derek almost didn’t hear him. “You were mine first.”

“And you left me behind.”

Stiles turns to him and opens his mouth but then closes it again as he leans against the couch as if his own legs aren’t enough to hold him up anymore.

Derek tells him, “I carried on because I thought that was what you would’ve wanted.”

With a soft smile that belies his tear-streaked face, Stiles replies, “Well you’ll know better next time I end up dead.”

Derek shakes his head and his voice breaks when he begs, “Don’t say that.”

The smile dissolves when Stiles’ lower lip starts to quiver.

“So…” Stiles turns his head and takes a deep breath that he exhales slowly. “What are we gonna do now?” He brings his hands up to wrap around his own arms. “We just pretend that none of this ever happened? You go back to your girlfriend and I go...find a pet?”

“I don’t know,” Derek replies as his gaze moves to his jacket that he had left on the couch the night before. “I have to go.”

Stiles furrows his brows when Derek starts moving toward him, but he must have realized mid-stride what Derek is doing because he reaches back to grab the jacket. He wordlessly hands it to Derek and watches as he pulls it on.

Derek leaves him there without another word, without another glance because he knows he would have reneged if he dared.

It takes the sun hitting Derek’s face as he makes his way to his car to stop him from feeling like he is going to burst into tears.

All that was for the best, he knows that, but he hates everything he’s feeling: the aching in his chest and stomach, the heaviness in his arms and the numbness in his legs. He’s surprised he made it out of the building without collapsing under the weight of his own wretchedness. He tells himself that it’s better this way, better to rip the band-aid off.

“Oh!” Someone cries as they collide with him in the courtyard.

“I’m sorry,” he says, holding his hands out to the woman who had come out of nowhere. “I didn’t see you.”

“It’s okay,” she laughs as she pushes her brown hair out of her face. “I wasn’t really watching where I was…” She pauses when she looks at his face. “Hey, don’t I know you?”

Derek purses his lips and shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

“No, I’m sure of it,” she says smiling and staring intently at him. “I never forget a face.”

The hair on the back of Derek’s neck stands up and his heart almost flies out of his chest when he hears a gun cock as the tip presses against the base of his head.

“It’s true,” comes a voice from behind. “She never forgets a face.”

Derek clenches his teeth.

The woman in front of him smiles. “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if you make any sudden movements, she’ll put a bullet in you.”

Derek sighs, “I don’t have any money on me.”

The woman behind him snickers.

“We’re not looking for money,” the one in front of him says. “We’re looking for you.”

“Why?”

“Where’s your car?”

He furrows his brows at her then grunts when the gun digs into his spine.

“C’mon Derek just make this easy on everybody.”

He scoffs then nods in the direction of his car. “Black Camaro.”

She holds out her hand. “Keys.”

Derek holds his arms up in surrender then reaches slowly for his jacket pocket. He pulls out the keychain and hands them over.

The smiling woman takes them then starts walking toward the car. The one at his back grabs hold of his shirt with her free hand then guides him to follow her partner.

Derek turns his head a little, tries to take a glimpse at her but she jabs him in the back of the head with the gun hard enough to make his eyes water.

The woman unlocks the car then leans inside to pop the trunk. She smiles as her partner walks him passed.

“Get in,” she says.

“I’m claustrophobic,” he lies.

“No worries.”

Something stings him in the side of the neck and Derek’s hand jumps up to cover the spot where it hit.

The brown-haired woman steps around him to stand next to the one with the gun. She has a needle in her hand that she’s slipping into her pocket, or maybe her bag.

He isn’t sure because his vision is clouding. His skin is prickling even as he breaks out in a sweat. His heart is beating too fast, forcing whatever she injected him with to race through his body, but he can’t seem to calm down.

“I thought you said it’d be quick,” one says and when Derek looks up, they look much taller than they did just moments ago.

“He’s already down, how much quicker do you want it to be?”

Derek hears an exasperated sigh as the world goes dark around him seconds before the trunk closes above him.

Chapter Text

“I still can't believe you're getting married to Lydia Martin,” Stiles says as he exchanges a beer for the photo album in Cora’s grasp.

“I still can’t believe you just found out that I’m getting married to Lydia Martin.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me that day outside the grocery store?”

Cora shrugs. “Because I didn’t know if you were gonna end up sticking around long enough.”

Stiles purses his lips then averts his eyes as he sets the album down on his coffee table and sits on the floor in front of it.

“So…” He clears his throat as he flips open the album to see a Save the Date card. “What am I looking at?” he asks as he flips another page.

“This is everything that we plan to do, y’know start to finish.” She gestures at the album with the hand not holding her drink. “I wanted your opinion on stuff.”

“Well first of all, what’s up with these borders?” Stiles asks as he runs his fingertips over the heavily glittered edges of each page.

Cora chuckles, “That’s what happens when your niece pouts until you let her help decorate the planner.”

Stiles laughs, “Tell Ollie I said she did a great job,” as he turns the pages displaying a guest list of names, addresses, and seating assignments.

He skims over the list of florists and bakers then comes upon the page marked Wedding Party. His eyes are immediately trained on the name written under the Best Man label.

Stiles gulps as he moves on to pictures of the wedding party dresses and suits. Allison and Derek have their own pages but while Allison is pictured, smiling wide in her pink gown, Derek’s page is blank.

“What’s going on here?”

Cora scoffs, “Derek stood me up when we were supposed to go suit shopping, so his page hasn’t been filled in yet.”

Stiles frowns and asks, “What was his excuse?” as he switches to the next page.

“I don’t even know.”—He looks up in time to catch her shaking her head—“When I called he didn’t pick up and I left him a pretty ugly voicemail so he’s probably about as happy with me as I am with him right now.”

Stiles sighs softly as he continues to find a picture of a woman’s body in a white, lace-topped jumpsuit. He laughs when he notices that a cutout of Cora’s face is covering the model’s.

“You’re not wearing a dress?”

Cora snorts, “When have you ever seen me in a dress?”

“Fair,” Stiles chuckles as he leans over the picture. “But really Cora I think you’re gonna look beautiful in this.”

A long moment passes before she says, “Thank you.”

He turns his eyes up and gives her a smile that she returns while rolling her eyes.

The next four pages house various pictures, outlines, and maps for the venue.

“Wow,” Stiles chuckles as he picks up the album and turns it on its side. “What are these arrows?”

“Oh, that’s me and Lydia.” Cora climbs off the couch to kneel on the other side of the coffee table. Stiles sets the album back down, so she can point to as she tells him, “According to Derek, we’re gonna both walk toward each other while the wedding march plays and then meet up underneath the gazebo to say our vows.” She points to the rows of colored paper Xs cut out and pasted on either side of the gazebo. “The pink uh sorry dusty rose Xs are Lydia’s side of the family and the cream ones are mine.”

Stiles nods. “Derek came up with that?”

“Yeah,” she replies then leans back against the foot of the couch. “He picked the venue and had the idea for the whole walking toward each other thing.”

A lump the size of a fist forms in Stiles’ throat when something occurs to him.

He doesn’t want to ask Cora if Derek had mentioned exactly who’s wedding he had really picked and planned all this for. The notion that such a significant moment on her special day might be some hand-me-down that Derek couldn’t achieve because his intended husband was dead might ruin this vision for her. So, he doesn’t bring it up, but he can’t help but wonder.

“That’s...” He can feel the tears welling in his eyes. “...beautiful.”

She furrows her brows and Stiles thinks she looks exactly like her brother in that moment.

“Are you crying?”

He sniffles and shrugs. “It’s really beautiful.”

She reaches across the coffee table for his hand as she starts, “Stiles…” but she’s cut off by three tentative but firm knocks on the door.

Stiles takes her hand and squeezes it as he wipes his other hand over his face. He shuts the album and Cora climbs back onto the couch as he stands to make his way toward the door.

Even as he leans toward the peephole, he wishes that it is Derek’s face he finds on the other side. He doesn’t care that Cora is here or that Derek had made it pretty clear that he was never coming back this apartment, that they were never going to do this again.

When he sees who is on the other side of the door, his stomach tightens into a ball.

“Who is it?” Cora asks, urgently like the suspense is killing her.

He turns to give her a concerned look. “It's Braeden.”

“Braeden?” Cora squints. “Like Braeden Braeden?”

Stiles scoffs, “How many Braedens do you know?”

“What does she want with you?”

He shrugs as he palms the door handle. “Let’s find out.”

Stiles will never admit aloud that in that moment he expected lightning to strike and thunder to roll behind her head once Braeden is revealed in the doorway.

“Hey,” she breathes as her gaze moves from Stiles to Cora and back again. “I’m sorry to bother you but...” She looks back to Cora when Stiles moves around her to shut the door. “Is Derek here?”

Stiles grits his teeth and the only thing he can think about is why would she come here looking for Derek? Then he realizes that she shouldn't even know where here is.

Cora replies, “No,” but Stiles says nothing because he’s too busy trying to keep his expression straight as he stands next to her again.

Braeden mutters, “Shit,” and switches her weight from one leg to another. “Well, have you seen him? He’s not answering my calls.”

Cora turns around to kneel in the couch. “I haven't seen or heard from him since he stood me up when we were supposed to go suit shopping.”

Braeden furrows her brow. “You were supposed to go suit shopping on Tuesday.”

Stiles’ stomach flips. Tuesday… That was the morning Derek left the apartment after bearing his soul and calling them quits.

“You haven't spoken to your own brother in two days?” Braeden asks, and Stiles thinks he sees tears in her eyes.

“We're not attached at the neck Brae.”

Braeden takes a deep breath and rests her hands on her hips as she turns to Stiles. He’s sure now that there are tears in her eyes.

“I'm sorry to ask this but, can I use your bathroom?”

Stiles raises his brows. “Uh...yeah it's…” He points to his bedroom door. “Through the bedroom on the left.”

“Thank you,” she replies with a nod.

He watches Braeden walk through the bedroom door as Cora shuffles around in the corner of his vision. When he turns, he finds her standing with her phone in her hand. He chews his lower lip as she puts it to her ear, then deflates when she pulls it away again.

She mutters, “Fuckin’ voicemail.”

“Did it ring?”

Cora nods as she steps around the couch.

“So, his phone isn't…” She gulps. “It’s on but he’s just not answering it. That means...” Stiles hears her put the phone on speaker and they both listen to it ring as she calls again. “That means he could just be ignoring it, right?”

Stiles replies, “He could be,” through his teeth because he feels like his heart is going to jump out through his mouth.

The automated voicemail gets to “You’ve—” before Cora cuts it off.

She stuffs the phone into her back pocket with a huff as she gives Stiles a pleading look.

“When's the last time you spoke to him?”

“Monday,” he lies.

Stiles deeply wishes that was the truth. He wishes that their lovemaking was the last interaction that they had.

“So, he was at work?”

“Yeah but I haven’t seen him since.”

Cora searches his eyes. “Which is weird, right?”

Stiles shrugs. “I thought he just took some days off.”

It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch that Derek was avoiding seeing him, decompressing following that blowout. After all, he’d done that before.

“Sorry about that,” Braeden says behind Stiles.

He nods. “No problem.”

Cora steps around him as she says, “Have you talked to Laura? Maybe he’s at the house and Ollie has his phone.”

“I checked everywhere,” Braeden says while shaking her head. “Coming here was…” She looks over at Stiles then away again so quickly that if he blinked, he would’ve missed it. “...a last resort.”

When Braeden says that, Cora turns to Stiles. He meets her gaze, but she just stares at him without saying anything.

He can see the accusation in her eyes. Are you sleeping with my brother again? Is that why Braeden’s here? Was she hoping to catch you in the act?

“I’m just...” Braeden starts, and Stiles looks back at her but he can see Cora is still studying his face. “I’m desperate.”

Cora nods. “Okay,” she says as she goes to grab her album from the coffee table. “Okay, I’ll come help you look.” She moves toward Stiles and holds something out to him. “Here.”

Stiles mouth falls open when he realizes that the thing she’s handing him is a wedding invitation.

Cora tells him, “It was in the back of the album, but you didn’t get there so…” She shrugs. “Surprise.”

“Thank you,” he says then purses his lips to stop them from shaking.

“Just…” Cora searches his eyes as he taps her fingertip on the card. “Don’t let me down again okay?”

Stiles nods. “I won’t.”

She mimics his action and squeezes his arm before moving toward Braeden.

“Let’s go,” she mutters as she reaches for the door.

He says, “I’ll call my dad and let him know what’s going on.”

“Thank you,” both women say in unison before Braeden steps out and Cora closes the door behind them.

Stiles stares down at the card in his hand and his heart flutters. He carries it as he picks up his phone from the floor, next to where he was sitting before the night took this unfortunate turn.

He calls Derek’s number and waits for the automated voicemail instructions.

“Hey,” he breathes as he sits on the edge of the couch. “Uh…I know I’m the last person you wanna hear from right now but...I feel like I at least owe you a call because um Braeden came by here looking for you.” He sighs, “She seemed pretty shaken up about not being able to reach you for the last couple days so...if you’re okay and you get this, can you at least call her or your sisters or someone at headquarters maybe? We're all starting to get worried.” He licks his lips and stares down at the invitation. “And like I said Braeden is freaking out like I’ve never seen her so...well desperate is the word she used.” He clears his throat. “Anyway, just...reach out to someone okay? It doesn't have to be me.”

He ends the message and waits with the phone in his hand for a moment, half-expecting Derek to call him back any second. When he doesn’t, Stiles grits his teeth and calls his father.

Chapter Text

“What’s the matter?” The olive-toned woman who had held the gun to his head asks as she looks down at the plate of steaming food they set in front of him. “You don’t like Chinese?”

“I’m not hungry,” Derek grumbles, lying as he looks her right in the eyes.

Brown. He hadn’t been able to tell before what color they were because they kept him in that dark room until a few minutes ago, when they brought him out, deposited him in this chair, and handcuffed him to this table. He studies her face as she scowls at him because he needs to remember exactly what both of these women look like so he can help find them once he gets out of here. If he gets out of here.

The one who told him her name was Jen—green-eyes—scoffs.

“I went out and bought this food specifically so you wouldn’t assume we were trying to poison you,” she says.

“So eat it,” the other one adds.

He thinks he heard Jen call her Kelly, or something close.

Jen uses her chopsticks to pluck a piece of General Tso’s from her own plate.

“Our...benefactor made us promise not to harm a hair on your head until they get back”—Derek narrows his eyes—“and the last thing we want to do is jeopardize our paychecks so eat freely.”

Derek twists his cuffed wrists underneath the table. He doesn't know if it's because he really believes her or if he's tired of feeling like his stomach is caving in on itself but he reaches up for the fork lying next to his plate.

Who’s your benefactor exactly?” he asks.

They look across the table and smile at each other, just like they do every time he asks them something they’re not going to answer. Who are you? How long have you been watching me? How long was I locked down there? Where are we?

Jen grins as she sticks the chicken in her mouth.

Kelly tells him, “Eat,” as she points to his plate with her own chopsticks.

|

In the back of his mind Stiles had still held up hope that Derek was just simply trying to avoid him, but Derek isn’t with either of his sisters, he’s not at his loft, nor at Braeden’s apartment, he isn’t at headquarters, and he’s certainly not at Stiles’ apartment.

He’s gone.

Those words alone make Stiles want to put one of Allison’s guns to his own head.

Derek isn’t gone, he’s just...missing. Missing means that he can be found. Missing means that when Derek is found, he’ll be able to tell them where he was and who took him and once that is revealed, Stiles will make sure that he has a hand in their disappearance.

Cora, her voice somber in a way that Stiles had never heard before, called just as he pulled up to his building to tell him that Derek’s voicemail box finally filled.

“It was Braeden calling,” she says, and Stiles doesn’t know if he heard the phone crackle or if Cora sniffled. “When it alerted her, she punched the wall.”

Stiles closes his eyes.

As hard as the last twenty-four hours have been for him, for everyone at BEACON, for Derek’s family, Stiles isn’t ashamed to admit that he knows Braeden is going through something worse because she’s been going through it for longer. She’s the only one who even noticed that Derek wasn’t around, while Stiles was wallowing in self-pity, while Cora was busy being pissed at him, while the world kept spinning and everyone’s lives kept moving forward, she was frozen, waiting for him to come home. 

“Is she okay?”

“I don’t know,” Cora says. “I think she's downstairs icing her hand.”

He purses his lips when that guilt tugs at his stomach.

“Stiles, the phone didn’t ring this time.”

“Maybe he just turned it off because he was tired of the calls.”

A long moment passes before she asks, “What if you’re wrong?”

He imagines her rubbing her fingers over her forehead, the way she often does when she's stressed.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs. “He might’ve left it somewhere and the battery finally gave out.”

This time he’s sure the sound he hears is a sniffle and it makes his eyes sting. He opens them to find the inside of his car is illuminated with red and blue lights.

Stiles’ stomach falls and he sits stiffly in his seat as he watches the police cruiser roll into the parking lot.

He tells himself not to think the worst even as his heart starts to leap in his chest.

“Hey Cora,” he says, trying to keep his voice even. “Let me call you back okay?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

The cruiser stops into the parking spot directly in front of the door.

“There’s a lady out here who needs help bringing in her groceries. I’ll call you back.”

“Okay.”

Cora ends the call and Stiles waits as the deputy in the front passenger seat—apparently after losing a game of rock, paper, scissors—exits the cruiser and starts toward the building.

Stiles counts to thirty before leaving his car. He holds his phone and pretends to mindlessly scroll over it as he walks toward the cruiser. When he gets to the curb, he stops and gapes, open-mouthed, between the deputy in the cruiser and the door leading into the building.

He stuffs his phone into his pocket then goes around to the passenger’s side of the cruiser. He waits as the deputy rolls the window down then leans his head in.

“Hey uh officer, am I allowed to go in there? Did somebody get murdered? Is this a crime scene?”

Stiles doesn't recognize this deputy, though it's possible he might have joined the force while Stiles was away.

“No, we’re just taking a possible witness report,” he says, smiling cordially. “You're fine to go in.”

“A... A witness to what?”

His cordial smile falls as he says, “We can’t divulge information regarding an ongoing investigation.”

“Oh c’mon man.” Stiles knows the plaintive tone in his voice isn’t quite fake. “I... I’m freakin’ out here. My friend lives in there dude. Just...can you at least tell me if he’s alright?”

“Look...” The deputy purses his lips and turns to stare out the windshield for a moment. Stiles glances at his badge but can't see the name. When he faces Stiles again, he asks, “Is your friend a doped-up teenager?”

Stiles steadies his hand against the car door and shakes his head. “No, sir.”

“Then he's fine.” He waves toward the building. “Go on in and see.”

Stiles mutters, “Thank you,” and taps the roof of the cruiser as he stands upright again.

He hesitates, takes a deep breath, puts on a show for the deputy before heading into the building.

When he reaches the elevator, Stiles tugs his phone out of his pocket. He presses the button for his floor with one hand and finds Parrish’s number with the other.

As far as Stiles knows, out of the few that live here the only kid in the building that someone would ever describe as ‘doped-up’ is Nolan. Stiles never got the last name but judging by the few interactions they’ve had at the front door or the mailbox, he’s completely harmless if a little weird. Stiles needs to find out what the kid might've seen.

The elevator doors are closing when Parrish answers the phone.

“Jordan, it's Stiles.”

“Hey, you okay?”

“I need you to do something for me.”

|

Derek reached backward to snooze the alarm clock for the third time before rolling over to wrap himself around Stiles again.

Stiles sighed against his neck then mumbled, “You know we have to get up eventually, right?” as he slid his hand up to grasp the collar of Derek's shirt.

“Five more minutes.”

Stiles chuckled, “I'm finally rubbing off on you.”

Derek couldn't bring himself to tell Stiles that he didn't want to let Stiles out of bed because he was suddenly feeling apprehensive about the job Stiles was leaving for later that day.

“I'm scared to find out what other traits of yours I'll have five more years from now.”

Stiles snickered as he brushed his nose against Derek's chin.

Of course Derek knew he was being ridiculous. BEACON must have done operations in Germany a dozen times. He'd done three himself, once with Stiles, but something felt so different about that time. A sense of unshakeable dread he hadn't experienced before hung over him as soon as he opened his eyes that morning.

He would mention it to Stiles, remind Stiles that he got out of the field less than three weeks ago, but Stiles would only retort that there's no one else available. If he suggested they wait, Stiles would say the mission is time-sensitive. So, Derek kept his mouth shut and held Stiles to his body while he still could.

When the alarm went off again, he didn’t loosen his grip.

“Babe...” Stiles scratched his nails along Derek’s chest. “C’mon, don’t you always talk about how we need to get the day started?”

Derek sighed and waited another moment before reluctantly letting Stiles out of his arms.

They locked eyes when Stiles pulled himself up onto his elbow. He was frowning and Derek knew the same expression was reflected on his own face.

“What’s wrong?”

Derek shook his head. “Something doesn’t feel right today.”

Stiles’ frown deepened.

Derek closed his eyes and muttered, “I don’t know.”

He felt Stiles’ lips on the bridge of his nose then the corner of his lips. Derek let himself be kissed though the dread in his chest didn’t dissolve, even as Stiles swung his leg over Derek’s hips.

Stiles pulled his lips away to slide them down Derek’s neck.

“Stop thinking about today,” he said between kisses. “ .” He moved his hips and Derek hisses. “Making love and making plans.” He scraped his teeth along Derek’s jaw. “Doesn’t that sound like a nicer thing to look forward to?”

Derek looked into Stiles’ eyes and smiled because he couldn’t help it, but he hardly felt better. He moved to look behind him at the clock again but Stiles held his face in both hands to turn him back around.

Derek’s eyes snap open and the first thing he sees is the digital, bright orange glow of the clock suspended on the wall of the room they put him in.

He sits up in the bed and takes a deep breath. As he slowly exhales, he draws his legs up then rests his arms and legs on his knees. He breathes in deep again and tries to discern whether that was a dream or a memory.

He tells himself that it had to have been a dream.

There’s no way he wouldn’t have remembered feeling that way the very morning before Stiles got on that plane headed to Germany. He tries to remember what really happened that morning, but the only thing he can grasp at is the dread hanging heavy in his chest, the intuition that something was very wrong and he should not let Stiles get on that plane. If he had listened to his misgivings, if he had refused to take Stiles to the airport, if he had kept him in bed, none of this would have happened.

He thinks of the house they never had, the life they never got to live, their baby…

Derek tries to take another breath, but he can’t catch it. He stretches his legs out, closes his eyes, tries to breathe slowly. He turns his legs over the side of the bare mattress and drops his head between his knees but he can’t move passed the feeling of being smothered.

He pushes himself to his feet and starts pacing around the mattress, then back and forth across the room.

“Calm down, calm down, calm down,” he keeps whispering to himself. “Calm down.”

The thud of a door closing catches his attention and makes him hold what little breath he has in his lungs.

He shuffles toward the tiny window and looks out. He can see the wheels of a car but can’t tell the make or model. He assumes it is their so-called benefactor ’s car. Derek turns to look at the clock again and frowns when he sees 4:54 A.M.

An uneasy feeling settles in the pit of his stomach and completely drowns out the low-level panic he was feeling just seconds ago.

Chapter Text

“Sorry for taking so long,” Parrish says as he steps through the door Stiles is holding for him. “That kid’s really chatty.”

As Parrish passes, Stiles stares out the open door at the cloudy sky and feels sick in his stomach. He doesn’t want to think of Derek out there in the rain, cold and alone, but that seems to be the only image his mind wants to produce.

“Hey.” Parrish rests a hand on Stiles’ arm. “You okay?”

“Huh?” Stiles turns and sees the look of concern on Parrish’s face. He shakes his head as he shuts the door. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

Yes Jordan.” He shrugs away from the touch and moves toward the kitchen. “What did the kid say?”

Parrish takes a deep breath then tells Stiles, “He said he saw a guy walking out of the building Tuesday morning, but he didn’t see his face. Then he said he saw two women approach the guy, one from the back and one that ran into him. They talked for a minute and then all three of them left.”

Stiles pours two glasses of water while he listens.

“His mom called the cops because he told her that he thought he saw a gun but then he mentioned his medications and that he might’ve hallucinated it. He doesn’t remember.”

“He’s sure that it was Tuesday morning?”

“Yes, because he said that it was the morning after he got out of the hospital.”

“Right.” Stiles remembers Nolan’s dad saying something about a bacterial infection. “Danny’s coming over,” he says as he hands Parrish one of the glasses and ignores the quake in his own hand. “He’s gonna see if he can get any security camera footage from outside.”

Parrish nods then takes a sip from the glass. Stiles moves into the living room and stands in front of the television. He watches the live feed outside his own door as Parrish comes to stand just inside his periphery.

All day, ever since Braeden called to tell him they were starting on another section of the woods this morning, Stiles has been imagining Derek curled under a rock formation somewhere in the thickest part of the trees, maybe nursing some sort of injury that’s stopping him from walking too far at a time, maybe he’s on top of the rock trying to keep away from something that’s hunting him, maybe he’s unconscious out there, unaware of the incoming cold front.

Stiles had seen the weather forecast and had slipped into a panic because of it but he couldn’t change the channel. He had to watch the local news, he had to know if a John Doe had been dropped off at the hospital. He needed to know if any bodies had been found.

He knows he can’t be out there with Braeden and Derek’s sisters because if he was the one to stumble upon Derek in less than pristine condition, he would lose is mind. So staring at the television or computer is the next best thing.

“Stiles?”

He jumps because he forgot that he wasn’t alone in the apartment anymore.

“Yes?”

He finds Parrish staring at him, but then he quickly averted his eyes.

“Nothing, never mind.” Parrish clears his throat. “It’s none of my business.”

Stiles furrows his brow then turns back to the television in time to see Danny walking up to the door. Stiles is making his way toward it when it occurs to him what Parrish was about to ask.

“Hey,” Danny says, his hand hanging in the air, aimed to knock on the door. His eyes flit to Parrish when Stiles steps aside to let him in. “You get tired of Jackson already?”

Parrish laughs, “No, Stiles needed me to interrogate someone.”

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs as he forces himself not to look out the door again. “I figured out of all of us he looks the most like a cop, so he’d be perfect to intimidate a teenager.”

Parrish looks at Stiles then at Danny and back. “Is that really why you called me?”

Stiles easily replies, “Yeah,” then turns to Danny and watches him move his bag from his shoulders to the arm of the couch. “What took you so long?”

“I had to go to headquarters to get this,” he says as he pulls a BEACON laptop from his bag. “Mine doesn’t have the software I’d need to gain access to a closed network like this place has.”

He sits as he opens the laptop and turns it on.

Stiles starts, “The Wi-Fi password is—”

“I know what your password is,” Danny interjects with a scoff.

Stiles rolls his eyes and looks around for the glass of water he had but doesn’t remember putting down. He finds it on the kitchen counter and frowns at it before stepping over to pick it up.

“So what am I looking for exactly?” Danny asks.

Stiles takes a moment to finish the water in the glass then replies, “Around…eight. On the morning of October 6th.”

He catches Parrish glance at him then away again. He refills the glass and the running faucet drowns out the sound of Danny’s fingers clicking on the keyboard. He makes his way back over to the couch as Parrish moves to sit on its arm so he can peer over Danny’s shoulder.

Stiles informs, “We’re looking for Derek and possibly two women.”

Danny nods as he starts the video at 6 A.M.

The feed is showing in fast forward, with the minutes of the October morning ticking by like seconds. Stiles starts to shake the closer it gets to 8:30 AM and he ends up watching the time rather than the whole screen. When the hour comes and goes, he feels like he’s going to sink into the floor.

He doesn’t understand, he’s sure that was when Derek left but then the only thing they see were the shadows moving as the sun rose and the plants shifting in the breeze.

“Wait wait go back,” Parrish demands and Stiles holds his breath. “Like two minutes.”

Danny does as he is told then makes the video play in real time. Stiles watches the digits at the bottom of the screen climb towards 9:01 AM before Parrish points at the screen.

“Right there.”

Danny pauses the video and Stiles leans over his shoulder, almost spilling the water in the process.

Parrish asks, “You see it?”

“It’s a shadow,” Danny mutters then makes the video play again.

The shadow immediately disappears and video continues.

Danny shakes his head and replays the video again. The same thing happens, a shadow appears then disappears.

“Someone tampered with the recording,” Stiles mutters and his stomach twists as he watches Danny open a new window on the laptop.

He sees Parrish nod in his periphery.

“So if that is Derek’s shadow then whoever took him knew that there were cameras and knew how to manipulate them.”

Stiles gulps.

“But…” Parrish starts with a shake of the head. “It’s been almost a week so if they took him and wanted a ransom, wouldn’t they have called by now?”

Stiles’ voice breaks when he says, “Unless they’re not after money,” and he doesn’t have to look to know that Parrish is giving him a pitying stare.

Danny mutters, “Everyone’s after money,” as he closes the laptop and stands. “I have something that can help me recover the lost footage.”

Stiles nods.

“And uh…” Danny pauses to glance over at Parrish, who straightens his back. “Sorry, Jordan do you mind giving us a second?”

“No... no I um…” He stands away from the couch and pats his back pocket. “I need to make a phone call anyway.”

“You can use the balcony,” Stiles says.

Parrish mutters, “Thanks,” and turns to walk away.

Despite hearing the balcony door slide closed, Danny still leans forward and whispers, “I’m not gonna ask why Derek was leaving your place at nine in the morning but I feel like I should at least ask what you want me to do with what I find.”

Stiles furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”

“Well if I just have the video don’t you think your dad or I dunno Braeden might recognize what the outside of your place looks like?”

Stiles licks his lips. “Right.”

“So?”

“So…” Stiles stares at the print on Danny’s T-shirt then shrugs. “So... when you get the footage just...just snap pictures of the women’s faces.” He looks into Danny’s eyes again. “Like zoom in real good on them so we can see them and not so much the background.”

Danny searches his eyes then nods.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he says as he slings the bag over his shoulder again.

Stiles sighs as he watches Danny walk over to collect Parrish.

In the space of the open door, he can see Parrish leaning with his elbows against the railing, looking up at the cloudy sky. When Danny get his attention, he makes his way back inside.

“Call me as soon as you get the footage,” Stiles demands as they make their way across the living room.

“Will do,” Danny says, turning to give Stiles a soft smile before stepping outside.

Parrish gives Stiles a wave and as soon as the door closes, Stiles hears thunder.

|

The first thing Derek sees when he opens his eyes is a droplet of blood splatting onto his jeans. The coppery taste in his mouth tells him where the blood is coming from. He spits onto the floor then runs his tongue over his gums, checking for missing teeth.

He hears footsteps above and each low thud echoes in his head.

Upstairs, someone… a man is speaking.

Derek doesn’t know what he’s saying. It’s too hard to focus on the words and not on the pains he’s feeling. He thinks he might be bleeding somewhere else.

When he opens his eyes again, it’s to the sound of the door opening from above. Now footsteps are descending the stairs to Derek’s left and he winces with every thud.

“You’re awake,” comes the accented voice that Derek will never forget. “I have to be honest I thought I’d killed you.”

Derek grimaces as he turns his head up to see the man now standing before him. Despite Derek’s hazy vision, something about him screams cop.

“You’ll have to hit a little harder than that to kill me.”

Derek’s throat burns with every word and he thinks he sees a smile on the man’s face.

“I just got carried away, that’s all,” he says, stepping forward. “Won’t happen again.”

Derek hums.

“How much longer do you think it’ll be?”

Derek can feel himself sliding into unconsciousness again. “Until?”

“Until they find you.”

Something jars the chair Derek is sitting in, handcuffed around, and when he opens his eyes, he realizes that it was probably kicked by the man now standing behind him.

“I should’ve told the girls not to be quite so careful,” he says. “But some people are stuck in their ways.” He makes his way back around the chair and crouches in front of Derek. “Would they still come for you if they thought you were dead?”

They would, but Derek doesn’t tell him that. Derek doesn’t tell him anything as they search each other’s eyes.

“I bet you’re thirsty,” he says as he stands again then lightly slaps Derek on the shoulder. “I’ll get you something to drink.”

Chapter Text

“So how’s the search going?”

He must have been starting to doze when she walked up because he almost leaped out of the chair.

“Uh…” He rubs his eyes and turns the chair to find his mother standing over him. He shakes his head. “It’s not.”

Claudia frowns. “That’s the same thing your father said.”

Stiles sighs and presses the button to awaken his phone. Still no message from Danny or Braeden or anyone. He swallows a scream.

“I hate seeing the two of you like this,” Claudia says as she steps over to his sit on the edge of his bed, his old bed, the bed he and Derek shared countless times. “I wish there was something I could do to help…” She intertwines her own hands. “...but I’m just a lowly civilian.”

Stiles sighs as he rises from his desk chair.

“You’re perfect mom,” he says as he wraps an arm around her shoulders.

She makes a face at him as she turns to take him into a full hug. Stiles holds her tight and does his best not to cry into her hair. He’ll save his tears for after she’s gone to bed. He squeezes her before pulling away.

“Is there any coffee?” he asks as he goes to retrieve his phone then brings it back to the bed with him.

“Coffee?” She awakens his phone as it sits in his hand. “It’s almost midnight.”

Yes b—”

“I know you’re worried…” Claudia rubs her hand over his forearm. “...but you should at least try to get some rest.”

“I have tried,” he admits softly. “Every time I start to drift off the only...the only thing I can see is someone standing over Derek with a gun to his head or a knife to his throat.”

After Danny and Parrish left, Stiles had nodded off and his mind conjured a very vivid image of Derek’s lifeless body inside a car trunk. He flew up off the couch with tears already streaming down his face. He ignored the water he had spilled on the carpet and left the glass right where it fell. He had all but sprinted to his car, drove to his parents’ home, knocked on the door, and fell into his mother’s arms.

“All this time and you still feel so strongly for him.”

He watches her expression and knows that she wasn’t asking a question.

Stiles nods. “I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.”

Claudia hums. “Does he know?”

“Yeah.” Stiles’ voice catches and he takes a deep breath to steady it. He turns away from his mother because he feels a twinge of shame to say this. “But he uh…he pretty much put a stop to everything last week.”

The very day he went missing. That morning Derek snatched away any notion that they might be able to pick up where they left off and then someone snatched Derek from literally right under Stiles’ nose. If he had followed Derek out, this might not have happened. If he had begged for Derek to stay with him, to choose him…

“Put a stop to what?” she asks and he feels her fingers in his hair. “I don’t understand.”

“Well…” Stiles straightens his back and mutters, “We had y’know been...hanging out and…stuff...started happening again so...we...”

She drops her hand to her lap. “Fooled around?”

He squints and shrugs. “You could call it that.”

“But I thought he was seeing someone.”

“He...is.”

Stiles turns his head in time to see the look of confusion on her face shift to disbelief.

“And you still?”

Stiles purses his lips and hunches his shoulders, preparing himself for the slap to the back of the head, but it doesn’t come.

His mother instead shakes her own head as she mutters, “Mój Boże,” then scoffs, “You really are living up to your name of Mischief.”

He laughs softly then sighs, “I didn’t mean to disappoint you Mama,” as he leans his head onto her shoulder.

Claudia chuckles, “You haven’t called me Mama in years,” and leans her cheek onto his head.

“I’m trying to make up for what you just heard come out of my mouth.”

She scoffs.

“You can’t tell Dad.”

She pulls away and cries, “He is my husband!”

Stiles stops himself from rolling his eyes because he should have expected that response. It’s what she has said ever since he was a child. Mama please don’t tell Daddy I peed there! Mom please don’t tell Dad that Cora and I were smoking! Mom if you tell Dad that Mrs. Hale caught me in Derek's room while he wasn't home, I’ll go to jail! All received the same reply: He is my husband! I have to tell him because we tell each other everything.”

“I have to tell him because we tell each other everything,” she finishes and Stiles squeezes his eyes closed.

“Mom—”

He cuts off when his phone vibrates in his hand. He takes a deep breath and holds it as he opens the screen.

The notification at the top just reads, Base. and Stiles' heart drops from his chest to his stomach.

“I have to go,” he says as he stands away from his mother.

“Is everything okay?” she asks, standing with him.

“I... I don’t know.”

This message could mean anything. It could mean that Danny and Jackson finally found something on the recording. It could mean that Derek is at headquarters, safe and sound. It could mean that they found a body.

Claudia reaches out for her son’s shoulders and squeezes them.

“Do you need me to drive you?”

“No.” He shakes his head. “No Mom, you go to bed. Dad or I’ll call you when we have news.”

She purses her lips and takes a deep breath then pulls him down to kiss his forehead.

“Be careful driving,” she says.

He nods. “I will.”

She rubs his back as he steps away from her and tries not to make it too obvious that his knees are shaking.

His feet sound like clubs as he descends the stairs and the only thing on his mind is a vision of Derek on a steel slab in the morgue.

He can’t help but imagine that this must have been how Derek felt when he found out Stiles had supposedly died. The image of his burnt carcass in a dark cabinet must have haunted him for months, maybe even years.

Stiles stops on the other side of the garage door to steady himself when his phone starts vibrating again. He moves to lean against his car as he swipes his thumb over the screen and brings it to his ear.

“Hey,” he breathes as he searches his pocket for the keys. “You get the text?”

“Yeah,” Braeden replies in a hushed voice. “But I’m at the house so I need to come up with some kind of excuse or the girls are gonna freak out on me when I try to leave.”

“Just…” Stiles drags himself into the front seat as he tells her, “Say you need a quiet place to talk to one of your contacts then grab your keys and go.”

He catches Braeden’s soft laugh before he starts the car.

“Okay, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

She hangs up and he tosses the phone into the passenger seat then pushes the button to open the garage door.

At first, he drove slowly, carefully, with the image of his mother’s worried expression in the back of his mind but Stiles finds that the longer he sits in this car, the more anxious he becomes. He needs to be at headquarters now. He needs to know what’s going on now. He needs to find Derek now! His foot sinks on the gas pedal. His jeep protests aggressively under the abuse but it gets him to the clinic without falling apart on the way.

When he walks into the control room, he finds his father and most of the other BEACON agents, all turned away from each other with their phones to their ears.

There are photographs of two women he doesn’t recognize displayed on either side of the big monitor, but the photo in the middle makes Stiles feels like someone is wrapping a cold pair of hands around his throat: Derek standing between the pair of them, one in front, smiling like they’re talking about the weather while the other holds a pistol to his head.

In the back of his mind, Stiles had still held onto hope that what Nolan saw really was something his medicated mind conjured up, but it was reality. Stiles’ worst nightmare happened and proof of it is plastered on the wall of the control room like a taunt.

He catches Danny motioning to him from the other end of the room and Stiles starts down the steps toward him on legs that feel like wet noodles.

“These are the best captures I could get of them,” Danny tells him softly. “Per your requests.”

“Do we know who they are?”

Danny waves at the others. “We’re in the process of finding that out but honestly...” He shakes his head. “They’re ghosts dude. I don’t know which one of them messes with surveillance equipment but she knows what she’s doing.”

Stiles gulps.

“It took me forever to find them and from the looks of it…” Danny turns and Stiles follows his gaze in time to see Lydia and Ethan, turning down their phones and donning defeated expressions. “No one else knows who they are either.”

“There has to be something,” Stiles says through clenched teeth. “Someone out there who knows them.”

Danny frowns and the door opening again gives him an excuse to avert his eyes.

Allison makes her way down the steps while Braeden remains near the door, frozen as she stares at the monitor.

Stiles watches her and wonders if that was what he looked like moments ago, despair pulling down his face. He wonders if she feels the fingers around her throat.

“Where is this?” She asks, pointing to the screen as she begins her descent.

“Outside the First National Bank,” Danny replies and Stiles notices that Parrish glances sidelong at them. “When we ran the facial recognition software citywide on Derek, it spotted him there. They must’ve nabbed him on the way to his car.”

“In broad daylight?” Braeden muttered as she continues to stare up at the screen.

Now that she’s closer, Stiles can see something else in Braeden’s eyes, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. Stiles gulps when it crosses his mind that the look means that she doesn’t believe the location Danny fed her. The background, though blurry, is too colorful and Braeden has lived here long enough, she knows the bank is in the city surrounded by gray and dullness.

“Tell me something Danny,” she starts. “Was there something funky with the security footage?”

Stiles’ heart jumps when he realizes that it was recognition he saw in her eyes. Recognition, not of the place in the pictures, but the people.

“Uh...” Danny stutters. “Yeah, how did you know?”

She sighs, “Look, I’m not sure,” but Stiles still holds his breath. “But if I’m right, that might be Jennifer and Kali.”

“Who?” Lydia asks as she comes to stand near the rest at the front of the room.

“Mercenaries,” Braeden replies weakly as she folds her arms around herself like a hug. “We never ran in the same circles, but as far as I know, Jen and Kali are the only ones who work as a team.”

“How soon can you find out where they are?” Stiles demands.

“How soon can you be absolutely sure it’s them?” Noah counters as he rests a hand on his son’s shoulder. “We don’t want to waste time on a wild goose chase.”

Braeden shakes her head. “I can’t make any promises but...I can put some feelers out.”

Noah nods. “Get to it.”

Chapter Text

“It reeks down here,” he says, coming down the steps.

Derek leans his face deeper into the mattress, pretends to be asleep as he listens to a pair of footsteps approach his makeshift bed.

“You’re the one who told us to stop letting him upstairs so what do you want us to do, bring a bathtub down here?”

“Don’t be cute, Kali, it doesn’t suit you.”

Something bumps against Derek’s foot and when he doesn’t respond, it hits him again, harder.

“Get up,” the man demands. “I’ve got something for you.”

Derek mutters, “No thank you.”

“Oh, but I think you’re really going to like this.”

Derek rolls over just enough to see the pair standing above him. He notes the scowl on Kali’s face, the smile on the man’s, but what grabs his attention is the phone in his hand: Derek’s phone.

“What do you say we give your friends a nudge in the right direction?” he says as he moves closer.

|

Stiles looks up from the laptop when he hears his father’s phone start to ring again.

“It just seems so weird now, doesn’t it?” Boyd asks from two seats over.

Stiles watches Noah shake his head as he moves back from watching over Harley’s shoulder to reach for his phone.

“What does?” Stiles replies.

“People calling asking for help when we’re the ones who need it right now.”

Stiles frowns as he turns to look at the man sitting next to him.

His brown eyes look just as tired as Stiles’ did when they stared back at him in the bathroom mirror this morning. Stiles can’t remember the last time he got a full night’s sleep. He opens his mouth to ask Boyd when last he did, but the question stalls on his tongue as he watches as Boyd’s listless expression quickly turn into one of concern.

Stiles faces the front of the room again and sees his father standing at the front of the room, about a foot away from the chair Harley is perched in. The color has drained out of his face.

Stiles stands. “Dad?”

Noah locks gazes with every other pair of eyes in the room before going back to Harley. He gestures to his phone then brings it down from his ear. Harley yanks open the desk drawer and starts rummaging through it.

“You’re on speaker,” he says, and they all watch Harley pull a tape recorder out of the drawer.

“They want me to tell you where you can find us.”

Stiles sobs as soon as he hears Derek’s voice.

At the same moment, he hears Boyd’s soft, “Oh my god,” and he’s sure that if Boyd wasn’t already sitting down, he would have collapsed in his chair.

Stiles can’t help but blurt, “Are they with you right now?” despite the incredulous gazes of his father and Harley.

“Yes.”

“You tell them—”

“What’s the address?” Noah interjects with a snarl and a stern shake of the head at his son.

Stiles clenches his jaw and balls his hands into fists on the desk.

“It’s...” Derek starts then takes a deep breath. “It’s a cabin in Eldorado.”

Stiles furrows his brow as he stares at his father who is staring at the phone.

“Coordinates are being sent to you.”

“How do we know this is legit?” Noah asks.

“They want to be found,” Derek says. “They think it’s time you met—To pułapka Mieczysław! On cię ściga!

The line goes dead and every bit of breath shoots out of Stiles’ lungs.

“What the hell?” Harley exclaims from what sounds like miles away. “What was that at the end?”

“Polish,” Noah replies and he sounds just as breathless as Stiles feels.

Boyd starts, “What does it—”

“It’s a trap,” Stiles gasps. “He’s after...me?”

|

“I'm dying!” Stiles cried over the speaker in Derek's car as he rolled to a stop in the street.

“You're not dying,” Derek chuckled. “It's just the flu.”

“It's not though.” Stiles sniffles. “It can't be just the flu. I'm…” He paused to blow his nose so forcefully that Derek winced. Stiles then groaned, “I'm not long for this world.”

Derek rolled his eyes as he pulled the package that was sitting in the passenger seat onto his lap.

“I'm outside,” he said, climbing out of the car and putting his phone to his ear.

“Outside where?”

“Outside your house.”

“Babe no don't come in here!” Stiles screeched as much as a sore throat would allow. “I'm quarantined!”

“Too late,” Derek said as he reached into his pocket to pull out the house key. “I'm already inside.”

Stiles took a deep breath then slid into a coughing fit so loud Derek could hear it from both sides as he stepped into the house.

“Wow, you sound like you might really be dying,” he said then greeted Noah with a nod when he came around the corner into the living room. “Mind if I go up?” he asked.

Noah replied with a shrug. “Your funeral.”

He glanced at the package in Derek’s hand then disappeared around the corner again.

“Seriously, Babe,” Stiles sighed. “Don’t come upst— Are you on the stairs?”

“Yep.”

“I'll break up with you!” Stiles attempted to threaten. “I'll break up with you so fast both our heads will spin.”

“I thought you said your head was already spinning.”

“Derek!”

“I want to trust you,” he says, right before the blow lands, just underneath Derek’s cheekbone. “Why would you do something like that? Why would you

The fist connects again and Derek knows that his skin has split open. His head is spinning, his vision blurred.

“Would you relax?” He pushed the door the rest of the way open with the toe of his shoe as he pulled the phone away from his ear with his free hand. “I got my flu shot. Like you should have.”

The vision before him made his heart sink though he tried not to show it. Stiles was laying on a pile of pillows in the center of the bed, his hair wet from fever sweat and a blanket pulled up to his neck. Other than his head, the only thing visible is his hand that still has his phone clutched in it. The room felt like a sauna though the windows were open and there was a desk fan blowing.

Stiles groaned, “Flu shots are propaganda,” as he rolled over, sinking on the bed, turning away from Derek and bringing his blanket up over his head. “God I look like shit and you can see me.”

“You don’t look like shit,” Derek said as he moved toward the bed. “You just look sweaty and I’m used to you being sweaty in this room.”

He set the package down on the bed then sat next to it.

“Did you just make a sex joke?”

Derek smiled and opened his mouth to reply but he was cut off by another one of Stiles’ coughs.

He said, “You sound like you've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day since birth,” instead.

“You're…”

Stiles gasps and starts to cough again.

“Sorry, I didn't catch that,” Derek teased as he pulled the package onto his lap and started to unwrap it.

Once Stiles caught his breath again, he whined, “I can't believe you're making sex jokes while I've got one foot in the grave!”

Derek shook his head. “It's just the flu Stiles.”

“You're not a doctor!”

“I can take you to a doctor whenever you're ready,” Derek retorted as he revealed the glass cover of the dish in his lap.

Stiles scoffed, “I'll die right here in my bed, thank you.”

Derek shook his head as he jostled the cover on the dish and waited for Stiles’ reaction.

“What's that noise?”

“D—” Kali starts from Derek’s left. “Sir.”

Derek watches him study his knuckles. “What?”

“What do we do now?” she asks.

He brings his gaze up to meet Derek’s. “We stick with the plan.”

“Your birthday present.”

“My b— My what?” Stiles sat up against his mound of pillows again. “It's May.”

“Well…” Derek shifted close enough to lay the dish on Stiles' lap. “You were in Guatemala so we had to wait to make them for you.”

Stiles gave him a confused look as he shrugged off the blanket.

Derek noted the damp neckline of his shirt as he pulled the lid off, allowing a cloud of heat to billow out.

“Pierogi!” Stiles exclaimed and Derek smiled as he watched Stiles’ eyes light up. “You made these?”

“Cora and I did,” he replied. “We followed a recipe and everything.” He cleared his throat. “The ones we tried tasted fine but I don't know if they're made right according to a... a native, so to speak.”

“What's in them?” Stiles asked and his hand moved as if he meant to pluck one from the dish but then decided against it.

“Cora made chicken ones and I made the blueberry ones.”

Stiles pulled in a deep breath and Derek leaned back, expecting another heavy smoker's cough, but it didn't come.

Instead, Stiles sighed, “I haven't had homemade pierogi in a long time. Not since…” He looked over at the wall. “Wow not since I went to Warsaw with my grandparents when I was like...nine?”

Derek pursed his lips as he reached out to brush Stiles’ hair back with his fingers.

“Thank you so much,” Stiles said, leaning into the touch. “You and Cora are the best and I swear I would eat some right now if I wasn't sure they'd come right back up.”

Derek frowned, “That's okay,” then took the dish when Stiles handed it back to him. “We'll put them in the fridge for later.”

“Okay,” Stiles sighed as Derek stood up and made his way toward the door. “I’m so sorry Babe. You guys worked so hard.”

“It's not a problem Stiles,” he replied from the doorway. “Hey, when I come back, can I lie down with you?”

Stiles makes a soft, disgruntled noise as he pulled the blankets back up to his neck.

“How about if we spoon? Then you won't be breathing on me.”

Stiles squinted his eyes. “Fine.”

“You better not have fucked this up,” he mutters, right against Derek’s ear before pushing at his head.

Chapter Text

For a moment after Braeden shuts off the van, the only thing anyone can hear is the birds chirping in the trees, a stark difference to the silence inside the van and the silence of headquarters ever since Derek made that call. Stiles can’t help but begrudge the birds their cheer.

“Something feels wrong about doing this in daylight,” Jackson mutters as he peers out the door when Erica pushes it open.

“I know what you mean,” Erica sighs as she steps just outside the van to stretch her shoulders and back.

Kira, who was sitting directly behind Erica, follows her out. Stiles watches her take a few steps forward then set a camouflaged drone on the ground. He remembers seeing that drone and its twin when he was stocking up for the Las Vegas operation. He couldn’t have guessed that it would be used months later to help locate Derek.

Jackson and Harley shift in Stiles’ periphery, stretching out in the space that Kira vacated, but neither moves to join the others outside. Boyd swings his arm over the back of the seat he shares with Aiden and watches as Harley fiddles with the satellite phone.

Stiles hears the drone hum then turns his head just in time to see it kick up dirt before zooming into the sky. He watches it ascend while Kira turns her eyes to the screen embedded in the controller in her grasp.

He brings his attention back inside the van when Harley mutters, “Shit,” and slaps her hand on the phone. “Too many trees.”

It isn’t until she turns around in her seat, that Stiles realizes Allison was reaching across the console from the front passenger seat to grasp Braeden’s shoulder. He wonders what words of encouragement Allison was providing her. He wonders if any of it was even getting through.

“I can boost you to the top of the van,” Allison suggests. “See if that makes a difference.”

They share a glance then Harley shrugs.

Aiden snickers as Jackson moves to exit the van so that Harley can get out.

“This I gotta see,” he says as they all shuffle out.

Boyd stays put, watching them all go until the van is empty apart from himself, Stiles, and Braeden. He turns his eyes on Stiles.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

Stiles replies, “Yes,” and his stomach feels tight even as he says it.

Boyd stares into Stiles’ eyes and he must see conviction there so he nods. He pulls in a deep breath then turns toward the front of the van. He reaches out for Braeden’s shoulder and she turns long enough to show him a smile. Stiles doesn’t see if he returns it but when Boyd faces him again, his expression makes Stiles wish there wasn’t a seat between them. They could both use a hug right now.

Movement through the windshield brings Stiles’ attention to the front of the van as Boyd climbs out. He watches Harley climb onto the hood then from there, the roof. There is a shadow of her bootprint on the glass and from where Aiden is standing, watching her, it seems like the print is in the center of his chest. The metal above their heads creaks a little under Harley’s weight.

When Stiles turns his gaze to the front of the van, the only part of Braeden that he can see is her jacketed elbow because her head is bowed against the steering wheel.

“You okay?”

“No,” is the muffled reply.

He nods. “Me neither.”

She sits up again and he watches as her eyes find him in the rearview mirror.

“I just don’t understand why I have to stay behind,” she says and he can hear that she’s speaking through her teeth.

“What are we seeing?” Harley calls to Kira.

Kira yells back, “Trees!” over her shoulder but keeps her eyes on the controller.

“All due respect,” Stiles says, “You don’t have the same training that we do.”

Braeden scoffs, “I can point a gun and shoot. What more training do I need?”

Stiles purses his lips. Directly behind him, someone opens the back of the van and starts pulling out their supplies.

“I know it’s a lot for…” He pauses to lick his lips. “...for me to ask, but I need you to trust me.”

There is a loud scraping behind Stiles then a thud as the gun case is unloaded.

Stiles leans forward and rests his arms on the seat before him as he assures, “I’ll bring him back.”

Braeden purses her lips and turns her eyes directly on him for the first time since they started this trip. He’s looking her right in the eyes but he can't tell if she believes him or not.

“I got something!” Kira announces and Braeden turns almost completely in her seat to look out the door.

Kira moves away from the treeline, her eyes still on the controller as she steps toward the van.

There is more creaking from above as the BEACON agents on the ground gather around Kira. Allison and Erica have stopped moving supplies at the back and, for a moment, it is silent but for the birds again.

“Approximately half a mile through the woods,” Kira says. “A single cabin with a green door...green roof.” She adds, “Looks like it’s built into the side of a cliff and it definitely has a basement,” with glances up at Jackson then Stiles then Braeden. She clears her throat then continues, “There’s windows on each side but I can’t see in.”

“What about the infrared?” Harley calls from the roof.

“It’s still too bright out,” Kira says with a shake of the head.

Boyd scoffs, “So we’re going in blind.”

“I say we should just smoke them out,” Erica offers, and it sounds like she’s right behind Stiles’ ear when she says it.

Allison counters, “And if one of them happens to be in the basement with Derek and hears commotion upstairs? What’s the first thing you think they’ll do?”

Stiles gulps. When he looks to the front of the van, he finds Braeden staring blankly into the seat next to her.

Allison adds, “We should stick with the plan we have.”

Stiles grits his teeth when Jackson turns to him and asks, “You ready?”

When he nods, Jackson mimics the action.

“Let’s suit up.”

|

If Derek can steady his breathing, he’ll be able to hear who's upstairs. It’s something he noticed the first night that man arrived, right when the panic attack had almost overtaken him.

He managed to finally talk himself down and realized that he could hear the soft thumping of the man’s shoes and the echo of Jen’s heels as she followed him around, probably giving him the run-down of the days they spent alone with him. He imagined her telling him how well they followed his orders to not harm a hair on Derek’s head, how they fed him, how they brought him upstairs and waited outside the bathroom while he washed himself.

He isn’t sure how long ago that was when the man first walked into the house and not thirty minutes later was pounding his fist into Derek’s head. It feels like weeks ago. They took his clock.

There’s light coming through the little window by his mattress. That window had alerted him of the man’s arrival, but right now Derek can’t tell if the sun is rising or setting. He doesn’t know what day it is. He doesn’t know how long he’s been down here. It smells like days since he’s had a wash and his mouth tastes like sewage. There’s vomit somewhere in the room, he can smell that too.

His head hurts. His everything, down to his feet, hurts. His wrists are chaffed from the handcuffs, his back is strained from laying with his wrists cuffed behind him. He can feel that his shoulder is dislocated from the fall and he thinks that his rib is fractured from the kick.

Consequences of trying to warn his friends that the man was after Stiles.

He had left to cool off, or so Derek thought, then he had come back, just as rageful, and kicked Derek in his side, knocking him and the chair he’s in over, dislocating the shoulder he fell on. He could almost hear the bone in his side give as well as feel it. He can only hope that it isn't pushing against a lung.

They left him there before Kali, he’s sure he heard the man call her that, came down and untied him from the chair, which she set back on its feet while leaving Derek to shuffle over to the mattress. Once he was settled, she cuffed him, then left him.

He doesn’t know how long ago that was, but he’s been laying there ever since.

|

The sun is hanging low in the sky by the time Stiles can see the cabin and once it’s there, once it is real, the words stay calm, stay aware, don’t get tunnel vision start on a loop inside his head. He walks closer and closer to the cabin, to the duo that took Derek, to the one who gave the order, to Derek himself.

Stiles’ throat feels like its seizing closed when he suddenly thinks of Derek, skin grey, laying on a slab. He has to stop for a second to catch his breath.

He wonders if the others, shuffling alongside him within the trees, noticed his halt. He wonders if they can see his face flushing because he can’t breathe. He doesn’t have a comm for obvious reasons so he can’t tell them he’s fine even though he’s not. He gulps and tries to distract himself with the birdsongs floating down around him from the treetops as he starts forward again.

Stiles stops in the middle of his approach when he catches a glimpse of a shadow in a window before the curtain is quickly replaced. He holds both arms in the air and continues.

The front door opens just before Stiles reaches the porch.

A man with a head of sandy blond hair steps out of the lit house as Stiles stops at the bottom of the stairs and slowly lowers his arms. He is wearing a crisp white shirt and dress pants, boat shoes. He doesn’t look anything like the monster Stiles imagined had taken Derek away, but there is something familiar about him that Stiles can’t put his finger on.

Stiles notices that the man’s blue eyes are surveying him in a way that makes him feel like he wants to climb out of his skin. He folds his arms across his chest then looks out at the surrounding trees as he asks, “Where are your friends?”

The accent knocks Stiles back three years into a darkened living room, the sound of plastic crinkling under his feet, the weight of a drill in his hand, the smell of blood.

“Where’s Derek?”

The man lets out a soft laugh and Stiles remembers a smile just like the one he’s wearing.

“Derek is safe,” he says and Stiles almost scoffs. “Tucked tight into bed. Sleeping like a baby.”

Stiles turns his eyes toward the inch of space between the door and its frame. “I want to see him.”

He knows he shouldn’t have said that. He knows he should stay outside where the others can see him, he needs to keep at least one of the targets within sight but the urge to see Derek, to touch him and make sure he’s okay overrides his training as well as his common sense.

The man barely hides the smirk on his face as he steps aside.

Stiles can almost hear Jackson screaming, What the fuck are you DOING? as he makes his way up the porch steps, toward the front door.

As soon as the door closes behind him, a weight settles in Stiles’ stomach.

He recognizes the woman perched on the arm of the couch pushed up against the stairs leading to a loft from the living room but Stiles is more focused on the woman standing just inside the door, the one who’s holding a gun to his temple.

The man closes the door then steps around Stiles and Stiles watches him.

“I’m unarmed,” he says. “So will you tell your…” He turns his eyes to the woman at the other end of the pistol. “...thug to put her gun away?”

There is something unsettling in her brown-eyed gaze. He thinks this is the one Braeden said is Kali.

“You won’t mind if we make sure,” the man says and the other woman rises from the couch.

Stiles forces himself not to tense up when Jen rests her hands on his hips.

“I told you I'm not armed,” Stiles says directly to the man as she ran her palms around his waist. “I just came so you would let Derek go so—” He jumps when she sticks her hand between his thighs. “Easy lady!”

“You’re just like I remember you,” the man murmurs and Stiles notices that predatory gaze again. “No beard and a little heavier but—”

“Dude,” Stiles scoffs. “I know you about as much as I know Grabby Hands and Creepy Eyes. Where’s Derek?”

He knows that he should be staying calm, but he’s tired, used up. Being so close, knowing that Derek is somewhere in this house within reach yet this asshole is keeping him hidden because of some three-year-old bullshit is making Stiles nearly rabid.

With a shake of his head, he says, “Ladies, please go retrieve Derek for our guest.”

The women move away from them and disappear around a corner. Stiles doesn’t see exactly where they go because he doesn’t take his eyes away from those menacing blue eyes.

“You may not know me,” he says. “But you do know my brother.”

That would explain the familiar accent and the shared smile.

Do I?”

He nods slightly. “You murdered him.”

Stiles shrugs. “I’ve murdered a few people.”

The man grits his teeth and snarls. Stiles takes a deep breath and that mantra rolls through his head again, but it’s probably too late now.

“I want you to tell me why,” the man demands through clenched teeth. “Why did you kill my brother when you let the others live?”

There is a faint thud below their feet.

“I watched the tape.”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “What tape?”

“It figures you didn’t know about the cameras,” he mutters as he folds his arms over his chest. “If you did I’m sure you would have gotten rid of them.” He shakes his head. “You were so meticulous but my brother he… Working for the American government just made him paranoid.”

Somewhere out of sight, a door opens.

The man is still talking, “Every inch of his home was covered with a security system,” but Stiles has shifted his focus to the shadows coming around a corner into the kitchen at the far end of the space. “Some of the cameras were visible and you saw to it that those were destroyed but you didn’t get to the others.”

Stiles spares the man a glance when he starts making his way toward the couch.

“I watched you push a drill tip into my baby brother’s fingers and slit his wrists then leave him for dead in the middle of his living room when you knew, when he told you he had nothing to do with what happened to Claudia.”

This man daring to breathe Stiles’ mother’s name coupled with the sight of Derek, hands cuffed, one arm hanging limply at his side makes Stiles have to fight the urge to fly into a rage. He can feel himself shaking.

“At least I had the decency not to do anything like that to Derek,” the man continues and he sounds miles away.

Derek has lost weight, Stiles can tell just by looking. He is wondering when’s the last time Derek ate anything when he notices the splits in Derek’s skin, the speckles and lines of dried blood on his swollen face. It doesn’t take much longer for the smell to reach him.

Jen releases Derek and he crumples to his knees with a soft grunt.

Stiles wants to scream at her to be fucking careful but the only thing he lets himself choke out is, “Let him go.”

Excuse me?”

Stiles purses his quivering lips and blinks back tears.

“You have me now,” he says, dragging his eyes away from Derek, who doesn’t even seem to realize that he’s there. “And I’ll do whatever you want so just please”—His voice breaks—“Please let him go.”

The man shakes his head. “You think I would let either of you just walk out of here?”

“Stiles...”

At the call of his name in a weak, raspy voice that sounds nothing like Derek, Stiles feels a chill run down his back.

He gasps, “Babe,” and starts toward Derek but he freezes when Kali puts the gun to the back of Derek’s head.

“Y’know,” the man starts and Stiles scowls because he wishes the fucker would just stop talking. “The original plan was to go after your father since you don’t have any brothers or sisters to speak of, but then…” He wags a forefinger. “Then Jenny had the brilliant idea to take Derek instead.”

Stiles turns his eyes on her and sees her nonchalant shrug.

“See, just from watching you, she thought it would hurt more to lose him than your own father.”

Stiles grits his teeth.

“Was I right?” she asks and Stiles sees Derek turn his head to look, seeking Stiles’ reaction.

Stiles doesn’t give one, except to face the man again.

“Let him go,” he repeats, sterner this time.

The man raises his brows. "Let him walk out into the trees? Alone?"

"Alone out there is better than in here with you."

He shakes his head. “No one's going anywhere.”

Stiles starts toward him with a cry of “You piece of fu—” but he freezes when he hears a bang that seems to echo out to the surrounding trees followed immediately by a low thud.

Kali!” The man shouts. “Jesus Christ. This place is a rental!”

A sudden stinging in his arm brings Stiles’ attention to his bicep. Through the tear now present in his sleeve, Stiles can see where the bullet grazed him before lodging in the wall.

“You try that again,” Kali says and Stiles watches as she turns the gun back on Derek. “Next bullet isn’t going into the wall.”

He cowers away from the hot press of the barrel against his temple and Stiles turns a glare back up at her. A shadow over her shoulder catches his attention through the window.

Stiles faces the man again and finds him studying the hole in the wall next to a window.

“What’s your name?”

He faces Stiles, then the women and back.

“Deucalion.”

“Like…” Stiles furrows his brow. “Prometheus’ son?”

He smiles like he’s proud that Stiles knew that.

“My friends call me Deuc.”

"Deucalion, I shouldn't have killed your brother," Stiles starts and watches the smile drop from the man’s face. "Yes he was a piece of shit with a wife and a mistress yet he was nothing but hands the night I met him and let him pick me up, but...he didn't deserve to be mutilated and left to die simply because I was tired and pissed off.”

Derek breathes, "Stiles, your arm."

Stiles tells him, “I'm okay,” as he holds his palm out and he can feel blood trickling down his arm as it moves.

The agent behind Deucalion aims at his head through the window.

Stiles,” Derek says as forcefully as his weakened state could manage.

He watches Deucalion’s expression change from expectant during Stiles’ apology to confusion over Derek’s sudden urgency in less than a second, then change again to shock before Stiles tackles him to the ground at the same moment that shots ring out around them.

Deucalion’s rental explodes with bullets and broken glass all around them and Stiles covers his own head with his arms until he feels Deucalion moving underneath him, trying to escape up the stairs. He moves quickly and brings his elbow down hard on Deucalion's diaphragm, knocking the breath out of him, then sends his fist into the side of Deucalion’s head.

Panic rises in Stiles’ chest as Deucalion lay coughing and groaning on the floor. When he turns, it’s in time to see Derek pushing Jen’s lifeless, bloody body off himself. Kali’s equally dead form lies a foot away, gun still clutched in her hand.

Derek and Stiles lock eyes Stiles couldn’t help the desperate sound that breaks out of him as he starts making his way on his hands and knees toward Derek.

Tears are flowing freely by the time Stiles collides with Derek’s chest and clutches onto his blood-caked shirt.

“It’s okay,” Derek mutters against the shell of Stiles’ ear. “I’m okay.”

Stiles' shoulders shake and he reaches up to rest his fingers on Derek’s jaw as he sobs into Derek’s chest.

Derek presses a kiss to Stiles’ temple then softly confesses, “I love you.”

The world around them goes back to being as quiet as it was before, except now there are no more birds chattering in the trees. Stiles stomach firms into a ball and he quickly raises his head.

Everything seems to freeze into place when he looks at Derek. Goosebumps erupt all over Stiles' body when he recognizes that same shy smile that Derek wore that night in the hotel room, before they took each other to bed, before they told each other those same words with their eyes and hands, their kisses and touches.

Stiles gasps, “You wh—” and he could barely hear when someone outside yells, “CLEAR?”

Derek seems amused by whatever expression Stiles is wearing because his smile widens when he replies, “Clear!” in as strong a voice as he can muster.

Someone kicks open the door and a blur of dark green camouflage gear spills into the cabin. 

Stiles can’t focus on anything but Derek's last three words to him.

Their eyes are still on each other as Jackson and Harley flow passed them, toward the back of the cabin.

Derek only looks away when Erica and Boyd fall their knees and engulf him. He hisses when she bumps his shoulder and she quickly pulls away.

“It’s dislocated,” Derek murmurs. “And I'm pretty sure I’ve got a broken rib.”

Erica looks at his shoulder then back to his face. She nods then wraps one hand around his bicep while the other is grasps his shoulder.

“You...” she starts as she rotates his arm out to the side. “We were all so scared.”

Derek gives her a sympathetic look and rests his other hand on her knee.

Stiles gulps as he watches Derek’s face contort into a grimace when Erica moves her hand down to his elbow.

She announces, “On three,” and Derek nods.

He says, “One,” then slowly pulls in a deep breath as his eyes slide closed.

Erica also takes a deep breath then exhales, “Two,” as she shoves his arm back into place.

Stiles shudders when Derek cries out.

Erica presses her face into Derek’s neck and sobs, “We thought we were never gonna see you again,” while a creak behind them brings Stiles’ attention back to the man now sitting on the floor with Allison standing over him, her rifle pointed at his head.

Deucalion has managed to catch his breath and his head is hanging between his knees as his palm massages his face.

Stiles doesn’t feel his own feet moving him, but once he’s close enough, he tugs the pistol out of Allison’s belt and points it between a pair of blue eyes.

“Killing your brother was selfish of me," Stiles admits as he turns off the gun's safety. "So I apologize to his memory and your family. But you...”

Stiles watches Deucalion throat bob and his eyes cross as he stares down the barrel.

You I'm gonna kill because you not only took Derek away from me but you had the nerve to put your hands on him!"

Deucalion opens his mouth but he doesn’t get the chance to speak before Stiles pulls the trigger.

Allison's voice manages to break through the deep water in Stiles' mind as she gently lays her hands over his.

“Lemme see it," she says softly as she pulls the gun out of his grip.

“Hey Stiles?” Jackson calls as he and Harley return to the ground floor. “Can you explain to me just what the fuck were you thinking earlier?”

Stiles closes his eyes and savors the image of Deucalion’s face exploding right before his eyes as Deucalion's blood drips down his chin.

“You just walked in here like the dumbest dumbass on the planet,” Jackson continues. “That was not the plan Stiles!”

“I know,” he mutters as he opens his eyes again.

“You could’ve gotten yourself and Derek killed. Did you know that?”

Stiles turns toward Jackson but looks passed him to Derek as he stands, his unaffected arm over Erica’s shoulder and a frown on his face.

“Yeah,” Stiles breathes and he doesn’t know if it’s a tear that rolls down his face or a droplet of Deucalion’s blood.

Jackson scoffs and throws his arms up.

“Noah’s gonna have a fucking field day with this,” he grumbles then points his forefinger at Stiles’ emotionless face. “And you’d bet your dumb ass that I’m putting this all over the report.”

“That’s fine,” Stiles says as he turns his gaze down to all the corpses in the room. “I will too.”

Jackson grumbles, “Jesus,” as a pair of footsteps come through the front door.

Aiden announces, “Braeden’s bringing the van up.”

Derek asks, “Braeden’s here?” as he locks eyes with Stiles again but Stiles drops his gaze to the floor.

Erica replies, “We couldn’t get her to stay home,” with a chuckle as she starts to guide Derek toward the front door.

Harley appears at Stiles’ shoulder with a wet rag and he softly thanks her as he takes it.

“So were they keeping him in the basement?” she asks as he rubs the rag over his face and neck.

“I think so,” he replies before tossing the rag onto Deucalion’s body.

“My god,” Harley mutters with a shake of her head.

Stiles turns to find a deep look of concern on Harley’s face as she watches Derek be all but carried into the headlights of the approaching van.

“Why?” Stiles asks as he turns over his shoulder. “What’s down there?”

“Nothing,” Harley replies quickly then slides her arm around his.

Stiles lets himself be tugged out of the cabin and into the twilight that is only broken by the van light silhouetting Braeden gingerly embracing Derek.

Chapter Text

“Let's have sex,” Stiles said in Derek’s ear before planting a kiss on his shoulder.

Derek tried not to smile when he replied, “We had sex last night,” as another message came in: What about Saturday?

“Yeah,” Stiles sighed as he shifted even closer to Derek’s side. “And it was so good I wanna do it… I wanna do you again.”

Stiles pressed his hips against Derek’s thigh and heat bloomed in the pit of Derek’s stomach when he felt Stiles’ ever-present morning wood.

“In a minute.”

Stiles whined, “I might not be in the mood in a minute.”

Derek rolled his eyes and said, “You’re in the mood literally all the time,” as he typed: I have a staff meeting on Saturday but I’m free after 2..

“Well it’s my sexy boyfriend’s fault that I’m horny twenty-four-seven,” Stiles said with another kiss to Derek's shoulder as he humped Derek’s thigh.

“Just sixty seconds,” Derek said as Stiles ran a hand over his abdomen. “I'm in the middle of a conversation.”

“With?”

The hand started making it’s way down.

“An old friend.”

Derek’s skin erupted in goosebumps when Stiles’ slipped his hand between his thighs to cup his balls.

“What do they want?”

Derek pursed his lips. A part of him didn’t want to tell him because he knew that Stiles wouldn’t be too fond of the answer.

“She's going to be in town and wants to know if we can meet up.”

“Oh.”

Derek sighed when Stiles pulled the hand then the rest of himself away. He moved to lie on his belly next to Derek, with too much space between them now.

“What if we’re busy that day?” Stiles asked and Derek could tell that he was trying to hide his unease but it was written all over his face.

Derek rolled over onto his side and reached out to spread his fingers over Stiles’ bare back. He kissed Stiles’ arm and answered, “We haven’t decided on a day yet,” then peeked at his phone.

Stiles was staring at him when he looked up again. He muttered, “Something could come up any second, you know that.”

“It’s not a date Stiles.”

He rolled his eyes and scoffed, “I never said it was.”

“But that’s what’s going through your head.”

“You don’t know what’s going through my head,” he snapped then studied his fingers when Derek frowned at him.

Derek shifted closer and ran his hand all over Stiles’ back. “So tell me.”

Stiles stared at the headboard and chewed on his lower lip.

“Okay.” He moved to lie on his side, mirroring Derek. “What’s her name?”

“Paige Krasikeva. No I don’t know her social security number.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Where’d you meet her?”

“Same place I met Boyd and Erica.”

“How long have you been talking?”

“Since this morning.” He held up the device in his hand and Stiles looks down at it. “I woke up when my phone went off.”

“Does she know about us?”

“No.”

Stiles turned his gaze back on Derek and raised his brows.

Derek chuckled, “Okay, how does this sound?” He cleared his throat. “Morning Derek, I know we haven't spoken in a while. How’ve you been? Hey Paige, I have a boyfriend.”

Stiles shrugged. “Sounds fine to me.”

Derek closed his eyes and snickered.

“Look, when we started dating I told everybody I could reach.”

Derek opened his eyes and searched Stiles’. “Really?”

“Yes!” He brought his hand up to rest on the back of Derek’s head. “Okay, remember that guy you and Erica did a job for that worked at NASA?”

Derek nodded though the memory was vague.

“I even rang him up and I told him to tell the aliens too.”

Derek barked a laugh and the adoring the smile on Stiles’ face pulled at his chest. He leaned forward to kiss that smile then pressed their foreheads together.

“Are we good now?”

“No. Where are you meeting?”

The phone vibrated in Derek’s hand and he turned his head down to read: Sounds great!

“Jira’s at two-ish on Saturday.”

Stiles nodded and muttered, “I should come with.” Derek was taken aback and it must have shown on his face because Stiles quickly added, “Y’know in case it’s some kind of trap.”

“Are you positive it’s not to make sure I don’t kiss her?”

Stiles jerked his head back to glare at Derek. “That’s not funny.”

“I’m sorry.” Derek pulled him closer. “Can we have sex now?”

Stiles dodged him when Derek tried for a kiss.

“Were…”—Derek watched him turn his eyes away—“Were you attracted to her?”

Derek's stomach lurched but he waited, silently staring at the side of Stiles’ face until their eyes met again.

“Yes,” he admitted then watched Stiles gulp, though he isn't sure whether Stiles realized he did it. “But that was before I was reintroduced to the man who would become the love of my life.”

Stiles pursed his lips.

Derek reached up to grasp Stiles’ chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“You have nothing to worry about,” he said then leaned in to give Stiles a kiss. When they parted Derek set his eyes firmly on Stiles’. “Ty jesteś mój, moja miłość, mój wszystko. There can never be anyone but you.”

Stiles shut his eyes and, after a few seconds, he shook his head. “Babe, I don’t want you to think I don’t trust you, I just—”

“I know.” Derek shrugged. “You're an idiot but I still love you.”

Stiles rolled his eyes open then he rested his hand on Derek’s shoulder.

“Okay, we can have sex now.”

Derek groaned, “God finally,” then made Stiles giggle when he leaned in to nibble on his neck.

“What are you thinking about?”

Cora’s voice drags Derek out of his daydream and makes him realize that he had just been staring at the bright orange horizontal line on the wall.

“Nothing,” he says as he turns his eyes to his sister.

“You were literally staring at the wall for like three minutes.”

“I wasn’t thinking about anything.” Derek sighs and readjusts himself in the surprisingly comfortable bed. “I was just staring.”

“Staring and smiling.”

Derek watches his sister’s brows climb up her face.

“It was the kind of smile that would make me think you were thinking about something.” She shrugs. “Or somebody.”

“Wow,” Derek chuckles. “You should forget about that Master’s degree and just go join the FBI.”

She slaps him on the leg and he barely feels it.

“Lydia told me that…” she starts then glances down at the phone in her hand for a second before looking back at him. “She said that Jackson told her that when they walked in on you two out there, it felt like they were interrupting something.”

Derek stares at his sister.

“Is that true?”

“Is what true?”

“Were they interrupting something?”

He chuckles and mutters, “This morphine is spectacular,” just as the door opens.

A cry of “Uncle Derek!” shatters the silence of the room and Cora barely has time to react before their niece goes barreling toward Derek’s bed.

Laura half-yells, “Olive!” through her teeth but neither of them gets the chance to stop her because she freezes on her own, right at the beginning of a leap.

The girl frowns at Derek then looks over at Cora, then back at her mother.

For the first time since they brought him here and started pumping him full of pain relievers, Derek feels an ache in his chest because he immediately knows she doesn’t recognize him.

He’d had Cora bring him a mirror as soon as he was lucid enough to ask for one so he knows he looks different. His cheeks and eyes are sunken, his mangled skin looks just barely stretched over his skull, despite the beard now covering half of it because he hasn’t been able to keep his hands from shaking long enough to shave. Even the hair on top of his head looks like it’s thinning.

Olive turns and motions for her mother to pick her up and when Laura does, she turns and whispers something in her ear.

Laura gives her a pitying look then tells her, “That is Uncle Derek.”

Olive shakes her head and Derek turns his eyes away when he feels them start to sting. He watches Cora sigh as her body sags against the edge of the bed again.

“He just isn’t feeling well,” Laura explains as she steps closer to the bed. “He got sick when he was in the woods so…he might look different now but he’s going to look like himself again in a few days.”

Derek only looks back up at them when Laura rests her hand on his shoulder. He sees Olive with her face hidden in Laura’s neck and her thighs wrapped tight around her waist.

She mouths I’m sorry and he reaches up with the arm that’s not in a sling to hold her hand.

“It’s okay,” he says with a smile that belies the ache still present in his chest.

Olive raises her head to stares down at him and Derek takes a little solace in her recognizing his voice.

“Hi Ollie,” he says, widening his smile, but she doesn’t match it. “I’ll be okay,” he tells her. “I just caught a really bad cold.”

“Mommy says soup makes you feel better when you have a cold.”

Derek resists the urge to look up at the bag hanging above his bed that is slowly dripping morphine, his ‘soup’, into his veins.

“I already had soup,” he says then watches Olive furrow her brow.

“You need more because you look really sick.”

Derek’s mouth drops open as his sisters burst into laughter.

He says “Thanks Ollie,” right when the door opens again.

Derek looks over in time to see Braeden holding the door open as far as it could go.

“Alright guys,” she stage-whispers in the doorway as she makes a sweeping motion with her arm. “C’mon!”

He doesn’t understand what she’s doing until people start to flow through the door in a seemingly nonstop stream, carrying flowers and balloons and smiles and greetings and he thinks he sees at least two bottles of wine.

Derek has to hold his breath as they surround his bed, each waiting their turn to give him a hug or a kiss or a pat on the shoulder. His sisters and niece have disappeared without him noticing. It sounds like everyone is speaking at once.

In this instance, he understands why hospitals have those rules about only a certain number of people being allowed in the patient’s space at one time.

“Are you okay?” Braeden says as she slides her body into the space Harley just vacated and her palm into Derek’s sweaty one. “Tracy said Dr. Geyer is coming back down any minute so I thought I should give everybody the chance to see how you were doing tonight since it’s been so long.”

He smiles but he doesn’t thank her.

Derek turns his eyes to the rest of the bodies in the room in search of the one person who didn’t come to his bedside like all the others. He thought he spotted those hands tying one of three multicolored ‘Get Well Soon’ balloons to the end of his bed, but Erica had pulled his attention away when she held him by the face and planted a big wet kiss right above his eye.

“Alright everybody,” Noah calls out and manages to freeze everyone else in the room. “We’ve all gotten our chances to see Derek so now let’s get out of here before they kick us out.”

He makes his own sweeping motions with his arms and everyone but the Hales and Braeden start to file out a lot slower than they poured in.

Derek feels like his lungs are expanding as he watches them leave yet he is ashamed at feeling this way while his family walks away from him.

“Are you okay?” Braeden asks again as she runs her free hand up to his shoulder.

“Yeah,” he lies with a smile and that feeling of shame doesn’t budge.

He finds himself looking into her eyes and trying to imagine what they would look like if they were full of tears. If there was ever a time that he had seen Braeden cry, he doesn’t remember it. Derek purses his lips because it makes him sick to think about what he has to do.

He’s been staring at her for too long and he knows it because her smiling face refigures into a look of concern.

“You sure?”

“Oh.”

Everyone turns to see Stiles standing in the doorway with an open bag of chips in his hand a can of soda clutched to his flank. He looks back at all five of them.

“Where’d everybody go?”

“Home,” Laura replies as she readjusts Olive on her hip. “Exactly where we should be going so…say goodnight to Uncle Derek.”

Olive mutters, “Goodnight Uncle Derek,” as her mother presses a kiss to her temple.

He says, “Goodnight Ollie,” just as Cora mutters something to Braeden.

“Oh right,” Braeden replies in a tone that makes Derek turn his head.

Apparently, it had gotten Laura’s attention too because she halted in the middle of her departure and stands just feet away from Stiles who seems to have made his home in the doorway.

Derek is the one to ask, “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Braeden sighs as she rises from the edge of the bed. “She wants me to take her home.”

Cora shrugs. “I’ve been here for a day and a half with no shower.”

I’ll take you home,” Laura offers. “Derek just woke up. Don’t you think he wants to spend a little time”—she drops her voice to a whisper when she says—“with his girlfriend?”

Derek watches over his sister’s shoulder as Stiles shifts his weight.

Cora counters, “If I go with you, it’ll take an hour to get back to the house but Brae will be back here in like twenty minutes.”

Laura shakes her head. “Why didn’t you just ride home with Lydia?”

“Because she’s stopping by the clinic first to do god knows what and that place gives me the creeps after dark.”

“Just stay the night with us then.”

“My bike is at the apartment and I don’t w—”

“Guys!” Braeden interrupts as she starts around the bed. “I’ll take Cora home. It’s fine.”

Laura counters, “You’ve barely gotten to see him in almost two weeks,” and Derek wants to comment that his older sister would argue with a cloud. “And now you want to leave him all alone? Albeit for twenty minutes b—”

“Oh my god Laura,” Cora groans, exasperated. “Stiles is here so he can keep Derek company until Braeden comes back.”

Laura turns over her shoulder and stares as if she had forgotten that Stiles was still there. He gives her a little wave and Derek can imagine his sister narrowing her eyes at him.

“Fine,” she says then works her shoulders before going toward the door, “Goodnight baby brother. I love you!”

“Love you too,” he replies but he isn’t sure that she hears him.

“Love you big brother,” Cora says as she grabs his foot over the blanket. “See you tomorrow.”

“Okay.” He nods. “Love you too.”

Braeden mutters, “I'll be right back,” as she leans down to give him a kiss.

Derek doesn’t turn away but he can be sure that Stiles did.

She squeezes his hand then lets her grasp linger as she steps away from the bed, pulling Derek’s arm completely off the mattress before she lets go.

He stares at his hand for a moment as he rests it back down on the bed and wonders if that was going to be the last time it held hers. Then he wonders if that was going to be the last time she kissed him.

He looks up in time to catch Braeden lay a grateful pat on Stiles’ shoulder before following Cora out of the room.

Derek’s stomach feels like it’s slowly twisting into knots, even as he and Stiles lock eyes across the now blissfully quiet room.

|

“This is for you.”

Stiles hadn’t even realized that he was just staring at the big orange Trauma Care Unit sign on the wall until he hears that little voice.

It takes him a moment to focus on the child and what she has in her hand.

“Thank you so much Ollie,” he says, taking the drawing when she presents it. “That’s a really nice…uh…” He hums and flips the paper upside down. “What is it?”

“It’s a giraffe,” she chirps as if it’s the most obvious thing in the universe that the pink and black blob on this sheet of printer paper is a giraffe.

Stiles laughs, “Of course it is,” then lies, “Yeah I see it now. It’s beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she says, squaring her shoulders before trotting back toward her mother and Braeden.

Laura watches with a smile as her daughter returns to the coffee table they’ve turned into a little artist studio. Olive sighs when she reclaims Braeden’s lap and starts on yet another project.

Harley, Danny, and the interns are also sitting on the floor a short distance away, surrounding a giant egg-shaped ottoman. They’re discussing something that Stiles can’t bring himself to pay attention to so he lets his gaze roam around their little section of the waiting room.

Lydia’s fingers are flying over her phone and her eyes are glued to the screen. Scott and Kira are laying on the couch next to Lydia’s chair, snuggled together and sleeping. Allison is in the chair on the other side of Lydia and Isaac is next to her. They have their heads together, looking at something on Allison’s phone.

Jackson has his arms crossed, his sunglasses on, and his chin on his chest. Once Stiles realizes that Jackson is sleeping, he gets the urge to sneak over and scream Fire! in his face, but he doesn’t want to alert everyone else in the waiting room.

Erica and Boyd are sitting in a far corner together, also sharing a couch like Scott and Kira, but the former soldiers are wide awake and stoic. Erica is rubbing his shoulders. Boyd’s hand is resting on her knee.

As his eyes take in the room, Stiles notices that everybody has either a bouquet of flowers or balloons. Parrish and the twins each have a bottle of wine.

Stiles’ father is perched in the chair right next to him but he is muttering so softly into the phone at his ear that Stiles can't hear what he's saying.

He is wondering who Noah is talking to when someone calls out, “Hale?”

Stiles almost leaps out of the chair and by the looks of it, the reaction is universal because everyone else goes rigid as well. His father lowers the phone from his ear. Scott, Kira, Jackson all wake up. Everyone stands.

“Over here,” Laura calls, futilely raising her hand as she pulls herself to her feet. “I’m Hale. I’m his sister. His other sister.”

The man who called out approaches with his hand extended and his smile beaming. “Hi.”

Olive asks, “Are you a doctor?” 

“Yes I am,” he replies sweetly then turns back to Laura. “Dr. Geyer,” he adds as he shakes her hand.

That little voice comes again, “Are you gonna fix my uncle?”

Dr. Geyer chuckles and replies “I’m gonna try,” just as sweetly then clears his throat. “I just came on shift and I got the chance to meet Derek and talk to his nurse a little bit ago.” Geyer folds his arms over his chest. “So...just to make sure I have everything right, he came into the ER last night”—Laura nods—“with a concussion, a dislocated shoulder, a fractured rib… dehydration?”

Laura affirms the doctor’s list as Braeden slides their hands together.

Stiles feels bile crawling up his throat. He doesn’t look around at all the other faces but out of the corner of his eye, he sees Erica turn her face into Boyd’s neck.

Dr. Geyer asks, “And all this happened while he was in the woods?”

“He was hiking,” Lydia offers. “And he fell.”

Harley adds, “Couldn’t reach anyone for days.”

Geyer looks around at the other faces in the room and Stiles wonders if he’s just now realizing that this whole crowd is here for Derek.

He nods and says, “I think I heard something on the news about a man being missing.”

Laura says, “That was him.”

“Wow,” Geyer breathes. “Lucky thing that he was found when he was. I don’t know how much longer he would’ve been able to survive without food or water.”

Everyone but Stiles makes a sound of agreement because he can’t help but think about how Derek was only in this situation because Stiles let it happen.

Noah announces, “We’ll make sure he stays out of the woods for a few months.”

Stiles glances at his father when he interprets that double meaning.

“Good,” Geyer chuckles then continues, “Something I couldn't account for though. It seemed like…” He holds out one of his own wrists then wraps his other hand around it. “...like he had chafe marks from handcuffs or...or zipties on his wrists.”

Jackson announces, “You’d have to talk to his girlfriend about those.”

A number of snickers ring out but Stiles shoots a glare at the side of Jackson’s face and hopes he can feel it burning into his temple.

Stiles sees Braeden turn and Jackson raises his hands in mock surrender.

“Well…on that note,” Dr. Geyer starts with a grin. “We want to keep him for at least another couple of days y’know to properly hydrate him and to make sure that rib fracture doesn’t cause his lung to collapse and also to see how he’s reacting to the medication since he went so long without consuming anything.”

“That’s fine,” Laura says along with a nod.

Geyer checks his watch.

“If anybody wants to go see him before visiting hours are over, you’re welcome to go back in. There should be enough time for”—He lets his gaze run over the crowd—“some of you to visit, if you go in just a couple at a time.”

He reaches out and shakes Laura’s hand again before stepping away.

Stiles hadn’t realized that his father had moved from his side until he hears Noah’s voice near the space that Dr. Geyer had just vacated.

He announces, “Tracy says that we can all go back as long as we only take a few minutes.”

Stiles furrows his brow. He opens his mouth to remind his father that the doctor literally just said that they should go in a couple at a time but he quickly closes it.

He knows what his fellow agents and Derek’s family have been through the last two weeks. If they went in just a couple at a time like the doctor suggested, then some of them might not be able to see him tonight at all. It isn’t his place to rob them of that.

Braeden had pulled her hand away and now rests it on Laura’s back. She mutters something that Stiles can’t hear and Laura replies before picking up her daughter and walking away.

Minutes later, when they all flood Derek’s room, Stiles wishes that he had spoken up.

Even through the sea of bodies, he could tell from Derek’s expression that he was uncomfortable, but there was so much noise in the room that Stiles couldn’t get a word in if he tried. So he stepped out. He tried to get someone to come with him so there would at least be two less bodies in the room, but no one would.

By the time he returns, it was empty except for the Hales and Braeden, but even that doesn’t last very long.

Derek says I love you to both his sisters as they left and both times those words leave his mouth, Stiles grits his teeth. He can feel a headache building behind his eyes and watching Braeden lean down to press her lips against Derek’s doesn’t make it any better. But he couldn’t look away.

Stiles smiles at Braeden when she pats his shoulder as she steps passed him and shame warms his cheeks.

Once she is out of the room, Derek calls out to him and his voice booms in Stiles’ head.

He watches Derek lay his palm up on the edge of the bed as he says, “Come here.”

Stiles turns over his shoulder to look through the open door and expects to see Braeden still standing there, watching them, but the space in the doorway is empty except for him. Stiles sucks cheese powder off the tips of his fingers as he makes his way over to the bed.

“I don’t think I ever thanked you,” Derek says as Stiles sets his half-empty can on the nightstand.

Stiles shakes his head and says, “You don’t have to thank me,” as he sits on the edge of the bed. He slides his cleaner hand into Derek’s and they both watch as their fingers curl around each other. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

Stiles keeps looking at their hands because he can’t bring himself to look right at Derek’s face. The sight of his own handiwork makes him feel like screaming and bursting into tears.

“About the stuff I did say—”

“I know.” Stiles holds his breath as he waves his other hand. “Water under the bridge. I mean…” Stiles shrugs. “Sudden near-death confessions are more common than one might think like… If some asshole kept me locked up in a basement and b—” He pauses to clear his throat because the image of Deucalion’s smirk flashes in his mind’s. “And beat me up, I’d probably tell Jackson that I love him.”

Derek’s grip tightens for just a second. “Look at me.”

Stiles flicks his tongue over his teeth and closes his eyes. When he reopens them, he’s looking straight at Derek’s mangled face.

He swallows a sob.

“I love you,” Derek says, calmly and clearly, without a whisper of doubt behind it. “I said that and I meant that.”

Stiles shakes his head. “You don’t.”

Yes I d—”

“How could you love someone who did this to you?”

You didn’t do this to me,” Derek counters. “Deucalion did.”

“Deucalion got to you because I—”

“Killed his brother but that doesn’t mean that he should’ve went fucking crazy.”

“No.” Stiles pulls his hand away and shakes his head. “That morning you left...after we fought. If I had just… If I had followed you then—”

“Then they would've taken you too...or worse.”

He looks Derek in the eyes and the only thing he can think is how pitiful Derek looks.

“Babe, if Deucalion can find you then someone else can too and I can't sit around thinking today is the day you go missing again or today is the day you're gonna… die because of something stupid that I did. I can't. I can't lose you again."

"I don't want to lose you again either," Derek replies. "Near-death experiences have a way of forcing someone to prioritize and the whole time all I could think about was you. Our past, our present… What our future could be."

Stiles shakes his head and sobs, "I'm so sorry."

“It’s not your fault.” Derek reaches out for him again and Stiles retakes his hand. “I should be the one apologizing for everything I said that morning.” He gulps before continuing, “It wasn’t fair and I— You didn’t deserve any of it. I was just being selfish and I knew deep down that I didn’t even mean it. I just...”

“You were trying to protect yourself.” Stiles lays his hand on his own chest. “From me.”

Derek lightly squeezes his hand again. “It’s not the same thing and you know it.”

Stiles’ shoulders sag.

“Stuff like this...” Derek pulls his hand away to gesture to his own face and his slinged arm. “It’s part of the job. It happens and it’s no one’s fault but the one who did it. Stiles.” This time he grabs onto Stiles’ forearm and forces Stiles to look into his eyes. “I said that stuff because I wanted to hurt you and I… I know I did.”

Stiles gulps.

“Even when I was walking out, literally the reason they caught me off guard was because I felt so sick about what I'd just done and said to you that I wasn't paying attention to who was around me.”

Stiles sighs and closes his eyes.

“I know that doesn’t make up for it and I hope you can forgive me.”

Stiles scoffs as he looks Derek in the eyes. “You’re asking me for forgiveness?”

“And a second chance.”

“And a se...” Stiles can’t help but laugh. “Jesus how bad was that concussion?”

Derek smiles and Stiles leans forward to press their foreheads together.

After a moment, Derek looks him in the eyes and sighs, “I meant what I said."

"I know Babe."

Derek takes a deep breath and Stiles can see unease on his face when he exhales, “I have to tell her.”

Stiles purses his lips and rests his hand on Derek's thigh over the blanket. He doesn’t know what kind of advice to give a man who is about to admit to the woman he loves that he cheated on her with his ex that left him broken and beaten down.

Chapter Text

“Have you talked to your sisters?”

Derek shakes his head. He watches Braeden carry the tray they just ate a terrible hospital breakfast from to the door.

She doesn’t turn to see if he gave a reaction before she continues, “I was wondering when they would be coming by because my phone died in the middle of the night”—He remembers watching the little battery symbol blinking on the screen and lighting up a section of the ceiling he stared at all night while she slept soundly in the bed next to him—“and I left my charger at home so if one of them could grab it, that would be perfect or I could go get it once they show up.”

Derek clenches his jaw. She doesn’t want him to be by himself even for the time it would take to go to the loft to get her phone charger and back. She wants to make sure he's comfortable and happy. Braeden is trying to take care of him like she always does.

“I don’t know,” she says as she returns to the bedside. “What do you think?”

He teases, “I think you need a phone that has the same charger as everyone else’s.”

She smiles and rolls her eyes as she holds out her hand to him.

He lets her help to pull him to his feet.

They walk side-by-side, Braeden with one hand guiding his I.V. pole and her other arm out to catch him if his legs give out again on the way to the ensuite bathroom.

Braeden stands next to him as he brushes his teeth. She touches his shoulder and his hair, she tells him how much better he already looks even though it’s only been three days since they pulled his carcass out of that cabin. There is a mirror right in front of him, so he knows she’s lying just to make him feel good.

He spits but stays bent over the sink, staring into the blankness of the porcelain, before wetting his face.

She takes the toothbrush from him and sets it into the holder then rubs her hand across his back. “You okay?”

He knows she keeps asking him that because he can’t ever keep the frown off his face for too long, no matter how hard he tries to hide it. He knows that if he tells her he’s not okay, she’ll ask him why and he’s not ready to tell her yet. He thought he was but…

“I can’t,” he mutters.

“You can’t? Can’t what?”

"I'm sorry." He shakes his head and closes his eyes as tears fill them. "I'm so sorry."

“You’re sorry? Is that what you said?” She sighs and pulls him up but he can’t look at her. “You’re sorry for what?”

She takes him by the cheeks and swipes her thumbs under his eyes, brushing aside the cold water and his hot tears.

“What’s going through your head Derek? Talk to me.”

He takes a deep breath as he opens his eyes to find her brows are furrowed, her eyes full of care and worry.

"Are you in pain? Do you need to lay back down?"

They don’t say it often, not nearly as often as he used to say it with Stiles, but he knows that she loves him. She proves it with every word, every gesture. Even when they’re arguing he never doubts her love for him.

He loves her too and that’s why he can’t tell her. He can’t break her heart like this when she’s given him so much.

But he has to. He has to tell her.

“I slept with Stiles.”

At first, he thinks she didn’t hear him, that his voice broke somewhere and his cruel confession only came out as an inaudible whisper. At first, he thinks it’s still possible to take it back. Then he sees that expression he told himself he never wanted to see again: Braeden completely blindsided, utterly devastated.

Her hands drop from his face and she stands, perfectly still and staring, frozen by what he just told her.

“Braeden..." Derek thinks he sounds like he's choking on her name. "I’m so sorry.”

He only glimpses her face crumpling before she turns her back to him. He thinks he hears a whimper before she covers her mouth with one of her hands. He reaches out for her arm but she yanks it away as soon as she feels his fingertips on her skin.

The sudden force of it makes him pitch forward and he barely catches himself on the bathroom doorframe. The sound of the I.V. pole's wheels wobbling on the tile floor as it rolls a few inches away sends sharp pain and lights behind his eyes.

Derek has to take a moment until his head stops spinning.

When he opens his eyes again, he sees Braeden standing by the bed, staring at him. Her hands are folded tight around herself and he doesn’t know if she’s really shaking or if his vision is still swimming.

“When?”

He shouldn’t tell her. He can at least save her from knowing how long this has been going on.

“That mission.” He gulps. “With Harris.”

She turns her eyes away from him and sweeps her gaze along the floor before looking at him again with her eyes narrowed.

“You mean the one where you told me you wouldn’t even be spending much time alone with him?”

Derek recalls that night he went to her apartment after learning that he had to go away with Stiles. The same night Stiles announced that he had a date. The night everything started to change.

“The one you went on together after you called out his name when you were in bed with me?”

Derek clenches his teeth.

“Did you mean that mission with Harris?”

He sighs, “Yes.”

She sniffles then scoffs, “So was there even really an operation or was that just a cover for your little... rendezvous?”

“It was real,” he mutters. “I swear.”

“Was that the only time?”

He can’t look her in the eyes so he stares at the crumpled sheets on the last bed they will ever share.

Derek, have you had sex with him since?”

“Braeden don’t—”

“Just tell me!”

Derek makes himself look at the woman he has forced to grieve as he exhales, “Yes.”

The sight of the first tear rolling down her cheek makes his throat close up. His stomach lurches when her body starts heaving with sobs so strongly that she has to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Braeden I'm so sorry, I—”

“God, why not just end it?” she demands and he watches her lower lip quiver. “Why keep dragging me along like an idiot if you were screwing him anyway?”

Derek shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I… I just I couldn’t…figure out how to tell you.”

“Okay so you couldn’t figure it out after the first time, but what about the second? Or the third?”

He gulps.

“No, you figured you would just keep fucking him anyway to make absolute sure you didn’t know what to say to me.”

“I just mean… After everything you did for me, I—”

“Yeah, everything I did for you because of what he did to you. But you weren’t thinking about any of that were you? You weren’t thinking about how if he left you once, he could do it again.”

Derek opens his mouth to dispute that but thinks the better of it.

“Who’s gonna pick up the pieces then, Derek huh?”

“I’m sorry.”

She screams, “Sorry isn’t good enough!” and makes him flinch.

“Whoa whoa whoa,” comes from the doorway and Braeden mutters something to herself as she starts frantically wiping at her face.

"What's going on?" Laura asks as she follows Cora into the room.

Neither of them responds and Derek only looks at his sisters long enough to see them surveying the way Braeden is hunched over on the bed, touching her face, and the way Derek is standing in the bathroom doorway, his hand now gripped around the I.V. pole so it doesn’t slip away from him again. He knows they must be noting the distance between himself and Braeden. He knows they know something is wrong.

"Brae?” Cora steps around to the side of the bed that Braeden is occupying. “What’s wrong?"

Braeden turns her face away, hides it behind her hair as she scoffs, "Ask your brother.”

Her voice broke on the last word and Laura moves closer to the bed as she asks, “Are you crying?”

Cora turns to their sister and gives a little nod. Then they both turn their eyes on him.

All his life people have been telling him that, out of all the Hale children, he looks the most like his mother, but in this moment, with his sisters staring back at him with expectant gazes, the only thing he sees are two perfect replicas of Talia Hale. His hand is squeezed so tight around the pole that he thinks he hears the metal protest.

“Stiles and I w—”

“Oh my god,” Laura mutters and wipes a palm down her face.

Cora frowns.

Braeden sobs.

Derek gulps before continuing, “Stiles and I were intimate.”

“Intimate?” Laura scoffs. “So you slept with him. Why not just s—”

She cuts off when Braeden stands. All three of them watch in silence as she moves toward the door.

Derek’s stomach falls because he knows that this is the first time Braeden has ever walked away from him with the intention of never coming back.

Laura turns a cutting glare on her brother before following Braeden into the hallway.

He watches his other sister as he starts his way toward the bed because his legs feel like they’re slowly disappearing from underneath him.

He’s sinking into the space next to her when Cora mutters, “I’ve never seen her cry before.”

Derek clenches his jaw.

“You made Braeden cry.”

He closes his eyes. “I know.”

“Why would you do that? I mean…” Cora sighs. “Why would you sleep with him after everything you’d been through? All of it that he put you through.”

“I love him,” Derek replies and it’s the easiest thing he has said in days. All that pain he saw on Braeden’s face, the shock and disappointment on his sister’s faces and those words leave his lips as easily as an exhale.  “I never stopped loving him and the more I tried to convince myself th—”

Cora interjects, “What if you made a mistake?”

“I didn’t.” Derek shakes his head. “The only mistake I made was lying to her about it.”

“You lied to everyone.”

“I’m sorry Cora.”

She scoffs, “Yeah,” as she stands.

For the first time in almost a week, Derek sits alone in a room with no one and nothing to keep him company but machines.

One of the machines ding and Derek sighs as he picks up his phone.

 

Is everything okay?

The notification of the text from Stiles quickly disappears behind blurred vision as tears resume streaming down Derek’s face.

Chapter Text

Derek is watching him. He can’t tell for sure because he’s zipping through interstate traffic and even a glance to his right would prove disastrous for both of them, but he can feel Derek’s eyes on him.

Stiles asks, "What’s up"

Derek sighs, “You need to slow down,” as he reaches over to place his hand on Stiles’ knee.

“Babe, driving slow in a fast car defeats the purpose.”

“Crashing my new car defeats the purpose of buying it.”

Stiles shakes his head. “I’m not gonna crash.”

“Famous last words.”

Stiles laughs as he drops one hand from the wheel and lowers it onto the hand covering his knee. He squeezes Derek’s hand before placing his own back on the steering wheel. Derek squeezes his knee before pulling his hand away.

Stiles manages to slow Derek’s new Camaro and keep it slow after they’ve left the interstate and until they arrive at Stiles’ parents’ house.

“Why are we here?” Derek asks as Stiles pulls the key out of the ignition.

“Oh…” Stiles shifts in the seat. “Well you didn’t wanna be at the loft, Laura would sooner kick me in the balls than invite either of us into her home right now and since you literally got kidnapped from my apartment...” He gestures at the house. “This is the only place I could think of that didn’t have some soul-crushing memory attached to it.”

Derek hums as he turns his eyes on Stiles. “So you brought me to my dead ex-boyfriend’s house.”

Noo,” Stiles says as presses the button to open the trunk. “I brought you to your not-really-dead it’s-complicated’s house.”

Derek raises his brows. “It’s complicated?”

Stiles shrugs. “Isn’t it?”

Derek answers with a smile and Stiles is thrilled to see it after bearing witness to the look of utter despair, of hopelessness that was dragging down Derek’s face when Stiles found him at the loft this morning. It crosses Stiles’ mind that this is probably the first time Derek has genuinely smiled in days.

He opens the car door as he announces, “My parents are off doing married people stuff for the weekend so we can stay here ‘til we figure something else out.”

Noah had feigned exasperation when Stiles asked them for a ride to pick Derek up and then to the nearest Chevrolet dealership so Derek can buy a new car since they couldn’t find his old one anywhere on the property Deucalion rented.

Thinking about that bastard as he makes his way toward the back of the car, leaves a sour taste in Stiles’ mouth.

He pulls out the bag that Derek had packed alone in his half-empty loft after Braeden had cleaned her things out.

When he shuts the trunk, Stiles catches Derek staring at the house.

“Unless you wanna go to a hotel or something,” he says as he moves around the car.

Derek shakes his head and looks down at the bag in Stiles’ hand. He reaches out for it but Stiles’ switches it to the other hand.

“I got it,” he says with a nod toward the front door.

“I can carry my own bag Stiles,” Derek grouses.

“Well you carried it from the loft down to the car so…” He shrugs. “It’s my turn.”

Derek rolls his eyes but he smiles again.

As they walk side-by-side, Stiles recalls what Derek had told him about how his day started, alone in his hospital bed until a nurse came in to tell him he was going to be discharged.

He said he waited an hour for sisters to pick him up.

Derek had glumly muttered, “They were probably arguing over who would have to come get me,” to him as they sat in the backseat of Noah’s car.

Even Claudia, her disdain for the Hales evident on her face when Stiles introduced them, frowned at her husband and son while Derek spoke.

It was Cora who eventually showed, driving Laura’s car. Derek said Cora dropped him off at the loft without a word in the minutes it took to get from one place to the other. She didn’t even say goodbye before she drove away.

“So do you…” Stiles starts as he shuts the front door behind them. “...want the couch or…?”

Derek turns to look at the stairs with a furrowed brow. “I don’t know if I could make it up there without some help.”

“Not a problem.” Stiles flicks the lights on with his free hand and he can’t help but ask, “Are we gonna share the bed?”

Derek raises his brow and Stiles shrugs. “I dunno, I guess everything might still be a little raw so I don’t wanna...overstep.”

Stiles thinks he sees a smirk when Derek replies. “I don’t mind sharing the bed if you don’t.”

“Well, I’m not gonna say no to that so...” Stiles licks his lips and tries not to seem too eager when he lifts the bag. “I’ll bring this upstairs.”

Derek nods and Stiles steps away but he pauses at the bottom of the stairs in time to see Derek grip the back of the couch then let out a deep exhale. Stiles frowns and wonders whether Derek is feeling the pain in his ribs or his heart.

He is sitting on the couch, rigid as a board, when Stiles makes his way back to the ground floor.

“I was thinking…” he starts and watches Derek raise his brows expectantly. “Maybe we should have some rules.”

Derek repeats, “Rules,” as Stiles comes to sit beside him.

“Yeah like what’s okay and what’s not in regards to us starting our relationship over.”

“What, like no faking your death?”

Stiles points at him. “Exactly like that.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Derek says with a nod. “First and foremost, no secrets.”

“But we’re—”

Derek’s glare makes him halt. “The end of that sentence better not have been secret agents.”

Stiles makes a zipper motion over his lips to hide his grin.

Derek sighs, “And we’re going slow this time.” He tries to fold his arms over his chest but then aborts the motion with a wince. “For example, no blow jobs on the first date.”

“Alright…” Stiles grabs his own chest. “Just stop right there. This is already too much.”

Derek turns a scowl on Stiles and tells him, “You’re an idiot,” but then smiles when Stiles does. “I can’t think of anything else right now but I'll let you know when I do.”

“Can we hold hands?”

“During and after the first date, not before.”

“But we held hands in the car.”

Derek narrows his eyes. “Did we?”

“Yes.”

“Alright.” He shrugs. “Hand-holding is fine from now on.”

Stiles turns his body toward Derek and lays his arm across the back of the couch with his fingertips barely brushing the hair at the back of Derek's head.

“When can we kiss?”

“To be decided.”

“Not even a goodnight kiss on the first date?”

Derek shakes his head and Stiles can’t help but glance down at his lips.

“You sure?”

Derek offers a sly smile as he leans a little closer.

Heat pools in the pit of Stiles’ belly but Derek stops with just barely an inch between them.

He whispers, “I’m sure,” onto Stiles’ lips then backs away again.

“Look,” Stiles huffs. “If you’re gonna be a monster and tease me every day like you did the first time around, I don't know how long I'll be able to stomach it.”

Derek lets out a soft laugh and Stiles can’t even bring himself to fully enjoy it.

“That better not have been on your mind when you said you wanted to share the bed.”

“Oh.” Derek makes a face. “No it wasn’t actually.”

Stiles gives him a suspicious stare and Derek throws up his hands in surrender. “I’ll take the couch,” he says.

“You can have my bed,” Stiles counters with a shake of the head. “I’ll take the couch.”

“Are you sure?”

Stiles nods and takes his chance to grab one of Derek’s now lowered hands.

Derek watches Stiles interweave their fingers. “Anything else?”

“How long ‘til I can propose?”

Fourteen months. On the morning of Derek’s birthday, before they exchange Christmas gifts and after Stiles had slipped the ring onto Derek’s finger while he slept. Stiles will think it’s hilarious that Derek gets out of bed, makes his coffee, and is half-way through the cup before he notices the band. Derek’s eyes will blur with tears when Stiles, grin still present on his face, falls to one knee and asks for his hand in marriage. Derek will call his sisters and they will be thrilled for him, having long-forgiven his indiscretions. Stiles and Derek will exchange their vows one year afterwards, in the sunny backyard of a new dream home.

Derek searches Stiles’ eyes. “Who says I still want to marry you?”

Stiles shrugs. “Who says you don’t?”

Derek dips his head and chuckles.

Stiles pulls his hand away then reaches out to wrap both arms around Derek's shoulders before carefully leaning backward and pulling Derek down with him.

Derek sighs into Stiles’ chest as he curves his arm around Stiles’ midsection. Stiles cranes his neck to press a kiss to the top of Derek’s head then runs his hand through Derek’s hair.

They lay there where they have always been: wrapped up so wholly and perfectly in each other.

Chapter Text

“Stiles…” Derek watched his own reflection take a deep breath. “I know we haven’t been together that long but…” He stopped and scoffed, “No. Um Stiles, you and I have been together...Even though you and I have only been together for a few years, I know that...” Derek closed his eyes. “Stiles—”

A soft sound erupted behind him and he opened his eyes to see Cora's reflection. She is leaned against the bathroom door, barely hiding a grin behind her hand.

“You want some wine with all that cheese?” she teased.

Derek rolled his eyes. “Leave me alone.”

“What kind of sister would I be if I did that?”

He folds his arms over his chest and shrugged. “A decent one?”

She made a face. “That sounds hard.”

He shook his head as he turned to her. “I don’t know what to say.”

She raised her brow and snorted, “Say Stiles, will you marry me?” then shrugged. “It’s simple, it’s traditional, it’s easy to remember. Just get down on one knee, say four words. Stiles is obviously gonna say yes, and then I can start planning a wedding.”

Derek furrowed his brow. “You’re planning our wedding?”

“Well if you two do it then it’ll just be an hour of sarcasm and staring at each other.” She scoffed, “And I know that’s what you do all day every day but it’s not exactly romantic.”

"What would you know about romance?" He retorted. "You still haven't even built up the nerve to ask me if Lydia's single?"

Cora snorted derisively but her ballooned eyes betrayed her. "Why would I care if Lydia's single?"

"Y'know what?" Derek shrugged. "You're right. If you plan our wedding then that means I can have Erica be my best woman.”

Cora’s eyes and mouth made a trio of perfect circles before she cried, “You wouldn’t dare!”

He couldn’t stop himself from laughing at her face.

That memory hangs heavy and bittersweet on Derek’s heart as he makes his way toward the door. He knows his sisters are getting dressed on the other side. The sisters who haven’t spoken to him since he confessed what he did.

He thinks maybe he should get his phone and text one of them, prepare them for his arrival rather than just show up and—

The door opens so swiftly that it creates a gust that billows Braeden’s hair. She stops just short of running straight into him and when she realizes who’s standing there, her face, which wore a wide smile just a second before, falls.

“Hey,” he says uselessly.

She purses her lips but he can still see the way they quiver. It makes a lead ball form in the pit of his stomach.

She steps passed him as he opens his mouth again, though he has no idea what he was even going to say. He watches her pick up her dress in one hand so it doesn’t drag on the ground as she all but runs away from him.

When he faces the door again, Laura is standing in its frame.

His sister only meets his gaze for a second but it’s enough to chill him before she announces, “You’re late,” as she heads back inside.

“It takes a while to put on a suit with one arm,” he offers, shutting the door behind himself.

The room is very delicately decorated. The wooden walls are bare of paint, but they are wearing white string lights interwoven with white flowers along the ceiling and the intersections of the walls. The light shines a warm glow over Cora’s jumpsuit on the rack and the white furniture. Olive, who is sound asleep on the couch at the far end of the room, looks more at peace than she ever has.

“You didn’t let Stiles help you?”—Derek doesn’t like the way she says his name—“I hear you’ve been staying at his parents’ house.”

There is the distant sound of a toilet flushing.

“Who told you that?”

“What’s wrong with the loft?” Laura asks as she sits next to her sleeping daughter.

“It’s too…” He takes a deep breath as he tries to decide whether to say depressing or “Empty.”

Laura hums. “Whose fault is that?”

Cora emerges from behind a door Derek hadn’t realized was there. He furrows his brows when he sees that she’s wearing shorts and a tank top. Her hair is undone.

When she spots him, she checks both his bare hands then asks, “Where’s my drink?”

Laura replies, “Braeden went to get it.”

“Oh.”

“Though now that she knows Derek is here, she’s probably on her way to Oregon as we speak.”

The ball in his stomach rolls.

“You’re not ready?” he asks Cora as she sits sideways in the chair in front of the vanity.

“Nothing gets passed you, big brother,” she scoffs as she studies her nails. “I just want a soda before I get in my clean, white outfit.”

When the door opens again, it creaks and the sound makes Olive shift onto her side, which makes Laura puts her arm out to stop her daughter from rolling off the couch.

“Delivery,” Braeden says, her voice sullen. She studies the carpet as she holds out the chilled soda can in Cora’s direction.

“Thank you,” Cora says as she breezes passed Derek, grabs the can out of Braeden’s grasp, pops it open, and puts it to her lips in record time.

They all watch her gulp while making her way back over to the chair. She lets out a soft sound as she tips the can as far as it can go then sets the empty can on the edge of the vanity.

“I don’t know why…” Cora stops to pat her chest and belch. “But I think I would've died if I didn’t have that.”

Laura playfully asks, “Nerves?” as she reaches down to touch Olive’s hair.

“No way,” Cora replies with a scoff and a shake of the head. “I just...needed sugar I guess.”

She looks at Derek then beckons him.

When he steps over to her, she touches the underside of his chin so he’ll lift his head.

She’s adjusting his tie when Laura asks, “Did you see anyone at the vending machine?”

Braeden doesn’t give an audible response. “Why?”

“Well Cora was texting earlier and then all of a sudden she wanted a soda so I thought she and Lydia had planned to meet up back there.”

Cora rolls her eyes and makes Derek smile.

“So what if we did?” she asks as she pats Derek’s chest.

The tie is slightly tighter than it was when Stiles tied it but he thinks his sister might have done that on purpose.

“Because it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding,” Laura retorts. “It has to be double bad luck since it’s two brides.”

Cora burps, “Whatever,” then snickers at Laura’s disgusted expression. “Okay, I’m ready now.”

Laura checks her watch. “And only mere minutes before the ceremony is supposed to start.”

“Hey, I’m nothing if not consistent.”

Laura carefully rises from the chair as she remarks, “I just thought things would be different on your wedding day.”

Cora shrugs then nudges Derek with her elbow. “Get the kid some coffee or something?” she says, motioning to their niece. “She’s sleeping like the dead over there.”

Derek takes the hint and moves toward the couch.

Laura asks, “Are you gonna be okay to carry her with your arm?” as she slides her hands under Olive to lift her.

“Yeah,” he grunts, though his arm does ache when Laura rests Olive on his unaffected arm.

“We’re okay,” he says as he starts toward the door.

Despite carrying a forty-pound toddler with one arm, Derek doesn’t feel like he can really breathe until he is out in the afternoon sun again. He takes as many deep breaths as he can and holds them as long as he can.

From this vantage point, he can see people moving toward the gazebo to take their seats in the chairs surrounding it: Cora’s friends and family on one side, Lydia’s on the other. He looks up at the sky and finds nothing but blue.

Everything is just like he planned it, months before Lydia and Cora even started dating. Derek doesn’t think she realizes that he meant for him and Stiles to have this beautiful day but he’s more than happy to give it over to his baby sister.

He feels Olive breathe, “Uncle Derek?” onto his neck.

“Hey Ollie.”

She raises her head and rubs her eye. “Where’s Mommy?”

“She’s helping auntie Cora get ready for the wedding.”

“Oh.” She takes a deep breath and sighs as she looks out at the crowd, then up at the sky just like he did.

“I love your dress by the way,” he says, playing with the frilly edge. “It’s very pretty.”

“Thank you,” she mutters then rests her chin on his shoulder.

“And who fixed your hair so nice?”

“Auntie Bay.”

The lead ball seals itself into place again.

Derek hums. “Did you tell her she did a good job?”

“Yeah,” Olive sighs then turns her face into his neck again.

“Okay,” Laura pronounces, making her daughter sit up on Derek’s arm as she approaches. “She’s dressed.”

Braeden is tailing Laura, but she keeps walking after Laura stops to collect her daughter.

“She’s still fixing her hair,” Laura says as she sets Olive on her hip. “And... I guess Braeden is off to tell them to start the march?”

Derek purses his lips. He doesn’t know if his sister is feigning ignorance or not, but he knows that Braeden kept walking because the last thing she wants to do is stand near him.

“So I'm gonna get this little one”—She bounces Olive on her hip—“through her flower girl duties and you two meet me when you hear the march start.”

Derek nods and his sister steps away.

He starts watching the crowd again, half-wishing they were here for him.

His phone vibrates in his pocket and Derek can hear that door opening then closing behind him as he reads Stiles’ message: I’m sitting on Lydia’s side.

Clacking footsteps stop next to him and Cora touches his arm when she says, “Hey.”

He slides the phone back into his pocket as he takes her in.

“You look so beautiful,” he says after a moment. “Mom and Dad would...”

“Mom and Dad wouldn’t want us being mad at each other today.”

She’s almost level with him in her shoes and he can see the sincerity in her gaze.

“They would want us here to celebrate love and nothing else so…” She takes a deep breath and looks passed him at the crowd. She exhales, “I love you, big brother.”

Derek gulps and he can feel his eyes stinging.

“You did a stupid, sick thing and, make no mistake, I’m going right back to being pissed at you tomorrow morning, but I will always love you.”

Derek nods. “I love you too.”

“And Laura loves you.”

He almost scoffs.

“Even though she’s still going act mad at you as if she’s never cheated on anyone before.”

What?” Derek can’t help but imagine that if he was drinking something, he would have spat it out all over his sister. “When d—”

“The march is playing!” Cora interjects then loops her arm around his. “Let’s go get me married!”

Finally,” Laura grouses as they approach her. “I was just about to come see if you’d run off.”

She makes no mention of her siblings’ interwoven arms as they walk toward her and Derek makes no mention of Cora’s admission.

Laura says, “Lydia’s dad is starting to look like he was about to come ask me where you were and you know I can't stand him,” as she makes her way to Cora’s other side and locks their arms too.

“Laura,” Derek starts as the crowd stands to welcome the brides. “I love you.”

Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees her turn her head to first shoot a glance at Cora then up at him.

“I love you too baby brother,” she replies as she looks ahead again. “But I won't promise not to slug your boyfriend at the reception.”

Cora snickers, “Sounds like every other Hale wedding,” and her siblings struggle to maintain their composures as they walk her toward the gazebo.

The ceremony is beautiful. Derek can hear a cacophony of sniffles while Cora says her vows. He even sees Laura, her distracted child in her lap and Braeden on her left, reach up to wipe her face. He smiles and makes a mental note to ask Cora if she wanted any wine with all that cheese.

When they say ‘I do’, Derek gives in to the temptation to turn over his shoulder and search for those brown eyes in the crowd

He finds them staring right back at him.

Stiles winks and the lead ball that Derek had been carrying around that afternoon immediately breaks apart. He has Stiles back. Annoying, flirty, bewitching Stiles is alive and back where Derek can see him, talk to him, touch and feel him.

Derek faces his sister and her new bride again, sure that he and Stiles will have their time to say those words to each other on another beautiful, blue sky day. One day.