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The Sins of My Caretaker

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It smells like smoke, that's what wakes him up. It doesn't smell like burning wood, which would really freak him out, it just smells disgusting like—

Stiles takes a very deep breath. “ISAAC, I AM GOING TO WRING YOUR FUCKING NECK IF YOU'RE SETTING DOG SHIT ON FIRE AGAIN!”

It's not like the neighborhood isn't used to waking up to the sound of Stiles threatening one of his siblings with his head out the window, but it's not the best way to start his probably crappy day.

“Little shit is burning Erica's Barbies,” Lydia says from where she leans on the door frame. She's wearing a pair of God-knows-whose boxers and last night's make up.

“Well, it smells like all hell and I don't feel like dealing with tight asses from the City today.” He takes another deep breath. “ISAAC, I SWEAR TO GOD, PUT THAT OUT.”

He manages to pull on a pair of sweatpants and a shirt, stomping his way downstairs. It’s cold, even though it hasn’t started snowing yet, and Erica is probably just waking up. He’ll have to make sure she gets on the bus to school, get Scott dressed and ready too. Last day of school before winter break, exactly what they all need.

When he gets downstairs, Isaac is being dragged inside by Lydia, half burned Barbies in his hand. Stiles snatches them, glaring at Isaac. “Don’t,” he says. “We don’t burn other people’s stuff.”

“She's always trying to make me play with them,” the boy grunts.

Lydia gears him towards the stairs. “Come on, bug, we're going to find that secret stash you use to buy your pyro shit and we're going to buy her new ones.”

“School,” Stiles pleads.

“Fine,” Lydia snaps and then glares at Isaac. “We're going after school.”

“Fine,” Isaac snaps right back as he shrugs her off and hurries up the stairs.

Stiles stares after him. “I swear to God, he’s getting more like a teenager every fucking day.” He drags a hand through his hair. “What are you doing here? You have classes to get to.”

Lydia shakes her head. “Taking the day off.”

“I didn’t even know you slept here last night.”

“My roommate was having an all-night orgy with some friends, thought I’d sleep better without their asses in my face.” She jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “I don’t need to go to class today, so I’ll take them to the bus stop. You want me to make them lunch?”

He leans forward and drops his forehead on her shoulder. “Please.”

She pats his back. “What's the plan today?”

“I got a tiny ass shift at work but it's something, and Jerk Face might not be there offering bonuses for blow jobs.”

“Well, we've got milk that doesn't expire for another week,” she snorts, “so I think we're not that hard-pressed, sweet cheeks.”

He sighs and clenches his eyes shut. “Can you build us a robot so we can be rich?”

“I'm working on it,” she says as she kisses the top of his head. “Sleep a little longer.”

“No, I'm gonna go see if I can pick up a shift at the bar or some construction.” He squeezes her arm and jogs upstairs to pull on real clothes. The guy who runs the construction site across from the Wolf’s Den is gay as all hell but married with two kids. If Stiles flirts with him for even a second, he can probably work there over the weekend, which will save him from his inability to pull shifts at the grocery store because of crowding. After that, he’ll drop in on Danny at the bar and try to pick up enough tips to count as, like, partial minimum wage at least.

He dresses for the weather: jeans, sweater, boots, a beanie, even ties a little scarf around his neck because he’s feeling classy. Erica is sitting at the dining table when he gets downstairs, and he drops a perfunctory kiss on her head, ruffles Isaac’s hair, and kisses Scott’s cheek before he’s out, waving his goodbye to Lydia.

He's not a hundred percent sure that he can make it through the weekend of construction work without getting cornered by the creeper he flirted with to get the gig, but he is pretty sure he can do his fucking best. He's done a great job of avoiding the advances so far. Still, by the time he gets to Danny's on Sunday he wants to have a drink more than sell any.

“Beer,” he says, untangling his scarf and plopping down on a barstool.

Danny nods, already pouring it. “How was your day?” he asks. “Manage to keep creepy hands off of you?”

“Homophobic asshole thinks he can pinch my ass and still say he’s straight?” Stiles mutters over his glass. “Fuck that. Show me one real man who owns up to being attracted to me, and I will put your kids through college, Danny.”

“Promise?” Danny asks, setting out a bowl of peanuts.

“You need help tonight?”

“No,” he says, “but I can go home early and actually see my family if you wanna gather some tips. You gotta stay until close though.”

“I can do that,” Stiles says with a smile. Honestly he's exhausted, but tips are good honest money. No one tries to get with him or push him around because he's skinny and graceless here. They just want their drinks and someone who will listen to them bitch about their lives.

“How’re your kids?”

Stiles shrugs. “Lydia keeps coming home, which is great because God knows I need her there, but it sucks because she's supposed to stay at school. Do college you know? She earned it.”

“She thinks you should be with her,” Danny says. “She told me so.”

“Well the rest need someone to feed them so.” Stiles shrugs and takes another gulp of his beer. “Besides can you imagine me at college? Please.”

Danny shrugs. “If you hadn’t cut school early—man, you would’ve ruined everyone, same as Lydia. You guys were going to do some important shit.”

“You were gonna go to MIT,” Stiles counters. “Why are you still here?”

“Same reason you are,” Danny admits. “We got fucked.”

Stiles knows Danny’s story, knows that he was a good kid with a lot of promise who fell into the wrong crowd, gave away his knowledge and his body and ended up with some fucked up venereal disease that left him sterile. Then, worst of all, he had to go ahead and fall in love with somebody who had AIDS. Guy died, but not before they became foster parents, and not before they had three kids living in their tiny house.

Stiles raises what's left of his beer. “Well here's to not fucking up the little ones.”

“Isn't your brother a pyro?”

“Okay, well you can't win 'em all. Besides he's a good kid at heart. He just solves shit with fire.”

Danny shrugs and grabs Stiles' beer for a sip. “Okay I'm gonna go home then. It's Sunday so you can kick them out at one.”

Stiles nods and hops over the bar, ready for a long night.

He’s not really paying attention when the guy comes in. The whole night, people have been coming in and out, and it’s half past midnight now, so close to closing that Stiles is practically salivating. The tippers haven’t been especially generous, but if he charges the bitch in the corner who insists on smoking her cigarette indoors a little bit extra, it’s no one’s business. He doesn’t think Danny will mind.

But anyway, the guy comes in and strips off his outer jacket, hanging it up on a hook by the door, his scarf over it. He even has gloves that he tucks into the pockets. Then he wanders over the bar, sits down right in front of Stiles, and says, “Can I get a beer?”

Stiles doesn't have to stare too long to know this guy is not from the neighborhood. Well first of all Stiles knows everyone in the neighborhood, but also the man is wearing a fucking Rolex like he has a death wish.

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says as he grabs one quickly. “Did your car break down or something? Cause Toby over there is a mechanic and he's not that drunk.”

The guy shakes his head. “I’m in town visiting somebody. Why?”

Stiles shrugs. “Just, uh—your watch. Not used to that kind of bling around here.” He looks the guy up and down, from his cut waist to his broad shoulders, to his well-trimmed beard and green eyes. “You’re not from here. Obviously.”

“Yeah? That obvious?”

“Yeah. You pick the Wolf’s Den of all places to walk into wearing that?” He points at the watch. “And lemme guess, that leather jacket is real, too. Shit, dude.”

The guy cringes. “Just had to meet with someone here.”

“You need to get a better dealer,” Stiles snorts. “The Ukranians make house calls. They send their cleanest looking kid too.”

“I’m not—I’m not looking to pick up drugs.” He whispers the last word, like he thinks Stiles is a cop or something.

“Yeah?” Stiles asks, leaning against the bar. “So who are you meeting?”

The guy scratches the back of his neck. “You don’t know her.”

“Baby mama?”

He arches an eyebrow. “No,” he says.

“Okay, man, just asking.”

He goes back to getting pretzels and peanuts for people, pockets some cash, and by the time he gets back to start cleaning up, there’s a shapely figure walking away from the bar and the guy sitting there looks like he’s just been drained of all will to live.

“Sister?” Stiles asks. “Aunt? Annoying relation?”

The guy taps the bar. “What’s your name?”

“Stiles. You?”

“Derek.” He sits up a little bit straighter. “You really wanna know?”

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah, dude. My life’s pretty boring.”

“Her name’s Kate. Fucked around when I was in high school. Hooked up about two months back, worst decision of my fucking life. Filmed us having sex and wants to put it online. I paid her off for the tape.” He has a little flash drive between his fingers. “This is why I don’t fuck women.”

“What’s one sex tape, dude? It’s not like there aren’t a million of them on the internet.” Stiles narrows his eyes. “Wait, you paid her? Like big bucks? How important are you?”

“Not,” Derek answers, short and simple. “Not important.”

“Liar.” He looks up, watches as the other few guys around leave. One of them stops by to drop a dollar in the little glass by the edge of the bar. Stiles nods at him.

“Closing time?” Derek asks.

“Not into women, huh?” Stiles evades. “That a recent development?”

“She was the only girl I ever—I just prefer men.”

Stiles nods. “Of course.”

Derek looks amused. “I should get going.”

“What’s the rush?”

It’s unspoken, just like every pickup Stiles conducts. They’re adults, they know what they’re getting into, and Stiles doesn’t even have to ask Derek to follow him. He just does, as soon as Stiles turns his back and starts heading towards the back of the bar. They’re not much back there, a storage of alcohol, extra bags of pretzels, and the “secret” lock box that Danny keeps emergency cash in.

He doesn’t turn before there are hands on his hips, breath on the back of his neck.

“You’re really hot,” Derek says. “Fuck, you’re—”

“Yeah—take off your pants.”

“You do this a lot?” Derek asks, ignoring Stiles’ demand and turning him so he can get at his mouth. “Pick up the last guy sitting at your bar?”

“No,” Stiles says shortly. “Usually if I want to pick somebody up at a bar, I don’t come to the fucking Wolf’s Den.” He kisses Derek harshly, shoving the leather jacket off his shoulders. It’s satisfying when it falls to the floor with a heavy thump. Then there’s his stupidly tight T-shirt, and Stiles gets that off of him too, dragging it up and watching with delight at it musses up his hair.

Derek’s hands are busy on Stiles’ belt, tugging down his jeans.

“I’ve got lube,” Stiles tells him.

“Where.” It’s not a question.

Danny keeps some hidden in the back. He’s a savvy guy, trying to keep this business from going under, so he manages to keep customers happy in a couple of ways. He’s never the one getting down and dirty with people for money, but he looks the other way if it goes out upstairs and takes a sort of finger’s fee while he’s at it.

“Condom too,” Derek adds, when Stiles stumbles away to grab the lube.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Stiles ends up leaning forward against stacked crates of vodka. Derek is precise, obviously knows what he’s doing, and Stiles can feel himself already getting pit stains through his sweater. He drags it off from the back, pulling it over his head and using it as a cushion for his arms.

“Fuck,” Derek says softly, and then Stiles feels lips against his back. “Fucking beautiful.”

“You don’t have to sweet talk me; I’m already letting you fuck me.”

In truth, it’s been a really long time since Stiles had a good fuck. He hooked up with some chick a couple of weeks ago, but she was boring. Her only redeeming quality was how slutty she was for his dick. It made him feel wanted. Like he feels now.

Derek’s fingers inside of him are fucking perfect. It’s a seamless progression from one finger, to two, to three, and Stiles doesn’t let him get any further than that. They’ve wasted too much already, just doing that. Their foreplay has been limited, and Stiles has barely even touched Derek.

At first, after the condom’s rolled on, Derek just pushes inside, forehead against Stiles’ shoulder blades, hands gripping Stiles’ hips. It feels amazing, phenomenal really, and Derek is—big. Stiles hadn’t even seen, hadn’t gotten a chance to touch, and it is now one of his biggest regrets. But he can’t spend too much time worrying about it because it feels too good inside of him.

He moans, gripping his sweater. “Fuck, Derek, are you gonna fuck me or just stand there?”

“How about,” Derek counters, “you fuck me.”

“Dude, not that I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to get my dick inside an ass as fucking glorious as yours, but we’re kind of in the middle of something.”

Derek chuckles, rolls his hips, and it knocks all of the air out of Stiles in an instant. “I meant,” Derek says a moment later, “fuck yourself on me.”

“That’s the goal, man.”

Derek pulls out and Stiles doesn’t even whine about it, just shoves Derek down onto a box and straddles him. Now he can look at Derek’s cock, appreciate it, even when it’s wearing a dumb blue condom. Stiles rolls his eyes at Danny’s ridiculous condom stash and instead focuses on how Derek’s dick feels in his hand, how it looks, how Derek’s breath changes as Stiles strokes him.

“Jesus Christ,” Derek says, low, breathy.

“You can just call me Stiles.”

“Funny.” He gets his hands on Stiles’ ass. “C’mon.”

It’s not slow. It’s not patient. It’s hard, relentless fucking, and Stiles has missed the likes of it so fucking much. Derek is perfect for this, built for this, with sturdy arms and an amazing dick. He’s toned and gorgeous and he doesn’t even seem close after ten minutes of Stiles riding him with his insistent pace. He’s the perfect fuck toy, and Stiles would probably continue to think so a few minutes later if Derek didn’t arch up and kiss Stiles, slow and sweet and tender. He slows Stiles’ hips to an easy, rolling pace, keeps Stiles all tangled up and protected in his arms, so close that their chests brush with every movement.

“What are you doing?” Stiles says on an exhale, griping Derek’s shoulders as Derek’s mouth moves to his neck.

“Fucking you. Like you asked.”

Stiles closes his eyes. “Fuck.”

“You got it.” Derek kisses across his neck, his collarbone, his chest. He can’t get very low, but he strokes his hands along Stiles’ stomach and thighs, like he’s trying to warm up an uncooperative engine by footing the accelerator. At this point, though, Stiles is so far gone he doesn’t even mind. He’s floating in a hazy world of pleasure, and he doesn’t want it to end. He’ll take what Derek gives him, relish in it, and then fuck his way to coming once Derek is done with his little slow adventure.

It takes a long time. It’s been a long time. It’s been—he doesn’t know, can’t think about it. His eyes are heavy, his head is lolling from one side to the other, and his cock is lazily dripping droplets of pre-come down his cock. Derek shoves his face into Stiles’ neck, breathing hard. They’re both sweating, both losing it, and Stiles can’t believe that his most intense sexual experience is happening in the back of the Wolf’s Den. Danny will never let him live it down.

“Wanna come?” Stiles manages to ask, moving a little faster, pushing a little harder, dropping down onto Derek’s cock more impatiently.

Derek nods, gets his fingers on Stiles’ nipples. They’re already hard, but Derek rolls them between his fingers, petting them, soothing them, making them hurt all over again. Stiles kisses him in an attempt to distract him away, but it only makes Derek’s hands move up to Stiles’ neck.

“Come,” Stiles orders. “Come on; come in me.”

Derek groans, hitching his hips up. It’s like a fucking race or something. Suddenly they’re both moving in hard, fast thrusts, trying to get the other off first. Derek wraps a hand around Stiles’ dick, tugs him sturdily, and Stiles—Stiles loses it. He can’t even care that he comes three strokes into it. He’s too happy to come, too exhilarated by the most intense orgasm he’s had in what must be years, too exhausted by the effort his body is putting into coming, shaking him apart and destroying him.

Derek isn’t far behind. He thrusts into Stiles’ lax body a few more times and then he’s done, forehead pressed against Stiles’ shoulder, arms wrapped around him. It’s almost kind of tender, and Stiles pets Derek’s hair while he comes down.

“Hey,” Stiles says.

Derek smirks. “Hey.” He licks his lips. “Not that I didn’t really enjoy getting to fuck you in the back of the bar, but—you have a place?”

Stiles blinks. “I live with my family. And it’s late. I have to—get back.”

“Can I see you again?”

He reaches into Derek's pocket, grabbing from his jeans on the floor, and pulls out his cell, turning to him just so that he can unlock it before he puts in his number, one hands still petting at Derek's hair. He puts it right back where he found it. “Yup.”

Stiles tries to put himself together, dressing carefully, slowly, and Derek lingers while he closes.

“Let me give you a ride home,” Derek says when they get out of the bar and he sees Stiles hasn't got a car.

“I always walk,” Stiles says, but it's really fucking cold so he doesn't have much coy in him about the subject.

“You’ll freeze to death,” Derek argues. “C’mon.”

Derek’s car is fucking sleek. It’s obviously expensive, relatively new, and it handles like a dream. Oh, yeah. Derek lets him drive.

When Stiles pulls up in front of his house, he’s more than a little ashamed. It’s falling apart, needs a new coat of paint or a bomb to level it.

“Thanks,” Stiles says stiffly. “I—I’ll see you around.”

Derek catches his neck, kisses him firmly. “I’ll call you. Tomorrow.”

“Right,” Stiles says, because it's nice of him to keep a chill attitude even though he's probably realizing that Stiles is as trashy as it gets and he should get back to his nice, well-heated house. At least Stiles will get to tell people that he fucked a rich dude half an hour after meeting him.

Derek gets into the driver’s seat, and when Stiles looks towards his porch, he’s suddenly faced with a sickening disappointment that he knows too well. It’s not—good, but it’s what he has, and he walks inside without looking back out at Derek.

Lydia pokes her head out of her room when he gets upstairs. “You’re home late.”

“Closed the bar for Danny,” Stiles says.

“Hm.” She looks down the hall. “They all fell asleep a while ago. Scott was asking for you.”

Stiles sighs and pokes his head into Scott's room. He looks tiny even for his age, all curled up around his ridiculously old teddy. All of them have hugged that bear at some point or another and miraculously none of them have ever puked on it.

“Sweet dreams, kiddo,” he whispers before making his way into his room. Tomorrow is the first day of Winter Break and it's going to be hell.


 

Stiles doesn’t touch his phone all day. He’s running Martin Daycare, which means every kid under twelve in the area is going to be at their house. They have heating and movies and popcorn, and some of the moms have supplied cookies and decorative frosting for them. There’s going to be a nap time, and a story time, and every other type of time that Stiles can think of. He’s getting thirty bucks a kid, which is fucking remarkable (an extra five bucks each than over the summer), and at least he has Erica to help him out. Lydia has finals, which means she’s still finishing up at school and won’t be back for at least four days, but Erica is great with the younger kids, and she’ll manage to keep them all under control.

He isn’t expecting the door to ring. There’s no reason it should. All of the scheduled kids are there, and it’s already the afternoon. Unless Danny dropped by, there’s no reason—but apparently there is, because when Stiles opens the door, Derek is on the other side of it.

He holds up his phone. “You didn’t pick up.”

Stiles blinks. “I—uh. I’m busy.”

Derek tries peeking past Stiles’ shoulder, but Stiles moves, blocks his view. “Look, if you don’t want to see me,” Derek says, “then just tell me.”

“I—don’t understand what you’re doing here.”

“I wanted to see you. You didn’t pick up your phone.”

“Why would you want to see me?”

“Because I had a good time last night and you're cute and I like you,” Derek says, sort of slowly like Stiles might have some mental problem he didn't detect the night before.

“But—oh. Look, that's cool and all and I'm not opposed to some fun, but I'm not going to be like some trashy whore you go visit when you're bored. I have too much shit to do and a disproportionate amount of self respect.”

“Stiles,” Derek says and he looks amused, “I just wanna go out with you.”

Stiles blinks. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “Are you actually busy?”

Just as he asks something crashes behind him and Stiles winces. “You're going to take this all back in about 17 seconds. Come in.”

It’s a disaster zone. There are eight kids around the couch and the floor, watching some gruesome movie that Isaac picked play on the television. In the kitchen, there are half a dozen kids smearing frosting over cookies and launching gumdrops at each other. Around the stairs, there are another four kids tearing apart children’s books so old that Stiles remembers reading them when he was little.

Derek stands between the living room and the kitchen, looking back and forth, before locking eyes with Stiles.

“They’re not—all yours.”

Stiles shakes his head. “Daycare for the neighborhood.”

“I thought you ran the Wolf’s Den?”

“Favor for Danny last night and a way to pick up some extra money. Danny’s the guy who owns the place.”

Derek blinks. “How many are yours?”

“Three of them.” He points. “The blond kid watching Kill Bill, the girl with frosting in her hair, and a little boy taking a nap upstairs.”

“Oh.”

“They’re my siblings.”

Oh,” Derek says again, this time with more emphasis, a slightly relieved expression taking over his face. “Well, that’s—I mean—”

The dryer starts making the awful whining breaking noise again and everyone in the house winces. Stiles marches over and kicks it, turns it off. They can only run it in ten minute cycles before it freaks out. Then, of course, there’s the fucked up staircase, the broken door that’s meant to separate Stiles’ room from the rest of the house, and the fridge that doesn’t get cold enough to be worth anything.

Stiles mentions all of this and more, face flushing red, stomach churning, trying to calculate just how long it’s going to take for Derek to tuck tail and run.

“Okay, well, they probably shouldn't be watching that movie but by the looks of it that ship has sailed,” he says as he cranes his neck around to look about the room.

“Yeah, look, maybe it's best if you—”

“Try to get the ones by the stairs while you take care of the kitchen?” Derek asks. “I don't know who's who and this is going to take more direction than just prying those from the books. I'll be right back.”

And he goes. He goes to the stairs and starts picking up kids one by one, taking the books from their hands and placing them high on the kitchen shelf where they can’t reach. He has two in each arm, all of them squirming against each other, and he grins at Stiles—who’s still just standing there—as he carries them into the living room. In there, he organizes everyone and takes out the DVD, putting on something Disney instead, and even though Isaac throws a fit, Derek manages to shut him up by handing him his phone to play with, and Stiles still can’t move.

“Forget how to use your feet?” Derek asks as he strolls back into the kitchen. “You wash the frosting out of your sister’s hair, I’ll clean up the others. Do you have more cookie dough? I can put some in the oven for the rest of them.”

Stiles blinks. Derek beams, leans in to kiss him, and goes to start dunking elementary school kids in the sink.

Nap time rolls around and even the oldest of them fall like lead after a whole morning of rambunctiously destroying his house. Derek looks dead to the world, beautiful, but very much like he was run over by an 18-wheeler. He's trying to quietly do dishes when Stiles puts the last kid down and hops up on the kitchen counter.

“You didn't have to do that,” Stiles says.

“Well you need the help.” Derek shrugs. “I wasn't doing anything else today.”

“But you didn't need to,” Stiles insists. “I already had sex with you.”

“Oh, is that it then?” Derek says through a grin. “Is the wooing over? Do we have to settle into our old married couple life already?”

Stiles shrugs. He has no other way to respond to that. “They like you,” he says eventually. “They don’t like anybody.”

Derek shrugs. “I’m pretty sure Isaac likes anyone who lets him play with stuff, but I only met him like two hours ago.” He takes a half step towards where Stiles is seated, his legs swinging back and forth. His hand is still damp and soapy when he lays it on Stiles’. “I haven’t forgotten why I came here, Stiles. Go out with me.”

Stiles looks down at their hands. “You still want to try to date me after all of this?”

“Why do you think this would put me off? You’re—you’re a good guy, a great role model for these kids. You’re trying your hardest in a rough situation. I respect that. I get that.”

“You don’t get shit,” Stiles hisses, jumping off the counter. “You’re some—some fucking rich boy who has enough money to throw around against a sex tape scandal, who drives a fucking Camaro, who thinks he can just waltz in here and tell me he gets it. You don’t. You don’t get it. So don’t try to fucking tell me you do.”

Derek has his hands up. “Okay, fine, maybe I don't get it, maybe I'm never in this part of town. But maybe I was supposed to be. And I want to. I want to get it.”

Stiles doesn't know how to fight him anymore. He knows it's a bad idea. He knows this is going to fuck him up and a fucked up Stiles can't take care of the kids and he knows all this but he still sags against the counter and lets Derek pull him in. There is the biggest difference in the world, Stiles thinks, from the guy he fucked last night and the man standing in his arms right now. There isn’t a man alive who can be a sex god and a good man. He doesn’t exist.

“Trust me,” Derek says quietly. “I want to. I want you.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“So teach me.”

Instead, Stiles kisses him. “Come upstairs.”

Derek doesn’t argue. No one’s up here except Scott, but he’s awake and sitting on the floor in the room he shares with Isaac, playing with some little toys. Stiles scoops him up, Scott excited and happy to see him, babbling nonsense about his toys. Stiles takes him down to Erica, who’s in charge of the slumbering kids.

“Be good for her, Scotty. Yeah?”

He nods firmly. “Be good for Erica.”

“Good job, kid,” he says, kissing the top of his head.

“We can't screw around,” Stiles says, even as he pulls Derek into his room. “Isaac can set things on fire in his sleep.”

“I kind of figured that for myself, thanks,” Derek says with a huge roll of his eyes and he doesn't miss a beat before he pulls Stiles in and starts kissing him like that's all there is to do in the world.

It feels like he’s a teenager again, except he didn’t really go around kissing a lot of boys in high school, not on this side of town. All the same, they make out for what feels like hours, lazy kisses, long slow groping. Derek kisses him like he needs Stiles’ mouth to be able to breathe properly.

Stiles pets Derek’s face. “You’re tired,” he mutters.

Derek nods. “Kids are exhausting.”

“Tell me about it,” Stiles whispers and he feels himself getting smitten and he's too old to be this stupid. “It's nap time you know.”

“Gotta keep an ear on them,” Derek mumbles, but his eyes are closing and it's adorable.

“It's okay,” Stiles tells him as he plays with the hair at the nape of his neck. “I've got parent ears, anything wakes me.”

“Good to know,” Derek says, and then he’s rolling until he’s situated contently against Stiles’ body, head on his shoulder, arm over his stomach. Stiles smiles to himself, rubbing his hand up and down Derek back, listening to his breathing deepen as he falls asleep.


 

Derek stays. He helps with the kids after nap time, helps sort them out to get them back to their parents, orders dinner from the Chinese place a couple blocks away and pays for it, and sits on Stiles’ bed with him afterwards. He sleeps there, wears Stiles’ clothes home in the morning, and returns several hours later with delivery men and giant boxes.

Stiles stares as the uniformed strangers infiltrate his house.

“What are these?” he asks, arms crossed over his chest. It’s still Martin Daycare, and everyone’s running around, climbing on the delivery men and punching the boxes. Erica darts around, trying to stop them, and Derek joins her after he answers Stiles’ question.

“Things.”

The things Derek has brought are: a new refrigerator, a washer, a dryer, a plumber, and a handyman to fix up Stiles’ bedroom door.

“What?”

Derek's corralled a couple of kids into one of the now empty boxes. A giant refrigerator which doesn't look like it would fit in their kitchen but somehow does. The kids seem content to turn the box into a pirate ship and Derek looks pleased with himself.

“I got things, stuff you need, nothing crazy. It's not like I got an X-Box.”

Isaac's eyes light up. “Can you though?”

Derek shrugs. “Christmas is coming up.”

“Derek,” Stiles hisses, “don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“Who says I won’t keep it?” He kisses Stiles quickly. “You needed some stuff, I got it for you. End of story.”

“We can’t afford—”

“I didn’t ask you to.” Derek squeezes his shoulder. “I’m gonna help the guy fix your door. If you gotta take a piss, use the Port-A-Potty across the street at the Lancomb’s house, because this other guy’s gonna fix the upstairs toilet and the water pressure in the shower.”

Stiles just stares after him as he goes, words trapped in his throat.

“Is Derek your boyfriend?” Isaac asks.

“I don't know,” Stiles says, awed and slightly terrified. “He's something.”

“Well, whatever he is,” Erica says as she inspects the new dryer, “you better keep him.”

“Thank you for your sage advice.” He points to the living room. “Go. I’ll make lasagna for dinner.”

They scurry off, carrying their pirate ship into the living room to sit in while they watch television. Scott is sitting at the table still, staring at Isaac patiently. The kid is only five years old, but he’s quiet—so quiet that Stiles and Lydia have been worried for years that he kid was partially deaf somehow. The free clinic isn’t a great help, though. They don’t have the resources to test for that shit.

“Hey, Scotty,” Stiles says, sitting down next to him. He cleans off Scott’s face. It has jam on it, left over from sandwiches at lunchtime probably.

Scott laughs because that's something Scott does a lot, smile and laugh. He also likes to grab at Stiles’ cheeks and press their foreheads together like he's trying to mind meld with him.

“Sometimes I wish you were a little older, Scotty,” Stiles sighs. “I have the feeling you would give like the best advice.”

Scott just smiles brightly and lifts up his arms. “Stiles,” he says, and Stiles takes Scott into his arms, hugging him tightly.

“As for now,” Stiles says softly, “you give the best hugs.”

Derek comes back after his door is apparently fixed and kisses the side of his neck. “How long's the daycare happening?”

Stiles leans his head back. Derek is beautiful; he can be upside down or asleep or tired or fucked out and he's still beautiful. “Until school starts in two weeks,” Stiles says. It reminds him that he just met Derek three days ago. That all of this is crazy and fucked up and somehow bad. But it isn't bad yet. Not yet. “Do you have places to be?” Stiles asks. “You don’t have to hang out here.”

“I know. I want to.” He squeezes Stiles’ sides. “Just wondering when the next time we’ll get to be alone together is.”

Stiles smirks. “My sister’s coming home from school in two days. Think you can wait that long?”

Derek nods, sucks on Stiles’ neck. “Yeah. I can wait.”

Derek doesn't act creepy like most people he's been with. He doesn't try to blow him with the kids just out the door or to grope him in front of anyone. There is groping, and kissing, but it's never weird. It's never when Stiles is obviously doing something else or in front of the kids or more than he wants. He doesn't even mention being alone again until Lydia gets home, sizes him up and pats Stiles on the back.

“Held down the fort and got some ass? Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't getting far in life, kid.”

Stiles snorts and wipes God knows what off his arm. “So you're good to take care of things here?”

“It's Martin Daycare isn't it? Of course I can handle it. Go, get out, fuck somewhere pricey.”

Once they're in Derek's car he turns to Stiles while his eyebrows do a weird thing. “What did she mean by that?”

“Uh, that we should go have sex in a hotel instead of my hovel?”

“No,” Derek snorts. “I got that part. I meant the part about Martin Daycare.”

“Oh,” Stiles laughs. “She means because she's the actual Martin in the family.”

Derek frowns. “I thought you two were twins?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, we are. The thing is—our mom.” Stiles always has a hard time telling this story, hasn’t told it since he was in middle school, probably. But with Derek, it doesn’t feel weird. “She was—sick, and poor, and she didn’t really have a lot. And, uh, there was this guy in the neighborhood who really liked her. She was beautiful and young and he loved her and so he wanted to marry her and give her stuff. She was in love with this other guy, though, a low-level cop who really couldn’t afford to marry her at the time, so she married Lydia’s dad but had an affair with my dad. Lydia and I, we’re twins, but we have different fathers.”

“That’s—interesting.” He smirks. “I mean, it’s cool. It’s really cool.”

Stiles shrugs. “I feel bad sometimes, because I’m not—I’m their brother, but I’m not, you know? Like, my dad’s out there somewhere. I should’ve—I should’ve looked for him, probably, but I—I had stuff to do.”

“You were taking care of your family.” Derek nods. “That’s what you do.”

Stiles licks his lips. “I wouldn’t want him to think I’m looking for handouts, you know? When I find him, I want him to know that I was a good kid, that I did good things.”

Derek reaches across the seats and puts a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “I’m sure he’d be proud of you, Stiles.”

Stiles shrugs. “She always told me he was a good guy. Better than the other one. I mean anyone would be really. He's a mean drunk.”

“Is he around?”

Stiles shrugs. “He comes around sometimes. We don't really let him in. I mean the time before last is when he dropped off Scott. We tried to look for his mom but there's only so much we can do. And Erica, she's always so sad when her dad comes around and she doesn't get why we turn him away. She's too sweet. Too good.”

“That's not a bad thing,” Derek says quietly. “You're good as well.”

“No, I'm not. I'm just trying to keep them all alive. Out of juvie. Get them out of here.”

“You will.” Derek squeezes. “It’s gonna be okay, Stiles. You’re good to them. You’re taking good care of them.”

They end up at a hotel in the city. It’s fancy and beautiful they have a valet to park Derek’s car. They go inside and get a room, and nobody even says anything about the fact that they don’t have bags. Apparently it doesn’t matter.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Derek says in the elevator, wrapping an arm around him.

“I’m not embarrassed. I’ve had sex in drive-thrus, Derek. I’ve had sex in my high school library. I once even had sex in the back of a bar,” he adds with a grin. “There’s no reason being at a beautiful, luxurious hotel to have an afternoon of mind-blowing sex should embarrass me.”

“And yet your hand keeps shaking,” Derek says as he grabs it and gives it a kiss like they're in some novel of the type Erica shouldn't be reading but is.

Stiles licks his lips and tugs Derek out of the elevator as soon as they reach their floor.

They fuck a lot. They fuck against the door when they first get there, Derek sucking Stiles down his throat until he’s pounding against the wall to try to keep himself from coming. They fuck on the floor, Derek fingering Stiles open and nosing at his spent cock, laughing as Stiles apologizes for coming. They fuck on the bed, finally, with Derek pushing inside and pulling Stiles’ legs up onto his shoulders. And when they’ve both come an even number of times—three each, which takes nearly two hours—they get out of the shower and collapse on the bed, curled up together.

Stiles pushes his face into Derek’s shoulder. “I forgot what it was like.”

“Sex?”

“Being with someone.”

“There's a difference,” Derek says.

“Yeah,” Stiles mumbles, “I know.”

Derek pulls him away and kisses him. It's slow and it make Stiles want to shake and cry and wake up. He doesn't want this to get any better before it goes to shit. And it will. A part of him that gets quieter every day knows that. He's falling fast and hard for Derek and it's going to end in tears.


 

“What’s his deal?” Lydia asks, helping a three-year-old into a coat so they can all go into the yard and play with the snow. “I mean, he buys you all this shit—”

“Language,” Stiles hisses.

“—and fucks you stupid—”

Lydia!”

“—and doesn’t ask for anything in return? Is he a drug dealer? Are you buying from him?”

“What the hell would I be buying from him,” Stiles whispers. “I don't do anything.”

“You smoke plenty of pot,” Lydia says with a raised eyebrow.

Stiles shrugs. “Everyone smokes pot. No one gets that rich off pot. It's like—he's just rich; he's just a rich person. He likes me.” He says the last quietly, like he's scared to believe it might be true. Lydia looks at him like she doesn't believe it for a moment.

“He wants something. Figure out what it is and whether you can afford to let him have it.”

She picks up the kid and carries him down the steps. Stiles watches her go. The hard part is that he knows that she’s right. He knows that Derek has to have some sort of end goal, something that he wants from Stiles, and Stiles isn’t sure that he’s prepared to give it up, whatever it is. He doesn’t want to leave his family, won’t leave his family. They’re barely surviving as it is, and even though Derek is around helping out almost every day, his presence doesn’t solve their money problems. Stiles has to find work, has to pick up more shifts at the grocery store and make money instead of lying around in bed all day, getting fucked by some Greek god.

Lydia is running Martin Daycare for the next few days while Stiles pulls shifts. He’s getting ready to leave when Derek shows up, holding up bags of groceries.

“I work at a grocery store,” Stiles says a little bitterly. “I get discounts.”

“Yeah, well, these are free.” Derek drops a kiss on his mouth, his cheek. “You leaving?”

“Work. Until closing.”

“I’ll help Lydia out.”

“You don’t have to.”

He shrugs. “I want to. I have a recipe for some shepherd’s pie, thought I’d try it out. It tastes like hamburgers and potatoes, so the kids should like it.” He kisses Stiles again, slower this time. “I’ll see you when you get back.”

It’s not supposed to go this fast. It’s been a week and a half since Stiles even met Derek, and now it’s like the guy is practically living at their house. Since when does that pass for normal relationship etiquette?

“But he's not costing you any,” Esther asks him when he tells her the situation. She's the oldest, most together person he knows so he goes to her for advice whenever they get a break together.

“No.” Stiles shrugs. “I mean he's not even costing me water; we share a shower.”

“Spare me,” she tuts. “And he's getting you appliances and food? If you ask me you've got a winner. I mean he could be one of those ridiculous boys that think they can impress you with gadgets and shoes when your kids are starving but he isn't.”

“So what does he want?” Stiles sighs. “He must want something.”

Esther takes a long drag of her cigarette. “Of course he wants something, stupid. He wants you.”

Stiles looks out over the parking lot, bundling his coat tighter around himself. “Since when is that enough for anyone?”

“Since you meet The One,” she says, tapping her temple. “When you meet the person you’re supposed to be with forever, they don’t want anything in return for their good deeds except a smile and a kiss. And occasionally you do a good deed back. The world balances out.”

“Oh,” Stiles says quietly, “that's probably it.”

She huffs. “What's what?”

“The big fuck up. There's nothing I can do for him,” he says.

She rolls her eyes and throws her cigarette into the snow. “You can't know that. Not until he needs you, and then, trust me, there will be something you can do.”

“What could he need me for?” Stiles asks himself because Esther is already walking back inside.

He finishes off his shift, helps two other employees close the store, and then heads to the L. He gets home a little past midnight, walks in to find Lydia asleep on the couch and Derek sitting at the dining table, holding a mug of coffee.

“Hey,” he says. He stands, kissing Stiles hello. “The kids are asleep. There’s food left in the fridge. Want me to warm it up for you?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

He sits at the counter while he sets the shepherd’s pie up on a plate and pops it in the microwave. That’s new. It hadn’t been new when Stiles left that morning. He makes a mental note to punch Derek for it later.

He eats greedily, hungrily, and wanders upstairs on autopilot, striping his clothes as he goes. Obviously Derek picks up after him, because he tosses a pile of fabric into Stiles’ laundry basket when they get up to his room.

“How was your day?” Derek asks.

“Long,” Stiles mutters. “Yours?”

“Interesting. Lydia’s really good with all of those kids.”

“She’s been doing it for a long time.”

“She doesn’t have a job?”

“She’s on full scholarship. Her job is to go to school and make this all worth it.” Stiles rolls onto his stomach. “Hey.”

Derek rubs Stiles’ back lazily. “Hey.”

“Your car’s gonna get stolen one day.”

He smirks. “I’ll live.”

“Don't you have a home to get to?” Stiles teases.

“Nope,” Derek says lightly. Stiles feels him tense and he worries his lip. Maybe he's fucked it all up. “Do you want me to go home?” Derek asks after a moment.

Stiles sits up. “No. No, of course I don't. I just—you never seem to. And I don't want you to. But isn't anyone asking where you're spending all your time?”

Derek gives him a look he can't read and pulls out his phone. He juggles it between his hands. “If I didn't come tomorrow. Or the next day. And I didn't call you and I just disappeared, what would you do?”

“I don't know,” Stiles says. “Text you at first. Leave you an angry voicemail and drop it.”

“Right,” Derek says, “but you'd try, right? To find out where I went to?”

“Of course,” Stiles says, “until I got the picture.”

“That's not the point,” he says as he drops his phone. “You ever heard my phone ring while I'm here?”

Stiles blinks. “No?”

“Ever heard me complain about my family bugging me?”

Stiles shakes his head.

“So there's your answer,” he says as he falls on his back. “There's no one waiting for me at home.”

Stiles blinks, stares at him a moment longer. “Derek, I—I’m sorry.”

Derek shakes his head. “Just come here. Just come here and fall asleep with me.”

He wants to ask, wants to know, but he’s afraid of the answer. So Stiles does as he’s told, curls up around Derek and holds him while they fall asleep.


 

It takes a couple days. First he gets a glance at Derek’s credit card, finally learns his last name. Then, he uses the new phone Derek bought him to Google it. He was really good at computer in high school and he uses tech during his different jobs. He can handle a fucking smartphone.

The name Derek Hale doesn’t really offer much. There are Facebook advertisements, an author with the same name, and then, at the bottom of the second page—

House Fire Kills 12 Family Members, an article from 15 years ago, wherein it mentions that the only surviving members of the family were Peter, Laura, and Derek Hale. Then, when he digs a bit more, he finds an article about Laura Hale, murder victim, unknown killer, survived by her brother, Derek. Her death had sparked a movement in the city. She ran a Planned Parenthood location, was killed by a protestor, they said. The killer was never found.

Peter Hale is a businessman. He finds that a day later, when he’s working at the Wolf’s Den. He’s leaning on the bar, scrolling on the phone. He’s filthy fucking rich, and he’s based in Chicago. Unmarried, no kids, but, like, the third wealthiest man in the city.

Life insurance plus rich uncle equals wealthy Derek.

His brain is buzzing with this information when Danny walks into the bar looking crazed.

“Shit, are you okay?”

Danny takes a seat and slumps against the bar. “Boyd found his sister.”

Stiles blinks. Boyd is Danny's oldest, he's 13 and in love with Erica in the most chivalrous way he's ever witnessed. When Danny and his partner had taken him in, Boyd wouldn't talk to them for weeks except to demand they find his sister and bring her with him. Danny had tried but it had gotten them nowhere. They took other kids in, kids that were there and needed them. Stiles knows Vernon Boyd is a good kid who loves his family, but he knows he must be making Danny's life hell right now.

“Danny, Danny—you can't take another kid.”

“I have to,” Danny laughs. “I have to; she's in a shit place and Boyd will never forgive me if I don't.”

Stiles swallows hard. “Look, I don’t—I don’t know what to tell you. But how are you supposed to afford—”

“The state will give me more money,” Danny says softly, scratching the back of his neck, “and I’ll start charging for pretzels.” He shrugs. “I don’t know. It’ll be fine.”

“Danny—” He breaks off. “You don’t have to pay Erica to watch the little ones anymore. We’ve got it covered. When they’re not in school, they can come over and hang out with her. And stop fucking paying me for sitting around and gathering tips. I’ll work on the tips themselves, you fucking know that. Stop being so goddamn generous.”

He looks down at the bar, shakes his head. “Thank you, Stiles. Seriously.”

Stiles nods. “Of course. Anything for family.”

The shit just keeps coming from all sides, though, because when he gets home, Lydia is depressed. He can tell because her hair is pulled up and she's watching a zombie movie with a bag of discount chips.

He plops down next to her. “Danny's getting another kid so we're not charging him anymore. And we'll feed them too.”

She doesn't even comment on it which honestly scares him a bit.

“Did you bomb an exam?”

She scoffs. “Please.”

“What's up?” He pulls her close and steals some chips. “Talk to your womb mate.”

“I—nothing. Just tired.”

“You're never tired,” Stiles says. “Just tell me.”

“It's Jackson,” she says with a shrug, “so it's nothing. It's fine.”

Sometimes Stiles forgot that Lydia had a rich boyfriend of her own. Probably because they broke up so much and he never came home with her. They were together throughout the entirety of Lydia’s freshman year of college. They broke up, got back together, and broke up again.

“He’s not worth it,” Stiles says softly, pushing his forehead against her temple. “You know that.”

“Love doesn’t work with logic, Stiles.”

Stiles sighs. “Yeah. Yeah, I know.”

Jackson is everything that Stiles had feared Derek turning out to be. He’s spoiled, entitled, addicted to a ton of really expensive and psychoactive shit, and his only redeeming quality was that he didn't sleep around. His probably tanned dick was programmed for Lydia and Lydia only. He had gone so far as accusing her of some weird witchcraft.

But now they’re over and Stiles has a feeling it’s for good this time. He doesn’t know if Jackson will come running back, if Lydia can make him jealous enough to beg for her again. He thinks, on some level, Lydia is certainly capable of it—but is Jackson going to bite again?

“What did he do?” he mutters.

“I had a date last week with a guy from his frat house. Just to—to piss him off. Now Jackson’s been fucking someone else. Some brunette girl from my Stats class. She came into Finals wearing his jacket, and there’s a—a picture on Facebook of them. Together.” She snorts. “Fucking one and only, he says. No one but you, Lydia.” She rolls her eyes. “Men.”

“What were you trying to piss him off for?”

Lydia glares. “Are you saying it's my fault?”

“Don't be stupid,” Stiles sighs. “I'm saying maybe you guys should just let it go already.”

Lydia squishes further back into the cushions. “He obviously has,” she says bitingly. “And, okay, I—you’re not wrong. But you’ve never had a relationship like this before, Stiles. He—promised me.”

“You know better than to believe someone when they make promises.”

“I know.” She closes her eyes. “Merry fucking Christmas.”


 

“I want to help you find your dad,” Derek says one night as he’s pouring them wine. The kids have all gone to bed, Lydia is out with some friends to ring in the new year, and Stiles and Derek are sitting on the couch, watching the ball drop on TV. At least, they had been—before Derek said that.

“What? Why?”

Derek sighs. “I'm not saying it will fix everything. Or anything really. But he's out there.”

“So is the jack off that bred all my siblings and they're no better off for knowing him.”

“I know,” Derek says, “but you don't know. You don't know if maybe he's good and kind and then you'd have more help.”

“And what if he isn’t?” Stiles demands. “And—and who says I want more help? I don’t need someone else coming in here, asking for handouts! And what—what if he has a wife, kids?” He shakes his head, tosses back his glass. “I don’t need to see him. I don’t need to find him.”

“Don’t you want to, though?” Derek asks. “Aren’t you curious? Wouldn’t it at least feel better to know?”

Derek’s entire family is dead, Stiles remembers. Everyone except an uncle who is obviously evasive and not a huge comfort to Derek’s life. Derek doesn’t have anybody.

Stiles leans back into Derek’s chest, closes his eyes. “Maybe,” he says. “But not—not yet, okay? I need a real job. I need to get back on my feet.”

“I can find you a job.”

Stiles snorts. “You don’t work. How are you supposed to find me a job?”

Derek shrugs. “I know a guy.”

Maybe Derek means his uncle. That would make sense. But Stiles doesn't know anything he could do for a man like Peter Hale because he's a high school dropout.

He sighs. “We'll see. Look, it's almost time. Make out with me.”

Derek noses at his jaw. “You've got your New Year's wish ready?”

“Hell yeah,” Stiles rasps. “And it involves my dick, your beautiful ass, and a whole evening to ourselves.”

Derek doesn’t mention it for several weeks. That’s what’s so unnerving. They’ve been together for a while now. Lydia is back at school, as are the rest of the kids, and even though Scott only does half days because he’s in kindergarten, Mrs. Morelli from down the street will take him whenever Stiles asks. She loves the kid. It feels like a real fucking family. Stiles is making enough to pay the bills, can buy a certain number of groceries every two weeks. Derek buys the rest, drives the kids to school so they don’t have to take the bus, and it’s like—it’s like Stiles’ whole life is coming together. It feels like it’s about fucking time.

Stiles is at such a good point one afternoon when he gets home from work, that he actually goes online and looks up how to get his fucking GED. There’s a test, obviously, and a bunch of other stuff he has to do, but he knows he’s smart. He knows he can do it. He just needs a good old study session.

When Derek opens up the door that night with two large pizzas and a 2-liter bottle of soda, Stiles is at the dining table with Lydia next to him and Scott in his lap, all of them staring at books.

“What’s this?” Derek asks, setting down the boxes. Erica and Isaac come rushing at it, grabbing plates and cups to start eating. “Helping Lydia study?”

It's Scott who answers with a giggle and some claps. “Stiles going to school!”

Derek raises both his beautiful bushy eyebrows. “You're going to finish high school?”

“Uh, no,” Stiles snorts, “that would be creepy. I'm just getting a GED. You can be a store manager with a GED, did you know that?”

“You can also go to college,” Lydia notes, “but he doesn't want to hear that.”

Stiles waves her off. “It would be easier to find a higher-paying job if I had a GED, that’s all. Nobody wants to hire a high school dropout for a career with medical and dental benefits.” He bounces Scott slightly. “Isn’t that right, Scotty?”

Scott nods emphatically. “Right, Stiles!”

Derek leans over the table to kiss him. “I'm proud of you.”

Stiles blushes and shoves him off. “Shut up. I haven't seen this math in years.”

“Get back to work,” Lydia says as she grabs a slice of pizza.

He works hard. He studies on his breaks, studies while he’s working at the bar so Danny can bathe his kids and put them to bed, and studies while he’s in bed with Derek, about to go to sleep. They haven’t had sex for days. Derek doesn’t even seem to mind.

“Wanna fuck me?” he asks, closing the old textbook and dropping it off the bed.

Derek hums. “Normally the answer would yes, but I’m so exhausted I can’t see straight.” He grabs at Stiles, pulls him close. “Remind me in the morning.”

Stiles smarts and curls up into him. “Were you ever this exhausted before meeting me?”

Derek shakes his head. “Or this happy.”

“You're a sap,” Stiles murmurs.

“Yeah, you love it.”

Stiles doesn’t fall asleep for a while that night, thinking about—everything. Thinking about Derek, about Lydia, about Derek’s family that Stiles shouldn’t know about but does. It reminds him of how they met, that he fell in with some evil psycho bitch who was going to ruin whatever reputation he has set up for him in the media. Hell, Derek could’ve been the next Paris Hilton. But that’s over, and Stiles is here, and they’re—together. They get to fall asleep together, be together, and Stiles doesn’t understand it, but he’s not going to turn it away.

He gets his GED and fills out a bunch of different job applications. He’s not sure it’s going to get him very far, but he figures it can’t hurt. He only tells Derek after he’s already done it, and Derek rolls his eyes fondly. “I told you I’d help you.”

“What kind of job were you looking to get me anyway?” Stiles asks, wrapping his arms around Derek’s shoulders.

Derek shrugs. “Pretty sure it won't be a lot of trouble to get you some clerical stuff at an office, Northside.”

Stiles chews his lip. “Let's just see how the applications go? And then you can pull all the strings you want.”

“Thank you,” Derek says, and he kisses Stiles deeply.

Stiles leans into him. “Hm, what are we doing for dinner?”

“I got some frozen fish sticks at the grocery store last night, and since we’re watching Vernon, Alicia, Sasha, and Nate tonight”—Danny’s kids—”I thought we could stick them in the front of the TV, maybe a board game, with those things.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

It’s horrifyingly domestic. All they do is take care of kids and cook and fuck and do laundry. Stiles gets calls about all of the jobs he applied for, and either they’re not hiring, or he doesn’t fulfill their requirements, but it was worth a shot anyway.

That’s in February.

For Valentine’s Day, Derek gets him a job interview.

“What the shit, Derek?” Stiles huffs. “I got you coupons for sex and you get me a job interview? Where’s the romance?”

Derek smiles at him and pulls him into a kiss. “Fine, I got you another present too but you're not going to want it.”

“What, why wouldn't I want it?”

“Because you bitched when I got the X-Box for Isaac, the iPod for Erica, and the tricycle for Scott.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “I wasn’t annoyed about the tricycle. It was a sweet gesture. I was annoyed that you let him play those games on your iPad, and when he smashed it, you bought another one for him to use!”

Derek shrugs. “Kids break stuff. It’s okay. I needed the newer version anyway.”

Stiles huffs. “If you got me some big, extravagant gift—”

“It’s a gift you need anyway,” Derek says, “so just let me do nice things for you? Okay? Please?”

Stiles closes his eyes, pushes into Derek’s arms. “Stop being so fucking good to me.” That’s going to make it harder when he walks away.

The job interview is in the city, and sure enough it’s for one of the handful of companies that Peter Hale has some kind of connection to. His name isn’t on the building, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’s still sitting in the room when Stiles goes in for the interview.

Stiles isn’t sure if he should mention that to Derek. Derek doesn’t know that Stiles knows about his family, knows what happened. If he says, Hey, was that your uncle in that room? is Derek going to flip out on him? It seems a little unfair, considering this whole thing was Derek’s idea.

“Peter Hale,” Stiles says casually as they leave the office building. “Any relation?”

“Want your other gift now?”

“Wanna not be evasive first?”

Derek sighs. “He’s my uncle. Now close your eyes.”

Stiles knows that Derek went somewhere while Stiles was in the interview. He also knows, however, that they’re outside now, so whatever gift he’s being given—

“You motherfucker,” Stiles whispers, staring at the beautiful black sedan in front of him. It’s not a sexy car, but it’s stylish and simple and classy, and it can fit all of the kids. “You bought me a fucking car.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “It’s—I mean, you need one. So, here it is.”

“You motherfucker,” he says again. “I better get that job or I'll never be able to pay you back for it.”

“It's a gift,” Derek says, he almost sounds hurt. “Can't you please just take it?”

Stiles turns in his arms and kisses him thoroughly, kisses him like they’re at the end of a super romantic movie and are about to get married, kisses him like he just found out they’re cancer survivors or some shit like that. He just can’t stop kissing him. Until, of course, someone behind Derek clears their throat.

They separate and look to see Peter Hale, in his slick suit and trimmed beard, hands tucked in his pockets.

“Mr. Martin,” he says clearly, “I was hoping you would still be here. My board and I have already decided. The job is yours if you want it.”

It isn’t much, but it pays five figures a year and comes with all of the health benefits Stiles needs for his family. He’ll have to work from a cubicle all day, making sales calls and contacting vendors, but it’s—it’s a job.

Stiles is so stunned, he can barely speak. Eventually, he manages to say, “Yes, sir. Yes, thank you so much, sir.”

Peter nods. “We’ll see you tomorrow then.” He turns to Derek, nods again. “Derek. Nice to see you again. Come by the house some time.” He leaves, turning back to the building and heading out of the cold.

Derek kisses him again and he pulls away and grins and Stiles is so happy he really doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

“We need to call Lydia. We need to make an awesome dinner and tell Scotty he gets to see a speech therapist and maybe Isaac can actually see a therapist period and—”

“Stiles,” Derek laughs and pulls him close. “How about we drop some food off with Lydia and you and I go celebrate?”

That's the best idea Derek has ever had. They pick up barbecue and take it over to the house; Stiles gives Lydia a quick kiss on the cheek and they're both already dressed up so Stiles drive them in his new car to a restaurant in the city. They eat shrimp cocktails and oysters and lobster. Stiles is so full of shellfish he thinks he could decompose in the ocean and no one would even notice.

After, Stiles has plans. He wants to drag Derek to a hotel down the street, fuck his brains out, and spend the entire night there. They never get the chance. They’re strolling on the sidewalk after dinner when Derek says, “So, your dad.”

Stiles stops. “Can we—not right now? We're celebrating.”

“You say that like it's a terrible topic.”

“It's not terrible,” Stiles sighs. “It's just—”

“You keep saying you'll look when you're proud of yourself,” Derek says. “Look at you today. Are you ever going to be proud enough?”

Stiles licks his lips. “Derek. He could still—he could still have a family. That’s still valid.”

“So? That was after your mom. He didn't do anything wrong by having you—even if she was married. Your mom said they loved each other, didn't she?”

Stiles nods.

“Well, then I can't think of anything that would make him happier than learning that part of her is still alive, not just in you but all of her kids.”

Stiles nods slowly. “Look, I appreciate your help, but I—”

“Stiles,” Derek says harshly, coming to stand in front of him. “I'm not just helping. I'm—I'm trying to do this with you, to be here with you every step of the way. Don't you get that? I don't see an end to this, Stiles, and if you do maybe we should just stop. I—I love you, Stiles. I want to spend the rest of my goddamn life with you, and I've only known you for, like, there months.” He exhales heavily through his nose. “If you tell me to drop it, I will, but you have to know that you're the most important thing in the world to me. I just want to make you happy.”

Stiles leans his forehead against Derek's and whispers, “You can't be real. I don't deserve you.”

Derek looks distraught and kisses him, like it will solve everything. Stiles is scared, he's always scared, but he dives anyway.

“I love you Derek,” he breathes out. “I love you and I need you and I'm so fucking terrified by that.”

“Don't be scared,” Derek says. “I'm right here with you. I'm right here every step of the way.”

“Take me somewhere,” Stiles says. “Just—somewhere, I don't care. Let's just go.”

Derek drives. He's fast and quiet and he holds Stiles' hand the whole time, occasionally glancing over. They pull up in front of a big apartment complex, and Derek tugs him in, up the elevator, up to the very top floor.

Stiles looks around. It's Spartan and expensive. All of it. He's afraid to so much as walk in.
“Is this your apartment?”

Derek scratches at the back of his neck. “I thought about bringing you before. I—maybe it's even comfortable enough for the kids. It's just—I've always been alone here.”

“You need your space,” Stiles says, “I totally get that.”

“No,” Derek says before he starts laughing. “Wouldn't I be here all the time if I did? I just—I hate this place. I hate how everything echoes and it gets so quiet at night. I just wanted to be at home with you.”

Stiles nods as he steps across the threshold, taking it all in. Everything is simple, minimalist. There’s a bed pushed against the back wall, near the giant spread of windows.

“I’m going to sell it,” Derek tells him as he slides the door closed. “And we can buy a place closer to the high school were Erica and Isaac will go. I mean, if you don’t mind selling your house. We can stay there, fix it up if you want. It’s the house you grew up in after all. And, uh, with you working in the city, you’ll have a new wardrobe, and Scott will grow up, need new clothes all the time—”

“Are you just listing off all the expenses we’re going to have?” Stiles asks numbly, stroking his hand across Derek’s suede couch. “I thought you took me back here so we could fuck.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, and then he’s striding across the room and kissing the daylights out of Stiles.

They fuck in every room of the loft. First on the couch, then against the kitchen counter, then on the bed. Then, when Stiles gets to exploring where the spiral staircase leads to, they fuck on the extra futon up there, and again in the shower before they head back to the house. Lydia has to go to school in the morning, so Stiles needs to be there to get everyone to school, plus he has to go to work. It’s—a dream, practically. And he’s exhausted, but he’s never been happier in his life.


 

After a lifetime of working all sorts of odd jobs where no one gave him the time of day unless they wanted to fuck with him, he is in love with his new job. He borrows some of Derek's clothes until he can go shopping for his own and he's excited the entire day. He gets along with his coworkers who are respectful and kind and helpful and he gets to go home at five, in time to throw some dinner together and help the kids with their homework.

He does this for a month. He and Derek are in domestic fucking bliss (which is good because it eases the pain of having to watch Danny’s kids until midnight nearly every night) and they work like a real married couple. Derek doesn’t even have to chip in on Stiles’ bills at all, only pays for dinner sometimes, buys Scott new toys, Lydia new headphones, Erica new shoes, and Isaac a new backpack. It works like that, for a month.

Derek looks like he has something on his mind sometimes. For about a week, he looks distracted and contemplative and horrified, but he never talks about it, never asks Stiles if they can sit down and discuss anything. He just starts staying over less, calling less. He brings dinner over a lot, just as often as usual, but then—but then he doesn’t. Then he stops answering the phone, doesn’t come over, doesn’t even appear. And Stiles’ heart stops beating.

When it's been a day and a half he starts getting distracted at work. He wonders if he should go up to Peter's office, ask him if he knows where the hell Derek is.

He can't talk as he drives back home from the job Derek got him in the car Derek got him to the house full of stuff that Derek got him. He feels every part of him shutting down.

He still calls. He remembers clearly that night, the night Derek had told him no one called to ask where he was because he had no one waiting for him at home. But he did now. He must know that. Must know about the worried glances Lydia keeps throwing, the way Isaac and Erica keep acting all grown up because they can see Stiles is having some sort of breakdown. He must know the way Scott doesn't laugh in the mornings because Derek isn't there to tickle him into giggles before taking him to school. He must know that his family needs him to come home.

So Stiles calls. He texts and calls and leaves voice mails. He tries not to sound angry or scared even though he is furious and terrified.

“Hey,” he says one night as he’s crawling into bed. “Uh, so—it’s me again. Obviously. Look, I just want to know you’re okay, yeah? Just tell me that you’re okay, that you didn’t get murdered in the street or something—something fucked up like that. Give me a sign that you’re alive. Safe.” He exhales heavily, inhales again. “Scott misses you. So does Isaac. And Erica. And me. Fuck, I miss you.” Stiles drags a hand down his face. “Let me know you’re safe, Derek. Even if you don’t want to come home—even if you don’t want to see me ever again, just tell me you’re fucking safe, okay?” He pauses a moment. “I love you.”

On the fifth day he loses his patience with the voicemail.

“I know you're not fucking dead, motherfucker. I know you're charging your phone because it keeps ringing and I know you're ignoring my texts and my calls and I get it. You got bored. You're done. Well you know what, fuck you. Fuck you and your acts of charity. We were fine before you. I was fine before you. Who the hell do you think you are coming here and and and making me love you. I love you, Derek, and it makes me so sick. It makes me hurt so much.”

He breaks into sobs so hard he doesn't hear the phone beep and cut off his message. He doesn't hear the kids come in or Lydia hush them and push them out. He can barely feel the way she wraps herself around him.

“I'm sorry,” he hears her say. “It'll stop hurting; I'm sorry.”

He goes to work in a funk. He’s destroyed, empty, lost. He works his nine-to-five, gets food for the kids, sits with them while they work, and then goes to bed. He eats once or twice a day mostly, sometimes that means breakfast, sometimes it means dinner. He has friends at work, all of whom become increasingly distant as Stiles becomes more and more upset, as he becomes grumpier and less approachable. There’s one, of course, named Ethan who apparently doesn’t mind the risk of getting his ass chewed out.

“Hey,” he says, dropping by Stiles’ cubicle. Stiles is about to brush him away, but Ethan holds out a cup of coffee. It smells like vanilla. “Thought you could use this. Did you know there’s a Starbucks right downstairs? I’ve been here for two years and I’ve never even seen it before.”

Stiles takes the coffee. “Thanks.”

“So,” he says. “Look, I know we don't know each other and you haven't been here long. But, man, when you started it totally brightened up the place. We've sort of noticed you're in the dumps. Is, uh, is everything okay?”

Stiles scratches the bridge of his nose. “Breakup. Not a big deal. Just—fiancé. Kind of. Almost. Love of my life, at least.”

“Sounds a big deal.” He’s wearing a little sympathetic frown. “Well, you know what they say—if it’s meant to be. That’s fucked up, though, dude. I was dating somebody in college that I swore I was gonna marry, but it didn’t work out either.”

“Sorry,” he sighs. “I know I've been shit lately. I mean he's…got friends in the company. I don't even know if I'll get to keep this job now.”

Ethan waves him off. “Don't be stupid. You're great at your job. Business is first here, no one will fire you. Besides it wasn't your fault, was it?”

“Must have been,” he mutters. “He wouldn't have left if I'd done everything right. I should have known. I did know. He just, he gave me so much. I had nothing to give back.”

“That can be rough. Relationships are about give and take.”

“Guess he got tired of giving,” Stiles mutters into his coffee. He sets it down on his desk. “I’ll buy tomorrow,” he offers.

Ethan beams. “That’d be great. I, uh, better get back to work. I’ll see you around.”

“Bye,” Stiles says with a slight smile, and Ethan wanders back to his cubicle.

When he leaves, Stiles’ line of vision is cleared and he can see past the corner of desks and little wall coverings that reveal Peter Hale to be standing outside of his office, staring right at Stiles. He doesn’t appear to be waiting for anyone, doesn’t look like he’s doing anything else except watching. Stiles breaks a little bit more.

Three days and a proportional amount of coffee later, Ethan asks Stiles if he wants to get a drink. It’s Friday, and that means that the entire marketing floor goes out together—it’s only about twenty people—for Happy Hour at a local bar, so Stiles knows it’s not a move or anything. All the same—

“I’m, uh, not really available actually.” He clears his throat. “I have kids.”

Ethan’s eyes widen. “No shit, dude. I love kids. Hey, I don’t work weekends, like, ever, so if you’re ever in a bind, I’d be more than happy to watch them for you. I can change diapers and everything.”

“Thanks, but my sister watches them when I can’t.” Stiles brightens slightly. “But, actually, there’s someone you should meet. If you don’t feel weird about me setting you up with a friend.”

Ethan smiles his disarmingly charming smile. “Sounds great.”

He still works weekends at the bar because extra money always helps. He tells Ethan to come over if he has free time. It's still early on Saturday night when he shows up.

“Hey.” Stiles smiles. “How's it going?”

“All right.” Ethan nods as he looks around. “Cozy.”

“My friend Danny, the one I mentioned, he owns the place.” Stiles finishes wiping down the bar. “Have a seat, he’ll be back in a few. He, uh, has a couple foster kids, needed to drop them off with my sister.” His sister, in this case, is Erica. She’s 13, as is Vernon, which means they’re not really fit to be babysitters, but they’ll do well enough for a couple hours until Stiles can get home. “Want a drink?”

“Beer. Tap, please.”

Stiles serves him and tries not to count the minutes until he can get in bed and just enjoy sweet oblivion until he has to put up with the agony of being awake again.

“Still down, huh,” Ethan notes as he takes a sip of beer. “It'll get better.”

“So my sister says,” Stiles sighs, “but I—it doesn't feel like it will.”

“I know,” he says as he nods. “I'm sorry.”

Just then Danny gets in and Stiles smiles when he sees the things Danny's face does at the sight of Ethan. It’s like he’s blown away by the handsome, and Stiles grins at him, nodding encouragingly.

“Hey, Ethan,” Stiles says, “this is my friend Danny. Danny, this is Ethan. We work together.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ethan says, offering his hand for Danny to shake, which he does. “Stiles has told me so much about you.”

Stiles works around the room while Ethan and Danny chat. A few customers come in and sit at the bar, but Stiles takes care of them. He doesn’t think Danny moves from his spot across from Ethan all night. At least, he hasn’t by the time Stiles needs to get home.

“I’ll see you on Monday, Ethan,” Stiles says brightly. He kisses Danny’s cheek. “Danny, we can take the kids for the night if you want?”

Danny blushes. “It’s okay. I’ll come pick them up on my way home.”

“Sure thing,” Stiles says, and winks on his way out the door.

He thinks he should feel lighter after his matchmaking good deed but he doesn't. As soon as he's alone he feels nothing in a way that startles him to the bone. He knows with a frightening clarity that if he didn't have the kids he would just stop. He'd stop working, eating, getting up in the morning. He feels weak. He tries to remember how he made it before, how he was all right being alone, but he can't.

He feels like he’s lost a lot of pride in himself. Before Derek, he didn’t feel this shitty with his stupid life. Even when he was working for minimum wage at a piece of shit grocery store and flirting his way onto construction sites, he was happy that he was providing for his family, happy that he was making a difference. Now, with fancy appliances and happier kids, he’s—fucking miserable. How can one person do that to him?

Stiles doesn’t call Derek anymore. Doesn’t text, doesn’t call, doesn’t make any attempt to talk to him. His last message was angry, hateful, and that’s just that. He’s not sorry for it. He gave Derek plenty of chances. Derek doesn’t want him anymore, so Stiles has decided that he isn’t going to need Derek anymore.

Ethan comes into the office on Monday morning bragging about his weekend with Danny. They apparently made out in the back of Ethan’s car, and Ethan got to meet his kids. They have another date on Wednesday night. Stiles already knows. Danny asked him to babysit.

Vernon and Erica spend their evening together up in Erica’s room. They’re thirteen, not seventeen, so Stiles doesn’t worry an incredible amount about what they could be getting up to. He does make them leave the door open, though, and manages to walk past at one time and see them gazing at each other lovingly. It’s adorable. Erica yells at him. Ah, parenthood.

Alicia falls asleep pretty early, as do Sasha and Nate. They’re conked out on the couch when Danny drops by to pick them up. He has a hickie. Stiles is happy for him.

Thursday is when it changes. On Thursday, Stiles gets home from work to find a Cook County Sheriff’s Department cruiser parked on the other side of the street. Chicago PD cars aren’t that unusual, but Cook County Sheriff? What the fuck did Isaac do this time?

Stiles takes a deep breath at the door. Unbidden, he wonders what it would have been like if Derek had already been home. Probably charmed the pants off the officer and gotten Isaac out of trouble before Stiles even got back from work. But Derek isn't here. Derek doesn't care about Stiles or the kids anymore. It's back to single parenthood for him.

“Officer,” he says before he's half way in the door. “I'm sorry about whatever it is whichever of them did, though I doubt it was the 5-year-old. Did someone press charges?”

When he does get to the living room where a man in a fairly fancy cop's outfit is sitting across from Erica, it doesn't seem like the man is pissed off or amused which are usually the emotions Isaac inspires in law enforcement.

The guy stands up. He says Stiles’ first name—his real first name, that no one ever says except Lydia when she’s mad at him sometimes. Stiles has been calling himself Stiles since he was eight years old, since his mom sat him and Lydia down and told them that they had two different fathers, that Stiles’ dad’s last name was Stilinski, not Martin. His real name is practically forgotten by now.

Stiles blinks. “Yeah, that’s me. Did I—do something wrong?” He hasn’t stolen anything—not in months. He certainly hasn’t assaulted or harassed anybody. “Is this about Danny? Or—or Derek? Are you here because of Derek Hale?”

Something on the officer’s face changes. “Yes,” he says.

Stiles collapses. His knees just give out, and he’s on the ground, hand on his face, trying to hold back tears. Derek could be—dead. He could be dead and someone has his phone, could’ve been robbed or assaulted or any number of things, and Stiles—

“He’s fine!” the officer is saying. He’s kneeling in front of Stiles, touching his shoulders, his arms. “Hey, hey—Stiles—Derek is fine. Derek sent me here.”

Stiles hastily wipes tears off of his cheeks. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”

“I—Jesus, I don't know how to say this without it sounding like Star Wars.”

Stiles is still shaken from the thought that Derek might be dead and now he's staring at the cop like he's either awesome or insane. “What?”

“I'm…” The man hesitates. “My name is John Stilinski. Does that…mean anything to you?”

Stiles blinks. “Stilinski,” he says. “You—you—”

The cop—John—nods. “Yeah,” he says. “I guess I’m—” He swallows. Stiles can see his Adam’s apple bob. “God, you look so much like her. I never knew that she—I knew that she was married and that we were—we weren’t doing the right thing, but I—I really loved her. She never told me.”

“I know,” Stiles whispers. “I know she didn't.”

“Christ,” the man breathes out. “Why didn't you? You've been alone all this time when I could have—”

“I wanted,” Stiles feels the stupid tears welling up in his eyes, the tightness in his throat. “I wanted to be good enough first.”

John brushes away Stiles’ tears with his thumbs, sweeping across Stiles’ cheeks. “Stiles—kid, you’re my—you’re my kid. You’re always good enough. You were always going to be good enough for me. It’s not your job to—to impress me. That’s my job.”

“I thought you had a family—other kids—”

He shakes his head. “Your mom. Your mom was it for me. When she died…” He moves one hand down to squeeze Stiles’ arm. “There was never anyone else.”

Eventually, after Stiles has cried and they’ve stood and hugged, after they’ve sat down on the couch and reintroduced themselves properly, they have a real conversation.

“Mom told me your last name,” Stiles says through a bright, unashamed smile. “I renamed myself. Like Cher, just the one name. Just Stiles.”

“That’s—incredibly flattering.”

Stiles licks his lips. “So—Derek.”

John nods. “Yeah, Derek Hale. He approached me, told me that you existed, that you were my son. He asked me if I wanted to come see you. I thought maybe he was a private detective or someone you had hired—I didn’t know. But then we got to talking.”

“He still thinks I'm his charity case,” Stiles says under his breath, “his pass to Heaven or something.”

“I—he doesn't pity you, Stiles. I know—he told me you would be so upset with him. Fucking pissed is the phrase he used. But he was—he wished so much he could come with me.”

“Then why isn’t he here?” Stiles demands. “Did he tell you everything? He was—” Stiles breaks off, putting his head in his hands again. “No, whatever. It’s not important anymore.”

John gets a hand on Stiles’ back, strokes up and down, and Stiles leans into it. “You should talk to him.”

“I’ve been trying,” Stiles insists.

“Somehow, I get the feeling that if you tried again, he’d pick up this time.” He clears his throat. “Now, if you don’t mind, maybe a little less about Derek and a little more about you.” He grins. “I hear you have a very interesting twin. How is she?”


 

John leaves a little after midnight. They stayed talking for hours, long after the kids had gone to bed. John got to meet them all, hug them all. No relation, but John was in love with their mother, so that’s good enough, Stiles supposes. After he goes, Stiles double checks the new number he has stored in his cell phone and climbs the stairs, going towards the shower.

He leans against the bathroom counter while the water heats up, staring at his phone. Then, after he’s washed and dried, he crawls into bed and stares at it some more, like he expects it to give him all of the answers to the universe.

He's weak with exhaustion when he presses his phone to light up again. It's three in the morning. If he calls, Derek might be asleep. Derek might at least be in bed. Derek might be in bed with someone else. The thought stabs him so that he almost lets out a wretched dry sob. Still he takes a deep breath. His dad—he has a dad—and he made Stiles promise to give Derek a call before he left.

Stiles won't ask him where he went or why he stopped loving him, he is only calling to say thank you. No more.

Unsurprisingly, Derek doesn’t pick up.

“Hey,” he says on a shaky exhale. “So, uh, last call, I promise. John came by. My dad. Um. And he said that you found him, and that you wanted to be there with us when we met for the first time, but I—I have a little trouble believing that, I’m sure you can imagine.” He licks his lips. “You were—very good to me, Derek, especially when you didn’t have to be. And I’m not going to keep bothering you, I swear. I just had to say thank you. For finding my dad. For giving that to me. Thank you, Derek. And I hope you have a really, really good life.”

He cries until morning. At first it’s just violent, his body shaking with the repressed need to sob and cry out loud. Later, as his body tires, he can only feel the tears running without pause over his cheeks. When the sun rises, there are no tears or sobs left in him. His body feels cold and he can’t close his eyes but he can’t see very well either.

He showers again, just to cleanse himself, and thanks whatever deity may be lurking in the skies that it’s at least a Friday. He can have a whole weekend to himself. They don’t need the money he’d get from working at the bar, and so he can just—relax. Sleep. Read a book. Spend time with Scott for a change.

He gets to work three minutes early, starts up his computer, and accepts his coffee from Ethan when it comes.

“Dude, you look fucking exhausted.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah. Didn’t sleep.”

“Still roughing it?”

Stiles nods. “I got to meet my dad. My real dad. I—wasn't expecting that.”

“Wow, seriously? How was it?”

“Amazing. He’s so great. He's the dad we always dreamed of having.”

Ethan smiles at him, a genuine, proud smile, and lays a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “I’m really happy for you, man. That sounds great.”

The rest of the day is long and boring. Stiles thinks he can clear out of there by five fifteen, run by the grocery store for some alfredo sauce, and then they’re good for dinner. He’s invited John to join them for dinner, and he’ll be bringing pie and ice cream, so it’s Stiles’ job to supply basically everything else. Lydia is coming, and she will bring the garlic bread. Erica is in charge of making the salad, Isaac will set the table, and Scott will walk around looking adorable as usual.

He’s running through this mental list of his at five past the hour when he stands, his computer shutting down, and grabs for his phone to tuck back into his pocket. It’s by coincidence—maybe—that he heads to the left of his cubicle to go towards the bathroom before he leaves instead of going to the right as he usually does. It’s by coincidence that he glances towards Peter’s office and sees Derek sitting across from the man, legs crossed, arms crossed over his chest, looking particularly defiant.

Even after talking to John, part of him was still terrified that something had happened to Derek. Derek’s important. That was one thing the very rich and the very poor had in common: they’re never safe. But there he is, just sitting there. He looks whole and healthy and kind of angry as he speaks with Peter. They’re too far for Stiles to hear, and through glass as well. He stands there, frozen, unsure whether to run towards or away from him.

As it is, he calmly turns away and heads towards the bathroom as was his original plan, because now it feels like he’s going to puke. He splashes cold water over his face, trying to get his breathing under control, and hurls into one of the toilets. He cleans out his mouth, washes his face again, sets his shoulders, and walks down to his car.

He can’t make himself get in. He can’t make himself walk away—drive away—from Derek Hale. Not when he’s right there. Not when Stiles has so many fucking questions for him.

He goes into the lobby. There’s a little waiting section of couches and shit, and he plops himself right down there, takes out his phone.

“Hey,” he says to Lydia when she picks up the phone, “I’m stuck in traffic. Think you can go get the sauce for me?”

“Sure thing. Just be home in time for dinner, okay?”

“I promise,” he says, but he doesn’t put any weight behind it.

He waits until he almost can't wait anymore and when they come downstairs, Peter and Derek come down together. Stiles sits there, staring and being stared at.

“Mr. Martin,” Peter says with a bright and terrifying grin. “Shouldn't you be heading home to your lovely family?”

Stiles has so many questions, his eyes gravitating towards Derek. Derek who won't look at him.

“Come on, Stiles,” Peter says, voice still light. “We should get out of the way of the night guards.”

Stiles wishes the things he has to say would come out of his mouth but all he can manage to do is tuck his hands into his pockets. “Goodnight, sir.”

If John had been right, Derek would at least want to look at him. If what John had said was true at all, Derek would say something to him, would try to explain. But he doesn’t, he just stands there, looking at his shoes, and Stiles doesn’t know why he put any hope at all into thinking maybe now, after weeks of radio silence, something would change.

But fuck that.

“Do you mind, sir,” Stiles says, surprising himself, “if your nephew and I have a moment alone together?”

Peter only looks at Derek, like he’s expecting Derek to answer the question that was addressed to him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mr. Martin,” Peter tells him.

“Sir—”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupts, staring straight at him now, “leave it. Please.”

He feels as if his stomach rises to his throat and then plummets. He wills himself not to react, he thinks of the kids, of Lydia, of his dad. He thinks of all he has to be grateful for and clears his throat.

“Yes, well, goodnight to you both.”

He's very proud of himself, he doesn't run until he turns the corner into the parking lot, and he doesn't cry until he's sitting in the car.

When he gets home, John is already there. They’re all standing around in the kitchen, a drink in John’s hand and one in Lydia’s. The kids are setting the table, all except Scott, who runs into his arms as soon as he walks in the door. Stiles picks him up immediately, squeezing him.

“Are you sad?” Scott asks, patting his open palms against Stiles’ cheeks.

Stiles nods. “Yeah, Scotty, I’m sad. It’s okay, though. Sometimes it’s okay to be sad. Everybody gets sad sometimes.”

John and Lydia don't mention it, they only try to offer comfort with distracting conversation and taking care that the kids eat their dinner without much fuss. Stiles hates that now that things are going so well for them he can't even bring himself to enjoy it.

He drinks himself into a stupor after the kids are put to bed. John leaves, hugging both Stiles and Lydia tightly. He goes, with one last soulful look at Stiles, and closes the door behind himself. Stiles and Lydia sit on the floor and drink the rest of the wine, a beer each, and then take turns taking sips from the cupcake vodka they had in the freezer.

“Love is fucking bullshit,” Stiles says.

Lydia nods. “Fucking right.”

He doesn't remember making it to bed. Scott is sitting on his chest and it takes him a moment to remember it's Saturday. He's hung over and if the weight of a five-year-old on his solar plexus wasn't killing him the migraine might do it. Then Scott starts to squeal.

“STILES, STILES, DEREK'S BACK!”

Stiles immediately covers his ears with his hands. “Scotty,” he says quietly, “did you have another one of those dreams? Wanna take a nap?”

Stiiiiiiiiiiiiles,” Scott says, still too loud.

Stiles sighs, shaking his head. “Okay, buddy, I’m gonna get some Advil and then I’m gonna make some coffee and then,” he emphasizes, “we are going to get you some breakfast, yeah? You want pancakes? I’ll make some pancakes for you, kid.”

Scott is just sitting on Stiles’ mattress still as Stiles gets up. He just sits there in his little nightshirt, looking at Stiles like he’s waiting for something else to happen.

Derek,” he says. “Can Derek make the pancakes?”

Stiles ignores him, going into the bathroom across the hall to dry-swallow three Advil. He scoops Scott up, starts clomping down the stairs. “God, you’re gonna get too big to carry soon. Won’t that be unfortunate, huh, Scott?”

Scott opens his mouth, tries to say—”Un-fow-tuna-it.”

“Good job, Scotty. What a smart cookie.”

It's a good thing Scott like to cling to his neck like a monkey or else he fears he might have just dropped the kid when he gets downstairs. Erica is serving a couple of plates of eggs and toast. She's handing one to Derek. Derek who is sitting at his kitchen table. She’s saying, “You really shouldn't disappear because you really messed him up. Don't you think we have enough to deal with? Isaac set a mailbox on fire last week.”

“Yeah,” Derek tells her. “I—I’m really sorry, Erica.”

“Don’t say sorry to me,” she tells him. “Say sorry to Stiles.”

Stiles gets down the final two steps, stands staring at Derek at the table and Erica turning off the stovetop. Derek is looking at him too, and Erica is just standing near the fridge, holding a spatula, like she’s waiting for orders.

Stiles sets Scott down, and he goes running for Derek.

“Derek, Derek, Derek,” he says, batting at Derek’s knees. “Derek, can you make us pancakes?”

Derek breaks eye contact to look down at Scott. He lifts a hand towards Scott’s head, like he’s going to touch him, and Stiles says, “Don’t,” before he can even think.

Derek looks up again.

“Scott, go into the living room with Erica,” he says, and Scott pouts, but he goes, holding Erica’s hand the entire way.

“Stiles—”

Stiles surprises himself yet again. “Leave.”

Derek looks like he just took a shot. “St—”

“I said leave,” he chokes out. “I begged you, I begged you to come back.” He shakes his head. “And now you’re here and after that fucking display yesterday in front of Peter—I wasted the last few weeks of my life being scared and sad and frustrated and now I want you to leave.”

Derek stands, but he doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. “You don’t understand.”

“Well then explain it to me, Derek!” Stiles nearly shouts. “Explain to me how you could give us all this great fucking life, tell me you wanted to be with me, and then just fucking disappear! I already have trust issues, Derek—you think this is going to make them any easier, you piece of shit?!”

“I'm sorry,” Derek whispers. “Stiles, I'm so sorry.”

“Why?” Stiles asks immediately. “Why are you sorry? Why did you leave? Why did you ever plow your way into my life in the first place?”

“My uncle didn’t think it was a good look,” he says quickly. “He—I hadn’t spoken to him in months, not before I asked him to look at your résumé, and he said that I had to stop playing house or he was going to fire you.”

Stiles blinks. “He said that?”

“He said if I didn’t walk away, he was going to make your life a living hell and I—”

Stiles shoves him, shoves him so hard he knocks back into the dining table. “You think that job was more important to me than you?! You think I would’ve cared at all that I lost that stupid job? I’ll go back there and quit right fucking now, Derek—I don’t give a shit, not when I could’ve had you instead!”

“You need that job,” Derek says, standing up straight. “Your family needs it. I know you don't like taking gifts, I know how happy you were to just have proper medical care for the kids, to buy more groceries than you absolutely had to. I couldn't, I couldn't take that from you.”

Stiles swallows tightly. “So then why are you here now?”

Derek looks down at his feet. “Yesterday, I—seeing you—”

“What do you want from me, Derek?”

“Everything,” Derek says. “Like I promised. Like I said.”

“And your uncle?”

“I—he still insists. And I. I only wanted to tell you why. I didn't before because I knew you'd… You'd give everything up. But now that you know how much good it’s done your family, now maybe you can make the choice you want knowing the whole truth. I'll never blame you for not choosing me. I just wanted you to know I never—I wanted to stay.”

Stiles just stares at him. “I wanted you to stay too.”

There’s a long, tense moment of silence. It fills the cracks of the room, makes Stiles’ head pound just a little bit harder.

Eventually, Derek nods, tucks his hands in his pockets, shifts his weight. When he speaks, his voice is milder, more patient. “Erica seems—grownup.”

“She’s learning to live with disappointment. It’s a Martin trait.”

“Right.” He licks his lips. “I’m glad John came by. I’m glad—you got to meet him. He’s a good guy.”

“The best,” Stiles agrees. “Wish you’d been there with us.”

Derek sets his shoulders now, and Stiles knows something else is coming. “Peter wants me to oversee an office in Austria.”

Stiles nods. “He's full of great offers, isn't he. Kind of like Satan.”

Derek snorts and looks up at Stiles, almost pleading. Stiles wishes he could make a romcom out of his life. He wishes he could tell Derek, Fuck it all; come back to me. But he can't. He's hurt his family enough.

“I'm sure it's going to be great,” Stiles says softly. “You'll be great help there.”

“Stiles—”

Stiles shoves forward, kisses Derek’s cheek. “Go do great things, Derek. Europe is waiting.” And then he turns and heads into the living room, scooping Scott into his arms and grabbing Erica’s hand, towing them upstairs.


 

It takes a couple of months. At first, Stiles is just—numb. It’s kind of like it was when Derek first left, when everything first blew up in front of Stiles’ face. It’s the regular cycle of monotony. John comes over once or twice a week. He sends Stiles a check when Erica’s birthday comes around, another when Erica and Vernon have their little middle school graduation. Stiles always argues, always says they have enough money, but John won’t take no for an answer.

Lydia finishes her year, comes home. She takes care of Scott when he gets home from school and chaperones some other kids for extra cash. The Martin clan is flush.

Danny's serving him a drink one night when he mentions it. “You know I've been meaning to tell you. Ethan's thinking about starting up something on his own. He'll need help, the kind of stuff you do and other things too. He can't talk to you about it at work obviously so he asked me to mention it. Would you be interested? He'll probably have to pay you a bit less at the start.”

The medical and dental has been—the best part about the job. But Stiles has money saved up. The kids have all gotten their teeth cleaned and their regular checkups. If there were an emergency—they’d deal with it. Like they always have.

“Oh,” Danny adds before Stiles can say anything, “and he’s had interest from this, uh, group. I mean, I don’t know all the details, but he says he could pay you like $15 an hour for starts, and once he has more than thirty employees, he gets health benefits.”

“Fucking sign me up.”

He and Ethan leave Peter’s company together, along with twelve other employees. It’s not a guaranteed success, Stiles knows, but it says a lot that people trust Ethan more than they trust their current occupations.

That’s when summer starts, and Martin Daycare is in full swing. They have the above-ground pool set up, Lydia and Erica watch the kids, and Stiles spends his days working.

Ethan is always trying to get him to go out, to date again, to enjoy what's a pretty comfortable life at this point. But he's still the only person bringing money to a house with three children and a college student. He's still got mountains of bills and sometimes he still gets headaches about how to cover for things or deal with everyone and he can't. He can't divide his attention again.

At least that's what he says. Sometimes at night he sits downstairs with Erica's colorful globe and traces the path from Austria back home, back and forth for long stretches of silence.

One day in July, they get a call from John. It’s a Sunday, so Stiles is home, watching Erica teach Scott how to swim. Isaac is trying to light his swimsuit on fire. Vernon stops him. Stiles stands on the back porch to take the call.

“I found something that’s not going to make you happy, kid,” John says with a sigh.

“What’s up?”

“I think—I think I found Scott’s mom.”

She’s a woman living in Iowa, just a couple hours from Chicago. She reported her kid missing a long time ago. She was married to Martin, and they got divorced but could never file custody because he took off with the kid and disappeared.

“It would probably put her mind at ease to give her a call, kiddo.”

Stiles knows John is understating things, knows that if this woman lost her child when he was just a toddler she probably hasn't had a decent sleep in the three years that Scott has lived with them. He knows it would be cruel to wait another second if there's even a chance this is true. But he hesitates. She'll be so relieved to see her son safe, she'll want nothing more than to finally have him home. She'll take Scott from them.

He gets her phone number from John.

She sounds perfectly alive when she picks up the phone, not weary or depressed or anxious like Stiles would expect. But it’s been three years. Three years forces people to put on a strong face.

“Mrs. Melissa McCall?” he asks, unsure. She’s been remarried, John told him.

“Yes, that’s me,” she says. “Can I help you?”

“I’m sorry if this is a strange question, but I—were you ever married to a man named—”

She drives to come see them. She’s crying by the time they get off the phone, and Stiles says he would put Scott on, but he’s—he doesn’t understand, he’s too young, and he’s having such a good time with his sister. Melissa sounds overjoyed, all the same, and she says she’s coming straight away.

Stiles expected nothing less.

Scott's mother is beautiful. She has his same warm skin tone and big brown eyes and soft looking hair. Stiles doesn't need any of the tests he kept mulling over while they waited for her. She's definitely who they think she is.

“Is he here?” she says, with no preamble or introduction. “I'm sorry, I’m so sorry—I just need to—”

“Yes,” Stiles says, trying to hold back the way he feels like crying. “Yes, just gimme a second.”

He pours her a cup of coffee and she sits down on the couch, waits. Waits, while Stiles climbs the stairs like he’s going to his execution. Scott is in his room with Isaac, sitting on the floor, playing with a bunch of cards. Scott doesn’t understand how to play the game Isaac is trying to teach him, but it doesn’t matter.

Stiles sits down next to them.

“He can’t play Big Two,” Isaac complains.

“He’s five,” Stiles tells him. “Hey, buddy. Remember what we talked about earlier? Remember how I said there was someone important coming to see you?”

Scott nods. “Is Derek home?”

Stiles breathes in. Lay it on Scott, he thinks. Just kill me all at once, buddy.

“No, kiddo. She’s… She’s your mommy.”

Scott tilts his head. “Erica says mommy is in Heaven.”

“Our mommy is,” Stiles says quietly, “but you have your own mommy just like I have my own dad.”

That makes Scott grin. “I'm special like you?”

“Yeah, Scott, you’re special like me.” He licks his lips, strokes Scott’s hair. “Do you want to meet her?”

Scott nods. He holds onto Stiles’ hand and they go, leaving Isaac back in his room. Down the stairs, through the kitchen, into the living room, they walk, and Stiles stands there with Scott’s hand in his while Melissa stares at her son.

Scott tilts his head and gives a wave the way he's been taught to. “Hi. My name is Scott. Stiles says you're my mommy. I thought none of us had a mommy, but he says I'm special and I do. Do you like Legos?”

Melissa gets up off the couch and comes to kneel in front of Scott. She nods. “Hi, Scott. I love Legos.”

Scott beams. “Do you want to play with me?”

They set up Scott’s Lego set that Stiles bought him for his fifth birthday. Stiles watches, his heart breaking bit by bit, as Scott and his mom talk while they set up little pieces of plastic to make towers and sailboats and other things.

She scratches the back of his head without being told he likes it and she nods and listens to the way he explains his constructions like he's the most important person in the world. She doesn't cry tears of joy, Stiles thinks, perhaps she's cried all the tears she had to cry in this life.

When Scott gets tired and starts yawning, Melissa asks if she can go to his room and put him down for a nap. Stiles watches her watch the boy while he sleeps. Finally she pulls the blankets over him and comes out to talk to him.

“He loves you,” Melissa says.

Stiles nods. “And I love him. He’s—my little superhero. Keeps me going.”

“I—I have to thank you for calling me. You have no idea—I thought I’d lost him forever.” She hugs her elbows, folding her arms across her body. “I will always love my child as the most important thing in my world, but I—I want to know what you want to do from this point.”

Stiles swallows tightly. “Mrs. McCall—”

“Melissa.”

“Melissa,” he amends, “I’m in charge of all of these kids. I’m basically their dad, and I have been for years. I love each and every one of them as my own. But Scott is your son. And I—I don’t want to see him go, but I know I would lose my mind if I lost Erica or Isaac, so I respect your decision, whatever it may be.”

Melissa considers this for a moment. Then she smiles. “You are a part of Scott's family and Scott is the only family I have.”

Stiles frowns. “I thought you remarried.”

She laughs softly. “That went about as well as the first time. I only kept my married name because it was such a hassle to change it back to my maiden name. Again. I'm afraid I make terrible choices in men.”

Stiles snorts. “I can honestly say I've been there.”

She takes a deep breath. “I don't want to disturb the life you've built for your brothers and sisters. I only want to have my son again.”

Stiles swallows through the dryness in his throat. “I understand.”

“So I want to know if you would be all right with my looking for a home close to yours. Something small and very close. I want—I want to add to Scott's family, not take it away.”

They deserve for something to go right for a change, they really do. Stiles nods, face splitting into a smile. “Melissa, I can honestly say, we would love to have you around. It’s not—it’s not much, but my sister, Lydia, and I, we shared a womb for nine and a half months, I don’t think it would be an issue for us to share a room. You’re welcome to stay here, to live here. I don’t think we’ve ever been happier to accept another member of our family into the house.”

She pulls him into a hug and Stiles, Stiles thanks his mom wherever she is. Part of him is sure this is all her doing.


 

Their house is unrecognizable from what it was a year ago. Barely anything is broken and all the appliances work. Erica begs to share with Lydia for the summer so Stiles takes up a spot in Isaac and Scott's room. Melissa is an angel. Almost literally.

She's a nurse and splits her time between the free clinic and a dermatologists' office in the city. Her income and Stiles' make life easier than Stiles ever thought he would have it. One day, he opens his fridge and can't make up his mind what to make for dinner. There's so much to choose from. Isaac finds him crying with the fridge door wide open.

“Hey, bud,” Stiles says, wiping his eyes. “I, uh—you hungry?”

Isaac doesn’t speak, just goes and hugs him. That makes Stiles cry even harder.

Melissa sells the house she has in Iowa, puts the money she gets for it into a bank and tells Stiles to save it for when Erica is getting ready for college. There will be enough, she says, for Scott when it’s his turn.

The health plans come through on Ethan’s business. It’s not quite as lavish as Peter’s company, but it’s something, and Melissa takes care of them all anyway. John still comes around every week, more often now. Stiles thinks he has a little bit of a crush on Melissa. It’s kind of cute.

He watches them take care of dishes after dinner. For a moment, it's easy to imagine that it has always been this way. The next, he worries whether them acting on their crush would make their housing situation too tight to stand. The moment after, Erica makes a deep sighing sound and draws a heart in the air with her fingers. Nah, Stiles thinks. There's always room for more in this house.

Scott turns six in August, right before Lydia has to go back to school. She gets a picture frame with the word family in block letters, sticks a picture of all of them in it. It’s—perfect, and Stiles is happy again.

In September, John asks Melissa out on a date. In October, they move into a house together, across the street from Stiles and the kids. It’s pretty and simple and Stiles isn’t even jealous. He’s so pleased that they’re happy, that Scott has a mother, that he has a father. He’s happy that Erica and Vernon are going into high school, that Isaac is pushing through middle school. Alicia and Danny’s other kids are in elementary school still, so they’re the perfect age to be flower girls and ring-bearers for Danny and Ethan’s wedding.

Stiles isn't sure how you throw such a gorgeous wedding in a seedy bar, but Ethan wouldn't hear of having it anywhere else. So there's a cellist sitting in the corner, looking rather anxious about the neighborhood and general atmosphere of the venue, a reverend that looks like she's seen it all, an inordinate amount of kids for a place this well stocked with alcohol, and a lot of happy people.

In November, they have Thanksgiving over at John and Melissa’s house, all pushed together like one, big, happy family. And in December, Derek shows up on Stiles’ doorstep, like they’re celebrating some fucked up anniversary of the day they met.

He looks—okay. He looks a little older, a little more tired. He has bags under his eyes. His beard is more neatly trimmed. He’s wearing a wrinkled suit, and he’s looking at Stiles like he’s a drunk who crawled inside a church and can’t stop staring at God.

“You look like shit,” he says, even though he doesn't mean it.

“I feel like it,” Derek says. “I just got back.”

“How long ago?”

“Five hours,” Derek tells him.

Stiles nods. “Good flight?”

“I hate international flights.”

“Hm.” Stiles glances over his shoulder. Erica and Lydia are sitting on the couch together. Isaac and Scott are playing together on the floor in the kitchen. Stiles steps out onto the porch, closes the door behind himself. “What’s new, Derek?”

Derek licks his lips. “I only went to Austria to give myself something to do. I couldn’t just—sit around and be miserable. If I’d known—if someone had told me that you quit—”

“I’m not looking for excuses. I just asked you a question.”

“Working. All I’ve been doing is working. For months. What about—what about you?”

Stiles shrugs. “Stuff.”

Derek huffs out a little, pitiful breath. “I’m sorry. That I left. That I didn’t come back. That I let Peter get to me. That I broke promises I fully meant to keep.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says as he nods, “I’m sorry too.”

“I don’t—I don’t expect you to still—be single, or to even want me, or to trust me, but I had to come by. I had to let you know that I’m here.”

If someone were to ask Stiles, right now, what he was thinking, he wouldn’t have an answer for them.  He feels—conflicted, anxious, exhausted.  It’s his natural state of being.  He thinks about Derek all the time, wonders all the time, but thought it would go away eventually, just like Derek had.  But now Derek’s here.

“I always want you,” Stiles says.  ”Don’t think that I don’t because I never stopped. I just...don't know if I can trust you.”

Derek just looks at him.

“You were trying to help my family, trying to make me pay more attention to what they needed rather than what we wanted and that was—good of you.  Too fucking noble.”  He shifts his weight, shoves his hands in his pockets.  ”I want you but you can't just waltz back in.”

“Does that mean—?”

“It means you can come back tomorrow, and we can talk about it.”  He thinks of how Erica and Isaac know better than to talk about Derek, but Scott still asks.  Scott still wonders.

“That's.” Derek nods. “That's fair.”

“I'll see you tomorrow, Derek.”

Stiles doesn't sleep well. He can't when he can't focus, can't stop thinking about Derek back in town, back in his life. He can’t stop thinking about how calmly he handled it, about how it was like seeing Derek again didn’t even phase him.

He gets up early, showers, and walks downstairs to start breakfast for the kids. When he gets there, John and Melissa are already over the stove. Well, John's over the stove making hashbrowns with onions and eggs; Melissa is over the griddle, making French toast.

Everything is loud and messy and beautiful. Erica is brushing Scott's hair and Isaac is sitting on top of the kitchen counter and he's talking. He's talking a lot. Once Isaac had gone almost as quiet as Scott had been a few years ago. Now he’s going a mile a minute.

“And then that stupid bit—I mean witch told me I couldn't be on paper duty because I'd set it on fire! I don't set things on fire anymore. I mean, except the mailbox. But Derek never liked fire. He got really scared once when I started a bonfire in the yard. I don't like him because he's a douchenozzle but I don't want people to be afraid of me. So I've moved on to bigger and better things. Next year before the end of the year I'm gonna flood the teacher's lounge.”

“No, you’re not,” Stiles says with an amused smile and Isaac sticks out his tongue, jumps off the counter and goes to sit down at the table next to Erica. John meets his gaze with an equally sly smile and gestures towards the stovetop as he turns the flame off.

“Thought we’d come over and make breakfast for the kids. I know you have someplace to be.”

“Where are you going?” Erica asks, pushing her fingers through Scott’s hair.

“I’m getting breakfast with a friend. I’ll be back later.” He looks at Melissa. “You guys mind if I get ready?”

“Sure thing, hon.”

He dresses simply, plainly, doesn’t want to convince himself that eating pancakes with Derek is more important than it really is. Still, Derek is lingering outside when Stiles steps out on the porch, and Stiles’ heart does a jig in his chest.

“I didn't want to knock,” Derek says quickly. “I know you don't want me… The kids.”

“Yeah,” Stiles breathes out. “Yeah, that would be best for now.”

Derek drives them through the neighborhood to a little diner that’s less populated than IHOP but just as good. They get fancy crepes and fruit and bacon, and Stiles can’t stop pulling his hands through his hair, feeling generally uncomfortable in his skin.

“How’s John?” Derek asks.

“He’s good—really good. He and Melissa—that’s Scott’s mom—they’ve moved in together across the street from the house. They’re disgustingly in love. It’s great.”

“Scott's mom?”

Stiles nods.   “She's been looking for him all this time. I thought that now she'd found him she would take him away. But she moved in with us instead.”

“She sounds wonderful,” Derek says softly. “I'm glad.”

Stiles looks down at the table. “Scott misses you. I mean, it’s hard to see sometimes because I think maybe all of them do, but Erica and Isaac are—less vocal about it. Scott hopes you’re coming back soon.”

“I hope so too,” Derek tells him.

“How was Austria?”

“It was a ridiculous waste of time,” Derek huffs. “It was beautiful. I guess. It was sort of lost on me.”

“You didn't get out much?”

“It's useless if everything is beautiful and easy and perfect if you have no one to share it with,” Derek tells him.

Stiles still has a hard time believing that Derek was just as much of victim of circumstance as he was. He has a hard time reconciling with the fact that Derek was hurt too, that he didn’t want to leave, had to do what he thought was best for Stiles, even when it meant losing someone he loved. But when Derek looks at Stiles like that, says something like that, it’s a little easier to remember how things were before, how they were together when they were wholly, completely in love and nothing could stop them. Nothing except Peter Hale.

“I walked out of your uncle's building with twelve other people and I told him to go fuck himself,” Stiles admits. “Which may have burned bridges I guess, but Ethan said that some people were very pleased and I'd made more friends than enemies.”

“You work for that guy Ethan now.” Derek nods. “I heard something about that. I mean—not you going. Otherwise Peter would have lost his hold on me months ago.”

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah. I have a better job too, more interesting than filing cases and answering phones.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah. Ethan wanted me to train in research so I did a bit, and now I work in that.” He’s remarkably good at it, too. He’s task-oriented, and he won’t stop until he’s learned everything he needs to know. “And John and Melissa help out a lot. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

“I’m sure you’d be fine,” Derek tells him. “You always find a way to be fine.”

“Now I'm better than fine,” Stiles says. “The kids have real parents.”

“You're their real parent,” Derek says without hesitation. “It's great that you have help. That doesn't mean they aren't your kids anymore.”

“Well, it’s—”

“You raised them, Stiles.” Derek reaches across the table to lay his hand over Stiles’. “Just because John and Melissa are around doesn’t make you less of a parent. When Erica grows up, you think she’s going to be thanking them for the hard work they’ve done for her? No—because you’re the one who raised her. And Isaac. And Scott, too.”

“I'm not upset about Scott,” Stiles tells him. “We all had a mom but him. He deserves this. They all do. And I'm not sad about it. It's a relief, not being the only one responsible.”

Derek nods. “Okay. Well, I’m glad that you’re—comfortable.”

“What have you been doing? I mean, since you got back?”

“Shortly after I landed, I went to go talk to Peter about how he couldn’t bully me into not being with you when I wanted to; I didn’t know how well it was going to go, but I knew I had to do it. And then I heard that you had gone. I didn’t even see him. I haven’t seen him. As soon as I heard you had quit, I went to your house.”

Stiles can’t help but smile. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to see him again.”

“I’m planning on it.”

“Isn’t he in charge of your—”

“Money,” Derek finishes for him with a nod. “Not a huge amount. It was my father’s company and I own three-fourths of it. The only reason Peter even works there is so that he can feel important. The name on the building? My dad’s before he changed it to Hale.”

Stiles’ eyebrows fly up. “Your dad took your mom’s last name?”

“That’s the way our family worked. He and Peter went into business together, but Peter only owned 25% of the company. My dad left the rest to me when he passed, but I was too young to work there until I was 21, and at that point, I had—different hobbies. I was in college, I wanted to get a Master’s, I wanted to see the world. I didn’t want to sit behind a desk and sign forms, so Peter does it for me. He can’t take away my 75%.”

“So then why—I don't understand how he has so much control over you.”

Derek sighs. “He's… The only family I have.”

And Stiles gets that. Stiles gets that family is important, no matter how fucked up they are, and it would make sense that since Derek hasn’t worked at the company, he doesn’t get as much say in the things Peter does, no matter the percentage of it that he owns.

“I don’t want to keep talking about him,” Derek says, and he hooks his ankle around Stiles’ under the table.

Stiles doesn’t move away. “What would you like to talk about?”

“What you’ve been doing—how you’ve been doing. How was summer break?”

“Better with more hands on deck,” Stiles laughs. “And John turned a blind eye to the Daycare when he saw the kids were well cared for. It's not his district anyway is what I told him.”

Derek laughs. “Good thinking.”

“Danny and Ethan got married. It was beautiful. Erica and Vernon are, uh, doing the teen romance thing, I guess. They’re in high school now so here’s hoping they don’t crash and burn. And Isaac is—better.” Stiles thinks to what the kid had said this morning about not burning things because it scared Derek. “Not so much with the flames anymore. He does, however, have very ambitious plans to flood his school.”

“Did you get him to see a therapist?”

“Not for long,” Stiles sighs. “He refuses. She did tell us that—well, apparently Martin screwed him up more than us.”

Isaac was the one who had probably spent the most time out of any of them with Martin. Lydia was smart enough to avoid him when she was younger, spend time elsewhere or with Stiles instead of at home. It wasn’t hard to avoid him, what with him being gone all the time. But when Isaac was born, their mom was about a year away from death, and Martin had his first and only come-to-Jesus moment. It lasted a couple years. After she died, he was around every day, even if he was drunk for the majority of the time. He didn’t help, per se, but he was around until Isaac was about four, and then he split. The last time he came back for more than a drink, Isaac was nine. That was three years ago, when he dropped off Scott. He stayed for a couple days, spent them with Isaac, “bought” him things that Stiles still isn’t convinced weren’t stolen. He promised Isaac he would stay. He didn’t.

“Maybe we can try again.” Derek pulls his hand away, giving Stiles’ fingers one final squeeze. “I mean, you said John might talk him into going back.”

“Anything’s possible at this point.” Stiles scratches the back of his neck. “Honestly, if this—if this works out, I think you’d be more effective at convincing him to go back than John. He’s not sure what to think about John. I think he’s jealous that Scott’s mom is alive, that Scott gets real parents. He’s—he’d do better with you, probably.”

“I’m flattered.”

Stiles shrugs. “It is what it is.” He reaches over and takes Derek’s hand again, revels in how good it feels, how natural. “I know you did everything for the right reasons, but it doesn't change the fact that it fucked me up. You hurt my family. I know that you did it for our sakes but—”

“Stiles,” Derek holds his hand tighter. “Stiles, I'm sorry.” He scoots his chair closer, presses their knees together. “Stiles, I will spend the rest of my life hating what I did, hating that we were apart for that long, that I hurt you that badly. I can’t even explain to you how sorry I am that all of this happened, but I can promise you that I will never, ever hurt you badly again.”

Stiles looks down at the table briefly, then back up to Derek. “Okay,” he says.

Derek blinks. “Okay?”

Stiles nods. “Yup. Okay.”

“But that—that’s it?”

“No, but it’s a damn good start, and I’m sick and tired of sitting around pretending that I don’t still wanna jump your bones and wake up next to you and spend the rest of my life loving you.” He says it simply, just a matter of fact. “Let’s eat. And then we’ll see if we can’t work something out to do afterwards.”


 

ONE MONTH LATER

 

“Stiles, Stiles, Stileeees. DEREK!”

The shaking isn't an earthquake the way it had seemed in his dreams. He opens one eye and groans. “Scott, it's Sunday.”

“I know! Mom is making waffles,” Scott says as he bounces. “Isaac has like fifty! Get up, get up, get—aaahhhh!”

Stiles laughs as Derek all but smothers Scott.

Downstairs Melissa is indeed making waffles by the dozen. Lydia is eating two and Isaac and Erica each have towers on their plates.

“I gots them,” Scott announces proudly from Derek's arms.

Derek dumps Scott in his chair, kissing the top of his head, and goes to the counter to help Melissa with the waffles. John is sitting at the table, next to Lydia, reading the newspaper. Erica is trying to squeeze syrup out of the bottle. Derek reaches over to help her, lifting it higher so that it can cover all of the waffles on her plate.

“Good job, kiddo,” Melissa tells her son as she brings over another plate of waffles for John. “You want a waffle, Scotty?”

“Two, please!” he says brightly. He’ll only end up finishing one, but that’s okay. Melissa doesn’t mind making them. Stiles is going to help, but Derek swats his butt, points towards the empty seat next to Scott at the table.

“Go,” Derek says.

“Der—”

“Sit down,” he says in what Stiles has come to call his dad voice. Even John finds it impressive.

Lydia keeps glancing down at her phone like she has somewhere to be. Stiles snatches it and she scratches him to get it back.

“Dammit, Lydia, I can't go into work looking like I'm kinky.”

“That's right. He has to keep up appearances,” Derek snorts.

“Guys,” John groans as he turns his paper over and doesn't look up, “have mercy.”

Melissa laughs and Isaac makes a gagging face and Erica is entirely too busy texting but no one has to ask who she's talking to.

Lydia finally gets her phone back and sighs. “It's nothing. I'm screening calls.”

“For how long?” John says as he puts his paper down. “Are they harassing you?”

“No,” Lydia shakes her head. “It's fine.”

Stiles frowns but lets it go. He has to eat and then go put his clothes on or he's going to be late for work. He shovels his waffles into his mouth but then someone knocks on their door. At seven in the morning.

“Someone get that!” Stiles shouts as he clomps up the stairs. He sees Derek walking towards the door to answer it, and when he gets back downstairs, dressed up for his shoes and his tie loose around his neck, he sees Jackson and Lydia sitting on the couch in the living room, the rest of the family not-so-casually spying on them.

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest until Derek walks over.

“What’s he doing here?” Stiles demands.

“You’ll never guess where he’s been,” Derek mutters. “He finally checked himself into rehab.”

Jackson was junkie, a really bad one. It was part of the reason he kept falling apart with Lydia. He would use, she would ask him to stop, and they kept falling back and forth into these patterns. Eventually, Lydia stopped hearing from Jackson and gave up caring—or at least pretended to. Derek was around for that. Jackson dropped off the map shortly before he did.

“He got out last week, has been trying to get Lydia to talk to him since then.”

Stiles isn't going to respect privacy when it comes to his family and drug addicts so he joins the rest of the family. They can hear them fairly easily, but it doesn't seem like Jackson is trying to be discreet.

“They made me write a letter,” he says as he pulls a piece of paper with deep creases out. “But it's…”

Lydia watches patiently as he unfolds it and folds it and unfolds it again until he sets it down on the coffee table. “The point is. I'm so—no. I’m not supposed to start that way. I knowthat I hurt you and that—fuck.”

She lays a hand on his, simple and soft.

He takes a deep breath. “I didn't know that I loved—that I love you. And I know that you love… Sorry. That you loved me. And I took advantage. So I just—wanted to thank you, because you wanted me to be healthy even when I didn't care. Okay and now I can say I'm sorry. And I am,” he adds quickly. “I am sorry. I'm sorry I didn't realize that you were the only one who gave a shit about me.” He takes another deep breath and stands, putting his douchebag sunglasses back on. “Thanks for hearing me out.”

Lydia doesn’t say anything, but she does walk him out, and when Stiles sneaks over to peak through the window, they’re kissing on the front porch, all wrapped up in each other. Usually, under these circumstances, it would be the perfect time to interrupt and embarrass the crap out of his sister, but instead he goes back into the kitchen and sits down to put on his shoes. Derek stands behind his chair, hands on Stiles’ shoulders.

“Happy endings, huh?” Derek asks.

“Nah,” he says as he leans his head back for Derek to come down and kiss him. He lets his lips hover just below Derek’s while he whispers, “Works in progress.”