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Broken Cookie, Shattered Glass

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“Look, dude, all I’m asking is why you have to live together before the wedding?” Stiles turns to his best friend and former roommate. “I mean, doesn’t that take all of the surprise out of getting married? Whatever happened to being traditional?” So maybe Stiles also flails a little bit at the end of his questions, but whatever, he’s desperate here.

Scott just picks up the last cardboard box from where it’s sitting on the threadbare mattress in the center of his old bedroom and rolls his eyes at Stiles. “C’mon, bro. This is the twenty-first century. And it’s me and Allison. Not like we’ve really been any kind of traditional up ‘til now. Why mess with a good thing?” He shrugs and walks out of the room. They head toward the front door and Stiles opens it for him, closes and locks it behind them. “Don’t worry, Stiles. I promised to help you find another roommate, didn’t I?” Scott asks as they load the last box into Stiles’ beat-up Jeep.

Stiles lets out an overly dramatic sigh as he climbs into the driver’s seat and starts his vehicle. “Yeah, and while I really do appreciate that, it’s not gonna be the same, man.”

Stiles takes a moment to make sure that he and Scott have everything they need for their trip back to Beacon Hills, the city Scott grew up in and is moving back to, before he pulls out of the parking lot. Scott is quiet for a little while before he speaks again. “I know, dude. I mean, you’re my best friend and we’ve lived together for the last five years, so it will be weird to me too, being so far away. But…it’s Allison, y’know. We’re finally starting our life together.”

Stiles looks over just in time to see Scott smile his dopey smile that is always reserved for thoughts of his fiancée and he grins at him before he shakes his head and looks back to the road. “I know,” Stiles says quietly, letting the amusement fill the words. Stiles can’t really blame his friend. He knows just how crazy Scott is about Allison, and honestly, he thinks they are perfect for each other, but he would never tell him that. So yeah, he gripes about the fact that he’s losing his roommate, but he doesn’t really mean it, because he knows Scott is happy, knows that living with Allison means a lot to him, and Stiles is nothing if not secretly supportive of anything that makes the people around him happy.

So what? He’s losing his roommate of five years, but it’s not like he’s losing his best friend. He knows enough to realize that not all change is bad. He’s twenty-three years old. It’s not like he could go on living with his best friend forever. Things were bound to change eventually. And if Stiles maybe isn’t the best at dealing with change, well, no one really has to know. Scott has been by his side since they met freshman year at Berkeley as dormmates. He’s been there through all of the ups and downs the last five years have brought. So yeah, not having him constantly invade his space will be something to get used to, but Stiles will deal. Somehow. “I just—what if no one wants to live with me?” Stiles can’t help but ask, needing to talk it out. “I mean, I’m not exactly the easiest person to live with. And I don’t really have a lot of skills or amazing attributes here.”

He knows he sounds like a whining teenager, but he can’t be bothered to care. They are driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and Scott turns to him. “You have skills,” he says, like Stiles has somehow insulted Scott with his inability to see why anyone would actually want to live with him.

Stiles side-eyes him. “Oh, really? Do tell.”

Scott scrunches his face up for a moment. “Well, you’re funny, even though it sometimes gets lost in your sarcasm. You have a job. You’re neat. You make your own food…”

“Oh my god, you make me sound like one of those bad online dating profiles. Am I that guy? Really? My good traits include my humor and the fact that I can cook. Is that all I have going for me?” He throws his head back against his seat a few times. “Just kill me now.”

“Stiles, I didn’t mean it like that. You have good traits. Like, you’re also courteous! You always leave the apartment every time Allison comes to visit!”

Stiles just gives him a long look. “Sorry to break it to you, Scott, but that is less about courtesy and more about me not wanting to listen to you have sex.”

“Oh,” Scott almost looks crestfallen for a moment before he opens his mouth again. “Well, you are also super focused. Y’know, like, once you set your mind to it, you don’t stop or give up until it’s done. A focused mind is really powerful, dude.”

Stiles shakes his head. “First of all, that’s because of my Adderall. Yay, drugs. Second of all…I think I might use that. Can you get my book out?”

Stiles waits the couple seconds it takes for Scott to open the glove compartment and pull out the small notepad and pen Stiles always keeps there. Scott opens it to a blank page and clicks the pen. “Ready,” he says.

Stiles is formulating the line in his head. He knows it needs to be good. Not too corny, not too serious. “Oh! I got it! ‘A focused mind is powerful and knows no limits’.” He hears the scratch of the pen across the paper before it clicks once more and Scott is placing it back in the glove box. “Thanks.”

“No problem. But anyway, man,” he sighs, “we’ll find someone not too horrible for you. I won’t let anyone live with you who doesn’t get my full, one-hundred percent seal of approval.”

Stiles places a hand over his head and blinks a few times. “Wow, Scott. I don’t know what to say. That just—that means the world to me…” he fake-sniffles and then yelps when Scott reaches across the gearshift and punches him in the arm.

~

The drive to Beacon Hills is just long enough that Stiles is starting to feel like he wants to crawl out of his skin by the time they pull into Scott’s mom’s driveway. He gets out almost as soon as he puts his Jeep in park and is walking around to the back when he hears the front door to the house open. Scott gets out of the vehicle and is walking up to where his mother is waiting on the porch as Stiles grabs both of their overnight bags and heads toward them.

Scott hugs his mother tightly. He overhears their exchange of ‘I missed you’ and ‘it’s been too long’ before Melissa is pulling away with a laugh and then motioning for Stiles to give her a hug. It’s always a long drive, but it’s worth it for the people here. Even though Stiles has only known most of them for five years, he feels like he grew up in this town, feels like he belongs. Melissa pulls him into a tight hug and he thinks, not for the first time, how she is like a second mother to him. “Stiles! Was the drive okay?” she asks after she beckons them inside.

“Yeah! Traffic wasn’t actually too bad this time,” he says, setting his and Scott’s bags by the door before walking over to plop down on the couch.

Scott walks over and sits in a recliner. He looks around for a moment before he frowns a little. “Hey, Mom, where’s Peter?”

All of them hear the unmistakable sound of a car turning into the drive before Melissa smiles at her son. “He was getting food. I figured you boys would be hungry after the long drive.”

Scott smiles at her again and gets up to open the door for Peter. Stiles just shoots her a smile of his own. “Have I ever told you how much I love you? Because honestly. I love you Melissa Hale.”

“Stiles, how many times do I have to tell you not to hit on my wife?” Peter says from the doorway, arms full of pizza boxes. Melissa walks over to him and takes the boxes from his hands. Before she can take the food into the kitchen, he pulls her into a soft kiss. “My wife.”

Stiles shrugs, even as Scott makes a choking sound at seeing his parents kiss—because he’s super mature. “I can’t help it,” Stiles says. “There’s just something about a woman that offers me food…”

Peter stops near the couch and turns to him with a raised eyebrow. “What about a man that offers you food?” he asks. He can hear Scott and Melissa cackling as they move into the kitchen with the food. Stiles feels his cheeks color.

“Well,” he clears his throat. “Peter, if you’re offering…”

The laughter erupts into full on hooting and Stiles swears he hears a snort. Peter’s mouth presses into a thin line and Stiles knows he is trying to keep from smiling. “Why do we invite you over? What did we do to deserve someone like you?” He shakes his head and walks into the kitchen.

He follows him into the kitchen and they all grab paper plates and slices of pizza and breadsticks. It isn’t until much later, after the two pizza boxes are empty, and the movie they are all watching on TV is over, that they somehow get onto the topic of Stiles’ need for a roommate. Okay, well, maybe it isn’t so much Peter and Melissa discussing it with him and Scott than Stiles complaining about how expensive rent is in San Francisco and how he can’t believe that Scott is just abandoning him like this.

Melissa eventually throws her hands up. “Stiles, they’ve been engaged for two years! What did you think was going to happen when they got married?—that you would just move in with them?”

Stiles opens and closes his mouth a few times. “No. I mean, knowing something will happen and then having it sneak up on you and happen when you aren’t really quite prepared for it are two completely different things, okay. Like, I knew this day would come, but now that it’s here…” he sighs, “It’s just—it sucks.” Scott makes an agreeable noise and pats him on the back. “And besides, most of the people I know are either here in Beacon Hills or already have places to live in San Francisco.”

“And he already asked everyone from school. He even asked Greenberg out of desperation,” Scott offers to his mom and stepdad and they wince in sympathy. Stiles just hangs his head in mortification because even Greenburg didn’t want to room with him. Greenberg, the joke of Berkeley. What is Stiles’ life?

Peter looks pensive for a moment. “Well, you’ll be here for the whole week, yes? I’m sure you’ll find someone who doesn’t think you are too annoying to live with.” His face twists into a grimace and then he smirks, “Actually. No, never mind. Everyone thinks you are too annoying to live with.”

“Hey!” Stiles yelps in indignation, “that isn’t true. Take that back!”

Peter just shrugs. “The truth is an unpopular subject, because it is unquestionably correct.”

Stiles just opens his mouth and narrows his eyes at the older man. “Dammit, I have to use that one,” he grumbles, pulling his wallet from his back pocket to get out the very, very small notebook he keeps inside of it. Melissa is already up and offering him a pen before he can ask and he writes down what Peter just said, before putting his wallet back away and handing the pen to Melissa.

Peter is shaking his head, but Stiles makes a point not to look at him. “Whatever, all I’m saying is that I’m desperate here. At this point I think I’ll live with anyone.” Stiles shakes his head and then looks at Scott. “Okay, okay, sorry. Enough about me. Let’s talk wedding stuff. What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” As Scott and his mom both start rattling off the different appointments they have for the next day, Stiles can’t help the grin that spreads across his face at how happy both of them look, even though he has no idea what they are actually saying to him. Whatever. He has all day tomorrow to figure it out.

~

Stiles doesn’t know how this happened. He really doesn’t. Somehow a day of wedding appointments turned into a day of actual, literal hell. He did not sign up for this when he agreed to be Scott’s best man. In no way was he prepared to witness a fight between Allison and a florist, and then Scott and a baker, and then Scott’s mom and Allison’s mom arguing over the exact shade of the colors Scott and Allison picked, and his head is killing him and even Lydia is looking a little frazzled by dinner time when they finally decide to call it quits. Stiles is just about to offer to drive Lydia to her mom’s house when Scott comes up to him. “Hey man, my aunt just called and invited us to dinner at her place. You in?”

Stiles perks up at the mention of Scott’s Aunt Talia. “Hell yeah! Are your cousins home?”

Scott grins. “Cora isn’t back from college yet, but Laura’s home for a visit. Oh! Also, my cousin Derek finally moved back home, so you’ll be able to meet him this time!”

Stiles smiles and follows Scott and his mom in his Jeep out toward the preserve on the edge of town. They pull into a long driveway that leads to a house that is almost as familiar to him as Scott’s mother’s place. Scott and his step-cousins acted more like siblings than anything else, so every time Scott brought Stiles to Beacon Hills for a visit, they would at least spend a third of their time at his aunt’s house.

Stiles is more than excited by the time they finally walk inside of the large estate. Peter is already in the kitchen when the three of them walk into it. Talia is in front of the stove, stirring something that looks suspiciously like her famous Butternut Parmesan Pasta, and Stiles can’t help but walk over toward her. She looks up as he rounds the island. “Stiles!” Her smile is infectious and Stiles finds some of the tension he’s had all day draining away.

“Hey Aunt Talia. Anything I can help you with?”

She rolls her eyes at him, even as her smile turns just a little warmer. She pushes a wooden spoon into his hand. “I’m just starting the sauce. Stir it.”

“As my lady commands.” Stiles grins cheekily at her and bows. “It would be an honor to stir your sauce.”

Peter groans from where he is standing by the island. “What is it with you and hitting on married women?”

Stiles spins around and wags his spoon at Peter, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. “Okay. Whaddya say Peter, wanna spoon?”

It’s at that very moment that Laura walks into the room, a man Stiles has never seen before hot on her heels, but then they both just stop in the entryway and stare at him for a moment before Laura throws her head back with a “Stiles, please tell me you weren’t just hitting on my uncle.” She sounds more than a little whiny and Stiles just smirks at her as Melissa and Talia laugh at her.

Stiles shrugs nonchalantly and twirls the spoon a little bit, looking up toward the ceiling like he is pondering something deep. “What can I say, there’s just something about older men that turns me on…” he startles when he feels a hand smack the back of his head and turns around to see Talia motioning to the sauce. “Sorry, sorry!”

Talia shakes her head at him. “If you were anyone else, I swear, Stiles.” She laughs one more time before she goes back to her noodles. “I only put the basics into the sauce, by the way. Do you want to add the rest?”

Stiles lifts the corner of his mouth before he sets the sauce to simmer and rummages through the cupboards to find just what he needs for the secret recipe Talia taught him two years ago. She said it was always just supposed to be a secret family thing, but since none of her children had any interest in actually cooking, she had told Stiles with the hope that at least he would appreciate the deliciousness of it. Stiles always makes it a point now to post to her Facebook wall every time he makes any of her recipes just so she knows how much he appreciates it.

He hears a throat clear from behind him but doesn’t think anything of it until Talia stops cooking to turn around. Stiles is adding little pinches of nutmeg and parsley and doesn’t even notice until the room falls silent and he can feel eyes on him. He looks up just as he adds the last bit of lemon juice to the mix. “Um,” he says, ever so eloquently, when he sees the man by Laura staring holes into him and Laura and Talia looking between them.

The man opens his mouth slowly. “Did I miss something?” he asks no one at all, voice all kinds of rough and gravelly. “Did you get another son while I was gone?”

Talia clicks her tongue at the viciousness in his tone and Stiles swallows as she speaks. “Oh, Derek, don’t be silly.” Stiles turns slowly around and stirs the sauce, just like Talia taught him to. “This is Stiles. He’s Scott’s best friend from school; I know you’ve heard the stories… Anyway, he, unlike some people I know, actually cooks. So while he’s here, he’s helping me.” She throws a pointed look at him that Stiles catches out of the corner of his eye. “Unless of course you’d rather help me? I will gladly put my children to work…”

Laura makes a distressed sound and Stiles winces in sympathy. He still remembers what happened the last time Laura tried to cook anything. The house smelled like smoke for nearly a month.

He chances a glance over his shoulder and sees the man—Derek—pointedly avoiding meeting either Talia’s or Stiles’ eyes, with his arms crossed over his chest. And man, what nice arms they are. The dude must work out every day to be that buff. It isn’t until Derek’s eyes flicker back over to him that Stiles realizes he’s been staring. Stiles clears his throat. “Don’t worry dude. I wouldn’t want to be related to anyone in this family.” He smirks at the slightly confused look on the man’s face before he hears Scott groan and whisper ‘here it comes’ and then he says, “If I were, I wouldn’t be able to hit on any of you without being creepy.”

Laura walks around the island and drapes an arm over his shoulder. It’s a little awkward because Stiles is taller than her but he puts an arm around her waist nonetheless. “Hate to break it to you, Romeo, but it’s still creepy. Never let me hear you hit on my uncle ever again.”

“Hmm, but I can’t hit on your father. What other older man will I make feel uncomfortable with my lewd remarks and flirtations if not for my best friend’s stepfather?” he asks, like he is genuinely curious. “I mean, I already tried to get into your pants and you sadly shot me down all those years ago, so…”

He hears her snicker as he turns off the sauce and moves to lean his back against the counter. “If I would’ve known that would start a chain of you hitting on every member of my family, I might’ve actually reconsidered. I mean, every time I turn around you are flirting with Mom or Aunt Mel. Aren’t the women enough for you? Do you have to go after the men too?”

Stiles smiles a slow, shameless smile at her and lifts his shoulder in a noncommittal gesture. “What can I say? I’m an equal opportunist.”

Suddenly a phone rings and Stiles looks to see Derek pulling a cell phone from his black jeans and walking toward the foyer with a mumbled ‘Hale’.

Stiles sighs and pulls Laura into a proper hug. “I’ve missed you, Laura. It’s been too long since you came to visit us in San Fran. The nightlife just isn’t the same without you.”

Laura lets out something that sounds like a giggle, even though he would never tell her that to her face. “You mean you need me there to be your beard.”

Stiles just shrugs and gives her a look. “I tried going to a club with Scott once and all the dudes hit on him. It was a real confidence booster, let me tell you.”

Scott pipes in from where he is sitting with his mom at the small table in front of a large window that faces toward the woods. “Hey, dude, don’t be butthurt because I’m prettier than you.”

Stiles pouts, just a little, but then he hears the unmistakable sound of the front door slamming closed. He winces. “So, uh, I don’t think your brother likes me very much.”

Peter laughs patronizingly at him from across the island. “No! Someone not like you? That’s just—unheard of.”

“Peter,” Talia tuts, shaking her head. “For that, you get to set the table. Go find my husband and have him help you. He should be in the study.”

Peter lets out a long-suffering sigh and leaves the room, shouting “William! Get your ass out here and help me set the damn table.” Stiles can’t control the small snicker that leaves his mouth. He hears the opening and closing of a door and then low grumbles of complaint from William Hale as he walks down the stairs. Stiles pulls away from Laura and walks over to the entryway by the foyer. As soon as William looks over and sees Stiles he lets out a sigh of his own. “Stiles, to what do I owe the pleasure of being graced with your presence?”

Stiles smirks. “Didn’t Peter tell you that Scott was bringing me here for a visit? I’m sure he would’ve mentioned it.”

William eyes the way to the dining room like he could glare through the wall at his brother-in-law. “He must’ve neglected to tell me that.”

Stiles shrugs. “Maybe he didn’t want to ruin the surprise,” he says, with a flourish of hand movements that resemble something like spirit fingers.

William rolls his eyes at Stiles and turns and walks away. “I’m sure it was something like that.”

Laura is by him when he turns around. “Hey, so when does Cora get back from uni?”

Laura shrugs, but what Stiles knows to be her proud-big-sister smile spreads across her face. “The semester’s actually over, but she got selected for some sort of really prestigious summer intern program. She’ll be home for the wedding though, for sure.” She shakes her head and throws a look over her shoulder. “I still can’t believe that Scott is getting married. I mean, I remember when I first met him before Uncle Peter married Aunt Mel and he was a pimply-faced asthmatic whose life goal was to be first line on lacrosse.” She shakes her head again. “He’s all grown up now, though. It makes me feel a little old.”

Stiles watches her expression turn just a little brooding, and he nudges her with his shoulder. “Girl, you are anything but old. You’re only three years older than us. Is twenty-six the new forty and I missed it?”

He gives her his best shit-eating grin and Laura glares. “I don’t know why I put up with you.”

Stiles huffs. “Why does everyone keep saying that to me today? Is it Rag On Stiles Day and I just didn’t get the memo? Because I swear, every time I opened my mouth today, someone bit my head off or asked me what I was even doing there.” Stiles isn’t aware that her words have sparked a rant inside of him until he finds the words just tumbling out. “Even Allison asked Scott today why we were friends, and you know what Scott said?—Nothing, the bastard.” Stiles lets his breath out slowly and looks up to see Laura’s eyes wide and more than a little sympathetic. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—it’s just been a long day. And I’m hungry. I get crabby when I’m hungry.”

“Oh honey, I know,” Laura says and grabs his elbow to guide him into the dining room. Talia, William, Peter, Melissa, and Scott are already sitting down. Laura pulls out a seat and Stiles sits down next to her and Melissa. They hear the front door open and close and then Derek is walking into the room and sitting in the only open seat, right across from Stiles.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, glancing over at Talia. “Work,” he offers as an explanation. Talia nods and then announces that dinner is served. They all dig in with relish. Talia’s pasta is something akin to the talk of the town and is a favorite of pretty much anyone that’s ever eaten dinner at the Hale house.

Talia brings out a couple bottles of wine and pours everyone a glass. Dinner passes in loud conversation of weddings and plans and varying types of jobs and complaints about said jobs and Stiles isn’t even aware that he hasn’t tasted his wine until he’s almost done with his meal. He takes a small sip of the wine and mulls it over on his pallet for a moment before swallowing. “Wow,” he says, taking another sip of the wine. He looks up from his glass to see Derek giving him a look from across the table.

He raises an eyebrow at Stiles and Stiles looks away. Laura leans over and whisper-talks into his ear, “The wine’s good, right?”

“Good? The wine is perfect,” Stiles maybe whisper-talks a little too loudly because everyone but William and Scott are looking at him now, too engrossed in whatever conversation they are having. “It brings out all of the flavors of the food. Literally, it’s like a flavor explosion in my mouth.”

Laura sniggers. “Well, I guess you’d know all about things exploding in your mouth, wouldn’t you, Stiles?” she teases.

Stiles knows Derek is still looking at him but he can’t help the blush that starts on his cheeks. He gingerly sets the wine glass down and stares down at his food, willing himself to finish it, if as nothing more than a distraction from his embarrassment.

Stiles eventually finishes his glass of wine and dinner ends. Talia and Melissa clear the plates away while Laura brings out dessert. She sets a plate with a slice of pie down in front of Stiles and he honest-to-god moans. “Is this what I think it is?”

Talia walks back into the room just as he asks and she chuckles, “Yes, Stiles, it is. And no, I did not make it just for you.” Stiles almost pouts, but he catches himself. “You and Derek have at least one thing in common; love for my homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Pie.”

Stiles moans again, maybe just slightly louder than necessary, because Derek is looking at him again, but he doesn’t care, because pie, “Get in me!” he shouts before he is lifting his fork and digging in to the delicious dessert.

He hears a choking noise and looks up to see Derek coughing, fork posed awkwardly in the air. He lifts the rest of his wine glass and drains it in one giant gulp, before he grimaces.

Stiles can sympathize, “Wrong kind of wine for this pie, huh?”

Derek looks up at him and tilts his head, narrowing his eyes ever so slightly at Stiles. “What do you know about wine?”

Stiles shrugs. “Not much, but I went to a vineyard in Oakland once with Scott and we made our own wine. It was terrible stuff, but I wouldn’t mind making more again sometime. You know, practice makes perfect and all that. Maybe next time I’ll actually be good at it.”

Derek just eyes him for a moment longer. “You don’t need talent to gain experience. If you want to try again, try again. You’ll probably suck anyway.”

Stiles opens his mouth to respond, but the wheels in his mind are turning. He holds his finger up at Derek. “Hold that thought,” he says as he pulls out his wallet from his back pocket, standing up and heading toward the hallway leading to the foyer and the desk where he knows pens are kept. He scribbles down the phrase and is reading it over when he walks back into the room. He closes his wallet and puts it away as he sits down. “Sorry,” he says, picking up his fork and looking back at Derek. “Continue telling me how much I’ll probably still suck at wine making.” He takes a bite of pie.

Derek has a pinched expression on his face. “What the hell was that about?”

Stiles swallows his pie. “I’m sorry, what?” Derek motions in a general way toward Stiles and the foyer. “Oh, right. I just wanted to write that down. It was a good one.”

Derek moves his chin forward and lifts an eyebrow. “A good what?”

Stiles has just shoved his last (massive) bite of pie in his mouth, so Laura answers for him. “Stiles is a fortune cookie writer. He collects well spoken remarks.” Derek’s eyes flick from his sister to Stiles and Stiles nods enthusiastically.

“Really.” His tone is more than a little patronizing and Stiles is about to take offense when Talia cuts into their conversation.

“So, Derek,” she begins, “not that I don’t adore having my eldest child move back home after a long absence, but have you made any progress on finding a place to live?”

Derek all but glowers at his mother for a moment before he seems to deflate. “Not really. None of the places are in the right area.”

Scott pipes up from where he’s sitting next to Derek. “You’re looking for an apartment? Where at?”

Derek doesn’t even bother glancing over at his cousin. “The bay area.”

“Really?” Peter, Scott, and Melissa all chorus at the same time.

Derek stills like a deer caught in headlights. “Yes?”

“Hmm,” Talia muses. “Stiles, your apartment is in San Francisco, isn’t it? You work downtown, right?”

Stiles feels a little like a deer in headlights himself…or maybe like he’s about to be hit by a freight train. “Yes, Aunt Talia,” he mumbles.

“Interesting indeed,” William says from next to Scott.

“And Scott just moved out, correct? Didn’t I hear somewhere that you’re looking for a roommate?” Talia asks, all innocence, like she doesn’t know that Stiles is desperate to find a roommate. Scott nods at her excitedly and Stiles kind of wants to kick him.

“Mom,” Derek warns and Talia turns her gaze on her son.

“What? It would be ideal, Derek. He has an apartment in the location you’re looking for and he needs a roommate. You’re not finding anything else, and you can’t keep just driving down during the week and staying at hotels and coming back here on the weekends. It costs too much money.” She chastises him.

Derek shrugs. “Why not? It’s my money and I can afford it.”

“Derek Hale, I taught you better than that didn’t I?” She waits for her son to look her in the eye and it’s a long moment before she says, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, sweetie.”

Derek stares at her for a little while longer before he sighs deeply and looks back to Stiles. “Well, looks like you’ve got yourself a roommate,” he says, words dripping indifference.

“Um,” Stiles starts, “great.” If he’s a little heavy on the sarcasm, no one comments.

~

The next few days pass in a blur and before Stiles knows it, it’s the end of the week and he is helping Scott unload all of his boxes from the Jeep and Scott is officially moving into his new apartment with Allison. It doesn’t take too long to get the boxes up to the second floor apartment. Allison and Lydia are already there, unpacking boxes of kitchen utensils and putting them away in designated cupboard spaces. Stiles and Scott take on unpacking the endless amounts of things Scott and Allison have managed to accumulate over the years. They end up unpacking most of Scott’s clothes and hanging them in the closet of the bedroom.

“Scrubs on the right or left? I forget,” Stiles turns to his friend and questions.

Scott doesn’t even look up, too busy sorting his boxers and boxer briefs into separate piles. “Left.”

Stiles nods even though Scott can’t see him and hangs his scrub shirts and folds the matching pants, placing them on the shelf in the back of the closet. “Hey, where’s your stethoscope anyway?”

Scott stills at that and looks up at Stiles with panic flashing across his face. “Oh my god, I don’t remember! Oh shit, I hope I didn’t leave it at the apartment. I start my new job at the hospital on Monday!” He runs out of the bedroom with a frantic “Allison!”

Stiles sighs and follows him out into the kitchen. Lydia is leaning against the counter and looking at him as Allison calmly tells Scott that his nursing equipment is in the spare room with all of her training things. Scott isn’t satisfied though, and grabs Allison’s hand so that she can show him.

Lydia rolls her eyes as the other two head into the spare room. “Sometimes I wonder how he actually made it up until now without her.”

“Hey!” Stiles says indignantly. “He had me.”

Lydia flicks her eyes over Stiles’ body before she looks him in the eye. “Oh, yes, I remember that making all of the difference at Berkeley. Except, correct me if I’m wrong, but it was your idea to go out the night before final exams senior year, and you who almost inadvertently made all of us late the next day because the taxi driver somehow managed to take us to San Jose instead of San Francisco?” She inclines her head a little bit. “I am remembering that correctly, yes?”

Stiles runs his hand through his hair. “That was one time and I still maintain that it wasn’t my fault the driver couldn’t speak English, okay.” Lydia doesn’t even respond and Stiles sighs. “Fine, you win Lyds. I’m a fuckup and can never do anything right. Thank you.”

Stiles is walking toward the living room/front door when he feels a hand on his elbow. “Hey,” Lydia says as she turns him toward her. “C’mon, you know I’m just kidding, Stiles. What’s wrong?”

Stiles pointedly looks anywhere but at her. He drums his knuckles on the edge of the counter for a few beats before he answers. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just having a bad day. A bad week. A bad life.”

Lydia moves her hand so that it covers his fingers and quiets the nervous cadence. “Is this about Scott leaving?”

“Yes?—No. I don’t know. It’s just—it feels like everyone but me is figuring out their lives, y’know? Scott’s got a job at the hospital, Allison’s got her gig teaching self-defense classes; they are getting married, for god’s sake. You have a job at Berkeley. And I’m still working the same job I was before I graduated, living in the same apartment in the same city.”

Lydia moves so that her hip bumps against Stiles’ leg. “Cheer up, idiot. You love your job. You love your apartment. You love San Francisco. It’s okay to not know where you’re going, as long as you don’t stop.”

Stiles looks over at her, a small smile tugging at his lips. “What lovely words of wisdom.”

Lydia shrugs. “I read it somewhere.”

Stiles lets out a laugh and puts his arm around her shoulder. “Really? Because it sounds like something out of a fortune cookie…that I wrote.”

Lydia clears her throat and purses her lips. “Don’t flatter yourself, Stilinski,” she says as she flicks her hair over her shoulder and where his hand is still resting.

“Whatever, Martin, I know you secretly love fortunes, if for nothing more than trying—and failing—to find patterns in the lucky numbers.”

Lydia bites her lip and narrows her eyes at Stiles. “I just want to know how it’s possible that lucky numbers could win a lottery, okay? Is that so much to ask?”

Stiles hears a groan from behind him and turns to see Allison looking at them. “Please tell me you guys aren’t talking about fortune cookies again.”

Stiles grins cheekily at her. “Sorry, Allison. I can’t resist. Oh!” he takes his arm off of Lydia’s shoulders and heads toward the small bag he brought in with him. “I brought you something.” He opens his bag and pulls out a bag of chocolate fortune cookies. “Here,” he says as he hands the bag to Allison.

She takes it and smiles up at him, dimples flashing. “You remembered!”

Stiles scoffs. “Of course I did. Did you really think I would forget my best friend’s to-be-wife’s love affair with chocolate fortune cookies? Please. When it comes to food, I never forget.”

Allison reaches out and pulls him into a hug. “Thank you. Now I don’t have to kick your ass for scaring Scott.”

Stiles laughs, but it sounds a little strangled, because he can never actually tell when Allison is serious or when she’s joking. “So, what’s the plan for dinner? I’m starving.”

“Me too,” he hears Scott’s call from down the hall.

Lydia shrugs and looks at Allison and Stiles. “I’m thinking…Chinese takeout?”

Allison nods in approval. “Sounds good.”

Scott comes out of the spare room and into the kitchen. “Did I hear something about Chinese? Oh man, I love Chinese. Can I have an extra eggroll? And wonton soup?”

Allison smiles at her fiancé. “Sure sweetie. You guys?”

Stiles shrugs, “My usual.”

“Same,” Lydia says.

Allison walks passed Scott to get the phonebook and he looks at the bag in her hand. “Hey, are those chocolate fortune cookies? Dude, I love those!”

~

Stiles heads back to San Francisco the next day and somehow the drive feels longer now that he doesn’t have his best friend riding shotgun. He makes it back to his apartment just as the sun is starting to set and orders a pizza for dinner. The apartment is quiet and maybe a little too lonely. The only company he has is the sound of the city outside coming to life under the rising moon.

This city feels like something he’s always loved. It feels like a part of him; like he’s a part of it. Even when he first started going to Berkeley and exploring the area, sometimes dragging Scott along so he wouldn’t just waste away in their dorm room, nowhere else captivated him like San Francisco. He loves the feel of the city, the art, the water, the nightlife. It calls to him, settles his always spinning thoughts. This is his home; has been his home for years.

Tonight though, his home feels empty, too big, and he’s wishing he would’ve had the foresight to adopt a cat.

It isn’t long after he finishes off over half of the pizza he ordered and flipped through all of the channels on his TV four times to no avail that he decides to call it a night, knowing he has to get up early for work the following morning. He undresses down to his boxer briefs and crawls between his soft sheets. While he loves visiting Beacon Hills, he loathes and despises always being stuck sleeping on a slightly lumpy couch. He would never tell Melissa that her couch was lumpy though, or that the one time he stayed at Aunt Talia’s house, it had been like heaven on his back. He smiles a little at that thought and falls asleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow.

He’s woken up by a loud thump. It startles him up from where his sheets are wrapped around him and he blinks sleepily into the darkness before he hears it again. His heartbeat rockets into overtime and the remnants of sleep are chased from his mind. He’s out of his bed and to his closet before he’s even aware of it, reaching for the torch flashlight his father got him for the Christmas after he started college. His father’s words are running through his head. It’s a flashlight, but it also makes a good weapon if you need it, kid. He grips the torch tightly and puts his ear to his bedroom door, listening for any sounds. He hears what sounds like a scrape of something against the hall wall just outside of his room and knows that if he wants to have the element of surprise against whoever is breaking into his home that it’s now or never.

He makes sure his grip on the flashlight is still secure and he gingerly sets his other hand on the knob, slowly twisting it. He doesn’t open the door, but he steps a little away from it, so he won’t accidentally hit himself when he flings it open, and waits. He hears the sound in the hall get closer and ignores the sweat beading on his forehead. He has a fleeting moment of wishing Scott were here because he’d know what to do, before he is pulling his bedroom door open with a battle cry and swinging the torch down fast and hard toward the burglar.

He manages to hit the other person right in the face, moving the metal base until it smashes them squarely on the nose. Blood starts gushing from the man’s nose and it isn’t until he drops the cardboard box he is carrying directly on Stiles’ foot and brings his hands to cover his now probably broken nose that Stiles realizes the burglar is actually one Derek Hale.

Stiles yelps at the sudden pain in his foot and drops his torch to the carpet underfoot around the same time that Derek is yelling “Motherfuck!” loud enough to wake the neighbors below.

“Oh, shit!” Stiles, ever eloquent, spits out, reaching out to grasp Derek’s shoulder. “Fuck, dude I’m so sorry! I thought you were someone breaking in. Oh my god, are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital? Shit.” He’s out in the hallway before he realizes he’s moved and is herding Derek toward the bathroom. “Sit,” is all he says as he gets a handful of tissues.

Derek is sitting on the toilet lid, pinching his nostrils together with his head leaning backward. “No, put your head forward; it will help slow the bleeding,” Stiles says, nudging his shoulder and handing Derek the tissues. He takes them and quickly mops up some of the blood leaking from his nose, tilting his head forward. His olive green v-neck is soaked an ugly brown by the blood and there are stains all down his chin and neck. Stiles feels like a class-A asshole, but all he can do is stand on the other side of the small bathroom and watch.

Derek doesn’t say anything for a few more minutes, until he mumbles out “I think the bleeding stopped.”

Stiles nods as Derek throws the tissues in the trash by the wall. “Do you—do you need help up?” Stiles asks tentatively.

Derek doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t have to, he just gives Stiles a withering glare and stands gracefully from the toilet seat. “I think you’ve done quite enough, thanks.”

Derek walks over to the sink and begins to wash his hands of the blood on them. He takes his shirt off and Stiles can feel his mouth drop open just a little. Derek is built; like, really built. Not like gross body builder amount of muscles though, more like a man that puts a lot of work and effort into attaining top physical shape. Stiles can appreciate it. He does appreciate it, and realizes belatedly that he is staring only when he can feel Derek looking over at him. “Do you mind?” he bites out, obviously irritated.

Stiles blushes a little bit and crosses his arms over his chest—his bare chest. Stiles is aware all at once that he’s wearing nothing more than his underwear and blushes harder. “Uh, sorry,” he mutters before he leaves the bathroom. He goes to the kitchen, because the cardboard box Derek was carrying spilled when it got dropped onto Stiles’ foot and the contents are now littering the hallway and inside of his doorway. He leans down onto the small island that separates the kitchen from the living/dining room, cradling his head in his hands.

Way to go, Stilinski. What a great first—second?—impression to make on someone that you’re going to be living with. He wouldn’t blame Derek if he’s in the bathroom reconsidering his decision to live with Stiles. He wouldn’t blame him if Derek thinks that Stiles is nothing more than a paranoid kid that jumps at shadows and overreacts to the sound of someone in his apartment rather than using his brain to make a reasonable deduction that it would be Derek.

Stiles lifts his head and looks behind him to the clock on the stove. It’s three o’clock in the morning. Who the fuck decides it’s a good idea to move into someone else’s apartment in the middle of the night? Obviously Derek Hale. Stiles sighs and looks back to the hallway when he hears the bathroom door close. Derek is walking toward the kitchen, still shirtless but blood free. His nose looks a little swollen and red, so Stiles walks over and grabs an icepack from the freezer, noting with relief that his nose is not broken. He hands it to Derek when the other man sits down on one of the barstools on the other side of the counter island. “Here.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, just takes it and puts it gingerly up to his nose, hissing when the cold makes contact with his sore skin. Stiles bites his lip for a moment before he speaks, “I’m really sorry, dude. Like, really sorry. You woke me up and, y’know, I’m a cop’s kid, so my natural reaction to strange sounds in the middle of the night in my home is to assume someone is breaking in, okay. And fuck. It’s three in the morning, man; I wasn’t exactly coherent enough to think ‘oh, that must be my new roomie finally moving in in the middle of the freaking night. Okay, no worries, go back to sleep Stiles’. I mean, a little warning would’ve been nice or something. Did Scott give you his key? He didn’t tell me he gave you his key. Jesus.”

Stiles rakes his hands through his hair and lets out an exasperated sigh. Derek doesn’t say anything for a long moment, just looks at him with a raised eyebrow. “I’m sorry, do you want a schedule of the exact times I’ll be coming and going. Would that be better for you?” Derek is glaring at him a little bit now and Stiles just rolls his eyes.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

Derek’s mouth tightens. “Well, I just got off working an eighteen hour day, so sorry if the timing was inconvenient for you, but this was the soonest I could be here. Since I checked out of my hotel for this week, I couldn’t exactly wait until you’d gotten all of your beauty sleep to come here.”

The irritation Stiles has been feeling toward Derek turns to the start of anger. “You know what? Fuck you. I have to be to work in a couple hours, because, guess what?—I have a job too, asshole.” Stiles doesn’t even wait for a response before he all but storms out of the kitchen toward his bedroom. He doesn’t even bother picking up anything on the floor of his room, just kicks it all into the hallway and slams his door closed.

He’s almost seething by the time he lays down again and by the time he finally falls asleep, his alarm is minutes from going off.

~

However much Stiles complains about the long hours he works and the near sweat-shop conditions of the dinky office he has on the second floor of an old converted house that doesn’t have A/C, he loves his job and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Okay, so maybe on days like today where he feels like he’s on the verge of having a heat stroke because it’s summer in California, he reconsiders why he didn’t just get a job as an English teacher like he was planning on when he first started college. The heat really does nothing to ebb the headache that’s been slowly simmering since the morning; first, the lack of sleep, and second, the coffee maker the company keeps downstairs broke right when Stiles went to make some.

His head is killing him from staring at his computer screen for the whole day and he hasn’t even finished writing all of the fortunes he needed to have done by the end of his shift. He’s been sitting, staring at the same quasi-phrase for what feels like hours and by the time he looks at the clock and realizes what time it is, he realizes he has been staring at it for what is, in fact, hours. Somehow he missed his lunch break…and apparently, his dinner break. In fact, somehow he managed to work for twelve hours straight without more than a handful of fortunes to show for his effort. Fuck. He rubs his eyes and decides to call it a day right as his stomach rumbles loudly into the closet-sized office.

The drive home takes longer than it normally does because of the later hour and he is really regretting not just picking up some fast food on the way home, but he’s too tired to care as he somehow trudges up to his third floor apartment and fumbles the lock into cooperating. He steps into his apartment and stops with a start.

It’s a mess. Like, an honest to god mess. There are boxes everywhere. Everywhere; on the couch, on the coffee table, on the floor, stacked up on top of the kitchen counter. Stiles takes it all in with a long, slow blink before he maneuvers himself around the maze of boxes and manages to barely squeeze past a stack of them that are all but blocking the way into the kitchen. He opens the fridge and reaches for an apple and gets the peanut butter from the cupboard.

He’s leaning over the counter, eating his apple slices and peanut butter when Derek emerges from the hallway. He’s wearing black dress pants and a button-up white shirt. He doesn’t seem to notice Stiles until he reaches for one of the boxes on the counter. Stiles notices with just a touch of guilt that he has a black eye from where he hit him and that his nose is still a little swollen.

Derek freezes when he sees Stiles. Stiles offers a small grin, but Derek just pulls his eyebrows together, “Sorry about the mess.” He clears his throat. “Laura thought it would be a good idea to bring my things over while I was at work…”

Stiles lets out a small laugh. “Wait, lemme guess. Then she got mad that you weren’t here to help her and left everything all over as revenge?” Derek’s eyebrows rise minutely and he nods, giving Stiles a look he can’t decipher. “What?” Stiles asks, subtly running a hand over his chin to make sure he doesn’t have peanut butter smeared anywhere.

“It’s just…weird that you know her so well.”

Stiles snorts. “Dude, Laura is one of my best friends. I’ve known her for years.” He waves it away as he eats the last bit of his apple.

“I know. I mean, she talked a lot about you when we called each other.” He tilts his head like he’s just thought of something. “Actually, everyone in my family talks about you a lot.”

Stiles can’t stop the small spread of warmth at Derek’s words. His family talked about Stiles? He’s sure it was mostly in exasperation, but still. The sentiment is there. He just shrugs though. “What can I say? I’m catchy like the plague.”

The corner of Derek’s hazel-green eyes crinkle indiscernibly before he picks up a box and turns around. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says as he walks back down the hall.

Stiles tries not to watch him walk away and fails, finding a new appreciation for dress slacks. He shakes his head and maneuvers by the stack of boxes still blocking the kitchen and grabs one of the boxes off of the couch. He carries it to Derek’s room and walks in through the open doorway. Derek turns to look at him from where he’s bent over a box on the bed, a couple of books in his hands.

“Where do you want this?” Stiles asks.

Derek is silent for a long moment. “You don’t have to help me, you know.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Maybe I want to. Maybe you should accept my help as an apology for giving you a bloody nose last night,” Stiles bites his lip at the expression that crosses Derek’s face, like he’s managed to forget about it, but suddenly remembers and is once again angry at Stiles. “Uh, how is it by the way? Your eye looks kinda…nasty.”

Derek glares at him for just a moment before he shakes his head. “I’m fine,” he bites out. “You can just set the box by the door.” Stiles does as he says and is just about to walk out back toward the living room when Derek speaks again. “Oh and Stiles?” he turns to face Derek. “Don’t touch my stuff again without my permission. I don’t want or need your help. Are we clear.”

It isn’t a question and Stiles feels his mouth open in indignation at the sheer amount of rudeness one person is capable of before he audibly snaps it shut and walks across the hall to his room, slamming the door shut behind him.

He goes straight to his desk and picks up a spare pen and one of the many pads of sticky notes before scribbling down ‘Always accept help when offered with sincerity’ and sticking the note to the first bit of clear surface he can find on his wall between all of the other notes already plastered there. His wall is a steadily growing kaleidoscope of small multi-colored florescent squares by this point but he doesn’t care.

He lies back on his bed and feels the exhaustion hit him all at once. He considers just calling it a night and going to sleep ridiculously early, but then his phone is ringing and he reaches into his pocket to answer it. He doesn’t have to see the caller ID to know who it is, thanks to the ability to personalize ringtones.

“Your brother is an asshole,” he begins without preamble.

There is a slight pause. “Well, hello to you, too, Stiles. Oh, yes, my day was fantastic, thanks for asking. I’m glad we can have these talks that really show me just how much you care about me—”

“Sorry, sorry.” He mutters. “Hello, Laura; my beautiful, loving, smart, snarky friend, how are you on this shitty Monday evening?”

Laura lets out a loud bark of a laugh. “Awe, what did my bro do to you? Oh, also! Aren’t you super impressed with my mad unloading skills?”

Stiles grumbled. “Oh, yeah, I was especially impressed when I came home to my apartment being a mess. Thanks for that, really.”

There was a slightly longer pause. “Okay, so maybe in hindsight I forgot that I would be leaving you a mess too, otherwise I wouldn’t have done that. Well, hmm,” she considers, “maybe I would’ve just given you some warning.”

Stiles sighs and rolls over onto his stomach. “Its fine, Laura. It’s not you I’m angry at.”

“Tell me,” it isn’t really a request and Stiles shuts down the small smile tugging at his lips at the family resemblance between her and Derek.

“It’s just been a long day. Someone decided it would be a brilliant idea to move into someone else’s apartment at three o’clock in the morning.”

“Oh my god, he did not!” Laura giggles over the other end of the line.

“Yep,” Stiles pops his ‘p’, “and I was out like a light, so of course I woke up and thought someone was breaking in and well…one thing led to another and I ended up hitting him in the face with my flashlight and he got a bloody nose,” Laura’s giggles intensify. “And now he has a nasty black eye,” she is now outright cackling on the other line. “I offered to help him unpack when I got home, y’know, as an apology, but he bit my head off and told me not to touch his shit.”

“I would,” Laura says between breathless laughs, “pay so much money to see that, you don’t even know. Mom is going to die when I tell her Derek tried to move in during the middle of the night.” She is sniffling a little now like her laughter has turned to tears. And knowing Laura, they probably have. “I can’t believe you gave my big bro a black eye.”

Stiles isn’t really offended by that comment but he feels like he should be. “Did you forget that I told you I played baseball all through high school?”

She coughs out another laugh. “Well, no, but hearing you used to play and then hearing you managed to hit my brother in the face with a fucking flashlight are two completely different things, okay.”

“He deserved it,” Stiles finds himself mumbling under his breath.

Laura seems to sober up and at least attempts to stop her laughter before she speaks again. “Hey, don’t worry about it, Stiles. Derek just takes a while to warm up to people. And, to his credit, he’s been living alone in New York for the last ten years, so there’s going to be an adjustment period, you know? Just give him time.”

Stiles sighs and rests his forehead on his mattress. “Laura, don’t take this the wrong way, but how is he even related to you and your family?”

She huffs a little. “Beats me. I always swore growing up that he was actually delivered by a stork, but mom always yelled at me when I said it, so of course it just reinforced it in my head. Either that, or they picked him up on a blue-light special, or something.”

Stiles can’t help it, he laughs for the first time all day. It feels good; releases some of the tension that he’s been feeling all day. He sighs again into the phone. “I miss you already,” he admits. “I wish you would’ve stayed a little longer so I could’ve seen you before you drove back.”

“I know, kiddo, but I couldn’t afford the whole day off of work.” Stiles can practically hear her shrugging. “You know how it is.” Stiles does, so he switches the topic to questioning why someone would establish a company inside of a building without air conditioning.

Before Stiles knows it, he’s been on the phone with Laura for two hours and his stomach is rumbling once again. They hang up and Stiles leaves the safety of his bedroom and makes his way into the kitchen, only to find that all of the boxes are gone from the surrounding space. His lips twist into a bitter smile as he opens the fridge and retrieves various vegetables. He quickly makes up a stir-fry and some rice before settling down with a heaping bowl of it on his couch and flipping on the slightly too-large TV. He settles on some crime drama re-run and has just been sucked into the plot—even though he’s seen the episode before—when he hears a door open and close before Derek is walking into the kitchen.

Derek is wearing a pair of dark green sweatpants and a gray tank top, padding barefoot into the kitchen and Stiles can’t help but stare just the tiniest bit at the sweat dripping down over his collarbones. If he thought Derek was attractive in dress clothes, he doesn’t know what to call Derek in workout clothes—what with all of the sweat making his shirt cling to the abs that Stiles remembers vividly from the night before under the harsh florescent light of the bathroom. It takes almost too much effort to turn his attention back to the television show. He hears the fridge door open and looks over just in time to see Derek downing a bottle of water, the muscles in his throat flexing and his Adam’s apple bobbing in tempo with his gulps.

As if Derek can sense when he’s being stared at, he turns and catches Stiles’ eye before Stiles not-so-subtly turns back to the TV and shovels in a mouthful of stir-fry. Thankfully Derek leaves the room soon after and Stiles finishes the episode in peace, feeling pleasantly stuffed and sleepier than before. He shuts off the TV and spoons the rest of the stir-fry into a large bowl before covering it and placing it on the top shelf of the refrigerator. It doesn’t take him long to wash and dry the few dishes and pan he used before he calls it a night and heads back to his bedroom. He hears the shower running before he closes his door.

He changes into his pajamas and goes over to his desk, thinking about it only for a moment before he reaches for a pen and one of the ever-present sticky note pads before he starts writing. He reads over the note and chews on the end of his already marked-up pen before he nods to himself and pulls the note from the rest of the pad, placing it and the pen on his desk. He opens his bedroom door and walks across the hall to Derek’s door, placing the post-it on the surface and pressing the top so it stays in place before he walks back to his room, looking back at the note only once more to read the neat words ‘There’s a bowl of stir-fry in the fridge if you want it. I made too much. –S.’ Stiles goes back to his room and settles into a blissful, exhausted sleep.

~

The week passes with little to no interaction between Stiles and Derek, especially not after Stiles had come home from work the following day only to find his perfectly delicious bowl of stir-fry still in the fridge. Rude. After that, Stiles spent a lot more time at work, only coming home when he needed sleep.

It’s the first time since the day he moved away from Sacramento to Berkeley that he’s felt uncomfortable in his own living space. But back then, he’d met Scott and knew that they were going to be best friends, so the uncomfortable anxiety tugging at his insides had lessened. Now, though, it isn’t going away. In fact, every time he catches a glimpse of Derek or they run into each other coming and going to the bathroom or the kitchen, he finds the anxiety slowly building inside of him until by Friday night, it’s slowly simmering under his skin, making him twitch with the need for some sort of normalcy.

So when Lydia calls later that night and says to meet her and Danny at their favorite club, he doesn’t hesitate before he drives home and changes into his clubbing attire—aka the only pair of skinny leather pants he owns and a white v-neck t-shirt with cutoff sleeves. He slips on a pair of beat-up converse before he walks out the door, locking the apartment behind him. He doesn’t run into Derek on his way out, so he counts that as a small blessing.

It’s a warm night, so Stiles decides to walk instead of drive. It takes him a little longer, sure, but he gets to see the city come alive, blanketed under the sunset, shining rose-gold and twinkling as the day fades into night. When he makes it to the club, the sun is low on the horizon and Danny and Lydia are waiting for him in line. He walks up to them and slips an arm around each of their shoulders. “Hey guys! Did you miss me?”

Lydia rolls her eyes at him and shrugs off his arm, adjusting the straps of her tight dress. “Stiles, I saw you like three times last week in Beacon Hills.”

Stiles does not pout. Nope. He turns to Danny, who is currently giving him an appraising once-ever. “Looking good, Stilinski.”

A slow smile spreads across Stiles’ face. He trails his eyes down over Danny’s tight t-shirt and jeans, nodding his approval. “You too, Mahealani.” Danny flashes him a dimpled smile before the line is moving and they are shuffling their way inside of their favorite gay club.

The music is loud and rhythmic; the club dark and crowded. It’s just the kind of atmosphere that Stiles loves. There’s something about the anonymity offered in the darkness of swaying, sweaty bodies that makes him feel alive in a way he doesn’t normally feel. Here, he can be anyone, anything—and he craves that freedom. He drags Danny and Lydia over to the bar, buying the first round of drinks.

The bartender working gives a loud grunt and a sigh when Stiles walks up to the bar that Stiles can see, rather than hear over the loud music. “Hey, Matt! The usuals for us!” he yells as he leans over the bar, giving the bartender a lop-sided grin as he rolls his eyes at Stiles.

Matt’s the normal weekend bartender here, and ever since Stiles’ first encounter with him two years ago, he’d made it his life’s mission to order the most complicated and delicious drink he could think of. Matt was kind of a jerk, but he’s a little better now. Besides, he really does make the best drinks.

Matt returns a few minutes later with a Captain and Coke for Danny, a Dirty Martini for Lydia, and an Old Fashioned Manhattan for Stiles. They take their drinks with Matt threatening something about their tab, before they turn and walk toward the dance floor.

They sip at their drinks and catch up with each other, yelling their questions and responses over the pounding music until their glasses are empty and Lydia is getting them all another round. It doesn’t take long for the three of them to throw back the alcohol before Danny grabs Stiles’ hand and pulls him to the dance floor. Stiles is pleasantly buzzed on the feel of the liquor spreading warmth through his body. The music thrums through him like a cadence and he sways with it; moves his hips and his hands to the rhythm he feels inside of his skull.

Danny is suddenly there in front of him, holding Stiles closer. He’s warm and familiar and Stiles knows he’s going to take Danny back to his place tonight; knows that he’s just what Stiles needs to get his mind off the tension that had been slowly coiling and building inside of him. He leans forward and trails his hands down to the curve of Danny’s ass, pulling him ever closer, until their lips are almost touching and Stiles is looking at Danny with the promise of just exactly what he’s thinking. Danny flashes his dimples and Stiles closes the distance between their mouths. It’s just a soft press of lips, something fleeting, flirty. Danny’s hands move from Stiles hips to trail his fingertip up under Stiles’ t-shirt, tracing his spine, pressing feather-light kisses to his jaw.

They dance for a while, the sea of bodies pushing them closer and closer together until they are just hips and hands pressing and moving. The song ends and they untwine their bodies before they break from the press of sweaty, half-naked bodies and find Lydia. Stiles orders another drink and Danny buys them all a shot.

It’s much later and Stiles has had more alcohol than he should’ve when the three of them finally leave the club. Lydia hails a cab and leaves them with a slightly slurred warning to behave before Stiles is pressing himself to Danny’s back and kissing at the skin just under his ear. The walk back to Stiles’ apartment is filled with drunken stumbles and lots of manly giggling. They make it to his building and somehow fumble their way up the three flights of stairs. Okay, so maybe it was actually Danny, who was slightly more sober than Stiles, pulling him up the last flight, but Stiles hopes it’s one of those things he just won’t remember when he wakes up in the morning.

He hands his keys to Danny, because he is too drunk to even try fumbling with the lock, and presses himself against Danny’s back again, wrapping his arms around the other man’s toned stomach, resting his chin on Danny’s shoulder. He breathes into his ear, “Danny,” and noses at the hair above it, “been too long since we’ve done this. Missed you.”

Stiles runs his hands down over Danny’s front and closes his eyes for a moment. He has missed this; the mindless, no strings attached, tension relief of fucking a friend. Danny’s the only person Stiles has ever met that feels the same way as him when it comes to sex; it is what you make it. Sex can mean everything or nothing at all, depending on what you want from it. Stiles likes that with Danny, it just means fun, just means a few hours of breaking from reality, of forgetting his problems and taking all the pleasure he can. They don’t do this often anymore since Danny’s been in a committed relationship for the better part of the last year, but him and his boyfriend had broken up a month before and Stiles knows that Danny needs this just as much as him, otherwise he wouldn’t be here, opening the door to Stiles’ apartment and dragging the other man inside.

“I missed you too, dumbass,” Danny mutters as he presses Stiles’ back to the closed door, reaching behind him to lock it before he settles his hands on Stiles’ ass and squeezes hard. Stiles gasps, but then Danny’s mouth is there to steal the sound and Stiles’ arms are twining around the back of Danny’s neck. Stiles shifts his hips and suddenly finds Danny’s thigh settling between his own and feels the press of an erection against one of his legs.

“Bedroom,” Stiles pants out. “Fuck, I want to blow you.” Danny nods in consent and somehow manages to pull away enough for them to stumble/walk their way toward the hallway while their mouths are still stealing and pressing kisses to any inch of bare skin their eyes can see. They make it exactly halfway down the hall before it’s too much for Stiles and he has to touch Danny. He pushes him against the wall and pulls at the hem of Danny’s shirt, lifting it up and over Danny’s head in one swift motion before his lips trail over his collarbones and down to lick at one of his nipples. Stiles sucks it into his mouth and rolls the hard pebble over his tongue before he bites down, hard, just like he knows Danny likes and Danny shudders out a moan, snaking a hand into Stiles’ hair and grabbing a rough fistful as Stiles continues the treatment on the other nipple. When he pulls away, Danny’s nipples are hard and just a little swollen red, shiny from Stiles’ mouth and he grins before he moves back to Danny’s mouth, kissing him rough, open-mouthed, wet. Danny moans his name and Stiles suddenly finds himself with his back against the wall, the breath momentarily knocked out of him, but then Danny is pulling Stiles’ legs up and around his waist and their clothing-clad erections are grinding together and Stiles throws his head back with a loud whimper and a groan that sounds faintly like Danny’s name.

A door suddenly opens and light floods the darkened hallway. Danny is mouthing at Stiles neck and doesn’t stop canting his hips up and Stiles accidentally lets out a broken moan when he moves his eyes to see Derek standing there in his doorway, silhouetted by the soft light coming from his room, staring at Stiles with a look that his drunken mind can’t seem to recognize.

Stiles swallows hard and it takes him a little longer than normal to find his voice. “Danny. Bedroom,” he pleads, letting out another whimper when Danny adjust Stiles’ weight so he can walk them the last few paces to Stiles’ bedroom. Stiles can feel Derek’s stony gaze on him from his doorway across the hall until Danny manages to carry him through the threshold of his room and kick the door closed behind him.

~

The next morning Stiles opens his eyes to the too-bright sunlight filtering in through his broken window blinds. He’s a little surprised to find the other side of his bed empty, because normally Danny sleeps in later than he does, but when he looks at the clock and sees it’s verging on noon, he grunts and rolls out of bed, understanding why Danny isn’t there. He pulls on a pair of pajama pants before he leaves his room and opens his door to the slightly bitter scent of coffee, taking a deep sniff as he pads down the hall toward the promise of caffeine.

It isn’t until he actually reaches the kitchen that he realizes he has a roommate who is not Scott and he stops dead when he sees Derek and Danny sitting on the barstools in the kitchen drinking coffee together, Danny talking to him about something or another—he hears Laura’s name—and then Danny spots Stiles and smiles at him, dimples deepening on his face. “Hey, sleepyhead. Finally decided to join the living, hmm?”

Derek looks back over his shoulder for just a moment—just long enough for Stiles to remember Derek watching him and Danny in the hallway the night before—and then he looks away, picking up his navy blue ceramic mug and taking a sip.

“Uh. Didn’t realize it was so late,” Stiles admits.

Danny gets up from his spot on the stool and motions for Stiles to sit. “Coffee?” he asks, rolling up the sleeves of  one of Stiles’ dress shirts that he’d obviously lifted from his closet, as well as a pair of Stiles’ baggy jeans. In fact, Danny looks freshly showered and Stiles suddenly feels unclean and underdressed.

He sits and pointedly doesn’t look at Derek. “Yeah, thanks.” Danny opens a cupboard and pulls out Stiles’ favorite mug; a multi-colored, monstrosity of a cup that his mother had gotten him as a joke one year for his birthday. Danny’s one of the few people that knows just how much Stiles actually loves that particular mug and he always seems to sense when Stiles needs the comfort of it. Of course, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that Danny and he only ever really hook up when something is going on with Stiles and that’s generally when he needs a little bit of extra comfort. Either way, he gladly takes the mug from Danny once he fills it with black coffee and puts in just the right amount of cream so it’s dark, but not too bitter. Stiles takes a sip and moans. “No one makes me coffee the way you do, Danny. Hey, didn’t you say something about working today?” Stiles yawns. “D’ya need a ride or anything?”

“Nah,” Danny says. “I’ll walk. Thanks, though.” He looks behind him to the clock on the stove and groans, “Actually, I should be going. My shift at the restaurant starts in half an hour. Hey, Derek,” he says and Stiles almost chokes on his coffee, still trying very hard to not look at Derek, but seeing his expression nonetheless from the corner of his eye, “it was nice to finally meet you. You’ll tell your sisters I said hello?” Danny flashes his dimples at Derek and he nods, once, but it’s more of a reaction from Derek than he’s had all week, and Stiles lives with the guy. He is, once again, impressed with just how much of a people person Danny is and maybe hates him for it for half of a second, but then Danny is moving around the island and pressing a hug to Stiles’ back and a chaste kiss to the side of his head before he leaves and Stiles really can’t ever hate the guy even if he wants to.

It isn’t until Danny leaves that Stiles is aware of just how awkward it is to sit next to Derek. He realizes that they’ve never even had a proper conversation, so he wracks his brain to think of something. “So, uh, how are your sisters, by the way? I mean, I—uh, well, I actually just talked to Laura a few days ago, but how’s Cora? She’s still in that intern program at Stanford, right? That’s gotta be wicked cool for her.”

Stiles takes a scalding gulp of his coffee for something to do, but Derek doesn’t even look at him. Stiles thinks that maybe he won’t even respond and is just about to voice how rude he thinks Derek is being, when he opens his mouth. “Just how well do you know my sisters?”

Stiles does choke on his coffee this time when Derek finally turns to face him, lips downturned and eyebrows furrowed. He coughs a little and clears his throat. “We’re friends! Just friends. All of us. Being friends together. Uh, I mean, not together, but, y’know, with each other. In a totally platonic way—”

“Stiles,” the word comes out heavy with exasperation.

“Yeah, no. To be honest, sometimes I feel like your sisters are the sisters I never knew I didn’t want.” Derek glares at him and he hurries to continue. “Uh, inside joke. Sorry. To be honest—I know this may sound weird—but I feel like they’re a part of my family sometimes, y’know.” He nods to Derek’s blank face. “I think it’s because I spent so much time around them when I’d go to Beacon Hills with Scott. Your sisters are, like, the coolest. You’re really lucky.”

Derek snorts at that. “Right. Me; lucky.”

Stiles takes another careful sip of coffee. “Yeah, dude. Lucky. I mean, I always wanted siblings, but my mom couldn’t have any more kids after she had me, so it was kind of a moot point. I mean, your family is kind of ridiculously awesome and huge and my family is really fucking tiny and…yeah, you’re lucky, Derek.”

Derek stares down at the cup of coffee in his hands for a long moment before he drains the rest of his cup and stands up from the seat. “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, Stiles.”

Stiles gapes at him as he sets the mug on the counter with a loud thump and swiftly walks out of the apartment, slamming the door closed behind him. What the fuck is Derek’s problem? Stiles really hopes Derek doesn’t expect him to wash his mug for him, because while he did that for Scott, he refuses to do anything for a person that always goes out of his way to be rude. Not cool.

Stiles stares down at his garish coffee cup, lost in thought. Maybe he stares for a little too long, because when he takes another sip, the brown liquid has lost its warmth and Stiles quickly spits it back into the cup. Fucking Derek.

~

To say that Stiles is getting fed up with this whole roommate situation is an understatement. Like a colossal, freakishly gigantic understatement. He doesn’t know what he’s ever done to Derek to piss him off, but the fucker has a serious stick up his ass when it comes to Stiles. First it had been the silence. Stiles is not now, nor ever will he be, a person that tolerates extended amounts of silence. It’s not just that he likes the sound of his own voice as Lydia likes to say, okay—it’s just that he’s a person that thrives on communication. And Derek…well, he’s the king of non-communication. He hasn’t said one single word to Stiles in over two weeks. That had only been the first thing.

The second thing had been his total refusal to acknowledge Stiles’ slightly passive aggressive sticky notes that he’s been leaving on the front of Derek’s bedroom door. True, it might not have been the best tactic to get the guy to talk to him, but how else was he supposed to ask him to take the trash out, or wash his dishes, or not eat all of the soy ice cream that Stiles bought? It wasn’t like Derek was such a great listener when Stiles tried to talk to him—on the off chance that both of them were even in the apartment at the same time anyway. It almost felt like Derek was avoiding him, but the times when they did see each other Stiles could see the shadows under the other man’s eyes and knew that he’d obviously been busy doing whatever he did for a living that made him work a ridiculous amount of hours every day. Which was fine—really, it was—and Stiles could accept that Derek was tired or whatever the hell, but for him to not even respond to Stiles’ notes was just…well, rude.

And speaking of rude, the third and final straw for Stiles is all of the noise currently coming from the living room through Stiles’ bedroom wall. Rude didn’t even really describe it, what with all the banging and the loud voices. Stiles puts a pillow over his ear to attempt to drown out the noise, but a particularly loud laugh makes him groan and throw the pillow against the wall. This is getting ridiculous. This is the third time in the last two weeks that Derek had decided to have people over after midnight on a weekday, and Stiles has had just about as much of it as he can take.

The first time had been okay. Stiles wasn’t really all that annoyed because apparently Derek actually had friends and Stiles swears he heard Derek laugh once through the wall, so he’d let it go and had just been doggedly tired the next day for work. The second time had been slightly annoying, but Stiles had brushed it off as a fluke. Maybe Derek had just forgotten that Stiles actually got up ass early for his job. Whatever.

But this time, Stiles can’t take the noise. All he wants is to sleep. It’s a Thursday night and tomorrow is his last day of work before he gets a few days off. Scott is coming to visit the following night and they have plans to hang out all night, but Stiles can’t do that if he’s exhausted and sleep deprived. He grumbles something unintelligible as he throws his sheets off. He goes to his dresser and pulls a sweatshirt on over his bare chest and pajama pants over his underwear before he walks out of his room and totally doesn’t stomp down the hall to the living room.

He stops in the threshold when he sees the disaster that is his kitchen though. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me right now.” He seethes, taking in the endless amount of take-away containers and numerous bottles of half-full, assorted wine glasses littering the counter. Stiles is acutely aware of the laughter coming from the next room trailing off into silence before he feels gazes on him. He turns and sees Derek sitting on the arm of the couch, looking at him. Next to him is a tall, dark-skinned man with enough straining muscles to rival Derek’s, and a stony expression that is aimed directly at Stiles. He only looks at the other man for a moment, just to take him in, before he looks back to Derek with a tightened jaw. “Look, Derek. I know you think your job is clearly a lot more important than mine because for whatever reason, you think less of me for what I do—which is fine. I get that all the fucking time. Even though I don’t even know what the fuck you actually do for a living, but I digress.” Derek’s eyebrows draw imperceptibly closer together and Stiles plows on. “Either way, that doesn’t mean that you can keep disregarding the fact that not only do I have a job of my own that I need to be at in three hours, but I’m also your roommate and am in fact graciously letting you live in my home to help you out, so the least I deserve is a little respect, okay?”

The silence is more than a little tense after Stiles stops speaking and the man sitting on the couch shifts his head and clears his throat quietly. Stiles turns again to look at him and flushes a little in embarrassment that he said all that in front of a stranger. Great first impression once again. “Uh, Hi. My name’s Stiles and I’m sure under any other circumstance I would apologize to you for having to overhear that, but today is not that day.” He pauses as the other man’s eyebrow quirks upward. “Which is in no way a reflection on yourself, I assure you. I’m sure you are a kind, quiet person that respects people you live with, if you live with anyone. Who knows, though, maybe you live alone and all of this is for nothing. Y’know, I should’ve just sucked it up and lived alone because I’m sure that would’ve been a better move for my sanity—”

“Stiles, shut up,” Derek barks from where he’s still perched on the arm of the couch.

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest and snaps out “Oh, you shut up, Derek. You woke me up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night again, so you get to listen to my overtired rambles. And don’t sit on the arm of the couch; it ruins the longevity of the furniture’s life, moron.”

Derek’s mouth falls open and the other man lets out a snort that he quickly tries to cover up with a cough before Derek is glaring over at him instead of Stiles, so he takes it as a win.

The man on the couch stands and walks over to Stiles, offering his hand. “I’m Boyd. I’ve heard a lot about you, but I have to be honest. So far you are surpassing all expectations.” His voice is a silky rough rumble and Stiles finds himself grinning as he shakes his hand.

“I’m not sure I want to know what you’ve heard about me.”

Boyd chuckles just a little and the hard planes of his face soften. “Well, I’ll just say Derek’s sisters—”

Stiles takes his hand back on a groan. “Oh god I don’t want to know.” He bites his bottom lip. “Okay, actually yeah, I do. Tell me everything.”

Boyd just smiles at him. “That wouldn’t be very fun.”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “I’m not sure if I like you.”

His smile widens. “You’ll like me eventually. Everyone does. Just ask Derek.” He says as he turns and walks back to where Derek is now standing by the arm of the couch.

“Right. I’ll get right on that. Because Mr. Grump is such a wealth of forthcoming knowledge,” he can’t help but roll his eyes. Boyd laughs and Stiles smiles at him again. “Whatever. I’m going back to sleep. Can you guys just please try to keep it down?”

Boyd nods and elbows Derek when he doesn’t respond until he’s glaring at his friend again. Stiles sighs and doesn’t know if it’s better or worse that he’s apparently just as rude to his friends as he is to Stiles. Maybe better. Yeah, definitely better.

He turns to walk back to his bedroom, but Derek’s voice stops him. “Stiles,” he says and Stiles turns back around and raises his eyebrow at him. “I’m a sommelier.” At Stiles’ blank look, he continues, motioning to the mess on the kitchen counters. “I help restaurants pair the proper wines with their dishes and help them craft their wine lists.” He adds the last in a rush, like the words are awkward on his tongue.

“Yeah,” Boyd says, looking at Stiles a little sheepishly, “and I guess I really should be the one apologizing for waking you up. I just opened a new restaurant and Derek’s doing me a favor. I just got out of work and came here; didn’t even think of the time. He was helping me out with some of my new dishes.” Boyd walks over to one of the take-out boxes and opens it to reveal a delicious looking something that smells like barbecue sauce. Stiles takes a deep whiff and hears his stomach grumble a little. “Do you want to try some?” Boyd asks, obviously hearing his stomach betray him.

“Uh,” is all Stiles manages to say but then Boyd is grabbing a fork and offering Stiles a bite of the barbecued meat. Stiles opens his mouth obligatorily and chews. The spicy-sweet flavors are just right paired with the chicken and Stiles says as much after he swallows. Boyd smiles again at him. “Thanks. You can never go wrong with Asian barbecue. Derek,” Boyd looks over his shoulder, “which one was it? Here take another bite,” he says, turning back to Stiles and offering him more of the delicious meal.

Derek walks over and rounds the island, reaching for one of the many half full wine glasses. He holds one up to his nose for a moment before he hands it to Stiles. “Take a sip.”

Stiles swallows and does as he’s told. The heavy, richly flavored red wine mellows the spice of the meat, but doesn’t overpower it, bringing out the best of the spices and enhancing the flavor of the chicken. Stiles looks down at the glass in his hand and tentatively takes another sip of the wine. It’s a kind he’s never tried before; dark and almost peppery, but faintly tart as he swirls it around on his pallet. “Wow.”

Boyd lets out a full body laugh and slaps Stiles a little too enthusiastically on his back. “I know, right? Derek’s amazing.”

Stiles looks up to see Derek leaning back against the kitchen counter, pointedly not looking at Stiles, with a slight blush high on his cheeks. “He’s something,” he mumbles. Yeah, he’s something.

~

Scott’s visit is largely uneventful and Stiles is almost glad for Scott’s endless wedding talk and rambles about adjusting to living with Allison, even if they are mainly him bitching about never having enough bathroom time. It’s nice; to just shoot the shit with his best friend like they used to. Stiles only sees Derek once the whole weekend and it’s only so that Scott can give Derek some stuff that his aunt wanted him to have. The weekend ends too fast and before Stiles knows it Scott is leaving for Beacon Hills, but he mentions something about Laura coming down in a few weeks and it instantly cheers him up, probably just like Scott knew it would.

In fact, it’s really the only thing that helps him get through the next couple weeks.

It’s not that Derek and he aren’t getting along, but it’s not like Derek and he are getting along, either. They seem to be stuck in this weird medium between the two points, almost like they are constantly tip-toeing around each other. Especially Derek. It’s almost like what Stiles said the few days previous actually managed to hit home in the older man, because he does nothing the next week to make Stiles even the least bit angry. Stiles finds himself sleeping through the nights uninterrupted and he even makes decent headway on his fortunes at work.

It’s halfway through the second week after Scott’s visit and Stiles comes home from work early. Derek’s vehicle isn’t in the lot, so he knows he’s got the apartment to himself. He almost never has free time and the place to himself so he decides to make something for dinner, rather than eat out like he’s been doing almost every night. It isn’t until he’s rummaging through his fridge, looking for a squash after already getting out everything else he needs, that he realizes he’s making Talia's famous pasta. He hesitates over the pan for a moment before he just shrugs. Maybe if he’s lucky Derek won’t notice and glare at him for knowing the family recipe again. He throws in some garlic bread, too, just for good measure.

The food is simmering on the stove and the bread is just finishing up when Stiles hears the tell-tale sign of the front door opening. He turns just in time to see Derek sniffing the air from the doorway, before he notices Stiles watching him and closes the door. He nods to Stiles as he hangs up his leather jacket and Stiles does a double-take. Derek isn’t dressed in the usual work attire Stiles is used to seeing him in. He’s wearing the most casual clothes he’s ever seen on the older man; tight, dark blue jeans and a burgundy v-neck.

Stiles jumps when the oven timer goes off and belatedly realizes he was staring at Derek again. He takes out the few pieces of bread and sets them on a plate. He hears Derek retreat into the bathroom and lets out a breath he isn’t even aware he was holding. He spoons some pasta and sauce into a bowl and grabs a slice of the too-hot garlic toast, singeing his fingertips in the process. He goes around to the other side of the island and is just sitting down on one of the barstools when Derek reemerges from the bathroom, coming into the kitchen to get a bottle of water from the fridge. Stiles watches him take a peek at the food on the stove and freeze for a moment.

Stiles considers him for a moment before he makes a show of sighing loudly. “Man, I’m so used to cooking for Scott. I forget that the kid eats like a horse and I somehow managed to make way too much for just me. I forgot to cut your mom’s recipe in half again.” He sighs again, louder this time, and Derek turns to look at him. “Hey! You should have some. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to eat all of this, and it’s too good to go to waste.”

Derek frowns at him a little, but Stiles just dips his bread into some sauce and takes a bite, refusing to offer anymore than he already has. He only looks up when Derek clears his throat. “Well. I’m a Hale. I think I’m honor bound to always eat Hale pasta when it’s offered, whether I want it or not.”

Stiles resists the urge to roll his eyes but doesn’t stop the smile that tugs at his lips as Derek fills up a massive bowl with food and takes two slices of bread before he sits down next to Stiles. He’s very careful to hide his smirk with a bite of pasta when he says “all this meal needs now is a glass of some good wine.”

Stiles almost doesn’t believe it when Derek lets out a laugh. Stiles feels like the wind has been knocked out of him and he loses his breath for a second before Derek sobers and looks at him with a grin still stretched over his lips. “Maybe next time,” is all he says.

It takes longer than it should for Stiles to pry his eyes away from Derek and back to his own plate of food, but the spaghetti doesn’t seem nearly as interesting anymore.

~

Laura arrives on the following Friday and Stiles feels like he’s practically going out of his skin with anticipation. He would never tell Scott or Lydia, but Laura is probably his favorite person in the world. She’s like the perfect mix of the two of them, and even though Stiles hasn’t known her as long as the other two, he feels a connection to her, almost like she really is a sister to him—at least in all the ways that matter.

So by the time nine o’clock rolls around and he hears a knock on the door, he is practically running from his room to answer it, narrowly avoiding running into Derek by the kitchen. He mutters a ‘sorry’ but then he’s pulling the door open and Laura is standing there, letting out a squeal. “Stiles!” She throws herself at him and he catches her and spins her around the living room.

“Laura! My one true love! I’ve missed you so!” He says, putting her down and pulling her into a tight hug. “Are you sure you won’t reconsider marrying me? I don’t know if I can stand being apart from you anymore…”

“Shut up, Stilinski,” she snorts. Derek walks around them to close the front door, which was still hanging wide open. Laura’s eyes twinkle as she takes him in. “Hey, bro!” She pulls him into a hug. Derek doesn’t say anything, just hugs her back, patting her shoulder. She pulls away with a laugh. “Oh, Der, don’t ask so many questions all at once. I know, I know, you just miss me so much that you can’t contain yourself.”

Derek looks a little sheepish. “Hi, Laura. How was the drive?”

Laura sighs dramatically. “Long and boring. I could use a drink or three right about now.” She turns back to Stiles. “You called Lydia and Danny, right? We still meeting at the club?”

Stiles nods at her enthusiastically. “Yeah! I’ve got a new outfit I’ve been dying to wear and this is the perfect excuse.” Stiles doesn’t miss the way Derek shifts beside Laura and looks forlornly toward his bedroom, like he’d rather be anywhere else than with them at this moment.

“Well, go get ready then! Time’s wasting!” Laura makes shooing motions and Stiles is on his way out of the room when she hears him speak to Derek. “You too, big brother. I didn’t come all this way just for you to not hang out with me.” Stiles looks back to see her pouting up at Derek and he swallows down a laugh at the expression on Derek’s face, heading into his room.

He goes to his closet and pulls out the newest pieces to his wardrobe. Apparently Lydia got sick of Stiles’ constant complaints about his leather pants not being breathable because he always chafed the next day after they went to the club, and took matters into her own hands. Stiles had been a little unsure about the new leather pants she bought for him, what with the lacing all the way up both sides of his legs and all. However, after he got over the fact that the pants were probably just a little too tight for his frame and that he would have to sacrifice wearing underwear under them otherwise it would show through the sides, they actually started to grow on him. They are surprisingly comfortable and the lacings do make the pants more breathable, so it’s a win. He pulls on a royal blue, deep v-neck shirt and puts his shoes on before he steps out of his bedroom. Laura is standing in the hallway by Derek’s open bedroom door and she looks at him with something akin to approval or appreciation and nods as she looks him over.

“Man, you grew up well, Stiles.” She says and he snorts at her.

“I knew you’d figure out one day that you want me just as much as I want you.” He says as he shimmies across the hallway to lean seductively against her. She must’ve changed in the bathroom because now she’s wearing a very attractive black lace dress with a neckline that’s verging on too low, considering she’s dragging her brother along with her tonight, but Stiles can’t really say that he minds. Laura is gorgeous; hair and makeup impeccable and just barely understated.

She wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him a little closer. “Stiles, my love for you cannot be contained.” She presses her forehead to his shoulder and pulls him into another hug. She breaks the moment by running her fingers through his hair and messing it up just a little, but he doesn’t mind.

“Don’t flatter me,” he says, pulling back a little to tuck a piece of her hair behind her ear. “Besides,” he murmurs so that only she can hear him, “you and I both know who you really want to go home with tonight.”

Stiles grins when he sees her blush. “Stiles—what—I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He chuckles and moves so that he’s leaning against the wall next to her. “C’mon. I may just be a fortune cookie writer, but I’m not stupid. I’ve seen the looks you’ve been giving Lydia since she and Erica broke up a few months ago.”

She looks at him with an expression he’s never seen on her face before. “I know. It’s just. I don’t think she likes me like that, you know?” They hear Derek bang open a drawer and she lowers her voice. “She never really seemed interested.”

Stiles eyes her for a moment. “Oh, I think she is. I also think tonight is a perfect night to just let go and have a good time. Why not live a little, Laura? I mean, I’ll be there, making a fool of myself as always, so feel free to use me as a distraction. And Danny’s bringing the guy he started seeing two weeks ago, so he’ll take some of the pressure off of you, too.”

Laura opens her mouth to say something, but Derek steps out of his room at that moment. He looks over at them and his eyes rest on Stiles for a long moment before they go back to his sister. “As your older brother, I feel obligated to say that your dress is too short.” The words are stern, but then they soften. “But you look lovely as always, sis.”

Laura moves from the wall and sashays down the hallway. “You look mighty dashing yourself, Derek.”

Without Laura to obstruct Stiles’ view, he has to say that he agrees. Derek looks better than Stiles has ever seen him. The tight, olive green short sleeve Henley brings out just the right shade of green in his eyes and the top few buttons are undone, exposing the long line of his throat and collarbones. And the pants—Stiles almost doesn’t want to look at his pants, especially when he turns and follows his sister down the hall, giving Stiles the perfect view of just what those sinfully tight black jeans do to his ass. It should be illegal. Only not, because Stiles approves of the fact that people like Derek actually exist, and has no problem with him flaunting his looks as long as Stiles can be one of the people seeing him in all of his glory.

“Stiles!” She yells. “C’mon, we’re leaving.” Stiles walks into the living room to see the Hales standing by the door. “Derek’s driving. Let’s go.”

They leave the apartment and Stiles locks it behind them, trailing into the elevator behind them when Derek curses and says something about it being the last time Laura picks out his pants because he can barely move in them which results in Laura cackling the entire ride down.

The trip to the club is uneventful and short, which Stiles is grateful for because the backseat of Derek’s car is really not the most comfortable thing in the world. Derek drops them in front of the venue so he can go park the car and Stiles finds Lydia easily enough in the crowd, pulling Laura along with him.

“Lyds!” he says, practically jumping on her and pressing a sloppy kiss to her cheek. “Have I mentioned how much I love you, my fiery-haired goddess? Oh,” he pulls Laura closer to him and puts an arm around her shoulder, “you remember Laura, right?”

Laura elbows him hard in the stomach and he grunts a little as Lydia rolls her perfectly made-up eyes and purses her deeply red lips, just a shade darker than her strapless, sweetheart neck-lined dress.

“Smooth, Stilinski, smooth,” he hears someone mutter from behind him and turns to see Danny standing next to the man that was in his apartment a few weeks ago with Derek. After the third or so meal he’d made Stiles taste-test, he decided that he was pretty much in love with the guy.

“Boyd!” he says by way of greeting. “If you want me to show you smooth, I’ll show you smooth. Maybe I’ll even let you feed me again.” He winks at the other man and sees Danny’s startled face out of the corner of his eye.

Laura turns around with something akin to a battle cry. “Boyd! Isaac! What are you guys doing here?” she asks, but she's already pulling Boyd and the curly haired man on Danny’s other side into a fierce hug. “Derek said you guys had other plans tonight?” She seems to think about it for a minute. “Actually. How do you guys know Stiles and Lydia?”

“Well,” Boyd begins, “I met Stiles a few weeks ago when Derek was helping me out with some restaurant stuff, but I didn’t know he was gonna be here tonight. I’m here with Isaac and Danny.”

Stiles looks over to the man in question and raises his eyebrow at him. “Oh?”

Danny looks uncomfortable for a moment, but then the curly haired man—Isaac—is placing his arm around Danny’s waste and he seems to relax. “Stiles, Lydia. This is my boyfriend, Isaac. Laura, it seems like you obviously know him already.”

“Oh, I know him alright. Question is, how do you?”

Both Isaac and Danny have the grace to flush a little bit before Isaac answers. “I’m, uh, his boss.”

There’s a moment of silence before Stiles whistles a cat-call. “You go Danny boy.”

Danny blushes harder than Stiles has ever seen him. “Stiles, I swear to god—”

“Derek!” Boyd calls, before Danny’s threat can be voiced and Boyd waves the man over.

Derek takes in all of the people with a slightly pinched expression. “Laura, what’s going on? I thought I told you Boyd and Isaac had plans tonight?”

Laura looks affronted for exactly half a second before she tilts her head. “Yep,” she says, popping the ‘p’. “Apparently this was it. What a coincidence, huh?”

“It’s funny how things turn out, right Derek?” Boyd says, throwing an arm over his shoulder.

Isaac is grinning at Derek. “Hey man, I want you to meet someone.” He motions to his side and Danny who is still wrapped in his arm. “This is Danny.”

Derek's smile fades as he takes in the two of them before his gaze becomes just a little stony. “We’ve met,” he says, throwing a look to Stiles that he can’t decipher and shrugging off Boyd’s arm.

Stiles clears his throat. “Weird, right? Who knew it was such a small world? Hey, Derek, have you met Lydia before?” He lightly grabs Lydia’s arm and pulls her toward him, purposefully blocking Derek’s line of sight to Danny. “Derek, meet Ms. Lydia Martin.”

They nod at each other, but it does nothing to break the awkwardness that’s settled over the group, but then the line starts to move and they start to make their way slowly toward the doors. “Wait,” Derek says, turning to Isaac. “Danny from the wait staff? Your boyfriend Danny? The one you’ve been going on about for weeks now?” Derek flicks his eyes disinterestedly at Danny, who is looking to Derek with confusion. “Really? I thought you could do better, Isaac.”

Isaac drops his mouth open like he can’t believe Derek just said that and Danny visibly flinches at the words, his face closing down almost instantly. Stiles feels the anger build in him like a wave only a moment before it crashes through him and he shoves at Derek, pushing him out of the line and losing their spots as the rest of the group goes in without them. He pushes him again, until Derek fumbles off of the curb and onto the road, looking up at Stiles with a slightly stunned expression. “Stiles—what—”

“Fuck you, Derek.” He seethes, pushing at Derek’s shoulders again. “You don’t get to go around saying shit like that to people. It’s not okay to make other people feel like they aren’t good enough for someone. You don’t even fucking know Danny.” Stiles is breathing heavy and his fingers are twisting into the front of Derek’s shirt.

“Stiles, why are you defending him?” He motions back toward the club.

“Why am I defending one of my best friends to a jerk like you?” he asks, removing his hands from Derek’s shirt with another small shove. “I don’t know, maybe because I’m not a shitty person?”

Derek’s eyebrows draw together. “Best friend? I-I thought…”

Stiles sighs in exasperation. “What Derek, do you have a problem with my friends now?”

Derek looks offended for a second. “No, of course not. Jesus, Stiles, I thought he was your boyfriend!” Derek spits the words, like he can’t get them out of his mouth fast enough.

Stiles freezes and takes a step back. “What?” he shakes his head. “No—we—what gave you that impression?”

Derek takes a step toward him. “That night, in the hallway…and the next morning…”

All at once the memory comes flooding back to him and he blushes, remembering that Derek most definitely saw things that could’ve been misconstrued as a relationship. “No. Nope. That was definitely just sex. I mean, Danny and I did date for a few months freshman year, but we aren’t together. We’re friends.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Friends that just have sex occasionally.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Don’t be such a prude, Derek. Casual sex is a thing that millions of people do and having a friend with benefits is just another part of it.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Whatever,” Stiles says. “I want to dance and we lost our place in line. C’mon,” he grabs Derek’s sleeve and pulls him to the back of the marginally shorter line. Stiles sighs as the line slowly shuffles toward the door once again. “I hope you realize you’re buying everyone the first round of drinks to make up for your stupidity and buying Danny all of his drinks tonight for being such an ass to him. Seriously, how could you be mean to Danny? Everyone loves Danny…”

Stiles stops when he feels a hand on his shoulder. “Stiles?” He turns to look at Derek. “I’m sorry. It was rude of me to act like that. Maybe it’ll be better if I just go.” He looks away from Stiles and removes his hand.

“Oh no you don’t! Laura will have my head if I let you go sulking off alone. And besides, you drove us here, idiot. And I know for a fact buying a few drinks won’t break you because your mom told me just how much money you make, so.”

Derek snorts. “You did not ask my mother about my salary.”

Stiles side-eyes him. “Did you really think I was going to let you move in without knowing if you could meet my price? Pfft. Please.”

They are almost to the door when Derek speaks again. “Stiles? If I buy you a drink, you owe me a dance. Deal?”

Stiles looks over and sees the grin on Derek’s face and he can’t help but smile back. “Deal.”

~

Stiles is two drinks into the night before he heads to the dance floor. The club is more crowded tonight than usual, almost like there’s a festival in town that he forgot about, but he doesn’t really care. The other people don’t really matter as he weaves his way into the crowd, feeling the press and pull of hot, sweat-slicked bodies as he slides passed them. The colored lights are the only thing that illuminates the dance floor, flashing over anonymous faces until everything around him fades into a sea of warmth and sweat and bodies swaying together and apart in a million different directions and Stiles closes his eyes, loses himself in the feeling of the music thrumming through him, relaxes into it like only dancing can do for him.

He feels a hand press against his bicep and move up until a solid, warm weight is settling on his shoulder and turning him slowly around. Stiles opens his eyes slowly, taking in the look on Derek’s face as he leans toward him and whisper-shouts into his ear. “How about that dance?”

Stiles nods, but all he can focus on is the way Derek’s warm breath ghosts down his neck as he moves his head away. Stiles snakes his hands out and places them on Derek’s sides, chasing his heat and moving until their bodies are pressing closer. The lights flicker over Derek’s face and Stiles watches, a little mesmerized, as Derek looks at him. He bites his bottom lip and Derek’s eyes follow the movement, but then Stiles moves his hands to grab at one of Derek’s and spins around, pressing his back to Derek’s front and bringing the hand around to settle low on his stomach.

Derek presses closer against his back, taking his cue from Stiles and wrapping his arms around the slighter, leanly muscled frame. He sets his chin on the crook of Stiles’ neck and Stiles closes his eyes again, briefly, before the song changes, turns to something a little slower, a little sexier, and Stiles sways his hips to the beat. He moves his arms until he can loop them behind Derek’s head. He arches his back, rocks his hips back, grinds his ass against the front of Derek’s jeans. He can feel the hands on his stomach move, fingers digging in on a twitch, like he isn’t sure if he wants to pull Stiles closer or let him go, so Stiles moves his hips again. This time, he uses his arms around Derek’s neck to make him move, tilting his head back to lean against his firm shoulder. “C’mon, Derek. Dance.”

It’s a tentative movement at first, just his hands moving up and down over Stiles’ torso, but they keep moving—up over his chest, down his sides, over the slight ridges of his abdomen, to his hips, the outside of his thighs—until every touch is trailing pinpricks of heat over Stiles’ skin. And then Derek moves his hips, grinds himself against Stiles’ ass, and the dance begins.

They move like that for a while, until the heat of Derek’s body at his back is almost too much and he seeks relief, spins around until they’re facing each other. Derek’s hands press against the small of his back, urge him closer. He doesn’t need the hands to gravitate toward Derek, though. Not tonight. Tonight, Stiles is a moth to the flame and he is burning.

Stiles watches a drop of sweat trail down the side of Derek’s neck, curve over his collarbone, and he chases it with his tongue, licks up the salty line of Derek skin and hears him gasp over the music. The hands on his body move down, grab at his ass, and he’s settling impossibly closer to Derek, their legs straddling each other’s, and then Derek grinds their hips together. Derek is hard. So incredibly hard; the denim over his crotch straining, but it moves over Stiles’ obvious, leather-clad bulge in a way that steals his breath.

“Fuck,” he manages to breathe out. “Derek. Derek, I want—Please.”

Derek seems to understand, because the next moment he’s pulling Stiles from the sea of bodies on the dance floor and they’re heading toward the exit. They make it all the way to Derek’s car before Stiles remembers he has friends inside of the club. “Wait. Laura.”

Derek turns from where he’s about to pull open his car door. “She left with the red-head half an hour ago.” He leans backward against the side of his car and the streetlight above casts delicious shadows over his silhouette, making Stiles’ mouth go a little dry. Derek’s looking back at him, staring at something and Stiles looks down at his chest. At some point in the night, the deep v of his shirt shifted, clung to him in an awkward way—maybe because of the sweat—and one of his nipples is peeking through the top of the v. Stiles thinks about moving it back, but he looks back up at Derek, sees the desire blooming in his eyes, and does nothing. Eventually Derek looks away. “Get in the car, Stiles.” The words sound more like a growl, but the husky note of promise in them sends a shiver down his spine, so he walks around the car and opens the door.

The drive is too long, the space too small, the two of them too silent. Stiles’ skin feels like it’s thrumming with some sort of energy that he can’t control and he quells the urge to fidget. Eventually, they turn into their apartment building’s parking lot. They take the elevator up and Derek opens the front door, pulls Stiles inside and then pushes him, hard, against the surface after it’s locked.

Stiles almost complains at the sting in his back from the doorknob, but then Derek is mouthing at his neck and all complaints seem invalid when Derek’s lips are on his skin and he’s sucking and licking and nibbling over sensitive skin, kissing everywhere but his mouth. Derek’s hands are everywhere; moving over every bit of exposed skin he can find, rough and hot over Stiles’ flesh.

All Stiles can do is twine his fingers into Derek’s soft hair and hold on. Derek’s hands move to the hem of Stiles’ shirt and he feels fingertips pull the fabric up until it’s bunching under his arms. Stiles lifts them so Derek can pull his shirt off. The apartment air is a little cold over his sweat-slicked skin and he shivers, but Derek’s body is quickly pressing back against him and his mouth is leaving pure fire in its wake as he presses kisses to Stiles’ chest. He licks over a collarbone just like Stiles had done to him in the club and Stiles moans, throws his head back to let it thud against the door. Stiles almost yelps when he feels teeth digging into his nipple, but then Derek’s tongue is soothing the mark, circling over the hardened tip, sucking at it, biting it again and again, until Stiles is forced to reach out and pull at his hair to get him off of him. Derek only spares him a brief glance and then mirrors the actions on the other nipple.

Derek’s mouth is amazing, that’s all Stiles knows; especially when it starts to trail open-mouthed kisses down his torso, licking over the outline of his abs, dipping into his bellybutton, moving lower to mouth at the line of dark hair disappearing into his pants. Derek follows that line down, dips his tongue down under the waistband of his pants. Suddenly he’s kneeling on the ground between Stiles’ legs and running his hands up Stiles’ thighs, tilting his face up toward Stiles. “These fucking pants of yours—been wanting to take them off of you all night.”

Stiles is breathing hard, already, filled with anticipation, even before Derek spreads his lips and mouths over the head of his cock, breath warming the leather as it presses against his sensitive head. Derek’s hands move from where they are burning bits of his skin through the lacings at his sides to spread his legs a little wider. Derek settles more fully between them, moving his mouth to lick a hot path along where Stiles’ cock is straining in his pants. He feels himself twitch and moans when Derek brings a hand down to rub against his trapped balls.

“Can I?” The words are rough, yet tentative and Stiles bites his lip, looking down at Derek’s questioning face with a nod. Derek doesn’t hesitate before his fingers are deftly untying the laces on his sides and peeling the leather pants down from his hips. They’re barely down enough to expose his rigid cock before Derek is there, sucking at his head like his life depends on it, pressing his tongue hard to his slit, against the hypersensitive skin just under it. Stiles threads his fingers through Derek’s hair again, needing something to hold onto. He loses his breath when Derek takes him further into his mouth, all slick heat and hot tongue. He moans when he feels his head hit the back of Derek’s throat, when he feels him swallow around him.

“Derek,” he moans the name, his mouth too much and not enough all at once. He wants it to stop, wants Derek to keep going forever, and his grip tightens on Derek’s hair, pulling him back and pushing him on at the same time. He isn’t even aware of how tight his grip is until Derek whimpers around him and he relents his grip enough to let him pull off. Derek does, licking at Stiles’ slit one last time and making him shudder. “Fuck, I want you.”

Derek stands slowly, using his grip on Stiles’ hips to center himself so he can look Stiles in the eyes from mere inches away. “Do you?”

Stiles is still panting a little, his chest heaving as he tries to regulate his breathing. “Yes. You have no idea.”

Derek’s tongue flicks out over his still-wet lips and Stiles tracks the movement. “Tell me,” the words are gravelly, hoarse, and Stiles knows it’s from having his cock down Derek’s throat.

Stiles looks back up to Derek’s eyes. His pupils are dilated, the only color a ring of green around the black, and Stiles falls into the inky depths. “Everything. Your fucking mouth. Jesus, your hands,” he hisses the last as Derek grips hard at the bare skin of his ass, slipping his hands under the leather. He squeezes a little before his fingers are pulling his cheeks apart, a lone digit sweeping over his hole. “Shit, Derek. I want you to fuck me. Please, please. Want you so bad.”

Derek lets out a loud moan at that and Stiles feels it thrum through him just like the music had earlier, but then he’s being pulled toward the couch and unceremoniously pushed over the arm so that his upper body sprawls over a cushion. He looks back over his shoulder just in time to see Derek grab a hold of the top of his pants and tug them off of his legs until they are thrown somewhere by the front door. Derek bends down and presses his hands against the small of Stiles’ back, making him arch his back and rest on his elbows. He leans over and traps the skin of his ass between his teeth for a moment before he relents and kneels down, dragging his fingers between Stiles’ cheeks to part them. He feels the ghost of a breath the moment before Derek’s tongue strokes over him and Stiles loses himself in the feel of his tongue wrecking him again.

He licks and licks around the rim, using his thumbs to pull Stiles further apart before he presses his tongue inside, fast and messy and hot, like a promise of what Derek’s dick will be like. Stiles whimpers at the feeling of Derek fucking him with his tongue and thinks about touching himself, but he doesn’t, enjoying the pleasure of Derek’s mouth too much to take any attention away from it. It isn’t until he feels the pad of a fingertip press against his hole that he moves at all, and only then it’s to spread his legs just a little wider, so that the finger slips a little easier, now that’s he’s all warm and loose and wet from Derek’s sinful mouth.

They stay like that for a while, Stiles lying face-down on the couch, Derek with his tongue and finger working him even more open until Stiles is gasping, already feeling too warm and too on edge. “Derek,” he moans when Derek presses just the hint of another finger inside of him. “Derek,” he almost shouts this time, and Derek stops enough to look at him. “Lube. Bedroom.”

Derek takes his hand away, but not before he tongue-fucks him one more time. “Yours or mine?” he asks as he stands, pulling Stiles up from the couch.

“I don’t even fucking care, I just want you inside of me.” It’s probably one of the most bluntly honest statements Stiles has ever said during sex, but he can’t find it in himself to care, because they are walking down the hall and turning into his room and Derek is taking off his shirt and it’s all Stiles can do not to jump on him and return all of the favors he’s done to Stiles thus far. Instead, he kneels on the bed, crawling over it to open the drawer of his nightstand and retrieve lube and a condom.

When he turns back around, Derek is standing there with his pants undone, hand inside, stroking over his erection. Stiles whimpers at the sight. Derek’s eyes are locked on him and there is an unmistakable hunger lurking in them. “Stiles,” he moans his name and it makes Stiles’ cock twitch against his thigh. “You have no idea. So fuckin’ sexy. God—” He chokes off on another moan as his thumb strokes over his slit. Derek stops moving his hand after that though and just looks at him. “Your ass. I want—”

Stiles bites his lip and cocks his head, crawling slowly backward, down his bed, settling himself in the middle of it on his hands and knees. “What do you want, Derek? My ass?” he asks, voice low and seductive as he leans over onto his elbows, never breaking eye contact with him. “Come and get it.”

Derek is nothing but a flurry of movement after that, pulling his pants off so fast Stiles hears fabric rip, but then Derek is suddenly, gloriously naked and he is stalking toward Stiles’ bed and then settling himself on his knees behind him. He reaches out for the lube and makes a quick job of lubing up his fingers, spreading some around on Stiles’ hole before he’s back to pushing one finger in. He only works it in for a few strokes before he adds a second finger. The stretch is just what Stiles wants, what he needs, and he’s rocking his hips back against Derek’s fingers without realizing it, until Derek brings his other hand down to slap at his ass, hissing out a “don’t move” before he’s rubbing at the cheek to soothe the hurt.

Derek dribbles a little more lube over his fingers before he presses in again and this time, Stiles feels them moving inside of him, spreading him just a little bit, scissoring on the outstroke. Stiles makes an unintelligible sound and Derek must understand what Stiles is asking for because when he takes his fingers out again, he goes back in with three large, long fingers and Stiles lets out a string of moans at the delicious stretch, unable to keep from rocking back onto them this time. Derek doesn’t say anything, just moves his fingers harder and a little deeper until he just barely presses against Stiles’ prostate and Stiles shouts his name.

Derek pulls his fingers out then, not wasting any time before he reaches by Stiles’ head for the condom. Stiles hears the sound of ripping and then the pop of the lube lid. He chances a glance back and sees Derek stroking his cock again, the lube on it catching the light and making Stiles lose his breath. Stiles shifts his weight so only one arm is supporting him and reaches out to run his fingers over the outside of Derek’s thigh, lightly scratching at his skin.

Derek’s breath hitches, just a small sound in the room, but it’s almost deafening to Stiles; it reverberates all the way down into his groin and he feels precum beading on his head. “Derek. Derek, please. Hurry. Oh god, please.”

“Yes,” Derek grabs Stiles’ hip with one hand and uses the other to line his cock up to Stiles’ hole. He feels the blunt pressure at his entrance—Derek is a little bigger than what he’s used to—and for a moment, he doesn’t breathe passed the uncomfortable stretch, but then Derek is shoving forward just a little bit more and his head breaches the ring of muscle, sliding in with a little more ease. He doesn’t stop moving until he’s all the way in and Stiles is almost glad for it. Derek is hot and heavy and hard inside of him and he loves it already, wants more, wants all Derek has to offer him.

Derek’s hand runs up his spine before it’s fisting in his hair, pulling his head back at the same moment that his hips snap forward. Stiles moans, the sharp pain at his scalp mixing with the feel of Derek moving inside of him. Derek moves his other hand to settle on Stiles’ hip, digging his blunt fingernails in, just a little. He finds a rhythm and Stiles has to lower onto his elbows again just to stay upright. Derek is relentless, the in and out just this side of too hard, too much, but Stiles still asks for it harder, faster, even though he feels like something inside of him is on the cusp of breaking, of dragging him under like he’s trapped in a tide.

Eventually the grip on his hair lessens and lets go enough for him to drop his head to the mattress. Fingertips dig into the skin of his back on their path back down before Derek has both hands on Stiles’ hips and is pulling him closer, spreading Stiles’ legs more and deepening his thrusts.

Derek rasps out Stiles’ name, his grip almost vice-like on his hips, but Stiles doesn’t care, even though he knows that he might have bruises there tomorrow, because Stiles shifts his weight again, just enough to reach down and stroke himself in time with Derek’s hard thrusts. It takes just enough of the almost-too-painful pleasure away so Stiles can fill with the good pleasure, can feel it crest inside of him, warm and insistent, and he wants it to take him over, wants to lose himself in the feel of Derek inside of him.

He does. The orgasm rips through him, tears whimper after whimper from his lips until he’s left keening, rocking his hips back against Derek’s as hard as he can, drawing out every last breadth of his orgasm as he cums over his hand, onto the comforter, harder than he has in a long time. He doesn’t move, doesn’t even breathe for a long moment, his orgasm pulling him under until all he’s reduced to is the feel of Derek’s erratic pounding inside of him, of the feel of his calloused fingertips pressing into his hipbones. Derek stills for a moment, pulsing and hot where he’s still buried inside of Stiles, and he cums, shouting Stiles’ name as he follows him over the edge.

~

It’s early when Stiles wakes; the soft rose-gold of the sunlight flickering in through his blinds, splitting lines over the bed where he lies. He blinks slowly, pushing the sleep from his eyes, before he feels warmth from the body lying next to him, the skin of his side weighed down by an arm thrown over it. Stiles almost stops breathing for a moment, afraid that any sudden movement or sound would wake the other man up.

Him. Derek.

Fuck.

Stiles shifts slowly, tentatively, until he’s lying on his back so he can look at him. The light from the window cuts lines over Derek’s face, highlighting the strong line of his jaw, the severe curve of his cheekbones, making shadows play over his long, dark eyelashes. His pale skin looks luminescent like this, warm and soft from the sun and sleep, like fresh baked clay. Stiles feels his mouth open of its own accord.

He wasn’t so drunk last night that he forgot everything that happened, but he still doesn’t quite know how they ended up here, in his bed. Yes, he knows the semantics of it, remembers physically how they got here, but that doesn’t explain why Derek allowed this to happen, why he even wanted it. Stiles just doesn’t understand it. Derek hates him. He’s hated him since the moment they met. He’s gone out of his way to show Stiles just how little he thinks of him, yet, here they are, naked in his bed after a night of what was potentially the best sex Stiles has ever had.

Okay, so Stiles had amazing—like, mindblowingly amazing, really—sex with Derek. But it doesn’t mean anything. They were just two guys who had a little too much to drink and who happened to occupy the same space. That was all there is to it. It was a fluke. A onetime thing. Stiles is sure of it. If there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s casual sex. Sex that means nothing. This is just another of his many one night stands, even if he hasn’t had a one nighter with anyone other than Danny in longer than he can remember. Still. It’s just sex, right? He and Derek, it was just relieving the primal human urge to copulate for pleasure. He’s sure of it.

Stiles doesn’t know why, when he watches Derek shift in his sleep—nuzzle his head further into Stiles’ pillow—that thought makes him unbearably sad.

It’s not like he wants sex with Derek to mean anything. He doesn’t. He’s not one of those people that take stock in sex being anything other than sex. He’s never understood the whole ‘making love’ philosophy. To be honest, Stiles finds nothing sweet or loving in sex. But there’s a small part of his mind that whispers sex with Derek has the potential to become something akin to making love, and that last night felt different than sex with Danny, or any of his other past boyfriends. There had never been that spark with anyone else. Stiles had never lost himself so completely, been so utterly decimated by someone else before.

It scares him; it fucking terrifies him to even think about Derek that way. It makes his heart start to beat faster in his chest, his hands feel just a little shaky, his body a little too hot where he’s still cocooned in Derek’s warmth.

Derek shifts a little bit more beside him and Stiles watches, helpless, transfixed. The comforter slips down around the other man’s waist and the sunlight washes over his exposed skin. Derek looks fucking beautiful, sleeping next to him, in Stiles’ bed, with his mouth parted just a little, the tips of his teeth showing. He looks stunning and vulnerable and dangerous in a way that steals Stiles’ breath, makes his head start to spin. He thinks he might’ve made some sound, because Derek is opening his sleep-heavy eyes, his dark lashes blinking apart to show bright hazel-green, and he’s looking at Stiles from mere inches away. Stiles doesn’t say anything, watches, immersed, riveted, as a slow smile tugs at Derek’s sleep slack lips before he’s closing his eyes once again and nuzzling back into the pillow.

Stiles swallows hard. He waits for a few more minutes, until he knows Derek is completely asleep again, before he slowly works his way out from under his covers, careful not to shift the bed too much as he climbs out of it. He goes to his dresser, quietly, pulling out the first pair of boxers and jeans he can find before he slips a t-shirt on over his head. He doesn’t think about it, grabs a spare set of clothes as quickly as he can, before he heads out of his room.

He spares a glance back through his doorway. Derek moved again, shifting onto his back in the spot where Stiles was lying, the blanket low on his hips. The sunlight is stronger now, bathing Derek in the warm rays, enticing him back to the bed, but his palms are sweaty and his lungs are having a harder and harder time dragging in enough oxygen, so he leaves the room, grabs his keys, and walks out of the apartment, quietly kicking his leather pants away from the front door on his way.

~

The drive is just long enough for Stiles to feel the tell-tale tightening in his chest. He tries to breathe through it, cracks all his windows just to have more fresh air, but it’s barely working. He makes it all the way to Sacramento, to the street he grew up on, even gets so far as to park in the drive of his childhood home before the panic attack hits him—before it incapacitates him.

His hands start to shake, so he grips the wheel as tightly as he can, but his palms are sweaty and his grip on the leather keeps slipping and he keeps trying to hold his hands still, but then his throat starts to tighten and it gets harder for him to breathe. He focuses on the in-and-out of air into his lungs. He isn’t even aware he’s closed his eyes until he feels the pressure of unshed tears pushing at his lids, burning inside of them. He knows if he opens his eyes now, he’ll lose it completely, so he lowers his forehead to his steering wheel, taking shallow breaths that burn all the way down.

He has static in his ears. He doesn’t even hear anyone approach him until there is a hand on his shoulder, coming in through his still-open Jeep window. He jerks up from where he’s doubled over around the wheel, eyes snapping open, the panic coming on full force for a moment before he sees his dad leaning in through the window, green eyes heavy with concern.

“Dad,” Stiles croaks, unbuckling his seatbelt and opening his door in a flurry of movement that leaves his dad with barely enough time to get out of the way before Stiles is throwing himself into his father’s arms and holding on as tightly as his shaking limbs will let him.

His father wraps his arms around him and Stiles feels his heart rate settle a little bit. “Stiles, what’s wrong? What are you doing here? Are you okay?”

Stiles just shakes his head and holds on a little tighter for a moment. “I’m sorry. I’m okay. I just really missed you.”

His father pats his back, “Missed you too, kiddo,” he says gruffly, but Stiles hears the affection underneath it and smiles, pulling away. He steps over to his Jeep to close the still-open door.

“Not that I don’t appreciate touching familial reunions, but perhaps we could move this inside, yes? The neighbors are judging us, I can feel it.” Stiles grins before he even looks over to the front door to where his mother is perched against the doorframe.

“Mom!” Stiles yells, running up the few steps to the porch before he wraps her into a bear hug, lifting her up and spinning her around. She’s laughing by the time Stiles sets her down. “Now the neighbors really have something to talk about.”

Her dark eyes sparkle from behind her glasses as she ruffles his hair. “You are impossible, Stiles.”

Stiles feels his smile widen and he winks at her. “I know.”

She rolls her eyes and pushes him through the doorway. “Just get inside so your face doesn’t scare the neighbors. John!” she calls to her husband from where he’s busy rolling up the windows in the Jeep.

“Just a minute, Claudia,” he calls back, locking the Jeep before he heads inside and they close the front door behind them.

Stiles sits down heavily on his spot on the couch—the right side, where the cushion is still indented from hours and hours sitting and watching movies and TV and playing video games—and sighs. “Man, you guys have no idea how much I missed you.” His parents smile at him before they share a look from the entryway. Stiles notices for the first time that both of them are dressed like they are about to head out. His mom is wearing jeans and knee-high boots with an oversized cream-colored sweater; his father a pair of jeans and a navy button-up—a far cry from his sheriff’s uniform. Stiles frowns. “Wait, are you leaving? Did I interrupt your plans?” Of course, the one day he decides on an impromptu visit, his parents would be doing something, and Stiles would show them just how irresponsible he is not to call ahead and even make sure his parents wanted a visit from him before he drove ninety miles to see them.

His mother’s boots click on the hardwood as she walks over to sit down next to him. She tucks a strand of her short brown hair behind her ear before she turns to him. “We were just about to go to lunch, but you can make us something instead. How ‘bout it? Hmm?” She puts her arm around him and pulls him into a one armed hug. “I could go for some of your famous spinach pie.”

Stiles sighs and rests his head on his mother’s shoulder. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good. I can do that.” He sighs a little and gets off of the couch, heading into the kitchen. He pretends not to notice his father’s concerned look, because Stiles normally gives them grief for making him cook when he comes home to visit. But today, he doesn’t even care. Cooking is a distraction, a perfect way to take his mind off of things he doesn’t want to think about—like Derek.

Stiles gets out the phyllo dough and the other ingredients before he focuses all of his effort on cooking and not thinking about just why he’s here and what he’s—totally not—running away from. Once the pie is in the oven, he sits down at the dining room table and puts his head down into his arms. He hears footsteps, but doesn’t lift his head, even when he hears the chair next to him move and someone sit down.

“Stiles,” his father starts, “want to tell me what that panic attack earlier was about?”

Stiles groans into his arm. “Not really.”

“Stiles,” he persists.

He finally lifts his head enough to look over at his dad. His eyebrows are drawn together and he’s starting to get his interrogative face on, so Stiles submits. “It was nothing.”

His father leans toward him and places a hand on his shoulder. “It wasn’t nothing, son. I haven’t seen you have an attack since you started college. And even then it was only a little one. You haven’t had one that bad since your mother had a relapse when you were sixteen.”

Stiles shrugs, but not enough to dislodge his dad’s hand. “I just—I had a bad morning; worked myself into one on the way here.” He lets out a heavy breath. “It’s stupid. It’s nothing.”

“Stop,” his dad snaps at him, but it isn’t cutting. “Stop dismissing it as nothing. What’s got you so upset, kid?” Stiles opens his mouth, but his father beats him to it. “Don’t say it’s stupid or never mind, because obviously whatever happened to make you come all the way home to get away from it and still have an attack is something you need to talk about. I’m not saying you have to talk to me, Stiles, but it must be serious.” His father squeezes his shoulder one more time before he drops his hand.

Stiles looks away from the concern in his father’s face and swallows hard. He doesn’t say anything for a long moment. “Can I ask you something?” he inquires quietly.

“Of course, son.”

Stiles sits back and stares at his hands. “When did you realize that you liked Mom enough to fall in love with her?”

Stiles can practically hear his father stiffen up and he chances a glance over at him. He looks a little stunned by the question, but like he’s actually thinking about the honest answer. “Well. That wasn’t where I thought this conversation was going to go. But, I’d have to say it was probably on our third or fourth date. We were at a fair and it was the middle of the summer.” He huffs out a laugh. “I remember her forcing me to go on a bunch of rides and I ended up eating too much and feeling sick.” He laughs again. “After one particularly fast ride, she looked over at me and I just remember feeling like I was the luckiest person in the world because she was smiling at me, like the smile was a gift just for me. Of course then I went and threw up, so it ruined the moment. But, still.” He sighs a little dreamily before Stiles huffs out a laugh of his own. His father looks back at him and his expression clears. “Stiles, do you think you’re in love with someone?”

Stiles feels his mouth fall open and he blinks a few times. “I don’t—I mean—it’s not—he doesn’t even like me!”

John’s expression softens. “Stiles…”

“No,” he shakes his head. “I don’t want to talk about it, okay? Please, Dad, just drop it.”

The timer on the stove chooses that moment to go off and Stiles rockets from his seat, pulling the food out to let it cool a little before he serves it.

His parents each grab a large slice before he follows suit and they sit around the table together. Lunch is mainly filled with his parents talking and occasionally asking him questions about work or Scott or Lydia or Laura. Eventually, his mother turns to him with a gleam in her eye. “So, I couldn’t help but overhearing that you think you’re in love with someone.”

Stiles feels himself tense up right as his dad mumbles “subtle, Claudia” under his breath.

“Uh,” he says eloquently.

“So what’s his name?” she asks, taking a bite of her pie.

“Uh,” he says again, shoveling a large forkful of food into his mouth.

“Stiles, if he’s important enough to make you run away from San Francisco—the city you love and complain about being away from every time you visit—he must really be something.” His mother smirks at him.

He waits for his heart to actually start beating once again before he tries to speak. “Um. Well, you know how a few months ago I said I was looking for a new roommate?”

His parents both nod. “Didn’t Laura’s brother move in?” his dad asks.

“Yeah.”

“Is he giving you a hard time about the guy you like?” His mother poses. “You said the two of you weren’t really getting along.”

“Yeah, no.” Stiles clears his throat. “We don’t really get along. I don’t—I don’t think. Uh, and I don’t really think he has a problem with me liking the guy I like? I think it’s more of the fact that I can’t believe I actually like him because I don’t even know if I actually even like him as a person or if I’m just lusting after his stupidly attractive everything, or whatever.”

Both of his parents are looking at him with comically wide eyes, forks raised halfway to their open mouths. Okay, so maybe Stiles said a little too much and let the cat out of the bag early, but he doesn’t even care right now. “Wow, Dad, you were right. I feel better already. Talking. Yeah. I’m gonna go now.”

Stiles makes to get up but his father’s hand is holding him down. “Stop.”

Stiles huffs but doesn’t move. “Okay, so I may or may not be in like with Laura’s rude, insensitive, older brother Derek. Who is currently living at my house and who may or may not have spent last night in my bed.”

His father pinches the bridge of his nose and says “that’s more than I needed to know” while his mother lets out a snort and an “attaboy”.

Stiles shrugs a little sheepishly before he sighs. “I just—I can’t face him right now. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I have a million thoughts racing around in my head. It hasn’t been this bad since high school, so I just kind of decided to…avoid the problem until it goes away.”

“You mean run away,” his mother’s words are disapproving and Stiles suppresses the urge to flinch.

“It’s not really running away. It’s taking a break from a situation that was a little too scary and overwhelming this morning. So sue me.” he resists the urge to snap, just barely, because he’s starting to feel the press of panic again and he wills it down and away.

“Awe,” his mother reaches out to run a hand through his hair again and it soothes something inside of him, “I’m sorry, baby boy. He must be something special for you to be like this over him.”

Stiles nods a little and closes his eyes. “Yeah,” he whispers. “I just wish I knew what to do about him.”

His mother squeezes the back of his neck. “You’ll figure it out, Kiddo. I have complete faith in you.”

Stiles grumbles a little. “That makes one of us.”

~

Stiles spends almost a week in Sacramento with his parents. He’d called in his vacation time at the beginning of the work week. It wasn’t like he didn’t have enough time saved up after working for the same company for years and rarely taking a day off. He figures he might as well use some time while he tries to figure out whatever the fuck he’s going to do about the Derek situation.

He’s only slightly ashamed that he’s been ignoring countless texts and phone calls from all of his friends for the last six days, but the silence of being with his family is enough to make his head feel clearer than it has in a really long time.

He’s spent most of the week with his mom at the bookstore she owns, picking up shifts just for something to do, like he hasn’t done since he moved away for college. It’s nice; being back in a place that was so instrumental for him when he was growing up. The smell of the books reminds him of his childhood and he can’t help but feel more than a little nostalgic while he dusts all the shelves and rearranges the sections to fit into his mother’s new floor plan.

He remembers spending hours—days—inside of this store, before he even knew just how much he’d learn to love all of the books that dwarfed the shelves. This shop was like a godsend to him when his mom got sick. He remembers what it was like back then, when books were the only things that would help him forget about the constant, overwhelming worry that his mother was going to die. He remembers that his aunt came to stay with them for a long time, and he used to spend hours in the store with her between hospital visits with his dad and school. Books were his safe haven. He lost himself inside of the words, inside of the intricate pictures they weaved in his mind, until it was like an escape for him and he read everything he could get his hands on. Eventually, his mother got better, beat the cancer inside of her, but it was a near thing, and Stiles never forgot just how important books were to him during the bad parts. They were what inspired him to be an English major in college, much to the dismay of his father.

It’s still somewhat of a sore spot in the Stilinski household, so Stiles tries not to bring up his degree very often, even if he’s extremely proud of it and has an awesome job because of it. Sure, maybe writing fortunes is wasting a little of his talent, but he’s happy doing it—plus it pays really, really well. He knows his dad gets it, even if he doesn’t really understand. And he knows that his mother loves that he followed in her footsteps, going to her Alma Mater, pursuing the same field of study as her.

He and his mother spend their free time during the week talking about their new favorite books, just like they always do during Stiles’ visits home. Everything finally starts to feel less brittle by the middle of the week. Stiles finally feels like he’s got his head back on straight, like he knows what he’s going to do. He doesn’t talk to his parents about Derek again, but his mother makes a few pointed comments about him when they’re at the store and Stiles tries not to blush at her remarks.

It’s Friday and Stiles is just about to close up the shop when the door chime goes off. He’s in the back of the store and doesn’t see who it is, but he groans anyway. “Hey,” he says, just loud enough for his voice to carry to the front, “sorry, but we’re just about to close. We open up bright and early at seven tomorrow morning, though, if you’d like to come back—”

He makes it to the front of the store and stops when he sees Laura standing at the counter, arms folded across her chest, glaring daggers at him.

“Stiles,” she grits out. “I’m going to fucking murder you.”

“Uh, in that case would you mind flipping the sign to closed?” he asks, unable to keep the amusement from his voice.

Laura glares even harder and Stiles is struck by just how much it reminds him of Derek, but she walks to the door and flips the sign. She turns on him then and she looks livid. “I swear to god, whatever happened that made you not answer even a fucking phone call for a week must be life or death, otherwise I’m going to kill you myself. Do you understand me?” She’s yelling by the end of it and Stiles is faintly glad for the counter that is separating them.

Stiles lifts his hands in surrender. “Dude, chill. I was visiting my parents. I haven’t seen them since May. And I didn’t really think you’d care if I skipped town while you were there because you were busy with a certain redhead the last time I saw you.”

Laura raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow at him. “Like you were busy with my brother the last time I saw you?”

Stiles flushes and drops his hands. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mumbles, turning around to head into the back. Avoidance is nothing if not his best strategy.

Laura rounds the counter before he can make it very far and is standing in front of him. “Like hell. Your clothes were still lying on the apartment floor when Lydia dropped me off the next day. Jesus, Stiles, I tripped over your fucking leather pants!”

A throat clears from somewhere behind them and Stiles realizes belatedly that his mother is still there and has probably been listening to everything they’ve said. “What’s this about leather pants?” His mom asks, stepping out from the back. “Sweetie, you never told me you were so wild.”

Stiles buries his face in his hands and Laura—the bastard—laughs. “Hello again Mrs. Stilinski!” Laura sounds way too cheerful and Stiles separates his fingers to peer at her.

His mom is sweeping Laura into a hug. “Laura! Lovely to see you again, but I’ve told you before to call me Claudia.”

Laura nods. “Claudia,”

His mom gives Stiles a look that he can’t read before she lets go of Laura and steps over to him. “Don’t be too mad at Stiles.” She ruffles his hair and he drops his hands to put one arm around her shoulder. “I called him last minute begging him to come help out. My part-timer just quit and I needed someone to fill in while I hired someone else. And I make him keep his phone in the back.” She smiles brightly at Laura through the lie. “Perks of being his mom and his boss for the week.”

“Slavedriver,” Stiles murmurs, just to drive the lie home.

Laura seems to believe them because she deflates, huffing out an over-exaggerated sigh. “Who follows rules. You couldn’t even send me one text? I had to find out from Scott who called Aunt Mel, who called my mom, who then called your mom to even find out where you were. Rude. You are rude, Stilinski.” She crosses her arms again. “And I was worried damnit.”

Stiles removes his arm from around his mom’s shoulders and walks over to Laura. “Hey, Laur, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you worry. I just—really missed my parents. It was a really last minute thing and then I was busy doing stuff. I was going to leave tomorrow and call you, I promise. I just needed a few days of not…” he trails off, not knowing what to say.

Laura looks at him for a long moment before she nods. “Hey, I get it. You just wanted time with your family. I get it.”

Stiles’ mom puts a hand on her arm. “Laura, are you staying in town? You’re more than welcome to have dinner with us. Stiles is making sweet potato pancakes. We were just about to head home…”

Laura makes a face. “Oh my god that sounds amazing but I promised Scott I’d have dinner with him and Allison tonight and I still have to drive the rest of the way back to Beacon Hills.”

“Okay,” His mom hugs her again before she walks toward the back.“Tell your mother and Mel I said hello. And don’t be such a stranger.”

“Will do, Claudia. See ya,” Laura waves as the older woman disappears. “Oh,” Laura turns back to Stiles, “speaking of mom. I told her I was coming here today and she said, and I quote ‘tell Stiles he’s coming to dinner tomorrow and bringing dessert or else I won’t ever give him any more recipes and I will make Laura cook for him every time he comes to visit as punishment’. So, for your sake and mine, please come to dinner tomorrow.”

Stiles can’t help but laugh a little bit at her. “What’s the occasion?”

Laura smiles at him. “Cora’s coming home!”

Stiles smile widens before a thought hits him and wilts into a frown. “Is—uh, is Derek gonna be there?” Stiles rubs at the back of his neck when Laura blinks owlishly at him.

“Yeah, probably.” She tilts her head. “By the way, what exactly happened last weekend between you two? Derek was a complete ass when I got to your place Saturday. He wouldn’t even speak in words. He just kind of grumbled. Did you get my brother completely wasted and then take advantage of him?” she clucks her tongue at him.

Stiles feels the blood drain from his cheeks and he doesn’t breathe for a second. “No, nothing happened. Nothing like that.”

Laura makes a considering sound. “Funny. That’s just what Derek said. I didn’t believe him then anymore than I believe you now.”

Stiles rubs away a headache that’s forming at his temple. “Laura, just leave it. Okay? Please.” He sighs. “Don’t you have to go meet my best friend for dinner or something?”

Laura pouts. “I thought I was your best friend.”

Stiles laughs and pulls her into a hug. “You’re the love of my life, you know that. Now get out of here.” He says, moving away and pulling her toward the front door. “Allison gets kinda crazy when people aren’t on time. And you do not want to deal with a crazy Allison, trust me. I still get nightmares from it once in a while.” He fake-shivers and Laura snorts.

“Fine, fine. I’m leaving. And I won’t say anything about my brother or what may or may not’ve happened last weekend.” She gives him a pointed look before she’s smiling again. “But I’ll see you tomorrow, right? I know Cora really wants to see you. And apparently she has some news that she wants to tell the family.”

Stiles grins at her. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be there, Laura. I always am. What do you want to bet we’ll finally find out about her mystery man?”

Laura’s eyes widen. “You mean the one she always says she isn’t dating?”

“That’s the one!” Stiles opens the front door for her. “Now leave! Before I call my dad.”

Laura giggles and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Love you.”

Stiles grins at her as he ushers her out the door. “I love you, too.”

~

Stiles pulls into the Hale driveway with exactly three minutes to spare. On a normal day, Stiles would be religiously early to help Mrs. Hale prepare the meal, but today is not that day. He gets out of his car and notices that it looks like everyone else is already here. He sees Laura’s SUV and Scott’s truck. He also sees what he knows to be Cora’s car and he smiles a little, even though it’s parked next to Derek’s.

He walks to the porch and is just about to open the door when Scott opens it. “Stiles!” he shouts, and Stiles bites down on the urge to say he’s not deaf, but then Scott is throwing his arms around Stiles in a bear hug. Stiles quickly moves the container he’s holding so he doesn’t accidentally drop it. “Dude, I wasn’t sure if you’d show. I haven’t heard from you in a week. What gives?”

Stiles pats him on the back before he pulls away and shrugs at Scott’s slightly hurt look. “I just spent some time with the ‘rents. You know how it is.”

Scott narrows his eyes for a moment before his expression clears. “Yeah. Whatever, dude, I’m just glad you’re here. I haven’t seen you in ever!”

Stiles grins and Scott moves to let him inside.

Allison is waiting on the other side of the door and she flashes a dimpled smile at him before she draws him into a hug. “Hi, Stiles.”

“Hello, my beautiful Ms. Argent. How are you fairing on this fine day? On a scale of one to committing homicide, how annoyed are you with Scott now that you’re actually living together?”

Stiles hears a very ladylike snort from somewhere further in the house and ignores Allison’s sound of protest when he turns away from her to see Cora entering the foyer. “Sometimes I swear you are too ridiculous to actually exist. And then you open your mouth, and I remember anew why I love you. Never, ever change, Stiles. Please.”

She’s wrapping her arms around him in a fierce hug and Stiles lets out a bark of laughter. “Ha! As if I could change even if I tried.”

“Well, that’s pretty fucking obvious.” The words are low and biting, spitting from Derek’s lips as he enters the room after Cora, with Boyd hot on his heels.

Stiles freezes and tries to pull away from Cora’s hug, but she just holds on tighter, seemingly ignoring her brother. “Stiles, I’ve missed you so much! I was so excited when Laura told me she managed to threaten you into driving up here.” She pulls away from the hug. “It’s so cool coming home and having all of my family here with me.”

Stiles isn’t looking at Derek, but he can practically feel the anger coming off of him in waves. “Uh,” he says to Cora, pressing the container in his hand into hers. “These are for you.”

She takes the container and pops the lid to look inside. When she sees what it is, she beams up at him and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Oh my god, Stiles, you are the best! You know s’more cookies are my favorite!”

Scott and Allison laugh from where they’re still standing behind Stiles and he turns to them, rubbing his neck before he looks back to her and shrugs. “I know. That’s why I made some for you. Welcome home, Cora.”

Cora smiles at him before she follows Stiles gaze to where it’s drifted to Derek. “Derek, I’m both unsurprised and disappointed that Stiles’ charm didn’t rub off on you in the two months that you’ve been living with him.”

Derek isn’t even looking at Stiles. His arms are crossed and he’s leaning against the wall, glaring at his sister. “Sorry to break it to you, but, no, Stiles’ charm didn’t rub off on me.”

Stiles feels himself flush and his throat tightens infinitesimally. Boyd looks over at him from behind Derek—and from the look he’s giving Stiles, he knows just what of Stiles’ did in fact rub off on Derek and he does not approve—but then the dark-skinned man’s eyes flit to Cora and he’s walking toward her.

“Wait, did I hear something about s’mores cookies?” he says, reaching out for the container.

Cora reacts quickly and clutches the Tupperware in an iron grip. “Uh-uh. I don’t think so. You ate all of them last time, Boyd! I’m not letting you anywhere near my cookies. Shoo! Go away, you beast.”

Boyd lifts a hand to his chest in mock-hurt. “Heathen.”

Cora giggles at him—honest to god giggles!—before Boyd starts to reach for the container again and Stiles realizes something. “Wait. Last time I made those for you, you said you were planning to spend the weekend locked in your dorm room because your dormmate was going home for the weekend… Oh my god! You and Boyd! Boyd is your mystery man! Boyd is the guy that you’ve been sleeping with for months but wouldn’t introduce me to because you ‘weren’t dating’?” Stiles is practically yelling by the end and the rest of the room, the rest of the house, goes deafeningly silent.

Cora has the grace to flush a little bit, looking anywhere but at Stiles and Scott and Allison, who are all standing with their mouths open. “Um. Well, I was going to wait until dinner, but since mom and dad and everyone else in the family is listening in,” she raises her voice just a little bit on the end, “Boyd and I are dating.”

Boyd reaches out and takes Cora’s hand and Stiles can’t help but let his gaze gravitate toward Derek. For some reason, he expects him to be stony faced and upset that his best friend was obviously sneaking around with his youngest sister, but instead, there is a soft, barely-there smile tugging at his lips. Stiles is captivated with the movement; can’t bring himself to look away from Derek’s mouth when he speaks. “Finally. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to tell you to either quit defiling my sister, or man-up and commit.”

“Because that wouldn’t’ve been an awkward family dinner conversation starter at all,” Stiles feels the words forming and slipping from his lips before he can stop himself and immediately regrets them when Derek gives him a long look that turns into a cold glare. It makes Stiles shiver, but then Derek is turning away without even dignifying his words with a response. A moment later Talia yells that dinner’s done and Cora—hand in hand with Boyd—and Scott and Allison follow suit into the dining room.

Stiles doesn’t know why, but for the first time in the last five years of his life, he’s dreading dinner with the Hales.

~

The dinner is delicious—as always—but Stiles is having a hard time concentrating on his slice of Cran-Apple Stuffed Pork when Derek is sitting across the table from him and not even looking at him, not even showing any indication that Stiles exists, let alone that they are in the same room. Laura is sitting next to Derek and she keeps trying to get Stiles’ eye, but he doesn’t look at her, can’t look at her, too afraid to see whatever knowing look might be on her face.

Stiles isn’t even aware that he hasn’t spoken for the entire meal until Cora elbows him in the side while he’s taking a sip of his glass of Riesling. He chokes a little and throws her a withering glare.

“Sorry,” she whispers, shrugging a little. “You just seem a little out of it tonight. Are you okay?”

Stiles takes another sip of his wine. “Yeah, I’m good Cor. Just a little…tired.” He clears his throat. “Hey, so tell me more about your internship.”

Cora smiles at him and starts to talk animatedly but Stiles doesn’t really hear anything she says, just nods along when she makes a pause. He feels a little bad, knows that he should be making more of an effort for Cora’s sake since it’s her welcome home dinner, but he can’t bring himself to. He keeps getting distracted by trying—and failing—not to look at Derek. He wants to know why Derek isn’t talking to him, why he’s acting so cold and standoffish, why he’s pretending nothing happened between them.

Stiles knows it’s not like they can talk about it right now, with Derek’s family in the same room, but a look, a nod—anything—would be better than the cold shoulder. He doesn’t know what he did to warrant the icy façade. Well, okay, so he might’ve run away, but it wasn’t like he ran away because of anything Derek did. Stiles is nothing if not his own worst enemy; he knows that all of his relationship problems have been on him. He also knows that when he gets overwhelmed, or when things get to be too much, he pretends that his problems don’t exist. He knows it isn’t healthy, and that maybe in hindsight running away from a sleeping Derek in his bed was one of the stupidest things he’s ever done in his life.

Derek, sleepily blinking at him, wrapped in his blanket, nuzzling into his pillow. And then his fucking smile. Stiles shivers a little at the memory; can’t help the small smile he feels tugging at his lips, but then he catches Laura’s eye and he realizes that he’s been staring at Derek and goofy smiling, and he feels his face heat.

Thankfully Cora is still talking to him about the program. He looks around the table, trying for nonchalant, seeing if anyone else noticed, and he stops when he gets to Talia at the end of the table. She is looking at Stiles with a mix of confusion and recognition. Stiles quickly looks away, back to the plate in front of him, but finds he doesn’t have much of an appetite anymore.

Cora finishes her story and Stiles jumps into the pause. “So, you and Boyd, huh? I bet you’re never hungry having him around. Did I tell you that he fed me once?” He must’ve raised his voice a little too much because Boyd raises an eyebrow at him from where he’s sitting on Cora’s other side.

Cora laughs. “Actually, Derek told me about that. Said you came out of your room screaming at him and then apologized to Boyd for yelling.”

Stiles can feel the blush on his cheeks and wills himself not to look at Derek. “I don’t yell.”

His indignant response is a little too loud and Peter sighs in his direction, rolling his eyes. “Stiles, you are the loudest person I’ve ever met in my life.”

Stiles opens his mouth and then closes it again, not knowing what to say to that. “Sorry,” he finally decides on. It must be the wrong thing to say because suddenly everyone but Boyd, Cora, and Derek are looking at him. He feels his eyes widen under the attention and his heart starts to beat a little faster. “What?” the word comes out softer than he expects.

Scott is shaking his head. “Dude, I’ve never seen you miss an opportunity to banter with Peter. Even if it is disturbing as fuck, it’s what you do. I can’t believe you didn’t make some innuendo about just how loud you could be…” he trails off, his eyebrows drawn together in confusion.

Stiles feels his palms start to sweat. “Sorry to disappoint you.” He mumbles.

Scott looks even more confused. “Dude, you’re not—”

Stiles clears his throat loudly and turns back to Cora, desperately needing to get out of this conversation. “Cora, I have to say, I’m a little hurt that you never introduced me to your mystery man before now.”

Cora turns to him and rolls her eyes in a way that reminds Stiles so viscerally of Laura that he grins. “I didn’t introduce him to anyone until now, Stiles.”

“Yeah, but I shoulda been the first one!” he protests.

“Um, I hate to break it to you, but no, you should not’ve been the first one.” Cora corrects with a giggle at how Stiles’ mouth has fallen open in mock-affront.

He takes a moment too long to think of something witty to say, and before he has a chance to speak, a voice he hasn’t heard since dinner started is chiming into the conversation. “What makes you think Cora would honestly introduce a boyfriend to you before the rest of us? You aren’t even part of this family.”

Stiles whips his head around and looks at Derek, the echo of the bitter, hurtful words stealing his breath so that all he can do is stare at the man across the table from him. Derek is looking at him like he hasn’t just voiced the one thing that’s been eating away inside of him all evening. Derek raises a solitary eyebrow at him and Stiles gasps in a breath, dragging at the air in an effort to slow his erratic heartbeat. Derek doesn’t say anything more, doesn’t have to, Stiles gets exactly what he isn’t saying. Stiles doesn’t belong here. He isn’t a part of Derek’s life, is barely a part of his family’s life. Stiles doesn’t really matter to these people.

Stiles clears his throat awkwardly, now that the room is dressed in tense silence. “I—uh—I think I’m gonna go.” He whispers into the room, making motions to stand up.

Surprisingly, William’s hand on his shoulder stops him from leaving. “Stiles,” he starts, “please, stay.” His hand is gone a moment later. “Derek,” William Hale’s voice is low and reprimanding. “That was rude and completely uncalled for. Stiles is a guest in our home. Apologize.”

Stiles is still staring wide-eyed at Derek, but he shakes his head and rips his gaze away from the anger in Derek’s eyes. “No. No, it’s okay—”

“No, it isn’t okay,” Talia’s heated words cut him off. “Stiles, you are part of this family. I don’t know what happened to make my son so rude, but that comment was off-base.”

He stamps down the flare of warmth in his stomach at the words, but then Derek huffs bitterly. “No, it wasn’t. Everyone pretends that it’s perfectly normal that he’s here, at a family dinner, when even Laura’s new girlfriend isn’t. Even though Boyd’s my best friend, he wouldn’t be here except for the fact that he’s now dating Cora. Allison’s here because she’s going to be marrying Scott. But why is he here?” Derek makes a hand motion in Stiles’ vicinity. “He’s nothing. You all act like he’s adopted or something, but he doesn’t belong here.”

Stiles is gripping the edge of the table so hard that his knuckles are white and when he lets go, his fingers start to shake.

“Derek!” Scott rounds on his cousin. “What the fuck is your problem? Stiles is basically my brother, you know that.”

Allison puts a hand on Scott’s shoulder and he calms down fractionally.

“Stiles is family,” Talia says into the silence, “and that’s that.” The quiet lingers for a moment before he hears the clinking of silverware and glasses once more.

He feels more than a little catatonic, like the effort it takes him just to sit in his chair is too much for him. His mind feels numb, calm for what feels like the first time in longer than he can remember, but it’s not the kind of calm that makes him relax. It’s the kind of calm that allows one solitary thought to filter through his brain. Stiles is nothing and Derek doesn’t want him.

He opens his mouth and when he speaks, his whispered words break. “Derek’s right,” he says slowly, listens to the way the chatter that’s started dies down once again. Talia opens her mouth like she wants to say something but Stiles catches her eye for a moment before he looks away. “I’m just your step-nephew’s weird roommate from college.” He slowly stands up, moving his heavy limbs enough to find his balance, enough to support him when he steps away from the dining room table. “I don’t belong here.”

He’s moving out of the room, out of the house, and ignoring the people calling his name when he flees to the safety of his Jeep and backs out of the drive.

~

He doesn’t go far, just to the park that he’s grown so fond of by the Preserve near the Hale estate. He parks and gets out of the car on shaky limbs, the adrenaline leaving his limbs feeling more than a little shaky. He’s the only one at the small park and he’s grateful for the quiet calm, for the fresh air, for the breeze that flits over his face and reminds him to breathe.

He walks over to one of the swings and sits heavily on it, focusing on the drag of air into his lungs, on the exhale that wilts into the wind. Blood is still rushing in his ears as he tries to force down the beginnings of a panic attack. He can’t believe that here he is again, on the verge of an attack because of Derek fucking Hale. He hates him, but he hates himself more right now. Stiles is so stupid to think that Derek might’ve actually cared about him—why?—just because they had sex and then Derek had smiled at him the next morning? How pathetic can he be? He can’t believe that he thought for even a moment that Derek was someone special, when Stiles was just a fuck all along.

He doesn’t hear the other car pull into the parking lot. He doesn’t see someone walk toward him until they are sitting down on the swing next to him. He isn’t even aware of how close the panic attack is until he’s gasping for air, unable to drag in enough oxygen and he’s squeezing his eyes tightly closed, palms digging into the chains of the swing until he can’t feel his fingers.

But then Laura’s in front of him, placing her hand on the side of his head, saying his name, counting out how he should be breathing, over and over again, until he feels the knot in his chest loosen, until he feels the tension leave his limbs in a sigh that makes him feel boneless and exhausted and then Laura is there, wrapping her arms around him and sitting perpendicular in his lap.

He feels wetness on his face from where it’s buried in her shoulder and he realizes he’s crying. He finally loosens his death grip on the chains and brings them around to hold Laura tightly. They don’t speak for a long moment; just sit together on the swing, with the breeze blowing around them, soft and warm with the sun starting to set in the horizon.

Eventually Laura sits back and brings her arms up to loop around his neck. “Stiles…”

Stiles blinks at her, the exhaustion from the day sitting heavy in his bones, and he slowly shakes his head. “Don’t, Laura.”

The warning comes out too stoic and Laura makes a face. “Stiles—I-I know Scott’s your best friend, but you know you’re my best friend, too, right?” Her eyes are searching and Stiles can’t bring himself to look away. “I love you, and it kills me that you think what Derek said was right. It kills me, because to him, what he said was just words, but to you, words are everything.” Stiles tries to look away, but Laura’s hands turn him back to face her. “It fucking kills me that you let him hurt you like that—that you didn’t even try to say anything, that you just left. And I hate that he’s probably sitting there eating the cookies you made and thinking that you’re on your way back to San Fran or whatever the fuck, and cursing his name and making plans with Danny to go out and find a reason to forget about him.

“I hate that he knows you well enough to say just what he knows will hurt you the most, to play on every single insecurity you have, but he doesn’t know at all how you react to pain and hurt, to the idea of losing people you care about.”

Stiles feels the burn of tears and closes his eyes, but the pressure builds. “Scott doesn’t even know, does he?—about the panic attacks?” Laura asks. “He thought that one time at college was a fluke, after you’d broken up with what’s-his-name. He didn’t understand why you wouldn’t tell your parents about it. Scott’s your best friend, but he didn’t come after you when you walked out just now because he thought you just wanted to be alone. He thought you would tell him to just go away, because you normally do. But this is different.” Stiles slowly opens his eyes and feels some of the wetness seeping out. “I know just what Derek’s words did to you, Stiles.” She sniffles and Stiles can see the sheen of tears on her cheeks. “I couldn’t let you come out here and think that Derek was right, and I’m so fucking sorry that you had to hear it and feel it and I wish I could make you understand just how important you are to me—to all of us.”

“Laura,” Stiles starts, but then he is choking on a bitter sob and he’s clutching at Laura’s shoulders and burying his face in her neck and doesn’t even try to stop the words that spit from his lips. “I-I’m not important. I don’t matter. Not to D-Derek. I’m—nothing. Just—just a fuck. A worthless fuck that means absolutely nothing to him. I’m n-nothing.”

Laura’s hands make soothing patterns up and down his spine and she’s making shushing noises that pull him back from his misery. He’s sniffling when he pulls back from the embrace. Laura’s dark eyes are alight with concern and it makes Stiles feel even worse, that he’s distressed her when all she wanted to do was help him. “Stiles, sweetie, what did my brother do to you?” She presses a kiss to his forehead. “What happened between you and Derek?”

Stiles sighs quietly then takes a deep breath. “We—well, I was going to say we went home together, but, obviously.” He bites at his bottom lip. “We slept together. As in, we had sex and then he slept beside me in my bed. And then I—” he clears his throat. “I-I woke up and I realized that I actually like him. Like, I like him enough that thinking about it made me scared because Derek was sleeping next to me and it felt so fucking right and then I couldn’t handle it and left and ruined everything.”

He moves his hands back to the chains of the swing and slowly starts to pump his legs, Laura still securely wrapped around him. “I guess I just thought I would come here and we’d be able to talk about it, but…”

Laura settles her arms around his waist so they can swing a little higher. “Stiles, I know you don’t really want to hear this right now, but I’m going to tell you something about my brother. He’s not much of a talker.”

Stiles lets out a soft huff. “I kinda figured that one out on my own, Laur.”

“No,” Laura shakes her head, her face serious. “I mean, he’s really selective in what he says. The happier he is the less he speaks. He has a nasty habit of projecting whatever negative emotion he feels onto other people. Growing up, I’d know if he was in a bad mood because he’d be making fun of me or Cora, or making snide comments toward us. It took me a really long time to figure out that Derek didn’t actually think those things about us; he was just trying to make us feel as bad as he felt. It’s—” she takes a moment to gather her thoughts. “It’s his defense mechanism—just like yours is ignoring it or running from it.”

They swing for a little while, letting the silence fall around them. Stiles pumps his legs in a steady rhythm and they move higher, the wind moving over their faces. “So, what you’re saying is your brother is a bully?”

Laura snorts and Stiles can feel her body shaking from her laughter. “Yep. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m glad that’s what you got out of Serious Time with Laura.”

Stiles lets out a small chuckle before he sobers. Laura’s laughter ceases when he slows down the swinging. “Laura, can I ask you a question?” She nods and Stiles continues. “Do you think it’s hopeless? To try? To talk to him, to—” he sets his feet on the ground. “To want to be with him?”

Laura cups his cheek in her hand. “Baby, he’d be crazy not to want to be with you. That night at the club, when you two were dancing, you both looked happier than I’d seen either of you in a long time. That has to count for something, right? It means something, Stiles.”

Stiles searches her eyes for a long moment, looking for something like a sign, something to tell him what he should do next, but he doesn’t see anything. “I’m scared, Laura.” He admits on a whisper. “I’ve never been scared before. Not like this.”

She just wraps her arms around him one more time. “I know, Stiles. I know. I wish I knew what to say, but I don’t.” She sighs and finally stands up from her spot on his lap. She reaches out a hand to help him up from his seat. “Maybe it’s time for you to face your fears. Take that leap of faith. Finally confront the things you’ve been running from.” She doesn’t let go of his hand even after he’s standing. “Go home, Stilinski.”

She doesn’t let go of his hand, but turns and heads toward the parking lot. They walk hand in hand until they get to Stiles’ Jeep. “This is just your attempt to make me feel better by being able to ride off into the sunset, isn’t it?”

Laura lets out a loud laugh. “Something like that.”           

Stiles’ mouth curves into a soft smile. “Thanks for coming after me, Laura. Thanks for everything.” His smile widens. “Are you sure you don’t want to try making out for a sec?—Just to see how it feels?”

Laura rolls her eyes and shoves him toward his Jeep’s door. “Get out of here, you leech.”

“You love me,” he bites back.

She smiles at him as he gets into his vehicle. “Yeah, for some strange reason, I do.”

~

Stiles calls Scott as soon as he leaves the park and Scott tells him that Derek left after Talia, Melissa, and Cora all ganged up on him and called him out for being an ass, but Stiles doesn’t really listen and probably hangs up on his best friend somewhere on the road heading out of Beacon Hills.

He makes it home in record time, feeling slightly bad for his neglect of maintaining road laws, but he doesn’t care. He runs up the stairs to his apartment and throws the door open. It clatters loudly against the wall and Stiles flinches a little at the sound, but then he’s running into the room.

“Derek!” he yells. He waits for any sound, any indication that Derek is there, but the room is listless. He closes the door and walks further into the apartment, down the hall, and opens the door to Derek’s bedroom, but Derek is nowhere to be seen.

Derek isn’t there.

Stiles feels a little like he’s been hit with a brick. He steps into Derek’s room slowly and lets the light from the hall filter in through the doorway. It’s late. Stiles knows he should go back to his room, but he just stands in the middle of Derek’s room for a moment, looking through the dark like he’s searching for something in the shadows, some hint as to where Derek is or what might be going through his mind. But all he sees is an empty room, bookshelves lining the walls, and a bed with unmade sheets.

He leaves the room and closes the door behind him. He doesn’t know what he expected, but it isn’t this. He thought—hoped—that Derek would be here so that Stiles could finally talk to him. But Derek is gone. A part of Stiles wonders if he’ll even come back.

He walks out to the living room and sits down on the couch. The light from the kitchen plays with the shadows in the room and Stiles can’t help watching them, like he’s waiting for one to jump out at him, to attack him and somehow make him feel worse. But it doesn’t happen; nothing happens.

Stiles waits in the living room for what feels like hours. His eyes are burning and the muscles of his shoulders are stiff and a little sore, but he can’t find it in himself to go to his room, to crawl into his empty bed with the memories of Derek still tangled in his dirty sheets. Instead, he sits in the quiet dark of his apartment, waiting for something that he isn’t even sure may come, but he doesn’t give up hope, blinks at the shadows in the room until the burning in his eyes is transitory once again.

He hears footsteps from the stairs in the hall; heavy footfalls that echo in the small space and cut through the quiet in the apartment. The jingle of keys sounds and Stiles feels his heartbeat falter when Derek opens the door.

He walks into the room and flips on the light. Stiles blinks into the sudden illumination and Derek stops just inside of the doorway, eyes locked on where Stiles is slumped on the couch. Stiles stares at him, sees the startled look on Derek’s face, before Derek schools his expression and closes and locks the door.

“Stiles,” he says quietly, like speaking too loudly will break something. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”

Stiles just looks at him. “I’ve been waiting for you for almost three hours.”

Derek shifts on his heels, lifting his hand to show the bottle of wine in it, “I was out…visiting a vineyard. It always helps me to clear my head.” Stiles stands slowly. Derek takes the moment to set the still-corked bottle down on the coffee table and take off his jacket. He doesn’t turn back toward Stiles even after he’s hung it up. “You don’t need to say anything. I’ll start packing in the morning.”

Derek’s voice is still almost too quiet and Stiles wonders if he heard him right. “What are you talking about?”

Derek glances at him. “I know you’re kicking me out. You didn’t have to wait up just to call me an asshole and yell at me about what I said earlier before you kick me out. I’m already on it.” He sighs heavily and shuffles past Stiles without looking at him again. “I’ll start packing.”

Stiles makes a move to follow him and stops when he sees the wine bottle still on the table. “Wait. Your wine.” He picks up the bottle and walks toward where Derek has turned around. Derek’s looking at him like he doesn’t know what to make of Stiles; he wearily eyes the bottle in Stiles’ hands. Stiles looks down and sees the bottle is from a local vineyard, one of the ones that Stiles went to when he was dorming at Berkeley. “Hmm. Sauvignon Blanc. Did you know this is my favorite kind of wine?”

He looks up from the bottle in his hands to see Derek looking back at him with his eyebrows drawn together. “I figured you for more of a sweet red person; like Pinot Noir or Merlot.”

Stiles offers the bottle to Derek and he takes it hesitantly. Stiles shrugs. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

He sees Derek stiffen and his fingers tighten minutely around the neck of the bottle. “Tell me, Stiles,” Derek starts with a slight sneer. “Did you only wait for me because you were afraid if you didn’t, I’d be gone in the morning?”

Stiles loses his breath on a heavy sigh, taking a step back, ignoring the burst of guilt. The words hurt, and he can all but feel the bitter resentment Derek has for him for leaving that morning; it’s tangible in his biting words. He knows this is it—if they don’t talk now, they never will. “Derek, I don’t want you to leave.” The words are barely audible in the silent room, but Derek flinches nonetheless.

He turns around and walks over to set the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter before he rounds back on Stiles. “I don’t fucking understand you, Stiles. I was a dick to you tonight. I deserve to be kicked out; I deserve to be yelled at. I knew what I said would hurt you and I said it anyway. And yet, you’re standing here telling me what your favorite wine is and asking me to stay?” Derek runs his hands through his hair in the first nervous gesture Stiles has ever seen from him.

Stiles moves a step closer. “You don’t understand me?” Stiles says in disbelief. “Sometimes I feel like you’re giving me whiplash with all of your back and forth. You’re rude one moment and then stoic the next, you say hurtful things, and then you want me to yell at you, because you think you deserve it for feeling guilty about the thing you’ve said. But I’m not going to do that, Derek. I won’t be your crutch.” Stiles takes a deep breath to quell the anger slowly simmering inside of him. “Do you want to stay here?” He asks quietly, looking a slightly hurt Derek in the eyes.

“I wanted you to stay,” The words are almost too quiet for Stiles to hear, barely a whisper, barely a breath in the distance between them.

Derek immediately shakes his head and makes to turn away, like he can’t believe the words just slipped from his lips, but Stiles closes the distance and places a hand on his bicep. “Hey,” he starts, but Derek shakes off his hand and starts to walk away. “Hey, Derek. Stop!” Stiles all but yells, grabbing Derek by the shoulder and spinning him around so they are face to face, almost chest to chest. Derek’s hazel-green eyes are looking at him from mere inches away, parallel to his own, and Stiles swallows hard. “W-what?”

Derek clenches his jaw but doesn’t look away, his eyes bright and intense. “Damnit, Stiles, I woke up and you were looking at me like I was someone special. And then I woke up again and you were gone.” Derek’s eyes flutter closed and Stiles watches the shadows from his lashes play on his cheeks. “You didn’t leave a note, or call, or text. No one knew where you went. You just fucking left.” He shakes his head minutely. “I thought maybe you’d just gone to get food or—or something, but you didn’t come back; you didn’t bother.” Derek opens his eyes and blinks at Stiles a few times. “No one’s ever looked at me that way before,” Derek admits. “And I fucking hate you for showing me that, for making me feel special—like I matter—and then ripping it away from me.” Derek’s eyes are starting to glaze from unshed tears, the wretched look on his face making something twist painfully inside of Stiles. He doesn’t say anything, though, can’t bring himself to.

Derek takes a deep breath before he shakily lets it out, “I know I’m just another fuck to you, okay. But you could’ve at least said goodbye.” Derek closes his eyes, but wetness settles at the corner of his eye.

Stiles feels his mouth go dry, swallows hard. “Derek…” Stiles reaches out, hesitantly, traces the line of Derek’s jaw with his fingertips. Derek’s eyes flit open, watching him. “You’re not—you were never just—you matter to me. It was more than sex. It was so much more than sex. You are so much more, Derek. I’m sorry—so sorry. I never meant for you to feel like that.” Stiles is shaking his head a little desperately, his hand curling up to cup Derek’s cheek. “You smiled at me—fucking smiled—and it felt… It scared me. Still scares me. You scare me,” Stiles mumbles.

Derek blinks owlishly at him. “I scare you?” his voice is soft, tentative.

Stiles moves his head up and down. “You make me feel better—and worse—than I’ve ever felt before. It’s like—like I don’t know what to do, or how to act, or what to fucking say around you, because you make me nervous.”

Derek brings his hand up to lightly grasp at Stiles’ wrist, keeping his hand still pressed to Derek’s cheek. “I make you nervous? I thought I just made you angry.”

Stiles lets out a nervous laugh. “Sometimes.”

Derek trails his fingers up from Stiles’ wrist to trace paths on the back of his hand before he covers it with his own, nuzzling his cheek into the warmth of Stiles’ palm. “Sometimes you make me angry too. But most of the time, you just confuse me.” Derek closes his eyes for a moment and tilts his head so that his lips press against Stiles’ thumb. “You never flirted with me.” He says once he opens his eyes, and it isn’t what Stiles was expecting him to say. “You flirted with almost everyone else I know, but never me.”

Stiles can read the question in his eyes. “I only flirt with people that I know are safe; people that I know won’t take me seriously. But you—well, I wanted you to take me seriously.”

Derek lets out a long breath. “Yeah,” he says, turning his face further into Stiles’ palm. “Yeah. Okay. Stiles?”

“Hmm?” Stiles strokes his thumb over Derek’s bottom lip.

“I didn’t mean—what I said at dinner. It was really stupid and rude and I’m sorry. Sorry I hurt you. It’s just—” Derek shrugs a little. “After being gone for so long, I guess sometimes I don’t really feel like part of the family. And you just…you fit in so seamlessly. Sometimes—sometimes I feel like my family would prefer you to me.”

“Derek,” Stiles breathes out his name, moving closer to run his free hand through Derek’s hair. “You have to know that’s not true. Do you know how many stories your sisters told me about you when I first met them? Do you have any idea how much Laura looks up to you? How proud your parents are of you? When I first met Scott, all he could talk about was how he’d spent the previous summer in New York with you and how awesome it was, and how awesome you were. You’re like the prodigal son. I could never compare to you, let alone replace you. I wouldn’t ever want to. You don’t even know how important you are to everyone,” Stiles swallows hard before continuing. “How important you are to me.”

Derek tilts his head so his face is no longer nuzzling into Stiles’ palm, but his hand tightens where it’s still resting over the other man’s. Derek moves his other hand to settle on Stiles’ side and he shivers at the warmth bleeding through the material of his shirt. Derek takes a step closer, eradicates the distance between them until their bodies are flush from chest to thigh. He moves the hand on Stiles’ waist to snake around his back. “Stiles,” Derek breathes his name, finally moving Stiles’ hand off of his face just enough so that he can lean forward and barely, barely brush his lips against Stiles’.

He stays like that for a long moment, their bodies pressed together, holding Stiles close. Stiles feels Derek’s heart start to beat a little faster against his own chest and he holds his breath. “Stiles,” Derek says again, the movement of his lips ghosting over Stiles’ own and Stiles feels something inside of him snap, ease, and settle when he elects to close the distance, to press his lips softly against Derek’s.

Derek moves all at once—his arms, his lips, his fingers—surrounding him, touching him in a million little ways that bring butterflies to life inside of him. His mouth is warm, inviting, soft and firm all at once, his fingers sure where they are running lines up and down his back, his other hand twined into Stiles’ hair, thumb brushing the nape of his neck in a way that eases all of the tension from Stiles’ bones.

The kiss is like a breath of fresh air, like something Stiles didn’t even know he’d been craving until just now, like there’s always been something missing and now it’s finally slotted into place. Stiles brings his hand back to cup Derek’s cheek and he feels Derek go boneless against him when he strokes over the curve of his cheekbone.

The kiss lasts for heartbeats longer before Stiles pulls away a little, letting his lips drag over Derek’s once more as he opens the space between where they are still wrapped around each other. Derek lets out a shaky sigh and licks his lips, eyes trailing down to Stiles’ mouth before they look back up, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

Stiles feels an answering smile tug at his own lips. He slowly moves his hand down from Derek’s face to trace over his jaw and down the long line of his throat before he’s wrapping both arms around Derek’s neck and pulling him into a hug. He feels Derek wrap both of his arms around Stiles’ middle and smiles into Derek’s neck, pressing a closed-mouth kiss to the skin he finds there.

“Stay, Derek.” Stiles mumbles into the crook of his neck. “Please stay with me.”

Derek lets out a breath that flutters the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck, but then rests his cheek against the side of Stiles’ head and whispers, “Okay.”

~

 

 

Epilogue

 

The wedding is big and beautiful and everything Stiles knows Scott and Allison want it to be. It goes off without a hitch—if you don’t count the whole misplacement of the rings thing. So maybe Stiles had spent the better part of the morning with a sickly nervous Scott, reminding him of the many reasons that he wanted to marry Allison, namely that he is madly in love with her. So sue him, he’s a little preoccupied and he momentarily forgets about the rings. But whatever—Derek had brought them and saved the day, so it was all good.

Allison looks beautiful; the picture of grace and elegance; classic beauty. She all but glows when she walks down the aisle toward Scott. Scott is enraptured, staring at her like he’s the luckiest person in the world, and in that moment, after they make their vows and kiss their union, Stiles thinks that maybe Scott and Allison really are the luckiest people he knows.

The reception is a little too extravagant for Stiles’ taste, but he’s too busy dancing and eating to care. He barely remembers giving his best man speech, but he knows that Allison, and his mom, and Scott’s mom, and Talia, and Laura, and even Peter shed a tear.

He’s taking a short break from dancing to eat his third slice of cake when Talia comes over and sits down next him. The cake is amazing, white with raspberry torte, and he’s shoveling it into his mouth when she speaks. “It seems like just yesterday Peter married Melissa and Scott became part of our family. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years and now he’s starting his own family now. Makes me feel old.”

Stiles snorts and sets his fork down. “You’re as beautiful as I’ve ever seen you Talia.” And she is, her dark hair flowing over her shoulders, her dress a perfect royal blue.

Talia laughs a little and sets her hand on his shoulder. “You flatter me.”

Talia takes her hand from his shoulder and reaches toward the centerpiece, grabbing one of the chocolate fortune cookies from inside and breaking it open. She pops half of the cookie into her mouth and reads the fortune silently.

“Hmm,” she says, swallowing the last of her fortune cookie. “‘There is always a way if you are committed.’ Maybe this fortune was meant for you and my son.”

Stiles feels his mouth go a little dry and sits up straighter. “Wha—what are you talking about?”

Talia just gives him a look and Stiles tries hard not to glance away, not to seek out Derek’s eyes like he’s been doing for the last two hours just to see him smile from across the room. “Stiles, you two aren’t very subtle and we’re not fools. That being said, I want you to listen very carefully.” Talia scoots her chair closer to Stiles’ and sets her hand on top of his. “I haven’t seen my son this happy in a long time. The last few years he was in New York, he was miserable. He moved back here to try and start fresh, be closer to the people that mattered. I know you and he have been seeing each other for the last couple months.” Stiles opens his mouth to protest, but she keeps going, “Shut it, I’m his mother, Stiles, do you really think he could hide this from me? Anyway,” she takes a deep breath and smiles at him. “You make him happy, Stiles. That’s enough for me.” She reaches up and ruffles his hair a little bit.

“Talia, I—”

“I know.” She stands up in one graceful movement before she’s grinning down at him. “And for what it’s worth, I’m glad it’s you.”

Stiles swallows hard. “Me, too.”

She smiles once more before she walks away.

Stiles feels his heart beating in his chest and knows he needs some fresh air. He reaches under the table to where he has his bag and finds the wrapped fortune cookie that he put in there special this morning. He puts it in his pocket before he heads outside of the reception hall. He tries to covertly look for Derek on his way out, but he can’t see him, so instead he walks out of the large double doors into the crisp September air.

He sees Derek first thing, almost like his eyes gravitate toward the other man, and Stiles walks over, taking deep drags of fresh air, letting it clear the sugar and drink from his head. “Hey,” Stiles says as he walks over and stands next to Derek, their shoulders brushing.

Derek is sipping white wine from a glass as he looks over at Stiles, a smile immediately flitting over his lips. “So what did my mom want to talk to you about?”

Stiles clears his throat. “You saw that, huh?” Derek nods. “Um, well, I think she basically gave me her blessing?”

Derek chokes a little on his wine. “She what? Did you say anything to her?”

Stiles raises both hands. “Dude, she’s a mom. It’s her job to know even the things that you don’t tell her. Don’t blame me.” Stiles clears his throat. “I mean, it’s not really so bad is it?—If people know. People like your mom, or your family?—since my parents already know. Like maybe our friends?”

Stiles is looking down at his feet, kicking at a loose piece of concrete from the sidewalk, but he can feel Derek’s eyes on him. Derek reaches out and cups Stiles’ face, catching him off guard, making him look up at him. “Stiles, it hasn’t really been a secret so far. Laura’s known. And Scott. And Lydia.” he points out, fingers grazing over Stiles’ jaw as he drops his hand.

“Right. It’s just—” Stiles bites his lip. “Maybe we could actually tell people. Y’know, as opposed to letting them assume?”

The side of Derek’s mouth pulls up in a grin. “Okay.”

Stiles blinks at him. “What?”

Derek rolls his eyes and takes a sip from his wine. “Okay, we’ll tell them.”

Stiles can feel the goofy grin on his face. “Good. Great. Awesome. Oh, I, ah—” Stiles reaches into his pocket and pulls out the fortune cookie. “I brought you a fortune cookie.” He holds it out to Derek in offering.

Derek’s eyes flit to the cookie before he looks back to Stiles. “Thanks, but no thanks. I ate enough to last a week.”

Stiles bites at his bottom lip. “C’mon, dude, just eat it.”

Derek takes another sip of his wine. “Really, Stiles, it’s okay. You can have it.”

Stiles feels his anxiety start to rise. “I don’t even like fortune cookies!”

“What?” Derek practically shouts. “It’s un-American to not like fortune cookies! You write them!”

Stiles can’t help but let out a nervous laugh at Derek’s outraged words. “I don’t like the taste of them. And nowhere in my job description does it say I have to actually eat the cookies.” He sighs. “Just take the damn cookie!” He takes a step forward, intent on shoving the cookie toward Derek’s chest, but trips on the bit of loose pavement. He’s falling forward before he can stop himself, the well fitting tux jacket preventing his arms from pin-wheeling in their quest to regain his balance. He sees Derek drop his wine glass in an attempt to catch him, but it’s too late and they both fall to the ground, Stiles sprawled on top of Derek.

He hears Derek grunt from under him as Stiles accidentally elbows him in his attempt to lift himself. The cookie still clutched in his hand is crushed from where it was trapped between their bodies when they fell. Stiles’ heart sinks. “Damnit, you broke my cookie!”

Derek motions to the ground next to him and Stiles sees the pieces of the dropped wine glass there. “You shattered my wine glass!” Derek half-heartedly bites back, trying and failing to push himself up with Stiles’ weight still pinning him down.

“You smashed your own damn wine glass,” Stiles grumbles before he sighs, looking forlornly at the crushed cookie. He opens the package and pours the cookie crumbles out on the sidewalk, salvaging the slip of paper. “At least read the fortune, moron.”

Derek lets out a long-suffering sigh of his own and plucks the piece of paper from Stiles’ fingers. “Fine.”

Stiles feels Derek still under him, feels his heart start to beat a little faster under Stiles’ palm, where it’s still resting against his chest. Stiles’ own heart starts to beat double-time in his chest and he pushes the nerves down. He knows what Derek’s reading. He’d printed that specific fortune himself, had it cooked alone and separated so he could keep track of it. He’s been holding onto it for a week now, waiting for the perfect time to give it to Derek, and he knows that this had been it. It was now or never.

Derek looks up from the fortune and catches Stiles’ eye. His eyes are wide, mouth hanging slightly open. “Stiles,” the word comes out breathy. “What…?”

He doesn’t say anything more, just holds the fortune up like it holds all the answers—and maybe it does.

Somewhere along the way, I think I might’ve fallen in love with you.

Stiles’ eyes catch the black ink and then he looks back to Derek, shifting himself into Derek’s lap so the other man can sit up. Derek does so and is looking at him like he’s searching every inch of Stiles’ face for something. Stiles doesn’t know what to say—doesn’t know what else to say—and just waits, watching Derek react to the thing he’s been thinking for close to a month now.

“Do you—” Derek stops and purses his lips, slowly bringing his hand up to once again cup Stiles’ cheek, thumb stroking over his cheekbone. “Do you mean it?”

The words are so low that Stiles has to strain his ears to hear them; soft, a little insecure, like if he speaks too loudly Stiles will change his mind, or laugh like this is a joke.

Stiles just nuzzles his cheek into Derek’s hand and wraps his arms around Derek’s neck, pulling him closer. “Yeah,” his own words are quiet. “Yeah, I do.”

Derek lets out a breath like he’s been holding in oxygen for a long, long time. Stiles feels the tension that’s been building inside of him drain when Derek presses a chaste kiss to his lips. It’s soft and sweet and makes Stiles feel like he’s flying.

“Stiles?” Derek asks when he pulls back enough to look Stiles in the eye.

“Yeah, Der?” Stiles asks, shifting closer to Derek, not caring that he’s probably wrinkling his two-hundred-dollar rented suit.

Derek looks at him for another long moment, thumb still soothing lines along his cheek. “Me, too.”

The smile that splits across Stiles’ face is enough to almost make his cheeks hurt. “Good. That’s—yeah—that’s—okay.”

Derek smiles and then rolls his eyes. “Now that we’ve got that taken care of, get off me so we can go dance together.”

“Only if you promise to shock everyone by kissing me on the dance floor,” Stiles bargains, standing up and holding a hand out to Derek.

“Okay,” Derek says once he’s standing.

They each take a moment to smooth out the wrinkles on their suits before Derek laces their fingers together and they walk together back into the hall, each sneaking glances at the other when they think neither is looking, leaving bits of the broken fortune cookie and the shattered wine glass behind them, forgotten.

~