9 months ago
404 notes
  • Circle Yes or No | Fic | NC-17

    Title: Circle Yes or No
    Author: Blacktofade
    Recipient: For ash-bright, and for everyone, especially those who had to listen to me whine about writing.
    Pairing(s): Stiles/Derek
    Rating: NC-17
    Length: 23,232 words
    Genre(s)/Trope(s): AU, all-human, university/college
    Warning(s): None
    Prompt: Based on THIS post, where Derek is a mature student and Stiles is his TA.
    Summary: Stiles works as TA for Professor Morrell’s Women’s Lit course, which Derek happens to be taking.
    Notes: Thanks to Grimm for helping with the plot and a massive thank you to mydearsourwolf for being the best beta and cheerleader I could have asked for! She’s the reason this actually got finished ♥
    Links:  AO3

    Stiles’ eight AM section is possibly the worst he’s ever had.

    It’s not that they’re unruly like other sections he’s had in the past. There are no side conversations while he’s trying to teach, in fact no one talks at all, which he supposes is part of the issue. Nobody participates in discussions; they all just slouch over the desks and yawn at him, while he chats about the deeper meanings of Helen Oyeyemi or whoever happens to be the flavor of the week.

    Even Stiles needs his coffee in order to function at that time of day, but most of the kids in his class just don’t want to be there. They would clearly rather be burritoed in their blankets, snoring their heads off, which is ultimately what Stiles does whenever he doesn’t have sections to teach, but it’s not the point.

    There’s only a month or two left in the quarter and it’s getting close to term paper time, which makes them antsy whenever he brings up the subject. He knows the feeling, but he’s not sympathetic because he’s done his time; still is doing it, to be fair. He has a meeting with his superior at the end of the week and he’s not looking forward to it.

    He shoulders his way into his class, which is already half-full of sleepy students, and shoves his messenger bag onto the table at the front of the room. He takes a long sip of his lukewarm coffee and then pulls his glasses off to clean the raindrops off of them.

    The weather has been relentless all week, signaling a true transition into fall, which Stiles doesn’t appreciate when he has to sprint from his car to class, holding his bag over his head in a vain attempt to remain dry. His kids haven’t had better luck, it seems, because they all look soggy and more than a little upset.

    “Is this all of us?” he asks as a few tardy students stroll in, shaking their umbrellas out, regardless of being inside.

    He takes the silence as confirmation and sits on the table top, swinging his legs gently.

    “Okay, so I thought we’d go over what Professor Morrell was talking about at the beginning of the week in regards to Aphra Behn.”

    There’s an audible sigh from the room and Stiles knows it’s not the most exciting topic for an early morning discussion, but it has to happen.

    “It’s either her, or we go over Phillis Wheatley again.”

    “Didn’t Professor Morrell mention a study guide for the exam next week?” a voice comes from the second row on the left hand side of the room and Stiles leans forward to find the question has been asked by Derek Hale.

    Derek is one of the few students that actually makes an effort. He always seems prepared for class, does the readings, and diligently takes notes when Stiles hints heavily about what will be on the final.

    It’s not that Stiles is surprised to have Derek in his section – okay, he is a bit – but he just wants to know Derek’s story. He’s been intrigued by Derek since day one, when he might have accidentally mistaken him for a professor and had, to the bemusement of Derek, directed him to another classroom, under the assumption that he was the new adjunct for the department.

    Derek had flashed his schedule in front of Stiles’ face and pushed past him to grab the seat he’s been in each section since. It hadn’t been a high point of Stiles’ life and he lives with the shame every day.

    It wasn’t Stiles’ fault that Derek was significantly older than the other students, and even himself, though it was definitely his own fault for assuming and coming across as a bit of a dick. He doesn’t think Derek’s quite forgiven him yet as his face is set in a constant scowl during class, as though he’d rather be elsewhere, possibly eating glass rather than being taught by Stiles.

    “I’ll hand them out during the last thirty minutes of class, so if you guys have any questions, you can ask.”

    Derek thins his lips and falls quiet, leaving Stiles to nod to himself, considering the job well done. After a brief glance around the room to see if anyone else has input to add, he reaches over into his bag and pulls out his notes.

    “Right, so what did you all think about Oroonoko?”

    *

    Stiles has office hours every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon. He encourages all of his students to stop in at least once, whether to talk about essays, go over class discussions, or just chat about college life.

    He prefers for them to make appointments beforehand, but there’s an unexpected knock on the edge of his cubical just as he finishes writing a comment on the second to last essay he has left to grade.

    “Stilinski?” a voice asks, just as Stiles starts to spin in his chair.

    “Stiles,” he corrects, blinking in surprise when he finds Derek Hale hovering in the entranceway. “Hi, Derek, what can I do for you? Pull up a chair.”

    Derek stays where he is instead of taking the free seat beside Stiles.

    “I wanted to know what I got on the last essay before I start the term paper.”

    Stiles pulls an apologetic face.

    “Sorry, I know I’ve been taking a while on these. I’ll be handing them back during the next section. I’m not able to return yours right now because I still have one left. School procedures and all.”

    Derek adjusts the strap of his bag and looks as annoyed as he usually does. For some strange reason, Stiles feels obligated to try to make things better.

    “Uh, I mean, if you want to hang out in the library for a little bit, I can finish up here and come and find you later.”

    Derek lets out a long breath that seems to be partly a sigh, but mostly exhaled frustration.

    “Work with me here, Mr. Hale,” Stiles complains, gesturing loosely with his hands. “Otherwise you’ll have to wait like the rest of the class.”

    He folds his arms and tries to look as though he actually holds authority, though Derek doesn’t really seem convinced.

    “Second floor in the back,” Derek eventually grunts, which is enough for Stiles.

    “Great. I’ll be there before four.”

    Derek nods and without another word, turns away from the cubical and leaves Stiles with a throbbing pain behind his left eye.

    He slowly spins back around to his desk and rubs a hand over his face before glancing down at his watch. His promise of four o’clock might be pushing it, but the library coffee shop shuts at five and then at least he’ll get something out of wandering over there.

    Or at least that’s what he tells himself because he’s sure Derek is reason enough already.

    *

    Stiles gets to the library at four-fifteen. He’s red-faced and a little sweaty according to his reflection on the automatic door as he steps into the building, which is mostly because he ran the entire way from his office, even knowing it was a lost cause.

    He takes the stairs two at a time to reach the second floor and then tries to tamper his heavy breathing so as not to disturb people that are actually studying, but a fair few shoot him looks as he passes. He’s pretty sure a few of them are stares of worry over his disheveled state.

    He finds Derek in the back, where he’d said he’d be, but he’s packing up his books as though about to leave and Stiles stumbles to a halt behind him, leaning heavily on the back of a nearby chair.

    “Derek?” Derek finishes closing bag before he turns and he doesn’t look amused. “Sorry, I lost track of time, but you can see your paper now if you’d like.”

    “You said four o’clock,” Derek points out and now Stiles is mostly sweaty and annoyed.

    “And I apologized. I’m sure the person that invented watches was late sometimes too.”

    Derek stares for a long minute before finally dragging his chair back out and sitting down again. Stiles sits opposite and starts rummaging through his folders for Derek’s essay.

    “Pascal,” Derek says suddenly and Stiles pauses long enough to glance up at him in confusion.

    “What?”

    “The man who first wore a watch. His name was Blaise Pascal.”

    Stiles finds what he’s looking for, but doesn’t hand it over immediately, too interested in the conundrum that is Derek Hale.

    “You’re a walking Wikipedia,” he finally blurts out and Derek tugs the paper from his grip.

    Derek’s silent as he reads over Stiles’ notes, clicking his tongue and scoffing quietly every now and again. Stiles wouldn’t expect anything less from him.

    “B-plus?” Derek eventually asks and Stiles blinks and shrugs.

    “I wanted to give you the A-minus, but your thoughts could have been organized better. You had a strong start, but repeated yourself in paragraphs three and four. I can’t fault your argument, however, and if your term paper is anything similar, you’ll easily pass the course.”

    Derek flips through the pages in his hands before meeting Stiles’ gaze.

    “I don’t want to just pass, Stilinski.”

    “Stiles,” he corrects, but Derek doesn’t seem to hear. “Look, your test scores have always been high, Derek, even just on the quizzes. You obviously know the material, so that’s not the issue here. Get someone to give your work a read-over, because that’s all it needs.”

    Derek lets out a steady breath and grips his essay tight enough to scrunch up the paper.

    “I don’t have anyone to do that.”

    “A roommate?” Stiles continues. “Someone you know that wants to make a quick ten bucks?”

    “It’s not that easy,” Derek argues and Stiles sighs.

    “There’s on-campus tutoring by the east-wing.”

    “I tried there before and they no longer offer editing services.”

    It sounds as though Derek’s quoting someone because his voice changes timbre and he adds in air quotes at the end.

    “That’s ridiculous,” Stiles offers with a frown, because surely that’s the point of the student services.

    “I told them that and they asked me to leave.”

    Stiles has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing because that he can definitely picture. After a moment’s thought, he drums his fingers against the tabletop and lets out a sharp breath.

    “Look, I’m not really supposed to do this, but email me when you’ve finished your term paper and we’ll set up a time for me to go over it. Does that work for you?”

    He doesn’t know Derek’s situation and he certainly isn’t going to ask, but if he can offer the slightest relief, he’ll try. Derek seems to contemplate his offer before finally nodding.

    “Fine,” he grunts as though it’s a hardship and Stiles counts it as a win and grins.

    “Great,” he says, checking his watch and finding he has plenty of time before the coffee shop shuts. “I’m going to grab a drink from downstairs before the place closes. I’ll see you in class.”

    He holds out his hand for Derek’s essay, but Derek just stares at his palm in confusion.

    “I can’t technically give that back to you until your section next week.”

    Derek glances from the paper, to Stiles’ hand, and back again, before sighing and handing it over.

    “Don’t forget the assigned reading,” Stiles adds helpfully, though Derek doesn’t seem to appreciate it.

    “When do I?” he rebuts and Stiles shrugs easily.

    “Just reminding you, because if you don’t do it, I won’t have anyone at all to talk to. Your peers aren’t the most productive.”

    For just a second, Derek pauses, then the very corner of his mouth curls up and Stiles wants to punch the air in success.

    “Goodbye, Mr. Stilinski,” Derek adds as farewell as he pushes out his chair and stands.

    “Stiles,” he corrects once more and grins when Derek ignores him in favor of walking away.

    *

    Stiles’ life is fairly unexciting. He sleeps, eats, teaches; rinse and repeat.

    Every now and again, he gets dragged out for drinks, but most of the time he just stays at the apartment with his housemate and best friend, Scott, with a six-pack and a box of pizza. He spends an ungodly amount of his life grading for Professor Morrell and hanging around on-campus.

    He has what he likes to think of as his own nook in the library, which is really just on the third floor, tucked behind the autobiography section. It’s quiet and he doesn’t have to deal with people stomping past the desk he tends to appropriate and spread his work across.

    He also has a soft spot for the coffee cart that’s permanently parked outside of the student center. Most days, a guy named Boyd runs it and makes some of the most kickass coffee Stiles has ever had the pleasure of drinking.

    Stiles has learned over the school year that Boyd’s a student and working on a PhD in psychology He’s also dating Erica, who’s a counselor from a nearby community college and who has latched onto Stiles. They bond over a mutual love of comics and a frequent desire to drink extraordinary amounts of alcohol with zero regrets.

    Next to the coffee cart is a bench, hidden just off to the side of the main pathway, which lets Stiles people watch without worry of being caught. It’s where he spends most of his mornings, sipping his Americano and checking his email on his phone.

    It’s a Tuesday when he shows up, money already in hand to pass silently over to Boyd, and glances over to find his seat has already been taken. It’s not technically his seat, but he takes it personally because he’s practically carved his name into it. He’s sure there’s a groove in the wood that fits his ass like a strange version of Cinderella’s shoe.

    If it was just anyone sitting there, he’d take his coffee and walk away with a slight grumble to Boyd, who he’s sure understands his plight. But it’s not. Of all the people to be sitting there, it’s Derek Hale.

    He has a paper cup wedged between his thighs with a book in one hand, thumb marking his place, not paying any attention to anything. He has his eyes shut and his face tilted into the sun, clearly enjoying the momentary warmth. There’s a forecast of clouds later, Stiles knows, so he’d fair well to take advantage while he can.

    “Who’d he kill?”

    Stiles startles and turns his attention back to Boyd at his cart, trying to drop the glare from his face.

    “What?”

    Boyd leans over his counter, glancing obviously at Derek and Stiles waves an arm at him until he stops.

    “He didn’t kill anyone. He’s one of the kids from Morrell’s course.”

    “Kids?” Boyd asks with a raised eyebrow. “He looks closer to your dad’s age than yours.”

    “Yeah, and everyone’s got a story. He’s in my section and now he’s stolen my bench.”

    Boyd grins as though he might actually be amused and sets Stiles’ usual drink down. Stiles begrudgingly passes over his handful of wadded up bills and takes it without asking for change.

    “There’s enough room for two people,” Boyd points out unhelpfully and Stiles grabs his cup and stares at Boyd for a second.

    “If, when I see Erica next time, she casually asks about any of my students, you won’t get any more tips for the rest of the year.”

    Boyd’s grin turns sarcastic and Stiles is more than a little worried.

    “Here’s a tip,” Boyd says. “Don’t sleep with those you teach.”

    Stiles barely contains an eye roll at him.

    “Thanks,” he replies facetiously, already turning away. “Don’t waste them all at once.”

    He decides then and there to find a new place to sit, maybe across the other side of campus, but as he draws close to Derek on his way past, Derek lowers his head and opens his eyes.

    “You’re not as subtle as you like to think you are,” he says, squinting into the sun and looking far too soft for Stiles to handle.

    “And how subtle do you think I think I am?”

    Stiles wants to punch himself in the face.

    “Don’t sleep with those you teach?”

    Now he definitely wants to punch himself.

    “Those words never left my mouth,” Stiles points out and Derek quirks an eyebrow at him.

    “They were words of advice given to you. I’m not sure you’re in a position to argue semantics.”

    “Sexual harassment isn’t tolerated here,” Stiles adds, trying to maintain his composure. “Faculty, tenured or not, are subject to disciplinary actions if they become involved with a student.”

    Derek eyes him silently before grabbing the cup that’s still between his thighs and taking a sip.

    “Was that the first thing they taught you before you became a TA? That sounds a little like it’s straight from a handbook.”

    “Second,” Stiles jokes and it’s definitely amusement that brightens Derek’s expression, though he never cracks a smile.

    “Should I ask what the first thing was?”

    “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

    Derek takes another drink and shrugs.

    “At least I’d get out of writing the term paper.”

    Stiles makes a split second decision and sits in the open space beside Derek, setting his bag down on the floor and finally taking a swig of his coffee.

    “I thought you’d be on top of that by now.”

    “Who said I’m not.”

    Stiles makes a face to say fair enough and relaxes against the bench.

    “You’re just not enjoying it.”

    Derek shuts his book without saving his place and drops it into the space between them.

    “A ten page paper isn’t the way to test merit, and if you have half a brain, you know it too. A third of the class is going to write it the night before and the few who don’t? Maybe they’re not the best writers in the world, who knows, but it’s fifty percent of their grade and that’s enough to ruin a GPA.”

    Stiles blinks. He’s not sure he’s completely with it enough to argue the American collegiate system.

    “I didn’t know you felt so strongly about it,” teases, trying to make light of the situation.

    “I don’t, but I have a housemate that won’t shut up about it, because it’s his introductory piece for the debate club.”

    That draws a laugh from Stiles, who almost spills his drink when he takes a sip, unsuspectingly. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and tries to filter the information he’s been given.

    “You live with other students?”

    Derek looks slightly suspicious when he answers.

    “I was assigned housing by the university. Why? You were expecting me to live alone because of my age?”

    Crap. Stiles is wandering into dangerous territory.

    “You could’ve had a family or lived with a sibling. I figure no thirty-something year old wants to live with students, but it’s not my business.”

    “You’re right,” Derek snaps suddenly. “It’s not.”

    Stiles looks away and bites his tongue to keep from talking and digging himself an even deeper hole.

    “See you in class, Mr. Stilinski,” Derek says, collecting his belongings and standing up.

    He strides off in the other direction and Stiles doesn’t even bother trying to correct him this time. From across the way, Boyd shrugs at him and Stiles burns his mouth when he tries to wash the bitter taste from his tongue with his drink.

    *

    Before he finally returns the essays to his students during the next section meeting, Stiles attaches a sticky note to the last page of Derek’s paper.

    My apologies, it says, because he’s not quite sure what else to write, but he knows Derek will understand.

    Derek doesn’t react to it and Stiles pretends he isn’t watching him like a hawk by scratching down fake notes. It’s all for naught when Derek catches his eye and Stiles flushes, but doesn’t look away because Derek gives him a one-shouldered shrug and then tucks the paper into his folder.

    It’s more than Stiles can ask for and he glances down at his page of unintelligible writing and smiles to himself.

    *

    Derek’s right, though. Stiles is certainly curious about his situation. He’s clearly in his mid-thirties and his records – not that Stiles has gone out of his way to find them, or so he keeps telling himself – show no indication of previous degrees, just a GED from over three years previous.

    He also doesn’t seem to be enrolled in any financial aid programs. Either he has separate bank loans, or maybe a rich spouse. Lingering in the back of Stiles’ mind, however, is the idea of an inheritance.

    He’s dealt with that before. After his mom died, he’d been left a lump sum that he’d used to put himself through college. He doesn’t have any of it left now he’s a graduate, but it had been nice not to worry about money issues or make his dad work even more hours. It had taken him a long while to even think about touching it, though. It had felt like blood money.

    Stiles hasn’t seen many students that are Derek’s age. It’s not unheard of, but certainly not common. Stiles commends him for it. He’s not sure he’d have the motivation to return to school after so long without.

    It’s not his place to ask for Derek’s story and he knows he should leave it be, but he’s never been one to heed his own advice.

    *

    He goes out with Erica on a Friday evening and he knows he’s in for it when she offers to buy the first round. She only does that when she wants something and Stiles is loathe to think of what it might be. He narrows his eyes at her, even as he downs the first shot in his row of three.

    “No,” he says, moving onto the second glass. “Whatever it is, the answer is no.”

    “I can’t buy a few drinks for a friend?” she asks innocently and Stiles finishes the last shot with a loud breath.

    “Not with the kind of intentions you have,” he points out.

    Her smile is predatory at best and Stiles wants to hop over the table and pretend he never saw it.

    “I just thought it would be a nice to get out and relax.”

    Stiles doesn’t believe her in the slightest.

    “The last time you said that I woke up with a tattoo on my back.”

    “You like that tattoo,” she argues and Stiles waves a hand at her.

    “That’s not the point. The point is that there’s a picture of you in the dictionary under the word enabler.”

    She grins as though that’s something to be proud of and Stiles knows he’s not getting anywhere.

    “How about another round?” he suggests, even though Erica still has two drinks left.

    He leaves her standing by their table tucked to the side of the club and heads for the bar, patting his back pocket to make sure his wallet is still there. It’s not too crowded, even for a Friday night and Stiles finds a place to lean his elbow on the sticky bar top as he gestures to the bartender for another round.

    He glances around as he waits, eyes drawn to the dance floor where there’s a mass of gyrating bodies. Stiles wouldn’t say he’s a good dancer, but he enjoys it, so he supposes that’s all that matters. After a little more liquid courage, he’ll drag Erica out there for a song or two.

    He’s startled from his thoughts when someone jostles him from behind and nudges him into the guy standing to his left.

    “Hey, sorry, man,” he apologizes, throwing a glare over his shoulder at the culprit who scoffs and rolls their eyes at him. The man he bumps into turns slightly and offers a crooked grin.

    “S’alright,” he says, facing Stiles fully and looking strangely as if he recognizes him. Stiles hasn’t seen him before in his life, which means things are probably about to get awkward. “Aren’t you a TA for Morrell’s Women’s Lit course?”

    Crap.

    “You’re not in one of my sections are you, because that would be embarrassing.”

    The guy laughs and shakes his head, dirty blond curls waving slightly with the movement.

    “Nah, I have Lydia Martin.”

    Stiles smiles genially.

    “She knows her stuff. She’s a TA for fun while she earns a masters in engineering. It puts the rest of us to shame.”

    “She’s cool, but I hear you are too.”

    “Someone’s spreading lies again,” Stiles jokes as his drinks are finally set in front of him. He pulls a wad of cash from his wallet, though it’s mostly just one dollar bills, and tells the bartender to keep the change.

    “Are you here with anyone?” the man asks quickly and Stiles debates for a long minute whether or not to answer.

    “A friend,” Stiles says eventually, gesturing over to Erica, who’s already staring at them. She waves and then downs a shot off the table. “I should get back to her. It was good talking to you,” he says, shooting the man a small wave with his free fingers.

    The guy nods and smiles, gaze moving back into the crowd.

    “Have a good night,” he tells Stiles, who heads back to Erica, carefully edging around the minefield of people.

    “Who was that?” she asks, stealing half of Stiles’ drinks before he can even set them down.

    “Some kid from English 104. Seemed nice.”

    “I’ll say. Did you get his number?” she asks and Stiles shoots her a withering look.

    “That’s inappropriate,” he points out and she shrugs.

    “Doesn’t stop you from looking at Derek Hale.”

    Stiles lets out a slow breath and rubs the bridge of his nose.

    “I told Boyd not to say anything,” he grumbles and Erica shrugs as though it’s not her problem. “You think I’m going to act on that while he’s still my student?”

    “How long until he’s not?” she asks before continuing. “Though, more importantly, you are interested.”

    “Perhaps, and there are seven weeks, four days, and seventeen minutes left,” Stiles jokes, though he’s pretty sure it’s closer to the truth than he’d like. Erica grins as though she already knows and Stiles cleans out his glasses just to keep himself from giving everything away. “We’re not talking about this anymore.”

    She finishes her own drinks and then bounces on her heels slightly, grabbing Stiles’ arm.

    “Fine, but only if we can go and dance instead,” she tells him, dragging him away from the table. “We can’t waste this song.”

    Stiles doesn’t actually recognize it, but it has a good beat and that’s really all he needs. He follows Erica to the dance floor obediently and curls one hand over her hip when she eventually stops within the crowd, starting to move to the music.

    It’s easy to let his stresses go when he shuts his eyes and rolls his body against Erica’s own. There are others pressed close around them and it warms up quickly, even more so when Erica manhandles him to turn around while she plasters herself to his back. Stiles isn’t bothered in the slightest, keeps moving to the beat and smiles when Erica ducks down enough to rest her head on the back of his neck.

    He thinks she’s just being friendly until her mouth presses close behind his ear and she raises her voice to be heard above the music.

    “That guy keeps glancing over at you. If you don’t hit it, I will.”

    Stiles snaps his eyes open and looks up, carefully scanning the crowd, but it’s too dark and close to see much at all, until he spots a familiar face.

    “The guy from before?” he asks her and he feels her shake her head, hair swishing against his shoulders.

    “No, he’s got a friend. Tall, dark, and handsome at your two o’clock.”

    Stiles shifts his gaze accordingly, but there’s only a man with his back to him. He’ll admit that it’s a very nice back, however. Perfectly broad shoulders, emphasizing how narrow his waist is. Stiles is already tempted.

    “That guy?” Stiles asks, nodding his head towards where he’s looking, but Erica turns him around again so he can’t continue staring as he would like.

    “Don’t be obvious,” she murmurs. “Just shake your money-maker and draw him over here.”

    “Pretty sure he won’t do that. One, I’m me, and two, he probably thinks I’m with you.”

    Erica pulls a face as though he might have a point and takes a step away to dance with a nearby stranger, who doesn’t seem to mind one bit. Stiles doesn’t blame them. However, it leaves him open and strangely vulnerable, and he doesn’t even know if it’ll draw the guy over. He hasn’t even seen his face.

    It takes two more songs before Stiles realizes someone is close to his back, barely touching, but clearly there for a reason. When he glances up at Erica, she’s no longer paying attention, too busy laughing at whatever the couple she’s dancing with says to her. He decides it has to be the guy, and if it isn’t, he figures he’ll dance with them anyway.

    He nudges backwards just half a step and there’s suddenly a very broad chest against his back and a warm hand at his waist. It’s perfect and Stiles would probably sell a kidney to get the guy to come home with him at the end of the night.

    It’s easy to tip his head back against the guy’s shoulder, letting himself be pulled closer.

    “Hi,” he murmurs into the man’s ear, catching a glimpse of stubble and dark hair, along with a strong nose that might have been broken once before.

    He can’t see much else, but he doesn’t mind because the guy turns his face and mutters his own greeting straight against Stiles’ jaw, lips grazing over his skin.

    The guy has a surprisingly good sense of rhythm, his hips moving in time to Stiles’ own in a way that hints that he’d probably be able to bang the ever-loving life out of Stiles if they went home together. Stiles really wouldn’t be opposed to that idea. It’s been a while since his last one night stand and another wouldn’t go amiss in his life. If he plays his cards right, he might end up having a better night than expected.

    He brings his hand up, resting a palm against the guy’s forearm, the one that’s wound around his waist and holding him close. It leaves him feeling strangely safe and entirely wanted in a way that makes him want to head home and drag the guy with him already.

    Instead, they dance to two more songs, the guy grinding his rather impressive erection against Stiles’ ass, fingers edging under the hem of Stiles’ shirt. By the third song, the guy’s resting his hand on Stiles’ stomach, fingertips tucked just below the waistband of Stiles’ pants. Stiles is hard, can’t really help it, to be honest, and he’s more than ready to leave.

    He turns his face just enough to brush his mouth against the guy’s jaw and when he gets no complaints, he nips gently at the skin with his teeth.

    “You want to take this back to mine?” he asks in a brief burst of courage and the guy noses at his temple and exhales, sending warmth over Stiles’ already heated body.

    “Do I get a name first?” the man asks and Stiles grins because that he can definitely do.

    “Stiles,” he tells him. “You can call me Stiles.”

    Part of him expects some more nuzzling, maybe even a kiss, but what he gets is nothing because the guy takes a sudden step away, leaving him bereft of everything.

    “Stiles Stilinski?” the man asks and, oh shit.

    Stiles turns to face him, peering through the dim lighting to finally catch a glimpse of the guy’s face.

    “Fuck,” he exclaims, a strange coldness spreading through his veins. “Derek?”

    He doesn’t know what to do first. He should apologize, he knows, or maybe beg for Derek not to tell his superiors because he rather likes having a job. Perhaps he should throw two middle fingers up in the air and offer to take Derek home anyway. The last one isn’t feasible, but it’s a nice thought anyway.

    “I have to go,” is what Derek eventually says, backing away from Stiles and disappearing into the crowd so quickly that Stiles can’t even think about trying to follow.

    He cards his fingers through his hair and tries not to let the panic overwhelm him. What he needs is Erica.

    She’s still dancing nearby, but doesn’t seem to realize anything’s wrong until Stiles grabs her elbow and begins to tug.

    “We have to leave,” he tells her, heart beating so fast it feels as though it might stop altogether. “We have an emergency.”

    Erica doesn’t put up a fight, just lets him pull her out of the crowd and down through the club’s entrance, leaving them in the cool night air, which Stiles finds is much easier to breathe.

    “Did you know it was him?” he accuses, turning on her the second he’s caught his breath.

    “Did I know who was him?”

    “The guy you told me to dance with. Did you know it was Derek Hale?”

    Erica seems genuinely surprised.

    “What?” she asks, the seriousness of the situation appearing to dawn on her. “I had no idea who it was. I only know what Derek looks like from Boyd’s descriptions anyway. He just seemed interested in you, that’s all.”

    Stiles pulls at his hair in frustration and takes a few steadying breaths.

    “Jesus Christ. They’re going to fire me.”

    “Stiles,” Erica snaps, grabbing his attention. “You were both consenting adults. It was just a mistake. Nothing is going to happen.”

    “People have been let go for less, Erica,” he points out. “Fraternization isn’t exactly smiled upon.”

    “You need to talk to Derek about this, Stiles, and then you need to see Professor Morrell because not telling her will be worse.”

    He knows Erica is being the voice of reason, but it really doesn’t seem like a good plan.

    “There’s no way I can talk to him, Erica. The guy will rip my head clean off my shoulders. He hates me enough as it is.”

    “If you need me to be there as a witness for legal reasons, I will,” she tells him, resting a comforting hand on his shoulder, which he automatically leans into.

    “How is this my life?” he asks her as she pulls him into a hug and laughs quietly against the side of his head.

    “I have no idea,” she says quietly. “But at least you keep things interesting.”

    “‘S not funny,” he points out and she squeezes just a little harder.

    “In time it will be,” she promises and then steps back to stare at him. “You want me to call us a cab?”

    Stiles nods, because he really doesn’t feel like walking home anymore, and then moves to sit on the edge of the curb.

    “Thanks, Erica,” he says and she nudges him with her foot and turns away to use her phone.

    Stiles stares at his own knees and uses the time to contemplate his crappy, no good, terrible life.

    *

    Stiles doesn’t see any sign of Derek in Morrell’s lecture on Monday, but Tuesday morning, he’s there in the same seat as always, gaze unmoving from his desk, holding his pen with a white-knuckled grip that even Stiles can see.

    He’s quiet, apparently refusing to partake in discussions, while Stiles stammers his way through his notes. Stiles feels anxious the entire class period, fumbling his papers and dropping the dry erase marker more than once, unable to stop imagining Derek calling attention to his mistake and ruining all that he’s built for himself.

    Stiles dismisses his class well before the time is up, unable to deal with the stress or even stop his hands from trembling. He knows what he has to do.

    “Derek?” he calls out, just as Derek heads for the door. He waits until Derek stops and turns towards him before continuing. “Would you be able to stop by during my office hours this afternoon? We have a few things to discuss.”

    It’s clear that Derek knows what he’s talking about and Stiles looks away guiltily, shuffling his notes around to keep his hands busy.

    “Sure,” is all Derek says before he shoulders his way out of the room without looking back.

    Stiles feels his stomach sink. He’s not looking forward to it.

    *

    Stiles gets zero work done while waiting for Derek to arrive. He eats two mouthfuls of his lunch and can’t stomach the rest. His body hums with excess energy and he can’t stop drumming his fingers against the armrests of his chair.

    Derek shows up a few minutes after three in the afternoon, a coffee in one hand that Stiles recognizes as one from Boyd’s cart. Stiles doesn’t even realize he’s there until Derek clears his throat softly and startles him from his thoughts.

    He spins in his chair and wordlessly ushers Derek into his cubicle.

    “I – ” Stiles starts before pursing his lips and trying again, keeping his voice low to stop anyone from overhearing. “I wanted to apologize for the other night. If I’d have known – ”

    Derek interrupts with a soft sound, but doesn’t look up from staring at the paper cup in his hands.

    “We’re both adults,” he points out, which only just serves to drive Stiles crazier.

    “That’s not the issue,” Stiles snaps. “I’m your TA. It’s not professional and if you’d like to switch sections, I can talk to Lydia Martin, who has class at the same time, but on Thursdays.”

    “Stilinski,” Derek answers, but Stiles can’t stop now that’s he’s picked up steam.

    “No questions asked and it won’t affect your grade in the slightest. She’s an extremely competent TA and I’m sure you’ll find her as an acceptable replacement. Probably even a better one, to be honest.”

    “Stilinski,” Derek says again, but Stiles is still on a roll.

    “I’ll need to inform Professor Morrell of the incident. We can either set up an appointment to see her together, or if you’re uncomfortable with me being there while you talk to her, we can schedule different times.”

    “Stiles!” Derek hisses, immediately grabbing his attention and stopping him from carrying on. “I’m not uncomfortable about this, I’m not changing sections, and we don’t need to talk to Morrell.”

    Oh,” Stiles says quietly, linking his fingers together to keep them from twitching all over the place. “Well, um, alright. I do need to talk to Professor Morrell, regardless. It’s protocol.”

    Derek scoffs.

    “Have you ever followed protocol?”

    Stiles exhales loudly and can’t help but laugh.

    “What makes you think I don’t follow the rules? I could have a stick right up my ass.”

    “Doubtful,” Derek retorts with a smirk before immediately seeming to regret it because his eyes go wide when he meet’s Stiles’ gaze.

    “Doubtful?” Stiles can’t help but ask, too curious for his own good. “Why’s that?”

    Derek stares back down at his coffee, fingers picking at the cardboard sleeve around the cup.

    “Forget I said anything.”

    “And miss out on an inside look into your sense of humor? Don’t make me hold my breath because I’m not above pouting like a toddler.”

    Derek rubs the bridge of his nose and sighs, shuffling closer as though about to share a secret. Stiles bites back the grin that threatens to break out across his face.

    “Nobody who moves their hips like you did on Friday has a stick in their ass,” Derek tells him, staring at the ceiling as though wishing he were elsewhere.

    Stiles’ pauses, his mouth falling open in surprise, because of all the things he was expecting to come out of Derek’s mouth, that wasn’t it. He swallows thickly and tries not to remember what it was like to feel Derek grinding against his ass.

    “Oh, well, I suppose you’re probably right.” He clears his throat and nudges a few papers around on his desk. “Guess you don’t have a stick in your ass either.”

    Stiles really needs to move the conversation away from asses in general or he’ll find himself in a world of trouble, moreso than he already is. Thankfully, Derek helps him out.

    “We can just forget it ever happened. You really don’t need to involve Professor Morrell.”

    As genuine as Derek seems, Stiles can’t help but feel it’ll bite him in the ass if he agrees, but finds himself nodding nevertheless.

    “I’ve already forgotten,” he announces with enough false bravado that he knows Derek will see right through it, but Derek thankfully doesn’t call him out on it. There’s a long awkward pause and then Derek gestures over his shoulder.

    “I should go. I’ll see you in class.”

    Stiles plasters a stiff smile onto his face and nods.

    “Sure thing,” he says and offers Derek a wave as Derek nods and disappears from Stiles’ cubicle.

    It’s unnervingly quiet for a long minute and then Stiles’ phone buzzes across his desk, scaring the absolute life out of him.

    Say hello to the newest leader of the debate club, Scott texts, adding a slew of smiley faces to the end of it.

    Congrats! Stiles sends in reply, making a mental note to pick up a celebratory six pack on the way home.

    It’s not much, but it helps to take his mind off the ever-present tension looming over him, at least for a little while.

    *

    Term papers are due the first week in November, which means Stiles’ inbox explodes a few days before with questions from the students who clearly haven’t started working on them yet. After clearing out most of the emails and reminding around ten or so people that Wikipedia isn’t a legitimate literary source, he finds one tucked away at the bottom from a familiar name.

    It’s from Derek, who has apparently finished his paper and is looking for someone to critique it before he turns it in. It’s cutting it close to the deadline, but Stiles has a free afternoon on the Wednesday, so he tells Derek to meet him in the library at noon and to bring a copy of his paper. He’s not looking forward to the awkwardness, but he likes to think he’s a professional when he needs to be.

    Derek responds a few minutes later, agreeing to the time and location, as well as adding his cell number in case of emergencies, and everything seems to be fine until the Wednesday arrives and it ends up pouring with rain.

    Stiles stares out of his front door for a long minute and Scott whistles lowly behind him.

    “I don’t envy you, man,” he says, which is okay for him because he doesn’t have any classes for the day.

    Stiles groans and pulls out his phone.

    This is Stiles. Want to meet at coffeehouse on 5th instead? he texts Derek, going back into the house to find an umbrella before he has to go outside once more.

    It takes a little while for a response and Stiles sits in the Jeep until his phone buzzes.

    Sure.

    Stiles enjoys the ridiculous heat the Jeep throws out during the brief five minute drive to the nearest coffee shop. It’s closer than campus and Stiles isn’t a fan of dealing with traffic in bad weather.

    When he parks and walks inside, he’s warm and dry, and is more than a little happy that he has an excuse to buy his favorite hot chocolate. Derek, on the other hand, who he finds sitting near the back of the room, is drenched from head to toe, looking cold and cupping his hands around a mug of steaming coffee.

    Stiles pays for his drink and settles into the seat across from him, shooting him an apologetic look, while he tucks his dripping umbrella by their feet.

    “How about that weather?” he asks with a laugh, but Derek doesn’t seem amused.

    “My umbrella broke when I was halfway to the library,” Derek tells him as Stiles tries to ignore the breadth of Derek’s shoulders underneath a leather jacket that he’s never seen before. “Then I got your message to head back into town.”

    “Crap,” Stiles winces as Derek takes a sip of his drink and cards his fingers through his soggy, flat hair. “I thought you’d drive.”

    “I didn’t want to have to pay to park on campus.”

    Stiles doesn’t blame him; it’s extortionate.

    “Sorry,” Stiles apologizes finally. “Did you want to meet up another day so you can go home and change into something dry?”

    “It’s fine. We’re here now.”

    Stiles still feels bad.

    “I probably have a sweatshirt in my car if you want,” he offers, but Derek shakes his head.

    “Let’s just get this done.”

    Derek leans over towards the floor, where there’s an equally soggy bag, but the paper he pulls out of it seems to have survived. He sets it on the table between them and Stiles shuffles his chair closer, so they can go over it together. Their elbows knock as they get comfortable, but Derek doesn’t seem bothered by Stiles’ close proximity.

    “Very interesting,” Stiles drawls as he reads the title. “Very provocative.”

    When he glances over, Derek has a tiny smirk on his face as though proud of himself.

    “Thought you might like it,” Derek tells him and Stiles can’t help but grin.

    “You thought of me?” he teases with a wink, at which Derek freezes for a second before the tips of his ears turn slightly pink. It’s ridiculously endearing and Stiles drops his eyes and clears his throat to break the awkward silence. “Okay, let me read through this and then we can discuss any issues.”

    Stiles pulls the paper closer, but Derek doesn’t try to scoot his chair away, just fiddles idly with an empty sugar sachet for a few minutes before pulling out his phone.

    Derek’s writing isn’t as bad as Stiles expects it to be and a clear improvement from his last essay. He’s clearly listened to Stiles’ criticism. Stiles marks out a few grammatical errors, but it’s better organized and will probably end up being one of the strongest papers out of all of Stiles’ sections.

    When he finally reaches the end a little while later, he finds Derek already watching him, phone held loosely in one hand, as though having been distracted from whatever he’d been doing before. Derek blinks and shakes his head minutely, the previous pink tinge returning to his ears. His gaze snaps back to the phone’s screen and Stiles watches as he locks the device and sets it back down on the table.

    Stiles hides his grin with a cough before belatedly realizing that his knee is pressed firmly against Derek’s under the table. He hadn’t been paying attention at all, and his limbs have a habit of wandering of their own accord when he’s too busy to keep track of them.

    He moves it away without drawing attention to it, though he’s sure Derek realized long before he did. It’s easier not to talk about it.

    “It’s a good start,” Stiles says instead, nudging the paper back towards Derek, who pulls it closer. “If you’re dealing with the controversy of Behn’s work, your major points are going to be westernized standards of beauty, the depictions of slavery, Behn’s political agenda, and the reliability of the narrator, which is almost exactly what you have here. However, you should probably expand your fifth paragraph with more contextual support if you want it to be a stronger essay.”

    Derek nods and steals the pen straight from Stiles’ loose fingers before scrawling notes in the margins.

    “What grade would you give it?” Derek asks when he finishes writing and looks up at Stiles again.

    Stiles pulls a face and clicks his tongue.

    “I think it would be unfair to give you a letter before I see the final product. If it’s anything like this one, you’ll be fine, trust me.”

    Stiles would list Derek’s expression as pride, but genuine contentment comes a close second. Stiles drums his fingertips on the tabletop to fill the silence before eventually pushing his chair out.

    When he stands, he stretches to pop his back from sitting in one position for so long, and Derek’s eyes follow the hem of his hoodie as it rides up. Stiles tugs it back down with one hand before double checking that he has his wallet.

    “What would you like?” Stiles asks, set on buying another round of drinks to keep the baristas happy, but instead of answering, Derek just blinks at him. “Look, it’s the least I can do for making you walk around in the rain earlier.”

    Derek’s gaze darts to the menu on the wall behind the counter, slowly trailing down it before Derek seems to make up his mind.

    “A mocha,” Derek says even though Stiles expects him to order just a plain, black coffee.

    Stiles heads to the register to order and pay before eventually bringing back their drinks and a handful of sugar packets.

    “Is there anything else you wanted to go over?” Stiles asks as he hands Derek his coffee and sits back down with his refill of hot chocolate.

    Derek shakes his head and takes two sugars for his drink, which means he has one hell of a sweet tooth. Stiles watches him methodically empty them into his cup, quietly contemplating what on earth he can say to continue the conversation. He can’t leave until his drink is gone because he suspects it’s illegal not to finish something so good. There are a few safe topics and Stiles grabs the first one he can think of.

    “What’s your major?” he asks, licking whipped cream off his top lip.

    Derek glances up as he stirs his mocha before smirking and gesturing to his own mouth.

    “You’ve got some – ” he points out, much to Stiles’ horror.

    He wipes the mess off with the back of his hand tries to laugh it off, though he’s not sure it works. Derek seems entertained regardless, so he might have succeeded partially.

    “Trying to evade the question?” he counters and Derek shrugs nonchalantly.

    “Poly sci with a minor in English.”

    Stiles’ eyebrows shoot up before he can stop them.

    “That’s an impressive workload for someone – ” he cuts himself off before he digs a deeper hole.

    “For someone my age?” Derek finishes correctly for him and Stiles winces at how brash it sounds aloud.

    “That’s not what I meant. Well, I suppose it is, but you must work or have a family. Where do you find the time to do stuff like this?” he asks, tapping his finger against Derek’s paper, which is still resting beside Derek’s elbow.

    “I don’t,” Derek says, looking everywhere but at Stiles. “I don’t have a job and I don’t have family.”

    Stiles bites his tongue because Derek doesn’t sound at all as though he wants to talk about it. His face is strangely devoid of emotion and Stiles knows he shouldn’t play with fire.

    “You’re doing okay,” Stiles says instead, gently nudging Derek’s foot with his own under the table. “Regardless of what you do and don’t have.”

    Stiles drains the rest of his drink and stares over Derek’s shoulder to the window behind, where it’s still cloudy and raining hard enough for Stiles to hear it over the sound of the coffee machines running in the background.

    “Do you want a ride home?” Stiles asks before Derek can address his previous statement. “The weather doesn’t look as though it’s going to ease up anytime soon.”

    He watches Derek curl his fingers around his own empty mug and doesn’t look away when Derek meets his eyes.

    “You owe me, I suppose,” he says quietly and Stiles shoots him a small smile.

    It’s progress, at least.

    *

    Derek ends up living in the opposite direction of Stiles’ home, but Stiles doesn’t complain, just pulls smoothly up to the curb and watches Derek gather up his belongings.

    “Thanks for the advice and the coffee,” Derek says, on hand on the door handle.

    “Anytime,” Stiles replies with a nod, trying to ignore how much it sounds like they’ve just been on a date. Only in his wildest dreams, he suspects.

    Derek pauses for just a beat longer and then he’s shoving the door open and hopping out into the rain. Stiles waits long enough to see him jog to the front door and let himself inside with a quick wave back at the car, and then he drops his head to the steering wheel and groans loudly.

    He’s so completely and utterly screwed, it’s not even funny.

    *

    “We’re doing Thanksgiving this year,” Scott announces a few days before the final Thursday of November.

    “Since when?” Stiles asks with a frown, glancing up from his laptop screen where he’s inputting grades.

    “Since this is our first one in our own home, when there’s less possibility of us seriously injuring ourselves.”

    It’s fair enough because Stiles is sure they’ve never been ready for the responsibility before.

    “We’re not cooking a turkey just for the two of us.”

    “Erica and Boyd agreed to come and so did Isaac and his housemate.”

    “Who’s Isaac?” Stiles asks before realizing the most important part of Scott’s statement. “Wait, why does everyone else know about this before me? I’m the one that’s going to end up doing the cooking.”

    Scott does what Stiles has come to understand as his best impression of sheepishness. Stiles knows it’s an act to sway him and he always seems to fall for it regardless.

    “Isaac’s on the debate team. He’s the one I told you about. The one that kept talking about why grading in schools is arbitrary.”

    Stiles nods because it does jog his memory, just not entirely.

    “And his housemate?”

    “I don’t know,” Scott says, scratching the back of his head. “I’ve never met him, but Isaac told me the guy doesn’t have anyone else to celebrate with, so I said to bring him along. Sound good?”

    Stiles drops his head back against the arm of the couch and sighs.

    “They better at least bring beer.”

    *

    Stiles has a lot more respect for his dad when he ends up having to do the groceries before their dinner. It’s utter chaos and Stiles has a full cart with a wobbly wheel that means he can’t push it in a straight line. The only good thing is that there are plenty of frozen turkeys from which to choose.

    He stands in front of a stack, trying to figure out the best size for six people, and there’s a nice one tucked under two or three others. He manages to move the first two without trouble, balancing them easily near the back of the freezer. By the third one, however, his fingers are slightly numb and it slips from his grip, drops onto the others, and sends a half-dozen or so turkeys sliding across the grocery store floor.

    “Crap!”

    He tries his best to start picking them up, but his face burns as people stop to stare at him.

    “Do you make a habit of ruining displays?” a voice asks from behind and Stiles turns around, expecting to find an employee standing behind, ready to rebuke him.

    Instead, he finds Derek, holding a twelve pack of beer under one arm. It’s possibly even worse.

    “It’s not a habit if it’s the first time it’s happened,” Stiles tells him, shoving turkeys back into the freezer.

    Derek stops one with his foot as it slides closer to him and sets his beer down in order to pick it up.

    “At least they’re already dead,” he says, handing it to Stiles, who huffs a laugh and stacks it on top of the others.

    Stiles scoops up the final two and then finds a non-dropped bird to toss into his cart with a sigh as Derek picks up his beer once again.

    “Having a party?” Stiles asks and Derek gives him a half-shrug for his troubles.

    “Sort of. You cooking Thanksgiving dinner?”

    “Sort of,” Stiles mimics, nudging his cart out of the way of a father with two young kids trailing behind who are arguing about which kind of Pop-Tarts to buy. “It’s our first attempt at it. Kind of terrifying actually.”

    “Don’t burn it,” Derek advises and Stiles snorts.

    “Thanks. I think I’m more worried about giving everyone food poisoning.”

    Derek winces and lifts one shoulder in a lazy shrug.

    “If you don’t show up to Morrell’s lecture on Monday, I’ll know your cooking wasn’t successful.”

    Stiles huffs quietly and rolls his eyes.

    “Yeah, okay, funny guy,” Stiles retorts before gesturing to Derek’s beer with a nod of his head. “When you don’t show up to section, I’ll know you got alcohol poisoning.”

    Derek stares at him without cracking a smile and that alone is enough to amuse Stiles. He laughs and enjoys the way the corner of Derek’s mouth curls up in response. There’s a short beat of awkward silence and Stiles wipes his cold, wet hands on his pants.

    “I should – ” Derek starts, lifting the box under his arm to bring attention to it.

    “Right, yeah, sure,” Stiles stammers. “Enjoy your party, Derek. Have a good Thanksgiving.”

    Derek nods and offers Stiles the smallest of smiles.

    “You too,” he says, stepping backwards down the nearest aisle, clearly heading to go and pay. “Be careful of other displays.”

    Derek turns his back on him before he can get in a parting jibe and Stiles ends up watching him go, mouth slightly open.

    He’s in so much trouble.

    *

    Stiles wakes up early Thanksgiving morning in order to start preparing food, though, to be fair, early for him is a few minutes before ten-thirty. He shuffles into the kitchen in his pajamas, rubbing his face to try to wake up a little more because no one should have to peel potatoes before noon on a day off.

    Scott’s already sitting on the countertop, a bag of carrots in his lap, eyes fixated on the TV that’s in the living room and programmed into some local channel that’s showing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    “You taking the skin off those or watching the parade?” Stiles asks with a smirk and Scott gestures vaguely at him with the peeler.

    “They promised a giant wolf float earlier. I don’t want to miss it.”

    Stiles grabs himself a quick breakfast of juice and toast before he considers himself awake enough to safely handle knives. He changes and brushes his teeth before dragging out the joke apron he bought himself that he’s used more than he originally thought he would. There’s a singed hole near the bottom, big enough for Stiles to fit his fist through, but the kiss the cook writing on the chest is pristine.

    “How hard can this be?” he asks Scott, pulling the turkey from where it’s been defrosting and taking up most of their space on the kitchen table.

    Scott shrugs and continues cutting up the carrots he’s still slowly working on. Stiles eyes the instruction label and welcomes the challenge.

    *

    It’s a lot harder than it looks, as it turns out.

    Stiles’ knows his hair is a mess because he’s been tugging at it out of frustration and he’s sweating from the heat of the kitchen, even though they have every possible window open. Thankfully, the turkey only has a little while longer to go and it’s browning better than he thought it would.

    The potatoes are boiling, the veggies are steaming, and there’s a plate randomly on the counter that Scott’s obviously forgotten about with an unappetizing tower of cranberry sauce from a can on it, still looking remarkably can-shaped.

    “Why haven’t you made green bean casserole?” Scott asks, coming from the direction of his room in a fresh shirt and neatly gelled hair, looking as though he hasn’t spent the day in the kitchen, which is actually true. He’d lost interest after the carrots and had gone to watch the entire parade footage instead.

    “I already told you that Erica is bringing it,” he says, stirring the gravy and trying to pick out as many weirdly congealed lumps as possible. It’s coincidentally then that there’s a knock on the front door and Stiles looks beseechingly at Scott. “That’ll be them. Can you get that?”

    He can’t abandon his post, which means he can only hear voices from around the corner of the room, until Erica and Boyd eventually appear, Erica with a bottle of wine in each hand and Boyd with the promised casserole.

    “Have I told you how much I love you recently?” he asks Erica, who immediately locates their bottle opener and pours Stiles a glass of Riesling.

    She leans in as she passes it over, kissing Stiles on the cheek, before pointing at his apron.

    “You still have that thing after the last incident?”

    “It sustained minor injuries, but prevails,” he announces, puffing out his chest, though it immediately deflates when there’s another knock on the door, startling him.

    Scott disappears, obviously to answer it.

    “I’ve never met these guys,” Stiles tells them in a low voice, “but Scott knows one of them from the debate club and the other is the guy’s roomie. They promised to bring alcohol, though.”

    He straightens up from his conspiratorial lean and turns away to continue stirring the gravy as footsteps get closer.

    “Everyone, meet Isaac and Derek,” Scott says and Stiles’ stomach drops.

    He prays that it’s just a coincidence, except when he looks over his shoulder, he finds it isn’t. The universe is playing one big prank on him and it sucks.

    It’s the only Derek Stiles knows and Stiles almost knocks the saucepan off the burner in his surprise.

    “Hi,” he says with an awkward wave, voice breaking embarrassingly.

    “You know each other?” Scott asks, pointing between them, and from over Derek’s shoulder, Stiles sees Erica shooting him a sympathetic look. She and Boyd are the only ones who know.

    “Yeah,” Stiles quickly replies. “Derek’s in one of my sections.”

    “Scott’s roommate is the TA you always talk about?” Isaac asks Derek, whose look of sheer panic would be amusing in any other situation, though Stiles knows for sure that Derek’s just ashamed to have been caught shit talking.

    “Hi, I’m Stiles,” he says with a grin that takes almost all of his effort to keep up. “I’m the TA that Derek probably complains about all the time.”

    “He doesn’t – ” Isaac starts before Derek clears his throat loudly and sets a box of beer on the countertop. The same box of beer Stiles saw him buying. Man, his life really blows.

    There’s a drawn out silence and Stiles catches Derek’s gaze. Folly

    “Welcome to the party,” he announces with enthusiasm which he doesn’t even try to hide the fakeness of, before turning his attention back to the gravy.

    He listens to Erica and Boyd introduce themselves, and then double checks the steamed vegetables, accidentally burning the side of his hand on the pan when a voice comes from over his shoulder, startling him completely. It’s not a big enough burn to need running under the faucet, but it stings enough to ground him.

    “I don’t complain about you,” Derek says quietly, only loud enough for Stiles to hear. “That’s not what Isaac meant.”

    Stiles tries to placate him with a smile, one that probably looks a bit too forced to seem genuine.

    “I’m not going to be upset if I find out you’ve said bad things about me, Derek. I’m not so naïve as to think my students like me enough not to curse my name.”

    He ends with a soft snort at the ridiculousness of the situation, and Derek’s shoulders seem to relax a fraction.

    “Are you still worried about poisoning everyone?” Derek asks and Stiles takes a step back to peer in through the glass of the oven door to frown at the turkey.

    “I hope you like your turkey rare,” he jokes and that seems to clear away the rest of Derek’s apprehension. “It should be done, actually. We’ve just got the potatoes left, which, while you’re here.”

    He switches the burner off under the boiling potatoes and places the saucepan on the wooden cutting board closest to Derek’s side.

    “Go ahead and drain those. Masher is in the drawer next to the sink. Milk and butter are in the fridge.”

    For a long second, Derek stares as though not realizing that Stiles is ordering him about, but then he moves into action, grabbing the pan and taking it to the sink.

    “Scott, you want to get the plates? Erica, you know where the knives and forks are. Boyd, can you bring out the chairs from our rooms? We’re going to have a bit of a seating issue.”

    Surprisingly, everyone does as they’re told, which leaves Isaac standing awkwardly in the doorway to the kitchen.

    “Anything I can do?” he asks and Stiles pulls a knife from the rack by the microwave and holds it up.

    “I’ve been informed by Scott that you once carved a turkey,” Stiles says and Isaac outright laughs.

    “Did he tell you about the state of the food by the time I was done with it?”

    “I figure it’s better than nothing.”

    Isaac steps forward to take the knife, except Derek grabs it instead and hands Isaac the pot of potatoes.

    “This is the wrong kind of knife,” Derek tells them, putting it back and pulling out one that isn’t serrated. “I’ll need a large fork, or anything with prongs on the end. Stiles, get the turkey out and put it on the kitchen table.”

    Stiles never expected Derek to take charge, but it makes him tingle all over as he hurries to obey.

    The turkey has perfectly crispy skin and it’s probably the most beautiful thing Stiles has ever seen.

    “Check it out!” he cries, dumping the pan onto a spread of tablemats. “Clearly I’ve missed my calling in life.”

    After a sufficient amount of time spent basking in the glory, Derek nudges him out of the way and begins slicing off the meat as though he’s done it every year of his life. To say Stiles is impressed is an understatement.

    “Do you want the apron?” Stiles asks belatedly, but Derek shakes his head, loading turkey slices onto a plate Scott sets down for him.

    “I don’t want people to feel obligated,” he says, which Stiles doesn’t get at all and apparently his silence says enough. “To kiss the cook,” Derek finishes and Stiles blinks in surprise.

    “People don’t seem to feel that way with me wearing it,” Stiles points out and Derek shrugs nonchalantly, and shoots him a look, which sends a flush straight to Stiles’ face. “I should go and make sure everything else is ready.”

    He flees before he can make a complete fool of himself, but ends up gravitating towards his wine glass instead, draining half of it. Erica drops a handful of knives and forks on the countertop and raises an eyebrow at him. He shakes his head quickly and takes a deep breath as he begins pulling off the apron.

    “What does everyone want to drink?”

    *

    The shortage of chairs is an issue, but no one seems bothered by it. Boyd and Erica take the desk chairs, Isaac ends up in the armchair, and Stiles squishes between Derek and Scott on the couch. It’s not as uncomfortable as he thinks it should be. The easy splay of Derek’s legs leaves their knees touching, but Stiles doesn’t draw attention to it and Derek doesn’t seem to want to fix it.

    The food ends up being delicious, even with Stiles’ previous fears, and everyone goes back for seconds before crashing out with the TV tuned into some feel-good holiday movie that Stiles has never seen before.

    Scott is the first to fall asleep and he snores loud enough for Erica to record him on her phone, much to Stiles’ delight. Boyd and Isaac seem to bond over their love for debating if the noise of their conversation is anything to go by. It’s lighthearted banter and it’s clear they’re getting along just fine.

    Derek excuses himself and Stiles handily points out that the bathroom is the last door on the right.

    It’s a few minutes later that the toilet flushes and, from the corner of his eye, Stiles sees Derek reemerge, but instead of heading back to the living room, Derek seems to take a detour to the left.

    Nobody seems to notice when Stiles slips out of the room, they’re too interested in other things, and Stiles quietly pads towards his room with a sneaking suspicion that it’s where he’ll find Derek.

    His assumption is surprisingly correct because Derek’s lingering near the window, his back to Stiles. He has no idea if Derek even realizes he’s there, but he doesn’t move or announce himself.

    “Beacon Hills?” Derek asks abruptly without turning around, and Stiles leans against the doorframe and watches him trace his finger over the old sheriff’s badge on the dresser.

    “Born and raised,” Stiles says with a grin. “My dad used to be the sheriff, before he retired.”

    “Sheriff Stilinski,” Derek replies, sounding as though he’s remembering something. “Your father is Sheriff Stilinski.”

    “The one and only.”

    Derek touches it briefly once more and then drops his hand back to his side.

    “He, uh – I met him once when I was younger.”

    Stiles can’t help but laugh.

    “Did he arrest you? He totally did, didn’t he? I could definitely see you as an adolescent deviant.”

    Derek turns to frown at him, the corners of his mouth curled down.

    “I’ve never been arrested,” he counters and Stiles smirks and takes a step into the room.

    “That’s what they all say.”

    Stiles moves to sit on the end of his bed, watching as Derek glances around at the photos pinned to the walls.

    “That’s him, right?” Derek asks, pointing to a picture of Stiles and his dad that had been taken the afternoon of Stiles’ college graduation.

    Stiles nods slowly.

    “Yeah. I need to call him later and tell him what I’m thankful for.”

    Derek makes a quiet noise of what Stiles likes to believe is amusement.

    “And what are you thankful for, Stiles?”

    “Paychecks, mostly. Hot water in the mornings. Fruit Loops.”

    “Is that it?” Derek asks, clearly trying to hide a smile.

    “The important ones at least. What about you? What are you thankful for?”

    Stiles watches Derek’s throat as he swallows, gaze slowly wandering up Derek’s face.

    “Turkey that isn’t undercooked. Not having to live in the dorms. TAs that actually care.”

    Stiles can’t help but grin.

    “That’s so sweet,” he begins before Derek interrupts.

    “Who said I was talking about you? I have other TAs.”

    It’s no use though because the warm feeling in Stiles’ stomach spreads to the rest of his body and he stands up, unable to help himself.

    “I knew you liked me, deep down, right at the bottom of your heart.”

    Derek sighs as though exasperated and ducks his head as he moves around Stiles, heading for the door. For a long second, Stiles thinks he’s pushed too far and that Derek is leaving to go back to join the others, except Derek nudges the door shut and turns back towards him.

    It’s Stiles’ turn to swallow because he realizes belatedly that he might be out of his depths.

    Derek takes two slow steps towards him, backing Stiles up against the desk, which is cluttered with notes and random pages from the beginnings of his dissertation. He wants to stop and ask what’s going on, but Derek speaks before he can.

    “Maybe not at the bottom,” he says, and Stiles blinks at him.

    “Huh?”

    “My capacity for liking you; it might not be at the bottom of my heart.”

    Stiles takes a deep breath, feeling as though there’s not enough air in the room to fill his lungs.

    “Oh?” he asks, voice pitched. “Where would it be instead?”

    Derek doesn’t answer and Stiles is almost certain he already knows, which is why he supposes it makes sense for Derek to lean in towards him, face angled enough that if he were to kiss Stiles, it would be perfect.

    However, Stiles reaches a hand out and presses his palm firmly against Derek’s chest, holding him back.

     “I can’t,” he gasps out, feeling exposed, and Derek’s expression shutters quicker than he ever thought possible.

    “Right,” Derek replies abruptly and Stiles curls his fingers into the front of Derek’s shirt when he tries to move away.

    “Not because I don’t want to,” he adds hastily, “because I really, really do. But as long as I’m your TA, I just can’t.”

    “You’re not my teacher,” Derek points out quietly, but Stiles shakes his head.

    “I know, but I input your grade at the end of the semester and I’m not a huge fan of anything that might appear to be bribery.”

    “You think I’d – ?” Derek asks and Stiles is quick to shake his head.

    “No, no, nothing like that, Derek. We’ve only got two and a half weeks of class left; you think you can manage?”

    “You let me kiss you at the club.”

    Stiles had been doing a great job of pretending that never happened, but the memories hit him full force and it’s entirely unfair.

    “I didn’t know it was you at the time; we discussed this.”

    Derek doesn’t reply to that, but his hands curl over Stiles’ hips and turn him, until Stiles is facing the desk in front, his back to Derek.

    “Does it count if you can’t see me?” he asks and Stiles swallows thickly at the feeling of Derek’s breath against his skin.

    He knows he shouldn’t allow it, that he could be in a world of hurt if anything goes wrong, but it’s far easier than he ever thought to tilt his head to one side, offering up the length of his neck. He rests his palms flat on the desk and Derek nudges closer, until he’s pressed flush against Stiles’ back.

    With one hand on Stiles’ waist and the other low on his stomach, Derek slowly scratches his stubble along Stiles’ throat, Stiles digging his fingertips into the wood below them, needing something to hold him down. When Derek turns his face and finally drags his lips against Stiles’ skin, they’re warm and slightly damp, and Stiles can’t help the tiny noise that escapes him.

    He doesn’t know if it’s better than in the club since he knows it’s Derek mouthing at him, or if it’s worse because he knows he shouldn’t be enjoying it as much as he is. Derek doesn’t seem to mind either way because his tongue flicks out, wetting the skin under Stiles’ jaw, making Stiles want to grind back against him.

    Stiles shuts his eyes, his entire body tensing as Derek begins to worry a mark on the curve where neck meets shoulder, unsure if he’ll be able to survive. Derek’s teeth are sharp and Stiles’ skin throbs under the assault of his mouth, which means there’s sure to be one hell of a hickey left behind.

    It’s that thought and the threat of being caught that finally snaps Stiles out of his reverie.

    He side steps out of Derek’s hold, away from his ridiculously sinful lips, which, when Stiles glances at him, are reddened and wet and makes him regret his decision to be an adult.

    “I’m sorry, Derek,” he says, knowing he doesn’t have to apologize if Derek has half a brain, which he clearly does. “Rain check?”

    Derek wipes his mouth off with one thumb and nods slowly.

    “You might want to cover that,” he says, gesturing towards Stiles’ neck and Stiles quickly smacks a hand over the aching mark.

    “Crap. Go ahead and sit with the others. I’ll be out in a minute.”

    Derek goes without a word, but glances over his shoulder at him when he reaches the door. His gaze is heavy as it slides down Stiles’ body, but then it’s gone, along with Derek, who slips back out into the hallway and shuts the door behind him.

    Stiles sags where he stands, hands on his knees as he gulps in uneven breaths, his whole body thrumming and alive.

    “Crap, crap, crap,” he repeats before straightening up and banging his closed fist firmly against his forehead. “So stupid.”

    It’s too late to take it back now, so instead of having a private breakdown in his bedroom as he’d like to, he slips into his hoodie, which should hide the evidence enough to get him through the rest of the night, and then goes to join everyone in the living room.

    Erica shoots him a meaningful glance the moment he walks in, but instead of acknowledging it, he sits in the open space on the couch and slouches down to watch TV.

    Nice hickey, Erica texts him a few moments later, but Stiles just adjusts his collar and turns his phone off.

    As he’s learned from his dad, the best way to deal with a problem is to ignore it.

    *

    Derek is suspiciously quiet in class on Tuesday, but his eyes never seem to stop tracking every move Stiles makes, which is almost worse. Stiles feels himself flush on more than one occasion for no apparent reason and spends most of his time facing the whiteboard, writing notes, just in case it continues to happen.

    Twenty minutes before the end of class, he finishes going through his notes and no one has any questions. It’s before nine AM and with Derek refusing to talk, it’s deadly silent. He has no hard feelings about dismissing them all early.

    Derek doesn’t even glance back when he leaves.

    *

    During the last section of the year, he hands out a study guide for Professor Morrell’s final at the beginning of the hour, sits on his desk, and tries to  give them as many hints as he possibly can.

    Out of the sixteen students in his class, only two say goodbye, one of which is dubiously hidden behind a yawn.

    He’s grateful when finals week rolls around, and he sits through two hours of testing, occupying himself by finishing the last few term papers he has left to grade. It’s better than sitting and sneaking glances at Derek, who Stiles learns has a habit of nibbling on the end of his pencil whenever he pauses. Not that Stiles has noticed at all.

    Most of his students end up finishing just after the hour mark, which means there’s a rush of people trying to hand completed tests to him. After that, it’s just a trickle of one or two of them, startling him out of his thoughts every few minutes.

    Three people thank him, one person asks what the percentage of the final is worth, which doesn’t bode well for them, and two people whisper quiet prayers as they turn to leave.

    He’s not expecting Derek to speak to him, which is what makes him drop his pen midway through writing a comment on someone’s paper. He jars his head up and meets Derek’s steady gaze, heart thudding loudly in his chest.

    “When will grades be posted?” Derek asks him boldly, and Stiles swallows as he straightens the growing stack of scantrons and blue books in front of him.

    “They’re due in a week,” he replies quietly. “Check online after then.”

    Derek gives one single nod and then disappears before Stiles can even think to call him back.

    It’s probably for the best.

    *

    It’s not that he sulks, but he does lie face down on his bed for an hour after he makes his last trip to campus to collect his belongings and turn in the remains of his graded finals. He’s free and should be looking forward to the run up to Christmas, but instead he groans loudly until Scott comes to check on him.

    “Are you dying in here?” he asks and Stiles rolls onto his back and nods.

    “I feel like crap.”

    Scott leans on the doorframe and taps his fingers against the wall.

    “Want to order pizza and play Kane and Lynch for the rest of the night?”

    It’s a plan Stiles can get behind.

    “Definitely,” he agrees, dragging himself upright and grabbing his phone off the dresser.

    “You want to talk about it?” Scott asks when they’re level with each other, but Stiles just shakes his head.

    “I’m good, thanks.”

    He’s not, but there’s no use lingering on it.

    *

    It’s a Wednesday when there’s a knock on the door, jarring Stiles out of his thoughts as he stands in the kitchen, waiting for his mug of hot chocolate to heat up in the microwave.

    “I’ll get it,” Scott says, hopping over the back of the couch and heading out of sight. Stiles hears a partially muffled conversation and then startles when Scott calls his name. “It’s for you.”

    He cancels the rest of the time on the microwave and pads down the hallway, suspicious of the way Scott shoots him a curious look. He doesn’t realize what it’s for until he glances up into the open doorway and finds Derek standing there, looking at him with an unreadable expression on his face.

    “Hi,” Stiles says, voice high with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

    Derek clears his throat softly.

    “I was in the neighborhood,” he explains, which sounds a little flimsy since there’s not really much in Stiles’ neighborhood, other than a shady 24-hour liquor store that anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows to avoid.

    “Oh yeah?” Stiles asks, propping himself up with the door as he eyes the plastic bags hooked on the ends of Derek’s fingers. “And you happened to find Chinese takeout in my apartment block? I’m sure the nearest one is two miles away because they won’t give us free delivery.”

    “Free delivery,” Derek deadpans, holding up the food for Stiles to take.

    Stiles tucks it all under one arm and gestures for Derek to come inside, stepping out of his way and shutting the door.

    “Scott’s here,” he warns as they step into the kitchen, but Scott passes them, carrying his backpack and Stiles’ car keys.

    “No, I’m going out,” Scott says, as he offers up a wave. “Isaac just told me I might want to spend the night at his place.”

    “You don’t – That’s not – ” Stiles protests, but Scott doesn’t even slow down, just glides right out the door, shutting it quietly behind his back.

    Stiles stands frozen for a long minute before turning to stare wide-eyed at Derek.

    “I haven’t even showered in two days,” he admits, face heating up, but Derek just shrugs.

    “I only planned to eat,” he says softly and Stiles doesn’t know if he should feel relieved or disappointed.

    Instead of lingering on it, Stiles turns and goes to grab plates and cutlery, setting the table as Derek pulls paper cartons out of the bag.

    “There’s orange chicken, mixed vegetables, beef and broccoli, fried rice, and egg rolls,” Derek says as Stiles takes a seat at the kitchen table and falls a little bit in love.

    “I don’t know where to start,” Stiles replies, rubbing his hands together while Derek sits across from him.

    “Egg roll?” Derek offers, unrolling the greasy bag, which doesn’t diminish Stiles’ appetite in the slightest.

    “Thanks,” he says, grabbing one and quickly dropping it onto his plate before it burns his fingers. “Thanks for bringing food in the first place.”

    Derek nods and meets his gaze.

    “Grades were posted today,” he says quietly. “You’re no longer my TA.”

    Stiles swallows and absentmindedly wipes his fingers on the edge of the tablecloth.

    “Oh,” he mutters, feeling as though he’s missed a step. “I didn’t realize.”

    It’s a lie, and one hell of one at that. He’s been obsessively checking his email for the past couple of days, waiting for Professor Morrell’s final message of the quarter. He just hadn’t got his hopes up that Derek would actually still want whatever it is that’s between them.

    For some reason, Derek looks amused, one corner of his mouth curling up.

    “What?” Stiles asks, grabbing the fried rice and scooping out enough to make a nest for the rest of his food to sit in.

    “Your nose twitches whenever you lie,” he says casually, grabbing the beef and broccoli. “It happened a lot in class.”

    Stiles pauses with his egg roll speared on the tines of his fork, knowing for a fact that he’s been caught.

    “So?”

    “So,” Derek continues evenly, “I think you know exactly when grades were posted.”

    “I wanted to know when I was finally free from work,” he lies and Derek points at his face.

    “Your nose twitched again.”

    A flush of embarrassment climbs its way up Stiles’ face, warming it as it goes.

    “That’s not – You can’t just –” Stiles gives up trying to use his words and goes for another tactic.

    He drops his fork to his plate and stands up, leaning across the table to grab the front of Derek’s shirt. Derek looks faintly taken aback, but Stiles holds himself up with a hand on the table, and leans down to finally press his mouth against Derek’s own.

    He’s accidentally flattening the rest of the egg rolls with his palm, but he doesn’t care at all, because after a long moment Derek touches his jaw ever so softly and kisses him back.

    It’s gentle and unhurried, and is really just a chaste meeting of lips, which Stiles is more than happy with. He tilts his face, just to feel Derek’s stubble against his skin and then slowly pulls away.

    For a second, Derek looks about as unbalanced as Stiles feels.

    Stiles drops heavily back into his seat and stares at Derek, waiting for a reaction. Instead, Derek smiles crookedly at him and then continues serving himself food, not seeming at all bothered. He’s thinking he’s pushed his luck too far until Derek’s foot nudges against his own under the table, pressing just hard enough for Stiles to feel grounded.

    He watches Derek just a minute longer before going back to eating, finding it surprisingly easy to fall into a comfortable silence, even with his heart feeling as though it’s beating at a thousand times per minute. He has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s pretty sure Derek’s just as clueless, and for that he’s grateful.

    *

    “Make yourself at home,” Stiles says with a nod towards the couch once they’re done eating. “There’s probably a football game on the TV somewhere if you search long enough.”

    Instead of going to sit down, Derek hangs around and clears up the leftovers, tucking the cartons into the fridge while Stiles fills up the sink with soapy water and dumps their plates and utensils into it.

    “Are you going back to Beacon Hills for the holiday?” Derek asks as Stiles slowly begins washing up.

    “Just for Christmas and New Years. Have you got any plans?”

    “Isaac invited me to spend Christmas with him and his step-parents,” Derek tells him. “I haven’t agreed to anything yet.”

    “Where do they live?” Stiles asks, dropping the clean cutlery into the draining board.

    “Just outside of Beacon Hills, in Green Springs.”

    Stiles nods without turning around, working on scrubbing sauce off the plate in his hands.

    “That would be nice,” he says, briefly glancing over his shoulder when Derek doesn’t reply.

    He startles when he finds Derek standing a lot closer, almost enough to touch, and he drops the plate straight back into the sink, splashing water all up the front of his t-shirt.

    “Hey,” he murmurs, for a lack of anything better to say, hands sliding out of the water to grip at the countertop when Derek takes a small step closer and curls his fingers around Stiles’ hips from behind. Apparently, Derek has a thing about plastering himself up against Stiles’ back and nosing at his neck, because that’s exactly what he does and Stiles’ knees threaten to give out.

    Really, he should be used to it by now.

    His right hand slips on the counter, squeaking as it slides along the laminate and Derek buries his nose into the space under Stiles’ jaw. Stiles feels him breathing softly, feels the scrape of Derek’s stubble against his own two-day old facial hair. It’s rough and intimate and Derek’s lips haven’t even touched him yet.

    That immediately changes when Derek angles his face against Stiles’ throat and presses a series of dry kisses along his skin. It shouldn’t wreck Stiles as much as it does, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He tilts his face to the side, pulling the muscles in his neck taut and giving Derek something else to trace with his mouth.

    It’s slow and soft and Stiles really wants to turn in Derek’s arms and give him a proper kiss, something to write home about.

    “Is this okay?” Derek asks quietly and Stiles lets out an embarrassing whine when he opens his mouth to speak.

    “Y-yeah,” he croaks. “This is totally fine.”

    Derek’s lips go right back to what they were doing, hands curling further around Stiles’ body to rest low on his belly, pinkies tucking into the waistband of his jeans. It’s something Stiles would very much like to explore.

    He lets his head drop back against Derek’s shoulder and presses into the warmth of his body. It’s addictive and Stiles knows his neck is going to be a mess of marks, but he really couldn’t care less, because they’ll all be the shape of Derek’s mouth. Without having to think at all, he lifts his arm and cups the back of Derek’s neck with his hand, holding him closer still, while Derek moves his lips to Stiles’ jaw.

    Stiles instinctively turns his head as Derek kisses a line across his face, heading straight for his mouth, which Stiles has no qualms about. Derek kisses him as though they have all the time in the world and Stiles is more than happy to unhurriedly return each one, Derek tongue tasting of soy sauce as it meets Stiles’ own.

    Stiles would gladly kiss him all night if he could; would push Derek down onto the couch and crawl on top of him to continue their lazy exploration without a care in the world. Unfortunately, Stiles eventually has to break away to catch his breath, panting softly against Derek’s mouth, unable to keep himself from kissing it chastely once or twice.

    “I thought you were only planning on eating,” Stiles murmurs quietly as Derek slides his hands a little further down, fingers outlining where Stiles is beginning to show interest in the proceedings.

    “I thought you hadn’t showered in two days,” Derek counters, which makes Stiles wince.

    “Yeah,” he drawls, the word steeped in regret. “I’m probably a little ripe.”

    He really wishes he hadn’t been so lazy now, but it’s too late to change anything.

    Derek briefly tucks his nose against Stiles’ shoulder and breathes in loudly.

    “You smell okay to me,” he replies and Stiles shouldn’t get his hopes up, but he can’t help it.

    “Really?” he asks, turning a circle in Derek’s arms, finally facing him.

    Derek’s hands slide down to his ass, squeezing firmly as Stiles curls one arm around his waist.

    “I’ve got no complaints,” Derek tells him and Stiles watches him silently, a slow grin spreading across his face.

    “Really?” he repeats as he leans in, brushing his lips against the corner of Derek’s mouth.

    He feels Derek smile and goes to pull away to see, but a hand cups the back of his head and holds him steady for an actual kiss instead. It’s warm and gentle, and Stiles realizes then that he can’t let Derek slip through his fingers.

    “So, if I wanted to show you my bedroom again?” he asks, pulling back just enough to meet Derek’s eyes.

    “I’d tell you to lead the way,” Derek murmurs, voice low and ladened with promise.

    Stiles doesn’t even stop to think about it, just grabs Derek’s hand and tugs him down the hallway, the dishes in the sink all but forgotten about. Even with no one else home, it’s habit for Stiles to shut and lock the door behind them, turning and leveling Derek with a predatory look.

    “Here’s my room,” he says in a rush. “That’s my bed. Grand tour’s over.”

    It only takes one large stride to be close enough to Derek to slide a hand behind his head and draw him in for a rushed kiss with absolutely zero precision. Derek doesn’t seem to mind at all because his hands slip under Stiles’ shirt, pushing it up until it bunches beneath Stiles’ armpits and refuses to go any further. Stiles grunts straight into Derek’s mouth and then lifts his arms, making a brief strangled noise when it tangles around his face for a moment.

    The shirt disappears over Stiles’ shoulder, followed closely by Derek’s own when he strips it off before Stiles can even twist his fingers into the material.

    “Christ,” Stiles whispers reverently, eyes glued to Derek’s abs. “Where have you been hiding those?”

    Stiles has always thought Derek’s arms were nice – more than, even – but he had no idea Derek had such a well kept secret. He’d really like to get his mouth all over that general area, if he’s honest, and he’s more than a little excited about what he might find beneath Derek’s pants.

    “Please tell me Christmas has come early,” he murmurs, hands reaching for Derek’s jeans before they’re abruptly batted away by Derek’s own.

    “Only if you cut the crap,” Derek says with a frown and Stiles automatically agrees with a nod of his head, not wanting to miss out on a thing.

    “I can do that. I can totally do that. Doing that right now,” he says, even as Derek leans in to kiss him, muffling his words until he gives up trying to speak.

    He moves his hands to Derek’s waist, clutching at him, his thumbs rubbing against nothing but firm muscle, much to Stiles’ happiness. Derek must spend every free minute he has at the gym because there’s no way he’s that toned naturally. He runs one palm down over Derek’s navel, sliding it lower along the line of hair that disappears into Derek’s jeans. Stiles decides then and there that said jeans should be elsewhere, not on Derek’s body.

    Derek doesn’t try to stop him this time when his fingers curl around the topmost button, popping it open with a flick of his wrist. The two others below it need a little more help, but it’s easy to drop his other hand down to carefully unbutton them. Derek’s pants are tight enough that Stiles can’t just let them slide to his ankles, he has to practically peel them down Derek’s thighs before crouching and pushing them down Derek’s calves and off, once Derek kicks his shoes away.

    While he’s there, he can’t help but lean in and press a soft kiss to Derek’s cock, which is still trapped in the confines of his boxer briefs. Derek lets out a rough noise and curls his fingers around Stiles’ upper arm to pull him back up to his feet, while Stiles grins at him and leans in for another series of kisses.

    “Just so you know, I’m refraining from making another Christmas joke right now,” he tells Derek, not even bothering to pull away.

    Derek gets a hand on his ass and squeezes firmly.

    “I’ll make it worth your while if you continue to keep it to yourself.”

    Stiles smiles against Derek’s mouth.

    “Worth my while?” he asks, trying to sound innocent, but knowing he’s failing.

    He startles when Derek’s other hand rubs straight against the front of his pants, but Derek just smirks back at him.

    “Yeah,” Derek says, thumb tucking against the button of Stiles’ khakis and slowly popping it open.

    Apparently, Derek doesn’t believe in zippers, because he just slides his hand down inside the waistband of Stiles’ pants, the zip making a grating noise of protest as it’s forced open by the angle of Derek’s wrist. To be honest, Derek could cut all of his clothes right off him and he wouldn’t complain in the slightest, because it would mean being a little bit more undressed with Derek in the room.

    Derek cups him gently, not enough pressure to ease the ache that’s been building up, but Stiles rectifies it by bucking forwards, loving the warmth of Derek’s hand through the thin cotton of his briefs.

    “My lips are sealed,” Stiles groans out, throwing his arms over Derek’s shoulders to keep himself upright because he doesn’t quite trust his knees. There’s no joke in the world worth telling to lose the amazing feeling of Derek gently squeezing his cock.

    Stiles knows he’s making a mess of his underwear because he tends to drip a lot of precome when he’s as excited as he is right then. Derek doesn’t seem to mind, because he rubs his palm down lower, fingers curling under Stiles’ balls and lifting gently.

    Stiles digs his fingertips into Derek’s skin and lets out a shaky breath.

    “I have to warn you that it’s been a while.”

    Much to Stiles’ disappointment, Derek stops what he’s doing and even pulls his hand free, moving it to the curve of Stiles’ side instead.

    “We’ve both got some making up to do then,” Derek tells him, urging him closer to the bed. “Sit.”

    Stiles does as he’s told and Derek immediately leans over and nudges him onto his back, fingers curling into his pants and underwear at the same time, pulling them down his legs and off.

    Stiles has had a fair few years to come to terms with his own body, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to be sprawled out, entirely nude, in front of Derek. Derek doesn’t seem to have any issues with staring at him, eyes slowly roving around until Stiles curls a hand around Derek’s wrist and tugs. Derek’s gaze moves back up to Stiles’ face and he presses a quick kiss to Stiles’ mouth before shoving his own underwear down and kicking them to the side.

    Christmas has definitely come early for Stiles.

    Derek isn’t overly large, but he’s curved in a way that makes Stiles pray that Derek knows what he’s doing with it, because if so, there could be a string of amazing orgasms in his near future. He kind of really wants it in his mouth too, but instead of moving closer, Derek takes a step back.

    “Where do you keep – ?” he asks and Stiles is a little thankful for the distraction so he can take a moment to calm down again.

    He flips himself over onto his stomach and crawls up the bed to where his nightstand sits. In the top drawer, there’s a half-empty bottle of lube and a box of disappointingly unopened condoms. Derek moves closer at the sight of it all and he takes the lube from Stiles’ hand before kneeling on the bed and shuffling closer.

    Stiles settles himself comfortably, legs splayed around Derek’s body, and hand sliding down his chest to tug at his own cock for a few seconds. He watches as Derek slicks his fingers up and tilts his hips in invitation, except Derek doesn’t reach for him, but instead slides his hand between his own legs, and although Stiles can’t see everything clearly, he knows Derek’s stretching himself out.

    Stiles has to squeeze the base of his cock, just to keep himself steady. He knows he can’t let the moment pass him, so he grabs the lube from where Derek left it on the mattress and wets his own fingers.

    “Come here,” he murmurs, curling his dry hand behind Derek’s knee and tugging gently.

    Derek doesn’t put up a fight, but his fingers make a crude sound as they slip free and he slowly straddles Stiles’ waist, grabbing Stiles’ wrist and urging it behind him. Stiles doesn’t even try to tease him, just slides his middle finger straight into him and pumps it slowly.

    Derek rests one hand on the bed and the other in the center of Stiles’ chest as he hangs his head and lets Stiles slowly finger him. Stiles takes his time, watching Derek’s body for every reaction, from the way he sucks in an uneven breath when Stiles slides in another finger, to the way his cock jumps when he crooks them gently. He can’t get enough and by the time he’s three fingers in and deems Derek ready, Derek’s dripping precome over himself and rocking down against Stiles’ hand.

    Derek moans when Stiles pulls his fingers free, but Stiles wastes no time ripping open the box of condoms to grab one and carefully tear the foil open. Derek has to lift up for him to reach down and slide it onto himself, but he uses the rest of the lube on his hand to slick himself up before Derek grabs his wrist and pins it over his head, against the pillows.

    Stiles really doesn’t mind, because Derek angles his hips and the tip of Stiles’ cock nudges against his ass. With a helping hand, Derek lines Stiles up before sinking down, as a heavy, unrelenting weight above him, slowing only when it gets to the last few inches.

    Stiles’ breath catches in his throat and the free hand that Derek isn’t holding down moves to clutch at Derek’s waist, fingertips digging in just for some semblance of purchase.

    Derek,” he groans, pushing his head back into the pillows and staring wide eyed as Derek finally settles on his hips, looking – for a lack of a better word – smug. There’s a long moment of nothing but them both breathing quietly and it gives Stiles just enough time to find his voice. “I wasn’t lying when I said it had been a long time. There’s no way I’m going to last.”

    Derek fidgets, which only makes it worse for Stiles, before leaning down to kiss him. The angle makes Stiles slide out a little, but as soon as Derek sits back up, it slips right back in and Stiles hisses quietly.

    “Didn’t say you had to,” Derek tells him before rocking down slowly and circling his hips at the same time.

    Stiles knows two can play that game, but it takes him a while before he can bring himself to take his hand off Derek’s side. He moves it instead to Derek’s cock and starts jerking him off with long, lazy strokes that make Derek arch into his touch. He keeps it up the best he can, even when Derek starts rising and falling in a way that means he’s had enough time to adjust and now wants whatever Stiles can give.

    Stiles doesn’t even know exactly what that might be yet, because he’s still sure he’s going to come in five minutes or less. He speeds his strokes up, just in case Derek’s the same, because he’d rather they be embarrassed together than just him alone.

    He hums lightly in the back of his throat as Derek picks up momentum and he can’t believe someone who looks like Derek would ever want to ride him into his mattress as he is right at that moment. He isn’t going to complain, though, because they’ve both waited long enough.

    Stiles doesn’t even think before he moves his legs into a better angle, bending his knees just the slightest bit, jarring Derek’s balance enough that it ruins his rhythm and drops him heavily into Stiles’ lap with a loud moan. It wasn’t Stiles’ intentions, but he’ll definitely take the credit.

    “Yeah, c’mon,” Stiles murmurs, trying his best to lift his hips and urge Derek on.

    Derek apparently sees it as a challenge, because he adjusts his hands and starts to move again, this time with more vigor and a look in his eyes that promises Stiles one hell of an orgasm. Stiles strengthens his grip around Derek’s cock and exhales shakily up at the ceiling.

    Derek’s so tight around him and every time he slams down, Stiles is pretty sure his life flashes before his eyes. It’s some of the best sex Stiles has ever had and he really hopes he’ll have more of it in the very near future. Maybe in the morning if he’s lucky.

    Derek seems just as into it, circling his hips and giving Stiles the ride of his life, literally. His cock is leaking messily all over Stiles’ hand, which Stiles doesn’t mind one bit because it’s hot as hell and means that maybe Stiles isn’t the only one trying to hold back already.

    “Jesus, that feels good,” Stiles moans, rubbing his thumb along the ridged head of Derek’s cock, the fingers on his other hand clenching uselessly. “I can’t – I want to see you come.”

    He’s balancing on the precipice, his entire body beginning to tense as the inevitable draws nearer, which is when Derek stops with Stiles buried deep inside him and leans over him. Stiles wants to roll them over so he can finally get himself off, he wants to complain and curse Derek out, but he finds he can’t do either when Derek drops onto one elbow above him and kisses him softly. It takes the fight right out of him.

    “Okay,” Derek says quietly, which confuses Stiles for a moment because it’s not a question asking if he’s all right, just a statement.

    “Okay?” he asks and Derek nods before gripping the hand Stiles has around his cock with his own and slowing the pace.

    It isn’t until Derek shuts his eyes and starts clenching around him, letting out a loud grunt of pleasure, that Stiles understands. Derek’s letting Stiles see him come.

    He figures it out just in time to watch the first line of come appear on his own chest. It’s wet and warm, and possibly the best feeling in the world. Stiles takes advantage of Derek’s distraction in order to free his other hand, which he uses to rub soothingly up and down Derek’s side, carefully encouraging him through his orgasm.

    Derek shudders above him and eventually starts to sag downwards, mouth latching onto Stiles’ collarbone and leaving a throbbing mark behind.

    “You good?” Stiles asks softly and Derek nods before pull back enough to meet Stiles’ gaze.

    “Yeah,” he murmurs, “but it’s your turn now.”

    Stiles digs his fingers into Derek’s skin and holds on for dear life as Derek moves his hips again, jolting Stiles back to edge without a word. He doesn’t even really lift up, just rolls his hips barely enough that he rocks down onto Stiles’ cock, and there’s nothing Stiles can do to hold back.

    He curls his arm around Derek’s waist and lets out a long breath as he finally comes, his toes curling as the feeling rushes through him. He doesn’t even know how long it goes on for, just that it sucks the energy right out of him and he sags against his bed, limbs askew as Derek stares down at him.

    It’s quiet for a long beat, but then Derek shifts and slowly lifts off of him before collapsing into the space beside him.

    “Holy crap,” Stiles mutters, blinking at the ceiling as he tries to regain both his breath and his wits.

    He glances over at Derek, who looks just as spent, and grins slowly.

    “That was awesome, right?”

    Stiles really doesn’t want to move but he’d much rather be clean and under the sheets with Derek than on top of them and covered in come. He lets out a huffed breath and then rolls out of bed, shuffling awkwardly across the room to unlock and open the door.

    “Don’t move a muscle,” he tells Derek, who doesn’t even acknowledge him, just continues panting softly.

    Stiles can’t help but smile to himself because he was totally the one that did that to him.

    In the bathroom, he throws the condom in the trash and cleans his stomach off the best he can, before taking a wet washcloth back into the bedroom for Derek to use. There’s a long beat when Derek doesn’t move and Stiles starts to wonder if he’ll have to clean him off himself – and he’s definitely not opposed – but then Derek sits up and takes the cloth, washing away most of the lube between his legs and the mess on his softened cock.

    Stiles is sure he shouldn’t find it hot, but he definitely does and Derek raises an eyebrow at him as he passes the washcloth back for Stiles to throw into the laundry basket in the corner of his room. It’s not as late as when Stiles usually goes to bed, but he hits the lights and stumbles his way back to the bed anyway.

    Together, they fold down the sheets and crawl under, while Stiles lets out vague noises of exhaustion, wanting nothing more than to sprawl out and sleep for the next week or so. As with every bedroom encounter Stiles has had, there’s a few awkward minutes where they try to find a comfortable way to fit together, but it ends with Stiles on his back and Derek face down against the mattress, one arm slung over Stiles’ waist.

    It’s just enough touch to settle Stiles into a boneless heap and he finds his hand gravitating towards Derek’s forearm, rubbing it softly.

    “Well worth the wait,” Stiles says after a long minute when he thinks Derek’s almost asleep.

    Derek grunts and tightens his grip, forehead tucking against Stiles’ shoulder.

    “Suppose so,” Derek mutters, but Stiles grins anyway and finally shuts his eyes.

    *

    Stiles wakes up disorientated with his face buried against a broad chest. He’ll be honest that it’s probably one of the best ways he’s woken up in years. He snuffles and adjusts his position enough that he can tilt his head back to find Derek sleeping soundly, mouth open slightly as he breathes quietly.

    Stiles’ heart thuds double-time for a long moment as he takes in the sight before a small smile spreads across his face. He can’t help but punch the air in celebration, but Derek makes a tired noise and shuffles in his sleep, forcing Stiles to pause to make sure he has woken him accidentally.

    Carefully, he untangles himself and slowly slips out from under the sheets, making sure to cover Derek back over before he pads across the room in search of clean underwear and a pair of pajama pants. He spares one last look behind before opening the bedroom door and heading into the hallway.

    Scott’s already in the kitchen when Stiles stumbles through, still half asleep and scratching at his bare stomach. Scott doesn’t look surprised and there’s another mug – Stiles favorite one with tiny wolves looped around the rim – set out on the counter, and he knows it’s for him.

    “Thanks,” he says, cupping his hands around it and breathing in the aroma while he tries to wake up a little more.

    It’s quiet between them, but Stiles can feel Scott’s gaze on him.

    “Derek spent the night?” he asks, and Stiles practically buries his face in his cup as he nods.

    “Yeah. He’s, um – We’re, uh – ”

    “A thing?” Scott continues for him and Stiles nods again without looking up.

    “Sort of. I mean, I like him,” he admits before taking a sip of his drink and immediately burning his tongue.

    “Did something happen during Thanksgiving?”

    “Not really, well, yeah, but things had started before then, but we said we wouldn’t do anything until the end of the school year, because, you know,” he trails off and shrugs, aiming for nonchalance, even though his heart thunders in his chest.

    Scott takes a mouthful of coffee and doesn’t say anything for a long moment.

    “You like each other?”

    “As far as I can tell,” Stiles replies quietly, staring into his mug.

    When he finally glances up after a beat of silence, Scott has a small grin on his face.

    “That’s cool, man,” Scott says, his expression softening and stopping Stiles from panicking outright. “He seemed all right.”

    Stiles can’t help but snort.

    “I’m glad he passes the Scott Test,” he says, scratching at his nose. “Do you think it would be weird to see if he wants to come to Christmas dinner? He said he was going to spend time with Isaac, but, I mean, I can give him the option, right?”

    Scott laughs outright and Stiles frowns at him.

    “What?” he asks and Scott sets his mug down and leans back against the counter.

    “This is almost as bad as that time in seventh grade with Kara Simmons.”

    “That’s a lie,” Stiles complains in a loud whisper, because no one needs to overhear those kinds of secrets. “This is nothing like that.”

    Scott laughs again.

    “It is a little bit, you have to admit.”

    Stiles huffs a frustrated breath.

    “Is it too soon, or not?” he asks with muted irritation, but never gets an answer because there’s a quiet cough behind him and he turns to find Derek lingering in the doorway, wearing nothing but a pair of Stiles’ own sweats. “Hey,” he says, feeling off guard. “There’s coffee if you want it.”

    Stiles can’t take his eyes off Derek’s chest and he kind of wants to give himself a high five for hitting that. He blinks and looks away when Derek steps closer, but Scott meets his gaze and even he seems a little impressed. A smug smiles starts to break out across his face, but that’s when Derek steals the mug straight out of his hand and takes a long sip.

    Stiles stares, lips parted in surprise, but Derek doesn’t seem concerned at all.

    “Did you want breakfast?” Stiles eventually asks as Derek presses the almost empty cup back into his hand.

    “I promised Isaac I’d drive him to an appointment at noon,” he explains, which means he doesn’t have long and probably can’t stay for food. “Can I use your shower before I go?”

    Stiles sets his mug down a little harder than he should in his enthusiasm to help.

    “Sure,” he says, gesturing to the hallway. “You know where the bathroom is, right? Did you, uh, need anything?”

    Derek clears his throat and glances over at Scott as though embarrassed; Stiles gets the hint and awkwardly leads the way out of the kitchen.

    “I think we’ve got a spare toothbrush somewhere around here,” Stiles says, digging through one of the drawers in the bathroom, feeling Derek sidle up behind him.

    Two hands curl around his hips just as he finds the paper box he’s searching for and he startles and turns in Derek’s arms.

    “I thought you were on a tight schedule,” Stiles points out as he’s backed against the sink, Derek leaning into his space, seemingly without a care.

    The kiss he gives Stiles is soft and tastes of coffee and morning breath, but Stiles couldn’t care less because it’s the best start to a day he’s had in a long time. When Derek eventually pulls away, Stiles rubs his hand down his side and keeps him close. There’s a long pause of silence, but it’s not the least bit uncomfortable.

    “Come to dinner with me,” Stiles says quietly and Derek brushes their mouths together again before answering.

    “Tonight?”

    “No, I mean for Christmas. You should come to Beacon Hills. My dad and I kind of have a tradition with Scott and his mom, but you’re welcome to join. I know you’ve had an invite from Isaac already and there’s no obligation to say yes, because, I mean, we’re not actually a thing yet, but I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. And you won’t have to worry about any weird parental interrogations, if you don’t want. I can just say you’re a friend. It’s pretty sudden, but I just – ”

    Stiles has to physically bite his lips to keep quiet, because the word vomit just refuses to stop, but Derek’s brow softens as though he’s mostly just amused.

    “Okay,” Derek says quietly and Stiles blinks at him in shock.

    “Okay?”

    “I’d like that.”

    Stiles pauses because surely there has to be some kind of catch. There always is.

    “It’s not too soon? I mean, we can take things slow if you want,” Stiles tells him, panicking slightly.

    Derek snorts quietly and shakes his head.

    “I think we’ve taken things slow enough, don’t you?”

    Stiles swallows and slowly nods his head in agreement.

    “I guess,” he says quietly, to which Derek responds with another slow kiss, calming Stiles back down completely.

    “Great,” Derek says, eventually stepping away and stealing the toothbrush from Stiles’ grip. “I really do need to shower though.”

    “Right, yeah, sure,” Stiles stammers, making his way out with wobbly legs. “My towels are the gray ones on the left. Help yourself to whatever.”

    He pulls the door shut behind him and leans heavily against it to catch his breath, feeling as though he’s just survived a category five hurricane. When he glances down the hallway to his left, Scott’s head is poking around the kitchen doorway, but he shoots Stiles a thumbs up and grins.

    Stiles shakily returns it before stumbling his way to his room and pretending that Derek isn’t naked and wet just a few thin walls away.

    *

    Derek ends up leaving him with a kiss that tingles all the way down to his toes and a promise to call later. It takes an entire pack of Cheetos and four episodes of MasterChef to calm him down enough to make the call to his dad to let him know there will be another joining them for dinner. His dad doesn’t even try to wheedle information out of him about Derek, but he’s quiet for a long second before quietly telling Stiles that he’s glad he’s found somebody.

    Stiles doesn’t try to deny anything and sits with a stupid grin on his face long after he’s hung up, until Scott comes in and gives him a look.

    “Was that Derek?” he asks, collapsing into the open seat beside Stiles.

    “Nah, that was my dad. Just letting him know we’ve got another person joining us for Christmas.”

    He can’t help but grin and the corners of Scott’s eyes crinkle as he smiles.

    “Derek agreed to it?”

    Stiles nods and sinks further into the couch, kicking his feet up into Scott’s lap. Scott flicks at his toes, but doesn’t try to push his legs away.

    “Just don’t expect me to spend every night at Isaac’s place,” Scott tells him, clearly trying to hide his amusement.

    Stiles shoots him a smirk.

    “Derek’s pretty quiet. You won’t hear a thing.”

    He laughs as Scott pulls a grossed out face, knowing it will never get old.

    “Really didn’t need to know that,” Scott complains, but Stiles just grins silently, moves his legs to tuck his feet under Scott’s thighs to warm them up, and goes back to watching the TV.

    *

    It’s a Wednesday when Stiles heads back to Beacon Hills in the passenger seat of Derek’s car. They’d spent forty minutes the night before debating who would be the one to drive, though Derek had eventually won through a nail-biting rock-paper-scissors tournament, though, to be fair, Derek had fucked Stiles within an inch of his life only a few minutes beforehand. That’s his excuse and he’s sticking to it.

    It works out well for Stiles anyway because he can flick through the radio stations to his heart’s content, while eating his way through a tub of gingerbread cookies.

    “Did you make these?” Stiles asks, mouth full, spraying crumbs over the dashboard. “They’re pretty good.”

    Derek shoots him a look.

    “You only told me last night to bring a dish. I bought those from the store this morning before I came to pick you up.”

    Stiles shrugs at the cookies and continues eating them.

    “We gave up on gift exchanges because we realized we all prefer food instead,” Stiles tells him.

    “It doesn’t work if they’re all gone by the time we get there,” Derek points out, which is fair enough.

    Stiles takes one more and then throws the container into the backseat to keep himself from stealing anymore.

    “Dad loves gingerbread. You’ll be his new best friend. Is that a tactic of yours?”

    Derek takes his eyes off the road long enough to shoot Stiles a fake grin.

    “I have to win him over somehow.”

    Stiles snorts.

    “Well, you don’t have many predecessors to contend with. He’ll be easy on you.”

    “Are you worried?” Derek asks after a second and Stiles shoves the last cookie into his mouth and crunches loudly.

    “Not really,” he says. “If I like you, I’m pretty sure my dad will like you too.”

    Derek taps his fingers against the steering wheel gently.

    “You like me?”

    Stiles scrunches up his nose and pretends to think about it.

    “Maybe a little bit,” he jokes, glancing over to gauge Derek’s reaction. The corner of Derek’s mouth curls up, but that’s about it, though it’s enough to let Stiles know that he’s amused.

    It’s quiet apart from the radio playing in the background and Stiles chews the inside of his lip in thought.

    “I’m not really sure how this works,” Stiles admits. “It was much easier in third grade when you could just write ‘do you like me; yes or no’ on a piece of paper.”

    “Did you need some paper? I think there’s some in the dash.”

    Stiles laughs sarcastically and tunes the radio to Christmas music, just to spite him.

    “I was just trying to say that, if you want, I’m kind of into this, regardless of what happens tonight.”

    He shrugs and leaves it at that, hoping he hasn’t put his foot in his mouth as he tends to. They get through an entire commercial break in silence, Derek calmly overtaking a minivan that’s decided to hog the fast lane, before he clears his throat softly and glances over at Stiles.

    “It’ll be fine, Stiles,” Derek tells him, nonchalantly changing the radio back to something quiet. “We’ve suffered worse already, you know.”

    Stiles cards his fingers through his hair, not caring that it probably spikes it every which way, and shoots Derek a small smile.

    “You think so?” he asks and Derek nods without taking his eyes off the road.

    It makes him feel minutely better that Derek has at least some faith in their abilities to not screw everything up. He sinks back in his seat and stares out the window in comfortable silence.

    For the briefest moment, Derek’s hand squeezes his own where it rests on the center console between them and Stiles turns his face to grin at him.

    “We’ve totally got this,” Stiles announces, if only to give himself the confidence, because maybe their relationship isn’t as complicated as he originally thought.

    *

    Stiles starts fidgeting when Derek takes the exit towards Beacon Hills, the roads becoming windy as they get nearer. Derek eventually pins Stiles’ fingers down where they’ve been tapping out an uneven rhythm on the seat, and it may look like hand holding, but it’s clearly just pent up frustration. It doesn’t stop Stiles from enjoying the warmth from Derek’s palm, however.

    “Turn here,” he directs, pointing to the right, and Derek smoothly takes the last corner, heading down the street towards Stiles’ childhood home.

    Nothing much seems to have changed, but his dad has apparently tried to make an effort with the garden because the lawn has been neatly trimmed and there’s a new rose bush in the flowerbed by the front porch.

    “Home, sweet home,” Stiles murmurs as Derek pulls up in front of the garage, flicking the car into park, and switching off the ignition.

    They sit in the quiet for a long moment, Stiles staring down the street where Mr. Collins from two doors down is out walking his Golden Retriever, Derek gently tapping his fingers against the steering wheel.

    “Stiles,” Derek eventually says, turning Stiles’ attention back to him.

    Stiles doesn’t really know what to expect, but Derek reeling him in with one hand while he leans over the center consoles isn’t it. Their mouths meet softly and it still makes Stiles’ stomach flip with excitement, which he’s sure will never wear off. It’s surprisingly chaste, but enough to pull Stiles back to Earth and put a buzz in his veins.

    “Okay?” Derek asks as he finally pulls away and Stiles can’t help but smile at him.

    “Yeah,” he replies, unable to keep himself from stealing another quick kiss. “Let’s do this.”

    *

    “Hey, Dad,” Stiles calls out, as he lets them into the house, which already smells like ham roasting in the oven. “Merry Christmas! We’re here!”

    His dad appears in the livingroom doorway a few seconds later with a pair of oven mitts slung over one shoulder. Stiles is immediately enveloped in a hug, though thankfully Derek is spared and just gets a handshake instead.

    “Dad, this is Derek; Derek this is my dad,” Stiles announces, pointing between them, which seems to get the job done as far as introductions are concerned.

    “It’s nice to meet you, Sheriff,” Derek says politely, at which Stiles’ dad laughs.

    “Haven’t been sheriff in a long while, Derek, but it’s nice to meet you too.” His dad pauses, a frown pulling at his brow as he stares at Derek a little harder. “Derek? Derek Hale?”

    Stiles doesn’t know if he should be concerned that his dad apparently already knows who Derek is, though Derek did admit at Thanksgiving that he knew the sheriff. His dad’s expression softens and he reaches out to squeeze Derek’s shoulder.

    “It’s good to see you again under better circumstances,” he says quietly, while Derek seems to pull in on himself a little. “I’m glad things are working out for you.”

    Derek nods and glances away, which seems to signal the end of the conversation, because his dad gives him one last sad smile and then rubs his hands together.

    “Okay, who’s up for peeling potatoes?”

    In a blink, he’s gone again, disappearing into the kitchen and leaving a slightly stunned Stiles behind, along with a tense Derek. Stiles stares in his wake and mentally shakes himself off.

    “You okay?” he asks, curling gentle fingers around Derek’s upper arm and Derek finally looks away from the meager plastic Christmas tree in the corner of the room to glance over at him.

    “Fine,” he answers tersely, which gives him away completely.

    “That’s a lie,” Stiles says, trying to keep his tone light. “I can tell by the way your brow is trying to eat the rest of your face.”

    Derek lets out a huff that could very well be amusement, but is probably just frustration.

    “I need to talk to you later,” Derek murmurs, which puts Stiles on edge, but he smiles softly instead of focusing on the implications, and briefly tightens his grip.

    “Okay,” he says quietly. “Let’s worry about those potatoes first.”

    Derek touches his elbow lightly and Stiles grabs his hand to pull him further into the house.

    *

    Dinner goes surprisingly well.

    Scott and his mom bring their traditional pecan pie, along with a jug of eggnog, which is strong enough that Stiles starts to feel it after his first glass. Unfortunately, it loosens his dad’s lips enough that he ends up telling Derek embarrassing stories about Stiles’ childhood, like the time Stiles was ten and was convinced werewolves existed to the point where he went out searching the woods for evidence and ended up getting lost and was eventually tracked by search dogs twelve hours later.

    Derek doesn’t seem to mind, probably because he’s had enough eggnog himself. He has an endearing flush across his cheeks that apparently refuses to shift and the tips of his ears slowly turn redder as the night goes on.

    Stiles’ dad does eventually interrogate them, but Stiles can tell he’s attempting to be subtle, so he lets it go, though it’s actually Derek who eventually gives in and admits that they might, sort of, perhaps be dating. His dad smiles warmly at them both and then mercilessly forces them to do the dishes since he, apparently, did most of the cooking.

    Stiles doesn’t care really, just loads the plates into the dishwasher and fills the sink to start washing the pans. He gets a heavy sense of déjà vu when Derek crowds up behind him, but it’s easy this time to lean into his body and tilt his face.

    The kiss is wetter than Stiles expects, one of Derek’s hands on his hip and the other along the line of his jaw, and it’s barely a hint of what Stiles really wants, but it’s enough to tide him over. He curls his fingers around Derek’s left wrist and kisses back, while the devil on his shoulder screams at him to drag Derek upstairs to his room. He almost gives in when Derek licks into his mouth, but it’s also the same moment when Scott enters the kitchen with a handful of dirty glasses.

    “Whoa,” Scott says quietly. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt.”

    He sets the tumblers on the counter and then quickly vanishes from sight as Stiles untangles himself from Derek’s grip.

    “Oops,” he murmurs, grinning against Derek’s lips. “Don’t think he was expecting that.”

    Derek kisses him just once more and then takes a step back, grabbing a tea towel and gesturing for Stiles to wash up. Stiles lets out a soft, huffed laugh from his nose and turns back to the sink before anyone else can walk in on them.

    He’s halfway through the saucepans before he remembers that Derek wanted to talk to him, and it seems as good a time as any.

    “What was it you needed to tell me?” he asks, handing Derek another clean pan lid.

    Beside him, Derek tenses and stops drying.

    “I don’t think – ” Derek starts, glancing towards the open doorway, through which Ms. McCall’s soft laughs float. “Can we go upstairs?”

    “I’ll do one better,” Stiles says, wiping his wet hands on his sweatshirt and grabbing Derek’s elbow to pull him towards the back door. “No one will know we’re out here.”

    The night air is colder than Stiles thought it would be and he wraps his arms around himself and turns towards Derek, breath billowing up between them.

    “Jesus, it’s cold,” he complains, but doesn’t suggest they go back inside because he needs to know what’s eating Derek up.

    It’s a long minute before Derek speaks and in the dim porch light, Stiles watches him stare off into the distance.

    “You know I don’t have any family,” he begins, which isn’t news to Stiles, but still makes his heart clench. “Your dad was the sheriff at the time and he was the one who helped me after I lost them.”

    It’s clearly hard for Derek to talk about, but Stiles doesn’t know if he’s allowed to rest a comforting palm on Derek’s arm, so instead he just listens quietly.

    “There was a fire – bad wiring they said, but it doesn’t really matter now. I stayed with your dad for a long time at the station. I didn’t even know where to begin; I was only sixteen at the time, but he helped me out. I owe him a lot.”

    Derek doesn’t say anything else for a long while and Stiles swallows thickly.

    “I had no idea. He never mentioned anything.”

    The corner of Derek’s mouth twitches sadly.

    “I told him not to breathe a word of it to anyone. I didn’t want my friends to find out. I didn’t know what would happen, but I had an aunt on the East Coast who took me in for a little while, until I got a job and started supporting myself when I was old enough. I moved back to California a few years back and decided to get my GED and work on something more.”

    Stiles nods silently, because he supposes that’s where their story starts.

    “The rest is history,” Stiles murmurs quietly and Derek nods his head slowly.

    “Yeah, so they keep saying.”

    Stiles rubs his hands over his arms to help warm them up, while they stand in peaceful silence.

    “Thank you for telling me,” he says softly, taking half a step closer to Derek, who still hasn’t looked at him. “I really hope you don’t have any doubts, but just in case you do, I just want to say that this doesn’t change anything about, you know, how I feel about you.”

    Stiles knows it’s awkward, but he’s never been very good at discussing feelings. He tends to just shut his eyes and wish for the best.

    “I lost my mom when I was younger and I know it doesn’t compare, that’s not what I’m trying to do, I just want to let you know that if you ever need to talk about it, not that I’m forcing you to, but if you ever feel like it, I can listen.”

    He shrugs loosely, because that’s really all he has to say about the matter and, finally, Derek glances across at him. His expression is unreadable, but he doesn’t look upset, which Stiles supposes is the main thing. He waits patiently for Derek to say something, beginning to shiver because his sweatshirt really isn’t the thickest material.

    After a moment, Derek breaks the silence by letting out a heavy breath and reaching for the door behind them.

    “C’mon, back inside; it’s freezing out here.”

    Stiles doesn’t know what that means, but Derek presses a hand to the small of his back and ushers him back into the kitchen, where it’s considerably warmer. He wants to stop and apologize in case he’s accidentally overstepped, but right as he opens his mouth to say something, Derek nudges him back against the inside of the door and leans in for a cold kiss.

    His lips are dry from the cool night, and the tip of his nose is like ice against Stiles’ skin, but Stiles doesn’t mind at all, just curls his arms around Derek’s waist and pulls him closer. Derek turns his face after a moment, nosing at Stiles’ hairline, his breathing soft and even, and completely calming.

    “Thank you,” Derek murmurs against his scalp and Stiles holds him tighter for a little while longer.

    “That’s not how the dishes get done, boys,” a voice comes from over Derek’s shoulder and Stiles startles and turns his face to see his dad standing in the doorway with a hand on his hip.

    Derek snorts quietly into Stiles’ ear and Stiles kisses his jaw before pulling away and holding up placating palms towards his dad.

    “Okay, okay, we’re getting there. What are you doing back in here, anyway? You’re not getting leftovers until A Christmas Story ends at eight, so go and park it,” Stiles orders, gesturing through the open door towards the couch.

    His dad folds his arms and breaks out his old sheriff stare.

    “I came in here to tell you that the spare room has been made up for Derek, so he doesn’t have to find a place at the cockroach motel in town.”

    Stiles would happily make his dad a ham sandwich if he asked at that moment.

    “Really?”

    His dad points a finger at him.

    “You might be closer to thirty than twenty now, but I want to remain ignorant about intimate details of your life, so you’re staying in your own room,” he says, before adding, “No arguments.”

    Stiles can totally deal with that.

    “Thanks, Dad,” he replies, before turning to grin at Derek.

    “Want to finish those dishes?” he asks and as Derek nods, Stiles’ dad slips back out silently.

    *

    After Stiles falls asleep on Derek’s shoulder for the third time, he finally admits to himself that it’s probably time for bed. Scott and his mom left just after nine and Stiles’ dad went upstairs not long after, though his snores drift through the ceiling every time there’s a quiet part of the movie they’re not really watching.

    “Okay, time to sleep,” Stiles announces around a yawn, using Derek’s legs to help get him upright as he grabs the remote and switches the TV off.

    Derek’s cheeks are still tinged with warmth and he looks about as tired as Stiles feels. Stiles gives him a hand to help pull him up, and Stiles quietly locks the house up before leading Derek upstairs.

    “You’re on the right at the end of the hall. Come and wake me if you need anything.”

    “I enjoyed today,” Derek admits quietly and Stiles grins sleepily.

    “Good. My dad totally likes you, so I guess that means you’re a keeper.”

    Derek’s lips twitch and he leans in, quickly kissing Stiles and leaving him smiling.

    “Oh,” Stiles says, grabbing Derek’s arm and pulling him into his room. “I totally forgot something. One second.”

    Stiles can’t stop himself from laughing as he rummages on his desk, eventually finding a pad of paper and a pen. He rips off a clean sheet and uncaps the marker.

    Do you like me? Circle yes or no, he writes before getting up and handing everything to Derek, who’s still standing in the doorway with a look of uncertainty on his face.

    Derek stares down at it for a second, before a slow smile curls up the edges of his mouth. Eventually, he puts the pen to paper and then gives it back to Stiles. When Stiles brings himself to look at it, he finds the yes has been circled more than once.

    He lets the paper drop to the floor and moves closer to Derek, placing his hands on his waist as he crowds into Derek’s space.

    “That’s lucky,” he says, eyes roving over Derek’s face, “because I happen to like you too. I think you already knew that, though.”

    Derek shrugs at him, clearly pretending to be nonchalant, but Stiles sees through it. He smiles and leans in a little further, just enough for their noses to bump and for Stiles to go a little cross-eyed.

    “Thanks for coming today. You should think about sticking around for next year,” he murmurs, but Derek doesn’t answer, just tilts his face and kisses Stiles softly.

    It’s the only response Stiles needs.

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