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Forced Date

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“I’m just saying. This is a really, really bad idea.”

“Will you stop complaining? This isn’t exactly my idea of a perfect Friday night either.”

“Then why are you even doing it, God.” Stiles crosses his arms and glares out of the passenger window. Derek would feel bad but this is fucking torture. When he’d gone to Scott, worried about the lack of life in Stiles, the lack of normality in the life he did have, this was not what he had in mind.

“Because he’s my alpha,” Derek grits out as they drive past a guy holding a bunch of heart-shaped balloons. Red heart-fucking-shaped balloons. Derek wants to pop them one by one with his claws.

Stiles whips around in his seat. “Scott alpha’d you into taking me out for Valentine? I was wrong. I was so wrong, my rage is misplaced, oh my God, I am going to kill him.”

“You already tried that once, remember.”

The sudden silence in the car makes Derek’s ears ring. Great. Good one Hale. Stiles gapes with him, his mouth hanging open. It shouldn’t be attractive, but.

“Did you just… You did, didn't you? You just made a Nogitsune joke at me. Fucking hell.” He goes back to glaring out of the window, and they say nothing until they’ve parked beside the restaurant. Derek takes one look at the place, candle light flickering through the windows, hearts and kisses stuck to the glass, he can hear cheesy violin music from within the car. He was wrong, this isn’t torture. This is where he actually dies.

“Come on,” he snaps. “Let’s get this over with.”

“We can just pretend we did it,” Stiles says, but he climbs out of the car as he says it. “And just go to a diner and eat curly fries.”

“He’ll know,” Derek says as he holds the door for Stiles, who gives him an incredulous look. Derek squeezes his eyes shut so he doesn’t have to see it. Stiles walks past him.

“Since when do you care what Scott thinks?” Stiles hisses under his breath as they wait to be seated.

“You know when he makes that ‘I’m so disappointed face’?”

Stiles grimaces and makes a pained noise.

“Well, it’s ten times worse when you can feel it.”

“I… yeah. Good point. All right, well we can have an appetizer and leave, right?”

“We’re doing this properly,” Derek growls at him. The hostess who was approaching them with two menus stops in her tracks and Derek smiles at her brightly. “Hi,” he tells her, ignoring Stiles’ snort. “Reservation for Hale, please.”

“Right this way,” she says and turns on her heels.

“I can’t believe this is gonna go down in history as my first fucking date,” Stiles grumbles under his breath and oh fuck. Oh fuck, it can’t be. Can it? But… shit.

He holds Stiles’ chair out when they get to their table and the hostess gives them the sort of smile Derek guesses she aims at puppies and baby pandas before she puts their menus on the table and leaves with a, “Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!”

Stiles stares at the chair Derek is still gripping. He eases up on it before it splinters. “It’s for sitting on,” he snaps, and Jesus, he has to get his snark under control or this is going to be a disaster. A bigger one than it already is.

“Yes, I know that asshole, I was just wondering whether you were gonna sit on it.”

“Will you just park your butt down, people are beginning to stare.”

Unbelievably, Stiles laughs. And it’s been so long since Derek has seen him laugh that it hits him kinda hard. He lets go of the chair before Stiles sits and sinks down in his own.

They spend a blissful five minutes staring at their menus, and then another five after the waiter comes to take their order and neither of them have actually read a single word.

“The, uh… salmon looks good.” Stiles cringes and doesn’t hide behind his menu fast enough. 

Derek suppresses a smile. “Mm,” he says. “I think I might go for the steak.”

 Stiles snorts. “Typical,” he says and lowers his menu. Their eyes catch, they look away.

“The steak,” Derek says when the waiter returns. He glances at Stiles. “Rare.”

Stiles sniggers and ducks behind his menu again. “I’ll have the salmon, with mash, no rice please.”

When the waiter’s gone, they have no menu to hide behind and suddenly the interior of the restaurant becomes really interesting.

“So,” Stiles says after a while. “Who here is on a first date, you think? No cheating,” he adds quickly, just as Derek is about to fine tune his hearing to his surroundings. He smirks and takes them all in. Young couples, old couples, gay ones, straight ones. He inhales deeply and it’s surprisingly nice, actually. Everyone is happy. The air is thick with the excitement of new love, or the rekindling of old love away from the grind of daily life.

 “What?” Derek asks when he catches Stiles staring at him.

“Nothing. You just… looked happy, there. For a second.”

“It’s everyone else,” Derek explains. “It’s contagious.” He bites his lip, looks down at his hands, and back up again. “Is it really so bad? Being here?”

Stiles opens his mouth and takes a deep breath, his face set in that ‘I’m gonna snark you to hell and back’ expression of his. It disappears though, and he looks down. “No,” he says quietly. “It’s nice, actually. To be away from…” He swallows, the Adam’s apple catching Derek’s eye.

Stiles’ pale throat disappears down a stiffly starched collar of a light blue shirt. Derek realizes that despite his protests, Stiles made an effort to dress up. Maybe even bought a new shirt.

Stiles is rubbing at his left wrist, not realizing he’s doing it. Derek can see the scars where the bolts had been screwed into the bone when they had to keep the wrist together so it could heal. It had been such an ugly break it had been touch and go whether they could save Stiles’ hand.

When he reaches out and puts his hand over it, Stiles nearly jumps out of his seat. He relaxes when black lines start to spider up Derek’s arm. “Away from?” Derek prompts gently.

“People looking at me like I might go dark again any second,” he says quietly.

“I know that you won’t,” Derek tells him. “You kicked its ass back to hell.”

The left corner of Stiles’ mouth lifts. “I did, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“I just wish—“ He gently pulls his hand out from under Derek’s. “I wish I could stop dreaming about it.”

Their food arrives and they talk but it’s nothing like the moment that had been broken. Derek’s mind isn’t on the meaningless conversation anyway, nor on the food, good as it is. It’s on the package in his coat, something he wasn’t sure he’d hand over when he wrapped it up.

Stiles is digging into white chocolate mouse when Derek gathers his courage and says, “I got you something.”

Stiles looks up, spoon in his mouth. “Hm?” There’s a white chocolate flake stuck to his lower lip.

“I got you a… Valentine’s gift. It only seemed…” Right.

“Oh.” Stiles puts his spoon down. “I don’t—I didn’t get you anything, man.”

“That’s all right, you didn’t have to. I just—“ Oh fuck it. He pulls the package from his coat and hands it over.

Stiles takes it and stares at it for a while, thumb rubbing over the tape holding the blue paper together, and Derek wonders what he’s thinking.

“Open it.”

“I… okay.” Stiles pushes his plate to the side to make room and puts the package down. Derek had figured he’d rip it apart but instead he carefully eases his thumb under the tape and opens it one corner at a time. When it’s unwrapped Stiles just stares. “Derek,” he croaks eventually. He clasps a hand in front of his mouth and his eyes become shiny. “Oh my God, Derek.”

“It’s a real one,” Derek whispers. “Not one of those fake ones you find in tourist traps. I bought it on my way back from South America. I thought you should have it.”

Stiles slips one finger into the loop at the top and holds the Dreamcatcher up. One single tear leaks down his cheek and Derek’s heart aches.

“I don’t know what to say,” Stiles whispers, voice wobbling. He looks close to breaking down so Derek gestures for the check.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Derek tells him. I know what it’s like to want to escape your dreams.

Stiles cradles the Dreamcatcher to his chest and Derek has to grab the jacket he’s completely forgotten about. When they’re back in the car, they drive to Stiles’ home in silence.

“Thank you,” Stiles says quietly when they’re parked outside his house. “For the date, which was surprisingly not awful. And for this. I can’t… I’ve never—“ He smells like he’s going to start crying and won’t be able to stop for a while, and Derek thinks he really doesn't want witnesses for that.

“You’re welcome,” Derek quickly says. He startles a little when Stiles suddenly presses into his space and brushes his mouth over Derek’s, barely a kiss, really.

“Bye,” he whispers, voice hoarse with unshed tears.

“Stiles,” Derek says before he can shut the door. “Would you… want to do this again? Sometime?”

He hesitates and blinks rapidly. “A second date?” he asks with a small smile.

“I… yeah. A second date.”

The smile widens.

“Yeah. Yeah, all right.”

Derek ducks his head, smiling hard. “Sweet dreams, Stiles,” he tells the steering wheel. The door shuts and Stiles walks up to the house.

“Sweet dreams, Derek,” he hears, before the front door falls shut.