Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry, they are untranslatable. -W.H Auden
Stiles’ eternity in the lowest circle of hell starts now.
His father snores loudly under a faded and pilling blue afghan—the only surviving product of Stiles’ mother’s failed foray into knitting—one side of his stress-lined face mashed into the old plaid recliner in the living room. He’d needed his son’s steady shoulder to make it the brief few feet from the kitchen table, lilting to the left when Stiles deposits him in the chair.
“Said too much,” the Sheriff slurs, cracking open one bleary eye. He points shakily in the general direction of the oak tabletop covered with case files and fast-food wrappers. “Leave the papers alone.” The hand drops, the eye closes, and the mouth falls open, emitting heavy whisky-scented breaths.
Now Stiles sits before the files—one faded manila folder stamped with the word UNSOLVED in maroon ink, another so crisp it gives him a paper cut on his thumb. He flips through the contents of both, mind spinning off in a dozen different directions while each drunken snort and snuffle from the living room chips away at Stiles’ sanity like a jackhammer, carving out step after step on his stairway to purgatory.
Brown eyes flit to the tumbler of melted ice and amber liquid, to the bottle of Jack Daniel’s three-quarters empty, to Peter Hale’s medical chart, to Derek Hale’s light-obscured face in his mugshot. Stiles’ windpipe narrows, his chest tightens, breaths wheezing between his bitten lips. The Sheriff mumbles the name, “Claudia,” in his sleep. Stiles grabs Derek’s arrest record with trembling fingers, smearing a drop of blood along the paper.
Derek answers his phone on the second ring. “What.” No inflection whatsoever.
“Does the ‘S’ in your middle name stand for Sexy?”
Silence. Then, “Stiles.” Still no inflection.
“I doubt it stands for Stiles, dude. There can only be one,” he answers in a kick-ass impersonation of The Kurgan. “But tell me it isn’t, like, Sawyer or Skylar or something equally new-age and white-boy contemporary.”
“How did you get my number?” Finally, some cadence.
“I copied it from Scott’s phone while he was sleeping. Duh. Now, what does the ‘S’ stand for? Samuel? Santiago? Ohhhh, I could see Santiago.” Stiles’ index finger taps out a tempo on the varnished table, his sneaker-clad toes picking up the melody under his chair.
“S? There’s no—wait! Are you looking at my arrest report?”
“No. Absolutely not.” He notes with some satisfaction the paper no longer quivers in his grip. “That would be totally illegal.”
“And totally something you would do.” Stiles feels Derek’s judgmental eyebrows through the connection.
“Simon? Sean? Sampson? Shawn?”
“You said Sean twice.”
“Yeah, but I spelled it differently each time.”
Derek sighs, long-suffering. “It’s two-thirty in the morning on a school night. You should be in bed.”
“Sleep is for the weak.” His father chooses that moment to belt out a particularly loud snort, then shuffle around until the other side of his face smashes into the chair cushion. His newly exposed cheek sports angry-looking crisscrossed indents. Stiles holds his breath until the Sheriff stills.
“What’s going on over there?” Werewolves, Stiles quickly learned, were more than just pretty faces and rippling muscles and asses that didn’t quit. They also had superhero hearing. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything’s hunky-dory over here at Casa de Stilinski.”
“You’re lying.” There’s no way Derek can tell over the phone. “I hear your father’s elevated heartbeat through the receiver.”
Stiles chews his bottom lip. “How would you know it’s my dad? It could be Scott. Could be anyone.”
“I memorized his heartbeat when I was hiding from the police at your house.”
Stiles slaps the arrest record down. “Who even says shit like that? That is, like, so many layers of creepy. I do not have enough time to unpack all that tonight. Fine, it’s my dad. He’s here. He’s—” Passed out drunk. “Asleep.” His voice cracks.
The analog wall clock ticks off the silent seconds like gunshots. Stiles’ wide, unblinking eyes follow the jerky starts and stops of the second hand as it rotates around the clock face. “Why aren’t you asleep?” Derek finally asks.
Because it’s my fault. Because I’m a bad son. Stiles shoves away from the table in a fit of rage, grabbing the neck of the glass bottle and stamping over to the sink. He upends the bottle, watching golden liquid swirl down the drain. “Because I’m not tired.” Another lie. He’s exhausted, more than a seventeen-year-old has any business being. Dropping the bottle into the stainless steel basin with a loud clunk, he folds one arm against the edge of the counter and drops his forehead down to rest against it, his other hand still holding the phone to his ear. “Look, sorry I called you so late. I shouldn’t have bothered. I’ll just g—”
“Sampson is a stupid choice.”
Stiles’ head pops up, brows furrowing at the leaky faucet. “Huh?”
“For a middle name. Sampson means sun . No self-respecting, moon worshiping werewolf is going to have the middle name Sampson. You’re smarter than that, Stiles.”
He laughs, incredulous. “I’m both impressed and confused at how fast you knew that. Did you google the meaning? Does your condemned house have wifi?”
“I guess I was wrong,” Derek baits. “Maybe Sampson is the best you can come up with.” God damn. His tone isn’t friendly, but the challenge is unmistakable. Is Derek Hale playing with him?
“Oh, buddy, I got names,” Stiles boasts, straightening. “I got names for days. I’ll solve this mystery in no time, Derek Sergio Hale.”
Each rebuffed name pulls Stiles further out of the fiery pit he’s dug for himself. And when his father’s snores threaten to drag him back into the abyss, Derek’s there with a wheedling, low-voiced, “Come on, Stiles. Keep guessing.”
“Erica!” Boyd yells through the open bathroom door. “I need you to come in here and hold Stilinski down!”
Stiles squawks. “No, not Erica! I’m fully capable of holding still for stitches, Boyd.”
Boyd looks pointedly at the brown bottle of peroxide sitting on Derek’s sink, then back to Stiles.
“Oh, come on! Even werewolves have to admit that shit stings like a motherfucker. Honestly, Erica’s nails digging into me will hurt worse than a few stitches.” Erica materializes in the doorway like Bloody Mary summoned by the third repetition of her name. And she is bloody. They all are. The problem is the werewolves can heal on their own, and Stiles can’t .
“Just be grateful Boyd has the needle, Stiles,” she says, specks of dried blood flaking off her bottom lip as a grin stretches her mouth. “Those cuts are nasty, and his attention to detail is way better than mine.” A younger Stiles might have argued for argument’s sake. Now he hops up onto the bathroom sink counter, resigned, and she positions herself between his spread knees, her deceptively delicate-looking hands clamping down on his shoulder blades like shackles.
Boyd threads the dissolvable nylon suture through the tiny eye of the curved needle, elongating his claws to snag the string and tug it through. Stiles takes a moment to send up a silent prayer of thanks for Melissa McCall and her willingness to sneak medical-grade first-aid materials out of Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital. “Deep breath,” is all the warning Boyd gives as he squats down on Stiles’ right side and slides the tip of the needle into the red, tender skin beside Stiles’ stomach wound.
Stiles’ whole body seizes, and he locks his throat around a pained groan, a small guttural grunt escaping through his flared nostrils into the tense bathroom air, echoing off the shower tile. “I’ve got you, Batman,” Erica whispers, and his pain ebbs as she pulls it into her own body, wrist veins bulging a vicious black as they disappear under the ripped sleeves of her ruined sweater. It takes twenty-five stitches to close the five cuts—bestowed on him by a Mahaha’s sharp fingernails—running from his bottom rib bone to his belly button. Erica steadily pulls Stiles’ pain, stepping away every few minutes when she needs a break, but Stiles can still feel the muted tug of the thread pulling the edges of his skin back together, and it makes him nauseous.
Derek shows up in the doorway just as Boyd snips and ties the black thread on the last laceration. “How’d it go?” Erica asks, her hands slipping off Stiles’ shoulders as she turns to face her Alpha. Aching heat blooms from Stiles’ sternum to his navel as soon as she breaks contact. He takes a shaky breath.
Derek’s hazel eyes flick from Stiles’ slashed stomach to his sweat-dotted brow, to Boyd’s bloody needle resting on the lip of the sink, then back to Erica. “It took longer than we thought. Plan A didn’t exactly work the way we’d hoped.”
Stiles laughs, a little hysterical, which pulls painfully at his tended wound. He white-knuckles the counter edge. “When does it ever? You’d think after three years without me you could plan better on your own. But noooooooo.”
Derek twerks a bitchy eyebrow at him. “Stiles, you come home from Berkley every other weekend.”
Boyd slaps a massive square of gauze over the right half of Stiles’ stomach and secures it with tape. “Yeah, to see my father , who has a heart condition.”
“Yet you always end up here, butting into everything.”
“Oh my god!” Stiles throws up his arms, regretting the move immediately. He wraps one arm around himself, putting pressure on the bandage. “If I didn’t, you’d get yourself killed! Your plans blow, Derek. The S in your middle name sure as hell doesn’t stand for strategist .”
“Not this again,” Erica moans dramatically. “Derek, put us all out of our misery and tell him your middle name. We’ve been listening to this bullshit for five years. It’s torture.” She turns to Boyd, who’s wiping his hands on a bleach-stained blue bath towel. “Come on,” she purrs. “Let’s go home and break in the shower at our new apartment. You can wash the blood off my back.”
She flounces out of the bathroom, shoulder brushing against Derek, stilettos tapping down the wood-floored hallway and the stairs. “I’ve worn high heels to every fight I’ve ever been in,” she’d once told Stiles, “and I always win.”
Boyd gives Derek a two-fingered salute. “Duty calls.” He clasps Derek’s arm, and Derek pats him once on the back. He’s gone on silent feet, leaving Derek and Stiles alone in Derek’s tiny guest bathroom, Stiles still sitting on the bathroom counter, legs dangling, the heels of his dirty socks bumping against the cabinet door underneath the sink. He’d lost his shoes while running from the giggling Mahaha’s cold, ice-blue hands and considers sending Derek back into the preserve to sniff them out, but quickly decides against it. The smelly feet jokes aren’t worth it.
“So, what went wrong?” Stiles asks, this time unspoken but heavily implied. “It was the standing water thing, wasn’t it? I told you it needed to be running water.”
Derek rolls his eyes, leaning against the door jamb and crossing one ankle over the other. “The reservoir water held it. It couldn’t escape, but…” Derek inclines his head toward Stiles. “Though it pains me to say it, you were partially right. It didn’t dematerialize, and I couldn’t leave it there to surprise some skinny dippers in the springtime. So Isaac called Deaton and had him meet us out there with one of his mysterious concoctions. It’s gone now.”
“Told you so,” Stiles retorts, weakly. If the entire middle of his body didn’t feel like it was on fire, Stiles would do a victory fist pump.
Derek straightens in the doorway. “You’re in pain.” It isn’t a question.
Stiles gingerly slides off the counter. “Eh. Erica sucked up the worst of it with her werewolf mojo. What’s left is nothing a few Advil won’t cure. Thank god I never lost the freshman fifteen; that extra layer of insulation kept my abs from becoming party streamers.” Derek stands unmoving in the doorway. “I’ll go find what’s left of my shirt and head back to my Dad’s. I’m sure you want to get cleaned up and catch a few hours of sleep.”
Two steps forward, and Derek has the small of Stiles’ back pressed into the edge of the granite countertop once more. “You shouldn’t drive home like this.”
Stiles laughs, a little breathless. “My arms and legs are intact, Derek. I’m fi— Oh .”
Nothing has ever shut Stiles up faster in his life.
Stiles grew up and filled out in college; take away Derek’s supernatural bulk, and there’s not that much difference in their size these days. But Derek’s bear paw-sized hand against Stiles’ stomach looks obscenely huge. Stiles can’t take his rapidly-blinking eyes off of it. Derek’s thumb, index, and middle finger rest on top of the white gauze, his palm and last two fingers warm against Stiles’ already burning skin. There’s dirt or dried blood—Stiles can’t tell which—under his blunt human nails. Fine, soft dark hairs dust Derek’s knuckles and the back of his hand, and prominent veins ripple with Stiles’ pain.
Erica’s pain absorbing ability is a two-year-old hand vac with a dying battery. Derek’s is a top of the line Dyson with the added pet hair removing power.
“Miele,” Derek says, “but that was a good analogy.”
“Huh?” Stiles says on a seven-second delay. “Oh. Did I say that out loud? And thanks for the offer, but I’m not hungry.” Stiles isn’t anything right now. He’s nothing. Does Stiles even have a body? Is he even human? It’s not possible to be alive and feel this…this…
“No, Stiles,” Derek smiles softly, “not meal. Miele is a German vacuum cleaner brand.”
“Oh. Good to know. Germany. Yeah. Germany is good. Good suckage.” Stiles giggles. “I think your suckage has made me high.” He giggles again. “Suckage! Derek “Suckage” Hale!” He tips forward, forehead bumping Derek’s collar bone sticking out of his ridiculously low v-neck t-shirt. “Oh my god, did you borrow this shirt from Peter?! Dude. Why is your suckage so good ?”
“Please. I beg you. Stop saying suckage .” Derek sounds like he’s in pain. Stiles, however, is not in pain. Pain is a myth, a fable, a fairytale. Stiles has never felt a moment of pain in his life. He’s drooling against Derek’s chest. “And it’s because I’m an Alpha.” Stiles can hear the note of pride in Derek’s voice, can feel the way his shoulders pull back, and his chest puffs out just a little, under where Stiles is rubbing his face against Derek’s shirt like a cat. “Has Scott never taken your pain before?” Derek asks, incredulous.
“Uhhhhh,” Stiles answers. Malia has, and Liam, lots of times. Once that butthead Theo did when Stiles sprained his ankle. Erica and Boyd, too, on occasion. But not Isaac, and not Scott. There’d always been someone closer, quicker. Stiles takes a breath, deeper than he’s dared in hours, for fear of straining the wounds. “You smell like fresh rain. Does your suckage unclog sinus cavities too?”
“Seriously? What did I just say about that word?”
“It’s your fault,” Stiles cries, swaying back a few inches. Derek wraps his free arm around Stiles’ shoulder, holding him steady. “You and your heroin hands. Your drug digits. Your PCP paws. No, no no no no don’t take them away!” Stiles locks Derek’s wrist in a death grip when it retreats from his stomach.
“You’re going to fall over, and I’d rather you not give yourself a concussion on my toilet.” Stiles pouts and makes grabby hands at Derek’s hands. “I’ll do it again when you’re laying down.” Derek leads Stiles out of the bathroom, down the hall, and into the master bedroom, letting go of him briefly to push the duvet toward the foot of the bed. He helps Stiles sit on the mattress, lean back against the plush pillows, and bring his feet—now bare—up onto the bed.
“You took off my socks. Derek Sock Stealer Hale.”
Derek rubs a hand down his face, then climbs into bed, laying a few inches away from Stiles. “I changed my mind. You can go back to saying suckage.” He brushes fingertips along the edge of the bandage, and Stiles’ body sings .
“Soprano?” he guesses. “Saxophone? Saltando? Schlegel?”
The fingers press harder. Stiles moans, eyes slipping shut. A fireworks display explodes behind his eyelids. “Sable.”
“Sable?” Derek asks.
“Ummmm. Like your hair. You have great hair. It’s so soft and shiny. What shampoo do you use? I bet it’s expensive. I bet you buy it at a salon.” Stiles flings an arm out blindly, patting Derek’s stubbled cheek, scrabbling toward his hairline. The strands feel like silk between his fingers.
“I use Suave,” Derek says, voice low. “And no, suave is not my middle name.”
“It’s not fair. You’re not fair, Derek. With your soft hair and your great ass and your finger suckage and your secret middle name.”
“I’m starting to wish I’d recorded this conversation.”
Stiles opens his eyes. Is Derek blushing ? “I mean it,” Stiles insists. Words feel urgent, burning inside him, but there’s no pain; just a dim floaty happiness. “You’re not fair. I’ve been guessing your middle name since I was in high school. I could have said it a thousand times over the years, and I’d never know because I’m not a werewolf, and I can’t hear your heartbeat.”
“Is that the real reason you always seem to show up here when you’re home for a visit? My unfairly great ass?” Derek means it as a deflection, a joke, but it comes out too wistful. Even Stiles’ punch-drunk brain and human ears can make out the yearning.
“Pfft.” Stiles detangles his fingers from the bird’s nest he’s made on Derek’s head. “You can’t deny the booty, Derek. Or your slammin’ bod, or the way you look, which is fucking beautiful. But I think you know I’d keep showing up here regardless of how you looked. And it’s not your middle name, though I really want to know what it is. It’s you. It’s all of you.” Damn . Did Derek’s pain suckage also have truth suckage built-in? “See?” he says, pointing to his own chest. “Steady as a rock.”
Stiles glances down at his bandaged wound, but Derek isn’t touching him anymore. Derek’s hand has fallen to the mattress, halfway between his body and Stiles’.
Stiles hiccups a pathetic laugh and drops his hand away, letting it rest on the bed next to Derek’s, his fingers grazing the veins and knuckles he’d admired earlier. “So unfair,” he mummers into the charged few inches between them.
Derek hooks his index finger around Stiles’ hand, tugs it up to rest against his breast bone. “You can’t hear the truth, but you can feel it.” He presses Stiles’ flingers flat over his heart. “The truth is I love when you show up here. The truth is I hate when you get hurt because you choose to be around my pack and me. The truth is, I hope you never stop coming. The truth is, I don’t want you to leave.” Derek’s heart never skips a beat. It’s steady under Stiles’ palm.
Stiles fists Derek’s ridiculous V-neck shirt, pulling him across those last few inches. “Lucky for you, I’m hard to get rid of. Many supernatural creatures have tried and failed.” Their mouths touch, five years of pent up longing bursting like a grape on Stiles’ tongue. He gives some of the sweetness to Derek. Derek returns it threefold. Alpha, Beta, Omega. The sun, the moon, the truth. Past, present, future. Friendship, loyalty, love .
Derek breaks their kiss, breathing hard. “This doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you my middle name.”
Stiles grins and pulls him back in. “We’ll see about that.”
“I have a... request .”
Stiles grabs the base of his dick with his free hand, sucking deep, calming breaths in through his nose. “Yes, yes, whatever you want. Just keep my fragile humanity in mind. I can’t, like, fuck you for sixteen hours straight or something.” Sixteen seconds is more likely, the way Derek keeps shifting his hips minutely, making Stiles want to die in the best possible way. “I’ll do anything.”
Stiles will promise away his firstborn, his vintage Batman issue 84 comic, Roscoe.
Well, maybe not his Jeep. Probably not. Hopefully not.
Derek hitches his powerful thighs higher around Stiles’ hips, heels pressing against the meat of Stiles’ ass, pulling him in.
Who’s he kidding? Roscoe is toast. Who even needs a car, anyway? Stiles has two legs. He can walk.
Derek pauses just as the wet tip of Stiles’ cock brushes Derek’s hole. Stiles’ legs turn to jelly. “No middle names, Stiles. Promise.”
The arm planted in the mattress next to Derek’s head starts to shake. “Oh my god, I promise. I doubt I’ll even remember my first name.” Stiles isn’t a virgin by any means, but first-time sex with Derek Hale is bound to blow his mind. Stiles whines. “Please?”
Oh god. Oh god. Oh, holy mother of dick sucking angels. Derek Hale’s ass is a revelation, a religious experience. Lightning sizzles up Stiles’ spine. Hips snap, mouths grunt, flesh slaps. Sweat beads on Stiles’ forehead while beneath him, Derek smiles, teeth sharp, meeting Stiles thrust for thrust, skimming his hands up and down Stiles’ chest, fingertips pressing over Stiles’ thundering heart.
He’s so beautiful, Stiles thinks. Stunning. Stunning happens to start with an S, but that’s purely coincidental. Lots of adjectives describing Derek start with the letter-that-shall-not-be-named. Sensual. Strong. Sultry—
“You better not be thinking of names.”
“I’m not,” Stiles pants, perspiration rolling down his back and sides. Technically it isn’t a lie.
Derek pulls one hand back from Stiles’ chest to point at his nose. “Then why is your face doing that ?”
“I dunno! Maybe because I’m uhhh balls deep in your ass? And your ass, Derek, ohh , you feel so fucking good, uhh yeah , so slick and—no! Uhh uhh n-not slick I meant, ohh , snug. Not snug! T-t-tight!” He’s yelling. “Tight and uh uh uh scorching oh fucccccck .”
“That’s it.” Derek flips them fast and effortless, sinking down on Stiles’ cock with a slippery squelch before Stiles’ eyes can stop rolling, and rides him like a stallion. “I’m screwing your brains out.”
“Heh,” Stiles chuckles, landing a smack on Derek’s gyrating ass. “ Stallion . Giddy up.”
Derek puts his hand over Stiles’ mouth and leaves it there. It’s probably for the best.
Nat King Cole croons about chestnuts roasting on an open fire while Stiles watches as officers shake his father’s hand, slap him on the back, and offer their heartfelt congratulations. It’s hard to believe Stiles has come to the precinct Christmas party every year since he was two, and this is the last.
“You must be so excited about the coming year!” Newly-elected Sheriff Clark says, sliding up to Stiles where he stands next to the iPhone speaker. Her plate is full of crudités, and she balances it carefully in one hand while she sips her glass of cranberry punch. “A retirement and a wedding,” she smiles, catching a stray red droplet of juice with her tongue before it falls off her lip onto her dress.
Stiles returns her grin, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “It’s a big year, for sure. For you, too. Congrats again.”
Derek walks back from the buffet line, offering Stiles a Swedish meatball on a toothpick. He knows Stiles can’t resist saucy meat. “Happy Holidays, Val.”
“You better save me a dance later, Derek.” Her brown eyes twinkle. “Your future father-in-law tells me you know how to cut a rug.” Derek ducks his chin, and Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Ugh.” He smacks Derek in the chest. “Quit it, Lothario. You’re spoken for.”
Derek slips an arm around Stiles’ back when Val walks away and pulls him in for a kiss. “So. Want to tell me what’s wrong? Or do you want me to ply you with more meat on a stick?”
Stiles barks out a laugh. “Oh god, you know I’m weak for the balls, Derek.” Another glossy meatball materializes in Derek’s hand, like magic. “That was so sexy,” Stiles breathes. Derek feeds it to him. “Tell me you hid that one down your pants.”
“I may have officially stepped down as Sheriff last week,” Stiles’ dad says, walking up to them, “but I’m not above a citizen's arrest if this gets indecent.”
“Sorry, John. Your son was trying to distract me with sex.”
“Me?” Stiles yelps. “You’re over here pulling meatballs out of your ass! A man can only take so much.”
“And on that note, I need more punch,” his dad says and speed-walks away.
Stiles laughs. This time his grin does reach his eyes. “Holy shit, you are such an asshole. I can’t wait to lock all this down.” He waves his empty toothpick up and down Derek’s body like a deranged fairy godmother on royal ball night.
“Know what you haven’t locked down yet?” Derek waggles his bushy eyebrows. Stiles racks his brain, but there’s not a damn thing he can think of. They’ve done everything , even some inventive things only possible because of Derek’s supernatural DNA.
“Winning Monopoly?” Stiles guesses. Derek holds on to real estate like a miser. He always wins all of Stiles’ paper money then giggles when Stiles asks for a loan.
Derek bends close; his mouth presses to the shell of Stiles’ ear. “My middle name.”
Stiles backs away a few centimeters, narrows his eyes at his fiancé. “I know what you’re doing. I figured it out a long time ago. When I'm worried, nervous, or scared, or in pain, you distract me with the whole name-guessing thing. But I promise you it’s not necessary tonight. There’s nothing wrong. In fact. Everything is right.”
“Then why were you hiding in the corner, looking like someone kicked your cat?”
Stiles glances around the room at the tacky décor. Plaid wrapped mason jars bursting with sprigs of pine and red berries; windows dressed in wide blue ribbon and oversized silver bows, so they resemble gift packages; artificial candles flickering on a garland-strung chandelier. Not a damn thing has changed in twenty years. “Because it’s a lot to take in. Being this lucky. My dad’s retiring in full health. I’m marrying Derek SOMETHING Hale.” Derek shakes his head. “The new Sheriff knows about the supernatural and knows how to keep Beacon Hills safe. I’m getting a puppy for Christmas.”
“No puppies,” Derek says, mouth set in a grim line. “Not until you keep a houseplant alive for more than two weeks. That was the deal.”
“A horrible deal I should have never made.” Stiles twirls the toothpick between his fingers like a baton. “I was standing here thinking about how this time next year everything will be different. It’s hard to give up traditions. My first memory was from the precinct Christmas party when I was four. I snuck over to the dessert buffet while my mother and father danced and ate so much trifle I barfed in the car on the way home. So I guess I’m a little melancholy, but I’m happy, too. It’s exciting to make new traditions.”
“Hopefully vomit-free ones,” Derek says.
“Cheers.” They grin at each other. “But thanks,” Stiles says, “for always noticing when I need a distraction from my own head. It means more to me than I can ever say.”
“Speaking of traditions,” Derek says, “my family always gave each other one gift on Christmas Eve.”
“We can do that. I’ve got all your presents wrapped and hidden in the closet.”
“I can give you yours now.” Derek stands on tiptoe, casting his eyes over the crowd. He spots John and waves him over. “It’s time.”
“Really?” Stiles’ father sets his drink down on a nearby table and crosses his arms over his chest, face falling into his ‘I own a gun’ look. “You’re sure, Derek? There’s no going back once he knows.”
“Please don’t tell me you had a secret affair with Derek’s mom when she was alive, and Derek is my half-brother, and we can’t get married unless we move to West Virginia.”
Derek leans back, eyes wide. “That was a weirdly specific worry.”
“Focus, boys,” John says, snapping his fingers between them. “Son, do you remember Tawna, the secretary who worked for the Sheriff’s office for a few years?”
Oh, Stiles remembers. His father hired Tawna, the world’s worst secretary by day and exotic dancer by night, in a fit of misplaced altruism. John had been called to break up a fight in the cabaret parking lot one night, and Tawna was the witness. She’d lamented her inability to land a job in the bank or at the DMV and told him how the PTA at her son’s school wouldn’t even let her bake cookies for the bake sale. “The station could use a secretary,” he’d told her, not realizing she had zero computer skills and dyslexia. The station needed a secretary but got a glorified phone answering service.
“Of course,” Stiles replies. “She gave me the I support Single Moms t-shirt for my sixteenth birthday.” Tawna once wore an American flag string bikini to the precinct Fourth of July BBQ. Tawna had many ample assets. Attention to detail wasn’t one of them. She’d been laid off the year of budget cuts. Stiles hated to see her go, but he loved to watch her leave.
“Well, she was working the day you called to tell me Derek Hale murdered his sister. I let her type up Derek’s arrest report. She messed up when typing Derek’s name and no one ever fixed it. His middle name doesn’t start with S. It starts with an A instead. The keys are—”
“Right next to each other on the keyboard,” Stiles finishes. She’d mixed them up. Holy shit. He turns to Derek. “Wait, so what’s your middle name?!”
Derek smirks with smug confidence. “You’ll find out when we file for our marriage license.”
“WHAT?! That’s like three days before our wedding! We don’t get married until October, Derek!”
“That gives you ten months to guess.”
“Oh, for the love of— Austin? Andrew? Asher? Apple?”
“My mother wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow, Stiles. Try again.”
His father smiles softly, glancing around the party and back at Stiles and Derek. “Yeah,” he says. “My work here is done.”
Stiles stands in front of the full-length mirror screwed onto their bedroom closet door, practicing his vows. He turns to the side and throws a Blue Steel look over his shoulder at the mirror. “I, Stiles Stilinski, take you, Derek Ass for days Hale, to be my wedded husband.”
“You’re going to end up invalidating our marriage,” Derek complains from behind the cover of a giant book while he lays in bed. Stiles squints in the mirror, trying to make out the title etched in gilded gold along the cracked leather spine. Gone with the Wind.
Stiles feigns his best southern accent. “Why Derek Ashley, I’d never.”
The book thuds onto the nightstand, dropped next to the leafy green potted Philodendron Stiles has kept growing strong for two months. Their marriage license lies inside the dresser drawer, bearing Derek’s middle name and express permission for them to live happily ever after. “Your stupid Ashley. Gentleman all-what do they know about you? I know you ."
Stiles swan dives into bed and crawls across the sheets. “You’re such a hot nerd. I can’t believe I get to marry you tomorrow.” Tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.
“Come here,” Derek sighs. “You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.” And later, while Stiles sucks lazy hickeys into the juncture of Derek’s neck, presses on them with fingers and lips as he watches them fade: “You’re so brutal to those who love you, Scarlett,”
“What are you going to call him?” the shelter volunteer asks while the wiggling puppy bounces on its hind legs, soft paws pressed into Stiles’ chest as it plants sloppy wet kisses all over Stiles’ face. She boxes up a dog bed and half-full bag of kibble, the only remnants of the dog’s former family-less life.
“Alexander. It means, Protector of Man .” At the sound of Stiles’ voice, the puppy plants his brindle butt on the concrete floor of the shelter, floppy ears perking up and head tilting adorably.
She nods. “That’s a unique choice for a dog, but not the weirdest I’ve heard. And the vet who checked him out thought this little guy might have some wolfhound in him, so he’ll probably grow into it. What made you pick Alexander?”
Stiles smiles, nose buried in the warm, wiry scruff of the puppy’s neck. “It’s my husband’s middle name.”