The Sheriff gets out of work early one evening, breezes past the front desk of the station and says, “going to see my son!” Waves off the impending bombardment of things that can most definitely wait until tomorrow. He doesn’t turn around, pushes out the front door and heads to his patrol car. He thinks he’ll stop by the Arbies, pick up his weight in curly fries because he knows how much Stiles hates hospital food.
It’s been three days since Stiles had been admitted under ‘suspicious circumstances’. It had been hard letting Stiles out of his sight after he disappeared that night nearly six months ago, vanished right off the lacrosse field with no word or trace, only to show up hours later with bruises he couldn’t quite explain, a gaze he couldn’t quite make match his own.
It’s so much worse when he’s called to the scene and sees his son unresponsive and a group of teenagers with stories that sound so rehearsed and the evidence just piling up against everyone and no one. He’d feared the worst for agonizingly long hours until Stiles woke with a claim of amnesia the Sheriff wasn’t sure he quite believed but…Stiles was going to be fine and that was really all that mattered to him at the moment, even if he did want to throttle Stiles himself, demand answers.
When he gets off the elevator the nurse at the station smiles at him and he fights the urge to hide the grease soaked takeout bag, he’s the goddamn sheriff.
“This is a surprise, wasn’t expecting you for awhile,” she says. He nods politely and smiles, “Is he awake?” He asks, turning to head towards the open door of his son’s private room.
“Should be, he has a visitor,” she tells him, turning her attention back to the monitor in front of her. He nods his thanks and moves towards the door and the sound of quiet, mumbled voices, he assumes must be Scott or maybe even Lydia come to return the favor, though he hadn’t seen much of Stiles’ friends lately. It’s a deeper voice though, the Sheriff realizes, as approaches the room, one he recognizes but can’t place until he steps around the edge of the frame and sees.
He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but Derek Hale sprawled with his lower half in an uncomfortable hospital chair and his torso stretched across the edge of Stiles’ bed, isn’t even on the long, unedited list of possible scenarios. The Sheriff doesn’t move, frozen to the spot on the shiny stark white tiled floor, treads sticking slightly to the trace of disinfectants.
He’s not sure if he should back up or step inside and he’s back to visions of throttling. He doesn’t do either, though, simply stands there and watches with careful observation. Stiles is lying on what looks like an entire storage supply of fluffed pillows, sitting up in the raised bed, sheets around his waist, but there’s a large blue henley draped over his chest, sleeves flopped listlessly beside him. Derek is raised up on one elbow propped against the sheets and he’s staring up at Stiles with his head cocked, there’s an expression that the Sheriff can’t quite read, or maybe just believe, on his face. It’s mostly kind of obvious when Stiles’ fingers, IV taped to the back of his hand, snakes out from beneath the henley waggling. Derek lifts his other hand, drapes it across the sheets and lets Stiles wrap his middle finger around his own.
The Sheriff does back up then, stands with his back against the wall just outside the room and listens. He’s not a particularly nosy man, he doesn’t snoop or do random backpack and room checks the way he knows some parents are prone to. He trusts his son. Even when he knows Stiles is being blatantly dishonest, hehas to trust that his son will, eventually, always come to him if he needs to. He knows it’s naïve and he’s often wondered if it’s been doing more damage than good, giving Stiles this level of freedom. He’s just too afraid of pushing.
“Your stomach is growling,” he hears Derek say.
“That’s because it’s angry,” Stiles tells him and Derek chuckles softly. He can’t even fathom what it must look like, Hale always so stony faced and closed off.
“Can I order you something?” It’s not an obligatory suggestion, the Sheriff hears, there’s concern there, an obvious plea in its undertones.
“Blugh, hospital food is the worst. I’d rather eat more of that, what the hell was that stuff? Gak?”
“Gak is a traditional Klingon dish, Stiles.” The Sheriff feels the smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth, in spite of himself.
“Yeah well it tasted like feet,” and then with a creak of the bed shifting, “and yes I know what feet taste like,” he hears his son huff.
“I didn’t ask,” Derek says.
“You have your arguing eyebrows on.”
“Really?” There’s more shifting and then lower, “what about these eyebrows?”
“I can’t tell if you’re trying to be alluring or homicidal.”
“I thought maybe both.”
“You succeeded.” Derek laughs softly again and then it’s quiet for a long moment, and the Sheriff feels heat rise in his face, wondering, but then Derek sighs and says, “I should go, your dad will be here soon.”
“Not for a bit,” Stiles argues and there’s the sound of shuffling, the chair scraping across the floor.
“Do you want me to come back tonight?” Derek asks, and the Sheriff leans forward, peers around the edge of the door. Derek looks awkward, hands shoved into the pockets of his leather coat. There’s a long pause, he wishes he could see Stiles’ face, always so open and easy to read. “I’ll come back tonight,” Derek says, nodding.
“You don’t have to,” Stiles tells him, but the Sheriff can hear the hesitation in it. Derek smiles softly.
“We still have three episodes of Stargate left,” Derek argues.
“Well then, obviously, you must come back,” Stiles jokes.
Derek asks a question then that the Sheriff can’t hear, he disappears from view, stepping closer to Stiles’ bed and when Stiles answers him, his voice is low, pitchy and a little breathy.
The Sheriff pushes away from the wall, embarrassed, stalks over to the nurse’s station.
“Hi, Sheriff, is everything okay?” The Nurse on duty, Beth, asks.
“How often has Derek Hale visited my son?” He asks, trying not to sound as thrown as he is.
“A lot, actually, I’m sorry? Was he not supposed to?” She looks stricken for a moment but the Sheriff shakes his head.
“No, it’s…” He sighs, “how much is a lot?”
“I think his vending machine purchases will be paying my Christmas bonus a lot,” she says, wincing.
“Right, thank you,” he bangs the heel of his hand softly against the edge of the counter and turns around.
“They’re…” she starts, and the Sheriff turns back to her, raises an eyebrow. “They’re really sweet. You’re son’s lucky.”
“Lucky?” He asks, incredulous.
“I think I would have wrecked my back if I had tried spending almost twenty four hours dozing in one of those chairs.”
“And there hasn’t been any…issues?”
“Issues?” Beth asks, brows drawing together. “Stiles’ soup was cold the other day and he got a little upset about it but other than that,” she laughs.
“Stiles was upset his soup was cold?” The Sheriff questions in disbelief.
“Oh, no…Mr. Hale was upset Stiles’ soup was cold. It also got a little dicey when he accused the janitor of being warlock but I’m pretty sure he was sleep deprived at that point.”
“A warlock?” The Sheriff asks, uncertain now whether he’s being teased or not. “Right…” he says, trailing off. Suddenly, the heart monitor on the wall beside Beth picks up and the Sheriff raises a single, questioning eyebrow.
“’Fraid so Sheriff,” she says, trying not to smirk. He waves once, turns back around to head the way he came. He considers walking loudly, maybe whistling. He’s afraid of what he’ll see when he moves around the edge of the door frame once more. When he does, Arbies bag limp at his side, Derek is sitting on the opposite side of the room, but he looks too nonchalant about it, and Stiles has red patches high up on his cheeks, mouth parted, and a little out of breath.
“Stiles.” The Sheriff replies, he steps into the room and dumps the bag on the tray beside Stiles’ hospital bed.
“Dude! Dad, I love you!” He cries, pulling it towards him, wincing painfully at the pull of his IV. Derek twitches forward at it, but settles back against the chair. There’s a staring match that goes on then, between Derek and the Sheriff and Stiles and the Arbies bag.
“You’re early,” Stiles says, trying for casual but he keeps darting furtive looks over to Derek, who’s clearly avoiding his gaze.
“Yeah, snuck out early,” he says.
“Cool,” Stiles nods, awkwardly. Then he shifts forward, and Derek starts to stand and Stiles says, in a rush of breath, “Dad I-“
“I think Mr. Hale and I need to have a conversation.”
“Dad,” Stiles sighs, and he sounds young and petulant, eyes wide and earnest as he looks up at the Sheriff from his hospital bed, henley falling across his lap.
“What Stiles? You want to explain?” He asks, sarcastically. He watches as Stiles glances over to Derek, Derek looks at him, gaze searching, and nods softly. When Stiles looks back at him he looks suddenly older, determined.
“Yeah, I do.” The Sheriff stills, surprised, disbelieving. “But it’s complicated.”
“Well, I’ll make it as uncomplicated as possible,” the Sheriff starts, turns to Derek, “are you sleeping with my son?” Stiles’ eyes widen and he blushes a furious shade of red. Derek’s mouth falls open, spot of color rising on his cheeks, flushing up his ears.
“Dad!” Stiles shouts.
“Oh my God, Dad! No!” Stiles balks. “Like, still definitely in the awkward wooing stages okay!” Stiles cries.
“That doesn’t really comfort me,” the Sheriff remarks, looking down at Stiles, crossing his arms over his chest. He wants to sit down, but he’s trying to retain some level of authority here.
“These smell delicious,” Stiles nods, and he shoves a handful of curly fries into his mouth. The Sheriff rolls his eyes and turns to Derek who looks like he’s contemplating how far a drop it is out the third story window.
“You’d probably break both of your legs,” he says. Derek looks up at him, “might be less painful than this conversation.”
“Oh it’d definitely be less painful than this conversation,” he nods. The Sheriff crooks a finger, other hand braced on his holster, it’s a tactic. “Please join me in the waiting room, Mr. Hale,” he says, leaking as much authority into it as his years on the police force have given him.
“Dad!” Stiles argues, “I’m not a child.”
“Oh yea?” He asks, and Stiles shrinks slightly under the gaze he levels at him, “who’s paying your hospital bills, exactly?” Stiles gives him a considering look, “exactly? Technically, the tax payers of Beacon Hills.”
“Stiles.” He closes his mouth but looks mutinous as the Sheriff leads Derek out into the hallway a few paces beyond the hospital door where he knows Stiles is craning to hear them.
“What are you doing here, Hale?” He asks, cutting to the chase. Derek doesn’t meet his eyes, glances back instead towards the open door.
“It’s my fault he’s here,” Derek starts. He can feel his hand twitch towards his empty holster, Derek sees the movement, flicks a contrite gaze back up to the Sheriff’s face. “I was supposed to look out for him, and I didn’t.”
“It’s not your job to take care of my son,” the Sheriff says, frustrated and hurt, “it’s mine. And I can’t do that if he’s lying to me at every opportunity and running off with you.”
“It’s no one’s job to take care of me!” Derek startles, turns around and he and the Sheriff dart forward, simultaneous exclaims of “Stiles!” He waves them off with a hand, clutches at the metal rig his IV drip hangs from and scowls at them. “Just like it’s not my job to take care of you dad, but I do it, anyway, because I love you.”
Derek flushes slightly, looks suddenly much more like the man the Sheriff arrested a year ago, something closes off behind a mask. Stiles must see it to because he gives him a sad, hurt sort of expression, his chin quivers slightly and the Sheriff wishes suddenly he hadn’t come.
“Stop looking like that, asshole, okay I know you care about me.” Derek glances at him and then away, unsurely. “I fucked up Dad,” the Sheriff glares at him and Stiles rolls his eyes, hard. “I messed up, Dad, it wasn’t Derek’s fault, it was just stupid. But he’s not happy unless he’s being as miserable as possible so he’s been here as some ridiculous penitence.”
“Stiles—“ Derek tries, he sighs when Stiles cuts him off with a look.
“You should try it out,” Stiles says, looking at the Sheriff, “thirty six hours in lock down with me you’ll never have a repeat offender.”
“Stiles,” Derek huffs.
“I like him, okay? Like maybe even more than like,” Stiles admits, and he shrugs.
“This is a lot to deal with right now, Stiles,” the Sheriff replies, taking a step back.
“Yeah, you’re telling me. He’s super irritating you know, but he’s like a puppy, you pet him once he’s yours forever,” Stiles says, and Derek shoots him a glare and Stiles returns it with a smirk. There’s an inside joke there somewhere, just another thing that he doesn’t understand. But he likes the way the smile settles on Stiles’ face, the way Derek’s own softens when Stiles stumbles back a little. He moves forward but Derek beats him to it, and he pushes Stiles in the direction of his bed softly, hands moving to rest gently against his shoulder and his hip.
“It’s a good thing I’m wearing underwear today,” Stiles remarks, turning around, back of his gown open, spiderman boxer briefs stark red beneath his pale skin underneath.
“Oh my God, Stiles,” Derek sighs, helping him back beneath the covers. The Sheriff watches from the doorway as Stile’s pouts out his bottom lip and without request Derek beats his pillows into fluffy, plump piles behind him. Stiles smiles up at him and Derek rolls his eyes, but the Sheriff can see the flush return to the back of his bare neck.
“I’m going to take off, Stiles,” he decides suddenly, words out of his mouth before he has a chance to think them through. Stiles looks surprised, and Derek…confused.
“But you just got here,” Stiles says. “Are you mad?”
“No, Stiles,” he says, adamant that his son not question that. “Just,” he sighs, uncertain. “You look like you’re in good hands.” Stiles’ open mouth widens and Derek looks at him then, square in the eyes, he sees there some kind of understanding, some kind of reassurance.
“I just hope my trust isn’t misplaced,” he says, and it’s hard and does not leave room for argument.
“Yes sir,” Derek nods.
“Goodnight, Stiles,” he nods to his son, moves forward, Derek stepping out of the way, to pull his kid into him for a hug.
“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles whispers, voice small and careful, “I love you.”
“I love you too, kid.”
As he leaves the room, he just catches sight of Stiles enthusiastically shoving half his curly fry order at Derek, who accepts it with gentle hands, smiling down far too fondly at the greasy fast food.
“Goodnight, Sheriff,” Beth says as he makes his way back towards the elevators.
“Night,” he waves.
“Don’t worry, not too much they can get up to with a heart monitor,” she laughs, nodding her head at the machine.
“Yeah, about those, how much do those go for do you think?” She laughs at him, and he smirks, takes one last look back at the open door and the laughter bubbling out from inside it.