OKAY, sit down and let me tell you the tale of Derek Hale: Secret Cuddler.
If you grow up in a werewolf pack, you know that it’s essentially just a really close extended family that occasionally turns fluffy and devolves into puppy piles. Unfortunately, everyone else in Beacon Hills who knows this is dead, except Peter, and Derek is never going to cuddle with Peter again unless it’s to get close enough to tear his throat out. But since Peter will probably try it first, no.
Sadly this means Derek has to learn how close is socially acceptable through interaction with Scott’s pack. He’s a novice, but he’s pretty sure Scott and Stiles don’t actually even know what “socially acceptable distance” means. Derek starts being proactive about it—he’s either the first one to sit down, thus putting the onus of maintaining acceptable distance on other people, or he stands the whole time. And it totally works… for a while.
By which Derek means “until Stiles catches on.”
In the beginning, even at crowded meetings, Derek has a personal bubble of a foot or more. Of course, then the pack sort of starts to expand—Jackson comes back, and someone finally spills the beans to Danny, and Scott adopts an omega—and, well, there’s only so much room in the McCall living room. Derek ends up with Stiles squashed by his elbow more often than not.
Derek can’t help it—he relaxes into the contact. Even when he gets a little more adventurous and stops making a beeline for the corner of the couch and ends up with Lydia on his other side, or Scott, or Danny—it’s nice. It’s good. It’s pack.
Of course Stiles notices.
Now whenever Derek’s the last to show up, Stiles, on the couch, will nudge whoever’s next to him until they budge over far enough for Derek to sit in the middle. It’s… embarrassing? But also nice? Luckily Derek isn’t in the habit of examining his feelings too closely, so he can just brush it off. Usually.
Until the first time Stiles falls asleep on him halfway through a Jaws marathon, and suddenly Derek finds himself with his arm around an unconscious teenage boy and this is probably really bad. But nobody seems to notice or care—Kira gives him a thumbs-up but Derek pretends he didn’t see—so it’s probably not a big deal. Lydia and Allison are always falling asleep on top of each other. Actually, as a group, they are exhausted about 80 percent of the time, so it’s probably only natural.
Then Derek finds out Scott’s a hugger. Like, suddenly he can’t show up to or leave a pack meeting without Scott hugging him. And everyone else in the pack follows his lead, so now Derek gets to run a gauntlet of casual warm embraces twice a week. The second week that happens, he buys a cozy bungalow about halfway between Scott and Stiles’s places. The loft just feels wrong.
The best thing about the new place is the sunken floor in the den. (The real estate agent called it that and Stiles, who came along “to make sure you don’t buy a former crackhouse, Derek, your track record sucks,” almost gave himself an aneurysm laughing.) Basically it’s a big built-in couch (“you should probably get new cushions,” Stiles advised; Derek’s nose agreed with him). Anyway, a few hundred dollars in new upholstery later, pack meetings move to Derek’s. Despite being less cramped, they actually involve more physical contact.
"Buying this house was the best idea ever," Stiles sighs happily, sprawled boneless beside Derek.
"I can’t believe you bought a house with an orgy room, Hale," Lydia says from his other side. Then: "Pass the popcorn."
Stiles is always the last to leave. First it’s just by a few seconds, then a few minutes. Two months in he stops bothering getting up from the den to say good-bye when everyone starts filing out. Derek doesn’t either; he’s a shitty host and honestly, his place is a second home to the pack anyway.
Three months in, with the TV volume on low as the door closes behind Allison and Kira, Stiles slips his hand into Derek’s and says, “I know your secret.”
He could be talking about any number of things, really. Derek says, “I don’t think it’s a secret anymore.”