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In the Bright

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A shadow falls across Stiles’s worksheet and he looks up to see Lydia, mouth pursed, staring down at him. She says, “What do you know about unicorns?”

“About as much as the average eleven year old boy,” he says, which is: not much. Horse-like, pointy horn, something to do with virgins.

Of course, he goes home and finds out everything he can about them immediately. Both because Lydia asked, and because now he can’t stop thinking about them.

Lydia has forgotten all about their conversation by the time he’s ready to dazzle her with his knowledge, so alas, his mad unicorn skillz lie dormant for years, until all the shit with the werewolves.

*

Stiles is cat-napping in a spill of sun when all his warmth is blocked—he makes an irritated sound and opens his eyes to find Derek looming over him, frowning. Stiles kicks out a foot and rolls over onto his side in the grass.

Derek says, “What do you know about unicorns?”

Stiles yawns and says, “A surprising amount for a teenage boy.”

*

“Mostly they’re depicted as being small and deer-like,” Stiles says. “Magical horns good for grinding into poison. Lured in by maidenly virtues, attracted to purity. That’s purity of soul, dude, not body, which is pretty much no one here at all.”

Liam says, “Hey!” and Stiles nods his head and says, “Maaaaaaybe Mason,” with a tilting hand.

Scott’s a good guy, but he can be an oblivious douchewad, and everyone else in the room has actually killed someone. So, you know. Stiles shrugs.

He says, “And now Derek will tell us why this is important,” and plops down on the couch.

Derek looks a little shifty from his corner of the room. His jaw clenches and he crosses his arms over his chest and he says, “I think one is following me.”

*

They all cluster onto the back porch and gaze out into the twilight of the woods while Derek hangs back in the doorway and sulks.

Kira says, “Oh my god, I think I see it!” only to say, “No, wait, tree branch,” a second later.

Stiles is the only one brave enough to cross the lawn—come on, it’s a unicorn!—but if anything was really there, it fled in the wake of Stiles’s imperfect heart.

There is no way he feels bad about that. For real.

Derek says, “This is stupid,” and, “You’re making him nervous,” and also, “I don’t even know why I ever said anything,” mostly mumbled into the sleeve of his shirt.

It’s only later, when Stiles is lying in bed and staring at his ceiling, that he thinks: of course. Of course Derek Hale is pure of heart.

And if that makes him tear up a little, well, nobody but Stiles’s ghosts are there to see.

*

There is the very real possibility, Scott points out, that Derek has imagined the whole thing, given that no one else can even catch a glimpse of the unicorn.

There is, though: fresh greenery in the preserve, more than they’ve had since the Nemeton woke.

And also: an extremely mild extended summer.

Not like it ever truly gets cold where they are, but the flowers bloom well into the expected fall, and the mums don’t bud until they’re halfway done with December, and it gets to the point where it’s actually alarming more than a few folks, so this is how they come up with the idea of Derek asking the unicorn to knock it off.

“I only see him out of the corner of my eye,” Derek says, frowning. “I’ve never been very close to him before.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t talk to it,” Stiles says reasonably. “Should you wear leather? I think you should wear leather, just in case it gets stabby.” He smoothes his palms down the front of Derek’s chest and Derek slaps his hands away.

“Leather won’t stop a magical horn, Stiles,” Derek says.

“No, but it could slow it down.” Stiles frowns at him. Maybe Deaton has some runes they could paint on him. On the other hand, though, that could scare the unicorn away. It seems to like Derek just the way he is.

“Stiles.” Derek sighs.

“Scott and I will stay a respectable fifty feet downwind at all times, just in case,” Stiles says, fussing with the collar of Derek’s shirt. He has no idea what he’s doing, but he can’t stop doing it.

Derek grabs his fingers and squeezes them lightly. “I’ll be fine,” he says.

He lets him go before Stiles can even register the warmth of their hands being held together—they were holding hands—and Stiles sucks in a breath and forces himself to relax.

Unicorn. Right. Magical being of love and light. What could go wrong?

*

“Whoa,” Scott says.

“Holy crap,” Stiles says. “That thing is…” huge. Massive. With cloven hooves the size of Stiles’s head, and thick, long legs making it easily twice as tall as Derek. Its horn is a twisted, heavy mass of gold that obviously needs an enormous, muscled body to hold it up.

It slowly dips its head to rub its chin along Derek’s crown and Stiles holds his breath.

Derek tentatively raises a hand, presses it on the unicorn’s pink furred cheek.

“The books were all wrong,” Stiles whispers reverently. It’s like a Lisa Frank sticker on steroids. It could snap Derek’s neck clean in half with its teeth. Its hair gleams iridescent rainbows in the sunlight spilling out in between the leafy trees. Its mane is a waterfall. “I want to ride it.”

“Of course you do,” Scott hisses. He jabs Stiles in the stomach with his elbow. “Be quiet or it’ll hear you.”

It turns its head slightly, looking in their direction with fathomless eyes, the color of spring crocuses. Stiles feels a sharp sting in his heart—the unicorn blinks, once, and then Stiles is warm all over, like he’s standing too close to a fire.

“Whoa,” Scott says again.

It’s possible Stiles is crying. He tastes salt when he licks his lips. “We never speak of this,” he says, voice hoarse.

Scott says, “Sure, dude,” and then pulls him into a hug so Stiles can properly hide his face and sob.

*

Stiles is uncharacteristically quiet afterwards.

They wake up the next morning to a cold snap and frozen rain, but the afternoon brings sun and a rainbow over the preserve.

“He’s trying,” Derek says, sitting down next to him on the back porch steps.

Stiles feels off-kilter, like his heart’s been sewn back together, and he can’t help but pick at the threads. Stiles is not a good person. Stiles is loyal and smart, but his meter of right and wrong has always been skewed by those he loves. He doesn’t think that’s ever going to change. 

He clears his throat and pats Derek’s thigh. He says, “You deserve nice things.”

This unicorn is very obviously a nice thing.

This unicorn basically looked at Stiles and said, hey, you’re not perfect but maybe you’ll be okay.

Stiles sniffs and wipes at his eyes and feels vulnerable in a way he hasn’t in years.

Derek catches his hand, squeezes and doesn’t let go.

*

It takes Stiles a week, embarrassingly, to realize Derek is trying to date him.

“I’m not a nice thing, Derek!” Stiles shouts at him over pizza. Derek bought his favorite soda and let him pick the movie and don’t think Stiles missed the gallon of moose tracks in the freezer: it’s common knowledge that you can woo Stiles with food and deference. Ice cream is one of his few weaknesses, like old books and baseball bats.

Derek just looks at him calmly and says, “You are to me.”

*

It’s no wonder the unicorn took to Derek so well.

They’re both stubborn and too trusting and they both look like they could fuck you up, even though deep down they’re cinnamon rolls.

The unicorn is getting used to the gang, and the gang is getting used to the unicorn. Stiles would like to say he’s entirely composed around him now, but all that happens is that he learns how to curb his open weeping, and he blames his red eyes on allergies.

“He does this on purpose,” Stiles says to Derek, face buried in Derek’s arm. “He thinks this is funny.”

He ignores the small part of himself that knows that tears are cleansing, and that every time he comes away feeling just a little bit lighter.

“Confession,” Derek says, mouth light against Stiles’s hair. “I cried for months, too.”

“Oh,” Stiles breathes into his throat, fingers clenching the back of Derek’s shirt. “Oh.”

And there are several things he can take away from that, but the most prominent one is this: maybe someday he’ll get to touch him, too.

*

It’s another mild and long summer—Stiles’s hand is lost in the fall of ice blue mane, light as feathers, soft as clouds. “Oh,” he says. “Oh.”