“Dude,” Scott moans. “This is not a good idea!”
As Derek expected, Stiles resolutely ignores Scott. For once, Derek has to agree with Scott though; Stiles, for some unknown reason, was obsessed with playing this game during their board game nights and it never ended well. Stiles looks around to everyone, but like Derek, they casually avoid his eyes. Well, except for Allison, but that’s only because she’s a “boss ass b*tch” according to Stiles.
“Maybe Scott’s right. People cried last time, remember?” Allison chimes in, biting her lip.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “It was just Jackson.”
“Was not!” Jackson scowls, glaring at the group even though a few titters break out.
Hell, even Derek has to crack a smile at that but he covers it by ducking his face into his chest. It’s an old habit but he can tell by the way Stiles frowns that he caught the motion. Derek forgets how many times Stiles has told him upfront that it bothers him to see Derek still hiding from the pack. If he’s being honest, he has no idea when it became a habit or why it bothers Stiles so much, but it is what it is. For as long as he could remember, he had always been reserved like that, not sharing Laura or Cora’s large personalities.
The closest Derek’s come to showing amusement (or so he’s been informed reliably by Stiles, of course) has been a “half-curled smirk or just a faint twitch of his lips, quickly followed by an exasperated eye roll”. In those words exactly.
When Derek had squinted at Stiles, looking at him incredulously, he’d simply said, “Well, Derek, for the longest time I only thought you had like ten expressions but turns out you have more. So like any good researcher, I’m bound by my principles to document all the behaviors of the wild alpha werewolf of the Hale variety. It’s for science , Derek.”
And well, that’s when Derek had blinked slowly and then walked away because there was no way he was going anywhere near that train of thought with a ten-foot pole.
“Guys, this is a great idea. Even Derek agrees. Right, Derek?”
Everyone swivels their heads to Derek who stares back at Stiles, slack-jawed, clearly caught off-guard.
Stiles turns to the others. “That’s a yes.”
“Could’ve been a no,” Derek grumbles half-heartedly.
Stiles snorts. “Yeah, okay there, big guy.” He shoots Derek a self-satisfied smirk accompanied by a sly wink. As if Derek’s ever been able to say no to Stiles.
“Alright, friends , let’s circle in together. This one’s going to be a good one.”
Allison leans towards Scott. “Does he look weirdly maniacal every time he pulls this game out? Or is that just me?”
Scott pats her on the shoulder. “It’s not just you.”
“Hey!” Stiles flicks a random scrunched ball of paper at his supposed best bro, rolling his eyes when Scott gives him an expectant look.
“Bro, you’re literally crouched over the game and holding it to your chest like you’re about to say my precious .”
“Aw, you finally watched Lord of the Rings!”
Scott shrugs. “Isaac made me.”
Stiles gasps dramatically, but before he can say anything, Derek yanks the board game box from him and opens it, taking out a stack of cards and putting them in the middle of the circle everyone’s formed around the coffee table. Isaac and Erica struggle with each other to get the last spot on the couch but Boyd quickly snaps Erica into his lap and that’s that.
“For the record, I would just like to state that I was against this from the start,” Scott pipes.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now, who’s ready for Drunk, Stoned, or Stupid?” He adds some maniacal laughter just for Scott’s benefit before leaning forward and swiping the first card from the stack. “ Wakes up with half a burrito in bed .” As per the rules, he hands over the card to Lydia, who’s sitting to his left.
She hums, looking around with a scrutinizing eye, before landing on, “Isaac.”
“Wait - what?” Isaac’s mouth drops open. “When have I ever woken up with half a burrito in bed?”
“Sophomore year, after the AEPi frat party,” Lydia answers promptly. “Granted it wasn’t half a burrito but that’s because you proclaimed to everyone in the kitchen that you had just made the most precious-looking burrito and that nobody could take it away from you. That was before you ran up to some kid’s room and face-planted on the bed...and the burrito.”
Everyone laughs uproariously and even Derek hides a smile into his chest.
“Bro, are you serious?” Scott asks between laughs.
Isaac scowls but accepts the card when Lydia gives him a pointed look. “Alright, fine.”
Lydia picks next. “ Has sex while watching TV .” She hands the card to Allison.
She looks around to everyone before shoving the card under Stiles’s nose, who squawks indignantly.
“What?! I have never had sex while watching TV!”
“Yeah, are we sure Stilinski’s even had sex?” Jackson drawls, but Derek doesn’t miss the way he looks at him out of the periphery. He wants to roll his eyes; it’s like everyone in the pack thinks he believes Stiles is a blushing virgin and would be traumatically hurt beyond repair if he finds out Stiles isn’t -- which is stupid, okay? Derek might be in love with the guy but he’s under no misconception that he’s never had sex before.
Derek doesn’t even know when Stiles went from someone he once considered an ally to someone he goes to lunch with on a regular basis to someone who was able to look at Derek and just know him. Somewhere between all the supernatural threats and complicated relationship drama in the pack, Stiles figured out a way to tear down the brick walls Derek had put up after Kate. And Derek didn’t stop him -- hadn’t even wanted to.
Somehow, Stiles had graduated from a casual friend to his best friend to the-boy-Derek-shall-forever-pine-after-because-he’s-a-chicken-shit.
“Oh, fuck off before I make you cry again with my words.” Stiles snaps his head back to Allison, demanding, “Explain!”
“Ok so I’ve never caught you but that’s obviously because I’ve never seen you having sex, duh, but what if it was shitty sex and Star Wars was on TV, are you telling me you wouldn’t watch the TV instead?”
“Stiles.” Scott looks at him plaintively. “Be honest. Bad sex or Star Wars on TV.”
Stiles bites his lip, looking around to see if there’s anyone he can pass the card off to. His eyes land on Derek for a brief second.
“Don’t even think about it. I don’t even own a TV.” Derek smirks, easily shutting that down.
Stiles huffs, holding out his hand. “Fine. You’re all assholes though. I wouldn’t - yeah, okay, maybe I would. But for the record, only when it’s bad sex. Like really bad, okay?”
“Moving on,” Allison says, picking off the next card. “ Would survive in woods with just a hatchet .”
She passes the card onto Scott, who looks deep in thought. His eyes wander around the room, before settling on Boyd. “I feel like if anyone here knows how to handle a hatchet, it’d be you.”
“Fair point,” Boyd allows.
“Wait -- what about me?” Stiles pipes up. “I can handle a hatchet!”
Derek rolls his eyes. “You walked into a wall this morning and nicked yourself with a razor not two minutes later.”
Stiles gapes at him. “Excuse you, I can handle a hatchet! I’d say I do just fine when I’m saving your ass with nothing but a baseball bat!”
“Oh yes, a stick of wood compared to a stick of wood with sharp edges used to cut things. Hm, I wonder which one you’d hack yourself open with,” Derek responds dryly.
“Also, isn’t the point of the game to have the least amount of cards at the end?” Isaac points out.
“Yeah, but it’s a good card,” Stiles says morosely. “Oh alright, fine. But I’d like to argue then that Derek is also a strong contender!”
“Really, Stiles? Really going to drag me down with you?”
“I mean, just visualize it for a second, okay?” Stiles continues as if Derek hasn’t spoken a word. “It’s the end of the world as we know it. We’re forced to retreat into the woods to keep safe. Wouldn’t you want to give a hatchet to the one guy who knows the woods in the Preserve like the back of his hand? He did grow up practically living in the woods.”
Even Boyd hums in agreement. “That’s fair.”
“Plus, can we also just visualize a burly, judgy-browed, thickly bearded mountain man who just glares all the wildlife into submission? Because that’s a very real probability of what would happen if Derek were to actually become a hermit and run away into the mountains,” Stiles claims. “He would glare the cute, tiny squirrels into being his loyal subjects with his eyebrows of doom when he’s not busy serial murdering rabbits, probably.”
Derek gapes at him.
“Thought about this a lot, have you?” Erica smirks but proceeds to shove the card at Stiles anyways. “Anyways, as much as I’d love to hear more of Stiles’s hypothetical Derek-the-mountain-king scenarios, let’s move on.”
Scott flips the next card. “ Touches everyone excessively for no apparent reason .” Isaac reaches over and takes the card from him before handing it to Erica like there was no doubt in his mind.
She whistles. “Woooow, Isaac, really?”
He shrugs. “Accurate.”
“Seconded,” Derek says, narrowing his eyes at her.
“Thirded,” Jackson mumbles.
“It’s okay, babe. You can continue excessively touching me anytime,” Boyd says easily, leaning in to kiss her on the forehead and making Erica smile while Stiles pretends to gag from the cuteness.
Isaac goes next. “ Is High Maintenance .”
Two seconds of silence before Jackson sighs and holds his hand out.
And so it goes on.
“ Would be the first one to die in a scary movie. ”
In total unison, everyone chimes, “Scott.”
“You guys are assholes,” Scott mumbles, but even he can’t argue against a unanimous decision.
“Bro, not only are you a minority--”
“So is Boyd!”
“You also have the self-preservation instincts of the most pure-hearted golden retriever puppy.”
“ Doesn’t let facts stand in their way. ”
Erica announces, “Lydia.”
Lydia quirks up a brow. “Have you met me?”
Derek nods. “She’s right. Lydia is the one person I’d bet on to stick to the facts for anything. The one person I’d bet on to completely ignore everything factual if only to make his own way…,” he trails off, turning to Stiles and giving him an expectant look.
Stiles snatches the card from Erica. “I’ll take it but only because we can all agree that Derek just subtly complimented me in his quest to perhaps be insulting?”
“That was not a compliment, Stiles.”
“You said I’m so headstrong that I make my own way,” Stiles smirks. “You’re such a softie failwolf, Der-bear, but it’s okay because I love your failwolf self.”
Stiles adds a mocking flying kiss for effect but all Derek can hear is I love your failwolf self and prays to whatever entity is listening that the other wolves didn’t hear the way his heart lurched just a tiny bit.
“Someone save us,” Lydia mutters but before Stiles can question it, she continues loudly, “Next!”
And so it keeps going.
“ Can fall asleep anywhere .”
“ Stiles .”
“ Would be down to live in a cave. ”
Jackson thinks about it for a while. “Boyd.”
“On what grounds?” Boyd arches a brow before downing the rest of his beer.
Jackson shrugs. “Burly mountain men live in caves.”
“No no, Jackie, that’s Derek . D-E-R-E-K,” Stiles pipes up, leaning past Derek who promptly shoves him back in his seat and glares at him.
Honestly, Derek has no idea why he even tries the whole glaring bit at Stiles because it’s not like it works anymore. He’s well aware that all Stiles wants to do whenever Derek tries to intimidate him is pinch both his cheeks and coo, awwww if only because he got close once last year on Derek’s birthday and only because the girls got Derek wasted and Stiles just couldn’t handle a wide-eyed, eager Derek who looked “ridiculously soft in his stupid gray cable knit sweater” (according to Lydia).
“Stop trying to hand me cards!”
“I was just trying to correct a gross misnomer, Derek. We can’t pass off your personal brand to someone else.”
“Anyways,” Boyd cuts in, rolling his eyes. “I’d argue that Scott’s more likely to live in a cave.”
Boyd shrugs. “Just send Allison in and you’d follow her like a puppy. Also, I hear you did try to move into a small makeshift cave when you were five because your mom had to give away your puppy to the animal farm.”
As everyone bursts into laughter (even Derek lets out a snort), Scott whirls to Stiles. “You told!”
He shrugs lamely between his own laughs. “I might have told that story but only because Boyd was in a lot of pain and I was trying to distract him! Oh don’t make that face, it’s adorable.”
Scott narrows his eyes at him. “I’m going to remember this, Stilinski.”
“Oh no, I’m so scared.”
“ Tries too hard. ”
An uncomfortable silence as everyone tries not to surreptitiously glance at Jackson. He growls.
“Maybe we’ll just pass on this one this time?”
“ Is a danger to themselves. ”
Before Derek even opens his mouth, Stiles points a finger at him. “No. No. Derek, no.”
Not that that stops him. “Stiles.”
“Derek, no! I am not a danger to myself.”
Derek gives a considering hum. “You’re right. You’re not a danger to just yourself. You’re a danger to anyone within twenty feet of you.”
“Wooooooow, buddy. I’m going to remember that the next time you get paralyzed and fall in eight feet of water.”
“It’s always the pool thing with you, isn’t it?” Derek rolls his eyes. “Besides, let’s not forget the whole walking into a wall thing and cutting yourself with a razor thing or last year when you decided to give m-- us --a heart attack by trying to MacGyver a flamethrower out of a lighter and a hairspray bottle?”
“Totally not serious burns, first of all--”
But Derek keeps going. “Or the time you decided to have a hotdog eating contest with Isaac only to choke yourself on the third hot dog. I mean, I can keep going.”
Stiles turns to everyone else only to realize they’re all busy looking...elsewhere. “Traitors,” he hisses, before snatching the card from Derek. “You’re going down, Hale.”
He draws next. “ Is in love with their best friend .” He scratches his temple. “Think we can skip this one, no? Doesn’t really apply--”
Before he can finish, Lydia grabs the card from his hand and then stares at Derek. And suddenly, all the noise falls away and all that’s left is a dull echo because he knows exactly what she’s going to do.
“Lydia,” Allison starts, but it’s no use. She’s already holding out the card at Derek.
“This one’s yours, Derek,” is all Lydia says.
“Wait, what ?” Stiles squeaks, whirling around to face Derek, who’s giving his most serious death glare to Lydia. “What the fuck, dude?”
“That was not your call to make,” Derek says lowly instead, completely ignoring Stiles. He draws his hands closer to his body, hiding the way they’re clenched into fists with claws threatening to come out.
“Maybe we’re all just tired of you pining and deciding by yourself whether or not you’re worthy,” Lydia answers right back, no imminent fear on her face even when Derek growls threateningly.
Stiles looks between the two of them before noticing that nobody else was willing to get in the middle of their showdown. In fact, Jackson had inched slightly away from Derek and even Boyd looks mildly uncomfortable.
“Dude, is there--um--is there someone you’re not telling me about? Because it seems like everyone already knows except me,” Stiles says, blinking owlishly at Derek. “I thought we were friends.”
His voice cracks just a tiny bit and Derek can tell from the faint scent of saltwater that Stiles is hurt. He tries to school his expression so it doesn’t show but it’s no use. Even the other wolves have picked up on it if the way Scott looks is any indication.
“We are friends,” Derek says firmly.
“Clearly not if you’ve told everyone else about this best friend that I’ve never even heard of who you’re in love with!”
Derek gives him a pinched expression and seeing as how he’s unwilling to give anything away, Stiles turns to everyone else.
“Seriously, who is this person that Derek is apparently in love with?”
Rather than answer, all they do is exchange knowing looks with each other. The saltwater scent gives way to burning charcoal as Stiles stares at them all with barely constrained anger.
Scott gets up first, then Allison, and then the rest follow. “Um, I think I hear my mom calling me?”
Stiles stares at him flatly. “From twenty miles away.”
“Right, and I should help,” Allison chimes in nervously.
“We’re just going to leave. Okay, bye!” Erica mutters before they all run off. Literally. Isaac literally ran out the apartment.
Stiles stares at the coffee table with an unreadable expression, jaw tightly clenched and hands curled into fists by his side. Derek doesn’t know what was worse; an angry Stiles or a sad, hurt Stiles. Actually, he does -- the worse will always be sad, hurt Stiles because as much as Derek can handle anything from Stiles, he can’t bear to see him in pain. Not like this.
“I thought we were friends,” Stiles repeats slowly. He still doesn’t look at Derek and all he wants to do is to cup Stiles’s face and make him look. “All those times we went out for coffee or for lunch and we talked to each other -- like really talked -- and you never even mentioned that there was someone else.”
Before Derek can reply, Stiles lets out a strangled laugh and there’s that unbearable saltwater scent again.
“God, I’m so fucking pathetic,” Stiles says. “Someone else, I’m saying, like we were anything, to begin with. Like I was anything to you except for a friend.” He says the word like it’s poison, with a slight curl in his lip. “I know, okay? We -- we were good. I just thought that someday, we could be something better, y’know? Something more. But I mean, I guess I just waited too long and somehow completely missed the signs that you have a best friend that you’re in love with, oh my god.
“I -- okay, it’s fine. I’m okay and I don’t know why you didn’t tell me about her -- or him? -- but I swear you can tell me anything, Derek. You deserve so much happiness and if you’ve decided that this person is worth it--”
“He is,” Derek cuts in softly. “He’s worth everything.”
Stiles turns to Derek abruptly, eyes shining and a slight tremble on his lips before he schools them into a small smile and nods with a renewed vigor. “That’s good. That’s -- uh -- that’s really good. I’m happy for you, man. Seriously. If this guy is it for you, we should all meet him, right? You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to hide him from us.”
“I’m not hiding him. I don’t know if he feels the same way about me.”
Derek doesn’t know why he keeps the sham going but he’s transfixed on Stiles, who scoffs easily. “Then he’s an idiot. I know you, Derek Hale. I’ve done a lot of research remember? For science. And if there’s one conclusion I arrived at was that you--,” Stiles breaks off, taking a shuddering breath, before continuing, “--love with everything you have. Even with the pack, it’s so easy to see the way you always go out of your own way to make Allison feel included after everything. To make sure Scott doesn’t feel attacked. To make sure Jackson never feels any doubt that we’re his family too. You’re so good at loving everyone that if this idiot doesn’t see it, or doesn’t love you back, then he doesn’t deserve you.”
As if he’s shocked at the word vomit that happened (hell, Derek’s still trying to process everything), Stiles stands up suddenly. “I think I should go. I -- my dad’s probably wondering where I am and I didn’t even call.”
He’s halfway to the door before Derek realizes he’s leaving and no, Stiles can’t leave. Not like this. “Stiles, wait,” Derek calls out, getting up. Stiles stops, hand closed around the doorknob but he doesn’t move. His head hangs low and the closer Derek gets, he can see the slight shaking of his shoulders.
“Don’t you want to know?”
Stiles makes a low noise. “Derek, I -- I don’t think I can do this.”
Derek doesn’t stop until he’s right behind Stiles. “Ask me his name,” he says quietly.
“Ask me his name, Stiles.”
Stiles’s hands ball into fists and he whirls around, grabbing the lapels of Derek’s jacket. The anger and hurt in Stiles’s eyes is clear as day and Derek gently wraps his hands around his wrists. He walks closer to Stiles, making him stumble back into the door. Gently, Derek guides Stiles’s hands away from his jacket and shifts even closer to Stiles, free hands now wrapping around Stiles's hips. He leans down and rests his forehead against Stiles’s.
“Ask me his name,” Derek murmurs one last time.
Stiles inhales slowly. “What’s his name, Derek? Who are you in love with?”
Derek smiles and closes the distance between them.
“Stiles. His name is Stiles.”