Stiles stretches his neck, almost standing on his toes, as he looks through the crowd. There isn't a particular person he's looking for because they're all familiar faces, familiar people, so familiar in fact that it doesn't even take five seconds before someone spots him and makes him duck out of the room. He isn't entirely sure what's happening, why he's suddenly unsure about stepping into a roomful of people he knows and who knows him back. Or maybe it's just that--these people know him, too well probably, and he's going to have to answer questions about how he's been doing for the whole month that he's back.
Stiles looks up from where he's staring at his black patent leather shoes. He'd gotten them two months ago when Lydia had kind of forced him to buy new shoes after his tuxedo fitting. He whined about not needing new shoes for just one big event, which Lydia pointed out was the only event he needed to get shoes that weren't sneakers or rugged in some form. So yes, new shoes. Which has just been noticed by someone he didn't realize is going to be here.
"Yeah," Stiles answers, clearing his throat as he looks up and shoves his hands in his slacks pockets. Lydia said that Allison wanted everyone to come in at least semi-formal attire, which is really strange since this isn't even really a formal wedding event, just one that Allison wanted to throw so she could have everyone important in her life in one place. He's pretty sure that Lydia just wanted to make sure he actually dressed up, which is why he's dressed up in a long-sleeved light pink button up and a black coat. But then Derek is only wearing his usual dark jeans and gray Henley get up even though it is under a dark coat as well. "They are nice, aren't they?" He makes a face that he's pretty sure isn't attractive. "They're uncomfortable too. Kind of."
Stiles finds himself watching the way Derek's eyes crinkle at the corners as his eyes narrow at his laughter and how his white bunny teeth all come out with his wide smile. He figured there are things that he's missed while he's been away, Stiles just didn't realize that this, along with Derek's green eyes and his five o'clock shadow, would be truly one of them.
"I'm betting you have your sneakers at the back of your car," Derek then speaks up, tone wobbly because he still is laughing. Stiles isn't entirely sure this whole shoe debacle is that funny. "C'mon," he suggests, tilting his head towards the entrance. "Let's get you changed."
They get out of the restaurant and to the parking lot where Stiles' now beat up jeep was parked. He'd driven it for all of his high school life and almost all of his university time until he decided to just stay in the dorms. Being back home has given him a chance to drive it again and relive some of the jeep's glory days. It was quite nice driving it around Beacon Hills, which was even more of a surprise when he found out that his dad kept up with its maintenance even though he's been away for a long time.
"I can't believe this is still alive," Derek comments, leaning against the jeep as Stiles takes his semi-worn black sneakers out and exchange it with the black patent leather shoes.
"I can't believe it either," Stiles agrees with him. He places the shoes back in its box because, yes, he still puts it in a box because he doesn't know where else it's going to be used for except for this wedding.
"I hear you drive something nicer back in New York," Derek comments like that is something that he is actually privy to. Not that anything that Stiles does is a secret to Derek specifically. It's just that he doesn't know who Derek talks to about things like this, about things about Stiles. Not that it matters.
"Just recently," Stiles confirms with a nod and a shift of his shoulders, sighing a little when he gets some relief from the stretch. "Commuting isn't really conducive to my job. It's mostly a company car for now but I am paying it off little by little." He shrugs again, holding the shrug a bit longer than usual before relaxing. Derek raises an eyebrow, which he shrugs off with a smile. "I think we better go back inside before Lydia thinks I skipped."
Derek nods. "No one wants to be on Lydia's bad side," he agrees since he feels like he's been on her good side long enough to not want to be back to the other side again.
They come back into the restaurant with Stiles trying not to look too much at Derek. He does this every time he comes back to Beacon Hills and sees him. There's always that element of surprise that they actually talk every time they do see each other, which just happens to be every two months or so for the past year since Scott and Allison, through Lydia (he has very mean friends), tell him to go back to do his best man duties. Now that they're probably going to see each other everyday for a month, Stiles hopes he doesn't get to obvious. He really can't help himself though. It's really strange and interesting that Derek even talks to him after everything that's happened.
Stiles immediately spots Scott, his arm around Allison's waist. They're talking and laughing about something with Lydia and, to Stiles' surprise, Aiden. The last time he talked to Lydia, she was very much single. That, and she and Aiden hadn't talked since Aiden left Beacon Hills after high school as far as he knew. High school. So to see Aiden's arm around Lydia's shoulders with Lydia laughing like it's been meant to be that way, well... it's nice. Surprising, but nice.
"Aiden's back?" Stiles voices out his surprise.
"In more ways than one," Derek confirms with a fond smile on his face. Stiles bites his lower lip to hide his because there was a time when Derek wouldn't be caught dead being fond of any of them. "There was a bit of a scuffle between him and Isaac but all's good now."
"I can see that," Stiles comments, eyebrows raised in amusement as Isaac walks up to Aiden and pats his shoulder, Aiden giving him a grin in return. "I leave for a month and this is what happens. I should be around more so I don't miss anything else."
"You should," Derek agrees. It's quiet and Stiles almost doesn't hear it, but he does and he thinks it's time to announce his appearance.
He makes his way through the crowd to his friends. He can feel Derek's eyes on his back but he ignores it as he stops several times to greet some family friends and friends' parents, like Scott's mother, who's also like his second mother. By the time he reaches the others, they've already seen him. Scott untangles himself from Allison so they could hug like saps in the middle of the room. After which the others take turns hugging him like they hadn't seen him a couple of weeks ago for the fitting and the bachelor party planning. When all the sappy hugging is done, he steps back and sees Derek grinning at him, a tiny quirk in his brow and arms open wide like he's waiting for his hug.
"Well go on," Lydia pushes him.
Stiles fights the urge to roll his eyes because this is ridiculous. It's been a long time, like three years long, but his friends seem to think it's still something they can hold over Stiles. He and Derek may not have actually talked about what happened between them, about what may be some of the best years of Stiles' life and that bad breakup, but they started talking a year after that and everything is okay. He and Derek are cool. They're okay. They may not be exactly friends, but they're something civil and people who are fine to be in each other's presence.
So, what the heck? Stiles can hug Derek. Stiles is okay with hugging Derek. There can be some hugging because it's just hugging. Granted that they barely do any touching, though they talk, Stiles can hug Derek. Hugging is fine.
Before Stiles can take a step forward though, slender arms wrap around Derek's waist from behind him and Stiles freezes. She's tall, almost as tall as he and Derek are, but slender and fair and really pretty. Her dark hair is coiffed elegantly, simple makeup with red lipstick done well. It's a very classic look with her simple black dress and Stiles can see why Derek would go for her. Derek likes simplicity.
"Hey!" Derek turns and wraps an arm around her as he gives her a peck on the lips. "I didn't know you've arrived."
"I got held up by your mom and Laura at the door," she explains and that makes Stiles' eyebrows rise a bit because, wow, she's already met the parents. It must be serious this time. "I was actually going to text you but then decided I'd just go look for you. But in the process of doing so, Cora found me and told me about her boyfriend and got sidetracked again and--"
Derek cuts her off with a laugh and a kiss and Stiles looks away. He didn't realize that Derek was in a serious relationship. It's not that he cares. It's just that as far as he knew or as far as what Scott's told him, Derek sees a lot of people and most of them don't last long enough to be able to meet the family. But if this girl has met his family to the point that they stop to talk to her and introduce her to important people in their lives, well then, that's certainly something.
Scott catches his eye and there's something there like pity so Stiles looks away because he sure as hell don't need it. But then he looks at Lydia, who is smiling at him with some sort of challenge and Stiles just rolls his eyes. He and Derek are done. Whatever happened back in high school and college was just that, something in high school and college.
"This is Jules," Derek says when he finally introduces her.
"Julia," Jules--Julia--says as she reaches to shake his hand, which Stiles immediately takes. "It's nice to finally meet the famous Stiles."
"I don't know about famous," Stiles returns with a laugh, pocketing his hand after the handshake. Her hand is soft and he thinks it's a nice contrast to Derek's rough ones. "But it's nice to meet you, Julia."
"I hope we can get the chance to know each other since I hear so much about you from everyone," Julia relays with a pretty smile. She elbows Derek. "Derek never tells me anything but everyone else regales me of stories about you."
"Well," Stiles clears his throat because understandable but interesting tidbit. He meets Derek's eyes for a second before Derek looks away and kind of shifts Julia closer to him. "I'm not sure there's anything else for me to tell since everyone seems to enjoy talking about me." He pretends to glare at his friends, who makes faces at him like the mature adults that they are. "But yeah, of course. I'd love to get to know you as well," he says. Why the hell not? If she doesn't think being friends with your boyfriend's ex is weird, why should Stiles feel weird about it?
Julia excuses herself and Derek after a bit more small talk and Stiles feels himself relax to his surprise. He didn't even know that he was that wound up the whole time. Scott puts an arm around his shoulders, while Allison looks contrite. Lydia is smirking, while Aiden is just standing there, pressing his face to her hair. At least Isaac is literally just standing there and not doing anything with his face.
"That went better than expected," Isaac comments and Stiles takes back about him not doing anything. "We thought there'd be some awkward laughter and tension or something."
"Guys, really?" Stiles laughs at their reactions. "Derek and I have been okay for a while now." It's not something he says to convince anyone because it's true, they have been doing well as acquaintances or whatever they are and everyone has been a witness to that.
"Well you haven't met Julia, or Jules as Derek likes to call her, until now," Lydia points out and she's looking at Stiles like he's a puzzle to be solved. "I think everyone's been holding their breath for this pivotal moment in your relationship."
Stiles does roll his eyes this time. "Derek's been dating, I've always known that," he reminds them, shaking his head. "I've even met that other girl with dark hair and--whatever, the point is I know he's been dating." He lets out a breath and finds an exit before any of them can say anything else. "I'm going to go get a drink," he announces.
He passes by Erica and Boyd, who both stop making out for a second to greet him and catch up for a bit, sees Laura chatting with Cora and gestures that he'll be right with them after he gets his drink. He feels like he needs it at this point.
It's overwhelming, being back in full force. This isn't just him being back for a day or two. It's going to be a full month and maybe a couple of days more because Scott and Allison have a lot of activities planned before their wedding day and they're planning some sort of group outing after their honeymoon. He's going to be staying at his old house, sleeping in the bedroom that he hasn't stayed in since he was eighteen. Erica and Boyd are still together. Lydia and Aiden are back together. He's already driving the old jeep and it's all just very nostalgic right now.
Lydia appears at his side just as he's getting his second drink. She's still incredibly beautiful with her dark green top and skirt ensemble, her red locks tied in a simple knot and Stiles would appreciate it more if she wasn't wearing such a smug expression.
"So is it a piece of cake like you said it would be?" Lydia asks, lips pursed.
"I don't know why I'm still friends with you," Stiles declares. "I don't know why we ever became friends. You used to ignore me. Why didn't you continue ignoring me? Why aren't you ignoring me now?"
"Stiles, shut up," Lydia says without much feeling. Saying 'Stiles, shut up' is almost like a catchphrase between their group of friends since Stiles never really shuts up.
Stiles sighs, scratching his jaw as he catches Derek and Julia smiling at something that Laura is telling them. Lydia tuts beside him and he looks away as she places a hand on his shoulder. He knows why he keeps Lydia around. She's the only one who actually ever bothered to continue listening to Stiles babble about everything that had happened. Scott is still his best friend, but he also lives in Beacon Hills, while Lydia went to New York to get her doctorate degree. She became his closest friend because she came to his aid and tolerated him the first year after the breakup. After that, she started kicking him to get up and get over it.
"It's fine," Stiles tells her, finishing his second drink in one gulp. "It's been three years and he really has been dating other people for a while now."
"She's met his family, Stiles," Lydia points out like Stiles doesn't know that and what it means. Lydia saying it out loud just satisfies Stiles' curiosity about Julia being the first one Derek's introduced to his family after him. "Are you sure you're okay with that?"
"I am. It's bound to happen," Stiles finally responds after a third drink. "It's impossible for someone like Derek to stay single and play around for so long. Not when he's the long-term relationship kind of guy." Stiles would know. He and Derek were together for six years.
Lydia sighs this time and Stiles can't take it. This is not how he wanted to come back. Him coming back isn't about him and his ex-boyfriend. It's supposed to be because Scott and Allison are getting married. It's supposed to be a fun reunion and not the kind that maybe his friends are still hoping for him, something that Stiles doesn't know what to think about. Sure, Derek may be his one great love, the one that got away as well, but that didn't mean that he hasn't moved on. Derek clearly has and Stiles has too. Him being back doesn't change any of that. It doesn't change the fact that it has been three years and that it's over.
"Are you sure you don't want to crash at my place tonight?" Lydia asks, and it's just like they're in New York. Stiles has his apartment, a really nice one with a good view of central park, but once in a while, he and Lydia stay at each other's apartment to hang out and find comfort in each other's friendship. "And are those sneakers?" she suddenly asks, eyes boring holes through them.
Stiles shifts in his stance and deflects to the first question. "And listen to you and Aiden going at it like rabbits? No thanks," he says. "How did that happen by the way? How come I've never heard about this until now?"
"It was nothing official until a couple of days ago," Lydia explains, looking contrite that she hasn't said anything to Stiles. "I mean it's been on and off for some months now, what with him being on the other side of the country, but yeah. We've decided to work it out for good." She narrows her eyes at him. "If you think that I'm forgetting about the shoes--"
"That's great, Lyds," Stiles tells her, wrapping her in a tight hug and laughing. He hopes that the actual conversation at hand can make her forget about the dumb shoes. Besides, if anyone knows just how lonely it is to be away from family and friends and to be alone, it's the two of them. It's probably why they clung to each other in New York. "High school romances never die, huh?"
"Look who's talking," she shoves him and Stiles lets go of her.
Stiles chuckles, swallowing the dryness of his throat, as he watches Derek and Julia kiss. "Well, I guess some do," he mutters.
"Sure, dad," Stiles says as he sets his bag down. It's not as dusty or as empty-looking as he expected it to be. His dad has thought about selling it but hasn't really done any packing and continues to have it cleaned, seeing as the house holds a lot of memories for the both of them. "I mean, it's our house." He gestures around and, once again, the nostalgia creeps in.
"I could stay with you," the Sheriff offers and Stiles immediately shakes his head. He sighs and brings Stiles to him in a hug that Stiles didn't realize he's been longing for. "It's good that you're back for a while, even if it's for Scott's wedding."
Stiles hugs him back, leaning his weight on his dad. "Allison's too," he corrects. "Plus, there's the whole prospect of spending more time with you and maybe catching up." He chuckles when his dad pulls away and kind of shoves him back as a joke. They talk almost everyday to catch up so there's really nothing about Stiles that his dad doesn't know, well almost. "I'll be fine," Stiles assures him. "Scott and some of the guys will probably come over to crash one of these days because, unlike some people, I really haven't talked to them in a while."
"Fine fine," the Sheriff waves off his comment, as well as waves before he leaves. Stiles walks him to the porch. "If you need anything, just call."
"Sure, dad," Stiles says, taking a deep breath as his dad gets into the squad car and drives away.
He goes to his room, his bag in his hand, takes one look at it, at the bedspread (he can't believe his dad never took the Spiderman one off), his lacrosse gear and all the photos and knows immediately that he's not going to be sleeping there. Stiles takes his bag back to the living room and slumps down on the couch. He pats it as if to say 'you're going to be my bed for the duration of my stay'. There is no way he's sleeping in a room that's still filled with remnants of his relationship with Derek.
Derek. If he had known that being back after a day would do this, he wasn't sure if he'd been back at all. Sure, it was his best friends' wedding and everyone, all of their friends and family expects him to come, but they'd understand, right? It wasn't anything personal, Stiles was just really immature and emotionally stunted. Stiles groans as he presses his face to his pillow. He's not even sure what the problem is. He's seen Derek before all the times he'd been back in Beacon Hills. They'd caught each other in Scott's house, had a meal together with their friends, Stiles has even been invited to dinner at the Hale house every single visit back. So what's different now? It's probably the inevitability of them seeing each other a lot, if not everyday, and spending so much time together. With Julia.
"Shut up, Stiles!" he yells into the living room. He covers his eyes with his hands. "Shit," he hisses. He didn't realize that this was going to be a big problem, hadn't anticipated feelings to creep up. Sitting up in one go makes him feel a bit lightheaded, pressing a palm to his forehead before he grabs his phone. He was thinking about calling Lydia or maybe Scott when he sees he has a unread message.
Stiles pushes himself off the couch once he's read it, unlocks his front door and opens it. He grins, wide and wholehearted, when he sees Scott on his lawn, holding up a beer, with Allison, Lydia, Isaac. And Derek. His grin falters slightly but he doesn't let it get to him. His friends are here because they know how Stiles gets when he comes back home. While some people feel homesick when they're away from home, Stiles feels it more especially on his first night back.
He waves them all in, jumping on Scott's back with Lydia before them and Derek and Allison behind them. He drops to the couch and watches with fondness as his friends moved around the living room, pushing the table to the side and turning the TV and the DVD player on. Derek takes a seat beside him, the old couch dipping so much at his weight that Stiles kind of slides towards him.
"Were you planning on sleeping on the couch?" Derek asks him.
Stiles glances at the pillows, his favorite pillow among them, and his still packed bag on the side. "Kind of," he answers, voice soft as he shifts away from Derek. Derek raises an eyebrow at him. "My room still has the Spiderman sheets on." The corners of his lips quirk up as a sudden smile graces Derek's face.
"Spiderman all the way." The way Derek says it is casual and straightforward but Stiles can hear the tiny teasing note on it.
Stiles shoves him. He's strong enough that he's able to push Derek until the very end of the couch, Derek's hip hitting the arm of the seat. Derek lifts his arm so that it wouldn't be squished between them and wraps it around Stiles as he retaliates with a touch and then a tickle to his side. Stiles convulses because tickling is something he can't ever handle and Derek's fingers, long but thick, are perfect for it. With a yell, he pulls back, grabbing onto Derek's shirt when he falls onto his back on the couch and dragging him down with him.
Stiles looks at Derek, eyes wide, their faces inches away from each other. Derek has a smile on his face, the soft, gentle, fond one that is so familiar because he knows it's the same one he's given Derek. It's the smile they give to each other when they're in a room full of people and they want to tell the other that they love them. It's the look of love. Fuck.
Someone clears their throat and Derek is off him in a second and Stiles is sitting up, fixing his shirt which had ridden up in the scuffle. Scott is giving them a knowing look, Lydia has her lips pursed, while Allison is grinning. Stiles huffs in annoyance and stands, not even bothering to give Derek a second glance. He doesn't even want to think what that was and grabs the DVD from Lydia so he can pop it in the player.
The opening credits of The Godfather play as Scott hands him a beer when he settles back onto the couch, this time beside Lydia. She's sitting in the middle, not happy with acting as buffer between him and Derek, while Scott and Allison are snuggled together on the floor. It's not Stiles' fault that she sat herself down there so she can deal with it. She could have sat elsewhere but she chose to sit in the middle--not that Stiles cares where she sits or where anyone else sits. Stiles groans internally because here he is with his best friends, watching one of the greatest movies ever made, and he is just worrying about where people are sitting. He downs his drink and gets up so he can get some water from the kitchen.
Stiles sits on one of the stools and leans his forehead against the coolness of the counter. This is not going to work. What happened to the one year he spent getting over Derek? And what happened to the two years he spent having fun, dating around, and then meeting Malia afterwards? Malia. Blowing out a breath, he takes his phone out and dials his number.
"Hey," he mumbles, pressing his forehead to the counter again before straightening up when he realizes the time. "I'm sorry for calling," he adds before Malia can even get a word out.
She sighs and Stiles can imagine her running a hand through her hair as she does, her brown locks cascading down her shoulders beautifully. He squeezes his eyes shut at the memory. "I know you are," she states softly. There's some rustling in the background and Stiles wonders if he woke her up. "Don't worry about it," she continues before he can ask or say anything else, like she knows what he's thinking.
"It's only been a day," Stiles tells her and suddenly he misses her. Malia has always been good at listening to him ramble about the most useless and the most pointless things. He's hoping that this time would be the same, but he's worried that it wouldn't be. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have. It's too early. You should go back to bed."
"Stiles, we're already here," Malia tells him, ever so patient. She's always been really patient with him through everything. He's not entirely sure how he deserved her in the first place. Malia is kind of perfect in that she's the ideal girlfriend. "I'm up so tell me why you called." She sighs when he doesn't say anything because he's thinking of what he should say. "How's your dad?"
That Stiles can answer. Family is easy to him, even though it still hurts sometimes when he thinks about his mom being gone. But with the addition of Melissa and Scott being, almost, officially his brother talking about family makes him happy. So he tells Malia about his dad, about the house, about looking forward to hanging out with Scott during the month, about being excited to taste Melissa's cooking. He even tells her about looking forward to staying several nights at the McCall house, which he hasn't done since he and Scott were in high school. Afterwards, Stiles moves on to talking about Lydia, how she and Aiden were back together, about how sappy Scott and Allison are because, duh, almost married, about Isaac and Cora and Laura and everyone he'd seen at the party.
"How's Derek?" Malia then asks and Stiles holds his breath. Malia knows about Derek, about their history, about everything that Stiles has felt for him. They rarely talk about it because Malia knows better than to talk about her exes with Stiles, but sometimes she asks just because she knows how important Derek is to him still.
Derek chooses that moment to walk into the kitchen, beer can on hand. He stops in the doorway when he sees Stiles on the phone.
"Hey, I'll call you back," Stiles tells Malia.
Malia chuckles and even through thousands of miles away Stiles can see the stretch of her pink lips and the way she slightly bows her head when she does this. "Sure you will," she says. "Good night, Stiles."
Stiles pockets his phone when the call disconnects and watches Derek throw the beer can in the trash and open the fridge for a pitcher of water. Derek keeps his back to him as he pours himself a glass and drinks it in two gulps. This isn't Stiles' house. This isn't even Derek's home or apartment, but Stiles is almost blown away by the familiarity of Derek standing in a kitchen with him. There were many a day where Stiles would just sit by the counter and watch Derek prepare food for both of them, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Stiles liked watching Derek cook, enjoyed it even more when Derek cooked for him. It was nice being taken cared of. Derek knew how to do that well.
"How's Malia?" Derek breaking the silence like that is like Stiles getting doused with ice cold water. Stiles shivers.
"Fine," is Stiles short but sweet answer. It's nothing short of the truth. Malia is fine, as she always has been and as she always will be.
"Sad that she couldn't come with you?" Derek wants to know, leaning against the fridge, arms crossed over this chest. The movement makes his arm muscles bulge out and Stiles wonders just how often Derek's been working out these days.
"Well she has her job so..." Stiles trails away with a shrug. Malia hates traveling so it's not really a loss. Plus, she was never really friends with anyone in their group so she was uncomfortable coming out in the first place, even when Allison did invite her to come. "There's really no reason for her to come anyway. She wasn't really friends with Scott or Allison," he explains, tracing the weird design of the wooden counter.
"I would think you're reason enough," Derek says, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He's put the glass down and looks like he's going to approach Stiles because of his concern. "Is everything okay?"
"Yes," Stiles assures him with a short laugh. He lets out a breath, puffing his cheeks out. "Malia is a really great girl. I mean, really, who do you know can kick a guy's ass because he groped me on the bus, juggle her marketing job with her love for animal preservation and, really, just date me altogether? She's pretty great, like really really and I can't even begin to tell you how--"
"Stiles, you're rambling," Derek cuts him off. He's amused, though, instead of annoyed like most people get when Stiles gets carried away.
"We're fine," Stiles finishes. There's an ugly taste in his mouth and he wonders if it's the beer. He doubts it is. He watches as Derek's brow furrow even more before his expression schools back to what Derek probably thinks is indifference but just screams concern to Stiles.
"I'm glad to hear things are fine," Derek finally says as he moves to sit on one of the stools across the counter from him. "It must be hard, you having to come here for a wedding without her." His hand flinches like he wants to reach across the counter for Stiles' hand. Stiles just swallows when he feels his palms tingle. "It must be hard to go anywhere without her," he amends.
"Yes, well," Stiles says with an indifferent shrug. "It happens with my job--our jobs. I travel around the country a lot and she travels, too, so... Yeah." He smiles helplessly and Derek shakes his head because Stiles has always been hopeless. "Anyway, that's that." He shrugs. "So!" Stiles claps his hands, hoping to diffuse the weird tension. "Julia!" He wiggles his eyebrows up and down.
Derek laughs and Stiles lets it wash over him. Derek's laughter is still one of his most favorite sounds in the world; top 3, right after his dad's grunt of exasperation over him and his mom humming I'll Be Seeing You in his ear as he went to sleep as a kid.
Derek opens his mouth to answer his question but Lydia walks in and glares at both of them. "The movie is halfway done and you two are still here," she tells them, tone snappish and both Derek and Stiles stand up without delay. She leaves before they can apologize.
"Come out to the preserve tomorrow," Derek tells Stiles as they walk back to the living room.
Stiles smiles at him and nods. "Okay."
Stiles has always loved the preserve. It's one of the things he's missed about Beacon Hills, with all the tall, leafy trees, the cool air, the crunch of dried leaves and branches under his shoes, it's all felt very calming and soothing to him. He's felt jealous of Derek in the beginning about how lucky he is that his family owns land that he can run around in and play at and never worry because it is their land. He and his friends always went out on picnics there almost every weekend or whenever they could. They'd have bonfires and pitch tents and sleep under the stars. Stiles thought it was very romantic.
After about two hours or so of walking, because Stiles missed it so much and just walked aimlessly, he thinks he's probably lost. It's more exercise than Stiles has done in the past three years and he's sweaty and his legs are starting to ache. Where the hell is he? Stopping, he puts his hands on his hips and just pants in his tiredness. It's not exactly the relaxing day he envisioned for himself but he supposes the exercise is good for him.
It's nice though to be by himself in a place that holds a lot of memories, which Stiles isn't going to allow himself to think about. He takes his phone out and dials Scott's number. That way Scott and call Derek and let him know that Stiles is already at the preserve.
"Hey," Stiles greets as he starts walking again. "Can you call Derek and tell him I'm at the preserve? We're supposed to meet up but I forgot to ask what time and where. I just drove here after breakfast without much thought." He decides to leave out the fact that he has been here for hours and that he's lost. No sense in doing that. "Oh hey, can you tell him that I brought food? There were sandwiches at home and I figured he could use the food."
"Stiles," Scott says when Stiles finally lets him speak. "Are you lost?"
Stiles coughs. "I didn't say that," he denies, feeling his cheeks heating up. Great, it's not like his whole face is red already from the exertion of walking around.
"You just said that you've been there since after breakfast," Scott reminds him and Stiles wants to smack him because he can hear the laughter in his voice. "It's almost noon, and you're always up early."
"I'm on vacation," Stiles corrects him, gritting his teeth. "And I get up later on vacations. I literally just got here. Look, can you just tell Derek I'm here?"
"I'll give you his number, hang on," Scott tells him.
"No," Stiles interjects rather harshly. He squeezes his eyes shut. "I mean, you can just tell him. It's faster that way."
"How is it faster when you can just call him yourself and actually tell him where you are?" Scott reasons, sounding confused.
But Stiles doesn't really hear him. He thought that the Hale house, which is really more of a mansion, was the only structure built on the land. He must be wrong, because he's standing in a clearing in the woods, in front of a big house, not as big as the Hale's, but still pretty big. It's two stories high, white, with a big porch and a surrounding balcony.
"I'll call you back," Stiles tells Scott, ending the call in the middle of Scott's protests. He pockets his phone as he makes his way to the red front door.
It looks like one of those houses one sees in magazines because of its size, simplicity and elegance. It was technically just a white house with a red roof and a red door. The balcony around the house is pretty cool, too, but it's just that simple. But, somehow, Stiles feels there's so much more to it. He holds his breath as he opens the door, ignoring the fact that he is actually really trespassing this time, and breathes out as he looks around.
It's empty. The house is empty, or at least the whole foyer and living room is and, from what he can see from where he's standing, there's also no furniture on the second floor. But he walks further in anyway and looks into the rooms in the first floor. Each room that he goes into, a flash of what it could look like appears in his head, which has him shaking it off each time. It's not like this is his house--he doesn't even know whose it is so it doesn't really matter what he thinks. He wonder if Laura and her fiance of over a decade are finally moving out. Maybe this is their house.
He and Derek had talked about them before. Houses. Moving out. Moving away from home. And maybe living together. Stiles thinks it was about the time he'd moved into the university dormitories when he'd brought it up. Living with people who didn't think studying was more important than studying really got to him. There were several nights where he'd wished that he was living by himself in a quiet space so he could actually get some work done because there was always a party somewhere in the building that made him unable to concentrate. Derek had offered to drive him back and forth since he still stayed at home, but Stiles had declined, saying that was what he wanted to avoid doing by moving into the dorms.
"What if we found a place and moved in together?" Stiles had asked then. "I know, I know I'm terrible to live with, what with all the scattered clothing and the way I do homework, posting them on my cork board like they're some sort of mystery to solve, which they are by the way," he insisted, raising a hand up. "I mean, really, these professors, you'd think their class is the only class we're taking." He paused. "But yeah, living together. I mean we don't have to share one room." He smiled, uneasy about Derek's silence. They were in a serious relationship, they both knew that. But they hadn't really talked about the future, about living together or maybe getting married or being together forever.
Stiles chuckles and shakes his head as he remembers Derek's reaction. Derek had practically lunged at Stiles to kiss him. He remembers laughing and kissing Derek again as he answered with, "Soon."
Soon turned to never because they broke up. It doesn't matter. It's not like Stiles actually expected his high school and college love to be something that would last forever. Not everyone is like Erica and Boyd who stayed together after all this time or like Scott and Allison who give new meaning to the words cheesy and domestic.
He continues exploring, although there isn't really much to explore, and eventually finds himself in a fully furnished and seemingly functional kitchen. Stiles is floored because it's a gorgeous kitchen, the kind that you see in the homes of people who actually know how to cook incredibly delicious food.
"It's not all empty," a voice behind him says and Stiles spins around to find Derek leaning against the doorway.
"I see that now," Stiles says, instead of commenting that Derek should really put on more clothing. He shouldn't be allowed to wear just sweatpants and a wife-beater. "Did you just wake up?" he asks, eyebrow raised. Derek always woke up just before dawn because he has this morning ritual of going on a one-hour run before cooking his own breakfast. Stiles hates that he still knows this.
Derek shakes his head as he pushes himself off the doorway and walks into the kitchen. "I was at the house," he explains as he grabs a box of orange juice from the fridge and pours Stiles a glass. "Hung out for a bit after breakfast," he adds. "Sorry I didn't know you'd be early. I also lost track of time."
"Wasn't early," Stiles denies. Derek raises his eyebrows, lips quirking in amusement so he grumbles. "I walked around for a bit." He shrugs. "Not a big deal. Whose house is this anyway? I didn't know the Hales were expanding. Is Laura moving out?"
"Laura?" Derek repeats in confusion. He leans on the middle counter and Stiles does the same.
"This looks like a house a new couple or a new family would move into," Stiles explains, gesturing around. "I like the wooden floors and how spacious and airy the whole place is. This kitchen is perfect for you guys, especially for Laura since she loves to cook and, man, the balcony around the house is a dream." He's babbling, he knows, but he just doesn't know how to cope with the fact that he's alone with Derek.
"Do you want to see it?" Derek asks after a couple of seconds of silence. He's looking at Stiles like he's struggling to figure something out, which Stiles turns away from because it's been a long time since he's had the privilege of getting to ask what was on Derek's mind. "The balcony, I mean."
"It really is a dream," Stiles comments and laughs as they step onto the balcony. His hand is light on the wooden rail as he walks around it, Derek at his heels. "One that's come true." He remembers this house, he thought he'd seen it maybe from a magazine, but now he knows he didn't. There's a painting in the Hale house, right by the staircase, of a white, two-storey house with a red roof, a red door and a balcony surrounding the entire second floor.
"It just got finished not even a month ago," Derek says, clearing his throat as he leans against the railing and looking out into the trees. "Scott and Isaac helped with the painting. Actually, Allison too and then she and Lydia helped decorate the kitchen and the bedroom."
Stiles looks up at him. "Why only the kitchen and a bedroom?"
Derek shrugs and he takes a deep breath as if dispelling something away. Stiles gets it, it's not his place anymore. Heck, he probably built this place for him and Julia. This has Stiles stiffening and backing away enter back into the house through the first doorway that he sees.
"Stiles," Derek calls after him.
"I should go," Stiles says as he practically runs to the stairs. But it's where Derek grabs a hold of his wrist and turns him around and he looks at Stiles. "What?" he blurts out because Derek is looking at him like that again and it's just not fair.
Derek clears his throat. Something in his eyes flicker and Stiles is sort of afraid of what he's going to say. It'll probably something along the lines of you let this go when you left and he really doesn't want to deal with that.
"Scott said you had food with you," is what Derek says.
Stiles laughs as his breath leaves him. "Right," he responds, swallowing so loudly that Derek watches his Adam's apple bob up and down. "That's what I was going to do--get the food. From my jeep." He takes his wrist from Derek's grasp and hurries down the stairs.
Stiles can't believe he acted so dramatic back there. It was just a house. Sure, it's Derek's house, one he's wanted to build for himself in forever and now that it's here, it's his choice with whom he wants to share it with. Stiles has been away in New York, making a life for himself, chasing his dreams and having fun. It's unfair of Stiles to not want the same for Derek. Which he is doing. He looks happy, his family is great and he has Julia, who seems so lovely. She's perfect for Derek. Derek is happy and Stiles should be too, like he's been in New York. When he left Beacon Hills.
"Do you even know where you're going?" Derek asks from behind him, making Stiles jump. They're in the middle of the forest, the new house barely seen through the trees. Stiles grins and rubs the back of his neck because he doesn't really know where he's going. Yet again. "Figures," he mutters and Stiles shoves him lightly.
"Shut up," Stiles grumbles but there's no heat in it.
"Years and years of running around in the preserve and you still get lost," Derek teases him.
"Years and years of you, Scott and Isaac running fast and making me get lost in trying to find you guys, you mean," Stiles scoffs. "Your argument is invalid."
"Argument is valid," Derek corrects him with a chuckle, shaking his head. "If I remember correctly, you found us every single time."
"Your memory is correct," Stiles agrees, feeling rather smug about it. He walks alongside Derek, their arms brushing each other's every now and then. There should be tension of some sort since it's been that way ever since he saw Derek yesterday. But this is nice. It's simple and relaxed, like they're two old friends reminiscing and catching up. "Scott is just really bad at keeping quiet. So it's not like I memorized every tree in the preserve."
"You like memorizing things, though," Derek points out and it warms Stiles' heart that Derek still remembers things like this, things that don't really matter. "I bet you could find your way back to the house by yourself in no time."
"Are you kidding?" Stiles laughs. "It took me two hours of walking around before I even saw it. And it was completely by accident." He taps Derek's arm with the back of his hand. "Hey, where's the treehouse at by the way? I was so sure I was going to find it while I was walking around but ended up not finding it anywhere. Did the preserve grow larger or something? Because I swear it seems like much bigger land now."
"Had to take it down," Derek answers just as Stiles' jeep comes into view. He reaches for the keys from Stiles and he opens it to take the bag of food down. "There were some plans for the place."
"Oh," Stiles says, shrugging. "I mean, yeah, of course. It's just a stupid treehouse anyway." He laughs it off even if it makes him sad that Derek took it down.
He was 16 then, Derek 17 and they'd still been dancing around each other, what with Stiles being overly nervous about being rejected and Derek being broody and adamant about the same thing, when they came into an agreement about building a treehouse together. It wasn't as hard as Stiles thought. All their friends helped, as well as some contractors that Derek's father hired. It was done in about two weeks and Stiles and Derek climbed into it, in awe that they could see through the leaves of the taller trees.
Stiles isn't sure what happened afterwards, what they said or what triggered it. All that he remembers is that they were standing by the window one minute and the next they were kissing. He doesn't remember anymore if it was him who started it or whether it was Derek. All Stiles knows that it was their first kiss and that, while it was too sloppy and wet, he'll remember it forever. So yeah, it's sad that the treehouse is down. It was kind of pivotal to the beginning of their relationship. Well, sort of.
Derek just sighs as they go back to the house.
Stiles almost misses the step but pretends it didn't happen when they put it down in the middle of the empty foyer. "That's good," he pants, bending down to rest his hands on his knees. "We just have three more speakers, plus the actual sound system." He grins as he looks around at all the empty space, pretending he hasn't heard what Isaac said. He and Derek haven't been spending that much time together. Sure, there was the preserve, where he ended up having lunch and then having dinner with him and his family. Then there may have been a lunch with him, again, and all their friends the next time. They might have taken a walk around town the day after that, among other things. So they may have been spending a lot of time together. But that doesn't mean anything. "Having the bachelor's party here was a good idea. I'm glad Derek agreed to it."
"I wonder why," Isaac remarks.
Stiles pretends he didn't hear him again. "C'mon, big guy, let's get another one."
"Don't you think four speakers is too much?" Isaac grumbles as he follows Stiles out to the truck. "I was thinking we could put in some furniture. That would be more useful. And maybe food."
"Derek's taking care of the food," Stiles reminds him with an eye roll. Derek really didn't have to, but since he offered to cook for the party, Stiles didn't say no. Derek cooks really well and, quite frankly, he's excited to taste some of Derek's cooking again. "Besides, what do you think all the tables and chairs are for?"
"Yeah, about that," Isaac grunts as he and Stiles take down another one of the speakers and struggle to carry it to the house. He doesn't say anything as they hurry to put it down, which Stiles is grateful for because everything that's come out of Isaac's mouth so far are stuff insinuating things that Stiles doesn't really want to think about. Of course the silence is short-lived. "Why did you get weird wooden furniture? They look like they're going to collapse or get dirty if we sit on them."
"It's wood," Stiles tells him, trying very hard not to roll his eyes again. "It's wood. It's not going to collapse. Besides, I figured we can get some furniture to match the house."
"You should've gotten ones that match the theme of the party," Isaac says as they make their way back outside.
"You guys need any help?" Derek asks, coming down to the truck. He slants them a look when he sees that all they've done in the past 30 minutes is bring down two speakers.
"Shut up," Stiles grumbles. "Isaac kept on wanting to chat."
"I was just saying that the furniture didn't match," Isaac says with a frown.
"It's just furniture," Stiles snaps. "It's not like we're actually going to be using them. Scott is probably going to be too drunk to even notice them and we're probably going to eat in the kitchen anyway. Anyway, they were on discount so I just got them and--"
"You bought them?" Isaac sounds so confounded that Stiles cut off his rant, eyes widening as he sees the way Derek is looking at him with the same disbelief on his face.
"It's just furniture," Stiles mumbles, shifting in his stance and getting busy with the cuff of his sweater.
"You bought furniture for the house," Derek repeats as if he can't imagine why Stiles would ever do such a thing. Stiles can't imagine it either and can't even think why he thought it was a good idea to. Except he was just walking around and saw the chairs and the table and he thought 'why not?'
"O-kay. I'm just going to go get myself a glass of water," Isaac tells mostly himself as he disappears into the house.
"It's just furniture," Stiles says again, almost becoming a mantra because they really are just furniture no matter what it might seem like.
"For the house," Derek insists.
"Yes," Stiles answers. "For the house. For your house. Stop making it a big deal. It's not." He sighs and scratches his cheek.
Derek walks to the back of the truck to get a better look at them, while Stiles' heart thuds in his chest. Now that it's sinking in, really, what was he thinking? No one just buys furniture for someone else's house, especially the house of your ex-boyfriend who's probably going to get engaged to some pretty girl in the near future. It's going to be their house and she wouldn't want furniture that an ex bought. Stiles presses the heels of his palms to his eyes. He can be such an idiot sometimes.
"Did you get them from that old lady's antique shop in town?" Derek asks, reaching out to touch one of the chairs.
"Yeah," Stiles sighs. "It was discounted because it wasn't really antique. She practically just gave it to me. So really, it's more from them than from me." He blows out another breath as Derek turns to him. "Look, I can take it back. Scott and Allison would probably like it. They can--"
"No," Derek cuts in rather strongly that it makes Stiles step back. "I mean, I've been looking at the exact same furniture but just wasn't sure whether I should get them. Now that you're giving them, it's safe to say it's the right choice."
"Consider it a housewarming gift," Stiles says, letting himself relax. He's glad that Derek understands. It's really too much of a gift, but he and Derek are still good enough of friends for this tiny blip to be allowed to pass. "Even if it's not exactly a housewarming party we're doing."
"I don't mind," Derek says with a smile and, oh, it's such a nice smile. Stiles almost swoons. "Still a party. Besides, the house isn't really ready for a housewarming party yet."
"Please get some furniture soon," Stiles tells him as they haul another speaker to the house. "So you can actually invite people over. I'm surprised that Julia hasn't filled this place up yet." He dusts his hands off and just watches as Derek carries the last speaker by himself. He's more than fit enough to do so anyway.
"She's offered," Derek tells him when all the speakers are in the house. They go back to the truck to take some of the chairs. "But I like it like this for now." He shrugs. "Or maybe you can help me with it. Jules will probably make it too girly."
"Sure," Stiles agrees without thinking. "Instead of making it girly, let's make it homey."
Derek looks at him and nods with a soft smile on his face. "I'd like that."
"Oh my god, my back is killing me," Stiles groans, slumping down on the of the chairs and rolling his shoulders backwards.
"Did you pull a muscle?" Derek asks, sounding concerned, immediately moving to Stiles back. He touches his shoulder. Stiles almost sighs.
"I don't know, probably not," Stiles assures him. "But it's been bothering me for a while now, along with my shoulders. Malia tells me I'm probably just too stressed, which isn't really news? I think I've been stressed all my life." He chuckles because he does have a habit of over-thinking and worrying too much about things." He groans again when Derek starts massaging his shoulders lightly. "Oh my--that feels great. You have magic hands. Please don't stop. And stop it with that smirk," he adds, slapping one of Derek's hands.
"I wasn’t smirking," Derek counters with a laugh. "I can give you a proper massage if you wanted."
"You're a physical therapist, not a masseur," Stiles says almost unintelligibly with the way he's just lolling his head forward in pleasure. Goodness, Derek's hands on him feel really good. And it's not just because they're Derek's hands and that it's been years since he’s had them on him, but because Stiles has been really wound up the past couple of days he's been back. It's ironic that it's also Derek who's going to try to take the stress away.
"I've taken a couple of classes," Derek lets him know, hands working magic on Stiles' neck, making him moan. "It helps with the physical therapy." He pauses for a second and just kneads perfectly on Stiles' shoulders. "So... do you want to? There's time before the party."
"That sounds like a come on, Derek Hale," Stiles garbles. He laughs when Derek's hands still. "But I'll take it."
Stiles isn't entirely sure what he's doing when he walks into the other only furnished room in the house: Derek's bedroom. It's simply decorated. Everything is pretty much black or dark blue with a king-sized bed, a large closet, a table in the corner, and a bathroom. Stiles keeps telling himself that it's nothing and that he's not taking advantage of the massage just so Derek would touch him. Deep inside, though, he knows that it's really mostly because of that. He can deal with his shoulders and back; he can deal with his stress some other way. Derek doesn't really have to give him the massage. He moves to the french doors leading to the balcony, hands resting on the glass. Except, this house. It just rekindles so many things in him, feelings, emotions that he thought have long burned out.
"Everything okay?" Derek asks, walking in.
Stiles turns around. "Yeah, hey," he says. "Do you think I can maybe just nap instead?" He sees Derek purse his lips. "I mean, at my house. Not here. Of course at my house." He walks towards the door and Derek rolls his eyes.
"You can sleep here," Derek tells him, pulling the covers back and fixing the pillows.
"Are you sure?" Stiles asks because he's really feeling quite sleepy now and it would be nice if he didn't have to drive before he got to have his sleep. "Because I can totally go home or like sleep in the jeep."
"Don't be stupid," Derek tells him. "Just get on the bed."
"Sounds like another come on," Stiles teases, wiggling his eyebrows up and down. He takes his shoes off and climbs on. He pats the other side of the bed. "Want to talk me to sleep?"
A myriad of expressions appear on Derek's face and Stiles bites his lower lip to keep himself from laughing or maybe grimacing for even having mentioned it. Stiles has a hard time sleeping sometimes. Derek helps him by talking to him, telling him stories or like random things about his day to help him fall asleep. It was their thing. Even when they were only friends. Derek gets into bed anyway, grabbing a book from the nightstand and places it on his lap.
"Do you want me to read aloud?" Derek asks. Because he knows that Derek's voice calms Stiles down and lets him sleep. Stiles can't believe Derek still remembers all these little details.
"And hear about the sex life of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey?" Stiles shudders. "Why are you even reading that?" Derek takes a look at the book on his lap and throws it out the door out of reflex when he sees the title. "Dude," he laughs.
"That's not mine," Derek exclaims, looking so horrified that Stiles just bursts into more laughter. "That's Laura's. I don't read--I would never read Fifty Shades of Grey!"
"Really? I wouldn't put it past you," Stiles joshes him. Derek glares at him and he immediately forces himself to sober up. "Just tell me about what's been going on with you," he suggests, closing his eyes and making himself comfortable on the bed.
"Hey you're the one who knows the character names!" Derek elbows Stiles, who just grunts and turns to his side to face him, eyes still closed.
"Sshhh," Stiles insists, a small smile on his lips. "C'mon, Derek. Tell me how you've been." He really doesn't want to open his eyes because if he does, he knows he'll see Derek giving him one of his amused looks that does wonders to his eyebrows that Stiles love--d--so much. And he can't do that. He can't keep on noticing things about Derek that he misses. So this is safe, talking to him, listening to him with his eyes closed.
Derek's voice washes over him, coating him with a warmth that he hasn't felt in a long time, as he talks about everything that Stiles has missed in his life. The inflection and tone of his voice changes with the subject he talks about, depending on how much it excites him. Stiles can tell, even through the haziness of his sleep-addled brain, that Derek enjoys his job a lot. It's not the most thrilling job because he mostly spends time massaging other people and making sure that their muscles work properly. But Derek likes taking care of people, even if he mostly looks like he eats them for breakfast.
Somewhere in between Derek talking about his favorite clients and talking about Cora's latest boyfriend, Stiles falls asleep. He doesn't really mean to, even though that was the intention, but Derek's voice has that soothing quality to it that he's never really found anywhere else. And when he's dead tired and just waiting to fall into slumber, it really helps knock him out. In the nicest and sweetest of ways.
So he sleeps, and thinks about the days when he could just move a little bit closer to Derek and snuggle to him and Derek wouldn't mind. Because Derek would want him to.
When Stiles finally wakes up, the room is noticeably darker and he feels considerably warmer. Blinking and shifting his position on the bed, he realizes that Derek is asleep beside him, face half buried in his pillow and his arm tight around Stiles' waist. Stiles ended up snuggling to Derek after all. Groaning internally, he tries to lift Derek's arm off him so he can get out of bed.
"'s still early," Derek mumbles, tightening his arm around Stiles and pulling him further towards his chest.
Stiles stills for a second because, wow, he's not sure what's happening. Slowly, he allows himself to relax and presses his face to Derek's chest, since it's right there, Derek's collarbone on his forehead. Breathing deeply, Stiles' eyes flutter close. He shouldn't do this, he really shouldn't, because Derek smells--is like home and home is something he's missed for a very long time. Which is basically saying that he missed Derek. A lot.
"Damnit," Stiles grumbles under his breath and wiggles out of Derek's hold.
"Stop moving," Derek growls, although it doesn't sound threatening because he just sounds sleepy.
"I need to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back," Stiles lies because he wants to get out but he doesn't Derek to wake up. He's not sure how to handle the awkwardness that's sure to follow once Derek realizes that he's been holding onto Stiles like he doesn't want to let him go. Which, of course, isn't the case, shouldn't be the case, because they have moved on with their lives. They have learned to let each other go by now.
He gets off the bed when Derek's finally let him go, with much reluctance, and tiptoes out of the room. He takes a deep breath once he's out, squeezing his eyes shut because his heart is beating too fast, reacting over 'Derek being quite possibly the love of his life that got away'. Stiles shuts that thought down with a violent shake of his head. He can't. He won't. Because it's over; it's been three years and he can't take things back. He doesn't really need to go to the bathroom though so he starts to walk down the hall and almost falls on his butt when Laura slinks out of the shadows.
"Oh my god," Stiles exclaims, hands on his chest. "Are you trying to kill me?"
"No," Laura snickers. "But I might have wanted to once upon a time." The seriousness of her face terrifies Stiles that she's telling the truth. He can't blame her though. His breakup with Derek didn't just hurt the two of them. It hurt a lot more people than he counted on. "So, Isaac told me you guys have been missing for quite some time now," she quips, swinging her arms back in front of her and Stiles sees that she's holding Fifty Shades of Gray. He gulps.
"Shoot," Stiles mumbles. "Is he still downstairs?"
"He went home after fixing everything downstairs," Laura tells him. "By himself, because apparently you two were off doing something else."
"Not really," Stiles corrects her, rolling his eyes. "Just felt tired."
"Had a good sleep?" she asks with a small quirk of her mouth.
"Um," he stammers, glancing towards Derek's room. "Yes?"
"You made Derek read to you, didn't you?" Laura narrows her eyes and Stiles takes a step back. Her relationship with Derek is one that Stiles truly admires. The closeness of their bond is one of those that Stiles wishes he had with a sibling. If he had one. Which is why Laura hated him for a while when he left for New York. It was scary because he thought she would never talk to him again.
"No," Stiles tells her with a shake of his head. She raises an eyebrow and he sighs. Might as well tell the truth. He may not be as close to her as Derek is, but they are—were?—close. Stiles treats her like his older sister and she treats him like a brother. "He just talked to me, about what's been going on with him."
"Oh Stiles," Laura says. Stiles flushes, averting his eyes. "Why do you--"
"Yeah, so," he interrupts hastily, his panic getting the best of him. "I'm going to go to the bathroom and go home to get changed." He goes to the stairs, deciding to use the bathroom downstairs. Laura is probably going to ambush him again if he stays upstairs. Although he wouldn't put it past her to ambush him downstairs as well.
"Let's have lunch some time," Laura calls after him. "When my brother stops hogging you."
Stiles clears his throat, hoping against hope that he doesn't turn even redder because he certainly feels like his head is going to explode from the heat. "Yeah, sure, of course," he says, waving before running downstairs, deciding to forgo the bathroom and just run to his jeep. He'll have to go back for Scott's bachelor party. But for now, he has to get out of there.
The first big change of his life happened when his mother got sick. She's always been healthy, always smiling and laughing with that healthy, rosy glow on her cheeks. She especially radiated whenever she was with his dad, which was all the time. Stiles always joked that he was sick of them being so sweet and lovey dovey all the time, but secretly he loved it. He liked seeing his parents happy and in love. It gave him hope that there are happily ever afters in the world. But then she got cancer and, little by little, her luminescence faded and eventually died out. It's one of the most painful things that happened in his life. One of the best things in his life has gone and a light in his life has turned off forever.
Being back in Beacon Hills reminds Stiles of his mother. The town is quiet but lively and happy. He can hear the energy thrumming as he walks on the pavement, see it at the healthy coolness of the trees when he touches their bark, sees it at the welcoming smiles of the people who comes across him. His mother was exactly the same and leaving Beacon Hills was almost like parting from her all over again. It's one of the reasons why he's so glad he's back.
He sits on a swing and ignores the glare of a little girl who obviously wanted to go on the swing first. Stiles looks up at the sky and pushes himself back and forth slightly, enjoying the wind that brushes through his face. This is nice and relaxing. It makes him feel good and at ease in a way that he hasn't really been in the two weeks he's been there.
"You look like you're having fun."
Stiles tenses for a second until he realizes that it's just Scott. Of course it is. It would be ridiculous if it was Derek because Derek is probably working. Stiles frowns at his reasoning because Scott should be working, too.
"Shouldn't you be at the vet?" Stiles asks as Scott sits down on the empty swing beside his.
"I have flexible hours until next month," Scotts tells him with a grin. "Isaac's been working there for a few months now so he mostly covers my shifts."
"I'm guessing that's because of the wedding," Stiles says. "So why aren't you doing wedding stuff with Allison? Shouldn't you be going over the checklist or something?"
"She's finalizing seating charts and has asked me to get out of her hair," Scott explains with a grimace. "I don't know what's the big deal. Everyone gets along with everyone. It's not like strangers are coming to the wedding."
Stiles tries not to smile, lest it comes mocking. "Seating is very important, Scotty," he says. "Everyone does get along with everyone but there are rules and decorum for these kinds of things. She just wants to make sure it's the best choice and experience for everyone present."
Scott just snorts and swings back and forth just like Stiles. "I can't believe I'm getting married," he tells him, truly sounding like he's in awe. "To Allison. Man. I wouldn't have thought... I mean, you know me."
"I do, buddy," Stiles agrees, chuckling. "I have been a witness to your uncomfortable and embarrassing teenage years. It's really a mystery how you managed to snag Allison at all." He laughs and squirms away when Scott reaches out to scuff the back of his neck.
"You're one to talk," Scott retaliates. "You with your shaven head and too long, uncontrollable limbs and non-stop talking--oh wait, your limbs are still out of control and you still talk all the time. The only improvement is your hair. Your face though..." He yelps when Stiles kicks his chin, although Stiles doesn't really contradict him.
Stiles was quite possibly even more awkward of a teenager than Scott ever was. Despite Scott's somewhat weird and clumsy nature, he had those puppy eyes and adorable smile and that toned body that had some girls have crushes on him. It was questionable because it's Scott but that's how it was. Stiles, meanwhile, had nothing going for him. Except maybe his grades. Stiles was the smartest in their grade, after Lydia because Lydia would never take being second to anyone, especially him. That was the only thing he had going; that, and being charming. Kind of? That's what Derek told him anyway. Derek said that underneath all the babbling there was something endearing about him. Stiles puff his cheeks out in annoyance because he's not supposed to be thinking about him.
"I would have you know that this face can launch a thousand ships," Stiles retorts, making a face at his best friend.
"You mean, your face will be the one shoved into a canon and fired off," Scott teases with a grin. Stiles laughs, tilting his head back too much that he has to grab onto the swing to keep from falling off. "Idiot," he says with fondness that has Stiles smiling at him. "It's good that you're back," he says. "I'm really glad you're here for a while."
"I really didn't want to have to go through Allison's wrath for missing your wedding," Stiles explains with a shrug.
"What about my wrath?" Scott looks like he's offended by the fact that Stiles isn't afraid of him getting mad.
Stiles chuckles and pats his shoulder. "You know you'll love me forever," he states like it's a fact because it is. He and Scott have gone through everything together and, even if they're living on the other side of the country from each other, he knows they'll always be best friends.
"That I will." Scott nods, looking pleased at this information.
They sit on their swings in silence, enjoying the cool breeze and the comforting sound of the children's laughter around them. Scott is watching some of the children by the jungle gym with interesting, like he can already see what his future looks like when he and Allison have kids. Stiles know how he feels, kind of. He's wondered before what it would be like to have kids; he's always thought he'd be good with them, also since he won't be alone in taking care of them. But some dreams disappear like a puff of smoke when one's life changes.
"So," Scott clears his throat and Stiles sighs like he knows what's coming. Stiles has known that Derek talk will always be a staple in any conversation that he has with any of his friends. "I talked to Malia the other day."
Stiles stills and looks at Scott with wide eyes. That isn't what he was expecting. "Why?" he asks after quite a bit of silence. Maybe Scott doesn't know.
"Allison wanted me to call her to ask why she's not here with you," Scott relays, looking apologetic, and Stiles takes a deep breath because Scott knows. "Stiles," he continues, tone gentle and soothing in that way that he does when he's being careful. "When were you going to tell me about you and Malia?"
"It's not a big deal," Stiles starts before backing up and tries to say something that would make more sense to Scott. "I mean," he tries to elaborate but he just shrugs and gives up, "it really isn't a big deal."
"Stiles, you and Malia were together for a year," Scott reasons. He really sounds concerned so Stiles grabs his wrist and squeezes it in some form of assurance.
"Yeah we were," Stiles confirms. "And it was great, we were great. Malia is amazing, like she takes better care of me than I do myself. She's even better at taking care of me than Lydia, like Malia makes sure all my socks match and that I actually eat something. She always manages to call at the exact time that I start feeling hungry, you know. She's that amazing." He fiddles with his hands when Scott continues to watch him.
"So what happened?" Scott asks.
Stiles shrugs. He knows what happened but he's not entirely sure he wants to voice it out, not even to Scott. "I guess it just wasn't working," he says. "It's one of those relationships that come and go."
"You're not the type to let a relationship just go unless you didn't really like them, and you've kept her around for a year," Scott points out. Damn him for knowing Stiles so well.
"Well I guess I didn't like her enough then," Stiles clarifies and he closes his eyes because that makes him seem like such an asshole, like he strung Malia along as long as it was still comfortable for him.
"Don't beat yourself up," Scott says, squeezing Stiles' shoulder and returning the affectionate gesture, like he knew what Stiles was thinking. "I'm sure it wasn't like that and I'm sure she didn't think so either.
"Sometimes we do things we wouldn't normally do, you know," Stiles disagrees, "because it makes us feel less lonely." Malia made him feel alive again. She's beautiful and funny and smart in that way that she and Stiles could talk about anything and everything under the sun. He likes those kinds of people, likes intelligent conversation in between random and inane ones. He can have those with Malia and when she indulged his argumentative rambling, he immediately knew that she was a keeper. At least she was at the beginning of the relationship. Stiles isn't exactly sure where it started to go wrong.
"I'm supposed to ask you to dinner," Scott says, steering the conversation in a completely different direction. Stiles relaxes and leans against the swing. Scott's always been good at giving Stiles space. Heck, Scott didn't even try to stop Stiles from moving to the other side of the country the way he did even if he thought Stiles was making a mistake. "Tomorrow night good?"
"Sure because I can totally sense your excitement," Stiles readily agrees. It's not like he has much to do. Besides, it would be good for him to go out and to finally catch up with Melissa and her relationship with his dad. The house is too big and too quiet for him. “Seven okay?"
Scott claps Stiles' shoulder and stands up, stretching in the process. "Great," he says. "I have to get going. Allison's going to want me to see the seating arrangements, which I don't know why she does since I won't have an input anyway." He rolls his eyes and pouts.
Stiles laughs. "Just let her have her way, man," he convinces her. "It's a day every girl dreams of."
"But she's always had her way and I'm pretty sure she always will," Scott declares. There's a smile on his face that is in no doubt Scott's special smile for Allison. He's just that in love with her that he doesn't even care that what he just said is so true. Scott is incredibly whipped. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sure," Stiles agrees. "Hey Scott," he calls when Scott starts to leave. "Please don't tell anyone." He smiles in appreciation when Scott nods.
When Scott has left, Stiles starts making his way back to the house. The sun is starting to set and the sun is kind of in Stiles' face but he likes it. He could barely see the sun in New York, what with the tall buildings and him seeming to never have the time to even look up at the sky.
His breakup with Malia was his fault. She was a great girl and Stiles got her hopes up and broke her heart. Malia never admitted to it, but he knows he did with the way she wouldn't talk to him for a while afterwards. Stiles was heartbroken too. Because, for a moment there, he thought he was finally getting somewhere in his life. Stiles thought he was finally getting over Derek.
The grocery had undergone some renovations, that much he knew. What Stiles didn't know is that they changed everything, meaning they rearranged the aisles and where everything is as well. Now he just feels lost because he always used to do the grocery shopping for him and his dad and he knew where everything was. He supposes he'll just have to re-familiarize himself.
It's Julia. She's pushing a cart of her own, looking beautiful (Stiles suspects she always does) in her simple yellow sundress.
"Hey," he greets her, surprised when she hugs him.
"Are you okay? You've been standing here for a few minutes and I was wondering if I should approach you or not," Julia confesses with a sheepish smile. She's prettier when she smiles, Stiles decides, which is interesting because she's already really pretty when she doesn't.
"I'm kind of checking where everything is and deciding where to start," Stiles admits, gesturing vaguely around the grocery. "Everything's so different."
"I was going to say that you probably don't do grocery shopping, but I see that I'm wrong," Julia says with a grin. "Do you need any help or...?"
"I'm fine," Stiles assures her, glancing at her purchases. There's some meat, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, condiments. There's even a bottle of wine. "Looks like a party."
"I'm cooking for Derek," Julia divulges, her cheeks pinking. She hesitates for a second and Stiles wonders if it's because he's Derek's ex. "I haven't...I'm not really one for cooking. Derek's the one who cooks well, especially since he took a course." Stiles looks at her in surprise at that. That explains the really nice kitchen. "And I just want to make him something nice for once. I watched YouTube and everything."
Something clenches in Stiles' gut but he ignores it. It's nice that Julia is trying, that she wants to do something for Derek, that she's doing her part in the relationship. He's sure Derek would like that. "Derek would like anything you make, I'm sure," he voices out. It's true. Derek isn't picky. Even if it's not the best food he tastes, he wouldn't be condescending or overly critical. It might be a good bonding point for them when Derek offers, which he probably will, to help Julia learn how to cook. Stiles is actually quite surprised he hasn't offered yet. "Are you going to cook it in his kitchen? That would be amazing."
"You mean the Hale's?" Julia asks, tilting her head slightly as if she's confused. "I think that would be a bit overstepping. I mean, I've met them but it would be embarrassing to cook there if I'm only cooking for Derek."
"Right," Stiles says, swallowing the lump in his throat when he realizes what that means. "Of course. Silly me," he says with a smile that he hopes doesn't look strained. "Well you should get to it then. Don't want to keep Derek waiting."
"Yeah, I should leave you to your grocery shopping," she agrees, looking at the stuff she's bought. She bites her lower lip like she's contemplating on asking him something else.
"Don't worry so much. It'll be fine," he assures her again with a smile because he knows what she wants to ask. He's not bragging. Everyone knows that Derek just about eats anything as long as it's edible. Which isn't really an insult to Julia's cooking. Stiles doesn't know if she cooks as badly as she's projecting herself to be.
"Thanks," Julia tells him with a wide, grateful smile, although it kind of looks sad this time. "I'll tell you how it goes."
Stiles kind of hopes she doesn't at the same time that he hopes she does. It's all very confusing for him at this point because he shouldn't be selfish. He doesn't have a right to be, not at this point or ever. It's just not fair to anyone, especially to himself. Stiles should learn how to keep his brain from thinking too much and from making him suffer. If Julia wants to be friends, they'll be friends. Stiles isn't going to do anything to stop it.
He pushes the cart down the drinks aisle and figures that he can grab a Coke or two for the dinner, maybe a bottle of wine, whiskey too. It seems like a good night for drinking.
As it is, he hugs his dad and Melissa back before they go upstairs to retire for the day and he sits down on the sofa and closes his eyes. He feels the couch dip and he braces himself.
"Everything okay?" Allison leans her head on his shoulder and Stiles doesn't hesitate to put an arm around her.
Stiles considers lying because what is there to be gained by telling the truth. Then again, what can he get by lying either? "Julia's making dinner for Derek," he mumbles, resting his head on Allison's and opening his eyes to smile a little at Scott who sits across them. "Because apparently Derek does all the cooking, which is really no surprise because Derek likes to cook and he does it really well and--did you know he took cooking classes?"
"Well--" Scott starts.
"He took cooking classes!" Stiles announces, raising his hands up and causing Allison to move away from him. "Like he needs it, I mean, did I mention he already cooks well? That explains the really gorgeous kitchen that he has in his house. But, you know, Julia wasn't going to cook there, no she wasn't, which is weird and I really shouldn't have brought it up."
"Stiles," Allison starts.
"And you know what else?" Stiles continues.
"Stiles," Scott raises his voice.
Stiles shuts his mouth and leans back further on the sofa. Allison reaches for his hand in a show of understanding and comfort. He sighs and closes his eyes again. "Sorry," he mumbles. "I'm sorry. I don't think Beacon Hills agrees with me anymore. Everything is so different."
"Not...really," Allison responds quietly. She shifts in her seat and Stiles just knows that she's giving Scott a worried look. "But yeah, it's been three years and many things may have changed."
"Yeah of course," Scott agrees. "Sometimes I get lost in town because of the new buildings sprouting up." He grins at Stiles when he lifts his head to look at him. "Dude, we get it."
"Really? Because I don't," Stiles sighs. "It's been a long time. I'm supposed to... I'm supposed to be happy. By myself."
And Stiles really should be. New York is supposed to be the city of dreams. People go there to find themselves and to chase what they want in life. That's all Stiles did. He had a really good offer in New York, one that he couldn't pass up, one that he really wanted so he went for it. He left Beacon Hills and... and went for it.
"It's not wrong to go for what you want, Stiles," Scott tells him, making Stiles realize that he actually said that out loud. "It was okay and everyone knew that. Everyone."
"It didn't seem like that," Stiles replies, mostly to himself, knowing exactly what--or who--Scott means. It really didn't seem that everyone knew and understood why he had to go because when the moment he'd brought it up, not everyone was happy.
"It really was okay, Stiles. It is. But I guess it didn't mean that everyone was happy about it," Scott amends, exchanging a look with Allison, who nods at him in encouragement. "Besides, Derek is--"
"Derek?" Stiles yelps, straightening up. "Who said anything about Derek?" He's really good about being in denial. He's had a lot of practice.
"Stiles," Allison chides him a little bit, nudging him with her elbow. "C'mon. Don't do that with us. You may have been gone for three years but we're still your best friends." She sighs and wraps Stiles in a hug. "Lydia tells us what's been going on with you."
"Shit," Stiles scoffs, burying his face in Allison's neck. This is possibly the most embarrassing best friends talk he's ever had. Sure, he's had his heart broken before because he's had stupid crushes and might have tried to get into stupid relationships back when he didn't know any better and Scott and then Allison have both held his hand and hugged him. But nothing like this. Because Derek was serious; his relationship with Derek was serious than any other relationship he's had because it was the only one. Stiles thought it would be the only one.
"Lydia would never withhold information about our best friend's wellbeing," Scott tells him.
"Especially not when each and every one of us here twists her arms and legs for it," Allison adds.
"You're all ridiculous," Stiles shakes his head and raises his other arm to call Scott over. Scott sits beside him and slaps the back of Stiles' head.
"Look we're all sad that you left, but you had to do it," Scott says. "We know that's what you wanted and..." He takes a deep breath. "Derek knew that most of all, which is probably why he took it worse than any of us did."
"Yeah," Stiles mumbles. That's why things had to happen the way they did.
"Have you guys even talked about it since?" Allison wants to know.
No. Even though Stiles waited for Derek to come after him, even if it was ridiculous to hope that he would do so.
"I think I'm going to bounce," Stiles declares. He gets off the couch and stretches his arms. "Good talk, guys."
"Stiles, c'mon," Scott tries to stop him as he makes his way to the front door.
"Thanks for dinner!" Stiles hops off the porch and jogs to his jeep. He hates that he leaves Scott and Allison just like that but he can't take any more questioning. That is not what he signed up for when he decided to come back home.
He drives around town for quite some time because he doesn't think he can face his empty house feeling like this, feeling like he's missing things he's not supposed to even be thinking about. Being alone doesn't help with his brain sometimes. Being alone with a brain that creates all sorts of scenarios and relives memories of the past, well, it's not pretty. Stiles really hates his brain sometimes.
Stiles decides to go back home before he runs out of gas and almost presses the gas some more when he sees who's sitting on the steps of his front porch. Derek stands, patting the back of his pants before shoving his hands in his pockets, when he sees him arrive. Stiles kind of sits in his jeep for a couple of seconds, in a dilemma between actually driving off and getting out, before deciding what the hell and goes out.
"Hey," Stiles greets him because what else does he say to the ex-boyfriend who looks incredibly hot even though he's only in a plain white shirt and dark gray sweatpants. "You look like you were already in bed."
"I was," Derek answers. He gestures to the house. "Sorry for being here so late. I just needed to..." He trails away and shrugs as Stiles' wonders about the time. It's probably close to midnight.
"Come in," Stiles says, closing the door behind him and ushering Derek to the kitchen. There is no way they're going to the living room to talk because that is also his current bedroom and nope, no talking in his bedroom. "Water? Juice? Coffee? Wine? Whiskey?" he teases as he finds a closed bottle in one of the cupboards.
"Whiskey," Derek chooses without hesitation.
"Okay," Stiles concedes with a raised eyebrow. He grabs two short glasses and pours half into both glasses. "Everything okay? Whiskey is kind of the drink that means you want to forget something or means everything is too problematic." Derek swirls his drink in his glass before downing the whole thing. "Alright, Derek, what's wrong?" he insists before filling Derek's glass again, full this time.
"You've been avoiding me," Derek points out, lifting his gaze from the glass to Stiles.
Stiles hopes his gulp isn't too obvious. "That's why you're drinking?" he snorts. "Not a good enough reason to go for a Whiskey, buddy." He's not exactly been avoiding Derek. He may just be not going to places where he and Derek may run into each other. After that 'Derek talking him to sleep and sleeping cuddled to each other' thing, Stiles thought that maybe he needed to distance himself for a bit, lest he gets too used to something that he shouldn't get used to.
"Stiles," Derek quips.
"I'm not avoiding you," Stiles lies. He takes a sip of his drink and rolls his eyes when Derek continues glaring at him. "Okay, maybe a little. But I mean it's not like we have this agreement to see each other, so technically I really haven't been, you know? Anyway," he claps his hands together, "did you get something to eat? Are you hungry--" Stiles stills before frowning at Derek. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be with Julia?"
"Jules?" Derek's brows furrow in that way that Stiles' has always thought is attractive. Stiles almost swoons. "How did you--?"
"We saw each other at the grocery," Stiles hurriedly explains just so it's clear that he wasn't stalking Derek while avoiding him, which, now that he thinks about it, would've been counterproductive and creepy. "She mentioned that she was going to cook for you." He grins. "How was it? It wasn't bad, right? I told her that you'd like anything she makes because you're really nice about people's cooking and food in general and because it's her."
Derek just stares at Stiles for a bit with his piercing green eyes and sexy eyebrows and pursed lips. It would've been something that Stiles would have wanted, especially if one knew him more than two years ago, but right now it's just disconcerting. Derek finishes his drink for the second time, opens his mouth to say something, closes it and then opens his mouth again.
"Yeah," Derek finally speaks, clearing his throat. "Yeah. She did. It was good."
Stiles smiles, looking pleased despite his stomach doing double-crossing cartwheels. "Well that's good," he say. "You should teach her how to cook so she can cook better for you. I think she really wants to impress you and you should let her." Derek just grunts and Stiles rolls his eyes. Fine, no girlfriend talk. "Want to watch some TV?"
Derek follows Stiles to the living room, where Stiles shoves all the pillows to one side. So much for no living room talk. Maybe he should consider sleeping in his bedroom again, that way it doesn't feel too intimate if he has guests over.
"How about a movie?" Derek suggests when they've flipped through all of the channels and nothing good is on. Stiles raises up two DVDs for Derek to choose from. "The Godfather or The Internship. Really? Those are the choices?"
"The Godfather is a classic," Stiles contends, meeting Derek's eyes in a stare-off that he loses in three seconds. He's weak when it comes to Derek's stare. "You can never watch it too much, and I haven't watched The Internship, which Scott raved about. Now that I think about it Scott's taste in movies has never been too good." He shrugs and waves the DVDs.
"Let's go with something not intense," Derek nods towards The Internship.
Stiles grins and raises his arms in some sort of victory dance. "Google movie it is!" He puts the DVD into the player and sits on the end of the sofa where the pillows are piled up.
It's not uncomfortable, and yet it's not comfortable either. Stiles thoughtfully wonders when he became so twitchy with Derek when he's always been so relaxed around him even when they saw each other after a year of the breakup. He and Derek have just gone through so much together, growing up together, becoming one of each other's best friends that it didn't make sense to throw everything away just because they weren't romantically involved anymore. Still, Stiles has been antsy since he's seen Derek this time that he's been back.
"Do you need to pee or something?" Derek almost growls when Stiles adjusts his position on the couch for the nth time and Stiles stops moving.
"Um," Stiles says, controlling even his breathing. He's obvious and he knows it but what can he do? Every time his elbows touch with Derek's he feels like he's going to combust. "No?" He deflates when Derek continues looking at him. "Look, I just...I don't know what you're doing here. Shouldn't you be with Julia? Or in bed or I don't know something?"
"I could go," Derek offers, straightening up so he can get off the couch.
"Derek," Stiles quips, grabbing his arm to stop him.
Derek sighs and relaxes back on the couch. "I'm just trying to fix things," he admits, closing his eyes for a second, his lashes fluttering over his cheeks, before looking at Stiles with all his earnestness.
Stiles' heart jumps in his chest. Trust Derek to be so direct and open at the most surprising of times. "I thought things were okay," he mutters, which is, of course, a complete lie because if they are okay, they wouldn't be this unnerved in each other's presence. "Maybe not okay okay, but I thought we were managing."
"I was hoping that we could get past managing and actually fix things," Derek repeats His hand flinches in his lap before closing in into a fist. "I miss you, Stiles."
And there they are, the second three words that Stiles has always wanted to hear from Derek. Stiles has wondered if Derek did--does--in fact miss him because it would be a lie for him to say that there wasn't a day that he hasn't missed Derek. He misses Derek all the time and it's such a sad thought because Stiles thinks he's going to spend all his life missing him.
"I—I do too," Stiles confesses. It's not wrong to admit that, right? Derek said it first so he can say it too. "I mean, really, how can I not? You're one of my best friends."
Derek smiles a little. "I'm not just talking about now, though, since you've been back and all. I mean I miss you a lot all the time, everyday, since you left."
Now there's a revelation and Stiles isn't sure he knows how to breathe anymore. "Okay, well, that's..." he stammers. How is this appropriate conversation between ex-boyfriends? Is it? Especially since Derek is taken. "Well, we're here now," he amends, trying to steer the conversation into something lighter, something they can actually talk about. "I'm willing to fix this since you are too."
"Okay," Derek says, the smile on his face bigger and happier.
"Okay," Stiles agrees with a nod, turning back to the movie and reaching for the remote. "I think we have to rewind for a bit since we missed a lot."
"That's fine," Derek says with a chuckle.
It's fine with Stiles too. He supposes it's also fine when Derek slides an arm around him and pulls him close.
Stiles falls asleep after a while. He hasn't felt this comfortable sleeping before, not unless he counts that time that he slept on Derek's bed, which, well, he should really count it. His New York sleeping habits haven't been the best, considering he mostly spent all his waking moments working and going out to party just so his mind never stays quiet. Stiles hates not having his brain busy about things to think about because when it gets all quiet that's when his thoughts about Derek start to creep in and then he gets all sad and mopey, which is what Lydia always gets mad at him for. So, yes, sleeping now, despite being in his ex-boyfriend's comfortable arms, is all good with him.
When he awakens, there's like a shit ton of bricks crushing him. He tries to wiggle around to get free until the shit ton of bricks grunts at him in annoyance. Of course, Stiles can't help but think. Of course he and Derek are snuggling again just a week after the last. Stiles never seems to learn his lesson. He shifts around again to get free and to maybe run, although he's not sure where he's going to go since they are in his house.
"Stop," Derek grumbles.
"You're squashing me," Stiles complains. He can't even move his arms.
Derek moves so that he and Stiles are lying on their sides, facing each other, which Stiles is sure could be worse than being squished under Derek's weight. This position is just so weirdly intimate. Stiles can see the way Derek's lashes fan on his cheeks, can trace the slope of his perfect nose, he can even count the barely-there freckles on his face and just... Stiles isn't ready for this. He's not ready for the inevitability of coming to realize that he is still very much in love with Derek, his ex-boyfriend, whom Stiles broke up with in a fit of angry childishness.
"Just a few more minutes," Derek whispers to his temple and snakes an arm around his waist, pulling him even closer, "and then I'll let you go."
It's a reasonable statement, one that Derek's always told him in the wee hours of the morning when Stiles wakes up for his morning class. Stiles had managed to get a single dorm in college, which had Derek staying over with him almost everyday, not caring that he had to travel quite a bit more distance so he can get to work. Just a few more minutes and then I'll let you go was Derek's way of whining to Stiles so that they could cuddle a bit more before Stiles had to get up and shower so he can get to class. Right now, though, it just feels like it means a whole different thing. One that hurts far more.
"Okay," Stiles responds softly, giving in to the embrace and pressing his face to Derek's neck.
"Welcome home, Stiles," Mrs. Hale says hello to him with a heartfelt hug that Stiles snuggles into because she really gives the best hugs and has never failed to make him feel like family. That, and because she's the closest she's had to a mother, along with Scott's mom, when his own died. "It's so good to see you again. I'm sorry that David isn't here at the moment. He had some business to attend to."
"Thank you for having me again," Stiles tells her with a shake of his head when she pulls away, her hands lingering on his arms. She looks at him like she's looking for something, like an assurance or something like concern.
"Thank me," Laura says in a singsong voice, interrupting Stiles' thoughts. "If it wasn't for me, he wouldn't even come back." She looks really smug, but still beautiful with her hair pulled back away from her face. She grins at him from the front door, wiggling her eyebrows up and down.
"You mean if you hadn't ambushed him," Cora says, running down the stairs and barreling straight into Stiles' already open arms. "Stiles!" she screams into his neck. "I'm so glad you're here. I almost thought you weren't coming to see us again."
"Hey kid," Stiles laughs, squeezing her tight. Cora is like the sister he never had, just like Laura is the older sister he never had. The whole Hale family is actually like his real family. He and his dad always used to come over for dinners, and spend time during Thanksgivings and Christmases. So he's not entirely sure what they're talking about him not coming back. Aside from Derek being his ex and all, that is. "How is it possible for me not to see you guys, especially you. You're my favorite."
"And yet you never once called when you were in New York," Cora chides with a pout that Stiles remembers all too well. They were the same age but in dating Derek, it almost felt like she was younger, always using him to sway Derek's and Laura's decisions in not allowing her to go out or hang out with certain people from school. It was quite effective because, for some weird reason, Derek is soft with him and actually let himself be swayed, while Laura was just... Stiles thinks she's hard on Cora on purpose just because she's the youngest.
"Cora," Derek cuts in with a sharpness that Stiles is unfamiliar with. "You've already been compensated for that." He clears his throat when he catches Stiles giving him a confused look. Compensated? "Stiles has come to see us and now he's here for lunch once more."
"I'm kidding," Cora says in contrition, though the pout is still on her face. She presses a kiss to Stiles' cheek before letting go.
They troop to the Hale's large dining room, which looks exactly like it did the last time Stiles had been there. The mahogany table that can seat ten people sit in the middle of a very homey and rustic-looking room. Stiles makes his way to the side of the room, where certain knickknacks of things that Talia has collected in her travels are. He remembers playing with the ancient telephone and touching the phonograph, willing it to play, or knocking down the figurines when he was much younger. The Hale house is one of the most beautiful and most interesting homes he's been into and it's so nice that he can still go back even though he made a mess of things. He knows that everyone in the family, even the Hale parents, weren't very happy with him, and it's a test to how much they've forgiven him that they even still invite him back to their home.
"So how has New York been, Stiles?" Talia asks from the head of the table and everyone kind of pauses in their eating because it's a question he knows everyone has wanted to ask him but never had the courage to. It's also a question that Stiles had hoped would never come up. He's not sure how to answer it. Lydia would probably give them a better answer.
"Not as exciting as I thought it would be," Stiles says it like a joke because he can't handle being too truthful, although that was mostly the truth. "I think New York may be overrated." He smiles through a mouthful of mashed potatoes just so he can get his point across that, yes, he didn't like New York all that much but it wasn't so bad.
"Oh?" Laura hedge, not so furtively looking across the table at Derek, who just looks at his plate like it holds the secrets of the universe.
Stiles shrugs. "My work allows me to travel a lot so it's not so bad," he elaborates. "I get to drive around everywhere and meet different people. During the days when I am in New York, Lydia's there to keep me sane, as well as some of our other friends."
"Have you seen any Broadway musicals yet?" Cora pipes in from beside Derek, leaning on the table in excitement. "I hear The Lion King is still running, but that Wicked is actually one of the best musicals to watch this season."
Stiles clears his throat as subtly as he could and pretends that his chewing on some steak is the reason why he isn't answering immediately. "I was really busy," Stiles lies.
Derek looks up at him at this, brows furrowed, and it's like he knows. Stiles hates that Derek can still read him like this. The truth is, the first time New York had come up between him and Derek, they were going to go together. It was just an idea, one that Stiles thought they could do as a vacation and then he'd mapped out the things they could do, one of which is watch musicals together. Stiles was a junior then and they were on their fifth year in the relationship, a point where Stiles planned everything with Derek by his side. He had toyed with the possibility of having Derek by his side forever, but hadn't really taken it seriously until he hit the five year mark and felt like this relationship was it for him. Derek was it for him. And musicals? Stiles could barely think about watching one without remembering that Derek was supposed to be with him when he did.
"That's too bad," Cora mutters, slumping back on her seat. Derek reaches for her hand and squeezes it. "I mean, I hear you have been working a lot so it's really not a surprise." She then grins at him. "Maybe when I come to visit we can watch one? Derek had promised we would see one when we were there early last year but had to go home early because he had a sudden work thing--ow!" She snatches her wrist away from Derek. "What the hell?"
"Language, Cora," Talia chastises before pushing her chair back. "I'll go get the dessert. Cora, come help?" Cora leaves the dining room with her mom without hesitation, leaving Stiles with Laura, Derek and the uncomfortable silence.
"I'm going to go to the bathroom," Laura announces and, before anyone could say anything, she's out of there.
Stiles puts his utensils down and places his hands on his laps in an effort to stop them from shaking. It's an obvious tell that he's nervous and terrified and one he's never really gotten a handle of. If Derek sees, then he's done for because finding out that Derek was in the same state as him and he never knew definitely qualified as nerve-wracking and kind of terrifying.
"I didn't say anything because I didn't think you'd appreciate the surprise," Derek finally speaks up, voice raspy. "And we were there for barely a week before I had to go back home. I thought about seeing you," he then clarifies when Stiles meets his eyes. Derek looks like he'd eaten sour candy, like it hurts him to recall being in New York. "But decided that it might not be a good idea, even if Lydia said you could squeeze us in."
"I would have," Stiles interjects, clasping his hands together on his lap. "If you'd told me and..." He takes a deep breath. "And maybe we could have seen a musical. I mean since Cora obviously wanted to see one."
"Yeah," Derek answers. "Noted. I'll be sure to tell you."
They both look away from each other, because there's still that elephant in the room where they'd cuddled and slept wrapped around each other the other night. Stiles kind of wants to stand up and curl up somewhere because, this, their current state? It's almost like they're back to square one. But he can't let that happen, not when they'd both promised to fix their friendship.
"You better," Stiles says, tone lighter, making Derek look at him in surprise. He shoots him a smile. "We're trying to fix things, right? I'd say visiting each other is a good thing for both of us."
Derek nods, a small smile on his lips. "Fixing things."
Stiles blinks at the various documents containing wedding information and schedules displayed in front of him at the interruption to his dangerously depressing thoughts and wonders for a second where he is. Right, he's at Allison's, doing wedding stuff with Lydia because he's the best man and Lydia's the maid of honor. Lydia is drumming her fingers impatiently on the table, glass, which just makes the sound of her nails kind of echo in the kitchen. They're supposed to be going through the wedding checklist and finalizing preparations for the rehearsal dinner.
"Stiles," Lydia snaps.
"I don't wear panties?" is Stiles' quick reply. "I mean, not including that time during college freshman when I had to wear a dress and panties somehow needed to be in the equation and--"
"Stiles," Lydia interrupts with an eye roll and a slap of his hand. "I didn't actually want to know if you wear panties now or ever. I don't care." She tucks her hair behind her ear and Stiles just watches as she eventually flips her strawberry locks over her shoulder.
"But you care enough to ask what's gotten it in a twist," Stiles points out, wiggling his eyebrows up and down in a way that he knows Lydia absolutely hates. She doesn't like it when Stiles gets all annoying and giddy and teasing at her.
Lydia sighs in such exasperation like she can't believe that Stiles is a burden she has to carry in her life. "You've been staring off into space for like ten minutes," she points out. "I'm not sure how you've been this past few days seeing as you're always off somewhere with someone else, but I don't think staring off into nothing is a good thing." Stiles raises his eyebrows at her, half in amusement, since he basically knows whom she's referring to. "Should I say his name, Stiles?"
"Derek went to New York," Stiles starts, watching with interest as Lydia stiffened in her seat and pursed her lips, "You never told me."
"He would have told you himself if he'd actually come to see you when I told him to," Lydia is quick to say, looking entirely unapologetic for her behavior. "I mean it was obvious that he did want to and I thought he did but the next thing I know he was back in Beacon Hills." She frowns at the memory that she obviously hasn't decoded until now. "Besides, I wasn't sure if you wanted to see him. Especially since you've started to do well by that time."
Would he have agreed to see Derek had he known? Stiles probably wouldn't have. Lydia is right. It had taken Stiles a year to come to terms with moving on and he thought he'd managed it by then. He probably wouldn't have agreed to see Derek if only because he'd think it would impede his progress, which he'd tried so hard to achieve. The thing is, though, now that he knows Derek went to New York, for him, even if it took him a year, it takes a load off his shoulders. It doesn't change anything, but Stiles is relieved, because at least he knows that Derek tried, that he wasn't the only one who suffered.
"I don't know why, after all this time, I still feel like I made a mistake," Stiles opens up. Lydia's eyes widen slightly and he almost laughs. It's for good reason. He has never admitted to anything like this before. "Everything, this, it's my fault, you know." He chuckles this time to actually make it less serious and to make himself less guilty and less gutted.
"It was a relationship, Stiles," Lydia reminds him, gently and soothingly, the way she's always talked to him when it came to Derek. "It can't be just your fault." She sighs and gets up so she can sit beside Stiles and hold his hand. "What's bringing this on? You've never...this is the first time you've ever spoken about this like, like you actually miss...it."
"I miss him, Lydia," Stiles corrects her, almost sternly because he can't have her misconstruing the truth, not this time. Lydia leans her head on his shoulder and he closes her eyes. "I realize now that I still miss him, that I never really stopped and that I was foolish, stupid, to have let a stupid fight get in the way of something I can't get back."
If he and Derek were still together, Derek would hold him. Derek would tuck Stiles head into his neck and he'd wrap his muscular and warm around him and kiss his forehead until Stiles feels better. Derek always knew how to make him feel better with just a hug and some simple words. Derek just knew Stiles that he knew how to deal with him and his mood swings and his talkativeness and his everything. Stiles misses that. He misses someone knowing him and caring for him and loving him the way Derek did. It was selfish, Stiles knows, but he can't help it. No one has ever come close to who Derek had been in Stiles' life. And now he's afraid that no one is going to and that he'll be alone for the rest of his life, because just how do you allow yourself to open up to something like that and not be afraid it's going to disappear again?
"You do know that it's never too late, right?" Lydia says and Stiles almost laughs because there are instances where it is too late. "He and Julia--"
"--are together and happy," Stiles cuts her off, opening his eyes and pulling away from the hug. It's stupid, really, to think the way he was just thinking. He and Derek are fixing things between them so they can salvage whatever relationship they still can fix, like their friendship. This is what Stiles can do while he's still in Beacon Hills. He can gain and give back that trust that they had way back when they were still just friends. Stiles can do that. “C’mon, let’s get this over with."
Lydia must know that it's the end of the conversation because she then goes back to discussing the rehearsal dinner, just in time for Allison to come back from her phone call.
He was just putting down the handbrake so he can drive away, decision to come back never made, when Julia knocks on his window. Stiles turns his engine off and gets out of the jeep.
"Hey," Stiles says, swaying from foot to foot, unsure as to what to do. This is one of the things he hates, having a conversation with the current flame of his ex, who happens to be standing a little ways back, watching them. "Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."
"Oh no," Julia assures him with a laugh, her head tilting back, hair flowing backwards with the wind. She's really beautiful, Stiles can't help but think. "You weren't interrupting anything. Derek and I were just talking."
It looked a lot more than talking or, you know, not talking at all. "Right," Stiles lamely responds. "Well, I can come back later." It's then that he notices the car on the driveway that Stiles is pretty sure isn't owned by any of the Hales. It's a Genesis Coupe that is far too white for any of the Hales to own it. The family goes for the standard black or maybe something too flashy like a bright red or a blinding yellow, but not white. Stiles also notices that there are suitcases at the back of the car. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Driving back to my apartment in Sacramento for the week," Julia nods in explanation, "and then I'm going back to Boston for a while." She keeps smiling at him but for some reason Stiles senses that something is wrong.
"Did you two get in a fight?" Stiles asks, glancing back at Derek, who hasn't moved at all. He's still just standing there, trying very hard not to be obvious that he's watching Stiles and Julia.
"No," Julia promises, chuckling and touching his arm. "No. Just a bit of a talk." She turns to look back at him for a second before looking at Stiles. "I'm going to miss him that's all. I'm going to be swamped with work in Boston and I probably won't be able to visit for a while."
"I'm sure he'll visit you," Stiles jumps in because that's what people do, they assure others that everything will be okay. If his life doesn't turn out okay, at the very least it's a comfort that other people's lives will work out, like he's started to hope that Derek and Julia will work out because they really look perfect together the more he thinks about it. "I mean I'm sure Derek won't allow it that you two are apart for a long period of time."
"Oh Stiles," Julia says and she places a hand on his cheek, which is a bit weird but strangely comforting. His ex-boyfriend's girlfriend is weirdly being sweet with him. "Did Derek ever visit you when you went to New York?"
Stiles swallows and just averts his gaze, staring at the pattern of her pretty red dress. He could say that Derek did go to New York but what good would that do? They didn't even see each other. "I'm sure he'll make an effort for you," he says when he finally speaks up.
"Because that's what Derek does, right, when he feels it's worth it, he makes the effort?" Julia prompts him, tapping his chin so he would look at her. "It's all about the effort," she continues.
"I'm pretty sure he'd be stupid not to think you're not worth the effort," Stiles says when he finds his voice. He can't believe the words he's saying, but they're true. Julia is from a good background, smart, funny, incredibly beautiful. What more can Derek want?
Julia just smiles at him. "I'm sorry that we haven't had the chance to get to know each other like I wanted to," she tells him, dropping her hand and stepping back. "Maybe when you do go back to New York, we can meet halfway and get the chance to."
"Sure, of course," Stiles is ready to agree.
"Well I have to go," Julia says, giving him a quick hug. "I really need to be on my way."
Stiles leans against his jeep as Julia walks back to Derek and gives him a peck on the lips. It's short and sweet, a kiss that couples who are comfortable and in love give to each other. It's a level of comfort that Stiles thinks is sweet and lovely and so warm.
It's only when Julia has driven away that Derek finally acknowledges him and talks to him.
"I didn't expect to see you here," Derek says as a way of opening because in no way does that make Stiles feel more awkward in seeking Derek out.
"Right," Stiles coughs. "Sorry I didn't call first but I was kind of going with the spontaneous route to check if you're free today, but seeing as, you know..." He waves in the general direction of the road. "...you probably want to stay at home and mope with whiskey or something so I completely understand and will just ask Lydia or maybe Isaac coz, you know, they probably aren't so busy on Saturdays. I mean, what does Isaac even do except work at the vet?"
"He hangs out with Cora," Derek supplies before Stiles can go on.
"What?" Stiles blinks at him. "Cora?"
"They're dating," Derek tells him, a smirk growing on his lips, probably at the knowledge that Stiles didn't even realize that Isaac and Cora are dating.
"What!" Stiles exclaims. "What! How--you allowed Cora to date Isaac? Isaac is..." He can't even continue the sentence.
They haven't known Isaac as long as they've all known each other. They met him during senior year in high school where they caught him bullying some kid in school, which Derek put a stop to. It was only during college (Stiles and Scott were kind of unlucky to go to the same university as him) that they found out that he was being abused by his dad, hence the bullying, probably. It took quite some time but Isaac started to soften up and turned out to be actually a really sweet guy.
Still. Isaac and Cora.
Derek just shrugs, the smirk still on his face. "I can't believe you didn't know," he says. "I can't believe Cora hasn't told you."
"I am going to have a talk with her," Stiles grumbles, narrowing his eyes at the thought. "Or maybe I should have a talk with Isaac instead. It's payback time." Derek raises an eyebrow. "He's been nagging at me about--" He coughs and clears his throat because he can't really say that Isaac's been nagging him about Derek. "We'll have a talk."
"So did you just come here for that?" Derek asks. "Or did you want to help me with lunch?" He nods towards the house as an offer.
"Sure," Stiles agrees, following him inside. "But afterwards, you have to help me pick a gift for Scott and Allison. What do you give to couples who seem like they'd be happy with only each other?"
He leans on the counter just as Derek starts opening cupboards to get pans and some ingredients out. It's quiet for a while, with Stiles just watching. Derek's in another one of his simple shirts and blue jeans, making it seem like he was modeling them and not just wearing them because everyone needs clothes. Stiles can see the way his muscles ripple underneath the clothing though and, oh god, he should really be over ogling Derek by now. He's known the guy for practically all his life and it's no way acceptable to find someone you've known since you were a toddler attractive. Stiles hasn't even thought about Scott as attractive and he may have found Isaac cute for a second, but that was it. Derek, though, well... Derek's probably a completely different story, he supposes.
"Are you just going to keep staring at me?" Derek's question seeps into Stiles' brain, startling him out of his stool.
"Well, yeah," Stiles answers even though his face is probably red. "I mean, why wouldn't I stare?" He gestures up and down at Derek's toned everything and snickers when Derek coughs, clearly uncomfortable. "Besides, you invited me to lunch."
"I invited you to help me with lunch," Derek corrects him, grabbing Stiles' arm and hauling him towards the stove. "Not to just sit there and wait to be fed."
"Okay okay, sheesh," Stiles raises his hands in surrender. "Stop it with the manhandling. You know I'm not the best cook. I have cooked some in New York but nothing as good as the way you make them, not even my favorites taste the way you make them." He sighs as if this is a travesty, which it really is because Stiles not being able to make his favorite foods that way he likes them is just sad.
"Not even chicken cutlets?" Derek asks from over his shoulder.
"I don't think anyone can make chicken cutlets as delicious as you make them," Stiles confirms, turning the stove on and waiting for a bit as the pan gets hot. "It was a miserable three years without its perfection, let me tell you. I even tried to get Lydia to make them for me after trying to make them myself over and over. And then I tried ordering them in from everywhere and it really wasn't the same." He makes a face as he twists towards Derek. "You're going to make me cry if we keep at this. That's how much I miss it."
"You're ridiculous," Derek comments with an eye roll before moving to get the chicken from the fridge. "Which isn't really a surprise."
"Hey," Stiles whines, grinning at the way Derek wants to smash the chicken on his face. It's nice because it's just like old times, back when Stiles was complaining about not getting enough to eat properly at college and Derek teaching Stiles how to cook the simplest foods. Of course Stiles always failed to remember everything because he was just that scatterbrained, but with Derek's guidance he always got something right. "I'm awesome in all my ridiculousness."
"Ridiculous," Derek repeats firmly. "Here."
Derek walks Stiles through making chicken cutlets, or rather, Stiles tries not to burn anything as Derek shows him how to make chicken cutlets. Stiles keeps insisting that Derek should just make them because he makes them better anyway, but Derek would have none of it. Derek just keeps on telling Stiles what to do until they're at the final step.
Stiles hops on the middle counter as Derek leans against the one beside the stove. "If this turns out bad," he warns him.
"It would still be edible," Derek assures him with an eye roll.
"But I don't just want edible," Stiles complains just for the sake of arguing. "I want flabbergastingly good, orgasmic and divine chicken cutlets."
"Is that how you think mine tastes like?" Derek's cheeks are slightly pink and it's such a joy to see on his face.
Stiles just scoffs and shakes his head. "Where do you actually live these days?" he asks instead. "I mean you already have your own house."
"Still mostly here," Derek answers as he turns the stove off and moves the chicken cutlets to a clean plate. "I don't think I'll officially move in until I get the place some actual furniture." He grabs a tray, puts the chicken cutlets on them, a bowl of rice and some plates and utensils and nods at Stiles to follow him.
It seems that they're going to eat in the Hale's lush and sprawling backyard. Derek puts the tray down on one of the bigger tables and serves Stiles his food, making sure to get the best cuts for him. Stiles watches, speechless, because this is something Derek has done all the time that it seems it's still something of a habit for him.
"Thanks," Stiles mutters as Derek takes his seat across him and starts eating.
"Besides, I don't think my parents are ready for me to move out, not really," Derek shares.
"You're twenty-five," Stiles scoffs at him as a reminder. "I moved out when I was twenty-one." He pauses for a second when he realizes what he said and holds his breath.
"I know," Derek says, voice soft. "I've always thought you were brave for doing that."
Stiles chuckles and shrugs. He shoves a particularly large piece of chicken in his mouth so he can avoid commenting on that because what can he say to that? He actually never knew what Derek actually thought of Stiles leaving because the last time they talked about it, Derek was angry and annoyed and actually said that Stiles was just running away to which Stiles said that he was most definitely not running away. Why would Stiles even run away? There was nothing to run away from. Beacon Hills is his home, always will be, so it wasn't exactly because he needed to get away. He just really wanted to see what more is out there for him.
"You should really furnish your house," Stiles says instead before he can say something that both of them wouldn't want to hear. "How long has it been since it's been finished? I'm really surprised that Julia hasn't done anything about it."
Derek just smiles. "Close to six months, not that long really," he tells him. "I figured that I just need to pace furnishing it. I already have the masters bedroom and the kitchen done anyway. That's the only thing important to me right now."
"And making your house livable, isn't?" Stiles teases. "How has Lydia and Allison allowed this to go on for six months?" He pours a glass of water, pushes it towards Derek, before pouring one for himself, not noticing Derek's startled gaze. "Lydia strong-armed me into decorating my apartment the first week after I paid the downpayment and you're telling me you got away with just the bedroom and the kitchen?"
"I was very insistent," Derek tells him with a shrug.
"We're going to work on breaking down your resolve," Stiles muses, grabbing the last piece of chicken and putting it on Derek's plate.
"I could be persuaded," Derek says after a while. Stiles looks at him, eyes wide, because it feels like Derek's telling him that he's allowing Stiles to help him furnish his house. "You already did buy me furniture," he reminds him, shrugging like it's not a big deal to ask your ex-boyfriend to be all domestic. "What's a couple more?"
This is a bad idea and some very bad decision-making, probably one of the worst Stiles' has done in his entire existence. But then who ever said that Stiles made good decisions? What's one more?
"Sure," Stiles gives in as if he needs to be persuaded. "After you help me pick the best gift for Scott and Allison."
"Deal," Derek agrees with a grin that makes Stiles' heart beat faster.
"I don't think Scott and Allison would want to do anything with those colors," Derek tells him.
"They're cute!" Stiles pouts because they are even if they aren't exactly very sexy. Maybe he could get them those for when they have a baby girl or something. "White ones then? How about these dark red ones?" He gasps before jumping to grab a gorgeous navy blue set from one of the higher shelves. "Derek, this would look amazing in your room."
Derek coughs. "I have bedsheets," he tells him.
"Black ones," Stiles states knowingly. "Ones you probably haven't changed ever since, I don't know, ever since you put them there." Derek turns red. "We're getting these and we're getting them on your bed when we get back." He shoves the set to Derek's arms before moving towards the bed displays.
"You're not thinking of getting them a bed, are you?" Derek's tone is so wary that Stiles' laughs.
"Well they would need a sturdy bed, don't you think?" Stiles wiggles his eyebrows up and down. "I'm pretty sure Scott and Allison would want to go into baby-making immediately."
"As if they haven't been doing that in the decade they've been together," Derek comments.
"Touche," Stiles laughs. He then slaps Derek's arm. "I'm not going to get them a bed. They should get their own because beds should be tested beforehand, like this!" He grabs Derek's arm and pulls him back onto a bed with him.
"Stiles, what the hell!" Derek yelps, much to Stiles' satisfaction.
Stiles just laughs because if he doesn't laugh, he'll start questioning his sanity as to why he thought pulling Derek onto a bed was ever a good idea. "Lighten up! It's just a bed."
"In a store," Derek hisses, sitting up, hair all rumpled and fluffy. Stiles fights the urge to reach up and ruffle it. "We shouldn't be...whatever."
"Mrs. Morris doesn't mind," Stiles tells him, waving like a maniac at Mrs. Morris, the owner of the store, who surprisingly just smiles at them and waves at them as if to say 'enjoy yourselves'. "She wouldn't even care if we made out on this. But maybe having sex would be pushing it too far." Stiles should really learn how to shut his mouth.
"You'd have sex in a furniture store," Derek says flatly.
Stiles leans on his elbows to get a better look at him. "It's like you don't know me at all, Derek Hale," he teases and that's it. That's it. Stiles is shutting up now. He sits up properly and moves to get off the bed. Because, really, everything he's been saying is downright flirting and it's not like he's actually the type to have sex in a furniture shop. Okay, well, maybe, once before, he and Derek actually snuck into one of the secluded corners in a gallery opening that Derek's parents hosted. It was pretty hot, Stiles concludes. "C'mon," he grabs Derek's hand and pulls him up. "I still don't have a gift for Scott and Allison and I'm pretty sure they'd kill me if I don't."
Two hours later, Stiles still doesn't have a gift. What he does have, however, is a living room set, a shower set, and some new kitchenware. For Derek. Because Derek needs it. For someone who's the best man and supposedly the best friend of the couple, Stiles sure sucks at it. What he doesn't suck at, however, is being still completely smitten by his ex.
"At least you get your couch and everything by tomorrow," Stiles says, leaning his head on the marble counter when they finally get back to Derek’s house. “And, hey, good news! You can finally actually take a bath here.” He spreads his arms wide, a smug grin on his face. “Am I good or what?”
Derek looks like he struggles thinking of a response for that, which has his eyebrows quivering. It makes Stiles push himself off the counter, his fingers smoothing those eyebrows.
And it’s nice.
Touching Derek’s eyebrows and just touching Derek. Which he really has to stop doing, on top of making inappropriate comments, because, hello, ex-boyfriend with a girlfriend. So he drops his hand and chuckles.
“That’s better,” Stiles says in almost a whisper. “Even though you have such strong eyebrow game, you just look better without it creased."
“Better?” Derek repeats and he sounds almost breathless.
“Stop fishing for compliments,” Stiles slaps his arm before backing away before he could just stick his hand onto Derek’s bicep for far longer than necessary. He takes his phone out from his pocket to give his hand something to do, which is a good thing because he has a text from his dad reminding him about their dinner date that evening. “I should get going,” he then announces.
“Oh, alright,” Derek says, face blank as he walks Stiles to the door. “Thanks for helping out with, you know, everything.” He glances to the mostly empty house before looking at Stiles.
“No problem,” Stiles says casually. “This place really needs saving. Let me know if you need help fixing things up when the furniture arrives tomorrow.” He shoves his hands in his pockets as he steps out of the house because if he doesn’t he’s probably going to do something stupid like wrap Derek in a hug. Although that probably should be okay because it is just a hug. He can give his friends hugs, right, even if they are exes?
“What time are you coming over tomorrow?” Derek then asks, almost making Stiles trip down the steps and fall flat on his face. “I can prepare breakfast early before my morning run so you’re free to come as early as you want."
“Tomorrow?” Stiles asks, facing him and hating that his voice sounds raspy because of the surprise.
“Yeah,” Derek says. He might have looked hopeful if Stiles was delusional enough. He isn’t. “We haven’t found your gift for Scott and Allison. That was our deal."
“Right,” Stiles nods. Of course. Their deal. Stiles would help Derek with furniture if Derek helped him find a gift. Of course the whole thing is backwards now but who cares? “Don’t worry about breakfast. I’ll take care of it."
Stiles drives home trying not to smile because if he does he won’t stop. Then his dad will start asking all these questions that he doesn’t want to hear because he probably won’t know the answer to them anyway. Still, it was nice spending time with Derek with the knowledge that they’re trying to get back some of the closeness that they previously had. Stiles likes that Derek was relaxed around him, joked around him, he even laughed. And now Stiles is invited to spend another day with him.
He can’t help it. He smiles.
“Okay, what did you do?” Sheriff Stilinski asks the moment he sits at the dining table.
“What?” Stiles blinks at him, confused, mouth stuffed with beef and mushrooms. It was delicious. He’s forgotten how good his dad can cook when he’s in the mood. He supposes this is a good time as any to be in the mood for cooking well, since Stiles hasn’t really been back home.
“Chew your food,” the sheriff tells him, looking grossed out. “Then confess."
Stiles swallows his food, even drinks water and opens his mouth wide to stick his tongue out. “Satisfied?” he asks, making face when the sheriff rolls his eyes at him. “What did I do this time?"
“That’s what I’m asking you,” Sheriff Stilinski presses. He carefully slices the beef on his plate like a proper lady before putting it into his mouth. Stiles stares.
“Okay, who are you?” Stiles demands, putting his utensils down and clasping his hands on top of the table. “What have you done with my father?"
His father turns a hilarious shade of red, which Stiles enjoys with a big grin. “Shut up,” the sheriff grumbles. “This is proper etiquette. You slice it into small pieces before you put them in your mouth. The small bites also helps with not eating too much too fast, that way you notice when you’re starting to get full and don’t overeat."
“Oh my god,” Stiles bursts into laughter. “Who taught you this? I know Melissa was good at teaching you how to be a healthy eater, but I didn’t realize she was also a good lady etiquette teacher.” He laughs again, covering his mouth this time when his dad glares at him.
“If you must know,” Sheriff Stilinski snaps, “it’s Derek who taught me that. Melissa made me meet him every week for at least six months since you went to New York.”
Stiles stills for a beat or two before laughing all over again. “That makes it even better,” he giggles. “I’m going to have to give him a hug when I see him again. Man, Derek would.”
“Is that what it is then?” Sheriff Stilinski demands, even redder than was possible. “You and Derek going out all over town.” Stiles immediately stops laughing, eyes wide. “People have been talking, you know. They say it’s almost like old times.” He pauses for a second and he’s going to be merciless now, Stiles can tell. It’s not on purpose, but it’s going to get through to Stiles the way he wants to. “Is that how it is? Is it just like old times?"
Stiles sighs, leaning back on the seat, his hands clasped together on his lap. He knew there was the possibility that people would talk. Beacon Hills is a small town. Everyone knew everybody and everyone’s businesses. Stiles had gotten used to it as he grew up, thinking that was just how it is and that there was no point getting riled up over the whole town judging his and Scott’s teenage misdemeanours. There’s still no point doing that now, but he’s more aggravated about it because things between him and Derek is their business and not anyone else’s. Scott’s and Allison’s love story may have thrived under the scrutiny, but his current “relationship” with Derek is fragile enough as it is without the added judgment.
“Of course not,” Stiles answers and the honesty hurts his chest. “You know it isn’t.” He doesn’t know what the town has been drinking, but just because he and Derek seemed like they were gallivanting around town happy, doesn’t mean that they’re back together. Like old times. He scoffs and rolls his eyes. Honestly.
His dad lets out a breath and stops eating. He’s giving Stiles that look that says he’s very concerned and that’s never a good look, because next to that concern is anger. He’s probably angry that Stiles is stooping so low as to still pine over his ex.
“I am going to shoot Derek with my shotgun the first chance I get,” Sheriff Stilinski announces, crossing his arms on his chest and glaring like it’s going to do any good.
Stiles starts in surprise, gaping at his dad. “What… good would that do?” he asks, half amused, half horrified that his dad would ever think of shooting Derek no matter if it was just a joke.
“I had thought that Derek was bad for you,” Sheriff Stilinski admits. Stiles gawks at him, entirely thrown by this information. He’s known that his dad didn’t like Derek that much in the beginning but he thought that changed when they became really good friends. “He’s older and then he got that tattoo and you started skipping classes and—"
“Dad,” Stiles interrupts. “He’s a year older and that tattoo was a family crest and me skipping classes had nothing to do with him. If anything, you should be wanting to shoot Scott—but don’t do that. He needs to be alive to marry Allison."
“Stiles, what are you doing?” Sheriff Stilinski asks quietly and it makes Stiles feel terrible to know that he’s making his dad sad because he’s dumb. “Why would you still want to be friends with someone who broke your heart?"
“Dad,” he cuts in before his dad could continue, “It’s not his fault. I broke his heart, which broke mine. So really, I was the one who broke my own heart.” He slumps into his chair and looks at his hands.
It’s harder to admit it out loud. The truth always hurts to admit, especially out loud. But he can’t have people going around thinking that the reason their relationship fell apart was because of Derek. If he could just yell from the rooftops that Derek was the most amazing boyfriend in the world, he would. But what good would that do? Even if it would do any good, it’s nothing they should be concerned about. Derek was an amazing boyfriend and Stiles broke his heart. That’s the truth.
“Are you trying to make it up to him then?” Sheriff Stilinski wants to know after a short silence. “Is that why you’ve been hanging out with him so much?"
“I’m hanging out with him because we’re fixing things,” Stiles explains. He can tell that his dad knows he’s lying so he takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he confesses. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I just keep thinking that maybe we can still be friends, even after everything."
“Is being with him so much going to help you when go back to New York?” Sheriff Stilinski goes on. “I’m not trying to discourage you or put you down, but you said it yourself. Breaking up with him broke your heart. Wouldn’t it be better to just stay civil?"
“It’s been three years,” Stiles says softly. “And now I’m here and I have no control when I see him or where. I can’t just stay civil because he asked me if we can fix things and I know he has a girlfriend and it hurts being friends, but I don’t know what to do about that.” He looks up at his dad, whose brows are so furrowed it’s worrying. “I just keep thinking it’s better to have some piece, any piece of Derek rather than nothing because I know how hard that is, having nothing of him."
His dad probably hasn’t seen him cry in a very long time, but Stiles doesn’t care. It’s been a while since he’s cried about Derek. He cries even harder when his dad gets up and hugs him.
“You got Scott and Allison a coffee maker,” Derek states flatly like it’s such a travesty.
Stiles shoots him a look. It wavers and he looks away immediately. “It’s a a beautiful coffee maker, one of the best and I know because I have one myself. Scotty and Ally are going to need amazing coffee so they can wake up early in the morning to get to work after spending the night awake because they'd probably… well, you know.” He grins lopsidedly as he thanks the lady after she hands him his suit.
Derek steps to the counter after him and gives his name so he can get his own suit. “Fine fine,” he says. “I guess that makes sense. But this wouldn’t have happened if you’d just taken me with you to get a gift."
Stiles makes a face at him as he slings his suit over his shoulder. “It’s a great gift,” he insists. “The implication that I can’t get my friends good gifts by myself wounds me. I’m a grown and independent man and I can take care of myself.” He juts his chin out just to be impetuous.
Derek thanks the lady and smiles at Stiles as they walk out of the tux shop. “I can see that,” he mutters as they walk to Stiles’ jeep.
They’re quiet as they hang their coats at the back and as they get in. Stiles doesn’t comment at Derek’s unspoken question as to why Stiles didn’t show up at his house so they can buy gifts together or even to help Derek move the new furniture that they’d bought together. He doesn’t even say anything that would allude to Stiles kind of avoiding Derek all over again.
After his talk with his dad, he realised that maybe he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. Sure, he screwed up. But that didn’t mean he had to hurt himself to make Derek or the whole situation better. He still wanted to fix things with Derek. But he knows he wants so much more than that and it just hurts knowing that it’s something he can’t have. So he figures it’s better to take things slower and decided that seeing Derek is fine, talking to him is fine. As long as it’s around everyone else. No more talking to Derek or hanging out with him just the two of them.
Except now it is just the two of them.
“So,” Stiles breaks the awkward silence. “What did you get our lovely best friends?"
Derek clears his throat. “A scrapbook,” he mumbles, “of their journey together."
Stiles smiles as he glances at Derek, who is decidedly staring out of the window. “That is the cheesiest thing, Derek,” he teases. “But very appropriate. That’s probably going to make Scott and Ally cry."
“It’s more of a gift from me and Laura and Cora,” Derek explains. His ears are red and Stiles reaches out to tug at it. Derek looks at him in surprise.
“It’s okay,” Stiles says, chuckling as he pulls his hand away. There should be no touching. He should add that to his rules. “I’m sure it was your idea.” He pauses to stop himself from laughing. “It’s definitely a better gift than a coffee maker. Although, I still maintain that it’s a great gift."
“I can’t believe they’re getting married,” Derek speaks up after just rolling his eyes at Stiles’ comment. He leans back on his seat and makes himself more comfortable. His hand rests too close to the stick shift so Stiles puts both his hands on the steering wheel. “Can you?"
Stiles half shrugs. “I know what you mean,” he says with a small smile on his face. Scott and Allison are so made for each other, it’s a surprise that it took them this long to get married. “I always thought we’d end up down the aisle first before anyone—“ He clamps his mouth shut at that, pressing his lips so hard together he’s sure they’re white from the pressure. His hands clutch at the wheel for dear life because, oh my god, that is the worst thing he could say. Ever. “Sorry. I didn’t mean—“ He takes a deep breath. “Sorry,” he finishes, eyes straight ahead. When did Scott’s house become so far?
The silence that follows feels so long that Stiles wants to pull over just so he can get out of the car for some air. He can’t be breathing the same air as Derek right now. He can’t—
“You thought about us getting married?” Derek blurts out.
When Stiles glances at him, there’s something on Derek’s face that he can’t place. His eyes are wide and he looks mystified at what Stiles’ said. Like it hadn’t ever occurred to Derek that Stiles would think about them heading down that road.
“We were together for six years,” Stiles reminds him, his heart hurting. “What was I supposed to think? I definitely didn’t stay in the relationship for the heck of it. I stayed because I thought it was going somewhere, you know, like marriage?” He shakes his head. He was obviously kidding himself because Derek seemed to have other plans.
“I mean I know, but…” Derek trails off, sounding like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. It must be a surprise to him that Stiles loved him enough to want to marry him. “You were only twenty-one and in college—"
“I was eighteen,” Stiles corrects him. He then tilts his head and bites his lower lip. “Or was I seventeen?” He shrugs. “I don’t know,” he concludes. “Maybe earlier? I can’t really remember. Like you said, it was in high school. Seems so long ago."
“Seventeen,” Derek repeats in a daze.
“You talk like you were so much older than me,” Stiles scoffs. “Yes, I had thought of saying ‘till death do us part’ to you when I was a love sick teenager. You were only eighteen so that makes you a teenager too. Although you obviously had other things in mind.” It hurts him to say it, that Derek didn’t think so far ahead isn’t a surprise since they were really young back then. But six years. Who wouldn’t think of the future if you were with someone for that long?
“I—“ Derek starts.
“Finally,” Stiles ecstatically announces. “We’re here.” He parks the car in front of Scott’s house. “I’m starving."
They get out of the car, get their coats, and go inside. Stiles doesn’t look at Derek for the rest of the afternoon.
“So was that the cheesiest wedding in the world or what?” are Stiles’ first words into his best man speech.
Everyone laughs. Naturally. Stiles is hilarious.
“I’m kidding,” he teases, grinning at Scott and Allison, who are leaning against each other, faces pink and bright with joy. “I tell Scott and Allison how cheesy they are all the time. I complain about it to anyone who would listen to be honest.” More laughter. “But the truth is, I’m jealous,” he declares, a bit startled at the admission. He’s supposed to go on about how ‘cheesy’ is Scott and Ally’s middle name and not… Well, there’s nothing he can do now.
“I really am,” Stiles insists even when people laugh at that. “Who wouldn’t be? I think Scott has been in love with Allison ever since we were in toddlers—don’t deny it Scott,” he says when Scott yells out a protest. “You were always giving her the green crayon or the red crayon or whatever it is I was crying for, don’t think I’ve forgotten.” He chuckles when Allison gives Scott a kiss on the cheek. “It took Allison quite a while to catch up. It took her over ten years to finally realize that she had feelings for Scott too. It was during high school, a time that no one really takes seriously, an age where no one takes what they think or say to heart.” He determinedly doesn’t look at Derek when he says that.
“But look where they are now,” Stiles pronounces with an exaggerated arm movement. “Ten years later, they’re still together and are now stuck together for life. If that isn’t cheesy, I really don’t know what is.” He grins when Scott waves dismissively at him. “They’ve been together and in love for ten years and they’re now married because they think ten years is not enough. Who wouldn’t want that kind of love in their life? Who doesn’t want to have a love where they think they can do it forever? Because, let me tell you, it doesn’t happen everyday. And sometimes I think it’s impossible to find that kind of love or to find a person you truly want to spend forever with, and I don’t mean to demean everyone else in this room who are married. But we’ve witnessed it today with Scott and Allison’s marriage."
He takes a deep breath. “I’ve known Scotty and Ally for all of those years and I’ve seen just how hard they fell for each other back in high school. I’ve seen how much they worked hard to be together throughout their relationship. Believe me, you should take my advice when I say you shouldn’t be best friends with both the guy and the girl.” Laughter, more laughter. “It’s not pretty,” he mock whispers. “But really, I know that not all relationships end in happily ever after. It’s a depressing thought,” he chuckles. “But Scott and Allison have shown me and given me hope that it does happen. So I think I’ve gotten my message lost along the way.” He furrows his brows as the audience laughs. He really isn’t sure what he’s trying to say anymore.
“I guess I just want to say thank you,” Stiles finally tells them. “Thank you for showing me that falling in love isn’t a hopeless cause, that it’s beautiful and that it can last forever.” He smiles wistfully at his two best friends, who are now both sporting tears in their eyes. He wipes at his own as he raises his champagne glass in the air. “To Scott and Allison."
He finishes the whole glass as everyone echoes him. Then he grabs another flute and finishes that too.
His heart feels like it’s going to drum its way out of his chest and the wine isn’t really helping calm him down. Stiles wants to escape out of the ballroom, but Scott’s and then Allison’s hug helps calm him down a bit.
“You’re our best friend and we love you,” Scott tells Stiles so seriously that Stiles kind of wants to make a joke. Except he can’t because his eyes are suspciously watery.
“You will find your happily ever after, Stiles,” Allison whispers in his ear before she kisses his cheek. “I believe it. You just have to believe it too. I love you."
As soon as he escapes from their clutches, he makes his way through the maze of tables towards the exit. He can feel his friends’ eyes on him as he walks out but he doesn’t care. It’s just too much and he has to get out of there. He whips his phone out as soon as he’s out and slides down to the floor.
“Hey, what are you up to? What are you doing?” he asks the moment the call is picked up.
“Stiles?” Malia asks in a laugh. “Slow down. What’s going on?"
Stiles takes a deep breath. “I’m at the wedding,” he tells her. “Scotty and Ally are married.” It truly is amazing that they are.
“How was it?” Malia asks and Stiles can hear the smile in her voice in the middle of some sort of clanging.
“It was beautiful,” Stiles says. “Are you cooking?"
“I’m cleaning,” Malia corrects him. “Some friends are coming over and they want to cook so I need to clean, the kitchen especially."
“Friends? You mean Kira and the rest?” he wants to know.
“Kira,” Malia agrees. “And Minho, her boyfriend, as well some of the others.” There’s more clanging. “Why are you calling if you’re at the wedding?"
“I’m at the reception,” Stiles shares. “I just gave the best man speech. I stepped out for a bit."
“And you stepped out to call me because…?” Malia wonders. The clanging stops and Stiles knows that she’s waiting for him to answer and that she’s listening. Malia was always good at listening.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Stiles blurts out. He closes his eyes and leans his head back on the wall. He hasn’t spoken to Malia since the last time he called but there’s no other person he feels he can talk to right now. He’s hoping she’ll understand and won’t judge him for choosing her to talk to. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I should never have come back."
“Stiles, it’s Scott’s and Allison’s wedding,” Malia reminds him patiently. “There’s no way you wouldn’t have come back for that. Aside from the fact that Allison would kill you and Scott wouldn’t forgive you, you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself if you missed it."
“I don’t know if it’s worth it,” Stiles whispers. He told himself he wouldn’t look and he didn’t! But he saw Derek watching him closely as he said his speech. His eyes never left Stiles. Until now, he can still feel his piercing gaze on him. “I shouldn’t—I don’t know… I don’t know."
“You’re a good friend. You’re an amazing best friend, if Scott’s words are anything to go by,” Malia tells him. It’s quiet on her side of the phone and he can imagine her sitting down and twirling her hair with her finger. “And seeing your best friends happy, watching them finally seal their love is something that will be always worth it for you. You didn’t even think twice about booking your plane tickets and filing your leave the moment you found out the date for the wedding. And you filed a leave for a month."
“You’re right,” Stiles breathes out, bowing his head and covering his face with his hand. “You’re so good at this. You’re so good with me. Why did I ever break up with you? Why did you let me break up with you, Malia?"
There’s a sharp gasp and Stiles lifts his head up and gapes in panic. Derek is standing by the closed door, looking every bit handsome in his tux but his face is masked with something like shock and hurt.
“Because you’re in love with Derek,” Malia tells him. “We both know that you’ve always been in love with him. I knew I couldn’t compete with that."
Stiles doesn’t say anything and just stares at Derek. He’s in love with Derek. He’s always been in love with Derek. Right at the moment he first saw him in the preserve, where a ten year old Derek told a nine year old Stiles that he’s on private properly. All throughout elementary school. Especially in the whole of high school. Even when they weren’t together, even when he was in New York, thousands of miles away from him, Stiles was still in love with Derek. Stiles thinks he’ll always be in love with Derek.
“I—“ Stiles tries to say something. But how can he articulate something as big and as mind-blowing as that realization?
“Go to him, Stiles,” Malia vaguely hears her say before she ends the call.
Stiles pushes himself off the carpet and pockets his phone. He glances around before looking nervously at the closed door to the ballroom.
“What are you doing here?” Stiles croaks, wincing at how nerve-wracked he sounds.
“I was told to come get you,” Derek responds and it doesn’t make Stiles feel better to hear how gruff he sounds. “They’ve cut the cake and—Lydia and the others are looking for you."
“Well you found me,” Stiles gestures to himself and grins. He can do this. He’s been sidestepping people for years. He can walk to the door and go back inside like the tension between him and Derek isn’t cutting. “Let’s go back inside."
“You and Malia broke up?” Derek asks just as Stiles is about to open the door. Damnit.
Stiles takes a deep breath and turns to face Derek. Might as well. “Yes,” he owns up. “It hasn’t been long."
“How long?” Derek asks. Stiles is surprised to hear the demand in his tone.
“A couple of months,” Stiles replies, shoving his hands in his slacks pocket and shrugging.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Derek continues. He’s still standing there rigidly and Stiles isn’t sure what’s going on but he feels like he’s going to suffocate from the tension.
“It’s not a big deal,” Stiles answers with an eye roll. “Scott and Ally didn’t even know until a couple of days ago and I wouldn’t have told them if they hadn’t called Malia.” He keeps his hands in his pockets and hopes that Derek would just drop it so he can go back inside and pretend everything’s okay.
“Why wouldn’t you have told anyone?” Derek wants to know. This time he looks concerned. “We’re your best friends. Don’t you think we deserved to know."
“You’re not my best friend, Derek,” Stiles snaps. He clenches his fists inside his pockets. “We haven’t talked in years so I wasn’t really inclined to tell you about my failed relationship so you can’t really demand that from me. Not when I haven’t heard anything from you."
“You weren’t talking to me and I thought you wanted the silence,” Derek defends himself. “It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you. I really wanted to."
“Then why didn’t you?” Stiles retorts. He takes his hands from his pockets and crosses his arms on his chest. “You never even tried to call me."
“I went to New York,” Derek interjects. He looks like he’s starting to get angry now. Good. Stiles wants him to get angry because Stiles is furious; furious that Derek never went after him.
“Once,” Stiles scoffs. “Once. And you never even talked to me so what good did that do—"
“Twelve,” Derek interjects, his voice rough and deep. Stiles takes a step back because Derek looks livid. “I went to New York twelve times the first year you were gone. And then I went a couple more times the next year. Are you satisfied now?"
What? Stiles is stunned. His tongue is stuck to the roof of his mouth and he’s not sure how to react to that. “What—?"
“You never looked like you would have wanted to see me, Stiles,” Derek shares, a smirk on his face. “You were always out with someone laughing, or partying or something.” He breathes in deeply. “And then you started dating Malia. I thought, well then, that’s that.” Stiles opens his mouth to say something but doesn’t say anything. “I wasn’t going to push myself where I wasn’t wanted, Stiles, and you clearly looked like you didn’t want me anymore."
“I didn’t…” Stiles looks away and looks at everything but Derek.
“Which was really interesting, considering you said you thought about marrying me,” Derek presses on. The smirk on his face is bigger and it makes something burst in Stiles’ chest.
“Well I wasn’t going to wallow in my heart break and misery,” Stiles practically growls. “Imagine a boy leaving a small town to go to a big city, one he’s dreamed of going to with the love of his life, only to go there alone because they broke up. The city is so big that it makes him feel so lonely, especially since said 'love of his life’ never comes after him, never so much as calls him to maybe ask how he’s doing or maybe ask if they could talk. He was stubborn,” Stiles points out, glaring at Derek, who looks startled. “He left and he wanted to prove that he can do it, that he can chase his dreams and that it wasn’t wrong of him to want to go after them. Even when it broke his heart over and over again everyday that the love of his life wasn’t by his side."
Stiles has tears in his eyes, but he’s so angry that he doesn’t allow them to fall on his cheeks. He wipes them away with such fierceness that he scratches his cheek.
“Don’t talk like you know what happened to me,” Stiles goes on, voice low, before Derek can get a word out. “Don’t stand there and judge me like you think you know how long I’ve been in love with you and how long I’ve known that you were it for me. You can’t, because you don’t know. You don’t know what happened in New York. Just because you saw me a couple of times looking like I was having the time of my life, doesn’t mean you know anything. Of course I tried to look happy. I had to. Because I wasn’t going to destroy myself over being stupid enough to lose you."
“Stiles, I didn’t—"
“What does it matter, right?” Stiles laughs dryly. “I mean, really. It’s been three years. I’ve dated Malia and you’re dating Julia, who is incredibly beautiful, by the way.” He throws his hands up in the air. “It doesn’t matter anymore. This conversation doesn’t help either of us."
“Stiles,” Derek starts again.
“No. I’ve had enough. This conversation is done,” Stiles interjects. “This is over."
“What are you doing?"
Stiles knew the moment they found out that he was gone that his friends would drop everything and come after him. His friends never fail his expectations. It almost makes him laugh, even as he shoves his whole life back into a bag.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Stiles says, smiling a little at Scott looking like a haggard but handsome prince in his dark tux in his doorway. “I’m packing."
“But you’re supposed to be staying for another week,” Scott reminds him. “We’re going on a trip."
“Not me,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “I’m heading back to New York. It would be good to get back earlier. I need to get my bearings again and dive back into work. I’m supposed to drive to Boston in a few days after next week so it’s better to head back early really."
“What happened?” Allison asks. She looks beautiful in her wedding gown and Stiles hates that it’s wasted in his house. He cringes a little at the thought that they had to go straight to his house instead of theirs to spend their first night together as husband and wife. “Did you and Derek fight?"
Stiles doesn’t say anything and just keeps putting his clothes back into his bag, not caring to fold them anymore. He grabs his planner and some shoes and throws them in as well.
“Stiles,” Lydia snaps. She’s tapping her shiny stilettos on his wooden floor, her peach, glittery dress shimmering at the movement. “Talk to us. You can’t just get up and leave without saying anything."
“Watch me,” Stiles retorts, trying to zip his bag shut with such force it falls off the bed. He doesn’t get the chance to pick it up and pick up the clothes that had fallen off because Lydia grabs his arm and sits him down on the couch. The woman, in all her tininess, is strong when she has to be.
“I am not going to watch you walk away without so much as a decent conversation,” Lydia says, her voice is slow and deliberate and cutting. “I am not going to watch you go to New York and drown yourself in misery and cry yourself to sleep and ruin yourself all over again. I am not going to calm you down or help you get home when you’re too drunk or sing you to sleep once more. You are not going to put me through that this time, Stilinski. I won’t allow it.” Her red lips are pursed when she finishes as if she’s trying not to say any more.
Stiles sags into the couch and buries his face in his hands at the sight of Lydia’s tears. He’d known it was bad. But the way Lydia described it, it sounded as if it was worse than bad. He hates that he put her through that, hates that Stiles made her upset and worried about him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I’m sorry. I just can’t do this. I can’t be here because Derek is here and I can’t be around him anymore. I’m a coward, I know, but I’d rather be a coward and have my heart break at the sight of someone whom I’m so in love with I might never love someone else and know that I can’t have him."
“What are you talking about?” Scott asks. “You guys have been spending so much time together. I thought things were okay."
Stiles laughs and it makes everyone in the room wince at how depressing it sounds. “Scotty, you do remember Julia, right?” he says, lifting his head up to smile at his best friend. “His girlfriend?"
“Good god,” Lydia hisses. “They’re not together anymore, Stiles.” Stiles stares at her. “They broke up."
“No, they aren’t,” Stiles says. “They’re together. They’re—"
“Derek told us you were there when Julia left,” Allison chimes in, looking confused but still incredibly pretty. “He even said that you and Julia talked."
“But she said she was just—she said something about work and we even talked about Derek visiting her,” Stiles defends himself, grasping at straws because all of a sudden it was all hazy to him. When no one says anything otherwise, he continues, “Why would they break up? They were so perfect for each other."
Lydia snorts and even Scott smiles a little. Allison rolls her eyes at them and then says to Stiles, “Not really, no. They weren’t even really together that long."
“But she’s met his family,” Stiles insists. “We all know how serious that is."
“She’s a family friend," Allison tells him. “Although they didn’t really live in Beacon Hills until about a year ago. Their families have known each other for a long time so it just makes sense that she’s met his family."
“But—“ Stiles tries to make sense of things but it doesn’t make sense.
“She’s been trying to help Derek furnish the house,” Lydia pipes in. “Like she’s asked several times that she could help, but she’s never even stepped into the house. Derek has brought her there but he's never brought her inside.” Stiles nods because he knew that. “He calls her Jules even when she insists on just being called Julia."
Stiles raises his eyebrows in amusement. What does have to do with anything? “So?” he says. He’s pretty sure Lydia isn’t that petty.
“I wonder what Jules rhymes with,” Lydia taps her chin in mock curiosity and then she brightens up. “Oh right! It rhymes with Stiles."
“Hey, is that why he keeps on calling her that even when Julia keeps on correcting him all the time?” Scott says, looking pleased at this new piece of information. Allison presses a kiss to his cheek in fondness.
Stiles presses the heels of his palms to his eyes. This is all too much to take. He can’t believe that Derek would still… It doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t because Derek was angry that he left. Derek felt like Stiles was choosing New York over him, over them because Derek wanted to stay in Beacon Hills and live his life there and Stiles just didn’t want that. He wanted to see what else was out there before settling. He just wanted to explore. That was it. Stiles never thought about breaking up with Derek but, somehow, that’s what happened.
“Have you even thought about the house? That should have given you a clue already,” Lydia barrages on. When she was on a roll, she really went for it. “I mean, seriously. That house is your dream house, Stiles, and he went on to build it even when you guys broke up. Also, I wonder why he’s allowed no one but you to help furnish it. Because it’s your house, as in yours and Derek’s.” She sighs irately. “It’s irrational and depressing but he wouldn’t let any of us stop him."
“I didn’t,” Scott says. “Try to stop him, that is.” He shrugs when they all just stare at him. “What? You can’t stop a guy who looks like he knows what he wants and knows how things are going to pan out.” He gives Stiles a soft smile. “I think he thought that he was always going get you back one way or another. Too bad it’s not going to work out."
Stiles looks at his clothes strewn on the floor, spilling out of his bag. “Too bad,” he whispers.
He can’t do this. He can’t deal with this. Three years of nothing and the one month that he goes back, there’s suddenly all of this? All of a sudden Derek is still in love with him, too? That he tried to get Stiles back? That it was Stiles’ fault all over again that it didn’t work out for a second time around? Stiles doesn’t need anything of this.
He gets up and starts packing his clothes and all this things. When he zips his bag up and puts it down on the floor, he hugs each one of his friends tightly.
“You’re not going to find me drowning myself in misery or drinking or whatever it is I made you do before,” Stiles assures Lydia. “I’m going to be fine this time. I’ve been fine for a while now.” Lydia purses her lips. “I promise."
“I do not support this,” Lydia finally says. “I’ve supported you in everything you’ve done. But not this. I don’t think you’re doing the right thing by leaving."
“Maybe you’re right,” Stiles gives in. “But I don’t think staying is the right thing either so either way…” His lips quirk into a small smile. “And I’m really sure that I can’t stay.” He turns to Scott and Allison. “I’m sorry for bugging out of our trip. I’ll make it up to you."
Scott grabs him into another hug and squeezes him. “You do what’s best for you, man,” he says it with such ferocity that it makes Stiles want to cry. “We’ll be right here when you’re ready."
It’s hard to know when Stiles will ever be ready for anything concerning Beacon Hills. But he’ll take it and finds comfort in the promise.
Withdrawal. Stiles thinks he kind of understands what addicts go through now when they stop something they’re addicted to. He spends his two days back in New York in a daze, just laying around and staring into walls. He gets up to eat something once in a while because he doesn’t want Lydia to kill him. But, otherwise, he doesn’t do anything.
Three years wasn’t enough of a time for Stiles to get over Derek. Having him back, even in a different capacity, in one month didn’t really help. Now he has Derek back in his system and it’s really hard to get him out again. He hates it. Because he’s stronger than this. Stiles has had Derek out of his life for three years. How can a month destroy all that?
It goes through his head in the same order every time.
Derek went to New York twelve times to try to talk to him.
Derek broke up with Julia.
Derek called her Jules.
Derek built the house.
All because of Stiles. All for Stiles.
It’s the same four things over and over again and Stiles tried to make sense of it but he still can’t. He doesn’t understand how he’s missed it, those signs that clearly showed that Derek still wanted him at the same time that Stiles did too. It’s so messed up. Stiles is so messed up. How is he going to get through weeks, months, years like this? He hopes he won’t have to. He really doesn’t want to.
His friends have called; Scott, Lydia, Allison, even Isaac called with Aiden and Erica in the background. He suspects that Boyd was also there, just that he was kindly respecting Stiles’ privacy. They’re probably having fun at the beach, even though they’ve told him otherwise. He appreciates their sentiments and concern, that they want him with them. But Stiles really is glad that he isn’t. It would be awkward with him and Derek there together, not talking.
Derek didn’t call him. No one mentioned him in their calls. It’s probably for the best. Stiles wouldn’t have wanted Derek to be sulking or upset during the trip, which is supposed to be fun because it’s Scott’s and Allison’s first trip with them as a married couple.
“I have to stop thinking about Derek,” Stiles declares aloud in the empty apartment. He’s going to go crazy if he keeps on doing this. It’s torture thinking about him. But it’s hard. It’s not like he can do anything else, especially when everything’s so fresh again in his mind.
Making up his mind, he gets up and goes to his room. He changes into fresh clothes, grabs his phone and wallet from the bedside table and runs his fingers through his hair in an effort to fix it. With a glance in the mirror, he nods at his depressing reflection and thinks that it will have to do. He hopes Malia won’t mind him appearing outside her door all of a sudden. If she does mind, he’ll just have to take a very long walk so he can get his mind off things.
Stiles opens his door and slams it shut again.
He just stares at the door for a very long time, his heart beating double time in his chest. It can’t be. It just can’t be because—there’s a knock at the door that startles Stiles so much, he almost tumbles backwards.
“Stiles, I just want to talk. Please."
Derek. Derek is at his door. In New York. Derek is in New York and he’s come to Stiles’ apartment because he wants to talk.
Stiles takes a deep breath as he grabs the doorknob and opens his door. Derek is standing there, poised to knock again. He puts his hand down and stands there awkwardly, putting his hands in his pockets eventually.
“Hey,” Derek says with a small, uncertain smile that Stiles wants to kiss off his face.
This makes Stiles realize how screwed he is. He’s supposed to be mad at Derek. They got into that huge fight that consisted mostly of Stiles yelling his hurt feelings. But then everything that happened after that just made him feel confused. Now he’s not entirely sure what he’s feeling, especially with Derek standing right in front of him.
“What are you doing here?” Stiles asks, instead of something simple like ‘hi’.
“I was hoping we could talk,” Derek repeats.
“I know, but…” Stiles doesn’t get it. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be with the others? They’re at the beach and… why are you here?"
Derek shifts in his stance, swaying from side to side that was awkward but really cute at the same time. Stiles sighs and waves him into his apartment. So much for going out to stop thinking about Derek.
“Do you want anything to drink? Have you eaten?” Stiles asks as he looks through his fridge. “I just got back, though, so there isn’t much to eat around here."
“What have you been eating since you got here then?” Derek asks, sounding concerned as he stands uncomfortably in the middle of the kitchen. Stiles hates that he can look handsome even when he’s obviously out of his element.
“Um, I’ve had food,” Stiles says, his cheeks pinking, caught off guard. “Take-out mostly.” It’s not entirely a lie. During the times that he’s eaten, he did have some take-out. “If you want, I can order something in."
“I’m not hungry,” Derek says, shaking his head. “I’m fine."
Stiles closes the fridge and turns to face him. He leans against it and crosses his arms on his chest. “So… I still don’t get what you’re doing here,” he starts. “I mean I get that you want to talk but I’m still confused. You’ve never actually come to talk to me in all the times you’ve said you’ve come here and—"
“That’s why I’m doing it now,” Derek interrupts, frowning even though it looks like he’s trying hard not to. He looks nervous too if the way he keeps on running his fingers through his hair is any indication. “I didn’t want to… I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’m here because I wanted to talk. I’m here because I wanted to come after you this time and actually get you back."
Stiles opens his mouth and then closes it again when he finds he has nothing to say to that. That’s what he’s wanted all those years. He wanted Derek to come after him and stop their relationship from breaking before it was too late. Now it’s happening… it feels surreal.
“I’m going to do things right this time, Stiles,” Derek continues with a shaky breath. “I’m going to do all those things I should have done before, things I knew I had to do but didn’t because I was scared that you were going to reject me and won’t come back to me."
Stiles breathes deeply. There are so many things he wants to say, things he wants to ask and comment on but he doesn’t know where to begin. “Why didn’t you tell me about Julia?” he asks instead. “I know you aren’t in any obligation to tell me that you guys broke up, but I was kind of right there and I didn’t understand. Why would you guys break up?” Derek looks at him like he’s stupid and Stiles knows what he’s thinking. Doesn’t Stiles know? Stiles does know, but he can’t fathom it.
“Because I wasn’t in love with her,” Derek explains, eyes bearing into Stiles'. “She is beautiful and sweet and caring, but she wasn’t… it’s not her fault. I wasn’t into it and I didn’t want to lead her on any further.” He pauses, his Adam’s apple bobs up and down when he swallows. “That night that she cooked for me, that’s when we decided that it wasn’t going to work. You can just imagine my surprise when I found out that you knew she’d cooked for me."
“Oh,” Stiles gapes at him. “I didn’t realize."
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it mattered,” Derek shares with a regretful sigh. Stiles watches as Derek moves closer to the counter and leans against it, his palms flat on the wood so it would stop shaking. “I thought you were dating Malia. Besides, I broke up with Jules because I couldn’t stay with her, not when…” He shrugs.
“Jules,” Stiles repeats in almost a whisper. Derek doesn’t say anything and just looks at his hands. Stiles supposes that was self-explanatory. “I don’t know what you want from me, Derek,” he finally says. “You want to talk, you want to come after me and get me back… but are you sure you still want that? So much has happened. It’s been three years. I’m broken and you’re… still you."
“I’m still in love with you, Stiles,” Derek tells him with such fierceness and determination and love that it makes Stiles melt. He pulls his hands close back to himself with this confession as if trying to steady them further. They’re words that he thinks he’s already known in the past few days, but actually hearing Derek say them is so much better. “If you think for a second that I ever stopped being in love with you, you’re wrong. I couldn’t have stopped even if I wanted to. Six years, Stiles. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to."
“I know,” Stiles says quietly, dropping his arms and playing with his fingers. “I get it."
“I’m sorry that I did everything wrong,” Derek tells him. “I didn’t mean to get upset when you decided that you were leaving for New York. I didn’t mean to start the fight that led to our break-up. I didn’t mean to break-up with you. Believe me, that was the last thing I wanted.” He shakes his head. “I keep rehashing everything that happened that day in my head and wondering where I could have changed things."
“It’s not your fault, you know,” Stiles tells his seriously. “It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. I shouldn’t have been so enamoured with the idea of New York and—"
“Stop,” Derek interrupts so suddenly that Stiles jumps. He pushes himself off the counter and moves towards Stiles until he was standing in front of him. This close, Stiles can smell old spice on him and he just wants to wrap his arms around Derek and love him forever. “It wasn’t wrong for you to have gone after your dreams even if it was away from Beacon Hills. Don’t ever feel sorry for that."
“But if I hadn’t left—“ Stiles starts, but Derek reaches for his hand and squeezes so he’ll stop talking.
“I was angry, but not because you were going for what you want,” Derek says, his thumb moving in circles over his knuckles. “I was actually very proud because you knew what you wanted. I was angry because I was scared that things were going to change and I took it out on you and made you feel like you shouldn’t go, made you feel like I was holding you back and… I didn’t want this.” He gestures around them.
“This,” Stiles says, smiling a little, “isn’t so bad now compared to the past, doesn’t it?”
Derek returns his smile. Stiles turns his hand in Derek’s and intertwines their fingers with each other’s.
“Does this mean you’ll take me back?” Derek whispers, his eyes watching the way his hand and Stiles’ fit together.
“Only if you’ll take me back,” Stiles says, watching their hands as well. It’s amazing how after all this time, after years of being separated, after a month of trying to be friends and then getting into a fight all over again, they still seem to fit together. Perfectly. Like no time has passed. Stiles thinks this just makes him fall even more in love with Derek.
Derek lifts their hands and places a kiss on Stiles’ knuckles. It sends shivers to the tips of Stiles’ toes, which makes him sound like he’s in a fairytale or makes him seem like some lovestruck teenager. But that’s because he is. He and Derek may have been together when they were teenagers, high school and college, a time where older people tell them to take nothing too seriously because it’s not real life. But his relationship with Derek has always been real to Stiles. And if that makes him act like a lovestruck teenager in a fairytale then so what?
“I’ve always wanted to get you back,” Derek confesses, ears turning red. Stiles chuckles and pulls Derek closer, their hands sandwiched in between their chests. “What do you think the house was about?"
“Oh is that what that is? A tactic to woo me back?” Stiles teases. He giggles at how easy this is, how easy it is to fall back into Derek, into being freely in love with him. “That’s some expensive wooing, Hale. You think I’m worth all that money you spent?"
“Yes,” Derek says, his lips right at Stiles’ ear. Stiles’ eyes flutter shut at the sensation, his hands gripping Derek’s shirt. “And more. So much more."
“Don’t think I can be sweet-talked so easily,” Stiles says even as he breathes shakily. “You still tore our treehouse down.” He pulls away to get a good look at Derek, who looks as dazed as Stiles feels. “That’s where our love began and you tore it down for other plans.” He shakes his head in mock disappointment.
Derek just laughs much to Stiles’ surprise. He pulls Stiles close to him, both his arms wrapping around Stiles’ waist. He presses a kiss to his forehead as he reveals, “Where do you think the new house is built on?” Stiles stills in recognition. “That treehouse is as important to me as it is to you. But we can’t live in a treehouse forever."
Stiles closes his eyes as his lips find Derek’s. “I’m so in love with you,” he whispers and then he kisses him.
Stiles kisses Derek, their lips sliding with each other’s like no time was lost between them. It almost feels like two old friends who haven’t spoken to each other see each other again and start talking like they’d only seen each other yesterday. Except, of course, it’s different. Much different. Derek isn’t just an old friend, for one. And this isn’t just talking. There is no talking. Just kissing.
Stiles thinks he can do this forever and, if the way Derek is kissing him like he’s trying to show with every lick of his tongue and every tug of his lips how much he missed him is any indication, he thinks Derek is on board with that as well.
"I’m so in love with you too,” Derek manages to say in between kisses.
This is what it was supposed to be like all along, him and Derek in love and happy together. Stiles is definitely game if he can do this forever because he honestly doesn’t want to do anything else but love Derek his entire life.
Derek’s arms tighten around him and Stiles sighs in contentment. Derek feels so much like home.
“I’m officially wooed.” Stiles gawks at the house and at the beautiful flower beds surrounding it. He didn’t think he could love the house even more considering he loves it by default because Derek built it for him. But, you know, apparently flower beds can do the trick. “Consider me wooed, Hale,” he calls, grinning as Derek steps out into the porch in a simple white shirt and blue jeans, looking every bit like a model. How did he get so lucky with Derek?
“You haven’t been inside yet,” Derek tells him with a mischievous smile that Stiles wants to kiss off his face.
So he does exactly just that. Stiles runs to the house, up the few steps to the porch and jumps on Derek, his legs wrapping around his waist, and kisses him.
“What do you think?” Derek presents as he carries Stiles into the house. He laughs when Stiles gapes when he takes the interior in.
Stiles slides down Derek and looks around. It’s everything they’d talked about and more. It’s homey and cozy and Stiles takes his time to inspect everyone and cranny, touch every lamp, every throw pillow and feel it. This is his and Derek’s home. It’s theirs. Truly.
It took six months before Stiles left his job and packed his life in New York into suitcases and boxes and moved back to Beacon Hills and into his and Derek’s house. Derek flew back and forth New York and Beacon Hills throughout the six months, which Stiles greatly appreciated because he couldn’t do it, not when he took a month off from work. It’s also during that time that Derek and Stiles fixed the house up and furnished it so it could be lived in. But this is the first time Stiles is seeing the finished product.
“Okay I’m definitely more than wooed,” Stiles says as he comes back to where Derek’s smugly standing by one of the couches. “Come here and kiss me,” he demands. He grabs Derek’s neck and kisses him.
Derek laughs into his mouth and carries Stiles once more, making his way up the stairs to their bedroom. “I’m taking you like it?” he asks, panting as Stiles licks up his neck.
“Are you kidding?” Stiles breathlessly responds. “I’ve never been so happy to say ‘honey, I’m home’. And it’s not just because of the house. It’s mostly because you’re in it."
“Is that so?” Derek teases as they make it to the bedroom. “Well in that case… welcome home."
In the end, it was all worth it. Stiles’ move to New York, their break-up, them trying to be friends and then failing at it, their huge fight at Scott’s and Allison’s wedding reception… Stiles thinks it’s all worth it. Because in the end, he gets to have Derek. This is what he's wanted, after all.