Derek is quietly minding his own business, browsing different college websites, when Cora gets home and, without even stopping, calls out, “If mom asks, I’m working on a project for school."
She's half-way up the stairs before whoever she's brought home with her pops his head into the living room.
The boy looks familiar and smells like school, so he’s probably in Cora’s grade. That's sort of comforting, he guesses, that Cora didn't bring home a complete stranger. He clears his throat, face splotchy in embarrassment, and says, “We are actually working on a project together. I don’t know why she said it like that.”
“I literally don’t care,” Derek says, turning back to his laptop.
After a beat, the kid raps his knuckles against the living room doorway and says, “So, um, practice was pretty rough yesterday, huh?”
Derek sends him a blank look with maybe a dash of irritation thrown in. “What?”
“Practice?” Stiles prompts. “You know, lacrosse? Yesterday? I know you hit your head pretty hard during that one play, but you’re a werewolf. Shouldn’t it have, like, not affected you?”
Okay, is this kid stalking him? If he is, he’s doing a pretty shitty job, admitting it outright like this. Narrowing his eyes, Derek says, “How did you know I hit my head?”
The kid blinks a couple of times, and then throws his hands up in the air with such vehemence that Derek startles back a bit.
“Seriously?” the kid asks. “I’m Stiles. Number twenty four? I’m on the team.”
Oh. Huh. Derek tilts his head a bit. That would explain why he looked familiar. Oops. Before he can say anything to try and fix the situation, the kid – Stiles – mutters, “Yeah, this feels about right,” and then heads upstairs to find Cora.
“So,” he hears Stiles say once he reaches Cora’s room, “your brother’s kind of a dick.”
“Yeah,” Cora agrees. Before Derek can so much as roll his eyes at his sister’s disloyalty, she says, “But he’s my dick, and if you say anything like that again I’ll punch your teeth in. Got it?”
Derek does notice Stiles at the next practice. He’s a freshman like Derek suspected, and not a very good player. He’s actually so bad Derek’s surprised he didn’t notice the kid before for that reason alone. Aside from finally noticing this whole other player on the team, though, nothing changes. They still don’t speak.
There is a weird moment where Derek catches Stiles staring at him. It’s not weird because of the staring. Derek’s used to people staring at him. It’s weird because Stiles isn’t staring the way people normally do. Usually, there’s an undercurrent of lust or envy – or irritation, when it comes to family – accompanying the looks he gets, but with Stiles it’s something else, something Derek can’t figure out. It’s unsettling, so Derek ignores it, and Stiles, for the rest of practice. And then for another year and a half.
“Merry Christmas, Laura,” Derek says when his sister picks him up from the airport the following year.
“I just paid twenty dollars to park for you, and then drove aimlessly for an hour because it’s Christmas and everyone wants to be with family. Bite me,” Laura says back.
God, it’s good to be home.
“So,” Laura says once they’re on the highway, headed home, “how’s school?”
“How’s being a barista?” Derek shoots back.
Laura’s mouth quirks up in a smile. “Fair enough. You’ll get enough small talk from Nana soon enough.”
Derek groans. Nana Hale is notorious for asking her grandchildren the same questions over and over again every time she visits. Derek was asked four separate times last Thanksgiving if he was still with Page and if he had proposed yet.
(“Nana, I’m eighteen.”
“So? I was seventeen when I married your grandfather. When it’s right, it’s right.”
“But it wasn’t right. We broke up.”
“Oh you did? I’m so sorry to hear that.”)
“I swear she’s gotten worse,” Laura says.
“How is that possible?”
“She’s already asked me three times if I’ve gotten a real job yet. She’s been here a day.”
“Any chance you can wreck the car on the way back? Nothing fatal, just enough to land us in the hospital for Christmas.”
Laura shakes her head and pats her dashboard gently. “Sorry, little bro. No can do. I just got her tuned up. Can’t let that go to waste.”
Thankfully, when they get to the house, everyone is out. Everyone, that is, except for Cora and, inexplicably, that one kid on the lacrosse team she had a class or two with. Stale? Stull?
“Stiles!” Laura says happily when she spots him on the living room couch.
“Hey, Laura,” Stiles says with just as much enthusiasm. “You just missed Nana Hale, but she told me to tell you to start the noodles while she’s out. Whatever that means.”
“And her crusade to turn me into a fifties housewife continues,” Laura sighs. “Will one of you please learn how to make the noodles this year so that it doesn’t always fall to me?”
“No,” Derek says.
“Absolutely not,” Cora says.
“I will,” Stiles says.
Everyone stares at him.
“What?” he says, defensive. “No one lets me in the kitchen at home. This’ll be fun.”
Why isn’t he at home, Derek wonders, but he never gets a chance to voice his question because Laura says, “Yeah it will. Follow me and let’s get this party started. Chop chop. Literally.”
“I will only help if you stop making food prep-related puns,” Stiles says, following her. He passes Derek with a slight head nod of acknowledgement and a quiet, “Hi, Derek.”
“Yeah. Hi,” Derek says, a beat too late. Stiles is almost to the kitchen and probably didn’t even hear Derek anyway.
“How did you come back an even bigger loser?” Cora asks. “Yeah. Hi,” she mocks as he joins her on the couch.
“It’s okay that you missed me. You can admit it.”
“Gross. Get off the couch if you’re going to bring feelings into this.”
Derek stays put and they watch American Chopper until the smoke detectors start blaring.
“So there may be a reason I’m not allowed in the kitchen at home,” Stiles says sheepishly. He’s helping the girls open all the windows to let the smoke and ashy stuff from the fire extinguisher out of the house while Derek takes the batteries out of the detector until enough smoke clears that it won’t flip its shit anymore.
“Never again,” Laura says with the quiet conviction of a person who’s seen things.
Thankfully it’s a pretty warm day for December and the smoke is mostly clear by the time the rest of the family gets back. Stiles tries to get them all to swear a vow of secrecy – Derek refuses on the grounds that it’s stupid as hell; Laura and Cora agree immediately – but the second their mom and cousin enter the house, Cora shouts, “Stiles set the kitchen on fire. It was hilarious.”
Stiles sighs like he expected nothing less from her. “And that’s my cue to go. It’s been fun, Hales. I’ll see you all later.” He glances at Derek. “Well, most of you.”
“Are you sure?” Talia asks, setting her grocery bags down on the island in the kitchen. “You know you’re welcome to stay, and John is welcome over any time.”
Well, this is new. Maybe he should call home more often like his mom is always trying to get him to do.
Stiles smiles and shakes his head. “That’s okay. Thank you, though. Merry Christmas, everyone.”
They all echo Merry Christmas back as Stiles heads out the front door. Derek never asks and nobody offers any explanation. By the time he heads back to NYU, he’s basically forgotten the whole thing.
Derek gets a job in the city over the summer and gets snowed in at the airport that Christmas, so the next time he manages to make it home is the summer after his sophomore year of college. He picks up Laura’s old barista job for the summer because she finally has a real job and it’s…not terrible. He served coffee in New York, where the caffeine addicts are both crazy and impatient; Beacon Hills is relatively a breeze.
He settles into a routine: get up, go to work, come home to Stiles and at least one of his family members hanging out, go for a run, come back to Stiles still being there, fix dinner, watch tv, sleep.
After a couple of weeks, he finally asks.
Stiles is alone for once, watching some movie in the living room. Cora is the only one home but her even heartbeat and deep breaths let him know she’s taking a nap in her room.
He informs Stiles of this, and Stiles jumps so hard he almost falls off the couch.
“Damn werewolves,” Stiles mutters. “Just because you can sneak up on people doesn’t mean you have to.”
Derek would apologize but he’s not sorry. Instead, he asks, “Don’t you have a home of your own?”
Shrugging, Stiles says, “Yours is more comfortable. I’m Stiles, by the way.”
Derek raises his eyebrows.
“Stiles Stilinski. We went to high school together. We played-“
“Yes, I know who you are, Stiles. You’re at my house all the damn time.”
“Yeah, well, we had practice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday together in high school and that didn’t stop you from having no clue who I was.” The smirk Stiles sends him says he knows he’s won and dammit it’s infuriating.
Instead of arguing, Derek just asks wearily, “Why are you here?”
“The stellar company, of course. Why are you?”
“Are you really asking me why I’m in my own house?”
Stiles shrugs again. “You haven’t been here in a while, and now you’re back for a whole summer. It’s a little weird.”
“It’s my house. It’s not weird.”
“Hey,” Stiles says, as if Derek hadn’t said anything at all, “want to watch Pet Hoarders with me. It’s horrifying. I’ve been watching it for three hours.”
Derek holds out for all of ten seconds before he joins Stiles on the couch.
Derek never gets a straight answer out of Stiles about why he’s always at the Hale house, but he does strike up a weird sort of friendship with him. Which is unfortunate because, the more time Derek spends with the kid, the more he realizes Stiles really isn’t a kid anymore. He’s grown into his gangly limbs and shoulders and has this way of smirking that had Derek reminding himself quite often that Stiles is his little sister’s best friend.
“Boyd is my best friend,” Cora corrects when Derek asks about it one day. “Stiles attached himself to me. Like a barnacle.”
Stiles snorts. “Right. I attached myself to you. Remind me again who attached whose lips to-“
“You swore!” Cora hisses.
“Wait, you two are dating?” Derek asks. He had wondered for a long time, but they never smelled anything other than platonically close, the way he smells of his family and Kira back at college.
“Ew,” Cora says. “No.”
“The first time I was here, she kissed me and then immediately said, ‘That was a mistake. Let’s never do that again. So, I want to focus on the reconstruction period after the Civil War for our project.’ So, no. We’re not dating.”
Derek feels relieved, which makes him feel awkward because holy shit he should not have a crush on his little sister’s barnacle.
“I have to shower,” Derek says abruptly, standing.
Stiles gives him a curious look. “But we’re not through the episode. Don’t you want to know if Margie ever reforms her pet-hording ways?”
“I have to shower,” Derek repeats and basically runs away from his feelings.
Stiles corners him in the kitchen the next day and asks to join Derek for his run. They’re about five minutes away from the house when Stiles says, “So you found out I wasn’t dating your sister and you freaked out. Either you really had to shower or you’re kind of, maybe, sort of into me.”
When Derek doesn’t answer, Stiles says, “Is there a third option? I mean, am I reading this completely wrong?”
Derek sighs. “No, you’re not wrong.”
Stiles lets out a surprised laugh, sounding a little out of breath. “Well, great! Date me, then.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“For one, I live on the other side of the country.” Derek picks up his pace, and Stiles groans softly but matches it.
“So? You’ll be back here in two years. Laura and your parents talk about it all the time.”
“Seriously?” Stiles says brethlessly. “You have to know how much your family adores you.”
“Well, that goes without saying.”
They lapse into silence for a while. Derek focuses on breathing, on the trees surrounding them. He also focuses on Stiles more often than he should.
After a few more minutes, Stiles asks, “What are the other reasons?”
“For not,” Stiles gulps in a breath, “dating me.”
“Oh.” He didn’t actually have any. Except, “You’re my little sister’s friend.”
“Cop out,” Stiles pants. “She’s known- can we stop? Jesus, I’m dying here.” Derek stops to let him catch his breath. They haven’t even gone two miles, so Derek’s fine. Stiles shoots him a disgusted look as he basically collapses against a near-by tree. “I hate werewolves. And I hate running.” After a minute or so, Stiles says, “Cora already knows. She’s cool with it.”
“That I’m in- into you,” Stiles says, stumbling over what he was actually going to say. Derek lets him because it’s too soon, for Derek at least. “So, basically, your points are invalid.”
“Long-distance,” Derek says.
“Skype. Phones. Planes. And only for two years, like I said.”
“What about when you go off to college?”
“I’m planning to stay in-state. Next.”
Derek stays quiet.
“Look,” Stiles says after a few minutes of silence, “it’s okay if you just don’t want to date me. I know I can be kind of pushy and I can’t really take a hint, so just tell me straight-out and I won’t bother you about it again.”
Derek thinks back to when he first met Stiles, how he had no idea who the kid was. He still doesn’t really know Stiles, but he’s pretty sure he’d like to.
Instead of answering, Derek steps into Stiles’ space and presses their lips together. It’s awkward and dry until Stiles tilts his head a little and surges forward, almost knocking Derek off his feet with the force of it. Stiles wraps an arm around Derek’s neck to hold him in place and wraps his other hand around Derek’s bicep. Stiles licks across Derek’s bottom lip as Derek’s hands find Stiles’ lower back.
Stiles moans shamelessly into the kiss when Derek opens his mouth to Stiles, lets him in. The moan goes straight to Derek’s dick and he pulls back before they do something that will get twigs stuck in uncomfortable places.
“That was nice, come back,” Stiles mutters, chasing after Derek’s lips. Derek laughs a little and allows one more chaste kiss before he steps back for real.
“How does Friday night at eight sound to you?” Derek asks.
“It sounds like a really long time to wait,” Stiles says, shooting for irritated but just sounding grossly happy. “But I guess it’s already been two years. What’s four more days?”