Derek doesn't even know who Stiles is for the first sixteen years of his life. That seems almost criminal, now - sixteen years of Stiles alive and on this earth, and Derek didn't have any of them.
He tries not to be bitter. He's going to have at least the next sixty, after all.
The first time he sees Stiles is in the woods, halfway between the Hale house and the highway. The middle of nowhere. No one comes here, and for good reason. There are bears sometimes, and mountain lions, though the chance of getting mauled is definitely on the low end. Mostly it's just out of the way, and creepy. Derek knows he doesn't exactly help that stereotype, living in the house where his whole family burned to death. He bartends in town, sometimes, but he keeps to himself. If he were a bit older he'd probably get kids coming out to bother him all the time, but he's still young enough to be straight up emotionally disturbed, and no one is going to mess with that.
Derek spends a good chunk of his time working on the house - the place missed being condemned by a razor's edge, and Derek spends a lot of effort just keeping the upstairs from becoming the downstairs - but he runs a lot too. And unlike what seems to be a lot of people, Derek doesn't need music when he runs, or a gadget that tracks his heart rate or how far he's gone or whatever it is people use this days. He runs until he can't run anymore. That's it. It keeps him alert. Aware. Alive.
And because he's alert, he sees the smoke.
It's not much. Only a bit darker than the dense canopy of trees, or the rainy-day sky. But it's there.
Derek feels his heart begin to beat harder. And he runs towards it.
Eight years ago the Hale House burnt to the ground and everyone inside died. Derek was the only one who made it out - or was never in, really, because he'd been with Kate Argent all night. Losing his virginity in the back of her car. They'd gotten to the house before anyone else, chasing the huge plumes of smoke that stamped out the stars in the night sky. Derek had watched his whole family die and hadn't been able to do a thing about it. By the time the fire department arrived it was far, far too late.
It was a weirdly humbling experience. A strange one. Coming up against nature and realizing that for all our civilization, our humanity, there are plenty of circumstances where nature holds the odds in her favor. Where nature can beat you the fuck down if she wants. He still has a burn scar on his arm from trying to save Laura. He thought, maybe - if he could save her, even just her... But he'd spent a week in intensive care for his troubles, lost in a morphine haze, his right side a swathe of bandages.
The report later said it was faulty wiring. Basement not quite up to code, which wasn't unusual in houses that old. Something sparked, and caught on the chemicals, or the old couch, or any of a half dozen incredibly flammable things people leave sitting around like so much old junk. The most tragic of accidents.
The thing is, Derek doesn't know if he can believe that. He tries to remember - he's spent eight years trying to remember, trying to figure out if this was his fault, and he can't. Was he playing in the basement that day? Had Laura nicked another package of matches, a dozen times more interesting than lighters because of the games they could play, the scalded fingers and the singed clothes, the acrid smell of burnt hair? And if he had been down there, did he put it out properly? He was always so careful, he thought, but he can't - he can't quite remember.
So he killed eight people.
So there's this kid.
Near the smoke, Derek means. The cause of the smoke. There's this kid, hunched down on the ground, with legs so long they practically bunch up around his ears. Derek is standing on the ridge above him, quiet as a church mouse, just so he can see.
The kid was smart about it. He removed all the dead leaves, the underbrush, so there was no chance of a forest fire. Just the tidy little blaze in front of him. Started with mostly dead leaves, from the smell of it; a dark smell, a little dank. He's feeding the fire with sheets of paper from the pile he holds in his hands - holding them so tight Derek can see the wrinkles where his fingers dig in.
Derek knows exactly what being that angry feels like.
He's sniffling a little, muttering to himself - and Derek wishes he were closer, so he could hear more than the sharp edges, the bitter murmuring as the kid holds each sheet of paper just within the reach of the flames, watching the fire catch from corner to corner and letting go only when the paper is fully consumed. Meticulous. Leaf by leaf. Eyes rapt, and focused, even as his mouth keeps moving.
Derek watches until he's done - the bright, vivacious, strange little thing. He's still talking to himself as he walks back towards the highway. Doesn't look up at all.
He's not conventionally beautiful, no - and Derek thinks briefly of Kate, and where that got him, as he climbs down from the ridge and stamps out the last few embers with his foot - but he had the brightest eyes Derek had ever seen.
Derek had never wanted anything more in his entire life.
It's doesn't take long to figure out who the kid is. He's a teenager, obviously enough, and Beacon Hill is so small there's only one high school. Getting a yearbook isn't difficult, and he's right there, in the first few pages - a sophomore last year, a junior now. The picture is black and white, cheap and grainy, but the corner of his smile is a blur, like the camera couldn't move fast enough to catch it. And right below, in tiny bolded print - Genim Stilinski.
Genim, Derek thinks, and then says it aloud a few times. Genim. It doesn't suit him. He must have a nickname, with a name like that. Any kid would.
G, maybe. Gen is girly, Nim is - nonsense, basically, and what else can you do with that name? Something of a mystery.
And Derek really wants to know.
He spends the next few weeks learning everything he can about Genim. Facebook, mostly - a few peripheral friends they have in a common, a Beacon Hills Lacrosse team page, one about how evil Professor Harris is - flipping through photo albums, friending other people he thinks might accept without it being too strange. He does a little bit of recon, too, when he thinks he can get away with it - a big home game against a rival team most of the town goes up to, getting groceries and driving by the high school just as lacrosse practice gets out.
It's not much, but he does find a few thing out about him. The kid from the woods. Genim Stilinski. First off, he does have a nickname - Stiles, and it does suit him - and he really never does shut up. He's on the lacrosse team, but forever second string and on the bench. Probably a little uncoordinated, Derek thinks, not unkindly. Limbs too long and not quite used to them.
Stiles drives a Jeep, a few years old, which gets a lot of use because not only does he do most of the grocery shopping, he drives himself to school, from practice, anywhere he needs to go. Which only makes sense once Derek realizes his dad is the Sheriff. It's obvious, even. Not like there are a lot of Stilinskis running around.
His best friend is Scott McCall. His only friend, really, and Derek is sort of comfortably uncomfortable with that. He's also nursing a crush on Lydia Martin, who is stratospheres away from him on the high school social ladder, and wouldn't give him the time of day if he was on fire. So to speak.
Derek is definitely okay with that.
He spends a lot of time thinking about the day in the woods he found Stiles. Found him, like - like discovered, like Stiles was something new and beautiful and never-before-seen. Singular. Vulnerable. He thinks about what he could have done if he had been less invested in watching. He thinks about climbing down off of that ridge, about pouncing on Stiles and shoving him to the ground. Pressing the warm length of him into the cold dirt, fire like a blush all down one side.
Because when it comes to sex, teenagers are easy. Teenagers are stupid. They really do think with what's between their legs. Just Derek's hand on Stiles's cock and he might not even fight back. Not that it's a problem if he does. Stiles is skinny and quick, but not strong, and certainly not strong like Derek. Derek is solid. Derek is an animal. Derek could have Stiles pinned before he even cried out. No one around to hear even if he did.
So Derek thinks about it. Rutting up against Stiles, feeling the seam of Stiles's fly against his running shorts. Licking into Stiles's mouth, his constantly open mouth - sucking on his tongue, one hand around his neck, pulse like thunder under Derek's fingers. Derek would press the palm of his other hand against Stiles's cock, squeezing the front of his jeans while Stiles whines. Stiles's hands fisted in Derek's shirt, pulling him closer, or pushing him away, still. Caught between those conflicting impulses, the urge to bare his throat and his belly and curl up into a ball thrumming through him all at once.
Derek would make him come - there, in his jeans, lying on the ground. Dirt under his fingernails, dead leaves in his hair. Shoving up against Derek's hand and sobbing. A wet patch spreading out from under Derek's finger, bitter sweat boy smell.
The next part is trickier. More to think about. Like flipping Stiles over to press the head of his cock against Stiles's ass - just to feel him squirm, the pinprick tightness as he clamps down in defense, instinctive, and the way he might beg. Not that Derek would hurt him. He doesn't want to do that. Just to feel it. To come against that spasming little hole.
Or pushing up Stiles's shirt, thumbing over his nipples as they tighten in the cold air. Stiles pinned beneath him as Derek takes himself in hand, coming all over Stiles's chest. Even sliding up until he can run his cock over Stiles's lips, his thin smile, the cherry inside of his mouth. Marking him, even as tears form in the corners of Stiles's eyes.
Derek thinks about wiping them away after, the bloom in Stiles's face, the faint smear of ash over Stiles's freckles - and he comes. Howling, alone, in his house.
He can't stay away after that. He doesn't even try. He goes to every lacrosse game, every practice, standing at the edge of the woods. Just behind the stands. He spends lot of time running out in the woods where he saw Stiles the first time. He finds the remnants of fires here and there, cleared patches in the brush, piles of ash. But never Stiles.
There are things Derek wants to know, things he needs to know. The shape of Stiles's mouth when he speaks, the way he smiles when he means it, and when he doesn't. The expression on his face when no one else is looking. The sound of his voice in quiet(er) moments. The way he smells after he runs. Whether his clothes carry the hint of smoke.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that Derek isn't stupid. He isn't delusional, and there are plenty of psychiatrists in his past who can speak to that. He knows what he's doing. He's following Stiles around; he know what he looks like. He knows exactly how it appears. And he is obsessed, sure, for a given value of obsessed. But he's not going to hurt Stiles. Not anything like that. He just wants to know him. And that's not so bad, right? Just be his friend. Stiles looks like he could use a friend. Normal kids don't spend their time out in the woods making fires. Believe him. Derek knows that much.
It's entirely too easy to sneak into the high school parking lot at the end of the day - parents picking up kids, kids driving off on their own, or waiting for buses. Congregating in little herds. He pulls into the student lot and waits until the rush has died down. The calm before sports practice ends.
It takes only a minute to break into Stiles's Jeep, run a pencil over the spark plugs and close the hood back up again.
Then he drives back into town, fills up his gas tank. Goes to the store and picks up a few little things he's been putting off buying. By the time he drives back around, the parking lot is nearly empty, and Stiles is standing by his Jeep, hood popped and what might the driver's manual in his hands.
Derek pulls into the parking lot. Takes a moment to compose himself before he steps out of the car. To remind himself what he's doing here. Why he's doing it.
"Car trouble?" he asks when he walks over, and then nearly flushes. Inane. He knows exactly what it is, doesn't he?
"Or something," Stiles says, and kicks one of the tires. "It won't start, and I have no idea why."
"Huh." Turns out Stiles's eyes are just as animated as before. As large as he remembers. Dark eyelashes. "Well, there are a few simples things it might be."
"That you can fix?" Stiles asks, big hopeful puppy dog eyes, and Derek turns and ducks his head under the hood to hide his smile.
"Some are quick fixes, some are can't-be-fixed problems. But at least you'll know."
"Right. Well, have at it, please. Your guess is better than mine."
"Derek Hale," he says first, and extends his hand. Tightens his grip, briefly, at the feeling of Stiles's hand against his. Long fingers, rounded palms. Callouses from lacrosse.
"Yeah, uh, I know." Flush all across his face. "I mean - "
"My reputation precedes me," Derek says, dry.
"Sort of," Stiles hedges, and scrapes a line in the dirt with his toe. "You're infamous, that's for sure."
"Good to know."
"I'm Stiles. Stilinski. Well--"
"No one would name their kid Stiles Stilinski," Derek says, just the hint of a tease. Like he doesn't know.
"It's a nickname! I mean, I can't pronounce my own name, I can't expect other people to."
"Fair enough." Derek taps the side of the car with his fist. "So what happened?"
"No idea, really. There's gas in it, I mean, but - I know the basics and I pray the rest of the car just keeps going. It didn't make any weird noises, or anything, it just didn't start. I think the battery's pretty new, but the rest is not exactly in peak condition," Stiles finishes, and chews on the inside of his cheek. "I was just gonna call my dad."
"The Sheriff," Derek adds, and Stiles relaxes a little further. No one in their right mind would try something with the Sheriff's kid, right? "Let me have a look first. My sister used to be really into cars. Picked up a few things."
"Osmosis," Stiles says knowingly, and nods his head up and down like a bobblehead. "Jones. Virus con dios! I - just... ignore me, most people do." The flush spreads down the the collar of his shirt. A delicate pink.
Derek decides it's the better part of valor to look back under the hood. Stiles unconsciously follows, steps closer. Craning over Derek's shoulder.
"Battery looks good. Starter's connected. Distributor cap is tight." Derek takes a minute to pretend to think. "Could be the spark plugs."
"Sometimes they get dirty. Just clean them a bit-" With the edge of his shirt, pulled up just over his abs, and something flickers in the pit of his stomach when Stiles tracks every moment.. "Hopefully fixed. Give it a try."
"Seriously?" Stiles screeches, and pops into the front seat. After a moment, the engine roared to life, and Stiles popped back out. "Dude!"
"Simple fix," Derek says. His face feels stretched - the corners of his smile cutting into his cheeks.
"Oh my god, thank you."
"No problem." It's the closest Derek has been to Stiles since that day on the ridge. He doesn't smell like smoke this time. Only cheap soap. fresh from the school showers.
"No, seriously," Stiles insists. "I'm probably supposed to remember to clean the spark plugs, or whatever, but I have the world's shortest attention span, especially when my dad is in lecture mode, and I totally forget, like, everything, and even though my dad gets it he doesn't get it, you know? It would be all heavy sighs and disappointed looks, and Stiles, I despair of your future job prospects, only without even saying anything, they have to teach that in parenting classes or something..."
Stiles finally trails off. "Well, you know. Anyway."
"Really. It's... no problem. Wouldn't want to get you in trouble with your dad, right?"
"God no. He's got enough to worry about." Stiles takes a step forward, awkward - hitching his step halfway there, like he'd gone for a hug, or a slap on the back, before remembering that he didn't know Derek that well. "So, yeah, thanks again. For like the twentieth time."
"Always nice to hear," Derek says easily, and hold out his hand. The press of Stiles's fingers against his palm just one more time.
The thing is, that was really all Derek needed. The only in. Stiles leads a pretty lonely existence - McCall, certainly, his best friend, and good one too, but desperately straight if the way he's panting after the Argent girl is any indication. Stiles is friendly with a few guys on the team, but friendly and friend are not quite the same thing. The closest one might be Danny - gay, and Derek narrowed his eyes at that originally, but Danny seems happy with his boyfriend and tolerates Stiles's questions with a long-suffering air that suggests any desire died off a long time ago. And there's Stiles's dad, of course, but being a single parent is difficult at the best of times, much less with something as demanding as being a Sheriff. So that's it, isn't there. Plenty of room for Derek to just... slip in.
At least until Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore break up before the winter formal. Lydia goes on the warpath to find an eligible date, and Allison oh-so-helpfully points her in Stiles's direction.
Lydia wasn't on Derek's radar, until suddenly Stiles was on hers.
Derek does some of his best work under pressure. He's not much for planning, in a manner of speaking, but he's good at strategy. At sniffing out the weak points. The places people break. If you're clever, sometimes you only need to attack once - and Derek is very, very clever.
He considers, briefly, a car accident - but there can't be too many of those going around, and accidents are tricky. It's one thing for a car to not start, its another for the brake lines to fail, or even a tire to blow. Too many variables.
It's not like he wants to kill her. Derek just wants her out of the picture, with enough space for him to slip back in.
In the end he breaks into her house. He cuts up her dress, breaks her mirror, puts bleach in her shampoo. Fights like a girl, a jealous girl; or so the police will think if they even look into it. More than effective enough for his purposes. Lydia doesn't show her face for a week, and certainly not at the dance.
He comes across Stiles in the woods later that week. Not near a fire, this time, but clearly coming from one. A smudge of ash across his face, on the knees of his jeans. How his father hasn't noticed there's a growing pyromaniac in the house, Derek will never know. Double shifts and single parenthood only excuse so much.
"Uhhh. Hey. Dude. Derek. How, uh - how are you?"
God, so nervous. So guilty. You can practically smell it on him.
"Great," and a flash of teeth. "What are you doing out here?"
"Clearing my head, you know. The great outdoors, and fresh... air... all that. Nature. It's the place to be. You look - sporty."
"Running. Good for clearing your head."
Stiles snorts. "Pretty sure Finstock subscribes to that philosophy."
"Nice to see he hasn't mellowed in his old age."
"Please. He's jumping directly from middle age to being that cranky old guy in the retirement home."
Sounds about right, actually. "You've got a little... something," Derek says, and rubs the flat of one thumb over Stiles' cheek. Feels the muscle in his cheek jump. "Dirt, maybe. What have you been doing out here?"
"Getting... dirty..." Stiles trails off, and looks a little like he's wishing himself off and under a rock somewhere. "Apparently."
Derek lets his hand drop by his side. The blush on Stiles's face as good as a mark. "Do you need a ride somewhere? My house is just back over the ridge."
"Am I seriously out that far?"
"Nah," Stiles says after a moment. "I don't think I'm parked that far up the road."
Derek tries to swallow his first instinct- to insist that Stiles come with him. To reach out and guide him by the arm. "If you're sure."
Then he gets stupid.
In hindsight, it's probably the lacrosse games that go too far. There's nothing inherently wrong with showing up at the lacrosse games; Beacon Hill has had a winning team for six years, which the whole town is ridiculously proud of - not to mention Derek is a former lacrosse player himself - but Derek only watches Stiles. And Stiles sits on the bench. It's probably no where near as subtle as he should be. Unless he's got a hate-on for Coach Finstock, which - no. God, no. No one could be that masochistic.
Derek hangs back most of the time - indiscernible from the trees, or the rest of the crowd. But he isn't invisible. And even though the Sheriff rarely makes his son's games, he certainly doesn't miss all of them. And he's not stupid.
He sidles up to Derek near the end of the game. Pins him down next to the bleachers. Pretty masterful, actually. Derek can't get away without making it clear he's running.
"Been around a lot recently," the Sheriff notes. "Rediscovering your love for lacrosse?" The look in his eyes is one that Derek can't quite read beyond sharp. His tone is bland - but deliberately. Looking for a reaction.
"Something like that," Derek manages, vague. It's not that he doesn't like lacrosse. It's just enhanced by Stiles.
"Dad!" Stiles shouts, out of nowhere, and Derek realizes they've missed the last whistle. "What are you doing back here? How are you ever going to see my spectacular scoring streak once Coach finally decides to put me in?"
"Nice alliteration," the Sheriff says dryly, and Stiles beams. "I was talking to your friend," he continues, and something rings wrong in the word 'friend'.
Derek hunches his shoulders further into his jacket. "See you around."
"Later dude!" Stiles chirps, and the Sheriff's eyes feel like daggers in his back.
It's almost entirely too easy. It doesn't even have to look like an accident. Being the Sheriff means there are plenty of people around here with resentment enough to cause bodily harm.
Derek picks a night Stiles is staying over at McCall's, one where the Sheriff is tired from a double-shift. It helps that the Sheriff is fond of Scotch - not over-fond, never on duty, but when it's been a long day and he needs to sleep soundly. It makes it even more likely that he'll never make it out of the house. Derek siphons diesel from one of the local farmers. Blocks the doors and douses the porch.
One of the most fucked up things about watching someone burn to death is that burning flesh smells kind of sweet. Like a pig roast. It would smell good, if you could forget that it's a real person burning up in there. The same smell as when his family burnt to death, all those years ago.
As it happens, Derek thinks, well, that's definitely one.
Derek goes to the funeral, but so does most of the town. No one notices him in the back; everyone's eyes are on Stiles here, not just Derek's. He's going to be careful, now. He wasn't before, not careful enough anyway, and look where that got him. Look where that got Stiles. This wasn't exactly how Derek wanted it to be.
Derek can wait. He can wait as long it takes. Sometimes he forgets to be subtle, but - well, he's adaptable. He always has been. He can wait.
Stiles is sixteen. No other family. He stays with the McCalls until he's declared legally emancipated and the insurance money comes in. A few rules probably get bent on the way, but everyone's willing do that for him. Why wouldn't they be?
Mrs. McCall helps Stiles set up at an apartment in town - probably after trying to convince Stiles to stay with them, but sharing a room with Scott has to be less than ideal. She cries when she hugs him goodbye, and Stiles tears up, and Scott looks uncomfortable. Par for the course.
Sometimes it takes everything Derek has to stay away. The dejected slump of Stiles's shoulders, the late nights in front of the television, watching Law & Order until his eyes glaze over - the pizza and Chinese food binges, too much Adderall or not enough - but Derek said he'd wait. Said he'd be subtle. Harder than he thinks, but the sacrifice is worth it. Stiles already made his; Derek should too.
A few months, he thinks. Then some other chance meeting - at the Chinese food place, if Stiles keeps this up - or the nearby movie theater. Even the grocery store. Derek can be charming enough when he wants to be, and Stiles is still short on friends. Short on distractions from his own life. Scott is a good friend, Derek admits - grudgingly - but he has his own life. A girlfriend, now, on top of taking care of his mom.
So Derek doesn't even mean to find Stiles in the woods this time. He wasn't even looking - not consciously, anyway. He supposes he's always looking. At any rate, he almost stumbles across Stiles in the woods; literally stumbles, coming over a hill, and seeing Stiles sitting on a log, poking sullenly at a pile of ashes with his lacrosse stick.
He thinks about just nodding - acknowledging him, of course - and then running off. Leaving him to his solitude. But Stiles looks like he perks up a little - straightens his shoulders and blinks a few times, like he's coming out of some sort of trance. It would be wrong, wouldn't it, to leave him alone if he's lonely?
"Hey," Derek says, before realizing he doesn't really know what to follow that up with. He wasn't prepared.
Luckily, Stiles seems more than capable of taking the conversational reins. "Hey dude. Running again, I see."
"Amazing," Stiles says, with the disgust of the truly lazy. "You probably liked it when Finstock made you run suicides."
"No one likes suicides."
"True that!" Stiles snaps back, and pokes the embers of the fire around more.
"Really, Stiles? Your crosse?" Derek says, because he can't quite help it. He always liked lacrosse.
Stiles's face immediately squishes into a frown. Squishes is a good word for it - like his forehead collapses right into his eyes. "Not like I'm using it. If I spend any more time on the bench there's going to be an ass groove. A perfect ass groove. For my ass."
"Everyone spends time on the bench." Although it's true that Stiles is really above average in that regard.
Stiles snorts. "Not you. Like, ever. You're a lacrosse legend. I think half the plaques at school have your name on them."
"You're not so bad yourself, really."
"You would not say that if you'd seen me play."
This time Stiles's head snaps up. "When?"
Derek pretends to think about it for a minute. "The game against Lancaster. You held your own. First string that game, right? Could work on your turnovers a little, but I've seen worse."
"Huh," Stiles says slowly. "Seriously? I mean. Okay, probably my turnovers could use work, my everything could use work -"
"I could help," Derek interrupts, and watches Stiles's eyes widen. "I mean - if you're still interested in lacrosse. Despite achieving your... ass groove on the bench."
Stiles opens his mouth. Snaps it shut and scowls. "You don't need to pity me. Everyone else does."
Derek shrugs. "I want someone to play lacrosse with. If it happens to be you, that's better than most people." Better than all of them, really, but Stiles wouldn't believe him. Not yet.
Stiles narrows his eyes. "I honestly have no idea if you're lying."
"It's the eyebrows."
"And the crazy teeth," Stiles says agreeably. "Did you go as a vampire for Halloween? I'm just saying, a little bit of fake blood, you are good to go."
"Didn't do much of anything for Halloween." Generally need friends to do much of anything.
"You're even more pathetic than me, huh," Stiles says sympathetically. He's kidding, Derek thinks, but the sad fact of the matter is that it's basically true.
Derek stands up. "Make sure the fire's out when you leave, all right? It's way too easy to start a wildfire out here."
"I know," Stiles snaps, good humor gone in a flash. "I'm not losing it. I mean, it probably looks totally weird, setting all these fires, when my Dad --" He takes a deep breath. "I lost everything in a fire, all right. I should be terrified of them way more than I'm fascinated, but I just - that's not -"
"Stiles." Derek reaches out and puts one hand tentatively on Stiles's shoulder. Corded muscle pulled taut beneath his fingers. "I don't think it's weird. I probably know more than anyone else in Beacon Hills how you feel."
Stiles's mouth falls open. Momentarily shocked enough to stop the production of tears gathering in the corner of his eyes. That's a good thing, Derek reminds himself. "Shit, right, ohmygod I am such an ass, I didn't even think --"
Derek squeezes Stiles shoulder, for a moment. "It's - it's been years. It's all right. It never stops mattering - I won't lie about that. But it will matter less, someday."
"Really? You're gonna feed me that time heals all wounds bullshit?"
Derek lets his hand drop back to his side. "And believe it or not, I actually like fire too."
"Seriously?" Stiles says, and tilts his head. "You need to stop bullshitting me, because I seriously, seriously cannot tell."
"Seriously. Always have. My sister Laura and I - our dad showed up how to make these straw animals when we were young. And we used to make them out of twigs, and make creepy little fire sacrifices in the basement." Derek lets the corners of his mouth turn into a smile.
"So I'm probably better adjusted, is what you're saying."
"Probably," Derek agrees, and Stiles beams.
Stiles texts Derek for the first time a week later.
scott thinks you're luring me into the woods to kill me
Derek takes a minute to think about it, before texting back Scott is a moron.
So that goes well.
After that Stiles starts texting him at odd intervals. Mostly during the school day, when he should be concentrating on other things, and every so often Derek has to text aren't you supposed to be in chemistry? just so Stiles will text back a sad face, but sometimes Stiles texts at two in the morning, or when he first gets up. Anything from what he's having for breakfast - capn crunch... breakfast of chmpions!! - to the downright weird - werewolves or vampires? very important Q may define our relationship - and Derek probably shouldn't be surprised at how often he's surprised.
Soon after they start playing lacrosse two or three times a week. Derek does his best to fix some of the stuff Stiles doesn't do so well, but there's really only so much he can do. Stiles lacks a certain physicality - that killer instinct you really need in contact sports. Even if he stops tripping over himself and taking too much Adderall, he's never going to be great.
Derek has fleeting thoughts, sometimes, of pushing Stiles against the ground - tripping him, knocking him over - just getting on top of him and grinding, feeling all the soft giving parts of Stiles's body. He wants to be close, needs to be; sharing the same air, the same space. He's so desperate, sometimes, so greedy.
Greedy is the word for it, Derek reminds himself, stern. He has to stop being greedy.
The best part of it - the part that keeps Derek properly distracted - is that Stiles never shuts up, ever, about anything - anything that pops through his head, whether or not its really an appropriate conversation topic. Not that Derek cares. Derek likes hearing about Stiles's life. He mostly talks about Scott, and school, and lacrosse - which means he spends a lot of time talking about Jackson Whittemore. Jackson and Lydia are back together again, which is a stupid decision on Lydia's part, as far as Derek is concerned, because this Jackson kid sounds like an asshole.
"And then," Stiles practically yells, voice climbing another half-octave. "Then the jackass decides, oh, hey, Stiles would probably really enjoy spending his Thursday afternoon with Professor Harris --"
"Unbelievable! I hate his perfect guts. But mostly his hair."
Stiles has definitely mentioned the hair before. "Clearly."
Stiles sighs, and throws his crosse carelessly in the back of Jeep. "Anyway..." he says, and Derek takes this as his cue to hug Stiles goodbye.
They hadn't done that at first. Just said 'see you later', maybe a wave on Stiles's part. Stiles is a hugger, Derek thinks, but Derek is definitely not. Doesn't look like a hugger. But Stiles had looked so sad one day, so dejected - and Stiles is not a down sort of person, all right, Stiles is a rubber ball of human emotions - that Derek had stepped closer to him, reached out for him, and had ended up with an armful of Stiles.
Parent-teacher conferences were, apparently, even more traumatizing when you didn't have a parent to attend.
Stiles had apologized, nearly, while Derek made a face somewhere between 'no problem' and 'lets not mention it again,' and now that Stiles realizes he's allowed he hugs Derek every time they hang out. He's a pretty touchy guy, Stiles -- and where else is he going to be getting it? Scott is a straight high school student - not much hugging going on there. Mrs - or Ms., maybe, Derek should find out - Ms. McCall barely has time for her own son, much less someone else's.
The hug always goes a little too long, but Derek tries not to let himself read too much into it.
"Later," Stiles says, and Derek isn't sure if it meant anything that he's dropped the "dude."
The next Friday, Derek goes to pick Stiles up from practice. Stiles's car is in the shop getting inspected - "and, like, re-tired, I don't know how this stuff works" - and Derek and Stiles usually do old horror movies and pizza. Occasionally with Scott, even, when there's an action film they all feel like seeing.
"Scott hates horror films," Stiles confides to him. "We watched It at his eleventh birthday party, and he didn't sleep for three days. His mom finally dosed him with benedryl. True story."
Derek doesn't particularly like Scott, but Stiles does, and as much as Scott appears to still distrust Derek, he at least behaves himself when there's food involved. Scott's instincts are probably better than anyone gives him credit for, but Derek certainly isn't going to admit it.
"Scott wants me to go to the party tonight," Stiles says, off-hand, as he slides into the car.
Derek looks at him sideways. "You can go, if you want. I am capable of ordering pizza by myself."
"Are you, Derek? Are you? I think you nearly scared the shit out of the delivery boy last time. You're lucky they even deliver to your horror mansion."
Stiles tend towards the off-topic, but he rarely misses the subject entirely. "Why don't you want to go to the party?"
Stiles shrugs. "It's Jackson's party. I'm sure it'll be fun, but since I sort of want him to fall off a cliff somewhere--."
Just as Derek tries to pull out of the lot, a Porsche pulls out in front of them, nearly colliding with the side of the car, and laying loudly on its horn.
"What the hell," Derek mutters, and honks back. "Dick," and Stiles laughs.
"Of course it is," he says, and Stiles practically giggles.
That night is vampire movies - what Stiles has dubbed the "modern classics" - and Chinese food.
Derek frowns. "That's not what would happen if you cut someone in half."
"You gotta stop spending so much time alone in the woods. It's very serial killer of you."
"Look who's talking."
"Oh no," Stiles counters. "Old guy-"
"Older guy, living alone in a creepy old house in the woods? Serial killer. Teenager whose dad dies? Suicidal. Or school shooting," Stile adds thoughtfully after a moment. "Which I guess is sort of like a really quick serial killing spree."
"You're not though," Derek says, and tries to ignore the way his heart is seizing in his chest. It had seemed like Stiles was better lately, and of course you're depressed in the beginning -
"Suicidal. Or... planning a school shooting." Though they could theoretically deal with the latter.
"Nah. I mean - no. I mean no," Stiles emphasizes, and the set of his mouth is serious. "I was depressed, obviously, but not - I'm not, anymore. Not really."
"Good," Derek says, which is kind of an understatement.
"A serial killer."
"One isn't serial," Derek says flatly, and Stiles cackles.
"Definitely better than Jackson's party."
"Glad to see I rank higher than that dickwad."
"I think I know roadkill I rank higher than Jackson."
"And I'm the serial killer," Derek mutters, and Stiles throws a pillow at his head. Derek is about to retaliate when Stiles phone rings. The polyphonic sound is borderline torture, but Stiles snags it quickly.
"And we've hit the drunk dialing portion of the evening! Hey Scott. Scott. Scott, you're - is that Lydia? O - okay." Stiles sits up on the couch, frowning. Derek can hear tinny voices on the other line. "Okay, yeah. Yeah. Of course. Ten minutes. See you."
Derek doesn't have the greatest feeling about this. "What's up?"
"Well - from what I can tell from the various shrieking - Jackson dumped Lydia, again, in some sort of spectacular fashion, and then Scott and Allison got into some sort of fight about it because Scott thinks Lydia is better off without him and Allison doesn't think he has any emotional sensitivity - which, to be fair, Scott has the emotional range of a rock. A shrieking rock - and nobody is sober enough to drive home. So who do they call? They call Stiles."
Derek sighs. "I'll get the keys."
Having four teens in his car - two angry and drunk, one crying and drunk, and one sullen and sober - is definitely not how Derek planned to spend his night. After dropping the girls off at Lydia's and Scott off at his house, Derek turns to Stiles.
"Want me to bring you back to your apartment?"
"I want to punch Jackson in the face."
Derek shrugs. "I can do that too."
Stiles smiles wanly. "Pretty sure his parents would get you sent to prison. But it's a nice mental picture. I bet his chiseled jaw breaks just like glass."
"Or we should just burn his car," Derek says, and Stiles laughs.
Then stops, because -
"Are you serious? Derek, you have to tell me if you're serious, because your eyebrows are doing that thing again."
Derek shrugs. "It's not like his parents won't buy him a new one."
"I -- okay." Eyes darting from Derek's face to Stiles's own hands, like it's still a joke. "Do you really - are you really--"
In response, Derek pulls out the lighter he keeps in the glove box.
"Everyone at the party will be drunk," Stiles says, like a question. "Or passed out."
Derek grins. "Just tell me where to go."
Unsurprisingly, Jackson lives in one of the better parts of town. A big house, well-lit, but also not very close to the house next to it. Small towns certainly have their good points. Derek parks up the block from the house, with a batch of other cars. Kids at Jackson's party, presumably.
The Porsche is sitting out in the driveway. The house behind it is lit from random windows, loud music blaring out, and next to Derek Stiles trembles.
"Can you even - how do you set a car on fire?" he whispers. He's licking his lips - nervous, or excited. Both, maybe. This isn't the first fire he's set since his dad died - Derek knows that much - but it might be the first real one. The first one he can't control.
"Easier than you'd think," Derek says. Carpet, seat foam, even windshield fluid is flammable. All they need to do is crack a window and - encourage. "Grab one of the neighbor's newspapers. A pile of ads. Anything."
Stiles scrambles away; back within a minute. "The old Beacon Hills Bugle. Good thing nobody reads it."
Derek puts his hand on the back of Stiles's neck. Feels the way his pulse is hammering. "Do you have another lighter?"
Stiles digs one out from his pockets. A cheap gas station staple. Also unsurprising.
"Okay. Simple process." Derek takes Stiles's lighter and holds out his own. "You take my lighter and set the newspaper on fire. Once that gets going, I'll break a window and throw in the lighter fluid from yours. Then you throw in the newspaper."
"And that'll work?"
"Like a charm." His hand is still on the back of Stiles's neck. "Ready?"
Stiles nods. "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker."
Definitely a yes.
The set-up is smooth, easy. The newspaper lights, and when Derek breaks the Porsche window the alarm doesn't even go off. Idiot must leave it unlocked. Derek cracks open the lighter, douses the inside of the car before tucking what's left of the lighter into his pocket. And steps back to let Stiles through.
There's a nice flare-up, to begin, when the flame hits the fluid. It quickly eats into the seats - the foam underneath, the carpet - and spreads back towards the trunk. Derek pushes Stiles back towards the end of the driveway. In a minute or two the airbags could start to detonate. The tires, the door mechanisms. They're not ending this night in the hospital.
"Oh my god," Stiles says, reverent, when the engine finally goes. It's not like in the movies, of course, where a whole wave of fire comes at them, but the fire has clearly eaten into the fuel line. Nearly the whole car in flames.
It's beautiful, really.
"Come on," Derek says, and grabs Stiles by the arm. Even late at night with a party full of drunk teenagers, someone is going to notice something, and soon. They're not ending this night in jail either. "Time to go."
They rush back to Derek's car - nearly a run, not quite, but still too fast. Stiles leans up against the trunk of Derek's car, breathing like Finstock had just put him through a week's worth of suicides.
"Holy shit," he pants, "holy fuck, holy shit, oh my god," and Derek steps up next to him, can't help it. Moths drawn to the same fucking flame, aren't they? He can tell the front of Stiles's jeans are tented, baggy as they are, and he's been waiting for this so long - my god, he's been patient, he's been so patient, all told. He can't help the way his hands reach out for Stiles now.
He shoves his mouth onto Stiles's, hard and surprising, one hand hooking around the back of Stiles's head to pull him closer. Sucks the gasp that arises into his own mouth. Stiles's hands flail around for a moment, tearing into Derek's chest, his shirt - they settle on his shoulders, tentatively, when Derek takes a moment to breathe, to flick his tongue just over Stiles's bottom lip.
Then he drops to his knees - just to taste him, he thinks, just to slide his mouth over the head of Stiles's cock. Just to make him come.
"Oh god," Stiles says, "oh god. Oh god oh god oh god," over and over, one hand curled into a fist and shoved into his mouth; the other petting the hair on the back of Derek's neck, quick and nervous, as Derek undoes the zip on Stiles jeans, drags them down with his boxers. "Derek, oh my god, that was - this is - " Past normal Stiles's babble and into full-on verbal nonsense when Derek sucks Stiles into his mouth, holds him down by the root. Stiles is already so worked up, so ready; he gets off just a few moments later, spilling down the length of Derek's tongue even as his hips pump into Derek's face. Wanting more. He whimpers when he comes, his hands pulling at Derek's hair.
Derek grunts. Rolls his tongue around in his mouth and pushes his face up to bite at Stiles's stomach, just below the belly button; that solid mouthful of flesh. Stiles moans, nails digging into the back of Derek's neck, and - God, Stiles tastes like sweat and the clouded smoke in the air, mixing so perfectly with the taste in Derek's mouth - he growls. Gnaws at Stiles, sucking at his fingers, standing and pushing him up against the back of the car - Stiles lets out a little squeak of air and, God, Derek didn't think he could get harder, but it's kind of good to know he's wrong. He yanks his pants open, pulls out his own cock and shoves up against Stiles, artless. Biting Stiles's neck, the collarbones that peek out of the stretched out collars of his shirts - fuck, he's such a child, barely not a child, and it makes Derek want to howl. He settles for rucking Stiles's shirt up and licking his nipples, bites as gentle as he can manage, while Stiles's ribcage heaves under his hands.
"Derek," Stiles stutters out, the trace of it just across Derek's face, and Derek freezes. Comes against the curve of Stiles's stomach, with Stiles's arms curled around his neck. Pressing him close. Breathing the same clouded air.
Stiles clings to Derek until he realizes what he's doing, and starts pulling his shirt down and his pants up and babbling explanations and apologies all at once. Derek has to settle him down, one hand stroking the back of his neck until Stiles shuts up and presses his face into Derek's chest.
And he has him. He has him.
It really is as easy as that, in the end.
There are sirens in the distance, and they tumble into the car. Shell-shocked. Derek takes off in no particular direction - all the kids from Jackson's party will be stumbling away soon enough.
He looks at Stiles from the corner of his eye. Sideways. Stiles is jiggling his leg, biting his lip. Looking at Derek and then out the window.
"Are you freaking out?"
"Only a lot," Stiles nearly shrieks, and Derek's grip on the wheel tightens. He pulls over, to look Stiles in the face.
"Look - " he starts before realizing that, once again, he has no idea what to say.
Next to him, Stiles worries the edge of his shirt.
"Did you want to?" Derek blurts out, suddenly, "did you like it?" and Stiles blushes and turns away. "I wanted to. I liked it," he says softly, and Stiles looks back. Eyes wide. Derek reaches out to cup Stiles' face, and kiss him. "Don't freak out," slips out, like an order.
Stiles snorts. A little shaky, but not squirming in his seat anymore.
"Don't freak out," Derek says again, and Stiles nods. Face hot in Derek's hands.
Jackson's car is the biggest pieces of news around Beacon Hills for a month. The police - and just about everyone else -- originally suspected Lydia, for the obvious reasons. But since she had been at her house with Allison all night, parents downstairs, there wasn't much to contest. Add in that the scene of the crime was also one of underage drinking and sex, no one wanted to admit where they were or weren't, the whole thing just died out. Drunk teenagers, a stupid prank - who would ever really know the truth?
Jackson's parents buy him a new car. A Mercedes, this time. Stiles's fingers get itchy every time he sees it.
Derek, on the other hand, couldn't give less of a fuck. Not about what they did. Not about what's happened since. His time with Stiles has shifted in tone - lacrosse practice ditched in favor of much more athletic sex, movie nights more complete with making out, Stiles doing his homework at the counter while Derek tears up the kitchen flooring. They have a pile of scrap wood in the back they light up as bonfires. Sometimes Stiles lets Derek fuck him outside, right next to it; sometimes he shies away - "dude, no, there's mud - picky as any girl, racing up to the queen-sized mattress Derek calls a bed.
"Such a creep," Stiles murmurs, whenever he catches Derek watching him sleep. Derek can't help it, and it's at least partly Stiles' fault - he drops off right after, drowsy, quiet in a way he never is any other time. It makes it hard for Derek to let him sleep. He wants to touch him. He wants to fuck Stiles like this, when he's already wet from before. He wants to suck him to hardness. Let him sleep through that. "Creeeeeeeep," Stiles breathes, and Derek bites the barely-there curve of Stiles's ass as he yelps.
They spend all their time together, split between Derek's house and Stiles's apartment - Stiles's place has more creature comforts, but "at least yours was once a home," Stiles says, some kind of gloomy, and Derek always runs his fingertips over whatever pulse point he can find - Stiles's wrists, his neck, the groove of his hip. Soothing. And when Stiles is at school, Derek works on the house. Not just the upkeep anymore, but restoring it. Making a home. The bathroom and kitchen first - all the plumbing - but next is the main room on the ground floor, the giant brick fireplace with the wide open grate. He thinks about building up the fire and fucking Stiles there, pressed into the tiles, the both of them howling.
One day Stiles comes home grumpy, cross; face pulled down into a frown that won't quit. He won't talk about it, and Derek nearly goes mad wondering - how does he ask, when usually Stiles is the one doing all the talking? - before Stiles appears to take pity on him.
"So," he starts, and flops next to Derek on the couch, right up against Derek's arm. "Scott was complaining that I never come over anymore."
"He's pissed I spend all my time with you," Stiles says, and picks at his nails.
"And he says you're too old for me," Stiles says, and looks away.
"He thinks its creepy we stay at your, and I quote, 'serial killer house'," Stiles says, and flushes. "Although I think that one is partly my fault."
And the thing is, he sounds pissed off at Scott. But underneath - Stiles knows it isn't exactly untrue.
"We do spend a lot of time together," Derek counters carefully. "Most of it. Don't get me wrong, I love it - but he's allowed to be jealous."
"I didn't lose my shit when he started spending all his time with Allison," Stiles says bitterly. "This is just like Scott. Even when it's not about him, it's about him. Just because they're still in a snit --"
"So spend some more time with him. Go play that stupid game --"
"Katamari Dynasty," Stiles says immediately, and Derek flicks him in the ear.
"That stupid game, and order a pizza, or something. Whatever it is you usually do."
"Get drunk and watch pay-per-view MMA matches?" Stiles says hopefully.
Derek rolls his eyes. "I'm not buying you booze." Although that's a thought, really, to be explored later.
"But Derek. Derek. What if we go to some party and someone decides to take advantage of my decidedly naive nature and supremely low alcohol tolerance?"
Stiles's tone is joking, but Derek feels his nails dig into the arm of the coach.
"I'd kill them," he says, and there's a banked rage there he can't quite hide.
Stiles blinks. Shocked to complete silence.
Derek panics. He tries to think of something - a joke, a way to laugh it off, but the rage is real. Way too close to swallow back down and pretend he didn't mean it.
"I'm -- " he starts. Sorry? Kidding?
"Jesus," Stiles breathes, and before Derek can blink he has his hands full of Stiles, in his lap, pushing their faces together. Pressing the briefest of kisses to the corner of Derek's mouth. "You're just that - you'd do it, you'd just do it," Stiles stammers, and hides his face. Derek can feel the heat from his blush.
"I'd do anything for you," Derek admits, torn out of him, the deepest and most obvious of secrets, and Stiles makes an unnaturally high-pitched noise against Derek's neck. "I love you," Derek says. So much more than Stiles is ever going to know.
"You just - oh my god." Stiles moans, "you can't just say things like that and expect to keep watching TV, you weirdo, are you some kind of strange sex android from the future that I created with my brain?" and Derek isn't even going to try and parse that one out. "How are you real?" Stiles lifts his head to kiss Derek, hard, scrambling to pull off Derek's shirt at the same time. There's a mess somewhere in the middle, Stiles temporarily settling for biting Derek's shoulder as clothing gets hurled across the room. There's a spot there Stiles seems to like - deep-down bruised, always, and a flush of surface-red every time he bites it again.
Derek grunts. "Harder."
"Freak," Stiles says, and does it. Tone so fond that Derek could never take offense. He is a freak, anyway. They both are. He pulls Stiles's shirt off in between bites, rearranging them so Stiles can wrap his legs around Derek's waist, his arms around Derek's neck. Push them together until there is nothing between them.
Derek digs his fingers into Stiles's back, feeling out the tiny dimples, pressing into until he feels the bone beneath the muscle, and Stiles whines against him, the feeling hitting him in the gut and the chest and - fuck, all over, if he's being honest. All over. All the time.
"Oh yeah," Stiles says, mouth falling open. Wet. "Yeah, that's -" he trails off, digging his teeth back into Derek's shoulder. "Mm. C'n you just -" and it's easy to slip one hand down the back of Stiles' jeans. His fingers over the opening of Stiles's ass - then two shoved inside, to the first knuckle. "Ohhhhh fuck, fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck," and there it is, the Stiles-babble that is a seal of approval like no other, writhing on Derek's lap and clenching around Derek's fingers, a steady stream of obscenities falling off his tongue. "Yeah, just - just like that, fuck," a little burn, until Stiles's body loosens, remembers.
Nothing here to fuck him with, Derek thinks, with not-quite regret. It's good, of course; fucking Stiles is like nothing else, and he's so pretty when he gets fucked - long limbs, open mouth, harder more Derek faster gimme want need, more focused than almost any other time - but it can be good to watch him like this, too. To open Stiles up with Derek's fingers, Derek's tongue. He'd rimmed Stiles for hours before, God, the taste of him. Derek's not in any rush.
"Fuck you later," he promises instead. Upstairs, in their bed. "You'd like that," and Stiles nods frantically.
"You know - exactly what I like," he says, breathless, and not the way Stiles has said it before; joking, when Derek asks what Stiles want for dinner, or what movie to watch. Not that any of it's difficult, really. Stiles is seventeen, a seventeen year old boy, constantly running hot. Feed him, pay some attention to him, make him come - anyone could have him in the palm of their hands.
Anyone, but it's only ever going to be Derek.
"Come here," he says, and Stiles obligingly puts his face against Derek's, opens up for the thrust of Derek's tongue, the bite to his lips. Stiles's mouth, that strange cupid's bow mouth, the way Stiles never stops licking his lips - sucking on Derek's fingers, wrapped around Derek's cock - as good to watch as it is to feel, as it is to do. Stiles begins to shudder in his arms only a few minutes later, a long, uncontrollable spasm, rippling through his body. He clenches harder around Derek's fingers, shoves, and Derek - Derek is already lost. Buried in Stiles and never going away.
They end up slumped over the length of the couch, Stiles half-caught under Derek's legs, his arm.
"I love you too," Stiles says - soft, quiet, uncertain - all the things Stiles should never, ever be, and Derek leans over to kiss him again. Of course he does. Of course they're in love. Who else is there, for him? He's been alone for a half of his life, nearly - he's never going to be without Stiles again. Derek would burn down the whole world if he had to.
"Ugh," Stiles says after a moment, and looks down forlornly at his stomach. The come stained jeans. "We haven't even had dinner yet."
Derek smirks into the cushion. "I'm sure there's something I could give you."
Stiles tries to jostle Derek with one of his bony elbows. He ends up mostly flailing underneath Derek's arm. "Just for that what you're getting me is garlic bread from Gino's."
"Slavedriver," Derek says, fond, and settles fully on top of Stiles. Heavy.
Stiles finishes his junior year with a decent average; no failing grades, though Derek suspects some of them are pity-inflated.
"Pretty sure I haven't gotten higher than a B since the sixth grade," Stiles says cheerfully, "when I was diagnosed with ADHD."
"Shouldn't that have gone the other way around?"
"When have I ever done what was expected?"
Derek snorts. "Forget I asked," and Stiles grins.
There's some sort of end of year ceremony for the lower three grades - attendance, principal's list, most school spirit, blah blah blah - but Derek gets suckered into going when Stiles makes his best 'don't leave me alone here!' eyes. It's like saying no to a dopey-looking baby animal. You just can't.
He runs afoul of Mrs. McCall as they file out. Stiles and Scott are off elsewhere, presumably chasing after Allison - she's made up with Scott, but he's still in the doghouse. For some reason, they still need Stiles as a Scott-to-girl translator. Or maybe it's vice versa.
Mrs. McCall does get straight to the point, though; he does like that.
"You know, you're a bit old for him," she says. Wry. Sharp underneath it - she's a nurse, she's seen a lot of shit - but she's a softer touch than she thinks. Derek is sure.
"I know." If you admit a small fault, you can get away with a larger one. "But we have some common... life experience."
A moment of hesitance before she nods. "Not exactly support groups for this sort of thing."
"I was never a fan of therapy."
"Me either," she confesses, and they take a moment to split a smile between them. The next question is about lacrosse.
All in all, practically permission.
"What was that about?" Stiles asks on the way out to the car.
"Maternal instinct," Derek says.
Stiles makes a complicated face. "Dude. She's not my mom." The statement is part affront, part longing.
"She cares about you." And Stiles cares back. So Derek cares too.
"I just don't think -" Stiles starts. Chewing on his lip. "I don't think my dad would get it, you know? You and me. And the - other stuff. I mean, duh, of course he wouldn't - pretty sure the Sheriff has to look down on arson and property damage and - and - I don't know, whatever the hell else we do, but - I just -"
"I think he'd want you to be happy," Derek says sincerely. "And we're not hurting anyone." The actual Sheriff aside. "Besides Jackson's car, we've never even really burnt anything worthwhile."
"Dude!" Stiles hisses, and looks over both his shoulders. Derek rolls his eyes. "I know. I mean, we're not exactly Bonnie and Clyde here -"
"You feel like more of a Thelma."
"I'm just saying," Stiles continues. "Actually, I don't know what I'm saying. It just - "
"It's not the perfect image you had in your head?"
Stiles slumps against him. "Yeah. I just... I want him to be proud of me."
"I think he'd be proud of you. Seriously Stiles, come on. Nearly ready to graduate high school. Finally getting a B in a class that isn't gym?"
"Giving up your ass groove on the bench to some other player?"
"You are the worst."
"Yeah, yeah. Want to get burgers on the way home?"
"Curly fries?" Stiles asks hopefully. "Or wait, are you supposed to be watching your cholesterol?"
"Oh, I'm the worst," he says, and holds Stiles's hand even as he tries to skip the rest of the way to the car.
Over the summer Stiles goes with Scott to see some of the state colleges; overnights, sometimes, if Mrs. McCall can find the time to go with them. She doesn't ask Derek. He tries to see it from her point of view. He doesn't let it bother him.
Stiles comes back, quieter and quieter, spending more time talking about the way Scott kicks in his sleep than any of the actual colleges. Scared, maybe, the way a lot of high school kids are. Uncertain about his future. Missing his father. Anything, but Derek is learning to wait it out.
Maybe time for another fire, he thinks. If they wait too long Stiles gets antsy. Itchy. Obsessed. He never really stops talking, but he gets more jittery. Like he needs a fix. Though Stiles and Derek share the same affinity, they don't react to it quite the same way - Derek is content with matches, bonfires. Just thinking about it, even. The fantasy. But Stiles needs more. Stiles needs destruction. Derek is more than happy to give it to him - after he feeds on it. They fuck for hours, sometimes, even days - Stiles clawing Derek's back raw, wringing orgasm after orgasm out of him. Derek thinks about introducing Stiles to fire play - can just imagine the look on his face, god, the moment the penny drops. It might be something Stiles likes to do himself. And Derek would let him.
"I don't know if I'm ready," Stiles finally says one night. "For college, I mean. I just - I have no idea what I want to do. And I - I know plenty of kids don't, but I just - I don't want to leave Beacon Hills right now. I don't think I can handle any more change."
Stiles doesn't even know how short of a leash he's on, because he never even tests it. "Okay," Derek says, and runs his hand over Stiles's back. "Whatever you want. College isn't for everyone, anyway."
Stiles rolls his eyes. "You delinquent."
Derek shrugs. "I went."
At that, Stiles twists to turn around and look at him. "Really?"
"Just not for long."
A chuff of laughter. "Okay, faker."
"I thought I was a delinquent."
"Multifaceted," Derek smirks. "See, those SAT words come in handy."
"I already caught you reading the dictionary that one time. You don't have to rub it in." And there it is, yes, Stiles's smile.
"Whatever you want," Derek says. "Whenever you want, okay? If you want to move to - to University of Alaska-"
" - I make you watch Breaking Dawn one time- "
"- I just mean I'd follow you anywhere," he finishes, and Stiles shuts up.
"Dude," Stiles says, which is pretty much his go-to word when everything else fails. "Dude."
They don't say "love" much - or, really, Derek doesn't say much of anything, and Stiles uses it all the time: "I love these chips!" "I love this show!" "Dude, I love you!" when Derek brings him coffee in the morning - and maybe that's a failing. Something Derek will have to make clearer.
"You can't just say stuff like that," Stiles says after a moment. "Not when I'm all emotionally vulnerable, and shit. Not without a disclaimer! Big romantic speech coming up!"
"It was a sentence."
"So was "I'll never let you go, Jack!" And there's three hours of Derek's life he'll never get back. "Do you - do you even understand how much you mean to me? That I literally cannot imagine my life without you? I mean - okay, to use quite possibly the gayest but most apt metaphor ever created - when I met you, it was like Dorothy waking up in Oz. Like everything before that was Kansas, and everything afterwards was color. After my dad died, I thought I was going to go crazy, and you were there. All the time, you were there. I could never - you don't have to give up anything for me, ever."
"There's nothing to give up," Derek says, and he means it. He's serious. Stiles doesn't have to be in Beacon Hills to be his. Stiles can go to college whenever he wants, where ever he wants. Hopefully some place a little out of the way - fire gets a little trickier in the city, though not impossible - and Derek has nothing to tie him here. He has enough money from the insurance settlement to do whatever he wants. The same for Stiles. He doesn't have to do anything. The world is their oyster, or maybe their bundle of firewood. He loves this house - this house made him, whether it meant to or not - but he doesn't have to abandon it. Think of it as a - a home base, maybe. A place to always return to.
"I love you," Stiles says thickly, "I really, really love you."
"You just - get me," he murmurs, sleepy. "Like you're inside my head."
"Of course," Derek says. Of course he is. They've burned everything else out.