It was Stiles’ sixth birthday when he first met Derek Hale. His dad was working that day so he drove Stiles around in his police car until he got off work. For a six year old boy, this was Heaven. He liked seeing his dad’s work and, although it was a relatively boring day, it was still fun. His mom was at home putting a party together and baking a cake. Because he was six and therefore birthdays still mattered, they just invited his whole class.
They pulled up to the gas station and there he was. He was much older and much different from Stiles. He was quiet and sullen but when his sister called for him, a big smile crossed his face. Stiles knew of the Hales but somehow, their paths had never crossed. He attributed this to being a six year old that was much too hyper to take anywhere. (They tried and Stiles ended up in all sorts of trouble.)
Stiles watched Derek curiously and Derek turned to look at him before bowing his head shyly. Stiles found that adorable. Derek walked into the gas station and, because it was his birthday, he asked his dad if he could have money to buy candy. Mostly, this was an excuse to watch Derek. He slowly walked up to the store and pushed the door open.
There was a crumpled five dollar bill in his hand. He hid behind one of the aisles and peeked out just enough to see Derek. He had his hands balled in his jean pockets and was staring longingly at the candy aisle. It was at this point that Stiles made the boldest move of his short life. He popped out from behind the aisle (scaring Derek in the process) and grabbed the candy Derek was staring at.
“Hi,” Stiles said in his high voice.
“Hi,” Derek answered. His voice was already beginning to deepen but it was much nicer than Stiles thought it would be.
Stiles grabbed another pack of candy and tottered up to the counter. He had to stand on his tip toes to reach but he set the candy and the five dollar bill on the counter. The cashier checked him out, kindly reaching over and handing him the change and bag.
“Thank you!” he piped out. He gave the store a quick search to find Derek was no longer in it. Quickly, he ran outside. Derek was halfway across the small parking lot. Stiles ran as fast as his feet would carry and skidded to a halt, somehow avoiding slamming into Derek. He dug the candy out of the bag and held it out.
Derek stared at it in confusion. His eyes were wide and Stiles wondered if he wasn’t used to people doing things for him. His family wasn’t very social and only went to town when they needed to. Stiles pushed his hand out farther and shook it slightly. Derek grabbed the candy and scurried away. When he reached his sister, he gave Stiles one last confused look and then turned to leave.
Stiles’ face was burning hot as he sat back down in his dad’s police car. He stared out the window silently, thinking. His dad tried to make conversation but Stiles’ was too caught up in thought. He wanted to know everything about Derek Hale and why he looked so sad. He wanted to know what it was like to have all that family. His heart fluttered against his ribs and he gave a small sigh. He laid his head against the glass pane of the window and closed his eyes.
The next time he saw Derek Hale was a week and a half later. Stiles had convinced his mom to take him with her when she went shopping in hopes that he would see Derek again. He had never had any reason to believe in a higher power but he was sure someone was listening to him. When he walked into the store, the first thing he spotted was spiky black hair and Derek’s sullen frown. He ducked behind the nearest aisle and watched him.
His sister was with him again. It seemed as though they did most of the shopping for their family. She was talking quietly to him. His arms were crossed and he was staring into the distance. Stiles wondered what he was thinking about and what his sister was saying. Luckily, they lived in a small town so their store was equally small. That meant he could sneak around and his mom wouldn’t worry about him.
Whenever Derek and his sister switched aisles, he would follow. He walked quietly and hid when they turned. He tried his best to suppress the incessant giggling. His face was bright red and burned like he had been sitting under the sun far too long. His hands shook and his stomach was filled with knots.
He had learned a lot about Derek and the Hale family during this shopping trip. Derek liked to read and went to the library often. He especially liked fairy tales. His sister Laura was loud and bright and when she spoke to Derek, his eyes grew bright. He really admired her. She was in the ninth grade and had a crush on some boy. Derek rolled his eyes when she talked about this and told her it “wouldn’t be good”.
Derek didn’t speak a lot and when he did it was quiet. His voice and eyes carried years of weight that he shouldn’t yet know. Stiles found that intriguing and it only served to add onto his curiousity. It was like Derek was some new, uncharted island and, from the outside, he seemed rough and dark. But Stiles was sure if he could, he would find gold. He was, therefore, a pirate on the sea trying to find the treasure that he was sure was hidden somewhere inside Derek Hale. (He was certain it was in his heart.)
Soon, though, his mom was calling him and he had to stop following the Hales. This was a miserable occurrence in his young life, where every second was bright and shining and counted for everything. He could have spent the whole day swooping from aisle to aisle, watching Derek Hale. The grocery store wasn’t quite as boring when he was there.
Stiles was at the library with his mother. He liked the library; the quiet, the feel of dusty books that no one had checked out, the smell of yellowed old pages. Their town’s library was old and that was the way he liked it. It had this worn feel to it that made him feel like he was in another world. If he closed his eyes, he imagined nothing else existed around him but row upon row of books.
Most kids his age liked to play outside or chase girls around and, while he liked that, his passion was reading. His mother often lamented the fact that he was much too intelligent. She always told him that one day she wouldn’t be able to answer his questions anymore. He would read whatever he could get his hands on. It didn’t matter what size the books were or the subject matter, he would read them cover to cover.
Today, he decided that he would find a big book of fairytales (and not the Disney ones; real fairytales) and read it until he could recite every word. This usually didn’t take him very long which delighted the librarians to no end. He was so caught up in the prospect of a new book to read that thoughts of Derek were pushed to the back of his mind.
He scanned the rows of books for the one he wanted (thick leather bound book of Grimm’s fairytales) and reached out a tiny hand to grab it. At the same time, another hand grabbed the bottom of the book. Stiles jumped and turned to face the book stealer. A small squeal escaped his throat. Of course it would be Derek.
“Sorry,” Derek mumbled and let go of the book.
“I-it’s okay. You c-can t-t-take it, if you want,” Stiles replied. He dropped his head to hide his burning cheeks and peeked up at Derek through thick eyelashes.
Derek was staring at the ground and rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ve already read it.”
“Um, that’s cool. Y-you d-don’t mind?”
“I can read something else.”
“Y-you can read it w-with me,” Stiles looked up, blushed, and looked back down, “if you w-want.”
Derek bit his lip and looked around unsure. “Um, I guess.” Stiles led Derek to his favourite table- the one with a leg too short and rickety chairs and damaged old wood- and sat the book down in front of them. Derek pulled out a chair and sat down next to Stiles. Stiles’ rocked back and forth in his chair and turned the pages of the book slowly, glancing up every few sentences to make sure Derek was following along.
Normally, the silence would make Stiles uncomfortable but in the library, it was different. In the library, silence felt peaceful. It was the only place where he was able to sit quietly for hours. But in the library, Derek was also different. When he read, he had a small smile on his face and every now and his breath was steady. His eyes were light and his body was relaxed. Stiles liked looking at him and watching the way his eyes would shift with the story.
Derek read much more slowly than Stiles did but Derek soaked up every word. His eyes lingered on the pictures and text whereas Stiles quickly took it in and moved on. Stiles could reread a page twice before Derek was done with it. He didn’t mind, though. He found it fascinating.
Although, everything about the older boy was fascinating. He wasn’t like any of Stiles’ friends who were young and immature. He certainly wasn’t like Scott who wouldn’t pick up a book unless his mom threatened to ground him. He wasn’t like Jackson who was loud and would only read if it was a competition. Derek was entirely different from anyone Stiles had known and it was amazing.
Stiles wasn’t sure you could fall in love at six but, if you could, he was pretty certain he was in love. He spent a lot of time thinking about Derek and wondering what it would be like to be friends with him. He imagined growing up and marrying Derek and holding his hand. They would watch movies together and laugh and share secret looks that only they understood. It was perfect.
But fate had a way of taking the things you want and slowly tearing them away. It happened when he was ten and Derek was sixteen. Derek got more reserved as he got older and soon, Stiles would only really get to spend time with him when they were at the library. They had a tradition of reading together. Derek stayed away from stores now and Stiles didn’t know why. He still went every time his dad remembered to, hoping to see Derek there.
It had been a few years since Stiles’ own mother had died. He knew how hard it was to lose a family member and someone you loved. However, this was different. The Hale house fire was on a bigger scale and Derek lost almost all of his family. Stiles didn’t know what to expect; what to feel. He just wished he was older and he could comfort Derek somehow. It wasn’t like he could take away the pain but he could do something.
There wasn’t a funeral. Laura and Derek left town suddenly and Stiles’ heart broke into a thousand pieces. For once, he wished he wasn’t so mature for his age. He wished he was more like Scott; disgustingly naïve. He tried not to dwell on it but at night, he would wonder what Derek was up to. It was stupid to think someone so much older than him would be in love with him- he knew that- but he at least hoped Derek thought of him.
There was a part of him that was sad but he also hoped Derek would find peace. He didn’t think happiness would come soon or easily, but peace was something he could hope for. If nothing else, Stiles wanted Derek to be okay and to find a life that could one day make him happy. For a ten year old, Stiles thought this was pretty mature.
Flash forward six years.
Stiles is in the library for the first time in a month and a random thought in the back of his head makes him dig out the old Grimm’s fairytales book. There’s a pang in his chest of pain and nostalgia and his mind flashes back to the day he first saw Derek Hale. The old table is still there, wholly unused, and he pulls out a rickety chair and sits down.
He doesn’t rock back and forth this time because it’s old and creaky and Stiles is much bigger than he used to be. There’s a thin film of dust over the cover of the book and Stiles wipes it away with his sleeve. In his mind, he can hear Derek’s voice and laughter. It’s amazing how clear it is after all these years. He’s tried to move on and push his feelings to Lydia but it’s not the same. For some reason, Derek will never leave.
He reads until his eyes blur and the librarian is shaking him awake. She’s old and has worked there since before Stiles’ first trip to the library. She smiles sweetly at him and the corners of her eyes crease. He smiles back and stretches. His back pops and he lets out a groan. He leaves the library, starts his car, and drives home.
Somehow, only a few days later, he ends up in the woods with Scott searching for an inhaler. There is Derek Hale in flesh and blood, all grown up and breathtaking. Stiles’ mouth opens and he flounders for words or air but he can’t find it. All he can think is that someone out there must be listening. The world isn’t moving. Everything is standing still and Stiles is too scared that if he breathes, the moment will break and Derek will melt away in a cloud of smoke.
There’s something satisfying when Derek speaks and he’s real. He’s really real. Stiles doesn’t know if Derek recognizes him (he doesn’t know that Derek would recognize his scent anywhere) but he doesn’t care. Derek is much different. His eyes are darker and his body is tense and rigid. His eyebrows and lips are drawn into a tight frown. There’s a dark shadow encompassing him.
But his voice hasn’t changed. It’s still soft and sweet and light and airy. It still floats around Stiles’ bones and makes him feel like he’s flying. He hasn’t dreamed of marrying Derek in a long time but those thoughts slam back into his head. His blood rushes in his ears and everything is spinning.
They have been sitting in Stiles’ Jeep for hours talking. Derek talks about New York and his sister and how much he misses his family. Stiles talks about high school and the books he’s been reading and his dad. They talk about when they were younger and the books they read together. Stiles leans his head back and closes his eyes; tries to ignore Derek dying beside him.
Derek asks Stiles questions about whatever comes to his mind. Stiles gives long winded answers, trying every time to make Derek smile. It’s awkward and there’s something uncomfortable besides the stench of death and decay. Maybe it’s the lost time between them or maybe it’s how different Derek has become. Stiles can see the wall every time Derek says something. They’re built with bricks of defensiveness and hollow threats of violence. Stiles is working on slowly breaking down that wall.
When they were younger, Stiles always knew that Derek was just shy and reserved. Now, it’s not that. There’s this heartbreaking sense of blackness as if there’s a void inside Derek where he can’t find the light switch. Stiles knows it’s there somewhere and he’ll spend his whole life trying to find it.
In the end, they run out of things to talk about so Stiles recites fairytales from memory. They read that book so many times together that the stories don’t seem to fit without Derek there. Derek doesn’t say anything; he just sits back and listens to the hum of the Jeep and the sound of Stiles’ voice. If he dies tonight, well, it’s not a bad way to go.
Stiles finds Derek at the library, sitting at their table. The book of Grimm’s fairytales is open and Derek is staring expectantly at the library door as if he knew Stiles was coming. Stiles sits down next to him and begins reading the first tale. They don’t speak a single word.
Derek is still a slow reader and Stiles is still utterly enthralled with the way Derek works. Stiles should have thought of this before. Derek’s wall is crumbling to dust right before his eyes in a way it only ever did in the library. It’s the way it should be, really; Stiles and Derek reading fairytales in the library. The world outside means nothing in here, where a thousand other worlds lurk.
Stiles reads a page then looks up at Derek and watches him slowly trace and savour every letter. He stares at Derek’s lips which open and close silently, pronouncing the words. After two hours of this, Derek closes the book and turns to Stiles.
“Why are you staring at me?” Derek asks. There’s the hint of an edge in his voice but it’s a bluff. Stiles knows.
“You look beautiful when you read.” Stiles is wide eyed and his heart beat is steady, if too fast. Derek doesn’t reply. He just stares at Stiles, trying to read his face as intently as he reads the book before them. Stiles doesn’t know what he’s searching for but he must have found it because after a minute, he leans in and slowly presses his lips against Stiles’.
The kiss is quick and chaste but Derek’s lips are soft. They fit perfectly against Stiles’ in a way that makes his knees weak. It’s nothing special and yet, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. There’s a certain tenderness behind it, reflected in the way Derek’s hands clasp his and he rubs circles into the back of Stiles’ hand with his thumb, that perfectly encapsulates the moment. Nothing could ever be more perfect.
The wedding is six years later because all major events in Stiles’ life happen with sixes. It’s small- just the pack and Stiles’ dad- but it feels right. Scott is bawling and Lydia is trying not to cry. Allison is grinning and trying to keep Jackson from drinking too much. Danny is rolling his eyes but not-so-secretly, he’s happy for Stiles.
Stiles refused to wear a suit unless he could wear Converse with it. Derek gave in because it was better than Stiles’ idea to dress everyone in coordinated rainbow colours. (“Because we’re gay! Get it?” “Stiles, shut up.”) Everyone looks beautiful but Stiles and Derek are glowing.
The wedding takes place in the library and they say their vows over the rickety old table that they shared. Stiles begins rambling and the priest is staring at him with barely hidden annoyance. Derek doesn’t know what to do so he leans in and kisses Stiles to shut him up. Stiles turns bright red and, even after six years, he pulls away sputtering and fighting for breath.
“That’s not fair,” he whispers with an overdramatized frown.
Derek rolls his eyes. “Shut up, Stiles, or I’ll walk out this library right now.”
Stiles gasps dramatically and pulls his hand to his chest. “You wouldn’t!”
“I dare you.”
“Are you willing to take that chance?”
“Boys, shut up!” Lydia screams. They look at her and she has already recovered her cool. They both roll their eyes and turn back to the priest. He is sweating bullets because he obviously doesn’t know how the pack works. Derek and Stiles are staring deeply into each others’ eyes and Sheriff Stilinski is sobbing loudly.
They quietly whisper their “I do’s” so the other can hear and then kiss. It’s quick and chaste and exactly like their first kiss. Derek is holding Stiles’ hand and rubbing his thumb over the ring over and over again. Stiles leans his head into Derek’s shoulder and grins. Suddenly, the pack is running up to pull them into a group hug and Stiles cranes his neck up to whisper “I love you” into Derek’s ear.