This time, Stiles isn't anywhere near his room when Derek finds him. He's not at Scott's, freaking out over the fact Allison's grandfather just stabbed him, or at the police impound, staring mournfully at his baby, or at Lydia's house, trying to convince her that he really does want to talk. He's done all of those things, but when Derek finally tracks him down, he's back at the school, standing at the edge of the pool and staring thoughtfully at the water.
He doesn't even bother turning around at the sound of footsteps, because somehow he's known Derek would show up.
'You know,' he opens, when Derek stops just beside and behind him. 'You didn't have to gut the poor basketball. It was an innocent victim in all of this.'
'Collateral damage,' Derek replies, and Stiles gives him a quick, sideways glance, because that ? That almost sounded like humor .
'Poor ball,' Stiles continues. 'Never being able to live out its dream of being used in the State Championships, never getting to be thrown for that tie breaking three pointer.'
'Well, Beacon Hills' basketball team sucks anyway.'
There is that.
'What are you doing back here, Stiles? It's not safe.'
'Dude. Really?' He shifts to face Derek full on. 'What part of my life since this all started can even remotely qualify as safe? Death? Maiming? Destruction? It's pretty much been on the Stilinski lunch menu since day one.'
'The Kanima - '
'Isn't coming back here tonight.' He's doesn't know how he knows it, but of that fact he's sure. As far as he knows, it hasn't returned to any of the places it's been. He doesn't like the suspicion growing in his mind, wants to pretend it can't be her, but his stupid brain won't shut up.
'Stiles.' Derek looks aggravated.
'Derek.' He mimics, in the exact same tone.
'Why are you here?'
'Oh, you know,' he says flippantly, turning back to look at the lights reflecting off the surface of the pool, 'I sometimes like to go to the places I almost died. It's good for the soul. Or something.'
'You could have left me.' For a second Stiles is sure he's imagining things. But no, that is Derek Hale standing next to him. And that is Derek Hale actually admitting Stiles helped him. So of course, Stiles converts to full sarcasm.
'I'm sorry? I thought I only kept you alive to save myself. I mean, are you saying that's not the case?'
'I shouldn't - ' Stiles thinks the words actually sound painful, like Derek is having to drag them out, through a throatful of glass. 'I shouldn't have said that.'
'No, no you shouldn't have. Especially since I could have taken your advice and just run away in the first place.'
'Why didn't you?' Derek is giving him that look again, the same one he'd had when Stiles had given up his one shot at First Line to help him locate the Alpha. Like he's genuinely confused. And Stiles supposes it makes more sense this time, what with the Erica-starter-to-the-head thing, and the way they had parted the last time Derek had ventured to his room, but still, for the love of all that was holy -
'Because, Derek – ' he throws his arms wide, in a flailing, expansive gesture, and Derek ducks to avoid getting hit – 'it's what people do . You don't just let other people die! Even jerk offs who keep threatening you!'
'No, Stiles, people don't do that! They don't!'
And Stiles is about to launch into a tirade about Derek's massive trust issues, and how they're going to get everyone killed one day, but then Derek mutters under his breath.
'I wouldn't have hurt you.'
Stiles blows all the air from his lungs in a loud, horsey sigh, and rolls his head dramatically. 'Dude, I know, okay? I know. So maybe we could just skip that part next time?'
'But you said we weren't - '
'Your girlfriend had just tried to brain me , okay? And you were all douchey and beat up Scott. What did you expect? Gotta be honest; I like this new you even less than the old one.'
'She's not my - ' but Stiles rolls right over him.
'But, anyway, thanks. Again.'
'For what?' And Stiles takes a little bit – okay, a lot bit – of satisfaction at the fact Derek has his confused face on.
'You know, trying to save me? Pushing me out of the way and telling me to go?'
'Next time you should listen.'
'Yeah...' Stiles peers down into the water, tries hard not to think of how close it came to going in a completely different direction. 'And you should listen to Scott. Pretty sure the odds of either one of those things happening are astronomically low, though.'
The silence stretches between them, and Stiles finally tilts his head in Derek's direction. 'Why are you here?'
Derek waits a beat or two before speaking. 'Thank you, Stiles.'
He spins on his heel and walks toward the exit, calling behind him. 'Go home, Stiles. Let the werewolves do the dirty work.'
Stiles kicks his shoes off and sits, dangling his feet into the tepid water of the pool. He waits another ten minutes, because he can , and then follows the path Derek took, pulling a rusting ten speed bike from where he's propped it against the fence, and slowly peddles his way back home.