Stiles is huddled miserably in one of the hospital’s incredibly uncomfortable chairs when his dad finally makes it in to pick him up, staring woodenly at the HIV awareness poster tacked up on one of the bulletin boards (which, really, why is everyone on those things always laughing? Is HIV testing really that much fun? Has Stiles been missing out?). It’s two AM, his head is throbbing, and he’s pretty sure that he’s going to be too angry to sleep tonight.
His dad’s face is tight with anxiety as he signs Stiles out, and they don’t talk much as they head out to the car. Stiles desperately wants to say something-anything-to make that look on his dad’s face go away, to break the awful silence that’s been hanging between them since that night at the prison. But ‘I promise I won’t make you worry anymore’ would be a blatant lie, and anything less than that wouldn’t be enough.
“I called in an order at Dorothy’s,” his dad says finally, a block or two out from the hospital. “Do you think you could go in and pick it up without imperiling yourself, or is that too much to ask?”
Stiles winces. His dad doesn’t sound pissed off. He sounds resigned, distant, like this is just what Stiles does now, and that’s a thousand times worse in Stiles’ book. He has no idea how he’s going to fix this, how to close up this ever-widening gap between them. “Yeah,” he says quietly, staring out the window. “Sure.”
He gets out of the car slowly and stands there for a second, staring up at the diner’s flickering sign: ‘Dorothy’s Good Food, Open 2 Hours’. The ‘4’ burned out when Stiles was ten, and they never bothered to replace the bulbs. It’s a pretty good summary of Dorothy’s, really, but Stiles loves it anyway-he and Scott spent most of their freshman and sophomore year weekends here, hunched over dingy formica tables and arguing about comic books and video games like the complete losers they were. And still are at heart, really, superpowers and bizarre adventures aside.
As he’s making his way up the crumbling steps, something catches his eye, and he looks up with dread. And there he is, sitting alone in one of the booths: Derek Hale, face stark under the diner’s fluorescent lights.
And then, because Stiles is cursed, Derek looks straight at Stiles. Their eyes meet for a second, right before Stiles pushes the door open, and then Derek ducks his head away. Like he’s ashamed, almost, and ugly satisfaction fills Stiles at the thought. Shame is the least Derek should be feeling, as far as Stiles is concerned.
He looks resolutely away from Derek, heads straight to the counter and smiles as winningly as he can at the tired-eyed girl working the register. He thinks he recognizes her from AP English-Andi Warner, two rows back, and the copy of The Sound and the Fury sitting by the till backs that up.
“Hey, Andi. How’s Faulkner treating you?” he asks, and tries not to notice Derek watching them as she looks up, expression lifting a little when she sees Stiles.
“Fucking horribly,” she answers, grinning. “I got a chapter in and gave up. You?”
Stiles shrugs. “Not bad. It gets a little hairy about halfway through, though. Quentin’s a pretty fucked-up dude.”
Andi laughs. “Sounds like you’re doing better than I am,” she says, eyes warm on Stiles. “Maybe you could walk me through it sometime?”
“I-yeah, sure, anytime,” Stiles says, stumbling a little over the words. Is she flirting with him? He’s awful at this, probably because it hardly ever happens. “Absolutely.”
“Great,” Andi says, and yeah, definitely flirting. “Give me your number?”
“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says, punching his number into her phone, and tries to figure out a way to get out of the conversation. Andi’s cute, but it’s been a long-ass day, and he really just wants to go home and pass out. He finally gives up on doing it gracefully and goes for the direct route.
“My dad phoned in something a few minutes ago-do you know if it’s ready yet?”
Andi startles a little at that, then nods. “Let me go check on that for you,” she says, tone sliding from flirtatious into professional, and ducks into the kitchen.
Stiles is staring up at the pictures of the diner’s celebrity guests (‘celebrity’ is maybe an overstatement-that one guy who has a basic cable show in LA probably doesn’t count as a celebrity anywhere outside of Beacon Hills) when a hand lands on his shoulder. He yelps and spins around, glaring when he sees who the hand’s attached to. “Derek.”
“Stiles,” Derek says, tone nowhere near repentance. Of course. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened today.”
Oh fuck no. “Actually, I have this new policy,” Stiles says brightly. “I don’t talk to assholes who try to kill my friends anymore. I’m pretty excited about it, I think it’s really going to reduce my stress level!”
Derek rolls his eyes, and it’s hilarious that he thinks he gets to be exasperated about anything when Stiles is the one who’s getting bashed with car parts left and right, here. “I needed you out of the fight and Scott on my side,” he says. “Erica did what she had to do. So did I.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, and now it’s his turn to roll his eyes. “So the head trauma was just-part of the plan. That’s great, that’s really-that’s just great leadership on your part.”
“She may have gone a little too far,” Derek admits, shifting a little uncomfortably. His hand is still on Stiles’ shoulder. Apparently Derek’s the only one who gets to object to that, because when Stiles shoots a pointed look down he just raises his eyebrows at Stiles and tightens his grip.
“You think?” Stiles asks incredulously.
Derek shifts closer, ignoring the strange looks being sent their way by the diner’s few remaining patrons. “There’s a war on, Stiles. Lines are being drawn, and Scott had to understand that. He’s a soldier, whether he wants to be or not.”
“Fine,” Stiles grits out. “Scott’s in this, and maybe that’s out of both your hands. But the rest of your army? Is sixteen-year-old kids. You turned them knowing they were going to have to fight this war of yours. How the fuck do you think that’s okay?”
Derek looks away, suddenly unwilling to meet Stiles’ eyes. “I don’t,” he says, voice low. “But they asked for it. You know what their lives were like before. I gave them power. Control.”
“Yeah,” Stiles spits out, tired of the whole conversation. “Power over people like me. And what the hell do you think is going to happen the second they get into a real fight?”
“Stiles?” Andi’s back behind the counter, holding a brown paper bag. “Are you-is this guy bothering you, or are you two-together?” she asks, hovering uncertainly. Stiles looks at Derek, crowding Stiles against the counter, touching Stiles like he has the right to, and realizes what this must look like to Andi.
“No,” he says, springing sideways, away from Derek. “I-here, keep the change, I’ll see you in English, thanks!”
“This isn’t over,” Derek calls after him as Stiles rushes out the door. “You have to know that,” and what did Stiles do to deserve this, seriously.
Stiles stumbles into Dorothy’s rubbing ineffectually at his arms. It’s been a week since the goddamn pool, and he’s still sore. He’s cursing the Kanima (for paralyzing Derek), Derek (for being all macho and getting himself paralyzed), Scott (on general principle), and himself (for having a goddamn conscience that wouldn’t let him just let Derek die and save himself two hours and a lot of pain). He wants a burger and fries at a bare minimum right now. And, ideally, a stiff drink, but he’s seventeen and it’s eleven in the morning, so.
He stops short when he sees Derek, sitting alone at one of the booths (again), face drawn and tense, shadowed like he hasn’t slept for days.
Stiles is feeling a little more charitable towards Derek these days. He’s still a self-righteous dick with some serious fuck-ups under his belt as far as Stiles is concerned, but. But he’s a self-righteous dick who got himself hurt trying to protect Stiles. So he nods a little, comes to a stop in front of Derek’s booth. There’s an untouched banana split in front of him, which is honestly kind of hilarious-Derek doesn’t look like he even eats carbs, let alone ice cream.
“Derek,” Stiles says, and nods down at the sundae. “They never put enough chocolate sauce on these here.”
Derek looks up at that, and something in Stiles clenches in sympathy at the look in his eyes. “That’s what Laura always said,” he says, and then looks down again right away, like he just gave something important away and regrets it.
There’s an quiet moment or two while Stiles puts a few things together, and when it hits him he winces a little. “It’s her birthday?” he guesses.
“Yeah,” Derek says, sounding a little surprised. “How did you know?”
Stiles shrugs. “You’ve been a little off, the last few days,” he explains, tactfully leaving out the part where by ‘off’ he means ‘made Erica cry, punched Boyd, then vanished into some weird werewolf ether for three days like a total asshole’. Derek might be dark and mysterious, but subtle he isn’t. “And when you mentioned Laura just now-”
“You guessed,” Derek finishes flatly, poking at the sundae with his spoon. “We always came here for our birthdays. I always got apple pie, on mine.” He looks up, and his face, Jesus. His expression is open, raw, painful, and his voice is harsh as he continues. “This shouldn’t be worse than finding her body, but it is.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says soberly. He remembers his mother’s birthdays, the first few years after she died-he and his dad had made red velvet cake, her favorite, and then picked numbly at pieces of it for what felt like hours. These days it’s still hard, but it’s not unendurable anymore; the pain faded, eventually. And at least Stiles had had his dad and Scott there to shore him up. He tries to add up all the days Derek must have to face alone-the birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings. It’s a long list, and it must look fucking endless to Derek. Stiles can’t imagine what that must be like.
He surprises himself by gesturing at the seat opposite Derek. “Mind if I sit?”
Derek shrugs a little. “I won’t be great company,” he warns.
“What, you are normally?” Stiles snarks back, and watches a corner of Derek’s mouth pull up into a reluctant smile.
“Fair point,” Derek says. “But-”
“I get it,” Stiles says, and pauses, considering. “I’ve done birthdays like this, too,” he admits, twisting a little at the paper place-mat in front of him.
“Your mother,” Derek says, eyes fixed on Stiles. He looks almost sympathetic. “I’m sorry.”
Stiles stares at him a little, mouth open, before he remembers his manners. “It was a long time ago,” he says quietly, and abandons the place-mat to look back up at Derek. “Do you want to talk about her? It helps, sometimes.”
Derek jumps a little and stares, like Stiles just suggested a naked protest on the White House lawn or a weekend-long coke binge or something. “I-maybe?” he says, uncertainly. “Just. Could you just stay for a little while? Maybe talk?” He looks almost pained by the last question; Stiles doesn’t think Derek’s asked anyone for anything for a long, long time. He shrugs, deliberately casual, and slides a little further into the booth.
“I’ve got time to kill.” He pauses. “Hey, so, I just finished Twilight, and I’ve got some questions about the werewolf parts.”
Derek sighs, but he’s almost smiling now, and Stiles grins back giddily. He’s awesome at this.
3 am, one year and a few days later
Stiles is both deliriously tired and too wired to ever, ever sleep again. He just spent his eighteenth birthday getting beaten up by thirteen-year-old werewolves, seriously, there are no words for how much this night sucked for him. Whoever bit those little assholes and then set them loose on Beacon Hills deserves a long, slow death.
He’s thinking lovingly about how, exactly, that death would go when he walks into a wall of-someone. Someone who is apparently made of brick, because Stiles hits him and just stops. He looks up to apologize to whoever it is and sighs a little when he sees that it’s Derek looking at him, mouth tilted a little, eyes unreadable.
“Hey,” Stiles says, warmly because they’re sort of friends now, maybe, and things have changed a lot since he and Scott met Derek in the woods two years ago. “You needed a milkshake too?” he asks, nodding at the to-go cup in Derek’s hand.
Derek shrugs. “It seemed like the thing to do,” he says, and then, shockingly, “I didn’t get a chance to wish you a happy birthday earlier.”
Stiles shrugs. “It was kind of busy,” he says wryly. “I’m impressed you even knew it was my birthday, honestly.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Derek frowns a little when he asks. On anyone else, Stiles would call it a pout, and he tries not to notice how it’s actually kind of cute when Derek does it.
“Seriously? I mean, we’re-” Stiles stops, unsure. He might think they’re friends, but past experience says that assuming Derek agrees with him on anything is a bad idea. “-friendly, but that doesn’t mean you have to know my birthday or anything,” he finishes weakly.
“We’re friends,” Derek says, decisively. “You said so, that night with the shopping cart.” He smirks, eyes intent on Stiles, still unreadable. Like this conversation is somehow important to him, which is just unfathomable.
Stiles startles, flushing a little at the memory. “I was really drunk,” he defends, and then, “But, I mean, friends, yeah. I meant that part. Maybe not the part about the-other stuff, I thought you didn’t remember that? I hope you don’t remember that, anyway.” He stops before he digs himself in even deeper.
Derek’s smirk doesn’t go away at that; if anything, it strengthens. Stiles knew eclipse amnesia wasn’t a real thing. Scott’s in for a major beating the next time they hang out. “You said I was hot,” he says, his mouth curved. “And that you wanted-”
Stiles cuts in quickly, before Derek can get to the really life-destroying parts. “Yeah, I remember, Jesus,” he says. “Was ‘utter humiliation’ your birthday present? Because if it was, you’ve really got to work on your gift giving. I’m telling you this for your own good.”
“No,” Derek says, quickly, and then, “I have something else in mind. Come outside with me?” It’s not really a question-he’s already pulling on Stiles’ arm when he says the words.
“But-” Stiles waves a hand towards the diner’s kitchen, where his burger and milkshake are living. “Can I eat first?” Derek’s idea of a birthday ‘something else’ is probably rock climbing or swamp creature killing, and Stiles isn’t doing that without something in his stomach.
“Later,” Derek says, and pulls Stiles out the door, fingers warm and insistent on Stiles’ wrist.
Once they’re outside, Stiles opens his mouth to complain-it’s October, and it’s windy, and he wants his milkshake, dammit- but he doesn’t get a chance to say anything at all because Derek sets his cup down carefully on a step and backs Stiles up against the diner’s cheap aluminum siding, kissing him, mouth cool against Stiles’. He tastes like fake strawberry, sweet and sharp, and Stiles notes that somewhere, files it away for future reference. His hands are dragging up and down Stiles’ bare arms, soothing away the goosebumps that spring up there, and he hums encouragingly when Stiles reaches up and grabs blindly at his shoulders for support.
It goes on for awhile, because hello, Stiles is eighteen, and Derek is-well, Derek, and Stiles has maybe been harboring a crush on him for an embarrassingly long time. When they finally break apart, though, Stiles jabs a finger into his chest accusingly. Derek’s been acting weird around Stiles for way too long for this to be a new thing, and Stiles wants an explanation. And possibly more making out, but the explanation takes priority right now.
“You-what-what the hell was that,” he asks, aiming for ‘threatening’ and landing somewhere between ‘breathy’ and ‘super turned on’. “And, actually, wait, scratch that, why?”
“You were always around,” Derek says, like that’s any kind of an answer, and Stiles is beginning to work up some indignation in response when Derek finishes. “And you kept surprising me, I didn’t. I didn’t expect you to be so-you.” He sounds somehow betrayed, like Stiles being (apparently) awesome and irresistible was a surprise to him. And, okay, maybe it’s a little bit of a surprise to Stiles, too. He’s a sidekick; sidekicks get the witty banter and (sorry, Scott) the brains, and heroes get the ridiculously hot love interest.
“I’m going to go ahead and take all that as a compliment,” Stiles says, because goddammit, he’s learned to take his ego boosts where he can.
“It is,” Derek promises, slipping his hands under Stiles’ shirt and resting them, warm and possessive, on his hips, thumbs sweeping under the waistband of Stiles’ jeans. “It is,” he says again, like he’s worried Stiles might have missed it the first time. “You have no idea.” He spins them around and backs Stiles against the Camaro’s hood, smudging kisses along Stiles’ jaw as they go.
Stiles leans back unthinkingly, pulling Derek down with him. They’re flush against each other now, pressed shoulder to hip, and Stiles shivers a little at that, pushes up into the heat of it. He leans up and bites at Derek’s lower lip, licking into his mouth and surging up even though there’s nowhere to go, really. He wants to get close, closer, to give himself up to Derek, to take Derek in however he can.
Derek groans raggedly into Stiles’ mouth and-somehow, fuck-manages to pull Stiles in closer, hips grinding rough and careless and perfect against Stiles. His fingers are digging into Stiles’ back, and there’s definitely going to be some bruising there later. Stiles is okay with that. Maybe slightly more than okay: he wants Derek’s fingerprints on him, marking him up. A note to the world: Derek was here, he thinks, and holds back a hysterical laugh at the thought.
“You taste like strawberry,” Stiles says, grinning wildly up at Derek, giddy with happiness and exhaustion and something else, something he can’t look at too closely right now. He must look like a total idiot right now, but he doesn’t care, can’t care.
Derek ducks his head down to Stiles’ collarbone and nips softly at the thin skin there, brushing a kiss against it in apology when Stiles hisses. “It’s my favorite,” he says, and Stiles is impressed and a little insulted by how matter-of-fact his tone is, considering he’s practically fucking Stiles on the hood of his car.
“Yeah?” he asks, breathless. “I would’ve pegged you for chocolate, maybe malt--”
“Stiles,” Derek growls, his breath hot on Stiles’ neck. “Do you really want to talk about this right now,” and he has a point. Stiles really, really doesn’t.
He glances up at the diner, and winces when he sees what feels like half of Beacon Hills peering out of its windows. Oh, god. “We might want to take this somewhere else,” he suggests. He’s pretty sure Lisa Mayer is taking pictures.
Derek lifts his head, eyes unfocused as he drags his gaze from Stiles to the diner. “Away,” he agrees, and pulls Stiles towards the Camaro. Stiles steals a look back at the diner as they’re speeding away to god knows where, and smiles a little: they finally fixed the sign.