Stiles spends far too much time looking for werewolves. You'd think the werewolves would be able to find themselves, what with all the advanced senses, the constant lurking, and their desperate need to be involved in any and all drama that happened within a fifty mile radius. Werewolves should be bumping into each other all the time. Like people who break up and then can't stop running into each other everywhere, a whole car crash of growling and awkward.
But when Scott texts him and asks him to find Derek he's not exactly surprised. He can't read any subtext of underlying anger or panic, or the presence of horrendous spelling mistakes that suggests Allison is involved, so he sends a bunch of annoyed texts back demanding to know why. Scott really needs to learn to be coherent, because all Stiles really gets is something about town smelling wrong, and something in the trees, the explanation just gets more confusing as it goes on.
Though how Scott expects him to find Derek he has no idea. He's not surprised, no, Scott can happily ignore him for a week and then assume he can do completely impossible things, and Stiles doesn't know whether it's flattering or infuriating. Probably both, why should a man have to choose? It's his own fault that he always busts his ass to come through, because that's just setting Scott up for disappointment later. Scott's disappointment face is unbearable, like someone stamped on all of his puppies.
Any other day, Stiles would have just checked all the dark corners for a fleeting glimpse of leather jacket and the smell of rage and testosterone. But Derek isn't lurking in any of the dark corners. Stiles even calls his name, just to be sure. There's never a psychopathic werewolf lurking around when you really need one. Typical.
Neither is Derek lurking in his new lair, and he's pretty sure the new puppies are now making jokes about him behind his back. Which is funny, because they're clearly not even house-trained yet.
The house is really the only place left.
So Stiles has to drive all the way out there, then tromp through the woods, because he lacks the necessary olfactory system to sniff out where everyone is, like a total creeper.
He doesn't want to go in the house. The house is fucking creepy, it's a rotting, burnt-out shell, second floor open to the sky, structurally unsound and dangerous as hell. He doesn't know how Derek can keep coming back here. It's a house that's already been choked, gutted, and left to bleed out. The mold is the only thing living in it now, the mold and the bugs. Even the Argents didn't stay long. Even the murderous werewolf hunters rejected the place for its lack of ambiance as a evil lair. He doesn't know how Derek keeps coming back here, doesn't know how he could look at it, walk around inside it, let alone live in it. Or maybe it's some sort of masochistic urge to punish himself - which is a whole new level of depressing and fucked up.
Stiles climbs the steps and every shifting creak sounds like death throes. He steadies himself on one of the posts, and part of it just comes away in his hand with a crunch, until he's left holding splintered wood, and feeling the crawl of startled bugs on his fingers.
"Oh God." He drops it and then wipes his hand on his jeans, until the phantom echoes fades, then wipes it a few more times just to be sure. He decides that, no, he's not going in there without supervision to make sure he's not crushed to death beneath a rotting beam. He turns and makes to head back down the stairs.
Derek's standing six feet away, like the monster in a horror movie, half-dressed like that's perfectly normal for the middle of nowhere. His skin is actually steaming, like he's waiting to take part in some sort of outdoor pursuits photoshoot. Where the word 'photoshoot' could also be replaced by 'porn movie.' Though Stiles thinks the serial killer vibe he gives off would be one of those special interest things - and now his brain has gone to a very bad place, and he has to physically shake himself to make it stop.
"Would you not do that, or wear some sort of bell, squeaky boots, God, anything."
"What do you want?" Derek demands, because he doesn't appreciate Stiles's clever observations, ever.
"Me, I don't want anything. I would rather be far away from here. Scott's the one filling my phone with confused texts - I don't even really know what this means?" Stiles complains, coming down the stairs and tugging his phone out of his pocket, scrolling back to the first message Scott sent him. "He says -"
Derek's fingers fold round his hand, tight enough that he can't pull away. He turns Stiles's wrist until he can see the screen, and Stiles says 'ow' pointedly, which is completely ignored. Then Derek uses Stiles's own thumb to scroll to the next message.
"Hey, private communications - and Ow, my wrist doesn't bend that way."
Derek's frown is very close, and it's all eyebrows.
"Don't you need your other hand so you can follow the words?" Stiles can't resist asking, because he can never resist, and Derek squeezes. Which, yes, kind of hurts. He makes a noise which takes at least ten points off his stoic manliness rating, and Derek lets him go.
Stiles shoves his phone in his pocket before Derek decides to try and take it back, and then shakes his hand until he can feel it again.
"So, yeah, it would be great if you'd give Scott your number, so in the future he can call you up with all his werewolf needs, saving me from being sent into the woods that smell of death and imminent murder, that'd be great."
"How did you know I'd be here?" Derek could make hello sound like an interrogation. He's unfriendly and demanding and this is why no one tells him anything, without all the growling and threats of bodily harm.
Stiles gestures at the house before he really thinks about it, and he doesn't even have to say 'of course you're still haunting the rotted husk of your family home.' He realises pretty quickly that his expression could have phrased that a little better, because now Derek's face is doing that pinched thing it does before he does something violent and painful. Stiles's fight or flight response does its usual demented jump and he ignores it because neither of those are going to help him in the slightest. Hell, running might make Derek chase him on principle, which is terrifying. There should be a third response, possibly enabling human beings to self-destruct at will? Filling whatever's threatening them with human-shrapnel. He's not quite sure how that would be helpful but it would be reassuring to have the option. Or not, really not. What is his brain?
He scrambles for something else to say.
"Besides I figured you needed to get away from the kids for a while anyway. Because I've met them, and, man, I bet that was a disappointment. You probably thought it would be more 'Alpha team leader' and less 'single parent to three teenagers who've decided they're now in the acting out stage of their development.'" He can see the muscles in Derek's jaw working, twitching and grinding and Stiles thinks maybe he's doing absolutely anything but admitting to exactly that. Stiles kind of wonders how that works anyway. What does Derek do when they fight? Because he doesn't seem the sensible parent type. Does he send them to their room, or just scare the shit out of them until they stop? Or maybe he just - smacks them with a rolled up newspaper? He's tempted to ask, because Stiles has never met any luck he hasn't pushed just for the hell of it. But the way Derek's glaring at him he's possibly developed previously unknown psychic powers - and seriously, who's to say that didn't actually happen, there are already werewolves and lizard monsters - and it's not that the idea of psychic werewolves doesn't worry him, because it does. But, really, you have to draw the line somewhere. Because that way lies madness.
The house is looming over them both, even in daylight, and the words juggle their way up his throat without his permission.
"Why do you come here?" Stiles's mouth has never obeyed what his brain tells him is common sense. "I mean this whole place has to be -"
He stops talking, because Derek's face has gone completely flat. It's not even an angry simmer any more, it's just blank, and Stiles knows he's sliding down that slippery slope, and there's nothing good at the bottom. There is, in fact, a whole world of awful at the bottom.
"I'm sorry," Stiles says, because that seems like the sort of thing you say when you blurt shit like that out. But it doesn't come out sounding like he's sorry about that. It comes out sounding like he's sorry about everything. Which is probably a whole sort of messed up, because they're not friends, and Derek still has the potential to be a serial killer, and they don't do anything like this. But he is, sorry, despite all that, and despite the fact that Derek can be a massive dick, he is sorry.
Derek twitches, and Stiles isn't sure whether that's a prelude to him having all his limbs ripped off or just some sort of acknowledgment of the words. But the moment drags on, and Derek doesn't thump him, or growl at him, or in any way attempt to do him terrible violence.
Stiles stands there in the cold next to him, and tries not to think about how he would feel in Derek's place.