If there's one thing Stiles never brings up in front of Derek, it's fire.
Derek's not some delicate, frail flower, that's for certain, but neither is Stiles, and there's still a small part of him that appreciates it when Scott keeps his Mothers' Day plans to himself or whatever. Maybe he's not an expert on the subject, but he at least knows that, no matter how strong you are, losing someone hurts, and the fact that Derek lost his entire family and his home sticks out to Stiles as something to tread carefully around.
So he just never breaches the topic, and if by the off chance it comes up, he doesn't dwell on it long. All he knows is if there's somebody on the face of the planet who has enough respect for him to know his wounds (even if it's just Scott) then Derek, of all people, deserves that respect as well. Maybe even more so than Stiles.
And even if it's ridiculous, he tries to avoid movies that have to do with fires, too. Just in case.
But it's one night that Sheriff Stilinski is out late, interviewing witnesses of a house fire a few streets away and trying to sort out the identities of particularly messy victims when he and Derek are halfway through Black Swan, and Stiles is a little bit more bored than he thought he would be.
Derek doesn't seem to be fairing any better, though, so he does something that he hardly ever does while in the presence of Stiles. He breaches conversation.
"Isn't your dad normally home by now?" Derek asks gruffly. It's immediately apparent that he's not really interested as much as trying to distract himself, and Stiles can't help but feel a little bit guilty. Still, it's a testament to their relationship that the werewolf hasn't just up and left.
His gaze drifts to the ceiling and blinks. "Yeah, he just," he thinks about what his dad had told him -- really bad fire, people hurt, possibly dead -- and thins his lips, "has some stuff with work. Y'know." His sentence dies in midair.
But Derek, ever the pragmatist, sits up a bit and regards Stiles darkly. "Were there more animal attacks?" he asks quietly, and Stiles knows that he means werewolf attacks, but it's not something that needs to be vocalized to be understood.
So he just simply shakes his head. "Nope. Nothing a werewolf could have done -- or, I mean, I guess a werewolf could have done it, but a human could have, too. And it's just more likely that a normal human did it, right?" He realizes he's rambling, and he knows it's going to raise questions that he can't answer without lying (and he knows how well that's going to work out) but he can't seem to stop himself. "Then again, though, with all the sudden werewolf activity --"
"Stiles, shut up." Derek sighs, exasperated, and Stiles puts his hands up defensively, his mouth firmly closed. "Do you know if anybody's hurt, though?"
I can practically see this conversation derailing, Stiles finds himself thinking, and he can't lie, not when Derek can hear his pulse, not when he's the worst liar on the planet anyway. So he opens his mouth and hopes for the best. "Yes." he answers shortly, and if there's grievous injury or death involved, well, Stiles is none the wiser, isn't he?
Derek furrows his brow, and he grabs the television remote from Stiles' limp hand and quickly mutes the movie just as Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis start going down on each other. Stiles opens his mouth to object, but Derek speaks first.
"What happened?" he asks, and it's not accusatory, or theatrical, really, not until Stiles thinks about it and realizes he's sitting in the dark of his house with a werewolf and borderline lesbian porn on his television. He realizes that this scene probably couldn't look any more surreal (unless the two of them were naked or something.)
But it's a simple question, a casual inquiry, and Derek's still leaning against the back of the sofa, and Stiles still couldn't lie even if Derek wasn't a werewolf, because this is the closest thing they've had to a legitimate discussion in... well, Stiles isn't sure they've ever had a legitimate discussion.
So he just tells the truth.
"House fire." he blurts out, and his mouth starts running, and he kind of just wants to find the deepest, darkest closet in the house and hide there until his dad comes home. "It was really bad, I guess, a lot of people hurt, twelfth degree burns and all that. There might be people dead, I think. I mean, maybe. You never know."
Derek doesn't seemed fazed, though, and he even nods as if this is just... normal information to him. So Stiles tries to move on before things can get bad, because, somehow, they're not bad already. He points to the TV and chuckles nervously.
"So are we gonna watch girls making out or are we gonna watch girls making out?"
Derek doesn't relinquish his grip on the remote. "One more question."
Oh, for Christ's sake.
The werewolf tosses the remote back to Stiles, and he fumbles around to try to catch it, and it somehow still ends up in his lap. He grits his teeth, and he's not sure if he's more humiliated by his lack or coordination or if he's just anxious about whatever Derek's about to say. His life isn't a soap opera, no matter what Jackson might sometimes insist, and all he really wants to do is watch the lesbian ballerinas and then maybe play some Uncharted.
"You know I'm not some traumatized little girl, right?"
And Stiles is ready for Derek to whip out the red eyes or something, because he does seem a bit more ruffled than he did a few moments ago, but he's surprisingly still alive after indirectly condescending to Derek goddamn Hale, and by God, he's going to take his chance to explain.
"Listen!" he says almost immediately, and he puts his hands up, the remote being flung onto the floor. "I know, it's just... I dunno, it didn't seem like something I should bring up. You're all dark and broody and... wolf." He nods. "Wolf, yeah, but it doesn't change the fact that your family died, I dunno. If I were you, I'd appreciate the gesture." He thinks about those words, and then quickly amends, "I'm not you or anything, though, so --"
"What happened to your mother, Stiles?"
The question is so abrupt that it cuts Stiles off immediately, makes his words stuff themselves up in the back of his throat, and he makes a small strangled sound before swallowing whatever he was about to say and trying to process what Derek just said. The older man doesn't look all that agitated anymore; if anything, he looks more coolly interested than actually curious, and --
He knows what happened to Stiles' mom, and Stiles really doesn't appreciate it.
But he's in no position to argue with Derek right now, so he just shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath.
"She died, Derek, you know that."
He knows Derek's gone before he opens his eyes, and it pisses him off. He snatches the remote from the floor and shuts the movie off, kicks gently at the coffee table, and retires to his room, giving up on the notion of waiting for his father.
Months later, Stiles will refer to that conversation as the exact moment where his and Derek's relationship morphed into something strange and alien to them both. He doesn't know now, though. And neither of them will ever know why.
He's working on a project for chemistry at his computer when he feels claws press to his neck, and he sighs at the inevitable.
"You sound like you've been waiting." Derek says casually behind him, and Stiles leans back, feeling the claws grow longer to accommodate for the additional space. Stiles cracks his neck in one direction, and he can feel the way the tips are placed precisely to make his death painful and messy.
He slowly closes out of the programs on his desktop and locks his computer -- if he's about to be murdered, he doesn't want his dad finding the translated bestiary, or the porn. "I expected some creativity, to be honest." Stiles sighs. "And if you're wondering, yes, this is fatal situation number three of seven, Derek edition."
"You mapped out all the hypothetical ways I could kill you?"
Stiles puts a finger up to correct him. "Would kill me. It was only a matter of time after being a dick to you, I guess, but after the long wait I'm not finding myself all that remorseful."
Behind him, the werewolf huffs a sound in the back of his throat that sounds somewhat disappointed. Stiles doesn't feel bad. Not really.
Derek's hand moves so that his claws are no longer resting against Stiles' neck but his bare fingers -- not tightly as to strangle him, but as if they're just resting there, taking hold of whatever's there. "You honestly thought I'd break into your room and kill you?"
He rolls his eyes, and he can practically feel Derek's breath against the back of his neck, doesn't flinch away from it or feel the hairs on his skin raise. This is Derek, and Derek's like this, but Derek's not stupid and would never risk his relationship with Scott just because he's mildly irked. "No, of course not. But it's a way to keep myself occupied in class. Or when the Adderall doesn't wear off in time and I'm left awake all night."
Behind him, Derek hums as he thinks. Stiles really couldn't be any more relaxed, so he waits.
"Because of Scott?"
"Well, yeah, that." The rest of the sentence is left hanging in the air, because Stiles finds it redundant to mention that Derek just wouldn't kill him.
He just wouldn't. Stiles knows it, and, to some extent, so does Derek.
"The only question remaining," Stiles start slowly, lacing it with a bit of melodrama, "is whether or not my throat would end up on the bed or somewhere outside in the bushes."
"So that's how this pans out. Hypothetically."
"Not all at once, but yeah."
Derek's silent, but his fingers drum and odd sort of confusing pattern against the side of Stiles' neck, and he's probably in way over his head, but he really can't bring himself to be surprised or even bothered.
So Derek's the one who speaks first. "Alright. Walk me through it."
Stiles only has a moment or two to puzzle over this before the werewolf's free hand is on his other shoulder and the one previously wrapped around his neck moves to grasp roughly at the front of his shirt, and he yelps in surprise as he's dragged not-so-kindly from his chair into a standing position. Derek doesn't look angry, though, or like he's about to kill -- his expression is open, like he's learning something, or whatever.
"So far, so good?" he asks, without sarcasm or implication, and Stiles can only nod, taking a moment to swallow before speaking.
He gestures towards the opposite corner of the room. "Now you have the choice of either hurling me across the room or slamming me into the wall." He shrugs. "I could never make a decision, personally, both seem like they would hurt pretty bad."
Derek's eyebrows knit together, and the fist grasping Stiles' shirt pushes against his chest gently, backing him up until he lands softly against the wall. Derek still looks confused, and Stiles sighs.
"You're trying to kill me, remember?" he says. "You're acting as if I'm making you do this."
The werewolf blinks. "Then what?"
Stiles takes a deep breath and tries to remember exactly how this scenario panned out when he had imagined it -- did he get stabbed in the stomach next or smashed in the head? He shrugs as he tries to think. "I dunno, if you wanna go for any theatrics, now's the time to do it. Roar or something, if you want."
"Don't patronize me, Stiles." It's the first time Derek looks actually aggravated (well, tonight, anyway,) and Stiles is suddenly hyperaware that he's helping a werewolf map out his murder.
He rolls his eyes. "Fine, just skip to the throat-ripping part, I don't care."
"Straight out, from left to right, what?" Derek asks, and his expression is honest, open. "You have to pay more attention to the details. Not everything is blood and guts and gore."
"How sick do you think I am?" Stiles asks, just a tad bit offended.
"Enough to hypothetically plan your own murder. Seven times."
Stiles nods, almost as if he's not bothered by fact (maybe he's even proud of it.) "And that's just you. Don't even get me started on any of the Argents, or Jackson, or hell, even my dad could probably do some crazy --"
The fingers are around his throat again, and he takes that as a cue to stop talking, because as much as Derek's being oddly congenial this evening (if pretending to murder him counts as that) then he definitely doesn't want to test his temper.
"Mind if I take some creative liberties?" Derek asks quietly, and Stiles finds it odd that he's refusing to make eye contact now, keeping his gaze trained on the hand currently wrapped around Stiles' neck.
So he shrugs. "Be my guest."
That's the mistake that brings everything he's uprooted, everything he's destabilized, everything he's changed and morphed and twisted and warped, crashing down around him.
Stiles wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, his chest heaving and his hands scrabbling for purchase against the mattress or the headboard or something, because there are ghostly sensations of teeth catching on his lips and claws scratching at his sides and ribs, and things that couldn't have been dreams because not even his imagination is that vivid.
"You were the one that cracked first, Stilinski." Derek tells him the next time they're together, as if it's the weather or the exact percentage of air pollution over the Colorado area or something equally as boring.
But Stiles just frowns. "Yeah, shut up and watch the lesbian ballerinas."
He doesn't consider it any sort of mark against his masculinity that he actually feels comfortable around Derek Hale, and both he and Derek know that the sentiment will be mutual soon enough, if it isn't already, but it's still an odd feeling to have Derek's arm slung over the sofa behind him and not expect impending pain.
Then again, Stiles muses, he never trusted this relationship in the first place.