Derek knows he has a problem.
There are photographs everywhere. He finds them in the kitchen, between boxes of cereal like prizes waiting to be discovered. He finds them pressed between the pages of Tolstoy and Dickens and Kerouac and Kesey. He finds a picture taped inside his medicine cabinet.
Derek finds a Polaroid under his bed one day when he’s cleaning. He can see a bent knee in cut-off shorts and a chin pressed on top of it. The corner of the Polaroid catches the edge of a face and a smile curves upwards and Derek can imagine the bright eyes that match the mouth.
He stares at the picture for a long time.
“What if we go to the woods?” Lydia asks, and a beam of sunlight cuts across her face. Stiles snaps a picture, ignoring Lydia’s protests, and pinches the corner of the Polaroid with two fingers. He watches it develop slowly, color slowly leaking through the black, and shifts forward when Lydia leans closer to see. “Not too bad,” she says.
That’s practically a glowing endorsement. Stiles tucks the snapshot into a book sitting by her bed and says, “Jackson’s the only person you need to convince. Allison and Scott will come because they’re jumping at the bit to see each other.”
Lydia hums under her breath and takes the camera from Stiles and snaps a picture of him. The picture develops and Stiles has a funny expression on his face, as usual. Lydia smirks and tucks the picture with the first. “That’s not going to be a problem,” she says.
Lydia twists her body to reach into her back pocket and Stiles takes a moment to admire the curve of her waist beneath her floral shirt. She hands him a ten dollar bill. “Make mama proud.”
Scott is Stiles’ best friend, but even Stiles can’t explain Scott’s fascination with wolf t-shirts. “Dude,” he says, “another one, really?”
Scott grins like he’s proud of it. The shirt is a muted green and a gray wolf howls up at the full moon above his heart. Stiles knows what comes next and he isn’t disappointed as Scott says, “I got it at the thrift shop. Isn’t it awesome?”
Stiles is Scott’s best friend for a reason, though, so he doesn’t rib him too hard when he says, “Yeah, sure. It’s not like you have a million of them or anything.”
Scott, the bastard, only laughs. “Hey, man, I don’t say anything about your shorts.”
Stiles looks down at his cut-offs but doesn’t see anything wrong with them. They end at his knees and are frayed at the edges. He wiggles his toes in his red keds and says, “Scott, those things are not even on the same level.”
Stiles snaps a picture of him anyway and sets it by Scott’s computer. He watches as the film develops and realizes he’s only caught half of Scott’s face, caught in a laugh, and that the focus is more on Scott’s shirt anyway.
Stiles grins. “So, hey, party. You in?”
“Like I was going to say no,” Scott laughs. “I’ll call Allison.”
Stiles holds out a hand and Scott forks over a twenty.
Derek wears band shirts and goes to house shows in other towns and emphatically does not buy Stiles alcohol. At least, that’s what he tells himself as he stands in front of the vodka shelf at the liquor store. The kid always has money, though, and gives Derek some extra cash to buy himself a pack of PBR. Not that Derek can’t afford to buy his own, but hey - free beer is free beer and only idiots turn that down.
It also helps that Stiles shares his weed with him sometimes and Derek just doesn’t have the connections in town that Stiles does. Derek supposes that it’s his own fault that he has close to no contacts in Beacon Hills, but - aside from a few people - he keeps himself separate from the town for a reason.
Derek just wishes Stiles had better taste in vodka, because Skol? Seriously? Nothing screams skeevy underage party like Skol vodka. He grabs a handle and makes his way to the front of the store, digging his wallet out of his back pocket.
He isn’t paying attention to where he’s going, which is why he runs head first into the sheriff - which is really the opposite of great. Derek tries not to scowl, but probably fails. He mutters an apology, content to continue his way to the counter but Sheriff Stilinski stops him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, you haven’t seen my boy, have you?”
Shit. Shitty-shitty-shit-fuck, Derek thinks. This is it, he’s been caught, he knows he shouldn’t have said yes to Stiles about this. Derek manages to firmly say, “No sir, I haven’t.”
If Derek ever gets out of this, he is never talking to Stiles again - no matter what quality weed the kid can get his hands on and no matter that Stiles has the kind of lips Derek would love to bite.
The sheriff shakes his head. “Ah, don’t worry about it.” - Derek should not be thinking these thoughts around Stiles’ dad - “Skol, really?”
Derek ignores the way Sheriff Stilinski raises an eyebrow and shrugs. “Well, you know, it’s cheap.”
“Well, you’ve got that right,” Sheriff Stilinski laughs. “I’ll let you go. If you see Stiles, let him know I’m looking for him.”
Derek wonders why Stiles’ dad would ask him that, but he doesn’t try to read into it any further than he has to.
Jackson wears an inordinate amount of scarves for the summertime. Lydia takes advantage of them by grabbing them in the front and dragging Jackson into Beacon Hill’s nearest - and only - coffee shop.
“Christ, Lydia -” he nearly yells.
Lydia pushes him down on one of the comfy couches and points a finger at him to make him stay before turning on a heel to order two coffees. Jackson takes his with two sugars, but Lydia takes hers black. She likes the bitter taste it leaves in the back of her mouth.
Jackson is right where she left him and she graces him with a smile. She hands his coffee to him and then tucks a leg under her body, straightens her shirt with nimble fingers. “We’re having a party.”
His confusion is thick in the air and she grins with teeth, like a predator. “Okay? We have parties all the time.”
“We’re having a party in the woods,” she clarifies. “On the full moon."
He stares at her, but her smirk grows as she notices that he doesn’t say no. “McCall is going to piss his pants in excitement.”
Lydia doesn’t disagree.
They finish their coffees in relative silence.
They loiter outside the coffee shop for a few minutes while Lydia smokes a Bali Hai. The cigarette leaves an acrid scent curling around them, but Jackson doesn’t say anything. It suits her, he thinks, because it’s just as bitter as she is.
Derek stumbles over them on accident. They’re all out in the woods - every single one of those idiots who Stiles hangs out with. Stiles’s Jeep is parked at the edge of the clearing and behind it another car - Lydia’s, maybe? - is parked.
Speaking of Lydia, she’s sitting in the driver’s seat of the Jeep, nursing something from a blue plastic cup. Jackson leans on the door frame next to her, matching cup in his hands. A half empty jug of fruit punch sits at their feet.
Scott and Allison are wrapped up in each other by a crudely cobbled fire, murmuring quietly to each other.
Stiles - Stiles is on his back on the ground. There is paint on his face. Now that he notices the paint on Stiles, he sees that the others have paint smeared across their skin too. A giant sheet of plywood lays next to the fire and in the flickering light Derek can see that it too is covered in different swirls of paint.
Jackson notices him lurking first and laughs. Scott and Allison turn around and Derek can see the reds and blues streaked underneath their eyes. Allison has blue fingerprints on her jaw. They look eerie in the light of the fire.
Lydia merely smiles in his direction and Derek has never felt so unsettled by a group of teenagers before.
Stiles is the last to turn his attention to him. He pushes to his elbows and twists around and his white shirt is covered in color. There are two red hand prints where he’s had his hands on his stomach and something about it makes Derek’s stomach ache and his jaw clench.
Stiles doesn’t say anything, for once, so Derek fills in the silence, “You’re trespassing on private property.”
This makes Stiles laugh, full and loud. He says, “What are you going to do? Call the cops? ‘Cause I’ve got to tell you, man, my dad’s the sheriff. I’ll bring you down with me.”
Kid’s got a point, Derek concedes. Providing alcohol to minors weighs more than trespassing does.
Stiles stares at him. Derek stares back.
Derek is the first to break. “Pour me a drink,” he says.
“Get it yourself,” Stiles laughs.
Now that it seems the danger has passed, everyone lightens up. Allison is laughing at Scott and Lydia slides out of the Jeep, more graceful than she has any right to be, and pushes Jackson against it. Even when Derek angles his eyes away, he can still hear the slick slide of their mouths.
“Why are you out in the woods anyway?” Derek asks.
Stiles laughs again, quieter this time. “Because we’re wild things,” he says eventually.
Behind them, Scott quietly howls in agreement, “Aroo.”
“I’ve been wooing you,” Stiles says eventually. He reaches over to pluck something out of the ground and hands it to Derek. “This flower is for you. I like you.”
Derek stares at the flower for a moment before he takes it. He looks over at Stiles, but Stiles is looking up at the stars again. Instead of adding anything meaningful, Derek points out a constellation and says, “That’s Lupus. It’s said it has the head and torso of a man, but the legs and tail of a wolf.”
Stiles rolls on his side toward him and Derek can see that his eyes are still a little glazed from the alcohol and his mouth is red from the punch. “I had a dream you were a wolf one night. I woke up with the taste of dirt in my mouth.”
He leans forward and presses his mouth against Derek’s. It’s barely a kiss, just a dry slide of lips, but when Stiles pulls back Derek imagines he can taste the earth too.
Derek almost misses what Stiles says next, because it’s said so softly with a lilt like a song, “If only, if only they knew what me and the moon have going.”
Later, when the sun is just beginning to peek through the trees, Derek goes through the books. The Polaroids are still tucked into the same pages he found them between and something Stiles said the previous night stuck with him until the bright light of morning. He scans Tolstoy and Dickens and Kerouac, but he finds it in Kesey.
“They wouldn’t be so cocky if they knew what me and the moon have going.”
He isn’t sure how he missed it before, because Stiles has bracketed the quote in pencil. The snapshot that accompanies the words is half a face covered in a mask. Derek can’t tell who it is.
Derek picks up Great Expectations, Laura’s copy. The pages are well worn and still smell like her perfume and he hurts when he picks it up. He flips to the Polaroid encased inside, a delicate purple flower, and finds Stiles’ pencil markings in this book:
”Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”
In Anna Karenina, behind a picture of what looks like baby teeth:
”Is it really possible to tell someone else what one feels?”
Derek opens his copy of Big Sur and reads the quote tucked behind a picture of the moon, ripe and fat in the black sky:
”On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars - Something good will come out of all things yet - And it will be golden and eternal just like that - There’s no need to say another word.”
Derek finds all of these lines that Stiles carefully marked out for him. He thinks, ’how did I miss this?”
Derek sits on the porch steps of his big, empty house. He hears the squeal of tires before he looks up to see the Jeep the noises belong to.
Stiles comes bounding up to the house, stopping short when he sees Derek. He’s got his camera in his hands and when Derek half smiles at him, Stiles snaps a picture.
Derek wonders if he’ll find this picture tucked into some dusty corner of his house later.
He doesn’t say anything at first and for once, neither does Stiles.
Finally, Derek mutters, “I like your shoes.”
Stiles’ answering laugh is bright and full. He looks at the picture in his hands and he says, “I think I’ll keep this one.”