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This Is How We Go

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Stiles is totally okay with Scott dragging him out on tour with Allison’s band during their off-season, he really is. And not because they’re ‘co-dependent freaks,’ Jackson – but because, see, Derek Hale’s band is also on tour with Flash Bang Pow, and Derek Hale looks really good in leather pants. Like, seriously awesome, this has always been the case, even back in Beacon Hills. Stiles is thankful for the opportunity to appreciate that up close again.

Wulfaz isn’t his favorite band on Warped or anything – and, honestly, all of the members are scary as shit, Stiles suffered through the better part of high school with them, he’d been extremely intimidated by Erica’s boobs – but Derek is and has always been aesthetically pleasing to look at.

So long as they don’t actually run into each other, Stiles figures he’ll be fine.

*

Stiles loves the food tent. The food tent and Stiles are bros, Stiles loves the food tent’s hot dogs. The food tent and Stiles have a deep, abiding friendship that involves curly fries and sausages.

Stiles is debating whether to wipe his greasy hands on his jeans or not – napkins are a precious commodity, but laundry days are few and far between – when one-fourth of Wulfaz glowers down at him from the end of the table. Awesome.

“You’re not in a band,” Derek says, which is only slightly less than accurate.

Stiles plays the ukulele. For all intents and purposes, though, no, Stiles is not in a band. “Righto,” he says, because there’s obviously something wrong with him. He’s holding his hands up, icky palms out, and feels like an idiot. “Um—”

“Stiles!”

Stiles doesn’t jump, because Stiles has plenty of experience with that kind of yell - he spots a little girl with a mop of curly dark hair running full tilt toward him across the grounds, and Stiles says a quick, “Holy crap, please tell me you didn’t procreate,” to Derek before turning a bright smile on her.

Derek growls, but Stiles ignores him. This is totally his deal, he’s got this.

The little girl, all of four or five, stops just shy of the table, wide-eyed, like she’s suddenly overcome with nerves.

Stiles drops his hands on his knees, leans over a little, and says, “Hey there, muffin, what’s your name?”

Her eyes get wider and she slips her hand into Derek’s. The fact that Derek’s fingers carefully curl over hers makes him die a little bit inside from cute.

Derek finally says, “Sarah,” and tugs her closer to Stiles, and Sarah drags her feet and clings to Derek’s jeans with her other hand, and Stiles says, “Fist bumps are for friends you haven’t made yet,” and holds out his hand.

Sarah grins shyly and reaches out to tap their knuckles together.

*

Sarah is not Derek’s offspring, thank god. Not because Stiles cares, but because Derek has Issues that should not be passed down to innocent children. Issues involving his crazy uncle and his crazy ex-girlfriend.

Stiles does not know these things because he’s a stalker, but because his dad’s the sheriff. Right.

Finding out that Sarah is Erica and Isaac’s, though, doesn’t make him feel a whole lot better.

Seriously. Wulfaz.

*

“I think you’re overly invested in this,” Scott says.

Stiles flails a little and says, “Dude, no.” Stiles is one half of Scott and Stiles: the show. They’re intrepid space explorers, airplane pilots, ninjas, animal adventurers, cans of tomato soup – Stiles is only as invested in this as he should be. “We should do our Who’s That Cowboy bit.”

Scott eyes him from his sprawl on the bus couch. “I’m on vacation.”

“There is a child in need!” Stiles says.

“Are you sure you just don’t want in Derek’s pants?” Scott says, eyes narrowed.

Stiles is outraged. This has nothing to do with Derek’s tiny flash of humanity around Sarah. Stiles had given up on Derek in sophomore year – Stiles’ sophomore year, Stiles is pretty sure Derek had already been of legal age to drink, back then - when Derek had clocked his head against his Jeep for asking about Kate. Granted, bringing up the crazy ex-girlfriend hadn’t been his smartest move, but still. That had been the end of it. Stiles totally doesn’t get off on being pushed around. Really.

“Scott,” Stiles says, “think of all the bored little kids here, don’t you think they deserve a little magic?” Luckily Allison isn’t around to distract him, so Scott can take in the full effect of Stiles’ magic jazz hands.

Scott sighs, tips his head back, and says, “Okay, fine,” to the roof.

*

They recruit Danny for Who’s That Cowboy – he even owns his own cowboy hat and everything, it’s perfect - and Lydia happily sings Painted Pony Macaroni Parade – because everyone’s a fan of ponies, Stiles believes, even beautiful women with suspect hearts - while Stiles does the Robot for a handful of toddlers, their parents and the setup crew for the main stage. It would work better if they had Klaus and his magic camel costume, but the kids seem to enjoy it anyway.

“I have rainbows in my daydreams,” Scott says, and everybody shouts back, “Paint the world!”

*

The weird thing is not that the small town of Beacon Hills produced two semi-successful bands, nor is it really all that weird that they’re on the same tour – FBP was signed three years after Wulfaz; and before Matt the Manager became a creepy Allison death-stalker, he was actually pretty competent at getting FBP noticed.

No, what’s really weird is that Allison’s aunt is Derek’s crazy ex-girlfriend - the one who tried to kill his entire family. And then there was that time when Derek’s Uncle Peter escaped from the mental institution and almost Stockholmed Lydia into stabbing Derek to death.

Derek and Allison spend a lot of time avoiding each other’s eyes. Lydia seems to compensate by buying Derek lots of lattes.

Apparently, nothing says ‘sorry I almost gutted you’ like free caffeine.

*

Stiles has to admit – Wulfaz knows how to put on a show. Stiles doesn’t really get the Creed, my music has deep meaning, feel my man-pain shtick, but Stiles is one half of a kids’ show about imaginary friends, so. So he guesses he doesn’t get to judge.

Besides: Derek in leather pants. It’s a tough thing to get past, basically Stiles spends their whole performance trying to get a glimpse of Derek’s ass.

Afterwards, Derek strips off his sweaty tank top and Stiles gets to see his naked chest for the first time in six years – there was always a lot of stripping going on in Beacon Hills, Stiles didn’t exactly understand it, but he certainly never complained.

Now, though, Stiles definitely doesn’t drool at the manly cut of his abs. No, sir.

Derek smirks at him, swipes his balled up shirt at the sweat dripping down his throat, and, seriously, that should be so much more disgusting than it actually is.

Stiles’ life: so hard.

*

Stiles would never tell Scott this – because Scott is dreamily oblivious to reality around Allison and can be a dickish rage-wad when riled – but Stiles isn’t really a fan of Flash Bang Pow. They’re the kind of folksy pop punk that seems to try too hard, but honestly: Lydia’s legs make up for it.

Lydia has so much leg. Stiles could write poetry to all that leg, they’re epic and they’re all—there. In his face.

“I could kill you with my thighs,” Lydia says without looking up from her magazine and Stiles resists the urge to crack a tasteless joke about Derek and murder.

Instead, Stiles says, “You realize that’s not actually a deterrent.” Lydia is only slightly more out of his league than Derek. Stiles is a TV star to millions of five year olds, he plays Scott’s imaginary friend that’s occasionally a unicorn, he’s under no illusion that this makes him cool.

The smug grin Lydia sends him, though, is actually kind of fond.

*

Jackson is FBP’s guitarist.

Jackson is a douchebag.

Normally, Danny intervenes and forces Jackson to be less of a douchebag, but the difference is only marginal.

Jackson is the kind of handsome you want to throw acid on, not the kind of handsome you want to do. He’s got a special spot in Lydia and Danny’s hearts, though, so Stiles at least tries to be civil.

“How are you outside without a leash?” Stiles says, and Jackson’s jaw tightens so hard Stiles thinks maybe his face will crack. That would be awesome.

“Out of my way, Stilinski,” Jackson says.

Technically, Stiles isn’t in Jackson’s way, but he steps aside anyhow, because he’s a gentleman.

Jackson bumps his shoulder as he strides past; Stiles stumbles, but catches himself before he can take down a passing roadie.

“Good day to you, sir!” Stiles calls after Jackson; he gives a jaunty salute and the roadie laughs.

Stiles eyes him speculatively, the dude’s smile turns flirty, and Stiles thinks, hey, maybe, because not many people appreciate his special brand of—specialness.

*

Stiles puts on a sock puppet show for Sarah and Boyd, because Boyd is the least scary member of Wulfaz and Sarah is sweet as a poptart and cute as Prairie Dawn.

He steals Derek’s leather jacket and sings Wulfaz’s Moon’s Lament in a high squeaky voice – minus all the ‘fucks,’ Derek has a dirty mouth - and Sarah squeals and claps her hands.

Boyd sort of smiles with his eyes, and then his mouth eventually follows and, when a heavy hand lands on his shoulder, Stiles realizes this is most likely because Derek’s standing directly behind him. Oops.

Derek just says, “I’m impressed you know all the words,” though, and Stiles feels a traitorous blush burn in from his ears, traveling up his neck.

So, okay, maybe Stiles owns both of their albums. He’s not a fan. He’s just, uh. Whatever. Curious.

Boyd says, “He knows all of Erica’s Spanish parts, too,” because he’s clearly the worst ever.

“Geez,” Stiles says. Jesus.

Derek honest-to-god laughs, and Stiles wants a recording of that – he wants a video, even, for posterity. Derek laughing is—surreal. Stiles only remembers Derek lurking around town like a creeper, all broody eyebrows and scowling mouth.

Stiles tips his head back and looks up at Derek, upside-down. He says, “Are you having some sort of mental breakdown?”

Derek tightens his grip on his shoulder, almost bruising, but his grin doesn’t falter.

*

Scott says, “You’re hanging out with Wulfaz a lot.”

Stiles squints up at him. The sun is slowly spreading up out from behind the line of buses, and it’s way too early for Stiles to actually be awake. “Yeah?” he says, then shrugs. He doesn’t actually think he’s spending all that much time with Wulfaz. Isaac gives him the creeps, for one.

Granted, he’s ended up eating many a meal with Derek. And apparently he’s become Sarah’s favorite unofficial babysitter, but Stiles is awesome with kids, that’s kind of a given.

Scott gives him a weird look.

“What?”

“Nothing, dude. You’re just—Derek? Again?” Scott looks awkward, with this pained squint to his eyes, and Stiles would laugh at his attempt at a heart to heart if it didn’t involve him and his teenage feelings.

“Uh, no,” Stiles says. No way. No to talking about anything involving his sixteen-year-old self. His sixteen-year-old self was soft like a bunny, he doesn’t need to remind Scott of that fact.

Admittedly, he’s still mostly soft like a bunny, but he’s learned that bunnies can bite. Or something. He’s totally not as cute and fuzzy and lame as he used to be, is what he’s saying.

Scott says, “Seriously,” skeptical, and Stiles says, “Dude, seriously.”

*

Sarah looks up at Stiles, says, “How are you real?” and pokes him in the leg, and Derek says, “Sarah,” in his poking is rude voice, but Stiles just shakes his head at him.

He squats down and takes her hands in his and says, “I’m always real for people who believe in me.”

Stiles used to think that, when he was little: he used to think that Scott was the only one who saw him.

Derek makes a weird noise in the back of his throat.

Stiles grins up at him and says, “What? It’s totally true.”

*

Stiles gets photographed kissing Jim the Roadie, but the PR fallout is minimal, considering Stiles came out as bi three years ago and Jim is hot.

Not, like, Derek or Lydia hot, but hot enough that Stiles isn’t embarrassed by the actually ridiculously clear pic of them sucking face up against an amp. There are arm muscles and Stiles has his hands down the back of Jim’s pants.

Okay, so it’s a little embarrassing. He doesn’t even get how he was recognized at Warped, but, lucky for him, five-year-olds don’t watch much TMZ, so the network doesn’t threaten to fire him – much – and he’s already been getting varying degrees of hate- and hallelujah-mail for years, so other than a parting of ways for him and Jim, everything is peachy keen.

*

Seriously: Erica’s boobs.

Stiles has never been a boob man, he doesn’t really know what to do with them. They’re distracting and terrifying, and Stiles tries very hard to keep his eyes on Erica’s face at all times.

“You’re a moron,” Erica says.

“Okay.” Stiles doesn’t bother to ask why, sometimes it’s better not to know.

Erica rolls her eyes. “I have no idea why I liked you so much in high school.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, then, “No, wait, what?” Because Erica was a heartless vamp in high school, Stiles had nightmares about her literally eating him alive, unhinging her jaw and everything. He wasn’t exactly sure what Erica had felt about him in back then, but it certainly wasn’t like. Stiles had been spastic, like a cartoon character, with a way too expressive face and an inability to lie. He actually never really grew out of that.

Erica just pats his cheek – a little too hard – and saunters away.

*

In the beginning, when Stiles first showed up on the tour, it was like—Stiles couldn’t avoid Derek, even if he tried. The dude was everywhere, alternately smirking and glowering at him, making fun of his food choices, being surprisingly awesome with Sarah.

And now, when Stiles catches his eye as he steps off stage, he gets nothing.

Like, not even a twitch of his lips, he’s got this blank glaze over his eyes, and at first Stiles was like, okay, fine, whatever, but rapidly fades into confusion, and then the confusion becomes mostly hurt and anger.

Really, they were getting along so well, Derek hadn’t even thrown him up against a wall or manhandled him into a vehicle or cracked his knuckles in his face – which happened many times when he was in his junior year of high school, before Wulfaz got signed; Derek breathed on him a lot and threatened to kill him once or twice a month – and Stiles hasn’t missed it at all, for reals.

But that’s beside the point, because Derek still isn’t doing that, but he’s also not hanging out with him and acting vaguely amused at Scott’s expense – Scott gets hilariously earnest around Allison, it’s either laugh at him or get strangled by all the cute – or casually exposing body parts and touching Stiles’ arm or nudging him companionably with his foot or—oh.

Oh, wait.

Stiles is a moron.

*

Allison is a fairy princess, this much Scott and Stiles agree on. Where their opinions differ is that Scott thinks she’s a Disney fairy princess, and Stiles knows she’s more in the Grimm camp of tales – she may be all gooey with her One True Love, but she has a crossbow and she knows how to use it.

Stiles says to Allison, “What do you think of Derek?” and Allison says, deadpan, “I don’t think of Derek,” and Stiles belated remembers that her aunt seduced an underage Derek and tried to burn his house down.

Stiles says, “Uh.”

Allison says, “Good talk, Stiles,” and then goes off to, like, shoot bolts into poor, innocent trees or the Taking Back Sunday bus.

*

This is what Stiles thinks of Derek: he’s pretty awesome.

He seems to have mellowed slightly with age.

And Stiles doesn’t know why exactly, but he seems to smile more, and they’re, like, genuine smiles, not the ones that used to show too much teeth, eyes reflecting all his inner pain. Stiles used to empathize with that, but he totally prefers the new version. Most of them are aimed at Sarah, but still.

It takes some time to track Derek down now that he’s avoiding him, but Stiles is persistent. He finally corners him in a Colorado venue, afternoon sun hot and high, in the shade the Wulfaz bus is throwing at the very end of the parking lot.

“You’re avoiding me,” Stiles says.

Derek’s scowl says, you’re not significant enough to avoid, but Stiles knows better.

At least, he thinks he does. Erica thinks he does, and while there is a chance Erica just wants to see him humiliated, Stiles is going to give it a go anyway.

Stiles does a lot of inadvisable things. It’s not that he doesn’t think things through – he does, and then he decides to do them anyway, because sometimes that’s the only option. So he knows this is probably a bad idea, but if by some chance it ends up good, it’ll end up really good, so—

So, Stiles goes ahead and curls his fingers into Derek’s jacket and leans forward and kind of ends up with his lips on top of Derek’s.

He wouldn’t exactly classify it as a kiss. Just kind of a forceful meeting of mouths.

Which is a good thing, because Derek mostly just stands there like a robot – he glares at Stiles after he’s drawn back, then turns around and walks away.

*

It’s not like Stiles gets laid a lot. He hardly gets laid at all, it’s kind of tragic. So he made out with Jim the Roadie a little, it wasn’t a big deal. He’s had exactly two relationships since high school, the last one had ended a year and a half ago, and it was pretty much widely known, much to Stiles’ horror, that Stiles had been a virgin until, like, his last year of college.

So Derek has no business looking at him like he’s some kind of manwhore.

Like Stiles has offended his maidenly sensibilities.

“What did you do?” Lydia says, sounding only half interested, and probably only because Derek gave Stiles the cut direct at the front of the hot dog line.

Stiles says, “I kissed him,” because he’s been dying to tell somebody. Somebody who is not Scott.

Lydia stares at him for a long second. Then, “So you finally found your balls.”

Stiles makes a face, seriously? He says, “It doesn’t matter, it was a mistake.”

Lydia waves him off and says, “At least you did it,” and while Stiles always basks happily when caught in Lydia’s radar, he definitely wishes she’d leave it alone – he did it, yeah, but it still kind of hurts, because Derek is awesome, and Stiles is invested. So it sucks. That Derek isn’t. And also apparently thinks Stiles is scum.

But, whatever, it was just a stupid kiss, that’s it.

Stiles shrugs and says, “I guess.”

*

It gets worse, because of course it gets worse. The entirety of Wulfaz gets mean – like maybe Stiles committed some unforgivable sin by kissing Derek, like he gave him communicable cooties. Isaac keeps tripping him, he’s got bloody elbows and a scrape along his chin, and the only highlight in that pit of darkness is Allison offering to crack some skulls.

Allison offering to crack some skulls will never not be simultaneously adorable and terrifying.

Stiles does not take her up on that offer, though, tempting as it may be. Stiles prefers to become a unicorn. Because – obviously - unicorns don’t have to talk about their feelings. Or at all. He says to Scott, “I’m being a unicorn right now,” because it’s not like Stiles will ever be completely silent, and Scott has to understand that he’s a unicorn and not, like, straight up ignoring him.

“You’re being a child,” Scott says.

Stiles makes a face and signs fuck off in magical unicorn language.

“Seriously,” Scott says, like he can’t believe him, only whatever, they agreed about unicorn rules when they were six. Which, okay, may prove Scott’s point. Ugh.

Still. He writes GO AWAY in Danny’s lyric notebook and holds it above his head, glaring at Scott.

He’s maybe not handling this rejection as well as he’d originally thought.

*

Boyd is apparently the only one who’s ever actually seen his show, and responds to Stiles’ pointed silence with a frown, a, “Unicorn, right, you should have said,” and a clap to the back.

Which, uh.

Said what, exactly?

*

Stiles is picking at the Phineas and Ferb bandage on his left elbow, staring absently down at his pile of fries, when Erica drops down next to him – Stiles freezes and hopes Erica doesn’t push his face into his ketchup.

“Boyd says you become a unicorn when you’re upset, which is really fucking weird,” Erica says.

Stiles bites his mouth around a defensive: so? It’s been almost a full day, he’s never been a unicorn for this long before, it’s starting to get more painful than convenient.

He stuffs a handful of fries in his mouth and forces a grin at her.

She leans one arm on the table and arches an eyebrow.

“You know,” she says a little absently, “you shouldn’t go around kissing everybody on tour, people could get the wrong idea.”

“What?” Stiles says before he can help it.

Erica looks smug, but honestly, getting Stiles to talk isn’t all that hard if you’re actually trying. She pops one of his fries into her mouth and says, “Just saying.”

“No,” Stiles says, flailing, “no, you do not just say that, because I kissed Jim, because I thought Derek wouldn’t want me to kiss him, and then I kissed Derek, because you practically told me to kiss him, and, okay, maybe I kissed Danny, but that was just to get on Jackson’s nerves, he’s hilarious when he’s protective of Danny, and it was, like, just a peck, anyway, and then I kiss Scott all the time, but those are almost always cheek kisses, except for that time when Allison paid us money, but really, it’s Allison, you can’t say no to a girl who owns deadly weapons, so—”

Erica smushes his lips shut with her fingers. “I get it,” she says.

Stiles tries to say, okay, but she doesn’t let his lips free.

“Derek has Issues,” she says, and Stiles makes his eyes say, thank you, because, yes, Derek has so many Issues, the capitalization is important here, he’s really glad Erica agrees with him on this.

Erica says, “Don’t worry, I’m going to help you out.”

*

Erica helping him out apparently consists of shoving him up the Wulfaz bus steps and then having Boyd stand in front of the door so he can’t get back out. This is fantastic.

Derek looks up and glares at him from his sprawl on the sofa, his eyes accusing him of a million and one things that Stiles probably isn’t even capable of, and suddenly Stiles has had it. Had. It.

“Is this about the Jim thing? Because if it wasn’t for the Jim thing, I probably never would have figured it out.”

Derek remains silent and broody, only his eyebrows look slightly less murderous, so that’s something.

“And by figuring it out, I mean that you didn’t want me to kiss Jim. I figured that meant you wanted me to kiss you, but I’ve obviously gotten something wrong here, so you’re going to have to use your words, I’m sick of getting beat up by Isaac because you’re being a girl.”

The broody look has jumped all the way past glaring again and Derek says, “Get out.”

Stiles holds out his hands and backs up. “Oh, believe me, I’d love to get out, but Boyd and Erica are outside making damn sure I can’t.”

Derek slowly gets to his feet and starts looming aggressively. He says, “I don’t want to kiss you,” and, okay, Stiles has to smile a little bit at that, even if Derek’s tone isn’t all that encouraging.

“You saying that makes me think the opposite, dude,” Stiles says. “Also, I’m pretty sure you’ve got the emotional range of an eight-year-old.” Erica’s right, this is helping him.

Derek looks downright petulant. He stalks over to Stiles and Stiles holds his ground – he’s ninety-six percent certain Derek isn’t going to hit him. He cages Stiles up against the tiny kitchenette counter, though, and when he kisses Stiles, it’s angry; it feels like he’s trying to prove a point.

There’s no way Stiles is going to go along with that.

Stiles presses his hands up against Derek’s chest, pushes him back. He tears his mouth away and says, “We’re going to have to talk about this.”

Derek grins with teeth, but Stiles can spot the wariness in his eyes.

Stiles takes a shaky breath. He says, “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I’m not very good at casual.”

Derek shrugs and says, “I’m not very good at any of this at all.”

“Really?” Stiles says, tightness in his chest loosening. “I totally hadn’t noticed.”

*

“Are you still a unicorn?” Sarah says. She’s got her hands on her hips, an assessing eye taking all of him in. “You don’t look like a unicorn. You’re only a unicorn when you’re sad, you don’t look sad.”

Seriously, how does a kid this cute get to be a Lahey?

“I was sad,” Stiles says. “But the thing about being sad is that you’re not always sad, are you?”

Sarah thinks about it, biting her lower lip, and then shakes her head. She says, “When I’m sad Uncle Derek gives me piggyback rides, and then I feel not sad anymore,” and seriously, seriously, Stiles has absolutely no defense against that.

*

Stiles says, “You need to not kiss me like you want my face to die,” fingers curled in the hair on Derek’s nape. “My face is nice and kindly, my face wants your face to be less angry and stop using so much teeth.”

Derek bites at Stiles neck and Stiles groans a little and amends, “Okay, no, you can totally still use teeth.”

*

Scott says, “So this is a thing now. A you and Derek thing.”

“I cannot confirm or deny that,” Stiles says loftily, “but for the record, being a unicorn totally worked.”

“You mean you and Derek deserve each other,” Scott says, grinning like he’s said something clever.

“I think we need to bring more joy to the children,” Stiles says. “I think we need to dress as pirates and do the Scott is a Terrible Pirate skit, because you are a terrible pirate,” and when Stiles says pirate, Stiles means friend. Scott is a terrible, horrible friend, and Stiles hates him.

Scott just continues to grin at him, even wider now, and says, “Arrrrgh.”

*

Scott and Stiles have spent an entire month with Warped by the time they have to head back into the studio and start writing for season four of Scott and Stiles.

And what Stiles knows now is: Derek has feelings. Derek has so many feelings, it’s like he has to project this evil robot calm just to keep them all safely contained deep within his soul, just so he doesn’t start having daily crying jags or something. Stiles doesn’t want him to have daily crying jags, but it would be nice if he told Stiles that he’ll miss him.

“Please,” Stiles says, “stop it with the teary goodbye, you’re breaking my heart,” while Derek glowers at him from his bunk and Stiles sits cross-legged on the floor, and neither of them get teary-eyed.

Stiles leans forward and rests his arms on the end of the thin mattress. He sighs and says, “I’ll miss you,” because Derek isn’t going to say it, but Stiles is pretty sure he feels it anyhow.

Derek just tugs on his wrists until Stiles crawls into the narrow space with him, legs and hips overlapping – Stiles settles with his head tucked under Derek’s chin, listening to the rapid, telling lub-dub of his heart.

*

They rent a car in San Francisco, because they’re close to home anyway. Scott spends fifteen million minutes saying goodbye to Allison – they rub noses and murmur to each other and it would make Stiles sick if it wasn’t just so sappy and adorable.

Stiles climbs Derek like a tree and says, “See ya, big guy,” and sucks on his tongue to pass the time. That’s the only reason. Really.

Derek has a bemused smile when he lets him go, and Stiles pats his pocket where he has his cell phone, Derek’s number carefully programmed in.

Derek nods and says, “Call me,” and it’s maybe not the grandest declaration of love that ever was, but for Derek it’s a pretty big step.

Stiles squeezes his hand and says, “You, too.”

*

“I think we should write a song about friendship,” Scott says, levering his seat back so he can practically lie down while Stiles drives.

“We have, like, a thousand songs about friendship,” Stiles says. Friendship is what they’re all about.

“We should still write another one,” Scott says, and Stiles can recognize that squinty tilt of his head when Scott gets stubborn.

Stiles says, “Sure, sure. It’ll be epic,” because all songs about friendship should be epic, because friendship is the biggest and best form of love in the entire universe, Stiles is sure of this.

And because Scott is the master of talking sideways, he says, “You’ll never leave me for Derek, right,” and it’s not a question, and Stiles stares straight ahead, fingers suddenly tight on the steering wheel.

Stiles is serious when he says, “Like you’ll never leave me for Allison,” but he’s not, like, bitter about it, because Stiles is not actually Scott’s imaginary friend, he knows this now.

“Right,” Scott says, because maybe they’re not talking about leaving so much as they’re talking about friendship, his and Scott’s – which: epic - and Stiles is never not going to be Scott’s best friend for real, no matter what.

*

Stiles spends the short week in between writing and taping Scott and Stiles in Beacon Hills. He takes the long, winding drive back to the old Hale place, just because.

The family moved closer to town after the whole Kate Argent crazy-pants thing, and now it’s just a big, old abandoned house, spooky, like the woods surrounding it are slowly trying to swallow it whole.

He calls Derek from the porch and says, “Guess where I am?”

“On my porch,” Derek says, and Stiles jumps about ten feet in the air when a hand comes down on his shoulder from behind.

“Holy crap,” Stiles says, scrambling not to drop his cell. “Holy crap, you’re such an asshole.”

Derek grins down at him and, wow, is that a fantastic sight to see, Stiles almost doesn’t care that he practically had a heart attack and died.

“I wrote you a love song,” Stiles says, blurts out, because his body can’t hold all his breath, he’s so unnervingly happy to see him. “Well, it’s about epic friendship, but as it turns out,” he cocks his head, “it’s mostly about you.” It’s true, and Scott was mostly okay with that, and he was mostly okay with that because Stiles kicked him in the shins and reminded him about sharing.

Derek tries to scowl at him, but he honestly just looks constipated, and, oh god, has Stiles missed that. Stiles has missed that so hard, Derek is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to him and he doesn’t care.

“You want to come in?” Derek says, holding the door open on his abandoned, creepy house, like all the spider webs and dirt and raccoons just make it more homey. Seriously: weird.

Stiles has been a goner since the very beginning. Since before and after Derek slammed his head against his Jeep with deep meaning; he’s stopped lying to himself about that a while ago now.

Stiles says, “Yes, I most certainly do.”