It's not that Derek minds, specifically, it's more that he's not used to the way Stiles fit himself (and Stiles did all the fitting and pushing and shaping all by himself, without Derek even realising what he was actually doing) into Derek's life, so it's a bit unnerving when he walks into his room and sees Stiles on his bed, belly-first on the naked mattress, legs spread ever so slightly, casually flipping the pages of a book.
Which, okay, Derek didn't even know Stiles had enough of an attention span to read.
"Doesn't that hurt?" he says lieu of a greeting, gesturing to the way Stiles' shirt has rucked up past his abdomen. The mattress isn't soft by any means, which keeps Derek slightly more awake at night. Fitful sleep means less nightmares, he's discovered, and Alphas don't need to wake up in the middle of the night feeling like there are flames running through their veins.
"Mm," Stiles says, as if he's barely heard a word. Knowing Stiles, he most probably hasn't. "S'not bothering you, s'it?"
Derek, quite honestly, would be running towards the hills if his feet would listen to him. He's not used to this, not used to Stiles on his bed, not used to the morning light filtering through the boarded-up windows, not used to the pale hands spread across the pages of one of his books. Derek's not a runner, he's not that kind of coward, but he likes routine, he likes security, he likes knowing what's what and where everything is going to be and how the world works.
Stiles -- Derek doesn't know how Stiles works, he knows the easy things like how Stiles talks too much or has too many moles or smiles like the sun or loves like he could save the world with emotions alone or how fiercely loyal Stiles is and the way he takes his coffee -- more milk than coffee, Derek doesn't exactly approve -- but those are the easy things. Derek doesn't know why Stiles loves like he does or why Stiles walked up the charred staircase and flopped himself down onto Derek's bed and picked up a book or why he has blue paint caked under his fingernails or why Stiles has a pack of cigarettes in his left pocket.
"No," Derek eventually says, but the moment's gone, stretched out too thin in the silence. Derek almost feels guilty about that, abashed. "You shouldn't be smoking," he says. He's still standing by the door, awkward and barefoot.
Stiles looks up, flushing. He flushes in splotches of pink, colouring under his freckles. "Guess you can smell those, huh." It's not even a question, just a self-deprecating sort of statement as he pushes himself into a sitting position. "Sorry," he says. "It hasn't exactly been the best day, if you're wondering. It's always Stiles left behind, Stiles walking in on something that's already been going on, Stiles not quick enough on the uptake, Stiles too much of a hero to accept the bite --"
"What bite?" Derek says, a little more sharply than usual.
"Nothing," Stiles says. "Dad's home, obviously. Being, you know, unemployed." He scratches at the back of his neck almost absently. Derek watches his fingers. "I'll leave, if you really want me to."
Derek wants him to stay. Derek wants him to go. Derek wants to understand how Stiles managed to dig his way into the hollow between Derek's ribs and make it his home.
"Doesn't bother me," Derek says, even if it does, a little. He can deal with it. "Give me the cigarettes."
Stiles hands them over, a little grudgingly.
"Lighter, too," Derek reminds. Prompts.
"Enhanced wolf senses," Stiles mutters.
"Loud and clear," Derek says, tapping his ear lightly. He flips the pack of cigarettes in his hand, worn and weathered like they've been tossed between rough palms over and over. He opens them, looks at the neat row of cigarettes waiting innocently inside.
It's been a long time since he's had one, he remembers Laura being the kind of smoker who only did it when she was angry or stressed out, he remembers the way she would stand in the garden and he could smell the smoke from his bedroom. He remembers his first cigarette and choking on it, the smell invading his senses and overriding them. It's okay, Laura had said. Just breathe.
He flicks the lighter, flinching very slightly at the flame, but lights a cigarette. For whom, exactly, he's not too sure himself. He lights another one and hands the first one to Stiles.
"What," Stiles says, eloquent as always.
"Rite of passage," Derek says, sitting on the mattress, next to Stiles. "For pack."
It's not really, but when he thinks about it now everyone in his family smoked the occasional cigarette.
"You haven't asked Scott to do this," Stiles says, holding the cigarette cautiously between his pale, long fingers. "Or Erica. Or Boyd. Or Isaac." Stiles doesn't sound too accusing, though, Derek supposes Stiles is a little relieved he isn't being bundled up and thrown out or shoved against the wall while Derek spits about the dangers of smoking in his face.
"Not yet," Derek says.
"Oh." Stiles sounds a little more pleased than usual, a little more smug. "Well then. Cheers."
He bumps his cigarette against Derek's and the ash falls onto the mattress, almost invisible.
Derek takes the first breath and waits for Stiles.
Predictably, Stiles chokes on it. Although, not as much as Derek remembers himself choking.
"We Stilinskis have good lungs," Stiles tells him, voice a little hoarser. "My mother was a smoker. Sometimes I could smell it in her hair." He holds his cigarette gingerly. "She didn't die from cancer in the end, though," he says after a pause. "It was something else, but I guess it doesn't matter, she still died."
Derek takes another drag, holds it for a moment before letting go.
"Do you ever wish you were dead?" Stiles says abruptly. "Not that I'm suicidal, but."
Derek thinks about After, after the fire, after Laura found a place for him in her apartment in New York, cramped with her roommate Stella who chain-smoked her worries on their cramped balcony, right next to where they hung their clothes out to dry so everything Derek wore smelled like haze. He thinks about burying his head in his shirt and crying for the first time After, feeling the phantom press of his mother's fingers at his hairline and the smell of her perfume through the haze. Then he gets up and throws up in the sink, wiping his mouth roughly with the back of his hand and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing but still always tasting haze and perfume in his mouth.
"All the time, sometimes," he says, truthfully. "But that's okay."
If Stiles was the kind of boy who loved with his whole heart then Derek is the kind of boy who loves with his heart and desperately tries to find something else he can love with.
"You know," he tells Stiles, not sure why he's saying this, or talking at all, "when I was younger we had a lot of birds here. They liked the roof, especially. One day there was a bird that fell off, or something. Its wing was broken. Laura and I wanted to nurse it back to health, so I picked it up, and maybe I held on too hard, I don't know, but it died. Its neck got snapped cleanly in half." Derek remembers the way Laura looked at him. Not scared, not really. Just -- cautious.
"No wonder you're such a sourwolf," Stiles says. "Always afraid of loving something so hard they'll die, aren't you?" Stiles fits his cigarette between his lips and inhales. He can exhale without choking now, although he coughs discreetly into his fist. He wipes his mouth with a hand, the blue under his fingernails streaking against his skin.
"What," Stiles says.
"Blue," Derek says. "On your face."
"Not exactly the most poetic guy, are you?" Stiles says, with his mouth in a twist that makes Derek ache a little, somewhere in the space between his ribs. "I painted today," he says.
"Some," Stiles says. "My mother thought it would help with the, you know, ADD." He waves his hand around absently. "It did, for awhile, then it didn't. I still paint, sometimes."
"Show me," Derek says, surprising himself.
Stiles watches him now, eyes bright. "Really?" he says, almost to himself. "Yeah, yeah, alright. Next time," he promises, but he rakes his nails down the length of Derek's arm, some blue transfering onto Derek's skin, marking him.
Derek inhales, and for once, doesn't taste the haze.