Now that the pack spends more time working together than they do trying to kill each other, Stiles is determined to make sure that the summer between their senior year and going to college is going to be filled with carefree revelry, not just chasing after the Big Bad of the Week like previous years. He decides that such an important endeavour requires careful planning and so he calls a pack meeting to figure out the best summer activities for everyone and when to make them happen.
The whole pack gathers at the loft Derek is renting while he slowly pieces his family home back together. The décor is still sparse but after much moaning, cajoling and downright trickery on the part of various pack members there’s enough comfortable seating for everyone and a decent sized television to support their biweekly movie night.
Everyone puts forth suggestions on where they should go and when and so far they have plans for 3 beach trips, 5 summer blockbusters, paintballing, bowling, shopping at an outlet mall upstate and a trip to Beacon Hills’ Chucky Cheese rip off, Billy Bee’s.
Stiles diligently records these events into the pack’s shared Google Calendar, fitting things in around predicted work schedules and family visits. He’s making an entry for the latest Marvel movie when Derek finally makes a request.
“I was thinking of spending a week or two at my family’s cabin.”
“Your family has a cabin?” Jackson says, with an accompanying scoff, as if he himself hasn’t offered his family’s beach house for a weekend.
“Where is it?” Erica asks, ignoring Jackson, as per usual.
“Lake Joyce, about two and a half hours drive north, then a day and a half hike to the cabin itself,” Derek replies.
“Right on the lake?” Derek’s nods. “Are there boats and stuff? Will there be campfires?” Stiles hasn’t been camping in years but it was a favourite family pastime in his youth.
Derek nods again tersely, never one to waste words where actions will do. Stiles is pretty sure that Derek just has a quiet disposition and a massive case of Resting Bitch Face, rather than constantly wanting to maim him. Mostly sure. Probably.
“Awesome! There’s a two week stretch at the end of July that would be perfect if everyone can get the time off. Are there beds for everyone? We can always use tents, I suppose.”
“I don’t know if Deaton will be up for giving us that much time off,” Isaac says, hesitantly, from his spot beside Scott and Allison. (As the pack began to interact more frequently, he and Scott became close friends and Isaac spent so much time at the vet’s office, Deaton elected to put him to work, rather than have him distracting Scott.) Boyd made similar noises regarding employment but Stiles was already thinking of the epic amount of fun they could have at a cabin with just the pack and didn’t notice the reluctance of those around him.
“Don’t we spend enough time wandering around the woods as it is? Why would we want to go stomp through different woods?” Jackson says, filling his usual role as Debbie Downer.
Stiles chucks a pillow in Jackson’s direction. “Shut up Jackson, you don’t have to go. Guys, see how much time you can get, even if it’s not the whole two weeks. Whatever we can get will be worth it. Derek, you can start thinking about what supplies we need and when everyone confirms they can go, we’ll split it up between us. I’ll take care of the s’mores. I make the best s’mores ever.”
Stiles is blissfully ignorant of the pack’s lack of enthusiasm until weeks later, when he starts trying to confirm who’s able to come. Lydia informs him that people with manicures like hers were not meant to spend time in the timberland, and she certainly would not be doing so voluntarily. Jackson sneers, and mutters a comment about subjecting himself to Stiles’ company. Stiles chooses to ignore it because, really, there are only so many cutting retorts Stiles can make before it starts to get repetitive. He has bigger fish to fry.
Boyd says he can’t afford to take the time off work, and knowing how much he helps his family out financially, Stiles wouldn’t argue with that. Erica just gives him a withering look and walks away. Stiles allows himself to hope that that was a “maybe,” until he asks her again and she throws a (mostly) empty pudding cup at his head. Waste of perfectly good pudding, Stiles thought.
Allison says that her parents had been adamant that under no circumstances would she be going off into the forest with a group of werewolves without further training. She hadn’t wanted to push the subject and risk being subjected to her dad’s version of wilderness survival training.
Stiles is disappointed to see his vision of pack bonding slowly dim, but he figures Scott wouldn’t let him down. The only thing better than potential pack bonding while exploring the great outdoors would be bro bonding with his best bud. That is until he’s faced with Scott’s puppy dog eyes and given the bad news.
“What do you mean you’re not going? I’m sure Deaton can do without you for a little while. Just a week, even!” Stiles exclaims. He’s sitting on Scott’s bed, pulling up the campfire recipes he’d been researching on Scott’s laptop when his camping dreams are dashed.
“I know,” Scott says, with a guilty expression. “It’s just that I kinda… don’t…want to?”
Stiles gives an indignant gasp. “What? Why the hell not?”
“I just don’t think hiking will be very fun,” Scott says, helplessly. “And what if we get there and the cabin is a death trap? You know Derek doesn’t exactly have high standards of living spaces.” Stiles can admit that Scott had a fair point in that regard, but the way he sees it, they’d have to bring tents for the hiking trip there anyway. If the cabin was uninhabitable they could just sleep outside.
“Come on, Scotty. What could be better than a big, old forest with trees and birds, and a lake with swimming and fishing and basking in the sun and campfires with songs and ghost stories and the best s’mores ever! The s'mores alone should be worth the hike,” Stiles says, with no small amount of desperation.
“Isaac hasn’t been camping since his dad was alive and those trips aren’t exactly filled with happy memories. That leaves you, who’s great, really, your s’mores are the best! But, we could just have a fire in my yard and make them here. Then there’s Derek, and like, he’s gotten better but he’s still. Derek,” Scott says, slowly losing steam but clearly not short on resolve.
Despite popular belief, Stiles can recognize a lost battle when he sees one. He makes a few more attempts to convince Scott, because he’s nothing if not persistent, but he soon gives up and leaves Scott’s house rather than stick around to play video games like they’d originally planned. He’s too disappointed to even take joy in kicking Scott’s digital ass.
Stiles climbs into his jeep and heads toward the old Hale place, knowing Derek will be out there working on some part of it at this time of day. After being thrown together enough times through late night research, near death experiences and the pack’s various romantic misadventures, Stiles feels as though he can call Derek a friend. Mostly. Probably. Not to his face, of course.
He reaches the Hale property and parks near enough to the Camaro that he’s considered next to it but far enough that he’s not in danger of hitting it. He’s made it too far to die over a scratched paint job. He heads into the house, knowing that Derek heard him arrive and is probably busy enough not to feel the need to come out and greet him. Or maybe, Derek hopes his lack of greeting will make Stiles go away. He’s never really sure which it is, so most days he clings optimistically to the former, but on days when he’s already upset or in doubt, the latter seems the more likely option.
He finds Derek sanding what he suspects are doors, laid out on two sawhorses in the living room. Stiles promptly collapses face first on the musty couch in the corner. He lies there for a few moments wallowing in self-pity before he sits up to watch Derek. Wallowing has its merits but it’s not nearly enjoyable as watch the play of Derek’s muscles under his shirt as he moves the sandpaper back and forth in long methodical strokes. Few things really are.
When Derek sets down the sandpaper and grabs two bottles of water from the corner, throwing one at Stiles stomach and taking a long pull from the other, Stiles finally breaches the silence.
“I’ve been checking with the others about the trip to the cabin,” he says, struggling to open the flimsy plastic bottle without pouring water on himself. He’s mostly successful. Derek raises one eyebrow, which Stiles interprets to mean oh yes? Do continue, I’m hanging on your every word. “I haven’t had much luck yet. The people I’ve talked to so far can’t make it.”
“Who have you talked to so far?” Derek asks.
“Everyone,” Stiles says with a wince. He takes a deep breath and launches into a brief summary of the excuses everyone had given him. Especially brief for Scott’s honest, albeit disappointing, response. “It totally blows though, this trip was going to be awesome.” He flops back onto the couch, looking up at the new ceiling.
“I still need to head up there, regardless,” Derek says, turning back to the doors.
“Yeah?” Stiles prompts, propping himself up on an elbow.
“I need to inspect the property. We hired a caretaker who looks after things for the most part, but it’s important to check on things, occasionally. Make sure everything is in working order,” Derek explains. He falls silent for a moment before mumbling something else.
“Sorry?” Stiles says, catching Derek’s downward gaze.
“You could come with me if you wanted,” Derek says, with a jerky shrug.
“Yeah?” Stiles figured that with the rest of the pack out of the picture, his fantasies of campfires and canoes were dead, but if Derek is willing to take him along, maybe all is not lost. Sure, it would be more fun with the rest of the group, but Stiles is an only child and is well-versed in finding ways to occupy himself. The more he thinks about it, the more he figures camping with just the two of them is better than no camping at all. “You wouldn’t mind?”
Derek shakes his head. “It’s safer with company. Besides, you’ll be able to help me test everything to make sure it’s rentable.”
“Will there be other people renting while we’re there?”
“No, I prefer for it to be secluded. It’s private property, so we can shift and run whenever we feel like it. I’ll take care of the supplies, just pack clothes and necessities. You’ll want to pack lightly for the hike. We can leave early Monday morning. If we make good time driving, we should have most of the day to hike. ”
“Awesome! I’m going to make you the famous Stilinski S’mores! You haven’t s’mored until you’ve S’mored Stilinski Style,” Stiles says, thrilled at the prospect. He bounces off the couch and picks up some sandpaper to help Derek with the door. They continue hashing out more details as they work in tandem.
The week of their trip comes quickly, so bright and early Monday morning, Stiles waits with his pack at the ready for Derek to pick him up. Derek had insisted on taking the Camaro, rather than “risk your hunk of metal breaking down half way there.” As if his jeep would ever let them down. Again.
He sits across from his dad at their kitchen table, finishing his breakfast as his dad alternates between reminding him of handy camping tips and impressing on him not to annoy Derek so much that he abandons him in the woods. Since Stiles had been forced to let his dad in on the secret, he’d been surprisingly supportive of the pack’s exploits, and has a fondness for Derek Stiles finds inexplicable, considering he’d arrested him twice.
Derek pulls up in front of the house and taps the horn. Stiles grabs his pack, hugs his dad goodbye and heads for the door, reminding him as he went to be safe and not eat too much junk food while he’s gone.
He settles into the passenger seat and they head for the highway, Stiles chattering away with minimal input from Derek. He talks about whatever comes to mind, movies he’s seen and things he’s read before recounting Scott’s confused reaction to Stiles explaining the trip was still on.
“It’s like he can’t imagine why anyone one would want to spend time outside, sleeping on the ground and dodging trees when they could be home with Netflix and air conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as social media dependent as the rest of them, but it’s nice to just step back, you know? Listen to that perfect combination of forest sounds that makes quiet. We’re lucky to live so close to the Preserve, but I just want to go out and breathe somewhere we haven’t nearly died, you know? Look around and see nothing but nature.”
“Peter used to say there’s nothing like the smell of nature. I’m not sure he meant it as a good thing though,” Derek interjects. With the help of a supernatural-in-the-know therapist, Derek seems to find it easier to mention his family and reconcile the uncle he knew and loved from the psychopath who killed his sister.
Stiles laughs at the thought of their pack dealing with certain nature-related smells, chortling as he plays with Derek’s radio.
When they arrive at the lot where they were leaving their car, Stiles grabs his wide brimmed hat from his pack and jumps out of the jeep to start vigorously applying his first layer of 110 SPF sunscreen. As he finishes, he looks over to see Derek smirking at him. “Um, excuse me, but sun safety is important. I burn very easily. Do you know how many people get skin cancer every year? It’s a lot.
“You still have some on your nose.”
“Oh.” Stiles deflates. Derek reaches forward and swipes his finger across Stiles’ upturned nose, then rubs the excess sunscreen off on Stiles’ cheek. Stiles ducks away as he feels a blush rising in his cheeks and kneels down to triple-check his shoelaces to hide it.
“All set?” Stiles says. Derek doesn’t reply, he simply grabs his own large pack out of the backseat and sets off down a well-worn path through the trees. Stiles follows and quickly loses his lingering awkwardness in the joy of traveling through the forest. He finds the pace Derek sets to be moderate enough to keep them moving, but not so taxing that he can’t enjoy the sight of a bird taking off or a flower peeking through the grass without tripping over too many tree roots.
They stop for lunch at an outcropping that overlooks the forest, sitting on a log enjoying the sandwiches and cookies Derek had packed. Stiles fills the silence with a lively debate on the merits of crunchy versus smooth peanut butter, mostly with himself, though Derek makes some valid points supporting extra smooth.
They make a few stops throughout the afternoon, when Stiles needs to rest or Derek points out a particularly interesting feature of their surroundings. A babbling brook here or nest of sparrows there. Stiles’ favourite is a clearing that had been taken over by a sea of golden rod. He’s thankful he’d thought to bring his camera rather than wasting the battery on his phone.
As evening draws closer, Derek starts to gather firewood as they walk, handing what he deems dry enough to Stiles, so they’d have enough when they stop for the night.
Their campsite is small but flat and clean, with multiple signs saying Only YOU can stop forest fires! Stiles rubs his well-used leg muscles while amusing himself with thoughts of Derek interacting with Smokey the Bear. Derek prepares their fire like the good little Boy Scout he probably never was.
They use the fire to heat up a couple cans of soup and discuss sleeping arrangements as they eat. “I decided to go for a few tarps instead of a full tent,” Derek informs him. “We’ll sleep on top of one to keep the water from seeping through the ground. We can put one over us, if you want, but I can’t smell any rain.”
“The forecast said we should have clear skies and a decent temperature, so I’m fine without the cover if you are.” Stiles doesn’t mention that he’d checked the hourly forecast pretty much every hour until he’d left his house.
After they finish their soup and lay out their sleeping arrangements, Derek checks in with the pack while Stiles calls his Dad. Everything’s fine on the homefront, so they lounge around the fire sharing thoughts and barbs and comfortable silence until darkness falls. Stiles reaches for his pack and pulls out the s’more ingredients he’d stashed in the outer pocket, along with the fancy collapsible marshmallow roasting sticks he’d found online. He passes one to Derek, along with a marshmallow and starts working to achieve the perfect golden brown outside on his own.
“What makes these s’mores so special?” Derek asks.
“Special ingredient,” Stiles says with a wiggle of his eyebrows. He lays out the graham crackers and chocolate on a paper plate, then pulls out a few wrapped caramels, which he unwraps and places in the center of the crackers. “The trick is getting the marshmallow on fast enough to melt the caramel.”
They have a few rounds of successful but messy s’mores before climbing into their sleeping bags to settle in for the night. It’s not until they’re lying next to each other on the ground that it occurs to Stiles that there were some potential pitfalls to sleeping next to Derek. He can feel the warmth radiating from Derek’s body, and can barely contain his fidgeting. He focuses on wiggling his left foot instead of his whole body and searches for a topic to distract himself from the 200 plus pounds of insanely attractive werewolf next to him. He finds what he’s looking for above him.
“Holy shit, that’s a lot of stars,” Stiles breathes out. He thinks Derek will keep his usual stoic demeanour and is surprised at the soft response that comes out of the dark.
“When I lived in New York, the thing I missed most was the stars. When you see them all the time, you forget to stop and look up, but in the city the lights are so bright that all you can see is fog. On clear night, you’d catch a glimpse of the moon, if you were lucky. I don’t know much about constellations, but I missed the familiar formations.”
It always liquefies Stiles when Derek talks about his life before they met. Like he’s been given a glimpse at a secret part of Derek that no one else has seen. He collects these fragments of information like jewels, to hide away for only himself to admire.
At first it was just his usual curiosity. His burning need to know everything about anything. As the pieces began to fit together, he became more and more invested in what he discovered. Every facet of Derek fascinates him. Rather than the blind awe and obsession he had once felt for Lydia, Stiles is more than aware of Derek’s faults, and finds he adores them. Every quirk and bad habit, all his foibles and follies, Stiles relishes. Unfortunately, it seems his lot in life is to pine after the object of his affection. After two years of being a unified pack, he’s not sure if Derek even finds him more than simply tolerable. Their current trip stands as strong evidence that he does, but there are miles between that and returning his adoration. He shoves his feelings aside and focuses on crisp air and glorious sky. They fall asleep debating which dipper is above them.
Stiles wakes with the sun, feeling mildly sore and slightly damp, but overall thankful for his sleeping bag. Not only did it keep him mostly dry from the morning dew, it ensured that even though he had migrated closer to Derek in his sleep, he couldn’t make things too awkward, thanks to the sturdy zipper and heavy padding.
Derek produces a couple of muffins and some juice for breakfast, and after heeding the signage and ensuring their fire was fully extinguished, they start back on their way. The day progresses much the same as the one before, relaxed and evenly paced as they come closer to their final destination.
Around mid afternoon, Derek turns from the well-used trail they’d been following onto a path that was visible, but clearly not as commonly tread. “Shouldn’t be much farther,” he says as the path inclines.
Twenty minutes later, they crest the large hill and look down at the lake. A wooden dock extends onto the water, and across the lawn sat a large stone house with an uncovered porch. A shed is positioned halfway between the house and the water’s edge. Scattered around the water and the clearing are a few small cabins with doors coloured in cheerful yellow, red and blue catching the sun.
“Holy shit! Look at this place! Are those paddle boats and canoes? Which cabin is ours?”
“All of them.”
“What do you mean all of them?” Stiles asks, spinning back around to look at Derek.
“I mean, all of them. I told you, it's private property and I made sure nothing was rented out this week. The main house has the biggest kitchen and the most activities but the cabins have been prepped too.”
“Activities? What the hell do you mean by activities?” Stiles exclaims as he takes off down the hill toward the house. He races up to the porch and drops his pack by the front door, then lets himself in. The open floor plan leads into a large living space with high vaulted ceilings, a big TV, couches that beg for someone sink into them and two wide shelves bracketing the television lined with various board games. An archway on the far wall leads toward the back of the house. “Holy shit, is there cable? Is there WiFi?”
“It’s satellite, and yeah, there should be a password written on the modem over there.” Derek says, walking past. “Are you hungry?”
Stiles trails after him and discovers the large kitchen/dining room combo with a massive prep island and stainless steel appliances. He rushes past Derek to open the fridge and it’s stocked with everything from hot dogs and burgers to fresh produce and milk, to Tupperware filled with intriguing contents. Stiles isn’t sure how long he stared into the fridge, but eventually, Derek reaches past him, nudging him to the side to grab a couple of the containers, then opens one of the many cupboards and grabs two plates. He rifles through a drawer and starts dishing up a pasta salad with apples in it, and then adds a potato salad. He settles onto one of the stools at the island and starts to dig in, then looks at Stiles, eyebrows raised as he indicates the second plate.
“I don’t understand,” Stile says, trailing after Derek, hesitating by the entrance before sitting at the counter. “This place is amazing. Where did all this stuff come from?”
“I asked the caretaker to have everything ready for when we got here. She doesn’t mind stocking the fridge with decent food if I pay her for the time and groceries. The space can be rented out for more money if it has TV and internet so Laura considered it a good investment. The rest is a combination of stuff we supply to renters and things brought up by my family to use. The games, some of the boats, there should be some books around here somewhere.”
“Where does the caretaker live? On the property?”
“There’s a lake town nearby. She uses a motor boat to get across the water and into the inlet where our dock is. Eat.” Derek gestures to the second plate again with his fork.
Stiles forces aside his curiosity in favour of food until Derek says, “You can have your pick of the bedrooms.”
Stiles nearly chokes on his last piece of rotini pasta and doesn’t quite swallow before he exclaims, “There’s more than one?”
He tosses down his fork and races for the stairs he’d seen to the right of the front door. Upstairs, he discovers three bedrooms, one with a double and one with two sets of bunk beds, as well as the master bedroom. He flops on the onto the large bed in the master and admires the view of the small TV in the corner before popping off again to race through the open door into the en suite bathroom. The shower he finds nearly sends him into fits at the prospect of using it.
He tears himself away from the bathroom when Derek enters the room. He’d carried up both their packs and he tosses Stiles’ on the bed. “Do you like it?” He asks, strangely hesitant.
“Like it? This isn’t a cabin, it’s a McMansion!” Stiles says, taking in the view of the lake from the bedrooms large window. He turns back to Derek asking, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“What do you mean?” says Derek.
“To the others. We both know they could have found a way to come if they really wanted, but they figured it would be a rundown shack. You could have told them it was a decked out oasis, but you didn’t. You could have taken us to that lake town instead of hiking up, but you didn’t. Why?”
Derek sets down his pack near the door, then walks over to the window next to Stiles. He’s silent long enough that Stiles begins to think that he might not answer at all, but he took a deep breath before speaking.
“I used to come here every year with my family. The whole pack. It would be a faster trip if we came by boat or even just sent the humans to come that way but that wasn’t the point. We came together as a family. As a pack. You deal with the bugs and the sunburns and you sleep on the ground because you know when you get there it will be worth it. You take the time to go the hard way so that you can appreciate what you have here. You trust that your alpha will have your happiness in mind and get you through the woods to a place you can be safe and happy together. I know I could have told them but I,” he broke off, and looked down at the wooden floor. “I wanted them to follow me on their own.”
“I followed you,” Stiles says quietly.
“I know,” Derek says, looking back up with a soft smile. “You always do.”
Stiles thinks about the past two years of his life. The harrowing situations and the quiet moments. He thinks about the times they’ve sat in silence and the times they’ve shouted at each other until they were hoarse. He thinks about college, and futures and clearings filled with golden rod and he knows. “I would follow you anywhere,” he says, softly, but clearly. Before he can even think about it, he leans into Derek’s space and kisses him. It only lasts a moment, because he realizes what he’s done. He pulls back, stuttering, “Sorry! I’m sorry,” but Derek grabs him and pulls him back to deepen the kiss. It’s the kind of kiss he felt right down to his toes. The thrill of the contact curls up from his stomach and fills his head until he feels drunk on the warm brush of Derek’s mouth on his.
They stand by the window kissing until they’re breathless. Eventually, Derek pulls back and leans their foreheads together. “So, is this a thing now?” Stiles blurts out.
“Guess so,” Derek says, the corner of his mouth quirking up in a half smile. He pulls back and heads to the door. “Last one in the lake has dish duty tonight.” He takes off down the stairs and Stiles follows close behind, stripping clothes as he goes. He has no chance of beating Derek at this point, but the rush of cold water on warm skin is worth the run. The kisses that follow aren’t bad either.
The two weeks pass in a blur of sun, swimming, s’mores and sex, and when they finally hit the hit the Beacon Hills county line, Stiles can’t help but feel a little subdued. They’d made use of everything the cabin had to offer, spending hours on or in the lake before heading back inside for a board game or movie. Curling up with a book or puttering around the kitchen. The shower lived up to his imagination and was even better with company. Snuggling up in the big bed sharing whispers and kisses was more than Stiles could ever hope for.
But with their return home, Stiles starts to worry that everything happened too quickly. That things will go back to how they’d always been: Stiles admiring from afar with no clue whether or not Derek even considered him to be a close friend. Back to being two people, thrown together by necessity rather than coming together by choice.
The closer they get to home, the more Stiles worries, until Derek grabs his hand where it’s tapping on his own thigh. Stiles looks over as Derek links their fingers and lets their hands dangle over the console, keeping his eyes on the road ahead. It’s one of the easy touches Stiles had gotten used to over the last perfect weeks. “You’ll come over to finish Buffy soon, right?” Derek asks.
Stiles smiles as the tension leaves his body. “Of course,” he says, then launches into rehashing the last episode they’d watched, while Derek lays a kiss on the back of Stiles hand, leaving them linked together until they pull up in front of Stiles house.
When they kiss goodbye, Stiles knows Derek is sincere when he says, “I’ll see you soon.” He clings to it as he heads into his house and back into his everyday life.
Scott comes over the next day and asks, “So, how was it?”
Stiles smiles. “Perfect. Just like I said it would be.”