Derek groans as he wakes up. He must have fallen asleep in a weird position because his body is aching all over. His mouth is dry, and there’s a sharp pain in his leg that is throbbing rather consistently.
“Good to have you back with us,” a chipper voice says.
Derek opens his eyes because that is definitely not his mother’s voice. He sits up and his stomach twists in alarm, taking in the unfamiliar hospital room. It’s filled with flowers and teddy bears and colorful “Get Well Soon!” balloons.
Derek sits up warily. His head hurts and the nurse, a blond guy with a seemingly perpetual sunny smile, is checking his chart and writes a few notes on it. His nametag says Joey.
“Wha— what’s going on,” Derek mumbles, but his mouth feels like it’s full of cotton.
“You’ve had a bit of an accident,” Joey says, looking up from the clipboard. “Can you tell me your name and birthday and who the president is?”
“Derek Hale, December twenty-fifth, and Barack Obama,” Derek says impatiently. “What happened?”
Joey makes a hm noise and then hands him a styrofoam cup filled with water. “How are you feeling? You gave your friends and family quite a scare.”
Annoyed that the nurse isn’t directly answering any of his questions, Derek looks around the room. It’s bright outside, and the clock on the wall says it’s 1:30 p.m. Derek’s a little overwhelmed by just how many gifts are in the room— the entire back wall is almost covered in flower arrangements. There’s also a teddy bear the size of a child sitting in the corner chair, wearing a basketball jersey for some reason.
Derek knows his parents and sisters probably would have gotten him one bouquet and card, and oh, here it is on his bedside table, a pretty mix of daffodils and a card in Laura’s handwriting, and signed by everyone. So who are all the other presents from? Derek doesn’t really have a lot of friends, aside from Stiles. Maybe Stiles sent him the teddy bear. It seems like the kind of funny thing he’d do. But the sheer number of the gifts in the room makes it look like Derek’s the most popular kid in school or something, and he knows he’s just the freshman nobody.
Derek looks away from the card to his leg, suspended from the ceiling in a cast. He stares. He certainly doesn’t remember breaking it. “How did I—?”
“You’ve been in the hospital for two days,” Joey says gently. “You had a very bad fall and broke your leg in addition to a pretty significant head injury. I’m going to get your doctor. I’ll be back in a moment.”
“And my mom?” Derek asks in a small voice.
“Your mother wanted to be notified as soon as you woke up, and I will call her right away,” Joey says, patting Derek on the arm.
Derek nods. It’s going to be okay. Just because he doesn’t remember how it happened doesn’t mean anything. Things are bound to be a little fuzzy, right? Wait, did the nurse say significant head injury?
Joey steps outside and talks to two different doctors, both with stern expressions who glance at Derek in concern. Derek has no idea what’s happening, except he’s being judged somehow, and he feels nervous and uncomfortable. He waves at the doctors through the little window in the door. One of them nods at him and enters the room.
“Hello, Derek, I’m Dr. Pierce,” she says warmly. “Now, some of these questions seem a bit silly, but can you humor me a little?”
Derek nods. The questions do make him roll his eyes a little— how old Derek is, what the last thing he remembers, who won the World Series this year. Doctor Pierce nods and keeps writing on her clipboard, and then explains about his broken leg and everything looks great, he’s going to make a full recovery.
“And my head? I don’t remember how I— the nurse said I fell?” Derek asks nervously.
“I was just getting to that,” Pierce says. “As for your accident, it’s because you’re quite the basketball star,” she says cheerfully. “You were coming down from a slam dunk and landed rather poorly, I’m afraid. You’ll be happy to hear that you did indeed score the winning point and your team has made it to the championships.”
“I—” Derek likes basketball, sure, but he definitely isn’t on the team. He didn’t even dare to try out because freshmen never make the team, not even the junior varsity team because Beacon Hills is just that good.
“Derek!” Talia rushes into the room and pulls Derek into a fierce hug. “My baby! We were so worried,” she says.
Any other day Derek would be embarrassed but he hugs her right back, relieved. “Mom,” Derek barely even protests, letting her kiss his cheeks.
“Mayor Hale,” Dr. Pierce says deferentially.
Talia nods at her. “You said yesterday his leg will be fine, and now that Derek’s awake you can discharge him, right?”
“Well,” Dr. Pierce says hesitantly. “Derek, can you tell me again, how old you are?”
“Fourteen,” Derek says.
Derek is not fourteen.
Apparently he’s eighteen, and in addition to a broken leg, has partial retrograde amnesia. Laura graduated college and has a job, and Cora— baby Cora— is a freshman in high school, not the fifth grader that Derek remembers. She’s so tall now.
And Derek’s different, too. He looked at himself in the mirror when they brought him clothes to change into so he could go home. He’s taller, shoulders broadened and face more angular, and he’s got stubble. A beard. Kind of. It’s a little scraggly, but the effect is kind of amazing.
Derek can’t wait to show Stiles. Wait, Stiles probably already knows what he looks like. He wonders if Stiles looks different, too.
“Think of it this way, bro, you got to skip all your awkward puberty years,” Cora says on the ride home.
They’re sitting with the giant teddy bear between them. Derek read the card; it wasn’t from Stiles, it was from the basketball team. That Derek is a captain of.
“Don’t worry,” Talia says from the driver’s seat. “Dr. Pierce says the memory relapse is likely to be temporary, and interacting with familiar people and going back to school will help bring those memories back eventually.”
“I have to go back to school?” Derek asks faintly.
Cora laughs. “Don’t worry, you already got into college. All you have to do is go back and do the usual senioritis deal with everyone else and coast until the end of the year.”
College? The last thing Derek remembers is worrying about how he’s going to survive the rest of high school.
Maybe this is a good thing, the worst of those years are behind him.
They get home and his mom and Cora help him bring all the presents to his room, and Derek gets the hang of his crutches. It’s not so bad, he thinks, sitting on his bed with his leg propped up on a pillow. He’s going through the cards, not recognizing any of the names of his so-called friends.
There’s one card that has a picture of a strawberry dipped in chocolate— kind of weird for a get well card. Inside is a red lipstick kiss print and a brief inscription.
I know we’re in our off again stage but I think even with a broken leg you’d look great in prom pictures. You’re still a shoo-in for Prom King. Get better soon.
your Queen, Kate xoxo
“Cora!” Derek yells.
Cora appears in his doorway a few seconds later.
“Do I have a girlfriend?” he asks, brandishing the card at her.
Cora snorts. “I mean, according to the grapevine I think you guys broke up a few months ago, but Rita Ginzey is convinced you’re gonna ask Kate to prom, because you two are both nominated for Prom King and Queen, and you’d probably get back together.”
Derek takes all this information in a piece at a time. “I’m popular?”
“Yeah, you were Homecoming King. And you’re basketball captain right now too, and student body president.”
“I’m popular,” Derek says with a gasp. The last he remembers of his freshman year is just being so lonely. He always been a bit socially awkward, so this is kind of amazing. “And I dated Kate? And we were going to get back together? What’s she like?”
Cora scrunches her face. “Determined,” she says, after a moment. “Homecoming queen two years in a row, definitely aiming for Prom Queen this year. She’s in the Honor Society and has a few AP classes, but honestly, I have no idea. I don’t know her and you don’t talk to me about that stuff.”
“But you’re my sister,” Derek says. There’s not that big of an age difference between him and Cora; the two of them have always been close.
Cora’s expression softens. “Yeah, but I’m a loser freshman, you don’t associate with me in public.”
“That sounds mean,” Derek says. Is he a mean person, now? “I’m sorry.”
Cora smiles at him. “It’s okay. I know you were just caught up with your friends and stuff. Oh, here, Mom told me to find your phone and charge it for you, she didn’t want to mess up your stuff. And I didn’t touch anything. Much.”
Cora surprises him by hugging him tightly before she gets up to leave. “I’m glad you’re okay, bro.”
The phone is strange; a new model, with a touch screen that takes Derek a while to get used to. He scrolls through the contact list, but he can’t find Stiles’ number anywhere. Aside from the numbers for his mom and his sisters, he doesn’t really recognize anyone.
Derek looks through his text message history; there’s a group chat with what looks like other guys on the basketball team, filled with in jokes he no longer understands.
Oh, there’s a conversation with Erica. Finally, a friend.
heard you broke your foot, get better soon
Derek types out a quick response.
my leg, but thank you! just got back from the hospital
Erica responds immediately with an exclamation mark and a few emojis. Derek texts with her a bit, relieved to chat with one of his middle school friends. She and Isaac and Boyd went to Davenport High School after middle school, so they didn’t really get to hang out that much, but Derek’s glad that they still talk. He finds texts from Isaac and Boyd, too, and entertains himself for a bit chatting with them.
Derek considers asking one of them for Stiles’ number, but Stiles didn’t really hang out with any of them in middle school; the only eighth grader he talked to was Derek, and that was because he and Derek were already friends. It had started because Talia and Stiles’ mom had been old friends and they used to come over all the time, and then Claudia started leaving Stiles at their house when she went off to work, and then it was just because Derek and Stiles were inseparable and just wanted to play together all the time.
The only rough time in their friendship was when Derek left for middle school, but it was only a year, and Stiles joined him soon enough, and puberty was strange but it didn’t change the fact that they were always going to be friends.
Maybe Stiles is one of these people in his phone with a nickname. He might be Red, or Jungle Cutie. Surely not History #1 or History #2 or even Do Not Call.
Derek grabs his crutches, navigating himself to the hallway and shuffling to Cora’s bedroom.
She’s on her bed and looks up from her book when Derek pokes his head in. “Hey, Cora? You said I dated Kate? Um, did I ever date anyone else?”
“I think you dated this girl Sheila when you were a sophomore,” Cora says. “Why?”
“Any guys?” Derek swallows nervously. To him, it’s recent, figuring out that he’s bisexual. He wonders how he’s faring four years in the future— wait, no, present. Maybe he had a boyfriend?
“Ah, no, sorry,” Cora says. “You’re not out at school. Just Mom and me and Laura, that’s it.”
“Really? I thought I—”
“You did have a milkshake once with that hot exchange student from Ireland,” Cora says thoughtfully. “I don’t think it was a date, though, but you did crush on him a little. And you party at Jungle sometimes.” She frowns. “I don’t know, really. You’re kinda private about all that stuff.”
“And Stiles?” Derek hadn’t meant to ask, but it slips out of his mouth anyways. He’s not even sure what he’s asking. Why Stiles’ number isn’t in his phone, why Stiles didn’t give him a get well card…
“Yeah, he’s definitely out,” Cora says with a laugh. “Did the dance on a table and everything at lunch, I don’t think there’s anyone in Beacon Hills that doesn’t know.”
Derek is thirteen and Stiles is twelve, and they’re laying on their backs in the Preserve, looking up at the leaves in the canopy. Stiles has been making fun of him all afternoon for kissing Paige, pressing him for details.
“It was wet, I don’t know,” Derek says. Paige had giggled and then ran off, and they didn’t talk about it anymore and just went back to orchestra practice. He’s more concerned about his violin solo in a month than the kiss.
“Yeah, but do you love her?”
“She’s my friend and wanted to try it,” Derek said. “I don’t think so?” Love is like, for family and like… best friends.
Stiles turns to him, leaves crunching as he moves. His eyes are warm and brown in the afternoon sunlight, and the dappled light filters softly around them. Derek likes it here, their little world that has been their own since they were kids, running around playing pretend.
“It’s just kissing,” Derek says. “I don’t know why people make a big deal out of it. It was weird and wet and I don’t know why people do it.”
“I’m your friend,” Stiles says suddenly. “Do you want to try… with me? I just want to know what it feels like.”
“Okay,” Derek says, nervous all of a sudden.
They sit up, brushing leaves off themselves. There’s still a leaf stuck in Stiles’ hair. Derek plucks it out, chuckling, and Stiles waits, watching him intensely.
Derek isn’t sure what to do but Stiles closes his eyes and scoots a bit closer, puckering his lips a little.
The forest is still, like it too is waiting.
Derek leans forward and presses a soft kiss to Stiles’ lips. It’s warm, and doesn’t really taste of anything, but it’s Stiles and it’s nice and for some reason Derek feels like grinning, and he can feel Stiles’ lips turn up in a smile as well. The two of them burst into laughter, and Stiles reaches for Derek’s hand and squeezes it.
“That was nice,” Derek says.
“Definitely,” Stiles says.
“Are we still friends?” Derek asks, concerned. There are some people at middle school who have paired up in couples, but he isn’t sure how it really works.
“Of course,” Stiles says. “Friends forever.”
Going back to school is strange. On one hand, all Derek remembers about BHHS is how big it was, how terrifying the hallways were, filled with people who knew each other.
He shuffles down the hallway on his way to his first class; there are two guys wearing basketball jackets who offered to carry his books for him, and luckily the team jackets have first names embroidered on their front otherwise Derek wouldn’t have known who they are. People wave and smile at him in the hallways, teachers nod at him and like, in one class a bunch of people just start clapping for him like he’s a hero or something.
“Yeah, we’re gonna make it to State all because of you!” one guy— a basketball teammate, probably— cheers.
“Uh, thanks,” Derek says awkwardly. “Yeah, State!” he manages with some sort of enthusiasm, and everyone cheers again.
He muddles through his classes, takes some notes as best he can. Derek’s grateful they finished the AP tests already— Cora told him he did pretty well, and his classes are pretty relaxed now. They watched a movie with Neil Degrasse Tyson in Physics class, so that was fun.
Derek and his mom already sat down with the principal about his memory condition; of course with only three weeks left of school they’re not about to hold back one of their best students. Apparently the plan is for Derek to do his best with his time left in school so BHHS can graduate him and then he’s not their problem anymore.
“Don’t worry, we can get you tutors to get you up to speed before you start college,” his mom had said. “You were already ahead in math anyways, right, and Laura always said the intro GE’s were really explanatory.”
It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but honestly the most difficult part isn’t the schoolwork. Showing up to classes was fine— all Derek needed was his schedule and to get to the right building, but he wasn’t sure who his friends were. There was always someone chatting with him or offering to carry his stuff and friendly smiles during class, and plenty of people wishing him well and wanting to sign his cast, but no one Derek really knows. He recognizes some people from middle school and slowly starts putting names together, but who he really wants to talk to is Stiles. Stiles isn’t in any of his morning classes— he’d be a junior, so it’s not that weird, but surely Stiles might be taking some of these AP classes as well? He could be in the other periods too, probably.
The problem is that Derek doesn’t know where Stiles’ locker is, and he isn’t brave enough to text any of the nicknamed people in his phone to see any of them could be Stiles.
The bell rings for lunch. Surely Stiles will come find him and they’ll eat together. Derek wonders if they have a usual spot here, too, like that tree on the main lawn at middle school. Or maybe he should get in line and pick up Stiles’ favorite fries and then they would meet up? That would be a problem, since Derek doesn’t know where they eat lunch now.
Derek hovers in the hallway, waiting for a bit, but gets swept up in a group of people.
“Jackson,” Derek says, more to himself, really, hoping that he’s right.
“Today is fried chicken day,” Jackson— it must be his name, because he just nods and starts walking. “What are you waiting for, Ross? Can’t you see Hale’s injured? Carry his shit.”
“Of course,” a skinny guy to Jackson’s right says, taking Derek’s backpack.
“Thank you, Ross,” Derek says gratefully.
Ross’ eyes widen. “You know my name?”
“Yeah, we’re friends and you’re on the JV team, of course I know your name,” Derek says, a slight twinge of panic coursing through him when a few people turn to watch the conversation. Why wouldn’t he know the names of everyone on his team? He’s the captain, right? Even of the JV guys, that would be important.
“I’m friends with Derek Hale,” Ross says, a bit dazed, clutching Derek’s backpack.
Jackson laughs. “Course you are,” he says, clapping Ross on the back. “Let’s get some lunch!”
There are… fuck, six guys and four girls in this group, most of them wearing varsity sports jackets; some of the guys are on the basketball team, some on the lacrosse team, and two of the girls are wearing volleyball hoodies. These are BHHS’ most popular sports, so it would make sense for Derek to know these people. Danny is kind of familiar— Derek remembers him from both elementary and middle school, and he still really likes science, so Derek starts a conversation with him about Neil Degrasse Tyson video as they all start walking towards the cafeteria.
Okay, so Derek has a lot of friends. That’s cool. He really wants to see his best friend, though.
It isn’t until Derek has his lunch in hand (or, well, Ross is holding it for him) and is walking with the other jocks when he spots Stiles on the other side of the cafeteria. Stiles is sitting at a table with a few people Derek doesn’t know, and has his head thrown back in laughter.
Derek’s breath catches in his throat.
He knew Stiles would be older, too, but it’s one thing to think about and another to see it with his own eyes. Stiles’ hair is longer, Derek wonders if it’s soft to the touch. His moles are the same, but they stand out more against the sharper angles of his cheeks. Derek can’t hear him from here, but Stiles’ voice would be deeper, now, and— fuck, Derek doesn’t know what to do. He’s frozen where he stands, butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
Stiles sets down his soda and glances up; suddenly he’s staring right back at Derek.
Derek smiles warmly, waving a little, filled with affection and nervousness. Cora didn’t mention if he ever dated Stiles but Derek’s sure he must have been the first person he—
Stiles’ expression turns cold and stony, and his eyes glitter with a sharp anger and he pointedly looks away, ignoring Derek and starting up a conversation with the boy next to him.
Derek’s stomach lurches unpleasantly and he thinks this might be the most disorienting thing that has happened to him since he woke up in the hospital.
He’s jolted out of his thoughts when a pretty blonde girl walks up to him and links his arm in hers. “Derek!” she says. “Come sit with me today.” She raises his eyebrows at the rest of his group. “I suppose there’s room for some of you at the table as well. Not you, though,” she adds, pointing at Ross, who nods silently and sets Derek’s lunch and backpack down and runs off.
“Aw, thanks, Kate,” Jackson says, rolling his eyes. “C’mon.”
Oh, so this is Kate. Derek blinks at her and for some reason it makes perfect sense that the immaculately styled girl in front of him sent him a picture of a strawberry for a get well soon card.
The group rearranges itself and settles between two tables; Derek and a few of the jocks end up sitting with Kate and the people at her table already. Derek gives up on following the conversation; it’s idle gossip about people he doesn’t know and also about the upcoming prom in a few weeks. Every now and then Kate will look at him but she seems satisfied with the shrugs and the one word answers Derek comes up with.
To be honest, Derek isn’t sure why his… present self? future self? he doesn’t really know how to refer to himself really, but he really doesn’t understand why he ever dated her. She just seems mean. Kate’s currently making fun of another girl’s hair and other people are laughing and Derek doesn’t like it at all.
“Hey, Danny,” Derek says quietly. “Who is that?” He gestures to the people at Stiles’ table.
“Ah, that’s Scott McCall, the lacrosse co-captain, although Jackson would beg to differ,” Danny says with a chuckle. “He’s actually really cool, I think he’ll do a great job as captain by himself next year when Jackson graduates.”
Derek nods as Danny goes into a spiel about the last lacrosse season and how one time Scott only passed to Danny and it was great. Scott looks completely at ease, his arm around Stiles’ shoulders, leaning backwards on his chair until he loses his balance. Stiles laughs and catches him.
The thing is, Derek does kind of know Scott from Stiles’ stories. There was a Scott that was Stiles’ best friend in elementary school, who Stiles was always talking about before Scott’s family moved to San Francisco. Derek always imagined just another kid getting in scrapes with Stiles, not this other attractive guy who just seems so… in sync with Stiles.
Derek can’t hear what they’re saying, but he bets they’re finishing each other’s sentences. “And Scott’s dating…” Derek can’t even bring himself to say it.
“Ugh, my cousin Allison, although she could do far, far better,” Kate says, popping into the conversation.
“Oh,” Derek says, with some relief, and now that he observes, Scott is indeed reaching across the table and holding hands with a curly brunette girl. So he’s not dating Stiles.
But they are friends, when it appears that Derek and Stiles are… not.
Derek pokes at the untouched food on his tray, his appetite gone. The worst part is that he doesn’t even know why Stiles seems to hate him, and there’s no one here that he really likes or trusts enough to ask why.
Derek sees a chance when Stiles gets up to throw his tray away, so he gets up, following Stiles to the trash can.
“Stiles,” Derek says, reaching out on impulse but drawing his hand back when he sees the hard stare aimed back at him. “Um. Hi.”
“Yes?” Stiles says, putting his hands in his pockets and lifting his chin.
He’s even more gorgeous up close, and Derek is stunned for a moment.
“I— please— can I talk to you?”
Stiles lifts his eyebrows but walks out into the hallway, away from the crowded cafeteria. Their footsteps echo on the linoleum, Derek’s crutches scraping the tile, and soon enough the cafeteria is nothing but a faint buzz of voices. “Dude, if you’re gonna beat me up and throw me in a trashcan or something, I would like to request the dumpster in the east parking lot because it’s closest to—”
“No, I would never—” Derek blurts, horrified. “Why would you think I— Stiles, you’re my best friend, I lo—” Derek cuts himself off before he says it, because it means something different when you’re five and ten and thirteen and it definitely isn’t the right thing to say right now.
Stiles’ mouth falls open.
“Look, um, I was in a bad accident. I hit my head and I suddenly wake up and I’m this—” Derek gestures at himself, and then at Stiles— “and you’re you but it’s me, Stiles, please, I don’t remember anything, or why you gave me that look like you hate me, but it’s awful and I hate it and I don’t want us to be fighting and whatever it is I did I’m sorry—”
Stiles holds up a hand. “You… have amnesia.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Kissing you, Derek wants to say, but it’s not really the right answer, because he remembers quite a bit after that. Starting BHHS without Stiles, being unfathomably lonely as a freshman, hating that he didn’t have any friends here, that he was at the bottom of the social ladder. “I was a freshman,” Derek settles on. “You… you’re my best friend, and you were still in eighth grade.”
Something in Stiles’ face softens, and his warm brown eyes look up at Derek in sympathy. “That was a long time ago, Derek.”
The bell rings.
“Please, I don’t trust anyone else like you. Can you just— can we just hang out later? After school? Come by my house,” Derek pleads.
They stare at each other for a moment before the students start filling the hallway, walking to their next class.
“Okay,” Stiles says, eyes on the floor. “I’ll see you later, Derek.”
Derek gets through the rest of his classes in a hopeful daze. By the time his mom picks him and Cora up he’s beside himself with nervousness. Cora disappears to her room immediately, and Derek makes small talk with his mom for a bit before she has to leave for a meeting.
“I won’t be back until nine, these town hall things can take forever,” Talia says. “Here’s money for pizza.”
“Stiles is coming over,” Derek says. “And he likes stuffed crust, so…”
“Stiles?” Talia asks, eyes lighting up as she hands Derek another twenty from her wallet. “How sweet, you haven’t invited him over in years. Tell him hello for me.”
Derek is watching at the window impatiently when Stiles finally pulls up, watching in fascination as Stiles steps out of the blue Jeep, legs spilling out of the door. He gives Derek’s house a scrutinizing look and walks up, and Derek throws the door open before Stiles can ring the doorbell.
“Hey,” Stiles says, awkwardly.
“Stiles,” Derek says, at once feeling so relieved from the stressful and confusing day he’s had. He throws his arms around Stiles on impulse, hugging him tightly. His crutches clatter to the floor, but Derek doesn’t want to let go, especially when Stiles hugs him back.
“Thank you for coming over. It’s been so weird since I woke up,” Derek says.
“Yeah, I— um, yeah. Here, let me help.” Stiles picks up Derek’s crutches and hands them to him.
“I ordered pizza. Um, is the meat lovers with stuffed crust still your favorite?”
“Yeah, dude,” Stiles says, smiling.
Derek leads him to the couch, and they sit there together, Derek trying to take in Stiles’ features— familiar and different at the same time.
Stiles sets down his backpack and fiddles with his hands for a bit before he finally breaks the silence. “So, um, how are you feeling? Leg bothering you much?”
Derek props up his cast on the coffee table. “Not too bad, I just have to rest it every now and then. I still can’t believe I did a slam dunk. I really don’t remember being tall enough. Remember when we both tried and then you made me put you on my shoulders so you could dunk?” Derek grins, looking out into the yard where the basketball hoop is standing. It doesn’t seem so long ago— Derek must have been ten, holding Stiles’ knobbly knees and cheering him on.
“Oh man, and then you tripped and we both ended up falling,” Stiles says, laughing. He gives Derek a strange look. “You really— you really don’t remember anything since then, huh.”
Derek shakes his head.
Stiles takes a deep breath. “Look, I know you’re going through a lot right now, but this is kind of weird for me, okay? We aren’t— we aren’t friends, let alone best friends.”
Derek can feel the little bubble of hope that has been growing all afternoon inside of him shatter into a million pieces.
“Aw, Derek, please don’t make that face, don’t— ah, fuck, why am I even—”
“We’re not friends,” Derek repeats in disbelief. It’s one thing to see Stiles give him an angry cold stare in the cafeteria but it’s another to hear him say it out loud.
“Derek,” Stiles says calmly. “Look, it’s okay, you know? People drift apart. It’s normal. A lot has happened in four years.”
“But it’s you— and me— we always said we’d—”
Stiles sighs, but he hugs Derek again. The familiar touch is enough for Derek to relax a little, and finally Stiles lets him go and nods at him. He reaches into his backpack, pulling out two thick yearbooks. “Look, I brought some stuff to help you remember. That’s why you wanted me to come over, right? Because you don’t remember any of your new friends, I’m the only person you know?”
No, that’s not the only reason. Derek doesn’t quite know how to explain it, but Stiles is already flipping through the first yearbook.
“Look, this is from your sophomore year, and that’s you. You tried out for the basketball team and made varsity as a sophomore. Kind of high school royalty after that, you know. I mean, once you got your braces off it was like everyone suddenly realized you were hot.” Stiles points at a picture of Derek at a basketball game, making a shot. There’s a whole spread in the yearbook devoted to him as a sophomore.
Derek reads the article, fascinated.
Stiles hands the other yearbook to him. “And you last year, junior class president and prom committee.”
Derek looks at the spread— it’s about last year’s Winter Formal, and he’s slow dancing with Kate, in a circle of students cheering and clapping and looking at him adoringly. “Okay,” Derek says. He flips the page, and another, and another, looking for Stiles. He’s barely visible in the JV lacrosse team photo, but when Derek gets to the club section of the yearbook he has to laugh. Stiles is in almost every photo of all the clubs, either peering out from the back or in the case of the Geography club, almost falling out of frame in the front row, like he ran and dashed into the picture.
It’s just so Stiles. Derek keeps flipping through the pages, finding Stiles beaming at him from the pages. In some of the photos, especially the smaller clubs, the other students look delighted with the addition, arms slung around Stiles, laughing at the joke.
Derek looks up to see Stiles, a familiar fond expression on his face. Derek smiles back at him, happy that some things haven’t changed much— maybe he and Stiles haven’t hung out in a while, but they still like each other, right? “This is great,” Derek says, running his fingers across the pages. “Did any of them get mad?”
“Ah, I’m actually in some of these, like— “ Stiles gestures at the huge National Honor Society photo. “And some people gave me dirty looks and made me leave, like the fishing club people, and Dinah from the fencing club challenged me to a duel right after, but I brought a lightsaber with me, and we ended up having a good time and I joined the club anyways,” Stiles says.
There’s one photo where Stiles actually looks posed; he’s standing in the center of about twenty students, a smile on his face. Scott is to his left, and Derek doesn’t recognize anyone else from the photo, but Stiles looks so proud here. “Alliance for Equality?” Derek reads from the caption. Stiles Stilinski, president, it says, and it goes on to list the other officers but it doesn’t say what the club is besides the name.
Stiles laughs. “I ah, I started that sophomore year. BHHS already had a GSA but they weren’t really inclusive, plus we do more volunteer work, so.” He smirks. “There’s a better article in this yearbook.”
Stiles flips through the yearbook for the page, and Derek takes a moment to glance at the autograph pages. They’re filled with well wishes from Stiles’ friends, but Derek doesn’t see his own handwriting anywhere.
“Here,” Stiles says.
The spread is a feature on what looks like both Stiles and the Alliance for Equality, the club Stiles started in response to the student president of the GSA not recognizing bisexuality. The article is really cool, and Derek feels incredibly proud of everything Stiles managed to do in a year with this club. There are a few photos of the members doing volunteer work, raising money, and presenting a check to a local youth shelter. There’s a prominent photo of Stiles, arms crossed and defiantly into the distance. He looks good, hair a little shorter than it is now, but closer to what Derek remembers of him, his friend with the smirk and a buzzcut.
There’s another smaller photo, of lesser quality like it was taken with a phone, showing Stiles standing up on a table in the cafeteria, doing some sort of dance move.
“Bi, Bi, Bi— Sophomore Stiles Stilinski interrupts an otherwise normal lunch at BHHS with some N’Sync and dance moves of his own, singing a modified version of the pop song. “Yeah, I’m totally bisexual, baby! And single and ready to mingle if anyone is interested! And don’t forget to join Alliance for Equality, the new LGBT+ friendly service club, meetings after school on Tuesdays in B14!” Stilinski received detention for his unsanctioned use of the school’s speaker system, but said it was worth it, for both promoting his new club and also on a personal level.”
“That’s awesome,” Derek says, looking up from the photo.
“You really think so?” Stiles’ eyes widen a little.
“Of course. I mean, not the way I would come out, but I think it’s great. It was very brave, and I think you made a great statement.”
“Huh,” Stiles says, face unreadable.
Derek looks at the photo again, and suddenly something sparks in his memory. “You were wearing Vans with purple and pink laces,” Derek blurts out. “I thought— I thought it was cool.”
“Pink, lavender and blue, actually, you know how hard it was to dye those laces three colors and— wait! Did you just remember that?” Stiles asks, grinning and punching Derek playfully on the shoulder. “Dude!”
At that moment the doorbell rings. “That would be the pizza,” Derek says, pulling the money out of his pocket and trying to shuffle to his feet.
“It’s cool, sit back down, you’re injured,” Stiles says, taking the cash. He answers the door and pays the delivery person, taking in the pizza and setting it on the coffee table.
“So there are a bunch of movies that I um, I don’t remember seeing,” Derek says awkwardly. “Do you wanna stay? I got your favorite pizza and it looks like with you helping me I’m starting to remember things.”
Stiles takes a deep breath and picks up his yearbooks. “Sorry, I have a lot of homework to do tonight. But I’m glad I started kickstarting things for you and stuff. You know, we didn’t really hang out in the years you’re trying to remember, so I don’t really think I’d be much help anyways.”
“Okay,” Derek says. “Thank you, for coming over, you know. It’s actually kind of cool, now that I think about it. I must have just skipped the weird parts, like we’re kind of grown up, now, you know? You’re president of your cool thing and I’m, like, a senior and captain and stuff.”
“Basketball captain, and student body president, and probably going to be prom king,” Stiles says. “Yep. You got everything you ever wanted.”
“Yeah,” Derek says, even though he feels a little hollow.
“Bye, Derek,” Stiles says, nodding at him before he heads out the door.
Derek watches him leave, and Stiles turns around once more and gives him a small smile before he gets into his Jeep.
He’s still watching forlornly out the window when he hears footsteps behind him.
“Hey, stuffed crust!” Cora says, grabbing a slice of pizza and biting into it. “Extra large, really?”
“I thought Stiles was going to stay for dinner,” Derek says, disappointed. He picks up a slice for himself and bites into it, but it doesn’t taste the same without Stiles to enjoy it with him.
“Stiles, huh,” Cora says.
“He says we’re not friends anymore,” Derek says miserably.
“Mmhmm,” Cora says, eating her pizza like it isn’t the end of Derek’s world. “You guys stopped hanging out when you started high school.”
“No,” Derek says, because he remembers— he remembers freshman year. He talked to Stiles on the phone, all the time. Stiles came over sometimes on weekends; Derek remembers complaining to him about how much everything sucked.
“Hm, well, I definitely remember he didn’t come by the house anymore way before I started at BHHS, so it was before that.”
“Look, I’d help you, but you don’t talk to me about any of that stuff. Did you ask Stiles?”
“Not really,” Derek says, after a moment of replaying their interactions in his head. “He was telling me stuff, helping me remember— and I did! I remembered something on my own.”
“That’s good,” Cora says. “Next time you hang out, you should ask him if you really want to know. But if you really want my opinion—”
“Yes, I do.”
Cora shrugs. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re kind of a dick.”
The blunt, matter-of-fact way she says it catches Derek off guard. Derek just stares at his half-eaten slice of pizza, horrified.
Cora just starts talking, and with every story Derek just slinks into his chair, feeling worse and worse. Derek Hale, senior class president, only hangs out with his elite group of friends, who have exclusive parties at Jackson Whittemore’s house, cares about the state championships and getting a basketball scholarship for college, but apparently all the other freshmen in Cora’s class are simultaneously both terrified and in awe of him. Derek once forced one of Cora’s friends to switch lockers with him so Derek could have one with a view, Derek doesn’t talk to anyone that’s beneath him, and that includes Cora. And Stiles.
“I sound awful,” Derek says. “I’m… I’m a bully.”
“Well, more like you’re friends with Jackson and Kate and you don’t really step in or do anything when he does something awful, you know? And I definitely think you laughed with Kate made fun of my best friend’s outfit last week.”
“I’m sorry,” Derek says sincerely. “I don’t… I don’t know why I did those things, but I promise things are going to be different.”
Derek spots Ross after fourth period and waves at him until the freshman comes over.
“Hey, I’m sorry about yesterday. Do you want to eat lunch with me and some other people today?” Derek asks.
“Yeah, that would be great,” Ross says, breathless. “Can I hold your things? Help you get lunch?”
Ross is carrying both of their lunch trays and Derek’s been having a good conversation with him as they make their way through the cafeteria, ignoring Kate’s not-so-subtle waves to join her table. Derek shakes his head at her and nods at Ross to continue.
“Yeah, for the PSAT you shouldn’t guess on the questions if you don’t know, you get docked for wrong answers,” Derek says, the fact fresh in his mind because he remembers studying for the PSAT very, very recently.
“Oh man, that’s great, thanks,” Ross says.
Stiles’ table isn’t full yet, and in fact there is an empty seat right across from Stiles. “Hi,” Derek says, sitting down and setting his crutches on the floor.
“Hello,” Scott says, turning to glance at Stiles, whose mouth has dropped open.
“Hi!” Ross says excitedly, plopping next to Derek and setting their trays down.
“Are you taking our table, is that’s what’s happening?” Stiles asks, glancing around him. “I guess this one does have a pretty good view of the field. C’mon, Scott—”
“No, I just— I wanted to sit here. With you. All of you,” Derek says. “Is that okay?”
Scott looks at Stiles, who just rubs the back of his neck and lets out a sharp laugh. “Sure, okay, why not,” he says. “The king considers himself worthy to eat with us lowly peasants.”
“Who are you calling a peasant, Stiles?” Lydia Martin asks from the other end of the table, scowling at Stiles. “I hope it’s just yourself, because no one at this table is a peasant, antiquated concepts about high school hierarchies aside. Hello, Derek. It’s lovely of you to join us.”
Derek remembers Lydia Martin from middle school as being incredibly smart and intimidating, and is not surprised to say that both those things have remained the same. “Hi, Lydia. Oh, uh, this is Ross Goldstein, he’s in JV basketball.”
“Lydia,” Ross says, clearly impressed.
Stiles frowns. “Well, okay, not peasants, you know what I mean. We’re kind of weird, that’s all? Like I don’t think it’s doing anything for your popularity points to be seen with—”
“A future Fields medal winner?” Allison says, gesturing at Lydia. “A current Olympic archery qualifier,” she says, nodding proudly at herself. “The sweetest guy in the universe, the future Dr. McCall,” Allison giggles, taking Scott’s hand.
“And Stiles,” Derek finishes, eager to play this game. “He’s the founding member of Alliance for Equality, a service club that has put in over three hundred volunteer hours in the past year and Stiles is part of the NHS and the debate team, and his original oratory won first place at the Lincoln invitational in the fall, so I don’t think there’s anything to sneeze at here.”
Last night after Stiles had left Derek had gone back to his own room to see if he had his own yearbooks. He did, and in fact sandwiched in the feature on Stiles were a few articles and photos cut out from the school paper.
So maybe they weren’t close anymore, and this new Derek was kind of an asshole, according to Cora, but he was still cared enough to keep up with Stiles.
Derek was determined to undo whatever it was that he did before the memory loss. He spent all night trying to look up the Alliance for Equality and scrolling through years of Stiles’ Facebook updates. Derek’s own Facebook is nothing of interest, his statuses mostly related to basketball and people posting on his wall about parties and gossip. He had to go back three years to find the last time Stiles had interacted with him there— Stiles wished Derek a happy birthday, and Derek hadn’t liked it or responded.
Stiles’ Facebook was far more interesting, and Derek had read through the night, Stiles’ opinion on everything from movies to comics to Mr. Harris and his dad’s diet. There were a few times that reading something prompted another memory, but it was never really anything concrete, just hazy recollections of what jacket Stiles was wearing on that day, or what his laugh sounded like after Derek told a joke.
It’s not a lot, but it’s something, and Derek feels good, moving forward.
“Right, okay,” Stiles says, but he still is giving Derek a suspicious look.
“Do you want my curly fries?” Derek asks, pushing his lunch forward.
Stiles reaches out and takes the whole tray of fries, lifting an eyebrow. Derek just nods encouragingly. “Thanks,” Stiles says, around a mouthful.
And with that, conversation just flows easily. Scott asks Derek about his leg, which starts a cool conversation about how Scott put a splint on a cat’s leg last week, and then Lydia is in Derek’s AP Physics class so they chat a little about the homework for tonight. Even Ross seems to be having a good time, having gotten over his initial stage fright and is talking to Allison about her Olympic training.
Derek’s having a good time at lunch— in fact, his ankle and Stiles’ ankle is touching under the table, and Stiles hasn’t moved his leg. It’s warm and a solid weight against Derek’s ankle, and he kind of wants to rub it a little, to see if—
“So, this is where you went off to,” Kate simpers, sliding into the table, forcing Ross to hastily scoot down. “I thought you were only going to be a minute, but it looks like you’re actually having lunch here.” She glances dismissively at the rest of the table, barely acknowledging them.
“I am, thanks,” Derek says.
“Well, I had sushi delivered,” Kate says, putting a hand on his arm. “It’s getting cold. You should come back to our table.”
“Isn’t sushi supposed to be eaten cold?” Derek asks. “And I did want to eat here, thanks but no thanks.” He moves his arm.
“Guess we’re taking over this table?” Jackson says, holding a few delivery boxes. “Losers, scram. Not you ladies, I mean,” he says in an oily tone. “Would you like some sushi?”
Lydia and Allison roll their eyes, but the rest of the table looks distinctly uncomfortable.
Ross starts to get up, but Derek pats him gently on the shoulder so he sits back down. He turns to Jackson. “Look, can you guys just leave? We’re trying to have lunch here.”
“And who is we, Derek? We’re better than these people,” Kate says.
“No, we’re not, we’re all just— people,” Derek says. “Look, they’re my friends, and I’m sitting here for lunch. If you have a problem with that, you should leave.”
Jackson laughs first, loud and shrill. “Them? Friends? Okay, maybe McCall’s alright, for a co-captain, at least he plays lacrosse, but everyone knows that Stilinski is a huge slut, after all he’s said he’d fuck anything that moves—”
Derek stands up, holding the table for balance, glaring at Jackson. He’s only vaguely aware that the cafeteria has gone silent, watching their exchange. “You know what? Just because Stiles is bi does not mean you can call him a slut. First of all, you’re wrong, because being bisexual is about who you’re attracted to, not—” Derek waves vaguely, unable to even say what Jackson is implying— “the other thing, and second, it doesn’t matter how many people anyone sleeps with, you’re just being rude and mean—” Derek is out of breath, out of words, and his chest is heaving.
Jackson throws his hands up. “Fine. Whatever. It’s still weird, though, like you can be gay or straight, it’s not a thing, alright?”
“Yes, yes it is,” Derek says adamantly. “Because I'm bisexual too.”
The rest of lunch goes smoothly after Kate and Jackson head back to their table, conversation going back to the newest Marvel movie. Stiles keeps shooting Derek strange looks and finally when the bell rings for fifth, Stiles takes Derek’s backpack from Ross. “I got this, dude. You get to class.”
Ross nods, and gives Derek another awed look before he runs off.
Stiles throws Derek’s backpack over his shoulder, and walks with Derek as he slowly shuffles through the hallway.
“Where are we going?” Derek asks, when they pass the C building where his fifth period is.
“Your fifth is leadership, right? You guys aren’t doing much now that prom is all settled for next week, do you wanna ditch with me? I have music theory but I usually go hang out in the theater.” Stiles’ grin is open and earnest, maybe the most friendly Derek’s seen from him since he woke up.
“Sure,” Derek says.
The theater is empty, and Stiles waits patiently for Derek to amble to the soundbooth, where he opens the door and gestures proudly. “Ta da!” Stiles says. “It’s not much, but it’s a great hangout spot. I have the key since I helped with the staging of Charlie Brown in the spring, and they’re not gonna use this until graduation, so no one ever comes by here.”
There’s a cozy couch set up and even a mini fridge. Stiles pulls out a soda and hands it to Derek, the two of them sitting down, knees barely touching.
“You didn’t have to do that, back there,” Stiles says finally.
“Come out like that,” Stiles says. “I know you didn’t want to.”
“I haven’t thought about it much, honestly,” Derek says.
“I keep forgetting you don’t— you don’t remember everything,” Stiles says, taking a drink of his soda. “We kind of figured it out around the same time— you remember that?”
“Yeah,” Derek says, heart fluttering a little. “We kissed. It was nice.”
Stiles bites his lip, and there’s a faint blush starting in his cheeks. “I liked you a lot, Derek. As more than a friend. And then you went to high school and just… by the time I started BHHS you wanted nothing to do with me. Just wanted to hang out with your new basketball friends, wouldn’t even talk to me. You were just so worried about making it, you know. Being popular, you know, first sophomore to make varsity and everything.”
“I’m sorry,” Derek says.
“It’s okay, I get— I get the insecurity and stuff, I remember hanging out with you when you were a freshman and you hated it, hated all of it. And I know you weren’t comfortable coming out, that was fine, I would have never pressured you, Derek, I just— I didn’t realize that my coming out meant you would have stopped being my friend.” Stiles looks at his feet, eyes downcast with an remnants of an old pain. “I mean, I did kinda make a big deal of it, but I wanted to show you it was okay, but I guess it backfired because all the attention made you shrink back.”
“I promised you a long time ago we’d always be friends, Stiles,” Derek says, reaching out and taking Stiles’ hand in his own. “I don’t think I— I went through my stuff, you know. Last night I found a bunch of random stuff in my room. Articles about your debate tournaments and your club and stuff. Pictures of you. Before I lost my memory I still cared about you, you know, I just don’t think I let myself show it. I want to fix it, Stiles. I’m going to do better. I want us to be friends again,” Derek promises. He squeezes Stiles’ hand and Stiles squeezes back, and Derek feels just so incredibly relieved.
Stiles laces his fingers together with Derek’s, and they sit there for a bit, holding hands and drinking their soda, and Derek watches the blush creep down Stiles’ neck until he realizes something.
“Did you say— you liked me? As more than a friend?”
Stiles splutters, spitting out his soda. “Yeah, um, yes, I did.”
“Is that still past tense?” Derek asks, his heart in his throat.
“I— I don’t know,” Stiles says. He lets go of Derek’s hand and runs a hand nervously through his hair.
“I like you too,” Derek says. “As more than a friend.”
The words hang in the air as Stiles looks up at him, eyes shining. “I really want to kiss you right now, but I’m afraid like, at any point, all your memories are going to come back and you’re gonna hate me or something. I think I can handle being friends, you know— hanging out, eating lunch together and all that. I don’t think I’m ready for anything else.”
“That’s okay,” Derek says. “Friendship is great.”
Stiles turns red, mumbling something under his breath.
“What was that?”
“I don’t mind holding hands. Not in public! But like, here. But only because I missed you,” Stiles says.
“Okay,” Derek says, pleased. He takes Stiles’ hand again, and they sit together on the couch companionably drinking their soda.
Over the next few weeks, school explodes in a flurry of excitement for the upcoming prom night. There are handmade campaign posters everywhere, most prominently featured are still the joint posters with a photo of Kate and Derek that proclaim, “Kate and Derek, BHHS voted us Cutest Couple, Now We Want Your Vote for Queen and King!”
Derek gets a few looks of interest the day after his outburst with Jackson, but no one makes a fuss about it, or about where he decides to sit at lunch. He’s even joined at lunch at Stiles’ table by Danny and two of the volleyball girls who eagerly start talking to Allison in French.
And Stiles… Stiles is his friend again, which is the best.
Derek’s memories trickle in slowly, in bits and pieces and sometimes in floods, and it’s confusing when it happens, what will prompt a memory, but it’s a good process. Not everything is bad, although he cringes at a lot of the things he learns about himself.
Stiles— Stiles is someone Derek has fun getting to relearn. They make up on years of missed time, watching movies together and eating tons of junk food, and they even go back to the forest to their old haunts, walking slowly this time.
Derek has had his cast replaced with a hard boot by now, so he’s a lot more mobile, but if he feigns being a little weaker so Stiles will prop him up by the shoulder as they walk, no one has to know. They walk through the forest, Stiles guiding him around their old favorite paths.
They sit on the same log as they did when they were young, holding hands and listening to the forest around them.
Derek is cornered by Kate as he heads to class on Wednesday, and she tells him, matter-of-factly, that Derek can still take her to prom, because they are going to win the crown, and there is no one else apparently who looks good enough to be her date.
“No,” Derek says. “I already have a date.”
He asked Stiles, after much trepidation and preface that it didn’t have to be a date date but Stiles had laughed and said sure, he was already going with his friends, and they had a limo together, and Derek was welcome to join the group.
“Our first date isn’t going to be prom,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes.
“But that means— you want to date me after?” Derek asked hopefully.
Stiles had laughed and hugged him. “Yeah, maybe. I’ll dance with you at prom, how about that.”
Derek’s too lost in daydreaming about this conversation to really pay attention much to Kate’s annoyed huff and how she’s already walking away.
Prom night is a blur; Derek has his suit tailored to fit over his cast, and he feels nervous, looking at his reflection in the mirror. His memory is a bit patchy still, but he’s glad of the whole experience.
Stiles is at the door, presenting him with a matching corsage, and they join the others in the limo, laughing and talking on their way downtown. The ballroom the school has rented has been decked out in soft, shimmery blues, and Derek takes what seems to be an endless amount of pictures. Stiles, staring in awe at the chandelier; Stiles and Scott, striking a goofy pose together; Allison and Lydia resplendent in their dresses; the fancy steak dinner; and of course, selfies with Stiles squeezed in close next to him, cheek soft and warm. They pose for the official photos with the photographer too, Derek’s hands stiffly on Stiles’ waist until Stiles laughs and turns around, and Derek finds himself unable to stop smiling.
It’s all a haze of dancing in a group, upbeat songs, and then there’s one slow dance where everyone disappears, either off the dance floor or breaking into couples. Derek and Stiles stand next to each other, awkwardly watching everyone dance, making conversation about the dessert. Derek keeps wondering if this is the right moment to ask Stiles, or maybe he should have asked at the beginning of the song, and then the song is over and it’s too late.
He’ll ask the next song.
Unfortunately there’s another group of fast songs, and then the DJ turns the microphone over to Principal Martin, who taps it and starts into a speech that involves metaphors and the end of another school year. Derek tunes out of it until she announces the court and realizes he’s supposed to be on stage as one of the nominees for king.
He wades through the crowd and awkwardly stands on the stage with the others nominated for king and queen. Kate is twirling a strand of her hair, waiting expectantly.
“Your king— Derek Hale!”
Derek sheepishly ducks his head as they place the large plastic crown on him, and he bows a little, accepting the cheers and applause. He hears a wolf whistle and looks up to see Stiles whooping in the back.
“And your queen— Kate Argent!”
Kate lets out a surprised gasp, clapping her hands to her face as she accepts her tiara.
The music swells, and a sweet ballad starts to play. “And the traditional first dance,” Mrs. Martin announces.
A spotlight shines on them, and Derek has to blink to catch his bearings. What he does see is Stiles turning to leave the ballroom.
Derek glances at Kate, who already has her hand out like she expects Derek to kiss it or hold it delicately, he doesn’t know, and then back at Mrs. Martin. “I can dance with whoever I want, right?” Derek asks.
“Well, usually the voted King and Queen are a couple so it isn’t an issue, but I don’t see why not,” Mrs. Martin says.
“Good. Screw tradition,” Derek says, running off and out of the spotlight. “Stiles, wait!”
Stiles turns around, and Derek has never felt more nervous in his life. “Can I— Can I have this dance?” Derek asks, holding out his hand.
Stiles looks at his hand, and then back up at Derek. “Yeah, of course,” he says, surprised.
Stiles fits in his arms perfectly, and they sway on the dance floor to the music together. Slowly, more couples join them as the song gently plays all around them.
“You were leaving?” Derek asks, pressing closer.
“I— was getting some air,” Stiles says.
“I’m your date,” Derek says softly. “I wasn’t going to dance with someone else.”
“I thought maybe— well with everything you said about like, it being a group thing, and maybe us getting matching corsages was a joke after all or because you listened to me tell you that they were a deal and if I got them when Scott got his— and—” Stiles swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “You’re serious.”
“Of course I’m serious, I’ve been serious,” Derek says. “I thought that’s what we’ve been doing this week. And my memory has been coming back, too, I thought you knew I meant it, everything I said about liking you and wanting to be with you—”
“Oh God,” Stiles mutters, squeezing Derek’s hands tighter.
Their faces are impossibly close. Derek’s palms are sweaty, and he has no idea what is happening in the room beyond this, Stiles holding him, the feel of his body so close, the sweet notes of the music in the air.
“You look good in a crown, my king,” Stiles says lightly.
Derek laughs, the joke lifting his nerves for a bit. He lets go of Stiles to take the crown off his head, and he puts it on Stiles. It’s a little too big, and falls over his eyes. Derek pushes it up a little and adjusts it at a rakish angle.
“Not as good as you,” Derek says.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Stiles announces breathlessly.
It’s a little uncoordinated, their noses bumping together, but Stiles’ mouth is soft and insistent, and for a second Derek is back in that little glade in the forest, kissing Stiles for the first time, and then he’s back on the dance floor, surrounded by lights and shining balloons, kissing Stiles like he’s going to be kissing him forever.
They finally break apart, still swaying to a slow song that has ended already. Everyone around them is dancing wildly to the quicker beat, but Derek and Stiles are still lost in their little world.
Stiles rests his forehead on Derek’s, closing his eyes and sighing happily.
Derek smiles. “Now I’ve got everything I’ve always wanted.”