Stiles raced Derek to the huge tree in his backyard on his bike, peddling as fast as his nine year old feet would allow.
Obviously he lost because Derek is Derek, but he didn't really mind. By the time Stiles made it to the tree, Derek was already climbing his way up it, swinging from a branch and screaming at the top of his lungs. Stiles followed him up, sitting on a branch, their branch, and mimicked Derek's shouts at the air.
After a while they just sat there in silence and togetherness, feet dangling over the branch and swaying in the air. It was calming for Stiles, just being around Derek. He provided a sense of comfort, of calm and serenity and love, different from his parents. Something that was uniquely Derek, for Stiles.
"Derek," Stiles said in a voice so small it was a shock Derek even heard him to begin with.
Derek turned to look at him and made a noise of acknowledgment, waiting for Stiles to complete what he's saying.
"Thanks for being my friend," Stiles said, looking up at Derek through his lashes, a sad look on his face.
No one really liked Stiles for some reason or another. They thought he was too loud or too hyper or too annoying or whatever other dumb reasoning they had to justify their dislike for him on that particular day. And Derek hated it, hated how pretentious and stuck up and outright annoying the kids at school were when it came to how Stiles was as a person.
Derek knew that at times, Stiles could be annoying, with his nonsense information and constant babbling and general fidgeting but, underneath all of that, he was a good kid. One who took life seriously, sometimes way too seriously for a nine year old, when need be, and who loved everyone in his life as fiercely as physically possible. And he was Derek's friend, his best friend.
Derek looked at Stiles fully and smiled a tad. "You don't have to thank me for being your friend." He bumped his shoulder with Stiles', resulting in a smile from the other boy and a shoulder bump in return. "I enjoy being your friend. You're awesome to have around."
Stiles looked at Derek straight on, an unreadable look on his face before he dove into Derek. Arms wound tightly around Derek's shoulders and his face tucked firm against Derek's chest. "I love you." Stiles says, muffled against Derek's chest.
Shocked at the sudden outburst of affection, it took Derek a second before he returned the hug, but soon his arms engulfed Stiles and drew him closer to his chest.
"I love you too Stiles."
Stiles knocked softly on Derek's bedroom door before opening it slightly and poking his head through. There Derek was, sitting on his bed, legs folded beneath him, a look so distraught and hurt and sad that Stiles instantly went to his side and pulled him into his arms. Derek immediately melted into Stiles' touch and grabbed at him, pulling Stiles closer to his chest like he's his lifeline and Derek is a man drowning at sea.
Stiles was muttering nonsense to Derek, anything he could to try and calm him down and get him to talk about what happened, about what made him call Stiles in a panic asking him to get to his house as soon as he possibly could.
"Shh," Stiles whispered into Derek's ear as he rubbed his back to calm him more. "It'll be okay. Whatever it is, it will be okay." Stiles pulled back far enough to look at Derek's face. He still wasn't okay, still wasn't the Derek that Stiles knows and cherishes and loves but, he was better than the tired, depressed, and worn being Stiles saw when he first stepped into the room.
Stiles repositioned them so he was sitting in Derek's lap with their heads on each other's shoulders, arms still around each other, holding on tightly in fear that the other person would leave or disappear.
Stiles gets lost in the motions of soothing Derek, zones out as his hands make the repeated motions of stroking his back that he almost missed it, almost missed those three words that's left Derek's mouth.
“I love you,” Derek barely whispered into the crook of Stiles’ neck. “I love you so much it hurts.”
Getting restless, Stiles hopped off of the tree branch and onto the ground in a crouch, Derek not far behind him.
“It’s getting late,” Stiles starts. “I should get home so my dad doesn’t freak.”
Derek nods understanding and goes to get his and Stiles’ bikes from near the tree. Stiles takes his bike back and begins to walk, Derek falling into step next to him as he always does. It’s quiet, the walk, something that should be uncomfortable with rambled words and fillers but not with Derek. Never with Derek. With Derek, life and everything that came with it, was calm and peaceful, something Stiles truly enjoyed and cherished because there was nothing calm about him. He was frantic movements and frenzied speech with flailing limbs and a brain that doesn’t know how to shut down.
Derek was calming breaths and calculated movements. He never said anything unless he meant it, more mature than someone their age had any right to be. But together, they worked to balance one another, taking bits and pieces from each other, blending so well together it’s unclear where one of them begins and the other ends.
Derek looks over at Stiles and quirks an eyebrow. “Race you to the road?”
Stiles smiles and begins to run with his bike, trying to move faster than Derek through the sticks and leaves littering the ground, and not doing that good of a job. Derek is keeping pace with Stiles, laughing as Stiles makes a noise of disbelief and tries to move faster and get farther ahead but fails.
They both make it to the road at the same time, trading breathy laughs with each other. When Stiles begins to mount his bike, Derek follows his lead. “I’ll ride with you home, it’s no big deal.” Stiles nods and begins to bike home, Derek on his left. Again, they don’t talk and it’s not some horribly uncomfortable thing that needs to be changed.
They get to Stiles’ house not long after, both of them standing still, not wanting to leave and be alone. Shifting awkwardly, Stiles begins to move towards his garage door, his goodbye to Derek on the tip of his lips, when Derek speaks first.
“You should come over my house tomorrow,” he says rapidly. “My uncle just got me this really cool game for my GameCube if you want to test it out with me. It’s Crash Bandicoot.” Derek looks down at the ground, feet moving nervously as he waits for Stiles’ answer.
As if Stiles would say anything other than yes.
“That sounds so cool!” Stiles exclaims. “I’ve tried to get my dad to get me that game since it came out! What time should I be over?” He asks, excitement running through his veins.
Derek looks at Stiles with a small smile on his face. “Come over whenever, I really don’t mind. My uncle may be around, though.” With that being said, Derek starts to look anywhere but Stiles.
Peter Hale is an alcoholic who usually can’t tell what day of the week it is, let alone what his nephew is up to ninety percent of the time. But he was the last piece of family Derek had left and he loved him, flaws and all.
“That’s fine,” Stiles said, smiling still. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Derek said, smiling at him again. “Tomorrow.”
Stiles moves towards his door, leaving his bike perched against the wall in the garage before running up into the house and to the window near the front door, watching as Derek makes his way to the street to start biking home. As he gets to the street corner, he turns and looks at Stiles in the window.