"This place is kind of a wasteland of ruined dreams," Stiles declares, shuffling his way into Derek's house. "Like the Bat Cave, only more meaningful and with less computers." Stiles has a way of acting timid and bold at the same time, like he fucking lives here, but he's also a guest. He nudges the cracked door shut behind him with his sneaker.
The entryway is huge, vaulted ceilings and a grand staircase; his voice would probably echo magnificently if it weren't for the fact that the house is a charred, blackened frame and little more. Derek stands at the top of the staircase. On Christmas morning when he was nine, he and Laura stood where he is now, their bare feet pawing in the carpet. They weren't allowed downstairs until dawn. The tree glittered tantalisingly. Jerky had been left for Santa; all that remained were crumbs on a porcelain plate. A half-drunk glass of orange juice.
"What if you rebuilt it?" Stiles asks. Squirming, toe in the dust on the floor, shoulders doing that marionette thing where they jerk into what would, on a less awkward person, be a shrug. "Just fixed it up a little?"
Derek continues to glare.
Stiles wants—what? What does Stiles want? What is his goal here? Because Derek can't even begin to fathom a Stiles that just wants to improve his local sourwolf's living conditions. When he was five, Derek built a precarious tower of blocks, spent hours on it. His older brother, then ten, offered to help. Derek was reluctant, but his brother said he had a great idea. Derek scooted over. Then his brother kicked it over. Derek stared, eyes wide with outrage, at the giant spill of multicoloured hunks of wood until his mother told him to pick it up.
"Just the kitchen?" Stiles wheedles.
Derek jumps down from the stairs, top to bottom. Lands with a shaking thud that causes dust to fall like confetti into his and Stiles' hair. Stiles takes a step back, but doesn't look nearly threatened enough for Derek's taste. "Why do you care so much about the state of my fucking house, Stiles? Don't you have better things to worry about?"
"Ever since we ghostbusted, things have been quiet. I think we can afford to focus on ridding Beacon Hills of the risk of tetanus and pneumonia. One sourfaced asshole at a time."
Derek rolls his eyes. "It's fine, Stiles." If he doesn't want to get tetanus or pneumonia, he can just not come here. It's pretty simple.
"It's better than the warehouse," Stiles tells him, blinking rapidly; dust coats his lashes; "but not by much."
"Oh my god. For you to live in, dude." Derek stares, eyes wide with outrage, at Stiles' face until Stiles speaks again. "You need to live in a place that is habitable? But you seem inclined to just—" he gestures, to Derek, to the house, to life in general "—wallow and punish yourself a lot."
When Derek was four, he tended to get overlooked in a family as large as his, especially during family reunions, and he was pretty sensitive to it. He was also a fuckup; it seemed like everything he did turned out wrong. He was always getting shooed out of rooms, asked why he didn't go find his cousin Lana, why didn't he go outside, why didn't he go look at a book for a while. When he stumbled and broke a vase, and his mother scolded him, he ran to his room and cried until dinnertime. Derek punished himself by banning himself from his bed for a week. It would have gone on longer, but Laura found him sleeping on the floor and tattled. Derek narrows his eyes. Stiles doesn't seem to notice; rather, he seems reassured by it.
"I'll help," he offers Derek optimistically.
Dully, Derek replies, "I don't need your charity."
Stiles just looks at him with indulgent frustration on his pretty face. "Then don't do it for you, Leopold. Do it for Isaac. And your shit-crazy uncle."
Leopold? When Derek was thirteen, he went with his aunt and cousin to a farmer's market. He was dubiously examining a table of rutabaga when this strange girl came up and stood next to him. "That's a lot of beets," she said.
"I think it's rutabaga," he replied.
She turned and looked at him, horrified and perplexed, like he'd just requested sex with her dead grandmother. She edged away from him. Derek never did figure out what happened there.
"Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is the guy they named masochism after," Stiles explains matter-of-factly when Derek's face betrays his bewilderment. "You're a masochist."