It’s not a terribly kept secret, but it’s also not exactly common knowledge.
The only reason Stiles even knows is because he’s been in the Camaro more than anyone else at this point. And that much is honestly just a coincidence. If he’s being honest, Scott is head over heels for Kira, Boyd’s taking out Erica nearly every single night after their last tumultuous break up, and Isaac in his experimental stage at Jungle most weeknights, so Derek is really Stiles’ only option when the Blueberry craps out. When the front tire gets stuck in a muddy pothole, when he gets a flat, when the engine starts to make a rattling sound, when the battery dies and Stiles has to get to his night class before his attendance starts really affecting his grade.
And after months of this, Stiles doesn’t even bother with an apology anymore, and Derek doesn’t care to get all the gritty details that lead to Stiles’ current state of pathetic affairs.
Derek just typically sighs into the phone like Stiles has interrupted a particularly straining work out (he usually does) and Derek asks him for his location (it’s almost always off the preserve boundaries or Main street) and he tells him he’ll be there in twenty and he makes it in ten.
It’s all very routine by now, Stiles gets apologetic the second he sees the werewolf and Derek waves off the emotions with the back of his hand like they physically trouble him. Derek gives him a jump, or he waits with Stiles for a tow truck, or they abandon the Blueberry all together because an emergency has come up, or they’re hungry, or it’s raining and neither of them want to be stranded outside while it’s pouring.
And, actually, that’s exactly how Stiles finds out.
They tumble into the Camaro after one of Stiles’ S.O.S., the heat blasting only for the benefit of his chilled bones, rain is falling in fat droplets onto the windshield creating all the commotion for a winter storm, the wind is howling, and Derek is speeding off into town. With the motor revving each time Derek switches gears, the heat whirring to a toasty temperature, the elements seeming to only get worse -- Stiles barely notices the soft sound coming from the stereo.
It’s not as if it’s all that quiet in the car, but it’s surprising for anything to be filling up the silence between the two that isn’t Stiles incessant monologue. It’s surprising is all, not necessarily shocking because Derek listens to music (right?), Derek goes out with the pack when he loses his resolve, Derek watches movies and buys coffee at Starbucks and shops for groceries and has actual furniture now at the loft that has no real purpose besides being aesthetically pleasing.
So it’s not surprising that Derek is tapping his fingers lightly against his grip on the steering wheel, it’s not surprising that he’s mouthing the words to the song so faintly like Stiles wouldn’t notice, it’s not surprising that Stiles can even notice Derek’s leg giving a little shake to the beat.
It’s not surprising that Derek is singing along to a Queen song.
Not at all.
As much as Derek would deny it to anyone else, they hang out. It first started after one of Stiles’ calls, Derek had drove behind the tow truck and they both grabbed lunch while the Jeep was in the shop. Stiles had paid, much to Derek’s argument, but he figured it was the least he could do after calling Derek on such short notice.
After that, Stiles always slipped out his card or some cash before the bill came, or before Derek could finish ordering. Derek slowly dropped whatever tired excuse he wanted to churn out so he could pay, and now Stiles just ignores the sharp glare that gets sent his way.
Sometimes Stiles calls him on Saturday mornings to grab some coffee, Derek still asks him why? but agrees all the same. Sometimes Derek invites him to go on runs through the preserve and Stiles manipulates him enough so they end up playing Call of Duty at his house instead. Derek will ask for his help with manual labor on the Hale house renovation and Stiles will invite him to see the newest Marvel movie.
Derek smiles sometimes and Stiles pretends that doesn’t affect him as much as he feels it in his chest.
They’re on Main Street for no reason other than a coffee meetup that’s extended longer than usual. Derek had dragged him into a hardware store to look at different faucets for upwards of two hours and for revenge Stiles had dragged him into one of the trendier thrift store in Beacon Hills.
Derek looks completely uncomfortable from the second he sees the mannequins in patent leather thigh highs and electric wigs that dawn the window displays and his frown sets even deeper into his face the more the pair step inside the store. Stiles holds up a few atrocious numbers against his chest, which eventually causes Derek to crack a smile and unclench.
After a bit, Derek begins to look around, probably for Cora since she would eat this place up with it’s one-of-a-kind hysterical pieces, and Stiles is left to look around at the impressive flannel collection. Everything is color coated, which makes it easier if they’re a monochromatic type of guy ( Derek ) and Stiles makes it through all the shirts until he gets to the faded blacks.
Among them all he finds a shirt, very well loved and near threadbare with a few holes down by the seams, he takes one look at it and buys it a minute later. And when Derek drops him back off at his house, he leaves it behind on the passenger’s seat, neatly folded like a present.
Stiles half expects to get a message from Derek that night. He keeps checking his phone while working on a paper, just idly picking at it incase any notification went unnoticed in favor of his academics. But nothing comes, not a phone call (Derek is getting better at those) and definitely not a text as dry as Derek’s typical conversations go. Stiles sighs and guesses Derek hasn’t even noticed, he’s not exactly the most perceptive guy.
But then again, neither is Stiles.
The next time he sees Derek, it’s at the loft. It’s movie night with the pack, the smell of pizza is already wafting through the place as Stiles walks in, hearing the fizzle of soda and the crunching of chips. Scott’s voice is bouncing against the walls, an exaggerated retelling of a story he was live texting Stiles as it unfolded in front him, waiting for Kira’s shift to end.
Stiles gets an acknowlegdment from all of them, a spastic wave from Scott, nods from Boyd and Isaac, cheery smiles from Erica and Kira, and a smirk from Cora. There’s an empty space next to Derek that Stiles gravitates to and he’s about to give him a customary nod when his eyes register just exactly what Derek is wearing.
It’s a little loose on him, the faded black going well with his dark wash jeans, the material so soft it’s damn near caressing the corded body beneath and there’s a hole Stiles never noticed when he bought it, one that shows just the smallest flash of skin against Derek’s ribcage. Stiles joked about the idea in his head, he figured if Derek brushed off the gesture he would just end up laughing it off a little too much and wearing the shirt himself, but -- Derek didn’t.
Sitting on a faux suede couch, tucked into the very corner of it, loose limbed and seemingly content, Derek’s wearing the shirt Stiles bought him. It shouldn’t really have this much of an effect on him, that’s what he always tells himself whenever Derek is concerned, but it does.
So much so that --
“Dude, why are you just standing there?” Scott pivots half his body toward him, arms extended out mid-story.
Stiles registers that his mouth is open in awe and he can’t really formulate words so he doesn’t even try. He makes a vague hand gesture and shrugs, shuffling along with everyone’s eyes trained directly on him. He hears Cora laugh menacingly from her seat and doesn’t even attempt to gauge her expression, the room is already feeling hot enough as it is.
He takes a seat next to Derek, mindful not to make direct eye contact and leaves a few inches between them. After a few seconds his embarrassment begins to fade from the attention of everyone else and he gets his heartbeat a little closer to normal, the pack seems to be absolutely enthralled in Scott’s vivid retelling and mostly leave him alone. Stiles thinks Derek is going to comment on his pulse or his scent or his B.O. like he sometimes does at the worst possible moments, but they’re all false alarms each time Derek shifts in his position.
But just when Stiles really relaxes, Derek leans over, lips a few inches from his ear.
“You okay?” he asks him, voice so smooth and nice up close.
Stiles nods, still avoiding eye contact and the room starts feeling warm again.
“There’s pizza if you’re hungry, Erica picked the movies tonight,” Derek tells him, all small details but Stiles knows what they really mean. Eat while you can because everyone is going to chow down to distract themselves from historical period movies.
Stiles smiles and can’t quite catch himself before he looks over at Derek. The brunette is still hovering close, their proximity finally becoming known to him the way his eyes dilate a little, but he doesn’t retreat. Stiles looks at him, smile becoming soft, his heart beating in his throat like it still does. Derek’s eyes flick against his face, searching, and he bites the inside of his lip before something tugs at the corners of his mouth. Stiles can see the faintest scatter of pink against his cheeks that the werewolf does nothing to hide. And after what feels like hours, Derek’s hold finally breaks and his back curves into the cushioning of the couch once again.
Stiles glances back at the pack cautiously, but all are still deeply invested in wherever Scott is within the anatomy of the story (right before the punch line) and he pretends he’s just as captivated.
Even after the pack movie night, Stiles can’t really come up with a better explanation of the events rather than Derek just fucking with him. Granted, they have actually fucked a few times, this is different.
There was no sneering pseudo superiority coming off of Derek, no back and forth between the two, no dancing between the lines of flat out arguing and harshly teasing. It wasn’t familiar, that was what bothered Stiles the most, it was a harmless, nice interaction. And it’s not as if Derek is incapable of being gruffly pleasant, if their reoccurring hang outs are any proof, but Stiles just thinks about how soft his voice was when he practically whispered directly in Stiles’ ear, how happy his expression was, how comfortable he looked slouched against a couch, how Stiles has only ever seen him like that a few choice times.
Stiles scrubs his hands over his face, breathing out deeply and unevenly. He tries not to think about it, but he’s been playing a losing game for months now. He was the one who had called it off after all.
So if he’s ever feeling extraordinary pathetic (now) he lets himself indulge in memories of Derek’s big, sure hands running over the the slight swell of his hips, those same hands slowly spreading his legs, his scratchy beard scoring burns down his spine when Stiles was on his hands and knees, Derek fucking him slow and rough within an inch of his life. And Stiles couldn’t take it, he couldn’t handle the way Derek would run his fingertips down the length of his jaw, down to the column of his throat to rest against his pulse, couldn’t fucking handle how Derek would hold him close afterwards, no matter how sweaty and spent the two of them were, couldn’t fucking believe how sweetly Derek would kiss him, would ask him when he could see him again -- Stiles just couldn’t do it.
He had no excuse besides the fact that he was scared, he was fucking terrified. And in his mind, it was for good reason. They had been through so much shit in the last few years, Stiles was only a skinny sophomore with good intentions, it had all just begun with a fascination for the only known living Hale. It progressed of course, with how many times Derek would touch him with only harm on his fingertips, it stirred something in Stiles that became visible enough for the brunette to back off as soon as he could smell it. They never talked about it, Derek would keep pushing because that’s just what Derek does, and Stiles would push back because he just can’t stand there idly. There was no time for pining or confessions, just fleeting looks and Derek’s steady grip on his shirt when Stiles was about to do something stupid.
And when the storm finally settled, between the pack, among Beacon Hills, Derek took Stiles to the side, pressed him against the wall and Stiles wrapped his shaking arms around him and breathed him in. Ashes and fear and pine needles and sweat. Derek shivered against him and Stiles kissed him because it finally felt right to do so. Then Stiles got scared and he bailed.
Then Stiles heard Derek sing, so quietly in the chaos of a downpour, and it made Stiles’ heart nearly burst.
Then Stiles bought him a old, ratty Queen shirt at a thirft store and Derek wore it, has been wearing it so often it taunts Stiles each time, begging him to comment, to do something about it.
And Stiles thinks that maybe he finally can.
It’s not immediate, mostly because Stiles is still a little scared, and also because he gets busy with school and work and Derek is laying even more groundwork on the renovation which eats up most of his time. The Jeep is looking better after all the money Stiles has poured into it and he doesn’t have to call up Derek for any emergencies, everyday or supernatural.
They keep in contact, Derek sending him pictures of different paint swatches, wants his opinion on reclaimed versus manufactured hardwood, a clawfoot tub in the master or a stone tiled shower, neutral backsplash in the kitchen or color pop. Stiles feels a little like he’s on an HGTV episode, but he chimes in with suggestions and complaints all the same, Derek asked after all. Within the conversation, Derek mentions a lull in the project, he has a Saturday afternoon free and Stiles invites himself over in the name of gauging the progress.
The Jeep makes a show of itself against the gravel, Stiles throwing it into park and walking up the steps of the newly built wrap around porch. He doesn’t bother knocking (nobody does), and he slips inside before Derek can make himself known. It’s still a little rough, but most of the house already looks like it’s being lived in. Derek had mentioned to him that the first floor was practically done, the living room, the kitchen, and the small bathroom off the hallway. It makes something else tug in Stiles’ chest, it looks like a home .
“What do you think?” Derek’s voice chimes softly from somewhere behind Stiles, when Stiles looks, the brunette is leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed loosely over his chest, a small, proud smile on his lips.
“Derek, this is amazing,” Stiles tells him, a little breathless, eyes taking in every detail he can. There’s not much furniture, true to Derek’s simplicity, but there are touches of him all over. His jacket discarded against a recliner, his boots by the front door, leather bound books resting on suspended shelving, stupid knick knacks Stiles had given him sitting right between them. There’s pictures too, just a few from what Stiles can see, one of the pack when they had gotten the wonderful idea of going camping last summer, a picture of Derek and Cora by the lake, Cora holding her high school diploma in the air, wearing graduation robes with a proud smile on her lips. There’s one more, tucked on a higher shelf, one that Stiles instantly remembers, taken months before all this began.
We have to have a before and after, Stiles can remember telling Derek. And he had grumbled and complained and been overall unpleasant. I don’t want to remember what it looks like now , Derek had argued, and Stiles understood, the house looked exactly as it did when it had burned down. But Stiles didn’t cave, he had grabbed Derek by the hand, placed the both of them right in front of the collapsing stairs to the porch and told Scott to take the picture.
In the picture, Stiles is smiling, forced and stiff, and Derek is looking at him, puzzled and a little full of wonder.
Stiles smiles at the memory, he was fully convinced Derek was going to chase him off the property after the flash went off, but instead he asked Stiles if he could help some weekends he was free and Stiles could do nothing but agree.
“You’re almost due for an after picture,” Stiles says to fill the silence, hearing Derek shuffle closer to his position.
“Couple more weeks,” he surmises, their arms just barely rubbing against each other’s.
“Then what?” Stiles asks, truly curious.
Derek laughs soft, his smile growing wider. “Erica wants to throw a housewarming party,” he informs Stiles, of course she does.
Stiles snorts. “And you’re going to let her?” For all they know, Erica will use Halloween decorations and demand they all dress up, which actually sounds like a good time.
“Why not?” Derek teases, “Either way, this isn’t just my house, it’s the pack’s.”
“So I could hole up here during mid-terms?” he badgers.
Derek shrugs his shoulders. “Sure.”
“Spend my winter break marathoning on that impressive big screen?”
“Yes, Stiles,” Derek huffs.
“I can come over at midnight and just crash on the couch, no explanations?”
“Not ideally, but--”
“And you’ll always be here?” Stiles asks, hopeful and a little nervous.
Stiles hears Derek stop, can feel those eyes direct their attention to him, they’re roving over his face for a clue but Stiles can’t bear to look at him, frozen in place.
A few seconds pass before Derek says, with all the confidence and comfort of an Alpha, “Yeah, Stiles, I’ll always be here.”
Stiles nods, his skin hot and cold all over, heart swelling the way it only does for Derek.
“Good,” his voice comes out shaky, and it feels like his stomach is eating itself, but he’s faced monsters scarier than his own feelings, “because I want to be here too.”
It’s quiet again and Stiles swears he can feel his blood freeze in his veins, there’s a clock ticking somewhere in the background of the house, and with the windows open Stiles can hear the birds singing outside, the wind moving the leaves in a gentle breeze. He can’t bring himself to look at Derek, even less than before, but that’s proving to be impossible the more Derek is angling his whole body towards Stiles.
“I’m not moving in or anything,” he begins to ramble on auto-pilot, “that was just a joke. Haha! I’m not going to be coming over at all hours of the night, some of us are not actually nocturnal, so don’t worry--”
"Stiles,” Derek calls him softly, his hands creating a gentle hold on either of Stiles’ biceps. The touch is warm and familiar, Stiles almost wants to cry.
“It’s just we’ve gotten close over the years, who would have thought, right? And you’re one of my best friends and--”
Stiles knows Derek is smiling and he swears his face is inching closer to his own.
“And?” Derek encourages him, his face definitely inching closer now that Stiles finally looks at him.
“And, I care about you--” he supplies pathetically.
“I figured that much,” Derek nods, smile settling to something so damn heartbreakingly nice.
“And you always wear that Queen shirt.”
“It’s my favorite.”
“And that means something, doesn’t it?” Derek’s fingers are trailing up to his neck, the warmth of them rich and wonderful, one leaving to cradle the back of Stiles’ head, digits digging into the auburn hair.
“It means a lot, Stiles,” he tells him, face so close to his he thinks Derek is going to kiss him. The tip of Derek’s nose traces the edge of his jaw instead, softness leading way to the rough scratch of his stubble, scenting Stiles the way he hasn’t in months. Stiles fingers grab onto the material taut against Derek’s back, holding as still as he can, his breath coming out in hot little puffs.
“I missed you,” Stiles whispers into the air, voice turning into a choked gasp as Derek licks his Adam’s Apple, sucking it between his lips for just a second. From there Derek leaves wet kisses against his throat, up to the skin below his ear, to his temple, to his lips.
“And I’ll tell you the rest later,” Stiles mumbles after he gets enough of his mind straight, senses full of Derek it’s enough to make him feel drunk.
Derek nods at him again, smile lazy and gorgeous, and he kisses Stiles just as well, pressed close and secure.