The afternoon of Stiles' graduation, in the shade of a scraggly tree in the Stilinski backyard, Stiles sits in the grass, leaning back against the trunk, ankles crossed in front of him. His socks are mismatched, but both argyle; his shoes are black, recently polished, scuffed anyway. He tangles his fingers again and again in Derek's hair, where his head rests in Stiles' lap. "You proud o' me?" Stiles asks serenely.
Derek opens his eyes to look up at Stiles, and for once, doesn't notice how youthful he is, how beautiful, how he's barely restraining himself from laughing at Derek (or whatever he's going to laugh at)—instead he notices the loose tie around his neck, the barely noticeable lines around his eyes. Stiles has changed next to nothing in the last year or so and he still looks much more capable of handling the world than Derek's ever felt. "Yeah," he says sincerely, and Stiles' eyes brighten, probably surprised Derek didn't say something snarky.
"Everyone's done with high school and moving on," Derek adds imperturbably. Stiles' fingertips brush his forehead in their quest to move through Derek's hair. Derek almost, almost, wishes he had an excuse to move on, too—but he's only got the one pack, and beggars can't be choosers.
"Going to college," Stiles corrects. "Graduating. Not moving on."
"They're moving on."
Stiles snorts, pinches Derek's nose just to make him scowl. "How can anyone move on from you?" he asks, and Derek pouts.
"New York, huh?" Stiles asks lazily in a booth in McDonald's. His neck's a mess of red and purple, and Derek should maybe be more contrite about that.
"I used to live there," Derek tells him. "With Laura." She actually bought the Camaro there. Derek loves the Camaro. "And with the pack dispersing, going to college…" He trails off, because he's still conflicted about the whole thing.
Stiles chews and swallows half his burger in the ensuing silence. Then he clears his throat. "You know, since Dad married Georgia," he says nonchalantly, "I don't really have a reason to stay in Beacon Hills. Now he's got someone to take care of him."
Derek narrows his eyes. Informs him, "You have college, Stiles. School. Education. Life."
Stiles waves a hand in the air, dismissive. "Cool it, Edna Mode." Takes a fry from Derek's tray. "Most colleges offer online courses, dude."
"That's not the same."
"You're right, it's cheaper and more efficient," Stiles says, laughing. "All I'm saying is you're taking me with you. I'll follow you in the Jeep if I have to."
The last time someone followed him anyplace, they gutted him in the parking lot of a high school. Chucked him like a rag doll onto the lawn.
"I'd follow you to Siberia," Stiles adds softly, "if that's where you wanted to go."
Derek strains his ears for a lie and can't find one.
"You're gonna have to get rid of the Camaro," Stiles says solemnly, glancing sidelong at Derek, and Derek slumps his shoulders, barely managing to keep from whining.
"But I love my car," he says. It still sounds a little whiny.
Stiles snorts. "I know," he says, "but you'll have me." Derek squints at him.
"If this is a joke about riding you—"
Stiles' eyes pop open, and he smacks Derek upside the head. Derek doesn't protest, because Stiles will insist that it doesn't hurt, Derek's just a baby. He'd be right, and Derek doesn't like that. "No, I meant you love me more than your gas-guzzler," he chastises. Derek rolls his eyes. "Don't you?"
"Fine, sure," Derek replies.
"You don't, do you!" Stiles exclaims, offended. Then he leers. "I'm going to have to change your mind, aren't I." Derek barely has a split second to try to figure out what he means before Stiles is dropping to his knees before Derek, pinning him against the Camaro with a thump by the hips. "Show you what I can do that your stupid car can't," he mumbles, eyes flashing, as he goes after Derek's belt buckle.
"Stiles," Derek says frantically, "I was kidding—it was a joke, I don't—you, we're in public, Stiles—"
"We're in the forest, Derek," Stiles says back, dragging the zipper down. He mouths wetly at Derek's dick through his boxers, and then his eyes flick up to look at him. Derek swallows, staring. "Do you want me to stop?" Stiles asks. Derek shakes his head. "No?"
With a gleeful sparkle in his eye, Stiles slips Derek out of his boxers and into his mouth. He hums, pleased by the heat and the weight on his tongue, and it reverberates throughout Derek, who drops his head backwards with a weak groan. It falls onto the car with a thud, and Stiles' hands snake around to grip at Derek's ass—leverage, so he can suck Derek in to the base, truly pornographic noises tripping out of him, like Derek is pleasuring him by fucking his mouth. Like Derek is actually fucking his mouth and not being pillaged by Stiles.
Stiles is better at this than Derek is. Stiles is better than Derek at lots of things.
You know that feeling you get when you're being watched? Or maybe you just think you're being watched, and—let's face it—you probably are. Derek gets that feeling a lot around Stiles. It took him a while to confront the fact that it was probably true—that Stiles was watching him.
Because no one really watches Derek. Sometimes they side-eye him, make sure he's not doing something untrustworthy. Sometimes they glare at him, because the amount they can't stand him can't really fit into the small timeframe in which they're actively speaking to him. People don't watch Derek just for the sake of watching Derek. At least, people who aren't Stiles don't do that.
Derek sleeps hunched up in the passenger's seat of the Jeep and gets the feeling that someone's watching him, and if he slits one eye open, peeks through his lashes drowsily, he'll catch Stiles glancing at him fondly from the driver's seat.
Stiles giggles from the passenger's seat. Looks up from his phone, which has a cracked screen. "Scott thinks you lured me away from home to kill me and leave me in the desert in New Mexico or something."
"That's stupid," Derek replies. "If I wanted to kill you, I'd have left you in Death Valley. Why would I drive all the way out to New Mexico?"
"You're my favourite," Stiles responds blithely. There's tapping, Stiles texting Derek's murder plan to Scott. Derek thinks he might have heard a blip there.
"Colfax used to be the main road people drove down to get cross-country," Derek tells him in the middle of Colorado. "Before they built I-70."
"Can we take that instead of the interstate?" Stiles asks eagerly. When Derek looks at him funny, he shrugs. Takes a bite of his Milky Way. "I bet it'd be more interesting than a shitty highway. Isn't that the point of a road-trip?"
Derek frowns for a second, and then throws the turn signal right. "Fine," he says grumpily, like he isn't being consumed with the pleasure he gets from Stiles' delight. "But we aren't staying in any of the shitty motels."
Stiles drops backwards onto the shitty motel bed—it creaks, of course it creaks—and pulls Derek down with him, fingers curling in his shirt. "Should we flip a coin for who's getting fucked?" he asks with relish, his voice husky with want and barely concealed excitement, which—that Stiles is aroused simply by the idea of having sex in a motel that, by the smell of it, has seen more dicks than Derek or Stiles ever will is cute enough to make Derek chortle. Stiles doesn't let Derek's amusement at his expense stop him from rutting up against Derek's hip.
Derek puts a stop to this by pinning Stiles against the bed with a hand on his chest. "Patience," he croons mildly. Lets his fingers trail down Stiles' front, get tangled up in his belt buckle. (Stiles whimpers.) "We have all night."
They're in a bed together for the first time in weeks, which is actually surprising to Derek. It's one of those things where he doesn't notice how long it's been since they've made love (not had sex, not hooked up, made love) until it's been a stupid length of time, stupid enough to make Derek urgently want to rectify it. Derek wants to go slow. Derek always wants to go slow. He's been known to fixate on marking up Stiles' body until Stiles whines and kicks him, wordlessly pleading for attention to be paid to his neglected dick.
Stiles typically wants to go fast and rough. If he's bottoming, he wants Derek dominating him, wrists held down, bruising him up until, if he took his shirt off, it'd look like he got into a nasty brawl. He keens, desperate, scratches the shit out of Derek's back, which Derek can't deny he likes, too.
It takes them an embarrassing amount of making out (and groping and sticking their fingers into each other) before they make a decision, but they make one. They split the difference. Stiles rides Derek, excruciating, until they're both trembling and on razor's edge, Stiles whispering nasty, filthy things in Derek's ear and Derek just barely keeping from digging his claws into Stiles' hips.
Stiles is limp and malleable after, which Derek adores because he can position him however he wants for optimal sleeping. He cuddles him close like a baby blanket, arms and legs around him, pressing him into the mattress. Sighing, Stiles nudges up against his chest, under his chin. Fingers wrapping around his sides. Fitting just under his rib cage.
"This," Stiles mumbles drowsily. "I always forget how much I want this."
Stiles stretches his legs and arms luxuriously in the passenger's seat. "It's been a while since you screwed me like that," he says, and his voice is still a little bit rough, satiated, like they just got done fucking instead of having done it last night. Derek feels pretty quenched himself.
"You sore?" he asks, even though talking this frankly about it still has him blushing. Stiles has stopped mocking him for it; he thinks it's cute. Stiles is the only one who's ever thought Derek was cute.
"A little," Stiles says. "The burn's good. Tonight, wherever we are, I wanna screw you."
Derek grips the steering wheel. Hands creaking against the vinyl.
"Can I?" asks Stiles. "Would you want that?"
He can. Derek would want that. He doesn't say anything.
"I'll make it good for you." Stiles' voice has dropped into this musing purr, because his favourite thing is gently, proddingly, driving Derek completely batshit insane. "You know I will; I always do. I'll go all slow like you like. Take my time. It'll be like when you first taught me how to rim—"
"Stiles, I am driving," Derek tells him, decidedly scandalised.
"—I'll do it until you're begging," Stiles goes on, talking over Derek. His intrigue betrayed by his focus, the way he's leaning towards Derek. "Until you can't even speak unless it's 'please' and my name."
"S'not even your real name," Derek grumbles childishly. Stiles titters, leans against the car door, eying him. "And put on your fucking seatbelt."
It's difficult, as Derek knows from experience, to form a routine when your routine is travelling, but they still manage a daily 8am breakfast in the first family-owned doughnut shop they can find.
Stiles has a fondness for maple bars and black coffee. So Derek usually orders maple bars and black coffee. Sometimes an orange juice with it. Derek's stuck on cinnamon rolls and cream-filled, chocolate-coated crap. Sweet as they come—he'll only draw the line at sprinkles. So Stiles gets one of each, and a chocolate milk. It fits their M.O.
They take their food to a sticky table as far in the back as they can get, and then they trade.
Iowa and Illinois are unbearable. Derek can tune out whether he's driving or not, but Stiles feels trapped in his own skin, desperate, just looking at the repetitive landscape. "It's all the same," he says wildly, looking all around. He gets up on his knees in the passenger seat, facing backwards.
"Stiles, sit the fuck down," Derek says, swatting at Stiles.
"It's all the same, we're in Corn Land," Stiles tells him. He sounds deranged. "Cornville. Corn City. Corn Planet, there's nothing but corn."
Derek sighs. Points out hopefully, "There's a thing there."
Stiles looks. "That's a corn silo, Derek," he bellows.
Derek pinches the skin between his eyebrows.
The GPS stops working somewhere in Kentucky. There isn't a map in the Jeep.
"Why don't you have a map in the Jeep?" Derek asks, sifting through the glove compartment and coming up with a bag of Doritos, a first aid kit, and—gloves, of all things. "Normal people carry maps in their cars."
"I had GPS on my phone," Stiles returns, fingers twitching on the steering wheel. "Until you broke it."
"I—?" Derek snaps the glove compartment shut. "I broke it."
"Good to hear you freely admitting it," Stiles says sardonically.
"I didn't break your stupid phone, Stiles." The phone is still in his hand, still hot from trying to run the GPS, screen still frozen. "How do you take out the battery on this stupid thing."
"That, no," Stiles flails his hands, and the Jeep veers slightly when he lets go of the wheel. He needs to get the tires checked out. "You can't—it's an iPhone, that's—"
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?"
Stiles rolls his eyes as they enter a small town. "Normal people know what an iPhone is, yes," he says, and Derek chucks the useless thing onto the dashboard, nettled. "Dude!" Stiles snaps. Throws the Jeep in park in front of a gas station. "You'll break the phone and my Jeep."
"Big loss in both cases," Derek grumbles, and Stiles glares at him heatedly for a moment before climbing out of the car and stalking into the convenience store.
"It'd be at least, like, two hours quicker if we took this—" Derek reaches for the map, and Stiles jerks it out of his reach. "What? It would."
"Let me see." Stiles yanks it away again. Derek is running out of patience. "Stiles," he snaps, and he might have bared his teeth a little bit too much just then. Whatever, Stiles is being a little shit.
Stiles makes a weird, growly noise and thrusts the map at him, letting go too soon. Derek scrambles to catch it, glowering. "Where."
Stiles pouts for another second before pointing. "Here."
Derek watches Stiles' fingertip trace a faint road away from any of the main roads. It warbles around before eventually ending up in Virginia. Uh, no. "Uh, no."
Stiles' mouth drops open. Derek shakes his head. "What do you mean, uh, no," Stiles demands, and Derek doesn't appreciate his mocking tone.
"I mean uh, no," he snaps back. "We don't even know what's on that road. We can't go all Dora the Explorer when your worthless GPS isn't working."
"We have a map," Stiles says like he's talking to a two-year-old. "Dora doesn't even have an iPhone."
"You know what I mean," Derek sniffs, returning to the map.
"Say, 'app'!" Stiles says jauntily. Derek stares at him. "Louder!"
Derek doesn't entertain Stiles' reference to children's television. He returns to the map judiciously. "We're going back to the main road," he says. Points, authoritative.
"Dude, that would waste so much gas," insists Stiles, and Derek levels him with another look, because of course Stiles would fight him on this, this simple and obvious decision. "Gas?" Stiles repeats, gesturing towards the gasoline pumps near them. "Petrol? Fuel for the vehicle?"
"Shut up," Derek says, at a loss.
Making a noise of frustration, Stiles fists his hands. "It would be a good idea. Can you not trust me on this? Like, just this once can you not trust me to make a decision."
Stiles flinches back like Derek splashed water in his face. "It's my car," he growls, like it wasn't his prodding and nagging that made Derek agree to sell his car, the last remnant he had of his sister. "I cannot even believe you're being like this right now."
"Being like this?" Derek repeats, voice going high with incredulity and rage. "Being like what?"
"Like an alpha douchebag," shouts Stiles.
Derek gives a bark of mirthless laughter. Folds his arms, map crushed against him. "I'm sorry," he says, mock-sincerely. "Since it was obviously my idea to leave the interstate. And rely on a broken telephone to tell us where to go."
"If you would ever come up with an idea," Stiles begins, "ever, at all, one idea," but Derek plows on, blinking thoughtfully upwards.
"And on that note, it was my idea to sell Boyd and Erica the car with built-in GPS and maps in the glove compartment, and take the jalopy from the 70's…"
"Maybe I wouldn't have to be the sole decision-maker—"
"And it was my supremely stupid idea that you be here in the first place."
Stiles sets his jaw, stares at Derek for a minute, and Derek feels nauseated. Wishes he hadn't said that. Any of that. But it's too late; it always is. Stiles takes a couple steps back.
"Stiles," Derek says.
"Go fuck yourself, Derek," Stiles returns. Turns his back and walks away.
Derek isn't entirely sure what to do at this point. He thinks they may have broken up, but they're in Princess, Kentucky and Stiles stormed off to fuck knows where without his little computer brick.
Livid, Derek kicks the Jeep and leaves a dent in the driver's side door. Stiles will probably shoot him when he sees it. Derek doesn't care. He wanders around until he's less pissed off. Reads the choose your own adventure Star Wars book Stiles brought along, figuring Stiles'll come back to the Jeep eventually. He doesn't.
Derek glooms in a diner called Julie's and drinks water for a while. "You seen a guy come in here recently?" he asks the waitress. "About my height, short, brown hair? Wearing a Batman t-shirt, I think."
"Oh, the cutie pie?" the waitress asks, beaming.
That would be Stiles. "Yeah."
"You must be the friend he mentioned. Yeah, he left about twenty minutes ago with some guy," the waitress tells him. Eyes him judgmentally. Before he can ask who, she interrupts, "You gonna order something, then, or just drink water all year?"
He gets a set of very small screwdrivers at the gas station and uses them to carefully pry the iPhone open, get the battery out. Then he turns it back on. It's sluggish, but functional. He plugs it into the USB port of Stiles' laptop, which lays, scuffed and hidden under a plaid button-down, on the floor in front of the passenger's seat.
The morning turns into the afternoon, and Derek starts getting agitated, because he doesn't know why Stiles would stay gone this long. He's super bad at holding grudges, really, unless—unless this really was the last straw. And he's done with Derek.
Derek wants to resign himself to this, but most importantly, Stiles would not leave his phone and laptop, so Derek chews his nails, something he hasn't done since he was fourteen. He doesn't want to leave the Jeep in case Stiles comes back—who did he leave the diner with?
Around twelve-thirty or so, the iPhone rings, a number he doesn't recognise. Derek answers it suspiciously.
"Think I might have something of yours, alpha," says the man on the other end.
Derek shouldn't have thought his twenty-four-year bad luck streak would end just because he left Beacon Hills. After all, he left Beacon Hills for six years and look where that got him. Laura, dead. Derek, alpha. Pack, indifferent. Stiles…
Derek goes after Stiles for purely selfish reasons: life without Stiles is an unbearable wasteland of a future. Stiles' texts and insults frankly get Derek through the day. The trip until the fight was more than just manageable due to Stiles' shifts driving; it was fun, life with Stiles is fun. Life has never been fun before. Derek doesn't know why Stiles didn't expect for Derek to ruin it. He's been waiting for this to happen since they met, really. Derek doesn't deserve this kind of pure, downless good in his life, he doesn't deserve it because he's selfish.
Derek finds the hunter right where he said he'd be, in the fifth room of a motel shittier than any of the ones he and Stiles have stayed in on this trip. Stiles or no, Derek's getting a little sick of motel rooms.
Stiles is on the bed, a gun pointed at his head. He was hit in the eye, and his lip is split. He's looking miffed, but relatively placid. Derek meets his eye, and Stiles' eyebrow twitches ever so slightly. They communicate wordlessly, something they managed to perfect in the couple years they've known each other. Mostly barely narrowing of eyes and blinking. Derek nods infinitesimally; communication complete in a matter of seconds. Then he darts forward gracelessly to cup at Stiles' jaw with his fingertips.
"I'm fine," Stiles tells him.
"You're bleeding," Derek returns, and watches Stiles suppress a grin. Inside joke.
"Still fine," he says.
"M'kay, Romeo," the hunter interjects drily, and Stiles openly rolls his eyes. "That's enough. A deal's a deal: we let Little Red here go, and you stay with us."
"You said you wouldn't hurt him," Derek says, teeth grit, and this is only partially an act. Stiles is going to have one hell of a shiner. "But you did."
"That happened before I promised not to hurt him. Turns out he's a bit of a fighter," the hunter agrees with appreciation. Smirks and nudges Stiles' head with the gun. Stiles glowers. He turns back to Derek with a shit-eating grin. "He must be a barrel of fun in the sack. I've half a mind to test that theory while he's here."
Just—just says it, like Stiles isn't there, like Derek won't want to decapitate him. Derek feels his eyes flash red. Stiles reaches up, suddenly, twists the gun out of the hunter's hand. It discharges into the mattress. Derek grins, feral, claws out. The hunter doesn't make it to the door.
Thank-god-no-one-died sex is the most frantic kind of sex. Gets them both off quicker and harder than any other kind, orgasms hitting them out of nowhere like a baseball bat between the eyes. Stiles is pinned between Derek and the steering wheel, knees pushed up by Derek's shoulders. He digs his nails, blunt as they are, into Derek's jawline, his neck, kissing him hard.
"You came for me," Stiles says breathlessly.
"I noticed," replies Derek, glancing down at his jeans. They never even got past the belt. They're both going to have to change, because no way is Derek driving until dinnertime in his own spunk.
"No," Stiles says, fisting a hand in Derek's hair just forcefully enough to get his attention. "I mean you came for me."
Oh, that. Derek buries his face in Stiles' neck. "Yeah, I…"
"Even after what I—" Stiles' hands are shaking.
"I will always come for you," Derek says, and it comes out stunted, awkward. Everything Derek says comes out stunted, awkward. Stiles could have had Lydia Martin, whose words are like a scornful blog post written by a feminist grad student. Instead he's with Derek, his left eye swelling up. "I can't—" Derek begins, but he doesn't know what he can't. Anything, probably. He can't anything.
"I just don't get why you never believe me," Stiles tells him simply. "You can hear if I'm lying, can't you? You listen to my heart?"
"I can't not listen to your heart."
"How about," Stiles says, licking his lips, "instead of looking for a lie when I tell you things, you look for the truth?"
Derek gathers Stiles up in his arms—if it's possible to hold him any tighter.
"Turn around," Stiles says.
"We're not going to Foamhenge," Derek replies drily.
Stiles makes a pleading sound, peering at Derek, eyes wide.
"It's Stonehenge made out of foam," Derek argues.
"Right," Stiles agrees emphatically. "It's Stonehenge. Made out of foam."
Derek keeps driving, and he can actually smell how terribly hurt Stiles is, even disregarding the way he alternates staring at Derek and craning to look out the back windshield at the sign.
"Please, baby?" Stiles asks, and damn it, he knows that's Derek's weakness.
"Fucking shit," Derek snaps, and throws the car into a harsh U-turn.
"I love you," Stiles decides. Derek listens for the truth, and finds it. "So much. Only one for me."
They make out at Foamhenge. It isn't one of Derek's proudest moments, but Stiles is happy as a clam on a button.
"The GPS is working again," Stiles announces as they breach the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York. "We're in New York."
Derek hums sleepily from the passenger's seat.
They end up in a studio loft upstairs from a bakery. It sounds better than it is.
They unload the coffee table, round dining table, two mismatched chairs, and rug Derek brought from the Hale house. Stiles unloads the mattress, box springs, and metal frame he inherited when his dad and new stepmother purchased a king.
Everything is bare and Derek can smell mold in some places. There's a crack up one wall that looks vaguely ominous; Stiles makes a joke about them fucking so hard the crack travels up the ceiling and brings the building down on them. There are cigarette burns on just about every available surface in the apartment.
The windows are dingy until Stiles Windexes them. They start unloading dishes from a cardboard box with smashed corners, and get distracted. End up in a rectangle of sunlight on the wood floor, unwilling to break apart even for the minimal length of time it would take to undress each other.
They come in their jeans and then test out the shower. The water pressure's fucked to hell and the pipes whistle. Someone about the height of a six-year-old carved a heart into the wall next to the sink. Stiles kneels, carefully carves an S + D inside of it.
The drawers in the kitchen stick. The linoleum around the stove is incurably sticky and peeling. The handle to the fridge door is affixed with duct tape. The whole place smells like dough and sugar and smoke and vinegar and a dog.
Stiles crowds Derek against the kitchen counter. "I love this apartment," he says against the skin of Derek's neck.